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Robert Lipsyte, Sportswashing Saudi Arabia

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[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Due to family health issues, I’m taking some rare time off. I’m not quite sure how long. At most, I’ll be back right after Labor Day. Tom]

He’s never been either an apprentice or a man to miss the main chance. The latest example: only recently in mourning (or do I mean morning?) for his first wife, Ivana, he buried her on the golf course he owns in Bedminster, New Jersey. As the New York Post reported, “Not too far from the main clubhouse” — all too appropriately “below the backside of the first tee.”

Oh, as ProPublica noted, the Trump family trust had already established a non-profit funeral business 20 miles away “exempt from the payment of any real estate taxes, rates and assessments or personal property taxes on lands and equipment dedicated to cemetery purposes.” Now, it’s possible that Bedminster could qualify, too, and conceivably get similar tax exemptions.

In other words, his long-rejected wife could all-too-literally prove to be par for the course when it comes to The Donald. He might even profit from her death. How thoroughly expectable, don’t you think? And that’s not the only way in which our former president has been out golfing lately, though not, of course, anywhere near his Mar-a-Lago club, which has been left, for the time being, to the FBI.

No, I was thinking of his latest Saudi escapade, this time with golf club in hand, as TomDispatch regular Robert Lipsyte, author most recently of SportsWorld: An American Dreamland, explains today. Tom

Being Anything But a Good Sport in Saudi Arabia

Even Trump Has a Hand in the Attempted Hijacking of Golf

Here's the big question in Jock Culture these days: Is the Kingdom of Golf being used to sportswash the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia? Or is it the other way around? After all, what other major sport could use a sandstorm of Middle Eastern murder and human-rights abuses to obscure its own history of bigotry and greed? In fact, not since the 1936 Berlin Olympics was used to cosmeticize Nazi Germany’s atrocities and promote Aryan superiority have sports and an otherwise despised government collaborated so blatantly to enhance their joint international standings.

Will it work this time?

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Kelly Denton-Borhaug, Living on a Planet of Lies

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Ripley’s Believe It or Not has nothing on our moment and it hardly matters where you start! Take, for instance, our last president’s complaint about the U.S. military, according to a new book, The Divider: Trump in the White House, by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser. While in office, he was, it seems, embittered that “his” generals weren’t as loyal as Adolf Hitler’s had been. And not just them either.  As he said to his chief of staff John Kelly (“preceding the question with an obscenity”), “Why can’t you be like the German generals?” Why indeed?

For the president who, according to the Washington Post, made 30,573 false or misleading claims while in the White House, reality has always been a branch of fiction. Whether you’re talking about elections (fraudulent!) or an unprecedented FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago estate (“They even broke into my safe!”), you can count on one thing: he’ll invariably stretch fact to the edge of fiction, if not far beyond. After all, our world turns out to be eternally up for grabs, a story ready to be made up on the spot.

And he’s anything but alone. From Georgia congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene to Arizona Senate nominee Blake Masters to Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, these days the Trumpublican party couldn’t be a wilder compendium of ever more bizarre and violent fiction. In fact (if you’ll excuse the use of that phrase), we increasingly live in a world where fiction is the new fact. And all too many people, not just Alex Jones, have long been glorying in that reality. (Remember as well that if you reject any of those fictions, as Liz Cheney has, you better have enough money to hire some full-time security for yourself.)

And don’t just blame Donald Trump either! As Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank pointed out recently, he didn’t create our present world. He was just “a brilliant opportunist; he saw the direction the Republican Party was taking and the appetites it was stoking. The onetime pro-choice advocate of universal health care reinvented himself to give Republicans what they wanted.”

In this context, let TomDispatch regular Kelly Denton-Borhaug, author of And Then Your Soul is Gone: Moral Injury and U.S. War-Culture, explore how lies and disinformation triumphed in our all-American world and what to make of it. Tom

Is Moral Clarity Possible in Donald Trump’s America?

On Truth-telling, Confession and First-Class Lies

Recent episodes of purposeful and accidental truth-telling brought to my mind the latest verbal lapse by George W. Bush, the president who hustled this country into war in Afghanistan and Iraq after the 9/11 attacks. He clearly hadn't planned to make a public confession about his own warmongering in Iraq when he gave a speech in Texas this spring. Still, asked to decry Russian president Vladimir Putin's unjustified invasion of Ukraine, Bush inadvertently and all too truthfully placed his own presidential war-making in exactly the same boat. The words spilled out of his mouth as he described "the decision of one man to launch a wholly unjustified invasion of Iraq -- I mean of Ukraine."

Initially, he seemed shocked that he had blurted that out and tried to back off his slip by shrugging and muttering, "Iraq, too," as if it were a joke. Some in his audience even laughed. But his initial attempt to sideline his comment only deepened the hole he was in. Then he tried another ploy. He suggested that his slip could be forgiven or excused because of his age, 75, and that his invasion and the destruction of Iraq could now be forgiven because of his cognitive decline. All in all, it was a first-class mess. 

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Andrea Mazzarino, Where Have All the Soldiers Gone?

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I still remember my parents singing the World War I-era song:

“You’re in the Army now,
You’re not behind a plough,
You’ll never get rich,
You son of a bitch,
You’re in the Army now.”

My father volunteered for what was then the Army Air Corps right after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. As is still true, it wasn’t seen as a particularly lucrative or upwardly mobile way of getting ahead, even if it was a patriotic act at the time.  These days, however, there’s an exception to that rule about never getting rich in the Army: become a general and the next thing you know — powie! — you’ve retired onto the board of Raytheon or some other giant weapons maker and upped your cash value immeasurably. In other words, you’ve become part of the remarkably lucrative revolving door between the U.S. military and the industrial part of the military-industrial complex and you’re on easy street.

Still, in the twenty-first century, for most troops sent to fight in pointless, losing wars abroad and possibly struggling afterwards with PTSD at home, the military hasn’t exactly been a winner, as TomDispatch regular and co-founder of the invaluable Costs of War Project Andrea Mazzarino suggests today.

Behind the plough? Maybe not in 2022. But “in the Army now”?  Well, not that either, which couldn’t be more curious — a subject Mazzarino explores — in a military that Congress never stops over-funding in a mind-boggling fashion. Tom

A Military Rich in Dollars, Poor in People

And the Frayed Social Safety Net That Goes With It

The American military is now having trouble recruiting enough soldiers. According to the New York Times, its ranks are short thousands of entry-level troops and it's on track to face the worst recruitment crisis since the Vietnam War ended, not long after the draft was eliminated.

Mind you, it’s not that the military doesn't have the resources for recruitment drives. Nearly every political figure in Washington, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, invariably agrees on endlessly adding to the Pentagon’s already staggering budget. In fact, it’s nearly the only thing they seem capable of agreeing on. After all, Congress has already taken nearly a year to pass a social-spending package roughly half the size of this year’s defense budget, even though that bill would mitigate the costs of health care for so many Americans and invest in clean energy for years to come. (Forget about more money for early childhood education.)

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