Friday, February 25, 2011

“Time To Get Out The Knitting Needles, Madam DeFarge?”

I am a great believer in the value of social conventions, our adherence to which helps us maintain some semblance of a civilized society. Some are more definite than others, but that is inherent in the dynamics of the way we think and live.

There is one of those conventions, which I hold to be inviolate. That is lying and all of its many manifestations. I simply don’t trust anyone who resorts to lying as a way of getting on within a civilized society. If we look around us today, it is endemic in virtually every aspect of our existence. I don’t think that is because we are less aware of the importance of telling the truth, but that lying is looked upon with less disdain than in the past. Lying has just become a part of our every day life and we are no longer particularly shocked by it. It seems to have become acceptable to the point that it is rare for anyone to be particularly disturbed by it. Everyone does it, so what is the big deal? I think our disregard for honoring truth as a vital part of our personal and collective integrity has cost us dearly, in terms of our expectations and the sanctions for failing to respect that basic tenet.

Lying has evolved into an art form designed to dupe us into accepting a system of beliefs based, not on fact, but on what others want us to believe. Facts are the basis of knowledge; beliefs are predicated on self-deception. It is not what is, but what we want it to be that is the goal of those seeking to manipulate us for their own evil and greedy ends.

The heart of American advertising, Madison Avenue, is based on the elevation of lying as to art form. They have created and honed our appetites for material goods and services by leading us to believe that we cannot live without what they are peddling, the veracity of their claims notwithstanding. That has spilled over into the media of television and entertainment in all its forms. Moreover, we fall for it. Think about it. They want us to believe things that are simply not true. Why do we permit advertising for prescription drugs in the popular press, despite the fact that consumers cannot purchase them without first seeing a physician? They want to whet our appetites so the drug companies can enhance their profits! Why is it necessary for oil companies, defense contractors, etc. to advertise in the popular press? Because they want us to believe that those in government, acting on our behalf, really are doing the right thing, so corporations can make more money! It is simple, unbridled greed folks! Moreover, we fall for it.

Look at what has happened to our values. Sex permeates every aspect of advertising and entertainment. Bare-chested men and scantily clad women lead us to believe that our wildest and basest desires are legitimate and, in order to be a part of the “in” crowd, we just have to have what they are peddling. It isn’t necessarily because it “is” good for us, but it is because we have come to “believe” that it is. For example, if a hemline up to the cheeks of a woman’s ass is attractive, I will put in with you. Look at how the poor fools, sitting in the honored chair on Jay Leno’s and David Letterman’s shows sit there, constantly pulling at their hemlines lest the audience gets a glimpse of the real deal. What, I ask you, is becoming about that. It is self-deprecating and pathetic. But, God forbid, we might have the courage to be what we “are” instead of what “they” have led us to believe.

I think lying figures prominently in the demise of the institutions that are there to serve us as a people. To the extent we don’t hold them to those standards, the more blatant they become in resorting to the use of lies as a tool for personal gain. Let’s just focus on what is currently going on around us and what it is doing to the majority of the American people.

It is presumed that all politicians lie. That just goes with the territory. However, what happens when those lies become so egregious as to compromise the very fabric of our government, and the collective detriment of the people of this country? That is when we suddenly realize we have lost control of the very institutions that are there to serve us, not them.

Take the Office of the President. Going back to the administration of Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam War, lying became an instrument of power and the pursuit of empire. It has continued, unabated, ever since. It has flourished because we, the people, have accepted it. We have come to believe that, because we voted them into office, they are honest and noble, with our best interests at heart. Surely, no rational mind can actually believe that! Admittedly, some have been more clever at it than others, but as the Presidency has evolved into an almost imperial institution, we are more inclined to treat them as celebrities, rather than the public servants they are. As that has taken root, we permit them greater license to pursue their own ends and those of the ones who purchase their loyalty, than to those who voted them in, and keep them in, office.

Ronald Reagan brought all the tried and true forms of illusion and deception from Hollywood to bear on his presidency. And it worked!

Bill Clinton has had his image sanitized and he is now the squeaky-clean wonder boy we have come to accept, despite the fact that he laid the foundation for and was the chief enabler for the greatest financial catastrophe since the Great Depression that hit us in 2008!

Then there is George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, their Administration, the Neocons, the Supreme Court, and the lies and deception that kept them in office. All you have to do is scratch the surface on that one grand conspiracy in order to realize that we were “had” big time.

Then comes the issue of the Wonder Boy who promised us “Change We Can Believe In.” The throngs that flocked to see him in Berlin, and Grant Park in Chicago to savor his victory and the renewed promise that he would surely lead us to the Promised Land. Wow! His countenance, reminiscent of the Emperors of Imperial Rome, mesmerized us.

The dust had barely settled on his lofty speeches and the hollow promises, when Obama set himself to the task of bringing back all the sullied carry-overs from the Clinton Administration, that should have raised the red flag for us. We weren’t kept in suspense for long. The stage was being set with his penchant for “compromise” and “bi-partisanship,” euphemisms for the figurative screwing that would soon be upon us.
What happened to the real stimulus package advocated by the best economic minds in the country? Instead, we got a token effort at best that only delayed the horrors yet to come.

What happened to the stringent controls and regulations that were going to be imposed on the Wall Street Bandits and the financial institutions they headed? Compromise and bi-partisanship soon became the order of the day. The graceful art of lying took hold, Obama backed away from the issue, Chris Dodd, Barney Frank and their political allies all plied their skills as consummate liars. Operating behind closed doors in meetings with the lobbyists and the real power brokers resulted in a watered down version of so-called regulations, all of which amounted to a glaring giveaway that would only serve to further enhance the ability of Wall Street, the Federal Reserve and all their minions to steal even more, and taking us further down the path to financial ruin. As of this writing, they continue unabated.

What happened to real health care reform? Where was the single-payer option that Obama swore he would insist upon? Why did he meet behind closed doors in the White House with healthcare insurance executives, drug company executives, and health care providers to assuage their feelings and reassure them that they had nothing to worry about? The result? Healthcare reform that ended up further enhancing the greed of the very ones he was going to regulate! Oh, I forgot. Just another dose of “compromise” and “bi-partisanship.”

What happened to the renegotiation of NAFTA and other free-trade agreements we were promised during his campaign?

What happened to the end of warrant-less wiretapping?

What happened to the closure of Guantanamo Bay?

What happened to bringing the war criminals from the Bush Administration to justice?

Why did it take so long to address the issue of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?”

What happened to his promise to strengthen labor laws?

What happened to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Why does he continue to pander to the Military-Industrial Complex at the expense of the people of this country?

That is just a sampling, but the real question is “What happened to the transparency in government you promised?”

The most recent and glaring example of the disingenuous nature of President Obama is his sell-out to the super-rich by extending their tax cuts for another two years, for which he received in exchange the extension of unemployment insurance for one year? Yeah, yeah. I know. Compromise and bi-partisanship. Who got the better of that deal?

The burning question I have, as the people of these United States witness the unrelenting assault on middle class and working class Americans, with the complete focus on reducing the deficit is, “Why aren’t you ramming the issue of tax cuts for the rich and reduced corporate taxes down the very throats of those you caved in to? Why don’t you keep the focus on the total cost of just those two giveaways, repeatedly, as repudiation to the false claim that our fiscal ills are rooted in government spending out of control? Had those tax giveaways been allowed to expire, just how much money, alone, would have been returned to the Treasury?

At the end of the day, it boils down to his mastery of the graceful art of lying and his well-honed ability to stage the grand deception. The President talks out of both sides of his mouth. He is simply not credible.

The Supreme Court, piggy-backing on their blatant stealing of the presidential election in 2000, has chosen to ignore their solemn obligation to exercise judicial impartiality, making it abundantly clear that they see no problem with legislating from the Bench. The massive amount of money that has been unleashed on our political system by Citizens United doesn’t even pretend to be subtle. It is glaring and a clear violation of the standard by which they are supposed to operate. Thomas, Scalia, Alito, and Roberts should hang their heads in shame and tender their resignations. Just another example of what lying and deception can get you. Who said the “For Sale” sign isn’t prominently on display at the Supreme Court?

Until we purge the influence of money and influence from government, remove the grip of the exclusive right to govern by either the Democratic and/or Republican parties, we can only expect more of the same, only to get progressively worse with time.

As long as we remain a nation of self-entitled individuals rather than kindred members of one nation called “Americans,” I don’t know that we can survive. As tenacious as our collective will and determination may be, I am not so sure time is on our side. We may well have entered a new phase in our history that is known as a “two-class society.”

Madam DeFarge, perhaps it is time for you to, once again, get out your knitting needles!

Cowboy Bob
February 25, 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Everything's Going To Be Alright"

This was sent to me today by a friend of many years. It seems to fit in particularly well with the temper of the times.

I hope you enjoy it.

Cowboy Bob
February 22, 2011


One day a man saw an old lady, stranded on the side of the road, but even in the dim light of day, he could see she needed help. So he pulled up in front of her Mercedes and got out. His Pontiac was still sputtering when he approached her.

Even with the smile on his face, she was worried. No one had stopped to help for the last hour or so. Was he going to hurt her? He didn't look safe; he looked poor and hungry.

He could see that she was frightened, standing out there in the cold. He knew how she felt. It was those chills which only fear can put in you.

He said, 'I'm here to help you, ma'am. Why don't you wait in the car where it's warm? By the way, my name is Bryan Anderson.'

Well, all she had was a flat tire, but for an old lady, that was bad enough. Bryan crawled under the car looking for a place to put the jack, skinning his knuckles a time or two. Soon he was able to change the tire. But he had to get dirty and his hands hurt.

As he was tightening up the lug nuts, she rolled down the window and began to talk to him. She told him that she was from St. Louis and was only just passing through. She couldn't thank him enough for coming to her aid.

Bryan just smiled as he closed her trunk. The lady asked how much she owed him. Any amount would have been all right with her. She already imagined all the awful things that could have happened had he not stopped. Bryan never thought twice about being paid. This was not a job to him. This was helping someone in need, and God knows there were plenty, who had given him a hand in the past. He had lived his whole life that way, and it never occurred to him to act any other way.

He told her that if she really wanted to pay him back, the next time she saw someone who needed help, she could give that person the assistance they needed, and Bryan added, 'And think of me.'

He waited until she started her car and drove off. It had been a cold and depressing day, but he felt good as he headed for home, disappearing into the twilight.

A few miles down the road the lady saw a small cafe. She went in to grab a bite to eat, and take the chill off before she made the last leg of her trip home. It was a dingy looking restaurant. Outside were two old gas pumps. The whole scene was unfamiliar to her. The waitress came over and brought a clean towel to wipe her wet hair. She had a sweet smile, one that even being on her feet for the whole day couldn't erase. The lady noticed the waitress was nearly eight months pregnant, but she never let the strain and aches change her attitude. The old lady wondered how someone who had so little could be so giving to a stranger. Then she remembered Bryan.

After the lady finished her meal, she paid with a hundred dollar bill. The waitress quickly went to get change for her hundred dollar bill, but the old lady had slipped right out the door. She was gone by the time the waitress came back. The waitress wondered where the lady could be. Then she noticed something written on the napkin.

There were tears in her eyes when she read what the lady wrote: 'You don't owe me anything. I have been there too. Somebody once helped me out, the way I'm helping you. If you really want to pay me back, here is what you do: Do not let this chain of love end with you.'

Under the napkin were four more $100 bills.

Well, there were tables to clear, sugar bowls to fill, and people to serve, but the waitress made it through another day. That night when she got home from work and climbed into bed, she was thinking about the

Money and what the lady had written. How could the lady have known how much she and her husband needed it? With the baby due next month, it was going to be hard.....

She knew how worried her husband was, and as he lay sleeping next to her, she gave him a soft kiss and whispered soft and low, 'Everything's going to be all right. I love you, Bryan Anderson'

There is an old saying 'What goes around comes around.' God works in mysterious ways and sometimes puts people in our lives for a reason.

Uncle Bug

Times are tough for a lot of folks these days, and seem to be getting worse for a great many more. As I was reflecting on this growing tragedy, I was taken back to a time in my own life when times were not so good. I instinctively thought of Uncle Bug and, although I posted this blog in April 2008, it somehow seems appropriate to today.

Cowboy Bob
February 22, 2011

                                                                     "Uncle Bug"

Times are tough for a lot of folks these days and appear to be getting worse for a whole lot more. I don’t think it is going to get much better anytime soon.

As I was pondering our rather sad state of affairs, the notion of “hope” crept into my mind for no apparent reason. It took me back to a time when I had just graduated from college, filled with myself and my newfound perspective on the world. I was as offensive as any new college graduate ever thought of being. I didn’t just think I had all the answers, I knew I did! I lived in San Francisco and was an avid reader of a newspaper column in the San Francisco Chronicle under the heading “The Fearless Spectator” written by Charles McCabe. He wasn’t just good, he was damned good. The title of one of his columns was “The Hopelessness of Hope.” I can only recall the title, but I was impressed with the absolute certainty of what he wrote. Given the time and the point in my life, it must have fit in with so many erroneous preconceived notions I held at the time.

In those days, there was only one political party and it was pure Republican. I was one of its most devout. I believed there was no excuse for anyone not making it in this world. All they had to do was put their shoulder to the wheel, work hard and, “voila,” success was theirs to behold! After all, I came from poverty and I made it. But, I conveniently overlooked one very important point. I was the product of the G.I. Bill. Without the G.I. Bill, when I was discharged from the United States Navy, I would simply have returned to that from which I came. Life just isn’t that black and white. My Uncle Bug would have summed me up as being one of those people in life he would liked to have “bought for what he was worth and sold for what he thought he was worth.” There are a lot of those kinds walking around these days.

Uncle Bug was one of six kids who grew up in abandoned cavalry quarters known as Old Bedlam at Fort Laramie, Wyoming during the Great Depression. My Grandfather gave some of his kids nicknames. Early in his life, his youngest son, Clyde, was dubbed with the nickname “My Little Potato Bug.” The name stuck and everyone called him “Bug.” From the time I can remember, I knew him only as Uncle Bug, although later in life he came to be known as my Uncle Clyde. Somehow, there was something much more endearing about “Uncle Bug,” and that is the way I want to remember him.

Uncle Bug had polio as a child and never fully regained the use of his right arm, so he would have to lift his right arm with his left hand in order to make use of it. It was old hat to him, so no one gave it much thought. He had a broad smile, a hearty laugh and his eyes were as blue as the Wyoming sky under which he was born. His optimism was boundless and equally infectious.

Uncle Bug married a woman who stuck by him through thick and thin. When his family came along, I was well on the way to my teens, so I often had the rare privilege of being his side-kick. He drove a black Willys automobile. I don’t recall that too many of them were made, but he just knew it was one of the best damned cars ever made. The interior was heavy with the pungent smell of cigarette smoke and dust. He would stop by and say, “C’mon Bob, I’ll buy you a cup of coffee.” Off we would go to the Sideboard CafĂ© and I would grimace a bit at his teasing humor and revel in his native wisdom all over again. There must have been some miraculous potion in those cups of coffee, because I always felt better and was tinged with a bit of hope I didn’t have before.

At the time, I didn’t quite realize how tough life was for him and his family. Because of the crippling effects of polio and not having a formal education, his options for earning a decent living were limited. They weren’t just poor, they lived in abject poverty. However, Uncle Bug never allowed his lot in life to dampen his spirit. He gave the term “hope” a whole new meaning and it was contagious, believe me. I cannot even begin to recall how many times his hope took me out of my own poverty, if only for just a fleeting few moments. It was a tonic I badly needed and could not have lived without.

With the passage of time I moved away and rarely saw him. When I did, that same radiant smile and words to the effect that “things will definitely get better,” would ring in my ears. He died in his sixties and, with his passing, over the years I was blessed with a newfound sense of my own imperfections and a badly needed measure of humility.

I respect anyone’s right to believe whatever he chooses. There isn’t one religion that can be empirically proven. Ultimately, all take us back to the one certainty common to them all. They are all based on nothing more than a simple belief. That applies to atheists, as well. However, I have noticed, among those who never doubt their own system of beliefs, there is a certain contempt for those who do. At best, a whole slew of us are in for one heck of a surprise when we cross over the line from this mortal life to whatever lies beyond.

Today, and throughout the ages, hope is all that has sustained multitudes of people in despair. Without that simple belief, they would have nothing. And all of the well-intentioned true believers have no right to deprive anyone of hope. I choose to believe, when it appears all is lost, hope is God’s way of saying to us, “Hang in there. I am with you.” To that, Uncle Bug would have added, “and things will get better.”

I envision Uncle Bug having gone up to the Pearly Gates and being greeted by his Maker with these words, “C’mon in Uncle Bug. I have a very special place for you.” And when Uncle Bug answered with “Why would I have a special place here or anywhere?” the response would have been “Because you never abandoned hope.”

When hope is all a person has, no one, not even the most well-intentioned zealots, have the right to deprive anyone of hope, no matter how faint the glimmer. It is the worst form of cruelty I can imagine, unmatched by any other.

Cowboy Bob
April 6, 2008

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"You Never Know Until You Try"

The never-ending game of mental masturbation continues, unabated, within the hallowed halls of government in our nation’s capitol.

The advice of the top economic brains in the country for a swift and decisive response to the “recession” were summarily ignored in favor of a “political” solution and a demonstration of bi-partisanship. Intelligence trumped by corruption. Where has it gotten us? Only deeper into the mire of pain and suffering by those who can least cope with it.

1. Development and implementation of effective controls on Wall Street were
orchestrated by George W. Bush, Henry Paulson, Barack Obama, Ben Bernanke,
Larry Summers, Timothy Geithner, Chris Dodd, Barney Frank and a whole cadre of
lesser types whose loyalties are not with the American People, all of which
were, ultimately, subjected to the stamp of approval by the very ones to be
regulated. How is that for strong leadership?

2. Elizabeth Warren, the Joan of Arc in all this, seems to have vanished into
the night. Was that, perhaps, why she was brought into the ranks of the “White
House Staff to be marginalized and neutralized? It wouldn’t surprise me if
that were, indeed, the case.

3. Any meaningful and cost-effective changes in health care were summarily
trumped by the very thieves who were targeted for reform; Health Care Insurance
Companies, Health Care Providers, Pharmaceutical Companies and the endless
numbers who feed on their largesse.

4. Guantanamo Bay remains open for business. The Justice Department, the
Military Establishment and the Intelligence Apparatus, instead of being
revamped, have only grown and expanded under the able leadership of Barack

5. The two wars that were supposed to be consigned to a finite life, have
been experiencing a slow, agonizing death in the name of national security
without one scintilla of evidence to support that boogey man that keeps scaring
the hell out of the Americans who labor under the handicap of any attempt at
original thought.

6. Trade policies still accrue to our collective detriment. Not one treaty has
been re-negotiated or modified to favor the United States. In fact, the
president has pledged his full support for NAFTA and free trade -
another “switcheroo” for us to swallow.

7. We still go to China with hat in hand instead of standing firm and correcting
the disadvantaged position of the United States in terms of trade policies and
practices, and a just re-alignment of the relationship between our two

8. Any improvement in our industrial base has, at best, only been a token effort
lest it just might upset the strategic advantages enjoyed by international
corporations that have moved plants and factories to cheap labor pools

9. States have gone begging for funds to support their obligations to citizens,
while the gluttonous appetite of the federal monolith remains unchecked.

I don’t know about you but, given the corrupting and incestuous relationship that exists between the Congress, the Senate, the White House, and Defense with big money and influence, I don’t trust most of them to do anything but look out for each other’s interests (providing the price is right), the rest of us be damned. One only has to look at the gargantuan disparity between what has been done for Wall Street, what is done for the Pentagon and compare all that to the paltry tokenism that has been handed out to the 50 States. I ask you, who is sucking hind teat on this one?

What did TARP do for you? What has “Too big to fail” done for you? What are the absolutely obscene salaries and bonuses for the big banks on Wall Street done for you? Compare all that money with the token amount handed out under the banner of a Stimulus Package for the states. Have things really improved in the wake of that magnanimous gesture? We are still fed questionable statistics to allege that things are getting better. How? By massive tax cuts to the richest among us and the power of mega-corporations? Hardly.

Now, after Obama has given away the store in the name of “compromise” and “bi-partisanship,” the Republicans have turned their concern to the financial crisis that is consuming all their attention and rhetoric. How quickly they forget! But, have the Democrats in Congress and the White House rammed the tax cuts for the oligarchs down their throats in order to stifle their massive lies and distortions about the real cause of our social and economic woes? Not a peep. And the beat goes on.

The continued assault on “entitlement programs” is the dragon that must be slain. Shhhhh! Let us not mention that it is the loss of tax revenues that have put us in this pickle. It might disturb the tranquility of the rich and privileged. In the meantime, the stench of their corruption seeps into every aspect of our government and the two major political parties that have cornered the market.

The virtues of integrity and basic honesty seem to have been relegated to the dust bin a long, long time ago. To subscribe to such notions only further ties our hands and limits our ability to function in today’s world. Bull crap!

Now, the storm clouds are building on the horizon as rumors grow that fiscally strapped states are going to be cut loose from Washington, D.C. to fend for themselves. Gotta take care of all those rich bastards, right?

As I watch the states and the citizens of those states trying to survive in the current political, economic and social milieu, I am reminded of the old adage, “The devil takes care of his own.” It seems to me that the federal monolith is doing a pretty good job of doing that, but to the detriment of the middle class, the working class and the poor. So, what is to prevent the states from applying that same principle to their citizens residing within the borders of those states?

As I was cogitating about this appalling situation, I was originally going to include all state government administrations under one banner. However, as I watch events unfold, I am going to exclude any reference to Republicans because I honestly believe their political beliefs trump any real concern for the citizens of their respective states.

States, cities and towns are having to lay off policemen, firemen, teachers and others staffing the vital services in their communities. Revenues are shrinking at the peril of those they serve. So, I asked myself the question, “How might these problems be creatively addressed?” I can only raise questions and explore ideas. I have no way of knowing whether they are feasible or not, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

What might be the result if the Governor of each state was to call in his/her Attorney General and State Treasurer, and charge them to:

1. Prepare a working agenda of every conceivable way that the state might
improve their financial and economic health by ascertaining the power
and prerogatives of the state vs. those that rightfully belong to the
Federal Government pursuant to the provisions in the Constitution, and
all amendments and laws pertaining thereto.

2. Focus on state regulation of financial institutions, and the power of
the state to regulate business and commerce within the borders of the

3. Identify those prerogatives affecting the state, but which are clearly
the prerogatives of the Federal Government.

4. Identify those prerogatives affecting the state that are under the
exclusive jurisdiction of the state.

5. Develop a plan for reconciling any contentious issues that may exist
between the respective authority of the state and the Federal Government.

6. Any prerogatives vested with the Federal Government that rightfully
belong to the state would be returned to the state, either by mutual
consent or by action of the appropriate court of law. Any prerogatives
vested with the state that rightfully belong to the Federal Government
would be resolved in like fashion.

The Governor, the Attorney General and the State Treasurer would proceed with all legitimate means to enhance state revenues that are clearly within the purview of the state and the rule of law. Some ideas are -----

1. A tax would be imposed on all financial transactions carried out by
banks,financial institutions and mortgage companies that are not
headquartered in the state. Financial institutions headquartered in and
chartered by the state would be exempt from all such taxes.

a. The state would have the exclusive power to determine or approve all rates of
interest, service charges and penalties before any implementation would be
permitted. This provision would apply to all service charges, loans,
mortgages and credit card fees charged by financial
institutions operating within the boundaries of the state.

2. All business enterprises not headquartered in the state would be taxed
for the privilege of doing business within the state. No such tax would
apply to business enterprises headquartered in and doing business within
the state.

3. All goods imported from a foreign country that are offered for sale
within the state would be subject to a value added tax added to the
purchase price at the point of sale.

4. Prisons would be exclusively managed by state government. No private
prisons or the contracting out of prisons would be permitted.

5. All other commercial enterprises or activities not specifically
mentioned in the statutes would be presumed to fall under the
jurisdiction of the state and subject to the state laws applicable to
that particular business activity.

6. All tax revenues collected by business enterprises operating within the
boundaries of the state, on behalf of the Federal Government would be
forwarded to the State Treasurer for review and transmittal to the
Federal Government, except for federal income taxes. The state
government would retain the option of retaining such revenues to the
extent the Federal Government failed to fulfill its solemn obligations
to the citizens of the states. Disputes would be resolved by the court
of law having jurisdiction.

7. And a whole host of other great ideas that are out there just waiting to
be exploited for the benefit of the citizens of the state.

All laws and regulations set forth herein would be subject to legislative action and/or approval as may be deemed appropriate. Any disputes arising from the implementation and administration of the provisions of the relationship as set forth herein would be resolved by the court of law having jurisdiction.

If the leadership of any given state was not interested or inclined to give consideration to these and other means of strengthening the power of the state in order to better serve its citizens, then the ideas might be better left in the hands of an organized effort to form a new political party that could more effectively serve all the citizens of this country, starting at the local level and reaching all the way to national prominence.

The objective is to recover and retain all rights and responsibilities that rightfully fall under the lawful jurisdiction of the state, and that have not been legally and properly allocated to the jurisdiction of the Federal Government.

The feasibility of this idea taken to its fullest potential might just provide opportunities for retaining or creating badly need revenues for use within the state, but that is better left to real legal minds. However, to the extent we could legally stick it to the robber barons on Wall Street, all within the provisions of the law, wouldn’t that be grand?

If Washington cannot or will not do it, what do we have to lose? You never know until you try.

Cowboy Bob
February 16, 2011

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"Justice Is Never Easy"

Now that the dust is settling on the valiant efforts and outcome of the peaceful protests in Egypt, one cannot help but marvel at the restraint and discipline exhibited by the millions of people in their quest for liberation from tyranny. They are an example for the world to emulate, and an inspiration to all who witnessed their determination to stand steadfast on peaceful protest as the means for achieving their goals.

The posturing of the military appears to be a significant contributing factor to the successful outcome. However, let us not be too quick to embrace their motives in all this. We must not forget their decades of absolute loyalty to the brutality of the regime that was toppled. Let us not be complacent in the belief that there is not a hidden agenda upon which to build yet another totalitarian empire. Brutality has been a part of their modus operandi in their service to a dictatorship that is not known for its benevolence. Mubarak is still in Egypt. He and his henchmen have profited handsomely from their allegiance to the United States and the rendition of prisoners to the brutality of the military establishment and the police of that country. Does a tiger change its stripes? I am inclined to err on the side of “wait and see” before I draw any conclusions. The United States would do well to make it abundantly clear that we are firmly on the side of the people seeking freedom and a democratic system of government.

Violence is never the answer. Had violence erupted in the midst of their protest, blood would have run in the streets and any success they would have realized would have come at a terrible price. To their eternal credit, they achieved a miracle, and I take my hat off to each and every one of them.

“We must fact the fact that the United States is neither omnipotent
nor omniscient - that we are only 6% of the world’s population -
that we cannot impose our will upon the other 94% of mankind -
that we cannot right every wrong or reverse each adversity - and
that therefore there cannot be an American solution to every world

--- President John F. Kennedy

I am a great believer in the respect for a system of laws, conceived by and enacted on behalf of the people served by government. I do not countenance people who, when they disagree with the law, simply dismiss it and embark on their own path to what they perceive to be justice. If the system does not serve the people, then the system should be changed in an orderly manner and in accordance with the will of the people. Some people are inclined to be somewhat myopic in their insistence that laws are cast in stone and remain inviolate. That rules out any dynamism to keep laws current and in keeping with the times. On the other hand, I see others unilaterally deciding that the rule of law is, at times, unjust and they simply decide that the only way to combat that perceived sense of injustice is by flaunting it. That is most apparent today in regard to the whole issue of illegal immigration.

Any reasonably caring person cannot help but be touched by the long-standing disparity in the way immigrant workers have been treated in this country, particularly those crossing our southern borders. However, that does not excuse the fact that those who come here illegally cannot simply be given blanket citizenship if we are to maintain the fabric of our society. The burden seems to have been placed squarely on the shoulders of the average citizens of this country, rather than those who have been instrumental in creating and sustaining the deplorable conditions under which they live and work. Why should those who had no hand in creating the problem be targeted to bear the cost of redress? It is no secret that big business and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sought and sanctioned the entrance of “illegals” for the avowed purpose of establishing a cheap pool of labor that would benefit business and commercial interests. Aided and abetted by a compliant government, they would be free from the constraints of labor laws and the protection of labor unions. Our culpability has been in our readiness to accept their plight in exchange for the cheap goods and services that were the product of their labor. Call it what you will, but that is patently wrong. Those who created the problem should properly be made to bear the cost of redressing those wrongs. A surtax on those industries that have benefited handsomely from this brand of indentured servitude does not seem at all unreasonable as a means of defraying the cost to government and, eventually, the taxpayers attempting to cope with the problem.

I do not believe in special considerations for immigrants. We have a long history of laws governing immigration. Those who entered legally, abided by the laws and worked to obtain citizenship are an integral part of our history, and they and their descendants have served this country well. To the extent those laws are still effective, they should be honored. To the extent they are not, they should be changed by lawful and democratic means.

I don’t share the view of those who have declared their cities and churches “safe havens” for those who are here illegally. I do not subscribe to the notion that any special consideration should be extended to them that are not enjoyed by the population at large. On the other hand, those who are here legally should be guaranteed equal access to all the rights and privileges accorded other citizens of this country. For those who view themselves as more “enlightened” than the rest of us, and flaunt the laws based on their perceived sense of superiority, then there should be consequences for that attitude. So-called “safe havens” ought to be stripped of all federal funding and lose their “non-profit” status until such time as they come into full compliance with the law.

It can safely be said that politicians can always be counted on to buy votes and establish a power base for re-election at the expense of the taxpayers of the country; not those who profit from the labors of those they exploit at will. That offends my basic sense of fairness.

It seems to me the merits of honesty and fairness should be the order of the day, with the rule of law our guiding principle.

Cowboy Bob
February 13, 2011

Monday, February 7, 2011

Recognizing the Language of Tyranny

I refer you to Common Dreams. There is an excellent article titled, "Recognizing the Language of Tyranny" written by Chris Hedges. He writes a regular column for Hedges graduated from Harvard University Divinity School and was, for nearly two decades, a foreign correspondent for The New York Times.

Well worth the time to read.

Cowboy Bob
February 7, 2011

Sunday, February 6, 2011

“Trust, Like The Soul, Never Returns Once It Is Gone”

That our entire system of politics and government is seriously broken is beyond dispute. All one has to do is expend the minimal amount of effort required to dig just below the surface and it becomes glaringly apparent that it isn’t working for the benefit of the people. It only serves the elite.

Both major political parties dominate and control the national agenda of what gets through the legislative process. Attempts by fledgling third political parties to make inroads into the system continue to be futile. The power and affluence of the two major players in this business renders any serious challenge moot.

The major parties have become completely owned and controlled by the massive amounts of money flowing into their coffers. Any serious effort that might benefit the people is little more than an illusion. We blithely go through the charade of behaving like serious citizens but, more often than not, we end up casting our votes for what we want to believe rather than on reality. They tell us what they think we want to hear and what is likely to “play in Peoria. “ We are much too complacent to bother with checking out the veracity of their assertions. We have no idea what we are getting or what measures we need to take in order to ensure the most elementary and credible standards of conduct and morality. Their public persona and lofty speeches make us feel good but, at the end of the day, they usually give us what they think we deserve, not necessarily what we need.

What goes on behind closed doors and in secret meetings is what determines the outcome, and it very rarely serves anyone other than the vested interests that lace their pockets and finance their campaigns. It is a mockery to believe there is any real meaning to the ceremonial charade we go through. They go to the electorate every so many years and seek their votes in order to return to their seats of power, and pander to their real constituents; big money and raw power. Is it any wonder the result of all of this is a body of legislators and elected officials who see themselves in some divinely ordained position where they can summarily ignore the will of the people and write the rules to suit themselves? They determine and approve their own compensation packages, benefits packages and a whole host of other perks that trump anything they might legislate in favor of the public. All they lack are the imperial togas and the laurel leaves adorning their heads. There is a striking similarity between whores and politicians. Both are for sale, at a price, with no commitment.

Given that we are not terribly bothered by all this drivel when things are going well, we don’t really pay much attention to what they are doing in our name. However, when the bottom starts to fall out from under us, then we shift into denial mode, naively believing things will get better, then slide further into full panic mode.

When panic overtakes reason we look for quick and easy answers to our problems. It doesn’t take long before hoards of demagogues come crawling out from under the base boards, promising easy solutions to combat stark reality. That is what we got from the elections of 2008 and 2010. We only need to seriously view the latest group of representatives elected to Congress. If that isn’t proof positive of our abdication of social and political responsibility, I don’t know what is! How can any rational mind look at that pathetic bunch of intellectually challenged, selfish, and simple-minded examples of humanity, and believe they can solve the complex problems facing this nation today, not the least of which are the economy and the fractured bedrock issues that have supported and sustained us as a civilized society? Moreover, can they even comprehend what they face?

The ravages of who and what our government really holds in store for us is borne out by the shenanigans brought down on our heads by The Federal Reserve, Wall Street, multi-national corporations, the super rich, home mortgage lenders, the health care industry, the pharmaceutical industry, big energy, agribusiness, and all the other heavy hitters to whom we have sold the very soul of this country. The servitude of the House, the Senate, the White House, the Supreme Court and the Military-Industrial Complex to big money and power is no longer subtle. It is glaringly apparent as the taxpayers are fleeced at will, and bear the financial burden, economic ruin and social chaos created by rapacious greed and the complete absence of human decency.

Our current two-party system is well on the way to permanently ensuring a two-class society. Both appear to be working for the same outcome. The only things that can prevent this from happening are (1) massive campaign finance reform, (2) term limits, (3) restricting the role played by lobbyists and the interests they represent, and (4) the strength of our collective will and commitment to make it all happen. Is it possible? Yes. Is it probable? Not likely.

There used to be standards of conduct, standards of character, standards of honesty and integrity that we used for evaluating how those we elect to office served us. Issues such as lying, cheating, bribery, conflicts-of-interest, stealing, etc., that used to be abhorrent are now commonplace. There are no real or lasting consequences for resorting to whatever measures the traffic will bear in the pursuit of personal gain at the taxpayer’s expense. We accept those flaws as a necessary evil in the character of our elected representatives. We accept them at face value and a necessary part of the cost of making the democratic process work, such as it is. Standards of morality which used to be a mark of trust are now mocked. Just look around you.

Leadership, statesmanship and the repository of wisdom residing within the electorate was once the gold standard which guided this “democracy.” Now it is compromise, bi-partisanship, politics and massive ignorance that steers our ship of state, the blame for which rests squarely on our shoulders for allowing it to happen.

The merits of a free-market system, and the foundations upon which it is based, used to be respected and trusted by the people. Now? Unbridled greed and exploitation of the human condition are the order of the day; whatever the traffic will bear.

I regard the free-market system of today as an aggressive and unrelenting assault on human dignity. The last consideration in the business equation today is the “human” element. The “free-market system” of today is a fraud. Taken to the extreme it can only result in the total disintegration of a civil society. I fear we are approaching the end-point on the continuum. Three of the most glaring examples of what lubricates that philosophy today is to be found in the total lack of a meaningful social conscience by the oligarchs, the preeminence of carbon-based energy and the token concern regarding global warming. Like the parasite that cannot see that it is killing the host on which it feeds, if given free reign, they will destroy the human race. It is simply a question of time, and time is not on our side. Greed says it is folly; sanity says it is not. Greed is winning. When we reach the point of no return, as we surely will, there will be no turning back. The human mantra of “More, More, More,” will gradually fade into a deafening silence. The Crown Jewel of Creation will enter the throes of a slow, agonizing death. Perhaps not in our lifetime, but sometime in the future.

The arrogance of corporate power believes those who invest in ownership have the absolute right to determine the direction and destiny of business enterprises, free of government restraint or social conscience. They believe the proper role of government is that of the enabler rather than the regulator.

Now, I ask you, how have we grown and evolved over the past 30 plus years of the uninterrupted, unabated assault on the social, economic and moral fabric of this nation? Look at private education vs. public education. Look at what is being done to social safety nets and our common welfare during these difficult economic times vs. what is being done for massive wealth, big business and financial institutions. Look at those who serve in the military vs. the “patriotic service” rendered by those who benefit from wealth, power and privilege. Look at the focus on attacking social programs as a means for reducing the national debt vs. demanding that massive wealth pay their fair share in taxes. Corruption is the standard; destruction is the end-game.

To honestly believe that this country is a real democracy is, in my opinion, exceedingly naive. If we accept the definition that says it is “an egalitarian and tolerant society,” then the few periods of enlightenment in the history of this great nation have been rather fleeting at best. The darker side of our human nature has a way of curtailing any real and lasting progress. We are a nation where there is a constant test of will as to who will dominate and who will serve. It is never put to rest, but continues to ebb and flow over time. Great wealth seems to survive the ups and downs of the cycles. The plight of the common people is most susceptible to the long-term negative consequences of those fluctuations.

The world is too complex to rely on what we like to refer to as a “democratic republic.” That system no longer accrues to the benefit of all the people in a fair and just way. There will always be the “haves” and the “have-nots,” but demonizing of the latter by the former never solves the problem.

Investment may provide the resources for business to operate, but it is those who labor in their service that produce the goods and services that enables ownership to prosper. That should count for something. The model adopted by several European countries is much more rational. Both owners and workers share in governing the enterprise. In today’s world, that makes a whole lot of sense to me. It not only acknowledges the essential role played by each, but it dignifies their respective contributions as well.

There is no way we can sugar-coat the frailties inherent in our human nature. We are, basically, survivors with all the aggression and ambition that go with it. No government can effectively represent the interests of all the people without safeguards that will define and guarantee standards of conduct that cannot be compromised. We cannot have meaningful and effective public and social services without paying taxes. That is a fundamental responsibility of citizenship that is best shared by requiring those who have the most to pay the most. Effective regulation keeps us honest.

The parliamentary system of government is, in my opinion, the soundest and least complicated form of democracy in the world. It provides the shortest distance between the electors and the elected and, therefore, offers a greater degree of accountability and transparency. There are no “squatter’s rights,” in that system. They are privileged to serve only so long as they retain the confidence of those who put them in office.

There has to be a massive and concerted effort to purge the corrosive and corrupting influences within the government we have, and strive to restore it to the level of integrity and honesty that have stood the test of time. Is it going to be easy? Not a chance. However, if we don’t breathe new life into and resuscitate “equality and justice for all,” we are a lost cause. We must stop deluding ourselves into believing that what we see and hear is necessarily truth and in our best interests. We have to find that out for ourselves. We have a right to expect that those who represent us will be honest with us, and we, in turn, have an obligation to hold their feet to the fire. Moreover, the resources we give to them must be seen as a solemn public trust, rather than their personal slush fund.

If we don’t get serious about the vast disparity in the way wealth and privilege are treated by government vs. what they ask the average American to bear, the consequences may be catastrophic. The working people of this country can only be pressed to sacrifice and give so much before their pent-up frustration and anger explodes. We may live to see the day when the fires of rebellion against decades of economic and social oppression, akin to what we see in the Middle East, may come home to haunt us, as well. The challenges facing this country are monumental. We not only face the task of changing the system, but we have to address the flaws in our basic human values in order to restore health to this nation and the government that is there to serve us. I am not so sure we have the will or the time to make that happen.

We have to stop accepting anything on blind faith. We must re-learn the merits of determination, hard work and the ability to question, question, question. However, the most essential goal of all is to rebuild a value system that stands for the common good, and that will create and nurture a unifying bond between all of us. Genuine respect and loyalty are never bought, they must be earned. That can only be realized when I have confidence that what I see is what I get. If I am to believe you and trust you, you must convince me that the prize is worth the cost of entering the contest.

It is time for government to earn our respect and our trust, and work to keep it. The future looks progressively more uncertain and ominous. Confidence in government is tenuous.

“Trust, like the soul, never returns once it is gone.“

Cowboy Bob
February 6, 2011

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Pseudo-State of the Pretend Union

I draw your attention to this particular blog post, "The Pseudo-State of the Pretend Union," by David Michael Green, Professor of Political Science at Hofstra University. He has one of the best political minds in the business. He has a great style of writing and gets right to the heart of the matter.

Pull up this latest blog post. You will be glad you did.


Cowboy Bob
February 1, 2011