Friday, October 31, 2014

Onto Oblivion



It's almost over. Four days until Tuesday and it seems like an eternity. Anything can happen and no one seems to know how this is going to end. Any chance Barack Obama has of salvaging his presidency depends on a victory for the Democrats on Election Day. It's not bloody likely that his party is going to be able to take back the house, and retaining control of the senate is, at best, a roll of the dice. I won't be out celebrating if the Dems are able to pull off some kind of miracle. Both parties are hopeless - with one being just barely palatable. I sometimes feel as if I'm at a restaurant and the waiter is asking me if I'd like a glass of donkey piss to wash down the plate of elephant shit I've ordered. Really, it's gotten that bad. 

I'm prepared for the worst - which in my case is the best. The lower this doomed country sinks into the shit-hole, the higher my stock rises. I won't be happy if the GOP - through election fraud and suppression of votes - finds itself in full control of both houses of congress come January. I imagine that a plutocratic dictatorship would be oodles of fun to write about. 

"There's gonna be a lot of dues, Jim."

Lenny Bruce

Grover
`
Then again it's possible that a decade or so of total conservative control of the government is just what the people need. Maybe then they'll finally learn the lesson they should have learned over a century ago: Right wing form of governance DOES NOT WORK. The down side of that scenario would be the fact that, at the end of that decade, their government will have ceased to be. That is the Republicans' dream. Remember the fantasy of Grover Norquist? His dream was to be able to shrink the government down to a size where it would be small enough to drown in a bathtub. We're on our way.

Think about this: During the final years of George Dubya Bush's reign of folly, the extreme right - for the first time in nearly eighty years - were able to seize control of all three branches of government. The result was the worst economic catastrophe in almost eighty years. 

That's not a coincidence, folks. 

I'm a bit numb at the moment. That's not the sort of state one wishes to be in if your desire is to illuminate and enlighten. Whatever happens come Election Day, I'll get by. To be honest with you I don't give a fuck what the final result is. As long as the day's events are amusing - that's all I really care about anymore. Isn't that awful? Maybe by Tuesday I'll be a little less apathetic. Maybe not. At least I won't be bored. That's something to look forward to, ay? There's always a silver lining.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 

Add caption
SUGGESTED READING

Eleanor and Franklin
by Joseph P. Lash

This was the first of the FDR biographies to tell the story of Franklin's affair with Lucy Page Mercer - a distant cousin of mine (I come from a long line of home wreckers). Lash's prose takes a little getting used to at times, but he deserved the Pulitzer he won for writing it. 

AFTERTHOUGHT:

I was just awoken from my apathy:

Get out on Tuesday and vote like your life depends on it.
 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ten...Nine...Eight...


With just less than two weeks to go until the midterm elections there's plenty of room for speculation as to how this is going to end. The talking heads tell us that it could go either way. I find that incredible. There have been few times in the past where the choice was clearer (and less of a no-brainer) than it is at the moment. What gives with these silly Americans? You've gotta wonder! You really do!

One of the guilty pleasures I get out of reading American history  is that I find myself cheering for the Republicans. One-hundred years ago there were still enough politicians registered with that organization who stood for something decent. Even during my lifetime we had Dwight D. Eisenhower. For all of his cultural conservatism, old Ike was fairly progressive fiscally. He understood all-too-well that the key to a nation's greatness was investment in its infrastructure. When was the last time you heard a Republican politician bragging about the legacy of Eisenhower?  You would think that the Grand Old Party didn't even exist prior to Ronald Reagan.

My feelings with regard to the Democrats (which hovers somewhere between disgust and indifference) has been well-tempered by the fact that the GOP is light years past any point of hope and redemption. I therefore find myself at every election cycle rooting for the Dems in spite of myself. And please don't tell me that the time has come for us to support a third party. We tried that in 2000 and it backfired if you'll recall. Maybe someday; maybe even soon. Not now. 

If "the party of Abraham Lincoln" retakes the Senate and retains the House, as bad a thing as that would be, I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. It's only going to make my job that much easier for the next two years. A never-ending train wreck may be a nasty omen for many things on the horizon. Writer's block is not one of them. I'll be fine 'n' dandy. 

The one race I've really got my eyes on - more than any other - is the contest in Kentucky between Mitch McConnell and his young challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes. As I've written in the past, I am an ancestral son of the Bluegrass state. My late maternal grandfather, Walter Clements, was just one of generations of Kentuckians chilling out on my family tree. I still have scads of cousins, distant and not-so-distant, who reside in that state. Having said that, I'm going to be brutally frank with you. If the people of Kentucky are stupid enough to send Mitch (The Plutocracy's Bitch) back to Washington for another six years as their representative, they'll deserve everything that happens to them.

Just before I sat down to write this little ditty I listened to an interview on NPR with an author named, Aaron David Miller. His new book is called "An End to Greatness" and is subtitled: "Why America Can't Have and Doesn't Want Another Great President". His argument is that the last great president was Franklin D. Roosevelt (an argument I agree with). The reason we haven't had a great one since then is the simple fact that no chief-executive since FDR has had the degree of crises that he had to deal with. Rather than pining for greatness we should, instead, be seeking mere competency. 

Barack Obama has been a more-than-competent president. His biggest problem facing him since the day he was inaugurated has been the confederacy of dunces who have lined up in opposition to him. In case it might have escaped your attention, some of these people are out of their fucking minds. If the Republicans are victorious in even one house of congress on Election Day next, his administration - and his legacy - are toast and jelly.

Between now and November 4 is going to seem like a lifetime. So much can happen and probably will. You can bet the farm that Republican governors all across the land are going to be doing everything possible to insure that the weakest and poorest among us (in other words: the traditional Democratic constituency) are unable to cast their precious ballots. That is the agenda of that disgusting party. Aren't politics fun?

Whatever you do, regardless of your ideology, be sure to vote on Election Day. Even if your plan is to vote with the right wing - especially if your plan is to vote with the right wing - take part in the democratic process. Remember, I'm probably the only person you know of who will benefit by a victory for the Republicans, so by all means....

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 

SUGGESTED READING:

A Good Life
by Ben Bradlee

Conversations with Kennedy
by Ben Bradlee 

Bad news, bad news
Came to me where I sleep....

I got the news this morning that the legendary (and that overused word applies here) editor of the Washington Post, Ben Bradlee, passed into eternity yesterday. When they were casting the 1976 film All the Presidents Men, they could settle for nothing less than an actor with the stature and gravitas of Jason Robards to take on the part of Ben. Robards won an Oscar for that performance.

After he wrote his book on his friendship with President Kennedy, Jackie never spoke to him again. I could never quite figure this out. Before I read that book I had always liked Jack Kennedy. After reading Conversations with Kennedy, I loved him. His autobiography, published in 1995, is the best journalistic memoir I have ever read. There is no doubt about it: He is the giant of American journalism in the twentieth century.

A good life indeed.

Just friends drifting apart: Ben, Jackie, Toni and Jack, 1962

Sunday, October 19, 2014

An Emergency Request

Elizabeth Kenneally
`

These are recent photographs of Elizabeth "Liz" Kenneally. She is the daughter of my lifelong friend, Susan Puzio Bossley. She has been missing from her home in Phoenixville, PA since October 15. She has a tattoo across her upper chest that says "Never Lose Hope" - which, ironically, is quite an apt sentiment under these trying circumstances.

Please, if you see her or have seen her, call the Phoenixville Police Department at: 

(610) 933-8801

One can only imagine the anguish that her mother and father are feeling at this hour.

Never lose hope, Susan and Rick.

Fingers are crossed. Hands are folded.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

I'm Just Mild About Hillary




"Look around. Oil companies guzzle down billions in profits. Billionaires pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries, and Wall Street CEOs, the same ones that direct our economy and destroyed millions of jobs, still strut around  Congress, no shame, demanding favors and acting like we should thank them. Does anyone here have a problem with that?"   

Elizabeth Warren

To paraphrase the late George Carlin, I used to be a Democrat. Now I'm an American. You know, you grow!

You wanna know why I left that party over sixteen years ago? Here's why: The 2016 campaign is two years away, and yet, as of October 14 2014, the presumptive nominee is Hillary Clinton. Could it be that "the party of Franklin D. Roosevelt" can't come up with anything better than Hillary? Have they lost their imaginations? Or have they lost their minds? A reasonable argument could be made for either scenario.

Twit
I still can't forget the fact that - at a time when she could have shown a modicum of political courage - She voted to give the disgusting, half-witted little frat boy from Crawford, Texas the authority to invade the sovereign nation of Iraq minus the constitutionally mandated congressional approval. I'm sure most of you remember how nicely that worked out. She was looking down the road to a White House run. She just had to prove to us that she was as much of a warrior as any man. I have not much respect for Hillary Clinton, I'll be honest with you

But I have to admit that the pickings are rather slim these days. Other than Hillary, who is currently the most visible Democrat? Wall Street stooge, Chuck Shumer. With "progressives" like those two, who needs conservatives? Seriously!

Sherrod Brown
Sherrod Brown of Ohio is one of the very few Democrats out there who has not forgotten his party's progressive roots. He'd be an ideal standard bearer for the year 2016 - theoretically. Senator Brown's problem is that he comes off a bit rough-around-the-edges in this stupid, televisual age that we're trapped in. He's suits are definitely not custom made, he probably pays less than ten dollars for his haircuts, he sometimes looks like a guy with a hangover, and he has a voice like sandpaper on gravel. The fact that he's a brilliant and decent man is beside the point. "Telegenics" is all that matters these days. Had the Lincoln-Douglas debates been broadcast in 1860, Abraham Lincoln would today be an obscure footnote in the history books.

And besides, Sherrod is no fool. He more-than-likely knows what he's up against and is probably content to stay where he is. He reminds me, in a way, of the late senator from Illinois, Paul Simon. He was the most impressive person to seek the Democratic nomination in my lifetime. He never had a chance. He just didn't look good on television. That hideous little box is going to be the death of us.

Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders of Vermont seems to be thinking about running next time around. Since he is an independent I would be eligible to vote for him in a primary (In New York you can only vote in the primary of the party you're registered with). I will have no problem whatsoever casting my lot with Bernie. I believe he is one of the giants of the senate. I'm talkin' Henry Clay proportions here! But again, like Sherrod Brown, he will have the television thing going against him. And the fact that he is a liberal Jew won't do him much good in the shit-for-brains states of this doomed republic. I won't list them by name here; you know which ones I'm talking about. 

Look away, Dixieland.

That leaves us with Senator Elizabeth Warren. She has some overwhelming odds to overcome to be sure. The very term "Massachusetts Liberal" is enough to give a lot of people the dry heaves. But the prospect of a Warren administration commencing on January 20, 2017 is about as nonsensical as it was for an African American senator from Chicago seven years ago. And she's a liberal: An unapologetic, left-of-center, in-your-face, meat-and-potatoes, dyed-in-the-wool - freakin' L.I.B.E.R.A.L., baby! 

 She says she is not going to run for the presidency in 2016 and I haven't any doubt that she's being sincere. No one can accuse Elizabeth Warren of being insincere. Oh, but what a campaign that would be. More than a campaign, that would be a cause. I know it's never gonna happen, but I can dream, can't I?

Maybe Ms. Clinton will surprise me. Maybe not. Whatever happens, the next president will be a Democrat, you can count on it. The last time one Democratic administration succeeded another one on Inauguration day was in 1857 - it hasn't happened since. Since the GOP has become a psychological basket case, that's a fairly easy prediction to make.

I know I'll end up voting for Hillary two years from now. If she's not my ideal I'm at least comforted by the knowledge that she's much better than anything the Republicans will puke up - that's a foregone conclusion. Just remember this: When you see me exiting the polling place on Election Day 2016, I'll be holding my nose.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED VIEWING:

Eighty-nine years ago yesterday, Leonard Alfred Schneider was born in what was then rural Mineola, New York. He became Lenny Bruce when he grew up. Here's Lenny's national television debut from April 1959 - a riotous appearance on NBC's Steve Allen Show.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCplnUga0hU

He's on some other shore
He didn't wanna live anymore

Bob Dylan 

Lenny would have made such a cool old man. It's just so sad.

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

AFTERTHOUGHT, 10/15/14. 4:37 AM:

QUESTION OF THE DAY:

Why is Bernie Madoff the only Wall Street crook to go to prison?

ANSWER OF THE DAY:

Because he stole from the One Percent - not the Ninety-Nine Percent.

Are you one/tenth as pissed off as I am?

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Speaking the Unthinkable


Lincoln, 1865
"We're really in nut country now."

Jack Kennedy, 11/22/63

Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy were fatalistic about their personal safeties. Both took the view that if anyone brave enough - and crazy enough - were to take a shot at them, there was not much that anyone (including the Secret Service) could do to alter that grim reality. Ironically, Kennedy made note of this fact on the morning of November 22, 1963 while he was getting dressed in his hotel room in Houston, Texas, anticipating all the fun events that the day had in store for him. Both FDR and JFK would be targets of assassins. Only Oswald would be successful. A funny thing, fate, You know what I'm talking about?

Anyone with a decent sense of history (and that number would include about one percent of the American people) should be alarmed at the recent incidences involving the Secret Service. Reports of these guys drunkenly cavorting with hookers during a state visit to Columbia a couple of years ago; an unauthorized person gaining backstage access to the president a couple of weeks ago; and, most amusing of all, it was just revealed that during the campaign of 2012, a drunken SS man, trying to impress a Romney staffer, revealed the president's itinerary for the coming week - at a time it was still classified. Nice!

Garfield, 1881
NEW RULE: For the sake of the safety of the chief-executive, can we at least agree that from now on, like airline pilots, the president's Secret Service detail shall not drink any intoxicating beverages for a period of at least twenty-four hours before going on duty. This is what is called "a no-braner". 

We need to come face-to-face with some nasty facts, boys and girls: No president since Abraham Lincoln has been as passionately hated by so many Americans than the first African American to call the White House "home". Only this week, some right wing Facebook page was able to raise $100,000 award money for anyone who would oblige them by "removing" Barack Obama from the presidency. Now everybody put on your thinking caps!

McKinley, 1901
 QUESTION: Just how in the hell does one person "remove" a sitting president from the job? 

ANSWER: The same way John Wilkes Booth "removed" Abraham Lincoln; the same way Charles Guiteau "removed" James A. Garfield; the same way Leon Czolgosz "removed" William McKinley; the same way Lee Harvey Oswald "removed" Jack Kennedy.

This ain't rocket science, folks. The treacherous asshole who put up that Facebook page ought to be arrested and put on trial for conspiracy to assassinate the president of the United States. A lot of these freaks have been making ominous statements in the last six years with regard to the mortality of Barack Obama, have you noticed that? Vile, horrible utterances. Do you remember this dandy little chestnut a couple of years ago from uber-twit Ted Nugent? 

"If the coyote's in your living room, pissing on your couch, it's not the coyote's fault. It's your fault for not shooting him.

The "coyote" in his warped mind was supposed to represent Barack Obama. Another gem for the ages from Rock's Village Idiot.

FOR THE RECORD: As much as I despised the administration of George W. Bush, I never once - publicly or privately - wished for the hideous little freak's demise. In fact I used to pray that he be kept safe. The last thing the loony right wing in this country needs is the body of a martyr to rally around by torchlight. Spare us.

I must say that it was quite touching to watch the hearings on Capital Hill this week inquiring into the Secret Service's latest, inexcusable blunder. The very sight of the most extremely right-wing of politicians (Darrell Issa for example) expressing profound outrage over the fact that a mentally ill veteran was able to walk right in to the Executive Mansion and come too close for comfort to entering the family living quarters was something to behold. Were they really genuinely concerned with the safety of the president and his family? Or was it merely reflexive bitchiness on their part. You just never know with these jackasses.  

Kennedy, 1963
 "Assassination is the extreme form of censorship."

George Bernard Shaw

Not that I enjoy breaking such bad news to you (I really don't - Honest!) but it's been over a half century since Dallas. We're almost overdue. I'm just barely old enough to remember that hideous day in American history. This country never really recovered from the assassination of President Kennedy fifty-one years ago next month. Were any harm to come to this president (of all presidents) I fear that the nation would be shattered to pieces, and that it would take many decades to heal itself - if it ever healed at all.

It is laughably obvious (although I'm not laughing - trust me) that the Secret Service, in their present condition anyway, is not up to the job of protecting the commander-and-chief. A major upgrading and house cleaning is in order and overdue.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED READING:

Here are a couple of pieces I've written in the last two years related to this uncomfortable topic:

Ted Nugent: Rock's Village Idiot

http://tomdegan.blogspot.com/2012/04/ted-nugent-rocks-village-idiot.html

In the Shadow of November 22, 1963

http://tomdegan.blogspot.com/2013/11/i-remember-being-dropped-off-at-bus.html

AFTERTHOUGHT, 10/5/14, 4:24 AM:

I just had an interesting thought. The only American president of the twentieth century who was not alive to see the assassination of another president was John F. Kennedy. How weird is that?

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

Whenever I hear someone say that Norman Rockwell was not a great artist (and I hear it more often than you might think) I want to give them such a slap!
`

Ruby: A precious gem - Bridges: Structures that connect people

Friday, September 26, 2014

POST #557: Random Observations

Meditations on Fred, August 2014
`
The following compilation of positively un-American, LEFT WING propaganda are unrelated  musings that I had placed here and there on various websites or way out yonder in the Facebooksphere. HAPPY READING!

1. The More Things Change....

This jolly little piece of infotainment greeted me this morning from a source called CLG News:

"For the first time since the U.S. 'withdrew' from Iraq in 2011 the U.S. Army is preparing to deploy a division headquarters to Iraq."

This is not a good idea, campers. When are we going to learn? Thanks to a century of meddling by the United States, Britain, France and the former Soviet Union (the main - but by no means only - suspects) the Middle East has been destabilized utterly and eternally. No amount of military force is going to change this reality. The place is broken and we helped break it. As someone once said, "You can bomb the world to pieces but you can't bomb the world to peace."

Iraq is in the process of imploding. The right wing is blaming the chaos on Barack Obama and the Democrats. If the president insists on going down this road, he'll only end up giving his critics something substantial to whine about. Ain't politics A gas?

PREDICTION: This is going to end very tragically. We'll just leave it at that.

2. Letter to the New York Daily News, 9/14/14:

"Hey, I've got a dandy idea: What if the NY Daily News - and all responsible papers - no longer run photographs of these ISIS freaks in the act of executing innocent human beings? Can't you see that by running these pictures (on page one no less) you're playing right into their gnarled little hands? From now on, please, merely report to us what they have done. Leave the rest to our imaginations."

They usually print what I send to them. They didn't print that one. Cowards.

3.  Quote of the Ages:
  
"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free....it expects what never was and never will be."

Thomas Jefferson

Kiss this country goodbye.

Yeah, extreme right
4. Mallard Fillmore:

I don't know the name of the nitwit who writes the Mallard Fillmore comic strip (Tim Something-or-other) This much, however, is beyond certainty: Charles Schultz he ain't. But I make it a point never to miss his daily masterpiece of mediocrity and misinformation. In fact there have been times when Mallard is the first thing I turn to when I open the paper. Every morning, in a state of barely restrained glee, I'll find myself asking, sometimes aloud, "What moronic thing is this knucklehead going to puke up today for my amusement?" He never fails to deliver the goods - or almost never. Once, about four-or-five years ago, he actually made a point that I thought quite valid. I was in a semi state of shock for the rest of the day. Seriously.

The person who writes Mallard Fillmore is not only a racist (his tirades against blacks are a weekly delight) he's also an anti-Semite - worst than any seen in print in a very long time. His caricatures of Jews are about as blatantly stereotypical as anything put out by the propagandists of the Third Reich eighty years ago. If he's ever given the brush by my local paper, I won't lose any sleep over it; But if he's here to stay that's okay, too. Right wing lunacy can be quite entertaining. Mallard Fillmore is very much so.

I think of it as the Three's Company of comic strips: so mind-numbingly bad it's actually amusing.

5. Cruz Control

Ted Cruz made a minor tremor the other day at something called the Value Voters Summit when  he referred to the Democrats as an "extreme, radical party". Really? At a time when a extreme change in the course in our national affairs is radically needed, I can only say that if the Dems were one/quarter as extreme and as radical as old Ted implies I would still be one.

The senator from Texas is a satirist's delight. I hope he never goes away. He's the gift that keeps giving and giving.

6.. RUN, LIZ, RUN!

Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is the best thing to happen to progressive politics in this country since Eleanor Roosevelt - and there is a growing choir rising from her natural constituency that is not only singing her praises, they are urging her - begging her - to seek the Democratic nomination for the presidency in two years. It's a grand idea - sort of.

I'm of two minds about this: Yeah, I would love to see this woman as the standard bearer in 2016, Hillary Clinton, at present the presumed nominee, leaves me cold. Although Senator Warren's chances for living in the White House if nominated are not as sure as Ms. Clinton's, it's not the impossible dream that many people believe it to be. The problem she would have as president (and it's the same one that Barack Obama has encountered) is the obstructionism of the Republican party. This country is only going to be saved if the American people take a decided turn to the left. That's not going to happen any time soon, kids. 

7. Texas Secession:

There is a movement now underway in Texas that would have that state secede from the union. This is where I let out a sigh of complete exasperation.

I don't think Texas independence is a particularly good idea for its citizens. This needs to be emphasized to these people as aggressively as possible because, let's face it, most Texans (or at least the ones who vote) don't know what's good for them. Just look at the collection of chuckleheads they keep sending to Washington and Austin! You know what I'm talking about?

In fact, secession is a perfectly hideous idea. It would take less than a year for its residents to realize that seceding from the union was a dreadful mistake. Without U.S. taxpayers keeping them afloat, the Lone Star State would have imploded decades ago. But if Texas insists on secession, fine. Let them go. Good bye and good riddance. 

For one-hundred and fifty years this country has had to twist itself into semantic pretzels making excuses to the rest of the planet for the idiocy of that place. And if secession is really the road they want to go down, I propose that we erect a wall to keep out the flood of refugees that will surely be flooding our border in no time at all. If Texas wants to leave, then, by all means, let them leave. We certainly shouldn't come to blows militarily over the matter. A civil war over Texas? It wouldn't be worth it. It's not an asset to the union; it's a national embarrassment. 

Let them have the right wing paradise of their warped fantasies. It would serve the silly bastards right. 

One last thought on this subject: Can you even imagine the "nation" of Texas with a nuclear weapon? Wouldn't that be a hoot? Goodness gracious me!

8. "Blessed Are The Meek" - NOT!!!

They tend to refer to these right wing Christians as "religious extremists"; but if you think about it for a minute, that term is the ultimate misnomer. If they were as extreme about Jesus as they would have us believe, they would be spreading His message in EXTREME ways, setting EXTREME examples. For instance:

If Pat Robertson was as tuned-in to Jesus as he claims he is, he would be giving all of his treasure to the poor. He isn't. In fact, he's the part owner of a diamond mine in Africa. Any profit he makes goes to Pat Robertson. That's not very extreme, is it?

If these blubbering congressmen and women from the Bible Belt were as sweet on the Prince of Peace as they say they are, they would be demanding a ninety percent tax rate for anyone making over one million dollars a year in order to eliminate poverty in America. They won't. It's all about tax cuts (and more tax cuts) to a class of people who have more money than, well, God. That's not very extreme.

The problem, according to them, is all of those nasty, dirty and lazy poor people. Why don't they just get off of their butts and get to work! That's not very extreme either. Think about it.

And a final note to the racist, anti-Semitic "Christians" out there in La La Land: Jesus was a rabbi and He was not a white man. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Hypocrisy: It's prevalent, overwhelming - and so few seem to take notice. Strange.

Tom Degan
Honorary Member (in good standing)
of the International Jewish Conspiracy 
`
REGARDING THE PHOTOGRAPH AT THE TOP:

Fred Allen 1894-1956
In Boston, on May 31, 1894, John Florence Sullivan was born. When he was a teenager he developed a juggling act for vaudeville. One day, due to an error by a booking agent, he was inadvertently billed as "Fred Allen". He liked the name so much he kept it for the rest of his life. Although he appeared in a number of films (some of them quite good) he is primarily remembered today (if he's remembered at all) as the greatest humorist who ever practiced the lost and lamented art of radio comedy. Jack Benny once said of him, "His ability to ad lib was phenomenal." That was an understatement.

Fred died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack on St. Patrick's Day 1956 while taking his evening stroll down West 57th Street, directly across from Carnegie Hall. He was two months shy of his sixty-second birthday. He is interred at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, NY. Whenever I drive by the place (which is not very often) I always stop by for a little meditation at the place where he sleeps. I visited there recently. Thanks to Carolyn Karkosza for taking the photograph - and to my old friend, Kevin Kelly, for turning me on to Fred Allen when we were still kids

Courtney Reed & Adam Jacobs
`
AFTERTHOUGHT:

If you happen to find yourself in merrie olde Manhattan at any time in the foreseeable future you might want to check out the new musical, "Aladdin", now playing at the New Amsterdam Theater (214 West 42nd Street). I attended the show on Wednesday evening in the company of my dear friends, the Fabulous Sager Family (and Lady Nina). It was one of the funniest things I've ever had the pleasure of seeing. Afterward, we had the opportunity to meet some members of the cast including Courtney Reed (Jasmin) and Don Darryl Rivera (Iago). They were very nice people. It was a sweet evening.

To order tickets by phone call (855) 870-2717. You will laugh.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Roosevelts


"The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
 
Theodore Roosevelt

There are political dynasties, and then there are the Roosevelts of Hyde Park and Oyster Bay. All others are cheap imitations. The Bushes and the Roosevelts? It's like comparing apples and rotten mangoes. The Kennedy family, God bless 'em, doesn't even come close. The Roosevelts are the standard against which everyone who has come since are measured. The wannabes usually end up falling quite short. 

Chillin' with the Roosevelts
The Roosevelts are the Beatles of American political families. That may sound like a trivialization of the most important and influential clan in the history of this country but, as anyone who knows me will tell you, that's about as high a compliment as I am able to make. It's next-to-impossible for me to describe my admiration for these people. No matter how hard I try, I still end up understating how great a debt we owe to these decent, troubled, great and greatly  flawed  human beings. The scope of their mountaintop highs and deep-valley lows is a human drama that leaves even the most casual observer of history utterly mesmerized. This is a story wrought with tragedy - and enough screwball comedy to keep the laughs flowing. I've been reminded of this for the last three evenings watching Ken Burns' new documentary series, "The Roosevelts: An Intimate History". I'll be reminded again tonight, and every night till Saturday when the series concludes. 

For twenty-five years Ken Burns has been cranking out one historical series after another, and every one of them have been brilliant. He is in the process of working on several yet-to-be-released projects. One of them, a two-part documentary on Ernest Hemingway, won't be ready until the year 2020. I'm now at a point in my life where I can say, without a trace of self-consciousness, that I really do hope I live to see it. I'm definitely glad I lived to see The Roosevelts. It's the best one he's done thus far - and that's saying a lot!

I can't tell you who won the 1932 world series for the simple reason that, eighty-two years later, it doesn't make a damned bit of difference to our lives who won it. I can tell you who won the presidential election that year, though. Four score and two years after the fact that does make a difference. Think about this: On the evening of February 15, 1933, less than a month before entering the White House, a would-be assassin named Giuseppe Zangara attempted to murder Franklin D. Roosevelt in Miami, Florida. The bullet, instead, hit Chicago mayor, Anton Cermak, who died nineteen days later. Had FDR been assassinated on the eve of his inauguration the presidency would have gone to his running mate, a not-too-visionary bigot from Texas named John Nance Garner. If Zangara's bullet had not missed its mark on that night, the entire history of the world - not merely the United States - would have been much different. "What if...." It makes the imagination tremble.

 "I should like to have it said of my first administration that in it, the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second administration that in it, these forces met their master."

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

To his own kind, FDR was a traitor to his class, or, "That man in the White House". He was not merely the most liberal president in the history of the republic, he was a radical - at a perilous moment when radical change was needed; not unlike it's needed at present.

If you appreciate the millions of acres of national parkland and animal sanctuaries set aside for posterity; if you're grateful for the Social Security check that you or a loved one receives each month; if you've benefited from one the of thousands of high schools, post offices, tunnels or bridges built in the nineteen thirties; if you have ever fallen on hard times and were forced to receive much-needed cash from the feds because you became unemployed; if you were a vet and the GI Bill of Rights afforded you a college education - in short, if during the years after the Second World War, you were able to live comfortably as a member of the middle class - thank a Roosevelt. What I just rattled off for you was the (very) short list. I have neither the time nor space to mention them all. This country owes so much to this family that it's impossible to catalog the debt. Sadly, most American are oblivious to it all. 

Lovely Eleanor
The series begins at Theodore's birth on October 27, 1858 and fades to black with the death of Eleanor on November 6, 1962. The 104 years and 10 days between those two dates comprise a saga that only could have happened in this country. Of particular note is the gut-wrenching story of Eleanor's upbringing. Abandoned by her adored father, scorned by her mother who was ashamed of the child's rather plain looks, she was an orphan by the age of ten; raised in a house run by a cheerless grandmother and two mentally unbalanced uncles. Anyone else might have succumbed to fate's cruelties at so young an age. Her already fragile emotional constitution would be shattered further in 1918, fourteen years into their marriage, when she discovered that Franklin was having an affair. That she was able to overcome so much and become one of the most significant persons of the American Century is as much a testament to her inner fortitude as anything. 

While still young men, Theodore and Franklin were dealt incapacitating, personal blows that forever changed them. For Theodore it was Valentine's Day 1884 when his wife and mother died on the same day in the same house. In Franklin's case it was in the late summer of 1921 when he was stricken with infantile paralysis, never to walk again. Both men thought that their lives were over. The trumpets were yet to summon them to greatness.

"Black care", wrote Theodore Roosevelt, "rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough."

It's fifty-two years since the last survivor breathed her last breath. We are greatly diminished as a nation because they no longer walk among us. It almost takes away the fear of dying, you know?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED VIEWING: 

The Roosevelts: An Intimate History
A film by Ken Burns

This excellent, seven part series is available on DVD as of today. If you're unable to catch it on PBS, for whatever reason, pick it up today. Here's a link to order it off of Amazon.com:

 The Roosevlts: An Intimate History
 
As I mentioned before, it's the best thing that Ken Burns has ever done. There is a companion book available as well.

Here are some links to a few other pieces I've written over the years about this extraordinary family:

April 12, 1945-April 12, 2012:
 http://tomdegan.blogspot.com/2012/04/april-12-1945-april-12-1012.html

Theodore Roosevelt: The People's President:
http://tomdegan.blogspot.com/2008/01/theodore-roosevelt-1858-1919.html

First Lady of the World:
http://tomdegan.blogspot.com/2012/11/first-lady-of-world.html

New Deal at 80 - Nixon at 100
http://tomdegan.blogspot.com/2013/01/new-deal-at-80-nixon-at-100.html

I've Been Consulted by Franklin D:
http://www.tomdegan.blogspot.com/2013/07/fdr.html

His Tragic Valentine:
http://tomdegan.blogspot.com/2014/08/trs-dark-valentine.html

Obama Could Learn from FDR:
http://tomdegan.blogspot.com/2010/11/obama-can-learn-from-fdr.html

The FDR Library Revisited:
http://tomdegan.blogspot.com/2012/02/fdr-library-revisited.html 
 
Snoozin' with the Frankster - Hyde Park, 12 February 2012

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Black and Tan Fantasies


The Tan Man
It's quite interesting and hardly surprising. It is now comically apparent that there are no depths which the loony right wing won't sink in order to defame this president. What they lack in intellect they more than make up for in sheer gall. I'm referring to what I'll call "Tan Gate".  You would have thought that the president had goose-stepped into the White House press room donning an SS uniform with a swastika arm band. But it wasn't just the extremists who joined in the fun. Some "serious" journalists had to take a stand, like the reporter from Time Magazine (I'll be merciful and omit his name) who tweeted, "I'm not sure that tan suits him". Remember, this was at a session where Obama was briefing the press on a major crisis occurring in the Middle East. The whole affair was touchingly infantile.

I've done a smidgeon of research this morning and I've been able to find images of every president going all the way back to Franklin Roosevelt dressed to the nines in tan. Apparently Herbert Hoover never wore one - but J. Edgar did - often. As did their sainted Ronald Reagan. Tan wasn't in vogue when Abraham Lincoln was living in the Executive Mansion, but I think that the shade would have suited him quite well had that been the case. I guess there must be something ominously threatening about a black guy in tan. We should commission an expert in human behavior to look into all of this.

Jack in Tan
This reminds me of all of the fuss that has been made over Barack Obama's use of the teleprompter. Forget the fact that every president since Eisenhower has used them; ignore the ample evidence that Reagan would have been rendered mute without them; Obama seems to be the only president in the history of this diseased country that has abused his teleprompter privileges. It's time to impeach the son-of-a-bitch. Maybe it's a blessing for Obama that comedian-turned-fashion-critic, Joan Rivers, didn't live to see this assault on the good people of this wardrobe-conscious nation. She most certainly would have put that uppity commie bastard in his place.

But seriously, folks....Did you ever get the feeling that you were living in a really dark satirical novel? That's sort of the way I'm feeling this morning. Life is beautiful.

Shameful Teddy
FUN FACT: When Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders charged up San Juan Hill in 1898, their uniform was roughly the same color of the suit Barack Obama is being criticized for wearing today. Ain't that a hoot? At the time (and this may shock some people) not a word of criticism was made about it - nary a freakin' peep! So what, I ask you, is the big deal here? 

 The historians of a century from now are gonna have a rib-tickling blast looking into the utter stupidity that this president found himself up against during his two terms of office. Why are so many people in such a snit about the color of a suit? Where are their priorities? What the hell is the matter with them? Does anyone have an idea? Is there a doctor in the house?

If anyone reading this has access to the Obama White House I've got a dandy idea. Since he is going to send these freaks into spastic apoplexy no matter what he does, no matter what he says - no matter what he wears - at the next press briefing have the prez come out wearing the gaudiest, powder-blue leisure suit he can find - with bell-bottoms and a collar so wide that the tips of it reach to his shoulder blades. I mean, if these people are going to get angry anyway, give the assholes something to get angry about!   
FOR THE RECORD: I have three suits. One of them is tan. I'm a good American. HONEST I AM!

Some day Barack Obama is going to sit down and write the memoirs of his eight-year stint as president of the United States. When that day comes I have a great subtitle for the book: "Damned if I Did, Damned if I Didn't". This poor guy never had a "loyal opposition" with an honest disagreement with his policies and programs. Since the day he took the oath of office on January 20, 2009, he has had to contend with a confederacy of dunces and lunatics, hellbent on sabotaging his every move regardless of the national well being.

 There's something seriously wrong with this picture.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

AFTERTHOUGHT:

I had the chance to meet Joan Rivers once. The year was 1985, and I was working a metal restoration gig outside of a shop directly across from the Algonquin Hotel in New York City. She was curious about my job and we engaged in a conversation that lasted a few minutes. This may astound some of you, but she seemed an absolutely kind and lovely woman. It's a memory I've cherished ever since. God rest her soul. 

SUGGESTED LISTENING:


Grand news for all of you Beatle people out there in Pepperland: Their entire catalog has been released today on vinyl via the lost and lamented art of mono mixing. When these incredible records were made a half century ago, the lads themselves would only sit in on the mono mixing sessions, leaving the stereo production to the EMI engineers. At the time, stereo was the exclusive hobby of a relative handful of hi fi enthusiasts. Not many people had stereophonic equipment in the mid-nineteen-sixties. Although most of us prefer the stereo mixes, these recordings offer something different that should be experienced by the discerning fan of the Fabs. No-less an expert than John Lennon once proclaimed: "You haven't heard Sgt. Pepper until you've heard it in mono." That's good enough for me.

These recordings are The Beatles as they wanted the world to hear them. Here is a link to listen to a few samples:

 
http://www.thebeatles.com/monovinyl/#


A splendid time is guaranteed for all!

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Reach for the Skies, America!


From the Second Amendment:

 "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

I'm sorry, am I reading that wrong?

On American soil
A little news item in this morning's paper caught my attention pretty quick. There has been a stampede nationwide to purchase as many models as possible of a particular, Russian-made AK 47. You see, Obama has just initiated a ban on importing them as part of the sanctions against the former Soviet Union because of their involvement in the Ukraine conflict. As a result, they have literally flown off of the shelves at gun stores all across this ruined land. As far as anyone can tell, there are no more of the things left. That's what is known as a good news/bad news scenario. 

Good News: There is one less dangerous weapon available. 

Ban News: In the last week America has become just a wee bit more lethal than it was the week before. Isn't that nice?

Recently our national dialogue (such as it it) has been engaged in a discussion on the "militarization" of America's police forces - not only on the left but also among the libertarian types. I understand full well the alarm that many are feeling at the prospect. But let me, just for the moment, play devil's advocate: Look at what the police in 2014 are up against. There is a huge percentage of the population that have become armed and quite dangerous. In certain parts of the country it is now cheerfully legal to carry semi-automatic, rapid-fire people-killing machines out in the open (in Texas for instance - SURPRISE!

Remember what happened a few months ago in Nevada? When a team of rangers began to move in to evict the cattle of a rancher named Cliven Bundy from publicly-owned land they had been illegally grazing on for twenty years, an army of those half-witted militia assholes moved in to "defend" Mr. Bundy's "rights". What exactly those "rights" were they never made clear to no one's surprise. Some of these yahoos had brought their women and children with them. Fearing a bloodbath, the rangers were forced to back off. When one takes into consideration the horrifying  possibility of what might have transpired it was the wise thing to do. 

The problem is that these fools got a propaganda boost that has made them crazier than they already were. "See?", they're saying to anyone who will listen, "We took on the big, bad gub'ment and we won!" Many of them then headed down to the Mexican border to "protect" America from the flood of children fleeing drug violence and right wing dictatorships in Central America.

A FRIENDLY MEMO FOR FOREIGNERS:
You're out of your fucking minds if you bring your loved ones on a vacation to the "Land of the Free". We're not free at all. In fact we are now a nation of sheep being held hostage at gunpoint. I just thought you should know.

Of course this all makes for very amusing copy. It really is a funny thing to behold a once mighty nation the throes of willful self-destruction - and I don't mean solely on the issue of guns. When a people consistently vote against their better interests and then wonder why they are falling into the abyss, that's always good for a giggle. I'm completely serious when I say that the fall of America is the funniest thing I've ever had the joy to witness in my fifty-six years of life on this planet. I don't want to see this country destroyed, but it's going to happen regardless of what I think. In fact it's happening right before our very eyes. I might as well sit back and make the most of the ride into oblivion. I'll be making some tasty lemonade out of this barrel of nasty tasting lemons. Cynical you say? Yeah, maybe. I look at it this way: We're given two choices in life -  to either laugh or cry. I choose the former. So sue me.

In closing and for the record, I'm against the militarization of the nation's police force. But (for the time being anyway) I'm gonna give the poor sods the benefit of the doubt. They're up against a potential uprising of homicidal jackasses with beer bellies, low IQ's and bad breath. Can you blame them for being a tad paranoid? I can't.

Get used to living in a nation in ruins.

Oh yeah, and keep voting with the conservatives.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED VIEWING:

Bowling for Columbine
a film by Michael Moore

It's already a classic and should be viewed by every thinking American. You can get it for a good price on Amazon. Get it?