Out with the old knave, 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 mustachioed loony 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 that 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 or fires could possibly be any more impulsive and 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, 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.

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One step forward, ten steps back

Swamp Rabbit and I were wondering why some people still think progress is inevitable despite evidence that it’s being blocked on all fronts by the hog monster in the White House and his Republican enablers. A case in point:

The Trump administration is rolling back requirements for new, energy-efficient light bulbs. The Energy Department announced the move on Wednesday, withdrawing standards that were to be put in place to make commonly used bulbs more efficient…

Critics of the reversal say it will mean higher energy bills and more pollution. “The rollback will eliminate energy-efficient standards for light bulbs that were slated to take effect in January that would save consumers billions of dollars and reduce millions of tons of climate change carbon dioxide emissions,” says Andrew deLaski, executive director of the Appliance Standards Awareness Project.

“I don’t get it,” Swamp Rabbit said, staring out at the swamp from my front porch. “Why’s Trump want to bring back them old bulbs that burn out fast?”

“Nostalgia,” I replied. “He misses lead paint and coal-powered trains and leaded gasoline and asbestos-contaminated buildings. He hates wind turbines and solar panels, not to mention women, immigrants, animals, affordable health care and gun control. He wants to save plastic straws and bring back goose-stepping.”

Swamp Rabbit glared at me. “Don’t be cute, Odd Man. What’s the real reason?”

I shrugged. “It’s hard to tell with sociopaths. Maybe lobbyists for the old light bulb companies got to him. He’s against regulating methane emissions, too. He killed the Clean Power Plan. He’s obsessed with reversing Obama’s policies. We talked about that, remember?”

Swamp Rabbit was playing the pessimist today. “Talk is cheap,” he said. “The peeps care about today, not tomorrow. We ain’t making no progress.”

“Progress is all about stops and starts,” I told him. “Two steps forward, one step back. Or one forward and two back. Thesis and antithesis.”

The rabbit leaned over and spat into the swamp. “I don’t go in much for that Hegelian shit. If we don’t stop moving backwards soon, there ain’t gonna be no time left to move forwards.”

Posted in apocalypse, climate change, environmentalism, health care, history, humor, immigration, mainstream media, Obama | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Big media still trying to bury Bernie

I was discussing the 2020 election with Swamp Rabbit. “Bernie Sanders can win,” I said. “Wake up and smell the coffee.”

This was a bad choice of cliches. Swamp Rabbit was sipping Wild Turkey from a dented flask and not at all interested in coffee. He said Bernie is a long shot because the corporate media hate himThe Washington Post, The New York Times and so on. The same “fake news” outlets that Donald Trump lambastes for supposedly being liberal. How often do the talking heads on the supposedly left-leaning MSNBC say anything nice about Sanders?

“Almost never,” I conceded.

The media big shots think they’re cute, the rabbit continued. He singled out MSNBC’s middle-of-the-road talking head Brian Williams, who actually accused Sanders of taking a page out of Trump’s playbook. This was after Sanders justifiably complained of non-stop negative press from WAPO, whose star reporters are frequent guests on MSNBC shows. Rather than address Bernie’s legitimate concerns, Williams chose to place him in the same bag with the sleaziest public figure in modern America.

“Them media hacks ain’t never gonna jump on Bernie’s bandwagon,” Swamp Rabbit said, “on account of he’s never gonna stop reminding them that they’re owned by the small group of peeps that controls all the wealth in this country. It ain’t in their interest to talk up Bernie.”

The rabbit and I agreed that Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are the only candidates who’ve made detailed, progressive plans to undo the damage Trump has done to the environment, the economy, foreign relations, race relations, the presidency itself. The question is which style can sell a progressive agenda more effectively, Warren’s empathy or Bernie’s outrage, which was on display for a national TV audience in the June Democratic debates:

I suspect people all over the country who are watching this debate are saying, these are good people, they have great ideas. But how come nothing really changes? How come for the last forty-five years wages have been stagnant for the middle class? How come we have the highest rate of childhood poverty? How come 45 million people still have student debt? How come three people own more wealth than the bottom half of America? . . . Nothing will change unless we have the guts to take on Wall Street, the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the military-industrial complex, and the fossil fuel industry.

“I’m glad Bernie didn’t put the media on that list,” Swamp Rabbit said. “They’d love for him to keep saying things that might help them bury him in that hole they dug for him.”

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Dissing Mother Nature and other nasty women

Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen hurt Donald Trump’s little feelings this week when she told him Greenland wasn’t for sale. She said the idea was “absurd.” Trump called her “nasty,” his favorite word for women he can’t bully, and canceled a state visit to Denmark.

Even The New York Times was bemused: “Is this real life? Or a Peter Sellers movie?”

Also in the news was the fact that the ice in Iceland is “leaving” due to man-made global warming, a concept Trump and his fellow troglodytes scoff at.

My friend and neighbor Swamp Rabbit was in tears because he hadn’t been able to scrape together enough money to fly to Iceland to attend a funeral service for the first glacier it has lost to climate change. There will be many others.

Greenland is melting, too,” he noted. “It lost eleven billion tons of surface ice the other day on account of that heat wave from Europe.”

Meanwhile in the other hemisphere, in Sao Paulo, it was nighttime at 3 pm, largely because of a giant overhead plume of smoke caused by fires in the Amazon rainforest, an irreplaceable resource that accounts for about a quarter of the carbon dioxide absorbed by the world’s forests. The fires have been linked to “deforestation efforts” by Brazil’s Trumpian president, Jair Bolsonaro. Such efforts are helping to accelerate the pace of climate change.

I reminded the rabbit that our environmental crisis is also a political crisis. That dictator types and their oligarch friends, rather than caring about the future, are fixated on things like buying unspoiled Arctic land to dig for fossil fuels and rare minerals, and burning rainforests to make way for cattle-grazing.

“I don’t get it,” I confessed. “These greedy old guys will all be dead in a few years. Why don’t they just let the world be instead of working to ruin it?”

“Ain’t no way to know,” Swamp Rabbit said. “But I’m guessin’ Trump would say it’s the fault of them nasty women.”

(This post has been updated and corrected. Swamp Rabbit DID go to Iceland.)

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The endangered includes humans, too

Rick Wilson’s book Everything Trump Touches Dies came to mind yesterday when I read that the Endangered Species Act is in danger:

New rules will allow the administration to reduce the amount of habitat set aside for wildlife and remove tools that officials use to predict future harm to species as a result of climate change. It would also reveal for the first time in the law’s 45-year history the financial costs of protecting them.

The long-anticipated changes, jointly announced by the Interior and Commerce departments, were undertaken as part of President Trump’s mandate to scale back government regulations on corporations, including the oil and gas industry, that want to drill on protected land.

I’m sure I’ve already asked, but who would have thought a few years ago that a festering heap of fast-food garbage called Donald Trump would somehow parlay his incompetence into a successful run for the most powerful job in the world?

“Ain’t no point to that question,” Swamp Rabbit said. “Might as well ask why mudslides and earthquakes happen.”

I tried to think of a character in literature like Trump, a crude sociopath with influential connections who tries to remake the world in his own foul image.

“What about that dude in The Lord of the Rings?” Swamp Rabbit said. “The evil wizard who chops down all the trees and fouls up the water and builds a factory to breed an army of monsters? Saruman, his name was.”

“No way,” I replied. “Saruman was a good guy until he got depressed and started thinking that what’s rotten in the world is stronger than what’s good. Trump was always on the rotten side. He was born rotten.”

I reminded the rabbit that the Endangered Species Act helped save the bald eagle, the grizzly bear and many other species when they had been all but wiped out, and that Trump’s rule revisions are a big blow to people who are working to keep the ecosystem from collapsing.

“What about Sauron, the actual lord of them rings?” Swamp Rabbit said. “He was always tempting peeps to switch to the dark side. He’s the dude who flipped Saruman.”

I shook my head. “Sauron is sort of a fallen angel, like Satan. He lives in the Dark Tower and has an all-seeing eye. Trump can’t see past the tacky gold trim in his New York penthouse.”

Swamp Rabbit scowled. “You sound like all them other peeps who thought Trump was a joke. Ain’t none of them laughin’ now.”

Footnote: I’d recommend Elizabeth Kolbert’s book The Sixth Extinction, but it might mess up your mind. You might end up like Saruman.

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Thoughts and Prayers

Swamp Rabbit and I were on the porch with the swamp cats, arguing whether it’s wise for the Democratic Party to engage in reality-TV “debates” that pit well-known presidential wanna-bes against a gang of lesser-knowns. And whether it’s wise for the wanna-bes to badmouth Barack Obama.

But then we saw a tweet that resonated the next day after shootings by lone gunmen, one in El Paso and the other in Dayton, that resulted in 31 deaths. The El Paso gunman had written a racist, Trump-friendly “manifesto” before embarking on his killing spree. Less is known about the Dayton gunman, other than the fact that he was fascinated by mass shootings and has been exposed like the other wacko to years of Trump’s venomous speeches and tweets.

“The Dems in the debates should keep it simple,” Swamp Rabbit said to the swamp cats, who had just eaten our leftovers. “They should say ‘Vote for me because I ain’t Trump. Because I ain’t a racist who encourages racist psycho killers.'”

The swamp cats didn’t respond. They were fairly new around here and didn’t even have names yet, but I’m sure they both agreed that the Democrats are going too deep too early on policy matters. They’re spending too much time jabbing at each other’s health care plans and tax proposals and other issues that will be worked out as the field of candidates narrows.

They should be reminding potential voters how important it is to link Trump’s white supremacist rhetoric to his Republican enablers in Congress. To the legislators who, instead of writing gun control laws, offer their “thoughts and prayers” to the families of shooting victims.

“Ain’t that right, you guys?” I said to the swamp cats, who still hadn’t moved.

“Them cats is useless,” Swamp Rabbit said. “Just like thoughts and prayers.”

“There you go,” I replied. “I’ll call the gray cat Thoughts and the black cat Prayers.”

He said, “They’re like them Congress critters. They don’t care what you call ’em, just don’t call ’em late for dinner.”

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Oh, Baltimore!

I was trying to convince Swamp Rabbit that there was nothing new about Donald Trump’s style of racism, that Randy Newman sang about it long before Trump became president.

I told him that Republican Richard Nixon, running for president in 1968, wooed Southern white Democratic voters by stoking their anger regarding desegregation laws. And that Alabama Governor George Wallace, a segregationist running as a third-party candidate that year, also reached out to Democrats, and ultimately helped get Nixon elected.

And that Lester Maddox of Georgia, another segregationist governor, walked off the set of the Dick Cavett Show in 1970 when Cavett refused to apologize for implying that some of Maddox’s constituents were racists.

And that all these events influenced singer/songwriter Newman, whose 1974 album Good Old Boys, addressed America’s enduring racial divide in ruefully funny songs like “Rednecks,” told from the point of view of a Southern bigot who understands that the North has been no kinder to black people than the South:

Last night I saw Lester Maddox on a TV show/With some smart-ass New York Jew/ and the Jew laughed at Lester Maddox/And the audience laughed at Lester Maddox too/Well he may be a fool but he’s our fool/If they think they’re better than him they’re wrong/So I went to the park, and I took some paper along/And that’s where I made this song…

And I told Swamp Rabbit that Newman, in 1977, released an album that included “Baltimore,” a song about a big city on the skids (Oh Baltimore/Man, it’s hard just to live) that could have been written last week.

And that the blowhard Trump, ranting on Twitter in 2019 about “disgusting, rat and rodent infested” Baltimore — its population is about 64 percent black and its poverty rate about 24 percent — would sound just like Wallace and Maddox if not for his Northern accent and his tendency to make remarks even more blatantly racist than anything those governors ever said to a national audience.

And I reminded the rabbit that almost every prominent Republican politician has either defended Trump’s recent racist remarks or declined to comment, which puts them all on the wrong side of history.

Swamp Rabbit stopped me and said, “Where you goin’ with all this, Odd Man? I already know Republicans ain’t worth a damn.”

“Just wanted to turn you on to Randy Newman,” I said. “Politicians come and go, but good songs never get old.”

Footnote: Dick Cavett is a gentile from Nebraska, not a Jew. Newman, who is Jewish, has always enjoyed using unreliable narrators.

One more: Anyone who pretends they’re surprised by the recently discovered recording of Ronald Reagan referring to black people as monkeys during a conversation with Richard Nixon either wasn’t around when Reagan was in office or wasn’t paying attention.

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