Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dan Rather's Revenge

"This instrument [television] can teach, it can entertain - yes it can even inspire . But it can do so only to the degree that men and women are determined to use it toward those ends. Otherwise it's nothing more than lights and wires in a box."

-Edward R. Murrow, 28 October 1958

When I wa
s a kid, in the household I grew up in anyway, whenever a major news event would break, you involuntarily went to CBS News to find out what was happening. Back in the good old days, the CBS reporters and commentators had serious gravitas - Murrow, Cronkite, Sevareid - it didn't get any better than those guys, They used to refer to the news division of CBS as "the diamond of the Tiffany Network". Of course those days are gone forever. As far as news and information is concerned, "CBS" might just as well stand for "Cowardly Bull Shit". Every bit of credibility they had left was forever destroyed in 2005, after they caved-in to the political pressure put upon them by Bush Mob and forced Dan Rather out the door.

Just in case it slipped your mind (These are crowded times, I know) on September 8, 2004 Rather reported on 60 Minutes that while he was in the the Air National Guard, George W. Bush went AWOL for at least a year - from 1972 until 1973. As Election Day of 2004 was approaching, the Bush campaign was desperate to change the subject. Using Karl Rove's tried-and-true strategy of attacking an opponent by going after his strengths, they assaulted John Kerry's military record in Viet Nam. An organization appeared overnight called the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth". They claimed that Kerry's medals for valor had been received for incidents entirely fabricated - this in spite of the fact that none of these jackasses had even served with him. Their propaganda had the desired effect. A lot of voters swallowed it whole

er or not this was the final nail in the coffin of Kerry's quest for the White House is anybody's guess. He ran a pretty stupid campaign - as had Al Gore four years previously. My opinion is that any person who doesn't have the wit to defeat a disgusting little piece of shit like George W. Bush doesn't deserve to be president.


George W. Bush did not want to go to Vietnam. I find no fault with the guy in this one (and only) respect. Had I been of draft-age at the time, I wouldn't have wanted to go to Vietnam either. In fact, I would not have gone. My options would have been sparse to be sure. My father wasn't an influential congressman who could pull some strings to get me assigned to the "champagne unit" of the stateside National Guard. I probably would have ended up expatriating to Canada. No problem. I used to live in Toronto. It's a really nice place.

"Bring 'em on!"

-George W. Bush, June 2003

Junior Bush was a really lucky guy. His old man was able to get him into the guard in spite of the fact that there already was a waiting list of several hundred people. The rich have a different set of rules to abide by in case you haven't noticed. Bush got in. He was supposed to serve as a flyer - and that's what he did. He flew the coop. He was ordered to report to Dannelly Field in Montgomery, Alabama in September 1972 - but no one who was stationed there at the time has any recollection of meeting or even seeing him. Did he have pangs of conscience when he sent all those kids into Iraq in 2003? My guess is that he did not. He's always been kind of funny that way. Daddy's little sociopath.


Mitt Romney was a lot slicker than Bush in dodging military service during the Vietnam war. He went to France as a "Mormon missionary". Very nice.

Dan Rather chronicles the s
tory of his departure from the Columbia Broadcasting System in his new book, Rather Outspoken. It's next on my reading list. He has always been anathema to conservatives in spite of the fact that in his long career he never once expressed a political opinion on the air. He's seen by that crowd as the personification of those evil-doing America haters. And yet ultra-conservative, Reagan-speech-writer Peggy Noonan (who used to work with Dan at CBS) said in her memoirs that he is one of the most patriotic men she has ever known. Imagine that.

My problem
with Dan Rather is that I always thought he was a bit too stoic. That's the problem with the guys at CBS. As good as they were (and they were as good as it gets) they were never able to let their hair down - unlike their NBC counterparts. Tom Brokaw is a really funny guy - as is Brian Williams and David Gregory. Did you ever see Gregory's impersonation of Brokaw? Uncanny and hilarious! Back in the day David Brinkley had a sense of humor that Walter Cronkite could never hope to compete with on his best days. Those NBC people are a scream! With the exception of the late, great Don Hewitt, their colleagues over at CBS are a bit stiff. And that's the way it is.

But while Dan Rather might be guilty of taking himself and the planet earth a little too seriously, he was damned good at what he did. That is why the failure of the suits at CBS to stand by his side in the aftermath of the Bush story is inexcusable and shameful.

There was always something about Rather. The man's essential decency - and yes, patriotism - were always visible just beneath the surface. Maybe I'm deceiving myself here but I don't think I am. In the week following the attacks of September 11, 2001 he went on the David Letterman program and recited a little-known verse from America the Beautiful:

Oh beautiful, for patriot dreams
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears

In the midst of it, he broke down and wept. It was as powerful a moment as I've ever witnessed on television and I'll never forget it. It revealed so much about the man.

In March of 1954, Ed Murrow took on Joe McCarthy and exposed him as the lying demagogue he was. In spite of the attacks that were hurled back by McCarthy and his allies, CBS stood by their man. A half century later, Dan Rather exposed, for all the world to see, George W. Bush's desertion from the Air National Guard. This time, CBS folded like a decomposing burlap tent. Murrow's producer at the time of the McCarthy broadcast was a man named Friend Friendly. He once told an interviewer that the job of any good news organization is to tell the people, "not what they want to hear, but what they need to hear". Apparently CBS News has misplaced Friendly's memo. Pity. Their Sunday morning programing is still pretty good, but other than that I just can't take them seriously anymore.

Since I have yet to read Rather Outspoken, this should not be seen as a review of the book. Although every other book I've read by Dan Rather was an excellent read (and I've read 'em all) I imagine that this one will be no less enjoyable. I'm glad the book has come out -
and I'm particularly happy that the nasty facts regarding Dubya's military "career" are now front and center again. This is as it should be. Every aspect of his life needs to be exposed - not for the sake of political comeuppance - but for the historical record. Like it or not, George W. Bush is a historical figure.

I'm certain tha
t Franklin D. Roosevelt never imagined that the story of his affair with my distant cousin, Lucy Paige Mercer, would make the pages of history (I come from a long line of home-wreckers) nor did Jack Kennedy ever dream that the names of any of his mistresses would make their way into the indexes of the numerous biographies of him. Does George W. Bush seriously believe that the facts of his life will be exempt from the same kind of historical scrutiny? The arrogant little thug probably does believe it but it doesn't really matter. The biographical excavation was bound to commence sooner or later. Dan Rather's new book is a good place to start.

Git 'em, Dan!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Good Night and Good Luck
a film by George Clooney

The story of the Edward R. Murrow's March 1954 broadcast that was the beginning of the end for Joseph McCarthy. Wasn't that a time? CBS had courage back th
en. The film is available on DVD.


Today is the ninety-fifth anniversary of the birth of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Here's to you, Jack!

That's just one of the perks of being Irish Catholic. We get to refer to the late president as "Jack". Nyah!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Change the Subject

"As people do better, they start voting like Republicans - unless they have too much education and vote Democratic, which proves there can be too much of a good thing."

-Karl Rove

I know what you're thinking. No, friends, that wasn't Josef Goebbels who uttered that verbal atrocity. It really was an American citizen, working out of the White House in the twenty-first century. Go figure.

e-hundred years from now when historians are struggling to come up with a clever tag for the times in which we now live, I'm almost certain that the name "Karl Rove" will be connected with it somehow. I can see it now: "The Age of Rove" or possibly "The Rovian Period". The man will be remembered as being as much of a cancer on the body politic of his era as Joe McCarthy is remembered being during the time of McCarthyism. Political success for people like Rove comes only through the use of lies and distortion. They are unable to campaign based on the merits of their ideas because those ideas are atrocious. That is why political operators like Rove and the late Lee Attwater are so valuable to the agenda of the extreme right wing. They are (or in Lee's case were) the miracle workers who are able to tell the electorate that the sun is shinning at midnight. Somehow they always manage to get enough of the gullible to believe them.

By the way, I should note here that as he lay dying, Lee Attwater begged God to forgive him for his entire political career. I wonder if Karl Rove will have a similar deathbed conversion. I can't wait to find out. I'm sorry, that's cruel. Pay it no mind.

"Let me live 'neath your spell
Do do that voodoo that you do so well"

Rove is out
there this year, doing that voodoo that he does so well. As Mitt Romney's campaign continues to implode - for no other reason than the fact that he insists on talking - the Republicans need Rove more than they ever did. Defeating Barack Obama ain't gonna be easy, that's for sure, but don't forget that this is the genius (and I use that word sincerely) who masterminded the successful campaigns of the half-witted frat boy from Crawford, Texas in 2000 and 2004. He was Anne Sullivan to George W. Bush's Helen Keller. Or perhaps a better metaphor would be Edgar Bergen to Bush's Charlie McCarthy.

2012 will be the dirtiest campaign in living memory - possibly in history. The Supreme Court's horrible Citizens United v FEC decision of January 2010 will see to that. We've now entered a whole new area entirely. Think of it as an electoral Wild West. Everyone and everything is now fair game with no one to be held accountable. The money that can be pumped into a campaign is now virtually unlimited. As long as Citizens United remains
the law of the land, the left in this country (what's left of it) will be fighting the good fight with both hands tied behind their backs.

Strange days indeed.

We ha
d a little preview of the GOP's desperation this week when word leaked out that they were going to bring back as an issue - WAIT FOR IT - the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. You might remember (then again you might not remember) that he was the pastor of a Chicago church that Barack Obama was known to attend. During the campaign of 2008, Wright was busted on a videotape using "inflammatory", "anti-American" rhetoric. A lot of what he said was misquoted. "God damned America" was translated by the right wing scream machine as "God damn America". It didn't matter. Candidate Obama swiftly disassociated himself from Reverend Wright and the issue just-as-swiftly evaporated. Crisis resolved? Not so fast!

Desperate times require
desperate measures as they say. The Republican propaganda machine decided to bring the Jeremiah Wright issue out of mothballs and give it another chance just for old times sake - that is until the New York Times got word of it. Within a matter of hours it became apparent how stupid an idea it was. Mitt Romney has a delightful tendency to throw anything he can against the wall to see what will stick. Even he disassociated himself from the idea.

The Karl Rove
playbook is something else. This is why I think he is a political Einstein. His strategies are usually effective against all odds. Attack the opposition's strength - not their weaknesses. He used it against Al Gore's masterful knowledge of governance in 2000 ("POLICY WONK!") He used it against John Kerry's heroic military record in 2004 (Remember the swiftboat veterans for "truth"?) Somehow he'll be able to use twenty-six straight months of job growth against Barack Obama.

They already have half of the country believing that the president created the economic catastrophe he inherited. Isn't life strange?

Last summer in an effort to make Obama look bad, the Republicans seemed intent on refusing to raise the debt ceiling, something that they have always voted for in the past, risking America's credit rating in the process. And then they mysteriously backed off, allowing the debt ceiling to rise with no further debate on the matter. What's up with that??? Here's what's up:

Some genius (and I use that word sarcastically) among them probably realized that the debt ceiling fiasco would probably hurt the prez a lot more in an election year. The fact that it will also hurt untold millions of Americans is irrelevant to them. They've been demonstrating for over a century that they don't give a damn about the well being of the people they're sworn to represent. Wait until midsummer's nightmare. My guess (and it's a pretty educated one) is that this time they'll stick to their guns and refuse to allow the debt ceiling to rise, irreparably harming the president - and the American people.And the cycle will only continue. As long as this country keeps sending the plutocracy's handmaidens to Washington in such overwhelming numbers, we'll have to get used to living in a country in ruins. This is the way it's going to be from this point on - or at least until we wake the fuck up.

Wake the fuck up.

I used to think that Obama's reelection was a sure thing. Now I'm not too sure. The Grand Old Party is willing to destroy this country in order to obtain and retain power. They'll stop at nothing in order to achieve those ends - even if there is nothing left for them to govern. So sit back and have some popcorn handy. This is gonna get REALLY interesting.

The GOP can still win the day, but in order to do so they'll need to change the subject. It is the only "change" they can believe in. Isn't the American political process loads of fun?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Bush's Brain
by James C. Moore and Wayne Slater

A very disturbing look into the weird political history of Karl Rove. It was also made into a documentary and is available on DVD. Both are highly recommended. Here is a link to watch the trailer on You Tube:


Here is a link to order the film off of Amazon.comhttp://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dmovies-tv&field-keywords=Bush%27s+Brain

Seriously, the guy is beyond despicable.

To read more recent postings on this den of disgusting LIBERAL propaganda please go to the link below:

"The Rant" by Tom Degan

What kind of an American are you anyway reading this stuff???


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Gay Bashing 101

I did some really bad things when I was between the ages of ten and fifteen. But they're things I don't waste much time dwelling on these days. After all, I was only a kid at the time - and a troubled one at that. I should be cut as much slack as the slack factory is willing to provide. So there.

There is one exception as far as my preteen period is concerned. It involved the time I slapped a developmentally-disabled kid across the side of the head. Back in the day they were called "mentally retarded". He was sitting in front of me on th
e bus. I guess I needed an outlet for my anger and - instead of taking it out on myself (as I usually did) - on this day I elected to take it out on a helpless and innocent child. Although we were the same age, he might as well have been five years younger. His name was Clark. He died a long time ago. This is the first time I've ever admitted this - publicly or privately. It was one of the few times in my childhood where I actually deserved to be severely punished, but I never was. Not even a verbal reprimand. I hope God and Clark have forgiven me. I know I've never forgiven myself. That's punishment enough I suppose.

Although I had matured enough by my late teens to the degree that my offenses against the human race had dwindled down to a conscionable degree. my transgressio
ns between my fifteenth and nineteenth birthdays are able to cause me considerable guilt three-and-a-half decades later. There are times when I am still overcome with grief and shame over a sin committed as a late adolescent. Why? Because by that time in my life I was old enough to know better. Once you reach a certain age, the claims of "childish indiscretions" are invalid and utterly pointless. Those later infractions are not so easily dismissed. This is why our state prisons are stocked to the rafters with eighteen-year-olds who have been sentenced to terms of twenty-years-to-life or more. Some have even been sentenced to die. Think about that.

I was reminded of this when the revelation was made this week that, as a seventeen-year-old senior in the exclusive private school he attended in the mid nineteen-sixties, Mitt Romney, in what can only be described as a "Lord of the Flies" moment, led a posse of kids in an attack on another boy (described as "slight" and frail"), who was presumed by them to be a homosexual. The kid's bleached-blonde hair was pretty long by the standards of the day. At the dawn of Beatlemania, it could be a dangerous thing to emulate the Fab Four in this country - as this unfortunate soul found out to his horror I'm sure. While they pinned him down, Mitt cut off most of the poor guy's hair. While this was happening to him, the boy wept openly and cried out for help. HA! What a jokester that Mitt!

It was a diffe
rent world when this incident took place in 1965. Many people had not had the chance to become enlightened at that point. A half century ago, gay people pretty much kept quiet about their sexual orientation. Other than New York's Fire Island and the occasional Judy Garland concert, there were not many places where they were free to express themselves openly. To do so would have subjected them to violence and, in some cases, imprisonment. It was a different world indeed.

"I like what they do with fags in this country! The punishment is quite correct and inconsistent with most of the law. They throw them in jail with a lot of men. Hmm! Hmm! Very clever!"

-Lenny Bruce, 1963
from the routine, "Thank You, Masked Man"

I can
remember one night when I was fourteen years old, watching the old Ten o'clock News on Channel 5. This was back in the days when it was the best local news program in New York City (Where have you gone, Gabe Pressman???) On this particular evening they were interviewing some fellow who was an out-of-the-closet homosexual. I remember saying out loud, "How can he go on television and even admit to such a thing?" In 1972 it was just too weird for me to comprehend.

That was then. This is now. I, too, have since become enlightened
. So I'm going to give Mitt the benefit of the doubt. I'm sure that he has become enlightened in the ensuing years as well. Most people have. Why should he be the exception?

So what are we to make of all this? Is Mitt Romney a gay-bashing homophobe? Probably not. The conclusion I've drawn is that the man is a sociopath. Does that sound like a bit of a stretch? What is a sociopath? It is someone who feels no pangs of guilt from the pain he inflicts on his fellow human beings regardless of the severity of that pain. I would only ask you to remember Mitt's deeds when he was in charge of an "investment" company called Bain Capital. In order to make a tidy profit for himself and his fellow "investors", they purchased scores of companies across the country and then shut them down - putting thousands of working class people out of work in the process. At around the same time, Mitt and his fellow Bain capitalists posed for a magazine article photograph, some of them with cigars - the plutocracy's favorite phallic symbol - clamped between their drooling teeth; all of them clutching scores of twenty-dollar-bills. Mitt even has a bill sticking out of his buttoned-down suit jacket. Sweet fucking deal!

Just look at that photo! These greedy bastards are obviously quite proud of themselves. They have become stupidly rich at the expense of the hard working people whose lives and livelihoods they have destroyed. If that isn't the living, breathing definition of sociopathology - or whatever the word is - I don't know what is! Am I waging class warfare here? You'd better believe it, Buster. And I'm shooting to kill - figuratively speaking I assure you.

Mitt has expressed no remorse for the gay-bashing he took part in as a fired-up, manly-man teenager. He claims he doesn't even remember the incident; this despite the fact that four of his former classmates have gone on the record (one off the record) to say that the incident did indeed occur and that they are profundly ashamed of themselves for their participation in it. Mitt is not ashamed, obviously.

It took me a long time to get with the program as far as gay marriage is concerned. I was all for the idea of "civil unions" and thought they were taking a mile when they should have been satisfied with an inch. How insensitive on my part. Like President Obama, my feelings on this subject have "evolved" over the years. To say that it is a threat to the institution of marriage is too silly for words. If anything it will only strengthen it since more people will be getting married as a result - a lot more.

Are we to seriously believe (as some on the extreme right are implying) that if gay marriage is made legal across the land, heterosexuals will decide to go that route instead of the traditional one? I don't think that's the case. Although I have never been married, I have been engaged four times (twice to the same lovely woman - Hello, Virginia!). I'm at a point in my life where I really do want to settle down with someone. If and when that blessed day finally does arrive, I'm fairly certain that it won't be with a man. I'm funny that way.

So no, I really don't believe that Mitt Romney goes to bed at night dreaming violent dreams about stuffing gay people into a doggie crate and tying them to the roof of his station wagon for a twelve hour joy-ride from Boston to Toronto. I am sure that he has evolved along with the rest of humanity with regard to his true feelings about homosexuals and Irish Setters.

My problem with the Mittster is simply the fact that the man is utterly lacking in conviction. As the late, great Molly Ivins once said of King George Bush the First, "There is no 'there' there". He's also as ignorant about international affairs as King George Bush the Second. He recently described Russia as America's number one ideological enemy. This tells me that the man has not read a newspaper since 1989.

Like Dubya, I'm certain that he will turn foreign policy over to the neo-cons. Do you remember how well that worked out last time around? He has already advocated the invasion of Iran. That would be a geopolitical blunder so extreme it might possibly instigate the beginning of World War Three. This is not the first time I've said this and, I promise you, it won't be the last: If the American electorate is stupid enough to go down this road again they'll deserve everything that happens to them. Everything.

It's not just gays and lesbians who have a lot to lose should Mitt Romney be inaugurated president on January 20, 2013. We all have a stake in the outcome - whether we realize it or not. Don't forget the fact that the next administration will see two - possibly three - appointments to the Supreme Court within the next five years. If those appointments are made by a right-wing Republican, we might as well start singing America's requiem.

And-a-one! And-a-two! And-a-three!

Tom Degan
Goshen, New York


Conscience of a Liberal
by Paul Krugman

It doesn't get much better than Mr. Paul.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

LBJ: The Man We Hate to Love

"I am concerned about the whole man. I am concerned about what the people, using their government as an instrument and a tool, can do toward building the whole man, which will mean a better society and a better world."

-Lyndon B. Johnson
Whenever I hear someone waxing idiotic about the "radical liberalism" of a Barack Obama or a Bill Clinton or a Jimmy Carter I'm usually torn between the urge to giggle or to vomit. Show me a person who seriously believes that the aforementioned are real live, bona fide lefties and I'll show you a person seriously lacking even a remedial understanding of the history of the United States of America. Time for a history lesson. The last, truly liberal president left the White House on January 20, 1969. His name was Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Last week, like every other history junkie in the country, I was looking forward to the publicatio
n of Robert Caro's fourth volume that ponders the life of this strange and extraordinary man. The first volume was published in 1982, Volume Three came out over a decade ago - and we still have volume five to look forward to. What a long, strange trip it's been. Caro, who is in his late seventies, has said that he is not sure he will live long enough to finish this epic biography. Keep your fingers crossed and your hands folded.

When Lyndon Johnson left the White House I was just a child and only beginning to faintly under
stand the machinations of American politics. At the dawn of 1969 all I knew about the man was that he was the president and that a lot of people (my Democratic father among them) were pretty pissed off at him. Less than a year earlier on March 31, 1968, he had stunned the country by announcing that he would not seek a second full term as president. He knew he was finished. The Vietnam war had polarized the country in general and the Democratic party - his party - in particular. The ultimate irony is the fact that he died on January 22, 1973, two days after that second term would have ended. I often wonder whether a second term would have extended his life - or killed him sooner.

Next year wi
ll mark the fortieth anniversary of the day former President Johnson died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack. Time heals all wounds as they say. For almost a half a century Lyndon Johnson has been the Democratic party's Invisible Man - much in the same way the Republicans today ignore the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt (although for entirely different reasons). To many minds, the "Great Society" of his dreams seems quaint and utopian. The man himself is seen as the anti-JFK; awkward, graceless - even vulgar. He's become the liberals' eccentric uncle - an embarrassment. It shouldn't be that way. The time is long overdue for progressives in this country to reassess this great - and greatly flawed - American.

Like his idol Franklin Roosevelt,
Lyndon Johnson loved being president - or at least until Vietnam started to consume him. His twelve years as the most powerful man in the senate and nearly three years as John F. Kennedy's vice-president had prepared him well for the job. By the time he entered the White House he knew damned-near everyone on Capitol Hill. He knew their wives. He knew their kids. He knew what they wanted and - most importantly - he knew what they feared. He knew where they were vulnerable politically - and in some cases personally! Old Lyndon was the politician's politician. The guy was the wheeler-dealer supreme. He got things done and he usually got what he wanted.
He was the type of politician that makes liberals want to tear their hair out. But for that "stupid fucking war" (as Molly Ivins always called it) he would today be remembered as one of the greatest presidents in American history. He's not. In fact he's remembered as a colossal failure of Shakespearean proportions. He trusted the "Harvards" (as he called men like Robert McNamara and Dean Rusk) to advise him on foreign and military policy and it blew up in his face, destroying his administration. His hand-picked successor, Vice-President Hubert H. Humphrey, could not undo the damage done. The 1968 Democratic convention disintegrated into a police riot, the party ripped apart. The year ended with President-elect Richard Milhaus Nixon preparing to enter the White House. Remember how nicely that worked out?"A man without a vote is man without protection."

-Lyndon Baines Johnson

s most outstanding legacies are the Civil and Voting Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965. When he entered the White House on November 22, 1963 (we all know what happened on that day) liberals were lukewarm toward the idea of a Johnson administration. As Democratic leader in the senate during the 1950s, his civil rights record was mediocre at best. Although he was instrumental in getting the Civil Rights Act of 1957 passed, by the time it reached the floor for a vote it had been so watered-down there wasn't much left in it - mere scraps thrown to a people starving. Within six months of taking the oath of office it was clear to everyone that LBJ was committed to the equal rights of all Americans. I'll always respect the old son-of-a-bitch for that reason alone. A long overdue tip of the hat to the guy.

When the Ci
vil Rights Act finally became the law of the land, he turned to his aids Bill Moyers and the late Jack Valenti and said to them, "Boys, we've lost the south for a generation". By "we" he was referring to the Democratic party. It turned out to be the understatement of the twentieth century. By the end of the 1960s, the racist Dixiecrats who had dominated that party in the south for over a century, fled en masse - like diseased rats - into the loving arms of the GOP. And that is where they (or their ideological heirs) reside to this day. The "solid south" has been solidly Republican ever since.

By 1980 the bigots had formed a strange alliance with the plutocrats. The result was the so-called "Reagan Revolution". Three decades later, the bigots and the plutocrats joined forces with the terminally brain-damaged. Thus was born the Tea party. Bye bye, America.
Vietnam forever - and rightly - tarnished his legacy. But his domestic achievements should not be overlooked or underrated. Barack Obama's presidency would not have been possible without the landmark civil rights legislation that Lyndon Johnson made possible. He really tried to make us a Great Society. The man's heart was usually in the right place. Vietnam notwithstanding, we owe the old bugger a deep debt of gratitude. Here's to you, Lyndon. You broke my heart but I still love you.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Path to Power
by Robert Caro

Means of Ascent
by Robert Caro

Master of the Senate
by Robert Caro

The Passage of Power
by Robert Caro


Here is LBJ addressing congress in 1965 on the subject of voting rights. This was one of his mountaintop moments:


John Lewis says that when he watched this speech on television with Martin Luther King, both men wept.

LBJ (The American Experience)

This excellent two-part PBS documentary is available on DVD. Here's a link to watch Part One on YouTube:



Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The Harder They Fall

From "The Rant" archives:

"What the hell is wrong with the Democrats? For the first time since George McGovern thirty-six years ago, we have a Democratic candidate for the presidency who actually sounds like a Democrat. There's nothing vague about John Edwards' message - you know where he stands on every issue of any importance to average Americans. Unlike Barack Obama, whose heart is in the right place but who talks in poetic generalities, and Hillary Clinton - who is heartless - John Edwards has a definite, tangible vision of the new direction he wants to take America. Why isn't he catching on? Why are the American people so easily led - like sheep - by the corporate media? What in tarnations is goin' on here???"

-Tom Degan, 27 January 2008

Somebody please shoot me.

I got a brief glimpse into the character of John Edwards very early on during the campaign of 2004. It was on someone's manicured lawn somewhere - possibly John Kerry's. Edwards had just been announced as Kerry's choice for running mate and the two men gathered their respective families together for a short and sweet photo-op. When it was over, everyone involved proceeded up an incline toward the house. Edwards put his arm around the waist of Kerry's daughter, leaving his dying wife Elizabeth just standing there. She stood frozen for a couple of seconds and then awkwardly started up the hill behind the party. The most amazing thing about this scene was that - to the best of my knowledge anyway - none of the major network news outlets picked up on it - not even FOX Noise. When the story of the betrayal of Elizabeth Edwards finally became part of the public domain, I was not quite as shocked as you might have been. My mind kept going back to that scene.

The Cliff Notes:

his 2008 quest for the presidency, candidate John Edwards gets his mistress Rielle Hunter (photo left) a job as the campaign's official videographer. Hunter becomes pregnant with Edwards' child. When the press gets wind of the story, Edwards persuades his aid and longtime (onetime) friend Andrew Young (not to be confused with Jimmy Carter's UN ambassador) to claim paternity. Young's wife Cheri is also in on the deception. Hunter is spirited away ala Dick Cheney to an undisclosed location. Her "living expenses" are paid for by an elderly, mucho-multi-millionaire named Rachel "Bunny" Mellon. When the truth is finally exposed, Elizabeth Edwards leaves her husband of four decades. She dies on December 7, 2010. The Feds say that the payments to provide for Hunter's comfort are in direct violation of campaign finance laws. The Youngs are cooperating with prosecutors. John Edwards is now being tried on corruption charges and is facing thirty years in federal prison.

I need to take a shower.

This is just too painful to even think about, much less donate an entire column to. One can only imagine the pain and humiliation that poor Elizabeth Edwards went through during the final months of her all-too-short life. Johnny was apparently grooming Rielle to take over as First Lady the moment his wife drew her last breath. Class act!

The fact that this contemptible jackass was number two on their national ticket less than ten years ago is not going to do the Democrats a bit of good in this campaign year. The Republicans are desperate for issues to exploit as the November election rears its nasty head. You can bet the farm that as the magic day approaches, this sad and ugly incident will bec
ome a major talking point. Pictures will be resurrected from the photo-morgues of news agencies all across the country that will show the smiling, vice-presidential wannabe John Edwards embracing candidate John Kerry. Rush Limbaugh is going to have a blast with this one. I can hear it now:

"Ladies and gentlemen, THIS is the REAL face of the Democrat party! That they would let a horrible cad like John Edwards be part of the national ticket tells me more than I want to know! This is a party that thrives on shame! I need a fix."

John Edwards i
s finished as a public person. Richard Nixon was able to slither his way back from Watergate to become a respected (by some) author and foreign policy adviser. A scandal involving prostitutes ended the political career of New York governor Elliot Spitzer. Today he is the host of a program on Al Gore's Current TV and is doing quite well for himself. These guys - and more than a few like them - are proof that (contrary to the old adage) there are indeed second acts in American life. There will be no second act for John Edwards. His carefully scripted play has closed for good. When this public humiliation is all over he will disappear. He will pop up in an occasional "Whatever became of" article but that's about it. You will never see or hear from him again.

Without Barack Obama as part of the equation, Edwards might very well have gotten the Democratic nomination four years ago. Had that happened, the scandal would have bro
ken just after the convention. It would have killed the progressive cause on Election Day - and Sarah Palin would today be a seventy-six-year-old heart beat away from the presidency. That's beyond reckless on the part of John Edwards. That borders on the criminally insane.

The funny thing is that according to those in a position to know, Edwards made his name as a politician for no other reason than the fact that he was a he was a world champion bullshit artist; the trial lawyer supreme. He was absolutely clueless on all matters of foreign and domestic policy. Those close to him say that he never read or studied anything. It was noticed by the press that whenever he traveled he never had any reading or writing material in his possession. It can be said without exaggeration that the guy spent more money per year on haircuts than he did on books.
This was an empty suit - shallow, self-absorbed, totally void of substance.

Does he deserve to go to prison for thirty years? I don't think so. It's not clear to me that these were in fact "campaign funds" that were used to keep Rielle Hunter quiet and comfy. I can't see him doing any time in the slammer quite frankly. His punishment has already been imposed. He will be remembered by history as
a scoundrel and a fool. His sentence will be political Siberia. It must be the bitterest of pills for him to swallow. Bon appetit, Johnny.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Sleepwalking Through History
by Haynes Johnson

The Best of Times
by Haynes Johnson.

These two books are about, respectively, life in America during the administrations of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. Both of them I think will be valua
ble sources for historians a century from now. It doesn't get much better than Haynes Johnson. I can't wait for his book on the Dubya years.


"Something" by The Beatles


Yesterday Martin Scorsese's documentary on George Harrison, Living in the Material World, was finally released on DVD. I saw it last night for the first time and I can tell you that it's worth the price of the ticket. The above link is to the rarely seen promo film that the Beatles did for his masterpiece, Something.