Trump: The ‘herd mentality’ will save us


Trump said ‘herd mentality’ instead of ‘herd immunity.’ A Freudian slip?

Swamp Rabbit had a hunch. “I bet lots of peeps think Donald Trump is some kind of test for the country. If we pass, he gets kicked out of office and melts into a pool of pig grease and slides down the drain. If we fail, him and his kin folk shred the Constitution and move into the White House for life.”

“Some people in the media don’t see it that way,” I said. “They pretend this is a normal election. That Trump is a normal candidate. That it’s business as usual, no matter what he says or does, no matter how vile or ridiculous he is.”

I showed Swamp Rabbit a piece by a Washington Post columnist who congratulated Trump for taking questions from attendees at a town hall meeting in Philadelphia on Tuesday night. Karen Tumulty wrote:

It was actually a healthy development for Trump to face skeptical voters on live television. He should do it more often… Trump, to his credit, stepped outside his comfort zone and put himself in a situation where he had to refrain from insulting or belittling those who challenged him. 

A healthy development! On the same day, another Post staffer wrote that Trump, as usual, lied to his questioners. And Tumulty herself noted that he not only lied, but also demonstrated his inability to use the English language. This was Trump explaining why covid-19 will go away without a vaccine:

You’ll develop herd — like a herd mentality. It’s going to be — it’s going to be herd-developed, and that’s going to happen. That will all happen.

He was reaching for herd immunity, of course. His malapropism was a reminder that he’s dangerous not only because he’s dishonest and heartless but also because he’s incoherent and probably addled. But Tumulty would rather laud Trump for the courageous act of taking questions. God forbid she should express honest contempt for a candidate who is clearly unqualified to hold office — witness his handling of the coronavirus crisis — and not interested in abiding by the results of the election if it doesn’t go his way.

“Okay, so what?” Swamp Rabbit said. “What are them reporters supposed to do? Pretend Trump ain’t out there campaigning?”

“They’re supposed to present his policy plans and fact-check everything he says, and report his lies,” I replied. “They shouldn’t give him credit for stepping outside his so-called comfort zone for a half-hour. And they shouldn’t use false equivalencies, like those reporters in USA Today.”

He shook his head. “If they did all that, them Republican spin doctors would say the media is working for antifa-loving liberals who are using Joe Biden as a front for a socialist takeover.”

“They’re going to say that anyway,” I said. “Or else they would have to concede that the stories about Trump are true, which would be the same as admitting they’re backing a monster. The herd might stampede if they said that.”

Swamp Rabbit laughed. “I doubt it,” he said.

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Not to belabor the obvious, but…


I called up Elizabeth Warren’s Labor Day message and said, “Check it out, Swamp Rabbit. Woody Guthrie could have written it.”

Warren’s words are like Woody Guthrie’s

Today’s a federal holiday because on the eve of the 20th century, machinists, carpenters, and people who worked in mills, mines, factories, and more joined together to fight for better wages, better conditions, and a day to honor the power of working people.

Labor unions are still fighting for an America that works for everyone, not just the wealthy and well-connected. They were on the front lines then, and they are on the front lines now.

This year, many essential workers have been working in high-risk conditions without appropriate protective equipment, adequate safety standards, or basic job protections. So I’m going to keep pushing in Congress for an Essential Workers’ Bill of Rights to ensure safe working conditions, fair pay, paid leave, health care security, support for child care, and more…

“OK, so what?” Swamp Rabbit said. “I’m guessing Joe Biden sent out pretty much the same Labor Day message. Kamala Harris, too. All the Dems say the same thing on Labor Day. Hail to the workers.”

“Biden can hail the workers all he wants,” I replied, “but his first loyalty is to Wall Street, not Main Street. To the billionaires and corporations. And that goes for Harris and the other neolibs.”

Swamp Rabbit threw an empty beer can at me. “There you go dissing the neolibs again. Where would the Dems be without the big-money guys? Just because Biden sucks up to the .01 percent don’t mean he ain’t for working peeps.”

I showed him this, from the WP: “While Biden publicly calls out Wall Street excesses and promises to rein them in, Biden staffers privately are reassuring industry leaders that he won’t focus on the issue in office.”

“Big deal,” Swamp Rabbit said. “He’s gotta tell ’em that or they might jump to Trump.”

Here’s the thing, I told him. Biden and most other high-profile Democrats speak up for working people when it’s convenient. Warren walks the walk. Read up on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. How many elected politicians other than Warren and Bernie Sanders and a few others actually make working people’s interests their first priority?

“Trump would have called Warren a socialist every day,” he said. “She woulda sunk like a stone in the Tinicum swamp. Who you gonna vote for, one of them Jill Stein-type losers?”

I rolled my eyes. “Don’t be an idiot. I’m voting to chase the hog monster out of the White House. Biden’s not the best, but he’ll do for now.”

Footnote: As a writer in Esquire bluntly noted, “If Democrats do not address the economic cataclysm currently in progress during their first two years in (theoretical) control, they are signing their own death warrants in the midterms, and possibly the presidential two years later.”  

Another: Guthrie and “Old Man Trump.”

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The odds look good, but don’t bet your house yet


Bye-Don-Navy-Blue-Tshirt

“It ain’t just because them rats are still on Trump’s ship,” Swamp Rabbit said. “It’s because they look so comfortable there. They ain’t scared the ship’s gonna sink. They’re reserving deckchairs.”

The neofascist spectacle of the Republican National Convention had rattled the rabbit, and my contention that Trump’s presidency is a sinking ship was looking more and more flawed to him. He’s afraid Trump might win the election by stoking the fear and anger of white people who are nervous about street protests by Black Lives Matter and other “far left” groups.

“It’s not going to happen,” I said. “Trump will never lose his hardcore base, the racists and xenophobes, the morons who equate liberty with not wearing facemasks. But there aren’t enough of them at this point.”

I told him most people know that Trump allowed the coronavirus to keep spreading here while other developed countries took effective steps to contain it. That the United States has been burdened with almost a quarter of confirmed covid-19 deaths despite having only four percent of the world’s population.

They realize the economic disruption caused by the virus should have been temporary but instead has turned into a long-term disaster, largely because Trump initially lied about the severity of the problem and never pursued a coherent strategy for fighting it.

They’re aware that Trump will do anything he can get away with to hold on to the presidency, even try to start a race war. His office is what stands between him and a raft of criminal charges.

“How do you know what most peeps are aware of?” Swamp Rabbit said. “How do you know they care? Sounds like wishful thinking to me.”

I glared at him. “I know because millions of jobs have been lost and thousands of businesses have closed. I’d bet my house on Trump losing.”

We were standing near my shack in Tinicum Swamp. A big storm had left a hole in the roof and the front door hanging by a hinge.

“You’re gonna have to put up a lot more than that,” he said.

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Too late for rats to flee Trump’s ship


quiver-1889-boat-rough-seas

Swamp Rabbit was reading about the House panel that was grilling Louis DeJoy (nickname Joy Boy?), the megadonor appointed by Trump to wreck the U.S. Postal Service.

“How come you ain’t watching it on TV?” he said. “It’s got a lot of them Washington D.C. uglies you love to hate.”

“Waste of time,” I replied. “Do you expect that flunky to confess his sins to a bunch of Congress critters? That would never happen, not even in a Frank Capra movie.”

I went back to reading the book by Mary Trump that traces the psychopathology of her infamous uncle. Not much to learn there either. Fred Trump was a jerk and Donald is a chip off the old block. Trump’s supporters don’t care that he’s a jerk; that’s why they voted for him.

But Swamp Rabbit wasn’t finished tweaking me for mouthing off about national politics. “What about the Republican National Convention? Looks like most of them rats are still on Trump’s ship. I thought you said it was sinking.”

I told him the rats made their bed during the impeachment proceedings. Now they have nowhere else to go. They’re just like Trump in that they have no ideas for dealing with the virus, unemployment, income inequality, healthcare costs, climate change and all the other problems dragging down millions of Americans. They’re hoping Trump can steal the election with help from loathsome characters like DeJoy.

“Same old gang of thieves and bigots,” I said. “Worst of all, they’re boring.”

Swamp Rabbit smiled. “Does this mean you finally gonna stop all them anti-Trump rants I gotta hear every time I run into you?”

“Not yet,” I said. “You’ll have to wait until after the election for that.”

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No time to nitpick over VP pick


us-post-office-mural[1]

Trump is trying to kill the Postal Service. That’s a bigger story than Kamala Harris not being a progressive.

“What’s your problem?” Swamp Rabbit said.

The Democratic Party still stands for next to nothing, I told him. It feels like 2016, when the party trotted out candidates for president and vice-president (quick — who was that guy?) who seemed safely middle-of-the-road but were uninspiring to many voters hoping for real change. That’s how Donald Trump squeaked into office.

The difference this time is that Trump is a known commodity, with a track record of corruption and incompetence unmatched by any previous U.S. president. Which means Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are likely to do much better than Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine did, if only because decent people are afraid Trump might win again if they don’t vote.

“I’d vote for Elmer Fudd if that’s what it took to get rid of Trump,” Swamp Rabbit said.

“You are voting for Elmer Fudd,” I replied, “So am I. Too bad we can’t vote for a progressive presidential candidate — someone who isn’t married to Wall Street and the Defense Department and the private health insurance industry and the fracking companies and the student loan racket. We can’t even vote for a progressive vice-presidential candidate. Harris is a fighter, but she’s beholden to the same power brokers as Biden.”

“She’s no Elizabeth Warren, but she ain’t so bad,” Swamp Rabbit said. “And this is the year of Black Lives Matter. Ain’t no way Biden don’t choose a woman of color in 2020.”

“Why not a woman of color who’s also a progressive?” I countered.

I told him it’s worth noting that Harris has been accepted as safe by the bandits who run the financial industry. “It could have been worse,” one of them said this week. She’s also wishy-washy on eliminating private health insurance. On the plus side, she’s more progressive than Biden on environmental issues and she’s a lot less pro-cop now than she was as attorney general of California.

“There ain’t no time for nitpicking,” Swamp Rabbit said. “Trump is trying to cripple the freaking U.S. Postal Service so he won’t lose the election. We gotta get him outta there.”

“If we don’t get him out of there, I’m moving to New Zealand,” I vowed.

Swamp Rabbit laughed. “New Zealand wouldn’t let you in on account of so many Americans still have the virus, thanks to you know who.”

Footnote: The talking heads on MSNBC were gushing over Harris after Biden chose her. Couldn’t they find even one Democrat who doesn’t like her?

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How much are essential workers worth?


trash
I heard caterwauling: “I’m gonna have to throw all this trash into the swamp if they don’t pick up soon. The frogs and the possums ain’t gonna like that.”

Swamp Rabbit was standing outside his shack, jamming empty beer cans and whiskey bottles into trashcans that hadn’t been emptied in weeks. His complaint was that Philly’s sanitation workers aren’t keeping up with the massive amounts of curbside trash — recyclables, in particular — being generated by people who’ve been staying home to avoid Covid-19.

“You wouldn’t keep up with the trash either if your job got more dangerous but your wages stayed the same,” I said. “Sanitation workers are essential, but their work conditions are terrible and they make about seventeen bucks an hour. Some other essential jobs pay even less.”

“I had an essential job, Odd Man. Then I got laid off.”

“You were a salesmen, rabbit. A hustler. Essential means the social order breaks down unless the job gets done.”

My arguments didn’t seem to faze him, maybe because he was playing devil’s advocate — i.e., pretending to be one of those jerks who don’t see anything wrong with arranging for the poor to sacrifice rather than the rich when the economy goes bad.

I told him that Philly’s mayor and some City Council members expect non-affluent residents to close the budget hole caused by the coronavirus pandemic. They would rather raise taxes on homeowners and cut funding for basic social services, public schools, the arts, etc., than try to make big corporations and major nonprofits contribute more during a crisis.

“The University of Pennsylvania has a $15 billion endowment and takes up 10 percent of the city’s land but pays no property taxes,” I said, warming to the subject. “And what about Comcast, which doesn’t have to pay taxes on its $1.2 billion Technology Center until 2027?”

Swamp Rabbit snapped opened a can of beer and laughed for a long time. “What planet you been on? Penn and Comcast and them other big guys get what they want or they threaten to leave town. What’s essential, trash men or two of the biggest employers in the city?”

“Penn and Comcast aren’t going anywhere,” I said, but I knew he would give no ground, so I didn’t bother mentioning things like PILOT programs.

He finished his beer and threw the can onto his rapidly mounting pile of empties.

“Okay, you win,” I said. “Just don’t whine anymore about the trash not being collected.”

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Worst people in charge at worst time


Eric Swalwell meant figuratively, not literally, but he makes a good point about Steve Mnuchin, whom historians will remember as “the foreclosure king” because of his success at forcing desperate people out of their homes during the Great Recession.

As my neighbor Swamp Rabbit said, “He earned a ton of money making poor peeps homeless and now he wants to starve ’em, too. Ugly is as ugly does.”

“He picked the perfect time to starve them,” I replied. “Last week the government got more than a million new applications for unemployment comp. And it won’t get any better in the near future, not with the Covid-19 surging again and wrecking what’s left of the economy.”

In his tweet, Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, was echoing Trump and Senate Republicans who want to cut emergency unemployment benefits from $600 a week to $200.

I confessed to being a bit surprised that Trump and his toadies have chosen to remind us of their contempt for working people with elections only three months away.

“The base is gonna stick with Trump all the way to the Fuhrerbunker,” Swamp Rabbit explained. “They don’t want to face the fact that he bamboozled them from the get-go, with help from grifters and crooks like Mnuchin. They’d rather blame them anarchists and deadbeats and minorities for the country falling apart.”

“But the base is shrinking,” I replied. “And what about Mitch McConnell and those other Republican rats in Congress? Don’t they realize? Even the corporate media know what’s happening.”

He laughed. “Right now them rats are scurrying. They’re trying to decide the best time to jump ship.”

“I think they missed their chance,” I said. “With any luck, they’ll all get deep-sixed this time.”

Footnote: As someone on Twitter noted, “[Mnuchin] does know that the people that need the money are the same people that paid the taxes, right?”

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A new meaning for ‘cancel culture’


w.c. fields

‘Last week I went to Philadelphia, but it was closed.’

I found Swamp Rabbit near my shack, at the frog pond, drinking a beer. “There’s no easy way to say this,” I said. “Philadelphia is closing. I think we’ve become a victim of what they call cancel culture.”

He finished his beer and threw the can at me. “Cancel culture is when the social media shun personalities they think ain’t cool no more. What’s that got to do with Philly?”

I took another shot at explaining: Because of the resurgence of the Covid-19, there will be no parades, no ballgames open to the public, no footraces or any other large-scale organized events staged in Philly through February 2021. They’ve all been canceled.

“I could tell one of those old Philly jokes attributed to W.C. Fields, but I think you understand,” I added.

I reminded Swamp Rabbit that the city is already reeling from the full or partial closing of schools, stores, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, theaters, museums — even Independence National Historic Park.

The newly canceled events are a blow to those who make money doing face-to-face sales and were expecting to begin hawking again in late summer.

“You and I might soon be forced back to dumpster-diving and robbing the local SuperFridge,” I said.

He shrugged. “I ain’t never stopped robbing SuperFridge. You think I been paying four bucks for a bell pepper and ten bucks for a pack of wieners? That’ll be the day.”

I threw his beer can back at him. “My point is everybody is screwed who isn’t well-off. This isn’t just about Philly. By the time our delusional, incompetent president and his stupid flunkies get kicked out of the White House, we’ll be a Third World country.”

My prediction amused Swamp Rabbit. “Take a look at that shack of yours,” he said, pointing at it. “What world you think you livin’ in now?”

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When heroes go down


columbus 3

Columbus in his sweat box, awaiting shipment to a new world.

I wonder how Christopher Columbus is feeling. He’s locked up in a plywood box on Marconi Plaza until Philly’s illustrious civic leaders figure out what to do with him now that it’s become fashionable for protesters to topple statues of flawed heroes. The July heat in Philly is gruesome, so it must be awful stuffy in there.

“That’s a damn shame,” Swamp Rabbit said. “Now Columbus knows what them Indians felt like when he crammed them into ships and sent them back to Spain to be slaves.”

“Columbus was a creature of his times,” I replied. “In those days, it was okay for ambitious guys to rob and kill for queen and country.”

Swamp Rabbit laughed. “A lot of guys still do them things. But that don’t mean it’s okay for you to defend Columbus.”

I told the rabbit I wasn’t defending Columbus, just trying to make a point about historical revisionism. “I’m torn on this one, rabbit. On the one hand, Columbus was a monster, his own journals tell us this. And the statues of those Confederate traitors have to go, too. They’re monuments to the Jim Crow South. And Frank Rizzo… well, don’t get me started.”

But sometimes revisionism can go too far, I told him. For example, Thomas Jefferson was a slaveowner but he also was influenced by Enlightenment thinkers. He was pro-slavery in practice but not in principle. This makes him a world-class hypocrite but it doesn’t negate the good he did in helping invent a government based on the notion that all men and women are created equal.

“You saying Jefferson should get a pass on account of he wrote the Declaration of Independence?”

“Not exactly. I’m saying that Jefferson, despite his terrible flaws, did as much as anybody to make the abolition of slavery in America inevitable.”

Swamp Rabbit rolled his eyes. “He was a racist, Odd Man. His solution to slavery was to give all them slaves a one-way ticket back to Africa.”

“So what should we do about him?” I said, exasperated. “Encase all his statues in plywood and send them to Monticello?”

“Just put a caution note on them, like they do with cigarette boxes,” Swamp Rabbit replied. “‘Believing the hype may be hazardous to your health.‘”

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Antifa is coming, call out the militia!


militia

Many of us wondered why the infection rates for Covid-19 in this country continued climbing through the Fourth of July weekend and beyond, even though rates in most other developed countries were way down. The lead paragraphs from a news story out of Gettysburg, PA, offered some clues:

‘Let’s get together and burn flags in protest of thugs and animals in blue,’ the anonymous person behind a Facebook page called Left Behind USA wrote in mid-June. There would be antifa face paint, the person wrote, and organizers would ‘be giving away free small flags to children to safely throw into the fire.’

As word spread, self-proclaimed militias, bikers, skinheads and far-right groups from outside the state issued a call to action, pledging in online videos and posts to come to Gettysburg to protect the Civil War monuments and the nation’s flag from desecration.

According to the story, a large gang of “militia members” responded to a similar Independence Day hoax at Gettysburg three years ago. Back then, rumor had it that some loosely affiliated leftwing groups referred to collectively as antifa — short for anti-fascist — was intent on starting trouble there. The upshot: “… No one from antifa [was encountered], but one of the armed militia members accidentally shot himself in the leg with a revolver.”

This year’s kooks, many of them toting assault rifles, were determined to protect Confederate monuments. When the antifa subversives turned out to be phantoms, the kooks had to settle for harassing a lone man in a “Black Lives Matter” shirt until the man was escorted out of the park by cops.

“A bunch of peckerwoods,” Swamp Rabbit said after reading the story. “They walk around wearing mom jeans and not wearing face masks. But what do they got to do with the virus?”

“Everything,” I said. “They all get their information from the same sources. The sources that warn them about antifa — Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, countless rightwing websites — also tell them they don’t need masks because Covid-19 is a leftwing hoax. They enjoy being exploited by bullshit artists.”

Swamp Rabbit shrugged. “We ain’t the only country where ignorant bigots are being exploited.”

No, but we’re one of the only countries where the exploiters help run the federal government,” I said. “That’s why we’re Number One… in Covid cases, that is.”

Footnote: Last summer Swamp Rabbit and I worked an event in Mechanicsburg, a few dozen miles from Gettysburg. Fortunately for us, no one called out the militia.

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