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H2O Man

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Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 07:49 PM
Number of posts: 65,348

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Remembering Rubin

"Muhammad Ali means 'One who has walked and talked with Kings, and yet has not
lost the common touch.' ....Muhammad Ali means Constant Struggle. But that's what
America's all about -- is it not?"
-- Rubin "Hurricane" Carter

Shortly before Muhammad Ali was to regain his heavyweight title from Big George
Foreman, the editor of World Boxing magazine asked Rubin to pen an article on what
Ali meant to black Americans. The above quote, from the article, was part of Carter's
expanding on that topic, by addressing what The Champ should mean to everyone
in America. As I was re-reading the article yesterday, I thought it was an equally good
description of Rubin Carter.

In the years after the federal court system vacated his conviction for triple murder,
Carter would walk and talk with some of the most powerful people on earth. These
included Nelson Mandela, and President and Mrs. Clinton. His work in support of
people he believed had been wrongly convicted -- meaning "innocent," rather than
merely "not guilty" -- took him around the globe.

In those years,I only heard him speak ill of one politician: then-governor George W.
Bush. Rubin described the future president as "giddy with delight" when he spoke about
his power to allow people to be executed. Indeed, he told me that the "W" in Bush's
name stood for "Death," the most appropriate middle name for the man.

I've been looking through old letters and scrapbooks, court documents and books, and
a number of boxing magazines, since getting word that Rubin had died on Sunday
morning. We had been friends for over 40 years. Some of my favorites are from
when Ali was becoming active in his support of Rubin and co-defendent John Artis.
This was before their cause became popular.

Rubin had fought twice in Africa, where Muhammad would fight Foreman. During Ali's
visits to Rahway State Prison in New Jersey, he and Rubin would discuss the best
ways to prepare to box half way around the globe. Nights, Rubin would write to me
about his advice to Ali. And while most "experts" knew that Ali stood no chance against
George, Carter believed Ali would upset his powerful opponent.

In the mid-1970s, I thought that there had been a fairly wide-spread effort to falsely convict
Carter for the 1966 triple murder. Plenty of the officials involved in the investigation of
the brutal crime, and the prosecution of Carter and Artis, would get significant career
promotions following their convictions. This included prosecutors in other counties,
who dropped charges against the two career criminals who would testify against Rube.
Later, I came to recognize that it only takes two investigators, to plant some "evidence"
here, and hide real evidence there, to gain a knowingly false conviction. Most of the
other authorities simply believed those investigators, and dismissed anything and
everything Rubin, John, and black witnesses had to say.

I'm proud that I was able to play a role in gaining access to state and federal law
enforcement files on the case. During the 1967 trial, the police believed that a group
of radical black nationalists were planning a violent attack to "free" Rubin from the
courtroom, and to hide him on the underground. Stool pigeons will tell the police any
lie they think the police want to hear. In fact, there was not a shred of real evidence to
support that tall tale. Looking back today, its only value is that it illustrates the huge
amount of fear and anxiety that clouded some folks' minds.

While Rubin "Hurricane" Carter was a unique person, the wrongful convictions were
not uncommon. This is not because of massive, widespread conspiracies; again, it
only requires the misdeeds of one or two individuals to poison the legal process. While
living in Canada, Rubin would work with an organization -- which coordinated efforts
with a university's law program -- to seek justice for wrongly convicted inmates held
in prison cells around the world. Rubin was also opposed to capital punishment in
any case. He was fully aware that the prosecutor in 1967 sought to put him in the
electric chair.

From time to time, I would call Rubin to request that he consider a local case, or one
I had learned about in the media. Each time, he would say that if I thought it was
important enough to call on, he knew it was important enough for him to examine. In one
area case, one of his associates helped to get a teenager's life sentence overturned.
That fellow has not had a single legal problem in the 15 years since leaving prison.

In the past few days, I've heard from old friends from high school and college, where
I had introduced classes to Rubin's case. Even 40 years later, my high school
classmates remember how we communicated with Rubin through letters and
cassette tapes.A couple years back, I was invited to speak to a class at that same
high school about the case. When I told Rubin, he provided me with a personal
message to deliver to the students.

Rubin was an extraordinary man. Like all human beings, he was a combination of
qualities. He was well aware of his faults, and worked very hard -- and he had an
intense sense of self-discipline -- to overcome them. When he spoke at SUNY-
Binghamton in April of 2001, a professor from the school was impressed; she
contacted me afterwards. She was writing a book on forgiveness, and asked me
to see if Rubin would contribute a chapter. Rubin was happy to do so, and in one
short chapter, he documented the Power of Forgiveness.

At the end of the SUNY-B presentation, Rubin played with my little daughters. My
wife asked me if I had noticed Rubin flinch when he first saw them? And how old was
his daughter when Rubin was incarcerated? She was about their age. Twenty years
of incarceration takes a toll on a man. He suffered the effects every day. Yet he rose
above the physical and mental scars.

All four of my children met and knew Rubin Carter. Over the years, he would always
ask me about how each one was doing, and where they were in life? He was also
interested in how members of my extended family were. And he would also ask me
about various members of my high school class, who he said had "sent rays of sun-
shine into (his) darkand dreary cell."

On Sunday, each of my children posted on "Face Book" about the loss of a great
man. My younger son recalled how proud he was when Rubin singled his father out
when he spoke at Colgate University. I'm glad that I have had the opportunity to
introduce my kids to Rubin.

As older men, Rubin and I talked about flower gardening. That hobby had become a
passion for both of us. More, "tending his garden" was Rubin's description of living
his life. He noted that my children were my "most beautiful flowers." I liked that.

Rubin's favorite topic of discussion was the ultimate meaning of life. He would
seek the answer in manners that too few consider. I remember that he went to the
lands of the Lakota, in the Black Hills. There, he took part in the sacred Sun Dance
ceremony. A medicine man named Rubin "Badger Star," and presented him with
a headdress that belonged to the great Chief Red Cloud.

This coming weekend, a number of old friends will be traveling to my home, to
participate in a ceremony to celebrate Rubin's life. I'm honored to have known him
as a Good Friend and Brother for all of these years.

RIP Houston

A couple of days ago, I posted an appeal for DUers to support the Onondaga Nation. The overall response was very encouraging. This is consistant with similar requests that I have made, over the decade-plus that I've participated on this forum. I always appreciate that.

I think that any time something important is posted, there will be at least one or two responses from people who are not here because they advocate liberal or progressive agendas. They are insignificant, and not worth responding to. One could have as meaningful conversation with a house fly stuck in the glue of a fly strip.

More important, there were some responses from people who have sincere questions about the issues involved with the Onondaga. For example: isn't this issue from a couple centuries ago? And, if so, why is it important today?

It is actually about as old as the Constitution of the United States. Now, that's not a coincidence; in fact, the issues involved have to do with violations of the Constitution. And we should always be concerned when the very document that gives America promise is compromised by greed and theft.

That legal issues involving the Constitution are involved in what are known as "land claims" cases was established by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1974, and again a decade later. These were the first two of three cases involving the Oneida Nation -- the younger sibling of the Onondaga within the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy. More, the Onondaga are known and respected outside of the United States, including at the United Nations.

I would dare to venture that there are reasons why the powers-that-be inside the USA would prefer that our people remain uninformed about the Iroquois, and to consider these issues to be ancient history. Indeed, most Americans probably know less about the Iroquois than they do about the Constitution -- and that's saying a lot.

Back around the time of the first USSC decision per the Oneida, Onondaga Chief Oren Lyons spoke in Binghamton, NY. He told the audience that, in time, the government would do to US citizens the same times of things it has done to Native Americans for centuries. In that region today, energy corporations -- persons, don't you know -- are preparing the "Constitution Pipeline," to export gas to foreign lands. It is obscene that this proposed pipeline -- which would take all of the landowners' rights from them, to benefit private business -- intentionally mocks the Constitution.

The hydrofracking operations in Pennsylvania, where the pipeline begins, have more "rights" than those people who have had their land, air, and water severely polluted by the energy industries. Of course, that's not an entirely brand-spanking new experience for some populations in the United States. Indeed, if one looked at a map of Onondaga territory pre-1492, and considered the number of toxic industrial waste dump sites found there today, quite a few people have been victimized by industries.

Those unfamiliar with the Onondagas' case are at risk of believing the Onondaga only recently began the struggle to reclaim what was once their territory, and that they literally seek to recover the entire amount of land stolen from them. Such errors in perception depend upon being either uninformed or misinformed about both history, and more current events. For example, one DUer noted that the US defeated the Onondaga in a war, and hence took their land. In fact, the USA and Onondaga have never been at war with one another, and it was not the USA that stole the lands in question. Such errors in thinking can keep good and sincere people from understanding both what is at stake, and why it is important.

Likewise, the idea that the goal of the Onondaga is to recover the huge territory, through the center of the state, is incorrect. Certainly, in a legal case, one documents exactly what was stolen from you. There is a process. But that doesn't translate into what you either hope or expect to recover. (Years ago, when Chief Paul Waterman and I were on a speaking tour, people would ask, "Are you after our homes?" Paul would ask, "How many bathrooms in your's?" One person actually answered, "Two." But Paul was trying to reassure these good people that Onondaga was not their enemy.)

As I've noted previously on this forum, a primary goal is for Onondaga to get both the state and federal government to enforce environmental protection laws on this land. This includes forcing industries to clean up their messes, to the fullest extent that current technology allows. More, this needs to be on the responsible party's dime -- not the tax-payers. This goal does not target the loss of a single inch of soil from any home-owner. None. Zero. In fact, just the opposite: it improves the property (and value).

Any land compensation would involve state land, and thus not impact New York's tax base. That land would be used not only for the Onondaga, but for progressive, green energy programs that benefit everyone.

One of the more pathetic replies to my previous OP rambled on about cheap cigarettes, etc. Besides incorrectly identifying where the Nation is located, its author displayed equal ignorance concerning Onondaga's methods and goals. A good way of illustrating this might be found in the manner in which NYS sought, in the 1990s, to resolve some of the land claims. At the time, casino interests wanted to locate a center for gambling in the cntral upstate area. As Onondaga is located near Syracuse, this was their first choice.

The Council of Chiefs was willing to investigate their options. After Chief Irving Powless, Jr., went to a casino, I remember him reporting that he saw people who were poor and desperate gambling. The Onondaga were not interested in taking the quarters of people who really could not afford to spare a quarter.

In closing, I'd like to say that in supporting Onondaga, non-Indian people with open minds actually can learn ways of organizing, to better help themselves in the struggle to protect things like the environment and their Constitutional rights. You can't put a price tag on that. More, you can witness how the last traditional Native American government in North America works. It is refreshing to see people in leadership roles, who recognize their duty to serve the people. It's the same form of government that impressed several of this country's Founding Fathers, in their effort to create a more perfect union.

H2O Man

Please Support the Onondaga Nation!

I would like to ask DUers to join in this effort to assist the Onondaga Nation. As many of you know, the Onondaga are the Fire Keepers for the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy). The Two Row Wampum Renewal Campaign is closely allied with Onondaga, and I both trust them and endorse their efforts.

(If possible, please give this OP a "k&r," in order for others to see it. Thank you!)

Here is a link:

Support Onondaga Nation’s quest for Justice
Posted on April 16, 2014 by Mager
The Onondaga Nation’s quest for Justice took another step forward yesterday!

Two busses carried Onondagas, other Haudenosaunee people and a couple of non-native allies to Washington, DC yesterday. We traveled to show our support for the petition filed by the Onondaga Nation before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (part of the Organization of American States).

A well-attended news conference was held at the Washington Quaker Meeting House and then we went to the White House (though President Obama wasn’t there to welcome us). The Onondaga leaders brought with them the original wampum belt, commissioned by President George Washington, to mark the 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua. The Onondaga continue calling on the US government to honor the Covenant Chain of Treaties. President Obama specifically referred to this when speaking to native leaders last fall. Unfortunately, he is taking no action to honor the commitments, at least not yet. .......

Please join Neighbors of the Onondaga Nation in support of the Onondaga Nation as they bring their Land Rights Action to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (part of Organization of American States) as the next step in their quest for justice. They will present their petition in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, April 15.

We will gather at Syracuse’s Inner Harbor, where Onondaga Creek begins its final flow into Onondaga Lake. We will hear about the filing and offer our appreciations. If weather permits, those who wish to will walk to the Lake (about a mile). For more information, contact Carol at carol@peacecouncil.net or 315.472.5478

Now (long)

“But now, our day is come; we have been born out of the eternal silence; and now we live -- live for ourselves -- not as the pallbearers of a funeral, but as the upholders and creators of our age …. A false humility, a complaisance to reigning schools, or to the wisdom of antiquity, must not defraud me of the supreme possession of this hour.”
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson; The American Scholar

Senator Robert Kennedy was influenced by his understanding of Emerson: the above quote, for example, impacted RFK’s vision for liberating the down-trodden in this nation, and fueled his decision to run for the presidency in 1968. It strikes me as worthy of our attention, because it demands that we all become active participants in the world around us.

I am currently sitting out at my pond. The weather has begun to change, and today is sunny and close to 70 degrees. I’ve fed the fish and filled the bird-feeders. Kelly, the very essence of all that makes dogs outstanding companion, had been sitting in the swing beside me. Now, he’s stretched out on the warm cap stones on the retaining wall. He enjoys watching the fish as they consume the food that floats on the pond’s surface.

Most books about Robert Kennedy provide biographical information; Michael Knox Beran’s is more of an analysis, than history. (St. Martin’s Press; 1998) While not as good a work as many of the books by those who worked with Kennedy -- which admittedly do not attempt as objective an analysis of RFK’s life -- it is an important read.

Beran, an attorney by trade, presents both an opening and closing argument that what RFK envisioned was not what republicans insultingly refer to as “the welfare state,” but an American version of liberation theology. This requires what Emerson called “self-trust.”

Beran’s insights have some limitations. True liberation theology, of course, recognizes that a lack of self-trust is part of the human condition. Social factors can increase the levels of a lack of self-confidence in large numbers of people, and trap them in lives of desperation. Beran views it as not having “existed, on a large scale, before the eighteenth century.” (page 109)

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The local family-owned business where I usually purchase bird food was not open. Instead, I got a plastic container of 4.5 lbs of “Premium Cockatiel Food” from a grocery-chain store, to hold me over until I get back to civilization. Within a few minutes of my filling the feeders, numerous chickadees are there. They seem okay with the change, to my utter relief. I had suffered from a three-minute mental image from Hitchcock’s “The Birds” until that point.

The lack of self-trust isn’t limited to our perception of large issues. It builds a foundation from the little things that we question. When things in our lives aren’t going great, we are more prone to being handcuffed by those little issues.

The chickadees grab seeds from the feeders, fly away, and return for more. Within a half-an-hour’s time, lots of other birds are at the feeders, too. They all fly back-and-forth, as the factory-bird food is being returned to nature. I still prefer to buy the black oil sunflower seeds that farmers in this region grow. At least now I have a nice container to carry them out to the pond in.

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The lack of self-confidence has created several large industries in American culture. The social Darwinists -- primarily republicans -- incorrectly believe that social programs, or that “welfare state” they despise, is both rooted in and perpetuated by “coddling” poor folks. Paul Ryan recently attempted to feign compassion and insight, by delivering his version of an RFK-style examination impoverished neighborhoods. The difference between an RFK or Malcolm X discussing poverty programs, and Ryan spouting his poison, is the same as between sugar and shit.

In fact, our culture coddles the very wealthy, including industries. The gas industry was given exemptions from some of the federal laws intended to protect the environment. Little children having access to Head Start pose remarkably less threat to our national well-being, than energy industries being given full access to public lands. But Ryan is less likely to address corporate welfare, than Kelly is to stop barking, and begin speaking English.

If we are to become a humane society, which must include social justice, that can only be brought about by citizens. It won’t come by way of a federal law or regulation, for the unjust in Washington, DC, currently are fully confident of their ability to grant themselves exemptions, or to pay tiny fines that do not impact their profit margins in any meaningful ways. The Paul Ryanites are unwilling to deliver serious “jobs programs” for the rapidly disappearing middle class communities and neighborhoods in America; how in the heck could those populating the low-income neighborhoods hope to find employment in 2014?

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Emerson’s “self-trust” is similar to the concept of “locus of control,” which is important in terms of the “health psychology” of the individual. An individual with an internal locus of control believes that they are able to make decisions, and take actions, that will have the major influences upon the quality of their lives. Those with an external locus of control believe themselves to be largely the victims of circumstances beyond their control. Of course, most people fall somewhere in between these two poles: none of us have the ability to control any one or any thing beyond ourselves, yet we have the ability to both anticipate and respond to life as it unfolds.

That segment of society un-affectionately known as the “1%” sees a storm brewing on the horizon. Hence, they seek to accumulate massive wealth, and total control of the earth’s resources. To accomplish this, they must nurture a growing sense of life growing out of control among the 99%. This is a massive external locus of control program. This is not to imply the 1% has control over everything: for mankind’s technological advances far exceed their current level of ethical/spiritual being, and we are far out of balance with that force known as Mother Nature. This serves to fuel the greedy attempts of the 1% to possess wealth, and to create the quiet desperation and despair that now defines American culture.

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A thousand minnows move about the pond’s surface as the sun begins to set. They remind me of the large flocks of starlings that soar through the sky in the early fall season. There appear to be numerous small groups swimming in individual patterns and directions; yet somehow, without “leaders” or “rules,” the many groups act as one.

I remember when, two decades ago, a gentleman from the organization “Trout Unlimited” contacted me. He requested that Chief Paul Waterman and I get the Onondaga Council of Chiefs to endorse one of their proposals to protect the Upper Delaware River. When I spoke to Paul about this, he said, “Always remember to serve as ‘Minnows Unlimited.’ If we take care of the tiny, the big will take care of themselves.”

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Parents have five lessons to teach their little ones, by the age of five. The first is “you are loveable.” The infant transitions from the security of the womb, to mother’s arms, which provide the security needed to continue to grow. Second, “you are likeable.” I enjoy spending time with you. Third, “you are worthwhile.” The time I spend with you is not only a pleasure, it is an investment in you as an individual being. Next, “you are capable.” You can do many things. And then comes, “you are responsible.” I trust you as a person.

That child that has these lessons instilled by age five has a good chance of being successful in life. Now, that does not mean he or she will not ever tell a lie, or steal. It doesn’t suggest their teenaged years will bring nothing less than pure joy for mom and pops. Of course not. But it does provide a foundation, upon which they can build that sense of self-trust needed to reach their potential.

On the flip side, not all parents can teach these five simple-sounding lessons. Indeed, one cannot teach what one does not understand. More, this is not dependent on economic status: while the wealthy enjoy a wider range of options for education and employment than either the middle- or lower-economic classes, they have equally high rates of producing adults without a healthy sense of self-trust.

Even that person who was raised in a nourishing environment will have periods of self-doubt. That is certain, due to the organic structure of our brains’ hard-wiring. Millions of years of evolution insure that reality, and no pill from the pharmacy will create a worry-free, yet fully conscious human being. Yet with the right foundation, people can work through those periods of self-doubt. Not only that, but those who did not get all the proper building blocks by the age of five have not been sentenced to an unfulfilled life. As individuals, we can rise above the circumstances that hold us down, and limit our potential.

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A bald eagle is floating low, apparently following the creek. Two other birds -- they look like crows -- are attempting to force it away. It is likely going to the source of the creek, a small lake about four miles north. I’ve also seen eagles near the man-made pond, situated on a small, rural golf course, about a mile away. There is something amazing about watching an eagle.

Years ago, when I did social work in Delaware County, I saw eagles frequently. One evening, as people were heading to the parking lot, one landed on a near-by telephone pole. A casual friend from another agency and I stayed and watched it, well after everyone else had left. At the time, he incorrectly associated me with “new age” theology. So, when he asked me what “power” I associated with that beautiful bird, I said the power of bald eagles. He asked if I felt there was a “message” to its being there? I said yes, definitely: it communicated the fact that the river provided substance for bald eagles. No magic, no hocus-pocus.

We began having lunch at the picnic tables behind our office building. My friend and a couple of others knew that rather than talking with “troubled teens” in my office, I preferred to do things like restoring pioneer cemeteries or going “arrowhead hunting.” The youngsters tended to talk more openly while we engaged in such activities. My friend asked if there were any local sites, where he might find an artifact?

I pointed to a high mountain on the opposite side of the river. I said that I thought there might well be a site high up on the mountain. I said that in an era where social norms were breaking down, such as that around the time of the historical figure Hiawatha, people often had camps at high places such as that. For some time, we talked about trying to find it. Then one day, we drove over the closest bridge, circled back, and followed an old dirt road to its dead end.

An elderly farmer was working in his garden. We introduced ourselves, and explained why we were there. He told us that he had uncovered such a site in 1963, while clearing brush to expand a pasture. He showed us where it was, and allowed us to excavate as much of the site as we wanted. I had a friend who teaches archaeology at a local university come and assist us.

Both the kids I worked with, and a handful of social workers, enjoyed that summer. The university did flotation tests on the soil from fire-pits, documenting what the people there around 800 ad were eating. We would bring along food for picnics, and spend weekend days at the site. Whenever a bald eagle flew by, I’d ask my friend what he thought it meant? “That the river supports eagles,” he would say.
So long as we respect it, the land and air and water around here will support human life, too. That’s power. Real power, not the type that Paul Ryan seeks. Yet, if his ilk are allowed to destroy the environment, including by hydro racking, that abuse of power will have harsh consequences.

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I listen to the song of the tiny frogs known as “peepers” before coming indoors. My daughter tells me that a friend had called, and asked that I call back. She is a nurse who lives in a nearby town, who has become active in community affairs since her youngest child graduated. From time to time, she calls me to ask for my opinion on how she and a few others can best deal with the “1%” in her town.

After listening, I tell her that she and her friends are doing things right. To keep moving in the direction they are currently moving in. She says that they still like to run things by me, because I am “the strongest person we know.” I am also the weakest person they know, I said, though I appreciated her compliment.

We are indeed at a strange and dangerous point in history. It’s good to study history, and to speculate on the future. But we have to deal with the realities of now. That demands that, as individuals, we step up our actions to bring about social justice. That requires the developing of a higher level of self-trust.

A few people that I have the pleasure of knowing are being called upon to take on leadership roles. These include the public school teacher that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, and the nurse I spoke of here. Both were somewhat aware of that before; for whatever reason, my pointing it out to them seems to have confirmed it for them. It’s not the past or future that are calling on them. It’s now.

And it’s your time, too.


If I have a problem, I prefer to think about it while outside. Since I live in a rural area, and consider myself fortunate: I've been able to spend a lot of time walking paths in the woods, visiting a beautiful waterfalls, and sitting out near my pond. Some of that time, I'm by myself; other times, one or more of my dogs accompany me.

I know that many people prefer urban life, which is understandable. People have differences. And many individuals tend to deal with problems differently in their youth, than in their older ages. Some prefer group settings, and others solitude. That's a good thing.

As I walked along a snow-covered path near the creek last week, I was thankful for that opportunity. I have walked that path since long before I bought my house; next month will mark my owning this house longer than anyone else, since it was built in the 1790s. When I bought the place, a neighbor ("Old Fred" who lived here in the 1950s would walk that same path with me, and we would talk about local history.

It was twenty years ago that an area newspaper reporter ask me for something to use in her article about religion. I talked to Onondaga Chief Paul Waterman, and he okayed me sharing a poem with the reporter. It's a song, actually, from the Mid-Winter ceremonies. The lyrics speak of snow melting, and tiny streams flowing down the hills, and how that water is medicine.

I can hear the water running under the icy patches along the creek. The creek itself is covered with ice -- including a build-up of large sheets of ice collected below the waterfalls. The sound of a smaller stream meeting the larger creek -- all under ice -- makes beautiful music. Such music is soothing and healing. Medicine for this old man's ears.

I'm reminded that long, long ago, a teenager named Daniel Dickinson worked here, at a "cloth-and-carding factory" at the falls. My 8-year old son found a mill stone there, several inches beneath the soil, the year we moved there. Today, I'm looking for another type of stone: those which withstand the heat of fire, without shattering.

I'm an old man, and I don't know how many more springs I will have the opportunity to walk this lovely path. So I concentrate on enjoying every second of it. I greet the blue jays that sound their warning: "Human alert! Human alert!" And I find the delta, where the stream enters the creek. It is bare of ice, much like in the summer, these "lack-a-wannas" (where two streams meet) will be clear of fog. There is gravel and piles of cobble stones showing. I carry out a number of cobbles, and notice a large sandstone rock -- bigger than a volleyball -- near where a tree was uprooted.

Over the past few days, I've collected all the stones I need. I've also moved enough firewood out to the fire pit near my pond in the past three weeks. I had asked for some help from the young folks who wanted to participate in ceremony. But young folk are always busy, and so it ended up just me doing all the preparation.

There are no coincidences: either everything has meaning, or everything is meanless, despite the values our culture assigns. I value my time alone. I realize that, as I consider my many problems, I alone am responsible for all of my choices -- and the actions that result from those choices. Loneliness, on the other hand, is the dark side of being alone. Both sides weigh heavily.

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I made the platform and fire from oak, cherry, hemlock, blue spruce, locus, white pine, and hickory. The stones include sandstone, flint, and granite.

The pond is covered with ice. There are small gaps, where the mountain streams flow into the pond. When I move away from the fire, I can hear springs gurgling over.

I fill the bird-feeders my daughters have hung for me, and watch as the chickadees feast. Other small song birds begin to visit the familiar feeders. Chief Waterman instructed me to listen carefully to the tunes of the smallest song birds.

Soon, two friends come from opposite directions. Their work-day is over, and they are happy it is now the weekend. The first brings three gallons of water, one for each of us during ceremony. I've brought 16 gallons of water to pour during ceremony. Although it is chilly out, as the stones are brought into the lodge -- and sage is sprinkled on them -- the red-hot rocks begin to sing.

I am equally happy to conduct ceremony alone, or with others. I know the advantages that groups offer. Yet, as I consider one "problem," I realize that the answer can alone be identified by me, alone. After I reach that answer, I may bring it to other groups of people. But there is no other human being that can influence my final decision. That is up to me to decide.

The ceremony goes well. It is very hot, but not too hot, inside. The third person, here for the first time, volunteers to bring the rocks in for the two last rounds. This is good, because old men like me can grow tired. That's a young man's job.

I've known him less than a year. He is proud to be an atheist, who questions everything. He strikes me as very ethical, even spiritual. I was a little surprised he wanted to be here. Inside the lodge, I told him some things about his childhood that he had forgotten. I'm confident that, in the future, he will help me with stones and fire wood.

***** ***** ****** ***** ****** ***** ****** ******

Tom Libous is the most powerful republican in NYS politics. He has been in the state senate for a long time. The Koch brothers contribute generously to him. He is the lap dog of the local "energy" industry.

In 2010 and 2011, Libous worked with Governor Andrew Cuomo on a plan to make the Southern Tier a sacrifice area for the gas industry. Grass roots opposition put this plan in check. Libous was unwilling to meet with anyone from the pro-environment side, and so in 2012, I engaged in a "hunger strike" until Libous finally met me me.

In the time since then, Libous has been named as a politician seeking to use influence to secure employment for his son, in a federal "mob" trial in NYC. Later, it was reported that Libous lied in telling the state that neither he nor his wife had any financial interest in hydrofracking. In reality, both Senator and Mrs. Libous have significant investments in fracking.

I'm thinking about this, as I walk out to my pond. It's much warmer today; almost 60 degrees, and sunny. I fill the bird-feeders, and within minutes, the chickadees are there. The ice has melted off half of the pond. A million minnows and a number of Koi come to where I've tossed in fish food. There is but one dead fish, exposed by the ice melt. My dog Kelly, who loves the pond, sniffs the dead fish out quickly.

Kelly wades into the water, snatches the fish, and carries it to shore. He acts as if that fish were alive: tossing it with a twist of his head, pouncing upon it, and pawing it with a series of rapid jabs. He is a white dog, with blue spots, and it appears like he is dancing with the dead fish. I'm laughing out loud, and his tail begins wagging faster and faster.

The Koi in the still-cold water are moving in low gear. It appears to be slow-motion. After maybe half-an-hour's feeding, they swim faster. A few break the surface to grab food.

If Tom Libous is re-elected, the water from these tiny streams, creeks, ponds, and waterfalls will be destroyed by the poisons used in hydrofracking. The registered democrats in our region do not get to select who will run against him; each time, they pick someone who has patiently waited their turn to get destroyed by the republican machine.

A fairly wide range of people have asked me to run against Libous. Numerous democrats, members of the democratic left, and even some republicans have told me that they want me to run. The county chairpersons are less encouraging, noting their lack of influence in deciding on the candidate. In my opinion -- and I'm not alone -- the last fellow was channeling the spirit of Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh.

I'm a tired old man. I'm deemed 100% physically disabled. My physical health has seriously deteriorated since being deemed 100% disabled. I think that my mind is still relatively intact, although others might disagree.

If there was a better person to challenge Libous this year, I would be the very first to support her/him. Gladly. Fully.

But I do not see that person.

I walked in from my pond, and contacted the NYS Democratic Party HQ. I said that I want to be the candidate to challenge Libous. I have 40+ years of grass roots activism for the Democratic Party. I've ran numerous "local" elections in recent years, and have a winning record. I can get the votes of the party, the democratic left, and rational republicans.

I haven't heard back. So I wait, alone ..... but pretty soon, I may ask others to e-mail the Democratic HQ in Albany, to lobby for me.

Thank you,
H2O Man


"We draw our strength from the very despair in which we have been forced to live. We shall endure." -- Cesar Chavez

A co-worker in grass roots social-political activism visited me tonight. She is a dedicated art teacher at an area high school; that school has gone from one of the best in central New York, and great place to work, to one where budget cuts and a new superintendent have taken a severe toll. The teachers union -- as well as those representing clerical staff and principals -- seem incapable of protecting the employees' rights. Fear has saturated the school environment, and the students are being denied the quality of education that they deserve.

I find “systems” fascinating. In social work, I tended to take a “family systems” approach. In social activism, I lean towards “community systems.” In things political, one must have a grasp of “bureaucratic systems.” Workplaces, especially in the corporate and/or government contexts, are also systems that have some general dynamics that employees and unions benefit from recognizing.

When a once healthy, well-functioning system rapidly transforms into an unhealthy, dysfunctional cluster, there tend to be a few variables at play. For example, if on a local level, republicans have taken control of political offices, and conservative economic cuts from the next higher level (state) are taking place, local government services will suffer. This includes everything from public health services to public education.

More, the synergism from multi-level conservative-republican entities creates an ethical vacuum, where “economic hit-persons” are hired to reduce staff and services offered. This can, by definition, not be accomplished with the intent of maintaining a positive work atmosphere – quite the opposite, it requires the planting of doubt, and the growth of anxiety and unhappiness among employees.

In order to atrophy any possible resistance to the new program, the new boss must create divisions among employees. In his 1973 classic, “The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness,” Erich Fromm describes how a “boss” with sociopathic personality traits – seemingly required for economic hit-persons – will manipulate those who work for them. This generally includes promoting a weak person who, while having some knowledge of the system, can be counted upon to treat others cruelly. Such a person must be obedient to “rules,” and have an under-developed sense of ethics.

Together, the “boss” and their side-kick will seek to destroy morale in the workplace. They will, for example, threaten to institute new rules that make the workplace toxic, in response to “problems” that involve a single individual. They will attempt to get rid of any individuals who may challenge their authority. And they will eliminate positions in an arbitrary manner, to increase the doubts and discomforts of the rest of the workforce.

Lying is their language, and deceit their tongue. Such a boss lacks the moral capacity to admit even the smallest of mistakes – although they attempt to manipulate by “admitting” they were wrong to trust so-and-so. They have an uncanny ability to view themselves as the “victims” whenever they are challenged on their sick behaviors.

The goal is to destroy any and all sense of community inside of the system, and to reduce it to Durkheim’s apathetic, disorganized dust of individuals. These individuals are encouraged to “look out for number one,” and discouraged from attempting to unite with others to promote common interests. The individual may initially resist the changes being made by the new boss; next, they will attempt to avoid being damaged by the changes; then, they begin to accommodate the changes in the workplace; soon, they accept the “new reality”; and soon, they become part of the system that is robbing them, and all around them, of their humanity and self-respect.

Who can do battle with this beast? When one considers its true nature, the scope can seem overwhelming: for this system has spread like a virus throughout our culture. There are fewer and fewer uncontaminated segments in the United States today. Unchecked, as the US becomes part of a feudal estate on a global scale, where the 1% lives in gated communities while dictating how many crumbs will be divided up among the peasant class, it threatens to become entrenched, beyond repair.

Quality public education is the enemy of this beast, for its primary goal is to teach citizenship in a democratic state. Private schools for the offspring of the 1% will perpetuate the ruling class’s ability to capitalize on the mis-educated masses. Local levels of government will increasingly be under the thumbs of the Koch brothers and their ilk. Public services will be reduced to the point where they serve to dull the senses of the tax-payers, like prescription drugs that numb the pain of having their very being stolen from them.

We see the effects already. People complain, in order to let off steam; yet complaining alone accomplishes nothing in terms of correcting injustice. Sub-groups of depressed people will gather together on weekends, and seek temporary relief from the meaninglessness of their lives by distracting themselves with bright lights, loud music, and group intoxication. They do not recognize that this is part of that system that has stolen control of their lives. Indeed, it is much easier to control a merry group of drunken fools, than a single sober individual unwilling to accept the loss of self-respect.

Unconscious people can only serve as cogs in the machine. But a single conscious person can wake others up. That conscious individual can help others to understand that the hero and the coward both feel the same fear; that while the coward is consumed and thus destroyed by this fear, the hero uses it to fuel their struggle. And that the same amount of fuel, or energy, is required to become empowered, as is required to surrender one’s power to the system.

The roads to surrender and defeat are easy to locate. They are all around us. The paths to lives worth living seem harder to identify. Yet we have examples, which include individuals such as Gandhi, King, and Chavez. More, and equally important, we have the examples of the larger, often nameless groups of people who joined their struggles. In every case, we find that the “leader” (for lack of better description) recognized that in order to do more, they had to become more. This does not translate into these individuals becoming more of the same thing, by adding more of the same qualities they already have. Rather, it is becoming more by internal evolution, by transforming themselves.

By transforming themselves, they spark a transformation within that group around them. The group begins to wake up to a higher level of consciousness. While there is no “one size fits all” solution to the problems individual groups are confronted with, an awake and aware group will always be able to identify options that are available to them – options that they were not able to see in their previous level of being. Also, they find the confidence required to attempt to actualize these options. They develop the faith in their ability to exercise control over their own lives.

When people access this potential within themselves, they no longer expect “leaders” to do for them that which only they can do for themselves. They no longer project the ability to “save” or protect themselves on some external being or force; instead, they become part of, and one with, that force. They learn to trust in the process, because they are an influential part of it.

H2O Man

Shades of Nixon

The late president Richard Nixon is certainly looking down from his office in hell with pride, as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie pays tribute to him. The "official" report authored by a gentleman from the law firm that will defend Christie in the 2015 federal court trial actually has less substance, than the investigative report on Watergate that Nixon tasked John Dean with writing. At least Dean had the insight to abandon ship, and deal with those investigating the series of crimes known collectively as "Watergate," and not write the report that was intended to "prove" Nixon bore no responsibility.

This resulted in Team Nixon turning the focus onto Dean, who had played a central role, much as Team Christie now blames Bridget Anne Kelly. The ugliness of their anti-Kelly campaign ranks with the essence of a Nixonian smear campaign: attempt to fully discredit an "enemy" -- often including someone that the top dog had recently promoted as worthy of the public's trust. The truly repulsive, sexist assault on Ms. Kelly really do not differ much from the Nixon camp's attempt to smear Dean with "hints" that tied his wife to a call-girl ring.

Being offended by the Christie whitewash does not translate into being a Kelly supporter. However, even if one disagrees with her on virtually every political belief she holds, it is important to defend her from the type of vicious attack she now faces. More, in doing so, one needs to highlight that not only is the sexist attack not acceptable, but two other extremely important facts: first, it is a blatant attempt to take focus off of the reall issues at hand; and second, it illustrates the character of Chris Christie and his pals.

I've never met Bridget Anne Daul (and certainly never want to). However, I do have a fair share of Kelly relatives in New Jersey. I understand that Bridget used to be young, and that the "slut-shaming" campaign is ready to "leak" some photos that the puritan strain of republicans will find so gosh-darned shocking that they will have to stare at them for hours.

I'm old enough to remember that John Dean was a shithead before he joined the Nixonoids; that he was a criminal while serving Tricky Dick; and that he was a jerk throughout the 1970s. But he changed. In the years 2002 to 2004, he was actually one of the best critics of George W. Bush and especially Dick Cheney. While not necessarily someone you'd want to be friends with, definitely a person that would be worth talking to.

Maybe, in time, Bridget Kelly will undergo a similar transformation. As a religious person, I am convinced that God eventually forgives republicans -- at the very end, of course. A tiny percentage of even the most foul of republicans have been redeemed while still living.

Like Dean, I think Kelly needs to be faced with criminal prosecution. However, I am not convinced she needs to be incarcerate. Certainly not, if others -- including Christie -- do not face far, far more significant punishment.

Rage Against the Republican Machine

"Share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, cover him ....
Then shall your light break through like the dawn
and your healing shall spring up speedily."
-- Isaiah, 58: 7-8

The 2014 mid-term elections are rapidly approaching, and 2016 will be here before you know it. The questions at the national level are: which party will control the House and Senate during President Obama's final two years in office, and who will take the Oval Office after Obama?

The answers to those questions should be the most obvious -- that it will be determined by how many people get out to vote, and who they vote for. Yet, as the 2000 presidential election showed, that isn't always true. More, for all the republican party's claims about voter fraud, the truth is that they are playing point in the effort to disenfranchise specific groups of potential voters.

Thus, other dynamics come into play. An important example can be found in the tea party movement. While it hasn't reached its full potential to damage the seams of the republican party, it has -- specifically in primaries -- removed some of the dehydrated fecal matter from the bowels of the republican machine. Luckily, it has produced candidates who are proud to explain that, "I am NOT a witch."

A structurally similar dynamic has, over the years, impacted the Democratic Party. This is because the Democratic Party can only access full power when it has the support of the Democratic Left, which includes people who may not be registered democrats. Although a segment of registered democrats are part of the Democratic Left, it also includes other liberals and progressives; they might be independents, Greens, socialists, or identify themselves in different ways.

At the grass roots level, the actual activists are found at a higher percentage among the Democratic Left, than in the Democratic Party itself. Those activists are the men and women who go door-to-door, who run the phone banks, who hand out fliers on street corners, and other things that help to get out the vote.

Traditionally, republicans can be depended upon to do whatever they are instructed to do: contribute dollars to campaigns, and vote for all (and only) republican candidates. Indeed, the average republican is a mere cog in a machine that produces results that frequently are not in the cogs' best interests. So long as the party's leadership serves up hatred and fear, it can count on the cog vote.

Individuals from both the Democratic Party and Democratic Left are much more likelt to think for themselves, and to have positive values; the resulting synergy can lead to their not always voting the way that the Democratic Party's leadership tells them to. Hence, the democratic candidates cannot be assured of a large turn-out from potential supporters.

This can lead to the type of tensions that we see here, on the Democratic Underground, during campaign season. Both the Democratic Party and the Democratic Left have found their fullest strength when working together. The party is frequently limited in the scope of candidates it can win general elections in, without the left. And the left has rather limited power in the current political context. While both the party and left do have options for increasing their strength alone, it seems obvious that their combined efforts hold the greatest promise.

This, of course, raises some obvious questions. What forces prevent greater coordination between the party and the left? And what steps might remove such roadblocks?

I am a registered democrat; I have been since reaching voting age. In those same years, I have been a member of the Democratic Left. Like many others on this forum, I've had experience, as a candidate and as a campaign worker/ manager, in town, county, and state contests. I've been an active volunteer in presidential elections. I've taken a fair share of political science courses in college; read hundreds of informative books on campaigns; and have had the pleasure of learning from some outstanding grass roots activists over the decades.

Thus, I'm certainly not coming from any high places, but rather, am speaking from my grass roots experiences. My opinions on the relationship between the Party and the Left are just that -- my opinions. Others view things differently, and I respect that. There are relatively few black-and-white issues in political science.

Current trends in Washington, DC, should concern all of us. The outlook for the mid-term elections for the House and Senate should be unacceptable. The republican party offers no solutions, except for tax cuts to enrich the 1%. The necroconservatives are itching for a war (to be fought by other people's sons and daughters). Their lust for wealth would further destroy the environment.

The Democratic Party should be burying the republicans, both in congressional races and at various state levels. The fact that they are not is evidence that something is wrong. Very wrong. I say that, as someone who thinks that the vast majority of elected democrats in DC are doing a shameful job of representing our interests and values. That doesn't change the fact that the republicans are far worse, and have betrayed our nation.

There was a report on MSNBC last night, that listed many of the candidates for office being related to past officials, such as Rand Paul. This isn't limited to the republicans. Having political dynasties is damaging to our system, as it confirms that certain families are fronting for the elites. If there is a Bush vs Clinton contest in 2016, one can at very least accept that much of the Democratic Left will view it as diagnostic of the failure of the current two-party system. You can respect Hillary Clinton, and despise Jeb Bush, and still believe this type of thing could happen only because our system is sick.

Many thoughtful democratic loyalist recognize that we face very real problems, and that the usual democratic candidates are corporate lap dogs. Too many democrats attempt to use shallow scare tactics: if you don't vote for so-n-so, you are responsible for George W. Bush or others like him. It's not good to limit your own thinking, or to try to limit the mental options of others.

It's important that we not limit our thinking. I had long respected Ralph Nader, but by 2000, thought he had become bitter. I definitely supported Al Gore, 100%. Now, there are good people who mistakenly believe Nader cost Gore the election. Baloney. The US Supreme Court participated in a plot to steal the presidency. We must understand the full implications of that fact, in order to defend ourselves today and in the future. If we are to defend ourselves, we have to be able to identify exactly who our enemy is. And we need to understand the nature of that enemy.

When we identify that enemy, we'll find that many other groups have that in common with us. We face a common enemy. It's far better that the Democratic Party and the Democratic Left find common ground. It goes beyond that common enemy. We share values, and interests.

When we have that much in common, we should be working together. It doesn't mean that we will always agree. And there isn't a "one size fits all" way to deal with those areas of disagreement. But, in general, we should be able to agree to all support the strongest candidates we can. While most at the congressional level will be from the Democratic Party, there should be a growing number of candidates from the Democratic Left.

If we expect the Democratic Left to not only vote for Democratic Party candidates, but to invest their time and money in the campaigns, there has to be the same type of consideration for their candidates. This doesn't mean splitting the vote and thus allowing a republican victory. It simply means supporting the best candidate. In doing so, we reduce the obnoxious, paternal "you have no other choice but us" attitude that far too many establishment democrats take. That attitude is toxic, and can only increase resentments.

In my opinion, it's not too late to pull off a significant number of election victories in 2014. But in order to do so, the Democratic Party has to get back to its traditional values. Attempts to out-republican the republicans will cause humiliating defeats. Let's get the party back to where it once belonged.

H2O Man

Ali & Carter

"I ain't got nothing against them Viet Cong. They never called me 'nigger'."
-- Muhammad Ali

{0} Introductions
Perhaps my favorite part of the Democratic Underground is the friends I've met here. In some cases, that involves communicating by way of e-mail; recently, a good friend snail-mailed me copies of some outstanding music he has made, that I am busy distributing to both young and old artists friends, all cultural-political activists; others, I've spoken with on the telephone; and a few I've had the pleasure of meeting in person.

Earlier this week, one of my best friends here asked me to write an essay on the significance of two long-retired boxers. Both Muhammad Ali and Rubin Carter were more than gifted athletes: they challenged the conscience of the American public. Each has had, since the 1960s, both supporters and detractors. Among their "detractors" in the '60s were people in government offices, as well as in law enforcement. Both have enjoyed some support from some in government/ law enforcement, too.

By no coincidence, their lives were intertwined, from the time that Cassius Clay was a young heavyweight contender, and Carter was gaining national exposure on the infamous "Friday Night Fights." In the 1970s, Ali would serve as the #1 supporter of Carter's effort to get a retrial. A few years back, on an ESPN's Friday Night Fights card in Detroit, Rubin tended to Muhammad's needs, as the pair sat ringside.

Friend "panader0" -- being aware of my interest in both men -- suggested an essay on the pair might be of interest, both to "old-timers" who grew up in the 1960s and '70s, and to younger folks, who understand that these men contributed some things that should be as valued today as way back when.

{1} "I am the Greatest!" -- Cassius Clay

A dog-gone lot of hard work is required to become an overnight success, and so it was for a brash contender named Cassius Clay, who was consider too young and fragile to challenge heavyweight champion Charles "Sonny" Liston. Clay, who began boxing amateur at the age of 12, had won the national Golden Gloves title before competing in the 1960 Olympics. There, after the 18-year old won the gold, a reporter from the Soviet Union asked Clay about racial discrimination in the US? "At least we don't have people living in mud huts, wrestling alligators," Clay responded.

As Clay began his early professional career, President John F. Kennedy invited the heavyweight champion, Floyd Patterson, to the White House. JFK told Patterson that, if he opted to defend the title against #1 contender Sonny Liston, it was essential that he win. For Liston, an ex-convict with mafia ties, frightened Americans, both black and white. For younger readers, picture a "thug" who would make Mike Tyson seem like a Boy Scout with an Eagle Badge.

Liston would destroy Patterson twice in one-round knockouts. Despite his sincere attempts to be a good man outside of the ring, the media despised Sonny. They refused to report on his numerous activities to provide support of terminally ill children. Liston was literally trapped in the image the media created for him.

Meanwhile, Clay was defeating the second-tier heavyweight contenders. In fact, the bash young man was predicting what round he would knock them out in -- and he was consistent in doing so. Another important point was that his trainer, Angelo Dundee, would have Clay spar with the light heavyweight champion, and with a former heavyweight champion; Clay easily handled both men.

In his two bouts before signing to challenge Liston, Clay struggled against Doug Jones, then got off the canvas to stop Henry Cooper. Virtually all the "experts" were convinced Liston would flatten Clay in a round or two. No one was more confident of that than Liston himself, who trained for a two-round bout.

Clay released a record album titled, "I Am The Greatest," in which he recited round after round of his poetry, worshipping himself and insulting Sonny Liston. At the time when Cassius was entering his training camp, JFK was murdered in Dallas. A couple months later, the English rock group, The Beatles, invaded America. The Beatles would spend an afternoon at Clay's training camp; they did not, of course, visit the Liston camp.

The press began reporting that another figure was in Clay's camp: Malcolm X. Soon after JFK was killed, Malcolm had been "suspended" from the Nation of Islam. He had become something of a big brother/ mentor to Cassius by that time, and Clay had invited his family to stay in Miami with him. A fight between a mobster champion and a "Black Muslim" would be a promotional nightmare, and so -- under pressure -- Malcolm made himself invisible until the night of the fight. More, Cassius opted to not answer reporters' questions about Malcolm, much less tell them he had actually joined the NOI, and changed his named to Cassius X.

Dundee understood that, despite the media's perception, Cassius had grown in the past year, and when he entered the ring, was actually bigger than Liston. More, from his past experiences managing other top fighters, Angelo knew that a boxer can grow during a bout. Thus, the Cassius who entered the ring to challenge Liston, and who was anxious, even fearful in the first round, was not the the same fighter who left the ring after six rounds, as the new Heavyweight Champion of the World.

After each of his previous ring victories, Clay had celebrated with a dish of ice cream. That is part of the self-discipline that had made him champion. However, after the Liston fight, legend has it that the Champ let loose, and had two dishes of ice cream. He would never smoke, consume alcohol, or any other drugs. Indeed, at this point in his life, he was still very shy around women.

The following day, at a press conference, the Champ announced he had joined the NOI, and changed his name to Cassius X. There was reason to believe he might stick with Malcolm, rather than the NOI, in the anticipated split. NOI leader Elijah Mohammad then bestowed the name "Muhammad Ali" on Cassius, and the fighter would turn his back on Malcolm.

Ali's life would shift into a much higher gear, reflecting the growing tensions in American society. After his re-match with Liston was postponed, due to Ali's suffering from a hernia, Malcolm was gunned down in Harlem. Malcolm's followers set fires in a couple NOI properties, including Ali's home, in retaliation. An FBI plant in the #3 position in the NOI took steps to encourage the violence between the two groups of black Americans, distracting them from their intended purposes.

The WBA -- one of two boxing commissions at the time -- "stripped" Ali of the title for joining the NOI. Uncle Sam suddenly changed his draft status. Ali was forced to go to Canada and Europe for a series of title defenses. Sports writers were more influential back then, and so when Jimmy Cannon wrote that Ali's NOI ties were "the dirtiest thing in American sports since the Nazis were shilling for Max Schmeling as representative of their vile theories of blood," he increased the threat of violence all too common at the time.

"I don't have to be who you want me to be," Ali told reporters. When drafted, Ali refused induction into the military. This was huge -- far more significant at the time than it sounds now. Not only was the civil rights movement reaching a point where many, including the criminally insane FBI director, believed that it could lead to a violent civil war, but the anti-war movement was gaining strength. Uncle Sam needed a steady stream of young black men (and poor white ones) to sacrifice in the jungles of Vietnam.

Having an undefeated, outspoken heavyweight champion model refusal to be drafted was serious business. Hoover, who had direct contract with Army Intelligence through shared staff, had authored his infamous memo, calling for the destruction of the militant black leadership -- in which he included Martin Luther King, Jr. There were no "great white hopes" -- nor any black contenders -- with a prayer of beating Ali in the ring. Thus, the draft was an attempt to put him in check.

Hoover et al knew the NOI was compromised by greed and crime. Malcolm had reported on Elijah's business meetings with the Ku Klux Klan, and other racist groups. The government was aware of other high-ranking NOI officials' ties to the very vices that their aging leader had fought to eliminate in the black community. Officials knew that Elijah was willing to make an acception to God's Laws, and allow Ali to take a cushy position in the military. However, phone taps had recorded Ali speaking with Dr. King, who was beginning to publicly identify the war in Vietnam as racist.

After refusing induction, Ali told reporters that he "would rather face machine guns" than betray his conscience. He had the courage of his convictions: he was stripped of his title; denied a license to box and earn an income; convicted in federal court; and sentenced to prison. For 3.5 years, Ali went from exhiled champion to People's Champion. He toured college campuses, and spoke against the war.

When his case was taken up by the US Supreme Court, the justices were all prepared to rule aggainst him (one recused himself). But an intern had one justice read "The Autobiography of Malcolm X": this literally led to an 8-0 victory for The Champ. Early in the first phase of Part Two of Ali's career, he remained a hated man among the pro-war people, and hero to the left. His first bout with Joe Frazier -- the "Fight of the Century" -- divided Americans based upon war sentiments. Though he lost, Ali's bravery in that fight won him the respect of many of those who had despised him.

{3} "Carter repeatedly spits out words like 'kill' in conversation. They reflect an easily triggered violence that lies barely restrained beneath his malevolent-looking exterior." -- Milton Gross

Rubin Carter had more in common with Sonny Liston, than he did with Cassius Clay/ Muhammad Ali. Like Liston, he was an ex-convict, who had concussive punching power. After escaping from a reform school, Carter had joined the military. Stationed in Germany, Carter learned to box. He was good enough that he might have fought in the Rome Olympics as a welterweight, on the same team as Ali. But an introduction to Islam, combined with pursuing his education, led to Rubin's leaving the military, and returning to New Jersey to do things other than box. Both fate and alcohol led to his being incarcerated in prison.

There, Carter focused exclusively on preparing for a ring career. He engaged in a daily routine of 5,000 push-ups and 5,000 sit-ups, along with hours of shadow-boxing. His activities caught the attention of a guard, who had connections with local boxing. While the guard was a well-intentioned man, he would connect Carter with some of the mob figures who controlled boxing in the northeast.

Carter's extremely muscular upper body made him appear to be a heavyweight. Actually, in today's terms, he would be a junior middleweight. Carter quickly earned the nickname "Hurricane" due to his destruction of opponents in exciting fashion; Carter mastered the ability to literally knock opponents through the ropes, and out of the ring. This made him a favorite on the Friday Night Fights.

Because he appeared so large -- and because of his own stubborn pride -- Rubin served as one of Sonny Liston's sparring partners. The two anti-social loners bonded, at least outside of the gym's ring. However, while sparring, Carter found the 50-pound heavier Liston had vicious punching power. Upon taking off his headgear one afternoon, Rubin found that he was bleeding from both ears.

That experience ended his sparring Sonny. It did teach Carter the value of defense, and his skills in this area were more solid than most of the "experts" recognized. (Years later, as the studio guest on ESPN's FNF, I asked Rubin to tell the audience about his times with Liston. In answering, Rube expanded on memories of Malcolm, as well.)

So long as he fought for mob managers, Carter's career seemed destined for a championship. But his father showed Rubin that he wasn't being paid the money he earned -- certainly not uncommon for boxers back then. His managers were keeping the lion's share. When Rubin terminated his relationship with them, these gentlemen told his father that he would pay a severe price.

Rubin's father thought the mob would shoot his son; Rubin, however, thought that his inability to secure top fights was the retribution. He would be forced to travel to Europe, South America, and South Africa to get fights. His contact with blacks in his first trip to Africa resulted in his bringing two duffle bags of guns with him when he returned.

Carter's new "management" consisted largely of some of his friends who were involved in controlling the bars -- hence, vice -- in Patterson, NJ. It was, of course, through these contacts with the growing organized crime elements in the black community, that Rubin had gotten the unregistered guns he delivered in South Africa. He didn't realize that the police were quite aware of this.

Carter was interested in Islam, but not the NOI. Still, circles in Patterson (and NYC) overlapped. The NOI squad that was tasked with murdering Malcolm, for example, was organized in Paterson. Unlike Ali, Rubin did not live a disciplined life outside the ring. He was a "night owl," who spent too much time in the bars, and pursuing the pleasures of the flesh.

There were some interviews with sports magazines, where Carter came across as intelligent and thoughtful. He was aware that the "thug" image sold tickets to his fights. But he began to find that, partly his own fault, he was unable to separate from that image. There were two incidents where Carter made the headlines as the result of fights in bars. More, when he attempted to speak about the need for black people to control their neighborhoods, and protect their children from police violence, the Saturday Evening Post article quoted a friend as saying Rubin wanted to shoot police.

In June of 1966, Carter spent an evening in Paterson bars, attempting to organize the training camp for what would be his last boxing match. This included talking with his manager-advisors, and a couple of sparring partners. As night turned to the early morning hours, Carter and two friends were pulled over by Paterson police. They were looking two black men in a white car, and allowed the three black men in a white car to continue on its way. About eight minutes later, after dropping off one friend, Rubin and John Artis were again pulled over, and their nightmare began.

Two black men, described by witnesses as "light-skinned," dressed in dark suits, and both about 6' tall, had entered a bar and shot four white people. The assassins had drove off in a white car. Police had chased a vehicle fitting that description out of the city limits, heading to NYC. Upon returning, they first encountered Rubin's car.

Everyone was on edge: earlier, a white man had murdered a black bartender, over an argument about money. This fit the increased tensions between the traditional mob, and the new black organization running the vices from the bars. Although the second incident at first was reported as an attempted robbery, people would soon assume it was in retaliation for the first hit.

The entire story of what happened that night has never been told. Certainly, it never came out in the twenty years of Carter's legal struggles, nor in the magazine articles, books, or movie that came out after a federal court overturned Carter and Artis's conviction. In writing his second book, Rubin told me that he was frustrated by the publisher’s refusal to print the full story, for fear of expensive suits. (Similar suits had caused huge legal fees for the publishers of "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse," and kept the book from being sold in the US for several years. Similarly, a book about Carter's case by friends in Canada was unavailable in the US for years.)

Long story semi-short: two of the shooting victims said it was not Carter and Artis; the pair had over a dozen witnesses to their whereabouts at the time of the murder; several people in the neighborhood, who saw the gunmen, said it was definitely not Rubin and John; and after intense questioning -- including polygraph tests and a search of Rubin's car -- the pair were released.

Carter and Artis volunteered to testify to a grand jury that investigated the crime. The lead detective told the grand jury thatRubin and John "didn't remotely fit the description" of the killers. In fact, one shooting victim was able to tell the investigator the identities of the gunmen -- who were NYC residents. A neighbor had also recognized them. In fact, the following month, police held two suspects in jail for the brutal crime.

It was not so much a problem because pieces of the puzzle were missing, as that there were too many pieces. For example, the police responding to the shooting had interviewed a woman who lived above the bar; she told of finding a young man behind the bar, robbing the dead bodies. He was also questioned. More, he was suspect -- not only because he was stealin money at the scene of the crime, but because he was wanted with others for a string of robberies across the state.

The woman who, after being shot, had identified the actual gunmen died unexpectedly in July. The lead investigator was convinced that Carter, while not a gunman, was the brains behind the crime. He believed that Rubin was the leader of the Mau-Mau-style group that Malcolm X had said would benefit black Americans. Putting Rubin in the electric chair became his primary focus.

Over a three-month period, he worked to get the thug who robbed the dead to say he saw Carter and Artis leaving the bar with guns. The cop who had searched Rubin's car would place two bullets into evidence, claiming he had found them in Carter's car that night. It would be more than a decade before it was discovered he actually filed this "find" the following month. More, the bullets were not the same as used in the crime Carter was accused of; rather, they matched the type used in the earlier murder. And, if there were such a thing as coincidence: that officer had collected the shells at that first murder, and the exact number he claimed to have found in Rubin's car were now mysteriously missing.

Thus, Rubin and John were convicted, and sentenced to triple life in prison.

{4} "Muhammad Ali is a figure transcendental to sports. He's important to the history of this country because his entire life is an index to the bigotry lodged deep in the wellspring of this nation and its people. And Ali had the advantage of coming in the 1960s. Look at what was happening back then: the birth of the drug culture; the birth of the pill; riots in the streets; an ugly unwanted war; assassinations. Then you go into the 1970s. The most ignominious moment in the history of this country, the shootings at Kent State...." -- Howard Cosell

On October 10, 1970, Ali returned to the ring in Atlanta, Georgia. Ali would TKO tough contender Jerry Quarry in three rounds. While the fight itself was important in the context of the sport of boxing, those sitting at ringside reflected a new socio-political reality in America: Julian Bond, Bill Cosby, Ralph Abernathy, Sidney Poitier, Jesse Jackson, Diana Ross, Whitney Young, and Coretta Scott King were there to watch the Champ’s return.

Ali’s phase two became more than merely symbolic of the struggle for social justice in this nation. Senator Ted Kennedy told reporters how his late brother Robert had been influenced by Muhammad’s refusal to be drafted. Ali’s appeal was heading to the US Supreme Court, and documents released through the FOI Act show that the powers-that-be in Washington, DC, were exerting pressure to make sure his conviction led to five years of incarceration. Hence, Ali opted to fight the new undefeated heavyweight champion, Smokin’ Joe Frazier, in March, 1971. This was too early in his comeback, especially after his second bout, in which he absorbed more punishment than he had in the first half of his career.

“The Fight of the Century” was, without question, the biggest sports event ever. It was the first time that two undefeated men with valid claims to the heavyweight title met in the ring. Each fighter was paid an unheard of $2.5 million (they would have made over $9 million, had they accepted an offer that included a percentage of the closed-circuit sales). The fight was broadcast around the globe.

In the US, the bout divided the country. Ali represented the anti-war and civil rights movements; Frazier was cast, incorrectly, as representing the establishment. Ali took part in the perception management – among other things, telling reporters that Nixon would call Joe if he won, but not Ali – by going well beyond the pre-fight insults he had hurled at Liston: not only was Frazier “too ugly” to be champion, but he was stupid, and an Uncle Tom.

The anticipation leading up to the fight was perhaps best measured when a ringside fan was rushed to the hospital moments before the pair entered the ring. Then, during the 15 rounds, two men literally died of heart attacks. When Joe floored Muhammad in the last round, one of the men stood up and shouted, “Allah has fallen!” and collapsed. All of the “beautiful people” that came out to see Ali that night saw a brutal bout that Frazier won.

It is curious to consider how the USSC might have ruled, had Ali won that fight. But there was a shift in sympathy, in large part because of how he lost. He had displayed courage in the fight, and a quiet dignity – at first – in accepting his first defeat. As ex-champion, Ali did not seem as threatening to Washington. Hence, the court ruled 8-0 in his favor, in a decision that really did not pave the way for young black men to join the NOI to avoid the draft. It was as politically motivated a decision as the court would make until the Bush v Gore bout.

It was while he was on the comeback trail that Ali took up Rubin Carter’s case. As noted, the two had some history from earlier in their boxing careers. They had not been friends. In fact, a number of Ali's sparring partners had fought Carter: Jimmy Ellis, Luis Rodriguez, Ernie Buford, Sugar Boy Nando, and Gomeo Brennan among them. So it was not entirely surprising when Ali made plans to box an exhibition against Rubin at Rahway State Prison, to bring attention to his legal struggles. However, shortly before the exhibition could be held, Rubin was “moved” to the Vroom Building, the state’s psychiatric wing for the violent, criminally insane inmates. This move is shown in an opening scene in the movie “The Hurricane.”

No movie can tell the whole story, of course. But Ali had found that Carter was working towards prison reform. This was in the era of Attica, the most famous of a series of prison riots. There had been, in fact, just such a riot that involved Rubin. However, Rubin was credited with saving the lives of the warden and two guards. Carter, who had long been a hermit in Rahway, had been convinced to run for president of the inmates’ council. He won, and then convinced a range of people – including law enforcement, sociologists, and politicians – to listen to his recommendations on reducing violence, and on rehabilitation. Add Ali’s ability to gain the spot-light, and the New Jersey correctional system reacted by labeling Carter criminally insane, a threat to the prison.

A federal judge ordered Carter to be released into general population; eventually, Rubin got a financial settlement against the state for the incident. That money would pay for a private investigator, who was able to follow leads which eventually uncovered much of what happened on the night of the murders, and how two police manipulated the evidence – including planting some, and covering other things up – which resulted in Carter and Artis’s convictions.

Before this information came to light, however, the NJ Supreme Court had vacated the 1967 convictions, and the pair had a re-trial. Artis was offered a deal in which, if he said that Carter had been involved in the planning of the murders, he would not be charged. The prosecutors were going on a new theory, based upon a study conducted on the governor’s behalf, that indicated two men other than Carter and Artis committed the vicious murders. Their key witness would be the fellow caught robbing the dead bodies: a polygraph indicated he was inside the bar at the time of the shootings, and saw Carter and Artis outside the bar. The defense knew he had seen Rubin and John when the police had brought them to the bar in the hour after the shooting – and that he told police they definitely were not the gunmen.

However, early in the retrial, the prosecutor was able to put forth the theory of “racial revenge,” claiming Carter and Artis so hated all white people that the earlier murder of a black bartender – a man neither of them ever met – led them to massacre the people in the “white” bar. The prosecution also focused on the large defense committee, claiming it was a case of Madison Avenue versus the good police of Patterson, NJ.

The defense committee did have some “dirty laundry.” Any time significant amounts of money are involved, such issues arise. Some “supporters” were lining their pockets; others were promoting their own political agenda. There was a group already planning for Carter to run for Congress after the retrial, rather than focusing on winning the case. And there were divides between some black and white supporters: Congressman John Conyers, for example, sought to isolate the whites, who he assumed were attempting to exploit Rubin.

Rubin and John were again convicted, and for the rest of the 1970s, Carter dropped from the public consciousness. Most of his supporters simply walked away from the case. A few, including Ali and Coretta Scott King, continued to support Rubin.

{5} “I had wanted to meet the Dalai Lama for a long time. He is a sweet and humble man who works tirelessly for peace. ….I understand that there are many paths to God, and I believe Islam is the correct path for me. Like the Dalai Lama, I respect people of different religious beliefs and agree that spirituality should be a central focus of our daily lives. …. I have come to understand that there are those who believe in God and those who make God a reality. The Dalai Lama is among those who manifest God in the journey of their everyday lives.” – Muhammad Ali

In the decades that followed the 1960s and ‘70s, Ali and Carter (vindicated by the federal courts) would become the Elder Statesmen of the struggle for social justice and human dignity. The pair continued to bring a powerful message about the need for reconciliation. This is required on a personal level, and community level, if it is to reach the international level.

In 2001, after Rubin introduced me to an audience at SUNY-Binghamton, a professor writing a book on the Power of Forgiveness asked me if I could get Carter to add a chapter to her effort. The following quote comes from that book, and would seem a good way to end this essay.

“Hate can only produce hate. That’s why all these wars are going on, all this insanity. There’s too much anger in the U.S. People are too afraid, too numbed out. We need to wipe out all of this hatred, fear, distrust, and violence. We need to understand, forgive, and love. – Dr. Rubin “Hurricane” Carter

Congress versus CIA (one question)

Which do you think has more power in our society: The US Congress (Senate & House), or the Central Intelligence Agency?

There is no "right" or "wrong" answer here ......I'm merely asking for your opinion.

There is, of course, the potential for a bit of a showdown taking place right now. One might think it's merely a "show," or that the "down" side is that the concern seems to be if the CIA is spying on select members of Congress.

A potential complicating factor is that we have a corporate Congress, and the CIA was born from corporate spy operators, and continues to represent corporate interests.

Another source of confusion is that the Congress is provided certain rights and responsibilities by the US Constitution, while the CIA has limits placed upon it -- in theory, if not practice -- by our federal laws. Add to this that, again at least in theory, the CIA is supposed to work for the Executive Branch. Hence, even if one is convinced that the CIA has equal power to the President, or even that all recent Presidents have served the CIA, it still involves a serious question of constitutional authority.

In a bit, if there's any interest in this discussion, I'll add my opinion. I wonder at times if I'm (relatively) alone in seeing the man's face in this tree.

H2O Man
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