CONGRATULATIONS!

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Kurt and Judge Rosemarie Aquilina
The whole family - mom Diane, fiancee Tanya, Kurt, Judge Aquilina, and me.
Mom Diane, fiancee Tanya, Kurt, Judge Aquilina, and me.

Today was a very special day for the Rhodes family.

Having passed the Michigan Bar Exam recently, our son, Kurt, was sworn in as an attorney by Judge Rosemarie Aquilina in a private ceremony here in Lansing, Michigan.

It was especially moving for us to hear what the judge said about him.   She was one of his professors at Thomas Cooley Law School and clearly thought a lot of him and his potential.

We have every confidence he will go on to be a really good lawyer.

REMEMBER THE SABBATH

Keep calm sabbath

A few Sundays ago, I had to go to Kroger, a grocery store that’s about two miles from our house.   I chose to go at lunchtime.

When I arrived, there were no shopping carts available (trolleys, for those who live in a Commonwealth country).   I had to wait for somebody to return one.

This had never happened to me before.

After purchasing a few items, I went to the check-out to pay.   I asked the man there if it was always this full on Sunday at lunch time.   He said yes, that most of their customers at this particular time of day had just gone to church and were now doing their shopping.

I remarked on how, when I was growing up, nothing was open on a Sunday.   He looked at me as if I was really old!

It wasn’t until 1994 that stores in the United Kingdom could open on Sundays.   Before that, newspaper shops were open on Sunday mornings, so that people could buy their trashy tabloids and keep up on all the sin politicians and others were committing; but the general populace was expected to observe “the Lord’s Day.”   In the sixties television did not commence programming until sometime in the afternoon and there was a mandatory evening break for religious programming.

When South Africa first got television in 1976, no entertainment was allowed on television on Sundays.   I remember watching the South African Defense Force Choir singing hymns followed by a documentary from Alistair Cooke on the Mormons.  No advertisements were permitted, either.   It was also forbidden to buy alcohol, unless you were resident in a hotel and could use their bar.

Back in 1895, when Theodore Roosevelt was appointed President of New York City’s 4-man Board of Police Commissioners, he chose to strictly enforce the “Blue Laws” that prohibited Sunday drinking.   This was not appreciated, especially by German immigrants who liked to down a stein of beer with their comrades on Sundays.   The once popular TR quickly turned into the most reviled man in America.   Fortunately for him (and the German beer drinkers), President William McKinley appointed him to the position of Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1897.   Four years later, when McKinley was assassinated, Roosevelt became President.

I remember my mother telling me that during World War II, the local town council had allowed cinemas to open after 4pm on Sundays, to cater for the American GI’s based close by.   Clark Gable, then the most popular male actor in Hollywood, had been seen on the steps one Sunday afternoon.

In 1947, Compton MacKenzie wrote his classic novel “Whisky Galore,” which told the story of a small Scottish island during World War II that ran out of whisky.   The islanders were uplifted when a merchant vessel carrying Scotch ran aground off their coast.   But, sadly, this happened late on a Saturday evening and there was nothing they could do to rescue the desired liquid until the “Sabbath” was over.   After church Sunday morning, the men all gathered on the cliff top and simply watched the wrecked ship longingly!   But Sunday night, immediately after the stroke of midnight, the men were all there on the rocks salvaging what they could to enjoy the drink, perhaps also on the rocks!   The book was turned into a movie the following year.   For some reason the title was changed in the US to “Tight Little Island.”

A popular story in the 60’s was about the sky-diver in Northern Ireland who had fallen to his death when his chute failed to open.   The comment was made that “he should have known that nothing opens on a Sunday in Belfast!”   (I’m sure things have changed since.)

We’ve come a long way in the last fifty years.   Now church-goers routinely do their weekly grocery shopping on the way home from church, something that would have been unthinkable two generations ago.

An article by a syndicated US columnist some years ago showed that the same church-goers then went home and watched football followed by “Desperate Housewives” which was based on everybody breaking the Ten Commandments.

One hour of church followed by two hours of shopping, then a family meal, football and a trashy, unchristian TV show.   One has to question the priorities Christians have.

I’m sure God does.   When people, even Christians, have so little time for Him, why should He have time for them?

The root word for Sabbath means “to rest, to cease from labor.”   Jesus Christ said:   “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).   In other words, a 24-hour period of rest from work and from “doing our own pleasure” (Isaiah 58:13) is for our own good.

Today, most people are stressed out, most of the time.   The need for a day of rest has never been greater, yet many don’t have one.    And, if they do, other members of their family may not, so it’s become very difficult to get families together to build the bonds necessary for any society to thrive.

Instead, people are constantly working in one way or another, always trying to make a few dollars more or to have more fun.

We live in a society where God is not taken seriously.   One hour a week in church, followed by the pursuit of secular pleasures is not what He intended.

Jesus Christ kept the Sabbath and attended the synagogue every Saturday (Luke 4:16).   Christians are to be like Him.   We should do the same.   It’s one of the Ten Commandments.   “Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8).

Previous generations in North America, Britain, Australia and elsewhere were very strict about Sabbath observance.   The irony is that the biblical Sabbath commanded here in the Ten Commandments was not Sunday.   Rather, it was the seventh day, to be exact, Friday sunset to Saturday sunset.

People need a day of rest, the Sabbath.   Instead, we have a society where everybody is worn out, with consequent serious damage to family life and relationships.   It’s never too late to change and to start keeping the Sabbath as God intended.

 

A GREAT AMERICAN WEAKNESS

Hillary and Gates

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates was interviewed yesterday on CBS’ Face the Nation.   He clearly does not think much of current and prospective presidential candidates, most of whom are, like Mr. Gates, Republicans.

The big problem is that foreign policy is set to play a big role in next year’s presidential election, sharing priority with the economy.

And this is the problem – none of the Republican candidates have had any experience in foreign policy.   The Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was a former Secretary of State and, therefore, has had more experience.   Mr. Gates and Mrs. Clinton overlapped so know each other well.

This has always been a big weakness in the American political system, that somebody can come from seemingly nowhere, with little or no experience, and become “the leader of the free world” and is immediately eyeballing world leaders who have had twenty or more years experience in government, including foreign affairs.  The current president and his two predecessors illustrate this well.

A prominent US politician in the 1950’s put it well when he said:  “It is true that, in America, any boy can grow up to become president. This is something we’re going to have to learn to live with!”

What makes it matter more this time is that the US and its allies are facing greater danger now than ever before.   This is the warning from former Deputy Director of the CIA, Michael Morrell, whose book The Great War of Our Time has just been published.   Mr. Morrell writes about the danger from ISIS, but also warns that there are three terrorist groups in the Middle East that are an even bigger threat to the West.   It’s only a matter of time, warns Mr. Morrell, before a major attack is launched.  We have already seen relatively minor attacks.

In the 1930’s Great Britain was constantly being warned by Winston Churchill of what was happening in Germany and the threat it posed to Britain and the rest of Europe.   When war came, Churchill was asked to lead the country in its long struggle for survival.   Today, there is no Churchill.

Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas wrote on May 8th that steps should be taken immediately to halt immigration from Iraq and Syria, home to ISIS.   People from those countries pose a huge security risk to the US and other western nations.   You can guarantee that not one presidential candidate will touch on this issue.  If immigration is discussed at all, it will be to fast track the path to citizenship for illegals already in the country, so that they will be ready to vote for the Democrats in time for this or the next election.   Nothing will be said about keeping people out, especially those from ISIS influenced areas.

Politicians lack knowledge and understanding of the rest of the world.   Some time ago, it was revealed that less than one third of US Congressmen even had a passport.   Perhaps this is why candidates, trying to make up for this, are already starting to fly around the world spending a day in London, 12 hours in Paris, 6 in Berlin, etc., etc.   This is in order to impress, sending a not-so-subtle message that “I understand the world – I’ve been there, done that!”

But, under pressure, they show little if any understanding. Republicans Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio are the two latest to put their foot in their mouth and say the wrong thing.

When Mr. Bush was asked a few days ago whether he would have chosen to send troops into Iraq like his brother did, he answered in the affirmative, also claiming that Mrs. Clinton would have done likewise.  Shortly afterward he backtracked, claiming he did not understand the question.  Later still he said he would not have sent troops into Iraq.

Surely the correct answer should have been to say, “Based on the intelligence we had at the time, I would have chosen to go into Iraq; but now, in hindsight, it was clearly a big mistake.”

Marco Rubio went a bit further claiming that the world is a better place with Saddam Hussein gone.  It is???  I would not have liked to have lived under Saddam, but I would have preferred living there under him than living there now.   And that goes for hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have fled the country.

The bigger picture is even worse – by invading Iraq, we set off a chain of events that have given us ISIS and a growing Shia-Sunni conflict that threatens the peace and security of the world.

These two men are no more ignorant than many others.  John McLaughlin of the McLaughlin Group (PBS) read a statement at the weekend from a senior member of the Obama Administration justifying an agreement with Iran.  The statement expressed the hope that, through the pending agreement, Iran would be able to return fully to the family of nations and would turn its back on terrorism and conflict.  The spokesman added the hope that it would lead to a healing of the historic schism between Shia and Sunni Islam.

What?   Did somebody really write that?   Are they serious when they think that a short-lived US Administration can bring about peace between Shia and Sunni and end a 1400-year-old conflict? Next, they will be thinking they can resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — oops, I forgot, more than one Administration has already tried that!

Doesn’t anybody know history any more?  Don’t they stay awake during history class at school?  Come to think of it, history and geography are hardly taught in schools.   Perhaps that explains everything – presidential candidates went to school like everybody else.  It’s not surprising they know so little about history and can’t even find most countries on the map!

 

AFTER THE VOTE

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The pollsters, the pundits and the commentators all got it wrong!

The British election was not a close call.

All the experts predicted the need for a coalition government, that neither the Conservatives nor Labour would get enough seats in parliament to form a government without the help of at least one other party.   There were warnings of a “hung parliament” and a “constitutional crisis.”   Even the Queen left town, advised that her services would not be needed for a few days, that nobody would be ready to accept her appointment as prime minister.

But the Conservatives easily won.

Consequently, three rival party leaders all resigned within the same hour, an historic first.

While David Cameron is pleased with the result, Nicola Sturgeon is likely more pleased.   Her Scottish National Party won 56 of Scotland’s 59 seats.   Independence for Scotland is back on the table.   56 out of 59 does not mean that the majority of Scots want independence.   What it means is that the SNP candidate in each constituency got more votes than anybody else.   This will not, however, deter the SNP from taking the opportunity to bolt as soon as it presents itself.

Labour was the big loser, losing big in Scotland, where it previously held most seats.   Ed Miliband, Labour leader, said his party faced “a surge of nationalism.”

One newspaper described it as “an electoral tsunami” (Independent).   Of note, Mhairi Black defeated a Labour heavyweight and became, at age 20, the youngest Member of Parliament since 1667.

In fact, the single most significant development in the election was Scottish nationalism.

English nationalism was also evident.   Although the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) only won one seat in the new parliament, they received 13% of the popular vote.   That means that more than one in eight voters wants the UK to leave the European Union.   That’s not all – the Conservatives are promising a referendum on the issue.   Many of their supporters also want to exit the Union.

Nick Clegg, outgoing leader of the Liberal Democrats, summed up this rising tide of nationalism by saying, “Fear and grievance have won.”

The Stock Market soared at the news that the Conservatives are back in power and, this time, without the need of support from the Liberal Democrats.   The Conservative – Lib Dem Coalition of the last five years took a near bankrupt economy, turned it around and made it the fastest growing major western economy.   The surge in support for David Cameron’s Conservative Party likely came from voters who didn’t want to risk a return to the economic disaster of the post-2008 crash.

HISTORIC ELECTION IN UK

British elections

Growing up, I always knew exactly when World War 2 ended.   It ended on my mother’s birthday, the 8th May.   On that day in 1945, she turned 19.   She was 13 when the war in Europe began. Her teenage years were lost to war!

If she had not said anything, I would still have a rough idea of when the war was fought and when it ended.   During my childhood, I played with friends on bomb- sites.   It took England some years to rebuild.

World War 2 wasn’t the only conflict I heard about.   My grandfather (my father’s stepfather) had been wounded in World War I and would show us the bullet wounds in his lower arm and wrist.

At least we knew that England had won both wars and that we were now safe from the threat of German conquest.

Friday marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe.   It ended with Germany’s surrender.

Seventy years later, Britain’s relationship with Europe is once again center stage in the UK General Election taking place today, May 7th.

There is more choice in this election than there has ever been.   There is also more uncertainty – nobody is willing to stick their neck out and predict the outcome.

What is clear is that there will have to be another coalition government, as neither of the two main parties will have enough seats in parliament to form a government.   The two main party leaders will spend Friday and maybe a few more days (or even weeks) haggling, while trying to put together a majority to form the next government.   (British politicians take note – it’s just taken seven weeks for Benyamin Netanyahu to put together a coalition government!)

The uncertainty of a hung parliament is one problem with this election.   There are two others that have graver implications.

One is that the unity of the kingdom is at stake.   Although the majority of Scots rejected independence in a referendum just a few months ago, the pro-independence Scottish National Party may hold the balance of power in a coalition government, thereby boosting their cause.

The other monumental matter is a possible referendum on leaving the European Union.   The Conservatives have promised this for 2017, but UKIP (the United Kingdom Independence Party) wants it sooner.   If they enter a coalition with David Cameron’s Conservatives, the price they will demand will be a referendum by the end of the year.   This will make a “No” vote more likely as hundreds of thousands of immigrants from Eastern Europe keep arriving and every one of them can vote.   By 2017 their votes would likely result in “yes.”

If England votes to leave the EU and the majority of Scots don’t, there will be a major constitutional crisis.   It’s likely such a scenario will cause the United Kingdom to fall apart.   The end result would be an independent England surrounded by not-so-friendly powers, all a part of a German dominated European superpower.   How ironic just seventy years after Great Britain and its allies defeated the Third Reich!

So, it’s an above average interest election this year, with repercussions beyond the UK’s borders.

 

“SEND IN THE MOMS!” (BUT WHERE ARE THE DADS?)

Baltimore mom

Video of a mother pushing her teenage son away from the Baltimore riots has been shown across the world.   One television news station quipped:  “Send in the moms!” as the solution to the rioting.

This raises a pertinent question – Where are the dads?

When young African-American males are killed by white policemen, invariably it’s the mothers who are interviewed.   If there is a male in the room, it’s likely a step-father.

This is not just an African-American problem.   School shootings are usually the work of young white males.   Again, when reporters cover a shooting, it becomes clear that there was no father around.

But it’s African-American families that suffer most from absentee fathers, though whites are not far behind.

In 2011, it was reported that 72% of black children were born to unwed mothers.

The same source reports that, in 2005, 39% of African-American children did not live with their biological father and a further 28% had no substitute father in the home.   This means that two-thirds of African-American teenage boys have no father figure in their lives.(Wikipedia:  African-American family structure.)

It should, therefore, not be surprising that a disproportionate percentage of our prison population is made up of black males.   Without a strong father figure at home, boys are more likely to get into trouble, regardless of race.

Media coverage of this year’s riots gives the world the impression that America is inherently a racist society.   How can this be, when Indians, all fairly recent immigrants from India, now have a per capita income higher than whites?   They are dark skinned but do well.   Chinese and Japanese Americans are also more successful than whites.

The difference is the family structure.   These three ethnic groups have a strong family structure.   As one Indian told me when I was visiting India, “It’s unthinkable for an Indian man to desert his family!”

But we shouldn’t blame all of this on African-American adult males.   They must take their share of the blame – babies born out of wedlock are the result of fornication, which the Bible condemns as a sin (I Corinthians 6:18).

But blame also falls elsewhere.

Although the numbers of black couples living together in a traditional family had been falling gradually with every census from 1880 to 1960, the numbers took a dramatic dive with the 1970 census.

The reason for this is government – and the white liberals behind it.

In 1965, LBJ’s War on Poverty set out to improve the lot of mothers, who soon found they were better off being taken care of by Uncle Sam than their husbands.

It wasn’t long before mothers were kicking their husbands out, if they had even bothered to marry at all.

The end result is the level of violence we see in our inner cities, including the recent rioting.

God warned us of this.   Malachi 2:16 says:   “For the LORD God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence.”

There’s a connection between broken homes and violence – and not just in the home.

Certainly, police need better training in conflict resolution, but the real problem begins in the home.   That’s where it should be resolved.

FATHER OF ENGLAND’S RULING DYNASTY

 (My brother Nigel's official website is http://www.nigelrhodesfineart.com/.   He has been in the art business for over 30 years.   This picture is of the portrait he has for sale.)
My brother, Nigel, has been in the art business for over 30 years. This picture is of the rare portrait of George I, by C. Fontaine, he has for sale.

My brother Nigel in England asked me to write this article to accompany a portrait of King George I that is being sold by his art and antique business.   I find George I interesting, so here is the story.   (My brother’s official website is http://www.nigelrhodesfineart.com/.)

The first Hanoverian king did not get the dynasty off to a good start.

So desperate were the English to guarantee the Protestant succession after Queen Anne’s death in 1714, that they turned to a distant relative who lived in Germany and asked him to become King.   More than fifty closer relatives were passed over because of their Roman Catholicism.   It had taken almost two centuries to secure England’s freedom from Rome – there was clearly no turning back.

George I was King of Great Britain and Ireland from August 1st, 1714, to his death in 1727.   At the same time, he retained his German titles that he had held since 1698. He was also ruler of the Duchy of Brunswick-Luneberg and Elector of the Holy Roman Empire.   His two successors, George II and George III would also hold the same titles, until the dismantling of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806.

George I was never comfortable speaking English.   If someone did not speak his native German, he would converse in French.

Although the people were thankful to have a protestant monarch, George was never popular.   He had a bad reputation even before he arrived on England’s shores.   After his wife had committed adultery with a Swedish guardsman, he had the man murdered and then imprisoned her and would not let her see their two children, one of whom was the future George II.   While Prince of Wales, the future George II, was anxious for the death of his father, not so much to be king himself, but to be able to see his mother again.   However, she died shortly before her husband.

“He was by nature neither warm nor congenial (“the Elector is so cold that he freezes everything into ice,” his cousin remarked), and those who had to deal with him soon discovered that beneath his shy, benign reserve their lurked a deeply suspicious, even vindictive nature.   Accustomed to unquestioning obedience, George was selfish and easily offended. And once offence was given, the wrong could never be made right.” (Royal Panoply, George I, by Carolly Erickson, 2003.)

When George became king, he journeyed to England to ascend the throne, but had intended to return to Hanover as soon as possible. His acceptance of his new responsibility owed more to his conviction that it would be good for Hanover, than to any desire to serve the British people.

The year after his ascension, he faced rebellion at home. Jacobites, loyal to the Catholic Stuarts, wanted to place the son of James II on the throne of England, Scotland and Ireland.   When the Pretender landed in Scotland and raised his standard against the king, many Scottish towns declared themselves for James.   But George was resolute – he had faced the Turks and the French and was not about to be defeated by the Stuart usurper. James soon returned to France, discouraged by the lack of support he received from the people.

Immediately after this victory, George returned to Hanover, one of five visits he made to his old home during his reign. At the time, Hanover was at war with Sweden. George had allied his electorate with Peter the Great, Czar of Russia, in hopes of acquiring territory from the Swedes after their defeat.   But George was soon faced with a crisis in his new home and had to return to London, where the government had degenerated into squabbles.

Without realizing it, after 1720, George contributed to the modern democracy that has given the United Kingdom three centuries of stability. Robert Walpole was his first prime minister. Indeed, he was also the first prime minister of the country, one of the most competent prime ministers in a long line of, arguably, questionable heads of government.   Walpole blended the power of the Crown with the growing power of parliament, in a balance that remains with us to this day.

Although the king shunned public appearances, on warm summer nights, he would board his open barge at Whitehall with a small party of friends, travelling upriver to Chelsea.   Other barges would soon join the royal barge, one of which had a full orchestra of fifty musicians on board.   The music they played filled the air and was very popular with Londoners.   George had brought with him his favorite musician George Frederick Handel, who composed much of the music played on these royal evenings, music that is still popular today.

George will also be remembered for the South Sea Bubble, one of the greatest financial catastrophes in history. Its collapse ruined thousands of people.

The company was set up to refinance thirty thousand pounds of government debt, a vast sum in those days. The debts were converted into shares of the company’s stock. As investors rushed in to make a killing, the value of the shares kept rising, shares in other companies rising along with them. Inevitably, the bubble burst and the shares became worthless.   As the king was the Governor of the company, he got the blame, inspiring the Jacobites to plan another insurrection, which also failed.

While George I may not be anybody’s favorite monarch, his legacy lives on to this day in his descendant Queen Elizabeth II. George I founded a dynasty, which has lasted more than three centuries and given the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth Realms unrivalled political stability. For this we should all be thankful. Thanks also to the first Hanoverian who had a small part in this achievement.

 

"Once in a while you will stumble upon the truth but most of us manage to pick ourselves up and hurry along as if nothing had happened." — Sir Winston Churchill

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