Thursday, August 27, 2015

Too Dreadful for Words

Alison Parker at the moment of her death
We got guns
Dey got guns
All God's chill'en got guns....
The Marx Brothers
from the 1932 film, "Duck Soup"
When was the last time someone was murdered in this country on live TV? November 24, 1963, when Lee Harvey Oswald was gunned down in the basement of the Dallas police headquarters. To the best of my knowledge, it hasn't happened since. Given this nation's perverted obsession with violence, that's surprising. It'll happen again, though. Of that I have no doubt. Petty sad, huh?
As traumatic as Oswald's killing was to the country, he was not a sympathetic figure to be sure. What happened yesterday morning in Roanoke, Virginia was different. 
The naiveté of some of the more empty-headed talking heads was something to behold; in fact it stunned the senses. Their hypothetical question went as follows:
Would this latest national trauma, viewed by tens-of-millions of Americans, finally compel the politicians in Washington to do what should have been done decades ago by bringing into being sensible gun-control legislation?
I had my answer for them in the speed of light:
They smile no more
Nearly three years ago, twenty innocent little girls and boys were slaughtered - like diseased swine - inside their classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Also murdered that day were six women whose job it was to educate and protect them. If that unbearable tragedy was not enough to influence Congress to do what is morally right, do these silly people seriously believe that the bodies of two dead television journalists will be enough to get them to see the light? Are they kidding me?
Usually tragedies of this magnitude fail to shock me. When the first reports of the Sandy Hook massacre came through the airwaves on the morning of December 14, 2012, so help me I barely batted an eye:
"So, it's happened again, huh?" I said out loud, "And so close to Christmas. Ho, ho, fucking ho."
As I said at the time, I long-ago adjusted myself to living in a nation where this type of unspeakable tragedy is as common as a morning moon. You should adjust to it, too. It makes the coping a helluva lot easier, believe me.
I have to tell you, though that while this latest trauma in the American train-wreck didn't surprise me too much, the images of the murder of  reporter Alison Parker, and cameraman Adam Ward were a horrifying thing to be an eyewitness to - and make no mistake about it, we are all eyewitnesses. Most of the news outlets - to their eternal credit - refused to broadcast the carnage. It did, however make its way onto YouTube and Twitter. I did see it. Watching the horror on Alison's beautiful face, hearing her screams of "Oh my God!", was too disturbing and depressing to put into words. I'm sorry, I'm just not that articulate.
Alison Parker and Adam Ward
I won't mention the name of the demented asshole who murdered Alison and Adam. He was obviously seeking attention on a national scale but he's not going to get it here. Like the psychopathic little nerd who killed twenty-six innocent human beings in Newtown in December of 2012, he killed himself before he could be bought to justice. That's probably just as well. We want to hear his names - both of them - no more. Let us, instead, remember and honor the names of Alison Parker and Adam Ward. We owe them at least that much.
The person who committed this latest atrocity was able to purchase, with relative ease, the weapon he used to kill these two innocents. If nothing else, that nasty little fact should give the rest of us something to ponder.

A very nice woman who works as a physical therapist in the health care facility where my mother lives, expressed to me her concerns that, as a licensed gun owner, she would think it unfair if she were suddenly denied the right to protect herself. I had to agree with her. But she went through the trouble of going through the process of licensing, registration - not to mention instruction on how to use the firearm now in her possession. She also lives in New York State. The laws here are pretty sensible as far as guns are concerned. And when someone is murdered with an illegal weapon in this part of he country, the gun-in-question is almost always traced to the south, where it was originally purchased and transported up I-95 (or "The Iron Highway" as it is euphemistically referred to by law enforcement).
Don't hold your breath waiting for change to come. That's not going to happen - not now, not ever. Every Republican in Washington (and too many Democrats to count) are in the pocket of the National Rifle Association. The only thing that might change this intolerable situation would be an epidemic of random political assassinations. That would get their attention pretty damn quick. But it would be wrong to hope for such an unspeakable turn-of-events so I'm not even gonna go there (and I would appreciate if you would ignore the fact that I just went there. Thanks a heap).
I am going to now repeat (for the one-hundredth time) a paragraph I wrote on the morning after Newtown. Forgive me for sounding like a broken record, but it needs to be said again:
 "The NRA types love to jabber away - like diseased little myna birds - about 'freedom'. We need to come to grips with some unpleasant realities. A society that lives in dreaded, mortal terror wondering when and where the next massacre of innocents will take place may indeed be many things - no argument there. 'Free' they are not. Let's just stop kidding ourselves here and now, okay?"

And while you're at it, get used to living in a nation in ruins.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

by John Lennon

A really pretty anthem for love and understanding by one of the more celebrated victims of gun violence in America.  He's gone and he's not coming back.


Monday, August 24, 2015

The Dems' Dilemma

 "I don't belong to any organized political party. I'm a Democrat."

Will Rogers
It must be awfully confusing being a registered Democrat these days. I used to be one and I do indeed recall being quite confused and quite often. This might sound like heresy to those of you who (like yours truly) lean a tad to the left, and I know that many of us dream of following the ear-shattering precedent of the first African American president being followed into office by the first woman president. It's a beautiful dream, and maybe it could possibly happen in 2016. My only problem with that little scenario is that Hillary Clinton is not that woman. The Democrats are making a huge mistake if they decide to go down that road. Too much is at stake in 2016 to risk handing the Executive Mansion over to a party that has lost is reason.
I don't mean to imply that she would not make a fine president. The fact is I just don't know the answer to that question. This much, however, I can say beyond a molecule of doubt: she's a lousy candidate. As far as the email/server scandal goes, while there may be little (if any) evidence of criminal intent, there is a whole lot of proof  that she is reckless - arrogant even. The Democrats - professional and casual - may really want to think this through.

As has been noted previously on this site, the last time one Democratic administration succeeded another Democratic administration on Inauguration Day was on March the fourth, 1857 when Franklin Pierce tossed the keys to the White House to miserable old James Buchanan. It hasn't happened since. It could happen finally in 2016. In fact, given the quality of the of the current crop of circus clowns who are passing themselves off these days as Republican wannabes, the possibility of a Democratic victory next year is very good. If one or more of the losing candidates decides, in a furious hissy fit, to launch to launch a fourth (or even a fifth)  party uprising (Donald Trump and Ted Cruz being likely possibilities) it won't matter whom the Democrats nominate. The election is in the bag in that case. That might very well happen; then again, it might not. Why risk it all on Hillary Clinton? If the Democrats are smart (the jury's still out on that one) they'll be very careful what they wish for.

Let's look at our options, shall we?

Martin O'Malley
Martin O'Malley: Governor of my ancestral state of Maryland. You didn't even know he was running, right? Don't feel bad, most people don't. Although he doesn't seem to inspire much enthusiasm, that could possibly be because the media seems to be giving him the cold shoulder. He's an intelligent fellow and progressive where it counts. Besides, we haven't had a president named Martin since Van Buren in 1841. We're way overdue, don'cha think?

 Lincoln Chafee: Again, a candidate that no one realizes is running (Even I forgot he was a candidate until I was reminded this morning - and I'm supposed to be on top of these things!)  He was probably the last surviving "liberal" Republican before they became extinct. He got out of the GOP a number of years ago while the getting was good and became a Democrat. George W. Bush was apparently the last straw for this guy.

Bernie Sanders: What can I say about Bernie? The man had me at "hello". So far, his campaign appearances are drawing the biggest crowds. Is it because he's saying the things that need to be said - things that no other candidate is even thinking? I think that there might be something to that. Feel the Bern.

Joey and Lizzie
And it's not too late for Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren to throw their respective hats into the ring. Old Joe would probably not be a great candidate, but I've no doubt that he would make an excellent president. As for Liz, she leaves me speechless - the most inspiring progressive to come down the line since Eleanor Roosevelt.

I'm going to be profanely frank with you: If the Republicans ever again seize control of the executive and the legislative branches of our government, if they're allowed one more appointment to the Supreme Court - this country is completely fucked. Look what happened the last time. I just don't believe we need to go there again. I'm being understated, in case you haven't noticed. Hillary Clinton is quite beatable; all of the potential Democratic hopefuls are I suppose. The only hopeful news on the horizon is the non-ignorable fact that the GOP is in the progress of imploding. Thank heaven for these little silver linings.

Will the party of FDR start exploring their options? I wouldn't bet the farm on it.  The Dems have this positive genius for taking a goblet of fine champagne, an turning it overnight into a worthless cup of donkey piss. Have you ever noticed that? 

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Pete, Jeff and Tom Degan

The painting at the top of this piece was done back in the Idiotic Eighties by my brother Jeff Degan. Every talent that I possess he can match and then some. I can barely draw a straight line. It is probably the one greatest regret of my life. I'd give anything to be able to paint.


The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich
by William L. Shirer

If this isn't the longest thing I've ever read, it's damned-near close to it: 1,250 pages. William L. Shirer was an American newspaper correspondent stationed in Berlin in the late   twenties and mid-thirties. In 1935 he was hired by Edward R. Murrow to cover Germany for CBS News, and remained at his post until December of 1941 when Hitler declared war on the United States. This book, published in 1960, was fifteen years in the making. It's a difficult read - not in one's ability to comprehend it - but in the meticulous way Shirer documents the atrocities inflicted upon this planet by these hideous bastards. Here is how I would summarize The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich:

The "rise" part is pretty depressing, but that "fall" bit is just oodles of fun to read about.


Didn't It Rain
by Evelyn Freeman

I was driving home from Monticello, NY yesterday afternoon, having attended a funeral of a friend, when what has to be the most cranking, foot-stomping gospel recording I've ever heard in my life came over W-FMU. I damn-near lost control of the vehicle.

This was recorded in 1962. CAN I GET A WITNESS!!!

Friday, August 14, 2015

what the....BERNIE SANDERS??

"We have a collapsing middle class. We have more wealth and income inequality today than we've had since the 1920s....And what big money can do is put an unbelievable amount of TV and radio ads out the to deflect attention from the real issues facing the American people."
-Bernie Sanders
Bernie is gaining. His rallies are attracting larger and more enthusiastic crowds than any other currently candidate seeking the nomination of either party. People are responding; they're moved by the obvious sincerity and sheer chutzpa of this Brooklyn-born senator who represents the Green Mountain state. They're feeling "the Bern". Finally, a "main stream" politician is saying the things that need to be said - that are begging to be said. He is speaking the unspeakable. Worst of all (or "best of all" for my sinister purposes) Bernie Sanders is driving the Democratic Party establishment crazy. The guy is even packing them in in Louisiana....LOUISI-FREAKIN'-ANA!
As if that weren't bad ("good") enough, polls among the voters of New Hampshire, a crucial primary state, show him leading Hillary Clinton by decisively. This latest surge in Bernie's numbers got me to thinking that something smelled extraordinarily fishy earlier this week when a rally he was attending was interrupted by two women who stormed the podium, seizing the microphones and shouting that black lives matter. Of course they matter. Certainly they matter to Bernie Sanders, a man who was actively involved in the Civil Rights Movement before these gals were born. On this point, as on so many others, his credentials are unimpeachable.  Of all the candidates running at the moment (I've lost count of the number) why the hell would they pick on Bernie? The whole affair looked decidedly suspicious to me. I'll be interested to see if there's a pattern that develops in the foreseeable future. Gee, who could possibly have a motive for tarnishing his image among African Americans? That's all I'm saying on the subject - for the time being. We'll leave it at that.
The consensus of opinion, at least among professional Democrats, is that a somewhat gruff Jewish guy with an Al Smith-like New York accent - whose suits are obviously purchased off the rack - cannot possibly win the White House.
Oh, please.
This was the same rationale that I heard eight years ago when an obscure, black politician from Chicago with the strange name "Barack Obama" had the audacity to announce his candidacy for the presidency. They said then that it would never happen. Even Bill Clinton, "the first black president" (as he was referred to pre-Obama) implied as much. When Barack was swamping Hillary silly  in the 2008 primaries, Bill said it meant nothing, noting that even Jessie Jackson managed to pic up a state-or-two on Super Tuesday in 1988. Obama changed everything.
"If a financial institution is to big to fail, it is too big to exist."

They eventual Republican nominee will call Bernie a "radical". If he gets the nod by the Dems (still wishful thinking, I concede) that label will more-than-likely be the only true statement to come out of the GOP during the entire campaign of 2016. Bernie Sanders is a radical; just like Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a radical. At a time in history where radical change in an insanely corrupt system is desperately needed, that's the type of person we need  in heading the executive branch of the government. What is not needed are Wall Street stooges like Hillary Clinton - or Jeb Bush.

This is many things. Rocket science it is not.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Frank - The Voice
by James Kaplan

I've said before of Frank Sinatra that while I wouldn't give you two cents for the man, I just can't say enough about the artist.  Since finishing this excellent biography of the Frankster this morning, my opinion has been revised somewhat. Sure, Frank could be a schmuck - and Kaplan doesn't attempt to hide his substantial flaw's - but he also digs deep into the man's psyche in an attempt to explore what made him into - first, the person, and secondly, the artist - he became. There is a deep connection between the two. This is the best non-fiction book I've read since A. Scott Berg's "Lindberg". I understand Frankie a little better this morning. I even like him! Go figure.

Here's a link to order it:

"Frank: The Voice" only covers the years 1915 to 1954, roughly half his life. I assume Volume Two is in the works; I certainly hope so.


I Think of You
by Frank Sinatra

From  his first stereo recording in the spring of 1957. This is Frank on the mountaintop.

Friday, August 07, 2015

POST #600: Random Observations

With my niece, Marieke Pennings, August 1, 2015
Six-hundred postings in nine years, two months and five days: That is a milestone! Here are a series of disassociated thoughts and observations accumulated whilst merrily spreading rose pedals through the lunatic asylum that American politics has become in the early years of the twenty-first century. These really are extraordinary times.

1. The First Debates of the Season:
In case you happened to miss last night's latest installment of the Clown Car Show, all I can say with any degree of certainty is that - lacking a molecule of substance - it was at the very least amusing. Not to anyone's surprise, Donald Trump fell flat on his face minutes in when he refused to pledge not to mount a third-party uprising if he is not the nominee. As you might imagine, that didn't go over too well with the assembled throngs. The Donald's flash in the pan will start to wane very soon. It was a laugh riot watching poor old Jeb Bush walking the virtual tightrope between the mindless extremism of "the base" and the "moderation" that he understands is the only way he can be elected of nominated. Surprisingly,

Marco Rubio was the only candidate of the ten who didn't appear to be pathetically out of his element - which is damnation by faint praise given the current appalling ideological state of that party. A very amusing evening indeed.
2. Hillary's Coronation

On the Democratic side, things appear to be almost as hopeless and rancid. The only candidate to come down the pike in generations does not have much of a chance of taking the nomination next year - or so it would seem to the pundits at large. But something is happening and they don't know what it is. Bernie Sanders has been packing them in wherever he goes, more so then any other candidate - Republican or Democrat; he's saying things that desperately need to be said,  telling people what they desperately need to hear, speaking the unspeakable. And these same people are listening; he's getting through to them, touching them in a way no politician has been able to do since Bobby Kennedy!

But we might as well face the unsettling reality that the big money in the game is on Wall Street stooge, Hillary Clinton In spite of the fact that, barring a major scandal (time will tell whether or not the e-mail controversy has legs) she's more than likely the next Democratic nominee.

I don't care. I'm supporting Bernie. I'm funny that way, you know?

3. What Happened?

This is a question that was posed in the first paragraph in Paul Krugman's column in the New York Times this morning:

This was, according to many commentators, going to be the election cycle Republicans got to show off their “deep bench.” The race for the nomination would include experienced governors like Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, fresh thinkers like Rand Paul, and attractive new players like Marco Rubio. Instead, however, Donald Trump leads the field by a wide margin. What happened?
Answer: The Koch Brothers happened. The Tea Party happened. George W. Bush happened. Dick Cheney happened. Clarence Thomas happened. Jerry Falwell happened. Ronald Reagan happened. That's no political party; that's an organized criminal enterprise.

4. So long, Jon

Immediately following the GOP spectacle, at 11 PM, Jon Stewart signed off after seventeen years as host of Comedy Central's Daily Show. I guess that going out on top is a good rule of thumb. The Beatles did that and left us eternally wanting more. But, like the Beatles' break-up forty-five years ago, this is going to take some getting used to. If I were him I would have waited until after he 2016 elections to depart; But I'm not him. I'm sure his reasons for leaving are sound. His exit from the scene is a tragedy for every political junkie and lover of satire in the country. Au revoire, Jonny!

Stewart is, without a doubt, the most influential comedian in the last fifty years - more so than Lenny Bruce Richard Pryor and George Carlin even - which is a feat in itself. His was one of the most informative programs on television - and the funniest. Poll after pathetic poll showed that the viewers of the Stuart program were better informed about current events and affairs-of-state than the viewers of Fox. What does that tell you?

And a comedian shall lead them.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Here's a link to the Krugman piece referenced above:

It just doesn't get much better than Mr. Paul. Seriously.


by Cilla Black

She was born Pricilla White - until a newspaper typo inspired her to change it. Cilla Black was one of the shining lights of the mid-sixties British invasion. She passed away this week at the age of seventy-two. This is a remarkable film of her at EMI's Studio One in 1966, recording "Alfie".

They're starting to fade away.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

The Donald Comes Home to Roost

As I've said o this site too many times to count, as indescribably funny as the 2012 GOP primary season was, 2016 is going to be even funnier - we're talkin' side-splitting here. Here we are, just five months shy of the Iowa Caucus, and the unintentional laughs emanating from these accidental comedians seem to be in limitless supply. We're now just a couple of days away from the first debate of the 2016 campaign. I'm not gong to miss that one for anything! The utter implosion of the Republican Party really is a delightfully funny thing to behold. Somebody pinch me.
And it gets stranger by the minute: As of this date, the frontrunner in all the polling of potential Republican primary voters is Donald Trump. How could it have possibly come to this? What the hell is wrong with these people? When asked why they would prefer The Donald as their standard-bearer next year, a disturbingly large percentage of his "constituency" have the same, inexplicable answer:
"He's one of us."
As the late Jack Parr liked to say in his day, "I kid you not".
Der Gipper
The fact of the matter is, with so many candidates in the running (Is it seventeen? I've lost count), Trump is merely sucking up the most oxygen in the clown tent. I really don't believe that he will be nominated at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Then again,  that's what I said thirty-five years ago regarding a feeble-minded, washed-up "B" movie star; I said the same thing twenty years later about a half-witted frat boy from Crawford, Texas. I had better check myself. With the United States as seriously dumbed-down as it has become during the last four decades, it's probably a good rule of thumb not to dismiss the possibility of something that at one time would have been seen as impossible - or at least highly improbable. Expect the unexpected; foresee the unforeseeable. Yeah, American politics has gotten that weird. They're coming to take us away. HA! HA! HEE! HEE!

The biggest fear these days for the movers and shakers within the Grimy Old Party is that, once denied the nomination, Trump will mount a third-party uprising. This is a distinct possibility.  He has got he money to go all the way to November 2016 - and beyond - and what better way to "up his brand" so to speak. As an ex-presidential candidate, his speaking fees would go through the freaking roof - and remember there are just oodles of folks out there who would be stupid enough to pay a small fortune in order to watch the Donald - IN PERSON - waxing idiotic on any topic imaginable. Was this a great country or what!

And then there is the Ted Cruz factor, which could prove to be a major headache. Old Teddy Boy is just mean and spiteful enough to take his ball and go home if the score doesn't turn out in his favor. A fourth party uprising is always a possibility - especially if they end up nominating someone like Jebbie, who is viewed by the knuckleheads within the Tea Party as - get this - "too much of a liberal". Thursday evening is going to be very interesting; very interesting indeed.

Donald Trump has thrown a nasty little monkey wrench into the electoral process to be sure. A half century ago, no one in his or her right mind would have taken a Trump candidacy seriously. It's a different world. Trump is the price that the GOP is forcibly paying for spending the last forty years pandering to a constituency of extremists, imbeciles and crazy people. The chickens have come home to roost - with a vengeance, baby!

Did I mention that Thursday night is going to be very interesting?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Franklin and Winston
by John Meacham   
Although I purchased this book when it came out over a decade ago, I only got round to reading it this week. It is the story of the relatively brief, fortuitous and complicated friendship between Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. The outcome of the second world war was never the foregone conclusion that a lot of people believe it was. Humanity is indeed lucky that these two characters were able to get together to defeat Hitler and Nazism three-quarters of a century ago.
Jon Meacham is a first-rate historian. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Be Careful What You Wish For, Dems

 From yesterday morning's McClatchy News:
Revelations put [Hillary] Clinton in the cross-hairs of a broadening inquiry into whether she mishandled classified information. Officials reviewed five classified emails and determined that they included information from five intelligence agencies. State Department officials warned that there could be hundreds of classified emails.
"Life is unfair"
Because of the gerrymandering of congressional districts in too many states to count, it is almost a foregone conclusion that (barring a miracle) both the Senate and the House of Reprehensibles will be safely retained by the Republican Party come Election Day 2016 in spite of the fact that - just as in 2014 -  most people will probably cast their pathetic lot with the Democrats. That is the stark and hideous reality that we might as well come to terms with and deal with as best we can. "Tough shit", as the man once said; or, as Jack Kennedy once memorably put it in a 1961 press conference, "Life is unfair".
Tell me about it.
The only silver lining behind this exceedingly nasty cloud is that, for the first time since 1857, the Democrats have a really good shot at succeeding themselves on Inauguration Day. So deep into the ideological sewer has the GOP descended in recent years, it's hard to fathom any of these clowns walking away with the big prize a year-and-a-half from now. The general consensus seems to be that, although they may survive in the congress and governors' mansions and state legislatures for the foreseeable future, they've become unelectable on a national scale. As far as the White House is concerned, the grand old party is over.

Or is it?
That juicy scenario is in serious danger of being totally and irreparably blown to itty bitty pieces by the candidacy of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

This is not meant to imply that the former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State is an incompetent fool; nor am I suggesting that the woman is the least bit  corrupt. What I am saying is that if the three branches of the government are ever again controlled by the right wing - for even half a day even - any slender thread of a hope of one day restoring this country's economic security for regular working people will be rendered ashes to the wind.

Billy Bob
We went down this road in 2000 when we foolishly decided that electing Billy Bob Babybrains to the office of president would be  a really neat idea. Remember how nicely that worked out for you? We don't want to go down that road again - trust me.

This can be said of Ms. Clinton without a smidgeon of equivocation: She's reckless and arrogant - a fact that is increasingly obvious with each passing day. The Dems really need to sit back, take a deep breath, and think long and hard about what they seem to be embarking on with respect to a Hillary candidacy in 2016. This could  very well end up exploding in their  clueless faces. I realize that it was a beautiful dream to once again shatter precedent by having the first African American chief-executive followed by the first woman - but - for the love of Mike - not Hillary Clinton. Even were she somehow able to pull it off  and make 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue her home again, she is too much of a Wall Street stooge for my tastes. Perhaps she might have surprised progressives everywhere by becoming the reincarnation of FDR - that was always my dream. But in the final analysis her candidacy is a gamble we cannot afford to take. The stakes are just too high when America finds itself teetering on the precipice.

It's not that Bill or Hillary Clinton are bad people, utterly void of any substance or merit. I like them personally - Honest I do! And I'm not implying that they haven't done wonderful things for the country they both undoubtedly love - they have. It's just that I don't believe in American political dynasties. It's probably fortunate that Teddy Kennedy lost his bid for the White House in 1980. He will be remembered as the "Lion of the Senate" and did more good for the country in that position than he ever would have been able to do n the Oval Office.  The reign of Bush II almost destroyed America. Bush III would be the final nail in the coffin.  It seems to me that a Clinton II candidacy makes the presidency of Jeb Bush all-the-more likely. If that happens we can kiss this country goodbye.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I'll go to my grave believing that one of the great tragedies of American history was that Bobby Kennedy was cut down by a mad man's bullet before he could reach the White House. Call me fickle.

I'm voting for the Democratic candidate next year, come heck or high water. Is it too much to ask that I be happy about for whom I cast my ballot? Are you listening, Senator Warren?

If the Democrats are smart (the jury's still out on that question) they'll think this one through very carefully.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Mornings on Horseback

by David McCullough 

This is the fascinating biography of the little boy and adolescent who grew up to be Theodore Roosevelt.

TR was our most interesting and brilliant president; I would go as far as putting him above Thomas Jefferson for sheer intellect. As biographer, David McCullough can do no wrong - as this book proves beyond a doubt. If you're interested to understand what made Teddy tick, this is the place to look. Of great interest is the story of his father, Theodore, Sr. Although they were two men of entirely contradicting personalities and temperament, in a few instances the apple didn't fall terribly far from the tree. Here's a link to order it off of Amazon:

Can't recommend this one enough, kids. 

Friday, July 24, 2015


"Let no one be mistaken: Donald Trump's candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded." 
Talk about your WTF moment!

The Party of TR?
The most DEE-lightful thing (to paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt) about observing and commenting on the utter train-wreck of the modern-day conservative movement is the utter cluelessness of its main participants; Rick Perry is a noted case in point. In an attempt to coin a phrase, he called "Trumpism", "a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued." Well, yeah, he's off to a good start. As the ancient Chinese used to say, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step".  

But if Dr. Rick is serious about treating the patient, he would be wise to focus on the big picture which is the disease itself, not the symptom. Donald Trump is merely a symptom of a much more potentially fatal ailment - as, by the way, is Rick Perry. The "party of Theodore Roosevelt" has lost its freaking marbles. Can I get a witness?

Why is Trump ahead of everyone in the polling of potential GOP primary voters? That question is such a no-brainer that I'm almost embarrassed to pose it. The reason he is ahead of the pack at the moment  is simply because is spewing out every one of the idiotic talking points (and inventing a few new ones in the process) that appeal to the half-witted "base" of that party. I'm fairly certain he doesn't believe three-quarters of what he says; he just knows exactly which buttons to press. Donald Trump is not an idiot - he just plays one on TV. 

John Belushi
Personally, I'm loving The Donald carnival. If the Democrats had recruited a double agent to go out into the world in order to inflict as much political carnage on the Republican party as possible, they could not have succeeded more sweetly than what Trump has done and will continue to do in the fifteen months between now and Election Day 2016. As I've noted in previous postings, the last time one Democratic administration succeeded another one via the electoral process was on March 4, 1857; it hasn't happened since. So for people like me, who pine for the day that that disgusting party is permanently relegated to the shit pile of history, these are heady days indeed. Donald Trump is sort of our anti-hero, the political equivalent of Bluto Blutoski, the character played by the late John Belushi in Animal House.


That sums things up fairly nicely, Don'cha think? The fact that The Donald is now the front runner among those whom are likely to vote in the primaries next year is further evidence - as if anymore were really needed - that the Republican party will not be rehabilitating itself anytime soon. The only thing that will prevent the Democrats from retaining control of the executive next year will be a right wing coup d'etat.

They're working on that.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


The Romanov Sisters
by Elaine Rappaport

This is a biography of the  four daughters of the last Tsar of Russia. Finding themselves  innocent victims of one of the great tragedies of the twentieth century, how these extraordinary gals might have fared but for the shortsightedness of their father and mother is one of the great "what ifs" of history.

I read this one in a single weekend. Here's a link to order it off of

A great read.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Jeb! Jeb Who?

"My aspiration for the country and I believe we can achieve it, is 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see....It means that people need to work longer hours and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families. That’s the only way we’re going to get out of this rut that we’re in.”
John E. "Jeb" Bush
You see? The problem has not-a-thing to do with the fact that regular working people aren't getting paid a living wage. The problem is that the people need to put in longer hours! The Bush Policy: Let 'em eat cake. And this clown wants to be your president! Isn't life wonderful?

This has got to be one for the ages. So desperate is Jeb Bush to distance himself from the catastrophic administration of his brother, the guy is too embarrassed to place his last name on his campaign poster. He wants us to forget that nasty little fact in his biography. What candidate - of either party - has had to resort to this kind of pathos? I don't recall, either in 1968 or 1972, any Nixon campaign ads baring the name, "DICK!". Of course, in 1972 Nixon campaigned as "The President". By the time he sought re-election, a lot of Americans were fairly uncomfortable having him as their chief-executive; I mean, let's face it, the Trickster was kinda creepy, don'cha think? So I guess there is a bit of precedent here.

What amazes me - more than anything - is how another member of this incompetent, corrupt and disgusting family would believe that it is now "my turn". Just pondering this makes the needle on my arrogance meter crack in two. When one considers too many of his campaign advisers are the neo-conservative crackpots who littered Dubya's presidency, it's enough to give someone paying even scant attention the dry heaves. I refer to the folks who made up the Project for a New American Century PNAC). You don't hear much about them anymore, but in the few years before George seized power, they were all over the airwaves and in print, literally advocating the takeover of the planet. Many of them, including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, ended up running the Bush II White House and dictating their foreign policy. Remember how nicely that worked out? Jeb Bush, by the way, was also part of the PNAC crowd - something he's not too comfortable about mentioning these days.

The result was the stupidest military blunder (not to mention the longest and costliest war in American history). Jebbie has said, more than once, that in matters of Middle Eastern affairs, his half-witted older brother is his most trusted source of advice. Seriously, folks: A third Bush administration in a generation is not a particularly dandy idea. I have a pretty good idea what I'm talking about. Be careful what you wish for, ya dig?

Teddy Boy
Of course, I'm really not at all alarmed at the spectacle of a Bush III candidacy. I'm absolute certain that he is not going to be the next president of the United States; nor do I believe he's going to be elected in 2020, 2024, 2028, 2032 - not ever. It's not in the cards, it's not in the stars. It's not on anybody's calendar - yours or mine. Let me be as clear as possible: There will never be a President Jeb Bush. He might not even get the nomination because - wait for it - HE'S TOO LIBERAL!!! That's right Mr. and Mrs America and all the ships at sea: John E. "Jeb" Bush is too much of a screaming lefty for the nitwits who long ago hijacked the GOP. And the screamingly funny thing is that the Tea Party types are almost certain to mount a third party uprising should that vague possibility miraculously come to pass. Ted Cruz is waiting in the wings, Jeb. Watch your ass, dude!

On the other hand. should Jebbie somehow manage to pull this off (and again: THAT'S NEVER GONNA HAPPEN) his term of office should prove to be quite amusing - much in the same way George's administration was quite amusing. Comedy is the natural bedfellow of incompetence. The Bush boys are always generous with those unintentional giggles they give out like candy canes at Christmastime.  Another Bush administration would be the ultimate win-win for someone like me. The rest of you, not-so-much.

Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber
It's an easy call to predict that whatever transpires, 2016 is going to be the campaign to end all campaigns, As gut-bustingly weird as 2012 and 2008 were in terms of sheer insanity, next year is going to be the caking on the ice. It's such a strange thing when you think about it. The dumbing down of America has been going on now for almost thirty-five years now. The quality of the candidates for the highest office in the land is proof of how effective that process has been. Much as I disliked Ronald Reagan and everything he stood for during the campaign of 1980, I had to admit that the man at least had a smidgeon of gravitas. That type of candidate is extinct, at least with respect to the GOP. Thirty-five years ago neither of the Brothers Bush would have been taken seriously by most people with an IQ above sixty. What a long, strange trip downward it's been, baby!

And the Democrats? They're not too far behind. They could do a lot better than Hillary Clinton. Although far and away the preferable choice when compared to anything the Republicans are liable to regurgitate, I have a funny feeling that she's not going to be the reincarnation of Franklin D. Roosevelt we on the left have been praying for since 1945. The ONLY candidate who is saying the things that the American people need to hear is Bernie Sanders, and he doesn't stand a chance.

Gosh, we sure do live in strange times.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


The Bush quote at the top of this piece was lifted from a recent column by Paul Krugman in the New York Times. It's a good piece (all of Krugman's stuff is excellent) and is highly recommended on this end. Here is a link to read it:

If you're looking for Mr. Paul, you can find him on the mountaintop.


by Douglas Brinkley

This is a pretty good biography - although not a great one. Brinkley get's a few things wrong, as in when he claims that Cronkite was the first American journalist to interview the Beatles. He never interviewed them. Still, it was as readable as any bio I think I've ever read. Also, he doesn't treat his subject with complete reverence, but portrays him warts and all. Fortunately, Walter Cronkite's warts were few. He was a good man - and one of the great broadcast journalists of the twentieth century. I miss Uncle Walter.


Friday, July 03, 2015

It's Called "Progress"

Somewhere under the rainbow....

Anything that sends the extreme right wing into a severe state of spastic apoplexy is indeed a beautiful thing. That photograph above is doing the trick nicely.

On the eve of our 239th celebration of Independence Day, in the wake of the 50th anniversary of President Johnson's signing of the Voting Rights Act, there's much room for some national reflection as we head into the Fourth of July weekend. This country is going through some milestone changes that are as unavoidable (and as inevitable) as the sun rise. 2015 will, I believe, be remembered in history for being just as pivotal in the nation's progress as 1963 was. That was the year that the American people gazed upon the chimes of freedom crashing. Try as they might, the picture before them could not be averted. A change was coming in 1963, and there was no way a rational person could deny it. 2015 is turning into that kind of year.

You say you want a revolution?

For all of President Obama's faults (and there have been many) he was custom-made for these transforming times. If at first he moved too gingerly for the tastes of a lot of us on the left, it appears that he's decided that the final year-and-a-half of his presidency will be an era that, a half century into the future, liberals will be remembering as the good old days. A raising of the glass and a tipping of the hat to the guy: He's had a great two weeks,

I was just thinking of the irony: Forty years ago I was a teenaged homophobe of the most pathetic variety. In 1977 at the age of nineteen, I found myself living in a fairly gay neighborhood in Philadelphia; that's when my attitude commenced to change. I actually made an effort to get to know a few of them and, wonder of wonders, they weren't half bad. In fact (at least from my experience) they're the best neighbors one could hope for.  Today I am a hard-core supporter of gay rights. I have evolved. Go figure.

We need to be patient with our conservative friends. Most of them will eventually get with the program. Most of them today will admit that the Voting and Civil Rights Acts were a pretty good idea in hindsight. It's the hard-core, Tea Party types that we need to write off. Don't hold your breath waiting for any of them to see the light. The NRA will rename their national headquarters after John Lennon before that ever happens, so forget it.

Here in Goshen we have something every Fourth of July called The Great American Weekend. I'm really going to celebrate this year. We all should.

Have a great American weekend, everybody.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Talk about your mind-bogging coincidences:

John Phillips
I not too long ago fiished reading Doris Kearns-Goodwin's latest book: a biography of Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft - and the muck-raking journalists who defined that golden age of investigative journalism in the late nineteenth, early twentieth centuries. One sentence on page 178 stuck out. It described John S. Phillips, one of the founding editors of McClure's Magazine:

"Phillips lived in the city during the week so that he cou...ld be available day and night; on weekends, he joined his wife, Jennie, and their small children in Goshen, NY, a small town in the foothills of the Catskills."

That got me to thinking, I wonder if I could find out where this fellow lived. After a few minutes pondering this thought, my memory was jarred by a thunderbolt revelation: I know exactly where he lived - 48 South Street - THE HOUSE I GREW UP IN!!!

As the great Steven Wright once said, "It's a small world, but I wouldn't want to paint it."

Sheria Reid
UPDATE, 3:06 PM:

I received the horrible news a little while ago that my friend, Sheria Reid, author of the insightful blog, The Examined Life, died unexpectedly on Tuesday morning of a massive heart attack. If you've read my stuff with any degree of regularity over the last nine years, you'll know that I have quoted her and linked her excellent site a number of times.  She was a brilliant writer and a beautiful soul. Now please excuse me while I try to adjust to a world without Sheria Reid. This is going to take quite a bit of doing.

Here is a link to Sheria's blog:

She was as good as it gets.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

South Carolina's "DUH" Moment

Naughty flag!

Reverend Clemente Pinckney
This one is such a no-bainer that I'm almost embarrassed to bring it up - but I will because, gosh darn it, I just can't help myself! There are literally so many avenues I could proceed down with regard to this tragedy that I hardly now where to begin!
I'm not going to mention the name of the homicidal moron who carried out the inexplicable slaughter of nine, peaceful and unarmed human beings inside a historic African American church in the city of Charleston, South Carolina a week ago today. Like the fool who murdered John Lennon thirty-five years ago, this utterly worthless little bastard wanted to be known for something - anything - and he's gotten his wish. His stated intention was to start a "race war"; instead he has South Carolinians (of all people) seriously thinking about banning the confederate flag (his flag) from state property. This is a jolly good thing indeed.

The assaults upon the intelligence commenced immediately when the screw-heads over at Fox and Friends proclaimed that this latest atrocity in the rolling American tragedy had nothing to do with racial hatred, that it was, instead, yet another assault against "Christianity". Fox's very own in-house lamebrain, Steve Doocy, remarked that it seemed "extraordinary" to him that people were referring to this as a "hate crime". Genius. The very first eye-witness reports from the crime scene stated unequivocally that this asshole told them all why he was shooting them ("You rape our women. You're taking over the country"). If you're still watching Fox Noise for anything other then the unintentional giggles it dishes out with knee-slapping regularity, there's little hope for you.

The twists and turns of the timeline of history are, at times, a breathtaking thing to ponder. Think of the irony: The confederate flag was officially reinstituted by Democrats in South Carolina in 1962 as a reaction to the Civil Rights movement. This was during that bygone day when the South was crawling with racist Dixiecrats who couldn't bring themselves to join the party of "that bearded bastard that freed our slaves". Their precious flag will more-than-likely be removed forever from the statehouse at the instigation of the Republican governor. Nikki Haley announced in the wake of the slaughter that, while secessionist flag may represent a crucial period in the history of that state, it belongs folded away in a museum - not flying over the statehouse. At that moment she rose a thousand-fold in my estimation. As you've probably figured out by now, I'm not known for tipping my hat to many members of that party, but I need to give credit where it's due. God bless her for remembering that hers was at one time the party of Abraham Lincoln.    

Some reactionary twit once declared, "The South shall rise again". Honestly, folks, the South needs to wake the hell up. On my Facebook page the other day, a southern belle reacted to a link I had posted by noting that "you" (meaning me) won the Civil War because "we" (presumably meaning her) didn't have access to the thousands of Irish immigrants willing to fight for the Northern cause in order to gain their citizenship. Incredibly, she then went on to inform me that she was a descendant of one of those immigrants. I thought this ironic because my Irish heirs didn't arrive in the states until after the war, and many of my maternal ancestors fought on the on the side of dear ol' Dixie. This is a fact of my heritage that I don't go around bragging about for obvious reasons. It boggles the mind that southern people would look at their familial connections to that conflict with even a molecule of pride - I sure-as-hell-don't.

He won.
People who are still fighting that war need to take a deep breath and come to terms with the stark reality that the war between the states (or "The war of northern aggression" as my Facebook friend referred it) ended in 1865. That was one-hundred and fifty years ago, kids. The last veteran of that conflict died fifty-six years ago. Get a grip.


Why is it that the Germans are so far ahead of us in this respect? They figured out a long time ago that the flag of he Third Reich was the most despicable banner that any army ever marched under in the history of the human race (the  Confederate flag being a close second). The only places in Germany where the swastika flies these das are on the sets of historical movies. For the record, the Hitler gang are always portrayed as the bad guys. You've gotta hand it to those Gerrys. You really do!

He lost.
The sight of the "stars and bars" does not fill our brothers and sisters of color with any degree of "southern pride". It hurts their feelings and makes them feel like strangers in their own land. It's time for that goddamned flag to be permanently consigned to the hall of infamy where it bloody-well belongs. Can I get a witness?

No one with any sense is proposing a law that would ban the rebel flag outright. They tried that in California and I felt then (and feel still) that it was a terrible idea. Citizens who wish fly the rebel flag will still be able to do so - on private property. This is a good thing, too. I believe to my core that everyone has the Constitutional right to behave like a racist shithead. This wouldn't be America otherwise.

Along with the topic of race in America, the massacre of nine devout and gentle churchgoers a week ago today in Charleston, South Carolina has also reopened that nasty-tasting can of worms known as "gun violence". I write about this topic quite often because one who comments on the American train wreck is hard-pressed to avoid the subject. In fact, I've written about it so many times by this point that I'm getting bored with it. Allow me, instead, to repeat a paragraph I have posted many times before and that I will, no doubt, post again many times in the future. Yeah, I know, I'm sounding like a broken record but it needs a reprise:

The NRA loves to jabber on - like diseased little myna birds - about "freedom". We need to come face-to-face with some unpleasant realities: A people who live in dread, mortal terror wondering where and when the next mass killing of innocents inevitably takes place may indeed be many things - no argument there - "free" they are not. Let's stop kidding ourselves here and now, okay?

Sorry 'bout that. Again, I just couldn't help myself. As long as we continue to insist on having the most mind-boggling, insane gun laws in the Western Hemisphere, we might as well come to terms with living in a nation in ruins. This is the new American reality - rivers of tears, oceans of blood. This is the way it's gonna be from here on in. Get fucking used to it.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush's America
by Molly Ivins (with Lou Dubose)

I first read this classic political tome when it was released a decade ago. I'm rereading it now. It's a reminder why George W. Bush will be remembered as the most corrupt, incompetent chief executive in the history of this doomed republic,, It's quite sad - and very funny. I miss Molly Ivins.

UPDATE, 4:41 PM:

Other states might follow the example of South Carolina. The governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe,  has ordered that the Rebel flag to be removed from all license plates. Even Alabama and Mississippi are considering it's removal. There's a glimmer of hope this afternoon in Dixie!