Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Post #471: Random Thoughts

The world has gone mad today
And good's bad today
And black's white today
And day's night today

-Cole Porter

Here are a handful of miscellaneous observations that have come to mind lately. I have a lot of time on my hands, I know.

The month of February was pretty much consumed by the attention that was wasted on the Chuck Hagel confirmation hearings. He was finally confirmed yesterday after a GOP filibuster that seemed to go on forever. What was their problem with him? He is, after all, a Republican. The problem is simply that his former colleagues are out for revenge. You see, Chuck Hagel, a veteran of the Vietnam war, reversed course on Iraq. Although he initially supported invading that country ten years ago, he eventually came to his senses and reversed his opinion. Better late than never as they say.

Think about that. Chuck Hagel came to understand that the invasion of Iraq was the stupidest military blunder in American history and for that his fellow Republicans tried to force upon him a stringent political price. Kiss that party goodbye.

Melissa Harris-Perry

Her MSNBC program has been on the air for a year now and I'm ashamed to tell you that this is the first time I've plugged it on this site. Every Saturday and Sunday morning from 10AM to 12 noon EST, you can find me glued to the Melissa Harris-Perry Show. Smart, funny and sophisticated (without a smidgen of condescension) she raises issues that are often ignored by the national media.   The legendary CBS News producer Fred Friendly once said that the job of a good journalist is to tell the people - not what they want to hear - but what they need to hear. I always learn something I need to know on Melissa's program. You might not have heard of her before, but this won't be the last time I promise you. Melissa Harris-Perry is here to stay. Oh, and did I mention she's lovely to look at? So sue me. 

3.  The Next Pope

Benedict the Sixteenth is within hours of stepping down - the first time in about six-hundred years that something like this has happened. Speaking as a Catholic (wayward though I may be at times) the Catholic Church is in DESPERATE need of a major transformation. How 'bout a black pope? Better still, an African American pope! That would most definitely transform the Church of Rome. It would also give all of those racist Catholics (there are a lot of them, trust me )  something to ponder. Just a thought. 

A black pope. Can you imagine? Yo, baby!

4. What's the Matter with Chris?

I've gotta tell you that Chris Christie is growing on me. I still think the people of New Jersey made a mistake by electing him - but it's not one/tenth the error I originally presumed it to be.

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) won't be inviting him to speak at their upcoming convention. Genuine headcases like Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum and Alan West will be speaking - but not Chris Christie. Why? He's too "liberal". Of course he is not a progressive by any stretch of the imagination, but by the standards of today's right wing,  he's just a half-step down from being compared to the anti-Christ. That's how weird things have gotten. Having shown respect to Barack Obama when he visited New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy didn't do him much good with that party's "base" either.

CPAC is not affiliated with the GOP- but let's be honest - that's the party they identify with. If the Republicans are smart, Governor Christie will be their standard bearer in 2016. Of course that's never gonna happen.

5. Welcome to Sequester City

The long-dreaded "sequester" is supposed to kick into effect on Friday. Some are predicting economic catastrophe in its wake; others are implying that the fear is much ado about not much. Whatever the results, the debate leading up to this has been an illuminating window into Washington's complete and utter dysfunction. There is a lot of blame that that can be distributed between the two parties - not excluding the Obama White House. But the bulk of the blame belongs with the conservatives. Their stated goal is to sabotage this president's agenda by any means possible; that includes ideas they previously supported. Are you surprised that we are the laughingstock of western civilization? You shouldn't be. You really shouldn't. 

Uber-dingbat Ted Cruz

It would seem to me that freshman Texas senator Ted Cruz has got a Joe McCarthy complex. He even resembles McCarthy in the way he hunches over the microphone. His behavior during Chuck Hagel's confirmation hearing was something else. He actually questioned Hagel's patriotism. Since arriving in DC in January, he has reflexively voted against every proposal and nominee put forward by this administration. Keep your eye on Ted Cruz. He's probably going to be around for some time. Given the retarded political climate of the state of Texas, I imagine there will still be enough people around in 2018 who will cheerfully reelect this clown. That's okay by me. He's such fun to watch.


Sheila Bair
This opinion piece appeared in yesterday's New York Times. The writer is a woman named Sheila Bair. Here's just a taste of it:
"I am a capitalist and a lifelong Republican. I believe that, in a meritocracy, some level of income inequality is both inevitable and desirable, as encouragement to those who contribute most to our economic prosperity. But I fear that government actions, not merit, have fueled these extremes in income distribution through taxpayer bailouts, central-bank-engineered financial asset bubbles and unjustified tax breaks that favor the rich.
"This is not a situation that any freethinking Republican should accept. Skewing income toward the upper, upper class hurts our economy because the rich tend to sit on their money — unlike lower- and middle-income people, who spend a large share of their paychecks, and hence stimulate economic activity.
"But more fundamentally, it cuts against everything our country and my party stand for. Government’s role should not be to rig the game in favor of “the haves” but to make sure “the have-nots” are given a fair shot."

Will the Republicans heed the call Sheila Bair? Don't be silly. That's why they're within less than a decade of disappearing into the sewers of history. See ya!


As I write these words, the Supreme Court is deciding whether or not to repeal Section Five of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. There are those who are arguing that it no longer has a purpose. This at a time when voter suppression in this country is out of control. Can you believe that? How much do you want to bet that Clarence Thomas (of all people) will vote to end it?

Expect more obstruction from the crazies in the House of Reprehensibles in the next two years. President Obama's only real chance to move this country forward will be after 2014 and only if that body is Democratically controlled. Otherwise fasten your seat belts for the downward spiral.

And that's the way it is, Wednesday, February 26, 2013. Cheerio! Pip! Pip!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY  


Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with JFK

In March of 1964, four months after John F. Kennedy's death, his widow, Jackie, sat down with historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. for a marathon series of interviews that were not supposed to be made public until seventy-five years after her death. Fortunately daughter Caroline made the decision that history shouldn't wait that long. A rigorously private and tight-lipped woman with the public for most of her life, these interviews are a revelation. The book comes with eight CD's that cover the entire session. If you're into history this one is essential. Highly recommended.  

Special thanks to my dear friend, Nancy Karlovich, for reminding me what a treasure this one is.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

From the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution

What part of "well regulated" do these assholes not understand? 

I have never in my life wished for another human being to be murdered - and I'm not going to start wishing such a horrible thing at this time. But in the next hour or so, some innocent person somewhere is going to be shot and permanently paralyzed by a stray bullet. Please, fate, why can't that person be Wayne LaPierre instead? Talk about your poetic justice. 

Sure enough, and as predictably as the sun setting in the western sky this evening, it is quite clear that nothing is going to change. Nothing. Two months and six days ago twenty human beings - just barely out of infancy - were slaughtered like cattle by some goddamned lunatic bearing a tiny arsenal of rapid-fire weapons. In spite of national shock and outrage and the demand that these guns be eliminated from the public marketplace, most of our representatives are going to see to it that things remain just as they are.

Hell, even uber-dingbat Ronald Reagan came out against assault weapons! Of course he took this stand nearly a decade after his final campaign, but "better late than never" as they say. 

And the problem doesn't lie (as most problems lie these days) wholly with the Republicans. There are a shitload of Blue Dog Democrats out there who need to be put to sleep - Harry Reid in particular. Reid's state of Nevada is cowboy country apparently. A vote to ban assault weapons would hurt him with the NRA types. The murder of innocent children means a lot less to him than his cushy job in the senate. And the sad fact is that to do the right thing does not necessarily mean the end of his political career. But why take chances? Let the children bleed.

If I were a politician I wouldn't lose a blink of sleep knowing that I would be remembered throughout history as someone who sacrificed his career on the alter of righteousness And anyway, our senators and congressmen have a pretty sweet retirement package.

When the next massacre of innocents happens (and it's gonna happen more-than-once before this year is over) don't count on the Blue Dogs - and every Republican in the House and Senate - to stand up for the victims. This is the way it's going to be from now on. But that's okay. I plan on making oodles of pitchers of juicy lemonade from these nasty-tasting lemons. Carnage produces many things; writer's block is not one of them. I'll be fine 'n' dandy thank you very much. 

There are also a few economic advantages that come with mass murder. I imagine that there will be a few funeral homes and crematoriums that will do quite nicely. If your profession involves the sale of cemetery plots there are a few extra bucks in it for you as well. And the gun industry? Forget about it! As the mass paranoia multiplies, more-and-more people will be purchasing guns out of sheer terror. Expect the rate of deaths by firearms to skyrocket in the next decade. The gun industry will be making a killing - pun intended indeed.

Yeah, it will happen again - very soon - and nothing will change. This is primarily a "man problem". Women, for the most part, are a bit more sensible. What is it about the male of the species? Is it merely an unavoidable reality that violence is part of our natural makeup? I refuse to accept that sort of logic. Norwegian males seem to have their act together, as do most European guys. Could it be an "American man problem"? Is it the stupid cowboy culture that we grow up in? Remember that this is a society that made a secular icon out of John Gotti. People used to ask the hideous little thug for his autograph. Could it be the values instilled in us from birth that render us so violent and dysfunctional? That could be the key. Maybe we ought not to concentrate too much on John Wayne. What we guys could use is a mega-dose of Alan Alda. 

And then there is the indifference. A lot of us just don't think too much about gun violence because it has no direct bearing on our lives. Take my word for it, people: as guns become more readily available in the next few years, as the body count goes into the stratosphere, that mass-indifference will vanish like an ice cube in a furnace. You've never had a loved one killed by a gun? Brace yourselves. I've had two cousins killed by gunfire (both of them women, murdered by guys who were stalking them). I've also had more acquaintances than I can count who ended their lives because there was a gun close by. Less than a week ago, a guy I grew up across the street from shot himself to death. Maybe these are the reasons I am so vocal on this topic. 

Don't you dare be lured by the complacency of your little world and tell yourselves, "It can't happen here". It can. It will. Before your life is over someone you love will be murdered by someone pointing a firearm at them. It might even be you. It might even be me. If things remain as they are, the death rate will only go up. It can't possibly go down. Count on it.

The biggest laugh I get is the argument that only stricter penalties will stem the tide. Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1977, the murder rate has risen dramatically. Stricter penalties? You can only execute someone once. The electric chair will not make a person "deader" than a lethal injection. There is not a single punishment on the books that would have stopped Adam Lanza from killing twenty little children and seven women (and himself) on December 14, 2012. Let's put that moronic notion out to pasture here and now, okay? 

The only advice I can offer you is to do what I have done. I long ago adjusted to living in a nation in ruins. I strongly suggest that you do the same. It makes the coping a helluva lot easier. Now if y'all will excuse me, I'm goin' out shoppin' fer an AK 47. Mah trigger finger's gettin' mighty itchy, baby!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 


Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself
by Alan Alda

Alda's observations on life are a good read. A very funny and insightful memoir.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The "New" Barack Obama

It was heartening to say the least. There stood the president of the United States, in front of both houses of congress and the American people beyond, talking like an honest-to-goodness, fighting liberal. Did my eyes deceive?

“Tonight, let’s also recognize that there are communities in this country where no matter how hard you work, it is virtually impossible to get ahead. Factory towns decimated from years of plants packing up. Inescapable pockets of poverty, urban and rural, where young adults are still fighting for their first job. America is not a place where chance of birth or circumstance should decide our destiny. And that is why we need to build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them.” 

Barack Obama
2013 State of the Union address

For over two years I've been predicting that, once he did not have another election on the horizon, Barack Obama would start acting like a true progressive. It wasn't until his State of the Union Address on Tuesday night that I knew that I was correct. Until that moment I wasn't entirely sure. Welcome home, Mr. Prez. We knew you had it in you.

"They deserve a vote"

My heart goes out to John Boehner. There he sat, looking as awkward and as uncomfortable as I've ever seen another human being look. But the high (or low) point of the evening came when President Obama demanded that the elected representatives of victims of gun violence all over the land be given the opportunity to vote for new and stricter gun legislation. Boehner did not want to give this line the obligatory standing ovation that has become a joke with these events.

But then he realized that he had no choice but to give a listless, standing ovation. You could see clearly the dilemma etched within the lines of his brows. This was a chamber packed to the ceiling with recent (and very celebrated) victims of gun violence, including the parents and siblings of some of the little children who were murdered two months ago today in Newtown, Connecticut - including his former colleague, Gabriella Giffords. Even his own party stood up! They were clapping like a gang of beached seals begging for fish. I'm sure they realized that by not giving a cheer to the memories of murdered five and six-year-old children, they were committing political suicide.  It was just too much for the Speaker of the House to bear. He rose, applauded halfheartedly, and then sat back down as quickly and politely as he could. It really was a funny thing to behold.

The president also called for an ever-so-modest increase in the minimum wage, proposing that it be raised from $7.25 to nine dollars per hour. That's a good start but the magic number should be fifteen - at least. Not that that's ever going to happen, but when that number is on the table, settling on ten bucks will seem like a grand victory to the lamebrains on the far right. With an offer of nine dollars, the "compromise" (if any) will end up at eight dollars - if that. Hardly enough. Obama needs to up the ante just a bit. Of course any increase is too much for the Republicans to bear. Just decrease the tax rates of the rich, they insist. That's their answer to everything, you know.

At the speech's conclusion there was the expected Republican rebuttal. And like last year, one response wasn't enough for these clowns. There was Marco Rubio representing the rank and file, and as an extra-added delight you had Rand Paul standing up for the Tea party crazies. It was merely another illustration  of the GOP's ideological disintegration. If the Tea partiers insist on a separate forum, it can only mean that they see themselves as an entity apart from "mainstream" Republicanism. As far to the right as the GOP has shifted in the last third-of-a-century, it's still not extreme enough for Rand and his gang. You can count on them launching a third party uprising in 2016. Gee, I can't wait.

By the way, are you as suspicious of Marco's little "Poland Springs Moment" as I am? He was nearly at the end of his presentation and yet he just couldn't wait for that gulp. And why did he not have the bottle closer to him? Why did he need to reach so far out of the camera's range? He obviously wanted it to be a moment that would be noticed and talked about, blogged about, tweeted and You-Tubed. Paid product placement? I wouldn't be a bit surprised. Would you?

The reaction of poor old Mitch McConnell the next day on the floor of the senate was fairly predictable. He called Obama's address to the nation (I hope you're sitting down) "LIBERAL". Oh, heart of mine be still! Does this disgusting jackass understand that the days of "liberal-as-expletive" are over? Does he have a molecule of a clue that the people of this country have had it with conservatism? If he doesn't get it by now, he'll get it in 2014 when he is up for reelection.


Barack Obama is on the right track, but he and his supporters need to make certain "adjustments" in their collective thinking. A few nights ago on his MSNBC program, Ed Schultz asked his viewers if they approved of this administration's policy of killing American citizens abroad whom they "suspect" of terrorist activities - without the constitutionally mandated due process. Astonishingly, a full seventy-eight percent of the participants in the poll responded that they were perfectly content with the policy. Ed was visibly shocked by the results. So was I. And remember, the bulk of Ed's audience are "liberals".

Let's take a deep breath here.

Now admit it, folks. If it were the administration of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney doing this sort of thing, we "progressives" would be screaming bloody murder. If the Bush Mob were sending unmanned drones into places like Pakistan, targeting certain terrorists but killing a whole lot of innocent people in the process, would we really be taking this lying down? And don't forget that someday there may be (but probably won't be) another neocon neanderthal living in the White House who will abuse this drone technology to even more extreme ends. If that unfortunate turn-of-events ever transpires, we won't be in a position to self-righteously condemn anybody. In fact we will be exposed as hypocrites. Honestly, we really need to rethink this one, kids. It's high time for a serious reality check.

FUN FACT: The only policy of the Obama administration that the far right agrees with - the only one - is his use of drone warfare. Does that tell you something? It must be wrong.

We need to understand that by doing what they're doing, the Obama administration may be committing war crimes - at least that is how it appears to me. If that is the case, don't hold your breath waiting for them to be called to task in some international tribunal. George W. Bush and company proved for all time and eternity that there is no justice in this world. The best that could be said for Team Obama is that they mean well....I think.

Do you think that the Republicans have been chastised by the results of the 2012 election? Far from it. The recent confirmation hearings for Secretary of Defense-designate, Chuck Hagel, are a weird prelude of things to come I'm afraid. That's the bad news. The good news is that they will only be digging their political grave deeper in the next two years. There is a silver lining behind this dark and nasty cloud. Cheer up.

The next four years will be quite interesting, but we do live in quite interesting times, do we not? Maybe this administration will get a progressive majority in the House of Reprehensibles in 2014. Congressional districts in key swing states have been gerrymandered to such a degree that it would seem that only an act of God will be able to prevent a Republican majority next year. They still control the House, in spite of the fact that more people cast their ballots for the Democrats last year, That is how badly they have corrupted the electoral process. Voter suppression was merely the tip of the iceberg.

But maybe - just maybe - 2014 will be the year when the American people finally say, "ENOUGH". Stranger things have happened. We shall see.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 


The Defining Moment
by Jonathon Alter

In less than a month we will be observing the eightieth anniversary of the dawn of FDR's New Deal. This excellent book recounts the first hundred days.

"Alter's account has a refreshing buoyancy, not unlike its protagonist....He is a fair reporter, describing Roosevelt's missteps as honestly as his triumphs....Succeeds in bringing a remarkable man back to life."

-Ted Widmer, New York Times 

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Elephants in Sheep's Clothing

"Political courage is not political suicide."

 -Arnold Schwarzenegger

Meanwhile back at the implosion....

The fear and desperation is palpable this week, particularly in the faces of Karl Rove and Eric Cantor. No doubt about it: The Frankenstein Monster that the GOP has so gleefully cultivated in recent decades has turned on them; the people of the village are heading for the laboratory of the two mad scientists armed with pitchforks and torches - and they're out for blood, baby! Doctors Rove and Cantor are frantically trying to tame a monster that refuses to be subdued. The castle that houses their lab is crumbling all around them. That "morning in America" has morphed into a long dark night of insanity and despair. The chickens have come home to roost - and they're armed and dangerous. The "party of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt" has lost its mind. The hinges are coming off the doors. The horses are bolting the stable in terror. Their world is shattered. Life is beautiful.

They're wondering how this catastrophe could have possibly happened; how everything could have gone so dreadfully wrong. Is there any way to undo this electoral thunderclap? They tried all the devious devices at their disposal in the last election. Suppressing the vote didn't work. Their unlimited campaign coffers weren't of much help. Their fake polls and propaganda proved utterly worthless. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE???

If you take a good look at history it's fairly easy to see why this is happening. In fact, it was almost inevitable. The seeds of self-destruction for the Republicans can be traced all the way back to the mid nineteen-sixties. When President Johnson brought the Civil and Voting Rights Acts into being - laws specifically designed to protect and uphold the elemental rights of KNEE-GROWS in American society - the racist "Dixiecrats", who had been an albatross around the neck of the Democrats since their inception in the early nineteenth century, went positively apoplectic in rage and disgust. In less than a decade they were gone, fleeing into the welcome and loving arms of the GOP.

In the ensuing years they managed to (somewhat) tone down the racism. Oh, it was still there alright; always bubbling just beneath the surface of their rancid stew. They merely were able to camouflage the hatred with clever, symbolic gestures - such as when Ronald Reagan launched his 1980 campaign for the presidency from Philadelphia. And I'm not referring to the City of Brotherly Love in Pennsylvania. I'm referring to Philadelphia, Mississippi, an unremarkable little stain on the map that was famous for one event only: the brutal slayings there of three civil rights workers in the summer of 1964. It was Ronnie's slick little way of letting the nice folks in dear old Dixie know that Jim Crow would be given the red carper treatment in his White House. The message was about as subtle as a fiery cross - and it worked better than anyone anticipated. A generation later, many of der Gipper's ideological heirs are attempting to repeal the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as "unconstitutional". Ain't that a knee-slapper?

Had LBJ been unsuccessful in making civil and voting rights possible, there is little doubt that Barack Obama's career as a politician would have ended in Chicago. This very fact drives the right wing nuts. When Reagan campaigned for Barry Goldwater in 1964, his main bone of contention against the administration  of Lyndon Johnson was "socialized medicine" (Medicare) and "states rights" (civil rights). Back then, the message of the right wing was a lot more subtle than it is today. Those were the days. my friend!

Fast forward a half-century later. In the early nineteen-hundreds, the first President Roosevelt coined the term "lunatic fringe". One-hundred years later the fringe has gone mainstream. As the old joke goes, "the lunatics have taken over the asylum". This is the dilemma that the movers and shakers inside the Weird Old Party find themselves in. It was demonstrated hilariously during last year's campaign. They know damned well that unless they moderate, George W. Bush will me remembered in history as "The Last Republican President" (the title of the first piece I ever wrote on this site). 

The problem is that their party has been taken over by intellectually deficient hotheads who should be fitted for straitjackets. That is why Eric Cantor is now attempting to sugarcoat the agenda. That is why Karl Rove is now trying desperately to keep the tea party loonies off the ballot. I don't think their scheme is going to work this time. Not only have the lunatics taken over the asylum, they're writing the freaking prescriptions.

Here is how out-of-touch with reality they have become: Ninety-nine percent of the American people are in favor of universal background checks for anyone who would attempt to purchase a handgun. And yet, inexplicably, right wing politicians (and that number includes a few Democrats) have chosen to side with the seven percent who would have you believe that the government  is within days of sending a squadron of predator drones into Anytown, USA. Medications please.

I don't envy Karl Rove and Eric Cantor. They're both walking on cracked eggshells these days and it's quite an amusing thing to watch. They have the tricky task of trying to make their extreme agenda appear more palatable to voters with IQ's above room temperature. That's the only course they have. They don't dare attempt to reposition their party even half-an-inch toward the center. Such a move would surely cause a massive freakout among the crazies, risking a third party uprising and dooming the Republican party in the process. Rove has been described by some as a "political genius". Hats off to him if he can slither his way out of this one.

Keep your eyes on the faces carved into Mount Rushmore. They were sculpted to last for several millennium but I'm not too sure about that. Don't be surprised if, any day now, the jaws on the images of Teddy Roosevelt and Abe Lincoln come crashing to the ground.

 Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


I have been called to task by a few readers of this site for not deleting some of the more rabid freaks who insist on posting their "thoughts" in the comments section. There are two reasons why I will not delete anyone. One of the reasons is that I am a First Amendment purest. "Give me as good as you've got". That's my motto. But the main reason for my "anything goes" attitude can be found in gems like the one below which was posted by some illiterate nitwit on the piece I wrote last week. I paste it here - word-for-word, with no editing:

"You are a piece of shit as well as your postings. You must be soo despite to post on CL rants your blog for yrs now. Drop dead you "want to be". What a loser you are. PIFF,..abtw how do you like obama care now? lmao, how do you like his gun law coming soon? lmao, how do you like his tax increase YOU are going to pay? lmao, how do you like him putting 11 mil wet backs in USA? lmao, how do you like him going after football now? lmao. I new if he was given enough rope he would tangle YOU in his net, LMFAO!!!!!!!!! and he has 4 more yrs to take everything YOU have, LMAAAAAAO!!!!!"


And regarding the three civil rights workers who were murdered in Philadelphia, Mississippi in the long-ago summer of 1964, shame on us should we ever forget their names:
Michael Schwerner, age twenty-four
James Chaney. age twenty-one 
Andrew Goodman, age twenty

"They died so their brothers could be free."

-Paul Simon


The Presidents Club:
Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity
by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy

This book was given to me on my birthday in August by my sister and Doctor-in-law Jack and Susanne Dermigny.  It's a page-turner.