Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Fabulous O'Dwyers

Pat 'n' Bubba

Paul O'Dwyer
Is there anyone out there still slumbering under the delusion that the administration of Donald Trump was anything less than a complete, mass civic screw-up on the part of the American people? Don't be shy; let's see a show of hands. 

I am on my way to the wake of Pat O'Dwyer in less than an hour. She was a longtime friend to the community I live in. In fact, she served as supervisor of the town of Goshen, NY back in the nineties. Please allow me a bit of immodesty by telling you that I had more than a bit part in her campaign. She was married to the legendary civil rights attorney, Paul O'Dwyer. He passed away nearly twenty years ago in June of 1998. Two of my most cherished possessions are an autographed copy of his memoirs, and a photograph of myself posing with him and the late congressman, Ben Gilman. Ben was the type of Republican politician that is doesn't even exist any longer: a thoughtful moderate.  

When I left New York City back in the nineties, I became quite close to Pat and Paul. In fact, down on my luck, they lent me a small pickup truck they had laying around the yard that wasn't being used. For four months it allowed me to go around the county shooting videos for various projects (mostly weddings). With the cash that I earned from the use of that little truck, I was able to purchase a vehicle and a place of my own - a converted chicken coop on LaGrange Road in Campbell Hall that was owned by my late pal, Rich Pennings. The place wasn't as bad as it sounds - in fact, I loved it - and the rent was quite reasonable. The three of them were a life-raft.

The O'Dwyers were at one time the most famous Liberals in New York. Since Pat and I hadn't talked in a couple of years, I never had a chance to speak with her about the sick phenomenon of Donald Trump; and I can only imagine how Paul would have reacted to the specter of a Trump administration.

Just when I want to believe in my heart that the Left is making a comeback in America, I'm forced to concede that the liberalism that was once personified by people like Paul and Pat O'Dwyer is becoming extinct. It's also a reminder that this nation used to be a nice place to live in. It's not anymore.

I've got a funeral to get to.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Tom Degan, Gerry Ferraro, Tom Cullen and Paul O'Dwyer, 1992

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Coming Constitutional Crisis

Nunes and Gowdy

Today just might turn out to be the day that the constitutional shit hits the old fan. In an unprecedented move that has legal scholars baffled (if not horrified) the Department of Justice caved in this week to the demands of the Republicans - with backing from the White House, of course - to allow Devin Nunes and Trey Gowdy, two unabashed supporters of the common pervert currently residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, access to the evidence that the Mueller team has, thus far, been able to accumulate on Trump and his cohorts. Naturally and not unreasonably, the Democrats have called "FOUL!". Although it is unheard of that a prosecutor would allow a prospective defendant's team to investigate evidence before an indictment is even issued, the Dems' argument is that it should be the bi-partisan "Gang of Eight" that should be the ones to review what Mueller has. White House spokes-stooge, Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters yesterday (with what I must assume was a straight face) that the reason the loyal opposition  won't be allowed into the process is because they haven't requested to be there.
Are you alarmed yet?

These are the kinds of things I never dreamed I would be witnessing during the Bush II administration. As reprehensible as the man appeared to many of us at the time, an least he wasn't a total fuck-up - and if you give me a week or two I might be able to come up with one accomplishment of his. But what we are witnessing at present is an assault upon the rule of law much worse than anything that occurred during Bush's reign of error. This is something else indeed.

A bit of news was made last night on the Rachel Maddow program. One of her guests was Congressman Adam Schiff of California. He was the chief Democrat on the House Committee that was investigating the Russian collusion - that is until it was shut down by the GOP when they proclaimed the Trump campaign innocent of all nefarious doings. He told Rachel that he had been informed by someone at the DOJ that the Gang of Eight would be allowed to review the evidence and that they had every intention of showing up to review the goodies that Team Mueller has been able to compile in the last year of the investigation. The Department of Justice was not formed to be politicized. That's not quite what the Founders of this country had in mind when they formed it. Either both sides should be involved or it should be cancelled altogether - which would be the better decision. The very fact that this is occurring at all is a lighted match at the top left-hand corner of the constitution. We'll all know by late this afternoon if the flame makes contact with the parchment.

Isn't this exciting?

The fact that Devin Nunes is taking part in this is unsettling to say the least. He was caught red-handed last year consulting with the White House on what his committee was coming up with. That, in itself, was a clear case of obstruction of justice. Do you really believe that he and Gowdy won't immediately contact the Trump Mob with an itemized list of the evidence that has been acquired? The Donald knows damned well that to shut this thing down would be a political catastrophe; he and his legal team are doing everything humanly possible to strike a fatal blow. In the long run he'll have no other choice than to end it entirely. Even the "base" - a lot of them anyway - won't like that a bit. That's when the shit will hit the fan. Hold onto your hats.

In the meantime, the president of the United States, in order to deflect public attention from the Mueller investigation, is attempting to criminalize the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. That's not only beneath contempt, that is criminal in and of itself.

Ask yourself this question: What possible good has it done America to have its State Department decimated as it has been under this disgusting administration? The answer is, simply, that it hasn't done it a damned bit of good. If that is the case (as it obviously is) why have they weakened it so? I think I know the answer to that question. They did it at the behest of a hostile foreign power to whom they are in the service of. Take a wild guess which one I'm referring to.

Cheers, Vladimir!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Nonessential Consultants

Bob Mueller is following the money.
Michael Cohen used to have a wonderful life. In a span of less than six months he's gone from being the highly paid "fixer" for the president of the United States to being a haunted and troubled man in turmoil. He used to present himself to the world with such assertive self confidence. Today he seems to be something else entirely. His face has the same far-off gaze and indifference to his surroundings that I have only encountered twice in my life: two acquaintances of mine who both ended their lives very shortly thereafter - one on the very day I spoke to him. I am not relating this with any feelings of schadenfreude on my part; it truly is a troubling thing to behold.
Cohen, you might recall, was busted for fronting a shell company called "Essential Consultants", a firm that had no website or even a phone number. It's entire reason for existing was simply to sell access to the president of the United States. Cohen had been paid several million dollars by several different companies for this very purpose. The questions now being raised are: Did the Donald know about this arrangement? And if he did, in fact, know about it, was he getting a piece of the action? For years he has been lending his name to the shadiest of organizations and receiving a share of the profits in return. It's clear that Mr. Mueller is finding out a lot of things that the Trump  Mob would rather he not find out about. They're waiting to make their move. This week Mike Pence was on NBC News "respectfully" requesting that Mueller end the investigation. It reminded a lot of people of Dick Nixon's "One year of Watergate is enough" line during his 1974 State of the Union Speech. That investigation - if you'll be kind enough to recall - took over two years to wrap up.

It has been proposed that the House and Senate pass a bill that will protect the investigation from being killed. Mitch McConnell has refused to consider it because he says that he doesn't think that Trump would do such a thing. Really? Two years ago when Russian interference in the 2016 campaign started to come to light, McConnell did everything he could to keep the whole nasty affair a secret from the American people. I don't know quite how, but old Mitch is involved in this thing up to his ears.

Robert Mueller has a job to do and he needs to complete it.

Ahmed Al-Rumaihi,
In December of 2016 during the transition period, someone named Ahmed Al-Rumaihi (who controls a "multi-billion dollar investment fund" out of Qatar) claims that during a meeting in his office at Trump Tower, Cohen informed him that, in order to get the president's ear, he would need to shell out a cool couple of million bucks that would then be funneled to "Trump family members). Cohen says the meeting never happened. The only problem with his denial is the unsettling fact that news footage clearly shows Al-Runaihi entering an elevator inside the tower on the day in question - with Cohen by his side. Busted.

This is exploding. I predicted on the day after this psychopath and common pervert was elected to the presidency that his administration would eventually fall hard and completely of its own corruption and incompetence. It's about four times as bad as even I would have dared to imagine. What we are bearing witness to is Watergate on steroids; worse than any political scandal in the history of the United States.

This is going to end badly. Perhaps I've made that observation before, huh? Never mind.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Michael Cohen's Got Trouble

"A cadre of companies with business before the government confessed Wednesday to funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to Michael Cohen after the 2016 election - and the longtime Trump attorney reportedly promised at least one of them a direct line to the White House in return."
From this morning's New York Daily News

A day no longer needs to pass. With the passing of each hour the scope and depth of the current administration's complete corruption astounds. Had you bothered to pay attention during the sense-crippling campaign of 2016, one knew in one's heart, with the announcement of Donald Trump’s victory in November, that this was going to end badly. The question is: who could possibly have anticipated that the catastrophe would be this pronounced? Who would have dreamed, sixteen months into this disgusting president’s reign of error and stupidity, that some of us would be nostalgic for George W. Bush? The most gratifying thing of all is the fact that even the stooges at Fox Noise (some of them anyway) are beginning to figure this out. These are incredible things to be able to bear witness to.

When Michael Cohen's office and residences were raided recently, it was widely speculated that the raid was related to his payment of $130,000 to a former pornography star who went by the stage name of "Stormy Daniels" for the purpose of keeping her quiet about an affair she had with the Donald in 2006. My thinking was that it had to do with something a little bigger than Ms. Daniels. The interesting thing, though, is that the news of Cohen's nefarious lobbying was announced to he world by Michael Avenatti - Stormy's own attorney! At first I was skeptical; how could this guy possibly get access to this information. I had begun to view Avenatti as a self-promoting publicity agent. And yet by day's end - to my complete and utter astonishment - some of these companies fessed up by saying, in effect, yeah, we've been paying the guy off - and some of them are pretty furious about it.

Not that I don't loathe giving the benefit of the doubt to the likes of Donald Trump (I really do!) but it mustn't be assumed off-the-bat that he was in on any of these shenanigans. One pharmaceutical company by the name of Navartis agreed to pay Cohen 1.2 million dollars per year (in monthly payments) for access to the president and everybody in his inner circle. After a month, the suits on the company's board realized that Cohen wouldn't be able to deliver the goods. The only peculiar thing about this peculiar incident if that, when they realized that bringing on Cohen was a mistake, the geniuses at Navartis continued to shell out $100,000 a month for the next eleven months. And you wonder why drug prices are so astronomically high?

It was also pointed out in today's Daily News that one month after  Novartis made its last payment to Cohen, Trump did in fact dine with that company's soon-to-be CEO, along with a handful of other Big Pharma honchos. Could he have been aware of this scam? The only thing for certain is that this is a story worth keeping your eye on. Pretending to be a lobbyist is arguably a federal crime. Poor old Mikey Cohen is in this thing up to his ears. Was the money only for him? One wonders where the shoe is going to drop next.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


The Beatles:
by Bob Spitz

I purchased this one fifteen years ago when it was first published. It languished on my bookshelf for thirteen years before I finally noticed it this week and grabbed it. It's been a while since I've read a biography on the fabulous Fabs. This is by far the longest - clocking in at nearly a thousand pages. It's also the best one I think that I've read - perhaps better even than Phillip Norman's 1982 bio, Shout. Regardless, this is an excellent look into the lives of John, Paul, George and Ringo, and the scores of people who populated their lives. It's still in print as is the Norman book. Both are highly recommended.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Blessed Aren't

Father Pat Conroy

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,for they shall be filled.
Jesus of Nazareth
"May their efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws but benefits balanced and shared by All Americans."
Father Patrick Conroy
"Padre, you just got to stay out of politics."
House Speaker Paul Ryan
There was no doubt about it: the office of the speaker of the House was not a bit happy back in November when the Chaplain of that body offered a gentle prayer that the tax law which was being debated at that very moment be fair to everyone. Not an hour had gone by when one of Ryan's toadies made his way into the good father's office and let him know that he should focus his prayers on something a little less specific. Adhering to the philosophy of Jesus Christ was something that good Christians just don't do - not as far as the modern-day Republican party is concerned. All pretense of theirs being "the party of Christian values" should have gone out of the window and into the trash bin decades ago. This isn't a political party, it's a cult.
Father Pat (as he is known by all four-hundred and thirty-five members of that body) is widely liked. He is the sixtieth House chaplain in Aamerican history, and yet he is only one of two Catholics ever to hold that position. He is also the first one to be dismissed from the job. The fact that Ryan is a Catholic makes this all the more shameful. He will have to look his fellow parishioners in the eye the next time he attends mass. I really do wish I could be there for that

According to the speaker, The decision to give Father Conway the boot had not a thing to do with his compassion for the poor. He was let go simply "based on member feedback about pastoral care".

Ayn Rand
The only problem with that pathetically lame excuse is the fact that, thus far, no one has seconded that claim, and the overwhelming majority of the members are not-at-all happy with what has happened. Another excuse being given is the quality of his council". That one does seem to make a little sense to me. If Father Pat's "council" has been to advise politicians to stick with the teachings of the man who proclaimed "whatever you did to the least of these, you also did to me", I could honestly see how something like that would make your average right wing "Christian" squirm a bit uncomfortably. Let's face it: their core philosophy has nothing to do with Jesus Christ, and everything to do with Ayn Rand, a long-dead writer of bad fiction who is widely believed to have been mentally ill. In fact, one of the requirements to work in Ryan's office has been that all potential staffers must have read Rand's "Atlas Shrugged", one of only three books in my lifetime that I attempted to read but could not finish. Ideology had nothing to do with it - in fact, at the time (around 1981) I was totally aware of the political implications of the book. It was simply so completely awful that I thought it unreadable.

Father Pat's dismissal should offend Catholics and non-Catholics alike - believers and non-believers. One of the architects of the Constitution, James Monroe, was of the opinion that neither the House nor the Senate should have a chaplain. Perhaps he was on to something, but that is a debate for another day. The fact of the matter is that the GOP's claim to have a corner on the market of all that is good, and holy and Christian should by now be seen for what it truly is and truly has been for generations. Not that I'm optimistic that these silly Americans are finally going to wake up and smell the elephant manure. That's never gonna happen.

Perhaps Franklin Graham is available to take Father Pat's place. Given the depths into the ideological sewer to which "the party of Abraham Lincoln" has sunk in the last half century, and given old Franklin's total disregard of the teachings of the Prince of Peace, I imagine that he'd be right at home in the House of Reprehensibles.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY