Friday, October 21, 2016

An Ominous Moment

 "The main threat to democracy comes not from the extreme left, but from the extreme right, which is able to buy huge sections of the press and radio, and wages a constant campaign to smear and discredit every progressive and humanitarian measure."
George Seldes
I nodded out quite early on the night of the third debate. Lying on top of my bed and watching a DVD, before I knew what hit me I was off to Snooze-ville. When I finally came to, it was 2:15 AM. Not to worry. I grabbed my trusty cellphone and watched a rerun via the nice folks at YouTube. Aren't modern times neat?
It was the one of the finest examples of unintentional comedy I have ever seen. There stood the glorious goofball, Sean Hannity, immediately following the debate, declaring a major victory for Donald Trump. Poor old Sean is way past the point of being a minor annoyance. The silly bastard is now a figure of complete and utter pathos. That a correspondent for a supposedly "serious" "news" organization could voluntarily expose himself as a mere propagandist the way this guy did - without a molecule of shame - was something to behold. The Donald was beaten to the point of senselessness. Anyone paying even casual attention was able to figure that out easily. When this entire debacle is, mercifully, only a wrenching memory, it's easy to foresee Sean Hannity spiraling into complete irrelevance. At this late stage in the game, if you're still watching Fox Noise for anything other that your own amusement, there's little hope for you.

Did you ever get the feeling that you were living through an amusing nightmare? You can't make this stuff up. That's a good description of American politics in 2016: "An Amusing Nightmare". If I ever write a book about this era, that'll be the title.

The incredible thing is that this election won't be a landslide like 1936 when FDR won every state but Maine and Vermont, or 1972 when Nixon won all but Massachusetts. Incredible as it may be to believe, Donald Trump will probably win more-than-a-few states. Before the Access Hollywood scandal unfolded, some talking heads were predicting he might win as many as twenty! Whatever the number turns out to be, it's not going to reflect very well upon this nation. Already the laughingstock of the planet earth, the results of the 2016 campaign will secure our place in the pantheon of political idiocy. That this nitwit was able to receive the nomination of a party whose one-time standard bearer was Abraham Lincoln is too sad to think about. From Lincoln to Trump: You just can't fall any lower than that - but they're gonna try in 2020! Count on it.
There were loads of milestones to behold at this festival of mediocrity (including the part where Donald referred to Hillary as "a nasty woman". Did you catch that?) but the highlight of the evening was when Trump refused to promise to concede the election to Hillary Clinton should she win on that night - which by now is a foregone conclusion. The following day, at a campaign rally in Delaware, he went on to declare that he would only make a concession, "if I win". Talk about arrogance.
It was an ominous moment. In case it's slipped your notice, in addition to being dumber than a box of moldy rocks, a significant number of Trump supporters tend to be a bit unhinged - not to mention armed and dangerous. One homicidal twit was caught on camera at a rally somewhere threatening to assassinate Hillary Clinton should she be elected on November 8. He proclaimed that by murdering her, he would be doing his duty as a "patriot". Can you believe that? For the last thirty-plus years these idiots have been egged on by Republican politicians, the NRA, and the right wing SCREAM machine. It's only a matter of time before they explode into an armed revolt. Mass murder made easy. Remember you read it here, folks.

The fact that Donald Trump would encourage the worst aspects of the character of his half-witted groupies is further proof (as if any more were needed) that the man is a dangerous sociopath. Were he to be elected in eighteen days I would have predicted that he would someday be remembered as the champion mass murderer of world history. Fortunately I won't have to make that prediction. Not even the American people are that dumb. Not quite. That being said, I'm afraid that we'll have to somehow deal with the hangover of the Donald Trump For President campaign for some time to come - maybe even years,

Make way for the Nincompoop Army.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Tell the Truth and Run: George Seldes and the American Press

George Seldes
One afternoon in 1987, I was in a book store on West 86th Street in New York City (Don't ask me how I remember the location, I just do) when I came upon a new memoir by a man I had never heard of before. The book was called "Witness To A Century" and the author was named George Seldes, who was a few years shy of his 100th birthday. Seldes had been a crusading journalist, having begun his career in Pittsburgh in 1909. Browsing through the text and the photographs, it was obvious to me that this was a man who had led a very interesting and eventful life. I couldn't resist purchasing it of course. My instincts didn't fail me; it was, indeed, a fantastic read. On the dust cover, it said that he lived in the rural town of Heartland-4-Corners, Vermont. I decided to take a chance and try phoning the great man. Not only did he answer, we spoke for about a half hour. It was one of the most memorable moments of my life. Eight years later, on July 2, 1995, George Seldes died at the age of 104.

At the time of his passing, a documentary on George was in the works. It was released shortly afterwards. It is well worth your time. A fascinating story of an equally fascinating guy. Here is a link to watch it on YouTube:

I really need to read that book again. For anyone who makes his or her name by the pen, George Seldes is inspiration and light.

Witness to a Century
by George Seldes
"A people that wants to be free must arm itself - with a free press."
George Seldes

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Amy Goodman's "Crime"

Matt Taibbi
Amy Goodman was clearly acting as a reporter at the protest. Moreover, she’s as close to the ideal of what it means to be a journalist as one can get in this business.
Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone
And something is happening but you don't know what it is
Do you, Mr. Jones?
Bob Dylan
Until yesterday, the award-winning journalist, Amy Goodman, was facing prison time. Her crime? Committing journalism. As was reported on October 15 in The Nation:
"Goodman had the audacity to commit this journalism on September 3, when she was in North Dakota covering what she calls “the standoff at Standing Rock”: the months-long protests by thousands of Native Americans against the Dakota Access Pipeline. The $3.8 billion oil pipeline is slated to carry barrel after barrel of Bakken crude through sacred sites and burial grounds of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, and tribe members fear it could pollute the Missouri River, the source not only of their water but of millions of others’, should the pipe ever rupture. Their protests, which began in April and ballooned through the summer months, represent the largest mobilization of Native American activists in more than 40 years—and one of the most vital campaigns for environmental justice in perhaps as long."
The original charge against Amy was "trespassing". When it became obvious to the geniuses persecuting her that there was no validity to that, they changed the offence to "riot" - not "inciting a riot", mind you - simply "riot". I'm happy to report that, since then, cooler heads have prevailed - or at the very least, more expedient heads. I suppose the powers-that-be realized that this incident was bound turn into a nasty cause celebre that would ultimately blow up in their faces. A wise move to be sure. But what does that tell you? That this sort of thing is being contemplated in a nation where the First Amendment is supposed to reign supreme is unsettling to say the very least.

Amy Goodman is not the only journalist being harassed. A videographer is facing forty-five years for covering this spectacle. Land of the free indeed.
Huntley and Brinkley
The demonizing of journalists is hardly a new phenomenon in this country. It has been going on for a long time. At the GOP convention in the summer of 1964, the extremist crazies who that year took control of the Republican party (and still control it to this very day) turned on the assembled press covering the event with such vehemence, that for a few moments NBC's Chet Huntley and David Brinkley feared for their lives. During the Fabulous Fifties, any reporter with courage was putting his-or-her livelihood (and freedom) at risk if they dared exposed the hypocrisy and corruption behind the communist witch hunts of that era. Even Theodore Roosevelt, one of America's finest chiefs-executive, would contemptuously dismiss the crusading journalists of "the golden age of American journalism" as "muckrakers".

What is happening in the United States in 2016 is very ominous indeed. The plutocratic forces that own this country are setting a precedent of fear and intimidation. The message has been sent and received: Don't you dare fuck with our agenda. It's enough to make any thinking person tremble with fear and loathing to contemplate how bad this situation might get if Donald Trump is elected in three weeks time. Thankfully, that's not ever going to happen. The problem is that Hillary Clinton has yet to prove whose side she is on. I'm not optimistic. Someone tell her to prove me wrong.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


In a little over a week I'll be shoving off to Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts to take part in a two-day symposium on the life and career of the legendary, groundbreaking comedian, Lenny Bruce. This is something that is decades overdue. When he died fifty years ago, he believed that he was a failure. A half a century later, an ivy league university in New England - about as far away from Lenny Bruce's Hollywood as is possible to travel in the continental United States - will be paying homage to his art, celebrating his life. I cannot tell you how happy this makes me.

I'll be writing about the event when it concludes. Look for my report.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Great Debatables Part 2

Smiling for a reason
I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine yesterday. A self-described Republican of the old school (meaning he's not a right wing extremist), he is a nurse in the psych ward of a Kingston hospital. He told me that nine out of ten of the patients on his floor are supporting Donald Trump. He wasn't surprised to find this out. Neither was I, of course.
After watching the second debate of this comically catastrophic presidential contest, I came away a bit more at ease than I had been about the candidacy of Hillary Clinton (just a wee bit, mind you). When was the last time a presidential candidate in this country threatened to send his opponent to prison? Not in my lifetime, that's for sure! When he uttered that line I was on the phone with a friend of mine. At first I thought I was hearing things. It wasn't until after it was all over, watching a rerun, that I realized that I had, in fact, heard what I only thought was an audio hallucination. This is the sort of rhetoric one would expect emanating out of some banana republic. As disappointed as I was with Ms. Clinton's nomination in July, I am ready to take the plunge for her, so to speak. If this silly, psychotic nincompoop is elected to the presidency, this country is finished. Seriously
Of course that's never gonna happen. Glenn Beck has endorsed the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. Can you believe that? Glenn Beck! (or as I always called him, "The louse that roared"). My brother Jeff pointed out on a Facebook posting early this morning that, in denouncing Donald Trump, George Will is starting to sound like Paul Krugman. John McCain has withdrawn his support for Donald Trump. Republican Speaker of the House of Reprehensibles, Paul Ryan, has withdrawn his support for Donald Trump!  A pig just flew by my window. Isn't life strange?

Here is how the Donald has even further debased our already thoroughly debased culture: On page 12 of this morning's Times Herald-Record of Middletown, NY - my local paper - they quoted him by using the words "fuck" and "pussy". That has never happened before - not in that paper. This candidacy is too strange for words. I never dreamed I would live to see the day when I would be nostalgic for George W. Bush. The bar just keeps getting lower with these people.
On January 20, one Democratic administration will follow another one into the Oval Office. The last time that happened on Inauguration Day was in 1857. The end of Hillary Clinton's first term will mark twelve years of Democratic control of the executive branch of our government. That hasn't happened since the days of Franklin Roosevelt. These two nasty little facts are the Republican Party's proverbial canary in the coal mine. That birdie's as dead as a doornail - you'd better believe it, Bubba. There might someday be another conservative living in the White House, but it will not be a Republican. That party is deader than the bird. The elephant has thoroughly imploded.

They have spent the better part of the last fifty years appealing to the worst aspects of the American character and it has blown up in their clueless faces. This is something that was bound to happen sooner or later. What mystifies me is the fact that it took this long.
It's interesting (and quite amusing) to see the number of GOP uberstars who are now - finally - distancing themselves from the Donald. They have come to the valid conclusion that putting party before country probably wasn't the smartest idea. Racist assaults upon so huge a segment of the people wasn't enough to sway them, but when their political careers were on the line they started to see the light. If Trump's slander against women in the now-infamous Access Hollywood tape had disparaged merely blacks or Mexicans or Muslims (or all three groups even) it wouldn't have made the slightest difference to these assholes. But he insulted women - all women - which is most of the population.  It's too late for a mass mea culpa on their part. The damage that Trump has done in eighteen months to the right wing cause is possibly irreparable. There is now a ghost of a chance that the Dems will take back the House - a possibility that wasn't even in contention less than a week ago.

The party of Lincoln is about to go the way of the Whigs. The grand old party is over. Isn't this fun to watch?
Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
Here is a link to watch the second 2016 debate in its entirety....

....if you have the stomach for it.

Here is link to watch, also in its entirety, the first of three debates between Senator John F. Kennedy and vice-President Richard M. Nixon in September of 1960:

This was back in the good old days when politicians were more reasonable and civilized. Notice the tone. Both men are appealing to the intellect of the American people, to the better angels of their nature. Candidates don't even attempt to do that anymore.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

The Grand Old Party's Dirty Old Man

Kissing the Republican Party goodbye
"And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”
Donald J. Trump
This is unprecedented in American political history. The wheels have come off of the clown car. The elephants have thoroughly and completely imploded. It was bad enough that the Republicans nominated their worst, most reprehensible candidate - EVER - but in addition to that, he seems to have sent the party over the cliff, descending into the murky abyss in a hopeless death spiral. Not only has the GOP lost it's mind and it's moorings, they seem to have lost their purpose: to win at any and all costs. This is the price that the silly bastards and bitches are paying for spending the last half century desperately trying to reach out to the lowest moral, common denominator; the weirder angels of our nature. The candidacy of Donald Trump has proven to be their fatal undoing. Perhaps conservatism has a future. Conservatives - like the poor - will always be with us. The Republican Party, on the other hand, is doomed.
I cannot even articulate how much fun all of this is to watch. The right wing freak show (which has always been pretty freaky) has gotten freakier still.
Caruso only played a clown
I'm not going to quote what Donald Trump said in a private conversation from 2005 during a taping of Access Hollywood that was picked up by the microphone he was wearing. His words he used were too vile and sexist for my tastes - which is something to consider: If something is too profane for my blog, it must be fairly disgusting. In fact, it was completely disgusting - take my word for it. Trump's defense was that it was "an old recording". Wrong. The voice of the long-dead Enrico Caruso singing Verdi's Il Trovatore in 1906 is an "old recording". The voice of the very-much-alive Donald Trump (from even eleven years ago) is very new indeed. And don't try to dismiss this as "innocent locker-room banter". I would like to believe that most men don't talk in that manner - I don't. I have never, in my life, made reference to trying to "fuck" a woman. I've got a bit more style than that. And please bear in mind that when the Donald made these remarks, he was not some slightly goofy, seventeen-year-old high school senior. He was about two years older than I am now. Context is everything.

When this barrage of audio pornography was unveiled to a, by now, suspecting public, Donald made what is as close to an apology as we will ever come near to seeing departing his lips. After an obviously reluctant admission that he was wrong to say the things he said, he proceeded to blame the entire mess on Bill Clinton. Ain't politics a scream?
Already the reluctant passengers are starting to abandon this rapidly-sinking ship. John McCain has withdrawn his support; RNC Chairman Reince Priebus seems to have gone into hiding (which is a very logical place to be); even some of the Tea Party crazies are starting to put as much distance between themselves and the Donald. In case it's escaped your notice, these folks have quite a low threshold when it comes to embarrassment. Apparently Trump was the straw that broke the elephant's back. Isn't that something?
KellyAnne Conway
The person in all of this with whom I have torrents of sympathy for is Trump's press secretary  KellyAnne Conway. To see this poor gal making the rounds of the television studios, vainly attempting to put a smiley face on this decomposing-carcass-of-a-campaign has been...."interesting" shall we say? I don't envy her, that's for sure. She comes off as very pleasant and gracious when the camera's red light is glowing, Heaven only knows what she's really thinking. I couldn't help noticing that in the last three months she has visibly aged. When this fiasco is finally over in less than a month, she needs to go on a nice, long retreat to a monastery in the Himalayas. It'll do wonders for her.

Now let's tally the figures here: He's lost women (an obvious no-brainer); He's lost the blacks; He's lost the Hispanics; He's lost the Catholics, He's lost the Jews; He's lost the Muslims (another no-brainer). So which group is it whose support he retains?

Upper middle aged, white Christian males with beer bellies and bad breath.

Gee, I'm sorry, but that's not really going to cut the mustard - not anymore. America has changed. Roll with the changes. If there was any doubt in your mind where the Trump for President campaign was headed beforehand, the events of this week should have placed things in their proper perspective. The time has come to fold up the tents and go home. It's all over now, Baby Blue. Hillary Clinton must, at this hour, be relishing her good luck.


Reince Priebus and KellyAnne Conway have cancelled all of their TV appearances on the Sunday morning programs. Do I detect a crisis in the air? I can't wait for the debate tonight. That ought to be a hoot-and--half!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


from The Rant - 10/9/10
John Lennon was born on October 9, 1940 in Liverpool, England - seventy-six years ago today. Six years ago, on what would have been his seventieth birthday, I wrote this:

In a little over four years he'll be gone longer from this world than he walked it. Imagine.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Post #666: Random Observations

My house is a very, very, very weird house
Not enough sleep.
The following are a thread of unrelated comments that I have posted recently on various websites or out in the Facebooksphere. No animals were harmed in the making of this article.

1. About Last night:
I got about an hour and a quarter through the vice-presidential debate last night; I could go no further than that. Tim Kaine impressed me a helluva lot more than Mike Pence - which is damnation by ever-so-faint praise due to the fact that, in a more ordinary time, Kaine wouldn't impress me much at all. Pence, the governor of Indiana, is such an extremist chucklehead, I sincerely believe he could make George W. Bush look like Albert Einstein. There is a very nice woman from Indianapolis who communicates with me on Facebook. Her name is Phyllis Crill. Early this morning she offered these choice nuggets of opinion:
"Since I live in Indiana and know what a moron Pence is, I didn't even attempt it. I also have a blood pressure problem. I don't know how you could have possibly watched an hour and a quarter without your head exploding from Pence's stupidity. We here in Indiana monitor our blood pressure regularly because we never know when another of Pence's nutso schemes may be reported via the MSM and we have to reach for the blood pressure meds."
2. The Continuing Implosion:
Regarding the comical train-wreck that is also known as the Donald Trump Campaign, it's impossible to believe at this stage that there might not be a method to his madness. As stated here before, I have this nagging suspicion that the Donald is, in fact, purposely engaged in a covert attempt to permanently end the Republican Party. Trump played his roll in the GOP primaries to utter perfection. He studied the process as thoroughly as any candidate in history. He understood that the only way a candidate can possibly receive the nomination from that disgusting party is by stomping about the country saying a bunch of jaw-droppingly mean and stupid things - and that's exactly what he did. What makes the Trump campaign unusual, though, is that normally, once the candidate has won the Republican nomination, he always slithers back to the center during the general election. Trump has made no such effort; in fact, judging by the way he is handling himself, one could be forgiven for thinking that the silly bastard is running for a Mississippi congressional seat! 2016 sure is an amusing year.

3. President Clinton II:

This has got to be the most obvious no-brainer in American political history: Hillary Clinton will be sworn in as the forty-fifth president on January 20 of next year - which is only a little over three months away. Maybe she will turn out to be a true progressive. Maybe not. Her choice of Tim Kaine was hardly a reassurance to those of us who lean leftwards. Nothing personal against the guy: He's a smart man and he seems to be a good one - but he's hardly the fightin' liberal that we were hoping for. At this time next year I could be eating these words. We'll see. In the meantime I remain depressingly ambivalent.

4. My Take on Tattoos:

This is where I'll probably consign myself to hopeless and eternal old-fuddy-duddyism. So be it. I've wanted to post this message for a long time but have always chickened out at the last moment. Fortunately I'm drunk enough at the moment  to be not so inhibited - inebriated, yes - but not inhibited. Consider this a little public service message for each of my young friends who are contemplating adding a tattoo to his or her body. Tattoos can be beautiful and I've seen a few in my day that I greatly admired. The problem is that they're beautiful only to a point. This message is genuinely ironic on my part given the fact that the office  in my house that I work in looks out directly across the road onto a thriving tattoo parlor.

Shown above are two different images of the same tattoo, fifteen years apart. Listen, kids, before you enter the tattoo parlor, don't forget that it’s going to be a part of you for the rest of your lives.

Have you ever had a good look at a tattoo that is twenty-five years old - or older? They’re unrecognizable from what they originally were. After thirty years, they’re usually nothing more than a dark green blotch.

One night in 1975, my father held a party in Toronto for some of his business associates that he wanted me to attend (I was sixteen at the time). He insisted that I wear one of those awful, mid-seventies, polyester leisure suits that were the fashion rage of the day. I wore it on that one occasion - and never wore it again. Had someone told me then and there that, once I put the thing on, I would be forced to wear it until the day I died, I would not have put it on - trust me.

At one time, I wore my hair very long. Today I keep it relatively short. Forty years ago, I loved Elton John. Today his music sounds almost sophomoric to me. In 1976 I liked to wash down my meals with Orange Crush. In 2016 I can't stomach the stuff. Why? Because I am older and my tastes have changed. What might seem really cool to you at eighteen could very well seem repulsive to you at fifty-eight. This is an essential fact of human nature.

Flash forward thirty years into the future, when you are still a relatively young person. Every morning, as you dress, you’ll look into the mirror and say out loud: “What the hell was I thinking?”

Tattoos are a fad. Fads come and go. When this fad finally goes the way of the polyester lesuire suit, your tattoo will remain. Think about that.

FUN FACT: Laser surgery to remove a medium-sized tattoo costs nearly fifty-thousand dollars; and bear in mind that it only fades them somewhat - it doesn't totally remove them. That procedure requires a skin graft - which costs tens-of-thousands of dollars more.

Roughly ninety-five percent of the women who get a tattoo regret it in less than five years. There is a much cheaper method of hiding a tattoo: a cream that only temporarily camouflages it. It’s quite popular now for the simple reason that so many people are embarrassed by the tattoos they got as young adults. The problem with this method is that it doesn’t look natural; in fact it looks perfectly hideous.

I implore you: Don't mar your unique beauty with a goddamned tattoo. You WILL regret it; I guarantee it. Fortunately, forty years after the fact, that polyester leisure suit is barely a vague memory for me. It will be a different case forty years from now with regard to your tattoo.

If there is a young person in your life who is considering going down this one-way road, please share this little tirade of mine with them.

5. Au Revoir, Mr. President!

It's amazing how with the passing of the years, time goes by more quickly. it doesn't seem possible that nearly eight years has come an gone since Mr. Obama went to Washington. I'm not going to lie to you: this president has been a major disappointment in a lot of areas. But, given all he has had to contend with - particularly the complete idiocy of the Republican opposition - he and his family have held themselves up admirably, with great dignity and grace. Will he be remembered as a "great" president? I don't know the answer to that question; but it's a cinch he'll at least be remembered as "near great". That's not a bad showing either. History will have a lot to say about "The Obama Years". I can't wait to read some of it.

I like Barack Obama. I like him a lot...



Autumn is my favorite time of the year. Happy October everyone!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


The photo at the top of this piece is a night shot I took some months back of the house I live in. The window on the second floor to the left is where I'm typing this tantrum you're reading. The house is nice but the area I live in is a bit weird. In addition to the tattoo parlor there is an adult book/video store, and a bar called "Cravings" that is so decrepit, no one has been able to keep it open for more that a few months at a time. It also sits right on top of an extremely busy, two-lane highway. Here's how bad the area is: I moved into the neighborhood and property values actually went up for a change!


The House I Live In
by Frank Sinatra

This 1965 recording by the Frankster is what it's all about.

The children in the playground
The faces that I see
All races and religions
That's America to me....

I always loved this one.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Great Debatables

If you tuned into the debate on Monday evening hoping for a major surprise of some kind, you were surely let down. The whole affair was entirely predictable from my point of view. There was no major meltdown on the part of either candidate. And while more-than-a-few untruths were uttered between them, that shouldn't astonish you too much. Politicians lie. That's their job.

I watched the event at the home of my cousin, Kevin Cullen. I'm not hooked up to cable these days. For the better part of my adult life, I've been without broadcast television. If there is a major news event transpiring that I need to see, I usually hightail it over to Kevin's. He's as interested in this stuff as I am.

Hillary Clinton walked away the clear winner but with no major boost to her polling numbers. The most amusing part of the night was Donald Trump denying making the statements he clearly has made throughout this insanely comical campaign - in some instance multiple times. The day a complete lack of self-awareness becomes a human virtue, expect the Donald to receive the Nobel prize. The man is an unintentional hoot. He is now blaming his abysmal performance during the debate on a defective microphone. This is complete nonsense, of course. A close examination of any playback of the debate confirms that he was heard quite clearly throughout - a little too clearly, in fact. He would have come out looking much better off had his mic been completely turned off. Silly bastard
I will be heading for the polls to cast my ballot on Election Day. I'll be voting for Hillary. I will make the effort because I want to be sure that my congressman, Sean Patrick Maloney, is reelected. He's been a pretty decent representative and he deserves the support of everyone who bothers to pay attention.  But for that fact, I probably wouldn't bother. Hillary has been a resident of New York state for the last sixteen years; she'll win this place easily. Thank goodness for Long Island, Manhattan and its surrounding boroughs. But for that area, the Empire State would be decidedly "red". On a recent visit to Albany (which is ninety miles  from where I live) I bypassed the New York State Thruway and made my way north via the small towns and two-lane highways that connect Goshen to the state capital. En route I was amazed and dismayed by the sheer volume of "Trump For President" signs I saw along the way - most of them lovingly hand made. Upstate New York has never been a particular hotbed of progressivism, but this is ridiculous.

How could so many people be so utterly clueless? It makes me wonder. Even in my neck of the woods - the so-called "sophisticated" Hudson Valley - there is enough support for Trump to give rationally-minded folks the heebie jeebies. Walk into any bar or diner that has a television set turned on for the amusement of the clientele, it'll usually be tuned in to Fox Noise. This certainly is an interesting time to be alive.

A mere forty-one days separates us from this moment to when the polls open to the public on the morning of November 8. And while one month and ten days can be an eternity in politics, don't count on any unpredictable scandal that's going to change the fact that Hillary Clinton is going to be the next president of the United States....I hope. Although, as I've said many times, I'm not in ecstasy over the fact that she is the "progressive" standard bearer in this race, the alternative is too horrible to think about. President Trump? If the American electorate is stupid enough to go down that's sure going to be oodles of fun to write about. If the American electorate is stupid enough to go down that road, I'll be the only person I know personally who will benefit.


....but seriously, folks.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Here is a YouTube link to watch Stephen Colbert's wrap-up  that was broadcast live immediately following the debate:
As usual, the man is right on the mark.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Bernie and Zephyr Come To Town

Photograph by Helen Stubblefield
Jessica Koock
This past Friday, for the first and only time in my life, I finally got to see - up close and in person - two politicians I really do love. Bernie Sanders and Zephyr Teachout came to New Paltz, New York.
For my intents and purposes, New Paltz is the perfect place. Located just thirty-one miles due north of where I live, it's a thriving little college town packed to the rafters with head shops, vegan restaurants, book shops and art stores. You can even buy vinyl records in New Paltz; In other words, it's a place after my own hippie heart. I received the word from my friend, Jessica Koock that Bernie was going to be coming to town to put in an appearance with a congressional candidate from New York's 19th district, an inspiring young woman named, Zephyr Teachout. Bernie referred to Zephyr's campaign as one of the most important in America. He wasn't exaggerating. She told the assembled masses: "When I go to Washington as your representative, you're all coming along with me!" I'm tempted to take her up on that offer. I'm just crazy 'bout that gal. Really I am!
Bernie and Zephyr
Think about this: The average contribution to Ms. Teachout's campaign is nineteen dollars - eight dollars less than Bernie Sanders' average. Her opponent in this contest is a lobbyist named John Faso. A significant majority of his fundraising comes from two hedge-fund billionaires. Guess whose side he'll be on if elected on November 8? While Zephyr and Bernie were kicking out the jams on one side of New Paltz, Faso was appearing on the other side of town at a much smaller gathering at the local firehouse. He told a reporter from the Times Herald-Record that Zephyr Teachout a "far-left radical" and a "redistributionist".

By the standards of the times in which we live, I guess she could be properly judged as being to the extreme left, much in the same way that Richard Nixon, were he to arise from the dead tonight (What a revolting thought!) would never be able to get the GOP nomination. As conservative as The Trickster was, his policies wouldn't have been extreme enough for the modern-day Republican Party agenda. If she had been alive eighty years ago, there might very well had been two women in the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt: Frances Perkins and Zephyr Teachout. She is  just what the times require.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: FDR was a radical left-winger. His administration was literally oozing with radical left-wingers. Historians generally regard him as being one of the greatest president in the history of this republic. That's not a coincidence.
The 19th congressional district just happens to cover parts of Orange County where I live. In fact, twelve years ago I was the Green Party's candidate for state senate for that very same neck of the woods. As you might imagine, I got stomped pretty badly on Election Day 2004. It's a different world in 2016. Zephyr can win this thing. You cannot dismiss this brilliant, visionary woman as being on the fringes of our national political conversation (as John Saso is vainly attempting to do). All over the land (with the typical exception of the deep South - of course) people are beginning to wake up to the GOP's scam. That's not a political party. That's an organized criminal enterprise. And just when I am tempted to completely lose faith in the Democrats, along comes Zephyr Teachout. Go figure.
"Zephyr understands that something is profoundly wrong when a handful of wealthy and powerful corporations write trade agreements which work for CEOs of multinational corporations but cost Americans millions of decent-paying jobs."
Bernie Sanders
New Paltz, NY,
16 September 2016
 I will be doing everything humanly possible to make sure that Ms. Teachout Goes To Washington this January. I won't defy the law of God, but I'll defy the law of gravity if need be. We need this woman in Congress. I don't casually make political endorsements. Zephyr Teachout is as good as it's ever going to get for New York's 19th District. A tip of the hat and a heartfelt thanks to Senator Bernie Sanders for reminding us.

Isn't this a time?
Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
Maeve Cullen
"Maeve the Rave"
I would have written this piece days ago, but I was laid low by the unexpected passing, on September 18, of my beloved, twenty-three year old goddaughter, Maeve Cullen. She was the daughter of my cousin Michael and his wife, Norma Brady Cullen. I always called her "Maeve the Rave". She was such a bright, kind and funny girl. This is nearly impossible to comprehend, and twice as hard to accept. There ought to be an ecclesiastical law against parents burying their children. They have yet to invent the words to adequately describe a tragedy such as this; I'm not even going to attempt it.
Almost three years ago, I lost another brilliant and lovely young lady whom I also loved more than my own life. What I wrote about Meghan Marie Sager then now applies to Maeve Mary Cullen:
"She was the personification of a shooting star.
It appears upon the horizon,
rapidly making its way across the night sky,
illuminating the heavens in a brilliant and beautiful light.
Then, in an instant, it's gone."
I've said for years that if I could only bring one child into this world, it would have been a little girl. It's too late for that. Maeve Cullen was the closest I ever came to that dream. 

Mike, Norma, Matthew and Kieron: I'm sorry that I could not be there this morning for Maeve's funeral. Travel has become increasingly difficult for me with the passing of each year. Please know that I can't get any of you out of my mind, and that all of you are loved more than you know.
It just keeps getting darker.
Autumn Leaves
by Eric Clapton
"But I miss you most of all, my darling,
when autumn leaves start to fall."

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Democrats Must Also Go

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

Will Rogers

Here's a paradox about me: In personal relationships my feelings tend to get hurt very easily; it's just part of my inner makeup, I suppose. And yet, when it comes to the public arena, I've got skin of steel - seriously. I've been called everything from "a dangerous left-wing radical" to "a psychologically unhinged demagogue" to "one of liberalism's useful idiots". Truth be told, the invective rolls right off me like rain on a windowpane; in fact,  I get a kick out of it. It's a nice thing to know that one is being talked about - and that one is pissing off all the right people. It reminds me of the possibly apocryphal story about the late band leader, Artie Shaw: Upon learning of the death of Marilyn Monroe, he is said to have quipped: "Good career move." There's no such thing as bad publicity. I'm seriously thinking of going out and getting myself arrested for assault.
There is, however, one thing that is said about me (and it is said often) that really does bother me: when I am accused of being either a shill for the Democratic Party, or a press agent for them. That doesn't merely annoy me - that makes me seethe. 
I left that idiotic party in 1998 - in the merry old Month of May to be precise. I registered with the Green Party, and even ran for the New York state senate under their banner a few years later. Today I am a blank, a man without a party. I tried to re-register as a Democrat early this year (temporarily, I assure you) so that I could vote for Bernie Sanders in the primaries. As it turns out, I missed the deadline for being eligible for voter participation by two months. Other than that isolated incident, I have never looked back.
Now that the complete self-destruction of the GOP has been virtually assured, the time has come to take a long, hard and critical look at the Democrats. There are many reasons I bolted that party eighteen years ago; one of the main reasons was Bill Clinton - and by extension, Hillary. The Lewinsky scandal that occurred in that same year had nothing to do with it. The only reason for my defection is simply that "the party of Franklin D. Roosevelt" long ago forgot that they are just that - or at least that's what they used to be. it's quite easy to gauge how deep into the ideological sewer the Democrats have fallen these past two decades: Show me a party whose most visible spokesman (aside from the president) is a cheap, plutocratic stooge like Chuck Schumer ("the gentleman from Wall Street") and I'll show you a party that needs to be made over (at least) or completely destroyed (at worst).
This is not meant to imply that the party is beyond redemption (unlike the Republicans); the fact that there are genuine statesmen (excuse me: "statespersons") of the stature and gravitas of Elizabeth Warren, John Lewis, Sherrod Brown - not to mention Bernie - is decided cause for hope. But the rest of them need to understand that the time has come for a complete overhaul. This a warning that the Republicans should have heeded at least two decades ago. They neglected to do so and now they're on the verge of disappearing forever. Bye! Bye!

Let's face it, folks: Conservatives in this country have gone bat-shit-crazy. When the Republicans finally do fracture into a million itty-bitty pieces in a matter of a few short years, that will be a real opportunity for progressives to get to work remaking America's badly decimated infrastructure. If the Democratic plan for the future is to continue in their current guise as "Republican Lite", their certain destruction is imminent. By nominating Hillary Clinton in 2016, they are not off to a particularly good start. If the Dems are unable to detect the boiling rage just beneath their traditional constituency's surface, they will detect it pretty goddamned soon enough. You'd better believe it.

As Lenny Bruce liked to say, "There's gonna be a lotta dues, Jim!"

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Although the Andy Thomas painting depicted at the top of this piece is excellent, it is not quite historically accurate. It is rather doubtful that Andrew Jackson and Woodrow Wilson would have been any-too-pleased to see Barack Obama being initiated into this most exclusive of clubs. With the exception of John Tyler and Andrew Johnson, they were the two worst racists to ever live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Just thought I'd throw that out there.


Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined nut:
Misadventures in the Counter Culture
by Paul Krassner

Paul Krassner
Paul Krassner is one of the more interesting - and unheralded - figures of the 1960's; sometimes a writer, sometimes a publisher, sometimes a comedian, sometimes a violin virtuoso. He often made perfect sense, and at times was as provocative as a snotty eight-year-old boy. A man of many virtues and a few flaws, he tried to be on the side of the angels, although he himself is a professed atheist. Of interest is his close friendship with Lenny Bruce. I found out a few things about Lenny that I was even unaware of (and I am a scholar on the guy!) His is an interesting story; in fact, putting this book down for even a few minutes was an ordeal.


How Long Blues
by the Wingy Manone Orchestra

This was record was made sometime in the mid-thirties. I love this recording so much, I can barely put it into words. Give it a listen. It's great!   

How long? Not long.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

No Contest

It is unsettling to me when I consider the fact that there are a number of people that I know personally - whose intellects I respect and admire - who are openly supporting the candidacy of Donald Trump. This is a fact that I've found myself wrestling with as the weeks heading up to the November election come upon us. What is it? Could it possibly be a mere anti-Clinton reflex that is as innate as Pavlov's doggies salivating at the bells of doom? Or is it something a little more complicated than that? Whatever it is, I have yet to figure it out.
That being said, I do hope that the people I'm  referring to had a chance to check out last night's candidates forum that was presented by NBC News and hosted by Matt Lauer. I watched at the home of my cousin, Kevin Cullen. After viewing this spectacle, I'm still far-from-convinced that Hillary Clinton has what it takes to be even a mildly competent chief-executive. Quite frankly I'm not brimming over with confidence that she could guide the ship of state through the troubled international waters that define the second decade of the twenty-first century. Maybe a year or two of a Clinton administration will cure my apprehension; maybe not. I remain ambivalent.
Here's where I'm beyond a molecule of doubt: Sending the Donald to the White House would be an even larger, catastrophic blunder than the electoral error that was naively committed by the American people sixteen years ago when they sent Dubya to Washington. This certainty on my part was only reinforced last night. It's almost as if he believes he can cure all that ails the planet with a mere snap of his gnarled little fingers. The guy is so poignantly arrogant that it almost melts the heart. 
To be honest with you, the only person on the stage last evening who made a somewhat of an impression was Matt Lauer - if you can believe that! I have never been sold on the guy's journalistic chops; at a time when television news is pining for another Edward R. Murrow, poor old Matt is really nothing more that a cardboard cutout. My opinion slightly shifted last night - ever-so-slightly, mind you. He still has quite a ways to go before he reaches the mountaintop, but considering the two vague and dodgy candidates he was forced to contend with, I thought he handled the situation fairly well. Perhaps the guy's got a future after all. Then again, if the national political dialogue can get to such a state where Matt Lauer ends up looking as good as he did that night, we're in one hell of a fix.
In addition to the friends of mine who are supporting Donald Trump, there are those who are beside themselves with terror that he might, in fact, manage to get himself elected. I can only say to them, "Relax folks". Not even those blatantly un-constitutional voter ID laws are going to make something that completely weird happen. The only thing that will put The Donald in the White House on January 20 will be a coup d'état. Nothing that extreme is bound to happen, at least not at this point in our history....I think.
Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

In Memory of Suzanne Hubner Arnowitz

I was blessed to call Suzy Arnowitz a beloved friend for nearly thirty years. She finally passed away last Saturday from the cancer that had been in-and-out of remission for forty-one years - from the time she was only a child of seventeen. In spite of that, her death comes as a nearly insurmountable blow to all who loved her, which was everyone lucky enough to have known her. We always knew that somehow she would overcome. I suppose this time Heaven needed her more. Who could blame them?

I realize now that I never knew anyone who suffered more than Suzy did during her short time on this earth, although this realization comes only with the benefit of hindsight. While she walked among us, the only side of herself she presented to the world was filled with love, laughter and music. She was not merely a gifted composer and musician, her voice could only be described as heavenly.

And then there was that smile - that incredible smile one could read at midnight by....

I'm not ashamed to tell you that I was hopelessly in love with Suzy Arnowitz. Everyone was. The heck with Lou Gehrig; her husband, Glenn, is luckiest man on the face of the earth.

In the hours before she left us, Suzy penned this note to her daughters, Kara and Lisa:
“Do you know how much you are loved? I love you everyday and twice on Sunday. You are my sunshine, my joy, my air. Always care for each other and please practice forgiveness, listening and mindfulness. Be happy! Be goofy and make life fun! And like I always say… spread the love around. Be fearless because God is always with you and so am I. I know that you will do great things in this world, my darlings.”

Suzy and I were two months, two weeks, and two days apart in age. That I actually knew this kind, beautiful, talented and lovely woman is almost hard to fathom. There are times when I cannot believe my good fortune.

She was an angel. She still is, you know. She still is.