3.5 trillion dollars short and six months late

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Saul of Tarsus, later known as Paul the Apostle, is thrown from his horse and sees the light.
Has Joe Biden seen the light?

A Washington Post columnist declared Thursday that Joe Biden and the Democrats have had an epiphany and from now on will counter Republican nihilism by taking action that “leads to more progress in the future.”

Swamp Rabbit was puzzled. “What kind of epiphany? Like in one of them James Joyce stories? Or like when that guy Paul got knocked off his horse by a lightnin’ bolt and became a Christian?”

“Something like the latter,” I replied. “For months Biden was asleep in the saddle, seemingly unaware that two Democrats in Name Only, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, would never cast their crucial votes with the other 48 senators who wanted to override Republican opposition to the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better package and the voting rights bills.”

The Dems eventually cut the $3.5T to $1.5T, but that still wasn’t enough for the Republicans and the DINOs. Biden’s amazingly dopey — or disingenuous — admission at a news conference this week:

I did not anticipate that there’d be such a stalwart effort to make sure that the most important thing was that President Biden didn’t get anything done.

What is wrong with this guy? While Barack Obama’s VP, and after his own successful run for president, Biden watched Republicans, led by Mutant Ninja Turtle Mitch McConnell, obstruct and kill Democratic legislation that might help the poor and middle-class at the expense of mega-corporations and rich individuals. Like Obama before him, he wasted valuable time on futile efforts to find common ground with people whose stated goal is to wreck the Democratic agenda.

“I knew we were in trouble when he gave that July speech in Philly and didn’t mention that Senate Democrats have no chance of getting the big bills passed unless the filibuster is scuttled,” I said. “He didn’t even say the word filibuster.”

“Now he mentions it all the time,” Swamp Rabbit noted. “But he’s a dollar short and a day late.”

“Something like that,” I said again. “If he doesn’t turn things around before the midterms, he might as well get back on his horse and doze into the sunset.”

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Fifteen spirituals to help you get through 2022

“They ain’t spirituals,” Swamp Rabbit said. “Elvis was a rocker. Blind Faith don’t belong on no list with James Cleveland. Matthew Sweet got nothin’ to do with Mahalia Jackson. You got gospel mixed up with rock ‘n’ roll.”

“Elvis grew up on gospel,” I replied. “Mahalia Jackson is gospel but she rocked harder than most rockers.”

He told me Randy Newman is an atheist. Bob Dylan was a Jew and then a Christian and God knows what now. And Steely Dan — sick pups, he called them.

“We’re all sick pups,” I said. “These songs soothe the sick soul. Say amen and listen up.”

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Watching ‘Wonderful Life’ but not getting it

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James Stewart as George Bailey in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ before the happy ending is in sight

“How come you like that corny movie?” Swamp Rabbit said after watching the holiday classic It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) for the first time. “I thought you were one of them too-cool-for-school guys.”

I told him Wonderful Life transcends its cornball depiction of small-town life in fictional Bedford Falls. As Robert Reich noted, director Frank Capra used his folksy style to make the movie’s radical message palatable to audiences that had just lived through World War II and had high hopes. He envisioned a future in which average joes would unite to defeat greedy pigs like Mr. Potter, just as they had defeated Hitler and Tojo.

“Good thing Capra ain’t around to see what happened to his big idea,” Swamp Rabbit said. “He’d probably off himself, like George Bailey was gonna do before that angel saved him.”

Ridiculous, I told him. Capra was a great artist who would have used current social conditions to make a movie that would end on the same happy, egalitarian note as the original.

“His movie needs a rewrite,” Swamp Rabbit said. “Peeps today don’t want to defeat the rich; they want to be the rich. They don’t trust do-gooders like Bailey, and they don’t want to live near ’em.”

You exaggerate, I told him. Sure, the post-war economic boom made many Americans complacent. Reagan and his ilk suckered them into believing continued prosperity depended on tax cuts for the rich, deregulation and a weakened social safety net. Neoliberals like Bill Clinton told them some of the same lies. But people know better now. Quality of life among the non-rich has been declining for decades. The gap between rich and poor is as wide as it was in the 1920s.

“Yeah, but most white peeps don’t blame Potter and his gang,” Swamp Rabbit said. “They blame them blacks, Mexicans and Muslims. The white peeps elected Potter president in 2016.”

He showed me his rewrite. The townspeople are split into pro- and anti-Potter factions. Potter fans wear MAGA caps and denounce Bailey as a Communist. They sell their homes to Potter and move into exurban houses they can’t afford rather than work together to make Bedford Falls healthy. Bailey’s wife runs off with Potter. Bailey drowns himself and his angel. The rich get richer, and so on.

I said he was exaggerating again. You can fool some people some of the time, but don’t expect them to keep supporting causes contrary to their own interests.

It took him a while to stop laughing. “Tell that to the Trumpers and the anti-vaxxers. Tell it to them peeps who watched It’s A Wonderful Life a dozen times but still don’t get it.”

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12 days of Christmas, 12 cool songs

Swamp Rabbit was mad because Alvin and the Chipmunks didn’t make the cut. “You don’t like my Christmas playlist, then put together your own,” I told him.

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The suburban Philly gods bring you — fire!

Warming up to winter with so-called creative destruction. (Burn, phoenix, burn.)

We lingered last weekend at the 18th Firebird Festival in Phoenixville, PA, where a giant wooden figure shaped like a phoenix had been set ablaze for hundreds of fire worshippers.

“This is my kind of celebration,” I told Swamp Rabbit. “Perfect for the winter solstice. Burn the mother down and start the new year fresh.”

But my mangy friend was spooked. “Looks like a sneak preview of one of them wildfire seasons out West. Too radical, if you ask me.”

I told him it was a mainstream event. An act of creative destruction. Even Milton Friedman and the vulture capitalists would approve. Elon Musk, too.

Swamp Rabbit remained unmoved by the spectacle. He broke the seal on a pint of Wild Turkey and took a big swig. I told him he should read about the myth of the phoenix instead of boozing and watching football games in his broken down old shack. “Our hopes will rise from the ashes,” I said.

“Ain’t nothin’ gonna rise from them ashes but smoke,” he replied. “I’ll stick with the booze.”

Footnote: The headline paraphrases a line from “Fire,” by the Crazy World of Arthur Brown… To really get into the holiday spirit, watch The Wicker Man (the original with Christopher Lee, not the ghastly remake with Nicolas Cage).

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An Xmas stocking stuffer from Manchin to Democrats

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A lump of coal is the Democrats’ reward for trusting blatantly corrupt Joe Manchin.

Swamp Rabbit said it best back in April:

Joe Manchin is a DINO — a Democrat in name only. He likes the filibuster rule and thinks raising taxes on the rich is radical.

At the time, Joe Biden seemed confidant that both houses of Congress would pass a future bill — the Build Back Better Act — that would enable expansion of healthcare and education benefits as well as measures to combat climate change. But it already was clear that the Democrats’ slim U.S. Senate majority would be worthless if even one Democratic senator wasn’t on board with BBB.

Democrats tried tying BBB to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework (BIF), a bill that Manchin and most other legislators supported. Progressives insisted the two bills be voted on concurrently to keep Manchin from double-crossing them by abandoning BBB after the infrastructure bill was passed. But most Dems eventually caved, allowing a vote on the infrastructure bill and whittling down the BBB budget to $1.5T to appease Maserati Joe and his fellow DINO, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. In the end, Manchin humiliated them by announcing on Fox News (of course!) that he “just can’t” support BBB, falsely claiming it would increase inflation and the national debt.

After the Fox News show, Swamp Rabbit blamed “that old fool Biden and them other Dems” for not realizing Manchin was never going to support a bill that would hurt coal companies and help poor people at the expense of the rich. He reminded me that Manchin became a multimillionaire thanks to investments in the coal industry and has done nothing as an office holder to raise standards of living in West Virginia, one of the country’s poorest states.

“Enough!” I said. “You’re saying the same things I said back in October. You’re preaching to the choir.”

I told him Manchin is what he is — a prehistoric lizard spawned in one of his home state’s waste coal pits. A poster boy for political corruption. The other Democratic senators know this; some of them are only marginally less corrupt than Manchin and all 50 of their Republican colleagues.

“If you want to blame somebody, blame the reporters and talking heads,” I said. “They should have questioned Manchin’s sincerity from Day One instead of devoting countless thousands of words to pretending he might take the people’s side against the polluting, tax-dodging rich. They should have been shining a light on his corruption instead of bolstering the status quo.”

Swamp Rabbit laughed. “Them mainstream reporters got more in common with them corrupt senators than with the people,” he said. “They are the status quo, you dummy.”

I didn’t reply. The argument was over. I hate it when Swamp Rabbit is right.

Footnote: It’s worth noting that Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other progressive legislators weren’t fooled by Manchin’s months-long effort to slow-walk BBB to death.

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Food and gratitude, in that order

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I’ll have the turkey, please, but hold the white bread.

I wished Swamp Rabbit a Happy Thanksgiving, knowing this would set him off.

“What’s so happy about it?” he said. “This supply chain problem is making me crazy as a chinch bug.The Dollar Store is charging the same price as the Superfridge for tin foil, on account of the Superfridge ain’t got no overstock to sell cheap to the Dollar Store. Avocados are five dollars each at the Superfridge, and they ain’t stocked Philadelphia Cream Cheese for weeks now, even though we live in Philly. I had to steal the store brand yesterday.”

“How do you justify this theft habit of yours?” I said. “I’d better get you a copy of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics.”

“I ain’t justifyin’ nothin’,” he said. “If I’m hungry and broke, I do what I gotta do.”

Blame most of this mess on Covid-19, I told him. Food delivery all over the country is delayed. There’s a shortage of staples in some places, and of truckers and warehouse workers. Demand is outstripping supply. Go to a food pantry and ask for corn and they might give you string beans instead.

“I would have invited you to my shack but there’s no turkey dinner this year, it’s too expensive,” I said.

“I guess that means the price of hoagies went up,” he replied. “I know for a fact that buying turkey hoagies at Wawa — they’re called Gobblers and have cranberry sauce and gravy on them — was as close as you ever got to cookin’ Thanksgiving dinner.”

I told him the tradition of serving turkey as a holiday meal dates back many centuries in England, and that Charles Dickens‘s A Christmas Carol (1843), along with myths about America’s Pilgrim settlers, helped establish the holiday turkey tradition in the United States.

Swamp Rabbit rolled his eyes and told me to skip the history lesson, what he needed was a good meal.

“Your problem is you lack gratitude,” I said, handing him enough cash for two turkey hoagies. “It’s a well-known fact that people who practice gratitude tend to be healthier than ingrates like you.”

“Maybe so,” he countered. “But if there ain’t no food, there ain’t no gratitude.”

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Save the planet in three easy steps

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The residential mix in our cities might change in a big way if climate change is ignored.

We were discussing the recently completed COP26. Too bad we couldn’t be there, I told Swamp Rabbit. In the news reports, the Glasgow natives seemed more serious about fighting climate change than your typical gas-guzzling American, maybe because the climate over there is already terrible.

“We didn’t miss much,” Swamp Rabbit said. “Same old story. Too much talk, not enough action. Blah, blah, blah, as Greta Thunberg would say.”

The climate crisis became real to Swamp Rabbit in September, when the remnants of Hurricane Ida hit the Greater Philadelphia area and flooded our shacks in Tinicum, PA. He read up on the subject and was dismayed to learn that humans must achieve net-zero emission of carbon by 2050 in order to prevent catastrophical levels of global warming.

“Net zero ain’t happening,” he said. “Not with China using more coal than ever last year, and India on its way to new coal-burning records. Not with the U.S. gov’mint leasing the Gulf of Mexico to all them oil drillers.”

I told him to stop being a gloom peddler. The countries at COP26 (what a weird name!) have all pledged to end deforestation. by 2030, and to put more money into fighting climate change in so-called developing countries.

“You’re a saleman,” I said. “You know how to accentuate the positive. Why don’t you come up with a new sales pitch for clean energy, something that will help save the planet?”

He put down his can of beer and turned toward the swamp. “Okay, peeps, let’s save the planet in three easy steps,” he shouted, as if addressing a crowd. “Step one, stop driving. Step two, stop using plastics. Step three, stop worrying, and ignore steps one and two. The planet will still be here long after us humans are gone.”

“This is about saving the the planet for humans, you stupid rodent,” I said. “What sort of planet would this be if there were no humans on it?”

“A healthier planet,” he replied, without missing a beat.

Footnote: Environmentalist Bill McKibbon blames Covid-19 for slowing the worldwide movement to replace fossil fuels with clean energy, but he cautions against despair: “… As Covid recedes… rejuvenated activism will combine with the continuing horror of the climate crisis to produce more pressure for change. It had better – Glasgow’s finish makes clear that when activists aren’t able to push as hard as we need, inertia and vested interest remain powerful forces. The idea that the world’s governments will simply do what needs to be done is just a fairytale.”

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QB ‘immunized’ against science and ‘woke culture’

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Here’s Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in August, responding to the question of whether he’d been vaccinated against Covid-19:

Yeah, I’ve been immunized. There’s guys on the team that haven’t been vaccinated. I think it’s a personal decision, I’m not gonna judge those guys.

I showed the story to Swamp Rabbit, who said, “Rodgers pretended ‘immunized’ meant ‘vaccinated,’ which makes him a freakin’ liar. It’s a good thing he ain’t gonna judge his teammates, ’cause he ain’t got the right to be judgin’ nobody.”

The vehemence of Swamp Rabbit’s reply was surprising until he told me he’d lost money betting on the Packers-Chiefs game when bookies changed the odds after Rodgers tested positive for the virus and was barred from playing.

“That’s what you get for gambling,” I said.

Swamp Rabbit shook his head.”That’s what I get for thinking that sneaky bastard was smart enough to know that throwing a football better than most people don’t make him stronger than the plague.”

It’s the way of the world, I told him. You reach a certain level of fame or wealth and you think you’re above the rest of the tribe, to the point where you even downplay the efficacy of vaccines that have protected millions from a deadly virus. Rodgers said he did his “research” and concluded he was better off taking horse de-wormer and “homeopathic” remedies. He misquoted the CDC guidelines regarding allergies and apparently refused to believe he might pose a danger to others if he remained unvaccinated.

And Rodgers had the balls to say this:

I believe strongly in bodily autonomy and the ability to make choices for your body, not to have to acquiesce to some woke culture or crazed group of individuals who say you have to do something.

“I don’t get it,” Swamp Rabbit said. “What the f%&* is woke culture?”

I told him “woke culture” was a big subject. In this case, it’s a term used by right-wing yahoos to describe anybody who doesn’t think we should be able to do whatever we want, even when our behavior might get other people killed.

“You mean them lying politicians and oil company CEOs and coal barons and arms merchants and pharma execs and Wall Street crooks and such?”

“And sports stars,” I said. “Some of them are just as bad.”

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Strange days have found us

Living in a black-and-white (and blue) world

It was a spooky weekend here in the Tinicum swamp, but not because of Halloween tricks or seasonal changes.

“So why was it spooky?” Swamp Rabbit said.

I told him I’d watched a movie called Strait-Jacket, with Joan Crawford as an ax murderer who, after 20 years in an asylum, comes home and creates more mayhem. The next morning I got into my car to drive to a job upstate, but my path was blocked by a boxy blue Amazon delivery truck driven by a woman who looked exactly like crazy Joan.

She got out and banged on the doors of three different shacks. No one answered, but she left parcels at each shack. I shouted for her to please park on the side of the road, I was late for work and had to get by. She furrowed her thick Joan Crawford eyebrows and stared daggers (axes?) at me before driving off.

She crossed Passyunk Creek to the tony side of the swamp, where the road is wider and the shacks much bigger. I tried to pass her, but it was tough going. Delivery vehicles were double-parked on both sides of the road — Amazon, FedEx, UPS.

“It’s eerie,” I told Swamp Rabbit. “People don’t go out to shop anymore. They’re home, but they don’t even answer the door when their deliveries arrive.”

Joan put the brakes on near a shack with an American flag hanging out front. Except the flag wasn’t red, white and blue; it was black and white with one blue stripe in the middle symbolizing (from what I’ve read) the flag owner’s support for the police (the “thin blue line”). I steered around Joan’s van as she left a package containing God-knows-what on the steps near the flag.

“Everything seems strange, even the flag,” I complained. “Amazon is everywhere. People are hiding from Covid-19 and climate change.”

And that’s not all that’s strange. A bunch of QAnon followers went to Dealey Plaza in Dallas last week to see the late JFK Jr. appear there and announce his solidarity with Donald Trump. A U.S. Senate Democrat is blocking clean energy. A closet Trumper was just elected governor of Virginia by people who would rather erase history thsn let their kids learn about slavery in school (though Matt Taibbi thinks there’s more to it than that).

Swamp Rabbit shrugged. “Signs and wonders, but what can we do about all this stuff?”

“I don’t know about you, but I’m gonna steer clear of Joan Crawford,” I said. “I think she keeps an ax in that truck.”

Footnote: You can order a black-and-white cop flag from Amazon, of course.

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