The ‘cold civil war’ is warming up


Brrr! America is shivering through a cold civil war. The longer it persists, the more likely it is to end not with a whimper but with a bang.

So says my friend Swamp Rabbit, a formerly apolitical drifter transformed into a fire-breathing left-wing activist by Trump’s attempted shakedown of a foreign ally.

“Ain’t nothing wrong with being an activist,” Swamp Rabbit said when I raised the issue. “It’s better than hanging out at your shack, watching them swamp frogs hibernate.”

“Never mind,” I replied. “My point is that you didn’t really care about politics until the impeachment hearings, but now you’re all fired up about the fate of the nation. People all over the country are fired up, and a lot of them are rednecks with rifles who don’t want to see Trump brought down.”

The case for bringing Trump down was presented this week by House Democrats in two articles of impeachment. The first says Trump abused his power by threatening to withhold military assistance to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky unless Zelensky agreed to announce an investigation of Joe Biden. In other words, he tried to conduct a shakedown to “harm the election prospects of a political opponent.”

The second article says Trump blocked investigation of the shakedown by directing “the unprecedented, categorical, and indiscriminate defiance of subpoenas issued by the House of Representatives pursuant to its ‘sole Power of Impeachment.'”

Republican counter-arguments are flimsy. They say Trump’s target was corruption in the Ukrainian government, not Biden. They insist, contrary to what the Constitution says, that the House doesn’t have the power to demand the evidence it seeks.

Ultimately, they’re arguing that Trump is above the law, which is what Trump has been implying or saying outright for three years now. It’s the argument his so-called base makes by standing by him, knowing he’s a career conman who paid $25 million to the people cheated by his sham university, and $2 million for stealing from his own charity.

They knew he was a crook but stood by him. They know he’s a would-be extortionist but stand by him.

None of this is new. The MAGA morons don’t care if Trump is a criminal, so long as he’s their criminal. They count on him to be anti-black, anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-environment. They believe him when he says he’s anti-elitist, even though he’s backed by plutocrats.

“What’s scary is that Trump’s true believers get more loyal as his abuses get more flagrant,” I said to Swamp Rabbit. “They get more defiant of people who want to make sure he doesn’t shred the Constitution. What we’ve got here are two different countries, like back in 1860.”

“Like I said, it’s a cold civil war,” he replied. “But it’s gonna get a lot hotter, bet your shack on that.”

Footnote: The House Judiciary Committee approved the articles of impeachment today and sent them to the full House for a vote. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Fox News — the other America’s main “news” outlet — that he’ll let Trump’s lawyers decide how his trial before the Senate is handled. So much for separation of powers!

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Little Caesar’s bid to buy the presidency


Watch the interview and see if you don’t react the same way as the guy who posted it, who “can’t believe how bad” billionaire Michael Bloomberg sounds when he defends Chinese dictator Xi Jinping.

Swamp Rabbit can believe it; he thinks anyone who assumes Bloomberg is a real Democrat — even a small-d democrat — probably doesn’t know much about his record as mayor of New York City from 2002 to 2013.

“Bloomberg is Little Caesar, and I ain’t just talking about his height,” he said. “He’s all for them First Amendment rights unless he thinks they might get in his way when he’s deciding what’s best for you.”

He noted that the former mayor, who just spent multi-millions to buy his way into the presidential race, is an autocrat with a long history of suppressing dissent. As mayor, he ordered police to squelch protests against the Iraq war (2003) and at the Republican National Convention (2004), and to evict Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zucotti Park (2011). He blocked media coverage of the eviction.

“No wonder he likes that Chinese guy,” the rabbit said. “If Bloomberg was the sheriff of Hong Kong, them protesters over there would all be dead or in jail.”

He poured himself a drink and continued. Bloomberg sent undercover agents across the country to spy on Occupy organizers and other radicals. He was responsible for NYC’s infamous stop-and-frisk policy. He’s lukewarm on environmental activism (behave yourselves, protesters) and unenthusiastic about the Green New Deal.

Furthermore, he has his own news network (!) and is tight with the Wall Street banksters who got away clean after they helped cause the economic crash in 2008. The crash triggered a backlash against so-called elites. It inspired legions of fools to put on MAGA hats.

“But Bloomberg isn’t Trump,” I said before the rabbit could go on. “Who would you rather elect, a fastidious technocrat or a fat, vulgar fraud?”

“Dictators come in all shapes and sizes,” the rabbit replied. “Bloomberg oughta be paying a wealth tax instead of pissing away all that dough on a race he shouldn’t be in.”

I hate losing an argument, but I decided to give up on this one. Anybody is better than Trump, but making a strong case for Bloomberg is a lost cause.

Footnote: Swamp Rabbit was referencing Julius Caesar, not Edward G. Robinson as Rico the mobster in Little Caesar. Bloomberg, after all, believes in law and order, at least when it comes to the peons.

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Thanks for not coming to dinner


This week the media cranked out stories about how to peacefully coexist with jerks who end up eating Thanksgiving dinner at the same table with you. The sort of stories that are especially relevant if there are Trump fans among your relatives, or among your relatives’ friends.

This is from a piece in Time magazine that I read to Swamp Rabbit during Thanksgiving at my shack in the Tinicum swamp:

Avoiding politics has always been a good rule of polite dinner conversation, but acrimony this season rivals the friction felt in November of 2016, when many Americans saw family members for the first time after Trump won his election.

“How ’bout you just don’t invite them Trump fans to your house and you don’t go to theirs?” Swamp Rabbit said. “Who says you gotta eat dinner with somebody you don’t even want to be in the same country with?”

I told him his attitude was 100 percent wrong. That Thanksgiving was about peace and gratitude and reconciliation. That it was exactly the right occasion to celebrate that we all live in a free country, and to demonstrate we can disagree with our fellow citizens without being enemies of them.

“Forget it, that dog don’t hunt,” Swamp Rabbit said as we set the table with my best paper plates. “Ain’t no way I’m gonna sit down with peeps who are cool with having a racist, climate change-denying old conman in the White House.”

We don’t have to agree with Trumpers, I told him. All we have to do is exercise tolerance, that noble quality that the great Enlightenment thinkers believed in — the thinkers who popularized the ideas that inspired the Constitution. All we have to do is be civil.

“Civil is a weasel word,” the rabbit said. He asked me what’s the point of being civil with white supremacists and other morons who know Trump has been a heartless liar and cheat his whole life, but who support him anyway. It’s important to not be civil with them, he said.

We ate the turkey burgers and cranberry sauce that Swamp Rabbit had swiped from the SuperFridge up the road. He fed his leftovers to my two swamp cats, Thoughts and Prayers.

I noted that he was being more civil to the cats than he would be to Trumpers, if his words were any indication.

“That’s because them cats is a lot more civil than Trumpers,” he said. “They got better table manners, too.”

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GOP strategy — see, hear, speak no truth


We were on the way to a job upstate on Wednesday, listening to the impeachment hearings on the radio, waiting to hear what Trump’s foreign-service boy Gordon Sondland would say now that it was clear he hadn’t been forthright in his closed-door deposition for the House Intelligence Committee last month.

Sondland was more cooperative this time around.

YES, he told Democratic inquisitors, a quid pro quo was demanded by Trump. No way would Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky get a meeting with Trump, let alone $400 million in military aid, unless he agreed to launch investigations that might boost Trump’s re-election chances.

YES, all the president’s men were “in the loop” regarding the quid pro quo. Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, Mick Mulvaney, Rudy Giuliani and others knew Sondland and his amigos were pressuring Zelensky to announce investigations, and Sondland had the emails to prove it.

YES, the three amigos — Rick Perry and Kurt Volker were the others — received their orders to lean on Zelensky from Giuliani, who was acting “at the express direction of the president of the United States.”

“Great, it’s all over now,” I said to Swamp Rabbit. “Sondland is a snake, he’ll only cough up as much evidence as he thinks is necessary to avoid perjury charges. But the evidence he just coughed up is damning.”

Swamp Rabbit, who is off the wagon again, reached for his flask and took a swig. “That’s what you think,” he said. “By tonight them Republicans will be saying Sondland’s testimony don’t change nothing, there’s no smoking gun.”

He was right about that, of course. And right again the next day after two more credible witnesses testified — David Holmes, who overheard what should be an incriminating phone talk between Trump and Sondland, and steely-eyed Fiona Hill, who deconstructed the “fictional narrative” that Trump’s henchmen concocted to justify the investigations, which were all about trying to wreck Joe Biden’s presidential bid.

Swamp Rabbit noted this morning that Trump’s House boy Devin Nunes is still pushing fictive details about Biden — Kellyanne Conway would call them “alternative facts” — and that Nunes’s homeys continue to march in lockstep with him now that a Senate trial seems almost certain. And that there’s no evidence Trump directly commanded Sondland to tell the Ukrainians they wouldn’t get their military aid unless they went after Biden.

“But that’s crazy,” I said. “Trump’s commands are indirect, just like a mob boss’s, but everybody knows the commands come from him. That’s how mob bosses who go to trial get convicted, through the testimony of people who track the commands they receive back to the boss.”

“Maybe so,” the rabbit said. “But them other mob bosses ain’t president of the United States. And they don’t get to have a jury that’s mostly made up of Republican senators.”

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Stand by your monster


“Check it out,” Victor Cortez said, changing channels on the old Zenith I’d pulled out of a trash dump for Swamp Rabbit. The subject on MSNBC was the impeachment hearings. Same thing on CNN. But the big story on Fox News was “Kanye West spreading his message of faith” and — this may have been fake news — selling $55 pancakes at a breakfast event.

Victor’s point was that Fox would rather show anything but a bad-news story about Trump. And when there are bad-news stories they have to cover — the actual hearings, for example, which started Wednesday — they will ignore the facts and pretend they’re good-news stories.

“But even Fox has shown a few cracks,” Victor said later in the week, after acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor testified on the first day of the hearings and Fox News host Chris Wallace called Taylor “a very impressive witness and… very damaging to the president.”

Hardcore suck-ups — Hannity, Carlson, Ingraham, and so on — will follow Trump all the way to the Führerbunker, Victor explained, but actual reporters at Fox News with a shred of credibility are hedging their bets regarding Trump’s long-term political health.

“Not so with them Republicans in Congress,” said Swamp Rabbit, who had just arrived at my shack for his weekly appointment with Victor, his parole officer. “Trump got on the phone with Zelensky and said sure, you’ll get that military aid, but I want you to do something for me, meaning get dirt on Biden. That’s an impeachable offense, plain as day, unless you’re a Republican.”

“But Republicans are saying there was no explicit quid pro quo,” I said. “Trump didn’t explicitly say ‘You won’t get the aid unless you deliver dirt on Biden.'”

“It don’t matter,” Swamp Rabbit replied. “You don’t have to spell out the quid pro quo. All you gotta do is conduct it. If I’m holding your swamp cat and say ‘I’ll give your cat back to you but I want you to do me a favor,’ then I’m abusing my power and breaking the law.”

I reminded Swamp Rabbit that Trump’s toadies — people like Lindsey Graham and Nikki Haley — know he’s the lowest of the low, a guy who has cheated big banks and small business owners, robbed his own charities, betrayed foreign allies, taken kids from their parents and jailed them, and worse. They don’t care; they’re afraid he will denounce them to his base, that vast horde of lost souls who’d be happy if he made himself president for life.

“But that don’t make no sense,” the rabbit said. “They’re propping up a monster. Don’t they care what history is gonna think of them?”

All three of us laughed at that one. “Does Trump care about history?” I said. “Does his brother, Kanye West?”

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A wall can’t keep the future out


“So you’re telling me part of the multibillion-dollar wall Trump is having built on the Mexican border can be breached with a hundred-dollar saw? You’re not making this up?”

Swamp Rabbit wasn’t making it up. He was reading from a news article he’d called up on my laptop:

…When fitted with specialized blades, the saws can slice through one of the barrier’s steel-and-concrete bollards in minutes, according to [border] agents, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the barrier-defeating techniques.

After cutting through the base of a single bollard, smugglers can push the steel out of the way, creating an adult-size gap. Because the bollards are so tall — and are attached only to a panel at the top — their length makes them easier to push aside once they have been cut and are left dangling…

Swamp Rabbit’s parole office, Victor Cortez, interrupted to vouch for the story’s accuracy. “I’ve got one of those reciprocating saws,” he said. “With the right blades it will cut through anything.”

I don’t believe you,” I said. “That reporter is tripping.”

“Just because you can’t drive a nail don’t mean some saw can’t cut through steel,” Swamp Rabbit replied.

I asked why the U.S. Border Patrol didn’t build a regular old brick wall. The rabbit said it was because they thought the concrete and steel bollard system was the best design they could afford.

“They can peek through the bollards — poles is what they are — and see them pesky refugees coming,” he explained. “And they can fix the poles that get wrecked if the refugees are too fast for them and sneak through.”

I persisted, just for the sake of argument. Didn’t Trump say the new wall would be “virtually impenetrable?” Didn’t he assure all those good old boys in the MAGA hats that he would save them from the marauding rapists he warned about?

“The Mexicans were gonna pay for the wall, too,” Swamp Rabbit noted. “If Trump said it, you can bet it ain’t true.”

Footnote: The refugees or migrants or whatever you want to call them are using ladders as well as saws to get past the wall. Who would have thought?

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The ‘biggest’ impeachment ever?


Swamp Rabbit’s parole officer, Victor Cortez, dropped by a few days ago and quickly started jabbering about current events. He was upset because Donald Trump had claimed the killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by U.S. forces was a great triumph for Donald Trump.

“Trump gave final approval for the raid,” I said to Victor. “Doesn’t that count for something?”

“Not really,” he replied, noting that Trump had nothing to do with the planning of the al-Baghdadi hit. If anything, he jeopardized the impending operation when he let Turkish dictator Recep Tayyip Erdoğan talk him into a withdrawal of American troops from Northern Syria and a betrayal of the Kurds, who had done most of the fighting against ISIS.

Then Trump dashed his chance to look presidential, Victor said, by lying about the circumstances of al-Baghdadi’s death (“[He] died like a dog. He died like a coward.”) and by claiming the al-Baghdadi hit was the “biggest” ever, more significant than the killing of Osama bin Laden.

I wondered aloud if Trump and his flunkies would spin his ongoing impeachment saga with the same vigor they brought to the al-Baghdadi story. Trump could justifiably boast “This will be the biggest impeachment ever. Clinton didn’t come close to being convicted. Nixon didn’t even hang around long enough to be impeached.”

At that moment Swamp Rabbit emerged from the swamp and approached my shack for his weekly check-in with Victor. “Trump ain’t gonna get convicted by the Senate,” he predicted. “But I’m looking forward to him losing the election then getting hit with criminal charges.”

“He could spin that, too,” I said, handing him a Kit Kat for Halloween. “Trump could say he’s the biggest American politician to ever face criminal charges after leaving office.”

“Damn right,” Swamp Rabbit replied. “Then after he gets convicted and tossed in the slammer he could say ‘I’m the biggest federal inmate ever, bigger than Al Capone. They treat me like a king in here. My cellmates have to settle for ratburgers, but I get Big Macs with cheese.”

I said, “Big Macs in jail? That’s far-fetched, rabbit.”

“The idea of Trump getting elected in 2016 was far-fetched, too,” he replied. “Look how that turned out.”

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