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).

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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!

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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.”

Grandparenting – nothing like it!!

Aubren
Aubren
Paris and Brookklyn
Paris and Brooklyn
Leeson, 3 months
Leeson, 3 months
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Alyssa and Elena
Twins Ethan and Evan
Twins Evan and Ethan

Until Sunday, our 13-month-old grandson, Aubren, squealed with delight whenever Grandpa came home.  But not any more.

Aubren has discovered girls!

The girls in question are his cousins, Paris and Brooklyn, who are 7 and 6 (almost 8 and 7) respectively.  Our son drops them off and I drive them to school.   When they return just after 4, we hear the same squeals of delight as the girls entertain him until their dad gets back to take them home.  As any man knows, girls can be a distraction.   From the moment they arrive, these two girls distract him constantly.  He only has eyes for them.

It’s lovely to see them together.

There’s a fourth one, too.  Aubren has a younger brother who is only three months old, called Leeson.  Leeson isn’t quite as active yet but he enjoys watching the other three from the comfort of his “Einstein chair.”  When the girls are around, there’s always a smile on his face.

From this Sunday, four grows to eight as we are traveling down to visit our daughter and son-in-law in Indianapolis for a few days.  They have four children themselves, including twin boys born in September, just six months ago.  The boys are called Ethan and Evan.  Their older girls, Alyssa and Elena, are 8 (today) and 6 and are very good at watching their brothers.

Eight young children under one roof is a daunting prospect.  It’s quite likely I will invite my son-in-law, Mike, to join me for a drink one evening, somewhere, anywhere, away from the house!  Make that two evenings!

No, I’m sure it will be a great joy to see them all having fun together and especially to see the girls taking care of their younger brothers and cousins.

Grandparenting really is the best time of life.  It’s so good we should have done it first!

Having grandchildren takes your mind off all the ailments that afflict us as we age, all the disappointments and set-backs.  When you have to change a poopie diaper, it takes your mind off everything else!

But it’s also good to see the world anew, through the eyes of youngsters who have just entered it.  Everything is a wonder to them.  When I take Aubren for a walk in his stroller, he looks around at the world around him, taking it all in.   He’s especially fascinated with trees.  But also dogs.  He loves dogs.

Seeing the world through a child’s eyes, you see everything new.  It’s like living your life all over again.  I now have a deeper understanding of what Jesus Christ said in Matthew 18:3 — “And he said, Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  It’s spiritually beneficial to spend time with your grandchildren.   Each day we should try to learn something new.  We need to be teachable just like little children.

By the time most people are grandparents they have come to realize the importance of relationships over material things.  The desire is simply to be involved in the lives of our grandchildren, to leave a legacy that will last for generations.

I still remember my grandparents.  I was very fond of them and deeply appreciative of the time they spent with me.  Not then, of course.  When I was a child I didn’t think about it, but now I do and I love them more dearly as I get older.   I look forward to seeing them again in the resurrection.

Meanwhile, I’m not too worried about Aubren’s fascination with girls.  He will soon realize that only Grandpa can afford to buy him ice cream!

"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