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H2O Man

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Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 07:49 PM
Number of posts: 66,978

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"Are you watching the Beatles special on the Disney channel?" I asked the two teenaged daughters of my son's girlfriend as we waited for the Thanksgiving meal to be prepared. The older one looked at me like I was an escapee from a boring museum. The younger one said, "I think I've heard a couple of their songs."

Sensing an awkward moment that he could add confusion to, my son said, "You'd have never had the Bay City Rollers without the Beatles. Some people actually think the Beatles were more influential than the Bay City Rollers. Think about that." A nice tip of the hat to the notes on the cover of the first LP release of their Shea Stadium concert, that all of my kids recognize.

Had the girls and their Mom stayed, they could have joined us while Chloe played a couple of dozen of her favorite Beatles songs on piano, as we all sang along. I told my son that his lady risked being reported for neglect and abuse, for not teaching her daughters about the Beatles. He said that not everyone grew up in our house, and thus do not understand how that era influenced the area they now inhabit.

My son mentioned the conversation we had a few days ago. He stops by to work out in the gym here after work, and found me watching film of the 1973 Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, also known as the Senate Watergate Committee. I had said that so much of the information that came out then forms the basic model of the republican threat to democracy today. I've been thinking a lot about this, especially after Rep. Gosar's open threat aimed at AOC.

Nixon was a paranoid man, who could not resist the temptation to "punish" those he identified as enemies. Thus, he had Tom Huston put together a plan to coordinate intelligence agencies breaking the law -- opening mail, breaking in, etc -- while going after the administration's enemies. Though Nixon okayed the plan, J. Edgar Hoover rejected it. In time, there were claims Nixon changed his mind, and stopped the effort a few days later. As John Dean has noted, there is no record of Nixon ended the Huston Plan.

Indeed, Nixon thought back to his days as vice president, and a CIA agent who had headed the 1954 Guatemalan coup. As VP, Nixon had taken increasing control of Central American policy and operations, including the planning for the Bay of Pigs, of which Hunt had played a central role. Thus, after retiring from the CIA, Hunt took a position in the Nixon White House's Special Investigations Unit.

The SIU was engaged in numerous criminal activities. Hence, it was moved away from the White House, into the Committee to Re-Elect the President (CREEP) for "cover." Though most famous for the Watergate break-in(s), and also the break-in of a psychiatrist, there were many other illegal activities, many never fully documented -- for example, in one of his early books, Dan Rather describes a unsettling break-in to his home at a time he was deemed an "enemy."

Luckily, a very disturbed, twisted man named G. Gordon Liddy had been moved between a couple White House positions to head the "plumbers," to stop leaks. He thus worked out of CREEP. His ego led to the uncovering of the Watergate scandal, and the eventual end of the Nixon era. Or did it?

During the Reagan-Bush years, we had the Iran-Contra scandal. It was headed by vice president George Bush, who had connections to Nixon. The White House was violating the Boland Amendment, by way of a secret group within the National Security Council. Using the NSC was an attempt to prevent congressional oversight. The NSC secret group coordinated their efforts with several international entities. The scandal was partially uncovered and many people connected to the administration were convicted and incarcerated. So much for criminal activities in the White House, right?

During the Bush-Cheney administration, there was the Plame scandal. This was a secret operation run out of the Office of the Vice President. His top aide, Scooter Libby, fancied himself a secret agent, and called his activities "black ops." Poor Scooter proved that those who fantasize about being a secret agent should not attempt to punish their "enemies" in real life. Surely the White House would remain as "clean as a hound's tooth," to borrow a phrase from what Frank Serpico was told.

Donald Trump demanded to be the Big Guy in the criminal activities that his misadministration was involved in. Over the years, this included his administration's connections with the Russian mafia and more. But let's focus on one important White House operation that we know as January 6th. While there was never really any question, the evidence the House Committee has uncovered traces the attempted insurrection and overthrow of our government right back to Donald Trump & Co.

That cancer on the presidency has matastasized, and spread thoughout the republican party from DC to state houses to local elections. It illustrates how a disease only partially treated is not cured .... it comes back, and eventually becomes strong enough to destroy its host. And while it is being put in check, we need to stomp the life out of it so that it no longer poses a current or future threat.

To do that, we need to focus on preparing at the grassroot's level for the mid-term elections. Often, the mid-terms favor the out-of-power party. But we can change that. And, in my opinion, that's much more important than arguing about what small -- or large -- differences there are between some Democrats. Just my opinion.

Peace,
H2O Man

Trials

“These are the times that try men's souls.”
― Thomas Paine, The American Crisis


A lot of people enjoy watching criminal trials. I'm one of them. Some are covered live, as cameras are allowed in many cases. I also enjoy watching film of old trials on youtube. It is interesting, sometimes fascinating, to listen to the duels between talented prosecutors and defense attorneys. There can be interesting rulings by judges. And one can often evaluate the honesty and accuracy of witnesses.

The media is incorrectly reporting that the jury agreed that it was self-defense. Actually, the jury determined that the prosecution did not prove that Kyle was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That is a huge distinction. It doesn't mean that the prosecutor did a poor job. What might seem obvious outside a court room has to be presented under the rules of evidence.

A good prosecutor might even have the crimes on film, but that doesn't mean it will be introduced in the trial. Even when films are introduced, a jury may not be convinced -- strange as that may seem. There are factors that even a good prosecutor may have no control over, and no ability to influence. That can include the judge.

One of those factors involves likability. It is a factor in many civil and criminal trials. It includes the parties, their attorneys, the judge, the victims, and even witnesses. It is something that definitely was in play in the Rittenhouse trial. For example, the lead defense attorney came across as more likable than the prosecutor, regardless of either's personality outside the courtroom. Some human beings were able to support Kyle, despite his being rather difficult to find likable. The likability of victims also comes into play.

I've read a number of internet comments saying, approximately: "This gives the alt-right license to shoot us." I think that for many, many citizens, this is not a new reality. For it has long been that way. Leaders like Gandhi and King made it clear that people in the movement might get arrested, go to jail, go to the emergency room, or even to the cemetery. People who march in non-violent marches advocating for peace take those risks. People out after curfew engaged in a variety of activities increase their risks, because other people who think they need a gun for self-defense still opt to make a series of bad choices that result in violence.

Most rational people would agree that jogging should carry fewer risks that confronting a coward with a gun. But that isn't always the case, as many here know. In the Ahmaud Arbury case, of course, a jogger was the victim of a coward with a gun. However, this case has the potential for a more satidfying outcome.

The judge appears to be fair in his rulings. The lead prosecutor is outstanding. I have been very impressed with her throughout the trial. The defense's low-point took place without the jury, when one lawyer was arguing that having black pastors sitting with the victim's mother might influence the jury. But the judge handled that very well.

The defense attorney's attempt to create likability can be best seen by comparing Travis McMichael's mug shot and how he appeared on the witness stand. He hadn't been arrested for DWI, and the mug shot cannot be mistaken for an optical low point. No, that is the real Travis, and that is his essence. He appears to be of the same species as the thugs that were planning to conduct a citizen's arrest of Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer in the fall of 2020. Like them, Travis also appointed himself the judge and jury.

The defense has been weak. It is no more important that the father used to be a cop, or the son had been in the Coast Guard, than if they had once been in the Boy Scouts. Or the Junior Woodchucks.

In my opinion, while watching the closing arguments, it would seem that there is a good chance of the jury convicting the men who murdered Ahmaud Arbury. That was not the case in the Rittenhouse trial.

Walk in History

"Hey, I think I found a piece of a pipe ..... and here's another one!"

My sister had sent a package of old photographs, newspaper articles, report cards, and other school paraphernalia she had sorted out after our mother died. Among them was a nine-page report on Native Americans I had wrote in second grade. My children consider it both interesting and a giggle, as it documents my early fascination with social justice.

The elementary principal had earlier spoke to our class about the history of our community, focusing on Mohawk leader Joseph Brant's meetings with General Herkimer, which took place on what was now one of the school district's baseball fields and tennis courts. That evening, I told my family what I had learned. My mother told me about one of our ancestors who was friends with Brant, including Brant's having him adopt two Indian children orphaned by the Revolutionary War.

My two older brothers would show me the sites of Brant's camps. I learned that when Brant went to warn white settlers to leave the area on the eve of the border wars, some of his warriors took the settlers' clothing from clothes lines, and some put on women's bloomers as a joke. I needed to learn more, and began collecting books on Indians, some of which are still in my library.

At that young age, I already knew that some of my siblings and father's friends had black skin. But I didn't think of this as an important distinction. I was aware of some concerns expressed when a third grade teacher had beat one of my brother's friends bloody, but I did not understand it was because she disliked him because he was black. But that community provided me with an education over the years, about relations between red, white, and black peoples.

These relationships were rooted in the pre-war, colonial era. They influenced the route this country would take, right up until my son took me for a walk earlier this month, on one of the sites my brothers showed me long, long ago. It was where black people who had escaped from slavery camped, along side of Brant and his warriors. This was where, through the sparse grass, my son found the two pieces of a pipe bowl.

We discussed how, during the Revolutionary War, Colonel Jacob Klock had sent an urgent message to Governor Clinton (Clinton Papers; Vol 3; pages 402-4), warning about the Indians and escaped slaves at this site. Clinton passed word on to General Washington, and the result is known as the Clinton-Sullivan campaign. Through the years, especially when the longest canoe race in the world takes place (Clinton Canoe Regatta) nearby, I would take all of my children to this field and related sites, to discuss history.

One of the things they found interesting is explained in Gary Nash's 1974 book, "Red, White, and Black: The Early Peoples of America." It has to do with how white culture viewed the two other groups. Black human beings were viewed as domestic animals, to be kept uneducated and separate from whites, in order to get maximum labor from them. They could buy or sell black human beings at auctions, much like the "farm auctions" that take place frequently around here today.

Indians, on the other hand, were generally considered to be wild animals. There was a year-round hunting season that was closely related to the white culture's desire to expand their territory. When the remaining Indians were subdued, there was a compulsion to wipe away their culture's traditions -- as they had the black people brought from Africa -- but with a different goal. Europeans in the northeast found it impossible to enslave the Natives, like Spain had done in Central America. Short hair cuts, "proper" clothing, and the bible were the tools needed to "tame" these wild humans of the woodlands. And unlike with black people, there was a need to educate the Indians, though never really allow them equal status to white men in America.

Now, my children had an advantage: my extended family includes all of what my friend Rubin called "the Tribes of Humankind." So when we discussed history, they had interacted with a wide variety of skin color on relatives and friends. It helped them understand the life experiences of, say Rubin Carter, who they considered an uncle, and Chief Paul Waterman, their third grandfather. It also helped them understand when, in 1998, at that canoe regatta, a gang of seventeen members of a racial hate group assaulted their cousin, a high school scholar/athlete, because they didn't like a black kid getting so much good press. They left him for dead in a dark field, although I'm glad to say he survived.

This education did not inflict the damage that a portion of white Americans -- who identify this as "critical race theory" -- believe it would surely it would. I grew up in a different world than my parents, or my ancestor who was friends with Joseph Brant. My kids have grown up in a different world than I did. They interact with a wide variety of non-white people, and understand that while they share a lot in common, there are different experiences that define the reality of others' lives. In fact, it provides young people the ability to unite for social justice. Perhaps that is really what scares those intent upon proventing "critical race theory" -- or what I call "history" -- in schools. It's sad that they are living in the past, rather than being here, now.

Peace,
H2O Man

PS: Between us, my son and I found a variety of projectile points, pottery sherds, and two pieces of a broken pendant. A lot of history there.

Rittenhouse Trial


From time to time, there are criminal trials that help define an era. Sad to say that the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse appears to be one of these. As repulsive as Rittenhouse is, perhaps the most unsettling aspect of the on-going trial is the behavior of the judge, the Dishonoable Bruce Schroeder. Thus, people of my generation have been comparing the judge and the trial he is highjacking to other infamous trials of the past.

The first one that comes to mind is then 74 year old Judge Julius Hoffman, in thr trial of the Chicago Seven. The trial originally had eight defendants, but the case against Bobby Seale was declared a mistrial during the trial. Born in the previous century, Julius was a prime representative of the system that the defendants had been protesting at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. There was a police riot outside of the convention, and the defendants were charged with crossing state lines to start a riot.

The song linked above tells part of the story. Julius had Seale bound and gagged when he insisted on representing himself. Julius would put his utter contempt for the other defendats and their legal team on the record frequently throughout the trial. The defendants were aware that this would not be a fair and just trial, and so they made it theater. The judge's rulings were so bad that the convictions were overturned on appeal. But what was one of the strangest parts of the whole thing was that Judge Hoffman's treatment of Abbie Hoffman.

Although he expressed frustration with Abbie's antics, he tended to treat the YIPPIE! leader like a favorite grandson who was full of mischief. And this held true, even when Abbie insulted him in open court. Thus, Judge Schroeder's obvious affection for Rittenhouse reminds me of that: another self-righteous, cantankerous old judge -- one who doesn't much care for people exercising their Amendment 1 rights -- who cannot hide his concern for a defendant.

Another judge from a damous trial that comes to mind is Lance Ito, from the criminal trial of O.J. Simpson. Like Judge Schroeder, Lance was following the media's coverage of the trial. Schroeder has complained about legal experts strongly disagreeing with several of his rulings. He views himself a "victim," a status he denied those killed by Rittenhouse. Ito, on the other hand, was flattered by the "Dancing Itos" ( see the end of the below link). Both star in their own made-for-tv drama.



Generally, courts should be where a search for truth is conducted. In my opinion, they usually are. Even in high profile, tense cases, judges can keep the focus on the case at hand, rather than seeking the limelight themselves. One that comes to mind was the infamous Manson family trial. The original judge, William Keene, had at first allowed Charlie to represent himself. When Manson attempted to derail the trial, Keene reversed himself. Manson then filed an affidav of prejudice, which lead to Charles Older hearing the case. Few people today remember much about either judge, beyond their handling a terrible case with dignity.

When I've listened to Schroeder, I've thought that it isn't only jurors who should faithfully avoid any exposure to media reports on the case. Or talking to others about the case. This, despite his attempt at humor yesterday, when he attempted a joke about hearing from one of the few friends he has left. This trial is too important to let an ass-clown like Schroeder infect it with his prejudice favoring Rittenhouse.

Orange Matterless Custard





It's time for DU Exercise Class! Line up, and count off by ones.

Suppose that this week, a federal grand jury returns an indictment against Steve Bannon. This is in the realm of possibilities. Next, suppose that Donald Trump issues a second Bannon pardon. This, too, is within the realm of possibilities. Yet no one would possibly mistake this as reality-based, as it would carry no legal authority. Rather, it would be cause for laughter and merriment.

Let's take it a step further. Suppose that next week, Trump issues what he insists is a Presidential Executive Order, that holds that insurrection is not only legal, but mandatory. Would anyone take this seriously? Yes, of course: the republicans in the House and Senate would pretend that it is legit. But it is highly unlikely that even Clarence Thomas would say that it is an unanswered constitutional question.

The same holds true should Trump try to classify or de-classify government records. No sane person would suggest that Trump has any of the privileges of the presidency. This will hold true when people such as Bannon attempt to claim they need not testify to the House committee, or if the current Department of Justice and White House can provide the committee with requested documents. The only option the Bannon-types have is to take the fifth. But, by law, they will have to take it in response to each and every question asked of them.

Now that this warm-up exercise has been completed, let's return to reality. Trump can't do the things he wants to do, but you can do something tomorrow -- if you haven't already. You can vote. And you can remind family and friends to vote.

Peace,
H2O Man
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