Saturday, August 22, 2009

“It just keeps getting piled higher and deeper”

I was impressed by the news of the day yesterday, particularly in regard to the current state of the economy.

It was reported that the Dow Jones was going through the roof, the housing market had rebounded, and consumer spending had increased. Wow! What great news. Makes one as happy as a pig in shit.

Then we were told the unemployment figures continued to go up, with California topping the eleven percent mark, foreclosures were still rising and consumer confidence was down.

How could that be? Now I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I find those bits of information rather incongruous. Do you suppose the Dow Jones is going through the roof because all those unemployed folks are rushing to their brokers with their unemployment checks to invest in the market? Or, is it because those with the money are hoping to make another killing? Nah, that would be downright obscene, wouldn’t it?

Why is the housing market rebounding when people are still losing their homes. Perhaps all those unemployed, and about to be unemployed, are taking all that money they have stuffed under the mattress and buying a cheap house while the market is down. Or, could it be that the opportunists would stoop to capitalizing on other people’s misfortunes in order to reap handsome profits when the economy rebounds? That seems so un-American, don’t you think?

And why would consumer confidence be down? Looks like all those hucksters on Madison Avenue and Hollywood have been asleep at the wheel. After all, they are the ones who create and sustain consumer demand. That could be the only rational explanation for all those folks not flocking to Wal-Mart Mart to buy a bunch of cheap crap from China they don’t need, and paying for it with money they don’t have. That can’t be. There must be something more to it than that. I just might be they have to scrape enough together to feed the kids and keep the bill collectors at bay. I wonder how that would play in The Hamptons?

In trying to make some sense out of all this by applying a rudimentary grasp of Aristotelian logic to these contradictions, it occurred to me that perhaps the mainstream news media has become so calloused as to forego any attempt at subtlety in peddling the corporate and political line of bovine scatology to a nation of suckers. Surely, when people are down on the rims, you would think they might have a modicum of conscience, and revisit notions such as hard news and investigative journalism. But, that is probably asking too much from those who have become fat cats by rubbing elbows with the residents of Georgetown, rather than watchdogs on the establishment that historical traditions of journalism dictate. That would be too much to ask.

Perhaps it is because it is inherent in the nature of a good whore to live in the moment and focus on the next trick.

Cowboy Bob
August 22, 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"If Not Now, When?

The United States espouses a two-party political system, albeit there have been a few more from time to time throughout our history. However, the number has been limited to two viable parties, which have dominated our national political scene.

We have a system of democracy based on the Constitution, and a series of amendments to the Constitution adopted and ratified over the course of our nation’s history. The first ten amendments are referred to as The Bill of Rights.

Within the context of those documents are set forth the structure and the defined roles of each branch within the overall context of our national government:

1. The Executive Branch, which consists of the Office of the President and Vice-President, plus all administrative agencies of government headed by members of the Cabinet, appointed by and accountable to the President, and ratified by the Senate. The President and Vice-President are elected by an Electoral College, traditionally based on the results of a popular vote of the people.

2. The Legislative Branch, referred to as the Congress, which is comprised of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Members of the House of Representatives are elected by the voters within defined legislative districts within each of the fifty states. The voters within each of the fifty states elect members of the Senate.

3. The Judicial Branch or the Supreme Court comprised of nine Justices appointed by the President and ratified by the Senate.

4. The roles and powers of each of the three branches of the government are clearly defined in the Constitution and Amendments thereto, properly ratified by three-fourths of the states.

Because we seem to have lost the ability to be shocked by any conduct or malfeasance, we no longer hold our public officials to absolute standards of honesty, integrity and transparency that should be inherent in the conduct of those we elect to public office. Rather, we seem to have evolved to the point where those terms have become situational and, essentially, render any meaningful standards moot.

Elected officials who serve the public and who routinely engage in conduct that is clearly contrary to the public trust, is a conflict of interest, is self-serving and compromises the standards of conduct the electorate should properly expect from them.

Elected officials pander to the influence of corporate power and money, and to the interests of the oligarchs and plutocrats, all at the expense of the common man for whom this democracy was ostensibly founded. The pernicious and pervasive dominance of special interests over our system of government runs from K Street to Wall Street to the Congress to the White House.

We have come to accept, as routine, the massive amounts of money that flow into the coffers of our political system from special interest groups in order to buy favor from those in elected office who, in reality, serve as their minions in Congress and the White House. The only time our elected representatives in Washington seem to pay any attention to the people is when they are seeking votes for their re-election or support for an agenda that predominately serves the interests of corporate America or enhances massive personal wealth.

Corruption has become a way of life within both major political parties and among our elected officials in Washington, as evidenced by lobbyists, the power of money, and the blurred distinction between the two major political parties.

For example:

1. Both parties feed from the same trough of graft and largesse provided by big money and influence.

2. The Republican Party has, historically, tended to favor big business and wealth over the welfare of the common man. Their efforts have become more blatant in recent history. For example, aborting the recount of votes in Florida in 2000 that enabled the Republican Party to steal the election for George W. Bush. We are seeing a reprise of that same tactic
with current efforts at reforming the healthcare system.

3. Massive deregulation of the economy that has led to a scale and concentration of economic and political power never before seen in the history of this country.

4. The largest transfer of wealth from the common man to the super rich in the history of this country.

5. The largest budget deficits in the history of this country, starting with the Reagan Administration and continuing to this day.

Any real distinction between the Democratic and the Republican parties became blurred with the Carter Administration and has continued to the present time.

For example:

1. The opening of the Social Security fund by President Carter to immigrants coming into the United States.

2. The Reagan Administration piling up more debt on the backs of the American people than all of the presidents combined, preceding Ronald Reagan in office.

3. The role of the Clinton Administration and Republicans in Congress in the deregulation of the financial industries that led to the current recession/depression that has taken this country to the brink of total financial ruin, largely at the expense of the common man.

4. The transfer of massive amounts of wealth through tax cuts for the top tier of the American social system by the Bush Administration.

5. An illegal war and questionable practices associated with no-bid contractors.

6. The Obama Administration coming into office promising the American people “change they can believe in,” only to embark on placing former “Clintonites” in strategic positions that have served (and continue to serve) the interests of the financial community, such as advice and counsel from Robert Rubin, the appointment of Larry Summers as the Chief Economic Advisor to the President, and the appointment of Timothy Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury.

a. The shroud of secrecy that has been placed around dealings between the Administration, the Federal Reserve and Wall Street.

b. The absence of any real accountability and transparency by the Administration, the Federal Reserve and Wall Street. The American people still have no idea as to what has really gone on, the magnitude of the financial obligation to be borne by the taxpayers, and being kept in the dark because of specious arguments such as “too big to fail,” and other forms of deception.
In the meantime, Wall Street profits handsomely while the economy falters and the common man suffers.

Clearly, the credibility and motives of Rubin, Summers and Geithner are called into question by their previous associations with the Clinton Administration and the financial houses on Wall Street.

In the meantime, pre-eminent economic minds such as Joseph Stiglitz (Nobel Laureate) at Columbia University, Nouriel Roubini at New York University, James Galbraith at the University of Texas, Paul Krugman (Nobel Laureate) at Princeton University, Robert Reich at the University of California at Berkeley, and Simon Johnson at MIT have either been marginalized or totally ignored by President Obama. Why? Where do we see evidence of the old adage that “two heads are better than one?” The combined knowledge and wisdom of those enumerated above would certainly appear to be infinitely superior to the former “Clintonites” who appear to have the President’s ear in the dealing with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

The Obama Administration and Democratic leaders in Congress are clearly in bed with those who dominate the for-profit healthcare industries to the tune of billions of dollars in profits at the expense of small business, individuals and those on the lower rung of the socio-economic ladder. We get more “smoke and mirrors” while Obama has racked up 18 million dollars in contributions from the proprietary health care industries, and Max Baccus and other prominent Democrats and Republicans lace their pockets with millions of dollars in “campaign contributions” from drug companies, private hospitals, insurance companies, etc., while denying any meaningful input from those advocating a single-payer system of healthcare, all to the collective detriment of the American people.

It is interesting to note that the President nominated Kathleen Sebelius for the position of Secretary of Health and Human Services. She is reputed to be a strong advocate for a private system of health care, and her behavior in the current debate would tend to confirm that observation. She was picked over a much more qualified individual in the person of Howard Dean, ostensibly because Rahm Emanuel does not “like” Dr. Dean. Is that rational and in the best interests of the country, or is it stacking the deck?

Meanwhile, President Obama back-peddles on campaign promises, engages in conduct reminiscent of his predecessor and cozies up to the very interests he vowed to challenge when he became President. He has favored corporations and big business at the expense of untold millions who have lost their homes, their jobs and access to fundamental human rights such as health care.

Barack Obama appears to be acting more like a classic Chicago politician and less like the President of the United States.

Secrecy, as we all know, does not foster trust and confidence. Contrary to my greatest hopes for this administration, it is simply no longer credible and appears to be just another dose of the Clinton “Republicans” (euphemistically called Democrats) under the guise of “inclusiveness,” “bi-partisanship,” etc.

The arrogance of power and corruption, so endemic within our national government, and the political parties of which it is comprised, is so blatant and so formidable that people are scared and utterly bewildered as to what, if anything, can be done to stem the tide of what is rapidly becoming the complete unraveling of our national fabric. They want honest government they can trust and one that genuinely cares about the people of this country, and places their welfare above corporations and big business.

If there is one aspect of our world that forever remains constant, it is that the parasite never realizes, because of his insatiable appetite, that he will eventually kill the host and ensure his own demise. I fear we, as a nation, may have reached that point. We are in desperate need of a political party that will stand on the principles which made this country great, and will set itself to the task of restoring honest government to the people, where it was intended and where it belongs.

I believe the time has come to create a political party that clearly represents the will of the people, by reigning in the sheer power and influence (both political and financial) of corporations and the vast wealth that has corrupted both major political parties. The massive corruption that has permeated our system of government needs to be routed out, integrity restored and safeguards put in place to ensure a government that is, unequivocally, based on the principle of “a government of the people, for the people and by the people.”

I believe there is fertile ground for a new political party, but not without its challenges. No matter how formidable it may appear, we no longer have the luxury of waiting for a more opportune time. There is a malaise across the land. People are losing confidence in the ability and the will of our government to help them and, as a consequence, are becoming confused and apathetic. I shall forever remember the words of wisdom imparted to me by the captain of a ship I served on in the United States Navy many years ago. He wisely observed that “As long as the crew is bitching, I don’t worry. It is when they stop that I do.” People can only go without the basic necessities of life for so long. When relief is not forthcoming, trust and confidence evaporates, and violence will surely follow.

I do not believe the people of this country are typified by the likes of Sarah Palin, Joe the Plumber, religious zealots dealing in ecclesiastical absolutes, or those who believe that their government would actually advocate active euthanasia for its senior citizens. Call them what you will, but an apt description is the lunatic fringe. They are the ones who can always be counted on to seek simple solutions to very complex problems. Most people, I believe, are doing the best they can under impossible circumstances. They are the product of a surreal society that actively shapes their perceptions of the world and creates tastes they can ill afford. They want to believe the best about their government and trust that it will, in the end do what is best for them. That just isn’t going to happen until we attack the problems head on and clean up the cesspools of Wall Street, Washington, D.C. and all the other centers of corruption and decadence that have, for much too long, set our national agenda and defined our values. We are better than that and capable of so much more that is good and decent.

The time for real change is upon us. If not now, when?

“Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not.”
-- George Bernard Shaw

Cowboy Bob
August 19, 2009