Saturday, September 26, 2009

America The Pitiful

"I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually."

James Baldwin

"You cannot reorganize village life to suit the village idiot."

Frank Schaeffer

Yesterday, in an OpEd published in the Huffington Post, Bill Maher wrote a piece which decried the dumbing down of the American people in in recent years:

"We weren't always like this. Inert. In 1965, Lyndon Johnson signed Medicare into law and 11 months later seniors were receiving benefits. During World War II, virtually overnight FDR had auto companies making tanks and planes only. In one eight year period, America went from JFK's ridiculous dream of landing a man on the moon, to actually landing a man on the moon."

While I admire Bill Maher a great deal, I am forced to take issue here. This pitiful America of which he speaks is very real - of that there can be little doubt to anyone who has bothered to pay attention. But like a lot of people on the Left (I am sorry to say) he totally ignores - whether by accident or design - the undeniable advantages of living in the America of the first decade of the twenty-first century.

For example:

I never finished High School. In fact I dropped out at the very beginning of my Junior year. In spite of this unfortunate fact, the I.Q. of my country has dropped to such a horrifying degree in the last thirty years, whenever I arrive at a gathering of, say, two or three-hundred people, I am reasonably confident that I am the smartest person in the room.

Do you have any idea how utterly cool that is? Lighten up, Bill.

I shall illustrate this nasty point by telling a tale of two marches on Washington. One took place in the late summer of 1963, the other in the late summer of 2009. One was promoted by a preacher from Georgia named Martin Luther King, the other by a former "shock jock" from the state of Washington named Glenn Beck. Ouch! Even mentioning the two of them in the same paragraph is somehow disconcerting.

In 1963, the the people were singing, We Shall Overcome.

Forty-six years later, the chant was, We Shall Undermine.

In 1963, a vast and varied demographic of the American people - all races and religions - descended on the nation's capitol to peaceably and nonviolently protest an injustice that was occurring in certain areas of the country to people of a certain skin pigmentation.

Forty-six years later, a Convention of Pissed-Off White People - united only by the fact that they were all habitual viewers of a single cable news channel - rolled into Washington to hurl invective at an African American president for creating a mess that he had absolutely nothing to do with creating.

In 1963, the signs people held up were optimistic: "With Liberty and Justice for All."

Forty-six years later, the signs were ominous: "We Came Unarmed - THIS TIME!"

On August 28, 1963, the hearts of people who marched on the city of Washington DC were filled with love and hope.

On September 12, 2009 they were just full of shit.

Let us boil the comparisons down to their juicy essentials, shall we? Martin Luther King had a dream. Glenn Beck has a scheme.

"Stupid is as stupid does."

Forrest Gump


In the America of 2009, "STUPID" is a valuable commodity. "STUPID" sells. A couple of years ago, one of the highest rated cable television programs for people between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five was a show that was dedicated to stupid people doing really stupid things. The program was called, "Jackass". It was so successful, its producers were confident enough to make it into a full-length movie!

"STUPID" sells.

A few months ago, an African American named Michael Steele had a plan to bring other African Americans into the fold of the Republican party. How did he plan on accomplishing this damned-near-impossible feat, you may well ask? He was going to offer them watermelon.

"STUPID" sells.

In 2008, a Minnesota congresswoman declared that an investigation should be initiated against every Democratic member of congress for "un-Americanism". Less than a month later, she was reelected.

"STUPID" sells.

Last week at a Town Hall meeting, a woman confronted Eric Cantor with the plight of a close friend whose illness had left her destitute. With a straight face, the congressman suggested to the woman that her friend rely on charity.

"STUPID" sells.

Nearly half-a-century ago, there really wasn't much of a market for "STUPID" in most regions of this once-great nation:

"The energy, the faith, the devotion - which we bring to this endeavor - will light our country and all who serve it. And the glow from that fire can truly light the world."

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 1961

"I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we're really talking about peace."

George W. Bush, 2002

No doubt about it: In the first decade of this new century, "STUPID" has a corner on the market.

How did the country that put a man on the moon a mere forty years ago become so jaw-droppingly dumb? There are loads of reasons for this, to be sure. Not the least of which is the fact that since the dawn of the so-called "Reagan Revolution" a generation ago, the education of America's children is no longer a priority. You see, Ronald Reagan's revolutionaries are not merely content to do away with the Department of Education, these assholes want to obliterate public education in this country all together! That is not merely my opinion, that is their stated, published goal. Do the research if you think I'm exaggerating.

This is not your father's America. Come to think about it, this ain't even your older brother's America. The dumbing down process of recent years has been that swift. If you're not seriously alarmed by what is now happening, you're probably getting up every morning with FOX and Friends. C'mon! Admit it!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Trivializing America: the Triumph of Mediocrity
by Norman Corwin

This brilliant essay by Mr. Corwin was written in the late eighties and has been out of print for a number of years. Try finding it on Ebay. It's worth the effort.


Have you ever been to Elaine's Place? It's a nice place indeed:


When I first made this posting, I referred to Norman Corwin as "the late Mr. Corwin". I have just been ever-so-gently chastised by a reader named H.M.Covert that Norman Corwin celebrated his 99th birthday on May 3. Not only is he still very much alive, he is still writing. God bless him.


At 8:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It has ocurred to me that "No Child Left Behind" was never fully funded because politicians - especially Republicans - actually WANT as many children as possible to be left behind. One glaring result of the current over-emphasis on testing is that critical thinking skills are no longer being taught. Only the material that's likely to be on the test is "taught", so that much of public education today is merely an exercise in mental regurgitation.

Good teachers recognize that this is a problem, but they're trapped in the current system of "teaching to the test" that's demanded by State Ed. departments.

When a substantial portion of the population lack critical thinking skills, it becomes much easier to lie us into war or foist nonsensical crap like Sarah Palin's "death panels" on the clueless dupes that make up a good chunk of the voting public.


At 8:49 AM, Blogger john said...

this is truly like it is.we as Americans have lost our way.we are led by the stupid to look stupid and we are doing a good job at it,too bad its not a paying one

At 10:52 AM, Anonymous Elaine said...

Thanks so much for the mention! I added yours to my daily reading list and RSS reader.

I like your analogy of the 2 marches 1963 vs 2009, so very true! A couple of weeks ago the teabaggers were bussed in and arrived in my peaceful little town waving signs and spouting propaganda from Beck, Palin & Joe the Plumber who was a speaker. It was embarrassing to watch on TV.

"Stupid is as stupid does." is correct.

At 10:54 AM, Anonymous Ray Bodensieck said...

Tom I think you ought to write op-eds for the NY Times. We need more bluntness to get through to the many Americans who can't think past "What's for dinner?"

At 11:38 AM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Thanks, Ray. Truth be told, It's a lucky day when I am able to make it on the NY Times blogger page. That would be nice, though. Is anyone from that paper reading this? I'm available!

Thanks for stopping by, Elaine. This looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship!

All the best,

Tom Degan

At 12:29 PM, Blogger charles moore said...

Hi Tom,
Another to the point and thought provoking Rant. A couple of points that I think can be expanded on is the issue of education. I was very fortunate that in spite of being poor, my parents were able to send me to college for which I was very grateful. With scholarships and hard work I got my own way through graduate school. In the early 70s, I was surprised to see that the tail was wagging the dog with regards to higher education. Instead of colleges and universities having a curriculum that students were required to take, students were telling the schools what they wanted to study. Not Shakespeare, but the "moral implications" of Starwars. So education has taken a dumbing down effect.

Fortunately, schools are not necessary to education. Your writings and thoughts are much better than many so called educated writers and one of my closest friends never finished college but is one of the best educated, well read, most profound thinkers I have ever encountered.

Related to that is the fact that I have several close friends who are school teachers and whose jobs are becoming more and more difficult each year as kids become belligerent, rebellious, quarrelsome, inattentive, unresponsive and medicated to the eyeballs.

I work in a church as a director of music and I am astounded at how many kids can not function without some sort of medication. And as I look around, I see that their parents are also medicated to the tits. These people are simply incapable of functioning without pills.

A lot of words to say that we have a lot of people out here who are seriously mentally disturbed. I have never watched Glen Beck, but from all accounts, he has temper tantrums, crying jags and in general acts like someone who should be in a mental institution rather than having his own TV show. And the same goes for Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman. These people are simply not working with a full deck.

Thanks for letting me go on so, and for all of you anonymous writers who are too cowardly to sign your name, yet want to take me to task and foam at the mouth and tell me how wrong I am, be advised that I read Ton's Rant and no longer bother with the hysterical postings of those who disagree.

At 2:08 PM, Blogger Darlene said...

Hooray - today the right wing haven't posted their inane nonsense on your blog. I'm sure that won't last, but it was really refreshing to read some intelligent comments.

Maybe your anonymous commentors have recognized themselves as being one of the STUPID.

You are right, there is still hope for America and we must all remember that the right wing-nuts get all the publicity and they are loud, but the majority of the people, according to the polls, are still sane and want the Public Option.

I think I will go visit Elaine now and see what she's about. If you like her blog, I am sure I will.

At 5:47 PM, Blogger TomCat said...

I never finished High School. In fact I dropped out at the very beginning of my Junior year. In spite of this unfortunate fact, the I.Q. of my country has dropped to such a horrifying degree in the last thirty years, whenever I arrive at a gathering of, say, two or three-hundred people, I am reasonably confident that I am the smartest person in the room.

I hear you, Tom. I'm a high school graduate with a low C average. I earned an AA when in my 40s, and by that time, I had a 4.0 GPA without too much effort. Every once in a while, someone expresses shock to me that I do not have a post-graduate degree.

I think that when we were young, schools still taught how to think. Today they focus more on what to think, especially in red states.

At 12:39 AM, Blogger Will de Cleene said...

I gather many US universities put more effort into their football teams than, y'know, studying the universe.

At 1:37 AM, Blogger Dearest Friend said...

Dear, your topic this week is one that has been near and dear to my heart lately. That is, my heart of hearts is bleeding for this country and how stupid the next generation is getting. I actually had a co-worker in her twenties tell me she didn't know who someone in American History was - I forget who it was now but it was someone that she SHOULD know about.

Then, my own niece who is 23 admitted to me that she doesn't read that well and really didn't care! I was stunned into silence at such a statement. I've also been told by 20-somethings that they don't really care about proper speling or proper grammar when they write an email or what have you.

How can they when they can text a message that reads: "Ill talk 2 U L8r." or "U R Grate I rill luv u" OK...It takes me a while to decipher these texts if I have to read them!

The fact that teachers have to teach for the standarized test in primary schools and to the SATs in high schools of this country is part of the problem. Will there be students who actually leave high school excited to learn more about our history? Excited about researching and finding a cure for the terrible diseases out there?

Picture it a thousand years or so from now when archaeologists and historians who study this civilization come to the conclusion that "sometime in the early twenty-first century was the beginning of the end of the great American Age. Their culture, their government all seemed to deteriorate into something akin to the dark ages of a millenia prior to their civilization."

It seems like we're headed into a new "dark ages" only with technology! How scary will that be?

So - we intelligent ones need to safeguard our books (you know the kind made out of paper with bindings that you actually need to OPEN and turn pages while reading them), our great movies, music and other recorded works of visual art so they aren't lost forever. Share them with the next generation - and the generation after that - maybe we still have time to save them!

Maybe this sounds repetitive or maudlin but READ to a kid...AND don't let anyone tell you that you're not qualified to read to a child because you didn't go to college like someone told me once!
Yes, I volunteered to go twice a week to read to elementary school kids through a job I had in the early 90s...they turned me down because I did not possess a college degree of any kind!

Does that make any sense?

Of course it doesn't...

Sad...very sad

At 2:35 AM, Blogger ralphlake said...

Dumb but perhaps not dumber

I find myself only half in agreement. Canadians like to poke fun of those dumb Americans who can't recognize their own country on a globe. And sure there are lots of those. But Canada is not short on dumb people either. How could it be otherwise?

I think something else is going on here and it might not be a dumbing down of America. Stupidity is an old disease. Think for example of the Duke and the King chapters of Huckleberry Finn where country folk are swindled and bamboozled by those two comic sharpies.

Young people today are less literate in the traditional sense. They do not pay special homage to "book learning". Many are suspicious of that tradition. People attached to the book culture see it as the sole route to the truth, ignoring the fact that those same books were often produced by people who sought experience first and book knowledge second.

I'm not so sure that spelling and grammar are all that important. Even in the book driven culture, we find numerous violations of both. Young people are taught not to write in sentence fragments only to find that the greatest of writers make liberal use of this device.

I don't think that you can educate people to recognize the fallaciousness of a Sarah Palin or a Glenn Beck. Most of that operates on an emotional not on an intellectual level. The Right Wing is not by definition stupid. It's hate filled. You can't teach people not to hate.

At 3:00 AM, Blogger Dearest Friend said...

One can sure as hell try to teach people not to hate.

Hate is learned as much as reading and arithmetic - not born into people.

A newborn baby doesn't hate anybody...that comes from their environment!

"You've got to be carefully taught" - Oscar Hammerstein II

At 3:26 AM, Blogger ralphlake said...

Dearest Friend

You can perhaps teach some people not to hate but for most the best you can hope for is a moderation of that hatred. Your example of the baby is an old one but not convincing. Of course, the child does not come into the world hating people. Nor does it enter life full of love. Yes, its education plays a role. I won't deny that. But there are other powerful determinants that come with the child's biology. The aggressive drive to become rich is not something Mommy and Daddy teach even if by example. Often children "surpass" their aggressive parents. This is something that comes with the territory and the territory in this instance is homo sapiens sapiens a nasty piece of work fifty thousand years ago and just as nasty in the 21st century. We cannot teach people not to hate. We cannot teach people to love. Its bred in the bone.

At 4:16 AM, Blogger ralphlake said...

One last word (sorry)

The problem with believing that you can teach people not to hate is that it assumes that the hater would turn away from hatred if only he or she "had the right information." This is naive because it under estimates their commitment to anger and hatred. People weren't taken in by Sarah Palin's Death Panels. That idea was simply in accordance with their anger--they wanted to believe in them. As for the other camp, where thankfully most of us are, we are likewise disposed not to believe in them. Neither side is relying on evidence. Holocaust deniers are not drawn to that position on evidence. The majority that accept the reality of the death camps do not do so from actual experience nor even from close reading of the subject. We stake out our positions from our biological-psychological makeup and that is not always so pretty.

At 8:14 AM, Blogger PetitPoix said...

Michael Steele was placed in a tricky position when he made that comment. He was posed the question about his plan to to bring DIVERSE POPULATIONS into the Republican party and he was just starting to respond. Someone in the audience said, "I´ll bring the collard greens." Mr. Steele paused only for a second and then turned it into a sort of light hearted joke. We don´t know if the person in the audience who made the comment about collard greens was a member of a "diverse population" or not. That would certainly make a difference as to how I judge Mr. Steele´s comment. We also don´t have all the information about the person who asked Mr. Steele the original question. He is an internet personality, as far as I can tell, very likely with his own agendas. Who knows if he didn´t himself have a "plant" in the audience.
Politicians are expected to respond quickly and decisively to very difficult questions sometimes and to varied comments and cues from the audience and all at the same time not "lose there cool". Remember when someone threw a shoe at Mr. Bush? Even though I know many people wish Mr. Bush had not moved his head just in time, his reaction after the shoe flew past was a quick joke and carry on. The boxers or briefs question to Bill Clinton? Quick joke, carry on. It is the "standard" response for politicians. At worst Mr. Steele´s "quick joke, carry on" was not the best one to make, but I won´t judge him for making a poor choice of words in a forced split second situation.

At 8:17 AM, Blogger PetitPoix said...

And I always wondered how the reporter who threw the shoe felt after his attempt failed and he was walking around with just one shoe at the "after press conference" cocktail party. He probably just made a quick joke and carried on.

At 9:13 AM, Blogger PetitPoix said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 9:19 AM, Blogger PetitPoix said...

Dave Chapelle, a black comedian, made jokes about the african-american food choices. He says he is upset because "All these years I thought I liked chicken because it´s delicious....." I think that perhaps it was Michael Steele´s intention to ridicule the stereotype but did not accomplish it in so charming a way as Dave Chapelle.

At 9:30 AM, Blogger Anne said...

Bravo, Mr. Degan. I found your site this morning via a comment you left on the Boston Globe web site (re: Sarah Palin, speaking of stupid) and while the last thing I probably need is *one more blog* to read, well, yippee!--I've got one anyway. I work as a full-time sub in a rural NY school district and let me tell you, there are days I just want to come home & weep, so hopelessly--and proudly--ignorant so many of my students seem to be.

At 9:45 AM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Dear Anne,

Thank you so much for the comment and tuning in!

It would sound to me that you should be writing a blog of your own, dealing with that very topic. You might offer much illumination on the topic of the willful ignorance that is destroying the social and educational fabric of America.

What part of NY state do you work in? What is the local board of education like? Does your school have a goof music program? Or does the board waste most of its resources on sports?

Drop me an e-mail sometime.

All the best,

Tom Degan

At 9:56 AM, Blogger W.D. Shirley said...

Tom, some more wonderful examples from my own neighborhood: neighbor Bob decided to save money on his house renovations so he did all the wiring himself. The following June I watch flames burst from the area of his breaker box. There was black smoke from the attic. I got Bob on the phone and he came home in time to see it burn to the ground. Bob had also saved money on his homeowner's insurance. He didn't know what he had done, but it saved him some good money, which he mostly spent on motorcycles and beer. The insurance had been modified from "replacement cost" to a flat amount, approximately half what you'd need to build a house. The good news is his belongings were insured a good amount and he was able to get his son as a contractor, thus saving even more money. He dug the basement himself with a big steam shovel like beast. I suggested to him that a long ramp needed to be built to allow the machine to get out of the hole. Bob built a short, steeply angles ramp in the sand on one side of the hole. He then struck water, which poured into the hole, making the clay and sand turn into tapioca pudding. I came over to watch and saw his problem. He was frantically digging away near where the water was pouring in. He said he was hoping to dig past the spring so the water would drain out. Eventually the digger was several feet mired in mud, up to the cabin. Bob had to go to a local truck stop to find a tow truck heavy enough to pull the shovel out of the hole. Bob filled in the hole and built an above ground basement with earthen berms. The house they built was a concrete walled, radiant heated pseudo Victorian mansion in a rural neighborhood of small old ranches and trailers. Bob saved money on the radiant heat by installing it himself. He replaced the flooring that was called for by the manufacturer with regular 3/4" oak, thus decreasing the effectiveness of the radiant heat by about 50%. He also nailed through the hoses in several places, flooding the floor below and requiring all the flooring to be pulled to patch the hoses. He started to build a home theater in the basement, next to his ballroom, but didn't have enough money to buy chairs, so he's using lawn chairs. They can't afford the mortgage payments so some of their kids have had to move back in. They want to sell this white elephant for $750,000 in a neighborhood of 100K homes. Bob's wife is now on disability because of Crohn's disease. Bob built a big gazebo in the back yard with rough cut untreated boards to save money. The gazebo dissolved in the rain and winters and has been torn down and burned. They are still trying to sell the beast.

My other neighbors are just as bright but Bob is the best example of Americans getting so stupid they can't wipe their butts without a manual. People don't read the words in the Sunday comix. They think Glenn Beck is "really saying something to think about."

Europe apparently won't take retired Americans except as refugees. Do you think this stupidity could be called a disaster?

At 2:40 PM, Blogger Leslie Parsley said...

Lordy, Tom, you sure do know how to rant. Each time I think you can't get any better, you do. And I'm happy to see that someone has read James Baldwin.

At 4:37 PM, Blogger Leslie Parsley said...

There's no doubt that there's plenty of "stupid," which of course, fosters hate. But I like to think, without appearing to have my head in the sand, that these loud, crass and classless people are a minority. They're certainly getting too much press, and that adds to the appearance of having power. I am disturbed because moderate Republicans - and Dems - have been timid about publicly criticizing them.

But there's a couple of things that give me a tiny bit of hope. When I left Nashville in the early 60s I had been called Nigger Lover and a 1000 other racial slurs. Upon returning a few years ago, I was thrilled to see blacks and whites eating in restaurants together, working together, and dating and marrying. Do all the whites, especially those who are self-appointed Christians, like these changes? Absolutely not. But it's happening in ever increasing numbers.

When I left, you could drive all over the city and not find one Hispanic. Now we have a huge Hispanic population along with Kurds, Africans, Asians.

When I was a little girl we had friends from India. They tried to see a movie and were refused entrance. Now it wouldn't happen.

I didn't see your comment about Palin (wish I had) but even her popularity is dropping.

I usually sit on the side of pessimism and of course I'm worried about recent events in the country, but we have to work harder to get people and the media to hear US.

Luv ya, Leslie

At 10:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Tom,

How about making your Mama proud and graduating from HS a few years later...better late than never. Set an example.

So you are the smartest man in the room???? So smart you quit HS????

At 1:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The "dumbing down" of America is the GOP's best friend. Ignorant people are easily lied to and easily led. They ask no questions, but repeat all the lies.

I have the strange misfortune of being related by marriage to some extreme right wing republicans who believe whatever evil Rush Limbaugh spews out that day. While watching the news with them the other day there were some protesters holding up anti adminisitration signs. My one relative turned to me and said "he hates Jews!" I asked "who hates jews?" She said "Obama". All I could say was, "no, he doesn't" and we left it at that. I simply couldn't believe my ears and my mind still has trouble processing this.
I agree with everyone's right to disagree with the government, but let's have an intelligent conversation with some substance, circumstance and possible outcomes.
Unfortunately, this is where we are right now. People are "comfortably numb".
carolyn k.

At 1:20 PM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Great comment, Carolyn K!

I can't imagine someone believing such a hideously weird thing. It is just a sign of the hideously weird times in which we live.

How did we get to such a silly place. Comparisons to the stupidity and gullibility of the German people circa 1933 are difficult - if not impossible - to avoid.

Tom Degan

At 7:29 PM, Blogger Suzi Gablik said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 8:04 PM, Blogger ralphlake said...

Carole K

But don't you think that this is not being dumb but rather being "bad". People of the extreme right are not stupid and cannot be made "smart" through argument. Some people are congenitally evil or at least are born with a disposition towards anger and hatred. Some come into the world with kinder genes.

At 9:55 PM, Anonymous puma81 said...

It's refreshing to see that I'm not the only one that recognizes critical thinking is on a decline in this country. I'm only 28 and I've always felt that there was a bias towards those who seem "smart". Because I have an interest in traveling beyond this country's borders, and learning about how the "world really operates" by reading other newspapers from around the world, I've been thrown into the "elitist" box.

I've also been called a "fascist" (which I feel that the ones shouting this, truly don't understand what that word means), "anti-American" and told to go live in N. Korea because I see this country's imperfections.

I think that some of us have become lazy, intellectually. My father, a retired educator, would always say that this "dumbing down" is intentional. Back then, I never really understood what he meant by it, but now I do. If you can successfully "dumb down" a population, then you can easily manipulate them.

At 10:44 PM, Blogger Dearest Friend said...

Puma 81, your father is a wise man! The one thing that angered my father more then anything was blatant stupidity - Sarah Palin would certainly have made him blow a gasket. I'm almost relieved he didn't live to see her make a fool of herself and this country. In the last 7 years of his life, he made a point of finding something else to do whenever the President was on tv...he just knew he'd get angered by President Bush's comments. "He always sounds like he's still campaigning and not running the country! What the hell is his problem?"

You were raised by a smart and wise man, Puma - they're not necessarily the same thing, you know!

At 9:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Lake,
You are touching on the age old question, genetics or environment? To teach to the intellectual level people are pre-disposed with or to teach above that and expect them to learn and become more. “Expectancy effect” is a real phenomena proven by research psychologists. Although an interesting and lengthy topic in itself, not what we are discussing here. Maybe in a future rant? In this particular case, I have known these people for over 30 years and they have changed from idealistic to cynical. They are not evil, only ignorant of facts. Perhaps it is just laziness. Real thought takes time, effort and research. A professor I was once married to used to say, “it is not my job to teach what to think, only how to think.”
carolyn k

At 10:38 AM, Blogger Leslie Parsley said...

"How did we get to such a silly place. Comparisons to the stupidity and gullibility of the German people circa 1933 are difficult - if not impossible - to avoid."

Sadly, this is so true. There are film clips of silly women with tears in their eyes waving flowers as Der Fuehrer is driven by. It is quite scarey. Maybe I should rescind my previous statement?

At 4:31 PM, Blogger Kangaroo Brisbane Australia said...

My thoughts exactly, the reason I have not even contemplated visiting your country again Tom, in the last decade. Watching eight years of Bush Cheney was enough to turn my stomach.

At 10:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tom, the nut jobs are out in full force!

One of you readers fathers said about Bush "He always sounds like he's still campaigning and not running the country! What the hell is his problem?"

He must be rolling in his grave after every move or speech O-Shit makes.

Harry from Mass

At 11:40 PM, Blogger ralphlake said...


Of course that is the argument "nature or nuture" and I'm coming down quite hard on the nature side of it. The argument I'm making is perhaps too strong but the only retraction I'm willing to make is one of degree. I do think that we are dealing with "bad" rather than stupid people though there are lots of both of course. When people say that Obama has death panels that will decide if grandma lives or dies they are saying this wilfully. Most of them know that that is absurd. I feel its relevant to make this point because to speak of "dumbing down" under estimates the lengths to which bad people are willing to go. Put another way, stupid people don't believe in death panels (a few may of course). Evil people do. America is not getting dumber. It's (at least on some issues) becoming more evil.

At 12:59 AM, Anonymous Steve Nice Guy Northland said...

I recently came across a quote from J K Galbraith:

"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."

Now that might be a little unfair to many, many (relative) conservatives.

It's an understatement though in respect of the Fools of Fox, the "town-bawlers", the "tea-partiers" and the barking mad Glennis Beck. They mock America !

They're not simply selfish and intent on attaching to that barren sense a manufactured moral superiority. Much worse they're positively gleeful about excluding and whipping a vast number of US citizens. To do so is quintessentially righteous apparently.

From afar here in New Zealand that's how I discern their screeching outrage at the concept of comprehensive health care for all. In my view "No room at the inn..." is absolutely no different from "No room at the hospital..."

What disgraceful, bordering on evil some of them, people they are ! All the more disgraceful for their vaunted, sickmaking, piety.

At 9:31 AM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

NY Times columnist William Safire has died.

First Bill Buckley now Safire. Two of the few remaining intelligent conservatives within the space of so short at time. The voices of reason within the conservative movement are dwindling by the day.

My left-leaning ways notwithstanding, although I did not agree with him much of the time, when William Safire spoke, I listened.

Meanwhile the movement that the two men were so identified with - the movement they both tried to save from the kooks, criminals and fools who have hijacked it - continues to implode.

Isn't life wonderful?

Tom Degan

At 3:27 PM, Blogger LCS said...

What's a four letter word to describe a conservative?


At 6:04 PM, Anonymous Amber T said...

To Tom,

I really like your blog and look forward to reading your "rants"! Right now I am extremely upset with the people in this country!! I am 32 years old and have been around for 5 presidents and this is the first I have seen a president being disrespected so bad.. geez people it has only been 9months.. can we give him a couple of years???

At 11:50 PM, Blogger The Brown Blogger said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 11:51 PM, Blogger The Brown Blogger said...

Very well stated Tom.

I'll get long winded on my own forum.

At 8:39 AM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Amber T and the Brown Blogger....

Thank you for the comments. Keep those cards 'n' letters comin' in. folks!

All the best,

Tom Degan

At 1:56 PM, Anonymous Frodo, Proud Shire High Grad said...

John Kennedy, Frodo is sure you remember this reference, once remarked to a grouping of people with advanced degrees and awards that this was the greatest assemblage of human minds in a single room. The exception, of course, being when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.

Frodo has no recollection of there being a high-school dropout in either assemblage.
With great admiration for style and eloquence, Frodo reluctantly admonishes the author for suggesting that his circumstances in those years ago make it OK for somebody, anybody, to consider dropping out of school.

Frodo is sure that was not the intent, and he's willing to bet that being called "Dr. Degan" is more than a wistful reference in passing.

At 3:24 PM, Blogger Ellis D., Esq. said...

I'm sure Tom appreciates input from a Hobbit !! I almost didn't want to get started commenting on this topic but.........The dumbing down of Amerika was no accident. It was/is a deliberate, calculated move that began as early as the Nixon administration. The establishment realized in the sixties that an aware, intelligent, socially conscious citizenry was difficult to manipulate and brainwash. It became clear that anyone capable of critical thinking and logical reasoning would quickly reject all the false premises that our social framework is built on. That started to happen during the " psychedelic " revolution in the mid-sixties. Then when good old Ronnie ReaGUN got the nod as " President " we began the Just Say No to intelligence, logic and reasoning era. Kids were forced to accept and not question authority and those who did think for themselves were chastised as " un-American ". Be a good little robot and maybe someday you too can be a materialist, capitalist pig !! Oh, did we forget to tell you that you must come from a family of privlege and wealth ?? Oh well tough luck suckers !! That's how it stands today and it is getting worse every day. Now it's time for you and me to start a revolution....hey it's time to march in the to revolution. Volunteers of Amerika !!!

At 4:50 PM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

Great points, Ellis!

Frodo, your reluctant admonishments to me are well deserved, pal. I should say that dropping out of high school at the tender age of seventeen was only the second worst mistake of my life. The worst was getting involved with hard drugs. But hey! We live and learn.

All the best,

Tom Degan

At 11:40 PM, Blogger Dearest Friend said...

Living and learning...hmm...seems to me that George Washington and Abraham Lincoln were of the living and learning set. Neither really had much of an education outside what they learned for themselves. Washington called his education "defective." He learned what he needed to learn when he needed to learn it. Lincoln, we know was self-taught for the most part being encouraged to read by a loving step-mother!

Jefferson - the man Kennedy as referring to when he spoke of the great minds in the Whtie House dining room - was a college drop-out! However the man read more books and learned more from daily live and travel then most of us today with all our technology and universities can even dream of.

Oh yes - and let's not forget Benjamin Franklin who despite the equivalent of a third grade education did pretty well for himself.

Dropping out may not be the smartest thing to do, but it's part of life for some.

Life experience can be worth more then any "book larnin'" in a college classroom sometimes.



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At 10:28 AM, Blogger Mycue23 said...

Tom, I wrote this in a post last year in November. The dumbing down of America has been in full swing for a while:
The standards for leadership in this country have fallen to the point that actual competency no longer matters. Intelligence is now viewed as a detriment. Who wants to hang out with someone who's going to make you feel stupid? We would much rather have a President who we want to have a beer with and talk about the game with than one who is going to bore us with their "elitist" rhetoric. Ronald Reagan started us off down this path, but he was playing a part. While he may not have been a Rhodes Scholar, he spent his entire political career being indoctrinated in Conservative dogma. He learned his politics from Richard Nixon and Barry Goldwater, so upon arriving in the White House, he was well versed in the game. He decided that folksy was the way to go and as an actor used to playing roles, he played that one to the hilt. He was Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. He was the regular guy who happened to have made it to top, but never forgot where he came from. He claimed to be the champion of the little guy and a true patriot and that's the role he successfully pulled off. George Bush, who followed him into the White House, was as far from a regular guy as you could find, but even he dumbed himself down, so that people would feel more comfortable with him. Bill Clinton (who actually was a Rhodes Scholar) also played the regular guy role. He felt our pain and earned the nickname "Bubba".

This succession of leaders who felt the need to play the role of "regular guy", led to the election of someone who wasn't playing a role. George W. Bush clearly lacks the intellectual capacity of his immediate successors and has led this country to the brink of disaster. He came into office as a "compassionate conservative". His eight years in office have shown him to be neither particularly compassionate (ask the survivors of Katrina) and certainly not a Conservative (how exactly do you inherit a surplus of $200 billion and turn that into a deficit approaching $1 trillion?). He will leave his eight year term having taken almost a full year of vacation time. George W. Bush was undoubtedly "one of us" but the truth is that "one of us" is not qualified for the job.

At 10:31 AM, Blogger Mycue23 said...

By the way, I just found your blog today and I'm adding you to our blogroll. Great stuff. Keep up the good work.

At 11:07 AM, Blogger Ellis D., Esq. said...

Well Tom since you mentioned your regretted involvement with hard drugs I have a few more points to make. As Dr. Andrew Weil has pointed out, drugs should be used in NATURAL forms. Cocaine should remain in the coca leaf. Opium should not be refined into morphine and heroin. Western man has a penchant for refining substances to the most powerful and dangerous form. Using natural substances ritually for a specific purpose as opposed to using refined substances indiscriminately is much safer and much more beneficial. That being said I want address the absurdity of allowing the use of certain drugs like tobacco, alcohol and caffiene while prohibiting the use of other NATURAL substances such as cannibis, coca and opium. I find it odd that lawsuits are brought against tobacco companies to recoup the money spent on treating the people hurt by tobacco smoking when tobacco use could be outlawed like the other supposedly bad drugs. Either people have a right ( be it constitutional or " natural " ) to alter their consciousness or they do not !! I believe that the government has no business preventing people from altering their consciousness and expanding their awareness. To do so is MIND CONTROL plain and simple. The most the government has a right to do is REGULATE these substances through LICENSING. That way people can be monitored to minimize improper or excessive drug use. Prohibiting the use of the more dangerous refined substances would then be more legitimate. It is ironic that the drugs produced by BIG PHARMA are so accepted and pushed on people when they have such negative side effects and turn out to be outright dangerous after being put into circulation by the FDA !! I realize drug legalization is an issue so taboo that most people are afraid to discuss it. This probably why Dr. Weil apparently abandoned his interest in this issue. The lack of legal access to substances that can improve peoples' ability to reason and critically evaluate the bullshit propaganda they are fed is one of the main reasons we face the stupidity that spurred Tom's article. We are an unenlightened society operating on false premises that have created an artificial reality. Language and semantic thought has a lot to do with that also but that is another story for another day.

At 6:59 PM, Blogger Marc McDonald said...

If America is a stupid nation, then Texas (where I live) is Ground Zero for stupidity.

Here, Bush is still very popular. They've named freeways and buildings after him.

I've given up trying to debate politics with the people I know here.

It's a truly surreal experience. No matter what point you try to make (or what hard evidence you have to back it up), all you get in response is people regurgitating what they heard from Rush's latest program.

It's eerie.

And what's really creepy is that they'll do this, even when it has absolutely nothing to do with the point you just made.

Mention Halliburton to these people and all you get is a blank stare. (Rush has never mentioned Halliburton on his show, so his sheep have never been instructed what to think about that topic).

Creepy, creepy, creepy.

Could Sarah Palin possibly be elected in 2012? You're goddamn right she could.

At 12:38 AM, Blogger ralphlake said...

Sarah Palin has a chance because she's the ultimate dom. She's pretty and cuts men off at the knees. Some men get off on being slapped around. Some women get a thrill at seeing her do it. (This isn't an attack on doms and masochists--on a purely sexual level that's simply an orientation--whatever gets you through the night so long as its consensual) On a political level that sort of thing gets traction and there's nothing more potent than kinky politics. Obama's problem will be that of the rationalist countering the irrational. Rationalists get swift boated.

At 9:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wondering if the liberal freaks think the IOC is racist...

The EGO landed on a dark dark day for O-Shit, his thugs, thugeretts and his so called home town of Chicago.

Enjoy the weekend Tom

Harry from Mass

At 12:36 PM, Blogger Tom Degan said...

You, too, Harry. Be safe.

All the best (Honestly!),

Tom Degan

At 3:18 PM, Anonymous ron said...

Many people forget the Bush/Walker family attempt during the the 1930-40's to promote eugenics and their collusion with Nazi Germany, doing business with the German War Machine, providing financing for military industry, and that Bush I was the proponent for Family Planning, abortion on demand and birth control for any and all during his congressional years...there is a concerted effort to control the masses through fear, fear of the unknown and fear of the 'different' and if you are ignorant, and made ignorant on purpose, you will be easily led because you will fear everything you are told to and attack and condemn those things and people who are different with only paid shills like Beck and Hannity as your 'truth-conveyors' to point out that 'difference'...sad that the commodification of America and the TV as the source of all knowledge and self-psychosis has succeeded far beyond the dreams of the TPTB... a nation of idiots easily led by idiots...

At 1:20 PM, Anonymous Columbus discount furniture said...

My goodness, I thought you were going to chip in with some decisive insight at the end there, and you did not leave it with just furniture.


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