We Heart Strongmen

Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of State, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, said Wednesday during his confirmation hearing that he would need to study up a little bit before deciding whether there are any human rights problems in the Philippines, where President Rodrigo Duterte has overseen the extrajudicial killings of about 6,000 people in his very literal war on drugs. Or at least on anyone suspected of selling, using, or being remotely associated with drugs. In response to questions from recent spine transplant recipient Sen. Marco Rubio, Tillerson had a lot of trouble saying whether a campaign of murder was really all that bad if an ally does it.

Rubio responded by pointing out that Tillerson actually already has access to the information, given that it was published in an article in the Los Angeles Times and that Duterte was quoted for the piece. Tillerson stuck to his defense, claiming he could not "rely solely on media reports." However, he did note that he knows the Philippines is a U.S. ally, and "we need to make sure they stay an ally."

In December, Trump had a very nice phone call with Duterte, who at the time had only killed an estimated 5,000 Filipinos in his campaign against drugs. Guy's been busy since then. Trump was so impressed with what a great guy Duterte is that he invited the Philippines president to come visit the White House sometime in the future. Perhaps Trump is waiting for the body count to reach a nice even 10K.

Human rights organizations including Amnesty International have condemned Tillerson for his unwillingness to acknowledge human rights violations in his hearings, citing his answers on government abuses by the Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and other countries; most of those answers were variations on "I'd need more information" before he could really say whether Russian bombing of hospitals in Syria is a war crime or not. Thursday's Rachel Maddow Show included a feature on the lavish lifestyle enjoyed by the ruling family of Equatorial Guinea, one of the poorest nations in the world, where enormous wealth from ExxonMobil contracts has gone to the country's rulers, but 3/4 of the population lives below the poverty line:

In his Senate testimony, Tillerson wasn't too worried about wealth disparities in Equatorial Guinea, as Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley pointed out in an interview with NPR:

I asked him about the treatment that Exxon had done in the country of Equatorial Guinea, in which they had channeled enormous amounts of money to the president's family instead of back to the people of the country. And the State Department has reported on this. And it was a perfect opportunity for him to be able to step in and make the case that we need to have a much stronger set of strategies for dealing with corruption in such nations. [...]

He said, we've been investigated, and we haven't been charged. We haven't been convicted. And yet he framed that after he had talked about the need for moral clarity, and there's so much more than just winning a lawsuit in terms of managing foreign policy.

Merkley isn't planning on voting to confirm Tillerson; Rubio, who was very tough on Tillerson during the hearings, won't say how he intends to vote.

And The Trump administration's new pal Duterte? He's spent this week threatening mayors and other municipal officials from around the Philippines with death if he decides they're involved with the drug trade, busing in groups of mayors for meetings in which he told the mayors, "Repent, resign or die." Duterte waved around a thick binder which he said was a list of names of local officials involved in drugs. He reportedly said he'd grant amnesty to any local police chief who killed a mayor on the list.

On Monday, prior to Wednesday's meetings, Duterte had said,

I will talk to them. With the thick document I showed you, I will tell them, "Look for your name there, mayor, you son of a bitch. If your name is there, you will have a problem. I will really kill you."

One of the mayors who attended the meetings Wednesday told the Philippines Inquirer, "He said the list was validated but we were not shown the list and we do not know how we can check if we were mistakenly included. We might be shot by our police chief[.]" Hey, that's how get-tough justice goes!

President Duterte has previously threatened to shoot human rights monitors in the country, and has said he wouldn't mind being compared to Hitler, just as long as he gets to kill a few million drug users. So really, there's not much question about whether the Philippines poses any human rights concerns. The leadership doesn't appear to think humans have any rights, so why should the Trump administration worry about it too much? The place can't be too bad, anyway -- Manila has its very own Trump Tower.

[The Week / LAT / NPR / MSNBC / Philippines Inquirer]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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DHS photo (Every damn ICE pic looks like this)

Donald Trump's immigration goon squads were all set to start mass arrests and deportations of families in multiple cities Sunday, but before the raids started, he tweeted Saturday that he'd decided to delay the operation by two weeks -- to allow Democrats a chance to join Republicans in trashing US asylum law. Trump took a phone call Friday evening from Nancy Pelosi urging him to hold off on the raids, although it's also possible that internal disagreements about the operation at the Department of Homeland Security may have been part of the reason for the delay, too. In the meantime, Trump gets to terrify undocumented families some more and rant about deporting "millions," although the planned operation was actually targeted only at a couple thousand people who have already received deportation orders.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement had been gearing up to start raids in 10 US cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, and Baltimore, to show how tough America is, and never mind that the sweeps would certainly have led to more family separations, as ICE scooped up at least some undocumented parents of children born in the US. The news also comes while the media is reporting filthy, inhuman conditions at the border camps where newly arrested immigrants, including babies, are being packed in, leading to plenty of awkward questions about why the government suddenly wants to arrest more people in the interior of the country? (Hint: President Eichmann just announced his reelection bid.)

The Great Deporter announced the delay of the operation Saturday by Twitter, as if that were normal, then followed up with more bluster Sunday.

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Kamala Harris was holding it down at the South Carolina Democratic Convention this weekend, and she wasn't just there to kick it at Clyburn's Fish Fry, hang out with Berndog Sanders, and just look extra good. No. She fucking running for President, and she's actually got a chance, unlike the many Mayo Casserole Men who keep jumping into the damn race. Why did they jump in after Kamala and Elizabeth Warren, the only people who are even running, clearly said, "We got it from here, boys"? Not sure, but regardless, it was unnecessary. Doesn't matter anyway because who is gonna remember Dadface McDorksky when Kamala is turning it the fuck out with speeches indicting Trump?

Do you believe in America? Kamala Harris believes in America, and her Saturday speech calls out for justice, and righteousness; where Barack Obama struck hopeful, dulcet, aspirational tones, Harris strikes sharp chords of urgency. To say that she read Trump the riot act would be, and is, an understatement; what she did here raised a crucial reality that some Dems refuse to see. Trump MUST be prosecuted. The Democratic nominee will wear many hats, and one of the most important of those hats is that of a prosecutor. There is a case to be made against Donald J. Trump, hell, there are so many cases, and as far as Harris is concerned, who better to make that case, but a COP? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Kamala Harris at the South Carolina Democratic Convention June, 22 2019

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