Friday, July 31, 2015

Be Careful What You Wish For, Dems

 From yesterday morning's McClatchy News:
Revelations put [Hillary] Clinton in the cross-hairs of a broadening inquiry into whether she mishandled classified information. Officials reviewed five classified emails and determined that they included information from five intelligence agencies. State Department officials warned that there could be hundreds of classified emails.
"Life is unfair"
Because of the gerrymandering of congressional districts in too many states to count, it is almost a foregone conclusion that (barring a miracle) both the Senate and the House of Reprehensibles will be safely retained by the Republican Party come Election Day 2016 in spite of the fact that - just as in 2014 -  most people will probably cast their pathetic lot with the Democrats. That is the stark and hideous reality that we might as well come to terms with and deal with as best we can. "Tough shit", as the man once said; or, as Jack Kennedy once memorably put it in a 1961 press conference, "Life is unfair".
Tell me about it.
The only silver lining behind this exceedingly nasty cloud is that, for the first time since 1857, the Democrats have a really good shot at succeeding themselves on Inauguration Day. So deep into the ideological sewer has the GOP descended in recent years, it's hard to fathom any of these clowns walking away with the big prize a year-and-a-half from now. The general consensus seems to be that, although they may survive in the congress and governors' mansions and state legislatures for the foreseeable future, they've become unelectable on a national scale. As far as the White House is concerned, the grand old party is over.

Or is it?
That juicy scenario is in serious danger of being totally and irreparably blown to itty bitty pieces by the candidacy of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

This is not meant to imply that the former First Lady, Senator and Secretary of State is an incompetent fool; nor am I suggesting that the woman is the least bit  corrupt. What I am saying is that if the three branches of the government are ever again controlled by the right wing - for even half a day even - any slender thread of a hope of one day restoring this country's economic security for regular working people will be rendered ashes to the wind.

Billy Bob
We went down this road in 2000 when we foolishly decided that electing Billy Bob Babybrains to the office of president would be  a really neat idea. Remember how nicely that worked out for you? We don't want to go down that road again - trust me.

This can be said of Ms. Clinton without a smidgeon of equivocation: She's reckless and arrogant - a fact that is increasingly obvious with each passing day. The Dems really need to sit back, take a deep breath, and think long and hard about what they seem to be embarking on with respect to a Hillary candidacy in 2016. This could  very well end up exploding in their  clueless faces. I realize that it was a beautiful dream to once again shatter precedent by having the first African American chief-executive followed by the first woman - but - for the love of Mike - not Hillary Clinton. Even were she somehow able to pull it off  and make 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue her home again, she is too much of a Wall Street stooge for my tastes. Perhaps she might have surprised progressives everywhere by becoming the reincarnation of FDR - that was always my dream. But in the final analysis her candidacy is a gamble we cannot afford to take. The stakes are just too high when America finds itself teetering on the precipice.

It's not that Bill or Hillary Clinton are bad people, utterly void of any substance or merit. I like them personally - Honest I do! And I'm not implying that they haven't done wonderful things for the country they both undoubtedly love - they have. It's just that I don't believe in American political dynasties. It's probably fortunate that Teddy Kennedy lost his bid for the White House in 1980. He will be remembered as the "Lion of the Senate" and did more good for the country in that position than he ever would have been able to do n the Oval Office.  The reign of Bush II almost destroyed America. Bush III would be the final nail in the coffin.  It seems to me that a Clinton II candidacy makes the presidency of Jeb Bush all-the-more likely. If that happens we can kiss this country goodbye.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I'll go to my grave believing that one of the great tragedies of American history was that Bobby Kennedy was cut down by a mad man's bullet before he could reach the White House. Call me fickle.

I'm voting for the Democratic candidate next year, come heck or high water. Is it too much to ask that I be happy about for whom I cast my ballot? Are you listening, Senator Warren?

If the Democrats are smart (the jury's still out on that question) they'll think this one through very carefully.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Mornings on Horseback

by David McCullough 

This is the fascinating biography of the little boy and adolescent who grew up to be Theodore Roosevelt.

TR was our most interesting and brilliant president; I would go as far as putting him above Thomas Jefferson for sheer intellect. As biographer, David McCullough can do no wrong - as this book proves beyond a doubt. If you're interested in understanding what made Teddy tick, this is the place to look. Of great interest is the story of his father, Theodore, Sr. Although they were two men of entirely contradicting personalities and temperament, in a few instances the apple didn't fall terribly far from the tree. Here's a link to order it off of Amazon:

Can't recommend this one enough, kids. 

Friday, July 24, 2015


"Let no one be mistaken: Donald Trump's candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded." 
Talk about your WTF moment!

The Party of TR?
The most DEE-lightful thing (to paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt) about observing and commenting on the utter train-wreck of the modern-day conservative movement is the utter cluelessness of its main participants; Rick Perry is a noted case in point. In an attempt to coin a phrase, he called "Trumpism", "a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued." Well, yeah, he's off to a good start. As the ancient Chinese used to say, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step".  

But if Dr. Rick is serious about treating the patient, he would be wise to focus on the big picture which is the disease itself, not the symptom. Donald Trump is merely a symptom of a much more potentially fatal ailment - as, by the way, is Rick Perry. The "party of Theodore Roosevelt" has lost its freaking marbles. Can I get a witness?

Why is Trump ahead of everyone in the polling of potential GOP primary voters? That question is such a no-brainer that I'm almost embarrassed to pose it. The reason he is ahead of the pack at the moment  is simply because he is spewing out every one of the idiotic talking points (and inventing a few new ones in the process) that appeal to the half-witted "base" of that party. I'm fairly certain he doesn't believe three-quarters of what he says; he just knows exactly which buttons to press. Donald Trump is not an idiot - he merely plays one on TV. 

John Belushi
Personally, I'm loving The Donald carnival. If the Democrats had recruited a double agent to go out into the world in order to inflict as much political carnage on the Republican party as possible, they could not have succeeded more sweetly than what Trump has done and will continue to do in the fifteen months between now and Election Day 2016. As I've noted in previous postings, the last time one Democratic administration succeeded another one via the electoral process was on March 4, 1857; it hasn't happened since. So for people like me, who pine for the day that that disgusting party is permanently relegated to the shit pile of history, these are heady days indeed. Donald Trump is sort of our anti-hero, the political equivalent of Bluto Blutoski, the character played by the late John Belushi in Animal House.


That sums things up fairly nicely, Don'cha think? The fact that The Donald is now the front runner among those whom are likely to vote in the primaries next year is further evidence - as if anymore were really needed - that the Republican party will not be rehabilitating itself anytime soon. The only thing that will prevent the Democrats from retaining control of the executive next year will be a right wing coup d'etat.

They're working on that.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


The Romanov Sisters
by Elaine Rappaport

This is a biography of the  four daughters of the last Tsar of Russia. Finding themselves  innocent victims of one of the great tragedies of the twentieth century, how these extraordinary gals might have fared but for the shortsightedness of their father and mother is one of the great "what ifs" of history.

I read this one in a single weekend. Here's a link to order it off of

A great read.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Jeb! Jeb Who?

"My aspiration for the country and I believe we can achieve it, is 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see....It means that people need to work longer hours and, through their productivity, gain more income for their families. That’s the only way we’re going to get out of this rut that we’re in.”
John E. "Jeb" Bush
You see? The problem has not-a-thing to do with the fact that regular working people aren't getting paid a living wage. The problem is that the people need to put in longer hours! The Bush Policy: Let 'em eat cake. And this clown wants to be your president! Isn't life wonderful?

This has got to be one for the ages. So desperate is Jeb Bush to distance himself from the catastrophic administration of his brother, the guy is too embarrassed to place his last name on his campaign poster. He wants us to forget that nasty little fact in his biography. What candidate - of either party - has had to resort to this kind of pathos? I don't recall, either in 1968 or 1972, any Nixon campaign ads baring the name, "DICK!". Of course, in 1972 Nixon campaigned as "The President". By the time he sought re-election, a lot of Americans were fairly uncomfortable having him as their chief-executive; I mean, let's face it, the Trickster was kinda creepy, don'cha think? So I guess there is a bit of precedent here.

What amazes me - more than anything - is how another member of this incompetent, corrupt and disgusting family would believe that it is now "my turn". Just pondering this makes the needle on my arrogance meter crack in two. When one considers too many of his campaign advisers are the neo-conservative crackpots who littered Dubya's presidency, it's enough to give someone paying even scant attention the dry heaves. I refer to the folks who made up the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). You don't hear much about them anymore, but in the few years before George seized power, they were all over the airwaves and in print, literally advocating the takeover of the planet. Many of them, including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, ended up running the Bush II White House and dictating their foreign policy. Remember how nicely that worked out? Jeb Bush, by the way, was also part of the PNAC crowd - something he's not too comfortable about mentioning these days.

The result was the stupidest military blunder (not to mention the longest and costliest war in American history). Jebbie has said, more than once, that in matters of Middle Eastern affairs, his half-witted older brother is his most trusted source of advice. Seriously, folks: A third Bush administration in a generation is not a particularly dandy idea. I have a pretty good idea what I'm talking about. Be careful what you wish for, ya dig?

Teddy Boy
Of course, I'm really not at all alarmed at the spectacle of a Bush III candidacy. I'm absolute certain that he is not going to be the next president of the United States; nor do I believe he's going to be elected in 2020, 2024, 2028, 2032 - not ever. It's not in the cards, it's not in the stars. It's not on anybody's calendar - yours or mine. Let me be as clear as possible: There will never be a President Jeb Bush. He might not even get the nomination because - wait for it - HE'S TOO LIBERAL!!! That's right Mr. and Mrs America and all the ships at sea: John E. "Jeb" Bush is too much of a screaming lefty for the nitwits who long ago hijacked the GOP. And the screamingly funny thing is that the Tea Party types are almost certain to mount a third party uprising should that vague possibility miraculously come to pass. Ted Cruz is waiting in the wings, Jeb. Watch your ass, dude!

On the other hand. should Jebbie somehow manage to pull this off (and again: THAT'S NEVER GONNA HAPPEN) his term of office should prove to be quite amusing - much in the same way George's administration was quite amusing. Comedy is the natural bedfellow of incompetence. The Bush boys are always generous with those unintentional giggles they give out like candy canes at Christmastime.  Another Bush administration would be the ultimate win-win for someone like me. The rest of you, not-so-much.

Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber
It's an easy call to predict that whatever transpires, 2016 is going to be the campaign to end all campaigns, As gut-bustingly weird as 2012 and 2008 were in terms of sheer insanity, next year is going to be the caking on the ice. It's such a strange thing when you think about it. The dumbing down of America has been going on now for almost thirty-five years now. The quality of the candidates for the highest office in the land is proof of how effective that process has been. Much as I disliked Ronald Reagan and everything he stood for during the campaign of 1980, I had to admit that the man at least had a smidgeon of gravitas. That type of candidate is extinct, at least with respect to the GOP. Thirty-five years ago neither of the Brothers Bush would have been taken seriously by most people with an IQ above sixty. What a long, strange trip downward it's been, baby!

And the Democrats? They're not too far behind. They could do a lot better than Hillary Clinton. Although far and away the preferable choice when compared to anything the Republicans are liable to regurgitate, I have a funny feeling that she's not going to be the reincarnation of Franklin D. Roosevelt we on the left have been praying for since 1945. The ONLY candidate who is saying the things that the American people need to hear is Bernie Sanders, and he doesn't stand a chance.

Gosh, we sure do live in strange times.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


The Bush quote at the top of this piece was lifted from a recent column by Paul Krugman in the New York Times. It's a good piece (all of Krugman's stuff is excellent) and is highly recommended on this end. Here is a link to read it:

If you're looking for Mr. Paul, you can find him on the mountaintop.


by Douglas Brinkley

This is a pretty good biography - although not a great one. Brinkley gets a few things wrong, as in when he claims that Cronkite was the first American journalist to interview the Beatles. He never interviewed them. Still, it was as readable as any bio I think I've ever read. Also, he doesn't treat his subject with complete reverence, but portrays him warts and all. Fortunately, Walter Cronkite's warts were few. He was a good man - and one of the great broadcast journalists of the twentieth century. I miss Uncle Walter.

Friday, July 03, 2015

It's Called "Progress"

Somewhere under the rainbow....

Anything that sends the extreme right wing into a severe state of spastic apoplexy is indeed a beautiful thing. That photograph above is doing the trick nicely.

On the eve of our 239th celebration of Independence Day, in the wake of the 50th anniversary of President Johnson's signing of the Voting Rights Act, there's much room for some national reflection as we head into the Fourth of July weekend. This country is going through some milestone changes that are as unavoidable (and as inevitable) as the sun rise. 2015 will, I believe, be remembered in history for being just as pivotal in the nation's progress as 1963 was. That was the year that the American people gazed upon the chimes of freedom crashing. Try as they might, the picture before them could not be averted. A change was coming in 1963, and there was no way a rational person could deny it. 2015 is turning into that kind of year.

You say you want a revolution?

For all of President Obama's faults (and there have been many) he was custom-made for these transforming times. If at first he moved too gingerly for the tastes of a lot of us on the left, it appears that he's decided that the final year-and-a-half of his presidency will be an era that, a half century into the future, liberals will be remembering as the good old days. A raising of the glass and a tipping of the hat to the guy: He's had a great two weeks,

I was just thinking of the irony: Forty years ago I was a teenaged homophobe of the most pathetic variety. In 1977 at the age of nineteen, I found myself living in a fairly gay neighborhood in Philadelphia; that's when my attitude commenced to change. I actually made an effort to get to know a few of them and, wonder of wonders, they weren't half bad. In fact (at least from my experience) they're the best neighbors one could hope for.  Today I am a hard-core supporter of gay rights. I have evolved. Go figure.

We need to be patient with our conservative friends. Most of them will eventually get with the program. Most of them today will admit that the Voting and Civil Rights Acts were a pretty good idea in hindsight. It's the hard-core, Tea Party types that we need to write off. Don't hold your breath waiting for any of them to see the light. The NRA will rename their national headquarters after John Lennon before that ever happens, so forget it.

Here in Goshen we have something every Fourth of July called The Great American Weekend. I'm really going to celebrate this year. We all should.

Have a great American weekend, everybody.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Talk about your mind-bogging coincidences:

John Phillips
I not too long ago fiished reading Doris Kearns-Goodwin's latest book: a biography of Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft - and the muck-raking journalists who defined that golden age of investigative journalism in the late nineteenth, early twentieth centuries. One sentence on page 178 stuck out. It described John S. Phillips, one of the founding editors of McClure's Magazine:

"Phillips lived in the city during the week so that he cou...ld be available day and night; on weekends, he joined his wife, Jennie, and their small children in Goshen, NY, a small town in the foothills of the Catskills."

That got me to thinking, I wonder if I could find out where this fellow lived. After a few minutes pondering this thought, my memory was jarred by a thunderbolt revelation: I know exactly where he lived - 48 South Street - THE HOUSE I GREW UP IN!!!

As the great Steven Wright once said, "It's a small world, but I wouldn't want to paint it."

Sheria Reid
UPDATE, 3:06 PM:

I received the horrible news a little while ago that my friend, Sheria Reid, author of the insightful blog, The Examined Life, died unexpectedly on Tuesday morning of a massive heart attack. If you've read my stuff with any degree of regularity over the last nine years, you'll know that I have quoted her and linked her excellent site a number of times.  She was a brilliant writer and a beautiful soul. Now please excuse me while I try to adjust to a world without Sheria Reid. This is going to take quite a bit of doing.

Here is a link to Sheria's blog:

She was as good as it gets.