Who’s more anti-Bernie? It’s too close to call.

Matt Taibbi’s succinct summary of Joy Reid’s most recent attempt at character assassination:

If you combine junk forensics and yellow journalism, you get this peak-stupidity moment by MSNBC – having a “body language expert” on to declare Bernie Sanders a liar.

What’s next from Reid? Maybe she’ll get Sybil the Soothsayer from Sidney Lumet’s Network to predict that Bernie’s election would result in the end of the world.

Swamp Rabbit thinks MSNBC is more blatantly anti-Bernie than CNN. I think it’s a tie.

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Dems’ circular firing squad takes aim

Swamp Rabbit wanted to know why the corporate news media are blatantly anti-Bernie.

“Because he’s a pushy old guy from the Bronx,” I said. “Because he complains about their biased coverage of his campaign.”

Swamp Rabbit was referring to the recent candidates’ debate in which CNN talking head Abby Phillip asked Bernie Sanders why he told Elizabeth Warren that a woman could not win the presidential election. Sanders denied the charge. Phillip then turned to Warren and said, “Senator Warren, what did you think when Senator Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?”

“It’s like she was calling Bernie a liar,” Swamp Rabbit said. “Them talking heads on CNN don’t even give him the benefit of the doubt.”

I tried again to explain. All the big media outlets hate Sanders for saying they’re in bed with Wall Street and the health insurance industry and the defense industry and the student loan racket and Big Pharma. He makes them look bad, and they get even by distorting his policies and pretending he’s not doing well as a candidate.

The real surprise is Warren, who heightened the drama by confronting Sanders after the debate. By openly feuding with him, the only other progressive in the race, she arguably weakens both of their campaigns and strengthens Biden and Buttigieg, the corporate-friendly candidates. The CEOs who run the corporate media would love to see Sanders and Warren knock each other out of the race.

“I don’t get it,” Swamp Rabbit said. “Why did Warren make it a #MeToo moment?” She might as well have said Bernie is a — what’s the word? — a mis-og-o-nist. What good’s that gonna do her in the long run? ”

“She knows he’s not a misogynist,” I replied. “She was pissed. Some of Bernie’s campaign workers have been telling people she can’t win because rednecks will never vote for her.”

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m a redneck and I’d vote for her in a heartbeat. I’d vote for Booty if I had to, or for Biden, God forbid. Consider the alternative.”

I didn’t reply. The alternative is unthinkable.

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If I lived in Iran, I’d hate us too

Swamp Rabbit wanted to know why Iran hates America, the beacon of democracy and the land of opportunity. “Just because,” I told him.

Iran hates us just because we overthrew its democratically elected prime minister and propped up the corrupt Shah (1953). Just because we backed Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war, which cost more than a half-million lives (1980-1988). Just because we shot down an Iranian airliner, killing all 290 people on board (1988). Just because we withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal and doubled down on economic sanctions that have hurt millions of Iranian citizens.

And just because we took out Qasem Suleimani, the second most powerful character in Iran and a national hero.

“What you mean by took out?” Swamp Rabbit said. “Did we wine and dine him?”

I told him “took out” is a U.S. military euphemism. It sounds cooler than “killed,” much less alarming than “assassinated” and not nearly as ugly as “murdered,” the word used by former New York Times reporter James Risen in an Intercept piece about the hypocrisy of American foreign policy.

“But Suleimani was a terrorist,” Swamp Rabbit said, playing devil’s advocate. “His posses killed hundreds of Americans.”

“Depends which side of the fence you’re on,” I replied. “If you’re in Iran or Iraq, you probably think Bush and Cheney are terrorists, and Petraeus and the other generals. How many people did they kill, and for what?”

“But Mike Pompeo said Suleimani was planning more attacks,” he said. “What’s the big deal about killing him?”

I told him President Gerald Ford issued an executive order banning assassinations (1976). A current version of the ban is still in effect. Which means killing Suleimani was illegal. Which means we shouldn’t be outraged or even surprised if Iran blows up some high-ranking U.S. officials.

“But Pompeo said attacks were imminent,” Swamp Rabbit insisted. “And this was — what you call it? — a targeted killing, not an assassination.”

“Pompeo is an evangelical Christian and an Opus Dei ally,” I replied. ‘He hates Iran for being an infidel country and thinks good Christians will continue to fight infidels right up to the Rapture. He thinks lying is okay if you’re lying for the Lord. His mascot Mike Pence feels the same way.”

Swamp Rabbit reached for his whiskey flask and drank deep. He was enjoying himself. “But them bosses in Iran are religious freaks, too. They treat the peeps like dirt. They got big chiefs called ayatollahs. Ayatollah means sign of God.”

I took a deep breath and exhaled. “The point is that America is run by bigots and hypocrites, just like Iran. Our laws would be just as oppressive as Iran’s if Trump and Pompeo and the rest could have their way. It’s something our news media will never acknowledge.”

“Well, no shit,” he said. “Why didn’t you say that in the first place?”

Footnote: Sure, the assassination ban is vague. Several presidents, including Barack Obama, argued that it doesn’t apply to targeted killings of “nonstate actors” — Osama bin Laden, for example. But Suleimani was definitely not a nonstate actor. If the ban doesn’t cover his case, it’s worthless.

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National nightmare, localized

The flu bug latched on last weekend at the Farm Show and flattened me when I got back to the shack. My bones were creaky and my head was on fire, so I chugged NyQuil and climbed onto my hammock to sweat it out.

My swamp cats, Thoughts and Prayers, stretched out next to me. I was hoping for the bliss of sleep but what I got was a 24-hour nightmare about some orange-faced freak who became president despite losing the election by three million votes.

The freak mocked a disabled person on camera and bragged about being a pussy grabber. He used donations to a charity to pay his legal fees and campaign funds to prop up his ailing businesses. Published a book called The Art of the Deal during a ten-year period in which his businesses lost more than a billion dollars. Was fined $25 million for swindling attendees of his fake university. Retained the unwavering support of white evangelicals who ignored ample evidence of his corruption and bigotry. Separated immigrant children from their parents and jailed the children. Sabotaged the EPA as the climate emergency worsened.

I got up twice. The nightmare grew darker each time I went back to sleep. The freak threatened to start a war with North Korea, a nuclear power. Escaped criminal charges despite obstructing an investigation into his intimate relationship with a foreign dictator who interfered with U.S. elections. Was impeached for the attempted extortion of the president of Ukraine. Retained the unwavering support of almost all Republican senators who will serve as jurors at his Senate trial. Dashed hope of Mideast peace by ordering the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, the second most powerful figure in Iran.

The next day I was still sick but back on my feet. Swamp Rabbit dropped by with some stale biscuits. “I dreamed that an orange hog monster became president and was trying to destroy the world,” I told him. “Thank God that’s over.”

“That weren’t no dream and it ain’t over,” Swamp Rabbit said. “It’s only just begun.”

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The satire-proof president

I showed Swamp Rabbit a news story and noted that no one could write a more bat-shit funny satire of Donald Trump’s thought processes than Trump himself.

We’ll have an economy based on wind. I never understood wind. You know, I know windmills very much. I’ve studied it better than anybody. I know it’s very expensive. They’re made in China and Germany mostly — very few made here, almost none. But they’re manufactured tremendous — if you’re into this — tremendous fumes. Gases are spewing into the atmosphere. You know we have a world, right? So the world is tiny compared to the universe. So tremendous, tremendous amount of fumes and everything. You talk about the carbon footprint — fumes are spewing into the air. Right? Spewing. Whether it’s in China, Germany, it’s going into the air. It’s our air, their air, everything — right? So they make these things and then they put them up.

“That ain’t satire,” Swamp Rabbit said, reading Trump’s remarks. “He don’t do no satires of himself. He don’t do no jokes at all except to pick on somebody weaker than him.”

“That’s my point, rabbit,” I replied. “He’s never joking when he says something stupid. He’s irony-free and satire-proof. He’s performing, but he believes what he says and so do his fans. If Trump says wind power is dirty — that turbines spew fumes — then that’s good enough for Trumpers.”

I told him it took the emergence of Trump to remind literate people that there are limits to the usefulness of satire and other literary devices that have been used through the ages to shame authority figures into behaving better. You can’t shame the shameless.

“What about Stephen Colbert and them other comedians on TV?” Swamp Rabbit said. “Why can’t they get through to Trump’s peeps?”

“Because Trump’s peeps don’t watch them,” I replied. “If they did watch, they wouldn’t get the jokes.”

Footnote: Trump’s bizarre opinion of wind power has nothing to do with pollution, of course. It dates to the bitter battle he fought to stop construction of an offshore wind farm near his golf course in Scotland because he felt the wind farm would spoil the view from the course.

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Happy Solstice + 6. (There’s light up ahead.)

We were on the highway again, squinting at the sun as it flatlined at midday on the shortest day of the year.

“Looks like the sun is just up the road,” Swamp Rabbit said. “Why don’t you crash into it before it dips under the horizon. Better to burn out than to fade away.”

He gets the blues on workdays, especially when he drinks bourbon the night before. I told him we’ve reached the winter solstice. We’ll all feel better as the days grow longer, even though winter just started, according to the calendar.

“You don’t believe that,” he said. “I read what you wrote last week about how history don’t make no sense. You’re a real downer, don’t you know?”

I tried to explain to him that history isn’t to blame; that the only reason it doesn’t make sense to most people is because they don’t read and learn the right lessons from it.

“You take for example that big story about the Afghanistan war, which has been going on for eighteen years now, ” I said.

I told him to call up the story on his phone and read a passage about the government agency that tried to piece together what went wrong:

Several of those interviewed described explicit and sustained efforts by the U.S. government to deliberately mislead the public. They said it was common at military headquarters in Kabul — and at the White House — to distort statistics to make it appear the United States was winning the war when that was not the case.

I asked Swamp Rabbit to recall the mood of the country shortly after 9/11, when Afghanistan was invaded. The yellow ribbons. The calls for revenge against Osama bin Laden. The Bush gang trotting out blowhards like Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to dazzle reporters with double-talk and patriotic blather. (And, not long afterwards, the same blowhards lying all over again about Iraq.)

“Anybody with an ounce of sense who knew the history of what happened a half-century ago in Vietnam could have — should have — smelled disaster up ahead,” I said.

Some people did smell disaster, I reminded him, but not enough to offset the war fever generated by the Bush gang and the poor performance of the mainstream media, which helped spread the fever by dutifully presenting government lies as truths.

“Quit pretending you don’t remember, rabbit. The Afghan war was exactly what bin Laden wanted. So far, it’s cost us thousands of lives and a trillion dollars. Do you know how long it would take you to count to a trillion?”

“How long will it take you to shut up?” he asked.

It wasn’t even 5 o’clock when the sun went down. But the daylight would last more than a minute longer each day forward. “Things are looking up,” I said.

“We’ll see about that,” he groaned. “Do you think the next rest stop sells beer?”

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A rogues’ gallery of impeachment foes

Frankly, I don’t care what the Republicans say. It reminded me that our founders, when they wrote the Constitution, they suspected there could be a rogue president. I don’t think they suspected we could have a rogue president and a rogue leader in the Senate at the same time.

That was Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi responding to news that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had taunted her for saying she won’t send the articles of impeachment to the Senate until McConnell and his gang help draft rules for the trial that both political parties can agree on.

“She’s exactly right,” I said to Swamp Rabbit, who was huddled near a space heater he stole from Home Repo. “There’s nothing in the Constitution or The Federalist Papers that says our system of checks and balances might be upended by a carnivorous rogue turtle. If Hamilton and the others had imagined McConnell, they would have warned us.”

“No, no, no,” Swamp Rabbit replied. “It ain’t just Turtle Man went rogue, it’s the whole Republican Party. Every one of their Congress critters is pretending Trump’s impeachment ain’t real, that the law ain’t the law.”

I had to admit the rabbit had a point; that the party of Joe McCarthy, of Dick Nixon and Spiro Agnew and Ronald Reagan, of law and order, of vigilance against anything Russian, is in effect saying Trump did no wrong when he implicitly threatened to withhold military aid to Ukraine, our ally and an antagonist of Russia, unless Ukraine announced it would look for dirt on Trump rival Joe Biden. The Republicans are condoning Trump’s aborted attempt to strong-arm Ukraine into helping him get re-elected.

But it’s not too late, I told Swamp Rabbit. Pelosi and the Dems are still hoping for a better outcome. They want to be allowed to present pertinent documents and key witnesses at the trial.

The rabbit laughed. “Republicans ain’t gonna let that looney bird John Bolton testify under oath, or that dumb grifter Mick Mulvaney. They don’t want nobody to hear no more evidence. They just want to make sure Trump gets a quickie acquittal.”

Right. A quickie acquittal would cap Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party, an outcome that suits Republican legislators, all of whom serve the “elites” and get rich in the process. They hated Trump at first but soon realized he was just what they needed — a dictator type who wows bigoted working-class white voters by appealing to their hatred of elites. (How’s that for irony?) They’re not going to let a little thing like impeachment mess up a good thing.

“They’re saying impeachment don’t mean nothing,” Swamp Rabbit said.

They’re saying worse than that, I told him. If inviting a foreign power to interfere with American elections isn’t an impeachable offense, then the entire Constitution “don’t mean nothing.”

Footnote: Did you check out the most recent Democratic debate? If history made sense, Democrats and the MAGA crowd would already be lining up to vote for Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, two highly competent enemies of the elites. But history rarely makes sense except in retrospect, when the academic armchair quarterbacks pretend to know the cause and effect of all that happened.

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