RHODES ON ROADS

Leeson
Leeson, 3, playing in the driveway.

I was sitting on the front porch yesterday evening, watching our 3-year-old grandson, Leeson, digging in the dirt that constitutes our circular drive way.   He had his back to me and happily played for over two hours.   I think he was enjoying some alone time as his 4-year-old brother, Aubren, had gone to play golf with his dad.   His younger brother no longer likes golf after falling off the golf cart (it was parked) and getting a couple stitches over his eye.   And Grandpa hasn’t liked golf since making a fool of himself the last time he played!  It was so bad, the city closed down the golf course soon afterwards, though this may have been a coincidence.

Back to the driveway.   I couldn’t see exactly what he was doing, but when he finally came in to the house to eat his dinner (or, rather, not eat it) I walked over to where he was playing and looked at his handiwork.

What Leeson had done was dig his own little pothole.

Clearly influenced by driving on Michigan’s roads, where potholes are ubiquitous, this future citizen is growing up thinking this is the norm.   I’m going to have to tell him, when he is old enough to understand, that once upon a time there were no potholes in Michigan.  In fact, when Grandpa and Grandma left Ghana for the United States in 1990, they naively thought that potholes were a thing of the past!

We never expected that, 25 years later, Michigan would be worse than Ghana for potholes.

Presumably, the United States has the technology to fix the roads, so that can’t be the problem.   A recent letter to our local newspaper was written by a man who had driven from Florida to Michigan, driving through a number of states, and remarked on how the roads deteriorated as soon as he crossed the state line from Ohio into Michigan.   He rather unkindly wrote that he didn’t need a sign to tell him he had reached Michigan – the state of the roads was enough to say where he was.

It’s been like this for a while, two or thee years.   Nothing is ever done about it.   For all the roadworks that seem to take place here, there are still potholes galore.

Perhaps all our taxes are going to Flint to improve the water quality before the entire population dies from lead poisoning.   I doubt it. Infrastructure does not appear to be a priority.

The question is: where are our taxes going?

We pay road taxes in different ways – our gas is amongst the most expensive in the United States.   Before we cross back into Michigan from Indiana, where our daughter and family live, we fill up our gas tank to save money.  If we smoked, we’d buy our cigarettes there, too; and if I drank a lot, I’d buy my beer there as there’s no deposits on bottles or cans.

An attempt was made last year to raise the sales tax (on everything except food) from 6-7%, but was rejected by the voters. Quite simply, the people did not trust their government to actually use the money to fix the roads. The 6% should be enough, together with a high tax on gas and car registration fees. Again, where’s all the money going?

Michigan taxpayers had to bail out the city of Detroit to the tune of $191 million, following years of corrupt administration in the city, where officials pocketed a great deal of the local tax revenue.   More recently, Michigan taxpayers have had to bail out the city of Flint to rectify its water situation.   Again, the problem was caused by the local city council.   The inevitable lawsuits will themselves run into millions, every dollar of which could be used to fix the roads.

Meanwhile, voters are forking out thousands each year on car repairs, made essential by the state of the roads.   At least the body shops are doing well!

It’s time the Legislature made a determined effort to solve this problem.   It might be more of a priority for the Governor if he didn’t fly around in a helicopter – from his perspective, the roads look fine!

To be fair, there is only one pothole in my drive.  I suspect, however, that Leeson will be out there again today digging up more of our own little road, until there are a dozen potholes in the drive, making it a more authentic stretch of Michigan road!

Perhaps, 15 years from now, when he graduates from High School, Leeson can work for the Transportation Department and help fix the roads.   I’m convinced those potholes will still be there.

“EMPIRE DAY” – A GREAT LOSS FOR THE WORLD

Empite flags

I meant to post this article on Tuesday the 24th but it was delayed by the arrival of our latest grandson, Hayden Hilario Rhodes Garza.  The baby was due to arrive June 9th.   Mother, father, brothers, and new little son are all doing well.   The grandparents are delighted.

Yesterday, May 24th, was Empire Day.

It’s no longer observed because there is no empire.

But, at one time, not so long ago, it was celebrated by people in more than a quarter of the world’s countries.

Seventy years ago, on June 8th, 1946, the British Empire celebrated one of its greatest moments, the victory one year before over fascism and Japanese imperialism.   Troops from all over the world were in London for a victory parade.   It was to be the Empire’s victory swan song.   As with other empires before it, it was broke after fighting two global conflicts, militarily over-extended and tired. We see a similar scenario today with the United States.

Empire Day began in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1901, the same year Queen Victoria died.  It was started by a local headmistress, Mrs. Clementine Fessenden, who wanted the children in her school to remember the deceased monarch and give thanks for all the achievements of the Empire during her reign.   They also chose Queen Victoria’s birthday, May 24th, to celebrate it.  One of those achievements was Canada’s independence in 1867.   Queen Victoria herself chose Ottawa as the nation’s capital.

In recent decades I’ve been able to visit many of Britain’s former colonies and lived in two of them.  I’ve always made it a point to ask older people how things compare now to the way they were prior to independence.   Without exception, everybody has replied that things were better under British rule.   They give different reasons. The lack of corruption in colonial times often comes up as many today are living in very corrupt societies.

I remember, almost forty years ago, listening to an elderly man in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) lecturing myself and my colleague on how the British Empire was the prophesied Kingdom of God.  It wasn’t, of course.  It was not perfect.   But many believed, including some in Rhodesia, that it was the fulfillment of biblical prophecies about Ephraim becoming “a multitude of nations” (Genesis 48: 19).   According to one historical account, this was widely believed in the trenches of World War One.   Ironically, it was that conflict that shattered faith in Empire.

Internationally, the end of the empire has left an incredible vacuum. Note the following prophetic paragraph written by America’s pre-eminent historian of the 1930’s, James Truslow Adams.   This paragraph concluded his history of “The British Empire 1784-1939.” It’s particularly interesting because it was written in the year that the British Empire went to war against Nazi Germany, while the United States remained neutral. Mr. Adams showed Americans what was at stake.

“In this world crisis, we in America have a great stake.  We know that stability is impossible without respect for law and order, for the honesty of the written and spoken word.   Without liberty of thought, speech and press, progress is impossible.   What these things mean to the world of today and tomorrow has been amply demonstrated by the negation of them in certain great nations during the past few years.  Different peoples may have different ideals of government but to those who have been accustomed to freedom of person and of spirit, the possible overthrow of the British Empire would be a catastrophe scarcely thinkable.   Not only would it leave a vacuum over a quarter of the globe into which all the wild winds of anarchy, despotism and spiritual oppression could rush, but the strongest bulwark outside ourselves for our own safety and freedom would have been destroyed.” (page 358)

This is exactly what has happened.   This paragraph helps us understand the world we have been living in.   During the last seventy years, as the Empire fell apart, we have witnessed a world of endless upheaval and increasing threats to our own freedom and security.

Two regions in particular were kept in relative peace by British rule.   The Middle East was one; the North-West frontier of the Indian Empire, the Raj, was the other.   Today, these are areas where the peace of the world is constantly threatened.

Queen Victoria’s passing was a great loss for the Empire; but the collapse of the Empire itself has been a disaster every bit as great as the fall of Rome.

MIGRANT BILL

daily express

Further to what I posted on Monday, here is the front page headline in Tuesday’s Daily Express, a conservative tabloid newspaper in the UK.   “Migrants cost Britain 17 billion pounds a year” — that’s about $25 bn. (Remember to multiply by 5 for the US equivalent, as the American population is roughly five times that of the United Kingdom.)

It’s no coincidence that the country can no longer afford naval protection for either the Falkland Islands or Gibraltar.

And it’s not surprising that the country fell behind the NATO requirement that 2% of GNP be spent on defense.   President Obama got rather angry with the British prime minister over that.

The irony is that, with even more migrants, the country will need to spend more on defense; but can’t because the migrants need the cash!

This reminds me of a passage in Hosea about Ephraim:

Strangers devour his strength, and he knows it not;
gray hairs are sprinkled upon him, and he knows it not.
The pride of Israel testifies to his face;
yet they do not return to the Lord their God,
nor seek him, for all this.  (Hosea 7:9-10; English Standard Version)

 

JUST ONE FRONT PAGE

 

Sunday Telegraph 5:8:2016

A British quality Sunday newspaper is a joy to behold.  Only three are left, now that The Independent on Sunday has folded.  The three are the Sunday Times, the Observer and the Sunday Telegraph.  Friends brought me a copy of the latter, a conservative paper, when they arrived in the US from England a few days ago.   I am very grateful for the paper, even though it’s a few days old.

In actual fact, it’s now eight day old, but still very relevant.

On the front page are two articles that reveal a great deal about Britain today.

The lead article, “Migration pressure on schools revealed,” by Tim Ross, highlights the reality of an extra 700,000 foreign language pupils in British public (state) schools.   (Multiply that by five to get the US equivalent.)   Additional funds are needed when pupils speak multiple languages.   The cost to the UK taxpayer will run into the multiple millions.

The immigrants profiled in the article are from other EU countries. They do not include the latest refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, nor do they include Indians and Africans who have been entering the UK for decades.   Free movement of peoples within the European Union, including the United Kingdom, has led to this situation.  It may be a decisive factor in June’s referendum, when the British people get the opportunity to vote on remaining or leaving the Union.

A second front-page article bears the headline “Terror suspects win human rights battle” by Robert Verkaik and Robert Mendick.  The first two paragraphs read:   “Six Algerian terror suspects with links to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda are to be allowed to stay in Britain after the Home Secretary admitted defeat in a 10-year legal battle to deport them.  The move follows a challenge under the Human Rights Act which found that the men were at risk of torture if they were deported to Algeria.”   No doubt these men, linked to terror, will be entitled to receive state benefits in the UK.  This means that their terrorist activities will be financed by the British taxpayer.   The taxpayer has already had to pay out for ten years of legal fees to cover both sides in the dispute.

After finishing the paper yesterday (Sunday) I read the Lansing State Journal.   A front page article informed readers that Michigan is about to see a “surge” of Syrian refugees.   Again, the taxpayer will have to foot the bill, pushing much-needed road repair further down the list of priorities.   Additionally, there is also the prospect of future terrorist acts.

Is anyone in government sane???

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TRUMP vs CAMERON

Staying in the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron described Donald Trump’s attitude to Muslim immigration as “stupid, divisive and wrong.”  This does not bode well for the Atlantic alliance or the Special Relationship that has existed between Britain and America since FDR and Churchill.  Mr. Trump said earlier today that he does not think he and Mr. Cameron will have a very good relationship should he enter the White House.

Considering the terrorist acts that have been perpetrated against the West by Islamic terrorists, we should also ask who is really “stupid” here?   I wonder why leaders throughout the Western world seem so determined to encourage the Islamization of their countries?   As Donald Trump put it today:   “It sounds like he (Mr. Cameron) is not willing to address the problem either.”

The Islamic presence, fairly recent in the context of US and British history, has itself led to division.   A further comment from the BBC’s website followed:

“He (Trump) is also involved in a spat with new London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

The US presidential contender said he would not forgive Mr. Khan for calling him “ignorant” – and challenged the Mayor to take part in an IQ test, an offer mocked by Mr. Khan’s team.”

Further division no doubt lies ahead.

Mr. Trump is also calling on Muslims “to turn people in.”   In a television interview shown on British television’s ITV (not the BBC) the presumptive Republican nominee said he is not anti-Muslim, but rather anti-terror. He called on practicing Muslims to cooperate with the police in their fight against Islamic terror.

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EU FACES ‘POPULIST UPRISING’

Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of Britain’s intelligence service, MI6, warned today of the consequences to Europe if the continent does not get on top of the migrant crisis.   “If Europe cannot act together to persuade the majority of its citizens that it can gain control of the migratory crisis, then the EU will find itself at the mercy of a populist uprising which is already stirring.   The stakes are very high and the UK referendum is the first roll of the dice in a bigger, geopolitical game.”

“Sir Richard also warned against offering visa-free travel to Turkish nationals, describing the move as like storing gasoline near a fire.” (BBC News website.)

 

 

ATTACK IN MUNICH

Police investigate the scene of a stabbing at a station in Grafing near Munich.  CREDIT: REUTERS
Police investigate the scene of a stabbing at a station in Grafing near Munich.
CREDIT: REUTERS

A man in a Munich train station, shouting “Allahu Akbar” (Arabic for “God is great”) stabbed four German nationals this morning, killing one.

The BBC’s report of the incident illustrates the total denial common in western countries.

“Police are looking for a possible Islamist connection,” it says on the website.   The perpetrator of the act was a “German national.”  This is misleading.   Hundreds of thousands have become German citizens in recent decades, but they came from the Middle East or North Africa and retain their religion, identifying more with it than with Germany.

More such incidents are likely to follow in the western democracies.

A YEAR OF CHANGES

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has repeatedly warned the European Union to stick by a promise of visa free travel for Turks © AFP/File Adem Altan
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has repeatedly warned the European Union to stick by a promise of visa free travel for Turks.     © AFP/File Adem Altan

For centuries the Ottoman Empire posed a serious threat to Europe.   The powerful caliphate ruled from Istanbul was only halted at the gates of Vienna by Catholic forces that did not want to be conquered by Islam.

In the nineteenth century, the Europeans were able to push the Ottomans back, freeing countries in south-east Europe that had been ruled for centuries by the Ottoman Sultan. At the end of World War I, the Ottoman Empire, after more than six centuries, collapsed and was replaced by the Turkish Republic.

Now Europe is granting visa-free travel to the 80 million citizens of Turkey, meaning that the descendants of the Ottoman conquerors will be allowed into Europe whenever and wherever they want.

Another interesting development at the other end of Europe is the election of the first Muslim mayor of a major European capital.   In London, Sadiq Khan, the son of Pakistani immigrants, is taking over from conservative Boris Johnson, presiding over one of the world’s greatest financial centers.

By the looks of things, Europe is not going to put up a fight against the latest Muslim invasion.

—————————————————————————-

At the same time, the London Stock Exchange is coming under German control.   Even if the UK votes to leave the EU, that won’t change – the country will still lose a great deal of its independence.

David Cameron, the British prime minister, in calling for Britain to remain in the EU, expressed the opinion today that whenever Britain withdraws from Europe, it leads to war.   This is a perverse interpretation of British history.   As one commentator put it on the BBC World Service this morning, “He’s got it the wrong way round.”

Britain maintained its distance from Europe after the country broke away from the Roman Catholic Church in the sixteenth century.   The country chose the open sea over the neighboring continental land-mass and only got involved in European affairs when a dictator arose trying to conquer the continent.  Wars were fought against Louis XIV, Napoleon, the Kaiser and Hitler.

It wasn’t until 1973 that this policy changed, when the country entered what became the EU and turned its back on the Commonwealth it had built up over centuries.

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Meanwhile, on the mainland, changes are taking place.

The Austrian Chancellor (prime minister) resigned today, as he no longer enjoyed the support of his party, the Social Democrats.

His resignation follows on the partial victory of the right-wing Freedom Party’s candidate for the role of president, largely a ceremonial role.   There is to be a second round of voting which is expected to assure his assuming office.

Austria, like a number of European countries, is in a state of turmoil following the arrival of well over a million “refugees” from Syria and other countries.   There is a growing fear of Islamization.   Extremist parties are gaining momentum, promising to do something to stop the invasion and to ensure the preservation of their national way of life.

It’s definitely a year of change for Europe.

A Brexit (British exit from the EU) could trigger off changes across the continent.  The EU itself may fall apart;  the unity of the United Kingdom could be threatened; David Cameron would likely have to resign; other countries might want to vote on withdrawing from the European Union.

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A final amusing note comes from Australia. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has asked the Governor-General (Queen Elizabeth’s representative in the country) to disband parliament before an election in two months.   Two months of campaigning will be a record for Australia – and people are complaining.

They should take note that their American allies have been going through an election for almost a year now and still have six months to go.

Australia anybody?

 

INDIANA’S CRUCIAL VOTE

Mike Pence, Indiana Governor, endorses Cruz
Mike Pence, Indiana Governor, endorses Cruz

Our eldest daughter, husband and children live in Indianapolis, about a 4-hour drive away from us.   We go down there as often as we can to see them, but we always wish we could see more of them.

Diane, my wife, is down there now to help look after the four children while our daughter recuperates from routine surgery.  I stayed behind as our youngest daughter is about to have her third child.

That will make a total of nine grandchildren.  Two of them live with us.  Soon that will be three.   All boys.   All full of life, with lots of energy.   They can be a lot of fun.   I often wish we’d had grandchildren first!

Our frequent visits to Indiana have impressed us.   The state is more conservative than Michigan.   It has a positive, upbeat feel about it, while Michigan can sometimes be a bit depressing – the economy has struggled for as long as we’ve been here and the weather doesn’t help!

Tuesday will be a big day in Indiana, which is holding a crucial primary.

Friends in Indiana have been saying that Ted Cruz will win the Republican primary as he’s the most conservative candidate and, besides, Donald Trump is crazy and unpredictable.  The popular Governor of the state came out and endorsed Cruz last week, even though he has a lot of respect for Trump.

But the latest opinion poll shows that Trump is winning the Republican primary in the state.   He’s winning by 15%.   Mrs. Clinton is winning the Democratic primary, but only by 4%.   Donald Trump is confounding everybody.   Why is he so popular?   Although he does hold some conservative views, Ted Cruz is definitely more conservative, so why does Trump appeal to so many Republicans?

It seems to come down to two issues and an additional third factor.

The first issue is the economy.   Although there are pockets around the country that are doing well, many Americans do not feel that it is.  They blame trade deals with other countries for taking away the good paying jobs; they also blame government.   The federal government seems to take more and more of the national pie, paying employees well and giving them annual increases.   This is not the reality for people in the private sector, who are paying for it all.

Donald Trump has become the national spokesman for blue-collar workers, many of them going under in this economy.   A cover story in the latest Atlantic Monthly magazine is about America’s secret shame, that almost 50% of families cannot put $400 together in an emergency.   That means they cannot fix the car or get urgent medical treatment for one of their children.

It’s ironic but the Republican Party of Donald Trump is the party of the working-class; whereas the Democratic Party of Hillary Clinton is the party of the intellectual elite.

Whereas Bernie Sanders received donations that averaged $27, Mrs. Clinton held fundraisers where those in attendance had to donate a minimum of $33,000.

The political system has been turned upside down.

If the party conventions nominate Trump and Clinton, polls suggest the latter will win by 10% and become the first woman in the White House.

That brings us to the second issue – immigration.   Tied in with that is terrorism.   The two are often linked in people’s minds.

Donald Trump said what many think, questioning further immigration from the Muslim world until we see clearly what’s going on.

He’s also proposing a wall to keep Mexicans out.

Mrs. Clinton takes the opposite view on immigration.   That overlooks the fact that poorer people, blue-collar workers, have to compete for jobs with many of the immigrants.   It’s an example of how out of touch many politicians are.

Which brings us to the third factor.   Trump is not a professional politician like his opponents, in both the Republican and Democratic parties.

People don’t trust professional politicians.  They have been seeing a progressive decline in their standard of living and no longer feel secure thanks to five decades of myopic immigration law.

They have had enough.

Tuesday’s vote in Indiana will be a good indicator of what the future will bring.

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The same can be said for Thursday’s mayoral election in London, 4000 miles away.

A Muslim is expected to win.

This will make London the first major western capital to be led by a Muslim.

Again, it’s an indicator of what the future is going to bring!

"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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