Wednesday, December 19, 2012

“Keep Hope Alive. It May Be All We Have.”


I have been writing this blog for several years, based on the long-delayed response to various individuals who, during the course of my life, opined that I had a talent for writing and that I should have a go at it. Perhaps it was a lack of self-confidence or misplaced modesty that precluded me from giving it a try.

I found retirement an uncomfortable fit and I seemed to have more time on my hands than I could put to good use, so I decided to take up the pen and see if there was a modicum of truth to all of those voices of encouragement. I found a comfortable niche and realized that I rather enjoyed putting my thoughts on paper. As to whether that has proven to be a fruitful and worthwhile endeavor, I have to leave that to the reader. Praise is not the issue. Honesty is.

My venture into the world of the written world caused me to pause and ask, “What is the most important tenet that should govern this endeavor?” I decided it could be summed up in one simple word – TRUTH. I could not possibly take the plunge without a firm commitment to always strive to be truthful with myself and to my readers. I have tried to remain true to that commitment. As to how successful I have been, again that has to be left to better judges than me – my readers.

I make no bones about the fact that I am interested in a variety of issues and subjects, and I have no qualms about being forthright in that regard. The multi-faceted makeup of what we are as human beings in all its manifestations has provided me with a wealth of opportunities. I have few regrets.

If I had to identify one aspect of what we are, as a people, it is the ease with which we have allowed others to shape and determine our values based on the skilled use of tools that play to our hedonistic and materialistic needs. Knowledge is, without question, the most arduous and difficult of all the pursuits put before us. The rigors of acquiring knowledge and the attendant wisdom that comes with it seem, all too often, to take a backseat to anything that plays to the entire panoply of what makes us feel good or what may cause others to envy or idolize us for what we have. That is sad testimony to the value we place on our full potential to become responsible citizens of the world and to cultivate a genuine desire to make this planet a better place for us all.

The most awesome period of innovation that has occurred during my lifetime is that wrought by computer technology. Now, I cannot dispute the benefits that technology has bought to the various aspects of our lives. However, the “free market” has also exploited that technology so we are immersed in electronic toys beyond belief. We wait, with baited breath, for the next gimmick that will play to our need to yet have more fun with the latest and greatest coming off the assembly lines spewing forth an endless array of “toys” sold to us as yet another means for making us more savvy, accomplished and successful, whatever those terms may mean. I am saddened by the casualties that have followed in the wake of those “advancements” to our way of life. We no longer talk to each other. We no longer visit with others. We no longer read good books. We no longer know how to write, both in substance and style. We have diminished the value of social intercourse and substantive human relationships. We can’t live without cell phones, social networking, texting and social media. We are plastic and unfeeling. Sadly the most egregious of all, is that we no longer know how to think critically and hold those institutions and servants of the common good to account for their failures to serve the societies and the world community for the sake of every inhabitant of this planet. In the final analysis it is the ultimate indictment of what we should be at our best. Mediocrity has now become the standard by which we measure ourselves. Is that not the ultimate tragedy of mankind?

I measure the United States by those to whom we have entrusted our institutions of government. To me, that is the best insight we have as to where we are as a nation and how much we will either (a) demand from our public servants, or (b) how much we will succumb to the deceptive practices and ambitions from them. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to throw these two divergent perspectives into sharp relief. I find that by reflecting back on the occupants of the White House, I can pretty well tell who has been the worst and the best during my lifetime. It isn’t rocket science. Rather it is common sense.

The best Presidents of my lifetime were:

1. Harry S. Truman for his tenacious commitment to basic human honesty and decency.

2. Dwight D. Eisenhower for restoring dignity, stature and statesmanship to the office of President.

3. John F. Kennedy for demonstrating the sheer brilliance of what it means to be a real leader by his handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Anyway you look at it; he saved the world and its people from total annihilation.

The worst Presidents of my lifetime were:

1. Those who were members of the Bush Dynasty and their skills in courting the deceptive, ambitious and destructive talents of dictators, plutocrats and oligarchs.

2. Richard M. Nixon for obvious reasons.

3. William J. Clinton for his total lack of any sense of character, decency and morality. His failure to serve the electorate as President and his collusion with those whose avowed pursuits were personal gain, wealth and power contrary to the common good and the welfare of the nation.

4. Barack Obama stands out as the most disingenuous president of my lifetime. I believe he was hand picked by the most avaricious among us. I am persuaded that he was chosen as the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 for very good reason. He was anointed as the one to carry the torch for the grand scheme of subduing the nation for the benefit of the wealthy and privileged. He would become President to further the agendas of those who were determined to shred the fabric of the middle class and working people of this country. He would be President to do their bidding and to obliterate any semblance of power and equality by those who were and are the backbone of this nation. He would be President to rape and pillage the environment for big money, corporate capitalists, defense, energy, foreign interests, and to emasculate anything that might have the slightest appearance of advocating for organized labor. He would give lofty and inspirational speeches in order to mesmerize and seduce the people for those who were sworn to reduce them to servitude in the service of great wealth and power. He would lie with impunity and engage in double-speak without the slightest reservation or remorse. He would covet secrecy, presidential prerogatives, and cozy relationships with defense and intelligence agencies. His Justice Department would be an arm of his administration that would turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to violations of the law in favor of those who would seek to pervert and exploit any notion of justice.

In my opinion, he has proven himself to be the most amoral person to have ever taken the Oath of Office. He is a person without conviction and character. The nation has only begun to pay the price for his avariciousness and servitude to all the forces that seek to destroy all that we are and seek to be. I am convinced that everything he does, ostensibly for the welfare of the many is, in reality, simply a part of his agenda for furthering the goal of serving the seats of power, privilege and affluence that put and keep him in office. I am deeply remorseful for ever having supported him in his quest for the presidency.

All Barack Obama is and is not has been glaringly apparent to anyone with the slightest curiosity as to what makes him tick. He is as transparent as a window pane. I think the time is upon us for the so-called “Progressives,” to wipe the stars from their eyes and see this man for what he is. Isn’t it time to call him out on his blatant hypocrisy and stop blindly accepting him for what he professes to be? Deception is abhorrent, but self-deception is criminal. The results of the last election have not changed Obama one iota, nor will they. He is what he is; a shill for every vested interest that is the complete antithesis of civility and what this country is all about. He sold his soul a long time ago. He is locked into delivering on his commitment to power and money. We, in turn, are duty bound to do everything we can, within the framework of the law, to stop the juggernaut he is about to unleash on a fragile, but trusting and unsuspecting public. Time is no longer on the side of well-intentioned and reasoned minds.

I would like to think there is some hope to stem the tide of his agenda, but I am not at all optimistic that is likely to happen. My fear is that we are so complacent from our self-imposed ignorance, lethargy and the will to do anything meaningful to rectify it that it is almost hopeless to seriously entertain any such prospect.

Where is the lifeblood and energy of the Occupy Wall Street movement? Where is the determination and strength to support organized labor in its quest to rescue and restore health to an economy for those who want nothing more than to earn an honest living? Where are the environmentalists who want to save this planet for those who seek to reverse the plague and savagery of exploitation? Where are the seeds of a government that wants to see better days for all people, and that realizes the merits of regulation and oversight by a government that is elected to serve everyone and to advocate for all of us? Where is the will to fine tune our system of government so that it serves our common purpose and nurtures our finer angels?

It is not to be found in the halls of an entrenched government that serves only the interests of those who seek to destroy our common purpose, our will and the determination to be all that we were intended to be by those few brave men who created this nation?

a. Let’s begin by getting money out of politics.
b. Let’s insist on complete separation of powers, with honesty and transparency in every aspect of government.
c. Let’s return a balance to the power between the states and the federal government. Anything that has the appearance of being self-serving should be viewed with suspicion and, if necessary, ratified by a vote of the people before being enacted into law.
d. The two-party system is a ruse for the concentration of political power in the hands of a few in order to manipulate the many. That notion should be abolished in favor of allowing any legitimate party to actively seek the votes of the electorate, without any encumbrance or restrictions that do not apply equally to all other political parties.
e. A semi-autonomous bureau should be created that is accountable to an appropriate and impartial oversight body in order to ensure that all contracts, treaties and other binding agreements are free of any appearance of being self-serving and are deemed to be in the best interests of the United States of America.
f. It should be required that all businesses engaged in news reporting, analysis and other means of informing the electorate are totally independent and free of any relationship, whatsoever, that would compromise its complete independence and autonomy from any other business enterprise.

I have advocated before that it is time for us to consider an autonomous convention of independent experts in all aspects of government and constitutional law, free of any affiliation other than to academia, to conduct an audit of our government and how it addresses its obligations to be of service to those who elect them to office. The results of their study and any attendant recommendations should be published for distribution and appropriate action by the people who vote and elect public servants to office. From my perspective, there is far too much secrecy, conflicts of interest and collusion by elected officials and public servants, and those whose interests may be contrary to the welfare of the nation.

I can only scratch the surface. God knows, this nation is awash with some of the best brains in the world that would dwarf anything I might have to say. However, I would hazard a guess that the lion’s share of those minds would welcome the opportunity to take this task head-on and demonstrate their collective ability to make what we euphemistically call “government” one hell of a lot better than it is!

What, I ask you, do we have to lose? A dose of healthy introspection might just be what the doctor ordered. At the end of the day, the hallmark of this country must always be “Freedom, with liberty and justice for all.” Surely, it is time to permanently retire the misconception that this country exists to ensure that “those who have the most always get the most, and the rest of us suck the hindmost.” If we don’t do it for ourselves, you can bet your sweet “bippy” that the cesspool of humanity ensconced in Washington, on Wall Street and the suburban environs in Virginia that hold this nation hostage sure as hell won’t do it for us.

Keep hope alive.

Cowboy Bob
The Sagebrush Philosopher
December 19, 2012









Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"A Sprig of Rosemary"

You probably wouldn't know it by the way I write when I am on my high horse over something that has really rankled me, but I am basically a sentimental softy.  What causes my rancor to turn to mush are the words of an accomplished master in the use of the English language. 

Charles McCabe was a columnist with the San Francisco Chronicle when I was a student at UC Berkeley in the 1960's.  I rarely missed savoring his daily columns.  He played on a panoply of thoughts and feelings within me.  Although emotionally fragile after I finished, I always felt better about my own humanity when I did.  He was one of a kind. 

He died in 1983 in San Francisco.  In his memory, the restaurant he frequented every day reserved his table for one full year, dutifully adorned with a martini and a single red rose.  A fitting tribute to an honest man whose emotions ran deep but which he openly and freely shared with his devotees. 

_____________________________________________________________
A Sprig of Rosemary
by
Charles McCabe
The Fearless Spectator


_____________________________________________________________

How would you like to be remembered? Or is the thought really too awful to think? Is saying good-by to life one of those things that strikes you with terror, as the word cancer affects some people?

When the time comes for me to say good-by (and I would have it delayed as long as possible, thank you) I should like to be able to summon the grace of that civilized Englishman, Horace Walpole. “I shall be quite content,” he said, “with a sprig of rosemary thrown after me, when the parson commits my dust to dust.”

I am perfectly willing to be remembered for what I am, which means what I think I am. That is not all as admirable as you might think if you do not know me well. My value, in the end, is no greater than any other collection of flesh and blood below the earth or on it.

One of the nice things about living, though, is that you can savor, in memory, the vanished presence of those you have loved or liked. While it is no longer fashionable to memorialize the dead with rosemary, as it was in Shakespeare and Walpole’s day, one can still throw a sprig of the stuff in the direction of those who graced life while we were around.

I think of a special girl who is buried in Golder’s Green, on the far side of London. She was perhaps the most beautiful woman I ever met -- coal black and snow white, of hair and skin. For a while we meant everything to each other, which means there were no words we did not say to each other, from the ugliest to the loveliest, and no things we did not do to each other, in that spectrum of action which we command.

We parted with the bitterness of those who know they have failed, failed in that marvelous adventure which can be the discovery of a soul.

Yet the memory of that girl, when she was alive and now that she has gone, was never bitter. When she was away from me I could do what was not possible for me when we were together: I could accept her for herself. What she was, was too much for me to handle when she was mine. She was too beautiful, and loved by too many men, and too various and bright in her spirits to belong to anyone, even herself.

I did not know the beauty of her spirit, or what it meant to me, until we were parted. Then I knew, and it hurt like hell for a long time. The fire finally burned out. It became beautiful.

I think of her today, and often, with a delight which is tinged with sadness, which is I suppose the appropriate combination of feelings for those we have loved. I can hardly remember a word she said, though she said many witty and memorable things, but the vivid dancing of her face comes to me as strongly as the colors of the garden I am now looking at.

She would never know that she would give me this richness, in a place so far away and a time so remote. She could not know, when I said I loved her, how the words would become tinged with truth as the years passed by. The blessing she dispensed may have been, to her, as casual as the affection she bestowed on a horse. These things we can never know.

I do not believe I will ever be remembered the way I remember this half-Irish, half-Spanish elf. It was her quality to bring out, in one particular man, from time to time, the best part of his nature. That a life can do this is surely a quite beautiful thing.

If one had the faith that one had touched another in this way, at any time, that surely would be an affirmation of the value of life. As I said, one can never know about these things. One can only guess. But it can be a lovely guess. Rosemary is for remembrance, and for constancy. Today would be that girl’s birthday.

Charles McCabe
Tall Girls are Grateful
Chronicle Books, 1973
54 Mint Street
San Francisco, California 94103

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

"Blowin' Smoke"



I don’t know about most folks but I, for one, am tired of being patronized and schmoozed by every brand of those who claim to be a part of the “1%” or privileged class that seems to believe they have what is equivalent to the divine right of kings, in the pursuit of every conceivable kind of avarice and greed known to mankind. I am tired of the never-ending effort to keep us in the dark while feeding us bull crap. There is a time when everything points to the fact that we are being “had,” big time. That time is upon us and it is time to stop the merry-go-round and get off. It is time for a reality check and to place the whole spectrum of deception into proper perspective.

I simply no longer accept as credible all of the rhetoric that is handed to us as truth and reality by the opinion makers in Washington, New York and Hollywood. I am no longer enamored by the products of Silicone Valley and the sanctity of Wall Street. I am no longer willing to grant special privileges to those who simply take those dispensations and rip us off, then tell us to shove the leftovers where the sun don’t shine. They are all a bunch of con artists and whores of one ilk or another, constantly on the look out for one of our many vulnerabilities so they can jump at the chance to exploit the human condition yet again. By their behavior, you would think they regard the rest of us as a bunch of fools and blithering idiots and, sadly, we certainly give them reason to believe as much.

We all dutifully fall into line when patriotism is called for. We salute the flag and get all teary-eyed when the brass bands play. But, what are we saluting? A grand illusion that causes us to believe what they (the power structure) want us to believe. Contrary to popular belief, we simply don’t have one system of government. We have one political party with two branches. Both serve the same masters of wealth and privilege. But it is done with a different slant every two, four and six years. Other political parties have, for all intents and purposes, been marginalized from actively participating in the political process. I would say that looks a lot like a carefully crafted and closed system that benefits a few at the expense of a great many.

Every aspect of our lives is controlled by a whole host of corrupt political, judicial, financial, military and intelligence agencies that scratch each other’s backs to the collective detriment of the taxpayers. Every election requires that we dutifully play the role of “voters” so they can lay legitimate claim to their favored and coveted positions in the plunder of this country and, indeed, the world. They are the power elite who own and control every aspect of our lives. They are the oligarchs, the corporate capitalists, and the corporate news media. They are the consummate seducers who keep us totally oblivious to the reality that is swirling around our heads as they brutally assault every right and guarantee that we, as citizens, believe to be ours. Social safety nets become their next opportunity for material gain at (you got it) the expense of the common people.

Like a band of sheep being led to the slaughter, we look the other way and believe what we want to believe, while the planet is systematically destroyed through avariciousness the likes of which the world has never seen. We, the people, are a pathetic lot, allowing every conceivable kind of exploitation and destruction of all that rightfully belongs to us, so long as our appetites are satiated by what they, the establishment, has convinced us is what we really want, not what we need, all in our best interests.

We are so burdened with military hardware floating on the oceans of the world and flying in the skies above us that we will probably soon need a new government agency just to police the congestion caused by the sheer volume of traffic in order to prevent oceanic or stratospheric collisions. Of all that armament, ostensibly developed and purchased in order to protect our “national interests,” I rather suspect that very little is or will ever be pressed into any form of bona fide military service. But, it certainly makes legions of defense contractors, and senior military and procurement officers handsomely rich come retirement day, all at the expense of the American taxpayers. If they aren’t the closest thing we have to royalty, I don’t know what is. And, we dutifully pay the expected measure of proper homage to them.

Compare the attention and resources devoted to Wall Street, Corporate America, Defense, Intelligence and the myriad perks they have accorded themselves or have bought with bribes to their collaborators in order to make it all happen. What is happening to teachers, fire fighters, law enforcement officers and the nation’s infrastructure is the reality with which we live, day to day. It gives new meaning to terms of what is deemed essential and what is discretionary. All the while, the thieves go free from indictments and prosecution, while dedicated public servants hit the bricks and wonder where the next meal is coming from. Where is the justice in all this? Passive entertainment is in; reasoned intellect and deliberative and critical thought are passĂ©.

The current popular jargon used to refer to our perceived financial crisis is “falling off the cliff.” Do we actually believe there is a debt crisis in this country without giving the slightest bit of attention to asking why and for whom? Do we actually believe social programs put in place for the common good are, somehow, to blame for all this or are we standing on the verge of simply acquiescing to that belief as the predators take more away from us, reduce services and increase our taxes for the privilege of doing so? Where is the simple logic in all this? Who gains and who loses? I rest my case.

While the victims of Hurricane Sandy huddle in the darkness of what is left of their homes and their communities, mindful of the fleeting rhetoric of our resident orator at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, and Colonel Sanders on steroids from New Jersey, the opulent splendor of Park Avenue is ablaze with lights illuminating the chick shops and the surrounding environs of wealth and privilege. Who is left to come to their aid? It is their friends, neighbors, families and a few well-intentioned and dedicated groups who give a damn, simply because they accept their efforts as the dues they pay for being a part of the human race. FEMA is a faint acronym from another world that has left them to fend and survive for themselves. Is this the America we want and the America we have a right to expect? I would hope not.

Tourists visit our nation’s capitol, mesmerized by the monuments erected to the power and privilege we revere, not so much for what they have done for us, but quite unconsciously for what they have done to us. Their lofty words not withstanding, more often than not all their professed noble intentions boil down to some form of pillage, plunder or seduction that makes us actually believe they give a damn. Or, do we accept it because we are afraid not to? Their ill-gotten wealth, privilege and raw power are ominous forces to contemplate.

Isn’t it time we got serious about the reality of our lives? Climate change and global warming are real. They are the biggest threat to our very existence and all of the “things” we have come to covet. When the planet is barren, what is the value of all the money amassed by the oligarchs, the politicians, the financiers, the producers of fossil fuels and all the other destructive forces that have been unleashed on us? The “point of no return” is upon us. If we don’t stop kidding ourselves, it will be too late. When we reach that point, I would ask you, “Who benefits?” All of the goodness, decency and creative energy of the common man goes down with the most vile and despicable specimens of humanity among us. At that point, there are no winners.

We simply must clean up government. We must get money out of politics. We must insist our elected officials stand on their own, focus on the people who elected them to office, and stop being mesmerized and beholden to big money and the influence of all the branches of government that operate in the shadows and in secrecy, and routinely practice the art and science of “conflicts of interest,” all accruing to the detriment of the people. It is not a healthy arrangement for anyone and it is toxic for all of us.

We must insist on a return to a completely free and unfettered press that will serve the citizens of the country and acts as our watchdogs on all the centers of political, social and financial power that may have the potential to harm the very foundations of our democracy. As the old sage from Missouri once said, “Don’t tell me; show me.”

There is an old bit of Wyoming folk wisdom that says, “Someone is blowing smoke up our ass.” That pretty well sums it all up from my perspective. I would, in turn, ask you, “How much longer are we going to tolerate this as standard bill of fare from our elected and appointed leadership before we say, “Enough is enough!” We want our country back and we want the urgent action necessary in order to save this planet and our very lives before it is too late.

Greed and avarice may be powerful influences, but they are not moral, honorable or humanely decent. I, for one, don’t believe one damned word they say, one damned promise they make, nor do I have a modicum of trust and confidence in anything they advocate being “in our best interest.” Their total and complete lack of character tells me otherwise.

Cowboy Bob
The Sagebrush Philosopher
December 5, 2012







Saturday, November 17, 2012

Equality: For Whom and At What Price?



Equality is defined as the quality or state of being equal.  That is a notion that all Americans seem to revere and cherish as a quality particularly unique to us, as a people.  Now, I grant you that it is nice to think of it as a part of our fabric that is universally shared by all who claim to be “American,” whatever that means.  Contrary to the popular conception that we are one people, I view us as a collection of special interests, each with a different persuasion and a different agenda relative to our ethnicity and our economic, social and political interests.  Our history supports and gives credence to that fact, regardless of how much we may want to believe otherwise.

Before venturing further into this treatise, let me acknowledge the power and influence of religion on our perceptions of what equality means to each of us.  After all, the roots of what we perceive to be the America of today were first planted on the shores of this nation with the arrival of European settlers seeking a new life free from religious persecution.   I respect the religious beliefs of everyone, but I do not subscribe to the notion that religion is anything more than a system of beliefs.  None can empirically prove the existence of the Deity.  Each is what it is, predicated on a simple set of beliefs.  I do not believe, no matter how fervent one may choose to profess otherwise, that God does not talk to any of us nor do any of us enjoy favored status with a heavenly being.  At best, we can only ascribe to our concept of God what we would like to think are our own individual and collective virtues.  I reject out of hand any admonition that anything one may purport to be absolute is anything more than a simple belief.  The sheer brilliance of our Founding Fathers is reflected in the fact that they chose to establish this nation on a system of laws, not divine beliefs.  It is the rule of law that is supreme, a fact of our existence we should not lose sight of. 

I was born and raised in the State of Wyoming, coincidentally the motto of which is “The Equality State.”  The ideals embodied in that motto versus what I experienced growing up in that State clearly relegates the motto to an ideal, not necessarily a way of life.

My earliest recollection of what were the beginning of my life’s experiences are rooted in the foothills around Hart Mountain, Wyoming where my Dad was working as a laborer on the construction of an internment camp for Japanese Americans at the beginning of World War II.  That was my introduction to one of many definitions of what “equality” meant.  Later in life, when I was a university student, I was dating a Japanese American girl.  Rather suddenly, she was called home, causing us to break a date for the movies.  When she returned, she told me that her family had forbidden her to see me again.  I was stunned, but I later found out that her grandfather once owned a large truck farm in the Imperial Valley of California.  At the beginning of World War II, he and his family were removed from that farm and transferred to one of the internment camps for Japanese Americans.  As a result of that twist of fate, he lost his entire farm to a “real” American and never recovered from the loss.  His bitterness was firmly woven into the fabric of his family and the innocence of my intrusion into their family, I am sure, must have bordered on treason.  I never saw Nobuko again.  Their meaning of “equality” did not square with mine. 

During World War II, Mexican laborers migrated from Mexico to the sugar beet fields in the Big Horn Basin of Wyoming.  They were referred to as “Spics,” receiving a paltry wage for their back-breaking labor, isolated from the local social structure, and consigned to a rudimentary housing camp on the banks of the Big Horn River.  I often wonder what “equality” meant to them. 

Later and early in my adolescence, we lived in the small town of Thermopolis where I went to school and worked as a soda jerk in my Uncle’s drug store.  It was there that I first witnessed the station to which the Native Americans of the Arapahoe and Shoshone Tribes were consigned.  In those days, it was a federal offense to sell liquor to the “Indians.”  The only time we saw them in numbers was during the annual rodeo.  They would gather on the streets of town, many of whom would spend the entire time in a stuporous state induced by the consumption of bay rum, shaving lotion or vanilla extract.  I wonder what “equality” meant to them. 

There were two blacks living in that town with a population of around 2,500.  One was “Nigger Nate” who shined shoes at the local barber shop, and “Bob” who was the janitor at the local bank.  On one occasion I invited Bob to have lunch with me.  He reluctantly accepted, but it was difficult for him to accompany me into the cafĂ©.  Once seated, he told me he could not stay.  I insisted that he remain, we had a nice lunch and became fast friends.  I often wonder what “equality,” meant to both of those men.    

Throughout our history, equality must have had a vastly different meaning to all of those who occupied a specific place in the pecking order of these United States of America.  I wonder what equality meant to the Chinese laborers who worked in the gold fields of California and were hunted for sport on weekends by the sourdoughs mining for the riches they hoped would emancipate them from their station in life.

The infamous expulsion of the Cherokees from the South and their “trail of tears” to the Oklahoma territories must have surely given new meaning to what equality meant for them. 

Then there are all of the Native Americans consigned to some of the poorest real estate in the nation, living at or below the subsistence level and relegated to obscurity from main stream America.  As they were brutally murdered, had their lands stolen from them, and died from starvation and exposure to the elements in the cold and brutal winters on the plains and in the mountains, I wonder what equality meant to them.  Their station in life hasn’t changed much over the years, and I still regard them as the real “forgotten” Americans among us.  The blatant failure of the U.S. Indian Service to invoke and uphold “equality” on their behalf has always and still remains a national disgrace.

There has been wave after wave of immigrants to the shores of this country.  Each came here seeking a better life free of poverty, and ethnic and religious persecution.  They started at the bottom, and through determination and hard work; most of them progressed up the social and economic ladder to take their places as full members of all this country had to offer.  Most of them were absorbed into the mainstream of this country, some later rather than sooner.  It was not all that long ago that the much coveted vote of the Latinos in this last election belonged to an almost invisible group of “bra ceros or wetbacks” who labored in the fields so we, mainstream America, could enjoy the luxury of cheap produce to grace our dinner tables.

I find it difficult to reconcile the concept of a nation founded on a dubious claim that God intended for them to reclaim and settle a “promised land,” by disenfranchising and brutalizing an entire population that had lived on and farmed that land for centuries.  As the land was reclaimed on the basis of divine will, the rightful inhabitants were marginalized and relegated to the status of second-class citizens.  Since then, there has been a relentless move to annex lands that were rightfully taken from Palestinians for the sake of a greater Israel, a nation that claims to be our closest and staunchest ally, yet has a history of spying on the United States, attacking a United States Naval vessel, the USS Liberty, in international waters and sapping vast economic resources from the people of the United States in order to subsidize their existence and to provide them with a defense establishment that is second to none in the Middle East.  Where is the notion of equality in all this?

We have an enclave of Cuban exiles living in the United States that exert tremendous financial and political influence in order to keep Cuba isolated from fully participating as an equal among nations.  It is yet another example of keeping the specter of phony subversion of another “boogey man” from undermining this nation.  Our politicians pander to that minority for the sake of shoring up their own political ambitions.  The rest of us fall for the ruse and look the other way.  As a matter of fact, through the courage and leadership of John F. Kennedy in dealing with the Cuban Missile Crisis, Cuba and Fidel Castro ceased to be a threat to the United States long ago.  However, the contrived threat to our sovereignty has kept the people of Cuba economically and politically marginalized as a full partner in the international community for over forty years!  What still remains their reality today should have been relegated to history a long time ago, their sovereignty should be recognized and they should be full trading partners with the United States and, indeed, the world.  I think the people of Cuba have been punished long enough for supporting Fidel Castro, today a frail and aged man.  He may have been the dragon of yesterday, but there is no fire coming from his nostrils today.  Had we embarked on a mature and enlightened relationship with Cuba, who knows how quickly they might have made the transition to a democratic form of government?  But, the money and politics of an enclave of nationalistic zealots have managed to trump common sense.  Where is the notion of equality in all this? 

Taking this dichotomy a step further and focusing on the economic reality of the United States, why is there such a vast disparity in the recognition and power of organized labor versus what is enjoyed by big business, international corporations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce?  Hasn’t the time come to level the playing field so everyone has an equal place at the table?  Isn’t it time for us to infuse the concept of equality into the equation? 

Hasn’t the time come for this country to adopt a mature stance and think in terms of equality for everyone rather than pander to fragmented special interests and the agendas of an influential and powerful few?

It’s about time the tail stopped wagging the dog. 

Cowboy Bob
The Sagebrush Philosopher
November 17, 2012                

Thursday, November 15, 2012

“If Not Now, When?”



Now that the dust is beginning to settle on Election 2012, we are beginning to see the real agenda of those in political power and the yet-to-see evidence that the reality of it all is beginning to settle into the minds of the American people. Our Commander-in-Chief is already touting his greatest stock in trade, Compromise, and what will surely be a continuation of his agenda to seduce the people who voted for him and to pander to those who sought to unseat him. I was moved to tears when he indicated that he is willing to “wash John Boehner’s car,” and “walk Mitch McConnell’s dog” if it will bring his much coveted “compromise” and “bi-partisanship” to the table. Distilled to its most basic denominator, it translates into “grab the petroleum jelly,” for his eternal quest for change is being renewed and cutbacks to government spending and entitlements will soon be upon us. He didn’t really mean all that stuff about working for the people who put him in office. He was just “funning y’all.” The progressives are ecstatic and corporate news media are in a complete state of rapture that their much coveted place of privilege and power with government, big money and corporate America is guaranteed.

I honestly believe that the good and decent people of this country want to see a massive assault on every conceivable form of self-indulgence and graft on the part of big money, big business and big government. The sheer magnitude of the problem is, however, so overwhelming that it is difficult to get a handle on how big and complicated the problems are. Moreover, to grasp what it will take to define what we face and develop a plan of action to combat it is, in and of itself, almost beyond comprehension. The agendas of the rich and powerful are further reinforced by the skills of big business, the entertainment industries and the image makers. They literally create and feed our appetites in order to grow and prosper at our expense.

I applauded the rise and success of the Occupy Wall Street movement, but it seems to have sputtered and stalled. The purity of what they stand for and the means for addressing it are noble and admirable. However, ideals and dreams are, at best, illusory. It is only when they become reality with a life of their own do they become forces with which to be reckoned. I just don’t see how the movement, or any other like it, can become a force for meaningful change and social justice without a strategy that is codified and a plan of action that becomes a clarion call to inspire people into action that is both effective and lasting.

So long as we are content to remain compliant and placid against those who seek to reduce us to serfdom and a lifetime of poverty, we play into their hands. It is from that they derive their strength and power. Those who are identified as the “working class,” the “working poor,” and the “impoverished:” live at their mercy. This land and all of its resources belong to all of us. We may contribute in different ways, but what we have, collectively, is all we have and it cannot be co-opted by a very few at the expense and suffering of the many.

We cannot rely on what those who are our adversaries choose to tell us, we must insist that they show us and prove to us that they are credible and share a common concern for all the people of this nation. They cannot rightfully claim a disproportionate share of our resources and expect the rest of us to be content with a pittance.

We can no longer sit around and hope that things will get better. We must see a real concerted effort to make our dreams a reality. We must have all classes striving for the same results, and a government that works for all of us. There are massive numbers of informed, well-intentioned people who share a deep and abiding concern about how to fix the many facets of our political, social and economic systems in order to restore them to robust health which will serve us with a commitment to a fundamental sense of decency and fairness that will apply to all of us. That storehouse of knowledge should not be allowed to remain dormant. We are not the proverbial “Chicken Little” going around in circles warning that “the sky is falling.” We are not locked in fear to the point that we have to tolerate and humor a system that is totally dysfunctional. But, for all that talent among us, we have yet to figure out how to approach an effective and meaningful way to redefine who and what we are, and to restore all that this democracy promised and should be. Difficult though that may seem, can we not look at the cup and see it half full rather than half empty? Can we not mine the human resources that exist among us and ask them to take up the challenge and put this country back on a path of hope for all of us? I think we can.

I see the following as just a few of the many examples of some of the major challenges to making ours a better system, rooted in forces that seem to exert a disproportionate influence and danger on why we cannot continue on the path we have chosen for ourselves in the last half century.

1. A dysfunctional and corrupt system of government.
2. A bankrupt and self-serving social system.
3. A massively corrupt and ominous financial system that serves the few at the expense of the many.
4. The influence of massive amounts of money in our national and local politics.
5. The restrictive and corrupting influence of a “two-party” system. By whose authority and wisdom are we limited to only two? Why should there be any restriction on the number at all?
6. The shroud of secrecy that envelopes every branch of our government and the work they profess to do on our behalf.
7. The rules and regulations adopted and exercised by every branch of government, ostensibly for the general welfare of the electorate but, in reality, are more self-serving of the privileged class they have become.
8. A “politically” dominated Supreme Court rather than one that ties current actions of government back to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights through objective and impartial judicial review.
9. The out-of-control defense and intelligence agencies that, again, are shrouded in secrecy, consume gargantuan sums of money and are obscenely self-serving in their relationships to private contractors and the political power that enables them.
10. A “free and unfettered press” that was intended to be independently owned and operated to ensure that government and its agencies would serve the citizens of this country, not corporate or absentee ownership.
11. A system of laws and regulations that would ensure a government that served the needs of the people, not special interests and the appetites of massive wealth.

The sheer genius of the Founding Fathers as set forth in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights put this nation on a course that would be the envy of the rest of the world. All that is codified in those documents should remain sacrosanct and serve as the bedrock for governing this nation for all time to come.

I just don’t see how we can continue much longer on the path where we find ourselves. That the system is broken is clearly apparent. That it no longer works for the common good is evident all around us. The only way to fix it is to embark on some kind of an assessment tied to what was intended vs. what we have today. We have the talent to do that. They are to be found in our universities and colleges among the academicians and students who are immersed in the study and knowledge of all the key disciplines that impinge on how government functions. There is no shortage of legal scholars, economists, social scientists and other disciplines tangential to carrying out such an audit.

We need to start by setting up an organization of academic minds in a non-partisan commission, the work of which should be tied to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as the basis for such an undertaking. Moreover, those should be the guiding principles by which to evaluate what it would take to restore what we now have in place to what was originally conceived by our Founding Fathers. They would have the knowledge and experience to establish and organize the work of such a commission, and put in place the means for informing the citizens of progress on their work. Their fiduciary responsibility would be to the electorate, free of any encumbrances from outside influences or special interests.

I cannot believe that there are not a few millionaires and billionaires among us who are imbued with a sense of altruism and who would possess a sense of social responsibility and personal generosity sufficient to financially underwrite such an endeavor. Of course, they would have to maintain an arms length and impartial relationship to the Commission.

Obviously, as work progressed, it would become apparent that there would be dichotomies between what was seen as appropriate at the time of the founding of this republic vs. what may be required in order to be appropriate to the world of today, and how to effectively resolve those conflicts within the framework of the law.

I rather suspect that there is as much need to simply clean up the mess that we have inherited as to make dramatic changes. But, a good physician would never render a diagnosis and prescribe a regimen without weighing all the possible contributing factors. I wouldn’t pretend to have the background and skills to make any of this happen. But I do know that I share the same concern and a sense of helplessness and hopelessness that seems to be permanently woven into the fabric of this country. At some point, we simply have to stop wringing our hands and gnashing our teeth, and begin the job of turning this ship of state around. I just don’t see how we can keep it on the back burner much longer.  At some point we have to overcome the malaise that keeps us in the passive state, hoping that something can and will be done.

The sheer energy generated by the Occupy Wall Street movement and all those who have lamented the gargantuan difference between the wealth and power held by the top one percent and the rest of us has to be harnessed and translated into a plan of action to put us back on the course that was envisioned by a few visionaries over two hundred years ago. Words never acted upon eventually ring hollow and die with the wind. What those brave souls started is much too precious to end with a whimper and to simply die a slow, agonizing death. Time is simply no longer on our side.

If not now, when?

Cowboy Bob
The Sagebrush Philosopher
November 15, 2012



Monday, November 12, 2012

REPOST: “How Will I Betray Thee? Let Me Count The Ways.”

Given what is coming out about our newly "re-elected" President and what he is up to in terms of "deals" and "compromises" with Republicans and the power elite in our society, I think it is only approprite for me to re-post this blog, originally posted on October 4, 2012.  The mere fact that he would say, "I will wash John Boehner's car" or "Walk Mitch McConnell's dog if necessary" says it all.  Is that the posturing of a real leader and one who has just been handed a mandate by the American Electorate?  Is that the posturing of a leader who stands firmly with and in defense of the American people and those most disenfranchised from society?  I think not. 

At the end of the day, I am even more convinced that he is not a man of the people.  He is not one of us.  If anything, the "Grand Bargain" will prove to be another gift to "wealth, power and privilege" that will come at the expense of all those who supported him in this most recent election and are destined to suffer the most when it gets traction.

If this doesn't raise serious questions about the hammer-lock our so-called "Two Party System" has on our electoral process and, ultimately, every branch of government, I don't know what does.  We need and have a God-given right to hear from all contenders for public office.    

It is time to get serious, folks.  "Trust, like the soul, never returns once it is gone."

*******************************************************************************  


“How Will I Betray Thee? Let Me Count The Ways.”



The dust is settling on the first of a long-awaited series of presidential debates, preparatory to the national elections in November. Were there any surprises? Not really.

It was, at best, an exercise in mental gymnastics by the political elite who have been ordained as the only acceptable candidates for the highest office in the land.

The moderator, Jim Lehrer distinguished himself as consummate journalistic milquetoast. Retirement would seem to fit him better than returning for a cameo appearance in the real world of television news.

Mitt Romney wasted no time in re-affirming himself as an accomplished plutocratic whore of privilege who harbors nothing but disdain for those less fortunate than he and his silver-spooned upbringing. He impressed us all, once again, by his ability to lie with impunity and still expect anyone with a modicum of intelligence to swallow it all hook, line and sinker. At the end of the day he is as transparent as a window pane and hasn’t the sense to realize it. The absence of any semblance to a human soul is palpable. But, we can expect those who labor under the burden of an attempt at human thought, largely comprised of all the religious zealots of one persuasion or another, to savor his every word.

Then there was the sterling performance of our President-in-residence. He removed any residual confusion there might have been regarding a clear-cut example of oratory vs. debating skills. But, think about it. What can one reasonably expect from an amalgam of a background rooted in law, community organizing and politics? Seems like a recipe for failure to all progressives who were hoping to see him ride in on a white horse and immediately charm the nation. Didn’t happen, did it?

Let’s be honest about this. We, as a nation, have been royally seduced by the so-called “two-party” system that dominates our local and national politics. Who said we, the electorate, are to be limited to a choice between those calling themselves “Democrats” and “Republicans?” Where were the rest of those seeking a shot at the highest elected office in the land? I, for one, feel if there should be an opportunity for all those who have the qualifications and the organization to set their sights on the White House; they should be at the presidential debates. Didn’t happen. By whose edict? It is tough not to conclude that the system is rigged against us, the people. It is difficult to place much stock in a system that so blatantly determines our priorities for us. Jill Stein, the presidential candidate for the Green Party and Rocky Anderson, presidential candidate for the Justice Party had every right to be there, and to be given equal time and opportunity accorded all the others. They are as well qualified as either of those who monopolized the stage in Denver. Every person in the United States who is qualified to exercise the power of his/her vote should not be denied that choice. Anything less is a gross affront by those harboring a mindset of perceived superior wisdom, the fallacy of which speaks to us every day.

Until last night, I thought President Obama had the election in the bag. After his lack-luster performance, I am not so sure. On the other hand, if lying works, we can all shudder at the prospect of Romney succeeding him. Either one will, at best, be more of the same and an ongoing national disaster. About all we can do is to wait out the next few weeks to see the final outcome of this charade.

Presuming Obama is re-elected, what can we expect from him in the next four years? Let’s begin by accepting the fact that he is no leader. He is a compromiser, an appeaser, a shill for power and money. Consensus is his game; courage is not. The result will always be mediocrity at our individual and collective peril.

Because of the only choice we have, I will vote for Obama simply because I see him as the lesser of two evils. But, make no mistake I have no reason to expect anything earth-shattering. So, what do I envision? Following are a few of the issues that have stuck in my craw.

• The Cabinet is likely to be stacked with more holdovers from the Clinton Administration.

• A strong influence by the scions of Wall Street and other power brokers in the field of banking and finance.

• A continued reliance on corporate capitalists for advice and counsel on the economy, both nationally and internationally, not the least of which will be the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

• Total disregard for the knowledge and experience among our group of some of the best economic and scientific minds in the world.

• Pandering to influential interests in health care, energy, trade, defense, intelligence, and other special interests.

• Secret meetings and trade deals with international interests seeking free trade agreements at the expense of American enterprise and the workers who make it all happen.

• The resurrection of the Simpson-Bowles Commission, engaging in compromises at the expense of long-established and successful programs comprising the nation’s social safety net, which the President has vowed to defend.

• Continuation of the tacit agreement between the White House and the Justice Department not to indict, prosecute or punish those guilty of crimes against the country and our national interests.

• Continued support for the military/industrial complex.

• Continued support for the persecution of those who dare to challenge the way our government does business without the advice and consent of the American people. I am thinking of those well-intentioned people who wear the badge of “whistleblower” with pride and dare to question the omnipotence of the institutions of government and business.

• The unilateral authority of the Executive Branch to order the assassination of those deemed to be a threat to national security.

• Minimal support for organized labor as an equal with the owners of business and commerce.

I had high hopes for President Obama, but it soon became apparent to me that those hopes would be proven illusory. The inspiration that infected thousands at Grant Park in Chicago proved to be rather fleeting. There has been too much secrecy in the way he does business. There has been a tendency to place far too much reliance on people of influence and prominence, but lacking in the integrity and commitment of the man to whom they are beholden.

President Obama simply has to come to terms with the fact that he has no equal; not on Wall Street, not in the halls of corporations, not in the Pentagon, not in Congress or the Supreme Court. He has been given the baton and sits at the pinnacle of power, a solemn gift bestowed on him by none other than the American people.

He seems to have never understood or simply lost sight of the fact that his job, as President of the United States, is unequivocally one of pure leadership. With leadership comes the ability and the will to take responsibility, listen to his advisors and then embolden himself to take charge and lead. The baton belongs to him and it is up to him to have the courage to lead with authority, conviction and inspiration. He has not done that. It is time he realized his own destiny and to fulfill that mission during the coming four years of his second term in office.

As I reflect back on history, I cannot imagine Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower or John F. Kennedy having to even so much as reflect on that fundamental fact of being President of the United States of America. Behaving as a compromising appeaser, seeking not decisive action, but consensus, is not what it is all about. This country is in dire straights and is begging for courage and the mettle to do what is right, with strength, determination and fortitude. He owes it to us, the American people, to do what he was elected to do. To hell with cronies carried over from the Clinton Administration. They are flawed merchandise. To hell with the criminals on Wall Street, the corporate capitalists, the super rich and the bellicose posturing of warmongers. He is duty bound to be a role model for all of us, manifesting the very best within us and knowing that we will take up his cause and follow him to the ends of the earth if that is what is required to save the spirit of this great nation. Popularity contests are the stuff of narcissistic fools; taking command and charge of the greatest office in the world has no equal. That, Mr. President, is what it is all about. Get used to it and, for God’s sake, take charge. You DO have what it takes if you will but recognize that very special gift and act accordingly.

Bow to no man, but never hesitate to take the hand of a man in need.

Cowboy Bob
The Sagebrush Philosopher
October 4, 2012

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

“From Tragedy May Come Opportunity"



Hurricane Sandy has come ashore with a force rarely imagined or seen by those living in and around the environs of New York and New Jersey. The sobering effect of nature’s wrath has reminded us of our immortality and insignificance in the face of the power of Nature. It has shaken the foundation of our very being and, hopefully, will wake us from the stupor of denying the reality of global warming and climate change, and expose the demonic influence of unlimited greed and the massive deception perpetrated against civilized people to which we have succumbed. Surely, it will open our eyes to the reality of what we have been a party to by allowing those who have no souls to pillage and plunder the finite resources of the planet, and to reduce human beings to an expendable resource that serve as sustenance for appetites than can never be satiated.

Perhaps this tragedy bears the truth of wisdom that can only come from learned minds and a common concern for all people, and the earth to which we all belong. Maybe we will, finally, defer to the truth of scientific knowledge and see the folly of those who discredit that which they know in their hearts to be the truth.

As the evidence and the suffering that has been unveiled for all to see becomes accepted fact, we will unite as one people to deal with what has brought this misfortune upon us and to harness the best within us to minimize the possibility of it happening again. Sad to say, it may prove to be a blessing in disguise.

The very nature of the world we live in and our penchant for accepting the products of those who seek to numb our minds in the interest of appealing to some of our basest instincts; we have become too much the conformist and too little the innovator. The pain and discomfort that often comes with the courage to be original or different from the pack is what the image makers and the appetite creators peddle so we will become the pliant consumers they work to create. To the extent we take the bait, they win. To the extent we dare to stand strong on our beliefs and values that contradict their onslaught to our senses, they are the losers. I think it has become glaringly apparent that the time has come for us to take control of our common destiny, their rapaciousness be damned.

We can no longer deny the truth of what we have been doing to the environment, for much too long, and our dependence on respecting nature and making it work for all of us; not just the gluttonous few. That will require us to assert not only our independence, but to acknowledge and accept our mutual dependence. The resource of all this planet holds belongs to all of us. It is up to us to respect that fact and to make it work for the common good. It is time to think outside the box. It is time to revisit and honor the famous words of George Bernard Shaw and made famous by Robert F. Kennedy: “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?

We are going to have to set ourselves to the task of rethinking many aspects of the environment in which we live. Environmentally friendly forms of energy will have to assume front and center. Fossil fuels will have to be branded with the responsibility they rightfully bear for the evolution that has brought us to this perilous point in our history. The transportation systems that we rely on have to be rethought and may have to give way to means we never imagined. Architecture will take different forms than those we have traditionally accepted as the norm and that have shaped the towns and cities in which we live. Elevated trains may prove to be a better alternative than the subways that serve our large cities, but are more vulnerable to the crippling effects of massive storms. We may just have to adjust to a totally different perception of the world around us and embrace that which appeals less to our aesthetic tastes and more to the dictates of a new reality.

The massive rebuilding of towns and villages where most of the people live in the path of Hurricane Sandy may give us pause to rethink the shape and form structures will have to take in order to be less vulnerable to destruction and devastation but, perhaps, less aesthetically pleasing than that to which we have become accustomed.

The infamous Hurricane Andrew that hit the South Florida coast some time ago left not only massive devastation, but some clues as to how we might address the power of its force in the future. The structures that most withstood the force of that massive storm were not conventional homes built of flat vertical planes that challenged the strength and the force of winds, but were geodesic domes that permitted the wind to flow over the structures without succumbing to its power and force. The dome structures are not only less susceptible to the force of wind, but are much more energy efficient with the potential to have a much more pronounced effect on its consumption.

People who have had the courage to venture out of conventional homes and into dome homes have, admittedly, had a period of adjustment. But, for the most part, they have grown accustomed to the new style, comfort and cost of owning a dome.

Domes come in wood structures and concrete structures. Both are “futuristic,” compared to conventional homes. They are more energy-efficient and spacious than conventional homes. However, because of the more limited demand for those kinds of homes, the market has been less robust. I do not think those who produce these homes have necessarily focused on their potential as much as they have on their marketability. A significant increase in demand may well change that dynamic, as it should. A more stable market may produce more innovation in terms of style than we have seen to date.

Dome structures lend themselves very well to solar and wind power, both of which should enjoy resurgence in the wake of the super storms that we have recently seen and are likely to see in the future.

The tragedy of Sandy has already demonstrated a sense of urgency for government agencies to focus on the potential of the marked changes that will be required in order to respond to the power of nature we are likely to face in the future, and to minimize the havoc they bring down upon us.

The manufacturers of domes need to devote more time and effort on the appearance of what they have to offer. Brown as the universal color does not necessarily have a broad base of appeal, nor do buildings that are asymmetrical and look more like strange creatures than an attractive place to live. Being outrageous may be attractive to the eccentric with a desire to challenge convention, but I would hazard a guess that those tastes will be less in demand than will a rendition of what can be more attractive and appealing to a broader range of tastes. I would hope the industry would not only seize this opportunity but demonstrate more creativity in the face of this challenge.

I believe the government should step to the forefront and demonstrate a sense of urgency in addressing the massive destruction of homes in the path of Sandy. A task force of those involved in new and innovative architecture and building materials should be asked to address the new demands that have resulted from this natural disaster. The blend of architecture with solar and wind energy seems like a natural marriage.

The government should seriously consider the merits of subsidized loans for those who opt for more functional forms of architecture and energy than we have seen in conventional homes. Government must serve as the catalyst for innovation that focuses on what most effectively serves the needs of people, but addresses environmental concerns as well. That kind of thinking has served us in the past and it surely can do so in the future.

From what has been a brutal act of nature could well hold the potential for improving our relationship to the environment and to the economy. I think this is a golden opportunity to breathe new life into banks and other locally owned financial institutions. The vultures of Wall Street and “too-big-to-fail” have reaped more than a fair share of the nation’s wealth by playing to and controlling our political establishment. The people deserve more and, frankly, I have much greater trust in local institutions and the people who live and work there than I do in some remote behemoth laying in wait to suck more of the life-blood out of our economy in order to satisfy their insatiable greed. The time has come to reign in their excesses and to become more responsive to the nation as a whole.

In the wake of this terrible tragedy may well lay a new beginning that will better serve us all in the future. The power and creativity of one, united people can and should dwarf the evil of all those who sit in high places and sap the vitality from those who play by the rules and believe in a system that serves us all.

The national elections have clearly shown what a sham the entire political process is. Big money, corporate power and corrupt politics have carried the day. I sense that the nation has had enough of the lying, deceptive advertising and mud-slinging to last a life time. We have every right to claim the government and the political process as an asset that belongs to the people and is not up for sale to the highest bidder. I would like to think that the sobering effect of Sandy will throw light on this issue, as well.

All political parties have a right and an obligation to stand on local and national stages during elections and tell the people what they stand for, free of the enslaving effects of massive amounts of money, legislative largesse and a Supreme Court that should hang its collective head in shame for the way they have sullied the highest court in the land.

The time has come for the nation to take back what is rightfully ours – an honest political process and the resultant clean government that logically follows. By the same token, fad must give way to practicality and compatibility with the limitations of this planet. The time has come to recognize and give legitimacy to the inescapable fact that we can no longer afford to have it “my way,” and yield to the reality that it now, of necessity, must be “our way.” A concomitant requirement is that we must learn to live with less and respect the realities of what life on this planet demands of each of us. A good start may be to adopt a new “convention” as a fundamental tenet to the way we live.

The lesson of Sandy may well be to “think differently, live differently and behave differently” for our common welfare, and let the image makers and the creators of our national tastes go fly a kite. There is a sense of urgency to this tragedy, but the bigger concern to us all should be how our political, social and economic systems serve us.

Whoever is elected to the Presidency, he must be absolutely transparent in every aspect of his administration. No more secret meetings. No more backroom deals. No more pandering to wealth and privilege as a means to remain in office. We, the people of the United States of America, have had quite enough.

Barack Obama may be the lesser of two evils, but any trust I may have in the man is on hold until I see whether or not he will continue his appeasement of the opposition and his pandering to big money, at the expense of all those to whom he has held out the promise of “change.” His words ring hollow and his notion of what “change” means is becoming a bit shopworn.

Cowboy Bob
The Sagebrush Philosopher
November 6, 2012













Monday, October 29, 2012

“Tell Me What I Want To Believe; Not What I Need To Know”



I think a lot about what we are as people. What are our origins? What makes us tick? Why are we so much the same and yet so different? Why are we so kind on the one hand and so cruel on the other? In the final analysis, why do we talk “us” so much and practice “we” so little? Why are wisdom and knowledge so difficult to come by, and prejudice and bigotry so easily internalized? Obviously, the questions go on ad infinitum, but the mystery always remains.

I believe that wisdom and knowledge are the result of a very long and arduous process. It is a time span that goes back to the time of the ancient sages and philosophers. Wisdom and knowledge are the products of an arduous process of contemplation, study and discourse devoted to finding answers to what we ponder, yet never seem to master. It is the intellect that always transcends emotion. It is the question that remains and the answer that is elusive.

As I reflect back on history and look around me today, I am persuaded that the history of mankind is a series of peaks and valleys; our high points and our low points; our finest hours and our darkest moments. The aftermath of World War II seems to have been one of our finest hours. From the apex of all the good that followed the end of that war, we seem to have descended into a period of progressive darkness. Scholars who once devoted their entire lives to the pursuit of knowledge, truth and wisdom seem to be a dying breed. They are fewer in number and listened to far less by the masses. The halls of academic excellence that used to be their environs have given way to institutions of technical skills. The pursuit of knowledge has taken a back seat to the mastery of the products and tools of the electronic age. We have become addicted to and dominated by gimmickry that does as much to entertain us as to serve us. Instead of being intellectuals studying and pondering the wisdom of the ages, we are obsessed with the pursuit of every conceivable form of hedonism and materialism imaginable. We don’t want to commit to the rigors of working for anything that will further the frontiers of knowledge and produce a better life for everyone. Rather we seem to have fallen prey to the notion that we have an inherent right to have “fun” and all of the material paraphernalia that goes with it. It is all about us; the rest of the world be damned.

We honestly seem to harbor the belief that we have an inherent right to exploit the human condition, reduce them to abject poverty and deny them a fair share of the world’s resources simply because we have some twisted notion that we are simply “entitled” to more, without any rational basis to support that system of beliefs. Evil and its sinister progeny are all around us and we systematically deny its existence. It is hard to define and at what point do we simply become assimilated into it. How much do we have to consume before it becomes vulgar?

Just stop the noise machine in your own head long enough and listen to the price others pay for the system of beliefs that tells you that you have a right to their suffering and sacrifice because the system has conferred that right on you, quite by accident and the fate of history. Do you really believe you are invincible and immortal, or do the mirrors that reflect your existence simply deceive you? Immorality is just as elusive today as it has always been, and always will be.

I don’t see any virtues in the plutocrats, oligarchs, financiers, bankers, politicians, corporate capitalists and all the other rapacious predators that seem to have consigned the rest of us to a form of human bondage they deem to exist for the sole purpose of serving their every whim. They are the real parasites of our time and they deserve to be regarded with the same contempt and disdain we harbor for their kindred spirits from the sewers and the wharf pilings. They don’t warrant our admiration and respect. They are what they are. They cannot be believed nor trusted. They thrive and prosper at our pleasure, not theirs.

I, also, happen to believe that Our Divine Creator intended for the fruits of this planet to be shared equally by all of us. None deserves more because of who they are, nor do those who have less because of who they are deserve less. Governments should exist to ensure the integrity of that fundamental social contract. To the extent that it does not fulfill that role, then it should be periodically modified and ratified to ensure that it does.

I, also, believe that most people have an idea of what constitutes a fair and just social contract. Admittedly, we have a plethora of experts on the “divinity” who have no trouble in telling the rest of us what it is that “God” wants from us. From my perspective, I would have to say that “He” hasn’t done a very good job of picking the cadre of minions and scholars to spread the word to the rest of us. Although I choose to believe in God, so far He has never spoken to me. Moreover, I doubt that “He” has ever spoken to any of the millions who profess to talk to “Him” on a regular basis.

We now have a presidential candidate who holds himself out as a paragon of divine virtue. He is the product of a lunatic who tried to form a religion from the secrets of the Masonic order, and was summarily murdered in Palmyra, New York for his licentious behavior. His followers fled west with their myriad wives, their divinely ordained practice of polygamy, and all of the rituals and temples of grandeur that would convince the rest of us of its divine origins. The vestigial remnants of multiple wives and polygamy can still be found in the backwaters of the desert west and southwest. Meanwhile, back in the mainstream of true believers, we have the fundamentalists, the evangelists, the Tea Party, the fringe loonies of one sort or another and a whole host of others who profess to be in the mainstream and enjoy a special place with God. Each has a slightly different take on what that mystery is all about, many have managed to become filthy rich and have garnered broad public support for their various stances relative to Our Divine Creator. Some of the more notables are Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Glenn Beck, and other forms of sordid celebrity. Now I ask you, what sane mind could possibly believe any or all of this nonsense? I cannot help but wonder if today’s politicians did not originate from the ranks of a zealous clergy of an earlier time. There is an eerie similarity to their rhetoric and language. Religious zealots, demagogues and true believers all give me pause for concern. We seem to have a bumper crop that has spawned in the last few decades, and have found a home in politics. Now we have to live with the din of their endless exhortations of the wrath that is about to come down on the heads of those who simply mind their own business. Intelligence has given way to irrational extremism in its many forms, all using the tools of lying, deceit, double-speak, and limitless exhortations about their inside track to divine revelation. There isn’t one of them who could tell the truth even if their very life depended on it. They are the ultimate “believers,” totally incapable of any semblance to critical analysis or original thought. They are the fools the majority of us have to suffer. Sadly, the din of their endless admonitions that, in some small way, resemble human speech, numbs the minds of those who genuinely want to keep the ship on an even keel by creating a stable government that will truly serve the common good, not those who have some warped notion of superiority that entitles them to a life of gluttony without limits.

I recently had a good friend, well intentioned, who reminded me that one of the things I fought for during my stint in the United States Navy was our right to vote, and my right to exercise that right. If lounging in peacetime Hawaii was war, I could take another tour of duty. But, I don’t denigrate the seriousness of voting. We do have a solemn duty to exercise that right, regardless of our political persuasion, an obligation I have never shirked.

However, given the hammer-lock our two major political parties have on government, and the obvious collusion exercised to keep other political voices from sharing their forum, I chose to vote for the Green Party candidates for President and Vice-President. Why? Because they are both women; a change in the political ranks of our top elected officials I happen to believe is long overdue. Moreover, they are likely to be free of “testosterone overload,” something that seems to plague the thousands of male members comprising the majority in the various branches of our government. There is probably less need for posturing and strutting by women as if they were members of the superior sex. Where did that notion come from? Think about it. When you were a little child needing comfort and nurturing, where did you get it? Highly unlikely that it came from Dad. But when it came to your prowess on the field of Little League or the polished floor of a basketball court, who shouted for you to take out the opposition in the pursuit of victory? Less likely that it was Mom. When it came to soothing the pain of hurt feelings, who was it that calmed the troubled waters and made it all right with the world once again? Think about it.

I really do hope we, as a nation, will manage to right the wrongs of the past. I hope we will be able to quell the plague of chronic greed and unbridled deception from which this nation suffers. I hope I will live long enough to see basic human decency an integral part of who and what we are as a people. I hope I will live long enough to see, once again, “that shining city on a hill,” the beacon of hope for all of us, in equal measure. I hope I will live long enough to see genuine compassion for each other, as fellow human beings worthy of God’s grace; (something I choose to believe but don’t know for certain) in absolute terms.

Like it or not, we really are our brothers keepers. As the world’s population increases that will become an inescapable fact of life. When that time comes, those who cannot honestly earn their share of the pie will, out of necessity, simply take it, by whatever means are necessary.

Cowboy Bob
The Sagebrush Philosopher
October 29, 2012

Thursday, October 4, 2012

"How Will I Betray Thee? Let Me Count The Ways"



The dust is settling on the first of a long-awaited series of presidential debates, preparatory to the national elections in November. Were there any surprises? Not really.  It was, at best, an exercise in mental gymnastics by the political elite who have been ordained as the only acceptable candidates for the highest office in the land.

The moderator, Jim Lehrer distinguished himself as consummate journalistic milquetoast. Retirement would seem to fit him better than returning for a cameo appearance in the real world of television news.

Mitt Romney wasted no time in re-affirming himself as an accomplished plutocratic whore of privilege who harbors nothing but disdain for those less fortunate than he and his silver-spooned upbringing. He impressed us all, once again, by his ability to lie with impunity and still expect anyone with a modicum of intelligence to swallow it all hook, line and sinker. At the end of the day he is as transparent as a window pane and hasn’t the sense to realize it. The absence of any semblance to a human soul is palpable. But, we can expect those who labor under the burden of an attempt at human thought, largely comprised of all the religious zealots of one persuasion or another, to savor his every word.

Then there was the sterling performance of our President-in-residence. He removed any residual confusion there might have been regarding a clear-cut example of oratory vs. debating skills. But, think about it. What can one reasonably expect from an amalgam of a background rooted in law, community organizing and politics? Seems like a recipe for failure to all progressives who were hoping to see him ride in on a white horse and immediately charm the nation. Didn’t happen, did it?

Let’s be honest about this. We, as a nation, have been royally seduced by the so-called “two-party” system that dominates our local and national politics. Who said we, the electorate, are to be limited to a choice between those calling themselves “Democrats” and “Republicans?” Where were the rest of those seeking a shot at the highest elected office in the land? I, for one, feel if there should be an opportunity for all those who have the qualifications and the organization to set their sights on the White House; they should be at the presidential debates. Didn’t happen. By whose edict? It is tough not to conclude that the system is rigged against us, the people. It is difficult to place much stock in a system that so blatantly determines our priorities for us. Jill Stein, the presidential candidate for the Green Party and Rocky Anderson, presidential candidate for the Justice Party had every right to be there, and to be given equal time and opportunity accorded all the others. They are as well qualified as either of those who monopolized the stage in Denver. Every person in the United States who is qualified to exercise the power of his/her vote should not be denied that choice. Anything less is a gross affront by those harboring a mindset of perceived superior wisdom, the fallacy of which speaks to us every day.

Until last night, I thought President Obama had the election in the bag. After his lack-luster performance, I am not so sure. On the other hand, if lying works, we can all shudder at the prospect of Romney succeeding him. Either one will, at best, be more of the same and an ongoing national disaster. About all we can do is to wait out the next few weeks to see the final outcome of this charade.

Presuming Obama is re-elected, what can we expect from him in the next four years? Let’s begin by accepting the fact that he is no leader. He is a compromiser, an appeaser, a shill for power and money. Consensus is his game; courage is not. The result will always be mediocrity at our individual and collective peril.

Because of the only choice we have, I will vote for Obama simply because I see him as the lesser of two evils. But, make no mistake I have no reason to expect anything earth-shattering. So, what do I envision?
Following are a few of the issues that have stuck in my craw.

• The Cabinet is likely to be stacked with more holdovers from the Clinton Administration.
• A strong influence by the scions of Wall Street and other power brokers in the field of banking and  finance.
• A continued reliance on corporate capitalists for advice and counsel on the economy, both nationally and internationally, not the least of which will be the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
• Total disregard for the knowledge and experience among our group of some of the best economic and scientific minds in the world.
• Pandering to influential interests in health care, energy, trade, defense, intelligence, and other special interests.
• Secret meetings and trade deals with international interests seeking free trade agreements at the expense of American enterprise and the workers who make it all happen.
• The resurrection of the Simpson-Bowles Commission, engaging in compromises at the expense of long-established and successful programs comprising the nation’s social safety net, which the President has vowed to defend.
• Continuation of the tacit agreement between the White House and the Justice Department not to indict, prosecute or punish those guilty of crimes against the country and our national interests.
• Continued support for the military/industrial complex.
• Continued support for the persecution of those who dare to challenge the way our government does business without the advice and consent of the American people. I am thinking of those well-intentioned people who wear the badge of “whistleblower” with pride and dare to question the omnipotence of the institutions of government and business.
• The unilateral authority of the Executive Branch to identify and order the assination of those deemed to be a threat to national security.
• Minimal support for organized labor as an equal with the owners of business and commerce.

I had high hopes for President Obama, but it soon became apparent to me that those hopes would be proven illusory. The inspiration that infected thousands at Grant Park in Chicago proved to be rather fleeting. There has been too much secrecy in the way he does business. There has been a tendency to place far too much reliance on people of influence and prominence, but lacking in the integrity and commitment of the man to whom they are beholden.

President Obama simply has to come to terms with the fact that he has no equal; not on Wall Street, not in the halls of corporations, not in the Pentagon, not in Congress or the Supreme Court. He has been given the baton and sits at the pinnacle of power, a solemn gift bestowed on him by none other than the American people.

He seems to have never understood or simply lost sight of the fact that his job, as President of the United States, is unequivocally one of pure leadership. With leadership comes the ability and the will to take responsibility, listen to his advisors and then embolden himself to take charge and lead. The baton belongs to him and it is up to him to have the courage to lead with authority, conviction and inspiration. He has not done that. It is time he realized his own destiny and to fulfill that mission during the coming four years of his second term in office.

As I reflect back on history, I cannot imagine Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower or John F. Kennedy having to even so much as reflect on that fundamental fact of being President of the United States of America. Behaving as a compromising appeaser, seeking not decisive action, but consensus, is not what it is all about. This country is in dire straights and is begging for courage and the mettle to do what is right, with strength, determination and fortitude. He owes it to us, the American people, to do what he was elected to do. To hell with cronies carried over from the Clinton Administration. They are flawed merchandise. To hell with the criminals on Wall Street, the corporate capitalists, the super rich and the bellicose posturing of warmongers. He is duty bound to be a role model for all of us, manifesting the very best within us and knowing that we will take up his cause and follow him to the ends of the earth if that is what is required to save the spirit of this great nation. Popularity contests are the stuff of narcissistic fools; taking command and charge of the greatest office in the world has no equal. That, Mr. President, is what it is all about. Get used to it and, for God’s sake, take charge. You DO have what it takes if you will but recognize that very special gift and act accordingly.

Bow to no man, but never hesitate to take the hand of a man in need.

Cowboy Bob
The Sagebrush Philosopher
October 4, 2012

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"Just How Secure is Social Security?"

Subject: Interesting Facts About Your Social Security

Just in case some of you didn't know this.  It's easy to check out.  It doesn't matter whether you are Democrat or Republican.

Interesting Facts:

Social Security Cards, up until the 1980s, expressly stated that the number and card were not to be used for identification purposes. Since nearly everyone in the United States now has a number, it became convenient to use it anyway and the message, NOT FOR IDENTIFICATION, was removed.

Our Social Security:

Franklin Roosevelt, a Democrat, introduced the Social Security (FICA) Program. He promised:

1.) That participation in the Program would be completely voluntary.  It is no longer voluntary.

2.) That the participants would only have to pay 1% of the first $1,400 of their annual incomes into the Program. Now the amount is 7.65% on the first $90,000

3.) That the money the participants elected to put into the Program would be deductible from their income for tax purposes each year. It is no longer tax deductible

4.) That the money the participants put into the independent 'Trust Fund' rather than into the general operating fund would only be used to fund the Social Security Retirement Program, and no other Government program. Under Lyndon B. Johnson the money was moved to The General Fund and Spent.

5.) That the annuity payments to the retirees would never be taxed as income. Under Clinton and Gore up to 85% of your Social Security can be taxed.

6.) Since many of us have paid into FICA for years and are now receiving a Social Security check every month we now find that we are getting taxed on 85% of what has been paid into the fund.

The money we paid to the Federal government to 'put away' may be of interest:

Q: Which Political Party took Social Security from the independent 'Trust Fund' and put it into the general fund so that Congress could spend it?
A: It was Lyndon Johnson and the Democratically controlled House and Senate.

Q: Which Political Party eliminated the income tax deduction for Social Security (FICA) withholding?
A: The Democratic Party.

Q: Which Political Party started taxing Social Security annuities?
A: The Democratic Party, with Al Gore casting the 'tie-breaking' deciding vote as President of the Senate, while he was Vice President of the US

Q: Which Political Party decided to start giving annuity payments to immigrants?
A: Jimmy Carter and the Democratic Party. Immigrants moved into this country, and at age 65, began to receive Social Security payments. The Democratic Party gave these payments to them, even though they never paid a dime into the program.

Then, after violating the original contract (FICA), the Democrats turn around and tell you it is the Republicans that want to take your Social Security.  Although I still think that is the game plan, I believe it is predicated on the premise that the Republicans want to avoid having to pay back the liability that was created by violating the "trust" and using the funds for purposes other than what was originally intended when the Social Security Program was established.  To allege that Social Security is totally funded seems a bit of a stretch.  Rather, the government has an outstanding liability to the Social Security Fund that will be required in order to restore integrity to the fund.  This only confirms that both major political parties feed from the same troughs of corruption and big money. A crook by any other name is still a crook.

A solemn trust should be treated for what it is --- an inviolate commitment between the government and the people that can only be changed by approval from the voters.

Nowhere will you find the Social Security Act labeled as a “Presidential, Congressional or Political Slush Fund”.

I still operate under the belief that a “democracy,” is a system of government “of the people, by the people and for the people,” where the actions of the elected must be approved by the electorate, regardless of their political persuasion. Did I miss something?  Truth and responsibility should be applied equally, not selectively. 

Cowboy Bob
The Sagebrush Philosopher
September 18, 2012