Tom is a painter, a cartoonist, a musician, a thinker and more. View some of his web sites:
- www.thinkspeak.net (Painting)
- toons.thinkspeak.net (Political Cartoons)
- thinkspeak.bandcamp.com (Music)
- tfthinkspeak.blogspot.com (blog)
Number of posts: 178
Email address: email
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By Tom Ferguson:
- We demand greater democratic control in all spheres of life, from the home to the government, from the economy to the workplace. It is a moral, logical and political imperative that people should be in control of their own lives to the greatest extent possible.
evening with bernie
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders Vermont spoke this morning (10/18/13) at a union hall in Atlanta to an enthusiastic full house. The points he made in his talk and the town hall-like Q & A, though pretty wide-ranging, highlighted a couple items: extremist republican ideologues look around and realize, hell, we can’t ask people to vote for us so we can gut social security, medicare-medicade, veterans benefits, ship U.S. jobs to China and cut taxes for the wealthy.
it could make you free
We all have one, it seems, a sister or brother-in-law who isn’t quite on the same political track. I found myself in a shouting match with mine in my Mom’s kitchen, to her consternation. It was in the Reagan 80s and we were discussing U.S. Central American policy. The term “gun-boat diplomacy” came up, him admitting that maybe in the distant past it happened but today… no. As sort of a crescendo to a rising-to-maximum rude volume he triumphantly shouted, in italics, bold, with exclamation points and in my face, “Open your eyes!!!”
When the oil tanker Exxon Valdez went aground in Alaska’s Prince William Sound in 1989, releasing more than 240,000 barrels of crude into a pristine environment, there was more behind it than an alcoholic captain. Exxon had downsized 40% of its personnel in a cost-cutting spree that included safety and environmental departments. At the same time the Reagan administration had downsized the coast guard as part of its near-fanatic belief in privatization and less government. The disaster thus was worse than it might have been…
the corporate agenda
Thanks to a leak by the group, Public Citizen, we now have access to some of the contents of the next international trade agreement, The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This deal is being reviewed and commented on by 600 some corporations with the usual representation of environmental, labor and social-justice concerns – zero. This corporate wet-dream is so secret that even the few U.S. senators who’ve had a peek are not allowed to publically discuss its provisions.
it's a rip
The Georgia legislature, in its great (yawn) wisdom, saw fit to grant Georgia Power the power to charge us ratepayers in advance for two nuclear reactors. The 16 billion dollar plus reactors are under construction at Plant Vogtle on the Savannah River just south of Augusta. CWIP (Construction Work in Progress) was passed as the Georgia Nuclear Energy Financing Act.
In testifying at the committee level many citizens argued against the proposal brought by a legislator, known technically as a lapdog.
Leaving the tiny but expensive apartment on east 90th, I walked west, glancing down the always impressive Park Avenue, making my way to the Guggenheim on 5th Avenue. A fairly short line and I was in, senior discount, $18. Normally one stands at that point in the atrium, the spiral walkway there to take you past whatever show is hanging. Or take the elevators to start at the top — the last exhibit I saw here was abstraction from the 50s, with stand-out, drop-dead DeKoonings.
The war between the states, as some prefer to call the U.S. Civil War, is what first comes to mind when I encounter George Santayana’s quip, “Those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it.” This applies to war in general. When each new one comes along we seem to be unaware of the carnage involved and skip gaily into the glorious fray sending the professionals along with the young and naïve as cannon fodder – being too busy, as Dick Cheney said about his failure to serve in Vietnam, to actually attend ourselves.
Apartheid over Peace
When I drove a taxi part-time while an art student in Milwaukee I learned that a prestigious club barred people of color and Jews. Women were also excluded except in the company of members.That was kind of shocking to a naïve kid from Michigan’s rural upper peninsula, especially since many of my pickups at that club were judges, lawyers, CEOs etc. – the naïve kid expecting people of that status to be enlightened.
Anything characterized by high energy, originality, humor and intelligence is bound to get my attention. I was at an annual fund-raising party for an alternative art center called Nexus in about 1986. Touring the studios I kept being distracted from the visual art by some very interesting Rock ‘n Roll. I wasn’t the only one. A large segment of the crowd was gathered around the Swimming Pool Qs in the courtyard. Once in their vicinity I was there for as long as they would play.
Business As Usual
Does it drive me careening ca-razy when I see O’reilly, Beck, Hannity etc; with books on the bestseller list? That would be a yes! These (mostly) white (mostly) guys capitalize on their positions in the media to sell books. Their TV and radio shows propagate a point of view that just happens to support an economic system that the billionaire owners of the media, their ultimate bosses, approve of. Their books send the same message, keeping their followers dumbed down…
Too Much Magic
It is all too tempting to dismiss James Howard Kunstler as a doom-and-gloom pessimist but the nagging questions he leaves us in his books and blog, are pretty insistent in their demand that we prove him wrong. This exercise, to have any meaning, would have to be done by what Kunstler calls, “reality-based adults.” Good luck finding such individuals and pray to the god (small cap) of your choice that they are successful. You might be such a person. Kunstler’s conclusions are too dark for my sunny disposition so I beg, someone, please demonstrate the flaws in his argument.
The Cuban Missile Crisis: background. After outlining how the U.S. was taken over by a cabal of unbalanced individuals at Roosevelt’s death, The Untold History goes on to document some later consequences, starting with the shameful 1954 coup that overthrew Guatemala’s democracy. This criminal action installed a murderous regime for which the U.S. had no criticism so long as it operated in ways that profited U.S. corporations, most particularly United Fruit, many of whose directors did the revolving door thing where they would work for the State Department then return to United Fruit…
I responded to a Sierra Club call once, back during Zell Miller’s governorship, to gather at the capital to raise awareness about some environmental issue, I forget what. I’ve often gone to demonstrations to put my body there, to be counted and this was one of those, a general support without specific knowledge of the issue. I was getting briefed by one of the Sierra Club folks when someone announced, “We’re being invited in to meet with the governor.” This was the pre-bonkers Zell Miller. In fact he had a bit of a progressive reputation. Still, no one expected…
Michael Parenti can always be counted on to provide an original twist, in this case to the old story of Empire. He refers to Imperial Forces as “batterers.” Given that the mainstream media is where most citizens get their information, Parenti’s view of the U.S. as a colonial empire will clash wildly with how those citizens likely understand world affairs. But the author, in his book, Against Empire, offers a persuasive argument for those willing to suspend belief for a moment in the “exceptional morality” of our government.
The 1944 Coup
Skipping straight to the most explosive item in the early part of this important history: Franklin Roosevelt was elected because the ruling elite, in their unbridled greed, had transgressed all bounds, forgetting their vulnerability to democracy. Toward the end of World War II and Roosevelt’s approaching unprecedented fourth term, the millionaire-backed powers that vehemently opposed his progressive programs banded together to dump his vice-president. Knowing Roosevelt would likely die in office…
I once attended a spirited panel discussion at Emory University on the fatwa or death sentence pronounced by the deeply, I guess, religious leaders of Iran, on the author of The Satanic Verses. People lined up at the mics for a Q & A session and I was appalled by the smug prevailing attitude that Salman Rushdie brought the reaction on himself. More disturbing, not once was the question of freedom of speech raised, neither from the panel nor audience of mostly middle-easterners. I suppose that’s the number of times it was raised in the discussion leading up to fatwa in Iran also.
Wanting It All
Nations have national flags in order to give the population a nice visual to identify with. A narrative is fashioned to associate with that symbol, all according to good stimulus- response behavioral psychology. The narrative relates more or less to history, usually less. The former Soviet Union for example had a story where the workers triumph over the corrupt capitalist, monarchy and opiate religion, ever vigilante as they build a socialist paradise. In reality the story, though rooted in real concerns and yearnings, was put forth for maximum control by a sociopathic, if charismatic, control freak. The U.S., lest “we” get too smug, has its own narrative of democracy by for and of the people but only in so far as corporations are the people.
Exporting Torture & Murder
As the annual converging organized by SOA Watch on Fort Benning, Georgia approaches, it is perhaps helpful to remember the Salvadoran army officers who murdered Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and young daughter in 1989 were pardoned in El Salvador. In outrageous contrast the thirteen U.S. citizens who reenacted the 1989 murders, as part of a demonstration against the School of the Americas where the officers were trained, were sentenced to prison. This has happened every year since the murders and will continue, according to organizers, until the school is closed.
Gentlemen Tell Lies
Remember when there was a flap about Fox News and the White House Press room? Fox had annoyed Obama and there was some restrictions entertained on their presence at the press room. When the press corps stood up in defense of Fox, instead of defending their position with a list of Fox presentations that clearly show them to be an extension of the Republican Party not a news organization the White House hem-hawed and backed down.
This pattern repeats again and again.
From Air-Conditioned Bunkers
The mainstream media, which serves the elite who own them, hastened to promote a rush to judgment about Muslim “fanatics” recently attacking our embassies and “interests”. In order to continue to embrace the myth that portrays the U.S. as the “good guys”, we necessarily must overlook the “fanatical” drone warfare the U.S. is conducting in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and other places which have killed far more innocent civilians than died in the embassy attacks.
John Dean, one of the white collar criminals caught up in Richard Nixon’s early 70s paranoia, at first as felon but later as informer when abandoned by his co-conspirators, has written a book, Worse Than Watergate, which goes some distance in demonstrating his rehabilitation. Halderman and Ehrlichman, the German-Americans above him in the White House hierarchy, at first used then abandoned Dean as scapecoat, hoping to end the Watergate investigation there. Once they recognized that Dean was not willing to continue the cover-up, which was ever-deepening his criminal culpability, they fired him but…
Speaking of Craziness
The new president of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) came through Atlanta recently, speaking at the Unitarian Universalist Church (some would dispute whether UU, as it is called, is a real church since belief plays little or no role – the “great undecided” some chide). The lecture was in honor of the late Ed Arnold, former Executive Director of PSR/Atlanta and a long-time, much loved Atlanta activist.
Atlanta: 14th & Peachtree
“Surveying aspects of the past – slavery, child labor, oppression of women and workers, war, colonialism, environmental degradation, corruption, nepotism, racism, oligarchy, patriarchy, fascism – one can hardly ignore the injustice of one’s own time and Standing For Peace is one avenue of resistance.”
The above quote came from an activist when asked why she joins the weekly Stand For Peace at 14th and Peachtree in Atlanta, Fridays noon to 1pm.
What is the best way to arrest our skid toward extinction? How to live an ethical life? How do we advance “spiritually”? How do we create the shift necessary to avoid nuclear war, war in general, alleviate poverty, injustice, eliminate pollution and unsustainable practices? I have always been suspicious of one-sentence answers to big questions but Tolle’s take on things overcomes my skepticism as it embodies the beauty of simplicity, a strategy to address the full range of important issues that plague the human family, at their root. As with all simple answers elaboration is required.
Talking Past Each Other
Tom: Six members of the Walton family (Wal-mart) have more wealth than the bottom 30% of the US population. I guess that puts them in the 1%.
Other Guy: It isn’t immoral to work hard. they are rich. so what? They also have created jobs for hundreds of thousands of people. They also have the abilitry to sell for less allowing folks to feed their families a bit better because they can afford more. There is more good to the storey than as you seem to see it, evil.
Exhilarating Dance of Life
Some 2,500 years ago a city smaller than present day Atlanta produced painting, sculpture, architecture, theater, poetry, literature and pottery, which stand as monumental foundation for the art we experience around us in the west today.
In 1982 I stood before the Acropolis in Athens. I was awed at the sophistication of a people whose technology was mightily primitive compared to what has developed since. Yet, they were able to construct an incredibly advanced civilization…
Stampede to Extinction
The CIA, since its inception in the late 1940s, has bought, corrupted and otherwise influenced individuals and governments across the world. Their use of money parallels the way wealth buys and otherwise corrupts and over-influences the U.S. government, electorate and other institutions.
Wealthy individuals and corporations make money available to candidates…
On some level I am Mona Lisa… remember that song, Nat King Cole – the voice, just the chorus? Remember that painting? On some level, there we all are, Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa. She’s there (here) vibrating in a smile of being and if we’re not there with her we’re missing the profoundest experience our senses can deliver.
We are at the edge of an avalanche of events which pushes us into the future… all that came before affects us with its momentum… we can hardly pause to make choices yet that is all we do, make choices… we choose a story to explain our predicament, we choose an action based on the values we’ve chosen…
Black & White
During the slavery era in the U.S. the affluent white population was naturally of two minds about the black population, being as how a large one brought high profits but also a certain vulnerability. The dictum, We are many, they are few applied no less then than now, and then, as now, the 1% gets uncomfortable when the more numerous segment gets restless, starts questioning the 1%-ordained order of things and begins to realize the latent power in its numbers.
They Don't Believe in Science
The apparently irresistible campaign contributions and lobbying that seduced national and state legislators into signing onto privatization and deregulation schemes over the past decades brought us the current economic mess. The push for nuclear power is more of the same, kind of a group-think, ideological commitment unimpeded by critical analysis and driven by an eyes-on-profits fixation. Under-funded anti-nuclear groups across the planet have been trying to make the following points for years about nuclear power…
The term “fundamentalist ideology” probably evokes the idea of Islamic fanaticism to many, Christian or Jewish extremists to others, but rarely are the promoters of capitalism associated with the term. Yet, there is clearly a similar level of intellectual dishonesty. Rush Limbo, implied at the time, that the Gulf oil-spill disaster was caused by “whacko environmentalists” and though he polices the hysterical end of capitalism you won’t find a lot of real analysis on the more respectable end either.
Nearly a hundred years after the publication of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation (2001) documents a full-circle return to the horrendous conditions in the meat industry that provoked a Presidential investigation and led to congressional action on food safety in 1906. This book covers a lot of ground… and a lot of ground beef. And it confirms, with its broad, meticulous research, the biblical cliché, “…who increases knowledge increases sorrow.”
The Price of Power
In 1952 the Paley Commission, appointed by the Truman Administration to study the energy situation, recommended that the U.S. build itself a solar future, predicting 15 million sun-heated homes by 1975. The Commission specifically warned against going nuclear, asserting the promise of renewable energy sources to be greater than that of nuclear power for meeting energy needs and preventing economic dislocations due to disruptions in foreign oil supply. Dwight Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” program intervened the next year with its propaganda promises of energy “too cheap to meter.”
Restating the Obvious
The most obvious solution to our health care crisis is clearly the single payer, medicare-for-all system that works so well for the people in the other industrialized nations (Western Europe, Australia, Canada – though these programs are under attack as the world-wide oligarchy consolidates).
Single payer is excluded from the U.S. discussion due to special interests, segments of the oligarchy, who see such a system as a threat to their continuing robbery of the U.S. public – health insurance and drug companies (cartels).
Vote by Commenting
Does this chart express your energy preferences? Or would you see it as an index of shit ‘n corruption?
How's That For A Title?
Hermann Hesse was the first writer I encountered who dealt with the subject of consciousness. A book on Hinduism was next and, over the next 40 years, a series of authors, teachers, psychologists, artists, philosophers, musicians followed who examined this subject with varying degrees of opinion and clarity.
The recognition that, as a species present course is dead-on toward extinction – we are fouling the nest, polluting essential-to-life air, soil, water with our consumption, over-population and war-making toys, so high tech that even their limited use could put an end to the whole opera – this knowledge is fairly widespread.
Michael Parenti, in his book, The Face of Imperialism (2011), attempts to persuade the reader to look without flinching at their own opinions, to consider whether they derive from sources outside themselves. The old saw, “the truth shall make you free” is echoed, suggesting that openness to new information can free one from the dominant paradigm with its boundaries of permissible opinion and deviance from reality.
Your Logo Here
Naomi Klein’s 1999 book, No Logo, like her later important book, Shock Doctrine, considers the impact of the corporation on society. This one studies the phenomenon that transformed the corporation from an entity that sells merchandise to a brand – and that brand has a manufactured “meaning” for the consumer beyond the utility of the object. Klein examines the implications for we who live now in a branded world. Ironically, Klein herself became, if not a brand, very well known, No Logo selling 1.2 million copies.
Michael Parenti’s, God and His Demons, review part 2:
Do secular and religious conservatives walk hand in hand to advance their privileged positions in the social order? Of course they do. And often enough they get caught, a little too often to dismiss as just a few bad apples, kind of like the catholic priests and pedophilia.
Pope John XXIII’s relatively progressive reign provided an opening for those in Latin America concerned for the extremes of wealth and poverty prevalent there, giving rise to the Liberation Theology movement, soon squashed once John’s successor, right winger Pope John Paul II, took over in the late ’70s.
Michael Parenti, in his 2010 book, God and His Demons, joins Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins in critiquing what all three would characterize as dangerous superstition. Dawkins and Parenti are careful to clarify that their subject is fundamentalism not all religion. But they do express puzzlement over the appeal of religion even on the less literal level. Dawkins suggests that the comfort, if that’s what is provided, is hardly worth the sacrifice of intellectual honesty required. Parenti takes it a bit further by dismissing even the oft-reported mystic’s feeling of ONENESS as so much self-delusion.
The persistence of a fairy tale portraying the United States as a benevolent force in the world, promoting freedom, democracy, health and happiness for all is attributable in part to the fact that embracing the belief is often prerequisite to substantial material abundance, while questioning it can bar the road to such rewards. This would of course hold true, in one form or another, for any of the many empires littering the historical landscape, an insight that might be tolerable if held toward other societies, though it is probably wise to keep it to oneself, but never is it to be seen/said to apply here. Chomsky calls this view U.S. Exceptionalism.
Those who rise in the mainstream (corporate) pundit journalism profession are not those who point out inconsistencies in the tale, no more than those in the church who rise to Cardinal, Bishop etc; are those who question basic assumptions. No, it is “faith” that elevates one to the higher reaches. Those with little (or no) faith must apply only to the marginal congregations, the fringe journals that pay writers in the high two figures.
Corporate Raiders of the Last Buck
For their book, The Big Boys, Ralph Nader and William Taylor lined up interviews with U.S. corporate CEOs to get a sense of the mid 1980s business world as viewed from that lofty perch. In a way, little has changed since. The basic motivation remains, profit. But the presence of greed has undergone what could under-statedly be called an amplification. Manufacturing an actual non-sweat-shop product was still an on-going operation in the U.S. You could buy U.S.-made shoes, tools, autos, dishwashers, VCRs… Steel Plants were still forging those ol’ I-beams, but not for long. The more lucrative short cuts of the casino-financial world had not yet fully kicked in, where profit is generated by manipulating or betting on market fluctuations.
The Enron debacle is may be old news but still elucidates a corporate mentality that ever seeks dominion over our every thought and breath, that it may more effectively pick our bones. In their 2003 book, The Smartest Guys in the Room, Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind remind the gullible that so-called experts in the financial world need to be scrutinized carefully, that the respectability of their $300 haircuts and $4,000 dollar suits wither in the harsh light of a mug shot.
Wall Street apologists will caution that we should not judge a whole industry by the criminal behavior of a few bad apples but scrutinizing those bad apples reveals some interesting if wormy data: top Enron officers were among the loudest proponents of the “free market”, calling for deregulation when it promised them rip-off privilege but crying out for government largess when that would firm up their quarterly reports. The most prestigious of accounting firms, Arthur Anderson, turned a blind eye to illegal and/or deceptive Enron accounting methods since that was immensely profitable for the firm (short-term of course – ultimately it destroyed them).
The ego is a mental construct, a pseudo entity characterized by a boundless inability to empathize, which thrives on obsessive thought and shrivels in the light of observation, of consciousness. Ego is terrified by the thought of extinction and invents elaborate strategies toward safety: domination, superiority, violence, judgment. The non-pseudo self is accessible through presence, indeed is presence, non-verbal being, consciousness, where “safety” is felt/known in the recognition of absolute interconnection, where identification shifts from ego to essence, and empathy in the broadest possible sense is a given.
I just remembered this morning that phrase, haven’t heard or thought it in years. Someone on a head trip might be someone who is out of touch, distant, insensitive to others, preoccupied with ideas.
Under the influence of psychedelics people in the timeframe I’m thinking of were subject to vibrations – music could send you into near ecstasy and a hug could feel soooo good. In the same way criticism or threats could bring scary waves of paranoia. Another drug term, mind-fucker, would be someone who exploited that vulnerability as a put-down artist, sadistically playing on people’s insecurities in order to feel a warped sense of superiority.
This is the last panel of 36 that I submitted back in the late 80s, attempting to get syndicated… no luck. But it was fun. I had envisioned the duo traveling to Alaska next, then across to and down the coast of Asia, maybe transporting them sometimes to current hot spots enabling me to comment on stuff happening around the world. Since the 3 syndicates I approached were not interested I let it drop.
We the People
Government Officials take oaths to defend and protect the Constitution. Violation of that oath is, or ought to be, an impeachable offense. Take for example the recent Supreme Court ruling asserting that corporations are persons with all the rights and privileges thereof, particularly free speech, which they can of course, given their resources, more easily exercise than “real” persons. This would be less treasonous if the intent were not crafting seductive messages designed to legitimize anti-democratic hierarchy and funnel power and money ever upward.
Wherein an ol’ geyser does a turn-around.
Wherein the patriarchal indictment is read.
Wherein the Continental Divide meets the Feminist!
Wherein Haze inquires into the thick steak stakes.
Wherein da duo adopt a trucker guru.
The Bonus Army, 20,000 strong, converged on D.C., set up a shanty-town, seeking relief from the horrific conditions of the Great Depression. These WW I. veterans and their families demanded promised bonuses. They were tolerated for a time but then those-who-follow-orders, including such luminaries as General MacArthur, Major Eisenhower and his aid, George Patton, were sent to disperse the “insubordinate” vets, leaving three dead and more than a thousand injured. This was under President Hoover who was villified when hordes of homeless victims of Laisse Faire capitalism named their make-shift villages Hooverville. Later when vets marched on Washington President Roosevelt personally greeted them, serving coffee.
Wherein the cuddly couple expound on things grandly ordinary.
Defending our Parks
Our corporate-owned government seems variously intolerant of U.S. citizens utilizing their own parks in order to exercise first amendment rights to assemble to redress grievances, yet nary a peep do we hear from same regarding a major foreign-owned propaganda campaign set up in the heart of our publicly-owned broadcast sector (this refers to the obvious fact that Fox – Faux- News is a transparently biased, pro-corporate misinformation operation).
Another parallel we could draw is that great resources are spent to prevent entry or expel poor foreigners (illegals? aliens?) from our nation yet, nary a peep again, when a foreign billionaire saunters in and commandeers a major media outlet, fanning ignorance and bigotry and distorting our political process.
Wherein the wobbly wanderers consider the afterlife.
William Manchester’s book title, A World Lit Only By Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance: Portrait of an Age, doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Well worth the read though, despite it’s awkward title. Published in 1992 the book is timeless in that it portrays human dysfunction and folly as they constantly triumph over reason and compassion. This is certainly at odds with popular notions of religion and European conquest. Manchester comments that, Christianity survived despite medieval Christians, not because of them. If this book were more widely read, that might not hold true, Christianity might not survive.
Wherein Haze, once again, challenges received wisdom.
Salt of the Earth: Wherein our trusty tourists visit the Salt Palace.
The General Assembly passed out their draft of demands and read their preamble: We hold this truth to be self-evident that the 99% deserve equal rights, equal protections, equal access and equal opportunity as the 1% who benefit disproportionately from the current system. We therefore freely assemble to assert our rights and demands: