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Random Observations

Tom Degan: Now I'm going to ask you to name for me one celebrity who has died from too much grass. Go on, I'm waiting.....
tom degan

The Donald

A couple of weeks ago the African American columnist Charles Blow wrote the following piece in the New York Times:

"I first met Donald Trump a couple of months ago at a cocktail party. Someone introduced us, and he immediately started in on a speech about how beloved he was among blacks. He said that everywhere he went, blacks were telling him to run for president and that some hip-hop stars had told him that he was the most popular white man among black people."

Wow! That immediately reminded me of Lenny Bruce's classic bit, "How To Relax Colored People at Parties":

"That Joe Lewis was a helluva fighter! That's what I love about you people, you've got a natural sense of rhythm! Born right in you I guess, huh? You hungry? Want some fried chicken and watermelon? Listen, I'd like to have you over to the house but I've got a bit of a problem. You see, I've got a sister. And I hear that you guys....Well anyway - Here's to Joe Lewis!"

Gotta love the Donald. You just gotta!

The Ronald

I've been thinking a lot about Ronald Reagan lately. Less than two weeks from now will mark the sixth anniversary of his passing. Six years! Can it possibly be? I'm sorry he's no longer here. I wish he could have lived to see the presidency of Barack Obama. I really do. The sight of a black man in the Oval Office would have given the old bugger a severe case of spastic apoplexy or maybe worse. That would have been so much fun to watch.

Pot Shots

About two weeks ago, some poor woman was arrested a mile down the road from where I now sit for possession of a harmless weed. Can you believe that?

DISCLAIMER: I don't smoke pot. Nor do I advocate its usage - unless for medicinal purposes of course. I haven't touched the stuff since my nineteenth birthday - August 16, 1977 - which, coincidentally, was the day that Elvis Presley died. I always tell people that Elvis and I quit drugs at the very same moment, the only difference being that I did so voluntarily.

Having said that, let me say this:

Nearly three-quarters-of-a-century after it was made illegal; a half-a-century after it was proven to be practically harmless - why is it still a crime to possess and smoke marijuana?

Here is a list of ten famous people - heavy smokers all - who died of lung cancer:

  • Humphrey Bogart
  • Edward R. Murrow
  • Nat King Cole
  • George Harrison
  • John Huston
  • Noel Coward
  • Betty Grable
  • Walt Disney
  • Gary Cooper
  • Peter Jennings

Here is another list. Ten famous people who died from alcoholism:

  • Tennessee Williams
  • Jack Kerouac
  • Truman Capote
  • Lorenz Hart
  • Veronica Lake
  • Bix Beiderbecke
  • Montgomery Clift
  • Dylan Thomas
  • John Barrymore
  • Errol Flynn

Now I'm going to ask you to name for me one celebrity who has died from too much grass.

Go on, I'm waiting.....

You couldn't do it, could you? Don't feel bad, neither could I. Not only have I never heard of any celebrity dying in that matter, I am not aware of it happening in all recorded human history! Why in 2011 are we still having this same, idiotic conversation?

Is it a "gateway drug" as they never tire of reminding us? Yeah, it probably is. But so is Miller High Life - the Champagne of Bottled Beer. Let's get a grip here.

The "G" Man from Hell

It's rare to find someone in American history as mind-numbingly evil as J. Edgar Hoover. J.Edgar had a secret life that he spent fifty years hiding. His personal frustrations more-than-likely added to his personal, psychological makeup. Why could he not have just come out of the closet? He would have been a lot happier, I think. It is no longer a mere rumor that he and his highest ranking agent Clyde Tolson were homosexual lovers for decades. And yet in spite of that, Hoover held blackmail information on other gay men - and women. The guy was beyond despicable.

Think of the "criminals" that the FBI spent decades investigating:

Eleanor Roosevelt, Charlie Chaplin, John Lennon, Martin Luther King, Albert Einstein, Thomas Merton, Frank Sinatra, all three Kennedy brothers, Eartha Kitt, Dick Gregory, Joan Baez....

And all through it all the silly old bastard would deny the existence of organized crime. He has been placed where he rightfully belongs - in history's trash can. Good riddance.


"Don't let it be forgot that once there was a spot...."

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I know, it's syrupy and sentimental, and I know "Camelot" never really existed, but I can't help it when it comes to President Kennedy. It's an Irish thing; you wouldn't understand. Some of his speeches read like freakin' poetry fifty years later.

Although it is almost a cliche these days to say that he was hardly the Liberal that his admirers remember him as being, it should never be forgotten that he was the last chief executive to take on the Federal Reserve. For all the revisionism, let's not overlook the fact that - warts and all - Jack Kennedy was a good guy.

By the way, one of the perks of being Irish Catholic is that we can refer to him as "Jack".

"....for one brief, shining moment...."

I'm sorry, I'll stop.

Censoring Mark Twain

"Are there any niggers here tonight?"

That was the question Lenny Bruce asked a shocked audience one night in 1960. His point - right or wrong - was that "the suppression of the word gives it the power of violence and viciousness." I was thinking about Lenny not long ago when I was watching 60 Minutes and saw that some nameless group of do-gooding nitwits had taken it upon themselves to remove the "N" word from a new edition of Huckleberry Finn and replaced it with the word "slave".

We cannot start pretending that THAT WORD never existed. It is not only futile, it's kind of silly, don'cha think? Are we expected to burn all copies of Dick Gregory's excellent 1964 autobiography which was called (by the way) "Nigger"? How silly would we look if we changed the title of that book (which is still in print) to "Negro"? Gregory knew damned well the literary sledgehammer effect of the "N" word. It's a horrible word, no doubt about it. But it's a damned powerful word, too. There are certain places in American literature where not only does it work, it's essential - in Huckleberry Finn for instance. Old Huck was an illiterate, ignorant kid. That's how illiterate, ignorant kids talked in those days. In fact, that's how some of them talk still. To pretend he had the vocabulary of David Copperfield doesn't make any sense.

And, please, let's not forget that Mark Twain is not some re-visioned, nasty old southern bigot. Next to Frederick Douglas, he was the most enlightened human being of his age on the subject of race - and I would include Abraham Lincoln in that assessment.

It's a word; a terrible word, yes, but it's only a word. My kindergarten teacher, the late Annabelle Peavey, instilled it in me quite early:

"Sticks and stones may break my bones...."

Well, you know the rest.

Corporate Greed

Profits are up to record highs. So what - you may well ask - are the corporations doing? They're decimating the work force. Consider this just for a minute:

When a corporation behaves this irresponsibly, it wrecks havoc on society. This is not merely my opinion - in fact it's kind of a no-brainer. Call it Economics 101

A corporation - every corporation - that behaves this irresponsibly should be seized by the people. If you're honest with yourself, that's not such a revolutionary idea. Think about it for a minute or two. What would we do to a lone kook who was causing so much disruption within his community by means of arson, bombings etc. that his actions put hundreds - thousands - of his fellow citizens out of work? Again, this is another no-brainer - we'd throw him in prison.

Why should a corporation be allowed to take advantage of our free enterprise system for a period of years and then be allowed to dump the very workers that allowed it to accumulate its treasure? Especially when the treasure of which I speak comes out of the pockets of regular consumers who are adversely effected when they dump - like trash - their work force. Its very greed causes much disruption and heartache within the the local (and national) community.

And notice that I refer to this proverbial corporation as "it", not "he" or "she". I'm not sick enough to refer to a corporation as "a person".


When a corporation does so much damage to society, how come it cannot be legally seized by the state to keep it from committing further economic carnage?

Why is this allowed to occur?

Hello? Anybody Home??

Tom Degan
The Rant


The photo at the top of this piece was taken on May 20. I'm standing next to the van that got me around for over five years. When the mechanic who usually services it told me last week that it would cost me $3500 to pass inspection, I told him to forget about it. The thing was a lemon from the day I purchased it - one problem after another - and I wasn't about to sink another dime into it.


Still, it was the most "famous" vehicle I ever owned. During those eight dark years when George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were destroying this country, it was kinda hard to ignore the huge "IMPEACH BUSH" signs placed prominently on either side of my van - a 2000 Oldsmobile Silhouette. My Republican brother-in-law, Dr. Jack Dermigny, used to jokingly refer to it as "the treason-mobile". I always got a kick out of that!

Thanks to godson and nephew Chris Pennings for the photograph