Monday, July 31, 2006

You Asked For It, America!


"Those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of a tiger, ended up inside".
John F. Kennedy
Inaugural Address
20 January 1961

Everywhere you turn, whether it be in the papers or on the radio and television or even on the street where you live, you can't help but notice what can only be described as an assault on the working people of this country. Every night on CNN, Lou Dobbs highlights another example of "the war on the middle class" that is being waged by the Bush administration and both houses of congress - republicans and more than a few democrats. The headline in the Middletown, NY Times-Herald Record yesterday blared, "THE NEW WAR ON THE POOR". The photo on page one was of Robert and Constance McDonald of Middletown. He is an out of work auto mechanic who was disabled years ago, the result of a back injury. She suffers from congestive heart failure. They live on slightly over nine hundred dollars a month to cover all of their expences plus a meager $147.00 in food stamps. The sub-headline states that George W. Bush's new Medicaid rules have sent them and thousands of others in our area (not to mention millions across the country) into panic-stricken desperation. "I'm scared", said Mr. McDonald. "I'm scared where we're going to go. There's no money to bury us". How unspeakably sad. As perfect a comment on our sick society as I've heard in a long, long time. God bless the both of them.

Did the McDonalds vote republican in any election during the past twenty-six years? It's hard to say. Maybe they did and maybe they didn't. But it's an easy bet that most of the people across the country who are now in the proccess of getting screwed by the most criminal administration in the history of human folly did, in fact, consistantly vote for the GOP. The fact that so many of them have been brain-washed by the cave men of Hate Radio and are trained, like Pavlov's dogs, to blame their current woes on "the liberal democrats" is really kind of pathetic and yet extremely funny all at the same time. You want irony? I'll give you some irony, baby!

What could one possibly say to people that willingly ignorant? What immediately comes to mind is the old cliche: You made your bed, now sleep in it, schmuck!

The only people with whom I feel any degree of sympathy are the ones who were smart enough to pay attention to affairs of state and never fell for the mindless nonsense being peddled by the far-right. As for the rest of the country - those who voted for the conservative agenda or those who didn't bother to vote at all - they're going to get exactly what they deserve. That will be the only joy to come out of the coming domestic meltdown: Watching the faithful viewers of FOX and Friends whither in shame and embarrassment at their utter stupidity. To those of you who for years have knowingly dedicated your lives to promoting the lies and the foolish propaganda of the extremists within government and without, I have but one messsage: Have no fear, we will be merciful. You'll even be allowed to retain your right to vote! Seriously! Unlike you assholes, we still believe in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

If it'll make you feel any better, I share in some of the responsibility for the current mess we're in for two reasons:

1. On election night 1980, I was a 22 year old reporter for WALL RADIO in Middletown. That was Orange County's community radio station until it was Clear Channeled to death by the de-regulation of the FCC in the early eighties. On this particular evening, I was covering the democrats. They had an open bar and I wound up drinking more than I should have. How drunk did I get? I went to the polls just before they closed and cast my vote - just as a joke, mind you - for Ronald Reagan! Yeah, I really got that drunk! It's a miracle I even woke up the next morning. I learned a valuable lesson that night: Don't drink and vote. So help me, Mitch Miller, I've been stone-cold sober every election day since.

2. In 2000 I stubbornly insisted on supporting Ralph Nader's candidacy. I had been frustrated for years at the right-ward tilt the democrats had been taking and wanted to cast a "protest vote", so to speak. At the time I felt that it would be a reasonably safe, even a responsible thing to do. As harrowing a prospect as a potential Bush presidency may have seemed to any thinking person, at the time I thought that he didn't stand a chance in hell. I mean the guy was just so gut-bustingly stupid that running against him should have been the political equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel. Lesson number two? As mind-numbingly dumb as Bush obviously is, the American people are just as clueless.

True, Bush didn't actually win the White House, per se. I'ts now obvious that they were able to steal the elections by denying the vote to African Americans in Florida in 2000 and in Ohio and New Mexico in 2004. But the fact that he was so obviously corrupt (Please read Molly Ivins on that subject) and that he had the IQ of a half-eaten box of MilkDuds should have made both of those contests a landslide for the democrats. That so huge a segment of the electorate really believed that sending this homicidal, half-witted frat boy to Washington was a good idea illustrates, beyond denial, the deplorable state of our national political awareness. It also shows the frustrating ineptitude of the once-great party of FDR and JFK. As John Lennon once said, "Nobody told me there'd be days like these".

One day - and that day is coming very soon - the American people are going to wake up from the right-wing coma they've been snoring under for the last quarter of a century. And just as they did in 1932 with Franklin D. Roosevelt, they'll send a progressive, "a liberal" to Washington to clean up the whole shameful mess.

Strange days, indeed.

Pray for peace.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

tick....tick....tick....


Woman in the street:
"So, what kind of country have you given us, Mr. Franklin"?
Ben Franklin:
"A republic, Madam, if you can keep it".

Believe me, I'm not being alarmist when I say what I'm about to say: If the republicans are allowed to retain control of both houses of congress after the mid-term elections this November, you just might as well kiss your republic goodbye. Please don't take this as a ringing endorsement for the democrats (Perish the thought, dear reader!) I left that party over six years ago with damned good reason. The last democratic presidential candidate to actually run as a real, live, honest to goodness democrat was George McGovern in 1972. For the last thirty years, in an effort not to appear "too liberal", they have abandoned their natural constituency to become, as someone once observed, "republican lite". My hope (and hope is all we have) is that, once they have firmly grasped the reigns of power again, they'll return to their wicked liberal ways. You desperately want to believe that they 're still the party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt but it is impossible to tell. With the exception of Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, John Conyers of Michigan, Maurice Hinchey of New York and a handful of others, I hardly recognize them any longer.

So much needs to be done that one hardly knows where to begin. In 1994, when the republican party took back the House of Representatives for the first time in forty years, they promised us "a new way of doing business in Washington". Well, goodness gracious! They certainly delivered on their promise, didn't they? Truth be told, that was probably the only promise they managed to keep. Twelve years have passed and look at what they've done to your country! Hell, Look at what they've done to the entire planet! Have you had a chance to look at the depressing situation in Iraq lately? An average of one-hundred Iraqi citizens are being killed every day and attacks on US soldiers are up by forty percent. And are you ready for their line about our "booming economy"? Does that just make you giggle, or what? Well, yeah, sure! If your lucky enough to be part of the richest two percent, it's booming, alright. But for the rest of the country, particularly the poor and the middle class, it's an entirely different story. Just ask them! And don't forget that they squandered a four trillion dollar surplus on an unnecessary tax cut that has looted this nation's social and economic infrastructure.

For the first six years of their rule in the House, President Bill Clinton (who's looking better and better in hindsight, isn't he?) was able to keep their plunder of the American economy to a minimum. All of that changed on January 20, 2001 when the Supreme Court, after a stolen election, installed a corrupt, hideous, half-witted frat boy named George W. Bush. From that point on it was all down hill.

Do you recall the democrats behaving this irresponsibly when they controlled the congress and the White House? I didn't think so. And now that the GOP senses that the chickens are coming home to roost this November, they'll try to make the destruction permanent. Keep your eyes on the damage that they try to do between now and then.

Although, my political views have always been slightly left-of-center, I was perfectly capable of voting, on a few occasions, for the Grand Old Party. For instance, where I come from, in Orange County, New York (Sixty miles north of Manhattan), we used to have a perfectly fine, incorruptible and much-loved republican congressman named, Ben Gilman. For thirty years, he honorably represented his constituents with purpose and integrity. He wasn't perfect, to be sure. He used to drive me to distraction with his Hamlet-like indecision on which side of a particular issue to take. It wasn't political expediency. It was merely honest contemplation of the complicated problems facing the country. Yet in spite of his very few and mild flaws, I always voted for Ben. And I should tell you for the record that the man he defeated in 1972, the late John Dow, was a friend of my family. There is a tendency among Americans to view all of congress as a den of lying, corrupt thieves "except for MY congressman". Yes we do, indeed, seem to be blind as to the shortcomings of the people we send to Washington. But Ben Gilman was the real deal!

A few (although certainly not most) of my democratic friends used to wonder why I always supported him. My answer was always the same: "As soon as the democrats nominate a better candidate, I'll vote for him". They never did.

Congressman Gilman's splendid and illustrious career came to an abrupt end in 2002 when his district was gerrymandered out of existence by two Georges - Bush and Pataki - and Dick Cheney. You see, Ben, as basically conservative as he was, wasn't quite right-wing (read: stupid) enough for the asses of evil. After he lost the election, the House republican leadership (that would be Tom DeLay) told him that he had to be out of his office by the first of December and they assigned him to a cubicle in the basement of the Capital for the remainder of his term. It was a shameful way to treat a man who was not only a thirty-year veteran, but was also the most decent person in that entire, miserable body. They might never write a four volume biography on the life of Benjamin Gilman but it doesn't really matter, does it? He'll stand like a rock in history.

To get off track for a second, let me say a word or two about George Pataki. He seriously believes that he is going to be our next president. I mean, how jaw-droppingly pathetic is that??? When Eliot Spitzer, the renowned New York District Attorney and our next governor announced his candidacy, Pataki knew that he was finished. So what did he do? He made a statement to the effect that his goals as governor have been successful and that he was going to the mountain top to contemplate the mysteries of affairs of state. He might have been honest and said that the people of New York are sick to death of him but that wouldn't have looked too good as far as his quest for the White House was concerned, would it? He really is a tragic figure, isn't he? I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

But as laughably incompetent and deceitful as George Pataki is, as far as the modern GOP is concerned, he's one of the best of the bunch. That's how far that party has fallen - and they're the ones controlling the destiny of the United States! Please, are you quite possibly able to detect just a smidgen of irony here? Are you even somewhat alarmed? What is now happening to your country can only be defined as the original goal of the so-called "Reagan Revolution" of a quarter of a century ago. It must be understood that everything George W. Bush has done to you, Ronald Reagan tried to do to you and would have done to you had his party had control of both houses of congress. Fortunately that never happened. Remember, Reagan was basically an amiable mask that lulled the masses into a coma. Remove that mask and you have the twisted, disgusting smirk of George W. Bush.

If you're not seriously worried about the future of the United States of America, you should be.... and you will be, very soon.... I promise you that...you will be. Get involved and get organized.

Time is running out.

Pray for peace.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
tomdegan@frontiernet.net

Friday, July 21, 2006

Christ vs. Conservatism: A Serious Conflict


Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus Christ

The Sermon on the Mount
From the Gospel According To Matthew
**********
It's amazing, isn't it? Right-wingers tend to go absolutely bonkers when it comes to the Ten Commandments. They want it carved in to the walls of our court houses, our schools, everywhere! What I can't figure out is that, as Christians (and most conservatives are, after all, self-described Christians), one would think that their main point of emphasis would be on the New Testament. The Ten Commandments is from the Old Testament and Jesus is not even mentioned there - Not once! Don't get me wrong; It is a very good set of rules to live by - in fact I recommend it over any book ever written by Ann Coulter or Sean Hannity or any body else, for that matter. The fact that far too many conservatives are unable to detect the irony in the words, "Thou shalt not kill" has always somewhat puzzled me, given their overall support of the death penalty and the obscenity that their government is now committing, at this very minute, against the children of Iraq. But why they hardly ever focus on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ just doesn't make any sense to me!

Or maybe it does make sense. Maybe it makes perfect sense....

Tell you what you can do: The next time one of these foolish conservative congressmen advocate the placing of the the Ten Commandments on the wall of a public building somewhere, call his office and tell him you're willing to compromise. Tell him that, as good and decent Christians, we should have the actual words of our Lord and Savior on that wall. Ask him if he'll agree to having the Sermon on the Mount etched, for all time, onto the marble instead. I'm willing to bet you anything that he won't go for that idea at all. Why? Because Jesus' words in that particular sermon are totally at odds with the goals of the main stream conservative movement . You don't believe me? Go ahead! Read it again. I'll wait.....

[PAUSE FOR EFFECT]

....Now do you see what I'm talking about? Were you able to detect just a teeny weeny, itsy bitsy contradiction between the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth and the nasty, public face of the right wing? It couldn't possibly be any clearer, could it? And here's another bit of irony for you: George W. Bush, the man who is called by many people (with straight faces, no less) "our most Christian president", is, in reality, the least Christ-like chief executive we've ever had.

One does not have to be a theological scholar to see the shameful hypocrisy in this man when he uses the name of Jesus Christ to justify what is, without a doubt, the most blatantly corrupt and murderous agenda of any administration in American history. Do you remember the Republican primary debates in the spring of 2000 when he named Jesus as his favorite "philosopher"? When I watched that debate on C-SPAN I remember thinking, "Wow! I knew this guy wasn't the brightest bulb on the porch but he can't even tell the difference between philosophy and theology"? At that moment I summarily dismissed any chance of his ever making it to the White House. "The American people just aren't dumb enough to fall for this fool", I thought, "They can't be"!

What was it that P.T. Barnum said about never going broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public?

The unavoidable fact is this: Progressives can and must reclaim Jesus as one of our own. Just look at it this way; Do you think for one moment that, were He to return today to our troubled planet, He would be praising the deeds of the Bush administration? Do you think even for a split second that He would make a pilgrimage to the campus of Liberty University in Lynchberg, Virginia to congratulate Jerry Fallwell for all the jaw droppingly mean and stupid things that he has said and done in the past in Jesus' name? The only way I can fantasize Him coming onto the set of Pat Robertson's 700 Club would be in order to give that boy a good tongue lashing or maybe even a well-deserved ass whipping. Do you remember that scene in the gospel when He physically attacked the money changers who He felt were desecrating His temple? Yes, the Big Guy was capable of losing His temper and on at least one occasion He did. I can just see it now: He'd wipe the floor with these knuckleheads!

The greatest Christian thinkers of the past one hundred years could hardly be described as conservatives. Just look at the evidence - Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton (after whom I'm named, by the way), Martin Luther King, Pope John XXIII, Pope John Paul II - And while it would be disingenuous, if not down right dishonest, to say that these good and devout people embraced all ideas left of center (they most certainly did not), it's not an exaggeration to say that they had more in common - a lot more in common - with the goals of Tom Hayden than of Tom DeLay (or even this Tom, for that matter!) That's not just my opinion, that's a proven, undeniable fact.

Even Billy Graham's message has less to do with the agenda of these ultra-right wing crazies then it does to that of the left. For sixty years now, his emphasis has been on love; Pure, untainted and unconditional love. While many progressives have tended to scorn him for his ties to the Nixon White House, since the 1940s he has actually raised, at the very least, a billion dollars for charity while he himself has always lived modestly. There has been an unfair tendency among some people in recent years to throw him in with the Jimmy Swaggarts and the Jim Bakkers. To do so is nothing short of slanderous. The truth is that he is really one of the good guys.

Mother Theresa's absolute devotion and dedication to the poor and down-trodden was a positively radical stand! I don't know the exact amount in contributions she raised for her flock over the years, but I'm sure it was well in excess of one-hundred million dollars. Do you think that she spent one penny of those charitable donations on a diamond mine in South Africa (ala Pat Roberson)? Do you believe that she used the money to promote gambling casinos on Indian reservations (ala Ralph Reed and the so-called "Christian" Coalition)? Do you seriously think that she donated one farthing to the campaigns of Newt Gingrich or Bill Frist or even fellow Catholics, John Kerry and Ted Kennedy? All of it went to the poor while she lived in poverty. She was a saint.

That is what we mean when we say that someone is "Christ-like". This is what we don't mean when we use the term, "Christ-like":

"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth". Cutting billions from government programs that were put in place to ease the pain and suffering of the poor and dispossessed - the meek - is anything but Christ-like. That is pretty much of a no-brainer. Trust me on this one. Under the current administration, the meek have been getting the shaft.
`
Handing out a hideously bloated tax cut to people who already have more money than they know what to do with, while it may very well be satanic behavior - you'll get no argument from me there - it is hardly Christ-like.
`
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy". In a 1999 interview with Tucker Carlson, Bush (in a feeble attempt at being "funny") mimicked the condemned Karla Faye Tucker pleading for her life. Hmm, call it a hunch but I've got a funny feeling that that wasn't very merciful. And don't forget that it was Bush who also sent over one hundred and fifty people to their deaths as governor of Texas - more than any other governor in American history. He would refuse to commute the sentences of people of questionable guilt - He wouldn't even review their cases! The 2000 presidential race was coming up and he just had to prove to the public that he was tough on crime. That's not very merciful either. As the late, great Lenny Bruce once observed, "Thou shalt not kill means just that"!
`
Here's an interesting question to ponder: Was Jesus "tough on crime"? It's really hard to say. But I think it bears mentioning that He was, in fact, sentenced to death for His "crimes" against the government and that, in His dying moment, He implored God to take pity on His executioners.
`
"Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do".
`
No. Sending one-hundred and fifty human beings to their deaths is not, to be sure, a very Christ-like act. They would have had better luck had they been stem cells.
` 
Abraham Lincoln was a blessed and merciful man who, though not a true Christian in the strictest sense of the word, was, in reality, our most Christ-like president. He was known to go out of his way, finding loopholes to avoid executing a deserting soldier during the civil war. (Fortunately for Bush, capitol punishment for desertion was a thing of the past by the time he went AWOL from the Air National Guard in 1972) Any plea for mercy for the condemned man from a distraught mother or father never went unrewarded. Like Christ, Lincoln would end up being executed by the enemies of righteousness. At his first inaugural on March 4, 1861, he pleaded with the rebelling southerners to be guided by the "better angels" of their nature. Can you just imagine Dubya under the same circumstances?
`
"BRING 'EM ON"!
 `
Now admit it! It makes you sick just thinking about it, doesn't it? C'mon, BE HONEST!
`
Finally: manufacturing cooked-up evidence in order to frighten a quarter of a billion people into signing on to a war that has easily slaughtered over one-hundred thousand men, women and little children, the sole purpose of which was to seize the second largest oil reserves on the planet and grease the coffers of a handful of well-connected corporate cronies may be a lot of things - In fact, it is many things - But it is not Christ-like. Not even in the least. Again, this is a no-brainer.
`
And as an admittedly flawed Catholic, let me remind my fellow members of the Church of Rome that the Vatican has twice, under two different popes, vehemently condemned America's incursion into Iraq in the strongest language possible. Any Catholic who supports this war should hang his or her head in shame.
`
I know that it is wrong to speak the mind of the Lord and I won't even attempt to do so. But it is a fairly easy call to say that He is not looking down and smiling at the carnage that has been inflicted on this troubled planet by this sick and sickening administration. This ain't rocket science, kiddies. This is what is known as, "Christianity 101".
`
I really have only one great fear. Do you want to know what it is? Going to hell. I'd like to get to Heaven but I'm not all that sure I will. I'm almost certain that, at the very least, I'll probably do some serious time in Purgatory. For many years, I smoked and drank to excess and for a few of those years I used drugs. I was at times careless, even thoughtless with respect to my relationships with women. Although I've spent the better amount of my time in recent years trying to make amends, I'm not at all certain that I'll ever be allowed to walk through dem ol' pearly gates.
`
But of this, I am absolutely certain: If, at the end of my life when I'm standing on the threshold of eternity and I find that I have been condemned to eternal damnation, it won't be because of the very public stand I took, from day one, against this disgusting administration. It will be in spite of it.
`
Pray for peace.
`
Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
tomdegan@frontiernet.net
SUGGESTED READING:

Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander
by Thomas Merton

For more recent postings on "The Rant" please go here:

"The Rant" by Tom Degan

Cheerio! Pip! Pip!

Friday, July 14, 2006

A Message To My Republican Friends


It started out with the best of intentions, to be sure. In 1856 the Republican party thrived on one issue - But what an issue! It should never be forgotten by history that it was, at its inception, the party of freedom and that their platform was vehemently anti-slavery. It's kind of hard to find fault with so noble a stand, is it not? Its first national ticket, John C. Fremont of California and running mate, William L. Dayton of New Jersey, went down in flames in the general election, losing handily to democrat James Buchanan of Pennsylvania, generally regarded by historians to be the worst president in American history (before the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue took up residence, that is). Four years later, the people would send Abraham Lincoln, an obscure lawyer from Springfield, Illinois to the White House. His name would rightfully be retained down through the ages as their finest president - Republican or Democratic.

How did Honest Abe's Republican heirs perform in their duties as chiefs executive? As Al Smith would have said, "Let's look at the record"....

Aside from Theodore Roosevelt (and, quite possibly, one or two minor exceptions), every single Republican who succeeded President Lincoln into the executive mansion were all second rate mediocrities. Rutherford B. Hayes, who served from 1877 to 1881 seems to have had what it took to be a great president and might very well have been one had a major domestic crisis occurred. Unfortunately, his one term in office was a rather tepid period in our history and he was never given the chance to show his stuff. Hayes's successor, James A. Garfield, a decent and incorruptible man, also showed great promise but was assassinated less than six months in to his only term.

Garfield's successor, Chester Allen Arthur, a career machine politician from New York City, is as forgettable a president as we've ever had with one notable exception: his Republican successor! Benjamin Harrison, the grandson of President William Henry Harrison, stands out like a rock in American history only for the fact that he is our least memorable president! Truth be told, I can't think of one single thing to write about the man, save for the fact that his administration was sandwiched between the two non-consecutive terms of democrat Grover Cleveland (the only time in history that that ever happened), that he bored to tears almost everyone unfortunate enough to come in contact with him and that his contemporaries couldn't wait for his term of office to end! For four long years he just sat there in the executive mansion waiting for something to happen. Nothing did.

Wait. It gets worse....

Dwight D. Eisenhower may be another exception to the rule. But while Ike might have been a capable and intelligent leader (The jury's still out on that question), he did a lot of damage to our standing within the family of nations that we're still paying a heavy price for all of these decades later. During the 1950s, the CIA-fueled coups that led to the overthrow of the democratically elected governments of Mohammad Mossodegh in Iran (1953) and Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala (1955), were the nucleus of the atrocious humanitarian situation that exists in both of those countries to this day. Think about that for a minute: Iran and Guatemala have not been democratic since an American president ended democracy there over fifty years ago. Hmmm. I wonder what he was thinking??

And yet, for all his faults, Eisenhower ended is tenure in office with words that, in hindsight, are absolutely bone-chilling in their prophecy and accuracy. On the night of January 17, 1961, three days before the oldest president in history would hand over the reigns of power to John F. Kennedy, the youngest elected president in history, President Eisenhower delivered his farewell address to the nation via the still-infant medium of television:

"In the councils of government we must guard against the acquisition of misplaced power, whether sought or unsought by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties and democratic processes"

Whoa! Call it a hunch but I have a sneaky suspicion that the old bugger was on to something there!

Eight years later - almost to the day - the man who had served as Ike's vice-president would, himself, take the oath of office. As far as Dick Nixon is concerned, it would be unfair if not downright cruel to refer to the thirty-seventh president as a "mediocrity". Other than Woodrow Wilson, Nixon probably had the most brilliant mind of any occupant of the oval office during the twentieth century. The basic problem with Tricky Dick is the fact that the old bastard was so psychologically dysfunctional and inherently corrupt, that to insist that we all would have been better off had he never been elected in 1968 is, by now, pretty much of a no-brainer. Need I go into details? I didn't think so.

Gerald R. Ford, who followed Nixon into the White House, has, sadly, been under-rated by historians. It should be remembered that, while he accomplished little in the two and a half short years allotted to him, he was a good and decent man who did much to heal the nation after the twin traumas of Watergate and Viet Nam. He should have been elected in his own right in 1976.

I am reminded of the day in 1975 when the president's son, Jack Ford, invited the late George Harrison to meet with his father in the oval office....

The day the world gets 'round
To understanding where it is
Losing so much ground,
Killing each other hand in hand
Such foolishness in man
I want no part of their plan

-George Harrison

Was Ford listening? Only God knows. You pray that the politicians will listen but they never do, do they? They never do.


Getting back to the subject subject of dysfunction, let's explore America's twisted relationship with Ronald Reagan, shall we? Nothing annoys me more than the "Saint Ronnie" mentality that has overtaken so many people in this country since his death two years ago. Just take a look at what happened under his watch! The social and economic infrastructure of this country nearly disintegrated and he almost spent us in to bankruptcy! To quote the recently deceased, Lloyd Bensten, "You give me four trillion dollars in hot checks and I'll give you one hell of an illusion of prosperity". When all is said and done, we the people were screwed by Ronald Reagan, and yet, so many of us cheerfully (brainlessly?) still insist on referring to him as the greatest chief-executive in history! Go figure.

He was caught, dead-to-rights, illegally selling military weapons to Iran without the constitutionally mandated congressional approval and then used the profits of that sale to arm a gang of terrorist thugs who were brutally trying to overthrow the legitimate government of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua in direct violation of the Boland Amendment. The Gipper even stupidly compared these homicidal rapists to our founding fathers. And we must never forget that of the many human beings who were murdered in cold blood by these so-called "Contras", over five thousand of them were women and children. For that fact alone, he should have been impeached and hauled off to Leavenworth prison in a padded wagon.

It should also never be forgotten that it was Ronald Reagan - along with George Bush the elder - who armed Saddam Hussein to the teeth during the Iran/Iraq war in the 1980s. Even after Saddam used chemical weapons to slaughter thousands of Kurdish people in northern Iraq in 1985, Reagan, Bush and Donald Rumsfeld couldn't do enough for the guy. This was foreign policy at its craziest. It would not be surpassed in terms of utter stupidity until another Bush would invade that same country almost twenty years later - but we won't go into that.

And what do his supporters continue say, over and over again, to justify the eight wasted years of President Ronald Reagan? "He ended the cold war". Oh really? Every time someone uses that old weather-worn line on me, it only reveals their deplorable lack historical knowledge. He ended the cold war, huh? Sure. And I invented broken glass.

When it comes to the subject of Ronald Reagan, America suffers from a serious case of denial. The damage that his administration did to this once-great nation is so immense, it will never be accurately assessed. It is incalculable.

Which brings me to Theodore Roosevelt, the only Republican president, other than Lincoln, to whom I would ascribe the label "great". You know who I'm talking about, don't you? Sure ya do! Teddy Roosevelt? - The president who took on the major corporations of his time in favor of the common man? Teddy Roosevelt - who preferred political courage over political expediency? Teddy Roosevelt - who by executive decree set aside over a hundred and fifty million acres of national parkland in order that it not be ravaged by the timber industry? Teddy Roosevelt - who in in 1901, in spite of southern condemnation, became the first president to invite an African American (Booker T. Washington) to dinner at the White House? Teddy Roosevelt - who campaigned vigorously in favor of a living wage for all working Americans? Teddy Roosevelt - who in 1912 was denied the nomination by his own party in spite of that fact that he arrived at the convention with more than enough delegates needed to seize the mantle of standard bearer? Oh yeah, that Teddy Roosevelt! You remember him, don't you? You do? That's funny! Because the Republican party sure doesn't. They don't remember him at all.

Teddy who?

Do you seriously believe that it's merely a coincidence that the name of Theodore Roosevelt is today never, EVER mentioned even as a passing reference in Republican campaign literature? They love singing the praises of of a feeble-minded dingbat like Reagan and, occasionally, General Eisenhower and Mr. Lincoln. But Theodore Roosevelt's name is ALWAYS missing from their speeches and pamphlets. With the exception of the maverick senator from Arizona, John McCain (a staunch admirer of Roosevelt) and a handful of others within the party, he is, quite frankly, persona non grata. He never even existed as far as these clowns are concerned. In fact, most people today are under the impression that he was a Democrat like his niece, Eleanor, and his distant cousin, Franklin. Why? Because like the FDRs (and unlike more than a few present day Democrats, I'm afraid), his core moral compass emphasized fairness and compassion for all Americans. A "Square Deal", he called it. The way TR saw things, big business was the servant of the people - not the other way around. That sort of thinking is anathema to the modern day GOP.

He was a thorn in the side of the Republican party bigwigs even before he assumed the presidency. One of his contemporaries would famously dismiss him as, "that damned cowboy". While governor of New York, Roosevelt's principled stand on the issues of the day were such a headache for the party brass, in 1900 they decided to literally force him into the presidential race as William McKinley's running mate. McKinley's VP, Garrett Hobart, had died suddenly the year before and the opportunity was ripe. The argument was that as the number two man, Roosevelt would all but disappear. In those days - long before Dick Cheney - The vice-presidency was, for all practical purposes, an invisible, powerless office. John Nance Garner, Franklin D. Roosevelt's first vice-president, once profanely observed that the job wasn't worth "a bucket of warm piss". On March 4, 1901, after a successful campaign the year before, Theodore Roosevelt, with President McKinley at his side, took the oath of office as the first vice-president of the new twentieth century. He was now destined for total obscurity.

And then the unthinkable happened....

Six months into his second term, on September 6, 1901 William McKinley was shot while visiting the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, NY. He died one week later. Theodore Roosevelt was now the president of the United States of America.

There can be no denying that he is one of the five greatest presidents in all of our history. It is not by accident that his likeness is carved onto the face of Mt. Rushmore. And yet, had his own political party had its way, his presidency never would have happened. In the end, they would destroy him, both politically and personally. He would die quietly in his sleep, in the predawn hours of January 6, 1919 at the age of sixty, a tired, broken and beaten man.

I might also have inserted into this little essay of mine the administrations of Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S Grant, William Howard Taft, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover and - least I forget - George W. Bush - Republicans all - Six disastrous, scandal-ridden and incompetent presidencies that nearly broke this nation and one that is now in the process of destroying it - but why depress you further?

Quite often I have been asked the question, "Tom Degan, why do you hate Republicans so much"? Let me clarify a couple of things for you. This may sound like a silly cliche but it's the absolute truth: Some of my best friends are Republicans. There! I admitted it. In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb here (Brace yourselves): Some of the nicest, most decent people I've ever met in my life are self-described Republicans. But while they may be registered Republicans, they are not members, so to speak, of the Republican party. They are not connected in any way, shape or form to the Republican National Committee. They are not the men and women who set forth the policies and guiding principles that defines so much of modern day Republicanism and what it represents. So please, let me say for the record that I have nothing against average, decent Americans who have chosen to take part in our democracy as registered Republicans - But I totally and unequivocally despise the professional Republican Party and all that is stands for with a passion so intense, I cannot adequately put it into words. While I rejoice in many aspects of the history of the Republican Party, I despair in its awful present.

In its defense, the Republican Party is, after all, the party of John McCain and Arlen Spector, both of whom I believe to be fairly decent senators.

It is the party of Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island, a congressman of outstanding ability and stature.

It is also the party of Everett Dirksen, Barry Goldwater and Millicent Fenwick - three distinguished lawmakers of another era of whom the Republican party has every reason to be proud.

Is is the party of Dwight David Eisenhower who, in spite of the flaws listed above, was a pretty good president in many respects, not to mention the hero of World War Two.

It is the party of Teddy Roosevelt who, as I mentioned before, was rejected by that same party in spite of his obvious ability and undeniable greatness.

It's the party of Abraham Lincoln! Unarguably our greatest president - Only a fool would argue with that assertion!

But I have a message for my Republican friends: Forty-two years ago, in the summer of 1964, at the Republican National Convention at the Cow Palace Arena - in San Fransisco, of all places - your party was hijacked by a cabal of kooks, criminals and fools. And all these years later they - or their ideological heirs - still retain tight control of the GOP. They don't plan on letting go anytime soon.

For far too many years to count, we've had to listen to these assholes try to portray themselves as the party of family values. Don't get me started! Family values? Family values?? Would someone please explain to me just what the hell their virtual war on the middle class has got to do with family values? It is the average working and middle income families across the country who have suffered the most from the contemptible policies of these atrocious bastards. For the first time in our history, the upcoming generation will not enjoy the standard of living that their parents enjoyed thanks to the recklessness and greed of their parent's generation. And, while we're on the subject, since when does an obscene tax cut that mainly benefits the already obscenely wealthy have a goddamned thing to do with family values? Family values???

I need a drink.

Please stop desecrating the memory of the great emancipator by continuing to refer to it as "the party of Lincoln". Don't ever call it that again. Abraham Lincoln's influence on the Republican Party ended at exactly 7:22 on the morning of April 15, 1865 when he breathed his last breath.

Have there been bad democratic administrations in the past? Of course there have. An informed, educated electorate would never have sent the likes of James Buchanan and Franklin Pierce to Washington. Buchanan's total inability to deal with the domestic unrest that riddled the landscape of the 1850s led this nation directly into civil war. (Incidentally, it should be noted for the sake of historical accuracy that Pierce is related to the current president which proves that incompetence is hereditary). James K. Polk's single term was such an ordeal for him, within three and a half months of leaving office in 1849, he was dead at the age of fifty-three. While Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter were each able to claim more than a few positive achievements for America, their terms are today remembered by historians more for their failures than for their successes. And I'll let you in on something that the Democrats will find sacrilegious: President Kennedy is the Elvis Presley of American politics - somewhat overrated. However when one focuses on the vast record of corruption, greed and utter stupidity, the Dems aren't even in the same league as the GOP. Truth be told: It isn't even close.

Again, to paraphrase the late governor Smith, look at the record:

They have cut the throats of the poor and the middle class.

They have looted our national treasure.

They have abandoned their constituency in favor of a multi-national corporate behemoth and an out-of-control military industrial complex.

They have created a global, geo-political catastrophe in the Middle East that will take at least a century to remedy.

They have shoveled a generation of American children into an untenable slaughterhouse in Iraq.

They have engendered an economic nightmare so immense that generations yet unborn will still be bearing its burden.

They have sold our nation's soul to the highest corporate bidder.

They have made a mockery of the First Amendment.

They have squandered a five trillion dollar surplus with a tax cut for a class of people who didn't need it.

They have gutted vital social programs that aid the poor and the elderly which have been in place for over seventy years.

They have turned federal emergency management into a sick joke.

They have knocked the teeth out of laws meant to protect working men and women.

They have plundered the environment.

They have depleted our educational system.

They have hijacked this nation's political dialogue.

They have ruined our international reputation.

They have handed our domestic agenda over to religious fanatics.

They have denied voting rights to people of color in three states.

They have stolen two national elections.

They have trampled on our constitution.

They have sent our Bill of Rights through the sausage grinder....

They must never, ever be allowed to govern our country again.

The grand old party is over.

Pray for peace.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

tomdegan@frontiernet.net

For more recent postings on this virtual viper's nest of left wing propaganda, please go the the link below:

http://www.tomdegan.blogspot.com

Cheers!

Monday, July 10, 2006

Dorothy Day and The Catholic Worker


"The impulse to stand up against the state and go to jail, rather than serve, is an instinct for penance; To take on some of the suffering of the world - to share in it".

Dorothy Day
February 1969

For many years I had only a vague knowledge of who Dorothy Day was. I knew that in the 1920s she and her spiritual mentor, the French peasant and spiritual philosopher, Peter Maurin, founded a newspaper called, "The Catholic Worker" and that in her time she was viewed by many to be a "dangerous radical". She was considered such a menace that J. Edgar Hoover, that pillar of goodness and decency (COUGH!) even kept a file on her. (Quite frankly, I've come to a point in my life where I'm seriously disappointed in anyone who lived during that period who didn't have their own little place of honor in Hoover's file cabinet. Think about it - Charlie Chaplin, Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King, John Lennon - That's pretty good company to be in!) But other than that basic outline, my knowledge of her life and work was, to say the least, peripheral. She was always merely a footnote in someone else's biography.

Late last summer, while browsing through the used book store at the library in Cornwall, NY, I happened upon a copy of the book, "By Little and By Little: The Selected Writings of Dorothy Day". After reading it, a whole new world opened up for me and I found myself exploring everything connected to this good and decent woman and her beautiful life. She is, I believe, a saint.

Dorothy Day was a "true Christian", the personification of that very overused and abused term. She not only dedicated her life to the poor and dispossessed, she lived among them and humbly counted herself as one of them. The newspaper that she and Maurin co-founded in 1929 was the only voice in its time for the downtrodden. It still survives to this day. Its price remains, as it has been since the very day of its inception, a penny per copy.

During the teens and through the mid-twenties she had been a committed leftist and wrote for several radical publications. After having undergone the abortion of a child she had conceived with her common-law husband, she found herself in a severe depression. When a second pregnancy came two years later, she insisted on going full term and the child's father, not wanting to accept the responsibilities of parenthood, ended the relationship. It was around this period that she found herself drawn to the Catholic Church. She made sure that her new born daughter, Tamara, was baptized as one and, within a matter of weeks, she, too, became a convert to Catholicism.

In the early 1930s, in the midst of what we now call "the great depression" she opened up a free shelter for the homeless in New York City, the first of its kind. Named in honor of the Blessed Mother to whom she was so devoted, Mary House was a miracle of hope for a people who had previously viewed their situation as utterly hopeless. At a time when even "progressive" northern cities operated within the framework of a Jim Crow mentality, there were absolutely no restrictions with regard to race or religion. The only requirement was that a person or family were in need of food and shelter. She also ran a soup kitchen that fed everyone who couldn't be housed due to lack of space. No one walked away from Mary House without, at the very least, a decent meal and a cup of coffee. Dorothy Day made a difference!

Within a couple of years, Mary Houses were opening all over the United States. Through the charitable donations which were the life blood of their little organization, she and Peter were also able to start Mary Farm in Newburgh, New York, fifteen miles from where I now sit, that grew the crops that fed their beloved masses. It exists today as the Peter Maurin Farm, at 41 Cemetery Road in Marlborough, NY. (12542) It is run by my friends, Tom and Monica Cornell, devoted friends of Dorothy's who have dedicated their lives to her memory and her mission.

Dorothy Day passed from this life on November 29, 1980 at the far-too-young age of eighty three. Our generation desperately yearns for a person of her stature and saintliness. When one compares her to some of today's so-called "men of God" - the Jerry Fallwells and the Pat Robertsons - praying on national television for tax relief for the richest two percent while calling for the assassination of Hugo Chavez, the duly elected leader of a sovereign nation - one wants to weep.

Jesus wept.

It's easy to speculate that the likes of Dorothy Day will never pass this way again - but we can hope, can't we? Hope is all we have....and prayer.

Pray for peace.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

For a subscription, please contact:

The Catholic Worker
36 East 1st St.
New York, NY. 10003

(212) 777-9617
(212) 677-8627

http://www.catholicworker.org/

Remember, It's only a penny a copy! But while you're at it, why don'cha include a little donation? Every dollar counts, ya know? Also, Dorothy's life was captured a couple of years ago in a film called, Entertaining Angels, with Moira Kelly as Dorothy Day and Martin Sheen as Peter Maurin. Check it out when you get a chance.

For more recent postings on this site please go to the link below:

"The Rant" by Tom Degan

Progressive political commentary with the bitter pill of satire.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

BREAKING NEWS: Ken Lay Is Dead

The word has just come over the television (MSNBC) that Ken Lay has died of an "apparent heart attack" in Aspen, Colorado.

How convenient.

If you'll be kind enough to consult my posting of a little over three weeks ago (Skilling Me Softly With His Song) I speculated that Lay was blackmailing this administration. He was more-than-likely doing everything humanly possible to force a pardon out of George W. Bush. Remember, he was one of the attendants of Dick Cheney's infamous Energy Task Force meetings in the spring of 2001. Cheney went to court to keep the minutes of that little briefing classified and even defied a federal court judge who ordered him to make them public. Cheney's motivation was, no doubt, due to the fact that what they had planned for the American consumer was probably not in the best interest of the public. Truth be told, it's a fairly sure bet that their intent was criminal. Shortly after those meetings, Lay and co-defendant, Jeffrey Skilling, were able to create a fake energy shortage that sent California utility rates through the roof. All he had to do was to come clean on national television and expose the truth for the whole world to see. What was to stop him?....Oh yeah, right....Death. Dying certainly does have a tendency of putting a cramp in one's style, doesn't it?

Am I being paranoid when I say that there is a good possibility that he was murdered by the Bush Mob? Maybe. In all likelihood he probably did die of natural causes. When one takes into consideration the stress he must have been under, it's not out of the question. Lay seemed to be in perfect health for a sixty-four year old man but looks can be deceiving. I once knew a thirty-six year old man, the picture of health - almost three decades Lay's junior - who, early one morning, dropped dead of a heart attack. Yet given the blood thirsty history of the Bush White House, homicide is not beyond the realm of probability - Not at all. One can hardly blame me for being skeptical. Don't forget, this is an administration, after all, that is responsible for over one-hundred thousand deaths in Iraq. This is a president, after all, who, as governor of Texas, used to get positively giddy with joy at the prospect of sending people of even questionable guilt to the death chamber. And please remember that he presided over more executions than any other governor in American history. He just had to prove that he was "tough on crime", you know?

What's one more body to these contemptible jackals?

Rest in peace, Kenny Boy.

Note to Jeffrey Skilling: You'd better watch your back, Buster! These murderous bastards play for keeps. Think I'm kidding?.... Ha! Ha! Yeah, I'm just kidding....I think....

Pray for peace.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
tomdegan@frontiernet.net

PS: If you click on comments to "Skilling Me Softly With His Song", you'll find that three of the readers of "the rant" (Stoney 13, MJW and myself) predicted that Lay and/or Skilling would probably end up dead. Rocket Science? Nah! Common sense! Or is it pure paranoia? Who the heck knows!

Disgusting Little Nazi Wannabees

"The people can always be brought to the bidding of their leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing their country to danger. It works the same in any country"

Hermann Goering
at the Nuremberg trials

Does comparing the deeds of the current maniac in the White House to the Nazi regime of seventy years ago sound extreme? Let's have a little peek at the record of King Georgie and the Neo-Cons, shall we?

The first rule of Hitler and his gang was this: Repeat the lie over and over again and, in a matter of time, the public, as stupid as they pretty much are, will eventually be "brought to the bidding" of the twisted agenda of their leaders - Yes, Iraq did have weapons of mass destruction; Yes, Saddam was directly involved in the events of September 11, 2001; No, John Kerry was never really wounded in Viet Nam; Yes, spying on US citizens without a court-issued warrant is perfectly legal; Yes, the New York Times is guilty of treason; No, the president is not obliged to obey the very laws he's sworn to protect; Yes, Bush is a competent, capable leader who know's what he's doing - I mean, the list is endless.... That rumbling you hear is the sound of George Orwell is doing somersaults in his grave!

Do you really believe that the administration of George W. Bush is a force for good on this troubled planet? Are you that out of touch with reality that you think that this disgusting little half-wit is a good and decent leader? Look at what he's done for our standing in the world! United States credibility among the family of nations has been utterly destroyed by these murderous bastards. And now we're fighting a war that they had planned from the day they seized power; A war that was based on non-existent weapons of mass destruction. At their first cabinet meeting on January 21, 2001, according to former Treasury Secretary, Paul O'Neil, in Ron Susskind's book, The Price of Loyalty, the main topic of discussion with respect to foreign policy was finding a way to invade Iraq. Less than eight months later, their golden opportunity came like a gift from the sky - literally.

On the evening of 9/11 and for days afterward, the main topic of discussion in the situation room was "getting Saddam". Osama bin Laden, the man behind the attacks, was summarily exiled to the periphery of the discussion. For the next year and a half, the White House spin machine went into overdrive trying to connect Saddam Hussein with the attacks on New York and the Pentagon. It culminated in March of 2003 when the president of the United States made the stupidest military blunder since Adolph Hitler invaded Russia in 1941. He attacked a country that was a threat to no one but itself. He was able to convince a deplorably dumbed-down American public that invading Iraq was essential to the peace and security of the free world - and the public, to no thinking person's surprise, swallowed this bullshit, hook, line and sinker. Now polls show that an overwhelming majority of the American people believe that the whole thing was a big mistake. Is it any wonder that we are the laughingstock of the universe?

Richard Clarke, in his eye opening book, Against All Enemies, related the story that, within days of the attacks, Bush cornered him outside of the cabinet meeting room and, quite literally, ordered him to find a connection to Iraq:

"But, Mr. President", said Clarke in disbelief, "al Quida did this"!
"Yeah, I know" said the First Fool, "But Iraq! Look into it"!

They never had any intention of focusing on bin Laden. Their only intention was to fulfill the twisted ideologies of the writers of the Project For A New American Century. Their victims, the scores of thousands of dead Iraqi men, women and little children, the hapless recipients of these crimes against humanity, were cynically dismissed as "collateral damage". For that alone this entire administration should be removed from power by an act of congress. Hopefully, the 110th congress, which convenes in January of next year, will have the courage to do just that. This war was about oil. Period. If you're stupid enough to buy the line that the Bush Mob wanted to bring "freedom and democracy" to Iraq, I've got a one thousand dollar stove made out of balsa wood that I'd just love to sell you!

Forgive me for sounding like a broken record, but I'm not going to stop screaming about this until the day (or night - I'm open to suggestions) that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are impeached, removed from power and hauled off to federal prison for the rest of their fucking lives for their crimes against humanity in general and the children of Iraq in particular.

Yes, kiddies! George W. Bush will be remembered in history, primarily, as the first former President of the United States of America to go to federal prison.

Sound crazy? Stay tuned.

Pray for peace.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
tomdegan@frontiernet.net