Tag Archives: Congress

BACK TO REALITY

The November 2, 1917 declaration by then British foreign minister Arthur Balfour said his government viewed “with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people”. Photograph: (AFP)

We’re back from Indianapolis after delivering one of our cats to our daughter and family.   We stayed three nights, to see the family and for the cat to get adjusted to her new situation.

I offered to go get some cat food, but our daughter and granddaughters would not allow me near the pet food aisle after my last blog!

I don’t know what it is but whenever I visit them I go into “vacation mode” – I don’t feel like doing anything. I just want to relax.  This is not fair to them.   We help take care of three (sometimes, five) grandchildren in Lansing; then have four when we visit Indy.

Our family Sunday ended up being a day in front of the television with our granddaughters who introduced us to the British series “Father Brown,” available on Netflix. It was actually quite good, though some things did irritate me.   For example, whenever the priest prayed in Latin, the closed-caption subtitles simply said: “Prays in a foreign language.”   Don’t most people know that Latin has been the lingua franca of the Catholic church for almost 2,000 years?

Family members are all trying to be healthier, which meant no junk in the house.   If I had remembered that, I would have taken some goodies to nibble between meals.  I was so hungry, at one point I called our daughter in Lansing and said:   “Can you come down immediately and bring some food?” I was just being humorous – it’s a 4+ hour drive; and I could have gone to a local grocery store if I thought I might expire.

Mike, our son-in-law, is a very good cook and the food was excellent.   I decided to join the healthy eating and then continue it at home, which is what I’m now doing.   I feel better already.   I’ve had no indigestion for a week and feel more energetic.  The dog food last week probably helped.

It was really nice to have a break from everything, including world news.

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BACK TO MORE REALITY

The terror attack in New York on Tuesday is a reminder of the constant threat to our lives that emanates from radical Islam.   It’s also a constant reminder of how hopeless our governments are – they keep letting in Muslims en masse, trying to claim that “Islam is a peaceful religion that has been hijacked by extremists.”

Trump called immediately for Congress to abolish the Diversity Visa Waiver program.  This is a lottery that enables 50,000 people a year from usually poor and backward countries to enter the United States.  They may then sponsor their relatives and friends to enter the US.   Tuesday’s murderer brought in 23 over 15 years.   Most of these people go straight to the bottom of our economic ladder, competing for jobs with low income Americans.

(Do the math. If one man brought in 23, multiply 50,000 x 23 = 1, 150,000 people per year.   That’s in addition to the one million plus who get a visa the normal way.)

President Trump immediately called on Congress to change the law.   That’s commendable.   The law needs to be changed.   But, then, why didn’t he react the same after the Las Vegas mass shooting?   Changes to the law are desperately needed.

It’s been over twenty years since the Port Arthur massacre in Tasmania, Australia.   35 people were killed in a little over half an hour.   The conservative prime minister, John Howard, immediately called on parliament to pass tough controls on assault weapons.

“Twelve days after the Port Arthur massacre, the Australian prime minister, John Howard, announced a sweeping package of gun reforms in a country where firearms had long been considered an essential prop in the national mythology of life in the bush.

“At that stage the gun lobby was the ruling lobby in Australia,” says Philip Alpers, associate professor at the University of Sydney.  “What happened at Port Arthur is that they were outpaced, outflanked and outwitted by a man who had the power to move in 12 remarkable days.”

“Tim Fischer was leader of the National party and Howard’s deputy prime minister in the Coalition government, charged with persuading skeptical country voters to support, or at least accept, reforms.  “Port Arthur was our Sandy Hook,” he says.   “Port Arthur we acted on.  The USA is not prepared to act on their tragedies.”   (The Guardian 14th March 2016).

The Sandy Hook massacre of kindergarten children took place on December 14th, 2012.   Congress did not pass any laws following the deaths of 26 people, including 19 children.   If the country could not make any changes after the deaths of so many young children, it’s doubtful they will ever come.

President Trump and others reacted to the Las Vegas shootings by saying, “Now is not the time to discuss gun control.”

Then, when will it be the time?   Immigration policies make the situation worse – the killer at Virginia Tech ten years ago was from South Korea.   The Boston Marathon killings were also the work of new arrivals.

Changes can be made without encroaching on the Second Amendment, which says:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

Today, the US definitely has a “well regulated militia,” so America’s needs have changed.   At the same time, people do have a right to defend themselves.   There’s a balance. It’s time for a national debate.

On the highly successful Australian TV show, “Janet King,” Janet, a senior employee of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS; sometimes referred to as “Crownies”), is appointed by the country’s Governor-General to head a royal commission into gun violence.   It’s time the United States had a presidential commission to look into mass casualty gun violence, with the remit that it report back to the president and the public within twelve months, making recommendations to effectively reduce gun violence.

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NEW ZEALAND MAKES THE NEWS

Before we leave the Antipodes, New Zealand has a new, radical prime minister.

Jacinda Ardern is only 37 and the third female leader of the country. She wants to restrict immigration into New Zealand – one of her first acts was to ban the sale of homes to people living outside of the country.   She is a left-wing republican, meaning she would like to end NZ’s relationship with the Crown thereby giving greater power to the politicians, of which she is the chief!   Interestingly, she is also a former Mormon who has strong views on churches that encourage families to shun former believers like herself; she left the church over its anti-homosexual stance.

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QUOTE: “President Xi (of China) believes that America is in steep decline and China rising in a power game that will define our century” (Carrie Gracie, China Editor, BBC News, 11/2).   President Trump is about to visit China.

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CENTENARIES

Today, November 2nd, is the centenary of the Balfour Declaration.   Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in London to commemorate the celebration, boycotted by the anti-semitic socialist Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn.

The famous Balfour Declaration was announced in the middle of World War I by British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, at a time when Great Britain was the dominant power in the world. It committed His Majesty’s Government to establish in Palestine a home for the Jewish people.   It was one of the most important documents of the twentieth century and a major fulfillment of Bible prophecy. It led directly to the establishment of a Jewish nation in the Middle East, the country now called Israel.

An independent Jewish nation had not been in existence since Roman times.   The Roman Jewish province of Judea rebelled against Rome in 66 AD. The Romans crushed the Jewish Revolt in 70 AD, destroying much of Jerusalem in the process.   The Jews rebelled again from 132 AD-135 AD.   Once again, the Romans crushed the revolt.   This time, the Jews dispersed to other parts of the Roman Empire and beyond.   For almost two millennia, they did not have their own country.   But scriptures made it clear that the Jews would be back in their homeland, called Judah in the Bible (the Jews were only one of the twelve tribes of Israel).

Zechariah was a prophet 2,500 years ago.   His Old Testament book is a Millennial prophecy about the Second Coming of the Messiah. Judah figures quite prominently in events at the time immediately prior to Christ’s Return.

Note Zechariah 12:2-3 – “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem.  And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it.”

And Zechariah 14:2-4 – “For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.

“Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.

“And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.”

The last verse is clearly still in the future.   Jerusalem, Judah, revived after almost 2,000 years is once again a central point of geographical contention, with neighboring nations and tribes wanting to destroy the country.   As if perpetually drunk, they desperately try to destroy her, so far not succeeding.

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RUSSIAN REVOLUTION

Five days after the Balfour Declaration, Russia had a second revolution.   Earlier in the year, the Czarist regime had fallen and was replaced by a parliamentary system.   Elections were scheduled for later in the year.   Two weeks before the election, the Bolsheviks (communists) staged a coup on November 7th that overthrew the interim government of Alexander Kerensky.   They proclaimed the world’s first communist state.   It brought seven decades of misery to the country, with despotic leaders that made the czars look like Sunday school teachers.   Communism has gone, but the country remains a dictatorship, though claiming to be a democracy.

The Bolshevik Revolution was the second revolution of 1917; there was an earlier revolution in 1905, which led to the establishment of the Duma (parliament) but still left the czar with ultimate power and authority.   Russia’s parliament today is also called the Duma and is the people’s assembly.   However, some would say that Vladimir Putin is a new Czar, with all the power and authority.

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500th ANNIVERSARY OF PROTESTANT REFORMATION

Tuesday was the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenburg church in Germany.   We should all be thankful to Martin Luther.   He had the courage to stand up to the Church of Rome, ending the monopoly the Church had in western Europe.   All churches today owe their freedom to Luther.

I watched a two-hour documentary on PBS recently about Martin Luther and the Reformation.   He is considered the greatest theologian of all time, due to the fact that he wrote more books and articles on the Bible than anybody else. He also translated the scriptures into German.

Later in life, asked to sum up his writings, he replied: “God forgives.” That was of paramount importance to Luther, who struggled all his life with sin, as we all do.   Hearing that, I thought about all the churches that have come out of Luther, directly or indirectly.   Many have one thing in common – they can’t forgive.   How ironic.

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VISIT TO NOAH’S ARK

Earlier in the month, we were in Cincinnati, Ohio.   A group of us, including four of our grandchildren, took the opportunity to visit Noah’s Ark, which is just over the state line in Kentucky.   It’s well worth a visit, if only to get a better idea of the size of the original ark. This replica is built according to biblical specifications.

I’m very thankful that the enterprising Australian behind this project was inspired to build the Ark (and the Creation Museum nearby). More and more people are biblically illiterate, so it’s good that somebody has kept the story alive.   I found the wall plaques explaining everything interesting, but I do not agree with his theory that the earth is only 6,000 years old.

We had been told to allow three hours for our visit. With two 5-year-old twin boys, we went through quite quickly, in exactly two hours.  We left early — because it was raining!!!

The following evening we had a group of Barbadians over for dinner. Wonderful people.   They had actually come from Barbados to visit the Ark.   They are also Young Earthers, believing in the 6,000 years.   We agreed to disagree and still remain friends.  That’s the way it should be.

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FINALLY

I’ve been asked why I quote so often from the Daily Express and Daily Mail newspapers, two Conservative British tabloids.

The answer is quite simple: they have the best web sites.   Check them out sometime.

The Guardian and Independent, more intellectual papers, are constantly asking for money whenever I check their sites; whereas the Times, the Telegraph and the Financial Times make very little available.

The biggest problem with the two papers I use is that they often sensationalize news items.

I will try to find alternative sources, but, realistically I will have to use them occasionally as I don’t have the funds to pay for subscriptions to the more highbrow papers; and they have to request money as they have smaller circulations.

(This blog is a fully independent blog that has no connection to any church or secular organization. It was started to keep people informed on international affairs in light of the scriptures.   Financial support comes from myself and readers who graciously donate to help cover costs.) 

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GERMAN CALL FOR EU ARMY MORNING AFTER TRUMP VICTORY

daniel-craig-and-queen-elizabeth

Fears that America is turning inward were often expressed during the election campaign that resulted in Donald Trump becoming the next president.

As if to prove the fears well-founded, US media has concentrated on domestic concerns for the new presidency.

But, overseas, there is also great concern, as evidenced by the following report from Europe.

“Donald Trump’s victory, as well as Brexit, ought to speed up plans for EU defense integration, Germany has said.

“Europe needs the common political will for more security policy relevance. The outcome of the election in America could provide an additional impetus,” German defense minister Ursula von der Leyen said in an opinion article in the Rheinische Post, a German newspaper, on Thursday (10 November.)

“The Brexit decision and the election in the United States have set a new course” for Europe, she added.

She said it was “difficult for Germany and Europe, on the day after the election, to assess what to expect from a Trump presidency.”

She predicted that the US would initially turn inward “to heal the tremendous internal turmoil in the country” that arose from Trump’s divisive campaign.

She said EU security would continue to depend on the US and on NATO, but she said Trump’s victory meant that Europe, and Germany as “a great nation in the centre of Europe”, would have to be “more self-reliant on security issues”.

Von der Leyen spoke of “building a common security and defense organization” that would concentrate on stabilizing African and Middle East countries in order to alleviate the flows of refugees coming to Europe.” (italics mine)

(Andrew Rettman, “Germany:  Trump victory to speed up EU military union,” EU Observer)

An army to rival Russia:  Germany calls for joint EU defense budget to take on Putin (Nick Gutteridge, Daily Express, October 19th)

Two weeks before the US election, Nick Gutteridge of the Daily Express (UK) wrote that Germany wants a European military force to rival Russia’s.  This would, of course, also mean that it would rival America’s.

The European Union has approximately 500 million people without Britain.  It is also the world’s biggest single market with a currency that is used more widely than any other.  It, therefore, has the potential to be the world’s greatest military power.

These articles are particularly significant in the light of President-elect Trump’s comments that NATO countries are not contributing enough to their own defense.  He is also on record as saying that NATO has outlived its usefulness.  However, on Monday he made it clear that he is committed to the military alliance.  The alliance was founded in 1949.  At the time it was said the organization was intended “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in and the Germans down”.  That cynical comment is effectively negated by Germany’s new dominant role on the European continent, the leader of the EU and the country set to dominate the EU’s military force.

The proposed military force was not possible until June’s Brexit vote in the United Kingdom. Britain has always opposed a European military union believing that it will undermine US-led NATO.   Some other countries in the EU are not in favor, either.   When the military union comes into existence, possibly as early as next year, it’s likely only a dozen countries will join.

Note the following from Der Spiegel, Germany’s leading news magazine:

“For 100 years, the United States was the leader of the free world.  With the election of Donald Trump, America has now abdicated that role.  It is time for Europe, and Angela Merkel, to step into the void.

The West was constituted in its modern form in January 1917. World War I was raging in Europe at the time and in Washington, D.C., President Woodrow Wilson told his country that it was time for Americans to take responsibility for “peace and justice.”  In April he said:  “The world must be made safe for democracy.”  He declared war on Germany and sent soldiers to Europe to secure victory for the Western democracies — and the United States assumed the leadership of the Western world. It was an early phase of political globalization.

One hundred years later:  Trump.”

While President Wilson did say the words quoted above, his enthusiasm was soon dampened by Congress and America did not really get involved in the world until 25 years later. It wasn’t until after World War II that the US rose to prominence, replacing Great Britain in it’s super power role.   February 1947 was the month when it was first realized that Britain was handing over its international policeman role to the Americans. You can read about this in “Picking up the reins” by Norman Moss.   So, when President Trump is sworn in, it will be just a few days before America’s leadership role turns 70.   Babylon, the world’s first super-power was at the top for only seventy years.   President-elect Trump wants to put “America First” – is it possible for the US to turn its back on the rest of the world? Mr. Trump says no.  But others are not so sure.

Today’s Wall Street Journal carried the headline:

“European Union Backs Plan to Expand Military Coordination”

Britain’s decision to leave the EU and the election of Donald Trump give fresh impetus to Europe to come up with new plans for security cooperation.”

While Donald Trump is reassuring the European NATO allies of America’s commitment, the continental Europeans are hedging their bets.

The next few years could see the alliance unraveling.

Bible students are well aware that the biblical book of Revelation, which describes events in our age, tells us that ten nations will come together in Europe to form a formidable political and military union.   These ten are the next prophesied super-power.  They are also the last, as their brief period of dominance ends with the Kingdom of God.

“The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have received no kingdom as yet, but they receive authority for one hour as kings with the beast.  These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.  These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.” (Revelation 17:12-14)

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POLLSTERS WRONG AGAIN

We used to get frequent annoying and intrusive calls from pollsters asking all kinds of questions to try to determine our views on different issues and what we thought of the candidates.  This year we got no such calls.

I suspect the reason is that we no longer have a landline.   Perhaps this goes part of the way to explaining how the polls got it so wrong.  Most young people only have a cell phone — that’s also the case with many older people who can no longer afford to have both a landline and a cell phone.

This may partly explain why the polls were wrong.   They were also wrong over Brexit, predicting the people would vote to “Remain” in the EU.   The “Leave” campaign used a company called “Cambridge Analytica” to help them win.  The UK company used data from over 5,000 people to determine the best way to get their message across.

Donald Trump hired the same company for his campaign.

In both campaigns they found that 3% of voters were “shy Tories.” This was the term they used to describe very conservative people who kept their views to themselves.   Many people felt intimidated in conversations with intellectuals who would try to bully or shame them into supporting “Remain.”   The same “shy Tories” in the US were secret Trump supporters — after Mr. Trump’s more outrageous comments it didn’t seem respectable to hold to pro-Trump views.

But support Trump they did.

These voters want change.

As with Brexit, a big issue was immigration and the perception that many new immigrants refuse to assimilate and even threaten national security.   They also want to “drain the swamp,” to reduce both the size and the cost of the federal government.

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Germany:  Government Carries Out Raids, Bans Religious Organization

Germany’s government has banned an Islamic organization known as True Religion, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said, the New York Times reported Nov. 15.  The announcement comes as German authorities carried out raids on nearly 200 properties associated with the group across the country.  De Maiziere said the group was a recruiting pool for potential militants, adding that 140 supporters of the group have traveled to Iraq or Syria to join the Islamic State.  Though police confiscated materials during the raids, no arrests were made.   A number of attacks in Germany over the past year have fueled fears of migrants.  (Stratfor, 11/15/16)

 

OUT OF TOUCH

Jeb Bush

Following the Republican debate Thursday evening, one newspaper quoted on PBS’ McLaughlin Group observed that Jeb Bush spoke as if he thinks that America’s problems are all psychological and not real at all.   The Bushes have done well and live the dream and can’t understand why others have failed to achieve the same.

On Sunday, reports from Moscow showed a similar problem. President Vladimir Putin, by some accounts now the richest man in the world, thanks to the accumulation of ill-gotten gains, ordered the destruction of 350 tonnes of food from the EU in retaliation for western sanctions on Russia.   Mr. Putin’s decision shows that he is oblivious to the fact that millions of Russians are struggling to feed their families.  40% of Russia’s food was imported before the sanctions were announced.

Jeb Bush and Vladimir Putin aren’t the only two politicians who are out of touch with reality.   It’s difficult, for example, to imagine how Hillary Clinton, who, together with her husband, earned approximately $30 million last year, can possibly claim to represent the middle class.

It’s dangerous when politicians at the top are out of touch with people at the bottom.

In 1789, France’s Queen, Marie Antoinette supposedly said: “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”—“Let them eat cake.”   That same year, the monarchy was overthrown and, three years later, the hated Marie lost her head to Madame Guillotine.   It wasn’t that simple.   The queen actually did a great deal for the poor through her charitable work and the words she supposedly uttered were recorded over a century earlier, attributed to the Spanish wife of King Louis XIV.

But hungry people don’t care about historical accuracy – they just want to eat.

A lack of food has been a regular cause of revolution throughout history.   In 1917, a bread riot in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) started the revolution that led to the downfall of the 300-year-old Romanov dynasty.   It’s not inconceivable that something similar could happen to Mr. Putin.   Of course, the revolution did not improve the situation – seven decades of communism included many years of famine and regular food shortages even at the best of times.

No nation is exempt.   If billboards in Michigan are to be believed, one in five Michigan children go to bed hungry.

Former presidential candidate Ross Perot warned a few years ago that food stamps are all that stand between us and anarchy – in other words, take away free food for the poor and you could see a revolution in the United States.

In June, 1932, veterans marched on Washington demanding that a bonus they were promised by Congress should be brought forward as, in the midst of the Depression, they could not afford to feed their families.   They built shanty-towns outside of Washington and were determined to stay until Congress met their demands.   President Herbert Hoover sent in troops under the command of General Douglas MacArthur to tear down the camps and send them home.   Reports at the time tell of great hunger amongst the vets and their families, including young children.   President Hoover was seen to be out of touch and uncaring (the shantytowns were dubbed “Hoovervilles”) and lost the election a few months later to Franklin Roosevelt.

Mr. Bush should remember the fate of the last Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, who lost the 2012 election to Mr. Obama.   Mr. Romney was recorded dismissing the “47%” of the electorate who depend on government and who, therefore, were not going to vote for him anyway.

Mr. Romney and Mr. Bush, both claiming to be conservative, should have read a biography of Benjamin Disraeli, the nineteenth century Conservative British prime minister who warned of Britain becoming “two nations,” one rich and the other poor.   He reshaped the Conservative Party to be a party that reached out to the working-man.   If the Republicans are to succeed, they have to do the same, to show how their policies will help improve the life of Joe Citizen.   To do this, they need to distance themselves from Big Business.

They can do it.   The 1896 election was held in the midst of a Great Depression that saw 50% of the people unemployed, at a time when there were no unemployment benefits for those who were out of work.   Understandably, the election saw the highest turnout in American history.   80% of the electorate voted.   The presidential election that year was won by Republican William McKinley.   He promised the people sound money and high tariffs to increase employment at home.   It’s interesting to note that the same issues still prevail.

Left-leaning parties, whether the Democrats in the US or the Labour Party in Britain, do not represent working people.  They are the parties of Big Government, which gives jobs to their supporters, but leads to a rise in taxes.   Those taxes are paid by ordinary people and small businesses, making life harder for the majority of people.

Leaders, and aspiring leaders like Jeb Bush, cannot afford to be out of touch with the common people.   This is especially true in democracies where every citizen has the vote.   Perhaps Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin should copy Britain’s Prince William, who spent the night sleeping on the streets of London to get the feel of homelessness.   At the very least, his gesture showed empathy with the poor, a realization on his part that tens of thousands of people are homeless and unable to take care of themselves.

Only a return to conservative values, including restoration of the traditional family, can help people get out of poverty.   Conservatives everywhere need to convince the voters that they represent them and not Big Business.

They could start by following the example of Menachem Begin, an Israeli conservative and former prime minister.   Mr. Begin spent many years in prison under the Bolsheviks.  Reading a biography of Benjamin Disraeli helped him maintain his sanity and inspired his future conservative course.   Focusing on struggling voters makes more sense than pursuing big business!  After decades of Big Government, people want change.

MIDEAST NEWS

composite Jihadist Muzzed

Jihadi John, formally known as Muhammed Emwazi, the ISIS follower who has been beheading people shown on jihadi websites, turns out to be from “a well-to-do background” in London, England.

In the same week his name was made public, three British schoolgirls flew to Syria to join up with ISIS.   All three attend Bethnal Green Academy, an expensive private school in London. Again, they were from affluent backgrounds.

The above are not the first terrorists or terrorists-in-training to come from well-to-do families.   The same can be said of the terrorists who blew up trains and a bus in London almost ten years ago.    The nineteen al-Qaeda members who hijacked and flew planes into the World Trade Center were also from wealthy backgrounds.

Western leaders who say terrorism is due to joblessness and poverty are wrong.   They are trying to find a rational western explanation for something that is not rational and that owes its origin to Islamic religious fervor.

It has been revealed that Jihadi John was addicted to extremely violent video games from an early age.   Apparently, his first recorded violent act was in school when he was only eleven.   But, after that, people described him as a nice boy who wouldn’t hurt anybody.

One of his friends revealed that he wanted to return to Kuwait, where his family came from.   No explanation has been given as to why he couldn’t return to his homeland.   It’s only a little over twenty years since the US, Britain and other allies, liberated Kuwait from Saddam Hussein’s invading army.   You would think he would be grateful to the western powers for restoring the country’s freedom, instead of beheading captured American and British journalists and aid workers.

The father of one of the American journalists made a very perceptive comment upon hearing the identity of Jihadi John.   He said it would make no difference if he was captured, that others would simply take his place.

How true that is.

Under the front-page headline “Paradise jihadis,” a British newspaper revealed that the tropical Maldives are witnessing a “surge in young Muslims leaving for Syria.”   Western countries are seeing the same development, with young people leaving every week to sign up with ISIS.

The reasons for people joining ISIS are, no doubt, many and varied. The commonality amongst them is a fervency for the religion of Islam.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in Washington to address Congress at the invitation of Speaker of the House, John Boehner.

In a speech earlier today to members of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the US, Mr. Netanyahu was careful to avoid exacerbating his differences with the Obama Administration.

He felt the root cause of the differences he has with the White House come down to this – that, whereas the President of the United States is concerned with America’s security on a daily basis, he (Netanyahu) never stops thinking of Israel’s survival.

He reminded Americans that they live in a safe neighborhood but Israel lives in the most dangerous neighborhood in the world.

All you have to do is to look at the map.   Israel is a very small country.   It has won many wars against hostile neighbors.   If it should ever lose one, it would be the end of Israel.

At this time, the prime minister’s greatest concern is with its near neighbor, Iran, which may soon have nuclear weapons and has already threatened to wipe Israel off the map.   That’s the reason the prime minister is in America today and tomorrow, to put pressure on Washington not to compromise with Iran.

As if developments in Iran are not enough to worry about, Israel borders Syria, which has been fighting a civil war for three years.   Mr. Netanyahu revealed that, while the president of Syria bombs his own people, some of his victims cross the border into Israel for medical treatment, freely given and paid for by the Israeli tax-payer.

As the prime minister pointed out, Israel and the US share similar values.   He said that we are family and like all families sometimes have our differences.

He also had the opportunity to state that Israel is the only Middle Eastern country where the number of Christians is increasing.   The country has religious freedom.

Israel, like the US and some other western countries, is built on Judeo-Christian principles.   Members of the current US Administration are totally wrong when they assert that America is built on Judeo-Christian-Islamic principles.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

GERMANY’S GROWING DIPLOMATIC CLOUT

Merkel Putin Hollande

Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is in Washington today to discuss the Ukrainian situation with President Obama.   Just three days ago, she was in Moscow with French President Francois Hollande to put forward suggestions for peace with Russian President Vladimir Putin.   The previous day the two leaders were in Kiev for discussions with the Ukrainian president.

The American Administration and members of Congress have been talking about sending more arms to the Ukrainian government to help it defeat Russian-speaking rebels in the east of the country. Although Russia denies it, it’s fairly certain that Russian troops are actively helping the rebels.   Germany and France are concerned to avoid an escalation of the conflict.   The French president warned of the prospect of “total war.”

Interestingly, the US was not present at the meetings in Kiev and Moscow.   Now, Mrs. Merkel is visiting Washington to update the US president on the discussions, which have been described as the last hope for a peaceful resolution of the situation.   It is clear that there are differences between the US and Europe on this issue.   How great a rift remains to be seen.

President Putin has until Wednesday to decide on the proposed peace deal.

Meanwhile, discussions continue between Germany and Greece following the Greek election.   The new, governing, Syriza party is not only refusing to repay loans made to the country, it is even undoing what the previous government tried to do to restore the country’s economic health.   The new prime minister is promising to restore thousands of jobs to civil servants who were previously laid off in order to balance the budget.   With Greece pursuing a reckless course, it’s difficult to see how the country can remain within the eurozone.

The prime minister seems set on a deliberate confrontational course, even demanding German reparations for invading Greece in World War II.   On a visit to Germany, he even threatened the country with the specter of a revival of Nazism in Greece if the country is pushed too far, reminding the Germans that they know all about that.

So, at a time when European unity is threatened, total war is also a serious possibility.   Germany is clearly in the driving seat at a challenging time for the continent of Europe.

FAREWELL TO WINSTON

Churchill

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral.   It is, quite correctly, being remembered in Great Britain for without him, the British people would likely still be a distant province of the Third Reich.   Some years ago, the British people voted for him as the greatest Englishman ever.

Churchill's coffin

At his funeral, the Queen’s wreath bore the words:  “From the nation and the Commonwealth, with grateful thanks.   Elizabeth R”

Queen's wreath

At his request, he was buried in the village of Bladon, close to Blenheim Palace, where he was born.

Even now, fifty years later, there are always people there, wanting to pay homage.

The last time I visited, a few years ago, a man in front of me put flowers on the grave, knelt down and cried.  We got to talking.  English was not his native language.  He was from the Netherlands.   Without Churchill, he said, his country would not be free.

The funeral was truly memorable.  His beloved Clemmie (his wife Clementine), after dinner that evening, said to his daughter Mary, “That wasn’t a funeral — that was a triumph.”

And so it was.  110 world leaders were there, plus many old friends and colleagues, including former US President Dwight Eisenhower.

Mindful that his mother was American and that he could just as easily have been a member of Congress as a member of the Commons, Churchill had requested that the Battle Hymn of the Republic be sung at his funeral, an unusual choice for a staunch monarchist.   Churchill believed absolutely that if the English-speaking countries stayed together, the world would be safe.

While people should pause to remember such a great man, they should also stop and think about what he stood for.   For the fact is that, for all the British people’s praise of Churchill, they have rejected all that he stood for!

This was the case immediately after World War II, after the defeat of Nazi Germany but before the defeat of Imperial Japan – Churchill lost the election, rejected by the British people.   It was often said that he was a great wartime leader but not the man for peace-time.  He was certainly not the man for the radical changes that were to come in the post war years.   Yet, time has showed that he was right.  The massive expansion of state ownership and control after 1945 was not something he wanted — in recent decades most of it has been reversed. Nor would he have wanted the welfare state that has been created.

Committed to the Empire and Commonwealth, Churchill would have opposed its dismantling and Britain turning its back on its former colonies to embrace Europe.

As is clear in his book “The River War,” Churchill did not think much of Islam and would not have supported the massive influx of Muslims into the UK that has taken place since his death.   Nor would he have been cowed by political correctness.

If he were alive today, he would have a clear vision of what is needed to defeat the Islamic extremism that now threatens the world.   He fought in the Sudan against the armies of Islamic extremism in what turned out to be the last cavalry charge in British history.

Churchill’s clear vision compared to what we have today, on both sides of the Atlantic, brings to mind these words from the Book of Isaiah.

“The whole head is sick, And the whole heart faints.   From the sole of the foot even to the head, There is no soundness in it.” (Isa 1:5b-6a)

THE WORLD’S OLDEST DEMOCRACY

Indian artist Harwinder Singh Gill shows off his creation, an image of US president Barack Obama carved on a duck's egg shell with the national flags of India and the United States, on January 24, 2015. Mr Obama is due to arrive in India on January 25, 2015.  Munish Sharma/Reuters
Indian artist Harwinder Singh Gill shows off his creation, an image of US president Barack Obama carved on a duck’s egg shell with the national flags of India and the United States, on January 24, 2015. Mr Obama is due to arrive in India on January 25, 2015.
Munish Sharma/Reuters

All nations have an inflated view of themselves and their place in the world.

The Times of London famously carried a front-page headline over a century ago that read:   “Fog in Channel.   Europe cut off.”   The reality, of course, was that Britain itself was cut off from the much bigger continent of Europe.

This morning (Monday) I heard something similar on CBS.   It was a news item on President Obama’s visit to India.   It went something like this:   “The leader of the world’s oldest democracy is meeting the leader of the world’s largest.”

Now, I’ve heard this before . . . but this time I want to comment.

How can the United States, barely 200 years old, possibly be the world’s oldest anything?

It certainly isn’t the world’s oldest democracy.

I googled this, asking where the idea comes from.   The answer, it seems, is the politicians.   In recent years, they have been claiming this is the case, when it isn’t.   Ignorance of history never stopped anybody from attaining office.

For the record, one of the first things the original colonists did when they landed in Jamestown, was hold an election.   Elections were regularly held in the colonial period.   The turnout averaged 90%.   On this basis alone, you could say that colonial America was more democratic than what we have now, when participation is usually less than 50%.

When the colonists held that first election, they were not inventing democracy.   Their country of origin, Great Britain, already had a democratic system in place.   Not since 1215 had English kings held absolute power.   For centuries after that date, parliament was gradually becoming more powerful at the expense of the crown.

The first parliament was summoned in 1264.

Part of the problem is that “democracy” can mean different things in different countries.

The North Koreans call themselves “The Democratic Peoples Republic” of Korea but they are neither democratic nor a republic.

When I googled the word “democracy,” this is the definition it came up with.   Democracy is “a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.”   “All the eligible members of a state” does not necessarily mean that every person has the vote.

Today, in the year 2015, we in the West think of a democracy as a country where every adult has the vote.   But this has not always been the case.   It wasn’t in ancient Greece, the birthplace of democracy, where women and slaves were not allowed to vote.   A universal franchise, where everyone has the vote, is a fairly recent thing.   It did not exist in the United States until at least 1964 when the Voting Rights Act guaranteed the right of all adults to vote.   Even then, there were some who missed out until more recently.   In England, women got the vote in 1918, but they had to be 30, whereas men could vote at 21.   Ten years later, the law was changed to make women fully equal with men.

Forty years ago, we lived in Rhodesia, which had a qualified franchise, similar to what the United States had in its infancy.   Actually, Rhodesia was more generous as women had the vote equally with men, something America didn’t have until 1920.   Rhodesia had five qualifications for voting.   Diane and I did not meet all five, whereas many Africans we knew did.   Once everybody got the vote, a dictatorship came to power and has remained there for 35 years.   Rhodesia was far more democratic than its successor state.

Anyway, forget England and America.   Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and the Isle of Man all have a parliamentary system that goes back to the ninth or tenth centuries.

There is no basis for claiming the US is the world’s oldest democracy. But what would you expect from a bunch of lawyers in Congress? After all, they are wrong on most things!