Thursday, March 31, 2016

POST #634: Random Observations

Awaiting instructions from Moscow. Didn't you just figure?

What follows is merely a collection harmless diatribes that I had posted here and there out in the Facebooksphere or in my handy-dandy notebook. I've been sitting here all morning and half of the night trying to figure out what to write. It's not writers block, but simply a case of "where the heck do I begin???" All similarities to any persons, living or dead, is purely intentional.
1. Still Feelin' the Bern

A little over two weeks ago (on this very site, don'cha know!) I fairly well wrote off the revolutionary candidacy of Bernie Sanders as "a lost cause". Wish I could take that back (of course, I could delete it but that would be sneaky). Bernie is determined to take his quest to the bitter end, and, with each passing day, it is becoming more likely that this quest is not the impossible dream I had imagined. As has been said here too many times to count in the last decade, this country is only going to be saved if the American people take a decided turn to the left; otherwise we're doomed. President Sanders would be a sweet step in the right direction.

2. Donald and the Dumb-Down

The Donald, it seems, cannot piss off the halfwits who comprise the Tea Party base. His monumental gaffes only serve his ambitions - or so it would seem. So heart-breakingly dumbed-down have the overwhelming majority of conservatives in this country become in recent years, his candidacy was a disaster waiting to happen. It doesn't matter really who wins the nomination in Cleveland this summer: Trump or Cruz, the Republican Party is finished. The only thing that will save them at this point is a coup d'etat (and don't think for a minute they're not seriously considering one. Shh!

3. Sarah's Meltdown

Recent video postings by Sarah Palin have been very amusing on the one hand, and quite disturbing on the other. It would appear that the poor soul is becoming a bit unhinged - that is to say - more unhinged than we've come to expect. It is amazing when you consider that, less than seven years ago, a major American political party chose this shallow, incurious woman to be second on their presidential ticket. Sarah Palin in 2008 was merely a prelude to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in 2016. John McCain will be eighty years old on August 29 of this year. To think that she might have been "a heartbeat away from the presidency" at this very moment is enough to give the most strongest of constitutions the dry heaves. We really dodged a bullet there, folks.

4. The Trouble with Kasich

Let me be as clear as possible: I would never vote for John Kasich for president; I don't particularly envy the good people of Ohio having him as their governor. Having said that, it's only fair that I point out that Kasich was the least reprehensible of all the candidates traveling in the GOP's 2016 Clown Car. For that reason alone, he doesn't stand a chance of being nominated by that party. Having watched him the other evening being interviewed at a town hall meeting by NBC's Chuck Todd, I had to concede that he's a fairly astute dude. Although he is definitely a right-winger, it has to be said  that he's not an extremist (or at least, that's how he presents himself - Heaven knows what he's really thinking). That kind of politician no longer has a place within the Republican Party. That is why they will very soon disappear.

As Lenny Bruce once said in another context: "There's gonna be a lotta dues, Jim!" Indeed.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

The Comedians
by Kliph Nesteroff

This history of stand-up comedy covers the years from the early twentieth century to the present time. I couldn't put this one down; in fact I read the whole thing in about a day and a half. If you're half as passionate about comedy and comedians as I am, you won't regret investing in this one. Although they are the national treasure of any country, this book reinforces something I've known for a long time: Comedians tend to be among the most dysfunctional human beings on the planet (no state secret there). My only complaint was a handful of glaring omissions (Andy Kaufman, Steven Wright, and Martin Short in particular). Other than that, it's perfect. 
It was a bit of a jolt for baby boomers who can remember "The Patty Duke Show" and "It's Gary Shandling's Show" to learn that both actors passed away this week at the age of sixty-nine. They're starting to fade away.
From "The Rant", April 9, 2013:
This is getting to be an awkward time for me, at least as far as memories are concerned. The teenage icons of my early childhood - not terribly far removed from me in terms of age - are beginning to fade into eternity. When I was a little boy they seemed eternally youthful and indestructible. They weren't, of course. They were (and are) as vulnerable as any of us in their grip on that brittle thread that binds us to this earth. For every soul who goes before me I fear it less and less.
Has anybody here seen my old friend Lennon?

Friday, March 25, 2016

Just Say Whoah! Nixon's War On Blacks

"You want to know what this is really all about? The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the anti-war left and black people. You understand what I'm saying?"
John Ehrlichman
Aide to President Richard M. Nixon
Yeah, we understand, Johnny; all too well.
In the forty-two years since Dick Nixon resigned from the presidency in complete and utter disgrace, his apologists have held up the hope that, with the passing of the decades, historians would begin to revision him. Delivering the eulogy at his funeral in May of 1994, President Bill Clinton declared that the time had come to judge Nixon by his entire career, not merely through the jagged prism  of the Watergate scandal. Indeed, we no longer view Nixon through the same lens with which we viewed him on August 9, 1974, the day he was sent packing. That's the good news. Are you ready for the bad? It was worse than any of us ever imagined in our wildest, most demented dreams. As more and more tapes and hidden memoirs are made public, it becomes clearer with the passing of each year: This was one despicably evil son-of-a-bitch.
This undeniable fact was brought home to me, yet again, when I scanned the front page of Wednesday's New York Daily News:
The so-called "war on drugs" was nothing more than a pogrom developed for no other reason than to persecute African Americans and the counter-culture. Now that we know the motivation behind the "war", do you think this might be as good a time as any to end it? I'm just putting the thought out there.

Ehrlichman, who died in 1999, was interviewed five years earlier by writer, Dan Baum, for a book called, "Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure". At the time, Mr. Baum thought that this little  bombshell was not pertinent to his thesis, and, for reasons known only to him,  he inexplicably chose to delete it from the manuscript. Nixon's handmaidens  are, at the moment, beside themselves in a desperate attempt to explain away this major - and quite scandalous - revelation. Their spin is that this is merely a case of rancid grapes, that poor old Johnny never forgave the Trickster for not granting him full and unconditional pardon  (he would serve eighteen months in prison for his crimes). Ehrlichman was usually pretty candid about his role in the Nixon administration. He kindly elaborated further:

"We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be against the war - or black - but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana, and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities....Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did,"


None of this has surprised me a bit. Anyone possessing even a cursory knowledge of the life of the old bastard knows full well that, in addition to Jews and "lefties", Dick Nixon had a serious problem with minorities in general and black people in particular.

During the campaign of '68, Southern resentment toward Lyndon Johnson and the Democrats was festering. For over a century Dixie had been solidly Democratic. They just couldn't bring themselves to ally with the party of "that bearded bastard that  freed our slaves". That all changed when LBJ signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964, followed by the Voting Rights act of 1965.  The hostility of the Dixiecrats gave Nixon the political opportunity of the millennium. He and his henchmen cooked-up what came to be known as "the Southern Strategy".

In the aftermath of the nationwide urban riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Nixon let it be known, in a not-too-subtle way, that "law 'n' order" would be the order of the day in his administration, and that the good, God-fearin' folks south of the Mason-Dixon line would no longer be jolted by uprisings from these filthy, ill-mannered negroes - forget the fact that the riots were almost exclusively limited to Northern cities.

The scam worked. "The Solid South" has been solidly Republican ever since. Don'cha just love politics? I do. I really do!

I've read enough biographies of Richard Milhous Nixon to know that he was a really smart guy - one of the smartest men to hold that office in the twentieth century. Even his most ardent detractors concede that he wasn't stupid - arrogant, yes - but very intelligent. I also know that he was psychologically unbalanced and that he never should have gotten within ten feet of the Oval Office. To think that for over four decades, generations of Americans, most of them African American  or Hispanic, have suffered needlessly under our insanely punitive drug laws for no other reason than Dick Nixon's desire to score some cheap political points and win re-election in 1972.  It defies any and all senses of human decency. We need to stop apologizing for this vile, contemptible bigot.  

When Harry S Truman's presidency expired on January 20, 1953, his popularity among the American electorate was lower than any chief-executive in modern American history.  It was even lower than George W. Bush's rating when he left the White House (which is an achievement in itself when  you think about it). By that time, the right wing SCREAM MACHINE, in the person of Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, was just finding its voice. Posterity's judgment has been kinder to Harry than his contemporaries were. I'll never forget the final sentence of David McCullough's biography of the man:

"He stands like a rock in history."

The Trickster won't be one/tenth as lucky. He stands like a turd. Richard Milhous Nixon  needs to be consigned to history's dust bin - immediately.

I'll close this with a quote from the late Hunter Thompson, the most outspoken Nixon critic of them all:

“It is Nixon himself who represents that dark, venal and incurably violent side of the American character that almost every country in the world has learned to fear and despise. Our Barbie-doll president, with his Barbie-doll wife and his boxful of Barbie-doll children is also America's answer to the monstrous Mr. Hyde. He speaks for the Werewolf in us; the bully, the predatory shyster who turns into something unspeakable, full of claws and bleeding string-warts on nights when the moon comes too close…”


Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Witness to Power
by John Ehrlichman

A very interesting political memoir to say the least. Ehrlichman was there at the scene of the crime, and is as candid as any insider ever was about the corruption of the Nixon Mob.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Next Phase Begins

Although 2016 is turning out to be the most depressing political year since the uber debacle of 1968, we might at least console ourselves with this fact: It certainly hasn't been boring - that's pretty obvious. In fact, in terms of pure political theater, this primary season is an unparalleled delight. One political party has lost its mooring, the other its sanity. These are interesting times to be alive.

The biggest news last night (although the least surprising) was the withdrawal from the race of the GOP's golden child, Marco Rubio. Say what you want about the poor schlub, at least he was smart enough to see the writing on the wall. When he was unable to carry his own state of Florida, it was all over. The story of the implosion of the Rubio campaign illustrates perfectly the utter ideological chaos of the Republican Party. As comically right wing as the senator is, he just isn't extreme enough for the imbeciles and crazy people who have hijacked "the party of Abraham Lincoln". It is now a two-man race between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump - two of the most unstable candidates in American history. Although the least nauseating of the bunch, Rubio never stood a chance. If that very fact doesn't scream untold volumes about the state of conservatism in America, nothing will.

"And something is happening but you don't know what it is
Do you, Mr. Jones."

Bob Dylan

Although most "professional" Republicans are in an absolute panic regarding their prospects for Election Day, your average, rank-and-file primary voter is utterly clueless concerning the direction this is headed. They seem to be in a state of utter denial. On Inauguration Day next year, for the first time in one-hundred and sixty years, one Democratic administration will follow another one into the executive mansion. That's the good news. The bad news is that the next president will more-than-likely be Hillary Rodham Clinton. It's incredible to think that so awful a candidate should be a shoe-in to be elected. That's how bad things have gotten for the Republicans.

Here's something you can take to the bank: Political conventions have become so scripted and antiseptic in the last forty years that they're too boring to watch anymore. Donald Trump has predicted that if he is denied the nomination there will be riots. Since the movers and shakers on the RNC are working overtime at this very moment to make sure that he, in fact, does not receive the nomination, and given the general instability of your average Trump mob, the Republican laugh fest in Cleveland this summer will be the first political convention since the Democrats' disaster in Chicago in '68 that will be worth watching - gavel to gavel. That is just gonna be oodles of fun.

It's hard to say what Bernie Sanders will do now that his candidacy is all-but-doomed. I hope he sticks it out for no other reason than to keep Hillary from moving back to the center. His existence in the race has forced her to take stands on a few issues she would no-doubt have preferred to remain silent on. She has taken positions that she'll be hard-pressed to back track on if she is finds herself living in the White House in ten months. We can thank Bernie Sanders for that. In the final analysis his quest for the presidency will not have been in vain.

It's okay to still feel the Bern.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
Judge Merrick Garland

President Obama has just nominated Chief Judge of the DC Circuit Court of appeals, Merrick Garland (no relation to Judy I'm sure) to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left with the passing of Antonin Scalia last month. Neither a liberal firebrand nor a conservative extremist, Garland is apparently as middle of the road as it is possible to be. The Republican "brand" is so badly damaged these days, they would be smart to confirm him as soon as possible.

Wishful thinking, I know.

AFTERTHOUGHT. 3/18/16, 1127 AM:
A few months ago, some anonymous person - whether trying to be funny or spiteful (I'm not sure) - put me on the mailing list of the Ted Cruz For President campaign. I received a note from Ted just a few minutes ago, soliciting a contribution:

"Tom....[me 'n' Ted are on a first-name basis - ain't that a riot?] Because you have been one of my most loyal supporters -- I'm reaching out to you first. This could be a huge boost for my campaign -- even the difference between winning and losing. Will you help?"

Sure, Ted. The check's in the mail.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Donald! Donald! Uber Alles!

A couple of years ago on this site I noted that within less than fifty years time (a microsecond in terms of human history) white people would no longer be the ruling majority in this country. My prediction was that the most important story of the next couple of generations would be how Americans in general (and white Americans in particular) would deal with this inevitable, non-deniable sociological reality. Judging by the behavior of the folks attending two mass rallies for Donald Trump yesterday, one in St. Louis, the other in Chicago (which had to be canceled due to the threat of immanent violence), we're not off to a very promising start.

When he announced way back in June that he was seeking the office of the presidency, no one (myself included) took The Donald's candidacy very seriously. Nine months later we find that he is on the verge of becoming the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party. No doubt about it, 2016 is turning out to be one very strange political year.

I have this nagging suspicion that the Democrats have secretly hired Donald Trump and Ted Cruz as undercover espionage agents to infiltrate the GOP in order to do as much damage to that disgusting party as is humanly possible to do. If that is indeed the case, they could not have succeeded more brilliantly in hammering the final nails into the coffin of an organization that was founded one-hundred and sixty years ago for the noble purpose of ending slavery in the United States. Think about that for a second: From Abraham Lincoln to Donald Trump. In the parlance of Alcoholics Anonymous, that is what is known as "hitting rock bottom". Is it any wonder that the blubbering pinheads on the Republican National Committee are in the process of a collective nervous breakdown? Did you ever see such a sight in your life? CAN I GET A WITNESS???

What a long, strange trip it's been....

The passing of Nancy Reagan this week has rendered the American people, yet again, nostalgic for the days of Ronniemania. I was never a fan of the gipper; in fact it has always been my opinion that the damage the old freak did to this country was so immense that it would never be accurately assessed - we're talking incalculable here, kids! And yet, even I (and I'm loathe to admit it), have found myself these past few days looking back upon the Reagan years with a nauseating sense of twisted longing. Even Dubya is starting to seem marginally palatable to me. Can you believe that? Give a starving dog a piece of rancid sirloin and the poor creature will eat it every single time.

The only reason the phenomenon of Donald Trump was such a surprise is simply that, in studying the GOP's devolution, a lot of us assumed that it would take another few years before things got as weird as they are at present. It is obvious to anyone paying attention for the last thirty-five years that the Republicans have been inching themselves - slowly but surely - to a very dark and disturbing place. Some of us have been caught off guard to learn that the "inching" has been a little faster than we had previously suspected. This is a party that has lost its reason - or have you already noticed?

Straitjackets for elephants. Has anyone thought of that?

I'm trying to convince myself that, after witnessing the behavior yesterday of the Trump Mob in Chicago and St. Louis, the voters in this Tuesday's primaries might be smart enough to pause and ask themselves if this is really the road America needs to go down. Of course, that would be giving them more credit that they deserve. Maybe they'll surprise me. I'll let you know if a pig flies by my window.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


George Martin has died at age ninety. I'm happy to say that I had the honor of meeting him back in 1997. And to think that in 1962 he would take a gamble on signing up a band of unknown scruffs from Liverpool to a recording contract. That is just one example of the debt we owe this courageous and visionary musician.


In 2010 George Martin's son, Giles, gave a personal tour of the Abbey Road/EMI studio facilities to my brother, Pete, our pal Kevin Swanwick, and yours truly. Here is a link to a piece I wrote about it at the time:

We followed her down from a bridge by a fountain, and she led us to the doors of Studio Two. Life is beautiful.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Making America Hole Again

The Uber Tuesday Hangover

I'll be brief this morning....

No one paying attention was too surprised by the final outcome, I'm sure. The only thing that stunned me was the fact that Ted Cruz did as well as he did, winning Alaska and Oklahoma in addition to his home state of Texas. I thought (and said on this blog) that as of today his campaign would be finished. That's not the case - not yet anyway. Poor Marco Rubio only managed to carry Minnesota. I thought he might fare a little better than that. The movers and shakers on the RNC are desperate to give his candidacy a much-needed shove. It may be too little too late. We shall see.

As expected, Governor John Kasich and Dr. Ben Carson barely managed a half-a-blip between them.

Reports you might have read on this site about the death of Bernie Sanders' campaign have been greatly exaggerated. The guy is going to go the distance. Good for him. Bernie is the most decent man to seek the office since George McGovern took on the monumentally corrupt Nixon administration in 1972. Like George's quest forty-four years ago, Bernie's is probably doomed as well. When this is all over, he'll be the only one in this race with his integrity intact. I'll be supporting the guy until the bitter end. I'm a sucker for lost causes, what can I tell you....

But the biggest non-surprise of the evening were the victories of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Money and name-recognition: it will never fail in the long run. Generally, most Democrats are delighted with Secretary Clinton's showing last night. Their glee may be a tad misplaced. Although an intelligent woman, she is (and I'll put this as gently as possible) a jaw-droppingly awful candidate. (Sorry, I couldn't help myself). When compared to Bernie, Hillary's progressive credentials are paper thin. Her presence on the ticket as standard-bearer for the Democratic Party could very well be enough to make liberals like myself stay home on Election Day. Her victory last night is yet another personal reminder that I did the right thing leaving that party in 1998.

For the record: I'll be voting on Election Day 2016, come heck or high water - you'd better believe it  - but I'll be holding my nose.

Last night, the bells of doom tolled for the GOP. This is the 630th piece I have written on The Rant. The very first one I ever wrote on this site almost ten years ago was called, "George W. Bush: The Last Republican President". The outcome of the Super Tuesday primary might, in the end, prove me to have been prescient. From Lincoln to Trump. This unsettling fact proves only that Darwin was wrong.

This is not a proud day for America in general - and the Republican Party in particular. We'll just leave it at that.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


A few months ago someone put me on the mailing list of the Ted Cruz Campaign. I still cannot figure out if this person was being spiteful or funny. Whatever his or her motivation, I get a real kick out of these daily updates - which always solicit donations. Less than five minutes ago, I received this amusing message:

"Tom, we won huge victories in Texas, Oklahoma, and Alaska last night, and the campaign is now down to a two person race -- me vs. Donald Trump. Heidi and I owe you a debt of gratitude....Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"

Sure, Ted. Don't mention it. 

Democracy is Coming

Get the fuck out of the way.