Sunday, April 22, 2018

A Higher Loyalty


"Donald Trump's presidency threatens much of what is good in this nation. We all bear responsibility for the deeply flawed choices put before voters during the 2016 election, and our country is paying a high price: this president is unethical, and untethered to truth and institutional values. His leadership is transactional, ego driven, and about personal loyalty. We are fortunate some ethical leaders have chosen to serve and to stay at senior levels of government, but they cannot prevent all of the damage from the forest fire that is the Trump presidency. Their task is to try to contain it."
 
James Comey
from the epilogue of A Higher Loyalty


I've come away with a new respect for Jim Comey that I hadn't had before reading the book that everyone has been talking about since its release on Tuesday. I was furious at the man (as were a lot of us) when he announced the reopening of the Clinton email investigation a mere ten days before the election of 2016. At the time I believed it to be some cheap, partisan trick to get Donald Trump elected to the presidency. As it turns out, he defends the FBI's reasoning for reopening that can of worms quite ably. When additional classified material was found on Anthony Weiner's laptop, he was duty-bound to do what he did. That may be; but had I been in his shoes I would have held off the announcement until at least one classified document was found. None ever was. Whether or not he is responsible for the current debacle we'll be forced to live with for at least the foreseeable future will be debated forever. This much is beyond debate: it was a bad move.

It was obvious from reading this that Trump came into office without so much as a molecular clue of the constitutional role of the president. He believed, as he made all-too-clear during the 2016 campaign, that he would continue as CEO, barking out orders, expecting them to be followed by congress. That's not how it works. During the campaign of 1992, Ross Perot had the same goofy idea. Fortunately the electorate was a bit smarter then. He also had no idea the president and the attorney general are separate powers, independent of one another. When he attempted - in a single setting - to make Comey take a loyalty oath and shut down the investigation into Mike Flynn's dealings with Russia, Comey should have reported him to the House Ethics Committee - which in turn should have initiated impeachment proceedings. I live in a dream world, I know.
 
In the final analysis, the reason Hillary Clinton lost that election was simply because she was not a good candidate. I realize that she is a sharp and able woman, a far cry from the rolling disaster on two feet that is Donald Trump. For all her ability, she was never going to inspire much of the base to get out to the polls. She was always too much of a moderate for many of us. When a candidate has a history of giving closed, off-the-record speeches to the Goldman Sachs crowd, how is a true progressive expected to be inspired?

The curious thing about the Comey book is that it doesn't go into the Trump presidency until about two/thirds of the way through. I would have wanted a little more of that - although I'm force to admit that his story is interesting nonetheless. The book reinforces something I have known for many decades: Donald Trump is an arrogant, vile and unstable human being you could not contrive in fiction. I had previously read so many accounts from within that I don't think there was really anything in it that I hadn't already learned about. If you have the time and the inclination - and the cash - this one is highly recommended. This is an administration that cannot be allowed to continued. The fact that this maniac has his finger on the largest nuclear arsenal on the planet is something that should scare the shit out of anyone bothering to pay attention. America's international stock is lower than it's ever been and, I strongly suspect. than it's ever going to be. Then again, I said the same thing about George W. Bush not terribly long ago. You just never know how deep into the sewer these silly Americans are going to reach when they go to the polls on any given Election Day.

Robert Mueller's investigation is obviously going in directions that the Donald would rather it not go. He is unravelling more with the passing of each day. This house of marked cards is crumbling. This cannot end well.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED READING:

A Higher Calling
by James Come



Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Fix

Donald and Scooter

"Not to draw any parallels to my time as a prosecutor against the Mob, but when I met Donald Trump, one couldn’t help but note certain similarities. Donald Trump would frequently ask me if I would like to be “made,” but I made a point to fob him off with a joke, saying, “I think I’ve been made already, Donald Trump, by a far higher power, as Reinhold Niebuhr would suggest.” Donald Trump did not laugh at these jokes. He never once laughed in my presence. I think it is a grave danger to democracy for a man never to laugh."
`
From James Comey's forthcoming memoir:
"A Higher Loyalty"
`
A grave danger indeed.

If there is one beautiful thing about Donald Trump it is how laughably transparent the treacherous old bastard is. On the eve of the release of former FBI director James Comey's new book, some in the media were speculating that this would be the perfect moment to "wag the dog" (so to speak) by bombing Syria. Almost on cue, that is exactly what happened. This was no mere coincidence, kids. The Donald had shown in the past not a smidgeon of concern or sympathy for the plight of refugees desperate to escape that tormented land. Since the Autumn, a grand total of forty-four of them have been admitted into the United States. Since what happened last night involves pissing off Putin (whose spokesmen have stated that they intend on retaliating) risking the launching of World War Three in order to distract attention from the political scandals that are finishing off an already destroyed administration  - well, let me just say that that is not my idea of responsible statesmanship. We'll just leave it at that.
`
In a further distraction yesterday, Trump pardoned former Dick Cheney aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby for the perjury conviction he received a decade ago after he was found complicit in the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame. If you'll remember it was her husband, Joe Wilson, who became very vocal in his criticism of the Bush Mob for invading Iraq on the pretext that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling chemical weapons of mass destruction. Wilson, who had looked into the matter thoroughly, knew damned well that their WMD contention was pure bullshit. Libby and Cheney then exposed his wife's secret agent status to friendly members of the press - putting not only the life of Ms. Plame at risk, but the lives of all of her contacts at the same time. It has to be the most spiteful example of political hardball in history. Both Libby and Cheney should have gone to the slammer for decades. Scooter fell on the sword for his evil master. Cheney expected George W. Bush to issue a pardon. He refused - a rare moment of Dubya taking the moral high ground. Even a stopped clock is correct twice a day as they say. George did the right thing. I can't believe I just wrote that last sentence. A pig just flew by my window
`
What the heck is going on here? Why pardon Libby so many years after the fact? Again with the transparency thing. You have to be blind not to see his motivations behind this one. What the president has effectively done here is sent a loud and clear message to any potential witnesses who may feel compelled to testify against him for - what is becoming more clear with the passing of every hour - are his high crimes against the American people. What he is telling them is: "Obstruct justice. Commit perjury. Fuck the Constitution. You will be pardoned in the end."

This is the stack of marked cards that too many voters dealt themselves nearly a year and a half ago when they naively came to the collective conclusion that sending an unhinged despot and sociopath to 1600 Pennsylvania  Avenue would be a good idea. Less than a week ago an acquaintance of mine lamely attempted to rationalize his vote for Trump:

"Well, look what he was running against!"

I responded to this delight bit of lunacy this way:

"Well, look what she was running against!"

To say that Hillary Clinton was the worst candidate the Democrats have nominated in decades is, in hindsight anyway, a forgone conclusion. That being said, there was no excuse for a Trump victory on Election Day 2016. It was obvious to anyone bothering to pay attention that the man was dangerously disturbed. That so many Americans were perfectly content to commit such an unexplainable act of mass civic irresponsibility shocked and alarmed the rest of the planet. It will be generations before we're ever again taken seriously. Germany, the country that the United States saved the world from nearly eighty years ago, is today the leader of the free world. How's that for irony?

It is being said by the pundits that we're only a step away from a major constitutional crisis. These people really need to take their heads out of the sand. We're in the midst of a constitutional crisis that commenced at Twelve Noon on January 20, 2017. It's only a matter of time before Trump gives the old heave-ho to Rod Rosenstein and Robert Mueller. When that happens it's all over. To quote Franklin Roosevelt, "The American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory." We'll be taking it to the streets; tearing this government down - and turning it around.

Oooooooh! This is gonna be oodles of fun!!!

Jim Comey's new book is called A Higher Loyalty. It comes out on Tuesday, and you can bet the farm that I'll be at the Barnes and Noble in Newburgh, NY first thing in the morning to pick up my copy. This is such an extraordinary time to bear witness to. The best of times/The worst of times. One thing that cannot be denied by anyone is the fact that, however you want to label them, they sure as hell ain't boring. 2018 is a political junkie's dream.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED READING:

Personal Memoirs
by Ulysses Grant

The former president raced against the clock from the Autumn of 1884 to the summer of 1885 to finish this autobiography. He was dying of cancer and had been swindled out of his entire life savings. He was desperate to leave an income for his wife Julia. Unlike so much nineteenth century prose, Grant's literary style has a modern feel to it that is unpretentious and direct. This one is a must-read for all enthusiasts of history.


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Deeper by the Day

Cohen and his Client

The raid of the offices and hotel room of Trump's attorney Michael Cohen is another major turning point in a scandal that gets darker with the passing of each day. For the FBI to have been able to obtain this warrant tells us a lot - and it's not good news for Team Trump. All of them are presently screaming about attorney/client privilege. The only problem is that if investigators have reason to believe that any lawyer is in the process of breaking the law or is covering up crimes that have already been committed, that "privilege" (such as it is) goes straight out the window and into the gutter. It's anyone's guess what, if anything, Robert Mueller has been able to obtain through this latest search, but it's an easy guess that if the info seized is half as earth-shattering as the dirt they were able to get when they raided the home of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. The president, as might be expected, is not a bit pleased with this latest turn of developments. Gee, ya think?
When the House committee looking into this mess abruptly closed down last week with the terse, "no collusion" announcement, I had a feeling then that it would only be a matter of time when hindsight would bit them on the bottoms. Those who are implying (or saying out loud) that this is a left wing witch hunt would be well advised to take a good look at some of the so-called "witches" that are doing the so-called "hunting". Most of them are life-long Republicans, some of whom were appointed by the Donald himself.
`
Cox
My worst fear is that Trump will use a manufactured crisis to deflect attention, and that he uses the ensuing chaos and confusion to fire the Mueller team. Don't put it past him. He (and his family) are neck-deep in illegal activities - son-in-law Jared in particular. As GOP politician Bob Corker remarked not long ago, if the president is really innocent of any wrongdoing he should act like it. He's not acting like it - not at all. In fact, given all the precious time he has wasted in the last year throwing one monkey wrench after another into this investigation, it would appear to anyone paying even minimal attention that the man is desperate. I'm sure that Mueller and his people learned a valuable lesson from the Saturday Night Massacre of October 1973. When the Nixon Gang closed down Archibald Cox's inquiry into Watergate, they immediately sealed off his office and all relevant evidence. I'm sure - I hope - that Bob Mueller and company have carefully duplicated every scrap of evidence they have and are keeping the duplicates in a secure location.
`
The plot thickens. This is turning out to be Watergate on Steroids.
`
Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
`
SUGGESTED VIEWING:

As is usually the case, Stephan Colbert has the situation nailed:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oqvxkx57BTs&feature=share

AFTERTHOUGHT:

The Chuckster
One of the childhood stapes of many of us of a certain age who grew up in the New York area was Chuck McCann. His TV program and the many characters he would portray on a daily basis were always lovingly goofy and loads of fun. Yesterday, I was asked on Facebook to name one thing from my childhood that a youngster of today would not understand. My answer was immediate: "Chuck McCann". Early this morning I read over the wire that Chuck passed away yesterday in Los Angeles at the age of eighty-four. Here is a link to watch Chuck singing "Put On A Happy Face", a performance he repeated numerous times on his program:  
`
He introduced me to Laurel and Hardy and the Three Stooges. For this I am eternally grateful to the man. Sleep well, Chuck.


Monday, April 09, 2018

Post #777: Random Observations

October 18, 1981
`
The following are a collection of random thoughts and observations that I peppered about the internet and in my notebook:
`
1. A Good News/Bad News Scenario:
`
GOOD NEWS: There is no doubt in my mind that Donald Trump will eventually be removed from office for crimes committed against the American people.
`
BAD NEWS: Mike Pence is dumber than a moldy bad of rancid mangoes.
`
This is the Catch 22 situation we face, folks. Whatever happens, a deplorable situation will persist at least until January 20, 2021. Unless the vice-president is also implicated in any crimes we have no other choice but to make the best of it.
`
2. The GOP's Ayn Problem
`
I'll level with you: I never read Ayn Rand. I attempted to get through Atlas Shrugged when I was living in Toronto in 1981 and abandoned it at about a quarter way through. It had not a thing to do with comprehension or ideology and everything to do with the fact that I thought the book was trash. It was only one of three books in my life that I never bothered to finish.

What perplexes me is the fact that much of the Republican Party's modern philosophy is based upon the fictional writing of a bad writer whose been dead for decades who is widely believed to have been mentally ill. In fact, the prerequisite to working in Paul Ryan's office is that every staff member has had to have read her work and be familiar with it. As a political philosopher she's no Thomas Jefferson. This is why, in a matter of a few short years, the GOP will be deader than Ayn Rand herself.

3. A Memo to my Conservative Friends:

I've got a jolly good idea! For the next week or so, try getting your news and information from any news service other than Fox Noise and the New York Post Toasties. I see so many Facebook postings from my right-wing-oriented acquaintances that are dismissing the Russian investigations as being over. They seem to be blissfully unaware that this thing is exploding more every day. By this time next year we might be at the point where Donald Trump is living in deranged exile, contemplating a permanent residency in Leavenworth. Perhaps in two or three years, everything I write on this site will look foolish in hindsight. Perhaps not. One side is going to wind up with an awful lot of egg on their faces - and I'm more-than-certain that it won't be my side. We shall see.

4.  Dark Comedy

Did you ever get the feeling that you were living in the middle of a very dark and disturbing Paddy Chayefsky satire? You'll be forgiven if you have. 
`
5. A Cherished Moment Relived

Mr. Sager
This has got to be the kindest thing any other human being has ever done for me. A number of years ago I told my pal Brian Sager about April 3, 1972. It's a night that sticks out in my memory as clear as last night does - clearer, in fact ( I had one too many last evening). That was the night that brother Pete and I saw - in freakin’ person - Charlie Chaplin at Lincoln Center in merrie olde Manhattan. He showed two of his films that night: pristine prints of The Idle Class and The Kid, both filmed in 1921 for the First National Film Company (which later became Warner Brothers). I was four months shy of my fourteenth birthday.
`
This was Chaplin's first visit to the United States in twenty years. In 1952 he had been unceremoniously kicked out of this country simply because his personal political beliefs were decidedly left-of-center. Anyone who leaned left during that weird period was accused of being a communist. It was that kind of time in America. The fact that Charlie wasn't a communist made little difference to people like Senator Joe McCarthy and Congressman Richard Nixon. They didn't like his ideas. That was enough of an excuse to throw the most brilliant and visionary cinematic artist of the century out of the country he had brought so much joy and merriment to.
`
Mr. Chaplin

Cut forward twenty years. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences - feeling pangs of guilt, no doubt - invited Mr. Chaplin back to the Hollywood he had helped create to receive a Lifetime Achievement Oscar. On the way, they stopped by New York City's Lincoln Center for an honorary gala that was arranged by Gloria Vanderbilt. My father was a New York City contractor and was fairly well-connected. Getting the tickets was a relatively easy feat for him. When the great man made his appearance on the upper-left mezzanine, Pete and I were directly above him.
`
I kept screaming his name at the top of my lungs, desperately trying to get his attention. Finally, he turned around, looked me dead in the eye and blew me a kiss. At that moment, Candace Bergen, who was then a photo journalist, snapped an image of Charlie waving at me. It made the Life Magazine article on that story and was the featured photo; a mountaintop moment in my life.
`
Miss  Meghan
When I told this story to Brian, he searched for and purchased that Life Issue via eBay. He then got in touch with Ms. Bergen's publicist and sent her the copy asking for a personalized autograph to me. Brian and his family are some of the sweetest, kindest people I’ve have met in all my years of life on this planet. This was a mere four months after the loss of his and Terri's beloved daughter (and my cherished friend) Meghan. The fact that, during such a difficult period, he would take the time to do something like this for someone like me moves me on too many levels to count. He dropped the magazine in mail with a self addressed, postage-paid envelope and waited….and waited….Four years and nothing. It finally arrived in the mail on Saturday with a little message from Ms. Bergen:
`
“To Tom Degan - It was a great night. Candi Bergen”
`
Thank you, Candace. And most particularly, thank you, Brian. It was quite a surprise. I have the coolest friends. I really do!

"YO,  DEGAN!"

Here's a link to make a donation to the Meghan Sager Memorial Scholarship Fund. It is a site that funds the educations of people, like Meghan, who excel in the arts, scholarships, or just the good old fashioned milk of human kindness:

http://cfosny.org/our-funds/scholarships/the-meghan-sager-memorial-fund/

You'll never know how much I adored this kid.

Tom Degan

Goshen, NY

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Fifty Years Later



The memory of where I was the moment the news came over the car radio that Dr. King had been murdered in Memphis is as clear today as it was a week later. We were coming back from a long-defunct shopping center in Middletown, New York called Lloyds. My late mother was driving in the east-bound lane of Route 17 - known by locals as the "Quickway". We were just approaching Exit 122, the Fletcher Street exit where the local Catholic high school sits opposite. We were just heading up the ramp when the announcement was flashed to the world. Being a mere nine-years old on April 4, 1968, I had only a vague knowledge of who Martin Luther King was. I would learn a lot more in the days that followed. This was the event that turned me into a newspaper reader. The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy two months later only hardened my resolve to try and stay on top of things. If you're not old enough to remember, 1968 was that kind of year in America - not terribly different from 2018. In fact, I'm willing to make the argument that these times are far worse. Back then, it was an occasional politician being gunned or civil rights leader being gunned down. Today it's whole classrooms of kids.
`
Thinking back on that day fills me with ambivalence. Sure, we've come a long way as a nation since April 4, 1968; the eight-year-run of Barack Obama as our forty-fourth chief executive is all the proof you need that there has been a substantial evolution in our sociology in a half century. But then again, the very fact that the White House is today the home of Donald Trump, tells me that crucial segments of American society have gone backward to a degree that is astonishing. Fifty years ago, Barry Goldwater was as extreme-right-wing as any presidential candidate could possibly be. What a difference fifty years makes. Today he is starting to look reasonable in hindsight. In fact, he did turn out to be a pretty good senator. Although he was against the passage of the Civil Rights Act during the 1964 campaign, he later regretted his stand. At the end of his life he was a vocal proponent of gay rights. The dude evolved, no question about it. When he passed away twenty years ago next month, he was appalled at where the conservative movement - a movement he helped create - was taking the country he loved dearly. Maybe it's a blessing that old Barry didn't live to see the Trump administration.

As his ideological detractors just love to point out, Martin Luther King was far from perfect. All great men and women are greatly flawed. And yet the fact that this man walked among us for thirty-nine years is just one of the ways this great and greatly flawed nation has been truly blessed.

I have always been a vehement critic of the Kennedy-assassination conspiracy theories. While the Warren Commission might have gotten a few things wrong, the overwhelming majority of their conclusions they got emphatically right. But what puzzles me about the assassination of Martin Luther King is this:

How was an escaped convict, third-rate ne'er-do-well drifter like the man who killed him (whose name I shall forever refuse to mention) able to make it from Memphis to Montreal  to London? (where he was eventually arrested). Things just don't add up. I'll never be persuaded that there wasn't a much larger conspiracy involved in taking from us this truly great and decent American.
`
Martin Luther King Jr. reminds us of America's potential. He was - he is - someone whose life inspires. We forget that in the final year of his life, he became persona non grata to much of America when he publically condemned the ongoing atrocity of America's involvement in Vietnam. The speech he gave at Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967 probably sealed his fate. He told us on that day that a nation that spends more on weapons of death than it does on its own people was a nation approaching "spiritual doom". He was right, of course. He also would have agreed, I'm sure that a country that was willing to accept the mutilated corpses of twenty little boys and girls inside a Connecticut classroom in December 2012 as the price we must pay for our "freedoms" was a country that had hurled itself straight into the pit of hell.

And while we're on the subject, it is probably a good thing that Dr. King did not live to see the era of Donald Trump either. It's a pretty safe bet that he would not be pleased. That's just a silly hunch on my part. Pay it no mind

Has anybody here seen my old friend Martin?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED LISTENING:

The two speeches that Dr. King is best remembered for are, of course, I Have  Dream (1964) and I've Been To The Mountaintop (1968). But the most important speech he ever made, in fact, one of the most important speeches of the entire troubled century he lived in, was the one he delivered exactly one year before he died. Here it is in its entirety:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OC1Ru2p8OfU

Shh....listen.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

This is Going to End Badly

 
 
Think about this: There is not a reputable lawyer in Washington that wants to defend the president of the United States of America. The problem is not the fact that this isn't the sort of case that most criminal defense lawyers wouldn't kill to have under their belt (it is) the problem is the simple fact that the potential client, in this case the Donald, refuses to listen to sound, legal advice. The man is so completely unstable that one never knows which unhinged direction he's going to tear off to at any given moment. As things look at the present, it seems he's going to have to seek a public defender. Wouldn't that be something? All we can say for certain at this stage of the game is that Donald J. Trump - and too many people in his former and current inner circle to count - are in serious legal jeopardy. A lot of these people are bound to turn on him sooner or late in order to save themselves - and that would include the husband of his daughter Ivanka, Jared Kushner - perhaps Ivanka herself.
 
Alice
The most comical part of this whole situation is that neither Trump nor Kushner is liable to fall on the sword for the other, which should make Thanksgiving Day dinner at Trump Tower this year quite awkward for everyone involved. The level of corruption of every adult in this family is being unveiled by the day. The only innocent is young Barron. I feel quite sorry for the poor kid. The legacy he will have to live with in being the son of Donald Trump is going to be a burden to be sure. Alice Longworth lived for seventy-one years after her father, Theodore Roosevelt, left the presidency. The difference between her and poor Barron is that Alice had much to be proud of. I don't envy this boy. He has a rough road ahead of him.
 
SHOW OF HANDS: Is there anyone out there still in denial about where this utter mess is eventually going to lead? If there is, I've got the shadow of a bridge that connects Brooklyn to Manhattan that I'd love to sell you.
 
Ask yourselves the following question: If Donald Trump is as innocent as he claims to be, why has he been wasting so much of his precious POTUS time attempting to throw one wrench after another into the Mueller investigation's finely-oiled machine? As a fellow Republican remarked recently, if the president is innocent, he should act like he's innocent. In spite of all this. a report yesterday tells us that the man's polling numbers are up this week - by seven points - thirty-five to forty-two percent! When I first read these numbers my only thought was, what in the hell is the matter with these nutty Americans? Is it something in the Kool-Aid? Are the tin-foil hats wrapped around their little minds a tad too tight? Why are so many of us so easily deceived? To paraphrase Lyndon Johnson, I may not be a gourmet, but I can tell the difference between chicken salad and chicken shit. Something is seriously wrong with this picture.
 
It would seem to be that, once this mess has been mercifully sorted out, most of the family (with the exception of Melania, Barron and Tiffany) could end up being hauled off to Leavenworth by a herd of rabid mules. If that happens (when that happens) we "adults" will have a lot of explaining to do to our impressionable children. When I was in grade school, every class I attended had a poster near the blackboard which contained the image of every president in United States history. When I was in the eighth grade, the list only went as far as the thirty seventh president, Richard Milhous Nixon - which was bad enough. How are we going to explain to these kids the presence of so vile a human being as Donald Trump? I suppose most of the ones who voted for him will deny it to their dying day. Or, if they do own up to it, they can always blame Fox Noise:
 
"I VASS OONLY FOLLOWINGK ORDERSS!!!"
 
Who the hell could blame them.
 

From Class to Crass
Someday the dust will settle, the decades will pass, and all of us living will be no more. The one question that will have every historian scratching his or her head will be, quite simply: How? How can a nation that produce the likes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, both Roosevelts, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Jack Kennedy - AND EVEN DICK NIXON FOR THE LOVE OF MIKE! How could such a nation be capable of vomiting a Donald Trump. I'm sorry I won't be around to hear what their answer will be.
`
Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Meet the Next Greatest Generation

Democracy is Coming to the USA

Since this moment began, people have asked me, "Do you think any change is going to come from this?" Look around.
We are the change

Cameron Kasky
Survivor of the Parkland, Florida massacre

Time keeps flowing like a river
Into the sea.
 
Alan Parsons

The Greatest Generation is slowly fading away. Just as the last veteran of the First World War passed into eternity three years ago, in less than twenty years time, there will be no one left standing with a living memory of having fought in World War Two. Meet the next Greatest Generation.
`
This week I am more optimistic for the future of this country than I've been since I can remember - perhaps more than I've ever been. Think about it: In November, kids who were born in the year 2000 will be voting for the first time. They are determined to be part of the process and they're pissed - you'd better believe it, Buster. Theirs is the generation that is going to save this nation, and they began to make their presence known during the March For Our Lives on Saturday, March 24, 2018 - a day that will be remembered in history. They will continue to be heard on Election Day in November. Theirs is the generation that is going to tear this country down and turn it around. 
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TIMELY ADVICE: Get the hell out of the way.
`
In the aftermath of the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last month, I wrote on this site (as I've written following damned-near every mass shooting in this country during the last twelve years) that no one should expect this unacceptable situation to change. Our "representatives" in Washington would still be expected to serve as prostitutes for the National Rifle Association and, within a month's time, everyone (except the friends and families of the victims, of course) will have forgotten all about it and it would be back to business as usual.

Did I say that?

Now I'm not so sure. Now I think (I hope) I'll be forced to eat those words. Something is happening in this country and it's the children (not their parents) who are making it happen.

And a child shall lead them....

Although the NRA was noticably silent yesterday, one of their spokespersons was engaged in an interesting bit of semantic speculation on the "NRA TV" network (Yes, it really exists, I kid you not). One of the goals of these kids is to get the age requirement to purchase all firearms raised to twenty-one. This dizzy twit wondered aloud how it could be that they're too young to buy a gun but old enough to shape policy. At a "Friends of the NRA" luncheon yesterday, about four miles away from me in Middletown, NY, one attendee stated that the kids in Parkland and across the nation "are being manipulated by the liberals". Across town hundreds gathered on  the campus of SUNY Orange (my old alma mater) and marched toward a local church. As far as I can tell, there was no liberal manipulation going on, just a mass of good, concerned citizens motivated by fear and outrage. I was feeling quite ill yesterday and missed the event - which I'll forever regret, I'm sure.

FOR THE RECORD: The president of the United States had no comment on this latest march on Washington. He was in Florida golfing at the course he owns. Did you expect better of him? Dream. Dream away.
`
Thinking of John, no doubt
`
Although ours was never a perfect union, our parents handed to our generation the most functional nation in the history of humankind. And what are we handing over to the kids born in the last decade of the twentieth century and the first decade of the twenty-first? A babbling, ideological cesspool. They are the ones who are left the task of cleaning up the unspeakable mess we have stupidly bequeathed them. By the time their work is through, most of us will be long gone - which is probably just as well. We have no right to reap the benefits of their labor. We have no right to stand in condescending judgment of the mass outrage they expressed yesterday in towns and cities across the country. Their day has come. We have utterly failed them and there's no useful purpose in debating the matter.  We really need to step aside.

The NRA should take notice: This is a revolution. If they know anything about the history of the human spirit, surely they must realize that, although revolutions can be temporarily curtailed, they cannot be stopped. They shouldn't bother attempting to stop this one. They might as well try to keep the sun from setting in the eastern horizon this afternoon. It's  about as futile as that.

This new generation is smarter than the last one.  They're more honest, more articulate and about ten times as hostile to the racism and sexism of their elders' generation. There's no stopping them now. The fuse has been lit and yesterday we were all eye-witnesses to the explosion. These children refuse to be the citizens of Idiot Nation. Their calling is a lot higher than that. We should all be proud of them. I know that I am! And I am grateful to have been around to witness their emergence.

Tonight I'll be raising the glass and drinking a toast these incredible young people. Here's to you, kids!
`
Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED LISTENING:

Democracy is Coming to the USA
by Leonard Cohen

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VEDSRP3yNPo

You'd better believe it, baby! Get out of the way! 

Friday, March 23, 2018

This is Not a Good Idea

Bat-shit-crazy
 
 "To Stop Iran's Bombs, Bomb Iran"
 
Headline of a NY Times Op-Ed piece written by John Bolton
 
What could go wrong?
 
When I heard that H.R. McMaster was stepping down from his position as the Donald's National Security Adviser and that John Bolton was being seen as a possible replacement, I knew at that moment that Bolton was sure to get the job. Perceptive on my part? Not really. Trump was elected president due to the machinations of Vladimir Putin, the ruler of a hostile foreign government. Trump is in the position he is in (whether consciously or unconsciously - I'm still undecided about that one) to do as much damage as possible to this already doomed republic. War Hawk Bolton was the logical choice for the position. Less than a month ago, in a piece written for the Wall Street Journal Bolton recommended a pre-emptive nuclear strike against North Korea. During his intelligence briefings during the campaign of '16 and during the transition period, Trump is said to have asked more then once why the USA can't use their "nukes" in any potential conflict.  This is going to end badly.

I have a feeling that John Bolton and Donald Trump will compliment one another in a working relationship - not in a positive way. Their one common denominator is the fact that both men are - undoubtedly - bat-shit-crazy. I do hope (in fact I pray) there are one or two grownups in the West Wing that have the common sense to ensure that the two of them are not left alone with one another for even a minute. The potential for an international catastrophe has multiplied in the past few hours.

I first became aware of Bolton in the months leading up to the inauguration of the village idiot of Crawford, Texas. That the guy was reckless in his approach to foreign policy was an understatement. It would seem that the word "diplomacy" was not in his vocabulary. That's why it was amusing when Bush made him United States Ambassador to the United Nations during a recess appointment early on in his administration. When it became crystal clear that he wasn't going to be confirmed by the senate, he quit the  job to avoid the embarrassment of being turned away. You see, this knucklehead was too much of an extremist for even the Republicans. Apparently, the post of National Security Advisor does not require senate confirmation. That is a situation that really needs to be remedied. Bolton is someone who should not be "advising" anyone, particularly an unhinged buffoon like our esteemed president. I'm just putting the thought out there. Run with it.

One former participant in the presidency of King George the Second described Bolton as the most "dangerous" member of that administration. When one considers the fact that this was the same administration that produced Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, John Ashcroft, Condoleeza Rice - not to mention George W. Bush himself - that is an eye-opening statement. That a very dark and ominous corner has been turned should not be doubted by anyone who bothers to pay attention to these sorts of things. Bolton also advocates the pre-emptive bombing of Iran. Apparently Trump agrees with this strategy. He has forgotten the lessons learned by the instability in the region that was unleashed in the aftermath of America's invasion of Iraq fifteen years ago this week; the most idiotic military blunder in the history of Idiot Nation. It was a war he criticized relentlessly during the campaign two years ago in the primary debates that Jeb Bush participated in. One thing we've learned about Donald Trump is that there are many labels that may be applied to him. Consistency is not one of them. 

The damage that George W. Bush did to this country will never be accurately assessed. The fact that the brainless twit sat in the Oval Office for eight years is difficult to comprehend in hindsight. And yet, the complete mess of things that Trump has been able to let loose in fourteen short months is astounding. Perfectly sensible people have found themselves waxing nostalgic recently for "the good old days" of Dubya. Indeed, I also have found myself feeling less hostility for the little bastard in a handful of psychologically unguarded moments. Compared to the Donald he's starting to look like George Washington. That odious comparison is why what is happening now cannot - and should not - be allowed to continue for another three LONG years. This has got to end, folks. We'll very soon be at the point of no return.

There is one silver lining behind this extremely dark cloud: the complete and permanent destruction of the Republican Party. Call me a cockeyed optimist.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

AFTERTHOUGHT:

On a YouTube comment feed yesterday, someone predicted that Trump will serve two terms - two consecutive life terms.

Ain't that a riot?



Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Friday Night Takedown

Mutt and Jefferson

"The FBI expects every employee to adhere to the highest standards of honesty, integrity, and accountability."
`
Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions
`
So says the man who perjured himself in sworn testimony before his former senate colleagues. Nice!
`
Andrew McCabe
Last night was a milestone in this ongoing catastrophe that is also known as the Trump administration. Traditionally, Friday nights have usually been fairly slow as far as news cycles are concerned. The entire country is either out on the town tying one on - or home in bed sleeping one off. That is why late Friday evening is the ideal time to dump awkward or embarrassing political news on the American people. By late Saturday morning, hopefully, the impact of the story might have dissipated. One of the most peculiar characteristics of the Age of Donald Trump, it would seem, has been that every Friday evening has seen a news dump of damned-near eye-popping proportions.

On schedule, it happened again late last night, only this time the bad news was even more unsettling than it usually tends to be. A lot of alarm bells went off when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that he had terminated the employment of Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe. Brian Williams of MSNBC remarked that, while this was not quite a Saturday Night Massacre, it most definitely was "a Friday Night Takedown". Indeed.

The cruelest cut of all is the fact that McCabe, a twenty-one year veteran of the bureau, who has earned himself an unblemished reputation and the esteem of his peers, was within twenty-four hours of retiring. Now the pension he has worked so hard for is in serious jeopardy of evaporating into the wind. Perhaps that is the case, but I have a funny feeling that old Andy is going to have a golden opportunity to make some juicy lemonade out of these nasty-tasting lemons. His memoirs will soon be in demand - that's assuming they're not in demand already. I envy this guy's future.

The charge from on high against Andrew McCabe is that he transmitted unauthorized information - via another agent - to the Wall Street Journal. Then, when asked about it by his "superiors" (FUN FACT: There are no "superiors" in this disgusting administration) Sessions claims that he was evasive in his responses. The only problem with these rather vague allegations is the fact that McCabe is (or was) the "Deputy Director of the FBI". Part of his job description was that it was he (and no one else) who deemed what information was "authorized" for public consumption and what information was not. Do you see where I'm going with this? The incident in question involved a report the Journal was in the process of putting together regarding Hillary Clinton's infamous email server. Apparently McCabe believed that some of the information obtained was erroneous and he wanted to set them straight. Perfectly reasonable if you ask me.

Mr. McCabe is not going gently into that good night of obscurity. In a  public statement made last night, he indignantly said that the only reason he is being sacked by these treasonous bastards (my words, not his) is because he is within just a few days of sitting down for what will no-doubt be a comprehensive question-and-answer session with Independent Council Bob Mueller, and that he knows a lot of things the Trump Mob would rather Mueller not know. Apparently, McCabe is as compulsive a note-taker as was James Comey. He's in a position to mortally wound this administration, and Trump is as desperate at this point as a cornered rat.  The Deputy Director's life and career have to be destroyed and discretided by any means necessary. Common decency and justice mean not a thing to these people. McCabe's statement is one for the books:

"For the last year-and-a-half, my family and I have been the targets of an unrelenting assault on our reputation and my service to this country. Articles too numerous to count have leveled every sort of false, defamatory and degrading allegation against us. The President's tweets have amplified and exasperated it all. He called for my firing. He called for me to be stripped of my pension after more than twenty years of service. And all along we have said nothing, never wanting to distract from the mission of the FBI by addressing the lies told and repeated about us. No more. Here is the reality: I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I played, the actions I took, and the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey."
`
No, Andrew McCabe will not be going quietly - you'd better believe it, Bubba! Trump may not realize it yet - but the decrepit old freak is going to find out soon enough: He has stupidly created his very own, custom-made John Dean. The only difference here (and it's a helluva big difference) is that McCabe, unlike Dean, won't need to "cooperate" in order to receive a lenient sentence. There will be no plea bargaining here. He has done nothing illegal.

Matt Apuzzo
The incident with the Wall Street Journal reporters occurred a year-and-a-half ago. Trump has been in office for nearly fourteen months. Why was it not an issue until this week? What took him and Sessions so long to bring it up? Matt Arpuzzo is the New York Times reporter who has been covering this story closely. Last night on MSNBC he said, "The disciplinary process is not known for great speed at the Justice Department, and so one of the things that I am quite interested in is, why did this happen so fast? The speed of it is certainly interesting."

Very interesting indeed. But I'm sure that it's all merely a harmless coincidence. Yeah right.

Within an hour of Sessions' announcement of the Deputy Director's dismissal, Trump - to no one's surprise by now - was positively giddy with his latest, unhinged Twitter tirade:

"Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI - A great day for Democracy."
`
How awe-inspiring. Someone hand me my chisel, please.
`
The Donald's animosity toward McCabe is nothing new. At his first meeting with Trump following the inauguration, the new president asked him for whom he had voted in the 2016 election. McCabe responded - uneasily, I'm sure - that he hadn't voted at all. Whether he was being truthful or not, it was an impudent and unethical question to ask. McCabe's wife, Jill, had been a candidate for senate in Virginia a couple of years earlier. She had run as a Democrat and eventually lost the election. One of her chief fundraisers was former governor Terry McAuliffe, an old and cozy friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton's.

Jim Comey
Here's where it gets quite awkward and weird: Jim Comey was in Los Angeles attending a conference when he was suddenly fired (as Trump, himself, later admitted to Lester Holt on national television) for not shutting down the Russia investigation. He ceased what he was doing in his official capacity as  head of the FBI, and promptly returned to Washington in the plane he had come in. A few hours later, Trump summoned McCabe into the Oval Office. When he asked why Comey had been allowed to use a government plane to fly home, McCabe's response was, apparently, not satisfactory for the First Fool. Then, out of the blue, the president of the United States of America said this to the Deputy Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation:

"Ask your wife what it feels like to be a loser."

What did Jill McCabe have to do with any of this? Besides that, was Jim Comey expected to take a bus back to D.C.? Did Trump expect him to walk? Or fly coach even? This is merely an illustrative example of what a petty, vindictive and juvenile little piece-of-shit our president is. Aren't you proud to be an American?

Bob Mueller
Here's what's going to happen: Last week, the Republican-controlled, House committee that was "investigating'" the Russia connection to the Trump campaign of 2016, shut it down unexpectedly and announced that there had been no collusion with Putin or anyone else within the Russian government - much to the chagrin of the Democrats. Trump will use that event - plus Andrew McCabe's "disgrace"  as a pretext for shutting down Robert Mueller's inquiry. It will, of course, happen late on a Friday night. Maybe not this Friday; maybe not next Friday - but a Friday night soon. We'll be able to call that one "The Friday Night Massacre". The Chief-Executive is using the Department of Justice as a tool for political persecution. We all need to keep on our toes.

Tom Degan
Goshen, N Y

SUGGESTED VIEWING: Here is a link to watch the Brian Williams segment on MSNBC last night that was quoted in this piece:


AFTERTHOUGHT:

I was just thinking early this morning that Watergate was nothing like this scandal. For political junkies these are, indeed, heady days. To quote Bill Murray in the role of Hunter Thompson in the 1980 film, Where The Buffalo Roam: 

"It still hasn't gotten weird enough for me."
`
Happy Saint Paddy's Day, everybody!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

It Didn't Have to Be This Way



It was a thrilling time to be alive. Being born in 1958, I could see the change. The clouds were ascending. I really believed that things would eventually turn for the better. I was barely old enough to remember the America of segregation and Jim Crow. In spite of the elevation of a failed, feeble-minded "B" movie actor, I never - for a moment - doubted that America would move forward. Even the arrival on the scene of George W. Bush was not enough to dim my essential optimism for the future of this country. By contrast with what we have now, Bush is starting to look presidential. And Reagan? He's starting to look like George Freakin' Washington! That was then. This is now. As far as my worthless generation is concerned, the party's over. It's time to call it a day. Our generation was handed a nation, that while not perfect, was functional. And what have we handed over to our descendants? A shithole. What a legacy!

It didn't have to be this way..

It's all over now. The shit has hit the fan. It is over and done with. The American people wlll never be trusted again by thinking people. Germany, the nation that he USA saved the world from eighty years ago - is now the leader of the free world. Isn't that something?

This is worse than anyone could have dared predict it would be. Donald Trump symbolizes everything that is dark and disturbing in the American psyche: a bent, unenlightened dysfunction that the rest of the world has come to view with a combination of horror and amusement. It will take generations to heal the embarrassment of Trump. For the foreseeable future the rest of the planet will have no good reason to take us seriously. This political cancer is terminal and self-inflicted. Sixty-five years ago the part-comical, part-horrified speculation in liberal salons was what if Joe McCarthy should ever find himself living in the White House. It happened on January 20, 2017 - only this time the new commander-in-chief is a much-worse case scenario. For all of old Joe's recklessness, at least he had a sense of humor and could be a lot of fun to be around. Even Jack Kennedy liked the man! It was said that he was also a great drinking companion. Despite his flaws, from all that I have read about the man, I get the sense that I probably would have liked Joe McCarthy had time an fate bought us together.

EXTRA! EXTRA!
PUTIN FIRES TILLERSON!

Show me a political figure who reflects someone like McCarthy in a positive light, and I'll show you a catastrophe personified. Within hours of finally taking a hard line against Vladimir Putin, Rex Tillerson was fired by Trump. One can only surmise the number of state secrets that the Donald has revealed to his main man in Moscow by now. The damage that has already been done to America in the space of fourteen months is incalculable. What can only be concluded at this point if that we - and our children - will be living with the stigma of this uncouth jackass for the rest of our lives.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED READING:

Russian Roulette
by David Corn and Michael Isikoff