Everything is bigger in Texas, even the lies


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“Okay, climate warrior, what do you make of them Republican frauds trying to blame wind turbines for that cat-ass-trophe in Texas?”

I had just rewarded Swamp Rabbit with a pint of Wild Turkey for helping me clear ice off the roof of my shack. He told me he’d seen Greg Abbott, the voter-suppressing, climate change-denying governor of Texas, dissing the Green New Deal on Fox News. The governor didn’t mention that the wind turbines wouldn’t have frozen if cold-weather equipment had been installed to keep them operational.

“Most of the power in Texas comes from oil and natural gas,” Swamp Rabbit said. “The oil and gas lines froze, too, on account of there ain’t no infer-structure in that state.”

“That’s the way Republicans like it,” I replied. “There’s a lot more money to be made if you privatize utilities and neglect stuff like maintenance and safety and long-range planning.”

Swamp Rabbit was getting feisty as he drank, and I could tell he was itching to have an argument. “Okay, Mister Know-It-All. How come the peeps in them red states don’t get wise to Republican con men?”

“That’s a big question, rabbit. There’s no time to answer it here.”

“They like being told that power companies should be deregulated,” he said, answering his own question. “It sounds good until there’s a disaster and they end up with an $8,000 electric bill.”

I told him Texans might be waking up to what suckers they’ve been. Sleeping with six layers of clothes on and having to melt snow because there’s no running water will do that to you. What if they start believing they can use government to build a green infrastructure to protect against disasters and generate jobs?

“Never gonna happen,” he said. “They believe in Donald Trump. They believe in Ronald Reagan. He told them government is the problem.”

“Reagan and his stupid ideas are dead, but his disciples don’t realize it yet,” I replied. “That’s the problem.”

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‘Philly-delphia’ lawyer stars in impeachment farce


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Farce — a comic dramatic work using buffoonery and horseplay and typically including crude characterization and ludicrously improbable situations.

We were still arguing about Donald Trump’s impeachment farce. I thought the crowning moment came when Mitch McConnell condemned Trump as “practically and morally responsible” for the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, just minutes after he and 42 other Republicans ludicrously voted “Not guilty.”

Swamp Rabbit contended that the highlight was Michael van der Veen’s crude characterization of a defense lawyer. Van der Veen threatened to make potential Democratic witnesses travel to his law office in “Philly-delphia” to be deposed. His outburst sparked laughter among the senators, and van der Veen scolded them for ridiculing him.

“He thought they were laughing at his empty threat, but they were laughing at the way he pronounced Philadelphia,” Swamp Rabbit explained. “And I think they were laughing because he got picked to work the impeachment. He’s one of them personal injury lawyers — you know, car crashes and dog bites and such.”

“That’s pretty farcical,” I admitted. “And van der Veen wasn’t the only Philly lawyer on Trump’s team. I guess Trump is still trying to give our town a bad name.”

For Swamp Rabbit’s parole officer, Victor Cortez, the most improbable moment occurred when Republican senators Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham and Mike Lee met with Trump’s bottom-of-the-barrel legal team to discuss strategies for winning Dear Leader’s acquittal. The senators were supposed to be serving as jurors!

“Yeah, that’s beyond farcical,” I conceded. “It’s theater of the absurd.”

We discussed the acquittal. The House impeachment managers presented solid evidence that Trump had incited an insurrection but the vast majority of Republican senators ignored it, just as they ignored evidence at Trump’s first impeachment. I asked Swamp Rabbit if he agreed with Marx’s notion that tragedy tends to repeat itself as farce.

“I live in a shack,” he shrugged. “I can’t tell the one from the other.”

Footnote: It looks like the half of the country that accepts the Big Lie — i.e., that the presidential election was rigged — has unofficially separated from the half that doesn’t accept it. Is this marriage worth saving?

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The Greene-ing of Red State America


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IMAGE: AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

“Did you hear about them Jewish Space Lasers? Is that the name of a rock ‘n’ roll band? If it ain’t, it should be.”

Swamp Rabbit was reading about Marjorie Taylor Greene, the QAnon wacko who also happens to be a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and a member in good standing of the Republican Party.

“My son has a band,” I told him. “I’ll text him but he probably won’t go for that name. He’s a goy, you know.”

Last week House Democrats used their slim majority to boot Greene from the Education and Labor Committee and the Budget Committee. This was in reaction to her long history of using social media and other platforms to spread Trumpian lies on subjects as diverse as election results, school shootings and forest fires (Jewish space lasers started them, she wrote in 2018).

“But this here’s a free speech issue, ain’t it?” Swamp Rabbit asked.

“No,” I replied. “Its a ‘shouting fire in a crowded theater’ issue. Its about trying to smack down a troll who abuses free speech laws so she can generate further chaos in a part of the population that has already lost its collective mind.”

“It don’t seem fair to single her out,” he said. “What about Cruz and Hawley and Biggs and Brooks and Johnson and Gosar and Goetz and Boebert and McCarthy and so on? What do you do about all the peeps who support them 147 Republicans in the House who voted to throw out the 2020 election results even though they knew Trump lost fair and square?”

I hate when Swamp Rabbit asks questions I can’t answer.

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Common ground with Republicans? On Mars, maybe.


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“If Joe Biden keeps seeking common ground with Republicans — or unity, as he sometimes calls it — he’ll miss his chance to achieve his stated policy goals. Then Republicans will blame Democrats because the country is still a mess, and Dems will get slaughtered in the midterms. Sound familiar?”

I was explaining to Swamp Rabbit that 2021 could be a lot like 2009, when Barack Obama, feeling magnanimous after his historic election, reached across the aisle to find common ground and end partisan bickering (damn, three cliches in one sentence!) but smacked into a stone wall of Republican dinosaurs dead set on bringing him down.

“What you got against common ground, Odd Man?” Swamp Rabbit said. “We all gotta hold hands and march into the future, or there ain’t gonna be no future.”

I told him ”common ground” and ”unity” have no meaning unless both parties share similar notions of reality. What are the chances of finding common ground after two-thirds of the House Republicans vote to overturn the results of a free and fair presidential election? After Republicans in both houses continue debating whether to certify the election results even as a reactionary mob storms the Capitol?

“Today’s Republican legislators aren’t even on the same planet with most Democrats,” I said. “Where do you find common ground with such people? On Mars, maybe, or Pluto.”

“But they speak for millions of peeps who get their info from Fox News and Facebook,” Swamp Rabbit countered. “It ain’t like the Dems can just ignore ’em.”

“They can’t let themselves get snookered again, either,” I said.

I told him to be wary of mainstream media stories about how the Capitol riot has widened the divisions between moderates and wingnuts to the point where there’s a “fight for the soul” of the Republican Party taking place.

“There are no Republican moderates,” I said. “There’s nothing can make Republicans break ranks, even an attempted coup by their Dear Leader. They shrugged at that. They won’t even speak out against that vile woman in Congress who said the Parkland school killings were a hoax. They’re the scum of the earth.”

“Don’t beat around the bush, Odd Man. What do you really think?”

“I think Democrats should push for the impeachment trial that the Republicans are backing away from and, more important, for passage of that $1.9 trillion Covid relief proposal, even if they have to resort to so-called budget reconciliation.”

“But Republicans just proposed a $600 billion plan. What if they want to haggle about the price for a few months? You know, to seek common ground and all that.”

“Stressed out people all over the country are counting on the Dems’ plan,” I replied. “If Biden and the Dems don’t make it happen fast, with their slim majorities in Congress, those people will turn on them. It’ll be deja vu all over again.”

He cringed. “Dont worry, I’m done,” I said. “I’ve run out of cliches.”

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The final curtain? We can only hope.


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Victor Cortez phoned Wednesday morning with news that Donald Trump’s flunkies were blasting Frank Sinatra’s old hit “My Way” on the tarmac as Dear Leader took off for southern Florida where, if we’re lucky, he will spend the rest of his miserable life without venturing north again.

“Haha,” I said into my phone. “That’s the perfect song for a departing, delusional blowhard.”

“Ironic, too,” noted Victor, who is my friend Swamp Rabbit’s parole officer. “Sinatra was for many years a liberal Democratic integrationist. Three words that Trump hates.”

“Here’s an even better irony,” I replied. “Sinatra loathed Trump, just like all the other people Trump cheated or tried to cheat when he did business.”

As Trump was staging his self-congratulatory farewell, Joe Biden was in Washington, D.C., preparing to make his inaugural speech and deal with the fact that Trump has debased the presidency by routinely lying, obstructing justice, using the office to advance his business interests, appointing unqualified grifters to high office, restoking racism, pardoning unrepentant murderers and thieves, trashing environmental laws, undermining the election process and inciting an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

“What am I leaving out? ” I asked Swamp Rabbit, who had just appeared on the front porch of my shack.

“Ain’t no room to list all the bad things Trump done,” Swamp Rabbit said, “but don’t forget to mention he let the coronavirus plague get so out of control that the death toll’s up to 400,000.”

Oh yes, there’s that. And the disheartening spectacle of an inauguration that was off-limits to almost everybody but the National Guard because of the plague and the fear that Trumpers would follow up on the insurrection and attempted coup.

“Not to mess up your day, but the evil varmint said he’ll be back in some form,” the rabbit added.

“In the form of a new killer virus, probably,” I said. “Let’s hope there’s a vaccine against him next time.”

Footnote: After a while, even Sinatra hated “My Way,” which features lyrics written for him by Paul Anka. For all his faults, Sinatra was a whole lot more self-aware and decent than Trump. But who isn’t?

One more: The Sid Vicious version of “My Way” would have suited Trump much better.

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Pity the poor, oppressed Capitol raiders


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Swamp Rabbit said he was in a terrible state after watching reruns of the mob that stormed the Capitol last week at the behest of their Dear Leader, who hid in the White House while they did his dirty work.

“You told me last week they were mostly frustrated football fans,” I reminded him. “Did you change your mind?”

He answered my question by calling up a news story that listed some of the professions of those who took part in the siege:

…Lawyers, local lawmakers, real estate agents, law enforcement officers, military veterans, construction workers, hair stylists and nurses… devout Christians who highlighted Bible verses, adherents of the QAnon conspiracy theory and members of documented hate groups…

“So we shouldn’t conclude the mob was just a bunch of no-account redneck blowhard football fans in dad jeans and ball caps?” I asked.

“That’s right, Odd Man. Most of them Capitol raiders were god-fearing racists who have mortgages and own pickup trucks as big as tanks and all sorts of — what you call ’em? — luxury goods.”

“But that’s what I said last week,” I said, reminding him again. The question is, why did the raiders want to block the election results?

“Because the Democrats want them to put on masks to avoid the covid. And because they ain’t making enough money to keep up with payin’ for all them luxury goods. They feel oppressed by the gov’mint.”

You’re crazy, I told him. Oppressed people can’t afford to play weekend warriors (weekday, in this case) dressed up in camo clothes and commando gear from Dick’s Sporting Goods. They don’t have the money to travel hundreds of miles, rent hotel rooms and take pictures of each other smashing artifacts in the Capitol.

“Besides, it’s their leader who heads the government,” I said. “The guy who did nothing to stop the covid and led the charge for a two-trillion-dollar tax cut for the rich and helped stall a second stimulus for more than six months.”

“But that ain’t what they heard on the social media and Fox News,” Swamp Rabbit said. “Give ’em a break. It’s time we all made friends, doncha think?”

“No way,” I replied. “You can’t make friends with people who are too dumb to know who their enemy is.”

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Long-anticipated coup attempt fails. Game over?


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Swamp Rabbit was stretched out on the bare ground near his shack, looking like he’d just survived an ordeal that tested his limits. “Feels like I got chased 20 miles by a pack of bloodhounds,” he told me.

Actually, he’d been indoors for hours watching cable TV coverage of the Trump-inspired mob that breached the U.S. Capitol, where Congress was certifying Joe Biden’s election. The action was almost nonstop. Rioters climbed walls, shattered windows, broke down doors, waved Yankee and Confederate flags, strolled across the marble-tiled floor of Statuary Hall, posed for a selfie with a Capitol cop, rushed into the Senate chamber and even ransacked the offices of various Congress critters. Five people ended up dead.

“I’m exhausted,” Swamp Rabbit said. “Just watching them yahoos run wild wore me out.”

The historic siege is already well-documented. One memorable photo shows a smiling yahoo sitting in Nancy Pelosi’s office with cellphone in hand and one foot up on her desk. A shirtless QAnon Viking in horns and furs, with a flag and a megaphone, was filmed relaxing in the Senate chamber.

While reviewing news clips, it dawned on Swamp Rabbit that most of the mob members were young or middle-aged white guys who looked more like moronic sports fans than insurrectionists. He wondered if they raided the Capitol in frustration because the pandemic had made it so hard to attend football games this year.

“No way,” I said. “Some of them are QAnon supporters who swear that Pelosi and the global elites are in cahoots with Satanists who kill children and drink their blood. But most are just old-fashioned racist wackos who think Democrats are communists.”

“I bet most of them are football fans,” Swamp Rabbit insisted.

The only thing for sure is that they were all Trump fans. There were thousands of them outside or inside the Capitol. Their hero had promised to march with them but he never showed up. It was much safer to hide in the Fuhrerbunker and incite a riot in the hope of somehow stopping the certification process.

“Just like in football,” Swamp Rabbit said. “Trump threw one of them Hail Mary passes but it got batted down in the end zone.”

Twelve more days until the clock runs out…

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The year of ‘You can’t make this stuff up’


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Asked to summarize 2020 in one phrase, humorist Dave Barry wrote “Four Seasons Total Landscaping.” Perfect. Donald Trump’s wacko coup attempt, along with the Covid-19 plague, dominated the news late in the year, and nowhere was the Trump legal team’s surreal stupidity showcased more vividly than at the Four Seasons news conference in Philadelphia.

“What’s stupid about the Four Seasons?” Swamp Rabbit said regarding Barry’s dispatch. “I thought it was one of them luxury hotels.”

“That’s the Four Seasons in Center City,” I said. “Four Season Total Landscaping is near the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge, in the middle of nowhere, next to Fantasy Island Adult Books and across the street from the Delaware Valley Cremation Center. Rudy Giuliani and some other Trump flunkies scheduled a news conference to challenge the reality of Trump’s electoral defeat, but they got confused and booked it at the landscaping business instead of the hotel, and that’s where it was held. “

As Barry wrote in his year-end review for Washington Post, “We are not making this up. Nobody could make this up.”

Swamp Rabbit wanted to hear some happy stories from 2020, but the news was all bad:

+ Despite advice from medical experts, right-wingers everywhere refused to wear masks to help protect themselves and others from Covid-19, which had killed almost 350,000 Americans by New Year’s Day. “They’d rather die than put on a mask and be mistaken for a Democrat,” Swamp Rabbit explained.

+ Despite widespread hardship caused by Covid-19, Senate Republican leaders blocked  a measure to increase direct stimulus payments from $600 to $2,000.

+ About 74 million Americans voted to re-elect Trump despite his impeachment and his election-related decision to deny the seriousness of Covid-19. Despite his suggestion that ingesting bleach might kill the virus!

+ Overpopulation, deforestation, wet markets and the illegal wildlife trade continued unabated despite evidence that these problems expose humans to pathogens like Covid-19.

+ Record-breaking wildfires, heat waves and hurricanes battered the United States and the rest of the world. A 100-degree day in Siberia was recorded. Meanwhile, Republicans continued to deny the reality of climate change and the importance of slowing it by investing in clean energy.

“Enough, I don’t want to hear no more,” Swamp Rabbit said. “Why don’t you just wish everybody Happy New Year and tell them the dark days are over and done?”

“Okay, the dark days are done,” I said, handing him my sunglasses. “The future’s so bright, you better wear these.”

Clarification: Mark Twain actually wrote “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” The shorter version of this quotation (see above) is catchier and thus more commonly cited, even though Twain probably never said it.

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Let there be (more) light


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“Damn. The day ain’t hardly begun and it’s already time to go back to bed.”

Swamp Rabbit was bemoaning the arrival of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, when the Northern Hemisphere tilts farthest from the sun.

“You’re suffering from seasonal affective disorder,” I said. “Get yourself some lunch and snap out of it.”

And that’s what he did. He went back to his shack, downed a few shots of bourbon, and said he was ready to make himself useful. But then he started reminiscing about the 2019 winter solstice, before the plague hit and we lost our day jobs, and just like that he was seasonally disordered again.

“I miss them good old days,” he said. “When I didn’t have to shoplift from the Superfridge to have a good meal. When Trump was about to be impeached and it looked like the country might not go down the tubes.”

“Enough of that,” I said. “We suffered through the annus horribilis and hit rock bottom, but each day from now on will be longer than the day before.”

He wasn’t convinced. The sun clung to the horizon and rarely showed its face. The swamp frogs hibernated. The swamp cats slept under an old blanket all day.

“That’s why Christmas takes place near the solstice,” I said. “Just like Saturnalia, when the pagan Romans exchanged gifts. Those pesky Christians knew they had to get the people on their side, so they launched a clever rebranding campaign and replaced the one holiday with the other, and here we are.”

“Where are we?” Swamp Rabbit said. “The plague is worse than ever. The Grinch is stealing Christmas. The Hog Monster just pardoned all them murderers and white-collar crooks.”

But this was a few days ago. I think Swamp Rabbit, on Christmas Day, finally understands that the purpose of the holiday — of religions — is to celebrate the gradual return of the light.

“Look, you even got a Christmas card,” I said this morning, handing him a piece of mail that had come to my shack by accident.

He opened the envelope. It was a card from his ex-wife with a hand-written message inside: “Better Christmas alone than Christmas with a creep.”

He looked downcast, so I slapped him on the back. “Look on the bright side,” I said. “At least she remembered you on the holiday.”

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Anti-boomer demands recount of 2,020 greatest songs


“I bet they ain’t got none of my favorites,” my neighbor Swamp Rabbit said when WXPN in Philadelphia started playing the 2,020 all-time greatest songs, an end-of-year list based on votes cast by the station’s listeners.

“You might be surprised,” I replied. “Listeners were allowed to vote for anything, and each voter could choose from one to ten songs. I’m sure there were votes for some of those hillbilly songs you like.”

I told him I’d checked XPN’s audience demographics. It seemed obvious the playlist would include a ton of classic rock, a decent amount of soul and R&B, a little hip-hop, a smattering of tunes from other genres and enough eclectic oddball stuff to keep the list from being completely predictable.

The countdown went on for about a week, 24 hours a day except for a break before the Top 100 songs. I tuned in from time to time and at one point noted that many if not most of the songs were from the 1960s and 1970s, when pop music was the most important driving force behind cultural change.

“OK boomer,” Swamp Rabbit growled. “The real reason so many of them selections are old is because a lot of the voters were old. You and all them peeps who grew up burning your draft cards on Main Street and preaching the brotherhood of man. I demand a recount.”

I was surprised that Swamp Rabbit was so upset until I remembered he’s a lot younger than me and only looks old because he drinks Wild Turkey all day.

“You’re probably half-right,” I conceded. “Only 2,473 ballots were cast, representing less than one percent of XPN’s per-week listening audience. And I’ll bet a lot of the voters were old and white. And a lot of young people don’t even listen to radio anymore. They just download the songs they want to hear from the Internet.”

Swamp Rabbit wasn’t placated. He was mad, and so was I, that the list included so many songs by lame-ass Billy Joel and the hippy-dippy Grateful Dead and overrated Bruce Springsteen, and Led Zeppelin’s inevitable, insufferable “Stairway to Heaven.” And why no Ernest Tubbs, Loretta Lynn, Jimmy Rodgers, Kitty Wells and so on? Only one song by the genius songwriter Hank Williams!

“Don’t flip out, it’s just a list,” I said. “The point is to attract more listeners. Music fans find out some station is doing a best-ever list and they tune in to hear if their favorite songs are on it. Then they argue about the list, like we’re doing right now. It beats arguing about politics and the pandemic.”

I confessed that my own greatest songs list would be predictable. My Top 40 would consist mostly of cuts by Bob Dylan, Beatles, Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix, and probably something by David Bowie, Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, Muddy Waters, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, Sly Stone, Van Morrison, Captain Beefheart, Cream, Beck, Buffalo Springfield, the Band, Chrissie Hynde, Radiohead, Bob Marley, James Brown, Kinks, Doors, Who… But who cares what I think?

“That’s the first intelligent thing you said all day,” Swamp Rabbit said.

Footnote: The rabbit and I agreed on one thing: Super-long cuts by jazz and prog-rock artists shouldn’t have been included. “Miles Runs the Voodoo Down” is a great piece of music, but it is not a song.

One more: Sure, the “greatest songs” idea was a gimmick, but the execution was fun. I tuned in one day long enough to hear Frank Sinatra’s grandiose “My Way” segue perfectly into King Crimson’s “The Court of the Crimson King.” I’ll never hear that segue again, thank God, but I’m glad I heard it once.

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