Friday, February 23, 2007

BARACK OBAMA


Barack Obama has that Bobby Kennedy thing happening. Have you noticed that? He speaks to everyone; or at least that's how it appears to me. Is it an act? Is he just another charismatic bullshit artist like all the rest of them? I'm at a point in my life where I've become so disgusted with American politics and politicians that it wouldn't surprise me in the least. And yet when he talks, people listen. But more than that, they seem hopeful - I'm hopeful! They look at the man and they see an symbol of righteousness and an agent of change. He reaches out across the racial divide and Americans from all backgrounds are responding enthusiastically. Think about it: who was the last person with that kind of cultural and emotional gravitas? Bobby Kennedy!
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You really want to see the guy succeed. You want him to prevail in what seems to be "The Impossible Dream." That was the song which was the unofficial theme of RFK's ill-fated 1968 campaign for the White House. It was a beautiful tune that the late actor Richard Kiley sang in the Broadway musical Man of LaMancha:
`
This is my quest,
to follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far
To fight for the right,
without question or pause
To be willing to march into hell
for a Heavenly cause
And I know If I only be true
to this glorious quest
that my heart will lie
peaceful and calm
when I'm laid to my rest....
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It was a lovely piece of music that no one even remembers anymore - so cynical has our culture become. It is my humble opinion (for whatever it's worth) that Senator Obama should make The Impossible Dream his campaign's theme as well. That is not meant to imply that the possibility of his ever calling the White House "home" is an impossible dream, so to speak. It is simply that he has one hell of an uphill battle ahead of him. We shouldn't deceive ourselves by ignoring the fact that we are a nation chock full of nuts, racists and fools. Don't forget that this is the same country that thought that it was a really neat idea to send an idiot like George W. Bush and his evil, Darth Vadar/daddy-wannabe Dick Cheney to Washington. Barack Obama has mountains of ignorance to overcome. If there is any candidacy that falls under the label of "a glorious quest", it is his.
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The first volley of lies have already been fired over the bough. Leave it to good old FOX News! They've been reporting that Barack was raised by his Muslim (WOOOOOHHHH!) father and that he was educated at a fundamentalist madrassa in Indonesia. Not that it matters but that story is patently false. In fact, he was brought up by his Christian and (again, not that it matters) VERY WHITE mother and was educated at a private schcool in Hawaii. His father left the family when Barack was just a toddler and died in an automobile accident not long after. Quite frankly, I kinda like the madrassa story better but what can you do? Fiction has always been more convenient than the truth to the right wing. But it's not just the Republicans that are shoveling the dirt. Not surprisingly, in a fit of desperation, the campaign of Hillary Clinton is trying to blame Obama for some disparaging comments David Geffen recently made regarding she and her husband, the former president, Bill Clinton (Remember him?) We are now moving into the uncharted waters of the ridiculous. Wake me when they sight land.
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The newest point of stupid contention against the senator from Illinois is the fact that he is a smoker. Let me say for the record that I am a smoker and I'm in the process of trying to quit (as is he). My Doctor-in-law, Dr. Nick Pennings of Warwick, NY (married to my sister Carol), has put me on a marvelous little wonder drug called Chantex, which appears to be working - my ever-present cravings for nicotine seem to be decreasing. But the fact that I was a smoker for all of my adult life did not make me any less of a patriot. And it might be noted for the record that no one in his or her right mind ever questioned the patriotism of Franklin Delano Roosevelt - a smoker, just in case it slipped your mind. Trust me on this one, folks: those of us who smoke tobacco love America as much as anyone! The real problem is with the people who merely chew it. They're all just a bunch of gutless, heathen evil doers, out to destroy the peace and security of the free world as we know it. Heed my warning, campers.
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Will Barack Obama be the next president of the United States? It's hard to say; but one shouldn't be foolish enough to dismiss his chances outright. We live in desperate and extraordinary times and the American people, if only out of sheer desperation, might very well turn towards an extraordinary candidate. That very fact is enough to put the good senator over the top. We can only hope. Talk about audacity!
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Pray for peace.
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Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
tomdegan@frontiernet.net

For more recent postings on this perfectly un-American, commie-lovingl latte swirling site (HAVE YOU NO SHAME???) please go to the following link:

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There will be a law against this sort of thing someday!

FOR THE RECORD: I'm not kidding

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Operation Iraqi "Freedom" (???)

"Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just"
Thomas Jefferson
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Before I get down to business, look at the little girl in the photo at the top of this posting. Look into her eyes. Do you see the terror? Do you see the grief? Please focus on it - I'm begging you, folks - let it enfold you! Let it consume you! If ever there was a time for empathy, this is it, people. Imagine that she is your daughter...or grand daughter...or sister...or niece. Imagine that the lifeless body she is weeping over is that of someone you love...or yours.... Imagine all the people living life in peace.
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I'd like to submit for your consideration the following list:

1. The Revolutionary War
2. The War of 1812
3. The Mexican/American War
4. The Civil War
5. The Spanish/American War
6. World War I
7. World War II
8. The Korean War
9. The Viet Nam War
10. Desert Storm
11. Operation Iraqi Freedom

Question: What's wrong with this picture?

Ah! You see where I'm going with this, don't you? I knew you would! Labeling the obscenity that you and I, as taxpayers, are now funding against the men, women and little children of Iraq as "Operation Iraqi Freedom" is about as ludicrous as Margaret Mitchell scrapping the title of her famous Civil War novel and opting instead to call it, The 1939 New Jersey Industrial Directory - I mean, it makes no sense whatsoever!

As bad a name as Operation Iraqi Freedom looks to the discerning eye at this point in time, can you even imagine how utterly stupid it's going to appear with the benefit of ten or twenty years historical hindsight? How dumb are we as a nation going to look after we leave behind a failed state theocracy that will inevitably come into being and we're still calling this fiasco "Operation Iraqi Freedom"? And consider this: it's already obvious that "bringing freedom and democracy to the Iraqi people" was never the real motive behind the Bush Mob's illegal invasion of that country. When the dust settles and the papers of this disgusting administration are finally uncovered by the special prosecutors, the criminal intent of these hideous bastards will be so blatantly obvious that even the dumbest amongst us (Attention: viewers of FOX and Friends) will have no trouble putting the pieces together. No ifs, ands or buts about it, kids, we're eventually gonna have to give this sucker a new name.
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You say it isn't quite sporting to re-name a conflict after the fact? Actually, there is a precedent for doing so. For over twenty years, World War One was simply referred to as "The Great War" or the "War To End All Wars". In 1917, no one would even have dared to call it the first world war for by doing so, one would be implying that a second world wide conflict was forthcoming. At that point in time, no one in his or her right mind wanted to even consider that possibility! December 7, 1941 changed that mindset forever. Since the day the Japanese surrendered in August of 1945, the dread specter of a World War III has been hovering over the human psyche - a real and frightening prospect. And now, thanks to the village idiot from Crawford, Texas - our very own home-grown Hitler - we're closer to that dreaded prospect than we've ever been in our history.
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So let all of us here do a service for humanity in general and our once-great nation in particular: let's all try to come up with another name for this stupid, fucking war. Here are just three of my candidates:
`THE BUSH/CHENEY WAR
What do you think? Short and to the point, I say! Sure, the whole scheme was originally cooked up by the authors of the Project For A New American Century but there can be no denying that this is George W. Bush's and Richard B. Cheney's war. From the day the oaf of office took the oath of office, they we're determined to "do something about Saddam" come hell or highwater - the historical record makes that perfectly clear. (For more on that subject, please read Against All Enemies by Richard Clarke). Maybe they never got to their highwater mark but of this you can be sure: These assholes opened up the gates of hell when they made the worst military blunder in American history by invading Iraq.
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THE ILLEGAL WAR
Oh, that has alot of merit to it, don'cha think? There can be no denying that our government was in flagrant violation of international law (not to mention opinion) when they brought about this catastrophe in March of 2003. If there is any justice in this world, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Rice and Powell will be handed over to the Hague for crimes against humanity when this is all over.
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THE NEO-CONFLICT
Get it??? Neo? Conflict? Pretty clever, huh? Yeah, I thought so, myself! Good goin', Degan! There is no doubt in my mind that, within time, the term "neo-con" will have as negative a connotation as "nazi party" does today. You can take that to the bank, pardner!
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Make no mistake about it: the war that almost thirty-two hundred American kids have given their lives for - the war that possibly over half a million Iraqi people have been slaughtered for - is not, to be sure, "Operation Iraqi Freedom". Come to think of it, let's just call the damned thing, Gone With The Wind.
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Pray for peace.
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Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
tomdegan@frontiernet.net

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Thomas Merton 1915-1968

"We are called to create a better world. But we are first of all called to a more immediate and exalted task: that of creating our own lives."

Thomas Merton

He was a Trappist monk who for twenty-seven years, between 1941 and 1968, rarely stepped outside of the rural monastery in which he lived. So what could such a person possibly teach us about ourselves? As it turns out, a whole lot. From the opening paragraph of his autobiography:

"On the last day of January 1915, under the sign of the Water Bearer, in the year of a great war and down in the shadow of some French mountains on the borders of Spain, I came into the world. Free by nature, in the image of God, I was nevertheless the prisoner of my own violence and my own selfishness, in the image of the world into which I was born. That world was the picture of Hell, full of men like myself, loving God and yet hating Him; born to love Him, living instead in fear and hopeless self-contradictory hungers."

The oldest of two sons of an American mother and a father from New Zealand, both of his parents would be dead by his sixteenth birthday and his life and education would be financed by his maternal grandfather, a successful American businessman. After a disastrous year at Cambridge in England, where his excessive consumption of alcohol and sex resulted in a poor academic performance, he was sent back to America to finish his studies at Columbia University in New York City. After a brief flirtation with radical politics and the American Communist Party, he found himself drawn to the writings of several Catholic writers and philosophers. Responding to the world of 1939, a world which seemed to be headed toward utter destruction and chaos, he had an almost unexplainable desire to convert to Catholicism - but more than that - he wanted to become a priest. On November 16, 1938, he was baptized a catholic.

On December 10, 1941, three days after America declared war on Japan, he entered the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemane outside of Louisville, Kentucky. He became a Trappist Monk.

"I rang the bell at the gate....the window opened, and Brother Matthew looked out between the bars...
'Hello, Brother', I said.
He recognized me, glanced at the suitcase and said: 'This time have you come to stay?'
'Yes, brother, if you'll pray for me', I said.
'That's what I've been doing," he said, "praying for you'....
So Brother Matthew locked the gate behind me and I was enclosed in the four walls of my new freedom."

In 1948, he was encouraged by the Abbot of the monastery to write his memoirs. Incredibly, the resulting effort, The Seven Storey Mountain, turned out to be one of the best selling books of the year. As Merton had been inspired by the events of the prewar world to enter a life of contemplation, so were thousands of people of all faiths inspired by the events of the post war world to question the very tenets of the so-called "American Century." Tom Merton not only planted the seeds that would eventually bear the fruit of what would evolve into the anti-war movement, he spoke out against racism at a time when most people didn't even know the definition of the word. From Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander:

"Blaming the Negro: this is not just a matter of rationalizing and verbalizing. It has become a strong emotional need of the white man. Blaming the Negro...gives the white a stronger sense of identity, or rather it protects an identity which is seriously threatened with pathological dissolution. It is by blaming the Negro that the white man tries to hold himself together...The Negro could really wreak havoc in white society by psychological warfare if he knew how to use it. Already the psychological weapon of nonviolence has proved effective as an attack on the white man's trumped-up image of himself as a righteous and Christian being."

He was vehemently anti-war even in times of relative peace. It should come as a surprise to no one that, like all voices of reason and sanity in the era in which he lived, he had a file in J. Edgar Hoover's FBI. Through the machinations of various operators within the Catholic church and without, they even managed to have him censored for a period.

"A letter arrives stamped with the slogan 'The U.S. Army: Key to peace.' No army is the key to peace, neither the U.S. Army nor the Soviet Army nor any other. No "great" nation has the key to anything but war. Power has nothing to do with peace. The more men build up military power, the more they violate peace and destroy it."

His wisdom and correspondence were sought out by a broad range of people: from Bob Dylan and Joan Baez to Boris Pasternak and Martin Luther King. Toward the end of his career, comedian Lenny Bruce would end his nightclub performance with a recitation of a Merton poem which was a "defence" of concentration camp commandant, Adolf Eichmann:

I was a soldier,
a good soldier.
I saw the end of a conscientious day's effort.
I saw all the work that I did.
I, Adolf Eichmann,
watched through the portholes.
I saw every Jew burned
and turned into soap.
Do you people think yourselves better
because you burned your enemies
at long distances
with missiles?
Without ever seeing what you'd done to them?
Hiroshima...Auf Wiedersehen...

Toward the end of his life, Thomas Merton was developing a profound interest in Islam, Hinduism and, specifically, Buddhism; trying to find a way to bridge the gap between eastern and western religions. In the autumn of 1968 he was invited to attend a conference of monks and nuns in Bangkok. It was here, on December 10, 1968, within an hour of having addressed the group, that his life ended in the room in which he was staying. He was electrocuted after touching a stand-up fan that had faulty wiring. He was fifty-three years old.

There is no question that in the year of 2007, nearly forty years after his untimely death, Thomas Merton still matters. He reaches out to us across the decades, an articulate and passionate advocate of Peace and Love and Silence. It was his prayerful belief that only by obliterating the noise of our lives - whether it be the electronic noise of our immediate surroundings or the noise of our minds - could we achieve a pure communion with God.

It would be nice if he were still here. Come to think of it: he is.

Pray for peace.
Meditate for peace.
Shout for peace.
Be silent for peace.

Tom Degan

Goshen, NY

tomdegan@frontiernet.net

"Everyone who has read the gospel realizes that in order to be a Christian, one must give up being a fanatic, because Christianity is love. Love and fanaticism are incompatible."

SUGGESTED BOOKS BY THOMAS MERTON:

Seven Storey Mountain

Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

The Sign of Jonas

New Seeds of Contemplation

Disputed Questions

The Waters of Siloe

The Ascent to Truth

Thoughts in Solitude

**********************

SUGGESTED BOOK ABOUT THOMAS MERTON:

"The Seven Mountains of Thomas Merton" by Michael Mott

There are a few good books about Merton's life. This one is the best. It is the mountaintop of biographies.

AFTERTHOUGHT:

Listen to the Voice of Thomas Merton

To read more recent postings on this site, please go here:

"The Rant" by Tom Degan

Political satire and commentary. It's a hoot!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Tempest in a Tea Pot Dome


It can no longer be denied. The administration of George W. Bush is, for all intents and purposes, over. It's only a matter of time before he and Dick Cheney are forcibly removed from office via the constitutionally mandated process of impeachment. This week's revelation that the "evidence" of Saddam Hussein's mythical weapons of mass destruction program was manipulated by then Undersecretary of Defence, Douglas Feith in order to frighten a gullible American public into signing off on the stupidest foreign policy blunder in American history - is the final writing on a wall already covered in lies. This is big - really, really big - and it's only going to get better... Excuse me...I meant, "worse". Honest, I did!
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When one couples this latest scandal with all that is being revealed in the Scooter Libby trial, it's almost as if we've been given two tasty dishes for the price of one. It really is gift that keeps giving, is it not? The initial claims of Bob Woodward that the outting of Valerie Plaime's classified CIA identity was "laughable" as an offence or that it was nothing more than "a tempest in a teapot" according to David Broder of the Washington Post - are proving to be just a tad hasty. Crimes have been committed - serious crimes. People are going to go to prison for a very long time - or at least until they receive their eleventh hour pardons from Bush.
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I can see it now: there's the president of the United States, secure in his bunker, deep beneath the White House, in the final hours of this nightmare of an administration. He's frantically signing pardons - thousands of pardons - he's overjoyed at the scam he's been able to pull off; "Hee! Hee! Hee! Ah've beat the fuckin' system to a pulp", he drawls as he giggles uncontrollably in that hideous Beavus and Butthead way of his. Just at that moment, an extremely nasty reality hits him on the head like the proverbial trillion dollar shithammer. A trembling Alberto Gonzalez waiting until his own pardon has been firmly secured, gently, hesitantly tries to explain to the First Fool that a president cannot legally pardon himself. In an instant, the blood drains from Bush's face, his eyes bulge and he starts foaming at the mouth. Poor little Alberto, fearing for what's left of his miserable life makes a beeline for the door - but it's too late - in a fit of primitive, blind rage, Bush pounds the pathetic little bastard senseless. Oh, this is going to get extremely ugly, campers! Extremely ugly, indeed.
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Our collective hat must be tipped to the great Chris Matthews of MSNBC. In his grand jury testimony Scooter Libby testified that what enraged the vice president's office more than anything were the reports coming in every evening on Hardball. They were actually having entire transcriptions made of the show! Other than Joe Wilson, no one else was questioning the administration's claim that Saddam had tried to obtain yellow cake uranium from Niger. The evidence presented to the public were obvious forgeries - documents "signed" by a Nigerian official who had been out of power for over a decade, for instance. The corporate news media, to their eternal shame, were merely acting as stenographers for the White House propaganda machine. Matthews, to his eternal credit, wasn't buying it. That his program is, at this moment, still trailing FOX News in the ratings is inexcusable. On Friday evening, while MSNBC and CNN were covering the Feith and Libby revelations, FOX was covering the death of Anna Nicole Smith - and nothing else. They want to distract the people from the issues that really matter by focusing on "info-tainment". Is it any wonder that the faithful viewers of that network are the stupidest people on the planet? I report - You decide. Fair and balanced, you know what I talking about?
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The clock is ticking, folks. Their house of marked cards is beginning to crumble. The sun is setting on what is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the most appallingly criminal presidency in the history of the republic. This administration, I believe, will not survive the year. Maybe I'm wrong but my instinct tells me that I'm not. I sincerely believe that, come New Years Day 2008, Bush will be out of power and on his way to federal prison for the rest of his life. Cheney, given the fragile state of his health, will probably be able to avoid the same, well deserved fate. Judging by his recent interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, it is obvious that he is a deeply sick and disturbed man; a man on the very precipice of existence. That fatal heart attack that we've all been expecting for years is liable to come any moment. If he's forced to testify at the Scooter Libby trial, he'll be dead in a month - count on it - the stress of being forced to tell the truth under penalty of perjury will be too much to bear. He's liable to even drop dead right there in the courtroom. Is that a cruel thing to say? After half a million Iraqi men, women and little children having been murdered for no reason - I ask you - what's one more dead body? Please.
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There is more evidence than can even be accurately catalogued why Bush and Cheney need to be impeached and hauled off to Leavenworth Prison in an ox cart. But that's not going to happen until we demand that the Democrats show some courage and get the process in motion. No more bullshit! We must demand that these disgusting bastards and bitches (Hi, Condi!) be held accountable for their crimes against the people of the United States in general and the people of Iraq in particular.
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We should expect nothing less.
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Pray for peace.
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Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK


If there is one thing that's certain - certainty being such a rare commodity these days - it is this: what we as patriotic citizens of the good ol' U.S. of A. have done to the men, women and little children of Iraq, will haunt us until the very last surviving inhabitant of this miserable generation breathes his or her dying breath. The unprovoked, senseless and illegal invasion of Iraq has done to the United States what Afghanistan did to the late Soviet Union. The damage we have wrought will be palpable a century from now. Our "best of times" are well behind us; as is our justification for any kind of national pride. It will be said of us: "Their only pride is in their past". We will never be the same again. Who did this to us?

We did this to us.
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It must never be forgotten or denied that when the half-witted man/child we foolishly elected as our leader seven years ago committed the most egregious war crime since Adolf Hitler invaded Poland almost seventy years ago, he had the overwhelming support of the American people behind him. Those of us who desperately tried to light a candle of reason in the dark night of mindless nationalism were marginalized as "unpatriotic". The "main stream media" which in another era might have exposed to the world the utter folly and criminality of this war had long ago been purchased by the very corporations who stood to profit the most from that war. Instead of providing much-needed information to a mind-numbingly ill-informed public, the corporate media has merely been spoon-feeding infotaining pornography to a trivialized nation of trivia-obsessed people.

That more of them voted for the American Idol than for the American President; that more of them were concerned with the affairs of Brittany and Paris and Brad and Angelina than affairs of state; that more of them were tuned into the latest reality show than in tune with the disgusting reality of their once-great country - that more of them were actually ignorant enough to believe that re-electing George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in 2004 was a good idea than not - speaks shelves upon shelves of volumes as to the depths of absurdity into which we've sunk.
America has been mortally wounded and - irony of ironies - that wound has turned out to be self-inflicted. We were lied to by our so-called "leaders" when they told us we could have guns and butter. We were lied to when they told us that a tax cut for the already obscenely wealthy would "trickle down" to the rest of us. We were lied to when they told us that squandering our national treasure on an out-of-control armaments industry was the best thing for "the peace and security of the free world". We were lied to when they said that health insurance for all people was not possible. We were lied to when they said that their mission was to bring "freedom and democracy" to the Iraqi people. We were lied to - and we stupidly swallowed their lies.

The beauty of America has never really been "what we are". To my way of thinking it has always been "what we can be" or "what we're capable of" based on the principles put forward in the Constitution by the men who founded this country two-hundred and thirty-one years ago. That our entire history has been a battle within to assure that the tenets of that document be observed, there can be no denying. From the war between the states in the nineteenth century to the civil rights struggle in the twentieth, our undying civil quest has been to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States".

Seven years ago, we placed our core values under assault - and we did it gleefully. We put America into the hands of a cabal of extremists who have come close to destroying it. What this country "might have been" will forever remain a mystery of the ages. We might very well have lived to see the day when we would truly be a color blind society. We might very well have come to the point where all working people could earn a living wage and own their own home. We might very well have come to a time when the goal of all of us would be a decent, publicly funded education for not only ourselves, but our children and grandchildren as well. We might very well have come to a golden era of progress and happiness for all men and women. We might very well, indeed, have come to be that "shining city on a hill". All of that has been forever squandered.

This generation of Americans inherited from their parents the most prosperous nation in the history of the world. And just what will our heirs inherit from us? A social and ideological cesspool.

Go shopping, America.

Tom Degan

Goshen, NY

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

"The Rant" by Tom Degan