Sunday, November 26, 2017

Post #750: Random Observations

October 2017
750 posts in slightly under eleven-and-a-half years. I cannot believe that I stuck to it all these years. The following are a series of unconnected thoughts that I have accumulated on the backs of envelopes and cocktail napkins.
1. The Times have Changed:
Late last night I was watching the film, All The President's Men. I got a huge kick out of the scene where Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) is trying to locate Kenneth L. Dahlberg, a man whose $25,000 check to the Committee to Re-elect the President ended up in the account of one of the Watergate burglars. In order to do this he had to schlep all the way across town and spent  the day going through telephone and reference books at the library. Today, all that would be required is a simple Google search.
It’s a different world, Bubba.
2. A Vanishing Era:
When I was thirteen-years-old, in the crowd that I went around in at least, it was definitely not cool to listen to the music of the Partridge Family (although I always thought the show was very well written). About ten years ago I was sitting in a saloon somewhere when their long-forgotten hit, “I Think I Love You”, came over the jukebox. I was absolutely floored by how good it was.
This memory came back to me a couple of days ago when I received the news that David Cassidy had passed into eternity at the age of sixty-seven. That floored me, too. All of the sudden the seventies are starting to seem like a very long time ago.
Flynn and son
3. Flynn About to Let Go:
We're within days of the explosion of what will no-doubt prove to be the most destructive political scandal in the long history of Idiot Nation. It is now apparent that Mike Flynn is spilling his guts to Robert Mueller, and it's a fairly safe bet that the Trump Mob is in full-tilt panic mode. Not only Flynn, but his son are into this very deep. I'm sure that the both of them are aware that the punishment for treason is death. They must have been reminded of the fates of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, both of whom were sent to the chair in June of 1953.
 You've got to wonder how far the Donald is going to stoop to try to put a stop to this. The next few weeks promise to be quite interesting.
4. Food for thought
If you're not curious you're not learning. If you're not furious you're not paying attention. In my day-to-day ramblings out and about, I get the impression that there aren't many folks that are even one/tenth as concerned as I am about what is in the process of happening to the United States. The situation is as serious - and as dangerous - as it’s been at any time since the war between the states - and yet everyone seems to be going on about their sweet business seemingly without a care in the world. These are weird times, folks.
I just got the news that there has been a shooting at the Galleria Mall in Middletown, NY - which is about five miles from where I now sit. There is no word as to the number of casualties - if any - but it sure is a disturbing thing to contemplate that something as horrible as a mass shooting could happen in my “back yard”.
Guns don't kill people….Never mind. Fuck it, I'm going back to bed.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


The gunfire yesterday at the Crystal Galleria in Middletown, NY was apparently the result of some nitwit who “accidentally" discharged his revolver twice. No one was killed, but two people received minor injuries. Deep sigh of relief here in Orange County.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Into the Sewer

Won't you come with me to Alabammy
Back to the arms of my dear ol' mammy
Her cooking stinks and her hands are clammy
But what the hell, it's home!
Tom Lehrer
Ah, Dubya!
Sixteen years ago I honestly believed we had hit rock bottom. In 2001, with the inauguration of the Village Idiot of Crawford, Texas, I thought that we had reached our nadir. Who among us could possibly have predicted Roy Moore and Donald Trump? If you had told me then that, by the time 2017 rolled around, I would be looking back at the era of George W. Bush with a sense of teary-eyed nostalgia, I would have suggested that you be tested for narcotics poisoning. As completely cynical as I was then - and as I remain to this day - I never would have dreamed that things could get this utterly weird.
The registered Republican voters in the state of Alabama are within less-than-a-month of electing as their senator a man who, back in the swinging seventies, was known by the people of his hometown of Gadsden to have a thing for underage girls. Back in the day Roy was a successful attorney. A retired police officer named Faye Gray remembers that she had to attend high school sporting events for no other reason than to monitor Roy to make sure he kept away from the cheerleaders. A couple of these girls (now middle-age women with nothing to gain by speaking out) have said that they were sexually assaulted by this creep. At the time, Roy Moore was in his thirties. He was even banned by the owner of his hometown mall from setting foot on the premises due to his "proclivities". Nice.
The president of the United States, a man with over twenty accusation of sexual harassment under his belt (no pun intended) is openly supporting Roy Moore. The governor of Alabama said the other day that she would rather support a pedophile than a Democrat. A lot of the voters of that state appear to be in agreement. If you need a more illustrative example of how completely dysfunctional that region of the country really is, you need not travel too far from Alabammy.

To be fair, not everyone in the GOP is as accepting of Moore's candidacy as our esteemed Common-Pervert-in-chief. John McCain, to his credit, is positively aghast at this turn of events; Paul Ryan is not-at-all happy about the prospect of a Senator Moore; even hideous old Mitch McConnell has stated for the record that he believes the accusations of these women! Imagine, Mitch McConnell doing the decent thing! Don't be at all surprised if a pig flies by your window this afternoon. But you really have to wonder about "the party of Abraham Lincoln" these days. For over a decade I've been predicting the ultimate demise of the Republican Party. I am now forced to qualify that prediction. It is obvious that it will survive in dear old Dixie for quite some time to come. The bar has been set as low as it can be, and the people of that state (or the white people at least) are doing this strange Limbo dance with surprising ease. Black people in the South have always seemed to have a bit more common sense than their Caucasian counterparts, have you ever noticed that? 

Some of us are wondering out loud, "How could something as vile and  as disgusting as this be happening in the United States"? You shouldn't wonder at all. Donald Trump is us. He is who we have become as a nation. The handwriting is on the wall. It is as clear as can be and you have to be blind and illiterate not to be able to read it. The American people deserve Donald Trump. The people of Alabama deserve Roy Moore. They deserve no better. They deserve no less.

Ah, sweet schadenfreude!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


In The Shadow of November 22

I wrote this one four years ago on the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy. Over a half century later, the guy just won't go away. That's probably just as well, I guess


Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Franken Factor

The Funny Warrior
Franken and Davis
I have been an admirer of Al Franken for going on forty years - first as a comedian, then as a political commentator, and finally, as one of the finest senators to come down the pike in my lifetime. Teddy Kennedy, for all of his well-deserved reputation as "the Lion of the Senate" was somewhat of a late-bloomer, and didn't begin to live up to his potential until he had been in office for almost two decades. It wasn't until he lost the primary challenge to incumbent president Jimmy Carter in 1980 that he began to show some real moxie as a statesman. Up to that point he had been somewhat of a lightweight, resting on the laurels of being a member of America's golden political family. Al Franken, by contrast, was the heavyweight champion of the poor and middleclass at the starting gate.

Like most of the members of my generation, my first exposure to Al was as a part of the original lineup of the cast of Saturday Night Live. He was not only a writer on that program, but a performer as well. The weekly bits he would perform with his partner, the late Tom Davis, were so wonderfully bent, they could only be described as comedic Zen. Although not to everyone's taste, the delightful, low-key lunacy of Franken and Davis was the part of the program I looked forward to the most. To the best of my knowledge, they were the last comedy team.

Over the years I've followed Al Franken's career closely and admiringly. That's why I greeted the photograph of him with his hands on the breasts of a fellow performer during a 2006 USO tour with a sigh of exasperation. My reaction was: What the hell were you thinking, Al? I wouldn't have pulled a stunt that crude in my early twenties - let alone my late forties. According to the person who took the photo, it was a gag shot, and the woman in question (who appears to be asleep) was in on the joke. Her name is Leeann Tweeden. She said that during the rehearsal for a routine they were to do in front of the troops, Al got a tad too physical. Both of these incidents took place in public and, to the best of anyone's knowledge, there was never any private confrontation.

What are we to make of this? Does Al Franken have a history of this kind of boorish behavior? If that is the case, we can expect a tsunami of women coming forward with their own recollections of their own gross encounters of the weird kind with Al down through the years. My suspicion - my prayer - is that this will not be the case. Stressful situations are known to bring on bizarre behavior - and touring a war zone is the most stressful situation people in show business can possibly find themselves in. Bob Hope toured many-a-war zone in his day, and although many view him today as comedy's secular saint, his behavior on-and-off the lines of battle was not always saintly. This is an established fact.

In an effort to distract our attention from the Roy Moore scandal, the right wing SCREAM machine is calling on Al to resign his senate seat.  Moore, you will recall, is running for the senate in Alabama amid accusations of the groping and outright assault of several underage girls back in the swinging seventies. To compare this to the scandal that Senator Franken now finds himself in is akin to comparing running a red light to mass murder. If Al does indeed have a history as a sexual predator, we will know soon enough. My opinion is that, until that time comes, we need to cut the man as much slack as possible. He has publicly apologized for his indiscretion. Leeann Tweeden has publicly forgiven him. And although his actions may have been terribly immature, they do not constitute sexual assault. Harvey Weinstein he ain't. I have made a few unwanted passes at a few women in my time. That doesn't define me as a sexual predator. When I was told "no thank you", I desisted. We need to put things in their proper context, folks.

FUN FACT: Al Franken was never barred from a public mall for lewd behavior toward underaged girls. I just thought I'd throw that one out there.

The troubled water that he now finds himself treading is not quite as hot as some would have us believe. Although he is by no means ideologically perfect for my purposes (Who is?) Al Franken is one of the consistently finest statesmen to come along in my lifetime. I'm standing by him.

Tom Degan 
Goshen, NY 


Look back in laughter. Here are Al Franken and Tom Davis in their not-ready-for-prime, October 1980:
The glory days of SNL


Giant of the Senate
by Al Franken

Al is always a good read.


Thursday, November 09, 2017

One Amusing Year On

A year ago today, I awoke in the wee small hours just in time to hear Brian Williams of MSNBC announce that Donald J. Trump had been elected the forty-fifth president of the United States. I was not surprised. Bitter experience had taught me to have low expectations as far as the civic responsibility of my fellow inmates of Idiot Nation was concerned. An old friend who was staying in my guest room down the hall from me happened to be awake. She asked:
"Do they know the winner?"
"They sure do", I replied.
"Who is it?"
"President Donald Fucking Trump" was my answer. 
The look her face was as shocked and alarmed as you would expect it to be on the face of any thinking American woman that night. I tried to make the best of this new reality. At least the Age of Donald Trump wouldn't be boring, I assured myself. It hasn't been.  For a political junkie such as yours truly, the Donald has been the gift that keeps giving. Say what you want about 2017, it has been an incredible moment in history to bear witness to - and the year isn't even over yet.
I won't play coroner and attempt to conduct an autopsy on the campaign of Hillary Clinton. That's been done to the point of absurdity and, to be quite blunt about it, I'm sick of the entire discussion. I'll just say that she was the wrong candidate for so crucial a time in our history. The people who voted for her in the primaries are just as guilty for those who were naïve enough to cast their ballots for Trump. She only reminds me why I am no longer registered with the Democratic Party.
It was easy to predict one year ago today that this was going to end badly. A tip of the hat to Fox Noise for conning so many people into believing that a Trump administration would be a grand thing for this utterly fucked republic. The damage that that network has done to this country can barely be assessed. The very fact that it is still thriving is ominous and disturbing. It won't be going away any time soon, and the harm it will continue to inflict upon our national political conversation is incalculable. One can only speculate that they would have made Josef Goebbels proud. The only positive thing I can say at this point is that Roger Ailes is gone and he's not coming back.

On the morning after Election Day 2016,  had to take two showers before the clock struck Twelve Noon.
This has been a long year, to put it as mildly as possible. Trump's reign will be mercifully brief; but the aftershocks of his time in the White House will be felt for a long time. He is what we deserve. We don't deserve any better.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 


I taped this little message in the late morning of November 9. 2016. I had been up all night and was a little hung-over. Still, the message is clear and somewhat to the point:

Strange days indeed.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

The DNC Implosion

Bells of doom are breakin' up that old gang of mine....

Do you remember?
The fifth
John Lennon, 1970

It would appear to me that the Democrats have become victims of a good old-fashioned J. Edgar Hoover-styled COINTELPRO scheme. That was short for "Counter Intelligence Program". It's how the FBI was able to take down the Black Panther Party in the early seventies. The Feds were able to tap the phones of key members and look through their mail with an ease that would be impossible today (I hope). They would send anonymous messages via phone and mail that certain Panther leaders were out to assassinate other Panther leaders. By this method of shameful skullduggery, The Black Panthers fell apart. I understand they're making a comeback. I'm happy to know of this.
What happened to the Panthers over forty years ago appears to be happening to the Democrats in 2016. I don't know what to make of Donna Brazille's accusations in her new book. She claims that the primaries were rigged by then party chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz in favor of Hillary Clinton. The Dems assertively deny this. Is Donna an agent of Vladimir Putin? It would be the height of paranoia for me to suggest that she is. Quite frankly, I couldn't care less if I tried. As I've stated here before, I left that completely worthless party nearly twenty years ago and I never looked back. When on occasion I would ask myself why I left in the first place, these silly Democrats would cheerfully remind me. Last year they were given the choice between the most visionary candidate in their nearly two-hundred-year history, or a tired and stale old plutocrat. Not to my surprise, the "party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt" blew it - AGAIN.

"I don't belong to any organized political party
I am a Democrat."

Will Rogers
But it does seem quite feasible to me that the Democrats are victims of some sort of a nefarious information operation that has been cooked up who-knows-where with the clear intent of dividing them. If that is, indeed, the case, the plan is working out beautifully. That party hasn't been this divided since the summer of 1968 when they became completely unhinged at their convention. That was nearly a half century ago. The result of their complete breakdown that horrible year was the administration of Dick Nixon. Need I remind you how well that worked out for America? I didn't think so.

Panther Bobby Seale
If Schultz and the Democratic National Committee are guilty of marking the cards for Hillary to the detriment of Bernie Sanders, they have nothing to fear. Our campaign laws are so rigged against the people, that everything they allegedly did was perfectly legal.

America needs the Black Panthers a helluva lot more than it needs the Democratic or Republican parties. In spite of the propaganda you may have been force-fed back in the day, the Panthers stood for something noble and righteous. Their communities could always count on them to be there - particularly the children of those communities. We cannot depend upon this two-party system any longer - as if we ever could. The end-result of the Democrats' dysfunction and incompetence has been the administration of Donald Trump. And as for the Republicans, they're beyond redemption. This is as bad as it's ever gotten, and the tragicomic irony is that it's going to get a lot worse in the future.

Where have you gone, Bobby Seale?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


The Black Panthers for Self Defense: Vanguard of the Revolution

This excellent documentary appeared on PBS a couple of years ago.