Be Skeptical, Yes, But THINK!

Brain Dropping #45

    Although I admit to an imperfect view of things due to the limitations of my sources of information and my own biases, I do want these ruminations to be taken seriously like a Zen “Koan” – a paradox to be meditated on to bring about intuitive enlightenment!”  That’s just a fancy way of saying that our knowledge of what’s happening in the world is so skewed by the corporate media and “taken-for-granted-assumptions” force fed us in public schools. and more deviously insinuated in the NYT, that we citizens of “The United States of Amnesia” (Gore Vidal) are largely slaves to mendacity.  So, yes I  would love these “half-baked” commentaries to be eaten with skepticism and, at the same time, provoke some non-socially acceptable  thinking.

    A perfect example of such rare insight, that cuts deep into deeply rooted assumptions,is Gerald Horne’s “The Counter Revolution of 1776” which argues that the founding fathers broke away from Britain, not for “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” but to save the enormously profitable slave trade, which the Brits, pressured by William Wilberforce and  other abolitionists, were on the verge of abolishing.  Blacks were favorably disposed to join the British who, for their own nefarious reasons, promised to free the slaves and arm them. In fact, in the war of 1812 there were freed slaves, on the side of the British,who helped in the burning of the capital two years later – something we never learned about in Social Studies. 
     Horne believes that the hypocrisy this nation was founded on, is the root of the on going racism which still permeates our “whiteman’s empire”, both here and abroad, and exemplified by Ferguson, Missouri.  Remember, if we can cut through our historical amnesia,  Toussaint Louverture and Jean Jacque Dessalines were leading the successful Haitian (San Domingo) slave revolution at about the same time the slave owning founding fathers,  were drafting The Constitution which declared blacks to be 3/5ths of a human being. According to letters from Jefferson and others they were “shaking in their boots” over the possibility that the successful Hatian Slave Revolution would inspire American blacks.
     To invoke an old and useful analogy:  Just as the fish is oblivious to the water he swims in, we seem to be unmindful of the ocean of lies and half-truths which are the accepted,widely believed dogmas of American life. 

I Can’t Wait! … A Few Words On “Instant Gratification”

Brain Dropping #44

      Why did the situation in Libya remind me of the fast food industry?  Vijay Prashad on Democracy Now (Wed. Aug. 27,  gives a remarkable account of the utter chaos in that country caused by U.S. and NATO intervention.  I found it just about impossible to follow his description of all the opposing militias, each from another city in, as he terms it,” the archipelago of urban areas surrounded by a sea of desert.”   Since Gaddafi’s death these disparate groups, some secular others Islamist, have been at each others throats.  Mr. Prashad asserts that if given enough time the Gaddafi regime would have been overthrown by native insurgent forces without the wanton destruction by U.S. and NATO forces, leading to the total collapse of social order.
     Just like the rush to “Shock and Awe” in Iraq, by the viciously wrong-headed  crusaders in Washington, the need to achieve our dubious and illegal goals in Libya preempted all rational thought, and once again led us to act precipitously leading to the present bloody jockeying for power by militias of all stripes in Libya, and the continuing sectarian slaughter in Iraq.
     Oh yes, the fast food connection.  In the same way we Americans have little patience at the MacDonald’ s counter, the supermarket checkout lane or on the crowded highway expressed in the form of “road rage”, like the infant, we demand instant gratification of our needs, the instant resolution of international problems via the bombing raid.  Why tolerate the tedious process of diplomacy when we have the capacity to bomb the hell out of people.  We’re very, very good at that.


Brain Dropping #43

       Buying the Boogeyman!  The wily leaders of the U.S. need frightening boogeymen to lure the mass of people into a patriotic frenzy, which impairs rational thinking in the vast majority of us, and leads us to accept the abridgment of our freedoms and the torture, persecution and abuse of ‘alien’ human beings.  As children of fearful and superstitious parents, we were told to behave or the boogeyman will get us.  Think of the blood-thirsty Hun bayonetting Belgian babies!  Think of the slant eyed monkey-like Jap!  Think of the commie ‘gook’ of Vietnam!  Think of the ‘commie-pinko’ fellow traveler blindly following Soviet orders.  And more currently, think of ISIS, or now called the Islamic State – Salafist Islamists – the most extreme of the fundamentalists, having their origins in Saudi Arabian Wahhabism.  22% of Saudis are Wahhabi Sunnis.  They are significant minorities in Qatar and the Arab Emirates and are the main supporters of Islamic terrorism. (SSSSSHHHH! Keep it quiet or they may raise the price of oil.)
     so, it should come as no surprise that Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the Emirates are supplying arms to ISIS and its affiliates to further the overthrow of Bashir Assad, and the establishment of a Sunni Islamic Caliphate in Iraq and Syria.  What should surprise and disturb us is that the United States is aiding and abetting this effort.  Talk about two-faced duplicity in the extreme; at the very time when our military is being pressured to put “boots on the ground” we are supplying ISIS the weapons which will kill those young men and women who fill those boots. Our merchants-of-war are thrilled by the profits.  But wait, this is not new!  We supplied the Mujahadeen with the weaponry to oust the Soviet Union from Afghanistan. Is it our fault that many of those weapons fell into the hands of the Taliban and Al Queda?
     Next time you get a queasy feeling about this murderous double-dealing and the deaths by U.S. weaponry of  the young men and women of the U.S. forces, think of all the jobs it creates in the armament industry – General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Honeywell, Boeing.  We’re simply keeping the boogeyman of unemployment away from our door. 

A little, and more: the mythology of “sustainable growth”

Brain Dropping #41

                      There’s a beautiful Bach Cantata called: “Ich Habe Genug!”  You can hear it on the internet.  In English it’s “I Have Enough!”  It occurred to me while reading “What Every Environmentalist Needs To Know About Capitalism” by Fred Magdorf and John Belamy Foster – an unflinching plea for environmental sanity.  It lays out the fearsome facts about how close we are to being beyond the turning point in the acidification of the oceans, the poisoning of our drinkable water, and even the breathability of our air.
                       “The primary problem is an ancient one and lies not with those who do not have enough for a decent standard of
                         living, but rather with those for whom there is never enough.  Epicurus said that there is no such thing as “enough to
                         someone for whom enough is little.”  A global system organized on the basis of “enough is little” is bound to destroy
                         everything around it and itself as well.”
                     An economic system based on maximizing the bottom line, and the mythology of “sustainable growth,” is surely rushing us all headlong over a cliff.  Neo-Liberal Capitalism, with it’s controlling oligarchs, is unmindful of the destruction it leaves it its wake – from mountain top removal and fracking, both endangering our aquifers which took eons to create, to global warming precipitating the melting of the polar ice caps and the consequent rise of the oceans.  This amoral, money-grubbing pursuit of “more and even more” to overflow their coffers is symptomatic of a dire psychosis.   And the madness is institutionalized by the legal concept of fiduciary responsibility which requires CEOs to maximize the stock value regardless of environmental impacts.  A dramatic example of this  diabolical idea was the chemical spill in Bhopal, India at a Union Carbide subsidiary which killed thousands and injured many more. The CEO of Union Carbide, Warren Anderson was charged with manslaughter in India, and appeared on TV tearfully promising compensation for those affected.  His major shareholders were aghast that he put the concern for the victims over their stock value and threatened to sue him for not fulfilling his “fiduciary responsibility.”  Needless to say neither the manslaughter charge or compensation for the victims was ever acted upon.
                   It is true that so-called “B Corporations” are able to legally consider social well-being among their priorities. But is it a case of too little too late.?

Connect the dots, muthafucka!

Brain Dropping #40

                                         Obscenity  Alert: Contains Unpardonably ‘Filthy’ Language
                                                          For Literary Emphasis.  No Intent To Stir 
                                                          Up Prurient Urges. Ad Hominem Attacks.

         Connect the dots muthafucka!   Dot number One:  Ferguson Missouri! – Dot Number Two:  Small town, mostly white police forces, militarized, by donated DOD weaponry! –  Dot Number Three:  The murder of Michael Brown! –  Dot Number Four:  The obscene disparity in wealth! –  Dot Number Five: The callous neglect of the poor and people of color by the oligarchs, led by Obama!  –  Dot Number Six:  The growing uneasiness of the one percent as the inevitable groundswell of social discontent begins to grow!  –  Dot Number Seven: The gnawing fear among  billionaires that their lies are being exposed and the underclass might rise up!  –  Dot Number Eight:  The brutal expulsion of Occupy Wall Street from Zuccotti Park!  –  Dot Number Nine:  Gestapo-like ‘Stop and Frisk’ put in place by the plutocratic prick, Mayor Miichael Bloomberg of New York! –  Dot Number Ten:  The nation-wide, de-facto resegregation of schools.  –  Dot Number eleven:  The closing of inner city schools and the firing of teachers engineered by Obama’s pals Rahm Emanuel and clueless Education Secretary Arne Duncan! –  Dot Number Twelve:  One-fifth of America’s children living in poverty! –  Dot Number Thirteen:  Institutionalized callousness regarding human life, as exemplified by Obama’s ‘kill list’ and drone murders of American Citizens and innocent families, and his policy of deportation of Central American children escaping the horrors that  American policy put in place!  –  Dot Number Fourteen:  War crimes and  extensive violations of international law, modeling authoritarian lawlessness for domestic police departments! –  Dot Number Fifteen: The unconstitutional violation of privacy and mass surveillance, recalling the Stasi of East Germany! – Dot Number Sixteen:  The persecution of whistle blowing truth-tellers with the courage to confront the bureaucratic liars.
         If you believe that these events happen in isolation and are not symptoms of a systemic condition, then you may be alarmed that by drawing a line through the dots, the resulting image is suggestive of the infamous ‘hakenkreuz’.
          Or, perhaps it’s just a figment of my warped imagination.  I truly hope so!

Al Salzman


Brain Dropping #39

                                                  MARVEL COMICS  presents its new Super Hero – THE REGULATOR!
       Unobtrusively dressed in a dark blue suit and carrying a black leather attache case, THE REGULATOR investigates and punishes wrong-doers in the crime-ridden financial racket.  With his faithful companion and enforcer G-MAN, THE REGULATOR exposes the malfeasance and chicanery so rife in the upper echelons of Big Business.  Among his extraordinary powers is the uncanny ability to detect bullshit and fraudulent book-keeping.   After decades of study in the Mysterious East ,THE REGULATOR has developed the ability to resist the blandishments and corruption to which his many predecessors had succumbed.  In the arcane ritual of the revolving door too many of his past colleagues had made a pact with the devil, allowing scammers and Ponzi schemers to walk away with miniscule fines and no admission of guilt. THE REGULATOR, against great odds, in his never ending battle to protect the small investor and the taxpayer, maintains his independence and integrity against Regulatory Capture by mammoth banks and sinister CEOs holding out the promise of  seven figure jobs and a corner office.
      The forces of evil arrayed against THE REGULATOR are resolute, and their names are legion:  Bank of America, caught red-handed breaking the law  countess times, suffering no prison time and fines written off as the cost of doing business – The Carlyle Group, accused of collusion with other vulture private equity firms to drive down the cost of hostile take-overs, charged a relatively small fine, no one prosecuted. –  Hyundai Corporation, fined a just about invisible $17.4 million for not promptly reporting serious brake problems. –  General Motors fined the maximum allowable penalty of $35 million, yes just $35 million, for not reporting an ignition switch problem for ten years, resulting in 13 deaths, no one prosecuted – A boom in acquisitions and mergers taking place against the best interests of the consumer – Comcast’s bid for Time Warner for instance. –  The burgeoning sub-prime auto loan racket echoing the mortgage loan debacle.  Auto finance crooks are not covered by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau created by Dodd/Frank. You can thank auto industry lobbyists for that.
      Unfortunately, the first paragraph above about THE REGULATOR hero, is a hoped-for daydream – a desperate fantasy borne out of a seemingly irreparable reality.  Looking for a REGULATOR who will buck the system, and expose the conflicts-of-interest of his bosses – a whistle-blower who will stand up against the power of the Oval Office and the submission of the Attorney General, is like looking for that famous needle.  How does all this affect our lives?  I’ll leave you with this news item:  President Obama has appointed Michael Taylor, former VP and head lobbyist for Monsanto, to be a Deputy Commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration.  That swishing sound you hear is the revolving door.  GMOs anybody?

Warning: This contains crude and unseemly language

Brain Dropping #39

     Warning:  This e-mail contains crude and unseemly language which the NYT would never publish.
            Our electoral system is fucked!  The Electoral College system, where the winner of a majority of the popular vote can lose, as per Bush vs. Gore, is not only unwieldy but unfair to the principles of democracy. But what am I saying? – we are not a democracy – we are an auction where the highest bidder for the seat of power gets to rule along with his, or in the case of Hillary, her corporate ‘sugar daddies.’  If that conclusion seems too extreme, it’s evident that you haven’t read the Citizens United or the McCutcheon decision handed down by the malevolent male justices of the U.S. Supreme court.  And the nominees of the ‘Elphadonk Party” are in the hip pocket of Sheldon Adelson, the Koch brothers, Microsoft, Bank of America and their oligarchic ilk.   No wonder more than half the electorate don’t bother to vote.  My own inclination is to write in “None of the Above” in the space for a write-in candidate.  I can see a national movement where “None of the Above” wins the majority of the votes.
          How much more democratic is the system of proportional representation practiced by just about the rest of the world?  In New Zealand. Quebec, Canada, the U.K., Germany and many other countries the structure of their electoral system is based on the idea of “Mixed Membership Proportionality” where smaller parties are awarded parliamentary seats proportionally, according to the percentage of votes garnered.  It works in the parliamentary system to give small, but politically viable groups a voice in governing, with the positive effect of having an opportunity to stir up the usually unnourishing,  glutinous porridge  that passes for the legislative process in the U.S.
          There is another alternative to selecting the folks who rule us which goes back to ancient Athens, supposedly the birthplace of democracy (democracy, at least for those who were not slaves.)  This system is called “Sortitian”(also known as allotment or drawing of lots.)  “In ancient Athenian democracy, sortition was the primary method for appointing officials, and its use was widely regarded as a principal characteristic of democracy.  It is commonly used today to select prospective jurors in common law-based legal systems.”  The Athenians believed sortition to be more democratic than elections and was in opposition to those who supported oligarchy, or rule by the few.  “Sortition is inherently egalitarian in that it ensures all citizens have an equal chance of entering office irrespective of any bias in society.  Compared to a voting system, a citizen-wide lottery for public office lowers the threshold to office.  Ordinary citizens do not have to compete against more powerful or influential adversaries,and those who have pre-existing advantages.” (Shitloads of money.)  Sortition is the solution to entrenched incumbency and the arrogance of power it engenders.
          And most satisfyingly, we can tell the Koch brothers to “Go fuck themselves!” 

38 !

Brain Dropping #38

       “There ain’t nothin’ more powerful than the odor of mendacity!  Didn’t you notice a powerful and obnoxious smell of  
         mendacity in this room?  Mendacity is the system we live in!” 
                                                                          Big Daddy to Brick in Tennessee Williams’ “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.”
     We’ve become a culture of lies, and the best liars rise in power.  We all know that corporations lie through their teeth while looking you in the eye.  The decades of tobacco company lies, under oath before Congress, about the 400,000 to 500,000 smokers who died every year from cigarettes, is a case in point.   Currently the lies of General Motors about that infamous ignition switch, and just yesterday, the lies about fraudulent GM auto loans, are making the headlines.   In the sub-prime mortgage scam the “liars loans” and the securitization of those loans on the stock market led to the 2008 financial debacle pushed along by the flagrant lies of the rating agencies like Standard and Poor’s, Fitch and Moodys – giving AAA ratings to junk bonds.   Lying is institutionalized by corporate law which demands that CEOs lie to protect the bottom line.  Any truth-telling about corporate malfeasance in polluting the environment, or jeopardizing the health of workers is in violation of the CEO’s ‘fiduciary responsibility’ to enhance the bottom line for investors. 
     So lets extrapolate from the overwhelming evidence that the “lie” is the meat and potatoes of corporate governance: Since almost all of our news sources, print and electronic media, are controlled by corporations it is not a stretch to believe that , on a daily basis, the same foul meat and potatoes are being stuffed down our throats.  Forget about your local radio or TV affiliate – that’s just bubble gum for the ears with strong emphasis on “if it bleeds it leads,” and local high school football scores.  Even the most prestigious national news sources like “60 Minutes” , The New York Times , The Washington Post, NPR  are, like all children of the mercenary corporate culture, licking their plates clean to please their ‘big daddies.’  Historically, even the iconic newsman-truth-teller  Edward R. Murrow, was driven out of broadcasting for refusing to sit silently at the table. (See “935 Lies – The Future of Truth and the Decline of America’s Moral Integrity” by Charles Lewis))   All this odorous mendacity has created the cesspool of lies – Fox News. 
      Logically, since we are a virtual ‘ corporatocracy’,  where big business has bought and paid for our political system (See Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions)   Today the fearless newsman I.F. Stone’s often quoted statement is even more credible: “All governments lie!”  And lie they do!    “I am not a crook!” – “The United States does not engage in torture” –  “We did not sell arms to Iran to support the contras!” – ” We had nothing to do with the overthrow and murder of Chile’s President Allende!” –  “We did not collect the phone calls and e-mails of American citizens!” – “North Vietamese torpedo boats attacked American destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin!” –  “Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction!” –  “Iraq will be a slam dunk!” –  “Saddam supported Al Queda!” –  “In this vial I’m holding is the proof that Iraq has stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons!” – “Edward Snowden is a traitor!” –  “No one under the Affordable Care Act will have to change their doctor!”  And finally the ultra act of chutzpah in telling the big lie, this statement by Barack Obama:  “We have seen daring men and women risk their lives for the simple idea that no one should be silenced, and everyone deserves to know the truth!” 
        In my minds eye I can see Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Thomas Drake, William Binney, James Risen, Barrett Brown, Glenn Greenwald and all the other courageous whistle blowers who Obama has persecuted, more than any other President in history, looking aghast at the sheer mendacity of the man.  The pants are not only on fire but many pairs have been reduced to ashes.

BD 37

Brain Dropping #37

     The German word for it is ‘schadenfreude’ – the joy of seeing someone else suffer.   It is a detestable form of gratification borne out of a lack of empathy.    How else could you describe the heartlessness of the Republican goons for their treatment of Central American children, particularly of Hondurans seeking asylum  in the U.S. to escape brutality and murder.  And isn’t it  a case of schadenfreude when our leaders like Obama celebrate the killing, without due process, of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki and his sixteen year old son?  “Look what a tough son-of-a-bitch I am!” is Obama’s implied message to the Republican loonies who consider him a chickenshit.  It amounts to murder for the joy of ego gratification.   Schadenfreude, the absence of empathy, is in the air when black children are denied their birthright for a decent place to live and an education, or when businessmen support laws against panhandling and the homeless sleeping in doorways in an effort to “clean up our streets.”  How did the writer Anatole France put it?  “The law in all its majesty makes it a crime for both the rich and poor to steal bread and to sleep under bridges.”
     From schadenfreude comes moral paralysis – the anomie of denial, the breakdown of the social bond between the individual and the human community leaving the gap to be filled by propaganda promulgated in the compliant media by the power elite.  The celebratory atmosphere during “Shock and Awe,” in the opening attack of the Iraq war, is schadenfreude over the edge and into the abyss of depravity.  In the same black hole lie our drone attacks against wedding parties and other innocent people suspected of being terrorists.  Listen to the infamous recordings of the machine gunners, joyfully whooping it up, in the Apache helicopter gun ship that mowed down innocent reporters and others in Baghdad in 2007 – and then murdered the people who came to their rescue.  It is the twisted spirit of schadenfreude, the diabolical joy in seeing others suffer.

Al Salzman

Brain Dropping # 36

Brain Dropping #35

     Technology to the rescue!  A counterpart to Richard Dawkins’ “God Delusion” is the “Technology Delusion” – the misguided idea that, like the U.S. Cavalry in those hackneyed Western movies, technology will win the day.  That humankind’s stupidity, cupidity and self-destructive short sightedness will be made right  by more sophisticated machines.  These good folks, wearing rose-colored glasses, point to the development of new and more efficient pharmaceuticals to combat disease,  non-fossil fuel alternatives for energy production, the defensive structures built by England and The Netherlands to hold back the sea, rising because of global warming, de-salinization of sea water for drinking water, and, of course, IT – Information technology, the instrument of the collective nervous system, feverishly working it’s electronic neurons to come up with new ideas to save our asses from the “Sixth Extinction.”
     One machine alone could possibly end it all – the “mighty automobile.”  The insatiable needs of the ‘gas guzzling horseless carriage’ so useful for the mass mobility of billions around the planet, is the greatest cause of  social dislocation and environmental decay in the history of humankind.  From ‘fracking’  jeopardizing  fresh water aquifers, to green-house gas emissions, to the paving over of vital agricultural land,  this grotesque machine, without which my own rural life would be untenable, rolls over every other human priority.  
     As I see it the machine, or computer, is a non-aligned entity in that it doesn’t take sides and, Isaac Asimov’s “I Robot” notwithstanding, has no consciousness – ergo ‘moral code’.  It is a hand tool of the human brain which biologically speaking is still in it’s infancy in the development of the frontal lobes where reside logic and rationality. (See “The Biology of Transcendence – A Blueprint of the Human Spirit” by Joseph Chilton Pearce).  The human species is largely still in it’s reptilian, ‘fight or flee’ mode of development, typified by the American Empire, among other examples of mindless belligerence, and no technological ‘philosopher stone’  will change dross into gold.