Tuesday, September 30, 2014

“That’s All Folks!”

Given a long and arduous problem with Century Link, plus some pressing family issues, it has been sometime since I sat down and wrote a serious blog.  For those of you who have persevered, I am honored by your loyalty. 

As I have witnessed the progress (if you can call it that) of the United States of America and where it is going to eventually lead us, I can understand why there seems to be a climate analogous to a state of apathy.  But, easy as it is to understand, there is a haunting sense of despair and hopelessness that I find almost frightening.  We seem to have given up on so many pressing and important issues which lead me to remind myself that nothing in this world is easy. 

As I survey the layout of every aspect of what this country is all about and what it is supposed to be doing for those who proudly call themselves “American,” I cannot help but ask myself, “Where has the real America gone, and for how long?”

There was a time in our history when we accepted that we had to face challenges from time to time but, on the other hand, there was always a sense that things would get better and we would be back in the swing of things.  That doesn’t seem to be happening anymore.

I cannot recall a time when we have taken such a cavalier attitude towards the manifestation of so many or the least virtuous aspects of our human nature.  People are murdered as if there is no conscience within the perpetrators.  Children and pets are left in motor vehicles with temperatures that snuff the life right out of them, by adults who know full well what they are doing.  There is no end to the crimes that are being committed, only to be summarily dismissed by those who bear the guilt.  The very moral fabric of what we have treasured and respected as virtues of mankind are no longer relevant.  It seems as if the credo we live by is, “Do whatever you want; who cares?”     

That we have a massively corrupt political and economic system is self-evident.  It is not subtle, it is blatant and we just seem to yawn, shrug our shoulders and say to ourselves and to those who will listen, so what is the big deal? 

Not one banker or financier has been tried and sent to prison for anything he did, and continues to do, in the wake of the last “great recession.”  None of them were held to account for their egregious failure to take appropriate action, supported by law, and to do all they could to act within the spirit of that law.  Instead, the taxpayers of this country were saddled with the cost of bailing them out, the political establishment passed legislation that was, at best, a very soft slap on the wrist and the green light to simply go after more of the taxpayers money!  Barney Frank and Chris Dodd, do you stand for anything?  You ought to hang your heads in shame before every voter and citizen of this country.  Instead, you live like fat cats and only lace your pockets with more money that does not, nor never did, belong to you.  Are we to presume that this is the prize for living the good life on the banks of the Potomac

Let us not forget the less subtle efforts of the likes of Barack Obama, Timothy Geithner, Larry Summers, Bill Clinton, the Moguls of Wall Street, the club of Billionaires and the legions of enablers in every corner of government in the White House, the Senate, the House of Representatives, the Federal Reserve Bank, the Supreme Court and the massive array of all the lobbyists and insiders, none of whom give a hoot in hell about the average American. 

Then there are the lesser known minions within the system, as well.  There are those who own and control the press, the electronic news media, the entertainment industries, plus the scions of business and industry too numerous to count. 

There is the monopolistic two-party system that has managed to convince the body politic that we are a real democracy of the people rather than the reality of the plutocracy of the super rich that own and control every aspect of our lives.  And we so willingly offer up whatever pittance they dare to claim as if they were somehow descendants of the deity that created the universe.

Wake up America!  Are you aware that two of the largest repositories of gold in the world are China and Russia?  And we think we are “the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth?  Get real.  How does that square with our mantra and the massive amounts of money that is squirreled away off-shore?  How does this fit with the fact that the plutocrats pay practically no taxes (thanks to those who so willingly aid and abet them in government)?

Why are working-class Americans and labor unions under constant assault because they want a fair share of the pie and the same considerations that are so willingly given to the super-rich barons that cry about over-taxation and the impending inability to compete in a fair market?  All of this as our infra-structure crumbles before our very eyes.  All this as they continue to ship jobs overseas while those who labor for a living sink deeper into the mire of poverty, rely on food banks to survive, go without healthcare and their kids are unable to get a better education because of the massively huge interest rates charged for student loans by the government.

Now, let us take a long and hard look at society, in general. 

Our appetites are created and fed by the huge and uncontrolled entertainment industries, the advertising businesses, the erosion of a moral base to guide us, millions of automatons who are no longer able to converse with one another as they clamor for the next electronic device from Silicon Valley so they can further numb down their minds and paralyze their brains. 

Basic reproduction, which we share with all other mammals, is no longer possible without the aid of chemical enhancements that will guarantee an erection on demand.  Moreover, we now have products on the market that will neutralize the odor of the feminine equivalent, no doubt so it will be more acceptable to those who have more exotic pleasures in mind.
Are you aware, as of now, that the new homes of today are, on average, larger than they have ever been in the history of the United States?  Just take the time to peruse the Real Estate Section in the Sunday Section of your local newspaper.

Where is our real commitment to saving the planet through more prudent use of carbon fuels?  Just look at the BNSF trains, owned by one of our most benevolent billionaires, transporting massive amounts of coal and oil from the East and Upper Midwest to the West Coast to be loaded onto ships for transport to the Orient, primarily China.  Do those who are doing this to our environment honestly think we buy into the notion that all of that coal and oil, burned in the Orient, will pollute only their atmosphere while ours remains squeaky clean and will do no harm to the air we breathe?  It may be pretty to think so but, as Scarlet O’Hara famously said, “Fiddle Dee Dee.  I’ll think about that tomorrow.”  And that, America, is just what we will do.  You can bet those getting rich because of this mindset already know what the outcome will be.  Meanwhile, this “greatest nation in the world” is crumbling right before our eyes.

This nation was created and sustained by the blood, sweat and tears of people from every corner of the world and every place on the globe.  Their blood was shed on domestic and foreign lands to ensure the survival and prosperity of this bastion of freedom in the world today, such as it is.  From my perspective it needs a tune-up and a reassessment of just how we handle and market what we have to offer to our own and to those from foreign lands. 

If all citizens are Americans, how come we have “Native” Americans, “White” Americans, “African” Americans, “Latin” Americans, and all sorts of other Americans distinctly identified by the countries from which they or their ancestors came, or the color of their skin?  Why are “White” Americans not offended by the absence of “Heinz 57 Americans?”  Why do we have and perpetuate this disparity?  Frankly, I disagree with those distinctions and I find it offensive by the fact that we use them every day just to separate those of color and other cultures from the vestigial remnants of those of fair skin who came here to expropriate the lands that rightfully belonged to those indigenous to what was already here?     

Why is it that those euphemistically referred to as “Indians, Redskins and “Native” Americans have always been relegated to remote areas of the country and to some of the poorest and least fertile land to be had?  Why have they, of all people, been isolated in remote areas and forced to live in squalid surroundings with little more than what was considered a “shack,” while others of European heritage were welcomed with open arms?  Why were so many of them forced to walk hundreds of miles so their vacated homelands could be re-settled by White Americans?  Why has their only chance for a quality education been relegated largely to missionaries, churches and other charitable organizations?  Why have their lives been located in some of the most remote and hostile geography in the country?  Why were they isolated and kept at a level of ignorance so they could be kept as second-class citizens better known as “savages,” with little or no opportunity to be integrated or exposed to those referred to “Whites?”  To this very day the majority of them are living in isolated parts of the country known as “reservations.”

(I am still inclined to believe that there is something to the notion that the Indian Service harbored a secret agenda to ultimately render them irrelevant so they would not have had to be reckoned with, and the spoils of what they claimed as theirs would be there for the asking.)  We have done as bad or worse more than once in our history.

There is no economic base from which to forge a decent standard of living and the skills needed to compete in today’s modern world.  Where are the resources, knowledge and means from mega-corporations to lift these people from the poverty that has become the only life they have ever known?  Or were their jobs shipped overseas to cheaper labor markets so the tribal leaders could make more money by contracting them to foreign powers? 

Who conceived of the idea of bringing “Bra ceros” into fertile pockets of agriculture in the United States to work long hours in blistering environments, forced to live in makeshift shelters, paid a mere pittance so a more affluent and distant part of our society could enjoy some of the finest produce grown and available at bargain prices?  Who among us made the fortunes that came from the backs of not only the adults, but the children, as well?  Why did we come to resent them just because they felt they deserved a better share of the spoils?  Who said this was not and is not “slave” labor?  Moreover, why did our own government not prohibit this blatant exploitation of the human condition?  Where was the hollow oratory in Washington, D.C. condemning the way they were treated.  Moreover, where was the hue and cry over the massive amounts of money they made for being good minions to those who put them in office?

Who, I ask you, coined the phrase, “Liberty and Justice for All?”  When one reflects on that for just a fleeting few moments, it has a rather hollow ring, doesn't it? 

From my perspective, all of those who live in lavish homes, drive luxury cars, live sordid lives, engage in all sorts of obscene and vulgar behavior contribute very little to the common good of this country.  Their primary fixation seems to be more on what they appear to be rather than on what they are.  Image is more important than substance. 

If we are to become what we allege to be for the consumption of the rest of the world, we have a lot of work to do.  We need to be what we say we are, and we must disparage that which we abhor.  We need to have a sense of basic human decency; a sense of what is right vs. what is wrong.  We need to be less moved by what others think and do than what we know to be honest and what we know to be just.

I can empathize with the hoards of people crossing our Southern Borders, seeking a better life.  But I am disturbed by those who claim a higher purpose in life and summarily dismissing the cost to our country, our economy and our way of life by ignoring that there is no bottom to the cornucopia (translated to mean, “As long as I have mine, I can afford to claim virtue by championing those who have nothing.”

For those who seem to have conveniently forgotten that a price was paid, many times over, for what we hold near and dear to our hearts in so many ways, and take for granted every waking moment of our lives.  They need to take all of those who sneak across our boarders to savor the “free lunch” here for the taking, so they can take an excursion in order to view the thousands of graves created by the carnage of WWI and WWII all across the globe.  Then tell them that is the price for what they are trying to savor, but for which they have never paid the price.  Remind them that they need to go back to their countries of origin and do what it takes in order to pay the same price for what they want from us free gratis. 

There is a limit to how much of our national resources we can summarily give away at the expense of all of those unseen and lesser beings in our ranks who live from paycheck to paycheck, if they are lucky, or far less if they are not.  How much longer can we delude ourselves into believing “it will never happen to us?”  We have no alternative but to take care of the least among us first.  That should be a given.     

Perhaps our massively huge, bloated and wealthy corporations whose gluttony is never satisfied, plus the military/industrial complex, could pony up the spoils from their favored position in our economy to support the cost of what it would take to change all of the despotic dictatorships into bastions of freedom for all of the citizens of their country.
I dare say all of those who have been out of work for more years than they can count would favor such a move.  Then let us not forget all of those who frequent food banks, shelters for the homeless and displaced, students who are and continue to carry massive debits in order to pay for a college education that should be rightfully theirs as a birthright. 

We could probably afford a national health system that would be the envy of the world.

We could probably afford a real social security system that would sustain those who have worked a lifetime only to be allocated a pittance in order to eek out a living in our world of monumental growth in fortunes, personal wealth, corporate power, and corrupt financial and investment institutions.

We could probably afford a cesspool of all kinds of diversionary activities that range from visceral pleasures, getting legally stoned on a buffet of hallucinogenic drugs and other mind altering substances that convince us we are something we are not.

There would be no limit to the number of “name brand” items we could afford, more house than we need, the latest energy-inefficient motor cars that we covet, not for transportation, but for the sheer hedonistic joy of being able to flirt with the notion that we do, indeed, have it all.  We can and will be able to rest assured that those who have less will be green with envy at all we have.  What more could one want?

We could live a life of complete indulgence, the limits to our decadence and depravity be damned.  We could even re-define our deity on our own terms and in keeping with what we have become.        

In the end, we could mock every symbol that might convey a sense of morality, decency and equality that we have ever known.  The world would then be ours.  We could indulge our every appetite with abandon.  We would be all that we ever wanted to be and we would not have a clue as to how to right all those wrongs that have come back to not only haunt us, but to own our very souls (for those who believe in such things).

Then, as in days gone by, the curtain would come down and we would see ………………

“That’s All Folks”


The end

Cowboy Bob
The Sagebrush Philosopher
September 30, 2014              



Tuesday, September 2, 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 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

September 2, 2014