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Liz Theoharis, A Tale of Three Reconstructions

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As lives at work and home were thrown into chaos by a devastating pandemic that’s killed a globe-leading 600,000 Americans (and possibly far more) amid fear, conspiracy theories, and anti-vax propaganda, working-class stress rose immeasurably — or perhaps I mean measurably.  In 2020, according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report, “U.S. and Canadian work forces saw the highest levels of daily stress globally” at 57%. And if American workers were indeed among the most stressed out on the planet, you can count on one thing — even if Gallup doesn’t measure it — this country’s billionaires weren’t.

America’s ever-expanding billionaire class raked in an estimated extra $1.6 trillion in the worst of the pandemic months. Not so surprisingly, then, as notes, by April “America’s 719 billionaires, this country’s .001%, held over four times more wealth ($4.56 trillion) than all the roughly 165 million Americans in society’s bottom half ($1.01 trillion).” And as ProPublica recently reported, having “obtained a vast trove of Internal Revenue Service data on the tax returns of thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people,” unlike working-class Americans, many of them essentially paid next to no, or no (yes, that’s right, no) taxes at all. Sometimes, quite literally not a cent.  Oh, unless you want to count as a form of taxation (with representation) the rather generous contributions some of them have made to favored politicians.

This is the world of ultimate inequality and turmoil that Americans find themselves in at a moment when, as TomDispatch regular and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign Liz Theoharis suggests, this country may be in the early days of a new era of Reconstruction, the third in our history. If so, how appropriate, since who can doubt that, facing such a surge of Republican extremism and repression, ranging from the suppression of the vote to the suppression of what can even be taught in a classroom, a wave of genuine reconstruction couldn’t be more in order. Tom

When You Lift from the Bottom, Everyone Rises

Have We Entered America’s Third Era of Reconstruction?

West Virginia, a state first established in defiance of slavery, has recently become ground zero in the fight for voting rights. In an early June op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin vowed to maintain the Senate filibuster, while opposing the For the People Act, a bill to expand voting rights. Last week, after mounting pressure and a leaked Zoom recording with billionaire donors, he showed potential willingness to move on the filibuster and proposed a "compromise" on voting rights. Nonetheless, his claim that the filibuster had been critical to protecting the “rights of Democrats in the past” and his pushback on important voting-rights protections requires scrutiny.

After all, the modern use of the filibuster first emerged in the 1920s and 1930s as a response to civil rights and anti-lynching legislation. In 1949, senator and southern Democrat Richard Russell, then a chief defender of the filibuster, unabashedly explained that “nobody mentions any other legislation in connection with it.”

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Rajan Menon, Vaccine Nationalism

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The other day, for the first time in a year and a quarter, I walked into a movie theater. It was admittedly for a special screening (to see a film my daughter had been involved in making).  The seating was limited and, like me, everyone allowed in had been vaccinated. Still, it felt like a different planet than the one I had been living on at least since March 2020 and that, I have to admit, was a thrill.

Unfortunately, as TomDispatch regular Rajan Menon reminds us today, if you were to truly take in the world as a whole, you would know that it simply wasn’t true — or rather that the planet I was on was indeed “special” in all sorts of grim ways.  If I had been living in, say, India or Brazil, both still with unmasked, Trumpian leaders, or so many other countries that simply don’t have the wealth and power of the United States, the odds that I would have been vaccinated were next to nil and I might well have been gasping out my last breath in a bed at home (hospitals being so overwhelmed that I wouldn’t have even had access to one) or, for that matter, on the street.

With almost four million people on Planet Earth officially already dead from Covid-19 (and that number undoubtedly a significant undercount) and the toll on the poorer parts of the planet rising fast, the saddest story of all is the tale of vaccine nationalism that Menon tells in a world in which neither the words “fair” nor “share” seem much in fashion, but “profits” and “patents” certainly are.  And sadly enough, it could have been different. Tom

The Pandemic Is Us (But Now Mostly Them)

Power, Wealth, and Justice in the Time of Covid-19

Fifteen months ago, the SARS-CoV-2 virus unleashed Covid-19. Since then, it's killed more than 3.8 million people worldwide (and possibly many more). Finally, a return to normalcy seems likely for a distinct minority of the world’s people, those living mainly in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, the European Union, and China. That’s not surprising.  The concentration of wealth and power globally has enabled rich countries to all but monopolize available vaccine doses. For the citizens of low-income and poor countries to have long-term pandemic security, especially the 46% of the world’s population who survive on less than $5.50 a day, this inequity must end, rapidly -- but don’t hold your breath.

The Global North: Normalcy Returns

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William Astore, Big Lies Have Consequences, Too

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Almost 20 years later, the U.S. military high command still didn’t want to leave the country where they had so impressively turned so many “corners” amid so much “progress” for so long. They made it all too clear to President Biden that they wanted to “maintain at least a modest troop presence” in Afghanistan. He nonetheless rejected their advice, ordering a full-scale withdrawal of U.S. forces.  How sad, with success so (eternally) close!  After all, as late as 2017, General John Nicholson, then the commander of American forces there, was still insisting that the U.S. and the Afghan military it supported had finally “turned the corner” and were “on a path to a win.” As Foreign Policy reported at the time, he was the eighth commander to make such a claim, including General Stanley McChrystal in 2010 and General David Petraeus in 2011.  Who knew that there were so many corners to turn in that country — or, for that matter, in similarly invaded Iraq?

It’s true that, almost two decades after President George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Afghanistan, the latest and longest-serving U.S. commander there, General Austin “Scott” Miller, has not taken credit for even one more corner turned.  All he’s claimed (no less improbably) is that U.S. forces will “go out with our heads held high.” In less upbeat times that would simply have been called “defeat.”  Meanwhile, lest you thought there was no hope at all, the CIA continues to search for ways to keep the American war going, whether from neighboring states or by drone from the Persian Gulf. (Yes, the Persian Gulf, nine hours away!)

And consider that just a small summary of war, American-style, in the twenty-first century. In other words, we’re talking about endless failures — with more to come if the Washington-backed Afghan government collapses under the pressure of a rising Taliban — that no one involved would ever imagine taking the slightest responsibility for.

Retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and TomDispatch regular William Astore highlights that very reality today, while asking just who in this country will, in the end, be saddled with the blame for all those corners left unturned, not just in Afghanistan but in this century’s never-ending U.S. war on terror across significant parts of the Greater Middle East and Africa. A historian and co-author of Hindenburg: Icon of German Militarism, he reminds us today of what can happen when the blame for defeat in war proves to be up for grabs. Tom

America Is Stabbing Itself in the Back

Tough Truths Are Desperately Needed About America’s Lost Wars

Americans may already be lying themselves out of what little remains of their democracy.

The big lie uniting and motivating today’s Republicans is, of course, that Donald Trump, not Joe Biden, won the 2020 presidential election.  Other big lies in our recent past include the notion that climate change is nothing but a Chinese hoax, that Russia was responsible for Hillary Clinton’s electoral defeat in 2016, and that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was necessary because that country's leader, Saddam Hussein, had something to do with the 9/11 attacks (he didn't!) and possessed weapons of mass destruction that could be used against the United States, a “slam dunk” truth, according to then-CIA Director George Tenet (it wasn't!).

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