Tag Archives: Portugal

IS DONALD TRUMP A FASCIST?

trump-fascist.sized-770x415xt

I would be amused if it wasn’t so serious.

The venerable (!) New York Times carried a front-page news story on Sunday that had “Trump” and “fascism” in the title.

Fascism is defined as follows:  an authoritarian and nationalistic right-wing system of government and social organization.

Donald Trump has many faults, but he can hardly be called a “fascist.”

Fascist countries in World War II included Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Croatia and Japan, all of which invaded other countries or practiced genocide, or both.   I can’t see that happening under Mr. Trump.

The US constitution has been in effect for over 200 years.  Except for a major hiccup known as the Civil War, it’s worked quite well.   The checks and balances in place have been quite effective.   It will be hard for a President Trump (or a second Clinton) to rule in an authoritarian manner, no matter how authoritarian the candidate might sound now.

The NYT should be careful what it writes (that would require a change in editorial policy in itself!) and not be frightening people.

Other media outlets in the last few days have chosen to use words like “Trump” and “violence” in the same sentence, when covering Trump rallies.   But, please note, the violence is caused by those opposed to Trump.   TV coverage shows most have been immigrants who fear he will send them all back to their country of origin.

Instead of throwing gasoline onto the fire, why can’t our TV news programs and the New York Times, show where the Republican presidential candidate is wrong.   They could actually do this in an intelligent debate.   Admittedly, less people would be inclined to watch, so ratings would suffer, which is what it’s all about.

But Mr. Trump needs to be pinned down on foreign policy, especially. His understanding of international relations could result in the US losing its allies, in which case the President of the United States would no longer be “the Leader of the Free World.”   His proposals on trade could actually make things a lot worse.   A history lesson on the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Act would be a good place to start.

There are some good reasons not to vote for Donald Trump; just as there are good reasons not to vote for Hillary Clinton.   The moniker (no pun intended):   “crooked Hillary” is not without merit.    Check out the book “Clinton Cash” by Peter Schweizer:   “The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich” (2015).

Neither candidate would have made it under a parliamentary system.

If there are good reasons not to vote for either Trump or Hillary, then perhaps it’s time not to vote at all!

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Alex Haley’s novel “Roots” was turned into a highly successful 1977 TV mini-series.   A new version is showing on The History Channel this week.

The original series did not improve race relations.

Supposedly, Haley traced his ancestry back to The Gambia.

Some years later, research by a historian proved that Haley could not have done that.   In fact, his book was not a novel based on fact, but, simply, just a novel.   Of course, when this was revealed it was on page 17 of the New York Times!

So far, we have not been told that the new series is also fiction and that Haley could not trace his genealogy back very far.

Whether it only makes racial tensions worse remains to be seen.

The slavery depicted in “Roots” was horrible.   So is the slavery of today.   According to UNESCO a few years ago, slavery is now back in every single African nation.   When will one of our television companies make a series on that?

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Race relations are set to deteriorate further in South Africa after the country’s parliament passed a Land Reform bill that will enable the president to effectively confiscate white-owned farmland to promote equality.

“South Africa has passed a bill criticized by some opposition parties and farming groups that allows the compulsory purchase of land in the public interest.

The bill, approved by parliament on Thursday, will enable the state to pay for land at a value determined by a government adjudicator and then expropriate it for the “public interest,” ending the willing-buyer/willing-seller approach to land reform.”  (Al-Jazeera, 27th May.)

This may seem progressive in western countries, but it’s actually a big regressive step backwards.

White South African farmers have been highly productive commercial farmers.   That is, they farm on a massive scale.   Black African farmers, by contrast, are subsistence farmers.   They just grow enough for their own families.   It’s a cultural difference.

When President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe confiscated white farmland almost twenty years ago, food production in the country plummeted and the nation’s economy was shattered.   Within a few years, the country was bankrupt and its money worthless.

It will take a while for South Africa to reach that point, but it will come.

The difference between Zimbabwe and South Africa is that the former was helped by South Africa’s agricultural produce during its man-made famine.   South Africa has no such neighbor.   Its people will starve.

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PROBLEMS FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT

Bill and Hillary

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

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

The former president misses the point.

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

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

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

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

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

Other countries were going through the same radical changes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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WHAT IF THE PRESIDENT IS WRONG?

Obama Islam not the enemy

US President Barack Obama says the US is “not at war with Islam – we are at war with the people who have perverted Islam.”   (BBC website, February 18th)

The President continued to explain that socio-economic factors are behind extremist terrorism.   If more could be done to help young people in the Mideast find jobs, it would lessen the terror threat.   However, this conveniently overlooks the fact that major terrorist attacks have been perpetrated by affluent jihadists.   The idea that it’s all due to poverty and unemployment is a throwback to sixties liberalism.   Unfortunately, millions of people still think that way, endangering the rest of us.

This comes at a time when ISIS is wiping out Christians across the Middle East, determined to establish “Christian free zones.”

For an alternative view, let’s do something few politicians ever seem to do – look at history.

Muhammed died in 632 AD.   At the time of his death, the new religion he started was confined to the Arabian Peninsula.   By the end of the seventh century it had conquered the whole of North Africa and a great deal of the Middle East, including Jerusalem, Damascus and Antioch, pushing back the Byzantine and Persian empires.   Of course, it’s always possible that the young soldiers of Allah went far afield simply looking for jobs, but that’s not a conclusion you will find in the history books.

Once they had conquered North Africa, they crossed over into Europe, taking over the Iberian Peninsula and remaining there for a few hundred years, ruling what are now Spain and Portugal.   In 732 they reached the gates of Paris but were halted in their tracks by a military force led by Charles Martel, the grandfather of Charlemagne.   If this decisive victory had not taken place, there would be no problem between the West and Islam today, as we would all be Muslims!

Move forward 350 years.   By the end of the eleventh century, the Turks were a serious threat to the Byzantine Empire.   In 1065, the Turks took control of Jerusalem and massacred 3,000 Christians. Prior to the Turkish invasion, the Saracens controlled the area.   They had allowed Christian pilgrims to visit the Holy Land.   But the Turks made it impossible.   In 1095, Pope Urban II called on the countries of Catholic Europe to launch a Crusade against the Muslim Turks.   A series of crusades followed until 1291, when the Christians gave up on the idea of ruling the region.   It wasn’t until 1917 that a Christian power, Great Britain, would once again dominate the Middle East.

Islam continued its expansionist course, gradually taking more and more territory from what was left of the Eastern Roman Empire.   In 1453, its capital, Constantinople, fell to the Muslim Turks.   They have controlled it since.

Having conquered the Balkans, the Ottoman Turks twice reached the gates of Vienna at the very center of Europe.   Central European nations and the Catholic

Church defeated the Muslims, saving Europe from Islam.

This is not to say there has been peace between the West and Islam ever since.   During the period of global British domination, the British fought Islamic extremists in the Sudan in the 1880’s and 90’s, culminating in the battle of Omdurman in September, 1898.

For much of the twentieth century, Islam was kept at bay.  Until World War II, most Islamic territory was under European colonial rule.   By 1960 this had come to an end.   Iran, modern Persia, was the first country to see its government overthrown by radical Islam, in 1979.   From that date until the present, the West has been under constant threat from Islam, both Shia Islam (Iran) and Sunni Islam (al Qaeda, ISIS and Boko Haram to name just three).

With such a long history of Islamic imperialism, how can the president claim that the religion has been perverted by violent extremists?   Islam has been a constant threat to the West since its birth in the early part of the seventh century.  If anything, the first part of the twentieth century was an aberration, a brief interlude during which Islam was not pushing against the West.

“The rise and expansion of Islam was one of the most significant and far-reaching events in modern history and its impact continues to reverberate in our own times.”  (“The spread of Islam from 632,” Collins Atlas of World History, 2003)

Echoing down the centuries, the following statement remains true today.  “This expansion owed much to the enthusiasm and religious conviction of the conquerors but it was also facilitated by the war-weariness of the empires of Persia and Byzantium.”  (“The Spread of Islam”)   Today’s zealots are equally motivated, while the nations of the West, after more than a decade of wars in Islamic lands, are war-weary and clearly in denial about the serious threat to western civilization.

When you look back at history, the threat is clear.   In fact, it’s a greater threat now than it’s ever been, simply because there are so many millions of Muslims in our midst already.   Which brings us back to our politicians.   President Obama is not the only western leader saying that Islam has been perverted by extremists. Following the attacks in Denmark last weekend, the Danish prime minister said much the same thing.   The British, German and French leaders have expressed similar sentiments.

Because there are so many Muslims living amongst us today, politicians dare not risk upsetting them.   They need their votes.   A significant number of constituencies in the United Kingdom, for example, have very large Muslim populations, which could determine the outcome of the election scheduled in May.

The threat should be clear to anyone.   Western nations are asleep. But sleep does not last forever.   Eventually, it will be time to wake up.

Islam has been pushing against the West for centuries.   In modern times, the push of radical Islam has been going on since the fall of the Shah in 1979, half a lifetime ago.   When will the “King of the North” arise to fight back?

SYRIZA WINS GREEK ELECTION

Alexis Tsipras

In the last few weeks we’ve developed a taste for Kerrygold butter, which comes from Ireland.   Diane did the research – Kerrygold and Anchor (from New Zealand) are the two healthiest butters you can buy.   The milk comes from “happy” cows!

Unfortunately, Kerrygold costs more than regular butter.

In theory, the price should have come down recently as the euro has fallen in value against the US dollar.   It now takes only $1.11 to buy a euro; it was twenty-five cents higher fairly recently.   Ireland uses the euro, so the price of everything they produce should have come down with the lower value of the euro.   But the price of Kerrygold has not fallen – in fact, it’s gone up by 50 cents for half a pound.   (We can’t buy Anchor in Lansing but it, too, should have fallen in price as the US dollar has risen.)   Not only has the euro decreased in value, transportation costs have also fallen with the drop in the price of oil.

My favorite beer also comes from Ireland.   I don’t buy it as often as butter (you will be pleased to know) but I’m hoping that the price has not similarly risen.

Sometimes, there’s no logic when it comes to money and exchange rates.   All money today is built simply on confidence.   The value of the dollar and the British pound usually rise when there is great turmoil in the world – people around the world have more confidence in the two older democracies, which have a longer record of stability.   When the euro was launched in January 1999, its’ value was $1.1743. It reached its highest rate against the dollar in July, 2008, when it took $1.6038 to buy a euro.   This was at a time when confidence in the US currency was low.   It’s now almost a third less against the greenback.

Monday will likely see a further fall in the value of the euro, so perhaps I should expect Kerrygold to go up in price again, when it should, in fact, come down.

The reason that the euro will likely drop further in value is the Greek election held today, Sunday.   The “very left-wing” party, Syriza, has been voted into power.   The party campaigned on a promise to end austerity, imposed on the country for its extreme profligacy.

The party leader, Alexis Tsipras, rather naively hopes that he can cut Greece’s debts by 50% in a new deal with the troika (the European Central Bank, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund).   If that fails, withdrawal from the eurozone is a definite possibility.   Other members may even encourage Greece to leave before they do greater harm to the single currency.   Withdrawal would enable Greece to have its own currency.   They could then print money and print more money and then even more money . . . you get the picture.   This would not, of course, solve their problems but it might give them a temporary high.

Spain is watching developments in Greece closely.   The Spanish economy is a lot bigger than Greece’s.   It has also been going through a long period of austerity for the same reasons as Greece.   The Podemos (“We can”) party is Spain’s equivalent of Syriza.   It, too, could win the next election, due later this year.

Germany is unlikely to approve any deal for Greece that absolves them of debts owed to German taxpayers lest Spain make the same demand.

The eurozone is not really in danger, though Greece and Spain could certainly withdraw from the currency union.   Other profligate countries could follow – Italy and Portugal, for example.   Corruption is a big problem in all four countries.   Mr. Tsipras has promised to do something about it, as have other earlier prime ministers.

Nineteen countries are now members of the eurozone.   Six other European countries also use the currency.   Outside of Europe, remaining overseas territories of European countries also use it. Additionally, 210 million people worldwide use currencies pegged to the euro, including 182 million Africans.   This makes the euro the most used hard (convertible) currency in the world.

Expect further turmoil in world financial markets as well as possible changes in the composition of the EU, though few on the continent of Europe seem to want that, at this point in time.   The EU and the euro have brought many advantages and have a great deal of support.   Even Mr. Tsipras is calling first for changes that will simply end the long period of austerity that has devastated his country.

 

UKRAINE’S PROBLEMS FAR FROM OVER

Ukraine europ-map-eu

At the weekend, ABC news revealed that the US president was “working around the clock to resolve the crisis in Ukraine.”

I doubt this was true.

Pat Buchanan was likely more correct when he said on PBS’s McLaughlin Group that the US was “absent” and “irrelevant” in the Ukraine’s crisis.

Pivotal players in the Ukrainian situation were neighbors, Russia and the European Union.  As more than half the population of the eastern half of Ukraine speak Russian, there is a lot of support for Russia but the western half of the country, until a century ago a part of the Austrian Empire, looks west and wants to join the EU.

It’s not just language and history that divide the two halves.  Religion is another factor, with the Russian half Eastern Orthodox and the western half Roman Catholic.

The pro-Russia / pro-EU division is not the only problem that divides.

There is a great deal of anger amongst the demonstrators about the level of corruption in Ukraine.  As with demonstrators in many countries, economic deprivation is a major driving force.

What the EU represents for many is the hope of change, an opportunity to make a complete break with the Russian-Soviet past.  The EU provides an opportunity to secure democracy and prosperity.

Or does it?

A report just over a week ago showed that the EU itself has become very corrupt.   Perhaps not as bad as Ukraine but in some EU countries there’s a very high level of corruption.  The Mediterranean countries got a special mention, Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain, sometimes referred to collectively as the PIGS.

If and when Ukraine gets to become a full member of the EU, the country will not be another Germany.  It will rather be one of the PIGS, heavily indebted to Germany and dependent on handouts from the wealthier members of the European club.  Austerity is likely to be in force for some time.

If Russia Today, a 24/7 news channel free over the Internet, is accurate, Ukraine could also be a negative influence on the EU.  RT claims that many of the rebel leaders are members of extreme right-wing movements.  A number of European countries are seeing a rise in extreme right-wing parties.  A victory for rightists in Ukraine would encourage the same elsewhere.  It should be noted that, in World War II, many western Ukrainians were pro-Nazi.

Additionally, there is a very real threat of separatism along ethnic and linguistic lines.  If the Russian-speaking, Orthodox, Eastern Ukraine breaks away from the Catholic, Ukrainian-speaking western half, it could encourage other separatist movements in Europe.

It’s a mistake to assume that the fall of Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Yanukovych solves everything.  It is rather the beginning of a very uncertain future.

There is a possibility that Russia will move in militarily to protect its own citizens.  They may also claim the Russian-speaking eastern half of the country.  A Russian military intervention would be quick and would likely boost Putin’s stature at home, already considerably boosted by the completion of a successful Winter Olympics in Sochi.  It would be similar to the Russian war against Georgia in 2008.

If Russia does not intervene and Ukraine is free to join the EU, 15 billion euros in aid should arrive soon.  That’s $20 billion dollars – but Ukraine will be like Greece, beholden to Germany, subject to a long period of austerity that could build resentment and boost the extreme right even further.

It may be months or even years before we see the full consequences of the latest developments in Ukraine.  It will be a while before we see clearly who the victors are from the upheaval that has just taken place.