Sunday, March 29, 2009

Lethal Nation


Nice kitty....

From yesterday's cover story in the Middletown, New York Times Herald-Record:


GUN RESTRICTION FEAR DRIVES SALES FRENZY
Reported by John Sullivan:

MONROE, NY - "Fears that a liberal presidential administration will impose more restrictions on gun ownership have triggered [no pun intended, I'm sure] a frenzy of gun buying at local suppliers, who are struggling to restock their shelves with firearms and ammunition."

Well now! Isn't it heartening to know that in these hideously desperate economic times, there is still an industry that is recession proof? Thank heavens for these little blessings!

QUESTION: Have you ever had a loved one shot and killed in an act of mindless gun violence?

ANSWER: If you haven't, you will. Count on it. Your elected representatives will see to that.

As Americans arm themselves to the teeth, the law of averages will eventually forbid such an unspeakable tragedy from not touching the lives of almost everyone.
It has already happened to my family - twice. Two female cousins of mine - who never even had the joy of meeting one another - (one on my mother's side, the other on my father's) both died as the result of being murdered by men who were stalking them. Don't for a moment reflect on the passive tranquility of your lives and delude yourself into thinking, "It can't happen here". It can. It will. Whether child, parent, sibling, cousin or friend; gun violence will touch your seemingly untouchable lives eventually. Count on it.

I was never a great admirer of the governing style of Bill Clinton. As I mentioned in last week's posting,"....no Democrat since Johnson (Andrew, not Lyndon) was a more bitter disappointment than William Jefferson Clinton." But while Bubbah did get a lot wrong, we must be fair to the poor old bugger by conceding that he did get a lot right. One of the areas in which he was very, VERY right was when his administration initiated a ban on assault rifles. It was George W. Bush who stupidly allowed that ban to expire. You're not surprised. I didn't think you would be.

I don't know the name of the person who designed the first rapid-fire weapon, but whatever his name was (and he had to be a man - women just aren't that cruel) he only had one purpose in mind: to kill as many human beings as quickly and as efficiently as possible. The corrupt Republican (and more than a few Democratic) politicians who are bought and paid for by the National Rifle Association have the blood of innocents on their greedy little hands. The people who manufacture these weapons are making a killing - figuratively and literally. And nowhere has the pungent aroma of their profit been more apparent in recent years than on the southern side of the Mexican/American border. Ninety percent of the guns that are being used in the atrocities committed daily are being purchased - legally - on the northern side of the border.

And now the violence between Mexico's drug cartels is spilling over into the good ol' U.S. of A. Regular Americans are becoming the hapless victims of this mindless narco-insanity. And why not? It is America's mind-fuckingly stupid gun laws that are pouring fuel in the inferno. Maybe that's poetic justice - who knows? But it is nonetheless exasperating in the heat of what can only be described as an international crisis, to hear these foolish American extremists declare that Mexico's problem should not interfere with our Second Amendment rights. Right.

"We got guns. They got guns. All God's chil'en got guns."

The Marx Brothers
From the 1932 film Duck Soup

From a Pulitzer Prize-deserving article by Guy Lawson in the March 19 issue of Rolling Stone:

"
'Mexico is on the edge of the abyss' retired U.S. general and former drug czar Barry McCaffery wrote in a strategic assessment at the end of last year. Michael Hayden, the outgoing head of the CIA, said in January that the threat of a narco state in Mexico is one of the gravest dangers to American security, on a par with a nuclear-armed Iran. A recent report by the U.S. Joint Forces Command likens instability in Mexico to the risk of a failed state in Pakistan, warning that a 'rapid and sudden collapse' could occur in the coming years. 'Any descent by Mexico into chaos,' the report concludes, 'would demand an American response based on the serious implications for homeland security alone'"

In other words: probable war with Mexico in the next decade. Aren'cha excited? I know I sure am! The last Mexican/American war was waged by President Polk one-hundred and sixty years ago. We're overdue.

MESSAGE TO AMERICAN POTHEADS:
Now is the time for all good men
and women to come to the aid of their country. Start growing your own. That would be one of the most patriotic things a habitual smoker of marijuana could do at this moment. I'm not trying to be funny here. I am dead serious.

MESSAGE TO PRESIDENT OBAMA AND THE CONGRESS:
The so-called "War on Drugs", which this country has been mindlessly waging for almost four decades, has been a spectacular failure. The legalization of marijuana - at the very least - is long overdue. Such a legislative move would solve a lot (although certainly not all) of our problems along the border. Compared to alcohol and nicotine it is relatively harmless. Is it a "gateway drug"? In some cases it can be. So is Ballantine Ale. So is Brotherhood Wine. Grow up.

As long as most of the victims of the unspeakable violence are brown-skinned Mexicans, count on American politicians (President Obama included, I'm sorry to say) to do absolutely nothing. What has to happen is for a whole lot of white Americans children to be slaughtered in the crossfire. That'll wake the silly bastards up really quick, don'cha think?

Guns don't kill people. People kill people. Sure.

In the meantime the bodies are just going to continue to pile up everywhere. Not just along the border and in the blood-stained streets of American cities, but in the Our Towns of Thorton Wilder's Middle America. Let's not kid ourselves, boys and girls; Columbine and Virginia Tech were merely nasty little sneaks preview of the social holocaust that's right around the corner. Do you think I'm kidding? The sad fact is that America is armed and dangerous. The next decade will see the trillion dollar shithammer hitting the fan and it ain't gonna be pretty.

I used to envy children. Not anymore. Not anymore.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
tomdegan@frontiernet.net

SUGGESTED VIEWING:

Bowling For Columbine
A film by Michael Moore

AFTERTHOUGHT, April 3, 2009, 4:47 PM:

This morning a lone gunman shot and killed at least thirteen people in Binghampton, NY. Not that I need to rub this in, but we had all better get used to this sort of thing. How timely.

AFTERTHOUGHT, April 4, 2009. 12:01 PM:

Three police officers have just been shot and killed in Pittsburgh, PA. No comment.

AFTERTHOUGHT, April 6, 2009, 10:14 AM:

It was just announced on MSNBC three minutes ago that a man in the state of Washington named James Harrison shot and killed his five children before killing himself. Nice.


AFTERTHOUGHT, July 20, 2012, 12:20 AM:

Three years later and the hits just keep on coming, folks! Some demented freak named James Holmes opens fire on a midnight showing of a new movie. Twelve innocent young people are killed. Bless the NRA.

For more recent postings on "The Rant" please go to the following link:

"The Rant" by Tom Degan

Vicious, commie propaganda

Monday, March 23, 2009

Stupid, Stupid Democrats


WASHINGTON (AP) - Moderate Democrats in Congress, including Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, are nudging their party's liberal agenda to the center.
`
They're trying to add a pro-business dose of pragmatism to President Barack Obama's plans to rescue homeowners, overhaul health care and revamp energy policy.
`
Bayh's group of about 15 centrists in the Senate could be a critical voting bloc.
`
He says the group won't be obstructionist. But he says most matters need sixty votes in the Senate, and his group will be a key to making that happen.

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

Good morning Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea....

Well now! You would think that the Democrats would start to show some long overdue profiles in courage now that they are firmly back in power, wouldn't you? Wouldn't you? Think again.

A tip of the hat to that silly party is in order. Once in a blue moon I'll find myself trying to remember why I disengaged myself from that stupid organization over a decade ago. But as soon as the thought crosses my mind, they will cheerfully remind me. At a time when the nation is desperate to take a decided turn to the left, a number of Democrats are in the process of sabotaging that party's traditional progressive agenda

Last week on MSNBC's Morning Joe, the announcement was made that Evan Bayh (pictured above) was going to be providing that program with an exclusive. Sure enough, within an hour, there was the distinguished senator from Indiana telling Joe Scarborough and Mika Brezezinski that he had organized a group of "moderate" Democrats in the senate whose sole purpose was keeping that party's Liberal wing in check.

First of all, let's get honest here. The goal of Bayh and his co-saboteurs is not to nudge "their party's liberal agenda to the center". Their purpose is to force that party's essentially centrist agenda to the far right. They are also positioning themselves to have their collective butts kissed by the party's rank and file in order to get anything done legislatively. Call it what you will, but my definition is outright political blackmail. It is one of the most disgusting power plays I've seen come from within "the party of FDR" in a long time. Count on it: Bayh is positioning himself to challenge President Obama in the primaries three years from now. Gee, I wonder if Evan Bayh would have been this dead-set against the president's agenda had he been chosen to be second on the ticket? This has got to be revenge.

To paraphrase the late, great Mr. Fred Rogers: "Can you say 'Contemptible Bastard'? Sure you can!"

Treacherous Democrats are hardly a new phenomenon. Remember poor old, crazy Zell Miller challenging Chris Matthews to a duel immediately after addressing the 2004 Republican convention? Or how about "loyal Democrat" Joe Lieberman who refused to accept the verdict of his party when they denied him the nomination three years ago? He ran as an Independent and defeated the Democratic nominee. To show that there were no hard feelings, Joe would endorse John McCain in '08 and even did an award winning reprise of Zell Miller's much heralded performance when he made a key note speech at the GOP's convention last summer. Do you remember all of those cowardly Democrats who stupidly voted to give George W. Bush the authority to invade the sovereign nation of Iraq in October of 2002 without the constitutionally mandated Congressional approval? As far as yours truly is concerned, that party has damned near lost all of its much lamented credibility. As Theodore Roosevelt once said of President McKinley, they have "all the backbone of a chocolate eclair".

And while we're on the subject of wayward Democratic politicians, let us not forget the entire eight year reign of Bill Clinton. Clinton could have (and should have) put an end to the era of deregulatory madness that began with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. Instead he ended up merely passively enabling it. For the first two years of his administration he had a majority in both houses of Congress and he blew it. Although he was an able and competent chief executive in many substantial ways, no Democrat since Johnson (Andrew, not Lyndon) was a more bitter disappointment than William Jefferson Clinton.

I quit drugs in 1977. It's days like these when I seriously consider taking up the habit again. Oy vey!

Show me a "conservative Democrat" and I'll show you just another cheap politician who has been bought and paid for by Corporate America.
These so-called moderate Democrats are in the back pockets of the lobbyists who pay for their 'round-the-world "fact finding" jaunts, private jets and free, gourmet meals at five Star Restaurants. Every member of that party should ask him or herself the following questions: "Am I going to be a Joe Lieberman Democrat or a Russ Feingold Democrat? Am I going to be a Franklin Roosevelt Democrat or a Bill Clinton Democrat?" Damned good questions. Any answers?

What in the name of Mitch Miller is going on here? What the hell is the matter with these people? And while we're on the subject, what is the matter with Barack Obama? While it would be wrong to make an etched-in-stone, definitive assessment of his administration after only two months and three days, it's all too apparent that the man is off to a disastrous start. The editorial pages are packed to the margins with opinions as to why this would be so. Would you like to hear mine? The president has made a horrific error by placing within his administration men and women who are so ideologically out of step with the progressive ideas he envisioned during last year's campaign, they have rendered his programs impotent. To put it as simply as I can:

There are way too many Republicans in this administration.

Call it a hunch on my part, but I have a suspicion that putting Timothy Geitner in charge of a department
he once tried to abolish was not a particularly smart idea. Come to think of it, it was a monumentally stupid one. While there were indeed a number of Republicans within the New Deal, they at least believed in the agenda. And don't forget that in 1933, there still existed a progressive wing of the GOP, a direct legacy of FDR's distant cousin, Theodore. That is no longer the case - far from it.

And speaking of the New Deal (and it's all-but-impossible not to refer to it during these trying times) I expected this president to have, at the very least, a remedial understanding of American history. During the campaign he constantly referred to Doris Kearns-Goodwin's excellent biography of Abraham Lincoln, Team of Rivals. As I said at the time, right author, wrong book. The book he should have been reading was her bio of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, No Ordinary Time. The reason New Deal was so successful three-quarters-of-a-century ago (recent right wing revisionism notwithstanding) was because Franklin Roosevelt's Brain Trust understood full well that 1933 was not a time for caution and timidity; it was a time for bold, experimental "action" - a word that Roosevelt used consistently in his speeches at the time. Why does President Obama seem to not get this? If he continues on the course which he has apparently set for himself, he is doomed to failure. Remember you read it here on The Rant, Mr. and Mrs. America.

It is high time that the Dems throw some ice-cold water on their clueless faces and realize that their entire reason for being is not to position themselves as
Republican Lite. They are - or at least they're supposed to be - the party of progressiveness. They can begin by ensuring that those "timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat", the Evan Bayh crowd, are badly defeated in the primaries of 2010 and 2012. This country can only be saved by making a hard turn toward the left. That is not merely my humble opinion, that is a statement that is backed up by two-and-a-third centuries of historical fact.

Wake up, Democrats, it's later than you think.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
tomdegan@frontiernet.net


YO, DEMS! HERE'S SOME SUGGESTED READING FOR YOU:

Profiles in Courage
by John F. Kennedy

Jack Kennedy. Remember him?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Jackals and Jackasses


Frank Rich (photo left) is my favorite columnist. Early every Sunday morning - before I even brush my teeth - the first thing I do after I open my eyes is run to my computer to read what the Frankster, a former Broadway critic turned political commentator, has to say about the abysmal state of the nation. Yesterday's column, entitled "The Culture Warriors Get Laid Off" was a typical gem of an exceedingly frank Richism from which I quote:

"What has happened between 2001 and 2009 to so radically change the cultural climate? Here, at last, is one piece of good news in our global economic meltdown: Americans have less and less patience for the intrusive and divisive moral scolds who thrived in the bubbles of the Clinton and Bush years. Culture wars are a luxury the country — the G.O.P. included — can no longer afford".

The nicest thing about Mr. Frank's very nice column is that he encourages his on-line readers to become part of the dialogue and offers a forum where they - we - can post our own opinions. Occasionally (if I behave myself and refrain from the naughty invective for which I am not unknown) he'll even allow the likes of me to become part of the discussion. So it was yesterday:

"The morality police - the bloviating gas bags of the religious right - have fallen lower than the stock market. I agree with Frank Rich that this can only be a good thing....It has truly been an amazing (and amusing) thing to watch these so-called "spokesmen of Christ" defending the morally indefensible these past thirty years. And now - finally - they're going away. It seems an answer to a prayer. Thank you, Lord."

"Blessed are the peace makers,
For they shall be called sons [and daughters] of God.
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth."

From the Gospel According to Matthew

As Rich pointed out, one of the first casualties of the stock market crash of 1929 were the holier-than-thou fools who, ten years before, had forced the Eighteenth Amendment down the throats of the American people. That stupid law, which banned the use and sale of alcohol nationwide, guaranteed the rise of the organized crime syndicates that are still a parasite on our social fabric ninety years later. After 1929, the jackals and jackasses who made that situation possible ("The Drys" they were called, damned near all of them Republicans - Surprise! Surprise!) became political pariahs; forever exiled from serious participation in America's national conversation. "The Wets", those who favored repealing the Eighteenth Amendment, won the day.

This week, the ideological heirs of The Drys, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter - that crowd - seem to be in a state of maniacal panic. They can see the proverbial writing on the wall. The American people, after thirty years of blissful slumber deep in their sweet little Right Wing Coma, have awaken to the nasty reality of the social and economic carnage of the Reagan/Bush/Clinton/Bush years. On Election Day last, they wisely decided to take a turn to the left.

Watching the Conservative spin machine go into overdrive this week was a truly funny thing to behold. God bless 'em! They were all right on message with their pathetic little talking points! From Limbaugh telling an audience of wild-eyed sycophantic robots that he wanted to see our new president fail - to Mitch McConnell standing up on the floor of the senate saying that the New Deal was a total failure - it was the kind of moment where one is truly torn between two competing desires: To vomit - or not to vomit. That is the question.

But my particular favorite moment was yesterday morning watching Dick Cheney being interviewed by CNN's John King. I have to give a tip of the hat to Cheney. When he was (quite literally) wheeled out of the White House on Inauguration Day, I was a little overcome with emotion. I really was going to miss the gales of accidental comedy which he so effortlessly and generously provided me during the previous eight, long years. Not to worry, Degan! The hideous old pervert just refuses to go away. I'm so utterly consumed with happiness, I could weep with joy. In fact, I think I will - Excuse me....

[LONG AWKWARD PAUSE]

I'm back....I'm sorry. Where was I? Oh yeah!....

Cheney's interview on CNN yesterday was an absolute hoot and a half! For someone like me who spends his spare time siphoning the political streams for little golden nuggets of unintentional humor, it was a strike even I could not have anticipated. I stood up in my living room in front of the television and yelled out as loud as I possibly could:

"GOLD!!!"


Who (or what) do you think Dick Cheney held responsible for the utter implosion of the American economy? Could it have possibly been the result of thirty years of mindless deregulation and greed on the part of Republican (and more than a few Democratic) politicians and Wall Street operators? Might the blame lie with an administration that pissed away a trillion dollars of our country's treasure on an unnecessary, stupid war that never should have been fought in the first place? Might it have been the fact that while this incredibly expensive war was draining the economy, these assholes were giving a tax break to a class of people who already had more money than they knew what to do with? Or might it have something to do with the fact that for three long decades, they utterly neglected America's decimated infrastructure?

Nah! It was none of that!

So at whose doorstep did the former vice-president lay the blame for the cataclysmic meltdown that the American economy is now experiencing? Barack Obama. That's right! You heard me! Barack Obama. Honestly, I'm not makin this stuff up, folks!

Forget the undeniable fact that the market crashed on September 15, almost two months before Senator Obama was elected - over four months before President Obama was even inaugurated. Forget the fact that people who were paying attention have been predicting for years that what happened last September was an inevitability (People like me: I would refer you to the pieces I wrote on June 8, 2008 and December 30, 2007). Just forget all about that. It doesn't matter. It's immaterial. Barack Obama and the Democrats are responsible for all of our nations woes. To paraphrase that grand and immortal philosopher, the late and lamented Groucho Marx, "Who are you gonna believe - me or your own lying eyes?"

Yeah, I know what you're thinking; No, it really doesn't get any stupider than this. It really doesn't.

And then last week, like a desperate cry in the darkness came a voice of reason. The amazing thing is the fact that this voice didn't come from the offices of MoveOn.org or Democracy Now; this voice came from an active, participating member of the Republican Party! And it wasn't the voice of some battle-scarred old sage with decades of political fights behind him; it was the voice of a girl - or, at the very least, a very young lady just barely removed from childhood. It was the voice of Meghan McCain, the daughter of the former GOP nominee, begging, pleading with her party - literally a voice in the wilderness - to come back to the principles her grand old party (such as it was) once stood for.

And how did the propagandists on the Right respond to this rare voice of reason from within an extremely unreasonable political organization? The only thing that shrill Conservatives like Laura Ingraham could come up with was to make a few snide cracks about her weight. How's that for reasoned discourse? And what was Meghan McCain's response to this?

"They can kiss my fat ass!"

FOR THE RECORD: She's a perfectly lovely young lady - if somewhat misguided (Remember, she did vote for her dad and Gidget von Braun!). If the so-called "party of Lincoln" (TOO FUNNY!) has any future (and that is highly doubtful at this stage) that future is personified in the image of Meghan McCain - not Michelle Malkin.

So sit back, folks, and enjoy the show. The next year or so is going to be very interesting and extremely entertaining. The philosophy of the Reagan Revolution has been pulverized to dust. The Far Right is imploding. Isn't it a beautiful thing to behold? Someone pinch me.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
tomdegan@frontiernet.net

SUGGESTED READING:

The Greatest Story Ever Sold
by Frank Rich

Monday, March 09, 2009

Weekend at Franklin's




"But first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror - which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

Franklin D. Roosevelt
1st Inaugural Address
March 4, 1933

Dan O'Brien is one of my oldest friends in the world. Born on August 4, 1958 he is twelve days older than I and (he believes) at least seven and a half months wiser. Although politically he leans slightly right-of-center (let's cut the man some slack - he's spent the last quarter century in Florida and Wisconsin) he is still enough of a free-thinker that, were he to run for president as a Republican candidate, he would not win a single primary south of the Delaware water gap.
Recently, Dan decided to take a little Northward Ho sabbatical and pay a two-week visit to Goshen, NY where we both grew up. I moved back to Goshen in 1992. Dan has not been here since the Christmas holiday season of 1988 when he stopped by my parent's house to pay a visit to my father who was then dying of brain cancer.

One of the best things about the part of the country in which I live is the fact that I am a mere forty miles from Hyde Park, NY, where is located the life-long home and final resting place of the Rolls Royce of chiefs-executive, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. From where my van is now parked, I drive one mile through the village of Goshen to Route 17. Heading west, I travel four miles to exit twenty-one. There I get on Route 84 and travel twenty-one miles. At exit ten I make a decided (although not extreme) left turn at the bottom of the ramp and journey fifteen miles up Route 9W to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial Bridge. Once I cross the Hudson River into Poughkeepsie, it is a scant four miles up Rte 9 to the Roosevelt Library and Museum. Since I will normally resort to any excuse to drop by the joint, Dan's visit to New York State was all the reason I needed. And so we went - on two consecutive days.

As I wrote on this site almost a year-and-a-half ago on, visiting the FDR Library is (for me anyway) therapeutic. No matter how crazy things might get, I always walk away from the place feeling a little better about the United States. The last eight years have been enough of a train wreck to try the soul of any clear thinking man or woman. Not surprisingly, I have found myself making more frequent pilgrimages to the FDR Library. After two solid days (which included two tours of the mansion, expertly given by Mr. John Fox) I am more hopeful about this brilliant but troubled country than I have been for a very, very long time.

From The Rant, September 21, 2007:

"It was said of him at the time of his death on April 12, 1945, 'Although he never regained the use of his legs - much as he wanted to; much as he tried - he taught a crippled nation how to walk again.' He was the pampered son of privilege from Hyde Park, NY whose battle with polio, begun in the summer of 1921, ingrained into his soul a deep and abiding empathy for the suffering of others that had previously been somewhat lacking in him. Through the development of a series of radical, revolutionary programs - unparalleled in history - which his administration brought into the main stream of American social engineering, he was able to usher millions of regular people into the ranks of a middle class that had not even existed before he took the oath of office on March 4, 1933. It is now almost a cliche but it is as true as the rising sun: He saved capitalism by 'tempering its excesses'. The people would elect him to an unprecedented four terms. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was - beyond a doubt - the greatest president in American history."

On entering the grounds of the FDR Library, a person with a decent sense of historical perspective is overcome by the aura of Roosevelt - or, as I like to call it "the Frankie vibe". A new exhibit which was added almost a year ago is called "The First Hundred Days". It is a grim reminder of what life was like for too many people in this country seventy-six years ago. It might also be a disturbing precursor to what may yet come to pass. We shall see.

It is not by accident that FDR has been the most talked about former president in recent months. The similarities (and there are a number of them) between the economic calamities of 1933 and 2009 are close enough that one should be forgiven for breaking out in a cold sweat. The situation is not - at this writing anyway - at the point of no return - or at least I don't think it is. But while walking through the corridors of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum with my old pal Danny O'Brien, it is next-to-impossible to avoid asking the musical question: Why? Why did the American people essentially reject the tried and true philosophy of the New Deal almost three decades ago and replace it with the "trickle down" insanity of the Reagan/Bush era? After twenty-nine years of consistently voting against their economic interests, the middle class has awaken to find themselves teetering on the edge of the precipice. Did you have a nice little nappy time, kiddies?

After having spent the better part of Friday afternoon touring the library, taking in the exhibits and pausing for a quiet meditation in the rose garden where Franklin and Eleanor today lie side by side, we made our way home to Goshen where we watched the four-hour documentary on Roosevelt's life that appeared on PBS's American Experience over ten years ago. The following morning, Dan was still possessed enough of the Frankie vibe that he insisted on going back for another look. When you purchase a ticket for a guided tour of the Roosevelt homestead, it is valid for two days. We decided to take advantage of this nifty little deal. Saturday morning, after a quick breakfast at our friend Pete's Smith's diner, Elsie's, on West Main Street (How's that for a shameless plug?), we were on our way back to Hyde Park.

Again, from The Rant, 9/21/07:

"His smiling, jolly disposition which was always on display for the press and newsreel photographers, belied the hidden reality of a deeply complex man - many layered, indefinable, even tormented. His closest confidantes would testify years after his passing that they always had the feeling that they never really knew him. Emotionally he would keep even his loved ones at bay - so difficult was it for him to reach out on an intimate level to another human being. Throughout his life he would project to the world and to those around him, a cheerful - albeit guarded - amiability. That he could be devious at times there is no doubt. He enjoyed setting members of his own cabinet against one another in order to play for time in pursuit of the desired solution to whatever pending political problem that might have been manifesting itself at any given moment. But his all-too-obvious human frailties should not distract us from the larger picture: We are a better nation because of Franklin Roosevelt - and far too many Americans are abysmally ignorant of this fact."

For my money, the most interesting part of the museum is the Eleanor Roosevelt Wing. God blessed America by uniting this extraordinary man with so extraordinary a woman. We now know that theirs was a difficult, troubled union. Eleanor's discovery in 1918 of Franklin's love affair with her secretary, Lucy Paige Mercer, forever ended the intimacies of their marriage. But the political partnership between these two remarkable human beings - which slowly evolved in the years after he was stricken with infantile paralysis in 1921 - would change the way the American people viewed their relationship with government. Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt were guided by the peculiar notion that our government is the servant of the people. According to them the purpose of representation in Washington involved a whole lot more than making war and passing bad laws. For their effort and collective vision, the sociological face of America would be permanently altered - or at least until 1981.

(HISTORICAL NOTE: Lucy Mercer was a distant cousin of mine. We are both direct descendants of the Carroll family of Maryland, America's first Catholic dynasty; one of whom, Charles Carroll, signed his name to the Declaration of Independence. As I told our guide, Mr. Fox, "I come from a long line of home wreckers").

In 1939, the African American contralto, Marian Anderson, was denied the chance to sing in Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution for no other reason than the fact that her skin was dark. When Eleanor Roosevelt got word of this incredibly stupid development, she resigned her membership in that organization and arranged for Ms. Anderson to sing in front of the Lincoln Memorial. On that day, Easter Sunday 1939, she performed in front of an unprecedented audience of 75,000 people, black and white. As Marian Anderson sang My Country 'Tis of Thee and Schubert's Ave Maria under the statue of the great emancipator, who among the multitude gathered there at that historic moment would have dared to realize that they were witnessing the birth of the modern Civil Rights Movement? The real, tangible legacy of that day is the administration of President Barack Obama.

Hooray for Marian Anderson and Eleanor Roosevelt!

Walking away from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum, one is reminded that what once worked so well for the American people can indeed be made to work again. That is not meant to imply that we are the same country we were in 1933 - we're not. But the basic premise of President Roosevelt's legacy - that government can be a tool to provide for the comfort and happiness of all people - is an idea that is far from dead. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

As we ended our final visit on late Saturday afternoon, I turned to my old friend of three-and-a-half decades and asked him, "Do you understand why I love this man so much"? Dan O'Brien understood. He's still decidedly Conservative but I'm working on him. That's what friends are for, right?

Now if you'll please forgive me, I've got to get ready for the big day ahead. Me 'n' Dan are on our way to the town of New Paltz, NY to view the world's largest privately held collection of French postcards. Va va voom!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
tomdegan@frontiernet.net

SUGGESTED READING:

No Ordinary Time:
Life in Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt's Washington
by Doris Kearns-Goodwin

AFTERTHOUGHT:

In the photographs at the top of this piece, I am shown on the south lawn of the mansion which overlooks the Hudson River. In the photo just below, Dan O'Brien is shown at the grave site of President and Mrs. Roosevelt.

For more recent postings on this hideous blog, please go to the following link:

"THE RANT" by TOM DEGAN

Celebrate the First Amendment!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Ronald Reagan Is Dead

"In the present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem."

Ronald Reagan
January 20, 1981

THIS JUST IN: Ronald Reagan has died.

Yes, I know what you're saying. You're probably asking yourself, "Does Tom Degan even read the papers?" I realize that the feeble-minded old freak shuffled off this mortal coil nearly four years ago. What I'm trying to say is that with President Obama's address to the Congress and the nation last week (and the overwhelmingly positive reaction to that speech) the co-called "Reagan Revolution" which (let's face some serious facts here) has been in its death knells for over two years now, was declared dead; deader than the Gipper himself. The Reagan/Gingrich Revolution is history. It's over. Goodbye and good riddance.

I am completely ashamed to make this confession but since I've made it on this page before, I might as well come clean to those of you who have only recently started reading The Rant:

I voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980.

This is not to imply that twenty-nine years ago (Eek Gads! Where has the time gone!) I was ideologically in tune with Reagan and that in subsequent years I have seen the light. The sad, pathetic truth of the matter is that on the evening of Tuesday, November 4, 1980 I got so falling-down intoxicated, I voted for the man just as a joke. A failed, "B" movie actor in the White House? That ought to be good for a nice, long chuckle , I thought. Nearly three decades later, I'm not laughing.

On that ominous night, I was a reporter for a community radio station that has since been Clear Channeled out of existence, W-ALL of Middletown, NY. I had been assigned the task of covering the Republicans. But since they had all skipped out of town to celebrate "this great victory for the American people" at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, I had no other choice but to walk across the street with my recording gear in hand to the restaurant where the Democrats were holding what I can only describe as the political equivalent of an Irish wake. I was more than happy to participate in their joyful, drunken mourning. At exactly 8:45 PM, with fifteen minutes left before the polls closed, I staggered one/tenth of a mile to the Town Hall and voted. It was in that condition that I cast my precious ballot for the likes of Ronald Wilson Reagan.

Mothers Against Drunk Voters. Does such an organization even exist? It should, you know. It really should.

If the era of deregulated, "government is the problem" madness was delivered a knockout punch on Election Day last, President Obama's speech to the nation on Tuesday night, I am convinced, will prove to be the death blow. Anyone who denies as much is being delusional. As they did seventy-six years ago this Wednesday when they elevated Franklin Delano Roosevelt to the presidency, the American people, whether they fully understand it or not, have taken a decided turn to the left. The pendulum has swung the other way, baby!

As I
always like to remind people, I never once - not even for a minute - succumbed to Ronniemania. My inebriated vote of 1980 notwithstanding, I just never got Ronald Reagan. Nearly thirty years has passed between then and now and I still don't get it. The "sunny optimism" that so many of my clueless, fellow countrymen and women found so irresistible, I always saw for what it obviously was: pure stagecraft. Remember, the man was a professional actor. As I wrote on this site on November 30, 2007:

"No administration had ever used television so effectively to distort reality as this one had. No administration would surpass it in its ability to "catapult the propaganda" until the second Bush administration a generation later. Reagan's career as a screen actor was pretty much kaput by the mid nineteen-sixties. His very last film, made in 1964 and called, "The Killers" (which contained an interesting scene of him beating the bleeding mortal shit out of poor little Angie Dickinson) barely registered with the public. He had come to the point in his life where he needed to make a major career change. Within two years he would be governor of California. Fourteen years after that he was living in the Executive Mansion. From being a perfectly mediocre actor to being the president of the United States of America....I'm not making this stuff up!"

Reagan's historical reputation has been that of the "Great Communicator". And why not? He was able to communicate the wonderfully silly idea that the system of programs and regulations that Franklin D. Roosevelt put into place in the nineteen-thirties - a system which, by the way, worked beautifully for over half a century - were, in fact, a bad things for the American economy. Forget the fact that the period between 1940 and 1980 saw the largest economic expansion in the history of the world; forget the fact that the middle class (which until very recently was taken for granted) didn't even exist prior to the New Deal; forget the fact that the stock market did not crash once between the day Roosevelt was inaugurated on March 4, 1933 and October 19, 1987 - nearly seven years into the Reagan presidency - forget all that. As Ronald Reagan himself once memorably said, "Facts are stubborn things". Just place your economic future into the hands of the plutocracy, my fellow Americans. The wealth will "trickle down" to the rest of you. The events that have transpired since the late summer of 2008 have forever proven the utter fallacy of that philosophy.

The fact is this: In the years between January 20, 1981 and September 15, 2008, the American people were blissfully slumbering under a self-induced, right wing coma. They awoke from that decades-long snooze to confront a plundered economic landscape. The economy has been destroyed by these hideous bastards and bitches. If the American Dream was moribund on the eve of the November election, it has at least been revived to the point where it has been put back on life support. It is my hope that President Obama is successful. But that success will come - not because of the "Grand Old Party" - but in spite of it.

This is the moment where Democrats and Progressives have to start focusing on the 2010 mid-term election - It's never too early, boys and girls! The behavior of the Republican representatives (within Congress and without) during the last month is all the proof one needs that they must be swept onto history's trash heap. The only hope for them on Election Day 2010 will be the utter failure of the president of the United States - and the American people. Rest assured between now and then, they will be attempting everything humanly possible to see to it that he does fail. Does that sound just a tad paranoid? We shall see.

While the Right Wing tries to terrify the populace with shrill cries of "SOCIALISM!", it would do us well to recall that their ideological forebears used the same tactic three-quarters-of-a-century ago when FDR presented the country with his stimulus plan. That terror is now being broadcast on a daily basis by people like Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Michael Weiner and Sean Hannity - running around the political barnyard like headless Chicken Littles: "THE SKY IS FALLING! THE SKY IS FALLING!" We would all be wise not to fall prey to their propaganda.

These may be the worst of times (no doubt about it) but in a very real way, they are the best of times as well. I don't know how you feel about things, but these are exciting times to be alive. The American people are waking up and a new social revolution is in the air. A new New Deal is within our grasp. It doesn't get any better than that. It really doesn't!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
TomDegan@frontiernet.net

SUGGESTED READING:

The Acting President
by Bob Schiefer