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H2O Man

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Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 07:49 PM
Number of posts: 66,817

Journal Archives

This Season

“For every thing there is a season, and a time for every matter …..”
-- Ecclesiates 3:1

I just dropped off a pile of completed paperwork at my cousin’s house. We reviewed that, and this week’s grand jury hearing on the case of the fellow who -- in an episode of “road rage” -- shot and seriously wounded my cousin, and killed his 26-year old son. I brought along my lady friend, who had accompanied me to the son’s funeral; my cousin was recovering from surgery at the time, and hadn’t met her.

It was fun to listen to the two of them talk “union talk.” She’s the vice president of the local teachers’ union, while he’s a retired carpenters’ union activist. She was recently at a training program that featured a coal miners’ union activist, and it turned out that he is someone my cousin knows. Both my cousin and friend are registered Democrats, and both are proud “leftists.” So you can imagine how fun it was for me to listen in on their conversation.

Yesterday, my cousin was in the hospital again. He had been experiencing extreme physical pain. And he is not the type to complain about discomfort, or low-to-moderate pain. I could see that he was having trouble breathing, because the pain was so intense. The doctor thought he had a hole in his bladder, which would require another emergency surgery. Tests showed that it was an abscess, about the size of a silver dollar. He’s on antibiotics to treat it, which is easier than another surgery.

The stark reality of his son being dead -- he died cradled in my cousin’s arms -- continues to be more painful than the abscess. Because he’s dealing with recovering from being shot himself, he is limited physically, and so even getting around his house is difficult. His father, who is 86-years old, is dealing (in part) with the loss by cutting and splitting firewood.

My uncle already has enough for the next two winters, but started on another supply to season ahead. I’m impressed by Elders who are this active physically. Both my aunt and uncle are active people, two of the most intelligent human beings that I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. They are both FDR Democrats, who find very few current politicians to meet their basic definition of what it means to be a true Democrat.

One of his nephews was at my cousin’s house yesterday evening when I was there, splitting firewood for him. He came in after doing the work, and the three of us sat and talked for a while. My cousin and I told him some stories about our grandfather -- his great grandfather -- who he was fortunate enough to know when he was a wee little boy.

My grandfather’s son was murdered in 1969, after winning a couple hands of cards at a local tavern. I remember that time period vividly, and of course, recent events bring it back into focus for those in the family old enough to remember it. There was not much of an investigation back then, as it was a time when the death of a “half-breed” Native American who lived in the margin of society -- in a house without electricity, providing for his family “off the land” -- didn’t count for much in the larger society. That it happened in a bar probably didn’t help.

Every so often, when I can’t be “busy” dealing with things such as piles of paperwork, or transporting my cousin to meet with someone connected to this case by way of the legal system, it hits me. My uncle being murdered; his son -- a US Marine -- being murdered over a $10 bag of weed, a generation later. My nephew being attacked and left for dead, by a racist “hate gang.” (The gang leader got a $50 fine for this.) I also remember when I was 15, and my sweet heart was raped and murdered by a thug, who used a chainsaw to try to dispose of the “evidence.”

There are times when all that pain and the utter loneliness that this type of separation from loved ones inflicts upon human beings, begins to wear my down. Yet, talking to this young man -- who has the same blood flowing through his veins that I have in mine, and that my grandfather had in his -- brings some relief, even encouragement.

I wish that this would be the last generation in our family to have to deal with this type of thing. But I do take some comfort in knowing that young men such as this wonderful young man will be here, to help guide our own through troubled times. I’ve noticed how he and others of his generation are studying -- closely -- some of the things I do to attempt to assure that justice (not “revenge”) prevails. I’m honored to have the opportunity to do so.

H2O Man

The Last Picnic: Keystone

“Sitting at the table doesn’t make you a diner, unless you eat some of what’s on that plate.”
-- Malcolm X

“If we can’t sit at that table, let’s knock the fucking legs off!”
-- James Forman

Within days of republican victories in the House and Senate election contests, the possibility of “compromise” on the proposed Keystone Pipeline was being floated in the media. This is, of course, a fiction -- there is no “compromise” -- either there is a Keystone Pipeline, or there is not. The only things that would be compromised by building the pipeline would be the environment, and any sense of ethics that our democratic representatives claim to have.

Throughout my adult life, I have advocated an informal coalition of the Democratic Party and the Democratic Left to confront the republican machine. There are numerous areas where we share common interests, and can find common ground. Indeed, there are a substantial number of registered democrats who identify with the Democratic Left. I am one of them.

In my experience, the combined efforts of the Democratic Party and Democratic Left have been able to defeat republican candidates in local elections. This has been true, despite the fact that there are more registered republicans in this region of upstate New York, than there are democrats, third parties, or independents. That same combination was able to elect (and re-elect) Maurice Hinchey to the House of Representatives for years.

Yet, after Hinchey’s retirement, the democratic candidate failed to reach out to the Democrat Left, in the mistaken belief that he could take their support for granted. This same tactic was tried by other democratic candidates for state office this year, resulting in defeat. Only the governor was able to safely write off the left’s support.

The Democratic Left wants a seat at the table. Likewise, the left-wing of the Democratic Party does. We are sophisticated enough to know that “politics is the art of compromise.” We’re not demanding our way or the highway on the majority of issues. People can agree in general on issues such as the value of public education, yet have different opinions on how to best achieve the best results. Certainly, not everything has a “one size fits all” solution.

But there are a few issues where compromise is not an option. We shouldn’t be willing to compromise our ethics. We should never be willing to compromise on issues that present extreme dangers to human health and the living environment.

When democrats in Washington, DC, talk about “compromise” in the context of ethical issues, that’s fancy language for selling out. It means that they have more loyalty to energy corporations, than to human beings. With the 2016 elections looming less than two years away, “compromising” on the Keystone Pipeline would be as damaging to the Democratic Party, as the pipeline would be to the environment.

I am a loyal member of the Democratic Party. I’ve volunteered lots of hours in campaign headquarters, donated money. and gone door-to-door for numerous candidates over the decades. But I won’t donate a penny or vote for any candidate who I consider to be wrong on ethical issues. I won’t support a neoconservative, nor an energy industry lap dog. And I damn sure won’t ask anyone -- be they a member of the Democratic Party or the Democratic Left -- to do so, either.

At the same time, I will definitely remain as active a participant in politics as I have been. My efforts will include trying to reform the Democratic Party from the grass roots up. It will also include working with the Democratic Left. I think that is the best way to let those at the state and national level know that they cannot take people like myself for granted. If enough people do something similar, it will communicate clearly that their old “they have no where else to go” is simple not true.

H2O Man

Regarding Elections: 2014 & '16

“If something is yours by right, then fight for it or shut up. If you can’t fight for it, then forget it.”
-- Malcolm X; London School of Economics; February, 1965.

Reading through DU:GD last night, I realized that I had not really made much comment on last week’s elections. In a nut-shell, I view events such as these as temporary set-backs, rather than utter defeats, so long as one learns a lesson from it. Thus, I began considering what quote to use at the top of an essay, to introduce that general theme.

Initially, I thought about Jim Morrison’s infamous rant while on stage in Miami. The old, “What are you gonna do about it?” rallying cry might well be as appropriate today, as Jim’s presentation was deemed inappropriate by the Miami police and court, way back when. But I didn’t want to risk offending DU’s community standards, so I kept my trousers zipped, and thought some more.

The Declaration of Independence came to mind. It is a power document, one that I think that liberals and progressives should read from time to time. In fact, it reminds me of the type of statement of purpose that Malcolm X might have made in his final year of life.

In the two short sentences quoted above, Malcolm says “fight for it” twice. That suggests it is a key point. He doesn’t say that the fight will be easy. Nor does he hint that if you do fight, you will achieve a clear victory. But he makes very clear the reality that if you don’t fight, there is zero chance of making progress, much less winning.

I am confident that very few, if any, members of this forum view last Tuesday as a good day for the Democratic Party. It definitely wasn’t. Some of the democrats who ran for office did not appear to be willing to fight. Rather, they seemed to be running from the fight. But the responsibility for the election outcome does not rest entirely upon the candidates.

Certainly, the cycle of “off year” elections came into play. Equally important is the tension between the progressive/ liberal wing, and the moderate/ conservative wing of the party.The dynamics being what they are, the vast majority of democratic candidates for governor and for the House and Senate were moderate/ conservative. As a result, we didn’t have “dynamic” candidates capable of creating enough “tension” to convince enough potential voters that these contests were important enough -- in the context of their lives -- to vote.

So, if one wants to, they could engage in finger-pointing at a wide range of people who likely bear some portion of the responsibility for the election of so many republicans. “If you didn’t vote, don’t complain” seems a fair statement. But it does not provide the entire answer to the problem, and thus offers no promise of resolving the problem in the future.

I believe it is equally fair to say that too many democratic candidates ran weak campaigns. More, I think the party’s “leaders” promoted too many weak candidates. And that there were too few serious primary challenges, giving voters a real choice. And on and on.

I do think it is important to study other people’s roles in campaigns and elections. And to evaluate how well they accomplish their tasks. Yet at the same time, “democracy” is something that belongs to us as individuals. It’s being stolen, of course, by powerful forces on the national level. And that theft trickles down to the local level, where all too often, jackasses who really aren’t very powerful at all are confident that they have license to steal what belongs to you and I. Now, that annoys me.

I’ve said -- probably several hundred times here on this forum -- that real change can only be accomplished from the grass roots up. But I know that my saying it doesn’t accomplish things. And that I have to fight for what is mine. So there is now two years before the next election cycle allows me to vote.

Between now and then, I’m not going to shut up, nor will I forget about it. I won’t put it on a back-burner, either, allowing it to cool until the next cycle comes around. Instead, I will be active at the grass roots level. I’ll work to register others to vote. Two groups that I will focus on are college students, and the poor. I will work to educate them, on how elections impact their day-to-day lives. And how their becoming active participants in the process translates to power.

I will also be in communication with those who are in positions that allow them to influence which candidates end up running on the democratic ticket -- from the local level right on up.

I want what is mine. And I think that you want what is your’s. So I am asking you to be active in the weeks and months ahead.

Thank you,
H2O Man

Hopkins vs Kovalev

On November 8, Bernard Hopkins will meet Sergey Kovalev in a light heavyweight title unification bout. HBO will be televising the fight, which is being held in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Although the true light heavyweight champion is Adonis Stevenson, this fight -- which is for the IBF, WBA, and WBO titles -- is not only the best match-up in the division, it promises to be one of the most important in boxing this year.

Hopkins is, of course, one of the sport’s legendary figures. He secured his place high on the list of the greatest middleweight champions years ago, with a long and dominant reign. When it seemed that his age was finally catching up to him, and lost a pair of decisions to Jermain Taylor in 2005, he stunned the boxing community by moving up to light heavyweight, and beating Antonio Tarver for the title.

Over the next few years, Hopkins would continue to compete with some of the elite fighters at the higher weights. Although he would lose a couple of decisions, his fights were always close, and he continued to pull off upsets against much younger, less experienced top fighters. Although his fights were rarely exciting, it was impressive to watch this well-conditioned, supremely self-confident veteran use every trick in the book to defeat opponents at the top of their division.

This second half of his career is, as much as his middleweight reign, good reason to secure his ranking high among boxing’s all time greats. Yet, one could not help but wonder when he might be pushing it too far, and become old in the ring? As Bernard approaches the age of 50, the fight against Kovalev would be the most dangerous to have that happen.

Kovalev is 25-0-1, with 23 knockouts. Although Bernard is slightly taller, and has a reach advantage, Sergey is the naturally bigger man (he’s been a light heavyweight throughout his careeer, while Bernard has moved up to the division). He appears physically the stronger of the two, and definitely hits much harder. Indeed, one opponent died a few days after fighting Sergey, from injuries sustained in the bout. And he reportedly fractured his last opponent’s ribs with a stiff right to the body.

Kovalev’s path to victory seems rather obvious. He needs to dictate the pace in every round against his 49-year old opponent. He can’t allow Bernard to frustrate him on the inside, where Hopkins uses his head, shoulders, forearms, and elbows as weapons. Bernard’s best punch, at this point in his long career, is the right hand: he bends at the knees, ducks his head, and leaps at his opponent. No matter if the blow lands cleanly or not, he follows it with the top of his head. If the opponent is upright, Bernard pushes them back; if they’ve ducked, he pushes down on them. Both tactics are effective in tiring his opponent.

Sergey has to respond to these tactics by punishing Hopkins. This includes discouraging Bernard with a stiff jab. Then, when Hopkins lunges forward, he needs to respond by both landing hard punches, and also by using his greater strength inside. Hopkins does have two “no contests” -- both coming early in bouts where he was not ahead on the score cards. The first came as a result of wrestling while clinching. The second, which is more important, came when Chad Dawson responding to the lead right-lunge by tossing Bernard to the canvas. It was ironic that a master of “dirty tactics” howled when Dawson turned the tables on him, then refused to continue. Dawson beat Hopkins in their rematch more convincingly than did Joe Calzaghe (in a close bout that I though Hopkins won).

Kovalev does not seem intimidated by Hopkins’ pre-fight behavior. While he definitely respects his older foe, he seems amused by Bernard’s antics. Sergey has said that he is approaching this as a “street fight,” and is not looking for a knockout. If he maintains this mindset, he not only has a good chance of winning, but may very well be the first to stop Bernard.

Hopkins has had important experience in beating champions who stand straight up, and who flattened most challengers with straight punches. They include Felix Trinidad and Kelly Pavlik, both of whom had devastating power. In fact, a year ago, Hopkins said that Sergey is another Pavlik; he also said that Kovalev would be the easiest of the top three light heavyweights for him to defeat.

However, it is important to note that both Trinidad and Pavlik were smaller than Hopkins. Neither was nearly as strong as Sergey, nor was their punching power in the same league. (This is no knock on them; both were solid fighters in their prime, and Trinidad was among the great champions of his era.) Thus, Hopkins has to adopt a somewhat different approach in this fight.

The model for this slightly different approach can be found in two victories of one of the unlikeliest of boxers to illustrate this technique: former heavyweight contender Jerry Quarry. In June of 1970, he faced undefeated Mac Foster at Madison Square Garden. Foster, who had served as a US Marine in Vietnam, had won all 24 of his fights by knockout. Besides having extreme punching power, Foster had impressive ring skills. Quarry was considered to be a step towards his eventually challenging for the heavyweight title.

However, Mac stood straight up, and was most effective when he measured his opponent with straight punches. Once he had the correct distance, he unloaded a vicious left hook, capable of taking out any opponent. Quarry fought Foster in much the same manner that Bernard fought Tito and Kelly: frequently changing the distance between them, stepping out to the sides, getting off punches first and last in exchanges, and punishing Foster for every missed punch and error. Foster became anxious, and fell apart when Quarry stepped up the pace.

Quarry faced the undefeated Ron Lyle in February of 1973. Lyle was 19-0, with 17 knockouts. The fight was also at Madison Square Garden, and was intended as a step-up for Lyle, who had the potential to become champion. Ron was bigger than Foster; his build was more solid, and he was among the strongest heavyweights from any era. More, having literally died on an operating table after being stabbed in prison, Lyle was without fear in the ring.

Quarry had faster hands, and was quicker with upper-body movement. And he was a talented counter-puncher. Early in the 12 round bout, he found that while he could outland Ron in exchanges, Lyle was not being seriously hurt by his punches. Also, Lyle remained calm and stuck with his plan to wear Quarry out. Because of Ron’s enormous strength, and ability to land punches when Quarry was moving backwards, Jerry made the adjustments needed to be able to last the 12 rounds. Rather than creating big differences in the space between them, he stayed close to Lyle, and focused more on creating angles, constantly turning his opponent -- and winning 7, 9, and 10 of the rounds on the score cards (Lyle won 4, 1, and 2 respectively).

Kovalev is bigger, stronger, and hits significantly harder than Trinidad or Pavlik. But he is slower. Hence, Bernard’s best bet will be to make the same general adjustment as did Quarry, which has to do with ring geography. It means staying relatively close to Sergey, yet not allowing him to get set to fire punches. Making use of angles, and spinning the slower man. Not allowing Kovalev to use his physical strength -- including punching power -- to tire Bernard.

Kovalev has the slight edge in physical gifts, Bernard has the slight edge in mental strength. It’s about as an even a fight on paper as can be. May the best man win.

Enjoy the fight!

Life with the Lions

I just came back from my mail box. There was a nice card from a man I know casually, sending kind words of support regarding last week’s “road rage” shooting that seriously wounded my cousin, and killed his son. I’ve been acquainted with this fellow for over twenty years; we share an interest in local railroad history. His father used to work with my father.

His father had died as a result of choking on food. I went to the funeral, and found my general belief that American society has great difficulty in dealing with death reinforced -- though death, of course, is always difficult under any circumstances. I remember the pastor leading the ceremony, saying that she knew the deceased “always loved dessert,” and that in heaven, God provides a never-ending variety of sweet desserts which grow as fruit on a tree. Perhaps it’s just me, but that seemed a tad too close to Santa God for me.

I remember when my friend Lee died. It was unexpected. Several people said to his brother, Onondaga Chief Oren Lyons, that Lee had “died too young.” I remember Oren saying that Lee had died on exactly the day he was supposed to. It was still equally sad, of course, but in my mind, Oren was correct.

My childhood “best friend” stopped by the other day. We remain very close friends, now that we have become the Elders of our valley neighborhood. My friend said that when the gunman got into his vehicle that day, he was going to kill someone; it was my cousins’ bad luck to be the first people he encountered. I’d have to agree that a man who flew into a homicidal rage and shoot two human beings, because the vehicle ahead of him was going the speed limit, could just as easily killed someone else.

My cousin was released from the hospital. Physically, he has aged at least 20 years in a week’s time. I visit him for short periods of time, usually twice a day. In between, we talk on the phone, or by e-mail, to discuss thoughts that come to him when he attempts to rest. I take care of business with the insurance and the bank. On Tuesday, my cousin was upset that, if he didn’t get to the poll, it would be the first time in 48 years that he hasn’t voted. I assured him that he has a valid excuse.

I voted, of course. And I attempt to take care of other business. My youngest daughter, for example, had basketball practice yesterday afternoon, followed by the area’s “senior” soccer game. Earlier in the day, I went to a medical appointment. It was re-scheduled, as I forgot it last week; the doctor said I had a valid excuse.

I’m more tired, sore, and worn-out than I can ever remember being. Even though I was awake in time, I didn’t get the trash and recyclables down the driveway this morning for pick-up. I’m finding it difficult to keep up on “housework.” A couple nights ago, when I went grocery shopping, a republican official from my town keep approaching me, asking questions about possible support for her “economic development plan.” I couldn’t follow what she was saying the first time she cornered me; I didn’t bother to try the second and third time. It was like she spoke a foreign language. I was just too tired.

But the vast majority of people I encounter -- in person, on the internet, or on the telephone -- are good and decent folk, who are horrified by what happened. Senseless violent outbursts such as this not only damage the families involved, these events damage the community. I often speak about systems -- family, workplace, community, etc -- being like a mobile that hangs over an infant’s crib. When the worst of human potential is inflicted upon one family piece, the others shift in response, in a manner that truly shows the best in humanity.

In our way, when a young person loses their life in such a tragic way, we recognize them as messengers to the larger community. Their lives had a special meaning. At the same time that it causes an almost unbearable pain of separation for the family and friends, and shifts them into the suffering described as the wilderness, identifying that lesson is essential. It is as opposite to the “life is cheap” message of that thug, as that higher potential that the community displays.

It’s interesting to me, to consider the very different manner that people tend to behave in the contexts of dealing with tragedy versus “politics.” One unites people, and the other divides us into opposing groups. One recognizes that we are each part of a connected whole, while the other creates divisions. This isn’t to suggest that there shouldn’t be different opinions in things political -- surely, there should be -- but just as we benefit from having mutual respect in the realm of the socio-political debates, our society is being harmed by the harshness of the culture wars.

It’s that harshness that creates the atmosphere of anger, anxiety, fear, and hatred that saturates our nation. It builds a momentum that vicious thugs, such as the one who shot my family, mistake for license to unleash violence on an unsuspecting public.

It shouldn’t be this way. And it doesn’t have to be this way. With conscious effort, we can change the direction our culture is moving in.

H2O Man

Long days, long nights

This is the 4th in a series on the shootings in Bainbridge, NY, that seriously wounded my cousin, and killed his son. The gunman was a retired NYC cop, recently hired as a part-time deputy-guard at the county jail. It was an extreme case of “road rage” -- this chap was enraged because a 26-year old slowed to 51 mph to round a curve -- that has left our communities reeling.

On Friday, there was a hearing in town court, to determine if the District Attorney had enough evidence to hold the “suspect” in jail, until a grand jury meets in late November to decide if he is to be charged with felony counts. The hearing, which lasted about an hour, was attended by a large crowd. Besides police and lawyers, there were family and friends of the victims, as well as concerned community members.

I had arranged a meeting between the DA and our family before the hearing. My aunt and uncle are in their mid-80s; they do not need the added stress of worrying about a potential injustice at this time. I think the meeting with the DA, along with conversations with state police after the hearing, has eased their minds. And the same goes with their three daughters.

After attempting to dispose of his handgun and other material, the thug had gone to the NYS Police and attempted to file charges on his victims. Police reports show that he reeked of alcohol. After the police read him his rights, and placed him under arrest, he asked to be allowed to go on his way. When they made it clear he was not free to go, he became hostile.

The local justice of the peace, of course, ruled that there is sufficient reason to hold him in jail, pending the grand jury hearing.

A BCI investigator told me that the gunman’s family has had a series of harassing and threatening phone calls. Thus, when I spoke with the assembled media, I made it clear that we hold no feelings of ill will towards them. He devastated their lives, too. (His three children are young adults. Should they have children, “grandpa” will be a figure held in a distant prison, playing no meaningful role in their lives.)

I had coffee with my family afterwards. The outpouring of support from people, in the diner and on the street, was impressive. One of the nice things in these small communities is that most people know everyone else. Might not be friends, but people are friendly. Good people.. And there really are a heck of a lot of good people.

Saturday was the funeral and burial. Both my aunt and uncle were pleased to see so many young adults there -- people who had known their grandson from school and the local towns. They were particularly happy to see a group of youth who had their hair dyed in bright colors, dressed like their generation’s gypsies. “I like people who make statements about their beliefs and values,” my aunt told me. My uncle recalled when his son was among the first, in the mid-1960s, to grow long hair and dress “like a hippie.”

Our extended family ended up at my aunt and uncle’s house. Three of my four children were there (the oldest daughter is studying abroad). My sons spent time near the wood stove with my uncle. He mentions how cutting and splitting his firewood tires him out these days; he’s “only” two year’s ahead. I doubt that many 43-year olds could keep up with this 86-year old man.

Neighbors and town’s folks continue to deliver generous amounts of the best foods. You could easily have fed 300 people. And you could tell that the people who had prepared the food had taken the time and effort to make something special. For that is the way Good People are.

I was aware that, somewhere in the next town, another family was grieving. I understand that people try to make sense out of the senseless; hence, some of his family and friends are saying that “there’s more to the story,” that the victims were attempting to rob the gunman, that they had weapons, that they stabbed him several times, and on and on. Next they’ll say that Faye Resnick holds the key to this mystery.

It is human nature to try to make sense of these things, in the context of our experiences and level of understanding. I do not begrudge them for believing falsehoods, for the truth is too painful right now. I will speculate that at least some family members have know the murderer to have a terrible temper, and to have engaged in violent behaviors in the past. I have heard that he was very controlling, with his wife and kids.

As a human being, I am also attempting to make sense of this. And, of course, that is in the context of my life experiences, and my limited level of understanding. In terms of this forum, some of you may remember that I’ve always tried to advocate non-violence. I’ve used quotes from my two mentors -- Onondaga Chief Paul Waterman and Rubin “Hurricane” Carter -- and others -- Gandhi and King -- to express the view that there’s too much fear, anger, and hatred in our culture. That we must counter these negative forces with compassion, understanding, and love. Those are the markers along the pathways to Higher Ground. These are the same guidelines I use when things are tough.

Later this week, I’ll post more on “why” I think this tragic event took place, and on what meaning I believe it has for me, and the community. Until then, you can be sure that old H2O Man will be busy, taking care of some business on this end.

H2O Man
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