Tag Archives: North Korea

FLORIDA SCHOOL SHOOTING

(Photo: John McCall, AP)

After yet another school shooting in the United States, the 19th this year, Pat Buchanan wrote a brilliant analysis.   The following is a quote from his article, posted this morning.

“Another factor helps to explain what happened Wednesday: We are a formerly Christian society in an advanced state of decomposition.

“Nikolas Cruz was a product of broken families.  He was adopted. Both adoptive parents had died.  Where did he get his ideas of right and wrong, good and evil?   Before the Death of God and repeal of the Ten Commandments, in those dark old days, the 1950s, atrocities common now were almost nonexistent.    (“The Motives behind the massacre,” Pat Buchanan, 2/16)

Deuteronomy 28 is the classic Bible chapter that should help us all think.   In summary, what it says is that the more we obey God, the greater our society will be; the more we turn away from God, the worse it will become.   As Mr. Buchanan points out, “before the death of God and repeal of the Ten Commandments, in those dark old days, the 1950s, atrocities common now were almost nonexistent.”

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RIPPLE EFFECT OF SCHOOL SHOOTINGS

It’s not just that US schools are unsafe, it’s clear to the rest of the world that America is a very violent country, with a governmental system that doesn’t work any more.   As one writer put it, the US has an eighteenth century constitution in a twenty first century world.

Most countries already have a bad impression of the current US president.   But, when Mr. Trump spoke following the shootings and talked about mental illness, that impression only worsened.   Mental illness was (and usually is) a major factor, but what differentiates America from other western countries is easy access to weapons. Even the mentally ill can walk into a gun dealer and buy an assault rifle!

Parkland will not be the last school mass shooting.

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ISLAM AND THE WEST

Sheikh “Abu Qusay” delivered a Friday sermon in Jerusalem, in which he said:

“Oh dweller of the White House, let me tell you, from the pulpit of the Prophet Muhammad, that this is the promise of Allah and His Messenger:   Jerusalem is the heart of the land of Islam.   We will storm your White House, stomp on your head, kill your soldiers, and capture your land.   This is the promise of the Prophet Muhammad.” The sermon was posted to the internet on December 22nd.   (MEMRI)

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Nervous Rex?  Tillerson in Turkey

The war in Syria has already tested and destroyed many alliances. Turkey’s relationship with America may be next.   Having launched one army offensive against Kurdish insurgents in north-west Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government says it will soon order another, this time in the north-east.   There, the militants are flanked by American troops, who are supporting them in their fight against Islamic State.   It will be up to America’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who arrives in Turkey today, to calm nerves and prevent the diplomatic row between the two NATO allies from exploding into an armed one.   That will not be easy.   After an American general warned that his forces would retaliate against any attack on their positions inside the Kurdish strongholds, Mr Erdogan said the United States “had clearly never received an Ottoman slap.” Slap or no slap, Mr. Tillerson’s ears will be ringing by the time he gets back to Washington. (Economist, 2/15)

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German government plans massive military expansion in Iraq        By Johannes Stern, 13 February 2018

The new grand coalition in Germany is planning a massive expansion of the German army (Bundeswehr) mission in Iraq. 

This was announced by Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen (Christian Democratic Union, CDU) in the course of her trip to the Middle East last weekend.  Von der Leyen praised Germany’s cooperation with the Peshmerga [Kurdish military forces] during her visit to Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region in northern Iraq.   The Bundeswehr has been arming and militarily supporting the Kurdish force for three and a half years.   It was “impressive to see the great success of the Peshmerga training mission,” she said, thanking “Bundeswehr soldiers” on the spot.  Von der Leyen then announced that in future the Bundeswehr would be deployed throughout Iraq.

There will be “another mandate,” she said, “a mandate with a new balance … between Baghdad and Erbil on equal terms on both sides.” The defense minister made no concrete statements about the planned operation, but left no doubt she envisaged a long-term military engagement throughout Iraq.   “Both in Kurdistan, as well as in the central government in Baghdad,” there is “a request above all to help in the implementation of reforms, in the construction of ministry structures,” the minister said.   In Erbil, for example, “the construction of an entire sanitary unit is necessary,” but this also involved “of course the entire planning, organisation, recruitment and training.”   There is also “considerable demand” for logistics. Germany wanted to “make its contribution” to provide Iraq with “independent, loyal operational forces for the long term.”

The Socialist Equality Party rejects the coalition pact, which focuses on the return of Germany to an aggressive foreign and great power policy, and calls for the disclosure of all the talks.   Under conditions of escalating warfare in Syria and Iraq, and US preparations for war against North Korea, which threaten to provoke a Third World War, this demand, along with the demand for new elections, is becoming increasingly urgent.

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Special Dispatch No. 7339

Hamas, Palestinian Factions In Response To Israel’s Airstrikes In Syria:   ‘Any Israeli Attack, On Any Front, Will Be Answered With A Comprehensive War On All Fronts’ (MEMRI 2/15)

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Macron Vows to Reform Islam in France
“It is time to bring in a new generation”

by Soeren Kern, February 13, 2018 at 5:00 am

  • The overall objective of President Macron’s plan is to ensure that French law takes precedence over Islamic law for Muslims living in the country.
  • The plan, as currently conceived, is vague and short on details, but appears to involve three broad pillars: determining who will represent Muslims in France; delineating how Islam in France will be financed; and defining how imams in France will be trained.
  • “It is time to bring in a new generation.   We have seen fifteen years of debate to defend the interests of foreign states.” — Hakim el-Karoui, a French-Tunisian expert on Islam who is advising Macron on the reforms. (Gatestone)

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EUROPEAN UNITY

A New Élysée Treaty – Berlin and Paris are seeking a “new Élysée Treaty.”   On the 55th anniversary of the original 1963 Élysée Treaty, in which the Federal Republic of Germany and France committed themselves to hold “consultations” on major political issues, Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron announced the drafting of a new treaty aimed at “deepening” cooperation between the two countries and “strengthening” the EU.   In a declaration, the parliaments of both countries called for harmonizing almost the “complete range of policy issues.”   This would amount to massively enhancing the “German-French axis.”

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US/EU

Transatlantic Rivals

(Own report) – In Washington serious warnings are being raised against an independent German-European military policy aimed at weakening NATO.   The militarization of the EU is being supported as long as “it is complimentary to NATO,” a senior Pentagon official was quoted.   However, Washington would intervene if Berlin and the EU were to pull military resources away from NATO and use them for their own wars.   This statement was made in light of the NATO defense ministers’ meeting that begins today, which will include a decision on the establishment of two new NATO headquarters.   One will be established in the United States, to secure the military supply routes from North America over the Atlantic to Europe.   A second will be established in Germany, to optimize rapid redeployments of West European troops eastwards across the continent.   At the current stage of planning, this will be under German sovereignty and available also for use outside of the NATO framework.

More… https://www.german-foreign-policy.com/en/news/detail/7531/

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TRADE WAR

Despite its loss in U.S. trade court against Bombardier, Boeing believes 2018 will be a turning point in its lengthy WTO challenge to Airbus over government subsidies.   The threat of hefty tariffs could redraw the playing field — or trigger a trade war among traditional allies.   (Dominic Gates,The Seattle Times 2/10)

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday rejected the sale of the Chicago Stock Exchange to a group that would have included Chinese investors, capping a two-year battle over a deal that sparked political opposition in Congress, reports the WSJ’s Dave Michaels. (2/16)

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US ECONOMY

Some like it hot:   America’s economy

The White House will announce its infrastructure plan today.   It is expected to call for $200bn more in government spending to encourage private investment, hoping for a total of $1.5trn towards spending on roads, bridges, ports and more.   Were Congress to pass such a plan without cutting spending elsewhere, it would be the third recent salvo of fiscal stimulus.   Last week lawmakers passed a budget that will raise spending by $143bn (0.7% of GDP) this year; in December President Donald Trump signed into law tax cuts worth about $280bn in 2019.   America’s budget deficit will probably reach $1trn (5% of GDP) that year.   All this will stimulate an already hot economy.   Unemployment is just 4.1%, and real-time estimates of GDP growth in the first quarter of 2018 are as high as 4%.   The natural question is:   when will inflation take off?   This strangely timed fiscal experiment will reveal the answer.   (Economist Espresso, 2/12)

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 ASIA

China, Maldives: Beijing’s Boats Send a Message to India — China’s increased military presence in the Indian Ocean gives the country more options to respond to the crisis in the Maldives, in addition to challenging New Delhi’s influence in the region.   (Stratfor, 2/16)

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AFRICA

Finally, Mo Ibrahim has found an African president worthy of the $5 million prize the Sudanese billionaire offered to any leader who would step down after losing an election.   The prize goes to Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.   It’s been eleven years since the prize was established.   “Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took the helm of Liberia when it was completely destroyed by civil war and led a process of reconciliation that focused on building a nation and its democratic institution,” said the head of the prize committee.

Liberia’s gross domestic product was only $550 million when Mrs. Sirleaf became president in 2005.   At the end of her tenure in office it had increased to $2.1 billion.   (Wall Street Journal, 2/14)

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COMMENT ON OXFAM CHARITY SCANDAL

Can charities be truly bad?   It seems perverse to say that they are, but the Oxfam abuse scandal has revealed a sinister side to international aid — and about time, too.   In our cover package this week, Harriet Sergeant argues that, in Africa and elsewhere, NGOs often do more harm than good.   Mary Wakefield, meanwhile, who wrote about rapist aid workers in the magazine a fortnight ago, well before the Oxfam story broke, asks why polite society prefers to ignore scandals which relate to organisations that people want to believe are good.   (The Spectator, UK, 2/15)

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THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils — Berlioz

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TRADE WAR LOOMING

Consternation has been expressed this week that the US currently has no Ambassador to South Korea, at a time when war between the US and North Korea is a definite possibility.  Nothing has been said about the fact that the US has no Ambassador to the European Union, also at a very critical time.

On Sunday, in a British television interview, President Trump described the EU’s trading policies as “unfair” to the US and threatened increased tariffs on imports from the 27-member nation trading club.

The US president, Donald Trump, claimed in an interview with ITV broadcast on Sunday that the EU had been “very unfair” on American exporters, and that it would “morph into something very big” that would “turn out to be very much to [the EU’s] detriment.”

Washington is currently examining the case for protecting US economic interests on national security grounds, including the imposition of import tariffs on aluminum and steel.

Responding to Trump’s comments, a spokesman for the European commission told reporters in Brussels that the EU was ready to hit back if its importers were made to suffer.

The spokesman said:   “For us trade policy is not a zero sum game.  It is not about winners and losers.  We here in the European Union believe that trade can and should be win-win.

“We also believe that while trade has to be open and fair it also has to be rules-based.  The European Union stands ready to react swiftly and appropriately in case our exports are affected by any restrictive trade measures by the United States.”

(“Brussels prepared for trade war with US if it restricts EU imports,” Daniel Boffey, The Guardian, 29th January, 2018).

There is an assumption in the United States that America is the biggest trading power in the world and can dictate to others when it comes to trade.   This may not be the case.

“The adjusted GDP of the 28 EU member nations is bigger than both China and the US, the traditional list of world’s economic super powers.

“In nominal U.S. dollar terms, the European Union (plus Norway, Switzerland, Iceland) accounted for 25.4% of world output in 2014 according to data from the International Monetary Fund.  That was greater than America’s share (22.5%) and well in excess of China’s—13.4%,” said Quinlan.

(“Europe is bigger than the US”, Bob Bryan, Business Insider, 30th June, 2015).

These facts will have changed in the 2 ½ years since this was written. When the United Kingdom leaves the European Union next year, the figures will need to be further adjusted.   But the figures do convey that the US, the EU and China are each roughly on a par when it comes to the size of their economies.

What is not conveyed here is how powerful the European Union is through its trading agreements.   Whereas the US has twenty major trading partners, the EU has eighty.   These countries will all likely side with Brussels if a trade war worsens.

Nobody is likely to benefit from a trade war.   The latest tariffs the US imposed on Chinese washing machines, for example, will increase the cost of purchasing a washing machine in the US.   This will apply to thousands of products as tariffs are increased by all three economic powers.

There’s a lesson from history here.  The Smoot-Hawley Act, passed by Congress in 1930, raised tariffs on over 20,000 items imported from other countries.   One side effect was that US trade decreased by over 50% increasing unemployment.   This period became known as the Great Depression.

The first shots have been fired in a new trade war.   It’s not likely that the US will come out ahead here, certainly not in the long term.   Putting “America First” will mean the rest of the world coming together in a renewed commitment to globalization, leading to the new global economic system predicted in Revelation 18.

Note the following just after Angela Merkel’s speech to the World Economic Forum in Davos:

“German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted on Wednesday “protectionism is not the answer” to world problems, addressing the Davos economic summit before US President Donald Trump appears to defend his “America First” agenda.

“We think that shutting ourselves off, isolating ourselves, will not lead us into a good future.   Protectionism is not the answer,” Merkel said in a speech in the Swiss resort.

She spoke a day before the arrival of the US president whose aggressive trade policies have raised concern among defenders of globalization.

“Let us not shut off from others, let us keep pace with the best in the world and let us canvas for this multilateral approach,” Merkel said.”

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Headline in WIN (World Israel News)

German FM in Israel rejects US Jerusalem move, warns of European ‘frustration’ (1st February)

During a visit to Israel, German FM Sigmar Gabriel blasted those who oppose a Palestinian state, demanding a two-state approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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DARKEST HOUR

We went to see “Darkest Hour” recently.   Although not perfect, the movie is a fairly accurate attempt at showing what Winston Churchill was up against when he suddenly became Prime Minister in May, 1940.  Forgotten now is how close Britain came to being invaded by Hitler’s armies.   The future of the world depended on what was to follow – if the UK had fallen, other nations would have had to sue for peace on Hitler’s terms.   Those “other nations” included the United States, which was totally unprepared for war in 1940.

Britons like to say that they “stood alone” against Hitler.   Certainly, in Europe that was true.   But forgotten now is a simple fact:   at the time, Britain ruled a quarter of the world’s people.   All these nations fought with Britain.   Two and a half million Indians were in the British Army, plus hundreds of thousands of people from Africa and the Caribbean.   Additionally, the British dominions (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Southern Rhodesia) played a major role.

In the event of another threat to Britain, none of these countries will be likely to come to her aid.

Watching the movie, you can also see clearly the similarities with today.   Whereas, in 1940, Britain was faced with an enormous military threat from Germany, today it’s an economic threat – from the German dominated EU.   As the Brexit negotiations continue, the EU has the advantage, because the Brits are allowing them to.  There seems to be a lack of backbone in standing up to Brussels, Berlin and Paris.  The FT’s Philip Stephens today described the mess as “Britain’s nervous breakdown.”

Sadly, there is no Winston Churchill waiting in the wings!

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Note the following headline from the British Daily Express newspaper following an incident were young leftists stormed the Churchill café, screaming that Churchill was a racist.   Nigel Farage is the man who led the Brexit campaign.   Churchill was an Empire-loyalist, an unforgiveable sin in today’s Britain!

“Nigel Farage TEARS APART ‘pig-ignorant’ lefty gang who terrorized Churchill café.  NIGEL FARAGE aimed a furious tirade in the direction of a group of protesters who burst into a Winston Churchill-themed cafe in London while chanting Britain’s wartime leader was a “racist.”

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TRUMP’S AFRICA

You will remember that Donald Trump reportedly described African countries as “****hole countries.”

At least two countries on the Dark Continent are capitalizing on this.

Namibia is promoting tourism with posters proclaiming that “Namibia is Africa’s Number One ****hole country.”

Namibia is not the only country to take advantage of Trump’s words.

According to the Wall Street Journal yesterday, “A Facebook page run by a marketing group promoting tourism in Zambia – famed for the Zambezi River that feeds the spectacular Victoria Falls – includes a slogan welcoming visitors to “****hole Zambia.”   “Where beautiful vistas and breathtaking wildlife are our Trump card!” says an accompanying post.

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FOR FUN!

Some entertaining posts on FaceBook . . .

 

NEW GERMAN COALITION TO INCREASE MILITARY STRENGTH

Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz

Europe remains in a continual state of flux.   The UK is leaving the EU and facing an uncertain future.  The EU must punish Britain. It cannot afford to let the UK succeed outside of the Union, or others may follow her through the “exit” door.   Greece is finally coming out of years of serious economic troubles.   Eastern European nations are at variance with Germany over immigration.   Austria has a new conservative government that includes the right-wing Freedom Party.   Always remember, when looking at Europe, that the turmoil the continent is now going through will lead to the fulfillment of the following prophecy.

“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.” (Revelation 17:12-13)

GERMAN COALITION

It looks as if Mrs. Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (supposedly a conservative party) is going to be able to form a coalition with the left-of-center Social Democrats, led by Martin Schulz.   This combination is referred to as a Grand Coalition, bringing two opposing parties together again.

“One downside to the grand coalition is that it leaves the right-wing nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD), which made a surprisingly strong showing in September’s polls, as the largest opposition party, giving it a number of advantages including public funding and leadership roles in some parliamentary committees.  The AfD, the closest thing to Nazis to win seats in the Bundestag since the actual Nazis, ran a racially inflected populist campaign that capitalized on widespread anxieties about the influx of refugees and migrants from the Muslim Middle East, which the AfD said were threatening both Germany’s national security and its national identity.”  (“Germany’s political turmoil is bad news for Europe,” Jonah Shepp, New York magazine, 1/16/18).

Looking to the future, Mr. Shepp wrote:

“Part of Merkel’s problem is that she represents a waning generation of political leadership whose preference for moderation and incremental progress is being rejected in favor of bold new ideas on both the right and the left.   German voters flocked to smaller parties in September, particularly the AfD and FDP, while the Greens and the Left made gains among younger voters.

“Younger members of Merkel’s own conservative party have been urging her step aside, while a rising generation of leaders is waiting in the wings to succeed her.   The most talked-about potential successor is 37-year-old Jens Spahn, an openly gay man who has criticized Merkel from the right on immigration issues.   Another name that comes up is Ursula von der Leyen, the current defense minister, whose positions are more liberal.

“The other mainstream parties are also looking at generational transitions:   CSU chairman Horst Seehofer is handing the Bavarian premiership over to Markus Söder, 18 years his junior, while many Social Democrats are looking to oust their leader Martin Schulz after their disappointing performance in September.”

The composition of the new coalition means there will be fireworks ahead as each party wants different things.   It’s not likely the government can stay together very long.   That also means Mrs. Merkel’s future is uncertain and will be short-lived.   She has been Chancellor for over twelve years.

Change is likely not far off.

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GERMAN REARMAMENT

Meanwhile, the German World Socialist website is warning that the new German government plans a massive expansion of its military. (This is exactly what President Trump has been demanding, that Germany spend at least 2% of its GNP on defense.)

Incoming German government plans massive military rearmament   By Johannes Stern                                                                                                           3 January 2018 * World Socialist Web Site

Extracts:

“At the beginning of December, in a keynote address to the Körber Foundation in Berlin, Social Democrat Sigmar Gabriel demanded that after seven decades of relative foreign policy restraint, Germany return to an independent foreign and military policy – supported by a militarized European Union under German leadership.   “Now we realize that even with great economic prosperity in our country there is no comfortable place on the side-lines of international politics for us anymore.   Neither for us Germans nor for us Europeans,” he declared provocatively.

“Significantly, the SWP, which is close to the government, has once again submitted a paper titled “Dissolution or Replacement?   The International Order in Transition,” which openly makes the case for the establishment of a new world order under German-European leadership.   Above all, it considers China and the US, with or without Trump, as international rivals.

“ . . . The entire paper makes clear that the ruling classes in Germany and Europe are again preparing for a new major war. “

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BREXIT

The Brits are on their way out and leaving the EU with an almighty headache about money.   Rows over the common pot of cash in the EU27 will be about €13bn a year more painful after the UK blows a hole in the budget after 2020.   (FT Brussels Briefing, 1/9)

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GREECE’S 8 YEARS OF AUSTERITY UNDER GERMAN DIRECTION IS ALMOST OVER

It’s a Grexit with a difference. 2018 should be the year Greece ends eight years of economic tutelage, closing a chapter on an extraordinary period in the EU’s financial crisis fight.

August is the planned exit date and Greece’s Syriza government has been quietly crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s on its €86bn bailout ahead of the summer. In a familiar ritual, the Greek parliament this week passed its last mountain of sweeping reforms – touching everything from energy markets to trade unions – to unlock its latest dose of rescue money.   Eurozone finance ministers should sign off on the penultimate bailout review on Monday.

In one last act of defiance, thousands of protesters gathered outside the Greek parliament to vent their rage against labour laws that make it harder for trade unions to call strikes. “The law is totally undemocratic, a form of modern slavery” the head of Greece’s public sector union told The Guardian‘s Helena Smith.  (FT Brussels Briefing, 1/17)

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STRATFOR’S PREDICTION FOR NEW YEAR

2018 Annual Forecast – North Korea’s likely achievement of a viable nuclear deterrent next year will give rise to a new and more unstable era of containment.   As the specter of war looms in the Asia-Pacific, China and Russia will band together while the United States cracks down even harder on Iran — as well as its own trade partners.  (Stratfor 1/17)

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ISRAEL EXPELLING 10,000 AFRICAN IMMIGRANTS

Israel launches plan to expel thousands of African migrants                4 Jan 2018

Jerusalem – Israel on Wednesday began implementing a plan to force tens of thousands of African migrants out of the country by April, threatening to arrest those who stay.  “This plan will get under way today,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of a cabinet meeting.  Under the programme, some 38,000 migrants who entered Israel illegally, mainly Eritreans and Sudanese, will have until the end of March to leave.  Each will receive a plane ticket and $3,500 to do so.   After the deadline, this amount will decrease and those who continue to refuse to go will face arrest.  Holot, an open facility in Israel’s desert south that can host 1,200 migrants who are allowed to leave to work during the day, is also set to be closed. Netanyahu pledged to “return south Tel Aviv to the citizens of Israel”, adding that the Africans were “not refugees but illegal infiltrators.”

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BECOME LIKE LITTLE CHILDREN

Our youngest grandson, not even two yet, already knows a lot more than most politicians, judges and liberal intellectuals in the western world.

Hayden has it down pat.  He knows to go to either Mom or Grandma when he wants food or needs his diaper changed; he’s also learned, when he wants fun, that Dad or Grandpa are the go-to people.

If a 20-month-old toddler can clearly distinguish gender roles, why can’t judges, politicians and lawyers?

They would do well to ponder the following words of Jesus Christ:

… Jesus called a little child to stand among them. “Truly I tell you, He said, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

(Matthew 18:2-4)

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FOUR LETTER WORDS

I took my wife and daughter to see a movie today.   On the way there, our daughter was doing a crossword on her phone.   She suddenly said:   “I need a four lettered word.”   I suggested she call the White House!

It’s ironic that the bad word President Trump allegedly used to describe African countries and Haiti has some truth to it.   We lived in Africa for over ten years.  During that time, we hosted many western visitors, both black and white.   The one thing everybody complained about was the toilet facilities – or, rather, the lack of them.

This does not mean that there is nothing positive to say about Africa. As I often remarked to visitors:   “we can teach them a lot about plumbing, but we can’t teach them anything about relationships. That’s where they can teach us.”

Back to Trump’s expletive.   Both Richard Nixon and his predecessor LBJ used a lot of bad language.  I suspect every president has since, to one degree or another.

 

Whenever I hear certain words, I am reminded of what my old English teacher said over fifty years ago.   “People who use bad language have a limited vocabulary with which to express themselves!”   There’s a lot of truth in that.

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MORE IGNORANCE

Senator Jeff Flake (Arizona Republican) has compared President Trump to Josef Stalin.

This kind of ignorance is appalling and dangerous.

Trump has his problems, but he cannot be equated with Stalin, a dictator who killed millions of people in his own country.   Millions more were sent to their deaths in the gulags.

Additionally, ordering the murders of five of his top nine generals prior to World War II meant the country was almost defeated by the German army.   The death toll from this alone was twenty million.

Senator Flake should not be allowed back into Congress until he has read all three volumes of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s “Gulag Archipelago.”   This would give him a much better idea of Russia’s reality under Uncle Joe.

Others who have compared Trump to Hitler should be assigned William Shirer’s “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.”

Unfortunately, ignorance does not preclude entry into Congress!  If anything, it helps.

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Israeli Mayors Rail Against Law Limiting Commerce on Shabbat   11 Jan 2018 * JNS.org 

Dozens of mayors across Israel vowed on Tuesday to fight the country’s new law limiting commerce on Shabbat, saying they will not enforce it.   The controversial “supermarkets bill” passed in the Knesset with a razor-thin majority of 58-57 on Tuesday morning. The law, an amendment to the Local Authorities Law’s provisions on the operation of local businesses on days of rest, gives the interior minister the power to shutter businesses that choose to remain open on Shabbat.   During the past few weeks, Israeli municipalities have raced to bypass the looming supermarkets law, passing and bolstering bylaws allowing businesses to remain open on Shabbat.

“The supermarkets bill is meaningless.  It is up to the mayors to enforce it and I say in no uncertain terms that I have no intention of sending inspectors to enforce it,”  Ramat Gan Mayor Yisrael Zinger said Tuesday.   “We are a liberal city, and we believe in allowing people to live their lives according to their own beliefs.  This is what creates the fabric of life in the city,” he said.   Prior to the vote on the bill, Holon Mayor Moti Sasson pledged “to do everything within my power to preserve the status quo in the city, as part of which some businesses will be open on Shabbat for the benefit of the residents.” Givatayim Mayor Ran Kunik also announced he would not enforce the new law, telling reporters he is determined to preserve the status quo in his city.   “Givatayim knows what’s best for its residents better than any minister,” he said.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BRITISH-ISRAEL’S CALL FOR A FAST

The British-Israel World Federation (BIWF) has called a fast for this Saturday for the peoples of “the Covenant Nations.”

The British-Israelites formed their federation in 1919, but their beliefs can be traced back to the previous century.   As the British Empire expanded during Queen Victoria’s reign and America was spreading westward fulfilling its “manifest destiny,” so the number of believers grew.   Their belief is based on God’s promises to Israel in Genesis 48, that the two sons of his son Joseph would grow into a “company of nations” and “a great nation” – the British Empire and the United States of America.

It was a widely-held belief in the trenches of World War I, when men from all over the British Empire fought against Imperial Germany.   The losses were so great that people became disillusioned with both religion and the empire.

As Britons turned increasingly away from their Christian heritage, so BIWF lost some support.   The organization was supported by some prominent members of the British establishment, the most famous of which was Princess Alice, one of Queen Victoria’s granddaughters.   In the 1930’s, as the Countess of Athlone, she was married to the Governor-General of South Africa; from 1940, following the sudden death of John Buchan, the popular Governor-General of Canada, she and her husband moved to Canada in war time, so that he could serve there, replacing John Buchan.   They remained in Canada until 1946.   On two occasions, they hosted President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill at Rideau Hall, the official residence of the Governor-General.   King George VI, father of Queen Elizabeth II, also made supportive statements reflecting a belief in BI.   A former prime minister of New Zealand was also a member.  They have branches in a number of countries, including all the “covenant nations”.

The idea still persists, in spite of Wikipedia’s claim that the theory has been disproved, for which they give no evidence.   Yair Davidy’s Brit-Am organization in Israel supports the theory with archaeological evidence.     An American organization called “Truth in History” publishes a magazine, which also upholds the teaching. Additionally, the Churches of God that came out of Herbert W Armstrong’s Worldwide Church of God, continue to believe – their interpretation of prophecy is heavily influenced by British-Israelism.

Some are dogmatic in their support of BI, while others are equally dogmatic in their dismissal of the belief.   There are those who believe the evidence supporting BI is overwhelming, but there are others who don’t consider it conclusive and reject the teaching.

Whether you believe the theory or not is largely irrelevant.   The fact Is that the “covenant nations” are in deep trouble, hence the call for a fast.   Coincidentally, the date chosen for the fast is also the Jewish Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the year for Jews.   On this day, believers are expected to fast completely, abstaining from all food and drink.   The idea is for everybody to humble themselves before God, to be “at-one” with God, through prayer and Bible Study, as well as worshipping Him with others of like mind.

It’s also a day for repentance.   Repentance means to change, to overcome sin and return to God with great fervor.   It’s unlikely that the peoples of the “covenant nations” will go that far.

Followers of BI believe that Ephraim is the ancestor of the British peoples and nations that became dominions after independence (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa).   Note what God said to Ephraim in Hosea 7:8-10:

“Ephraim has mixed himself among the peoples; Ephraim is a cake unturned.   Aliens have devoured his strength, but he does not know it, yes, gray hairs are here and there on him, yet he does not know it. And the pride of Israel testifies to his face, but they do not return to the LORD their God, nor seek Him for all this.”

A little over seventy years ago, the descendants of Joseph, the peoples of the covenant nations, the Anglo-Saxon-Celtic peoples, dominated the globe.   The British Empire and the United States had emerged victorious after World War II and it seemed as if God had given them supremacy all over the globe.   But things started to go wrong immediately. The British lost their empire in the twenty years after the war; and the United States and Britain now seem unable to win any conflicts.

The Commonwealth has largely unraveled and may not survive the death of the Queen and ascension of her son, Prince Charles.

Certainly, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are not as close as they once were.   They no longer form an effective military force and no longer see themselves as fulfilling a common destiny. They have also taken in millions of people from other cultures who do not share the same values inherited from Britain.  (“Ephraim has mixed himself among the peoples”;  “aliens have devoured his strength.”)

At the present time, the greatest threat comes from Brexit and this is why BIWF has called for a fast.   Brexit negotiations are not going well.   The United Kingdom seems to be intimidated by the European Union, lacking in self-confidence, its stance somewhat reminiscent of Neville Chamberlain prior to World War II.  (“Grey hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knows it not.”)

BIWF’s call for a fast and a day of prayer has this to say about Brexit: “On 29th March 2017, Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty was triggered for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union.   We need to pray that the LORD will deliver the United Kingdom completely from the Babylonish EU as the difficult negotiations proceed.”

BIWF publishes a book called “We Have a Guardian” recording historical evidence that shows God’s intervention to help Britain in times of trouble.   “Dunkirk” was one example in 1940.   They are calling for God to intervene again, to save Britain through Brexit and to restore the country to its former self, when many of the people were devout Christians.   They are mindful of the Queen’s Coronation Oath, to maintain the laws of God and the true religion, two promises that all the queen’s governments in each of her dominions have conveniently forgotten.

They are also mindful of the threat to the United States and the rest of the world posed by North Korea, calling upon their members to pray about the situation so that a devastating war can be avoided. Such a war would finish off North Korea, but may also set back the United States, allowing other nations to fill the vacuum.

Remember to pray for your country on this fast day.

GUAM IN THE HEADLIGHTS

Guam isn’t in the news very often.   But right now it is.   The reason? North Korea has threatened to “nuke” it first.   It seems to have the technology to do it. But will it?   That is the question.

A North Korean attack on the US Pacific island would likely kill most of the 160,000 Americans who live there; but, within minutes, most of North Korea’s population would also be dead in a US retaliatory strike.  That figure would include North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un. Even if he has a bunker to retire to through the attack, he would no longer have a kingdom to rule over.   Kim would lose everything in minutes.   The three-generation Kim dynasty would be history!

Logic and common sense say he won’t do it.   But logic and common sense are sadly lacking in North Korea.

The world awaits developments and hopes for a good outcome.

Back to Guam.

The world was much simpler when the US took possession of the island in 1898.   It was one of four territories acquired by the United States as a result of the Spanish-American War.   The others were Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. Guam had been a Spanish territory for 230 years, since 1668.

When the USS Charleston arrived in Guam to capture the territory, the ship fired its cannons in the direction of the Spanish fort on the island.   The Spanish garrison took some time to respond.   Eventually, they sent a delegation to apologize to the Americans. They had thought the cannons were a salute and they had no means of reciprocating – they hadn’t realized this was an invasion.   It had been a while since they had received any communication from Spain.

So Guam fell into American hands.

Not without some opposition – at home.   The United States was terribly divided on the issue of foreign adventures.   Pro-interventionists included President McKinley, the future Vice President Theodore Roosevelt and newspaper magnate, William Randolph Hearst, a man of great influence at the time.   All three felt that America needed overseas possessions, like European nations. Against the acquisition of colonies were Mark Twain, Dale Carnegie and William Jennings Bryan.   These two were often referred to as the “pro-imperialists” and the “anti-imperialists.”   Imperialism was very much in vogue at the end of the nineteenth century.

The great debate around the birth of the American Empire is the subject of a new history book, entitled “The True Flag” by Stephen Kinzer, a foreign correspondent who now writes for the Boston Globe.   The Spanish-American War was a major turning point in American history and, indeed, in world history. It launched the US as a global power.

“Various forces united to push McKinley toward his decision to seize the Philippines.   Navy commanders recognized Manila Bay as a magnificent platform from which to project American strategic power into East Asia.   Business leaders saw millions of new customers for American goods, the prospect of rich resources, and a springboard to the potentially immense China market.   Missionaries and religious groups swooned at the prospect of saving millions of lost souls for Christ.   McKinley himself recognized above all the political value of annexation – and the furor he feared would engulf him if he turned away from empire at this crucial moment.” (“The True Flag,” page 87.)

Later, McKinley, a deeply religious man, recounted a vision he had at this time.

“When McKinley emerged from his trance, he found himself believing that the United States could not grant independence to the Philippines because its people were ‘unfit for self-government,’ and that ‘there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them and by God’s grace do the very best we could by them, as our fellow men for whom Christ also died.” (ibid.)

The following paragraph adds:  “McKinley was deeply religious, and his account of this vision was no doubt sincere.  Nevertheless he must have recognized the happy coincidence: what God wanted him to do would also be popular with voters.  This time, God sounded remarkably like Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge.”

These paragraphs show just how much American thinking has changed in the last century.   America’s track record in international affairs has been mixed, at best.   The Spanish-American War was won by the US.   World Wars One and Two, were also won, with allies, but there were many problems after the fighting was over.   Wars since World War Two have largely not been won and the country is now caught up in never ending conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan.   The resultant turmoil has created an unprecedented refugee problem and untold suffering.

Americans are often woefully ignorant of these wars and the mess that is left behind.   President McKinley did not know where the Philippines and Guam were when he ordered US forces to take both.   Somebody once said that “wars are nature’s way of teaching Americans geography” — there is a great deal of truth to that.

History, too.   A review of a new book on President James Buchanan, who was in office immediately before Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, described him as one of the worst ever leaders of the free world.   This remark fails to appreciate that Americans presidents did not lead the Free World until after World War Two.

“The first time the phrase ‘Leader of the free world’ appeared in The New York Times was in a November 1948 essay by the British economist Barbara Ward, which urged Western unity against the communist threat. With its unchallenged economic might, the United States was ‘potentially the political leader of the free world.’“ (‘What does it mean that Trump is “Leader of the Free World,” by Dominic Tierney, The Atlantic, January 2017.)

Dozens of nations have been truly and deeply thankful for the American umbrella, especially the nuclear umbrella, which protected them from communism during the Cold War.   However, the Cold War ended over a quarter of a century ago.   Now, there are other threats and the US is not doing so well.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell speech in 1961 warned:

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.  The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

A powerful military-industrial complex will constantly be pushing the country toward war to justify its existence and its cost to the tax-payer.   Each of these wars divides the country as assuredly as the first overseas military adventures in 1898.   The wars in the Islamic world have cost the US billions, in addition to thousands of lives.   The result has been described by historian Geoffrey Wawro (University of North Texas) as “Quicksand,” the title of his 2010 book – the more we struggle to get out, the more we get sucked in!

WILL AMERICAN HEGEMONY BE A CONSTANT?

President Trump has vowed to maintain American hegemony, while at the same time promising to put “America First.”   Ultimately, these two are opposites.   America already suffers from a bad case of “imperial over-reach,” with too many commitments around the globe.  Can the US handle a major conflict on the Korean peninsula, together with unfinished wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan? Can the US afford another major conflict, with a $20 trillion overdraft?   Will American voters support more wars?   President Trump has added another possible military intervention, saying that the US may have to intervene militarily in Venezuela.

History shows that every great power eventually burns out.  Before the US, the British Empire was the world’s number one superpower. After World War Two, the British had to deal with three major international problems all at the same time – in India, Palestine and Greece.   Imperial over-reach led to a withdrawal from Greece and the US was well on the way to replacing the United Kingdom as the world’s policeman.   Americans should not fall into the trap of thinking the same cannot happen to them.   The country has a bad case of imperial hubris, just as Britain did before the US.

History shows the inevitability of America’s demise.

So does the Bible.

Bible scholars have long known that the US plays no role in the final prophesied events, which center on Europe and the Middle East.

This implies that something big is going to happen to America, which returns the country to its pre-1898 status, isolated from the rest of the world.   However, it won’t be the same as pre-1898 – then, the US was secure in its isolation; now, there’s too much bitterness and resentment around the world toward the United States.   Additionally, the United States is more divided now than it was then.

Daniel 2:21 reminds us that God is behind the rise and fall of nations.

“And He changes the times and the seasons;
He removes kings and raises up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
And knowledge to those who have understanding.”

In the sixth century BC, while living in the Babylonian Empire, Daniel had a vision that revealed to him that Babylon would soon fall and be replaced by Persia; in turn, Persia would give way to Greece and Greece to Rome.   This is exactly what happened over the next few centuries.   Each of those superpowers, in turn, thought it was invincible; yet, each one fell.   Both history and the Bible show the inevitability of this continuing.

Already, there are voices declaring the 21st century China’s century, just as the twentieth was America’s and the nineteenth Great Britain’s. Certainly,   China is a rising power.   It’s the main reason North Korea can threaten the US at this time and seemingly get away with it.

But the Bible shows that the final superpower is a power that has not yet formed; that ten nations will come together and threaten the peace and security of the world.

Revelation 17:12-13 says the following:

“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.”

The term “for one hour” means that this superpower will not last very long.   America’s supremacy has lasted 70 years, Britain’s was much longer; the next one will be a lot shorter.

Which brings us back to Guam.

When the USS Charleston took possession of Guam en route to the Philippines, America became a major power in Asia.   A successful attack on Guam from North Korea would signal the end of the American Empire.   It happened once before in 1942 when the Japanese took the island, but the US returned after defeating Japan.     A nuclear attack on the island would mean there’s nothing to return to.

It’s likely that something will be worked out and we will return to peace – this time.   But at some point American hegemony will end and it could end on an island thousands of miles away or somewhere closer to home.   It’s worth remembering that the British Empire suffered two major defeats, in Singapore (1942) and Suez (1956).

Stephen Kinzer, who wrote “The True Flag,” has an accompanying article in the latest issue of American History magazine.   He ends with an observation by Mark Twain, who opposed America’s international expansion.

The last two paragraphs make for sobering reading:  “Despondent, Twain wrote a bitter lament. His observations, trenchant then, sound eerily appropriate today.  (italics mine)

“It was impossible to save the Great Republic,”  Twain wrote.  “She was rotten to the heart.   Lust of conquest had long ago done it’s work.   Trampling upon the helpless abroad had taught her, by natural process, to endure with apathy the like at home; multitudes who had applauded the crushing of other people’s liberties, lived to suffer for their mistake in their own persons.   The government was irrevocably in the hands of the prodigiously rich and their hangers-on, the suffrage was become a mere machine, which they used as they chose.   There was no principle but commercialism, no patriotism but of the pocket.”

(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 generously donate to help cover costs.)

GOVERNMENT FOR THE PEOPLE

Margaret Thatcher defined socialism as “equal shares of misery for all,” the best definition I’ve ever read of the economic theory and subsequent reality.

The following is a more matter-of-fact explanation that I got when I googled “socialism,” looking for the exact definition.

“a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole;……

  • (in Marxist theory) a transitional social state between the overthrow of capitalism  and the realization of communism.”

Basically, what it’s saying is that government controls everything and it’s a stepping-stone to communism.  Keep in mind that Marxists believe that, when communism is achieved, everybody lives in paradise – although, of course, they don’t actually believe in paradise, heaven or any other nirvana.

The reality, of course, is that people actually live in hell.

The best example of communism today is North Korea, where everything is controlled by the government, even thoughts.

Another example is Cuba, where almost everything is controlled by the government.

China is not a very good example.  Not any more.  Whereas the government still controls every thought, the economy is more of a free for all.   So long as you keep your mouth shut, you can be a millionaire!

Until the latest British election, many people thought socialism was dead.   Mrs. Thatcher herself had rolled back socialism in the UK and helped the nations of Eastern Europe send the communists packing. But the latest election in the United Kingdom showed that socialism is alive and kicking – and may even be the next government.

Why the appeal?  Because when people feel the inequities of capitalism, they naturally favor the opposite, thinking everything will be put right by the firm hand of government.

Somebody once said that “conservatives believe in the exploitation of man by man; while socialists believe the exact opposite!” Think about it before moving on!

Venezuela has been in the news a great deal over the last few days. There, an incompetent socialist government has destroyed the nation’s economy.  An attempt was made by a member of the country’s military to overthrow the government.  The sight of the helicopter flying over the capital city of Caracas brought back memories of a similar situation in Ghana almost 40 years ago.

Ghana is a case study in the failings of socialism, well-meant but a disaster.

Ghana got its independence from Great Britain in 1957.  It was the first black African country to receive independence, first because it was the most promising, with the greatest number of highly educated citizens and the most money in the bank.   Within four years, it was bankrupt and a dictatorship.   Eventually, the military had to take over to save the country.

A second attempt was made at democracy, which also failed; the military then took over again.   Whereas the politicians were generally well educated, military men were not well-versed in running an economy.   Soon, there was a high rate of inflation and serious shortages.   These led to a coup on June 4th, 1979, a coup my wife and I experienced first-hand.

The helicopter flying overhead, filmed by somebody on a balcony, reminded me of how Diane watched a similar scene during Ghana’s coup.   In Ghana, the helicopter opened fire and she quickly went indoors.   At the time, I was trying to get back to the house using side roads to avoid the fighting.   At one point, I was held up at gunpoint by rebel soldiers who wanted to take my car.

The coup was successful.   A new government came to power led by Flight Lt. J.J. Rawlings, an avowed socialist who was enamored by the way things were done in Eastern Europe.   The people said the “J.J.” stood for “Junior Jesus.”

He immediately started setting things right, freezing the price of eggs at 8 cedis a dozen and controlling the price of beer, two priorities!   The problem was that farmers could not produce eggs to sell at that price as chicken feed was too expensive; with beer, there was a shortage of hops.   I thought that a national shortage of beer would lead to revolution fairly quickly, but I was wrong.   Ghana remains the only African nation I know of that did not experience civil unrest when the beer ran out!

Serious shortages became a major problem.   Supermarkets had next to nothing on their shelves.   Basic commodities could only be obtained through barter – I remember bartering shirts for gasoline and toilet paper for rice!

As the economy went into freefall, so the government was made more oppressive.   Foreigners were blamed for just about everything – in August, we were told to leave the country.

Elections had been scheduled before Rawlings took over.   Under pressure, he allowed them to go ahead and a new, still socialist, government came to power, led by a nice man who was also an alcoholic.   At least beer was now available!

Eventually, he was overthrown and J.J. was back, followed by even greater economic disaster.   It wasn’t until Rawlings started to reverse socialism and encourage free enterprise that things started to improve.

Government control of the economy = disaster.   Mrs. T got it right!

So why is socialism “in vogue” again?   The rising gap between rich and poor is one answer; another is the youth vote – most young people have no memory of when Europe was largely socialist.   As Winston Churchill once said:   “If you’re not a socialist at 20, you’ve got no heart; if you’re still a socialist at 30, you’ve got no head”.

In I Samuel 8 we read an account of how Israel wanted a human leader like all the other nations around them.   God warned the people that it would mean greater financial hardship, as government would constantly expand and the people would have to pay for it.  The warning was of 10% taxation.  Today, taxes run much higher.

10 So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who asked him for a king. 11 And he said, “This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. 12 He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. 14 And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. 16 And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men,[a] and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. 18 And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day.”

Don’t just assume that this only applies to kings and kingdoms.   In the last century, new nations have come into existence, most of them with a president rather than a king.   It turns out the kings were cheaper.   Note the following from Ecclesiastes 10:16-17:

“Woe to you, O land, when your king is a child,
And your princes feast in the morning!
17 Blessed are you, O land, when your king is the son of nobles,
And your princes feast at the proper time—
For strength and not for drunkenness!”

Elected politicians think they have an automatic right to take everybody else’s money and spend it how they want.   Again, Margaret Thatcher put it well when she observed:  “the trouble with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money!”

That’s exactly what Jeremy Corbyn of Britain’s Labour (socialist) party is promising the people – more taxes to help government expand.

That’s what Venezuela got with Hugo Chavez, the socialist president who presided over the collapse of the country’s economy.   His successor, Nicolas Maduro, has not been able to improve things.

The great lesson here is: there’s a lot of evils in capitalism, but don’t think government will make things better!

Just ask the Venezuelans….!

 

 

 

SPRING BREAK

Last week was Spring Break.   We had all nine grandchildren in the house for almost a week.   Sickness struck halfway through and two of them came down with the flu.   So did Grandma.

On the last day, Sunday, our eldest daughter took her four children home to Indianapolis, to be ready for school Monday morning.   For the remainder of the day I was the only functioning adult in the house, with a sick wife (Grandma) and three young children, one of whom is only ten months old.

It was quite a day!

I’m thankful to say that the two oldest boys, 5 and 4, were perfectly well behaved and the baby was no trouble at all.

On the Friday I was able to take my wife to Urgent Care, where they confirmed a diagnosis of influenza.   Hers was a particularly bad strain.   The doctor tactlessly added that it could be very serious “at her age.”   She also added that she would be contagious for five days and should remain in bed.   Just as well – she did not have the strength to move.

Each day of Spring Break, I made it a point to take our four granddaughters out for some fun.   The girls are all 10-12 and are generally happy doing things together.   The first day the local library had a free session called “Game On” where children of their age could come together and play electronic games.

On the Wednesday morning, another library offered a free magic show which was, apparently, very good.   I was there, but I made the mistake of taking one of the 4-year-old boys with me – and he had difficulty sitting still, which meant that I could not sit still, either.   From there, we had to rush back to go to another library for their Spring Carnival, games for children of all ages.

Thursday, the same library offered a Lego afternoon.   I used to play Lego with our children 30+ years ago, but now I find it extremely challenging as all the Lego pieces seem to get under my feet and cause me grievous bodily harm.   So our two daughters took the boys, while I took the girls bowling, followed by milkshakes at Steak and Shake (half price shakes from 2-5).   We had a lot of fun.

On the Friday, our son took all four girls to a bouncy place, while I took Grandma to Urgent Care.   (This was due to the flu, not the grandchildren!)

Why do I mention all this?

Because almost everything was free the entire week.   When you check out the library, there are so many “events” on over Spring Break, none of which cost anything.   Before leaving “Game On” on the Tuesday, I asked two of the girls to check out the DVDs and see what we could take home to watch.   They chose all four “Home Alone” movies.   You didn’t know there were four?   Neither did I, but I spent each evening watching them with the girls and quite enjoyed them. 8-year-old Kevin reminded me of 4-year-old Leeson – Leeson would definitely give any intruders a hard time!   All five boys together are a more effective deterrent than the most vicious Rottweiler.     Again, as with the activities, the movies were free.

So if you are a grandmother about to host nine grandchildren for a week, remember the library.   Even if it’s a place of refuge while you leave the grandkids at home with Grandpa.

I love these weeks when we are all together.   They don’t happen very often.   Which is just as well – with all the “kids” here, I did not find time to write my blog, or even to keep up on the news.   One thing I’ve learned, though, as a grandparent, is to give the grandchildren 100% of my time when they are with us.   Nothing is more important than building good relationships within the family.

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BABY FIRST

Our ten-month-old grandson Hayden is not up to joining in any of the activities his older siblings and cousins are into, but he has taken a decided liking to the “Baby First” channel while he bounces up and down in his bouncer.   The channel is produced with babies in mind – and their parents, who are ready to spend lots of money on that first baby!   They have lots of singing of familiar nursery rhymes, cute little lambs running around on a farm in Wales and endless reruns of “Harry, the Bunny.”   The channel will certainly entertain your baby, but how many grandparents have been driven nuts watching it is what I want to know???

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WARS AND RUMORS OF WARS   (Matthew 24:6)

A more serious matter is the never-ending wars we see each night on television.

Syria and Iraq continue to dominate the news.   It’s difficult to understand the full complexity of the fighting that goes on and on, year after year, in both countries.

The West is appalled that President Assad has dropped chemical weapons on “his own people.”   I should mention that he denies doing anything of the kind and has even asked “where are the dead?” when TV viewers everywhere have witnessed dozens of children convulsing, struggling to breathe and even dying on camera.   Secondly, westerners need to learn that, to Assad, these are not his own people.   His own people are Alawites, who number 11% of Syria’s population.   The chemical weapon attack was on a village in Idlib province, which is overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim, with a significant percentage of Christians.

Assad’s wife is from a Sunni background, but she seems to be in denial of everything that’s going on.

We should remember, too, that what’s going on is the direct result of our meddling in the Middle East.   We don’t need Mideast oil any more and Israel can take care of itself.   Why are we there?

The origins of the disaster that is the current Middle East go back a century to the Great War, otherwise known as World War One.  The war led to the collapse of the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire, the last Caliphate.   It gave independence, freedom (supposedly) to new nations like Syria and Iraq.   Artificially created and not fully taking into account sectarian boundaries, the result has been a disaster.

Interestingly, a hundred years after the fall of the Ottomans, the present Turkish president seems to want to restore the old empire and is projecting Turkish power into neighboring countries.   He is also seeking more power for himself with a referendum on Sunday.

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VIMY RIDGE

A few days ago, on April 8th, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in France for the centenary commemoration of the battle that was Canada’s coming of age, the Battle of Vimy Ridge, in which thousands of Canadians died and many more suffered serious injury. The PM had this to say:

“One hundred years ago, on a gentle slope in France, the four divisions of the Canadian Corps fought for the first time as one. They were ordinary – yet extraordinary – men, from all corners of the country: Francophone, Anglophone, new Canadians, Indigenous Peoples.

“On Easter Monday, April 1917, battling through snow, sleet, and constant machine gun fire, they broke through an impregnable fortress and achieved a historic victory.   They succeeded where other armies had failed – but at a great cost.   Nearly 3,600 Canadians lost their lives.   Over 7,000 more were wounded. The Battle of Vimy Ridge remains one of the bloodiest battles in Canada’s history.

“Despite these losses, Canadian bravery and ingenuity won the day and led to one of the most decisive victories in the First World War. The innovative fighting techniques used so effectively by our soldiers at Vimy Ridge would contribute to the final Allied victory a year and a half later.”

Mr. Trudeau continued:   “Many of the soldiers wearing the Canadian uniform that day were immigrants to this country.   People of many languages and backgrounds, representing every region in Canada, fought for the values we hold so dear:   freedom, democracy, and peace.   In the words of one veteran:   ‘We went up Vimy Ridge as Albertans and Nova Scotians.   We came down as Canadians.’

“Today, as we gather to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, we remember the thousands of Canadians who gave their lives far from Canada’s shores.   We pay tribute to the 100th anniversary of a pivotal battle that has left an indelible mark on our history.   And we thank every Canadian who has answered the call to serve for their selflessness and sacrifice.”

On the surface, these two paragraphs seem well motivated, but they overlook a simple fact.   Amidst all the talk of people from many languages and backgrounds fighting for Canada is the simple fact that Canada has radically changed.   A century ago Canada was very much a Dominion of the British Empire, sharing the ideals of Great Britain and its other dominions, Australia, New Zealand and, at the time, South Africa.   These nations were committed to freedom and all fought together from Day One of what, at the time, was the greatest war in history.

The nations were bound by a common loyalty to the Crown. Indeed, Prince Charles, the future King of Canada, was present at the same ceremony.   So were both of his sons, who have served in the British military.

What has changed is this:   Canada is now much more multicultural. The very word originated in Canada, coined by a royal commission back in 1971.   Today, immigrants are more likely to come from Africa, Asia and the Middle East, than from Europe.

In the event of another conflict like World War One (or Two), would all these people be so willing to die for the values Canada has traditionally held?

The prime minister’s speech ended with the traditional words used at events commemorating wars:   “Lest we forget.”   Sadly, the contribution made by Britain and the British dominions has been forgotten.

This is also the centenary of America’s entry into world affairs.   The country declared war on Germany on April 6th, 1917.   After the war the US withdrew from further international involvement until 1941.

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DEFINITION OF INSANITY

Stefan Lofven is the Prime Minister of Sweden, the country that witnessed its worst-ever terrorist attack a few days ago when a migrant from Uzbekistan in central Asia drove a truck into a big department store.   Sweden has had the most generous open-door policy in Europe during the migrant crisis.   The prime minister has now said that will change.

But nothing has changed, either in Sweden or anywhere else.   It seems that western politicians are incapable of changing immigration policies.

According to the late Albert Einstein (died 1955), this means that our politicians are mostly mad.   Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Western nations endure one terrorist attack after another, yet they continue to allow Muslim immigration!

It’s the same on the American side of the Atlantic.   Mark Twain once said:   “Suppose you are an idiot and suppose you are a Member of Congress; but I repeat myself.”

Neither of these two men was addressing Islamic immigration, but what they said is certainly applicable.

So, what should a Christian do?

I Peter 2:17 instructed Christians to “honor the king.”   Today, most countries have presidents, not kings, but the principle still applies.   The Apostle Peter wrote while under the yoke of Rome, an empire that produced the occasional emperor of unsound mind.   In 64 AD, following the Great Fire, which he himself started, an intense persecution of Christians was started by Nero, who blamed the new sect for the destruction of 70% of the imperial city.   Yet Christians were still told to “honor the king.”

Western leaders are certainly guilty of upholding erroneous ideas.   They can even be said to be of unsound mind.   It’s doubtful either Einstein or Twain would alter their famous statements.

In theory they should be voted out of office.   But even when that happens (as with Brexit and Trump), it’s clear that very little is likely to change.

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MORE WARS AND RUMORS OF WAR

>It’s 50 years since the Six-Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors, a war which ended in a decisive Israeli victory and the fall of Jerusalem to the Israelis.   Russia has now recognized West Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, at the same time recognizing East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent Palestine.    Will the US follow?

>>AFGHANISTAN continues in the news, as the US has dropped its most powerful non-nuclear bomb on an area of the country with a very active ISIS presence.   Three dozen were killed.   Will ISIS be defeated with this more aggressive approach?   If they are, will that be the end of Islamic fundamentalism?   Doubtful.

>>Another war may be brewing in the Far East, as North Korea pursues its nuclear program and threatens the South, Japan and the United States.   Some voices in the US want war with the North.   It should be remembered that, after three years of war from 1950-53, North Korea was not defeated and the US was forced into a stalemate.

>>Libya continues to be engaged in a civil war, which has had a major impact on its economy.   Reports this week are of African migrants being sold in the market-place as slaves, one way for locals to make money.   In an appalling twist, those being sold are giving slave traders their cell phones so that captives can call home to ask for money.   Relatives must listen while their sons and daughters are being tortured.

>>Torture is the best way to describe a recent incident in Detroit, which will undoubtedly become more common with the numbers of Muslims increasing.   A female Muslim Detroit doctor has been charged with performing GFM (Genital Female Mutilation) on two 7-year-old girls, a custom common in some Islamic nations.   No feminists have yet raised their voice to condemn the incident in Detroit.

One person who had this surgery performed on her when she was a child was Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somalian who now lives in the Washington DC area and is constantly warning of the dangers from Islam.   Her latest book is “The Challenge of Diwa.”   Note the following extracted from her book by Giulio Meotti, published by the Gatestone Institute, 4/10:   “According to one estimate, 10−15 percent of the world’s Muslims are Islamists.   Out of well over 1.6 billion, or 23 percent of the globe’s population, that implies more than 160 million individuals.”

>> Headline in today’s MEMRI:   “Women Arrested In Iran For Dressing As Men In Order To Attend Soccer Game; Khamenei Issues Fatwa Against Women Riding Bicycles In Public.”

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GOOD FRIDAY

Today is Good Friday, the day most Christians believe is the day on which Jesus Christ was crucified.   When I was growing up, nothing was open on this day.   We certainly had no school and I remember a discussion with one of my teachers a day or two before in which I asked why  it’s called “Good” Friday.   It was certainly a somber day and we all knew it.

I’ve just returned from the bank and a store.   Both were crowded.

Times have certainly changed.  The only god worshipped in today’s western world is the god of materialism.  Nothing else seems to matter any more.

We would do well to remember Acts 4:12:  “. . . there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”   Having forgotten this, the western world fails to see clearly the threat from Islam, thinking that all religions are equally valid or equally ridiculous, depending on your point of view.