Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Ballad of Craven Cliven

"I abide by all of Nevada's state laws.  But I don't recognize the United States government as even existing."

Cliven Bundy
10 April 2014

He says this while waving an American flag. Genius. 

Cliven Bundy wants to be a GEN-YOU-INE folk hero - and by the looks of things - the silly bastard is well on his way to honest-to-goodness folk heroism, with the help of Fox Noise (Sean Hannity in particular) and hundreds of armed-to-the-teeth yahoos and half-witted "militia men" who cheerfully stepped forward this week and made my argument (once again) for stricter regulation of the firearms industry. You can always count on these assholes to cut off their noses to spite their bloated faces, but this week's spectacle in Nevada was something to behold indeed. When this is finally made into a movie, it will be the darkest of comedies.

The loony right wing loves to bitch and wail about the "undeserving poor" getting something for nothing. Why is it, then, that when it's the undeserving rich we're talking about, they're always so quick to come to the plutocracy's defense - and, oh brother, did they ever come! 

You see, Cliven Bundy is a very wealthy rancher. For twenty years he's been allowing his cattle to graze on government-owned land. TRANSLATION: Land owned by Weeda Peeple. This was something he was entitled to do. The problem was that for twenty years Cliven refused to pay the grazing fees involved - which by this month had exceeded one million dollars. When law enforcement officials came in to evict these poor animals, the militia-nuts came into the picture, vowing to protect Cliven's right to....whatever-the-hell they believe he has the right to do. Not surprisingly, they were never quite clear on that point. 

They set their scopes on the heads of officers who are sworn to uphold the law of the land. A lot of these assholes even had their wives and girlfriends on the scene, daring the lawmen to shoot back if they were fired upon first. The cops wisely backed off. It was a no-win situation. The Tea Party types are declaring what a grand and glorious victory this is over the big, bad gub'ment.  

That's right, folks, these fucking spineless cowards put their families in the cross-hairs. Isn't that a scream? They have declared themselves to be in armed revolt against your government. Remember how well that worked out in 1861? Back then it was the Democrats cheering on the rebels. This time it's the Republicans. Life is kinda funny that way, you know?

This is not a bold prediction on my part (in fact it's the easiest call I've ever maded in my life): This is going to end very badly. We're talkin' tragedy here. An extremely ominous precedent has been established in Nevada. Let me explain....

This week, the homicidal crazies in the so-called "militia movement" were given the biggest mega-dose of adrenaline they've ever received in their long and twisted history. This won't be the last time these nitwits "stand their ground" - count on it. They're just itching to do some killing, and on a massive and devastating scale. Gotta use them AK-47's fer somethin', Bubba! The NRA has been telling them for years that it is their duty to take on the government in a show of force - and these people are so gut-wrenchingly stupid that they really believe that they will be able to do just that; Their goal: Blow the bastards to kingdom come! That'll learn  'em!

Forget the military might of the federal government; there's the undeniable fact that even your below-average state National Guard worth its weight in dead rocks would easily be able to make rancid mincemeat out of any self-raised army of murderous and armed jackasses trying to show what manly men they are. They have proved to the world (but in reality only to themselves) that they are the omnipotent Angels of Death, marching onto glory in their stupid world of lethal make-believe. For over five years now this twisted view of reality has been reinforced by the right wing media's scream machine. Like Pavlov's dogs salivating at the bells of doom, the mantra has been drilled into their clueless heads by constant repetition and it's only made them crazier with the passing of each month:


The danger here is not merely the undeniable fact that these folks aren't very bright (that's a given) but that they're armed and - we can deny it no longer - obviously quite dangerous. If you're not seriously alarmed by what transpired this week in Nevada, you've got you've got your head in the sand - or quite possibly you're unfamiliar with the definition of the word, "treason".

I'll say it again: This is going to end very badly. I cannot emphasize that enough. Let's hear it for the National Rifle Association!

And while you're at it, fasten your seat-belts, kiddies!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Yesterday on the Daily Show, Jon Stewart put Cliven Bundy in his rightful place - with the type of brilliant satire that one has come to expect from his program:


 As scary as this is, it really is quite funny.


Suffer the Little Children
from "The Rant"
9 April 2013 


This little ditty I wrote a little over a year ago dealt with the tragedy of America's incurable appetite for gun violence. Get used to living in a nation in ruins.

Let me end this little tirade of mine on a softer note:


I Only Have Eyes For You
by Art Garfunkel

This song came out around 1976 as I recall. I think it was my first real appreciation of the standards of my parents' youth. My friend, Gerry O'Brien, turned me on to this recording. All these decades later, I still think of her whenever I hear it:


You are here so am I
Maybe millions of people go by
But they all disappear from view
And I only have eyes for you....

Now, wasn't that nice?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Obamacare: Here to Stay

This reminds me of an uncomfortable political situation that existed nearly eighty years ago. In 1935, just prior to Franklin Roosevelt's Social Security Act (or whatever the hell it was called) being signed into law, the conservatives in this country - within congress and without - went positively apoplectic, warning the populace that such an evil, communistic program would surely be the ruination of this grand and glorious land of ours. It didn't quite work out that way. In fact, eight decades later the ideological descendants of the naysayers of that bygone era would have us believe that they invented Social Security. One of the reasons they dare not come out against it publicly is that to do so would be a form of political suicide. After all, it has turned out to be very popular. The only thing the right wing can do these days is to try to "improve" it - like when George W. Bush attempted to have it put into the hands of privately owned corporations. Remember that?

Three decades later, when Lyndon Johnson brought us Medicare and Medicaid, once again the conservatives went ballistic. Ronald Reagan, at that time a washed-up "B" movie actor, even went as far as to record an entire long playing record (on RCA Victor!) warning his fellow countrymen and women on the danger "socialized medicine" posed for the land of the free. He closed out the LP by telling us:

"We are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children, what it once was like in America when men were free."

If you ever get a chance to listen to it, by all means do. You can find it on YouTube. It's right up there with The Sick Humor of Lenny Bruce for the title of "funniest record ever made".

Nearly a half century after Medicare and Medicaid came into existence, very few on the extremes of our national dialogue would dare to come out against it - at least not out in the open. We know that they would do anything humanly possible to turn back the clock to the way things were prior the moment when that "crippled bastard FDR ruined this country". Political realities being what they are, they have no other choice but to live with things as they are. That's life. That's what all the people say.

Which brings me to the Affordable Care Act. The term "Obamacare" was initially their term of derision. They knew damned well that if it ever became a reality regular working people like us would like it a whole lot - and that's what is happening. At the latest count there are seven million folks who have signed on. If that number gets any bigger (and it's going to get a lot bigger) the plutocracy's handmaidens will be hard pressed to find an excuse to do away with it.

They're gonna try, though. 

Their dilemma is this: How can they do away with Affordable Care without incurring the wrath of the millions of voters who are already benefiting from it? How will they be able to give it the ol' heave-ho without being blamed for its demise? How the hell will they be able to blame their desired destruction of Obamacare on the liberals?

How indeed. This is indeed a tricky one; I don't envy them their predicament, that's for sure! Maybe they can place the blame on Ted Kennedy. That ploy used to work untold wonders in bygone days. You are missed, Teddy - and not just by me.

In a letter to his brother written in October of 1952, a month before he was elected to the presidency, Dwight Eisenhower wrote that any political party which attempted to do away with the social safety nets put in place to make life a little more bearable for the American people would soon disappear forever.

Now you see them. Soon you won't

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 


Eisenhower: Soldier and President
by Stephen E. Ambrose

My only problem with this book is biographer Ambrose's obvious hero worship of his subject. At times he gives Ike the benefit of the doubt where no benefit is deserved. He can be forgiven these transgressions. Eisenhower, with all his flaws, was undoubtedly a great and good man. His foreign policy sucked at times - but hey - who's perfect? It should be remembered that, domestically anyway, he was one of our best post-war presidents. My opinion is that he was the last Republican in the White House of any worth. This condensed version of an earlier, two-part bio is quite readable and enjoyable. 

Monday, April 07, 2014

A System Rigged

The decision is called: "McCutcheon vs. Federal Elections". In the pantheon of horrible judgements handed down by the highest court in the land, this one surely will be right up there with "Dred Scott", "Plessy v Ferguson" and, more recently, "Citizens United". There used to be a limit on how much corrupting cash a person-of-means could dish out to all of the candidates running within a two-year election cycle. That's not the case any longer. Your "democracy" (if you still insist on calling it one) was stuffed last week still further into the ideological shit-hole.

The system has also been stuffed even deeper into the seemingly bottomless pockets of the plutocrats. No one bothering to pay attention was surprised by the results. The Reagan/Bush/Bush appointees made it clear where their hearts are. The corruption of the American political process means not a thing to these assholes. The non-existent "plague" of voter fraud is a different story. Any judgement that will aid the traditional progressive constituency in having their voice counted needs to be "remedied". America just ain't as white as it once was - and it's getting non-whiter by the hour. Rich people tend to be very white indeed, and they have this unsettling habit of filling the coffers of candidates who aren't happy with the prospect of sharing America's treasure. Have you ever noticed that? 

What we have here is a blind panic on the part of the kind of people who have run this nation since its founding. They don't want to let go of the power and they're going to jaw-dropping lengths to retain it. If the result is a dictatorship of the oligarchs all the better. The boom in the construction of privately-owned prisons should give every one of you a nasty clue as to where this is all heading. In the years to come a lot of us will find ourselves living in those places. It only stands to reason. As the poverty rate increases, so, too, does the number of crimes committed by people desperate to get by. Our "representatives" whose only role these days is to act as the handmaidens to the uber rich, will be bribed into passing more-and-more punitive laws to ensure that those prisons are packed to the fucking rafters forever. Don't you see where this is going?

This is the same Supreme Court that last year gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Gotta keep them darkies in line, you know? One wonders how Clarence Thomas is able to get a wink of sleep on any given night.

The good news twofold:

First, unless some kind of coup is planned between now and January 20, 2017, the next president (and he or she won't be a Republican - count on it) is sure to appoint judges to that court who are at least relatively moderate in their judicial temperament. 

Secondly, some of the older, more conservative members of that body are looking a bit worst for the wear these days. Having recently had my own brush with death, I'm not in the position to wish anyone (not even Antonin Scalia) an appointment with the grim reaper. I'm just being realistic. As George Harrison once chimed, "All things must pass. All things must pass away."

As was said a long time ago by an obscure Republican:

"....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."

Now doesn't that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?

"A new birth of freedom". We're decades overdue, don'cha think? It's coming. Once again - and very soon - we will "gaze upon the chimes of freedom flashing".  

Cha! Cha! Cha!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 


In A Lucid Moment
by Michael Holmes

Bing Crosby is the greatest singer who ever walked this earth. Michael Holmes is a close second. I never knew der Bingle. Mike has been a friend of mine for over twenty years. For a long time his friends (myself included) have been bugging him to record an album. I'm happy to report that he has finally capitulated. He is not only a great singer/songwriter; his guitar work leaves this aspiring guitarist envious and in shame. Here is a link to order his CD off of amazon.com:

 In a Lucid Moment by Michael Holmes 

It's a beautiful thing to experience in all moments - lucid or otherwise.


Death of a President
by William Manchester

This book, detailing the weekend of President Kennedy's assassination fifty years ago, was on my father's shelf from the time it was published in 1967. After he died twenty-five years ago it was one of the three-or-four volumes I scarfed for my own collection. Inexcusably, I only got around to reading the damned thing this week. I couldn't put it down - a mesmerizing read if ever there was one. Although long out of print, it was such a massive best-seller in its day  obtaining a copy shouldn't prove too difficult or expensive. Highly recommended.

Incredibly, although written at her instigation, Jacqueline Kennedy tried to sue the publisher, Harper and Row, to prevent the book's release. Heaven knows the reason for this. Of the hundreds of books written on this grimy topic it is the most tasteful and, I imagine, the most historically accurate.