Tag Archives: Russian Revolution

A CALL FROM SINGAPORE

Nestled in the heart of Southeast Asia and just at the tip of the Malaysian peninsula, the island country of Singapore is a melting pot of Chinese, Malay, Indian and Western cultures. The Lion City is one of the world’s most dynamic, vibrant and prosperous nations.

A friend from Singapore called me at the weekend.   Amongst other things we discussed President Trump’s visit to the region, which is now taking place.   He told me that Singaporeans (mostly ethnic Chinese) believe that America is on the way down and China is on the way up.   In other words, the most powerful nation in Asia and the Pacific is now NOT the US, but China.   Every nation in the region is having to come to terms with Chinese domination.

My friend, who is over 80, remembered the events of 1942 that led Singaporeans to realize the British Empire was on its way down.   One of the greatest military defeats in British history was the fall of Singapore on the 15th of February in 1942.   The story is told of Lee Kwan Yew, the first prime minister of Singapore.   While he was a student, the British blew up the causeway that linked the city to the mainland, to delay Japanese forces.   The sound of the explosion could be heard across the island.   When Mr. Lee’s British headmaster came out of the school building and asked him what the noise was, Mr. Lee responded: “It is the sound of the British Empire falling.”

Effectively, it was.   The fall of the British built and developed city started a series of events that led to American domination of Asia and the Pacific.   Now, China’s economic success means Beijing has greater clout in the area than Washington — many nations are looking to Beijing rather than Washington, to secure their future.

I posted an article to my blog in February to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the first time anybody realized that the US had overtaken the United Kingdom as the world’s pre-eminent nation.   It’s all recounted in the book “Picking up the Reins,” by Norman Moss.   It wasn’t until the following year that the term “Leader of the Free World” was applied to the US.   Seventy years later, we find people openly talking about China overtaking the United States. Chinese resentment at US domination is illustrated by an item on today’s BBC World News website.   Apparently, the Chinese use the term “Boss of the World” to describe America.

China isn’t the only power center trying to take over from America. The European Union is also determined to provide an alternative to American hegemony, with Germany’s Angela Merkel now often labeled “the Leader of the Free World.”   Bible students will not be surprised at these developments.

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IRAN – SAUDI STRUGGLE

Keep an eye on the growing Sunni-Shia struggle in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia leads the former and Iran the latter.   The two countries are fighting a proxy war in Yemen.   The latest development was a missile attack on the Saudi capital, fired by Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran.

Iran also supports Hizbollah in Lebanon, whose prime minister resigned on Friday out of fear that he, like his father, will be assassinated.

From Monday’s Jerusalem Post:  “Saudi Arabia said on Monday that Lebanon had declared war against it because of attacks against the Kingdom by the Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah.”

Syria is also caught up in the Sunni-Shia conflict.   Iran supports the Syrian president, Bashir Assad.

The West is solely focused on ISIS, a Sunni Islam group which is fighting Iranian backed forces in Iraq and Syria.   ISIS is re-grouping in a number of countries, claiming to represent and defend Sunnis from the Shi’ite heretics.

It’s all very complicated.   Not at all as simple as TV news depicts.

A new area of conflict is in the Sahara, where the US lost four military personnel last month.   Most attention was focused on President Trump’s call to the young wife of one of the men who died. Little attention has been given to the wider problem of a growing conflict right across the Sahel.

The West seems to think ISIS has been defeated; the reality is that the organization has dispersed and formed new radical terrorist groups in a number of different countries.  ISIS fighters have also been returning home to western nations – we should expect more terrorist attacks following the “defeat” of ISIS.

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WALL STREET’S BREXIT WARNING

Big banks are worried about Brexit.   A group of large financial institutions with big London operations, including JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and HSBC, has told US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross that Britain’s unstable government and slow progress in Brexit planning may force them to start moving thousands of jobs out of  the City in the near future.   The lack of clarity over a transition deal is making them nervous.

Their concerns are unlikely to be assuaged by the latest chaos in Theresa May’s cabinet.   Mrs. May is under pressure to strip two more cabinet ministers of their jobs following separate fiascos involving Priti Patel and Boris Johnson.   And the EU has warned that the UK has less than a month to make concessions on a divorce settlement.   The FT’s editorial outlines how the British government’s flailing at home is translating into weakness abroad: “Allies are increasingly wondering whether Mrs. May’s government has the focus or ability to play Britain’s traditional global position — let alone the enhanced role pledged by Brexit.”   (Financial Times, 11/8)

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TEXAS CHURCH ATTACK

26 people were shot dead in church Sunday, following a man’s argument with his mother-in-law.   Twenty others were injured, some very seriously.

This was the 307th incident of mass murder in the US this year. Today is the 310th days of the year, so, in effect, the US is experiencing an average of one mass attack per day.   A mass murder incident is defined as the murder of four or more people.

No other nation in the world sees so much violence.   Yemen, in a civil war between Shia and Sunni Muslims (see segment above), has the second highest incident rate.   Statistically, you would be safer living in Yemen, than in the United States.

I’ve always believed that people have a right to defend themselves, a right that goes back at least to the time of Henry II in the 12th century and perhaps goes back to the ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom prior to the Norman ascendancy.  The second amendment of the US constitution guarantees that right.   After an attack in London a few weeks ago, I pointed out that if one member of the public, just one, had been carrying a weapon, the terror attack might have been thwarted.

President Trump raised the issue of mental health in the context of mass shootings at a press conference in Tokyo.   Mental health is certainly a major issue.   But easy access to guns, especially by the mentally ill, is also a factor and needs to be addressed.   It’s time for that presidential commission of inquiry into mass gun violence.   Let the public have their say.   They are the ones that are dying, even in church.

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100-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF RUSSIAN REVOLUTION

November 7th is the anniversary of the Russian Revolution that brought the communists to power.   Not surprisingly, Russians are not enthused about the anniversary.   They rejected communism over 25 years ago.

There is still talk of a restoration of the monarchy, though most people do not seem to be in favor and do not expect it to happen.

There are lessons here from both France and Spain, two countries that were once dominated by their respective leaders, Charles de Gaulle and General Franco.   Both were strong men, who were vain enough to think that nobody could possibly replace them after their deaths.   Both men thought that the best way to preserve their nations in the future was through the restoration of their national monarchies.

De Gaulle was a close friend of the Comte de Paris, the descendant of the Orleanist monarch, Louis Phillipe, who ruled France from 1830-1848.   The Comte was aware of de Gaulle’s desire to restore the monarchy.

In 1968, France was rocked by student riots and violence across the country.   DeGaulle presented constitutional reforms (not including a restoration) that were rejected, leading to his resignation as President of France in April, 1969.   He died one year later.   De Gaulle, the inspiration behind the Fifth Republic in 1958, need not have worried  — the Fifth Republic remains to this day.

General Franco of Spain, a fascist dictator, had more time to think about the Spanish succession, proclaiming that his heir and successor was to be Juan Carlos, of the Bourbon line of monarchs. As soon as Franco died in 1975, Juan Carlos was proclaimed king.   Rather than continuing Franco’s conservative ideology, the new King dedicated himself to protecting Spanish democracy, thereby at the same time preserving the monarchy.   He even had the respect and support of Spanish communists.

Vladimir Putin may be thinking along the same lines.   He’s been a very strong leader, with a 90% approval rating at times.   He must be fearful of Russia’s future after he leaves the scene.

The restoration of the Romanov dynasty along Spanish lines, may be just what he’s thinking.   He’s already reviving Russian culture, and has helped the church take center stage.

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SYRIA SIGNS UP TO PARIS ACCORD

The US is now the only country in the world that has not signed up to the Paris climate treaty.   Syria was the only other holdout, but has now signed.

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PARADISE PAPERS SCANDAL

The Anglo-Saxon world loves its scandals, especially when its leaders are exposed.   In this regard, the Paradise Papers did not disappoint.

While TV audiences are focused on who has what and why, it should be emphasized that absolutely no one “exposed” broke the law.  They simply took advantage of legal tax loopholes, just as most people do, only theirs is on a much bigger scale than the average citizen.

The only law-breaking going on here was by the German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung, which somehow gained access to private financial information.   The paper’s partners in this enterprise included the British Guardian newspaper and the New York Times.  No surprises there.

Another concern is this:   the revelations are the latest “scandal” to undermine our institutions.   As if the Harvey Weinstein and other sexual revelations are not enough, we now have nightly reports that Queen Elizabeth II (and others) have been protecting their assets by moving them beyond the control of national governments.

Times have certainly changed.   Fifty years ago, royal tour-guides would proudly announce that the British monarch was the richest woman in the world.   Now, she’s not even in the top 500 wealthiest people in Britain (J.K. Rowling heads the female list), and people are getting riled about it.

The amount involved was only 10 million pounds ($13 million).

Exactly 100 years after the class warfare of the Russian Revolution, people have learned nothing.   All socialism brought was “equal shares of misery for all” (Margaret Thatcher’s definition).   Do we really want to embrace it again, naively thinking it will improve all our lives?

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DOGS AND CATS AND SUPER-POWERS

Dog food, cleverly disguised as human food!

Today, I ate a can of dog food.

Not by informed choice, you understand.

As the house is now dog free, I did not expect to find a can of dog meat and certainly was not looking for one.   I was not wearing my glasses when I pulled it off the shelf at Kroger.   It looked like a promising can of soup, with the word “Organic” prominently displayed on the label.   The words “dog food” were in small print and not noticed until my daughter pulled it out of the trash.

It’s my own fault, really.

Our local Kroger grocery store has a “Reduced for quick sale” section, which I often check out for bargains.   That’s where I bought this half-price can.

Now, I may be barking up the wrong tree (sorry!), but I do feel that stores have a responsibility to separate human food from pet food, if only to discourage people from switching to the healthier, cheaper canine options.

This could lead to a serious shortage of dog food, forcing dog owners to feed their pets human food.   While this would be a boon to vets and would encourage entrepreneurs to open doggie weight loss centers on every block, it’s probably best not to blur the thin line that separates animals from humans.

I will continue to write, even though that dog food has made me a little queasy.   My youngest made the observation that my body is in shock from eating healthy food!!!

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Enough of dogs.  Cats have been a big part of my life recently.

After living in an animal free home for almost a year, our youngest daughter brought a cat into the house, thinking that our grandchildren would benefit from the new arrival.   A few weeks later, a second cat suddenly appeared.

The two do not get along.  Cat fights have been a nightly occurrence. So, in a couple of days, we will be taking the “new” cat to our eldest daughter’s home. This will cost over $100 in gas. I suggested it might be cheaper to send the cat by UPS or FedEx, but was over-ruled.

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To more serious matters, the Chinese Communist Party just held its “once-every-five-years” big congress.   Foreign observers would notice that, whenever the delegates had to vote, the vote was always unanimous, with nobody voting against Mr. Xi, the President of the People’s Republic.

I’m surprised that any foreign delegates were there.   Mr. Xi’s speech was 3 and a half hours long, “short” by Chinese standards.   Come to think of it, I would have voted “for” just to get the speech over with.

As few westerners were likely to have listened, it should be noted that President Xi wants to offer the world an alternative to American leadership.   The first Chairman of the Chinese Communist Party was Chairman Mao.   He is credited with unifying the country. His successor, Chairman Deng, turned the country’s back on socialism and made it the second biggest economy in the world, after the United States.  Now, President Xi vows to build on his predecessor’s accomplishments and make the country “stronger.”   History shows he’s likely to succeed – economic success leads to military success.

China isn’t the only power center that wants to offer the world an alternative to the US.   The EU is promising the same.   The EU is the world’s biggest single market. It is effectively the world’s biggest economy, but with 27 member countries it’s not ranked at the top, with each country listed separately.   That will change if Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk have their way. Immediately after Brexit takes place, they want to move full steam ahead with their plans to turn Europe into the world’s number one superpower.

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Russia was in the news today.

Exactly a century after the Russian Revolution overthrew the country’s monarchy, the last Czar, Nicholas II, was in the news again.

A new movie on “Niki’s” relationship with a popular ballerina of the Bolshoi Ballet, is proving so controversial the lead actor decided not to attend the premiere of “Matilda” in St. Petersburg.   Cinemas have been attacked and at least one was burned to the ground.

The contention is due to the fact that the Russian Orthodox Church canonized Nicholas and his wife Alexandra after the end of the communist dictatorship.   Russian nationalists consider the movie “blasphemous.”

Clearly, only 26 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, the church and the monarchy both have a substantial following in post-communist Russia.

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Perhaps one reason for a revival of both Russian and Chinese nationalism is American democracy.   US divisions make democracy look really bad. Mass shootings like the recent one in Las Vegas don’t help, either.   Street interviews with the Chinese public during the Communist Party Congress showed that most people do not want to be like the West.   They feel that the US and other western democracies have too much freedom.

We seem to be living through a time that’s reminiscent of ancient Israel.   “There was no king in Israel in those days.   Every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).