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H2O Man

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Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 08:49 PM
Number of posts: 72,282

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State of the Union

He shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.
-- U.S. Constitution; Article II, Section 3

I’ve been watching “State of the Union” addresses for as long as I can remember. At their best, they combine form and substance: all three branches of the federal government gathered for a purpose outlined in the Constitution; FDR’s “Four Freedoms,” and LBJ’s “Great Society.”

At their worst, they feature the farce of Ronald Reagan, or the deformed lies of George W. Bush. As much as I knew that watching Reagan or Bush would result in frustration, I still watched them. Reagan, I believe, knew that he was an actor delivering lines; Bush believed that he was The Man.

There is, obviously, more than a bit of theater involved in State of the Union addresses. Yet that does not necessarily take away from their importance. In a very real sense, they remind me of the closing arguments delivered by prosecutors and defense attorneys in important trials. The formality of the setting, and the attention being paid to the speech, are part of the reason why.

More, no matter if a person is a judge, a prosecutor, or a defense attorney, they are an “officer of the court.” They have pledged an allegiance to the court system, that in theory dictates their behaviors within the process of a trial. For most of our nation’s history, the court system was primarily a white gentlemen’s debating society. A William Kunstler was rare, indeed.

Likewise, the U.S. Senate was -- with some important exceptions -- also a white gentlemen’s debating society. Members of this elite society had a allegiance to maintaining it as a “noble” institution. This has traditionally been less true of the House of Representatives, although it, too, has historically been populated by a very limited selection of the American public. And, of course, the U.S. Supreme Court has a similar history, though it has tended to operate largely as a “secret society.”

Joseph McCarthy remains the poster child for those who violate the accepted, if unofficial, rules of decorum in such gentlemen’s societies. His behavior shocked and offended other club members, reaching a point where the Senate finally castrated him. Today, of course, we see Senator Ted Cruz aping the McCarthy persona, but not quite daring to cross the ill-defined line that could end his career.

In a very real sense, I thought that President Obama’s address last night ranked among the very best of my life-time. It was solid in form and substance. In fact, it was solid enough that one could ask if, considering what the make-up of the House and Senate will be, it can possibly be translated into anything more than the 2016 democratic candidates’ platform? For in truth, we have two houses of Congress inhabited by people of low ethical standards, who have pledged their allegiance to corporations and the 1%.

Yet I do not think the current situation is hopeless -- because I know that the grass roots are not helpless. I am convinced that this nation can make progress towards the basic goals that the president identified last night: strengthening and enlarging the “middle calls,” while empowering the lower economic class. I know that will be difficult, and that Congress will oppose any meaningful efforts at reform. But we can achieve success, not because of the corporate-congress complex, but in spite of it.

Earlier this week, we honored the memory of the late Martin Luther King, Jr. He provided us with the model that we need to be using today: voter registration, public education, and active non-violent civic participation. It’s not a mystery. It won’t happen by way of wringing our hands, and saying it’s impossible. Change won’t happen by way of identifying this generation’s Martin, and looking for someone else to do for us what we need to be doing for ourselves. And it surely won’t come about because of the patriotism and moral fiber of those in Washington, DC. That ain’t going to happen.

But it can happen if the good people in America make it happen. That’s the only way.

H2O Man

Happy MLK Day

Happy “Martin Luther King Day”!

I recently had a young man ask me what book I thought was the most important to read, in order to “really understand” Dr. King? Now, that is an interesting question. I have a rather large “King” section in my library -- books by King, about King, and others in which, while he is not the central figure, his influence is felt throughout. I’ve also collected, over the years, a substantial number of newspaper and magazine articles about King. And I have an old record album of highlights of his speeches.

His best-know writing would be the letter from the Birmingham jail; his most famous speech is the “I Have a Dream” from Washington, DC. Yet, even in these cases, the majority of Americans are primarily familiar with highlights, rather than the full message. Both of these messages are extremely important -- so much so, in my opinion, that is essential that people study them in their entirety. This includes placing them correctly within the context of his other lesser-know, but equally important messages to America.

Anything less actually promotes the marginalizing of King’s life, and helping to create the “safe” version of Martin. The plaster-of-paris saint that never existed. A non-threatening black leader who wanted nothing more than full access to public drinking fountains and toilets. The chocolate Easter bunny: sweet on the outside, but hollow under that thin surface.

Tavis Smiley’s 2014 book, “Death of a King,” challenged that image. The author focused on the last year of King’s life -- a year in which King told America that the only way to make a dream into reality was to wake up, and take the bold, often dangerous steps towards that goal. And, as Smiley documents, a good many people rejected King’s message, and King himself, in those last twelve months of his life. This included not only his enemies and critics, but also many of those who had been part of the Civil Rights movement along side of King.

It would be easy to mistakenly believe that Martin became “militant” as a result of his life experiences in the mid-1960s. However, if one takes the time needed to study King’s thinking while he was a university student -- something that the FBI certainly did -- it becomes obvious that even as a young man, Martin Luther King was far more militant in his thinking than the image of him in Birmingham or Selma portrayed.

Thus, I told the young man who asked my opinion regarding which King book is most important to read, that there is no single answer to that. The 1986 collection of his speeches and writings, “A Testament of Hope,” is a great starting point. But to truly honor King, in a way that opens the possibility of our “waking up America” in order to make his dream real, we should be engaging in an on-going study of his life’s works.

H2O Man

Aesop Story

“Living Christ means a living cross; without it, life is a living death.”
-- Gandhi

Many years ago, I used the above Gandhi quote in a DU:GD discussion about the role of “religion” in “politics.” I do so again today, not in an attempt to discuss religion per say, but rather, as a contribution to the current discussion about the tensions between religion and politics. Hence, my OP is consciously intended for a DU:GD discussion, as opposed to a DU religion/ spirituality commentary.

Call this mere speculation on my part, if you will, but I think that most DU community members recognize that individuals such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., made important contributions to the political world that they inhabited. Even if a person strongly disagrees with the stances they took, or some other aspect of their life -- including their religions -- it should be apparent that they made influential contributions to their nations. More, it is obvious that their personal belief systems influenced their long-term goals, as well as the approaches each took to attempt to reach those goals.

It is also true that “religion” and religious people have been among the most serious of threats to various societies. That definitely has been the case in the United States, from 1776 to the present. The connection between religion and the vicious acts in Paris serve as a reminder of how dangerous and explosive the combination of religion and politics can be.

Indeed, both religion and politics have the inherent potential for violence. This alone does not mean that either are “bad,” in and of themselves. It does mean that each has the potential for being used for good or for bad. It is how people channel their internal being, as individuals and as groups, that determines the potential outcomes.

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

I remember when I posted that Gandhi quote, way back when, that another D.U.er found it offensive. Very offensive, in fact. S/he apparently “googled” the quote, but could not find it. S/he then demanded a link to my source. One of my many, many unattractive qualities is a form of stubbornness: if someone demands I do something, I often make a game out of refusing to meet their needs. Thus, I did not inform that person that it was Philip Berrigan who had included Gandhi’s quote from Christmas Day, 1931, in a 1983 letter that he wrote me.

In my opinion, both Philip and Daniel Berrigan made some of the most important contributions to the turbulent politics of the 1960s and ‘70s. Were I a stronger person, I would have used them for the most influential of role models in terms of my own contributions to the world of politics. When talking to them back in my younger years, I remember feeling as if I were in the presence of higher beings, alien to our culture, trying to communicate a better way of life that was essential to our species’ survival.

In recent years, by the way, the person who challenged me on the Gandhi quote and I have become friends. In my opinion, very good friends. We’ve laughed about those long-past disagreements; s/he summed it up quite well, I think, by saying, “Who knew?”

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

In my life’s experiences, I’ve never witnessed a fox attempting to eat grapes. But I do understand why a black slave from Africa, living in ancient Greece, would teach truths by way of fables/ parables. It has long been the preferred method of minorities who are oppressed by empire. I do not need to see Aesop’s birth certificate to know he was from Egypt.

Thus, my appreciation for this slave’s wisdom doesn’t include any rituals with fox nor grapes. Likewise, I can appreciate the wisdom of another man who used the same general teaching methods, at the edge of the Roman empire. The inspiration I get does not require stained glass windows, nor a driver’s license from Kenya. More, I do not believe in Santa Claus, any more than I believe that a politician is going to come down the great chimney in the sky, and bring about peace and justice and good will hunting in Washington, DC.

But I am convinced that, if enough of us put our energies into an effort to find common ground, that we will reach higher ground in the process. This cannot happen if we remain focused to the point of an unhealthy obsession with other folk’s belief systems. We should be investing our energies in building up, not tearing down.

This, of course, is just my opinion.

H2O Man

Twelve Angry Men

Serving on a public school board is a unique experience. I find all types of systems fascinating, and a Board of Education (BOE) is obviously a sub-system within other systems. Besides the BOE itself, you have the school (administration, faculty, other adult positions, and students); the school is within the community (parents, tax-payers, alumni, and businesses); and more, it is within the state and federal systems.

In my opinion -- for what it is worth -- public education is an essential foundation stone for our democracy. For this reason, public education is under attack from the 1%; unfortunately, a lot of people who see problems with public schools too often side with those who have an agenda to destroy it, rather than repair it.

This may be helpful as a model to illustrate the three distinct levels of conversation that people can engage in: discussions, debates, and arguments. In the context of public education, it’s good to recognize that we discuss issues with those we are in general agreement with; we debate with those who we trust hold the same general values per public education, but hold very different opinions on how we reach our common goals; and we argue with those who seek to destroy the institutions of public education, because our values and goals are polar opposites.

With the second group, we rely upon rational thought as a most valued tool. It can increase people’s levels of understanding, thus increasing the potential for agreement. Yet, with that third group, it is not a failure to grasp our positions that creates the divisions between us. In fact, it’s the opposite: the enemies of public education know full well its benefits. Indeed, that is exactly why they want to destroy it.

This is a rather simple model. It’s not limited to discussions of public education alone. It can be applied to a wide range of social and political issues. If you were to look at, say, just the first page of OP/threads on DU:GD, you could easily find a dozen discussions where this simple model could be or is applied; and two dozen examples where it should be applied, but isn’t, thus resulting in unpleasant and unproductive arguments.

And what, I ask you, would Henry Fonda have to say about this?

With warmest of regards,
H2O Man

5-2: Mayweather vs Pacquiao

Two weeks ago, the internet boxing site “BoxRec” listed a fight between Floyd Mayweather, Jr., and Manny Pacquiao as being scheduled for May 2, 2015. Recently, that information was removed from the site. However, it appears that both camps have agreed to terms on the issues that have prevented the fight from happening in the past.

This week, Pacquiao has been quoted as saying that he will be able to announce the fight’s date by the end of this month. My understanding is that, at this point, the only unresolved issue has to do with the Pay-Per-View coverage, and how much each fighter will get from PPV sales. Floyd is contracted with Showtime, and Manny with HBO. This is similar to when Mike Tyson challenged Lennox Lewis years ago; Showtime and HBO were able to co-promote the fight for PPV.

Mayweather’s PPV sales are significantly higher than Pacquiao’s, and so he will definitely earn more. Pacquiao reportedly has tax “issues” in both the United States and the Philippines, which is why two of his last three bouts have been held in China. Hopefully, his cut from the PPV sales will be enough to pay off any taxes he owes -- it’s always sad to see an aging champion in debt, due to poor advice from his advisors.

Mayweather will also be guaranteed a much larger purse, because he is both undefeated, and will be the defending champion. In Manny’s two 2012 bouts, he was decisioned by Timothy Bradley in a close fight, and flattened by Juan Manuel Marquez. While he avenged the loss to Bradley, his other two bouts were against soft competition.

The May 2nd date has created a problem, as far as the proposed (but not finalized) middleweight title bout between champion Miguel Cotto and challenger Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. This bout would be the biggest PPV event of 2015, if not for Mayweather vs. Pacquiao. It is interesting to note that Floyd typically fights on the Cinco de Mayo holiday. Canelo had hoped to cash in on the Mexican holiday, and if Floyd were fighting anyone else, it is likely that HBO would have been willing to compete with Showtime for PPV sales. (See below link)


The Mayweather vs. Pacquiao bout should set the record for PPV sales, and become the single largest money-making event in sports’ history. Floyd’s bout with Oscar de la Hoya currently has the most PPV sales; his fight with Canelo made the most money (Floyd made $92 million for that fight).

The fight would have been “bigger” had it happened years ago. This isn’t to say it won’t make a similar amount of money today, but both fighters are obviously older, and on the decline from their physical primes. On the other hand, both might be wiser today in terms of applying their ring skills. Still, there is some controversy regarding why the bout did not happen before. The first roadblock came in February of 2010, regarding “drug testing.” The ESPN clip linked below documents the nature of that disagreement. (The most important information comes when Teddy Atlas speaks, at about 7:30 into the clip.)

Pacquiao had been scoring devastating knockouts during his extraordinary rise in weight classes up until this time. This resulted in his PPV sales skyrocketing, and the demand for a fight with Mayweather. However, it’s interesting to note that since the steroid controversy discussed in the above ESPN clip, Manny has not scored a single knockout. Hence, the PPV numbers have fallen.

In previous discussions, Atlas has said that he believes Mayweather is simply too big and strong for Pacquiao, and would defeat him in the ring. When I interviewed former champion Greg Haugen, he said that both he and friend Roberto Duran believe Floyd would knock Manny out within five rounds (this was before Marquez flattened him).

Styles make fights. I’ve never thought Pacquiao posed as much of a threat to Mayweather as some other contenders with lower rankings. Manny’s footwork -- specifically his ability to land combinations and move to the side quickly -- could be effective for a few rounds. But Manny has set patterns, on both offense and defense, that Floyd would exploit, just as Marquez did.

I think it is more likely that the fight goes to a decision, however, even though a knockout is a very real possibility.

What do you think?

Boxing: the Heavyweights!

January 17, at Las Vegas (on Showtime):
Bermane Stiverne vs. Deontay Wilder, for Stiverne’s WBC heavyweight title (12 rounds)

Wladimir Klitschko is the heavyweight champion of the world. However, for purely financial reasons, various “commissions” and promoters have created a number of “titles,” thus creating the fiction that there are anywhere from four to six “champions” per weight class.

When Wladimir’s brother Vitali retired, he held the WBC title. Stiverne won that title in an impressive showing against Chris Arreola. On Saturday, he will defend his title against Deontay Wilder; the winner of this fight will get the opportunity to challenge Wladimir later in the year.

The Klitschko brothers have dominated the heavyweight division for the past decade. Although they are considered “boring” by the American fight fans, they have been consistent in winning. By fighting primarily in Europe -- where they are wildly popular -- both brothers have been allowed to openly and consistently break the rules of the sport. This, plus the fact they tend to be much bigger than their opponents, in one of the weakest eras in boxing’s history, has made it difficult to determine where they rank among the all-time greats.

It is assumed that Wladimir is coming to the end of his career. This has added to the hopes for a new American heavyweight, who can bring excitement to the division. Thus, the expectation is that Saturday’s fight will identify the division’s future.

Stiverne was born in Haiti; is a citizen of Canada; and currently resides in Las Vegas. Wilder is from Alabama. Both men possess the explosive punching-power that can end any fight with a single blow. More, in recent fights, each has shown an impressive “delivery system” for that power. Hence, the excitement grows as Saturday approaches.

Stiverne, 36, stands 6’ 2”, and has an 80” reach. Wilder, 29, is 6’ 6.5” tall, with an 83” reach. Both fighters are orthodox (right-handed). Stiverne has won 24 bouts (21 by KO), with one loss (by TKO), and one draw. Wilder has won all 32 of his bouts by KO -- and all within four rounds.

Stiverne had a deeper amateur career, and has fought tougher opposition in the professionals. He had originally hoped for a career in football, but a knee injury in college ended that dream. He is heavily-muscled, and thus is not particularly fast. He tends to be a counter-puncher, using timing to capitalize on his opponents’ mistakes.

Wilder is tall and relatively thin -- he weighs less than 230 pounds -- and has impressive speed of hands and feet. His impressive wing-span usually allows him to connect from a safe distance, and his size and speed make it impossible for a hurt opponent to get away from him.

Stiverne has solid balance in the ring. This adds to his ability to absorb solid punches, remain calm and relaxed, and to fight 12 rounds if needed. Wilder tends to get excited in fights, and to get off-balance by extending his punches way too far. It is unknown if he has the endurance to go into the late rounds. He has been “wobbled” by punches while off-balance.

Although Wilder is a slight favorite to win, I think that a good case can be made for either man. I was mildly surprised that Teddy Atlas has predicted that Deontay will score a first round knockout. He believes that Wilder’s hand speed and reach will allow him to catch Stiverne cold. That’s certainly a possibility. Likewise, if Wilder extends a punch too far, Stiverne has the ability to end it in the first with a counter-punch.

I favor Wilder in the first four or five rounds. If it goes beyond that, I think Stiverne will win. But nothing would surprise me -- except if the fight goes to the scorecards. Enjoy this fight!

Ike vs Yikes!

“In the councils of government we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”
-- President Eisenhower; January 17, 1961

It’s fair to say that President Eisenhower’s “farewell address” to the nation serves as the best-remembered act of his two terms in office. Despite the fact that Ike was a WW 2 war hero, courted by elements of both the Democratic and Republican Parties, had fairly consistent high-approval ratings, and would be the last president to leave a budget surplus until President Clinton, his presidency has been marginalized -- except perhaps to the dwindling minority of folks alive at that time -- largely due to the very issues he spoke of in that farewell address.

Being old, and recently even more physically limited due to a rather hard fall upon the ice outside my home, I’ve recently been thinking more about Ike’s warning. And, because the presidential section of my library is located beside the chair I’ve been inhabiting, I’ve had access to some interesting information on that address. So, if by chance you are bored -- or, better yet, are experiencing difficulty in getting to sleep -- take a few minutes to read this!

There is an incorrect belief that the aging General reached his belief in the dangers of the military-industrial complex late in his presidency. Yet when one studies his 1952 campaign, the central theme in his speeches is the price of the war machine: he repeatedly spoke of how a single fighter jet robbed the public of the potential for hospitals, schools, and/or highways.

More, as a war hero/ General, and student of history, Eisenhower consciously attempted to use the model of George Washington. This included Ike’s fascination with President Washington’s farewell address to the nation -- which, of course, was not an “address” at all, but rather a message delivered in letter form. While Eisenhower differed in his approach to some issues, most notably his focus on ties to other nations, he believed that his approach to the presidency was most like that of Washington.

Thus, after the mid-term congressional elections in his second term, Ike would begin to plan his farewell address. In the early fall of 1960, he presented Malcolm Moos with the central themes he wanted to address, with instructions to model the speech on Washington’s farewell address. In Eisenhower’s presidential papers, there are actually 29 “rough drafts” of the speech, which allow historians and watermen on ice to study its evolution.

Two things stand out. Throughout the middle-to-end drafts, there are references to the “military-industrial-congressional complex.” Ike was aware of the growing influence of the combination of the military and industry on Congress, and was searching for a way to bring this to the attention of the American public. Even in those “early days,” Eisenhower saw that retired military leaders were being absorbed by industry, and that this dynamic was changing the nation’s fabric in potentially dangerous ways.

A central concern was that, in order to justify investing huge amounts of tax dollars in weapons programs, not only would it require that industry have undue influence over elected representatives, but the American public would have to be kept in a constant state of fear and anxiety. The most obvious example of the negative potential of this was, of course, found in the actions of Senator Joseph McCarthy. That artificially-induced level of fear and anxiety could only serve to make the nation more prone to war -- including attacking not only other nations, but domestic proponents of peace. (McCarthyism is a closely-related topic that actually requires a separate essay exploring it in today’s context.)

The final drafts, and the address itself, also contain Ike’s warning on the dangerous influence of the military-industrial complex on higher public education. The removal of “-congressional” from the earlier description weakened that warning, in my opinion. Eisenhower was disturbed by how federal grants to colleges and universities required those in the fields of science to focus primarily upon advances in military technology. He recognized that this served the financial needs of industry, while denying potential advancements in the quality of human life.

Eisenhower’s farewell address was watched by over 70 million Americans. This was shortly after the first televised presidential debate, between VP Richard Nixon and Senator John F. Kennedy, viewed by a similar number of citizens, proved the power of television to influence public opinion.

About a decade-and-a-half later, after televised hearings helped remove President Nixon from power, the American public became aware of the direct influence of the military/intelligence community on the media. Not surprisingly, a large number of journalists, editors, and station managers were shown to served two master. It was obvious which master exercised more power.

In today’s modern media, in which the overwhelming majority of major sources are owned by the industries Ike warned of, retired military generals and intelligence officials routinely serve as “guest commentators.” (Bob Woodward may be the only intelligence officer who continues to claim to be a journalist.) Many of these people do add interesting and valuable information to the coverage of incidents such as the recent violence in Paris -- just as retired police officers can add to discussions on Ferguson, etc.

Yet the very danger that President Eisenhower warned of is also ever-present: by focusing the discussion in the context of the military-intelligence-police viewpoint -- no matter how sincere and well-intended the individual may be -- the media by definition is managing the public’s perception, and excluding a wide range of other interpretations of events. And the “crown jewel” of that, of course, was the high percentage of the American public that believed that Saddam Hussein was an active participant in 9/11.

It is unrealistic to expect that people who were so convinced of a “connection” that did not exist -- to the extent that they were willing, even eager, to send American youth to invade Iraq -- to be able to identify, understand, and appreciate the very real connections between the global violence and the American military-industrial-congressional industry. (To a large extent, I’d add the other two branches of the federal government in there, too. Certainly, the Bush-Cheney administration represented industry over the public interest -- or military interest, as well. And the US Supreme Court not only selected Bush-Cheney, despite the actual election outcome, but it has determined that industries are citizens with constitutional rights.)

Is it possible to change the public’s perception today? I think that it is. And I am convinced that President Eisenhower’s farewell address holds the keys.

H2O Man

Viva la France

A couple of years ago, a foreign exchange student from France lived with my family. She remains in contact with us -- the miracle of the internet! -- and plans to visit us in the late spring/ early summer. She’s a wonderful young lady, a talented artist, and I’ve been thinking about her a lot in the past couple of days.

It’s strange for me to have one of my “daughters” living in a war zone. It is, sadly, a rather common feature in the human experience. I’m not particularly bright, but I do understand the role of colonial France in causing suffering among human beings. And I understand that the relatively limited amount of violence in France in the past 72 hours

Instead, I’m thinking of a human being ….in this case, a young lady who brings a smile to my face when she calls me “Dad,” and who was absolutely a sibling to my other four children. I think about how she and I talked about “American culture” -- warts and all -- and how she would accompany me to public government hearings, where I advocated for a clean environment.

I compare that to these young adults from the Muslim world who have been convinced by some older adult -- my age -- that they have a duty to maim and kill other human beings, with a promised reward in the afterlife. Odd how these old men skipped their opportunities to blow themselves up (much like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney sat out the war in Vietnam).

In recent times, it seems as if the dark forces of hatred is sending its unholy warriors out against humanity “not in single spies, but in battalions,” to quote Shakespeare. It is essential that we respond, by way of a peace movement.

H2O Man

mean people suck

“Spiritual consciousness is the highest form of politics.”
-- Hau-den-no-sau-nee

“Intolerance betrays a want of faith in one’s cause.”
-- Gandhi

A couple of nights ago, a news commentator said that while Mario Cuomo’s Democratic Convention speech defined his career, his lesser-known speech at Notre Dame delivered an equally-important message. Hours later, after both of my daughters had gone to bed -- leaving my computer “open” -- I re-read that speech.


“This ‘Christian nation’ argument should concern -- even frighten -- two groups: non-Christians and thinking Christians.

“I believe it does.”
-- Mario Cuomo at Notre Dame

Governor Cuomo’s commentary on the ever-present tension between politics and religion is worth reading. He understood -- much like Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. -- that “tensions” can be either positive or negative. The positive aspect brings forth growth, starting with the individual, and thus benefiting the group. The negative aspects include self-righteousness, and violence.

A few hours after reading that wonderful speech, the initial reports about the ugly violence in France began to play on the television. Like everyone, I found the news disturbing ….disgusting in that it is all too common. Having had two relatives shot in October, with one killed, the viciousness of this act leaves me less interested in considering an in-depth analysis of the political, economic, social, religious, and cultural dynamics that came into play. It is not that I do not recognize the importance of such things; rather, at this time, I don’t have the energy to go there. Sometimes the human condition simply knocks you for a loop, and it’s okay to just sit back for a brief moment.

With all the “bad” in the world -- and there’s enough difficulty in just every day life, without the brutality of the morally- and ethically bankrupt brutes -- there is a heck of a lot of “good,” including good people …..or else the world wouldn’t keep on going. I try to not forget this. I try to think about ways in which good people can make progress, not because of this extremely negative tension, but in spite of it.

This morning, for the second day in a row, I dropped my older daughter off at a recording studio. In a few days, it’s back to the university for her; besides classes, she’ll continue with her music. Human expression, be it music, writing (including satire), or whatever, have the ability to make sense of life, and even to lift our spirits. Life goes on.

H2O Man

Remembering Mario Cuomo

I remember a sunny, cool day in the fall of 1990. The media was reporting that Governor Mario Cuomo was going to be visiting a Veterans’ Home in our county. A co-worker and I went to the event on our lunch hour. After Governor Cuomo gave his speech -- and that man was a most powerful communicator! -- he saw me in the audience, and came over to discuss a Native American issue.

I don’t mind saying that I loved that Governor Cuomo started our conversation by thanking me for assisting him previously, with a rather hostile crowd. For in those days, the state was considering placing a nuclear dump in our county. Although I was as opposed to that concept as anyone, I had treated Governor Cuomo with great respect. For I had learned, from back when he served as NYS’s Lieutenant Governor, that Mario Cuomo was an honest man.

At that time, I was a single father, raising two little boys. My life was pretty full: my wonderful little boys; working at the mental health clinic; and also serving as Onondaga Chief Paul Waterman’s top aide on burial protection and repatriation issues in the northeast. I did have a crush on my co-worker, and I suspect that conversation with Mario Cuomo impressed her in a positive way. (We soon began dating, and she was one of the most outstanding people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. However, after about a great year, we recognized that I was too busy with my sons, and working with Paul, to be able to invest the time and energy in the relationship she surely deserved. We parted as good friends. It remains one of those “what if?” episodes of my life.)

It likely comes as no surprise to any conscious DU community member that there have been very few non-Indian politicians that the traditional Iroquois have respected. The only other one that I can think of from the century of the 1900s would be Robert F. Kennedy. I could write for a week about why men such as Nelson Rockefeller or George Pataki were deemed as wholly unworthy of respect. Yet Kennedy and Cuomo were exceptional -- they could be trusted. I guess two other “what if’s?” would be if either had ever served as the President of the United States? I’m fully convinced our nation would have benefited from human beings of their quality serving as president.

(A brief “side-note”: a reporter from an area newspaper approached me moments after my conversation with Governor Cuomo. He asked if I would tell him “what that was all about?” I asked him why he had mis-quoted me in an article 18 months previously? He said that the editor had changed his work, specifically attributing some utter nonsense to me. I didn’t believe him at the time; however, I did talk to him about a burial protection issue that was heating up. And, for the next two years or so, he did write a number of outstanding articles on Native American rights, including the case at hand, which ended up in NYS Supreme Court.)

Although I can’t say that I was ever “friends” with Mario Cuomo, he did give me a card that day, upon which he gave me “private” contact information. I had the honor of meeting him a few times. And I remember a meeting at his office in Albany, that his closest friend/attorney set up. A large construction company, complete with their lawyer and “hired-gun” archaeologist, was seated at one side of the table; Chief Waterman, two Oneida representatives, and I were on the other side. The Council of Chiefs had determined that I would serve as our side’s spokesperson. I remember Paul saying that he wasn’t concerned that I was going against two men who had Ph.D’s, because I was telling the truth. I was younger then, of course, and I remember after the meeting, that I felt the same as I used to after one of my best boxing matches. Plus, I wouldn’t end up sore the next day -- in boxing, everyone gets hurt. But that night, I easily destroyed our opposition’s lies. I was on fire, the way young men can be.

Several months later, Governor Cuomo’s attorney friend called me at my work. The state was going to open a new department, to work exclusively on Native American issues. Besides the burial protection issues, it would focus on disputes about both taxes, and a proposed casino. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t pretty interested in the job he was offering me. But there was no way that I would stop serving with Chief Waterman, the most honorable human being that I’ve ever met.

Back then, Andrew Cuomo served his father as a top advisor. We all knew that the son was a highly intelligent man. My impression of him from back then was that he was ambitious. I am not intending that as a compliment. He struck me as cold. It was funny: although his voice sounded exactly like his father’s, and he clearly shares some physical attributes with Mario Cuomo, he seemed to lack the quality of humanity. I can’t think of a better way to express that; I hope that it makes sense.

The last communication that I had with Mario was about six months ago, when I e-mailed him. I didn’t hear back from him, but that was fine. Of all the politicians that I’ve met over the decades, Governor Mario Cuomo impressed me the most. By far, really.

It’s strange: yesterday, the NYS public schools’ teachers union went to picket outside the Governor’s residence. Sad to say that public education is being attacked, even here in this state. I had spoken with some regional union leaders two days before, suggesting that the union and the Board of Education(s) should be joining together on the issues involved. While I am unsure if Andrew Cuomo would approve of that, I’m confident that his father would have said it was important that the teachers union and BOEs join together to advocate for public education.

Rest in peace, Governor Cuomo.

H2O Man
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