Saturday, April 30, 2016

Hillary and Donald: The Inevitables


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

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

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

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

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

Good riddance to them all.

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

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

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

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

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

AFTERTHOUGHT:

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

SUGGESTED READING:

Blue Highways 
By William Least Heat-Moon

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Gimme That Old Time Fascism


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read Owen Courreges' article here:

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

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

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Bad Days Here in New York


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

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

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

SUGGUESTED LISTENING:

Song of India by Rimsky-Korsakov

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

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

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Bernie Sanders for President

Feel the Bern!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

....or variations on that phrase.

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 31, 2016

POST #634: Random Observations

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

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

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

2. Donald and the Dumb-Down

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

3. Sarah's Meltdown

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

4. The Trouble with Kasich

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

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

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
`
SUGGESTED READING:

The Comedians
by Kliph Nesteroff

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

Friday, March 25, 2016

Just Say Whoah! Nixon's War On Blacks


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

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

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

Nice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"He stands like a rock in history."

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

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

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

Perfect.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED READING:

Witness to Power
by John Ehrlichman

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


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Next Phase Begins


Although 2016 is turning out to be the most depressing political year since the uber debacle of 1968, we might at least console ourselves with this fact: It certainly hasn't been boring - that's pretty obvious. In fact, in terms of pure political theater, this primary season is an unparalleled delight. One political party has lost its mooring, the other its sanity. These are interesting times to be alive.

The biggest news last night (although the least surprising) was the withdrawal from the race of the GOP's golden child, Marco Rubio. Say what you want about the poor schlub, at least he was smart enough to see the writing on the wall. When he was unable to carry his own state of Florida, it was all over. The story of the implosion of the Rubio campaign illustrates perfectly the utter ideological chaos of the Republican Party. As comically right wing as the senator is, he just isn't extreme enough for the imbeciles and crazy people who have hijacked "the party of Abraham Lincoln". It is now a two-man race between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump - two of the most unstable candidates in American history. Although the least nauseating of the bunch, Rubio never stood a chance. If that very fact doesn't scream untold volumes about the state of conservatism in America, nothing will.

"And something is happening but you don't know what it is
Do you, Mr. Jones."

Bob Dylan


Although most "professional" Republicans are in an absolute panic regarding their prospects for Election Day, your average, rank-and-file primary voter is utterly clueless concerning the direction this is headed. They seem to be in a state of utter denial. On Inauguration Day next year, for the first time in one-hundred and sixty years, one Democratic administration will follow another one into the executive mansion. That's the good news. The bad news is that the next president will more-than-likely be Hillary Rodham Clinton. It's incredible to think that so awful a candidate should be a shoe-in to be elected. That's how bad things have gotten for the Republicans.

Here's something you can take to the bank: Political conventions have become so scripted and antiseptic in the last forty years that they're too boring to watch anymore. Donald Trump has predicted that if he is denied the nomination there will be riots. Since the movers and shakers on the RNC are working overtime at this very moment to make sure that he, in fact, does not receive the nomination, and given the general instability of your average Trump mob, the Republican laugh fest in Cleveland this summer will be the first political convention since the Democrats' disaster in Chicago in '68 that will be worth watching - gavel to gavel. That is just gonna be oodles of fun.


It's hard to say what Bernie Sanders will do now that his candidacy is all-but-doomed. I hope he sticks it out for no other reason than to keep Hillary from moving back to the center. His existence in the race has forced her to take stands on a few issues she would no-doubt have preferred to remain silent on. She has taken positions that she'll be hard-pressed to back track on if she is finds herself living in the White House in ten months. We can thank Bernie Sanders for that. In the final analysis his quest for the presidency will not have been in vain.

It's okay to still feel the Bern.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
`
Judge Merrick Garland
BREAKING NEWS, 11:43 AM:

President Obama has just nominated Chief Judge of the DC Circuit Court of appeals, Merrick Garland (no relation to Judy I'm sure) to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left with the passing of Antonin Scalia last month. Neither a liberal firebrand nor a conservative extremist, Garland is apparently as middle of the road as it is possible to be. The Republican "brand" is so badly damaged these days, they would be smart to confirm him as soon as possible.

Wishful thinking, I know.

AFTERTHOUGHT. 3/18/16, 1127 AM:
`
A few months ago, some anonymous person - whether trying to be funny or spiteful (I'm not sure) - put me on the mailing list of the Ted Cruz For President campaign. I received a note from Ted just a few minutes ago, soliciting a contribution:

"Tom....[me 'n' Ted are on a first-name basis - ain't that a riot?] Because you have been one of my most loyal supporters -- I'm reaching out to you first. This could be a huge boost for my campaign -- even the difference between winning and losing. Will you help?"

Sure, Ted. The check's in the mail.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Donald! Donald! Uber Alles!


A couple of years ago on this site I noted that within less than fifty years time (a microsecond in terms of human history) white people would no longer be the ruling majority in this country. My prediction was that the most important story of the next couple of generations would be how Americans in general (and white Americans in particular) would deal with this inevitable, non-deniable sociological reality. Judging by the behavior of the folks attending two mass rallies for Donald Trump yesterday, one in St. Louis, the other in Chicago (which had to be canceled due to the threat of immanent violence), we're not off to a very promising start.

When he announced way back in June that he was seeking the office of the presidency, no one (myself included) took The Donald's candidacy very seriously. Nine months later we find that he is on the verge of becoming the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party. No doubt about it, 2016 is turning out to be a very strange year.

Like Ted Cruz, I have this nagging suspicion that the Democrats have secretly hired Trump as an undercover espionage agent to infiltrate the GOP in order to do as much damage to that disgusting party as is humanly possible to do. If that is indeed the case, they could not have succeeded more brilliantly in hammering the final nails into the coffin of an organization that was founded one-hundred and sixty years ago for the noble purpose of ending slavery in the United States. Think about that for a second: From Abraham Lincoln to Donald Trump. In the parlance of Alcoholics Anonymous, that is what is known as "hitting rock bottom". Is it any wonder that the blubbering pinheads on the Republican National Committee are in the process of a collective nervous breakdown? Did you ever see such a sight in your life? CAN I GET A WITNESS???

What a long, strange trip it's been....

The passing of Nancy Reagan this week has rendered the American people, yet again, nostalgic for the days of Ronniemania. I was never a fan of the gipper; in fact it's always been my opinion that the damage the old freak did to this country was so immense that it will never be accurately assessed - we're talking incalculable here, kids! And yet, even I (and I'm loathe to admit it), have found myself these past few days looking back upon the Reagan years with a nauseating sense of twisted longing. Even Dubya is starting to seem marginally palatable to me. Can you believe that? Give a starving dog a rancid piece of sirloin and the poor creature will eat it every single time.

The only reason the phenomenon of Donald Trump was such a surprise is simply that, in studying the GOP's devolution, a lot of us assumed that it would take another few years before things got as weird as they are at present. It is obvious to anyone paying attention for the last thirty-five years that the Republicans have been inching themselves - slowly but surely - to a very dark and disturbing place. Some of us have been caught off guard to learn that the "inching" has been a little faster than we had previously suspected. This is a party that has lost its reason - or have you already noticed?

Straitjackets for elephants. Has anyone thought of that?

I'm trying to convince myself that, after witnessing the behavior yesterday of the Trump Mob in Chicago and St. Louis, the voters in this Tuesday's primaries might be smart enough to pause and ask themselves if this is really the road America needs to go down. Of course, that would be giving them more credit that they deserve. Maybe they'll surprise me. I'll let you know if a pig flies by my window.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


AFTERTHOUGHT:

George Martin has died at age ninety. I'm happy to say that I had the honor of meeting him back in 1997. And to think that in 1962 he would take a gamble on signing up a band of unknown scruffs from Liverpool to a recording contract. That is just one example of the debt we owe this courageous and visionary musician.

SUGGESTED READING:

In 2010 George Martin's son, Giles, gave a personal tour of the Abbey Road/EMI studio facilities to my brother, Pete, our pal Kevin Swanwick, and yours truly. Here is a link to a piece I wrote about it at the time:

http://tomdegan.blogspot.com/2010/05/excellent-adventure-at-abbey-road.html

We followed her down from a bridge by a fountain, and she led us to the doors of Studio Two. Life is beautiful.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Making America Hole Again


The Uber Tuesday Hangover

I'll be brief this morning....

No one paying attention was too surprised by the final outcome, I'm sure. The only thing that stunned me was the fact that Ted Cruz did as well as he did, winning Alaska and Oklahoma in addition to his home state of Texas. I thought (and said on this blog) that as of today his campaign would be finished. That's not the case - not yet anyway. Poor Marco Rubio only managed to carry Minnesota. I thought he might fare a little better than that. The movers and shakers on the RNC are desperate to give his candidacy a much-needed shove. It may be too little too late. We shall see.

As expected, Governor John Kasich and Dr. Ben Carson barely managed a half-a-blip between them.

Reports you might have read on this site about the death of Bernie Sanders' campaign have been greatly exaggerated. The guy is going to go the distance. Good for him. Bernie is the most decent man to seek the office since George McGovern took on the monumentally corrupt Nixon administration in 1972. Like George's quest forty-four years ago, Bernie's is probably doomed as well. When this is all over, he'll be the only one in this race with his integrity intact. I'll be supporting the guy until the bitter end. I'm a sucker for lost causes, what can I tell you....

But the biggest non-surprise of the evening were the victories of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Money and name-recognition: it will never fail in the long run. Generally, most Democrats are delighted with Secretary Clinton's showing last night. Their glee may be a tad misplaced. Although an intelligent woman, she is (and I'll put this as gently as possible) a jaw-droppingly awful candidate. (Sorry, I couldn't help myself). When compared to Bernie, Hillary's progressive credentials are paper thin. Her presence on the ticket as standard-bearer for the Democratic Party could very well be enough to make liberals like myself stay home on Election Day. Her victory last night is yet another personal reminder that I did the right thing leaving that party in 1998.

For the record: I'll be voting on Election Day 2016, come heck or high water - you'd better believe it  - but I'll be holding my nose.

Last night, the bells of doom tolled for the GOP. This is the 630th piece I have written on The Rant. The very first one I ever wrote on this site almost ten years ago was called, "George W. Bush: The Last Republican President". The outcome of the Super Tuesday primary might, in the end, prove me to have been prescient. From Lincoln to Trump. This unsettling fact proves only that Darwin was wrong.

This is not a proud day for America in general - and the Republican Party in particular. We'll just leave it at that.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

AFTERTHOUGHT, 3:12 PM:

A few months ago someone put me on the mailing list of the Ted Cruz Campaign. I still cannot figure out if this person was being spiteful or funny. Whatever his or her motivation, I get a real kick out of these daily updates - which always solicit donations. Less than five minutes ago, I received this amusing message:

"Tom, we won huge victories in Texas, Oklahoma, and Alaska last night, and the campaign is now down to a two person race -- me vs. Donald Trump. Heidi and I owe you a debt of gratitude....Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"

Sure, Ted. Don't mention it. 

SUGGESTED LISTENING:
`
Democracy is Coming

Get the fuck out of the way.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Super Tuesday Eve


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

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

"Strange days indeed. Most peculiar, Mama!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Leap Year!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

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

I made a mistake. So sue me.

SUGGESTED READING:

The Life and Death of Lenin
by Robert Payne

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