Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Beyond Amusing

Remember the good old days when Donald Trump was merely a goldmine-source of unintentional comedy? That's not to say that the guy is no longer ripe for satire and dark humor; he is. The problem is that what has happened to America is no longer particularly funny. I've been saying for nearly eighteen months, "This is going to end badly". The word "bad" can be read in many different ways. I fell down a flight of stairs in my house a couple of months back, and while this not a good thing it certainly wasn't "tragic". The administration of Donald J. Trump is going to end tragically - and not just for him, his associates and his family. This administration is going to end tragically for all of us. The writing is on the wall, folks - minus the errors of grammar, spelling and punctuation.

We saw the tragedy unfolding before our eyes last week at the Mexican/American border. Children were snatched from the arms of their loving parents without - amazingly - being provided with any documentation as to where those kids could be located. As if that wasn't bad enough for the tastes of thinking people everywhere, the government (that would be our government) apparently did not record the names of the parents or the children. Remember, some of these kids are infants.

Trump is quite a new experience for the American experiment. We've never really had a genuinely bat-shit-crazy president before.

The round-the-clock pressure that the Watergate affair brought upon Dick Nixon began to cause the hideous old bastard to become unglued. He began to drink heavily and there are credible reports of him having conversations with the painted portraits of some of his dead predecessors (I can just imagine him snarling obscenities at JFK!) But for most of the five-and-a-half years that The Trickster called the White House home, his judgments were, for the most part, sane - horrifically misguided, true, but quite sane all the same.

Theodore and Elliot Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt was a man who underwent periods of debilitating of depression for his entire life. In fact, a few historians have made the argument that old Teddy was, perhaps, bi-polar. There is some evidence that this might be the case. Roosevelt was a man of almost manic enthusiasms that could leave the people around him bewildered. On the day that he was inaugurated as vice-president, President McKinley's chief political advisor, Mark Hanna, told him: "Do you realize there is but a single heartbeat between the presidency and that mad man?"

Certainly it cannot be argued that going into the Brazilian jungle at the age of fifty-five (an episode from which he almost didn't return) in hindsight had to be a bit nuts. His younger brother, Elliot, succumbed in his early thirties to the ravishes of drug and alcohol abuse; and although it is impossible to clinically diagnose both men a century after their passing, there is some evidence that a strain of mental illness existed in that extraordinary family.

But for all of TR's craziness - real or imagined - the only people who had a real (and justified) fear of his presidency were the richest one percent, or, as he referred to them, "the malefactors of great wealth". He was sincere when he said that he wanted a "Square Deal" for all of the people. Unlike Trump, Roosevelt was noted for his sound and reasonable judgment.

Abraham Lincoln was another president for whom an argument can be made that he suffered from some form of mental illness. Like Roosevelt, Lincoln was plagued throughout his lifetime by episodes of  severe depression (back then it was referred to as "melancholia"). There were times when his sense of inner despair was so profound, that he would retreat within himself for hours, barely acknowledging anyone. Indeed, a poem he wrote in 1844, when he was thirty-five, reveals a dark, inner world that must have been bleak:
I range the fields with pensive tread,
And pace the hollow rooms,
And feel (companion of the dead)
              I'm living in the tombs.
Lincoln's personal turmoil does not take away from us his rightful image of one of the greatest presidents in history; in fact, it only enhances it.

Past chiefs-executive were made up from a vast landscape of emotional and psychological variables. They were forty-three differing men of differing intellectual capacities. Some were blessed with great strengths, while others were cursed with monumental weaknesses. A few offered to the American people farsighted ideas that made for a more perfect union, while still others were incapable of visualizing this country's potential. Donald Trump is something else altogether. This is going to end tragically....

....but I repeat myself.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 

by Ron Chernow

I had an understanding about the general and the president, but the private man has been a joy to get to know. The best bio I've read in a long time.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Look What We Have Become

I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.
Laura Bush

I never had a problem with Laura Bush. She always seemed to be to be a good-intentioned, warm-hearted woman. I could never hold it against her that she chose as her life partner a corrupt and contemptible jackass like Dubya, any more than I could hold any animosity toward Melania Trump for her choices. With regard to Ms. Bush, I always had the feeling that, deep down, there was a kind and compassionate woman lurking beneath the façade. She proved it yesterday with an op ed she authored in the Washington Post where she came to the defense of the children being separated from their parents at detention centers at the Texas/Mexico border. Good for her.
Two-thousand children being detained in tents in one-hundred degree heat in a tornado zone? What could possibly go wrong?
Meanwhile the president is trying to make to make us swallow the nonsense that what is happening now is simply the implementation of laws that were put into play by the previous administration. This same nonsense was regurgitated this morning by the stooges on Fox and Friends. Other members of Team Trump have come out and admitted that what is happening is not an Obama-era law, but the policy of Donald Trump, Jeff Sessions, and uber-Nazi wannabe, Stephen Miller. As this tragedy plays itself out - with the whole world watching aghast, Trump is using these poor kids - and their parents - as gambling chips: give him his wall and maybe they might be able to work something out. Other than Dick Nixon's Christmas 1972 bombing of North Vietnam, it's the most inhumane and disgusting behavior I have witnessed in my lifetime.
Donald Trump is what we have become, folks. He is everything, wrapped up into one repulsive human being that the rest of this tired planet has come to view in the American character with a sense of revulsion and alarm. We should have seen this self-inflicted catastrophe coming from ten-thousand miles down the road. We didn't. Idiot Nation.
Around five years ago I wrote on this site that in a generation or so, we who call ourselves "white" would no longer be in the majority, and that the big story of the first half of the twenty-first century would be how we reacted to this new reality. This week we were all given a nasty preview of how ugly this new change is going to be.
Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


"Zero Tolerance" is Intolerance,

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Bad Times in Trumpsville

Off to the Klink
Why is this man smiling?
The heat just got turned up ten notches for Donald Trump. It's a fairly safe bet that, at this hour, the poor old geezer is in double freak out mode - screaming obscenities at the television in the middle of the night; gorging himself on cheeseburgers and ice cream; standing half naked in the dark on the Truman Balcony, cursing at fate, how it could have allowed him to be caught in the middle of the atrocious mess he now finds himself in. He's now at the point where he could easily be envious of Dick Nixon during the worst days of Watergate. That affair was nothing - a mere blip on the proverbial scandal screen. Treason is serious stuff. Has anyone reminded him that Tuesday will mark the sixty-fifth anniversary of the day that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed in the electric chair for that very crime? Has it dawned on him the irony that it was his mentor, Roy Cohen, who prosecuted the two of him and sent them to their deaths? It must not be much fun being Donald Trump these days. Call it an educated guess.

I've had a bit of writers block of late. It wasn't a case of lack of material, but simply a matter of: WHERE DO I BEGIN??? Between the Russian-collusion scandal and the extremism of too many American citizens and politicians, the Trump Charities affair  - not to mention the atrocity that is being committed, at this very moment, by this very administration  at our southern border (I'll get to that one in a couple of days) - it's been one of the most extraordinary news weeks of my life - and I was born when Eisenhower was living in the White House!

When Paul Manifort was caught this week, red-handed, trying to coerce  witness in the Mueller investigation to lie for him, it was a foregone conclusion among every legal expert I saw interviewed that the man's bail would be revoked and that he would be sent to jail to await his trial. If found guilty of the many crimes he is being accused of He could spent the rest of his life in prison. It was an arrogant and stupid thing for him to do, but then again, there doesn't seem to be any shortage of arrogance and stupidity in Trumpsville; in fact there's such a surplus of both. they're selling them for half-a-penny per ton.

Mayor 9/11
Manafort is no longer able to count on the pardon that Trump and his newest fixer, former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani, are publically dangling out on the airwaves - a clear case of obstruction of justice in my view. He has no other choice at this stage but cooperation. Trump said in an impromptu press conference on the White House lawn yesterday  that Manifort was only peripherally involved with the 2016 campaign (in fact, he was its chairman) and that he hardly knew the guy. Having now said that, how would it be politically feasible to grant him a pardon? If he knows nothing of the man's background or the crimes he may have committed, pardoning him now - or at anytime - would be an act of political self-destruction on his part. Trump must realize this, and, more importantly, Manifort must realize this as well. He has no other choice but to tell Bob Mueller everything he wants to know. With any luck, he could get off light with a ten year sentence - or even five. Mueller and company are holding all the cards.

As if this weren't enough of a headache for the Donald, there's also the specter of the newest Cohen in his life. Michael Cohen is - or he was - Donald Trump's attorney. He was the fixer that was recently replaced by Rudy Giuliani. We don't know what Team Mueller has on him, but after the Feds raided his two homes and his office, by all accounts they walked away with oodles of incriminating evidence. Although he's not in half as much hot water as Manifort (at least I don't think he is) he has nonetheless found himself in an untenable situation. It appears he is spilling his guts.

It's an interesting time to be alive.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

While the Abyss Beckons

There are a few real and disturbing details that we need to come to serious terms with:
First and foremost, the president of the United States of America is out of his fucking mind. This is something that was obvious to any of us who had bothered to pay even cursory attention to the Donald Trump phenomenon since he burrowed his way into the national spotlight three-and-a-half decades ago. Secondly, it is now pitifully obvious that this president - your president - is an agent (possibly a paid agent) of a dangerous and hostile foreign government. The good news is that he is no longer a "secret" agent - not to those of us who have been smart enough to pay attention.
I need to share with you my first exposure to The Donald:
It was not with the 1985 publication of The Art of the Deal. It was about two years before that. You see, I was working at the about-to-be-opened Trump Tower, as a metal worker. I was with a crew that was polishing and lacquering the brass railings that guided visitors from the entrance into the interior of the lobby. The foreman on the crew I was working with was an Italian immigrant named Frank Amato. As I was standing next to Frank, The Donald approached us with one of his pathetic, little sycophantic flunkies in tow. Here is the conversation exactly as it happened:
TRUMP: What's that chemical he's using in my railings?
FRANK: Well, Mr. Trump. this is a chemical called "Noxon". It is used....
At that moment, the sycophantic flunky interrupted him:
SYCOPHANTIC FLUNKY: No. When Mr. Trump asks you a question, you direct your answer directly to me.

In other words:
I witnessed this exchange with my very own eyes. Fast forward thirty six years: this asshole is our president! Ain't that something?
I always wanted to meet a president - current president, future president or ex-president  - it didn't make a damned bit of difference. Pity me that my fate would force me to meet Donald Trump in 1983. Damn you, fate!

I must admit that, last night, while viewing the moment that  Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un shook hands, I was struck by the majesty of the moment. Then again, when realizing that these are the two most unhinged despots on the entire planet, the other part of me said - LOUDLY - This is going to end badly.

Idiot Nation.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

RFK: Fifty Years On

"I guess there's no point in being Irish if you don't realize that, sooner or later, the world is going to break your heart."
Daniel Patrick Moynihan
When Moynihan said that, he was speaking of Jack Kennedy, but it applies to Bobby, too. I found out very young that my heart would be irrevocably broken.
This is the anniversary that always depresses me, the forty-ninth one I've lived through. Fifty years ago today, in the early hours of June 5, 1968, Someone who shall remain nameless fired a .22 caliber gun behind the right ear of Robert Francis Kennedy. After lingering for twenty-six hours in extremely critical condition, he passed away early the following morning, June 6.
Bobby Kennedy was my first political hero. It was around this time that I started paying close attention to the news and the people making the news. I knew he was running for the presidency and I was an enthusiastic supporter. Ideology had not a thing to do with it; I was, after all only two months shy of my tenth birthday. The fact of the matter is that I just liked the guy. All day long on the fifth, all anyone could do was think of -and pray for - Bobby. I went to bed that night with the nightmare images of him lying on the cold floor of the Ambassador Hotel Kitchen, barely conscious and bleeding from a wound to the back of the head. Early the next morning my father came into mine and brother Pete's bedroom to awaken us with the grim news: "Senator Kennedy died a few minutes ago."
 He was so unlike the caricature of what we've come to expect from most politicians: his voice was soft and he spoke with a slight lisp. In spite of his much heralded "toughness" there always seemed to be an almost fragile vulnerability about him. When talking to an audience of farm laborers or inner city youth, he could quote George Bernard Shaw or the ancient  Greek playwrights Aeschylus and Sophocles without showing even the slightest hint of condescension. Said his most recent biographer, Evan Thomas:

"He seemed so young when he died. He was young - only forty-two, a year younger than JFK had been upon his election as the second youngest president in the nation's history. But Robert Kennedy somehow seemed younger, more boyish. With his buck teeth and floppy hair and shy gawkiness, he sometimes came across lik
e an awkward teenager. At other times, he was almost childlike in his wonder and curiosity."
He also had the political courage to tell the American people the hard and bitter truths they would have preferred to ignore. During the ill-fated campaign of 1968, during a `question and answer session after a speech, a smug member of a mostly college-age audience sarcastically asked the Senator just who he thought was going to pay for all of these proposed programs of his. Robert Kennedy looked the guy dead in the eye and said, "You are."

They just don't make Democrats like that anymore, do they?

To think where we might have gone but for the bullet of one deranged and confused mad man. A second Kennedy administration (which would have ended on January 20, 1977) would definitely have prevented five-and-a-half years of Nixon and Watergate and might very well have prevented the dawning of the insane right wing era that began exactly four years later with the inauguration of Ronald Reagan - and has continued for thirty years - an era which has ruined a country that used to be a nice place in which to live. We are a better people because, for one brief shining moment, Bobby Kennedy walked among us. I wish he had been allowed to stick around, don't you?
On the night of August 28, 1964, at the Democratic Convention in Atlantic City, Robert F. Kennedy was greeted by the delegates with a thunderous ovation that lasted almost a half an hour. When the crowd finally calmed down, he paid tribute to his late, martyred brother, dead only nine months. Quoting Shakespeare in a passage from Romeo and Juliet, what he said that evening resonates across the decades. It might also be said for Bobby himself:
When he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of Heaven so fine,
That all the world will be in love with night,
And pay no worship to the garish sun.

I, too, am in love with the night. There's a lot to love.

Tom Degan

Goshen, NY

Robert F. Kennedy His Life and Times
by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.