Dictators Love Trump, and He Loves Them

If you’re a murderous dictator, this is a joyous time to be alive.

No one will make much of a fuss if your opposition leader is jailed, if an annoying journalist goes missing or if, as happened in Congo, a judge who displeases the dictatorial president suffers a home invasion in which goons rape his wife and daughter.

.. The U.S. has abandoned a bipartisan consensus on human rights that goes back decades.

.. I’m back from Myanmar, where leaders are finding that this is also the optimal time to commit genocide.

The army conducted a scorched-earth campaign against the Rohingya ethnic minority, with soldiers throwing babies onto bonfires as they raped the mothers.

.. In the past, human rights was at least one thread of our foreign policy.

.. Trump defended Vladimir Putin for killing critics (“What? You think our country’s so innocent?”), and praised Egypt’s brutal president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, for “a fantastic job.” Trump hailed the Philippines’s president, Rodrigo Duterte, whose dirty war on drugs has claimed 12,000 lives, for an “unbelievable job on the drug problem.”

.. when Trump visited Manila, he laughed as Duterte called reporters “spies” — in a country where aggressive journalism has landed people in the morgue.

.. A record number of journalists are in prison worldwide

.. Trump has met with the leaders of each of the three top jailers of journalists — China, Russia and Turkey — and as far as we know, has never raised the issue of press freedom with them.

.. “What’s completely gone is the bipartisan consensus that was a cornerstone of our foreign policy, that if you imprison journalists and restrict the media, there will be consequences,”

.. In Cambodia, Prime Minister Hun Sen approvingly cited Trump’s attacks on fake news as a precedent for closing down radio stations and the much admired newspaper Cambodia Daily. After the crackdown, in November, Trump posed for a photograph with Hun Sen, flashing a thumbs-up — and Hun Sen praised the American president for his lack of interest in human rights.

.. “Your policy is being changed,” Hun Sen declared gratefully, and he lauded Trump for being “most respectful.”

.. Trump told the king of repressive Bahrain, “there won’t be strain with this administration.”

.. the government responded a few days later by killing five protesters

..  sentencing Rajab himself to five years in prison for his tweets.

.. Trump’s soft spot for authoritarianism goes way back. He has spoken sympathetically of the Chinese government’s massacres of pro-democracy protesters in 1989, and of Saddam Hussein’s approach to counterterrorism.

.. Periodically, Trump does raise human rights issues, but only to bludgeon enemies like North Korea or Venezuela. This is so ham-handed and hypocritical that it simply diminishes American standing further.

.. approval of the United States has collapsed to a record low of 30 percent. Indeed, more people now approve of China than of the United States. Russia is just behind us.

.. “Trump has been a disaster for U.S. soft power,”

.. “He’s so hated around the world that he’s radioactive. So on those rare occasions when he does something about human rights, it only tarnishes the cause.”

..  In Myanmar, a young Rohingya man pleaded with me: “Please don’t let us be treated as animals.

Trump’s World and the Retreat of Shame

Viktor Orban, the prime minister, declares that, “We do not want to be diverse and do not want to be mixed; we do not want our own color, traditions and national culture to be mixed with those of others.” Now, what color, precisely, are Hungarians, and what color were the nearly 440,000 Jews deported by the Nazis, mostly to Auschwitz, in 1944 with the cooperation of Hungarian authorities?

.. Mateusz Morawiecki, the prime minister of Poland, another European Union member state, defends a new law that makes it a crime to accuse “the Polish nation” of complicity in any “Nazi crimes committed by the Third Reich.” He says there were also “Jewish perpetrators” of the Holocaust.

Yes, shame is in retreat; decency too. Freedom is in retreat. The American president expresses semi-joking approval for Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, extending his rule indefinitely.

.. Why the illiberal counterrevolution? “First,” Berman tells me, “because there’s always a counterrevolution! Second, fear. You can only understand the macho cartoons that are Putin and Trump through the fear aroused by the revolution in women’s rights. Fear of globalization, too, and then we have this cultural collapse that leads so many Americans to be incapable of seeing at a glance that Trump should not be president.”

Trump has been playing right into China’s hands

U.S. steel jobs have been mostly lost due to technological change (i.e., robots, not China). U.S. aluminum jobs have been mostly lost to places with cheaper electricity (i.e., Iceland, which is coincidentally also not China).

.. Right now China isn’t even among the top 10 producers of U.S. steel imports. The top country we import from is Canada ..

.. If hurting Canada is Trump’s best strategy for intimidating China, our next step should be maple-syrup taxes.

.. Every time, he has played right into Chinese hands.

Take, for instance, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This 12-country pact deliberately excluded China; it was to make sure the United States rather than China got to “write the rules of the road for trade in the 21st century,” as then-President Barack Obama put it.

.. Their version stripped out some of the conditions won by U.S. negotiators, such as increased intellectual property protections for pharmaceuticals.

.. After it became clear the Chinese constitution would change to allow President Xi Jinping to hold power indefinitely, Trump didn’t criticize the authoritarian move. Instead, in comments secretly recorded at a fundraiser last weekend, he expressed admiration for Xi as “a great gentleman” who “treated us tremendously well when I went over there.” Xi, Trump cheered, had just made himself “president for life. . . . I think it’s great.”

.. Trump jokingly added that “maybe we will give that a shot someday,” the line that got the most attention. But the comments letting Xi off the hook, in fact praising Xi for consolidating power, were far more consequential. They signal to China that not only do we not care about the country’s increasing authoritarianism; we encourage it.

.. Xi has charmed the pants off Trump, who appears envious of the Chinese government’s military paradespress controlsdisregard for human rights and other totalitarian perks.

China’s most dangerous possible export to the United States isn’t a metal. Increasingly, it’s a style of political leadership.


How your sense of smell may affect your politics

An ancient trait creates political leanings

 HUMANS, like other animals, have evolved to notice and avoid sources of infection, whether that be rotten food or sickly members of their own species. This “behavioural immune system” can have unexpected consequences. Studies have, for instance, shown that those whose noses are more easily offended are also more likely to shun foreigners or disapprove of homosexuals. More broadly, people who live in regions with more to fear from pathogens tend to be less promiscuous and gregarious (such risky behaviour may spread disease).
.. This led Marco Liuzza of the Magna Graecia University of Catanzaro, in Italy, and his colleagues to wonder whether there might be a link between a person’s sensitivity to malodorousness and the likelihood of them being sympathetic to right-wing authoritarian views.
.. The researchers found that those scoring highly on the BODS scale did indeed hold more authoritarian views. They found no such correlation between the BODS score and more broadly conservative opinions.
.. he effect was small, enough to explain between 4% and 16% of the difference in viewpoints (family background, economic circumstances and other factors would presumably account for much of the rest).
.. prejudices and political views can be influenced by a person’s desire to avoid disease and bad smells.