Monday, February 18, 2008


Courage is defined as the ability to disregard fear; bravery.

The range of situations to which the notion of courage applies spans a broad spectrum. Courage can be viewed as a conviction or a set of convictions; having the courage to act on one’s beliefs. Courage can be seen as having the determination and fortitude to endure adversity and to overcome all that is embodied within that context. It can be applied to a set of circumstances that seem insurmountable. It can be thought of within the context of a debilitating or terminal illness, over which one is determined to prevail. Then there is the act of courage where one is faced with responding to a situation that leaves the individual faced with a miniscule chance of survival.

I have a very good friend who recently faced a bout with colon cancer. He underwent the rigors of surgery, chemo and radiation therapy, and has been reassured by his physicians that they “got it all.” But, not only is colon cancer a deadly sleeper, but there is that intervening five-year period before its victims are safely out of the woods. Each of us has his or her own way of dealing with a blow of this severity, coping in the best way we know how.

Peter is a reasonably young man with a lovely wife and two young adult children. They are a kind and generous family who have that rare ability to make a stranger feel like he is a part of the family within a few minutes of meeting them. I know. I was alone and far away that Holiday Season many years ago when, over every excuse I could muster for not going, he insisted I join them and a group of friends at their home for Christmas Dinner. That was one of the best Christmases I have ever had. Peter quickly became a treasured and life-long friend. I realized he was an exceptional man, but his reaction to cancer has revealed a person of depth and courage I had not known before. He has a gift for writing that is extraordinary. His ability to engage in introspection about himself, his family, his life and his future are expressed in philosophical and humorous ways seen in few people. He has humbled and inspired me in ways he cannot imagine, and I am at a loss for words to adequately convey my feelings to him and for him in all that he has given me through his adversity. He truly is a living example of what I regard as “courage” in the finest and best sense of the word.

Nothing casts the issue of courage into sharp relief more than war. I was introduced to war and death at an early age during World War II. I cannot imagine anything more courageous than a young man landing on a beach, or huddling in a trench or a foxhole with everything to live for, waiting to be ordered or volunteering to rise up and face an almost certain death. To this very day, I am haunted by the memory of two of my Dad’s buddies who never came home from the war. Chuck Downey was little more than a boy when he joined the Marine Corps. I can still see his strawberry blond hair, his freckled face and the blue eyes of his Irish ancestry. I wanted to be just like him when I grew up. He was killed on Iwo Jima. Bill Gay was a dark haired, gentle and quiet guy with a big smile, who joined the Navy and went down with a submarine in the South Pacific, never to surface again. Death was a mystery to me, but the intervening years have sharpened my perception of the horrors he must have experienced in the last throes of his life.

Just because those of later generations who were to become the victims of the gargantuan egos of Lyndon B. Johnson & Co and their pack of lies, and the evil and calculated deception of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and their cadre of cowardly neocons does not diminish the courage manifest in those who lost their lives in their wars. They faced, and continue to face, the same odds in the game of life and death. No matter how misplaced it might have been, they gave their life and limb out of a sense of patriotism; something that has never been operative in the moral fabric and character of the so-called “Commander in Chief” and his lieutenants operating in the shadows of their own dark agenda. Nothing should diminish their sacrifice just because of the sheer evil of those who planned and orchestrated their mortal demise.

Once in a while each of us should take the time to visit a military cemetery, alone, just for the experience of reflecting for a brief time on what real courage is all about. There is something about the vastness and stillness of those hallowed places that gives pause and reflection as to what we are all about. In the final analysis, could we have faced up to the challenges of their short and valiant lives? I don’t pay much attention to memorials erected to those who were the architects of war, for the true heroes are those who lie beneath our feet, row upon row, as far as the eye can see, and who faced the horrors perpetrated by those who sealed their fate.

On Memorial Day of 1956, as a young Navy man, I recall being in the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, standing at the foot of the grave of Ernie Pyle, a famous World War II journalist. I was humbled at knowing how insignificant I was compared to the man at whose grave I looked down upon. I vividly remember the warmth of the gentle trade winds, laced with the faint perfume of Plumeria, brushing against my face. It was as if Providence was telling me that, although they live in a different dimension, they still walk among us in that state of eternal youth waiting for their turn at the fullness of a life never to be realized.

When I am alone I sometimes think a lot about what courage and bravery are all about, and I wonder how I would stack up against those whose badge of honor is captured in the simple word, “courage.” Try as I might to conclude otherwise, I doubt that I would have passed muster. I stow those thoughts away to be reflected upon another day, and I get on with my life, such as it is ………

Cowboy Bob
February 17, 2008

Monday, February 11, 2008

"Where Do We Go From Here?"

Freedom, taken to the extreme, is the barbaric state. Absolute freedom is anarchy. In order to live in a civilized society, citizens must be willing to give up certain individual rights for the sake of the common good. The extent to which that is required can only be determined by those who are governed; not by those who govern.

Those who subscribe to a political policy that champion’s unfettered free enterprise and condemn government regulation choose to ignore the basic instinct of human beings to pursue their own vested self-interests at the expense of society. The absence of regulation gives license to the basest nature of men. Unbridled greed is the logical extension of this fundamental set of beliefs. The “true believers” in the Republican Party have either completely overlooked this fact or have chosen to ignore it. The public utility model was created to protect the interests of society in those sectors of the economy where competition did not necessarily accrue to the benefit of the citizenry. Nowhere do the ravages of globalization, free trade agreements and open borders bear this out more than in the present sorry state of our economy and its brutal assault on the American dream.

Before we fall victim to our tendency to play the blame game, let us pause for a moment. Democrats and Republicans share the burden of responsibility. De-regulation started with the transportation industry during the Carter Administration. The disdain for the working class American was clearly manifest by the Reagan Administration. His pursuit of de-regulation and his anti-labor agenda was anything but subtle. “Bush 1” carried on the tradition of favoring big business and big money. Bill Clinton, although a professed champion of the common man, undermined the working class American when he signed the NAFT Treaty and championed globalization. The plundering of the national coffers by George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and their cadre of neocons will surely go down in history as the most egregious assault on the United States economy since the days of Howard Taft and Warren G. Harding. From all this has evolved a mindset in Washington, D.C. that the political establishment knows what is best for the American people, the electorate be damned. They are all feeding from the same trough of corruption all the while pretending to be above the stench of our nation’s capitol, the lobbyists and special interests.

This attenuated painful charade of the primaries to which we have all been subjected this past year is almost beyond endurance. As much of a political junkie as I am, I am totally fatigued by the endless exhortations of false patriotism and the delusion that the national treasury is a bottomless pit of money that is destined to fund all of our ills during the first four years of the next administration. Hogwash! It just ain’t going to happen.

I am even more offended by the efforts to transform a war based on a pack of lies into a noble cause that must be pursued relentlessly to some perverted notion of an honorable conclusion. Give me a break! In case the political establishment in Washington hasn’t gotten the message, we simply cannot afford to continue the war. Hey folks, there ain’t any more money. How much longer do you think China and the Arabs are going to be willing to loan us the trillions necessary for us to prove a point?

I love to hear the championing of the laundered images of past presidential "heroes." Ronald Reagan was a Grade B actor, a Grade B governor and a Grade B president. No amount of resurrecting his memory and re-writing his legacy is going to change all that. For all the reverence heaped upon his record, they should have freeze-dried him so they could drag him out for ceremonial and political occasions.

The Clintons, although revered by a significant constituency, were and are little more than a couple of vulgarians with gargantuan political ambitions. His antics in the Oval Office with Monica Lewinsky, plus his lying about those trysts stand as mute testimony to the total disregard he has for the American people and the Presidency. The old saying goes, “you are known by the company you keep.” All one has to do is look at their history going back to Arkansas and up to the present day and that says it all. They are what they are.

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and their happy band of thugs gave new meaning to corruption. They have probably collectively committed more criminal offenses than any administration in the history of the Republic. If we had any principles left and the cajones to do so, they should be impeached and held accountable for their criminal behavior. But, being part of the aristocracy of the Potomac, that isn’t likely to happen. They will get off as did Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld, and all the rest of their hoodlums. There is no question in my mind that they have taken us closer to an absolute dictatorship than at any time in our history.

We have had one great politician and one great statesman in the last 100 years; Franklin D. Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower, respectively.

So, where is all this taking us? Frankly, I don’t think the Washington establishment is capable of reform. They simply have it far too good at our individual and collective expense. The Republicans aren’t going to do it, nor are the Democrats. It is going to take a ground swell of independents to make it happen, and I think that is a distinct possibility.

Let’s look at some rather interesting events that have been occurring in the shadows over the last few months:

1. Chuck Hagel, who I regard as one of the most honorable and courageous men in the United States Senate, announced that he would not be seeking re-election at the end of his current term. No reason was given.

2. Rumors began to emerge that Michael Bloomberg was flirting with the notion of running for the presidency as an independent. Nothing concrete has come from that so far.

3. Michael Bloomberg and Chuck Hagel had a private dinner in New York. No one, to my knowledge, knows what was discussed at that dinner. It was simply “private.”

4. Rumors were floated to the effect that Michael Bloomberg was prepared to fund a run for the presidency to the tune of 1 billion dollars out of his own fortune.

5. Barack Obama and Michael Bloomberg were observed at a beanery in New York having lunch together. No one seems to know why they were “lunching” together or what was discussed. Interest was short lived and faded into the background.

6. Michael Bloomberg is reputed to have some of the best minds in the business researching what it would take to get on the ballots of all 50 states for the General Election.

7. After failing to gain any traction in the primaries, John Edwards drops out of the race without endorsing any candidate. (John Edwards ranks among the very few whom I happen to believe is a man with a mission and who is imbued with a strong sense of personal integrity).

8. Michael Bloomberg meets with a blue-ribbon panel of former political figures in Norman, Oklahoma. What was discussed remains shrouded in mystery. However, people of that caliber don’t usually travel great distances just for the fun of having a gabfest.

9. Michael Bloomberg denies having any interest in running for the presidency. All the while Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama continue to battle it out for votes and delegates in the primaries, running in a dead heat. Speculation starts to grow as to whether or not this race will end in a brokered convention and what role will the “super delegates” play in the final outcome?

I genuinely believe that the American people are fed up with the self-serving behavior of the entrenched Washington establishment who have set themselves above the electorate at the expense of the taxpayers. They are not even the slightest bit subtle about their corruption and personal ambitions. They are no longer credible and haven’t the sense to realize it.

Although I haven’t a shred of evidence to support this conclusion, I have a gut feeling that there is a small group of influential people that is deeply concerned at the current state of this nation and how the political establishment has led us down the primrose path to economic, moral and political ruin. They want to break the stranglehold of the political elite within the Beltway, clean up government and restore the vision of the Founding Fathers.

So, this is the way I think it is all going to play out.

The primaries and caucuses for the Democratic nomination will end up so close in delegates that the super delegates will step in and decide the outcome in terms of what they feel is best for the party, the electorate be damned. They will cast their lot for Hillary Clinton at the expense of Barack Obama, because she represents the club of the ruling establishment. There will be a great hue and cry from the party faithful crying fowl, but to no avail. Efforts will be made to bring Hillary and Barack together on one ticket for President and Vice-President.
Obama will reject the overture, feeling that he would be compromising his integrity and his commitment to the people.

Michael Bloomberg will persuade Barack Obama to run for president as an independent, with Chuck Hagel as vice-president and a prominent role for John Edwards in a new independent administration, resulting in a bi-partisan ticket comprised of individuals who have a reputation for honesty and integrity the likes of which we haven‘t seen in years.

They will coalesce the centrist independents and pull those who lean toward the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively, to make a majority that neither of the two major political parties can overcome.

The old political machine that has dominated our national politics will disintegrate and the old power brokers will steal into the night whimpering like a bunch of wolves that have lost their teeth. They just won’t matter that much any more.

The promise of a new America will emerge that will foster a renaissance of the American dream, rekindle the inherent decency of who we are as a people and what we are all about, and which was seemingly lost so long ago.

And that’s the way I see it.

Cowboy Bob
February 11, 2008