Saturday, October 31, 2009

"Our Finer Angels on Life-Support?"

I find it utterly incredulous at the pervasive state of apathy in this country. The American public has fallen victim to the most unsavory bums among us; those who reap astronomical compensation for systematically dismantling our economy. Yet, they continue to collude with politicians while milking the Treasury of our precious tax dollars so they can enhance their balance sheets and resume the game of playing roulette with our money. The penalty for all this? Salaries and bonuses that boggle the human mind, all the while feeding us a diet of crap to the effect, if they don’t compensate their staff to the lavish extent they do, the whole house of economic cards could come falling down around our heads all over again. How, I ask you, can any rational and sane mind buy that line of bovine scatology? The truth of the matter is, if we don’t rein in the thieving bastards that is exactly what is going to happen to us. When are we going to get off our dead asses and take them to task? Of this, I am certain. The day will never come when they have a qualm of conscience, decide they are going to atone for their transgressions and suddenly become benevolent toward those they have so ruthlessly impoverished. I am not quite ready to accept the notion that the “Second Coming” is upon us.

Starting with Ronald Reagan and escalating up to and including Barack Obama, the cozy relationship between the political establishment, corporations, big money and the military-industrial complex has only intensified. And John Q. Public is the loser; big time!

From Ronald Reagan to the present day, the country has been up for sale to the plutocrats, oligarchs and government stooges. You know, that bunch of elitists who treat us like the proverbial mushrooms - keeping us in the dark and feeding us a steady diet of bullshit. And what did we do? We sat passively by, continued to elect and re-elect them into office, all the while believing they had our best interests at heart.

So, what did we get for all that trust? A gluttonous appetite for a veritable buffet of materialistic possessions and hedonistic pleasures never before dreamed of. We became hooked on our faux mansions, luxury cars, backyard barbecues, physical beauty and sexual prowess that in mythology only belonged to the gods. Fun and more was our birthright and there was no end to what we could have.

We abandoned any semblance of requiring even a modicum of accountability from the powers that owned and controlled our lives. So long as we could satiate every manifestation of our appetites, we were surely in heaven itself. An aside to all this was that we simply turned our backs on any notion of a moral compass with which to guide us. Regardless of how challenging and difficult moral standards may be, without them we are like a ship without a rudder, drifting aimlessly on a sea of nothing. We become empty and devoid of those aspects of our human nature that call upon the finer characteristics of what we should aspire to be. That abandon opens the door to all of the baser dimensions of what we are, thereby blinding us to what sets us above and apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. We seem to exist in a state of anomie - the delicacy of the parasites that are consuming us. They have all the tools to seduce us and they use them with a skill and cunning never imagined. They give us reality television, game shows, silly comedies, and all sorts of easy and meaningless prescriptions for an easy road to a life of sublime luxury and “fun.” And what do we do? We accept it all without question and total abandon.

With the Internet, all of the information one could possibly want in order to make informed decisions and to really know what is going on around us is there for the asking. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to ferret out reality and the truth; something that you won’t find in the Pabulum fed to us by the entertainment industry and corporate America. But it does take a certain foundation of curiosity and interest; something we seem to be totally lacking.

I can’t quite figure out if we are where we are because of the inherent laziness required to live in a complete state of indifference and denial, or because we are so demoralized that we have abandoned all hope of things getting any better. Just for a moment, let us ponder a few facts:

1. As a nation we are completely broke. We are the largest debtor nation in the world and it is getting progressively worse. Yet, we are told things are turning around and getting better. What a bunch of crap!

2. Goldman Sachs has owned the Treasury and the Federal Reserve since the Clinton Administration. The same sharks operative then are operative today in the Obama Administration. By all the best estimates, the Wall Street bailout has put the taxpayers in hock somewhere between $10 trillion and $24 trillion. That is one hell of a lot of money, folks! Yet we are diverted by the endless quibbling over the few billion dollars needed to provide the nation with an efficient and cost-effective health care system. The whores in Congress have finally worn down the opposition to the point they are willing to take what they can get, giving the Health care Industry free reign to fleece the nation with even more obscene profits.

3. Our economy is in shambles and no amount of cheap rhetoric is going to change that. When Billy Boy wasn’t getting a blow job from Monica Lewinsky in the Oval Office, he was busying himself with the task of enabling the total dismantling of our industrial base, shipping jobs overseas, and fleecing the Treasury - all in the name of free trade - only for Obama to pick up the same thieves and agenda as we had in the 1990’s - and further exacerbated by George W. in the first 8 years of the 21st Century. Our unemployment rate continues to escalate with no immediate hope for that much promised “change” we were sold in the last presidential campaign. How are people going to engage in meaningful work when there is no place to work????? How are people going to work at jobs that no longer exist????

4. We have finally arrived at the point where any notion of a real democracy is but a myth from days gone by. We are totally at the mercy of corporations, a military-industrial machine that has an insatiable appetite for money, and a political establishment that is so hopelessly corrupt and greedy that its attention to the voters is only discernible when the next election rolls around. We are now firmly in the grip of a “Corporatocracy” that owns and controls every aspect of our lives. While they thrive and prosper, the majority of us sit in waiting for the few crumbs we hope will fall from the table.

5. We live in a delusional state of a world power; a power on which the sun is setting. We have no means to continue this charade into perpetuity, but we still wrap ourselves in the flag, boasting of being the richest and most powerful nation in the world, while the poor fight and die in wars, the profits from which only enhance the rich who remain safe and secure in their gated communities and luxurious estates. They call this an “all-volunteer” army; an army made up of people who are mostly those who can’t find a real job and have no alternative but to place their lives on the altar of greed. Bill Moyers is right on the button when he states it is time to resurrect the draft so we all share, equally, in these wars; poor and rich alike. It is indeed time to share the burden and spread the risk.

6. We like to think of our system of government as a multi-party system. This is but another example of our national preoccupation with self-deception. Democrats and Republicans are different in name only. Both serve the same masters of the corporate world, the military-industrial complex and the financial institutions deemed to be “too big to fail.” While they pander to the sea of money and privilege made possible by impoverishing the country, they pretend to represent our interests in their official capacity as elected representatives, including the White House. They regularly meet behind closed doors and in secret with their real constituents, making a mockery of the much-touted notion of transparency so often championed by the current incumbent at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The only real champions of anything resembling an independent political philosophy are to be found in people such as Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders. To be sure, there are a few stolid hold-outs who make an effort to stand on principle, but they are few and far between, and easily brought into line on major issues affecting those to whom the majority is beholden.

I love to watch the machinations of those who champion a free and unfettered market system. It is so apparent that, for any such system to accrue to the benefit of the society in which it operates, it would have to be completely free of corruption and self-serving practices. That is inherently beyond the reach of human beings, as imperfect as we all are. For anyone so naive and who would believe such crap, I have the secret formula for eternal youth for sale at a bargain price. Regulation and oversight is an integral part of any legitimate government and civil society. Except for the absurdity of it all, it is almost comical to watch the sexual exploits of prominent Republicans morph into some kind of divine cleansing of the soul, soon followed by a Bible in hand, extolling the virtues of having seen the light and the error of their ways. I believe Mark Sanford said it best when he paraphrased his conduct to the tune of “Pray for me, Argentina!” At the end of the day when they have concluded their charade of piety, they bend over and grab their ankles at the beacon call of those to whom they are beholden, and it sure as hell isn’t those who voted them into office! Just observe the sleazy creeps in action and listen to their pathological lies. They couldn't be honest and forthcoming even if their next bribe depended on it.

Democrats? Well they love to think of themselves as the great emancipators, but there are so many causes they want to foster in the name of diversity and equality that it would take a football stadium to hold them. Diversity? Yes. Equality? Yes. But certainly not as it is packaged and sold by those pushing their own vested interests. Those most squirming today are the so-called Progressives who are doing their damnedest to avoid having to even remotely entertain the notion that their “Golden Boy” in the White House may be the least bit corrupt, self-serving and deceptive (as in political). When I voted for him last November I thought he was the sainted one we had all been waiting for. Little did I realize we were getting an admixture of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, re-packaged with all the phony sincerity, integrity, Christian values and liberalism that came with it. I don’t believe, for one moment, that Obama does anything unless it fosters his own political agenda and serves the interests of big money, corporations and the elite of this country. I would be very surprised if everything he does isn’t scripted to the gnat’s eyebrow, including photo ops and public appearances of every kind. He just gives another speech and Rahm Emanuel does the dirty work. To think otherwise is sheer folly.

7. This country is in dire need of a new political party, founded on absolute standards of integrity, which will rout out the corruption within our political, financial and social systems. One that will rein in the excesses and polluting influence of corporate America. One that will put in place a system of checks and balances that will prevent the corruptive influence of power and money. We don’t need someone to start such a movement who has his/her own axe to grind. We don’t need a super-rich megalomaniac who hasn’t anything better to do with his/her money. We don’t need someone who is championing a radical cause, with big ears, a squeaky voice and who sleeps with the Bible under his/her pillow. We need a party, the governing principles of which are easily understood by those who vote them into office. We need a party that knows, understands and champions the clarion call for real liberty, equality and justice for all.

As long as we remain complacent, duped by all that numbs our minds and dilutes our intellect, we will continue to enslave ourselves, aided and abetted by the excess of the wealth and power of the few who have managed to bring us to the brink of the greatest catastrophe since the Great Depression. Until we have the courage and sheer determination to regain all that we have lost, and which came at the price of so many precious lives, the finer angels within us will remain on life-support.

Me thinketh the spooks we most have to fear are not the ones who come out on Halloween, but those who ply their dirty skills in the shadows and feed on the life-blood of a nation. Time to stop quivering like a bunch of dogs passing peach seeds, take our heads our of our behinds, focus on reality, take control of our destiny and do whatever it takes to restore some semblance of sanity and decency to this great country!

Cowboy Bob
October 31, 2009

Monday, October 19, 2009

"Miss Bender"

I never thought I would reach the point in my life where my perspective was more “retro” than “pro,” nor would my memories be more about people than the interesting places I have visited and the major events in my life. Be that as it may, I am glad things turned out the way they have. I find that I have warmer and deeper feelings about people than anything else in my life. Those memories are far more comforting and reassuring. I can become terribly melancholy about some of those folks, but they are feelings that remind me of what a gift they were, never forgotten but so easily lost.

Of all the people who crossed my path, the most outstanding and memorable are those who dedicated their lives to the education of others. They are two in number. One was a college professor and the other was my junior high school math teacher, Miss Dorothy Bender. This is about her.

Miss Bender had a well-known reputation for being stern. In those days, it meant you paid attention in her class and you accorded her the deference she commanded. When I moved into junior high school, I knew I was soon to encounter her, which engendered a certain amount of fear and trepidation at the mere thought of that eventful moment.

I went to my first study hall only to find the teacher assigned to oversee the hour was, you guessed it, Miss Bender. We were all sitting at our desks with a certain amount of apprehension in anticipation of her arrival. Shortly after taking our seats, the door opened and in walked the dreaded disciplinarian of junior high - Miss Bender. I was both a bit scared, but mesmerized, as well.

Here was a very stately woman who I would have guessed was in her early fifties. She had a quality about her that was rather statuesque and which gave the impression of being taller than I suspect she actually was. She had salt and pepper grey hair that was about midway down her neck and neatly done in waves. Her blue eyes were accentuated by a pair of glasses that did not dominate her face. She appeared serious and did not smile. She wore a finely tailored black knit suit with a three-quarter length jacket and fine-quality black leather shoes with small heels. She had a certain air of refinement in the way she walked. Even at the ripe old age of twelve, I found her to be a lady with an elegant mystique. She reflected a sense of class and a good upbringing. Her very countenance commanded respect which, I am sure, contributed a great deal to her reputation for having a low tolerance for nonsense. Her persona was almost perfect except for the small, fine scars that were etched in her face. The cause of those scars was to remain a mystery for many years.

I don’t know where Miss Bender came from, but she did not fit the stereotypical impression of a person born and raised in Wyoming. Rather, she reflected the characteristics and demeanor of a person who was probably from a good family rooted in a less remote part of the country. I don’t know that she had any close friends. Her background and private life remained a mystery to me.

During World War II, Miss Bender served as the principal of the school, a position she vacated at the end of the war because, as she opined, it was what caused her hair to turn grey. That was fate pointing her in the right direction. Her skills as a math teacher made a vastly greater impression on the many young minds eager to share in the knowledge and discipline she had mastered over the years. Her influence convinced me that I would one day devote my adult life to math as she had done, but it was a destiny that was never to be realized.

In the grand scheme of life, junior high school seemed like a brief stop on the continuum of education that soon led me to the local high school and beyond. I continued to favor math as my major academic interest, but when I entered my junior year in high school, I encountered the complete antithesis of Miss Bender.

Walter Morse taught higher mathematics. There was something rather serpentine about his demeanor. He seemed to harbor an irrational contempt for certain students, manifesting a finely honed sarcasm and the need to demonstrate his prowess in that regard by singling out students to bear the brunt of his perversity. I was one of his chosen ones, and I soon developed a disdain for him that was equal in its intensity to the respect I had for Miss Bender. I could never quite figure out what made this guy tick. It could only have been either a faulty gene pool or poor potty training. All I knew was he was a perfect prick in every respect. He didn’t like me and I certainly didn’t like him. Sadly, the one tragic outcome of my experience with him was the loss of my interest in and any enthusiasm for math that was such a prized legacy from my brief time under the tutelage of Miss Bender.

As it became apparent that I was not doing well in higher mathematics with Mr. Morse, I sought out the help of Miss Bender. Not surprisingly, she graciously and generously gave of her time and talent that got me though to graduation and out into the world of a young adult. I don’t know if I ever told her how much I appreciated all she did for me. If not, I should have. I cannot think of anything more egregious than taking another person for granted, particularly one so grand as Miss Bender.

I had long moved on and, in my early fifties, found myself working in the Middle East. It was a weekend and in my solitude, as I was prone to do, my thoughts took me back to earlier and better times. On that particular day, Miss Bender entered my conscious state. A warm feeling came over me as I recalled the impression she had made on me and how much of this great lady still remained with me. Although I was almost certain she had long since passed from this world, I was moved to write a letter about all she instilled in me, how much I had gained from her and wondering if she still remembered me. I mailed the letter with the hope that just a name and place would suffice to find her if she was indeed still a part of that community.

I soon forgot about that brief flight into past memories and focused on other things. Much to my surprise, a letter arrived a few weeks later. The envelope was addressed in beautiful handwriting and with the return address of Miss Dorothy Bender at the Pioneer Home in Thermopolis, Wyoming. I couldn’t believe my eyes. She let me know how much she enjoyed hearing from me and, yes, she certainly did remember me, as well. I had no idea how old she must have been, but she surely had to have been in her nineties. She shared aspects of her life at that point in time, thanked me for thinking of her and taking the time to write, and wished me well in the future. I don’t think I ever answered that letter which is more an indictment of me than anything else. It is a regret I still harbor.

I am told Miss Bender died in 1992. I suspect she left this world with the same air of elegance she carried throughout her entire life. I cannot imagine her being anything less. I hope she was not alone at that appointed hour. She deserved better.

I have met kings and queens, chiefs of state, the rich and the famous during the course of my life. None can even begin to measure up to the person I so affectionately knew as Miss Bender. She was one in a million.

Oh, by the way, back to the story that was recounted to me about the scars on her face. It is reputed, when she was a young woman, she was to be married to the man of her dreams. On the way to her wedding with her fiancé they were involved in a car accident. He was killed and she was injured, carrying the scars of that tragic moment for the rest of her life. I could not confirm the veracity of that account, but it is somehow a perfect fit with the Miss Bender I knew. As I conclude with this brief story, I hope she is in her heavenly home and in the prime of her life, with her face free of the scars she carried in this life. I hope she is in the company of her fiancé once again, holding hands while sitting on the banks of some celestial stream, and savoring a life there she lost so early in life here.

I, also, hope she has found it in her heart to forgive an aging man who took her for granted so long ago and who now finds it somewhat bittersweet to recall her with such fondness. I suspect she has. Miss Bender was a class act.

Cowboy Bob
October 19, 2009

Saturday, October 10, 2009

“Where Is The Real Prize In All This?”

I would have to confess that my political leanings are more towards the liberal agenda than they are with the conservative. I prefer to base my conclusions more on the merits of the issues than on any allegiance to a particular political party. Absolute party loyalty smarts of extremism and I find that intellectually repugnant. Many of the same threads of corruption and ignorance run through both parties. One seems to take refuge in believing he always takes the high road of compassion while he looks with disdain on those he deems to have been reduced to thinking in monosyllabic frames of reference. The latter, in turn, impugn his adversaries in simplistic terms, labels and admonitions of divine wrath. My tolerance for both myopic extremes is limited.

Yesterday’s revelation that Mr. Obama had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize threw this entire issue into sharp relief. The liberal/progressive extreme regarded it as almost tantamount to having been a divine revelation, and rose up in righteous indignation against all those who did not share their enthusiasm. Do I think he deserved it? Not in the least. Why? Because, I would ask, what has he done except for his penchant for always being counted on for a good speech? Hillary nailed him on that one during the primaries! He seems to have an aversion to any decisive action that doesn’t serve his own personal ambitions and political agenda.

I was an avid fan of this man while he was engaged in capturing the presidency. I thought he was going to do great things for this country that had, for far too long, been neglected at the expense of the American people. Much to my dismay he has proven to be just as corrupt and self-serving as any of his predecessors, regardless of party affiliation. He doesn’t have any concept of what it means to be a “leader.” Statesmen lead, don’t avoid calculated risks and have the guts to make real decisions. Community Organizers are accomplished at peddling bull puckey, manage by consensus and enjoy broad acceptance through mediocrity. Consensus decisions are lukewarm and weak at best, through the dilution of being made acceptable to the greatest number. The President has carried that background, further tainted by corruption, into the White House where it is totally inappropriate. His cajones are atrophied, big time!

Obama has reneged on practically every major campaign promise he made. He sold us out to the barons of Wall Street, the kingpins of the former Clinton Administration, and Corporate America. I would ask you, “What in the hell does this guy stand for?” I doubt I would receive a cogent response save for a few interested and enlightened minds.

Obama is the puppet whose strings are pulled by the shadow president in the person of Rahm Emanuel, the real power at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The backdoor deals and secret meetings, concessions and agreements that have been made within the hallowed halls of that great seat of executive power would boggle the minds of most of us, I have no doubt. For example, Emanuel assured the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee that he had nothing to fear. A public option would not be a part of any health care reform package. The lobbyist’s money would indeed be safe and they would deliver on what had previously been sold to the highest bidder.

This country is an empire in decline. We are hopelessly corrupt. We are complacent and ignorant. We are impervious to the suffering of our own citizens. Our moral compass is broken. We are numbed by what has happened to us in the last year and haven’t a clue as to how to fix it. Meanwhile, our illustrious leader is hamstrung by big money and their minions who do their bidding in the halls of government. Unemployment figures are skyrocketing and his stimulus package is a joke. There are hollow promises about putting people back to work. Doing what? With an almost total dismantling and exporting of our industrial base overseas, where are these thousands of people going to work?

Where are people going to live when their homes have been repossessed? How are they going to pay the skyrocketing fees now charged by banks and credit card companies? How are they going to afford health care that appears to be destined to be even more lucrative and monopolized by profit-making health care insurers, drug companies and their ilk?

With the fox guarding the chicken coop, how are we going to put in place and enforce any meaningful regulation of the financial industries and corporate excesses? When the regulated dictate the terms of regulation, how can there be any progress on behalf of the consumers who are now their hostages?

How much longer can we rely on an army comprised of people who have to be in uniform because of their lot in life, subjected to repeated re-deployments into harm’s way, totally exhausted and demoralized by wars that cannot be won? Who said this is not a poor man’s war? I dare say, a significant majority of those laying their lives on the line for the rest of us are there because they have no other choice. The good paying jobs on the home front as an alternative to their sacrifices are scarce as hens’ teeth. They simply aren’t there to be had.

How much longer can we brag about being the richest country in the world when more and more of us are living in abject poverty? How much longer can we brag about being the richest country in the world when our currency is no longer regarded as premium on the world’s currency markets? How much longer can we brag about being the most powerful country in the world when all we have left is a fractured economy that can no longer support our empty dreams of empire?

And, who is being held out as the last bastion of hope for our future? A cadre of motley political whores and parasites peddling nothing but more corruption and bull crap while the host gasps for one more life-sustaining breath?

So, Mr. President, “What have you done that makes you a credible choice for the Nobel Peace Prize?” No major speech required. A simple, declarative statement will suffice. By the same token, I would ask the loyal opposition, “What have you done to improve the lot of the people of this country?” Damned little. I don’t regard extremist political and religious philosophies as currency for a better country. I don’t regard machinations of a few ideologues, lying, tea parties, feigned righteousness, unbridled greed and obstructionism as much of a down payment on a better future. Try as you may, there are no simplistic answers to the very complex issues we face, both domestically and internationally. What shall we call this one pathetic political party we now have? The party representative of their own ambitions, not those of the electorate. Demopublicans or Republicrats? A rose by any other name?

Damned few of you in or seeking public office have the courage, principles, integrity or will to do what is necessary in order to turn this ship of state around in order to avert its impending collision with the iceberg looming on the horizon. Left to those currently in power, there will be no survivors from this fate we are all destined to share.

We need a new political party, cleansed of the corrupting influences of what we now have, and based on the principles set forth by the Founding Fathers. In the absence of any meaningful moral base to support it, what chance do we have?

Cowboy Bob
October 10, 2009