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Tom is a painter, a cartoonist, a musician, a thinker and more. View some of his web sites:
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Number of posts: 166
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By Tom Ferguson:
injustices – a book review
If you’ve ever wondered how the Supreme Court, in its great wisdom, came to the proposition that corporations are persons with all the rights thereof, I suggest you read Injustices: The Supreme Court’s History of Comforting the Comfortable and Afflicting the Afflicted by Ian Millhiser.
There is plenty of precedent for that body making law out of whole cloth. Basically two forces are at work in the court, as in our great land, sometimes in the same justice, one dissenting, one dominating…
awakening hearts & minds:
A conference on February 4th in Decatur, GA featured “rock star” panelists, knowledgeable, articulate, even entertaining on a subject that doesn’t readily lend itself to such. This is not a thorough review of the conference but more a collection of impressions.
A talk on Syria by jounalist Reese Erlich, a week later added further to my notes. My attendance at these events was motivated by a lack of knowledge about the situation in Syria…
to the abyss
I found this in my muse-folder one recent morning:
beneath the polarized & poisonous air
lies the breath of life
the state of being
the realm of beauty, joy & creativity
Seems like my meandering thoughts tend to channel toward composing blogposts or Facebook replies these days…
still the mind – enjoy being
What is happening? I’m watching a movie, a little disturbed by the violence, take a break to pee when suddenly I’m aware … a pang of fear… the conceptual reality-bubble I create to walk around in is burst… I feel vulnerable. I’m standing at the toilet, but the greater world just beyond these walls with its terrible indifference, its marauding criminals, Doppler sirens, terrorists, and accidents roaming the streets … major hostility … and cancer … and it’s true “I” am vulnerable.
no right to give up
One of the challenges Bertram Gross’ book, Friendly Fascism, presents the reader with is this: if your views coincide with those that a major, long-term, well-funded propaganda campaign has aimed to instill, wouldn’t it be prudent to reconsider those views? We don’t come into this world armed with disinformation detectors. We tend to trust those around us and more or less uncritically adopt their values. Born into a Muslim world, chances are you’ll be Muslim. Born into a Catholic family in Italy? …
To many, the following outline might seem self-evident but given U.S. presidential election results, a review is apparently in order:
1) The elite (1%) rule for the benefit of themselves, their agenda consisting always of the task of maintaining and expanding their power, privilege and profits.
addiction of wealth
A Coca Cola executive once told me that he had to throw an underling out of his office. Why? The guy attempted to ingratiate himself by proposing that Coke pump up the bottom line big-time with accounting practices that would locate profits off-shore, beyond the reach of the IRS.
If your fondness for money exceeds your sense of civic responsibility, as say, in the case of our illegitimate president-elect, you would not throw this person out but rather promote them.
What first struck me about Thomas E Ricks’ book, Fiasco The American Military Adventure in Iraq 2003 to 2005, was the sheer number of establishment figures who opposed the war, many of whom predicted the general consequences to include Isis. Bush the elder, General Colin Powell (despite his eventual disgraceful performance at the U.N.), General Schwarzkoph, Brent Scowcroft, Marine General Anthony Zinne
This is where we agree, I think: we both oppose people who harm others, who want to dominate, deny liberty, lie to make themselves look good and others bad, deny people their rights under the constitution and the bill of rights and also our rights under the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed I think by all member nations (this latter item provoked immediate condemnation).
oneness of reality
The meaning of the word God, in my congregation during my formative years, was conventional, literal biblical, bearded guy in the sky taking notes, who’s been naughty, who’s been nice. This got challenged, or should I say devastated, when I walked into a design class in art school conducted by Myron Kozman – think Richard Dawkins mischievously assailing received wisdom.
The standard response to information that conflicts with one’s point of view is either denial or point of view adjustment. My congregation, confronted with Professor Kozman, would have chosen, hands down, the denial…
profits, privilege and power
The Billionaire’s Club is a 28-page political cartoon that is my take on how power works in the U.S. The book portrays billionaires getting together at the club and initiating a new member into the fold. It was a device I used to talk about how the 1% have disproportionate influence on our democracy and so are obstacles to addressing the crisis we face. I didn’t think that the 1% conspiratorially met, save socially – they do run in the same circles – it’s just that their interests overlap and acting separately, supporting similar causes, political candidates etc; it is as-if they acted jointly. This is true.
wrong side of freedom
Gary Webb’s book, Dark Alliance, casts dark aspersions on the United States. In its historical and hysterical opposition to “leftist” thought it has routinely allied itself with criminals. Obvious examples are the regimes it supported in Cuba prior to the revolution, the Somoza regime in Nicaragua prior to “its” revolution, dictatorships in the Philippines, Vietnam and… it goes on and on (just read some Chomsky).
Alfred McCoy in his book, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, documents U.S. alignment with heroine smuggling mafiosa where said mafia were allowed to import their product to the U.S. in exchange for union-busting and other undemocratic “services” by said thugs …
exposing hypocrisy & corruption
Amy Goodman hosts a groundbreaking radio news show out of New York City, which is also videocast. She covers news from a non-corporate perspective, extolling what she calls Independent Media. She titled her latest book, Democracy Now, because she says it is the only way she can get her show’s name in the New York Times. If it becomes a best seller (which it has) they sort of have to list it. Otherwise, cover non-corporate news and you’re excluded from the corporate media. You’re not quite respectable…
money is the enemy of peace
The Beyond War movement in the 80s used to cite several “illusions” that perpetuate our drift toward what Einstein called, unparalleled catastrophe – a nuclear war. The illusion I have in mind is the belief that we can continue to war and survive. If we in fact do continue to war we will, sooner or later, have a nuclear war. The nuclear winter, radiation poisoning, and physical damage that would follow such an event would make the survivors envy those tens of millions killed in the immediate explosions…
Many of Chomsky’s recent books are more or less transcriptions of interviews by David Barsamian. They explore questions such as, Why does the radical right oppose social security, both today and at its birth?, and public education, the most recent strategy being charter schools? Chomsky’s take is that these social functions create solidarity, they contribute to community and so undermine the notion, favored by the right, that we’re on our own, isolated individuals looking out for number one!..
Gotta set aside climate change guilt sometimes, do some rationalization. I figure the airplane’s going there anyway, with or without me… and my credit card points make it almost free… so we fly. Got the very last seats, no window but plenty of avant garde audio from the engine just on the other side of that thin skin. We navigate our way to the East Village and though we enjoy a very pleasant visit with daughter and son-in-law, this is about three days of museum-hopping in Yew Nawk. Day 1. MOMA (Museum of Modern Art)…
There are three budget proposals up for a vote soon, the President’s, the House of Representative’s and the Progressive Caucus’. The Progressive proposal is aligned with what polls say the general public wants so naturally this one doesn’t have a chance. The other two go to different lengths to cut services for the general public and increase breaks for the wealthy, corporations and spending for the military. The fiscal year for this budget kicks off October 1.
T.J. English writes what my librarian calls, “guy books.” – books about the mob, organized crime and criminal justice: gangsters in Hell’s Kitchen, Vietnamese gangs in China Town, the History of the Irish mob and this one, about the infamous Boston gangster Whitey Bulgar. His murderous escapades were sanctioned, even abetted, over a twenty year period, by segments of law enforcement and the FBI. This book covers the trial that convicted Bulgar, sentencing him to life x 2 plus 75 years, and the suppression of the story of government malfeasance.
Jeff Halper, an Israeli peace activist, spoke at Atlanta’s Oakhurst Baptist Church Monday night (2/29/16). He confirms and elaborates much of what Noam Chomsky says on the subject of Israel-U.S. relations. Halper raises the question, why does the U.S. so enthusiastically support Israel, enabling a brutal occupation and blocking peace with the Palestinians? He dismisses several conventional answers as being factors but…
fooling some of the people
In my neighborhood rats are quite timid and though definitely there, are seldom seen. In my wanderings I’ve noticed that when these creatures become bold as squirrels and many in number, while the cats are correspondingly few. It is time to take prudent measures.
In my wanderings I’ve also noticed certain elite urban country clubs. Though all are exclusive, in a way of speaking, they are of varied affluence. They occur in many neighborhoods in the cities and plains of our great world and are named according to local vernacular…
In an earlier post I mentioned that I had, via Christopher Hitchens’ essays And Yet…, discovered Henrich Heine (whom I had never heard of) and Edmund Wilson (I had been aware of him thru Gore Vidal so re-discovered). Well, I have now spent more time with HH and can report that that guy (1797-1856) was a cinematic writer, one who in turns can inspire one to pen and to despair (at one’s own feeble efforts). We have the handy word master to apply to folks like that…
bernie with gutman
Outsider in the White House reviews the various campaigns Bernie Sanders has been involved in, those he overwhelmingly, sometimes unexpectedly, won and those he dismally lost. Interestingly he uses his 1997 reelection campaign as something he is “currently” working, to which he returns again and again from excursions off into earlier campaigns. He obviously won the 1997 campaign but the details and outcome are used in the book to build a sort of advancing suspense, interspersed with the other campaigns. He certainly uses the form to lay out his political philosophy. The “White” is added to the title, for the book was originally published in 1997 and is updated to 2015 for his presidential run.
holiday book list
My reviews of Chomsky’s books, Power and Terror and Nuclear War and Environmental Catastrophe have recently seen publication at LikeTheDew.com. Chomsky’s political books amass impressive evidence for the thesis that the right wing of the wealthy class of inherited and corporate wealth, primarily in the U.S., and their many minions, use its disproportionate influence on government and other institutional life to maintain and expand a nice threesome – power, profits and privilege.
power and terror:
In an interview with ABC news correspondent Martha Raddatz pointed out to Dick Cheney that a majority of citizens opposed the war in Iraq. Cheney replied, “So?”
Martha asked, “You don’t care what the American people think?”
He said, “NO.” Cheney then goes on to say that we can’t be subject to fluctuations in opinion polls.
A White House spokesman was asked later if this meant the government didn’t think the public should have input. The spokesman remarked that the public has input every four years.
bye, bye american pie
In this collection of interviews and speeches the prolific Chomsky offers his insights on two critical items. Asked, what are the primary issues that should concern us?, he replies, “Nuclear War and Environmental Catastrophe.” There seems to be an idea in the air lately (see Naomi Klein’s book on climate change, This Changes Everything) that capitalism is incompatible with democracy and survival of our civilization. Chomsky elucidates how the most ruthless in the capitalist game…
what is truth?
Every now and again in our grand world history, magnetic personalities have had insights so stirring they just had to try to share. These sharings sometimes resonated broadly and created movements based on the master’s teachings, as they understood, or misunderstood, them. The truth shall make you free, for example. MLK said it, not sure where he got it, Jesus? Dunno. This example so begs elaboration that all kinds of factions can get behind it. The truth for some is Jesus…
Paul Simon wrote that line. It fits the paralyzing disequilibrium that took me over as I was handed a game-changing diagnosis of tonsil cancer. I wrote the following note on the subway home for the worst case scenario. Fortunately it has proved, like reports of Twain’s death, to be premature.
This is that maudlin letter you dread from someone who believes you would actually maybe like to have a farewell note: If you get this I have navigated a dark corridor descended slippery stairs to black water’s edge stepped into and pushed off waiting skiff into infinite night.
15 central park west
This is a book about the 1%, the billionaires, or some of them, who can pay $50 million for a condo they use a couple weeks a year while otherwise camped in one of their other lavish homes. Mitt Romney accused ordinary people of feelings of entitlement when they expect social security and medicare but Mitt was playing to his audience, the true practitioners of entitlement. But this is not a political book. The wall street protests are mentioned in passing but its focus is the acquisition of Fifteen Central Park West property, the construction of the outstanding structure and the selling of its units to the aristocracy of money…
Jeremy Scahill begins his book, Dirty Wars, by confirming that Bush-Cheney-Rumsfield cherry-picked intelligence to justify their disastrous invasion of Iraq, an intention formed well before 9/11. The infamous attack served only as an excuse for their “imperial” ambitions. Interesting that these three chicken hawks, an almost compulsory resume item for the whole administration, took up an especially macho obsession with war and black ops, secret, usually violent and ethically challenged operations. Their projects involved lawless behavior completely at odds with the smug rhetoric these same actors routinely used for public relations purposes.
According to art historian Sam Hunter, Pop Art is an “original and irreverent parody of the imagery and artifacts of commercial culture.” The germ of Pop Art lay in the work of one of Abstract Expressionism’s finest painters, Willem de Kooning. His use of women as points of departure for painting triggered work by other artists which brought back “subject matter” into painting. San Francisco artist Richard Diebenkorn produced paintings in the 50s which resembled Abstract Expressionism with a geometric division of the picture within a portrayal of interior scenes and landscapes.
Abstract Expression emerged in the late 1940s, growing out of the influx of European artists fleeing fascism, and the theories they brought with them. It was the second wave of European modernism, the first not having caught on here 30 years earlier. The idea of painting “automatically”, without thinking, without plan, drawing from that part of the brain where we dream – that Surrealist notion was used by the Abstract Expressionists but they left out the dream images, they just “automatically” put paint on canvas and moved it around until it seemed like time to stop.
When Mozart was three, the story goes, he watched his father give his sister a piano lesson, after which he sat down and played it from memory. Sometimes genius shows itself early.
There is a museum in Barcelona of Picasso’s work. When he was only ten years he was painting small neighborhood scenes – a view of a road on a hill, some chickens… He was already doing several paintings a day, a pattern he maintained most of the rest of his 93 years.
Dada was an art movement which reacted to the madness of World War I. The artists were saying, in essence, if this is what rational thinking brings us, let’s try a little irrational. Scientific theories were also in the air that would soon lead to the ultimate rational achievement, the atomic bomb.
The movement was made up of artists and poets, sculptors and writers, initially in Switzerland. They would hold events where three or more poets would read different poems at once. They might disrupt symphony concerts by standing to lecture or shout nonsense. The most extreme Dada act was suicide, or even murder.
Western Artists at the turn of the 20th century were faced with an emerging modern era, which they enthusiastically embraced or scornfully dismissed. Young Picasso was an enthusiast, attracted particularly to Paul Cezanne’s paintings, which were, in part, geometric simplifications of the subject, whether a portrait or landscape. Picasso developed this to its logical conclusion, and beyond, in ways that would probably have scandalized Cezanne. This was Cubism.
honest v. integrity
When you get interested in painting you naturally look around to see what others who got this bug have done. Finding out what painters are doing in the U.S. today is like listening to rock on the radio. You have to wade through a lot of “forgettables” before you hear one that will be an “oldie” in ten years. Museums show oldies. Most of their collections have been filtered. The forgettables have been thrown out. On this painting journey you will run across an opinion that painting is dead, irrelevant, old paradigm…