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President Donald Trump’s supporters are in a quandary these days.

Some — myself included — are bemused by the sudden neo-con foreign forays, wishing he had pursued ‘America First’ policies and left the overseas conflicts alone for the time being.

That said, many Americans approve of Trump’s performance so far, as the Rasmussen Presidential Tracking Poll for Wednesday, April 19, 2017, indicates:

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Wednesday shows that 48% of Likely U.S. Voters approve of President Trump’s job performance. Fifty-two percent (52%) disapprove.

Other polling companies and polling aggregator sites consider Rasmussen to be too ‘right wing’. To them, Rasmussen has this message:

The same pollsters who called the presidential election wrong last November show the president with a worse job approval rating than we do. We called it right in November, so you decide who’s got it right now.

Reassuring those of us who thought he had gone soft on the domestic front, Trump tweeted:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions followed up on Tuesday, April 18, with his announcement regarding America’s gangs, especially MS-13:

Sessions said, in part (emphases mine below):

In February, President Trump issued an executive order to us to interdict and dismantle transnational criminal organizations, and today we’ll be proposing concrete ideas to follow through on President Trump’s directive. 
 
So let me state this clearly. Under President Trump, the Justice Department has zero tolerance for gang violence. Transnational criminal organizations like MS-13 represent one of the gravest threats to American safety.  These organizations enrich themselves by pedaling poison in our communities, trafficking children for sexual exploitation and inflicting horrific violence in the communities where they operate.

MS-13 has become a symbol of this plague that has spread across our country and into our communities.  There are over 30,000 members abroad with their headquarters in the El Salvadoran prison system.  According to the National Gang Intelligence Center, MS-13 now has more than 10,000 members in at least 40 states in this countryup significantly from just a few years ago.  

Because of an open border and years of lax immigration enforcement, MS-13 has been sending both recruiters and members to regenerate gangs that previously had been decimated, and smuggling members across the border as unaccompanied minors.  They are not content to simply ruin the lives of adults – MS-13 recruits in our high schools, our middle schools and even our elementary schools.

Just a few days ago, law enforcement believes that members of MS-13 murdered four young men and dumped their bodies in a park on Long Island.  Last month, it was two teenage girls in Los Angeles who were killed with machetes and baseball bats.  A few weeks ago, the FBI added an MS-13 member to their Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List for a suspected brutal murder with a baseball bat and screwdriver – all purportedly to earn his MS-13 tattoo.  Violence is an initiation rite. They’ve killed mothers alongside their children and vice versa.  They have gang raped and trafficked girls as young as 12 years old.  

We cannot allow this to continue.  We will secure our border, expand immigration enforcement and choke-off supply lines.  If you are a gang member: We will find you.  We will devastate your networks. We will starve your revenue sources, deplete your ranks and seize your profits.  We will not concede a single block or street corner to your vicious tactics.

The Daily Mail has another MS-13 report dated March 2, wherein Houston gang members kidnapped two teenage girls and held them hostage for two weeks. The gang members shot and killed one of them. The other they plied with drugs and drink and took turns sexually assaulting her. They also forcibly tattooed her. The Mail has pictures of the young defendants, who are smiling and waving to the camera. The report states that they are illegal aliens from El Salvador with a deep interest in satanism.

Sessions spoke to Tucker Carlson on Fox News later that day:

Sessions explained that until 2009 — first year of the Obama administration — law enforcement authorities had made significant progress in stemming the growth of gangs such as MS-13. Since then, gang numbers have increased. He blamed this, as he said in his statement above, on lax border policies and sanctuary cities. He also cited the Obama administration’s lax attitude to what are known as the Unaccompanied Alien Child (UAC).

A graph from the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) shows that the number of UACs more than doubled between 2008 and 2009 alone, from under 10,000 to approximately 20,000. By 2014, that number had risen to 70,000. The administration took action to reduce the number to 40,000 in 2015, but, in 2016, the number soared once more to over 70,000.

The CIS report — from May 2016 — says:

The initial response of the Obama administration to the surge in 2014 was to present these minors as victims of human trafficking, covered by the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) of 2008, signed by President Bush and reauthorized during the Obama administration in 2013. TVPRA requires the screening of unaccompanied children as potential victims of human trafficking. The attempt, however, was quickly dropped and the case for smuggling upheld instead. It is true that the vast majority of UACs who are illegally entering the United States are smuggled and not trafficked. (Cases such as those forced to work on egg farms in and around Marion, Ohio, remain the exception.3) …

In July 2014, President Obama expressed his desire to set up a refugee/parole program in Central America.8 What the president suggested was screening children in their home countries to determine whether or not they qualify as refugee applicants, then flying those who do directly to the United States. These in-country screening programs are not common and were used as exceptional humanitarian recourses by the United States following, for instance, the Vietnam War and the 1990 Haiti earthquake …

As for humanitarian parole, parents in the United States need to prove they are able to financially support their child. The parolees are granted work authorization for two years (renewable).

The reason for this initiative’s lack of success is rather simple, as we are reminded by MPI [Migration Policy Institute]: “The United States is home to an estimated 1.3 million Salvadoran, 902,000 Guatemalan, and 534,000 Honduran immigrants. A majority of these immigrants are unauthorized and unlawfully present and therefore could not meet the program’s lawful presence requirements for parents.” MPI also notes that under existing U.S. laws those parents legally present in the United States can (and probably already did) sponsor their children for immigrant visas instead of going through burdensome processes.

In 2016, the Obama administration decided to expand that refugee/parole programme:

Despite the fact that this new addition to the existing (and somewhat unpopular) CAM Refugee/Parole Program was mainly designed in response to the increasing number of unaccompanied children crossing into the United States illegally, this new setting could benefit every person — adults included (“vulnerable families and individuals”) — from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras who seeks asylum. The government’s primary concern, however, is still focused on providing children from Central America with a safe alternative to crossing the border on their own.

However:

Whether Central American children meet the definition of refugees, however, raises serious doubts.

When asked to give his opinion as to why children from Central America were coming to the United States, Thomas Homan, executive associate director of Enforcement and Removal Operations within U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), replied, “Based on my experience, I think there are some that are skipping fear, but I think there are many more that are taking advantage of the system.”20

The Conservative Treehouse has pulled graphics showing where these UACs ended up (first graphic) and the top cities are for ICE arrests. Notice the pattern between the two.

What happens when UACs arrive in the United States? Whilst not wishing to say that all of the 227,149 who have entered between 2009 and 2015 — according to a Fox News report which cited US Border patrol numbers — are criminals or turn into criminals, their vulnerable status presents ripe fruit for the picking by gangs such as MS-13.

That Fox News article, from September 15, 2016, states:

They remain in federal custody until a sponsor can be located, at which time they are often sent to communities where they are ripe for recruitment by Latin gangs such as the infamous MS-13.

“Our safety standards have increased,” Andrea Helling, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, told FoxNews.com. “In the last few months screening procedures of children and sponsors has increased in their intensity which we hadn’t done previously.”

Even so:

Some observers say that, at the least, the process sends a steady stream of loosely supervised youths lacking in language and coping skills right into the waiting arms of criminal gangs. At worst, the unaccompanied minors were already initiated into the gangs before they arrived at the border.

Indeed. The CIS paper states that this is true in many cases:

a report published last year by the Migration Policy Institute on “In-Country Refugee Processing in Central America” concluded that, despite the fact that many of these Central American children are “threatened by gang violence and have clear protection needs, being forced to join a gang or experiencing violence do not generally qualify as a basis for refugee status or fall readily into one of the refugee definition categories.”24

And MS-13 is rapidly expanding across the United States.

Fox News describes the Los Angeles gang’s growth in New York state and, surprisingly, not in the New York City boroughs:

MS-13 is believed to be among the largest street gangs on New York’s Long Island, and more than 250 members have been convicted on federal felony charges since 2003. Federal prosecutors there have pinned more than 20 murders on the violent gang.

The number of UACs in New York had grown rapidly by 2016:

Long Island has received 2,093 unaccompanied children, and between October 2013 and July 2016, all of New York received 12,478 children from Central America. The overwhelming majority of the kids are not criminals and likely have competent sponsors. But some are.

Just one or two miscreants can cause a lot of crime. Imagine adding to already existing criminal numbers in a particular town or county:

In June 2015, MS-13 members and El Salvadoran immigrants Jose Cornejo, 17, Bryan Larios, 18 and Joel Escobar, 17, all of Brentwood, N.Y. were charged with the brutal rape of a 16 year-old girl on a local golf course.

Earlier this week, Joshua Guzman, 15, was shot and killed in the Long Island city of Hempstead. While not an unaccompanied immigrant, the boy’s father, Raul Guzman, told Newsday his son was under pressure to join a gang. Police believe his murder may be related.

Other American states are similarly affected by an influx of UACs and gang activity:

MS-13 has a foothold in numerous other communities, where unaccompanied minors are being sent. Texas, which has seen a spike in MS-13 crime has received 15,999 over the same period. The 2015 Texas Department of Public Safety Gang Threat Assessment found MS-13 boasts some 800 members, and authorities explicitly blamed the flood of unaccompanied children being placed in the state.

“The influx of illegal alien gang members crossing the border into Texas in 2014, along with reports of extremely violent murders committed by its members in the Houston area, positions the gang as one of the most significant gang threats in the state for this upcoming year,” the report stated.

Other areas that have seen an influx in MS-13 crime are Maryland, Texas, and Virginia. Fairfax County, Va. has seen a 160 percent increase in MS-13 related incidents through April compared to the previous year.

From this, it would appear that some of these sponsors are gang members themselves. Also, it would be relatively easy to see where a UAC coming from a gang in Central America could lie and say he was victimised and would have to escape to the US. It would be a ruse to move up in the gang world, one which already would have been arranged by his home base in Central America and the recipient ‘sponsor’ in the United States.

Being in the US would offer greater prestige and richer pickings than staying south of the border. Consider it a promotion, if you will.

It is not beyond belief that we could find a gang network, particularly MS-13, funneling these boys to the US with sponsorship arrangements having been made in advance.

It will be interesting to see what transpires this year through Attorney General Sessions’s efforts.

Tomorrow: the unlikely, yet true, story of MS-13

The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) is an American association with 14,000 members.

For 20 years, the NAM has polled its members on economic confidence and published the results in the NAM National Outlook Survey.

The latest one concerns the first quarter of 2017. These manufacturers express strong optimism for President Donald Trump. In fact, more importantly, this is the most optimistic they’ve ever been in 20 years!

The presidents over that time period have been Clinton, Bush II and Obama. What does that tell us about President Trump? Plenty.

The overview is on page 2 of the PDF. A few highlights follow:

  • Percentage of Respondents Positive in Their Own Company’s outlook: 93.3% (77.8% in December 2016)
  • NAM Manufacturing Outlook Index: 63.7 (53.3, December 2016)
  • Expected Growth Rate for Full Time Employment Over the Next 12 Months: 2.3% (1.0%, December 2016)
  • Expected Growth Rate for Inventories Over the Next 12 Months: 0.8% (-0.1%, December 2016)

Then, there’s this:

“Do you think the United States is headed in the right direction, or is our country on the wrong track?”

RIGHT TRACK: 59.9%  WRONG TRACK: 9.4%  UNSURE: 30.8%

(December: Right Track: 25.7%, Wrong Track: 27.0%, Unsure: 47.3%)

What a change in those numbers, particularly the last set, in such a short space of time. Incredible.

This survey is worth more than a mountain of polls. These are statistics from 14,000 manufacturers nationwide, taken by their own association — not a thousand or so people surveyed by an agenda-driven polling company.

President Trump met with members of the NAM and its president and CEO Jay Timmons at the White House on Friday, March 31, 2017 (H/T: The Conservative Treehouse).

Those who do not have time to watch the 12-minute video will find the transcript very interesting with regard to the variety of industries and businesses represented.

Excerpts follow, emphases mine.

THE PRESIDENT:  Great job, Jay.

My administration is working every day to make it easier for manufacturers to build, hire, and grow in America.  We’re removing job-killing regulations and lifting the burdens on American industry like I would say have never been lifted before. We’ve done a lot of work over the last 60, 70 days, and I think you’re seeing some real production

Earlier this week, I signed an executive order to end the war on coal.  We had coal miners up at the office.  It was an amazing scene.  You had very tough, very strong, very powerful men that were crying actually; and they were crying with happiness.  And produce more American energy and more American jobs, which is how I got elected in the first place …

One of the reasons we’re here today is to announce the extraordinary results of a new survey from the National Association of Manufacturers.  Your survey shows that 93 percent of manufacturers now have a positive outlook on the future of their business in this country — 93 [percent].  And it was just a few months ago, 56 [percent].  That’s a slight difference.  (Laughter.)  That’s a slight difference.  (Applause.)

That’s a 20-year, record high — highest it’s been in 20 years, and it’s going higher.  Believe me, you could come back next month, Jay.  (Laughter.)  I don’t know how much higher it can go.  And so I’m very proud of that, and we’re all very proud of that.  And the manufacturers are really starting to invest big money, and a lot of things are happening.  It’s a new surge in optimism, which is sweeping all across our land.

These survey results are a further vote of confidence in our plan to bring back jobs, lower taxes, and provide a level playing field for our workers.  The manufacturing companies represent — and represented here today — are just an extraordinary group of people. They’re leaders.  They’re brilliant in so many ways.  The field has not been a level field.  Jobs have been leaving our country, going to China and Mexico and lots of other places.

And you’ll be seeing what’s happening over the next few weeks.  It should be very interesting for you to watch.  As you know the President of China is coming to Florida.  We’re having a meeting — big meeting — at Mar-a-Lago.  We call it the Southern White House, which it actually is.  It was originally built as the Southern White House, a lot of people don’t know

MR. TIMMONS:  … I want to reemphasize for the media here that this quarterly survey of our 14,000 members has been going on for 20 years.  And to the point you made, this was the highest level of optimism that our manufacturers have expressed in 20 years.

MR. TIMMONS:  And the other statistic that I think you’ll find interesting is the right-track/wrong-track question that our manufacturers answered.  Just the month before Inauguration Day, the right-track number was only 26 percent.  Today it is over 60 percent.  So that’s a huge growth, as well.  And that’s because of the focus on taxes, regulations, infrastructure investment.  We appreciate your commitment to investment in job creation and manufacturing.  And we’re going to deliver.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, Jay.  That’s really nice.  

MR. TIMMONS:  Thank you.  

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Patricia, would you like to say something?  Pretty outstanding what you’ve done.

MS. MILLER:  Thank you.  I appreciate being here today.  I own a plastics manufacturing company in the northwest suburbs of Chicago.  We’re a three-year entrepreneurial in growth phase with a 40-year legacy.  It’s great to be part of manufacturing in the U.S. 

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s a really great job.  You’ve done a great job.  Really great.

MR. EDDY:  Good morning, Mr. President.  My name is Joe Eddy.  I’m the president and CEO of a company in northern West Virginia called Eagle Manufacturing.  We’re 125 years old this year; a family-owned business.  We manufacture products out of steel and plastic.  We make over a thousand industrial safety and hazardous materials handling products.  And I bring from West Virginia a major thank you for the work you’ve done for coal …

MR. GREENBLATT:  My name is Drew Greenblatt.  I’m the owner of Marlin Steel.  We’re a steel factory, make wire baskets for the automotive industry and the pharmaceutical industry.  We make everything in Baltimore City, Maryland.  We import nothing.  We use steel from Illinois, we use steel from Indiana.  We’re thrilled with the policies that you are pursuing.  We feel great optimism, and we’re thankful for those approaches you’re taking. Obviously — we’re 45 miles from where you’re sitting right now  — we’d love for you to come visit us …

MR. RIORDAN:  Mr. President, good morning.  My name is Tom Riordan.  I’m the CEO of Neenah Enterprises.  We’re a casting and forging operation in Wisconsin — 145 years old.  First products were plowshares back in the Civil War.  Today most of our products are related to infrastructure in terms of street casting, sewer covers, and so on.  The other half of our business is really tied to on/offload vehicles with folks like Caterpillar and John Deere.  We’re very much dependent upon your policies moving forward …

MR. MAGYARI:  Nice to meet you.  My name is Doug Magyari.  I’m the CEO of IMMI, Inc.  We’re a Troy, Michigan company, suburb of Detroit.  And we’re very much a leading-edge research and development company on advanced technologies, and in particular, we’ve built the most advanced augmented reality and virtual reality glasses in the world.  And it’s an extremely important technology that’s going to affect not only everybody at this table, but really every facet of our lives.  And there’s military applications and all sorts of medical applications, as well as entertainment

MS. BUCHWALD-WRIGHT:  Hello.  It’s nice to see you again.  I’m Karen Buchwald-Wright.  And I’m the president and CEO of a family business that manufactures natural gas compressors.  We’re from Mt. Vernon, Ohio.  And gas compressors are used in both the oil and gas industry, so I’m especially thankful that you have gotten the Keystone

THE PRESIDENT:  Very busy.

MS. BUCHWALD-WRIGHT:  Yes, we are going to be.  

THE PRESIDENT:  You have to be.  Big difference.  That industry has changed over the last couple of months — actually, over the last couple of weeks, that industry has changed …

MR. BARR:  Good morning, Mr. President.  I’m Matt Barr with Carolina Color.  We manufacture colors for the plastics industry. We’re a family-owned business — we also celebrated our 50th anniversary this year, 120 employees.  We’re in Delaware, Ohio, and we’re headquartered in Salisbury, North Carolina …

MS. JOHNSON.  Good morning, Mr. President.  I’m Kellie Johnson, president of ACE Clearwater Enterprises.  It’s a 16-year-old family business — third generation.  We’re a supplier to the aerospace and power generation industries.  We build products out of metal.  If it flies or is launched, our parts are on it.  We employ 200 of the best men and women in our industry. And on behalf of all of them, thank you for what you’re doing.  

And we would love to have you come and visit next time you’re in southern California.  In fact, I’ll never forget my husband and I approaching you in the lobby of your golf course in Palos Verdes when the flag controversy was going on.  And we respected your position and we are so proud that that flag is flying today.  Thank you.  It worked out well.

THE PRESIDENT:  It worked out.  That was a very good decision …

Anyone moaning about Trump really needs to stop going to Big Media as the main source for news. Turn off the television, put down the newspaper and get online.

Trump’s is the most transparent administration in modern history. All of Trump’s presidential activities are on the White House site, along with videos. All of Sean Spicer’s press briefings are there, too.

Trump is my kind of president!

This post explains the urgency of considering various facts — rather than emotion — in the run-up to the EU Referendum being held on Thursday, June 23, 2016.

Below are links to my more recent posts on the referendum, specifically Brexit. (To see all of them, just click on the ‘Brexit’ link in the previous sentence.)

The most important ones are highlighted in bold.

Brexit debate results in audience wanting to leave (2016)

Brexit: about the white and red referendum communication (2016)

Brexit: The Movie — 71 minutes well spent (2016)

The Church of England’s prayer for the EU Referendum (2016, includes bookies’ view)

Tony Benn’s warning about the European project in 1975

EU Referendum: Catholic bishop criticises government’s Project Fear

And after Brexit — Frexit, Swexit?

Former advisor to David Cameron in favour of Brexit

EU Referendum forecast: hot and hotter

How the EU has asset-stripped Britain

EU Referendum latest

If you can only spend an hour or so, please watch Brexit: The Movie at the aforementioned link. That film has brought many an ardent Remainer to the Leave side.

For those who have only a few minutes, SpouseMouse suggests The Referendum Game, which is a four-minute song. Never mind the music, just read the lyrics which perfectly — and wittily — encapsulate Leave’s position.

It is an independent video, by the way, and not affiliated with the Leave campaign:

On June 16, The Telegraph reported that Leave has gained momentum because the British voters are sick and tired of ‘experts’ and the media telling them what to do, much of which goes beyond common sense:

Over two thirds of Leave supporters – compared to just a quarter of Remainers – say it is wrong to rely too much on “experts”.

A YouGov survey that they cite — details in full — shows that Leavers do not trust them. The Telegraph article has a helpful, easy to read graph of the survey’s findings.

Leavers find well-known business owners the most credible: 27% trustworthy v 55% untrustworthy.

That’s pretty bad.

It gets worse.

Senior religious figures came fourth from bottom; 68% of Leavers do not trust them. Only 10% find them trustworthy.

Count me in with the 68%. (I was not polled, by the way.)

Below senior religious figures, in descending order, were newspaper journalists, politicians from Britain and political leaders from other countries. The last group were found to be untrustworthy by 85% of respondents. Only slightly over 1% found them credible.

Now, part of the religious figure percentage might be because of the fact that so many Britons are secularists. On the other hand, many of our clergy just seem to be living in a bubble. Furthermore, their religious pronouncements are rather rubbish. It’s no wonder our pews are empty.

Even economists fare better:

While 63 per cent among Remainers trust economists on the referendum, 57 supporters of Leave don’t trust them.

None of these groups seem to share the same experiences of life that Leave voters do.

I am coming to the conclusion that middle-aged Remain voters must be doing very well for themselves or that they have taken that stance ‘to get down with the kids’, their own EU-loving offspring who know no other way than Brussels. Those parents should be educating those children — even if they are adults — on the phone, around the fireplace or at the dinner table.

Across the pond, Americans who have been following the Brexit stance have been rightly comparing it to Donald Trump’s race for the White House. Both Brexit supporters and Trump followers are vilified as being ‘stupid’, ‘idiotic’, ‘delusional’, ‘racist’, ‘bigoted’ and ‘low information voters’. We shall see at the polling station.

Along with several others in the online world, I predict that a Brexit win on Thursday will give a huge boost to Trump’s chances in November. As I’ve said before, voters will be choosing between globalism and patriotism.

I am looking forward to seeing what happens when the Donald lands in Scotland on July 22. I am hoping he will stay silent until after the polling stations close. If he can’t do that, may he remain non-committal. He returns home by the weekend.

On Big Pink, an Independent voter pro-Trump blog — one which I read regularly for US campaign news — one commenter had this to say in response to a post linking the mood of Brexit with that of the billionaire’s supporters (emphases mine):

Osborne’s “punishment budget” with “punishment taxes” and “punishment immigration policies”[:] IF the public votes to take back their sovereignty is exactly what NeverTrumpers, Dems, and Obama are doing now in the US with the very “thought” of electing Trump. Mass immigration is “punishment”. Anything the public does that these globalist flunkies are supposed to stop, threaten them with, terrorize through social, fiscal, economic, and loss of civil rights. Give up your guns or more mass killings in soft target locations. Give up your speech rights or an economic crash. Give up right to assembly or we will beat your head in with foreign rent a mobs with the assistance of LaRaza police and DoJ/ISIS approved minders and judges. You must or bad things will happen because we must punish you.

You must do these things or we will let the mobs, ISIS, mass migration, and our toadies in the media help terrorize or murder you or humiliate you on live television. We are way down the rabbit hole. The Brits have a lot more push back by their party (both parties!) leaders and members than is in evidence here. Both of our parties, elected reps, and executive branch is owned by globalism. They are showing their hand everyday just like that [so-and-so] Osborne did in the UK. This is globalist fascism.

It’s not the most eloquently expressed comment but it got me thinking, ‘Why can’t more people — especially long-in-the-tooth Remainers — see what is happening right now?’

In closing on Brexit for today, The Guardian had an article about Gibraltar’s fear if Brexit wins. They have had a difficult relationship with Spain, particularly over the past few decades, despite the fact that tens of thousands cross the border both ways to go to and from work. One commenter offered a good analysis of the alternatives, should Brexit win. Excerpts follow:

… Although I and many others do appreciate Gibraltar’s position, I still think it valid to point out that this referendum is about the future of the entire UK. So while, as already stated, I believe we owe a duty to Gibraltar to support her and her interests to the limit of our power, those of 65 million Britons, along with their prerogative to vote [on] what they perceive to be our nation’s own interests and independence, must take precedence. Omho, that means a vote for Brexit and withdrawal from an inherently unaccountable and economically sclerotic EU

More generally, I think that assuming a Brexit vote, Gibraltar may indeed be subjected to another bout of petty minded shenanigans by Madrid, but alas, this cannot be helped, although I do also expect a solution will be negotiated in the medium term at worst. Hopefully the plight of 10,000 Spanish workers needing daily access to Gib, plus a large number of additional jobs in Spain herself that are dependent either directly on those, or on other Gib/Spain business links, will expedite such a resolution.

Somehow Gibraltar managed before we entered the Common Market, which evolved into the EU.

Even in the EU, Spain stirs the pot with Gibraltar most effectively. Every few years, Madrid comes up with something irritating that requires extensive negotiation.

Therefore, a Remain result will not resolve Gibraltar’s problems with Spain.

More to come on the referendum tomorrow.

Yesterday, my heart leapt!

A Telegraph diary said that Britons are now divided 50/50 on leaving the European Union.

I can hardly wait for the referendum in 2016. And it looks as if the kiddies won’t be voting!

The machinations of unelected officials at the top of this Tower of Babel advancing ‘more Europe’ are too much to take.

Angela Merkel has turned out to be a misguided woman foisting her vision of what, I don’t know, but it seems to be cultural and historic destruction, on the rest of us.

Many of our countries’ laws over the past 20 years have their roots in EU legislation.

I’ve had enough. This is not what today’s British seniors voted for in 1975. The European Community was only supposed to be a trading bloc.

Now it’s taking over our lives and transforming our futures into something undesirable.

Excerpts from The Telegraph‘s diary follow (emphases mine):

10:27: Matthew Shaddick, a spokesman for Ladbrokes, said: “The polls and the odds suggest this could be a photo-finish. The Prime Minister’s negotiation efforts do not as yet appear to have impressed political punters..” 

09:46: The EU Referendum bill passed its final parliamentary hurdle last night and is now about to become law.

It comes just two days before David Cameron’s EU renegotiations become the main focus of a summit of European leaders.

Mr Cameron could hold his referendum as early as June 2016.

Political Betting’s Mike Smithson has a round-up of all the latest polling. Most suggest a narrow lead for the “remain” camp but it looks close …

09:22: A second poll has been released today, this time by Survation, which shows that 42 per cent of voters want Britain to leave the EU, 40 per cent would like to remain and 18 per cent are undecided. Once the undecided voters are taken out of the total, 51 per cent want to leave while 49 per cent prefer to stay.

The Survation internet poll was commissioned by Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe, a group of anti-EU parties. Yasmine Dehaene, the alliance’s executive director, told the Express: “The chance that the British people will vote to leave is now at an all-time high.”

I’m now looking forward to the New Year!

A few days ago media outlets reported on a Pew Research survey which indicates that the American middle class is dying.

It is a nuanced picture.

Pew’s summary of findings says, in part (emphases in bold mine):

In at least one sense, the shift represents economic progress: While the share of U.S. adults living in both upper- and lower-income households rose alongside the declining share in the middle from 1971 to 2015, the share in the upper-income tier grew more.

Over the same period, however, the nation’s aggregate household income has substantially shifted from middle-income to upper-income households, driven by the growing size of the upper-income tier and more rapid gains in income at the top. Fully 49% of U.S. aggregate income went to upper-income households in 2014, up from 29% in 1970. The share accruing to middle-income households was 43% in 2014, down substantially from 62% in 1970.2

And middle-income Americans have fallen further behind financially in the new century. In 2014, the median income of these households was 4% less than in 2000. Moreover, because of the housing market crisis and the Great Recession of 2007-09, their median wealth (assets minus debts) fell by 28% from 2001 to 2013.

It should be noted that Pew uses the term ‘middle income’ rather than ‘middle class’.

Pew’s survey has tracked income levels between 1971 and 2015. In the bar graph ‘Share of adults living in middle-income households is falling’, we see that in 1971, 61% of Americans were in the ‘middle income’ bracket, whereas this year, only 50% are.

Interestingly, the percentage of those in the ‘lower middle’ bracket is unchanged for all those years and remains at 9%.

The upper two categories of income show a small improvement for ‘upper middle’ from 10% to 12% but a more noticeable move upward for ‘highest’ from 4% to 9%.

Unfortunately, the percentage of Americans in the ‘lowest’ income category has increased from 16% to 20%.

Where demographics are concerned, three groups have most improved their economic standing since 1971: blacks, married couples with no children at home and those 65 and over.

The bottom three groups are those with only a high school diploma, those who dropped out of high school and holders of an associate’s degree or less than two years’ college.

FiveThirtyEight recapped the Pew Survey. The readers’ comments are excellent. Contributors who were alive and well in 1971 recall the good old days when:

  • One household salary sufficed, not two;
  • You could make a decent income with only a high school diploma;
  • College and university tuition was far less, even relatively speaking, than today;
  • People worked far fewer hours;
  • Being middle class was just as much a state of mind as it was income, whereas today it is merely defined by materialism — your income and the type of home you can afford.

Many readers agreed that both political parties are to blame for the decline of the middle class from 1971 to the present day.

In many ways, life was much better in 1971 than today. People mixed much more — different incomes, occupations and generations. It didn’t matter what you earned, how old you were or where you lived but the values you believed in.

One lady who grew up in the 1960s also pointed out that nearly all middle-class Americans belonged to a church and attended services regularly. I remember that, too. Back then, if you didn’t go to church you were either a free-thinker or living in a dysfunctional household. People, including children, used to ask their peers ‘What are you?’ — referring to denomination — or ‘What church do you go to?’ No one thought anything of it. Theology helped us to place people socially and psychologically.

I’m so grateful for those days in many ways. I miss them.

1979 was the last time I felt truly free in the civic sense of the word.

I must be getting old.

More resources:

Both of these are from the US Census Bureau —

Share of Aggregate Income Received by Each Fifth and Top 5 Percent of Families, 1947 to 1994

Historical Income Tables: Households (data go up to 2013)

My recent posts have concerned putting Christ back into Christmas.

Yet, even during late Georgian and Victorian times, the British considered Christmas more of a time for revelry than our Lord.

The first Christmas cards, which artist John Calcott Horsley created for Sir Henry Cole in the 1840s, show the priorities of the day. His card (see the illustration at the beginning of this article from Greetings Today) has a huge, jolly Christmas pudding in the middle surrounded by six illustrations (and another of a cake). Two of the six illustrations show men manhandling women. I cannot make out what the others depict, except for one featuring three musicians.

This is another one of Horsley’s cards:

First Christmas card

Greetings Today says it was criticised for promoting drunkenness, particularly with the little girl in the middle drinking wine which her mother has given her.

These cards were advertised at the time as follows:

A Christmas Congratulation Card: or picture emblematical of Old English Festivity to Perpetuate kind recollections between Dear Friends.

It should be noted that religious Christmas cards did not appear until some years later.

The charitable scenes flanking the left and right hand sides of the card are in line with John the Baptist’s exhortations in Luke 3:11: give food and clothing to the needy.

My British readers will also be interested to see ‘Merry Christmas’ instead of ‘Happy Christmas’. I recently went to a charity card sale. A volunteer saleslady said to an elderly lady customer, ‘But it’s a beautiful design. Are you sure you don’t want to buy it?’ The customer replied emphatically, ‘It’s not for our generation. The message says “Merry Christmas”. That won’t do. It’s “Happy Christmas”. Sorry.’

The Evangelical Alliance has results from a series of British surveys on Christmas from 2010 through 2014. It’s a lengthy, fascinating article, well worth reading — even if one isn’t British. What follows is a sampler.

The meaning of Christmas

If the original seasonal cards reflected mainstream British thought in the 19th century, things have hardly progressed since then:

– 83% agreed that Christmas is a about spending time with family and friends.

– 41% agreed that Christmas is a about celebrating that God loves humanity. 24% disagreed with this.

– 51% agreed with the statement “The birth of Jesus is irrelevant to my Christmas” whilst 46% disagreed with the statement.

– 36% said they would be attending a Christmas service. 62% said they would not be going to a service, 2% were unsure.

Furthermore:

A survey commissioned by The Children’s Society in 2010 found that only 10% of adults think that its religious meaning is the most important thing about Christmas. Only 4% of 25-34 year olds thought the religious aspect was important whilst 20% of those over 60’s years feel that it is the key aspect of Christmas. 67% of all adults said spending time with family was the most important thing about Christmas.

Expectations from church services

A number of secular Britons go to a choral or Christmas service. The ones with whom I have spoken say these church attendances evoke childhood memories or they go for the aesthetics (e.g. music, architecture).

Occasional churchgoers who occasionally attend Worcester and Lichfield Cathedral at Christmas say:

– 94% said their motivation was the music.

– 75% said they wanted to be reminded of the Christmas story.

– 55% said they wanted to worship God.

This is what they expect of the service and what they believe:

– 78% said they prefer the service to be candlelit.

– 76% said they prefer traditional rather than modern hymns.

– 94% said they expected the service to be uplifting.

– 58% believed in the birth took place in a stable.

– 57% believe in the role of the shepherds.

– 55% in the wise men.

– 42% in the virgin birth.

Worldly priorities reign

Very few Christmas cards recall the Nativity scene or the Magi.

In 2011, of single cards for purchase, Morrison’s supermarket carried the highest percentage … at 1.7%.

Regarding multipacks of cards, Tesco and Sainsbury’s offered the highest proportion at 20% and 23% respectively.

Concerning presents, 30% of Britons say they will be unable to afford as nice a Christmas in 2014 compared with 2013. Just over one quarter (26%) say they spend more than they can afford.

When we look at Christmas in a worldly way, we lose sight of God, Jesus Christ and the commandment to love our neighbour as ourselves. Therefore, it is not surprising to find that an unusual amount of violence and arguments takes place.

Divorces begin to spike soon after Twelfth Night on January 6:

The enforced intimacy of Christmas, coupled with the start of a new year is thought to be the main trigger.

On the other hand, it’s not all bad news on the marital front:

Church of England released figures in January 2012 that show their dedicated weddings website, set up to encourage couples to marry in church have been at their highest compared to receives the highest number of monthly enquiries in January.

Drunkenness, drug abuse, domestic violence, arguments, family feuds and more will be rife in another ten days’ time. As a result some people, especially children and adolescents, have never experienced a joyous Christmas.

In closing, let us remember the unchurched and the unbelievers in our Christmas prayers this year. May they come to appreciate the fulsomeness of God’s grace, supremely manifest in His only begotten Son.

On December 2, 2014, Britain’s Evangelical Alliance examined a survey done by Netmums which found that the traditional nativity play is being rapidly replaced with secular themes:

Parenting website Netmums, who surveyed 2,000 parents, expressed concern that the traditional nativity scene is being modernised or traded for ‘winter celebrations’ and that religious figures are being replaced with characters such as Elvis Presley, spacemen, punk fairies and footballers. Christmas carols are often swapped for pop songs.

Netmums co-founder Siobhan Freegard said parents were concerned Christmas traditions were being sidelined and many schools have no presentation of the Christmas story at all.

This survey has been making the rounds in British media and reflects the sad state of affairs in our nation today.

To help educate children and adults about this feast day, the Evangelical Alliance, in association with the Church of England, the Bible Society and other religious organisations, is running a campaign called Christmas Starts with Christ. It has many useful resources.

Francis Goodwin heads the campaign. He says (emphasis mine):

The UK has become the most secular nation in the West as one of our surveys show that 51 per cent of adults did not think that the birth of Christ has any meaning for their Christmas; perhaps many of our teachers are among this 51 per cent. The time is overdue for Christians to remind the nation of the real reason we celebrate Christmas.

This is not new, and the Evangelical Alliance will be familiar with a BBC Christmas survey of children taken in 2006 (emphasis in the original):

Fewer than half of children aged seven to 11 think Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, a survey suggests.

Some 44% thought it was about Jesus, while 29% said it was about thinking of other people, and 24% said it was about giving rather than receiving gifts.

The Telegraph has more about the Netmums survey. Emphasis mine below:

Only a third of schools now stage a full traditional nativity complete with Mary and Joseph, inn-keepers, shepherds and magi, according to the survey.

Meanwhile one in eight [parents] had said their children’s school had dropped the Christmas story altogether for a modern alternative without religious references.

One in 14 said the school now opts for a fully secular event with neutral titles such as “Winter Celebration” or “Seasonal Play”.

A handful of those polled also said they had seen pan-religious school Christmas plays incorporating references to the Muslim festival Eid, the Jewish Hanukkah or Hindu Diwali.

Granted, it’s a small number and, yes, the traditional nativity play still edges out a syncretic play. Yet, it represents a slippery slope.

With Christmas break coming, let’s make sure our children understand the Christmas story. You can find more resources by church denomination here:

Advent resources for Catholics and Protestants

The short film in the Paperless Christmas link — The Adventures of Mary and Joseph — is particularly good!

The online world is certainly a global one.

It is through the Internet that many introverts have found a voice. Perhaps they started with a formal blog and moved to Twitter. Maybe it started earlier with the first fora for universities or computer games.

It is difficult to quantify how many introverts have made their mark in the online world either through their own sites, Twitter or via comments on others’ blogs.

Liz from Successful and Outstanding Bloggers says (emphasis in the original, violet highlights mine):

I interviewed bloggers daily for over a year. It became clear within a short time that the bloggers I spoke with overwhelmingly described themselves as independent introverts. That seemed to make sense then. Blogging is a writing task that requires reflection. Now I wonder whether that was then and the folks who chose to participate.

Now I see the changes in myself and some of those interviewees as I look across the web. It took me a long time to get to Twitter, but now … beware following me. I tweet a lot when I’m there.

Many of us have been slow to adopt Twitter then become very chatty as we get comfortable there.

Janet from Janet’s Notebook writes:

Blogging is the most fitting for an introvert, like me. Janet being an introvert? That’s a revelation, isn’t it? I’m friendly and bubbly, however, fundamentally I’m an introvert. I enjoy solitude. The world is a busy place designed for extroverts. When I need to communicate, I communicate in the most comfortable form that suits my characters well, through the power of words.

Cassie Paton of [witty title here] quotes a man describing the sort of person who puts fingertips to keyboard:

Writing is something you do alone. It’s a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while doing it.” – John Green

Cassie adds:

It’s no coincidence that many bloggers are introverts.

John Doyle of Business 2 Community observes in his article, ‘8 Reasons Why Introverts Rule the Interactive Age’:

7. Introverts are extremely comfortable with online relationships. Lock an extrovert in a room with nothing but a laptop and Internet service and pretty soon you’ll be replacing the door he kicked open. Introverts, on the other hand, can practically live online. For some it is the solution to a lifetime of wanting to share ideas, thoughts, and dreams with close friends … who are nowhere near them. As a result, the Internet has transformed many introverts into the Dale Carnegies of the online world. They share ideas, connect friends, and share the best websites–all while sitting in their yoga pants and sweatshirt in the safety and comfort of their bedroom.

8. Introverts invented the Internet.

Finally, The Economist interviewed American columnist Jonathan Rauch about politics, journalism and introversion. When asked:

How does your introversion affect you as an interviewer, a writer, an editor?

Rauch replied:

I suspect a lot of bloggers may be introverts, because blogging is great if you like to sit in front of the internet all day. If not for my aversion to specialising in one subject, I probably would have been an academic historian, because I think it would have suited me to work in libraries back before there was an internet. (In a way, the internet is a library that talks back.) Reporting doesn’t come naturally to me, since I have to screw up my energy level every time I pick up the phone. So that’s something of a handicap. I’ll never be a natural journalist.

On the other hand, introverts are good questioners and attentive listeners. After a thoughtful, probing interview that I feel has touched marrow, I feel exhilaration, along with exhaustion. As if a tough hike had been rewarded with a new vista. I’m not a great hiker but I do enjoy the views.

Yet, we still do not seem to have quantifiable evidence that many or most people with significant online presence are introverts.

Therefore, following up on my reader underground pewster‘s suggestion, why not take a survey and find out? I was going to do this in 2015 but cannot think of a clever way to easily fit it in by itself. So why not add it on to the end of this series of posts on introversion?

This, by the way, is far from a definitive survey. If underground pewster also wishes to undertake one, I would welcome a comparison of our results!

This inaugural survey of mine will be open for at least a month, perhaps longer. Answer just one question anonymously, comment — if you wish — and/or see the results based on this test.


Thank you in advance for your time! I shall report on the results in due course.

End of series

On October 5, 2014, the Observer reported its latest survey findings on drug use in Britain. The paper last conducted a poll on the subject in 2008.

A summary of the survey follows:

– The percentage of people living in Britain who have tried illegal drugs is 31% (up from 28%).

– Both sexes are equally likely to use drugs (fewer women had in 2008).

– Just over one-fifth — 21% — of people who have ever tried illegal drugs are still taking them today.

– More people living in Scotland have tried drugs — 35% — than in other parts of the UK.

– Nearly one quarter — 23% — of survey respondents use some form of illegal drug daily. However, 55% of current users partake less than once a month.

– The overwhelming majority of drug users — 84% — indulge at home.

– The median starting age for experimentation is 19, although 41% of current users started between the ages of 16 and 18.

– Most young drug users will stop at the age of 26. Women tend to stop drug use earlier than men.

– The most popular drugs in the UK are marijuana (93%), amphetamines (34%), cocaine (29%), ecstasy (25%), magic mushrooms (22%) and LSD (20%).

– Marijuana was the first drug 82% of users tried. N.B.: Fifty per cent of dope smokers shy away from other drugs.

– If drugs were decriminalised in Britain, 16% of those surveyed who had never used illegal drugs would consider doing so.

– If drugs were decriminalised, first-time users (aforementioned 16%) would choose marijuana (81%), cocaine (28%), ecstasy (28%), magic mushrooms (22%), amphetamines (20%) and LSD (19%).

There are more data at the link. The article is nicely laid out and worth a read.

It is likely, particularly given the Liberal Democrats’ push for decriminalisation at their party conference last week, that this subject will run and run.

More on drugs tomorrow.

CB064038For decades now, older denominations — Catholic and Protestant — have turned to the social gospel rather than the Gospels.

They think it’s working. Meanwhile, churches are losing more members every year.

True Christians recall Christ’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) and wonder why clergy do not follow it:

The Great Commission

 16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Christ’s message in the Gospels is one of faith; no one can say they believe in God unless they also believe in Him.

And once we study the Gospels and hear solid preaching on their content, the rest of our problems take care of themselves. We have shocking social problems because we lack belief. We advocate serious sin (e.g. abortion, euthanasia) because we are, at heart, unbelievers.

Our clergy have a serious flaw in this regard when they preach the social gospel. Fundamentally, many of them lack belief in Jesus Christ. They must do, otherwise, they would be preaching and following His teachings.

This means that churchgoers do not really know what the Gospels or the Epistles say. Therefore, whatever the world promotes in the media holds more importance for them than Holy Scripture.

A equally serious problem presents itself, however, when senior clerics present Christianity in such a complex manner that it becomes frustrating for the layman to understand.

One case in point is the Catholic Church. In November 2013, the Vatican issued a survey to parishes around the world requesting that laymen complete it and return it to their diocese. Will Heaven (!) of the Telegraph shared a few of the questions in his column. My mind boggled as I read them (emphases in the original):

Here is Question 1a, the very first in the survey.

Describe how the Catholic Church’s teachings on the value of the family contained in the Bible, Gaudium et Spes, Familiaris Consortio and other documents of the post-conciliar Magisterium is understood by people today? What formation is given to our people on the Church’s teaching on family life?

This assumes deep theological knowledge. And it needs translating into English.

Question 2a:

What place does the idea of the natural law have in the cultural areas of society: in institutions, education, academic circles and among the people at large? What anthropological ideas underlie the discussion on the natural basis of the family?

Eh? On Twitter, a Harvard doctoral student tells me “it seems like they’ve just pasted in Cambridge exam questions” …

So, is the Church about to soften its teaching on the family, marriage and contraception? Doubt it. Will it, more likely, fudge its pastoral guidance for priests, changing the tone but not the substance of the doctrine? Maybe.

Either way, it will have little to do with this utterly baffling survey.

As I write, the results are not yet available.

In February 2014, Heaven, himself a Catholic, reported the results of an international survey by Univision assessing Catholic social opinion compared with the Church’s teachings:

It’s blindingly obvious to most Catholics that – away from a few hives of traditionalism – the faithful have departed from official doctrine. What were once views held only by radical Catholics have become mainstream.

To give you an idea, here are some figures from the Univision poll in question: 86% of French Catholics think priests should be allowed to marry; 82% of Spanish Catholics think divorcees who remarry aren’t “living in sin”; 73% of Polish Catholics think abortion should be allowed in some cases; 93% of Brazilian Catholics support the use of contraception. Oh, and 54% of US Catholics support gay marriage.

Heaven says that Pope Francis (emphases mine):

has three choices: a) Persuade Catholics to adhere to the Church’s doctrine; b) Water down that doctrine to accommodate them; or c) Carry on exactly as before …

it’s 3) that is arguably Pope Francis’s strongest option. If Catholics don’t want strict doctrine, and the Church can’t or won’t water it down, he has only one choice: to refocus its ministry away from issues to do with sex and towards those in need, i.e. the poor and the sick. Here’s a quote from his letter Evangelii Gaudium, which supports that idea: “When we adopt a pastoral goal and a missionary style which would actually reach everyone without exception or exclusion, the message has to concentrate on the essentials, on what is most beautiful, most grand, most appealing and at the same time most necessary.”

Jesus Christ is the ‘most beautiful, most grand, most appealing’ and ‘most necessary’, moreso than social policy. John 6 teaches us that. Furthermore, social policy is not specifically Christian. Anyone can exercise mercy and compassion.

The Pope, like his Protestant counterparts (e.g. the Archbishop of Canterbury), is failing in his pastoral duty.

If clergy preached Christ and only Christ, churches would be full and our social problems fewer.

 

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