The Fourth of July as a campaign event

“Did you see this story?” I asked Swamp Rabbit before reading aloud from the online Washington Post:

Unlike [Barack Obama’s] Clean Power Plan, which never took effect because of a Supreme Court decision, the Trump administration is not setting specific emissions cuts state by state in a way that would force utilities to switch from coal to lower-carbon sources of energy. Instead, the EPA is leaving it up to state regulators to improve the efficiency of coal-fired power — that is, to get more electricity for every pound of coal burned rather than closing coal plants entirely.

It’s not really news, I told him. Just more evidence that the grabber-in-chief remains determined to sabotage all Obama-era efforts to get the U.S. on the same page with other countries devising strategies to cope with climate change.

“It ain’t only about climate change,” Swamp Rabbit said. “It’s about Trump wanting to erase Obama from the history books. He can’t do that, so he’s trying to undo the good stuff Obama did when he was president.”

I quibbled with the rabbit. Obama wasn’t a disaster, but his record includes a lot of stuff that wasn’t good at all. He cozied up to the bankers who should have gone to jail for wrecking the economy. He wasn’t supportive of labor unions (remember those strikers in Wisconsin?) or of working people in general. He had grand ideas but was too much of a neoliberal to fight for policies that were truly progressive.

But all in all, I had to agree. Trump’s primary objective in making policy is to scuttle all policies Obama put in place, or tried to put in place. Exhibit A is that he fought tooth and nail to kill Obamacare without having a health care plan to replace it. Exhibit B is his perverse decision to scrap Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. There are many other exhibits.

“It goes back to that event where Obama made a fool of Trump in front of them reporters,” Swamp Rabbit said. “Trump got all stony-faced and looked like he wanted to kill him.”

I told the rabbit he was over-simplifying. He said, “Trump hates Obama because he’s everything Trump ain’t.”

True enough. Obama is smart, disciplined, thoughtful, eloquent, relatively honest, stylish, witty, popular with the elites and, most of all, rational. Maybe too rational — to the point where he didn’t understand how effectively a primitive like Trump, with help from the news media, could tap into the primitive forces that make him so popular with uneducated whites.

“Most Dems is like that,” the rabbit said. “They don’t get Trump, not even now. They were surprised when he turned the Fourth of July into a reality TV show about himself.”

“If they don’t wise up he’s gonna do the same thing with the election,” I replied.

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Talking head disses AOC for telling the truth

I’d just got back to the swamp after a shopping trip to Philly. Swamp Rabbit was in my shack watching MSNBC’s Chuck Todd badmouth U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocacio-Cortez for using the phrase “concentration camps” to describe ICE detention centers that house migrants from Mexico and Central America.

Todd said, among other things, “If you want to criticize the shameful treatment of people at our southern border, fine. You’ll have plenty of company. But be careful comparing them to Nazi concentration camps, because they are not at all comparable. In the slightest.”

Swamp Rabbit looked at me and said, “What’s this talking head been smoking? She didn’t say nothing about Nazis.”

I told him that Todd the talking head couldn’t really challenge the logic of AOC’s accusation, not if he consulted a dictionary. The detention centers in Texas obviously are concentration camps, in that the government is using them to confine large groups of ethnically similar civilians, including many children, to a small area with inadequate facilities and no legal rights.

But Todd wanted to let viewers know he is a reliably middle-of-the-road talking head who wouldn’t dare take sides with wild-eyed progressives like AOC, or with writers who have pointed out that concentration camps have been around for more than a hundred years and have existed for a while in certain “democracies” as well as in monster states like Nazi Germany.

So he implied it’s anti-Semitic to say “concentration camp” in reference to anything but extermination camps like Auschwitz. (I think that’s what he was implying) As if the real story isn’t the Trump administration committing crimes against humanity along the border with Mexico.

“You ain’t telling me nothing new,” Swamp Rabbit replied. “If I got jailed in a joint where I don’t have no bed or toothbrush or even a bar of soap, I’d know what to call it.”

Footnote: It’s an old story. Journalistic insiders like Chuck Todd would rather distract viewers from painful truths than raise the suspicion that they harbor left-wing bias.

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Bomb Iran! Oops, my bad, never mind

Swamp Rabbit fed the last of his sardines to the swamp cats as I ended my rant about the state of the nation with a quotation that’s been in the news:

As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

“H.L. Mencken wrote that in 1920,” I said. “Only a total cynic like him could have predicted the Trump presidency all those years ago.”

Swamp Rabbit tossed the sardine can into my recycling bin. “Maybe he was predicting the George W. Bush presidency,” he said. “Trump ain’t the first moron in the White House and he won’t be the last.”

The rabbit’s comment set me off again. Of course Mencken was predicting Trump. Who could be more moronic than the grabber-in-chief? What better proof that democracy, so-called, is a risky business, subject to the whims of voters who might get into a huff and, just for spite, install a president who would wreck the system of checks and balances that prevents presidents from becoming dictators?

“Don’t flip out,” the rabbit said. “Mencken was a crabby old dude who didn’t like no one or nothing except Beethoven, beer and cigars. I bet he wanted democracy to fail just to prove he was right about the plain folks.”

I told him Mencken was a complicated guy, and his personal deficiencies are beside the point. He was right to mock the sort of people who believe two plus two equals five if Big Brother says so.

“He liked oysters, I think,” Swamp Rabbit said. “Baltimore was his hometown.”

“Enough,” I replied. “Worry about Trump, not Mencken.”

But the rabbit, without knowing it, had raised a good point: The worst thing about Trump is that his success makes thoughtful people today feel as cynical as Mencken was. His presidency is a reminder that it really can happen here — dictatorship, that is — as it did in Weimar Germany and other countries that functioned as democracies until fear took hold and ruthless con men took over.

“Blah blah,” the rabbit said. “I don’t need no history lessons.”

I reminded him that Trump had reneged on Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran then tried to provoke the Iranians into some action that would be his excuse for bombing them. He apparently allowed John Bolton and Mike Pompeo to plan a military strike on Iran then apparently called it off — for now.

Swamp Rabbit shrugged. “He gives his peeps what they want. They don’t want plans, they want fear and hate. They want a leader who’s as dumb and nasty as they are.”

“I should buy you a cigar,” I said. “You sound just like Mencken.”

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Plastic bags in the Mariana Trench

Swamp Rabbit and I were working a “food truck festival,” an event where humans gather in a big outdoor space for the sole purpose of pigging out. A news story from a few weeks back came to mind as I watched them:

An American man completed the deepest-ever solo underwater dive May 1. But when he reached the bottom of the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, he found that another representative of the human world had gotten there first: plastic.

Victor Vescovo said he found a plastic bag and candy wrappers on the sea floor, some 35,853 feet below the surface…

Vescovo isn’t the first to find plastic at the bottom of the ocean’s deepest trench. A 2018 paper documented at least 3,000 pieces of litter in the trench, including a plastic bag at 36,000 feet below sea level. At least eight million tons of plastic enter the world’s oceans every year, and, if this continues, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.

Food festival attendees eventually become satiated and waddle away, but not before leaving in their wake a ton of plastic containers and other garbage, most of which ends up in landfills or in the oceans.

“Why are we here?” I asked the rabbit as we watched a human hippo gobble greasy fries topped with radioactive-looking cheese melt.

The question probably didn’t sound as philosophical as I’d intended. “We’re here to tell the peeps to use clean energy and save the planet,” Swamp Rabbit said. “It’s a mission, remember?”

But the hippo had freaked me out. I remembered an obscure Ed Sanders record from the 1970s with a title for the ages : Beer Cans On the Moon.

“It’s too late, rabbit. Everywhere we go, our trash is already there. The next frontier is outer space.”

I told him humans are hopeless, they don’t change. They fret about climate change but denude the forests. They clog the highways with cars and foul the water with plastic. They leave plastic everywhere, even on the North Pole.

“You got no room to talk,” Swamp Rabbit said. “You don’t drink nothing but that water from the Alps in them big plastic bottles.”

I told him I drink bottled water to protect myself, tap water is full of toxins. When they come up with a biodegradable substitute for plastic, I’ll switch to it right away.

“That’s lame, Odd Man,” he said. “You’re screwing up the planet with your plastic empties.”

He was getting under my skin. “What do you care about the planet?” I said. “You stumble around drinking whiskey most days.”

“At least whiskey don’t come in plastic bottles,” he replied.

He grinned at me, waiting for a comeback, but I didn’t have one.

Posted in climate change, environmentalism, humor, mainstream media | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What protest? I don’t see any protest

Swamp Rabbit was listening to me enumerate the lies Donald Trump told in Britain this week. My favorite was Trump saying, “I didn’t see any protest” when asked about the anti-Trump protest in London. Then he said the protesters were “a very, very small group.” Then he said the people on the streets were pro-Trump demonstrators, not protesters.

“I guess he didn’t notice that giant ‘Baby Trump’ balloon or that Trump-on-the-toilet float,” Swamp Rabbit said.

Note the irony: This week marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Who would have thought a few years ago that a would-be dictator like Trump would be feted by British royals then go to Normandy for a ceremony honoring soldiers who fought to overthrow a dictator?

“You can’t call Trump a dictator,” the rabbit said. “America elected him.”

The Nazis were elected, too, I told him. Enough Nazis to get Hitler appointed chancellor. Does he really think Trump won’t seize power the same way Hitler did if Congress and the courts continue ignoring his crimes?

Swamp Rabbit threw up his hands. “There you go with Hitler again.”

Another irony: This week is also the 30th anniversary of the massacre of protesters in Tiananmen Square, a history-changing event that Chinese dictator Xi Jinping and his gang have more-or-less erased from Chinese media outlets and history books.

I said, “When Xi’s gang is asked about the protest at Tiananmen Square, they say ‘I didn’t see any protest.’ Or they say ‘The protest was very, very small.'”

“Trump ain’t on the same page with that China boss,” the rabbit argued. “He started a trade war with China.”

I shook my head. “Trump wants to cut the trade deficit, but he admires Xi. He called him a ‘a terrific guy‘ and ‘a great leader.'”

“That don’t mean nothing,” the rabbit said. “I doubt Trump knows what he’s saying one minute to the next.”

Back to D-Day for one more irony: In a speech at the ceremonies, French President Emmanuel Macron, with Trump nearby, said the Allies who made D-Day a success “are the same ones that were able to build the existing multilateral structures after World War Two.”

This was an implicit jab at Trump, who has worked hard to undermine the European Union and other “multilateral structures” that were established in part to help prevent the sort of bad relations between countries that resulted in two world wars in the 20th century.

“Do you think Trump got it?” Swamp Rabbit asked. “Did he know Macron was criticizing him?”

“Maybe,” I said. “If anyone asks, he’ll say ‘I didn’t hear any criticism.’ Or ‘The criticism was very, very small.'”

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Mueller vows to duck all questions he raised

Swamp Rabbit was crawling on his stomach, looking for a bottle of whiskey he might have hidden for emergency situations like this one. Robert Mueller had just appeared on TV and told the world he would say no more about Trump’s possible obstruction of the probe into Russian interference with our elections.

“Settle down, rabbit,” I said. “Just because Mueller is clamming up is no reason for you to start drinking again.”

“It ain’t Mueller that drives me to drink,” he replied. “It’s having to listen to you complain about Mueller letting Trump off the hook.”

I told him Mueller is no hero, he fumbled the ball by not explicitly stating in his report that he found enough evidence to indict Trump. But neither is he one of Trump’s henchmen. His public remarks today made it clear — again — that it’s the job of Congress, not the special council, to make a decision regarding possible indictment of a president.

“Mueller said it would be unconstitutional for the Justice Department to formally accuse Trump,” I said.

Swamp Rabbit’s parole officer, Victor C, arrived at my shack while we were arguing. “Nothing in the Constitution says the president has immunity from prosecution,” Victor noted. “That’s an excuse Mueller is using to duck responsibility for his own conclusions.”

“Maybe,” I conceded, “but his bottom-line point is good. It’s up to Congress to take down Trump.”

Swamp Rabbit groaned. “So now you’re saying it’s the Dems in the House, not Mueller, who are letting Trump off the hook, even though the Senate probably wouldn’t convict him if he was impeached.”

“I’m saying most Democrats won’t do the right thing if they think it will cost them votes,” I replied. “They’re afraid voters will get tired of impeachment talk and turn on them.”

Swamp Rabbit kept nagging. “So you think the Dems should impeach even though impeachment might help Trump win in 2020?”

He thought he had me on the ropes. “I think they might help Trump win if they don’t impeach,” I replied. “People will conclude that the Democrats are too timid to deserve election, and they will be right. Dems have a history of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, usually because they don’t have the guts to fight until the end, even when the stakes are enormous.”

“There you go,” the rabbit said, turning to Victor. “I knew Odd Man would find someone to complain about.”

Footnote: We jawed for another hour and Victor C noted that Mueller is a Republican lawyer who was appointed special council by a Republican deputy attorney general (Rod Rosenstein) to investigate possible ties between a Republican president and the Russians. Anybody who says political partisanship didn’t play a part in this sordid story is naive or lying.

Another: In his announcement today, Mueller failed to mention that Republican William Barr, the current AG, had misrepresented Mueller’s findings in statements he issued prior to the report’s release. This is a serious omission given the fact that Barr’s blatant lies had an important impact on public reception of the report.

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GoT’s political science lesson

The finale of Game of Thrones moved at a snail’s pace and was mostly anticlimactic, but it featured an amusing scene in which VIPs from the Seven Kingdoms gathered to choose a new ruler. The bookish Samwell Tarly argued that the people should decide — the common people, that is — but the others merely chuckled at his suggestion.

“I don’t blame ’em for laughing,” Swamp Rabbit said as we watched the show. “You never know who might come to power if you leave it up to the peeps.”

I told the rabbit to hush, the show was supposed to be an escape from real-world politics and other depressing subjects.

But he was right, I added. We live in a country where the people decide who rules, and this time the people — with the help of the antiquated electoral college system — chose an orange hog monster who’s working hard to become our first dictator.

The rabbit clucked at me. “Sounds like you ain’t got no faith in them institutional norms I keep hearing about.”

I asked him what the norms were, just to see if he knew. In so many words, he told me that norms in politics were rules and conventions that ensure a basic level of civility and functionality in government. Norms are essential to the checks-and-balances system. Norms help keep the three branches of government co-equal.

I scowled at him. “Norms do nothing but hide the flaws in the Constitution. It took a lowlife like Trump to prove once and for all that norms are no substitute for laws, not when it comes to the presidency.”

He clucked again. “You’re agreeing with me, Odd Man. Who woulda thunk it.”

I told him I was just stating the obvious. Norms can’t compel a president to disclose his tax returns, or divest himself of businesses that he owned prior to being elected, or refrain from firing important federal officials who might reveal something damning about his conduct in office.

And so on. Trump wants to establish his own norms. He wants to make it normal for a president to appoint a crooked attorney general and to prevent staffers from obeying congressional subpoenas and to threaten nuclear war.

The rabbit said, “The scary thing is that the peeps who elected Trump, and half of them peeps in Congress, are cool with him becoming a dictator, or a tyrant. Whatever you want to call it.”

“The people make big mistakes sometimes,” I countered. “But can you think of a better way to choose a leader?”

We watched the part of the TV show where the VIPs decided their next ruler should be a paraplegic who hardly ever speaks and spends much of his time in a dreamworld.

“There you go,” the rabbit said. “Them VIPs figure Bran Stark is the safe bet.”

I scowled again. “A small group of royals settle on a lame, kooky teenager to be their chief. This is your idea of a good system for choosing a leader?”

The rabbit shrugged. “He’s a kook, but at least he ain’t likely to turn into a tyrant.”

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