The real question: Why bother stodge? YOLO, man, Yolo! /s

Brain Dropping #75

      STODGING. Definition: An old Vermont localism meaning to make do – to repair things with materials at 
                           hand rather than buying a replacement.   To fix things temporarily, permanently, possibly 
                           with duct tape.
                If stodging became a universal imperative it might very well save the planet by reducing consumerism and the contingent exponential growth of CO2 emissions.  Will it ever happen?  It’s a tough one!  The rich countries, also known as the developed, industrialized societies, have for so long been subsidized by the misery of the “Third World” that we have come to consider our affluence and our habit of colossal wastefulness as our birth-right.  Which politician would have the courage to confront his constituents with the accusation that we are shitting where we eat.
               And so we go our moronic, merry way talking about “cap and trade,” or salting the oceans with iron to increase the proliferation of carbon absorbing algae,  or putting huge white shields in orbit around the earth to reflect the heat of the sun, or planting fast growing, genetically modified trees to take in more CO2, or revivifying our depleted top soil as a CO2 sink,  or building a new generation of nuclear power plants which prayerfully would avoid a repeat of the Fukishima Dai Ishi disaster.
               The developing world has every right to insist that their carbon footprint is necessary for them to pull themselves out of poverty in an attempt to level the economic playing field.  It is a case of the pot calling the kettle black for the United States to chastise China for its toxic emissions when we are by far the main customers for the plethora of cheap products coming from factories that bear a close resemblance to labor concentration camps.  Even here in Vermont, when WalMart wanted to open yet another cornucopia of kitch from the People’s Republic the support was overwhelming from those whose stodging skills have long fallen into disuse.  Just thinking about the stuff I’ve taken to the Northwest Solid Waste depot makes me blush.
               For those techno-nuts who fervently believe that technology will take care of it all, here is an excerpt from“What Every Environmentalist Needs To Know About Capitalism” by Fred Magdorff and John Bellamy Foster:
               “To give some idea of the incredible effort needed to keep global warming to only 2 degrees centigrade (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) simply by technical means, about 80% of all the energy used in the world
(13 trillion watts) would need to be replaced by CO2 neutral technologies. This would require building: A hundred square meters of new solar cells, fifty square meters of new solar-thermal reflectors, and one Olympic swimming pool’s volume of genetically engineered algae(for biofuels) every second for the next twenty-five years; one three-hundred-foot-diameter wind turbine every five minutes; one hundred-megawatt geothermal powered steam turbine every eight hours; and one three gigawatt nuclear power plant every week.” 
                No amount of duct tape could stodge that problem.

Glug, glug, glug – the health of so many children goes down the drain…

Brain Dropping #74

     Human Rights and Water.  “Water, water, every where
                                                 And all the boards did shrink;
                                                 Water, water, every where
                                                 Nor any drop to drink.”
             Samuel Taylor Coleridge could just as well have been talking about Detroit, Michigan where 27,000 people have had their water cut off – a situation which has been declared by two United Nations rapporteurs (investigators) to be a violation of Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
             Most of us are aware of the dire straits of the ‘Motor City’ in deep decline since being abandoned by the automotive industry.  Several hundred thousand houses have been abandoned and the city has filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 9 of the bankruptcy law.  The situation is so bad that the appointed Emergency Manager is under pressure to sell off valuable paintings from the prestigious Detroit Fine Art Museum.
             Most of Detroit’s water comes from Lake Huron and the city government is considering privatizing the water system by leasing it for fifty million dollars a year.  It comes as no surprise that this move is supported by the “Obomber” administration.  The unconscionable act of cutting off water to families with children is just another inhumane extension of the bottom-line madness of our “financialized” society where the bankers and the finance industry rule.
            The tragic fact that cutting the water supply has the greatest impact on infants and children doesn’t cut any ice with the powers that be.  After all, among the United State’s most egregious inanities is the failure to ratify the United Nation’s Convention On The Rights Of Children – we have signed it but it does not have the power of law unless it is ratified by 2/3 of the U.S. Senate.  For decades it has been held up by Right-Wingers in the Senate for fear that it will jeopardize our sovereignty and undermine the authority of parents to use corporal punishment in bringing up their children – or, apparently, the government of Detroit to deny them drinking water.  We have distinguished ourselves by being one of the only two countries who have not ratified the convention – Somalia being the other.  We are, indeed, exceptional! 

Go ahead, call me on this

Brain Dropping #73

        The Chain Of Culpability.  Breaking news:  “A Federal jury has returned guilty verdicts against four
Blackwater operatives involved in the 2007 massacre of 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square. Nicholas
Slatten was found guilty of first degree murder. The three other guards were convicted of voluntary manslaughter. The possible sentences range from thirty years to life.”
  And so the small-fry pay the price while the big fish swim free.
        If indeed we were truly a nation of law, the breaking news would read:  “George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Barak Obama, almost all the craven members of Congress, plus The New York Times editors, The Washington Post editors, the rest of the chickenshit media, and a significant percentage of the gullible American people, were found guilty by a jury of their peers of being accessories before and after the fact in the indiscriminate slaughter of Iraqi and Afghani citizens. Good people allowed the triumph of evil by doing nothing.  The judge, in charging the jury before the verdict, showed remarkable courage, putting his career on the line by stating: “There is a chain of culpability. These four men reflect a culture of irrational violence and contempt for the rule of law condoned by powerful people. Don’t be guided by the deference paid to people in high office – people who seem to be above the fray.  Be sure to connect the dots of responsibility and deliberate on decisions made in the halls of power which sow the seeds of murder by violating international law against torture and the bombardment of women and children.  I urge you to be mindful of the fact that though these men wantonly killed seventeen innocent civilians,  the decisions of their superiors led to the murder of hundreds of thousands.”

Your exam results are ready

Brain Dropping #72

        Synecdoche.  Definition:  Where a part stands for the whole as in “the arm of the law.”
        Metaphor.       Definition: A figure of speech which is the same as  another unrelated subject.
        THE BODY POLITIC.    “Doctor, we the people who live and work within The Body Politic and depend on it for a life of decency and well-being, are alarmed at how morose and sickly it has become.  It is sullen, secretive and masochistic, inflicting bodily harm on it’s own person.   We ask you to undertake a thorough physical and mental examination.  We will await your diagnosis.”
                     ” Well, good people, after exhaustive testing and examination of The Body Politic, I will share my findings with you. The salient symptoms are indeed alarming!  To begin with – hardening of the arteries causing serious blockages of the flow of information, lesions on the brain causing delusions of grandeur, severe myopia  complicated by tunnel-vision,  self-inflicted cuts on vital body parts, swelling of the tongue making speech almost incomprehensible, accompanied by foul breath from ingesting dead food and pathogen infected water.  In the psychological area we found recurring outbursts of paranoia manifesting in turbulent violence against others and fantasies of threat and danger. And most alarming, lashing out at poor children who are seen as dispensable.
                     “If you look at these X-Rays and Magnetic Resonance Images, you can see the deterioration of  the frontal lobes, the seat of rational thinking, cognition and principles of right and wrong.  We tested synaptic activity and found a serious impairment which incapacitates the ability to make logical decisions and to act  upon them.  The subject was found to have a morbid pre-occupation with being exceptional, accommodating even the most ludicrous points of view to prove superiority.  The resulting cognitive dissonance often causes a semi-comatose state which is difficult to penetrate.  We have discovered that loud alarming noises and shouts of imminent harm leading to war, particularly against brown people, can have a therapeutic effect.. But, in this hyper-alert state The Body Politic is often driven to barbaric acts,and a strait-jacket and a padded room are called for to avoid injury.  I fear all this hatefulness and combative behavior may drive the psyche of The Body Politic into a state of  irretrievable insanity.  To be honest, the prognosis for  is troublesome in the extreme! “

All creatures, great and … no wait a minute…

Brain Dropping #71

     Persistence.  We have a squirrel, or should we say the squirrel has us.   Our homemade bird feeder is quite the construction –  a large saltine cracker tin becomes a hopper with a hole punched in the lower edge to allow the black oiled sunflower seeds to flow out as the birds feed.  With the aid of a rod through the center, it is perched on an inverted galvanized lid of a metal garbage can which serves  as a large tray for an avian “piazza del popolo.”  We’ve seen as many as  six different species feeding together peacefully without any sense of threat – a White Bellied Nuthatch, a Brown Bellied Nuthatch, a Slate Colored Junco, a Purple Finch, a Gold Finch and the inevitable Chickadee. Conflict is certain  when a second member of the same species intrudes.  It becomes internecine warfare with ferociously beating wings and loop-de-loop maneuvers.   Our observations gives the award for unrelenting belligerence to the female Purple Finch.
           The feeder hangs from an inverted “L” shaped length of half inch steel electrical conduit – a three quarter inch piece of galvanized iron pipe driven three feet into the ground allows the conduit to slip into it to hold it upright.  It also allows the whole apparatus to swivel.
           So, that describes the court on which the game is played.  The birds are only incidental to the game and make themselves scarce when the competition begins.
           This time of year, October 18th,  “When yellow leaves or few, or none / do hang upon the boughs which shake against the cold….”  squirrels and chipmunks bend obsessively to the task of gathering and storing nuts and seeds.  Setting traps baited with rancid peanut butter is a must to thwart the in-migration of mice to warm, dark corners of the house.  But of all the adversaries, it is the maniacal Gray Squirrel who challenges our patience and ingenuity – not once or twice – but forever, or so it seems.  It goes without saying that bolted halfway up the pole, a few feet below the feeder, we have a “Squirrel Baffle” looking like a Chinese peasant hat. It is essentially the same apparatus used on the mooring hawser of a ship to discourage rats from doing a tight-rope act onto the deck. To further discourage the “Sciurus Carolinensis” (Google) Gail has slathered a concoction of Cayenne pepper and Petroleum Jelly onto the pole as a repellent.  The Squirrels seem to consider it a condiment.
           Sitting at our breakfast table we hear a scampering on our roof and then……THE SQUIRREL – we know it intimately by now – in a ten foot Kamikaze leap of fur and blazing tail, lands on the horizontal bend of the conduit and onto the feeder.  I rush out and scare him off.  And so, a repetitive dance begins time and time again – sitting at table – scampering on roof – prodigious leap –  running out the door with wild shouting and hand clapping.  We sit and plan wildly impractical deterrents.  Wired sheets of sharp-edge aluminum flashing, placed to obscure the pole, are battered out of the way by the furry missile.  He did fall once and we caught our breath, perversely hoping he wasn’t injured.  This morning we rigged an old fashioned wooden rat trap with a powerful spring – American made in Lititz Pa.- onto the horizontal bar.  You know, the kind that is scary to set and makes you jump when you accidentally trigger it.  He knows this trap well for he has avoided it for weeks. But will he initiate the leap from the roof before he realizes his mistake?  It’s been eight hours now and no sign of him.  We can only wait!

Blowing my own Horn

Brain Dropping #70

      Blowing My Own Horn.    I’m famous in a very modest way – a small fish in a smaller pond.  That pond is called St. Albans, Vermont where for eighteen years I taught art at St. Albans City School to children from K through 8th Grade.  Frequently these days, walking into Hannaford’s Super Market earnestly pushing a shopping cart, I hear my name called and I turn to face a young man or woman in their late twenties or early thirties.  “Mr. Salzman, I had you for art in the Third Grade!” – they’d say – or the Fifth, Sixth or Seventh Grade.  “Do you remember me? I’m ____________(fill in the name).  I’m honest enough to admit that most of the time I don’t remember them, for after all they are a foot taller with most of their baby fat  gone.  I always ask the same question of them: “Did you have fun in the art room?”- knowing full well that the tedium of the teach-to-the-test academic classroom couldn’t hold a candle to squishy terra cotta clay.  Often they mention the “story-telling-ladder” as being among their favorite memories.  To introduce an art project I  would often use a six foot wooden ladder as a pulpit to tell a story about a famous painter, say Michelangelo and his back and forth with Pope Julius II over the Sistine Chapel: “Buonarroti,when will it be done?”  “When it is done Pope!!”  Or, in introducing the use of charcoal to a Fourth Grade class, I would mount the ladder and tell the story of Ulla the little cave girl who stumbled upon  a tree hit by lightening and in one fell swoop discovered fire and charcoal. Soon, she and her clan for the first time ate cooked meat, had light after the sun went down, warmed themselves during the prehistoric winter, and decorated their cave walls with marvelous murals of bison, mammoths, saber-tooth-tigers and other wild things that go bump in the night.  Ulla, the cave girl was “The First Artist!”  I’ve actually done a children’s book about Ulla and her friend Urik called “The First Artist.”
      I’ve brought all this up because of what happened a few hours ago when Gail and I went out to eat at the “One Federal St.” restaurant in St. Albans.  The Waitress taking our order looked at me in a funny way and asked: “Didn’t you teach art at City School?”  We did our little reminiscence and she left with our order.  In a few minutes she returned with a colleague – another former art student.  On our way out after paying for our dinner, the hostess gave me a big smile and confessed to being yet another of the apparently legions of my former art students from St. Albans City School.  Three admirers in one evening!  Ahhh, fame!  Gail and I chuckled all the way to the car.
      Now, most teachers don’t like the idea of living in the community where they teach.  They feel it infringes on their privacy, or, in the case of a failed, disgruntled math student may lead to shouted threats in the street, or toilet paper on the Lilac bush, but I have always gotten a charge out of meeting a six foot four linebacker of an adult on Main Street, who, looking down at me and in a bass voce reminds me of the fun he had in the Fifth Grade in the art room at St. Albans City School.

You gotta read !

Brain Dropping #69

     Book Review.   Two books have gripped my interest this past week,  Glenn Greenwald’s “No Place To Hide”- a page-turning account of the events leading up to Edward Snowden’s revelations about the illegal practices of the NSA in gathering metadata on American citizens, and the consequent  repercussions for press freedom in the U.S.  The shameless dishonesty of the so-called main-stream media – no! strike that – the craven corporate media, will make you weep with indignation.  Greenwald’s narrative strongly confirms the ass-licking compliance  of guys like David Gregory of “Meet The Press”, Bob Shieffer of “Face The Nation” and Bill Keller of the New York Times to the dictates of oppressive power.  Seymour Hersh, the great investigative journalist who exposed the My Lai massacre and Abu Ghraib put it this way:  “The administration lies systematically yet none of the leviathans of American media pose a challenge.  Chickenshit editors and journalists are ruining the profession.”
  President Obomber’s maniacal crusade against press freedom, aided and abetted by his spineless Attorney General Eric Holder reveals the pernicious liar that he is. (Remember his campaign promise to make his administration the most transparent in the history of the country?  Find it by googling – it will make you cringe from the audacity of his mendacity.)  The shocking conformity of our representatives in Congress in rationalizing NSA’s unconstitutional crimes points up the depravity of people holding pitifully onto their power.  Senator Diane Feinstein of California chides Americans for being so protective of their privacy.  But when asked by a skeptical reporter for her personal information- her credit card number, her cell phone number, her pin number Ms.. Feinstein ran quickly in the other direction.
     The other book deals with another form of malfeasance and greed – “The Untold Story Of Milk” by Ron 
 Schmid.  At the root of it is an argument on behalf of the nutritive value of unpasteurized or raw milk and meat from organically raised, grass fed animals – how industrialized agriculture has adversely affected our health.   In the pasteurization of milk and the processing of other industrialized foods, enzymes critical to the absorption of nutrients are destroyed. The potency of these enzymes has been scientifically established, and in years past raw milk was used therapeutically in the treatment of diseases.   It is more than a sales pitch, it is an anthropological journey over millennia about the inextricable relationship between civilizations and the domesticated milk-giving cow and the alchemy which occurs when the ruminant grazes on lush, rich grass.  From the Inuit of the Arctic, the invading Mongols, to the Masai of East Africa, the story reads like A Paul Theroux travel adventure.
     We are in the midst of a nutritional famine because of food we eat grown in soil made dead by herbicides and insecticides. The price we pay as a society is measured by the explosion of critical health issues from childhood to the grave.   This is a book which can rightly be called “life changing.” 

Ack! A Whistleblower!

Brain Dropping #68

     Apology and Addendum.   In my last Brain Dropping I listed some of the whistle blowers who deserve our deepest admiration and gratitude for risking their freedom, their jobs and their lives to keep our civil liberties from being trampled under the iron heel of insane leaders and their henchmen.  I want to add two more, William Binney, a career officer at the NSA who became aware of the illegal data mining of that agency in 2004, in violation of the Constitution, and resigned rather than play the dirty game.   And Diane Roark, who attempted to bring what was going on to the attention of members of Congress but was rebuffed by the Chairpersons of both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. Her house was raided and she and her family were physically threatened by the Red, White and Blue Gestapo. (FBI, CIA, NSA). 
    If you still believe that calling the Bush/Obama cabal insane is a bit much please listen to the account of NYT  investigative reporter James Risen in this interview.  Mr. Risen was first subpoenaed by the Bush administration and hoped that when Obama was elected he would honor his pre-election promise for greater transparency and freedom of the press – he lied ,of course!  He even raised the stakes against those patriots who blow the whistle and the reporters who expose the kleptomaniacs in Congress and those who exploit the ‘war-on-terror’ to fill their pockets.  Mr. Risen faces jail time from the Obama administration for not revealing his sources in exposing the corruption and downright madness in the ‘war on terror’.  He asserts that President Barak Obomber will go down in history as “The greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation.  A major part of his legacy will be trying to erode press freedom.”  click here to document how close we’ve moved toward the Stasi of East Germany, or the Nazi suppression of civil liberties for that matter. 

Yes, there’s hope – I see it everywhere!

Brian Dropping #67

     Hope?  No, not Obama’s lying, deceitful hope put out there to sucker the electorate, but honest-to-goodness
1- Malala Yousafzai, the youngest person ever to be awarded The Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts on behalf of women’s rights in Pakistan.  She was wounded by the Taliban, but at seventeen years of age, has shown enormous courage in the face of threatened violence.  She is also quoted as saying that Socialism is the only solution.  Perhaps in awarding her the prize the Nobel Committee is trying to atone for giving the peace prize to perhaps the least deserving recipient in recent history – President Barak Obomber. 
 2- Then there’s Seattle’s City Councilwoman Kshama Sawant another professed Socialist, elected by the will of the people to oppose the agenda of the oligarchs.
3- The mass demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri in support of justice for Michael Brown, gunned down by a white police officer two months ago, even though, according to witnesses he had his hands up. The aquittal of the murderer of Travon Martin seems to have unleashed a spate of similar murders. 
4- Vermont’s GMO labeling law – a victory for people’s right to know what’s in their food, and a blow against Monsanto and the American Grocers Association and their extortionate threats to sue the state. 
 5- The movement in New Mexico to establish a State Bank by, of and for the people, to replicate the North Dakota State Bank in existence for one hundred years.  It is a gob of spit in the eye of Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan and Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs and the other gangster bankers. 
 6- The Organization of American States Summit refusing to knuckle under to the psychotic U.S. opposition to including Cuba.  These Latin American states have had enough bullying from the Gringos up north who have bled Latin America dry for three hundred years.
 7- The re-election for a third term of Aymara indian, Evo Morales, as President of Bolivia with over sixty percent of the vote.  He has significantly cut poverty, nationalized the oil and gas industries and empowered indigenous peoples.
 8- The mass protests for democracy in Hong Kong despite police brutality.  We U.S. citizens can only hope we can enough folks off their asses to do the same here for the cause of democracy, rather than the pitiful sham we call the electoral system.
9- The extraordinarily brave whistle-blowers like Silkwood, Manning, Snowden, Drake, Greenwald, Kiriakou, Ellsberg, Assange and many others who refused to go along to get along, and were hounded by the running dogs of capitalism.
10- The four sane members of The U.S. Supreme Court – Guinsberg, Sotomayor, Breyer and Kagan who continue to counter the certifiably insane majority of Roberts, Alito, Thomas, Scalia (an especially serious case) and Kennedy.

American Barbarism

WOW!  Paul Jay of “The Real News Network” tells it like it is!  In an interview about Islamaphobia and ISIS (or ISIL) he goes against the propaganda flow by saying that compared to the barbarism of the United States, going back to the A-Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (and by implication the slaughter by U.S. forces in Vietnam and Iraq where, literally millions have died at our hands based on lies and arrogant hubris),  the barbarism of the Islamic State is a mere “whisper”.  We Americans assiduously avoid the truth because it hurts so much. Click here: