Friday, March 21, 2014

“Where Is the Real You in All of This?”

I have to confess that I have an inherent mistrust of all of the “free trade agreements” started by Bill Clinton and given new life by Barack Obama, further compounded by Stephen Harper, Conservative Prime Minister of Canada.  The shroud of mystery surrounding each of them and the secrecy that seems to play an integral part in the process is, I believe, cause for concern by all of those who are likely to be affected by them.  Its alliance by the parties thereto seems to exceed the bounds of what we have come to accept as simply Chiefs of State as colleagues, but, rather, what smells more like an alliance of those serving big money interests in each respective country of participating members.  Rather, someone is coming up with the short-end of the stick in all this and, I rather suspect, are the citizens and working people of each participating country.  The constant echo of “trust me” is pause for keeping our backs to the wall and a response of “show me” before any agreement becomes codified and binding. 

I am particularly uncomfortable with the close association of President Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper.  How is it that Harper seems to manifest an inordinate amount of power and influence in these matters, particularly the Keystone XL pipeline and of more concern is the role Harper seems to be playing in determining how that project evolves, even to determining the value to be placed on the land to be expropriated to make way for the worst polluting petroleum in the history of the continent.  It just doesn’t pass the smell test. 

I, also, have haunting reservations about what kind of a Chief of State this Harper really is.  Why, for instance, did he remain silent when Michelin recently gave 900 of their Maritime workers their walking papers without so much as a peep from Mr. Harper?  If he did what he should have done, in my humble opinion, would have been for him to hustle his buns to Nova Scotia to convene a personal meeting with the powers that be at Michelin and asked them just what they were doing and justify the rationale for their actions.  900 unemployed in one fell swoop is not a minor issue, by any stretch of the imagination.  The massive influence of the oligarchs in the United States is well known.  However, it would seem to me that Mr. Harper is well qualified to assume his rightful place among that less than august group of the super rich and powerful.  What role have Canada’s oligarchs played in all this, and at what cost to the environment?  I think it bears careful scrutiny by legitimate watchdogs before any precipitous action is taken to make it a reality that cannot be stopped or reversed.            

I am mystified by the extent to which we, like so many civilizations that have preceded us on this planet, have so readily acquiesced to power, influence and great wealth without even so much as a whimper by all of those who are likely to be adversely affected by the actions of those who perceive themselves as members of some elusive and undefined superior stratum of society and, indeed, the world.  Where did even the most basic principles and foundations of control by and the consent of the governed go?  We have given up all that underwrites equality for the people to those who simply take control and claim the spoils for themselves and those of like makeup and ambition.  That seems readily apparent as the complete antithesis of a democratic society “of the people, by the people and for the people.” 

How can anyone abandon the inescapable fact that this entire planet belongs to all those occupying space on it?  This piece of real estate is not for the exclusive use and ownership by other mortals who may have more money, power and influence just by their status in life and their ability to con the rest of us out of what is, and always will be, rightfully ours by Divine right.  Insofar as intellectual property is concerned, I fail to see why that could not be addressed by society to ensure fair and just compensation to those who have given the world a better mousetrap. 

However, one aspect of all this remains sacred, and that is the welfare and will of the people.  Nothing should abrogate that inescapable fact of our common existence.  That should always be the foundation of any action being considered for the welfare of society and those we have deemed to be our public servants – the acid test for it all being, does it serve the interests of the governed?  No amount of money, breeding, power or force should ever trump that essential part of who we are and what we are as a people and a civilized society.  No one element of that society should ever be a second-class citizen or claim veto power over the governed.  Moreover, every political party should always serve the social contract in some fundamental way; never the vested interests of any one or more factions within that society. 

The days of emperors, kings, queens, dictators and any notion of an inherent superiority over those to whom the world belongs are over.  Let them earn what they claim as theirs, just like the rest of us.  Let them be accountable to the people, just like the rest of us.  Equality is universal and it is time we all got used to that fundamental fact of life.  It may not be easy, but it is possible.  If we, the people, want it to happen we can and will make it happen. 

We can start by making every election based on what the electorate sees as the common will of the people, not when some selected group forks out a fortune to convince us that they have come up with a better mousetrap that just happens to give them and their ilk an edge over the rest of us; always couched in the rhetoric of some deity and admonition from a divine power that makes us tremble in our boot straps.

Is this world government?  Not by any measure.  We are all different by virtue of our birthright and a whole host of familial and societal influences.  But, as rational and intelligent beings, we can discern what is the best deal for the majority of us, and go for the gold. 

Every platform of every political party should be published and commonly understood by the electorate.  Every election should be publicly financed and any form of private financing deemed against the law.  We should encourage everyone to actively participate in elections, but no one should be allowed to buy the votes of anyone voting.  A conflict-of-interest by any other name is still a conflict-of-interest.  It doesn’t take a judge in black robes to figure that one out.  End of story.

The end game must always be that nothing is adopted for or by the people without the expressed consent of the people by a vote of the people.  The “expert” has yet to be born who can trump the common wisdom of the governed.  To believe otherwise and, more dangerously, to defer to that belief is the death knell to democracy.  We cannot, now or ever, succumb to any hint of the notion that anything better is possible or desirable.

It is time for us to take off the rose-colored glasses and stare reality squarely in the face.  Our tastes and desires are the exclusive result of the efforts of business, commerce, the entertainment industries, network news organizations, and producers of every kind of electronic gadget imaginable.  They determine what we see, hear, and want and all they feed us simply numbs the brain and reduces our ability to think critically and discern the difference between reality and fantasy.  We have become automatons that exist for the sole purpose of increasing their wealth, enhancing their power and growing their influence.  They are the most evil force the world has ever had to face.  They will sacrifice limb, life and, yes, the very planet on which we live in order to simply acquire more, more and more at the expense of human life and the world in which we live.

There is not one elected official sitting in offices in government, or in industry, finance and raw power in all its forms that has one ounce of integrity and human compassion in his/her whole being.  Make no mistake about it; we are all expendable in the pursuit of their insatiable lust for greed, power, money and all that goes with it.  There is no redemption for any aspect of their being.  Moreover, they have no ability to see what they are creating.  They are blinded by their own lust. 

If there was ever a time to revisit our finer angels and the best about our human nature, it is now.  Time is not on our side.  This world belongs to all of us and necessity dictates that we must reclaim it for the common good, not for the ambitions and greed of the few. 

Real democracy and the welfare of the majority is our only hope.  Together we can make it happen.  Divided we will disintegrate before all the gods of wealth, power and privilege.  Hopefully, come 2016, the nation will relegate Hillary Clinton to her proper place in history and welcome Elizabeth Warren as the nation’s first Madam President. 

It is imperative that all of us vote, know what we are voting for and realize that it is the people of this country who work for a living and carry the weight of their responsibility as a citizen with pride in all that they are and all that we are.  It is not those of privilege, wealth and power who will make the difference.  It is you and all those like you.

When anyone says that he/she “works for a living,” it should be with pride and a badge of honor.

Cowboy Bob
The Sagebrush Philosopher
March 21, 2014


Sunday, March 16, 2014

“Freedom Taken to the Extreme Becomes the Barbaric State: Welcome to America!”

I cannot recall a time in my life when I have been witness to such an intellectual wasteland or the numbing of the human mind as has been set before us by the need for the American people to be passively entertained and the conscious choice to live in a state of self-imposed ignorance.  That is not only pathetic, it is an indictment of what we could and should be as a people.  Has not the time come for us to revisit the joys of original thought and dismiss the trite and meaningless nonsense that we accept as “fun,” and pursue with such vigor? 

Permit me to list just a few of what we have incorporated into our daily lives. 

·        We willingly allow the oligarchs and those who serve as their minions in government and industry to pillage and plunder the wealth of the nation for their own benefit by fostering subservience from the very systems that should be there to serve the needs and interests of the people of the United States.  They own and control every branch and agency of our government, minimize and denigrate any actions that may be taken for the benefit and welfare of the citizens of this country in favor of reducing their obligations to society and reducing the needs of the broader social order.  The rich just get richer and the poor get even poorer.  That is the new mantra of what we have become.  If that is not really what we want for this country, then why in the world don’t we change the system, and reign in the excesses they claim and which are fostered by those elected to serve us, the people?  They pollute our environment at will while dismissing the warnings of science and the perils to come by their blatant greed at the expense of the planet.       
·        We have completely abandoned any notion that we, the people, have a solemn duty and responsibility to hold our government accountable to us for what they do for us and to us because they have set themselves above the law and the will of the people.

·        We have allowed Bill “Fellatio” Clinton, Phil Gramm, Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, and Alan Greenspan to deregulate major financial interests in order to favor bankers, financiers and hedge fund managers at the expense of the American people and the viability of the financial institutions put there to better serve the body politic.

·        The Obama Administration bailed out renegade banks and other financial institutions at the expense of the taxpayers and at reduced rates of interest, for problems they, not we, created!  Moreover, he tacitly gave his approval for the massive and sustained “interest free loans” to failed banks by the Chairman of the Federal Reserve. 

·        The Obama Administration has favored reduced rates on income tax and other forms of taxation for wealthy benefactors, the movement of offshore funds in order to reduce their tax liabilities and has favored big business, corporate capitalists and other entrepreneurs to further reduce their tax rates while the average American has labored to meet their tax obligations. 

·        The Obama Administration has favored big energy companies, free trade agreements and other forms of subsidies to various industrial enterprises, again at the expense of the average American.    
         ·       We revere and defer to the military and intelligence services as if they were royalty and touched by               the hand of God.  To question them and their motives is almost an affront to the sanctity of all they                 profess to be and do for our collective benefit.  Sez who?

·        We have bought into the “privatization” of every conceivable kind of public service as inherently good, less expensive and far superior to anything that might accrue to our benefit by the efforts and work of public servants.  If so, why are the hucksters of the business and financial worlds in such a hurry to tap into that lucrative cornucopia of profit and greater wealth?  That just doesn’t compute. 
·        Why do we tolerate the massive cost of benefits and the loss of valuable time by our legislators so they can spend their time courting the favor of lobbyists, and taking vacations and excursions of various kinds at taxpayer expense?  While the “working” Americans and lower paid workers envy the perks they so freely flaunt, they turn a blind eye and go for even more.

·        Why do our elected government officials acquiesce to one-sided actions such as Citizens United by the Supreme Court, all for the benefit of those who claim their divine right of superiority to rig elections and the financing of those elections for the rich and famous so they can buy votes and the attendant benefits for the benefit of their insatiable greed and material gains?

·        Why is there such disparity in the funding of unemployment benefits, the minimum wage, student loan relief, etc. by the renegades sitting in the halls of the House and the Senate vs. what should be given to help all of those seeking honest jobs and bearing the responsibility for supporting their families with a living wage? 

From my perspective, our society has degenerated to a level where anything goes and we are not embarrassed or shamed by anything.  We are mesmerized by electronic gadgets that enable us to stare blankly into a hand-held device in order to “communicate” with others without ever having to talk, and to be passively entertained by every conceivable kind of titillating pleasure known to mankind.  How are we any better by ogling at girls with skirts up to the cheeks of their bottoms, the bare-chested and tight crotches of men’s clothing, and the use of gutter language as they emulate those who have managed to peddle that nonsense?  Do we really care to listen to a prolonged discussion about the private parts of human anatomy and the role those we are watching play in the entire scenario?  What does all that do for our sense of common decency and what sets us above the sewers from which it comes? 

We are a people who seem to find it attractive to use acronyms and other forms of abbreviated speech rather than proper language in order to carry on conversations.  We attach meanings to abbreviated forms of speech and react as if they were somehow subversive or vulgar, and convey some sort of disdain or prejudice by their very use. 

What comes to your mind when you hear the terms “Working American,” “Middle Class,” “Service Employee,” “Domestic Worker,” “Manual Laborer,” etc.?  Is there not more dignity to being a “Working American” than that of a “Senator,” “a Congressman,” a Consultant?  Where the former earns an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, the other earns his/hers by peddling knowledge of dubious value or by letting us know that he/she steals and deceives (with aplomb) for a living rather than stooping to that of a mere laborer.  Who are the more respectable and more noble in all this?   

What comes to your mind when you hear terms such as “Ivy League,” “San Jose State College,” “Junior College,” “Stanford University,” etc.  Does one strike you as superior or inferior to one of the others?  What does that say about you?

What makes a scion of Silicon Valley more valuable and respectable than someone who can fix your car, or build your house, or manage a cattle or sheep ranch, or serve you a well prepared hamburger in a fast food restaurant?  One works for a living and the other peddles technical expertise of a dubious value to society in general.  Both serve us in special ways and both are essential to a balanced life for all of us.  Why do we revere one more because he/she has money and the other is just a “working person?”

The nomenclatures we use by the names we attach to political parties convey a great deal about us and how we view those we put in public office.  What is the essential difference between a Republican and a Democrat?  Both are accomplished thieves and peddlers of all sorts of deception and manipulation that most decent people would find offensive. 

Did you know that the Presidential Debates to which we are subjected every four plus years are limited only to those who are candidates for the Office of President from the Democratic and Republican Parties?  Did it ever occur to you that is tantamount to a two-party political system to which we, the voters, are expected to subscribe?  Who deemed it a two-party political system to the exclusion of every other qualified candidate who may be seeking that office?  Why should the candidates from the Green Party, the Justice Party and the Freedom Party all be barred from participating in those discourses.  Might we, the voters, not learn a great deal more about who could and would serve us most effectively if we could hear their answers to the important and salient questions having to do with their occupancy of the Office of the President?  I would think so. 

Who deemed it appropriate that we should only have a limited number of political parties for any and all of our elections for public office?  I have never read where it was codified as the only option we were to have and, frankly, I think we (and the country) are the poorer for it.      

We Americans seem to have an ingrained disdain for any political party with the term “social” or “socialist” associated with it.  Somehow those terms connote some sort of subversive element that would surely undermine the purity and sanctity of what we currently have. 

For most of my life I labored by declaring my party of choice as the Republican Party.  With time and enlightenment, I came to my senses and shifted to the Democratic Party.  My greatest joy in that move was to have had the privilege of meeting John F. Kennedy.  I have had my moments with that political party, as well.  That discomfort has been largely created by the notion that, somehow, both of those political parties were more “American,” than others.  I no longer harbor that illusion. 

I now pride myself in being a “Social Democrat.”  A “Social Democracy” is defined as “a political movement advocating a gradual and peaceful transition from capitalism to socialism by democratic means.”  That suggests to me that we have not done a very good job of using the proper nomenclature in the use of such terms and how they might apply to the greater society at large.  If the largest segment of our society is that of the “working” or “middle” classes, does that not suggest also, the greatest segment of our population is a social class?  If that is the pre-eminent class, then it seems logical for that class to be occupied by those who claim membership in the largest group of people dedicated to the health and welfare of society.  That being the case, then why should we be limited to just Democratic, Republican, Green, Freedom, and Justice Parties, all of which are minority parties.  Why should we not have a “Social Democratic” party that embraces the largest majority of voters having the greatest vested interest in a political establishment that would serve the greatest number of citizens?  It would seem to me that the Scandinavian countries have proven the case rather well.  What is to be gained by re-inventing the wheel?    

Moreover, why should any minority party control the institutions of government more than any other political party?  Would it not be more reasonable and logical for a socialist democratic party to represent the greatest potential number of voters in a system that is, ostensibly, there to serve all of the people?       
It seems to me that we could make a good start by revisiting the wisdom of the Founding Fathers, going back to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights by putting back into place the safeguards that were so wisely incorporated into our way of life.  We could start with a “free and unfettered press,” followed by well-regulated corporations, an impartial judicial system that served us all, equally. 

We should, and could, clean up the mess we have so we are a real democracy that we can all take pride in and have confidence in to ensure we are all, indeed, “equal under the law.”

Frankly, I am tired of the games our political, commercial, intelligence and military/industrial establishment play with us and the persistent wondering if we, the people, really are in control and are being heard, or if we are little more than sheep waiting to be led to the slaughter.

Aren’t you?

Cowboy Bob
The Sagebrush Philosopher

March 16, 2014