Monday, June 27, 2016

POST #648: Random Observations


The following are a string of unrelated ramblings that I recently posted on various sites on the internet or out in the Facebooksphere. Any resemblance to the crack of doom is purely intentional:

1: Advice for Campaign Clinton

Adding Liz Warren to the ticket would be a smart move. Hillary Clinton's relations with the lefties have been severely damaged by the very fact of her candidacy (and, let's face it, they were never very good to begin with). And while were on the subject: What's wrong with the idea of two women candidates on the same ticket? Men have been doing that for two-and-a-quarter-centuries. Let's get a grip here.

As things stand at this moment in time, I am barely inspired to vote this November. The thought of Elizabeth Warren as the V.P. nominee just might motivate me. If the Clinton campaign is smart (opinions differ) they'll go with this idea.

Having another woman on the ticket is viewed by a few talking heads as a "bold move". Nonsense. If Hillary or Debbie Wasserman Schultz - or whomever it is that will decide this - chooses as her running mate anyone who is not decidedly progressive (as she certainly is not) then it's all over as far as I'm concerned. I live in New York, a state she will win handily. I can afford to find better things to do on Election Day.
`
2: Georgie Bolts

For a decade I've been predicting (for your reading enjoyment) the ultimate demise of the Republican Party. Here is your proverbial canary in the coal mine: George Will - that insufferable piller and epitome of GOP establishment politics - has left that disgusting party. The clock is winding down, folks. It's over - or almost....

When the party becomes too embarrassing even for Bill O'Riley (as it no doubt will very soon) that will be a sign that the screen has flat-lined.

Strange, strange days.
`
3: The Party of Abraham Babybrains

It's weird. Whenever you read contemporary Republican campaign literature, waxing idiotic on their grand and glorious history, they NEVER mention the names: Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, or Dwight D. Eisenhower. Were a delegation of extra-terrestrials to visit the earth from another planet, they could be forgiven for concluding that the party didn't exist before the emergence of Ronald Reagan in 1980. Why is that? The three examples I gave are arguably three of the finest chiefs-executive in the history of the republic. What gives?

We're still at a point in our history where most Americans (and goodness knows why this is) perceive Reagan as a great president. He's all they've got! Every other Republican president who lived at 1600 Pennsylvania is pretty much dismissed by historians as dismal failures. The reason why Abe and Teddy and Ike are invisible inside the pages of their twisted history books is simply because, by the standards of their times, all three men were fairly progressive, and therefore, anathema to the agenda of the modern-day conservative movement.

And Lincoln? Fahgettaboudit! He is still deeply and passionately despised in regions of the country where the flag of the old confederacy still flies proud. The GOP doesn't dare boast about Old Abe.  As was stated on the very first piece posted on this site ten years ago:

"Abraham Lincoln's influence on the Republican Party ended at 7:22 on the morning of April 15, 1865 when he breathed his last breath."
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Madison and Taylor Sheats
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4: Slaughter in Katy

Christy Sheats was a resident of Katy, Texas. These two photographs of her daughters were posted on her Facebook page on September 25 of last year. It was in honor of "Daughters Day". The girls were named Madison (17) and Taylor (22). On Friday, Christy shot and killed both of them during a family "argument". She herself was later killed by police when she attempted to fire another round of bullets into the body of the already-mortally wounded Madison. Ms. Sheats, an outspoken proponent of unregulated gun rights, recently posted these two statements on that same Facebook page:

"It would be horribly tragic if my ability to protect myself or my family were to be taken away, but that's exactly what Democrats are determined to do by banning semi-automatic hand guns."

"Don't punish me because SOME gun owners are nutjobs."

Indeed. Another American tragedy.
`
5: Dealin' with the Donald

One of the things a reputable sociologist might possibly explain to us is, in the post-Hitler works we're supposed to be living in, how something like a Donald Trump presidency could possibly happen. It's certainly beyond my ability. And don't try to tell me that comparisons to der fuhrer are an overreaction.  Both men rose to political prominence by exploiting religious hatred, racial prejudice and economic paranoia; both were megalomaniacs and narcissistic; both were sociopaths and completely ignorant on the subtleties of diplomacy - and both had really stupid haircuts.

I don't believe fir a minute that Trump is going to be elected in November, but it sure is unsettling to contemplate how close we've come to elevating to ultimate power a character as darkly Hitler-like as this uncouth nitwit. At least Adolf had good manners.

It kinda makes you wonder, huh?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED READING:

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

If you have the time (the book logs in at nearly 1300 pages) it's well worth your while. The German people stupidly went down this road eighty years ago. We don't want to make the same mistake.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The GOP is an Organized Criminal Enterprise


Approaching the news stand this morning to pick up the papers, from about twenty feet away my eye caught this at the top of the New York Daily news:

"Finally, a sane GOP senator!"

NY Daily News, 1/21/16
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I didn't have to think twice about it. Surely, I thought, they must be referring to Susan Collins of Maine. They were. I wasn't surprised at all. She's the only one of that bunch with a heart (and a brain, apparently).

I really miss the good old days when the GOP merely represented a threat to the economic security of the American people. Those days are gone forever. They're now a danger to our lives. It is in the interest of the health and safety of the American people that the Republican party be destroyed forever. Fortunately for us, this will take little or no effort on our part. They are today in the process of destroying themselves. They won't need any help from us - but we should still help them in any way we can.  Life is good.

By the way, Isn't it ironic that a political party that was founded over 160 years ago on the noble principle that black human beings should not live in bondage would destroy itself over the fact that the United States elected it's first African American president? I just wanted to throw that one out there.

When presented this week with a handful of barely useful, watered-down amendments that would have hardly made a dent on the national emergency of mass-murder-via-guns, the Republicans in the senate - more beholden to the National Rifle Association in whose pockets they dwell - said, in effect, "Fuck you, America. Fuck you and fuck your children. Let the little bastards and bitches shed their splattered blood and brains on the walls of American classrooms and on the streets of American cities. Fuck 'em all. Have a nice day!"
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Folks, it's time to sit down, take stock, and have a nice, long overdue, national heart-to-heart. The "party of Abraham Lincoln" is now an organized criminal enterprise. If the events of this past weekend didn't convince you otherwise, you're beyond hope. Only a kook or a fool can ignore it any longer. When faced with the worst public health crisis in American history (worse, in fact, than the polio epidemic of the twenties and thirties) Republican politicians opted to make the crisis even  more deplorable. For nothing more than reasons of self-interest, they chose - yet again - to appease a domestic terrorist organization. That's all the NRA really is. They and the Republican Party are two networks spawning national dysfunction that need to be done away with - fast. This cannot continue. We cannot become accustomed to this appalling situation. Make them pay for what they have done to this country.

And I'm not talking about you regular folks who are registered to vote as Republicans. I know that most of you are good and decent (if slightly misguided) people. I'm talking about your party, and the politicians you send to Washington as a matter of depressing habit. Your party has a right to exist, but only on the fringes of our national political dialogue - like the American Nazi Party and the Klan. 

From the Second Amendment:

"A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security to a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

I know what you're thinking. I was thinking the same thing: What happened to that "well-regulated militia" thingy? 
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Single shot. HELLO???
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When the Founders wrote that amendment in the Constitution over two centuries ago, they were talking about barely functional, single-shot muskets that took almost a minute to load. They could not possibly have foreseen weapons that could theoretically murder thirty people a second. As I never tire of pointing out, they could not even foresee the Edison Wax Cylinder! That is why they made that document amendable. There is a jolly good reason why a private citizen was forbidden - by law from owning a cannon back in the day. A cannon, aimed just right, could kill a whole lot of innocent people. None of the Founding Fathers ever expressed the opinion that this prohibition was unconstitutional.  Think about it.    

The solution is still up to the American voter....at least I think it still is. Every Republican in the house and senate who is up for re-election in November should be put out to pasture - and that includes Susan Collins (Sorry, Susie. I still love you, but the time has come to show some courage and leave that disgusting party). This is not a commercial for the Democrats. They're almost as corrupt and dysfunctional as their GOP counterparts - but at least they're not a danger to our lives. Cheer up; we can all hold our noses as we cast our ballots. Once the Republicans are dead and gone, we can start on the Democrats. 

This is not an unreasonable goal. The deep south is a lot cause. In that region of the country, blind ignorance is a ingrained part of their cultural heritage. I'm not being a nasty Yankee by saying that; I'm being honest. Still, it's not impossible to turn the rest of the country blue this autumn. Just giving you something to ponder.

Every one of them needs to be blown off the map (electorally speaking, of course). This can't be emphasized enough: What we're dealing with here is a national emergency. The time has come for us to hit the roof. It's time for the shit to hit the fan. 

And how was your week?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
`
1940-1980
SUGGESTED LISTENING

Stand By Me 
by John Lennon

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vSWHkxZgOI

A fantastic cover of a song originally recorded in the early sixties by Ben E. King. The singer of this classic recording is one of the more noted victims of gun violence of the streets of America.

BREAKING NEWS:

At this hour, John Lewis and up-to forty other Democrats are staging a Sit-In on the floor of the House of Representatives, resolving to force the Republicans to into action on the plague of gun violence in this doomed country. Read all about it:

http://www.politico.com/story/2016/06/democrats-stage-sit-in-on-house-floor-to-force-gun-vote-224656

I love that guy! Maybe there's hope for that party after all.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The American Wasteland

Real Life in America

From this blog, less than three weeks ago, May 24, 2016: 
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Dead-Dead-Dead-Dead-Dead....
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"This is not "the land of the free". If you are under the delusion that, as an American, you are freer than a citizen of, say, Norway or Ireland or France or England or the Netherlands, you might just as well go back to sleep. We live in a constant state of paranoia and despair, wondering when and where the next massacre of innocents will take place - as it surely will, and very soon. Call it what you will, just don't call it "freedom". Don't insult my intelligence, okay? We've been sold down the river to the lowest bidder. Stop kidding yourselves. Just deal with this American wasteland as best you can. 

TIMELY TIP: Vodka helps. Lots 'n' lots of vodka."

***************************************************
Well now! They've had quite the weekend in Orlando, Florida, haven't they! The fact is, that quote at the top of this piece wasn't at all prescient on my part. Are you joking? It was one of the easiest predictions I ever made! It was as simple as predicting that the sun will set in the western sky this evening; a complete no-brainer.

This is the new reality, kids! This is the nation that we are in the process of foolishly bequeathing to our children. Are you possibly delusional enough to believe that the carnage in Orlando this past weekend is going to change a goddamned thing? I am willing to bet you anything that most of the right wing politicians who reside in the pockets of the National Rifle Association are dismissing this latest massacre as "just a bunch of damn dead dykes 'n' faggots 'n' niggers. Good riddance to all of 'em!"
`
Dead-Dead-Dead-Dead-Dead....
`
If the corpses of twenty little girls and boys, all barely past infancy - slaughtered inside a Connecticut schoolroom like a barn-full of rabid pigs - wasn't enough to get these sociopathic bitches and bastards in Congress to do what is, after all, the only morally right thing to do, the mutilated bodies of nearly fifty dead homosexuals is not going to get the job done either. Call that "an educated guess" on my part. Don't forget that these nasty little regularities are the price we must pay for - ARE YOU READY FOR THIS? - our "freedom". Ain't that a riot? This has become somewhat of a catchphrase of mine, but I think it needs to be repeated here, please forgive me:

Get used to living in a nation in ruins.

Cut me a little slack, okay? It sure beats: "What'chu talkin' 'bout, Willis?" It has a much better ring to it, I think.

As I speculated on May 24, an epidemic of political assassinations of a few fat and corrupt members of the House and Senate would more-than-likely put an end to this madness. Come to think about it, I get the giggles contemplating how fast federal legislation would fly out of the House of Reprehensibles, banning these lethal, rapid-fire, people-killing machines if something that dreadful were to happen. We're talkin' overnight. Can you imagine how many innocent children's lives would be spared in the years to come? Fifty-thousand? One-hundred-thousand? That wouldn't be such a terrible trade-off, come to think about it. Of course, there are today so many of these guns on the street due to the fact that in 2004, the village idiot of Crawford, Texas - stupidly - let the assault weapons ban expire, it would probably take at least a decade before any tangible results were noticed. Keep voting Republican.

And, PUH-LEEZ, before I'm bombarded again with scores of angry emails, I am not advocating violence. That was simply a theoretical speculation on my part. Chill. Nothing like that is ever going to happen....I think....I hope.

Instead of learning a lesson that should have been learned decades ago, Republican politicians have gone into full tilt "I-Told-You-So" mode. The problem, they're already saying, is not the availability of guns - PERISH THE THOUGHT! The problem is all of those naugty Muslims! The shooter (who shall remain nameless) was, apparently, a practitioner of Islam. Donald Trump is already exploiting this latest tragedy by doing a disgusting victory dance.

FUN FACT:

There were thirty-two mass shootings in the United States last year. Two of them were perpetrated by Muslims. I just thought I'd put that out there.

This is the sort of tragedy the gun lobby and the NRA live for. Since Saturday night's rampage, the sale of firearms across the good ol' USA are through the roof yet again. How secure do you feel? Each time an incident of this magnitude occurs in this doomed country, we become less safe, and the problem only compounds itself. Ruins indeed.

A TIMELY TIP FOR TOURISTS:

You're out of your minds to come to this country for a vacation. We may not kill you but we're gonna try; so help us, we're gonna try. Watch your step.

Christina Grimmie 1994-2016
`
Are you ready for the ultimate irony? When I first started putting together my thoughts regarding this latest tirade of mine, the subject I planned on writing about was indeed a shooting in Orlando. The irony is that this was a full day before the mass shooting in a nightclub in that same city that left close to fifty human beings dead. I'm not kidding you. The original subject of this piece was to have been a twenty-two year old singer named Christina Grimmie, an already established talent with a beautiful voice and a remarkable stage presence. She was shot late Friday evening by some deranged punk while sweetly and innocently signing autographs for her fans after a concert. She passed away a couple of hours later.

What I originally intended to emphasize was that, given our insanely permissive gun laws, what happened to Christina could possibly be the start of a new and disturbing national trend. In fact, since John Lennon's murder thirty-six years ago, the only other celebrity-at-random shooting I could recall was that of Rebecca Schaeffer, a twenty-one-year-old actress who was killed on July 18, 1989 by another lunatic who was easily able to gain access to a firearm he never should have owned. I'm stunned that it hasn't happened since. 

It'll happen again; sooner rather than later. Take that to the bank.
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Alison Parker
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Wayne LaPierre and the NRA will probably, again, make the moronic case (if they have not done so already) that if only Christina had been armed, she would have been able to defend herself. That is complete and utter bullshit. It was the same, idiotic argument they made last August when broadcast journalist, Alison Parker, was shot and killed on live television while conducting an interview in Roanoke, Virginia. She was ambushed. She never stood a chance - not a chance in hell

One lone freak wanted Christina Grimmie dead. His plan was to take his own life after he succeeded in taking hers. That is precisely what happened. If  Christina and the estimated one-hundred people who were witnesses to her killing had been each armed with an AK 47, her killer would still have been able to murder her in cold blood with little or no effort. She was doomed.

When I heard about this latest, totally expected massacre, I barely batted an eye. You see, I anesthetized myself to living in this America a long time ago. I had much the same reaction the moment I got the news of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown nearly four years ago on December 14, 2012. This is the new American reality. folks. Get used to it. This is the way life in this place going to be from now on. Deal with it as best you can.

Was this a great country, or what!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED READING:

In case you might have missed it, here is a link to the post from May 24 that is quoted at the top of this piece.

http://tomdegan.blogspot.com/2016/05/making-killing.html

It was a plug for Robert Greenwald's latest film, "Making a Killing: Inside the NRA", something that every thinking American should view.
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SUGGESTED LISTENING:

Here is a YouTube link to listen to the beautiful, forever silent voice of Christina Grimmie. The song's title is a terrible irony: "Hold On, We're Going Home". She's safe in Heaven.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zi0QhcZ8eto

"In Christ Alone"

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzseOqwn8oo

The gal had some serious talent. She was not merely a great singer, she was an excellent musician. This is so unspeakably sad.

Let's hear it for the gun lobby.

AFTERTHOUGHT, 6/18/16:

https://www.facebook.com/tomdegan/videos/10154179898285729/

Isn't this campaign season a scream?

Friday, June 10, 2016

Like It or Not: It's Hillary

The cross that progressives have to bear in 2016

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

Will Rogers

Like it or not (and I have to confess that I don't like it one bit) Hillary Clinton is, at this hour, the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party, and, barring a miracle, it is she who will be the "progressive" standard bearer in the campaign of 2016. Too many parlor liberals were unable to see the forest through the trees; they were so intent on seeing the first woman take the oath of office as chief-executive on January 20, 2017, that they let their hearts overtake their heads. As for myself, I was hoping (praying) that Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts would throw her hat into the ring. I'm sure she had her reasons for not doing so, and I don't doubt for a minute that they were damned good reasons. She's doing remarkable work as a senator, holding up a mirror and forcing America to come face-to-face with the hideous image of what it has become. She and Bernie Sanders are the two best things to happen to progressive politics in this country in a very long time.

Here, yet again, is one of those bad news/good news scenarios that seem to be everywhere you look on the political landscape these days.

The Bad News: 
Hillary Clinton is the worst possible candidate the Democrats could have put forward this year - or any year for that matter.

The Good News: 
She'll be running against Donald Trump.

It's a sad thing indeed when the most positive thing one can say about her is that she's not Donald Trump. I don't think she will be a good president. I might be wrong about this. I sincerely hope I am. Perhaps her plan all along has been to walk the walk in order not to aggravate the plutocracy. Perhaps she sincerely intends on honest, progressive representation. We shall see. You'll forgive me my cynicism. Any prospective presidential candidate who is paid three-quarters-of-a-million BIG ONES to give speeches to a bunch of corrupt bankers at which the public is excluded - and then has the nerve to refuse to release the transcripts of those speeches - has handily earned the skepticism of any thinking person.

Think about this: When asked who he would prefer as president, billionaire neo-con Charles Koch said, in front of a television camera, that he would prefer Clinton over Trump. That's not a particularly hopeful sign, folks. Perhaps he has read the transcripts of her secret speeches to the Goldman Sachs crowd. We who lean left have every right and reason to be suspicious of this candidate.

Having Hillary Rodham Clinton as the nominee is like, as the great political humorist, Mort Sahl, once put it in another, slightly different context: "finding out you're pregnant and trying to fall in love as rapidly as possible." We'll just have to roll with the punches. The best thing that can be said, at least from the perspective of June 10, 2016, is that this country will survive Hillary Clinton. That's not the case as far as The Donald is concerned. I'll say it again: If the American people are stupid enough to send this guy to the White House next January 20, they'll deserve everything that happens to them. There is no excuse for mass stupidity.

The most ironic thing about this whole mess is the sad fact that the Dems were handed this year - on a silver platter, mind you - the most visionary candidate in their nearly two-hundred year history, and they blew it. Leave it to those silly Democrats: Give them two clear choices and they'll make the wrong one every time - and that would include every nominee since 1980. Damned-near all of the polls had Bernie defeating Trump very easily in November. That's not the case with Ms. Clinton. A few polls are showing her barely neck-and-neck with him.

Neck-and-neck with Donald Trump. Can you imagine?
`
Because of Bernie Sanders, the eyes of America have been opened wide. It's never going to be the same. There is a good reason why Bernie is going to take his fight to the convention in Philadelphia this summer. He's not trying to "divide" the Democratic Party (as he has been accused of doing). He is merely attempting to make damned sure that he has a hand in composing the party's platform as they make their way to do battle in the autumn campaign. He has every right to take part in this - and he should. When this is all over, it will be difficult for Hillary to ease herself back to the center-right, to the role of the squishy moderate that she has always seemed most comfortable playing. We're in a new era now, and it would do her well to understand this.
`
The whole world was watching
A final word of caution: There has been a lot of talk out there in the Facebooksphere regarding angry supporters of Bernie showing up in Philly and disrupting the festivities this summer. While I empathize with their anger (I'm pretty angry, too!) I just want to remind them about the summer of 1968. A lot of people, justifiably, went into a blind rage when LBJ's vice-president, Hubert Humphrey, received the nomination that year. The end-result of the chaos of the 1968 Democratic convention was five-and-a-half years of Dick Nixon.

Remember your American history - and learn from it.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED VIEWING:

Where To Invade Next
A film by Michael Moore

For a change, Mike's latest film is not about the United States. It's primarily about Europe, and the life the people lead over there, free from the societal, educational and economic dysfunction that we in America take for granted. Seventy years ago, Germany lay in ruins. You wouldn't know it. Comparing the two countries in 2016, one could be forgiven for thinking that they won the war. 

Here is a link to order it off of Amazon.com:

https://www.amazon.com/Where-Invade-Next-Michael-Moore/dp/B01D0D3P5U/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1465634261&sr=1-2&keywords=where+to+invade+next

If you're brave enough to look at this film objectively you'll never again look at this place as the "land of the free".

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Muhammad Ali 1942-2016

The Greatest walking the walk, 1967
`
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven."

Jesus of Nazareth
From the Sermon on the Mount

"No Vietcong ever called me a nigger."

Muhammad Ali
`
One of my more peculiar personality traits is that I am totally indifferent to sports. I cannot remember what I was doing earlier this year while everyone else was viewing the Super Bowl. I might have been taking a drive in the country - or perhaps I was watching C-SPAN. I might have been curled up on the sofa with a good book. Even a bad book would be preferable to the Super Bowl. I'm not trying to make myself out to be some kind of cultural supremacist;  I might very well have been passed out drunk somewhere. The point I am trying to make is this: Football, baseball, basketball, hockey, golf, lacrosse, polo, croquet - you name it - I could not care less if I tried. In fact, there is only one "sport" that I have an opinion on and a passion about: boxing - I hate it. I find boxing, in general, a barbaric spectacle; and boxers, in particular (and I'm being gentle here), I find "uninteresting". Sorry.

This being the case, why have I always adored Muhammad Ali? I just can't figure it out....Then again, maybe I can.

It was with a real sadness that I received the news early this morning that Ali passed into eternity late last night after struggling with Parkinson's Disease for the last thirty-two years of his life. This is a milestone, folks; make no mistake about it.

I'm hesitant about pointing out with any degree of pride that Ali and my maternal grandfather both hailed from Louisville, Kentucky. When Grandpa Clements was growing up, that town was a nice place to live. Of course, that would be the case for a white kid whose father was a prosperous and respected tobacco farmer. That certainly was not the case for a little black child named Cassius Clay. One of his earliest memories was being in a department store with his mother on a blistering hot summer day, and wanting a drink of water - only to be gently told by her that he could not relieve his thirst - not there - because his skin was too dark. One can only imagine the psychic toll this must have taken - not only on this kid - but countless millions of other black kids growing up in the America of that time.

When his bicycle stolen as an adolescent, he complained to a Louisville police officer that he was going to "whup" the boy who took it if he ever got his hands on him. History doesn't record if young Cassius ever got his bike back. What it does record is that the cop, Joe Martin, explained him that if that was the case, he'd better learn how to box. The kindly man arranged for the kid to meet him at the local gym where he was a boxing coach. How different this world would be today but for the decency and foresight of Officer Joe Martin. Here's looking at you, Joe, we owe you one!
`
Malcolm and Muhammad, 1964
`
From the beginning of his time in public life, going all the way back to the year 1960, it was clear to the most casual of observers that this "negro" was very different indeed. He didn't take any shit from anyone, for any reason whatsoever - consequences be damned. Like it or not, a new day had arrived in the "land of the free", and Clay. along with millions of other African Americans of his generation, was determined to assert himself as a human being, proud and unafraid. The hell with those moronic and evil Jim Crow laws. No more of that "Stepin Fetchit" jazz. He "knew his place", alright. And that place was wherever the hell he chose to be, whenever the hell he chose to be there. This son-of-a-bitch was the real deal - you'd better believe it.

This was made all-too-clear in 1967 when Clay - now a convert to Islam who renamed himself, "Muhammad Ali" - refused to put on an American military uniform and be sent off to Vietnam. At a hearing on the matter, when the bailiff ordered him to step forward, he called him by his old slave name, "Cassius Clay". Ali refused to acknowledge it. He could have lost everything, and, in fact, he did lose everything for a while. He lost his title of Heavyweight Champion and his right to legally box. For four, long years, he was effectively out-of-commission; a has-been. Only a legal technicality saved him from serving time in prison. In a move that could only be defined as pure spite, the government seized his passport in order to keep him from fighting abroad.

By 1971, Muhammad Ali was back in the ring, back in the public's favor. By then, we had all come to realize that Vietnam was - until that time anyway - the worst military blunder in American history. We understood at that moment that, like all great men and women of historical significance, he had been years ahead of the curve. It was never a question of America forgiving him. He forgave America before being asked to. Class act, that Ali.

You have to give credit to any man - black or white - who, in 1967, was able to look America in the eye and tell them, "To hell with your goddamned war."

MY own little claim to fame is that I was fortunate enough to meet Muhammad Ali. It was the spring of 1989, and I was working on the top of two-sections of scaffolding on the northwest corner of Broadway and West 39th Street in New York City. I glanced to my left, and there he was - the freakin' Greatest! - standing on the other side of 39th with a man I did not recognize. I've never been one to bother celebrities but, please forgive me, I couldn't resist this opportunity. I got down to street level and gingerly crossed the street. Very timidly and shyly, I approached him. 

"Hi!" I said softly. He smiled back at me. I then, very gently, gave him three pats on the back. "I just wanted to give you that", I said. He smiled again and gave me a thumbs up. I returned to my job site and went back to work, not quite believing what had just happened. It was such a sweet moment.
`
Within two-or-three minutes he was surrounded by well wishers, people who wanted to show him how much they loved him. By this point in time, he was already exhibiting the symptoms of the Parkinson's that claimed his life last night. I watched him as he attempted to sign a few autographs. Soon the crowd was almost overwhelming and the police had to escort him and his friend away. He was never in any danger, but it was definitely getting getting a bit out-of-hand. In spite of that, it was obvious to me that he appreciated the love. How could anyone not love Muhammad Ali? Even Joe Frazier loved Mohammad Ali. Hell, even I loved Mohammad Ali. For someone who despises the institution of boxing as much as I do, that says all you need to know about the man. What was it about Ali?

I'm not in a position to write intelligently about the career of Muhammad Ali. As stated earlier, sports has never really been my shtick. I do vividly recall the Frazier fights and remember being pleased that Ali came out the victor the second time around. All I can tell you is that I admired the man and loved him for his courage. Isn't that enough?

Muhammad Ali is dead. Give me some time to adjust to this.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED VIEWING:

One of the most spectacular failures in the history of commercial television was Jerry Lewis' variety/talk show, which ran for about two months in the autumn of 1963. It premiered to great fanfare in September, and was gone by mid-November - a complete bomb that took Lewis years to recover from, both personally and professionally.

But there were, at least, a couple of memorable evenings: One of them was the night Jerry interviewed a very young Cassius Clay, as Muhammad Ali was then known. This is in two parts:

Part One: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JK6Yoq3xhH8

Part Two: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I77mo8SFvBs

There'll never be another like him. Stop waiting.
`
FAB FOUR ACTION FIGURES meet THE GREATEST
February, 1964

Thursday, June 02, 2016

2006 - 2016: Ten Years of The Rant

Dancing in the London Rain, May, 2010
`
Ten years ago today, in the wee, small hours of June 2, 2006, I received an email from a woman in Missouri. She told me that she had been enjoying my nocturnal postings on a delightfully subversive website called "AlterNet", and that she was "a fan" (I could not even imagine such a thing). She said that I wasn't a half-bad writer, and that I should think about starting my own blog. At the time I wasn't terribly computer savvy and was only vaguely aware of what a "blog" even was.

"How do I do "that?", I wrote back.

"Go to blogger.com", she replied, "They'll walk you through it".

I did as instructed and, within about twenty minutes, I had my first piece up. It was called, "George W. Bush: The Last Republican President". At that moment, I was only half-convinced that this would, indeed, be the case. A decade later I am almost certain of it. In that first piece, I also predicted that Bush would be remembered, primarily, as the first former chief-executive to go to federal prison. On June 2, 2006, I had a bit more faith in the concept of justice than I do today. I've since come to appreciate that blind faith in a "concept" is a complete waste of one's intellectual energy. It's a lesson I should have learned long before.

There are two sets of rules. One for the Ruling Class - and one for the rest of us. The one percent need not adhere to the laws that you and I are obliged to live by. Ted Bundy murdered a score of women and died in the electric chair. George Bush and Dick Cheney murdered hundreds-of-thousands of men, women and little children. Today they dwell in comfy retirement. 

Doesn't life suck sometimes?
`
May 2016
`
To my eternal regret, I cannot remember the name of the Missouri gal who started this mess - or at least I think that's where she was from. If she reads this I hope she gets in touch with me. Chances are I would never have been inspired to start this site had it not been for her gentle encouragement. In the early years she would occasionally post in the comments section under the pseudonym, "Prairie Waif", and then she disappeared. Perhaps she has passed away.

Initially it was called, "Tom Degan's Daily Rant". However, after about a week I realized that trying to put these things out on a daily basis was a Herculean task that I was not up to. For reasons of practicality, I changed the title to "The Rant by Tom Degan". For over thirty years Eleanor Roosevelt put out a daily column called, "My Day". With the exception of when her husband died in April of 1945, she never missed a deadline. God bless the old gal. I don't know how the heck she managed to do it.

Four or five months after I started this site, I had an epiphany. "The First Draft" would have been a much better title, and - to this very moment - I'm kicking myself for not having thought of it on that first day. By the time I realized this, I was staring to acquire a bit of a following and decided it would be wise to just stick with "The Rant". I still regret that. Personally, I don't particularly care for the name. I chose it on the spur of the moment and now I'm stuck with it.
`
Shoppin' with Dubya, 2008
I've been accused at times of being an egotist for the fact that I put my name on the title of this blog. Why I did this is simply because I was dismayed by the fact that so many writers post their opinions on the internet anonymously. We need to hold our heads high, without fear, when we speak out against this inherently corrupt system that has been bequeathed to us - and which we are on the verge of stupidly bequeathing to our children. My opinion is that we haven't yet gotten to the point where we should be afraid for our own personal safety and security for making our rage known. No, we haven't gotten there - yet. That may change someday. 

Hey! I just had the nuttiest idea: Let's all vote for Donald Trump this Autumn and see what happens!

On second thought, let's not....

This is the 643rd piece I've written for this site. Is that a prolific number or not? Is it just about right? Is it not quite enough? To tell you the truth, I'm not really sure. I think I've written more articles than Matt Taibbi has in that time-frame, but his stuff tends to be a little more detailed than mine and - let's be brutally frank here - he's a much better writer than I am. That is not false modesty on my part, that is the stone-cold truth. Read him sometime if you think I'm exaggerating. The guy is on the mountaintop.
`
Occupying Wall Street, 2012
I guess 643 pieces in ten years is about as it should be. There might have been a few more had fate not intervened. In the summer of 2012, I became thoroughly depressed thinking Mitt Romney was going to win the presidential election, and I posted not a thing for about ten days. On December 17, 2013, a young person whom I loved more than my own life passed away unexpectedly, and I was unable to write a word for over two weeks. Then in February of 2014, I was hospitalized for over ten days and almost died. Near-death experiences tend to put a bit of a cramp in one's literary style - just in case anyone ever asks you.

All-in-all, I think I've called them fairly well. About a year ago I took a merry stroll down Memory Lane to recall the earliest postings and was amused (and in one case horrified) by what I came across. A few of them I would have worded differently had they been written today, no doubt about it. That is probably a sure sign that I have "matured". However, in ten years there are only three pieces that I'm profoundly embarrassed by....

Don't bother looking at the one I wrote on September 18, 2006. I made a bold prediction that I was certain would occur by year's end. It never happened. It hasn't happened still. Pass that one by.

You might also wish to avoid the little ditty I composed three months later, on December 20. I was falling-down-drunk on the night I wrote it. In fact, I had no recollection of writing it the following day. I left it as is - an eternal reminder that I should not drink and write. Hunter Thompson, Jack Kerouac and Ernest Hemingway I'm not.

AND PLEASE, DO NOT - UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES - READ WHAT I WROTE ON JANUARY 27, 2008!!! I won't even hint at what that one was all about. I still get the dry-heaves just thinking about it.
`
With cousin Madeline Degan, 2014
`
Other than the three exceptions listed above, I think I've done okay. I guess I could delete the clunkers simply to make nice with hindsight, but that wouldn't be very sporting on my part. Stand by your triumphs. Own up to your errors.

As I write these words it is now 3:15 AM. The counter that I had installed a little over four years ago tells me that, in that space of time, we've had 1,269,734 hits. Not too shabby, I suppose - but I'm hoping to make those numbers a bit bigger in the future....That was an understatement. I want EVERYBODY to read this thing. I know that's unrealistic on my part - but hey! You've gotta dream, baby! You've gotta dream. You may say I'm a dreamer....

Thank you for reading!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED READING:

George W. Bush: The Last Republican President
June 2, 2006

The first piece I wrote on this site ten years ago today. Nothing particularly earth-shaking; just an introductory salutation. The only extraordinary thing about it is the title. I think I nailed it.

http://tomdegan.blogspot.com/2006/06/george-w-bush-last-republican.html 

I thought that the Republican Party hit rock bottom with Ronald Reagan in 1980. I never foresaw George W. Bush. When Dubya came along, I thought that he was a bad as it could get. Sixteen years later, along came Donald Trump. It makes me positively giddy wondering what they're going to puke up in 2020!

SUGGESTED LISTENING:


Bolero
by Maurice Ravel

It is impossible (for me anyway) to pinpoint what is the "greatest" piece of music ever composed. All of the milestone compositions stand out for a variety of reasons. Maurice Ravel's "Bolero" belongs up there with the best of them. I love this one so much that I'm barely able to put it into words. As with so many of the classics, my father turned me on to this one.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KK23BhEQVyU

Just listen to it and let it take you away. Three o'clock in the morning is the perfect hour for this.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Memo to the Dems

Be careful What you wish for
`
The GOP is on the verge of nominating a dangerous and delusional sociopath to the office of the presidency.
I am not a Democrat; I left that worthless party eighteen years ago this month and never looked back. And I'm certainly not an admirer of Hillary Clinton. She is - beyond a molecule of doubt - the worst candidate the Democratic Party has ever nominated in their almost-200-year history. But even a corrupt, incompetent, corporate stooge like Hillary is preferable to me when placed in comparison with Trump - to a certain degree....I guess.
I am a supporter of Bernie Sanders, but I have to be realistic. Barring another major scandal (you never know with those goddamned Clintons) he's not going to be the nominee. My only solace is the knowledge that, as bad as her term in the White House will be (and it will be bad - mark my words) we will survive Hillary Clinton. A Donald Trump administration might well mean the End of this country. Remember, you read it here, folks. 

A Note to the Democrats: Donald Trump is, at present, the only positive thing you've got going for you.

Do you think it a mere coincidence that several totalitarian regimes out there in Candy Land which were clever enough to donate to the "Clinton Foundation" (whatever that might be) were rewarded with billions in  military weaponry during the time she served as Obama's Secretary of State? This is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg. There's a pretty good reason (from her perspective anyway) why she refuses to release the transcripts of the speeches she gave to Goldman Sachs (for which she was paid nearly three-quarters of a million dollars). Any public figure who gives an address from which the public is excluded is not on the side of the people he or she is sworn to represent.

Congrats, Democrats. You are on the threshold of nominating the most corrupt presidential candidate in the history of your once-proud party.
`
The rationalization that "she's not Donald Trump" isn't quite good enough. You have been handed - on a silver platter - the most prescient, visionary candidate in the history of any American political party (and, yes, I would include Franklin D. Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln in  that mix) and you're tossing him to the wind like ashes. Is Hillary Clinton really the legacy you wish as a gift to posterity?

Think long and hard about this one.

I find it next-to-impossible to believe that, given all that is at stake, the Democrats would seek to nominate the worst candidate possible. They are as inherently corrupt as the Republicans. We might as well stop kidding ouirselves.  

I honestly wanted the first woman to succeed the first African American president of the United States. Not that woman.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
Taibbi

SUGGESTED READING:

R.I.P., GOP: How Doanld Trump is Killing the Republican Party
by Matt Taibbi

This one appeared in Rolling Stone two weeks ago. Taibbi is the best political reporter of this generation. Here's a link to read it off of the Stone's website:

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/r-i-p-gop-how-trump-is-killing-the-republican-party-20160518

SUGGESTED LISTENING:

Since we find ourselves - YET AGAIN - in the midst of another presidential campaign year, I thought we might take this little stroll down memory lane by listening to the first campaign speech ever recorded: Here's former president and candidate, Grover Cleveland in 1892. In that year he became the first (and only) ex-president to be re-elected to the office:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-5Bk1Hjstc 

Ain't politics a riot?


AFTERTHOUGHT:

Do you remember the good old days? When the Republican Party was merely a danger to the economic security of the American people? Before they became a serious threat to life on this planet? Can you remember those days? I can....vaguely.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Real NRA: Making a Killing


Get used to living in  a nation in  ruins
`
Robert Greenwald
Robert Greenwald is, beyond any and all doubt,  the most important (and talented) documentary filmmaker to come along in my lifetime. For over a decade his films have meticulously chronicled the destruction of a country that at one time was the envy of the world. You don't walk away from any of his stuff whistling a happy tune - that's for damned sure - but at least you always have a much clearer understanding about what is happening to the United States, and, more importantly, where it is going - and it's not to a very happy place. 

Recently, I was personally honored by Mr. Greenwald and his organization with an advanced copy of his as yet unreleased film, "Making a Killing"....

Okay, I'll level with you:

Recently, somehow, I was lucky enough to be able to finagle a copy of his yet to be released film, "Making a Killing" (There, is that better?) It's a documentary that exposes the lock that the National Rifle Association has on American politicians, the impact on the lives of the victims of gun violence and their survivors, and the incalculable damage that is being done to this once-great nation.

What we have here is a good news/bad news scenario. First the bad news: 

Nothing is going to change as far as the carnage being inflicted on the American people is concerned. There will still be mountains of broken bodies and rivers of blood. Our lawmakers have been purchased by a domestic terror organization. This is the way it's going to be from now on. Get used to it. Deal with it. Adjust. Nothing is going to change. Nothing....

Did I say "nothing"? Let me rephrase that:

Given the availability of these weapons in America, a horrible epidemic of political assassinations is not at all beyond the realm of the possible. What do you think would happen if more-than-a-few choice members of both houses of congress were taken out willy nilly? OH, BROTHER! It makes my head spin and my ribs tickle to think how quickly this peculiar "American problem" would disappear. We're talkin' overnight, folks. Can you imagine? Of course, there are so many of these people-killing machines out there due to years of the insane, NRA-sponsored laws currently on the books, that it would take at least a decade for any tangible results to be noticed. Still, the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, ay?

And while we're on the topic, a few high-powered shotgun shells, blasted in the general direction of Wayne LaPierre  (just to keep the hideous bastard on his toes, mind you) might also send these corrupt bastards and bitches in Washington a dandy message, don'cha think? I think it would. I really do!

Disclaimer: Of course, advocating such terrible behavior would not only be irresponsible on my part, it would be completely evil. And besides, murder and mayhem have never really been my shtick. It's not yours either, I'm sure....I hope.

Still, I do hope old Wayne is smart enough to keep a bullet-proof vest handy - even while he sleeps. Just a thought.

Now for the good news....I'm sorry, but there is no good news. That was a shameful attempt to make you read on by giving you something to look forward to. There's nothing to look forward to. Forgive me for misleading you.

One point that is made in Making a Killing is that black people are twice as likely to be the victims of gun violence than their white counterparts. That probably is the key to the indifference on the part of so many white Americans - not enough of their little darlings are being slaughtered. Here's a little stipend you can take to the bank: As time goes by, and more bodies begin to pile up high, that indifference is going to disappear. You'd better believe it. 

I've already had two female cousins shot and killed by men who were stalking them. I've had more acquaintances then I can count who died by the gun - whether by suicide or murder. If it hasn't already effected your lives, it will. Mark my words: it will. The trillion-pound shit-hammer is only in the process of falling; it hasn't found its mark yet. You think the situation is completely fucked now? This is nothing compared to what is coming. In a decade from now, the carnage of these times will seem tranquil by comparison. Remember you read it here, boys and girls.

This is not "the land of the free". If you are under the delusion that, as an American, you are freer than a citizen of, say, Norway or Ireland or France or England or the Netherlands, you might just as well go back to sleep. We live in a constant state of paranoia and despair, wondering when and where the next massacre of innocents will take place - as it surely will, and very soon. Call it what you will, just don't call it "freedom". Don't insult my intelligence, okay? We've been sold down the river to the lowest bidder. Stop kidding yourselves. Just deal with this American wasteland as best you can. 

TIMELY TIP: Vodka helps. Lots 'n' lots of vodka.

Less than half of this country is barely smart enough to understand that they have been sold down the river by their elected "representatives", while most of the rest are too utterly stupid to comprehend what has happened to them. Does that statement sound a bit extreme for your tastes? Take a gander at the presumptive Republican nominee. 'Nuff said?

Here are just a few of the many fun facts from Making a Killing. There will be a quiz at the end of this piece, so pay close attention:
`
Every sixteen minutes, a woman is shot and killed by a boyfriend or a husband.

Forty-eight percent fewer police officers are shot and killed  in states with mandatory background checks.

Guns accidentally kill children in the U.S. ten times more often than any other developed country on the planet.

1.7 million kids in the USA live in homes with loaded and unlocked guns.

A child has been shot to death every-other-day since the Sandy Hook mass-shooting on December 14, 2012.

Between the years 2001 and 2010, more Americans living in Chicago died from gun violence than in the war in Afghanistan.

Over eighty Americans are shot and killed every day.

Gun violence costs this doomed country $229 billion every year.
`
There is no purchase limit for buying guns and ammunition in most states.

Fifty-five Americans commit suicide with a firearm every day.

States with waiting periods average fifty-one percent fewer suicides by gun every year.

There were 33 mass killings in the United states last year.

There are approximately one-hundred thousand gun deaths in this country every three years.
`
Victims in all colors - mostly black
The film is literally drenched with oodles of handy little statistics like the ones I have offered here. 

I have been authorized by the the nice folks at Brave New Films to have public screenings of this important new documentary. But I'm not the only one so honored: Anybody may order a free copy for this very purpose. Here's all the proof you need that Robert Greenwald and friends are not in it for the money. My only problem is that I can't seem to find a place big enough that will allow me to show it (Any volunteers in my area would be greatly appreciated). If you happen to live within driving or walking distance of me (Goshen, NY is sixty miles north of Manhattan) give me a shout and I'll be happy to set up a personal viewing for you in my house. If transportation is an issue, call me and I'll come pick you up and drive you home. Talk about service! 

And remember, kids: The National Rifle Association wants you dead. Have a lovely day!

And God bless you, Mr. Greenwald.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED VIEWING:

Here is a link to watch the trailer for Making a  Killing on YouTube:

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

You can sign up to receive a free copy to show in your community as well. This is a film that must be seen. We'll leave it at that.

SUGGESTED READING:

Massacre in New Town

http://tomdegan.blogspot.com/2012/12/massacre-in-newtown.html

I wrote this one nearly four years ago, on the morning after twenty little boys and girls - and the six women whose job it was to protect and to educate them - were slaughtered like diseased pigs inside of a Connecticut schoolhouse. At that moment I predicted that not a goddamned thing would change. Not a goddamned thing has. Prescient on my part? Do perish the thought, dear reader! In fact it was the easiest call I ever made.

Are you ashamed of your country yet?
`
Newtown

Here's another blast from the past (pun intended):

This was written last August 27, when broadcast journalist, Alison Parker, and camera technician, Adam Ward, were shot and killed on live television while delivering a report from a shopping mall in Roanoke, Virginia: 

http://tomdegan.blogspot.com/2015/08/too-dreadful-for-words.html

Too dreadful for words.

`
Alison Parker at the moment she was murdered