H2O Man's Journal - Archives
Greg Haugen (40-10-1) has been called the greatest boxer from the state of Alaska by ESPN. During a professional career that spanned from 1982 to 1999, Haugen would win the world lightweight and super lightweight (junior welterweight) titles. The Seattle Times' Bill Reader recently noted that Haugen, who has been frequently described as “cocky,” can be best understood as simply being “honest.” While I certainly agree with Reader on that, after last night's interview, I think it is important to add intelligent, thoughtful, and humorous. Greg Haugen loves those he recognizes as the most important in the sport – the boxers and the fans. This comes through clearly in what is definitely among the most interesting interviews that have have done to date.
Q; When I think of your career, the one fight that stands out the most was your February 23, 1991 upset over Hector Camacho. He was undefeated, with impressive wins over Limon, Ramirez, Rosario, Edwards, Davis, Mancini, and Pazienza. You were the former two-time lightweight champion, who recently moved up in weight. Except for the “no contest” with Del Toro, you had defeated every man you fought, except Pernell Whitaker. Did it surprise you that you entered the ring as a 7-to-1 underdog?
GH: Well, kind of …. but not really. Actually, I liked those odds. Don was looking ahead to putting on a “Battle of the Undefeateds” with Camacho and Chavez. They looked at me as just a tune-up. I'd been written off after Whitaker, but the truth was I had been having trouble making weight, and I was a lot stronger when I moved up.
See, I had sparred Hector before. I knew him. For example, Hector was a guy who liked to fight about one minute of every round. 90 seconds per round at most. So my plan was to make it uncomfortable for him, by making him fight three minutes of every round.
I could tell going into the fight that he figured that he was fighting that hillbilly sparring-partner from Alaska. But he was a lot more beatable than Whitaker. I mean, Hector was a great fighter, and he had solid defensive skills. But you could hit him. If you look at films of Pernell, look how he positions his back foot, and that crouch. Hector was more squared-uop.
Camacho came out fast, looking to overwhelm me. But I was able to place my shots to his belly. Then, in the second round, I went from body-to-head. I bloodied his nose and mouth that round. He came out even harder in the third, which meant he was fighting three minutes of every round. Now, I didn't have the speed of hand and foot that he did, but I was digging hard shots to the body, and applying constant pressure. By the seventh round, he was breathing real hard. In the eighth round, I could hear him groaning when I was lifting shots under his ribs.
Q: As a “Greg Haugen fan,” that victory meant a lot. What did it mean to you at the time?
GH: That fight definitely meant a lot to me, too. Pressure kills!
Q: We've read that you started boxing at the age of five. Is that accurate?
GH: Yeah, I did. My father was a former US Marine. He was strict in the sense of like having my head shaved every weekend. He said that he was tired of me being bullied, and he knew a former Navy boxer who ran a gym for kids. So that's how I got started boxing when I was five.
Q: Records indicate that you fought in over 300 amateur bouts, including numerous “boot-leg” and “tough man” competitions. What did you learn about yourself as an amateur boxer?
GH: Well, I knew that I could fight. But just knowing it wasn't enough: I had to get in that ring and prove it. I did have 24 “Tough Man” fights, but there were a lot of other tournaments, too. There were times when I fought four or five times on a Friday, just to make it to Saturday. And you have to look back to the quality of fighters that came out of the northwest in that era. An impressive number of the top professionals from that era were from the northwest, and all of them had been top amateurs from the northwest first. And I knew that I was one of them.
Q: You didn't have the luxury of the big promotional backing that an Olympic champion often has when turning professional. In your early career, you fought some good, much more experienced pros. The Phillipino Noel Arriesgado and Ted Michaliszyn were prospects when you met them. Neither of them were very successful after you beat them. What do remember about these two?
GH: That's right. I didn't start out with easy fights. Part of that was because I wasn't really a four-round fighter. I had some speed and power, but it was to my advantage to have longer fights with guys who were faster on their feet. So even early on, I prefered to be put in a ten-round fight, where I could wear an opponent down.
I fought Ted in my tenth fight. I had been preparing for a fight with a guy from New York City, who pulled out. And then, that fight with Ted was thrown at me at the last minute. He was ranked at #7 by The Ring. When you don't have the big promoters behind you, you have to take advantage of those opportunities. It was tough, because not only was he a good fighter, but I had been training to fight an orthodox fighter. He was a south-paw.
A lot of good fighters have that happen, getting brought in at the last minute. It's a way for those big promoters to give their fighter an advantage. But I knew that it meant my opponent only had that same short time to prepare for me. Let's take Freddie Roach. He was a good fighter, and his people were trying to get his career back on track. He had won three in a row.
I had sparred Freddie before, and his people didn't think of me as a big puncher. They thought of me as just an opponent, a step along his comeback. But I never took any fight thinking of myself as just an opponent. I always prepared myself with the idea of winning every fight. For one thing, I knew that I was physically much stronger than Freddie. Plus, from sparring, I knew his moves. That's why I was able to take him out in the seventh round.
My next two fights were like that, too. They were against Chris Calvin and Charlie Brown. I was brought in to both of those fights as the opponent. Both of them were good fighters, with a lot more speed than me. But after body-punching Calvin for four, he slowed down. By the fifth, he couldn't move so fast. He was right there in front of me. I stopped him in six.
Charlie started out fast for about 30 seconds. Then I knocked him out.
Q: Before you would have your triligy with the Pazmanian Devil, you beat Jeff Bumpus, the Tazmanian Devil. He was 18-1 going into that fight. How did it make you feel to establish yourself as a ranked contender in twelve fights?
GH: Jeff was a good fighter. It was another example of my working hard in training, and going into the ring with a plan to win. I knew he was well-prepared, too, and coming in with a strategy to win. But my body-punching in the early rounds was what made the difference.
He still went on to fight Pazienza and Chavez in his next two fights. So beating him in my twelth fight meant that I was on my way to the title.
Q: In May of 1985, you not only solidified a top-ranking in a deep division, but you beat tough Edwin Curet for the NABF lightweight title. It seems that European promoters have made better use of such regional titles. Could boxing in America be improved by this route, perhaps replacing the number of alphabet “world” titles?
GH: The European titles are equal to some of the alphabet world titles. Look at the quality of the European fighters since, say, Lennox Lewis. And not just in the heavyweight division. By the time they reach the world stage, the best European fighters have built a really strong foundation.
Not all of the good European champions necessarily become all-time great world champions. People might point to Ricky Hatton as an example. But if you look closer at Hatton, you see a tough guy with somewhat limited skills, who had a very successful career. That European experience made him more successful than he would have been if he started his career here in America.
A big part of that has to do with the lack of good trainers. It used to be that there were so many great teachers that America was dominant in the international amateur competition. Think about the great Olympic teams we had in 1976 and the mid-1980s. Compare that to what's been happening in the past few Olympics.
It doesn't require great skill to teach a fighter how to throw punches. If you listen to trainers in the fights on television, concentrate on what you hear the corner telling fighters between rounds. Anyone can say, “You've gotta hit him more!” No kidding. But how many of them are saying, “You need to counter-punch when he jabs.” Or, “You should be slipping under his right-cross, and sliding in on his side.” Too many are just saying to hit the guy, but not telling their fighter how to move to be able to deliver those punches. The reason why is that they haven't trained their fighter how to do those things properly – which is why those few fighters who know how to move in the ring, to slip punches correctly, and to counter-punch, stand out.
Q: About a half-year after Curet, you won the world title from Jimmy Paul. What did winning that title mean to you?
GH: That was when world title fights were fifteen rounds, which is what they should be. Paul was a really good fighter, with a great jab. And he had a hard right-hand behind that jab.
I was ranked number twelve at the time. His manager saw me as just another slow white guy. But I went in prepared, and with a plan. I nullified his jab with hard body shots. I felt really good in the ring that night, and I was proud to win the world title.
Q: Your trilogy with Vinny Pazienza was similar to that of Micky Ward and Arturo Gotti. What do you remember most about those fights?
GH: I got robbed bad in the first one. I went to his home town to defend my title. He was from Cranston, Rhode Island, but he fought out of Providence. I countered him to death that night. I knew I won. But he was awarded a home-town decision.
I beat him even worse in the second fight. So he ran like a dog in the third one. Maybe it was closer. But I definitely beat him in the first two.
Q: Speaking of Ward, in the book “Irish Thunder,” it explains his loss to Zab Judah by noting it was next to impossible to hit him. By the time Mick got a punch off, Zab had moved to another spot in the ring. You fought Pernell Whitaker, one of the greatest defensive wizzards in boxing history. What was that like?
GH: Ah, that guy was so hard to hit. He was tough. Really frustrating.
First, he was a southpaw. It's hard to hit any good southpaw with your jab. You mainly are looking to land your right-cross and left hook. Usually, you are satisfied to just touch a southpaw with your jab, so that you can measure the right-cross and hook.
Whitaker was really smart, too. He had that crouch that made it hard to even touch him with a jab. And look at film of where he set his feet. It wasn't just how he placed the back one. Against any southpaw, there is a contest to have your lead foot on the inside. He was a master of frustrating those attempts. So when you fight him, you can't even do the two most basic things – having your feet right, or even touching him with a jab. That limits the possibility of landing a right-cross or left hook.
I wasn't at my best that night anyhow. I had some management problems, and was finding out just how greedy promoters really were. And there I was, in the ring with Pernell Whitaker, who absolutely ranks high among the greatest fighters of all-time. That wasn't a fun experience.
Q: Gert Bo Jakobsen was undefeated when you fought him. He would go on to become a world champion, and had a great trilogy with Manning Galloway. Tell us about your fight with him.
GH: I remember going over to Copenhagen to fight him. He was a big guy, tall, with a lot of knockouts. We knew going into the fight that he was a dangerous puncher.
Eddie Aliano was working as my cut-man. He went into Jakobsen's dressing room, to watch him get his hands wrapped. Eddie saw that they were using an illegal substance with the guaze. When it got wet, it would turn to plaster, which is why he hit so hard!
We protested. It got pretty tense. The promoter came in and insisted that I had to fight. I told him that he really only had two options: either make Jokobsen re-wrap his hands, or go out an explain to the huge crowd why there wasn't going to be a fight. He re-wraped his hands.
He was still tall and still hit hard. But I broke him down, going body-to-head. I stopped him in ten rounds.
Q: You ended Ray “Boom-Boom” Mancini's career when he knocked him out in 1992. Have the two of you become friends since then?
A: Sure. I saw him inducted, he saw me. We're friends. I really don't have anything bad to say about any of the guys that I fought. I'm on good terms with all of them.
The way I see it, our fights were years ago. Those fights were like a calculated, physical chess match. They were looking to hurt me,and I was looking to hurt them. But when the fight is over, and especially when you are both retired, it's time to be friends.
I think that it's that way with the boxing fans, too. Maybe some people liked another fighter, and cheered for him to beat me back in the 1980s. But when I go to the Boxing Hall of Fame, or attend a boxing card, I get along with everyone.
The only people who's opinion I didn't care about were the promoters. I knew that some of them really didn't like me. Tough shit.
Q: One of your most famous fights was against Julio Ceasor Chavez, who was 84-0 at the time. Most of the boxing community didn't know that you entered the ring distracted by personal problems then. How do personal problems impact a fighter in the ring?
GH: Oh, a lot. I was getting divorced from my wife at the time. I had never felt that type of pain in any fight …. she was my first love, and that separation caused intense mental pain. That level of mental pain hurts physically, too. I had never felt such horrible pain as that, until in the first round, when I threw my first jab, and Chavez countered it. I knew the fight was over right then, when I was trying to recover from that.
Still, it's the only fight that I really wish I could go back and do over.
Q: Since retiring, you have trained a few fighters. What is that like for you? Any good prospects now?
GH: Yeah, I've been working with a few kids. Trained one kid for a month or so; he's strong, works hard. He's 3-0 now. I had a couple others recently who were coming along good. One was 9-1; the heavyweight was 7-0. But they were getting to where they thought they knew everything. I'd tell them that I still had a lot more to teach them as they progressed, and to be patient and work hard.
But if a fighter isn't going to listen to me, I'm not going to waste my time. I've been involved in this sport for decades, and so there is no way that I could possibly teach any kid everything I've learned in their first few fights. That heavyweight thought otherwise. He stopped listening, and got knocked out in his next fight.
I've told these guys, “Hey, if I wanted to talk to some young people who don't listen to a word I say, I could just strike up a conversation with one of my kids.”
Q: Do you think that boxing would benefit from having a national commission in the United States?
GH: Yeah. Right now, every state has its own rules or regulations. That allows promoters to have too much power to dictate the sport. That gives boxing a black eye.
We need federal regulations. They should be modeled on Nevada's, which are the best in the country. A federal commission would help the two most important groups in boxing – the fighters and the fans.
Right now, boxers get second fiddle. And they are the ones that make it happen. That's just wrong. Right now, it's the flesh-peddlers – the promoters – who are getting rich off of boxing. A few fighters make millions, but most don't. The fans are laying down their money, because they love boxers. But the promoters don't give a shit. They don't care if you get hurt in a fight. They don't care if you have brain injuries when you are retired – and you know that a lot of boxers do. There's a lot of retired boxers around who are really suffering.
Promoters talk about the “free market.” A national boxing commission wouldn't harm a free market, but it could help make a fair market. That includes mandating the fights the fans want to see, rather than the expensive mis-matches that too often are on PPV. It could also help boxers unionize, and to come up with some sort of retirement plan.
Q: Does Manny Pacquiao deserve the current acclaim he enjoys? Is he really an all-time great? How would he have fared in your day?
GH: Top ten. Top ten contender, at best, if he competed when I did. I know that Freddie trains the guy, and he really loves him, but he got hit in the head way too much if he really believes the crap he says about Pacquiao being an all-time great fighter.
First, you have to look at the way he has been promoted over the last couple of years. He's fighting against damaged goods. Look at his next fight, for example. He's finally giving Juan Manuel Marquez the third fight. Marquez gave him hell in both of the first two. There was a lot of controversy over who actually won those fights. Lots of people think Marquez won both of them. Why didn't Manny settle it earlier?
Why does he keep fighting guys that Mayweather has recently beat? Look at the Mayweather vs Marquez fight. Some people say that Floyd should have knocked him out. But people who really know boxing know that taking twelve rounds of punishment from Mayweather did more damage to Marquez than his fights with Pacquiao combined. Freddie knows that, which is why Manny has made a pattern out of fighting guys who were recently damaged by Mayweather, including Hatton and de la Hoya.
You also have to consider how Manny was to move up from 108 pounds to 147 pounds. You have to be realistic. He didn't just gain some weight. He not only kept his speed, but he became much stronger. His power increased dramatically. So didn't his endurance, and his ability to take a punch. Talk to the guys who are experts in boxing history. Talk to the guys familiar with Roberto Duran's rise in weight. Did he gain power? Endurance? The ability to take a punch? Of course not, and we are talking about Roberto Duran – who everyone recognizes as one of the absolute all-time greatest fighters.
Q: What do you think happens if Pacquiao fights Mayweather in 2012?
GH: Floyd will beat Manny just like he did Victor Ortiz. The thing here is that Floyd Mayweather, Jr., really is one of boxing's all-time greats. He is at a much higher level than Pacquiao. Obviously, a big part of that is Mayweather's defensive skills. It's like Pernell Whitaker – you can't hit those guys.
I know that some people will say that Pacquiao is a lot better than Ortiz, and would make a lot tougher fight of it. But I think – and I can tell you that a lot of the top people in the sport know this – that the areas that Pacquiao is better than Ortiz all play right into Mayweather's hands. This isn't just about Mayweather's great defense – it's back to those skills that allow him to slip under punches, to slide into position, and to time and devastate Pacquiao with hard counter-punches.
That's the real reason this fight hasn't happened. It isn't Floyd who has actually avoided it. It's the people promoting Manny Pacquiao that can't afford to let him get in the ring with Mayweather.
Years ago, in a nearby small village situated near a large highway, a new village police officer exhibited some rather curious behaviors. When he would pull over a vehicle for speeding at the edge of town, he would approach it with his gun drawn. While it would have been easy to dismiss this with a “Barney Fife” joke, area law enforcement recognized that it was serious, and had a tragic potential. Shortly after this officer was dismissed, most of the local law enforcement departments began having prospective employees screened at the mental health clinic where I was employed.
Around that same time, my younger son was on a “pee-wee” soccer team. The coach was a state police officer, who impressed me as the type of adult that worked exceptionally well with children. I served as the assistant coach. One afternoon, I noticed that this gentleman seemed on edge. I told him that he seemed a bit tense with the kids, and asked if everything was okay? It turned out that he had spent the past two days in a recovery effort. A vicious male had kidnapped two high school girls in Dryden, NY. He took them to an isolated cabin, raped and murdered them. He then put the bodies through a wood-chipper, and scattered the remains in a corn field. The coach told me that the police literally had to watch for crows to land, in order to find parts of the remains.
I tell these two stories, of course, as part of this forum's discussions about the police at the OWS and related protests. For sake of discussion, my comments here focus on male police officers. I'm using these two examples to illustrate two of the general personality-types that are drawn to police work: bullies and alpha-males. Let's take a closer look.
Bullies are attracted to police work for the most obvious of reasons – they want “power” that is backed up by a badge and a gun. They can be best seen as a sub-group within the larger “authoritarian personality” type. They get a perverse thrill from exercising an ability to “punish” people. Under pressure, they quickly resort to either bending the rules and regulations of their job, or outright breaking the laws they have sworn to uphold.
Their baseline mood is “uptight,” and escalates quickly to paranoid. They resent others who do not share their rigid belief systems. The combination of these two unattractive features results in their eagerness to injure people who are simply exercising their Amendment 1 rights to protest.
On the other hand, the alpha-males are drawn to police work for very different reasons. While they tend to enjoy the general structure of groups that include the police and military, it is because it allows them to exercise an internal sense of self-discipline. They work in law enforcement because they have a strong sense of right-versus-wrong, and want to serve their community by protecting the public.
A true alpha-male does not expect others to exercise that same high level of self-discipline they set for themselves. They do not resent people for taking part in legal activities, such as exercising their Constitutional right to protest. Under pressure, they try to act at their highest personal level. While they are not perfect – no humans are – they not not seek a parasexual thrill from assaulting defenseless victims.
There are certainly other personality-types within law enforcement. More, intelligent people can hold very different views of the ratio of bullies to alpha-males in law enforcement. Each of us here, for example, has opinions based upon our personal experiences – which can include from our family life to our own interaction with police. What I hope we can all agree upon is that unless those in the higher offices take action, the bullies with badges will have license to act upon their inner frustrations and rage, and injure the public protesters. And that holds a tragic potential.
“....paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell.”
Justice Hugo Black; USSC decision on “the Pentagon Papers”; 1970
“Have you forgotten the lessons of the ancient war ….
Do you know we are being led to slaughter by placid admirals
& fat, slow generals are getting obscene on young blood ….
Did you know freedom exists in a school book?”
Jim Morrison; An American Prayer; 1970
I am convinced that “time” is a constant straight line that moves in cycles, where at certain clusters of points, the circular motion increases in speed and velocity. No other explanation really makes sense to me. And I say this not only because McDonald's re-issueing of the McRib is being reported in the corporate media, as if a pressed meat sandwich containing no ribs is important news, but because much of what is important is missing from McNews.
Thus, as I take a brief break from the exhausting pace caused by working on numerous “local” elections – there are an encouraging number of liberal Democrats and progressive members of the Democratic Left running for office in my tri-county region – I find myself reading what I consider the most important of interbnet political-social web sites …. the Democratic Underground. Thank goodness it exists. Quite the opposite of the infamous Easter candy rabbit, which is sweet on its thin outside, but hollow inside, I find it best to scrape the frequent film of nonsense off the surface here, and to enjoy the substance of this site.
That shallow layer of empty intellectual calories is best illustrated by the too frequent claim that “the Democratic Left is insignificant and without power.” How often, over the years I have been a member here, I have read someone or another trying to marginalize our ranks! The OWS movement has exploded this myth. Indeed, the fact that there are so many liberal Democrats and progressive members of the Democratic Left running for office in this highly republican section of upstate New York – and the fact that a good number of registered republicans are supporting these candidates – suggests one of the most important dynamics of current events.
As I've been working on the local elections, the anti-hydro-fracking effort, and the “book tour” for my sons' book “Water Man: A Native People's History of the Northeast” (available in the second week of November), a couple of OP/threads from General Discussion keep coming to mind. One, from a few days back, made note of the growing number of ex-US Marines supporting the OWS movement. The second, by one the the forum members I hold in the highest respect (Segami), focuses on President Ford's pardoning of the felonious Richard Nixon. Glenn Greenwald's book “With Liberty and Justice for Some” documents the damage that Ford's action did to this nation.
The combined impact of these two discussions on the Democratic Underground led me to pull out my copy of the 1979 book by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong, “The Brethern: Inside the Supreme Court.” Although I have a low opinion of Woodward, and an even lower opinion of his writing skills, I recognize the serious impact that he has had on our society. As a “former” officer in the Office of Naval Intelligence with no experience in journalism, he would rapidly become a key player in the Washington Post's uncovering of the numerous Watergate crimes and conspiracies. Woodward got his job in the news by way of help from another “former” ONI official named Mark Felt. The two had met at the Nixon White House earlier. Woodward's later claim that Felt, alone, was “Deep Throat” proves that Woodward is more than willing to lie.
Just as he made his claim about the former Assistant FBI Director when it was too late for Felt to respond, Woodward would reveal that Associate Justice Potter Stewart had been his primary source for “The Brethern” after his death in 1985. Though the late Stewart made no comment, it appeared likely that Woodward was actually telling the truth. I say this not to discredit the book, nor to assign any specific motivation to Woodward's role in writing what was the first book detailing the inner-working of the Supreme Court. Rather, while I believe it is an extraordinarily important book, I find it essential to question anything and everything that Woodward claims to be truth.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the book is that it shows how, by appointing Warren Burger to serve as Chief Justice, Richard Nixon injected pure politics into an institution that was supposed to be above such motivations. Older forum members will clearly remember the difference in the USSC's tone, compared to when it was headed by Earl Warren. (Which is not to imply that Warren, by serving on LBJ's commission to investigate the murder of President Kennedy, did not – no matter if one agrees or disagrees with the Warren Commission's Report – violate the Constitutional separation of federal powers.)
In the early years of the Nixon administration, it seemed that everyone was being “spied” upon. One Justice, Woodward notes, believed that his chambers were being bugged. The Nixonites were indeed intent upon attacking those Justices who they deemed as “enemies.” Abe Fortas, largely through his own stupidity, was forced to resign. But it didn't stop there: republican House Majority Leader Gerald Ford would call for the impeachment of Justice William Douglas.
Just as Attorney General John Mitchell had provided sources at a national magazine with “inside information” on Fortas, he had leaked confidential and unconfirmed FBI and CIA reports on Justice Douglas to Rep. Ford. The future unelected President would use these to get more than 100 conservative House members, from both parties, to join in the call for ousting Douglas (who was viewed as anti-administration and business, and pro-environmental protection).
This cycle of political spying would continue to play a significant role in the actions of the Burger Court. For example, the USSC was prepared to uphold Muhammad Ali's conviction for draft evasion, until a last-minute finding that the intelligence community had illegaly wire-tapped his phone conversations with Martin Luther King, Jr., changed the outcome (Ali won his appeal in an 8-0 ruling.)
The book documents numerous examples of Chief Justice Burger expressing concern for how cases might impact the reputation of the Nixon administration. While it would be impossible to assume that political interests had not influenced members of the Court in the past, Burger's frequent lobbying upon the behalf of the Nixon administration was distinct from anything that had happened in that century. More, the Burger Court would break new ground when, in violation of all decency, corporate attorneys would begin to feel free to literally stop by the Court to lobby for their businesses.
Although not always successful, Burger would attempt to support administration attempts at “prior restraint.” These included – but were not limited to – the publishing of the Pentagon Papers; an injustion to prevent Vietnam Veterans Against the War from continuing a non-violent public demonstration; and supporting then-Assistant Attorney General William Rehnquist's issuing a “qualified” martial law status to keep citizens from protesting the Vietnam War in Washington, DC.
I do not think it a stretch to say that the cycle of time has brought similar issues to the forefront today. There are powerful forces opposed to the OWS movement. Logic suggests that in the near future, these forces will attempt to abuse the justice system to deny citizens – including former military people – their Amendment 1 rights …. in the name of national security. In no sense do I intend to imply that President Barack Obama is in any way comparable to Nixon in this sense; quite the opposite, I am convinced by his recent actions that Obama is openly siding with the 99% of the public.
Hence, while I remain largely unimpressed and disappointed in the Obama administration, and fully support the growing grass roots' movement towards Constitutional democracy, I believe that one important issue for liberal Democrats and the Democratic Left to recognize is that President Obama is a far, far better bet for appointing decent (dare I hope “good”?) Supreme Court Justices, than the rather pathetic lot of republicans running for their party's nod for the 2012 presidential election. Thus, it is equally important to consider the options in congressional races. For the make-up of the Supreme Court will certainly influence our future.
Thank you for reading this.
(Texas) DU News: Special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation took former President George W. Bush into custody last night, ending a tense two-hour standoff in downtown Dallas. The crisis began at approximately 9:30 pm, when Dallas Police had a phone call from a man claiming that he was holding the former president hostage. An unidentified source from the Dallas Police Department confirmed that Mr. Bush had actually taken himself hostage.
An FBI spokesperson told reporters that Bush was demanding that the US Supreme Court hear a motion that he claimed would prove that he had won the 2008 national election, and that the Court reinstate him into the Oval Office. When the FBI hostage negotiator told him that this was impossible, Mr. Bush threatened to make paper airplanes out of the two pages of his legal brief, and to fly them into the World Trade Center. Bush reportedly claimed that he alone has been appointed by God to “provide needed protection to the Home Land.”
Negotiations appeared to be moving forward when the FBI allowed a package to be delivered to Mr. Bush. Sources said that Mr. Bush had demanded a ham sandwich and 12-pack of Budweiser beer. The negotiations then broke down when Mr. Bush demanded that Sgt. Barry Sadler's 1966 single, “Ballad of the Green Berets,” be named as the new National Anthem, in honor of Bush's service in the National Guard.
At approximately 11:45 pm, the special agents were able to take Mr. Bush into custody, after he had briefly blacked out as a result of his alcohol intake.
Last night on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow made a brief comment about parts of Ron Suskind's new book, which suggests that President Obama's efforts to break-up Citigroup were derailed by others within his administration. A number of people who were interviewed for the book have since accused Suskind of misquoting them, or taking quotes out of context. This reaction is, in a real sense, similar to the Bush administration reaction to Suskind's 2004 “The Price of Loyalty,” which detailed former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill's insights on the failures of Bush & Co. on domestic and international issues.
“Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President” documents that, among others, Tim Geithner and Larry Summers were insubordinate to President Barack Obama. They did their best to protect their friends on Wall Street, at the expense of the orders of the President of the United States. It is important, in my opinion, to recognize that this did not take place in a vacuum.
In his 2010 book “Obama's Wars,” Bob Woodward documents that President Obama's instructions in regard to the war in Afghanistan were ignored by high-ranking military aides. The extent to which those who were supposed to be serving the President had become public in a June article in “Rolling Stone” magazine, which included an interview with General Stanley McChrystal.
Why is this important? To begin with, there is a general belief in the United States that a President is the most powerful person in the country. In theory, the President is in the driver's seat, when it comes to making the executive policies for our nation. Such blatant insubordination shows a President that his powers are actually limited, and his ability to create executive policies is handcuffed by an array of unelected people around him. This is obviously an important reality for citizens to understand, as well. Indeed, the extent of the powers of those surrounding a President goes well beyond what the public learns through books or magazines articles that merely expose the tip of that iceberg known as the “shadow (or invisible) government.”
The US Constitution provides for the chief executive to be held in check by the balance of powers that includes the Congress and Supreme Court. In theory, the Congress is supposed to have oversight of the military, which includes the power to declare war. It would be impossible for any rational person to believe that the Congress has exercised any wholesome control over the military – or, for that matter, the federal intelligence agencies – for the past five decades.
Likewise, the US Supreme Court is tasked with deciding Constitutional Law: the Court is supposed to, among other things, protect the individual rights outlined by the Bill of Rights. Yet the recent Supreme Court decisions have provided corporations with unconstitutional “rights.” Those corporations are, of course, part of the “shadow government.” One need look no further than Senator Robert Byrd's book “Losing America,” which documents VP Dick Cheney's suspension of Constitutional authority on 9-11-2001, by placing the “shadow government” – made up of members of the executive branch and corporate “leaders,” and denying Congress and the Supreme Court their powers – in charge of ruling the nation.
Older forum members know that these dynamics have been the source of great tensions before. There was a planned coup against FDR. Truman had a showdown with General MacArthur. Eisenhower warned against the undue influence of the military-industrial complex. JFK had the Bay of Pigs. LBJ illustrated the differences in nature between a bully and an alpha male, when he broke under the pressures of “the Generals” on Vietnam. Nixon was removed not by liberal Democrats, but by the efforts of right-wing intelligence operatives. And President Carter was the victim of an “October Surprise.”
In his 1960s “The Leadership of President Kennedy,” Major General Thomas Lane wrote: “The general thrust of the Kennedy military policy was to assert a political domination of the military leadership which was hostile to the traditions and practices of American government. …. John Kennedy was telling the Joint Chiefs that they must accept his judgment of military matters. ...The Presidential dictum was of course contrary to law and should have been disregarded by the Joint Chiefs of Staff … If the military leader is then willing to submit the professional integrity, morale and effectiveness of his service or services to the adverse judgments of inexperienced politicians, he is not fit to hold office.” Clearly Lane and McChrystal shared a common disease.
My opinions of Barack Obama have not been a source of wide-spread agreement on this forum. When I endorsed Senator Obama in the Democratic Primaries in early 2008, it marked a parting of ways with some old forum friends. Others lobbied to have me banned from this site. Likewise, when I have expressed some strong disagreements with some of President Obama's policies, others here have found it offensive. Such is the nature of internet political discussion sites, I suppose.
To be fair, time and again I have said that both the Democratic Party and the Democratic Left share in the blame for the recent failures. The election of 2008 involved a great force, something much larger than any single politician. But even before Obama took the oath of office, too many people began to sit back, as if the job was done. That created a vacuum, which allowed some of those in the shadow government to create and capitalize on the “Tea Party.” The right-wing hatred filled the void. The republican puppets – with the assistance of “democrats” known as “blue (lap) dogs,” fought any and every position that President Obama and the few decent Senators and Representatives took.
Time and again, I have also advocated here for resurrecting Martin Luther King, Jr.'s plan for a “Poor Peoples Campaign,” to occupy Washington, DC. A tiny minority of forum members here read my essays calling for such a movement. Those who were in general agreement suggested that the time would come. They were, of course, correct. The “Occupy Wall Street” movement is an organic expression of what King had called for in 1968.
At the unveiling of the King monument, Martin's daughter noted that he would have supported OWS. A few days later, a republican congressman from Florida said that King would have opposed OWS, and attempted to smear the protestors by calling the Marxists and communists – the exact same names his ilk called King in his day.
Decide for yourself: in his April 4, 1967 speech “A Time to Break Silence” (aka “Beyond Vietnam”), King said that “we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a 'thing-oriented' society to a 'person-oriented' society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” Sounds like OWS to me.
Critics of OWS also say that protests have never accomplished anything meaningful. I suspect that a review of King's Civil Rights protests shows otherwise. Of course, King and other leaders recognized the importance of voting. But voting does not eliminate the need to protest government and/or business policies in America. Never did, never will. Indeed, that is exactly why the Founding Fathers included Amendment 1 in the Bill of Rights. There can be no democracy without it.
In the 1970s, the American public learned that, after King's 1967 speech quoted above, military intelligence began surveilling King. This was, of course, a gross violation of federal law. It is well-documented, for example, that military intelligence kept an outpost less than a block away from King's motel room in Memphis in April of 1968.
Public protests are a powerful thing, which are a cause of concern for those who serve the 1%.
A few hours after Vitali Klitschko's September 10th defense of his title against an undersized and overmatched Tomasz Adamec, former top contender Jameel “Big Time” McCline told his friends on FaceBook that he was going to return to the ring. McCline's 39-10-3 record does not, without closer examination, explain why he has long been so popular among boxing fans, or held in such high regard among other fighters. More, in my opinion, boxing's top promoters -- and thus the members of the Boxing Writers Association who are uncomfortably close to them – have never really promoted this top American heavyweight contender.
That is not to say that Jameel has not had opportunities. He is the only contender who has challenged for all four of the versions of the heavyweight title. Each time, he came up short. He has also lost several disputed decisions, including in non-title bouts, along the way. The result has been that members of the boxing community ask not if he has the ability to win “big time,” but what factors have kept him from winning in the emphatic manner that he is so capable of?
For the past month, I prepared to interview Jameel McCline by reading numerous articles, both about him and interviews with him; watched films of his previous fights; and talked with his trainer. I came up with a list of questions that I thought were most important, and had some assistence from my son Darren.
Jameel McCline is 41 years old. He has only fought once in the past three years, a disappointing loss to tough Chris Arreola in April, 2009. He is fully aware that it is not uncommon for retired boxers to watch a fight, either from ringside or couchside, and think, “I could lick either of these guys!” But that, as we will see, is not the case with Jameel.
Q: Why have you decided to make this comeback to the ring now?
A: The answer to that is three-fold. First, I have been aware of the lack of a strong American presence in the heavyweight division. That has an impact on the popularity of boxing in this country. In fact, it led directly to step two.
I was at a fight, and ran into Lennox Lewis. He asked me when I was making a comeback? I said, “I'm not.” He said that I really should.
A short time later, I saw Antonio Tarver. He asked me the same thing. I went away thinking, “Now, this is strange!”
Then I saw Bernard Hopkins. And B-Hop told me it was time for me to make my comeback.
Q: Bernard is a serious man.
A: All three of them are serious men. All three have been great champions of the sport. When they talk, you have to listen. And so I found myself thinking about my conversations with these three champions. And that led to the third factor.
I turned pro at the age of 25. I did not have any amateur boxing experience. Everything I learned was “on the job” experience. On one hand, this was clearly a disadvantage. But in life, you have to turn things around to your advantage. And I realized that I do not have the wear-and-tear that guys who began fighting amateur when they were eight or nine years old have. Boxing is a brutal business, but I didn't really get beat up.
So I'm thinking about my conversations with these three, and about my career. And I realized that I have some unfinished business. That is why I am making my comeback at this time.
Q: Do you have a fight scheduled?
A: I have a date. My plan is to fight on February 11th, at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, in Hollywood, Florida.
Q: How is training going?
A: Good. Very good. It's very hard, too. I understand that I'm older now. Like your son Darren said, this isn't going to be easy. But I am fully prepared to do all of the hard work necessary to accomplish my goal of winning the heavyweight title. I'm focused on taking it one step at a time.
Q: The great heavyweight champions tend to reflect American culture in a way no other athlete can. Jack Dempsey and the Roaring '20s; Joe Louis and WW2; Ali and the turbulent '60s. What would you bring to this tradition?
A: What I have to offer is the “Five Wells.” I am well-dressed. I am well-spoken. I am well-read. I am well-traveled. I am well-balanced. As heavyweight champion, I will offer a special style of leadership. And not just in the ring. I will serve as the ambassador of American heavyweights, to the world.
I'm a global traveler. In the United States, I've fought from New York City to Las Vegas. And I've fought in Switzerland, in Mexico, and in China. I've stayed in Russia, studied their culture, and learned their language. And that has helped me, for example, to understand the Klitschko brothers.
Q: The Klitschkos are an interesting pair. Most boxing people recognize they are great fighters, but neither has really appealed to the American audience. First, they are usually fighting much smaller opponents. Also, a number of writers and commentators say that they are not great technical fighters. I think they are both, in their own unique ways, absolutely technicians: they always break their opponents down in every fight.
A: Exactly. They break their opponents down. They do not rush it. Exactly right.
Q: Why do you think they aren't popular in the US?
A: I never talk smack about anyone. And, I'll tell you what, anyone who really knows the sport of boxing knows that both Vitali and Wladimir rank among the all-time greats. It's not just that there are so few loses between them – what, maybe five? – but it is the manner in which they systematically break their opponents down.
You have to rank both of them among the top thirty or forty of all-time. And obviously higher among the heavyweight division. I think that Wladimir ranks a little higher than Vitali, but I respect both of these men as great heavyweight champions. Both brothers are simply amazing. I just hope that they both remain amazing and active, and that they give me the opportunity to match skills with them.
Q: I want to go back to something for a moment …. about what you will represent as heavyweight champion. As a retired social worker, who has trained a lot of teenaged amateur boxers – including a number who had problems at home, in school, and in the community, and who benefitted from the discipline boxing instills, I think that you are a perfect role model. There are a lot of kids in this country that need a proper role model, someone they can identify with.
A: Thank you. It means a lot to me to be able to be a role model for young people. To be able to show them that there are rewards for working hard and living right. Thank you, Pat.
Q: Now, there are already too many weight classes in boxing. Some are only about four pounds. But the heavyweight division is unlimited. Guys who are 201 pounds are expected to fight guys who are 260 pounds. Do you think there should be a Super Heavyweight division?
A: No, not really. Once you are a “big man,” you are big enough to compete against other big men. Just look at Chris Byrd. Or look at the great Joe Frazier. They were not big heavyweights. But they were great champions who could compete against anyone in the ring.
I do agree that there are too many divisions. I look back at boxing magazines from the 1950s and '60s. There weren't nearly as many divisions. But there were certainly great champions, and boxing fans loved it that way. And boxing can only become more popular again when the focus is on making it competitive, where the best boxers fight each other.
Hey, speaking of Chris Byrd. That was a good fight.I put him down in the second round. I thought I won; he thought he won; and he got the split-decision. No hard feelings at all. I'm telling you, at his best, Chris Byrd could have fought anybody.
Q: You tended to do your best when fighting the division's other big men. In a 13-month stretch, you knocked out Michael Grant in one round; decisioned Lance Whitaker; and then decisioned two-time heavyweight champion Shannon Briggs. What advantages do you have in these fights?
A: Wow! You are the first person to ask me that. No other reporter has ever talked to me about that. You are astute.
This is another three-part answer. I'm big like them. I'm at least as strong as any of them, and much stronger than most of them. But the third part is key: I'm faster than any of the other big men in boxing.
Q: What has impressed me is that you seem to be most comfortable against them. You create the distance and positioning that allows you to get off your best shots.
A: Yes. Even against (Nikola) Valuev in 2007, I was comfortable in there. I had a strategy going into the fight, and everything was going as planned. I was feeling good, until my knee blew out.
Q: Your next fight after Valuev was against Samuel Peter at Madison Square Garden. That was one of a few very close decision loses that you had. As both a former amateur boxer, and trainer of pro and amateur fighters, I know how that can feel. How much of a role do you think that promoters have in influencing state commissions and even officials?
A: The pre-fight press conference told the story. Usually, the promoter speaks, and then both of the fighters and their trainers say a few words. As you know, that helps build interest in the fight. But Don is up there, on stage, and he brings up a Nigerian diplomat to speak. That would be like me having John McCain get on stage to promote me if we had been fighting in Nigeria
When the diplomat finished, Don called two of Nigeria's top actors up on stage to talk. I whispered to my manager, “The fix is in,” and got up and walked out. That is the only time in my career that I have done anything like that. It seemed like there was some kind of business deal going on, that didn't include my interests.
Now, remember, I had been scheduled to fight Vitali Klitschko earlier in the summer. Vitali pulled out of the fight, due to an injury. It was then that I was matched with Sam Peter. I ended up training too long, a total of 18 weeks. I knew beforehand that I was overtrained. When you have overtrained, you know that you risk losing your edge. You can go flat by the middle rounds. So going into the ring, I was intent upon taking him out early.
I'm not making excuses. Peter was a tough fighter. But I knocked him down three times early in the fight. And if you watch the films, you'll see that with the second knockdown, the referee gave Sam a full 17 seconds, before letting us fight again.
I also think that I won enough of the later rounds that, combined with three knockdowns, I should have gotten the decision.
Q: I remember that after the fight, Peter's manager attributed those knockdowns to Sam having a punctured ear drum. My impression was that you damaged his ear drum late in the first round. I'm also glad that you mentioned the issue of overtraining, which I think happens more often than boxing fans realize.
That brings us to another question: what do you think is a bigger problem for young fighters – overconfidence, or pre-fight anxiety?
A: I can only speak for myself. For me, being nervous before fights was an issue early in my career. This goes back to my not having any amateur experience. A boxer needs to be relaxed before a bout, or they risk burning up a lot of energy. Most boxers gain that ability while fighting as amateurs. It's not that you don't still get nervous after some experience, of course. But it's learning how to deal with it.
Q: The late trainer Cus D'Amato used to say that the hero and the coward feel the same fear. The hero learns to channel it for fuel, while the coward is consumed by it.
A: Well said. That is right on target. And in most cases, I think, self-confidence is an internal process. It isn't just there. It's a growth process. And, again, without having that amateur experience, there were times, Pat, that I had to deal with self-doubt.
I knew that my trainer was impressed with my abilities. And I knew that the crowds were impressed by my performances. There were times when, after scoring a good victory, my corner would tell me how impressive I had been; the crowd would cheer me as I raised my hands; and my family and friends would embrace me after the fight was over. Still, late at night, alone in my thoughts, I would wonder: was I really that good?
Even when I started to become a ranked contender, that lack of real experience would sometimes effect me. I remember being in the gym, and questioning something my trainer said. My cousin confronted me afterwards, asking why I was actually questioning myself? We had a good talk that day. He made me look at myself, and for the first time, I really recognized that inside of that boxing ring, I was a beast. Stronger than other men. A beast. Able to accomplish more than other people. “Stop thinking that other guy is anything like you,” my cousin told me. Since that day, I have had self-confidence.
It takes that proper state of mind to put both wins and loses into the proper perspective. Now, Pat, you mentioned Grant, Whitaker, and Briggs. Those were really good wins. Knocking Michael Grant out in one round was impressive. Whitaker was a talented fighter. Shannon Briggs was a champion. Briggs won the first round on all three officials' cards, and I won the next nine. That was an impressive win.
Q: I like what you are saying about putting every fight into the proper perspective. I'm thinking back to your 2005 fight with Calvin Brock. He was very talented. He was also very tough, or he couldn't have gotten off the canvas that night. But that fight is a good example of the wear-and-tear that fighters endure. He won the decision, but six years later, you are the one in a position to make a meaningful comeback to the ring.
A: Yes, Calvin Brock was a really talented fighter. We put on a good fight for the fans that night. And I was surprised when I saw him starting to get up.
The time that I've had off has given me an opportunity to think. If you get one shot at the heavyweight title, you've accomplished something. Getting two shots is very hard. Three is almost impossible. Four is unheard of. I earned those fights. And the fans wanted to see them. Boxing fans do not have any financial stake, or promotional agenda. They pick out fighters they like. I'm one of the guys that the fans like to see win.
“One thing is guarenteed This is a fantastic matchup which should live up to and may even surpass expectation.”
Daniel Cann; October 16 preview of Hopkins vs Dawson; BoxingInsider.com
Last night's Hopkins vs Dawson PPV card caused a rare disagreement between my son Darren and I. He expressed his belief that, as a member of the boxing community, I “owed it to the legend of Bernard Hopkins” to purchase the bout. I said that, considering both the price and the anticipated pace of the main event, I would opt to watch it next weekend on HBO. When he persisted in pressuring me, I suggested that he pay for it. End of discussion.
This article is largely based upon watching the fight on YouTube, and reading numerous press accounts. I've also discussed the outcome with friends from FaceBook, who were as upset by the outcome than with paying to watch it on PPV.
Bernard Hopkins is on the short list of the greatest middleweight champions in boxing history. Although he did not enjoy the commercial success of lesser talents in the sport, the hard-core boxing community recognized that Hopkins combined extraordinary physical and mental skills. He was so good, that even his two highest profile defenses – against Tito Trinidad and Oscar de la Hoya – were so one-sided that the casual fan could not fully appreciate what they were watching.
There were many, many other very talented challengers for B-Hop's title. Contenders such as William Joppy, Antwun Echols, Keith Holmes, Robert Allen, and Syd Vanderpool were quality opposition. But Bernard Hopkins did not have the promotional machine needed to make him a media darling. He was instead one of the most solid champions of any era. More, there was an edge to Bernard outside the ring; the warrior who sometimes described himself as a wolf inside the ring, was one of sports' lone wolves, who's personality did not meet the image the big promoters were seeking.
In 2005, his career took a turn, when he faced a very talented young contender, Jermain Taylor. Before their May 7 bout, I had predicted (on another internet forum) that Taylor would out-box Hopkins in a close fight, doing enough to take the title when the scorcards were read. Despite B-hop's legendary self-discipline, it seemed impossible for him to maintain his strength at middleweight. Taylor would win another close fight at the end of 2005.
It appeared that Hopkins' career was probably over – with “appeared” being the key word. If he had retired, knowledgable people would have definitely rated him among the greatest middleweights ever. But he had other plans. In June of '06, he challenged Antonio Tarver for the light heavyweight crown. Tarver, who had capitalized on Roy Jones, Jr.'s mistake of bulking up to win a “title” from John Ruiz, then trimming back down in size, had opted to gain weight for a role in a 2005 fight fim. Dropping that weight to defend his title against Bernard was a poor choice. Bernard Hopkins had won the light heavyweight title in spectacular fashion.
In that fights, Bernard Hopkins seemed to take a page out of Archie Moore's book. In the fights that followed, B-Hop began adding his own chapters to boxing history. His schooling of Kelly Pavlik may have been the most impressive. The loss to Joe Calzaghe was rightly disputed. The win over old rival Roy Jones, Jr., seemed more a personal victory, than meaninful to the sport. And, of course, in his second fight with Jean Pascal, Bernard set a new and important record in sports.
Still, there were changes in Bernard inside of the ring. Many older fighters – for examples, think of Sugar Shane Mosley and Evander Holyfield – have up-and-down fights. They are outstanding in one fight, then less impressive in the next; then outstanding, and then less so. To an extent, that has held true for Bernard as well. Pascal did drop him twice in their first fight; Bernard dominated the second bout. Thus, it was questionable which B-Hop would enter the ring this weekend.
Add to that the fact that Hopkins had not seemed eager to fight Dawson during the past three years, despite Chad's very public calling him out. On one hand, Bernard's claim that Dawson wasn't a big draw at the box office was true. Another factor may well have been that Dawson, like Jermain Taylor, was a big, strong young man, coming into his prime. (One of boxing's clear injustices is that Taylor seems remembered more for his post-Hopkins loses, than his brief fighting prime in 2005.) Style-wise, a fight with Dawson was risky; plus, even a victory would have added little to Bernard's legend.
Clearly, Dawson is an intelligent fighter, who had watched films of Bernard. Since moving up from the middleweight division, Hopkins has earned a well-deserved reputation for fighting “rough.” Ronald “Winky” Wright noted that Bernard hits low, butts, and uses his elbows. And Wright helped Dawson prepare for this weekend's fight.
One of the tactics that Bernard frequently has used is throwing a hard right-cross, and then propelling himself into his opponent. When possible, he uses this to place himself on top of his opponent's torso, when the foe bends to avoid that righthand punch. By not only placing himself on top – but by pushing down – Bernard has succeeded in tiring out several of his opponents. Is this an effective tactic? Yes, in general. Is it legal? Not really.
That Bernard had been pushing Chad Dawson down in that second round is beyond question. Indeed, the referee had warned him about this moments before the fight's ending. And if one watches the replay of the final seconds, sure enough, Bernard throws a big right, propells himself into Chad, and begins pushing downward. There are really only two options here: first, that this generation's Old Mongoose did so intentionally; or second, that Bernard is prone to making amateurish mistakes. I think that we can safely conclude it was purposeful.
Chad Dawson dipped-and-twisted. This is the most simple and effective way to get your opponent off your back. The result was that Bernard went down in a violent manner, and suffered a serious injury to his shoulder. It was clearly not a knockdown that resulted from a punch. Nor was it a result of a foul by Chad Dawson.
When referee Pat Russell asked Hopkins if he could contiinue, Bernard responded by saying he could, but with only one arm. That was, though unintentionally, the wrong answer for a fighter that wants to continue. Pat Russell is not among my favorite referees, though he is competent. The HBO announcers – who apparently have forgotten that they have, in the past, made note of the “punch-and-propell” tactic – felt that Russell should have ruled the bout a “no contest.” Had it been a case of no foul, or of Chad committing an unintentional foul, a no contest ruling would have been correct. But the fact is that Bernard was attempting to do something he had just been warned about, and that he sustained a serious injury as a result.
It wasn't pretty. Fans did not get their money's worth, at least from the main event. But Russell made the correct ruling, however unpopular. And Chad Dawson won by TKO, fair and square. Chad won the title, and does not deserve any discredit from the unpopular ending.
(Oct 13, 2011) Fox News: Attorneys for republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann have filed a complaint with the Republican National Committee, charging that Texas Governor Rick Perry engaged in “unethical and possibly illegal medical abuse” before the most recent debate.
“We have solid evidence of abuse,” said Bachmann spokesman Arthur Burns, on the candidate's official website. ( http://www.michelebachmann.com / ) This alleged evidence includes photographs of a man identified as Dr. Murray Conrad, seen delivering a supply of chlorpromazine to Rick Perry's dressing room an hour before the Dartmouth College debate. “Chlorpromazine, more commonly known as thorazine, is a medication primary associated with the treatment of severe mental illnesses,” said Attorney Burns. “It is also used, in smaller doses, to reduce anxiety and nervousness before major surgeries. The remarkably flat affect of Governor Perry on stage in Hanover suggests that he had either consumed a massive quantity of chlorpromazine, or been subjected to a lobotomy. We are demanding that the RNC investigate fully. We are also considering filing a joint complaint with several other republican candidates, who have expressed concern with Rick Perry's behavior.”
The Bachmann campaign refused to identify which other campaigns had been involved in the discussions about Governor Perry. Fox News sources have unconfirmed reports that former Ambassador Jon Huntsman told his advisors after the debate that he had experienced difficulty in concentrating, due to Perry's “incessant humming while other's were speaking.” Fox News sources have confirmed that Gov. Perry was heard sing “I'm a Believer,” a song by the 1960s acid rock group The Monkees, after the debate.
The Perry Campaign has refused to comment on this story at this point.
“Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible; man's inclination toward injustice makes democracy necessary.” – Reinhold Niebuhr
The GOP has tasked Ron Christie with attacking the Occupy Wall Stree movement. This week, on MSNBC's Hardball, Christie attempted to deliver a crushing blow, accusing the protestors of having sex, partying, and – heaven forbid – urinating. When host Chris Matthews asked Christie to expand upon his viewpoint, the Libby-Cheney lap dog noted that he would approve of the protesters, if they would only identify President Barack Obama as their enemy, and support the republican agenda.
This was not a Saturday Night Live skit.
For those who dismiss Ron Christie as a mere ass-clown, I would recommend Barton Gellman's book “Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency” (Penguin; 2008). Convicted felon Scooter Libby brought Ron Christie into the Bush/Cheney administration. Within a short time, VP Cheney found Christie an effective operative in abusing both federal agencies, federal policies, and federal law, to deny Native Americans their treaty rights. By no coincidence, those who benefited from Christie's actions were Cheney's pals in the “energy” corporations.
Both Cheney and Christie took the stance that the energy corporations' policies equaled “national security.” They also disguised their true intentions, by pretending to be advocates of farmers. When a government scientist included evidence of how false the Cheney-Christie policies were, and the serious environmental damage that would result, two things happened: the scientist was fired, and his contribution to the government report disappeared.
Of course Ron Christie wishes that OWS would disappear. He helped to make millions of jobs disappear, while in the Bush administration. He was among those who benefited from the financial “crisis” (re: theft) that caused so many working class people's savings and retirement accounts to disappear. And now he is afraid that the OWS movement is seeking justice.
The degree of paranoia his ilk are experiencing was channeled last week by Glenn Beck – he still exists, in a lonely diminsion – who claimed on radio that the OWS movement will lead to all of the wealthy being dragged into the streets and executed. Beck was especially fearful of the fate of wealthy “journalists” like himself. A small part of me would like to respond to Beck by paraphrasing Malcolm X: “As if all the wealthy could be dragged into the street …. or as if that would be a bad thing.” But the mere thought of paying a few more percentage points in taxes has already frightened him enough.
In the 2010 election season, the republican mantra was, “Mr. President, where are the jobs?” A year later, while fighting every effort by President Obama to create jobs and fix the economy, those same republicans are saying that the OWS protesters should “blame Obama,” “blame themselves,” and “get a job.” Again, SNL could not make this stuff up.
The OWS movement is not demanding the “fix” these folks want. The Cheneyites have a different definition of “fix.” They view “fix” as what Ron Christie did to the traditional Indians, and to the environment, in order to create massive profits for the “energy” industry. The mere suggestion that they have any social responsibility to this country is, for them, a crisis. When the law of the land clearly restricts their access to profit – by protecting the rights of other human beings – that is a “crisis” to be “solved” by crushing not only the rule of law, but by stomping on anyone who dares challenge them. Indeed, the only people being “dragged in the streets” have been citizens exercising their Amendment 1 rights, only to be brutalized by a group of thugs in uniform. Likewise, that government scientist who dared report the truth was kicked out of his position, just as thousands of American families are being kicked out of their homes.
In recent months, I've wrote a series of essays for this forum about the struggle to protect the citizens and environment in New York State from hydro-fracking. In 2005, then VP Cheney sent a group of his “former” partners from Halliburton to Albany, NY, to pressure (and bribe) state officials to exempt gass-drilling from state and federal environmental laws. They succeeded.
Currently, I've been working with a couple of grass roots groups to prevent a large gas line, which was proposed to carry gas from frack-wells to two large industries in Sidney, NY. Without the gasline, both industries had said they might consider closing their doors, and leaving NYS.
The larger of the two is a defense contactor, currently known as Amphenol; it has also been known as Scintilla, Bendix, and Allied-Signal. During WW2, it employed 5,000+ people, running three shifts, 24/7. Nazi Germany had listed the Sidney industry as one of its top targets in America. In the late 1950s, LOOK magazine ran an article titled, “Sidney: The Town We Can't Do Without.”
Besides producing many of the necessities for the war machine, this industry graced the area with several massive toxic chemical waste “dump sites.” The most significant of these is the Richardson Hill/Sidney Landfill, a 120-acre site that was ranked by the federal government as being among the most dangerous in the nation, when the “Superfund” program was established. As I have noted numerous times on this forum, I assisted the EPA and Department of Justice when Amphenol and Allied Signal sued in federal court in 1999, to avoid paying for the “clean-up” of the site (the technology to actually “clean” the site does not exist). The industry won; not a single local, are, or regional media source reported that the case was being heard, much less the outcome.
A month ago, Sidney was among the many upstate communities that suffered severe damage by major flooding along the Susquehanna River. Initially, the heads of the Amphenol plant said they were going to do a “clean up” of the massive factory, as they had after the 2006 flood. I knew that this was a lie. I know one of individuals who has, for many years, been a co-worker and close friend of Gary Anderson, the plant manager. After touring the plant with Senator Kristin Gillibrand, who told him that the company had some responsibility, Anderson told his friend that he will not try to keep the industry in New York. There are $15 million in “back contracts” that needed to be completed there; after that, parts of the plant would go to North Carolina, and others to China and Mexico. This because Senator Gillibrand would not meet Anderson's every need.
The “60 day notices” have gone out to employees. In some situations, because the contracts involve “security,” non-union people are being brought in to work. More, with the news this plant is closing its doors, the other large factory (MeadWestvaco, formerly Keith Clarks), is considering moving out of state, because the company's heads do not want to shoulder the tax burder they have shared with Amphenol. The combined effect of these closings with devastate the economy of Sidney and all of the the communities surrounding it.
I'm planning to travel to that area this weekend. There is an “Occupy Binghamton” being held thirty miles away from Sidney, and some people from that area called me this morning with an invitation to speak at OB. I have a few calls to make this evening, to try to make some arrangements so that I can attend. And yes, I have a few things that I'd like to say.
As soon as your born they make you feel small
By giving you no time instead of it all
Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all
Working Class Hero is something to be
Working Class Hero is something to be
They hurt you at home and they hit you at school
They hate you if you're clever and despise a fool
Till you're so fucking crazy you can't follow their rules
Working Class Hero is something to be
Working Class Hero is something to be
When they've tortured and scared you for 20 odd years
Then they expect you to pick a career
When you can't really function you're so full of fear
Working Class Hero is something to be
Working Class Hero is something to be
Keep you doped with religion, sex and T.V.
And you think you're so clever and classless and free
But you're still fucking peasents as far as I can see
Working Class Hero is something to be
Working Class Hero is something to be
There's room at the top I'm telling you still
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill
If you want to be like the folks on the hill
Working Class Hero is something to be
John Lennon; Plastic Ono Band
I watched a bit of CNN this morning. A journalist named Candy Crowley interviewed two of the republican candidates for the republican presidential nomination, Herman Cain and Michelle Bachmann. In large part, it was a waste of time ….simply something to do while waiting for a cup of coffee to kick in. Though neither are at risk of securing their party's nomination, and should not be taken seriously, I did find something that Mr. Cain said highly offensive.
Crowley had asked him about economic and cultural issues, as they relate to race. He noted that “race” no longer holds people back in any meaningful way in our country. She mentioned the high levels of unemployment among black citizens, including the extraordinarily high rates among black teens and youth, and mentioned the astounding rates of incarceration among this same population. Cain blamed President Obama. Yet, even after knocking the bar to the ground, Mr. Cain would bring it lower.
Crowley asked him if he had an opinion on the “Occupy Wall Street” movement? Yes, of course Herman did. He said that those people who were mad at Wall Street and the banks were simply wrong: they should blame themselves for being unemployed.
Now, if he had said, in regard to young people of any “race” or ethnic background being incarcerated, that while the American justice system is imperfect – and indeed, often unfair in prosecuting and sentencing – that teenagers and youth should recognize not only the rules of the game, but to take responsibility for their own behaviors, I suspect that the majority of Americans would agree with him. But when he says that these same young people, many of whom are involved in the OWS movement, should “blame themselves” because they don't have a job, he's pitching for that 1% that the OWS protesters have identified as the real problem.
I've been thinking about some of my family and friends who are among the recently out-of-work. These are people, many in their 50s and early 60s, who earned advanced degrees long ago, and who were faithful employees for corporations that benefited from their work. They were “laid-off” not because these corporations were losing a penny because of them; but rather, because the corporations that they had invested decades of their lives for believe they can make even higher profits by cutting US positions and moving overseas.
Sad to say, it is not only the Herman Cains and Michelle Bachmaniacs who are opposing the OWS movement. Nor is it just some of the corporate media puppets attempting to discredit this growing democratic action. Even here, on the Democratic Underground, I've read a few attempts to discredit OWS – while making shallow efforts to pretend to support OWS in theory.
In my own opinion, this is because OWS is an organic democratic effort, rather than an astro-turf production. As a member of the Democratic Party, I recognize that this has been a longstanding problem for us, rather than simply a Republican or Tea Party phenomenon. Speaking of “in theory,” there was a time when presidential primaries and national conventions were supposed to reflect the will of those at the grass roots level. But primaries are corporate-sponsored “contests,” and one need look back only to 1964 to see how the Democratic Party elite attempted to slam the door on the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party delegation – despite the fact that the MFDP followed the laws, rules, and regulations.
The Cainites and Bachmaniacs attempt to point to the 1968 Chicago Convention to frighten people into rejecting the OWS movement. In fact, that was a police riot, directed by machine political boss Mayor Daley. It's important to remember that Daley was one of the first machine democrats to openly oppose the Vietnam War; still, being a rigid authoritarian, his desire to crush dissent over-rode his respect for Amendment 1 protection of peaceful protests. And the Democratic Convention itself was the craftsmanship of LBJ – a potentially great US President who allowed his Great Society plans to be undermined by the war machine, and who former top aides such as Bill Moyers described as paranoid to the point of being unhinged from reality.
Some of my associates who are involved in the OWS movement are older folks who came of age in the 1960s. Some are liberals, who believe that The System can be fine-tuned in order to make it run properly. Others are progressives, who are convinced The System needs a major overhaul. Some have been involved in activities on the Democratic Left from the '60s to today. Others had become more moderate with age, doing little more than voting every couple of years.
More, one fellow who I've been good friends with since the mid-1980s, through work, used to be a semi-moderate Democrat. Before we met, he had been employed by Charlie Rangel. By the time we met, he was a conservative Democrat, very suspicious of me, because he viewed me in terms of a youthful radical reputation. It took him a year to admit to himself what a wonderful guy I really am. And it took me even longer to recognize that although he suffered from conservative flaws, he was okay. Most of the time, anyhow. In recent years, he joined the Tea Party.
Last week, he called me on his birthday. We discussed the passing of another person we used to work with, who had since taken a position in government. The guy literally drank himself to death. Although he and I never enjoyed a close relationship – he was an Ayn Rand worshipper, which prevented our having much of anything in common except an interest in archaeology – I feel sad about his death. While I understand the biological processes involved with addiction, I believe his desire for what he mistakenly believed was “power” left him empty, in a manner that increased the risks of his dying the lonely and meaningless death he did.
On a more chipper note, my friend had visited family in NYC. There, he encountered some of the OWS demonstrators. He told me that he “made a real ass” of himself, by getting into a heated argument with them. Again, he had been convinced they were dangerous radicals. After he calmed down (at his gentle wife's urging), he found that he was in near total agreement with the basic points that these people were making. He came away convinced that OWS is the most hopeful events of 2011.
Now, although he is a member of the Tea Party, I can talk with him. He is well-educated, compassionate, and distinct from the image of TP members that I see in the media. Or too often in real life. He does not, for example, think that Michelle Bachmann is competent to hold any public office. Likewise, although he views me as a “liberal,” he thinks that most of the TP members he is associated with would respect me.
I suspect that this is among the dynamics that the 1% fears the most. Not him or I as individuals, for we are simply grumpy old men. But the very real potential that an organic democratic movement will create common ground among not only the Progressive Left and the liberal wing of the Democratic Party ….. but also with the minority of Tea Partiers who are capable of rational thought. There may be more of the initial emotional and ignorant responses, but there is a possibility that they will come to see that the OWS represents democracy. That doesn't mean that the majority of the Tea Party will think outside of the plastic box that their corporate masters have provided them. But the more insightful few might convince them that as different as our value systems may seem, our common enemy is that 1% that is attempting – and almost accomplishing – the total destruction of Constitutional democracy in America.
“The rich in this country seem to think that they can oppress the poor indefinitely, not recognizing that welfare is one price society pays for social peace.”
Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.; Journals; August 21, 1996.
I ended up spending most of last night and the early morning hours in a crowded ER with my youngest daughter. She had been injured in a varsity soccer game, and although she was positive that she was okay, her father insisted on taking her as a precaution. The nurses said that it was good that I did, as she had suffered a head injury. The doctor determined that she was battered and bruised, and needed to take a week off from what is a pretty physical sporting competition. My daughter convinced him to okay her return for their next game, which is on Tuesday.
I had missed the game – rare for me, but there was a school board meeting – but when my wife and daughters got home, I grabbed a book and we loaded into my vehicle, and headed to the nearest hospital. By chance, the book I picked off a shelf was Schlesinger's 1952 to 2000 journals, which his sons had edited and published after the presidential historian's death. I've enjoyed Schlesinger's many books for forty years, particularly those about John and Robert Kennedy.
Emergency Rooms always make me a tad uncomfortable, and so when the lady behind the glass asked if she could help us, I said, “Yes, I'll have the Big Mac extra-value meal with a coke, please.” My daughters find me embarrassing in such circumstances; my hope is that my wife's ignoring me, and explaining the purpose of our visit, will be a learning experience for them. A nurse came and spoke to us briefly, then had us go to the overcrowded waiting room, where there were not enough seats available for us all to sit down.
The majority of the people there reminded me of a description that I read in a book by two Canadian authors in the 1990s. They traveled through parts of New York City, and spoke about the way that several generations of poverty takes a toll on outward appearances. Obviously, I could easily be wrong on this. I was also reminded of reading that the inhabitants of the lower incomes tend to use the ER for non-emergency treatment. In this case, that was definitely not true. Most of those seeking care had serious injuries. I suspect that the lower- and middle income population lead lifestyles with greater risks for injury, than do the wealthy.
There was zero verbal communication between the various families and individuals in the room. In fact, very few people spoke to even those they were with. One fellow, who appeared to be in his early thirties (and who had at least a seriously sprained ankle) tended to stare, almost nonstop, at my younger daughter. Although she is 14, she looks a good bit older than her 17-year old sister. At one point, he dropped the beer bottle cap that he was holding onto like a lucky coin.
As we waited, I opened the book to a section where Schlesinger detailed his concern with President Clinton's “welfare reform.” Schlesinger noted that this “reform” was part of Clinton's pandering to the conservative democrats – Joe Liebermann and the Democratic Leadership Council, which he described as “the Republican wing of the Democratic Party.” As a “Kennedy Democrat” who believed in the FDR social programs, Schlesinger held the DLC in utter contempt.
There was also a fascinating section where Schlesinger details his experience on one of the many panels he was on, where he spoke about the dangers of “unbridled capitalism.” Another panel member attacked him for being (of course!) against free enterprise and pro-socialism. Schlesinger responded by noting that, despite his opponent's claim that there is no such thing as unbridled capitalism, that the influence of corporations, including but not limited to national elections, was the single greatest threat to democracy in America.
In recent days, we hear from corporate shrills like the fellow who attacked Schlesinger that night, attempting to define the people engaged in the Occupy Wall Street movement in similar terms – they hate capitalism, they are engaged in a dangerous form of class warfare, and on and on. This includes both current and former politicians, as well as media talking heads (many of whom are intel operatives). They are, at best, blinded by fear. I believe most are simply liars, without social conscience.
Those engaged in these demonstrations are actually the vanguard of the movement that may rescue our failing economy. They represent the very best chance to breathe new life into the now lifeless democracy; without them, America becomes a rotting corpse for corporate vultures to feast upon.
What is interesting – at least to me – is that the generational poor have yet to become more actively involved in this hopeful movement. Perhaps their hopes and dreams have been crushed by decades of oppression. Their energies may be concentrated on just getting by. That is, of course, what 99% of this nation's citizens do: concentrate on getting by. It is only the obscenely wealthy that has the leisure time needed to concentrate great effort on taking what little that the 99% have.
And why the OWS movement frightens them.
As this democratic movement progresses, it will be essential that the recently middle class reach out to those of the lower economic classes. That will scare the 1% even more. They will go all-out to keep us from accomplishing this. They will react in crueler, harsher ways than simply having a tool like Rep. Peter King go on television, and insult the protesters. But it can be accomplished. Indeed, it must.
Martin Scorsese's documentary on George Harrison – “the Quiet Beatle” – is featured on HBO tonight, starting at 9 pm/est. It should be of interest not only to older forum members, who came of age when the Beatles burst upon the scene and changed American culture, but also for younger folks who are curious about the role that group played in influencing today's society.
Most people probably have a general understanding of George's role in the Beatles. He was the lead guitarist in a group that featured the best song-writing duo in modern history. Both John Lennon and Paul McCartney were uncanny vocalists, too. The group had tried several drummers, before settling on Ringo Starr, who would show the strongest acting skills when the group made two hit movies.
As a result, George was limited in his contribution of songs on the group's albums, and would not have any hit singles until the band's later stages. More, on stage Harrison tended to be overshadowed by Lennon, McCartney, and Starr. This didn't mean that George was somehow overlooked – he was wildly popular – but his influence would increase dramatically when he began to explore eastern religion and expand on the instruments he played when the Beatles stopped touring, and became a studio group.
The number of “Harrisongs” on the group's albums would increase with the release of their 1968 double-LP “The Beatles”(aka the White Album). The “Anthology” CDs document that, by the third collection, George had reached the same level as John and Paul. But the ever-increasing tensions between the four young men would keep a number of his songs from being released on the group's albums.
George, like Ringo and John, actually quit the Beatles before Paul “officially” split. Both George and Ringo would return; Lennon was convinced to not make his “divorce” public. George and John would release solo LPs – George's an instrumental work, and John's being “experimental” works with Yoko. However, after Paul's quitting, George would release his triple-album “All Things Must Pass,” that included outstanding songs that had not found spots on Beatles albums.
George's career after the Beatles included the benefit Concert for Bangladesh – another triple album, since released on DVD – and that infamous garage band, the Traveling Wilburys.
I'm looking forward to watching this film tonight. I hope that other forum members will be tuning in to it, too.
“Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children, the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel house. We could not, so help us God, do otherwise.
“For we are sick at heart, our hearts give us no rest for thinking of the Land of Burning Children. And for thinking of that other Child, of whom the poet Luke speaks. The infant was taken up in the arms of an old man, whose tongue grew resonant and vatic at the touch of that beauty. …..
“We have jail records, we have been turbulent, uncharitable, we have failed in love for the brethren, have yielded to fear and despair and pride, often in our lives. Forgive us. We are no more, when the truth is told, than ignorant beset men, jockeying against all chance, at the hour of death, for a place at the right hand of the dying one.
“We act against the law at a time of the Poor People’s March, at a time moreover when the government is announcing ever more massive paramilitary means to confront disorder in the cities. It is announced that a computerized center is being built in the Pentagon at a cost of some seven millions of dollars, to offer instant response to outbreaks anywhere in the land; that moreover, the government takes so serious a view of civil disorder, that federal troops, with war experience in Vietnam, will have first responsibility to quell civil disorder. The implications of all this must strike horror in the mind of any thinking man.
“The war in Vietnam is more and more literally brought home to us. Its inmost meaning strikes the American ghettos; in servitude to the affluent. We must resist and protest this crime.
“Finally, we stretch out our hands to our brothers throughout the world. We who are priests, to our fellow priests. All of us who act against the law, turn to the poor of the world, to the Vietnamese, to the victims, to the soldiers who kill and die, for the wrong reasons, for no reason at all, because they were so ordered—by the authorities of that public order which is in effect a massive institutionalized disorder.
“We say: killing is disorder, life and gentleness and community and unselfishness is the only order we recognize. For the sake of that order, we risk our liberty, our good name.”
Daniel Berrigan; Catonsville Nine; statement at sentencing.
There are some topics which seem certain to cause acrimonious debate on this forum. This is especially true since Barack Obama has become the President …. for there could be unity in our opposition to George W. Bush, VP Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld, when they prosecuted the foreign wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and compromised the rule of law – indeed, the Bill of Rights – here at home. But when President Barack Obama holds office, and the military kills a US-born radical cleric as happened this week, the event results in heated, often emotional, arguments: was it a justified act of war? Or was it murder?
I believe that these debates and arguments are a good thing. If one can step back from the emotional component, and focus on the rational points that both sides of the debate take, it would seem nearly impossible to define this incident in simplistic, black versus white, purely right versus purely wrong terms. Both sides make important points, which suggests that this is among those issues that is best understood as being in that gray area that a nation inhabits in times of war.
Religious wars in particular involve deep pits of quicksand that can suck logical thought, and thus rational behaviors, from any nation. I say this while fully recognizing that there are non-religious dynamics in these wars: the attack on 9/11, and those pesky natural energy resources are undeniably involved. Yet the role of fundamentalist religious passions – both in the Islamic nations in and near the Middle East, and in the United States – are fueling the fires of hatred and violence.
Our Constitution was created in a manner that intended for civilian control of the military, and a wall of separation between church and state. The reasoning is both obvious and extremely significant. There can be no democracy if the military has the level of influence on national life that President Eisenhower warned against, much less if “the generals” dictate policy to the President. More, there can not be social justice in either domestic or foreign policy, if any religious system dictates the standards. This in no way takes away any rights from the military or any religion. It simply seeks to protect the rights of everyone else.
Yet the hue and cry from the rabid right-wing, frequently using Fox News as its megaphone, is that there is “war” against religion in America. Their use of modern technology still aims towards the same goals as any blood-thirsty “religious” leader from times past: to whip an unconscious crowd into a frenzy; to convince them that “others” pose a dark and evil threat to their way of being; to superimpose “God's Will” over the leader's madness; and to create a domestic/civil war. Had anyone been unaware of this, or somehow had doubted this harsh reality, the recent highlight of a republican presidential primary debate, when the crowd of spectators hissed at and booed a gay soldier, That none of the republican candidates had the true patriotism, much less human decency, to confront that spasm of hatred, illustrates that not one of them is qualified to serve in high office in a democracy. For, as John Lennon wrote, a conspiracy of silence speaks louder than words.
I recognize that the general topic of “religion” is prone to such toxicity on this forum that it has its own designated, typically lonesome, neighborhood – much like 9/11, Israeli-Palestinian issues, and the wide cluster of topics that, both correctly and incorrectly, are deemed to be “conspiracy theories.” Hence, I will exercise caution here, because my focus is not “religion” per say, nor a “conspiracy of silence” in other than Lennon's obviously intended meaning. Rather, I am speaking of “religion” as a tactic that is both used and abused in our social, political, and economic domestic cultural wars. For that hissing and booing of an American soldier – a man willing to risk his life for the ideals of a democracy that is every bit denied him as it was to those black soldiers who fought in WW2, Korea, and Vietnam – is rooted in the religious right's cult of death.
Briefly, and only to lay some stones for foundation here, I understand and appreciate why “religion” is a segregated topic, even on the Democratic Underground. And for two rock-solid reasons. First, that cult of death has damaged and destroyed the lives of millions of good and decent human beings. It has inflicted pain on many forum participants, in the cruel manner that the self-justified level of being of the cult members demands. Second, in the manner of that “scientific method” that every school child should be taught, a democracy demands that citizens question literally everything …. for the very moment one suppresses the questioning spirit, they actually suppress democracy. The proof is in that slimy pudding of right-wing ideology, that unquestioningly follows the leader.
This brings us back to the recent killing of the cleric. When Usama bin Laden was killed, the right-wing attempted to marginalize President Obama's role. Likewise, in the current instance, we can agree that had George W. Bush been in office, the rabid republicans would be having a foaming orgy of celebration, for they worship death. Especially when it involves religion. But they repress those passions when a brown-skinned Democrat with a funny name is is office.
When Daniel and Phillip Berrigan protested the evils of the Vietnam War, and went to prison for doing so, the republican right did not speak about the repression of religion. No, they were offended that the Berrigans and friends damaged government property. When Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., engaged in civil disobedience, and went to jail, no right-wing preachers lent him any moral support. (Perhaps because they had none to lend.) No, they were angry that he violated those laws that entrenched hatred in our society. How dare he? Another fascinating example was when Minister Malcolm X helped people out of American gutters – to stop using drugs, committing crimes, and hating themselves – the right-wing marked him as a danger to this nation.
When the St. Patrick's Four committed civil disobedience in upstate New York, to protest the Bush-Cheney plans to occupy Iraq by brute force, the religious right didn't view their federal trials as being part of any “war on religion.” No, they are a death cult. When one of their own murders an “abortion doctor,” they wink and nod to each other, because they approve of violent death. They glorify in unleashing that beast. They love to hate.
Now, back to the concept that a conspiracy of silence speaks louder than words. There is no single group in America, in my opinion, that has remained silent during the cultural war being waged in our country, than the “religious left.” I say that, even though I recognize that numerous individuals have been outspoken, and many small groups have been active. I do not discount these contributions. But in general, there has been a deafening silence coming from the large religious institutions. Is it any wonder that so many non-religious people question our sincerity? Our dedication to our shared concerns? Our willingness to sacrifice our own comfort? No.
I'm focused on this topic, by the way, largely as a result of a conversation that I had last week with a retired law-enforcement official. His career included working at the state and national level, as well as some operations with a federal agency that is not supposed to be active domestically. He is conservative politically, but has a social conscience. As a survivor of a Catholic upbringing, he has no use for organized religion. He worries about the nation that his grandchildren are growing up in. Anyhow, he made a curious comment about the distinction that he and others in law enforcement make between “bleeding-heart liberals” and “bible-thumping liberals.” This led to a discussion that has occupied a large space in my mind, as I view reports (including a few in the corporate media) on the protests and police-gestapo tactics on Wall Street.
There is a desperate need today for individuals and groups from the outside of “organized religion” to take a public stance in support or – or better yet, hand-in-hand with – those protesters. And those in unions fighting corrupt right-wing republican governors. To add an important dimension to the struggle for social justice. To serve as a beacon of light, much in the manner that Bob Marley and Peter Tosh did ….. for they were more prophets of a righteous social system as they were musicians. Their message was the same as Phillip and Daniel Berrigan's.
Those prophets in the Old Testament were delivering a social and political message. Amos confronted the hypocrites' “religion”: “I hate, I spurn your feasts, I take no pleasure in your solemn assemblies …. let justice flow like a river, and mercy like an unfailing stream” (5:21-25). Amos also said, “I know how many your sins are, and how grievous your crimes: oppressing the just, accepting bribes, repelling the needy in court,” (5:12). And Isaiah said, “Woe to those who enact unjust statutes and who write oppressive decrees, depriving the needy of judgement and robbing my people's poor of their rights, making widows their plunder and orphans their prey”(10:1-2). They were talking specifically about these republican debates. Yes, they were.
And they spoke specifically about governments that based their domestic and foreign policies upon brute military force. Hosea spoke of rulers who “trusted in your chariots, and in your many warriors” (10:13), and who have “fortified many cities” (8:14); Isaiah warns those leaders who “looked to weapons” (22:8), and “who depend upon horses, who put trust in chariots because of their number, and in horsemen because of their combined power” (31: 1-2). They were also speaking directly to those police officers on Wall Street who have jumped at the chance to behave in the brutal manner of thugs. And I am not grouping all police officers into this violent gang of hoodlums; yet those with respect for their job must demand consequences for those who are criminals with badges and guns.
We live in strange, often violent, and always dangerous times. No one group or person can resolve the many threats to the social fabric. But we all can make a contribution.
"If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.".
President Ronald Reagan's “A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform” report; 1983.
This summer, I attended one of my high school class reunions. This allowed me the opportunity to talk with the fellow who had begun his job as our school's principal in my senior year. He was, at the time, a recent graduate with his Ph.D.s in education and psychiatry. Within a few years, he became our school system's superintendent, then went on to run the schools in two large cities. These days, he is “semi-retired,” teaching part-time at a large university. He has a passion for public education, and his focus is on teaching future school administrators.
Part of the reunion was fun. He gave the main address before dinner, and talked about how, in the second week of school, one student called a “general strike” that supported by the majority of the student body. He recalled asking his secretary who the “ring leader” was, and her saying, “It's that Pat character. He's trouble.” And he noted that throughout his entire career, I had given him more headaches than any other individual he ever encountered.
I, of course, reminded him that he was lucky to have only had me for one year. In fact, I had doubled-up on classes in previous years, hoping to graduate a year early, and only need half a credit that senior year. And, as I was homeless much of that school year, my attendance was minimal, to say the least (or most).
Many years later, when I was a program director then executive director of a non-profit human service agency, I had requested that my old principle serve on its board of directors – which he did. He recognized that I had a more rounded education in dysfunctional family dynamics and the troubles of the teenaged years, than one could get from text books and classrooms. And, through the miracle of Facebook, earlier in the year I was able to discuss my thoughts about running for a seat on the local school board.
So, when we were first talking at the weekend event, he asked me how I liked being on the school board? I answered, in part, with a question: when had school teachers become Public Enemy #1? Because I am concerned about that iceberg of hostility, which lays large below the surface of public discussion of our nation's school systems, even though that part that is visible presents a danger to our children and youth.
He told me to read the Reagan administration's “report” on schools, which was primarily a vicious assault on teachers. He quoted the line that heads my essay here today, and said that people – and certainly not just school board members – need to appreciate the full implications of the Reaganites' claim that school teachers were engaged in “acts of war” against this country. Indeed, he said, this was actually a declaration of war being made by extreme right-wing of the republican party against those Americans, including the children and youth, who were not in the upper economic class.
The public school system is as important to true democracy in our nation as is the Constitution. For if the people are kept ignorant and uneducated, they do not have any more access to that Constitution, than the economic elite allow them. And that allowance, as our nation's history clearly documents, is at most a few crumbs from off the table of the wealthy.
As historian Sean Wilentz tells in his powerful book, “The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln,” (Norton; 2005) that economic elite views the United States as a republic. This is from “res publica,” or “public thing,” which holds that we “secure the common good through the ministrations of the most worthy, enlightened men.” When only the economic elite has access to education, it limits any ability of all others to exercise control over their own lives.(page xvii)
Democracy comes from “demos krateo,” or the “rule of the people.” Wilentz notes that the economic elite view this as “dangerously handed power to the impassioned, unenlightened masses.”(ibid) What we see today, and certainly not limited to education, is that elite capitalizing on the ignorance of the impassioned, angry “tea party”members, who are roused to fever-pitch to fight against their own self-interests.
After winning the 1968 election, but before taking office, one of the topics of discussion among members of Nixon's administration was the unrest on college campuses. This is detailed in, among other places, Theodore White's third in his series of “The Making of an American President” books. Among the reasons, they concluded, were that too many middle class youth were going to college. They believed that the American economy would not have enough jobs for a well-educated middle class, and that it was essential for them to reduce the number of non-rich kids attending college.
Older readers will recognize that Nixon – a product of a poor family who would become wealthy and powerful as a result of going to college – did not go along with this program, especially when he ended the draft. This was, in my opinion, one of the “sins” that Nixon committed against the economic elite, which resulted in the republicans in Congress forcing his removal from office. More, one of the myths now taught is that it was actually the Democrats who caused his resignation.
Who has actually declared war on the American public? If a foreign nation were capable of stamping out the Bill of Rights, we would hopefully recognize that as an act of war. But when the puppets and lap-dogs in Washington, DC, actually accomplished this, an ignorant public has believed it was done to “protect” them. No: it was an act of war.
If foreign corporations were able to send American youth, almost exclusively from the lower economic classes, to an illegal and immoral war, in order to secure their economic interests in another nation's natural resources, the American public would certainly recognize that as an act of war. Yet, thousands of American youth have been sent to kill and die in Iraq for Dick Cheney and friends. Former prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi authored a book that advocated prosecuting George W. Bush et al for this crime. In a democracy, such a prosecution would happen. Yet in our nation, Bush and Cheney were not even impeached, showing that our standards of justice had rotted since the Nixon era.
If a foreign nation sent agents to poison our environment, by contaminating the soil, water, and air with deadly toxins that caused serious illnesses and death among the population, we would consider that to be an act of war. But not only are corporations doing exactly that, each andevery day of the year, but the puppets and lap-dogs of the economic elite are proposing to “shut down” the very EPA that Richard Nixon created. This is absolutely an act of war.
If foreign interests were able to come to America and steal millions of jobs, and sneak them out of our country to be placed in overseas locations, we would recognize that as an act of war. Yet when the economic elite does exactly that, we are told that it's “good business,” and that if anyone is at fault, it's a union worker. And a surprising number of Americans are so ignorant that they are unable to see that it is an act of war being done by that economic elite.
Last week, the world was repulsed by the execution of an innocent man in America. For many thinking people, this was connected to the wild applause of republicans during their party's presidential primary debates, when the candidates discussed not only executions, but “allowing” an uninsured human being to die without medical care. For any time there is a passionate group of ignorant people, they must find someone to take the weight for their own collective low level of being. It can be a foreign boogie-man, a domestic minority group, or even their neighbor. But they lack the insight to recognize their real enemies.
Yes, indeed, we are a nation at risk. The actual imperative is for economic, political, and social reform. And that requires the very public education that the economic elite is attempting to deny citizens of this nation. And that really is an act of war.
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