Friday, June 26, 2009

The Real Tragedy of Michael Jackson

This may not do me a bit of good. Gather 'round, children, while Mr. Degan commits journalistic suicide. Please forgive me for not participating in the canonization of Michael Jackson.

This is not meant as a condemnation of the man's private life, his eccentricities or the accusations hurled against him in the last decade-and-a-half of his all-too-short life. A jury found him innocent of the worse charge (other than murder) that can possibly be made against a human being. We can speculate forever but in the final analysis, we have no other choice but to respect their verdict. My problem with Michael Jackson is a bit more complicated.

One day in the Spring of 1971 I heard a song on the radio by a group called the Jackson Five that was called Never Can Say Goodbye. It was (and is to this very day) one of the most beautiful pop songs I have ever heard. A couple of months later I read in the paper that the lead singer of that tune would be celebrating his thirteenth birthday the following day on August 29. This news piqued my curiosity; I had just turned thirteen less that two weeks before on August 16. Because the two of us were born on the same month in 1958, I would find myself over the years following his triumphs with the pride of a schoolboy watching a favored classmate win the World Series one year after another.

I was also intrigued to find out that, like me, he was a stone-cold fan of Charlie Chaplin and that he had actually met the great man - as I had. Over a span of time, however, the admiration I felt toward Michael Jackson would devolve into bewilderment and, eventually, disgust.

Although I was never a huge fan of his music (my Jackson collection comprises a mere handful of 45 RPMs and one long-playing album) there was never any denying that the man was possessed of immense talent. It was my belief that, like Sinatra, he'd still be packing them in at eighty years of age. How ironic is that?

Last night in front of the Apollo Theater in Harlem, Al Sharpton was lauding Jackson as a shining example to the Black community. I am sorry but no statement could be further from the truth. At a time in history when young African American males were desperately yearning for a positive role model to look up to, Michael Jackson was running scared from his racial heritage.

This is where I will probably get myself into big trouble. After all, I'm just a middle-aged white guy (assuming I live to be one-hundred-and-one). What right have I to stand in judgment against Michael Jackson - or anybody else for that matter? My "right" (such as it is) is as a casual observer of "American pop culture" and nothing more. I attempt here to be neither psychiatrist nor sociologist.

Watching the slow evolution of his facial features throughout the years - the "Caucasianization", if you will, of Michael Jackson - could not have been something that would make your average African American kid swell up with any amount of pride. The martyred South African dissident Steve Biko used to tell his people that "Black is Beautiful". Although Jackson never dared to say it out loud, he spent most of his adult life implying that "Black is Ugly". There is no other explanation for it - none.

And here's some more irony for you: In his heyday, long before the multitude of "procedures" which would eventually alter his looks to such a horrible, even grotesque degree (procedures he would deny to his dying day) Michael Jackson was an extraordinarily good looking guy.

No one could fault him for his first plastic surgery in the early eighties. In the past many Hollywood legends, for whatever reasons (not all of them bad) have sought to "soften" their features. Actually the result of the first operation was pretty good. Picture him as he appeared in 1983 with Paul McCartney in the Say! Say! Say! video. He looked great, didn't he? Why couldn't he have left well enough alone? What the hell was he thinking?

By the turn of the new twenty-first century he no longer looked like an African American male. Do you remember that infamous mug shot after he was arraigned in 2003? He reminded me of Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest. Google both images if you think I'm exaggerating.

What has amazed me since the news of his demise came over the television yesterday afternoon are the writers who have credited Michael Jackson with being the first "cross-over" African American artist to reach a predominantly white audience. Most of those writers are in their early thirties (and, I assume, white) and may be forgiven for not remembering the names Louis Armstrong, Bert Williams, Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Sammy Davis Jr, The Mills Brothers, Josephine Baker, Jimi Hendrix, Ella Fitzgerald, Billy Eckstine, Ethel Waters, Bill Cosby, Diana Washington, Sarah Vaughan, Eartha Kitt, Chuck Berry, The Ink Spots, Little Richard, The Temptations, Sidney Poitier, Richard Pryor, Dick Gregory, Charley Pride, Flip Wilson, Stevie Wonder, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, Harry Belafonte, Diana Ross and the Supremes - and a score or more other pioneers who were able to chip away the walls of America's racial divide years before Jackson entered into our collective consciousness. That he was a major influence cannot be argued. But he was not the first - far from it.

One cannot help but wonder what might have happened had this most gifted performer not attempted to hide who he was and made more of an effort to set an example to the desperate children who shared his skin color - or used to share it anyway - the same children who would eventually seek to identify with the faux thugs and jackasses who produce "Gangsta Rap". Some of these kids - most of whom had no conscious memory of the Jackson Five or even Thriller - believed him to be white. And why shouldn't they think that? He was white! He was whiter than I - and I'm pretty damned white! (Irish complexion, you know).

To say that he was a good example for African American kids to emulate is - forgive me - one half step shy of insanity.

We have to give the man his due: Michael Jackson was - beyond a shadow of a doubt - a great artist whose recorded legacy will endure for decades, maybe even a century or more. But an examination of his life is riddled with questions of all that might have been; all that should have been. It is more than likely that this was a severely mentally ill human being who never sought the treatment he so desperately needed; surrounded by fawning sycophants who enabled his sickness by constantly reassuring him that he could do no wrong. As John Lennon once said in the same context about Elvis Presley, another victim of the excesses of fame: "It's always the courtiers that kill the king".

The sad, inescapable truth is that for reasons we will probably never be able to fully understand, his talent and his career were ultimately wasted. Like Charlie Parker, John Belushi, Montgomery Clift, Judy Garland and Lenny Bruce before him, his brilliance as an artist would be overshadowed by severe, psychological torment and an unexplainable desire for self-destruction. Therein lies the real, unspeakable tragedy of Michael Jackson.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

AFTERTHOUGHT:

Oh yeah, and by the way, Farrah Fawcett died yesterday, too.


Here's a link to read more recent postings on "The Rant":

"The Rant" by Tom Degan

Enjoy!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Freshman Diplomacy 101


Here is why Rupert Murdoch's media organization is such a beautiful, jaw-dropping delight to behold. Earlier this week on the front page of the Murdoch-owned New York Post Toasties, the cover story told of the chaos that is now underway on the streets of Tehran as a result of the new leadership that was cynically denied to the people of that country by their theocratic rulers (And let's not deceive ourselves - Ahmadinejad lost - every poll concludes as much). In huge, black letters the headline blared (So help me Mitch Miller, I am not making this stuff up):
.
"TURBAN WARFARE"
.
Rhymes with "URBAN WARFARE". Get it? The accompanying photograph showed a huge crowd of mostly men - all of them very angry - not one of them wearing a turban. Given the fact that Iran is an overwhelmingly Muslim nation, there are probably only two turban-wearing guys in the whole place. I thought it was instructive that not a single person in the Post Toastie's editorial department had the sense to figure this out. Geniuses!

"And where is our president? Afraid of "meddling." Afraid to take sides between the head-breaking, women-shackling exporters of terror -- and the people in the street yearning to breathe free. This from a president who fancies himself the restorer of America's moral standing in the world."

Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post

Mr. Krauthammer's opinion is symptomatic of the Right Wing's historical failure to grasp the subtle nuances of diplomacy. He and his comrades in the vast right wing conspiracy didn't get it six years ago either, when they were goading on former President Bush to commit the stupidest foreign policy blunder in American history by invading the sovereign nation of Iraq. And where did that get us?

Contrary to the prevailing wisdom of the eight years of the Bush Mob's reign of error, diplomacy is not - and has never been
- about such overt things as black and white (or "good and evil", if you will) It's all about those subtle and annoying little shades of gray. This is something that the yahoos and assholes who identify themselves as spokespersons of the Republican party have never been able to understand.

I am reminded of a bully that I went to grade school with. I won't mention him by name because, like all of the bullies I knew as a school boy (and this is something that has always puzzled me), he grew up to be a genuinely decent and grand human being. Whenever the bell rang for recess, this jackass (excuse me, I meant "ex-jackass") would walk onto the playground with his chin jutted out and his fists in the air, waving them to and fro in a circular motion. So anxious was this (ex) knucklehead to pound the bleeding, mortal shit out of some hapless passerby, you could almost smell his lust for violence. Whenever I saw him headed in my general direction, my common sense always got the better of me and I would remove myself from his line of vision.

In the months leading up to the war in Iraq, George W. Bush's impudent smirk as he pounded the drums of war, always made my mind flash back to this dopey kid (who today is just a gem of a human being, I promise you). Like every other kid on the playground of international diplomacy, the Iraqi people had not done anything wrong, so-to-speak, to warrant George's homicidal animosity toward them; but he was determined to steal their lunch money (read: oil) nonetheless.

Fast forward to six years later. Bush's ideological heirs are literally foaming at the mouth for Barack Obama to "take action" (most of them never exactly specifying what that "action" should be) against the government of Iran for perverting the results of their recent election. A few of them have even had the chutzpah to suggest that the president send in the Marines. Mind you, if the Iranian military had come in and kicked some serious ass in the state of Florida eight years ago when Jeb Bush and Katherine Harris stole the 2000 election from Al Gore, I'd be all for a military incursion into that country - after all, what's fair is fair. But they did not act against Florida in 2000 (Damn them!) We lack any moral justification interfering in their internal matters in 2009.

I would only suggest to those who are so quick to criticize the president that they put themselves in his shoes and start thinking long range - which, after all, is the whole point of diplomacy. A good diplomat thinks little about tomorrow, or next
week - or even next year. The goal of competent international strategy is to think in terms of years, even decades down the line. It is, quite literally, the ultimate game of chess.

First of all, consider this: what do these people on the Far Right think would happen if tonight Obama denounced the results of the election and demanded that the opposition be installed immediately? I guarantee you that within five minutes, "Supreme Leader" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would be in front of the television cameras, having a positive jihad hissy fit:

"See?? The Great Satan has chosen sides! He wants this government - your government - to be skinned like rabid dogs. DEATH TO THE EVIL AMERICAN TYRANTS! And have a lovely day."

It is in the best interest of not only the American people - but the people of Iran as well - that our president exhibit for the world the demeanor of calm, cool detachment. That is what is known as "international statesmanship"; the type of which was never displayed by his half-witted predecessor. To put it in terms that Rush Limbaugh and the habitual viewers of FOX Noise will be able to understand, the very last thing in the world Obama needs right now is to get into a pissing match with these clowns.

It's no secret to anyone who reads this page on even a semi-regular basis that I am (to put it mildly) just a wee bit disappointment in this administration's direction thus far. Obama and the people around him should start showing a little less profile and a lot more courage. It is essential that they cease acting like Bill Clinton and start acting like Franklin Roosevelt. Their moment under the sun of political advantage is rapidly ebbing. As FDR was fond of reminding his contemporaries so long ago, they need to take "action. NOW!"

That being said, it must be conceded that they have handled this latest international incident superbly and with great skill. Jack Kennedy, who in October of 1962 was confronted with the most dangerous crisis in the history of the world, would be proud.

Ah! The beguiling art of diplomacy!


Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
tomdegan@frontiernet.net

SUGGESTED READING:

Fiasco
by Thomas Ricks

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Dave 'n' Sarah: An American Saga


DISCLAIMER:
Let me start this thing off by saying that I thought the joke David Letterman made last week on his program at the expense of Sarah Palin's daughter was, to be polite, in questionable taste. Dave and his writers made their reputation for their wit and sophistication. They can do better than that.

The other day, a spokesman for Sarah Palin made this incredibly suggestive statement: "It would be wise to keep Willow [Palin's fourteen-year-old-daughter] away from David Letterman." When asked yesterday morning by NBC's Matt Lauer exactly what that statement implied, Palin callously replied, "Take it however you want to take it." Nice!

I've seen some sleazy politicians in my day, but what Sarah Palin did this week, exploiting her underage daughter - using her name as an imaginary victim of an imaginary rape by a man five decades her senior - was, beyond a shadow of any doubt, the most despicable thing I've ever witnessed in the circus arena that American politics has become.

The joke Letterman made, distasteful as we might find it, was not about Governor Palin's fourteen-year-old daughter Willow. It pertained to her oldest daughter Bristol - the same daughter whose main claim to fame is her current status as an eighteen-year-old, unwed mother.

Sarah Palin must know this. She can't possibly be as stupid as she comes off in every single public forum she has ever participated in - no one's that dumb! Let's be as blunt as we possibly can be, okay? It was Bristol Palin who practiced unprotected sex with her boy friend Levi Johnson. When her mother was being vetted by the McCain campaign late last summer as a possible running mate, Bristol was already well along into her pregnancy, a fact her mother conveniently concealed from McCain's handlers. Something like that might not play too well with the "Family Values" Mob, you know what I mean? When they were no longer able to hide the fact that Bristol was "in a family way", the campaign's spin machine desperately tried to put a cute little smiley face on the situation:

"Isn't that sweet? She chose life!"

And good for her for doing so....and God bless the child.

Thank your lucky stars for Sarah Palin. Her nomination as GOP running mate last summer is a text book illustration of what is wrong with that hideous, train wreck of a party. There were, quite literally, scores and scores of people far better qualified than she to take on the mantle of running mate (Kaye Bailey Hutchinson, Arlen Spector - even that nitwit Joe Liebemann - come easily to mind). The problem is that in the last thirty years, the Republican party has been hijacked by kooks, criminals and fools. They forced McCain, against his better judgment, to accept Palin. Had they tried, they could not have found a worse candidate. But for her nomination, President McCain would be sleeping in the White House this very morning. [SIGH OF RELIEF]

In a column in this morning's edition of the worst newspaper in the Milky Way (the New York Post), Michelle Malkin, the Far Right's favorite bloviating air-head/pin-up girl, addressed David Letterman directly:

"Tell us, great comic genius, how tacking on four years to the target daughter makes it funny? We unenlightened dim bulbs who live outside of Manhattan's boundaries don't get the joke."

Of course they don't. They never do. Let me attempt to answer that question for Malkin and her fellow, unenlightened dim bulbs:

What little humor there is to be mined from this sad situation is based on the undeniable fact that Sarah Palin, from the moment she was vomited onto the American consciousness ten months ago, exploited her obviously dysfunctional family by portraying them as icons of virtue and purity. Single mom Bristol Palin is at this very moment a very visible spokesperson for "abstinence". How does "tacking on four years to the target daughter make it funny"? Because (like it or not) she is a grown woman and she's a hypocrite. American children are a lot more on-the-ball in many respects than their clueless parents. The "Do as I say and not as I do" lecture doesn't really cut the mustard with a lot of these kids. Malkin ended her piece this morning by screeching:

"Letterman reminds me of the lecher at the school bus stop. Or the aging creep lurking in the dirty magazine section at the 7-Eleven."

Lurid, personal attacks. huh? Two can play at that game, baby....

Sarah Palin reminds me of a middle-aged, drug-addled heroin-addict who would prostitute her fourteen-year-old child just to get a fix.

Does that analogy sound cruel and unfair to you? If it does, please consider this if you will:

More than anything in the world, she wants to be the Republican candidate for president of the United States in 2012. So desperate is this silly, imbecilic woman to get the nomination in four years, she would cynically put out for national contemplation the mental image of her child being violated by a sixty-three-year-old man - when Palin and everyone around her knows damned well that Letterman was referring to Bristol, the daughter who became pregnant. It is highly doubtful that he or his writers would make such a cruel and obscene joke on national television at the expense of a mere child. Given his track record as a comedian, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt; Andrew Dice Clay, he ain't.

David Letterman's joke was tasteless - you'll get no argument from me there - but Sarah Palin's political motivation behind her feigned, "righteous indignation" is as laughably obvious as it is beneath contempt.

Can you even imagine having someone as unfeeling as that as a mother? Poor Willow! Poor Bristol!

People like me, who derive a great deal of personal satisfaction by watching the utter implosion of the "party of Lincoln", owe a great debt of gratitude to the governor of Alaska. Between Rush Limbaugh, Michael Steele, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, the damage that has been done to the GOP is, I believe, irreparable. But none of them have been half as much fun to watch as Sarah Palin. She really is the gift that keeps giving. Thank you, Sarah.


Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
tomdegan@frontiernet.net

AFTERTHOUGHT:

In early 2008, when my local newspaper, the Middletown, NY Times Herald-Wreckage was purchased by Rupert Murdoch's company, the first words out of my mouth were, "Beth Quinn is history". It was inevitable that Murdoch's water carriers would want to curry favor with their boss by giving her the axe.

Beth was our local and very popular columnist who courageously wrote about the corruption and incompetence of this disgusting administration (Excuse me, I meant "that" disgusting administration). Sure enough, a year ago this month, Beth was shown the door.

For those residents of Orange, Ulster and Sullivan Counties who miss her weekly doses of wit, insight and good, old-fashioned common sense, I have good news for you:

She's baaaack!

Beth and a group of local writers have started a new site called "The Zest of Orange". Here's a link:
Happy reading, campers!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Lenny's House


Maybe he had some problems,
Maybe some things that he couldn't work out
But he sure was funny and he sure told the truth,
And he knew what he was talkin' about....
He's on some other shore
He didn't wanna live any more

Bob Dylan
from the song, "Lenny Bruce"

I imagine that it must not have been easy being Lenny Bruce
. He was a man who saw the world as it really is - minus the rose-colored lenses that were the fashion rage during the age of Eisenhower and the New Frontier. "People should be taught what is", he told us, "not what should be". There had never been a comedian like him before. His humor was real. It could even be bleak. But he was always - to the very end - screamingly funny. That his was a troubled soul there can be no argument. Newsweek once described him as a "self-destructive genius of a dirty time."

So unsettling did the power elite find Lenny Bruce's tumultuous vision of society, they sought to silence him forever.
Between the years 1961 and 1966, he was persecuted for his ideas by law enforcement agencies all across America with a relentlessness normally reserved for murderers and rapists. As the never-ending pressure on him increased, he sought relief from the stress in narcotics. On August 3, 1966 this brilliant but tormented humorist, whose name belongs enshrined with those of Mark Twain and Robert Benchley, was found dead in his West Hollywood home, the victim of a drug overdose. He was two months and ten days shy of his forty-first birthday.

The writers of his obituaries would callously dismiss him as a "sick comedian".

When Lenny died, his daughter Kathleen, known to all the world as Kitty, was eleven-years old. In the forty-three years since, her mission has been to make the name Lenny Bruce known to each new generation. In 1984 she published "The Unpublished Lenny Bruce", a book of her dad's writings, interviews and even a script for a proposed children's record.

Then a few years ago, she released "LET THE BUYER BEWARE", a six-CD set of mostly unissued nightclub routines and private recordings that span Lenny's entire career: from his 1948 appearance on the CBS program, "Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts" (where he did impersonations of Jimmy Cagney and Humphrey Bogart in German accents!) to a tape he made the night before he died. For the uninitiated who wish to discover the genius of Lenny Bruce for the first time, this box-set is a pretty good bet.

Now Kitty is on a different kind of quest to memorialize dear old Dad. She wants to utilize his memory in a way that will help the less fortunate. In a fund raising letter she wrote:

"For a number of years I have wanted to honor his memory in a way that would change lives and make our world a better place. There is a great need for women to have a place to go when they are in recovery from drugs and alcohol. That place is 'Lenny"s House'".

Kitty Bruce is not content that her father be remembered merely as the most influential stand-up comedian of the twentieth century. She wants his name associated with a righteous cause. The name "Lenny's House" is not quite accurate. More than a house, it will be a home, a refuge that will provide the kind of aid to victims of substance abuse that was not around in 1966 - the type of help and comfort that might have saved Lenny's life had it been available then.

It is difficult to accept the fact that he has been gone longer than he was alive on this earth. He would have turned eighty-four this October thirteenth had he lived. Can you even imagine an elderly Lenny Bruce? I can picture him, verbally improvising on the sad state of modern-day America. Oh, what might have been! I can just hear him now....

"George W. Bush....Dig this: Forty-five years ago when LBJ became president - and this is just my perspective as an ethnocentric northerner - I could imagine him shoveling horse shit on a farm twenty miles outside of Galveston - that's it, Jim. Not as president, are you kidding me? Whenever Johnson said the word "Negro" it always came out sounding like "NIGGER-OH"! Really! But Bush? Compared to that guy, Johnson is starting to sound like Noel Coward! Emmis! And I can't even fathom Lyndon doing that 'Bring 'em on' bit! Never! It's just so....Pheeewww....Forget about it, man. It's too weird"

Lenny Bruce, 2009
(Hey, I can dream, can't I?)

In an e-mail received two days ago, Kitty told me,

"There is a great need for a place for women in early recovery from drugs and alcohol to go and have a couple of months to get their mind, body and spirit healthy and strong. Being altered for any period of time makes returning to a sober world very difficult without a strong foundation. Lenny's House is non-profit and is the place to go. I need all the help I can get to make this a reality. Some women are literally recycled through the prison systems and rehabilitation programs - but they just keep returning to old habits. I believe that the combination of the Twelve Step form of recovery, basic life skills - plus self-esteem building - is a win-win."

In addition to the traditional methods of fund raising, Kitty is also planning on holding an auction of all of her father's personal possessions. (So help me Masked Man, I'm going to get one of Lenny's ties if it kills me!) Although there is not yet a place on line where one can make a donation, here is an address where you can send a check via snail mail:

The Lenny Bruce Memorial Foundation
P.O. Box 1089
Pittston, PA 18640-5082

Let's all help Kitty Bruce make this dream a reality.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
tomdegan@frontiernet.net

SUGGESTED READING:

The Trials of Lenny Bruce: The Fall and Rise of an American Icon
by Richard K.L. Collins and David M. Skover

The Essential Lenny Bruce
edited by John Cohen

AFTERTHOUGHT:

The photograph at the top of this piece was taken in Miami in the summer of 1960. Lenny Bruce is posed with his wife Honey Harlowe (1927-2005) and their beloved daughter, Kitty Bruce.

I'll let Father Bruce have the last word:

"I'm not a comedian and I am not sick. The world is sick and I'm the doctor. I'm a surgeon with a scalpel for false values. I don't have an 'act'. I just talk. I'm just Lenny Bruce."

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

"The Rant" by Tom Degan

It's a hoot!


Monday, June 01, 2009

Post #227: Random Thoughts


The following are a series of thoughts that I posted on other websites or had scribbled in my note book. Here they are, slightly edited. Happy June, everyone!

ONE:
It's all about the money. Our representatives don't give a hoot in hell about their constituency. This is true, of both parties. The Democrats have forgotten that they are the party of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Hey Dems! The next time you have a chance, read a little book called, "Profiles In Courage". It was written in 1956 by a little-known senator from the state of Massachusetts named John F. Kennedy - his friends called him, "Jack". By all accounts, he was a pretty smart fellow.

Were he to rise from the dead tonight to do a little research on a possible sequel to the book that won him a Pulitzer Prize, where might he look for inspiration? He'd have to write a chapter on his kid brother Ted, no doubt about it; but then the Right Wing would accuse him of nepotism. Russ Feingold would certainly be worthy of a chapter and maybe one or two others. Unfortunately in the end he would be forced to condense it into a magazine article. The sad fact of the matter is that the House of Representatives is nothing more than a glorified whore house. The late Frank Zappa put it well:

What they're doing in WashingTON
They're just looking out for Number One
And Number One ain't you
You ain't even Number Two!

Well said, Frankie!

TWO:
Here's a prediction: If the GOP insists on continuing this stupid fight against Judge Sotomayor's nomination, by the end of the summer we'll be reading their obituary. What the hell is the matter with these people? They've already alienated the majority of that silly, moribund party - now they want to offend the few Hispanic women that remain lounging on the deck of that rapidly-sinking ship? This is too good to be true.

THREE:
"Blessed are the peace makers,
For they shall be called sons of God"

Jesus of Nazareth
from the Sermon on the Mount

I wonder how George W. Bush would have reacted had Donald Rumsfeld sent him those biblical verses in his morning briefings? He probably would have fired him.

I have always had this quaint hope that one day people who identify themselves as "Christians" would start living the teachings of Jesus Christ. Our former president was the most self-identified "Christian" chief-executive in American history. He was also - beyond a doubt - the least "Christ-like" one. Jesus was all about love and mercy - concepts that didn't play too well during the age of Dubya.

Lenny Bruce once said, "Thou Shalt Not Kill means JUST THAT". Lenny was an agnostic, and yet he understood some simple truths. So many so-called "religious people" just don't get it.

Read Thomas Merton. Read Dorothy Day. They got it.

The sleeping giant of the Religious Left is awakening. Maybe someday soon Christians will finally go back to Christ. It's a nice thought, isn't it?.

FOUR:
Elvis Presley was the most overrated performer in the history of western civilization.

FIVE:
It just keeps getting curiouser and curiouser. Eventually they will uncover the horrible truth of this administration's (excuse me - I meant, "that administration's") crimes against humanity - but it might take years. This much is certain: it is obvious that the Bush Mob is starting to panic. In the months and years to come, that wall of silence they were justly famous for will start to crack like a fungus-filled saltine. People will need to white wash their place in history while making some cold, hard cash in the process. Oh, brother! I can't wait for those memoirs to come out!

SIX:
Doodles Weaver was the most underrated performer in the history of western civilization.

SEVEN:
So, you thought that Dick Cheney would just fade away, huh? Think again, Buster! The old freak is going to keep us rolling in the aisles for some time to come you may be sure. This may be pure paranoia on my part, but could it be that Cheney, as a result of his former position, received official intelligence that another attack is just around the corner and that he is positioning himself to say, "I told you so!"? Don't put it past him. Don't put it past him.

EIGHT:
Good 'n' Plenty candy tastes like crap.

NINE:
Many years ago I was visiting my father at his apartment in New York City. He gave me a bottle of wine and asked me to deliver it to his friend, a man named Alan Bisk, who lived about fifteen floors above him. When I arrived at Mr. Bisk's apartment, he invited me in and made me a drink. After talking over all range of subjects, I casually mentioned that I was being bombarded with offers from several different credit card companies enticing me to sign up. Since I respected his opinion, I asked for his advice:

"Which company do you recommend, Mr. Bisk?" I asked.

"None of them", he replied.

"Tom", he said, "I have never, even during my lean period, had a major financial problem. One of the reasons for this is because I have never owned a credit card - and I strongly suggest you never own one either."

Another man whose opinion I respected, the late, great Jazz Swanwick (the father of my pal Kevin) was fond of saying, "If you can't afford it, don't buy it." Those words were quoted at his funeral last year.

I took their advice. I have never had a major financial problem.

TEN:
If you haven't caught The Ed Show yet, you really should. It's hosted by a Progressive populist named Ed Schultz (or "the fat red head" as he likes to call himself). He's on Monday through Friday, 6:00 PM (EST) on MSNBC. He's great.

ELEVEN:
Bob Hope should have retired in 1950.

TWELVE:
Jack Benny should not have died in 1974.

THIRTEEN:
Too many people on the Left are starting to turn on President Obama. Yeah! Yeah! I know. He's starting to piss me off, too. But my disappointment in him is somewhat tempered by the fact that he's been in office for less than five months, and by the knowledge that we don't know what he knows. In other words, he is probably acting on information that he, for whatever reason, can't make public. Remember that the stock market is so damned volatile at the moment, any public statement (or misstatement) on his part could send it tumbling. For the time being we should give him the benefit of the doubt.

My advice? Before we cast all hope to the wind, let's give the guy at least eighteen months. By then we should have a better idea whether or not he really is the angel of change he portrayed himself to be during the campaign - or if he is merely Bubbah Lite.

FOURTEEN:
Being a tad crazy myself (in a fun and lovable way, I assure you), I have this gift: I am able to pick up on the crazy vibe. Some people have a subtle form of craziness. Some people have crazy to spare.

Glenn Beck is in the latter category. A blogger on AlterNet who goes by the name of "Izzy Stoner" put it well. He described Beck as "Ted Baxter trying to channel Josef Goebbels".

Most of the people on the Far Right are not the brightest bulbs on the porch - no doubt about it. Some of them have the I.Q. of a half-eaten box of Milk Duds. But very few of them could be described as certifiable.

Our man Glenn is as crazy as a bed bug. He likes to think of himself as the modern day equivalent Howard Beale, the character from the 1976 film, Network. It really is an apt comparison when you think about it. He's mad as hell.

FIFTEEN:
Lima Beans taste like crap, too.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
tomdegan@frontiernet.net

AFTERTHOUGHT:

My friend Rady Ananda, formerly of OpEdNews.Com, has gotten together with a few other progressive-minded thinkers and has started a site called COTO (Coalition Of The Obvious). WARNING: These people take no prisoners. Here's a link:

http://cotocrew.wordpress.com/

Happy reading!