Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Progressive Dilemma

A Stand Up Guy makes his pitch


Hedges and Reich
It was an interesting debate I witnessed this morning on Democracy Now between Chris Hedges and Robert Reich. It's obvious that there is as much dissention and conflict on the left this morning as there is among their right wing counterparts. Reich, a former official in the administration of Bill Clinton, had come out early as a supporter of Bernie Sanders. When it became sadly obvious this week that Hillary Clinton would be the 2016 Democratic nominee for the presidency, he publicly endorsed her. Hedges, on the other hand, is of the opinion that all true progressives should commence with a third party uprising that, although it might put liberals "in the political wilderness" for a few years, would pay off big dividends in the long run. Reich called these notions "insane".
 
I wouldn't go quite that far. Chris Hedges is a writer I respect and admire, and I do sympathize with his motivations. If there is anyone out there whose writing is more on-target and revealing about the American train-wreck, I'm not aware of it. In fact, there are few people in public life whom I have more admiration for than both of these guys; it was unsettling to see them so vehemently opposed to one another. That being said, it is with much reluctance that I have to side with Robert Reich on this one. To quote Eleanor Roosevelt in a speech she made to the Democratic National Convention seventy-six years ago, this is "no ordinary time".
 
If the Republican nominee this year had been George Pataki or Susan Collins (the only two I can name that aren't bat-shit crazy) I would be quite agreeable to Chris's idea; it would serve those moronic Democrats right. I might have also been open to Hedges's idea had the candidacy this year been a repeat performance of goofy old Mitt Romney's quest for the White House four years ago. But this is something entirely different; this is sick, ominous territory we've wondered into here. The "party of Abraham Lincoln" has this year nominated a candidate so vile and deranged, comparisons to the rise of Adolf Hitler eighty-three years ago are not only not over-the-top - they're unavoidable (from the blatant racism all the way down to the stupid haircut). In this humid summer of 2016, we have found ourselves standing at the edge of the abyss.

You think I'm being overly alarmist? Fine. Let's all vote for Donald Trump this November and see what happens.

The person I feel the sorriest for this morning is Bernie Sanders. His revolutionary campaign today lies in ruin. Had the main-stream-media and the Democratic National Committee not been in confederacy against him (as I believe they were), had every person who desired to cast their ballot for him been allowed to do so, he would today be the nominee. I also believe that he would have cleaned the Donald's clock on Election Day; every poll had him doing as much. As it stands, Ms. Clinton is now barely neck-and-neck with the guy. What the hell does that tell you?

A lot of Bernie's supporters are livid at the man for "going over to the dark side". This is something he absolutely needs to do. This an example of a person falling on his sword for the greater good. The stakes for this country are too high for him to be throwing a monkey wrench into the process. Ralph Nader's third-party-candidacy sixteen years ago was a noble cause - but its grim aftereffect was eight long and depressing years of the George W. Bush White House. Bernie Sanders loves his country too well to destroy it by being a sore loser.

Did you ever think that you would live to see the day where the United States would become this completely weird? It really is an interesting spectacle to witness.

We have no other choice than to throw caution to the wind. Hillary has gone as far as an American politician can possibly go. Maybe she is through kissing the plutocratic butts she has been forced to kiss these many years to get to where she finds herself today. Maybe if she gets to the White House (not a foregone conclusion - stop kidding yourselves) she'll finally govern as the true progressive she has always claimed to be deep in her heart, and not the wishy-washy, right-leaning moderate she's always enjoyed playing on TV. Unfortunately we have no choice but to cast our lot with her. I know what you're thinking and I agree: This is unfair. That's the way it usually works in politics. A Donald Trump administration would set the progressive cause in this country back two-hundred and forty years. What other choice do we have - Dr. Jill Stein? She's a decent, intelligent person, but you're dreaming if she is your idea of a viable alternative.

I was stricken to my senses recently visiting with friends who are not only voting for Trump, they took me to task for not supporting him. I need to emphasize to you that these are not ignorant, uneducated hillbillies I'm talking about, these are intelligent, otherwise-reasonable people who live in the "sophisticated" Hudson Valley of New York state! That encounter had me tossing and turning for most of the night. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you this. I literally had a hard time sleeping, even after several helpings of vodka and vegetable juice.

The supporters of Bernie Sanders (and don't forget that I am one of them) need to take a deep breath. We'll live to fight another day. The result of four years of Donald Trump might very-well mean that there will be nothing left to fight for.  And as far as the Clinton campaign is concerned, they need to avoid complacency. They've got one hell of a steep hill to climb between now and November. The sooner they understand this the better.

No ordinary time indeed.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED VIEWING

Here is a link to watch Bernie Sanders delivering his speech to the Democratic National convention of the night of July 25, 2016. This is as good as it gets' folks:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0tVD87cZew

Bernie is one of our greatest living Americans. I don't care if his campaign is over, I'm still going to feel the Bern. Can't help myself!

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Elephants,They Are Imploding

"Mien Trumph". Laura Ingraham seigs a little heil with the Donald
`
It was as unbelievable a spectacle as has been seen in modern politics in a long time: There stood Ted Cruz at the podium of the Republican National Convention, being roundly jeered by the multitudes, for refusing to endorse the candidacy of Donald Trump. The Texas senator is damned lucky he's white. If Dr. Ben Carson had pulled this kind of stunt, there is no doubt in my mind that, given the demeanor of this mob, they would have lynched the poor old bugger on the spot and asked questions later.
 
And yet, there was old Ted standing his ground. It was a brave thing to do - or at least it seemed brave to those who haven't spent the last two-and-a-half years studying carefully this dangerous ignoramus's every move (as I have). Ted is playing his cards just right. He knows damned good and well that the Donald is going to get throttled at the polls come Election Day. He's angling himself to be in the perfect "I-told-you-so" position four years from now when the 2020 Republican primaries come to town. And perhaps that will be the case. The only problem is that, by then, the Republican Party will have been relegated to the fringes of the American political conversation.
 
Still, show me a political party where someone as completely repulsive as Ted Cruz emerges as the hero du jour, and I'll show you a political party that is in one helluva fix.
 
The 2016 Republican National Convention was such a totally surreal sideshow that I hardly know where to begin. My first reaction was to smile and say, "Somebody pinch me!" But this was no dream. This was happening before our very eyes; and the amazing thing is that none of the participants in this debacle seemed to have a clue what international laughingstocks they were making themselves out to be. It was quite amusing - in a pathetic sort of way. Donald Trump is legendary for his monumental lack of self awareness. Or is he?
 
"I was born a poor black child"
Trump is a student of political theater. He has studied the GOP campaign process quite closely, and he understands - as anyone who seriously studies it  can easily understand - that the only way a candidate is able to receive  the Republican presidential nomination these days, is by stumbling around the country - with one foot on a banana peel and the other in his mouth - saying a lot of jaw-droppingly mean and stupid things. The only candidate to come close to the Donald in sheer meanness and stupidity was Ted Cruz. That's why Cruz was the only other contestant left standing in Indiana back in May. It was there that poor old Ted folded his cards. Trump had saw to it that he wasn't going to be "out-stupided", not even by a hideous Neanderthal like Ted.

This political summer is like 1968 all over again (minus all the cool music, of course. There are no Beatles in 2016). In the aftermath of the riots at their national convention that year, some political soothsayers were writing the obituary of the Democratic Party. It only survived because it was inhabited  by enough serious people who desired to be responsible, faithful representatives of their constituents. In the late summer of 1974, in the wake of the resignation of Richard M. Nixon, the Republican Party was in ruins. They managed to carry on because there were still enough serious men and women within that organization to keep it viable. That's not the case with the modern-day GOP.

Now you see 'em. Soon you won't.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

 SUGGESTED VIEWING:

Here's my little musical contribution to the discussion, taped on July 20:
 
https://www.facebook.com/tomdegan/videos/10154261087980729/   

Ain't I a riot?

SUGGESTED READING

Neurotic, Not Psychotic: A Blue Girl in a Red State
by Heather Henderson Addison

My Facebook pal, Heather, has a new blog that shows much promise. She's most definitely on the right side of history - as are most lefties; A contradiction in terms if there ever was one.

https://heathersavann.com/

Drop in and show her some support. She lives in Alabama. She needs all the support she can possibly get!

SUGGESTED VIEWING:

Was at FYE in Newburgh on Saturday and picked up the film, Selma. It's about Dr. King and the events leading up to the march on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965. If you haven't seen this one yet, you really ought to. It's a keeper. The struggle for equal rights and human dignity is all-consuming and never ending.  Here's my review (sort of) from February 11 of last year:

http://tomdegan.blogspot.com/2015/02/selma-in-february.html

Wasn't that a time?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 21st Century


1891-2016: Same location, slightly different centuries
`
There's only one thing I love better than visiting the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library and Museum in Hyde Park, NY, and that is bringing people who have never been there before to see it for the first time, particularly young people. This week I had the pleasure of the company of two friends: Nina Saviello and Brian R. Sager (The "R" is to distinguish him from his dear old dad, Brian K. Sager). I've known Nina for three years; Brian I've known since about two-and-a-half years before the invention of dirt. In fact, he probably doesn't remember not knowing me. I can clearly remember not knowing him, though, and my life is better for his presence in it. That goes for Nina as well. Good kids. Lovely families. No criminal records. We're talkin' salt of the earth here.

This is something we had been tentatively planning for the better part of a year. Always, the problem had to do with scheduling - their schedules more that mine. You see, unlike Yours Truly, both Brian and Nina have something vaguely resembling "a life". We wanted to do this late last summer; then in the Autumn. Finally we settled on Sunday, July 10, 2016. I picked them up in the late morning and we were on our merry way (Tra-la-la).
`
Brian and Nina in the Map Room
`
One of the things that bugs me more than anything is how so few Americans in the Twenty-first Century understand and appreciate the debt their country (and the world) owes Franklin Roosevelt. It's been one of my missions to make sure that my generation, and subsequent ones that I may live to see, comprehend this. I cannot tell you what team won the 1932 World Series for the simple reason that, quite frankly, eighty-four years after the fact, it doesn't make a damned bit of difference who won it. I can, however, tell you who won the presidential contest that year. Four-score and four years later, that does indeed make a difference. Very much so. Had Herbert Hoover been re-elected in 1932, this world would be a very different place.

Think about this: On the night of February 15, 1933 - seventeen days before he was sworn in as president - Roosevelt was in Miami, having just returned from a fishing trip with some friends. From the back of his convertible, the president-elect made an impromptu speech to the delighted crowd that had gathered to greet him. Just as he finished talking, several gun shots rang out. None of the bullets hit FDR, but the man who was standing next to the car, Chicago mayor, Anton Cermak, was mortally wounded. He died nineteen days later. Had Franklin Roosevelt been killed on that evening, the presidency would have gone to his running mate, a not-too-visionary bigot from Texas named John Nance Garner. How do you think he would have dealt with the depression that was devastating America at that moment? How do you think he would have stood up to Adolf Hitler and the Nazis in the coming years?
`
The "what ifs" of history: They literally make the imagination tremble.
`
We arrived at the FDR Library and Museum at around noon. The first building one enters is called the "Henry Wallace Welcoming Center", which is named for FDR's second vice-president (He had three of them!) There is a larger-than-life-sized photograph of Mr. Wallace's smiling face at the entrance greeting visitors as they walk in. Do you think that there's a "Dick Cheney Welcoming Center" at the George W. Bush's library in Texas? I would think not. Who the hell in his-or-her right mind would even go near the joint with Chaney's face snarling at them from the entranceway? Would you subject your children to something that weird? I ask you.
`
Taking the tour with these two extraordinary young people, the passage of time came into serious perspective for me. When I was born in 1958, President Roosevelt had been dead for thirteen years. By the time Brian Sager and Nina Saviello came into the world, he had been gone from this earth for half a century. April 12 of this year marked the seventy-first anniversary of the day he died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage at his vacation home in Warm Springs Georgia. That is primarily the reason, I believe, why the legacy of the New Deal is on life support these days. There are only a relative handful of people who survive that have a conscious memory of the living, breathing FDR, and what he meant to the working men and women of this country. The New Deal brought into being a middle class that had been virtually non-existent before. Again, I cannot emphasize this enough: Our debt to this man is incalculable.

Something to ponder: The youngest voters to cast their ballots for Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 would today be 105-years old. My mother was only in the eighth grade when he passed away in 1945. She succumbed to old age last December 12. America has forgotten. I was thinking about this as we paused in the rose garden for a moment of quiet meditation at the spot where today, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt sleep side-by-side.

One thing a visitor to the FDR Library cannot help but notice are the artifacts of his paralysis.  In the summer of 1921, in his capacity as chairman of the Boy Scouts of America, Roosevelt was visiting one of their camps at Bear Mountain, NY (a place which is located less than twenty miles down the road from where I now sit). On this day, the last photograph of him standing unaided was taken. It was at Bear Mountain that the future president contracted polio, possibly by rinsing his sweat-soaked face in a barrel of cold water that had become contaminated by the virus.
`
A week-or-so later, while vacationing with Eleanor and the children on Campobello Island off the coast of Maine, he went to bed early complaining of a chill. The following morning, agonizing pain was pulsating through his every limb; by the next day, he was paralyzed from the neck down. A victim of Infantile Paralysis at the age of thirty-nine, he would never walk unaided again. At that moment, the general consensus among the movers-and-shakers within American politics, was that this one-time rising star was finished. This respected and successful attorney; this former New York State senator from Dutchess Country; this Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President Wilson; this 1920 vice-presidential nominee - was as helpless as an infant, and about as useful to the Democratic Party as one. He would spend the decade of the twenties fighting his way back to health - or a semblance thereof.

The normally stoic Eleanor would at one time break down weeping at the sight of this proud, once-athletic man, determinedly struggling his way up a staircase, one step at a time, by use of his hands and buttocks. His own suffering instilled in him an empathy for the suffering of others that would come to good use as a leader. By the end of the decade, he was living in the governor's mansion in Albany. Four years later, he was living in the White House in Washington. Facing a multitude of odds few human beings would have had the strength to surmount, he defied them all. In 1926, he spent two/thirds of his inheritance founding a center in Warm Springs, Georgia dedicated to the treatment and rehabilitation of people afflicted with poliomyelitis. And yet it goes much further than that. On the night of his death someone wrote:

"Although he never regained the use of his legs - much as he wanted to, much as he tried - he taught a crippled nation how to walk again."
`
We are a better nation because of this guy - you'd better believe it, Buster. He saved this republic from the worst economic catastrophe in its history. And when he was finished saving America? He decided to save the world. Are you impressed? I know I am. Franklin Roosevelt was as good as it gets. Everyone who has sat in the Oval Office since 1945 sits in the shadow of FDR, and they always seem to come up somewhat lacking at best - or seriously lacking at worst. I don't need to mention any names here, do I? I didn't think so.
`
A selfie with The Frankster
It was a nice day, and I'm happy to have spent it with Brian and Nina, two people whom I love and respect more than I can articulate. As I said, I get such a kick out of taking young people to the place where Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born on the night of January 30, 1882, the place he called "home" for the sixty-three years he spent on this earth (I almost said "walked this earth" That would have been a tad awkward) . My two French nieces will be visiting in a couple of weeks, and I plan on bringing them up there as well. I always feel better about America after spending a couple hours there. It's that kind of place.
`
Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

AFTERTHOUGHT:

Sculptures by Carolyn Palmer
`
The two photographs at the top of this piece were taken in the exact, same spot - on the back lawn of the Roosevelt family home, overlooking the Hudson River, 125 years apart. The  1891 photograph is of nine-year-old Franklin with his father, James (both on horseback), and his mother, Sarah (with the family pooch in tow). In the 2016 photo, Brian Sager and Nina Saviello are shown standing in the spot where Mrs. Roosevelt stood a century-and-and-a-quarter before. History, it's almost within our grasp, barely out of reach.

Ghosts.

SUGGESTED READING:

No Ordinary Time
by Doris Kearns-Goodwin

The best book on the Roosevelt White House ever written.


1932


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Amerigeddon

Iesha Evens Bears Witness (NY Daily News)

Lay that pistol down, babe
Lay that pistol down
Pistol packin' Mama
Lay that pistol down!

What has gone down in this country during the last week is attracting comment on so many different levels that one is at a loss to know where to begin. Guns? Violence? Hate? Yeah, all of that stuff, but I can't help wondering whether there might be some festering national psychosis infecting America's soul. What happened in Dallas over the weekend seems to render the National Rifle Association's latest argument meaningless. Only a good guy with a gun will stop a bad guy with a gun? Forgive me for pointing this out, but the streets of that city on Saturday night were literally crawling with good guys with guns - scads of 'em. That fact did not deter the maniac who opened fire on the the police. When the smoke had cleared, five of them were dead, and a lot more were wounded. Another NRA talking point shot to hell - pun most definitely intended. By the way, what's their solution for the carnage in Dallas over the weekend? More guns. Ain't that something?

And congress? As I said after the carnage at Newtown nearly four years ago: Don't expect them to do anything to change. Still, the people of Dallas may take some comfort in the knowledge that the "thoughts and prayers" of the corrupt politicians on the NRA's payroll are with them.

Of course, the extreme right wing is already using this latest atrocity to slander the Black Lives Matter movement, as if the sniper who committed these murders was the national spokesman of that organization; as if unarmed people who are being murdered by police almost daily these days are somehow complicit in their own slaughter. 

Philandeo Castile
The latest incident is the killing of Philandeo Castile in Minnesota. He was pulled over, allegedly, for a broken tail light (although the tail light was not damaged as it turns out). When Castile told the officer that he had a permit to carry a pistol and that he had it on him, the officer ordered him to Castile to produce his ID. When he reached for it, the murderous jackass shot him four times - in front of his girlfriend and eight-year-old daughter. He's dead. Nice, huh? And it makes some wonder why African Americans are so outraged. Incredible.

If this idiotic, murderous cop is allowed to walk free, the proverbial substance is gonna hit the fan, baby. This was cold-blooded murder. His excuse is that he thought Philandeo Castile was a robbery suspect. Mr. Castile was not a robbery suspect. Besides, if that is the only defense he can come up with, it's a pretty lame one. Last I checked, robbery was not a capital offence. Maybe that has changed I'll get back to you.

Black lives do indeed matter. All lives matter.

Not that I'm defending trigger-happy police officers, some of whom have the tendency of murdering unarmed people with dark skin, but there is a whole lot of room for understanding the situation most cops face. Because of the insanely lax gun laws in too many regions of this sick country, any police officer could be forgiven for thinking, as they approach a car that they've pulled over, Whoa! I might die here. Again, that is not offered as a blanket defense of what is now happening in America, that's just a morsel that should be mixed into the national discussion. For the record, it is my opinion that "more guns" is not the answer. I just wanted to throw that one out there.

The United States of America has become a very dangerous nation.

To be honest with you, mass murder is a subject that I've become totally bored with. Ironically, I'll probably be writing about it when the next massacre of innocent people happens in another two or three weeks, if not sooner. The front page of my local paper this morning tells us that, in this area (Orange County, New York) applications for pistol permits are much higher in 2016 than they were at this time last year. The good news is that at least you still need a permit to own a hand gun in my neck of the woods. The bad news is that I don't feel one bit safer. How 'bout you?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED READING:

The Trial of George W. Bush for Murder
by Vincent Bugliosi

Vince Bugliosi is not some left wing crackpot (like me, you may argue). He is a distinguished and greatly respected former prosecutor. This is the guy who put Charles Manson in the slammer for life. He lays out the case against Bush in a fashion that any prosecuting attorney would - and that case is air-tight. He argues that Bush deserves the death penalty for his crimes against humanity. I wouldn't go that far. I'm against capital punishment in any form, even for a horrid little piece of shit like Dubya. I will say this, though: If Bush and Cheney were to be executed, they deserve that punishment far more than Ten Bundy did. As horrible as his spree was, his victims amounted to about twenty women. George and Dick murdered at least one-hundred thousand men, women - and little children. There's no contest. None.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Standing Up for the Cancun Inn

Chillin' with the very friendly staff of the Cancun Inn
Kaitlyn, Holly and Monique
`
Israel Campos and Friends
`
The Cancun Inn is a Mexican Restaurant located in the little hamlet of Sugarloaf, New York, a place about seven miles from where I live that is known as a center for arts and crafts here in Orange County. It sits at the foot of Sugarloaf Mountain. I climbed it many times when I was in my teens and twenties. I don't think I'll be climbing it again anytime soon. I can barely get out of bed in the morning, are you kidding me?

Recently, this very non-controversial establishment has found itself drenched in controversy. It all started on Sunday when a woman named Esther Levy entered the place sporting a Donald Trump campaign hat. She says that she was angrily asked to leave by Julio Campos, one of the two brothers who operate the Cancun Inn. The other's name is Israel. Julio and the wait staff who were on duty (Holly Tuttle and Kaitlyn Slicker) claim that the woman and her companion, a retired judge named, Alvin Goldstein, were asked to leave because they were being, rude and obnoxious. A friend of hers, also a Trump supporter, went straight to the media - and I'm not referring to the local media - he went to Rupert Murdoch's New York Post Toasties. Very curious indeed. Also covering the festivities were camera crews and reporters from Telemundo and NBC News. Talk about publicity!

The Post Toasties not only wrote about the incident, they posted on their website a link to the Cancun Inn's Facebook page. Within hours, it was deluged with the loveliest messages from more than two-thousand addicts of the Murdoch/Fox scream machine. Here are but a few choice tidbits:

"I will urge all of my relatives in your area to boycott your restaurant forever until you close down."

"you are a liar. you know very well you are a racist mexican , I hope they file a lawsuit and put your punk butts out of business."

"GO TRUMP!!! VOTE TRUMP!!!

"I will never give you my patronage and I hope you are driven into bankruptcy."

"Boycott this racist, hate filled restaurant. Let's put this place out of business for good."
*****************************

Photo by Holly Tuttle
`
Nice, huh? Those were just a handful of the milder ones. Temping as they were to quote, some of them were so obscene and disgusting, that I've omitted them out of respect for the Campos family. Besides, I'm trying to turn this blog into a family-friendly site (Right, like that's ever gonna happen).

I would have provided you with a link to their Facebook page, but the site is probably stressed-out enough as it is from the sheer volume of invective. It was amusing to see some of the hate mail coming from the other side of the country. One lying fool claimed that he got food poisoning there twice. I checked out his own page and noticed he was from Oregon. When I called him on this he called me the "liberal nazi grammar police". Ain't that a hoot? The very sight of these Donald groupies breaking down with a mass case of spastic apoplexy is always a fun thing to behold. It really is!

In the later hours of the evening, when word got out in the community of the venom that was being heaped upon these kind, decent people, many of their loyal and grateful clientele came to their defense. The area in which I grew up is like that. I'm happy I moved back here.
`
Esther Levy
For the record, I was not an eyewitness to what went down at the Cancun Inn on Sunday. But I can put things into a kind of sociological perspective, if you'll allow me. Ms. Levy knowingly entered an establishment that is owned by a Mexican-American family (naturalized citizens, by the way) wearing Donald Trump campaign paraphernalia. Was that necessary? Given all of the mind-bendingly cruel and stupid things the Donald has said in the last year about minorities in general - and Mexicans in particular - dismissing them as a cabal of rapist, murderers, dope peddlers and thieves, did she really think that this was a particularly rational thing to do?
`
There is a restaurant here that I am fond of that sits just on the edge of the village of Goshen. It's called called, Brothers Li. It specializes in Japanese cuisine and is owned and operated by very polite Japanese Americans. At least, I assume that they are Japanese Americans. Just to be on the safe side, in all the years I've been dining there, it never occurred to me to walk into the joint singing, "Remember Pearl Harbor". When I lived in New York City, there was a Vietnamese restaurant on Ninth Avenue, right around the corner from my apartment. Not once did it ever cross my mind to have a recording of Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler's 1966 hit, "The Ballad of the Green Berets" blaring from my boom box (This was back in the eighties - pre-ipod, you know?). Such insensitive behavior never entered my mind. I'm kinda funny that way.
`
The Campos family and their entire staff are very kind and gracious, and welcomed me into their midst yesterday like a long lost member of the family. I arrived just as the place was opening so there were not many customers on hand while I was there. One thing I did witness, though, I have to tell you about: While I was dining, I noticed the owner, Israel Campos, from across the room. He was being assisted by the waitress, Holly, trying remove a wasp that had made its way onto the premises.

(Memo to the Tea Party Mob: When I say "wasp", I am not referring to a "White Anglo Saxon Protestant" - CHILL!)

What struck me was the method he used in removing the insect - not by swatting it with a newspaper - but by gently trapping it inside of an envelope. As he ventured outside to set it free, I heard him say softly to Holly, "Every creature has a right to live". That speaks volumes about the man's character, I think.

According to an article written by Richard J. Bayne that appeared yesterday in the Times Herald-Record of Middletown, NY:

"The tight-knit Campos family emigrated from Mexico in 1986. Julio Campos' brother, Israel, is the owner. Israel Campos often talks about how his family made their way from a mud hut in Puebla, Mexico, to Orange County. They washed dishes, waited tables, and cooked until they saved enough to open their own restaurant. They've owned and operated restaurants in Orange County for thirty years."

This is a family with a story. This is a family that is an asset to the United States. We're lucky they call America their home.

I'm the last person on the planet earth who has any business writing restaurant reviews. For breakfast this morning, I had peanut butter spread between four Ritz crackers, washed down with a diet cola. As you may well imagine, the culinary delights are not really my forte. I can tell you, though, that the shrimp dish I had at the Cancun Inn was excellent. As the old Doobie Brothers song once said, "I just might pass this way again", and I would wholeheartedly recommend the Cancun Inn to anyone who finds his or herself passing through Sugarloaf, New York.

Over half a century ago, on August 4, 1962, when the great band leader, Artie Shaw, heard about the sudden death of Marilyn Monroe, he is said to have remarked: "Good career move". What he meant was that there is no such thing as bad publicity. Indeed there isn't. Out of the ashes of this "scandal" the Cancun Inn has gained a new customer. And I've got a feeling that I'm not the only one.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED READING:

The Audacity of Hope
By Barack Obama

I'm right in the middle of this one at the moment; in fact it's the book I am reading in the photograph above, taken by Holly. I'll say this about our president: The dude can do some serious writing!

To view the ten most recent postings on this site, please go to the link below:

http://www.tomdegan.blogspot.com 

Shameless, left-wing propaganda....I TELL YA, THERE OUGHT TO BE A FREAKIN'  LAW!!!

Shh....Keep voting with the far right. There will be.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

The Donald and The Newtster



The rumors are rampant (and rabid) that Donald Trump is considering the one and only Newt Gingrich as his running mate for this political year, 2016. Let me pause here for a moment of giddy reflection....

For months I have been speculating that The Donald is some kind of double agent, secretly working for the Democratic Party for no other reason than to as much irreparable damage to the GOP as is humanly possible to do. If he really goes through with this, then all my suspicions will have been confirmed. Other than David Duke and Tom Delay, no sane human being could make a worse possible choice than having someone like the Newtster on the ticket. I mean, can you imagine? Two bloated philanderers as their standard bearers? I would venture to speculate that something as weird as that wouldn't go over too big with the "family values" mob. Then again, the base of that disgusting party is now so divorced from the real world, they probably wouldn't even notice. If Donald Trump can capture their hearts and imaginations, anything is possible.

Much as I would love to see something this catastrophic happen, I just can't envision my luck getting that good. Then again, that's exactly what I said a year ago about Trump's candidacy. My argument at the time was this: Not even registered Republicans in the South and Midwest could possibly be that stupid. Never gonna happen - or so my argument went. One year later and we find The Donald just weeks away from accepting the nomination. As the man once said, "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people". A pig just flew by my window. More on that later.

"I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose voters."

Donald J. Trump

Probably not. For a political insanity junkie such as myself, 2016 turned out to be the most deliciously fruitful of years. I remember thinking that 1980 was the ultimate in surreal political theater. A feeble-minded, failed "B" movie actor as the candidate for a national political party? They'll never top that! But they did; and every four years the clown car show kept getting stranger and stranger - and more depressingly ominous. The Republican Party has been inching itself - slowly but all-too-surely - toward Nazi territory for the last three-and-a-half decades. The inching has been so stupefyingly slow, that most people have barely noticed the change. Is that an exaggeration? Look at the presumptive nominee! Look at his following! Compare them with Ronald Reagan and any of his rallies thirty-six years ago! 

From the perspective of a battle-hardened lefty, Ronnie is starting to look fairly reasonable when compared to the right wing of today. Now that's pretty scary!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
Bill Maher

SUGGESTED VIEWING:

Everyone needs to see this. This is the most informative essay I think I've ever seen as to why right wing form of governance does not (and never has) worked. In addition to that, it is extremely funny. Watch this and share it with as many people as possible - particularly any conservative friends or family members you might have. They need to watch this. Everybody does.
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BtNbMD96xgY

And a comedian shall lead them....

Monday, June 27, 2016

POST #648: Random Observations


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

1: Advice for Campaign Clinton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It kinda makes you wonder, huh?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED READING:

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

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

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The GOP is an Organized Criminal Enterprise


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

"Finally, a sane GOP senator!"

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

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

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

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

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

From the Second Amendment:

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

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

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

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

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

And how was your week?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
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1940-1980
SUGGESTED LISTENING

Stand By Me 
by John Lennon

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

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

BREAKING NEWS:

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

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

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

Monday, June 13, 2016

The American Wasteland

Real Life in America

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

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

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

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

Get used to living in a nation in ruins.

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

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

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

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

FUN FACT:

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

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

A TIMELY TIP FOR TOURISTS:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Was this a great country, or what!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED READING:

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

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

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

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

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

"In Christ Alone"

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

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

Let's hear it for the gun lobby.

AFTERTHOUGHT, 6/18/16:

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

Isn't this campaign season a scream?