Stand by your monster

“Check it out,” Victor Cortez said, changing channels on the old Zenith I’d pulled out of a trash dump for Swamp Rabbit. The subject on MSNBC was the impeachment hearings. Same thing on CNN. But the big story on Fox News was “Kanye West spreading his message of faith” and — this might have been fake news — selling $55 pancakes at a breakfast event.

Victor’s point was that Fox would rather show anything but a bad-news story about Trump. And when there are bad-news stories they have to cover — the actual hearings, for example, which started Wednesday — they will ignore the facts and pretend they’re good-news stories.

“But even Fox has shown a few cracks,” Victor said later in the week, after acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor testified on the first day of the hearings and Fox News host Chris Wallace called Taylor “a very impressive witness and… very damaging to the president.”

The hardcore Trump suck-ups — Hannity, Carlson, Ingraham, and so on — would follow Trump all the way to the Führerbunker, Victor explained, but actual reporters at Fox News with a shred of credibility are hedging their bets regarding Trump’s long-term political health.

“Not so with them Republicans in Congress,” said Swamp Rabbit, who had just arrived at my shack for his weekly appointment with Victor, his parole officer. “Trump got on the phone with Zelensky and said sure, you’ll get that military aid, but I want you to do something for me, meaning get dirt on Biden. That’s an impeachable offense, plain as day, unless you’re a Republican.”

“But Republicans are saying there was no explicit quid pro quo,” I said. “Trump didn’t explicitly say ‘You won’t get the aid unless you deliver dirt on Biden.'”

“It don’t matter,” Swamp Rabbit replied. “You don’t have to spell out the quid pro quo. All you gotta do is conduct it. If I’m holding your swamp cat and say ‘I’ll give your cat back to you but first I want you to do me a favor,’ then I’m abusing my power and breaking the law.”

I reminded Swamp Rabbit that Trump’s toadies — people like Lindsey Graham and Nikki Haley — know he’s the lowest of the low, a guy who has cheated big banks and small business owners, robbed his own charities, betrayed foreign allies, taken kids from their parents and jailed them, and worse. They don’t care; they’re afraid he will denounce them to his base, that vast horde of lost souls who’d be happy if he made himself president for life.

“But that don’t make no sense,” the rabbit said. “They’re propping up a monster. Don’t they care what history is gonna think of them?”

All three of us laughed at that one. “Does Trump care about history?” I said. “Does his brother, Kanye West?”

A wall can’t keep the future out

“So you’re telling me part of the multibillion-dollar wall Trump is having built on the Mexican border can be breached with a hundred-dollar saw? You’re not making this up?”

Swamp Rabbit wasn’t making it up. He was reading from a news article he’d called up on my laptop:

…When fitted with specialized blades, the saws can slice through one of the barrier’s steel-and-concrete bollards in minutes, according to [border] agents, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the barrier-defeating techniques. After cutting through the base of a single bollard, smugglers can push the steel out of the way, creating an adult-size gap. Because the bollards are so tall — and are attached only to a panel at the top — their length makes them easier to push aside once they have been cut and are left dangling…

Swamp Rabbit’s parole office, Victor Cortez, interrupted to vouch for the story’s accuracy. “I’ve got one of those reciprocating saws,” he said. “With the right blades it will cut through anything.”

I don’t believe you,” I said. “That reporter is tripping.”

“Just because you can’t drive a nail don’t mean some saw can’t cut through steel,” Swamp Rabbit replied.

I asked why the U.S. Border Patrol didn’t build a regular old brick wall. The rabbit said it was because they thought the concrete and steel bollard system was the best design they could afford.

“They can peek through the bollards — poles is what they are — and see them pesky refugees coming,” he explained. “And they can fix the poles that get wrecked if the refugees are too fast for them and sneak through.”

I persisted, just for the sake of argument. Didn’t Trump say the new wall would be “virtually impenetrable?” Didn’t he assure all those good old boys in the MAGA hats that he would save them from the marauding rapists he warned about?

“The Mexicans were gonna pay for the wall, too,” Swamp Rabbit noted. “If Trump said it, you can bet it ain’t true.”

Footnote: The refugees or aliens or whatever you want to call them are using ladders as well as saws to get past the wall. Who would have thought?

Half-cocked and loaded

We were talking about Trump and Twitter. Swamp Rabbit noted that making threats is a dangerous habit for a president who has no self-control and isn’t on good terms with the English language. “Take a look at these here tweets,” he said.

The first tweet was from June:

“We were cocked & loaded to retaliate last night on 3 different sights [sic] when I asked, how many will die. 150 people, sir, was the answer from a General. 10 minutes before the strike I stopped it, not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. — Donald Trump, June 21

The second was from last week:

Saudi Arabia oil supply was attacked. There is reason to believe that we know the culprit, are locked and loaded depending on verification, but are waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed! — Donald Trump, Sept. 15

“So is he cocked and loaded or locked and loaded,” Swamp Rabbit asked. “What’s the difference? Is this porn movie talk?”

I did some research. It looks like Trump was thinking of handguns in old Western movies when he said “cocked and loaded,” which refers to pulling back the hammer of a revolver so that it will discharge a bullet faster when you press the trigger. Someone must have told him that the more contemporary term is “locked and loaded,” which can refer to locking a magazine in place on an AR-15-type assault rifle, the weapon of choice for Trump fans who try to kill as many people as possible in crowded public places.

“The problem is that Trump is talking about missiles, not rifles,” I said. “Missiles could start World War III.”

“True dat,” Swamp Rabbit replied. “On the other hand, he’s a punk at heart. He does most of his dirty work through them toadies he hires and fires. He won’t start no shooting war.”

Never assume, I told him. What if another jackass like John Bolton starts pushing Trump’s buttons? And what happens when he can no longer wangle his way out of facing criminal charges, or if the polls say he can’t get re-elected?

“He might go off half-cocked,” I concluded.

Swamp Rabbit wanted to know what “half-cocked” meant. I opened the online dictionary and showed him that going off half-cocked means rushing to get something done without considering the possible consequences.

“It’s like shooting a musket after you forget to pull the hammer all the way back,” I explained. “The musket might go off in your face.”

Swamp Rabbit, obviously tired of the subject, signaled for me to shut up. He said, “I still think Trump picked up them phrases from a porn movie.”

Out with the old kook, in with the new

“John Bolton’s ouster makes the world safer,” according to a headline in The Nation, but the analysis that followed was unpersuasive. Yes, the loony chickenhawk is gone but not his boss, who has launched a misguided trade war against China, trashed the nuclear deal with Iran, threatened to nuke North Korea, and encouraged Boris Johnson to destabilize the EU and destroy what’s left of the United Kingdom. How is the world safer?

“Why do you read that crap?” said Swamp Rabbit, who was looking over my shoulder at the story. “Why don’t you feed the cats, or pull up them weeds over there by the tomato patch?”

I told him it’s important to follow the mainstream news analysts. They usually reach the wrong conclusions from the facts they gather, but careful readers can use the same facts to piece together conclusions that make more sense.

“I’m gonna piece together some lunch from that pork roll I swiped at the SuperFridge today,” Swamp Rabbit said. “Stop by my shack if you want a sandwich.”

I told him no thanks, I had some Triscuits, I was reading up on who might be chosen to replace Bolton. Politico said Trump was looking at more than a dozen “generally conservative” candidates, some of whom have ties to Bolton or Fox News or the George W. Bush administration. The pick will be a “yes person,” according to an insider quoted in the article.

But we already knew all that, didn’t we? We knew the new national security adviser is likely to be as despicable as Bolton (one of the liars who helped start the disastrous war in Iraq by falsely claiming Saddam had WMD) though possibly not as overtly kooky. That he or she will be an ass-kissing neocon who will obey all orders from Trump, no matter how stupid or vile.

In the end it won’t matter who’s chosen. No one Trump hires could possibly be any more impulsive or vindictive than he is, and he has the final say on policy. The world will be no more or less safe.

I should have waded over to Swamp Rabbit’s place for that sandwich.

Footnote: Imagine a just world in which government officials and their toadies are held responsible for their roles in debacles like Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya, where hundreds of thousands of people died for nothing and trillions of dollars were wasted. All the Boltons would have been banished years ago. A lot of them would be in jail.

Al Green’s impeachment song is a flop

I was in the little shack behind my main shack, rooting around for a rusty old window fan. Swamp Rabbit was in the main shack, watching the rerun of a cable news story from last night.

“It’s Al Green, check him out,” the rabbit shouted. “He telling Congress to impeach Trump for being a racist. He should sing about it instead of making a speech.”

It turned out to be Al Green the Texas congressman, not Al Green the Memphis soul and gospel singer, but I couldn’t convince the rabbit that the two Als weren’t one and the same.

“Trump will just keep denying he’s a racist,” I said, plugging in the fan. “They should impeach him for obstructing the Mueller investigation. That’s where the criminal evidence is.”

“They might not impeach him at all,” the rabbit replied. “They’re too busy fighting each over. Old versus young, white versus black, Nancy Pelosi versus the Squad.”

As we were arguing, a talking head on cable news announced that the House had voted down Al Green’s impeachment resolution. Democrats can’t even agree on whether to impeach a guy who is arguably the first gangster president in American history. What does that say about their ability to settle on a candidate who will appeal to the majority of voters in the 2020 election?

“But you ain’t all wrong,” Swamp Rabbit said to cheer me up. “Better to wait till Robert Mueller testifies next week and then decide where to go on impeachment.”

Better to concede the hardcore bigot vote to Trump, he added. To go after so-called independents and lapsed Democratic voters — the Democrats who voted for Obama twice but sat out the 2016 election because Hillary was such a drag. To remind them about Trump’s wall fantasy, his attempts to kill Obamacare, his tax cuts for the rich and contempt for the poor, his ill-advised tariffs, his submissive relationship with Putin, his corrupt Cabinet, his ignorance and unbridled sleaziness.

“You’re right, the racism charge won’t work,” I admitted. “Trump fans like his racist talk, it stirs them up. Al Green should have put a lid on his anger instead of making a scene.”

“He should have sung ‘Let’s Stay Together,'” the rabbit said.

Dems have one job. Will they screw it up?

We were on the porch at my shack in the Tinicum swamp. “Swine was all I could swipe at the SuperFridge,” Swamp Rabbit said as he placed a few hot dogs on my hibachi. “Couldn’t even steal no sardines.”

I’m no swine fan, but I wasn’t complaining. It was 9 p.m., almost dark, and my cupboard was bare except for some stale wheat bread. We wrapped the wieners in the wheat bread and ate them while we jawed about the presidential race.

The first round of debates ended more than a week ago. Eric Swalwell (who?) has dropped out but billionaire hedge fund manager (ugh) Tom Steyer has jumped in. The herd hasn’t yet thinned, though most of the two dozen-or-so candidates are and will remain almost unknown except in their home states.

“They know they got zero chances but they want to brag to their grandkids that they ran for president,” Swamp Rabbit said after complaining there was no ketchup in my shack.

You’re right, I told him. If Beto O’Rourke, John Hickenlooper and Steve Bullock weren’t delusional egotists they would recognize that a Democratic president won’t be able to undo many of Trump’s dirty deeds unless she or he has a Democratic Senate and House to work with. They would run for Senate seats in their respective states, not for president.

And Kirsten Gillibrand would admit she’s a shallow opportunist who is likely to be remembered only for her leading role in chasing the progressive Al Franken out of the Senate for minor sexual misconduct. And Bill De Blasio would quit making a fool of himself. And anti-vaxxer Marianne Williamson would just go away. And…

“I don’t need to hear you run through the whole list,” Swamp Rabbit said. “The only ones got a real chance are Biden, Sanders, Warren, maybe Harris and maybe that little guy with the goofy name — Bootyjuggs, I think.”

I reminded the rabbit that only Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have crafted boldly progressive plans for changing the rigged system that gave us the enormous gulf between rich and poor, the student-loan racket, the health insurance racket and all those other symptoms of a failing democracy.

And that Biden and Harris, although they differ on some social issues, are both corporate candidates, meaning they’re being funded mostly by the powerful entities that have been dismantling New Deal-style democracy for more than 40 years.

“Blah blah,” the rabbit said. “Save all that jive for later. The Dems got one job this year — to get behind the candidate who will win enough states to get rid of that spray-tanned Mussolini in the White House. Ain’t nothing else matters if that don’t happen.”

The right to become a one-man army

From The New York Times:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand on Thursday announced a national ban on all military-style semiautomatic weapons, all high-capacity ammunition magazines and all parts that allow weapons to be modified into the kinds of guns used to kill 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch last week.

“How come they don’t ban them semiautomatics here?” Swamp Rabbit said as he read over my shoulder at the shack.

“You know why, rabbit,” I replied. “The NRA wouldn’t allow it. They’d take the money they set aside to buy the current crop of Congress critters and spend it to elect new critters who promise not to mess with existing gun laws.”

Swamp Rabbit looked dubious. “It’s more than that,” he said. “The U.S. ain’t New Zealand. They only got five million peeps and a few islands. It’s easier for the gov’mint over there to make them give up their guns.”

I corrected him. There are plenty of gun owners in New Zealand, and plenty of gun lobbyists who, like their U.S. counterparts, are always trying to prevent gun control laws. The difference is that New Zealanders accept the fact that assault-style guns — AR-15s and so on — are in a more dangerous category than other guns because of their high-capacity magazines and rapid-fire capability and so on.

I got up on my soap box – there’s one next to my front door — and told him assault-style guns are weapons of war and shouldn’t belong to civilians. He just stared at me, so I stated the case in more down-to-earth terms.

“They’re for wackos,” I said. “An assault gun turns a wacko into a one-man army. He — and it’s always a he — can wipe out a full squad of civilians in two minutes.”

“That’s the whole point,” Swamp Rabbit replied, playing devil’s advocate. “In this country a man’s got a right to become a one-man army. It’s in the Second Amendment.”

I corrected him again. The Second Amendment calls for a “well-regulated Militia” to keep and bear arms. It does not say wackos can own assault guns to use for massacres. It doesn’t even guarantee an individual right to bear arms.

“Millions of peeps would say you’re wrong, Odd Man. The gov’mint bans assault weapons and the next thing they might ban unregistered hand guns, and then where would we be?”

I told him we’d be in a country with a lot fewer homicides. If semiautomatic guns were harder to get, there wouldn’t have been massacres in Las Vegas and Orlando and Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook and Parkland… If Congress had pursued gun control instead of taking orders from the NRA… If the NRA hadn’t worked for decades to convince rednecks everywhere that the government wanted to seize all their guns… If millions of rednecks in rural areas hadn’t put pressure on their Congress critters…

“Like I said,” the rabbit interrupted. “This ain’t New Zealand.”

Footnote: One of the dirty secrets about these mass killings is that cops, for obvious reasons, are sometimes slow to respond to reports of wackos rampaging with assault weapons. Only once in a while will you encounter this alarming fact in the media.

D.C. is a cesspool, not a swamp

Swamp Rabbit was reading from a newspaper column by a guy who dissed the Trump administration for hesitating to ground all of Boeing’s 737 Max airliners, even though two airplanes of this type have crashed and burned in the past five months, killing all aboard:

The swamp has overflowed, with lobbyists employed by Trump quintupling over two years. Boeing, American Airlines and 31 other corporate entities landed at least five former lobbyists apiece. Public Citizen reported that, five months into the administration, nearly 70 percent of top nominees had corporate ties.

“What swamp is this guy talking about?” the rabbit said. “You live in a swamp, Odd Man, and me too. We got egrets and snakes and frogs and raccoons and water rats, even a dead biker once in a while. But there ain’t no lobbyists in the swamp. The critters wouldn’t stand for it.”

I told the rabbit that “the swamp,” when the media use the term, refers to Washington, D.C., and specifically to the pervasive climate of corruption in the capital — to the bribery and influence-peddling and other unseemly practices that go on there 24/7.

“The newspaper guy is making a joke about Trump,” I explained, taking a seat on the porch of my shack. “Around when he first took office, Trump said he was going to drain the swamp.”

The rabbit looked horrified. “Why would anybody want to drain the swamp?” he said. “That would kill all the critters and the plants, and cause floods and droughts and the end of days.”

I rolled my eyes. “It’s a metaphor, rabbit. Most people think swamps are murky, rotten places.”

The rabbit spit off the porch and into the lily pond. “That ain’t fair. This here swamp is funky, but it ain’t rotten.”

“It’s just an expression,” I said, losing my patience. “Just a word.”

“Words are important,” he replied. “Washington is a cesspool, not a swamp.”

I shrugged. “Call it what you want. Just don’t expect anyone to drain it, even after Trump goes to jail.”

GOP still clings to Trump’s sinking ship. Good.

Photo by History in HD on Unsplash

The heater in my shack broke down yesterday, so Swamp Rabbit and I put on heavy coats and huddled around a space heater to watch newly disbarred lawyer Michael Cohen testify at the House Oversight Committee hearing. Cohen started with a summary assessment of his former guru, Donald Trump: “He is a racist. He is a con man. He is a cheat.”

“Yo Mike, tell us what you really think,” Swamp Rabbit said to the flat screen. “Stop beating around the bush.”

It was refreshing to hear Cohen state the obvious, but the Republicans at the hearing weren’t having any of it. One after another, they scolded Cohen for being a liar and a fixer but somehow never addressed the fact that he’d been a liar and a fixer for Trump.

The hearing — what I saw of it — was a monotonous charade, with only a few instances of comic relief. At one point Rep. Paul Gosar, a vile wingnut from Arizona, ended a tirade against Cohen by shouting, “You’re a pathological liar. You don’t know truth from falsehood.”

Not missing a beat, Cohen replied, “Sir, I’m sorry. Are you referring to me or the president?”

Cohen’s testimony will probably be a big help when the feds indict Trump for insurance fraud, tax fraud, and/or bank fraud. Cohen even showed copies of two checks he says he received from Trump’s gang as partial reimbursement for paying Stormy Daniels to keep quiet regarding her alleged one-night (two-minute?) stand with Trump.

I told the rabbit this: Republicans will ignore the checks and all other evidence that their dear leader is a racist, a con man and a cheat, as well as a bully, a coward and, yes, a would-be dictator. They’ll ignore it all because they’re as rotten as Trump and would gladly accept him as dictator if that was the price for their re-election.

“Yo Odd Man, tell us what you really think,” the rabbit replied.