Wednesday, December 31, 2008

COUNT DOWN: TWENTY DAYS

You have thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
`
Bob Dylan
Masters of War
`
This is going to be the longest twenty days of our lives. In less than three weeks the most insanely corrupt and incompetent administration in the history of this once-great nation will be pulverized to dust. All that will be left of it will be the after effects which our great grandchildren - who will never even know our names - will still be dealing with generations from now. In an early posting on this site, I stated my belief that fifty years from today, the president of the United States, whomever he or she will be - who in all likelihood hasn't even been born yet - will still, on a daily basis, be dealing with the damage that this half-witted little frat boy did to his country so many decades before. Of this you may be absolutely certain: it will never again get as weird as it was under George W. Bush. Then again, I should probably keep my mouth shut. I said the exact same thing about Ronald Reagan when he left office twenty years ago. Never mind.

Beth Quinn was the ever so slightly liberal columnist for the Times Herald-Record, the paper that serves the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountain regions of upstate New York (roughly an hour or so north of merrie old Manhattan). She is still very much alive, by the way. I only speak of her in the past tense because she is no longer with that paper. Earlier this year Rupert Murdoch's company purchased the Record and within a matter of weeks Beth, that paper's most popular and beloved columnist, was fired without cause or explanation. Although they were bombarded with letters to the editor protesting her dismissal (including one from yours truly) Rupert Murdoch's Times Herald-Wreckage refused to print a single one.

For the last few years of her column's existence, she would remind her readers precisely how many days were left until the Bush administration was out of power - gone but never to be forgotten. When she first started keeping track, the number was one-thousand plus. At the time of her firing in June, the number had dwindled down to just barely under two-hundred days. Last August I decided to take up the torch:

There are a mere twenty days until George W. Bush, this eternal embarrassment to the souls of Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln - this personification of the damage that has been done to America's international reputation - is out of our lives forever.

As the waning hours of the Bush administration tick mercifully away, the utter stupidity of the man still manages to astound. Just last week he issued a pardon for one Isaac Toussie, a man the New York Daily News referred to as "the poster boy for outrageous presidential pardons". Toussie was the instigator of a massive housing scam, the victims of which were mostly - you guessed it - Black people. His father, Robert Toussie (who wears the most ridiculously ill-fitting toupee I have ever seen on any human being) is a habitual, big time donor to the Republican Party. A few days after issuing the pardon, when the press and public exploded in outrage over the matter, the First Fool rescinded it. The fact that to do so is probably unconstitutional never even occurred to our jackass of a president....Just twenty days until it's all over. Hang in there, folks.

I don't envy President Obama. It's a fairly easy bet that ninety percent of the poor guy's time will be spent alleviating the damage that has been done in eight years by the Bush Mob. Another thing he'll be dealing with are the investigations, prosecutions and the inevitable partisan reverberations that will result. It has been said that Bush is not only planning a blanket pardon for everyone in his administration who "may or may not" have committed a crime, he is also planing to pardon himself! As was stated on this site a few weeks ago, the Founding Fathers did not give the president the power of the pardon so that he would be able to preside over a two term, criminal enterprise and then be able to walk away from the carnage via the outrageous maneuver of a self pardon. If that were the case, why didn't Andrew Johnson attempt as much when he was impeached for "high crimes and misdemeanors" in 1869? Why didn't Dick Nixon ever think of it? Or Rhodes Scholar, Bill Clinton? Because to have done so would have been dismissed as unconstitutional, that's why. As arrogant as Nixon was, he's got nothing on George W. Bush.

Our president is not just going to be able to slip away into quiet, taxpayer funded retirement. The next few years will see him fighting daily to avoid being sent away to federal prison for the rest of his miserable life. What I'd like to know is just how much evidence have they been able to destroy. I have no doubt that the shredders in the White House and the Executive Office Building have been working overtime since Election Day. The Obama Justice Department will have their work cut out for them, that's for sure. I can't imagine what a task it will be to sift through the remnants of what is undoubtedly one of the biggest organized crime operations in human history. That may sound like an extreme statement to many of you but time will prove me right. I am as convinced of that as I am my own name.

From the very first posting on this site, June 2, 2006:

"PREDICTION: George W. Bush will be remembered as the first (pray last) former chief executive to go to federal prison. Sound crazy? Stay tuned."

I stand by that statement.

As Lenny Bruce used to say, "There's gonna be a lot of dues, Jim!" A lot of dues indeed. It will take a long time - at least a decade - for the wheels of justice to reach their final destination. Given the fragile nature of his health and his slender grasp on the thread that connects him to the living, Dick Cheney will more than likely be able to escape the judgement that is his due. But I do believe that Bush - and the cabal of homicidal, sycophantic "Yes People" he has surrounded himself with all of his political life - will live to see the punishment they deserve for their crimes against humanity in general and the men, women and little children of Iraq in particular. And I'm gonna love every freaking minute of it, Buster! It really does give one something to look forward to.

Here's the good news: We still have a full twenty days of the madcap, accidental humor that Dubya has been providing us these eight, long years. It really has been a source of great entertainment, has it not? Let's be honest; if nothing else, George W. Bush will be remembered as the Buster Keaton of unintentional comedy. Think of all those wonderfully hilarious malapropisms:

"We've got to put food on our families."

"Brownie, you're doin' a heck of a job."

"Too many OBGYN's aren't able to practice their love with their patients."
`
"Fool me once, shame on....Fool me....Won't get fooled again."

"I'm the decider."

"It would be better if this were a dictatorship, just so long as I'm the dictator."

"I'm a compassionate Conservative!"
`
"They misunderestimated the compassion of our country."
`
"I'm a reformer with results!"
`
It really is hard to argue with that last one, isn't it? Results indeed! Who could have imagined during the campaign of 2000 just what those "results" would be? In terms of sheer, side-splitting stupidity-as-entertainment, it will never again get funnier than George Walker Bush. That much I can say with total confidence. The man should have a table named in his honor at Lindy's. Truth be told, I'm kind of going to miss the hideous little bastard when he's gone.

Happy new year, everyone!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
tomdegan@frontiernet.net

SUGGESTED READING:

Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush's America
by Molly Ivins and Lou Dubois
`
SUGGESTED LISTENING
`
The Freewheenin' Bob Dylan
Columbia Records, 1962

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Long Ago Christmas Moon


"And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them and they were sure afraid. And the angel said unto them: fear not, for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward all people."

The Gospel according to St.Luke
Chapter 2, verses 9:14
from the King James Bible

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

On August 1, I published a piece on this site called, "Coming of Age in the Sixties". It was a reminiscence of Christmas Eve 1968, forty years ago tonight, when three men orbited the moon for the very first time. It was a gentle, hopeful end to what had been a tumultuous year....

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

With the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy in the spring, the mindless violence inflicted by the Chicago Police upon hapless demonstrators at the Democratic National Convention in August, and the endless and graphic carnage from South East Asia that was being televised into living rooms throughout the country - night after depressing night - a sensitive and impressionable ten-year-old could very easily have been overwhelmed by the thought that the world was coming to an end. So it was with me.

But then, on Christmas Eve, an epiphany....

That was the night that the crew of Apollo 8 became the first human beings to orbit the moon. Upon emerging from that asteroid's dark side, eternally invisible to the inhabitants of this small and fragile planet, the crew of Frank Borman, Bill Anders and James Lovell broadcast a message to the world. Turning to scripture, they quoted from the Book of Genesis:

"In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, "Let there be light": and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness...."

At the conclusion of that transmission, Commander Borman, no doubt reflecting on the turmoil of the year which was about to mercifully end, said these words:

"And so from the crew of Apollo Eight, we close with good night, good luck, a merry Christmas, and God bless all of you - all of you - on the good earth."

Hearing those words broadcast on the radio, my ear almost pressed against one of the two massive KHL speakers that dominated my father's stereo system, I felt the weight of the world being lifted from my shoulders. Somehow, I thought, everything was going to be all right. For decades afterwards, whenever America was confronted with some indescribable national trauma, Frank Borman's gentle words - transmitted from the heavens on that long ago Christmas Eve - would come back to calm me and I would feel better about my country.

Everything is going to be alright, I would tell myself.

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

UPDATE: CHRISTMAS EVE 2008:

Back on the first of August when I wrote that piece, I didn't really believe that everything was going to be alright. What a difference four and-a-half months makes. For the first time in years, I'm feeling a bit more hopeful!

Happy Christmas, everyone.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
tomdegan@frontiernet.net

"Blessed are the peacemakers
For they shall be called children of God"

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

http://www.tomdegan.blogspot.com

And so, happy Christmas
We hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young!

-John Lennon

Monday, December 22, 2008

Barack's Latest Pastor Problem


One of the biggest problem's with many of my co-conspirators on the Left is their absolute refusal to think in terms of long-range, political strategy. It happened too many times to count during the campaign which ended last month; and now it's happened yet again. I am referring of course to the explosions of outrage that emanated this week from many progressives and from within the Gay community on the news that President-elect Obama had chosen the controversial, uber Right Wing, anti Gay Rights preacher, Rick Warren, to deliver a blessing at his inauguration next month. I, too, was somewhat dismayed when Barack's transition team made the announcement. "What is my man thinking?" I said to no one in particular.

Then I was reminded of a film I first saw when I was ten years old, in the autumn of 1968 at the long-ago-demolished Goshen Movie Theater. I went to see it with my brother, Pete, and my friends, Tom and Tim Finkle. The film was called Yellow Submarine and it starred animated versions of the Beatles. At the movie's end, when John, Paul, George and Ringo liberated the good people of Pepperland from the evil clutches of the naughty Blue Meanies, what did they do? Did they ostracize the Meanies? Did they banish them from Pepperland forever? No. They reached out to them! Leave it to John Lennon! (or the actor doing a lousy impersonation of John Lennon's voice):

"Hello, Blue People! Won't you join us? Look up!"

The Blue Meanies got into the good vibes, everyone hugged one another and joined in with a rousing rendition of George Harrison's It's All Too Much. The film ended and they all lived happily ever after - or at least until the Fab Four broke up acrimoniously two years later, suing the shit out of each other in a London courtroom. C'est la vie.

Okay, I realize that that's a ridiculously simplistic analogy, but it bears mentioning for no other reason than the fact that I am trying to stretch this piece out as long as possible and I haven't a clue as to why Obama would choose someone like Warren to deliver an inaugural invocation. But I do have some ideas....

In the last three decades, this country has become as politically polarized as it's been at any time since the war between the states nearly a century-and-a-half ago. There is a huge segment of America that still thinks the so-called "Reagan Revolution" was a really neat idea and that George W. Bush was merely a twisted detour off the Republican party's highway to deregulation, plutocratic fiscal policy and a twenty-four-hour-a-day Anita Bryant Satellite Radio channel. It is my belief that by having Pastor Warren deliver a prayer on January 20, Barack Obama is reaching out to Americans of all political shades. He wants to be the president of the united states of America. He is telling them:

"We may not agree on many of the fundamental issues facing our troubled nation, but I am recognizing you as an equal participant in the American experiment. I may have defeated your ideology in the last election, but I respect your right to hold a differing opinion. I am reaching out to you. I want to be the Beatles to your Blue Meanies. Welcome to Pepperland....

"It's all too much for me to take
The love that's shining all around me
Everywhere is birthday cake
So take a piece but not too much...."

Or words to that effect.

Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's Hardball, has a theory that I tend to concur with: Barack Obama is positioning himself to govern from the left by strategically placing within his administration a few men and women of known moderate to slightly right-of-center political leanings. By doing so he is essentially immunizing himself from the inevitable accusations from the Hate Radio crowd that his White House is filled with Left Wing crazies, determined to send this grand and glorious land of ours spiraling into the depths of hell, forcing good and decent Americans to march in lock step to the communistic philosophies of Karl Marx, Emma Goldman and the Smothers Brothers. Rick Warren's very presence at Obama's inauguration gives these jackasses less ammunition to fire at him.

Although some of the people he has appointed to his team have left me somewhat puzzled, I have no other choice but to give the President-elect the benefit of the doubt. To those progressives who are now in the process of having a nervous breakdown at the make up of the new administration, I have three words:

President Sarah Palin.

We really dodged a bullet in the last election and we have much to be grateful for during this holiday season. Barack Obama is not John McCain, thank goodness. The dreadful, monetary trauma this country is now experiencing will more than likely be alleviated - if only somewhat - i
n the next administration. Had the seventy-two-year-old McCain and the extremist Gidget von Braun won the last election, it certainly would have meant the final nail in the coffin of America's economic suicide. To those on the Left who are now viewing Team Obama with trepidation, I would only remind you that it won't be Robert Gates making the decisions; it will be President Obama. He is our new decider-in-chief.

Unlike the administration which is about to mercifully end, the Obama White House will not be packed to the rafters with half-witted political hacks. These people are reminiscent of John F. Kennedy's New Frontier; that's the good news. Here's the bad news: The "Best and the Brightest" of the JFK era (McNamara, Bundy, Rusk et.al.) also got us stuck in the quagmire of Vietnam. The new president and his team should not be marred by the overconfidence that afflicted Kennedy and his people. That can only lead to disaster.
`
What is most reassuring about our new prez is his cool, almost detached calculation. He does not seem to be the type of man who would foolishly dive into any situation minus the benefit of careful thought and study - unlike the moron he will be replacing in less than a month. The men and women he will be surrounding himself with can hardly be described as sycophantic "yes people", ideologically bound to an utterly failed philosophy of governance. Remember the mantra the Bush Mob kept repeating when the Supreme Court installed them eight years ago?
`
"The grownups are back in charge."
`
Of this you may be sure: Responsible grownups really are back in charge. The kooks, criminals and fools who hijacked the executive branch of your government in 2001 are on their way out the back door. Good riddance to bad rubbish. In the next two years, the new Washington parlor game will be trying to guess how many of these hideous bastards and bitches (Hi, Condi!) will end up doing serious time in federal prison.

In spite of the mess that Obama is inheriting, he has one, very tangible, undeniable thing going in his favor: He has the good fortune to be following into the Oval Office the most hideously corrupt and incompetent president in American history. Even if he turns out to be a mediocre president (and I do not believe that will be the case) compared to the nitwit who at this moment is sleeping soundly in the Executive Mansion, even his failures will seem like successes. Barack Obama is not George W. Bush either - not even close. Whatever happens between now and 2013 (or 2017 - I'm predicting two terms) the situation can only get better. It's damned near certain that it can't get much worse.

To my good albeit somewhat hyperactive friends who lean left, I can only say, "Fear not, oh troubled ones" or better still, "Chill out!" I'm not crazy about Rick Warren either. The most generous thing that may be said of the man is that he is not one tenth the sanctimonious asshole that Jerry Falwell was. Nor do some of the people Barack is placing in his administration make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. But it is obvious why he is doing what he's doing. It is all part of his overall political strategy. Some are reacting as if he has just revealed himself to be a far-Right ideologue. Believe me, that is not the case; far from it.

Maybe four years from now, I'll be sitting here with an omelet on my face, complaining about how Barack Obama let us down. Maybe Twenty-five years from now, we might be looking back on Obama as one of the greatest politicians in American history; greater, even, than the politician's politician, Bill Clinton.

We shall see.


PLEASE NOTE:
There are a mere twenty-nine days until this murderously corrupt, criminally incompetent president is out of the White House forever. Hang in there, kiddies!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Senator Caroline Kennedy?


When it was revealed last week that Caroline Kennedy was interested in seeking the New York senate seat which is being vacated in January by Hillary Clinton, some Democrats had a positive hissy fit. The worst example of this was New York congressman Gary Ackerman, a guy I normally admire and respect. "Sure!" opined the positively flustered, nearly apoplectic Mr. A, "She may have name recognition - but so does J. Lo!" Yo! Gary! Just relax and take a chill pill, pardner! Jeez Louise!

Truth be told, when I heard that Miss Hillary's seat was going to be vacant, my first thought was Bubbah. Oh! I thought, wouldn't that just drive the Right Wing nuts? Bill Clinton making policy? I could imagine Mitch McConnell and Kaye Bailey Hutchinson having a collective nervous breakdown right there on the senate floor at hearing the news. But as the Monkees once observed,"That was then; this is now". I don't know about you, but I am now one-hundred percent behind the idea of Caroline Kennedy Scholssberg as my representative in the senate .

NOTE TO CAROLINE: This is nothing against your husband Ed or your lovely children - you have as fine a family as is possible to have. But you should do your hardcore constituency a big favor and drop the name "Schlossberg", okay? We need that seat to go to a Senator Kennedy. As I don't need to remind you, that is the seat which was once held by your beloved, uncle Bobby. I know it's been forty, long years since he was taken from us in so brutal a fashion on that horrible night in Los Angeles in June of 1968 - but to many of us it still hurts like hell. Serve as "Senator Kennedy", I'm beggin' ya! Besides, it's a whole hell of a lot easier to pronounce than "Senator Schlossberg". Just a suggestion.

By the way, this is a tad off-topic but it must be said: As I write these words, the good folks at Spell Check are telling me that "Schlossberg" is an incorrect spelling. Their recommendation? "Sleaze bag". They just might want to fix that. Call it a hunch.

The main argument that many in the media and on Capital Hill are making against Caroline Kennedy's prospective political career is that she does not have the personality to be a politician. Oh heart of mine be still! Would you like to know how I read that? She's not a self-promoting bullshit artist like ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the rest of them. She doesn't have the personality to be a politician, huh? That's exactly what the Boston Pols said about her old man when he first ran for congress in 1946. In case you've forgotten, he turned out to be not half bad. Maybe she doesn't have your classic "political personality" (whatever the hell that means) but neither did Henry Clay. Neither, for that matter, did George Washington. This much is obvious, though: she has a first class legislative temperament. If you need proof of this, read the two books she co-authored with Ellen Alderman,
In Our Defense: The Bill of Rights in Action (1990) and The Right to Privacy (1995). She is possessed of a brilliant mind, a compassionate heart and a palpable sense of purpose - a perfect combination for an outstanding political career - check the history books.

A number of years ago, Caroline Kennedy established the Profiles In Courage Award, which is presented annually at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. The award is named for dear ol' dad's 1957, Pulitzer Prize winning book, Profiles In Courage, which chronicled the stories of politicians throughout American History who took unpopular stands at a cost to their own political careers. Obviously, political courage means a lot to this wise and gifted woman. Given her heritage, it's easy to conclude that it is a huge part of her philosophical value system. She is the type of person we desperately need in the senate.

What kind of senator would she be? It's a fairly safe bet that Caroline Kennedy would not have had anything to do with giving a president the authority to launch an unnecessary war just to prove to the boys that she's as hardened a warrior as any man. Given JFK's literary legacy, she's not about to open herself up to charges of political timidity or cowardice. I've got a funny feeling that she really wants to win that Profiles In Courage Award, baby! Then again, she would look kind of silly presenting it to herself, wouldn't she?

If you've been reading The Rant lo these two-and-a-half years, you know that one of my fiercest complaints regarding the Democratic party is their absolute genius for taking a bottle of finely aged, twelve-year-old scotch and turning it into donkey piss. Please, Dems, you're on a roll! Don't blow it, alright? There is nothing wrong with grace and dignity. Don't use the tired old criteria that people wouldn't want to "have a beer" with Caroline Kennedy. We used that standard of electoral qualification in 2000 and 2004 and where has it gotten us? For the last eight years we've had Bobo the Simpleminded sleeping in the White House. Our social and economic infrastructure has been destroyed and we're teetering on the edge of a full scale Depression. Maybe Ms. Kennedy will be the new yardstick by which future senatorial aspirants may be measured! She is an outstanding human being. Am I biased? Sure I am. So sue me!

No, I wouldn't want to - nor could I even imagine - having a beer with Caroline Kennedy. But here's the weird thing: I could very well imagine getting high with her. Go figure.

Here's another reason I want this seat to go to Caroline: since I was about five-years-old, I've had a bit of a thing for her. I'll be blunt with you, campers; this is beyond a mere school boy crush - I'M HEAD OVER HEELS IN LOVE WITH THE GAL, OKAY??? Please, Governor Patterson, do this for me! It would be as good as having Patty Duke as my senator (I had a serious crush on her, too).This would be the fulfillment of all my childhood dreams....I'm sorry, I'm being silly. Back to the serious subject....

Forgive this blunt appeal to your sentiments, but it has to be said. She is the sole survivor of an extraordinary family, all of whom left this vale of tears far too young. Would it not be a beautiful thing to have the unfinished dreams of the father, mother and brother given a voice through the political career of the daughter and sister? Yeah, I know! I'm being really maudlin here. Forgive me, I'm Irish Catholic! (and I've also had a couple of drinks). It may be sappy; it may be sentimental; but I believe I speak for millions of people when I say that we respect and admire this tribe of imperfect human beings for all the good they've done and the awful sacrifices they've made throughout the decades for our beloved nation - all in the name of public service. Let's face some serious facts here, folks: uncle Ted wasn't in it for the money. Neither, you may be absolutely certain, is cousin Caroline.

Skeptics everywhere are beginning to ask, "Just what are her qualifications to be a senator?" Damned good question. Please let me attempt to answer it:

She is probably the most intelligent person to run for the senate in decades. You disagree? Name one smarter - go ahead!....
Oh, right....Daniel Patrick Moynahan ....But other than him, name one! You can't, can you! I rest my case.

Caroline Kennedy is not Alfonse D'Amato, that's for damned sure. There will not be so much as a hint of corruption surrounding her office - of that you may be certain. Believe me, Grandpa Joe Kennedy left her set for life. Unlike Senator Pothole, her tenure as senator won't be about serving herself. It will be about serving her constituency in general and the American people in particular. How do I know this? I just do. You've gotta trust me on this one, kids! Hey! Have I ever lied to you???
`
And here's something else that can't be emphasized enough: she has the respect and admiration of the entire world. America's international reputation is lower than at any time since the Civil War. Having so extraordinary a woman in the senate can only help alleviate the damage that has been done to us by the Bush Mob.

As expected, the Hillary Clinton crowd is throwing a monkey wrench into the situation. "A history of public service is no qualification for being a senator" they're saying. Excuse me, but that should be the only qualification! And would one of these hypocrites please explain to me just what Hillary's qualifications were when she ran for the senate in 2000? Eight years as First Lady? Have another sip.

This evening on MSNBC's Hardball, a congressman from Brooklyn, NY with the unfortunate name, Anthony Wiener, was quoted making the observation that Caroline Kennedy would be a terrible candidate because no one could imagine her milking a cow in any upstate county fair. I can't imagine it either.

Think about this: On the morning of November 22, 1963, just two hours before he was murdered in cold blood on the streets of Dallas, Texas, her father, attending a political breakfast in Houston, politely declined to be photographed wearing one of those hideously stupid ten-gallon-hats that some Texans find so attractive. Was the man a snob? Not according to the memoirs of
everyone who ever knew him. My guess is that President Kennedy believed that cheap, political pandering - a silly photo-op - was beneath the dignity of the office entrusted to him by the people. That kind of substance is such a rare thing in politics these days. And now along comes Caroline Kennedy, like a nostalgic, long dead dream come back to life.

You know, I was just thinking: on Election Day 2016, she will be fifty-eight years old - just the right age to....I'm sorry. I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. Never mind.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
tomdegan@frontiernet.net

SUGGESTED READING:

A Patriot's Handbook
edited by Caroline Kennedy

AFTERTHOUGHT:

Happy birthday to sister Sally Degan. You don't look a day over forty-three, my dear. Give little Olivia Borski a hug for me, okay?

Monday, December 08, 2008

John Lennon

Nothing to do to save his life. Call his wife in....

The passage of twenty-eight years does little to alleviate the sense of shock and horror that we felt on that awful night, Monday, December 8, 1980. It was unseasonably warm, that much I distinctly remember. It had been a pleasant day right up to the moment the news came over the television. In the early afternoon I saw on HBO, the Peter Frampton/Bee Gees debacle, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - one of the worst movie musicals ever made. Late in the afternoon and early evening, I saw for the very first time, the Marx Brothers' 1932 classic, Duck Soup - a masterpiece. I remember wondering to myself whether or not John Lennon had ever seen this film
. It's comic lunacy combined with an anti war theme would appeal to him, I thought.

Irony of ironies: I had quit my job as a radio DJ earlier in the week. The man who owned the station, a legendary New York Disc Jockey who shall remain nameless (sorry, cousins) had turned out to be a real impudent son-of-a-bitch to work for. The very last thing I did before I walked out of the place forever was play the new John Lennon single,
(Just Like) Starting Over.

At exactly eleven thirty, after having watched a rerun of M*A*S*H (an episode from the early years when that series was still watchable) I went back to the book I was reading, John Toland's massive biography of Adolf Hitler. Deep in concentration, I was barely aware of the news bulletin that was being relayed on W-NEW channel Five. All of the sudden, my subconscious was jarred by what I thought were the words, "John Lennon". I quickly looked up at the TV to hear the announcer say:

"....is in critical condition at Roosevelt Hospital with multiple bullet wounds."

"Did I just hear that?" I said to myself, probably out loud, "Nah! Who the hell in their right mind would shoot John Lennon?"

I went back to the book. Hardly twenty seconds had elapsed when the telephone rang. It was my brother, Pete. I could tell by the first syllable out of his mouth that I had indeed heard what I thought I had only imagined....
`
Imagine....

"TOM...."
"Oh, my God! What happened??"
"Lennon's been shot."

I went back to the television and turned the channel to the American Broadcasting Company. I knew that the Monday night football game was still in progress and they had not yet broadcast their late evening news. Within a few short minutes the game was interrupted with a "Special Bulletin". The person who made the announcement was a woman named Roseanne Scamardella:

"FORMER BEATLE JOHN LENNON IS DEAD. HE WAS SHOT A SHORT TIME AGO. POLICE HAVE A SUSPECT IN CUSTODY."

Back and forth I paced the apartment - shell shocked, in a blind grief-stricken rage and in utter disbelief. By chance, my eyes happened to wonder toward the stereo system on the bookshelf. The record resting on the turntable was called, The Beatles First, a collection of their earliest recordings, made in Hamburg, Germany in the summer of 1961 which I had been listening to earlier in the evening.

Then came the dreadful, televised image that brought the reality of what was happening crashing down with a vengeance too horrible to even contemplate: the image of John Lennon's lifeless corpse, wrapped in a body bag, strapped to a stretcher, being loaded like so much cargo into a hearse bound for the morgue. For the first and last time in my life, I drank a bottle of scotch, a drink I usually can barely stomach. It was the only alcohol available that evening. I would never have been able to sleep otherwise.

The next day's headlines only confirmed what many of us, upon awakening from our troubled slumber, had hoped had merely been a terrible dream:

JOHN LENNON SHOT DEAD

The final act of insanity in this insane nightmare would be committed by Rupert Murdoch's New York Post. Three days after the murder, they sneaked a photographer into the city morgue. The next day's front page showed a close up of John's dead face; discolored and bloated by three days of rigor mortis.

I read the news today, oh boy....
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The passage of nearly three decades has somewhat softened the hero worship I felt in my teens and early twenties for the man who went by the pseudonym, Doctor Winston O'Boogie. Albert Goldman's mean spirited and discredited 1988 biography notwithstanding, the books and memoirs that have been issued in the years since his death have revealed a flawed and psychologically tormented human being; a genius who transformed his generation, and yet a man who was capable of heartlessness and indifference to the ones who loved him most,
including his fellow Beatles. To be frank, there were periods in his tumultuous life where I imagine I would not have chosen to be a friend of John Lennon's. The man all-too-human.

When I was about fifteen, I purchased an LP of a series of interviews he gave in 1969 and 1971 to the British journalist David Wigg. After listening it for the first time in 1974, I came to the conclusion that the man was just about as hip as is possible to be. Listening to that record today however, the Liverpudlian guru I had imagined him to be as a wide-eyed teenager, comes across as somewhat naive in a few areas.

Posthumous revelations and decades of hindsight aside, nothing can ever - or should ever - take away the sense of grief and loss we all felt on that horrible night twenty-eight years ago today, when John Lennon was forever taken from our midst by an insane act of cold blooded murder. That this brilliant, talented, screamingly funny guy could have fallen victim to the ultimate act of violence was impossible to even comprehend. Even now, all these years later, the entire event seems surreal.

There's nothing you can know that isn't known
There's nothing you can see that isn't shown
There's nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be
It's easy!
All you need is love!


All you need is love. I believed it then and I believe it still. That was John Lennon's greatest gift to the human race. He showed his troubled generation that we are the makers of our own dreams; that even in a world run by corrupt politicians and dictators, hell-bent on violence and bloodshed, life can be beautiful and that world peace is attainable if only we all make a serious effort to achieve it. Peace is not something that should be expected to occur naturally, like the rising of the moon. It has to be carefully, lovingly nourished and nurtured. "Love is a flower" , he told us, "You've got to let it grow".

All he was saying was, "Give peace a chance".

Had he not chosen music as a profession, we
would still be talking about John Lennon twenty-eight years after his death, I am convinced of that. When he decided to pick up the guitar, the world lost a great comedian. Oh, man! Was he funny! The human race was introduced to the twisted humor of John Lennon early on in 1964, when he published a book of poems and sketches called In His Own Write. One piece of lovably bent prose that stands out is an hysterically funny little verse called Good Dog Nigel:

Arf! Arf! He goes a sight
Our little hairy friend
Arf! Upon the lamppost bright
Arfing 'round the bend

Nice dog! Goo boy!
Waggie tail and beg
Clever Nigel, jump for joy
Because we're putting you to sleep a
t three o'clock, Nigel
`
What can I tell you. The man was a hoot.
`
We can still hear that beautiful, otherworldly voice, forever young, eternally irreverent. John Lennon left an indelible mark on our culture that cannot be denied. He is still a very real part of our lives, almost as much as he was all those years ago when he walked among us. Thanks to the miracle of recorded sound, the voice of John Lennon can still be heard, a lingering ghost from our past that refuses to fade into the void. At least we have that to be grateful for. Dr. Winston won't be going away any time soon.
`
When a celebrated person passes on, we may pause and reflect for a moment on his or her life and career, but then we move on. We may watch with appreciation the brilliant performance of a long dead James Dean in the film Giant and think not a thing about his absence from our lives. That's not the case in this instance.
`
I sure do miss John Lennon.
`
Before you cross the street
Take my hand
Life is what happens to you
While you're busy making other plans

`
Anyone who was living in Goshen, NY in December 1980 will remember this:

Five days after he died, on Saturday the thirteenth, a worldwide vigil in John's memory was held at 2 PM EST. For ten minutes there was silence - peace - all across the planet earth. I had a couple friends over to observe the event on television. In the village of Goshen, although it had been a clear and sunny day, the moment the vigil began at two o'clock, it began to snow - and not just flurries - for ten solid minutes there was a blinding blizzard. At exactly 2:10, the moment the vigil ended, the snow stopped and the sun came out. His child-like, 1971 anthem, Imagine, drifted through the ether:

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

It was only at that moment that I felt happy for John Lennon.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
tomdegan@frontiernet.net
`
AFTERTHOUGHT:
The photograph of John Lennon at the top of this posting, was taken late in the afternoon of December 8, 1980, just hours before he was murdered.
`
SUGGESTED READING:

JOHN LENNON: The Life
by Philip Norman

In forty-three days, we'll have a new president. Hang in there.

Shh! Click on the tiny box to the left....

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The De Facto President


It must be a truly horrible thing to be George W. Bush these days. The man has slid into absolute irrelevance. Let history note that the administration of Barack Obama began in the early morning hours of November 5, 2008. Bush is commander-in-chief in name only. Every public appearance he makes is only another embarrassing reminder of the utter failure of his reign of terror and error. My advice to the hideous little thug? Just hand the keys to the Executive Mansion over to President-elect Obama, pack up your gear and just go away. You've made such a bloody mess of things, your name (and those of your father and grandfather) will forever be synonymous with failure, incompetence and corruption. Your administration has made Warren Harding's Ohio Gang look like the freaking Founding Fathers. Richard Nixon is now being favorably compared to Abraham Lincoln. You've set the bar so low, it will be generations before the damage you've done to the office of the presidency will be fully undone. Go away, George. Please, just go away.

Last week on the eve of Thanksgiving, Barack Obama was consumed from dawn to twilight interviewing the new members of his administration, meeting with advisers, speaking on the telephone with governors of both parties from all over the country, conferring with world leaders and diplomats, fine-tuning what will be his team's economic policy, consulting with and being debriefed by key members of the National Security Agency and the CIA, holding press conferences - among Heaven knows what else. And what was George Bush's big event of the day, you may well ask? Pardoning a turkey.

The presidential tradition of the annual turkey pardon began in 1945. President Truman took such a shining to the bird that was presented to him that year, he just couldn't bring himself to eat the poor thing. So began the tradition. Think of that: Sixty-four birds in sixty-four years spared the axe thanks to the compassion of Harry Truman!

The Thanksgiving Turkey Pardon has always been a lighthearted media event. It gives a president the opportunity to redirect, if only for a moment, the attention of the country from what otherwise might have been a depressing news week. The annual Bush parson, on the other hand, has consistently had an ominous undertone. It always reminds many of us that this is the man who, when he was in the Governor's Mansion in Austin, Texas, became the only Governor in memory (maybe in history - I'm still researching the data) who refused to commute the sentence of a single Death Row inmate. He even signed off on the executions of people who were severely retarded, those of questionable guilt, or people who had received unfair trials. One public defender actually fell asleep during the trial of a man who later was given a lethal injection. The 2000 presidential elections were in sight and he just had to prove to the nitwits who tend to vote in Republican primaries all over the country that he was "tough on crime", ya' know what I mean?

When George W. Bush was governor of Texas, one-hundred and fifty men and women were executed in the Lone Star Death House - a record unsurpassed in American history. Compassionate Conservatism indeed.

But that's all water under the bridge, isn't it? We might as well face the fact that President Obama is now in charge of our beloved nation - in fact if not in law. All that's left for Bush is the occasional photo op and mindless waves to a few carefully selected crowds of sycophantic, Right Wing robots. The guy has become the Queen Elizabeth of American politics. He doesn't look like a president. He doesn't talk like a president. He doesn't act like a president. He's an embarrassment. For the rest of our history, even if America survives well into the next millennium, the image of George W. Bush's twisted, grotesque smirk will be an eternal reminder of this generation's jaw-dropping naivete involving politics and affairs of state. The fact that this half-witted little guttersnipe was elected twice to the most powerful office in the world defies credulity. And considering the gravitas of the two men he was able to defeat, his tenure as president is all-the-more embarrassing. It is akin to Jascha Heifetz and Itzhak Perlman losing to Jack Benny on the American Idol violin competition.
`
Barack Obama, on the other hand, looks like a president! Think about that for a minute or two. On April 13, 1945, the morning after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, a long time White House employee was stunned when President Truman strolled into the Oval Office. She had never seen a president walk before. Can you imagine the mass, cosmic shock this country will experience when President Obama holds his first news conference? From coast to coast, men will be nudging their wives, "Did you hear that, Martha?? The President of the United States just put two grammatically correct sentences together! Pass me my smellin' salts, darlin'!" No doubt about it, this is a new age.

For the first time in almost a decade, we will have a chief-executive with the I.Q. higher than that of your average, deflated rubber life raft. Should a hostile nation (let's say Iran just for the sake of argument) attack the United States between now and 2017 (That's right, I'm predicting two terms) it is hard, if not impossible to predict how President Barack Obama will react. But I promise you this: He won't respond by invading Canada. Trust me on that one, kiddies.

I don't think I'm giving away any state secret when I mention the fact that the economy is in shambles. Yesterday, the government announced what anyone paying attention has known for months: We're in a serious recession. It's difficult to say how an Obama administration is going to solve the problem. Odds are that they won't be able to totally alleviate the situation during their term of office. But of this you may be absolutely certain: They won't be giving a further tax break to a class of people whom already have more money than they know what to do with.

No one is perfect. Occasionally people are not competent to rise to the challenge that is placed before them. I imagine Barack Obama's administration will not be an exception to this rule. How the new president will respond to the failures of any of his subordinates cannot be predicted. But it is a cinch to say that he won't send them on their way with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Call it a hunch on my part.

It's a safe bet that Barack Obama will not be paying favored columnists two-quarters-of-a-million dollars in taxpayer money to promote his agenda - as Bush did. He will not be torturing POWs in clear violation of American and international law - as Bush did. He won't be violating treaties the United States has made with other nations - as Bush did. He won't be listening in on private phone conversations without the legally mandated warrant - as Bush did. He will not invade sovereign nations under false pretences and commit genocide in the process - as Bush did. Also, Barack Obama will not be remembered as the first former president to go to federal prison - as Bush will - I PROMISE YOU THAT.

And not to exclude poor old Joe Biden from the conversation, it's also a pretty safe bet that our new vice-president won't be shooting anybody in the face any time soon.

A year ago, on the very last posting of the year on this site, I predicted that 2008 would be remembered as the year our entire economy collapsed. Although all of the warning signs were in the air, it was a tough call nonetheless. Here's my prediction for 2009 (and this isn't a tough call, this is a no-brainer): Next year, the economic difficulty we are experiencing now will be transformed into an economic nightmare. In fact, things are going to get much worse next year - COUNT ON IT.

As stated in the previous post, the new administration would do well to study the successes and mistakes made by the new Roosevelt administration seventy-six years ago. Like those New Dealers of long ago, the "Change We Can Believe In" crowd are inheriting an economic catastrophe. The challenge facing them in the next eight years cannot be understated.

Can you even imagine how bleak the situation would be at this moment had John McCain won the election? Phil Gramm would now be the Secretary of the Treasury Designate! I've got two brothers who live abroad. Had McCain and Gidget von Braun won, I wouldn't now be living in the United States, I've got news for you! If America had continued down that road, this country would have been finished. The best thing that can be said of 2008 is that it was the year WE the PEOPLE were slapped awake from the Right Wing coma we've been slumbering under since the day we sent a dirty old dingbat named Ronald Reagan to the White House almost three decades ago. For many of us, in many ways too numerous to mention, 2008 was a transformational year. We are feeling more hopeful than we have felt in a very long time.

So good luck to you, President Obama! You've got one hell of a road ahead of you, that's for sure. The ship of state you are now navigating will rarely cross calm seas; your compass will on occasion cease to function properly. But you've got a competent, reliable team behind you. It's refreshing, to be sure, to see an administration that is not packed to the rafters with fools and political hacks. All thinking people will sleep a little sounder in the years to come knowing that the man sitting in the Oval Office is able and intelligent.

It all seems too good to be true. Come to think about it, it probably is too good to be true.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY.
tomdegan@frontiernet.net

In homage to Beth Quinn, who always closed her column in the Middletown, NY, Times Herald Record reminding us how many days were left until Bush was out of office - until that paper was purchased by Rupert Murdoch and she was summarily fired:

There are forty-nine days until this disgusting administration is thrown onto history's shit pile.