Wednesday, June 24, 2015

South Carolina's "DUH" Moment

Naughty flag!

Reverend Clemente Pinckney
This one is such a no-bainer that I'm almost embarrassed to bring it up - but I will because, gosh darn it, I just can't help myself! There are literally so many avenues I could proceed down with regard to this tragedy that I hardly now where to begin!
I'm not going to mention the name of the homicidal moron who carried out the inexplicable slaughter of nine, peaceful and unarmed human beings inside a historic African American church in the city of Charleston, South Carolina a week ago today. Like the fool who murdered John Lennon thirty-five years ago, this utterly worthless little bastard wanted to be known for something - anything - and he's gotten his wish. His stated intention was to start a "race war"; instead he has South Carolinians (of all people) seriously thinking about banning the confederate flag (his flag) from state property. This is a jolly good thing indeed.

The assaults upon the intelligence commenced immediately when the screw-heads over at Fox and Friends proclaimed that this latest atrocity in the rolling American tragedy had nothing to do with racial hatred, that it was, instead, yet another assault against "Christianity". Fox's very own in-house lamebrain, Steve Doocy, remarked that it seemed "extraordinary" to him that people were referring to this as a "hate crime". Genius. The very first eye-witness reports from the crime scene stated unequivocally that this asshole told them all why he was shooting them ("You rape our women. You're taking over the country"). If you're still watching Fox Noise for anything other then the unintentional giggles it dishes out with knee-slapping regularity, there's little hope for you.

The twists and turns of the timeline of history are, at times, a breathtaking thing to ponder. Think of the irony: The confederate flag was officially reinstituted by Democrats in South Carolina in 1962 as a reaction to the Civil Rights movement. This was during that bygone day when the South was crawling with racist Dixiecrats who couldn't bring themselves to join the party of "that bearded bastard that freed our slaves". Their precious flag will more-than-likely be removed forever from the statehouse at the instigation of the Republican governor. Nikki Haley announced in the wake of the slaughter that, while secessionist flag may represent a crucial period in the history of that state, it belongs folded away in a museum - not flying over the statehouse. At that moment she rose a thousand-fold in my estimation. As you've probably figured out by now, I'm not known for tipping my hat to many members of that party, but I need to give credit where it's due. God bless her for remembering that hers was at one time the party of Abraham Lincoln.    

Some reactionary twit once declared, "The South shall rise again". Honestly, folks, the South needs to wake the hell up. On my Facebook page the other day, a southern belle reacted to a link I had posted by noting that "you" (meaning me) won the Civil War because "we" (presumably meaning her) didn't have access to the thousands of Irish immigrants willing to fight for the Northern cause in order to gain their citizenship. Incredibly, she then went on to inform me that she was a descendant of one of those immigrants. I thought this ironic because my Irish heirs didn't arrive in the states until after the war, and many of my maternal ancestors fought on the on the side of dear ol' Dixie. This is a fact of my heritage that I don't go around bragging about for obvious reasons. It boggles the mind that southern people would look at their familial connections to that conflict with even a molecule of pride - I sure-as-hell-don't.

He won.
People who are still fighting that war need to take a deep breath and come to terms with the stark reality that the war between the states (or "The war of northern aggression" as my Facebook friend referred it) ended in 1865. That was one-hundred and fifty years ago, kids. The last veteran of that conflict died fifty-six years ago. Get a grip.


Why is it that the Germans are so far ahead of us in this respect? They figured out a long time ago that the flag of he Third Reich was the most despicable banner that any army ever marched under in the history of the human race (the  Confederate flag being a close second). The only places in Germany where the swastika flies these das are on the sets of historical movies. For the record, the Hitler gang are always portrayed as the bad guys. You've gotta hand it to those Gerrys. You really do!

He lost.
The sight of the "stars and bars" does not fill our brothers and sisters of color with any degree of "southern pride". It hurts their feelings and makes them feel like strangers in their own land. It's time for that goddamned flag to be permanently consigned to the hall of infamy where it bloody-well belongs. Can I get a witness?

No one with any sense is proposing a law that would ban the rebel flag outright. They tried that in California and I felt then (and feel still) that it was a terrible idea. Citizens who wish fly the rebel flag will still be able to do so - on private property. This is a good thing, too. I believe to my core that everyone has the Constitutional right to behave like a racist shithead. This wouldn't be America otherwise.

Along with the topic of race in America, the massacre of nine devout and gentle churchgoers a week ago today in Charleston, South Carolina has also reopened that nasty-tasting can of worms known as "gun violence". I write about this topic quite often because one who comments on the American train wreck is hard-pressed to avoid the subject. In fact, I've written about it so many times by this point that I'm getting bored with it. Allow me, instead, to repeat a paragraph I have posted many times before and that I will, no doubt, post again many times in the future. Yeah, I know, I'm sounding like a broken record but it needs a reprise:

The NRA loves to jabber on - like diseased little myna birds - about "freedom". We need to come face-to-face with some unpleasant realities: A people who live in dread, mortal terror wondering where and when the next mass killing of innocents inevitably takes place may indeed be many things - no argument there - "free" they are not. Let's stop kidding ourselves here and now, okay?

Sorry 'bout that. Again, I just couldn't help myself. As long as we continue to insist on having the most mind-boggling, insane gun laws in the Western Hemisphere, we might as well come to terms with living in a nation in ruins. This is the new American reality - rivers of tears, oceans of blood. This is the way it's gonna be from here on in. Get fucking used to it.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush's America
by Molly Ivins (with Lou Dubose)

I first read this classic political tome when it was released a decade ago. I'm rereading it now. It's a reminder why George W. Bush will be remembered as the most corrupt, incompetent chief executive in the history of this doomed republic, It's quite sad - and very funny. I miss Molly Ivins.

UPDATE, 4:41 PM:

Other states might follow the example of South Carolina. The governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe,  has ordered that the Rebel flag to be removed from all license plates. Even Alabama and Mississippi are considering it's removal. There's a glimmer of hope this afternoon in Dixie!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Nominate THE DONALD!!!

Some people have bad hair days. Donald Trump is having a bad hair life. Have you ever noticed that?

What I love the most about The Donald - and why I cherish his presence in the national train wreck so completely - is the man's genius at being clueless. In fact, if lacking in self awareness were considered a human virtue, Trump would have received the Nobel Prize decades ago. It's bad enough that this nitwit takes himself so seriously, he's delusional enough to think that intelligent people take him with anything other than a grain of moldy salt. It really is rather touching and pathetic when you think about it.

My first experience with Donald Trump was not through the media, but up close and personal. Back in the early eighties I was doing a brass and marble restoration gig in the newly-opened Trump Towers. He stormed into the lobby of the place, barking orders, making belligerent comments to and fro, walking around like he owned the joint - which he did of course. I thought at the time that his complete and total lacking in any humility was a bit unbecoming. At the time I had never heard of him before, nor did I have a clue who the heck he was. Not that I cared.

When he asked a co-worker (an Italian immigrant named Frank Amato) what type of chemical he was using on the marble, Trump's lackey told Frank that, when answering "Mr. Trump's" question, that he should not direct the answer to The Donald, but to the lackey instead. In other words, don't look Mr. Trump in the eye. I was hoping that "Mr. Trump" had a question-or-two for me. I would have stared him down just to spite the contemptible little twit. Alas, he did not.

And now, Trump says that in three days he'll be announcing whether or not he'll be a candidate for the GOP nomination in 2016. I really do hope he goes for it, but my gut instinct tells me that, like 2012, dipping his toes in the stagnant waters of our national political conversation was merely for show and nothing else; another silly and wasted attempt by The Donald to "up his brand" so to speak. He's even gone as far as hinting that he has a secret plan to eliminate ISIS - but that he's not going to reveal it until he's sitting snugly inside the Oval Office. RIGHT! He can blow to kingdom come an organization that is murdering hundreds of innocent people every week but he's going to wait a year-and-a-half before he shares the plan with anyone!
John R. "Jack" Degan
STATE SECRET: My late father, John R. "Jack" Degan, was at one time the president of the Building Owners and Management Association (BOMA). He once informed me that, although he liked The Donald personally, a lot of the folks in that organization thought that he was a bloviating bag of gas. Now it can be told.

If they ever build a Hall of Fame of Unintentional Comedians, I propose that they give Donald Trump a wing dedicated exclusively to him. This jackass is the rib-tickler supreme. That's what makes the political situation in America such a delight: For an insanity junkie such as I, the current crop of Republican wannabes are too weird to be believed. I sometimes want to pinch myself just to be sure that this isn't a dream-come-true. I so want this guy to make a run for it that I can almost taste it. I know that he's probably going to let me down again, just like he did in 2012. All I have are my dreams.

Maybe he'll surprise me. A Trump-for-pres campaign would be such a gut-busting thing to behold that I'm getting a mild case of the giggles just thinking about it. Oh, please, Donald, please!

I just had a wild thought: Wouldn't it be a hoot if, one day, The Donald held a press conference and revealed to us that for the past forty years, his entire act has been a piece of performance art? That it was all a big joke and that he's been putting us on all these years, and that he's been emulating his secret hero - ANDY KAUFMAN? What an incredible practical joke that would be on us - and so perfectly logical!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Happy Days Are Here Again
by the Jack Hylton Orchestra (1930)

Ken Burns and company used this 1930 recording of Happy Days are Here Again for the closing credits of episode four of The Roosevelts. Considering it's 85 years old the fidelity is amazing. But what I like most about this record is merely how freakin' catchy it is. Check out those xylophones!
As FDR himself would have said, "I LOVE IT!"

UPDATE, 6/16/15, 1:55 PM:

The Donald announced his candidacy a little over an hour ago. Life is beautiful.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Bernie Sanders in 2016

"Finally, let's understand that when we stand together, we will always win. When men and women stand together for justice, we win. When black, white and Hispanic people stand together for justice, we win."

Bernie Sanders
Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! IT'S SUPER JEW!!!
I plan on voting for the Democratic ticket next year. For all their faults and perfectly hideous flaws, the Dems are light years more palatable than anything the GOP has to offer these days. Just look at the mob of knuckleheads and psychos that are today seeking the nomination of what is still laughably referred to as "the party of Abraham Lincoln". For the first time in many decades, a statesman is seeking the presidency of the United States. His name is Bernie Sanders, senator from the state of Vermont. He's the one I'm supporting.
Yeah, I know what some of you are thinking:
 Are you progressives going to cut off your noses to spite your faces like you did fifteen years ago with Ralph Nader???

It's a different scenario this time. In 2000, Ralph was running as a third party candidate. He ended up siphoning enough votes from Al Gore that (with the help of an ideologically perverted Supreme Court) virtually handed over the presidency to the half-witted frat boy from Crawford Texas. Bernie is running as a Democrat. If he's not able to secure the nomination at their convention next summer, you can count on the fact that he's not insane enough to launch a third-party-uprising - much as the tea partiers are likely to do if the Republicans choose as their standard bearer someone with an IQ above room temperature. Bernie's not stupid or spiteful, trust me on this one, folks.
Bernie Sanders has an uphill battle to be sure. Certainly he's not the most telegenic candidate ever to make his bid for the White House. His suits are not custom-tailored, his manner is just a bit gruff, and in a nation where only a generation ago, some "respectable" hotels were known to have signs posted that said, "No Jews or Dogs Allowed" - he has a lot of road to cover in order to get his message across. 
But he IS getting that message across. People are responding to Bernie - and the crowds he draws are more impressive than anyone else seeking the office. He's the only politician (and I use that word cautiously) who has the courage to say exactly what needs to be said: that America is in desperate need of a political revolution; not political "change" or political "house cleaning" - but "a political revolution" - his exact words. Is it any wonder why I'm supporting this guy?
Whatever happens between now and Election Day 2016 (and Heaven knows anything can happen) now is the time to just sit back and come face-to-face with the inescapable reality that this country is worth saving. That's only going to happen if we take a decided turn to the left. We're not going to be saved by the alleged "moderation" of Wall Street stooge Hillary Clinton - and shame on us if we're naive enough to entrust our future to the likes of Jeb Bush.

As I said, I'll be voting for the Democratic nominee in 2016. I hope that it's Bernie Sanders. And let's be honest: It's high time we had a Jewish guy living in the White House, don'cha think? Oy!
Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 
a film by David Grubin
I'll let you in on a little secret: I'm a frustrated Jew. Although a proportionately tiny minority in the American landscape, their contribution to our culture is as incalculable as it is undeniable. I've always been partial to the comedians. Can you imagine a world without Sid Caesar, Jack Benny, Lenny Bruce, Zero Mostel, The Marx Brothers, The Ritz Brothers, Robert Klein, Joan Rivers, Sheckey Greene or Jerry Lewis? I can't. And while we're on the subject, let's not forget Uncle Bobby Zimmerman!
Here is a link to purchase a DVD of this excellent, three-part series from

This one is a keeper.