Time’s running out, but Biden still won’t voice the f-word

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The filibuster is still being used to block civil rights legislation

The consensus was that Joe Biden gave a rousing speech Tuesday in Philadelphia that will do nothing to derail voter suppression efforts in red states around the country. So what was the point?

I asked my neighbor Swamp Rabbit but he was too drunk or depressed to comment, so I answered for him: “The point was to buy time, I guess, in the hope that Senate Democrats In Name Only (mainly Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema) will rejoin the home team to ensure passage of the For the People Act, if and when the Senate votes on it.”

Biden accurately noted the gravity of the situation — “We’re facing the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War” — but somehow failed to mention that there is no hope for For the People unless Democrats use their ultra-thin majority to either strike down or amend the Senate’s filibuster provision, which was often used in past eras to block civil rights legislation. Amazingly, he didn’t even voice the word “filibuster” during his 25-minute speech.

Meanwhile, the new civil war is heating up and the new Confederates are advancing on all fronts. Most notably, a platoon of Democratic legislators has had to retreat all the way to Washington, D.C., to prevent a Republican voter suppression bill from becoming law in Texas. The Texas Dems are counting on Biden and Senate Dems to turn the tide.

But that isn’t likely to happen anytime soon. There exists a yawning gulf between Biden’s stirring rhetoric and the ruthless tactics of Republicans lawmakers who no longer even pretend to believe in protecting the voting rights of those likely to vote against them. And another gulf between Democrats who support voting rights and the DINOs who have sided with the forces that are restricting those rights.

“What did you expect?” said Swamp Rabbit, breaking his silence after downing a double shot of some vile home brew. “Biden is an Obama Democrat — too much talk, not enough action. A reacher across the aisle. A guy who thinks he can compromise with racists. If this is democracy’s biggest test since the Civil War, and Dems have a majority in the Senate, then how come Biden ain’t trying harder to get the DINOs to do the right thing? Why not go to their home states and appeal to the suckers who voted for them?”

“Manchin is a millionaire and a faux-populist in a dirt-poor Republican state,” I replied. “Sinema is an insecure dummy whose politics became more rightwing as her power grew. She recently wrote an error-riddled op-ed defending the filibuster. One of the DINOs might jump to the GOP if Biden puts too much pressure on them.”

Swamp Rabbit laughed. “Let ’em jump. The Dems can pick up Senate seats in other states. What’s the point of having a majority if some of your soldiers are gonna switch sides during the most important battles?”

“Beats the hell out of me,” I confessed. “All I know is the Confederates will keep attacking. If the Dems lose this battle, Jim Crow wins the war.”

Posted in history, humor, mainstream media, Obama, voter suppression | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A major court victory for the new Confederates (Happy 4th!)

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Just in time for the holiday, the U.S. Supreme Court further divided the country with a 6-3 ruling that finished neutering the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. As a writer for The Atlantic put it:

Republicans will understandably view Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion [re Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee] upholding two disputed Arizona statutes as a green light to pass voting restrictions that could disproportionately limit the ability of minority groups to vote…

Swamp Rabbit, doing his impression of Foghorn Leghorn, the former Looney Tunes star from the Deep South, put it this way:

“Listen up, ah say, listen up, son: You Yankees who think you won the War Between the States ain’t comprehending the gist of what’s goin’ on, especially now that we put enough bigots on the Court to kill them laws that protect folks who ain’t inclined to vote Republican, meaning them that ain’t white or ain’t good ol’ boys. You call it voter suppression but we call it states’ rights, and you better, ah say, you better believe we gonna change them voting laws faster than you can whistle Yankee Doodle.”

“Enough,” I said. “This court decision makes a mockery of the entire civil rights movement. It pulls Jim Crow out of the dustbin of history and puts him in charge of the GOP.”

“Get over it,” Swamp Rabbit replied, playing devil’s advocate. “Jim Crow has been running the GOP for decades. Only difference now is the Supreme Court ain’t been packed with this many bigots since Dred Scott back in 1857.”

I objected to his assertion. Surely the Court was just as bigoted in 1896, when it issued the Plessy v Ferguson decision. And there was Shelby County v Holder in 2013, which took the first big bite out of the VRA and involved some of the same bigots who are on the Court now. (Historians will call these bigots the Roberts Court.)

But the rabbit’s hyperbole was forgivable. After all, what liberal-minded person would have believed a few years ago that the Court would turn the clock back to a time when red states, many of them former Confederate states, could use bogus concerns about fraud to create obstacles to voters who don’t support white supremacist policies?

“A lot of peeps knew this was coming,” Swamp Rabbit said, correcting me. “It ain’t no coincidence that red states all over the country are passing voter suppression laws at the same time the Supremes are whittling down federal laws against voter suppression.”

“You’re right,” I conceded. “For now, the only solution is for Senate Democrats to get rid of the filibuster. They need to be able to use a simple majority to pass legislation that makes it illegal for states to legitimize unreasonable voter restrictions. They need to do this before the midterms.”

Swamp Rabbit chuckled and did Foghorn Leghorn again: “Listen up, ah say, listen up, son: We went over this last week. The problem is them Democrats need a sharp leader to unite the party against the filibuster, and what they got instead is that old fool Chuck Schumer and folks like Joe Manchin, who’s about as sharp as a bowling ball. It ain’t happenin’, son. Happy Fourth of July.”


Posted in history, humor, mainstream media, voter suppression | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

For the People Act was dead on arrival. What now, Dems?

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I was in a quandary, like other non-Trumpers who are watching the Republican Party’s full-scale effort to strip voting rights from as many Democrats as it takes to ensure future elections are won by extreme right-wingers.

One might assume this would be the media’s No. 1 story, but one would be wrong. The Republican plan to kill democracy in America apparently isn’t sexy enough to merit any more coverage than pop singer Britney Spears’ conflict with her father, or the mental breakdown of Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ben Simmons during the NBA playoffs.

“Well, so what?” Swamp Rabbit said. “’Oops!…I Did It Again’ was a major hit. And you got no idea how many sports fans hate Ben Simmons. Them’s big stories.”

“But this is real news,” I replied. “Senate Republicans blocked the For the People Act from moving forward last week. They won’t even debate it. They know passage of the bill would prevent them from imposing state-level restrictions on Blacks and other voting blocs they don’t like. And it would strike a blow against gerrymandering and dark money in politics.”

“If For the People is such a big deal, how come the Dems didn’t fight harder to get it passed?” the rabbit countered. “They got the 51-vote majority in the Senate if you count the vice-president.”

I explained to him for the tenth time that passage of the bill would require 60 Senate votes, not 51, unless Democrats changed the filibuster rule that effectively allows Mitch McConnell and his cronies to shoot down all Democratic legislation. And I mentioned that McConnell is getting essential help from Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, the two most prominent DINO senators.

“Republicans are taking control of the electoral machinery state by state,” I said. “They want to make sure they have new laws on their side the next time they try to steal an election, like Trump tried to do in 2020.”

“They’re dressing tyranny in the garb of states’ rights,” I added, “just like the Dems did when Reconstruction was struck down in the post-Civil War South.”

Swamp Rabbit balked. “A lot of peeps think states’ rights is what keeps this country from being took over by Black Lives Matter and Critical Race Theory. They don’t like the federal gov’mint tellin’ them what to do.“

I was tired of his devil’s advocate act. “That’s what the federal government is for, dummy. To make sure the states let people vote and don’t allow lynching or slavery and so on. The voting rights fight is the Civil War, Part Two — or Part 10, maybe. Johnny Reb is winning.“

“Maybe he is, maybe he ain’t,“ the rabbit said. “Speaking of slaves, did you know Britney’s nasty old dad still controls all her money? There oughta be a law.“

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To the moon with you, Bezos, and beyond!

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I was reading about zillionaire Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon, the world’s largest Internet company. He arguably became the richest person in history during the Covid-19 pandemic thanks to a huge upsurge in online sales. He owns Whole Foods. He owns Washington Post. His new multi-deck yacht is so big, it comes with a support yacht for his helicopter. He will be flying to space in July on a rocket ship built by his “space company,” Blue Origin.

Oh, and there’s this: Bezos thinks people are “inherently lazy.” As recently noted in The New York Times:

Some of the practices that most frustrate [Amazon warehouse] employees — the short-term-employment model, with little opportunity for advancement, and the use of technology to hire, monitor and manage workers — come from Jeff Bezos…

To help maximize profits, the big chief established an oppressive work environment in which warehouse employees are quickly replaced as they become “less eager” to exhaust themselves. Pre-pandemic data showed that “Amazon was losing three percent of its hourly associates each week — meaning its turnover was roughly 150 percent a year.” Meaning it “had to replace the equivalent of its entire work force roughly every eight months.”

The statistics gave me a headache. “Why do workers in this country put up with glorified sweatshop operators like Bezos?” I shouted. “Anybody want to take a shot at answering that question?”

There was only one other human in the swamp that day, so I wasn’t expecting too many responses.

“Too many snowflakes,” Swamp Rabbit said. “Not enough peeps like Bezos, who ain’t afraid to spend millions to get flown to outer space instead of using his dough to treat them warehouse grunts like humans.”

My grizzled friend told me Bezos and two others will be on the upcoming space flight, which will last eleven minutes and soar to more than 60 miles above Earth.

“Eleven minutes and sixty miles?” I said. “Is that all? Very disappointing.”

“Sixty miles is pretty high, Odd Man. I bet you ain’t never been that high unless you was shooting meth or something.”

“Forget about me,” I told him. “I’m saying Earth’s foremost megalomaniac should at least go to the moon. The media would love him. If he’s the visionary he presents himself as, he’ll fly to Uranus and greenlight the biggest warehouse anywhere. There are no labor unions on Uranus. Workers are super-cheap.”

“Yeah, but they turn into icicles in two minutes,” Swamp Rabbit said. “The turnover is brutal, even by Bezos’ standards.”

“You’re right,” I conceded. “Fact is, the Solar System isn’t big enough for a jerk like Bezos. He should keep flying all the way to Alpha Centauri and send us a postcard when he gets there.”

“Dang. That wouldn’t be for about 40,000 years, Odd Man.”

“Exactly. Even that would be too soon, don’t you think?”

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AR-15, Swiss Army knife — good for both home and battle

I showed Swamp Rabbit a copy of the recent court ruling on assault weapons in California. He read the first paragraph out loud:

Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment. Good for both home and battle, the AR-15 is the kind of versatile gun that lies at the intersection of the kinds of firearms protected under District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) and United States v Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939). Yet, the State of California makes it a crime to have an AR-15 type rifle. Therefore, this Court declares the California statutes to be unconstitutional.

Swamp Rabbit laughed. “You must have got this from the Onion. Ain’t no federal judge would compare an AR-15 to a Swiss Army knife. Looks like some looney wrote this. Or an AR-15 salesman.”

“Well, there you go,” I said. “A looney or a salesman. Or both.”

But the author of the ruling that struck down a three-decade ban on assault weapons in CA was indeed a judge — a guy named Roger Benitez, called “unqualified” and much worse by the American Bar Association when nominated for the judgeship back in 2003, but appointed anyway by George W. Bush. (The next Republican POTUS, Donald Trump, would be even more adept than Bush at choosing unqualified judges.)

Swamp Rabbit read more and seemed to become even more incredulous. Benitez wrote that most people “who own and keep the popular AR-15 rifle and its many variants do so for lawful purposes…” but conveniently left out the fact that, in this country, assault weapons were used in the seven deadliest mass shootings in the past decade.

The judge also wrote that “More people have died from the Covid-19 vaccine than mass shootings in California,” a fittingly Trumpian lie and a telling indication of Benitez’ notion of jurisprudence.

I couldn’t help but ask Swamp Rabbit if he remembered the guy who, in Las Vegas in 2017, used his assault rifle, or “home defense weapon,” to kill 58 people and wound nearly 700 in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

“I remember,” Swamp Rabbit said. “I don’t even want to think about how bad the slaughter would have been if he’d had one of them Swiss Army knives.”

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Not forgetting is hard work (a history lesson)

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“When was the last time you thought about history?” I said to Swamp Rabbit, who was playing a video game on his phone. “Here, check this out.”

I made him read the laughably creepy anecdote that starts Milan Kundera’s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. Kundera describes future Czechoslovak President Klement Gottwald standing bareheaded in the bitter cold, speaking to a big crowd in Prague, 1948. Foreign Minister Vladimír Clementis steps onto the balcony, takes off his fur cap, and graciously places it on Gottwald’s head. A photograph is taken. A few years later, Clementis is arrested and executed on a trumped-up charge of treason. Communist censors airbrush him from the well-known photo.

Kundera wrote of the doctored photo: Where Clementis once stood, there is only bare palace wall. All that remains of Clementis is the cap on Gottwald’s head.

“It’s easy to erase history,” I said, in case Swamp Rabbit had missed the point.

“That don’t make no sense,” he replied. “You can’t erase something that actually happened. What about all them peeps who watched the speech and knew the dude was there that day?”

“They forgot about him,” I said. “The modern world is fast-paced. One memory has to make room for the next. Who has time to fuss over what happened yesterday?”

“That’s what history is for, Odd Man. If something is important, it’s gonna end up in the history books.”

I told him he was being too simplistic. A lot of important stuff gets left out of history, or expunged. Or watered down to the point where it no longer reflects what really happened. History books often leave out unpleasant or inconvenient truths. The powers-that-be are happy to help people forget events that could be a threat to the status quo.

“The Tulsa Race Massacre, for example,” I said. “Hundreds of black people killed, their neighborhood burned down, but the entire event was airbrushed from history. Most people knew nothing about it until it turned up as a subplot on a TV series called Watchmen.”

Swamp Rabbit was unconvinced. “That massacre was a hundred years ago. Nowadays, them history books get things right.”

“Really?“ I said. “What about those yahoos at the U.S. Capitol who tried to overturn the election results? Only five months ago and already the Republicans are trying to make us forget. They’re saying the yahoos were tourists or non-violent protestors, or that the violent ones were really leftists. A lot of people believe them.”

“And a lot of peeps don’t,“ he said. “What’s your point?”

“My point is it’s important to keep the bad guys — Communists, Nazis, Republicans — from replacing history with bullshit. Not forgetting is hard work.”

“Too hard for me, I guess,“ he said. “I forget why you brought up the subject.”

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The GOP insurrection has only just begun

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It was 80-some degrees but not too humid, a perfect day for swamp creatures great and small to put off work and laze in the sun. Swamp Rabbit was bored, of course, and determined to find news that would put me in a bad mood.

“Check it out,” he said, climbing onto my porch with his laptop and directing me to a story with this headline: “73% of Republicans blame ‘left-wing protesters’ for Jan. 6 riot.”

This was two days before Republicans used the filibuster to block approval of a bipartisan congressional commission to investigate the causes of the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

“The Republican senators have it all figured out,” I said. “They know they can blow off the commission because rank-and-file Trumpers don’t want it to happen.”

Swamp Rabbit pretended to be shocked. After all, the Jan. 6 attempt to break the U.S. government was unprecedented, unless you count the siege of Fort Sumter and the Civil War that followed. Republicans can’t pretend the MAGA mob stormed the Capitol without encouragement from Donald Trump and his gang. They can’t pretend the rioters were just tourists, or that 147 congressional Republicans didn’t vote on the same day as the siege to overturn election results in states Joe Biden won fair and square.

“Yes they can,” I replied. “What’s the point of telling lies about an attempted coup if you don’t tell big lies? Republican senators know the people who elected them expect them to lie. That the truth isn’t welcome because it would mean rejecting Trump and what he stands for, which is the same thing they stand for.”

Swamp Rabbit was playing devil’s advocate to get me worked up. “You’re way too cynical, Odd Man. If you’re right, it means the Republican Party ain’t gonna abide by election results no more.”

“Thank you for stating the obvious,” I said. “The insurrection was and is about doing away with the laws that ensure fair elections. The Republicans’ next step is to pass voter restriction laws that ensure unfair elections. They want to establish a new de facto Confederate States of America.”

He pretended to be angry. “This American democracy thing is almost three hundred years old, Them Trumpers can’t just all of a sudden throw the whole system out the window.”

I tried to tell him that Republicans have been lying with impunity for decades thanks to the docile media and complacent establishment Democrats. But they weren’t quite ready to tell the Big Lie — i.e., the election was stolen — until 2020, when the liar-in-chief was turned out of office and they realized they would have to game the system to regain control of Congress and the presidency.

Swamp Rabbit shook his head. “They can’t get away with it. Not if all the peeps get out there and vote in the midterms.”

“That depends on who’s allowed to vote,” I said. “And who’s in charge of counting the votes.”

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Time waits for no one (especially timid Democrats)

Drag_My_Feet_Along_The_Floor__by_XX_moo_XX.jpg (900×621)Swamp Rabbit had a confession to make. “The closer I follow the news, the less I understand what them Dems are up to. What am I missing?”

He’d been trying to figure out why Democrats in Washington, D.C. weren’t pushing harder to pass the For the People Act, which would prevent Republican state legislatures from imposing Jim Crow-ish voter restriction laws and redrawing district lines. I told him establishment  Democrats don’t push for anything. They “reach across the aisle” to establish bipartisan support for their bills, even though they know they will get their hands smacked and achieve nothing.

“Yeah, but Biden got all them Covid vaccinations done like he promised, and another round of stimulus checks and money for childcare providers and Obamacare,“ he said. “And he wants to pass a giant infrastructure bill and fix all the sabotage that nasty jackass Trump did to the environment laws. But things ain’t looking so good no more.”

Swamp Rabbit had had his first drink at 10 am, like Hemingway in Cuba, but it wasn’t yet noon, so I figured he might still be half-sober. “So what’s your point?” I said. “The last time the subject came up, you were all in. You said Biden and the other Dems are doing okay, considering they’re up against a bunch of Republican jackals who tried to help Trump overthrow democracy.”

He told me he’d reconsidered.  The Democrats have a slim majority in the House and are 50-50 in the Senate only because of the miraculous election of two Democrats in Georgia. And now Republicans want to stall a vote to prevent the For the People Act from ever being passed.

“My point is time’s running out,” he said. “Game over if Republicans get them majorities back in the mid-terms. The Dems gotta remind people every day they want to make voting rights stronger and raise the minimum wage and tax the rich and so on. Especially in them states with DINO senators like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Gotta shame ’em. And they gotta get rid of the filibuster.”

This time I played devil’s advocate. “Sure, but how do you get rid of the filibuster if the DINOs want to keep it? How do you stay on message if some in your tribe are Dixiecrats and neolibs who dont really want to change anything?

He sighed. I dont know. Thats why I asked you, Odd Man. I see you dont know either, so I might as well just have another drink.

Footnote: Art by jameslsy at James Lee | Facebook

Posted in health care, humor, mainstream media, mid-term elections, unemployment, voter suppression | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Grilling tips from the Ugly American

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“Here, read this column,” Swamp Rabbit said. “Some peeps ain’t content to just mess up the planet, they gotta brag about it too.”

It was a piece by a Washington Post columnist who is peeved because the food website Epicurious, citing concerns about climate change, has stopped publishing new beef recipes. He writes, “Canceling beef recipes won’t make a dent in climate change, and this stunt reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of how to effectively address the real crisis.”

Hmm. I thought the real crisis was that the Amazon Rainforest is now emitting more carbon dioxide than it is storing because its trees are being burned and chopped down at a furious pace to make way for more cattle grazing. Put another way, the rainforest is dwindling and the air pollution rate exploding as the worldwide demand for beef increases.

But the WAPO guy pushes all that aside and focuses on his culinary accomplishments: “…I’ve honed my methods and perfected techniques for cooking rack of lamb, rabbit, bison, venison and quail. Not to mention five cuts of pork. Nothing, however, beats what comes from cattle.”

“See what I mean?” Swamp Rabbit said. “The chump brags about how much meat he eats, which is like braggin’ about how many trees you chop down.”

I cautioned the rabbit against over-criticizing. The WAPO guy concedes there is a problem. He says Epicurious, instead of banning beef recipes, should post articles encouraging consumers to eat less beef.

“Ain’t that a hoot,” the rabbit said. “Meanwhile he’s stuffing his fat face with enough beef to fill a soccer stadium in Brazil.”

“Now, now,” I replied. “No need to stoop to ad hominem attacks.”

“F*** that. This guy is the Ugly American. Ain’t no way he should get space in a major newspaper to brag about it. The Washington Post should be ashamed of itself.”

“Enough!” I said, noting how angry he was. “I’m gonna mosey over to my shack now to cook dinner. You want a hamburger?”

“I’ll take mine with cheese if you got it.“

Posted in climate change, environmentalism, humor, mainstream media | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Tech changes. Cop culture doesn’t.

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Scott Olson/Getty Images

Swamp Rabbit was yapping about the Derek Chauvin trial. “Too bad he was wearin’ a mask. I wanted to see the look on his face when the judge read them guilty verdicts.”

I recalled watching Chauvin on TV last May, when his knee was on George Floyd’s neck and people on the sidewalk were staring at him. The look on his face said What are you going to do about it, call the cops? 

“Ain’t no way he gets convicted back in the day,” Swamp Rabbit said. “Maybe things are changing. ”

Don’t get carried away, I told him. Technology has changed — the pervasiveness of smartphones being the prime example here — but cop culture remains pretty much what it always was. Cops have each other’s backs, just like outlaw motorcycle gang members. Their unwritten code discourages reporting or testifying against brother officers (and sisters, sometimes) who commit crimes. Some of Chauvin’s brothers turned against him in the end, but only because his crime was on video and especially gruesome.

“You ain’t telling me nothing new,” Swamp Rabbit said. “But the pressure is on. What about the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act?

“What about it?” I said. “Some state and local reforms have been made, but that federal bill won’t pass without support from Senate Republicans. The same gang that blocks all progressive bills. Some of them even fought to block the presidential election results.”

“But the Floyd verdicts change all that,” the rabbit insisted. “Republican will look like racists if they don’t do the right thing.”

“Most Republicans are racists,” I replied. “That’s one of the reasons you can usually count on them to do the wrong thing.”

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