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H2O Man

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Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 07:49 PM
Number of posts: 62,363

Journal Archives

BOXING (August 29)

August 29, on ESPN

Los Angeles: Leo Santa Cruz vs. Abner Mares; 12 rounds; featherweights.

The PBC-promoted fights that have brought boxing back to “basic” television in 2015 have often proven more attractive “on paper” than in the ring. Despite the higher ranking of the boxers featured on the PBC cards -- often including former champions, and always featuring guys who could be challenging for a title in their next bout -- the majority of the main events have not risen to the level of “great” fights.

This is, of course, because styles make fights. Hence, while boxing purists (such as myself) love a duel between two good counter-punchers -- think of Ray Leonard vs. Wilfred Benitez -- such bouts never bring the average sports fan to the edge of their seats ….much less, to their feet (especially if they can change channels with a remote).

Indeed, a number of the ESPN Friday Night Fights had under cards with fighters ranked in the top 20, that provided far more excitement than last May’s Super Fight between Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Manny Pacquiao. While as a purist, I will never tire of watching that fight, in which Mayweather dominated Pac Man so overwhelmingly that it could be mistaken for “easy,” I also love a good brawl.

Saturday night’s bout, between two high-ranking Mexican-American warriors, promises to be exciting. No matter if it ends in the first round, or goes all twelve rounds, both of these former champions bring fan-friendly styles to the ring. And, as is common in the sport, the “little” men tend to throw a lot more punches per round, than the heavyweights. In fact, Leo Santa Cruz is noted as the highest-volume puncher in the sport today (Teddy Atlas was only slightly exaggerating earlier in the week, when he said Leo averages 2,000 punches per fight. He frequently throws more than 100 per round.)

Let’s take a quick look at each man, then discuss the fight! Leo, 27 years old, stands 5’ 7.5”, and has a 69” reach; Abner, 29, is 5’ 4.5” tall, with a 66” reach. Leo’s record is 30-0-1; Abner’s is 29-1-1. Both have held titles in lower weight classes; this bout is for the vacant WBA junior lightweight title.

Mares has more experience against high-quality opposition, although Santa Cruz has fought anyone and every one willing to fight him. Mares has superior ring skills, while Santa Cruz tends to have “one gear” -- coming straight forward, throwing almost non-stop combinations. Both men have punching power, although neither are consider to be explosive punchers. Santa Cruz in particular wears down and then overwhelms his opponents.

Mares has earned his reputation as one of the dirtiest fighters of recent eras. In particular, he mixes numerous low blowsin with his body attack. He definitely does so purposefully -- usually going low with whatever hand is further away from the referee. He uses his head and elbows efficiently, too, while fighting on the inside. Thus, two things will likely be important: first, if the referee enforces the rules; and second, how Leo responds if the ref fails to control the fight.

The other question has to do with Mares’ chin. For most of his career, he displayed an ability to take a solid punch. However, in August of 2013, he was knocked out in the first round by veteran Jhonny Gonzales. In that fight, Mares was decked twice, and was knocked unconscious by punches landed before the surprised referee was able to respond. Although Mares has won three fights since that stunning loss, they were against limited opposition.

Hence, Saturday will be the first real test Abner has had since suffering a serious concussion. As a rule, even great fighters have damage after being injured in that extreme a manner. Although Santa Cruz isn’t known for “one punch” kayo power, the accumulative hard punches he throws pose a serious risk to Mares’ well-being -- and that’s not limited to this bout.

The boxing community has made Mares a slight favorite. I have no problem with that. However, because Santa Cruz is undefeated -- and doesn’t know how to lose -- I see the bout as 50-50. I think that’s it’s just as likely that Leo comes out the winner, as Abner.

Either way, it promises to be an intense, and entertaining, fight between two very talented warriors. Enjoy the fight!

Work-place Violence

This morning, while watching the televised reports on the tragic case of brutal “workplace violence,” I initially flipped through MSNBC, CNN, and Fox. I’m not sure why I bothered with Fox -- I guess to fill the 60 to 90 seconds the other two were on commercial breaks. It took less than that to recognize the error.

Almost immediately, a talking head was saying that he hoped “others” wouldn’t attempt to twist the incident into a “gun issue.” Then he delivered the dickhead: he hadn’t heard any evidence that the murderer was the type of person who should not have had a gun.

My objective here is not to attack “guns,” nor argue the wisdom of Amendment 2. Rather, it is to focus on how explosive violence damages society. However, in this case, considering only the circumstances that were known at the time -- a man approached two television employees engaged in an interview with a third human being, kills two and seriously wounds the third -- I think that most intelligent people could agree that the guy should not have had a gun.

Both MSNBC and CNN have had better coverage, although there is an unfortunate amount of attention being given to the gunman’s “mental health.” CNN also interviewed Pat Brown, who seems to diagnose everyone as a sociopath -- though in this case, her opinion appears to be more accurate than those who are speculating a major mental illness. However, it is obvious beyond any question that in this case, the murderer was “sane” in the legal sense of knowing “right” from “wrong.”

Almost anything else regarding the murderer’s frame of mind -- now that he is dead -- comes from a combination of his past history, including everything from school and employment history, to the memories of those who knew him. From the bits and pieces being reported, there appears to be evidence that this fellow would have been unlikely to benefit from therapy as an adult. “Unlikely” does not mean it would have been impossible.

I am, of course, speculating, and am fully aware of that. But all speculation is not by definition equally of no value. Let’s consider, for example, the “Five Factor Model,” that tends to provide a fair degree of insight as far as an individual’s ability to benefit from therapy. The “five factors” include extraversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness to experience. While it sounds rather simple, it actually serves as a pretty fair model for evaluating the full range of human personality in our culture.

The higher a person ranks as “positive” on these qualities, the more likely they are to benefit from therapy. The lower one ranks, the less likely they are to benefit. From the gunman’s actions today, it is fair to say he was bitter, self-pitying, and had an unhealthy sense of self-entitlement. Few if any would argue that he had a mature sense of problem-solving /conflict resolution -- although the ammosexuals of the NRA might argue he had a “right” to a gun.

What would be of interest, in my opinion, would be his early history. Was he raised in an environment where, when an adult became frustrated, that violence was an acceptable manner for dealing with problems? Or did his attitude and behaviors stand out as a problem, different from those around him? I think that the potential for a successful intervention could have been there in his childhood and teens. Still, it appears that he developed the ability to navigate society without episodes of physical violence that were known -- outside, of course, the possibility of domestic violence that went unreported.

When a person commit’s an extremely violent crime for the first time in their early 40s, it tends to indicate something distinct from those with a long history of violent, anti-social behaviors. As a few of the forensic experts on MSNBC and CNN have noted, it appears that a highly narcissistic person, who has recognized that the outer world does not share the extremely high opinion of them that they have of themselves, has stewed for about a year …..blaming others that they have not reached the level of success that they are convinced they deserve.

Certainly, some job settings include high levels of stress. Many jobs are competitive. More, all of us are subjected, from time to time, to insults from others. And life ain’t always fair. Still, most of us learn the skills needed to deal with life’s frustrations, including being treated unfairly at work some times. But there are a minority of people who, under the wrong conditions, will resort to some type of violence in the work-place, in order to “get revenge.”

Today’s events were vicious, as they show the most extreme type of work-place violence. Add to this the manner in which the murderer used his understanding of the media -- including social media -- makes it particularly hideous. It is extremely unsettling for those who have concerns about someone who may seem extremely hostile at work, as well as for those who have had family or friends murdered by angry people. (Since I’ve had more than a share of each of these, I’ve turned the tv off. Writing this is my way of venting.)

Peace,
H2O Man

Robots versus Values

Impure: contaminated; unclean; mixed with inferior substances.
-- The H2O Man Purists’ Dictionary; page #9.


Shortcuts to rational thought often include stumbling blocks. For example, even on what is supposed to be a liberal-progressive internet forum such as the Democratic Underground, from time to time people will be referred to as “purists” -- as if that is by definition a bad thing. One wonders: is it really difficult to chose between a clean glass of water (“pure”), and a glass of water contaminated by toxic industrial waste?

Without question, not every social-political choice we make is that clear cut. There are times when voting for “the lesser of two evils” is valid. Yet, if that defines our thinking and thus actions at all times, than our minds are locked up behind bars, just as surely as if we were physically incarcerated in the local county jail.

In order to have some degree of self-respect -- something necessary in order to be respected by others -- one must have those beliefs that we call principles, ethics, and/or morals. In an unhealthy society, such as our’s, those without principles, ethics, and/or morals tend to rise up in business, including the business of politics. In order for them to succeed, at some level, there must be a group at a lower-level who willingly suspend their principles, ethics, and/or morals.

Indeed, it has become common for those employed in business to be confronted with the command to “rise above their principles.” As if that’s the true nature of it. For only that person with damaged principles can actually rise above them, hence becoming a more principled person! That command in the context of the business world is simply an excuse for dipping well below your principles. It’s an invitation to apply to the 1%-ers club.

Being true to your values does not prevent a conscious person from being pragmatic. That is true in the business world. This clearly includes politics. It is that way, from the local school board level, to the White House. To be unwilling to take a pragmatic approach on a wide variety of issues would be as mentally handcuffed as if you always allowed others to do your thinking for you to such an extent that you accepted their definitions of every choice you pretend to make. Don’t volunteer to become a robot. “It’s beneath human dignity,” as Gandhi taught us, “to be a mere cog in the machine.”

The problems that we face today are as stark as that glass of pure water versus the glass of sludge. The only potentials for solutions demand that we, as individuals, as citizens, hold on tightly to our values, our principles, ethics, and/or morals. To be pragmatic, when necessary. Yet to fully recognize the need to be creative. And to think outside the box …..because the mental box that currently houses the majority of the population’s mind is contaminated by those same toxins that poison much of the nation’s water supply.

Let’s consider an example. President Obama was pragmatic to his approach in dealing with Iran. As citizens, our values should result in our supporting him on this deal. The only people who don’t support the treaty with Iran are those who: (a) seek some benefit from a war with Iran, or (b) are robots. This is no time to throw out your principles, ethics, and/or morals.

It’s also no time to trust anyone who went along with Bush and Cheney on Iraq. This doesn’t preclude us from every supporting such an individual in the future. But they have to own that one: not resort to the “bad intelligence” bullshit, but admit that Bush and Cheney purposefully lied this country into war. And, at the time, they “rose above their principles,” and voted for the murder of thousands.

When we think of the great leaders -- at all levels -- they are the men and women who were pragmatic, in order to advance their values. This doesn’t include compromising your principles, ethics, and/or morals. They were purists in the same sense that those who violate their values for some type of advantage are impure, contaminated, unclean, and mixed with inferior substance.

Keep on fighting the Good Fight!
H2O Man

Rulers

“Comedians have often suggested that Ronald Reagan’s immense popularity might have been helped by television-induced confusion. But I would like to make the case that this was concretely true, and that it’s not so funny. …Because of his background, Reagan handled television as president with astonishing skill and power. He understood, as no one did before, that on television, style supersedes content. The way you behave and look is more important than what you say and do. He knew that complexity and historical perspective do not come across on TV as well as simplicity, bald assertion, the heavy use of symbolic content, and the appeal to formulaic values, deeply imbedded in Americans by previous decades of television and film. Good vs. Evil, America vs. The Enemy…..”
-- Jerry Mander; In the Absence of the Sacred; Sierra Club Books; 1991; pages 90-91..


Does this sound strangely familiar? Perhaps remind you of a current republican candidate, who is doing unexpectedly well in the presidential primary contest? Someone who lacks substance, but is confusing the “experts” by his ability to surf the waves of hatred, fear, and frustration of their party, right to the top of the dung heap? To prove to be more than the “flavor of the week” fad candidate of the early 2012 republican contest?

Republicans today are as oblivious to who Ronald Reagan was, as they were in 1980 and ‘84, when they believed that he was red, white, and blue, apple pie, and the bible incarnate. The man who used symbols to his advantage has become the very symbol of all he never was. This is sadly proven by something as obvious as the republican inability to process the facts of the Iran-Contra scandals, while attacking President Obama for “arming” Iran -- the absolute opposite of reality. As the old saying goes, you can’t make this shit up.

In order to dull the public’s senses to the point of making them accept the unacceptable, to look forward to an evening of mistaking having their being be yanked out of them as “entertainment,” they must be doused with a pain-killer …..a social Novocain to dull their senses, especially common sense. To accept the non-reality of Reality TV. Donald Trump’s status as the leading republican contender is solid evidence that this is the case for a significant segment of the republican party.

“Did you know we are ruled by TV,” Jim Morrison asked in his American Prayer? The drunken artist had experimented with collective behavior, before finding that crowds rarely could be controlled once they reached a certain point. Rather, the unconscious crowd becomes the monster that C. G. Jung warned of, vulnerable to supporting an image of a “leader” that exists only in the darkest recesses of their minds. “Now it’s a monster, and will not obey,” as Steppenwolf sang.

I think it’s fair to say that Trump entered the contest, with the goal of knee-capping Jeb Bush. It seems likely that he did so, believing that this would be helpful to the person he assumed would be the Democratic nominee. However, his campaign has created an energy that surprised even him, and he has come to believe that he can actually become president. Or, of course, it is entirely possible that he entered the contest fully intent upon winning. That’s a distinction that really isn’t important right now.

What is important is that an ugly force is gaining strength in America, and while the Trump phenomenon is its visible surface, it has a momentum beneath the surface that poses a serious danger. The world stage is very different today, Whereas President Reagan could satisfy the public with his 1983 invasion of Grenada -- an event that only the most cowardly could justify, much less pretend was a noble exercise of American power -- the tensions between the US and the rest of the world make such cowboy diplomacy much riskier now.

I do not delude myself into thinking that I know “The Answer.” It might be easier to believe that backing a single candidate offered security. Or perhaps a lobotomy? But neither are satisfactory alternatives.

But I do know that everything is connected -- that truly, every person plays a role in what direction our society will move in. Obviously, voting is important. Yet, it goes way beyond that. As individuals, we need to be consciously aware of our everyday actions, and make every effort to not “feed” that monster, that growing collective force of anger and hostility that is saturating our culture. That may sound trite, I know. But I much prefer being part of a Peace Movement, than of an Anti-War Movement.

Peace,
H2O Man

People Are Strange

“People are strange.”
-- Jim Morrison


Probably all of us have, from time to time, read some comments by another DU community member and wondered, “What the heck? Why would she/he say THAT?” And I’m not talking about the obvious attempts to disrupt a liberal-progressive Democratic web site. There will always be a splattering of such nonsense, and we already know both the “what” and “why” of such behavior.

Rather, my focus is on those who are members of the Democratic Party, and are sincere -- though misguided -- in their attempts to promote their own point of view. However, in attempting to get their needs met, they appear comfortable in making others uncomfortable. Their eagerness to insult others -- individuals and groups -- is a type of human behavior that has led theologians, psychologists, politicians, sociologists, mystics, and math teachers to the shared belief that Jim Morrison was right: people are strange.

A response to an OP that I posted yesterday got me thinking about “personality,” and how an individual’s personality helps or hinders their participation in a larger community (or society) of people. My friend’s question accurately noted that both heredity and environment are contributing factors. The two combine to create an individual’s personality -- their character and their behavior.

The dividing-line between heredity and environment isn’t always distinct and clear-cut. By the simplest of definitions, heredity is everything involved before birth, and environment everything that happens after birth. Yet, the environment the expectant mother lives in definitely impacts the baby -- from her diet to her mood -- just as surely as her DNA contributes. And the power inherent in DNA is a miracle that scientists recognize as a most amazing life-force; the ability to understand DNA will not only improve the quality of human life on earth, but may well be what saves us from the extinction we seem to be unconsciously aiming for.

Now, it has become fashionable, in some circles, to ask if being a registered republican is evidence of a major mental illness. Indeed, a unbiased response would have to include some shared delusional beliefs -- and corresponding behaviors -- among our republican brothers and sisters. It’s a tad difficult, for example, to argue that fellows like Richard Nixon or George W. Bush were the pictures of mental health and stability. Yet both were put in office for two terms. Someone voted for them. What does that say about them?

Yet even delusions, or even certain episodes of psychosis, are not “proof” of a major mental illness. Rather, they can be the stuff of personality disorders. And while they are issues of mental health, they are distinct from major mental illness….though often related in some ways. People are complex beings.

Let’s take a brief look at some of the differences between major mental illnesses and personality disorders. In the field of mental health, for example, the major mental illnesses are diagnosed as “Axis 1,” and personality disorders as “Axis 2.” ( Or, we might say “levels” 1 and 2.) The majority of major mental illnesses are disorders in brain chemistry, and likely hereditary. While they have an impact upon the personality of the individual, they are not an indicator of character. Thus, as a population, I’ve found those with major mental illnesses -- including through work, family, and friends -- to be among the most caring, honest, and honorable people I’ve met. It’s worth noting that those who suffer from a major mental illness are far, far more likely to be a victim of a violent crime, than to commit one.(The mass media pretends otherwise, which I find highly offensive.)

Major mental illnesses cause thoughts and behaviors that create distress in a person’s life. While it is true that those experiencing the manic phase of a bipolar illness may enjoy some of the early symptoms, it eventually causes distress and disturbance.

A personality disorder, despite its ability to at times mimic a major mental illness, is different in important ways. First, they are largely learned behavior. In the simplest terms, it is the attitude and behaviors that a kid growing up in a dysfunctional family learns, in order to get his or her needs met. When that person takes those attitudes and behaviors out into the bigger world outside of their dysfunctional family system, they do not tend to fit in well.

One major distinction between major mental illness -- which causes suffering for the individual -- is that the personality-disordered person finds comfort in their dysfunctional behaviors. Indeed, their behavior almost exclusively causes discomfort, even suffering, for those around them.

With all people, there are three closely related factors that combine for personality: thinking. character traits, and behaviors. Thinking, of course includes everything from intelligence to attitude; character has to do with approach (honest, liar, nice, mean, etc); and behaviors are the person’s interactions with the outside world, particularly other human beings.

All people develop the ability to behave differently in distinct situations. One tends to be more relaxed with friends, for example, than in a formal situation, such as a court appearance. A person often shows a different side of themselves to family members, than to medical professionals. One can see how their thinking and character traits impact their behaviors in different settings.

One of the cultural dynamics that adds an ugly tint to modern society is “road rage.” It demonstrates how the synergy of high stress levels, low frustration levels, and de-humanization leads to unhealthy amounts of hostility being aimed at “strangers.” Just as people behave differently in various person-to-person interactions, this phenomenon takes place between people isolated from direct contact, by being in the relative safety of their car. Beeping horns, middle fingers, aggressive driving, and “Hey! Fuck you!” takes over. In some instances, things spin even further out of control.

Thus, when people are even more isolated -- sitting in their home, in front of a computer screen -- and can’t even see the other through glass windows, we find a strange type of “road rage” taking place on the information highway. And that includes here, on DU. While not everyone who disagrees with you or I is painfully personality disordered. Often, good and intelligent people disagree. Even on important things.

The test, I believe, is in watching for patterns of behavior. That involves looking closely at the other persons thinking; their character; and how they behave. Sometimes, rather than becoming annoyed with another forum member, and engaging in a pointless, often emotional squabble, it is better to step back, and dis-engage. Not “disengage” by quitting DU -- although arguing with a cluster of personality disordered people can be so frustrating, one might feel like quitting. But, rather, to just step back, and let the other person unload. Trust others to evaluate the quality of what those folks unload.

Most people find it difficult to not react to the personality disordered opposition. This is particularly true, when dealing with a passive-aggressive or a borderline personality disordered person. Probably all of us can identify a few people that we’ve engaged in weird conversations with, or who tend to follow us around on the forum, who’s personality makes meaningful conversation impossible. It can be frustrating, in the sense that we can see that they have intelligence. But they are annoying.

For example, while my goal isn’t to argue with others here -- those who think differently can be rewarding to talk with -- I’ve had a few “shadows” over the years. Most have been tomb-stoned. But a few are definitely solid Democrats; we simply do not like each other. In one current case, it’s an intelligent, well-meaning but terribly bitter fellow, with a rather severe borderline personality disorder. He has cycles of accepting that we will never converse again, and then compulsively adding little bitter comments to my threads, like a nasty little Chihuahua peeing on a rug.

I sometimes just ignore his bitterness, and other times, read his contributions. It would be easy to crush him in a debate -- but why? I feel sorry that anyone’s life-experience would result in being that unhappy, anxious, bitter, and paranoid. An insult from me isn’t likely to improve his lot. It could only reinforce that borderline disorder, including his mistaken belief that I am involved in his life. I’m not. I’m just some weird guy participating in a discussion forum. Sad, really.

Maybe keep this in mind, when you participate in conversations on this forum. Even those you naturally think of as annoying -- or simply as jackasses -- may be good people, who have been damaged by life. If that damage had been done to them physically, we would surely be patient with them. But instead, it is people who’s being has been injured by life. Be patient. Be compassionate. If necessary, disengage. But don’t react with anger or hostility.

Ramblings from an old man. Thanks for reading.

H2O Man

Ten



“Wars teach us not to love our enemies, but to hate our allies.”
-- W. L. George


One of the darnedest things that happens in times of social unrest -- such as that which the people of the United States are experiencing now -- fits what W. L. George said about wars. We witness this every time we watch the news, or read a newspaper, and see people reacting to important events. And we see how damaging that process is, by simply reading too many of the divisive OP/threads on DU:GD.

The concept of debating an important issue is, in and of itself, neutral. A debate has the potential to become positive or negative; meaningful or meaningless; constructive or destructive. Let’s consider, for example, the concept of a Democratic Party’s presidential primary contest -- although this OP is not about the 2016 primary. And let’s say that there are ten issues of great importance to the party as a whole. These issues include both domestic and international tensions, of course, because these always overlap.

No one candidate is going to have the absolute “best” positions on each of the ten issues. Indeed, no individual who serves as President of the United States will, either. It’s not going to happen. Yet, there are plenty of good and sincere people who actually believe that a president -- an individual man or woman -- has the ability to institute enough positive changes to “save” America. That is no more rooted in reality, than believing the world will end in 1928, and God will come down from the sky to “save” us.

What the process is intended to do is to identify the most qualified and capable individual, who not only has the best stance on the majority of those ten important issues, but also create a coalition of allies to coordinate efforts to deal with all ten issues. To the extent that a man or woman can do that, is the measure of the good potential achieved.

The negative potential, obviously, is found when people limit their focus to one or two of the ten issues that confront us. It is part of human nature to see that which involves your self, family, and friends as the most important -- and it is, to you, your family, and friends. And that makes it important. It’s also important to understand that other people, confronted by different circumstances, is going to be focused on that which concerns him-/herself, family, and friends.

More, it is both possible and important to recognize that while each of us will be “experts” in the issues that confront and concern us the most, there will be other equally important issues that we are less familiar with. That doesn’t mean we are totally ignorant: we are likely to know more about the issue than the average person, from being exposed by way of the media or some form of education. But we haven’t been exposed in the sense of our life-experience. (Perhaps we can illustrate this by considering the issue of sex with another person. One might read about sex, even study it in a “sex-ed” class in high school; or watch it on television. Despite having a passionate interest in having sex with another person, one cannot fully understand the experience, until one has engaged in it.)

Now, I do not know what it is like to have a police officer assault and/or kill me, because I am black. I do know what it is like to be beaten while handcuffed. I have had a cousin and his son shot by a law enforcement officer. I’ve had a nephew attacked, and left for dead, by a group of racist thugs, who hated my nephew because he is black. But I simple cannot have the experience of being assaulted/ murdered for being black.

Likewise, because I am not gay, I’ve never had the experience of being threatened, assaulted, and/or murdered, because I am gay. Now, I have had people call me gay, as an intended insult, simply because I have long hair. It would be easier, and hence more likely, that a hateful person could mistake me for being gay, than being black. And while being called names doesn’t bother me as an individual -- I do not think of being black or gay as a “bad” thing -- the aggressive behavior of hateful thugs towards blacks, gays, and other human being is disturbing to me. For around the same time my family dealt with the assault upon my nephew, the vicious murder of Matthew Shepard was in the news. And the murder of James Byrd, Jr.

These individual cases show how closely related those ten important issues are. And not simply in the context of a given campaign. No, these issues demand our best efforts. And that means on an on-going basis, at every level.

In reality, just as no US President is going to “save” us -- for even if he or she wanted to, they could not -- no individual on this forum, nor any group in the nation, is an “expert” on each of those ten issues. Thus, a serious effort requires a united front, a coalition, that includes groups and intervals with expertise in each of the ten areas. And that means that wee have “allies” -- a word that has caused some degree of tensions between various groups and individuals, even here in this diverse community of DU.

The concept of allies has, of course, both positive and negative potentials. Some are basic, and constant. Indeed, it could not be otherwise, for we are talking about human beings. And, in the final analysis, we are all sad and weakly human, thus prone to making errors. For none of us knows everything. Add to this the fact that social-political circumstances frequently change -- though the underlying dynamics may remain much the same -- which requires that we be flexible in order to deal with fluid events.

If people always view their issue as “most important,” a movement stagnates. If they do not understand the significance of “striking while the iron is hot,” a movement fails. The obvious example of this involves the issues with “Black Lives Matter.” That’s a powerful statement f purpose, and absolutely provides a current crisis in society where a united front could make great gains. And while a whole lot of folks get it, we still see how that potential can be wasted -- be it by people who cannot get beyond the, “Yeah, but don’t ALL lives matter?”, to others who are unwilling to accept the imperfections -- real or otherwise -- that they see in potential allies.

Again, all of these problems come down to our being human. And part of being human is the ability to easily see the flaws in others, but lacking the capacity for deep insight into our own short-comings. The belief that, if only this individual, or that group, would do exactly what we want them to do, that things would be better ….when, in reality, the only thing we have control over is our own actions.

We need to be patient with one another, while being impatient with the circumstances that deny social justice to ourselves and fellow citizens. We need to be forgiving in regard to the imperfections of ourselves and our allies, and firm in our demands for progress. That can be hard at times, but not doing so will always be harder.

Peace,
H2O Man

Business as Unusual

“Cancel my subscription to the resurrection.”
-- James Douglas Morrison; When the Music’s Over


Sometimes, in my opinion, it is good to take a step back from the presidential primaries, for two reasons: first, it’s so early in the primary season; and second, there are other upcoming elections that require our attention. Yes, it’s worth reading DU:GDP for information on the Democratic Primaries, and DU:GD to read about Donald Trump. But today, I was more focused on a “local” election, that will be decided this fall.

When one lives in rural, upstate New York, there are frequently election contests that do not include a Democrat. Republicans tend to run unopposed quite often. And they don’t usually even have to face a challenge in a republican primary.

In recent years, I helped run the campaigns of quite a few good candidates, even in the republican wilderness. In one very republican town -- where even independent voters outnumber Democrats -- we’ve won five of seven contests. This included creating the first Democratic majority on the Town Board in the community’s history.

In order to win local contests, it has been important to run campaigns in a slightly different manner than the local county Democratic Party organizations have. Too often, the “established” party leaders do not make serious attempts to defeat the republican opposition. They select a candidate who will appeal strictly to the regular, dependable Democratic Party voters, and who will lose by fairly predictable margins, year after year, election after election.

What I’ve done -- along with other dedicated people -- is create a different approach. We have worked with large segments of the independent voters, best described as the Democratic Left, along with a much smaller segment of registered republicans, to create a united front that is capable of competing with the republican machine.

This is not, of course, the “only” or “best” approach for grass roots activists across the country. But it works here, for now. In part, this is because a number of people who might well be registered as Democrats in a different context, register as republicans here, in order to “get along.” This includes, for example, those who have been interested in running for local office over the years, for they saw that only republicans were being elected for decades.

The rise of the tea party in our region has also impacted the republican party. The tea party has mutated, and its membership is no longer willing to follow the directions of the republican party elders. Such changes in the dynamics within the republican machine will always be found at the grass roots level, before it becomes visible at the national level. Consider the example of the republican machine’s current inability to exert control over the Trump campaign -- it is the direct result of the republican grass roots hostility to the party’s leadership.

This allows us the opportunity to shift our own tactics. Indeed, there are few potential advantages to be found at the local level, by running the same stale campaigns year after year, loss after loss. The group that I work with is 60% Democrats, 30% Independents, and 10% republican. The candidates we support have been reflected by those numbers.

Currently, I am assisting a republican, who is running against a rabid tea party candidate for a county position. The established republican party isn’t comfortable with my participation; in fact, the candidate’s campaign manager initially informed me that my assistance was not welcome. Then, the candidate told her that I was not under republican control, and more, that she needs to honor any request that I make.

Yesterday, I penned an op-ed, endorsing the republican candidate, and e-mailed it to the editor of a conservative, small city newspaper. Within half an hour, she had responded, saying my article would run in today’s issue. (LTTE and op-eds normally take two to three weeks to be printed.) My goal in writing the op-ed was two-fold: first, to help the candidate defeat the tea party opposition; and second, to help change the way in which a growing portion of the public views local politics.

It’s important to have such short- and long-term goals. For a variety of reasons, the regional tea party has identified me as “enemy #1.” They are becoming increasingly hostile towards me (or at least the image of me that they have created) over the past couple of months. So I want to communicate a clear message to them. More importantly, it will help build momentum for future elections. I’m convinced that the majority of people are tired of “business as usual” politics, though not in the destructively closed-minded way the tea party is. It is possible to make progress.

Peace,
H2O Man

The Longest Race

“This world and yonder world are incessantly giving birth; every cause is a mother, its effect the child. When the effect is born, it too becomes a cause and gives birth to wonderous effects. These causes are generation on generation, but it needs a very well lighted eye to see the links in their chain.”
-- Jalal-ad-din Rumi; Persian Sufi poet.


The controversy over some people from Black Lives Matter interrupting Senator Bernie Sanders’s presentation is more interesting -- at least to me -- than the actual event. I’d like to discuss some of the dynamics involved in such human interactions, though not limited to either BLM or the Democratic Primary. My aim in commenting on the features of the events and subsequent responses on DU:GD is not to feign certain knowledge of “why” the disruption took place. People certainly have every right to their own opinion …..based upon their life-experiences and social-political education. I’m not seeking to change anyone’s opinion. Indeed, I find the range of opinions to be valuable, in the sense of stepping back and considering why people may view the exact same incident in very different ways.

A couple of weeks ago, it was reported that The Intercept had acquired documents through the Freedom of Information Act that showed that the Department of Homeland Security has been closely monitoring BLM for the past year. Here is a link, in case anyone did not see this news reported (or had forgotten this):

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/07/25/1405570/-It-s-Official-Feds-Have-Been-Extensively-Surveilling-Black-Lives-Matter-Activists-Since-Ferguson#

This does not mean that the federal intelligence agencies are manipulating BLM. But it does mean that BLM is being monitored by national, state, and local police agencies. And that suggests, as a scene in Michael Moore’s classic “Fahrenheit 9/11” showed with citizen groups that were opposed to the Bush-Cheney invasion of Iraq, that these types of movements are frequently infiltrated by individuals who may not share the group’s goals.

This is not new, of course: in the 1960s and ‘70s, most Civil Rights and anti-war groups were similarly infiltrated. And, historically, it is the infiltrators who encourage others to engage in the most aggressive, confrontational, and offensive manner. This is distinct from having, during a public activity, undercover officers in an audience. Rather, it is during strategy sessions when infiltrators attempt to persuade the most impressionable folks to engage in some extreme action.

I’ll give an example: in doing Native American support work, among other things, we have had infiltrators attempt to get people to engage in confrontational tactics, such as disrupting a Columbus Day Parade. (No, thank you. That’s not our way.) Or, recently, at a pro-environment, anti-fracking program, the fellow who insisted we all engage in clearly illegal activities. (You first. And last.)

This in no way means that BLM has been infiltrated. Nor that, even if it has been, that the events with Senator Sanders was done by infiltrators, or because they encouraged others to do so. But when some DU community members have questioned the possibility, it isn’t paranoia by definition. Stranger things have been know to happen.

It is also true that political campaigns, on their own, have used community-based, grass roots groups to disrupt their opposition’s programs. This has been particularly true of the republican party since the era of Richard Nixon. The majority of the US Senate Committee’s report on what we remember as “Watergate” actually focused on an extraordinary amount of just this type of activity.

In the modern era, it is also accurate to say that members of the Democratic Party have, at times, played hard ball during campaigns. This doesn’t mean that they have engaged in unethical and/or illegal activities in the exact manner of republicans. But it does mean that Democrats are capable of creative campaign tactics, both in primary and general election contests.

This does not mean that any of the other candidates in the 2016 primary contest would encourage or endorse the BLM’s disruption of Senator Sanders’ presentation. But, again, it would not be the definition of delusional to consider the possibility that some individuals that are associated at some level of another candidate’s campaign might encourage, endorse, and/or participate in some disruptive activity.

“Racial” issues are frequently uncomfortable to discuss on DU:GD. This makes sense, of course, for two obvious reasons: (1) racism has played a central, destructive role in the Americas since 1492; and (2) while the concept of “race” exists in people’s minds, there is no actual validity to “race” as a scientific concept. Rather, it is like the boarder between, say, New York State and Pennsylvania: it exists in people’s minds, and thus impacts their behaviors, but is not otherwise real.

Another model for understanding “racism” is one that my Good Friend & Brother, Dr. Rubin “Hurricane” Carter used in his speeches to university students, politicians, and the general public. This model, which Rubin would fully grasp while engaging in a ceremony known as the Sun Dance with the Lakota (who accurately named Rubin “Badger Star”), takes a global-historic view. It allowed Rubin to fully understand his relationship with all other human beings.

Rubin would suggest that, rather than races, the extended human family had -- by the process of evolution -- been divided into tribes. These Tribes of Humanity include the Black, Brown, Red, Yellow, and White Peoples. Within each of these five tribes, there have been periods of conflict within what are the sub-tribes. We can identify hundreds of painful examples throughout history; more, we can see troubling examples today. An example would be the warfare that is taking place in the region known as the Middle East.

Historically, Rubin noted, while the White Tribe might frequently have wars between sub-tribes -- say the French against the English -- as a general rule, whenever a white sub-tribe went to war against a non-white sub-tribe, most all of the other white sub-tribes would rally to support their fellow white folk. Consider, for example, how Uncle Sam would respond to the conflict between France and Vietnam after the end of WW2. The only valid explanation is tribalism (“racism”).

In the United States today, we have members of each of the five Tribes of Humanity. Rubin and I frequently spoke about the beauty and the social-cultural confusion that results from individuals of one Tribe marrying an individual of another Tribe, and producing offspring. That beauty is illustrated, in my opinion, by the example of Barack Obama. The confusion is, too, when we consider the hatred that so many of our sick brothers and sisters feel towards him.

“Hatred,” like “racism,” is a human concept. It does not exist outside of human beings. One cannot find “hatred” in the Natural World (soil, water, air), or in the Plant Kingdom, or among the non-human Animal Kingdom. Yet, as Rubin taught me when I was a teenager, hatred demands existence within the Human Family today. (And that is the stuff of fascinating discussion in the context of psychology, anthropology, and theology. But I am trying to keep this essay semi-focused.)

There is no wholesome ability to control hatred. While an individual can develop the ability to harness “fear,” and use it as the fuel to achieve some accomplishment (something that a good boxer does), hatred always consumes the person -- or group -- that hates. There may seem to be a temporary gain that the individual or group attributes to hatred, but it is always a delusion. For hatred, by its very nature, always gains control ….which places the individual or group out of self-control. Always.

Certainly, some individuals/ groups can exercise some temporary degree of control over others by using hate. This is how intelligence organizations, and even the Nixon White House, operated when infiltrating, disrupting, and seeking to destroy those they identify as “enemies.” One need look no further than FBI Director Hoover’s infamous March 4, 1968 memorandum for proof of exactly this.

Too often, society tends to judge groups as sharing exact characteristics. Such group judgments include those based upon sex, age, ethnicity, religion, sexual preference, national identity, education and socio-economic status. This infects the way that too many view other groups and the individuals that comprise it. Here, we need look no further than the discussions of BLM and Bernie Sanders. People see and attribute a wide range of characteristics to “groups” (members of BLM), and individuals (Sanders and individual forum members), that range from insightful to sadly ignorant.

By no coincidence, the same range of characteristics that define a group such as DU also may well be found in another group such as BLM. Or, for that matter, among politicians. Or any group comprised of individuals of a certain age, sex, ethnicity, nation-state, etc. This, again, is why groups can be infiltrated, emotions exploited, and behaviors controlled. It is also why, in most groups that focus on emotional issues, there are often a few individuals who will behave in an obnoxious, offensive manner, spouting ignorant and erroneous statements, and self-righteously be certain they are 100% right in doing so.

Becoming a Human Being involves constant struggle.

Peace,
H2O Man

Senator Schumer vs Iran

There have been a few DU:GD threads about Senator Charles Ellis Schumer’s plan to vote in opposition to President Barack Obama on the proposed agreement -- which surely resembles a “treaty” -- proposed by several nations, including Iran. Numerous community members, including New York State residents, believe that Schumer is betraying the President, the Democratic Party, and, indeed, the United States. Others have described it as “politics as usual.” And still others support Senator Schumer’s position.

I think that one of the important issues here involves the neoconservative advocacy of the US seeking military solutions to the “problems” found in the Middle East. As President Obama has accurately noted, many of the people opposed to negotiating an agreement with Iran, rather than attempting a military strike solution, are the same folks who supported President Bush and VP Cheney’s invasion of Iraq.

Perhaps it would be advantageous to review the genesis of the neoconservative movement, and examine more closely those who supported the worst military miscalculation in American history, that 2003 attack on Iraq. The most important resource to start with, in my opinion, is found in the third volume of Taylor Branch’s three-volume history of “America in the King Years.” In the Pulitzer Prize winning author’s third book, “At Canaan’s Edge” (Simon & Schuster; 2006; pages 617-622), he documents how a segment of liberals who fully supported King’s non-violent approach to civil rights as a domestic issue, opposed King when he spoke against warfare as an acceptable solution to international “conflicts.”

This included King’s historic April 4, 1967 speech opposing the US war in Vietnam, and hit a new level when King spoke out against the “Six Day War” in the Middle East. The later marked the birth of the neoconservative movement’s rise in Washington, DC. It included those who were “liberal” on domestic (social) issues, but hawks when it came to international issues, most specifically those involving the nation of Israel. And it is important to understand that it was not simply Jewish Americans: individuals such as Daniel Patrick Moynihan would be among the most influential of the neoconservatives in the decade of the 1970s. Nor, for that matter, has it ever been somehow restricted to republicans -- with Moynihan again being a prime example.

Senator Chuck Schumer is, by any and every correct definition, a neoconservative. More, he does represent a significant portion of Democrats, as the results of his primary victory over two competitors in the year he ran for the US Senate demonstrated (he won with 51% of the primary vote). Likewise, it is accurate to say that his opposition to the potentially peaceful solution to the issue with Iran, that President Obama advocates, represents the wishes of those who assist in financing his campaigns. This, of course, includes AIPAC.

In the same years that the Office of Vice President Cheney was being investigated for the Plame scandal, a US Defense Department employee named Lawrence Franklin was convicted of passing classified documents on our national policy towards Iran to a high-level member of AIPAC, who in turn shared it with Israel. This type of thing should be viewed objectively. And that must not include either anti-Semitism, or false accusations of anti-Semitism. It is what it is: there are people who sincerely believe that Iran poses an existential threat to Israel, and who thus attempt to influence US policy towards Iran. And that’s not always “good” or “bad” -- instances such as Franklin’s case should be judged on their individual merits.

Likewise, Senator Schumer’s position on President Obama’s proposed treaty can and should be viewed objectively. And this should include an honest examination of if Senator Schumer’s opposition is itself objective. In June of 2010, for example, while speaking at Orthodox Union event in Washington, DC, about the conflict in the Gaza Strip, Schumer said, “They don’t believe in the Torah. They don’t believe in King David. So, they don’t think its our land.”

The “our land” in question is definitely not part of New York State, or of the United States. It may be that Senator Schumer experiences difficulty in remaining objective about questions involving the Middle East. Thus, citizens of New York State not only have the right, but also the responsibility to question Schumer’s analysis of the treaty that President Obama is advocating. Doing so does not mean that one is anti-Israel. In fact, as President Obama has stated, this treaty may be viewed as insuring Israel’s safety, rather than somehow threatening it.

The topic of US relations with Iran too often involves emotions, subjectivity, and people’s religious belief systems. That can make a rational discussion difficult, including from the internet to this nation’s capital. Failure to examine the issues objectively, and to behave rationally, will definitely result in much greater difficulties.

President Obama at American University


I listened to President Obama’s speech at American University with great interest. I think that it is essential that he speak to the American public about the deal with Iran. Below is a link to a new NY Times article about the presentation:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/06/us/politics/obama-urges-critics-of-iran-deal-to-ignore-drumbeat-of-war.html?_r=0

Today’s presentation by President Obama was appropriately held at the university where President Kennedy delivered his most important speech. The NYT article provides some background on this, for those who are not familiar with JFK’s advocating for world peace.

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson was just on MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes,” discussing the deal with Iran. That segment was followed immediately by a commercial for a front group that is opposed to the treaty. That, I believe, starkly defines the situation that our nation is in today.

There are two distinct groups: those who believe that negotiating differences in the global community, in an effort to avoid war when possible, brings some much-needed stability to the Middle East; and those who are convinced that the US needs to “bomb” nuclear sites in Iran. There is also, of course, a very large group of citizens who give this conflict very little thought.

The anti-treaty, pro-war group includes many of the same characters who were behind the 2003 military invasion of Iraq. The neoconservatives are intent upon another step in the regional conflict. Some people are “convinced” -- sincerely and otherwise -- that only military strikes on Iran can keep Israel safe. This includes many of the right-wing christian community, based upon their curious misinterpretation of ancient religious texts.

The pro-treaty group includes those who, among other factors, recognize that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was our nation’s greatest military error. It has added to the instability in the Middle East, and surely created a new generation of people who hate the United States. They recognize that to reject the treaty would severely damage the US’s standing in the global community, especially among the others who labored to create the proposed treaty. More, they recognize that another war will endanger Israel.

I am convinced that one of the most important things that we can do today is to call, write, and e-mail our elected representatives in Washington, DC, and encourage them to support President Obama on this. That includes contacting President Obama, and requesting that he address the nation on the importance of this treaty, some night soon.

Thank you for your consideration.

Peace,
H2O Man
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