Monday, December 28, 2009

That Was the Decade that Wasn't

And you thought the eighties sucked!!!

"The child walks into the elementary school nurse's office on a Friday afternoon, He is crying. He is hungry. He doesn't know whether he and his family will have enough food to eat over the weekend."

That is the first paragraph written by Steve Israel from a piece that appeared in this morning's Times Herald-Record, the local newspaper which serves the Hudson Valley and Catskill regions of New York. Here is the front page headline:

"SCHOOLS TRY TO KEEP KIDS FROM STARVING"

Sweet. The article tells us that at the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, children are going hungry. This story does not take place in Appalachia or in southern Texas along the Mexican boarder. It's taking place right outside of the house that I live in - HERE - in upstate New York; in what is supposed to be one of the most affluent regions in the United States of America! How the hell did this happen? It wasn't like this ten years ago.

I can remember exactly where I was when this awful decade came into being. Believe it or not, when I rang in the new year on January 1, 2000, not only was I stone-cold sober - I was at church! My then-girlfriend and I attended a special midnight mass at the local Catholic church to welcome in, not only a new decade, but a new century and a new millennium. I remember feeling filled with optimism. By entering this new era, I felt, we could wipe the slate clean. Maybe this would be a new age of peace, love, brother and sisterhood. EVERYBODY SING!

This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius!
Age of Aquarius!
Aquariusuuuuus!


How utterly naive on my part, huh? By year's end, all of that hope was out the window and into the toilet. In December of 2000, an ideologically perverted Supreme Court would assist in a stolen election by stopping the vote count in the state of Florida, installing a corrupt little frat boy with the I.Q. of a half-eaten box of Milk Duds as president of the United States. It was all downhill from that moment on. From the birth of "Reality Television" to the worst attack on American soil since the Civil War, it was quite a strange ten years to say the least. Thankfully this awful decade is a mere three days away from being forever consigned to history's scrap heap. Hallelujah.

Let's face some serious facts here, boys and girls: Forty years ago the most popular people on the planet were the Beatles - four guys who really stood for something. Show me a decade whose most sought-after celebrity is Paris Hilton and I'll show you a decade that is going to have....uh...."issues" shall we say? A period of time where someone like George W. Bush can be elected to the presidency is going to have its own special problems to be sure. A little over a year ago, Sarah Palin - Fascist Barbi - was selected by a "main stream" political party to be a heartbeat away from the presidency. As I write these words there are a whole lot of Americans out there who would just LOVE to see her as the grand old party's standard bearer in 2012. She may even end up as the best-selling author of the decade. What does that say about American culture? Volumes.

My plan was to quit drinking on New Year's Day. I'm starting to have serious second thoughts however. Watching the utter implosion of the country that I love so much has definite advantages from the vantage-point of the bottom of an empty vodka bottle. In fact it can be a lot of fun! Better to giggle when shit-faced than to weep with your faculties intact. The last ten years have been such an utter train wreck that it is difficult - if not impossible - to take it all in in any other condition than complete, alcohol-induced giddiness. When one is forced to witness the total decline of what used to be a grand civilization, it generally is a good rule-of-thumb to have an artificial stimulant at the ready. Heroin is too expensive and marijuana gives me terrible anxiety attacks. So make it one for my baby and one more for the road, Joe....

By the way, after being forced to live in it for ten whole years, I have yet to figure out what we're supposed to call the first decade of the twenty-first century - The Hundreds? the The Aughts? The OH!'s? I think it's interesting that we can't even define it. Whatever the name, it's a safe bet that it will not be remembered as one of the shining hours of American history. As weird as the sixties were, much good came out of that tumultuous period: the Civil and Voting Rights Acts, manned missions to the moon, the Peace Corp, the Women's Movement, carrot cake - lots of neat stuff. What good came from the decade which is about to mercifully end? Survivor? Michele Bachmann?? Jackass??? Have another sip. I'll join you.

Or maybe it was all just a horrible nightmare? Of course I'm being facetious, but there were more-than-a-few times during this hideous decade - particularly during the years in which the Bush Mob ran the country - that I would awaken suddenly in the middle of the night and say out loud,

"Did I dream that?"
"Is Bush seriously president?"
"Did we actually invade Iraq?"
"Are the Spice Girls really number one?"

And a special tip of the old fedora to George W. Bush. Anyone who can make me nostalgic for the likes of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan has a certain talent, no doubt about it. His entire eight-year-reign seems almost surreal in hindsight. In a twisted and cynical paraphrasing of Charles Dickens, "It was the worst of times. It was the worst of times." What a long, strange trip it's been. As the great Hunter Thompson liked to say, "Buy the Ticket. Take the ride."

It's unnerving to even contemplate where the end of the following decade will find us. Men in my family tend not to live much into their sixties so I am partially comforted by the idea that I won't be around to deal with it (I turned fifty-one on August 16). Then again, they occasionally get lucky. My uncle Jerry Degan turned eighty-three recently so who knows? One thing is certain, though - unless the American people (as well as the people of the planet earth) radically readjust their thinking, there is not a hell of a lot of hope for humanity. It is my belief that we must take a hard turn to the left - and not the timid baby steps we took in 2009. Are you listening, Mr. President?

So here's to the OH'S! or the AUGHTS - or whatever the heck you want to call them. We must concede that for all the turmoil and hopelessness of this hideous decade (and unlike the nineties) it never - not for a minute - got boring. The after-effect of the last ten years will be with us for the rest of our lives and beyond. Sort of like a really ugly tattoo obtained on a drunken binge. It really was interesting time to be alive if you think about it.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Tom Degan
tomdegan@frontiernet.net

QUOTE OF THE DECADE:

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

George W. Bush

SUGGESTED VIEWING:

Bill Moyers' Journal
Friday 9PM EST
Sunday 7PM EST
PBS

There is still this quiet and gentle island of wisdom in the ocean of reaction and pornography that television has become. God bless you, Mr. Moyers.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmastime is Here Again


About a week ago, I had what can only be described as a profound revelation: Tomorrow will be the fifty-second Christmas I have seen in my life - and yet I've never had a bowl of figgy pudding. Would someone please bring us some figgy pudding and bring it right here? Thanks.

"On Christmas day you can't be sore
Your fellow man, you must adore
There's time to rob him all the more
The other three-hundred and sixty-four...."

Tom Lehrer, 1959

'Tis the season to be jolly? It's Christmas Eve and - to be perfectly frank with you - I'm not feeling all that jolly. There are a number of reasons for this. First and foremost, of course, is the crass, commercial exploitation of what should be one of the holiest days of the year. I can really relate to Charlie Brown in that classic, 1965 television program. The real meaning of Christmas has been obscured in a fog of mindless, consumer excess. Our very economic survival depends upon our making a mockery of the birth of Jesus Christ at the end of every year.

"Christmas comes but once a year
So you'd better make hay while the spirit lingers
It's slipping through your fingers, boy
Don't you realize?
Christmas can be such a monetary joy!"

Stan Freberg, 1958

Oh, the weather outside is frightful....

I am not a huge fan of popular Christmas music. I love the traditional stuff - Schubert's Ave Maria, for example, I think is the most beautiful piece of music ever composed. But there are a few exceptions: Bing Crosby's White Christmas and Nat King Cole's The Christmas Song are undeniable classics. Bob Dylan's new LP is called Christmas in the Heart. The man can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned. It's a wonderful record. He even does a good job with Winter Wonderland - a tune I have always loathed with a passion I can't even describe. Good for you, Uncle Bobby!

But for the most part, popular Christmas music has been known to make me sick to my stomach. One tune in particular is enough to drive me to extreme violence. Dick Wells is a legendary disc jockey and singer. Back in the fifties and sixties he was the vocalist for the Harry James Orchestra. He is also a good friend and an expert on the subject of popular songs. A few winters ago in the midst of a horrible blizzard, I had a telephone conversation with him that went like this.

DEGAN: Dick, who wrote, Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow?

DICK: Tom, Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow was written by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne

DEGAN: Are Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne still alive, Dick?

Dick: No, Tom. Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne are both dead.

DEGAN: Good.

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer is another "Christmas song" I wish had never been written. I find it amazing and ironic that the root of Gene Autry's extraordinary fortune is based on the fact that he penned this hideously dreadful piece of holiday trash. Gene Autry is also dead. No comment. It's Christmas. Joy to the world.

The bumper stickers tell us to "keep Christ in Christmas". Really? As a Christian, I think these bumper sticker should read, "Keep Christ in Everything" Christ should be a beacon and inspiration to all - Chistians and non-Christians alike - not the cop-on-the-beat that the right wing would have Him be. But that's just my opinion. Pay it no mind. Jingle. Jingle.

I have a serious problem with people who blaspheme the name of Jesus for their own selfish ends - some of our elected representatives for instance. As I write these words, the United States Senate is within minutes of passing what some are describing as "major health care legislation". It isn't that at all. In fact it is barely worth acknowledging. Fall on your knees. Oh, hear the angel's voices. Oh, night divine....

These so-called "Christian" politicians (and one "observant" Jew) have done everything humanly possible to see to it that the lives of the American people will be held hostage by the big insurance and pharmaceutical companies forever - or until a revolution comes along. Not much is going to change in the meantime - and it will be a very mean time, I assure you. We will continue to die two years younger than they do in Europe. We will continue to have one of the highest infant mortality rates in the industrialized world. Have yourselves a merry little Christmas.

We celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace while waging two senseless wars at such a safe distance from our shores, most of us don't even bother to pay attention to them. We will continue to piss away our national treasure on the military industrial complex while the well being of our children is gambled away in the plutocracy's crap game. We are a nation addicted to weapons of war. Let's face it, that's never going to change. If tomorrow our armaments industry ceased to be, the entire American economy would implode before sundown. So much hypocrisy. So little space. Santa Claus is coming to town.

"Blessed are the peacemakers.
for they shall be called sons of God."

Jesus of Nazareth

Oh, and did I mention that I hate Santa Claus? I really do, you know. I say this without any fear of coal in my stocking. You see, I haven't received a thing from the hideous old bastard since 1966. That was the year I spiked his hot cocoa with a generous portion of Old Granddad. Santa, although a rather large person, doesn't hold his alcohol too well. I found this out the hard way. After leaving our presents under the tree, he took off from the roof or our home and crashed into the Finkle house across the street. Two reindeer were killed. Horrible carnage.

To boil it down to the unpleasant essentials, although I love the story of the nativity and the true meaning of Christmas, I'm beginning to despise the Christmas holiday - but that's just me. This year I am afflicted with Grinch Syndrome. Or might you call it, "Scrooge Disorder"? The problem is that I am - and always have been - at heart, an angry person. I try to cover up that rage with a facade of silliness, but that's basically who I am. As Frank Sinatra once sang in the very last recording he made for Columbia Records in 1952, "Don't try to change me now."

I really do wish you and yours a happy and blessed holiday. I should end on a hopeful note, I know, but I have nothing hopeful to offer you. The hope I was feeling a year ago today has all-but-evaporated. Barack Obama could have been Franklin D. Roosevelt, but he seems hell-bent on being Bill Clinton. Blue Christmas.

No, there's not a whole lot of hope here. So I'll reach back into the archives and give you something I wrote almost two years ago on Christmas Day, 2007:

"Keep your eyes open for the miracles all around you. And remember the simple truth that there is more music to be found in the laughter of a single child than can be found in all of the symphonies ever composed by all of the composers who ever lived."

There. Is that better? Happy Christmas, everyone!

Which reminds me - just what the hell is figgy pudding anyway?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
tomdegan@frontiernet.net

SUGGESTED LISTENING:

Christmas From The Heart
by Bob Dylan

AFTERTHOUGHT:

How the Mitch Stole Christmas....

This pathetic, watered-down health care legislation is just too much of a giveaway for the Right Wing to handle. A few minutes ago Mitch McConnell said on the floor of the senate that the fight is far from over; that his party is determined to defeat this bill.

And he did the same thing to the other Who's houses
Leaving crumbs much too small for the other Who's mouses....

Happy Christmas, Mitch!
Asshole.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The 2009 Jackass of the Year

We here at the editorial offices of "The Rant" are pleased as punch to announce the first annual Jackass of the Year Award. My initial inclination was to name the prize the "Asshole of the Year", or "Bastard of the Year", or "Bitch of the Year", or even "Hideous Piece of Shit of the Year" Fortunately, at the last minute I was overcome by the better angels of my nature (this being the holiday season, and all) and settled on the title "Jackass of the Year". 'Tis the season, you know what I mean?

To be sure, there were scores of contenders out there more-than-eligible to take home the gold. The two Michelles - Malkin and Bachmann - never fail to astound in their mastery of the technique of Jackassism. Mitch McConnell, Eric Canter, Sarah Palin, Max Baucus, Mary Landrieu, Dick and Liz Cheney, the hosts of FOX and Friends - all of them are Jackasses of the first order.

But in the end, it was a fairly easy pick. In fact it was a no-brainer. The winner of the dubious title of Jackass of the Year 2009 goes to my man, Joe "the schmo" Lieberman.
Way to go, Joe! You dah man!

Honestly, has there ever been as vengeful a little gnat as Joe Lieberman? You'd really have to search the archives of history pretty thoroughly to find someone comparable. There are many reasons why Al Gore was defeated in 2000 by a half-witted frat boy like George W. Bush. One of the main reasons was the abysmal choice of running mate Lieberman. It was obvious during the debate with Dick Cheney during that campaign that comical Joe was a useless drag on the ticket. When Cheney said that his success in the private sector had nothing to do with the government, Lieberman let the statement stand. Cheney made his fortune at Haliburton because of Government contracts! Government had everything to do with it! Did he purposefully sabotage the Gore campaign? Maybe it's pure paranoia on my part but a case could be made that he did.

By 2006 the Democratic primary voters of Connecticut had had enough of his peculiar form of "Liberalism" and turned to an obscure bureaucrat named Ned Lamont as their standard bearer. When Joe was able to make a comeback as an Independent, beating Lamont and Republican nominee Alan Schlesinger, he arrived back in Washington the following January ready to settle some nasty scores.


The Icing on the cake was his performance in late August at the 2008 Republican convention when he gave one of the keynote speeches endorsing John McCain and Fascist Barbi. This was right near the end of an extremist Republican administration which for eight long years had plundered America's national treasure. McCain wasn't offering anything substantially different from the Bush Mob's crap blizzard of bad policy - but that didn't matter in the least to Joe Lieberman. It was payback time.

But crossing the aisle in support of the Extreme right wing wasn't enough for Revoltin' Joe. The real kicker came this week when he all-but-destroyed the chance for real health care reform in this once-great nation. This all adds up, doesn't it? The state of Connecticut is the Insurance Capital of the country. The Insurance industry has given millions over the years to Joe's campaign coffers. When the time came to decide which side to stand with - the people or Corporate America - Joe Lieberman didn't have to think twice. Fuck the people.

Then there is the little woman. To be sure, Mrs. Lieberman - known to her friends as Hadassah - has lately been putting a bit of pressure on her pathetic husband. She is a lobbyist for the health care industry and is payed a fortune by them annually. You don't need to have a major in political science to understand that the Liebermans are thinking a lot these days about the family fortune. It's dead certain that Joe's political career is finished. There is a fortune for him to be made prostituting himself for the pharmaceutical and insurance industries come January 2013 and he's not about to blow a good thing by doing the right thing.

QUESTION: Has it dawned on you yet what a despicable human being this guy is? I was just wondering.

So in the tradition of my Irish heritage, here's a tip of the hat and a raising of the glass to Joe Lieberman, Jackass of the Year! If there is something to be said for consistency, the man never fails to disappoint. You can always count on him to do the wrong thing. He is not a public servant. He serves himself only. If greed and shameless self-interest were human virtues he would be handed the Nobel Prize.

He is a lot like Eric Cantor in one respect. Like Cantor, he always has this disconcerting look of content serenity whenever he goes on television defending programs and policies that are morally indefensible. Have you ever noticed that? It really is a weird sight to behold! What's that all about? Even Mitch McConnell and and John Boehner have a habit of looking somewhat uneasy whenever they have to spout the latest Conservative line of bullshit. How can Joe be so seemingly at peace with himself? I have a theory....

On an appearance on Meet The Press a number of years ago, Lieberman told the late Tim Russert that he subscribes to a form of Judaism which teaches that people can go through life sinning to their hearts content. All a person has to do in order to enter that heavenly kingdom is repent on his or her deathbed and all one's sins - no matter how vile and reprehensible - are completely and eternally forgiven. So don't waste your time worrying about Joe Lieberman's soul, folks. He's got everything and everyone - including, apparently, the Almighty - right where he wants them. The man is one smooth operator.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
tomdegan@frontiernet.net

AFTERTHOUGHT 12/23/09:

A woman named Sarah Montgomery is the Social Media and Marketing coordinator for the Ozarks Community Hospital in Springfield, MO. She just sent me a link to her CEO's excellent health care blog. His name is Paul Taylor. Here's a link:

http://ochhealthcarereform.blogspot.com/

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Stupidity of Deregulation


The bill that has just been passed in the House is called, "HR 4173". It is designed (in theory anyway) to protect honest investors from the type of predators that have been openly and legally running rampant on Wall Street for thirty years now.

Don't hold your breath waiting for whole chapters to be written about HR 4173 in the history books. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 it ain't. This proposed new law is so riddled with loopholes it might as well be rendered next-to-useless. It was passed 223 to 202 - with not one Republican legislator voting in favor of it. Not one. Even a law as watered down as this one is unacceptable to these bastards and bitches. That fact alone illustrates more than any other the moral bankruptcy of that hideous party.

Well, HR 4173 is a start - I GUESS. What the American people are in dire need of at this point in time is a comprehensive history lesson. At the moment the Republicans within Congress and without (and more-than-a-few Democrats) are in the process of trying to sell us on the idea that the re-regulatory direction in which the Left wishes to take us will ultimately be a bad thing for the economy - that it will cost jobs, punish honest brokers, strangle America's entrepreneurial spirit, force our daughters to become lesbians, blah, blah, blah....

The regulations put into place in the nineteen thirties by Franklin D. Roosevelt and his "Brain Trust" guided the marketplace for nearly fifty years. Since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in the late nineteenth century, unregulated, out-of-control capitalism was known to periodically wreck havoc on the American economy. Every decade would experience at least one serious meltdown of the Stock Market and more than a few financial depressions. In that era it was widely accepted that in a robust and healthy economy these periodic calamities were inevitable and unavoidable.

Along came FDR. As far as anyone could tell there did not seem to be a hell of a lot of substance to the guy. The journalist Walter Lippman described him as a man in possession of a first class temperament and a second class intellect. His distant cousin, Alice Roosevelt Longworth (Teddy's daughter) publicly dismissed him as a "feather duster". The nation and the world would learn in due course, however, that there was more to this pampered squire of Dutchess County than met the skeptical eye.

Although it has become almost a cliche it is undeniable: Roosevelt saved capitalism by tempering its excesses. While it was not perfectly flawless, the rules put into place by by the New Dealers worked pretty well for almost fifty years - until the nineteen-eighties, that is. That was when the American voters (for reasons I still can't figure out) overwhelmingly decided that sending Ronald Reagan to the White House would be a really neat idea. Reagan was a feeble-minded, failed "B" movie actor at the dawn of senility who should have been in an assisted living program somewhere, being spoon-fed oatmeal. Instead, January 20, 1981 saw him taking the oath of office as the fortieth president of the United States. Life is kind of funny that way, ya know?

Here's a promise, America: One day very soon you will wake up and realize what a complete fool Reagan was.

After eight years of Reagan and four years of King George I, A Democratic president came to town who might have at least attempted to put an end to the orgy of deregulation that was slowly destroying the U.S. economy. Instead he merely aided and abetted it. The main reason I left the Democratic party nearly twelve years ago? Two words: BILL CLINTON.

It is a lesson that we have learned so many times throughout our history it's embarrassing to realize that we had to learn it yet again: the Progressive creates, the Plutocrat destroys; The Liberals invest in society while the Conservatives invest in themselves. The result whenever the right wing has been able to seize all three branches of our government has always been the same - a social and economic shit storm. This is the fourth time in our history we've learned that lesson. How many more times will we have to make the same mistake? We've made it so many times it's starting to get boring. Seriously.

Here is a fact of life that is so Civics 101, it amazes me that Republican legislators have never had the wit to figure it out. You're either going to have one of two things:

You will have a functioning, healthy and thriving society where our children get the best education possible; where jobs are plentiful and crime rates are low; where the infrastructure is sound and running at full capacity....

....or you will have a situation where the wealthy are taxed at the lowest rate imaginable. You cannot - you will not - have both. If you don't believe me, the next time you decide to take a vacation, spend it in Texas or Mississippi. Send me a post card.

Last night on 60 Minutes, President Obama expressed frustration that Wall Street still doesn't "get it". Of course they don't get it! The taxpayer-funded bailout was handed over to them unconditionally - minus regulation, if you will. Expecting them to do the right thing was beyond naive - it was insane. They've taken all that money and they've decided to hoard it, not pump it back into the economy as they were supposed to. These people have a single motivation: to make as much money as possible. They don't give a hoot in hell about right or wrong. They don't consider what is good for Main Street. All they think about is profit. People this amoral need guidelines - they need rules and regulations - otherwise America's economic reality will mirror the situation as it existed prior to 1933 (and since 1981): economic anarchy.

You say you want a revolution....

It's coming, baby, like it or not. Lately I've noticed a peculiar thing: people who describe themselves as Conservative finding common ground with people who describe themselves as Liberal. This can't be a very nice thing for American politicians to contemplate. When regular people like us can figure out what is really behind their Three Card Monty scheme, it's only a matter of time before all the cards come tumbling down.

You tell me it's the institution....

HR 4173 is merely a baby step in the right direction. For three long decades these assholes were permitted - by law - to run roughshod over our economy, looting our national treasure in the process. As Sam Cooke once sang, "a change is gonna come". So much more needs to be done. So many old laws need to be re-instituted. Imagine cleaning up a blood bath with a Kleenex. That is essentially what HR 4173 amounts to. We have a long road ahead of us.

Well, you know, we all wanna change the world.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
tomdegan@frontiernet.net

FOR THE RECORD:

Twenty-seven Democrats voted against HR 4173. That faint rumbling you hear in the distance is the sound of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt doing somersaults in their graves.

The photo at the top of the page is of FDR and his cabinet on their first full day in office, March 5, 1933.

AFTERTHOUGHT:

I've just discovered a very thought provoking site called The Peace Tree. It says at the top of the page:

"When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace."

Beautiful! Here's a link:

http://www.thepeacetree2.blogspot.com/

Cheerio!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Jammin' with the Dickster

What a festival of laughs 2009 has proven to be - and to think that it's not even over yet! The rib-tickling, unintentional humor that has been provided to us in the last year courtesy of the extreme right has been more fun than the law should allow. It hasn't been the most fascinating political year - not by a long shot - but it has, without a doubt, been the most fun. There are so many contenders for the title, Jackass of the Year, it might in the end prove difficult, if not impossible, to categorize them. Which brings me to the topic of Dick Cheney.

Back in January, as the First Fool's reign of error was winding down, for a curious reason I may never be able to explain, I was feelin' kinda blue. Soon Dickie and Dubya and the entire Bush Mob would be out of my life - FOREVER! Say what you want to about that hideous duo, they made for great copy. What the hell was I going to do when they were gone? I would probably have to go out and get a real job. Oh, curse you, fate! Wicked, wicked fate!

As it turns out, there's been more material than ever to write about. The Clown Army is on the march and our old nemesis, Dastardly Dick Cheney, is leading the charge. Isn't life beautiful?
Forgive me, sweet, blessed fate.

Remember when Bush "chose" Cheney to be on the ticket nine, long years ago? In actuality, it was Cheney who chose Cheney. Poppy Bush charged his former Secretary of Defense with the mission of finding a suitable running mate for his half-witted kid. After a vigorous and detailed "search", Dick came back with the stats: As it turned out, he was the best person qualified to run with Junior as V.P. candidate. Almost three years ago I imagined the conversation that must have taken place:

The Dickster: GEORGE! I have found your ideal running mate!

Dubya: Great! Who is it, Dick?

The Dickster: You're not gonna believe it - IT'S ME!!!

Dubya: Whoa! What're the odds!

I have always believed that it was a perfect illustration of the utter stupidity of Bush and the people around him that they swallowed all of this without batting an eye. And do you remember the term that all of the talking heads and pundits were using to describe Cheney when Bush made this fateful decision? He had "gravitas", they chimed. Gravitas. The story keeps getting funnier with every passing moment of historical hindsight. Gravitas indeed.

EXTRA! DEGAN COMPLIMENTS BUSH!!!

Yeah, I never thought it would come to this either. But credit must be given where credit is due; and the fact is that the former president has behaved (on the surface at least) fairly admirably since he left office. For the most part, and unlike most of his former colleagues, he has avoided the temptation to be hysterical on the subject of the Obama White House. Then again, it must be conceded that when one has presided over the most failed and corrupt administration in the history of the republic, it usually is a good rule of thumb to keep your mouth shut. Cheney, on the other hand, is without shame. This is precisely what makes the man such a scream!

His most recent kvetch? Obama was "dithering" on Afghanistan. Dithering? Pray tell, do my ears deceive me? Barack Obama was "dithering" on whether or not to send an additional thirty-five thousand kids into harms way? He dithered???

Oh! Dastardly Dick! Oh! Vile, deceitful Dickie! If thou had thus dithered, might not thy fellow countrymen and women have awaken this morn to a more content and peaceable homeland? Oh, vile and blundering Dick! Naughty Dick! Thou contemptible rascal!

If you read my last piece, it's no secret that it is my profound belief that Obama is committing a monumental mistake by escalating the war in Afghanistan. But let's give the guy a tip of the hat, okay? At least he had the good sense to think long and hard about what he felt he needed to do - unlike the previous administration that dove head-first and smiling into this stupid, fucking quagmire. In spite of my criticism, I believe (I hope) that Barack Obama is essentially a decent guy who means well. As stated previously, it is way too early to give an etched-in-stone assessment of this administration. We need to see where Election Day 2012 finds us. We shall see what we shall see.

At the moment it would seem that Dick Cheney and his disgusting daughter Liz are Number One on the Shit Parade. The darling girl is now promoting a movement ( and, PUH-LEEZ, I hope this is true) that would make dear old dad the GOP nominee in 2012. This can't possibly be, can it? Optimist though I may be, my luck has never gotten this good! Could this merely be a dream from which I am yet to awake? Pinch me, please.

Is a Cheney Candidacy in 2012 really in the cards? Probably not. Given his precarious health, it's not very likely that he will even live to see the next election. But then again, nearly three years ago - on this very site - I wrote a piece called, "Richard B. Cheney 1941-2007" where I predicted that he would not even live to see the '08 election. I wasn't hoping for him to die (cross my heart, I wasn't!) it was simply that, given his history of heart attacks, I was just being realistic - or so I thought at the time.

But like the imaginary science fiction screenplay I've written about the man "The Thing That Wouldn't Go Away", he remains - tormenting the daylights out of us for as long as his precarious mortality will allow.

Wretched Richard!

What we have here is one of those mixed-blessing kind of moments. Dick Cheney won't be going away anytime soon, of that you may be certain. And as long as he remains at the extreme-right-of-center-stage of this extremely amusing review, I think I just might stick around for the show. It is the type of scenario destined to provide truckloads of joy for progressives all over the country: Cheney and Sarah Palin, ripping each other to bloody shreds in the primaries of 2012. Can you even imagine what fun that would be to watch?

This is why President Obama's utter timidity in dealing with the Republicans in Congress is so damned frustrating. He obviously spends a hell of a lot of time thinking about the next election - when it is plain to see that he has not a thing to worry about! The "party of Lincoln" is falling apart. Ronald Reagan is dead and he's not going to rise from the grave at midnight tonight to lead them back to the promise land. There is no golden boy/girl on the horizon who will be able to miraculously restore their national credibility between now and then. The GOP has been overtaken by a cabal of criminals and halfwits. With each passing day, this reality is becoming clearer and clearer to the American people. The Grand Old Party (for the time being at least) is over. Kaput.

I'm all for a Cheney candidacy in three years. If the man's health can hold out and given the direction that party seems hellbent on going, Dead Eye Dick is the right wing's made-to-order candidate. They can count on me - not only for a vigorous endorsement - but for a cash donation as well. And while we're at it, let's make things really interesting and throw Michele Bachmann into the mix!

And you thought 2008 was interesting? 2012 ought to be a hoot!

Tom Degan
tomdegan@frontiernet.net

AFTERTHOUGHT 12/11/09:

A few nights ago on Sean Hannity's moronic FOX Noise program, Cheney actually accused President Obama of giving "aid and comfort" to America's enemies and called his the most "radical" administration in American history. Medications please.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Lost Lessons of History


President Obama is coming to town tonight - or as close to my town as any president is ever likely to get. As far as anyone can tell, the last sitting president to visit Goshen, NY was Ulysses S Grant in the 1870's.

During the nineteenth century Goshen was a drinking man's town and Grant was not unknown for his libations. The old bastard probably felt right at home here - as I would have, too, I'm sure.
He would stay at a place called the Occidental Hotel which used to occupy a prominent spot in the center of the village. In that bygone era it was the place to stay when you passed through town. Sadly, after decades of neglect, the old building was torched by its owner in an insurance scam in 1983. Today it is a weed-infested vacant lot.

George Washington came through town during the Revolutionary war (His famous Headquarters was close by in Newburgh). His time spent here was over a decade before he assumed office, however. Gerald Ford came here in the 1990's to inspect a meat-packing plant less than a half mile down Route 17M from where I now sit - but that was about twenty years after he left the White House.

Although he won't be stepping foot in this town, Barack Obama will be at West Point tonight, which is located right here in Orange County, just twenty-nine miles away. The worst kept secret in Washington this morning is the fact that he is going to announce a plan to increase the number of troops serving in Afghanistan by thirty to thirty-five thousand. Well, what the hey! It appears that this president (of all presidents!) has failed to learn some basic history lessons.

Take this to the bank:

We will lose the war in Afghanistan. Just as in Iraq, every serviceman and woman who has died there has died for no reason. Russia and merrie old England learned this lesson a long time ago. You would think....Never mind.

Suffice to say, on my best day I do not receive one tenth of the information that President Obama receives. I don't read any of the Presidential Daily Briefings that are placed on his desk every morning. Obviously he is in possession of a wealth of intelligence that you and I are just not privy to. Maybe we should be giving him the benefit of the doubt - and I have been doing just that, I promise you. But from my vantage point it appears to me that this president has failed to learn the lessons that have been passed onto us down the decades by the administrations of Franklin Delano Rossevelt and Lyndon Baines Johnson - lessons involving bold action in times of economic crisis (more on that another day) and the utter folly of waging wars that cannot be won.

I want to believe in this president. He is the chief executive I worked harder to elect than any other in my lifetime. I realize that it is simply far too early in this administration to write a final assessment of his term of office. That being said, my confidence in the Obama White House is ebbing rapidly. Where in the hell is all of this change I could believe in? Is the Bush Mob still in charge? What gives?

NOTE TO THE RIGHT WING:

No, I am still exceedingly grateful that John McCain and Fascist Barbie did not win the election last year. Have another sip.

The irony underlying this entire mess is the fact that Obama had a tiny window of opportunity during his first week or so in office where he could have ended this thing with the stroke of a pen. Remember, this was not his war. The only reason we invaded Afghanistan to begin with (on the surface, at least) was to kill or capture Osama bin Ladin, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks - that was it. When every opportunity to do so had been badly blundered due to the incompetence of George W. Bush and company, they changed the nature of the mission for no other reason than to save their hideous faces. It had nothing to do with bin Ladin, they assured us. It was all about "nation building". Nation building!

And that is where we find ourselves at the miserable present. Before the sun sets this afternoon, another American kid (or more) will be sacrificed on the alter of stupidity for no other reason than to prop up a government which has been identified by the organization, Transparency International, as the second most corrupt in the world. Congratulations to Somalia for taking home the gold. Whoopee!

Whatever the future brings, American involvement in Afghanistan is going to end tragically. We should do now what we should have done forty years ago and get out while the getting is bad - as opposed to catastrophic. Barack Obama would be wise to heed the suggestion Senator George Aiken of Vermont gave to President Johnson so long ago - which LBJ failed to act on: Declare victory and get the hell out of there.

What we have here is a classic case of American ethno-centricism. Afghanistan is not a nation that is likely to embrace an idea as historically foreign to them as democracy any time soon (And when I say "any time soon" I am speaking in terms of the next one-thousand years - give or take a few centuries). How can a country be expected to enter the twenty-first century when that same country has yet to experience all of the modern wonders of the nineteenth? This is a really bad idea.


"And it's - ONE! TWO! THREE! -
What are we fighting for?"

Country Joe and the Fish

Well, hey there! Come to think of it, that's a damned good question when you get right down to it: Just what the fuck are we fighting for? Let us examine the possibilities, shall we?

American interests? It can't be that! Given the fact that Afghanistan's only export seems to be opium, and taking into consideration our fabulously successful war on drugs....Nah! It couldn't be that!

Freedom and democracy? Tee! Hee! Hee! I'm sorry, I was just kidding! The Afghan people are now living under the rule of a "leader" who is only in power because he stole the recent election. Hamid Karzai is many things - you'll get no argument from me there! - Thomas Jefferson he ain't. Trust me on that. Let this be etched in stone: Any country that views its women as inferior beings not worthy of basic human rights is a country not worth one drop of anyone's blood. NEXT....

Aiding a developing nation? In order for a country to be classified "developing", a bit of "development" should at least be moderately apparent. Afghanistan is stuck in the fifth century and seems intent on remaining there.

What are we fighting for?

Let me rephrase that: What are the children of the poor and working classes fighting for? Between you and me, I've only known one person in combat in the last seven years. I don't know him anymore. He was killed when a roadside bomb was detonated in front of the vehicle in which he was a passenger. His name was Irving Medina. He was twenty-two.

What was Irving Medina fighting for?

Is it politics? Could it be that Obama has been told by his advisers that to pull out now would be political suicide, making his chance of winning in 2012 more difficult than it needs to be? If that's the case, he's as bad as all the rest of them. I suppose that this might be a good argument for limiting presidents to one term. Does he rationally believe that beating the GOP in three years is going to be that much of a challenge? Only a year ago, these geniuses actually believed that giving the VP nomination to an idiot like Sarah Palin was a really neat idea! Given the direction they are now hellbent on going, defeating them in three years is going to be like shooting fish in a barrel, are you kidding me?

It is now apparent that the invaluable lessons of history are truly lost. At the very least they have been lost on Barack Obama - that much is painfully obvious. He is about to commit a blunder so horrific, it may very well prove to be the undoing of his presidency. Somewhere in the eternal void, Lyndon Johnson must be sighing.

What exactly are we fighting for?

Don't ask me, I don't give a damn!
Next stop's Afghanistan!

Tom Degan
tomdegan@frontiernet.net

AFTERTHOUGHT 12/2/09, 10:10 AM:

Half way through the president's speech last night, I turned off the lights and went to bed. I had seen that movie before. I didn't care to see it again, thanks just the same.