Abandoning even the pretense of caring about human rights

An internal State Department memo explicitly confirms what we already knew about the Trump administration’s foreign policy priorities.

Apparently, a deputy named Brian Hook, a former Bush administration official, wrote up a memo for Tillerson explaining how the U.S. looks at human rights. And guess what? After nearly half a century we’re back to Henry Kissinger’s foreign policy from the 1970s. According to Politico, which got a peek at the memo, Hook explained to the neophyte diplomat that “the U.S. should use human rights as a club against its adversaries, like Iran, China and North Korea, while giving a pass to repressive allies like the Philippines, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.” As Tom Malinowski, former assistant secretary of state under Obama, told Politico, this “tells Tillerson that we should do exactly what Russian and Chinese propaganda says we do — use human rights as a weapon to beat up our adversaries while letting ourselves and our allies off the hook.”

Apparently Secretary of State Tillerson read and agrees with the memo.

Moore fails despite best efforts by Republicans

Roy Moore had the backing of damn near every Republican, including Donald Trump, the Republican National Committee, most evangelical Christians, and Sean Hannity, despite being twice removed from the Alabama Supreme Court for misconduct, despite being disbarred, despite numerous credible allegations that he is a child molester, despite his support for getting rid of all the Constitutional amendments after the Tenth (including the ones that banned slavery and gave women the right to vote), despite his anti-Semitism.

Credit is due to the tiny minority of Republicans who didn’t go along, including the 1.7% of Alabama voters who wrote in someone else (giving the 1.5% margin of victory to Doug Jones), and the Nebraskan who quit the RNC over its support of Moore.  One wonders what it would take to get those people to quit the Republican Party.

Can the Republican Party ever live down their support of such a candidate?  It’s up to us to give a resounding “hell no” in answer to that question.  No forgiveness, no normalizing of a party that is openly racist, no legitimacy.  The Republican Party is permanently beyond the pale of democracy.

Duterte: “I am a fascist”

Photo: AP
A lot of bleeding heart liberals, myself included, have been using the word “fascist” to describe Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. But now Duterte openly brags of being a fascist. No, really:

I will follow America, since they say that I am an American boy.  OK, granted, I will admit that I am a fascist. I will categorize you already as a terrorist.

It’s not clear who he means by “you” in that last sentence, perhaps the journalist to whom he was speaking.  Note that he says he’s following the lead of America.  Duterte enjoys a warm relationship with Donald Trump, who the aforementioned bleeding heart liberals have also characterized as a fascist, and if you doubted those liberals were correct before, perhaps you should reconsider.

If you, or one of your parents or grandparents, was among those who fought in World War II to defeat fascism, would you please speak up in the comments, and describe your feelings as you read that the Republican Party is on the opposite side today?

Listen to what they don’t say

Things Republican leaders are saying about their candidate Roy Moore:

House Speaker Paul Ryan:

Number one, these allegations are credible. Number two, if he cares about the values that he claims to care about, then he should step aside.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell:

I think he should step aside.

Senator Lindsey Graham:

He was barred from a mall. His behavior was so extreme in his thirties that apparently the Gadsden mall put him on the no-fly list. That tells me a lot. I don’t know anybody personally who’s been banned from a mall.

Things Republican leaders are NOT saying about their candidate Roy Moore:
Alabama Republicans have the power to say this, but won’t:

We, the Alabama Republican Party, hereby decertify Roy Moore as the candidate of our Party.

And no Republican anywhere has publicly said this:

Vote for the Democratic candidate instead.

Not all the Republicans think being a pedophile rapist is disqualifying

An Alabama Republican is standing by Roy Moore, their candidate for Senate in an upcoming special election.

Alabama state auditor Jim Ziegler, a Republican operator, gave an interviews in which he justified Moore’s assaults on children by citing scripture, noting that “Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter” and stating that Moore’s assaults on children were “nothing immoral or illegal…Maybe just a little bit unusual.”

Today’s Republican Party isn’t misogynist and utterly amoral and fascist, just maybe a little bit unusual.  And of course Steve Bannon is blaming the media, not denying the serious allegations the media are reporting.

They know Trump won’t help them, and they love him anyway.

Johnstown, Pennsylvania knows Trump won’t deliver, and they don’t care.

Johnstown voters do not intend to hold the president accountable for the nonnegotiable pledges he made to them. It’s not that the people who made Trump president have generously moved the goalposts for him. It’s that they have eliminated the goalposts altogether.

This reality ought to get the attention of anyone who thinks they will win in 2018 or 2020 by running against Trump’s record. His supporters here, it turns out, are energized by his bombast and his animus more than any actual accomplishments. For them, it’s evidently not what he’s doing so much as it is the people he’s fighting. Trump is simply and unceasingly angry on their behalf, battling the people who vex them the worst—“obstructionist” Democrats, uncooperative establishment Republicans, the media, Black Lives Matter protesters and NFL players (boy oh boy do they hate kneeling NFL players) whom they see as ungrateful, disrespectful millionaires.

And they love him for this.

This is how authoritarian followers think.

What real tax reform would look like

You’ve seen the Republican plan.  And it’s just what we knew would come out of the party of Trump:  massive tax cuts for the rich, tax increases for everyone else.  This is not new.  Here’s Paul Krugman describing the Republicans’ ideas in 2011.

[W]hen the GOP claimed that deficits don’t matter, it called for privatizing major social insurance programs while cutting taxes on the rich, and now that it claims to be deeply concerned about deficits, it calls for privatizing major social insurance programs while cutting taxes on the rich.

What would a really progressive tax plan look like, something that could properly be described as reform?  It would have to actively reverse not just income inequality, but wealth inequality.  It would have to address the fact that the recent depression wiped out a generation of wealth accumulation by Latinos and blacks.

  • The estate tax should be increased, not eliminated.
  • The federal income tax should be steeply progressive, that is, those with higher incomes should pay more than they do now.  The top rate should be north of 50%.
  • The payroll tax should be eliminated.  It’s a regressive tax that hits working people hardest.  If you want to know who is serious about cutting taxes on working people, see if they’re making a lot of noise about cutting income taxes, which the working poor don’t pay, or the payroll tax, which the working poor do pay.  The Social Security trust fund should be funded by the income tax.
  • Regressive state and local taxes should be outlawed.  I’m looking at you, sales taxes.  The difference should be made up from income taxes.
  • A wealth tax on the largest fortunes should be levied annually.  A few percent off a vast fortune, is still a vast fortune.  Trump proposed this in 1999, so let’s pretend he was serious and make it happen.

This should be the minimum set of demands by Democrats, and if Democratic candidates won’t support it, let’s get some better Democratic candidates for 2018.

What do you think?  Register on this blog and let’s discuss it.

Lies about tax “reform”

We hear a lot that Republicans are at odds with each other.  There is one thing that unites them all:  tax cuts for the rich.  The Party of Trump is quite clear on that.  They would like to pay less, and they would like working people to pay more.  Naturally, this requires lying.  Paul Krugman has helpfully compiled a list of ten lies that Republicans keep repeating.  You should read the whole piece.  One of the collection of whoppers is the persistent and absurd claim that the inheritance tax somehow hurts working people and farmers:

Tales of struggling family farms disbanded because they can’t afford the taxes when the patriarch dies have flourished for decades, despite the absence of any examples. I don’t mean examples are rare: I mean that advocates of estate tax repeal haven’t been able to come up with a single example at least since the late 1970s, when exemption levels were raised to the equivalent of around $2 million in today’s dollars.

Lately Trump has added a new twist, portraying the estate tax as a terrible burden on hard-working truckers. For who among us doesn’t own an $11 million fleet of trucks?

 

Racist pardons another racist

The President has pardoned Joe Arpaio.  Arpaio has been found guilty of criminal contempt of court, and faced up to six months in prison, for willfully violating a court order instructing him not to detain immigrants who were not suspected of any crime.  He wasn’t sorry.

The message to racist public officials could not be more clear:  it’s open season.  If you’re on the wrong side of a racist vigilante sheriff, having the law on your side is no protection at all; you have been warned.

Perhaps there’s another audience for this message as well.  Now we know—if we had any doubts—that Trump will use his pardon power to reward personal loyalty to Trump.  If you’re being questioned in the Russia investigation, don’t worry about being charged with obstruction of justice or perjury.  The rule of law is suspended until further notice.

Update:  Joe Arpaio’s history of official abuse is not short.  False arrests of reporters, inmate deaths, rapes unprosecuted, a federal judge investigated.  This is what Trump considers worthy of a pardon.

The Republican Party can’t wash off the stink

It doesn’t matter that several Republican elected officials are now saying mean things about Trump.  It doesn’t matter that Bannon is out.  It doesn’t matter whether a resolution of censure passes Congress.  It doesn’t even matter whether Republicans in the House vote with Democrats to impeach this President and Republicans in the Senate vote to convict.  There’s nothing the Republican Party can do to escape the moral stain of having been the party of fascism.

Trump remains far from isolated.  While some publicity-sensitive corporate CEOs have abandoned Trump’s advisory councils, his Jewish advisors won’t publicly criticize his support for Nazis.  Indeed, no White House officials have resigned in the wake of Trump’s indefensible behavior.  His evangelical Christian advisory council has stood with him, to the lasting shame of the evangelical Christians who helped elect him.  None of the critical comments from Republican members of Congress have been followed by “and I will no longer approve his judicial nominees nor back his legislative program.”

When the rewriting of the history of this era gets underway in earnest, remember: even if Trump is eventually discarded by the Republican Party, it was the Republican Party who created him, backed him, elected him, enabled him.  There are plenty of Republicans waiting in the wings who are just as racist as Trump, just as misogynist as Trump, just as eager to cut taxes on the rich as Trump, just as willing to make Christianity the state religion, just as willing to start another war, just as willing to protect corporations and unleash brutal cops and intimidate the press and promote lynching.  Fixing Trump is not fixing the fact that one of the major political parties in the U.S. is now fascist, and permanently discredited.