Monday, February 29, 2016

Super Tuesday Eve

It was a telling moment to be sure, probably an historic one: There stood Lindsey Graham, a real-live, honest-to-goodness, card-carrying, right-wing Republican senator - FROM THE SOUTH! -  up there on the rostrum, television cameras grinding away (or whatever noise it is that television cameras make these days), telling an audience of true believers that their party - his party - has gone "bat-shit crazy". It was an event that will be worth noting in ten years time, when historians sit down to write the autopsy of the Grand Old Party. There's no getting around the fact that the hours are ticking away; no debating what cannot be rationally debated. If this were a movie it would be a comedy so dark that it would make Dr. Strangelove seem like Winnie the Pooh. 

Of course, given my sick, twisted sense of the absurd, this completely idiotic political season is an unparalleled delight. I remember four years ago saying on this site that Campaign 2012 was a monumental year for political craziness. At the time, I was saying out loud that it could never again get as weird as it was then. I was mistaken, of course. 2016 has proven to be a landmark year in history of electoral insanity. So help me, I'll never again underestimate the capability of the American voter to lower the bar even further. And to think: 2020 is only four years away. I can't wait!

"Strange days indeed. Most peculiar, Mama!"

Dr. Winston O'Boogie
Barring a miracle, Donald Trump is going to run away with the Super Tuesday primary tomorrow. We're months past the point where we could hope the silly bastard would say something -  ANYTHING - so flagrantly outrageous that he would deep-six his candidacy overnight. T'aint gonna happen, Bubba!. The more this guy steps in it, the higher his stock rises with your typical Republican primary voter - at least in the South and Midwest

I never thought for a millisecond that the Donald believes one/tenth of the jibberish he habitually spews out on a daily basis. Say what you want about Trump, we at least need to concede that he is smart enough to know that, in order to win the GOP nomination these days, it is essential that a candidate steamroll across this diseased land saying a lot of mind-fuckingly stupid things. In this respect, the man has performed brilliantly. He understands H.L. Mencken's classic observation that "no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public". Indeed.

I've got some good news and some bad news for you....

After tomorrow night, the Ted Cruz campaign will be deader than James A. Garfield on a bad day.

After tomorrow night, the Ted Cruz campaign will be deader than James A. Garfield on a bad day.

Let's face some serious facts here, folks: For sheer comedy, it doesn't get much better than old Ted - it really doesn't! The difference between him and Joe McCarthy is that, sixty years after his death, McCarthy only looks comical in hindsight; at the time he scared the shit out of most thinking Americans. Teddy Boy, on the other hand, is the Buster Keaton of unintentional comedians, right up there with Sarah Palin and anyone named "Bush". He really should be given the Mark Twain Prize.

I get such a kick out of Ted. It's not just his arrogance or his obnoxious demeanor that give me such a fit of uncontrollable giggles; it's in the way he takes himself soooo seriously. When he is forced to cash in his chips in a few days, it's hard to envision him endorsing any of his former opponents for the BIG PRIZE. A third party uprising? Don't put it past him. 

I sometimes get the suspicion that Ted Cruz is an espionage agent for the Democrats, assigned by Debbie Wasserman Schultz to go undercover and inflict as much destruction on the Republicans as is humanly possible to do. It would only stand to reason because he is doing a lot of serious damage - and doing it quite handily. Is it any wonder that his most of his right wing colleagues in the House and Senate can't stand him? If Cruz loses his home state of Texas tomorrow (and in this unpredictable atmosphere anything can happen) it's all over for him. Who wants do bet that he declares a victory in spite of an overwhelming defeat on Uber Tuesday? I'll say it again: I get such a kick out of Ted.

As for Marco Rubio, it is obvious to me that he's in over his poor little head. That's not to imply that he's an idiot - or, at least, he's not a complete idiot. Of all of the Republican contenders in this political season, he's the least nauseating. That is what is known as "damning with faint praise". The fact is that if Marco somehow - miraculously - found his way into the Oval Office, there's is no doubt that I would lose a lot of sleep, but at least I would find time for a quick catnap now and then. That's not the case as far as any of the others are concerned. None of these nitwits are qualified for the office of president of the United States. We'll deserve everything that happens to us if we're naive enough to go down this road again. Somehow, I'm fairly confident that we won't. Call me a "cockeyed optimist". The fact of the matter is that I'm too old to pull up stakes and go into exile. Given the worst-case-scenario, I'll be forced to rough it out with the rest of you.

Did you ever dream you would live to see a day when so huge a segment of the American electorate would lose all sense of reality? 

I hate to end this one on such a downer, but it needs to be acknowledged: By the looks of things (at this point in time anyway), Bernie Sanders is going to get stomped badly on Super Tuesday, and Hillary Clinton will be the next nominee of the Democratic Party. I say this with no joy whatsoever; Hillary is a terrible candidate. If you don't understand that yet, it will become painfully obvious soon enough. Although it would have been a sweet thing to follow the first African American president with the first woman, she's not quite the woman a lot of progressives had in mind. If she is the nominee, I'll be voting for her on Election Day, but I won't be overjoyed about it. Or maybe I won't vote at all. It's been that kind of year.

What am I thinking? PRESIDENT TRUMP??? I'll vote.

Optimism aside, Bernie has too many obstacles to overcome. Baring some unforeseen scandal (you never know with Ms. Clinton) his candidacy is entering its final hours. If that is, in fact, the case, let's always be grateful to him for performing the valuable service of forcing Hillary to move herself a bit to the left. For that alone he deserves our thanks. That being said, as long as he remains in the race he'll still have my support.  Don't be discouraged by the poll numbers. If you were planning on voting for Bernie in your state's primary, get the hell out there and show him that you still believe. Keep on feelin' the Bern, baby!

In the meantime, let's continue to revel in the spectacle of this incredibly hilarious clown car show while it lasts. Come to think about it, 2020 is gonna seem like an eternity.

Happy Leap Year!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

CORRECTION 3/1/16, 9:30 AM: When I first published this piece yesterday morning, I incorrectly stated that most polls had Cruz losing his home state of Texas. A wee bit of further research this morning informs me that, in fact, all polls have him winning. 

I made a mistake. So sue me.


The Life and Death of Lenin
by Robert Payne

I picked this one up in a used bookstore in Montgomery, NY recently. Although out of print (written in 1964), You can find it easily enough on ebay. Vladimir Lenin was the ruthless architect of the 1917 revolution that shook the world. An interesting read.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Jeb Is Left Behind

Can you imagine what Jeb Bush must be thinking this morning? He was the “golden boy” of that disgusting family. He was the one everyone expected to be sitting on the mountaintop one day. And what happened? It was all dashed by his half-witted older brother and the complete and utter incompetence of the American electorate. I would imagine that this is not a particularly fun time for Jeb. His life as a politician is over. The poor schlep must be pounding his head against a marble wall as I write these words. Isn’t life strange?

The Bush dynasty should have been strangled in its cradle decades ago. Better late than never, as I always say. But there is an ominously dark cloud behind this sweet, silver lining. It is hard to feel any sense of genuine relief when one takes into consideration all of the damage they were able to inflict upon this doomed nation, going all the way back to Grandpa Prescott Bush, who had a cozy business relationship with Nazi Germany. There's also convincing proof that the hideous old bastard was in on a plot to overthrow (violently if necessary) Franklin D. Roosevelt. That plot was foiled by retired general Smedley Butler. Gotta love them Bushes!

The last time one Democratic administration was succeeded by another Democratic administration was on March 4, 1857, when Franklin Pierce tossed the keys to the executive mansion to miserable old James Buchanan. It hasn’t happened since. It will happen again on January 20, 2017. The Bushes have rendered the Republican Party unelectable on a national level. Perhaps they did do some good after all.

Life is beautiful. 

How did the GOP get to this place? This was, after all, the one-time ideological home of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. What the hell happened?

Richard Nixon happened. Ronald Reagan happened. The Bushes happened. A lot of very bad stuff happened.

There had always been an extremist element lurking withing the bowels of that goofy party - going all the way back to the administration of Ulysses S. Grant in the 1870's (although Grant, himself, was an honest and decent man). But it wasn't until the 1964 candidacy of Barry Goldwater when the Republicans began courting the John Birchers that the party began to exhibit some serious symptoms of mental illness. 

During the campaign of 1968, in response to the urban riots that followed the murder of Martin Luther King, the Nixon Mob began their so-called "Southern Strategy". That was a signal to the so-called "Dixiecrats" of the Deep South that a Nixon administration would put a decided end to the "nigger problem" (not their exact words, but the inference was there). Within less-than-a-decade, the racist Dixiecrats (who for over a century had been unable to vote for the party of "that bearded bastard that freed our slaves" had fled - like frightened little mice - into the loving arms of the Republicans. That was the moment they made their deal with Lucifer. That was the moment they stepped into the abyss. They have not a bit of credibility left. Where have you gone, Teddy Roosevelt?

Where their hearts were really at was confirmed in 1980 when Ronald Reagan, probably the worst racist to occupy the White House since Woodrow Wilson, launched his campaign from Philadelphia, Mississippi, a worthless little stain on the map whose only claim to fame were the murders of three civil rights workers there in the summer of 1964. The gipper was sending the subtle message that Jim Crow would be given the red carpet treatment in his administration.

For over fifty years - since the extremist wing of that party seized control of it at the 1964 convention, the Republicans have been wallowing in the depths of the ideological sewer. The candidates for the 2016 nomination - comically incompetent all - are merely a case of the chickens coming home to roost.

As a serious force in American politics, the Bushes are kaput. Even his older brother could not help him in South Carolina. While that state may not be one of the centers for intellectual enlightenment (I'm being gentle) at least the people there were smart enough to understand that the Brothers Bush are two sides of the same counterfeit coin. Then again, they did give the prize to Donald Trump. 

Never mind.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Chaplin: His Life and Art
by David Robinson

I read this one when it first came out in 1985, and read it again this week. This is probably the best biography of Charlie Chaplin ever written - and I've read them all. Chaplin was one of the few, true geniuses of the twentieth century, and a truly brave and great man.

By the way, Blackhawk Films has just put out a restored version of the Chaplin Mutuals (1916-1917). The quality of the restorations is stunning. Have a look at this minute-long preview. It's astonishing when one considers the fact that these films were created a century ago:

One hundred years have passed and the Little Tramp still inspires.

Brian and Liz Mohin
AFTERTHOUGHT, 2/23/16, 8:00 AM:

An old pal has passed into eternity. Brian Mohin was diagnosed with cancer only six days ago. He died early this morning. 

Brian was one of the smartest, funniest and kindest gents who ever walked this earth. He was also the first male I ever knew personally to grow his hair OUTRAGEOUSLY LONG! When I met him in the late sixties, he was still in his teens (I was a few years younger). I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that I loved the guy from the get-go. I never heard him utter a cross word about another human being during all the decades I knew him. 

No one laughed easier or was gentler than Brian. He was really like an adopted cousin to me - an honorary member of the Cullen Family. If George Martin was "the fifth Beatle", Brian was "the ninth Cullen". It is definitely going to take some time getting used to a world without Brian Mohin. 

For each one who goes before me, I fear it less and less. Gentle thoughts to his wife, Alyssa, and his kids, Liz and Bennett.

FUN FACT: Brian was a not-too-distant cousin of Paul McCartney!

Monday, February 15, 2016

When the Going Gets Weird....

"When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro."

Hunter S. Thompson

Might I suggest the moderator of the next Republican debate? How about Jerry Springer? He'd be perfect. Think about it!

Were any of you able to catch the Republican laugh fest on Saturday night? Wasn't that a scream? It just keeps getting weirder and weirder by the hour. I cannot believe that the American people would be nutty enough to put that party back in the executive mansion come Inauguration Day. Fifty years from now, someone is going to do a documentary on the times in which we live. I've come up with the most apropos title:

"When Unintentional Comedy Was King"

That works for me. 

My sleeping patterns have been somewhat off-kilter lately. Whenever the desire to snooze comes to me I take advantage of the moment. My plan was to tape the debate and watch it in the morning. I pressed "record" on the VCR with every intention of going to bed. Try as I might, I could not pry myself away from the spectacle of these nitwits snarling at one another. It was that riveting. Like a wrecked trainload of clowns at a railroad crossing, I couldn't take my eyes off them. We live in interesting times. We really do!

The evening started out predictably enough with some perfectly gut-wrenching tributes to Antonin Scalia, who passed away unexpectedly the night before. My own thoughts:

God rest his soul. This is not a time for schadenfreude. He was loved by his family, well-liked by his colleagues, even more-than-a-few of his ideological enemies. He had a long and happy life - something we should all hope to attain.

That being said, it must not be ignored that if Antonin Scalia is not remembered down through the ages as "the worst justice of modern times", you can bet the farm that he and Uncle Clarence Thomas will share that dubious prize. He might have been possessed of "a brilliant legal mind", as so many are saying, but it was a mind nonetheless warped by his own fears and prejudices. He should not have spent a single hour of his time on earth passing judgment on anyone - let alone an entire nation. 

If the right wing extremists are to be believed, President Obama does not have the right to fill the Scalia vacancy - the U.S. Constitution be danged. They're jabbering away about "precedent". By their way of thinking, not in eighty years has a president nominated a justice to that court during their final year in office. Really? Eighty years ago the president was Franklin D. Roosevelt. At that point he had nine years left before him as president (longer than any other chief-executive in history - a fact that still  drives these knuckleheads crazy).

Anthony Kennedy was nominated and appointed during the final year of Reagan's presidency, a fact that doesn't seem to register with these freaks. The Gipper is always deserving of special dispensation, you know?

In the final year of Lyndon Johnson's administration, his nomination of Abe Fortes was denied by the senate. "Precedent" had not a thing to do with it; the simple fact of the matter being that during his confirmation hearings, Fortes was exposed as being financially corrupt. That vacancy was left to Richard Nixon to fill - which gave us seventeen years of Chief Justice Warren Burger - not one of history's brightest judicial bulbs. We'll just leave it at that.

I thought it poignantly amusing during Saturday night's debate when Marco Rubio praised Scalia's "originalist" interpretation of the constitution and how it was dictated by the worldview of the Founding Fathers, not clouded by "the fads of the moment". That's right, I thought, we really should be interpreting that document based upon the fads of 1789. Genius.

Consider this: Madison and company could not foresee the Compact Disc. Hell, they couldn't even foresee the Edison Wax cylinder! That's why they made the Constitution amendable. Smart sons-of-bitches, those Founding Fathers.

I knew seven years ago that the inauguration of the first African American president would make some on the right side of the aisle blow their collective gaskets, but even I had no idea that there would be such a massive freak out. This is absurdest theater. That's the most apropos description of what is occurring in our national political dialogue. Isn't it amusing? 

It is certain that the Obama years will be remembered as a rolling constitutional crisis not of his own making. Considering the obstruction he's had to endure thanks to the disloyal opposition, it's a holy miracle that the guy has been as successful as he has. It looks like for the remainder of his term, the highest court in the land will be deadlocked by a 4/4 vote. The Republicans seem confident that they will take back the White House next year. That confidence is misplaced. The last time one Democratic administration succeeded another one on Inauguration day was in 1857. It hasn't happened since. It will happen next year. On a national level at least, "the party of Abraham Lincoln" has become unelectable.

Ain't politics a hoot?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


The fringier fringes of the right wing SCREAM machine are now putting out the notion that Justice Scalia was murdered by some kind of sinister liberal conspiracy.

Life is beautiful.


Kate Remembered
by A. Scott Berg

This is not so-much a biography as it is a personal memoir. In 1983, Scott Berg was assigned to write a profile of Katharine Hepburn for Esquire Magazine. This initial contact blossomed into a close friendship that lasted until her death twenty years later. I always admired Kate Hepburn. After reading this book I love her. Berg is a first-rate historian. This is not the first book I've read by him, and it won't be the last. It's still in print thankfully and can be purchased off of One of the sweetest, funniest books I've read in a long time. I know it's absolutely futile to fall in love with a dead person, but I just can't help myself when it comes to Kate.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Polarized in New Hampshire

These are strange days indeed. If you want to really understand the ideological divide that plagues the American political conversation, one needs to look no further than the results of yesterday's New Hampshire primary.
I really do hope that Bernie Sanders is nominated at the convention this summer. All this talk about how the American people would never elect a gruff, Jewish guy from Vermont who speaks with a New York accent and buys his clothes off the rack doesn't hold much weight with me. That's what a lot of people said about a young black guy from Chicago when he had the audacity to announce his run for the White House nine years ago this month. "It'll never happen", they said. It happened. And are you ready for the punchline? He turned out to be a pretty decent chief executive. He could have been a little better for my money, but in the final analysts, Barack Obama was the right person for the job at that point in history. I've never regretted casting my vote for the man - not for a second.

I'm a realist. I understand that Hillary Clinton has the money and the power to eventually send Bernie back to the senate; I don't know how he's going to come through Super Tuesday without being beaten badly. He has too much of an uphill struggle - but I can dream, can't I? Perhaps his win last night in the granite state was a fluke, a tip of the hat to a favorite old uncle from neighboring Vermont. We shall see. Stranger things have happened.

The fact of the matter is that I just don't trust Hillary Clinton. That is not to say she would be a terrible president, it's just that I know that her attorney general - not unlike Eric Holder - will not be prosecuting the Wall Street bastards who have made a sport out of plundering the American economy these past thirty-plus years. It would be an entirely different scenario with Bernie in the White House. Hillary is a good woman, and no serious person doubts her intellect. But as a progressive her credentials suck. If she is the nominee I'll be voting for her come Election Day, what other choice will I have? Look for me at the polls; I'll be the one holding my nose.

Bernie is the only candidate for national office - since Franklin Roosevelt eighty-four years ago - with the courage to say the things that need to be said, things the people of this doomed country need to hear. In fact, in many ways he's gone beyond FDR. Frankie never came out in favor of gay marriage. Can you imagine if he had? That would have been interesting to say the least.

On the GOP side, things this week have been as bleak as they can possibly be: Ted Cruz in Iowa, followed by Donald Trump in New Hampshire: Two candidates so laughably extreme that the suits at the Republican National Committee are in complete and utter despair. As has been noted on this site a number of times in the recent past, these two guys are the price the GOP is paying for courting a class of voter in recent years that had historically been ignored by both parties: I refer to the terminally insane. Cruz is so completely loathed by his fellow Republicans that there is now serious talk among the party's movers and shakers to throw their support behind Trump for no other reason than to deny Teddy Boy the nomination. This is a party wallowing in pathos. Their biggest concern is that Cruz would lose them both the House and the Senate when he's beaten senseless at the polls in November. On MSNBC's Morning Joe today, Chris Matthews remarked that a potential Cruz administration would send America to "a very dark place". The man is a master of understatement.

These sure are interesting times.

I am beside myself with joy pondering the fact that I will be an eyewitness to the strangest year in American political history. Extremism in the defense of Librium. As Hunter Thompson once said, "It still hasn't gotten weird enough for me". 

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


This essay by Thomas B. Edsall appeared in this morning's New York Times. It's well worth your time:

What About Ted Cruz?

Like the old song says, "Life could be a dream....Sh-boom!"

Wednesday, February 03, 2016


A few months ago - whether for spite or for fun - someone put me on Ted Cruz's email list. Late last night I received an appeal from Ted seeking a donation:

"Because you have been one of my most loyal supporters -- I'm reaching out to you first."

Sure, Ted, the check is in the mail.

Three years ago I wrote a piece called "President Cruz?". At the time it was obvious to me (as I'm sure it was as obvious to anyone paying attention) that, even though he had come to Washington only a few months before, the celebrated gas bag from the Lone Star State would be making his bid for the 2016 Republican nomination. So help me Mitch Miller, I never dreamed that the silly bastard would win a single primary. At the time, I neglected to take to account the rip-roaring stupidity of the GOP voters in Iowa. - which brings me to the question that is screaming to be posed:

"Why Iowa?''

Why is this state so crucial to the primary season? With respect to the Republicans, they have not once in their history picked someone who went on to win the nomination - forget about the White House. A state that houses more white people than any other place in a nation that is becoming more-and-more brown by the minute has lost its relevance - assuming it ever had any. The people who decide these things ought to reconsider that states' significance to the electoral process. Just a thought. 

Which brings be back to Teddy Boy: I'm not at all alarmed at the prospect of a Cruz candidacy - amused, yes, but hardy alarmed. In fact, I hope he gets the nomination this summer. There is nothing in the realm of the most twisted possibility that I can foresee that would be as delightfully weird as Ted Cruz playing the part of the right wing's standard bearer for 2016. The guy is so extreme and vulgar that, for people like me who thrive on this stuff, a Cruz run would be a demented dream come to life. Oh, please, fate....

Here is something that is the worst kept secret in Washington: His colleagues in the senate can't stand him. Think about that just for a second. A party that has lowered the bar so far in recent years as to what constitutes "statesman-like behavior" finds Ted too insufferably obnoxious for comfort. That takes some doing. When a right wing politician becomes too extreme for the GOP even, it's time to prescribe some lithium. Seriously.

I don't suspect that Ted is going to be taking the oath of office on January 20, 2017; then again, early in the candidacy of George W. Bush, I never dreamed that one day he would be living in the Executive Mansion. Shit happens, you know?

Should that unthinkable scenario ever come to pass, I'll learn to live with it. As bad as a Cruz administration would be for the country and the world, at least it would never be boring. We must seek these silver linings behind the darkest of clouds.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


The Last 100 Days
by John Toland

This chronicle of the winter and spring of 1945 is a page-turner. It's always oodles of fun to read about the personal, political and psychological implosion of Adolf Hitler! Although written in 1966, the book is still in print and can be ordered off

The Last 100 Days

Mucho recommended.