FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER MARGARET THATCHER HAS DIED

Margaret thatcher

It was announced today that former British Prime Minister, Margaret (Baroness) Thatcher, has died of a stroke at the age of 87.

It is impossible to appreciate the difference she made without looking back to the changes that took place after World War II, when Britain entered a different era.

At the end of World War II, the British people voted in a Labour government, rejecting their wartime leader, Winston Churchill.  The new government was pledged to radical changes at home and abroad at a time when Britain could least afford it.

In accordance with socialist convictions at the time, major areas of the economy were brought under state control – railways, coal mines, steel, health, to name just four.  At the time, socialism was all the rage.  The Soviet Union was still looked up to by many, after its significant efforts in World War II, as “the worker’s paradise.”  Other countries in Europe had also embraced communism, along with China, North Korea, North Vietnam and Mongolia.  Many of the countries in western Europe were social democracies, meaning that their economies were mixed, with government heavily involved in many areas, including healthcare.

It was to be a long time before most people realized that government should not run businesses.  Even today, the conviction remains in most western countries that healthcare is best administered at the government level.

Growing up in England in the 1950’s and 60’s, there was a sense of terminal decline.  The economy seemed to be in perpetual crisis, culminating in the 1967 devaluation of the British currency, which, in turn, led to the collapse of the sterling area.  Britain’s currency had been the second reserve currency after the US dollar since Bretton Woods, with all former British colonies (except Canada) using it to trade and leaving their savings in British banks.  By 1967, Britain could not maintain the value of its currency and change was inevitable.

At the same time, the postwar Labour government had started dismantling the empire.  This process speeded up during the 60’s.

In the first few years of the 70’s, the crisis just seemed to get worse and worse, with the unions holding the country to ransom.  In 1974, the country introduced a three-day working week in an effort to conserve power.  In the middle of winter, people were freezing.  Television stations (of which there were only three) had to close down at 10.30 pm to save power.  Because too many people all went to the toilet at once (the British do not say “bathroom”), the TV stations had to stagger their closing times so as not to drain the water supply!

By 1979, the British were tired of this continual decline and voted in a new Conservative government led by Margaret Thatcher, who became the first woman prime minister in British history.  In contrast to the terminal decline of previous decades, the 80’s were an exciting time to be in Britain, with significant changes taking place.  Of course, these changes did not please everybody.

In trying to turn things around, Mrs. Thatcher had to tackle the unions, who were very powerful.   Unemployment increased rapidly in the first few years of her period in office, but she stuck to her avowed policies of returning the country to greatness.  The prime minister was unyielding – “the lady’s not for turning” as she proclaimed at a Conservative party conference.

Internationally, her strong will shocked other countries, un-used to British leaders standing up for their country.  In 1982, when Argentina seized control of the British Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic, she sent a military force to forcibly take them back.  She frequently battled with EU leaders who she thought were taking advantage of Britain.  When on a visit to Poland, she insisted on meeting with Lech Walesa, the anti-communist union leader, whom she encouraged to pursue a course that contributed to the collapse of communism in eastern Europe.  Whereas it was generally believed that once a socialist revolution had taken place, there was no turning back, she showed that things could be reversed.  Eastern Europe is very different now that it’s free!  It was the Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, who named her “the Iron Lady.”

In the UK itself, you can see clearly what a difference private enterprise makes when you take a journey by rail today!

Millions of people who once worked for the state now work for private companies.  The City of London, Britain’s financial center, which accounts for 20% of the UK economy, was radically altered by her administration.  Other nations copied her actions – extending free enterprise and reducing taxation.

Having made a major difference to Britain’s economy, Mrs. Thatcher failed to address what is arguably the biggest drain on national finances – the National Health Service.   With her passing, it is doubtful anybody else will ever have the courage to tackle the NHS, which means that the financial burden is set to continue.

Internationally, there were two great failings – Zimbabwe and Hong Kong, the last two British colonies of any consequence.  Her policies led to the disastrous dictatorship of Robert Mugabe, which continues to this day; and, it was felt, she could have got a better deal for Britain’s most economically successful colony, Hong Kong, when it was returned to China in 1997.

Margaret Thatcher, it has been said, put the “Great” back into “Great Britain,” at least for a time – the country once again seems to be unraveling in the Great Recession.  The Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, described her as one of the “defining” political figures of her age.

She was returned to power in 1983 and 1987, but finally ousted by members of her own party who did not appreciate her strong will and abrasive manner.  Living in the UK at that time, it was hard to find anybody who said they supported her, but when election day came, people voted with their wallets!  Most people felt they were financially better off with her in office.

Change is always risky.  Mrs. Thatcher set in train policies that continue to change the country, some in ways she would not appreciate.  Decentralization led to devolution, which gave the Scots their own parliament – and may result in Scottish independence next year; her beloved House of Lords was made more democratic during Tony Blair’s government; her staunch pro-Americanism led Tony Blair to back unpopular wars instigated by the United States; her anti-EU rhetoric may culminate in Britain leaving the EU within the next two years.

The greatest compliment to Mrs. Thatcher lies in the fact that all successive prime ministers, whether Conservative or Labour, have lived in her shadow and have continued most of her policies.  For her, and now the country, there was no turning back!

On a personal note, she paid a heavy price for her commitment to her convictions.  On at least one occasion she talked of her regret at not having time with her grandchildren, saying, “You can’t have it all.”

The government has said that she will not be given a state funeral but will be honored with a ceremonial funeral, on a par with the Queen Mother and Princess Diana.   At her own request, she will not lie in state.

A century from now, it is likely that only two prime ministers will be remembered from the 20th century – Sir Winston Churchill and Baroness Thatcher!

COULD PYONGYANG BE THE NEW SARAJEVO?

Kim Jongun

Exactly a century ago the world was booming.  Globalization was all the rage, with the European empires dominating the globe.  It seemed like scientific progress would never end, with peace and prosperity for all.

Then, suddenly, it all came crashing down.  The repercussions are still with us to this day.

The dramatic turning point was an assassination in the Balkan city of Sarajevo on June 28th, 1914, arguably the most significant event of the century.  The Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were shot and killed by Serbian nationalists.  This event triggered off World War One.  Within weeks the world was at war and stock markets would take years to recover, if they recovered at all (Russia’s new government simply abolished the capitalist system – others were to follow suit).

Four great empires collapsed in the wake of World War I.  Two others continued but fell apart after World War II, which, in turn, was a consequence of WWI.  Could the American empire collapse in the wake of a serious conflict, triggered by an event thousands of miles away?

Most people in 1914 had likely never heard of Sarajevo (most people even now!).  Just as an unexpected event in an obscure part of the world led to history’s most monumental conflict, with ripples that still continue, a sudden, dramatic development could change the world today.

Could Pyongyang be the trigger?

At the time of writing, North Korea is increasingly belligerent, threatening South Korea, the US, and Japan.  The hermit kingdom, as its often called, has nuclear missiles which can reach an estimated thousand miles – meaning it could easily hit South Korea, killing millions, Japan, and even Alaska.  The capital of South Korea, Seoul, is a short distance from the border.  The North has the world’s fourth biggest military.  An invasion of South Korea would involve US troops immediately.  A significant percentage of American troops would be killed if the North begins by using its nuclear missiles.

Of course, such a move would be suicidal on the part of the North – but the new young head of state, Kim Jong Un, is clearly irrational and paranoid, two character traits that often afflict dictators.  The communist monarchy that rules North Korea (Kim is the third generation member of the family to rule) is totally out of touch with reality, a consequence of its self-imposed isolation.

Bible prophecy does not mention any great conflict in the region of the Koreas.  The focus of prophecy remains the Middle East.  Talking of events that will take place before His second coming, Jesus Christ said:  “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh.”  (Luke 21:20)

Daniel 11:40 talks of an end-time clash between the kings of the North and of the South, two powers north and south of Jerusalem.  North Korea is decidedly east.

However, it should be noted that the United States, still the world’s greatest military power at this time, is not mentioned in events to take place at the very end.  This suggests a major set-back for the US sometime between now and the events prophesied in Luke and Daniel.  A war In the Far East could be that major set-back.

Even if limited, it would have potentially disastrous economic consequences.  South Korea is one of the world’s major economies.  Japan is the third greatest economy.  Any attack that involved either (plus the US) would have major repercussions on economies and stock markets around the world.  The loss of tens of thousands of US troops in South Korea would also be devastating for the US.

War may not happen.  Whenever North Korea makes threatening noises as it is doing now, it’s likely there is some internal conflict that is being worked out.  Maybe Mr. Kim is showing his military that he really is in charge?  Maybe there is growing fear of losing control?  The number one priority of the regime always has been, is, and will always be, self-preservation.  Maybe they are just paranoid because of a recent UN vote imposing greater sanctions.  Who knows?  Without a free press in the country itself, we may never know.

While North Korea is not a focus of prophecy, events on the Korean peninsular could still have an impact on the world just as they did sixty years ago during the Korean War.  It should be remembered that the conflict then did not result in any victory or defeat – it ended as a draw, with no power gaining the victory.

In any conflict now, likely nobody would win and everybody would lose.

INTERESTING. . .

Hmmm . .

China has become one of the largest producers of bibles in the world”  (The Economist, March 30th, 2013).

“…Christians make up 5% of the population, some 67 million people……Unofficial  headcounts say that China has more Christians than members of the Communist Party (about 82 million people)”  (ibid.  Information from Pew Research Center).

THE ROOTS OF AMERICA’S DEBT CRISIS

Lyndon_Johnson_3x4

1965 may seem a long time ago, but really it isn’t.

I remember it vividly.

The year was a time of great turmoil for a country that had enjoyed unparalleled prosperity, peace, unity and stability for two decades following World War Two.

As the year progressed, you can see clearly the origins of America’s debt crisis.

All of this is explained very well by James T. Patterson, a professor of history at Brown University, in his recent book, “The Eve of Destruction:  How 1965 transformed America.”   (Basic Books, $28.99)

For Americans over 60 it will bring back many memories.  Even for those brought up outside of the US, like myself, the black and white television news pictures of riots in Salem and Watts, of civil rights marches, of LBJ, of conflict in Vietnam and of American troops arriving in the Dominican Republic will all come back as you read Mr. Patterson’s account of that memorable year in US history – the year that really began the “Sixties.”

What we didn’t know then, but can now, is the impact 1965 would have on us today!

Lyndon Baines Johnson might never have been President of the United States.    He was suddenly thrust into the most powerful position in the world when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in November, 1963.  LBJ had been JFK’s Vice-President.

The following year was an election year.   His opponent was Republican Barry Goldwater.  Goldwater’s campaign slogan was “In your heart, you know he’s right.”  With Goldwater’s threat to use “low yield atomic weapons” on Hanoi in mind (page 20), the Democrats countered with “In your guts, you know he’s nuts!”   This was not the official campaign slogan but it caught on, repeated endlessly on the three major networks.  LBJ won by a landslide.

Johnson is remembered mostly for the Vietnam quagmire.  Largely forgotten is his Great Society, the social reforms that he got through Congress, social reforms that committed the United States to a much greater role for government, a role which inevitably keeps on expanding.  Also forgotten is that LBJ, as he was popularly known, was one of the most effective presidents in American history when it came to working successfully with Congress, a stark contrast to today.  When LBJ wanted something, he got what he wanted!  This was made possible by the many decades he had spent in Congress and the friendships that were firmly established.  He was not beyond bullying and cajoling people to support him and could be quite crude and vulgar at times.

Leading what was at the time the wealthiest country in the world, LBJ was able to persuade the American people to support vast new and expensive programs, including Medicare and Medicaid (government health care for the elderly and for the poor, respectively).  The increasing costs of these “entitlements,” together with Social Security (introduced by FDR) are the primary cause of America’s pending bankruptcy five decades later.

Comparing himself to President Franklin Roosevelt (FDR), Johnson, a fellow Democrat,  boasted that whereas Roosevelt “passed five major bills the first hundred days.  We (Congress, under his guidance) passed 200 in the last two years.  It is unbelievable.”  (page 199)  Many of those bills made dramatic differences in the lives of African-Americans.   “Charles Mitchell, the NAACP’s chief legislative lobbyist, observed later that LBJ made a greater contribution to giving a dignified and hopeful status to Negroes in the United States than any President including Lincoln, Roosevelt and Kennedy.”  (ibid.)

A relatively minor piece of legislation has changed America dramatically.  In 1965 LBJ sponsored a new immigration bill, which Senator Edward Kennedy steered through Congress.  The new bill opened up America to massive immigration from what was then called the “Third World,” the newly independent nations of Africa and Asia, as well as neighboring countries in Latin America.  This has led to significant demographic changes, which will soon see America’s whites become a minority.  Together with free medical care and assistance for single mothers, this has also added greatly to the financial burden on US taxpayers.

More might have been accomplished if it hadn’t been for Vietnam.  The war there had begun before LBJ became president, but was soon to escalate and then escalate again.  It kept on escalating until over half a million American servicemen were engulfed in an unwinnable war thousands of miles away in the hostile jungles of Indo-China.  It was to become the first war America lost!   It was also the reason why LBJ did not seek a second full-term as president.  Health problems were also a concern – he died four years after leaving office at the age of 64.

By the end of the year, a conservative backlash was evident.  In October, a group of leading intellectuals started questioning the increasing role of the federal government and launched the “Public Interest” as a neo-conservative publication.  America’s culture wars had begun.  The following year Ronald Reagan became Governor of California.

LBJ’s term as president is one of the most interesting in modern American history, brought to life in great detail by Mr. Patterson.   The consequences of his term in office are still with us to this day.

HOW EMBARRASSING!

bean_church_sleep

Would you believe I fell asleep in church yesterday?

I used to give sermons about people like that!

It was a long day – we were gone for a full twelve hours, after an exhausting weekend.

The day in question was Monday, April 1st, a biblical holy day called the Last Day of Unleavened Bread.  By tradition, our church has two services that day, each lasting about 90 minutes.

Normally, it’s just my wife and I who go, but this time we were visiting our daughter, son- in-law, and their four young children, including two twin boys who are only just over 6 months old.   We also took our son’s two girls, who are the same age as my daughter’s (6 and 7) who we had brought down with us from home.  That’s six children in all – more than we are used to at any one time.

Added to this was the fact that my wife Diane was sick and stayed home.

It was after lunch, during the second service that I dozed off.   I awoke after, maybe, twenty minutes, to find my daughter and son-in-law had left the sanctuary with the two little boys and I had been left with the girls – who, at the precise moment of my re-awakening, were not exactly on their best behavior!  There was too much movement and way too much noise.  Fortunately, we were sitting near the back, so very few people were disturbed.

But I won’t fall asleep again.  Well . . . not until the next time.  I’m getting old!

News that matters . . .

Breaking-News 2

The following news items could be of great significance.  Why is nothing being said in the western press?

From DEBKAfile:

25 March. The Al Musanna Brigade of al Qaeda’s Syrian arm, Jabhat al-Nusra, captured the highly strategic intersection of the Syrian, Israeli and Jordan borders, just east of the Golan on Passover Eve, Monday, March 25, DEBKAfile reports exclusively.  The jihadists have also seized Wadi ar-Raqqad, which marks the Golan’s eastern boundary and is one of Israel’s water sources.  This put the jihadists directly opposite 14 Israeli southern Golan villages and a distance of 5-6 kilometers from one of Israel’s earliest kibbutzim, Ein Gev, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

Next door, Iraqi Al Qaeda is preparing to push trucks loaded with Chlorine gas-CI trucks into Syria for the jihadists to use against Assad’s forces.

 

Al Qaeda’s 1,000-km chain from Baghdad to Damascus

DEBKAfile Special Report

12 March. By beating the Syrian army 17th reserve division for control of the Euphrates valley, Islamist militias have removed the last gap in al Qaeda’s 1,000-km chain of command from north of Baghdad to eastern Damascus, including Syrian Golan on Israel’s border.  Any “conflagration” in Syria could quickly spread to Lebanon, Iraq or the Golan; a violent incident in Egypt could be tied to Libya, Israel or Algeria.  “The threats have not gone, only assumed new shapes,” said IDF chief of staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz.  “The risk of escalation is very high.”

Regarding Syria, he said:  “Although the probability of a conventional war against the Syrian army is low, the terrorist organizations fighting Assad may set their sights on us next.  The Syrian army’s tremendous strategic resources may well fall into terrorist hands.”

"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