Saturday, July 28, 2018

What Used to Be

Donald Trump once remarked that he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and he wouldn't lose any votes.

Michael Cohen once told a reporter that he would take a bullet for Donald Trump.

You do see where I'm going with this, don't you?
I'm not implying that der Donald would shoot his former "fixer" out in the middle of New York City for all the world to behold, but Cohen must sleep a little uneasy these days knowing about the character of the man he worked for at one time. Given the fact that Vladimir Putin has made quite an investment in the very existence of a Trump administration, and taking into consideration that THE VLAD is not unknown for sending hired assassins out on little "errands" - in other countries even - poor old Michael must be just a bit nervous these mornings when he puts the keys in his ignition.

Serious Dementia
It's funny to see Rudy Giuliani making the rounds of the talking heads on the tube. Where just two weeks ago he couldn't say enough sparkling things about Trump's one-time lawyer, yesterday he was telling the stooges on Fox Noise that Cohen has been lying all of his life. Naturally none of the geniuses over at Fox called him on the carpet for his many inconsistencies on this point. It really is all kind of funny when you think about it. I feel bad for Rudy. He obviously doesn't understand that his historical reputation as "America's mayor" has been forever tarnished. It's clear to me that the poor man is standing at the threshold of dementia. For this reason alone we should cut the dude some slack. That no one on Team Trump would have the wit to figure this out should come as a surprise to no one. Ultimately Rudy's story will end up more pathetic than villainous.

And if Michael Cohen's day's are stressful at this moment in his life, Donald Trump's life has become unhinged and tumultuous. As bad as Dick Nixon's life had become a-year-and-a-half into his second administration, it never got as weird as things have gotten for this POTUS. Remember, Nixon all Nixon was concerned with was the burglary of his political "enemies" and the break-in of the office od Daniel Ellsberg's shrink out on the West Coast. Trump's situation is far-more potentially fatal. The president - and even some of his kids - could end up doing some serious prison time. Say what you want about Dick Nixon, Julie and Trisha were as good as gold.

Now we learn this week that, according to Cohen, Trump not only knew about the infamous June 2016 meeting inside Trump Tower between Donald Junior and operatives of the Putin government, he approved it in advance. This has been a news week to end all news weeks. We'll leave it at that.

Bob Mueller is going to be doing the asking and Michael Cohen is going to be doing the answering. It was oodles of fun a few weeks ago watching Cohen sending those sneaky little, not-too-subtle signals to his ex-boss via the news media that Trump had better pardon him before this mess exploded. Trump, probably for political reasons, was unable to do that. What Cohen was unable to grasp was the stark fact that the mess had already exploded. It exploded over a year ago when the prez - in front of an audience of millions told Lester Holt of NBC News that he had fired former FBI director Jim Colmey because of the Russian investigation. That Trump could be so heart-achingly stupid is another example of either his complete arrogance or his insanity - or quite possibly both. The jury is still out on that one.

I used to get the distinct impression that Donald Trump was having a lot of fun being Donald Trump. I don't think that that's the case anymore. In fact, it must be a real drag to be Donald Trump these days.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Thursday, July 26, 2018

In the Shadow of Tricky Dick

In just eighteen months and six days, Donald J. Trump has managed to alienate our allies in a way that nobody could have imagined when he came into office on January 20, 2017. The extreme damage he has managed to do since then was not unexpected by anyone who has paid attention for three-and-a-half decades. We saw this coming. The comparisons have inevitably been made to Dick Nixon, which I believe to be completely unfair - to Nixon. True, it's easy to describe both men as inherently corrupt and evil, but the Donald is truly in a class all to himself. And besides, while King Richard might have been a shade out-of-sorts in the psychology department, no one ever accused him of being bat-shit-crazy. Trump is another matter all together.
The comparisons began anew when it was revealed the other day that Trump, like Nixon before him, has his very own enemies list. The moment I heard about this I immediately hightailed it over to Twitter:
"Hi! Would you place me on your enemies list please?"
Dick Gregory
I then proceeded to post a link to the site you are reading to let him know that I was being completely sincere. Sadly, there was no response and I am, as yet, not on the list. But what a publicity bonanza that would be, huh? I was reminded this morning of the late Dick Gregory's reaction when he was told that he had made Nixon's list:
"Tell him I accept before he changes his mind."
Good old Greg! The man was always quotable. He knew damned well that being publicly listed as an "enemy" of someone like Nixon would only enhance his status with the counterculture, and he was absolutely correct. In the months after the president made the list public, the demand for Dick's appearance at college campuses all around the nation went up a notch-or-two. Whom among us wouldn't have loved to be on to be on Nixon's shit list?

Seeing enemies everywhere is a sure sign of clinical paranoia, and though it is true that both men did indeed have political enemies everywhere, none of them were threats to the president or the presidency, which only proves beyond a doubt that both men were (or in Trump's case "is") psychologically unfit to hold the job.
Another difference between the Trickster and der Donald was that Nixon - for all his many faults (and Heaven know he had too many to count) was an intelligent man. In fact, I'll go out on a limb here and proclaim that, with the exception of Jefferson, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Kennedy, Nixon was one of the smartest men to ever occupy the White House. This just cannot be said about Donald Trump. With the possible exception of Andrew Johnson, Trump is - far and away - the dumbest guy ever to hold that office. He's not a "stable genius" - as he has cheerfully told us twice now. He's a moron and he's out of his mind. This is going to end badly....but I repeat myself.

And yet for all his personal failings, Dick Nixon understood a few, basic realities that (with the exception of Gerry Ford) all of his Republican successors have never quite been able to figure out. Nixon was pretty much an Eisenhower Republican. As Dwight Eisenhower's VP, he was loyal to and respectful of the president's agenda. Although each man was uncomfortable in the presence of the other (It is said that Ike in particular didn't much care for Nixon personally) they saw the world through the same lens. President Eisenhower's views on American social engineering can best be summed up in a letter he wrote to his brother, Edgar, on the eve of the 1952 election:

"Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid." 
Ike cannot be accused of political pandering here. This was a private letter that was not made public until decades after his death. Here are the key words which we really need to pay attention to: " would not hear of that party again in our political history." Eisenhower understood - as did Nixon, I think - that the institutions that make for a stable and thriving middle class are tampered with to the detriment of the political party doing the tampering. In other words, "Mess with Social Security and you're history, Buster!" This is the reason the Republican party is within less than a decade of extinction. Donald Trump will be remembered as the final nail in the elephant's coffin.
FUN FACT: In the entire eight years of Eisenhower's presidency, he and Mamie never once invited Dick and Pat Nixon to dine at the family living quarters of the White House. Ain't that a riot?
Trump is the price that the GOP is finally paying for spending over fifty years pandering to extremists and crazy people; he is their fait accompli. The party's over. It's time to call it a day.
Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A Man for All Treasons

Imagine....just imagine....if Barack Obama, standing next to the president of the former Soviet Union, had sold out his country as blatantly and as shamelessly as Donald Trump did two days ago at the Helsinki "summit" between himself and Vladimir Putin. Can you even imagine the howl of unanimous, righteous indignation that would have exploded from the conservatives within congress and without? Fox Noise and the right wing SCREAM MACHINE would have blown their collective gaskets; The House Judiciary Committee would not have bothered  waiting for the niceties of the impeachment process. They would have lynched him on the spot. There are a different set of rules in our society for men with dark skin. Don't you forget it, Bubba.

Former CIA director John Brennan - hardly a far-left ideologue - has stated publically that, in his opinion, the president of the united States is guilty of treason; John McCain has called the presidents statements "disgraceful"; even corrupt and hideous old Mitch McConnell has taken to himself to remind his constituents that Putin is not a friend of America. When one's standards have sunk so low that they offend Mitch, that doesn't bode particularly well for the one doing the offending. It may be reasonably argued that what happened in Helsinki on Monday was the beginning of the end for Donald Trump. The bells of doom are tolling for this for the most insanely corrupt, incompetent administration in the history of Idiot Nation.

The most amazing thing about the Helsinki summit, - even    more so than the revolting and unintentionally hysterical joint press conference between the Donald and Vlad - was the fact that they both met with each other for two hours - alone. This was nothing short of unprecedented. When an American chief-executive meets with the head of any  government - especially a hostile government - always present are his key foreign policy advisors. Trump insisted that this little conference be conducted between Putin and himself, with only their interpreters present. Not even the unhinged ideologue, John Bolton, was permitted to take part in the festivities. Something like this has never happened before. It is laughably obvious that the president wanted to discuss a few "matters" that are a tad too sensitive for those with even the highest security clearances. Here's something you can take to the bank: That meeting was recorded by the Russians. Vladimir Putin today has Donald Trump more embedded in his pocket than ever.

I would love to know who Trump's interpreter at that meeting was. Was he or she an American citizen?  If I were Bob Mueller, I would be looking at issuing a subpoena the moment that person sets foot upon American soil. Another interesting highlight of the Helsinki press conference was when Putin invited Mueller and his team to Russia to give them  the opportunity to question the twelve Russian intelligence operatives indicted  by the department of Justice, all of whom are now safely snugged away in Moscow. This would not be a particularly good idea - in fact it could possibly be a fatal one. Bad things tend to happen to Putin's advisories, and I'm not sure that a little "accident" wouldn't befall any group of people on the cusp of exposing a scandal that could cause the administration of the Russian president's most valuable stooge to descend into a freefall. No, that's not a good idea at all. They should stay put. Seriously.

The rest of the summer of 2018 promises to be a gift for insanity junkies everywhere - particularly the ones who call America "home". In wake of the mass outrage and utter disbelief that followed the events in Finland on Monday, Trump made a feeble attempt to walk back some of the more idiotic comments he made, but it was of no use. The damage has been done, and even more -than-a-few of his supporters are starting to wonder if sending this fool to the White House was a good idea. Just in case you've yet to figure it out: IT WASN'T. In front of the world, Donald Trump put the word of Vladimir Putin in front of every intelligence agency that serves his own government. But don't think that something that horrendous is about as bad as it gets. In the weeks to come, it's only going to get much worse. By summer's end, the implosion will be nearly complete.

Brace yourselves for the end. Somewhere, I'm absolutely certain, Dick Nixon is laughing.

Tom Degan
Goshen, ny

Saturday, July 14, 2018


"Let me be clear - unequivocally and under oath - not once in my twenty-six years of defending my nation did my personal opinions impact any official action I took."
Peter Strzok

Let me be clear: these are certainly interesting times in which to live. I was one week shy of my sixteenth birthday when Dick Nixon resigned in disgrace on August 9. 1974. The night before I had experimented with LSD for the first of only a handful of times. Not surprisingly, I was sound asleep when the Trickster gave his "my mother was a saint" speech in his farewell speech to the White House staff late the following morning. That was probably the only televised Watergate-related event in the fourteen month Watergate scandal that I missed. At the moment Nixon was sent a'packing off to grim and bitter exile in his bunker at San Clemente, I remember thinking that American politics would never again get as corrupt and as weird as it had been during the Nixon era. I was wrong. I had to wait forty-four years but we've finally arrived at place darker and infinitely more disturbing than Watergate.

That was a paper cut. This is a bloodbath.

I was reminded once again of how completely unhinged "the party of Abraham Lincoln" has become in recent years while watching the testimony of FBI agent Peter Strzok in front of a joint session of the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees on Thursday. It was nothing more than the Republicans' attempt at cheap, political theater and it blew up in their clueless faces. Like the scene during the Army/McCarthy hearings of 1954, when attorney Joseph Welsh confronted an obviously unhinged Joe McCarthy ("At long last, sir, have you no sense of decency?") it was a moment that will be burned into the historical memory banks sixty-four years from now. On the Hannity program the following evening, tricky editing on the part of Fox Noise allowed Sean to spin the event as if the Republicans wiped the floor with Peter Strzok. That's not even close to being true. By the proceeding's end, it was obvious to everyone that these assholes had messed with the wrong FBI agent.

Uber-Goober Gohmert
As you might recall, Strzok, who had been having an extramarital affair with a fellow FBI employee named Lisa Page, had been exchanging emails with her as the campaign of 2016 was winding down. These emails had gone public and their content made clear that both Strzok and Page were understandably alarmed by the very notion of a Trump administration (as were all thinking people at the time). The highlight of the hearings was uttered by uber-goober, Louis Gohmert of Texas:

"I cannot help but wonder, when I see you looking there with a little smirk, how many times did you look so innocent into your wife's eyes and lie to her about Lisa Page?" 

Not to anyone's surprise, the Democrats on the committee exploded in rightful indignation; one congresswoman angrily advised him to go back on his medications. It was one of those "pinch me" moments tha makes life in Donald Trump's America so horrifically amusing. Isn't this fun?

It is my belief that the president of the United States of America is a willing agent of a hostile foreign power. I'm fairly certain that I will eventually be proved right on this point. What is hard for me to believe is that so many Republican politicians would want to save this administration by covering up what is undoubtedly the most despicable political crime in the history of this country. Putting party before the best interests of their nation will only backfire on them in the long run.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY


Here's a link to view some highlights of Thursday's congressional clown show. It really must be seen to be believed:**.

Louie Gohmert:

Trey Gowdy:

We do indeed live in extraordinary times!


My output on this site has been a bit slow as of late. I've been having severe trouble with my vision lately that has required laser surgery on my right eye on Tuesday. Surgery on the left eye will be happening on this coming Tuesday. I can see the moon again. Life is good.

Friday, July 06, 2018

The Legacy of Mister Rogers

Would you be mine? Could you be mine?
Won't you be my neighbor?

Mister Rogers

I didn't do much on the Fourth of July this year. The high point of the day for me was sitting down with Tom Frederick, a guy I've known since about two-and-a-half years before the invention of dirt, for an interview on his new podcast. It was a very enjoyable experience; the reason being that we discussed the history of comedy in America. Thankfully, the subject of current events and politics never came up. It would have depressed the both of us, I suppose.
I've been thinking a lot lately about how utterly vicious American culture has become in recent years. Mea culpa: I am definitely part of the problem, otherwise, the title of this blog would be "The Loving Discourse", not "The Rant". What got me obsessed with the subject of the seeming disappearance of gentleness in America was a trip I made to the movies a week ago today. I had the joy of viewing the new documentary on the life and perfect career of Fred Rogers. It's called Won't You Be My Neighbor. If you don't see another film for the rest of the summer, please see this one.
When Mister Rogers' Neighborhood made it's debut on PBS in early 1968, I was a few months shy of my tenth birthday. I clearly remember channel surfing one day and coming upon this gentle, soft-spoken man chatting amiably to the viewer in a manner I was not familiar with  - at least as far as standard televised kiddie-fare was concerned. It seemed to me at first glance that he was addressing me as if I were an infant. As long as I live, I'll always remember my initial reaction to this obviously very decent man's tender musings:


Having been raised from my earliest memory on the insane slapstick of animators Tex Avery and Chuck Jones and the cartoons they created for Warner Brothers and MGM, it was my impression  that children's programming was a one-size-fits-all proposition. For the next twenty-or-so years, I would occasionally - accidentally - tune in to Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, watch it for a minute or two with a sense of smug amusement, and then turn the channel to something else, wondering as I did how this program had managed to remain on the air for all these years. Then one day, in around 1990, I had what I can only describe as a EUREKA moment.

Visiting my sister's house one morning, I noticed that her preschool children were watching Mister Rogers. While he talked to them, they were transfixed, hanging on to his every word. That's when it hit me: in 1968, he wasn't talking to ten-year-old Tommy Degan - he was talking to his three-year-old sister Sally! That was the day I finally understood what Mister Rogers was all about. Shame on me for having taken so long to figure it out. From that moment on I was a fan. In fact, I would occasionally make a point of visiting with my little nieces and nephews when he was on the air; I wanted to share with them the joy and wonder of life that he so beautifully transmitted over the airwaves. I would even make a point over the years to purchase Videotapes and DVDs produced by Mister Rogers for the preschool children of friends of mine. In fact, I still have a VHS on the shelf behind me that I never got around to giving away. It's called A Day at the Circus....and, yes, I did watch it. I loved it!

To be sure, Won't You Be My Neighbor is not a film for kids. It's a serious study of the man's life and the impact he had on the children he sincerely loved. You can see a clip of the segment from three days after the murder of Robert Kennedy where Daniel the puppet tiger timidly asks, "What does assassination mean?" At a time when African Americans were being denied the right to use public swimming pools all across America, you can see the scene where Mister Rogers invites Officer Clements - a black policeman - to share his wading pool and soak his feet. But my favorite clip of all is from a Fox and Friends segment where one of the three stooges who host that awful program refer to him as "evil". Isn't that a hoot? 
I remember once tuning into the Sean Hannity radio program many years ago and listening to him brag about the fact that his kids were "not allowed" to watch Mister Rogers' Neighborhood for fear that they'd become too nice and too wimpy. Sean's kids are adults now. I cannot help wondering what kind of people they have turned out to be. One of my most nagging regrets is that I was too old for Mister Rogers when he came along in the late winter of 1968. Had he been around in 1961/1963, I probably would not have turned out to be  one half of the cynic that I am.

Mr. Rogers used to say that his favorite number was 143: One letter being "I"; four letters being "Love"; and three letters being "You".

This film is mandatory viewing for everyone with a pulse. When he passed away in 2003, I genuinely grieved. I'm enough of a cockeyed optimist to believe that the gentleness that was personified in Mister Rogers didn't die with him. Hopefully it's only on an enforced hiatus. We can only hope.
Won't you be? Won't you be?
Please won't you be my neighbor?
This was something I really needed to do. I feel better already.
Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

To read more recent pieces on this site, go to this link:
Won't You be My Neighbor will be released on DVD on September 4. Pre-order a copy today. It's beautiful.