Monday, March 21, 2011

"With Liberty and Justice for All"

As President Obama began stacking his Cabinet with former members of the Clinton Administration, my anxiety level increased. It was obvious that the honeymoon was short-lived; it was over. As I watched him talk out of both sides of his mouth and summarily ignore almost every campaign promise he made, I knew those who believed in him had been seduced by one well schooled in the art of deception and manipulation. Despite his attempts to convince us that he was the real deal, he hasn’t quite made it to the point where we are totally taken in by his charm. He may be a consummate politician and a well-groomed shill for every vested interest in Washington, but the absence of any traits of a leader is glaringly apparent. In a time when the nation is crying for real leadership, which is doing something simply because it is right and not because it is politically expedient, he is nowhere to be found. When we need decisiveness and courage, we get bi-partisanship and compromise.

The course, rather akin to Sherman’s march to the sea, for dismantling the middle class was started by Ronald Reagan who, in the name of fiscal conservatism, put more debt on the backs of the American people than all of his predecessors combined. The juggernaut has continued, unabated, through virtually every succeeding administration up to and including that of Barack Obama. They may have been different in style but not in the pursuit of their goal of creating a two-class society. The wealth and power of money reigns supreme and only grows with each passing day. Their contempt for the average American knows no bounds, and we are led to believe that the ravages and the cost of their excesses are somehow not of their own doing but, rather, accrue to the detriment of the taxpayers. I am still mystified as what twist of logic led us to accept that conclusion.

I believe mortal man is imbued, from the time of birth, with two great temptations. One is greed and the other is the lust for power. By their sheer power to tempt us and to compromise our standards of decency, it is a never-ending struggle to keep them in check. Neither appetite is ever fully satiated and their persistent pursuit of more and more drains the very life-blood out of our national fabric. The oligarchs and plutocrats, and their ownership of every aspect of our government, continues without limits. We are little more than bystanders, watching from the sidelines, as they set themselves to the task of destroying virtually every thread in the tapestry of enlightenment that was our national legacy from Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The golden age of the middle class, in the great span of time, proved to be but a mere twinkling when faced with the forces of darkness that were unleashed upon us. We lost our position on the world stage as an industrial giant, a society to be envied and emulated around the globe, all carried on the backs of a strong and healthy middle class. We became the American Dream that offered a pathway and a ladder to a better life for our children and their children. That dream soon evaporated as our industrial base was dismantled, and precious jobs were shipped overseas to cheap labor markets. Rather than revered, it was demonized and marginalized by the relentless assaults from big business. Their gains were deliberately and systematically stripped from them by the sheer force of money and influence, brutally brought to bear by big business and massive wealth.

The Supreme Court, not content with its success in putting George W. Bush in the White House by judicial fiat, decided to try for an encore with their ruling in Citizens United. That was the precursor for the biggest nightmare to be unleashed on a civilized people since the Dark Ages. We have seen the emergence of some of the most sinister forces imaginable, and their devastating effects are just beginning to be felt by the people of this country. The blood of martyrs will, ultimately, cleanse their persistent and unrelenting pursuits at the expense of the broader society. It is just a question of time.

I am curious if great wealth and unlimited power lead those who have it to believe that, once they have “made it,” they somehow become kindred members of a deity, the face of which is never revealed to us mere mortals. Do they come to believe they are omnipotent and beyond accountability or self-examination? What gives them the right to ravenously destroy every aspect of a good and decent life for us all? What gives them the right to plunder and destroy the very planet on which we live and for which we all share a solemn obligation to preserve? Perhaps vast wealth is the complete antithesis to what lesser mortals seek in a relationship with their Creator. On the other hand, is it the manifestation of the darkest forces that lie dormant within our human nature? Personally, I have my own set of beliefs. I would not presume to impose them on anyone else, but I do believe there is a thread of decency among those who seek an honest life that does not come at the expense of the common good. I don’t see much evidence of that among those who have managed to float to the top of the cesspool of success that comes at any price.

There seems to be a kinship between those possessed by the endless quest for more wealth and more power. You see a commonality between them in all walks of life, from every brand of zealot and demagogue among us. You see them in the empty rhetoric of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Christine O’Donnell and all of like mind who have a chronic inability to engage in any form of introspection, sincerity and a commitment to the truth. They thrive and prosper on lies, heresy, deception and the sale of their souls to those who finance their ambitions. I am of the opinion that these humanoids all share one common congenital anomaly that calcifies their cranial tissue. Anything remotely akin to a functional brain must consist of nothing more than a small pea-sized neurotransmitter near the medulla oblongata that precludes any resemblance to human thought. That is what enables them to react only to external stimuli. I cannot conceive of a mind that would take any of them and what they peddle seriously. The club of which they are all a part seeks not to educate themselves and us about reality, but to convince us of the absolute certainty of a belief system they want us to embrace on behalf of their benefactors. They are the “true believers,” touched by the hand of God, that have, historically, spawned the darkest and destructive epochs of evil that have laid waste vast areas of Europe, Asia, the Near East, Southeast Asia and other killing fields throughout recorded history.

Great wealth appears to remain somewhat removed from the glare of everyday life. However, anyone with even so much as a cursory interest about what is going on in the world today should have no trouble identifying the billionaires and lesser millionaires who seem hell bent on destroying the last vestigial remnants of our civilized society, or in preserving a habitable environment.

However, I also believe there are “good” billionaires and millionaires who honestly came by their fortunes, and who believe in this country. They do share in a respect for the inherent goodness of Americans. I applaud them for all the good work they do, but their outrage seems somewhat muted in the face of the destruction of the institutions of government that were created to serve a nation and its people. It is occurring at meteoric speed by those whose rapacious greed knows no limits, and there is a need for an equal and opposite force to stem their ambitions.

That our entire system of government is badly broken and hopelessly corrupt is self-evident. We are no longer “a government of the people, by the people and for the people,” that is the bedrock of our democracy. Those who control the government are so compromised they cannot be expected or trusted to embark on any serious effort to clean up the dysfunctional mess we call “government,” and restore the confidence required to do the people’s business. It is too awash in massive amounts of money, influence peddling and the sheer power of special interests. Those elected to serve us are far too immersed in amassing huge sums of money for their re-election, setting themselves up as super ordinates to those they serve and attending to the demands of those who keep them in office.

These days I cannot help but notice a more subdued American people. I don’t know whether they are simply apathetic or that they see a future so bleak it is beyond hope. That saddens me because I genuinely believe in the inherent worth and decency of the common folk. They may not be at the pinnacle of the social register or economic ladder, but they are the stuff of goodness that the so-called elite and privileged seem unable to understand or appreciate. They are the ones who have labored to provide that favored status to those who now reap the fruits of their efforts. That needs to be recognized, valued and appreciated by all of us. They deserve their rightful place in a safe and secure society.

So, where are all those “good” super-rich who made their fortunes in this country? Don’t they feel some sort of patriotic or moral obligation to at least attempt to fix what ails our government and to restore rightful ownership to the people? One thing is certain. It cannot and will not be fixed by those who feed at the common trough of corruption that keeps them in power.

Our system of government is badly in need of a tune-up. It is out of balance and not working as it should. It is broken and in need of repair. To right the wrongs that have brought us to this point in our history will require a united and concerted effort to confront all those who see what is left as just one more conquest in the pursuit of their ambitions. It is a labor that carries with it a sense of urgency, but it will not be easy. It will require a substantial commitment of resources, the vision and the indomitable will to make it happen. I have no doubt that a group of civic-minded people of means can command the resources, put together the organization and produce a blueprint for restoring health and confidence in government, so it serves all the people all the time.

Our greatest treasure is to be found in the massive pool of brainpower residing within our colleges, universities and in every sector of our economy. The great majority of Americans believe in this country, and its ability to rise from the ashes to a new and better place in the world.

So, I would ask those plutocrats who genuinely love and care about this country, “Will you embark on a project to right the wrongs and cure the ills of all that has compromised our system of government?”

1. Convene a meeting of your peers for the purpose of creating and funding an independent private organization with the avowed purpose of embarking on a massive assessment of all that is wrong and dysfunctional with our system of government, and what will be required in order to restore it to the fairness of its founding principles? It would have to be based on objectivity, transparency, and freedom from any built-in bias or conflicts of interest.

2. A Board of Trustees, comprised of ownership, would be responsible for overseeing the entire project. Its purpose would be to focus on defining its mission, and on getting the job done with the best talent available. The end result would be fulfilling a commitment to the American people that its findings and recommendations will be fully transparent.

3. An Executive Committee would supervise the conduct of the study, and would direct the efforts of study committees and task forces charged with carrying out the intent and work of the project. This would be a natural place to utilize the background and experience of former prominent political figures that have served with distinction.

4. Focus on the structure of every agency in government, including terms or term limits for those holding office, rules of conduct for every major branch of government, etc., so those institutions can be brought into line with the Constitution and the best interests of the people.

5. Undertake a comprehensive review of the structure, regulations and authority exercised over all major aspects of the economy so they clearly serve the people and operate in keeping with the best interests of the society of which they are a part.

6. Undertake a comprehensive review of the press, its ownership and composition, in keeping with the original intent of the Founding Fathers. It must, of necessity, focus on its intended relationship to government, so it clearly serves the people and, once again, becomes, not beholden to, but rather serves as the watchdog on government. I would look to people from reputable schools of journalism within our college and university systems to undertake this effort. I would look to Bill Moyers to chair such a committee.
7. Get money and influence out of government. Provide for public funding of political campaigns and prohibit lobbying of government officials. If there is a need for specific information or consultation, then let it be provided by paid consultants, in open meetings and free of any taint from vested interests.

8. Bring salaries and benefits for public officials into line with the broader marketplace. Government is no place for special treatment or perquisites. They need to be aware of the concept of “equality” that is such an integral part of all that we, ostensibly, stand for. No institution of government should be allowed to “legislate” for its own benefit.

9. For an effort of this nature to be successful, it must be applied to every branch of government and every agency of government. The rules and regulations they have promulgated should be evaluated in terms of their relevance, their appropriateness and their effectiveness as they apply to the citizens of this country.

10. The culmination of such an endeavor should be the publication of a report with a plan of action for accomplishing those recommendations. Every aspect of that report should be transparent and freely available.

There is not one shred of doubt in my mind that there are legions of academicians and their graduate students who would jump at the chance to be a part of such an effort. This is not an undertaking for members of the “Old Boys Club.” It is the place for people who have clearly established themselves as respected sources of knowledge in their various fields and the inquisitive minds of those who study under their tutelage.

Our country is not in need of inflated egos and self-aggrandizement. It is in need of great minds and a sense of justice.

Cowboy Bob
March 21, 2011

Friday, March 11, 2011

"The State of the Union That Should Have Been Given"

My Fellow Americans.

This is my second State of the Union Address to you, the people of this country. I have had two years in office to assess the lay of the land and to learn how the “system” works in this, Our Nation’s Capitol. I am both heartened and dismayed by what I have seen and the lessons I have learned. That experience will serve as the basis for my agenda that will take us into the future.

At the outset, I ask you, the American people, to take the time and effort to ferret out the truth, and not be swayed by the spin-doctors, the opinion-makers and those representing power through massive wealth and special interests. I did not seek this office to represent those interests. I came to represent you, the people of this great country who, I genuinely believe, laid the foundations for what ultimately led to one of the greatest democracies on the face of the earth. The last thirty years have seen an egregious assault on those principles. I intend to revisit the price that has been paid by you because those who represent you lost sight of the fact that we are a government of the people, not by those who covet power and great wealth.

Let me make one thing abundantly clear. I was elected to the Presidency by an overwhelming mandate from Democrats and Independents to effect “Change We Can Believe In.” I intend to fulfill that mandate.

I am going to dust off my campaign promises, undertake an assessment as to where my administration stands on all of those issues. To the extent they need to be re-thought or modified, I will take the necessary steps to bring them into line with the reality of today. Further, I will publish a status report on the internet so every one of you can see where we are at any given point in time. As part of this effort, I will expect the news media to assume and honor its role as an independent watchdog on government; not the mouthpiece for special interests.

If the past two years have taught me anything, I have learned that those who claim to be experts in any particular field of endeavor, because of their tenure in politics or as lobbyists, are the least objective source for an honest assessment of where we stand on the vital issues facing this country today. By definition, most have made compromises that are the complete antithesis of what this nation needs. I will, instead, look to the academic community and independent citizens who have distinguished themselves as leaders, for the advice and counsel I need to chart the course for a better future that will serve us all, not just a select few.

Transparency is to be the hallmark of my remaining tenure in office. There will be no more “private” or “secret” meetings behind closed doors. If any participant has a problem with that, then he is probably not suitable for the task at hand.

The State of the Union is not good. It needs a lot of work and nurturing to restore it to an acceptable level of health. Experience has taught me that leadership and statesmanship trumps politics. Compromise and bipartisanship, although noble, must be managed. To the extent those efforts may subvert what is best for this country, then they have no place at the table.

The Republicans in Congress have shown that they have little or no interest in seriously conducting the pressing business of this country. Rather, the thrust of what they represent is pursuing an agenda that caters to big money and special interests. Sadly, there are a few powerful and influential Democrats who are equally compromised. They have proven to be obstructionist by hampering the effective conduct of the peoples’ business. I do not intend to acquiesce to this strategy any longer. I will call them out when the situation demands it.

The Supreme Court has shown they are not as committed to the notion of judicial objectivity and impartiality as we have the right to expect. Their decision in the Citizens United case further underscores their proclivity for engaging in partisan politics at the expense of the oath they took and their solemn duty to the people of this country. Any appointments that I make to the Court in the future will be predicated on an established record of judicial impartiality.

That our economy is in shambles needs no embellishment. We can see all that has been laid to waste by the greed and avarice of those seeking to personally profit or enhance the profits of others at your expense. I pledge to do everything I can to thwart those self-serving attempts. Some of the major priorities I intend to address in the future are the following:

My top priority is to appoint a Presidential Commission on Clean Government, to be comprised of the finest constitutional and legal scholars in the country. Their charge will be to undertake a comprehensive review of our system of government, what it will take to clean it up, make it better and stronger, and prepare a plan of action for making it all happen consistent with the provisions and intent of the Constitution. In the meantime, I plan on taking immediate steps to focus on the following high-priority issues before this country:

1. Essential and effective safeguards for the regulation and control of the financial industries. Those that were recently adopted are woefully inadequate to restore integrity and confidence in the financial markets. The average American has paid an outrageous price for accommodations that were made in favor of Wall Street. Those have to be strengthened. I can think of no one more qualified to head such an effort than Elizabeth Warren.

2. The issue of Banking and how it can best serve the American people must be addressed as one of our top priorities. Without a healthy banking system, our economy cannot grow and prosper in today’s world.

3. We must re-examine our trade policies and bring them into line with what is fair and reasonable among our trading partners. The relationship must be reciprocal so all parties share equally in the responsibility for making those treaties work for the benefit of all.

4. We are in dire need of a comprehensive energy policy that will address all aspects of our energy needs now and into the future. The disproportionate amount of influence and resources granted to carbon-based energy has come at the expense of the American people and future generations. We must re-order our priorities, stop the subsidies to the oil and coal industries and shift those resources to the development of environmentally friendly and sustainable sources of energy. We cannot afford to defer that priority any longer.

5. The amount of our national resources devoted to defense has led us to the brink of a serious financial calamity if we fail to reign in the amount being consumed by the military establishment. There has to be a comprehensive review of the entire defense budget and its relationship to the myriad other national priorities that must be addressed in a fair and equitable manner.

6. We must re-examine our entire foreign policy and seek a balance in our obligations as a responsible member of the family of nations, and our commitment to world peace.

7. Education is at the bedrock of a healthy and viable nation on the world stage. We simply cannot afford to short-change our commitment to making our system of education the best in the world. We have a framework within our system of community colleges, state colleges and universities to place higher education within the reach of all Americans. We need to strengthen and broaden those bases of opportunity for not just the youth, but the working people of this country, as well.

8. Taxes are the price we pay for the privilege of living in a civilized society. The funds flowing into the coffers of government is the lifeblood of all we are and all we stand for. However, our tax structure must be fair and equitable. What we now have is clearly skewed in favor of the very wealthy and big business. A massive overhaul in the way we levy and collect taxes is essential to our continued economic growth, prosperity and survival.

9. The state of the infrastructure of this country must be addressed so that we strengthen and improve all of the facilities and services that are essential to meeting the needs of a healthy and viable society. The sheer magnitude and complexity of that effort will require the combined efforts of the best minds that can be brought to bear on that challenge.

10. The time has come to reaffirm the dignity of work in this country. Those who produce the goods and services on which we depend are just as valuable to our common well-being as those who provide the capital investment. The losses that working people have sustained over the past thirty years is nothing short of reprehensible. Our entire system of labor laws must be reviewed and we must pass legislation that strengthens and provides remedies for the working people of this country.

This is but a start on the long journey to restoring health and vitality to our society. As we embark on this endeavor, my goal is to look to centers of knowledge and expertise for the answers we seek, and not what is politically expedient. The inordinate influence of politics has proven to be more self-serving than in serving the national interest. That is a price we can no longer afford to pay.

I did not seek this office to become wealthy and to live out the remainder of my life among the elite. Rather, I sought the presidency because I wanted to serve you, the people, and to leave a legacy for my children and your children that will testify to the fact that I genuinely cared and I did the very best I could for all of you.

I have been humbled by the fact that I stand before you as the first Black American to hold the highest office in the land. However, my Mother was a Caucasian from the Heartland of America, the Great State of Kansas. Her blood courses through my veins, as well, underscoring the fact that I represent all who comprise this great melting pot called The United States of America.

Thank you and may God richly bless each and every one of you. With His help and yours, I cannot fail.

Barack Obama
President of the United States of America

Cowboy Bob
March 11, 2011