Tuesday, September 19, 2017

This Is No Longer Amusing


"The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime."
Donald Trump, speech to the U.N., 9/19/17
This will end in one of three ways:
1. The generals who surround Kim Jung Un will become so alarmed by the bombastic language coming out of Donald Trump's mouth at the United Nations today, that they kill the hideous little bastard to save their own country (which would make Trump the most brilliant geo-political chess player in world history - a scenario that I frankly don't anticipate).
2. This escalates into something truly catastrophic and terrifying.
3. The House and Senate move with lightening speed to remove this madman from office before he breaks the world.

About a year ago.  I speculated on this site that Donald Trump could foreseeably become the worst mass murderer in history should the American people be stupid enough to send this sociopath to the White House. Of course, I naively said in the next sentence, but that was never going to happen.

Idiot Nation.

Today, the president of the United States may very well have revealed that he does indeed possess the capacity to murder millions of people. Or is this merely an effort to distract the populous from the scandal that is devouring his presidency, bit by bit, with the passing of each day. If that is indeed the case (as I strongly suspect it is) tomorrow morning the topic on every front page in the nation will not be Russia. If this is the case, the man is completely evil.

Here is what must be understood: In his tirade today, Herr Trumph neglected to mention whether or not he would "destroy North Korea" in a defensive capacity, or in an offensive first strike. Since the USA already has a nasty history of the latter (remember Iraq?) Kim and his henchmen must be in full-tilt freak out at this hour. It is my understanding that, given human nature, it its essential that diplomacy be subtle and nuanced. That's one of the reasons Ambassadors don't give regularly scheduled press conferences. The president (who, after all, is the country's chief diplomat) need not stand like a precocious and bad-tempered third-grader on the schoolhouse playground. It's a little more complicated than that....

Okay, I'll be brutally frank with you: It's a helluva lot more complicated than that. The White House is no place for bad-tempered third graders.

I'm waiting to see what the reaction to all of this will be - both domestically and abroad. Today, as he has done virtually every day since he assumed the office eight months ago tomorrow, Donald Trump revealed to the world that he possesses neither the intellect nor the psychological temperament to be serving as the Commander-in-Chief of the most lethal nation on the planet Earth. Sending this man to the Oval Office was a terrific mistake of indescribable magnitude. If you've yet to understand what I'm talking about, you'll understand it soon enough.

As the title says, this is no longer amusing.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Dr. Strangelove
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb

We'll meet again
Don't know where, don't know when
But I know we'll meet again some sunny day....

Where is Peter Sellers when we need him?

Monday, September 18, 2017

This Business of Bashing Bernie

The title of Hillary Clinton's new memoir of the ill-fated campaign of 2016 is, "What Went Wrong". Since its release I cannot help but notice a huge trend of Bernie Bashing out there in the Twitter and Facebookspheres. According to these silly people, Bernie Sanders is solely responsible for the sick and disgusting administration of Donald Trump. We'd all have been so much better off last year if only Bernie had minded his own business and stayed at home in Burlington. Of course, they're taking their cue from Ms. Clinton, who puts a great deal of blame on Sanders in the book. It's almost as if the guy had the nerve to crash her coronation.

Please. This doesn't even come close to passing the giggle test.

First of all for the record, I have not read What Went Wrong nor do I have any plans to read it. If anyone out there wants to lend me their copy I might give it a whirl. But other than that, I have more important things to spend my money on. However, I have read enough reviews and transcripts and listened to enough portions from the audiobook that I think I am able to give enough of an opinion on it that merits some discussion. I find it amusing that so many people (liberals and conservatives alike) think of Hillary Clinton as a pillar of progressivism. To Conservatives she is the dictionary definition of the possible rise of socialism in this country. To Liberals she is the second coming of Franklin D. Roosevelt. She is neither.

I realize that I'm wondering into "cracked eggshells" territory here. On the eighth of this month I made a posting on Facebook advising the Bernie haters to lay off the man, that Hillary was more responsible than anyone else for her defeat. Within one week I was "unfriended" by over one-hundred people. So be it. Here is my opinion - for whatever it's worth:
I didn't support Ms. Clinton in the primaries in 2008; nor did I support her candidacy in the early months of 2016. To my evil, LEFT WING way of looking at things, she has, for much of her public life, been more of a tired and stale old plutocrat than a real, forward looking progressive. As I see it, the sound defeat of her universal health care initiative in the early years of Bill's presidency taught her a lesson in joining them as opposed to beating them. That she is an intelligent and decent woman there can be no denying. Perhaps she would have been a great president; perhaps, having reached the highest level of public office that can be reached in this country, she would have reemerged as the fightin' liberal we once knew her to be. I really do believe that that might very well have been the case. The real tragedy is that we will never know. The pioneering broadcast journalist, Charles Collingswood, put it well. Speculating on historical might-have-beens is as futile as "throwing darts into a fog".

Though we may be beyond the point of speculation, there are a few facts that we need to own up to. Hillary Clinton was an unfortunate choice for the nominee. She was probably the worst Democratic candidate since Mike Dukakis in 1988, possibly in living memory. Most of the polls I read had Senator Sanders defeating Trump handily on Election Day 2016, while Hillary - on her best days - was barely neck-and-neck with him. I know what you're thinking and I agree. There were too many unfair disadvantages thrown in her path: Jim Comey reopening the e-mail investigation just days before the election; Russian espionage with (as is becoming more clear with each passing day) collusion by the Trump campaign; and the very fact that she is a woman running for an office no woman has ever held before - all of these things were a hurdle no man seeking the presidency would have had to overcome.  But we shouldn't miss the much larger point: She was running against a candidate who was terribly unenlightened and extremely mentally ill. She was running against a candidate whose financial corruption was a matter of the public record. In other words, she was running against the worst presidential candidate in all American history. It should have been a landslide in her favor.

2016 should have been a repeat of 1972, when Dick Nixon won every state in the union with the exception of Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. On that most consequential of years, Nixon had the good fortune to be running against George McGovern, one of the most decent men to ever seek the office. Americans don't really have a soft spot for decency. Donald Trump's triumph last year over Hillary Clinton is proof enough of that. The fact that Hillary won in the popular vote is another glaring imperfection in the system that worked against her. As long as the electoral college exists, mad men and imbeciles like Donald Trump and George W. Bush will continue to befoul the Executive Mansion.

Idiot Nation.

The tragedy of 2016 is simply that Bernie Sanders was offering the voters of this doomed country the type of a historical vision that they had not been offered since the second campaign of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1936. Four years earlier, during the '32 campaign, FDR kept his cards close to his vest, revealing very little of the broad and drastic changes he would make in regards to the American peoples' relationship with their government. The difference between then and last year is that Bernie had the courage to represent himself, at the starting gate, as the true progressive he really is. Bernie Sanders is a radical. At a time when radical change is desperately needed, that's not such a bad thing. I'm a radical. If you examined your soul close enough, you'll probably find that you are, too!

The rap that is being made against Bernie Sanders this week (and I find it highly suspicious that it took them  year to come up with this one) is that he never really campaigned hard for Secretary Clinton and that he even sabotaged her campaign....

Where do I begin?

This is complete nonsense. Bernie campaigned like a crazy person for Hillary! I witnessed it in person one year and two days ago exactly - when he came to New Paltz, New York for a campaign rally that I attended. He was all over the country campaigning furiously and passionately for her. To even vaguely imply that he was not a team player throughout the process is slanderous. Look at the historical record. Bernie Sanders was all over the map for Hillary. Her supporters should know better. She should know better, too.

Do you remember the masses of enthusiast people who packed Bernie's campaign events? On the day of the election, many of those same people ended up voting for the Donald - or the third and fourth party candidates. Many of them didn't bother voting at all.

It didn't become clear to me that Trump would win this thing until two days before the election. On that morning I drove down to my local polling place and dutifully voted for her with as much enthusiasm as I could possibly muster. Maybe Bernie might not have been able to get enough votes in the electoral college to take home the big prize. Perhaps he might have. Again, the real tragedy is that we'll never know the answer.
The only thing we know for certain is that - for the time being anyway - we're stuck with the most dangerously unstable and corrupt chief executive in the history of human stupidity. That's something that should give every thinking person pause.
Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
The next time a mob of these nazi bastards have a rally waving that fucking flag, I'm going to have this made into a giant poster and show up in person.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Not So Sweet Sixteen

As Irma pounds the hell out of the Southeast today, it's a bit hard - no, it's impossible - not to let the memory stray back to the man-made catastrophe of sixteen years ago. Late in the evening of Sunday, September 9, 2001, I gave my brother-in-law, Bob Borski, a ride to his home in Brooklyn. At around ten o'clock we passed just under the Twin Towers. I hadn't been that far downtown at night in a decade-or-so. I remember thinking how beautiful they looked towering over the night sky of Manhattan. Would George Gershwin's Rhapsody In Blue have sounded any different had those buildings existed in 1924? The 1993 terrorist assaut on the World Trade Center was still a fresh memory. I speculated to Bob the damage a privately-owned D-10, it's aisles racked with 55 gallon drums of gasoline could do. It never occurred to me that a commercial airliner would do the trick quite handily.
Forty-eight hours later, those buildings were gone forever.
The horror of September 11, 2001 has faded like the smoke that lingered over New York City for so many days afterward. I'm lucky in that I didn't lose any loved ones. My cousin, Patricia Cullen, who was working in one of the towers, barely escaped with her life. For about four hours we thought that she didn't make it. She was finally able to get through to us and let us know that she was safe and sound. The relief was palpable. Of course the families of many others wouldn't be as lucky as ours. My other brother-in-law, Jack Dermigny. lost his cousin Dan. The brother of my pal, Joe Stark, was one of the scores of firefighters who went into the towers, never to emerge. September 11, 2001 was that kind of day.
America's luck ran out on that day. Throughout all of our history, whenever we were confronted with a national trauma, the United States had been blessed with a leader at the helm who was able to guide the ship of state through the crisis with wisdom and clarity. Within months, in spite of the mass good will that was directed at him, it became clear what a mistake it had been to elect George W. Bush as president of the United States. His complete incompetence has been foreshadowed only by the corrupt and disastrous administration of Donald Trump. After nearly eight months of Trump, Bush is starting to look like Franklin Roosevelt. Never did I dream that things would get this weird. Did you? 

Hindsight is a funny thing, isn't it?

By noon on the day of the attack, all civilian, aircraft were grounded. Late that night, for reasons I cannot remember, I found myself walking a deserted street in front of the commons of the college I had attended over two decades before. It was there that I happened upon an old girlfriend. Of course, we were discussing the atrocity of that day when, from out of nowhere, the sky of Middletown, New York was jolted by the roar of what I assumed (and hoped) to be a military jet. Although invisible to us, it was obvious that it was flying at a low altitude. After a few minutes, we gave each other a hug in the darkened street and went on our separate ways. It was such a surreal ending of what had been a completely surreal day.

Sixteen years after the fact, 9/11 is still too depressing to think about. The fact that the American people have foolishly turned over their government to incompetents who don't believe in government makes a terrorist attack on the scale of what happened on that day (or much worse) almost inevitable. This is the grave that the inmates of Idiot Nation have dug for themselves.

Have a lovely day!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Trump's Assault on 'Dreamers' Might Work Politically
by Matt Taibbi


As is always the case, Taibbi is on top of it.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

POST #734: Random Observationsj

My third selfie in as many years

The following are a compilation of unconnected thoughts that I've recently written down or sent out into the Facebooksphere. Similarities to any persons, living or dead, are purely intentional.
1. The Problem With Blaming Bernie
I find it sad and quite ironic that so many supporters of Hillary Clinton in the last election are blaming Bernie Sanders for her defeat.
Every poll had Sanders defeating Donald Trump decisively, while Clinton - on her best day - was barely neck and neck with the guy. His campaign was sabotaged - not only the so-called "liberal" media - but by the Democratic National Committee as well.
Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election because, as they've done so many times in the past, the Democrats exhibited their positive genius for taking a bottle of finely aged champaign, and turning it - OVERNIGHT - into a jug of worthless donkey piss.
They were handed, on a silver platter, the most visionary candidate in their nearly two-hundred year history, and yet (for reasons I'll never be able to figure out) decided to go with a tired and stale old plutocrat.
Ms. Clinton was the worst candidate that the Democratic party has nominated since at least Mike Dukakis in 1988; maybe even the worst in living memory. And yet in spite of this, I went to the polls on Election Day and voted for her with as much enthusiasm as I could possibly muster. Why? Because she was running against the worst candidate in American history. It was kind of a no-brainer, folks.
Every once in a while I forget why I bolted that utterly worthless party nearly twenty years ago. On Election Day 2016, they cheerfully reminded me.
 Forgive me, but I'm still feeling the Bern.

2. Ronald and Donald

Thirty-seven years ago, on the night this nation naively sent a feeble-minded, failed "B" movie actor to the White House, the American people effectively pointed the proverbial loaded pistol at their own collective and clueless head. On November 8, 2016 - make no mistake about it - they pulled the trigger.

Then again, compared to what's come along since then, Reagan is starting to look like Abraham Lincoln. Aren't politics amusing?

3. Irony of Ironies:

The fate of humanity tonight depends upon the temperaments of two unhinged sociopaths with really stupid haircuts.

Ain't that a riot?

4. Revisionism:

In Donald Trump's America, we need to rewrite the lyrics of John Lennon's classic anti-war anthem. My contribution to the discussion:

You may say I'm a Dreamer
But I'm not....HONEST, I'M NOT!!!


Every thinking human being is a beautiful dreamer tonight.

5. Twit:

Limited to 143 characters, Twitter is the ideal forum for people with limited attention spans.


Just a thought.

5. To sleep....To sleep....

I have nothing more to say. I must sleep. My plan is to go gently into that good night.

Good night.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


My cousin, Shawn Bliven, is having major issues due to the fact that he is suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. Here is a link to leave a donation to a fund to assist him with his crushing expenses, I remember the night he was born. It's always been a joy being a part of his biography.

Friday, September 01, 2017

September Tombstone Blues

"Well, now it's time to say 'goodbye' to Donald and his kin."
Mama's in the kitchen, she ain't got no shoes
Daddy's in the alley, he's lookin' for food
I am in the basement with the tombstone blues
Bob Dylan
Darwin was wrong
There is no way this unacceptable situation can possibly continue until New Years Day - let alone January 20, 2021. The damage that this mentally ill knucklehead is doing to this country might be irreparable before we know it. It's almost beyond the point of being unintentionally funny - although it's still a scream. Every morning for the last eight months and twelve days has been like waking up and finding one's self deep within a Paddy Chayefsky satire. However, as amusing as these times are, they're also ominous in a way that's hard to describe. The fact of the matter is that Donald Trump's very presence in the house that was once the home of John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, both Roosevelts and Harry S Truman is a fairly accurate reflection of what America has become. It used to amaze me when people would say that they voted for Trump "because he's one of us". Today I understand it perfectly. He really is one of us - in ways that are too unsettling and weird to articulate. Donald Trump is America. If that very fact doesn't depress the bleeding mortal shit out of you, then you might as well go back to sleep. I'll wake you when it's over.
And there are still some true believers out there. Isn't that something? A full third of the inmates of Idiot Nation are so unbelievably civically dense, they are completely in the tank for this walking obscenity who stands today as the Chief-Executive. George W. Bush is starting to look (in in hindsight anyway) as the statesman supreme. Reagan and Nixon are starting to look like they belong enshrined with the Founding Fathers. Up is down. Day is night. I need a drink. On second thought, a good dose of LSD would do the trick right about now. It's been a while.

Every thinking person, I'm sure, lives in a perpetual state of shock and horror knowing that the nuclear codes - which could conceivably end life on this planet -  are in the hands of this sociopath. Myself, I find it all irresistibly funny. One of my favorite films is Dr. Strangelove. If you've never seen it, by all means have a look. It would explain volumes as far as my fatalistic outlook is concerned. Whatever will be will be, as the old Doris Day song told us. And as the classic Monty Python tune advised: Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. I'm looking. That one is a tad trickier. Did you ever think that things would get this completely dysfunctional? Is it any wonder that the rest of the planet is looking at the United States aghast? We used to stand for something that was noble and good. What do we stand for now?

Donald Fucking Trump

If this atrocity of an administration is allowed to continue for another year, it's all over. Was this a great country, or what!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Scott Baio and the Nugent Playbook

Erin Moran
It isn't any wonder that Scott Baio is one of Donald Trump's biggest and most vocal admirers. Like the Donald, Scott has this unfortunate tendency of letting loose with a verbal barrage before his brain clicks into action. This bad habit of his is constantly being let loose on a - by now - thoroughly suspecting public, as it was earlier this year when this self-righteous knucklehead breathed a condescending sigh regarding the death of his former Happy Days costar, Erin Moran. That's what happens when one's life is wasted by the abuse of narcotics:

"My thing is, I feel bad because her whole life, she was troubled, could never find what made her happy and content. For me, you do drugs or drink, you're gonna die. I'm sorry if that's cold, but God gave you a brain, gave you the will to thrive and you gotta take care of yourself."

The only problem with this utterly reckless statement was the embarrassing fact, later revealed from her autopsy, that Erin didn't die of a drug overdose. The poor woman had been quietly (and by all accounts bravely) battling throat cancer since the middle part of 2016. She was a troubled woman who had struggled with emotional issues for her entire life. Scott could not resist kicking dirt on her still-warm body. Nice guy.

I have always associated Scott Baio with the demise of the Happy Days program. I don't know if you remember this, but for the first two or three years of that show's existence it was excellent. Sometime in around 1976 or so, the format changed. Instead of being shot within the thoughtful confines of a film studio, the producers moved it to a studio audience. Gone forever were the thoughtful scripts. From that moment on, the program focused on the muggings of "DAH FONZ!", an interesting and sympathetic character in the beginning. It was around this period that a new character appeared: Fonzie's teenaged nephew, "Chachi". From that moment on, Happy Days became unwatchable as far as I was concerned. I never again wasted another minute of my time on it. Although I never had a chance to watch it, I have it from good sources that the spin-off series, Joanie Loves Chachi, was even worse. Mind you, I'm not blaming any of this dreck on Scott Baio, he was just some innocent kid given the break of a lifetime. He would have been foolish not to take advantage of it. I'm merely pointing out that Chachi's fingerprints are just one of many on the Happy Days corpse.

The final nail in the coffin of his career as a sit-com star came a couple of years later in something that was called, Charles In Charge. I am not in a position to comment on the quality of this one. I can only assume that it was as bad - probably much worse - as most of the televised "comedy" of the dreadful era I always refer to as The Dark Ages of American Television Comedy.

Vicky Soto
I was thinking about this last week when Scott found himself in his latest, totally avoidable, controversy, when he posted on Twitter a meme that suggested that the murder of thirty-two year old Heather Heyer by a racist thug in Charlottesville earlier this month, had been staged by an imaginary group of latte-swirling, cheese-eating liberal elitists. In the past, he has also suggested that maybe the slaughter in Newtown, Connecticut in December of 2012 of twenty little boys and girls and the six women whose job it was to educate and protect them (REMEMBER THAT ONE???) was another myth cooked up by those liberal rascals. On this particular posting he crudely suggested that Heather's mother and murdered teacher Vicky Soto were really the same person, and that "she" was nothing more that a paid "crisis actor" (whatever the hell that's supposed to mean) I swear, I'm not making this up, folks.

I feel no anger in my heart for Scott Baio. Truth be told I feel sorry for the pathetic little twit. He obviously longs for the days when his star shined bright; when he was on top of the world. He is not the first child star to have the spotlight elude him as an adult. The pages of film history are littered with the sad, often tragic examples of others. In this respect, Scott is lucky. He didn't end up being shot to death before his thirtieth birthday as was the case of Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer of Little Rascal fame; He avoided ending his life from an overdose of heroin and being buried in a Pauper's grave as did Bobby Driscoll - best remembered today for being the voice of Peter Pan in the Disney film of the same name; and he certainly didn't languish in poverty before dying too soon of cancer like his old friend, Erin Moran. By all accounts, Scott Baio's life these days is contented and comfortable. He should consider himself fortunate - but for reasons known only to himself - he does not.

I get the feeling that poor old Scott has studied the Ted Nugent playbook rather carefully. To refresh your memory, Ted is a one-hit-wonder from the seventies of mediocre talent, who somehow managed to chart something called Cat Scratch Fever. In 1977, when  I caught his act with a group of friends in New York City, I walked out of the show after fifteen minutes - the only time in my life that I ever hightailed it out of a rock concert.  He was that awful. In recent years, Ted has had a bit of trouble keeping his "brand" in the public arena. He certainly can't do it by virtue of his "talent" ( which is all-but nonexistent). What to do? Just come out every now and then with a really hateful and dumb remark that is just weird enough to keep the masses of halfwits and Nazis paying attention. In this respect, Ted has been able to succeed beyond anyone's expectations. His biggest moment of vainglory came a few years ago when he compared then-President Barack Obama to a coyote that ought to be shot. For the record, he said this at an NRA rally. Isn't that priceless?

I suspect that Scott Baio has taken Ted's playbook and run for the hills with it. To his credit, Scott's public pronouncements are not half as vile and idiotic as Nugent's - that would take quite a bit of effort - but they can be pretty mean-spirited nonetheless.

Scott Baio needs to come to grips with his situation. He can avoid his name being tarnished in the history books as the most visible champion of the worst, most corrupt and vulgar president in the history of human mediocrity. Someday - soon - his error is bound to dawn on him. He needs to leave  his heirs something to be proud of. Being remembered as Donald Trump's spokesman will be far more harmful to his legacy than Joanie Loves Chachi ever will be. Just a thought.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


I tried to offer this sage advice to Scott Baio via Twitter, but he has blocked me from using his site. At least I made the effort.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Adolf Eichmann - American Style

“With his pardon of Arpaio, Trump has chosen lawlessness over justice, division over unity, hurt over healing. Once again, the president has acted in support of illegal, failed immigration enforcement practices that target people of color and have been struck down by the courts. His pardon of Arpaio is a presidential endorsement of racism."
ACLU Deputy Legal Director Cecillia Wang
And on a star-spangled night, my love
You can place your rights on the fireplace
And by the dawn's early light, my love
Your Constitution's turned to dust....
Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio was custom-made to be a footnote in the history of the disgusting administration of Donald J. Trump. A race-baiting little tyrant from the state of Arizona, Arpaio spent many years rounding up people with dark features whom he or his deputies suspected of being illegal aliens. They were hauled off to a "facility" that many compared to a concentration camp. The prisoners were denied proper nutrition and subject to inhuman treatment, forced to live in unsanitary conditions. As a result, several of them died while in Joe's custody. A number of years ago, a judge found his methods blatantly unconstitutional and ordered him to cease and desist, but Joe arrogantly ignored the ruling and continued on as if he was above the law he had sworn to enforce. He was found guilty of criminal contempt and was facing a six month sentence in the very pokey he had run only a year before. As anyone could have easily predicted, Donald Trump came to the rescue.

At a political rally in Phoenix a week ago (one that reminded me of Nuremberg, circa 1938) Trump hinted that a pardon for the racist sheriff was in the bag. Not to anyone's surprise, that pardon was granted by the middle of the week. Sheriff Joe, the twenty-first century's answer to Bull Connor, was in the clear.

Trump's pardoning of this rancid little demagogue is really a small part of a much larger and disturbing picture. A few talking-heads this week have speculated (and I'm inclined to agree with them) that what the Donald is doing here is merely an attempt to flex his muscles with regard to his constitutional power to pardon anyone he wishes to. It was his quaint little way of warning us that this particular pardon is the first of many, and that the people who are being questioned by Special Council Robert Mueller's team will be able to perjure themselves to their little hearts' content. His future decrees will make it certain that justice shall be subverted at his whim; that his class is above the law.

"A hard rain's a'gonna fall."
Uncle Bobby, 1963

But the most cruel and disturbing aspect to this story, by far, is the fact that Trump has again - just as he did regarding the riots in Charlottesville two weeks ago - just as he has been doing for his entire life as a public figure - telegraphed to his "base" the none-too subtle message that only the lives of the slowly-dwindling white majority matter. What is behind this civic atrocity is becoming more obvious with the passing of each month in America. The uber-rich (white) people who control this doomed country have no intention of recognizing the inevitable: that America is changing, and with those unstoppable changes will come a new reality that none of them will be able to forestall, much as they will try. What do you think is the idea behind the political movement to disenfranchise the traditional progressive constituency from participating in the democratic process? I do hope that the coming mass resistance is non-violent. I'm not sure that it will be. Of this I know beyond a doubt: It's not going to fail. Put any alternative end-result out of your mind. Social revolution is a natural process. You might as well try to keep the moon from rising in the eastern sky this evening. It's ain't gonna happen, baby. Deal with it!

Early this morning I sent an email to my cousin in Georgia who happens to be a rabid Trump supporter. By now, I had come to the misguided conclusion that maybe she had finally come to her senses and understood what a huge electoral blunder it was to send this incompetent, common pervert to the White House. Here is my message in full:

"Ain't hindsight a riot?"

Here is her reply in full:

"No I agree with you. Hindsight is 20/20.
Trump is doing a fabulous job".

Poor kid, she's obviously been down in dear old Dixie for too long. There are a lot of people out there in this troubled nation today who are waxing moronic about what a "fabulous job" this asshole is doing. I was reminded of this a couple of weekends ago when Donald's Goebbels-like handmaiden, Stephan Miller, declared on one of the Sunday morning talk shows that Trump is "the greatest orator in American history". It's almost impossible to respond to something that weird, but I don't think we should give up trying. Although Trump's support is evaporating by the day, I suspect that the numbers will not get much lower than twenty-five percent. It's as unsettling as it is strange. I can barely comprehend that we have sunk this low.

Living in Idiot Nation: It might very well be as nerve-wracking as hell - but it sure ain't boring, ay?

Fascism American Style. THAT'S-ME-AND-YOU!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall
By Bob Dylan


I offer this one without comment.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Dick Gregory 1932-2017

Dick Gregory for President, 1968
"Oppression is more detrimental to the oppressor
than it is to the oppressed."
Dick Gregory, May 4, 1971, Kent State University
Dick Gregory died late Saturday night at a hospital in Washington, DC. Give me some time to get used to this. At this moment, everybody is talking about the death of Jerry Lewis. I, too, loved Jerry (The French were onto something, folks) but today we need to talk about Dick Gregory.
It was one of those mountaintop moments that will never leave me. Early one afternoon in the Spring of 1985, I was working on a job in front of a building on Fifth Avenue between 57th and 58th Streets in merrie olde Manhattan. I was on lunch break listening to the Howard Stern program on the radio. This was at a time when Howard could still be appreciated by anyone with an IQ above a bag of rancid mangoes.  I was about to dig into a tuna fish sandwich when Howard announced his next guest: the legendary Dick Gregory - my hero! 

I had discovered him as a teenager at Goshen Central High School. One day in  my freshman year, I was perusing the biography section in the school's library when I came upon an autobiography with the most peculiar title: "nigger" (in lower case). I scanned it with somewhat of a morbid curiosity. I probably wouldn't have given it a second look had the author of this book with the provocative title not been a comedian. I was a comedy nerd even then. I checked the book out and have been hooked  on Dick Gregory ever since.
As luck would have it on that fine Spring day in 1985, I was parked directly across the street from the building from which the Stern program was broadcast. When the interview concluded, I got out of the van, walked across the street, entered the lobby, and waited patiently. After about ten minutes or so, one of the doors of the four elevators opened and he emerged: MY HERO IN THE FREAKIN' FLESH, BABY!

This was not my first encounter with Dick Gregory - or "Greg", as his friends called him. In the late seventies, while reading yet another of the several books by him that I had read over the years, he mentioned in the closing chapter that he and his wife Lillian (and their ten children) had settled into a beautiful farmhouse on Long Pond Road in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Just out of youthful curiosity,  I called the Plymouth directory assistance to see if he might be listed. To my utter astonishment - he was! At that point in my life, I didn't dream I would ever have the opportunity to meet Dick Gregory, but - come hell or high water - I was determined to speak to him.

After a couple of tries, I was able to get through to the great man. I don't remember much of our chat,  except telling him before hanging up how much I loved and appreciated him and all he had done for America. It was such a sweet conversation, I wish I had recorded it. I never phoned him again because  I didn't want to be a pest; the poor guy had enough on his plate, what with trying to save the world and all.

A couple of years later, in the early months of 1980 (or was it the late months of 1979?) I was a student at Orange County Community College, or as I used to call it, "The University of Middletown". Somehow I got myself on a committee that was charged with booking entertainment and lecturers to appear at OCCC. Of course my first and only thought for a lecturer was Dick Gregory. I worked out all the logistics and booked him to appear. I even made arrangements for him and his brother (who was traveling with him as an assistant) to spend the night in the guest room of my parents' house in Goshen. Alas, it was not meant to be. On this night, the east coast was whacked by a killer blizzard, and Greg got snowed-in in New York City. It was one of the biggest disappointments of my life up to that point (I've had a number of them, far worse, since then). To my credit, I was able to book Leon Redbone a few weeks later. All was right with the world again.

You've got to give this man credit. In 1959, at a time when African American comedians performed exclusively to black audiences via a system that was known as "The Chitlin Circuit", Dick Gregory was the first of them to "cross over" into the white mainstream. Although at that time America was still resistant to change, the world of comedy (always ahead of the curve) was changing at what seemed to be the speed of light. It was no longer a market inhabited exclusively by tired and stale old vaudevillians like Milton Berle and Henny Youngman. A new breed of smart and sophisticated comics were emerging in the repressed era of the 1950s, personified by performers like Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl. Dick took advantage of this new freedom and dove headfirst into it. 
It was the visionary Hugh Hefner (already a champion of the trailblazing and controversial Lenny) who booked Gregory for two weeks at the Playboy Club in Chicago where he was a sensation. From that moment on, he was cooking: appearing in the top rooms and on the most influential television programs in the nation. He even acted in a film. This was a performer that was touching a star even he would not have dared imagined a year before. Dick Gregory was reaching heights no one could have foreseen. And yet  that was not enough to fulfill his insatiable ambition. There was something happening in America that could not be ignored. Dick Gregory wanted to be a part of a higher calling.

He began to take part in the civil rights marches that were overwhelming the consciousness of the United Staes in the early sixties, particularly in the south. He was a decided part of a movement that was altering America and would change it forever. He started to spend more time as a sit-in demonstrator than as a stand-up comedian. He was shot in the leg trying to bring calm to the Watts riots of 1965. He even earned himself an FBI file. As far as I'm concerned, had I been active in that era it would have been an honor to find myself on J. Edgar Hoover's shit list. It is my opinion that any person of conscience who did not have a file during Hoover's reign of corruption and stupidity is not a person  whose biography is worth reading. Seriously.

Think about it:

Malcolm X, John Lennon, The Berrigan Brothers, Eleanor Roosevelt, Charlie Chaplin, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Abbie Hoffman, Martin Luther King, Lenny Bruce, Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Bobby Kennedy, Angela Davis - they all had files in Hoover's FBI. That is a noble and honored fraternity. I would LOVE to be a part of that THAT crowd! Wouldn't you?

That is only one reason I would have trusted Dick Gregory with my life. I still do. I always will. I love Dick Gregory. That's never going to change.

He purposely destroyed his career as an entertainer. He wanted - I suspect he needed - to stand for something more noble and righteous. I once speculated that, if you get to Heaven and you only encounter two entertainers, they will be Laurel and Hardy. I need to amend that statement. Dick Gregory will be there. Of that I have no doubt.

He became the conscience of America, enduring hunger strikes - some of which went on for months - in order to call attention to the immoral war in Vietnam and other American atrocities. He became an outspoken vegetarian and nutritionist whose books on diet and healthy living are still in print and are referred to decades later.

"If beef is supposed to be so healthy for you
how come cows don't eat it?" 

Dick Gregory, 1973

The Lion In Winter
Again, I cannot emphasize this enough: I loved Dick Gregory.

When we met in the lobby of the building on Fifth Avenue, I introduced myself and told him of our scant encounters in the previous years. He smiled and told me that he remembered me. I've always flattered myself into believing that he really did, but I suppose he was only being polite. Dick Gregory was that kind of man. I was floored that someone whom I considered a giant of the century that was still in existence would even bother to give me the time of day. I really am having an interesting life.

We walked together down Fifth Avenue and then turned right on West 57th Street. As we strolled for several blocks, we talked about America. We talked about our hopes and fears. It was then that I realized that he wasn't the icon I had always imagined him to be. Dick Gregory was just like me. I was ashamed that it had taken me that long to figure it out.

When we reached the corner of Broadway and West 57th Street, we went on our separate ways. Dick Gregory headed south on Broadway, and I ducked into the Coliseum Bookstore.

I felt blessed. I still do. We're going to miss you, Greg.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


by Dick Gregory

This book changed my life.


Caught in the Act
by Dick Gregory

This LP was Dick Gregory's swan song as a nightclub entertainer. Recorded in the summer of 1973 at the height of the Watergate scandal, it is the funniest time capsule that will ever be your pleasure to listen to. An absolute scream! I haven't listened to it in decades. I cannot say for certain whether or not it's ever been released on CD, but I'm sure you will be able to find it on ebay with not too much trouble. It is worth the search. I just might give it a spin on the old turntable tonight.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Roger and Me

You will lose you mind when cousins aren't two of a kind

"All these folks worried about erasing history when the Confederate statues come down will be thrilled to learn about the existence of books."
Jamil Smith

Historians inform us that in most instances, Roger Brooke Taney was a pretty good jurist. He was also a bit ahead of his time with respect to the subject of the "peculiar institution" of slavery - at least in his youth. When, as a young man, he inherited a plantation filled with human beings living in unrewarded bondage, he gradually set them free via a process that was known as "manumitting". He even provided a pension for the older ones who had no hope of finding manual labor out in the world. That would seem to me evidence of a decent human being. Not many former slave owners were as kind and as generous as that. The overwhelming majority of elderly slaves were left to fend for themselves in a dangerous and hostile world. So far, so good.
His position on the Supreme Court was unprecedented for a few reasons: Appointed by President Andrew Jackson in 1836, he was the first Catholic to serve on that bench. He was also one of the longest-serving. When he died in October of 1864, he had been there for almost twenty-nine years. Roger Taney should have an honored place in American history, but he does not. And the reason for this is the horrible fact that he authored what is - beyond a molecule of debate - the worst Supreme Court decision in the history of this nation. Wait, it gets weirder than that (at least for my purposes). Are you ready for this?
There's not much history on my father's side of the family. As far as anyone can tell, they were just a bunch of drunken Irishmen fleeing the potato famine in the 1840s. It's a different story as far as my mother's side is concerned. Placed on the branches of my maternal family tree are to be found the doctor who set the broken ankle of John Wilkes Booth late on the night he murdered Abraham Lincoln (Samuel Mudd), a signer of the Declaration of Independence (Charles Carroll), the founder of the state of Maryland (Lord Baltimore) - and a number of other people - some praiseworthy; some outright rascals. Put me in the "rascal" category if you wish.

Taney, like so many of my ancestors, was from the state of Maryland. Although he didn't resign from the court at the outbreak of the Civil War, he was decidedly pro-confederacy. He was such a thorn in Lincoln's side that, for a time, the president considered jailing him. When Cousin Roger died suddenly a month before the election of 1864, Honest Abe made no public comment, which was probably just as well. Apparently Lincoln - one of the most amiable men ever to live in the Executive Mansion - detested Roger Taney with a passion.

Dred Scott
The decision that completely destroyed the legacy of my distant cousin involved a case that was called, "Scott v. Sanford". Dred Scott was a slave who was transported by his "owners" to the "free" state of Illinois and sued for his freedom. For over a decade, his case slowly moved its way up the court hierarchy until it finally reached the Supremes in 1857. The justices voted  - seven to two - that Scott had no right to freedom. Even by the unenlightened standards of the day, it was an appalling decision.  Most historians believe that it was the spark which would ignite the war between the states four years later. One of the nine, Justice Benjamin Robbins Curtis, was so completely unnerved by the decision, that he resigned from the court in disgust. Good for him.

To make matters quite worse, Taney decreed that a slave owner could take his "property" into the territories, and he furthered the notion that, black people "had no rights which the white man was bound to respect." As a fellow Catholic, Cousin Roger should have known better. Honestly.

In a bittersweet coda, shortly after the decision was announced, Scott's "master" (in this case a woman) chose to set him free, He had less than a year to enjoy that freedom, dying on September 17, 1858 at the age of fifty-nine. 

T'ain't no more Taney
Flash forward one-hundred and fifty-nine years later, in an act that would have given Dred Scott a decided flash of schadenfreude, the governor of the state of Maryland, Larry Hogan, ordered that the statue of Taney, which had prominently sat in front of the statehouse at Annapolis since 1870, be removed. Governor Hogan understands all-too-well that America is entering a Brave New World where causes like white supremacy have no place in the cultural melting pot that the United States is supposed to be. America is changing, and, like all mass changes in history, a significant segment of the population are not taking this inevitable social evolution very well - as was evident by the riot in Charlottesville, Virginia a week ago today. Someone remarked on television late last night that no Jewish kid should be expected to attend Adolf Hitler High School. Why can't we treat our brothers and sisters who are the descendants of slaves with the same respect?

A few right wing publications today are criticizing the Democrats for not advocating the renaming of public places in West Virginia bearing the name of the late Senator (and former KKK member) Robert Byrd. I offer an exasperated sigh and a much-needed lesson in American history:

Robert Byrd
Yes, the Democrats were - at one time - the party of the racist Dixiecrats. For over a century most southerners could not bear to align themselves with the party of "that bearded bastard that freed our slaves". Then in 1964 and 1965 respectively, President Johnson passed into law the Civil and Voting Rights Acts. Within less than a decade, all of those racist Southern Dems fled the party like frightened little mice.

POP QUIZ: Which party did they flee to? Which party welcomed them with loving and open arms?

Ironically, Byrd was one of the few who didn't leave the Democrats. That's because he renounced his Jim Crow roots (decades before his death) in several painful and public mea culpas. His conversion to light cannot be dismissed as mere political expediency; West Virginia's African American population has never been noticeably large. He deserves to be publicly honored.

Robert Byrd overcame.

The political heirs of the Dixiecrats claim that the mass migration to the GOP in the sixties and early seventies was simply about economics, that it had nothing to do with race. Bullpippy! It had EVERYTHING to do with race.

Robert E. Lee
There are no statues of Hitler anywhere on this troubled planet, and yet our historical knowledge of him has not been "washed away". We know about him today just as they will know about Robert E. Lee a century from now. A statue is not a history lesson. It is a remembrance of honor. Lee was an officer in the United States army, educated at West Point, who led a counter army in war against the government he had sworn allegiance to. In that ensuing war, 624,000 human beings were slaughtered. Where I come from, Bobby Lee would be labeled "a terrorist"; Where I come from, he would be disparaged as "a traitor". He killed more people at Gettysburg than Osama bin laden killed on September 11, 2001.

Should Lee be remembered? Absolutely.

Should Lee be honored? Absolutely not.

Let's replace the statue of Roger Brooke Taney with one of Dred Scott. That works for me!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


With Malice Toward None
by Stephen B. Oates

By far, the best one-volume biography of Lincoln ever written.


Sunday, August 13, 2017

Charlottesville über alles

Whoa! Look at all them white people!
Frederick Douglass
Think about this for minute: Robert E. Lee was an American who waged war against his own country. He was a traitor. In the Spring of 1861 President Lincoln asked him to lead the Union Army, but Lee opted, instead, to fight for the treasonous Confederacy. He led an army of at least a million armed men in a war against the United States, a war in which 624,000 human beings lost their lives. I don't know about you, but where I come from they would label someone like that as a "terrorist". How would you like it if some committee erected a statue of Osama bin Laden in your town square? He killed far less Americans on September 11, 2001 than Bobby Lee did at the Battle of Gettysburg! The Park in Charlottesville, Virginia where his soon-to-be-removed statue stands conspicuously on a pedestal no longer bears his name. It is now called "Emancipation Park". It is my opinion that they should replace the statue of Robert E. Lee with one of Abraham Lincoln - or better still - Frederick Douglass - the same Frederick Douglass that Donald Trump said was doing such "great work".

Heather Heyer
Yesterday was a day to remember that I'm trying to forget. The capper on the worst racist riot on American soil in generations was when some psychotic little bozo named James Alexander Fields plowed his automobile at full speed into a crowd of hundreds, injuring twenty-seven and killing a young woman named Heather Heyer. To the best of my knowledge she is the first white woman to be martyred in the name of civil rights since Detroit school teacher Viola Liuzzo was gunned down by the KKK in March of 1965.  Given the temper of the times in which we live, I have no doubt that Fields believed he would be granted an instant pardon by Donald Trump. This carnage occurred all in the name of - WHAT? - "White nationalism". You see, some of the heirs of the Confederacy seriously believe that their rights are being taken away from them; they are saying that they want to "take their country back". And they view the removal of Lee's statue as a violation of their Southern heritage.

Sour puss Taney
Embarrassing as this is for me to admit, I, too, possess some of this heritage. There is a rancid branch in my family tree that contains a few people who fought for dear ol' Dixie. Worse still, one of my forebears, Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney, wrote the dreadful Dred Scott Decision, the most despicable and deservedly maligned supreme court decision in the history of Idiot Nation. At the moment I learned that the statue of Robert E. Lee was going to be yanked away from the formerly named Lee Park, I didn't become unglued; I didn't start jabbering about "white nationalism"; I didn't attack the first black person who came across my path with a baseball bat; I didn't shout slogans popularized by the Nazis eighty years ago - and I certainly didn't plow my jeep into a crowd of complete strangers. I merely sighed softly to myself and said out loud, "What took them so long?" I reacted very maturely. You'd have been proud of me!

FUN FACT: In June of 1963, President Kennedy reacted to the civil rights upheaval of his day with an address delivered from the Oval Office - in primetime - to the people of the United States. That speech (which was improvised by the way) is remembered today as one of the greatest presidential orations in the history of this once-great country.

How did Donald Trump react to the turmoil of his time and place?

With a midday tweet.

In his statement, Trump (I can no longer bear to refer to him as "the president") said that the violence yesterday in Charlottesville came from "many sides". That's not true. The violence was instigated by the bigots, some of  whom were openly donning Nazi insignia). Trump, who has never been shy about hurling invective at anyone, initially refused to condemn racism and hatred. He doesn't dare upset what's left of his unmovable and loyal base of supporters. I know, it would have been nice to see him become a human being and finally admit that hatred of other human beings is wrong and has no place in the United States of America. It would have reminded me of the final scene in Charlie Chaplin's Great Dictator where the humble Jewish barber is mistaken for the cruel despot and proceeds to give a speech, imploring humanity to be more merciful toward one another:
"Soldiers!!! Don't fight for slavery! Fight for liberty! In the seventeenth chapter of St. Luke it is written that the kingdom of God is within man - not in one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people, have the power! The power to create machines! The power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful - to make this life a wonderful adventure! Then - in the name of democracy - let us use that power - let us all unite! Let us fight for a new world - a decent world that will give men a chance to work - that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power - but they lie. The do not fulfill that promise; they never will! Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people!"

Don't ever expect anything as inspiring as that to come from the mouth or mind of Donald J. Trump. Nine months ago the American people stupidly elected this unenlightened, unhinged, common pervert to the most powerful office in the world. We're getting exactly what we deserve. We deserve no better.

Yesterday I was visiting my onetime girlfriend in Cornwall, NY. As is her unfortunate habit, she was getting the latest bulletins on the carnage in Virginia from Fox Noise (She voted for Trump but I still love her).  Over an hour after the mass vehicular assault, they were still referring to the incident as a "car accident". I would imagine that most of the mass of halfwits and megalomaniacs who participated in the festivities yesterday in Charlottesville also get their news from Fox. I'm told in a few articles I've read recently that that organization is beginning to wither on the vine. If only I could believe it.

I also would like to believe that yesterday's man-made catastrophe in Charlottesville, Virginia was merely a one-time freak show that will not be repeated any time soon. I don't think that is the case. We're living in Donald Trump's America now.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

UPDATE, 8/14/17, 6:06 AM:

Memorial services for Heather Heyer in Charlottesville had to be cancelled due to bomb threats from some of these racist thugs.


The Great Dictator
A film by Charles Chaplin

One of the great comedy masterpieces of the twentieth century.