Tag Archives: Bernie Sanders

INDIANA’S CRUCIAL VOTE

Mike Pence, Indiana Governor, endorses Cruz
Mike Pence, Indiana Governor, endorses Cruz

Our eldest daughter, husband and children live in Indianapolis, about a 4-hour drive away from us.   We go down there as often as we can to see them, but we always wish we could see more of them.

Diane, my wife, is down there now to help look after the four children while our daughter recuperates from routine surgery.  I stayed behind as our youngest daughter is about to have her third child.

That will make a total of nine grandchildren.  Two of them live with us.  Soon that will be three.   All boys.   All full of life, with lots of energy.   They can be a lot of fun.   I often wish we’d had grandchildren first!

Our frequent visits to Indiana have impressed us.   The state is more conservative than Michigan.   It has a positive, upbeat feel about it, while Michigan can sometimes be a bit depressing – the economy has struggled for as long as we’ve been here and the weather doesn’t help!

Tuesday will be a big day in Indiana, which is holding a crucial primary.

Friends in Indiana have been saying that Ted Cruz will win the Republican primary as he’s the most conservative candidate and, besides, Donald Trump is crazy and unpredictable.  The popular Governor of the state came out and endorsed Cruz last week, even though he has a lot of respect for Trump.

But the latest opinion poll shows that Trump is winning the Republican primary in the state.   He’s winning by 15%.   Mrs. Clinton is winning the Democratic primary, but only by 4%.   Donald Trump is confounding everybody.   Why is he so popular?   Although he does hold some conservative views, Ted Cruz is definitely more conservative, so why does Trump appeal to so many Republicans?

It seems to come down to two issues and an additional third factor.

The first issue is the economy.   Although there are pockets around the country that are doing well, many Americans do not feel that it is.  They blame trade deals with other countries for taking away the good paying jobs; they also blame government.   The federal government seems to take more and more of the national pie, paying employees well and giving them annual increases.   This is not the reality for people in the private sector, who are paying for it all.

Donald Trump has become the national spokesman for blue-collar workers, many of them going under in this economy.   A cover story in the latest Atlantic Monthly magazine is about America’s secret shame, that almost 50% of families cannot put $400 together in an emergency.   That means they cannot fix the car or get urgent medical treatment for one of their children.

It’s ironic but the Republican Party of Donald Trump is the party of the working-class; whereas the Democratic Party of Hillary Clinton is the party of the intellectual elite.

Whereas Bernie Sanders received donations that averaged $27, Mrs. Clinton held fundraisers where those in attendance had to donate a minimum of $33,000.

The political system has been turned upside down.

If the party conventions nominate Trump and Clinton, polls suggest the latter will win by 10% and become the first woman in the White House.

That brings us to the second issue – immigration.   Tied in with that is terrorism.   The two are often linked in people’s minds.

Donald Trump said what many think, questioning further immigration from the Muslim world until we see clearly what’s going on.

He’s also proposing a wall to keep Mexicans out.

Mrs. Clinton takes the opposite view on immigration.   That overlooks the fact that poorer people, blue-collar workers, have to compete for jobs with many of the immigrants.   It’s an example of how out of touch many politicians are.

Which brings us to the third factor.   Trump is not a professional politician like his opponents, in both the Republican and Democratic parties.

People don’t trust professional politicians.  They have been seeing a progressive decline in their standard of living and no longer feel secure thanks to five decades of myopic immigration law.

They have had enough.

Tuesday’s vote in Indiana will be a good indicator of what the future will bring.

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The same can be said for Thursday’s mayoral election in London, 4000 miles away.

A Muslim is expected to win.

This will make London the first major western capital to be led by a Muslim.

Again, it’s an indicator of what the future is going to bring!

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TWO SIGNIFICANT ELECTIONS

Candidates

I thought readers might appreciate the following from a friend in Australia:

“Your presidential race is fascinating yet depressing.  Away from America, nobody, and I mean just about no one, can believe that Americans would support such a demagogue as Trump and all he stands for.   To say they like him because he speaks his mind and refuses to be PC is just inane.  Look at the type of person he is.  I would really fear for America, and more so the world, with a clown like him in charge.   It is positively sickening.

Bernie Sanders sounds like maybe a nice guy but a bit out of touch. I don’t think America could work his way. So Hilary . . .  there are skeletons in the closet so to speak but at least she has experience and did quite a reasonable job of it.  I think much of America still lives in the Teddy Roosevelt era in outlook . . . with little knowledge of the outside world and sort of contempt for it.”

Similar comments are also being made in newspapers in other parts of the world.

It’s difficult to imagine the Atlantic alliance holding together if Trump wins the election; having said that, the Democrats have not done any better.   Bret Stephens in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal wrote an article titled:   “Barack Obama checks out.”   With 311 days left until he hands over to his successor, the president seems to be insulting America’s friends while embracing her enemies (visits to Vietnam and Cuba are going to follow last year’s treaty with Iran).

Mr. Stephens’ article follows on from one in The Atlantic by Jeffrey Goldberg.   Mr. Goldberg interviewed President Obama, who seemed to forget he is still president and spent quite some time criticizing US allies, including Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron and former President Sarkozy of France who may be re-elected. He even made it clear that if Russia invades Moldova, the US will do nothing, giving the Russian president the go-ahead to annex another neighbor.   Even Israel is set to suffer another blow from the US president, who is treating Saudi Arabia equally in arms sales.

Historian Niall Ferguson also commented on the Goldberg article in today’s Boston Globe:

“At the top of the list of scapegoats are America’s traditional allies: not only Britain and France (Libya’s descent in chaos was all their fault) but also Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.   Then comes the Washington “foreign policy establishment” and the US military, who are always trying to “jam” him into going to war.   Next in line are the members of his own cabinet — among them former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — who urged him to intervene in Syria in 2012.

“The president says he is “very proud” of his decision in 2013 not to follow through on his earlier threat to take military action if the Assad regime used chemical weapons in Syria.   He seems not to understand that by asking President Putin to “force Assad to get rid of the chemical weapons,” he opened the door to Russian intervention in the Middle East, a region the Kremlin was effectively shut out of by Henry Kissinger in the early 1970s.   Wondering why the death toll in Syria has leapt upwards in recent months?   Step forward President Putin, whose air campaign against every anti-Assad force except ISIS has been a horror show.

“The Mosul dam symbolizes the critical state of an entire region. Like a huge wall of water, barely held in check by a crumbling dam, the combined forces of Islamic extremism, vicious sectarianism, networked terrorism, and Arab-Iranian rivalry have yet to wreak all the havoc of which they are capable.  But why worry?  The president has stuck to his foreign policy doctrine:   “Don’t do stupid sh–.”   As for ISIS, according to Goldberg, the president likens them to the Joker in the Batman movies.” (“A Catastrophe of Epic Proportions,” Niall Ferguson, Boston Globe).

As a President, Hillary Clinton seems likely to continue Mr. Obama’s policies and Europe is apprehensive of a Trump presidency, the Atlantic alliance could have some serious problems a few months from now.

Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson once observed: “it is true that, in America, any boy can grow up to become president.   This is something we are going to have to learn to live with!”   That was said over sixty years ago.   The problem has since doubled as every girl can now also aspire to be president.

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The United States isn’t the only country experiencing an interesting and potentially nation-changing election.   Germany had one, too. Last Sunday three of Germany’s states voted.  The result was significant gains for the AfD, the Alternative for Germany, an anti-immigrant party.   Trump is not the only western politician who wants to do something about immigration.

As Reuters put it:   “Voters punished Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives in three German regional elections on Sunday, giving a thumbs-down to her open-door refugee policy and turning in droves to the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD).

“The result is a big setback for Merkel, who has led Europe’s biggest economy for a decade, and could narrow her room for manoeuvre as she tries to convince her European Union partners to seal a deal with Turkey to stem the tide of migrants.

“Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) lost ground in all three states – Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate in the west and Saxony-Anhalt in the east – which were together widely seen as offering a verdict on Merkel’s liberal migrant policy.”

Following the election we see this report from the New York Times today:

BERLIN — German authorities banned a neo-Nazi group known as the White Wolves Terror Crew after the police conducted early morning raids on Wednesday in 10 of the country’s 16 states, confiscating weapons but making no arrests, the Interior Ministry said.

Far-right parties have gained strength as Germany struggles to integrate more than one million migrants, and the ban is intended to demonstrate that the authorities will not tolerate agitation against foreigners and migrants “and certainly no violence,” Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said.

“This group is an association of neo-Nazis who openly and aggressively agitate against our state, against our society, against people who think differently, against migrants and against the police,” he said.

Mr. de Maizière said that the group wanted to build a dictatorship, and that its aim “is supposed to be realized with all means available,” including violence. He added that the core of the group was made up of approximately 25 people, with the leaders coming from Hamburg.

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Staying in Europe, the Prime Minister of Iceland, a European country that is not a member of the EU, has warned the United Kingdom to recognize a European reality.   The Daily Telegraph carried the following headline on March 9th:

“Britain warned it wields no power in German dominated EU.”

It’s even losing control of its own stock market. Deutsche Bourse and the London Stock Exchange are to merge, with Deutsche Bourse holding a 54.4% stake in the London Stock Exchange, giving it effective control of one of the most important stock markets in the world.

Whether the British vote to leave the EU or remain a member on June 23rd may not make much difference. They will still be under the dominance of Berlin, whatever the outcome.

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Another March 9th headline from the UK’s Daily Mail:

London is more Islamic than most cities in Muslim countries, says Pakistan-born Islamic scholar.”

WHO WILL MAKE THE BEST PRESIDENT?

Bernie Sanders

A bearded stranger came to the door this evening, a young man who turned out to be campaigning for Bernie Sanders. Michigan has a primary tomorrow, Tuesday. This is an opportunity for both Republicans and Democrats to choose the person they would most like to be their parties’ nominees for the presidency in the general election, still eight months away.

In a brief conversation on our porch, I asked the campaigner why he was supporting Mr. Sanders.   He answered truthfully and I listened. He said there is no hope in the present situation. Millions of young people like him are struggling financially, saddled with enormous student debt but finding it difficult to get a job. Additionally, they are bearing the brunt of Obamacare.  Only “democratic socialism” can solve the problem.

I asked him what he meant by “democratic socialism.”  He replied that’s where the people control their government.  I said that’s what a republic is supposed to be.  He responded by saying that the present system (a republic) has led to 1% taking everything, leaving 99% with nothing.

I told him that I do have a certain level of respect for Mr. Sanders but that I cannot vote for him.  I respect him because he is fighting to win the Democratic nomination against Hillary Clinton, who has the advantage of great personal wealth (the Clintons’ combined income in 2014 was $30 million, placing her firmly in the 1%) and the financial support of Wall Street.   She also has most of the media behind her.   Although her husband seems bewildered when she is described as part of the Establishment, she truly is a member of the “ruling class.” The Clintons have done well out of the system and want to preserve the status quo. They do not want change.

Bernie started out with little hope of being nominated but has led a very successful campaign against his opponent.   He has a great deal of support from young people, including our young visitor.

But, I added, I could not vote for Mr. Sanders because I’ve been there before.

I’ve experienced the democratic socialism that has been embraced by European countries. High taxation is needed to pay for all the “freebies,” the benefits that most people want. The result is that hard work is often penalized and, now, millions of migrants are attracted by all those benefits, resulting in a veritable invasion of their countries.

He asked me if I would be voting tomorrow.  I said I didn’t think so.  I’m not happy with any of the candidates, but I find the election fascinating.

What I can say is that I DO understand those who support both Mr. Sanders and Donald Trump.  These are both anti-Establishment candidates.

Conservative columnist Monica Crowley said on television, commenting on the primary results coming in on Saturday evening: “a major theme of this whole campaign is rejectionism . . . rejecting decades of the ruling class, the Establishment”  — “they have disappointed and betrayed this voting base for decades on end . . . ”

Others have described what is happening this year as a “revolution” without the bullets.   Donald Trump may be causing panic among Establishment figures, the “ruling class” that Monica Crowley talked about, but at least his supporters are still willing to aim for change through the ballot box.

If the desire for change is thwarted, then there could be trouble.

Consider the following observed by Sean Hannity on his program on February 29th:

“95 million Americans are out of the labor force

“50 million live in poverty

“46 million are on food stamps” (actually, 47 million is the usual figure quoted).

Additionally, it was revealed the following day that 51% of Americans are now earning less than $30,000 per annum.

These are reasons why people are so frustrated and turning to anti-Establishment figures like Trump and Sanders.   Clinton and Rubio are Establishment figures, wanting more of the same.   Ted Cruz is somewhere in-between. John Kasich, Governor of Ohio, seems an honest and decent man, often described as “the only adult in the room,” but, again, representing an Establishment that has been in power for fifty years. It’s time for a change.

The problem is that nobody can deliver what people want.

The challenges are daunting –

A falling standard of living;

Government spending out of control;

Uncontrolled immigration that’s threatening the American way of life;   (conservative commentator Tucker Carlson described this as the top concern on “Fox and Friends” on Sunday morning);

Terrorism;

Domestic violence.

The same problems afflict other western nations.

These are the end result of five decades of leftist-liberal thinking.

A reaction is coming, either peacefully at the ballot box, or through other means.

It might not be pleasant.

Jesus Christ said that His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). Christians should not be naïve, thinking that any presidential candidate can make all the changes needed.   Rather, we should remember the admonition He gave us to pray fervently “Thy Kingdom Come” (Matthew 6:10).

 

 

INTERNATIONAL NEWS THIS WEEK

Putin and Syria

Here’s an interesting paragraph from German-Foreign-Policy.com, February 15th:

“German military personnel are beginning to consider Russia’s intervention in Syria as having prevented IS/Daesh from taking power in Damascus and carrying out offensives against other countries – including Israel.”

While the western media concentrates on exposing Russian air attacks as potential “war crimes,” it may be that, overall, Russia’s intervention has been a good thing, stopping the spread of ISIS and thwarting a greater threat to Israel.

The key words are “may be.”  We may never know.

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Russia’s intervention in Syria may have, inadvertently, helped Israel.  President Obama’s occupancy of the White House certainly has not.   US unreliability has led Israel to seek alliances elsewhere. Bret Stevens wrote yesterday in the Wall Street Journal:

“On Sunday, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon publicly shook hands with former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal at the Munich Security Conference. In January, Israeli cabinet member Yuval Steinitz made a trip to Abu Dhabi, where Israel is opening an office at a renewable-energy association. Turkey is patching up ties with Israel. In June, Jerusalem and Riyadh went public with the strategic talks between them. In March, Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi told the Washington Post that he speaks to Mr. Netanyahu “a lot.”

“This de facto Sunni-Jewish alliance amounts to what might be called the coalition of the disenchanted; states that have lost faith in America’s promises.  Israel is also reinventing its ties to the aspiring Startup Nations, countries that want to develop their own innovation cultures.” (“Israel looks beyond America, WSJ)”

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February 15th was an important date historically.   On that day, in 1942, the British surrendered Singapore to the Japanese.   It was a major turning point for the British Empire. It wasn’t until almost fifteen years later that the world could clearly see the Empire was no longer the major power it had been, but Britain’s defeat at the hands of the Japanese was disastrous.   Note the following from Stratfor:

The Beginning of the End of the British Empire — The humiliating surrender of Singapore on Feb. 15, 1942, was the first sign of decline for the British regional order.

“On Jan. 31, 1942, Allied engineers blew a hole in the causeway linking the island city of Singapore to the Malay Peninsula, hoping to slow the advance of Japanese Imperial troops down the coastline. The blast resounded throughout the city. As the story goes, 19-year-old university student and future prime minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew was walking across campus at that moment. When his British headmaster, passing by, asked what the sound was, Lee responded, “That is the end of the British Empire.”

Lee Kuan Yew was to lead Singapore for over three decades, presiding over one of the world’s greatest success stories.

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The US election has taken a worrying turn, again.   The two Democratic candidates are busy criticizing the police in order to get the African-American vote. They need to tread carefully.   The police are all that stand between the general population and anarchy. One day, one of these candidates may need a policeman or two to protect them. Undermining the police is not in anybody’s interests.

Christopher Marquez, an Hispanic decorated US Marine, was attacked and left unconscious by a gang of young African-American teenagers at a McDonald’s in Washington, DC, last week.   They had been taunting him along racial lines asking him if “Black Lives Matter,” the popular slogan started last year following the deaths of a number of young black men at the hands of white police.

“I believe this was a hate crime and I was targeted because of my skin color,” Marquez, who is Hispanic, told The Daily Caller. “Too many of these types of attacks have been happening against white people by members of the black community and the majority of the main stream media refuses to report on it.”

Of course black lives matter.  But white ones should, too.   No attention was given to this story of the white Marine until Fox News” put it on its website this morning.  No attention has been given either to the death of a 17-year-old white male a few miles from our home – shot by a white policeman who, some think, over reacted.  “Justice for Devon Guilford” is written on signs all over our neighborhood as investigations continue.   The issue has seriously divided Eaton County.

There is definitely a double standard in the media, where “black lives matter,” but white lives don’t!

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President Obama was shown on television this morning assuring people that Donald Trump will never be president.  Meanwhile, there’s increasing talk that Joe Biden will jump into the race if Hillary Clinton slips any further against fellow Democrat Bernie Sanders.

 

The Establishment clearly does not want outsiders like Trump or Sanders to lead the country!   Whatever happened to democracy?

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It’s not that different overseas.

In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister David Cameron has promised a referendum on Britain’s future in the European Union.   Referenda are easily manipulated.

If the majority votes against Europe, a second question could be asked phrased differently to try to get a ‘yes’ vote.   Even if both votes result in a resounding ‘No,’ other nations in Europe will retaliate making it difficult, if not impossible for Britain to break away. German leaders are already threatening a trade war at a time when global trade is already going through a rough period.

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Mr. Sanders claims that he wants “democratic socialism” and cites Denmark as his model.   He has wisely avoided any mention of Venezuela where socialism has brought the country to near-starvation.  Stratfor reported yesterday that the socialist President Nicolas Maduro may be around for some time:

“Maduro could maintain a political impasse with the legislature for a long time. He could also deal with a slowly mounting economic crisis, as former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez did during the latter years of his presidency. But the Venezuelan crisis is rapidly becoming a social crisis. Maduro’s economic adjustments have focused on sharply cutting imports across the board, spurring rampant inflation that effectively places even basic food items out of the poor’s reach.  The situation is potentially explosive. With rapid consumer price increases on the black market, endemic shortages of food in public stores, failing public utilities and an intransigent president, the stage is set for a major wave of social unrest that could rival the 1989 Caracazo riots that killed hundreds of people.”

Margaret Thatcher got it right when she defined socialism as “equal shares of misery for all!”   Government is inherently incompetent.  That will never change.

 

PROBLEMS FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT

Bill and Hillary

Former President Clinton looked bewildered a couple of nights ago, when trying to refute accusations that his wife is part of the “Establishment.”

He asked how can she be when she’s a woman running for an office no woman has ever held.

The former president misses the point.

The Establishment generally denotes a dominant group or elite that holds power or authority in a nation or organization . . .  In fact, any relatively small class or group of people having control can be referred to as The Establishment . . . ”  (Wikipedia:  “The Establishment”)

Based on this definition, the Clintons are a part of the Establishment.  They have spent years promoting their liberal ideals, from abortion and same-sex marriage to big government programs, multiculturalism and political correctness.

I was amused a few days ago when a prominent female supporter of Hillary Clinton enthusiastically talked of her candidacy.  She said that if Mrs. Clinton doesn’t make it, then former Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, will run.   This would mean that Americans would have two billionaires to choose from, Donald Trump and Michael Bloomberg.   What would the rest of the world think of American democracy if two billionaires were running for office?   She did not mention that Mrs. Clinton is a multi-millionaire.  Nor did she express any concern about donations made to Mrs. Clinton that are clearly a conflict of interest.

This is turning out to be the most interesting US presidential election since 1968.   At that time, I was a teenager living in England.   Britain had its own radical government at the time, the second post-war Labour government led by Harold Wilson.

It seemed like everything was changing.   Abortion and homosexuality were both legalized, while the death penalty was abolished.  There were also radical financial decisions taken, including nationalization of some industries (others had already been nationalized).  The left-wing financial decisions were reversed under Margaret Thatcher over a decade later; but the other reforms stayed the same.

Other countries were going through the same radical changes.

Fifty years later, like it or not, the liberal-leftists who have dominated the western world are now the establishment, an establishment that has clearly failed the country.

What we saw in New Hampshire was a political earthquake.  The headlines were dramatic — fittingly so:  “Sanders, Trump Stun America,” CNN declared on its website.  The American Prospect summed it up with a tidy statement:  “The Establishment Sinks.”   The look on Bill Clinton’s face took me back to 1989 when Rumania’s President Nicolai Caucescu first realized the people were rising up against him.   There was shock and horror together with bewilderment – how could the people reject me was written all over his face.

This is not an American phenomenon.  We see the same thing happening in other western countries.   “Extremists” (as far as the media is concerned) of both right and left are challenging the established center.

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Meanwhile, the following report appeared on the BBC’s website yesterday, one day after Janet Yellin’s testimony before Congress warning of the worsening international financial environment:

“Analysts said US Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen’s gloomy economic assessment on Wednesday had added to investors’ worries. In testimony to Congress, she said that financial conditions in the US had become “less supportive” of growth and warned of the “increased volatility” in global financial markets.  Rabobank European strategist Emile Cardon said the worst could still lie ahead:  “The bad news in now coming from everywhere – China, Portugal, the US, the commodity sector, the banking sector.  It’s like several smaller crises could combine into one big crisis.”

It’s not just the global economy that’s a worry.

German Foreign Policy reports that we are going to see more wars this year.

BERLIN – In an article published by the leading German foreign policy journal, an influential diplomat predicts that worldwide, there will be a further increase in the number of wars and their victims, this year.  “The number of conflicts, their victims, and their refugees” has been increasing worldwide, for the past five years and this development will “most likely continue this year.”   The
journal, Internationale Politik, substantiates this assumption by presenting an overview of the current wars.  Today’s deadliest wars (are) in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, and South Sudan.

When Jesus Christ was asked by His disciples what would be the sign of His Second Coming, He replied:

“And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”   (Matt 24:6)

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Thursday evening, less than 24 hours ago, an individual attacked customers in a restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, with a machete, injuring four, one of whom is critical.   First reports assured people this was not terrorism; then they announced the name of the man responsible, Mohammad Barry.

Meanwhile, the Pope, on a visit to Mexico, will stand with migrants at the US border, symbolically demanding the US let more migrants in.   It’s not just the politicians who don’t get it!

 

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ALCOHOL, EUROPE AND THE ECONOMY

Hollande and Iranian Pres

The British and French governments seem to belatedly be realizing the threat from Islamization.

When the French president Francois Hollande entertained the visiting Iranian president last week, an official luncheon had been arranged to welcome the visitor and his entourage.  But then the Iranians objected to wine being served at the meal.  London or Washington would have simply switched to non-alcoholic grape juice, but not the French.  The very idea of a meal without wine was unthinkable, so they promptly cancelled the lunch.

Good for them!

Across the English Channel, the Palace of Westminster, home to the Houses of Parliament, is in need of some urgent repair.  While the building is being renovated, parliament will meet in another hall. This hall is owned by a group with Islamic connections and will not allow alcohol in the building.   Parliamentarians are used to having ten bars to choose from in their own hall.  They will now have no alcohol for a few months!

Perhaps a dry spell might help them focus better on the threat from growing Islamic influence.

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Meanwhile, consumption of alcohol must be up across America as people follow (or don’t follow) the US presidential election.   It’s a means of escape.

Our bank manager dismisses all the candidates as being “useless.”   His point is that not one of them offers a solution to the problem of the $19 trillion national debt – which, of course, threatens the very existence of the country.

It’s a world record.  Never before in history has any country owed so much.   It cannot go on.

We are in unchartered territory, as no nation has ever been in this great a fiscal mess.

Since I wrote this segment, plans have been revealed for $4.1 trillion more to be spent, in a record budget by the Obama Administration. This will include a major allocation for cyber-security, seen as the single biggest threat to the United States.

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I’m writing this on Tuesday afternoon while watching “Dumbo,” the Disney classic about a flying elephant.

I should add that Diane and I are watching two of our grandchildren. This is their favorite movie.  They are both three years old.

When I finish, I could switch over to one of the news channels and see the latest from New Hampshire, where primaries are being held today.

But I think I will stick with escapism.

The grandchildren will be asking for “Little Einsteins” next.

It’s going to take an Einstein to make even a dent in the problems that confront us.

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We watched “The Big Short” on Saturday night.  The movie is a factual account of how the housing bubble burst a few years ago.   It’s engrossing on one level, unbelievable really.  However, I should warn you, it contains a great deal of bad language.

Sunday we were able to watch “Murder of a President,” a 2-hour PBS “American Experience” documentary, about the assassination of President John Garfield in 1881.  His assassin was, at least, delusional and may have been paranoid schizophrenic.  But it wasn’t the assassination as such that killed the president.  It was mistakes by his doctors and one doctor in particular.   Medical science has certainly come a long way since Garfield’s death.  Back then, they did not even know the importance of cleanliness!

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It turns out that $750 million in Obamacare subsidies went to illegal aliens last year.  That partly explains why the IRS has just presented me with a $6,500 tax bill, mostly for Obamacare.   I’m still reeling from the shock and may require medical care, but can’t afford it thanks to the bill for Obamacare!

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That’s not to say it’s better elsewhere.

The former Greek finance minister today warned that Europe is going through a depression.   Yanis Varoufakis warns in The Independent that Europe is sliding back into the 1930’s and a new political movement is needed.    He is launching the “Democracy in Europe Movement 2025” (DiEM25 for short).   He says that Europe is run by a cartel, not by its people, even though European countries are all democracies.

The self-described “erratic Marxist” says he wants to remove power from an unaccountable, authoritarian elite and distribute it fairly to the continent’s citizens.” (The Independent).

Americans will recognize this as similar to the arguments made by people like Bernie Sanders.  They have a point when they say that 1% owns 99% of all wealth.  From what Mr. Varoufakis is saying it’s no different in Europe.

It’s clearly time for a new economic system as the current one is increasingly failing people.  As things are predicted to deteriorate this year, calls for change are only going to increase.

Citizens of the US and UK should be thankful.   Mr. Varoufakis holds them up as a model of financial success compared to other western nations.

I’m not so sure about that.  We may be better off than most, but we certainly can’t be complacent.

Unfortunately, both Mr. Varoufakis and the prime minister he served under, Alexis Tsipras, are avowed atheists, influenced more by Karl Marx than anything in scripture.  But they should take a look at Leviticus, chapter 25, and specifically at the Year of Jubilee.  Only the cancellation of all debt will help revive the world economy.

Hopefully, all debts will be cancelled before I have to pay the IRS!

Back to “Dumbo” and some sanity……..   Maybe I should also have a beer, but it doesn’t seem right while watching “Dumbo.”  Come to think of it, Dumbo drank alcohol when he fell into a barrel of it – that’s why he saw all those pink elephants!  A beer it is!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!