Sunday, September 30, 2012

Our Hearts of Darkness

I'm going to do something I have never done before. Today I'll be turning over das RANT to a friend. I've written before on this site about my old chum, Kevin Swanwick. Two lads from Goshen, NY, we've known each other since slightly before the invention of dirt. He was the one my brother Pete and I dragged to merrie olde England when we toured the Abbey Road Studios back in May of 2010. Early this morning, in an insomnia-laden stupor, I was surfing the Facebooksphere when I came upon this piece he wrote on his page. It moved me like nothing I've read in a very long time. I thought you might like to read it. This is powerful stuff, folks. Health food for thought: 
Our Hearts of Darkness
by Kevin Swanwick 
Kevin Swanwick
There are moments in life when the darker side of human nature makes itself known in the everyday and the commonplace. At these times, long held assumptions about human decency can vanish in an instant and leave us with a clear-eyed, but disturbed sense of reality. It is the moment when, with the sharpest vision and presence of mind, there is no doubt that what we have just witnessed is ugly and true at the same time.

While waiting for my delayed flight from Tampa to New York, sitting in the boarding area in my usual heads-down reading posture, I was briefly interrupted as I saw a wheelchair come into my peripheral field of vision. Some rapid-fire, automated memory mechanism wordlessly communicated to me that is was the usual and often- seen senior citizen being helped along to our gate. The mechanism was wrong. As I raised my head I could see that this was a young Marine, sitting ramrod straight in his military-issued wheelchair, legless from the hips and showing the remnants of third degree burns on his deeply scarred arms, the right one badly disfigured. Prominently centered on the back of the chair was the Marine Corps insignia and around it the words “Purple Heart Veteran.”
I had just had a long discussion the night before with a business colleague from California about war and US foreign policy and was in a circumspect mood. I had expressed my deep frustration with the lack of awareness of most citizens of the depth of trouble that war brings. We discussed the chronic under reporting of civilian casualties, the rampant illegality excused in the name of “protecting our freedom,” the monstrously large defense budget, the devastating costs to our veterans and their families, the continuing escalation of international conflict and the recent NYU-Stanford Law School collaborative study on the devastating human toll of the current Drone War in Waziristan, Pakistan.

Overcome with emotion, it took me several minutes to compose myself enough to approach and offer this young man a smile and a “thank you.” It was obvious that he was avoiding eye contact with people, including the flight attendant who was speaking to him with kind, gentle words and gestures of assurance. I thought she was an angel.

As we boarded the plane, the first class section was full and all were seated, many gazing at me, the 6-foot tall man standing before the galley. The young Marine was already seated in the coach section. I looked at the Angel and she looked at me. Our eyes locked. In a strong voice I said, “That kid belongs in first class, someone should give up their seat.”

I turned and looked at my fellow citizens seated in front of me and heard the flight attendant second my motion and also state that the young man was only 23 years old. She said, “I know you’d give up yours.”

“Of course.”

I thought, that’ll do it and stood for a moment longer. Everyone either looked away or looked down. I gazed ahead and at the young Marine and could see that he must have heard me. He looked down as well. With everyone in my view looking down, warrior and civilians, I felt my heart begin to race with wales of injustice rising in my gut. Before I could utter a second louder protestation I thought of the young man. This was about him. It was also about respect. Creating a scene would embarrass him I thought and would be an affront to his dignity. He had not asked for a better seat and had lived, seen and experienced things that none of us could even imagine. No burden lay with him. It lay only with my fellow citizens and me. 

I moved on slowly to my seat. I could feel the massive weight of what just happened hanging in the air. Was I the only one feeling it? Could others escape away into their iPhones and newspapers? Did they not at least momentarily reflect? Did no one at all feel compelled enough, even after some moments of uncomfortable soul searching, to simply get up out of his or her seat? Such a simple and utterly modest sacrifice….

As we flew to New York, the flight activities proceeded as typical flights do with safety announcements and basic drink service. The young soldier and his circumstances occupied my mind the entire time. I began to weep. I could think of nothing else. I peered forward looking for the top of his bright blond crew cut. Did someone finally give up their seat? Yes, perhaps I missed it. Someone did the right thing.

As the flight attendants serving the Coach section made their way back to me, I ordered club soda and peanuts. I had been wiping tears away from my eyes and trying not to allow my emotions to overtake me. As my flight attendant, a man of military bearing himself, poured my drink I asked, “did someone finally give their seat to that young man?”

“No, no one.”

“He’s only 23-years old. He was a Minesweeper. Lost part of his arm too.”

I looked up at him and he could see that I had been crying. ‘What the fuck is wrong with people?,” I asked. I hadn’t expected to blurt out vulgarity and for a moment, felt a little embarrassed.

Slowly, he shook his head.

The angel flight attendant who was now serving first class moved back down the aisle toward us. She hurriedly asked the man serving my drink, “do you have any vodka; I need five? They’re all drinking it and I’m out.” He reached below his cart and pulled out five bottles and she took them away.

I do not know what the conscience of another is. I can only speculate. I see so many bumper stickers reading “Support our Troops”, that I have been led to believe, perhaps naively, that most people really care about them and understand the meaning of their sacrifice. Faced with a choice, I opt for the notion that at least some of the folks ordering drinks, were doing so to quell an uneasy feeling that had overcome them. Perhaps they weren’t aware of what was making them uncomfortable and sometime later, it would become apparent. And then, with the full measure of time and distance between themselves and the young Marine they would come to realize that they had made a terrible mistake. 

That something which seemed trivial was actually profound; that the silent young man with the Purple Heart lives a life that is defined by sacrifice. That when given the wonderful opportunity to make the most meager sacrifice for him, to offer him their gratitude, their love, the simple recognition that they were grateful for his service and their own lives of luxury, they did nothing. And that in this awareness, they will grieve for this soldier’s physical loss and emotional suffering and the many more like him and those who have died. And perhaps they will grieve as I am for a country that has lost its way in a culture of self-centeredness and willful ignorance of its own heart and soul.

It is in our best interest to hope for the emergence of the non-selfish parts of our character, in others and in ourselves. At times like this, it is difficult to make such a leap of optimism, but I have to believe that what is good in all of us only needs to be touched by awareness to make it operative in our lives, that our hearts of darkness can become hearts of light.

Kevin Swanwick
Friday, September 28th, 2012
That was a humdinger, Swanwick.
For more reading with regard to my adventures in Swanwickland, please go to the link below:

A splendid time was guaranteed for all and the nice folks at Abbey Road delivered - BIG TIME! Here is a link to Kevin Swanwick's excellent blog, Writing and Thinking:

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Like Lemmings to the Sea

“Historically, the most terrible things - war, genocide, and slavery - have resulted not from disobedience, but from obedience.” 

-Howard Zinn

The question was posed to me very early on this fine Wednesday morn from a friend on Facebook: Why do so many Americans (particularly the white ones) vote against their economic interests and the future of their children? Good question. Is it the jaw-dropping stupidity of the American people? I lose patience with the argument that otherwise intelligent human beings have been duped by Fox Noise. An intelligent person would be able to take one look at their programming and realize at a glance what utter nonsense it is. But how could it be that people I know personally - far more intelligent that I - continue to cast their lot with that disgusting party? (I am referring to the GOP in case you were wondering).

My response might have been a tad reactionary - at first. Hey, it was 2:30 in the morning and I was cranky! Of course after further sober and non-cranky reflection I realized that the answer to that question is a bit more nuanced....I think....I hope.

Could it be a self-destructive, even suicidal tendency in our fellow countrymen and women? I've given that a bit of thought and have come to the conclusion that this is not the case. The simple fact of the matter is that Americans in general are depressingly deficient when it comes to their understanding of history.

Here's a tasty little morsel to munch on: What is the right wing's favorite argument against reelecting President Obama on November sixth? 

"He has had four years to clean up the mess [THAT HE INHERITED] and yet he has failed to do so!"

They make that argument because they know that most of us are practically brain-dead when it comes to our knowledge of the history of the country we profess to love so well. I once had a conversation with a high school senior who identified Abraham Lincoln as the president whose time-of-office had been during her father's childhood. 

"You mean Kennedy, don't you?" I asked slightly aghast.

"No", she insisted, "It was Abraham Lincoln."

 Can you imagine?  And this gal was not what I would describe as a dunce. She was well-reasoned and articulate beyond her years. She was a nice kid, too; I wonder whatever happened to her. My guess is that she'll probably be voting for Mitt Romney in 2012.

Once in a while a total stranger will come up to me and start berating me because of my politics. Whenever this happens I always respond to them with a simple question:

"Who was the president during the First World War?"

They're never able to answer. The next time one of these Über right wing freaks hassles you about your beliefs, give them the Woodrow Wilson test. I tell you it works like a freakin' charm every single time!

Think about it. Which American president in our recent history came into office with a bigger economic calamity to contend with than Barack Obama? Franklin D. Roosevelt! When FDR campaigned for reelection in 1936 what was the argument that was made against him by his opponent, Governor Alf Landon of Kansas? 

"He has had four years to clean up the mess [THAT HE INHERITED] and yet he has failed to do so!"

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Roosevelt had not ended the Great Depression by Election Day 1936. It would  still be lingering on Election Day 1940! It would take almost a decade to end it. And bear in mind that President Obama does not have the luxury of running for a third term (Roosevelt was elected to four). It's going to take at least two administration - possibly three - to dig ourselves out of this hole. And the only way to succeed is for those administrations to be progressive ones. A turn to the right is a turn backwards.

What would have happened had Roosevelt been defeated in the election of 1936 - simply because he had not completely ended, in less than four short years, the worst economic catastrophe in the history of humanity? What if the American people had been silly enough to revert to the policies that had started all the troubles to begin with? Alternate histories are, as CBS newsman Charles Collingswood once said, "like throwing darts into a fog". All we can say for sure is that this would be an entirely different world had Franklin Delano Roosevelt been defeated in 1936.

Or ask yourselves this question: What if he had never been elected at all? Where would we be today if FDR had been defeated by Herbert Hoover in 1932? Elections do matter - even eighty years after the fact

Right wing form of governance does not work. It never has. It never will. Sadly, the American people (most of them anyway) are blissfully ignorant of this indisputable, non-debatable historical truth. And on they go, like lemmings to the sea.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 


A People's History of the United States
by Howard Zinn

I miss Howard Zinn. 


The results of a Washington Post poll have just been announced. It would appear that Mitt Romney is starting to lose the support of white men - WHITE MEN! - the GOP's most reliable constituency. This campaign is over. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Awkward Man

 Meanwhile, back at the implosion....

"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that's an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what....These are people who pay no income tax."

-Mitt Romney

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

If the Romney Campaign ever needs a requiem, that little ditty should do the trick. 

Strike the stage. Fold up the tent. Close the doors. Turn out the lights. There will be no encore. There will be no final bows. There will be no curtain call. The reviews are in and they're all bad. This show died during the out-of-town tryouts. It won't be opening on Broadway. It won't be opening off Broadway. It won't be going on the road. It won't be going anywhere. This show is closing. It's all over. It's history. It's finished. Finis. Adios. Arrivederci. Auf wiedersehen.  Au Revoir. Sayonara. Kaput. KABOOM!

Can I be any clearer?

MEMO TO THE PREZ: Don't waste your precious time on the campaign trail. Why bother? Mitt Romney lost the election yesterday. His fate is sealed. If - after all this - the American people decide to send him to the White House, our reputation as the international laughingstock will be sealed. There are forty-six days between now and the election. That is a lifetime in politics as they never tire of reminding us, but I just can't see how Romney is going to get out of this one. The only thing that may save him is a scandal in the Obama camp so vile that the electorate will flee en masse. That could very well happen. The Republicans are quite adept at creating scandals out of thin air - as Bill Clinton found out much to his eternal chagrin. 

MEMO TO MITT: The little eight-year-old girl who skips over to the corner candy store to buy an Almond Joy candy bar pays taxes. Everyone pays taxes. Some pay too much. Others (like you, Mitt) not enough. That's your civics lesson for the day, Mitt. You could use a lot of them.

Here's the funny thing! When one contemplates the complete and utter devolution of the Republican party in the last fifty years. it is instructive to remember this: As hideously incompetent as Mitt Romney is, of all the nitwits and kooks who sought the nomination during the primaries - he was the best of the bunch; the cream of the crop! This is not merely a party that has found itself rotting at the bottom of the ideological sewer, this is a party that has lost its fucking mind. They should never again be trusted by reasonable and enlightened people with the governance of our nation. I'm just sayin'.

 When the video surfaced of Mitt's little "chat" with a closed audience of plutocratic investors, I couldn't help but wonder if the man has been paying attention to the developments in video technology that have been going on in recent years. Fifty-two years ago during the campaign of 1960, when Jack Kennedy or Dick Nixon spoke at a private fundraiser, it's a pretty safe bet that they knew those events would be "closed" They would have easily been able to spot any recording device. Back in the day it was not possible to hide a television or film camera. Some of them weighed so much that they were nicknamed "the thousand pound pencils". Even an audio tape recorder was a bulky, cumbersome affair. Today a video camera can literally fit into one's shirt pocket. Mitt Romney has had nearly a decade to absorb this new reality. What is the matter with him? Is it ignorance? Is it arrogance? Yo, Mitt! What gives, baby?

FUN FACT: The video that has stirred up so much controversy and will probably, more than anything, end up costing Romney the presidency, was made public by David Corn of Mother Jones magazine. It was given to him by James Earl Carter IV - the grandson of Jimmy Carter. Ain't politics fun?

Here is the corner they've painted themselves into: In order to win the nomination, a Republican candidate has to say and do a lot of really stupid things. That's been the case for the last half century. The problem is the fact that the party has become so extreme during that period, once nominated, the candidate no longer has the luxury (as he once had) of veering back toward the center during the general election - or even the center-right for that matter. If he does, he loses the base. If he doesn't he's lost damned-near everyone else. The "party of Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln" has become, I believe, virtually unelectable. Isn't life beautiful?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY  


The Party's Over
by Nat King Cole

Such an apropos little tune for recent events. And a real toe-tapper as well! Nat Cole could (and can) do no wrong as far as I'm concerned.


This little gem by Maureen Dowd appeared in this morning's New York Times:

 Let Them Eat Crab Cake


Monday, September 17, 2012

A Serious Reality Check

“It's disgraceful that the Obama administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.”

-Mitt Romney 

And the winner is....

It isn't Mitt Romney, that's for damned sure. He pretty much blew it in the late hours of September 11 - a date that will now be synonymous with the self-destruction of the Romney campaign - among other things I need not remind you about. The former Massachusetts governor proved - YET AGAIN - that he's not ready for prime time. Hell, he's barely ready for an early morning test pattern. It kinda makes you wonder about the intellectual capacity of the Republican candidate - and those advising him. It's all over....I hope. 

If a more utterly perfect reason not to send this fool to the White House was needed, it was generously provided to us last week - gift wrapped - by Mitt Romney himself!

Incredibly, der Mittster was responding to a statement he claimed was made by the Obama administration in their reaction to the terror attacks on the US embassies in Egypt and Libya. Only it wasn't made by the administration. It was made by the embassy in Cairo - and they weren't responding to the attacks. The statement was made hours before. What they were reacting to an incendiary video that was produced by some half-witted extremist in the United States that has the Arab world in an uproar. Mitt must have known that he was inflaming an already dangerous situation. And if he was unaware of what he was doing, he (and the people he surrounds himself with) are too incompetently idiotic to be trusted by reasonable people with the responsibilities of the chief executive. 

Incredibly, poor old Mitt was given a golden opportunity to roll back his silly remarks the following day, and yet - astonishingly - he only dove deeper into the rhetorical muck, head-first and smiling. Obama is an appeaser to a cabal of terrorists, dope addicts, commies, beggars and thieves according to the governor.  The guy is the gift that keeps giving.

The "foreign policy advisers" that Romney has surrounded himself with are the same neocon freaks that plunged this country into an unnecessary, nine year war when it invaded the (like it or not) sovereign nation of Iraq. Seventeen out of twenty-four of these geniuses were part of the Bush Mob. These same people are now rattling their sabers, drooling for us to go to war with Iran. Since I assume most of us have the capacity of 20/20 hindsight, the question needs to be asked:

Do we really want to go down this road again?

There are people out there who would send this country into the abyss rather than reelect an African American to the most powerful office in the world. There is no denying it. I see it every day in my personal interactions. A significant minority of his fellow Americans despise the president of the United States for no other reason than the color of his skin. They may not be telling the pollsters this, they may not be mentioning it to their black acquaintances, but that is the truth. We have to face the unvarnished reality, unpleasant as that reality may be. We can only beg our bigoted brethren that on Election Day, they check their racism at the town hall door - or wherever-the-hell the place is they cast their ballots. Not that that's gonna happen. That's just silly, wishful thinking on my part. Pay it no mind.

We need to take a hard, focused look at where we all will be headed if Romney miraculously manages to seize the Executive Mansion. And it will be a seizure - much like it was twelve years ago. They know they can't possibly win this thing fairly and squarely. That is the purpose (the only purpose) of those so-called "Voter ID Laws". The plutocracy is planning an electoral coup d'tat. Count on it.

It cannot possibly be understated, the mess this president inherited when he moved into the White House on 20 January 2009. If you'll be so kind to recall, we were losing three quarters of a million jobs a month. Barack Obama was able to stem the tide and then reverse it. We'll soon be approaching Month Number Thirty-One of continuous job growth. Are you silly enough to believe that even deeper tax cuts for multi-millionaires and billionaires will make those figures any better? Have another sip, pal. In fact I may join you.

As the old wisdom says, "Be careful what you wish for."

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY  


Military Madness
by Graham Nash
I don't care what anyone says. This recording makes perfect sense - and still resonates - forty years later. Call me a naive peace-freak if you must.

"Military madness is killing the country." 


AlterNet: Romney Reveals His Contempt for Half of America

This is too good to be true. Romney just lost the election. Mother Jones has struck gold with this self-immolating video of an appearance der Mittster made at a fundraiser earlier this year.  Barack Obama is one lucky son of a bitch. Fate has always been kind enough to put in his path to political office knuckleheads or genuine head cases (Remember Alan Keyes?) In Mitt's case it seems to be a happy combination of both.

Life is beautiful.

I would suggest that everyone share this article/video with as many people as possible. I know I'm going to. If after viewing this clip you're still not convinced that Romney is an unfeeling, ill-informed twit, you really shouldn't be taking part in the electoral process. Seriously.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fifty Years of the Beatles

"We were honest with each other and we were honest about the music. The music was positive. It was positive in love. They did write - we all wrote - about other things, but the basic Beatles message was Love....The Beatles were just four guys that loved each other. That's all they'll ever be.”

Ringo Starr
from The Beatles Anthology

September the eleventh need not be an unhappy anniversary in every respect. Here's living proof: It was fifty years ago today....

John Lennon
Paul McCartney
George Harrison
Ringo Starr

A half century ago today, the Beatles were an obscure band of pop musicians known only to the clientele of a handful of grimy establishments in Liverpool, England, and a few seedy strip clubs along the notorious Reeperbahn in Hamburg, Germany. On the morning of September 11, 1962 they would find themselves in London, two-hundred miles south of their home turf. Arriving at the EMI recording facility on Abbey Road, they set up their gear inside of Studio Number Two. This was the opportunity they had been dreaming of. They were actually going to make a record! Not only that, but it was going to be released by Parlophone - a major British label known primarily for the records of Peter Sellers, the comedian they loved the best.

At 10 AM the session commenced. By one o'clock it was in the can; a modest but catchy little tune called "Love Me Do".
Also recorded at that session was the B-side, "P.S. I Love You".

The passage of a half-century should give us pause. We are as removed in time from that day as the Beatle
s themselves were removed from September 11, 1912. Think about that! Although they would not enter America's consciousness for another year-and-a-half, I was one of the very few lucky ones to get a taste of the Beatles, months before the rest of the United States.

In the late spri
ng/early summer of 1963 my brothers and I were first introduced to the Beatles through our English nanny, a nineteen-year-old Londoner named Margaret. She loved music and among her collection of 45 RPM's was something on the Vee-Jay label called, Do You Want to know a Secret. I clearly remember that I liked it. The child-like simplicity of John Lennon's lyric ("Do you promise not to tell?/Let me whisper in your ear") was the sort of thing that would appeal to a little boy not quite having reached his fifth birthday. There was no picture sleeve for the record, so the Beatles would remain faceless - and nameless - to us for another year.

I read the new
s today, oh boy....

Their timing was perfect. When they finally touched down on these shores in February of 1964, Americans were still emotionally bent over from the psychological blow rendered to them less than three months earlier when a young and beloved president was shot and killed in Texas. Everyone who was alive in 1963 say they remember where they were and what they were doing when they received the news that Jack Kennedy was dead. Seventeen years and sixteen days later, people would say the same thing about the moment they heard the news that one of the Beatles had died. Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans, you know?

Other than that joyous music, what appealed to so many of us about these guys was the fact John, Paul, George and Ringo were a frustrated comedy team. Let's face it: they were a riot of laughter. In that dark, late winter of 1964, a ray of sunshine - however fleeting - appeared on a clouded horizon. At that moment, America needed the Beatles like a tonic.

Although our conscious memory of the living, breathing Fab Four recedes into the mists of history with each passing year, it cannot be argued that their music is still timely. Fifty years after Glenn Miller made his first recording, his output would be seen as a quaint chestnut of a lost and bygone era
. That is not the case in this instance - far from it. The Beatles still matter. They're the soundtrack in the lives of people who were not even alive when they thrived.

Six months ago I wrote about Brian Sager, who attended Beatlefest 2012 with me. When he was born in 1994, the lads from Liverpool had not released a new LP in almost a quarter of a century, And yet the convention we attended on March 24 in Secaucus, New Jersey was packed with kids his age - and even younger - for whom the music of the Beatles defi
es the decades. They are the gentle and silly ghosts that refuse to fade away into that eternal, unknowable void.

Those of us who are lucky enough to have been alive during the years they ruled the world have our own personal memories of the phenomenon that was Beatlemania. I remember the Ed Sullivan Show. I can recall so clearly trying to drift off to sleep that night with their harmonies still ringing in my ears. I remember seeing A Hard Day's Night at the movie theater around the corner from where I grew up. I remember being at my cousin Mike Cullen's home when I first saw the Sgt. Pepper cover ("Mike! They're wearing mustaches! What's that all about???") I remember exactly where I was standing in the summer of 1968 when I happened upon a girl from the neighborhood who was listening to the new Beatles record, Hey Jude, on a small transistor radio.

I remember my reaction to the news that they had disbanded. It won't last, I remember thinking. Someday they'll Get Back to where they once belonged. I really believed it - for an entire decade I believed it. You may say I'm a dreamer. The dream is over. It ended forever on that horrible night almost thirty-two years ago when John Lennon was forever taken from us because of an insane act of cold-blooded murder.

They wou
ld join forces once again - sort of. In 1995 the three surviving Beatles (and then there were two) would get together to overdub their instruments and their voices onto an unfinished Lennon composition called Free as a Bird. When I first read that it was going to happen I was miffed. John had spent many months in the studio prior to his death. Certainly there were hours of studio-quality recordings they could have worked with, and yet all Yoko Ono provided them with was an old and faded homemade cassette tape. What the hell is wrong with her, I thought.

My opinion changed on the night I finally heard the finished product. The voices of George and Paul sound very clear, while John, by this time long dead, and due to the technical limitations of the tape, sounds as if he is singing from another dimension, far, far away. Hearing them all together now, those incredible harmonies, I'm afraid I became a bit emotional. On that night I was with a young woman named Connie who was born in 1970, the year they ceased to be. When she saw my reaction she giggled and said, "Oh, Tom! What's the big deal?" I told her that no one who did not live through that era could possibly understand what the Beatles meant to their troubled generation.

Forty-four yea
rs of biographical hindsight informs us that these were four, humanly flawed, imperfect - and in many respects - troubled men. Oh, but that music. That timeless, perfect and beautiful music. I'm willing to forgive these guys just about anything. I was only four months shy of my twelfth birthday when the Beatles broke up forever in the spring of 1970. When I was a little boy they were the undisputed princes of the Planet Earth. To me they seemed to be invincible. The deaths of John Lennon and George Harrison proved for all time that they were not. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are today elderly men for whom eternity now beckons. They were - and are - as vulnerable in their grip on this slender thread as any of us. Imagine.

I think I'll be spending a good deal of my time today reflecting on their legacy and listening to their music. Fifty five years ago, in the summer of 1957, two teenagers named Lennon and McCartney were casually introduced to one another at a church picnic in Liverpool, England. Can you even imagine how boring this world would be if either one of them had made different plans that day? A world without the Beatles....I can't picture it. You've got to hand it to fate. Seriously.

Love, love me do
You know I love you
I'll always be true
So please, love me do....

All you need is love. I'll go to my grave believing it.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Love Me Do by the Beatles - Recorded fifty years ago today!


by Phillip Norman

There have been quite a few good biographies of the Beatles written since 1968. This is one of the best.

Here is a link to a piece I wrote two years ago about the tour I made with Brother Pete and our pal, Kevin Swanwick, of the Abbey Road Studios in merrie olde England:

We followed her down from a bridge by a fountain, and she led us to the door of Studio Two. Life is funny that way, you know?


All You Need Is Love

Those northern songs will last forever.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

The Fun Begins

The conventions are now mercifully behind us. I watched both of them at length and was struck by something:

In Charlotte I looked out upon the faces gathered and I saw, as the old Frank Sinatra song says, "all races and religions. That's America to me".

In Tampa I looked out upon the faces gathered - and all I saw was a private country club. That isn't America. That isn't even close.


Hang onto
your hats, ladies and gents. Now the real show begins. I find it difficult to understand why I am so revved up to make sure that this president is reelected on November 6, until I am reminded of the ominous ramifications of a GOP victory - and what it would mean to our future....Too unbearably depressing to even think about. Although I'm just mild about Barry, part of me wants to believe (call it self delusion if you must) that when he no longer has a reelection to worry about, his inner-progressive mojo will grind into overdrive. Call it the audacity of hope. This is another one of those good news/ bad news scenarios:

Reelecting Barack Obama is a HUGE gamble for progressives and non-progressives alike.

That's the good news. Are you ready for the bad?

If this country is naive enough to elect Romney/Ryan in November we'll be committing economic suicide. On that happy note....

Obama's spe
ech to the delegates on Thursday evening was pretty good, no doubt about it, but it could have been a bit better. I was hoping for a knock-'em-out-of-the-park, barn-burner. What I got instead was well-crafted and sincere enough, but hardly the kind of historical oration we all know he's capable of. Still, the goods delivered by Clinton, Biden and the First Lady were enough to rouse the liberal base of the Democratic party out of its slumber. I have a feeling that they won't be foolishly staying home in a snit as they did in 2010. Voter ID laws be damned.

At least the Dems walked out of the convention center with some momentum behind them. Other than Condoleeza Rice's appearance, the GOP affair the week before was a total bomb - from beginning to end. Very few of us will remember Mitt Romney's acceptance speech. What we will remember (and what people can't stop talking about) is the sight of poor old Clint Eastwood talking to an
empty chair. That dandy little piece of political theater has been quite a hit on YouTube. The other keynoters who spoke (Chris Christie and Marco Rubio in particular) custom-tailored their appearances to be prologues for their runs in 2016. It's apparent that they're hedging their bets that der Mittster will be soundly defeated. Let's hope they're right.

"I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat."

-Will Rogers

Can it be? Do my ey
es deceive? Are the Dems finally getting their act together??? The convention's conclusion on Thursday night was something to behold - and to take hope from. For the first time in a long while the Democrats seem to be invigorated and emboldened. The long-slumbering giant of the American left seems to be awakening. Maybe they have remembered that theirs is the party of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. They now seem to be embracing their liberal roots - not running scared from them - as they have been for the last forty years. They're finally showing some guts. Take my word for it; this is a good sign.

So sit back and brace yourselves for what promises to be the dirtiest campaign in the history of human folly. You might be exasperated; you might be disgusted. But of this you may be sure: You won't be bored

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Here is a link to the Frank Sinatra recording quoted at the top of this piece. This is Frank way back in 1945; it's a real beauty:

The House I Live In

FUN FACT: The man who wrote the lyrics to this outstanding song was named Lewis Allan (1906-1986). A few years later he was blacklisted for no other reason than his left-leaning beliefs. Can you believe that?


Racism: Ignorance Seasoned with Paranoia

by Sheria Reid

Sheria's excellent piece in this morning's Los Angeles Progressive was inspired by an abysmally ignorant comment that was posted on this site (I get a lot of those). It's an honor and a joy to be even a mere footnote in this woman's biography.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Bubbah Rules

“I love our country – and I know we’re coming back. For more than 200 years, through every crisis, we’ve always come out stronger than we went in. And we will again as long as we do it together. We champion the cause for which our founders pledged their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor – to form a more perfect union. If that’s what you believe, if that’s what you want, we have to re-elect President Barack Obama.”

-William Jefferson Clinton, 5 September 2012

Bill Clinton is the reason I am no longer a Democrat. It is my opinion that the guy moved the party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt too far toward the center/right. But I am forced to humbly concede: Politically it doesn't get much better than Clinton. As my brother Jeff posted on my Facebook page this fine September morn, "Bubbah delivers". Indeed he does. The Dems are damned lucky that he and they are on the same team. Pity the poor GOP. They ain't got no Bubbah. There's never been a politician like him. There will never be another. Politically he is the old maestro. I can't help but admire and, yes, even love the man - grudgingly, I assure you.

If Obama wins this thing in November historians will pinpoint Clinton's address last night to the Democratic Nation
al Convention as the reason. He knocked it out of the park and into the next town. His performance was all-the-more impressive (and noble) because, by all accounts, the two men loathe on another.

Around twenty years ago I read a biography that dealt with the relationship between Robert F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, The title says it all: "Mutual Contempt". They absolutely despised each other. And yet they both left an indelible mark on the time in which they lived. Can you imagine the sixties without Bobby and LBJ? I can't wait to read the book about Barack and Bill. That ought to be a real page-turner. The former president made an interesting point last night:

“President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did. Listen to me now, no pres
ident – not me or any of my predecessors – no one could have fully repaired all the damage in just four years."

Think about this, folks: When FDR was elected eighty years ago, he was not able to undo the mess he inherited from the Republicans in one term. He wasn't even able to do it in two terms. It took him nearly a decade! Unlike Roosevelt, Barack Obama will not be allowed the luxury of four terms. It will probably take two - possibly three - different presidents to clean up this mess.

When Presi
dent Obama took office we were losing well over a half million jobs per month. He reversed that nasty trend. We're now at thirty straight months of job growth. It's been a slow process but at least we're heading in the right direction. Have I been jumping with joy with regard to this administration? Hardly. As a progressive Barack Obama disappoints in a few categories to be sure. But in all fairness, given the obstruction and sabotage (I call it treason) that has been placed in his path by the halfwits who control "the party of Abraham Lincoln" (Thank goodness for quotation marks) it's a miracle he has been able to accomplish anything at all!

Do you recall the last time we had a right wing extremist in the White House? Remember how sweetly that worked out? Maybe I'm being presumptuous but I've got a feeling that we really don't want to go down this road again.

The president formally accepts the nomination this evening. Will he be able to top the speeches
made by Bubbah and Michelle? That's a tough order. One thing is certain, it's going to be First Class political theater.

Tom Degan
, NY


setts senatorial candidate Elizabeth Warren is getting mixed reviews for her address to the convention last evening. As far as I'm concerned she was brilliant....Okay, maybe not "brilliant" - but she did fine. I've got my fingers crossed and my hands folded for her. We need her in the senate like nobody's business.


Here is a YouTube link to Bill Clinton's address last night to the Democratic National Convention:


It is one of the greatest convention speeches since Teddy Kennedy's classic "The Dream Will Never Die" in 1980.


by Marshal Frady

George Wallace was, beyond any doubt, a complicated man. When we think of him our minds conjure up the image of a defiant Alabama governor at the school house door, attempting to deny an education to Vivian Malone and James Hood for no other reason than the color of their skin. Wallace was, like Bill Clinton, a political genius. He might have done great good during his time on earth. To his credit, toward the end of his life he sought forgiveness from the people he tried to oppress. This biography has been out of print for quite some time but I imagine you can find it on ebay if you look hard enough. It's well-worth the search. A great read!


The jobs report for August was just released. Unemployment has gone down from 8.3 to 8.1 percent. Good news for the prez - sort of. At least the number didn't go up, right?

Read more here: