RUSSIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST

putin

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

BBC

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

refugee-screening

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

the-crown

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.)

 

CONTINUING UNCERTAINTY IN EUROPE

Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi resigned from office December 7, 2016 (AFP Photo/Andreas Solaro)
Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi resigned from office December 7, 2016                                     (AFP Photo/Andreas Solaro)

Italy has become the latest country to witness a rejection of the Establishment.   Prime Minister Mateo Renzi’s referendum to simplify government and, at the same time, make it stronger, was turned down by the electorate.   Many interpret this as a vote against Renzi himself.

However, the more interesting vote was in Austria on the same day, Sunday.   A second presidential election was held as the first, earlier this year, was too close to call.   Although the post of president is largely ceremonial, there was a great deal of interest in the vote.   The choice was between a left-of center Green Party candidate and a neo-Nazi.   The latter lost, but got over 46% of the vote.   This will now send shockwaves across the European continent – other countries are also likely to see a resurgence of Nazism (fascism); and it won’t be long before an extreme right-wing party wins at the polls.

Why is this happening, over seventy years after World War II and the defeat of the Nazis?

In an interview with Reuters after Donald Trump’s win, the right-wing Austrian Freedom Party’s candidate, Norbert Hofer made the following comment:

“Wherever the elites distance themselves from voters, those elites will be voted out of office.”  (November 16th)

What started with Brexit and continued in the US presidential election, continues now in Europe – a rejection of the Establishment, the elites that have governed since World War II.   This embraces a rejection of multiculturalism and political correctness.

Former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, interviewed on PBS’ Newshour Monday (December 5h), could not understand the return of nationalism in western democracies, at times sounding totally bewildered.   He expressed particular incredulity and disbelief that Norbert Hofer, “a man with Nazi roots,” received over 46% of the vote.   Establishment politicians are clearly concerned about this.

Frankly, we should all be concerned.   The reaction against liberalism is understandable, but a return to the extremism of the 1930’s should also be of great concern.

Europe is important.   The EU is the world’s biggest single economy (see chart below, showing 2014 stats).   If (a BIG if) the 27 (28 minus the UK) countries of the EU unite militarily, the world will have a new super-power, at exactly the time the US seems to be pulling back, with its emphasis on “America First.”

cotd-eu-us-china-india-gdp-ppp

The Italian referendum has also, once again, highlighted Germany’s role as European leader, even dictating policy to other countries. Note the following from Germanforeignpolicy.com:

Newsletter 2016/12/06 – A Time Bomb

ROME/BERLIN (Own report) – Following Italian Prime Minster Matteo Renzi’s defeat in Sunday’s referendum, Berlin is urging Rome to quickly form a “capable government” and resume its adjustment to the German model of austerity.   “The economic problems have to be tackled at the roots,” said Jens Weidmann, head of Germany’s central bank, yesterday.   German financial experts are floating the idea of a cabinet of technocrats, modeled on the Mario Monti government.   Monti ruled for a year and a half beginning in November 2011, without having been democratically elected . . .   It cannot be ruled out that its bank crisis could soon spread to other Italian credit institutions and to German banks.”

It’s not just the government in Berlin that likes to dictate to others. The following shows that Germans themselves have taken a decidedly anti-British turn after the Brexit vote:

“Germans want Merkel to take tough line with UK over Brexit, Körber Foundation poll finds –  (The Guardian, Patrick Wintour, Diplomatic Editor) 

Tuesday 29 November 2016 

“According to the survey, 58% of the public think Berlin should not be open to compromise with Britain over its EU departure and instead think Merkel should take a firm negotiating position, the Körber Foundation poll found.

“There was particular backing for Germany to take a hardline approach with the UK among supporters of Merkel’s own CDU party.”(https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/nov/29/germans-want-merkel-to-take-tough-line-with-uk-over-brexit-poll-finds)

There is growing concern about Germany’s increasing power.

“German militarism is assuming ever more openly aggressive forms. Following the German parliament’s (Bundestag) decision on Friday to massively increase the military budget, a discussion has now been launched about providing the German army (Bundeswehr) with nuclear weapons.”  (World Socialist website, 11/30).

Germany is also likely to turn further to the right politically when a general election is held next year.   The following may seem like a minor concern, but it’s the kind of news that makes voters want somebody else in power:

“A Syrian refugee who claims social benefits in Germany with his four wives and 22 children has sparked debates on social media.”   (RT news)

Concerned about growing anti-Islamic feeling, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced yesterday a ban on the burqa in public places.

If Mrs. Merkel fails to deal with the growing Islamic immigration crisis, voters will turn to other parties.

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IT’S NEVER TOO LATE

Even historian Niall Ferguson has seen the light when it comes to the European Union.   Prior to the Brexit vote, he supported the “Remain” campaign, but has now apologized and said he is supportive of Brexit.  It takes a humble man to say he’s wrong, especially one as well-known as Mr. Ferguson, a Scot who now lives in the United States.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EUROPE CHANGES WHILE US PRE-OCCUPIED

British Prime Minister Theresa May, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, U.S. President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel meet at the German Chancellery in Berlin, Germany November 18, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
British Prime Minister Theresa May,  Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, U.S. President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel meet at the German Chancellery in Berlin, Germany November 18, 2016.       REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

When newspapers around the world reported that the Archduke Franz Ferdinand had been assassinated in Sarajevo, nobody would have thought it would lead to the First World War, the worst war in history.  The subsequent war started in the Balkans, a part of Europe that frequently saw conflict; it didn’t seem anything to worry about.

25 years later, another world war followed on from the first, again started in Europe.

You would think that, consequently, the world would want to know what’s happening in Europe!   But the mention of Europe is likely to see wide-mouthed yawns in an audience – Europe is a continent of the past, not the future; a quaint place to visit but of no relevance.

However, Europe is a continent that is unraveling as old rivalries rise to the surface.   The end result could be a Europe that is very different from what we see now.

What we are witnessing is the return of nationalism, the root cause of both world wars.   Right now, we are in the dark, just as the world was the morning after the Archduke’s assassination.   Another seemingly insignificant event could lead directly to global conflict, just as the assassination did over a century ago.

After six decades of the European Union and its predecessor, Europeans are turning against the idea of “an ever closer union.” Now, they want to put their own country first.   It started in the United Kingdom with the Brexit vote.   Outside of Europe, the Americans voted earlier this month to put “America First.”   Austrians seem likely to elect their “far right” candidate to the presidency on December 4th.   If he wins, he has promised to dissolve parliament and to hold a vote on whether or not the country should stay in the EU.   A referendum in Italy on the same day could also have a profound effect on other countries in Europe.

However, the biggest two upcoming elections will be in France in May and Germany four months later.

France just had its primaries for the center-right party, resulting in the selection of Francois Fillon as their presidential candidate. He will run against the leader of the Socialist Party.   It’s not likely that their candidate will be the current socialist president, Francois Hollande, as his approval rating is down to only 4%.   A third party candidate, Marine LePen, of the National Front, could beat the two establishment figures.   Ms. LePen is against both the EU and immigration, two popular positions that could give her victory.

Elections next year in France and Germany may see a continuation of the trend toward nationalist parties.

Brexit has already led continental Europeans to move ahead with a European Army, independent of NATO.   This has been talked about for some time, amid growing concerns about Russia and Islamic terrorism.   Donald Trump’s victory in the US led, hours later, to a German call to quickly move forward – without Britain this is now possible.   It’s also the case that, until the UK actually exits the EU, it will have to help pay for the combined military force.

Europe and America differ on Russia, even more so now that Trump will be president.   Note the following from The Orange County Register, November 25th.

“Russian and American interests in Europe do not align.   Although both powers do share the general goal of preventing Islamic terror networks from spiraling out of control, Russia’s tacit support for some acts of terrorism, through its close relationship with state sponsors of militant jihad, is well known.   The truth is that Putin’s regime wants instability in Europe, by hook or by crook, so as to replace U.S. dominance on the continent.” (“High-stake Russian relations”)

The editorial continues:   “And the reality is that Putin is well on his way to getting it.   NATO allies like Turkey, Bulgaria and Hungary have joined in a clear pendulum swing away from Western liberalism.   At the same time, reactionary parties on the ascent aim to shake off the political bonds economically forged by the international institutions that give the US its influential stake in European affairs.   Few in Europe wish to become satellites of Moscow.   But few realize that, absent a robust American role in Europe, there is no European force powerful enough to keep its patchwork of small states from slipping into Russia’s shadow.

“Were the US capable of defending a persuasive liberal agenda abroad, friendlier European relations toward Russia wouldn’t necessarily be cause for such profound alarm.   But today, America’s leadership – like public opinion – is divided and unsure about just how much support free trade and international agreements deserve. Without clarity and confidence, even a little resurgence in traditionally pro-Russian sentiment in Europe could trigger a stampede away from the kind of American influence that has helped build and maintain security and order on the continent for generations.

“Is that a price America’s pro-Russian right and left are willing to bear?   Whatever Trump’s actual preference around Russian relations may be, he is well advised to take into account the answer to that question.   Nothing can ruin a presidential legacy like losing Europe.” (The last sentence was italicized by myself for emphasis.)

Five days earlier, another editorial in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette addressed European issues:

“President Obama spent Thursday and part of Friday in Germany, underlining the importance of the relationship with Chancellor Angela Merkel and, particularly, their personal rapport.   With Obama’s imminent disappearance from the world stage, the transition to a Donald Trump administration is creating international disquiet, as world leaders prepare for the unknown.   The German chancellor is arguably the most important figure of stability in international politics . . .   They met in Berlin, increasingly the capital of Europe, although Brussels still hosts the headquarters of both the European Union and NATO, British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Francois Hollande and Spanish Prime Minister Maariano Rajoy all traveled to Berlin for their farewell-as-president meeting with Obama.”

Continuing:   “Germany is the economic and, thus, probably, the political center of Europe, an ironic epilogue to its loss of two major wars in the last century.”  (“Obama’s last key European stop.”  Italics mine)

Put these two articles together and what you have is this:

Europe is increasingly likely to break away from America; and Germany is the leader of Europe.

But . . . not yet!

The Economist magazine’s Charlemagne column adds that Germany and its Chancellor Angela Merkel “are still too hesitant to be able to lead the free world” (“Iron Waffler,” Charlemagne, November 19th):

“Now, after an election campaign in which Mr. Trump trashed immigrants, vowed to rewrite trade deals and threatened to withdraw America’s security guarantee, the West’s indispensable nation appears to have dispensed with itself.   Desperate for a candidate to accept the mantle of leader of the free world, some alighted on Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor.”

Yet Mrs. Merkel’s options are limited.   “We are protected by our terrible history,” says Joschka Fisher, a former foreign minister.   “You cannot say, ‘Make Germany Great Again’.”

Times are changing – and further changes are likely as a result of Donald Trump’s victory in the US.   “The Westbindung (Western integration), a staple of German foreign policy since Adenauer, is fraying as extremist parties on the left and right cozy up to Russia.”

Konrad Adenauer was Germany’s first chancellor after the formation of the Federal Republic in 1949, four years after Adolf Hitler.   Germany’s foreign policy since then has been firmly rooted in both NATO and the EU.   Extremist parties in the country threaten this and could destroy this policy after next year’s election.

“Germany’s stake in the global liberal order is immense.  Its export-led economic model relies on robust international trade; its political identity is inexorably linked to a strong EU; its westward orientation assumes a friendly and engaged America.   All of these things may now be in jeopardy, and Germany would suffer more than most from their demise.   But do not look to Mrs. Merkel to save them, for she cannot do so alone.”

A different chancellor, a stronger chancellor, perhaps with more extremist views of either left or right, could make a huge difference in the 2017 general election.

It’s very difficult to predict what will happen in the next twelve months in Germany or other European nations, but the continent is going through a peaceful turmoil that could see radical changes in the months ahead.

The biblical books of Daniel and Revelation both wrote of the Roman Empire and successive attempts to revive the empire down through the ages.  In 1922 Mussolini proclaimed a revived Roman Empire; in 1957, the Treaty of Rome was signed to lay the groundwork for another attempt at European Union.   A final group of European nations will soon come together, with Germany as its leader.   Bible students have expected this for years — now the world’s media sees Berlin as the new European capital and Germany as the driving force behind the world’s biggest single economic grouping.

 

Does any reader have 60,000 frequent flyer miles they are not likely to use?  I would like to go over to Europe to research and write on developments on the continent.

POST ELECTION NEWS

obama-merkel-640-17-nov-2016-2-740x416

Among America’s oldest and truest allies, the reaction to the election of Donald Trump has ranged from horror to terror, sometimes including large elements of each.  Nowhere, though, does the reaction look more dangerous than inside the most powerful state on the European continent, Germany. (“America’s Friendship with Europe has been horribly damaged,” David Frum, The Atlantic, 11/15/16)

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WASHINGTON / BERLIN (Own report) – Under German pressure, the EU is pushing toward the establishment of military structures, independent of NATO, as is evidenced by recent decisions taken by its defense ministers.   At their meeting, ending yesterday, the defense ministers decided, as a first step, that particular EU countries should enhance their military cooperation.   The EU will establish a logistic hub and explore the creation of a European Medical Command.   They planned the setting up of a nucleus for an EU civilian-military headquarters that, according to Italy’s foreign minister, could grow to become a European general staff.   These structures could serve NATO, but in the end, are suitable for an EU army.   Berlin’s attempt to pit the EU against the USA, by ostentatiously taking a distance to President-Elect Trump, has encountered opposition from the UK and several eastern EU countries.   Leading European foreign policy makers called the EU a “superpower” expected to be a “global security provider.”
(more at http://www.german-foreign-policy.com/en/fulltext/58985)

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POST-BREXIT

‘Don’t you dare stop us!’ German defence chief blasts Britain for blocking EU army

GERMANY has hit out at Britain for blocking plans to create a massive European army which experts have warned will seriously undermine the NATO alliance.   (dailyexpressukonline, 11/17/160

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German far-Right extremists teaming up with gangs in America and Europe to plan attacks, intelligence chief warns

Far-right extremists in Germany are joining forces with like-minded groups across Europe and even the United States as they prepare to carry out more attacks, the country’s intelligence chief has warned.  Hans-Georg Maassen, the head of the Verfassungsschutz, said the agency had been forced to step up its efforts to foil plots by neo-Nazi and fascist groups following a surge in extremist violence in 2015.  “This is not just purely a German phenomenon,” he told Reuters, “the Right-extremist scene is networking on a European level, and in some cases, with connections in the United States.” (Daily Telegraph, 11/16)

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BETTER DAYS (recommended book)

“To be an aristocratic Englishman in the late nineteenth century meant being surrounded not merely by the lavish benefits of imperial power but  by its equally vast responsibilities.  Covering more than a fifth of the world’s land surface, the British Empire had come to rule about a quarter of the human race — more than 450 million people living on every continent and on the islands of every ocean.  It was the largest empire ever known, easily outranking the once mighty Spanish Empire, which had been the original object of the awe-filled description “the empire on which the sun never sets.”  It was five times the size of the Roman Empire at its zenith, and its influence — over people, language, money, even time, for the clocks in every time zone were set to Greenwich mean time — was unrivaled.”

(Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a daring escape and the making of Winston Churchill, by American biographer Candice Millard, 2016.  p 7 & 8)

 

"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