Thursday, March 26, 2015

Charlie McCarthyism


"This is an administration that seems bound and determined to violate every single one of our bill of rights. I don’t know that they have yet violated the Third Amendment, but I expect them to start quartering soldiers in peoples’ homes soon."
   
Texas Senator Ted Cruz (with a straight face)

It's official; Ted Cruz made the announcement on Monday that he is a candidate for the presidency of the United States. The silly bastard has tossed his tinfoil hat into the ring. Life is beautiful.

My luck. How did it get so good? "Fortuitous" doesn't even come close to defining it. Ted Cruz's candidacy is the best news I've had since the moment I learned that the Bay City Rollers had disbanded. This, of course, is no surprise - in fact I predicted on this site two years ago that Ted would make a run for the Big House in 2016. It was obvious to me that this idiot had such a high opinion of himself, that he really believed he was fit for the job. And I do not believe this to be a cynical attempt to "up his brand" so to speak; he is in it for the long haul. That is what makes the very existence of Ted Cruz such a knee-slapping delight: He takes himself so seriously! And don't think the American people won't be naive enough to elevate a half-witted yahoo from the Lone Star State to the presidency. Just in case it slipped your mind, it has happened before. I don't really need to rehash the ugly details here, do I?

Ted Cruz is a satirist's delight. He requires little (if any) effort. All one has to do is quote the demented little freak verbatim and - HEY PRESTO - instant satire! Here, I'll show you what I mean:

"If you look at other nations that have gone down the road towards gay marriage, that’s the next step of where it gets enforced. It gets enforced against Christian pastors who decline to perform gay marriages, who speak out and preach biblical truths on marriage, that has been defined elsewhere as hate speech, as inconsistent with the enlightened view of government."

You see what I'm talking about? With Ted Cruz hogging such a huge portion of the national limelight, these things literally write themselves! Should he ever make it to the White House, I'll be the most tickled person on the planet. Can you imagine how delightfully weird something like a Cruz administration would be? As mind-jarringly stupid as George W. Bush was, old Ted is starting to make the hideous little frat boy look like Albert Einstein. I know it's unnatural to wish for something as horrible as that, but since the American people are hellbent on self-destruction anyway, we might as well have a nice giggle as we descend into the abyss. Ain't politics the livin' end?

ATTENTION BIRTHERS:

In the 2008 campaign, only one of the candidates of the two major political parties was born in the United States - Barack Obama. John McCain was born in Panama. And yet it was the black guy whose qualifications were brought into question - at least in your minds - although I'm sure that was just a coincidence. Since you tea-partiers have gotten twisted up into such a comical snit over the birthplace of the president of the United States since he first announced his candidacy in 2007, I'm wondering how you're going to react to the news that Ted Cruz was born in Canada? Unlike your allegations against Barack Obama, Ted's place of birth is beyond dispute. He even went through the trouble of "renouncing" his Canadian citizenship a couple of years ago! I've got a feeling that the very real origins of Ted Cruz's birth aren't going to make much of a difference to you folks this time round. Call it a silly hunch on my part.

And can you imagine the howl these idiotic right-wingers would have made had Barack Obama's dad been one of the insurgents who overthrew the Batista regime in Cuba in 1959 and placed Fidel Castro into power? Well that's the history of Ted's father, Raul! He was one of the Rough Riders who went charging up the figurative San Juan Hill with Fidel in the lead! He claims that he had no idea of Castro's communist leanings at the time - and I take him at his word. Back then, even the State Department wasn't sure where The Bearded one's politics were at.

Now, I realize that only an idiot would would even bother to bring these trivial things up in a campaign - that's why you can bet the farm that Ted's opponents will be sure to raise these issues during next year's GOP primaries. In case you haven't noticed, the collective IQ of that disgusting party has gone downhill just a wee bit since the days of Eisenhower. How's that for understatement? 

 ”The willingness to say all those crazy things is a rare, rare characteristic in this town, and you know what? It’s every bit as true now as it was then. We need a hundred more like Jesse Helms in the U.S. Senate.”
 
-Ted Cruz
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It's a only half step up  from uber racist and dingbat Jesse Helms to red-baiting blowhard Joseph McCarthy.  

McCarthy
McCarthy died on May 2, 1957, nearly fourteen years before Ted was born. I never dreamed that a character as completely warped as the infamous Wisconsin senator would appear in my lifetime; I was wrong. Ted Cruz is so McCarthy-like that it would be disconcerting if it weren't so funny. If he hasn't done McCarthy one better he's come pretty damned close. This was apparent a couple of years ago during the confirmation hearings for war hero Chuck Hagel, when Cruz accused him of somehow being in cahoots with the North Koreans. It was pure McCarthy - with every "t" dotted and every "i" crossed. Even his posture - the way he hunched over the microphone with his head slightly tilted - was pure Joe McCarthy! It was clear to me (and I wasn't the only one who took note of it) that Ted had admiringly studied Joe with all the discipline of a disciple absorbing wisdom at the feet of the master. And to think this knucklehead wants to be our next president. Imagine that. 

By the way, just to give you an idea where this twit is coming from, of all the places across the country from which could have inaugurated his campaign, he did it from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, the college that was founded by another famous racist, Jerry Fallwell. That's not unlike Ronald Reagan, who announced his candidacy in 1980 from Philadelphia, Mississippi, a completely unremarkable little stain on the map whose only claim to fame was the murders there of three civil rights workers in the summer of 1964. Nice.

Whatever happens in the next year-and-a-half, I'm all dressed up for the ride. It's gonna be oodles of fun watching Ted and Jeb tear each other to shreds in the primaries. And if Cruz is denied the nomination at the convention next summer, who wants to make a wager that he throws a wrench into the GOP's finely oiled machine by launching a third party uprising? I wouldn't put it past the guy; he seems intent on destroying the Republican party.  

GO FOR IT, TEDDY BOY!
`
Tom  Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED READING:

Here is a link to the first (but hardly the last) piece I ever wrote about Ted Cruz in May of 2013. He has only gained in comedic value in the ensuing two years. The man is a hoot:

http://tomdegan.blogspot.com/2013/05/president-cruz.html

The Seven Dumbest Things Ted Cruz Ever Said:
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From our friends over at AlterNet. Here's to you, Teddy boy!

SUGGESTED VIEWING:

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart:
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http://www.alternet.org/jon-stewarts-hilarious-takedown-ted-cruzs-presidential-announcement#.VRHIGvZmKrU.facebook
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Jon's take on the candidacy of Ted Cruz. As we've come to expect from this guy, it's as funny as it's insightful.

Rob Waggoner
AFTERTHOUGHT:

A gent from Tennessee by the name of Rob Waggoner just left this comment on my Facebook page:

"Going forward please only refer to him as Raphael Eduardo Cruz, since so many are hellbent on referring to our President as Barack HUSSEIN Obama."

Interesting idea, Rob. What goes around, ay?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Cotton Club 47


A BLAST FROM THE PAST:

 "Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both."

The Logan Act, 30 December 1799

Just thought I'd run that by you. 

It's as obvious as a setting sun on a westbound, highway: Tom Cotton has a severe case of Ted-Cruz-envy. Two years ago Cruz, a bloviating gasbag from the Lone Star State, was a newly arrived freshman senator, all set to shake up Washington in whatever way he could. Not since Joe McCarthy in the late forties had the nation seen anyone like this extremist dingbat. In two short years, he is now viewed (by some at least) as being a major contender for the 2016 nomination. Certainly Cruz has a high enough opinion of himself that, in his delusional megalomania, he has convinced himself that he is going to succeed Barack Obama as the next president of the United States of America.

Can you guess why I love writing about this stuff so much?

Tom Cotton, a freshman from Arkansas just took his senate seat in January. You can almost feel the little freak's lust for the same type of fame and notoriety that Cruz was able to achieve in so short a time. Less than a month-and-a-half after arriving in the senate chamber, this pathetic nonentity was able to talk forty-six of his colleagues into signing a letter addressed to the leaders of Iran, effectively torpedoing (or trying to - we shall see) negotiations in which the administration is presently engaged in trying to stop Iran's potential development of a nuclear weapons program. Some are saying that what they have done was in direct violation of the Logan Act, a law that has been on the books since January 30, 1799. Some even dare to call it "treason". Whatever the case, "the party of Abraham Lincoln" is looking crazier than ever - a feat which takes some doing.

I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for the Obama Justice Department to prosecute these clowns. In fact there has some precedent set in the past for publicity-crazy politicians (on both sides of the aisle) sticking their noses, where they clearly don't belong, into foreign affairs. But the undeniable fact is that it has never been done quite at this level before. They basically informed the Iranians in this sophomoric message that any agreement they make with Barack Obama will be null and void come January 20, 2017 when the Grand Old Party is once again in control of the executive branch of the American government.

EARTH TO REPUBLICANS: THAT AIN'T GONNA HAPPEN, BABY!

Apparently it has yet to dawn on these assholes that their party - at least on a nationwide basis - has become virtually unelectable. You want the proof? In the last two national election cycles the American people chose as their leader a black politician from Chicago. Given this nation's sad history with respect to race, that's an extraordinary thing. Can they really be so demented to think that defeating a white woman at the polls two Novembers from now is going to be any easier? To quote the great Johnny Mercer:

"Dream when the day is through
Dream and they might come true
Things never are as bad as they seem
So dream, dream, dream...." 

The only way that disgusting party is going to be able to take back the White House in two years will be via the route of an electoral coup d'etat; they won't be able to do it any other way. That's what the gutting of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was all about. Remember you read it here, folks.

I don't lose any sleep over the knowledge that there are blathering imbeciles like Tom Cotton or Ted Cruz - or the forty-five other senators who were stupid enough to sign that letter - rampaging the floors of the nation's capital. I'll be honest with you: it makes life awfully interesting. 

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Bob Crane 1928-1978
AFTERTHOUGHT: Hogan Revisited

I go to see my mother twice every day at the adult care facility she lives in (it's called Glen Arden). Lately I've taken to watching about an hour of reruns of Hogan's Heroes when I visit. They run every morning on TV Land, replacing the Cosby Show which was removed from the lineup a few months ago for reasons I don't think I need to go in to.

I used to love this program when I was a kid; however in the forty-plus years since I last viewed it, it has made its way onto every list as one of the worst TV shows in history. I wasn't too surprised to hear this. Back in its day, I thought Rowan and Martin's Laugh In was a hoot. When I viewed a few episodes a number of years ago, I was taken aback by how embarrassingly bad it was. I only assumed that Hogan's Heroes would suffer the same fate of adult hindsight.

After watching it for about a month now, I can only say that it's not one of the worst programs in history - far from it. In fact, when compared to other shows of that overrated decade, it holds up remarkably well. Let's face it: the sixties were a dreadful period in the history of American comedy. Other than a small handful, most of the "comedies" of that era are virtually unwatchable today. Hogan's Heroes is the happy exception to the rule: It's funny - very funny. Recently TV Guide named it fifth from the bottom of the worst shows of all time. That's complete nonsense.

Perhaps in the politically correct culture in which we live, certain people cannot forgive a program that was able to mine humor out of a Nazi-era POW camp. I would only advise that if you happen upon it while surfing the channels, give it another chance. It's not only very funny, there is enough suspense - and even a bit of drama - to keep it interesting. In that respect it paved the way for M*A*S*H, another comedy set within a man-made tragedy.

The show disappeared from syndication for decades following the 1978 murder of Bob Crane, who played Colonel Hogan. When the details of his somewhat lecherous private life and the circumstances that lead to his killing became known to the public, perhaps viewers wanted to forget about him for a while. Enough time has passed, I guess. Maybe in thirty-seven years we'll be able to watch Bill Cosby again without wincing.

dear Abbie
SUGGESTED READING:

Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture
by Abbie Hoffman

I first read his memoirs about thirty years ago and they're even better with hindsight reading them now. What I always loved about Abbie Hoffman (and why I miss him) is that he was utterly fearless without ever losing his madcap sense of humor, despite his trials - real and figurative. He was too unique for emulation. It's unspeakably sad that mental illness implanted in his mind the belief that his life wasn't worth living. That happens to a lot of good and decent people. We sure could use him now.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

"A Sacred Place"

Overcoming since 1965
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"Right now, in 2015, fifty years after Selma, there are laws across this country designed to make it harder for people to vote. As we speak, more of such laws are being proposed...Meanwhile, the Voting Rights Act, the culmination of so much blood, so much sweat and tears, the product of so much sacrifice in the face of wanton violence ...stands weakened."

President Barack Obama, 7 March 2015
at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma, Alabama

The more things change....

In an interview Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press, Congressman John Lewis told Chuck Todd that he considers the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama to be "a sacred place". And so it is. I drove over it once thirty years ago. Take it from me: the vibes are pretty intense. The bridge is named after an officer in the confederacy and a US senator who was also a Grand Dragon in the Alabama Ku Klux Klan. Given what his name has come to symbolize in the struggle for African American equality, I'm sure the hideous old bastard is doing somersaults in his grave at this very moment. I hope so.
 
Lewis: Walking into history
It's a disconcerting thing when you really think about it; the idea that what went down at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama fifty years ago this week could have happened - not only within my lifetime - but within my memory! The question of voting rights for all Americans should have been settled before the turn of the twentieth century. The dirty little secret is even more confounding: it's still not settled. The Voting Rights act of 1965, from which the blood spilled in Selma on that day was inspired, was effectively gutted last year. You're forgiven if your primary news source is FOX Noise and you were unaware of this rather revolting development....On second thought, you're not forgiven at all. What the heck is the matter with you? You ought to know better - seriously.

All in all it was a beautiful thing to behold: a mass gathering of the survivors of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's, and the children of that movement, those born decades after people like Medgar Evers and Jimmy Lee Jackson and Viola Liuzzo and Reverend James Reeb and Martin Luther King paid the ultimate dues by laying down their lives to advance the freedom of us all. That's what some people don't seem to understand: They freed all of us - white and black. We - I - owe those folks, BIG TIME.

"If someone had told me when we were crossing that bridge that one day I'd be back here introducing the first African-American president, I'd say you're crazy, you're out of your mind, you don't know what you're talking about!"

Rep. John Lewis
Selma, March 7, 2015  

The martyred Viola Liuzzo
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That things have moved forward since Bloody Sunday 1965 there's little room for debate; it's just that in recent months there has been a determined effort to reverse the gains which took many decades (not to mention quite a few lives and rivers of blood) to achieve. The eventuality that the power structure of this nation never foresaw was that, one day, they would no longer be the commanding majority. When the very first African American was elected to the presidency in 2008 (LORD, SAVE US ALL!!!) a lot of these bastards and bitches decided that the hour had come to take decided action. They were able to conjure - out of thin air, mind you - the make-believe electoral malady called "voter fraud". Last year the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was effectively gutted. By requiring voters to purchase ID's, they have made it difficult for the traditional Progressive constituency to cast their precious ballots. Somewhere, Jim Clark and Bull Connor must be smiling.
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I hate to rain on this rancid little parade of theirs (Honest I do!) but it seems perfectly clear to me that what went down a half a century ago in Selma, Alabama was merely a sweet little overture for what is coming. Not only has Jim Crow been raised from the dead, he's on a nationwide comeback tour. This is a show that won't be closing any time soon. 

Paging Dr. King
Come Election Day 2016, a lot of people who, with no difficulty at all, have voted their entire adult lives will be denied that right because of these right-wing-engineered laws. I just hope the victims of that denial remember Dr. King's legacy of non-violence. Perhaps they will. Perhaps they won't. Of this you may be absolutely certain: The shit is going to hit the fan; there will be riots at polling places all across the land. Hang onto your hats, folks. There's gonna be a hot time in the good ol' USA on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. Take that to the bank.
`
Tom Degan
Goshen, NY
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SUGGESTED READING:
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Parting the Waters
by Taylor Branch
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This comprehensive history of the Civil Rights movement in America is, to the best of my knowledge, the finest book ever written on the subject. It's still in print, too. Here's a link to order it off of Amazon.com:
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Parting the Waters: 1954-1963 

Part two is called "Pillar of Fire 1963-1965"; followed by part three which is called, "At Canaan's Edge 1965-1968". All three volumes are excellent and hugely recommended. Taylor Branch is a first rate historian.

SUGGESTED VIEWING:

The speech that President Obama gave at the Edmund Pettus Bridge this past weekend was the greatest of his career. Here's a link to watch it on YouTube:
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvAIvauhQGQ
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The guy was good.

Friday, March 06, 2015

CPAC FOLLIES OF 2015

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I wrote about the CPAC convention two years ago. There really isn't a hell of a lot to add as far as their 2015 shindig is concerned. Although the folks at CPAC claim that they are not affiliated with any one political party (Nudge! Nudge! Wink! Wink!) we all know whose bread they are buttering. If by this late stage in the game you're still unconvinced that the Republican party has lost its marbles, observing what transpired at this year's event is not going to change your mind, so you might as well not continue any further

The highlight of the week was Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. He stated (with a face as straight as a two-by-four) that, as president, dealing with the international threat posed by ISIS would be a relative cinch. You see, he faced down protesters at the state capital in Madison who were demanding a decent wage just to get by. That's right, campers, this fucking idiot compared the working men and women of his state to an international terrorist organization responsible for the deaths of thousands. Don'cha just love it?

But what was most revealing about the CPAC convention of 2016 was not the screaming extremism of the knuckleheads who attend events such as this, it was their reception of a man who is truly and undeniably one of their own: Jeb Bush might as well have been a streaker at the funeral of a spinster librarian. In spite of the busload of supporters that were hauled in by the Bush Mob in order to give Jeb a grand ovation, the air at the convention in Maryland was thick with fear and loathing as Bush took the podium to make his pitch. He reminded me of a Berlin Rabbi, circa 1936, trying to warm up the crowd at a Nuremberg rally. Try as he might, the poor bastard just couldn't reach these people. If it hadn't been so screamingly funny it would have been kind of sad. 
`  
I feel sort of sorry for Jeb. As it's been pointed out elsewhere, if the late Florida governor, Lawton Chiles, hadn't been so good at his job, Jeb could have easily defeated him in 1994 and been a sure thing for the GOP nomination in 2000. The fickle finger of fate is a cruel and unpredictable thing. Jeb's older brother, the one with the IQ of a moldy bag of rancid mangoes, won the governorship of the state of Texas the same year that poor old Jebbie lost in Florida. As a result, Dubya the halfwit was propelled into the Oval Office mainly by the machinations of his younger brother, who by that time was firmly settled into the governor's mansion in Tallahassee. All it took was the removal of 57,000 black people from the voting rolls of that state - a feat engineered by Jeb and his secretary of state, Katherine Harris. You know the rest of the story; I won't go into the hideous details.

Are comparisons of Jeb and George fair? On a certain level they most definitely are not. Jeb is processed s a certain, barely detectable likability which was completely absent in his older brother. The guy was such an arrogant schmuck that it was difficult (for me at least) to feel anything but complete contempt for him. It was said after the campaign of 2000 that people voted for George simply because they would rather have a beer with him than the nerdy, policy-wonk, Al Gore. I, myself, would rather have shared a brewski with Dubya as well - if only to smash the disgusting little frat boy upside the head with a bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon. 

There is no doubt that had Jeb won the White House fifteen years ago, we would today be remembering his term of office as a failure; but I'm sure it would have turned out to be barely one/half the utter catastrophe that his brother's administration turned out to be. That's a fairly easy call. 

And now, so desperate are Jeb and his team to distance themselves from his older brother, poor old Dubya isn't being seen in public these days. For the next two years the only appearances George will be making will be in those "Whatever Became of" articles. Aren't politics fun? 

I've never been a fan of George the Elder (although when placed in comparison to his two sons he's beginning to look like Theodore Roosevelt), there was a moment a few years ago when my heart genuinely went out to him: It was when Dubya was still in the White House. He was at some event, speaking extemporaneously  about the careers of his two boys. Then, without warning, the old man suddenly broke down sobbing. I felt really bad for Poppy on that day - and I know what he was thinking: One son had so much (in his mind) to offer. The other has been a tragedy (no argument) for this country. It was such an uncomfortably sad moment. There, laid bare for all to behold, was the tragedy of George H.W. Bush. What a drag. 

The funniest thing about the CPAC conference of 2015 was contemplating the complete cluelessness of the average attendee. JEB'S THEIR MAN! They should be thanking the gods of mediocrity that he has consented to seek the prize! Jeb only began to reposition himself as "a moderate" around the time brother George mercifully vacated 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue! While he served as governor of Florida he was as to the extreme right (in a few cases more so) as his brother. "Compassionate Conservatism" my eye! 

It's going to be an absolute joy over the next year-and-a-half watching Jeb stumble around the country with one foot on a banana peel and the other in his mouth, trying to convince the morons in the South and Midwest who vote in Republican primaries that he really is (and he really is) one of them. Then, as if that weren't funny enough, he needs to slither back to the center during the general campaign in the autumn - assuming he gets the nomination. Jeb is too much of a wild-eyed lefty for these jackasses. As I've said too many times to count, "the party of Abraham Lincoln" has morphed into the party of Uncle Fester. I'm lovin' this!

And that's the other dilemma that Jeb faces: if he does indeed get the nomination, what will stop the Tea Party crazies from bolting the GOP and starting a third party uprising? Ted Cruz is such a contemptible opportunist, don't put it past him. The dirty little secret is that it's already a separate party - they just haven't made it official yet. They will - count on it.

And you thought 2012 was a scream??

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 

SUGGESTED VIEWING:
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Calvin Coolidge 1872-1933
Ninety-one years ago in 1924, Calvin Coolidge became the first American president to address the nation via the new technology of sound film. This was one month after his sixteen-year-old son died from an infection sustained while playing tennis on the White House court. Under the circumstances he's holding up pretty well I think. Here's a link to watch it on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5puwTrLRhmw 

I am now reading a biography of Silent Cal. Although I would never have voted for him had I been alive in 1924, I believe he was one of the most decent men ever to occupy the White House.

SUGGESTED READING:

CPAC FOLLIES OF 2013

I wrote this one two years ago. 'Taint bad.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Crazies on Parade


Dig this! White Christian males (such as I) are an oppressed minority. This I never knew!

McGovern '72
I suspect that - subtly at least - the "white victimization" fantasy will - once again - be a key part of the right wing's attempt to appeal to the clueless American people. It's always worked so well in senate and congressional races; not so much in the presidential contests - for the simple reason that it was never really necessary. 2016 is going to be different, though. The GOP is these days facing some unsettling realities. And the nastiest fact of all it that they've rendered themselves unelectable as far as the presidential contest is concerned. How do you think that an African American politician from Chicago was able to get elected? Sure, the guy was loaded with substance (no argument there). But so were Al Gore and George McGovern. Everything has changed.  

Where is this white-Christian-male suppression coming from? Who is instigating this mass persecution?. Why am I not able to perceive it? Am I really that dense? Some of the folks who tune into this site might agree with that last assessment (I can almost hear the wise cracks now) but I think I'm a fairly perceptive guy. If I have ever once, during my fifty-six-and-a-half years on this sad planet, been discriminated against because I am a male and a Christian, I'm not aware of it. In fact, the only person in my life who ever put down due to the fact that I'm Irish Catholic is me! You know how we Irish are with our self-deprecating wit! 

Here's what's happening:

Because conservative policies are doing such serious damage to the people of this country (particularly in the South and the Midwest) the right wing SCREAM machine has these assholes convinced that they're suffering because they're being persecuted by those nasty LIB'RALS who would like nothing better than to elevate the KNEE-GROW at their expense. Call it "the vast, left-wing conspiracy". Hence their nutty persecution complex. Ain't that a riot?
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Okay, okay; I'll come right out and confess: It's all true. If we progressives have our wicked way (and we will  have our wicked way) within five years, after you white Christians are humiliatingly defeated in the race war that is now in the final stages of preparation, your young daughters will be forced into cohabitation with black men. Be afraid.

This is where I do my sinister-evil laugh. But seriously, folks.... 

A few years ago I predicted that the most crucial thing to watch in the next thirty years or so will be how white people in this country react to the unstoppable sociological fact that they will one day (and not too far into the future) no longer be in the majority. By all accounts they're (we're) not reacting as maturely as we should be. C'mon, fellow honkies! Let's act like grownups, okay? There's no way we can stop what is happening short of genocide. And although a few of us may very well be contemplating such an atrocity (white supremacy is not quite dead) it's not in the cards so put it out of your minds. Just sit back and roll with the changes. That's what I've been doing and I'm perfectly content with it thank you very much. It's not the end of the world. Take a minority to lunch and chill out.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED READING:

Ship Without a Sail: The Life of Lorenz Hart
by Gary Mamorstein

Larry Hart (1895-1943) was the most gifted lyricist in the history of the American theater. He was also a sad and deeply troubled man. Together with Richard Rodgers (pre-Hammerstein) he composed some of the most beautiful music ever heard by the human ear; and in the process single-handedly redefined how lyrics are written. This excellent biography attempts to unlock the tragic riddle of Lorenz Hart's life - and his eventual disintegration into alcoholism and an early death.

So don't change a hair for me, not if you care for me
Stay, little Valentine, stay
Each day is Valentines Day....

Friday, February 20, 2015

POST #577: Random Observations

Smoking more and enjoying it less 2/20/15
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What you have here are nothing more than a series of aimless comments that I had posted on other websites or out in the Facebooksphere. Writing this blog is often more difficult than it should be; I mean - Heavens to freakin' Betsey! - there's just so much to write about. The problem is that there are times when one doesn't know where to begin. I'm having one of those weeks. Happy reading!

1. BROKEN RECORD DEPT: 

The accepted definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting to yield a different result every time. Forgive me for what may seem to some as my obsession with Jeb Bush, but if the people of this doomed country are ever again insane enough to send another member of this disgusting family to the White House, they'll deserve everything that happens to them. 

Fifteen years ago I was damned near everywhere - on local radio, in the newspapers, and four times on national television (C-SPAN - anyone can get on C-Span) warning everyone who would listen what a disaster a second Bush White House would be for this country. I was pretty much ignored then. Don't ignore me now, okay? They're trying to portray Jeb as "the moderate alternative". They're lying. How do I know? As governor of Florida, he ruled that state from the far right. Since his half-witted older brother mercifully vacated the Executive Mansion six years ago, he's been desperately trying to reposition himself as a "compassionate conservative". Remember that line? We won't get fooled again, right?....RIGHT???

I can't emphasize this enough, kiddies.

2. Is You Is or Is You Ain't My ISIS?
`
It gets stupider by the day. The FOX Noise pundits, along with the usual suspects on right wing talk radio, are implying (some even stating outright) that by referring to ISIS as "extremists" and not "Islamist extremists", the president of the United States is somehow sympathetic with the goals of these freaks. Obama has said that the United States is at war with all forms of extremism. Last week, when he merely pointed out the undeniable truth that bad things have been done in the name of Jesus Christ down through the centuries, including in the good ol' U S of A, conservatives had (and are still having) a mass nervous breakdown. I have no comment other than to say that this has been quite an amusing spectacle to behold. We'll leave it at that for now. 

3. Thinking About Malcolm

Tomorrow is the fiftieth anniversary of assassination of Malcolm X. He was one of the great visionaries of the twentieth century in my opinion. I was living and working in Naples, Florida when I first read his memoirs in 1986. This is quite ironic when one takes into consideration that Naples (at the time anyway) had the lowest per capita population of black people living in it than almost every other city in the country. Read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. It completely and utterly changed my life. I'm almost certain it will change yours, too. That is, of course, unless you're afraid of change. If that's the case then don't bother. 

4. QUOTE OF THE DAY:

"To destroy this invisible government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of statesmanship of the day."

Theodore Roosevelt

"....the first task of statesmanship of the day"....Of that day. There are few statesmen left - and even fewer stateswomen....NEXT!

5. Rudy Can Fail

I think that Rudy Giuliani ought to fold up the tents and go home for a permanent rest. He's always seemed to me to be a tad off his rocker. I met him once, and while he seemed like a nice enough fellow, even in that informal setting I got the impression that there was something about the poor bastard that wasn't quite right. As mayor of New York City, he certainly wasn't one tenth as extreme as his Republican brethren nationwide; he never would have gotten elected had that been the case. And yet, since leaving Gracie Mansion over a decade ago he's taken a decided turn to the extreme right. That was not totally unexpected - he was eying the White House in 2008 and one can't get nominated by that party these days unless one is willing to sound like a complete psychotic.  Totally understandable.

But for this blubbering twit to say, as he did this week, that the president of the United States hates Americans in general - and America in particular - was too ridiculous to be taken seriously. Why is he still saying these horrifically moronic things? Can it be that he has on eye on the campaign of 2016? My goodness, I hope so. That should make things really interesting. 

***********************

I've just been informed by the nice folks at W-CBS News Radio that today has been the coldest day in New York State since they started keeping records over a century ago. If you live in the region of the country where I am writing from you're probably not the least bit surprised to learn this. Earlier, I attempted to fill up my jeep and got as far as ten dollars. The hell with this, I thought to myself, it's just too damned cold.

Be warm, everybody.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED READING

The Autobiography of Malcolm X 
(with Alex Haley)

ERNIE!
ABOUT THE PHOTO AT TOP:

I don't smoke cigars. But every time a new Ernie Kovacs product is released onto DVD I always go out and purchase one Dutch Master. They were the company that sponsored the Ernie Kovacs program back in the late fifties and early sixties. That's my little way of thanking them for taking a chance on Ernie when no one else would. 

RUDY UPDATE, 2/21/15, 11:50 AM:

According to the front page of this morning's New York Daily News, the former mayor is now accusing the president of the United States of being a communist. Ain't that a scream?  Someone really ought to check this pathetic son-of-a-bitch's calender. Seriously.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Selma in February


"They told us we wouldn't get here. And there were those who said that we would get here only over their dead bodies, but all the world today knows that we are here and we are standing before the forces of power in the state of Alabama saying, "We ain't gonna let nobody turn us around." 

Martin Luther King on the steps of the Alabama State House
March 25, 1965

Six days ago I finally got to see "Selma", the new film that chronicles the struggles of Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Council, in an uneasy alliance with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, to bring about the basic right of people with dark skin to vote in the state of Alabama fifty years ago.  It's a great show and I can't recommend it enough. Traveling through the deep south back in the mid eighties, I made it a point to visit most of the places that are today hallowed ground in America's never-ending quest to make this a perfect union. Thankfully, eventually, we arrived at our goal. America is perfect in 2015. Isn't that a grand thing?

But seriously, folks....

Although I can't recommend this film enough, my only problem with it was how Lyndon Johnson was portrayed: as an unwilling participant in this struggle to the mountaintop. LBJ's historical reputation has been damaged enough by the tragedy of Vietnam. We really need to give the poor bastard credit where credit is long overdue. No keener an observer than Thurgood Marshall has rightfully made the point that, with the exception of Abraham Lincoln, no other president in American history did more for the equal rights of African Americans than Lyndon - not Jack Kennedy, not Bill Clinton (the first "black" president) not even Barack Obama! In fact, Obama's presidency owes its very existence to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, both of which were signed into law by Johnson. I know it's fashionable these days to portray half-witted presidents from Texas in the most negative light (I'm guilty of that, believe me); it's just that Lyndon B. Johnson and George W. Bush just aren't in the same league - it's not even close. Think of it as comparing apples with decomposing ravens. 

When visiting Montgomery, Alabama in 1985, the first thing that struck me was that this could have been the set of a one-act play; there would be no need for scene changes at all: The Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, the Trailways Bus Terminal (sight of much racial violence back then), and the state capital are not only within walking distance of each other, they're in view of each other. In May 1985, standing on the steps in the predawn hours of the church where the young Reverend King preached thirty years before, was an experience I would suggest you try if you ever have the opportunity. It was pretty freakin' awesome, let's leave it at that. That was thirty years ago and I can still feel it now. At that moment, Dr. King's tenure there seemed a very long time before. How could I know then that it was only yesterday. That's what May of 1985 feels like to me now. 

Standing at Dr. King's one-time home made me incredulous that something like the civil rights movement - in the "land of the free" - was ever necessary to begin with. Thirty years later I wonder why it's still necessary. Keep an eye on until Election Day 2016. Wait and see how many people with dark skin will be denied their precious right to vote thanks to these so-called "Voter ID Laws". The shit is gonna hit the fan, baby! Just you wait. 

As I said in my last piece, film criticism is not my bailiwick. I can only tell you what I like and don't like. The first time I saw Citizen Kane when I was twenty-two, I knew not a thing of it's reputation as "the greatest movie ever made". All I could say upon viewing it was that it was one of the best films that I had ever seen. My instincts are usually pretty good in that area....or almost. I still consider Bill Murray's 1979 summer camp film, Meatballs, to be a classic. So sue me.

I think I called this one. Selma is destined to be a minor cinematic classic, maybe not along the lines of Richard Attenborough's Gandhi, but well worth seeing - particularly if you're interested of the history of the civil rights movement in America.

When the film was through after a very brief (it seemed to me) two hours and ten minutes, I looked around the theater to see that I was only one of four people in attendance. Just out of curiosity I strolled across the hall to see how American Sniper was doing. It was doing much better business. I can't even begin to describe how depressed this made me feel. Isn't life strange?

David Oyelowo as Dr. King
 "The battle is in our hands. And we can answer with creative nonviolence the call to higher ground to which the new directions of our struggle summons us. Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, but to win his friendship and understanding. We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. And that will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man."

Dr. King, 1/25/65

Can you even begin to imagine this country without him? I don't even wanna try.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED READING:

Parting the Waters
by Taylor Branch

This history of the early years of the civil rights struggle in America is much more detail than can be provided by any film. I couldn't put it down.

Here's a link to another piece I wrote about the good Doctor five years ago on the anniversary of his passing:

http://tomdegan.blogspot.com/2010/04/paging-dr-king.html

Paging Doctor King!

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

American Sniping


"I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand.

Harper Lee
from To Kill a Mockingbird

FURTHER DISPATCHES FROM THE CULTURE WAR:  

"Savage, despicable evil. That's what we were fighting in Iraq. That's why a lot of people, myself included, called the enemy 'savages.' There really was no other way to describe what we encountered there."

Chris Kyle

"Savage, despicable evil". It really is an interesting choice of words - and very possibly quite appropriate. But we need to take into consideration how the people of Iraq must have felt toward George W. Bush and Dick Cheney's illegal, unjustified invasion of their sovereign nation. One cannot help but wonder how humanely Chris Kyle would have reacted had Saddam Hussein invaded his hometown of Odessa, Texas. "Savage, despicable evil" indeed. Everything is relative. Then again, that was a quote from his autobiography, which was ghost-written. Who knows what the silly bastard was really thinking.

I have not seen the new movie, about the life and "career" of Chris Kyle,  nor do I plan to. Were I to stumble upon a copy of it on DVD, I might give it a whirl - if only out of morbid curiosity you understand. Other than that I have no desire to view it. My purpose here is not to comment on the film's merit - or lack thereof - as so many people who haven't seen it - (left and right) - seem to be doing these days. Besides, film criticism isn't really my schtick. I speak merely as a battle-hardened correspondent in America's never-ending culture war.

Clint debates a chair
The other day there was a posting on a friend's Facebook page that made its way on to my home feed. Someone had posted a glowing endorsement of Clint Eastwood's latest directorial effort, American Sniper, based on the memoirs quoted above. The only comment I could make was my opinion that Chris Kyle was the best advertizement I could think of for more regulation of the firearms industry. He handed a loaded gun to a person he knew damned well to be mentally ill. That carelessness cost him and another man their lives. Genius. 

When someone in the thread pointed out to me that the Second Amendment guaranteed "The right of the people to keep and bear arms", I responded by quoting that section in its full and proper context: 

"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."

I wondered aloud, "What happened to that 'well regulated militia' bit?" As gently and as tactfully as I could, I pointed out that the part they love to quote so much is always quoted out of context. It is, in fact, only half of a much larger sentence.

This was probably a mistake on my part. You wouldn't believe the shit-storm of invective that I was subjected to....or perhaps you would. Their wrath didn't really bother me all that much. "If you can't stand the heat...." as Harry Truman once advised. In fact their complete freak-out was really kind of funny. 

Apparently most (if not all) of the guys who commented are veterans of Operation Iraqi "Freedom". One of them said that I should show a lot more respect to the "men" (he neglected to mention the women) who fought over there for my "freedom". Another one even had the chutzpah to say that I was an idiot and an ingrate, and that I owe my right to free speech to the vets of Iraq. I responded that my First Amendment rights were fully in place when the United States Constitution was ratified two-hundred and twenty-six years ago. That's when the proverbial substance hit the old fan. I should have known better. The entire discussion went completely downhill from there.

"HEY, TROOPS!"
It's time to take a deep breath, folks. I have no disrespect for anyone who believes that it is his or her vocation to don the uniform of the United States military. That's fine and dandy. But to imply that they were over there fighting so that I (or any of us) shall remain "free" is an absurdity too profound to contemplate. In March of 2003, George Walker Bush and Richard Bruce Cheney saw an opportunity to seize one of the largest oil reserves on the planet. They also sought to turn an armed conflict into a capitalistic orgy. Cheney's company, Halliburton, made billions in Iraq providing American servicemen and women with facilities and equipment, a lot of which proved to be of such piss-poor quality that it cost the lives of a few of the people who were unfortunate enough to utilize them - such as when some of these poor kids were electrocuted while performing the mere ritual of taking a shower in stalls provided by Cheney and his buddies. Nice.

That's what the war in Iraq was all about: a golden opportunity for a few obscenely wealthy bastards and bitches to become obscenely wealthier. "Freedom"??? Please. That's complete and utter nonsense. Don't insult my intelligence.

"Bring 'em on!"

-George W. Bush, Summer 2003

Cooper as Kyle
That it was the worst military blunder in American history only a fool would deny with hindsight. When Iraq exploded in sectarian violence in the summer of 2003, it was only a matter of time before the United States turned tail and got the hell out of there while the getting was good. The only problem was simply that the "getting" would never get very good at all; and it took a nearly a decade for our leaders to realize this nasty little fact.  Unfortunately by that time the death toll had risen so high that they have yet to accurately assess the total number of lives lost on the Iraqi side. It might be a million souls lost. It might be more. Most of the dead were not of the "savage, despicable evil" variety of Chris Kyle's memories, but innocent men, women and little children. Ain't that a scream?

And now there is an attempt being made by some of our friends on the loony right to turn Chris Kyle into a secular saint. That's the biggest joke of all - and quite a bit disturbing at the same time. Any criticism of American Sniper is seen by these nitwits as borderline blasphemy, can you believe that?

Tell you what: Would you like to see a film about a true, honest-to-goodness American hero? Go see "Selma". It's about a guy named Martin Luther King. Incidentally, he was shot and killed on April 4, 1968 - by an American sniper named James Earl Ray. Not only that, Dr. King really did die for our freedoms - unlike Chris Kyle - who died simply because he was foolish enough to give a dangerous weapon to a guy on a shooting range who was as crazy as a bedbug. Real life is just drenched with juicy little ironies like that one, you know?

I'm afraid that my observations on my old pal's Facebook feed cost me a friendship that went back over four decades. My comments were deleted and I was immediately "unfriended". That's okay. What good are forty-year-old friendships if they can't be shattered into a million pieces overnight by something as seemingly trivial to human relationships as politics? I'll be fine, I promise. He'll be fine, too, I'm sure.

Every time I meet a person who served in Iraq, my inclination is not to thank them for their service to our country, but, rather, to apologize to them. "Sorry for the fuck up", I'm tempted to say", "I didn't vote for Dubya, Honest I didn't."

Respect? Sure. But I pity them much more than I respect them - much, much more

Pray for peace.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 

SUGGESTED VIEWING:

Hijacking Catastrophe
a film by Robert Greenwald

I left a link to watch this film a little less than three weeks ago, but I need to do it again. This excellent documentary details, with depressing accuracy, the incompetence and corruption behind the Bush Mob's illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the financial killing that Cheney and other GOP-connected "entrepreneurs" made off of it. This is the most important documentary to emerge from the Bush years, and so few people have seen it. See it now. Here's a link to watch the film in its entirety on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2YTDb86bK

You can also pick it up for under ten bucks at amazon.com. I cannot recommend it enough. Watch it.

A BLAST FROM THE PAST:

Here's a really funny posting I saw on Facebook back in November. At the time I shared it on this site. Forgive me, but I need to share it with you again. It really is a riot of mirth!

Yeah, Dubya 'cared about' the troops alright. The half-witted little psychopath "cared about" them so much that he sent them off to fight an illegal, un-winnable war in which over five thousand of them sacrificed their lives. Now he lives in cushy retirement while the vets that he "cared about" so much are committing suicide at record numbers. Yeah, George W. Bush "cared about" the troops.  Ain't that a fucking hoot?

 A real Texas hero
SUGGESTED LISTENING:

Everyday
by Buddy Holly

"But February made me shiver with every paper I'd deliver...." The music died fifty-six years ago today:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ty31QY5ZGHo

And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son and Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died....


********************

Special thanks to Facebook friend, Judi Stately, for the Harper Lee quote at the top of this piece. 

Hi ho, everybody, hi ho.... 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Clown Cars


As the blizzard of 2015 descends upon us here in the Northeast, the lack of mobility for the next couple of days gives one time to do a lot of thinking. It is now 4:00 AM here in Goshen, New York. As of this moment it's not much of a storm. That's bound to change at any moment. Outside my window there is a light powder covering my jeep, This is strange considering the fact that the nice lady on my television screen is informing me that everywhere is being hammered - particularly in New England. We shall see. The hatches are battened firmly down. Be safe. Be warm.

And while we deal with and contemplate a very real storm, the proverbial shit storm is also making itself known. I was jarred from my reverie early yesterday afternoon when I happily stumbled onto a link to a speech that Sarah Palin gave on Saturday at something called the "Iowa Freedom Summit". What the heck is this twit doing in Iowa? Exactly what every elected Republican who is not a resident of that state is doing. She's going to make a run for it next year. While she didn't actually come out and announce her candidacy, all the signs are there. 

It was truly a weird thing to behold. Fascist Barbie was even more incoherent than is usually the case. Watching it, my first inclination was to assume she was on drugs. I wasn't going to mention it but when my cousin, Patricia Cullen, remarked that she has all of the symptoms of some poor soul in the midst of a serious cocaine binge, I thought that maybe I should take note of it after all. If you think I may be exaggerating, I'll provide a link to the speech in its entirety at the bottom of this piece that was provided by the website Mediaite. It's a scream.

The very fact that this completely incurious, idiotic woman was once given the second place on a national ticket is incomprehensible. "What if...." It makes the senses tremble in horror. 

My theory is that Sarah Palin must know that she hasn't a ghost of a chance of being elected next year. What she is doing is nothing more than a cynical upping of her "brand" - so to speak. It seems that even the most rabid of right wingers are starting to tire of this utterly silly person's act. With the new label of "former candidate for the presidency", she will be able to regain a little attention and boost her speaking fees some twenty or thirty thousand a pop. The gal is as transparent as a window during a spring sunrise. That's why she's so much fun to watch.

The two Ricks
That's not the case as far as the two Ricks (Santorum and Perry) are concerned. They really do believe that the White House is their respective destinies. There's something pathetically endearing about the terminally clueless, you know?  A few of you will disagree with this, but I think I'm a fairly astute guy when it comes to politics. I'll let you in on a little secret: I might run for the presidency as a Republican next year. What are my qualifications? I have none. In fact only a fool would vote for me - which would, nonetheless, guarantee me a lot of votes in the USA at this sad time in its history. The only reason I've been thinking about running would be as a sick joke. The difference between Rick and Rick and I is the fact that at least I'm intelligent enough to understand that I am totally unqualified for that office. The same cannot be said for all of the right wing wannabes in this comically political season. They really believe they're presidential material.

The First Fool
I can't believe our good fortune. The prospect of all of them on the same stage trying to tear each other to shreds is too good a vision to be true. Somebody pinch me.

The most disturbing thing about the fiasco that the Republican party has become in recent years is the fact that any one of these assholes might very well be living inside of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in less than two years. Only a year ago I was predicting out loud that George W. Bush would be remembered for two reasons:

1: As the most corrupt, incompetent chief-executive in the history of human stupidity, and....

2: As the last Republican president.

I was also predicting that on January 20, 2017, one Democratic administration would succeed another one. That hasn't happened since March 4, 1857.

At the time I made those predictions I sincerely believed that the American people would not be so foolish as to place back in power the party that dug us into the mess that Barack Obama has spent the last six years trying to dig us out of. All bets are KAPUT. The GOP-controlled 114th congress will see to it that even more repressive election laws are passed between now and Election Day 2016. Count on it.

Teddy Boy
President Sarah Palin? Relax. Even the American people wouldn't be stupid enough to send that blithering imbecile to the White House. Ain't never gonna happen, so just put it out of your mind and keep it out. President Ted Cruz? That's another story. You don't believe the electorate would send a reactionary yahoo from Texas to the White House? What planet were you living on between the years 2001 and 2009? If they're perfectly capable of electing as president of the United States a screaming idiot like Dubya, they're capable of almost anything. Ted Cruz's campaign would prove to be a relative cinch.

Whatever happens next year, regardless of who's nominated at the Republican National Convention, regardless of who is elected in November; 2016 is going to be a most amusing year.

It is now 5:33 AM. The major accumulation of snow we were told to expect just after midnight hasn't appeared. There is still only a light dusting atop my vehicle. Cars now move effortlessly down the highway outside my window. Have we in the Hudson Valley somehow managed to dodge the bullet that Mother Nature aimed at us? Eight hours ago my friend, Nancy Karlovich, said on her Facebook page, "I'm calling it. This storm is going to be a flop." Perhaps she knew something the rest of us didn't.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED VIEWING:

Here is a link to watch Sarah Palin's speech on Saturday:

http://www.mediaite.com/online/the-dnc-has-two-word-response-to-rambling-palin-speech/ 

I wasn't exaggerating. You can't even satirize these nitwits. All you need to do is roll footage of them unedited. Life is beautiful.