Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Death of Democracy

On January 21, 2010, the Supreme Court of the United States made what has to be the worst decision since the Dred Scott case of 1857 (or, at the very least, Plessy vs. Ferguson in 1896). In a case called Citizens United vs. FEC, five of the nine justices ruled that corporations had the right to rape our democracy via the electoral process by means of unlimited - and unregulated - campaign contributions. We are now witnessing in this campaign season the disastrous results of that ruling. To no one's surprise, the justices behind this disgusting judicial atrocity were the usual suspects: John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, and, of course, America's favorite "House Nigger", Uncle Thomas.

Two days later, on January 23, I wrote on this site what I thought of that decision. I offer it again with only slight editing. Under the present circumstances I think it bears repeating:

Ascribing humanity to a corporation, to a company like Exxon or Disney for example, raises too many questions to even list here. But let's at least attempt to ask a few of them, shall we, boys and girls? Here goes....

Are corporations really persons?

Do corporations think?

Do corporations weep?

Do corporations fall in love?

Do corporations grieve when a loved one dies as a result of a lack of adequate health care?

Do corporations have loved ones?

Are corporations even capable of loving?

Do corporations sometimes lose sleep at night worrying about disease, violence, destruction, and the suffering of their fellow corporations?

Do corporations feel your pain?

Can a corporation run for public office?

Can corporations laugh at themselves? Are they capable of the self-deprecating sense of humor that the Irish are famous for? (EXAMPLE: "So these two corporations walk into a bar....")

If a corporation ever committed an unspeakable crime against the American people, could IT be sent to federal prison? (Note the operative word here: "It")

Can a corporation register to vote?

We all know that corporations have made a shit-load of cash throughout our history by profiting on the unspeakable tragedy of war. But has a corporation ever given its life for its country?

Is a corporation capable of raising a child?

Does a corporation have a conscience? Does it feel remorse after it has done something really bad?

Has a corporation ever been killed in an accident as the result of a design flaw in the automobile it was driving?

Has a corporation ever written a novel or a dramatic play or a song that inspired millions?

Has a corporation ever risked its life by climbing a ladder to save a child from a burning house?

Has a corporation ever won an Oscar? Or an Emmy? Or a Tony? Or the Nobel Peace Prize? Or a Polk or Peabody Award? Or the Pulitzer Prize in Biography?

Has a corporation ever performed Schubert's Ave Maria?

Has a corporation ever been shot and killed by someone who was using an illegal and unregistered gun?

Has a corporation ever paused to reflect upon the simple beauty of an autumn sunset or a brilliant winter moon rising on the horizon?

If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a noise if there are no corporations there to hear it?

Should corporations kiss on the first date?

Could a corporation resolve to dedicate its life to being an artist? Or a musician? Or an opera singer? Or a Catholic priest? Or a rabbi? Or a Doctor? Or a Dentist? Or a sheet metal worker? Or a gourmet chef? Or a short-order cook? Or a magician? Or a nurse? Or a trapeze artist? Or an author? Or an editor? Or a Thrift Shop owner? Or a EMT worker? Or a book binder? Or a Hardware Store clerk? Or a funeral director? Or a sanitation worker? Or an actor? Or a comedian? Or a glass blower? Or a chamber maid? Or a film director? Or a newspaper reporter? Or a deep sea fisherman? Or a farmer? Or a piano tuner? Or a jeweler? Or a janitor? Or a nun? Or a Trappist Monk? Or a poet? Or a pilgrim? Or a bar tender? Or a tar bender? Or a used car salesman? Or a brick layer? Or a mayor? Or a soothsayer? Or a Hall-of-Fame football player? Or a soldier? Or a sailor? Or a butcher? Or a baker? Or a candlestick maker?

Could a corporation choose to opt out of all the above and merely become a bum? Living life on the road, hopping freight trains and roasting mickeys in the woods?

I realize that this is pure theological speculation on my part but the question is just screaming to be posed: When corporations die, do they go to Heaven?

Our lives - yours and mine - have more worth than any goddamned corporation. To say that the Supreme Court made an awful decision last January is an understatement. Not only is it an obscene ruling, it is an insult to our humanity.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


No one on the Supreme Court has been more vocal in his disdain of Affirmative Action than Uncle Thomas.

Just where do you think Clarence Thomas would be today had it not been for Affirmative Action?

He would be mounted on the front lawn of some beer distributor's home in Albany, Georgia - wearing a jockey uniform and holding a lamp.


The Brethren
by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong

Sunday, October 24, 2010

It Was a Very Weird Year

When I was fifty-two
It was a very weir
d year
It was a very weird year of Tea party girls
And twisted extremes
With their right wing dreams
They didn't have a clue
When I was fifty-two

Just call me Old Blue Eyes the Second.

Hasn't t
his been the strangest political year of your entire life? It has been for me, that's for damned sure! And to think that 2010 isn't even over yet. As of this moment there are sixty-eight days left until the new year. It staggers the imagination to anticipate the holiday bundles of unintentional humor that await us! While it may be a horrible thing indeed to contemplate the damage that the right wing/plutocracy is doing to our beloved country, it sure is a rib-tickler to behold.

In addition to two brothers, I have severa
l friends who live abroad. Their correspondence with me regarding America's downward spiral cover all range of emotions imaginable - from genuine concern to incredulous amusement to downright horror. But all of them share the same twisted fascination with the national nervous breakdown that the good old USA seems to be undergoing. It really is kind of curious when you think about it. The nation that defeated fascism in 1945 seems hellbent on embracing it sixty-five years later. Does that sound a bit alarmist to you?

"Fascism should more properly be called 'Corporatism' because it is the total merging of corporate and state power."

-Benito Mussolini, father of the fascist state

I'm sure that it's just my imagination though. Pay it no mind.

Then a
gain, maybe it shouldn't surprise us that we are heading in that direction. The generation that defeated Mussolini and Hitler are dying at the rate of over one-thousand per day. One of the heroes of the greatest generation, my uncle Thomas J.V. Cullen, passed from this veil of tears on September 16. Tom Cullen was a turret gunner in World War Two who flew thirty-nine combat missions over Germany. That is him in the photograph on the left. He was, as he liked to say about other men he admired, "one tough old son-of-a-bitch" (If you were a woman he respected, you were "one tough old broad"). Five years after he came home from the war, in September 1950, he married my father's sister, my late aunt Elaine.

He was one of the smartest men I ever knew; the
sort of person who didn't have to wear his extraordinary intellect on his shoulder like a boy scout's merit badge. The guy could recite Shakespeare's Henry V from memory. From my earliest childhood up until the day he died, I was in awe of him. He was also one of the most astute observers of American politics that ever walked this earth. Suffice to say, at the end of his life Uncle Tom was pretty much disgusted with the sorry state of America's national political dialogue. He believed that the country he put his life on the line for all those decades ago could do better than this. He was right.

Tom Cullen was a Liberal Democrat, and - in spite of what people like Sarah Palin would have you believe - a great America
n. He was also the bravest man I ever knew - and one of the funniest. This was the guy who put the "riot" in "patriot".

Hoping that the American people will make an intelligent decision nine days from now when they storm into voting booths all across this troubled land is probably wishful thinking. Frank Rich made an interesting observation in his New York Times column this morning. As pissed off as th
ey are about being taxed by the naughty negro in the White House, recent polling shows that the overwhelming majority of them are unaware of the fact that ninety-five percent of them are actually being taxed less under this president then they were under the previous one (Remember that guy?) They haven't a clue that the economy has actually improved noticeably since he was inaugurated in January of 2009 - and they're not about to give him an ounce of credit for saving three million jobs. Hell, most people who describe themselves as "Conservative" refuse to believe that he is an American citizen! Was this a great country or what?

I feel it my duty to emphasize here, the fact that he is the first African American president has not a thing to do with the people's rage. That's just a coincidence.

I just made a twenty dollar bet with mys
elf that I could write those last two sentences and keep a straight face. I lost.

You've gotta hand it to FOX Noise. These hideous bastards and bitches would have done Josef Goebbels proud. They grabbed the BIG LIE and ran with it. Through constant repetition and non-to
o subliminal messages, FOX kept repeating the LIE into the ears and minds of its clueless constituency:


On November 2, 2010, the American people - or at least those who were stupid enough to swallow this nonsense - will be goin
g to the polls en masse, salivating like Pavlov's dogs at the bells of doom.

But now the days are short
We're in the autumn of the years
And now I think of this place
As Wonder Bread turned green from mold
To rocks from gold
We were gripped by fear
It was a very weird year....

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Here is a photograph from my personal
collection that I cherish more than any other. It was taken in October 1992. In it are (from left to right) yours truly; Geraldine Ferraro; my beloved uncle, the aforementioned Tom Cullen; and the late, great Paul O'Dwyer. It was a very good year.
Photo by Abril Adams


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

The singer is the great Nat King Cole. The composer is the equally great Charlie Chaplin. Enjoy the melody. Cherish the sentiment.

"Although a tear may be ever so near."

For more recent postings on this electronic cesspool of commie propaganda, please go to the link below:

"The Rant" by Tom Degan

You must really hate America to read this stuff.

Tally ho!!!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fasten Your Seat Belts, Kids!

COUNTDOWN....We're two weeks and two days from one of two things: We're about to observe the biggest electoral upset since 1948 ("DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN") or we're about to commit economic suicide. Take your pick.

Ya wanna believe. Ya gotta believe! All year long I've been telling anyone who was willing to listen to my tirades that the so-called Tea Party was going to explode in the face of the Republican party like a hand grenade lobbed into your dining room by your friendly, next-door neighbor. Surely, I thought, the moderate voters will take one good look at the reactionary mess that is the present-day GOP and they'll flock to vote for the Democrats out of sheer terror.
In only one region of the country, however, does this phenomenon appear to be playing out. The bat shit extremism of Carl Paladino in New York and Christine O'Donnell in Delaware have rendered their candidacies dead in the water. There's a damned good reason why I live in the northeast, folks.

But in the rest of the country, the "real" America, the Tea Party candidates seem to have their respective elections locked up. I haven't given up hope. As the great and deceptively wise Yogi Berra once philosophized, "It ain't over till it's over." Sage wisdom indeed. We still have sixteen days and - as the old adage tells us - that's a lifetime in politics, baby! We also have a fact on our side that by now is a part of the natural order of things:

The sun will rise in the east
The moon will set in the west
The right wing will behave like assholes

It really is as simple as that. The cockeyed optimist inside of me assures me that between now and then they will have gone so far over the top, the voters will flee like frightened children to the left - just like they did when they sent Franklin D. Roosevelt to the White House in 1932. But there is that nasty side of my personality that sees things as they really are - not as I would like them to be. My inner realist is telling me,

"What the hell is the matter with you Degan??? Are you so naive that you would even entertain the silly notion that a country which twice - HAPPILY! - elected a moronic yahoo like George W. Bush is going to fare any better during this election cycle? Get a freakin' grip, Buster!"

Alas, this is probably the reality of the situation - a reality so unsettling that I am having a difficult time coming to grips with it. Only a mass, intellectual earthquake between now and Election Day will cause the American people to wake up to the harsh truth. Much of the blame for what is about to happen to this once-great nation may be properly laid at the front door of the Democratic party. As Theodore Roosevelt once declared in a slightly different context, they have "all the backbone of a chocolate eclair!" Indeed. This is no longer the party of TR's distant cousin Franklin. It's not even close. The fact that Harry Reid is neck and neck with a half-witted buffoon like Sharon Angle is instructive on so many levels - all of them too depressing to even contemplate.


I guess this is as good a time as any to do the old Get Out The Vote pitch, huh? As I stated a couple of weeks ago ("The Base's Hissy Fit", 29 September) staying home and sulking on the second of November is not the smart thing to do. Yes, I know! The Obama administration has not necessarily been a progressive's dream boat. They have been timid and tepid in too many areas where bold and decisive action was required. Since the day after he was inaugurated I've been saying that his biggest mistake was in thinking he could work with the extremist clowns who have hijacked the Republican party. He can't. By this stage in the game this fact must be abundantly clear to him. He should stop the charade of trying to make nice with these people and steamroll the hideous bastards if he has to - while he still has a majority. As someone once said, "Politics ain't bean bag" - whatever the hell that means.

It's a given that the nastiest mid-term campaign in living memory is only going to get nastier in the two weeks left to it.
The grim choice before us is the choice between two political parties - one thoroughly corrupted; the other the picture of incompetence and timidity. I realize that our options aren't many. I would only ask you to think of it as choosing between brain cancer and athlete's foot. While the latter may be annoying at best - and curable - the former is a literal death sentence. How's that for an analogy?

And you tell me over and over again
You don't believe we're on the eve of destruction

Barry McGuire

So sit back and try to enjoy the ride as America spirals into the abyss. What other choice do we have than to make the best of a tragic situation? The United States of America is screwed. It's best days are behind it. And the American people are too stupid to even vaguely comprehend the gravity of their situation. Whaddaya say we take these lemons and make us some lemonade?

Tom Degan
Goshen, New York


The River of Doubt
by Candice Millard

Five years after he left office in the late winter of 1914, former president Theodore Roosevelt set off on an exposition to map out an uncharted river that snaked its way through the Amazon jungle. The strenuous journey lasted four months, nearly cost him his life - and probably led to his early death in January of 1919. If you want to understand what an incredible human being TR was, you need to read this book. I cannot recommend it enough.

Saturday, October 09, 2010


When a celebrated person passes on, we may pause and reflect for a moment on his or her life and career, but then we move on. We may watch with appreciation the brilliant performance of a long dead James Dean in the film Giant and think not a thing about his absence from our lives. That's not the case in this instance.

I sure do miss John Lennon.

From, "The Rant"
December 8, 2008
I often wonder what John Lennon would have been like as an old man. Can you even imagine??
No doubt he would have mellowed out a bit by now - just a wee bit, mind you. He once envisioned him and Yoko comfortably retired, living in a little cottage on an island off the coast of Ireland, "looking at our scrapbook of madness." I'm also certain that he would have never lost that caustic, madcap and goon-like humor that made us love him so. The guy was a scream! I always thought that he was the funniest man who ever lived. Had he not picked up the guitar as a vocation, I'm convinced that we would be remembering Doctor Winston O'Boogie today as one of the great comedians of the twentieth century.
He was always somewhat of a late riser. Show biz hours, you know? He would have awoken late on the morning of his seventieth birthday - this morning - and walked over to the laptop that I suspect he would have placed near his bed. He would have loved the internet, I think. Sitting there in one of the colorful Japanese robes he was known to wear about the house, he would have been greeted with messages of peace and love from his friends and admirers all around the world. After a quiet afternoon of low-keyed celebration - drinking coffee, reading the papers, and maybe watching the telly - he would have spent the evening in the comfort of his family and a few close friends at one of Manhattan's Asian restaurants that he loved so much; probably Mr. Chow's on West Fifty-Seventh Street, a favorite of his.
I can't bring myself to say, "But it wasn't meant to be." It was meant to be, DAMN IT! Almost thirty years ago, in the late evening of December 8, 1980, a troubled and confused man with access to a gun, decided that John Lennon's life had to be terminated. Five shots in the back that severed the major arteries leading to his heart. He died almost instantaneously.

It is ironic, and maybe even fitting, that our final vision of him is not as the sweet old curmudgeon we always knew he would turn out to be - but as the Lennon of 1980: Foreve
r young, eternally whimsical, steadfastly defiant, deadly serious, and hopelessly silly - all of the paradoxes that were combined in this one incredible, enigmatic persona.

I'll say it again. I sure do miss John Lennon.

Love is the answer
And you know that for sure
Love is a flower
You've got to let it grow....

John Lennon, Mind Games

God k
nows he wasn't perfect. Those who knew him best and loved him most (including Paul, George and Ringo) will tell you that he could be a right bastard when he wanted to. Abandoned by his parents at the age of five and raised by his aunt Mimi, the trauma that was visited upon the little boy was more-than-likely the root of the psychological torment that haunted the grown man. There were periods when he battled with heroin addiction and (more acutely) alcoholism. Incredibly, throughout his life this brilliant, talented, wise and funny man was dogged by depression and insecurity, Wasn't he a bit like you and me?

But every now and then I feel so insecure
I know that I just need you like I've never done before
Help me if you can, I'm feeling down....
Won't you please, please, help me

In 1966 John Lennon felt empty and unfulfilled. As one quarter of the most successful musical act in history, this was a young man who should have been sitting on top of the world....and yet something was missing. The lyrics of two of his songs during this period, Nowhere Man and I'm Only Sleeping, reveal the depths of his melancholy:

Please don't wake me
No, don't shake me
Leave me where I am
I'm only sleeping

As for fame, he told an interviewer, "There's got to be more to it than this." He was desperately searching for the kind of substance that he had mistakenly believed his celebrity might bring him. He wasn't content merely to be a rich and shallow pop star. John wanted to stand for something meaningful.


The next fo
ur years would see the gradual evolution of John Lennon from the wittiest and cheekiest of the mop tops, to a man whose mission was to bring peace and love - brother and sisterhood - to the entire planet earth. "Imagine all the people sharing all the world", he instructed us. He really believed in his heart that he could bring about Heaven on earth; that somehow, through music and laughter, we might sing and giggle our way to peace and harmony. He was accused by the press of being naive. Perhaps he was. If John Lennon was naive then so, too, was Jesus Christ. He was in pretty good company.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."

It was only the message he wanted taken seriously, not the messenger. He was more-than-willing to be the world's clown. "Because", as he told the British journalist David Wigg in 1969, "all of the serious people - like Martin Luther King and Kennedy and Gandhi - got shot."

Tired of the abuse and invective hurled at him and his new wife, Yoko Ono, by the British tabloid press, in 1971 the Lennon's moved permanently to New York. Now the abuse would come from a different and more powerful source - the administration of Richard Milhaus Nixon. They believed that the man who sang "Imagine no possessions" was a danger to the impressionable minds of America's youth. It was utter nonsense of course. The only people he posed a threat to were the Nixon Gang themselves - just by being who he was and what he stood for.

By 1976 Nixon was living in disgraceful exile, and John was issued the Green Card that would allow him to settle in the city he loved more than any other. In New York he w
asn't harassed or mobbed. He could walk its streets anonymously, and the New York press pretty much let him be - even when he briefly left Yoko in 1973 and went on a drunken binge in Los Angeles that lasted almost eighteen months - a period he euphemistically referred to as his "lost weekend". Back in Manhattan, sober and contrite, he gave up the music business for five years to raise his and Yoko's new child Sean, born on October 9, 1975 - his thirty-fifth birthday!

In the au
tumn of 1980 when the word got out that John was back in the studio after half-a-decade, I was living in a street-level apartment right on the corner of West 31st and Tenth Avenue. One day in early October, my brother Pete and I drove seventeen blocks up to the Hit Factory studio on West 48th Street where he was recording. We wanted to meet John Lennon, dag nap it! We made our way into the reception area on the fifth floor under the guise of applying for an entry-level job. Just one floor above us, we could hear the grinding rhythm of two or three guitars. It was almost hypnotic. We listened to those glorious, muffled sounds as we (very slowly) filled out our applications. When the new album, Double Fantasy, was released the following month, I listened for those grinding guitars in vain. They were nowhere to be found. Four years later when Yoko released the posthumous follow up LP, Milk and Honey - there they were! The session we had been listening to from one floor below had been for the song, Nobody Told Me.

Once back outside on 48th Street, the two of us hung out for quite some time, leaning against our 1973 Oldsmobile Toronado which was parked directly in front of the building. We were hoping he might come outside and we could just say hello, shake his hand, and maybe get an autograph. I brought with me a copy of the Walls and Bridges album for this very purpose. Finally after two hours it was starting to get dark. "Listen", I said to Pete, "he lives in New York City; we live in New York City - we'll run into him someday. Let's get out of here and go back to the apartment for a drink." We did. Two months later John Lennon was gone forever.

Strange days indeed.

I won't recap the events of that horrible night almost thirty years ago. It's too painful a memory. I'll close by saying that those of us who are old enough to remember are fortunate to have lived during the period that John Lennon thrived. On this, the seventieth anniversary of his birth, it's best not to dwell on the manner in which he died, or on all that might have been. I think it's best that we reflect on a wonderful life, nobly lived - and the music - that beautiful, timeless music. Dream. Dream away. Magic's in the air....

Happy birthday, John.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

To listen to and watch the timeless music of John Lennon and the Beatles, please go to the links below:

There's nothing you can know that isn't known
There's nothing you can see that isn't shown
There's nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be
It's easy....

I believed it then. I believe it still.


John Lennon: The Life
by Phillip Norman

For more recent postings on this hideous site, please go here:

"The Rant" by Tom Degan

A splendid time is guaranteed for all! John would have approved.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

America: Potential vs. Reality

The idea hit me just the other day like a thunderclap. This country's best days are years behind it. As a matter of fact (and I hate to be the one to break the bad news to you) the good old U-S of A is broken and I fear it is now beyond fixing. America has been destroyed and the damage is more-than-likely irreparable. And were we to take that first step on the long road to recovery, such an effort would take decades - maybe even a century. Let's face it: America is finished. It's toast. Kaput. In the shit house. Dead as a doornail. Wrecked and raped. Warped and ruined. Up the creek without a freakin' paddle. Over and out. Trampled and stomped. Bumped and bashed. Mortally wounded. Utterly fucked. Totally trashed. Screwed, blued and tattooed. EVERYBODY SING!

The old gray mare she ain't what she used to be
Ain't what she used to be
Ain't what she used to be....

This country's future will be an insatiable nostalgia for its distant past. Thirty straight years of political dysfunction and corruption has rendered this once-great nation impotent, a shadow of what we once were - and the potential of what we could have become. We might have been a virtual paradise. In fact, once upon a time we came pretty damned close! But it's over. You understand that, right? It's all over now, baby blue.

This ain't your father's America.

It's time to wind up the ma
Just make your mind up - the piper must be paid
The party's over
It's all over, my friend

You won't even want to find yourself unfortunate enough to share a hemisphere with this place twenty-five years from today - I guarantee it. Given the average longevity of men in my family, I will probably not live to see the sociological catastrophe that will be America in 2035. Lucky me!
The next ten years will see an historical first: American refugees. Brace yourselves, Canada. And remember that we're not particularly fond of warm beer, okay?.

[AUTHOR'S NOTE: A reader from Canada named Brandon indignantly (but gently) informs me that Canada likes their beer frigid as well. In his own words: "C'mon! We're the frozen tundra! Where would we even get warm beer?" Point conceded, Brandon. My bad. Thanks for keeping me on my toes, pal.]

"The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves."

William Shakespeare

Edward R. M
urrow used that quote from Julius Caesar at the conclusion of a 1954 broadcast about Joe McCarthy. He was trying to explain how a drunken demagogue like the Wisconsin senator could have found success in a political system crafted by the likes of Jefferson and Adams. Perhaps Murrow was being generous. Perhaps the man's essential optimism forbade him from facing the obvious. Let us face some nasty and irreversible facts, shall we? Americans are pretty dumb. The evidence is overwhelming and irrefutable.

November 4
will mark the thirtieth anniversary of the day that Weeda Peeple sent a senile, dirty old dingbat named Ronald Reagan to the White House. Despite the damage his administration did to this country's social and economic infrastructure, he is still held in high esteem by most of us. Yesterday on MSNBC's Morning Joe, the eminent historian Douglas Brinkley cited Reagan as one of America's "great" presidents - right up there with Washington, Lincoln and the two Roosevelts. Amazing. If someone as smart as Brinkley still doesn't get it, it's doubtful that the vast majority of Americans are going to get it any time soon. They probably never will; hence our downfall.

"We may have democracy, or we may have wealth cencentrated in the hands of the few, but we can't have both."

Justice Louis Brandeis

Twenty-six days from today (if current trends continue) these imbecilic Americans will bang yet another nail into the slowly-closing coffin of their economic security by handing the legislative branch of our government back to Reagan's ideological heirs - the same jackals and jackasses - bitches and bastards - who are responsible for the mess we're in today....and our downward spiral will only continue.

Is this a great country, or what?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Armed Madhouse
By Greg Palast