Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Real NRA: Making a Killing


Get used to living in  a nation in  ruins
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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 - and their spouses and children - 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 point-blank into Wayne LaPierre's bloated body  (just for shits and giggles, 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 on - 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 bought and sold 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.

Half of this country is smart enough to understand that they have been sold down the river by their elected "representatives", and the other half 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:
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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.
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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 330 mass killings in the United states last year.

There are approximately one-hundred thousand gun deaths in this country every three years.
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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?
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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.

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Alison Parker at the moment she was murdered

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Vile




A new poll from something called, "Public Policy Polling" (an organization which, admittedly, I've never heard of before), informs me on this fine May morn that fifty-eight percent of the American people are aghast at the right wing's obstruction to President Obama's attempt to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court that came with the death of Justice-from-hell, Antonin Scalia, earlier this year. That's not meant to imply that forty-two percent of them are in favor of it. Predictably, ten to fifteen percent don't give a flying fuck one way or the other. This is as it should be, I suppose. America the indifferent. Rush shed his invective on thee. Life is a hoot.

The poll I refer to also informs us that fifty percent of the electorate are not likely to vote for any candidate in November who would deny the president the opportunity to perform what is, after all, his constitutional duty as chief-executive. This is also as it should be - given the warped mindset and ideological makeup of the mutant clowns currently inhabiting the House of Reprehensibles. They've never quite come to terms with what they perceive as "that evil, commie nigger" sleeping in the same, big WHITE house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that was once occupied by their sainted, feeble-minded, failed "B" movie actor. Absurdist theater at its finest.

It is now 3:10 in the morning and I just now had an epiphany. I've had an awful lot of epiphanies lately. Consider this if you'll be kind enough:

In 1974, I thought that Richard Milhaus Nixon was the worst thing to happen to the office of the American presidency in history. And then....

....in 1981 along came a senile, plutocratic water-carrier named Ronald Reagan. All of the sudden, Nixon was looking pretty good. And then....

....out of the blue, in 2001, a disgusting lowlife with an even lower IQ, George Dubya Bush, blasted into town, and - LOW AND FREAKING BEHOLD! Reagan started to look comparatively competent. It was at that moment that I really believed (HONEST!) that the "party of Abraham Lincoln" had hit rock-bottom.

They hadn't hit rock-bottom. Oh, perish the thought, kind and gentle reader! In 2016 we are faced with Donald Trump as the presumptive Republican nominee - and George W. Bush is starting to look like a moderate.

WAIT! IT GETS BETTER STILL! Richard Nixon is starting to look like George Washington. I'm not making this stuff up! It kinda makes you wonder what they're gonna puke up in 2020, huh?

Have you noticed, perchance, that disgusting party's habit of lowering the bar, millimeter by millimeter, each election cycle over the last half century? Most of us have not noticed. Some of us have.

I need a drink.
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Suckers!
It's a given that the GOP will get their heads handed to them at the polls on November 8. This optimism is surely tempered by the by the knowledge that - barring miracle or scandal - Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States. With donkeys like that, elephants are not necessary. Whom do you think Hillary's role model as chief-executive will be - FDR or Bill Clinton? Stupid goddamned Democrats. Abandon all hope for that idiotic party. I did eighteen years ago this month. What the hell are you waiting for?

I have this fantasy of living in a lighthouse - only it's not located at the edge of an ocean; this one is situated high atop a mountain. It's comfortable, secluded, nearly unreachable - and yet, I can see everything. No one bothers me. That would be sweet.

Life could be a dream. Sh-boom, baby!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED VIEWING:

Charlie Chaplin with Eric Campbell, 1916
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Early in 1916, Charles Spencer Chaplin signed a contract to produce twelve two-reelers for the Mutual Film Company. The work he produced in 1916 and 1917 is generally regarded by film historians as some of the finest of his career. One-hundred years ago tomorrow, Charlie released his first in that series. It's called "The Floorwalker" and, a century later, it's still a scream. Here's a link to watch it on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3f4vsdW601M

The restoration of this one is amazing. A hundred years later - and nearly forty years after his death - we can't stop talking about Charlie Chaplin. This is a very good thing.

Friday, May 06, 2016

The Death of the GOP


Here is what I wrote on this site on August 4 last year on the subject of Donald Trump: 

"I really don't believe that he will be nominated at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Then again,  that's what I said thirty-five years ago regarding a feeble-minded, washed-up "B" movie star; I said the same thing twenty years later about a half-witted frat boy from Crawford, Texas. I had better check myself. With the United States as seriously dumbed-down as it has become during the last four decades, it's probably a good rule of thumb not to dismiss the possibility of something that at one time would have been seen as impossible...."

Donald Trump is at this hour the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party in the year 2016.

Let me repeat that just in case it hasn't sunk in:

Donald Trump is at this hour the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party in the year 2016.

Within a few hours of Trump winning the Indiana primary, Ted Cruz took himself out of the running. The following day, John Kasich bowed out. I received an email yesterday from a woman named Jaime Brewer, who lives in Princeton, Indiana. She told me that she was moving back to her home town of Clay City, Illinois. She said that she was not meant to live in so broken a state. I could relate. I used to be proud of my Hoosier heritage (my late mother was a native of South Bend). Not so much anymore. The Midwest was at one time a pretty progressive region. That was then. This is now. 

What's the matter with Kansas?

What happened in Indiana on Tuesday night was the Republican Party's death knell. It's over. It's fucking over. The moment has arrived that I've been predicting for the last decade. If you'll be kind enough to recall, the very first little ditty that I ever composed on this site - nearly ten years ago - was called: "George W. Bush - The Last Republican President". At that moment I wasn't entirely sure that I was correct in my prediction. Within four years I was totally convinced. Forgive me for tooting my own horn, but you had to have been blind not to see this coming. For the first time in 160 years, one Democratic administration will follow another Democratic administration into the White House on Inauguration Day. Think about that.

And while you're at it, think about this: A political party that was founded 160 years ago on the noble idea that human bondage would forever be obliterated from humanity's landscape is tonight lying in smoldering ruins on Donald Trump's funeral pyre. Note to the Republican National Committee: Strike the tents, fold up the chairs and go home. It will survive for a few more years in the House and the Senate, but as far as the presidency is concerned, the bells of doomed are tolling, baby! Your party is dead. 

Not that I'm complaining, mind you....

From Abraham Lincoln to Donald Trump: How completely pathetic. Forgive me for finding this entire mess so indescribably comical. For anyone paying attention, these are wondrous days to be alive. It's almost like having a deck chair on the Titanic - knowing that you can miraculously extricate yourself from the disaster the moment the ship disappears into the water. This really is an incredible time to be a witness to. It's not the equivalent to watching human beings walking on the moon forty-seven years ago, but it's pretty damned close. To think that it would ever come to this....

Do you remember one year ago? At a time when the number of wannabees packed into the GOP clown car was seventeen, the only one of the lot even marginally qualified for the office of the presidency was former New York governor, George Pataki. Not that I would ever have voted for the guy, but when placed in comparison to the likes of Donald Trump, he has the gravitas of Theodore Roosevelt. And yet, on his best day, he barely registered in the polls; two or three percent was his highest showing. What does that tell you?

Worse still, because of his campaign, Ted Cruz has strengthened his base with the nitwits who vote in Texas elections. I was hoping that Ted would be a political flash-in-the-pan, it appears that he's going to be around for a while. That's okay. We could use the unintentional laughs.

As stated in earlier posts, I'm not-at-all thrilled with the idea that - barring a miracle - Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States. She's a living, breathing reminder to me why I bolted that worthless party eighteen years ago this month. That being said, as awful a candidate as she is, she's still light years preferable to anything the Republicans are bound to puke up - not only in this year - but in every year going back to 1956. You know things have gotten bad when a corporate handmaiden like Hillary can be viewed as a reasonable alternative,

I need a drink.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

AFTERTHOUGHT: 

A silent prayer of thanks to God for sending our way Father Daniel Berrigan, a man who took the Sermon on the Mount literally. This radical priest spent a total of seven of his ninety-four years in prison protesting America's sick obsession with its military industrial complex. 

On May 17, 1968, Father Dan (who passed away this week), his brother, Father Phillip Berrigan, and seven others, entered a draft board in Catonsville, Maryland, seized the records of hundreds of young men (disproportionately African American), went out to the parking lot and set them aflame with homemade napalm.

Dan Berrigan was the real deal.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Hillary and Donald: The Inevitables


It's all-but-certain: 2016 is going to be a surreal retread of 1968 - minus all of the cool music. There will be no Beatles in 2016. Bummer, man.

If you'll be kind enough to recall (or if you know your history) 1968 was the year when the American electorate were presented with a choice between Richard M. Nixon and Hubert  H. Humphrey, which, to put it as mildly as possible, was really no choice at all. On Election Day '68, I was ten-years-old - too young to cast a ballot. Had I been of-age during that horrible year, I have little doubt whom I would have voted for. There were two comedians running as write-in candidates that year: Pat Paulsen (a featured player on the Smothers Brothers program) and Dick Gregory. Paulsen's candidacy was a perfectly sick, cynical (and brilliant) joke, while Gregory was in earnest. I probably would have voted for Greg over Pat - but it would have been a tough call, I assure you. 1968 was that kind of year. With respect to Nixon and Humphrey, what thinking person gave a damn?

That was the year that Bobby Kennedy was murdered in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, minutes after winning the California primary. All hope died at that moment. Perhaps he would have been our political salvation; or perhaps he would have turned out to be the prototype of Bill Clinton. Shit! We'll never know.

Here's the grim choice we'll probably be presented with in 2016: Bill's power-obsessed wife or Donald Trump. It all comes down to that. I find it poignantly amusing that a few GOP politicians, all of whom had previously tolled the chimes of doom for this country if Trump ever made it to the White House, are now ready and willing to endorse him. Party before country as far as these jackasses are concerned. To hell with the American people. Once upon a more tranquil time, I was a loyal Democrat. In May of 1998 I bolted that spineless, incompetent party. The Clintons were the last straw. My loyalty was (and still is) to my country. 

Here is (yet again) another example of the Democrats' genius for turning champagne into donkey piss. They were handed - on a silver platter - the most visionary candidate in their history (more than FDR even) and they have told him, in effect, to take a flying leap. Someone like Bernie Sanders comes around only once in a lifetime. Here's the good news: The next time a candidate of Bernie's vision comes down the pike, the Democratic and Republican parties will both have been consigned to history's garbage bin. There's a dandy thought for you. 

Good riddance to them all.

And please don't mistake my trepidation regarding Ms. Clinton as sexism. My first choice as candidate (before any politician - including Bernie Sanders) would have been Elizabeth Warren. She chose not to run and I have no doubt she had perfectly good reasons not to. I hope she changes her mind in 2020. She's the best thing to happen to progressive politics in this warped country in a long time.

I might vote on Election Day. I might not. I'm seriously tempted to cast a write-in ballot for Bernie Sanders. I live in New York. Hillary Clinton will win this state handily. I would not be so careless if I lived in a so-called "purple state". A choice between Clinton and Trump is a choice between Tweedle Bad and Tweedle Badder. While it's a horrible thought to visualize her as chief executive, Trump would be a catastrophe, probably signifying the end of the United States as we once knew it. You think I'm being an alarmist? Fine. I've got a really nutty idea: Let's all vote for The Donald in November and see what happens.

Are you at least able to understand my exasperation? What's the point of believing in the system when so many so-called "liberals" are willing to cast their lot with a corporate shill like Hillary? Why bother caring when a plutocratic whore like The Donald is on the verge of receiving the nomination from a party that (at one time) was the ideological base of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower? The people of this idiotic nation are going to deserve everything that happens to them.

Tonight I have a serious buzz. Desperate times require desperate measures, as they say. This country will only be saved by taking a hard turn to the left. Don't hold your breath waiting for the electorate to wake up. Americans don't get it. They never will. This is the place where, nearly forty years after the invention of photography, slavery was still a legal and cherished institution. In fact it still is. Just take a look at the Prison Industrial Complex. We have more people rotting in prisons than any other industrialized nation on this planet. We're about as much "the land of the free" as we are the land of the purple unicorn. Get a grip.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

AFTERTHOUGHT:

Thanks to Frances Ruth Harris for providing me with the Weekly Standard cover. 

SUGGESTED READING:

Blue Highways 
By William Least Heat-Moon

In the early seventies, William Least Heat-Moon (it's a native-American name) lost his job as a professor at a Missouri college and took off in his van to discover America. What he did was quite interesting: During his journey he avoided the interstates and traveled only by back roads and two-lane highways. He encountered a great country filled with kind, thoughtful and hard-working people; a country that is worth saving in other words. This isn't a travelogue. This is great literature. In some ways it reminded me of Henry David Thoreau's Walden Pond, the difference being that, while Thoreau's observations were written within the confines of a pond in the New England wilderness, Heat-Moon covered a continent. Another difference is, to be completely frank, Blue Highways is a lot more readable. At times, Walden seemed the literary equivalent of drinking saltwater taffy out of a paper cup. 

Blue Highways is still in print. If it's not available from your friendly, independently owned book store (like they really exist any longer) here's a link to order it off of Amazon.com:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_2_13?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=blue+highways+william+least+heat-moon&sprefix=Blue+Highways%2Caps%2C1055

Thanks to friend, Brian Sager, for making me aware of this one. I'm embarrassed to say that I had never heard of it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Gimme That Old Time Fascism


I've been more than a bit disappointed in Paul Krugman as of late. His support of Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries makes no sense at all. What is more disturbing than that is the fact that, in the past twenty years, the man has been proven over time to be in the right on every single issue he's confronted. Why should this time be the exception to the rule? It's not too much of a stretch to think that maybe he knows something that I don't know. After all, he's a pretty smart fellow - but Hillary Clinton??? As I've stated on this site before, perhaps she'll surprise us. Perhaps Mr. Paul is in on her "secret plan". Maybe, but I'm not optimistic. Hillary leaves me cold; and there has been nothing in her campaign to change my mind on that score.

On some YouTube site this morning, a well-meaning but utterly clueless Sanders supporter claimed that "she is not the Democratic Party." This poor guy has missed the point entirely. The problem with Hillary Clinton is that she is the Democratic Party. She's one of the reasons I left the Dems eighteen years ago next month. With donkeys like her, who the heck needs those elephants?

They long ago forgot that they're supposed to be the party of FDR. They're not any longer. That's been the case for a very long time - we're takin' decades. Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren are the exceptions. They've never been the rule. Perhaps that might change, but I'm not going to hold my breath. In the mean time we're forced to contend with the Hillary Clintons and the Chuck Schumers. I need a drink.

There is a growing fear out there that, if denied the nomination, Senator Sanders will mount a third party uprising. Relax. If Hillary ends up being the nominee, I'm certain he will urge all of us to get behind her. Bernie loves this country too well to do anything as despicable as that. Sad to say but, if nominated, Clinton will be the lesser of two evils - or as Ralph Nader might have said - "the evil of two lessers". Whatever the case, it's a given that she'll be (I think) preferable to anything the Republicans are likely to puke up (I hope).

What Me Worry?
But Krugman made a great point in a recent New York Times column regarding the Republican primaries and the current contest between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. As indescribably horrible as a Trump administration would prove for this already-doomed nation (not to mention the entire planet) a "President Cruz" would be far worse. To be honest with you, I really don't think that that's gonna happen. Not even the American people are that completely naive. The problem is this: No sooner does that idea come to my mind when I'm hammered by the memory that this is the same thought I had sixteen years ago with regard to George W. Bush. The American people would never send this moron to the White House - or so I thought. They even ended up re-electing the guy. Ain't that something?

Are you ready for the punchline? So extreme are the current headliners in the GOP quest to take back the White House, Bush is starting to look like a moderate.

Wait! It gets even better! Ronald Reagan is starting to look like Abraham Freakin' Lincoln! Aren't these interesting times? They are, you know. They really are!

But Ted Cruz is something else indeed. This country would not survive a Cruz administration. I'm not saying that I would mind terribly much to see him inaugurated next January 20; in fact, it would be the best thing that ever happened to me - much in the same way that Dubya's reign of error suited my purposes quite nicely. When one's vocation is highlighting the utter destruction of a country that was (at one time) a nice place in which to live, something as completely weird and preposterous as old Ted makes one's task a bit easier to say the least. And let's face some irrefutable facts here: While we are descending steadily into the abyss, at least we can be comforted by the thought that we'll be laughing all the way. The guy is a riot of unintentional mirth.

I always pride myself on being able to find these little silver linings. It's a gift.

Ted Cruz is a dangerous dingbat and a demagogue of the first (and worst) order. Show me someone who would humorously speculate whether or not middle eastern sand would "glow in the dark" after a nuclear strike, and I'll show you someone who probably should not be placed within a thousand miles of the Oval Office. This is common sense, folks. I cannot believe that so many of our fellow citizens would believe that sending this chucklehead and sociopath to the White House would be a jolly good idea.

As the man once said, "Be careful what you wish for".

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
`
AFTERTHOUGHT:`
MY cousin, Patricia Cullen sent me a link a couple of days ago to this column from the New Orleans Uptown Messenger. The writer, a guy named Owen Courreges, makes no bones regarding the fact that he is vehemently opposed to the very idea of a fifteen-dollar-an-hour minimum wage. Here is my response in the comments section:
"You tell us that it is unfair to pay fifteen dollars an hour to "unskilled labor". I disagree. By your own admission prices would rise only "slightly" (your word). I don't know about you, but I would be delighted to pay fifty cents more for a Big Muck (not a typo) knowing that the person preparing it was receiving a wage he or she could live on. Or better still, maybe the corporate dynamos way atop the McDonalds food chain (pun intended) could take a pay cut of several million dollars. They would still be exceedingly wealthy men and women. Just a thought.
"And while we're on the subject of food, here's a little tidbit to munch on: In the states where "unskilled labor" earn the highest wages, those economies are doing much better than those where wages are the lowest - particularly in the old confederacy where (WHAT A COINCIDENCE!) Louisiana happens to be located.
"Your argument is riddled with examples of the utter futility of conservative thought. Wake up and smell the elephant dung, Owen.
"Raise the minimum wage to fifteen bucks per hour and watch your economy go through the roof. In countries like Norway and Sweden, fast food workers make the equivalent of $25.00 per hour and more. Last I checked (which was less than five minutes ago) those places are doing quite nicely."

Although I tried twice to post that message in the comments section, the Uptown Messenger refused to publish it. Cowards. Within less than an hour after I wrote it, I learned that the CEO of McDonalds has just given himself a three-hundred percent pay raise. Nice work if you can get it.

You can read Owen Courreges' article here:

http://uptownmessenger.com/2016/04/owen-courreges-if-the-fight-for-15-wins-expect-higher-prices-and-fewer-jobs/#comment-43250

It's only fair that I post  a link to it so you can judge for yourself:

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Bad Days Here in New York


I'm resigned to the (almost) inevitability that Hillary Clinton is going to be the Democratic nominee this summer. If that turns out to be the case, if I'm forced to make a choice between her or Donald Trump - or Ted Cruz - I won't even bother voting on Election Day. That statement is not as irresponsible as it might seem. I live in New York, a decidedly blue state. It won't take a smidgen of effort for Hillary Clinton to win the place she's called home for the last fifteen years. It would be a different story if I were living in Florida or Michigan. If that were the case I would work overtime for her. The fact of the matter is simply that she doesn't inspire me, and, to be blunt about it, I just don't trust her. She's about as much of a progressive as her husband is. Translate that to read: Not very progressive at all.

I'll have better things to be doing on November 8, I'm sure. 

I know that most Liberals would like to see the first woman follow the first African American into the White House (and if she is inaugurated in January that will be the only silver lining) but she wasn't quite the woman I had in mind.

Politically speaking, Elizabeth Warren is the love of my life. She is one of the depressingly few politicians out there telling the American people what they desperately need to hear (Bernie Sanders is another). I'm sure she had dandy reasons for not running. One of those reasons may have been that she saw all of the obstruction (call it "treason" if you wish) that the Republicans threw in Barack Obama's path for all of the last seven years and decided - the hell with it. Who could blame her if that is, indeed, the case? And what's the use of trying to govern a nation where so many of the population sincerely believe the old Reagan mantra that "government is the problem"? At least she's making a difference where she is.

"Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred."

Franklin Delano Roosevelt
31 October 1936
`
Squirrelly Man
On Election Day 2008, I really was naïve enough to believe that Obama would practically be the second coming of FDR. That didn't turn out to be the case. That being said, I have never regretted voting for the man, and as we near the end of his tenure, I have to concede that he's been a pretty good president. But I wanted more. You see, I was pining for greatness. Considering all of the nonsense he was forced to put up with, I suppose we ought to cut the guy some slack. When the history of these times is written in the not-too-distant future, Obama's legacy will stand fairly tall, while his detractors - the McConnells, the Boehners, the Palins, et. al. - will all end up looking like psychologically deranged little squirrels. No amount of revisionism will be able to white wash their legacies. For the past sixty years, the extreme right wing has been trying to do just that with Joe McCarthy. You will be kind enough to notice that it hasn't worked out too well for them. Old Joe still languishes at the top of history's scrap heap where he belongs - and where he'll remain.

So that's where we stand. The New York primary is Tuesday, and there's little doubt that Hillary is going to walk away with it. Perhaps she'll surprise us by magically transforming herself into the type of politician we've been praying for, but I'm not going to hold my breath. I'm also not giving up on Bernie. Where there's life there's hope, you know?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

AFTERTHOUGHT, 4/18/16, 5:27 AM:

Don't let the polls (or me) discourage you. If you're a resident of New York State, and you're a supporter of Bernie Sanders, get out there and vote in tomorrow's primary like your life depended on it. I'm ineligible to partake in the process because I bolted the Dems in May of 1998. I'm making up for it by trying to get out the vote. Bernie can still win this thing, but it involves getting as many people to the polls as possible. Don't stop feeling the Bern, baby!

SUGGUESTED LISTENING:

Song of India by Rimsky-Korsakov

`
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBpN9-XOIqQ

Just sit back and let this piece overtake you. It's one of the most beautiful compositions I've ever heard.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Bernie Sanders for President

Feel the Bern!


It's interesting: For every jaw-droppingly stupid move our "leaders" have made over the last thirty-plus years, there is a video available of Bernie Sanders trying to put a stop to it. In fact, they're all over the internet. This has to be the most prescient politician to come along since Abraham Lincoln.

This may be a badly kept secret, but I am supporting Bernie Sanders for president. SURPRISE! I'm not trying to imply that my endorsement means all that much - I really wish it did. Despite one-and-a-quarter million hits in the last four years, my audience, I'll concede, is pretty small when compared with Alternet or the Huffington Post (I'm working on that). All I can do here is give you my reasons for why I believe he would be a good and maybe (dare I say it?) great chief executive. 

I attempted a couple of weeks ago to re-register as Democrat (temporarily, I assure you) just so I could cast my vote for Bernie in the upcoming New York primaries. That is what is known as an act of desperation. As it turned out, my efforts were in vain. The nice woman at my local board of elections informed me that in order to vote in this primary season, I should have made the switch back in November. I'm still an independent.

Bernie Sanders is holding up a mirror to American society and forcing all of us to look very carefully at what is being reflected. A lot of people don't particularly care for that image, and many "professional Democrats" are derisively dismissing him as being unelectable - in the same manner they condescended toward the candidacy of an obscure African American politician from Chicago when he sought the White House eight years ago. Bernie is addressing issues that for decades have been ignored by politicians of both parties - issues that are screaming to be dealt with. Too non-telegenic? A case can be made for that. But maybe - just maybe - the stakes are too high this year and we'll be able to get past that. Besides, he'll have the good fortune of running against either Ted Cruz or Donald Trump. Need I elaborate? I didn't think so.

Too many of us are frightened out of our wits by the label "radical". If Bernie is chosen as Democratic standard bearer at this summer's convention, that is the word the Republican candidate will use to describe him during the autumn campaign. It will probably be the only true thing that will come out of his mouth all year. Bernie Sanders is a radical - very much in the same way that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a radical. At a time in American history when radical change was desperately needed to lift America out of the worst economic crisis in the history of the world, the people - astonishingly - chose to send FDR to Washington in 1933. After he was through saving America, he decided (just for shits and giggles, you understand) to save the world. During his lifetime he was denounced as "a socialist". Today he is remembered as one of the ablest presidents in the history of this country. That's no coincidence.

Would Hillary Clinton be a decent president? I don't know the answer to that question. What I do know is that her credentials as a true progressive are paper-thin, and that she has an unsettling coziness with Wall Street and the banksters who have made a sport of plundering the American economy for over three decades. If she is the next president of the United States (and this is not merely an assumption on my part, it's a stone-cold fact) not a single one of these bastards will be prosecuted by the Clinton II justice department and sent to prison for their crimes against the American people. That won't be the case under President Sanders - you'd better believe it, baby. A whole lotta chickens are gonna be doin' some serious roosting!

If Hillary gets the nomination this summer, it will be yet another out of examples too voluminous to count, of the Democrats taking a fine bottle of champagne and turning it into donkey piss. 

There are some who would roll their eyes and whine, "There they go again! The Left is going to cut off their noses to spite their faces, just as they did sixteen years ago with the candidacy of Ralph Nader!" Bernie Sanders is not Ralph Nader and 2016 is not 2000.

Back then, most of the electorate didn't have a clue (as Nader did) where their sick love affair with right wing politics and politicians was taking their country. That has all changed. The sleeping giant of the American Left is waking up from a long and troubled slumber - and they're pissed. While it's true that we must abandon all hope for most of the deep South and the Midwest, where blind ignorance is part of the cultural heritage, the rest of the nation is beginning to see the light. 

Bernie Sanders is a man who is in the right historical place at the right historical time. Would he be a successful president? That all depends upon the ideological makeup of the House and Senate come January 2017. But still, I'd rather have someone living in the White House whom I know to have the interests of the poor and middle class at heart. In this position he would be able to prevent further damage from being done to the workers.

You bet I'm supporting Bernie Sanders. Aren't you?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
`
AFTERTHOUGHT, 4/8/16:

A friend of mine sent me a YouTube link this morning that contained quite a few scenes from vintage films where a (white) actor says:

"I'm twenty-one, I'm white and I'm free"....

....or variations on that phrase.

It's a classic commentary on the "white privilege" that was taken for granted in this country seventy and eighty years ago. In fact, in too many respects that still is the case (Have you been to a Donald Trump rally recently?) I won't bother sharing the link. You get the idea.

I love classic Hollywood, but there have been too many instances where I'll find myself sitting down to an excellent drama or musical comedy of the era when my enjoyment is shattered by the sudden appearance of the stereotypical Uncle Tom, and the rest of the film is ruined for me. These movies were not created during the Dark Ages. The Hollywood of the thirties and forties was, compared to the rest of the country, a fairly sophisticated place. They ought to have known better. 

I feebly attempted to tackle this nasty subject a year-and-a-half ago on the seventy-fifth anniversary of the release of 1939's "Gone With the Wind":

Mah! Mah! The ol' plantation sho' has changed!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

POST #634: Random Observations

Awaiting instructions from Moscow. Didn't you just figure?

What follows is merely a collection harmless diatribes that I had posted here and there out in the Facebooksphere or in my handy-dandy notebook. I've been sitting here all morning and half of the night trying to figure out what to write. It's not writers block, but simply a case of "where the heck do I begin???" All similarities to any persons, living or dead, is purely intentional.
`
1. Still Feelin' the Bern

A little over two weeks ago (on this very site, don'cha know!) I fairly well wrote off the revolutionary candidacy of Bernie Sanders as "a lost cause". Wish I could take that back (of course, I could delete it but that would be sneaky). Bernie is determined to take his quest to the bitter end, and, with each passing day, it is becoming more likely that this quest is not the impossible dream I had imagined. As has been said here too many times to count in the last decade, this country is only going to be saved if the American people take a decided turn to the left; otherwise we're doomed. President Sanders would be a sweet step in the right direction.

2. Donald and the Dumb-Down

The Donald, it seems, cannot piss off the halfwits who comprise the Tea Party base. His monumental gaffes only serve his ambitions - or so it would seem. So heart-breakingly dumbed-down have the overwhelming majority of conservatives in this country become in recent years, his candidacy was a disaster waiting to happen. It doesn't matter really who wins the nomination in Cleveland this summer: Trump or Cruz, the Republican Party is finished. The only thing that will save them at this point is a coup d'etat (and don't think for a minute they're not seriously considering one. Shh!

3. Sarah's Meltdown

Recent video postings by Sarah Palin have been very amusing on the one hand, and quite disturbing on the other. It would appear that the poor soul is becoming a bit unhinged - that is to say - more unhinged than we've come to expect. It is amazing when you consider that, less than seven years ago, a major American political party chose this shallow, incurious woman to be second on their presidential ticket. Sarah Palin in 2008 was merely a prelude to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in 2016. John McCain will be eighty years old on August 29 of this year. To think that she might have been "a heartbeat away from the presidency" at this very moment is enough to give the most strongest of constitutions the dry heaves. We really dodged a bullet there, folks.

4. The Trouble with Kasich

Let me be as clear as possible: I would never vote for John Kasich for president; I don't particularly envy the good people of Ohio having him as their governor. Having said that, it's only fair that I point out that Kasich was the least reprehensible of all the candidates traveling in the GOP's 2016 Clown Car. For that reason alone, he doesn't stand a chance of being nominated by that party. Having watched him the other evening being interviewed at a town hall meeting by NBC's Chuck Todd, I had to concede that he's a fairly astute dude. Although he is definitely a right-winger, it has to be said  that he's not an extremist (or at least, that's how he presents himself - Heaven knows what he's really thinking). That kind of politician no longer has a place within the Republican Party. That is why they will very soon disappear.

As Lenny Bruce once said in another context: "There's gonna be a lotta dues, Jim!" Indeed.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
`
SUGGESTED READING:

The Comedians
by Kliph Nesteroff

This history of stand-up comedy covers the years from the early twentieth century to the present time. I couldn't put this one down; in fact I read the whole thing in about a day and a half. If you're half as passionate about comedy and comedians as I am, you won't regret investing in this one. Although they are the national treasure of any country, this book reinforces something I've known for a long time: Comedians tend to be among the most dysfunctional human beings on the planet (no state secret there). My only complaint was a handful of glaring omissions (Andy Kaufman, Steven Wright, and Martin Short in particular). Other than that, it's perfect. 
`
AFTERTHOUGHT:
`
It was a bit of a jolt for baby boomers who can remember "The Patty Duke Show" and "It's Gary Shandling's Show" to learn that both actors passed away this week at the age of sixty-nine. They're starting to fade away.
From "The Rant", April 9, 2013:
This is getting to be an awkward time for me, at least as far as memories are concerned. The teenage icons of my early childhood - not terribly far removed from me in terms of age - are beginning to fade into eternity. When I was a little boy they seemed eternally youthful and indestructible. They weren't, of course. They were (and are) as vulnerable as any of us in their grip on that brittle thread that binds us to this earth. For every soul who goes before me I fear it less and less.
Has anybody here seen my old friend Lennon?

Friday, March 25, 2016

Just Say Whoah! Nixon's War On Blacks


"You want to know what this is really all about? The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the anti-war left and black people. You understand what I'm saying?"
`
John Ehrlichman
Aide to President Richard M. Nixon
Yeah, we understand, Johnny; all too well.
`
Ehrlichman
In the forty-two years since Dick Nixon resigned from the presidency in complete and utter disgrace, his apologists have held up the hope that, with the passing of the decades, historians would begin to revision him. Delivering the eulogy at his funeral in May of 1994, President Bill Clinton declared that the time had come to judge Nixon by his entire career, not merely through the jagged prism  of the Watergate scandal. Indeed, we no longer view Nixon through the same lens with which we viewed him on August 9, 1974, the day he was sent packing. That's the good news. Are you ready for the bad? It was worse than any of us ever imagined in our wildest, most demented dreams. As more and more tapes and hidden memoirs are made public, it becomes clearer with the passing of each year: This was one despicably evil son-of-a-bitch.
`
This undeniable fact was brought home to me, yet again, when I scanned the front page of Wednesday's New York Daily News:
`
NIXON ADMINISTATION INVENTED ANTI-DRUG CAMPAIGN TO TARGET MINORITIES
`
The so-called "war on drugs" was nothing more than a pogrom developed for no other reason than to persecute African Americans and the counter-culture. Now that we know the motivation behind the "war", do you think this might be as good a time as any to end it? I'm just putting the thought out there.

Ehrlichman, who died in 1999, was interviewed five years earlier by writer, Dan Baum, for a book called, "Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics off Failure". At the time, Mr. Baum thought that this little  bombshell was not pertinent to his thesis, and, for reasons known only to him,  he inexplicably chose to delete it from the manuscript. Nixon's handmaidens  are, at the moment, beside themselves in a desperate attempt to explain away this major - and quite scandalous - revelation. Their spin is that this is merely a case of rancid grapes, that poor old Johnny never forgave the Trickster for not granting him full and unconditional pardon  (he would serve eighteen months in prison for his crimes). Ehrlichman was usually pretty candid about his role in the Nixon administration. He kindly elaborated further:

"We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be against the war - or black - but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana, and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities....Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did,"

Nice.

None of this has surprised me a bit. Anyone possessing even a cursory knowledge of the life of the old bastard knows full well that, in addition to Jews and "lefties", Dick Nixon had a serious problem with minorities in general and black people in particular.

During the campaign of '68, Southern resentment toward Lyndon Johnson and the Democrats was festering. For over a century Dixie had been solidly Democratic. They just couldn't bring themselves to ally with the party of "that bearded bastard that  freed our slaves". That all changed when LBJ signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964, followed by the Voting Rights act of 1965.  The hostility of the Dixiecrats gave Nixon the political opportunity of the millennium. He and his henchmen cooked-up what came to be known as "the Southern Strategy".

In the aftermath of the nationwide urban riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Nixon let it be known, in a not-too-subtle way, that "law 'n' order" would be the order of the day in his administration, and that the good, God-fearin' folks south of the Mason-Dixon line would no longer be jolted by uprisings from these filthy, ill-mannered negroes - forget the fact that the riots were almost exclusively limited to Northern cities.

The scam worked. "The Solid South" has been solidly Republican ever since. Don'cha just love politics? I do. I really do!

I've read enough biographies of Richard Milhous Nixon to know that he was a really smart guy - one of the smartest men to hold that office in the twentieth century. Even his most ardent detractors concede that he wasn't stupid - arrogant, yes - but very intelligent. I also know that he was psychologically unbalanced and that he never should have gotten within ten feet of the Oval Office. To think that for over four decades, generations of Americans, most of them African American  or Hispanic, have suffered needlessly under our insanely punitive drug laws for no other reason than Dick Nixon's desire to score some cheap political points and win re-election in 1972.  It defies any and all senses of human decency. We need to stop apologizing for this vile, contemptible bigot.  

When Harry S Truman's presidency expired on January 20, 1953, his popularity among the American electorate was lower than any chief-executive in modern American history.  It was even lower than George W. Bush's rating when he left the White House (which is an achievement in itself when  you think about it). By that time, the right wing SCREAM MACHINE, in the person of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, was just finding its voice. Posterity's judgment has been kinder to Harry than his contemporaries were. I'll never forget the final sentence of David McCullough's biography of the man:

"He stands like a rock in history."

The Trickster won't be one/tenth as lucky. He stands like a turd. Richard Milhous Nixon  needs to be consigned to history's dust bin - immediately.

I'll close this with a quote from the late Hunter Thompson, the most outspoken Nixon critic of them all:

“It is Nixon himself who represents that dark, venal and incurably violent side of the American character that almost every country in the world has learned to fear and despise. Our Barbie-doll president, with his Barbie-doll wife and his boxful of Barbie-doll children is also America's answer to the monstrous Mr. Hyde. He speaks for the Werewolf in us; the bully, the predatory shyster who turns into something unspeakable, full of claws and bleeding string-warts on nights when the moon comes too close…”

Perfect.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED READING:

Witness to Power
by John Ehrlichman

A very interesting political memoir to say the least. Ehrlichman was there at the scene of the crime, and is as candid as any insider ever was about the corruption of the Nixon Mob.