Sunday, February 25, 2018

Ammo for the Teacher

"A well regulated Militia,
being necessary to the security of a free State,
the right of the people to keep and bear arms,
shall not be infringed."


What part of that don't they get?

In the Hall of Fame of completely stupid ideas, the right wing in this country seems to have been in a race to outdo each other in terms of sheer idiocy. Hardly a day passes where at least ten examples of delightfully insane proposals are not dangled before the public for their entertainment. I sometimes get the impression that it's all merely a weird kind of advant garde performance art, Andy Kaufman-style. If one's passion is unintentional comedy, the president of the United States is a comic genius. Just when you think the silly bastard will never be able to top himself he comes up with a gem that is insane on so many different levels that it's hard to know where to begin. It really is!
Let's just get it out in the open: while requiring the teachers of our children to carry a weapon may be a hysterically funny thing to even visualize (no argument there) it is also an appallingly bad idea. If you had told me on the day I started this site that in less than twelve years I would be writing about such things, I probably would have felt your forehead. Show me a president that is taking seriously the idea of turning our nation's schools into armed camps and I'll show you a president who has lost his fucking mind. Of course I have known this unsettling fact about Donald Trump for over three decades. Many of you had to find out the hard way. Life can be funny that way, you know?

I've talked to several educators about this latest insanity making its way through our national political dialogue and almost all of them are defiantly opposed to this idea (One was trying not to think about it at all). One of them, a friend named Tarin Quattrini Hackbarth, put it this way:

"I couldn't imagine teaching English while wearing a gun holstered to my hip and a bullet proof vest under my 'professional' clothes. Plus, keep the attention of a room full of special education students that are high school age while getting them prepared to pass the state regents exam. That sounds exactly what I signed up for."
Well Put, Ms. Hackbarth!

I am reminded of my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Anabelle Peavey. When I had her in the 1963-64 school year, She seemed so elderly to me, although she probably wasn't much older than I am now - which is disturbing enough. She taught us to sew, a talent that has been quite useful to me down through the years. She also taught us little ones that sticks and stones might break our bones but words would never hurt us - advice that has proven handy to me over half a century later when I read the comments section on this blog. A couple of years ago, while attending the burial services of a friend at a cemetery not far from me, I happened upon her grave. As I stood in front of where her mortal remains rested silent and still in the earth below my feet, a lot of vivid memories came rushing back. Although she could be stern when infractions were committed (and I committed more than my share) Mrs. Peavey was, on the whole, a soft-spoken, cheerful and gentle influence on her little charges. I tell you these things for only one reason:  I cannot - for the very life of me - imagine the old gal packing heat. I'm sorry, but the mind refuses to go there.

And let's not forget that not all teachers are sane by anyone's definition. I am convinced that my teacher in the eighth grade would have offed me had she had the means and opportunity. It might not take a mass shooting incident to cause the death of one mischievous kid. And it doesn't take a degree in sociology to conclude that a disproportionate percentage of kids killed in a fit of Teacher's rage would very likely be of the minority variety. No, arming Miss Crabtree is a perfectly nutty idea. Stymie is toast if that happens.

What could go wrong? Plenty.

The AK 15
The fact that there are supposedly "serious people" out there taking this crazy idea seriously is instructive. This is a country that is quite literally being held hostage - at the point of a gun - by the National Rifle Association, an organization posing as a sportsman's group that is nothing more than a lobbying agent for the gun industry. When the next mass murder of innocent human beings happens on American soil  - and it will happen soon, don't kid yourselves - expect your "representatives" in Washington to do not a goddamned thing to put an end to the unacceptable reality that anyone who so desires can walk into any gun shop in Anytown USA to purchase weapons that have no business being used in any other situation than mortal combat.

Forgive me for sounding like a broken record, but this is the way it's going to be from now on. It is the desire of our rulers to keep us in panic-stricken-fear of one another. They cannot hire an army of brown-shirt/enforcers to instill that fear - that would be too obvious. Just let the people do their brown-shirting for them. And what better way to do that than the easy accessibility of dangerous weapons capable of killing a room full of men, women and children in a matter of minutes - and do it quite efficiently, too!

I imagine that in less than five years, the bullet proof vest will be all-the-fashion rage. Won't that be something? Get used to this.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Within George, Without George
by You-Know-Who

Not to change the topic, but today would have been the seventy-fifth birthday of George Harrison. Here is a little piece I wrote in tribute to this great and good man on November 29, 2011, the tenth anniversary of his passing:

Seventy-five years. My sweet Lord!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Kids Are Alright

And a child shall lead them....

Fifty years ago it was the college students of America that shook this country up and turned it around. This new revolution will be waged by mere teenagers in high school. They're standing up and are refusing to be sacrificed on the altars of political expediency, corporate greed and human stupidity. After sixteen students and one faculty member in their Parkland, Florida school were slaughtered last week by some homicidal psychotic who was able to obtain a rapid-fire weapon that, in a civilized country, he never would have had access to, the survivors of the massacre are determined that they are not going to live in a country where that sort of tragedy has become the new norm. They have decided that the politicians in Washington who are there merely to serve as handmaidens to the National Rifle Association are going to finally do the right thing by the children of this country or they're going to disappear forever.
These kids are pissed, Buster. You'd better believe it.
What happened at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018 - one week ago today - would never have happened anywhere but a "shithole country" such as this. Donald Trump should take note: These kind of grim events just don't happen in Haiti. Something we all need to take note of.
These kids don't want the "thoughts and prayers" of a bunch of corrupt and greedy politicians, they want to be secure in their own country.  While avoiding any questions involving these lethal, people-killing-machines, Senator Marco Rubio (of Florida no less) suggested that Florida law should be amended to make it legal for police in that overrated state to seize the guns of people they believe are a threat to the populous. What good would that have done? Although it's being reported that the FBI was aware of the perpetrator's peculiar gun fetish, no evidence suggests that the police in Parkland were aware of it at all. Besides, such a law would not have prevented the massacre in Newtown five years ago. The murderous little nerd who pulled that one off wasn't on anybody's radar. Neither was the guy who killed fifty-eight human beings in Vegas on the first of October. These politicians are going to continue to stall, delay and rationalize. The campaign contributions from the NRA mean more to them than the lives of our children. Think about that for a while.

And now a new tweet from the First Twit:

If there's one thing we may be completely certain of in these trying and uncertain times, it is that our esteemed, Common-Pervert-in-Chief can always be counted upon to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. Attempting to deflect attention in the wake of so hideous a tragedy is beyond contemptible. A student of Stoneman/Douglas High named David Hogg replied:

"Children are dying and their blood is on your hands because of that. Please take action. Stop going on vacation in Mar-a-lago. Take action. Work with Congress. Your party controls both the House and the Senate. Take action. Get some bills passed. And for God's sake, let's save some lives."

Ah, the bittersweet optimism of youth. I wouldn't know how to break it to this poor kid that his life means not a thing on the altar of greed and corruption. I am glad that I'm not the one that will have to give him the bad news. Oh, and speaking of gun violence, I do hope that Secret Service agents are on their toes and are working diligently to keep this president safe. The last thing the loony right wing in this country needs is the bloated, martyred body of this dimwitted sociopath to rally around. Spare me.

And if you need any further examples of what an unfeeling piece of shit your president is, here's a dandy one: At the moment the first of the students were being laid to rest, he was forty-five miles away playing golf on the course that he is the owner of. Isn't that soooo "presidential"?

On March 14, one month after the shootings in Parkland, Florida, students are planning a ten minute walk-out at high schools across the nation. School boards and administrators are already saying publicly that no such demonstrations will be tolerated. Fuck them. Walk out, kids. Many of us will be there to support you. I know I will definitely be there.

Don't look to my generation to clean up the mess we've made of America. We were handed - on a silver platter - a country that, while not perfect, was functional and rational. And what is it we're handing over to the generation of the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School? A clusterfucked cesspool.

These kids are the ones who are going to turn America around. Just you wait.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


The GOP in the Florida statehouse voted down a debate on assault weapons. Minutes later they declared pornography to be a public health emergency. All of this was done in the presence of the survivors of the Parkland massacre who bore witness from the gallery.

Idiot Nation

AFTERTHOUGHT, 2/22/18, 9:26 AM:

Below is  a photograph of Marjory Stoneman Douglas (1890-1988). She was a pioneering journalist in a day when women doing anything outside of the kitchen were pioneers. It is she for whom the now infamous high school in Parkland, Florida was named. Her good name will be forever linked to the carnage of February 14, 2018. That's pretty sad.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Their "Thoughts and Prayers"

Watch closely as a hard rain falls

Here's a tasty little morsel of fact to munch on with your morning coffee: Since the massacre of twenty little girls and boys - and the six women whose job it was to educate and protect them - inside the Sandy Hook Elementary school on December 14, 2012, there have been over sixteen hundred mass shootings in the United States of America. Since that time over three-hundred shootings took place on the campuses of public schools. Ain't that a riot? On the day that the mutilated bodies of twenty little children - all barely out of infancy - became acceptable "collateral damage" to the House of Reprehensibles, the Senate and the National Rifle Association, this doomed country hurled itself - head first and smiling - straight into the pit of hell.

Exactly five years and two months after the Newtown, Connecticut massacre, some murderous little psychopath walked into the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and killed sixteen of his former fellow classmates and the school's football coach. Again, as with Newtown, nothing is going to change. Every Republican reprehensible in Washington (and far-too-many Democratic ones to count) are comfy-cozy in the pockets of the NRA and their Über-Stooge spokesman, Wayne LaPierre. His solution to this latest, totally inevitable tragedy will be, of course, "WE NEED MORE GUNS!!!" The slaughter will continue, unabated, for the remainder of our lives on this troubled planet.  Those rivers of blood will continue to flow; those mountains of broken and bloodied corpses will continue to pile high. This is the way it's going to be from now on. There is no solution to this problem....

Did I say "no solution"? Pardonne moi, Monsieur!

Über Stooge
An epidemic of the random shootings of, say, twenty or thirty Washington politicians (with a handful of NRA reps thrown into the mix - just for shits and giggles, you understand) would do away with America's  insane gun laws - overnight. It makes my head spin to think how fast legislation would fly out of the capital building were something that tragic to occur. Please, I do not advocate the murders of public officials, I'm just pointing out (merely for your reading pleasure, I assure you) the unbounded hypocrisy of most of the politicians that the clueless inmates of Idiot Nation send to represent them in Washington with depressing regularity. I don't advocate murder. I'm just trying to make what I believe to be a dandy point. Chill.

Then again, if I hear one more pro-gun politician say that his or her "thoughts and prayers are with the victims during this trying time", please don't hold me responsible for how I might react....I'm just kidding, I'm fine.

Unfortunately for us, were sane gun legislation passed across the country tomorrow, it would take at least a decade for any tangible results to be noticed. In 2004  George W. Bush stupidly allowed Bill Clinton's assault weapons ban to expire. Since that time, too many of these people-killing-machines have gotten into the hands of too many people who should not have them. Not only should they be banned across the board, the manufacturing of the ammunition that fuels them should be outlawed as well. Wishful thinking, I know. Forgive me.

And while were on the subject of gun violence, the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has made me nostalgic for Bush. Somebody shoot me please.

The demented little thug responsible for the carnage in Parkland, Florida this week was taken into custody after trying to blend in with students fleeing for their lives. Had he not decided to make a getaway, the carnage would have been much more horrific than it turned out to be. If this had been a suicide mission (as was the case five years ago in Connecticut) the death toll at Douglas High could easily have been as much as a hundred or more. Thankfully we'll never know for certain what those numbers might have been. But here's something we need to understand: the numbers will be as high as a hundred or more at some point in the future - and I'm not referring to some vague and distant future - I'm talking about the near future, kiddies. Brace yourselves for the coming storm. A hard rain is gonna fall.

If you or anyone you know are still under the delusion that these routine tragedies are "the price we must pay for our freedom", then there is no hope for you. Only when the day finally arrives that gun violence touches your lives (as it has touched mine) will you understand and appreciate your once-great nation's social and political dysfunction. And don't think for a minute that it can't happen to you. For every day that passes, for every automatic weapon that finds its way into private ownership, the chance that it will happen to you - or someone you love dearly - rises proportionately. As I said on this site on the morning after the Newtown Elementary School  murders: "A people who live in dreaded, mortal terror wondering when and where the next massacre of innocents will take place may, indeed, be many things - no argument there. 'Free' they are not. Let's just stop kidding ourselves here and now, okay?"

And while you're at it, get used to living in a nation in ruins.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Bowling For Columbine
a film by Michael Moore

This is a documentary which should be seen by everyone with an IQ above room temperature. The rest of you are on your own. Here's a link to pick it up off of

Watch, learn, think.


Back in 2002 when I announced my candidacy for the NY state senate, I received in the mail a message from the National Rifle Association. They informed me that if my campaign was to be blessed enough to get their endorsement, I would first need to fill out this form. So I did.

Needless to say, I didn't get their endorsement. Go figure.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Defending Malcolm X

Minister Malcolm, circa 1960


FULL DISCLOSURE: It is my belief that Malcolm X was one of the great Americans of the twentieth century. Hold that thought.

If I were to list the top ten citizens of this doomed country in that period, he would definitely be on that list. Perhaps I might even place him above Dr. King during that time. His was a spiritual rags-to-riches saga that, with the possible exception of Thomas Merton, few people have matched. His troubled youth (including the murder of his father, possibly by the KKK, and a long prison stretch) would have left a lesser man bitter and dysfunctional. Malcolm X  ended his short time on this earth on the mountaintop. He is a person to be emulated, not disparaged. We should all be channeling our inner Malcolm.
I was living and working in Naples, Florida in 1986 when I obtained a copy of his memoirs, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which was co-written by Alex Haley, who would later go on to write the saga, Roots. To tell you that the book changed my life would be understating it: I was completely floored by reading it. This is ironic because - at that time anyway - Naples had the smallest percentage of African American residents in the nation. That might still be the case. In the thirty-two years since that time, no other memoir has surpassed it. Walter Cronkite once said that it is one of the few books of that troubled century that people will still be reading five-hundred years into the future. I'm inclined to agree. I can't recommend it enough.

In the years following his assassination in February of 1965, Malcolm X's historical image has been rehabilitated. In his time he was  viewed with fear and loathing by white America - and even a rather large segment of mainstream black America as well. Certainly, there had never been anyone to enter the national consciousness like this guy. No passive, smiling and accommodating "negro" was he; this was a man on fire. Although he was not in favor of integration for much of his public life, a pilgrimage to Mecca a year before his death had enabled him see that the races could live with and even love each other. The easiest cliché about Malcolm was that he advocated violence against white people. What he advocated was self-defense - a huge difference. His philosophy, which he stated publicly too many times to count, was that people should be non-violent with others who also practiced non-violence. "That is common sense. But if someone should attack you or your wife and children, you send them to the cemetery".  That could be a slogan for the National Rifle Association if you think about it.

Malcolm X. Combs
All of this went racing through my mind when I read this week of the case of Malcolm Xavier Combs. He is a senior who attends Christ the King High School in Brooklyn. The "controversy" (call it what you want) he generated was simply that he wanted the name "Malcolm X" embroidered onto his senior-year sweat shirt. The school administration told him that the name was unacceptable. At a meeting with blank-faced school officials, Malcolm Xavier's mother, Mychelle, asked them if they even know who Malcolm X was or what he stood for. Their response was simply that Malcolm is part of the curriculum. So, I presume, is Adolf Hitler. A lame defense if I ever heard one. Seriously.

Malcolm Xavier's desire to Malcolmize his school shirt has only turned him into a cause celebre. Not only has he gained national media attention, but Malcolm X's own daughter, Ilyasah Shabazz - not to mention Al Sharpton and the Action Network - have come to his defense. This kid is an honor student, and he has the appearance and demeanor of the All American Boy. It would seem to me that the school personnel could have avoided a few headaches by merely allowing him to proudly display the name of his namesake and hero. In the end they might find out it wasn't worth all the fuss.

There are schools and boulevards named for Malcolm. There was a US postage stamp issued in his honor back in the nineties - a fact that I had totally forgotten all about until  I was reminded of it this week. There have been numerous books and filmed documentaries written and produced about his life. It's not as if Malcolm X. Holmes had wanted to put the name of the president of the United States on his shirt. Now that is something that would have caused a reasonable debate! But this is hardly reasonable - far from reasonable, in fact. The historical validity of so important a figure as Malcolm X is not a debate we should be having in 2018. I'm just sayin'.

The nice folks over at Christ the King High School really need to get with the program. Malcolm X deserves better than that. So, in fact, does Malcolm X. Combs.

Malcolm X was a great American. But I repeat myself.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


The Autobiography of Malcolm X
by Malcolm X with Alex Haley

Again, I cannot emphasize enough the impact this excellent book had on my life. Here is a link to order it off of

This is a book that every white person needs to read.


Here's an interview that Malcolm did with Mike Wallace eight months before his death:

The man was the real thing.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

We Got the Memo

Devin Nunes: A look of complete shame
"FISA warrants are typically big thick documents - 50-60 pages. If the Nunes memo about one is just 4 pages, you can bet it's a carefully picked bowl of cherries. Made all the more dishonest by holding back the minority rebuttal report. A real debate needs both. Someone fears that."
Former CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin
Robert Mueller
The "memo" (such as it is) that the right wing SCREAM machine has been freaking out about for damned-near two weeks finally came in. The best reaction, as far as I can tell, came from former FBI Director James Comey:
"That's it?"
Some memo. It might as well have been written on a little yellow post-it-note with a tiny smiley-face drawn on the back, pasted onto Devin Nunes' clueless forehead -  just for good measure, you understand.
If the Republicans were hoping to expose some major political scandal by releasing this four-page collection of nothingness, they were in for a bit of a let down. Their claim that it is proof that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is a hotbed of left ring radicals who were in the tank for the candidacy of Hillary Clinton is too weird to articulate a coherent response. Surely they haven't forgotten that it was Comey, after all, who reopened the investigation into Hillary's emails a mere week-and-a-half before Election Day 2016 - a move that cost her the election, by the way.  My belief is that they're hoping that the pitiful attention span of the American public will allow them to follow this line of accusation. Sadly, that hope is more-than-justified.

The Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee have their own memo, three times longer than the GOP's, which points out the discrepancies, errors of fact, and intentional omissions of the Nunes memo. The Republicans on the committee, naturally, voted to keep that one under cover of darkness. Is there anyone reading this who is still unable to understand what is going on here? Call me please. We need to talk.

The right wing's major beef is that the infamous dossier handed over by British intelligence agent Christopher Steele, was compiled when he was working for a conservative organization called "Fusion GPS" which was doing negative research on Trump on behalf of another Republican primary candidate in 2016. Steele was concerned that Trump could be blackmailed by a hostile foreign government (you know which one I'm taking about, don'cha?) and took what information he had to the American authorities. Devin Nunes and friends are claiming that, since Steele's research was possibly politically motivated, they had no business seeking a FISA warrant. They're wrong. Christopher Steele's reputation within international intelligence circles is impressive and long-standing. They had every reason to look into what he was saying and no good reason not to. Nice Try, kids.

This is not - by any means - a sinister plot engineered for no other reason than to bring down Donald Trump by what are inarguably some of the most conservative departments of the Federal government. This investigation began in the spring of 2013 - two years before the Donald announced his candidacy. The  juicy fact of the matter is that Trump - and many in his inner circle - are into this thing up to their bloodshot little eyeballs - including, possibly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The president's scheme, as anyone paying attention  has easily figured out by now, is to use this silly little memo as an excuse to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and replace him with a nodding sycophant who will then put an end to the Mueller investigation at Donald's behest. If that happens, the remaining supporters of this clown would do well to hang on to their tin-foil hats. The country will explode in a way it hasn't exploded since the Saturday Night Massacre of October 1973.

Somewhere, I am almost certain, Oliver Hardy is laughing. Donald J. Trump has gotten himself in to another fine mess. There are too many Republicans in both the house and the senate who know that their chances of being re-elected in November are a fraction less than zero. As a result a whole helluva lot of them are retiring - "to spend more time with their families". Of course they are. And now that tooting the idiotic party line is no longer beneficial to their reputations, they're speaking their minds - to the utter detriment of Trump. One of these soon-to-be retirees is Trey Gowdy, an excitable right wing congressman from South Carolina. He will be bolting the congress next January after serving eight years. He said in no uncertain terms yesterday that that release of Devin Nunes' pathetic little memo should have no bearing on the Mueller investigation, and that the Feds were correct in their decision to peruse the Steele dossier. He's not the only one speaking his mind. Trump's political fortunes are devaluating by the day. Isn't this oodles of fun to watch?

And hats off to poor old Devin Nunes. Obviously this clown is blissfully unaware that he will be remembered by posterity as one of congress's more pathetic water-carriers. Or perhaps not. Is it my imagination, or does he look rather tormented and ashamed in recent photographs issued for public consumption? When his term is up in eleven months, he ought to retreat to a monastery in the Himalayas and spend the rest of his days praying that the history books misspell his name.  
It was said after the fall of Dick Nixon forty-four years ago, that it was the cover-up that was worse than the crime. In this case I believe the crime will prove to be far worse than the cover-up. During the Watergate affair, no one seriously suggested that the Trickster was guilty of treason (although he did commit a horrendously treasonous act during the campaign of 1968 that we only found out about decades later - but that's another story for another day, boys and girls). Treason is a pretty serious charge, one that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed for sixty-five years ago. I don't advocate the penalty of death for anybody - not even a demented thug and common pervert like Donald Trump; but it would seem to me that, if he  has nothing to hide, why is he wasting so much time (which is always precious for any sitting president) throwing one monkey wrench after another into this investigation? Why not let it continue unimpeded and let the chips fall where they will?  If he were truly innocent of any wrong doing he could emerge from this storm politically stronger than ever, making fools of we who doubted him in the process. Why would he go as far as demeaning and slandering the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Justice? What gives?

This smells, folks.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


I believe that we are within less than a decade of (PLEASE, GOD) a nonviolent revolution, where the people of this doomed republic finally wake up and understand something I figured out decades ago:

The Democrats and the Republicans are beyond redemption.

Why are we governed by political parties? Why are we not governed by human beings?

Just a thought....