Thursday, November 28, 2013


"Here's another fine mess you've gotten me into."

Oliver Norvell Hardy

The meaning of the photograph of Laurel and Hardy at the top of this little greeting alludes  me. I'm sure that there is a good reason why Stan is dressed in drag or why Ollie is dressed as a pilgrim. The boys usually had a good reason for everything they did - even if the reasoning was clear only to themselves. I loved those two guys. When you die and arrive in Heaven, if there are only two entertainers in the entire place, I'm sure it will be Laurel and Hardy. God rest their silly souls.

Bleak as things sometimes may appear we still do have much to be grateful for on this windy and very chilly Thanksgiving morn. We could be living in Kabul or Baghdad or Mississippi. You've gotta count your blessings where you find them. Apologies in advance to those of you living in Kabul or Baghdad or Mississippi. 

There is no real rhyme or reason for this morning's posting. Its point is simply to wish all of you a safe and happy Thanksgiving - regardless of your political persuasion. Whenever I start to feel sorry for myself (whatever the reason) I am reminded that, all in all, life has dealt me a pretty good hand. I'm not exactly sure where I'll be having Thanksgiving dinner today - but I know I'll be having it somewhere. I have multiple choices, isn't that grand? Some of us have nowhere to go, and no one to share this day with. Those are the people we need to remember today. Keep your fingers crossed and your hands folded for them.

I know that tonight, when I lay myself down to sleep, it won't be on an empty stomach. I'll go off into Dreamland in a warm bed with a roof over my head. Life is pretty good. 

Tracy Murphy
Have a great day, folks, and if you can, follow the example of my friend, Tracy Murphy, and go vegan. Save the life of some poor turkey. Gobble! Gobble!

Tom Degan 


Here's a link to Tracy's website:
The Buffalo Vegetarian Society
Have a look!

AFTERTHOUGHT, Thanksgiving Day 2016:

Here is a link to watch Tracy Murphy and friends prepare a scrumptious, COMPLETLEY FREAKIN' VEGGIE Thanksgiving Dinner:

Bon appetite - and Happy ThanksLiving!

Friday, November 22, 2013

In the Shadow of November 22

 "We in this country, in this generation, are, by destiny rather than choice, the watchmen on the walls of world freedom. We ask, therefore, that we may be worthy of our power and responsibility, that we may exercise our strength with wisdom and restraint, and that we may achieve in our time and for all time the ancient vision of 'peace on earth, goodwill toward men.' That must always be our goal, and the righteousness of our cause must always underlie our strength. For as was written long ago, 'except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.'"

John Fitzgerald Kennedy
November 22, 1963
From the speech he would not live to make 

I clearly remember being dropped off at the bus stop on the corner of South and Green Streets. The walk from there to the house I grew up in was brief, even for a five-year-old. I distinctly remember that in Goshen, New York on November 22nd, 1963, it was unseasonably warm for a late-Autumn day. I had just gotten home from Mrs. Annabelle Peavey's kindergarten class at Scotchtown Elementary School. My father, thirty-three at the time, had only pulled into the driveway moments before, He was returning from upstate New York, near Binghamton, where he had that morning put in an estimate for a marble restoration job on a piece of property that was owned by Joseph P. Kennedy of all people. How's that for irony? I can remember what he was wearing when he told me, "The president's been shot."

For those of us who were old enough - or even barely old enough - to remember that day, the murder of President Kennedy cast a pall over our young lives that forever ended the carefree innocence of childhood. That this handsome and popular man could be murdered - in cold blood  - left more-than-a-few of us feeling just a bit more vulnerable. I remember a few months after Dallas, riding in the back seat of an open convertible through the streets of some city, possibly New York. Looking up at all of the open windows that looked down upon the car gave me pause. Would some twisted freak try to have a pop at me I wondered? I laugh now in hindsight at the memory of my childish paranoia, but at that moment my fear was real and not-so-lightly dismissed. 

Nothing would ever be the same again. America's psyche never fully recovered from the trauma of November 22nd, 1963. The three explosions in Dealy Plaza emanating from Lee Harvey Oswald's cheap, mail-order rifle a lifetime ago still reverberate across the decades.


You may have watched a handful of forty-minute-long, exploitation documentaries on the "History" Channel or Fox "News", but I have devoted ("wasted" is the better word) years of my life researching this subject. Forgive me for sounding a tad arrogant, but I am in a better position than you to make an educated judgement on this matter. If there existed a molecule of credible evidence that a confederacy of sinister forces came together on that day to end the life of Jack Kennedy, believe me, I would be the first one raising hell about it. No such evidence exists. Oliver Stone may be a great filmmaker, but he's a lousy historian. Lee Oswald acted alone when he killed the president. Jack Ruby acted alone when he killed Oswald.  End of argument. Sorry 'bout that but it needed to be said. 

Yeah, I know what you're thinking and I agree. It's hard to accept the scenario where a demented little freak like Oswald is able to bring down so decent and beloved a leader - but that's the way it is, folks. We do need to move on.

Today is a day we need to take note of. Keep your eyes on the recollections in the media of those who remember and took part in the events of that day. On the next, significant milestone anniversary of the Kennedy assassination (the seventy-fifth) eternity will have caught up with them. Twenty-five years from now, "Camelot" will have receded into the unreachable mists of history. Time has a way of making even the mightiest of us disappear. Have you ever noticed that?

From the moment I got the news, that weekend was unlike any other I had ever experienced. My early TV icons - Chuck McCann, Sonny Fox and Sandy Becker - were given a few days off. There would be no children's programming on television for the duration. Like the rest of the country, I was tuned into the drama. I was not yet a newspaper reader in 1963. I wouldn't learn to read for another year. Every memory I retain of November 22nd 1963 is televisual. The entire country had been traumatized. The last murder of a president had taken place in 1901, sixteen years before John F. Kennedy was even born. I recall - late in the evening - watching in slow motion the killing of Lee Oswald, the only light in the room being the blue glow of the TV set. To me it looked like a surrealistic cartoon. Come to think about it, that's exactly what it was - an animated American meltdown.

That was the weekend that I first came face-to-face with the concept of death - and that I, too, would one day die. That concept would be reenforced less than three months later when my grandmother passed away unexpectedly. I had not previously understood the significance of that gated property up the street, directly across from my bus stop - the one with the stone markers sticking out of the ground. I had walked by it hundreds of times in the past. It finally dawned on me that weekend what the place was all about. In the months to follow, I would walk pass the St. James Episcopal Cemetery with a newly-acquired caution and reverence. Death would never again take a holiday. Such is life. 

"Let the word go forth from this time and place - to friend and foe alike - that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans...."

John F. Kennedy's Inaugural address
20 January 1961  

Something wonderful ended on November 22nd 1963, not only Jack Kennedy's life, but our sweet optimism. My generation still has faded memories of that America, but we were so young that it seems to us now as a ghost-like dream, a mental daguerreotype. By the time we came of age a decade or so later, this place was damaged - cynical and jaded. Maybe one day the United States will recover from what happened on November 22nd 1963, but I suppose it won't be until the last survivor with a conscious memory of those four dark days passes from the scene.

2013 has been a year filled with so many half-century milestones that it is difficult to keep track of them all. 1963 was indeed a year of historical landmarks - beautiful and not-so-beautiful. You know you're starting to get up there in years when you can clearly recall events from fifty years ago. I would only come to appreciate what a historical year 1963 was as I got older. From Civil Rights on earth, to the exploration of the heavens, President Kennedy's murder on the streets of Dallas, Texas fifty-years-ago today was merely the curtain closing on one of the most monumental years of the American Century. Wasn't that a time? 

He still matters. Fifty years later, Jack Kennedy refuses to go gently into that good night. 

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye
by Dave Powers and Kenny O'Donnell

A great and funny read by the two men who knew Jack Kennedy better than anyone. Reading this will remind you that he was - HANDS DOWN - our funniest president - privately and in public. 

Case Closed
by Gerald Posner

Posner not only makes a good case - but offers irrefutable proof - that the conspiracy theories offered up by people like Mark Lane and Oliver Stone are bunk. If you believe them, this very well-written book might possibly change your opinion on the matter. I hope that it does.


The Day John Kennedy Died
by Lou Reed
'Twas a drag to be sure.


One of the fringe benefits of being Irish Catholic is that we get to refer to the late president as "Jack". So there.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Abraham Lincoln Across the Decades

President Lincoln (highlighted) at Gettysburg. 11/19/63
November 19, 2013 belongs to Abraham Lincoln. One-hundred and fifty-years ago on this day he came to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to dedicate a new national cemetery on a field that was still drenched in the blood of Union and Confederate soldiers. What he said there really needs no preface:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.  
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.  

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. 

It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863


Lincoln at Gettysburg
by Gary Wills 

With Malice Toward None
by Stephan B. Oates

For more recent articles on this site, please go to the link below:

"The Rant" by Tom Degan


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Lindsey's Perpetual Pathos

It's all over. Anyone in Washington who still thinks that he or she will be able to exploit the embassy attacks of last year for cheap and easy political purposes will have a better time of it trying to squeeze chocolate milk out of a rock. 

The final nail in the Benghazi junkies' coffin was the revelation that 60 Minutes' reporting of that tragedy had been bogus. they had been led down the garden path by some jackal named "Morgan Jones" (probably an alias). The story he told CBS News about warning American officials of imminent attack and being ignored was completely at odds with what he told the FBI shortly after the events. The Republicans in congress based their entire Benghazi fixation on this one report and now it turns out to be complete and utter bullshit. 

Cronkite and Murrow, 1952
When I was a kid (in my household at least) whenever a major story broke, you went to CBS News no questions asked. Back in the day, that organization was known as "the diamond of  the Tiffany Network". Those were the days, my friend, we thought they'd never end; but end they certainly did. That rumbling that you can hear in the faint distance is the sound of Edward R. Murrow, Eric Sevareid and Walter Cronkite doing somersaults in their graves.

None of these revelations mean a damned thing to Lindsey Graham. He's determined to continue to obstruct President Obama's nominee to head the department of Homeland Security - among others. According to Gail Collins' excellent column in today's New York Times:

"His righteous wrath was not shaken in the least when 'Morgan's' story turned out to be entirely made up. Perhaps Graham was recalling the immortal words of Mia Farrow in an old Woody Allen Movie: 'He's fictional, but you can't have everything.'"

Poor old Lindsey obviously doesn't have much of a stomach for non-fiction these days. That seems to be a chronic state as far as the right wing is concerned. They live in a fantasy world dominated by fear and loathing. It must be a dark and dreadful place. I wouldn't gladly trade places with them, that's for sure. My own world is weird enough thank you very much
Lindsey Graham is a walking, talking spectacle. Does he ever look at a history book - or even a filmed historical documentary? Has he ever had a chance to see the judgment posterity imparts upon the bloviating gas-bags and dingbats of a bygone era and how they are viewed through the prism of 20/20, historical hindsight as clowns and buffoons? Has the senator from South Carolina ever considered the foregone conclusion that this is the way that future generations will view him?

I'm going to let all of you in on a dark family secret of mine: I am related to Roger B. Taney, the Chief Justice who wrote the Dred Scott decision in 1857 - the worst Supreme Court ruling in the history of this republic. This is a fact that me and my kin don't go around cheerfully bragging about - trust me on this one, folks. That awful decision gave individual African Americans about as much rights as a head of cattle. It's almost certain that it would have perpetuated slavery well-into the twentieth century had the Civil War not intervened. That  ruling (and Cousin Roger's authorship of it) renders him just about the worst Justice in the history of the court. Check out that photograph of him on the left. He just looks like a complete asshole!

Does Lindsey Graham think for a minute that his heirs will be boasting of their familial ties to a screaming twit like himself? You gotta wonder. You just gotta!

I have high hopes for poor old Lindsey. In a rogue's gallery of screaming fools and drooling buffoons he's always good copy. Lord knows Barack Obama is far from perfect. Expecting Superman when he was elected five-years-ago this month, all I got was a well-meaning Casper Milquetoast. Still, you've got to envy the guy. Given the personal qualities of the jackasses who have done everything they can in order to obstruct his path to progress, he'll end up looking pretty good in the history books without even trying. This president has got to be the luckiest politician who ever walked this earth.

Some people are alarmed by the utter catastrophe that American politics has become in the last thirty years. Not me. In fact I thrive on it. It's all-the-more interesting the weirder it gets. I can't get enough of this stuff. Thanks in large part to politicians like Lindsey Graham, I'm as happy as I think I've ever been.

Sail on, oh ship of state.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Goodnight, My love (1936)
by Ella Fitzgerald with the Benny Goodman Orchestra

Good night, my love,
The tired old moon is descending
Good night, my love
My moment with you now is ending....

Goodnight, My Love

In 1936, at the tender age of nineteen, Ella Fitzgerald had the joy and the wisdom of the angels in her young voice. It would only get better down through the decades. Who would have dared to dream, in that time and place, that such a thing was even remotely possible?

Good night, Ella. I hope you're sleeping well, my love.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Some Nightmare

David Horsey / Los Angeles Times (November 7, 2013)
"[T]he people of New Jersey reelected Christie by a huge margin, even though a majority of them disagree with their governor on issues ranging from raising the minimum wage to gay marriage. New Jersey voters simply like the guy."

From yesterday's Los Angeles Times

Unless he was running against Silas Barnaby or Montgomery Burns, I probably would never cast my vote for Chris Christie. Like a lot of people in New Jersey, I like the guy, too. Even when he's screaming at some poor teacher who asks him to explain his education policy and he admonishes the poor gal to "DO YOUR JOB!" he has this Oscar the Grouch quality about him that is hard to resist; a street-smart curmudgeon. He has more-than-a-few admirable qualities about him, too. 

Last year during Hurricane Sandy, he refused to put politics in front of the welfare of the people of New Jersey. When President Obama came to town to offer a helping hand, he gladly embraced that hand without a hint of political embarrassment or self-consciousness. That shows a lot of class. But the sad fact of the matter is, likability aside, Chris is just too much of a stone-cold right-winger for my tastes.

FOR THE RECORD: Were Chris Christie to somehow become president of the United States in 2017 (not that it's gonna happen) I would lose an awful lot of sleep - but not one/tenth the amount of sleep I lost when the half-wit from Crawford, Texas reigned supreme. 'Nuff said? 

Terry McAuliffe
You would think that the right wing SCREAM machine would be beside themselves with joy over the victory of this very conservative man. Chris is the most talked-about politician in America at the moment. The story even consigned Terry McAuliffe's election to the governor's mansion in Virginia to the second and third pages in most newspapers. The extreme right is beside themselves alright - that's their natural state - but it's not joy they're feeling today, it's rage - insatiable rage. What's up with that?

To give you just one example, in the LA Times article quoted above, Rush Limbaugh issued forth the proclamation that the governor was not the choice of the voters of New Jersey but (hold onto your hats) THE LIBERAL MEDIA. Wait, it gets weirder. Not only that, but el Rushbo is now predicting that Christie will be the Democratic nominee in 2016. Medications please.

The sad fact of the matter is simply that Chris is not enough of a hater for this crowd. Although he has come out against gay marriage, he believes that we all should love one another - and the gay and lesbian community is included in his equation. Also - GET THIS! - he's been known to reach out to KNEE-GROWS!!!

AWW, SHIT, ESTHER! Did you hear what that goddam, fat EYE-TALIAN  just said? He wants you ''n'  me to go sashayin' round, French-kissin' a bunch of goddam dykes and faggots. Quick, run 'n' git mah ammo box, darlin'!

That's right, class: as delightfully weird as the Republican Party has gotten in the last thirty years, Chris Christie is just not extreme enough for them - not by a wide margin. You couldn't make this stuff up in fiction.

It's not just the extremists on the far right who are unsettled by Christie's victory this week. As expected as it was, the Democrats aren't too happy about this latest chapter in the thrilling adventures of THE MAN FROM TRENTON. The last time one Democratic administration bequeathed the White House to another Democratic administration was on March 4, 1857. They see Chris Christie as an obstacle to that happening on Inauguration Day 2017. They need not worry. 

Governor Christie will not be nominated as standard bearer at the Republican National Convention in the summer of 2016. If that happens the Tea Party crazies will bolt and start a hot-and-heavy, third party uprising, fatally splitting the right-of-center vote. The Great National Political Realignment is right around the corner - in fact it's already started - and the scenario doesn't look particularly bright for the conservatives. That's the reason they are now moving heaven and earth to try to keep the traditional progressive constituency from voting on Election Day 2016. What do you think those so-called "Voter ID" laws are all about? They're about keeping the ballot out of the hands of WEEDA PEEPLE, BABY! Expect the Republicans to attempt an electoral coup d'tat in the next three years. This should get interesting.

Unless the Democrats really screw up this golden political moment (as they're not unknown to do) they have nothing to fear from the good fortune of Chris Christie. 2016 will be the the equivalent of shooting a school of brain-damaged fish in a leaky barrel. Their luck is hard to believe.

For a right-winger, Chris is as decent as one could ever hope for. That is why he doesn't stand a chance in the Republican primaries. If he is the Dem's "worst nightmare", they should be quite grateful. With nightmares like that, who needs daydreams?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Metal Machine Music
by Lou Reed

Here is a link to listen to Lou's controversial 1975 LP, Metal Machine Music, in its entirety. My pal Kevin Swanwick was the only person I ever knew who had a copy of this record. When I first heard it all those decades ago, I thought it was awful. My seventeen-year-old mind was not wired to "get" it then. I get it now. In fact I love it.

An acquired taste to be sure.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Too Weird for Carlo Key

“If the Tea Party is going to be setting the agenda and setting the conversation, I don’t think [the Republican Party] is going to switch gears and become a party of inclusion or a party of acceptance”

-Carlo Key

He was a Republican
Carlo Key used to be a Republican - until last week that is - when he announced that he was leaving the bland old party for good. Put into its proper context that's not really very big news. Every day, it seems, more and more people are getting out while the getting is good. In the months and years to come, millions of people will be bolting that disgusting party. Some will flee to the Democrats; most will become independents.

No, Carlos Keys' saying "adios" to the GOP is nothing to spotlight - unless one takes into consideration the fact that he is a Texas judge. The Lone Star state is a mite shade bluer on this fine autumn morn. According to an article that was put up this week by the nice folks over at Talking Points Memo, the good judge said:

"For too long, the Republican party has been at war with itself. Rational Republican beliefs have given way to ideological character assassination....Pragmatism and principle have been overtaken by pettiness and bigotry."

So was he
The good judge's moment of enlightenment came when a press conference (which he was scheduled to take part in) was called by local party members to defend a San Antonio City Council member named Elisa Chan. She had made some stupid comments regarding the LGBT community that had caused an uproar. As he was getting into his car, Key sat there and started to reflect upon what he was about to do. He couldn't go through with it. "These are not my values", he told the Daily Beast. This act of profound disloyalty to the twisted agenda of the right wing movement has not gone over too well among his former, fellow Republicans to be sure. They almost see it as one of their own converting to satanism. Aren't these interesting times?

Next year, when Carlo Key seeks reelection, he will be doing it as a Democrat. Hats off to the man.

Let's see a show of hands: Who is surprised by this latest chain of events in the demise and ultimate doom of the "party of Abraham Lincoln". AY CARUMBA! I have such a difficult time writing those words while keeping a straight face. Judge Key is holding up a mirror and a lot of people are being made uneasy with what is being reflected. It will become apparent in the next few months that many Republican politicians (particularly in the blue states) will come to realize that the only hopes they have of being reelected will be by switching parties. Every day, in every way, it's getting more problematic to have the albatross of "Republicanism" tied around their necks. I'm lovin' this.

The GOP's New Faces of 2013
But it won't merely be the people with IQ's above room temperature who will be part of the exodus. There are all of the Tea partiers to consider. If a screaming twit like Ted Cruz is not nominated at their convention in the summer of 2016, they're almost certain to bolt that party - en masse - and launch a third party uprising, with Cruz or Rand Paul as their eventual nominee. Or how about a Cruz/Paul ticket? Wouldn't that be a blast??? The possibilities astound. Oh, please, fate.

It all started nearly fifty years ago when Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Civil and Voting Rights Acts. Soon thereafter, during the campaign of 1968, Tricky Dick Nixon sought to court all of those racist and disaffected Dixiecrats who at one time polluted the Democratic Party. It was called "The Southern Strategy" and the strategy worked brilliantly. The overwhelming majority of them switched parties by the beginning of the seventies. 

When "the party of Ronald Reagan" (Well, now, that was a lot easier) started to court Christian extremists and the terminally brain-dead three decades ago, no one could have foreseen the damage they would eventually do to a party that at one time had more-than-a-few reasonable and enlightened people in it. Take my onetime congressman, Ben Gilman, for instance. 

Ben Gilman
Ben was the last Republican I ever voted for. Come tho think of it I cannot remember ever voting against him - and during his last years as a representative  of New York's 19th District, I was heavily involved in Democratic politics (I used to be a Democrat - shh!) Had my former party ever put up a candidate better than Ben, I would have happily voted for him or her. They never did. Congressman Gilman was a bit liberal on some issues and a bit conservative on others; in other words, the type of Republican politician that scarcely exists any longer - a moderate. Remember those guys? They've gone the way of Betamax videotapes and the passenger pigeon. 

Ben Gilman's district was gerrymandered out of existence in 2003 in a scheme cooked up by Dick Cheney and the-then New York governor George Pataki. They wanted to rid the House of one of the last decent Republicans to ever grace those halls. Their efforts backfired. Today there are two Democratic congresspersons representing different parts of Gilman's former district. One of them is gay. Ain't that a scream?

Carlo Key's action this week is not an isolated, fluke occurrence - as many in the right wing scream machine are implying. By his time next year it will be a growing trend. Who knows? It might very well become fashionable.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


by Sophie Madeleine
This young woman from Britain is the most original and gifted new recording artist it has been my pleasure to stumble upon in decades. Her new album ("album" - I'm dating myself) will be released any day now. Here is a link to purchase her most recent CD off of

The Rythm That You Started

As I said earlier this year on this site, Sophie Madeleine inspires and astounds.

Oh, and she's very polite, too.