Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Bill Cosby: Finished

His new television special - which few of us, if any, will ever see - was to have been called "Far From Finished". Anyone paying attention for the last few days would beg to differ. Bill Cosby's remarkable, fifty-plus year career came to a spectacular, irrevocable halt this week. It's all over. The first paragraph of his obituary will not take note of the "beloved funnyman" who had ranked, in my estimation, right up there with Mark Twain, Robert Benchley and Will Rogers as one of the great humorists of the twentieth century. 

Instead we will be told the sordid tale of "history's most successful serial rapist" as he was referred to a couple of days ago by one of his alleged victims. I cannot recall in my lifetime a career crashing as completely and unexpectedly as this. As a longtime fan and admirer, this is indeed a sad and disturbing thing to behold.

Not all of the women who have come forward thus far with accusations of sexual assault should be taken seriously. One of them, who claims that her confrontation with Cosby took place in the year 1969, says she would jokingly call him, "Mr Jell-O". Cosby would not become the pitchman for that brand until 1974. As of this moment I seem to be the only one to have noticed this little discrepancy. What does that tell you about our media?

But where there's smoke....

Most of his accusers have the bitter ring of credibility. One woman, who appeared with Cosby in a series of educational videos, was a mere fifteen-years-old when she says she was drugged and raped by "America's dad". A few of the women seem to have nothing to gain by coming forward with their stories - and they're coming forward in droves. As of this morning, the number is at sixteen and counting. It's a safe bet that we'll hit seventeen by day's end. Fortunately for Bill, all of the accusations are beyond the statutes of limitation. That could change.

Bill Cosby may very well end up as the Joe Paterno of comedy. A brilliant, scandal free career and reputation that has endured for over half a century is in the process of immolation.

One of the first books I ever purchased to read - with my own money, for my own enjoyment - was called "Cool Cos". It was a biography of Bill written especially for kids. I sent away for it to a school book club.  I was around ten at the time. 

In a lifetime that has been devoted to comedy in general and comedians in particular, Bill Cosby was my first comedic hero. When I was a kid I thought that he was the smartest, coolest, funniest human being who ever walked this earth. As I write these words his second LP, "I Started out as a Child", is lying atop a small stack of records directly behind my right shoulder.

Like Chaplin, Bill appealed to both adults and children. When I was a very small child I couldn't understand the humor of Bob Newhart. I understood and appreciated Bill Cosby perfectly well. Anyone who grew up in the sixties and seventies has their own, personal Cosby memories:

In June of 1968 my father came up with the brilliant idea that it would be a wonderful thing to send my brother, Pete, and I to a summer camp in Lenox, Massachusetts, on the campus of Cranwell School. The place was inhabited by hundreds of spoiled-rotten, rich Catholic kids, and run by humorless Jesuit priests. Sound like fun? My only cherished memory of that utterly wasted summer was that every Monday night before we went to sleep, a seminarian named Jim Leroux would gather us in his room and play a Bill Cosby record. I can still hear the guy's voice forty-six years later:


That threat was enough to get us moving, believe me. Bill Cosby was, for me, one of the very few bright spots in a perfectly miserable childhood. That is what makes this spectacle all-the-more heartbreaking for me to have to witness.

The only time in my life I ever saw a comedian in concert was in the mid-eighties when I took a date to see Bill Cosby at Radio City Music Hall. I could not resist the opportunity to see my childhood hero in the flesh. One of my nagging regrets is that I'm too young to have ever seen Lenny Bruce in person, but at least I could say that I saw Bill. 

All of the sudden that's not too big a deal any longer, you know? A few nights ago I was driving home with the radio on when it was announced on W-CBS that the TV Land network would no longer be airing reruns of the classic Cosby Show. In an era of hideously mediocre comedy, that particular program was one of television's depressingly few high marks. I won't even bother trying to explain to you how sad it made me to hear this. 

I loved Bill Cosby.

His meteoric career is over. We shall not hear from him again except as a figure of shame, ridicule or dark satire. There will be no second act in this American life. As tragic as Lenny's end was, death and posterity would ultimately vindicate him. There will be no such vindication for Bill Cosby. The show is over; the curtain has closed. 2014 has been a horribly unfunny year for comedy, have you noticed that?

Don't be heartbroken when your heroes let you down. They always will, you know. They always will. They're just too damned human.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 


Here's a YouTube link to watch a twenty-five-year-old Bill Cosby way back in 1963, at the very beginning of his career as a standup comedian, performing his classic skit, Noah:


We'll never look at him the same way again.

UPDATE, 11/27/14, 10:10 AM:

The number of Bill Cosby's accusers has risen to nineteen. What a pathetic end to a brilliant career. Ashes. This is too sad for words.

I hope you're all having a grand Thanksgiving.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Worst President Ever???

"You know Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is in a way, it is slavery in a way, because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about health care. It was about control."

Dr. Ben Carson
Trained GOP House Negro

Here's a novel approach for your reading pleasure and amusement. I'm going to do something I don't do too often - or at least, not as much as I used to. I'm going to come to the defense of the president of the United States. For a hopeless lefty such as I, Barack Obama has been a huge disappointment. But I refuse today to dwell on the negatives. Today I want to take a good look at the positives and reiterate as best I can why I have never for a minute regretted casting my ballot for him.

It's a funny thing. When Obama was elected six years ago this month, I was completely beside myself with joy: The first African American elected to the presidency? This was indeed a corner turned! But as the weeks leading up to the inauguration came and went, my excitement slowly began to dissipate. By January 20, 2009, it was gone. That's when it hit me!

What's Obama gonna be doing for the next eight years?" I asked aloud, "The same thing black people have been doing in this country for the last four centuries: Cleaning up the mess left behind by lazy and ignorant white people - WHAT'S THE BIG FREAKIN' DEAL???"

I am certain, in spite of the obstacles and obstruction that have been placed in his path by the disloyal opposition in the House and Senate, that Barack Obama will be remembered as a decent chief executive. Most of the failures of his two terms will be saddled on the legacies of the men and women who vindictively sought to trip him for no other reason than petty, partisan politics. 

To the habitual Obama haters out there I would only ask that you all take a deep breath and try to look at things as objectively as is possible. Is your memory so pathetically short that you are unable to recall things as they were when he first took the oath of office? At that moment in time the United States economy was losing three-quarters of a million jobs per month! That's a lot of jobs, baby - any way you look at it. The prez was able to put a stop to that trend and reverse it. By the looks of things, December will be the fifty-fifth month of consecutive job growth. And while it's true that many of those jobs pay relatively low wages, that's not entirely his fault. He's been desperately trying to get the minimum wage raised to a level that would make those wages a tad more palatable to working men and women - but the Republicans in congress (and too many Blue Dog Democrats to count) refuse to give them a cent more. 

Obama's stimulus plan worked. The only fault in it was the fact that, as Paul Krugman noted at the time, it wasn't nearly as large as it should have been. As I've been suggesting since the beginning of this administration, the president ought to make Mr. Paul his chief economic adviser.

The worst president in American history?

Franklin Pierce
Say geniuses, do the names Tyler or Fillmore or Pierce or Buchanan or Andrew Johnson or Grant or Benjamin Harrison or Taft or Harding or Hoover ring a bell perchance? And while we're on the subject, how 'bout George W. Bush? Remember how sweetly that worked out? Or is it possible that you've elected to erase his eight year reign of error and corruption from your memory? The kindest thing historians will say about Bush's legacy will be that he'll be tied with James Buchanan at the very bottom rung of the ladder.

Obama is the worst president ever? It's not even close. The lack of even a remedial knowledge of the history of this country exhibited by so many Americans never ceases to amuse and delight.  

FUN FACT: Dubya is distantly related to Franklin Pierce on his mother's side. You see? Incompetence runs in that family! Ain't that a scream? 

Here's something else to meditate on: There are ten million people today with health insurance who could not afford it a year ago. Who do you think is responsible for that - John McCain? Mitt Romney? For every month that Affordable Care is the law of the land, it will make it that much more politically tenuous for the GOP to repeal it. That is the reason they're trying to make it impossible for the traditional progressive constituency to vote. It's days like this that I wish I were a writer of fiction. 

One wonders what the national situation would be at this moment had the president had a loyal opposition during the last six years who were capable of compromise. Wishful thinking I know. Their only goal - long or short term - was to sabotage the president at every turn. Remember what Mitch McConnell said way the hell back in 2009? He said that the top priority of the Republicans in in congress for the next four years would be to see to it that Obama be a one-term president. The welfare of the American people? That didn't even register as half-a-blip on their radar screen. And to think it was those same people who put McConnell's party back in power. They deserve everything that going to happen to them. 

And think how things might have worked out for the better if the Democrats had embraced their progressive political heritage instead of hiding from it like frightened little mice. I'm ashamed and embarrassed that I used to be registered with that worthless party...."Used to be"....I came to my senses eighteen years ago.

Yeah, for true progressives Obama has been a drag, and many of us aren't necessarily jumping for joy over the fact that, at this writing anyway, Hillary Clinton will probably be the Democratic nominee in 2016. That in itself is enough to make me want to pack it all in and start a blog about classic film comedy. The news is bleak all along the American landscape. Obama has made some dandy missteps but at least his heart has been in the right place....I think. I'm not too sure about Hillary

A year ago I was under the illusion that the left in this doomed country was awakening from a long slumber. Lord knows what I was thinking. They (we) appear to have gone back to Dreamland. Fine. Dream away.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 
Gail Russell
A little bit off topic I'll admit. This video is haunting. It's a tribute to the actress, Gail Russell. The song is called "Stella by Starlight". It was written for her for a film she made in 1944 called "The Uninvited". Her character was named Stella. I always thought that she was one of the most beautiful women ever to grace the screen. Tragically, she passed away in August of 1961, age 36, of acute alcoholism.

That's Stella by starlight, and not a dream....

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Run, Jebbie, Run!

"One does not envy the people in charge of developing the exhibits for the [George W. Bush Presidential] Library. Whoever the poor bastards are I hope they're paid quite handsomely for their efforts. It takes real talent to turn a mountain of chickenshit into a tasty plate of chicken salad."

From The Rant 
30 April 2013 

It was kind of a disconcerting thing to bare witness to on an otherwise peaceful Sunday morn. The occasion was the sixtieth anniversary broadcast of CBS's Face the Nation, a program which was that network's blatant rip off of NBC's Meet the Press when it premiered in the Autumn of 1954 - a fact that no one even remembers anymore. The moderator, the affable Bob Shieffer, decided to play host to two presidents in separate interviews - the current and the former. The interview with Obama was nothing really earth-shattering; truth be told, in light of what happened next I've practically put it out of my mind. It was the appearance of George W. Bush that captured my attention.

What is it about Dubya? What world is he living in? The man needs to get off the meds he's obviously on and get on something that's going to help him break free of the delusional little world which he is currently inhabiting. He told Bob that as far as Iraq is concerned (you know, the stupidest military blunder in history?) there are no regrets. Isn't that wonderful? A posting on Facebook on October 29 showed a photograph of the hideous twit aboard a plane embracing a serviceman. Here's the photo and caption. The idiocy is spell binding:

  My response was instantaneous and without a shred of mercy:

"Yeah, Dubya 'cared about' the troops alright. The half-witted little bastard 'cared about' them so much that he sent them off to fight an illegal, un-winnable war in which over five thousand of them sacrificed their lives. Now he lives in cushy retirement while the vets that he 'cared about' so much are committing suicide at record numbers. Yeah, George W. Bush 'cared about' our troops.  Ain't that a fucking hoot?"

Honestly, you'd be hard-pressed to concoct this stuff in fiction. But as far as the Schieffer broadcast was concerned, the best was yet to come. When asked if his slightly smarter younger brother, Jeb, was going to run in 2016, Bush neither confirmed nor denied. What I thought was interesting was the way he put forward the idea of what a grand president Jeb would be ("He's not afraid to fail"). It's almost as if he was letting the clueless American people get used to the idea. He then said that if Jeb decided to run he would do anything asked of him. If I were Jeb Bush I would call George on the telephone right this minute and order the little thug to leave the country for the next two years. Seriously.

I'd like to be able to tell you that the chances of a another member of that disgusting family occupying the Executive Mansion - for the third time in a generation - are less than zero; honestly I would - but I can't. Since the GOP will have control of both houses of Congress for the next two years you can count on them passing even more restrictive voter suppression laws between now and Election Day 2016. And you can take to the bank the certainty that the right-wing-dominated Supreme Court will declare those blatantly unconstitutional laws perfectly constitutional. Isn't that lovely?

The prospect of two Clintons occupying the White House is weird enough on its own - but three Bushes??? I would need a daily dose of LSD just to get through it.

Every day in every way the situation keeps getting stranger and stranger. The utter ideological implosion of the United States of America is indeed a sad thing to witness. It's going to happen weather we like it or not so we might as well make the best of it. That's the direction we've decided to take and there's no denying the obvious. The good news is that there will be oceans of unintentional comedy to keep us amused throughout the descent into oblivion. At least we have that to look forward to, ay?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 


by Amity Shlaes 

This book is obviously written with a bit of a conservative  bias. The author's attempt to portray Silent Cal as a great president doesn't even come close to passing the giggle test in my opinion. Still, Calvin Coolidge was not quite as bad as some of us on the left have made him out to be. In fact he was an interesting guy to read about. My favorite Coolidge story involves a woman sitting next to him at a luncheon. She says to the notoriously reticent president, "Sir, I made a bet with someone that I could get you to say at least three words during our meal. "You lose", he replied without missing a beat. The guy was a laugh riot - in his own quiet way. Thanks to my doctor-in-law, Jack Dermigny, for lending me this one. 

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Morning After

"With or without control of the Senate, the GOP power surge burdens Mitch McConnell, John Borhner, GOP White House hopefuls and the Tea Partiers with the duty to chart the nation's course for the next two years. Heaven help us all."

New York Daily News editorial, 11/5/04 

On Sunday evening the American people set their clocks back one hour. Last night they set them back two centuries. Ain't politics oodles of fun?

Rick Scott - reelected
I was tempted to call this piece "Stupid Fucking Americans", then thought better of the idea. The sad truth of the matter is that I know quite a few people - a heck of a lot smarter than I - who voted the straight GOP line yesterday. While it would be grossly inaccurate for me to imply that all Republicans are idiots, it is beyond dispute that most idiots are Republicans. You don't believe that? I'll tell you what: The next time someone in your general proximity says something rib-ticklingly stupid, ask him or her what political party they're registered with. Get back to me. 

No, in many cases it has a lot less to do with stupidity and a whole lot to do with a deplorable lack of information. If the electorate had so-much-as a remedial knowledge of American history, they wouldn't be casting their lots with that disgusting party. Consider these unconscionable facts: There were more Republicans elected yesterday than any Election Day since 1946. Come January, there will be more Republican representatives in Washington than at any time since 1928! Is that a kicker or what?

Early in the evening when the trending was pitifully obvious, I had a couple of very strong drinks and went to bed. What would be the use of waiting up to view the political carnage? When I woke up at 2:30 and got the official word from broadcast news, I went outside for a smoke. Noticing the little flag that I fly to the left of my doorway, I quietly and unceremoniously took it down. Even at that late hour, in the dark of night, I was embarrassed having it there. I'm not kidding.

There were pockets of good news here and there. My representative, Sean Maloney, barely squeaked by in a close race against former congresswoman and Tea Party robot, Nan Hayworth. For the last month my mailbox has been bombarded with flyers from Nan's positively juvenile campaign. Her taunts of "Maloney Baloney" were, to put it as mildly as possible, amusing. As of this hour poor old Nan has yet to concede. She wants to wait until all of the absentee ballots are counted. Fine, let her wait. But other than that and a handful of other little oases in the national desert, most of the news this morning was devastatingly bad. One Republican congressman - under felony indictment - was able to keep his seat. What does that tell you?

Hideous Mitch
Most depressing of all was in my ancestral homeland, Kentucky. I've written before how proud-as-a-freaking-peacock I was to be connected with the place. Those days are over. A people moronic enough to send a corrupt, hideous gasbag like Mitch McConnell back to Washington as their representative deserve everything that happens to them. For thirty years Mitch has been nothing more than a handmaiden to corporate wealth and plutocratic greed. You would think - you would hope and pray - that his utterly clueless constituency would have caught on by now, wouldn't you? They haven't. It really is kinda funny when you think about it - a dark comedy.

I'm not going to lose any sleep over what transpired yesterday. In fact, I have been handed - on a silver platter - at least two years worth of dynamite material - possibly as many as six years! I'll be fine. As I've mentioned too many times to count, for people who blog about politics and politicians, these extremist freaks are the gift that won't stop giving. There is most definitely a silver lining behind this horrifically dark cloud. To tell you the awful truth, I can't believe my luck.

"There is no such thing as paranoia. Your worst fears can come true at any moment."

-Hunter Thompson

It sure is sad. Any possibility of Barack Obama having a successful administration went into the toilet evening last. My prediction of a Democratic victory in two years being inevitable is now (as Nixon's press secretary would have said) "inoperative". Between January and the election of 2016 you can count on them passing more-and-more restrictive voter suppression laws that will seal their power for decades. Kiss this country goodbye....and get used to living in a nation in ruins.

Mah! Mah! The ol' plantation sho' has changed!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


A major milestone has occurred in my family: Mary Rose Cullen, the sister of my late uncle Tom, passed away yesterday at the family homestead in Chester, NY. She was the last surviving member of that extraordinary family.

The Cullen house, Route 94, Chester, NY, 11/5/14