My Fair Islam

Rep. Clay Higgins of Louisiana has posted a threat to “radicalized Islamists” (an oxymoron if there ever was one). Higgins claims that his words are being twisted by the left for political gain.

And what, my dear Mr. Higgins, do you think the ISIL propagandists are doing right now? Telling the impoverished Muslim world that they will find security if they recite the Pledge of Allegiance with marbles in their mouth?

After all, from their point of view, America sends special forces and fighter jets around the world to murder women and children.

There’s no tracing back to the origin of fault. Your job as a political leader is thus not only to fund security, but to build coalitions that reach across sectarian lines. That includes running incendiary words past Islamic leaders. They’re the ones that bear the brunt of hatred, and you damn well better ask permission before you claim the privilege of “free speech.”

You’re the POTUS

The most disturbing statement I’ve heard Trump utter came in his conversation with Lester Holt. After admitting that Putin asked Trump to meet in the Oval Office with the Russian foreign minister, Trump said “and, you know, who am I to say “No”? Nothing speaks more to me of the fact that Trump lacks the confidence to lead our great nation than his failure to understand that he CAN stand up to the leader of the greatest criminal enterprise in the world – they being Vladimir Putin and the Russian state.

Either that, or it was Trump’s folksy way of saying that he really admires the guy.

Oh – That Carrier Group

Apparently there was some confusion that the US sent a Navy carrier group to intimidate North Korea’s leader. This blogger has learned that rather the Trump Administration was drawing on its real estate expertise to cool off tensions by innovative means. Vice President Mike Pence, close collaborator in salvaging manufacturing jobs in Indiana, delivered the equipment personally:

PenceCarrier

The gift was received enthusiastically by the North Korean leader:

KinJongUn

Cruise Out-Of-Control

Genesis 2 introduces the seventh day of Creation with a brief lull in the relationship between God and the world.

By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

[NIV Gen. 2:2-3]

Having rested, God – who is Unconditional Love – then picks up his work in the Garden of Eden, demonstrating to Adam and Eve the virtues of love. In that context, there is peace between the animals. That peace is shattered when Adam and Eve choose to eat of the fruit of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” They chose no longer to submit to the guidance of love. They chose to figure out how to do it on their own.

Jesus is the hope of the world because he had the strength to demonstrate the power that stands behind those that chose to love unconditionally. In the years both before and after that demonstration, however, we see that the Darwinian practices of brutal confrontation are often strong in the human relationships and politics. Many people still live like animals.

This is the context for my reaction to the decision by the Trump Administration to launch missile strikes against the regime of Syria’s dictator, Bashar Assad. The immediate response of Russia has been to claim the diplomatic high ground, asserting that the US action was illegal.

Assad has survived in Syria for one reason, and one reason only: Putin’s support. Russia has used its veto power in the UN security council to prevent coordinated global action against the Syrian tyrant. When the rebels were poised to oust Assad, Russia then intervened militarily, and along with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, have now put the rebels on the defensive.

In a series of votes in the UN Security Council, the Obama Administration had established Russian complicity in the humanitarian crisis in Syria. Our NATO ally, Turkey, has suffered greatly as the destination of opportunity for 3 million Syrians fleeing the war. Both of those institutions – the United Nations and NATO – were therefore poised to demand Russia’s removal from the UN security council, allowing unified international action to suppress Russian and Chinese military adventurism around the globe.

Russia was the guarantor the Syria had no chemical weapons. By resorting to force before the international community had established that indeed a chemical weapons attack had occurred using sarin gas, Trump has made the conflict one of brute force between two parties. By acting without consultation with our allies, Trump has undermined the institutions that could have acted to discipline Putin across the globe.

It’s all very satisfying to punch a bully in the nose, but it just adds confusion to a situation that should be managed by institutions of law enforcement. Trump has undermined US authority in those institutions – NATO and the United Nations. His action will have long-term consequences that will be to the advantage of those that seek to sow chaos across the globe – principally for the purpose of preventing humanity from grasping the enormous power that arises when we adopt peace and love as the guides to our conduct in all spheres of life.

A far better course would have been to mount a campaign to expel Russia from the UN security council.

Golly, Gowdy

While the press digs in against President Trump, the Republican establishment doubles down on its support for him. Why?

Observation: if Russia did hack the US election, it succeeded only because over the last 35 years the Republican super-money PACs spent billions of dollars smearing Hillary Clinton’s name. Russia succeeded only because in the House of Representatives Gowdy’s Benghazi committee unlawfully used the investigative powers of Congress for pure political purposes.

The Republican flight from reality left them with a con man for a presidential candidate in 2016. They were looking at the final humiliation: the breaking of the glass ceiling by a candidate that they had realized 35 years ago would be the woman most likely to accomplish that goal. They were desperate.

Given the corruption, the lies, the hatred – what wouldn’t they have done to avoid that outcome?

I’m wondering: who was guiding the Russian operation. Was it really Vladimir Putin on his own? Or did he have help? Putin may be simply the fall-guy patsy for people like Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers.

And this may be why Ryan and McConnell are undermining the investigation – because it leads back, ultimately, to the Republican Party itself.

Kleptocrats, Unite!

Rachel Maddow is building the case that Rex Tillerson’s actions at the State Department – and principally the firing of the top career civil servants – are consistent with the goals of Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

To those that understand Putin’s Russia, the goals are simple: transfer as much wealth as possible from the Russian state to private ownership. This is called “kleptocracy” – government serving the financial interests of the leadership. Putin has made an art of this game, becoming arguably the richest man in the world.

As CEO of Exxon Mobil, Rex Tillerson was awarded Putin’s “Friend of Russia” designation for his stand against U.S. sanctions that impeded Exxon’s ability to exploit oil and gas resources in Russia. The methods used to enforce those sanctions were situated in the U.S. State Department. Those methods were also used to bring pressure against Exxon for its actions elsewhere in the world.

So Tillerson’s business history supports the conclusion that the State Department, with its focus on human rights and equity, is a nuisance to those trying to get business done in the world. My guess is that this is consistent with Trump’s goals, particularly as it has become clear that our President is almost certainly in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, for which the sentencing mandates jail time. Cleaning out the top of the State Department will allow the administration to identify and elevate career diplomats that share their priorities, and perhaps protect themselves from prosecution.

So Rachel, don’t push the Russian connection too hard. Trump and Tillerson share with Putin the attitude that government should be turned to the purpose of making money. Their kleptomania may be sufficient explanation for their policies. Regardless of whether Putin is using blackmail to coerce their actions, the Trump administration is composed of people that appear to be inspired by Putin’s success.