Friday, December 19, 2014

HELLOOOOO CUBA!

                                                                                

"We are recognizing the struggle and sacrifice of the Cuban people, both in the U.S. and in Cuba, and ending an outdated approach that has failed to advance U.S. interests for decades. In doing so, we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries."

President Barack Obama

FLASHBACK! Here's what I wrote on December 3:

"We all need to sit down and take a deep breath, folks. When John F. Kennedy signed the Cuban embargo into law on February 3, 1962, Our current president was one day shy of six months old. Think about that for a minute. After nearly fifty-three years it's safe to conclude that the embargo has done neither the United States nor Cuba a damned bit of good. In the long history of despotic tyrants, Fidel Castro is pretty low-rent if you ask me. Saddam Hussein he ain't

Please bear in mind that we had diplomatic relations with the Butcher of Baghdad for decades. To the best of my knowledge neither one of the Castro brothers ever hit an entire village of innocent people with poison gas. And when it comes to human rights, Cuba is a whole lot freer than Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan  (two long-time - and current - allies of ours). You don't believe that? Where would you rather your sister live? Argument over."

Two weeks later - to the day and out of the blue - the embargo placed into law by Jack Kennedy was ended by Barack Obama. The president is reading my blog; I just know it!....Okay, maybe not. 

When I imply that the embargo has "ended" I'm exaggerating a bit (Just a wee bit, mind you!). There are still many restrictions in place and it will probably be a bit of time before they're ironed out. This is merely a first step that should have been taken decades ago. Hats off to this president. The man is finally showing some serious moxie - and I like it! High time, too.

And now the clown car show begins. It's going to be oodles of fun watching the jackasses on the extreme right trying to mine this historic moment for political gold. Instead, all they'll come up with are rancid bricks. The interesting thing is that while they will scream bloody murder about it, and while you can count on them making this one of the main issues of the 2016 campaign, not one of them will make a serious effort to put the embargo back into place - even if the GOP takes back the White House in 2017 (which isn't going to happen by the way) normalized relations with Cuba are here to stay. Why? Because that's what the plutocracy wants. There's a shit load of cash to be made off of that island, and they have every intention of making it. To quote the legendary Zero Mostel from Mel Brooks' classic 1968 film, The Producers:

"AAAAAHHHHHH!! I WANT THAT MONEY!!!!"

Watch as the most highly connected Republican contributors start to make some serious financial investments in the nation of Cuba. Normalized relations with that country are the new reality, you'd better believe it.

So sit back and watch in glee as the right wing scream machine goes into perfect freakout mode. "Here is the proof", they'll whine, "that Barack HUSSEIN Obama ain't nothin' but a goddamn comm'nist!" 

"But", a rational person will argue, "Richard Nixon normalized relations with China in 1972 and that event is now viewed by most historians as one of the high marks of his presidency."

"YEAH?", they'll counter, "Well there's a BIG DIFFERENCE Between Richard M. Nixon and Barack Obama!!!"

"Indeed."

MEMO TO THE ANTI-CASTRO CROWD IN MIAMI:

You'll live. I'm not crazy about Fidel or his brother Raul either. But don't make such a deplorable stink as you did in 2000 when the Clinton administration did the correct thing by sending little Elian Gonzalez back to his father in Cuba - where he rightfully belonged. Your collective hissy fit in the wake of that affair cost Al Gore the state of Florida and, hence, the election. The result was eight years of George W. Bush. Do you remember how nicely that worked out for you? Simmer down.

Curiously, the always-unpredictable Rand Paul thinks that the normalization of relations between Cuba and the United States is "probably a good idea". There's just about no political office in this country I would recommend Rand for, but you've got to admire his tendency to go against the flow of talking points put forward by the halfwits who control his party. Republican politicians with IQ's above room temperature are such a rarity nowadays. This guy should be treasured as an endangered species. Seriously.

As of this moment, only Americans with a constructive purpose can visit Cuba, but expect that to change within a year or so. A vacation in a communist country? For someone whose sense of humor is as warped as mine, the idea is positively irresistible.  

I can't wait to go!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 

SUGGESTED LISTENING

I'm on My Way to Cuba

Cuban Pete

Desi Arnaz as Ricky Ricardo kickin' out the jams at the Club Babablu.

A meditation from 12/17/14:

at my side
barely out of reach
a snow angel is glistening
on this gentle december morn

We love you, Miss Meghan, and we miss you 

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SUGGESTED READING:
 
little bird

by Melladee Lydia Makelacy 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

I Love Loosies: The Eric Garner Story


Practicing the Golden Rule on Staten Island

I can't breathe!
I can't breathe!
I can't breathe!
I can't breathe!
I can't breathe!
I can't breathe!
I can't breathe!
I can't breathe!
I can't breathe!
I can't breathe!
I can't breathe!

The infamous last words of Eric Garner 

One night many years ago, in the autumn of 1975, I was a passenger in a '68 Chevrolet Impala that was being driven by a friend of mine named Al Maldonado (What ever became of you, Al?) Although not an African American, his dark skin and pronounced, seventies-style Afro made it quite possible for him to be mistaken for a black guy, particularly at night. Out of nowhere there were flashing red lights in the rear-view mirror and we were pulled over. Poor old Al went into a severe panic. 

"It's just a routine stop", I assured him, "It's nothing to freak out about, Al!"  

As it turns out, he had every reason to panic. He was not only handcuffed, he was bombarded with verbal abuse sprinkled with obscenities just for good measure. One of the cops kept referring to him as "Joe Shit". Being an upper middle class white kid I was fairly naive about the wicked ways of the real world almost forty years ago. I learned a dandy little lesson that night. 

By the way, Al's only "crime" was that he did not have any identification on him at the time. Isn't that lovely?

I was a bit hesitant to comment on the Michael Brown/Ferguson case. There were too many shades of grey to make me comfortable doing so. My major problem with the officer in question was why the hell he thought it essential to empty his gun into the kid. One shot, two at the most, would have sent him a very stern message. He should have been charged with manslaughter - at the very least. But since no video of the altercation exists - that we yet know of - I'm unable to get very worked up about it. That's not the case with respect to the death of the Eric Garner of Staten Island, New York.  His killing was captured on a cellphone video, and there should be not a shred of doubt in the mind of anyone who has seen it:

Eric Garner was murdered in cold blood. We are all eye-witnesses to that murder.   

Mr. Garner, 43, was cornered by police on July 17, 2014 not far from his home. According to them, he was suspected of having sold "loosies" on the street - although on the video he is not seen committing this capital offense. 

The Family Garner
And just what is a "loosie" you may well ask? Since the price of cigarettes have gone through the roof in recent years due to heavy taxation (a tax I support by the way) Some entrepreneurs have found a way to make a small profit by selling ciggies on the street, one at a time, usually for a buck a piece. For a person with a severe nicotine habit who can't afford a ten-dollar pack, it's a convenient way to grab a quick smoke. It's also quite inexpensive - assuming that the person purchasing them limits him or herself to four or five per day. I would imagine it's also a convenient way to ween oneself off of the habit if one is attempting to quit. No harm done, right? Think again.

A homicidal twit named Officer Daniel Pantaleo decided that justice called for Eric Garner to die.

"It is clear that the officer's intention is to do nothing more than take Mr. Garner into custody as instructed and that he used the takedown technique that he learned in the academy when Mr. Garner refused." 

Patrick Lynch, President of the PBA
As reported in the NY Daily News, 12/4/14

Dead men sell no "loosies"
Bullshit. the entire incident is captured in dying color on video and the crime committed by this nitwit is undeniable. When it is clear that Garner has been subdued, lying helpless on the sidewalk, Pantaleo stays on top of him, his elbow wrapped lethally around his neck. He stays in this position in spite of Eric's begging for air. It's as sociopathic as anything I think I've ever seen. That's what makes this guy's flight from justice all-the-more outrageous and disturbing. And please bear in mind that this tragedy occurred in a suburb of New York City - not in some shit-for-brains state like Missouri.

By the way: would someone please explain to me just what the hell the "takedown technique" is anyway?

We haven't heard the end of this. I'm sure that his survivors are going to bring this to civil court - as damned well they should. I would suggest that they sue the NYPD for as many millions as they can possibly squeeze out of them. By every account, Eric Garner was a much loved and respected family man with no criminal record that is discernible. There was no reason he had to die - not a single one.

This ain't merely about race, kids; there's a lot more to it than that. This is about decency and our common humanity. Eleven times Eric Garner begged to be allowed to breathe. Eleven times he was ignored by Daniel Pantaleo.

And how was your week?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 

SUGGESTED LISTENING/VIEWING:

Everybody Hurts
by The Corrs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x95w7GuaOiY

This is a song by an Irish band that I had never heard of before. Its meaning has an added significance to a few loved ones during this Christmas season. It is quite a thought provoking song and very beautiful.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

POST #566: Random Observations

With Kevin Swanwick and Jeanne Farley Warren, Summer '14
`
Summer 2014
`
For your reading pleasure: A hodgepodge of unrelated ramblings to amuse and disgust you. I have an awful lot of time on my hands as you no-doubt have figured out by now.

1. That Jolly Time of Year

I was just kidding. In fact, I've had it up-to-here with the entire Christmas racket. Isn't it strange and ironic how our very economic survival depends upon us supplying the entire planet with weapons of mass destruction and making a mockery of the birthday of the Prince of Peace every December? I have consigned myself to permanent Scroogedom. That's okay. My life experiences have made me what I am. I suppose I was a curmudgeon waiting to happen. It's been a long time since I've been able to get into the "Christmas Spirit". Barring a miracle, this year won't be any different. Bah, freakin' humbug.

One thing is certain, though: this Christmas - or any other Christmas I may live to see - won't be one/tenth as sad and mournful as last year. That's the only silver lining I'm able to conjure up at the moment. 

Happy Christmas, everybody.

2. Oh, and Speaking of Scrooge....

The Plutocracy's Bitch
The halfwits who now comprise "the party of Abraham Lincoln" have only become more vehement recently in their opposition to the food stamps program. Someone went so far as to proclaim that the whole idea was positively un-American. Their favorite talking point these days is that it kills the initiative of the "underclasses" to get back to work. The problem with the poor, or so their argument goes, is that they're seriously lacking in moral fiber. 

"Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth."

The other night on MSNBC's Now with Alex Wagner, there was a gut-wrenching story about a county in Kentucky with a median income level of under $23,000 per person per year. Nearly one/half of the population depends on food stamps to keep a roof over their heads and their children fed. Sadly, because the right wing's priorities are more sympathetic to the needs of a class of people who have more money than they know what to do with, the poverty-stricken all across the land are seeing what little benefits they receive slashed away by these heartless bastards and bitches. Most of the politicians doing the slashing are self-identified "Christians". Isn't that something?

My very-real sympathy for the people of Kentucky (a state from which my ancestors came) is tempered by the fact that most of them were probably foolish enough to vote for Mitch McConnell. I'm sorry to sound so cruel but the ones who did so deserve everything that is happening to them.

3. Stupidest Quote of the Week:

"The words ‘separation of church and state’ is not in the U.S. Constitution, but it was in the constitution of the former Soviet Union. That’s where it very, very comfortably sat, not in ours."

Rick Santorum 

My suggestion would be that we savor Mr. Rick while he's here. The silly jackass won't be around forever to amuse us. Appreciate him while you can. He's priceless. Absolutely priceless.

4. Bush v Castro

George W. Bush's slightly brighter younger brother has been stomping about the country making interesting statements regarding foreign policy. If you doubt he's going to make a run for it in 2016 you ought to take a second look. In order to establish his image as a tough guy on international relations, Jeb this week reaffirmed his anti-Cuba credentials. Under his administration there will be no recognition of that country.

We all need to sit down and take a deep breath, folks. When John F. Kennedy signed the Cuban embargo into law on February 3, 1962, Our current president was one day shy of six months old. Think about that for a minute. After nearly fifty-three years it's safe to conclude that the embargo has done neither the United States nor Cuba a damned bit of good. In the long history of despotic tyrants, Fidel Castro is pretty low-rent if you ask me. Saddam Hussein he ain't

Please bear in mind that we had diplomatic relations with the Butcher of Baghdad for decades. To the best of my knowledge neither one of the Castro brothers ever hit an entire village of innocent people with poison gas. And when it comes to human rights, Cuba is a whole lot freer than Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan  (two long-time - and current - allies of ours). You don't believe that? Where would you rather your sister live? Argument over. 
As for Brother Jeb: Is this country going to be stupid enough to send another member of that disgusting family to the White House? Jeez, I hope so. I would never have writer's block again.

5. I Got Them Michael Brown Blues 


Tourism Note: Avoid Ferguson, Missouri. The police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown says he has no trouble sleeping at night and that his conscience is clear. I thought this was an incredible thing to say. If I had killed a fifteen-year-old kid, regardless of the circumstances, it would bother me just a wee bit; but I guess that's just another example of my warped constitution. If Michael's body had been found in an ally - six bullets pumped into him - the investigating officers would have deemed it as a classic case of "overkill".  Surely one shot (or two at the most) would have sent the kid a healthy message. Why was it necessary to shoot him six times?  Isn't it a scream to watch all of those highly paid, white commentators on Fox Noise condemning the rioters in Ferguson?

At best Officer Wilson should have been charged with manslaughter. Instead he's flying free as a birdie. Can you blame me if I'm not in the holiday spirit? Seriously

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 

With the lovely Miss Farley, 1974
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AFTERTHOUGHT:

The photograph at the top of this diatribe was taken last summer with two of my oldest friends on this troubled earth. Forty years ago last month, on November 3, 1974, Kevin Swanwick, Jeannie Farley and I attended our first rock concert together at Radio City Music Hall. It was a David Bowie show.

We were the young Americans.

`
SUGGESTED VIEWING:

Bing Crosby: Rediscovered

Last evening PBS's American Masters series aired this well-researched, two-hour documentary about the life and career of the most influential (and successful) singer of the twentieth century. Bing Crosby changed everything. And yet today, thirty-seven years after his passing, my generation, now in our mid-fifties, remembers him merely as the nice old man who came into our living rooms every December to serenade our families with White Christmas. Der Bingle was so much more than that. Artie Shaw once described him as "the first hip white guy in history". Agreed; but that doesn't even come close to explaining the magic that was Bing. Here's a link to order it off of amazon.com:

Bing Crosby: Rediscovered

He is a historical figure and deserves to be recognized as such. He was also one of the best comic actors who ever lived. Did I mention that? Bing Crosby is in danger of being forgotten. That shouldn't be the case.

SUGGESTED LISTENING:

My Baby Said Yes
by Bing Crosby with Louis Jordan

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJ4QCm6NeNs 

Bing back in the summer of 1944 when he was the first King of All Media! Music like this makes me truly happy!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Bill Cosby: Finished


His new television special - which few of us, if any, will ever see - was to have been called "Far From Finished". Anyone paying attention for the last few days would beg to differ. Bill Cosby's remarkable, fifty-plus year career came to a spectacular, irrevocable halt this week. It's all over. The first paragraph of his obituary will not take note of the "beloved funnyman" who had ranked, in my estimation, right up there with Mark Twain, Robert Benchley and Will Rogers as one of the great humorists of the twentieth century. 

Instead we will be told the sordid tale of "history's most successful serial rapist" as he was referred to a couple of days ago by one of his alleged victims. I cannot recall in my lifetime a career crashing as completely and unexpectedly as this. As a longtime fan and admirer, this is indeed a sad and disturbing thing to behold.

Not all of the women who have come forward thus far with accusations of sexual assault should be taken seriously. One of them, who claims that her confrontation with Cosby took place in the year 1969, says she would jokingly call him, "Mr Jell-O". Cosby would not become the pitchman for that brand until 1974. As of this moment I seem to be the only one to have noticed this little discrepancy. What does that tell you about our media?

But where there's smoke....

Most of his accusers have the bitter ring of credibility. One woman, who appeared with Cosby in a series of educational videos, was a mere fifteen-years-old when she says she was drugged and raped by "America's dad". A few of the women seem to have nothing to gain by coming forward with their stories - and they're coming forward in droves. As of this morning, the number is at sixteen and counting. It's a safe bet that we'll hit seventeen by day's end. Fortunately for Bill, all of the accusations are beyond the statutes of limitations. That could change.

Bill Cosby may very well end up as the Joe Paterno of comedy. A brilliant, scandal free career and reputation that has endured for over half a century is in the process of immolation.

One of the first books I ever purchased to read - with my own money, for my own enjoyment - was called "Cool Cos". It was a biography of Bill written especially for kids. I sent away for it to a school book club.  I was around ten at the time. 

In a lifetime that has been devoted to comedy in general and comedians in particular, Bill Cosby was my first comedic hero. When I was a kid I thought that he was the smartest, coolest, funniest human being who ever walked this earth. As I write these words his second LP, "I Started out as a Child", is lying atop a small stack of records directly behind my right shoulder.

Like Chaplin, Bill appealed to both adults and children. When I was a very small child I couldn't understand the humor of Bob Newhart. I understood and appreciated Bill Cosby perfectly well. Anyone who grew up in the sixties and seventies has their own, personal Cosby memories:

In June of 1968 my father came up with the brilliant idea that it would be a wonderful thing to send my brother, Pete, and I to a summer camp in Lenox, Massachusetts, on the campus of Cranwell School. The place was inhabited by hundreds of spoiled-rotten, rich Catholic kids, and run by humorless Jesuit priests. Sound like fun? My only cherished memory of that utterly wasted summer was that every Monday night before we went to sleep, a seminarian named Jim Leroux would gather us in his room and play a Bill Cosby record. I can still hear the guy's voice forty-six years later:

"ATTENTION CAMPERS, EACH OF YOU WILL BE READY FOR BED IN EXACTLY TEN MINUTES OR THERE WILL BE NO - I REPEAT - NO BILL COSBY!!!"

That threat was enough to get us moving, believe me. Bill Cosby was, for me, one of the very few bright spots in a perfectly miserable childhood. That is what makes this spectacle all-the-more heartbreaking for me to have to witness.

The only time in my life I ever saw a comedian in concert was in the mid-eighties when I took a date to see Bill Cosby at Radio City Music Hall. I could not resist the opportunity to see my childhood hero in the flesh. One of my nagging regrets is that I'm too young to have ever seen Lenny Bruce in person, but at least I could say that I saw Bill. All of the sudden that's not too big a deal any longer, you know? A few nights ago I was driving home with the radio on when it was announced on CBS News that the TV Land network would no longer be airing reruns of the classic Cosby Show. In an era of hideously mediocre comedy, that particular program was one of television's depressingly few high marks. I won't even bother trying to explain to you how sad it made me to hear this. 

I loved Bill Cosby.

His meteoric career is over. We shall not hear from him again except as a figure of shame, ridicule or dark satire. There will be no second act in this American life. As tragic as Lenny's end was, death and posterity would ultimately vindicate him. There will be no such vindication for Bill Cosby. The show is over; the curtain has closed. 2014 has been a horribly unfunny year for comedy, have you noticed that?

Don't be heartbroken when your heroes let you down. They always will, you know. They always will. They're just too damned human.


Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 

SUGGESTED VIEWING:

Here's a YouTube link to watch a twenty-five-year-old Bill Cosby way back in 1963, at the very beginning of his career as a standup comedian, performing his classic skit, Noah:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPTml2fa1mM

We'll never look at him the same way again.

UPDATE, 11/27/14, 10:10 AM:

The number of Bill Cosby's accusers has risen to nineteen. What a pathetic end to a brilliant career. Ashes. This is too sad for words.

I hope you're all having a grand Thanksgiving.

finis.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Worst President Ever???


"You know Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is in a way, it is slavery in a way, because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about health care. It was about control."

Dr. Ben Carson
Trained GOP House Negro

Here's a novel approach for your reading pleasure and amusement. I'm going to do something I don't do too often - or at least, not as much as I used to. I'm going to come to the defense of the president of the United States. For a hopeless lefty such as I, Barack Obama has been a huge disappointment. But I refuse today to dwell on the negatives. Today I want to take a good look at the positives and reiterate as best I can why I have never for a minute regretted casting my ballot for him.

It's a funny thing. When Obama was elected six years ago this month, I was completely beside myself with joy: The first African American elected to the presidency? This was indeed a corner turned! But as the weeks leading up to the inauguration came and went, my excitement slowly began to dissipate. By January 20, 2009, it was gone. That's when it hit me!

What's Obama gonna be doing for the next eight years?" I asked aloud, "The same thing black people have been doing in this country for the last four centuries: Cleaning up the mess left behind by lazy and ignorant white people - WHAT'S THE BIG FREAKIN' DEAL???"

I am certain, in spite of the obstacles and obstruction that have been placed in his path by the disloyal opposition in the House and Senate, that Barack Obama will be remembered as a decent chief executive. Most of the failures of his two terms will be saddled on the legacies of the men and women who vindictively sought to trip him for no other reason than petty, partisan politics. 

To the habitual Obama haters out there I would only ask that you all take a deep breath and try to look at things as objectively as is possible. Is your memory so pathetically short that you are unable to recall things as they were when he first took the oath of office? At that moment in time the United States economy was losing three-quarters of a million jobs per month! That's a lot of jobs, baby - any way you look at it. The prez was able to put a stop to that trend and reverse it. By the looks of things, December will be the fifty-fifth month of consecutive job growth. And while it's true that many of those jobs pay relatively low wages, that's not entirely his fault. He's been desperately trying to get the minimum wage raised to a level that would make those wages a tad more palatable to working men and women - but the Republicans in congress (and too many Blue Dog Democrats to count) refuse to give them a cent more. 

Obama's stimulus plan worked. The only fault in it was the fact that, as Paul Krugman noted at the time, it wasn't nearly as large as it should have been. As I've been suggesting since the beginning of this administration, the president ought to make Mr. Paul his chief economic adviser.

The worst president in American history?

Franklin Pierce
Say geniuses, do the names Tyler or Fillmore or Pierce or Buchanan or Andrew Johnson or Grant or Benjamin Harrison or Taft or Harding or Hoover ring a bell perchance? And while we're on the subject, how 'bout George W. Bush? Remember how sweetly that worked out? Or is it possible that you've elected to erase his eight year reign of error and corruption from your memory? The kindest thing historians will say about Bush's legacy will be that he'll be tied with James Buchanan at the very bottom rung of the ladder.

Obama is the worst president ever? It's not even close. The lack of even a remedial knowledge of the history of this country exhibited by so many Americans never ceases to amuse and delight.  

FUN FACT: Dubya is distantly related to Franklin Pierce on his mother's side. You see? Incompetence runs in that family! Ain't that a scream? 

Here's something else to meditate on: There are ten million people today with health insurance who could not afford it a year ago. Who do you think is responsible for that - John McCain? Mitt Romney? For every month that Affordable Care is the law of the land, it will make it that much more politically tenuous for the GOP to repeal it. That is the reason they're trying to make it impossible for the traditional progressive constituency to vote. It's days like this that I wish I were a writer of fiction. 

One wonders what the national situation would be at this moment had the president had a loyal opposition during the last six years who were capable of compromise. Wishful thinking I know. Their only goal - long or short term - was to sabotage the president at every turn. Remember what Mitch McConnell said way the hell back in 2009? He said that the top priority of the Republicans in in congress for the next four years would be to see to it that Obama be a one-term president. The welfare of the American people? That didn't even register as half-a-blip on their radar screen. And to think it was those same people who put McConnell's party back in power. They deserve everything that going to happen to them. 

And think how things might have worked out for the better if the Democrats had embraced their progressive political heritage instead of hiding from it like frightened little mice. I'm ashamed and embarrassed that I uded to be registered with that worthless party...."Used to be"....I came to my senses eighteen years ago.

Yeah, for true progressives Obama has been a drag, and many of us aren't necessarily jumping for joy over the fact that, at this writing anyway, Hillary Clinton will probably be the Democratic nominee in 2016. That in itself is enough to want to make me want to pack it all in and start a blog about classic film comedy. The news is bleak all along the American landscape. Obama has made some dandy missteps but at least his heart has been in the right place....I think. I'm not too sure about Hillary

A year ago I was under the illusion that the left in this doomed country was awakening from a long slumber. Lord knows what I was thinking. They (we) appear to have gone back to Dreamland. Fine. Dream away.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 
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SUGGESTED VIEWING: 
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Gail Russell
A little bit off topic I'll admit. This video is haunting. It's a tribute to the actress, Gail Russell. The song is called "Stella by Starlight". It was written for her for a film she made in 1944 called "The Uninvited". Her character was named Stella. I always thought that she was one of the most beautiful women ever to grace the screen. Tragically, she passed away in August of 1961, age 36, of acute alcoholism.




That's Stella by starlight, and not a dream....

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Run, Jebbie, Run!


"One does not envy the people in charge of developing the exhibits for the [George W. Bush Presidential] Library. Whoever the poor bastards are I hope they're paid quite handsomely for their efforts. It takes real talent to turn a mountain of chickenshit into a tasty plate of chicken salad."

From The Rant 
30 April 2013 

It was kind of a disconcerting thing to bare witness to on an otherwise peaceful Sunday morn. The occasion was the sixtieth anniversary broadcast of CBS's Face the Nation, a program which was that network's blatant rip off of NBC's Meet the Press when it premiered in the Autumn of 1954 - a fact that no one even remembers anymore. The moderator, the affable Bob Shieffer, decided to play host to two presidents in separate interviews - the current and the former. The interview with Obama was nothing really earth-shattering; truth be told, in light of what happened next I've practically put it out of my mind. It was the appearance of George W. Bush that captured my attention.

What is it about Dubya? What world is he living in? The man needs to get off the meds he's obviously on and get on something that's going to help him break free of the delusional little world which he is currently inhabiting. He told Bob that as far as Iraq is concerned (you know, the stupidest military blunder in history?) there are no regrets. Isn't that wonderful? A posting on Facebook on October 29 showed a photograph of the hideous twit aboard a plane embracing a serviceman. Here's the photo and caption. The idiocy is spell binding:


  My response was instantaneous and without a shred of mercy:

"Yeah, Dubya 'cared about' the troops alright. The half-witted little bastard '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' our troops.  Ain't that a fucking hoot?"

Honestly, you'd be hard-pressed to concoct this stuff in fiction. But as far as the Schieffer broadcast was concerned, the best was yet to come. When asked if his slightly smarter younger brother, Jeb, was going to run in 2016, Bush neither confirmed nor denied. What I thought was interesting was the way he put forward the idea of what a grand president Jeb would be ("He's not afraid to fail"). It's almost as if he was letting the clueless American people get used to the idea. He then said that if Jeb decided to run he would do anything asked of him. If I were Jeb Bush I would call George on the telephone right this minute and order the little thug to leave the country for the next two years. Seriously.

I'd like to be able to tell you that the chances of a another member of that disgusting family occupying the Executive Mansion - for the third time in a generation - are less than zero; honestly I would - but I can't. Since the GOP will have control of both houses of Congress for the next two years you can count on them passing even more restrictive voter suppression laws between now and Election Day 2016. And you can take to the bank the certainty that the right-wing-dominated Supreme Court will declare those blatantly unconstitutional laws perfectly constitutional. Isn't that lovely?

The prospect of two Clintons occupying the White House is weird enough on its own - but three Bushes??? I would need a daily dose of LSD just to get through it.

Every day in every way the situation keeps getting stranger and stranger. The utter ideological implosion of the United States of America is indeed a sad thing to witness. It's going to happen weather we like it or not so we might as well make the best of it. That's the direction we've decided to take and there's no denying the obvious. The good news is that there will be oceans of unintentional comedy to keep us amused throughout the descent into oblivion. At least we have that to look forward to, ay?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 

SUGGESTED READING:

Coolidge
by Amity Shlaes 

This book is obviously written with a bit of a conservative  bias. The author's attempt to portray Silent Cal as a great president doesn't even come close to passing the giggle test in my opinion. Still, Calvin Coolidge was not quite as bad as some of us on the left have made him out to be. In fact he was an interesting guy to read about. My favorite Coolidge story involves a woman sitting next to him at a luncheon. She says to the notoriously reticent president, "Sir, I made a bet with someone that I could get you to say at least three words during our meal. "You lose", he replied without missing a beat. The guy was a laugh riot - in his own quiet way. Thanks to my doctor-in-law, Jack Dermigny, for lending me this one. 

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The Morning After


"With or without control of the Senate, the GOP power surge burdens Mitch McConnell, John Borhner, GOP White House hopefuls and the Tea Partiers with the duty to chart the nation's course for the next two years. Heaven help us all."

New York Daily News editorial, 11/5/04 

On Sunday evening the American people set their clocks back one hour. Last night they set them back two centuries. Ain't politics oodles of fun?

Rick Scott - reelected
I was tempted to call this piece "Stupid Fucking Americans", then thought better of the idea. The sad truth of the matter is that I know quite a few people - a heck of a lot smarter than I - who voted the straight GOP line yesterday. While it would be grossly inaccurate for me to imply that all Republicans are idiots, it is beyond dispute that most idiots are Republicans. You don't believe that? I'll tell you what: The next time someone in your general proximity says something rib-ticklingly stupid, ask him or her what political party they're registered with. Get back to me. 

No, in many cases it has a lot less to do with stupidity and a whole lot to do with a deplorable lack of information. If the electorate had so-much-as a remedial knowledge of American history, they wouldn't be casting their lots with that disgusting party. Consider these unconscionable facts: There were more Republicans elected yesterday than any Election Day since 1946. Come January, there will be more Republican representatives in Washington than at any time since 1928! Is that a kicker or what?

Early in the evening when the trending was pitifully obvious, I had a couple of very strong drinks and went to bed. What would be the use of waiting up to view the political carnage? When I woke up at 2:30 and got the official word from broadcast news, I went outside for a smoke. Noticing the little flag that I fly to the left of my doorway, I quietly and unceremoniously took it down. Even at that late hour, in the dark of night, I was embarrassed having it there. I'm not kidding.

There were pockets of good news here and there. My representative, Sean Maloney, barely squeaked by in a close race against former congresswoman and Tea Party robot, Nan Hayworth. For the last month my mailbox has been bombarded with flyers from Nan's positively juvenile campaign. Her taunts of "Maloney Baloney" were, to put it as mildly as possible, amusing. As of this hour poor old Nan has yet to concede. She wants to wait until all of the absentee ballots are counted. Fine, let her wait. But other than that and a handful of other little oases in the national desert, most of the news this morning was devastatingly bad. One Republican congressman - under felony indictment - was able to keep his seat. What does that tell you?

Hideous Mitch
Most depressing of all was in my ancestral homeland, Kentucky. I've written before how proud-as-a-freaking-peacock I was to be connected with the place. Those days are over. A people moronic enough to send a corrupt, hideous gasbag like Mitch McConnell back to Washington as their representative deserve everything that happens to them. For thirty years Mitch has been nothing more than a handmaiden to corporate wealth and plutocratic greed. You would think - you would hope and pray - that his utterly clueless constituency would have caught on by now, wouldn't you? They haven't. It really is kinda funny when you think about it - a dark comedy.

I'm not going to lose any sleep over what transpired yesterday. In fact, I have been handed - on a silver platter - at least two years worth of dynamite material - possibly as many as six years! I'll be fine. As I've mentioned too many times to count, for people who blog about politics and politicians, these extremist freaks are the gift that won't stop giving. There is most definitely a silver lining behind this horrifically dark cloud. To tell you the awful truth, I can't believe my luck.

Hunter
"There is no such thing as paranoia. Your worst fears can come true at any moment."

-Hunter Thompson

It sure is sad. Any possibility of Barack Obama having a successful administration went into the toilet evening last. My prediction of a Democratic victory in two years being inevitable is now (as Nixon's press secretary would have said) "inoperative". Between January and the election of 2016 you can count on them passing more-and-more restrictive voter suppression laws that will seal their power for decades. Kiss this country goodbye....and get used to living in a nation in ruins.

Mah! Mah! The ol' plantation sho' has changed!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

AFTERTHOUGHT:

A major milestone has occurred in my family: Mary Rose Cullen, the sister of my late uncle Tom, passed away yesterday at the family homestead in Chester, NY. She was the last surviving member of that extraordinary family.

The Cullen house, Route 94, Chester, NY, 11/5/14

Friday, October 31, 2014

Onto Oblivion



It's almost over. Four days until Tuesday and it seems like an eternity. Anything can happen and no one seems to know how this is going to end. Any chance Barack Obama has of salvaging his presidency depends on a victory for the Democrats on Election Day. It's not bloody likely that his party is going to be able to take back the house, and retaining control of the senate is, at best, a roll of the dice. I won't be out celebrating if the Dems are able to pull off some kind of miracle. Both parties are hopeless - with one being just barely palatable. I sometimes feel as if I'm at a restaurant and the waiter is asking me if I'd like a glass of donkey piss to wash down the plate of elephant shit I've ordered. Really, it's gotten that bad. 

I'm prepared for the worst - which in my case is the best. The lower this doomed country sinks into the shit-hole, the higher my stock rises. I won't be happy if the GOP - through election fraud and suppression of votes - finds itself in full control of both houses of congress come January. I imagine that a plutocratic dictatorship would be oodles of fun to write about. 

"There's gonna be a lot of dues, Jim."

Lenny Bruce

Grover
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Then again it's possible that a decade or so of total conservative control of the government is just what the people need. Maybe then they'll finally learn the lesson they should have learned over a century ago: Right wing form of governance DOES NOT WORK. The down side of that scenario would be the fact that, at the end of that decade, their government will have ceased to be. That is the Republicans' dream. Remember the fantasy of Grover Norquist? His dream was to be able to shrink the government down to a size where it would be small enough to drown in a bathtub. We're on our way.

Think about this: During the final years of George Dubya Bush's reign of folly, the extreme right - for the first time in nearly eighty years - were able to seize control of all three branches of government. The result was the worst economic catastrophe in almost eighty years. 

That's not a coincidence, folks. 

I'm a bit numb at the moment. That's not the sort of state one wishes to be in if your desire is to illuminate and enlighten. Whatever happens come Election Day, I'll get by. To be honest with you I don't give a fuck what the final result is. As long as the day's events are amusing - that's all I really care about anymore. Isn't that awful? Maybe by Tuesday I'll be a little less apathetic. Maybe not. At least I won't be bored. That's something to look forward to, ay? There's always a silver lining.

Don't forget to set your clocks back two centuries on Tuesday!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 

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SUGGESTED READING

Eleanor and Franklin
by Joseph P. Lash

This was the first of the FDR biographies to tell the story of Franklin's affair with Lucy Page Mercer - a distant cousin of mine (I come from a long line of home wreckers). Lash's prose takes a little getting used to at times, but he deserved the Pulitzer he won for writing it. 

AFTERTHOUGHT:

I was just awoken from my apathy:

Get out on Tuesday and vote like your life depends on it.
 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Ten...Nine...Eight...


With just less than two weeks to go until the midterm elections there's plenty of room for speculation as to how this is going to end. The talking heads tell us that it could go either way. I find that incredible. There have been few times in the past where the choice was clearer (and less of a no-brainer) than it is at the moment. What gives with these silly Americans? You've gotta wonder! You really do!

One of the guilty pleasures I get out of reading American history  is that I find myself cheering for the Republicans. One-hundred years ago there were still enough politicians registered with that organization who stood for something decent. Even during my lifetime we had Dwight D. Eisenhower. For all of his cultural conservatism, old Ike was fairly progressive fiscally. He understood all-too-well that the key to a nation's greatness was investment in its infrastructure. When was the last time you heard a Republican politician bragging about the legacy of Eisenhower?  You would think that the Grand Old Party didn't even exist prior to Ronald Reagan.

My feelings with regard to the Democrats (which hovers somewhere between disgust and indifference) has been well-tempered by the fact that the GOP is light years past any point of hope and redemption. I therefore find myself at every election cycle rooting for the Dems in spite of myself. And please don't tell me that the time has come for us to support a third party. We tried that in 2000 and it backfired if you'll recall. Maybe someday; maybe even soon. Not now. 

If "the party of Abraham Lincoln" retakes the Senate and retains the House, as bad a thing as that would be, I'm not going to lose any sleep over it. It's only going to make my job that much easier for the next two years. A never-ending train wreck may be a nasty omen for many things on the horizon. Writer's block is not one of them. I'll be fine 'n' dandy. 

The one race I've really got my eyes on - more than any other - is the contest in Kentucky between Mitch McConnell and his young challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes. As I've written in the past, I am an ancestral son of the Bluegrass state. My late maternal grandfather, Walter Clements, was just one of generations of Kentuckians chilling out on my family tree. I still have scads of cousins, distant and not-so-distant, who reside in that state. Having said that, I'm going to be brutally frank with you. If the people of Kentucky are stupid enough to send Mitch (The Plutocracy's Bitch) back to Washington for another six years as their representative, they'll deserve everything that happens to them.

Just before I sat down to write this little ditty I listened to an interview on NPR with an author named, Aaron David Miller. His new book is called "An End to Greatness" and is subtitled: "Why America Can't Have and Doesn't Want Another Great President". His argument is that the last great president was Franklin D. Roosevelt (an argument I agree with). The reason we haven't had a great one since then is the simple fact that no chief-executive since FDR has had the degree of crises that he had to deal with. Rather than pining for greatness we should, instead, be seeking mere competency. 

Barack Obama has been a more-than-competent president. His biggest problem facing him since the day he was inaugurated has been the confederacy of dunces who have lined up in opposition to him. In case it might have escaped your attention, some of these people are out of their fucking minds. If the Republicans are victorious in even one house of congress on Election Day next, his administration - and his legacy - are toast and jelly.

Between now and November 4 is going to seem like a lifetime. So much can happen and probably will. You can bet the farm that Republican governors all across the land are going to be doing everything possible to insure that the weakest and poorest among us (in other words: the traditional Democratic constituency) are unable to cast their precious ballots. That is the agenda of that disgusting party. Aren't politics fun?

Whatever you do, regardless of your ideology, be sure to vote on Election Day. Even if your plan is to vote with the right wing - especially if your plan is to vote with the right wing - take part in the democratic process. Remember, I'm probably the only person you know of who will benefit by a victory for the Republicans, so by all means....

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 

SUGGESTED READING:

A Good Life
by Ben Bradlee

Conversations with Kennedy
by Ben Bradlee 

Bad news, bad news
Came to me where I sleep....

I got the news this morning that the legendary (and that overused word applies here) editor of the Washington Post, Ben Bradlee, passed into eternity yesterday. When they were casting the 1976 film All the Presidents Men, they could settle for nothing less than an actor with the stature and gravitas of Jason Robards to take on the part of Ben. Robards won an Oscar for that performance.

After he wrote his book on his friendship with President Kennedy, Jackie never spoke to him again. I could never quite figure this out. Before I read that book I had always liked Jack Kennedy. After reading Conversations with Kennedy, I loved him. His autobiography, published in 1995, is the best journalistic memoir I have ever read. There is no doubt about it: He is the giant of American journalism in the twentieth century.

A good life indeed.

Just friends drifting apart: Ben, Jackie, Toni and Jack, 1962