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'Global empire of the US Christian right': Dark money fuels attacks on abortion rights worldwide

An investigation by the media outlet openDemocracy revealed Friday that the dark money groups masterminding the far-right assault on reproductive freedoms in the U.S. have also spent at least $28 million in recent years on efforts to roll back the rights of women and LGBTQ+ people worldwide.

The new analysis shows that prominent anti-abortion groups including the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the Federalist Society, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, the Family Research Council, and Focus on the Family and Heartbeat International have "been involved in recent efforts to limit reproductive rights in Europe and Latin America."

The organizations form what openDemocracy describes as "the 'dark money' global empire of the U.S. Christian right," which is exporting its legal strategy, army of lawyers, and resources overseas to forestall and reverse international progress on abortion access.

ADF, a far-right Christian legal advocacy group with ties to Justice Amy Coney Barrett, has spent years laying the groundwork for the draconian Mississippi abortion ban at the heart of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, a Supreme Court case that could imperil reproductive freedoms across the U.S.

But ADF's influence extends well beyond its home country. According to openDemocracy, the organization—whose global arm is called ADF International—spent $15.3 million between 2016 and 2019 on efforts to gut abortion rights overseas.

"The European offices of ACLJ and ADF have intervened in dozens of European court cases against sexual and reproductive rights," the outlet notes. "Last year, Poland's constitutional court voted to ban abortion in cases of fetal defects. [ACLJ] submitted arguments in favor of the new restrictions, condemned by the Council of Europe as a grave 'human rights violation.'"

"The European branch of ACLJ also intervened for the first time at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights," openDemocracy observes. "The government of El Salvador, where abortion is illegal in all circumstances, was sued for the imprisonment and death of a woman who had experienced a miscarriage."

As for the Federalist Society—of which all six current right-wing Supreme Court justices are either current or former members—"Europe was the main destination of foreign spending," openDemocracy finds.

"Europeans are too naive in thinking that achievements in women's rights and sexual and reproductive health are irreversible," said Sophie in 't Veld, a Dutch member of the European Parliament, told the outlet. "The anti-choice movement does not only have a lot of money, they also have a plan and the determination. Europe should wake up, and it should wake up fast."

While under U.S. tax law the far-right groups have largely succeeded in keeping their funding sources hidden from the public, openDemocracy examined "financial information disclosed by grantmakers" showing that the National Christian Foundation (NCF) and Fidelity Charitable donated $93 million to the organizations between 2016 and 2020.

openDemocracy graphic

Feminist researcher Sonia Corrêa of Sexuality Policy Watch said openDemocracy's report "exposes once again the long-running organic connections between anti-abortion forces in the U.S. and Latin America."

Neil Datta, secretary of the European Parliamentary Forum for Sexual and Reproductive Rights, similarly argued that the findings "further demonstrate the growing trend of religious extremists forging cross-border alliances to advance... pseudo-legal arguments and engaging in formal legal processes aiming to unstitch the fabric of human rights protection."

In an op-ed for the New York Times on Thursday, openDemocracy's Mary Fitzgerald argued that if the U.S. Supreme Court upholds Mississippi's abortion ban and undercuts Roe v. Wade, the nation will "join of a small cadre of increasingly authoritarian countries that have become more restrictive on abortion in recent years."

Fitzgerald went on to cite specific examples:

Poland's constitutional tribunal ruled on a retrograde abortion ban last year which effectively banned abortion in all cases apart from rape, incest or threat of life or health to the mother, after the ruling Law and Justice party packed the court.
Hungary's Viktor Orban is ramping up its talk on "family values," and a 2016 United Nations report criticized the country for obstructing abortion access.
Vladimir Putin's Russia has just joined the misleadingly titled Geneva Consensus Declaration: a document co-sponsored by the United States under the Trump administration with repressive governments including Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil, Mr. Orban's Hungary, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi's Egypt, and signed by dozens more of the world's most repressive regimes from Saudi Arabia to Uganda. (President Biden announced in January that the United States would withdraw.) The declaration's authors also claim that there is no international right to abortion.

"Later this month President Biden will host the Summit for Democracy, with a key focus on promoting human rights around the world," Fitzgerald noted. "But as U.S. courts continue to dismantle basic rights enjoyed in countless other modern democracies, the most pressing question must be: How can democracy do its job at home if only half the population is granted full human rights?"

New report urges Biden to stop arms sales fueling Saudi 'devastation' of Yemen

As the ongoing Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen's civil war continues to kill, maim, and displace civilians—over 300,000 of whom have died during more than seven years of fighting—a report published Thursday urges the Biden administration to end critical U.S. support for the atrocity-laden campaign by blocking pending arms sales and stopping future weapons transfers.

"During the Trump administration, the United States doubled down on its support of the regime in Saudi Arabia, regardless of how harshly the kingdom cracked down on human rights or how much devastation it caused through its war in Yemen," the Center for International Policy (CIP) report states.

Its author, CIP Arms and Security Program director William D. Hartung, writes he was initially hopeful that President Joe Biden would eschew the "cynical, transactional approach to U.S.-Saudi relations," but instead "the Biden administration's record so far has been mixed at best."

"The administration has halted two bomb sales to the Saudi regime, but it has offered $500 million in crucial maintenance and support for Saudi aircraft and continued the flow of U.S. arms offers already in the pipeline," he notes. "The administration has also made a $650 million offer of air-to-air missiles to the Saudi Royal Air Force."

"Most importantly," the report adds, "the Biden administration has refused to use U.S. leverage—in the form of a threat to cut off crucial U.S. spare parts and sustainment for the Saudi military—to force Riyadh to end its devastating blockade on Yemen and move towards an inclusive peace agreement to end the war."

Hartung notes that "the bulk of the weapons transferred to Saudi Arabia since 2009" are the result of deals made during the administration of Barack Obama, one of a long line of U.S. presidents who have courted the repressive Saudi monarchy since the discovery of oil in the desert kingdom in the 1930s.

"Arms sales offers to the kingdom totaled over $118 billion during the eight years of the Obama administration," he writes, "compared with $25 billion during the four years of the Trump administration and $1.1 billion so far in the first year of the Biden term."

While the losers of the war are clear—the United Nations Development Program says that 377,000 Yemeni civilians will have died by the end of this year—the report argues that the winners are "major contractors like Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and General Dynamics."

"All of the largest sales since 2009, including a $29 billion deal for Boeing F-15 aircraft, a $25 billion deal for Boeing Apache helicopters, a $15 billion deal for a Lockheed Martin THAAD missile defense system, [a] $10 billion deal for Lockheed Martin Multi-Mission Surface Combatant ships, a $5.4 billion deal for Raytheon PAC-3 missile defense interceptors, and a $1.57 billion deal for Raytheon Paveway bombs involved one of the four firms mentioned above as the primary supplier," notes Hartung.

The report calls on the Biden administration to "suspend all U.S. arms sales and military support to the Saudi regime—both new offers and systems still in the pipeline and yet to be delivered—as leverage to get Riyadh to end its blockade on humanitarian aid and commercial goods into Yemen, open Sana'a airport, and engage in good faith efforts to end the war."

Hartung says Congress should:

  • Force an end to all U.S. military support for Saudi Arabia by passing a War Powers Resolution in both houses;
  • Pass legislation to end all U.S. arms, maintenance, and spare parts [transfers] to the Saudi regime; and
  • Make it easier to block future sales to Saudi Arabia and other human rights abusers by requiring affirmative congressional approval of key arms sales, as opposed to the current approach which calls for veto-proof, joint resolutions of disapproval in both houses.

The new report comes after Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced resolutions to block the Saudi arms sale. A vote on the Senate measure is expected within days.

"Without U.S. arms, maintenance, and spare parts, the Saudi military would not be able to prosecute its brutal war in Yemen. It's hard to overstate the degree to which the Saudi military relies on U.S. support," Hartung said in a statement. "It's time for the Biden administration to cut off this support as a way to change Saudi conduct and relieve the suffering of the Yemeni people caused by Saudi actions."

The Pentagon's new warning means World War III may arrive sooner than you think

When the Department of Defense released its annual report on Chinese military strength in early November, one claim generated headlines around the world. By 2030, it suggested, China would probably have 1,000 nuclear warheads — three times more than at present and enough to pose a substantial threat to the United States. As a Washington Post headline put it, typically enough: “China accelerates nuclear weapons expansion, seeks 1,000 warheads or more, Pentagon says.”

The media, however, largely ignored a far more significant claim in that same report: that China would be ready to conduct “intelligentized” warfare by 2027, enabling the Chinese to effectively resist any U.S. military response should it decide to invade the island of Taiwan, which they view as a renegade province. To the newsmakers of this moment, that might have seemed like far less of a headline-grabber than those future warheads, but the implications couldn’t be more consequential. Let me, then, offer you a basic translation of that finding: as the Pentagon sees things, be prepared for World War III to break out any time after January 1, 2027.

To appreciate just how terrifying that calculation is, four key questions have to be answered. What does the Pentagon mean by “intelligentized” warfare? Why would it be so significant if China achieved it? Why do U.S. military officials assume that a war over Taiwan could erupt the moment China masters such warfare? And why would such a war over Taiwan almost certainly turn into World War III, with every likelihood of going nuclear?

Why “Intelligentization” Matters

First, let’s consider “intelligentized” warfare. Pentagon officials routinely assert that China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), already outmatches the U.S. in sheer numbers — more troops, more tanks, more planes, and especially more ships. Certainly, numbers do matter, but in the sort of high-paced “multi-domain” warfare American strategists envision for the future, “information dominance” — in the form of superior intelligence, communications, and battlefield coordination — is expected to matter more. Only when the PLA is “intelligentized” in this fashion, so the thinking goes, will it be able to engage U.S. forces with any confidence of success.

The naval aspect of the military balance between the two global powers is considered especially critical since any conflict between them is expected to erupt either in the South China Sea or in the waters around Taiwan. Washington analysts regularly emphasize the PLA’s superiority in sheer numbers of combat naval “platforms.” A Congressional Research Service (CRS) report released in October, for instance, noted that “China’s navy is, by far, the largest of any country in East Asia, and within the past few years it has surpassed the U.S. Navy in numbers of battle force ships, making China’s navy the numerically largest in the world.” Statements like these are routinely cited by Congressional hawks to secure more naval funding to close the “gap” in strength between the two countries.

As it happens, though, a careful review of comparative naval analyses suggests that the U.S. still enjoys a commanding lead in critical areas like intelligence collection, target acquisition, anti-submarine warfare, and data-sharing among myriad combat platforms — sometimes called C4ISR (for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance), or to use the Chinese terms, “informationized” and “intelligentized” warfare.

“Although China’s naval modernization effort has substantially improved China’s naval capabilities in recent years,” the CRS report noted, “China’s navy currently is assessed as having limitations or weaknesses in certain areas, including joint operations with other parts of China’s military, antisubmarine warfare, [and] long-range targeting.”

This means that, at the moment, the Chinese would be at a severe disadvantage in any significant encounter with American forces over Taiwan, where mastery of surveillance and targeting data would be essential for victory. Overcoming its C4ISR limitations has, therefore, become a major priority for the Chinese military, superseding the quest for superiority in numbers alone. According to the 2021 Pentagon report, this task was made a top-level priority in 2020 when the 5th Plenum of the 19th Central Committee established “a new milestone for modernization in 2027, to accelerate the integrated development of mechanization, informatization, and intelligentization of the PRC’s armed forces.” The achievement of such advances, the Pentagon added, “would provide Beijing with more credible military options in a Taiwan contingency.”

Five years is not a lot of time in which to acquire mastery over such diverse and technically challenging military capabilities, but American analysts nonetheless believe that the PLA is well on its way to achieving that 2027 milestone. To overcome its “capability gap” in C4ISR, the Pentagon report noted, “the PLA is investing in joint reconnaissance, surveillance, command, control, and communications systems at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels.”

If, as predicted, China succeeds by 2027, it will then be able to engage the U.S. Navy in the seas around Taiwan and potentially defeat it. This, in turn, would allow Beijing to bully the Taiwanese without fear of intervention from Washington. As suggested by the Defense Department in its 2021 report, China’s leadership has “connected the PLA’s 2027 goals to developing the capabilities to counter the U.S. military in the Indo-Pacific region and compel Taiwan’s leadership to the negotiation table on Beijing’s terms.”

Beijing’s Taiwan Nightmare

Ever since Chiang Kai-shek and the remnants of his Chinese Nationalist Party (the Kuomintang, or KMT) fled to Taiwan after the Communist takeover of China in 1949, establishing the Republic of China (ROC) on that island, the Communist Party leadership in Beijing has sought Taiwan’s “reunification” with the mainland. Initially, Taiwanese leaders also dreamed of reconquering the mainland (with U.S. help, of course) and extending the ROC’s sway to all of China. But after Chiang died in 1975 and Taiwan transitioned to democratic rule, the KMT lost ground to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which eschews integration with the mainland, seeking instead to establish an independent Taiwanese state.

As talk of independence has gained favor there, Chinese officials have sought to coax the Taiwanese public into accepting peaceful reunification by promoting cross-Strait trade and tourism, among other measures. But the appeal of independence appears to be growing, especially among younger Taiwanese who have recoiled at Beijing’s clampdown on civil liberties and democratic rule in Hong Kong — a fate they fear awaits them, should Taiwan ever fall under mainland rule. This, in turn, has made the leadership in Beijing increasingly anxious, as any opportunity for the peaceful reunification of Taiwan appears to be slipping away, leaving military action as their only conceivable option.

President Xi Jinping expressed the conundrum Beijing faces well in his November 15th Zoom interchange with President Biden. “Achieving China’s complete reunification is an aspiration shared by all sons and daughters of the Chinese nation,” he stated. “We have patience and will strive for the prospect of peaceful reunification with utmost sincerity and efforts. That said, should the separatist forces for Taiwan independence provoke us, force our hands, or even cross the red line, we will be compelled to take resolute measures.”

In fact, what Xi calls the “separatist forces for Taiwan independence” have already gone far beyond provocation, affirming that Taiwan is indeed an independent state in all but name and that it will never voluntarily fall under mainland rule. This was evident, for example, in an October 10th address by Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen. The island, she declared, must “resist annexation or encroachment upon our sovereignty,” directly rejecting Beijing’s right to ever rule Taiwan.

But if China does use force — or is “compelled to take resolute measures,” as Xi put it — Beijing would likely have to contend with a U.S. counterstroke. Under existing legislation, notably the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, the United States is under no obligation to aid Taiwan in such circumstances. However, that act also states that any use of force to alter Taiwan’s status will be viewed as a matter “of grave concern to the United States” — a stance known as “strategic ambiguity” as it neither commits this country to a military response, nor rules it out.

Recently, however, prominent figures in Washington have begun calling for “strategic clarity” instead, all but guaranteeing a military response to any Chinese strike against the island. “The United States needs to be clear that we will not allow China to invade Taiwan and subjugate it,” Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton typically said in a February 2021 address at the Ronald Reagan Institute. “I think the time has come to be clear: Replace strategic ambiguity with strategic clarity that the United States will come to the aid of Taiwan if China was to forcefully invade Taiwan or otherwise change the status quo across the [Taiwan] Strait.”

President Biden, too, seemed to embrace just such a position recently. When asked during an October CNN “town hall” whether the United States would protect Taiwan, he answered bluntly, “Yes, we have a commitment to do that.” The White House would later walk that statement back, insisting that Washington still adheres to the Taiwan Relations Act and a “One China” policy that identifies both Taiwan and mainland China as part of a single nation. Nonetheless, the administration has continued to conduct massive air and sea maneuvers in the waters off Taiwan, suggesting an inclination to defend Taiwan against any future invasion.

Clearly, then, Chinese policymakers must count on at least the possibility of U.S. military intervention should they order an invasion of Taiwan. And from their perspective, this means it won’t be safe to undertake such an invasion until the PLA has been fully intelligentized — a milestone it will achieve in 2027, if the Pentagon analysis is correct.

The Road to World War III

Nobody can be sure what the world will look like in 2027 or just how severe tensions over Taiwan could be by then. To take but one example, the DPP could lose to the KMT in that island’s 2024 presidential elections, reversing its march toward independence. Alternatively, China’s leadership could decide that a long-term accommodation with a quasi-independent Taiwan was the best possible recourse for maintaining its significant global economic status.

If, however, you stick with the Pentagon’s way of thinking, things look grim. You would have to assume that Taiwan will continue its present course and that Beijing’s urge to secure the island’s integration with the mainland will only intensify. Likewise, you would have to assume that the inclination of Washington policymakers to support an ever-more-independent Taiwan in the face of Chinese military action will only grow, as relations with Beijing continue to spiral downward.

From this circumscribed perspective, all that’s holding China’s leaders back from using force to take Taiwan right now is their concern over the PLA’s inferiority in intelligentized warfare. Once that’s overcome — in 2027, by the Pentagon’s reckoning — nothing will stand in the way of a Chinese invasion or possibly World War III.

Under such circumstances, it’s all too imaginable that Washington might move from a stance of “strategic stability” to one of “strategic clarity,” providing Taiwan’s leadership with an ironclad guarantee of military support in the face of any future attack. While this wouldn’t alter Chinese military planning significantly — PLA strategists undoubtedly assume that the U.S. would intervene, pledge or not — it could lead to complaisance in Washington, to a conviction that Beijing would automatically be deterred by such a guarantee (as Senator Cotton and many others seem to think). In the process, both sides could instead find themselves on the path to war.

And take my word for it, a conflict between them, however it began, could prove hard indeed to confine to the immediate neighborhood of Taiwan. In any such engagement, the principal job of Chinese forces would be to degrade American air and naval forces in the western Pacific. This could end up involving the widespread use of cruise and ballistic missiles to strike U.S. ships, as well as its bases in Japan, South Korea, and on various Pacific islands. Similarly, the principal job of the U.S. military would be to degrade Chinese air and naval forces, as well as its missile-launching facilities on the mainland. The result could be instant escalation, including relentless air and missile attacks, possibly even the use of the most advanced hypersonic missiles then in the U.S. and Chinese arsenals.

The result would undoubtedly be tens of thousands of combat casualties on both sides, as well as the loss of major assets like aircraft carriers and port facilities. Such a set of calamities might, of course, prompt one side or the other to cut its losses and pull back, if not surrender. The likelier possibility, however, would be a greater escalation in violence, including strikes ever farther afield with ever more powerful weaponry. Heavily populated cities could come under attack in China, Taiwan, Japan, or possibly elsewhere, producing hundreds of thousands of casualties.

Unless one side or the other surrendered — and which of these two proud nations is likely to do that? — such a conflict would continue to expand with each side calling for support from its allies. China would undoubtedly turn to Russia and Iran, the U.S. to Australia, India, and Japan. (Perhaps anticipating just such a future, the Biden administration only recently forged a new military alliance with Australia and the United Kingdom called AUKUS, while beefing up its “Quad” security arrangement with Australia, India, and Japan.)

In this way, however haltingly, a new “world war” could emerge and, worse yet, could easily escalate. Both the U.S. and China are already working hard to deploy hypersonic missiles and more conventional weaponry meant to target the other side’s vital defense nodes, including early-warning radars, missile batteries, and command-and-control centers, only increasing the risk that either side could misconstrue such a “conventional” attack as the prelude to a nuclear strike and, out of desperation, decide to strike first. Then we’re really talking about World War III.

Today, this must seem highly speculative to most of us, but to war planners in the Department of Defense and the Chinese Ministry of Defense, there’s nothing speculative about it. Pentagon officials are convinced that China is indeed determined to ensure Taiwan’s integration with the mainland, by force if necessary, and believe that there’s a good chance they’ll be called upon to help defend the island should that occur. As history suggests — think of the years leading up to World War I — planning of this sort can all too easily turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So, however speculative all of this may seem, it should be taken seriously by any of us who dread the very idea of a major future outbreak of war, let alone a catastrophe on the scale of World Wars I and II, or with nuclear weapons on a scale as yet unknown. If such a fate is to be avoided, far more effort will have to go into solving the Taiwan dilemma and finding a peaceful resolution to the island’s status.

As a first step (though don’t count on it these days), Washington and Beijing could agree to curtail their military maneuvers in the waters and airspace around Taiwan and consult with each other, as well as Taiwan’s representatives, on tension-reducing measures of various sorts. Talks could also be held on steps to limit the deployment of especially destabilizing weapons of any kind, including hypersonic missiles.

If the Pentagon is right, however, the time for such action is already running out. After all, 2027, and the possible onset of World War III, is only five years away.

Copyright 2021 Michael T. Klare

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer’s new dystopian novel, Songlands (the final one in his Splinterlands series), Beverly Gologorsky’s novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Michael T. Klare, a TomDispatch regular, is the five-college professor emeritus of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and a senior visiting fellow at the Arms Control Association. He is the author of 15 books, the latest of which is All Hell Breaking Loose: The Pentagon’s Perspective on Climate Change. He is a founder of the Committee for a Sane U.S.-China Policy.

This 42-year-old athlete tragically refused to get vaccinated for COVID-19 — before dying from it

In the U.K., John Eyers was an athlete who didn’t have any major health conditions. But Eyers was also an anti-vaxxer who downplayed the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and refused to wear face masks — and he was only 42 when he became infected with COVID-19 and died from it.

Journalist Sirin Kale discusses Eyers’ short life and anti-vaxxer views in an article published by The Guardian on November 30. And his sister, Jenny McCann, recalls some of the things Eyers said about COVID-19 vaccines and the pandemic during the final months of his life.

McCann recalls an argument she had with her brother in June 2021, telling The Guardian, “John started saying really crazy things that didn’t make sense. About how people were only getting the vaccine for free McDonald’s, and there was formaldehyde in it…. He kept saying: ‘I won’t be a guinea pig.’”

Jonathan Cohen, a close friend of Eyers, also urged him to get vaccinated. But Eyers kept listening to anti-vaxxers on social media.

Cohen told The Guardian, “I would tell him: ‘Why won’t you get the jab? You’ll need it if you want to go away on holiday.’ He kept saying that he wanted to wait. It wasn’t that he would never get it, but it was more the misinformation, really. For whatever reason, he would not listen to whatever message was coming out of the government. I’d say to him: ‘John, why are you listening to that rubbish?’”

Eyers, according to Kale, was critical of social distancing measures enacted in response to COVID-19, and he started refusing to wear protective face masks.

Ever notes, “John felt that COVID was real, but that it had been dramatically overstated by the authorities…. If he got the virus, he would be fine.”

According to McCann, “John mentioned to me once that one of his beliefs was that we shouldn’t live in a climate of fear around COVID. If you were young and fit and well, you’d be fine.”

Kale notes that Eyers “was extremely unlikely to die from COVID, as a physically fit 42-year-old with no underlying conditions.” But what Eyers didn’t understand, according to Kale, is that “someone who is unvaccinated is 32 times more likely to die of COVID than someone who has been vaccinated.”

Eyers first tested positive for COVID-19 on June 29, 2021, and he was placed on a ventilator around July 11. In late July, hospital workers informed Eyers’ relatives that they were unable to save him.

The American media misses the true nature of the GOP threat — but an international outlet nailed it

Jack Dorsey announced today plans to step down as head of Twitter. That prompted Candace Owens to say the following: “I’ve been telling people for years. Jack Dorsey is not your enemy. He is a prisoner at his own company. Good thing the Parler app is finally working properly and looks amazing. The communists will fully run Twitter soon.”

If you don’t already know Candace Owens, all you need to know is that she’s a koshering virtuoso. Like some Jewish people who make anti-Semitism seem respectable, Owens, who is Black, makes white supremacy seem fine and dandy. She appears to think Jack Dorsey had been some kind of bulwark against liberal sensibilities. Now that he’s leaving, she said, “the communists will fully run Twitter soon.”

I don’t care what Owens thinks about anything. Neither should you. Every word she says -- including “a” and “the” -- is a variety of bad faith. Even hyping Parler is deceptive. Authoritarians can’t succeed on the margins of media and society, where Parler is. To sabotage their enemies, they must appear as respectable as a Black woman koshering white supremacy. By blaming the “communists,” Owens is reminding followers of what they already believe true: they are the real victims.

While I don’t care about Owens, and neither should you, we should care about the use of the right’s rhetoric of slander, of which the word “communist” has long played a part in American history. Liberals and progressives first looked to the government as a force of social reform in the early 20th century. Around that time, the Russian Revolution occurred (1917). Since then, the American right has smeared liberals by associating their policies and objectives with godless communism.

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The history of the rhetoric of slander is so pernicious it’s hard, if not impossible, for a lot of (white) Americans to see what might be obvious otherwise. When the right accuses liberals of being communist (or socialist), they are covering up the common purpose they share with actual communists. Both factions are collectivist. Both are implacable. Both aim to replace the established order. Both regard the process of democratic reform as liberal decadence requiring the purifying violence of revolution. The difference is origins. Communism is mob rule arising from the left. Fascism is mob rule arising from the right.

That such slander is so pernicious as to prevent most (white) Americans from seeing what might be obvious otherwise means there’s an opportunity for international media outlets to say what needs saying. Such is the case for The Globalist. Though based in Washington, the publication takes an international view of economics, politics and culture in order to inform readers “how the world hangs together.”

And as far as I know, editor Stephan Richter, who is German, and senior editor Alexei Bayer, who is Russian, are the only writers to connect the Republican Party and the Russian Revolution. In a piece posted this month, they said: “The parallels between the Leninist power usurpation in early 20th century Russia and the Trumpian brigades in today’s United States are becoming ever more eerie.”

Nothing in modern Western history has ever come so close to the storming of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg as the events of January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC, when a riotous mob stormed the US Capitol. Ironically, these forces were out to preserve the rule of their “Czar”, Donald Trump, who had been defeated for re-election.

READ: Here are 5 reasons to suspect Jesus never existed

Most Americans associate mobs with the left on account of the right aggressively slandering the left for decades. Bayer and Richter, both of whom lived under the shadow of the Soviet Union, know better. While “the mob on the left also showed up in the summer of 2020 [and] turned legitimate protests against police brutality into a violent mob bacchanal,” they wrote, it’s the people ready to accuse the Democratic Party of being a den of communists who are the true heirs of chaos.

“The mainstream Democratic Party has denounced those riots,” Bayer and Richter wrote on Nov. 6. “Meanwhile, the Republican Party has transformed itself into the Party of Trump and therefore into the Party of Mob Rule. It is channeling its inner Leninist and baiting the mob.”

[The Democrats] passed an infrastructure bill and are proposing many long overdue measures to improve the lives of ordinary people. To this end, they are offering better health care, services for the elderly and educational assistance. Meanwhile, their Republican “colleagues” are stirring hatred in the mob toward all those measures — just like Lenin did back in 1917.

It’s an imperfect analogy. Like I said, the GOP is mob rule arising from the right. It seeks to maintain, to the point of open warfare, the hierarchies of power by which rugged white individuals stand on top. Lenin and his revolutionaries were mob rule arising from the left. They sought to flatten Russian society to the point of wholesale murder.

READ: 'Jan. 6 wasn't a fantasy': Top Missouri paper says it's 'long past time' for senate to investigate Josh Hawley

That it takes, however, an international media outlet that sees American politics from a European perspective to point out the similarities between them is instructive. The right’s rhetoric of slander has such a hold on Americans, most can’t see what’s in front of them.

Conservative British MP blames ‘female replacements’ of fictional male characters for ‘young men committing crime’

In the U.K., Conservative Party MP Nick Fletcher has been highly critical of Hollywood turning fictional characters that have historically been male into female characters — and he returned to that theme during a recent speech, arguing that doing so deprives men of "role models."

Fletcher, during his speech, said it is important for "men to have their own identity" and for "masculinity to be something that can be celebrated at times rather than continually vilified."

The MP argued, "There seems to be a call, from a tiny yet very vocal minority, that every male character or good role model must have a female replacement…. And it's not just James Bond. In recent years, we have seen Dr. Who, 'Ghostbusters,' Luke Skyywalker, Equalizer all replaced by women…. Is there any wonder we are seeing so many young men committing crime?"

How the 'near-term reality' of climate change will lead to 'warfare,' conflicts and 'political instability'

As climate change continues to accelerate, disasters will become more common — from floods, hurricanes and tornadoes in humid places to wildfires and droughts in areas known for dry heat. One of the results of all this severe weather, according to the Daily Beast's Mike Pearl, will be an increase in wars and military conflicts.

"Climate-related warfare is a near-term reality — not some far-off boogeyman — according to leading defense thinkers and military strategists," Pearl reports. "They are still talking about the importance of fighting climate change, but they're also making plans to fight other human beings because of climate change. So, where will these climate-related battles take place?"

Pearl continues, "Some people argue they already have, with controversial academic reports claiming recent conflicts were directly spurred by the effects of climate change. Other military advisers and strategists have identified specific new wars that could erupt in Asia, Africa or the Arctic."

The journalist points out that according to the think tank The Atlantic Council, conflicts could emerge as Russia and China look for new shipping routes through areas around Greenland, Iceland and the Arctic Circle. But Matthew Rendall, a lecturer at the University of Nottingham, believes that Syria and Somalia will be more likely climate battlegrounds.

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Rendall told the Beast, "They are already hot. Most of them are also a lot poorer. As a result, they're more likely to suffer acute resource shortages, mass migration of refugees, and political instability. Moreover, China and Russia have nuclear weapons. They may quarrel over the Arctic, but they are unlikely to fight World War III over it — that would just be too costly."

Biden taps the Strategic Petroleum Reserve — here's what you should know about it

by Scott L. Montgomery, University of Washington

President Joe Biden ordered a release of oil from its Strategic Petroleum Reserve on Nov. 23, 2021, as a part of a coordinated effort with five other countries to tamp down rising fuel prices. The U.S. plans to tap 50 million barrels of crude oil in the coming months, while the other nations – the U.K., India, Japan, Korea and China – are said to be releasing about 11 million barrels in total.

But what is the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, why was it created and when has it been used? And does it still serve a purpose, given that the U.S. exports more oil and other petroleum products than it imports?

As an energy researcher, I believe considering the reserve's history can help answer these questions.

Origins of the reserve

Congress created the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as part of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 in response to a global oil crisis.

Arab oil-exporting states led by Saudi Arabia had cut supply to the world market because of Western support for Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Oil prices quadrupled, resulting in major economic damage to the U.S. and other countries. This also shook the average American, who had grown used to cheap oil.

The oil crisis caused the U.S., Japan and 15 other advanced countries to form the International Energy Agency in 1974 to recommend policies that would forestall such events in the future. One of the agency's key ideas was to create emergency petroleum reserves that could be drawn on in case of a severe supply disruption.

The Energy Policy and Conservation Act originally stipulated the reserve should hold up to 1 billion barrels of crude and refined petroleum products. Though it has never reached that size, the U.S. reserve is the largest in the world, with a maximum volume of 713.5 million barrels. It currently holds a little over 600 million barrels of crude oil.

Oil in the reserve is stored underground in a series of large underground salt domes in four locations along the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana and is linked to major supply pipelines in the region.

Salt domes, formed when a mass of salt is forced upward, are a good choice for storage since salt is impermeable and has low solubility in crude oil. Most of the storage sites were acquired by the federal government in 1977 and became fully operational in the 1980s.

History of drawdowns

In the 1975 act, Congress specified that the reserve was intended to prevent “severe supply interruptions" – that is, actual oil shortages.

Over time, as the oil market has changed, Congress expanded the list of reasons for which the SPR could be tapped, such as domestic supply interruptions due to extreme weather.

Before the latest drawdown, more than 230 million barrels of crude oil had been released since the reserve's creation. The amount of the November 2021 release, 50 million barrels, is the largest so far.

There have only been three emergency releases in the reserve's history. The first was in 1991 after Iraq invaded Kuwait the year before, which resulted in a sharp drop in oil supply to the world market. The U.S. released 33.75 million barrels.

The second release, of 30 million barrels, came in 2005 after Hurricanes Rita and Katrina knocked out Gulf of Mexico production, which then comprised about 25% of U.S. domestic supply.

The third was a coordinated release by the International Energy Agency in 2011 as a result of supply disruptions from several oil-producing countries including Libya, then facing civil unrest during the Arab Spring. In all, the IEA coordinated a release of 60 million barrels of crude, half of which came from the U.S.

In addition, there have been 11 planned sales of oil from the reserve, mainly to generate federal revenue. One of these – in particular the 1996-1997 sale to reduce the federal budget deficit – seemed to serve political ends rather than supply-related ones.

Biden's decision to tap the reserve was similarly seen as political by Republicans because there's no emergency shortage of supply. The White House said part of the release is an acceleration of planned sales approved by Congress, while the rest is an exchange that will return to the reserve over time.

Is the reserve still necessary?

Because the U.S. is today a net petroleum exporter, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve has entered a new era. Some of its original rationale and function – to be used in emergencies to ensure the U.S. has a steady supply of oil – are gone.

And efforts to reduce global carbon emissions and the use of oil – for example, with more electric cars and other vehicles on the road – will likely only reduce the need for such a reserve.

Indeed, Congress has recognized the reality that oil exports have been declining. It mandated annual sales from the reserve beginning in 2017 and extending through 2028 – for a total of 271 million barrels.

But as long as the reserve is available, Biden's use of it primarily in hopes of reducing gas prices – which will take time to have any effect, if any – suggests Americans will see many more similar releases in the years to come.

[Get the best of The Conversation, every weekend. Sign up for our weekly newsletter.]The Conversation

Scott L. Montgomery, Lecturer, Jackson School of International Studies, University of Washington

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Noam Chomsky warns of 'very dangerous' US antagonism toward China

Linguist and dissident Noam Chomsky this week condemned the Biden administration's aggressive anti-China foreign policy, while dismissing the imperialist notion that Beijing poses a threat to the United States and urging a departure from the "provocation" that for decades has characterized the U.S. stance toward the rising giant.

Appearing on Democracy Now! earlier this week, Chomsky—a renowned critic of American militarism—accused President Joe Biden of continuing a perilous policy of confrontation with China.

While acknowledging that Biden "has eliminated some of the more gratuitously savage elements" of former President Donald Trump's policies—including suspending U.S. funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA)—Chomsky contended that "the trajectory is not optimistic."

"Biden has pretty much picked up Trump's foreign policy," he asserted. "The worst case is the increasing provocative actions towards China. That is very dangerous."

Chomsky continued:

By now there is constant talk about what is called the China threat. You can read it in sober, reasonable, usually reasonable journals, about the terrible China threat, and that we have to move expeditiously to contain and limit the China threat.
What exactly is the China threat? Actually that question is rarely raised here. It is discussed in Australia, the country that is right in the claws of the dragon. Recently the distinguished statesman, former Prime Minister Paul Keating, did have an essay in the Australian press about the China threat. He finally concluded realistically that the China threat is China's existence.

Speaking at the National Press Club of Australia earlier this month, Keating—who served as prime minister representing the center-left Labour Party from 1991 to 1996—accused his country's right-wing government of acting against its own interests by supporting the United States as it engages in what anti-imperialists have called "saber-rattling" over Taiwan.

"Taiwan is not a vital Australian interest," Keating insisted in his controversial speech. "We have no alliance with Taipei."

"We are committed to ANZUS for an attack on U.S. forces, but... not an attack by U.S. forces, which means Australia should not be drawn, in my view, into a military engagement over Taiwan," he added, referring to the Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty.

That Cold War-era pact is now 60 years old. More recently, the U.S. and some of its close allies have antagonized Beijing by signing the anti-China Australia-United Kingdom-United States (AUKUS) military agreement. The U.S., Australia, India, and Japan have also launched the Quadrilateral Security Dialog to address concerns about China.

"One U.S. submarine can destroy almost 200 cities anywhere in the world with its nuclear weapons."

Chomsky said U.S. antagonism toward China is motivated by the fact that the burgeoning superpower cannot be controlled by Washington.

"The U.S. will not tolerate the existence of a state that cannot be intimidated the way Europe can be, that does not follow U.S. orders the way Europe does but pursues its own course," he said. "That is the threat."

While acknowledging the "terrible things" the Chinese government does within its own borders, Chomsky insisted that "they are not a threat."

Turning the rhetorical tables, he asked: "Is the U.S. support for Israel's terrorist war against two million people in Gaza where children are being poisoned—a million children are facing poisoning because there's no drinkable water, is that a threat to China?"

"It is a horrible crime," he said, "but it is not a threat to China."

Critics of U.S. foreign policy have noted that while China has not started a war in over a generation, the United States has invaded, bombed, or occupied over a dozen nations since the 1980s.

Chomsky called the imbalance in military power between the United States—which has thousands of nuclear weapons and spends more money on its war machine than the next 10 nations combined—and China "laughable."

"One U.S. submarine can destroy almost 200 cities anywhere in the world with its nuclear weapons," he noted. "China in the South China Sea has four old noisy submarines which can't even get out because they're contained by superior U.S. and allied force."

The international climate summit sidelined a central issue for cutting emissions

The impact of agriculture on climate change is significant. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the agriculture sector is responsible for 10 percent of the total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, after transportation (29 percent), electricity production (25 percent), industry (23 percent), and commercial and residential usage (13 percent). However, according to Peter Lehner, managing attorney for EarthJustice, a nonprofit environmental law firm, the EPA estimate is "almost certainly significantly quite low."

Lehner argues that most analyses exclude five unique sources of emissions from the farming sector: soil carbon (carbon released during the disturbance of soil), lost sequestration (carbon that would still be sequestered in the ground had that land not been converted into farmland), input footprints (carbon footprint for products used in agriculture, like the manufacturing of fertilizer), difficult measurements (it is harder to measure the carbon emissions of biological systems like agriculture than it is to measure the emissions of other industries that are not biological, like transportation), and potent gases (like methane and nitrous oxide).

Regarding that last source: Focusing on carbon dioxide as the main greenhouse gas often ignores powerful planet-warming gases that are emitted by agriculture and that are even more potent than carbon dioxide. Methane, which is emitted by the burps and farts of ruminants like cows and sheep, has up to 86 times more global warming potential over a 20-year period than carbon dioxide (and also impacts public health, particularly in frontline communities). Nitrous oxide, a byproduct of fertilizer runoff, has 300 times more warming potential than carbon dioxide (and also harms plants and animals).

"Most other studies, including by the [United Nations (UN)] and others, say that agriculture contributes much closer to 15 or 20 percent or more of world greenhouse gas emissions," Lehner points out.

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Disappointingly, agriculture was not a central topic of discussion at COP26, the international climate summit that recently concluded in Glasgow, Scotland. "Despite [the] huge impact to ecological systems and climate," writes Suzannah Gerber, a nutrition scientist and fellow of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture—a research agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture—"specific high-level talks about agriculture comprised less than 5 percent of all official negotiations and less than 10 percent of side events, favoring the less controversial topic of renewable energy."

And while renewable energy supporters cheered the fact that the Glasgow Climate Pact is the first UN climate agreement to explicitly mention "coal" and "fossil fuels"—something that the fossil fuel industry fought hard against in previous summits, and that China and India managed to water down in the current agreement—the pact makes no mention of the words "agriculture" or "food."

Meat Is Murder—for Animals and the Environment

Forests continue to be clear-cut to make room for farms, such as factory farms—which supply humans' appetite for meat—and plantations that produce the world's most used vegetable oil: palm oil. And while deforestation and methane emissions were main topics at COP26 (resulting in pledges to reduce both), agriculture—which is intimately linked to deforestation and land-use change—was relegated to a sideline topic. "Unlike forest, finance and transport—that got the feted 'title of a day' at … [COP26]—agriculture was taken up as part of 'Nature Day' on a Saturday," reported Richard Mahapatra for Down to Earth. "Outside the venue, thousands protested against a gamut of things, including step-motherly treatment to food systems that have been a major source of greenhouse gas… emissions."

Within agriculture, producing meat is the main climate problem: Plant-based foods account for 29 percent of the global food production greenhouse gas emissions, while animal-based food accounts for almost twice as much—57 percent—with beef being the main contributor. "Every bite of burger boosts harmful greenhouse gases," said the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). "Research shows that if cows were a nation, they would be the world's third-largest greenhouse gas emitter," according to UNEP. "As humans, meat production is one of the most destructive ways in which we leave our footprint on the planet."

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And many, many more human footprints are on the way. By 2050, the human population is expected to reach a staggering 9.9 billion people. (Today, there are 7.7 billion people on the planet; just 50 years ago, the global population was less than half that number.) To ensure global food security in 2050, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said that food production must increase by 60 percent.

A More Sustainable Future Is Plant-Powered

Animal-based agriculture is ultimately a poor way to feed a skyrocketing human population. "Farming animals is notoriously inefficient and wasteful when compared to growing plants to feed humans directly, with the end result that 'livestock' animals take drastically more food from the global food supply than they provide," writes Ashley Capps, a researcher specializing in farmed animal welfare for A Well-Fed World, an international food security organization advocating for the transition to plant-based agriculture.

"This is because in order to eat farmed animals, we have to grow the crops necessary to feed them, which amounts to vastly more crops than it would take to feed humans directly," writes Capps. "To give one example, it takes 25 pounds of grain to yield just one pound of beef—while crops such as soy and lentils produce, pound for pound, as much protein as beef, and sometimes more."

Switching to plant-based agriculture would help prevent food shortages, hunger and even famine at a time when climate change is creating food insecurity across the globe. Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, had warned during the Saudi Green Initiative Forum on October 24 that failure to stem the climate crisis "would mean less food, so probably a crisis in food security."

READ: The dark Trumptopia we inhabit is the world science fiction warned us about

A Well-Fed World points out that "[c]limate change is a hunger risk multiplier, with 20 percent more people projected to be at risk of hunger by 2050 due to extreme weather events. Unfortunately, the world's most food insecure populations are also those disproportionately harmed by climate-related events, including increased heat waves, droughts, hurricanes, tsunamis and flooding."

Climate, Conflict and COVID-19: A Perfect Storm

"A perfect storm of conflict, climate crises, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising costs for reaching people in need is causing a seismic hunger crisis," warns the World Food Program, the food assistance branch of the UN. The agency has recently launched a public appeal to the world's billionaires to donate $6.6 billion to save 42 million people across 43 countries from famine.

"Concurrently replacing all animal-based items in the U.S. diet with plant-based alternatives will add enough food to feed, in full, 350 million additional people, well above the expected benefits of eliminating all supply chain food waste," according to a 2018 study by an international team of researchers published in the journal Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. The authors note that the results of their study "highlight the importance of dietary shifts to improving food availability and security."

The dietary shift from meat to plants is something that UNEP has underscored as a way to combat climate change and increase the efficiency of our food system. In their Emissions Gap Report 2021, the agency noted that—in addition to switching from the combustion of natural gas to renewables—"behavioral changes such as reduced consumption of cattle-based foods and reduced food waste and loss" present a significant opportunity to reduce methane emissions. "[F]ast methane action, as opposed to slower or delayed action, can contribute greatly to reducing midterm (2050) temperatures," the report states.

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COP26's Missed Opportunity

In many ways, this behavioral change is already underway, as veganism is on the rise. "It can be difficult to get an accurate picture of how many vegans there are in the U.S., but one survey found a 300 percent increase in vegans between 2004 and 2019, amounting to about 3 percent of the total population or nearly 10 million people," notes Sentient Media, a nonprofit animal rights journalism organization. Still, even though there has been a steady increase in plant-based diets, meat consumption is hitting record levels, aided by carnivores in low- and middle-income countries where incomes are on the rise, like India and China.

Considering the growing interest in plant-based eating, the COP26 negotiators missed an opportunity to make dietary and agricultural changes a main thrust of the global climate solution. "Without positions and main messages from COP26 leadership, the need to address the climate change contributions from diet will not be able to gain ground," writes Gerber. In the UN-managed "Blue Zone" at the Glasgow Science Center, for example, while COP26 attendees were presented with mainly animal-based food choices, only 38 percent of the menu was plant-based, as opposed to the earlier promise of ensuring "50 percent plant-based offerings within the Blue Zone."

In order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels (which will help avoid the worst impacts of climate change), the world must achieve net zero emissions by 2050. To meet this goal, the COP26 organizers listed four distinct strategies: accelerate the phase-out of coal; curtail deforestation; speed up the switch to electric vehicles, and encourage investment in renewables.

They would have done well to add a fifth: transition the world to a plant-based diet.

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Reynard Loki is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute, where he serves as the editor and chief correspondent for Earth | Food | Life. He previously served as the environment, food and animal rights editor at AlterNet and as a reporter for Justmeans/3BL Media covering sustainability and corporate social responsibility. He was named one of FilterBuy's Top 50 Health & Environmental Journalists to Follow in 2016. His work has been published by Yes! Magazine, Salon, Truthout, BillMoyers.com, Counterpunch, EcoWatch and Truthdig, among others.

The dark Trumptopia we inhabit is the world science fiction warned us about

Who knew that Martians, inside monstrous tripodal machines taller than many buildings, actually ululated, that they made eerily haunting "ulla, ulla, ulla, ulla" sounds? Well, let me tell you that they do — or rather did when they were devastating London.

I know that because I recently reread H.G. Wells's 1898 novel War of the Worlds, while revisiting an early moment in my own life. Admittedly, I wasn't in London when those Martian machines, hooting away, stalked boldly into that city, hungry in the most literal fashion imaginable for human blood. No surprise there, since that was almost a century and a quarter ago. Still, at 77, thanks to that book, I was at least able to revisit a moment that had been mine long enough ago to seem almost like fiction.

Yes, all those years back I had been reading that very same novel for the very first time under the covers by flashlight. I still remember being gripped, thrilled, and scared, at a time when my parents thought I was asleep. And believe me, if you do that at perhaps age 12 or 13, you really do feel as if you've been plunged into a futuristic world from hell, ululations and all.

But of course, scary as it might have been, alone in the dark, to secretly live through the Martian desolation of parts of England and the slaughter of countless human beings at their hands (actually, more like the tentacles of octopi), as if they were no more than irritating bugs, I was always aware of another reality as well. After all, there was still the morning (guaranteed to come), my breakfast, my dog Jeff, my bus trip to school with my friend Jim, my anything-but-exciting ordinary life, and my sense, in the ascendant Cold War America of the 1950s, of a future extending to the distant horizon that looked boring as hell, without even a stray Martian in sight. (How wrong I would turn out to be from the Vietnam War years on!)

I felt that I needed some Martians then. I needed something, anything, to shake up that life of mine, but the sad truth is that I don't need them now, nor do the rest of us. Yet, in so many ways, in an America anything but ascendant, on a planet that looks like it's in a distinctly War-of-the-Worlds-style version of danger, the reality is that they're already here.

And sadly enough, we Americans and humanity in general seem little more effective against the various Martian stand-ins of today than the human beings Wells wrote about were then. Remember that his Martians finally went down, but not at the hands of humanity. They were taken out, "after all man's devices had failed," as the novelist expressed it then, "by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth." The conquerors of those otherwise triumphant Martians were, he reported, "the putrefactive and disease bacteria against which their systems were unprepared."

If only we were so lucky in our own Wellsian, or do I mean Trumptopian (as in dystopian, not utopian) world?

Living in a Science-Fiction (or Science-Fact) Novel?

In the 1950s, I went on to read, among other books, John Wyndham's Day of the Triffids (about giant killer plants taking humanity apart), Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers, and Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy which sent me into distant galaxies. And that was before, in 1966, I boarded the USS Enterprise with Captain James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock to head for deep space in person — at least via my TV screen in that pre-Meta era.

Today, space is evidently something left to billionaires, but in the 1950s and 1960s the terror of invading aliens or plants with a taste for human flesh (even if they had perhaps been bioengineered in the all-too-Earthbound Soviet Union) had a certain strange appeal for the bored boy I was then. The future, it seemed, needed a Martian or two or a Triffid or two. Had I known, it wouldn't have mattered in the least to me then that Wells had evidently created those Martians, in part, to give his British readers some sense of what it must have felt like for the Tasmanians, living on an island off the coast of Australia, to be conquered and essentially eradicated by British colonists early in the nineteenth century.

So, yes, I was indeed then fascinated by often horrific futures, by what was coming to be known as science fiction. But honestly, if you had told me that, as a grownup, I would find myself living in a science-fiction (or do I mean science-fact?) novel called perhaps Trumptopia, or The Day of the Heat Dome, or something similar, I would have laughed you out of the room. Truly, I never expected to find myself in such a world without either those covers or that flashlight as protection.

As president, Donald Trump would prove to be both a Martian and a Triffid. He would, in fact, be the self-appointed and elected stand-in for what turned out to be little short of madness personified. When a pandemic struck humanity, he would, as in that fictional England of 1898, take on the very role of a Martian, an alien ready to murder on a mass scale. Though few like to think of it that way, we spent almost two years after the Covid-19 pandemic began here being governed (to use a word that now sounds far too polite) by a man who, like his supporters and like various Republican governors today, was ready to slaughter Americans in staggering numbers.

As Trump's former White House Covid-19 response coordinator Deborah Birx recently testified, by rejecting everything from masking to social distancing in the early months of the pandemic (not to speak of personally hosting mass superspreader events at the White House and elsewhere), he would prove an all-too-literal murderer — though Birx was far too polite to use such a word. In the midst of a pandemic that has, by now, killed an estimated 17 million people globally and perhaps more than a million Americans, he would, she believed, be responsible for at least 130,000 of those early deaths. That's already slaughter on a monumental scale. (Keep in mind that, in the Trumpian tradition, from Florida's Ron DeSantis to Texas's Greg Abbott, Republican governors have continued in that distinctly murderous tradition to this very moment.)

Lights Off, Flashlights On?

And when it came to slaughter, the Trumpian/Republican response to Covid-19 will likely prove to be the milder kind of destruction they represented. As a climate denialist (it was a Chinese hoax!) and a major supporter of the fossil-fuel industry (no wonder the Saudis adored him!), The Donald would prove all too ready to all-too-literally boost the means to destroy this planet.

And wouldn't you say that the various Trump supporters who now make up what's still, for reasons unknown, called the Republican Party are ululating all too often these days, as they hover over dead and dying Americans, or at least those they would be perfectly willing to see wiped off this planet?

Sadly enough, however, you can't just blame Donald Trump and the Republicans for our increasingly endangered planet. After all, who needs giant Martians or monstrous human-destroying plants when carbon dioxide and methane will, in the long run, do the trick? Who needs aliens like Martians and Triffids, given the global fossil-fuel industry?

Keep in mind that more representatives of that crew were accredited as delegates at the recent Glasgow climate-change talks than of any country on the planet. That industry's CEOs have long been all too cognizant of climate change and how it could ravage this world of ours. They have also been all too willing to ignore it or even to put significant funds into climate-denial outfits. If, in 2200, there are still historians left to write about this world of ours, I have little doubt that they'll view those CEOs as the greatest criminals in what has been a sordid tale of human history.

Nor, sadly enough, when it comes to this country, can you leave the Democrats out of the picture of global destruction either. Consider this, for instance: after the recent talks in Glasgow, President Biden returned home reasonably triumphant, swearing he would "lead by example" when it came to climate-change innovation. He was, of course, leaving behind in Scotland visions of a future world where, according to recent calculations, the temperature later in this century could hit 2.4 to 2.7 degrees Celsius (4.32 to 4.86 degrees Fahrenheit) above that of the pre-industrial age. That, of course, would be a formula for destruction on a devastating scale.

Just to consider the first leading "example" around, four days after Glasgow ended, the Biden administration began auctioning off to oil and gas companies leases for drilling rights to 80 million acres of public waters in the Gulf of Mexico. And that, after all, is an administration headed by a president who actually seems committed to doing something about climate change, as in his ever-shrinking Build Back Better bill. But that bill is, of course, being Manchinized right now by a senator who made almost half a million dollars last year off a coal brokerage firm he founded (and that his son now runs). In fact, it may never pass the Senate with its climate-change elements faintly intact. Keep in mind as well that Manchin is hardly alone. One in four senators reportedly still have fossil-fuel investments and the households of at least 28 of them from both parties "hold a combined minimum of $3.7 million and as much as $12.6 million in fossil-fuel investments."

Take one small story, if you want to grasp where this country seems headed right now. As you may remember, the Trump administration worked assiduously to infringe upon national parks and indigenous lands to produce yet more fossil fuels. Recently, President Biden announced that his administration, having already approved a much-protested $9 billion pipeline to carry significant amounts of oil through tribal lands in Minnesota, would take one small but meaningful remedial step. As the New York Times described it, the administration would move "to block new federal oil and gas leasing within a 10-mile radius around Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, one of the nation's oldest and most culturally significant Native American sites."

I know you won't be shocked by what followed, sadly enough. The response was predictable. As the Times put it, that modest move "generated significant pushback from Republicans and from New Mexico's oil and gas industry." Natch! And that, of course, is but the smallest of stories at a time when we have a White House at least officially committed to dealing in some reasonable fashion with the overheating of this planet.

Now, imagine that the Republicans win the House and Senate in the 2022 elections and Donald Trump (or some younger version of the same) takes the 2024 presidential election in a country in which Republican state legislators have already rejiggered so many voting laws and gerrymandered so many voting districts that the results could be devastating. You would then, of course, have a party controlling the White House and Congress that's filled with climate-change denialists and fossil-fuel enthusiasts of the first order. (Who cares that this country is already being battered by fire, flood, and heat in a devastating fashion?) To grasp what that would mean, all you have to do is expand the ten-mile radius of that New Mexican story to the country as a whole — and then the planet.

And at that point, in all honesty, you could turn off the lights, flick on that old flashlight of mine, and be guaranteed that you, your children, and your grandchildren will experience something in your everyday lives that should have been left under the covers. As almost happened in The War of the Worlds, it's possible that we could, in essence, kiss this planet goodbye and if that's not science fiction transformed into fact of the first order, what is?

The Martians Have Arrived

You know, H.G. Wells wasn't such a dope when it came to the future. After all, his tripodal Martian machines had a "kind of arm [that] carried a complicated metallic case, about which green flashes scintillated, and out of the funnel of this there smoked the Heat-Ray." In 1898, he was already thinking about how heat of a certain sort could potentially destroy humanity. Today, the "Martians" stepping out of those space capsules happen to be human beings and they, too, are emerging with devastating heat rays.

Just ask my friend journalist Jane Braxton Little, whose town, Greenville, largely burned down in California's record-breaking Dixie Fire this fall, a climate-change-influenced inferno so vast and fierce that it proved capable of creating its own weather. Imagine that for our future.

Of course, in another sense, you could say that we've been living in a science-fiction novel since August 6, 1945, when that first American nuclear bomb devastated Hiroshima. Until then, we humans could do many terrible things, but of one thing we were incapable: the destruction of this world. In the nearly eight decades that followed, however, the Martians have indeed arrived and we human beings have taken over a role once left to the gods: the ability to create Armageddon.

Still, the truth is that we don't know how our own sci-fi tale will end. As in War of the Worlds, will some equivalent of those bacteria that took down the Martians arrive on the scene, perhaps some scientific discovery about how to deal so much better with the greenhouse gases eternally heading into our atmosphere? Will humanity, Greta Thunberg-style, come together in some new, more powerful way to stop this world from destroying itself? Will some brilliant invention, some remarkable development in alternative energy use, make all the difference in the world? Will the United States, China, and other key fossil-fuel burners finally come together in a way now hardly imaginable?

Or will we truly find ourselves living in Trumptopia?

Stay tuned.

Copyright 2021 Tom Engelhardt

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Books, John Feffer's new dystopian novel, Songlands (the final one in his Splinterlands series), Beverly Gologorsky's novel Every Body Has a Story, and Tom Engelhardt's A Nation Unmade by War, as well as Alfred McCoy's In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power and John Dower's The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II.

Tom Engelhardt created and runs the website TomDispatch.com. He is also a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of a highly praised history of American triumphalism in the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. A fellow of the Type Media Center, his sixth and latest book is A Nation Unmade by War.

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