Sunday, April 12, 2015

FDR: Seventy Years On

The final portrait, April 12, 1945

Chillin' with the Roosevelts, 2013
"The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith."

That was the closing of FDR's final speech. He would not live to deliver it. Moments after writing those words, he collapsed and died. The date was April 12, 1945.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt recedes even further into the mists history this morning. Seventy years ago today, he was at his winter White House in Warm Springs, Georgia. The month before he had come back from a grueling, fourteen thousand mile journey to the Yalta Conference in the Soviet Union, where he, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin had discussed the fate of post-war Europe. 

On his return to Washington it was obvious to everyone in his circle that the boss was seriously ill.  In the preceding year he had lost close to fifty pounds, his hands trembled and there was a noticeable slur in his speech. His personal physician, Admiral Ross McIntyre, thought that a couple of weeks nestled within the leafy pines of Warm Springs would bring the president back to form - as it had so many times in the past.

The last photograph
Early in the afternoon of April 12, 1945, Roosevelt had just completed an address which he planned to give via radio the following evening for the Democrats' annual Jackson Day Dinner. There were five people in the room with him, his cousins Daisy Suckley and Laura Delano, his valet, Arthur Prettyman, the artist, Elizabeth Shoumatoff, who was painting his portrait, and Lucy Mercer Rutherford, a woman with whom Franklin had had a brief affair over a quarter century before. On this spring day in 1945, they we're just two old friends. They made each other laugh, something Franklin needed now more than any other time in his life. She also reminded him of his athletic youth, before the onslaught of polio withered his legs. 

Without warning the president put his right hand to the back of his neck and said to Miss Suckley, "I have a terrific pain in the back of my head". With those final words he lost consciousness. His limp body was carried by Prettyman to his bedroom, where, less than an hour later, at 3:35 PM, Franklin D. Roosevelt was pronounced dead. He was sixty-three.

Seventy years later, the legacy of FDR is on life support in this country. There aren't many people still standing that have a conscious memory of what life was like in America before his grand experiment in unprecedented social engineering ushered in a New Deal for the American people. On the night of his inauguration in 1933, his outspoken distant cousin, Alice Roosevelt Longworth (Theodore's daughter) told him, "Franklin, if you fail you'll be the last Democratic president." The new president didn't miss a beat in his reply: "Alice, if I fail I'll be the last president - period".

It amuses me to no end whenever I hear Barack Obama described by the right wing SCREAM machine as "the most liberal president in history". He isn't. Truth be told, he's not even a close third. Not only was Roosevelt our most liberal president - he was a radical - at a time when radical change was desperately needed.

Master Franklin 1890
The obscene economic inequality that preceded the Administration of FDR, has risen from the depths of hell and is making a comeback in the United States at this very moment. We've pretty much forgotten all we owe him. Think about it: The youngest voter to cast his or her ballot for FDR in 1932 would this year be 104. My mother, who will turn eighty-four on August 5, was in the eighth grade when Franklin Delano Roosevelt passed into eternity seventy years ago today. We suffer from historical amnesia. They tell us that those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it. Take a look at the American economic landscape on April 12, 2015. It's happening. Go back to sleep.

Maybe it's a mere coincidence that history is not emphasized more in American high schools these days. Maybe it's not. One thing is beyond certainty: A lot of people who vote are in desperate need of a history lesson. Most of them are unable to identify President Roosevelt in a photograph - or even his image on the dime. That's a pretty pathetic situation. 

A young man on his way
A google news search this morning informs me that there is not one paper, anywhere in this nation, that is taking note of this milestone anniversary today. FDR is not even mentioned in passing. That's pretty pathetic as well.
 
"Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred. I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it, the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it, these forces met their master."

-Franklin D. Roosevelt, during the 1936 campaign

  
 Can you imagine a politician - Democratic or Republican making such an utterance today? With A a small handful of noble exceptions, I can't. 

The Frankster
I often make a pilgrimage to the FDR Library and Museum in Hyde Park, NY. Being a resident of New York's Hudson Valley, it's not difficult for me to get there any time I choose. In fact, it's less than forty miles from where I now sit. It is where Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born on the night of January 30, 1882, and where he and Eleanor sleep side-by-side in the rose garden of the mansion. I need the place like a tonic! Whenever I get to feeling depressed about this country (which fortunately is only when I'm sober) I take a little trek up there. Without fail, I always leave there feeling a little better about America. If you ever find yourself in my neck of the woods, I cannot recommend it enough.

Seventy years later he still speaks to us. We're not listening. That is our eternal shame. Let me leave you with his best remembered quote:

"So first of all, let me express my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...."
`
Aw, hell. You know the rest of it.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED READING:

No Ordinary Time
by Doris Kearns-Goodwin

The best book on the Roosevelt White House ever written. Here's a link to order it off of Amazon.com:


It doesn't get any better than Doris!

Here is a link to a piece I wrote three years ago today on the 67th anniversary of the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt:

http://tomdegan.blogspot.com/2012/04/april-12-1945-april-12-1012.html
`
SUGGESTED VIEWING:

The American Experience - FDR

A number of years ago this excellent documentary on Franklin D. Roosevelt was aired by PBS. This is part one. Here is a link to watch it on YouTube:
`
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ps40A3uWPx8
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"But the president who Championed the common man, was not like most Americans."

 Let's drink a toast to happy days!

February 11, 2012

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Why Hillary?


For the history books:

41. Bush
42. Clinton
43. Bush
44. Obama
45. [Fill in the blank]

It's nearly certain that number 45 will read either Clinton or Bush. Do you have any idea how idiotic we're gonna look to future generations? I have a really good idea.

The Democrats would be wise to exhibit a bit more caution in what they publicly wish for. A little food for thought.

Tyrone Power 1914-1958
Many years ago there lived an actor named Tyrone Power who was active in Hollywood for a little over twenty years. He was just a bit before my time. When I was a day shy of three months old, he collapsed and died of a massive heart attack on location in Madrid, Spain while filming a sword fight scene with fellow actor, George Sanders. He was only forty-four years old.

Orson Welles once said of James Cagney, "Every moment of Cagney is truth." By comparison, every moment of Ty Power was contrived. In fact, I've never been able to understand how he was able to survive in Hollywood for as long as he did. To his many fans and his heirs: I'm sorry but the guy couldn't act his way out a decomposing burlap sack. We're talking mucho lousy! There's a dandy reason why his name is not remembered today as reverently as Gable's, Bogie's or Tracy's. In every performance by Tyrone Power I've ever witnessed, he has all the conviction of the most popular Sophomore in the lead of a high school play. 

It's a little unsettling how I get the same feeling from Tyrone Power's acting that I do whenever I watch Hillary Clinton on the stump. 

The "party of FDR"?
If you want a perfect illustration for why I left the Democrats almost two decades ago, you'd be hard-pressed to come up with a better example than the entire "Hillary phenomena". As of this date she is virtually unopposed by any other Democrat as she prepares for what is obviously a long-planned run for the big house on Pennsylvania Avenue. The question that is screaming to be posed is this one: Is this the best that the "party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt" can come up with? True, she's light years better than anything the Republicans will be able to puke up in the substance department, by why settle on her? Are the Clintons so all-powerful that there is no one out there in the Democratic landscape who is able to muster up the courage to challenge them? Are they that gutless?

I understand that there are a lot of people (myself included) who would like to see a second, culture-shattering precedent established next year by electing the first woman as president of the United States. To go straight from the first black dude to the first gal is indeed tempting - no argument there - but Hillary is not the one for me. In fact, she's not even a close second. 

Cucklehead
One has to wonder about the Dems these days. The situation is bleak everywhere you look - at least as far as the progressive cause is concerned. When I learned that Chuck Schumer (the gentleman from Wall Street) was in serious consideration for the role of Senate leader, replacing the retiring mannequin, Harry Reid, it seemed to me to be a classic case of jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. With Democrats like these guys, who the heck needs Republicans? Why is it that the party that was redefined generations ago as being the party of "Progress" has forgotten their roots? Is it any wonder that so many of us are becoming more apathetic with each passing year?

If the Republicans end up nominating someone with an IQ above room temperature - in other words the type of candidate that doesn't appeal to the typical primary voter in the South and Midwest - you can bet everything you own on the fact that the Tea Party knuckleheads will bolt the GOP and start a third part uprising. That would be a wonderful thing for my purposes. The same should happen to the Democrats.

Here is as profound a political quotation as any I've read in my lifetime:

"People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they cry, they dance, they live, they love, and they die. And that matters. That matters because we don't run this country for corporations. We run it for people."

Elizabeth Warren 

I would love to see Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts toss her hat into the ring but apparently that's not going to happen. She has said - over and over again - that she has no intention of running and I have no reason to doubt her sincerity. One thing you can't accuse Liz Warren of is being insincere. Too bad. She is one of the few people out there with the heart and soul of a true progressive. I hope she changes hew mind.

There are those who would make the argument that electing a relatively unknown woman from New England would be an uphill climb. True, but those were the same arguments that were made eight years ago when an obscure, African American politician from Chicago (NOT KENYA) named Barack Obama announced his candidacy for the White House. Everything is possible in this age. The first time I ever heard Elizabeth Warren speak I fell in love with her. I like to think of her as Spencer Tracy to Hillary's Tyrone Power; a meadow at sunrise to Hillary's astro-turf.

Maybe Ms. Clinton will turn out to be a pleasant surprise. Maybe she won't. We can pray for a miracle here, but the nasty reality calls for us not to be naive. She is the best the Democrats can come up with. Let's deal with it as best we can. Remember, the alternative to Hillary is Jeb Bush. We don't want to go down that road again - trust me on this one, kids.

Yeah, barring a miracle, the former First Lady, senator and Madame Secretary will more than likely be the Democratic nominee in 2016 - which means it's all highly probable that she will become the next president of the United States. The only good news upon the horizon is that the GOP has gone so far off the deep end in recent years that they've become unelectable on a national scale. Otherwise I'm not-at-all happy about this scenario. Hillary is about as much of a progressive as "liberal" Republican Nelson Rockefeller was - in other words: not very progressive at all. I've voted in every presidential contest since 1980 and I'm probably not going to miss this one, much as I'm tempted to. But you can bet that I'll be holding my nose when I cast my ballot on Election Day next year.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 

AFTERTHOUGHT:

Be it Easter or Passover- or whatever - have a happy one! 

SUGGESTED LISTENING:

No identification needed
Here Comes the Sun
by the Beatles

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5E_zXbmrlM

Little darling, it's been a long, cold, lonely winter....
Sun! Sun! Sun! Here we come!  

SUGGESTED READING:

Kevin Swanwick
Writing and Thinking
a blog by Kevin Swanwick

Kevin Swanwick is one of my oldest friends in the world - he's 102 - but seriously folks....

Long time readers of The Rant might remember Kevin as the gent who a few years ago took a pilgrimage with me to the Abbey Road studios in merrie olde England. He writes a blog called "Writing and Thinking" which has a lot less readers than this site - which is strange because it's a much better blog, and he's a much better writer. So have a look at this excellent site and put him on your list of bookmarks, okay? He has something important to say and we all need to listen. Here's a link:

http://swanwickmuse.blogspot.com/

This kid's got a future, no doubt about it.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Charlie McCarthyism


"This is an administration that seems bound and determined to violate every single one of our bill of rights. I don’t know that they have yet violated the Third Amendment, but I expect them to start quartering soldiers in peoples’ homes soon."
   
Texas Senator Ted Cruz (with a straight face)

It's official; Ted Cruz made the announcement on Monday that he is a candidate for the presidency of the United States. The silly bastard has tossed his tinfoil hat into the ring. Life is beautiful.

My luck. How did it get so good? "Fortuitous" doesn't even come close to defining it. Ted Cruz's candidacy is the best news I've had since the moment I learned that the Bay City Rollers had disbanded. This, of course, is no surprise - in fact I predicted on this site two years ago that Ted would make a run for the Big House in 2016. It was obvious to me that this idiot had such a high opinion of himself, that he really believed he was fit for the job. And I do not believe this to be a cynical attempt to "up his brand" so to speak; he is in it for the long haul. That is what makes the very existence of Ted Cruz such a knee-slapping delight: He takes himself so seriously! And don't think the American people won't be naive enough to elevate a half-witted yahoo from the Lone Star State to the presidency. Just in case it slipped your mind, it has happened before. I don't really need to rehash the ugly details here, do I?

Ted Cruz is a satirist's delight. He requires little (if any) effort. All one has to do is quote the demented little freak verbatim and - HEY PRESTO - instant satire! Here, I'll show you what I mean:

"If you look at other nations that have gone down the road towards gay marriage, that’s the next step of where it gets enforced. It gets enforced against Christian pastors who decline to perform gay marriages, who speak out and preach biblical truths on marriage, that has been defined elsewhere as hate speech, as inconsistent with the enlightened view of government."

You see what I'm talking about? With Ted Cruz hogging such a huge portion of the national limelight, these things literally write themselves! Should he ever make it to the White House, I'll be the most tickled person on the planet. Can you imagine how delightfully weird something like a Cruz administration would be? As mind-jarringly stupid as George W. Bush was, old Ted is starting to make the hideous little frat boy look like Albert Einstein. I know it's unnatural to wish for something as horrible as that, but since the American people are hellbent on self-destruction anyway, we might as well have a nice giggle as we descend into the abyss. Ain't politics the livin' end?

ATTENTION BIRTHERS:

In the 2008 campaign, only one of the candidates of the two major political parties was born in the United States - Barack Obama. John McCain was born in Panama. And yet it was the black guy whose qualifications were brought into question - at least in your minds - although I'm sure that was just a coincidence (NUDGE! NUDGE! WINK! WINK!) Since you tea-partiers have gotten twisted up into such a comical snit over the birthplace of the president of the United States from the moment he announced his candidacy in 2007, I'm wondering how you're going to react to the news that Ted Cruz was born in Canada? Unlike your allegations against Barack Obama (Born in Kenya? REALLY???) Ted's place of birth is beyond dispute. He even went through the trouble of "renouncing" his Canadian citizenship a couple of years ago! I've got a feeling that the very real origins of Ted Cruz's birth aren't going to make much of a difference to you folks this time round. Call it a silly hunch on my part.

And can you imagine the howl these idiotic right-wingers would have made had Barack Obama's dad been one of the insurgents who overthrew the Batista regime in Cuba in 1959 and placed Fidel Castro into power? Well that's the history of Ted's father, Raul! He was one of the Rough Riders who went charging up the figurative San Juan Hill with Castro in the lead! He claims that he had no idea of Castro's communist leanings at the time - and I take him at his word. Back in the Fabulous Fifties, even the State Department wasn't sure where Fidel's politics were at.

Now, I realize that only an idiot would would even bother to bring these trivial things up in a campaign - that's why you can bet the farm that Ted's opponents will be sure to raise these issues during next year's GOP primaries. In case you haven't noticed, the collective IQ of that disgusting party has gone downhill just a wee bit since the days of Eisenhower. How's that for understatement? 

 ”The willingness to say all those crazy things is a rare, rare characteristic in this town, and you know what? It’s every bit as true now as it was then. We need a hundred more like Jesse Helms in the U.S. Senate.”
 
-Ted Cruz
`
It's a only half step up  from uber racist and dingbat Jesse Helms to red-baiting blowhard Joseph McCarthy.  

McCarthy
McCarthy died on May 2, 1957, nearly fourteen years before Ted was born. I never dreamed that a character as completely warped as the infamous Wisconsin senator would appear in my lifetime; I was wrong. Ted Cruz is so McCarthy-like that it would be disconcerting if it weren't so funny. If he hasn't done McCarthy one better he's come pretty damned close. This was apparent a couple of years ago during the confirmation hearings for war hero Chuck Hagel, when Cruz accused him of somehow being in cahoots with the North Koreans. It was pure McCarthy - with every "t" dotted and every "i" crossed. Even his posture - the way he hunched over the microphone with his head slightly tilted - was pure Joe McCarthy! It was clear to me (and I wasn't the only one who took note of it) that Ted had admiringly studied Joe with all the devotion of a disciple absorbing wisdom at the feet of the master. And to think this knucklehead wants to be our next president. Imagine that. 

By the way, just to give you an idea where this twit is coming from, of all the places across the country from which could have inaugurated his campaign, he did it from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, the college that was founded by another famous racist, the late Jerry Fallwell. That's not unlike Ronald Reagan, who announced his candidacy in 1980 from Philadelphia, Mississippi, a completely unremarkable little stain on the map whose only claim to fame was the murders there of three civil rights workers in the summer of 1964. Nice.

Whatever happens in the next year-and-a-half, I'm all dressed up for the ride. It's gonna be oodles of fun watching Ted and Jeb tear each other to shreds in the primaries. And if Cruz is denied the nomination at the convention next summer, who wants to make a wager that he throws a wrench into the GOP's finely oiled machine by launching a third party uprising? I wouldn't put it past the guy; he seems intent on destroying the Republican party.  

GO FOR IT, TEDDY BOY!
`
Tom  Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED READING:

Here is a link to the first (but hardly the last) piece I ever wrote about Ted Cruz in May of 2013. He has only gained in comedic value in the ensuing two years. The man is a hoot:

http://tomdegan.blogspot.com/2013/05/president-cruz.html

The Seven Dumbest Things Ted Cruz Ever Said:
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From our friends over at AlterNet. Here's to you, Ted!

SUGGESTED VIEWING:

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart:
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http://www.alternet.org/jon-stewarts-hilarious-takedown-ted-cruzs-presidential-announcement#.VRHIGvZmKrU.facebook
`
Jon's take on the candidacy of Ted Cruz. As we've come to expect from this guy, it's as funny as it's insightful.

UPDATE 3/31/15, 1:30 PM: 

This is pretty funny. Some joker out there just put me on Ted Cruz's mailing list:

My fellow conservative, I need your immediate help.

We're less than 18 HOURS away from our first financial Quarterly Fundraising Deadline -- and it's the most important moment of our campaign.

I've launched an aggressive fundraising drive to meet our goal, and we must perform well. Can I count on you?

********

Sure, Ted.

Rob Waggoner
AFTERTHOUGHT:

A gent from Tennessee by the name of Rob Waggoner just left this comment on my Facebook page:

"Going forward please only refer to him as Raphael Eduardo Cruz, since so many are hellbent on referring to our President as Barack HUSSEIN Obama."

Interesting idea, Rob. What goes around, ay?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Cotton Club 47


A BLAST FROM THE PAST:

 "Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both."

The Logan Act, 30 December 1799

Just thought I'd run that by you. 

It's as obvious as a setting sun on a westbound, highway: Tom Cotton has a severe case of Ted-Cruz-envy. Two years ago Cruz, a bloviating gasbag from the Lone Star State, was a newly arrived freshman senator, all set to shake up Washington in whatever way he could. Not since Joe McCarthy in the late forties had the nation seen anyone like this extremist dingbat. In two short years, he is now viewed (by some at least) as being a major contender for the 2016 nomination. Certainly Cruz has a high enough opinion of himself that, in his delusional megalomania, he has convinced himself that he is going to succeed Barack Obama as the next president of the United States of America.

Can you guess why I love writing about this stuff so much?

Tom Cotton, a freshman from Arkansas just took his senate seat in January. You can almost feel the little freak's lust for the same type of fame and notoriety that Cruz was able to achieve in so short a time. Less than a month-and-a-half after arriving in the senate chamber, this pathetic nonentity was able to talk forty-six of his colleagues into signing a letter addressed to the leaders of Iran, effectively torpedoing (or trying to - we shall see) negotiations in which the administration is presently engaged in trying to stop Iran's potential development of a nuclear weapons program. Some are saying that what they have done was in direct violation of the Logan Act, a law that has been on the books since January 30, 1799. Some even dare to call it "treason". Whatever the case, "the party of Abraham Lincoln" is looking crazier than ever - a feat which takes some doing.

I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for the Obama Justice Department to prosecute these clowns. In fact there has some precedent set in the past for publicity-crazy politicians (on both sides of the aisle) sticking their noses, where they clearly don't belong, into foreign affairs. But the undeniable fact is that it has never been done quite at this level before. They basically informed the Iranians in this sophomoric message that any agreement they make with Barack Obama will be null and void come January 20, 2017 when the Grand Old Party is once again in control of the executive branch of the American government.

EARTH TO REPUBLICANS: THAT AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN, BABY!

Apparently it has yet to dawn on these assholes that their party - at least on a nationwide basis - has become virtually unelectable. You want the proof? In the last two national election cycles the American people chose as their leader a black politician from Chicago. Given this nation's sad history with respect to race, that's an extraordinary thing. Can they really be so demented to think that defeating a white woman at the polls two Novembers from now is going to be any easier? To quote the great Johnny Mercer:

"Dream when the day is through
Dream and they might come true
Things never are as bad as they seem
So dream, dream, dream...." 

The only way that disgusting party is going to be able to take back the White House in two years will be via the route of an electoral coup d'etat; they won't be able to do it any other way. That's what the gutting of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was all about. Remember you read it here, folks.

I don't lose any sleep over the knowledge that there are blathering imbeciles like Tom Cotton or Ted Cruz - or the forty-five other senators who were stupid enough to sign that letter - rampaging the floors of the nation's capital. I'll be honest with you: it makes life awfully interesting. 

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Bob Crane 1928-1978
AFTERTHOUGHT: Hogan Revisited

I go to see my mother twice every day at the adult care facility she lives in (it's called Glen Arden). Lately I've taken to watching about an hour of reruns of Hogan's Heroes when I visit. They run every morning on TV Land, replacing the Cosby Show which was removed from the lineup a few months ago for reasons I don't think I need to go in to.

I used to love this program when I was a kid; however in the forty-plus years since I last viewed it, it has made its way onto every list as one of the worst TV shows in history. I wasn't too surprised to hear this. Back in its day, I thought Rowan and Martin's Laugh In was a hoot. When I viewed a few episodes a number of years ago, I was taken aback by how embarrassingly bad it was. I only assumed that Hogan's Heroes would suffer the same fate of adult hindsight.

After watching it for about a month now, I can only say that it's not one of the worst programs in history - far from it. In fact, when compared to other shows of that overrated decade, it holds up remarkably well. Let's face it: the sixties were a dreadful period in the history of American comedy. Other than a small handful, most of the "comedies" of that era are virtually unwatchable today. Hogan's Heroes is the happy exception to the rule: It's funny - very funny. Recently TV Guide named it fifth from the bottom of the worst shows of all time. That's complete nonsense.

Perhaps in the politically correct culture in which we live, certain people cannot forgive a program that was able to mine humor out of a Nazi-era POW camp. I would only advise that if you happen upon it while surfing the channels, give it another chance. It's not only very funny, there is enough suspense - and even a bit of drama - to keep it interesting. In that respect it paved the way for M*A*S*H, another comedy set within a man-made tragedy.

The show disappeared from syndication for decades following the 1978 murder of Bob Crane, who played Colonel Hogan. When the details of his somewhat lecherous private life and the circumstances that lead to his killing became known to the public, perhaps viewers wanted to forget about him for a while. Enough time has passed, I guess. Maybe in thirty-seven years we'll be able to watch Bill Cosby again without wincing.

dear Abbie
SUGGESTED READING:

Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture
by Abbie Hoffman

I first read his memoirs about thirty years ago and they're even better with hindsight on the second reading. What I always loved about Abbie Hoffman (and why I miss him) is that he was utterly fearless without ever losing his madcap sense of humor, despite his trials - real and figurative. He was too unique for emulation. It's unspeakably sad that mental illness implanted in his mind the belief that his life wasn't worth living. That happens to a lot of good and decent people. We sure could use him now.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

"A Sacred Place"

Overcoming since 1965
`
"Right now, in 2015, fifty years after Selma, there are laws across this country designed to make it harder for people to vote. As we speak, more of such laws are being proposed...Meanwhile, the Voting Rights Act, the culmination of so much blood, so much sweat and tears, the product of so much sacrifice in the face of wanton violence ...stands weakened."

President Barack Obama, 7 March 2015
at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, Alabama

The more things change....

In an interview Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press, Congressman John Lewis told Chuck Todd that he considers the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama to be "a sacred place". And so it is. I drove over it once thirty years ago. Take it from me: the vibes are pretty intense. The bridge is named after an officer in the confederacy and a US senator who was also a Grand Dragon in the Alabama Ku Klux Klan. Given what his name has come to symbolize in the struggle for African American equality, I'm sure the hideous old bastard is doing somersaults in his grave at this very moment. I hope so.
 
Lewis: Walking into history
It's a disconcerting thing when you really think about it; the idea that what went down at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama fifty years ago this week could have happened - not only within my lifetime - but within my memory! The question of voting rights for all Americans should have been settled before the turn of the twentieth century. The dirty little secret is even more confounding: it's still not settled. The Voting Rights act of 1965, from which the blood spilled in Selma on that day was inspired, was effectively gutted last year. You're forgiven if your primary news source is FOX Noise and you were unaware of this rather revolting development....On second thought, you're not forgiven at all. What the heck is the matter with you? You ought to know better - seriously.

All in all it was a beautiful thing to behold: a mass gathering of the survivors of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's, and the children of that movement, those born decades after people like Medgar Evers and Jimmy Lee Jackson and Viola Liuzzo and Reverend James Reeb and Martin Luther King paid the ultimate dues by laying down their lives to advance the freedom of us all. That's what some people don't seem to understand: They freed all of us - white and black. We - I - owe those folks, BIG TIME.

"If someone had told me when we were crossing that bridge that one day I'd be back here introducing the first African-American president, I'd say you're crazy, you're out of your mind, you don't know what you're talking about!"

Rep. John Lewis
Selma, March 7, 2015  

The martyred Viola Liuzzo
`
That things have moved forward since Bloody Sunday 1965 there's little room for debate; it's just that in recent months there has been a determined effort to reverse the gains which took many decades (not to mention quite a few lives and rivers of blood) to achieve. The eventuality that the power structure of this nation never foresaw was that, one day, they would no longer be the commanding majority. When the very first African American was elected to the presidency in 2008 (LORD, SAVE US ALL!!!) a lot of these bastards and bitches decided that the hour had come to take decided action. They were able to conjure - out of thin air, mind you - the make-believe electoral malady called "voter fraud". Last year the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was effectively gutted. By requiring voters to purchase ID's, they have made it difficult for the traditional Progressive constituency to cast their precious ballots. Somewhere, Jim Clark and Bull Connor must be smiling.
`
I hate to rain on this rancid little parade of theirs (Honest I do!) but it seems perfectly clear to me that what went down a half a century ago in Selma, Alabama was merely a sweet little overture for what is coming. Not only has Jim Crow been raised from the dead, he's on a nationwide comeback tour. This is a show that won't be closing any time soon. 

Paging Dr. King
Come Election Day 2016, a lot of people who, with no difficulty at all, have voted their entire adult lives will be denied that right because of these right-wing-engineered laws. I just hope the victims of that denial remember Dr. King's legacy of non-violence. Perhaps they will. Perhaps they won't. Of this you may be absolutely certain: The shit is going to hit the fan; there will be riots at polling places all across the land. Hang onto your hats, folks. There's gonna be a hot time in the good ol' USA on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. Take that to the bank.
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Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
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SUGGESTED READING:
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Parting the Waters
by Taylor Branch
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This comprehensive history of the Civil Rights movement in America is, to the best of my knowledge, the finest book ever written on the subject. It's still in print, too. Here's a link to order it off of Amazon.com:
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Parting the Waters: 1954-1963 

Part two is called "Pillar of Fire 1963-1965"; followed by part three which is called, "At Canaan's Edge 1965-1968". All three volumes are excellent and hugely recommended. Taylor Branch is a first rate historian.

SUGGESTED VIEWING:

The speech that President Obama gave at the Edmund Pettus Bridge this past weekend was the greatest of his career. Here's a link to watch it on YouTube:
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvAIvauhQGQ
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The guy was good.

Friday, March 06, 2015

CPAC FOLLIES OF 2015

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I wrote about the CPAC convention two years ago. There really isn't a hell of a lot to add as far as their 2015 shindig is concerned. Although the folks at CPAC claim that they are not affiliated with any one political party (Nudge! Nudge! Wink! Wink!) we all know whose bread they are buttering. If by this late stage in the game you're still unconvinced that the Republican party has lost its marbles, observing what transpired at this year's event is not going to change your mind, so you might as well not continue any further

The highlight of the week was Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. He stated (with a face as straight as a two-by-four) that, as president, dealing with the international threat posed by ISIS would be a relative cinch. You see, he faced down protesters at the state capital in Madison who were demanding a decent wage just to get by. That's right, campers, this fucking idiot compared the working men and women of his state to an international terrorist organization responsible for the deaths of thousands. Don'cha just love it?

But what was most revealing about the CPAC convention of 2016 was not the screaming extremism of the knuckleheads who attend events such as this, it was their reception of a man who is truly and undeniably one of their own: Jeb Bush might as well have been a streaker at the funeral of a spinster librarian. In spite of the busload of supporters that were hauled in by the Bush Mob in order to give Jeb a grand ovation, the air at the convention in Maryland was thick with fear and loathing as Bush took the podium to make his pitch. He reminded me of a Berlin Rabbi, circa 1936, trying to warm up the crowd at a Nuremberg rally. Try as he might, the poor bastard just couldn't reach these people. If it hadn't been so screamingly funny it would have been kind of sad. 
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I feel sort of sorry for Jeb. As it's been pointed out elsewhere, if the late Florida governor, Lawton Chiles, hadn't been so good at his job, Jeb could have easily defeated him in 1994 and been a sure thing for the GOP nomination in 2000. The fickle finger of fate is a cruel and unpredictable thing. Jeb's older brother, the one with the IQ of a moldy bag of rancid mangoes, won the governorship of the state of Texas the same year that poor old Jebbie lost in Florida. As a result, Dubya the halfwit was propelled into the Oval Office mainly by the machinations of his younger brother, who by that time was firmly settled into the governor's mansion in Tallahassee. All it took was the removal of 57,000 black people from the voting rolls of that state - a feat engineered by Jeb and his secretary of state, Katherine Harris. You know the rest of the story; I won't go into the hideous details.

Are comparisons of Jeb and George fair? On a certain level they most definitely are not. Jeb is processed s a certain, barely detectable likability which was completely absent in his older brother. The guy was such an arrogant schmuck that it was difficult (for me at least) to feel anything but complete contempt for him. It was said after the campaign of 2000 that people voted for George simply because they would rather have a beer with him than the nerdy, policy-wonk, Al Gore. I, myself, would rather have shared a brewski with Dubya as well - if only to smash the disgusting little frat boy upside the head with a bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon. 

There is no doubt that had Jeb won the White House fifteen years ago, we would today be remembering his term of office as a failure; but I'm sure it would have turned out to be barely one/half the utter catastrophe that his brother's administration turned out to be. That's a fairly easy call. 

And now, so desperate are Jeb and his team to distance themselves from his older brother, poor old Dubya isn't being seen in public these days. For the next two years the only appearances George will be making will be in those "Whatever Became of" articles. Aren't politics fun? 

I've never been a fan of George the Elder (although when placed in comparison to his two sons he's beginning to look like Theodore Roosevelt), there was a moment a few years ago when my heart genuinely went out to him: It was when Dubya was still in the White House. He was at some event, speaking extemporaneously  about the careers of his two boys. Then, without warning, the old man suddenly broke down sobbing. I felt really bad for Poppy on that day - and I know what he was thinking: One son had so much (in his mind) to offer. The other has been a tragedy (no argument) for this country. It was such an uncomfortably sad moment. There, laid bare for all to behold, was the tragedy of George H.W. Bush. What a drag. 

The funniest thing about the CPAC conference of 2015 was contemplating the complete cluelessness of the average attendee. JEB'S THEIR MAN! They should be thanking the gods of mediocrity that he has consented to seek the prize! Jeb only began to reposition himself as "a moderate" around the time brother George mercifully vacated 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue! While he served as governor of Florida he was as to the extreme right (in a few cases more so) as his brother. "Compassionate Conservatism" my eye! 

It's going to be an absolute joy over the next year-and-a-half watching Jeb stumble around the country with one foot on a banana peel and the other in his mouth, trying to convince the morons in the South and Midwest who vote in Republican primaries that he really is (and he really is) one of them. Then, as if that weren't funny enough, he needs to slither back to the center during the general campaign in the autumn - assuming he gets the nomination. Jeb is too much of a wild-eyed lefty for these jackasses. As I've said too many times to count, "the party of Abraham Lincoln" has morphed into the party of Uncle Fester. I'm lovin' this!

And that's the other dilemma that Jeb faces: if he does indeed get the nomination, what will stop the Tea Party crazies from bolting the GOP and starting a third party uprising? Ted Cruz is such a contemptible opportunist, don't put it past him. The dirty little secret is that it's already a separate party - they just haven't made it official yet. They will - count on it.

And you thought 2012 was a scream??

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 

SUGGESTED VIEWING:
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Calvin Coolidge 1872-1933
Ninety-one years ago in 1924, Calvin Coolidge became the first American president to address the nation via the new technology of sound film. This was one month after his sixteen-year-old son died from an infection sustained while playing tennis on the White House court. Under the circumstances he's holding up pretty well I think. Here's a link to watch it on YouTube:

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

I am now reading a biography of Silent Cal. Although I would never have voted for him had I been alive in 1924, I believe he was one of the most decent men ever to occupy the White House.

SUGGESTED READING:

CPAC FOLLIES OF 2013

I wrote this one two years ago. 'Taint bad.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Crazies on Parade


Dig this! White Christian males (such as I) are an oppressed minority. This I never knew!

McGovern '72
I suspect that - subtly at least - the "white victimization" fantasy will - once again - be a key part of the right wing's attempt to appeal to the clueless American people. It's always worked so well in senate and congressional races; not so much in the presidential contests - for the simple reason that it was never really necessary. 2016 is going to be different, though. The GOP is these days facing some unsettling realities. And the nastiest fact of all it that they've rendered themselves unelectable as far as the presidential contest is concerned. How do you think that an African American politician from Chicago was able to get elected? Sure, the guy was loaded with substance (no argument there). But so were Al Gore and George McGovern. Everything has changed.  

Where is this white-Christian-male suppression coming from? Who is instigating this mass persecution?. Why am I not able to perceive it? Am I really that dense? Some of the folks who tune into this site might agree with that last assessment (I can almost hear the wise cracks now) but I think I'm a fairly perceptive guy. If I have ever once, during my fifty-six-and-a-half years on this sad planet, been discriminated against because I am a male and a Christian, I'm not aware of it. In fact, the only person in my life who ever put down due to the fact that I'm Irish Catholic is me! You know how we Irish are with our self-deprecating wit! 

Here's what's happening:

Because conservative policies are doing such serious damage to the people of this country (particularly in the South and the Midwest) the right wing SCREAM machine has these assholes convinced that they're suffering because they're being persecuted by those nasty LIB'RALS who would like nothing better than to elevate the KNEE-GROW at their expense. Call it "the vast, left-wing conspiracy". Hence their nutty persecution complex. Ain't that a riot?
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Okay, okay; I'll come right out and confess: It's all true. If we progressives have our wicked way (and we will  have our wicked way) within five years, after you white Christians are humiliatingly defeated in the race war that is now in the final stages of preparation, your young daughters will be forced into cohabitation with black men. Be afraid.

This is where I do my sinister-evil laugh. But seriously, folks.... 

A few years ago I predicted that the most crucial thing to watch in the next thirty years or so will be how white people in this country react to the unstoppable sociological fact that they will one day (and not too far into the future) no longer be in the majority. By all accounts they're (we're) not reacting as maturely as we should be. C'mon, fellow honkies! Let's act like grownups, okay? There's no way we can stop what is happening short of genocide. And although a few of us may very well be contemplating such an atrocity (white supremacy is not quite dead) it's not in the cards so put it out of your minds. Just sit back and roll with the changes. That's what I've been doing and I'm perfectly content with it thank you very much. It's not the end of the world. Take a minority to lunch and chill out.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED READING:

Ship Without a Sail: The Life of Lorenz Hart
by Gary Mamorstein

Larry Hart (1895-1943) was the most gifted lyricist in the history of the American theater. He was also a sad and deeply troubled man. Together with Richard Rodgers (pre-Hammerstein) he composed some of the most beautiful music ever heard by the human ear; and in the process single-handedly redefined how lyrics are written. This excellent biography attempts to unlock the tragic riddle of Lorenz Hart's life - and his eventual disintegration into alcoholism and an early death.

So don't change a hair for me, not if you care for me
Stay, little Valentine, stay
Each day is Valentines Day....

Friday, February 20, 2015

POST #577: Random Observations

Smoking more and enjoying it less 2/20/15
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What you have here are nothing more than a series of aimless comments that I had posted on other websites or out in the Facebooksphere. Writing this blog is often more difficult than it should be; I mean - Heavens to freakin' Betsey! - there's just so much to write about. The problem is that there are times when one doesn't know where to begin. I'm having one of those weeks. Happy reading!

1. BROKEN RECORD DEPT: 

The accepted definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting to yield a different result every time. Forgive me for what may seem to some as my obsession with Jeb Bush, but if the people of this doomed country are ever again insane enough to send another member of this disgusting family to the White House, they'll deserve everything that happens to them. 

Fifteen years ago I was damned near everywhere - on local radio, in the newspapers, and four times on national television (C-SPAN - anyone can get on C-Span) warning everyone who would listen what a disaster a second Bush White House would be for this country. I was pretty much ignored then. Don't ignore me now, okay? They're trying to portray Jeb as "the moderate alternative". They're lying. How do I know? As governor of Florida, he ruled that state from the far right. Since his half-witted older brother mercifully vacated the Executive Mansion six years ago, he's been desperately trying to reposition himself as a "compassionate conservative". Remember that line? We won't get fooled again, right?....RIGHT???

I can't emphasize this enough, kiddies.

2. Is You Is or Is You Ain't My ISIS?
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It gets stupider by the day. The FOX Noise pundits, along with the usual suspects on right wing talk radio, are implying (some even stating outright) that by referring to ISIS as "extremists" and not "Islamist extremists", the president of the United States is somehow sympathetic with the goals of these freaks. Obama has said that the United States is at war with all forms of extremism. Last week, when he merely pointed out the undeniable truth that bad things have been done in the name of Jesus Christ down through the centuries, including in the good ol' U S of A, conservatives had (and are still having) a mass nervous breakdown. I have no comment other than to say that this has been quite an amusing spectacle to behold. We'll leave it at that for now. 

3. Thinking About Malcolm

Tomorrow is the fiftieth anniversary of assassination of Malcolm X. He was one of the great visionaries of the twentieth century in my opinion. I was living and working in Naples, Florida when I first read his memoirs in 1986. This is quite ironic when one takes into consideration that Naples (at the time anyway) had the lowest per capita population of black people living in it than almost every other city in the country. Read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. It completely and utterly changed my life. I'm almost certain it will change yours, too. That is, of course, unless you're afraid of change. If that's the case then don't bother. 

4. QUOTE OF THE DAY:

"To destroy this invisible government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of statesmanship of the day."

Theodore Roosevelt

"....the first task of statesmanship of the day"....Of that day. There are few statesmen left - and even fewer stateswomen....NEXT!

5. Rudy Can Fail

I think that Rudy Giuliani ought to fold up the tents and go home for a permanent rest. He's always seemed to me to be a tad off his rocker. I met him once, and while he seemed like a nice enough fellow, even in that informal setting I got the impression that there was something about the poor bastard that wasn't quite right. As mayor of New York City, he certainly wasn't one tenth as extreme as his Republican brethren nationwide; he never would have gotten elected had that been the case. And yet, since leaving Gracie Mansion over a decade ago he's taken a decided turn to the extreme right. That was not totally unexpected - he was eying the White House in 2008 and one can't get nominated by that party these days unless one is willing to sound like a complete psychotic.  Totally understandable.

But for this blubbering twit to say, as he did this week, that the president of the United States hates Americans in general - and America in particular - was too ridiculous to be taken seriously. Why is he still saying these horrifically moronic things? Can it be that he has on eye on the campaign of 2016? My goodness, I hope so. That should make things really interesting. 

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I've just been informed by the nice folks at W-CBS News Radio that today has been the coldest day in New York State since they started keeping records over a century ago. If you live in the region of the country where I am writing from you're probably not the least bit surprised to learn this. Earlier, I attempted to fill up my jeep and got as far as ten dollars. The hell with this, I thought to myself, it's just too damned cold.

Be warm, everybody.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED READING

The Autobiography of Malcolm X 
(with Alex Haley)

ERNIE!
ABOUT THE PHOTO AT TOP:

I don't smoke cigars. But every time a new Ernie Kovacs product is released onto DVD I always go out and purchase one Dutch Master. They were the company that sponsored the Ernie Kovacs program back in the late fifties and early sixties. That's my little way of thanking them for taking a chance on Ernie when no one else would. 

RUDY UPDATE, 2/21/15, 11:50 AM:

According to the front page of this morning's New York Daily News, the former mayor is now accusing the president of the United States of being a communist. Ain't that a scream?  Someone really ought to check this pathetic son-of-a-bitch's calender. Seriously.