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Robert Lipsyte, Cheering Through the Moral Drift

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What am I a fan of these days? Once upon a time, I would have said the New York Mets (or, far earlier, the Brooklyn Dodgers), or the New York (football) Giants, or the New York (basketball) Knicks. No longer. I can’t tell you why, but since the pandemic began, I’ve simply stopped doing what I had done all my life — listen to “my” team on the radio, then (once a TV arrived in our house) watch them on television. I still remember, for instance, seeing Willie Mays of the New York Giants running full-speed toward the wall in center field in the eighth inning of a tied game at the Polo Grounds in the 1954 World Series — I was 10 then — to basket-catch a blast by Cleveland slugger Vic Wertz.  (My hometown team would win that first game and the series.) At the time, I was still watching on the black-and-white TV we had only had for a little over a year then. And from that moment until 2020, I never stopped watching sports. It was part of the background of my life. Until, at least, the pandemic came to town, I was the definition of a fan.

But it seems that I’ve drifted elsewhere in a rather radical fashion. After all, I haven’t watched sports of any sort since Covid-19 broke on the scene. It wasn’t a decision, mind you. It just happened. Who knows what the pandemic did to my internalized version of fandom? So, am I a fan of anything anymore? Well, maybe, for instance, you could call me a “fan” of Greta Thunberg. No, that Swedish teenager will never play in the Super Bowl, but her striking devotion to saving our world from the worst imaginable harm makes me, in at least some sense of the word, distinctly a fan.

As for the rest of American fandom, the focus of former New York Times sports columnist and TomDispatch jock culture correspondent Robert Lipsyte today, whether watching sports or not, all too many of us have drifted all too far off course in these years. No basket-catches or slam dunks for such fans in the era of The Donald. It’s all slam bunks now. Tom

Flaming the Fans

How the Age of Trump Has Changed Fandom

If you think that the true focus of the recent World Series was what the Houston Astros and Atlanta Braves were doing on the field, you were either living in Texas, Georgia, or on some billionaire’s space station. In the world that lies somewhere between rabid fandom and total baseball disinterest, the fall classic actually proved to be a contest pitting the cheaters against the racists with a disturbing outcome that might be summed up this way: to the spoiled belongs the victory.

And don’t think this was purely a baseball phenomenon. I can’t wait to see who will be competing in next February's Super Bowl, although the most obvious early contenders are homophobia, sexism, and vaccination misinformation. As for the basketball, hockey, and Olympic seasons, I’m putting my money on the likelihood that predatory sexuality, financial inequality, and transgender discrimination will be right up there alongside the commercials for Nike and gambling.

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John Feffer, Anti-Globalists Unite to Take Over the World

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[Note for TomDispatch Readers: John Feffer’s latest book, Right Across the World: The Global Networking of the Far-Right and the Left Response, is a must-read account of how Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, and their international allies conspired to create a Nationalist International. Heidi Beirich of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism writes that the book “clearly lays out the challenges societies are facing from an increasingly mobilized transnational far-right movement. Unique because he also provides solutions.” Make sure to order yourself a copy, but any of you who want to support TomDispatch in return for your own signed, personalized copy of the book, should go to our donation page and contribute at least $100 (or, if you live outside the U.S.A., $150) and it’ll be yours. I suspect you’ll be riveted by it! Tom]

It’s not that I’ve never had a gun in my hands before. When I was a youngster, I shot .22s at a target range. But guns in the closet, often military-style ones? That’s not been part of my experience as a citizen. Sad to say, though, my gun-less household may, in a distinctly imaginable future, find itself in a minority in this country. After all, according to the Pew Research Center, 40% of Americans already claim that they live in a household with a gun and 30% that they personally possess one — and mind you, gun and ammunition sales have soared during the pandemic. (It’s too bad that one thing you can’t do with a gun is shoot down the multiplying variants of Covid-19 before they get you.)

Of course, when it comes to an armed citizenry, this country long ago left every other nation on Earth in the dust.  Yemen (Yemen!) comes in a wildly distant second when you’re counting armed civilians. And it’s only likely to get worse. As a start, it looks as if the Trumpified Supreme Court will soon send a New York gun law restricting the carrying of firearms in public down in flames. Recent polling among Republicans also suggests that almost 30% of them believe “true American patriots may have to resort to violence” to “save” this country.

Call it a sign of the times, but one of Kyle Rittenhouse’s first acts on being found not guilty of murdering two men and wounding another with a military-style assault rifle he was too young to legally possess — other than being interviewed by Tucker Carlson — was to visit Donald Trump at Mar-a-Largo, Florida. As the ex-president put it, Rittenhouse “wanted to know if he could come over and say hello because he was a fan” and he proved to be “really a nice young man. And what he went through, that was prosecutorial misconduct. He should not have had to suffer through a trial for that. He’s a really good, young guy.”

Consider all of this, by the way, just a hint of the world we could be living through in the years to come if, as TomDispatch regular and author of the Splinterlands Trilogy John Feffer suggests, the far right only grows stronger, locally and globally, which happens to be a distinct, if grim, possibility. Tom

The Donald Also Rises?

The Far Right Continues to Build Its International

What alt-right guru Steve Bannon failed to create, German taxpayers have just stepped in to revive: a Nationalist International. Thanks to the German government, the far right is about to get its own well-heeled global think tank, complete with the sort of political academy that was so dear to Bannon’s plan for world domination.

Germany’s gift to the far right is the Desiderius Erasmus Foundation, the public-policy arm of the country’s most prominent extremist party, the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). Erasmus, a Dutch humanist of the Renaissance best known for his ironic essay “In Praise of Folly,” would have been appalled at such a grotesque misappropriation of his name. The AfD, after all, has built its political base on a series of follies diametrically opposed to humanism, from its initial anti-immigration screeds to its current overtures to the anti-vaccination crowd.

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Michael Klare, War With China in 2027?

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Yep, it happened again for the 11th time this year. (In 2020, the number was 13.) An American warship, in this case the guided-missile destroyer Milius, sailed through the Taiwan Strait between mainland China and the disputed island of Taiwan to, as a Navy spokesperson put it, “demonstrate the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.” From the Navy point of view, the Milius’s recent voyage is nothing but a vivid demonstration that “the United States military flies, sails, and operates anywhere international law allows.” Who cares how upset Chinese officials might get?

And honestly, who can deny it? Anywhere is anywhere, no matter how loaded (if you’ll excuse that all-too-loaded word) the situation there might be. If Chinese officials are disturbed, how unreasonable of them!  TomDispatch regular Michael Klare, in fact, keeps a tally of such close encounters of the naval kind at his Committee for a Sane U.S.-China Policy website. So far this year, he’s already counted 56 of them in the region, no small number when you think about it and any one of which could lead, all too literally, to an explosive situation.

Yes, the spokesmen for the Chinese government, which claims the island of Taiwan as its own, complain bitterly about such constant provocations (as those officials see it). As one put it in response to the latest American sortie, “U.S. warships have repeatedly flexed muscles, made provocations, and stirred up trouble in the Taiwan Strait in the name of ‘freedom of navigation.’ This is by no means commitment to freedom and openness, but rather deliberate disruption and sabotage of regional peace and stability” — but who really cares?

Now, admittedly, I have yet to see American officials invite Chinese naval vessels to sail up and down the California coast, but no one in Washington would mind that, would they? Of course not! In fact, I’m sure, that, in the name of upholding international law, there’s an open invitation to some Chinese guided-missile destroyer to visit soon and often!  In the meantime, as Klare suggests today, such maneuvers might be the least of our future problems — with a potential World War III looming on the horizon. Tom

Countdown to World War III?

It 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.

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