Friday, October 31, 2014

Onto Oblivion

It's almost over. Four days until Tuesday and it seems like an eternity. Anything can happen and no one seems to know how this is going to end. Any chance Barack Obama has of salvaging his presidency depends on a victory for the Democrats on Election Day. It's not bloody likely that his party is going to be able to take back the house, and retaining control of the senate is, at best, a roll of the dice. I won't be out celebrating if the Dems are able to pull off some kind of miracle. Both parties are hopeless - with one being just barely palatable. I sometimes feel as if I'm at a restaurant and the waiter is asking me if I'd like a glass of donkey piss to wash down the plate of elephant shit I've ordered. Really, it's gotten that bad. 

I'm prepared for the worst - which in my case is the best. The lower this doomed country sinks into the shit-hole, the higher my stock rises. I won't be happy if the GOP - through election fraud and suppression of votes - finds itself in full control of both houses of congress come January. I imagine that a plutocratic dictatorship would be oodles of fun to write about. 

"There's gonna be a lot of dues, Jim."

Lenny Bruce

Then again it's possible that a decade or so of total conservative control of the government is just what the people need. Maybe then they'll finally learn the lesson they should have learned over a century ago: Right wing form of governance DOES NOT WORK. The down side of that scenario would be the fact that, at the end of that decade, their government will have ceased to be. That is the Republicans' dream. Remember the fantasy of Grover Norquist? His dream was to be able to shrink the government down to a size where it would be small enough to drown in a bathtub. We're on our way.

Think about this: During the final years of George Dubya Bush's reign of folly, the extreme right - for the first time in nearly eighty years - were able to seize control of all three branches of government. The result was the worst economic catastrophe in almost eighty years. 

That's not a coincidence, folks. 

I'm a bit numb at the moment. That's not the sort of state one wishes to be in if your desire is to illuminate and enlighten. Whatever happens come Election Day, I'll get by. To be honest with you I don't give a fuck what the final result is. As long as the day's events are amusing - that's all I really care about anymore. Isn't that awful? Maybe by Tuesday I'll be a little less apathetic. Maybe not. At least I won't be bored. That's something to look forward to, ay? There's always a silver lining.

Don't forget to set your clocks back two centuries on Tuesday!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 

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Eleanor and Franklin
by Joseph P. Lash

This was the first of the FDR biographies to tell the story of Franklin's affair with Lucy Page Mercer - a distant cousin of mine (I come from a long line of home wreckers). Lash's prose takes a little getting used to at times, but he deserved the Pulitzer he won for writing it. 


I was just awoken from my apathy:

Get out on Tuesday and vote like your life depends on it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


With just less than two weeks to go until the midterm elections there's plenty of room for speculation as to how this is going to end. The talking heads tell us that it could go either way. I find that incredible. There have been few times in the past where the choice was clearer (and less of a no-brainer) than it is at the moment. What gives with these silly Americans? You've gotta wonder! You really do!

One of the guilty pleasures I get out of reading American history  is that I find myself cheering for the Republicans. One-hundred years ago there were still enough politicians registered with that organization who stood for something decent. Even during my lifetime we had Dwight D. Eisenhower. For all of his cultural conservatism, old Ike was fairly progressive fiscally. He understood all-too-well that the key to a nation's greatness was investment in its infrastructure. When was the last time you heard a Republican politician bragging about the legacy of Eisenhower?  You would think that the Grand Old Party didn't even exist prior to Ronald Reagan.

My feelings with regard to the Democrats (which hovers somewhere between disgust and indifference) has been well-tempered by the fact that the GOP is light years past any point of hope and redemption. I therefore find myself at every election cycle rooting for the Dems in spite of myself. And please don't tell me that the time has come for us to support a third party. We tried that in 2000 and it backfired if you'll recall. Maybe someday; maybe even soon. Not now. 

If "the party of Abraham Lincoln" retakes the Senate and retains the House, as bad a thing as that would be, I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. It's only going to make my job that much easier for the next two years. A never-ending train wreck may be a nasty omen for many things on the horizon. Writer's block is not one of them. I'll be fine 'n' dandy. 

The one race I've really got my eyes on - more than any other - is the contest in Kentucky between Mitch McConnell and his young challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes. As I've written in the past, I am an ancestral son of the Bluegrass state. My late maternal grandfather, Walter Clements, was just one of generations of Kentuckians chilling out on my family tree. I still have scads of cousins, distant and not-so-distant, who reside in that state. Having said that, I'm going to be brutally frank with you. If the people of Kentucky are stupid enough to send Mitch (The Plutocracy's Bitch) back to Washington for another six years as their representative, they'll deserve everything that happens to them.

Just before I sat down to write this little ditty I listened to an interview on NPR with an author named, Aaron David Miller. His new book is called "An End to Greatness" and is subtitled: "Why America Can't Have and Doesn't Want Another Great President". His argument is that the last great president was Franklin D. Roosevelt (an argument I agree with). The reason we haven't had a great one since then is the simple fact that no chief-executive since FDR has had the degree of crises that he had to deal with. Rather than pining for greatness we should, instead, be seeking mere competency. 

Barack Obama has been a more-than-competent president. His biggest problem facing him since the day he was inaugurated has been the confederacy of dunces who have lined up in opposition to him. In case it might have escaped your attention, some of these people are out of their fucking minds. If the Republicans are victorious in even one house of congress on Election Day next, his administration - and his legacy - are toast and jelly.

Between now and November 4 is going to seem like a lifetime. So much can happen and probably will. You can bet the farm that Republican governors all across the land are going to be doing everything possible to insure that the weakest and poorest among us (in other words: the traditional Democratic constituency) are unable to cast their precious ballots. That is the agenda of that disgusting party. Aren't politics fun?

Whatever you do, regardless of your ideology, be sure to vote on Election Day. Even if your plan is to vote with the right wing - especially if your plan is to vote with the right wing - take part in the democratic process. Remember, I'm probably the only person you know of who will benefit by a victory for the Republicans, so by all means....

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 


A Good Life
by Ben Bradlee

Conversations with Kennedy
by Ben Bradlee 

Bad news, bad news
Came to me where I sleep....

I got the news this morning that the legendary (and that overused word applies here) editor of the Washington Post, Ben Bradlee, passed into eternity yesterday. When they were casting the 1976 film All the Presidents Men, they could settle for nothing less than an actor with the stature and gravitas of Jason Robards to take on the part of Ben. Robards won an Oscar for that performance.

After he wrote his book on his friendship with President Kennedy, Jackie never spoke to him again. I could never quite figure this out. Before I read that book I had always liked Jack Kennedy. After reading Conversations with Kennedy, I loved him. His autobiography, published in 1995, is the best journalistic memoir I have ever read. There is no doubt about it: He is the giant of American journalism in the twentieth century.

A good life indeed.

Just friends drifting apart: Ben, Jackie, Toni and Jack, 1962

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

I'm Just Mild About Hillary

"Look around. Oil companies guzzle down billions in profits. Billionaires pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries, and Wall Street CEOs, the same ones that direct our economy and destroyed millions of jobs, still strut around  Congress, no shame, demanding favors and acting like we should thank them. Does anyone here have a problem with that?"   

Elizabeth Warren

To paraphrase the late George Carlin, I used to be a Democrat. Now I'm an American. You know, you grow!

You wanna know why I left that party over sixteen years ago? Here's why: The 2016 campaign is two years away, and yet, as of October 14 2014, the presumptive nominee is Hillary Clinton. Could it be that "the party of Franklin D. Roosevelt" can't come up with anything better than Hillary? Have they lost their imaginations? Or have they lost their minds? A reasonable argument could be made for either scenario.

I still can't forget the fact that - at a time when she could have shown a modicum of political courage - She voted to give the disgusting, half-witted little frat boy from Crawford, Texas the authority to invade the sovereign nation of Iraq minus the constitutionally mandated congressional approval. I'm sure most of you remember how nicely that worked out. She was looking down the road to a White House run. She just had to prove to us that she was as much of a warrior as any man. I have not much respect for Hillary Clinton, I'll be honest with you.

But I have to admit that the pickings are rather slim these days. Other than Hillary (and the president, of course) who is currently the most visible Democrat? Wall Street stooge, Chuck Shumer. With "progressives" like those two, who needs conservatives? Seriously!

Sherrod Brown
Sherrod Brown of Ohio is one of the very few Democrats out there who has not forgotten his party's progressive roots. He'd be an ideal standard bearer for the year 2016 - theoretically. Senator Brown's problem is that he comes off a bit rough-around-the-edges in this stupid, televisual age that we're trapped in. He's suits are definitely not custom made, he probably pays less than ten dollars for his haircuts, he sometimes looks like a guy with a hangover, and he has a voice like sandpaper on gravel. The fact that he's a brilliant and decent man is beside the point. "Telegenics" is all that matters these days. Had the Lincoln-Douglas debates been broadcast in 1860, Abraham Lincoln would today be an obscure footnote in the history books.

And besides, Sherrod is no fool. He more-than-likely knows what he's up against and is probably content to stay where he is. He reminds me, in a way, of the late senator from Illinois, Paul Simon. He was the most impressive person to seek the Democratic nomination in my lifetime. He never had a chance. He just didn't look good on television. That hideous little box is going to be the death of us.

Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders of Vermont seems to be thinking about running next time around. Since he is an independent I would be eligible to vote for him in a primary (In New York you can only vote in the primary of the party you're registered with). I will have no problem whatsoever casting my lot with Bernie. I believe he is one of the giants of the senate. I'm talkin' Henry Clay proportions here! But again, like Sherrod Brown, he will have the television thing going against him. And the fact that he is a liberal Jew won't do him much good in the shit-for-brains states of this doomed republic. I won't list them by name here; you know which ones I'm talking about. 

Look away, Dixieland.

That leaves us with Senator Elizabeth Warren. She has some overwhelming odds to overcome to be sure. The very term "Massachusetts Liberal" is enough to give a lot of people the dry heaves. But the prospect of a Warren administration commencing on January 20, 2017 is about as nonsensical as it was for an African American senator from Chicago seven years ago. And she's a liberal: An unapologetic, left-of-center, in-your-face, meat-and-potatoes, dyed-in-the-wool - freakin' L.I.B.E.R.A.L., baby! 

 She says she is not going to run for the presidency in 2016 and I haven't any doubt that she's being sincere. No one can accuse Elizabeth Warren of being insincere. Oh, but what a campaign that would be. More than a campaign, that would be a cause. I know it's never gonna happen, but I can dream, can't I?

Maybe Ms. Clinton will surprise me. Maybe not. Whatever happens, the next president will be a Democrat, you can count on it. The last time one Democratic administration succeeded another one on Inauguration day was in 1857 - it hasn't happened since. Since the GOP has become a psychological basket case, that's a fairly easy prediction to make.

I know I'll end up voting for Hillary two years from now. If she's not my ideal I'm at least comforted by the knowledge that she's much better than anything the Republicans will puke up - that's a foregone conclusion. Just remember this: When you see me exiting the polling place on Election Day 2016, I'll be holding my nose.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Eighty-nine years ago yesterday, Leonard Alfred Schneider was born in what was then rural Mineola, New York. He became Lenny Bruce when he grew up. Here's Lenny's national television debut from April 1959 - a riotous appearance on NBC's Steve Allen Show.

He's on some other shore
He didn't wanna live anymore

Bob Dylan 

Lenny would have made such a cool old man. It's just so sad.


AFTERTHOUGHT, 10/15/14. 4:37 AM:


Why is Bernie Madoff the only Wall Street crook to go to prison?


Because he stole from the One Percent - not the Ninety-Nine Percent.

Are you one/tenth as pissed off as I am?

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Speaking the Unthinkable

Lincoln, 1865
"We're really in nut country now."

Jack Kennedy, 11/22/63

Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy were fatalistic about their personal safeties. Both took the view that if anyone brave enough - and crazy enough - were to take a shot at them, there was not much that anyone (including the Secret Service) could do to alter that grim reality. Ironically, Kennedy made note of this fact on the morning of November 22, 1963 while he was getting dressed in his hotel room in Houston, Texas, anticipating all the fun events that the day had in store for him. Both FDR and JFK would be targets of assassins. Only Oswald would be successful. A funny thing, fate, You know what I'm talking about?

Anyone with a decent sense of history (and that number would include about one percent of the American people) should be alarmed at the recent incidences involving the Secret Service. Reports of these guys drunkenly cavorting with hookers during a state visit to Columbia a couple of years ago; an unauthorized person gaining backstage access to the president a couple of weeks ago; and, most amusing of all, it was just revealed that during the campaign of 2012, a drunken SS man, trying to impress a Romney staffer, revealed the president's itinerary for the coming week - at a time it was still classified. Nice!

Garfield, 1881
NEW RULE: For the sake of the safety of the chief-executive, can we at least agree that from now on, like airline pilots, the president's Secret Service detail shall not drink any intoxicating beverages for a period of at least twenty-four hours before going on duty. This is what is called "a no-braner". 

We need to come face-to-face with some nasty facts, boys and girls: No president since Abraham Lincoln has been as passionately hated by so many Americans than the first African American to call the White House "home". Only this week, some right wing Facebook page was able to raise $100,000 award money for anyone who would oblige them by "removing" Barack Obama from the presidency. Now everybody put on your thinking caps!

McKinley, 1901
 QUESTION: Just how in the hell does one person "remove" a sitting president from the job? 

ANSWER: The same way John Wilkes Booth "removed" Abraham Lincoln; the same way Charles Guiteau "removed" James A. Garfield; the same way Leon Czolgosz "removed" William McKinley; the same way Lee Harvey Oswald "removed" Jack Kennedy.

This ain't rocket science, folks. The treacherous asshole who put up that Facebook page ought to be arrested and put on trial for conspiracy to assassinate the president of the United States. A lot of these freaks have been making ominous statements in the last six years with regard to the mortality of Barack Obama, have you noticed that? Vile, horrible utterances. Do you remember this dandy little chestnut a couple of years ago from uber-twit Ted Nugent? 

"If the coyote's in your living room, pissing on your couch, it's not the coyote's fault. It's your fault for not shooting him.

The "coyote" in his warped mind was supposed to represent Barack Obama. Another gem for the ages from Rock's Village Idiot.

FOR THE RECORD: As much as I despised the administration of George W. Bush, I never once - publicly or privately - wished for the hideous little freak's demise. In fact I used to pray that he be kept safe. The last thing the loony right wing in this country needs is the body of a martyr to rally around by torchlight. Spare us.

I must say that it was quite touching to watch the hearings on Capital Hill this week inquiring into the Secret Service's latest, inexcusable blunder. The very sight of the most extremely right-wing of politicians (Darrell Issa for example) expressing profound outrage over the fact that a mentally ill veteran was able to walk right in to the Executive Mansion and come too close for comfort to entering the family living quarters was something to behold. Were they really genuinely concerned with the safety of the president and his family? Or was it merely reflexive bitchiness on their part. You just never know with these jackasses.  

Kennedy, 1963
 "Assassination is the extreme form of censorship."

George Bernard Shaw

Not that I enjoy breaking such bad news to you (I really don't - Honest!) but it's been over a half century since Dallas. We're almost overdue. I'm just barely old enough to remember that hideous day in American history. This country never really recovered from the assassination of President Kennedy fifty-one years ago next month. Were any harm to come to this president (of all presidents) I fear that the nation would be shattered to pieces, and that it would take many decades to heal itself - if it ever healed at all.

It is laughably obvious (although I'm not laughing - trust me) that the Secret Service, in their present condition anyway, is not up to the job of protecting the commander-and-chief. A major upgrading and house cleaning is in order and overdue.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Here are a couple of pieces I've written in the last two years related to this uncomfortable topic:

Ted Nugent: Rock's Village Idiot

In the Shadow of November 22, 1963

AFTERTHOUGHT, 10/5/14, 4:24 AM:

I just had an interesting thought. The only American president of the twentieth century who was not alive to see the assassination of another president was John F. Kennedy. How weird is that?


Whenever I hear someone say that Norman Rockwell was not a great artist (and I hear it more often than you might think) I want to give them such a slap!

Ruby: A precious gem - Bridges: Structures that connect people