Brain Dropping #117
Brain Dropping #116
Brain Dropping #115
Broken windows, Broken Cops. In criminology the “Broken Windows Theory” is a concept of setting social norms. It assumes that monitoring and prosecuting small crimes such as vandalism, public drinking, toll jumping, windshield squeegeeing, loud gatherings in the street, littering, etc. will maintain social order. If a broken window goes unrepaired others will be broken, leading to increased vandalism, anti-social behavior and ultimately metastasizing into more serious crime and disorder. This form of policing was put into practice by the autocratic Mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani and his Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, resulting in a huge uptick in the prison population of mostly low income folks of color. Eric Garner’s murder by police was precipitated by just such a minor violation – selling single cigarettes on the street – hardly a major source of disruption. The unconstitutional “Stop & Frisk” program of racial profiling was another variant of the Broken Window imperative. The operational idea behind this “big brother” form of social control is to suppress negative behavior modeling – to quash bad examples which might inspire other desperate people to become copy-cats. This policy of law enforcement also engenders a two tiered system of justice – severe enforcement for ordinary, working class folks, and looking the other way when members of the elite break the law. In your wildest imaginings can you see a loud, disruptive, drunken group of fat-cats coming out of the Waldorf Astoria being hassled by the cops?
Let’s open the discussion to a broader purview – the militarization of local police forces and the brutality of their methods – U.S. Army half tracks, grenade launchers, concussion grenades, AK47s muzzles pointed at peaceful demonstrators, water canons, rubber bullets, tear gas and SWAT teams, dressed as for an invasion of a terrorist camp, called out for ridiculously minor infractions. The shoot-first-ask-questions-later actions of trigger-happy cops, has resulted in the unconscionable deaths of many unarmed young people of color. If the purpose of the Broken Window Theory in practice, is to prevent growing social chaos caused by copy-cat behavior triggered by destructive modeling, where does the modeling for the overly brutal and belligerent police departments come from? In a society interconnected by technology, where very little escapes being promulgated electronically – or as they say “going viral,” patterns of behavior have enormous power to persuade.
Say I’m a cop! Everyday on the news I see our government condoning criminal behavior – torture, murder by drone, kidnapping (extraordinary rendition) in violation of international law, in the name of security for the American people. President Obama has a “kill list!” He claims he can rightly target American citizens and murder them without “due process”- without trial – without charges brought against them – without any oversight – purely on the basis of his personal say so. All in the name of protecting the “Homeland!” In the precinct station, my fellow police officers and I, see on the TV monitor the chief law enforcement officer of the United States, Attorney General Eric Holder, admit publicly that Wall Street crooks can steal with impunity, that he will not prosecute them because they are “too big to jail!” I constantly hear twisted justifications for extra-legal actions coming from respected leaders. Surely, if the highest authority in the land can circumvent the law, go over the edge and commit what amounts to the murder of innocent civilians, to “protect our precious land,” why should I, as a peace officer, with the same task before me, allow the letter and spirit of the law stay my hand to maintain law and order? The modeling from our country’s leaders is clear – forget the spirit and letter of the law, do whatever you have to do, the system will protect you and mete out no punishment.
Brain Dropping #114
Talking about “SHITTY CHOICES” (see my previous post) there’s Hillary Clinton hoping to start yet another dynasty to rule the Oval Office. I perceive her as a woman hell-bent to prove that she can be as corrupted by power as any man, particularly her priapic husband, he of the unconscionable ‘willie.’ Shittier yet, waiting in the wings is Jeb Bush, already part of a dynastic clan. The late comic philosopher, Robin Williams warned: “You gotta be wary of a family whose smart son is named Jeb!”
I’m not naive enough to believe that Bernie would win, but he could certainly stir the pot and upgrade the debate, especially if he ran in the Democratic primary against Hillary and her Wall Street handlers. Bernie having so prominent a soapbox, could bring vital insights to a public bamboozled by the bullshit promulgated by the corporate media, media which turns them against their own best interests by instigating cultural divisions.
So- “RUN BERNIE,RUN!” – “RUN BERNIE,RUN!” – “RUN BERNIE,RUN!” – “RUN BERNIE, RUN!”
Brain Dropping #113 – Run Bernie, Run!
When I ran for the Vermont State Senate as a Progressive way back then, I decided those ubiquitous lawn and roadside election signs stuck in the ground, were pitifully small and ineffective. And they had no information on them other than the name of the candidate. I fell back on my skill as a sign painter and made yellow, paper banners twenty feet long, coated with a clear acrylic glaze and reinforced with packing tape. (My wife Gail started Gemini signs thirty years before and was far more skilled than I.) I pounded three foot grading stakes into the ground, and used stovepipe wire tied to smaller stakes, to keep the banners from being blown away. Most importantly, they carried not only my name but a succinct phrase about an issue the voters were concerned with, in bold, eight inch black block letters: “GET THE PROPERTY TAX OFF OUR BACKS – AL SALZMAN FOR STATE SENATE! For paper banners they were surprisingly durable – the three coats of acrylic glaze and three layers of clear packing tape did the job. Running as a Progressive in a conservative place like Franklin County got me nowhere, but I did get about twelve hundred votes and met a lot of ‘interesting’ people.
I’m going to go back to the paper banner strategy to try to get Senator Bernie Sanders to run for President of the United States. I believe that he is among the very few sane people in the loony bin we call Congress.(Elizabeth Warren is another.) Not only sane, but consistently on the side of the working class and vocally against the “millionaires and billionaires” who are destroying our society and any hope of a decent life for hundreds of millions. I haven’t decided on a pithy phrase to put on the banner. Perhaps: RUN BERNIE,RUN – WE’RE SICK AND TIRED OF SHITTY CHOICES!
Brain Dropping #112
The Incredible Dancing Clowns. When I was a kid playing hooky from Junior High School #149 in Brooklyn (Danny Kaye went there), I headed for Forty Second Street on the IRT where I would lunch on a dozen shrimp at Grants (Long gone.) and end up at the “Laugh Movie”(Also long gone.) on the corner of Eighth Avenue, where the Ritz Brothers, The Three Stooges, The Marx Brothers, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, and Abbot and Costello did their slapstick stuff for hours on end. It was often dark when I got back out on the street.
There were all kinds of con-men plying their trade on the crowded sidewalk. Remember, this was before the “Disneyfication” of 42 Street. The one schtick that always caught my attention was the stringless
dancing clown. The “spieler” would loudly extol the magical ability of a cardboard joint-hinged clown figure, about sixteen inches tall, to dance unassisted by any human hand. For one dollar, a handsome sum, in 1945, you could be privy to both a cardboard clown and the secret of its dancing. I didn’t have a dollar so I watched for a long time until I noticed another man, leaning against a darkened store front, about ten feet to the side. He had his hands behind his back under his long coat. I could see a subtle movement up and down and, on closer inspection, a barely visible black thread leading to the dancing clown.
This, of course, is an allegory! The con-men represent our politicians – of all stripes, the dancing clown – the promises they make, and the suckers watching on the sidewalk, and who pay the dollar – the electorate, particularly Liberals, who desperately want to believe that the clown has magical power. The invisible string is the idea of reform or regulation. The Liberal cry of “we need greater regulation and all will be well” has the hollow sound of a tin-horn.
Historically, the greatest effort at regulating and reforming our corporatocacy was FDR’s “New Deal”
It did work for several decades mainly because of the strength of Organized Labor and radical parties. But very soon the “Power Elite” began the inevitable erosion of those principles, and attacked the power of labor. The “Red Scare” of the McCarthite fifties finished the hatchet job. Beginning with the Taft/Hartly Act of 1947 – and culminating with the curtailing of collective bargaining for public workers in Scott Walker’s Wisconsin, the death of the labor movement has been all but accomplished.
The story of the failure of reform and regulation is a dismal tale. Rescinding Glass/Steagall of 1933, which prevented depository banks from gambling recklessly with depositors money, Bill Clinton, a phony, so-called Centrist Democrat gave it the coup de grace in 1999. The Dodd/Frank Act of 2010 attempted an anemic repair of the defunct Glass/Steagall to keep the Wall Street gamblers at bay, but in the recently passed budget bill, hidden away amidst all the jargon and bureaucratic bullshit, Dodd/Frank was eviscerated and the bankers are once again free to plunder the working class.
Here in Vermont, the invisible string, which dragged Liberals and Progressives into Peter Shumlin’s camp was the promise of support for “Single-Payer” health care. You’d think we suckers would learn to spot the man in the long coat manipulating the string, but our unquenchable desire to believe in the “spiel”, coupled with an incredible aptitude for denial makes us all easy marks.
Brain Dropping #111
President Obama, declaring that he intends to open full diplomatic relations with Cuba, may be the beginning of the end of the dumbing down of America where Latin America is concerned.
The pernicious, illegal embargo, in violation of the U.N. Charter, will remain in place until the legislation creating the embargo is rescinded by the Congress – and that could be a long wait as the make-up of the two houses has become even more jingoistic and oblivious to what is happening in the world.
As for following international law, the United States has become a pariah – a rogue state – a power-drunken maniac throwing its weight around and becoming increasingly isolated in the world community.
For instance: The UN recently voted for the 22nd time to end the Cuban embargo and to rescind the Helms/Burton Act making it illegal in American law for a third country to trade with Cuba – a distinct violation of international law and the rights of sovereign states. Israel, in an elegant kowtow as a client state, was the only other country to support the U.S. position. The law’s stupidity reflects its two authors – Senator Jesse Helms, was that unreconstructed racist conservative from North Carolina who opposed any Federal involvement in the Civil Rights struggle. Rep. Dan Burton pursued Clinton for his immorality in the sordid Monica Lewinsky escapade when he himself had fathered a child out of wedlock.
The arrogant unilateralism of the U.S. shows up time and time again to the anger and dismay of the civilized world – not only in Afghanistan and Iraq – but in being one of the only three countries not to ratify the U.N Convention on the Rights of the Child. The other two being Somalia and South Sudan which are on the verge of ratification, leaving the U.S. as the sole hold-out. One of the brain-dead legislators explained his position as the concern that the Convention will disallow American parents from spanking their children. And we are among the pathetic few sovereign states not to recognize the International Court of Justice (The World Court) – and for good reasons, since we are guilty of torture and war crimes.
President Obama’s actions deserve credit as an indication that he recognizes that progressive forces are emerging in Latin America which are fighting to correct, in the words of Eduardo Galeano, “five hundred years of the pillaging of a continent!” New trading agreements among those countries, like Mercosur (Common Market) – Andean Pact – Latin American Integration Assoc. – CELAC (Community of Latin American & Caribbean States including Cuba) – the growing insistence of OAS members (Organization of American States) that Cuba must be included, could leave the U.S. out in the cold. Perhaps Obama is wise enough to know that the era of ‘Gringo’ dominance south of the border is coming to a close, and that our traditional “backyard” is no longer under the imperialist yoke.
Brain Dropping #110
Human Endeavor. I remember the words of General George S. Patton as spoken by the actor George C. Scott in the movie “Patton”: “Gentlemen, compared to war all other forms of human endeavor shrink to insignificance!” I beg to differ with the lunatic General! For me, the incomparable form of human endeavor is the ensemble playing of a well-honed symphony orchestra – no contest! In terms of the collective heart beat, subliminal communication, preternaturally precise timing, the life-force of the organic whole coming together, playing with pin-point accuracy under the baton of an extraordinary maestro – the symphony orchestra, of over a hundred exquisitely talented players, defies belief.
Google: “You Tube, Sibelius’ 2nd Symphony, the Berlin Philharmonic, under the baton of Leonard Bernstein” and you’ll see exactly what I mean – but wear headphones. The great glory of the internet is being able to hear AND see these orchestras at work. Or Google: “You Tube Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capricio Espagnol under the direction of Zubin Mehta” for more of the same. Or click here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvgyfqzLC0A for a perfortmance of Respighi’s “Pine of Rome” by the Gimnazia Kranj High School of Slovenia – and hold onto your hat!
These ensembles go beyond the notes on the written page in the realization of the composers intent.There is something metaphysical about the capacity of human beings of all different characteristics, inclinations, emotional states, ages, sexes, ethnic backgrounds to surrender the self to the collective nervous system in the service of making glorious sound.
The great pianist and conductor, Daniel Barenboim has long recognized the unifying power of music in bringing together disparate, and conflicted peoples. In the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, he has brought together musicians from Israel, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iran, Turkey and Spain to further undermine General Patton’s mad assertions about war. Google: ” You Tube Maurice Ravel’s Rapsodie Espagnol – The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra under Daniel Barenboim.” After a few minutes of listening, the feeling of the unity of all humankind will be palpable.