Saturday, April 30, 2016

Hillary and Donald: The Inevitables

It's all-but-certain: 2016 is going to be a surreal retread of 1968 - minus all of the cool music. There will be no Beatles in 2016. Bummer, man.

If you'll be kind enough to recall (or if you know your history) 1968 was the year when the American electorate were presented with a choice between Richard M. Nixon and Hubert  H. Humphrey, which, to put it as mildly as possible, was really no choice at all. On Election Day '68, I was ten-years-old - too young to cast a ballot. Had I been of-age during that horrible year, I have little doubt whom I would have voted for. There were two comedians running as write-in candidates that year: Pat Paulsen (a featured player on the Smothers Brothers program) and Dick Gregory. Paulsen's candidacy was a perfectly sick, cynical (and brilliant) joke, while Gregory was in earnest. I probably would have voted for Greg over Pat - but it would have been a tough call, I assure you. 1968 was that kind of year. With respect to Nixon and Humphrey, what thinking person gave a damn?

That was the year that Bobby Kennedy was murdered in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, minutes after winning the California primary. All hope died at that moment. Perhaps he would have been our political salvation; or perhaps he would have turned out to be the prototype of Bill Clinton. Shit! We'll never know.

Here's the grim choice we'll probably be presented with in 2016: Bill's power-obsessed wife or Donald Trump. It all comes down to that. I find it poignantly amusing that a few GOP politicians, all of whom had previously tolled the chimes of doom for this country if Trump ever made it to the White House, are now ready and willing to endorse him. Party before country as far as these jackasses are concerned. To hell with the American people. Once upon a more tranquil time, I was a loyal Democrat. In May of 1998 I bolted that spineless, incompetent party. The Clintons were the last straw. My loyalty was (and still is) to my country. 

Here is (yet again) another example of the Democrats' genius for turning champagne into donkey piss. They were handed - on a silver platter - the most visionary candidate in their history (more than FDR even) and they have told him, in effect, to take a flying leap. Someone like Bernie Sanders comes around only once in a lifetime. Here's the good news: The next time a candidate of Bernie's vision comes down the pike, the Democratic and Republican parties will both have been consigned to history's garbage bin. There's a dandy thought for you. 

Good riddance to them all.

And please don't mistake my trepidation regarding Ms. Clinton as sexism. My first choice as candidate (before any politician - including Bernie Sanders) would have been Elizabeth Warren. She chose not to run and I have no doubt she had perfectly good reasons not to. I hope she changes her mind in 2020. She's the best thing to happen to progressive politics in this warped country in a long time.

I might vote on Election Day. I might not. I'm seriously tempted to cast a write-in ballot for Bernie Sanders. I live in New York. Hillary Clinton will win this state handily. I would not be so careless if I lived in a so-called "purple state". A choice between Clinton and Trump is a choice between Tweedle Bad and Tweedle Badder. While it's a horrible thought to visualize her as chief executive, Trump would be a catastrophe, probably signifying the end of the United States as we once knew it. You think I'm being an alarmist? Fine. I've got a really nutty idea: Let's all vote for The Donald in November and see what happens.

Are you at least able to understand my exasperation? What's the point of believing in the system when so many so-called "liberals" are willing to cast their lot with a corporate shill like Hillary? Why bother caring when a plutocratic whore like The Donald is on the verge of receiving the nomination from a party that (at one time) was the ideological base of Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower? The people of this idiotic nation are going to deserve everything that happens to them.

Tonight I have a serious buzz. Desperate times require desperate measures, as they say. This country will only be saved by taking a hard turn to the left. Don't hold your breath waiting for the electorate to wake up. Americans don't get it. They never will. This is the place where, nearly forty years after the invention of photography, slavery was still a legal and cherished institution. In fact it still is. Just take a look at the Prison Industrial Complex. We have more people rotting in prisons than any other industrialized nation on this planet. We're about as much "the land of the free" as we are the land of the purple unicorn. Get a grip.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Thanks to Frances Ruth Harris for providing me with the Weekly Standard cover. 


Blue Highways 
By William Least Heat-Moon

In the late seventies, William Least Heat-Moon (it's a native-American name) lost his job as a professor at a Missouri college and took off in his van to discover America. What he did was quite interesting: During his journey he avoided the interstates and traveled only by back roads and two-lane highways. He encountered a great country filled with kind, thoughtful and hard-working people; a country that is worth saving in other words. This isn't a travelogue. This is great literature. In some ways it reminded me of Henry David Thoreau's Walden Pond, the difference being that, while Thoreau's observations were written within the confines of a pond in the New England wilderness, Heat-Moon covered a continent. Another difference is, to be completely frank, Blue Highways is a lot more readable. At times, Walden seemed the literary equivalent of drinking saltwater taffy out of a paper cup. 

Blue Highways is still in print. If it's not available from your friendly, independently owned book store (like they really exist any longer) here's a link to order it off of

Thanks to friend, Brian Sager, for making me aware of this one. I'm embarrassed to say that I had never heard of it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Gimme That Old Time Fascism

I've been more than a bit disappointed in Paul Krugman as of late. His support of Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries makes no sense at all. What is more disturbing than that is the fact that, in the past twenty years, the man has been proven over time to be in the right on every single issue he's confronted. Why should this time be the exception to the rule? It's not too much of a stretch to think that maybe he knows something that I don't know. After all, he's a pretty smart fellow - but Hillary Clinton??? As I've stated on this site before, perhaps she'll surprise us. Perhaps Mr. Paul is in on her "secret plan". Maybe, but I'm not optimistic. Hillary leaves me cold; and there has been nothing in her campaign to change my mind on that score.

On some YouTube site this morning, a well-meaning but utterly clueless Sanders supporter claimed that "she is not the Democratic Party." This poor guy has missed the point entirely. The problem with Hillary Clinton is that she is the Democratic Party. She's one of the reasons I left the Dems eighteen years ago next month. With donkeys like her, who the heck needs those elephants?

They long ago forgot that they're supposed to be the party of FDR. They're not any longer. That's been the case for a very long time - we're takin' decades. Sherrod Brown and Elizabeth Warren are the exceptions. They've never been the rule. Perhaps that might change, but I'm not going to hold my breath. In the mean time we're forced to contend with the Hillary Clintons and the Chuck Schumers. I need a drink.

There is a growing fear out there that, if denied the nomination, Senator Sanders will mount a third party uprising. Relax. If Hillary ends up being the nominee, I'm certain he will urge all of us to get behind her. Bernie loves this country too well to do anything as despicable as that. Sad to say but, if nominated, Clinton will be the lesser of two evils - or as Ralph Nader might have said - "the evil of two lessers". Whatever the case, it's a given that she'll be (I think) preferable to anything the Republicans are likely to puke up (I hope).

What Me Worry?
But Krugman made a great point in a recent New York Times column regarding the Republican primaries and the current contest between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. As indescribably horrible as a Trump administration would prove for this already-doomed nation (not to mention the entire planet) a "President Cruz" would be far worse. To be honest with you, I really don't think that that's gonna happen. Not even the American people are that completely naive. The problem is this: No sooner does that idea come to my mind when I'm hammered by the memory that this is the same thought I had sixteen years ago with regard to George W. Bush. The American people would never send this moron to the White House - or so I thought. They even ended up re-electing the guy. Ain't that something?

Are you ready for the punchline? So extreme are the current headliners in the GOP quest to take back the White House, Bush is starting to look like a moderate.

Wait! It gets even better! Ronald Reagan is starting to look like Abraham Freakin' Lincoln! Aren't these interesting times? They are, you know. They really are!

But Ted Cruz is something else indeed. This country would not survive a Cruz administration. I'm not saying that I would mind terribly much to see him inaugurated next January 20; in fact, it would be the best thing that ever happened to me - much in the same way that Dubya's reign of error suited my purposes quite nicely. When one's vocation is highlighting the utter destruction of a country that was (at one time) a nice place in which to live, something as completely weird and preposterous as old Ted makes one's task a bit easier to say the least. And let's face some irrefutable facts here: While we are descending steadily into the abyss, at least we can be comforted by the thought that we'll be laughing all the way. The guy is a riot of unintentional mirth.

I always pride myself on being able to find these little silver linings. It's a gift.

Ted Cruz is a dangerous dingbat and a demagogue of the first (and worst) order. Show me someone who would humorously speculate whether or not middle eastern sand would "glow in the dark" after a nuclear strike, and I'll show you someone who probably should not be placed within a thousand miles of the Oval Office. This is common sense, folks. I cannot believe that so many of our fellow citizens would believe that sending this chucklehead and sociopath to the White House would be a jolly good idea.

As the man once said, "Be careful what you wish for".

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
MY cousin, Patricia Cullen sent me a link a couple of days ago to this column from the New Orleans Uptown Messenger. The writer, a guy named Owen Courreges, makes no bones regarding the fact that he is vehemently opposed to the very idea of a fifteen-dollar-an-hour minimum wage. Here is my response in the comments section:
"You tell us that it is unfair to pay fifteen dollars an hour to "unskilled labor". I disagree. By your own admission prices would rise only "slightly" (your word). I don't know about you, but I would be delighted to pay fifty cents more for a Big Muck (not a typo) knowing that the person preparing it was receiving a wage he or she could live on. Or better still, maybe the corporate dynamos way atop the McDonalds food chain (pun intended) could take a pay cut of several million dollars. They would still be exceedingly wealthy men and women. Just a thought.
"And while we're on the subject of food, here's a little tidbit to munch on: In the states where "unskilled labor" earn the highest wages, those economies are doing much better than those where wages are the lowest - particularly in the old confederacy where (WHAT A COINCIDENCE!) Louisiana happens to be located.
"Your argument is riddled with examples of the utter futility of conservative thought. Wake up and smell the elephant dung, Owen.
"Raise the minimum wage to fifteen bucks per hour and watch your economy go through the roof. In countries like Norway and Sweden, fast food workers make the equivalent of $25.00 per hour and more. Last I checked (which was less than five minutes ago) those places are doing quite nicely."

Although I tried twice to post that message in the comments section, the Uptown Messenger refused to publish it. Cowards. Within less than an hour after I wrote it, I learned that the CEO of McDonalds has just given himself a three-hundred percent pay raise. Nice work if you can get it.

You can read Owen Courreges' article here:

It's only fair that I post  a link to it so you can judge for yourself:

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Bad Days Here in New York

I'm resigned to the (almost) inevitability that Hillary Clinton is going to be the Democratic nominee this summer. If that turns out to be the case, if I'm forced to make a choice between her or Donald Trump - or Ted Cruz - I won't even bother voting on Election Day. That statement is not as irresponsible as it might seem. I live in New York, a decidedly blue state. It won't take a smidgen of effort for Hillary Clinton to win the place she's called home for the last fifteen years. It would be a different story if I were living in Florida or Michigan. If that were the case I would work overtime for her. The fact of the matter is simply that she doesn't inspire me, and, to be blunt about it, I just don't trust her. She's about as much of a progressive as her husband is. Translate that to read: Not very progressive at all.

I'll have better things to be doing on November 8, I'm sure. 

I know that most Liberals would like to see the first woman follow the first African American into the White House (and if she is inaugurated in January that will be the only silver lining) but she wasn't quite the woman I had in mind.

Politically speaking, Elizabeth Warren is the love of my life. She is one of the depressingly few politicians out there telling the American people what they desperately need to hear (Bernie Sanders is another). I'm sure she had dandy reasons for not running. One of those reasons may have been that she saw all of the obstruction (call it "treason" if you wish) that the Republicans threw in Barack Obama's path for all of the last seven years and decided - the hell with it. Who could blame her if that is, indeed, the case? And what's the use of trying to govern a nation where so many of the population sincerely believe the old Reagan mantra that "government is the problem"? At least she's making a difference where she is.

"Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred."

Franklin Delano Roosevelt
31 October 1936
Squirrelly Man
On Election Day 2008, I really was naïve enough to believe that Obama would practically be the second coming of FDR. That didn't turn out to be the case. That being said, I have never regretted voting for the man, and as we near the end of his tenure, I have to concede that he's been a pretty good president. But I wanted more. You see, I was pining for greatness. Considering all of the nonsense he was forced to put up with, I suppose we ought to cut the guy some slack. When the history of these times is written in the not-too-distant future, Obama's legacy will stand fairly tall, while his detractors - the McConnells, the Boehners, the Palins, et. al. - will all end up looking like psychologically deranged little squirrels. No amount of revisionism will be able to white wash their legacies. For the past sixty years, the extreme right wing has been trying to do just that with Joe McCarthy. You will be kind enough to notice that it hasn't worked out too well for them. Old Joe still languishes at the top of history's scrap heap where he belongs - and where he'll remain.

So that's where we stand. The New York primary is Tuesday, and there's little doubt that Hillary is going to walk away with it. Perhaps she'll surprise us by magically transforming herself into the type of politician we've been praying for, but I'm not going to hold my breath. I'm also not giving up on Bernie. Where there's life there's hope, you know?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

AFTERTHOUGHT, 4/18/16, 5:27 AM:

Don't let the polls (or me) discourage you. If you're a resident of New York State, and you're a supporter of Bernie Sanders, get out there and vote in tomorrow's primary like your life depended on it. I'm ineligible to partake in the process because I bolted the Dems in May of 1998. I'm making up for it by trying to get out the vote. Bernie can still win this thing, but it involves getting as many people to the polls as possible. Don't stop feeling the Bern, baby!


Song of India by Rimsky-Korsakov


Just sit back and let this piece overtake you. It's one of the most beautiful compositions I've ever heard.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Bernie Sanders for President

Feel the Bern!

It's interesting: For every jaw-droppingly stupid move our "leaders" have made over the last thirty-plus years, there is a video available of Bernie Sanders trying to put a stop to it. In fact, they're all over the internet. This has to be the most prescient politician to come along since Abraham Lincoln.

This may be a badly kept secret, but I am supporting Bernie Sanders for president. SURPRISE! I'm not trying to imply that my endorsement means all that much - I really wish it did. Despite one-and-a-quarter million hits in the last four years, my audience, I'll concede, is pretty small when compared with Alternet or the Huffington Post (I'm working on that). All I can do here is give you my reasons for why I believe he would be a good and maybe (dare I say it?) great chief executive. 

I attempted a couple of weeks ago to re-register as Democrat (temporarily, I assure you) just so I could cast my vote for Bernie in the upcoming New York primaries. That is what is known as an act of desperation. As it turned out, my efforts were in vain. The nice woman at my local board of elections informed me that in order to vote in this primary season, I should have made the switch back in November. I'm still an independent.

Bernie Sanders is holding up a mirror to American society and forcing all of us to look very carefully at what is being reflected. A lot of people don't particularly care for that image, and many "professional Democrats" are derisively dismissing him as being unelectable - in the same manner they condescended toward the candidacy of an obscure African American politician from Chicago when he sought the White House eight years ago. Bernie is addressing issues that for decades have been ignored by politicians of both parties - issues that are screaming to be dealt with. Too non-telegenic? A case can be made for that. But maybe - just maybe - the stakes are too high this year and we'll be able to get past that. Besides, he'll have the good fortune of running against either Ted Cruz or Donald Trump. Need I elaborate? I didn't think so.

Too many of us are frightened out of our wits by the label "radical". If Bernie is chosen as Democratic standard bearer at this summer's convention, that is the word the Republican candidate will use to describe him during the autumn campaign. It will probably be the only true thing that will come out of his mouth all year. Bernie Sanders is a radical - very much in the same way that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a radical. At a time in American history when radical change was desperately needed to lift America out of the worst economic crisis in the history of the world, the people - astonishingly - chose to send FDR to Washington in 1933. After he was through saving America, he decided (just for shits and giggles, you understand) to save the world. During his lifetime he was denounced as "a socialist". Today he is remembered as one of the ablest presidents in the history of this country. That's no coincidence.

Would Hillary Clinton be a decent president? I don't know the answer to that question. What I do know is that her credentials as a true progressive are paper-thin, and that she has an unsettling coziness with Wall Street and the banksters who have made a sport of plundering the American economy for over three decades. If she is the next president of the United States (and this is not merely an assumption on my part, it's a stone-cold fact) not a single one of these bastards will be prosecuted by the Clinton II justice department and sent to prison for their crimes against the American people. That won't be the case under President Sanders - you'd better believe it, baby. A whole lotta chickens are gonna be doin' some serious roosting!

If Hillary gets the nomination this summer, it will be yet another out of examples too voluminous to count, of the Democrats taking a fine bottle of champagne and turning it into donkey piss. 

There are some who would roll their eyes and whine, "There they go again! The Left is going to cut off their noses to spite their faces, just as they did sixteen years ago with the candidacy of Ralph Nader!" Bernie Sanders is not Ralph Nader and 2016 is not 2000.

Back then, most of the electorate didn't have a clue (as Nader did) where their sick love affair with right wing politics and politicians was taking their country. That has all changed. The sleeping giant of the American Left is waking up from a long and troubled slumber - and they're pissed. While it's true that we must abandon all hope for most of the deep South and the Midwest, where blind ignorance is part of the cultural heritage, the rest of the nation is beginning to see the light. 

Bernie Sanders is a man who is in the right historical place at the right historical time. Would he be a successful president? That all depends upon the ideological makeup of the House and Senate come January 2017. But still, I'd rather have someone living in the White House whom I know to have the interests of the poor and middle class at heart. In this position he would be able to prevent further damage from being done to the workers.

You bet I'm supporting Bernie Sanders. Aren't you?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

A friend of mine sent me a YouTube link this morning that contained quite a few scenes from vintage films where a (white) actor says:

"I'm twenty-one, I'm white and I'm free"....

....or variations on that phrase.

It's a classic commentary on the "white privilege" that was taken for granted in this country seventy and eighty years ago. In fact, in too many respects that still is the case (Have you been to a Donald Trump rally recently?) I won't bother sharing the link. You get the idea.

I love classic Hollywood, but there have been too many instances where I'll find myself sitting down to an excellent drama or musical comedy of the era when my enjoyment is shattered by the sudden appearance of the stereotypical Uncle Tom, and the rest of the film is ruined for me. These movies were not created during the Dark Ages. The Hollywood of the thirties and forties was, compared to the rest of the country, a fairly sophisticated place. They ought to have known better. 

I feebly attempted to tackle this nasty subject a year-and-a-half ago on the seventy-fifth anniversary of the release of 1939's "Gone With the Wind":

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