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John Feffer, The Gang’s All Here

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As TomDispatch regular John Feffer suggests today, Donald Trump has a distinct affinity for the kinds of gang leaders we’ve been hearing about in ever more disastrously chaotic Haiti. Were Americans to reelect him, we could be putting the equivalent of a gang leader in the White House. Today, in fact, Feffer vividly describes just what sort of gang world he might, if not lead (which isn’t even a word for You Know Who), then preside over all too chaotically. Let me just add one gang-related note to his piece. Among the crews Donald Trump does help lead, or rather (dis)organize for his own benefit, no one should forget the Aging Billionaires Gang, which is already forking over tens of millions of dollars to ensure that he’ll once again be their man in Washington in 2025.

Only the other day, he addressed that gang at a fundraising event in Palm Beach, Florida, billed as “the Inaugural Leadership Dinner.” There, they were fed “endive and frisee salad, filet au poivre, and pavlova with fresh berries” and listened to the former president lament that people from the “nice countries” of our world (like Denmark) weren’t migrating to America anymore. He did, however, reassure some of the richest people on the planet that they shouldn’t fear undocumented immigrants in nearby West Palm Beach from countries “where they’re blowing each other up all over the place,” who “make the Hells Angels look like extremely nice people.” They were, he told them, safe with him, proudly adding that “the most successful people in the whole country are in this room.” He then warned them that “this could very well be the last election this country ever has.”

That Aging Billionaires Gang reportedly included: “Activist food industry investor Nelson Peltz, 81; Entertainment mogul Isaac Perlmutter, 81; Sugar baron José Fanjul, 80; Hotel owner and aerospace entrepreneur Robert Bigelow, 79; Oil tycoon Harold Hamm, 78; Big-data billionaire (and funder of the 2016 anti-Hillary psy ops campaign) Robert Mercer, 77; N[ew] Y[ork] supermarket king John Catsimatidis, 75; and casino tycoon Steve Wynn, 82.” And the Trump campaign then claimed — who knows whether it’s a faintly accurate figure or not — that the crew there contributed $50.5 million for their endive and frisee salads, which would be “a new single-event fundraising record.”

With that gang in mind, let Feffer take you from Florida to Haiti to consider some gang-related matters. Tom

Haiti Today, America Tomorrow?

When Democracies Die, Mobs Take Over

Haiti has descended into chaos. It's had no president or parliament -- and no elections either --for eight long years. Its unelected prime minister Ariel Henry resigned recently when gang violence at the airport in Port-au-Prince made it impossible for him to return to the country after a trip to Guyana.

Haiti is the poorest country in the region, its riches leached out by colonial overlords, American occupying forces, corporate predators, and home-grown autocrats. As if that weren’t enough, it's also suffered an almost Biblical succession of plagues in recent years. A coup deposed its first democratically elected leader, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, not once but twice -- in 1991 and again in 2004. An earthquake in 2010 killed hundreds of thousands, leaving 1.5 million Haitians homeless, out of a population of less than 10 million. In the wake of that earthquake, nearly a million people contracted cholera, the worst outbreak in history, courtesy of a contingent of U.N. peacekeepers. To round out the catastrophes, in 2016, Hurricane Matthew made landfall, pushing Haiti back even further.

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Juan Cole, Playing Russian Roulette with Middle Eastern Oil

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Sometimes it seems as if it just never sinks in. I mean, it shouldn’t be that complicated anymore. It’s hardly news that 2023 was a year of unnerving heat globally — the hottest “by far” since records began to be kept — including month by month, May through December. And should you think that was an anomaly, 2024 has taken up the cudgel (so to speak), with each new month hitting a startling global record. March was the tenth in a row to do so. Worse yet, as should be all too painfully obvious by now, this isn’t the end of something but — given the continued massive burning of fossil fuels on this planet — just the beginning, with so much worse still to come. And don’t forget the dramatic heating of global oceans and seas, where records are now also being broken in an unnerving fashion.

Yes, of course we know why this is happening. It’s not exactly a mystery anymore. Humanity’s (mis)use of fossil fuels, sending greenhouse gasses soaring into the atmosphere, is all too literally creating a future hell on earth and a potentially unimaginable world for our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. And it’s not exactly a secret who’s truly responsible for so much of what’s now happening. As Thor Benson recently highlighted at the Common Dreams website: “A report released by Carbon Majors on Thursday says that 57 companies were responsible for 80% of the world’s CO2 emissions from fossil fuel and cement production between 2016 to 2022.”

And anyone who checks out the latest piece by TomDispatch regular Juan Cole, creator of the must-read Informed Comment website, won’t be surprised to learn that Saudi Aramco leads that list. Oh, and “in terms of investor-owned companies, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and BP contributed the most to CO2 emissions. ExxonMobil alone was responsible for 3.6 gigatons of CO2 emissions over a seven-year period.”

Yet, strangely enough, as I’ve written elsewhere, we humans continue to fight wars with each other (pouring yet more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere) rather than facing the war on the planet that Big Oil and crew are conducting in a distinctly apocalyptic fashion. (I’ve long wondered what the CEOs of those companies would say to their kids and grandkids about profiting off the destruction of their world.) Anyway, let Cole take you onto the very planet we’re destroying in such a remarkable fashion, with an emphasis on the area in which he’s an expert, the distinctly overheating, fossil-fuelizing Middle East. Tom

Dead Last (With an Emphasis on Dead!)

Despite Hellish Heat Waves and Epic Floods, the Middle East Gets Failing Grades on Climate Action

Last September witnessed what used to be a truly rare weather phenomenon: a Mediterranean hurricane, or “medicane.” Once upon a time, the Mediterranean Sea simply didn't get hot enough to produce hurricanes more than every few hundred (yes, few hundred!) years. In this case, however, Storm Daniel assaulted Libya with a biblical-style deluge for four straight days. It was enough to overwhelm the al-Bilad and Abu Mansour dams near the city of Derna, built in the 1970s to old cool-earth specifications. The resulting flood destroyed nearly 1,000 buildings, washing thousands of people out to sea, and displaced tens of thousands more.

Saliha Abu Bakr, an attorney, told a harrowing tale of how the waters kept rising in her apartment building before almost reaching the roof and quite literally washing many of its residents away. She clung to a piece of wooden furniture for three hours in the water. “I can swim,” she told a reporter afterward, “but when I tried to save my family, I couldn’t do a thing.” Human-caused climate change, provoked by the way we spew 37 billion metric tons of dangerous carbon dioxide gas into our atmosphere every year, made the Libyan disaster 50 times more likely than it once might have been. And worse yet, for the Middle East, as well as the rest of the world, that nightmare is undoubtedly only the beginning of serial disasters to come (and come and come and come) that will undoubtedly render millions of people homeless or worse.

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Ellen Cantarow, A Shrapnel-Faced World

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When you watch the latest TV news on Israel’s war in Gaza, it feels as if its military had invaded another country. So, it’s important to remind ourselves that the tens of thousands of weapons the Biden administration has been sending to Israel since October 7th, including most recently, as the Washington Post reported, “more than 1,800 MK84 2,000-pound bombs and 500 MK82 500-pound bombs” — and keep in mind that those 2,000 pounders are “capable of leveling city blocks and leaving craters in the earth 40 feet across and larger” — are meant to be used to obliterate a 25-mile-long strip of land, smaller than some large American cities. It’s hard to remember a moment when such a relatively tiny area got quite such a pounding, day after day, week after week, month after month.

And keep in mind as well, that not many small areas of land are quite so densely populated (about 14,000 people per square mile), so the toll from those American weapons has been nothing short of devastating. In addition, a 2,000-pound bomb capable of destroying a city block won’t make any distinction between a member of Hamas and families with children. Nor, it’s now all too clear, has the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing compatriots had the faintest urge to make such a distinction. Otherwise, an estimated 10,000 Gazan children, or one of every 100 kids there, wouldn’t be dead and, in all too many cases, buried in the rubble of the buildings in which they lived.

In short, there can be little question that the present war not just in, but on, Gaza, is a crime against humanity (as, of course, was Hamas’s October 7th attack on Israel). With that in mind — and worse yet, no end yet in sight for such a nightmare — let TomDispatch regular Ellen Cantarow, who long ago wrote about Israel for various American publications, offer a glimpse of hell on earth in the world of 2024. Tom

Dead on Arrival

Israel’s Blowback Genocide

Words can't express the horrors of Israel’s genocide in Gaza. To actually feel the nightmare, you would have to be there under the bombs, fleeing with Palestinians desperately seeking a safe place that doesn’t exist; seeing building after building destroyed; treading through blood in one of the few, only partially standing hospitals; and witnessing children and other patients sprawled on hospital floors, limbs amputated without anesthesia (Israel having blocked all medical supplies).

It has taken the Jewish state’s savagery to break decades of silence about its history of crimes against humanity. U.S. military historian Robert Pape has called the onslaught against Gaza “one of the most intense civilian punishment campaigns in history.” Former U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Andrew Gilmour has said that we are witnessing “probably the highest kill rate of any military... since the Rwandan genocide of 1994.”

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