Thursday, May 27, 2010

Rand Paul's Retro America

"I'm opposed to institutional racism, and I would've, had I been alive at the time, I think, had the courage to march with Martin Luther King to overturn institutional racism."

-Rand Paul

What a guy! But the nasty fact still remains and cannot be spun in any other direction:
Rand Paul believes that privately owned businesses have the constitutional right to discriminate against black people.

Back on April 20, I wrote that I was the proud grandson of Kentucky native Walter Clements. That's a photograph of him on the left. It was taken about seventy year
s ago during his heyday when he was thriving as a successful lawyer from South Bend Indiana. One of his clients (and personal friends) was Knute Rockne! Being a descendant of generations of Kentuckians, I know enough about that state to inform you - without equivocation - that it is packed to the rafters with down-to-earth, sensible and decent folks. That being said, what could it be about the politics of that state that would attract such good and righteous people to chowder-heads like Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul? Is it the water? Or is there some other mysterious, unexplainable force at work here? I just don't get it.

"Segregation Today! Segregation Tomorrow! Segregation Forever!"

-George Wallace, 1963

When I sat down to write this piece early this morning, my original intent was to title it, "Rand Paul's George Wallace Moment". But I realized that that would be grossly unfair - to George Wallace. Think about it: Wallace was born in rural Clio, Alabama in the summer of 1919 - a very different America in every way imaginable. He was socialized from the moment of his birth into believing that people whose skin was darker than his were inherently inferior; that they had no rights that he or any other white person was expected to recognize - not even the right to life! Remember that the hideous southern tradition of lynching only became illegal at the twentieth century's halfway point.

To the old bugger's credit, he eventually "came home to Jesus" in a matter of speaking. Toward the end of his life, he asked the African American population of Alabama t
o forgive him for his sins against humanity: "I was wrong. Those days are over and they ought to be over", said the contrite former governor. The people he tried to oppress for so many years forgave him. Good for them.

Rand Paul, on the other hand, does not have the convenient excuse of ethno-centricity to fall back upon. He was born on January 7, 1963 at a military hospital in Texas. Think of all that was going on then: Jim Crow's house of cards in the deep south was already in the process of crumbling. By the time of his third birthday in 1966, the Civil and Voting Rights Acts were the law of the land. When he was thirteen-years old, his father Ron Paul was
elected to the House of Representatives. He didn't spend his formative years shoveling shit on some horse farm twenty miles outside of Galveston. He spent them in the supposedly "sophisticated" city of Washington DC! Why would he go on Rachel Maddow's MSNBC program earlier this week and imply that he would not have supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had he been there to vote on it. Did he really believe that there would be any possible political gain by doing something as reckless and as silly as that?

The answer is - Yes he did - and here's the really sad part: He was probably correct to believe there would be a substantial political payoff in the long run for making such an egregiously ignorant remark. Just take a look around you....

The political landscape of this once-great nation is more tarnished than at any time in the
last half century. The right wing media, with FOX Noise in the lead, has created from scratch an industry whose sole purpose is to mine racial fears against the first African American president in history. For many years - right up until the moment Barack Obama took the oath of office - racism in America was, for the most part, covert. Very few people would have chosen to be identified as a bigot - not out in the open anyway. On January 20, 2009 - in too many corners of this country to count - a lot of people became (overnight) less self-conscious regarding their innate racism. This is what America has become. Rand Paul is merely a nasty reflection of our political dysfunction.

"Oh, the sun shines bright in my old Kentucky home,
'Tis summer and the darkies are gay."

-Stephen Foster

Coming out as he did against the one of the main purposes of the Civil Rights Act was not a stupid gaffe on the part of Rand Paul - it was a decided political calculation. He wants and needs the racist vote, and he has every intention of getting it. Are there enough bigots in that state to put him over the top? Being an descendant of old Kentucky, I sure as hell hope not. If this dingbat is sent to the senate next Elect
ion Day, I'm going to be just a tad disappointed in more-than-a-few of my distant kin.

Call it a crazy hunch on my part, but I have a feeling that Rand Paul has never been forced into the humiliating situation of relieving himself on the side of the road because some privately owned establishment would not grant him entry due to the color of his skin. I'm willing to bet the farm that - not at one time in his life - was he forced to go hungry because the black owner of a restaurant told him, "we don't serve honkies 'round here! GIT GOIN', CRACKER!" You would think that after forty-seven years on the planet earth, Dr. Paul would have learned the meaning of the word "Sympathy".

Yes, the current political climate in America is ripe and ready for the type of nuttiness that was offered to us this week - gift wrapped - by Rand Paul. Within hours of his debacle on the Maddow program, he canceled a scheduled appearance on Meet The Press with David Gregory. His campaign claimed that he was "exhausted". The fact that this was Friday and that he had two days to rest up for the Sunday gig apparently never occurred to them. Besides, going on MTP was now unnecessar
y. He had gotten his message out. He now says that for the rest of the campaign, he will only talk to the Kentucky news media. Shrewd move.

It's bad enough that they thought sending a corrupt thug like Mitch McConnell to Washington was a good idea. If Rand Paul is elected this November, it will not be a complementary reflection on the people of Kentucky.

Weep no more, my lady....

Tom Degan


Big Russ and Me
by Tim Russert

I just reread it yesterday. If you haven't already read it, please do. It's a wonderful book. I sure do miss Tim Russert.


The day p
assed and, as far as I can tell, I was the only person in the country to take notice of it. Eleven days ago, President Kennedy made a major recession into history. When he died on November 22, 1963, he was one week shy of forty-six and-a-half years old. One week shy of forty-six and-a-half years after he died was the fifteenth of May. This means that May 16, 2010 marked the very first day in history that Jack Kennedy has been gone longer than he was alive on this earth.

Do I have way too much time on my hands?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Our Excellent Adventure at Abbey Road

The trip to merrie olde England almost ended before it began. Due to unexpected traffic delays, Swanwick and I almost missed the Saturday evening flight. We were told when we arrived at Kennedy Airport that we might have to wait until 5:00 the following afternoon to depart, if we departed at all. Volcanic ash from Iceland was threatening to close every airport in Britain - which actually happened the following day for a few hours. This put brother Pete's proposed trip across the pond in a very precarious position. He wasn't scheduled to fly out of Toronto until Monday night. For a time it looked like he wouldn't be able to make the trip. Owing to the fact that it was he who made the entire thing possible, that would have been an irony compounded by a factor of ten. Due to a simple twist of fate, we all managed to get there. You know how lucky we Irish are.

I am totally ashamed of my behavior on the plane during the flight across the Atlantic. I'm sorry to tell you that I engaged in an inexcusable moment of racial profiling. Behind me were a group of seven or eight men whose attire and demeanor had me very suspicious. As things turned out, their behavior en route was exemplary and I had nothing to fear. Given all that has happened in recent years however, and taking into consideration that it is their kind who are trying to destroy America, I had every reason to be worried. I'm sorry but seeing a group of bloated, middle-aged white guys in business suits tends to make me just a tad paranoid.

For the two days leading up to our tour of Abbey Road, Kevin and I cavorted around London, tearing up the town and making a general nuisance of ourselves. You've really got to hand it to the English people. They have always had an exceedingly high threshold for antisocial behavior; much more so than their colonial cousins. Their tolerance is truly impressive. After having experienced the terror from the night sky that was inflicted on them by Hitler's Luftwaffe seventy years ago, I suppose the prospect of enduring Swanwick and Degan for a few days wasn't that much of a challenge come to think about it.

Pete finally blew into town late Monday evening and checked into his hotel room. After a restless night's sleep (all of two hours for me) we were off to the EMI/Abb
ey Road Studios, arriving early Tuesday morning at a quarter to eight - forty-five minutes early just to be safe. Accompanying us on the journey within those sound-proof walls would be Mr. John Beaumont, an old mate of Kevin's and a new one of mine and Pete's. John is a British subject. Subject to what, he never made quite clear.

It's hard to describe my feelings upon entering the place. I have always, from my earliest boyhood, been fascinated with the art and technology of recorded sound. That plus the fact that it was in this setting that the Beatles recorded their wondrous music between the years 1962 and 1970, it would only be natural that the building would inspire an undeniable awe in someone like me. This was gonna be really cool!

The story of Abbey Road does not begin with the Beatles walking through the door for their audition recording on June 6, 1962. The idea was conceived in the spring of 1927 by a bloke named Captain Osmond Williams - "Ozzie" as they affectionately refer to him today. Sadly, by the time the first recording session commenced on November 11, 1931, Williams had died at the age of forty-five. Abbey Road is his legacy. It is also the oldest recording studio in the world and the first facility dedicated exclusively to making records.

Its lon
g, pre-1962 history aside, this is the place where for eight incredible years something wonderful and magical happened. The sounds that emanated from inside this structure changed our lives forever. Let me take you down....

How this all came about was that a few months ago, Brother Pete bid on a charity auction that would benefit cancer research in the United Kingdom. The winner would receive a guided tour for six of EMI Recording Studios. Much to everyone's surprise (including his, I'm sure) he won. After a few communications back and forth across the ocean, the date of May eighteenth was settled upon.

We were greet
ed in the reception area by a lovely woman named Colette Barber. She organized our visit and was there the whole time to make sure that none of us got out of line (and none of us did - Honest!) After a few minutes she introduced us to Giles Martin. It was he (in collaboration with his father George Martin) who was behind the brilliant collage of Beatles tracks that was released a couple of years ago titled, simply, "Love". I've met a few geniuses in my time but never one half as humble as this guy. Oh! And he's very polite. Did I mention that? Just like his dear old dad, a real gentleman to the manor born. George and Judy, you raised your kid well. Be proud.

It was quite a treat to walk inside Studio Number Two. We had seen thousands of
photographs over the years of the lads at work inside this very room, but to actually be there is something else again. There were the familiar stairs that wondered up into the control room; there was the upright piano next to the entrance that Paul McCartney used on Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da and Lady Madonna - among other recordings too numerous to mention. Just to stand there and imagine all that went on in this room brings to mind an outpouring of mental images. The place literally reeks with history.

One of the unsung heroes of Abbey Road is a man by the name of Lester Smith (photo on the left). Colette and Giles escorted us into his windowless office deep within the building's interior. Mr. Smith, a very kind and intriguing man, is the keeper and guardian of EMI's massive collection of microphones - modern and vintage - some of which go back to the company's founding in 1931! In addition to some easily recognizable mics that were used by John, Paul, George and Ringo during their tenure, he showed us one that was used by Glenn Miller during the final recording session of his life in 1944. His wonderful office is almost like a museum. Here's to you, Lester!

Giles Martin, unlike his wide-eyed charges on this day, does not live with the Beatles. What I mean is that he doesn't bring them home at night, so to speak. This is not meant to imply that he does not love and respect their artistry. He does - very much so. It's simply that the music of the Fab Four is such a huge part of his working life these days, he prefers to give them the day off when in the sanctuary of his home, spending time with his wife and two children. I can relate. On more than a few occasions I have attended the Beatlefest at the Meadowlands Hilton in New Jersey: Two solid days of Beatles - Beatles for breakfast; Beatles for lunch; Beatles in the morning; Beatles in the evening; Beatles at suppertime; Beatles in my dreams; Beatles to the left of me; Beatles to the right of me; Beatles in front of me; Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of the Beatles....After forty-eight hours of nonstop absorption, I would find myself needing a break for a week or so. The fact that the phenomenon of the Beatles has not totally consumed him is a testament to Giles Martin's psychological makeup. And it shows, too. He seems genuinely grounded and at ease with himself. As a result, he effortlessly put his visitors on this day at ease as well.

At one point I informed him that I had a message for Paul McCartney that I have been waiting to give to him since the autumn of 1962. "Would you give it to him for me, Giles?"

"If I can",
he replied, "What's the message?"
"Tell him I said congratulations on Love Me Do getting into the top twenty! It's a nice little song. It has a lot of promise. But I've got to tell you, that middle eight ('Someone to love/Somebody new....') needs a little work. Don't get me wrong; it's good. It's very good! It's just that it could be better. But other than that, I think it's a fine little tune!"

Ain't I a scream?

After this little bit of foolishness on my part, he gently escorted us into Studio Three wher
e he switched on the master recording of John Lennon's Imagine in Surround Sound. The four of us might as well have been listening to this track for the very first time - it sounded that good. The audio experience was almost overwhelming.

Imagine no
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world

After it was ov
er, Pete asked him if he would mind playing it for us again, this time with Lennon's vocal removed from the mix, with only his piano and the strings audible. He kindly obliged. When it was over, there was a somber quiet in the room. As undoubtedly beautiful as the arrangement was, hearing that song minus John's voice, was a sad reminder that that voice has been forever stilled; that he is no longer walking this earth - and the hideous manner in which he was taken from our midst on that horrible December evening thirty years ago. It's impossible not to dwell on all that was lost that night - on all that might have been - had John Lennon been allowed the gift of years. But for the murderous actions of one sick, misguided person with a gun....Don't get me started.

Happily for all concerned, Giles interrupted our grim contemplation by playing for us - again in Surround Sound - the entire Love LP which he and Father George produced in 2008. Like Imagine, although we have listened to it countless times since its initial release, this was a totally new experience for us. No doubt about it: I've got to invest in some Surround Sound equipment very soon. Otherwise it's never going to sound this good again. I hate to have to tell you this, folks, but stereo is the new mono
. I'm adjusting. It's not easy.

Many things were discussed on this day including the evolution of recording technology. I asked Giles if the master tapes that the songs were originally recorded on even served any viable purpose any longer given the fact that they have all been remastered digitally. When he told me that they did, I responded "Too bad. I was going to ask you if I could take one home as a souvenir." I know, I'm shameless.

Another topic that came up was the eternal appeal that the Beatles seem to have for young people. I told him about the Sager kids - Brian, Meghan and Michael, the children of my friends Brian and Terri - the oldest of whom was born over thirteen years after John Lennon died. They recently discovered the music of the Beatles and were sold on them from the start. Giles' theory (on which we all ag
reed) is that the music possesses an indescribable appeal that defies the decades. Who could argue with that? Have you ever met a little kid who didn't adore Yellow Submarine?

It was a great day, one of those mountaintop moments that will stay with each of us for the rest of our lives. Everyone there was so nice that I almost felt guilty. At one point, Colette bought us up a tray of drinks while we listened to those incredible tracks in Studio Three. When the tour was over, both she and Giles walked downstairs with us to the ground-level canteen and joined us for a couple of pints. It opens onto a beautiful garden and we all hung out for about a half an hour, just chatting and relaxing. It was nicer than even I could have possibly anticipated. Despite my deepest, dark-valley moments, I really am having a good life.

As we said goodbye, we told Giles Martin to send his mom and dad our love. Pete and
I met them both in 1999, so it seemed like the most natural thing in the world to do. Once outside, we posed for a few photographs and then made our way down Abbey Road toward the London underground. That night Kevin and I flew back to New York, Pete went on to Paris to see Brother Jeff, and John made his way back to his home in Reading. It was quite a day in the life.

And in the end, the love you take
Is equal to the love you make.

I'll drink to that!

Goshen NY

NOTE: The photograph at the top of this page is of (left to right) John Beaumont, Kevin Swanwick, Giles Martin, Tom Degan and Peter Degan. Taken inside Studio Number Three, Abbey Road, May 18, 2010.
Photo by Colette Barber.


All You
Need Is Ears
By George Martin

With A Little Help From My Friends:
The Making of Sgt. Pepper
by George Martin
(Giles' dad)


"Produced by George Martin" is a six CD set that encompasses Sir George's remarkable fifty-year career. It covers every musical genre you can possibly name: rock 'n' roll, pop, classical, opera, comedy - even a couple of records for children. Pick up a copy. It's more-that-worth the price of the ticket, I promise! Here's a link to purchase it on



To view a Facebook photo gallery of our trip to Abbey Road, click on the link below:

We followed her down from a bridge by a fountain, and she led us to the doors of the Abbey Road Studios. A splendid time was guaranteed for all, and the nice folks there delivered - BIG TIME.



Nasty, LEFT WING propaganda. Cheerio! Pip! Pip!

Friday, May 14, 2010

We're Off To Abbey Road!


As I've mentioned a few times in recent weeks, back in December brother Pete (photo left) bid on a charity auction. The winner would receive a guided tour of the EMI recording facilities in merry old England - better known to all the world as Abbey Road, the studio where the Beatles made their recordings all those years ago. Much to my surprise he won!
Tomorrow night my old pal and co-conspirator Kevin Swanwick and I will be catching a red-eye flight to London where we will meet up with Pete (who lives in Toronto). As the song says, "a splendid time is guaranteed for all."

One night in the autumn of 1964 (I was then all of six-years-old) my brother Jack came home with an LP called, "Beatles VI" - or "Beatles VEE EYE" as I pronounced it for years. What the hell did I know about roman numerals at six-years-old? As he dropped the needle on the first track which was called Eight Days a Week, I distinctly remember pondering the the back side of the cover. There were four photographs of each of the lads from Liverpool in the studio during the recording of the album. I remember thinking to myself, "That looks like a fun place to be. I'd like to go there someday!" Cut to forty-six years later: I'm goin', baby!

I have been there once before - in June of 1985. I walked into the the main reception area and asked a nice woman who worked there if the place was open to the public. Not to my surprise, it wasn't. I was able to console myself by knowing that I had made it as far as the lobby; that I could tell people that at least I had been stepped foot inside the hallowed building. For a fan of the Beatles, although the Abbey Road studios might not necessarily be Mecca or Lourdes or the Wailing Wall - it's pretty darned close. This is going to be really cool!

The tour will be be given to us by Giles Martin, son of the legendary producer George Martin and a respected one in his own right. The photo on the left is of he and dear old dad. It will commence on Tuesday morning at 8:30 AM, London time and will go on for four hours. It will cover every nook and cranny of the place - including the vaults where the master tapes are stored to protect them against the ravages of time. That's the part I'm looking forward to the most. To actually see those tapes - stacked silently on their shelves and to be able to reflect on the fact that the long-ago sounds etched magnetically within changed the world forever....Please forgive me for being repetitive, but this is going to be REALLY COOL!

There's really not enough time to write today. I've got to get ready for tomorrow's flight and there's so much left for me to do. I'm really glad I'll be going with Swanwick. I've known the guy since before the invention of dirt and in all that time we've never gone abroad together. This trip will definitely make up for lost time. That's him in the photograph on the left. It was taken a couple of years ago in the Costa Rican rain forest. Amiable looking lad, isn't he? We'll be meeting up with his friend John Beaumont who will be taking the tour with us. By all accounts the guy is a hoot-and-a-half and I'm looking forward to meeting him. In the two days before the event, he'll be charging around London Town with us, whooping it up.

So it's off to Abbey Road. We'll be back on Thursday and - as you can imagine - there will be much to tell you. A few months ago I attempted the impossible and tried to sum up the Beatles' message in a single sentence: We are the makers of our own dreams. That works for me! Dream. Dream away....

We're off to Abbey Road. I must be dreamin'!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


The Beatles


I just realized that I did not make a single observation on politics in this entire piece. Let me remedy that:


There. I feel better.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Oil Spills and B Movies

Roll the opening credits:


"Andy Hardy Gets A Clue"

Mickey Rooney as Andy Hardy
Lewis Stone as Judge Hardy

A fun time for the entire family!

The Camera fades from black onto a house in a pleasant neighborhood in the mythical Midwestern town of Carvel. The home is the residence of kindly Judge Hardy and his family. The scene dissolves into the interior of the Judge's study. He is sitting in his leather-bound chair in front of the fireplace, concentrating on a small stack of legal briefs which are placed on his lap. There is a quiet knock on the door. "Come in", he says. From camera left enters the Judge's fifteen-year-old son, Andy Hardy:

Andy Hardy: Dad? I was wondering if we could have a little talk, you know,

Judge Hardy: What is it, Andrew?

Andy Hardy: I've been thinking a lot lately about deregulation.

Judge Hardy: In what way, son?

Andy Hardy: Well, Dad, I'm starting to think that deregulation might not have been
a really neat idea after all.

Judge Hardy: No shit, Sherlock.

Indeed. But for the absence of something which has been called an "acoustics detector" or an "acoustics regulator" or a "Remote Activated Blowout Detector" (depending on which news report you read) the catastrophe which is now playing itself out in the Gulf of Mexico might very well have been avoided. Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, the device was mandatory on all oil rigs. When the Bush/Cheney regime seized power via an electoral coup in 2000 (aided and abetted by the Supreme Court), the acoustics/blowout thingamajig was deemed too expen

The price? Five hundred thousand dollars.

As Ben Franklin's old adage says, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." It's such a basic lesson of life. Most of us learn it sooner or later....Most of us. You don't need a better example of the greed and stupidity of these people than the one I am offering you here: They placed the lives and livelihoods of millions of people living on the Gulf coast in total and undeniable jeopardy - all to save a measly half a million bucks. This is the worst case criminal negligence I have ever heard about in my entire life. You would expect someone to go to prison for this, wouldn't you? Yeah, I would, too. Don't hold your breath.

the really funny part: The latest right wing talking point is that this is Obama's Katrina! How's that for a rib-tickler? Don't let them fool you. There are a lot of politicians with their fingerprints on this debacle. Barack Obama is not one of them. This tragedy is owned by failed oilmen George Walker Bush and Richard Bruce Cheney. The two of them are culpable - particularly former President Cheney. No, that was not a typo. President Obama's only responsibility is in the cleaning up of their mess - a task in itself. A half a century from now, they'll still be cleaning up the mess of the Bush/Cheney era. Count on it.

Judge Hardy's restraint in dealing with his semi-clueless kid was truly impressive. If I had been in the old guy's shoes, I'd have slapped Andy Hardy upside his head. Of course deregulation wasn't a "really neat" idea. In fact, three decad
es of historical hindsight proves conclusively that it was one of the worst domestic policies in the history of this country. In effect we have allowed the foxes to maintain the chicken house. Why should we be the least bit surprised to come home from our drunken, thirty-year binge to find a coop full of dead chickens?

There used to be a woman who attended my local church whose name was Mrs. Murray. She was the sweetest, kindest old lady you'd ever want to meet. My dad , who knew her from boyhood, once remarked that she was as close to a saint as anyone he ever knew. If all human beings were like Mrs. Murray, rules and regulations - LAW - would not be necessary. They could always be counted on to do the right thing. But it is unreasonable to expect businessmen and wo
men to police themselves - in fact it's beyond imbecilic. They will always cut every corner possible in order to make as much profit as they can. That's human nature! That's why regulation of the financial marketplace and industry is essential! Look what happened after thirty years of Wall Street deregulation. They drove our economy into the ditch. Now look what is happening in the Gulf? Two plus two equals....This ain't rocket science, folks.

Here's the problem: For the last thirty years we Americans have had the unfortunate tendency of placing our government into the hands of people whose core philosophy is that government is a bad thing. All-in-all, that's not a particularly smart idea. In fact it is a mind-numbingly insane idea. The germ of the disease that is now threatening the life of the Gulf of Mexico can be fairly traced back to the fact that the politicians we stupidly thought would govern failed to do so. How can it be that so many Americans are eager to place these people back in power come Election day next? It's that mass amnesia for which we're justifiably famous, I suppose.

As the decade of the teens unfolds, the price we will be forced to pay as a result of decades of neglect of America's infrastructure will be astronomical. This disaster could have been avoided by means of a simple ounce of prevention. Franklin's adage of which I spoke was written over two centuries ago. Given the adjustm
ents for inflation, it's going to cost a whole lot more than a pound to cure this. Let's stop kidding ourselves. This is going to involve decades of serious taxation. What other options do we have? Oh, right. Tax cuts for the rich. Have another sip.

Tom Degan
Goshen NY


A few minutes ago, President Obama nominated Elena Kagan to succeed retiring Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court. This is a big disappointment. Althou
gh she has more-than-a-few positives that qualify her for that position, she is hardly the Liberal firebrand I was hoping for to counterbalance the the five extremist twits on that court who are trying to destroy American democracy. Then again, Earl Warren (an Eisenhower appointee) surprised us in 1954 when he wrote the Brown vs. Board of Education Decision. Maybe Ms. Kagan will surprise us as well.

The good news is that she does not have much of a paper trail so there will be nothing for the Conservatives to complain about....What am I saying? Of course they'll find something to complain about. They always find something to complain about. They complain
a lot. Did you ever notice that?

11:31 AM:

I know
why there's no sun up in the sky. It was just announced that Lena Horne has died at age 92. What a woman! What a life! And to think she once starred in a movie with Fats Waller. He has been gone for nearly seventy years! Thank God she was allowed the gift of time that would be denied to the Fat Man. We're lucky we had her for as long as we did. America is a better place because of Lena Horne. Stormy weather indeed.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Oily Birds and Other Atrocities

umm...never mind.

Looking back now at the video footage of the Republicans chanting that stupid mantra at countless political gatherings in the last two years, they sure do look silly in hindsight, don't they? But then again, they always look silly in hindsight. If you don't believe me, have a look at an archival tape of their 2004 convention sometime. You know! The one where they cheerfully nominated George W. Bush for a second term? They really are a scream!

How ever will they justify continued off-shore drilling in light of what is now happening in the Gulf of Mexico? In just a few short days we've gone from a tragedy
to a disaster to a full blown catastrophe. It will be more-than-interesting to see the depths to which the right wing will now stoop in order to trivialize this hideous event. Rush Limbaugh is already floating the idea out to his half-witted "Dittoheads" that this was sabotage on the part of the "eco-nazis"; that some unnamed environmental organization plotted this disaster in order to further their evil socialist agenda. The question is, how many people will be stupid enough to swallow that nonsense whole? Limbaugh's audience are not the brightest bunch out there so anything's possible. I'll say this for old Rush: He makes my life so interesting. I'm gonna miss the old bastard when he's finally thrown off the air. I really am.

Once again,
We Dah Peepil have been forced to face an ugly reality head on. Once again we are confronted by a situation so horrific, we ignore its implications at our own peril. And once again it appears that many of us will continue to turn a blind eye toward the obvious: Our dependence on oil - foreign and domestic - will prove to be our undoing if we don't get to work immediately and try to develop alternative sources of fuel. What the hell is it with our abhorrence of common sense? What we have here is black comedy at its strangest. Someone remarked this morning of the gulf, "It smells like a gas station now." Fill 'er up? Forty years ago, the Cayahuga, the river which makes its way through Cleveland, Ohio, became so polluted it caught fire. Could this happen in the Gulf of Mexico? Stay tuned.

Seriously, sometimes I get the feeling that I'm living in a world whose scenario was script
ed by Paddy Chayefsky. It is the weirdest of times, isn't it?

Scores of thousands of gallons of oil per day (figures vary) are being pumped into the gulf - a horrendous amount any way you slice it or dice it - and, thus far, no one has been able to say with any certainty when - or even if - they will be able to stop it. This morning it was mentioned on MSNBC that a quarter of the seafood we eat in this country comes from the gulf. This is not particularly good news for a guy like me who has become addicted to sushi in recent years. I can't even imagine how this will affect the people who make their livings by fishing those waters. And now they want to drill in the Atlantic? Surely they jest!

It was Barack Obama, in order to appease the assholes who comprise the lunatic fringe of American politics, who put the idea of drilling the Atlantic back on the table. Some are saying that this puts him in a sticky situation politically. Not at all. It was clear to one and all the motivation behind his offer from the beginning. Like Chamberlain at Munich in 1938, the president was attempting to appease a group of crazy people. All he needs to do now is reverse course and explain to the far right that, under the circumstances, drilling for oil in the Atlantic ocean would be a touchingly stupid idea. The American people won't fault him for this and will stand behind him, I think. The ecology of the good old USA is more important than political expediency. Who would argue with that notion, you may ask? You'd be surprised. Count on the arguments to come pouring fourth any minute now - and watch the Republicans wander further away into aimless unreality. This is going to get really funny.

Here's the silver lining behind this extremely dark cloud: Four of the five states that will be most affected by this mess (Florida, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas) - all historically red - are looking a bit bluer today. Mississippi, I'm sorry to say, is eternally red. Governor Rick Perry is calling this an "Act of God". Talk about desperation! This isn't God's fault, Governor. British Petroleum will be responsible for the clean up - not the Almighty.

Just two months ago, while attempting to justify drilling in the Atlantic, they were trying to sell us on the idea that an environmental disaster like the one that is now being played out in the Gulf of Mexico was out of the question. All of the state-of-the-art precautionary safety standards would be implemented. Not to worry, they assured us! What, me worry? Well, look on the bright side of things. At least it wasn't an accident in a nuclear power plant somewhere. For over four decades they have been telling us that something like that could never happen either - Three Mile Island notwithstanding.

Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun
It's alright!

George Ha

We have a choice to make. It's either going to be the environmental security of the planet earth or the private profit of the very few - it's not going to be both. This really is a no-brainer if you just think about it for a minute. Many years ago I remember seeing this funny cartoon by the great Jules Feiffer that was printed in a college sociology text of mine. It depicted some bloated energy executive seated behind a desk. Said he:

"You want oil? We own the wells. You want coal? We own the mines. You want solar energy? We own the....[LONG, AWKWARD PAUSE]....Solar energy is not feasible."

Oh really? It is feasible. It was proven scientifically feasible before I was even born (I'll be fifty-two in August). As I write these words some guy is planning a flight around the world in a plane powered by the sun. Don't try to tell me that solar energy is not feasible! It is not only feasible, it's essential for the planet's survival that we get to work yesterday on wiring ourselves to the sun, so to speak. Don't listen to Rush Limbaugh and FOX Noise when they try to convince you that it can't be done. It can be done and it will. What other choice do we have? Can anyone give me a viable alternative?

What is now transpiring in the Gulf of Mexico will get much worse before it gets any better, s
orry to say. Incredibly some experts are predicting that this could go on for weeks, if not months. The American people have yet to wake up to the ramifications of what is really occurring off Louisiana's coast . When the final chapter is written on this idiotic chapter in our history, it will make the Exxon/Valdez disaster of 1989 look like a cup of spilled tea. This is the "Gone With The Wind" of environmental calamities. Drill baby drill indeed.

Will the president do the smart thing here? That really was a rhetorical question on my part - of course he will. He will catch a lot of hell from the GOP for canceling the plan to tap the Atlantic for fossil fuels, but in the end the political heat won't am
ount to a flickering candle in Antarctica. If the electorate doesn't yet understand the consequences of the disaster in the gulf, they will soon enough. This dreadful situation will only get worse by the day. By this time next week, they'll understand. Oh, brother, will they understand!

Will o
ur Republican representatives be stupid enough to continue fighting for the right of oil companies to plunder the Atlantic? Again, that was a rhetorical question - of course they will. Their history absolutely dictates that they will. Is there anyone out there who still believes that the "party of Lincoln" is going to make any significant gains in the November midterms? I'd love to make a little wager with you.

Tom Degan
, NY


In just a lit
tle over two weeks, on May 18 at 8:30 AM, London time, brother Pete and I (along with old pal Kevin Swanwick) will be touring Abbey Road Studios in merrie old England. There will be much to tell you. My plan is to stand in the center of Studio Two, take a small, hand-held recorder out of my pocket and hum into it the theme song from the Dick Van Dyke Show. That way - for the rest of my life - I'll be able to honestly tell anyone, "Why, yes! I recorded at Abbey Road." Yeah, I know, I'm shameless.