Cloud cover to blame for overcast, experts say

Swamp Rabbit was retching on the side of the road near my shack. I had just shown him a front-page story in Washington Post that featured this headline: Tennessee vote marks latest GOP move to stifle dissent, experts say.

“Those mainstream newspeople can’t state simple facts without deflecting responsibility,” I said. “Makes you sick, doesn’t it?”

Actually, Swamp Rabbit was throwing up because he drank too much Wild Turkey the night before, but I ignored this. I was focused on the media’s deathly fear of being accused of bias.

The headline and story were about two black Democratic legislators, Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, who were expelled by their white, Republican colleagues after taking part in a protest at the state Capitol that was sparked by the shooting deaths of three children and three adults at a Nashville school. The protesters were demanding stricter gun control laws.

“It’s self-evident that the Republican-dominated legislature is stifling dissent,” I said. “It doesn’t take an expert to see that voting out those two guys amounts to a classic, fascist-style purge.”

Maybe print media should qualify all headlines, Swamp Rabbit said, citing a few possible examples: Experts blame cloud cover for overcast day. Bullet in brain indicates gun used in slaying, experts say. Experts: Famine deaths linked to food shortage.

“The mainstream media will love your idea,” I said. “Better safe than sorry, experts say.”

Footnote: We’re still a long way from the peaceful world imagined in “I’ll Take You There,” the 1972 Staple Singers hit… experts say.

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What lies beneath rock bottom?

I read to Swamp Rabbit from an op/ed in which the venerable rightwing attack dog George F. Will comments on the state of the nation:

Today’s embarrassments — Donald Trump, his prosecutorial adversaries, the tribalism on both sides — might be a foretaste of degradations proving that there is no rock bottom in U.S. politics.

Later in the piece, Will has second thoughts — “However, it is possible that this acutely embarrassing moment in U.S. history actually is rock bottom, with a bounce coming” — but not before warning us that Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg’s “jerry built” case will make Trump look like a martyr and inspire some future Republican prosecutor to make a case against Democratic officeholders.

Will thinks Republican voters, if given the chance, would decide on their own that their homegrown Mussolini is a loser and would choose a less divisive presidential candidate. He fails to note that Trump’s base is still strong and that almost all other possible Republican candidates never disavowed Dear Leader and are in fact Trump wannabes.

Swamp Rabbit stroked his wispy goatee. “So did we hit rock bottom or not? Will Trump get elected or will he get convicted? What if he gets elected and convicted?”

“Beats the hell out of me,” I said. “Will pretends that Trump is as low as the GOP can go, an anomaly, and that prosecuting him is ’embarrassing.’ But what if there are critters under the rocks who are even more toxic?”

I reminded Swamp Rabbit that on Jan. 6, 2021, a mob urged on by Trump overran the Capitol in support of his lie that the election was stolen from him. That night, 117 Republican members of the Senate and House, in solidarity with Trump, refused to certify the election of Joe Biden. All of them should have been kicked out of office for breaking the laws they were elected to uphold, but they’re still there.

That should have been rock bottom,” I said, “but we’re in a new era. The GOP has become a subterranean army of election deniers and democracy foes, fascists in everything but name. What else would you call a party whose bright lights are goons and hypocrites like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jim Jordan, Kevin McCarthy, Ron DeSantis, Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Nikki Haley, Matt Gaetz — “

“Okay, you made your point,” Swamp Rabbit said, cutting in. “Maybe Will was right the first time. There ain’t no bottom.”

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A pre-April Fools’ Day joke on Trump

Swamp Rabbit: Ha-ha-ha-ha!

Odd Man Out: Alright, what’s so funny?

Swamp Rabbit: The grand jury didn’t meet on Wednesday, so Trump tweeted that “the Rogue prosecutor… is having a hard time with the Grand Jury” because he’s trying to make a case that “CAN’T BE BROUGHT.” But Trump got indicted the very next day, March 30. The D.A. faked him out. Sort of a pre-April Fools’ Day joke. You don’t think that’s funny?

Odd Man Out: Sure, but don’t laugh too loud. Trump has been a cruel, greedy hustler his whole life, but he’s always managed to slither out of legal jams. Just because he’s the first ex-president ever charged with a crime doesn’t mean he’ll get convicted. We don’t even know what the charges are yet.

Swamp Rabbit: I forgot — when there’s a ray of sunshine, you focus on the dark clouds. Lighten up. Here, have a beer.

Odd Man Out: No thanks. He should have been indicted years ago. He had sex with Stormy Daniels in 2006 and used Michael Cohen to pay her 130K to hush up about it when he ran for president in 2016. He reimbursed Cohen for the payoff. Cohen got jailed and helped investigators follow the paper trail back to Trump. And then there are all those bigger crimes! It’s 2023. What took them so long?

Swamp Rabbit: They had to fight to get Trump’s business records and evidence that he used campaign funds for the payback to Cohen, I think. They had to find other witnesses besides Cohen, a convicted felon. It ain’t easy hanging charges on an ex-president, especially one who can pay millions for defense lawyers.

Odd Man Out: Exactly. I’m just a humble scribe and you’re even more humble than I am. If it were us, we’d be rotting in some dungeon in the Great White North. But Trump still has millions of ignorant supporters, some as poor as we are. He despises them. They worship him. Republican politicians still back him. They’re just as corrupt as he is.

Swamp Rabbit: Them justice wheels turn real slow. He’s gonna be indicted for Jan. 6 and for election-law tampering in Georgia, too, but not until them investigators are sure they got the goods.

Odd Man Out: I’ll believe it when I see it. This guy is a human dumpster; 76 years old and he’s still spilling over the side with garbage. He might be in his 80s if and when he stands trial for something, What kind of justice is that?

Swamp Rabbit: Slow justice is better than no justice, I guess. You sure you don’t want a beer? How about a chill pill?

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20 years since Shock and Awe? ‘Good God, y’all!’

Swamp Rabbit examined the playlist of protest songs I compiled to acknowledge the 20th anniversary of the Second Persian Gulf War. He played “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and started laughing. “That song came out in 1971, during the Vietnam War,” he said. “How many times the peeps been fooled since then?”

I wasn’t sure how to answer. Americans are easily fooled because they’re good at forgetting. But how many times can you be fooled without catching on? How can you forget a whole war?

“It ain’t like you actually forget,” Swamp Rabbit explained. “You just pretend it never happened.”

He’s right, I guess. The Iraq war — conceived by Dubya’s rat’s nest of advisors, supported by big-name politicians in both major parties, endorsed by the compliant mainstream media — was commemorated with a national shrug last week. While in progress (2003-2011), the war lingered in the news but never sparked as much outrage as the Vietnam debacle.

“That’s because there wasn’t no draft,” Swamp Rabbit said. “Most young peeps didn’t have to worry about getting their asses shot off, so they put the Iraq war outta mind. They didn’t even write no protest songs.”

Right again. No reason to write and record songs like “Draft Morning” and “Fortunate Son.” No fear of being turned into a “Tin Soldier Man” and shipped overseas. No need for anti-war anthems like “What’s Going On” and “War” — Good God, y’all/What is it good for? — or prophetic warnings like “All Along the Watchtower.”

“That song ain’t about Vietnam, Odd Man.”

“It’s about the apocalypse. Same thing.”

Instead of protest songs about Iraq we got slammed with those stupid catchphrases dreamed up by Dubya’s propaganda team. Weapons of mass destruction, used to justify heightening the war on terror. Shock and Awe, to trick the public into thinking the war would end quickly. Mission accomplished, shorthand for Bush’s biggest lie. And so on.

Hundreds of thousands of people were killed and two trillion dollars wasted, but popular anti-war songs never appeared. “It can’t just be because there was no military draft,” I said.

Swamp Rabbit shrugged. “Maybe it’s on account of social media. Music ain’t a big deal to most young peeps in this century. They’d rather get strung out on video games or exchange jerky messages on TikTok. They’re numbed down to where they wouldn’t notice a good song even if it ran up and bit ’em on the ass.”

“Or maybe they’re already wise to the facts behind the lies,” I said. “To the fact that the Iraq war was really fought to ensure continued non-stop Western access to Middle Eastern oil reserves.”

“Maybe,” Swamp Rabbit replied. “It’s like Dubya said. ‘Fool me once — shame on… shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.'”

“Exactly,” I said. “I couldn’t have put it any better myself.”

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Trumpers love whales. Who knew?

We were discussing the rumor that whales are being killed by sonar emanating from offshore wind turbines in the northeastern part of the country.

Swamp Rabbit explained: The world is like a big house with a crawl space in the basement. Squeeze yourself through this space and you find yourself in Bizarro World, where up means down and left means right, etc. Kooks live there, and paranoids. People who think Hillary runs a baby-killing ring, and Covid-19 was started by Anthony Fauci, and JFK Jr. has risen from the dead.

“He came back in Dallas, right?” I said. “QAnon threw a party for him.”

For a long time, the word among the kooks was that birds were being driven to extinction by wind turbines. Then a new rumor sprang up everywhere all at once, like that silly movie that won all the Oscars. Kooks began shouting “Save the whales,” even at places like the Philadelphia Flower Show.

None of the major news outlets blamed wind turbines for whale deaths, but clean energy fans knew something shady was going on. They were being denounced by know-nothings who previously hadn’t shown the slightest interest in the fate of whales or any other species. But who lured the know-nothings into Bizarro World? Who’s peddling the bullshit?

“That ain’t no mystery,” Swamp Rabbit said. “The whale-killing rumor comes from the same source as the clean coal lie and friendly fracking. From the creeps who run the fossil fuel industry who wanna block them renewables. They got deep pockets.”

I shook my head. “That’s crazy. This week there were a million news stories stating there’s zero evidence that turbines are killing whales. The surge in deaths predates the presence of offshore turbines. They’re being killed by ships and fishing nets. The regular media have finally caught up with the bullshit.”

“There ain’t no catching up,” Swamp Rabbit said. “A lie is halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on. Joe Goebbels said that, I think. Or Rupert Murdoch.”

He reminded me that the wind turbine haters are fully revved up in places like the South Jersey shore, a stronghold for Trumpers and other climate-denying kooks. Down there, they think hateful frauds like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity are credible. More importantly, they have access to Facebook, the go-to spot for lazy paranoids who love misinformation.

“I don’t know if Goebbels liked wind turbines,” Swamp Rabbit said. “But he would have loved Facebook.”

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Belated valentines for the broken-hearted

Swamp Rabbit was at my shack waiting to welcome me home from a long road trip that ended on the treacherous backstreets of York, PA. I drove through an intersection with a sudden slope and the car came down hard on its front end, causing the oil pan to spring a leak. But that’s a long story for another time…

The good news was that I was back at the shack, a day late for Valentine’s Day, but not too late to send some belated valentines to victims of unrequited or insufficient love, especially those of you in the Philadelphia area whose hearts were broken by the Eagles’ loss a few days before, on Super Bowl Sunday.

“You got any love songs by Rihanna on that playlist?” Swamp Rabbit asked. “She was a big hit at the Super Bowl.”

“I saw her, but I couldn’t tell one song from another. I don’t think she did her most heartfelt love song — ‘Bitch Better Have My Money.'”

“Very funny, Odd Man. I should say old man. Ain’t nothin’ on your list from the 21st century, I bet.”

He had me there. I selected the Stones, Aretha, the Beatles and the Supremes from the 1960s. Suzanne Vega from the ’90s. Only one post-2000 number. The songs are more about power dynamics than about love. They’re often about the aftermath of love, when lovers become disillusioned and stop being nice. I’m looking through you, where did you go?

“Check out the segue from “Tattooed Love Boys” to Bacharach/David’s “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” I said. “Variations on the same theme.”

“Ain’t no way them songs are like each other, ‘cept in your sick mind.”

“Exactly, Rabbit. As I said last year, make you own list if you don’t like mine.”

Posted in apocalypse, arts, dirty rotten scoundrels, down and out, humor, mainstream media, pop music | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

State of the Union ritual is deader than the Latin mass

I was telling Swamp Rabbit that Joe Biden dodged more issues than he addressed in his State of the Union speech this week.

He sounded properly indignant about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but he didn’t seriously acknowledge the concerns that are alienating many of the voters the Democratic Party will need to avoid disaster in the midterms. I read out loud an example from the text regarding his “top priority”:

With all the bright spots in our economy, record job growth, higher wages, too many families are struggling to keep up with the bills. Inflation is robbing them of the gains they might otherwise feel.

“And that was that,” I said. “Nothing about how he’s planning to stop inflation from robbing Americans. Or about the fact that big corporations, the actual robbers, are using inflation as an excuse to raise prices well beyond what inflation alone is causing.”

Swamp Rabbit chuckled. “It’s the American way. If there’s money to be made, gouge ’em. Stop talkin’ like one of them progressives, Odd Man.”

I reminded him that Biden had mentioned how much more livable this country would be if we had a progressive agenda — a $15-an-hour minimum wage, cheaper prescription drugs, cleaner energy and so on. But he failed to dwell on how such goals could be reached.

Bottom line, the president seems to think that merely mentioning the need for reforms will motivate disaffected groups — young people, Blacks, working-class whites — to vote Democratic.

“That speech was for the corporate media gang,” Swamp Rabbit said. “If Biden said anything interesting, them middle-of-the-road mugwumps who write the od-eds wouldn’t give his speech a thumbs-up.”

He’s right, I guess. Ruth Marcus at The Washington Post approvingly noted that Biden seemed to be “retrenching,” which she defined as moving away “from placating his party’s liberal base to recognizing the sober reality that his legislative options are already limited.”

Therein lies the absurdity of the State of the Union ritual. The country hasn’t been this dis-united since the Civil War. The protofascist Republican officeholders protect the obscenely wealthy and refuse to denounce the would-be dictator Trump. The establishment Democrats hate Trump but, like the Republicans, would rather pander to wealthy donors than address the needs of the non-wealthy.

And mainstream media insiders like Marcus, weighing in on the ritual, continue to pretend the Democratic Party should find “common ground” with the party that would have been happy to let Trump overturn the legitimate results of a presidential election.

“Wise up,” Swamp Rabbit said. “The State of the Union is a phony event staged by phony leaders who would rather line their pockets than preserve government for the peeps.”

As usual, my mangy friend was exaggerating but not by much.

Footnote: My headline referenced the Latin mass because Biden is a practicing Catholic, although his allegiance to the big banks in Delaware seems to have been a lot stronger over the years than his religious faith.

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‘Retiring’ dirty energy is easier said than done

From The Uninhabitable Earth, the 2019 nonfiction bestseller by David Wallace-Wells that explains how climate change will turn the future into an ongoing catastrophe if we don’t drastically reduce carbon emissions:

We are… billions of dollars and thousands of breakthroughs later, precisely where we were when hippies were affixing solar panels to their geodesic domes. This is because the market has not responded to developments by seamlessly retiring dirty energy sources and replacing them with clean ones. It has responded by simply adding the new capacity to the same system.

“What’s wrong with adding?” Swamp Rabbit said. “You take them windmills and solar panels, put ’em near the fracking fields and the coal mines, and boom, you double up on making power. Greta Thunberg gets what she wants and so does Joe Manchin. Everybody’s happy.”

I threw one of his empty beer cans at him. “We make the environment cleaner by supplanting dirty energy, not by supplementing it. Sometimes I can’t tell when you’re kidding and when you’re not.”

But it’s not just Swamp Rabbit. Every time I check the news sites there are stories about new roadblocks to replacing fossil fuel sources. I itemized some recent examples for my mangy friend to chew on:

  •  American corporations that ostensibly support reducing carbon emissions — Amazon, AT&T, Uber and so on — continue to contribute big money to Republican attorney general candidates in various states. In other words, to candidates who, when elected, end up in court opposing stricter environmental regulations.
  •  Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has arranged for the government to spend billions on a new fleet of mail delivery trucks that will be only marginally cleaner than the fleet it will replace. This despite the input of White House agencies that wanted the U.S. Postal Service to transition to a fleet that would run on cleaner power. It’s “a major blow” to Joe Biden, who can’t figure out how to get rid of DeJoy, a piggish Trump ally who has been doing his best to weaken the USPS since his appointment.
  •  The Biden administration has said it will work to reduce the amounts of methane released into the atmosphere by oil and gas companies, but limited federal oversight of these companies remains a major problem. Regulators don’t know for sure how much gas is being flared and vented by the companies, only that it far exceeds the amounts being reported by the 13 states that are the worst offenders.

Swamp Rabbit shushed me. “Them monster companies don’t answer to nobody. Besides, Trump’s buddy Putin is trying to start World War III. Maybe we won’t have to worry about global warming.”

“Good point,” I said. “I feel happier already.”

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Love has come to town (one day only)

“What is this thing called love, Odd Man?”

It was Valentine’s Day, and Swamp Rabbit was in a reflective mood. I told him there were all sorts of love, that he was probably referring to eros, the ancient Greek word for sensual or romantic love. The trance-like feeling that compels you to stop eating and run red lights to get to the person who has infatuated you. The same person most likely to destroy you unless you snap out of your trance.

“I don’t get in no trance for nobody,” Swamp Rabbit said. “And there ain’t nobody gonna make me stop eatin’.”

“Then you haven’t been in love,” I replied. “Love makes you do right, makes you do wrong. Makes you come home early, makes you stay out all night long.”

“You’re talking crazy. That ain’t love, it’s confusion.”

“Not to Al Green. Like I said, there’s all sorts of love. Check it out sometime.”

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Spotify’s big profits ensure ‘free speech’ for Joe Rogan

See the source image
Rogan’s lies are money in the bank for the exclusive owner of his podcast

I told my neighbor Swamp Rabbit that the United States leads the world in Covid-19 deaths — we’ve passed the 900,000 mark — partly because of grifters like Joe Rogan, who has used his Spotify podcasts to channel bad medical advice to the large subsection of Americans who are most susceptible to misinformation.

Swamp Rabbit told me to stuff it, Rogan is a courageous showman who refuses to surrender his First Amendment right to voice his opinions, despite pressure from the woke crowd that wants to silence him because he’s not politically correct.

“This isn’t about political correctness,” I told him. “It’s about whether Rogan should be allowed to spread lies that lead to people dying or being hospitalized.”

“It’s his show, Odd Man. He’s got a right to say that peeps should decide for themselves whether to get vaccinated, or to treat Covid with horse de-wormer or horse radish or whatever. It ain’t right for the gov’mint or that old hippie Neil Young to tell the peeps what medicine to take. That’s censorship.”

I tried to keep my cool. “Neil Young didn’t tell anybody what medicine to take. He just said that he doesn’t want his music played on a digital streaming service that allows an ignorant anti-vaxxer to spread dangerous lies about a lethal contagion, either on his own or through guests on his show who are even dumber than he is. Young made Spotify choose between him and Rogan. Spotify chose Rogan because they make more money off his show than off Young’s music.”

Swamp Rabbit laughed. “It’s like that rightwing Constitution expert just wrote — ‘Greed is good for free speech.’ Corporations rule. I didn’t even know who Joe Rogaine was until this here kerfuffle with Neil Young. Turns out he’s got eleven million listeners on Spotify. That buys a whole lot of free speech.”

“It’s not about free speech,” I said, trying one last time. “It’s about whether a private media company with a highly popular show should be obligated to make sure the show doesn’t endanger public health and safety. Spotify isn’t just a platform for music anymore, it’s a producer and publisher, a media services provider. It shouldn’t be censored, but it should voluntarily curate its podcast content in a case like this, don’t you think?”

He scowled. “Curate or censor, what’s the difference? I think you and Neil Young are dinosaurs, and so are Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash and them other snowflakes who pulled their music off Spotify. You don’t fit too good in the 21st century, Odd Man.”

“You’re right,” I said. “I didn’t fit well in the 20th either.”

Footnote: Spotify can handle losing older, socially conscious artists like Young and Mitchell, but it would be fun to watch how the company would react if the acts that get streamed most often — The Weeknd, Taylor Swift and so on — also bailed out.

One more: Before Spotify, Rogan was a comedian of sorts and a reality TV host whose career highlights included eating a cockroach on “Fear Factor” and imitating a disabled kid during a standup routine. He recently posted on Instagram that he’s a “huge fan” of Joni Mitchell. (“l love her music. ‘Chuck E.’s In Love’ is a great song.”) Yes, it’s great, but it was written and performed by Rickie Lee Jones, not Mitchell. No surprise that Rogan apparently knows as much about music as he does about medicine.

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