Tag Archives: Mark Rutte

US AND UK OUT OF COMMISSION

“In the United States and the United Kingdom – two of the world’s oldest democracies – national governments are at a standstill.   This, for better or worse, could be the future of politics.   It will be a system in which things have to get worse before they can get … worse.    Perpetual political gridlock: it won’t be pretty, and for many it may be painful.

“Both the US government’s shutdown and the UK’s Brexit have become problems with no exit.   Every strategy offered fails for lack of legislative support or national leadership.   The American and British political classes look intellectually exhausted and clueless about a path forward.”  (Gridlock is the new normal,” by Daniel Henninger, Wall Street Journal, 1/17/19)

The above about sums it up.   The two nations that have dominated the world for as long as anybody can remember are essentially out of commission.

What will this mean?

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AMERICAN WITHDRAWAL FROM MIDDLE EAST

Middle East Chaos Will Escalate Following the Departure of the Americans:   If America departs the Middle East, then the region will become a free-for-all for others.    

The National Interest * January 17, 2019, by Tanya Goudsouzian: a Canadian journalist who has covered Iraq and Afghanistan for over fifteen years.  She is former Opinion editor of Al Jazeera English Online.

The inexorable direction of the U.S. administration is towards less intervention, less engagement, and fewer “dumb wars in the Middle East.”   Although Pompeo may trumpet steadfastness, the U.S. president can pivot on a dime.

The smart money is on disengagement from the region and anyone who thinks subsequent administrations will rush back in will probably be disappointed.

In filling that vacuum in Syria, expect the Russians, the Iranians and the Turks to rush in or stay in.  They have kept their eyes on the prize; to them, it’s not just about Syria but the whole region.

. . . Europe must also understand the consequences of yielding significant Western influence in the region.

. . . More Russian territorial influence means less European territorial influence.   More Chinese trade crowds out European trade.   Iranian ideological expansion displaces Arab cultural norms. All mean “less Europe,” and certainly more instability.

. . . America’s departure will not be leaving the region to itself, but to a free-for-all for others.   And to put it bluntly, the others may not (and probably do not) share the vision or values of the European experiment.    If Europe is unwilling to “up its game” when the Americans withdraw, then it may find the only thing worse than U.S. hegemony is everything else

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TRUMP THREAT TO ISRAEL

“The strategic reality facing the new chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, will depend largely on one factor – the political situation in the United States.   More precisely, it will depend on the vagaries of U.S. President Donald Trump.    At the outset of 2019, the Trump administration continues to convey uncertainty and instability.   The amount of news generated by the president in one week, like this past one, is equivalent to several months’ worth with previous presidents.

“Trump hunkered down in the White House, telling interviewers that he hadn’t emerged in months, forgetting for a moment his frequent trips.   He’s up to his neck in the crisis resulting from the government shutdown, continuing with his promises to build his wall on the Mexican border.   But the latest crisis is only a symptom.   The deluge of headlines in recent days included the following.

“The FBI investigation into Trump began right after he was sworn in two years ago, on suspicions he was a spy or acting on Russia’s behalf.   There was a report he was considering an American withdrawal from NATO, an idea whose very mention sends shivers down the spines of strategic experts, Democrats and Republicans alike.   There was also news of a secret plan initiated by the national security adviser, John Bolton, for attacking targets in Iran.”  (“A wild card thousands of miles away,” by Amos Harel, Haaretz, January 18)

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US-EUROPEAN TRADE WAR

“Transatlantic trump trading” was the title of today’s Brussels Briefing, by Jim Brunsden.

“Ideally trade negotiations between countries should begin on a note of hope:   the desire to deepen economic ties, nurturing prosperity and friendship among their peoples.

But optimism and positivity are not the words that first come to mind when thinking about the talks about to start between the EU and US.

Brussels is expected today to publish its plans for negotiations with Washington that were conceived last year as a way to divert Donald Trump from initiating a full blown transatlantic trade war.”

Things aren’t looking good.   Expect a full-blown trade war between the two trading superpowers.

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BREXIT

The PM has pulled out of a scheduled appearance at Davos next weekend to handle her crisis at home.   (Politico)

Mrs. May has ruled out any further delays on Brexit.   Speaking with Holland’s PM, Mark Rutte, she convinced the PM that there would be no attempt to prolong Brexit beyond March 29th.

The Labour Party’s leader, Jeremy Corbin, gave a strong anti-EU speech, finally making it clear where he stands on the issue.

Leo Varadkar, Irish Prime Minister, is a major obstacle to Brexit.   Brexiteer Lord Lamont says that his refusal to amend the “Irish backstop” makes it impossible to reach agreement on other issues.

From Melanie Phillips, Daily Mail, 1/19/19:

“Current events in Britain’s Parliament are making politics in both Israel and America look positively sane and tranquil by comparison.

Around the world, jaws are dropping at the UK’s convulsions over leaving the European Union.   This resembles not so much a divorce as an amputation without anesthetic using blunt knives and a broken saw, with the surgeons throwing punches across the operating table.

“This week, the deal struck between Prime Minister Theresa May and the EU over the Brexit terms was thrown out by an enormous majority in the House of Commons.

Although this was the largest prime ministerial defeat in British history, Mrs. May survived a motion of no-confidence the following evening.”

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LA PUBLIC SCHOOLS STRIKE

LA teachers are on strike, demanding more pay and smaller classes. Sometimes, there are up to 35 pupils per class.

That’s definitely too many.   By comparison, there are 26 in one of my grandchildren’s schools.   The others are in the mid-twenties.  Private schools keep theirs down to 20, which is why their children receive more attention.

One reason for the mess in Los Angeles is that the schools are overwhelmed by immigrants.   One school reported on this week is 70% Hispanic, only 10% white.

It’s impossible for schools to keep up with the demand on their services.

Immigration is a major focus of Brexit – most people voted for Brexit because they wanted less European immigrants in the country.   It’s the same thing here in the US – most people want to keep the country as it is, and not allow other cultures to dominate.   Those at the bottom have to compete with new immigrants who are willing to work for less.

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And finally . . .

 

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RANDOM THOUGHTS ON RECENT EVENTS

24-storey apartment building in London on fire

I stayed up late a week ago to watch the British election results, broadcast live on BBC World’s television channel.   It soon became clear that Theresa May’s ruling Conservatives were not doing well. Mrs. May had called an early election to strengthen her position prior to the start of Brexit talks with the European Union.   Her gamble failed – she now finds herself leading a party that does not control over 50% of parliament.   To stay in office, she has had to enter a coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the pro-British faction from Northern Ireland.

This is already being misinterpreted by Sinn Fein, the anti-British, pro-republican faction from Northern Ireland; it could easily lead to further violence in the province.

There’s another threat to the coalition. Mrs. May also relies on the Scottish Conservatives, who did extremely well in the election, increasing their parliamentary representation from one to thirteen seats.  Their leader, Ruth Davidson, who is married to her female partner, is a fervent supporter of same-sex marriage; while the Northern Irish conservatives are socially very traditional.

It’s going to be interesting to see how this all works out.

At the very least, it has weakened the government at a crucial time, as negotiations begin on Monday, with the most efficient and uncompromising bureaucracy on the face of the earth – the European Union.

An additional threat comes from the opposition Labour Party.   A prominent voice in the party is calling for one million people to take to the streets to bring down Mrs. May.   Sound familiar?

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”  (Mark 3:25.)

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EUROPEAN LEADERS CHILDLESS

Talking of Europe, note the following, sent by a friend in New Zealand:

• Emmanuel Macron, the newly elected French president, has no             children.
•  German chancellor Angela Merkel has no children.
•  British prime minister Theresa May has no children.
•  Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni has no children.
•  Holland’s Mark Rutte, has no children.
•  Sweden’s Stefan Löfven, has no children.
•  Luxembourg’s Xavier Bettel, has no children.
•  Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon has no children.
•  Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, has        no children.

So a grossly disproportionate number of the people making decisions about Europe’s future have no direct personal stake in that future.

Additionally, in the last few days, the Irish Republic has a new prime minister.   He also has no children.  The press has been full of the fact that he is the youngest prime minister ever.   He is also half-Indian and gay, neither of which is an issue.   (Serbia’s new prime minister is also gay, as is Luxembourg’s PM.)

At the very least, all the above are thinking short-term, wanting to win the next election.   When Europe was dominated by kings, at the very least the leaders wanted to preserve their thrones for their descendants;  this also meant ensuring the continuation of the nation-state.   Both of these factors no longer apply.

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THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS

Talking of kings, King Henry II got a mention in the US Congress a week ago.   Henry died long before the United States ever existed as a nation – even before America was “discovered” by Christopher Columbus.   He reigned from 1154-1189.

Note the following from Vanity Fair:

“The James Comey hearing has officially gone medieval.   A little less than two hours into the former FBI director’s highly watched testimony, Comey dropped a reference to Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury who was killed at the casual request of King Henry II in the year 1170.   The reference popped up when Senator Angus King was questioning Comey, asking him about Donald Trump’s seemingly casual but firm request to have Comey drop the FBI’s Michael Flynn investigation.  Though Trump did not demand outright that Comey drop the investigation, even his slightest requests come with an air of seriousness, King suggested.

“Do you take that as a directive?” King asked Comey of Trump’s question.

“Yes, yes,” Comey replied.   “It rings in my ears as kind of ‘Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?’”

Henry II was a very significant monarch.   James Comey learned a lesson from his reign.   Today’s British people, who have experienced three terrorist attacks in less than three months, could learn something else.   Note the following:

“Henry II, who is considered the father of the common law, promulgated the Assize of Arms in 1181. This required all (male) British citizens between 15 and 40 to purchase and keep arms.   The type of arms required varied with wealth; the wealthiest had to provide themselves with full armor, sword, dagger, and war horse, while even the poorest citizens, “the whole community of freemen,” must have leather armor, helmet and a lance.   Twice a year all citizens were to be inspected by the king’s officials to insure that they possessed the necessary arms.   Conversely, the English made it quite clear that the king was to be expected to depend exclusively upon his armed freemen.   When rebellious barons forced John I to sign the Magna Carta in 1215, they inserted in its prohibitions a requirement that he “expel from the kingdom all foreign knights, crossbowmen, sergeants, and mercenaries, who have come with horses and weapons to the harm of the realm.” (Historical Basis of the Right to keep and bear arms, by David P. Hardy, 1982)

During the recent terror attacks in England, on each occasion, one armed citizen could have made a significant difference and saved lives.  Medieval monarchs were very concerned that the people should be able to defend themselves against the French; today, the threat is Islamic extremists, but the principle remains the same.

Also note, in the quote above, that Henry’s second son, John, one of the worst monarchs in English history, was required by the people to “expel from the kingdom all foreign knights, crossbowmen, sergeants and mercenaries, who have come with horses and weapons to the harm of the realm.”

No prizes for guessing who should be expelled today!

It should be noted that King Henry did not introduce the right to bear arms; he simply restored an ancient right that went back to at least the reign of Alfred the Great, in the 9th century.  The Vikings were one of the problems at that time.  The threat changes, but a threat is always there.

With this in mind, I found the following interesting while studying this morning:   “The story of David and Goliath is helpful since “five smooth stones” and a “sling” are the closest equivalent to a handgun we can find in the Bible.   David seems to have been armed with his sling at all times.   There was no way he could run home to get his sling when a lion or a bear was about to attack his flock.   (1 Sam. 17:31-37, 41-54)

It’s possible that Jesus had the Old Testament case law in mind when He offered this injunction to His disciples:   “But be sure of this, if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into.”   (Matt 24:43) (“Jesus, Guns and Self-defence – what does the Bible say?”)

Christians should, of course, strive to live peaceably with all men. (Romans 12:18)   Jesus Christ said: “Blessed are the peacemakers.” (Matt 5:9)   He also told us to “turn the other cheek.”  (vs. 38-39)

With terrorism, we are dealing with a totally different mind-set from Jesus Christ, a religious belief system that encourages and celebrates killing en masse.   People have to be able to defend themselves. King Henry understood this.   Today’s leaders in countries like the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada need to address the issue, enabling people to defend themselves from acts of barbarism.   In contrast, Australia has just announced an amnesty calling on citizens to hand over illegal weapons.

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THE GREAT FIRE OF LONDON, 2017

The tragic apartment block fire in London dominated the news on Wednesday.   30 deaths have been confirmed, but scores of people are still missing.   There were also over sixty injured.   What started the fire is not known at this time, but a material used in construction appears to have helped the fire to quickly spread.   The Daily Express said Thursday that EU environmental directives could be the cause.

Most of the people in the apartment block seemed to have been from other countries in Africa and Asia.   Looking at the high-rise (24-storey) block of flats, as they are called in England, I wondered why people would leave their own countries to live in such an awful place.

My wife and I have spent many happy days in African villages.   I can truthfully say that I would rather live in one of those than in a high-rise apartment block in London, or any other major city.   Isaiah 5:8 warns against living too close to each other.   “Woe unto them that join house to house.”

What attracts people to move to the West varies for each individual. One of the established reasons in the UK is the generous welfare benefits.   Perhaps some of that money could be diverted to African villages to bring water and electricity to communities to improve their quality of life.   Together with the abolition of welfare for new arrivals, this would go some way to help solve the immigration crisis.

On BBC World this morning, interviews with survivors of the fire revealed a lot of understandable anger.   It’s also clear that many have an “entitlement mentality,” demanding that the government re-house them immediately, claiming that hotels are not good enough; they also dismissed Theresa May’s call for an independent inquiry – they want those responsible punished NOW.

Since writing the above, some residents and neighbors have stormed the local town hall, chanting their demands, blaming the fire on the Conservative government.   There was no logic – just a mob mentality. Scary and a sign of things to come. 


 

ISLAMIC EXTREMISTS

  • At the moment, the bar for taking extremists out of circulation is set ridiculously high.   People known for their own extremism that reaches pre-terrorist levels should not be walking the streets when they have expressed support for Islamic State (ISIS) or tried to head to Syria or called for the destruction of Britain and other democracies or allied themselves to people already in prison. Their demand for free speech or freedom of belief must never be elevated above the rights of citizens to live safely in their own towns and cities.   It is essential for parliament to lower the bar.
  • Is this to be the political landscape for the future, where groups of people demanding death and destruction are given the freedom of the streets whilst those wishing to hold a peaceful celebration are prevented from doing so?
  • To see extremist Islam as a “perversion” of Islam misses an important point.   The politically correct insistence that radical versions of Islam somehow pervert an essentially peaceful and tolerant faith forces policy-makers and legislators, church leaders, rabbis, interfaith workers and the public at large to leave to one side an important reality.   Flatly, Islam in its original and classic forms has everything to do with today’s radicals and the violence they commit.   The Qur’an is explicit in its hatred for pagans, Jews and Christians.   It calls for the fighting of holy war (jihad) to conquer the non-Muslim world, subdue it, and gradually bring it into the fold of Islam. Islam has been at war with Europe since the seventh century.

(“No tolerance for extremism, “ by Denis McMacEion, Gatestone Institute, 6/16).