Creating a better world through words and images

Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons

For some, including (I imagine) practitioners of the faith under which I was raised, today is about four-leaf clovers, leprechauns, corned beef and cabbage, rainbows, and binge drinking.  But for me this day has always been about the color green, the color of Hope.

So here’s my “green” for the day:  I’m going to share with you my list of journalists, authors, and documentarians who stand out as beacons of hope.  

Here are some of the voices of reason — and vital sources of information — in our world today.  These are the folks who inspire me and help me get through the dark times when Despair seems to lurk around every corner.

Amy Goodman — Amy’s DemocracyNow! is quite simply the best news program in America today, cutting through the propaganda, Monday through Friday;

Bill Moyers — an exemplar of sharp, principled journalism for decades, Moyers has earned the trust of millions of Americans who still recognize integrity when they see it;

Glenn Greenwaldwriting for, Glenn has provided perhaps the fiercest, most articulate defense of civil liberties and the Constitution in the post-9/11 period;

Matt TaibbiRolling Stone is fortunate to have such a pithy, sharp analyst of 21st Century American politics and the colossal fraud committed by Wall Street;

Paul Krugman — Thanks to Paul Krugman’s brilliant analysis, integrity, and ability to translate arcane economic issues into layman’s speech, I have been ahead of the national learning curve on everything from the Bush tax cuts to systemic mortgage fraud, the potential fallout of which Krugman was reporting years before the crash;

David Cay JohnstonJohnston has done an excellent job detailing the extent to which our system is rigged to favor the richest parasites in world history;

Simon Johnson — the author of Thirteen Bankers, this former chief economist to the IMF has done an excellent job of exposing the crimes of the “banksters” who crashed the global economy and the desperate need to reform our financial system;

Scott HortonScott Horton has been vigilant in exposing America’s use of mercenaries in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and the Bush-Obama assault on freedom, including the persecution of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks;

Jeremy Scahill — a veteran of DemocracyNow! Jeremy has become, perhaps, the leading authority on private contractors, especially Blackwater, exposing their lawless, reckless conduct at home and abroad;

Juan Cole — Prof. Cole’s views on the Middle East are invaluable, especially when it comes to debunking NeoConservative warmongering and alarmist claims;

John Nichols — writing for The Nation, Nichols is an astute political observer and principled progressive (no Democrat in progressive’s clothing), who has done much to expose the recent attempt by several U.S. governors to curtail American democracy;

Randall Robinson — if there is a more informed source of information on Haiti, from Haiti’s slave-uprising to the present period (including the U.S.-engineered coups of recent decades and stranglehold on relief funds), I have yet to encounter him/her;

Noam ChomskyChomsky deserves every bit of the legendary stature attributed to him; there is no one more capable of elucidating America’s foreign and domestic policy;

Norm Finkelstein — Prof. Finkelstein remains one of the most articulate, informed, and passionate voices advocating for justice in the Middle East;

Naomi Kleinthe author of The Shock Doctrine (the most timely, relevant book in existence today) continues to shine the light on the practitioners of “disaster capitalism” (still thriving under President “Hopey-Changey”);

John Perkins — The author of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, John continues to work for a more just and sustainable world with his unique perspective as a former Corporatocracy insider;

Charles Ferguson — I recently watched Ferguson’s excellent documentary Inside Job, exposing Wall Street criminality and the thoroughly corrupt political and regulatory environment that permitted a handful of banks to destroy the global financial system and economies the world over;

Alexander Gibney — another superb documentarian, I will always be grateful for his film, Enron, the Smartest Guys in the Room and, more recently, his Taxi to the Dark Side, an unflinching look at the Bush administration’s embrace of systemic torture.

Honorable Mentions to this list would have to include:

Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert, Antonia Juhasz, Medea Benjamin, Ann Wright, Chris Hedges, Tom Tomorrow (creator of This Modern World), Christian Parenti, Juan Gonzalez, Robert Reich, Dean Baker, Robert Scheer, Arundhati Roy, Gore Vidal, Norm Solomon, and… probably a few others I’m simply failing to recollect at the moment.

(Now go pick on someone else, ya’ bullies, with yer lobster-like pinchers!)

[First, I would like to acknowledge the tragedy unfolding in Japan — thousands of lives lost to an earthquake and tsunami… and thousands more likely to be impacted by the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.]

I look around America today — at our political, business, journalistic, and religious institutions — and I see a nation impoverished of leadership, ethics, values, and vision.

The United States of America is rapidly coming undone before our eyes:  morally, intellectually, and physically deteriorating. 

Our infrastructure (including reliable access to potable water) is crumbling.  The American Society of Civil Engineers has given America’s dams, bridges, roads, and waterworks abysmal ratings for many years now — giving our overall infrastructure a grade of D in their 2009 report (next stop, FAILURE!).

This is a slow-motion disaster — like the levees breaking and drowning New Orleans:  long-predicted; the result of official corruption and corporate malfeasance; man-made and far from inevitable (Katrina, downgraded to a 3-rating by the time it reached land, was no “100-year” storm); and utterly catastrophic, thanks to systemic failure.

The results of that predictable catastrophe were tragic, grotesque, and predictive (so watch out):  The government of George W. Bush dispatched private contractors, including foreign “security” firms, to New Orleans, to protect the property of wealthy people in the aftermath of the storm.  The mainstream media had spun wildly exaggerated tales about mayhem and looting by the predominantly African-American population of New Orleans (later, there were retractions… but never apologies for the racist coverage).  Some white people, including police officers, fed on this atmosphere of fear and shot up some unarmed black folks… trying to cross a bridge, trying to enter a neighboring county, trying to procure food and water for their families.

Later, the financial Huns moved in and really finished off the residents of the Big Easy.  They administered the coup de grace (just as they are trying to do to the nation, today): 

The public hospital was closed.  The public schools were closed, and thousands of teachers were fired, paving the way for charter schools and privatization.  Affordable housing, undamaged by the storm, was nonetheless bulldozed, making way for condominiums to be occupied by wealthier, predominantly white, new citizens (classic gentrification and textbook “disaster capitalism”).  The city council became majority white for the first time in decades, and scores of thousands of African-Americans who lost their homes found themselves permanently displaced from New Orleans… by design.  To this day, they remain in Texas, Georgia, Arkansas, Mississippi…

But let me bring the focus back to the nation.

America is not broke (though we will be, if we don’t act soon).

Some $2.2 trillion dollars needs to be invested A.S.A.P. in America’s infrastructure, per the American Society of Civil Engineers — and every year we delay, the costs grow and grow (just six years ago, the ASCE’s estimated cost of repairing our crumbling infrastructure was $600 billion less at $1.6 trillion).

A bridge collapses in Minnesota, heralding things to come, and our political class does nothing — except cut taxes for the wealthiest individuals and most profitable businesses in the history of the world (at a time when such taxes are near their historic lows).

Barack Obama is either oblivious to his own political well being or crushingly insensitive to the millions of people whose lives he is destroying. 

Possibly, he is both.

He should be sitting on a super-majority of actual Democrats (instead of these corporate toadies) in Congress.

He should have prosecuted the fraud committed by thirteen banks (and their accomplices) and reformed the banking system that is still “too big to fail,” with a $700 TRILLION market in derivatives alone — the “CASINO” is still open, and the banks are still fundamentally insolvent, starting with Bank of America and Citigroup.

He should have worked to keep millions of honest Americans in their homes (not less than EIGHT MILLION people, thus far, many of whom were cheated, plain and simple, and robo-signed out of their houses).

He should have demanded a REAL stimulus of two (or three) trillion, rebuilding and greening our infrastructure, putting us on the path to energy independence, clean air, and sustainability (not to mention global competitiveness) while providing employment for millions of Americans (instead of the measly “stimulus” he “won” from the GOP — $300 billion emergency aid for the states; $280 billion for tax cuts, largely shaped by Republicans; and leaving the smallest share, the remainder, to infrastructure, transportation, and myriad other obligations).

He should have ended the fatally ridiculous “War on Terror” that has destroyed America’s democratic foundations (habeas corpus and the Bill of Rights) and obliterated our moral standing in the world (instead of embracing many of Bush’s most despotic practices).

He should have fought for a single-payer healthcare system, eliminating America’s only serious fiscal threat this century (Social Security is not actually facing insolvency, despite self-serving rumors to that effect).

But no…

Barack Obama is an extraordinarily cautious (read timid) politician who seems to believe the establishment wholeheartedly when it tells him, “these are the narrow parameters within which you must operate!  Nothing else is possible.  Ignore the crime scene, and get back to governing for the benefit of America’s elite criminals.  Let the middle class fail.”

After which he begins his negotiations with his political “opposition” (aka “Bad Cop”) by signaling surrender (ALWAYS):  to their narrative, their policy prescriptions, and their politics.

It is a triumph of laissez-faire capitalism:  the government and elections are thoroughly corrupted (we need publicly financed elections immediately).  Powerful corporations are completely unregulated, and the crimes of the powerful are utterly beyond prosecution.

And where does that leave America?

The “hurricane” — the man-made financial disaster of 2008, facilitated by the Congress, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama — has wiped us out and flooded us with debt:  more than $20 trillion of Wall Street debt/liability has been shifted to the U.S. taxpayer.  (TARP was never more than the tip of the iceberg; the real looting continues at the discount window of the Federal Reserve, where banks borrow OUR money for nothing and lend it back to us at exorbitant, ever-adjustable rates.)

Now the Wall Street Huns are looking to apply the coup de grace to the nation, just as they did to New Orleans:  electioneering, union-busting, and confiscating as much public property as possible and transferring it to private hands. 

Bill Clinton and George W. Bush may have paved the way for this massive plunder, but it is on Barack Obama’s watch that these criminals are consolidating their ill-gotten gains, collecting their winnings by illegally evicting millions from their homes and gouging Americans every chance they get (through our credit cards, health insurance policies, cheated pension funds, etc…).

They are changing our election financing laws, making our elections more corrupt and opaque than ever (thanks to the Federalist Society and their successful takeover of the federal judiciary, including the Supreme Court).

They are altering our nation’s tort laws, denying legal recourse to the people their companies injure, cheat, torture, and rape — as well as the families of those they murder in cold blood.

They are using the offices they hold to destroy worker benefits and eliminate checks and balances on the state level (gubernatorial appointees, answerable only to the executive who appoints them, are headed for agencies across the land to dismantle state healthcare, environmental and worker protections, Medicaid, resource management, etc.).

They are ramming through laws that will facilitate the cheap sale of public resources to their campaign donors (in no-bid, no-review processes, thanks to governors like Wisconsin’s Scott Walker);

They are ramming through laws that will allow their governors to disband elected bodies — city councils and school boards — turning over the management of schools and municipalities to individuals and even to corporations (see Michigan).

And they are privatizing everything from fire departments to hospitals to schools to the military… looting as they go (delivering next to nothing on their promises, thanks to rampant waste, fraud, and abuse).

If America doesn’t reverse course very soon, our next president will continue the 30-year assault on our democracy that began under Reagan.  He/she will bear no resemblance to our traditional, democratic presidents, persecuting journalists and torturing dissidents in the same way that George W. Bush and Barack Obama have… only worse (and Bush flat-out KILLED journalists in Iraq and Afghanistan!).

If Americans don’t start fighting back, like the people of Egypt and Wisconsin, the future looks bleak indeed.

Project Update: STAR WARS Episode VII

This is one of my favorite recent sketches for this project. 

The scene:  Luke and Leia are arguing as the Jedi practices self-defense with the “Spar-bots” designed for him by R2-D2, when suddenly Luke’s temper flares.  Will he vent his rage on the innocent “bots?”  Will Artoo ever forgive him if he does???

George Lucas, if you’re reading this:  There’s been some good development with Episode VII lately (my Episode VII, that is).  I’d love to discuss my ideas with you sometime, and I’m sure you will enjoy meeting some new Star Wars characters when that day arrives…

As usual, I find Prof. Krugman’s column an invaluable guide to cutting through political spin in a nonpartisan way — though I wonder that Republicans in particular aren’t more embarrassed at routinely having their claims and accounting methods exposed as wildly unfounded and cynical deceptions by the astute Mr. Krugman (and others in the “Reality Community” — as one Bushie termed it).

Frankly, I depend on Paul Krugman (and a handful of others), because unlike so many of his MSM brethren he is not simply shilling for one party or the other. Unlike Rachel Maddow or Brit Hume, Krugman is consistently and reliably honest (and brilliant), cogently presenting his analysis, buttressed with impressive facts and shrewd observations.

Furthermore, Krugman frequently offers SOLUTIONS, which — over the past decade-plus of reading him — tend to be SPOT ON (re: the Iraq war; the rise of mortgage fraud prefiguring the housing bubble; the catastrophic effects of deregulation and tort “reform;” and (during the Obama presidency) the paltry, compromised “Stimulus” bill; the chorus of corporation-friendly failures Obama has surrounded himself with; and the Democrats’ pathetic excuses for financial and healthcare “reform” bills (weak tea, at best — though the health insurance bill actually does create a good skeleton for future Congresses to build a MUCH better system than the current one).

Rep. Ryan, you should hang your head in shame for your nakedly dishonest claims and your party’s accounting gimmicks. Speaker Boehner, too! (The CBO can’t just be “nonpartisan” and “reliable” when its numbers support your agenda!) You gentlemen need to bring the Republican Party back into the REALITY community!

Grown-up discussions about solving America’s problems will require both liberal and conservative ADULTS — not a bunch of spineless nincompoops too craven to contradict patently irresponsible loonies like Rush, Palin, and Benn Glock (oops — I mean Glenn Beck).

If I’m offending any conservatives out there, please revisit the Q&A from last year, with President Obama and the Republican leadership discussing the “Obamacare” bill (as you prefer to call it). Obama (the timid corporatist) DOMINATED the debate, humiliating the GOP leaders who were caught time and again with their false arguments exposed — right to their faces (and they had NO answers). Do you recall their guilty expressions when confronted with their loony, paranoid rhetoric in describing an approach to healthcare reform (Obama’s) modeled on the prescriptions of the ultra-conservative Heritage Foundation and Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts law?!

It is time to de-politicize the conversation between our leaders. Americans need to insist on FACT-BASED arguments from our elected leaders. And we need to ridicule the politicians (even those we like) when they LIE — like Rep. Ryan just did. And we need to shun them when they invent ugly nonsense like “death panels” to incite fear, anger, and distrust in America (very dangerous). I’m referring now to the John Birchers (John “Birthers”?) who have bizarrely risen to the leadership of the GOP.

Fire Frank Luntz, Repubs (and every other slimy S.O.B. like him) — and this goes for the Dems, too! Screw the no-holds-barred politics of hate and division; America’s future is at stake! Obama was right to call this our “Sputnik moment” — even if he continues to disappoint when it comes to actual policy (the nation’s policies are STILL obviously dictated by the same corporations that owned and operated President Bush).

And thank you, Paul Krugman, for your constancy in providing a model for intelligent, principled, and rational discourse. What would I do without you?