Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Here Comes the 114th


"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."

Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis

If you're still naive enough, after all the evidence to the contrary that has been assaulting your senses for decades, to perceive the GOP as "the party of moral values" you might want to pass this one by. You're beyond hope.

I'm looking forward to the next two years. Let's face some harsh realities, people: There has never been, in the lifetime of anyone reading this, an era as delightfully weird as the one we are living through now. And the beautiful thing to contemplate is the fact that it's going to get even weirder as the months transpire. In November of 2014, the American people put back in power the very party that created the mess that Barack Obama has spent six years trying to dig us out of. In spite of the mountains of obstruction he's had to deal with that has been hurled at him by the disloyal opposition (Let's stop kidding ourselves about their motives) he's been fairly successful given the sabotage hurled his way by the loonies in the extreme right wing. You've got to admire his fortitude. Let's hear it for the dude.   

And now the assault begins. This year marks the eightieth anniversary of Social Security being made the law of the land. Since Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal made it possible in 1935, it has been a point of nasty contention for the Republicans. Americans who tend to vote with that party have long been in denial as to what the GOP would like to do with the program that has for eight decades saved hundreds of millions of senior citizens from dying in poverty. Between now and Election Day 2016, a lot of people in this country are going to wake up and face the nightmare they never imagined. And merely voting them out next time round won't be quite as easy as it has been in election cycles past. Count on them passing even more restrictive voter suppression laws between now and then. Remember, you read it here. This is going to be quite interesting.

As bad as the 113th Congress was (and they were one of the least productive congresses in the history of this doomed country) that body was only the overture for what is yet to come with the 114th. As Al Jolson liked to say back in his day, "Folks, you ain't seen nothin' yet!"  As worthless and impotent as the Democrats have become, the Republicans are beyond a molecule of redemption. And with the puppet of the one percent, Mitch McConnell, now installed as the senate majority leader, you can count on the disintegration of America's infrastructure going into overdrive. We have been living for some time in a plutocratic dictatorship. The process has evolved at such a snail's pace that most Americans have not noticed it. They'll notice it by Election Day 2016. You'd better believe they will.  

Here's a little piece of handy trivia that I'm sure will amuse and delight you: As of this week, there are more Republican representatives in Washington than at any time since 1928. Isn't that lovely?

I usually end these things by saying words to the effect of, "But here's the good news". Don't ever take me seriously when I say that, it's only false optimism. The "good news" - so to speak - is usually the promise of barrels of unintentional laughs provided by the unintentional comedians of both parties. And while this political train wreck promises to be screamingly funny at a certain level, there is no silver lining behind this depressingly dark cloud. We might as well come face-to-face with the awful truth: The United States of America is skipping merrily into oblivion.  That's a really polite way of saying, "we're screwed", isn't it? I think so!

The bottom line is that, like the fall of the Roam empire, none of this will be boring. That's about the only positive thing I can think of at the moment. Ain't politics a riot?

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 

I couldn't leave you on such a depressing note.

Glenn Miller
SUGGESTED LISTENING:

Hello, Lola!
by the Mound City Blue Blowers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=99iG2WtGe98

The personnel on this 1928 recording are: Coleman Hawkins, Charles "Pee Wee" Russel, Glenn Miller, William "Red" McKenzie, and Jack Bland. It's nice to know that this was an integrated ensemble - such a rare thing in the twenties.

Listen to 24-year-old Glenn Miller's incredible trombone solo! In the sixteen years of life he had left, he never swung like this again. This is an amazing record!

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

A Foregone Conclusion


It's damned-near as certain as the sun settinging in the western sky this afternoon. Jeb Bush wants to move into the Bush family's home at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue - the one that they sublet in 2009. He's not only started his very own political action committee, but he's actually severed his ties to anything and anyone connected with finance and investments. Given the historical and sickening greed of the family Bush - going all the way back to the nineteen-forties (Grandpa Prescott continued to do business with the Nazis when it was forbidden by law to do so) - that move in itself is enough to convince the mightiest of skeptics that John E. "Jeb" Bush (George Dubya's slightly brighter younger brother) is playing for keeps. This is too good to be true. Today is the seventieth anniversary of the marriage of George H.W. and Barbara Bush. What better time for an honest assessment of the Bush brand, ay?

As much damage as that disgusting family has managed to do to this country over a period of nearly half a century, I find it ironic and amazing that any of them can still be taken seriously by anyone. But they are and there's nothing any thinking person can do to alter that grim reality. Let's just roll with the punches.

What will be more amusing than anything (assuming he gets the nomination) will be to watch him desperately trying to convince the country what a disaster Barack Obama has been as chief executive, and how we should go back to the policies that worked so well when his half-witted brother was in charge of things. You'll be so good to recall that in January of 2009, the month George W. Bush mercifully vacated the Executive Mansion, three-quarters-of-a-million jobs were being drained each month from the United States economy. We're now at month number fifty-seven in job growth (Or is it fifty-eight months? To tell you the truth, I've lost count). I don't envy Jeb at all. After all of the destruction they've wrought on the economy, he needs to convince the American people that they were better off under conservative "rule". I don't dare call it "leadership".
 
You can count on both houses of the Republican-controlled congress to try and tank the economy between now and November of 2016 in order to make Jeb's election all-the-more of a sure thing. They don't give a damn about the welfare of the people they're sworn to represent.

Oh, yeah, this is going to be very amusing indeed. 

Katherine Harris
There's another reason why Jeb's quest for the presidency is not the gargantuan hurdle you might imagine it to be. After the first debate between Al Gore and Brother Dubya, it was obvious to anyone bothering to pay attention that the First-Fool-to-be was dumber than a sack of moldy rocks. No one was more aware of the hideous little thug's intellectual limitations than Jeb. As governor of Florida, he and his secretary of state, Katherine Harris, devised a scheme that removed 57,000 African Americans from the voting rolls in 2000, It worked. Before all of the votes were counted, Bush was appointed president by a right-wing-dominated Supreme Court. The result was the most incompetent, destructive administration in American history. Remember how sweetly that worked out for you? Then again, maybe you don't. Think.

You forget these cold, hard truths to your own detriment, America. Just thought I'd mention that.

As for me, I'll be perfectly content if, on January 20, 2017, a third President Bush in a generation is tossed the keys to the White House. As I've said more times than I can count, the lower this once-great nation sinks into the ideological cesspool, the higher my stock rises. Vote for Jeb - please.

The biggest obstacle facing Jeb will be the perception problem. It's embarrassingly obvious that he has been planning this run for years. Why do you think he's tried to reposition himself as a moderate since the village idiot of Crawford, Texas left Washington in 2009? When he lived in the Florida governor's mansion, he ran that state under policies that were decidedly to the right of center - in many cases extremely to the right. After the debacle of his brother's reign of error and terror, he must have felt that he needed to moderate himself somewhat. But now that he'll be entering the GOP primaries a year from now, he has to take on positions that are palatable to the crazies who have overtaken the Republican party. If that dilemma weren't funny enough, once he gets the nomination, he has to run like hell back to the political center. 

Did I mention how amusing this is going to be? 

Hillary Clinton is - at this point anyway - the presumptive 2016 Democratic nominee. There is a very good chance she will be the next president. I'm not very happy about that possibility. The thought of two Clinton administrations is depressing enough - BUT THREE BUSHES??? That could send the United States into a permanent tailspin - assuming that we're not there already. We need to wake up to the harsh reality that conservatism as a form of governance is unworkable. This is not a new idea I'm peddling here; this is an inarguable, historical truth. It's unfathomable to me that a potential Jeb Bush candidacy is being taken seriously by anyone.

The Brothers Bush are not very different from one another in terms of ideology. They are both hard-line, right wing ideologues who believe that still more tax breaks for the one percent are the best thing for the....well....one percent. Patriarch Pappy Bush once called this scheme "voodoo economics". After the old man was taken on in 1980 as Ronald Reagan's running mate, he got with the program. Since then, he and his sons have cautioned patience. Don't worry, they tell us, the wealth will trickle down to all of you eventually!  Thirty five years later, we wait still.

Happy new year, everyone.

Tom Degan 
Goshen, NY 

SUGGESTED VIEWING:

Hijacking Catastrophe
a film by Robert Greenwald

It's a historical fact: Whenever someone named Bush moves into the White House, a lot of innocent people with brown skin start to die horribly violent deaths. This excellent documentary details with depressing accuracy the incompetence and corruption behind the Bush Mob's illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. 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. Trust me on this one, kids; we don't want to go down this road again. Can I get a witness?

Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014: The Worst of The Rant

Photo taken on 22 December 2014, 2:30 AM
 
`
 Another year gone by. Can you believe it?

Writing-wise, 2014 was not the most prolific of years. In December of 2013 my concentration was decimated by a personal bereavement. Then, two months later, my strength was sapped due to a near-fatal illness that sent me to the hospital. It wasn't until the end of the year that I regained my momentum. Still, forty-eight pieces in fifty-two weeks ain't too bad I guess. I'll try to do better in 2015. So help me Mitch Miller I will.

So join me as we frolic merrily down memory lane. Let us look back upon the year 2014. Wasn't that a hoot?

January 6:

The dirty little secret is out: Jesus' teachings in the New Testament are anathema to the ideology of the right wing.  Why do you think they hardly ever quote Him? [Pope] Francis is forcing all Catholics - and by extension, all Christians - to come face-to-face with the reality of what He was all about. I am not a theologian. The totality of my religious education comprises what I learned in Sunday School as a little boy and Catholic grammar school (grades six through eight). But as sparse as my instruction might be, I at least understand that Christ's whole purpose on this earth didn't involve catering to the status quo. There was a wee bit more substance to it. He was about love, and forgiving - and giving.

January 23:

Whatever happens in two years, I am certain of this: As delightfully twisted as the 2012 Republican primaries were, 2016 is going to be the icing on the cake. If I never live to see another campaign season I just want to make it to that one. Watching that disgusting party destroy itself these past ten years has been more fun than I think I've ever had in my life. 

February 14:

As they never tire of reminding us, two years is a lifetime in politics. That may be the case, but it's hard not to imagine Rand Paul as the GOP nominee in 2016. Something that weird would be the final nail in the coffin of a party hellbent on suicide. There are no more moderates. They've all been driven away by the mindless extremism of a relatively small group of people who have lost their marbles. Between now and then we can expect an exodus of voters disassociating themselves from the Republicans. This is too good to be true.  

February 19:

Fifty years later we wait in vain for the music to show signs cultural senility. I'm happy to tell you that the Beatles still matter. I know personally too many young people to count, some born a quarter century after the band ceased to be, for whom the music is a continual presence in the soundtracks of their lives; another happy reminder that talent and substance will defy the passage of many years. The Beatles are the silly and joyful ghosts who refuse to fade into that unknowable, mysterious void. 

February 28:

Fellow Caucasians, there are two sets of rules way down south - one for them and one for us. My message to any young, black male planning on visiting the Sunshine State is as simple as can be: Watch yer step, boy! Stay the hell up north if you know what's good for you. The racial situation is a little better here....I think.

March 8:

The problem with the modern day Democratic party (and it's a HUGE one) is that for every Liz Warren there are at least ten-or-more Chuck Schumers. Any political party with a tired old fuddy duddy like Harry Reid as their leader is in dire need some serious therapy. 

March 17:
`
Race propaganda has always worked beautifully in the past. The problem for the propagandists is simply that it won't be working all-too-well for them for much longer. Within the lifetime of most of you reading this, we white folks won't be in the majority any longer. Those aren't the words of some smart-Alec lefty (as some of you may surmise). That is simply a statement of the cold, hard truth. The white plutocracy knows this and they're beside themselves to do something - ANYTHING, HEAVEN ABOVE! - to stem the sociological tide. But they can't! That's what they cannot see or refuse to admit. To even attempt to stop this unstoppable force would be as futile and silly (and dangerous) as attempting to keep the sun from setting this evening. Why are they getting so bent out of shape over the inevitable? Why not just lie back, groove with the changes, and let nature take its course? What the hell is the matter with these knuckleheads? Any ideas?

March 24:

You can dismiss what I say as the insane ramblings of an unhinged lefty (I get that every day) but the truth of the matter is that I'm a fairly moderate guy. It's only by the standards of these weird times that someone like me can be viewed - by anyone - as some kind of radical. You know you're living in the weirdest of alternate realities when a weak-kneed panderer to the status quo like Barack Obama is perceived by so many as a wild-eyed socialist. It really is funny when you think about it. Why don't I hear you laughing?

March 31:

Who knows what the hell will happen between now and Election Day 2016. It's going to be oodles of fun watching Jeb [Bush] stomp around the country during the GOP primaries - with one foot on a banana peel and the other in his mouth - saying the kind of moronic things that appeal to "the base" of the Republican Party, and then watching him try to ease his way back toward the center during the general election - assuming he get's the nomination. Whatever the outcome, 2016 is going to be a scream. 

April 7:

The system has also been stuffed even deeper into the seemingly bottomless pockets of the plutocrats. No one bothering to pay attention was surprised by the results. The Reagan/Bush/Bush appointees made it clear where their hearts are. The corruption of the American political process means not a thing to these assholes. The non-existent "plague" of voter fraud is a different story. Any judgement that will aid the traditional progressive constituency in having their voice counted needs to be "remedied". America just ain't as white as it once was - and it's getting non-whiter by the hour. Rich people tend to be very white indeed, and they have this unsettling habit of filling the coffers of candidates who aren't happy with the prospect of sharing America's treasure. Have you ever noticed that? 

April 15:
  
Which brings me to the Affordable Care Act. The term "Obamacare" was initially their term of derision. They knew damned well that if it ever became a reality regular working people like us would like it a whole lot - and that's what is happening. At the latest count there are seven million folks who have signed on. If that number gets any bigger (and it's going to get a lot bigger) the plutocracy's handmaidens will be hard pressed to find an excuse to do away with it.

April 22

Cliven Bundy wants to be a GEN-YOU-INE folk hero - and by the looks of things - the silly bastard is well on his way to honest-to-goodness folk heroism, with the help of Fox Noise (Sean Hannity in particular) and hundreds of armed-to-the-teeth yahoos and half-witted "militia men" who cheerfully stepped forward this week and made my argument (once again) for stricter regulation of the firearms industry. You can always count on these assholes to cut off their noses to spite their bloated faces, but this week's spectacle in Nevada was something to behold indeed. When this is finally made into a movie, it will be the darkest of comedies.

May 5:

Barring any unforeseen scandal or catastrophe (you never know with those Clintons) Hillary will more-than-likely be the next president of the United States. I say this not with a sense of joy nor with any foreboding, but rather with a sense of resignation. Maybe she will turn out to be the second incarnation of FDR that I've been dreaming of - much in the way I thought Obama would be. He turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. She will probably end up being a let-down as well. This much is certain: In 2017, for the fist time since 1857, one Democratic administration will succeed another one on Inauguration Day.

May 13:

Forget the fact that sixty people were killed in assaults upon American embassies during the years in which the halfwit from Crawford, Texas was running the government. Forget the fact that one month and six days before September 11, 2001 he was warned in his daily briefing that Osama bin Laden was planning on striking in the United States very soon - and that the First Fool did absolutely nothing to try and prevent it. Forget all of that. Reality is a luxury that a nation filled to the rafters with distracted robots can ill afford. 

May 28: 

Then again, mountains of bodies and oceans of blood suits my purposes just fine, thank you very much. I'll never have writers block, that's for damned sure. A tip of the hat and a raising of the glass to Wayne LaPierre and the National Rifle Association. They've added so much meaning to my life that I'm at a loss to find the words to express my gratitude. 

June 5:
`
National Slave Remembrance Day is not only an idea whose time has come, it's positively shameful that it hasn't been established as a national holiday as of yet. Am I the first person to come up with the idea? I couldn't be! Only a century-and-a-half separates us from the time when human beings were treated like cattle in "the land of the free". In terms of the history of the human race, a hundred and fifty years is but a millisecond. On the day that I was born there were about one-hundred people still living who were born into slavery. The last veteran of the Civil War passed away a year after I was born - and I'm not that old....WELL I"M NOT!!!

June 11:

The weirdest thing about Congressman [Eric] Cantor has always been his demeanor of contentment. He always has this strange look of almost cherubic calm when spouting the right-wing agenda. At least Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, to their credit, have the decency to look somewhat ill-at-ease when defending the indefensible. Not so with Eric Cantor! He's perfectly at peace with himself: Buddy Holly on quaaludes. Weird!

June 18:

Time to face some unfortunate facts, campers: Iraq is broken, non-fixable - and we broke it. Come to think about it, "we" is a misnomer. I was never naive enough to cast my vote for a half-witted nincompoop like George W. Bush. I sleep quite soundly at night thank you very much. With each passing year, it will become more and more obvious - gut-wrecnchingly obvious - what a complete and dreadful mistake it was sending those people to the White House thirteen years ago. With each passing year the ramifications of that mistake will be compounded. Isn't life strange?

June 26:

GET THIS: A white, conservative Mississippian owes his political career to a handful of African American voters. Isn't that something? A pig just flew past my window. I didn't even blink an eye.

July 3:

 It must be a difficult thing being Dick Cheney. Think about it: He must know that he will be remembered down though the ages as (next to J. Edgar Hoover) the most disgusting, reprehensible fool to ever accept a paycheck from the government. In fact, the comparison to Hoover is perhaps a bit unfair. For all of Edgar's faults, he and his boyfriend, Clyde Tolson, ran a  pretty efficient ship over there at the FBI. When all the dust is settled, historians will have no problem identifying a few positive contributions from Hoover's reign of paranoia. Not so with Dick Cheney. He knows this and it's driving him to some sort of a psychotic breakdown. So desperate the silly old sociopath is to rewrite history that he seems to have gone even further over the edge than previously. I'm getting such a kick out of watching this. I really am!   

July 14:

Say what you want to about the right wing in this doomed land. What they lack in brains they more-than-make-up for in chutzpa. They're now seriously talking about impeaching the sitting president for the failure of his immigration policies. Sarah Palin has condemned the prez for what she calls "years of abuse" (she wasn't specific on that point) and then went on to proclaim that Obama's failures at the border were "the last straw". It's my opinion that a former governor who walked away from her job for no other reason than to make a shitload of money in the private sector is the last person on the planet who should be proposing that anyone be forcibly be removed from office. The fact that this blabbering nincompoop was once selected for the second spot on a national ticket defies any sense of rationality. Gee, we do live in wonderful times, don't we?

July 21:
 
As I wrote way the heck back in 2010, when someone like Sarah Palin can make it as far as she has, it can mean only one thing and it's not a particularly good sign. We are living in a culture that has been custom-tailored for idiots. When a person who can barely put two coherent sentences together without the aid of a state-of-the-art teleprompter becomes one of the best-selling non-fiction authors of the decade, that's usually a pretty good indicator that society is spiraling downward at a fairly decent clip. Fasten your seat belts, kiddies!

July 29:

All that one can possibly hope for at this late date is that, by the November midterms, the voters of this country wake up and understand the the damage that the GOP is collectively doing to their once-great nation. That's the only chance Barack has to go down in history as a good, even great, president. If his administration is judged by future historians as being a failure, most of the blame will not be his. Look at all of the grief and obstruction the man has had to put up with. Hats off to the guy for being able to accomplish anything!

August 7:

There are three things that do not make for a good combination: A low IQ, a beer gut, and a semi-automatic weapon. This past week, some of the Cliven Bundy crowd, the clowns that threatened to shoot it out with US marshals in Nevada two months ago, have made their way down to the Mexican border. These cowardly assholes want to "protect" this grand and glorious land of ours from the children that are now fleeing for their lives from ultra-right wing dictatorships in Central America. Isn't that something? Most of them proclaim to be "Christian". I'm sure Jesus is just brimming with pride.

August 13:

He was a true American original. One-hundred years from now they will still be talking about and appreciating the artistry of Robin Williams much in the same way we pay homage to Chaplin and Keaton today. His like won't be passing this way again. He's gone and he's not coming back. This is just so sad. Isn't that funny?
`
September 2:

A FRIENDLY MEMO FOR FOREIGNERS:
You're out of your fucking minds if you bring your loved ones on a vacation to the "Land of the Free". We're not free at all. In fact we are now a nation of sheep being held hostage at gunpoint. I just thought you should know.

September 9:

Some day Barack Obama is going to sit down and write the memoirs of his eight-year stint as president of the United States. When that day comes I have a great subtitle for the book: "Damned if I Did, Damned if I Didn't". This poor guy never had a "loyal opposition" with an honest disagreement with his policies and programs. Since the day he took the oath of office on January 20, 2009, he has had to contend with a confederacy of dunces and lunatics, hellbent on sabotaging his every move regardless of the national well being.

September 17:

I can't tell you who won the 1932 world series for the simple reason that, eighty-two years later, it doesn't make a damned bit of difference to our lives who won it. I can tell you who won the presidential election that year, though. Four score and two years after the fact that does make a difference. Think about this: On the evening of February 15, 1933, less than a month before entering the White House, a would-be assassin named Giuseppe Zangara attempted to murder Franklin D. Roosevelt in Miami, Florida. The bullet, instead, hit Chicago mayor, Anton Cermak, who died nineteen days later. Had FDR been assassinated on the eve of his inauguration the presidency would have gone to his running mate, a not-too-visionary bigot from Texas named John Nance Garner. If Zangara's bullet had not missed its mark on that night, the entire history of the world - not merely the United States - would have been much different. "What if...." It makes the imagination tremble.

September 26:

I'm of two minds about this: Yeah, I would love to see [Elizabeth Warren] as the standard bearer in 2016, Hillary Clinton, at present the presumed nominee, leaves me cold. Although Senator Warren's chances for living in the White House if nominated are not as sure as Ms. Clinton's, it's not the impossible dream that many people believe it to be. The problem she would have as president (and it's the same one that Barack Obama has encountered) is the obstructionism of the Republican party. This country is only going to be saved if the American people take a decided turn to the left. That's not going to happen any time soon, kids. 

October 4:

FOR THE RECORD: As much as I despised the administration of George W. Bush, I never once - publicly or privately - wished for the hideous little freak's demise. In fact I used to pray that he be kept safe. The last thing the loony right wing in this country needs is the body of a martyr to rally around by torchlight. Spare us.

October 14:

You wanna know why I left [the Democratic party] over sixteen years ago? Here's why: The 2016 campaign is two years away, and yet, as of October 14 2014, the presumptive nominee is Hillary Clinton. Could it be that "the party of Franklin D. Roosevelt" can't come up with anything better than Hillary? Have they lost their imaginations? Or have they lost their minds? A reasonable argument could be made for either scenario.

October 22:

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. 

October 31:

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. 

November 5:

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?

November 12:

I'd like to be able to tell you that the chances of a another member of that disgusting family [the Bushes] 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?

November 19:

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???"

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 used to be registered with that worthless party...."Used to be"....I came to my senses eighteen years ago. 

November 25:

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 [Bruce]'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?

December 19:

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.

December 25:

This is not to imply that I'm in the "Christmas spirit" this year. I'm really not. Christmas has been permanently ruined for me and it's been that way for for many a year. The last time I had a really jolly Christmas was when Jimmy Carter was in the White House - although my happiness was in spite of his presidency, not because of it. Just prior to the Christmas season of 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected president and John Lennon was murdered. It's been downhill ever since.

Keep your eyes open for the miracles all around you. And remember the simple truth that there is more music to be found in the laughter of a single child than can be found in all of the symphonies ever composed by all of the composers who ever lived.

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

So that's it for 2014! At least it wasn't as bad as the previous year, that's for sure! Thanks everybody for reading. And again, I apologize for not being as prolific as I usually try to be. I have a funny feeling that is going to change in the coming year. The 2016 presidential campaigns begin in a  matter of a few weeks.

Fasten your seat belts and happy new year!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGESTED LISTENING:

Auld Lang Syne
by James Taylor

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jr-htpPV_Z0

Something to ring in the new year with.

A toast to you all. Cheers!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Peace On Earth


"And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them and they were sure afraid. And the angel said unto them: fear not, for behold, I bring you tidings of great joy which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward all people."

The Gospel according to St.Luke
Chapter 2, verses 9:14
from the King James Bible


"That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

Linus
from "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (1965) 

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

Cheers to you and yours!

This is not to imply that I'm in the "Christmas spirit" this year. I'm really not. Christmas has been permanently ruined for me and it's been that way for for many a year. The last time I had a really jolly Christmas was when Jimmy Carter was in the White House - although my happiness was in spite of his presidency, not because of it. Just prior to the Christmas season of 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected president and John Lennon was murdered. It's been downhill ever since.

It seems to me that our very economic survival depends upon us making a mockery of the birthday of Jesus Christ every Christmas season. There's something seriously wrong with that picture if you ask me....but who's askin'.

When I was a little kid, the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol, horrified me. It had nothing to do with the ghosts of Jacob Marley or Christmases past, present and yet to come. Instead it had a lot to do with the thought that any one human being could hold as sweet a holiday as Christmas in such utter contempt.

That was then....
`
With each passing year, I find myself admiring Ebeneezer Scrooge more and more. In fact, the old cuss is becoming somewhat of a folk hero in my eyes. Bah humbug indeed.  

Forgive me for complaining. It's what I do best as you've probably figured out by now. I'll just leave you by saying that you shouldn't take me as an inspiration. I really do hope that all of you, regardless of your beliefs, have a bright 'n' dandy Christmas. Give the kids a hug for me.

Jingle! Jingle! Jingle!

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY 

SUGGESTED LISTENING:

Montovani takes a well-deserved rap for the schmaltz he produced during his career, but let's give credit where credit is due: The guy put out what has to be one of the most beautiful Christmas LP's ever recorded. Hat's off to him and Happy Christmas!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0qqV7jWTLYY

This record always brings me back to being a child.

"Keep your eyes open for the miracles all around you. And remember the simple truth that there is more music to be found in the laughter of a single child than can be found in all of the symphonies ever composed by all of the composers who ever lived."

From "The Rant"
Christmas Day, 2006


ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPH:

In around 1955, a Notre Dame classmate of my father's named Paul Giselle painted this for my mother. It has hung on the wall for sixty years. In fact, one of my earliest memories is peering up at it. I'm told that my grandfather Clements did not like this painting one bit. He said that the Blessed Mother looked like "a New York debutante". 

Hi ho.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Passing "Wind"

"Frankly, my dear...."
`
From the film's opening credits:

"There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields called The Old South....Here in this pretty world, Gallantry took its last bow. Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies fair; of Master and of Slave. Look for it only in books for it is no more than a dream remembered. A civilization gone with the wind...."

 And that's a jolly good thing, too!
`
Howard and de Havilland
I'm sorry if the title of this piece seems a bit rude. I'm just in one of those moods today, I guess.

The fact of the matter is that I love Gone with the Wind and believe it to be as fine an example of film making as one could possibly come up with. When it first came out on video cassette in the late 1980's, I was living in New York City, On the day it was released I rushed down the block and around the corner to the old Video Shack on Broadway and 49th Street to purchase a copy. Likewise when it came out on DVD a number of years later. There's no rational argument against the truth that it is a very entertaining movie - a masterpiece even. My only problem with Gone with the Wind is that, as a work of historical fiction, it's pure bunk. But since this month is the seventy-fifth anniversary of its release, I can't help pausing for a bit of critical reflection.

Although not the greatest movie ever made, it has got to be one of the best examples of how to go about telling a good story on film. The characters within this plot have got to be some of the most reprehensible people one could contrive in fiction:

Thomas Mitchell
Scarlett is, from the beginning to the end, completely selfish, incapable of empathy or any real compassion; Rhett is an opportunistic rascal; Ashley is a simpering wimp. Even Scarlett and Rhett's daughter, little Bonnie Blue Butler, is a spoiled brat. I mean, don't get me wrong, I thought it was just awful when the poor kid got thrown from that pony but - jeez Louise! - the little gal was insufferable. The only two people in the entire film who posses any redeeming personal merit (at least for my tastes) are Melanie and Mammy. 

And yet, for almost four solid hours, we are irresistibly drawn into the drama in the lives of these horrifically flawed people. We just can't take our eyes off them! Three-quarters-of-a-century after the film's release, at a time when all but one of the principle cast members are long dead, the fact that we're still talking about Gone with the Wind is impressive in itself. 

Buster Keaton, in referring to his 1926 Civil War comedy, The General, once remarked to an interviewer that the only way one could make a successful film dealing with that period of American history is to tell the story from the Southern point of view. "You cannot do it any other way", he said. What he left unsaid was the sad fact that - at least during Hollywood's "golden age" - very few people in dear ol' Dixie would bother to pay money to watch a film that depicted those nasty Yankees as anything less than blood-thirsty savages and "nigger-lovers". This is, more-or-less, the idea put forward in Gone with the Wind. Margaret Mitchell may have been a competent writer but she was a lousy historian. The same could be said, I suppose, for Sidney Howard, who posthumously won the Oscar for Best Screenplay.

Consider the film's opening scene. Slaves are depicted laboring away on the O'Hara family plantation. One of them decides that it's time to call it a day.

Slave: Quitin' time! Quitin' Time!!
Big Sam: Who says it's quitin' time?
Slave: I says it's quitin' time!
Big Sam: I's the foreman of Tara. I says when it's quitin' time. QUITIN' TIME!!!

At the outset, the nation's worst, most unpardonable sin is given the treatment of some sort of screwball comedy. The depiction of the old south as a paradise "of master and of slave" is a screaming  flaw in an otherwise impressive production. Incredibly, the caricature of the banjo playin', happy-go-lucky Uncle Tom - shufflin' 'cross the ol' plantation - was still in vogue in 1939. 

Hattie MacDaniel
Much controversy has been generated across the decades by Hattie McDaniel's work in the Hollywood of the thirties and forties. Personally, I always admired her image in film as the straight talking, "take-no-shit-from-these-honkies" kinda gal she usually portrayed. In real life, she and Clark Gable were close, devoted friends - years before Gone with the Wind. It is said that Clark never missed Hattie's annual Christmas party. By all accounts, they adored one another.

When Gable got word that the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce refused McDaniel an invitation to the premiere, he hit the roof. He adamantly refused to attend without his dear friend. No one could change his mind - no one, that is, except Hattie. She gently persuaded him that it was probably the best thing for the film's success that he attend. Only then did Clark Gable agree.

Hattie McDaniel became the first African American to receive the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She deserved it. Incredibly, at the 1940 ceremony that awarded her the statuette, she and her escort were required by the management of Hollywood's Coconut Grove nightclub to sit at a table-for-two in an area segregated from the rest of the cast. Even Tinsel Town had a long way to go in 1940.

The last one standing
The irony of Gone with the Wind is that the best actor in the film gives the weakest performance. Forty-six year old Leslie Howard thought that he was too old and too British for the part of Georgia-born Ashely Wilkes. He only agreed to do the film when producer David O. Selznick promised him that he would be allowed to produce "Intermezzo", co-starring Ingrid Bergman, which also went into production in 1939 and was completed by the end of that year. It is obvious throughout the film that poor old Les is less than comfortable in the role of Ashley.

Even Clark Gable did not want to do the film he is best remembered for. He was literally forced into playing Rhett Butler. Under contract at the time to MGM, the head of that studio was Louis B. Mayer, who was only-too-happy to loan-out his biggest star to Selznick International - for a substantial price. David O. Selznick was married to Mayer's daughter, Irene. He readily complied to his father-in-law's demands. To the end of his life, Gable did not regard Gone with the Wind as one of his career's milestones. For reasons known only to him, he always seemed somewhat embarrassed by it.

Could the people who had a hand in making this film have possibly known in 1939 that, seventy-five years later, it would still be as fresh on the public's mind as it was then? It's easy to imagine that - flawed history notwithstanding - they knew they were onto something bigger than themselves. The passage of three-quarters of a century reaffirms what an outstanding technical achievement Gone with the Wind was - and is.

Tomorrow is another day
Thanks to modern technology, the audiences of 2014 have much easier access to the film than did the audiences of seventy-five years ago. If you loved Gone with the Wind in 1939, you had to wait for it's short revival nearly a decade later to see it again. After the late forties, one had to wait until 1961, the centennial of the start of the Civil War. After that, audiences would not be able to see it again until it's revival in the late sixties, and then, in the early seventies. It wasn't shown on national television until 1976. Today anyone with a DVD player and a few dollars can add a pristine print of Gone with the Wind to their personal library and watch it at their leisure. It's a different world. The ol' plantation sho' has changed - for the better.

One wonders if there was a curse on this film. So many of the people connected to it would die young. 

Writer Sidney Howard died in a tractor accident on his Massachusetts farm on August 23, 1939 while the film was still in production. He was forty-eight.

Leslie Howard, age fifty, was killed on June 1, 1943 when the plane in which he was a passenger was shot down by the Nazis over the Bay of Biscay. His body was never recovered. 

Director Victor Fleming passed away on January 6, 1949, at the age of fifty-nine.

Margaret Mitchell was forty-eight when she was struck and killed by a car while crossing an Atlanta street on August 16, 1949.

Where Hattie Sleeps
Hattie McDaniel died at the age of fifty-seven on October 26, 1952, a victim of breast cancer. Her final wish was to be buried in the Hollywood Cemetery. She was refused that honor because of the color of her skin. Still another indignity to be borne, even in death, by this superb actress. In 1999, nearly a half-century after her passing, the owners of that establishment (in a fit of remorse no doubt) offered to pay to have her body exhumed and re-interred there. Her descendants politely declined.

Ona Munson, the actress who played Belle Watling, died by her own hand on February 11, 1955. The note she left behind said, "This is the only way I know to be free again...Please don't follow me." She was fifty-one.

Clark Gable died suddenly on November 16, 1960 of a massive heart attack. He was fifty-nine.

After decades of chronic alcoholism and incapacitating mental illness, Vivien Leigh succumbed  to tuberculosis on July 7, 1967. She was fifty-three.

As for the producer, David O. Selznick's most famous movie would end up being a mixed blessing for him. Every subsequent film in his career - regardless of the quality - would be judged by critics and film-goers alike as inferior to Gone with the Wind. He was sixty-three when he passed from the scene on June 22, 1965.

No doubt about it: Gone With the Wind took a decided toll on quite a few mortals. As of this writing, only Olivia de Havilland survives.

So rent it, buy it, celebrate and savor it as a high mark in the history of American film making. Just don't use it as an American history lesson, okay? It falls dreadfully short of the mark. For a more accurate picture of what life was like for African Americans in the mid-nineteenth century, go and see "Twelve Years a Slave". After a good look at that one you'll never again view Gone with the Wind in quite the same way.

Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

SUGGGSTED VIEWING:

The Making of Gone With the Wind

This two-hour documentary from 1988 on the film's making was narrated by Christopher Plummer. It is as riveting as Gone with the Wind itself, and only half as long. One of the most impressive things about viewing this film is taking into consideration the technical innovations that went into the creation of this movie. Almost eight decades later, well into the digital age, it still impresses.

AFTERTHOUGHT: 12/23/14, 4:27 AM:

While doing a little research on this piece, I discovered that in 1963 Vivien Leigh performed in a musical comedy called "Tovarich" (This I never knew!) Here she is performing a number from the show on the Ed Sullivan program:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7Ghdnfo21E

This was the moment before she succumbed to illness and madness.

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 

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

SUGGESTED READING:

 http://writerquake.blogspot.com/2013/12/friday-flash-55-little-bird.html

little bird
by Melladee Lydia Makelacy