Tag Archives: Ben Carson

A TALE OF TWO GYMS

exercise bike

I joined a gym a few weeks ago.

Physical therapy wasn’t an option after my two back surgeries – my deductible was $5,000, and problems with my right foot made it difficult to drive myself there and back the required three times a week.   The foot problem also means I cannot put any weight on the foot, which means walking is now out.

So I opted for the gym.

The nearest gym is less than a mile away.   It’s also only $10 per month.

Ten years ago, I went to a gym a few miles in the other direction.  It was over $100 a month, but was the only facility in the Lansing area that had squash courts.   Squash was my favorite activity for 35 years. I first played it in college.   In the UK and the African countries in which we lived, squash courts were ubiquitous. In the US, they are few and far between.   Sorry, but a racquetball court is no substitute!

“Planet Fitness” is the name of the gym.   It’s a franchise.   They are all over the country.   Although they don’t offer squash, racquetball or basketball, they are right up there with the (now) $125 a month gym, the Michigan Athletic Club (MAC), which caters for those at the other end of the social spectrum.

Planet Fitness (PF) has all the latest equipment for a first-class cardio and strength-training workout.   It’s open 24 hours, 7 days a week.   I don’t know how they do it for only ten bucks a month.

With the winter approaching, I’ve decided to ride one of their stationary bikes rather than venture out in the snow and ice.   Regular readers will remember that I fell off my bike recently in a KFC entrance way.   That is not going to happen now that I’m on a bike that doesn’t move, so to speak.   I will, of course, risk the KFC parking lot, Arby’s, Taco Bell and McDonald’s again when the nicer weather returns.

PF does well precisely because it is offering first-class gym facilities to financially challenged people.   The M.A.C. does well because it caters for the wealthy, who want to network with potential clients.   They represent two different worlds, the haves and the have-nots.

The two men who work the early shift at PF are both under-employed. One graduated from law school some time ago and is looking for a job; the other has a comparable degree that qualifies him to teach in higher education.   Neither has been able to find a job in their respective fields. Working at PF, they cannot be earning more than $10 an hour, which equals a take home pay of less than $400 per week.

So it’s not surprising that a similar division is taking place in the housing sector.   Houses under $150,000 in a good school district are selling rapidly – buyers make an offer on the house before they even see it.   At the same time, houses over $160,000 remain vacant for months.   This is inevitable when increasing numbers of people are earning $10 an hour.

The “have-nots” reflect an economy that is not doing as well as official figures suggest.   The 5.1% unemployment figure only takes into account those who are actively looking for a job.   There are millions more who have given up or taken early retirement.

There are, of course, areas around the country where the economy is doing well.

Washington, DC, is one such area.   The counties surrounding the capital of the United States have the highest per capita incomes and the highest house prices.   This is not surprising when you consider that the average federal government employee receives twice the national average private sector pay and benefits.

This also means that those in government are increasingly out of touch with the common people.   This partly explains how shocked establishment figures are by the success of Donald Trump and Ben Carson, two outsiders who have made socially unacceptable comments for which they are often attacked or ridiculed or both.

One example of government being out of touch with reality came last week.   The Obama Administration is offering businesses a $12,000 incentive if they hire new immigrants with a four-year degree.   This makes absolutely no sense when there are already hundreds of thousands of young Americans with four-year degrees and no job!   It only makes sense to those living in the alternate universe known as Washington.

Some will read this and think that Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton are the answer, the former being a fast track socialist, the latter heading in the same direction in the slow lane.   But the fact is that more government is not the solution.  Rather, it’s the problem.   Any expansion of government means higher taxes. In turn, this equals a greater burden on the private sector, where wages are already low compared to government.

The two gyms are not the only evidence of the growing gulf that exists in western societies.   Along the main road, which forms part of my cycling route, are a number of cheap fast-food outlets interspersed with the occasional high-end restaurant.   There are some in-between places, mainly all-you-can-eat buffets that are only adding to the nation’s health care bill.

Of greater concern are the “Cash Advance” stores, offering quickie loans to the desperate, who soon find an APR of up to 1,000% has been added to their loan.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) wrote a number of books that focused on the great divisions in Victorian British society.   A century and a half later those divisions are even greater, on both sides of the Atlantic.   What’s more, they are getting worse.

Whoever started PF was very perceptive – he could see which way society was headed.   The only way the gym can thrive selling $10 a month memberships is if increasing numbers of people are joining.

The way our economy is going, there will be no shortage of new members!

Advertisements

RELIGIOUS DISPUTES DOMINATE THE NEWS

 

ben-carson-donald-trump-large-169

Religion is very much in the news these days.

Donald Trump, the leading contender for the Republican nomination in the US, made a somewhat disparaging remark about Dr. Ben Carson’s religious affiliation.   Carson is the closest rival to Trump. Whereas Trump is a mainstream Presbyterian, Carson is a Seventh Day Adventist.   Mr. Trump said he knew nothing about the SDA’s, but said it in such a way that it made the church and its members decidedly odd.

For the record the Seventh Day Adventists share many beliefs in common with the Presbyterians and other mainstream Christian denominations.   The difference between them is that the SDA’s worship on the seventh day (Saturday) as Jesus did.

Coincidentally, the new President of Fiji is a Seventh Day Adventist. His role is largely a ceremonial role, similar to that played by Queen Elizabeth, who was Fiji’s Head of State until 1987.

Four years ago, in the United States, Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith, was a factor in the election.   It was not to his favor.

It’s a pity leaders do not heed the words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:12 to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”   Each individual needs to work on his own relationship with God. Christians should be careful not to judge others who may hold to a different Christian tradition.

It’s not just Christian beliefs that have come up in this election. Earlier in the current election campaign the issue of a Muslim president came up.   Neither of the two leading contenders was in favor, but the issue gave the media an opportunity to once again portray both men in a negative light.

Meanwhile, across the pond, the Hungarian Prime Minister has again expressed the fear that the flood of immigrants arriving in Europe will destroy the continent’s Christian (i.e. Catholic) roots.

Europe certainly does have Christian roots, but there is little evidence of those roots these days, as most people have embraced secular humanism.   Only Russia’s leader seems to hold any serious Christian beliefs.   Fortunately, he seems set on saving Christians in the Middle East from Islamic extremism.

In today’s USA Today, an article carries the headline, “Under ISIL’s brutal rule, Iraqis are in constant fear,” written by Kiran Nazish.     A schoolteacher who escaped last month is quoted as observing:   “In more than one year, the Islamic State has created a society where it’s normal for children to watch their elders being murdered by them.”

If you didn’t get it the first time, be sure to read that sentence again.   What it’s saying is that children are watching other children murder adults.  Other articles in recent months have claimed that children not only shoot adults, they are even being trained to behead them. This is the kind of world we now live in.

Fearful of Islam and those refugees from Islamic lands crossing their borders, Poles voted yesterday for a more conservative government.  This is likely to be a trend across Europe as people put security at the top of their concerns.

By far the worst and most serious religious conflict has flared up again in Jerusalem, where Palestinians have been waging a renewed intifada against Israel.   The first intifada was in 1987.   They are trying to drive the Jews out of the West Bank.   If they succeed, it would be a prelude to driving them into the sea.

Palestinians have been angry over the Israelis not allowing young men on to the Temple Mount, which they call Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary).   It’s also a part of the general frustration they feel after seventy years of the nation of Israel.

Meanwhile, an old issue has resurfaced – the role of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem during World War II.

“Philadelphia, PA – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has drawn criticism for comments about the role of al-Hajj Amin al-Husaini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, in conceiving and perpetrating the Holocaust.   Indeed, leading Nazi aides testified that al-Husaini was one of the instigators of the genocide.  In his 1999 autobiography, a senior Nazi official admitted how he advised Hitler and other leading Nazis, and that he acquired full knowledge of the ongoing mass murder.

Middle East Forum scholar, historian, and author Wolfgang G. Schwanitz added, “It is a historical fact that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem al-Hajj Amin al-Husaini was an accomplice whose collaboration with Adolf Hitler played an important role in the Holocaust.   He was the foremost extra-European adviser in the process to destroy the Jews of Europe.”  (“Mufti Advised Hitler on Holocaust”, Middle East Forum, October 21st.)

The Mufti’s successor, Sheikh Muhammed Ahmad Hussein, is now saying that the Temple Mount never housed a Jewish Temple and that the al-Aqsa mosque has been there “since the creation of the world” (Times of Israel, Monday).

If these words were intended to be the last word on the most disputed piece of real estate in the world, he may be surprised at the reaction.

The latest uprising by Palestinian youth has led to the murder of Jews on the streets of Jerusalem.   The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now allowing Palestinian youths on to the Temple Mount, even though it poses a security risk.

There are increasing calls from religious and regional leaders for international supervision of the Temple Mount.

To think that fifty years ago, when I was a teenager, it was widely thought that religion and religious conflict were things of the past!

 

 

THE POPE AND THE PRESIDENT

U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Pope Francis (R) during their meeting at the Vatican March 27, 2014. Obama's first meeting on Thursday with Pope Francis was expected to focus on the fight against poverty and skirt moral controversies over abortion and gay rights.
U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Pope Francis (R) during their meeting at the Vatican March 27, 2014. Obama’s first meeting on Thursday with Pope Francis was expected to focus on the fight against poverty and skirt moral controversies over abortion and gay rights.

The Founding Fathers of the United States could not have imagined such a scene ever taking place in this country.

The scene was played out this morning on the White House lawn. The head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, together with a US president of African heritage with a Muslim father and other definite Muslim connections.

Whereas the US was 98% Protestant at its founding, today there are arguably only two faiths that matter – Catholicism and Islam.

Certainly, these are the only two that dominate news headlines.

Just a few days ago, the leading Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump was asked a question by a man who believed that President Obama is a Muslim.   Because he did not correct the man, it is assumed he believes the same way and he has been greatly criticized for it.   Of course, if there’s nothing wrong with Islam, why should anybody get upset if described as being Muslim!

A day or two later, Ben Carson, another Republican candidate, a quiet, reserved and respectful man who is a double minority, both black and a Seventh Day Adventist Christian, was asked what he thought of having a Muslim president.   He was not in favor of it and has since been accused of racism!

Fifty years ago, when Senator Edward Kennedy sponsored the bill, which became the new immigration law, he said Americans would not see any noticeable change in the fabric of the country.   Here we are five decades later in a very different religious landscape thanks to that immigration act.

It doesn’t take a Donald Trump or a Ben Carson for Islam to make the news every day.   Migrants moving into Europe from the Middle East and Africa underline the dysfunctionality of Islamic countries, racked with ethnic, ideological and religious strife.   Under international law, when people flee one country they should register for refugee status in the first country they come to; but international laws are being broken every day as people push their way through borders and barriers toward their number one goal, Germany or Sweden.   None seems to want to go to any oil rich Arab country, which speaks the same language.   One migrant made it clear when he said: “Europeans have more compassion!”

That compassion stems from Christianity, both Catholic and Protestant.   For centuries, monks and nuns provided the only hospital care available for travelers and locals alike.   They also provided food and drink to the poor.

Yes, Christianity and Islam are very different.   Only the Hungarian leader, Viktor Orban, seems to be pointing that out, saying his country does not want the migrants.   Hungary suffered for almost two centuries under Islamic rule, so it’s not surprising that they don’t want Muslims back.  Mr. Orban has said that the massive movement of migrants into the country threatens the nation’s Christian heritage.   For this realistic comment, he is being condemned by the emotional majority more influenced by television images of people pushing further into Europe.

It is doubtful the enthusiasm for Muslim immigrants will last long. Then what?

Catholicism and Islam have clashed repeatedly throughout history – and could do so again.   People in the West have largely forgotten this past history or don’t care.   But that’s not the case in the Islamic world where the term “crusaders” is often used to describe westerners, a reference to the Crusades between Catholic Europe and the forces of Islam that began in 1095 and lasted for two centuries.

There were other less famous clashes between the two.   In the eighth century Muslims invaded Spain and France, until they were defeated in 732 by Charles Martel. His grandson Charlemagne was still fighting the North African invaders decades later.   After the Crusades ended, there were other clashes as the Ottoman Turks advanced westward, conquering islands in the Mediterranean and moving fairly rapidly into the heart of Europe.

The historic rivalry between Rome and the Islamic world will likely be a part of the prophesied clash between the King of the North and King of the South in the last verses of the Book of Daniel, chapter 11.   Earlier this year the leaders of ISIS threatened to invade Rome and kill the pope.

Islam has certainly succeeded in dividing the West in the early years of this century, as both Americans and Europeans hold different opinions on how best to deal with the migrant crisis.   Some are fearful about security while others just want to help, not realizing there are a number of rich Arab countries, which could take the Syrians in.   Not all the migrants are Syrians – a British newspaper revealed last Saturday that only 1 in 5 migrants is a Syrian refugee.   The others are economic migrants and could be sent home under international law.

Is this the end of western civilization, as Mr. Orban fears?   That’s not likely.   What is more likely is that westerners will change their thinking when they experience the reality of greater numbers of Muslims.   Anti-immigrant parties are likely to come to power, promising to do something to restore their countries to what they were.

Islam means “submission,”   In spite of denials by national news presenters, this makes the religion incompatible with the US Constitution, which is based on freedom.   And just as Islam is incompatible with freedom, so is Roman Catholicism, a religion that dominated Western Europe for over a thousand years, until the Protestant Reformation introduced an element of religious freedom.   It was English Protestants who founded James Town and Protestants of mostly British descent who founded the United States.   Today’s Protestants seem to have very little influence in the country, a fact that increasingly threatens religious freedom.

What we saw today on the White House lawn was, in a sense, a profile of three religions – Catholicism, represented by the Pope; Islam, represented by the American son of a Muslim Kenyan father; and Protestantism, represented by the White House itself, the US Constitution, and the soldiers in early American uniforms.

The first two are on the rise – the Church of Rome and Islam!