“In some ways, Duterte is like an Asian version of Donald Trump,” wrote Niko Vorobjov back in May, in a piece for The Influence about the international rise of strongman politicians and their impact on people who use drugs.
Back then, Donald Trump was the surprise presumptive Republican nominee, still widely considered the underdog in the US presidential race, although Influence contributors had already speculated on the catastrophic impact of a Trump presidency. Rodrigo Duterte, meanwhile, was president-elect in the Philippines, and had only threatened to transpose his murderous anti-drug crusade as mayor of Davao City to the national stage.
Six months later, the world is a sadder and wiser place. Duterte has for months waged war on suspected dealers and drug users in the Philippines through extrajudicial killings and incarceration; estimates of the death toll so far reach as high as 4,500. Trump’s victory and his picks of draconian figures like Jeff Sessions for key administration roles have raised acute fears for anyone who cares about the rights of drug users and human beings in general.
Now, Trump and Duterte seem to have hit it off in a phone call Friday.
According to Duterte, the call was encouraging. “I could sense a good rapport, an animated President-elect Trump. And he was wishing me success in my campaign against the drug problem,” he said. “I supposed that what he really wanted to say was that we would be the last to interfere in the affairs of your own country. We are doing it as a sovereign nation, the right way. And he wishes us well.”
Trump also allegedly invited Duterte to Washington.
While the Trump team released a more general positive statement, without confirming (or denying) the account of Trump’s support for Duterte’s drug war, their apparent agreement is deeply concerning for two broad reasons.
First, because there had been some signs, however inadequate and inconclusive, that concerted international pressure was beginning to prompt Duterte’s government to think twice about continuing its bloody campaign. But US government support could only empower Duterte to persevere, at the cost of many more deaths and human rights violations in a country of almost 100 million.
Second, because of what it suggests, among countless other bad omens, about the balance between drug-law enforcement and human rights in Trump’s America. Donald Trump says that he has never tried any recreational drugs, including alcohol. But even if he had, nothing about him suggests that he would care about protecting those who do use them.
One indicator of just how low our expectations have fallen is that it’s not remotely surprising to read of Trump supporting a campaign of mass murder against people who use drugs. Those warnings published months ago don’t feel far fetched now.
Do politicians actually care about your opinions? This researcher says no
Earlier this month, a New York Times op-ed written by two political science professors, Ethan Porter of George Washington University and Joshua Kalla of Yale, discussed their troubling research findings: State legislators, the two claim, don't much care about the opinions of their constituents, even if they're given detailed data regarding their views.
This article first appeared in Salon.
The best Civil War movie ever made finally gets its due
On Sunday and on July 24, Turner Classic Movies and Fathom Events are presenting big-screen showings in theaters nationwide of “Glory,” in honor of the 30-year anniversary of its release. The greatest movie ever made about the American Civil War, “Glory” was the first and, with the exception of Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” the only film that eschewed romanticism to reveal what the war was really about.
The story is told through the eyes of one of the first regiments of African American soldiers. Almost from the time the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter, S.C., the issue of black soldiers in the Union army was hotly debated. On Jan. 1, 1863, as the country faced the third year of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, rapidly accelerating the process of putting black men into federal blue.
Trump echoes another president who stoked fear rather than face the tech-based economic change he failed to stem
It is amazing how similar America in 2019 is to America in the 1920’s, a decade that began almost a hundred years ago. It is as if America is reliving its own history, trapped in a prison of deja vu, purposely not wanting to remember the disaster that unfolded as the 1920s ended.
The parallels are striking, the anti-immigration frenzy, race-baiting, trade wars, over-heated stock markets, corruption, and technological changes that produced hip urban centers contrasting with rural alienation and bitterness. Like today, the 1920s was a period of spectacular wealth and an ever-increasing income gap.