AMERICA’S GROWING DIVISIONS

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On the same day as the Inaugural in Washington, The Gambia was in the midst of a major constitutional crisis.   Gambia is a slither of a country in west Africa.   Until the weekend, it was ruled by the same dictator for over twenty years.

A recent election gave victory to Mr. Adama Barrow, but President Yahya Jammeh refused to step down.

Neighboring countries in the region invaded to remove the former president and replace him with the new one.   Mr. Jammeh has now gone.

It’s different in America.   No coups or counter-coups were needed to remove President Obama.   Canadian and Mexican troops were not needed, either.

America has had smooth transfers of government for a very long time.   That is to America’s credit.

But some commentators, including some religious ones, are doing a disservice to the United States when they describe America as “unique” in this regard.   They also overlook an area of grave concern, deeply rooted in American history.

America’s peaceful changes of government are not unique.   England has had peaceful transfers of power since 1689, to name just one country.   Ed Morrow, CBS’s American wartime correspondent during World War II, marveled that, when faced with foreign invasion and possible extinction, the United Kingdom maintained a democratic system of government and people were free to criticize Winston Churchill.   He did not think America would fare so well when faced with similar threats.

It can truthfully be said that America is unique in one respect – it is the only presidential system in the world that always has peaceful transfers of power.   Others, like Gambia, have a bad history in this regard. It has taken over 50 years of independence for The Gambia to get a new elected Head of State – and the change was not peaceful.   Zimbabwe has had the same president for 38 years following its independence – there is no sign of change in the country, though people talk increasingly of “nature taking its course” – the president is well over 90 years of age.

So, credit to America.

But not so fast.

In 1860, the election was peaceful, but a few weeks later, fourteen southern states seceded from the Union.   Four years of civil war followed. 2% of the people were killed.

Go back even further, to 1775, and we see another civil war that claimed 6% of the people’s lives.   (The population was less then so the total number was less, but the impact was, arguably, greater.)   This war is known as the Revolutionary War or the American War of Independence.   It lasted seven years.

Both wars saw incredible divisions in America.   Both saw “brother against brother.”   Both were truly civil wars of the worst kind.   Is another civil war possible?   It is not out of the question.

Again, we are seeing great division in American society.   Roughly half the voters supported Donald Trump, while the other half supported Hillary Clinton.   The latter seem no more inclined to accept the result than voters in 1860.   That is not to say there will be another civil war, but there could be a great deal of civil unrest; and, eventually, another civil conflict, this time between conservatives and liberals, with race as a contributory factor.

Hundreds of thousands, some would say millions, of angry women were out on the streets of a number of cities, demonstrating over threats to women’s rights; an issue that did not even exist in 1860.   The term “women’s rights” is a euphemism for abortion, the murder of babies.   There was no support for abortion in 1860 – that’s a new phenomenon that is directly due to the nation’s gradual rejection of Christianity.   Over 60 million abortions have been performed since legalization in 1973 – those children, who would now be adults, have been replaced by over 60 million immigrants, some from countries that are hostile to the United States.   It really doesn’t make any sense.

Many of those immigrants are now with the demonstrators against the new Administration.   This adds an ethnic dimension that did not exist in the two previous civil wars.   Some of the most outspoken critics of the new administration in Washington are Muslims.   Liberals come quickly to their defense. I even heard one prominent liberal on CNN yesterday extolling the virtue of an Islamic female leader who “is pro-gray, pro-LGBT.”   Do they really believe that?  The gay lifestyle is totally at variance with Islam.   Gays have no civil rights in any Muslim country.

These divisions in America, primarily over abortion (sorry, women’s rights) and race, will continue to worsen during the Trump presidency.   They have already resulted in some violence.   In time, they could explode into greater conflict.

Americans can pride themselves on being part of a presidential republic that has seen many peaceful changes of government, but America is not unique where peaceful change is concerned.   The challenge now is to make sure peaceful transfers of power continue. This is not likely to happen in a period of increasing diversity. Tribalism was a big factor in Gambia’s electoral disaster – tribalism is now a growing threat in America.

Diversity is just another word for “tribalism.”

We should not become complacent.   Jesus Christ warned that:  “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”  (Matthew 12:25).

 

 

 

 

 

 

A VERY BUSY LAP

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I had been working on a blogpost to update readers on developments in Europe, when I had to go collect our four-year-old grandson, Leeson, from school.   From there, we went to the dollar store.   I’ve learned that the dollar store is the only store I can take him, as “everything is one dollar” and it won’t cost me too much, no matter what he wants.

Within 30 seconds, he had chosen four dinosaurs (= $4 + tax).   As we walked down the aisle, he changed his mind and chose four ice cream cone shaped bubbles toys.   So I suggested he take back the dinosaurs. When we reached the dinosaur collection, he saw other toys he wanted.   Four of them, of course.   (Is this because he’s aged 4?   Will he want 5 when he’s five?   This could get very expensive!)

I thought it best to vacate the store ASAP, before he asked for other things. I managed to persuade him to only get two toys, for a total of $2.12 with tax.

We drove home.

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His seven-month-old brother, Hayden, wanted me to pick him up out of his baby chair.   He prefers sitting in my lap to being alone in his chair.   While seated on my lap, he often just looks at me, staring for long periods of time.   It’s touching. I think I represent fun.   My wife says that’s not what it is – he just likes food and is always fascinated by what I’m eating!

Anyway, I thought I would watch the news while holding him.   The next thing I remember was Diane waking me up, with the baby screaming on my lap.   I hadn’t even noticed.

I’ve had a bad cough and chest cold for about a week now.   I can’t sleep at night.  I just cough all night.   I do manage to doze off in my recliner, which is the only way to get any sleep.   But it’s not enough, so I fell asleep holding the baby.

Five minutes after the baby was taken away from me, Leeson wanted to sit on my lap and look at dinosaurs on my laptop (do you see why it takes so long to write an article?).   I got a dinosaur cartoon on the screen.   At this point, he looked up at me and said: “I love you, Grandpa!”  I responded with:  “I love you, too!”   He came right back with:  “I love you, three!”  “Well, I love you four.”   “I love you 5, Grandpa.”   Then he quickly added:   “No, I love you 8.”

I can see now why “ONE toy” quickly turns into 8 when we go to the dollar store!   I tried to explain that from five you go to six.   But he still insisted on 8.   I can see this is going to take some time!

For a while, he was joined on my lap by his younger brother, who was returned to me.   Fortunately, their older brother, Aubren, is still in school – I have to go get him in ten minutes.   When I do get him, he will want to go with me to get a “slushie,” which is a weekly treat I buy him.

When we get home, there may be three of them on my lap, watching either dinosaurs or trains on my laptop, “Super Why” on TV or a DVD I’ve seen at least a 100 times!

Three on my lap is my limit nowadays.   A few years ago, all four girls would sit on my lap when they were together; until I developed circulatory issues.   Now I can only take three.   And, frankly, there’s a definite time limit on it!   I can no longer be buried under grandchildren.

Talking of being buried, the two granddaughters who live near us recently lost their other grandfather, who died when the truck he was driving rolled over in an accident.   It was very traumatizing for them.  Naturally, they keep talking about it and have expressed some concern that I will be next.

I was driving them home from school one day recently when we passed the cemetery.   They began encouraging me to stake out a plot on the side of the main road that is nearest to our house.   That way they could come visit and talk to me!   Perhaps they said that because they felt nobody seems to listen to them – at least I would be a captive audience.

This was not the time for a deep theological discussion.   They clearly were worried about losing me and I reassured them that I intend to be here for a while; but I also said if anything happened to me, they’ve still got Grandma, their parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, etc.

But it’s nice to know they will visit me when I’m no longer able to go see them or give them rides!

With that, I must leave to go get Aubren, who turns 5 next month.

Footnote:   Hayden, pictured above, finally has a surgery date of February 8th. He has to have major cranial surgery.  He was scheduled twice before and it had to be postponed due to an ear infection.  Prayers would be very  much appreciated.

 

REFLECTIONS

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USA Today disclosed last week that the average family home in the US has 71 toys.   71?!?    I can only remember having two when I was a child — a farm set and a train set.   Admittedly, both had multiple pieces.   But 71?

Actually, I can believe it.   I always seem to be stepping on toys when I walk through our home.   Even at our daughter’s in Indianapolis, the living room floor is the favored spot for dumping toys.  My wife always said that toys were things to drag from the bedroom and dump on the living room carpet, and then the kids go out and play with a stick.

It wasn’t like this in Africa.   Most children there had no toys, unless a family member had made one from a used car tire or an old cardboard box.

When we first moved to the US, I was fascinated by how different American children are from African children; not for the better, I might add.  Too many American kids say bad things back to their parents and are more materialistic when it comes to getting things (toys and candy, mostly).

Part of the problem is television programs and commercials.   Children put incredible pressure on parents to buy them everything they’ve seen on TV and advertisers know this.   Credit cards enable parents to buy – few in Africa have CC’s.   One other factor I think all parents should think about – how many buy toys out of guilt?  With very little time to devote to children, parents over-compensate by buying lots of things.

I think their offspring would prefer time with Mom and Dad.  We didn’t have lots of things growing up, but our mother was always there, thankfully.

One other thing we should be concerned about is not to encourage materialism or greed in our children and grandchildren.  “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “ (Matthew 6:19-21).

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It’s no surprise that Jimmy Fallon and Meryl Streep criticized President-elect Donald Trump Sunday night at the Golden Globes.

Fallon even commented that the Globes are now the only place in America where the “popular vote” counts.  Really?   I wasn’t asked to vote on the best movies of 2016.

The theater was full, as usual.  Many of those seated threatened to leave the United States if Trump won the election.   Canada seemed the preferred destination.  But they were there at the Globes.  Presumably they flew back for the evening!!!   Or, perhaps, upon reflection, when they saw how much they would have to pay in taxes in Canada, they decided to stay in the United States.

These people are unreal.  (Well, they are actors, after all.)  They rake in the millions or hundreds of millions and spend more money on face-lifts and breast enhancements than Donald Trump will ever spend on the military.  Their gowns alone cost more than the GNP’s of many countries.

Meryl Streep is a good actress.  So are some of the others in the audience.  They should stick to acting and stay out of politics, before millions of their fans turn away from them in disgust.

There was also an element of hypocrisy when Meryl Streep, commenting on Donald Trump, warned that violence begets more violence.  Hollywood has arguably done more to promote violence than Donald Trump or any other president could possibly do.

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Diane and I have just been down to Indianapolis to see our eldest daughter, Alix, her husband, Mike, and their four children.  It was an enjoyable and relaxing few days.

I was able to take our two granddaughters, Alyssa and Elena, to tour President Benjamin Harrison’s home in downtown Indianapolis.   It was well worth the time and money to tour the historic house.   I am pleased to say that both girls asked intelligent and perceptive questions.

President Harrison was the 23rd President of the United States, in office from 1889 to 1893.   He replaced Grover Cleveland and was succeeded by the same man, a Democrat.   Harrison was a prime example of Churchill’s later dictum:  “If you’re not a socialist (liberal) at 20 you’ve got no heart; if you’re still a socialist at 30, you’ve got no head.”  He started out as a Whig but later became a Republican.

Historians do not rate his presidency very highly, but it’s interesting to note that he was facing the same issues that confront President-elect Trump today.   He raised tariffs on imports to help reduce the federal deficit and built up the navy which had been neglected since the Civil War.  (Interestingly, the day we toured the home, a website revealed that, for the first time in decades, there were no US naval vessels on patrol anywhere in the world.)

President Harrison is remembered as the grandson of President William Henry Harrison, who was president for exactly one month. He gave a very long speech at his Inaugural in 1841, caught a cold which developed into pneumonia, and died.   The two Harrisons are the only grandfather-grandson presidents in US history.

The second president also saw six states enter the Union during his four-year term, a record number under any chief executive.

It was sobering to note that the three-story home had no indoor plumbing!

It was an interesting visit and I recommend it if you are ever in Indianapolis.

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On a different day I took the twins to McDonald’s for an ice cream sundae, followed by a visit to Meijer, a huge grocery store that also sells toys.  (The twins would probably describe it as a toy store that also sells groceries!)

When ordering ice cream for them, I asked for a hot tea for myself.   The man taking the order responded with “Excuse me?”  I repeated my request.  He said he had never heard of it!  (seriously!)   So I asked for the manager and, again, repeated my request for a hot tea.   He had at least heard of it.   I added a request that the bag be put in the cup before the water as it tastes so much better that way.   My order came five minutes later – a styrofoam cup with luke-warm water and a separate tea bag!

I’m pleased to say that Tim Horton’s is moving south – they have now reached Ft Wayne.  I think I will stay away from Indianapolis until they move the extra 120 miles!  At least the Canadian franchise makes decent tea – just stay away from the donuts.

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There was an interesting paragraph Monday morning from an Israeli paper:

“Religious Jews are more excited about Messiah’s return than Christians are,” Markell told WND.   “Muslims are more anticipatory about their Mahdi’s return than are Christians about Jesus’s return. This shows the deplorable state of the church today that is ‘majoring in minors.’   They have their finance seminars and marriage conferences but have shoved the idea of the Lord’s imminent return not just to the back burner, perhaps to the back yard.”   (WND)

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AIRPORT ATTACK

The latest terrorist attack at Fort Lauderdale’s airport is disturbing.  It highlights the danger that ISIS is spreading beyond Islam to non-Muslims.  The perpetrator of Friday’s attack was an American born Hispanic.   If ISIS spreads its influence to hispanics and other minorities in America, attacks like this will only become more common.

A Palestinian drove a truck into a group of soldiers in Jerusalem on Sunday, killing four and injuring dozens.   These truck (or lorry) attacks in France, Germany and Israel are also spreading.

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NEW YEAR, 1917

We were with Alix and Mike over the New Year’s weekend.   Mike came across a quote, supposedly from Russia’s last Czar, Nicholas II, who wrote on the last day of 1916, in the middle of World War I:   “1916 was cursed. The new year will surely be better.”   Those who know Russian history will be aware that the Czar abdicated in February of 1917, the country was plunged into civil war before the year ended and the royal family were all slaughtered.   The “quote” was tweeted by Gary Kasparov, the famous Russian chess player who now lives in the United States.   Whether it’s true or not, it should make us think!

RUSSIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST

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While US media has been focussed on alleged Russian hacking of the US electoral process, Vladimir Putin’s Russia has strengthened its role in the Middle East.

The morning that America suffered a major setback in the Middle East, American news networks led on two deaths – those of actresses Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds.   Tragic though these deaths were, developments in the Middle East put America where Great Britain was exactly six decades ago.

Before World War Two, the British Empire was the dominant power in the region.   Britain withdrew from Israel in May of 1948. Immediately, the Jewish nation was invaded by five neighboring Arab nations.   Miraculously, Israel survived. In those early days, it was not helped by the United States.

In 1952, as a direct consequence of defeat against Israel, Egypt’s King Farouk was overthrown by the military.   The new leaders soon seized the Anglo-French Suez Canal.   Together with Israel, these countries invaded Egypt but were soon stopped by US President Eisenhower.   This single event led directly to the dismantling of the British Empire.   In 1958 the pro-British King of Iraq was overthrown.   Britain was losing its remaining influence in the area. The country fought a war against rebels in Aden, withdrawing from the protectorate in 1967.

It was a gradual decline, with one setback after another.   Now, the UK does not play any major role in the Middle East.

Since Britain, America has been the dominant power in the region. During the time of the Soviet Union, the US and the USSR were rivals in the area, with Moscow backing Egypt and Syria.   Later, Egypt switched sides and allied itself with the United States, but Moscow retained its influence in Syria.   Iran was in the US sphere of influence until the Shah was overthrown in 1979.

The region has seen never-ending turmoil since the fall of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire after World War One.   That turmoil shows no sign of ending.

The recent war in Iraq has left a big mess in the region.   At its root is the almost 1,400 year sectarian conflict between the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam. Until the US invasion of Iraq, the country was dominated by Sunni Muslims, even though the majority of people were Shia Muslims (the reverse is the case in Syria).   Following the US backed election in Iraq, the majority Shia now rule the country. This development has altered the religious balance in the region and is causing repercussions everywhere.   ISIS was formed to protect Sunni Muslims from the now dominant Shia.

In Syria, Sunnis have been trying to overthrow the Alawite (Shia) minority regime of President Assad for five years.   Enter Moscow. Russia’s backing of the Syrian president has enabled Assad to win. The US showed a great deal of weakness, refusing to get involved even when the Syrian government crossed the line and used chemical weapons on its own citizens.   Now, after months of fighting in Aleppo, the biggest city of the country, Assad is firmly in power and Russia is sponsoring “peace talks” with the rebel factions in the country.   The US is not invited to the peace talks. Russia now controls Syria.   To accomplish this, the country needs Turkey’s help. The two are pushing for peace in the country. Turkey, the second most powerful military power in NATO, is now working with the Russians to bring peace to the Middle East.

That’s two set-backs for Washington in just a few days.

A third set-back is in Israel.   The outgoing administration in Washington did not veto the latest UN vote against Israel, condemning the country for building new settlements for Jewish settlers in the West Bank.   Friction between the US and the only western style democracy in the region is unsettling, to say the least. This set-back may only be temporary as a new President takes over in the US in just three weeks, but that gives a few days for further negative developments.   Even the British have criticized America’s condemnation of Israel.   The State Department seems set on causing rifts with US allies in the final days of the current Administration.

Keep in mind, too, that Syria borders Israel on the Golan Heights.   What happens in Syria may affect Israel.   Perhaps that’s why Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu went to Moscow in June, the fourth time in a year that he sat down with President Putin to discuss the situation in the Middle East.

The tables have been turned once again in the region.   Over sixty years ago, the UK was the dominant power in the region; since then, it’s been the US.   But now Russia is arguably the dominant power in the area.   The Russians are in alliance with the Shi-ite Muslims in Iran and Syria; they are also working with Sunni Turkey, which ruled the whole area prior to 1919.   At the same time, it seems that Israel’s prime minister is more comfortable with Putin than with Obama, with whom he’s had a serious exchange of heated words in recent days.

There’s even a fourth development that puts Russia ahead. Following the hacking scandal, President Obama expelled 35 Russian diplomats from the US; President Putin made it clear that he will not expel any Americans. This is a triumph for Putin in the propaganda war with America.

What lies ahead?   Remember that the Middle East is the primary focus of Bible prophecy with Jerusalem at the epicenter.

In the nineteenth century, there was no indication that the Jews were about to become an independent nation again.  Their period of self-rule ended with the Romans before the time of Christ.  Their rebellion against the Romans in the first century AD led to the Diaspora, a dispersion that scattered the Jewish people throughout the Roman Empire and left them scattered until fairly recently.   Bible prophecy showed that the Jewish nation would be restored and that happened in 1948.

Exactly a century ago, British and Australian forces entered Jerusalem in the continuing war with the Ottoman Turks.   At this point in time, a Jewish nation became possible.   The British were given a mandate to administer Palestine by the League of Nations.   This was an impossible task as Palestinians and Jews clashed repeatedly.   Eventually, the League’s successor, the United Nations, divided the territory up between Jews and Palestinians, the latter never accepting their loss of land.

 

 

BERLIN TERROR ATTACK

A lorry ploughed into wooden booths selling mulled wine and sausages (Photo: REUTERS)
A lorry ploughed into wooden booths selling mulled wine and sausages   (Photo: REUTERS)

For over a decade she’s been called “the most powerful woman in the world”.   In recent weeks, she has received the accolade “Leader of the Free World” as many nations see America turning its back on its international role.

But she may not even be in power one year from now.

Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, generously allowed into the country one million asylum seekers in recent months.   On Monday, one of those migrants staged a terrorist attack in Berlin, killing twelve and seriously injuring almost 50.   The attacker stole a heavy goods vehicle and drove into Christmas shoppers in one of the capital’s famous Christmas markets.   The method copied the attack in Nice, France, which killed 84 people in July.

Many Berliners thought themselves immune from attack.  Their liberal city welcomed migrants.  Now, many Germans are doing a rethink.  The right-wing AfD (Alternative for Deutschland) party looks set to gain at the polls next year.   Their anti-immigrant policy is in stark contrast to their “conservative” Chancellor and other centrist parties.   Germans could easily follow British and American voters by turning away from the liberal immigration policies of the past.

“Everything has changed for Merkel after Berlin terror attack, says expert” was the headline Thursday morning in the British Daily Express.   ‘Angela Merkel’s open-door migrant policy will come slamming shut and Germany will become a Big Brother state after the Berlin Christmas market terror attack, a leading political commentator has warned.”  (Alix Culbertson)

The article continues:  “Josef Joffe said Germany has only had to deal with no or low victim lone-wolf attacks, unlike many other Western countries, until this year but after a spate of seven in 2016 the government will be forced to change the way the country is run.”

At the same time, there is concern across Europe about America’s commitment to the continent’s democracies.   Many are now looking to Germany and Angela Merkel to take over America’s seven decade leading role in western Europe.

“President-elect Donald Trump hasn’t taken the oath of office or outlined his administration’s plans for the nation’s foreign policy, but his election has already forced the United States’ European allies to contemplate a future where the United States might no longer underwrite Europe’s security.   Faced with an American president who has dismissed alliances such as NATO while denigrating liberal values, Germany will assume an increasingly consequential role as a leader in the turbulent transatlantic order while it takes gradual steps to shore up its lagging military capabilities.   But the prospect of nationalist victories in important European elections next year raises an under-discussed question: as the European project comes under unprecedented strain and prepares to face a President who promises to turn the United States away from the world, could a fractured and increasingly nationalistic Europe come to fear a more powerful Germany again?”

The following paragraph is of particular interest:   “In a profound twist of historical irony that is not yet appreciated widely, only 71 years after World War II, a sitting German chancellor has warned the next leader of the United States to respect the transatlantic order’s commitment to the rule of law and liberal values.”   (“Could Europe fear Germany again?” by Adam Twardowski, Small Wars Journal, December 19th.)

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Political Revolution Is Brewing in Europe

Geert Wilders, the Dutch politician who leads the anti-immigrant party, was found guilty this week of inflammatory language against Moroccan immigrants, all Muslims.   The following was written by Mr. Wilders and appeared in “The Gatestone Institute’s” newsletter:

  • The German authorities are dangerously underestimating the threat of Islam . . .   They have betrayed their own citizens.
  • Let no-one tell you that only the perpetrators of these crimes are to blame.   The politicians, who welcomed Islam into their country, are guilty as well.   And it is not just Frau Merkel in Germany, it is the entire political elite in Western Europe.
  • Out of political-correctness, they have deliberately turned a blind eye to Islam.  They have refused to inform themselves about its true nature.  They refuse to acknowledge that its all in the Koran: the permission to kill Jews and Christians (Surah 9:29), to terrorize non-Muslims (8:12), to rape young girls (65:4), to enslave people for sex (4:3), to lie about one’s true goals (3:54), and the command to make war on the infidels (9:123) and subjugate the entire world to Allah (9:33).
  • We will have to de-islamize our societies . . .   But it all begins with politicians with the courage to face and speak the truth.
  • More and more citizens are aware of that.   This is why a political revolution is brewing in Europe.   Patriotic parties are rapidly growing everywhere.   They are Europe’s only hope for a better future.

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Prince Charles warns against religious persecution

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Prince Charles has spoken out about the danger of religious persecution, warning against a repeat of “the horrors of the past.” Delivering BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day, the Prince of Wales said the rise of populist groups “aggressive” to minority faiths had “deeply disturbing echoes of the dark days” of the 1930s.   The prince said the scale of religious persecution around the world was “not widely appreciated” and was not limited to Christians, but included many other minority faiths.   He went on:  “That, nearly seventy years later, we should still be seeing such evil persecution is, to me, beyond all belief.”   The Prince said:  “Whichever religious path we follow, the destination is the same – to value and respect the other person, accepting their right to live out their peaceful response to the love of God.”

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ANGLOS ON DECLINE

It may not be too serious yet, but a group of Californians has just opened an “embassy” in Moscow.   They are seeking international recognition for an independent California.

Don’t think it’s not possible.

Many Scots want independence from the United Kingdom, with a call this week for a second referendum within two years; many Australians want to sever the tie with the Crown after the Queen’s reign ends.

These three developments all have something in common – they reflect the decline of the Anglo-Saxons and the increasing presence of non-Anglo immigrants.   Watch for more fragmentation in the Anglosphere.   It’s inevitable considering the low Anglo-Saxon birthrate everywhere.   California, remember, is now a majority Spanish speaking state.

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THE FALL OF ALEPPO

I took the latest Economist magazine to a medical appointment yesterday, expecting to have to wait for some time.  The doctor commented on the depressing cover on “The Fall of Aleppo.”   I’m pleased to say that he did not ask: “What’s Aleppo?” You have to be a presidential candidate to be that ill-informed.   Rather, he asked me what the difference is between East and West Aleppo.

I started to explain that East Aleppo was the “rebel” side, made up mostly of Sunni Muslims; West is where the pro-government Shi’ites live.   The rebels have now been defeated, not by a few hundred Syrian troops, but by  Shia volunteers from Iraq, Iran, Lebanon and Afghanistan; together with Russian air power.

He jokingly asked what my solution would be to the 1,400-year-old Shia-Sunni conflict. We then joked about attempts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which goes back even longer.   It has been suggested that Donald Trump’s 35-year-old Jewish son-in-law could make a difference and resolve the conflict!

After I left, I remembered one of the funniest scenes in the movie “The Flintstones,” supposedly set in prehistoric times.   As the paperboy delivered the morning newspaper, if you look carefully you can see the headline from 3000+ years ago:   “Mideast peace talks fail.”

Nothing’s changed.

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One small change has taken place in the Middle East and that’s in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, from where the BBC’s James Longman has been reporting to the world about the developments in Aleppo, 180 miles away.   Apparently, the 29-year-old, good-looking, athletic reporter has quite a female following.   Hundreds of thousands around the world who, until recently, thought Beirut was a root vegetable, an expensive perfume or a new wine at the local liquor store, are now becoming interested in Middle East affairs, so much so they eagerly turn to BBC World News first thing in the morning.

It is, however, having a negative affect on news channels.   Fox started it all by employing attractive blondes, seemingly a requirement for employment at the news channel.   Now even men on global news networks are being chosen according to their physical appearance.

Fortunately, Mr. Longman also knows his Middle East.   Born in England, he is fluent in both French and Arabic, which give him a distinct advantage in the region.   His reporting on the area is worth watching.

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The BBC, like other networks, does not give enough attention to the religious divisions that exist in the Middle East.   Religion is at the core of all the sectarian violence that afflicts the region.   It may be difficult for people raised in secular England to fully comprehend this.

The Jewish-Palestinian conflict has the potential to lead to World War III.   Increasingly, it seems that the Shia-Sunni conflict could do the same.

Some in the West think the solution is the end of religion.   Another solution is found in the Lord’s Prayer, in the words “Thy Kingdom Come.” (Matthew 6:10)

When that Kingdom comes, the Bible shows us that the true religion of the Messiah will be imposed over all the false religions.   You can read about this in the book of the Old Testament prophet, Zechariah, which looks to the future Millennial rule of Jesus Christ.

“And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.   And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, on them there will be no rain.   If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the Lord strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.   This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.” (Zech. 14:16-19)

Egypt is 90% Muslim, and is a country that is witnessing a continued decline in its Christian population, which has been persecuted and discriminated against for generations.   The latest outrage was a bomb going off in Cairo’s St Mark’s Cathedral.   This passage of scripture shows that the Egyptians will in the future be forced to change from the Islamic religion to the true religion.

Christians should also take note, especially at this time of the year. Christmas is not mentioned in this passage.   Rather, we see the biblical Feast of Tabernacles mentioned; once thought of as a Jewish festival, it will, in the future, be observed by everybody.   At the same time, we will see the end of all the sectarian violence that today is at the root of all the suffering and violence in the area.

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WE’VE COME A LONG WAY

PBS’s “The Hollow Crown” is taking us through Shakespeare’s historical plays and the last kings of the Plantagents, England’s bloodiest dynasty.   They reigned for over 300 years, from 1154 to 1485.   The last thirty years saw the Wars of the Roses, as the two royal houses of York and Lancaster battled for supremacy.

The series has inspired me to read Alison Weir’s “The Wars of the Roses,” first published in 1995.   The following paragraph should be of interest to all.

“Formal education was provided for boys only.   Women were seen as the inferior sex and regarded as the chattels of men.   The author of “The Goodman of Paris” (c. 1393) advised wives to behave like faithful dogs in order to please their husbands, and Margaret Paston of Norfolk referred to John Paston as “right worshipful husband” in her letters.   The husband was lord of his family as God reigned supreme over the universe.   The chief duty of a wife, therefore, was to be submissive.   If there was discord in a marriage, or infertility, people automatically assumed it was the wife’s fault.   Women had virtually no freedom beyond that which their fathers or husbands allowed them.   Within these confines, however, many managed businesses, shops, farms or noble estates, and proved themselves the equal to men.” (page 17)

 

A RAPIDLY CHANGING WORLD

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It’s not just the US that is in transition. Take a look at what’s happening elsewhere around the world. 

The year That May Decide Europe’s Fate

2017 will be the most important year yet for the continuity of the eurozone as political and economic risk reaches the bloc’s very core in Germany, France and Italy. These countries not only have the largest economies in Europe, but they are also the main forces driving the process of European integration.  If a nationalist party gains power in France or Italy, the eurozone’s days could be numbered. (Stratfor, 12/16)

Middle East

In this world, it is often dangerous to be an enemy of the United States, said Henry Kissinger in 1968, but to be a friend is fatal . . . So it is today with Aleppo, where savage reprisals against U.S.-backed rebels are taking place in that hellhole of human rights.” (“Lessons from Aleppo – for Trump”, Pat Buchanan, 12/15/16)

Trump’s new US envoy to Israel seeks Jerusalem base

US President-elect Donald Trump has chosen right-winger David Friedman as America’s next ambassador to Israel.  The 57-year-old lawyer is strongly critical of the long-held US goal of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He also supports Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank, which the Obama administration considers an “obstacle to peace.”  A liberal Jewish group opposed his nomination. Conservatives welcomed it.  Mr. Friedman said he looked forward to working “from the US Embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem,” a statement that will anger Palestinians   (BBC)

ISIS leader in first interview:

“To behead an animal, it would be difficult; with enemies of Allah, it is a pleasure.” (Daily Mirror, London)

Deadliest Church Attack

The worst attack on Egypt’s Christian minority in recent years occurred  Sunday, December 11, 2016. St. Peter Cathedral in Cairo, packed with worshipers celebrating Sunday mass, was bombed; at least 25 churchgoers, mostly women and children, were killed and 65 severely wounded. As many of the wounded are in critical condition, the death toll is expected to rise.

As usual, witnesses say that state security was not present, and that police took an inordinate amount of time to arrive after the explosion.  Preliminary investigations point to a bomb placed inside an unattended woman’s purse on one of the rear pews of the women’s section.

Mutilated bodies were strewn along the floor of the cathedral. “I found bodies, many of them women, lying on the pews. It was a horrible scene,” said one witness. (“Egypt’s deadliest church attack,” by Raymond Ibrahim, 12/12/16, Gatestone Institute).

1000 Radical Muslims Protest in London, Call for the Return of the Islamic Caliphate (PJ Media 12/16/16)

More Muslims Settle In Michigan

“Activists to Trump: Keep letting refugees into Michigan, US”

“Trump will have wide-ranging powers in deciding  who to let in, or keep out, of the country. But it’s a move that could have deep reverberations in Michigan, which has welcomed more Syrian and Iraqi refugees than just about any other state in the nation.

“In the federal fiscal year that ended September 30, Michigan took in 1,374 Syrian refugees, second only to California.  Additionally, 1,119 Iraqis as families fled civil war in the Middle East. Overall, the U.S. took in about 22,500 people from Syria and Iraq that year – a sizeable number, but far less than those being resettled in parts of Europe and Turkey out of millions displaced by Syria’s civil war.”

On a local level:  ”Lansing took in some of those Syrian and Iraqi refugees. There were 56 Syrians and 46 Iraqis among the 776 people from the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia resettled in Lansing by St. Vincent Catholic charities in the 2015-16 fiscal year . . .”   (Lansing State Journal, Sunday)

White Americans Dying Off

A rapidly aging white population and fast-growing younger minority groups are speeding demographic changes across the nation, hastening a political divide likely to have long-term ramifications.

The percentage of the U.S. population that is white has decreased from 79.6 percent in 1980 to 61.9 percent in 2014.  The percentage of Latino-Americans has increased from 6.4 percent to 17.3 percent over the same time period, while both the African-American and Asian-American populations have grown, too.

There are growing signs that the rate of change is increasing.  The number of non-Hispanic whites who died in 2014 outpaced the number of white births in 17 states, according to a new analysis from the University of New Hampshire.  That’s the largest number of states to experience a natural decrease in the white population in American history.   (“Aging white population speeding diversity,” The Hill, 12/2))

Governments Fail To Protect Citizens Against Muslim Invaders

“Some scandals are so massive that they’re simply hard to believe.  As many as one million white English children may have been the victims of Muslim rape gangs, better known as grooming gangs, in towns up and down Great Britain.

Policy analyst George Igler says, “When you encounter an issue that is just so unbelievable, just so outside your frame of reference and understanding, the immediate human reaction is just  to not believe it at all.”

Perhaps even harder to believe is that while there have been prosecutions, the British government has still not stopped this criminal activity.

Easy Targets

Former Home Secretary and parliament member Jack Straw once said, “There’s a particular problem involving Pakistani heritage men who target young, vulnerable, white English girls.”  He also said these Pakistani heritage men view white English girls as “easy meat.”

This is when some shout ‘racism,’ but here are the facts:  calculations based on convictions show that a British Muslim male is 170 times more likely to be a part of a sex grooming gang than a non-Muslim.  And there are no recorded instances of non-Muslims doing this to Muslim girls as part of a criminal enterprise.  In one local jurisdiction, it was estimated that six out of seven Muslim males either knew about, or were part of, a grooming gang.

Igler says, “What you do not have is any example of non-Muslim men targeting Muslim girls for this organized form of abuse.  So, the argument that this crime exists everywhere is not only false, but is being deliberately cultivated by the media and by the government inquiry that is kicking the can down the road.”   (CBN)

 

 

BINGE WATCHING RECOMMENDATIONS

war-and-peace

Diane and I spent Saturday night and too much of Sunday afternoon watching “War and Peace”, the BBC adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s 1869 novel that has been described as the greatest novel ever written.

It’s set during the period of the Napoleonic Wars, concentrating on the years between 1805 and 1812 when France turned its attentions to Russia, arguably Napoleon’s biggest mistake.

It isn’t just about the military and endless battles.   There’s the usual romantic entanglements that make a good novel, which keep you enthralled until the end.

The television series lasts eight hours.  According to a website I checked, it takes 32 hours and 40 minutes for the average person to read the book.   So you can save yourselves almost 25 hours by watching the series, even if you do feel guilty about “wasting” a Sunday afternoon binge watching.

Warning:  once you start, you won’t want to stop!!!

(It’s even led to me starting to read the 3 volume set that has been on my bookshelf for fifty years.)

NETFLIX:  THE CROWN

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We also binge-watched “The Crown” over Thanksgiving when our eldest daughter, her husband and children were with us.  This is the most expensive online production ever, showing on Netflix.  They reportedly spent over 100 million pounds on it (approx. $125 million).  As it’s the first of four seasons, they will be spending a good $500 million before it’s over.   One newspaper said that Netflix is hoping to bury cable with this and other upcoming productions.

“The Crown” tells the story of Queen Elizabeth II, from her marriage to Prince Philip in 1947, up till the present time.  As flashbacks go back to the Abdication in 1936, it effectively covers her life from the moment she learned she would become Queen when her uncle abdicated, until the present day.   The first series ends in 1955, when Sir Winston Churchill resigned as Prime Minister.    Coincidentally, with the recent deaths of the King of Thailand and Fidel Castro, she is now the only political figure who was around in the 1950’s.

Although many of the conversations that take place in the series are pure conjecture, the production is remarkably accurate in its portrayal of the 1940’s and 50’s and its attention to detail.   The deep spiritual and historical meaning of the coronation is brilliantly conveyed to audiences that are unfamiliar with the biblical significance of the ceremony, which has its origins in the coronation of Israel’s King Solomon and his anointing by Zadok, the priest.

Politically, the series will help people to understand constitutional monarchy.   43 countries around the world are monarchies, not all of them constitutional.   Queen Elizabeth II is Head of State of 16 of those countries.  Each country chose to remain a constitutional monarchy at the time of independence.

All four of us recommend the series and look forward to the following three seasons.

Footnotes:  In one scene Prince Philip says something negative about visiting Australia; in a later episode, he is asked to go there alone for the opening of the Olympic Games in 1956 and, again, expresses a complaint.  I question the series’ interpretation of events here.   Mark Steyn, a Canadian of decidedly conservative views who now lives in New Hampshire, wrote an article some years ago about a dinner he had with others at Buckingham Palace, where he was hosted by the Queen and Prince Philip.  In the article he recounted a private conversation with the Prince in which they both compared and discussed the Canadian and Australian constitutions.   It didn’t seem as if the Prince was not interested in the two countries.  The trips were undoubtedly a challenge as they went by sea and were away from their children for months at a time.    This fact is alluded to in the later episode.

Personal footnote:  Our son was helping his eldest daughter, Paris, prepping her for a test on Canada the following day in her fifth grade exam.   One question was “What kind of government does Canada have?”  Kurt told her Canada is a constitutional monarchy.  It turned out to be the wrong answer.  What the teacher wanted was:  “Canada has its own government.”   Even teachers don’t seem to understand “constitutional monarchy,” which has a very good track record of preserving democracy.

ANTENNA

the-hollow-crown

A third series we’ve started binge-watching (well, every Sunday evening for a couple of hours) is “The Hollow Crown,” adaptations of Shakespeare’s historical plays.  The series is showing in the Sunday night “Masterpiece Theater” slot on PBS.  It stars some of the world’s greatest actors. Somehow, we missed the first series, which we’ve now requested through our public library system.   But we’ve started the second series, which begins in 1422 with the death of Henry V and the ascension to power of his son, Henry VI.   Actually, it was not that simple – the new king was only nine months old, the youngest monarch in English history.  In view of his age, there had to be a regency – and that was the start of his problems.   Out of this came the War of the Roses, a civil war that lasted over thirty years.

SERIOUSLY

“Britain’s oldest manufacturing firm put its business up for sale.  Based in East London, Whitechapel Bell Foundry was established in 1570 and cast the original Liberty Bell in Philadelphia as well as Big Ben and bells for St Paul’s Cathedral.  Fewer churches mean fewer orders for large bells.  But the success of “Downton Abbey” has wrought a new market:  for handbells to ring for tea.”  (The Economist, December 10th.)

 

"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