Saturday, October 03, 2015

Stuff Happens? REALLY, JEB (!)???

 Yesterday, all Jeb (!)'s problems seemed so far away....
It's not quite official but it's as sure as the sun setting in a smog-filled sky: Jeb (!) Bush's quest for the White House came to a pathetic, inglorious end yesterday. Campaigning in Greenville, South Carolina, Jeb (!) incredibly - stupidly - responded to a question about the mass murder at a college in Oregon on Thursday (and the desperate need for sane gun control laws) by saying, "Stuff happens". Just to dissuade anyone from accusing me of quoting the contemptible little knucklehead out of context, here it is verbatim:
"But I resist the notion - and I had the challenge as governor - because we had - look, stuff happens, there's always a crisis. And the impulse is always to do something and it's not necessarily the right thing to do."
Words that should be etched in silly putty.
This is a bittersweet morn for me. To say that I'm feeling ambivalent is somewhat of an understatement. The fact is, I was looking forward to Jeb (!) as the eventual GOP nominee. Let's face it: Those Bushes are always good for a million unintentional laughs. I was even bracing myself for the third Bush administration in a generation! As gut-wrenching  and horrifying a prospect as something like that would have been for this nation (and the planet earth) a Jeb (!) Bush administration would have been a satirist's dream-come-true. Just take his half-witted older brother as an example: Dubya never inspired writer's block, that's for damned sure. As horrifically corrupt and incompetent as the hideous little freak was, at least he was always great copy! Please, we must give credit where credit is due.
But, alas, any hope that Jeb (!) had of becoming the 45th president of these United States were blasted into eternity yesterday by his own complete and utter insensitivity to the families of the nine human beings murdered in cold-blood on the campus of Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. Gun control is not the answer, insisted Prince Jeb (!), stuff happens. Indeed it does. Cluelessness has been a staple of the Bush family for generations. Quite obviously poor old Jeb (!) has inherited the knack.
As of this morning, his polling numbers among registered Republicans stand at a dismal and embarrassing four percent. They will probably decline still further before the sun sets this evening. The reason his percentages are in the toilet has nothing to do with his callous remarks regarding the carnage in Oregon; instead, it has everything to do with the fact that your average Republican primary voter sees him as "too liberal" (if you can believe that). Whatever the reason, he's reached the point of no return. Not even Daddy's connections can help him now - as they helped his brother in 2000. They're all dead or, at best, residing in assisted-living facilities, being spoon-fed oatmeal. Unlike Poppy and Dubya, Jeb (!) is the first offspring of Prescott Bush being forced to stand on his own two feet. His candidacy is drowning in the quagmire born of his total unsuitability for the job of chief-executive - exactly as his brother's candidacy should have  drowned in 2000; or as his father's candidacy should have drowned in 1988. There's no one left to prop him up. If this weren't so knee-slappingly funny it would be kind of sad. But it is funny - very, very funny.

But wait! It gets funnier! Of the two brothers, Jeb (!) was supposed to be the smart one. So help me, Ayn Rand, you couldn't make this stuff up in fiction!

His political implosion is all for the best you may be sure. A third Bush White House would have made international laughingstocks out of the American voters. At least it will  be said of us that we weren't stupid enough to travel down that road again. Jeb (!) has stated too many times to count that Dubya is his most valued advisor with respect to foreign affairs in general and Middle Eastern policy in particular. Can you even imagine?

No, we seriously don't want to go down that road again. It is a non-debatable, historical truth that whenever any member of that disgusting family gets within reach of the Oval Office, a lot of people (in uniform and out) start to die in appalling numbers. Jeb (!) is part of the cabal that put together and promoted the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) You don't hear much about it anymore because its vision proved so disastrous with respect to Iraq and Afghanistan (among other places). Their ultimate (and unabashedly stated) goal was worldwide American domination of the globe which was damned-near Hitlerian in its scope. In addition to the Bushes, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld - the usual suspects - were part of this gang. We'll deserve everything that happens to us if we ever again put these murderous assholes in power.

Late last night I received a telephone call from the son of an old friend of mine. He turned eighteen on August 4th and enlisted in the Marines shortly thereafter. On October 19 he'll be on his way to California for three months of basic training and, after that, four years of active duty. We had a really nice conversation that must have gone on for at least an hour. When the call ended, I said a silent prayer of thanksgiving that his commander-in-chief will not be named "Bush". I am now certain of this. Be well, Danny. We'll meet one day, pal!

The era that future historians will no-doubt call "The Age of the Bushes" has come to a decided and merciful end. Jeb (!)'s inglorious quest for the presidency is deader than Grandpa Prescott and Ronald Reagan combined. There will be no Third Act in this American nightmare. The curtain has closed; the people have all gone home; the chairs have been folded; the auditorium is empty.

Stuff happens, you know?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Nothing to Fear:
FDR's Inner Circle and the Hundred Days that Created Modern America
by Adam Cohen
This excellent book is really not so much about Franklin Roosevelt, as it is about the extraordinary men (Rexford Tugwell, Harry Hopkins, Raymond Moley) and one woman (Frances Perkins) who were the engineers of the New Deal. I read this one in less than two days and can't recommend it enough. Eighty years ago, these detested liberals saved this country. We're not one tenth as grateful to them as we should be.

Tomorrow Never Knows
by The Beatles

Turn off your mind, relax and float down stream....

This is the mono mix of that recording - a tad different from the stereo, with some unique sounds if you listen really closely. This is not dying....This is not dying....

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tom and Dorothy

"What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous."
Thomas Merton
"Don't call me a saint. I don't want to be dismissed so easily."
Dorothy Day
To the best of my knowledge, Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day never met. There is no mention of their meeting in Michael Mott's seven-hundred page biography of Merton, nor does Day mention anything about it in her memoirs. This is not terribly surprising; With very few exceptions, Merton did not venture outside the gates of Our Lady of Gethsemami monastery between the years 1941 and 1968, and only once during that period of years did he leave the state of Kentucky. Although they did exchange letters, their correspondence apparently was not voluminous.
But it is kind of strange to think that these two extraordinary people - who more than anyone else personified progressive Catholicism in the twentieth century - were virtual strangers to each other.
Pope Francis
While watching Pope Francis address a joint session of Congress on Thursday, I almost fell out of my chair when he mentioned Merton and Day as two of the four Americans he admired most (the other two being Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King). I've been an admirer of Merton and Day for decades and have written separate pieces about them on this site. So little has been written about Dorothy Day in recent years that, after the pope mentioned her and thousands of people across America commenced to google her name, the piece I wrote on July 10, 2006 was one of the first things that they saw. I got a lot of hits on that day thanks to his holiness. I would have much preferred if he had mentioned The Rant by name, but we must be satisfied with what we get.

Dorothy back in the day
Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day - and Pope Francis - are radical reminders that progressive policies and Christianity are not, by any means, mutually exclusive. If you want a clearer understanding of what I'm talking about, do a google search of Jesus Christ's Sermon on the Mount. There is not a word in there that has a thing to do with the platform of the modern-day conservative movement - Nada. Blessed are the meek? In case you've failed to take notice, under right wing governance the meek haven't done very well at all. Although the middle class has done a bit better under Obama, it is still in danger of extinction in this country. It is in the so-called "red states" of this nation where they struggle the hardest. The most progressive country on this planet is arguably Norway. The happiest people on this planet are the Norwegians. Countless studies have proven this. Someday maybe America will put two-and-two together - but I'm not going to hold my breath.

Merton in the fifties
As my friend Annette Fedor Lemma remarked the other day on her Facebook page, "I've always thought converts make the best Catholics." She was referring to Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day, both of whom were baptized on the other side of the faith. Both of their conversions were earth-shattering in their personal lives. Although the two of them experienced brief flirtations with Communism in their youths, the similarities end there:

She went out into the world as an activist; he withdrew into the walls of a monastery; she founded the Catholic Worker Newspaper, a publication dedicated to economic justice for the poor and the homeless (the meek) which, eighty-two years after its founding, still sells for a penny per copy; he wrote Seven Story Mountain, a 1948 autobiography which was a tonic for many in the post war era who had become spiritually jaded in the aftermath of the most barbaric war in the history of the human race; she smoked cigarettes; he loved beer. What they had in common - whether they realized it or not - was that they were two of the last century's great spiritual guides. Both of them hungered and thirsted for righteousness.

FUN FACT: Both Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day had files in J. Edgar Hoover's FBI. I love it!. To be perfectly blunt with you, I'm suspicious of anyone of note who lived in that era that wasn't on Hoover's shit list. Think about it: Martin Luther King, Charlie Chaplin, Eleanor Roosevelt, John Lennon - Tom and Dorothy are in pretty good company!

January 31 of this year marked the centennial of Merton's birth. He died on December 10, 1968 in Bangkok, Thailand, where he was attending an interfaith conference of Christian and non-Christian monks. He was electrocuted when he touched an electric fan with faulty wiring. He was fifty-three years old.

Dorothy Day died peacefully in her old age on November 29, 1980, at the age of eighty-three. The world press barely took notice of either of them when they passed into eternity.

On September 24, 2015, Pope Francis gently forced America and the world to take notice.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


The Long Loneliness
by Dorothy Day

Seven Storey Mountain
by Thomas Merton

Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker

Thomas Merton 1915-1968

The last two are by yours truly. Not to toot my own horn but....

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Here Comes Francis!

"How can it be that it is not news when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points”?
Pope Francis
How indeed? On December 1,  2013, I tweeted the following message to the pope:
 "@Pontifex: Your Holiness, you are driving the right wing in America nuts. Thank you."
Sorry, but I just couldn't help myself. I'll be a bit more measured in my remarks this afternoon. It is indeed a screaming irony that both sides of the political conversation expect to gain points from the visit of the pontiff to the United States (the first of his long life). In this week's issue of Rolling Stone, a good point was made when it said that Pope Francis in many ways is to the left of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. How's that for irony?
But if progressives were expecting his holiness to embrace same-sex marriage and abortion, they ought not to hold their breath.
But while it is true that some of this incredible man's philosophy makes liberals somewhat uncomfortable, he has a habit of driving the right wing apoplectic - always a fun thing to behold. There is a serious conflict between the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and the modern conservative movement, and Francis is not adverse to holding up a mirror to confront all of us with our hypocrisies.

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus Christ

The Sermon on the Mount
From the Gospel According To Matthew
Dick Gregory once theorized that if Christ came back today the American right wing would tie him to a giant peace sign and roll Him off of a cliff. There is a serious conflict between the teachings of Christianity and the modern right wing movement. If you are a devout "Christian" and are unable to see this eyesore of a conflict, my suggestion to you would be - for the time being at least - don't focus so much on the Old Testament and concentrate more on the New. That'll learn ya!

FULL DISCLOSURE: I'm not implying that those of us who lean leftward are theologically pure; there's always room for improvement.

Tomorrow the pope will be addressing a joint session of congress. These are indeed interesting times to be alive.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Yogi Berra 1925-2015

"It ain't over till it's over."

It's over. I was never a sports fan. It is my belief that people  (American men in particular) waste so much of their precious lives obsessing over the topic of sports. Still, over half a century after his prime, it was hard not to notice - and love - Yogi Berra. I once read a book that was a compilation of Zen quotations. There was a whole chapter devoted to Yogi's famous "malapropisms". This is a man who will be sorely missed.

"When you arrive at a fork in the road, take it."

What was not to love?


Wednesday, September 16, 2015


You know, my heart and soul are with Bernie Sanders. I think the man is the best thing to come along in American politics since Eleanor Roosevelt. Defying all expectations, he's bringing into his campaign appearances the multitude of the disaffected, disenfranchised segment of the electorate - an number that comprises most Americans, I imagine. I saw a posting on Facebook this morning that quoted someone named John Fugelsang:
"They tell me that Bernie Sanders can't win because Americans will never vote for a socialist Jew. I tell them that America celebrates one every December 25."
Yeah, Bernie's quest for the White House may not be the impossible dream a lot of so-called "people-in-the-know" proclaim it to be. I can remember the condescension from some people - even liberals - when Barack Obama threw his hat into the ring in February 2007. At the time I wrote on this very site:  
"We live in desperate and extraordinary times and the American people, if only out of sheer desperation, might very well turn towards an extraordinary candidate. That very fact is enough to put the good senator over the top. We can only hope. Talk about audacity!"
Less than two years after I wrote that piece, Barack Obama was being sworn in as the forty-fourth president of the Unites States. No one should be foolish enough to dismiss the candidacy of Bernie Sanders outright. Still, politics being as unpredictable as it is, progressives need to have a back-up plan. My suggestion is a guy named "Joe".

Beau and Joe
For all the bitching and wailing I do regarding the president, I'll be the first to concede that he has been a pretty good at his job. In fact, some are arguing that, when one takes into consideration what he came to Washington to do, he's been one of the most successful presidents in modern history. If you're paying attention, it's hard to ague with that point. I like Barack Obama - I really do. But I LOVE Joe Biden. What's not to love? The Jolly disposition masking the serious inner man reminds me so much of FDR that I find it impossible not to love the guy. And while he may ebb and flow at times with respect to policy, Joe Biden is a true "progressive" in the best  and most literal sense of that word.

It's hard to begrudge a person who is able carry on after multiple personal tragedies as Joe Biden has. Losing his beloved son, Beau, this year was not the first time that this perpetually cheerful man has had to confront devastating personal tragedy. On December 18, 1972, one month after being elected to the senate, and one month before being sworn in, Biden's first wife, Neilia, and his infant daughter, Naomi, were killed in a traffic accident while shopping for a Christmas tree. His two sons, Beau and Hunter survived but were both seriously injured.

Joe Biden had paid some dues. If he is concealing any inner-torment you wouldn't know it;  the son-of-a-bitch is still smiling.

The Democrats have a history of taking fine champagne and turning it into donkey piss. Handing the nomination to Hillary Clinton would be foolish. They ought to be really careful about what they wish for. She is not the foregone conclusion she seemed to be only a year ago - and she is becoming more unwinnable with each passing day. Don't go there, folks.

Would Biden be the ideal candidate? Hardly. There will be an issue made of his age no doubt. If Joe decides to go for it next year he'll be the oldest candidate elected in history; Older, even, than Reagan was when re-elected in 1984. The opposition will also point out the fact that he does at times tend to shoot from the hip. I view that as the man's insatiable honesty. It's something to admire in my view. I'm not going to insult your intelligence by implying that a guy who's been part of the Washington establishment for over forty years is "one of us", but Joe comes fairly close to the mark. This may be the ultimate in naiveté on my part; a part of me is somewhat embarrassed by it. But I like Joe Biden. I trust him. So sue me.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Here's Joe Biden being interviewed last week by Stephen Colbert on CBS's The Late Show. It is as emotionally revealing (without being maudlin) as anything I've ever seen from as American politician:

Like I said: What's not to love?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Craziness Continues....

The NRA likes me! They really like me!

 It was just one of those things
One of those crazy things
A trip to the moon on gossamer wings....
I'm sorry it's taken me so long to write. I believe that two weeks without a single posting on this site has got to be some kind of record. The last piece I wrote, on 27 August, put me in such a dismal rage that I couldn't get in the mood to write anything. The fact is, I've been mighty depressed about the whole affair. "Shit happens", as they say.

Alison Parker
A few days after writing the piece about the murders - on live television - of reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward, I got envelope in the mail inviting me to take part in the "ALL NEW NRA SWEEPSTAKES". That's right, folks, in the wake of the tragedy of two weeks ago (and my reaction to it) some joker out there decided to put me on the mailing list of the National  Rifle Association! Whether this person was trying to be malicious or merely humorous is hard to say. If it's the latter I can tell you that I do get the joke and appreciate it. It it's the former, well, thank you nonetheless. I take my material wherever I can get it, and I imagine that a monthly update from the NRA ought to be oodles of laughs. I look forward to reading them.
The "sweepstakes" was, in reality, a fundraiser. It contained a letter from that organization's very own uber-doofus, Wayne LaPierre, telling me why my very life depended on me being stupid enough to send him cash for my membership fee:
Remember, we're fighting powerful gun-hating politicians in Washington, DC and state legislatures....anti-gun judges....U.N. global gun ban diplomats....anti-gun billionaires....and the freedom-hating media-elite.
Their agenda includes nothing less than GUN REGISTRATION, GUN-OWNER LICENSING, GUN BANS, and other restrictions that all but obliterate our Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
Would someone please name for me even one "U.N. global gun ban diplomat"?  He then goes on to plead for donations - anything from $25 to $100. The hideous old freak ends his little tirade by telling me,
Unless you and I stand together it's only a matter of time before we lose our freedom, our heritage and our American way of life....
PS: And please - even though joining NRA is not required to enter the sweepstakes -  urge you to become a member of NRA at this critical moment in the history of Our Right to Keep and Bear Arms.
The gun crazies hate it when I do this, but here it is in its entirety:
"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."
"....the right of the people to keep and bear arms" is less than half of a much larger sentence. Have you ever noticed that whenever poor old Wayne quotes that line of the Second Amendment, he always quotes it out of context? What the heck ever happened to that "well-regulated militia" bit? Just curious.

Of course, two weeks after the first shooting homicide on live TV since Lee Harvey Oswald fifty-two years ago, the cold-blooded murders of Alison Parker and Adam Ward are water under the bridge. No one's talking about legislation; no one is talking about righting this unspeakable wrong. It's like it never happened.

Go back to sleep, America.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


A Change Is Gonna Come
by Sam Cooke

About a year after Sam consigned this eternal little gem to wax, on December 11, 1964, he was shot and killed in Los Angeles, yet another victim of America's insatiable appetite for GUNZ, BABY!

Sadly, no change is coming. Sorry.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Too Dreadful for Words

Alison Parker at the moment of her death
We got guns
They got guns
All God's children got guns....
The Marx Brothers
from the 1932 film, "Duck Soup"
When was the last time someone was murdered in this country on live television? You have to go all the way back to November 24, 1963, when Lee Harvey Oswald was gunned down by Jack Ruby 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, and before long. Of that I have no doubt. Pretty sad, huh? Pretty sad indeed.
As traumatic as Oswald's killing was for the country over half a century ago, he was not a very 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 rhetorical 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 answered that question with lightening speed:
They smile no more
Nearly three years ago, twenty innocent little girls and boys were slaughtered  - like rabid swine - inside their classroom at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Also murdered on that day were six women whose job it was to educate and protect them. If that blood-curdling 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:
"Oh, it's happened again, huh?" I said out loud, "And so close to Christmastime. Ho, ho, fucking ho."
As I said at the time, I long-ago adjusted to living in a nation where this type of unspeakable atrocity is as common as a morning moon in the western sky. You should adjust to it, too. It makes coping a helluva lot easier, believe me. Vodka helps, too - LOTS OF IT.
I have to tell you, though, that while this latest trauma in the American train-wreck didn't surprise me all that much, the images of the murders 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 saw the images. Watching the horror on Alison's beautiful face, hearing her screams of "Oh my God!", was too disturbing and depressing to try to put into words; I'm not even going to try. 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. The cold-blooded bastard was obviously seeking attention on a national scale. Well, 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 shot himself before he could be bought to justice. That's probably just as well. We want to hear his names - he had two of them - no more. Let us, instead, remember and honor the names of Alison Parker and Adam Ward. We owe them that much at least.
The person who committed this latest atrocity was able to purchase the weapon he used to kill these two innocents with relative ease. If nothing else, that nasty little fact should give the rest of us something to ponder.

Earlier today, a very nice woman who works as a physical therapist in the health care facility where my mother lives, expressed to me her opinion that, as a licensed, law-abiding gun owner, she would think it unfair were she 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 and  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. 

The problem is simply that, whenever 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) to be sold on the streets of our big (and not-so-big) cities. In the shit-for-brains regions of the United States, obtaining a gun is about as easy as obtaining a garden hose.

This is the reality of life in America. This is the way it's going to be for now on: Mountains of bodies, rivers of blood, too many broken hearts to assess. Have you yet had someone you knew and loved murdered by some homicidal jackass with a gun? If the answer to that question is "no", I'll make a prediction now that you'll no doubt find quite disturbing: You will. In the not-too-distant future the law of averages will guarantee it. Our gun culture is compounding by the year - and it won't be going away anytime soon. Now, doesn't that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?

And. please, don't give me the NRA's argument (and if they haven't used it yet, they will - count on it) that if only Alison and Adam had the sense to arm themselves, they would be alive today.

Alison Parker and Adam Ward were focusing on their jobs. They were ambushed. They were doomed. They never had a chance.
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 way too many Democrats to count) are in the pocket of the National Rifle Association. I imagine the only thing that would reverse this intolerable situation would be an epidemic     of random shootings of our elected representatives (with a handful of NRA spokesmen thrown in just for shits and giggles). That would change things overnight - you'd better believe it, Bubba! But it would be wrong for me to hope for such a deplorable trend in our national affairs - and I'm not even gonna go there. I'm just trying to make what I feel to be a very valid point. And besides, violence isn't my thing. It isn't your thing either, I'm sure....I hope.
I am going to end this piece by repeating (for the one-hundredth time it seems) a paragraph I wrote on the morning after Newtown. Forgive me for sounding like a broken record, but it needs to be said yet again....and again and again and 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

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed and hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world....

A really pretty anthem pleading 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.

Please, we need to take a long, hard look at what gun violence does to the people we love:
John Lennon, New York City morgue, December 1980
AFTERTHOUGHT, 8/28/15, 8:50 AM:
The headline in this morning's New York Daily News says it all:
Since Newtown, 84,523 people have been killed by guns in the U.S.
We cry. We get angry. We demand action.
Then we forget....Until the next time.
Pretty sad indeed....

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 there 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 candidate currently 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 unthinkable. 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 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."

The 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 heading the executive branch of the government. What we don't need 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.