Friday, September 26, 2014

POST #557: Random Observations

Meditations on Fred, August 2014
The following compilation of positively un-American, LEFT WING propaganda are unrelated  musings that I had placed here and there on various websites or way out yonder in the Facebooksphere. HAPPY READING!

1. The More Things Change....

This jolly little piece of infotainment greeted me this morning from a source called CLG News:

"For the first time since the U.S. 'withdrew' from Iraq in 2011 the U.S. Army is preparing to deploy a division headquarters to Iraq."

This is not a good idea, campers. When are we going to learn? Thanks to a century of meddling by the United States, Britain, France and the former Soviet Union (the main - but by no means only - suspects) the Middle East has been destabilized utterly and eternally. No amount of military force is going to change this reality. The place is broken and we helped break it. As someone once said, "You can bomb the world to pieces but you can't bomb the world to peace."

Iraq is in the process of imploding. The right wing is blaming the chaos on Barack Obama and the Democrats. If the president insists on going down this road, he'll only end up giving his critics something substantial to whine about. Ain't politics A gas?

PREDICTION: This is going to end very tragically. We'll just leave it at that.

2. Letter to the New York Daily News, 9/14/14:

"Hey, I've got a dandy idea: What if the NY Daily News - and all responsible papers - no longer run photographs of these ISIS freaks in the act of executing innocent human beings? Can't you see that by running these pictures (on page one no less) you're playing right into their gnarled little hands? From now on, please, merely report to us what they have done. Leave the rest to our imaginations."

They usually print what I send to them. They didn't print that one. Cowards.

3.  Quote of the Ages:
"If a nation expects to be ignorant and expects what never was and never will be."

Thomas Jefferson

Kiss this country goodbye.

Yeah, extreme right
4. Mallard Fillmore:

I don't know the name of the nitwit who writes the Mallard Fillmore comic strip (Tim Something-or-other) This much, however, is beyond certainty: Charles Schultz he ain't. But I make it a point never to miss his daily masterpiece of mediocrity and misinformation. In fact there have been times when Mallard is the first thing I turn to when I open the paper. Every morning, in a state of barely restrained glee, I'll find myself asking, sometimes aloud, "What moronic thing is this knucklehead going to puke up today for my amusement?" He never fails to deliver the goods - or almost never. Once, about four-or-five years ago, he actually made a point that I thought quite valid. I was in a semi state of shock for the rest of the day. Seriously.

The person who writes Mallard Fillmore is not only a racist (his tirades against blacks are a weekly delight) he's also an anti-Semite - worst than any seen in print in a very long time. His caricatures of Jews are about as blatantly stereotypical as anything put out by the propagandists of the Third Reich eighty years ago. If he's ever given the brush by my local paper, I won't lose any sleep over it; But if he's here to stay that's okay, too. Right wing lunacy can be quite entertaining. Mallard Fillmore is very much so.

I think of it as the Three's Company of comic strips: so mind-numbingly bad it's actually amusing.

5. Cruz Control

Ted Cruz made a minor tremor the other day at something called the Value Voters Summit when  he referred to the Democrats as an "extreme, radical party". Really? At a time when a extreme change in the course in our national affairs is radically needed, I can only say that if the Dems were one/quarter as extreme and as radical as old Ted implies I would still be one.

The senator from Texas is a satirist's delight. I hope he never goes away. He's the gift that keeps giving and giving.

6.. RUN, LIZ, RUN!

Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is the best thing to happen to progressive politics in this country since Eleanor Roosevelt - and there is a growing choir rising from her natural constituency that is not only singing her praises, they are urging her - begging her - to seek the Democratic nomination for the presidency in two years. It's a grand idea - sort of.

I'm of two minds about this: Yeah, I would love to see this woman as the standard bearer in 2016, Hillary Clinton, at present the presumed nominee, leaves me cold. Although Senator Warren's chances for living in the White House if nominated are not as sure as Ms. Clinton's, it's not the impossible dream that many people believe it to be. The problem she would have as president (and it's the same one that Barack Obama has encountered) is the obstructionism of the Republican party. This country is only going to be saved if the American people take a decided turn to the left. That's not going to happen any time soon, kids. 

7. Texas Secession:

There is a movement now underway in Texas that would have that state secede from the union. This is where I let out a sigh of complete exasperation.

I don't think Texas independence is a particularly good idea for its citizens. This needs to be emphasized to these people as aggressively as possible because, let's face it, most Texans (or at least the ones who vote) don't know what's good for them. Just look at the collection of chuckleheads they keep sending to Washington and Austin! You know what I'm talking about?

In fact, secession is a perfectly hideous idea. It would take less than a year for its residents to realize that seceding from the union was a dreadful mistake. Without U.S. taxpayers keeping them afloat, the Lone Star State would have imploded decades ago. But if Texas insists on secession, fine. Let them go. Good bye and good riddance. 

For one-hundred and fifty years this country has had to twist itself into semantic pretzels making excuses to the rest of the planet for the idiocy of that place. And if secession is really the road they want to go down, I propose that we erect a wall to keep out the tsunami of refugees that will surely be flooding our border in no time at all. If Texas wants to leave, then, by all means, let them leave. We certainly shouldn't come to blows militarily over the matter. A civil war over Texas? It wouldn't be worth it. It's not an asset to the union; it's a national embarrassment. 

Let them have the right wing paradise of their warped fantasies. It would serve the silly bastards right. 

One last thought on this subject: Can you even imagine the "nation" of Texas with a nuclear weapon? Wouldn't that be a hoot? Goodness gracious me!

8. "Blessed Are The Meek" - NOT!!!

They tend to refer to these right wing Christians as "religious extremists"; but if you think about it for a minute, that term is the ultimate misnomer. If they were as extreme about Jesus as they would have us believe, they would be spreading His message in EXTREME ways, setting EXTREME examples. For instance:

If Pat Robertson was as tuned-in to Jesus as he claims he is, he would be giving all of his treasure to the poor. He isn't. In fact, he's the part owner of a diamond mine in Africa. Any profit he makes goes to Pat Robertson. That's not very extreme, is it?

If these blubbering congressmen and women from the Bible Belt were as sweet on the Prince of Peace as they say they are, they would be demanding a ninety percent tax rate for anyone making over one million dollars a year in order to eliminate poverty in America. They won't. It's all about tax cuts (and more tax cuts) to a class of people who have more money than, well, God. That's not very extreme.

The problem, according to them, is all of those nasty, dirty and lazy poor people. Why don't they just get off of their butts and get to work! That's not very extreme either. Think about it.

And a final note to the racist, anti-Semitic "Christians" out there in La La Land: Jesus was a rabbi and He was not a white man. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Hypocrisy: It's prevalent, overwhelming - and so few seem to take notice. Strange.

Tom Degan
Honorary Member (in good standing)
of the International Jewish Conspiracy 

Fred Allen 1894-1956
In Boston, on May 31, 1894, John Florence Sullivan was born. When he was a teenager he developed a juggling act for vaudeville. One day, due to an error by a booking agent, he was inadvertently billed as "Fred Allen". He liked the name so much he kept it for the rest of his life. Although he appeared in a number of films (some of them quite good) he is primarily remembered today (if he's remembered at all) as the greatest humorist who ever practiced the lost and lamented art of radio comedy. Jack Benny once said of him, "His ability to ad lib was phenomenal." That was an understatement.

Fred died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack on St. Patrick's Day 1956 while taking his evening stroll down West 57th Street, directly across from Carnegie Hall. He was two months shy of his sixty-second birthday. He is interred at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, NY. Whenever I drive by the place (which is not very often) I always stop by for a little meditation at the place where he sleeps. I visited there recently. Thanks to Carolyn Karkosza for taking the photograph - and to my old friend, Kevin Kelly, for turning me on to Fred Allen when we were still kids

Courtney Reed & Adam Jacobs

If you happen to find yourself in merrie olde Manhattan at any time in the foreseeable future you might want to check out the new musical, "Aladdin", now playing at the New Amsterdam Theater (214 West 42nd Street). I attended the show on Wednesday evening in the company of my dear friends, the Fabulous Sager Family (and Lady Nina). It was one of the funniest things I've ever had the pleasure of seeing. Afterward, we had the opportunity to meet some members of the cast including Courtney Reed (Jasmin) and Don Darryl Rivera (Iago). They were very nice people. It was a sweet evening.

To order tickets by phone call (855) 870-2717. You will laugh.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Roosevelts

"The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Theodore Roosevelt

There are political dynasties, and then there are the Roosevelts of Hyde Park and Oyster Bay. All others are cheap imitations. The Bushes and the Roosevelts? It's like comparing apples and rotten mangoes. The Kennedy family, God bless 'em, doesn't even come close. The Roosevelts are the standard against which everyone who has come since are measured. The wannabes usually end up falling quite short. 

Chillin' with the Roosevelts
The Roosevelts are the Beatles of American political families. That may sound like a trivialization of the most important and influential clan in the history of this country but, as anyone who knows me will tell you, that's about as high a compliment as I am able to make. It's next-to-impossible for me to describe my admiration for these people. No matter how hard I try, I still end up understating how great a debt we owe to these decent, troubled, great and greatly  flawed  human beings. The scope of their mountaintop highs and deep-valley lows is a human drama that leaves even the most casual observer of history utterly mesmerized. This is a story wrought with tragedy - and enough screwball comedy to keep the laughs flowing. I've been reminded of this for the last three evenings watching Ken Burns' new documentary series, "The Roosevelts: An Intimate History". I'll be reminded again tonight, and every night till Saturday when the series concludes. 

For twenty-five years Ken Burns has been cranking out one historical series after another, and every one of them have been brilliant. He is in the process of working on several yet-to-be-released projects. One of them, a two-part documentary on Ernest Hemingway, won't be ready until the year 2020. I'm now at a point in my life where I can say, without a trace of self-consciousness, that I really do hope I live to see it. I'm definitely glad I lived to see The Roosevelts. It's the best one he's done thus far - and that's saying a lot!

I can't tell you who won the 1932 world series for the simple reason that, eighty-two years later, it doesn't make a damned bit of difference to our lives who won it. I can tell you who won the presidential election that year, though. Four score and two years after the fact that does make a difference. Think about this: On the evening of February 15, 1933, less than a month before entering the White House, a would-be assassin named Giuseppe Zangara attempted to murder Franklin D. Roosevelt in Miami, Florida. The bullet, instead, hit Chicago mayor, Anton Cermak, who died nineteen days later. Had FDR been assassinated on the eve of his inauguration, the presidency would have gone to his running mate, a not-too-visionary bigot from Texas named John Nance Garner. If Zangara's bullet had not missed its mark on that night, the entire history of the world - not merely the United States - would have been much different. "What if...." It makes the imagination tremble.

 "I should like to have it said of my first administration that in it, the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second administration that in it, these forces met their master."

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

To his own kind, FDR was a traitor to his class, or, "That man in the White House". He was not merely the most liberal president in the history of the republic, he was a radical - at a perilous moment when radical change was needed; not unlike it's needed at present.

If you appreciate the millions of acres of national parkland and animal sanctuaries set aside for posterity; if you're grateful for the Social Security check that you or a loved one receives each month; if you've benefited from one the of thousands of high schools, post offices, tunnels or bridges built in the nineteen thirties; if you have ever fallen on hard times and were forced to receive much-needed cash from the feds because you became unemployed; if you were a vet and the GI Bill of Rights afforded you a college education - in short, if during the years after the Second World War, you were able to live comfortably as a member of the middle class - thank a Roosevelt. What I just rattled off for you was the (very) short list. I have neither the time nor space to mention them all. This country owes so much to this family that it's impossible to catalog the debt. Sadly, most American are oblivious to it all. 

Lovely Eleanor
The series begins at Theodore's birth on October 27, 1858 and fades to black with the death of Eleanor on November 6, 1962. The 104 years and 10 days between those two dates comprise a saga that could only have happened in this country. Of particular note is the gut-wrenching story of Eleanor's upbringing. Abandoned by her adored father, scorned by her mother who was ashamed of the child's rather plain looks, she was an orphan by the age of ten; raised in a house run by a cheerless grandmother and two mentally unbalanced uncles. Anyone else might have succumbed to fate's cruelties at so young an age. Her already fragile emotional constitution would be shattered further in 1918, thirteen years into their marriage, when she discovered that Franklin was having an affair. That she was able to overcome so much and become one of the most significant persons of the American Century is as much a testament to her inner fortitude as anything. 

While still young men, Theodore and Franklin were dealt incapacitating, personal blows that forever changed them. For Theodore it was Valentine's Day 1884 when his wife and mother died on the same day in the same house. In Franklin's case it was in the late summer of 1921 when he was stricken with infantile paralysis, never to walk again. Both men thought that their lives were over. The trumpets were yet to summon them to greatness.

"Black care", wrote Theodore Roosevelt, "rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough."

It's fifty-two years since the last survivor breathed her final breath. We are greatly diminished as a nation because they no longer walk among us. It almost takes away the fear of dying, you know?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


The Roosevelts: An Intimate History
A film by Ken Burns

This excellent, seven part series is available on DVD as of today. If you're unable to catch it on PBS, for whatever reason, pick it up today. Here's a link to order it off of

 The Roosevlts: An Intimate History
As I mentioned before, it's the best thing that Ken Burns has ever done. There is a companion book available as well.

Here are some links to a few other pieces I've written over the years about this extraordinary family:

April 12, 1945-April 12, 2012:

Theodore Roosevelt: The People's President:

First Lady of the World:

New Deal at 80 - Nixon at 100

I've Been Consulted by Franklin D:

His Tragic Valentine:

Obama Could Learn from FDR:

The FDR Library Revisited: 
Snoozin' with the Frankster - Hyde Park, 12 February 2012

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Black and Tan Fantasies

The Tan Man
It's quite interesting and hardly surprising. It is now comically apparent that there are no depths to which the loony right wing won't sink in order to defame this president. What they lack in intellect they more than make up for in sheer gall. I'm referring to what I'll call "Tan Gate".  You would have thought that the president had goose-stepped into the White House press room donning an SS uniform with a swastika arm band. But it wasn't just the extremists who joined in the fun. Some "serious" journalists had to take a stand, like the reporter from Time Magazine (I'll be merciful and omit his name) who tweeted, "I'm not sure that tan suits him". Remember, this was at a session where Obama was briefing the press on a major crisis occurring in the Middle East. The whole affair was touchingly infantile.

I've done a smidgeon of research this morning and I've been able to find images of every president going all the way back to Franklin Roosevelt dressed to the nines in a tan suit. Apparently Herbert Hoover never wore one - but J. Edgar did - often. As did their sainted Ronald Reagan. Tan wasn't in vogue when Abraham Lincoln was living in the Executive Mansion, but I think that the shade would have suited him quite well had that been the case. I guess there must be something ominously threatening about a black guy in tan. We should commission an expert in human behavior to look into all of this.

Jack in Tan
This reminds me of all of the fuss that has been made over Barack Obama's use of the teleprompter. Forget the fact that every president since Eisenhower has used them; ignore the ample evidence that Reagan would have been rendered mute without them; Obama seems to be the only president in the history of this diseased country that has abused his teleprompter privileges. It's time to impeach the son-of-a-bitch. Maybe it's a blessing for Obama that comedian-turned-fashion-critic, Joan Rivers, didn't live to see this assault on the good people of this wardrobe-conscious nation. She most certainly would have put that uppity commie bastard in his place.

But seriously, folks....Did you ever get the feeling that you were living in a really dark satirical novel? That's sort of the way I'm feeling this morning. Life is beautiful.

Shameful Teddy
FUN FACT: When Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders charged up San Juan Hill in 1898, their uniform was roughly the same color of the suit Barack Obama is being criticized for wearing today. Ain't that a hoot? At the time (and this may shock some people) not a word of criticism was made about it - nary a freakin' peep! So what, I ask you, is the big deal here? 

 The historians of a century from now are gonna have a rib-tickling blast looking into the utter stupidity that this president found himself up against during his two terms of office. Why are so many people in such a snit about the color of a suit? Where are their priorities? What the hell is the matter with them? Does anyone have an idea? Is there a doctor in the house?

If anyone reading this has access to the Obama White House I've got a dandy idea. Since he is going to send these freaks into spastic apoplexy no matter what he does, no matter what he says - no matter what he wears - at the next press briefing have the prez come out wearing the gaudiest, powder-blue leisure suit he can find - with bell-bottoms and a collar so wide that the tips of it reach to his shoulder blades. I mean, if these people are going to get angry anyway, give the assholes something to get angry about!   
FOR THE RECORD: I have three suits. One of them is tan. I'm a good American. HONEST I AM!

Some day Barack Obama is going to sit down and write the memoirs of his eight-year stint as president of the United States. When that day comes I have a great subtitle for the book: "Damned if I Did, Damned if I Didn't". This poor guy never had a "loyal opposition" with an honest disagreement with his policies and programs. Since the day he took the oath of office on January 20, 2009, he has had to contend with a confederacy of dunces and lunatics, hellbent on sabotaging his every move regardless of the national well being.

 There's something seriously wrong with this picture.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


I had the chance to meet Joan Rivers once. The year was 1985, and I was working a metal restoration gig outside of a shop directly across from the Algonquin Hotel in New York City. She was curious about my job and we engaged in a conversation that lasted a few minutes. This may astound some of you, but she seemed an absolutely kind and lovely woman. It's a memory I've cherished ever since. God rest her soul. 


Grand news for all of you Beatle people out there in Pepperland: Their entire catalog has been released today on vinyl via the lost and lamented art of mono mixing. When these incredible records were made a half century ago, the lads themselves would only sit in on the mono mixing sessions, leaving the stereo production to the EMI engineers. At the time, stereo was the exclusive hobby of a relative handful of hi fi enthusiasts. Not many people had stereophonic equipment in the mid-nineteen-sixties. Although most of us prefer the stereo mixes, these recordings offer something different that should be experienced by the discerning fan of the Fabs. No-less an expert than John Lennon once proclaimed: "You haven't heard Sgt. Pepper until you've heard it in mono." That's good enough for me.

These recordings are The Beatles as they wanted the world to hear them. Here is a link to listen to a few samples:

A splendid time is guaranteed for all!

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Reach for the Skies, America!

From the Second Amendment:

 "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

I'm sorry, am I reading that wrong?

On American soil
A little news item in this morning's paper caught my attention pretty quick. There has been a stampede nationwide to purchase as many models as possible of a particular, Russian-made AK 47. You see, Obama has just initiated a ban on importing them as part of the sanctions against the former Soviet Union because of their involvement in the Ukraine conflict. As a result, they have literally flown off of the shelves at gun stores all across this ruined land. As far as anyone can tell, there are no more of the things left. That's what is known as a good news/bad news scenario. 

Good News: There is one less dangerous weapon available. 

Bad News: In the last week America has become just a wee bit more lethal than it was the week before. Isn't that nice?

Recently our national dialogue (such as it it) has been engaged in a discussion on the "militarization" of America's police forces - not only on the left but also among the libertarian types. I understand full well the alarm that many are feeling at the prospect. But let me, just for the moment, play devil's advocate: Look at what the police in 2014 are up against. There is a huge percentage of the population that have become armed and quite dangerous. In certain parts of the country it is now cheerfully legal to carry semi-automatic, rapid-fire people-killing machines out in the open (in Texas for instance - SURPRISE!

Remember what happened a few months ago in Nevada? When a team of rangers began to move in to evict the cattle of a rancher named Cliven Bundy from publicly-owned land they had been illegally grazing on for twenty years, an army of those half-witted militia assholes moved in to "defend" Mr. Bundy's "rights". What exactly those "rights" were they never made clear to no one's surprise. Some of these yahoos had brought their women and children with them. Fearing a bloodbath, the rangers were forced to back off. When one takes into consideration the horrifying  possibility of what might have transpired it was the wise thing to do. 

The problem is that these fools got a propaganda boost that has made them crazier than they already were. "See?", they're saying to anyone who will listen, "We took on the big, bad gub'ment and we won!" Many of them then headed down to the Mexican border to "protect" America from the flood of children fleeing drug violence and right wing dictatorships in Central America.

You're out of your fucking minds if you bring your loved ones on a vacation to the "Land of the Free". We're not free at all. In fact we are now a nation of sheep being held hostage at gunpoint. I just thought you should know.

Of course this all makes for very amusing copy. It really is a funny thing to behold a once mighty nation in the throes of willful self-destruction - and I don't mean solely on the issue of guns. When a people consistently vote against their better interests and then wonder why they are falling into the abyss, that's always good for a giggle. I'm completely serious when I say that the fall of America is the funniest thing I've ever had the joy to witness in my fifty-six years of life on this planet. I don't want to see this country destroyed, but it's going to happen regardless of what I think. In fact it's happening right before our very eyes. I might as well sit back and make the most of the ride into oblivion. I'll be making some tasty lemonade out of this barrel of nasty tasting lemons. Cynical you say? Yeah, maybe. I look at it this way: We're given two choices in life -  to either laugh or cry. I choose the former. So sue me.

In closing and for the record, I'm against the militarization of the nation's police force. But (for the time being anyway) I'm gonna give the poor sods the benefit of the doubt. They're up against a potential uprising of homicidal jackasses with beer bellies, low IQ's and bad breath. Can you blame them for being a tad paranoid? I can't.

Get used to living in a nation in ruins.

Oh yeah, and keep voting with the conservatives.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Bowling for Columbine
a film by Michael Moore

It's already a classic and should be viewed by every thinking American. You can get it for a good price on Amazon. Get it?