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Tomgram: Engelhardt, Is the Never-Ending Story Ending?

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[Note to TomDispatch Readers: On returning from a week off, let me express a bit of pride when it comes to the accolade a TomDispatch writer recently received.  My old friend Jane Braxton Little, who began writing for this site last year on climate change (up close and personal), received a prestigious award from the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ), in part for her work at TD.  You can see the SEJ announcement here and the two TD articles that helped her here and here.

And while I’m at it, let me confess to the one thing I’ve felt guilty about at TomDispatch in these years.  So many of you have supported my work here — through individual contributions or by signing up at our donation page to give repeatedly (monthly, quarterly, or yearly) — and I never thank you individually.  I see each of your names whenever a donation arrives and I’m always amazed and moved, particularly when I note that they come from every corner of this country.  I have the urge to tell each of you just how appreciative I am, but I also know that it would be one thing too many for me in a TomDispatch life that’s filled to the brim.  At least, I do hope you’ll take this collective thank you as a substitute (however poor) for the emails I wish I had written to each of you.  Thank you so much for helping keep this site going.  And of course, any of you who haven’t yet contributed but have the urge — believe me, the funding is always needed! — just visit our donation page and do your damnedest!  And again, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Tom]

The Decline and Fall of Everything (Including Me)

What Goes Up Must… Well, You Know…

I find nothing strange in Joe Biden, at 79 (going on 80), being the oldest president in our history and possibly planning to run again in 2024. After all, who wouldn't want to end up in the record books? Were he to be nominated and then beat the also-aging Donald Trump, or Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, or even Fox News's eternally popular Tucker Carlson, he would occupy the White House until he was 86.

Honestly, wouldn't that be perfect in its own way? I mean, what could better fit an America in decline than a president in decline, the more radically so the better?

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Stan Cox, Angry White Guys in Big-Ass Pickups

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[Note to TomDispatch Readers: It’s birthday week at my house (though I actually turned 78 earlier in the summer) and so I’m taking a little time off.  TomDispatch will be back with a new piece on Thursday, August 11th.  Tom]

As gun sales in this country soar — another 43 million weapons bought in 2020 and 2021 alone — while the possession of military-style weaponry is normalized, whether in mass killings or everyday life, American politics, too, is becoming weaponized. If you doubt that, then you weren’t in that Comfort Inn room where, on the night of January 5, 2021, a group of Oath Keeper militiamen stored their weapons so that a “quick reaction force” could potentially transport them to the Capitol the next day.

In the end, as far as we know, none of those weapons made it that January 6th, but others certainly did, as the House January 6th committee made all too clear in its recent hearings. Worse yet, the president of the United States knew perfectly well that some of those he was encouraging to march on the Capitol to protest (or even reverse) his election loss were armed. In political terms, red states have been easing gun laws even as some blue states are cracking down. In California, which has among the nation’s strictest laws (especially when it comes to assault rifles), deaths from guns are approximately 40% below the national average — not that such figures, it seems, matter to most Republicans.

The result: an unequally armed nation at a moment where the weaponizing of our political system seems on the rise.  As right-wing extremism grows and guns become ever more commonplace in American life, while the death toll from them soars, the idea that arms, not votes, might someday define the endpoint of an American election is also being normalized.

Oh, and my mistake, I forgot to include in the above description one of the ways in which this country is weaponizing big time. Fortunately, TomDispatch regular Stan Cox didn’t. So, sit back, watch out for the smoke and fumes, and let him explain. Tom

Three Tons of Fascism with a Bull Bar

Fuming at the Rest of Us, Democracy, and the Earth

In the United States during 16 months in 2020 and 2021, vehicles rammed into groups of protesters at least 139 times, according to a Boston Globe analysis. Three victims died and at least 100 were injured. Consider that a new level of all-American barbarity, thanks to the growing toxicity of right-wing politics, empowered by its embrace of ever-larger, more menacing vehicles being cranked out by the auto industry.

And keep this in mind: attacks on street protests are just the most recent development in fossil-fuelized aggression. Especially in the red states of America, MAGA motorists have been driving our quality of life into the ground for years. My spouse Priti Gulati Cox and I live half a block south of Crawford Street, the central east-west artery in Salina, Kansas. Starting in the early Trump years, and ever more regularly during the pandemic, we’ve been plagued by the brain-rattling roar of diesel-powered pickup trucks as they peel out of side streets onto Crawford, spewing black exhaust and aiming to go from zero to sixty before reaching the traffic light at Broadway. By 2020, many of these drivers were regularly festooning their pickups, ISIS-style, with giant flags bearing slogans like “Trump 2020” and “Don’t Tread on Me,” as well as Confederate battle flags. Some still display them, often with "F*** Biden” flags as well.

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Nina Burleigh, The Gilead Playbook

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I was born into another world, a year before the end of the Second World War. And in that world, my mother was something of a rarity. I only realized that when, at school, I discovered that most of my classmates’ mothers were, as the term then went, “housewives” (which in many ways was the definition — part of a house — of a middle-class “wife” then). They didn’t work, their husbands did. My father certainly did work, but he was also out of work from time to time in the 1950s, which meant money was short. I can still remember listening to the two of them at night, when I was supposedly asleep, fighting bitterly about how to pay the bills, including “Tommy’s bills.”

That was not, then, the definition of a middle-class lifestyle. My mother worked incessantly.  She was a theatrical and political caricaturist, drawing for most of the newspapers and magazines in New York City, including the New York Post when it was a liberal rag, not a Murdoch one, and the New Yorker. And since she spent her days drawing at home, she was, I suppose, not a housewife but a houseworker.

More surprisingly yet, she drew under what was then known as her “maiden name,” Irma Selz, not Mrs. Charles Engelhardt, or even Irma Engelhardt. In her own world of work, my mother was, not surprisingly, also a rarity.  Cartoonists and caricaturists were, almost by definition then, men. So perhaps it wasn’t surprising that gossip columns of the time (I still have a couple of examples) referred to her as “New York’s girl caricaturist.” There was only one, after all. And if I was then a boy, she was, it seemed, still a “girl.”

All of this came to mind when I read the latest piece by political journalist and TomDispatch regular Nina Burleigh, author most recently of Virus: Vaccinations, the CDC, and the Hijacking of America’s Response to the Pandemic. In the wake of the Supreme Court’s obliteration of Roe v. Wade, the urge in parts of this country to drive us all back to a once-upon-a-time world in which women were eternally “girls” and their fate in hands other than theirs (male, of course, and often all too rough) should chill the rest of us. That, I suspect, represents the very world my mom, in her own fashion, fought against. Think of it as an all-American vision of hell on earth and let Burleigh take you there. Tom

Right-Wing Extremists Are Making Fiction Come True

Can Democrats Craft a Winning Message Off a Smorgasbord of Misogynist Madness?

Ever since the early morning hours of November 9, 2016, standing in a ballroom with red-hatted Trump election celebrants in the New York Hilton, I've been waiting for this moment. This eruption of misogyny, unlike any since perhaps the witch trials and the burnings of midwives at the stake, was only a matter of time.

As shocking, as wildly insulting as that pussy-grabber winning the presidency was to American women and girls, it was just the beginning of what appears to be a long season of sadism.

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