Brain Dropping # 11

Brain Dropping #11

The baseball paradigm.  As George Carlin brilliantly put it: “Baseball is a pastoral game where the object is to be safe at home.”
Baseball provides us with other vivid parallels to life in the world off the playing field.  As a defensive strategy teams are reviving the fielding “shift” used with mixed success, fifty years ago, against Boston’s ‘splendid splinter’, lefty Ted Williams, who almost always pulled to right field.  So the left fielder would be in centerfield, the short stop between first and second base, the third baseman in the shortstop’s position – third base and left field were unattended.  It was a gamble.  What if Williams secretly developed the ability to punch the ball into the opposite field? Nah! He would never do that because he always swung for the fences, or in Fenway, ‘The Green Monster’.  He would never have been satisfied with a ‘Texas Leaguer’ slap into left field.
American corporations are becoming ‘shifty’ in a similar way to avoid being hit with having to pay their taxes.  The current example is the humongous pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer.  The good, loyal Americans among Pfizer’s management,  to avoid paying American corporate taxes,  are shifting not from left field to right field – but right out of the country to the U.K.  By buying the London based AstraZeneca drug corporation Pfizer can execute what is termed a ‘tax inversion’ – shifting their tax liability to the U.K. which has a more favorable (meaning much less) corporate tax – less revenue for our government and the loss of thousands of jobs. This is just one of the many arcane loop-holes in the U.S. tax code which allows the fat-cats to fix the game.  Michigan Senator Carl Levin has expressed outrage and has vowed to pass legislation to level the playing field.  But, alas, don’t hold your breath, this is Washington D.C. where just about everybody is throwing the game.   A game which makes you and me, dear ordinary tax payer, the losers and less-than-safe at home. 

Brain Dropping # 10

Brain Dropping #10

It occurred to me while watching an old black and white video – of a performance of Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastic” by the Boston Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Charles Munch – what a long way we’ve come from the sixties.  The performance was thrilling, but I couldn’t help noticing that there were only three women in this ensemble of over one hundred, a harpist, a flutist and a cellist. And I recalled that, during this same decade, the members of the exclusively male Berlin Philharmonic went on strike to block the admission of women to their ranks.

In the puritanical, misogynistic United States, we may be entering a new period of quasi-fascism, what with the egregious NDAA allowing the military to scoop you up and hold you incommunicado indefinitely, the murder by drone of American citizens without due process ( giving one man a monarch’s power of life and death), bankers and corporations cheating and stealing with impunity, and the lunatic right-wing becoming even more insane by the day – but on the cultural front amazing things are happening that were undreamed of three decades ago.  There is a growing number of women in political office and a few cracks in the corporate ‘glass ceiling, decriminalization and legalization of marijuana,  general acceptance and legal codification of gay marriage, growing empowerment of the LGBTQ community, wide spread use, in certain media, of George Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can’t Say On T,V.” the very words that got Lenny Bruce arrested, the first black President of the United States of America, and symphony orchestras where women are fully represented.

What’s going on?  How could these two divergent streams be at the flood at the same time?  Like Rome, is the American Empire, entering a critical period of decay and putrefaction?  Or more hopefully, is there a growing consciousness of the palpable hypocrisy of our leadership, our system of governance, of the compelling need for alternative ways of structuring human society.  

Al Salzman

Brain Dropping #8 

                 I witnessed big doings yesterday, May 8, in Montpelier, Vermont.  Governor Peter Shumlin signed into law the GMO Labeling Act so that Vermonters can have an informed choice as to what to ingest.  We label sugar content, calories, fats etc. etc. so why not ‘test tube food?’  This legislation is historic and can be considered a shot across the bow of the corporate garbage scow.  Without doubt the food-industry-money–grubbers will not go down without a fight.  The American Grocers Association and Monsanto are threatening legal action based on interstate commerce laws and other bullshit, to protect what they see as their right to pollute our gut with frankenfood.  A fundraising website has been created by Vermont to solicit contributions to what is called “The Vermont Food Fight Fund” to help defray the legal costs.  Google it and contribute if you care to, for after all, Vermont’s fight is your fight too.  If Vermont succeeds can the ‘tipping point’ be too far ahead?
                Leaving myself open to a law suit from the phony food industry I will list the companies whose products which are reported to be certified GMO free: Butterworks yogurt – Lakewood Juice – Endangered Species chocolate – Barbara’;s Dorset cereal – Bragg condiments – Eden pasta sauce – Natures Path snacks – Amy’s Kitchen soups – Organic Valley dairy – Trueroots/Lundberg grain -Once Again peanut butter – Soy Boy soy.
                On the other hand, here are the NO-NOs:  Breyers – Ocean Spray – Nestle – General Mills – Heinz – Hunt’s Ragu – Kraft -Jello – Campbell’s – Land O’Lakes – Stovetop Stuffing – Planter’s – Morningstar – Dole.

                And finally, here are companies who were against labeling: Horizon Organic – Knudsen Juices – Dagoba – Kashi – Hain – Muir Glen – Di Boles – Sara Lee – Imagine – Garelick Farms – Smuckers – Boca – Cascadian Farms.

Al Salzman


Brain Dropping # 7

We’re on the slippery slope to fascism.  Exaggeration?  You tell me:

The U.S. Supreme court has refused to hear a case arguing  against Section 1021 (B) (2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which permits the military to seize U.S. citizens on U.S. soil and hold them indefinitely in detention centers without due process.  Without due process means incommunicado – no contact with a lawyer – no phone call to family – no appearance before a judge.  It also means ‘extraordinary rendition’ or more honestly known as “kidnapping”, is presently legal.

This decision by the Supreme Court from another planet, abrogates The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 which limits the power of the Federal Government in using military personnel to enforce the law.  98% of Americans polled are against this section of the NDAA.  Implementing Section 1021 (B) (2) means, dear citizen, that you can be disappeared into a military run black prison site indefinitely. If this isn’t fascism then it is perilously close to it.

But we haven’t lost all of our rights under the Constitution – we have the right to keep our mouths shut and the freedom to remain fearfully anonymous.  

Al Salzman

BD # 6

Brain Dropping #6:

  “The law is a ass – a idiot!”  So said Mr. Bumble in Dickens’ “Oliver Twist.”  Was he ever right!  Most laws, including The Bill of Rights are not worth the paper they are written on without the mass of citizens, insisting with robust protest ,that the powers-that-be obey them fairly and without prejudice.

 Examples of the law as an ass – as an idiot, abound.  Mr. Bumble would certainly recognize that our Attorney General Eric Holder is an ass.  Mr. Holder has publicly admitted that we have a two-tiered system of justice – one for Wall Street crooks and one for the rest of us.  He has said that the Justice Department doesn’t dare prosecute the  mafia bankers for fear that the economy might collapse. And HSBC, a New York based corporate bank, caught red-handed laundering 800 million in drug cartel money, was fined a proportionately small fine, and given ‘a kiss on the cheek’ by Mr. Holder, while a Louisiana African American caught with two joints  was given a sentence of  sixteen years.

Despite Mr. Bumble’s 19th century perspective he would clearly see that the Supreme Court’s “Citizen’s United” decision followed by “McCutcheon”, equating money with speech and allowing unlimited amount of bribes, is idiotic.    It gives the very wealthy overwhelming power, and leads to the subversion of what little democracy we have.  Finally, those of us who still feel naively secure about the United States being a lawful society, should visit Guantanamo, or ask some of the young black men who were unconstitutionally ‘stopped and frisked’ by the NYPD, what they think.  Mr. Bumble would be appalled and would have to find harsher words than “The law is a ass – a idiot” to describe how truly lawless we are as a society.

Brain Dropping # 5

Today is the anniversary of the murder of four students at Kent State University of Ohio in 1970 by the          
 National Guard.

 Commentators talk about the ‘tragedy.’  No! It was not a tragedy – it was cold-blooded murder and no one was held accountable.

The original Greek idea of ‘tragedy’ concerned someone in power who unwittingly contributes to his own demise – the so-called ‘fatal flaw.’  Oedipus unknowingly killing his father is the iconic example.  The pusillanimous talking heads of the media use language, like the word ‘tragic’, to disguise moral responsibility by implying that it was an act of the gods or some other vague entity.

Vietnam was not a ‘tragedy’ but the murder of millions on the part of the United States, and to this day no one has been held responsible.

The militarization of municipal police departments with cast-off DOD equipment is a planned extension
of the National Guard’s  murderous attack to keep dissent suppressed as the gross inequities in our society become more egregious.

Obama’s immoral drone murders and assassinations without due process is, again, the consequential extension of “Four Dead in Ohio.”

If we, as citizens of this rogue nation, are going to be galvanized to act against these brutal forces, we must stop using the vocabulary of denial.

Al Salzman  May 4, 2014

Brain Dropping # 4

What’s going on with this business of political dynasties? – The Cuomo Dynasty, the Clinton Dynasty, the Bush Dynasty. What’s next after President Hillary Clinton – President Chelsea?  And now that Chris Christie has been hoist on his own petard from the George Washington Bridge, a third Bush, Jeb is waiting in the wings to be crowned.  We have to go way back to the Adamses, John and John Quincy for another example.

 It seems that not only is our society being increasingly controlled by inherited wealth (see  Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the 21st Century”) but now we have the inheritance of power based more on name recognition than any outstanding ability to govern. There’re the Browns of California and the Romneys of Michigan, although admittedly Governor Jerry Brown of California seems to be doing a better job than most.  Is this trend an indication that unconsciously, Americans long for a monarchy, with all it’s resplendent, Disneyesque trappings – tiaras, red sashes, gold epaulettes, bejeweled scepters, just like the Brits?  Wow!

Think of the coronation at the pyrotechnic, half-time show at the SuperBowl with a chorus of hip-hoppers chanting “Long Live The Prez /  hope he does what he sez / We believed in his pitch / He gonna soak the rich / He’ll cut the Wall Street mob / So’s I can have a job /  Now he’s in the door / He’ll do something for the poor!  Maybe it aint “Land Of Hope and Glory” but it has panache.

Brain Dropping #3

Brain Dropping #3  –  Here are some thought experiments that might jar your mind.

                                      1- Imagine that the Nevada dead beat cattle rancher and arch-racist Cliven Bundy was black, and that his
                                           gun-toting militia friends were all black – can you see it in your mind’s eye?  Good!  What is your very first
                                          thought about the possibility of the government Bureau of Land Management backing off from enforcing
                                          the grazing laws and allowing these wingnuts to prevail?

                                      2- Strain yourself a little and imagine Saudi Arabia without any oil – doesn’t have any – never did.  Do you
                                           think, on the day after fifteen Saudis and four others destroyed the World Trade towers, that the only
                                           planes which would be allowed to fly  took Saudis, including members of the Bin Laden family safely out
                                          of the country.

                                      3- With a little more mental exertion, imagine how long New York’s ‘Stop and Frisk’ strategy would have
                                           lasted if it included 5th and Park Avenues, and the Plaza in front of the Metropolitan Opera House.

                                      4- Finally can you imagine that CIA Director John Brennan, on a secret visit to Kiev in Ukraine, did
                                           absolutely nothing to stir up the insurgency against the democratically elected government, and was
                                          there as a tourist to buy vodka?

Brain Dropping #2

The human species’ ability to compartmentalize behavior never ceases to astonish.  European outrage at the botched execution, by lethal injection,  in  Oklahoma of Clayton D. Lockett, suffering for forty three minutes before his heart finally stopped, rightly declared capital punishment to be barbaric and reveals the United States to be a morally brutal society.  Certainly, after the millions murdered and poisoned in Vietnam, the hundreds of thousands killed in Iraq at the whim of a dimwitted President, the failed conquest of Afghanistan – there can be no doubt of our cruelty.  Javier Garvich, making comment on the Spanish website of El Pais, wrote that “if this happened in Cuba or North Korea, the United Nations would seek international sanctions.” Robert Badinter, a former minister of justice who was instrumental in banning the death penalty in France in 1981, denounced “methods that are even more barbaric than ordinary barbarism.”  But at least Mr. Lockett was convicted of shooting a woman and burying her alive so those seeking biblical retribution have room to argue.  But  where is European outrage, and American outrage for that matter, directed at Barak Obama for executing without trail, or pretense of due process, Anwar Al-Awlaki, an American citizen and his sixteen year old son Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki.  If the callous politicos of Oklahoma are guilty of barbarism, then President Barak Obama, to his shame, must wear the title of “Barbarian-in-Chief.”