Wednesday, April 29, 2009

There Goes Arlen

Someone please pinch me. Every day in every way it just keeps getting better and better. The GOP is about to go the way of the Whig and the Know Nothing parties. And it isn't even death by natural causes. We're talking full-blown, national suicide here. This can only be described as a hopeful development. In fact it's too good to be true. Am I dreaming this?

I heard an interesting point of fact on television yesterday morning. More Americans believe in ghosts and flying saucers than identify themselves as Republicans these days. Isn't that a scream?

The Grand Old Party is in the process of imploding. It is now almost exclusively identified with reactionary, white southern males. It would seem that Weeda Peeple are starting to wake up to some seriously nasty little realities. One of those realities is the fact that these hideously foolish people have done more damage to this once-great nation than Osama bin Laden could ever have hoped to do. Once upon a time it was cool (at least to some minds anyway) to be a Republican. Today it is down right embarrassing. They have become the political equivalent of the powder-blue, polyester leisure suit.

Arlen Specter's defection from that hideous party should not shock anyone (although it is a pleasant surprise). He always seemed to be an imperfect albeit perfectly reasonable man. It was more-than-apparent that he was uncomfortable at times associating with the ideological jackasses his party affiliation forced him to come into contact with on a daily basis. His occasional defense of the indefensible always appeared halfhearted at best. Who can blame the poor guy for getting the hell out of there while the getting is good?

Almost three years ago on June 2, 2006, the very first piece I wrote on this site was called George W, Bush: The Last Republican President:

"Please stop soiling the memory of one of the greatest presidents in history by calling it "the party of Lincoln". Don't ever call it that again. Abraham Lincoln's influence on the Republican party ended at exactly 7:22 in the morning on April 15, 1865 when he breathed his last breath."

The last Republican president? At the time I believed it to be mere wishful thinking on my part. Now I'm not so sure. No political party could possibly be expected to survive the fallout from the economic carnage wrought by the GOP during the last thirty years. The damage is now so complete that even the American electorate (not the brightest bunch on the planet, I'm sorry to say) are beginning to put two and two together. They have awaken from the right wing coma that they've been slumbering under since the day in 1980 when they naively sent Ronald Reagan to the White House. They have opened their eyes and have taken a long, hard look at the political landscape - and it's not a pleasant picture; in fact it's a very disturbing one.

There's no longer any rational way to deny it: although there are more than a few Democrats at whose doorstep the blame for this mess may be rightfully laid, it was the Republicans who did this to us. It is obvious that Arlen Specter - along with the great majority of the American people - has figured this out.


You would think that these silly elephants would want to undergo a bit of an image makeover, wouldn't you? You would think that given the current extremist image of their party nationwide, they would seek to nurture intelligent moderates like Specter, would you not? Yeah, I would, too. We both would be wrong, though.

In Pennsylvania, some idiotic group that went by the name of "Club For Change" decided that a mushy moderate like poor old Arlen was too much of a left winger for their tastes and they starting promoting the candidacy of some shrill drone named Pat Toomey to challenge the senator in the Republican primaries next year. Specter saw the writing on the wall and decided to come back home to the party of FDR (he used to be a Democrat). Although he is now dead to most Republicans, he has gone on to a much better place. Rest his soul.

When Michelle Malkin learned of Specter's defection, her response was classic right wing idiocy. Instead of going into an detailed analysis of the reasons why he would want to leave, she sounded more like a half-witted fourteen-year-old in the midst of a temper tantrum. It reminded me of an old Lesley Gore song:

"We have just ten words for you, Arlen Specter: Don't let the door hit you on the way out!!!".

It's my party and I'll cry if I want to! That statement in a nutshell is perfectly illustrative of the much larger problem. It is also is a textbook example of the arrogance of the overwhelming majority of Conservative spokespersons. They did need Specter. They needed him desperately. Arlen Specter's exit was merely another nail in the slowly-closing coffin of their political fortunes. They are no longer a national party but merely a regional one - their major sphere of influence being limited solely to the deep south. That may very well be someone's definition of "a party" - but it's a private party. You and I aren't invited.

The Progressive wing of the Republican party died in 1912 when Teddy Roosevelt had the nomination stolen out from under him after decisively defeating incumbent William Howard Taft in the primaries. The moderate wing, once personified by people like Everett Dirkson, Milicent Fenwick and Nelson Rockefeller, is on its death bed. I am convinced that were Richard Nixon to come back from the dead tonight to seek the nomination from these freaks, he would be dismissed as too liberal. As far as the north east is concerned, the last centrist holdouts are Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine. If they know what's good for them, they'll both jump that sinking ship really soon - much like Jim Jeffords of Vermont did in 2001, forever incurring the wrath of the Bush Mob. In an OpEd piece in this morning's New York Times, Senator Snowe wrote a piece that was sympathetic to the reason for Specter's departure:

"We can't continue to fold our philosophical tent into an umbrella under which only a select few are worthy to stand. Rather, we should view an expansion of diversity within the party as a triumph that will broaden our appeal. That is the political road map we must follow to victory."

Good for her! Only a fool would argue with that very eloquent statement. There's only one little problem. The Republicans ceded control of their party to a cabal of half-witted extremists and kooks a very long time ago - 1964 to be exact. That was the year that Barry Goldwater was forced to accept the nomination on a platform that even he found nauseating. Don't expect any of these knuckleheads to hand over the reigns of power to more thoughtful moderates like Olympia Snowe and Arlen Specter any time soon. The longer they retain the power, the deeper the Republican party will become divorced from political reality, spiraling headlong into the abyss of irrelevancy.

Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt are at this minute, you may be sure, doing somersaults in their graves. The grand old party is over - I'm almost certain of that. The fact is, the people who are running that train wreck of a party (people like Michael Steele for instance) aren't visionary enough (or smart enough) to send it in a new and fruitful direction. The next few years will only see their continued self destruction. Isn't life wonderful?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


To my beloved niece, Marieke Catherine Pennings who was born on April 29, 1989, twenty years ago today. Happy birthday, Riekie Roo! I've never been able to figure out how the heck I managed to survive the first thirty years of my life without you!

Uncle Tom

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Coddlin' Them Dictators

The Republicans were apoplectic.

There he was: THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - THE LEADER OF THE FREAKIN' FREE WORLD - disgracing the martyred souls of the glorious dead who gave their "last full measure of devotion" for this grand and glorious land of ours. If they had not seen it on FOX Noise with their very own eyes, they would not have believed it to be possible. But true it was. Barack Obama had been caught - red handed and in living color - being gracious toward Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

It was very possible that all over the nation, these crazy, wing-nut geezers - some of them on the verge of a complete psychotic breakdown - might click on the April 23, 2009 edition of "The Rant" and nudge their poor wives in utter rage and disbelief:

"Did you see that, Margaret? Barack WHO-sein Obama shook the hand of YOU-go Chavez! Just take a good look at that picture picture up there on the left! And whaddaya know! Doesn't it just figure that Tommy "The Commie" Degan would plant that photo at the top Left corner of the article? He hates America, you know."

"Wait, Margaret! It gets worse! Barack WHO-sein Obama not only accepted a book from the dreadful little turd, he actually smiled at him - AT YOU-GO CHAVEZ, for the love of Mike! Someone pass me my nitroglycerin pills!"

Now! Now! Let's all take a nice, deep breath.

As I mentioned in the previous column (Is it pretentious to refer to these things as columns?), the GOP - and the far-right extremist kooks who pass as their spokespersons nowadays - are desperate for issues that will distract the American people. They are years past the point where they could talk about ideas. Why is this, you ask? Because their ideas suck, that's why. They are now attempting to do to Barack Obama what they did to Bill Clinton when he was president: Go after him with every thing including the kitchen sink.

Karl Rove was one hell of a role model for these idiots. They took the Rove playbook and they ran like hell with it - over the mountain, down into the valley and across the river. American politics is no longer about issues; it's not about ideas, and it's certainly no longer about We The People. It's all about insinuation and accusation - oh yeah; and money - lots and lots of money. Statesmanship and ideas have gone the way of the typewriter and the 8-Track tape.

When President Obama arrived home in Washington the other day, the Republican spin machine went into full-tilt, freak-out mode. "He's making nice with that evil dictator!", they shouted in unison. What was Obama supposed to do when Chavez approached him - punch him in the nose? Should he have performed a Moe Howard maneuver and poked him in both eyes with his middle and index fingers? How the hell would that have looked?

Barack as Moe: Take that, ya chowderhead! Nyurk! Nyurk! Nyurk!
Hugo as Curley: Woo! Woo! Woo! Woo! Woo!

What on earth could the president have possibly done other than smile graciously and politely accept the book from Chavez? By now it is a given that the only kind of diplomacy the knuckleheads and neanderthals on the Far Right understand is the cowboy diplomacy that was practiced for eight long years by the Bush Mob - and look how much good that did us! Diplomatic negotiations are not - and have never been - about simple issues of black and white. It is all about shades of gray - and yet these people have never been able to figure out this simple fact that is understood by every Freshman Political Science student.

And if the reaction to the Chavez incident was not weird enough, they're now having a positive hissy fit because the Obama administration is hinting that they want to normalize relations with Fidel Castro's Cuba. Oh, Heaven forfend!


Ah, Fidel! The man we just love to hate! I don't like putting myself in the position of defending the guy, but it must admitted that in the Hall of Fame of evil, despotic tyrants, poor old Fidel is pretty low rent, don'cha think? The Cuban people do not live in constant, mortal fear of their government. A lot of them, maybe even most of them, may not care too much for Fidel or his brother Raul, but he is no better (or worse) than the man he ousted from power in 1959, America's faithful ally, Fulgencia Batista.

When Jack Kennedy imposed the Cuban embargo on February 3, 1962, I was not yet four years old-years-old. Barack Obama was one day shy of turning six months old. I turned fifty last August. Barack Obama is now president of the United States. The embargo has done neither country any good. It's time to end it.

And don't you dare deny this: Fidel Castro in a damned sight better than our "allies" the Saudis. You don't believe that? Let me ask every gentleman reading this: If you were forced at gunpoint to choose, where would you prefer to live - Cuba or Saudi Arabia? If you're attempting to prove a foolish political point by answering "Saudi Arabia", that's fine; I'll accept your answer. Now let me pose that same question to the ladies: Where would YOU choose to live? Saudi Arabia? Where women have virtually no rights whatsoever? I didn't think so. HEY GUYS! Where would have your sister or your mother live? Saudi Arabia? Really??? Come! Come! Time for your medication, boys.

Compared to the Saudi Royal Family, Fidel Castro is starting to look more and more like Thomas Jefferson.

The fact of the matter is that the United States has gotten really cozy in the past with vicious despots far worse than Fidel Castro or Hugo Chavez. The Shah of Iran comes immediately to mind. In 1953 the Central Intelligence Agency of Dwight D. Eisenhower overthrew the democratically elected government of Iran - or "Persia" as it was then called. They swiftly installed Reza Pahlavi who ruled by means of murder, torture and intimidation for a quarter of a century. The birth of violent Islamic extremism can be traced to the CIA-engineered coup of 1953. It somehow seems like poetic justice that the Shah would become their first real victim in 1979 when he was forced to flee the country in fear of his life. Two score and sixteen years later, the world is still paying a severely heavy price for Eisenhower's disastrous foreign policy. Just ask the poor, suffering people of Guatemala.

By 1955 the Guatemalan people were into their tenth year of a very real and flourishing democracy. The people were beginning to prosper in ways they could scarcely have dreamed about a mere decade before, and literacy rates were rising at a speed unheard of in most Latin-American Countries of that era. There was only one problem: the government of Jacobo Arbanz had this silly notion that the farmland that grew the fruit, their main export, should be controlled by the people - not the American-owned, United Fruit Company - so they nationalized that land. Bad mistake. John Foster Dulles, who was Eisenhower's Secretary of State, owned mucho stock in the Delmonte Canned Fruit Company. The CIA was again called in to do the dirty work. Goodbye Democracy! Hello Despotism! Fifty-four years later, Guatemala is a fucking dictatorial cesspool. Thanks, Ike!

By the way, I don't buy Delmonte products. You shouldn't either. Food for thought - no pun intended.

The brutal Somoza family (the folks who put the nasty in dynasty) ruled Nicaragua for generations. President Roosevelt once famously said of the elder Somoza, "He may be a son-of-a-bitch; but he's our son-of-a-bitch" (Although it is no secret to anyone who regularly reads this site that I am a great admirer of FDR, I'll be the first to admit that he was far from perfect). In 1979 Anastasia Somoza was overthrown by Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas, bringing to that country the first real (albeit imperfect) democracy in living memory. Two years later the government of Ronald Reagan began an eight year military campaign against the Nicaraguan people, forcibly trying to return them to totalitarianism - in direct violation of the Boland Amendment. The very fact that Reagan was never impeached still rankles all these years later.

On his historic visit to China in 1972, Richard Nixon insisted on going out of his way to be filmed and photographed with an ailing Mao Tse Tung. Did meeting with one of the twentieth century's worst tyrants prove that Nixon hated America? Of course it didn't! Watergate proved that all by itself.

And while we're on the subject of American leaders coddling these awful thugs, just look at the 1982 video image at the top of this piece. That is Reagan envoy Donald Rumsfeld (remember him?) embracing our then-ally, Saddam Hussein.

And whom do you think it was that Franklin Roosevelt tried to negotiate with in good faith at the Yalta and Tehran conferences as World War II drew to a close - Nadya Kominish? Yakov Smirnov? It was Josef Stalin, the man who is in serious competition with Adolf Hitler for the title, "Most Despicable Human Being of the Past Two-Thousand Years".

Call it a silly hunch on my part, but I have a feeling that in the long scheme of things, Barack Obama's acceptance of a book and a handshake from Hugo Chavez is no imminent threat to the peace and security of the free world. Appeasing the likes of Saddam Hussein, Reza Pahlavi and the Somoza Clan, on the other hand, was a very real threat.

The president made this country proud on his mission to Trinidad last week. Isn't it a neat thing to once again have a chief-executive with an I.Q. in the triple digits? I sure think so!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


The Declassified Eisenhower
by Blanche Weisen-Cooke


I will try to do this in one-hundred and forty characters or less....

Here is why I will never - EVER - sign up for Twitter:

Ideas are not boun

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Republican Implosion of '09

"It was the best of times. It was the worst of times".

Thinking of the opening sentence of Charles Dickens' classic, A Tale of Two Cities,
a tip of the hat is in order for the old master. While the last seven months have been the worst of times, they have also been, in a very real and tangible way, the best of times as well. Of course I am speaking of the utter implosion of the party that at one time it its history was reverently referred to as "the party of Lincoln". Yesterday marked the one-hundred and forty-fourth anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's death. It is not too much of a stretch of the imagination to hypothesize that were he to come back to earth today, he would not only fail to recognize his party, he would be ashamed and embarrassed to have his good name associated with it.

What we have here is your classic good news/bad news scenario....

Good news: The GOP is going down in flames.

Bad news: They are determined to bring the rest of the country down with them.

It really is kind of funny when you think about it. This is dark comedy at it's finest. If it were a screenplay it would have been written by Paddy Chayefsky. Like the hunted felon who knows damned well that he is within minutes of having his cover blown, the Right Wing extremists who have dominated America's political dialogue for almost three decades, are resorting to desperation tactics of the most deplorable (and entertaining) kind.
And I'm lovin' every minute of it.

Here's their problem: They know that the insane, "trickle down", voodoo economics of the "Reagan Revolution" has been exposed for all time and eternity to be nothing better than a two-bit rip off - the economic equivalent of a Three Card Monty scam. In order for them to survive politically, it is essential that they do everything humanly possible to ensure that President Obama's effort to save the American economy - and, thus, the American people - is a complete, disastrous failure. So, what to do? That's easy! Divide, distort and distract! It's the good old, tried and true, Karl Rove theory of statecraft.


This was one of the most idiotic publicity stunts I think I've ever witnessed. This "grass roots movement" (which in reality was cooked up by the Republican National Committee and promoted by the FOX Noise Corporation) was a pathetic effort to stage a nationwide demonstration against the Obama administration's tax policies. The problem is, most of the fools they were able to sucker into taking part in this silly event are people whose taxes won't be raised one blessed cent! How many times do these knuckleheads have to be informed that the only people who are going to be paying more in taxes under the Obama plan are those who make in excess of $200,000 a year? Has any one of these jackasses figured out that they will be paying less to the federal government under this president than they paid under George W. Bush? What the hell is the matter with these people? Has this stupid "Tea Bag Protest" benefited anyone? You bet it has - the Lipton Company.

And then, just when you thought the situation couldn't possibly get any weirder, there was the governor of the state of Texas - Rick "Good Hair" Perry - telling a rally of screaming nincompoops that the Lone Star State had the constitutional right to secede from the union.

You just might want to rethink this one, pardner. Between you and me and the lamp post, there are a whole heck of a lot of people out there (who don't live in Texas) who believe that your state's secession would be a perfectly nifty idea. It's a movement of opinion that is growing by the hour. Let me explain something to you Governor Perry; yours is the state that gave us Molly Ivins, Bill Moyers, Kinky Freidman (not to mention the Texas Jew Boys), Jim Hightower and the Barras family of Port Arthur (my first cousins on my mother's side). We kindly thank you for that. But you're also the state that gave us George W. Bush, Phil Gramm, Tom Delay, Karl Rove - and you. My advice? Don't go there. Don't even think about going there. Believe me, Governor, many of us would be blissfully content to give that state back to Mexico. As someone much wiser than I once opined, "Be careful what you wish for."

Desperate times call for desperate measures - and if there is one thing that is patently obvious to anyone bothering to pay attention, it is that these assholes are very desperate indeed. Their only option at this late stage in the game is scaring the shit out of the American people. Some are calling Barack Obama "a Socialist" Others "a Fascist". They're even calling him "the most polarizing president in history". This at a time when his approval ratings are somewhere in the mid sixties. Listening to them chirping on and on, like little magpies on an acid binge, you would think that Bush's eight year reign of divisive, reactionary insanity never even happened. Yeah! That's the ticket! It was all just a bad dream. Go back to sleep.

In the midst of all of this nonsense is the spectacle of the main contenders for the GOP nomination in 2012: Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, Tim Pawlenty - all of them governors - who are telling the press that they will be refusing the government's stimulus money. The reason for this is because they need to appease the small government base of their increasingly irrelevant party. Forget the fact that to refuse that money would consign their constituency to needless suffering and despair - Oh, just forget all of that stuff, you crybabies! The only things that matter to these despicable nitwits are their ambitions - Screw the people.

And while we're on the subject of irrelevance, is there anyone out there who seriously believes that the recent soap opera involving the ex-boyfriend of Sarah Palin's daughter has ruined her chances at a bid for the White House in 2012? Does anybody really think that no political party in their right mind would nominate such an imbecilic woman as their standard bearer? If it is your opinion that Governor Palin is a pathetic, stuck-in-the-tundra has-been whose best days are behind her, you're giving way-too-much credit to the standards of the Grand Old Party.

Just look at the intellectual afflictions of every one of their nominees going all the way back to 1980. Sarah Palin is made to order! We're talkin' Dan Quayle in drag here! Are you kidding me? They can't just nominate another white guy to run against President Obama three years from now. They have to choose a woman or a non-white man. The most qualified (barely) person among their ranks is Mitt Romney. The only problem is the fact that the reactionaries and religious bigots who control that party will never nominate a Mormon. Baring a miracle (or the unthinkable - Dear Lord, keep him safe) it will be Palin or Jindal (or Palin/Jindal) in 2012. Count on it.

And then there are the revisionists. They're out there in droves; the ones who are now in the process of making a futile and pathetic attempt to rewrite history by telling us (with faces as straight as a two-by-four, I swear!) that twenty-five years in the future will find historians remembering Bush as the greatest president in American history; sort of like the way Harry Truman, unpopular in his time, is remembered today. These are the people I really pity! It reminds me of the story of the farmer who one day came across a young boy digging through a huge pile of horse manure with his bare hands. When the puzzled man asked the boy what the hell he was doing, the poor kid replied, "There's just got to be a pony in here somewhere!"


They should etch those words in granite at the entrance of the George W. Bush Presidential Library.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Happy birthday in Heaven to Charles Spencer Chaplin - one of the bravest men who ever lived - who was born one-hundred and twenty years ago today in London, England.

Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it's breaking
When there are clouds in the sky
You'll get by....

Thursday, April 09, 2009

April 9, 1939

Marian Anderson probably never intended to become a civil rights icon. All she ever wanted out of life was to sing.

Almost everyone is under the impression that the modern civil rights movement began on that December afternoon in 1955 when an exhausted Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus to a white man. They're off by almost seventeen years. December 1, 1955 merely marked the day the child went out into the world for the very first time. April 9, 1939 was the moment she breathed her first breath.

Marian Anderson was born on February 27, 1897 in Philadelphia to John Berkley Anderson and the former Annie Delilah Rucker. Although throughout her long life she made her name known across the planet as a singer of immense talent, it is a single incident on Easter Sunday 1939 - seventy years ago today - for which she is most remembered

It was apparent early on to her Aunt Mary that little Marian had a remarkable voice. The woman encouraged the little girl by taking her to music events all across the city - those that allowed black people to attend. When her father died after accidentally being struck in the head in a job-related accident, she, her mother and two sisters went to live with her paternal grandparents. It was at this time that she became more involved in singing through her church, Union Baptist in south Philadelphia.

In 1915 at the age of eighteen, she applied for admittance into the Philadelphia Music Academy but was told that the school was closed to her because of the color of her skin (Oh, I'm sorry, have I mentioned it yet? Marian Anderson was an African American. Thank Heaven we are light years past the day when we would refer to Nat King Cole as the "negro singer" or Dick Gregory as the "negro comedian"). According to her biography on Wikipedia:

"Marian's High School principal offered to help her and enabled her to meet a very respected, talented music teacher, Giuseppe Boghetti. Marian auditioned for him by singing Deep River, and the old professor was moved to tears by what he heard. Undaunted, Miss Anderson perused private studies with Boghetti and Agnes Reifsnyder in her native city through the continued support of Philadelphia's black community."

In 1925 the New York Philharmonic sponsored a singing competition and Marian, age twenty-eight, easily took home first prize. Three years later would find her singing on the stage of Carnegie Hall. In the nineteen-thirties she embarked on a successful European Tour. It was at this time that she met the Finnish pianist, Kosti Vehanen who would be her regular accompanist for many years. The late thirties would find Marian back in her native land giving an average of seventy concert performances a year.

In the Spring of 1939 she sought the permission of the Daughters of the American Revolution to sing in the auditorium they owned, Constitution Hall. Previously, there had been Negro artists who performed in that venue. However when the African American citizens of Washington complained about the unfairness of having to watch black musicians and singers from the vantage point of segregated seats in the back of the hall, the D.A.R. - instead of doing the right thing by integrating the place - decided to initiate a ban on all artists of color.

That was all the First Lady needed to hear. When Eleanor Roosevelt learned of this nauseatingly stupid development, she immediately resigned her membership in that organization. She then contacted the Secretary of the Interior, Harold Ickes, and persuaded him to to arrange for Miss Anderson to give a recital at the Lincoln Memorial.

On that chilly Easter Sunday of 1939, with the ever-loyal Kosti Vehanen accompanying her on the piano, Marian Anderson sang before an unprecedented audience of seventy-five thousand men, women and children, black and white. As she performed My Country 'Tis of Thee and Schubert's Ave Maria under the statue of the great emancipator, who among the great multitude gathered there at that historic moment would have dared to realize that they were witnessing the first motion in a chain of events that would lead to (but certainly not end with) an African American sitting in the chair that seventy years ago today was occupied by Eleanor Roosevelt's husband?

And to think that it all started on April 9, 1939.

Marian Anderson's career would flourish until her retirement a quarter of a century later. On January 7, 1955, she became the first black person to perform with the New York Metropolitan Opera. In 1957 and 1961 she sang at the inaugurations of Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy respectively. On August 28, 1963, the day Martin Luther King declared to the world, "I have a dream....", she sang at the March on Washington - at the same location where she had made history twenty-four years before. During that same year, she was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 1965 when she launched her Farewell Tour, it was from the stage of Constitution Hall. To be sure, there were no hard feeling's on Marian's part. As she said at the time: "You lose a lot of time hating people."

Marian Anderson was ninety-six years old when she passed from this life, ever so quietly, on April 8, 1993, at the Oregon home of her nephew, the noted conductor James DePreist.

Nearly twelve years after her death, on January 27, 2005, the United States Postal Service announced that they were honoring the memory of Marian Anderson by issuing a thirty-seven cent stamp with her image on it. The ceremony that marked this event was held at Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. It was hosted by the Daughters of the American Revolution.

So much had changed.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

To hear a recording of Marian Anderson's performance of Schubert's Ave Maria on that historic day seventy years ago, click the link below:


My Lord, What a Morning: 
The autobiography of Marian Anderson
For more insane commie ravings from this subversive lunatic Tom Degan, please go to the following link:


Monday, April 06, 2009

Unavoidable Contrasts

Let me start this little opus of mine by saying that I am disappointed (to put it mildly) with the Obama administration thus far. He has far too many people in his orbit that are part of the problem - not the solution. People like Tim Geithner. And yet, I also have confidence in the man's intelligence. I believe he will eventually realize this. He probably already does. We're only less than three months into his first term, I am still more than willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. No reason to panic - yet.

Having gotten that little bit if venting out of the way, it has to be acknowledged that the performance of the president and the First Lady during the European G 20 summit has been nothing short of stellar. Stellar, I say!

PLEASE NOTE: I have never used the word "stellar" in my life. Honest, I haven't!

Forgive the cliche but Barack and Michelle took Europe by storm. It was the kind of shot-in-the-arm publicity that comes along very rarely; the type of publicity that this country was desperate for. After eight years of the my-way-or-the-highway, half-witted, cowboy diplomacy of George W. Bush and the extremist assholes he surrounded himself with, the contrasts are impossible to ignore. The comparisons are literally screaming to be made. As a public service, please allow me to make them....

I'll never forget the first time I ever laid eyes on George W. Bush. It was twenty-one years ago in the Spring of 1988 during his father's South Carolina primary campaign. He was being interviewed on NBC News and I can remember my response like it was yesterday:

"My goodness! The boy is dumber than dog shit, isn't he?"

If you had told me right then and there that in thirteen years this inarticulate little guttersnipe would be sitting in the Oval Office, I probably would have smiled gently, patted you on the hand and replied, "Please, may I have just a little toke of what you're smoking? Oh, please! Oh, please! Oh, please???"

When he announced his candidacy in the autumn of 1999, I remember saying to someone, "Wouldn't it be great if the Republicans nominated this knucklehead? The guy is so mind-numbingly stupid, he doesn't stand a chance on Election Day. The American people just aren't that dumb!" When he finally did get the nomination at the GOP convention in the summer of 2000, I thought that the Democrats had hit the jackpot:

"Al Gore vs. George W. Bush? GEORGE W. FREAKING BUSH?"

This is gonna be like shooting fish in a barrel, I thought. The American people wouldn't be foolish enough to send this moron to the White House! Ain't ever gonna happen! No way, baby!

I stand corrected. So sue me.

Comparing Barack Obama to George W. Bush is about as unfair as comparing the acting abilities of Lawrence Olivier to those of Larry the Cable Guy. Unfair but irresistible! Last week, for the first time since I was in kindergarten, a chief executive we could really be proud of stood on the world stage and transformed the badly tarnished image of this country. Not since 1941, when President Roosevelt took up arms against Adolf Hitler, have American/European relations been given a greater shot of adrenaline. It was a remarkable thing to behold.

As president, Bill Clinton represented his country well and with great skill and diplomacy. But (let's face some uncomfortable facts here) it was kind of hard to be bursting at the seams with pride over poor old Bubbah - the man was seriously flawed. Not since Jack and Jackie Kennedy have the people of Europe taken an American First Family to heart as they have this one (And don't kid yourselves - they couldn't stand the Reagans). They respected - even liked - Bill and Hillary, no question about it. But they're just wild about Barack and Michelle. It reminded me of the Beatles' 1964 invasion of America in reverse.

We have to be honest with ourselves. The rest of the world has become somewhat bewildered in the last forty years at the quality of our leaders. Can you even imagine how they would have reacted had we sent a doddering old reactionary like John McCain to the White House last November? Are you able to contemplate the utter horror the rest of the planet would have felt had the American electorate put a white trash diva like Sarah Palin "a seventy-two-year-old heartbeat" away from the presidency? I seriously doubt that America's prestige would have ever been able to recover from something like that. The blow would have been fatal. The election of President Obama has sent a signal that we are open to change. We may have to be dragged into that change kicking and screaming, but we're open to it nonetheless.

The last eight years have proven (one would hope forever) the utter bankruptcy of the GOP's philosophy of governance. If America ever chooses to go down that road again, we'll deserve everything that happens to us. Each time in our past that the "plutocracy" (READ: Loony right wing) was able to seize control of all three branches of our government, they ruined this country economically. Have the American people finally learned the lesson lesson they should have learned nearly a century-and-a-half ago during the Grant administration? Judging by their history, probably not. We shall see.

After eight years of George W. Bush's Death Valley, Barack Obama is the proverbial mountaintop. Just knowing that there is a guy in charge who can put two coherent sentences together without the aid of a team of speechwriters and a state-of-the-art teleprompter is something we used to take for granted in this country. Now it seems a luxury. True, as stated at the top of this piece, Team Obama is far from perfect and is in much need of a bit of an overhaul. But when placed in juxtaposition to the Nightmare Years 2001-2009, the dissimilarities are striking and refreshing. It's almost like comparing Bobo the Simpleminded to Albert Einstein; or Charles Manson to Mother Theresa; or George Washington to - well - George W. Bush.

I don't know about you, but I've been sleeping a lot sounder since January 20, 2009.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Most people are under the impression that the modern civil rights movement began late one afternoon in December 1955 when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus to a white man. They're off by almost seventeen years. It really began on Easter Sunday 1939 - seventy years ago this Thursday. Stay tuned.