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.

The ‘national emergency’ is Trump

From The Hill:

President Trump said on Friday that he “didn’t need to” declare a national emergency but did it to speed up construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall. “I want to do it faster. I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster,” Trump said during a press conference at the Rose Garden in the White House.

It seems Trump doesn’t know what “emergency” means. Or he was inadvertently admitting that his executive order was made on false premises — that he knows there’s no emergency. I asked Swamp Rabbit what he thought of the grabber-in-chief’s latest unforced error.

“He don’t care about errors.” Swamp Rabbit said. “He knows there ain’t gonna be no thousand-mile brick-and-mortar wall, no steel slats. He knows illegal border crossings are way down since 2000, there ain’t no crisis. The crisis is in the White House, not on the border.”

I asked him to explain. He said Trump’s only talent is for stirring up fear and hate in the ignorant and easily led — his base, as he calls them. If he concedes defeat regarding the wall, he’ll lose his base, and then lose the support of congressional Republicans who stick with him only because they fear being driven out of office by his base.

I poured the rabbit a half-glass of whiskey for being so astute. “What about the Republicans who say they’re for the wall but unhappy with Trump because he’s setting a bad precedent by declaring an emergency in order to usurp powers that the Constitution assigned to Congress?”

The rabbit drank up and laughed, hee-hee-hee. “Trump don’t need to usurp nothing, them chumps been handing power to him since he took office. They think they’re using him to get what they want — tax cuts for the rich, right-wing members of the Supremes and so on — and can cut him loose when Mueller nails him, or when the base finally realizes he ain’t on their side.”

“But that’s a dangerous game,” I said. “What if Mueller doesn’t nail him? What if Trump’s morons never get wise to him? Congress would be stuck with a president who acts like a dictator. Then what?”

The rabbit sat down on my porch, dangling his feet over the swamp. After a while he said, “Gimme another drink, I’ll have to think about that one.”

Footnote: The mainstream media continue to struggle with a similar dilemma. Reporters and editors created the Trump monster over decades, by presenting him as a savvy businessman and “deal maker,” even while knowing all along he was a fraud and a dangerous fool. Now what?

Blowin’ smoke on Super Sunday

I was sitting on the porch with Swamp Rabbit, trying to nail down the silliest Super Bowl moment. Was it Budweiser’s “Blowin’ In the Wind” commercial or the halftime performance by Maroon 5?

“Ain’t nothin’ silly about ‘Blowin’ In the Wind,'” the rabbit said. “The song plays and you see a beer wagon pulled by them big horses with them wind turbines in the background and them words on the screen: ‘Now brewed with wind power for a better tomorrow.’ It’s a good message.”

“Budweiser is blowing smoke,” I replied. “They’re hooked up with two of the worst right-wing organizations in the country — the American Legislative Exchange Council, called ALEC, and the Chamber of Commerce. No way ALEC will go for clean energy. Climate deniers care about today, not tomorrow.”

The rabbit lit a cigarette and blew smoke at the porch’s tar paper roof. “Budweiser is using wind power, and that helps the environment,” he said. “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, Odd Man.”

I told him wind energy is part of Anheuser-Busch’s campaign to make people believe their beer is more “natural” and “organic” than other beers. It’s a propaganda stunt to mislead beer drinkers, a huge demographic that’s easy to fool.

I said, “Next you’ll be telling me Maroon 5 is a great band instead of a third-rate boy band that was hired because a lot of name acts turned against the NFL after they banned Colin Kaepernick for protesting racism.”

The rabbit looked at me and said, “Of course they’re a great band. If they weren’t they wouldn’t be at the Super Bowl.”

He was putting me on, I think. We jawed about the game itself — a mostly dull affair in which the Patriots beat the Rams 13-3 — and about how the Super Bowl disappoints most years because of the gulf between the hype and the reality. I told him the vulgarity of the spectacle is no longer funny once you realize the team owners have the mentality of slave owners.

“If you think it’s that bad, why’d you watch part of the game?” the rabbit said.

I had to think about that. “It’s the dead of winter,” I replied. “I had nothing better to complain about.”

Footnote: Speaking of vulgarity, I worked at an auto show on the day of the Super Bowl. On my way into the PA Convention Center, I passed a guy hawking stuff on the street corner. “Pretzels!” he shouted. “Candy! Cotton Candy! Super Bowl rings!”

There were no takers.

The ultimate end-of-year list

I wanted to know why my friend Swamp Rabbit was hard at work writing down his worst blackouts of 2018.

“It’s New Year’s,” he said. “I need to take stock.”

He noted that we humans like to compile lists of things, to put these things in categories, in order of importance. We like to read other people’s lists and compare theirs to ours. List-making helps us feel like we’ve processed and understood all the information the media has bombarded us with.

“That’s ridiculous,” I said. “We don’t understand anything.”

“It don’t matter,” he replied. “All’s we need is the illusion of understanding, of staying on top of things.”

We especially need end-of-year lists, he continued, and it doesn’t matter how ridiculous the topics are — most uninspired movie sequels, hottest male and female pop tarts, most persistent political cliches, most dominant athletes, most submissive athletes, best ukulele players. We need to share these lists, to argue about them.

“I don’t see the point,” I said.

He paused to sip from a juice jar full of bourbon. “There ain’t no point, it’s just fun. Don’t you know what fun is, Odd Man?”

There was nothing fun about 2018, I told him. Humans set new records for killing off other species. Sea levels rose faster than had been predicted. Environmental protection laws were undone by our evil idiot president while floods and fires scarred the landscape. Do people not notice what’s happening?

“You got a good list going there,” he said, ignoring the question. “Ten news stories that prove humans are doomed. You should finish it up and post it on your blog, the peeps will love it.”