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H2O Man

H2O Man's Journal
H2O Man's Journal
January 30, 2014

Hey, You

Our society is “at risk.” The reasons a legion. The chances that what has been known as the United States of America will remain much as it has -- say, for the past 50 years -- for the next 50 years is slim. There are relatively few people 50 or older who believe that this is the same country that they grew up in. Fewer yet believe that things are better today for the average citizen, or that we are, as a people, advancing in a positive direction.

There is, in psychology, a personality dynamic known as depersonalization. One can read the DSM-IV-TR for a description. The symptoms and experiences are, I suspect, not limited to individuals who identify enough of the cluster to be deemed to suffer from the condition. Further, I suspect that if enough bees in a hive experience some range of those symptoms and experiences, it might be worth considering depersonalization as a condition of that hive, rather than something unique to a limited number of bees.

If indeed depersonalization is a societal condition, we can and should look for biopsychosocial dynamics involved. These will tend to be similar to those in individual cases, but not necessarily limited to the exact same types of conditioning.

What will be “limited,” for the sake of this discussion, will be the biological factors. For example, many people use legal and/or illegal substances that are mood-alerting. That, of course, includes prescription medications, over-the-counter medicines, alcohol, pot, and many more. Prescription medications are, when prescribed and taken correctly, a good thing. But there are enough individuals who are either prescribed medications they do not need, or who access those drugs illegally, that it certainly has an impact upon the beehive of American society.

Thus, “drugs” in general often serve as social novocaine. To borrow a saying from Minister Malcolm X, people numb the pain of their everyday existence. Just as novocaine allows a person to sit still while a dentist rips a tooth out of their mouth, social novocaine keeps people sitting quietly while a corrupt system steals the value of their being.

Two closely related psychological factors also play a role. These are self-efficacy, and locus of control. The first involves a person’s belief that they are capable of completing a given task. It is human nature for individuals to prefer to attempt tasks that they believe they can complete successfully. Success tends to be far more pleasant than failure.

The second involves if an individual believes that they have a significant degree of control over the important factors in their life. A person with an internal locus of control believes that they are primarily responsible for how they respond to various things – including those involving other people’s actions. Those with an external locus of control feel that they have little control over their lives, and take little responsibility for how they respond to others. In other words, some people deal with life with a positive attitude, while others believe they are mere victims of circumstances beyond their control.

Few of us are at either extreme in the locus of control bit. We tend to be somewhere in the middle. Likewise, few of us are so delusional as to believe that our level of self-efficacy would allow our individual efforts will change the course our nation is on. However, many people are hoping that a “leader” (or leaders) will come forth and bring forth answers to guide us safely into the future. This type of social/group external locus of control prevents “the masses” (or 99%) from realizing that it can only be by way of the combined efforts of all of us – including you and me – that can possibly result in the progress that we so desperately need to survive.

It’s late January, 2014. What do you, as an individual, plan to do? What groups, large or small, are you going to invest your time and energy in?

H2O Man

January 29, 2014

Stepford Republicans

That was, in a very real sense, even funnier than the candy-cane flag guy, or the geek with the dry mouth.

Is that all they have? Really?????

January 27, 2014

Two Questions on the Great Divide

A couple of questions, to which there is no “right” or “wrong” answer. What I would appreciate, and what might lead to a worthwhile discussion, is your opinion.

We have important elections in 2014, which will set the stage for significant elections in 2016. I consider elections at all levels – local, state, and national – important each and every time they are held. But I do believe there is an urgency involved in the upcoming contests, that demands our full attention.

In my opinion, there are two general groups that have the potential to make meaningful advances in 2014 and ’16. Included are the Democratic Party, and the Democratic Left. The party includes progressives, liberals, moderates, and conservative democrats. The left includes progressive democrats, and those to the left of the party.

For sake of discussion, liberals tend to think that “the system” needs fine-tuning, in order to make it more capable of providing social justice. Progressives tend to believe the system needs a major overhaul. Thus, for example, while I am a life-long registered democrat, on the majority of important issues, I am convinced we need revolutionary change. I do not believe that anything less bodes well for our nation, or species.

The entirety of “the system” is so complex, that some of the dynamics and issues involved are relatively well-defined, while others are definitely not. For example, our opposition includes republicans (who may be relatives or neighbors), corporations, the numerous “-isms” that are entrenched (racism, sexism, dollarism, etc), and class warfare.

It also seems that the fact we can best confront these social ills by having a united front that includes the Democratic Party and the Democratic Left. Our opposition will apply as much pressure as possible to those areas where there has traditionally been splits between the two groups. More importantly, at least in my opinion, is that both the Democratic Party and the Democratic Left have proven fully capable of dividing themselves into factions incapable of exercising their full political potential. (DU discussions on the possibility of Hillary Clinton running for president in 2016 illustrate this quite clearly.)
Hence, my two questions:

First, what issue (or issues) provide the firmest regions for us to find “common ground”?

Second, what issue (or issues) provide the greatest area of disagreement, which could serve to divide us?

Again, there are no “right” or “wrong” answers. Your thoughts and contributions are most appreciated. Thank you!

H2O Man

January 22, 2014

New Jersey & New Systems

"A chicken can't produce a duck egg. It has not the means nor the system within to produce a duck egg. In the same way the Capitalist system cannot produce freedom for a black man. It has not the means within to produce freedom, it has not the educational means, the political means, the legislative means. And if a chicken was to produce a duck egg, it would be considered a revolutionary chicken." – Malcolm X

A chicken can’t produce a Governor James “Chris” Christie egg, either. So, any attempt to identify what type of system produces a hoodlum-politician such as Christie, it’s safe to cross chickens off the list of suspects. Ducks, too.

Yesterday, while discussing the most recent corruption coverage about the republican party’s potential 2016 presidential candidate, a friend said, “It’s just New Jersey politics.” I really don’t agree with that. Perhaps he was partly correct, but attributing Christie’s behavior as being typical of New Jersey seems rather short-sighted to me. It is similar to the idea of “Chicago politics,” and the myth that Joseph Kennedy “bought” his son’s victory in Illinois in 1960, thus winning the presidency. It’s not so much that adherents to this fable are incapable of doing the math; rather, they don’t take the time to do it. And such shortcuts often add up to incorrect conclusions
My knowledge of New Jersey is limited, and pretty much to politics. In the late 1960s and ‘70s, the New Jersey Supreme Court was highly respected. It was described as not only the best state supreme court, but the best Supreme Court in the land. Interestingly, the state also had some of the most corrupt police and politicians in the country, too.

The state’s health department is, in many ways, superior to that in my state (New York). For example, the “acceptable” levels of contact with toxic industrial wastes such as trichloroethylene are lower than in New York. It’s not that New Yorkers are of a hardier stock, and less “at risk” from exposure to such poisons. Rather, the policies in New Jersey were based more on science, than corporate interests.

Not all of the science that has come out of New Jersey is good, of course. In a 1958 study of the state’s largest prison, Princeton University’s Gresham Stokes wrote, “Centers of opposition in the inmate population – in terms of men recognized as leaders by fellow prisoners – can be neutralized through the use of solitary confinement or exile to other state institutions. Just as the Deep South served as a dumping-ground for particularly troublesome slaves before the Civil War, so too can the mental hospital serve as a dumping-ground for maximum security prisoners” (“The Society of Captives”).

One can only speculate on how many members of the Christie administration may end up serving time behind bars, yet be sure that none will be the target of this type of behavior control. It’s not because their crimes are less serious than the run-of-the-mill inmate’s; instead, it is because New Jersey, like the rest of the United States, has distinct systems of justice for the rich and poor.

In recent history, the New Jersey judicial system that functioned below its State Supreme Court was significantly corrupt. This translated into not merely different standards for the wealthy, primarily white population, and the lower-income, non-white people, but gross corruption, as well. Official probes in Passaic County in the late 1960s- early ‘70s documented ties between (some) police, prosecutors, judges, and organized crime. They found “sentence-fixing” in cases that included narcotics, gambling, and homicide. Governor Hughes’ Commission on Civil Disorders documented police violence against the black and Hispanic populations. One member of the commission noted that the Paterson police force was “the worst in the state, possibly the worst in the country.”

That system was frequently incapable of rendering justice in high-profile cases. Three such cases stood out in the second-half of the 1960s. These included the murder of Judy Kavanaugh, of Gabriel “Johnny the Walk” De Franco, and the triple homicide that Rubin “Hurricane” Carter was wrongly convicted of. The Kavanaugh and De Franco cases were closely related to narcotics and pornography; they involved characters identified as Phil the Gorilla, Steve the Greek, and Frankie T, all of whom were low-life, low-level mobster muscle. In the Kavanaugh case, the police and prosecutors used the testimony of a career-criminal in their attempt to convict four people; it was later proven that the four – who faced the electric chair – were not merely “not guilty,” but were totally innocent.

The Carter case is better known. As I had the opportunity to assist with Carter’s legal defense efforts, and have copies of the prosecutors’ and defense lawyers’ filings, as well as court rulings, I could focus on the legal questions that were only answered when the case left New Jersey, and was heard in the federal courts. Instead, I’d like to talk about a couple of lesser-known issues, as these are often the exact cause of injustice in America.

First, besides the four shooting victims in the bar in Paterson, and the two low-life, career criminals who saw parts of the horrible crime, there was a neighbor who saw the gunmen leaving the bar. He knew that Rubin Carter was not one of them; in fact, he knew exactly who they were. The lead investigator would opt to separate this witness from the case: there is no record of the lead investigator’s interview of him, and the defense was never notified by police or prosecutors that he existed.

Second, a police officer working under the lead detective would claim that he found two bullets in Carter’s car, which matched those used in the triple murders. Eventually, it was found this cop did not “log” these bullets until about a week after he claimed he found them. Then, it was found the two bullets did not match those used in the triple murder. Next, it was found they did match bullets used in a homicide from earlier on the night in question. The cop who claimed to have found the bullets in Carter’s car had been at the scene of the first murder. In fact, he collected and logged the bullets at that crime scene. And it was found that two bullets from this crime were missing from the police station’s evidence room.

While the defense was allowed to show that the lone survivor from the triple murder told police that it was not Carter and co-defendant John Artis who shot him, other related evidence was barred. The jury did not hear that the women who lived for a month after the shooting had identified the shooters to police; that police had been investigating the connection between organized crime and the shooting; or that police not only identified other suspects, but had jailed two men a couple of weeks after the murders.

A system that, among other things, introduces false evidence while suppressing actual evidence, is deeply flawed. It’s important to note that, in Carter’s case, it only took the covert actions of two police officers, to contaminate the case. Most of the other police and prosecutors assumed, based upon the “evidence,” that Carter and Artis were guilty. More, many of those same individuals would have their careers – in police work, judges’ benches, and state political office – enhanced by the case.

So the type of system that produces a James “Chris” Christie isn’t unique to New Jersey. It’s everywhere these days. It’s found where it takes but a few corrupt players, and where others will turn their heads, in order to avoid seeing the system being poisoned. Where citizens do not take a stance, because of anything ranging from indifference to ignorance to intimidation.These are system dynamics found in every community, and every state, and definitely in Washington, DC.

Unlike that chicken which Minister Malcolm spoke of, our system is not limited to producing but one type of egg. While it produces poisons that corrupt our society, it can also produce good. It produces corruption, yet it also, at times, produces social justice.

In my opinion, 2014 will be a pivotal year. I include the elections in the House and Senate, and at the state, county, and local level, as essential in determining if we add more poison, and more corruption, to the system ….or if we work, harder than we’ve ever worked before, to bring about positive change. Two things are required: creative tension, and personal sacrifice. For Democrats, part of that tension may come by way of primaries. For those in the Democratic Left, it may be in attempting to identify which candidates from the Democratic Party that you can break bread with. This process often produces tension between these two groups; this can be healthy, so long as common ground is recognized. One hand should wash the other.

It’s this simple: there is no other way.

January 20, 2014

Martin Luther King Day

I wasthe union vice president, and on the county workers' contract negotiating committee, when the topic of Martin Luther King Day was raised. I lived and worked in a conservative, rural upstate New York area, where the majority of the town supervisors serving on the county board were retired farmers, with small businesses in their respective communities. Most of them were of my father's generation, and as I sat in the negotiations, I remembered Dad warning me that they were tight with a dime.

Chenango County had the highest percentage of millionaires in the state, but it also had an extremely high rate of unemployment and poverty. County services were not only providing support for the lower economic class, but also at increasing rates for the middle class, which was being stressed by factory closings, and industries moving jobs out of the state. The Board of Supervisors resented the amount of tax dollars being invested in human services, and were intent upon expressing their outrage by insulting the union contract negotiators.

A gentleman who knew my father began questioning me: "So you're at mental health?" Yes. "Well, I figure that social workers are a dime a dozen." Oh, that's the good ones; the bad ones are far more expensive.

When the question of getting Martin Luther King Day was raised, another gentleman from the board of supervisors said, "I don't think we need that. There are many Negroes in Chenango County." What was stunning -- besides the fact that he said that -- was that he believed he was making a valid contribution to the discussion.

That was, of course, only part of the conflict that we faced. When there was no evidence of good will upon the board of supervisors' part, we increased the pressure. Although we could not go on strike, we began having marches around the County Office Building during our lunch breaks. We also attended all the board meetings. The local and regional media provided good coverage. I was asked to serve as our media spokesperson, a role that I rather enjoyed.

Eventually, we got a contract. It was not particularly good, but it did include the Martin Luther King birthday holiday. County employees have the day off tomorrow. I wonder how they will view the day. There has been quite a bit of turn-over in the twenty years since the contract negotiations that led to it being included as a holiday.

It really doesn't matter that the old republicans didn't understand why King's birthday should be a holiday celebrated by all Americans, including the white people in Chenango County. They were savages, inhabiting a frightening world of ignorance. But it does matter how the working class and the unemployed view the meaning of the day.

While we should honor Dr. King on the holiday, and consider the many achievements of his ministry, it is most important that we focus on how King can inspire us to attempt to bring about social justice today. We must confront today's savages and savagery. We will not have King's authority or talents, nor will we have his commitment to sacrifice for the causes we take up. But we can look inside, and identify what King's example can inspire us to attempt. And that, I believe, is the best way for us to honor the day.

H2O Man

January 17, 2014


Today is The Champ's birthday. Born in 1942, he would win a gold medal at the 1960 Olympics. As a professional, he would become widely recognized as the greatest heavyweight champion of all-time.

The older generation of Ali's era did not appreciate how good he really was, until he regained the title from Big George Foreman. And today's generation can watch much of his career on film, but not experience the excitement that Ali created, in and out of the ring.

I'm hoping that some of you will take a minute, and tell your memories/ impressions of Ali.

January 9, 2014

Bridge to Nowhere

Christie's press conference was important, but is unlikely to help him in the long run. First, while some are attempting to spin his performance as a positive, we see numerous serious questions being asked on internet forums.

Second, while the press had opportunity to ask some valid questions, that format still allowed Christie a large degree of control in what he would answer, and how .....not to mention potential follow-up questions. This is very different than a setting in which he is either testifying before a legislative committee, or is being grilled by an attorney.

The possibility of civil cases, and potential criminal ones, makes it likely that one of the currently identified "fall guys" will decide they aren't going to pay the price for keeping silent. It will only take one to cause the dam to burst.

Enjoy the show.

January 5, 2014

Rickety Woo

My children's pediotrician became a close personal friend. He saved my oldest son's life, when my boy was a tiny infant, misdiagnosed by two other doctors. That was 30 years ago this month, and even after that amount of years, remembering that period of time brings up some emotions. I think that a story about him might shed some light on one of the current "controversies" being debated on DU:GD
My friend was a faculty member at Syracuse University. He was highly respected in the medical community. He was also on the board of the NYS Museum's Iroquois Studies. His passions had areas of overlap: for example, he knew that Onondaga children were the only group that did not suffer from diabetes. Children from the other nations of the Confederacy have much lower rates of childhood diabetes than the rest of the country, but Onondaga still stood out.

At this time, this is certainly a topic of interest for the United States. It may not be the #1 issue confronting our society, but it has areas overlapping the larger issue of "health care" in our country.

A question at the starting point of considering why this small sub-culture doesn't have childhood diabetes would be is it genetics or environment -- or, of course, a combination of the two? Since virtually all Onondaga people have some Celtic DNA, due to interactions between the Iroquois and Euro-Americans in the colonial era, my friend wanted to study differences in life-style; these include diet, ways of dealing with stress, family support systems, etc.

Repeated attempts to gain the access such a study required proved frustrating for my friend. He never got a "yes" or "no" response from the nation's leaders. As we came to know one another, my friend realized I could assist in his gaining that access. Hence, on weekends, my boys and I would bring him up to the Territory.

This led to some interesting discussions on related topics. For example, the Jesuit diaries from the "contact era" document how the Iroquois treated some Euro-Americans for what is known as "rickets." This was a condition the Iroquois recognized, and knew how to treat. To make a long story a little shorter, it involved boiling the inner bark of a White Pine; that tea successfully treated rickets.

For several years, my friend boiled the said bark, but could not identify what made the tea work. Yet, he knew it wasn't just in people's minds. One evening, after we returned from the Territory, something clicked in his mind: he had boiled the bark in a metal pot, whereas the Iroquois had boiled it in clay pots.

He experimented with a clay pot, a reproduction of what the Iroquois used in the pre-contact and early contact eras. And he found the answer.

I tell this story, not to advocate "woo" over "science," but rather, to suggest that having an open mind is generally a good thing.

H2O Man

January 3, 2014

Two Questions:

[1] What American (or Americans), living or deceased, would you say represents what you consider among the very best our society has produced?

[2] Why?

January 1, 2014

Boxing: 2013 in Review

I have watched boxing -- amateur and professional, on television and from ringside -- for fifty years now. In fact, I had my first amateur bout 50 years ago this past summer. In my opinion, 2013 was boxing's best year in my lifetime. And that is in spite of the fact that the heavyweight division has continued to be largely non-competitive, and that amatuer boxing continued to be subjected to international scoring rules that were developed to hamper USA boxers.

"Boxing is dead (or dying)" has been a constant theme of those who dislike the Great Sport. It seems hard to believe in a year where one fighter earned more than $90 million for a single bout. That fighter is Floyd Mayweather, Jr., of course. At the beginning of the year, I had noted that Floyd's going from HBO to Showtime would have a huge impact upon the sport. It changed the HBO promotion of mismatches, in which the HBO-contracted fighter faced lesser opposition, to showcase their talent. More, it did something else equally important: it added depth to the undercards of mega-main events.

In picking my choices for "fighter of the year," etc., I'm going to go with others in the sport. Floyd is the "Greatest of the Era." In May, he easily decisioned tough Robert Guererro (and earned $40 million); in September, he decisioned Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, who entered the ring with a 20 pound weight advantage. Several of my friends who have longed to see Floyd defeated came away with a new-found respect for him after that fight.

Here are some of my choices:

[1] Fighter of the Year: I'm gooing with Philly's Danny Garcia. He defended his title against Zab Judah in April, in a bout where the aging ex-champion put on his best performance in many years. Garcia showed that he was more talented than most fans (and "experts&quot had realized. Next, on the undercard of Mayweather vs Canelo, Danny decisioned Lucas Matthysse in a 12 round, action-packed, war. The odds had heavily favored Lucas to knock Danny out, but this tough young champion showed both a skill set and chin that surprised everyone, except Garcia and his father.

[2] Fight of the Year: This is a tie between Tim Bradleys's split-decision victory over Ruslan Provodnikov in March, and Marcos Maidana's upset victory over the highly obnoxious Adrien Broner in December. Bradley, who was almost knocked out in both the first and last rounds, fought the wrong fight, and suffered serious damage in doing so. (Ten months later, he fought a near-perfect fight in defeating Juan Manuel Marquez.)

Maidana had been picked to showcase Broner's skills. But he hurt the champion in the first 30 seconds of round one; decked him in rounds two and eight; and forced Broner to fight toe-to-toe in an action-packed bout. Despite the referee's blatant favoring of Broner, Maidana won a lop-sided decision.

[3] Knockout of the Year: The most significant was Adonis Stevenson's first round destruction of Chad Dawson, to win the light heavyweight title. The scariest was Deontay Wilder's devastation of Siarhei Liakhovich in one round; the victim of Wilder's 29th straight knockout appeared to go into convulsions as he lay unconscious on the mat
[4] Prospect of the Year: Deontay Wilder, at 6' 7" tall, with an 84" reach, won four impressive knockouts in 2013. He appears to be the best American heavyweight in a long time. He reminds many of a heavyweight Thomas "the Hit Man" Hearns. He has won all 30 of his fights by knockout.

[5] Elder Statesman of the Year: Bernard Hopkins decisioned previouslu undefeated Tavoris Cloud in March, and tough Karo Murat (25-1) in October.

[6] Under-appreciated Champion: Guillermo Rigondeaux easily outpointed Nonito Donare and Joseph Agbeko this year. He is this era's Willie Pep ("You couldn't hit me with a handful of pebbles!&quot . However, his "hit and not-be-hit" style does not excite the casual boxing fans.

[7] Comeback of the Year: Manny Pacquiao lost both of his 2012 bouts -- a controversial decision to Timothy Bradley, and a devastating 6-round knockout to Marquez. In November, Pac Man returned to the ring with a one-sided decision over Brandon Rios.

Note: Because Pacquiao is in debt, both in the Phillapines and in the US, he is likely to agree to fight Mayweather for $40 million. Floyd remains undefeated, holds the title, and far outsells Manny on pay-per-view numbers. It could happen in May, although there is a better chance this long anticipated bout will happen in September.

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