Current Events Write-Up: Rex Tillerson, “Fake News,” the Bill of Rights, Alan Thicke, and More

I’ve got some current events and opinions links for this week!

The Trump Cabinet

President-elect Donald Trump selected Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State.

Pat Buchanan is happy with the decision, from the standpoint of supporting a more non-interventionist foreign policy: “Most businessmen are interested in doing deals, making money, and, if the terms are not met, walking away, not starting a war.  And here is the heart of the objection to Tillerson. He wants to end sanctions and partner with Putin’s Russia, as does Trump. But among many in the mainstream media, think tanks, websites, and on the Hill, this is craven appeasement. For such as these, the Cold War is never over.”

Robert Reich is concerned: “Trump’s pick for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, is the first nominee for that office whose résumé and wealth hinge on his partnerships with tyrants around the world.”

And prominent social conservative Tony Perkins lambastes Rex Tillerson, noting Tillerson’s socially liberal positions.

Moving on to the President-elect’s choice for Interior Secretary, Wes Siler of Outside has an article entitled “Trump’s Interior Pick Is the Last Hope for Our Public Lands: Former Navy SEAL Ryan Zinke Opposes the Republican Land Heist. He May Be the Best Environmental Hope We Have in This Administration.”  As you can tell, the article, overall, lauds Zinke, and what Siler says deserves just as much consideration as the anti-Trump narratives. Yet, near the end, the article briefly mentions aspects of Zinke’s stances that may be of concern to many environmentalists.

More on Trump

Bill Gates recently spoke with the President-elect, and Gates has expressed optimism: “But in the same way President Kennedy talked about the space mission and got the country behind that, I think whether it’s education or stopping epidemics … [or] in this energy space, there can be a very upbeat message that [Trump’s] administration [is] going to organize things, get rid of regulatory barriers, and have American leadership through innovation.”

Eleanor Clift was on the McLaughlin Group with Pat Buchanan for decades.  In a Daily Beast article, she talks about Buchanan’s reactions to the Trump campaign and the Trump transition.  I’m not endorsing everything Buchanan says, but I am interested in his analysis.

At the Literary Hub, Jordan Rothacker has an interview with John Reed, who wrote a parody sequel to George Orwell’s Animal Farm.  One of the lines I liked: “Do you realize that quite a few Marxists are in the upper echelons of global corporations? It’s because they understand the system.”  But here’s where Reed talks about Trump: “As much as I loathe Trump, he doesn’t like the new paradigm either. At least internationally. He’d prefer isolationism, which is not something he’ll be able to advance in slightest. This idea that we can export our power structure, and by so doing expand our economic dominance, is central to corporate strategy. I do suppose on the domestic front, Trump fits in rather precisely.”

Townhall had some articles on Trump’s trade policies.  Stephen Chapman is obviously not a fan, for his article is entitled “Trump’s Self-Defeating Trade Policy.” Chapman lucidly explains his position.  This part was especially helpful in explaining potential drawbacks to protectionism: “U.S. automakers use a multitude of imported components. Most of the cars built on our soil, in fact, contain more than 25 percent foreign parts. A lot of other products assembled here include materials or pieces made elsewhere.  As a result, any duties slapped on imports would inflate costs for American manufacturers, making it harder for them to sell both at home and abroad. It would even hurt other U.S. firms that buy and use imported goods in their operations. In an era of global supply chains, punishing foreigners amounts to punishing American companies and their workers.”

Seton Motley, on the other hand, had an article entitled “Actual Free Trade and Trump Trade Are Absolutely, Perfectly Compatible.”  At first, the article complains about GOP strategies in government.  But it had some interesting insights about trade: “Actual free trade deals – should be, like, eight pages. ‘This agreement eliminates the following tariffs, taxes and subsidies:….’ The Trans-Pacific Partnership – has reached (at least) 5,544 pages. That’s not a free trade deal – that’s a cronyism-packed, government-riddled nightmare mess.  And these ‘free trade’ deals – routinely ignore the anti-free trade practices of the nations with which we are trading. To wit: China. Trump has long and rightly pointed out how damaging to us is China’s currency manipulation. And China imposes all sorts of tariffs on all sorts of U.S. imports, which we continually, blithely ignore – in the name of one-way, America-damaging ‘free trade.'”

On ABC This Week

On ABC This Week last Sunday, Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill had thoughts about how Democrats can “win back those rural, small-town voters…they have lost” (from George Stephanopoulos’ question).  She said:

“Well, I think it’s important that we show up. I think it’s important that we communicate directly with all those working people.  You know, I was really shocked this week that, after all of this talk about coal miners and all of this talk about Buy America, the Republicans and the House of Representatives gutted health care and pension protections for coal miners and removed the Buy America provision that had been put in the bill in a bipartisan basis.  So I think we have got to call out the Republicans, where their walk doesn’t match their talk, and I think we also have to make sure that we communicate clearly that we are the party that cares deeply in our core about working people in this country.”

Fidel Castro

The controversial Richard Falk had things to say about Fidel Castro and the Western media’s response to his death:

“I have been bemused by the captious tone and condescending assessments of mainstream media in the West reacting to Fidel Castro’s death on November 25, 2016. Typical was coverage in The Economist, which while acknowledging Castro’s epic historical role, and even grudgingly admitting that he achieved world class health care and universal education in his impoverished country, reached the ‘politically correct’ conclusion that these achievements were ‘outweighed by his drab legacy. Much of the human capital was wasted by his one-party system, police state, and stagnant centrally planned economy.’…In contrast to generally condescending appraisals in the West, I call attention to two extraordinary essays of appreciation written by cherished friends. One by Sri Lanka’s lead diplomat and cultural critic, Dayan Jayatilleka, published as an opinion piece in the Colombo Telegraph beneath a suitable headline, ‘A Farewell to Fidel: The Last of Epic Heroes,’ Nov. 26, 2016. Dayan not only celebrates Castro’s heroic revolutionary achievement in transforming Cuba from its gangster state identity in the Batista period to a vital outpost of Third World progressive ideals. He also underscores the admirable ethics of liberation violence that guided Castro’s revolutionary practice in ways that exhibited disciplined respect for the innocence of civilian life. For greater detail see Jayatilleka fine appreciative study, Fidel’s Ethics of Violence: The Moral Dimension of the Political Thought of Fidel Castro (London: Pluto Press, 2007). This conception of the ethics of political violence has been essentially absent from the manner in which the struggle between terrorist groups and sovereign states has been waged in various combat zones, especially since the 9/11 attacks. Jayatilleka’s assessments have been confirmed and extended in the recently published book by Nick Hewlett entitled Blood and Progress: Violence in the Pursuit of Emancipation (Edinburgh, Scotland: University of Edinburgh Press, 2016).”

That part about “ethics of liberation violence” that respected innocent “civilian life” stood out to me.  How would one reconcile that with human rights abuses in Cuba?  Perhaps one can say that the victims were neither innocent nor civilian, in the eyes of the Castro regime, but were counter-revolutionary.  In any case, Castro’s articulation of an ethics of liberation violence does not surprise me, since Castro did think about issues, including religion.  But there are people who would probably disagree with the idea that Castro respected innocent civilian life.  Falk’s post is also interesting because it talks about different reactions to Castro’s death.

“Fake News”

Facebook is devising a new “fake news” policy, which would label and possibly marginalize “fake news” sites, on the basis of what “fact-checking” sites say (or so I understand the proposed policy).

William LaJeunesse of Fox News has an illuminating article entitled: “Facebook’s War on ‘Fake News’ Has Skeptics Asking: Who Decides?”  The article explains the concern some conservatives, and even some non-conservatives, have about Facebook’s policy, along with Mark Zuckerberg’s attempts to clarify it.

Historical Interest

It was Bill of Rights Day this last week.  Ed Feulner of Townhall had an article entitled “We Almost Didn’t Have the Bill of Rights.”

Feulner says that some people opposed the Bill of Rights because they thought people already had those rights, without the government needing to recognize them explicitly.  For the government to codify those rights would be to imply that the rights came from government, as opposed to being natural, or given by God.  If Feulner is correct, I wonder how that would correspond with the view that, prior to the Fourteenth Amendment, the Bill of Rights restricted the federal government but not the state governments.  If a right is natural or given by God, would that not imply that a state should not be able to suppress it?  On a related note, see Steve Hays’ post, The Bill of Rights.

Death

Growing Pains actor Alan Thicke passed on this last week.  Thicke played the dad, Jason Seaver.    This article talked about the kind of dad he played.  I remember two episodes in particular.  On one, Mike, Jason’s oldest son (played by Kirk Cameron), saw the ghost of his uncle, jogging into the kitchen, just like the uncle did before dying.  Mike told Jason, and Jason calmly and wisely suggested that Mike find out what the ghost wants.  Jason was a psychologist, and yet he did not dismiss what Mike saw.  He listened, took Mike seriously, and was understanding.  On another episode, Mike gets a bad grade from his psychology professor, so Jason does Mike’s homework.  But that gets a bad grade, too!  So Jason has a debate with Mike’s psychology professor!

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About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. I study the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of its Ph.D. program. I have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting.
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