Getting Human Rights Wrong

Last week, America’s foreign policy shifted in a startling way. Our nation went from home of the free and the brave, to a potential Airbnb stay for oppressive dictators. Donald Trump is courting foreign leaders who have been likened to Hannibal Lector, and is opening the floodgates to negative possibilities by meeting one of the world champs of human right’s violations.

To the uninformed, inviting Rodrigo Duterte to the White House doesn’t seem that extreme or worrisome – foreign leaders are called to Washington on a regular basis. It’s common, expected diplomatic behavior. That this head of state, specifically, was invited is alarming, because a quick Google search turns up a number of 7,000 civilians killed due to his war on drugs in the Philippines (as of March 2017). Other evidence of his disregard for human rights can be found in additional returned searches. Legal experts assert that if Duterte were not President of the Philippines, he wouldn’t be allowed into the U.S due to these violations. But these are not normal times. There are certain similarities between Duterte and Donald Trump. The current egoist occupying the Oval Office would apparently love the opportunity to speak to himself through a fun-house mirror.

Combine Trump’s curious condoning of Duterte’s murderous war on drugs, with the recent designation of Kim Jong-Un as a “Smart Cookie.” Add in his ongoing obsession with Russia’s Vladmir Putin, and we’re looking at a bleak future for human rights. This is a president easily swayed by flattery who quickly absorbs problematic ideas. He shouldn’t be left alone unsupervised. All three of these foreign powers (The Philippines, North Kora, Russia) sit high on the Human Rights Watch violations list, with regressive policies against free speech and mounting (state controlled and sponsored) paranoia of the west, specifically the United States.

The truly terrifying take away from a potential visit with Duterte isn’t what could happen in the future, should The Donald develop a strong relationship with the leader. The real horrors are the shades of dictatorial political systems and regimes that have already infiltrated America. There are more examples than space in this column to provide, but you don’t have to look far to see escalated aggression against any group defined as “other” (read: non-white, poor, homosexual, religion other than Christianity). The divisive rhetoric from world leaders such as Duterte, Putin, Jong-Un and Trump creates a muscled environment for hateful propaganda to flourish. It encourages divisive hostility, supporting an “us vs them” narrative (looking at you, Breitbart, with your glowing “special report” of the first 100 Days of the Trump disaster) that  supporters embrace.

Mr. Trump signed an executive order (his 35th in just over 100 days in office- this list summarizes the first 29 and six more have been produced since) promoting “religious freedom,” which allows tax-exempt churches to advocate for and endorse political entities. This is another dangerous muddling of the lines between separation of church and state (The Constitution only mentions Congress in Amendment I). Many readers (myself included) interpret this as a blank check, allowing Indianans to refuse to bake me a cake if I decide to tie the knot. We all know how that turns out.

That’s just one tame example of authoritarian, dogmatic creepage. But right now, we have a President who’s achieved his definition of “winning” almost entirely through executive orders. He’s resentful of the press (no-showing at the Annual Correspondents Dinner) and prefers to create “alternative facts” while decrying reason and established journalism as “fake news.” We’re looking at the early stages of a dictatorship with a self-generating propaganda machine. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at the arrest for laughing during confirmed racist’s Jeff Session’s Confirmation Hearing,  the same week that Alton Sterling’s highly publicized death resulted in no charges for the officers who shot him.

While all of these are technically separate events and occurrences, together they point to a narrowing notion of freedom in America – one where racism is rewarded, undue aggression is allowed a free pass if the victim isn’t a cisgendered white male, specific religious beliefs Trump (pun intended) others, and unrepentant murderers receive invites to the White House. The closing window of life and liberty also expanded last week to shut out the poor and unlucky further. The House passed a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, expanding the definition of pre-existing conditions to absurdly discriminatory levels (pregnancy is now apparently a pre-existing condition, whereas erectile dysfunction is not).

Detractors might say that coddling up to a man like Duterte could help promote a growing relationship with China. An increasingly hostile North Korea faced together and all that. I’m going to go however with a less is more approach. Given their records, Duterte and Trump should never be in a room together. America can’t risk it.

Jimmy Kimmel and Charles Pierce Humanize Media ‘Enemy’ with AHCA Rebukes

“While the House bill was rushed through without an immediate opportunity to assess its public popularity, budgetary impact or full coverage devastation, it’s worth remembering that the previous incarnation was supported by just 17 percent of Americans. That’s a unified, nonpartisan rebuke from a voting public coming to understand that health should not be a choice between food on the table and a doctor’s visit. A major illness shouldn’t bankrupt a family. We’re remembering that the Declaration of Independence, one of the founding documents of our imperfect union, declares our universal, inalienable right to life. Not just the lucky, well-funded few. All of us.

It’s our job as members of the media to pull the curtains away from yesterday’s decadent Washington fete and expose the real harm that will be done if this farce of a bill actually passes through the Senate. However unlikely that prospect seems to conventional wisdom now, let us recall that even top Republicans thought the “reform” issue was dead not 10 days ago. And a bombastic, buffoonish television reality star could never be elected President of the United States, right?

Yes it’s the media’s job to ignore all Trump administration claims of “winning.” We must continue shining a factual, human light on the losing his agenda inflicts on the middle and working classes. Some of us are doing better than others. A tip of the hat, and genuine thanks, to Kimmel and Pierce.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

No Sale: Cub Fans Content Themselves with Glimpses of 2016 World Series Ring

“This term I’m fortunate to have a student in class, Jack, who happens to be a member of the Chicago Cubs security team. When we first met in January, he was already well aware of the NEIU staff’s biggest Cubs fan (There was no formal competition and I crowned myself. But I digress…). So he knew to mention that he’d be receiving a 2016 World Series ring of his own once the 2017 season commenced. Overcome by equal parts excitement and jealousy, I insisted he bring that bad boy to our final class session for an undergrad version of show and tell.

Because I’m someone who tends to enjoy ball busting generally, and more specifically where people I mentor are involved, I’ve sprinkled empty threats full of ring pilfering wishful thinking throughout the term. I’ve also suggested I’ll secure a wealthy patron to make Jack an irrefutable financial offer, bewitch said patron with my considerable charms and take the beautiful ring home. I have an active baseball imagination anyway and when it comes to World Series 2016 mementos, I’m essentially Gollum with more hair.”

Read the full post at Wrigleyville Nation.

We’re Number 8! IL’s Governor Rauner Ranks Among Nation’s Worst

“Illinois has no budget. Our state has entered year three of Rauner’s fiscal chicken game with taxpayer funds. Allegedly, the tough love stance supports a “business-friendly” agenda that just happens to include a list of modern Republican Party favorites: deregulation, eviscerating worker protections and tax cuts. Yet the stubborn approach is a demonstrable failure that’s driven away corporations and residents alike. A January report from Chicago Business Journal woefully observes, “[In 2016] Illinois ranked third among all states in terms of the most outbound moves. Yes, that would be moves out of the state.”

More tellingly, “60 percent of moves in Illinois were among people headed out of a state wracked by billions in unpaid bills, no approved state budget, a sluggish employment environment and, in the case of Chicago, soaring crime rates.”

But what about those most valued people of all? You know, the corporations? I’ll let this Huffington Post headline do the talking: Is Governor Rauner Deliberately Trying to Turn Illinois Into a Third World Economy?”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

Grandpa Rossy’s DWTS Run Extends 2016’s Fun Ride

Image: Chicago Sun-Times

“I hadn’t watched an episode of Dancing with the Stars in years. And I don’t suppose anything other than a member of the 2016 World Series Chicago Cubs accepting the challenge to compete would have enticed me to return. This is an abnormal moment in American history. The former host of The Apprentice is now Commander-in-Chief. And the spiritual leader of the greatest Cubs team in modern history is faithfully shaking his sequined moneymaker every week on live TV. How can I reasonably stay away?

I admit that when I first learned Rossy would take on ballroom dancing, the idea seemed to make as much sense as giving a thirsty person a glass of saltwater. After years spent in a crouched position racking up concussions, no way was David Ross a threat to flexible fellow contestants like Olympic Gold Medal gymnast Simon Biles. But the catcher is retired from baseball and always demonstrated a flair for the silly in the Cubs dugout (treat yourself to this video of Rossy playing air drums during Phil Collins classic “In the Air Tonight”). Why not try something scary and new?”

Read the full post at Wrigleyville Nation.

We Bombed Syria. What Now Trump?

“I was not a fan of President Obama’s ‘red line’ followed by a general approach of confusion and inaction toward a ravaged Syria. But neither am I in favor of unilateral violence ordered by a President cloaked in corruption, scandal and general, inhuman oddity.

The first two and a half of months of the Trump administration have been a break necking blur of stupidity and heartlessness. However, the third leg of this gang’s unholy stool is incompetence and while they’ve tried to illegally ban certain immigrants and wrench grateful Americans from their Obamacare, we can be grateful they’re too disorganized to succeed. But Syria has been bombed, officially. It has never taken genius or coordination to fire weapons and indiscriminately kill.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.

The Week’s Bipartisan Misogyny: Andrea Mitchell, the Healthcare Debate & Mansplaining

“It’s an unprecedentedly silent time from the government’s foreign policy apparatus, and Mitchell has a duty to represent the public interest. Without a flow of information, the correspondent refused to act the part of photo op handmaiden for the administration. For this presumptive violation of First Amendment boundaries in the Trump era, Mitchell was all but shoved from the press room. Though her would-be intimidators included Trump staffers of both genders, it’s hard not to wonder if a male journalist like CNN Jake Tapper’s physical space would have been so casually invaded.

Then yesterday, my partner showed me a clip from the House Energy and Commerce Committee debate over Speaker Paul Ryan’s atrocious new bill – the “American” Health Care Act. Republican Representative John Shimkus characterized pool coverage for prenatal care as a constraining “mandate” placed upon our male citizenry. Obviously this is so misogynist and wrong on so very many levels, I CAN’T EVEN. But that, in my opinion, was not the most troubling aspect of Shimkus’ conversation with Democratic Representative Mike Doyle.”

Read the full post at Contemptor.