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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The special counsel underwhelms

Swamp Rabbit and I went on the road yesterday to work a hick-town event and were
stuck in traffic for a long while before we got back to my shack to watch the highlights of the Mueller hearings.

“You were wrong, rabbit,” I said as the cable news recaps were playing. “Mueller clammed up, just like he said he would, but the fact that he’s a Republican had little to do with it.”

“OK, it ain’t politics that stopped him from answering all them questions,” the rabbit conceded. “It’s got more to do with him being old and worn out.”

I had to agree that the special counsel had seemed frail and befuddled; that Mueller the relentless, all-knowing investigator had turned out to be a mythic hero created by the media and embraced by those of us hoping for someone who would single-handedly bring down the most divisive and dangerously corrupt president in U.S. history.

But it was also clear that the hearings hadn’t been a waste of time; that House Democrats strengthened their case just by holding Mueller’s hand and coaxing him to repeat his team’s findings. He declined to answer about two hundred questions, but he did confirm that the Russians had interfered with the 2016 election; that their interference had helped Trump; that Trump had encouraged them to interfere; and that Trump’s cronies, some of whom are already in jail, had schemed with Russian officials on his behalf.

Just as important, Mueller’s testimony reminded viewers that his report documented multiple instances of obstruction of justice on Trump’s part, including the fact that he’d ordered former White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller and then, after McGahn refused, ordered him to deny he’d ordered the firing.

“And how about them fascist scumbags on the other side,” Swamp Rabbit said, referring to Attorney General William Barr and the Republican members of the Judiciary and Intelligence panels who’d attacked Mueller. “They all know Trump is a lying pig, but there ain’t a one of them didn’t get down in the mud with him.”

“History will remember them,” I replied. “Just like it remembers the the America First Committee.”

“I don’t know nothing about no America First Committee,” the rabbit said, reaching under the couch for the bottle of bourbon he’d stashed there. “But I know a scumbag when I see one.”

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Is Mueller an enigma or just a Republican?

I got back from the vet — one of the swamp cats needed hyperthyroid medicine — and found Swamp Rabbit at my shack, complaining about how badly the mainstream media had handled news of the Mueller report even before the report was released. He read aloud from a critique by the media columnist at an influential newspaper:

Many news organizations, including some of the most prominent, took what [Attorney General William] Barr said at face value or mischaracterized the report’s findings. They essentially transmitted to the public — especially in all-important headlines and cable-news bulletins — what President Trump desperately wanted as the takeaway: No collusion; no obstruction…

“I don’t care about the media today,” I said. “I care about what Mueller will say tomorrow at those hearings when he’s asked about the questions his report raised but never answered. Does he have a soul, or does he just follow orders, even when following orders is bad for the country?”

“Mueller’s a Republican, so I don’t expect he’ll rock the boat too hard,” Swamp Rabbit replied. “He already said he ain’t gonna say nothing.”

Don’t lose hope, I told him. Mueller has heard Trump falsely claim, again and again, that the report exonerates him. He’s watched Trump and Barr turn the Justice Department into a private law firm for Trump’s defense. He’s put up with two years of insults from Trump and his cronies, and from the crooked Republican officeholders whose fates are linked with Trump’s. He’s got an opportunity to help prevent the second act of a would-be dictator and be the hero of the century.

The rabbit chuckled. “Mueller don’t wanna be no hero, he just wants to go home.”

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Al Green’s impeachment song is a flop

I was in the little shack behind my main shack, rooting around for a rusty old window fan. Swamp Rabbit was in the main shack, watching the rerun of a cable news story from last night.

“It’s Al Green, check him out,” the rabbit shouted. “He telling Congress to impeach Trump for being a racist. He should sing about it instead of making a speech.”

It turned out to be Al Green the Texas congressman, not Al Green the Memphis soul and gospel singer, but I couldn’t convince the rabbit that the two Als weren’t one and the same.

“Trump will just keep denying he’s a racist,” I said, plugging in the fan. “They should impeach him for obstructing Mueller’s investigation into his ties with Russia. That’s where the criminal evidence is.”

“They might not impeach him at all,” the rabbit replied. “They’re too busy fighting each other. Old versus young, white versus black, Nancy Pelosi versus the Squad.”

As we were arguing, a talking head on cable news announced that the House had voted down Al Green’s impeachment resolution. Democrats can’t even agree on whether to impeach a guy who is arguably the first gangster president in American history. What does that say about their ability to settle on a candidate who will appeal to the majority of voters in the 2020 election?

“But you ain’t all wrong,” Swamp Rabbit said to cheer me up. “Better to wait till Robert Mueller testifies next week and then decide where to go on impeachment.”

Better to concede the hardcore bigot vote to Trump, he added. To go after so-called independents and lapsed Democratic voters — the Democrats who voted for Obama twice but sat out the 2016 election because Hillary was such a drag. To remind them about Trump’s wall fantasy, his attempts to kill Obamacare, his tax cuts for the rich and contempt for the poor, his ill-advised tariffs, his submissive relationship with Putin, his corrupt Cabinet, his ignorance and unbridled sleaziness.

“You’re right, the racism charge won’t work,” I admitted. “Trump fans like his racist talk, it stirs them up. Al Green should have put a lid on his anger instead of making a scene.”

“He should have sung ‘Let’s Stay Together,'” the rabbit said.

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