Wednesday, June 24, 2015

South Carolina's "DUH" Moment

Naughty flag!

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

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

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

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

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

NEWS FLASH FOR THE TERMINALLY OBLIVIOUS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED READING

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

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

UPDATE, 4:41 PM:

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

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Nominate THE DONALD!!!


Some people have bad hair days. Donald Trump is having a bad hair life. Have you ever noticed that?

What I love the most about The Donald - and why I cherish his presence in the national train wreck so completely - is the man's genius at being clueless. In fact, if lacking in self awareness were considered a human virtue, Trump would have received the Nobel Prize decades ago. It's bad enough that this nitwit takes himself so seriously, he's delusional enough to think that intelligent people take him with anything other than a grain of moldy salt. It really is rather touching and pathetic when you think about it.

My first experience with Donald Trump was not through the media, but up close and personal. Back in the early eighties I was doing a marble restoration gig in the newly-opened Trump Towers. He stormed into the lobby of the place, barking orders, making belligerent comments to and fro, walking around like he owned the joint - which he did of course - it's just that I thought at the time that his complete and total lacking in any humility was a bit unbecoming. At the time I had never heard of him before and didn't have a clue who the heck he was. 

When he asked a fellow worker of mine (a fellow named Frank Amato) what type of chemical he was using on the marble, Trump's lackey told Frank that, when answering "Mr. Trump's" question, he should not direct the answer to him, but to the lackey instead. In other words, don't look Mr. Trump in the eye. I was hoping that "Mr. Trump" had a question-or-two for me. I would have stared him down just to spite the contemptible little twit.

And now, Trump says that in three days he'll be announcing whether or not he'll be a candidate for the GOP nomination in 2016. I hope, really do hope he goes for it, but my gut instinct tells me that, like 2012, dipping his toes in the stagnant waters of our national political conversation was merely for show and nothing else; another silly and wasted attempt by The Donald to "up his brand" so to speak. He's even gone as far as hinting that he has a secret plan to eliminate ISIS - but that he's not going to reveal it until he's sitting snugly inside the Oval Office. RIGHT! He can blow to kingdom come an organization that is murdering hundreds of innocent people every week but he's going to wait a year-and-a-half before he shares the plan with anyone!

John R. "Jack" Degan
`
STATE SECRET: My late father, John R. "Jack" Degan, was at one time the president of the Building Owners and Management Association (BOMA). He once informed me that, although he liked The Donald personally, a lot of the folks in that organization thought that he was a bloviating bag of gas. Now it can be told.

If they ever build a Hall of Fame of Unintentional Comedians, I propose that they give Donald Trump a wing dedicated exclusively to him. This jackass is the rib-tickler supreme. That's what makes the political situation in America such a delight: For an insanity junkie such as I, the current crop of Republican wannabes are too weird to be believed. I sometimes want to pinch myself just to be sure that this isn't a dream-come-true. I so want this guy to make a run for it that I can almost taste it. I know that he's probably going to let me down again, just like he did in 2012. All I have are my dreams.

Maybe he'll surprise me. A Trump-for-pres campaign would be such a gut-busting thing to behold that I'm getting a mild case of the giggles just thinking about it. Oh, please, Donald, please!

I just had a wild thought: Wouldn't it be a hoot if, one day, The Donald held a press conference and revealed to us that for the past forty years, his entire act has been a piece of performance art? That it was all a big joke and that he's been putting us on all these years, and that he's been emulating his secret hero - ANDY KAUFMAN? What an incredible practical joke that would be on us - and so perfectly logical!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED LISTENING:

Happy Days Are Here Again
by the Jack Hylton Orchestra (1930)

Ken Burns and company used this 1930 recording of Happy Days are Here Again for the closing credits of episode four of The Roosevelts. Considering it's 85 years old the fidelity is amazing. But what I like most about this record is merely how freakin' catchy it is. Check out those xylophones!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JW-0kbIcf1E
 
As FDR himself would have said, "I LOVE IT!"

UPDATE, 6/16/15, 1:55 PM:

The Donald announced his candidacy a little over an hour ago. Life is beautiful.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Bernie Sanders in 2016


"Finally, let's understand that when we stand together, we will always win. When men and women stand together for justice, we win. When black, white and Hispanic people stand together for justice, we win."

Bernie Sanders

Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! IT'S SUPER JEW!!!

FULL DISCLOSURE:

I plan on voting for the Democratic ticket next year. For all their faults and perfectly hideous flaws, the Dems are light years more palatable than anything the GOP has to offer these days. Just look at the mob of knuckleheads and psychos that are today seeking the nomination of what is still laughably referred to as "the party of Abraham Lincoln". For the first time in many decades, a statesman is seeking the presidency of the United States. His name is Bernie Sanders, senator from the state of Vermont. He's the one I'm supporting.

Yeah, I know what some of you are thinking:  

Are you progressives going to cut off your noses to spite your faces like you did fifteen years ago with Ralph Nader???

It's a different scenario this time. In 2000, Ralph was running as a third party candidate. He ended up siphoning enough votes from Al Gore that (with the help of an ideologically perverted Supreme Court) virtually handed over the presidency to the half-witted frat boy from Crawford Texas. Bernie is running as a Democrat. If he's not able to secure the nomination at their convention next summer, you can count on the fact that he's not insane enough to launch a third-party-uprising - much as the tea partiers are likely to do if the Republicans choose as their standard bearer someone with an IQ above room temperature. Bernie's not stupid or spiteful, trust me on this one, folks.

Bernie Sanders has an uphill battle to be sure. Certainly he's not the most telegenic candidate ever to make his bid for the White House. His suits are not custom-tailored, his manner is just a bit gruff, and in a nation where only a generation ago, some "respectable" hotels were known to have signs posted that said, "No Jews or Dogs Allowed" - he has a lot of road to cover in order to get his message across. 

But he IS getting that message across. People are responding to Bernie - and the crowds he draws are more impressive than anyone else seeking to be president. He's the only politician (and I use that word cautiously) who has the courage to say exactly what needs to be said: that America is in desperate need of a political revolution; not political "change" or political "house cleaning" - but "a political revolution" - his exact words. Is it any wonder why I'm supporting this guy?

Whatever happens between now and Election Day 2016 (and Heaven knows anything can happen) now is the time to just sit back and come face-to-face with the inescapable reality that this country is worth saving. That's only going to happen if we take a decided turn to the left. We're not going to be saved by the alleged "moderation" of Wall Street stooge Hillary Clinton - and shame on us if we're naive enough to entrust our future to the likes of Jeb Bush.

As I said, I'll be voting for the Democratic nominee in 2016. I hope that it's Bernie Sanders. And let's be honest: It's high time we had a Jewish guy living in the White House, don'cha think? Oy!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 

SUGGESTED VIEWING:

THE JEWISH AMERICANS
a film by David Grubin

I'll let you in on a little secret: I'm a frustrated Jew. Although a proportionately tiny minority in the American landscape, their contribution to our culture is as incalculable as it is undeniable. I've always been partial to the comedians. Can you imagine a world without Sid Caesar, Jack Benny, Lenny Bruce, Zero Mostel, The Marx Brothers, The Ritz Brothers, Robert Klein, Joan Rivers, Sheckey Greene or Jerry Lewis? I can't. And while we're on the subject, let's not forget Uncle Bobby Zimmerman!

Here is a link to purchase a DVD of this excellent, three-part series from Amazon.com:

http://www.amazon.com/Jewish-Americans-Blair-Brown/dp/B000Y7U9A0/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1433342595&sr=1-1&keywords=The+Jewish+Americans

This one is a keeper.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Mass Murder for Laughs


"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

Wayne LaPierre

This is beautiful. Finally a mass killing we can all get a few giggles out of. 

It happened on Sunday in - OF ALL PLACES! - Waco, Texas. Three rival bike gangs (or "clubs" as they prefer to be called) found themselves at the right place at the wrong time. In this case, that place was an establishment called the Twin Peaks Diner. Someone said the wrong thing to the wrong person; or perhaps it was a long smoldering tiff that exploded at this particular instant. Whatever the case, before anyone could figure out what was happening, these nitwits were shooting at each other - in a public place where small children were present. When it was over, nine of these idiotic bastards lay dead. Isn't that something?

I not going to apologize for finding the humor in this latest bloodbath in America. In a shit-for-brains state like Texas (where carrying concealed weapons are not only legal, they're encouraged) this sort of "incident" should be expected from time-to-time. This wasn't Newtown, Connecticut, where twenty-six people, most of them children, were slaughtered in cold blood. These were grown men who apparently had their "manhood" put to the test. Scores need gonna be settled, Bubba! Some folks're gonna pay some dues! Right. 

Which brings me back to Wayne LaPierre's insanely idiotic quote about good guys with guns stopping the bad guys with guns. Everyone of these assholes thought that he was "the good guy" taking out "the bad guy". Can't you see how screamingly funny this is?

Yeah, this is the "freedom" that the NRA types love to scream about. How free would you have felt had you been a patron of the Twin Peaks Restaurant on the early afternoon of May 17, 2015. Say you were dining out with your spouse and two children, minding your own damned business when, out of the blue, bullets are whizzing all about you? I dare to venture the judgement that you would not have felt very "free" at all. Call it a stupid hunch on my part if it'll make you feel any better.

There still is a bit of confusion as to whether or not any of the dead were killed by the police - and one person, a Vietnam vet whose family says that he has a history of involvement with bike clubs/gangs but was not part of any of the groups involved in the Twin Peaks melee, might have been an innocent victim. The police apparently pleaded with the owner of the place not to allow this meeting to happen. They know a potential tinderbox when they see one.  The owner refused to comply. MONEY! MONEY! MONEY!

Interestingly enough, all is quiet from the halls of the right wing scream machine this morning. I guess that that's to be expected under the circumstances; but can you imagine the howl ensuing from their amplifiers had the shooting been between the Crypts and the Bloods - two notorious, predominantly African American gangs? Fox Noise would be on the story twenty-four/seven. They really haven't much to say about this one, though. A story as ugly as this tends to smudge up their rose-colored lenses just a tad, if you know what I mean. Texas is rugged, American individualism at its finest. Texas is for MANLY men. Keep the propaganda flowing. Ignore the blood. Ignore the bodies. Oh, beautiful for spacious skies....

FYI: Members of biker gangs (at least the few who bother to vote) tend to be EXTREMELY right wing. Those swastika tattoos that too many of these clowns wear on their biceps do not necessarily symbolize their commitment to civil rights.  No, there won't be much outraged bloviation out of Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh on this score - count on it.

This will probably the last time for a while that we'll be able to get a good giggle out of a shooting of this magnitude. This time the victims were not too innocent or untainted by time and fate. They were just a bunch of bad asses who wouldn't have walked into a public restaurant armed and dangerous if they hadn't been looking for trouble. Their loss isn't too important. The next time (and it's coming sooner than you think) will be a real tragedy, one quite possibly more unspeakable than that which occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary on December 15, 2013.

Fasten  your seat belts and get them hankies ready, kiddies!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Something to think about

Teddy and Will, 1909
SUGGESTED READING:

The Bully Pulpit 
by Doris Kearns-Goodwin

I'm now at the point in my life where I believe that Doris Kearns-Goodwin is incapable of writing a bad book. Every one of them have been a gem - and this one is hardly the exception to the rule.

This is about the friendship of Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft - and the eventual disintegration of that friendship. The  thing I am most impressed with is learning how far ahead of his time Taft was as a progressive. What also impressed me was his relationship with his wife, Nellie Herron. Theirs was a real partnership in all respects - a quarter century before Franklin and Eleanor. That said, any well-written book that has TR as a central figure is always going to be a good read. I cannot recommend this one enough.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Brother Knows Worst

Big Brother is Watching
`
My hopes for a Jeb Bush candidacy - yes, a Jeb Bush administration even - are slowly dying like rancid grapes upon a withered vine. I so wanted Jeb to win the nomination at the Republican National Convention next summer. Any time a Bush is in the running for as prestigious a gig as the presidency of the United States of America, it's always good for a million laughs. Whenever they win the Big Prize, it gets funnier still - in a dark, Dr. Strangelove kinda way. The Family Bush are to satire what Buster Keaton was to comedy. True, theirs is comedy of the unintentional variety, but that doesn't make them any less knee-slappingly hysterical. I suspect a Bush 45 period in our history would constitute a new golden age of American political satire.

But, alas, it seems as if none of this is going to happen. Apparently Jebbie Boy didn't get the memo: 

Try to avoid any mention of your half-witted brother, Jeb. You've got a big job ahead of you. Trying to convince this country to take another direction - particularly in lieu of the fact that the current administration has spent six-and-a-half years cleaning up the mess that Dubya left behind - is going to be excruciatingly difficult as it is. Try not to compound those difficulties. Send Dubya out of the country AND DON'T EVEN REFER TO THE LITTLE BASTARD AT ALL - Ya dig?

Poor ol' Jeb must have been out of the office when that memo arrived on his desk. When asked on Monday if - knowing what we know now regarding the faulty intelligence (lies) that preceded the American invasion of Iraq in 2013 - would he still have authorized it if he had been commander-in-chief at the time? Incredibly, the answer he gave was an unhesitating "yes". The invasion of Iraq, the worst military blunder in American history, was a grand 'n' dandy idea according to this knucklehead. To no one's surprise, Jeb started to furiously back-peddle in the days that followed. A day or so later he told reporters that he had "misunderstood" the question. By the end of the week he stooped about as low as is possible for a politician stoop - and don't forget that those Bushes are champion stoopers: He said that such hypothetical inquiries are a disservice to the troops who fought and died in Iraq. How touching.

Wait, it gets worse (or "better" for my purposes). In a meeting in New York with a group of his mainline, financial supporters, Jeb let loose with this nasty little bombshell: 

His most trusted, sought-after adviser on Middle Eastern policy is none other than (WAIT FOR IT!) George W. Bush! You heard me, campers! The imbecilic frat boy whose four year reign of error and incompetence is the man Jeb goes to whenever he seeks council on affairs in that part of this troubled globe. Here's something else you might want to take into consideration: Of the twenty-one foreign policy advisers who are now guiding him in his yet-to-be-announced campaign, seventeen of them are part of the team of killer-clowns who got us into this mess to begin with - including Paul Wolfowitz - the same schmuck who testified to congress way back when that the war in Iraq could be done on the cheap, and that the cost would be paid for by Iraqi oil money! 

No, you're not hallucinating.

As I've said (my greedy purposes aside) if this country is ever again foolish enough to send another member of that disgusting family to the Oval Office - to the White House for God's sake - we'll deserve everything that happens to us. If that should ever happen, I'll have an easy enough time making the best of it. It'll be a bit trickier for the rest of you.

I just had the funniest thought: Do you think that Jeb will assign Dick Cheney the task of finding him a running mate? Wouldn't that be a scream?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Zero
SUGGESTED READING:

Zero Mostel
by Jared Brown

Zero Mostel (1915-1977) was one of the great comic actors of the twentieth century. He is best remembered as Tevye in the original Broadway production of Fiddler on the Roof and as Max Bialystock in the funniest movie ever made, The Producers. Most people are unaware of Zero's struggles in the nineteen fifties. At the end of the forties, making a fortune as a performer in nightclubs, on the radio and in the movies, this great actor and clown was blacklisted by the House un-American Activities Committee, for the simple reason of his leftist views. He spit in HUAC's eye by refusing to name the people of his association who leaned even slightly to the left of center. For an entire decade, what little income he was able to generate was as an artist. This excellent 1989 biography is about the rise and fall - and eventual mountaintop triumph - of as brilliant a talent as ever lit up the American night.

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Message from Meghan's Dad


In the nine years I've been writing this blog, I've only once turned it over to another author. Today is the only other exception to that rule. My friend, Brian Sager, has a message that is as beautiful as it is urgent. It was written on Saturday, May 9, on the eighteenth anniversary of the birth of his daughter, Meghan Marie. I knew this little gal. Losing her was the worst thing that ever happened to me. Can you imagine what it must have been like for her mother and father, or her two brothers? I can't even contemplate it - and I've been trying, believe me. The forum is yours, Mr. Sager:

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

Today marks an anniversary of one of the greatest gifts I was ever blessed with. Today would have been my daughter Meghan’s eighteenth birthday. 

I had many nicknames for Meghan: Meg, Meggo, Magoo (which morphed into “Goot”, which she hated), Sweet Pea (which she liked), and often, “the Amazing Meghan”. Perhaps it’s a father’s pride, but Meghan was, quite simply, the most amazing person I have ever known. I am very proud of all of my children, but Meghan was unique in her pursuit of excellence in everything she did. She wasn’t always “the best”, but she was pretty darned good at anything and everything she tried, and she tried almost everything. She was good at everything she did because, no matter what was at hand, she gave it her all. 

As most of you know by now, Meghan passed away almost a year and a half ago. I “hear from her” now and then, in the song of a bird, or the twinkle of a star, a tune on the radio, or the laughter of a little girl in a pretty dress in springtime. She helped me finish nursing school, she helped me find a job, and she’s helping me be a better man in so many ways. Many have said to me “I don’t know how you do it (deal with the grief)” or “I can’t imagine what you are going through”, and that’s a good thing, because it’s something no parent should ever need to understand or have to go through. We do, because we must. That’s the simple answer. There is no acceptable alternative. 

Such a tragic ending cannot be allowed without something of value to be learned, something to help others, something to prevent such loss from happening to someone else. I wanted to share a few things I have learned or maybe re-learned.



1. Time is limited, so make the most of it. We cannot know when “our time is up” or when we will lose those dear to us. Get after that “bucket list” now, not when you are too old or too broke or too tired. Try to enjoy every moment because there are only so many….
`
2. MAKE the time to let those you love know you love them. Drop the grudges. Be first to apologize. Be first to forgive.
`
3. Given the choice between “enjoying life” and “making a few extra bucks”, choose “enjoying life”. That doesn’t mean call out sick to binge watch “House of Cards”, but if a unique opportunity presents itself, take it!

4. Love your family (seriously?!?) Sounds like a no brainer, and I know you do, but what I mean is take a moment to just look at them and enjoy the wonderful people they are. Acknowledge their flaws (to yourself and without dwelling on them), but more importantly, appreciate their strengths and help them build on them. If you were building a house, you’d want a good, strong foundation and go up from there, same with a family. Fix and reinforce the foundation and build.

5. Believe. You are not alone in this world. I am convinced more than ever of a higher power in this world. Common themes of love, kindness, forgiveness and giving are universal to all faiths. Focus a little more on the spirit of the message and less on the letters in the message… jmho….



6. Clinical depression is an illness, not a weakness, and is just as serious and can be just as deadly as cancer or heart disease. It is also far more common than we realize. One in twenty teens will suffer major depression at some point. Too often the tendency is to simply medicate. I can tell you personally that strategy can have fatal consequences. Treating depression with Prozac alone is like trying to build a house using only a screwdriver. It can be a useful tool, in conjunction with others, but by itself is often ineffective (or worse)



7. And finally… give… the support we have received from friends and family and the community has been tremendous, and it is amazing how a simple card, a hug, or a plate of pumpkin bars can lift the spirit when the heart hangs low. If you see or know of someone going through a hardship, reach out. It DOES make a difference! Small efforts can be huge helps. Don’t worry that now “might not be a good time”, it might actually be a great time. Just be understanding if the other party can’t receive your intentions as you would have liked. Remember that they are the ones going through the hardship and might not have the clearest of minds at that moment. Find peace in making the effort, it IS the thought that counts!


Through the generosity of friends and family, we have established a memorial fund to honor Meghan. Among the goals of the fund is to advance awareness of depression among teens and advance the spirit of kindness and caring in our community. A key part of this is the Meghan Sager Memorial Scholarship, which is issued annually to Goshen seniors who demonstrate several of the same traits Meghan had, such as academic achievement with an interest in sports, languages, music, theater, or volunteerism, but above all, have consistently displayed exceptional kindness and caring for their fellow students and community. 

Last year we awarded two $1,000 scholarships to two amazing young women and look forward continuing this spirit of giving. This fund is now facilitated by The Community Foundation of Orange and Sullivan. Please consider including the Meghan Sager Memorial Fund in your charitable contributions. Thank you!

Brian Sager
`
**************************

Here's a link to make a donation to the Meghan Sager Memorial Scholarship Fund:

http://cfosny.org/…/scholar…/the-meghan-sager-memorial-fund/

You'll never know how much I adored this kid.

Still we will remember Mama's little girl.


Saturday, May 09, 2015

Post #588: Random Observations

A quiet, gentle place
`
There is no Frigate like a Book
To take us Lands away
Nor any Coursers like a Page
Of prancing Poetry—
This Travers may the poorest take
Without oppress of Toll—
How frugal is the Chariot
That bears the Human soul.


Emily Dickinson

Miss Meghan loved to read. I wonder if I ever recited that poem for her. I hope I did. Come to think of it, I'd almost bet that she could recite it herself.

These are just a series of disconnected musings that were posted about, here and there. In honor of the memory of my beloved, little friend, I'm going to make a serious attempt to keep it positive this morning. Wish me luck.

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

1. A Lost Thought

By chance, I found this posting that I made on New Years Eve 2012 on my Facebook page. I don't even remember writing it:

Here is where I would like to be right now: It's a place deep in the woods in the middle of a blizzard. It looks to all the world like an ugly cinder block warehouse. But inside it's beautiful - with all of the comforts of home; with a complete library of books, music and films. It's a place of laughter and thought; joy and contemplation. The world is going mad outside of the door and beyond the woods. Inside it is serene.

Yeah, I was probably intoxicated at the time but, drunk or sober, it's a sweet thought. I want to go there.

2. Think Peace

Resentment is cancer. Try to envision yourself embracing someone who has broken your heart. It will enable you to dance beneath the diamond sky. It doesn't matter if one hand is waving free or both. Keep on dancing!

3. The Ashra Sanctuary:

I'm in love with Tracy Murphy. Her farm in Newfane, NY is totally dedicated to creating Heaven on Earth for animals. This is what she lives for and she is indeed living a beautiful life. Her entire being radiates love. I think that she's a saint; the creatures under her tender care certainly think so. She'll throw her head back and laugh at that description, but that's only because she is blessed with humility. It's next to impossible for me to be hurled into the depths of despair. All I need to remember is that Tracy Murphy walks among us. 

4. Another Oldie:

The following was posted on this site on Christmas Day 2006:

Keep your eyes open for the miracles all around you. And remember the simple truth that there is more music to be found in the laughter of a single child than can be found in all of the symphonies ever composed by all of the composers who ever lived.

I should etch that one in stone but I've misplaced my chisel.
 
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See? I kept it positive. That was trickier than you might imagine. Then again, that was also one of the shortest pieces I ever wrote. At least give me an A for effort, alright?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 

A Nocturnal meditation from the wee hours of July 28, 2014:

 She was the personification of a shooting star. It appears upon the horizon, rapidly making its way across the night sky, illuminating the heavens in a brilliant and beautiful light. Then, in an instant, it's gone.

A gentle remembrance:

Happy birthday, Miss Meghan. We love you and we miss you like nobody's business.

SUGGESTED READING:

Little Bird
a poem by Melladee Lydia Makelacy

 http://writerquake.blogspot.com/2013/12/friday-flash-55-little-bird.html 

A total stranger reaching out across a continent to a family bowed in grief. 
`
Meghan Marie Sager
Here is a link to donate to the Meghan Sager Memorial Scholarship Fund: Every year at graduation time, money will be awarded to fund the college tuition of students whom, like Miss Meghan, excel in scholastic achievement and good old-fashioned human decency and kindness. Please give as generously as you're able to:


I cannot begin to articulate for you how blessed I am to have been even a mere footnote in the biography of this kind and witty, beautiful and brilliant girl. No one who was fortunate enough to know her will ever get over losing her.

Still we will remember Mama's little girl.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Time for Bernie

Photo courtesy of Jenni Siri

"The major issue is how do we create an economy that works for all of our people rather than a small number of billionaires, and the second issue directly related is the fact that as a result of the disastrous Supreme Court decision on Citizens United, we now have a political situation where billionaires are literally able to buy elections and candidates. Let’s not kid ourselves. That is the reality right now."

Bernie Sanders

Consider this: The last Vermonter to live in the White House was Calvin Coolidge. He left office on March 4, 1929. There hasn't been another one since. It's about time we elect another resident of the Green Mountain State to the presidency. This time, though, let's be bold and send the anti-Coolidge to Washington! I've got just the guy for the job, too!

Finally! An honest-to-goodness, capital "P" Progressive to prove to the rest of the world that Hillary Clinton is not a foregone conclusion - and that maybe the Democrats have a little more imagination than seemed to be the case only forty-eight hours ago.

Most Americans have no idea who Bernie Sanders is. That is bound to change in the next month or so.  Bernie is a "public servant", a term that has been perverted over the years: Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell are not - and never have been - "public servants" Bernie is the real thing. For a third of a century, first as the mayor of Burlington, Vermont, then as a congressman, then as a senator, Bernie's agenda has been The People's agenda. He is the first candidate since Harry Truman who is not at all beholden to the interests of corporate America. His announced intentions to seek the presidency is a rare stroke of jolly good luck for all of us.

A not very telegenic Brooklyn-born Jew as the nominee of the Democratic party? I know that the Republicans must be salivating at the very idea. They shouldn't. For every day that goes by, it's increasingly apparent to people that "the party of Abraham Lincoln" has devolved into an organized criminal enterprise. He'll never gain much ground with the folks in the deep south, but the rest of the country should not be written off. All you need to do is listen to what the man has to say, and what he stands for. Bernie has called for a political revolution in America. Finally, a politician with the courage to say it! I think we might very well find ourselves at the dawn of a new era of good old days. Wouldn't THAT be cool!

"What Wall Street and credit and companies are doing is really not much different from what gangsters and loan sharks do, who make predatory loans. While the bankers wear three-piece suits and don't break the knee caps of those who can't pay back, they still are destroying people's lives."

Hillary & Elizabeth
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To those of you who might admonish me with the words, "But Degan, it's time for a woman to serve!" I would only respond by saying that I agree; we're long overdue for a woman chief-executive - two centuries overdue to be exact - but not Hillary Clinton. I was hoping that Elizabeth Warren might throw her hat into the ring but apparently that's not going to happen. She says she's not interested and she means it. Other than Bernie and Sherrod Brown of Ohio (and maybe one or two others) she's the only senator who has stood up (and stood out) as a true, unapologetic "LIBERAL", never trying to flee from the term the GOP has managed to turn into an expletive during the last three decades. I would have happily supported a Warren candidacy - giddily even! Since that's never going to happen (at least not in 2016) we need to confront the grim reality that a Hillary candidacy has the very real potential to self-destruct, or that a second Clinton administration within the confines of a single generation could blowup in our faces. As I've said too many times to count, with Democrats like her, who the hell needs Republicans? Seriously.

"Balancing the budget on the backs of the elderly, the sick, the children and the poor - is not only immoral, it is bad economic policy. It is something that must be vigorously opposed. "

Although not a Democrat (his independence being all the more reason to admire him) Bernie Sanders, more than any other Democrat in Washington today, has not forgotten the political legacy that has been bequeathed to generations of progressives by Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal. Should registered Democrats across the country be naive enough to hand the nomination to Hillary Clinton, we'll have no other choice than to cast our ballots for her on Election Day 2016, she being the lesser of two very distinct evils. The only bright spot, as far as I'm concerned, is the undeniable fact that as unpalatable as she is as a candidate, she is so much preferable to anything the Republicans are bound to puke up that a vote for her would be the only choice of anyone entering the voting booth with a bare grasp of the issues facing America today. I'll tell you this, though: If I'm forced to make that choice, I'll be holding my nose.

 "Let us wage a moral and political war against the billionaires and corporate leaders, on Wall Street and everywhere, whose policies are destroying America."

They'll accuse Bernie of waging class warfare. That's exactly what he's doing - and he ain't taking any prisoners, pardner.

It can't be emphasized enough that we should not make the mistake of assuming that a somewhat  gruff, Jewish guy is unelectable. That's what people were thinking (if not saying out loud) eight years ago when a black politician from Chicago - NOT KENYA! - announced his candidacy for the presidency of the United States. It's a different world than the one our parents grew up in. This country very soon will no longer be run by elderly white Protestant guys with beer bellies and bad breath. Bernie Sanders' time has come. Join me while we make some history.

 "Of course the Republicans have long wanted to privatize Social security and destroy it. But Social Security has been the most valuable social program in the history of the United States."

Yeah, it's time for Bernie alright. High time.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 

SUGGESTED READING:

Gail Collins has an excellent piece in this morning's New York Times on the candidacy of Bernie Sanders:

Bernie Sanders Yells His Mind

As always, she's right on target and as witty as they come.

SUGGESTED LISTENING:

George Harrison's 1978 LP, which was simply called "George Harrison", is not widely remembered today; none of the tracks on it come easily to mind for most people - not even a lot of fanatics of the Fabs. Although critically well received, it didn't sell particularly well at the time of its release. A year later you could pick it up in the cut-out bin for under two bucks. I've never been able to understand this because, for my money anyway, it's his best record - better than All Things Must Pass even. In fact, it's his masterpiece. Every track on it is an absolute gem. Here's a link to listen to it in its entirety:

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

One more Bernie quote for the road:

"If you ask me my view on the environment, on women's rights, on gay rights - I am a liberal. I don't have a problem with that at all. Some of my best friends are liberal."

Gotta love the dude. Ya just gotta! 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Bad Craziness in Alabamy

FREEZE, GRANNY!!!
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Well now, isn't that precious!
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We got guns!
Dey got guns!
All God's chill'en got guns!

The Marx Brothers
from Duck Soup (1933)

Oh I come from Alabama with an Uzi on my knee....

When I saw the headline on the Addicting Info website, I just knew it had to be a hoax of some kind - or at least that's what I thought it must be. "Oh, come now", I said out loud. "people just can't be that stupid - not even in Alabama!" I let the headline sink in, still not quite believing what I was seeing:

"NEW ALABAMA LAW WILL ALLOW CHILDREN TO HAVE HAND GUNS"

Sure enough, three state senators and four legislators  are co-sponsoring two different bills that would allow children to legally possess (with Mommy and Daddy's permission of course) potentially lethal, people-killing machines. As you've probably figured out by now, all seven of these "lawmakers" are Republican.

Here's another piece of information that should come as no surprise: The homicidal nincompoops at the National Rifle Association believe that armed-to-the-teeth kids is a perfectly wonderful idea. Ain't that a riot?

The writer of the article I'm referring to is named Jameson Parker. As he correctly points out, it's bad enough that one of the top ten accidental causes of death for minors in America is firearms. Count on it: This latest, idiotic proposal is not going to make those numbers go down. Kids die because they (or a friend) inadvertently stumble upon a weapon that an adult has not properly secured inside of their home. If this proposed law is passed, you can expect the rate of kiddie carnage to go through the roof in Alabama. 

Just what is it about the South?

Jeff Davis
April 2015 was (or should have been) a month of national reflection as we paused to take note of the 150th anniversary of the end of the American Civil War. The right wing of that mercifully bygone era, primarily located in the South, thought it a perfectly dandy idea that human beings be forced to work for no wages whatsoever. In order to perpetuate this economic Utopia of theirs, they went to war against their own government. The conclusion of a conflict that lasted four long years saw them forced back into the union. Perhaps we should rethink this. In recent years I've started to believe that Southern secession wasn't such a bad an idea after all - maybe not for Dixie but for the rest of the country. The complete and utter idiocy of that region has only kept the nation as a whole from advancing and realizing our fullest potential. This is something which needs to be seriously discussed on a national level.

This I can say without a molecule of uncertainty: Keeping dear old Dixie in the union was not worth the six-hundred and twenty-four thousand lives it cost to keep her here; it's not even close. Don't get me wrong, I still love Abe Lincoln, but jeez Louise!

I know it sounds like I'm being cruel. Disparaging the South is just about as bad as making fun of a severely retarded person - they're just so touchingly pathetic. I'm not trying to imply that most Southerners are dumb; I really do hope that that's not the case. The problem is the people who vote - or most of them anyway. The seven politicians who are sponsoring these guns-for-tots laws are all the proof you need to understand the intellectual limitations of your average voter in Alabama. My theory is that this is what should be expected when generations of folks marry their first cousins.

If these proposed bills become law way down yonder - and I have no reason to doubt that they will - Alabama will overnight become the most dangerous state in America in which to live. There's a dandy reason why children are barred by law from operating motor vehicles: They simply lack judgement. Who can be sure that some ten-year-old kid won't plug the mailman one fine, sunny day for "trespassing" on the family porch? Kids resolve conflict any way they can. Are we to expect an epidemic of child-on-child gun violence in the state of Alabama? Will that be the next norm in that moronic region of the country? You'd better believe it. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there will be a miracle and intelligent people will prevail - assuming there are any down there. But the fact that a law arming children was even proposed to begin with should make the rest of us wonder.

You don't like your fourth grade teacher? She's a bit cranky and way too heavy on the homework? You know what to do, sonny. Time to take matters into your own hands. Problem solved! Now wasn't that easy?

My goodness, this is going to get interesting! If this mind-jarringly stupid law is passed I'll learn to contently live with it. Besides, I haven't been to Alabama in exactly thirty years (May of '85) and I don't plan on going back any time soon. As I've said before, the lower this country sinks into the sociological shit hole, the higher my stock rises. For satiric reasons alone, the horrific results of a state packed to the rafters with little kids walking around armed and dangerous should prove quite amusing. Murder and mayhem lead to many things; writer's block is not one of them. For my purposes, that nasty little scenario works out very well indeed. Thank you, Alabama.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 

AFTERTHOUGHT:

I just found this posting on Craigslist:

"You southerners always have - by far - the highest rates of obesity, teen pregnancy, binge drinking, smoking, divorce, crime, pollution, and illiteracy. Your bad habits drive up healthcare costs for the rest of America. Of course, we up north have been supporting "y'all" since reconstruction, but all you send us in return is acid rain, guns, tobacco, and "family values" laws....and you hate us for helping you, just like you hate blacks, hate gays, hate Muslims, hate immigrants, hate anyone not exactly like you."

Sorry, but it needs to be said.

SUGGESTED READING:

Here is a link to the Jameson Parker piece from Addicting Info that inspired this little ditty of mine:

http://www.addictinginfo.org/2015/03/31/new-alabama-law-will-allow-children-to-have-handguns/

Please, Mr. Postman!
SUGGESTED LISTENING:
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Bring on the Lucie (Freda Peeple)
by John Lennon
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HEY THERE, KIDS!!! HERE'S ANOTHER CHART BUSTING, TOE-TAPPING BLAST FROM YOUR PAST FROM THE COOLEST, NIFTIEST, FUNNIEST, MOST CELEBRATED VICTIM OF GUN VIOLENCE IN THE HISTORY OF THIS WILD AND CRAZY COUNTRY OF OURS! HE'S GONE AND HE'S NOT COMING BACK!!! AIN'T THAT A SCREAM???
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rock on, children.... 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Onward, Sociopaths



"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows....Look out, kid, you're gonna get hit."

-Bob Dylan

It would seem that with every four-year election cycle, the campaigns are starting earlier and earlier. In 1960, Jack Kennedy didn't even announce his candidacy until a couple of days after the new year. A candidate couldn't do that today. It's a different world than the one JFK inhabited on November 22, 1963, the day he was blasted into eternity by the force of Lee Oswald's cheap, mail-order rifle - different faces, different rules. The extremists and the Birchers, relegated to the fringes of our national political conversation a half century ago, are now in the mainstream. "Up" is the new "down". One imagines where this is heading, where we might be fifty years hence. The happy thought is that most of us will be long dead by that point. Much as I love kids, I've never regretted not having any. I regret it even less in 2015. An ill wind is blowing down the pike, baby! 

I'm not going to get too worked up about what transpires in 2016. To tell you the truth I've come to the point where I can truthfully say that I really don't give a fuck what happens at the polls next year. All I can say with any degree of certainty is that I'll find the whole affair quite amusing. 

From the standpoint of April 22, 2015 it is obvious that Election Day 2016 will more than likely be a choice between another Clinton and another Bush - which is not much of a choice at all. I've voted in every presidential contest since 1980, but I've got a pretty good feeling that I'll find better things to do on that day. Perhaps I'll stay home and watch reruns of Leave it to Beaver. Better that than wasting my good time at the polling place. Are the Democrats so impotent that they can't puke up anything better than Hillary? Whenever I forget why I left that party almost twenty years ago, they always cheerfully remind me.

Did I say, "Not much of a choice"?

Okay, I concede the point: Anything would be preferable to any member of that disgusting family occupying the executive mansion for even half minute longer (I refer to the Bush family in this instance - just in case you were wondering). What galls me more than anything is Jebbie Boy's jaw-dropping arrogance. How is he going to convince people to change course after Barack Obama has spent two terms desperately trying to clean up the mess he inherited from the Village Idiot of Crawford, Texas? Talk about a sense of entitlement! A third President Bush in a generation? The American people will deserve everything that happens to them if that unfortunate little turn-of-events should ever transpire. Of course, for my purposes, a Bush Administration III would be the gift that keeps giving and giving (And giving and giving and giving). Bush 45? Bring 'em on!

The consensus of opinion seems to be that he's not the extremist that his brother was. Don't get fooled again, folks. As governor of Florida, he was about as extreme as any politician south of the Delaware Water Gap. Only since Dubya mercifully vacated 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on January 20, 2009 has Jeb sought to "moderate" his positions. Launching his candidacy was no overnight decision on his part. He's been planning this move for a long time, probably since his old man was president. Don't fall for that "compassionate conservative" jazz. Jeb Bush is merely a different side of the same old, counterfeit coin. We don't want go down this road again, trust me on this one, kiddies.

Another guy I've got my eye on is Scott Walker of Wisconsin. Since becoming governor of that state, he's made his national reputation by trying to make life for regular working people as insanely difficult as possible. He is the Union Buster from Hell; and he doesn't even try to hide the fact that he views Labor (and laborers) with utter contempt. Recently he compared protesters in his state (working people seeking a decent wage) with the international terror group, ISIS - an organization responsible for the brutal murders of untold thousands. Ain't that a riot? A political degenerate such as Scott Walker only comes around once in a lifetime. He should be watched - if only for your own amusement. 

"If his IQ gets any lower we're gonna have to start watering him twice a day"

-Molly Ivins, describing an unnamed Texas pol 

It's so unspeakably sad that Molly didn't live to see the phenomenon that is Ted Cruz. Can you imagine what she would have had to say on that subject? I giggle at the mere thought.

Election Day 2016 is a little less than a year-and-a-half away. What a long, strange trip it's gonna be between now and then. Be amused. Be very amused.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED READING:

Jack Kennedy - Elusive Hero
by Chris Matthews

Chris Matthews is not known for his gifts as a historian, which is a shame because he's pretty good at it. This book humanizes Jack Kennedy in a way that no other biography has before.  Here's a link to order it off of Amazon.com:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Jack+Kennedy%3A+An+Elusive+Hero+by+Chris+Matthews

A really great read.

SUGGESTED VIEWING: 

The Black Panthers Revisited

The Black Panthers were probably the most unfairly maligned, misrepresented group in the history of the republic - when in fact they were a source of great good. This seven-minute-long documentary appeared recently on the New York Times website. Here's a link to watch it in its entirety:
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http://www.nytimes.com/video/opinion/100000003463869/black-panthers-revisited.html
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The Panthers' story has yet to be told. It needs to be told.