Creating a better world through words and images

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

[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?

I. GLOBAL WAR on TERROR (GWoT):  D+ [Forget the rebranding; Obama has continued Bush’s strategically and morally bankrupt policy that fuels terrorism and global instability while cementing the worst of the Bush/Cheney legacy: the assault on civil liberties, press freedom, and human rights; the global, lawless, borderless and open-ended wars; and an imperial government that routinely kills civilians and deploys drones, private armies, and “special” operations in 75 nations – 15 more than when Obama took office1]

1. GWoT Strategy:  F [“AF-PAK” has been a catastrophe.  Elevating Gen. McChrystal (the shepherd of Rumsfeld’s lie to the Tillman family; infamous for the torture practiced at Camp Cropper in Iraq), was a predictable disaster; the violence in Afghanistan is at record levels, for both Afghan civilians and allied forces; our warlord, drug-lord, corrupt and extremist Afghan “partners” have provided one setback after another; the Taliban’s influence and territory in Afghanistan have only grown; in Pakistan, per the Brookings Institution, U.S. drones are killing TEN civilians to every ONE militant, destabilizing the government and alienating the population of a crucial ally (59% of Pakistanis see the U.S. as an “enemy” per a recent Pew poll); America continues to directly and indirectly finance the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan (well into the hundreds of millions of dollars over the post-9/11 period); our support of dictatorial and brutal regimes and our failure to lead any credible peace initiative in the Middle East fuels extremism in the region; our counterproductive wars play into Osama bin Laden’s articulated strategy to lure America into quagmires that make us hated and drain our treasury (meanwhile our domestic problems grow), until we eventually collapse like the U.S.S.R.

As a side note, our activities in Somalia and Yemen are similarly counterproductive – antidemocratic and short-sighted; and our accounting of GWoT expenditures remains atrocious.]

2. GWoT Posture/Rhetoric:  C- [Although Obama has been far more image than substance on this front, the improvement over his predecessor is appreciable.  It meant something to the Muslim world when Obama (in his Cairo “New Beginning” speech) referred to the 1953 CIA-orchestrated coup in Iran.  Various other olive branches have had some ameliorative effect on America’s relationships and standing in the world.  Furthermore, despite all of Obama’s belligerent posturing (including his assertion of the “nuclear first strike” option, with regard to Iran and North Korea, and his justification for war while accepting the Nobel Peace Prize2), there is a real sense that the NeoConservatives have a reduced voice in this administration, and that America is less inclined to launch a major attack on another nation at a moment’s notice (faint praise, I realize).  Nonetheless, much of the more positive rhetoric is undermined by America’s continued support for various Middle Eastern dictators and refusal to apply the same standard to state and non-state actors, especially with regard to its primary ally in the region, Israel – even in the wake of the Goldstone report, exposing war crimes (on both sides) in “Operation Cast Lead” or following the Israeli attack on civilian ships carrying aid to Gaza, killing several peace activists including an American citizen.] 

3. GWoT vs. Civil Liberties and Rule of Law:  F [Another Bush debacle embraced, continued, and worsened by Obama.  Along with hyper-secrecy and blanket assertions of official immunity, the president has taken Bush’s evisceration of habeas corpus and the Bill of Rights to new depths, asserting that he has the right to:  continue gathering and hoarding the electronic records of Americans; assassinate an American citizen without any due process; bar an American citizen, uncharged with any crime, from entry into the U.S.3; detain individuals indefinitely without ever charging them with a crime; and kidnap individuals and whisk them off to nations where they are likely to be detained and tortured by American proxies.  He has kept the prison at Guantanamo open (and several detention centers in Afghanistan); he has jailed American soldier Bradley Manning in harsh conditions for more than half a year; he has persecuted government whistleblowers and threatened journalists like no president before him (Vice President Biden was not rebuked for calling Julian Assange a “terrorist”).  Obama has done these things while winking at (and illegally protecting4) crimes committed by Bush officials who authorized torture and corporate criminals, from civilian-slaughtering Blackwater (Xe) to Goldman Sachs and the rest of the Wall Street gang.  In keeping with Bush’s policy of deploying private contractors to police American citizens during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Obama has deployed the U.S. military to prevent journalists from reporting on the scope of the BP oil spill5 – both violations of at least the spirit of posse comitatus (the centuries-old tradition that prohibits the U.S. government from deploying the military against our civilian population).  Furthermore, Obama has continued asserting that a nuclear strike against Iran or North Korea remains “on the table” (a violation of the U.N. Charter) and extended legitimacy to coups in Honduras, Palestine, and Haiti.  Domestically, he has championed the reauthorization of the PATRIOT ACT, with no prescription for curbing the law’s abuses (particularly with regard to the FBI’s infiltration of peace groups6, abuse of national security letters, and entrapment approach to combating “terrorists” – talking disaffected young Muslims into going along with terrorist plots that originate entirely with the U.S. government).]

II. IRAQ:  D [Obama has simply continued the Bush policy, a recipe for future unrest in that U.S.-demolished and fractured country.  While he has continued to drawdown troops (per the SoFA that Bush negotiated with the IUG), Obama has lied about the true status of our remaining troops, declaring that all “combat troops” have left, when they’ve simply been reclassified as “non-combat” troops.  Obama has continued to ignore the causes of Iraq’s ongoing sectarian violence while forwarding Bush’s plans for a permanent, largely military U.S. presence in Iraq, with huge bases in Baghdad, Basra, Mosul, Kirkuk, and Kurdistan, guarded by American military forces and some 8,000 mercenaries, including employees of Blackwater/Xe (despite the Iraqis’ repeated efforts to expel that company from their supposedly sovereign nation).  Obama continues to champion the least representative Iraqis (the Supreme Council which is an Iranian creation, and the overrepresented Kurds, because they share America’s interest in a divided Iraq); while pushing the Iraqis to authorize an extension to our military presence and sign a “Hydrocarbons Law” that gives Western oil companies control of Iraq’s most valuable resource over the next 20-35 years.  In short, thanks to Obama, the U.S. is still in denial about Iraq, still trying to “collect our winnings” while pretending we have not worn out our welcome – still backing barely-representative former exiles over genuinely popular leaders like Moqtada al-Sadr (a less than perfect leader who has been comically vilified in the American press and blamed for the worst crimes of some of our best Iraqi “partners,” the Supreme Council and their “reformed” Badr Brigades).  The debacle continues, with no change in America’s privatization demands or its approach to ethno-sectarian divisions in the country.]

III. CODE PINK comment/instruction

As a peacemaker, President Obama has been an enormous disappointment.

From our perspective, President Bush’s response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, was entirely wrongheaded, from the PATRIOT ACT and the illegal mass-wiretapping of American citizens to the criminal invasions and barbaric militarism that ensued, with its collateral damage, kidnappings, and institutionalized torture. 

Americans voted overwhelmingly in 2006 and 2008 to reject the policies and values of George W. Bush, especially his failed wars and unrelenting assault on the rule of law. 

Tragically, President Obama has wasted (with extreme prejudice) an ENORMOUS mandate for real CHANGE, starting with his opportunity to end the Global War on Terror.  With the American public clamoring for de-escalation of Bush’s wars and a return to Constitutional norms (repudiating the torture-condoning legal arguments of Yoo, Addington, Cheney, and co.), Obama chose to continue those wars – escalating them in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and the Horn of Africa.  He continued making claims of Executive authority consistent with President Bush’s Unitary Executive assertions (Bush’s position that Nixon was basically correct when he claimed that “when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal!”). 

Worst of all, Obama has demonstrated himself to be a believer in Dick Cheney’s version of Executive Power.  He has continued the practice of abusing Presidential Signing Statements, suggesting that the President is exempt from even the laws he signs into existence!  Obama has continued to shroud the government’s illegal actions in official secrecy, waging a war on responsible journalism and legal systems everywhere in order to continue kidnapping, torturing, and violating the civil and human rights of citizens and non-citizens alike… all the while playing right into bin Laden’s hands, reading from the script our enemy has written for us.

FOOTNOTES:

1 David Swanson:  “State of Our Union:  War Rages On, Dissent is Repressed. We Need to Bring Our War Dollars Home and Invest in Rebuilding America”

2 Swanson

3 Swanson

4 Swanson

5 Swanson

6 Swanson