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Yesterday, I was most surprised to discover that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under Obama paid Muslim groups not to harm Americans.
It is possible that Americans are finding out about this only now that Trump is in office. Some of these organisations no longer want DHS money, even though substantial sums have been paid in previous years.
A Trump administration official said that the Obama administration came up with this programme in 2011 as a way of:
“countering Islamic extremism.” The official, who has knowledge of the discussions, was not authorized to speak publicly about the proposal and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Trump administration wants to change the name of the programme, which seems to be part of the reason some groups are now rejecting the money. Currently, 20 per cent of the $10m in earmarked funds has been rejected.
A greater element involved is that the groups sense that Trump will go through with plans and policies that are anti-Islam.
On Friday, February 11, 2017, the Sacramento Bee featured an article on Bayan Claremont, the fourth Muslim group to reject DHS money.
Bayan Claremont would have received $800,000 in federal funds aimed at combating Islamic extremism. This would have covered half the Muslim graduate school’s annual budget. However, Trump’s campaign rhetoric and his recent Executive Order — halted for the moment by the Ninth Circuit — changed their administrators’ minds. Bayan Claremont’s president, Jihad Turk (yes, really), made the announcement on Friday.
The comments following the SacBee article are well worth reading. Americans are astounded and angry that tens of millions of dollars from their taxes have gone to supporting … religion.
Bayan Claremont, incidentally, was founded in 2011. It is part of the Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, California, which is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. That said, students from many different Christian denominations attend CST, which is also home to the Episcopal Theological School and Disciples Seminary Foundation.
Among the other groups in the United States which receive DHS’s money are Unity Productions Foundation of Potomac Falls, Virginia, which has declined a $396,585 to produce anti-extremist films; Leaders Advancing and Helping Communities in Dearborn, Michigan, which has rejected $500,000 for youth and health programme development and Ka Joog, a Somali non-profit organisation in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which turned down $500,000 for youth programmes.
All this is money saved that the DHS can put into other areas. After all, as Jihad Turk said:
school officials already had reservations about the CVE strategy under Obama because they felt there’s no clear or proven pathway to violence for someone with a particular extreme ideology.
In closing, this sounds awfully lot like voluntary protection money — non-imposed jizya.
On September 12, Business Insider recapped Bernie Marcus’s views on the upcoming presidential election.
Marcus founded Home Depot in 1978, served as its first CEO for many years then as chairman until he retired in 2002.
He gives an entrepreneur’s perspective, of which we could use more.
This is what Marcus told Neil Cavuto on FOX Business (emphases mine):
“Every indication is that America will go down the drain if in fact she is elected.
“When I listen to Hillary Clinton and I listen to the [economists] who never in their life ever hired a human being or trained a human being, I say, I don’t know the world that they belong in. I know that when you have high taxes that you kill off jobs. Killing off jobs means hurting America. It means hurting the economic wealth of America — and that’s not good for anybody.
“All of the Republicans out there, I say the same thing … [If you’re] going to stay neutral, you might as well vote for [Hillary Clinton] because your lack of vote for Donald means she’s going to get elected anyway,” he said. “You may not like him, but you [have to] vote for him because he’s going to save this country.”
Marcus is correct.
By voting for Trump, you add 1 vote to him, and 0 vote to Hillary, and so that’s a real action in the real world of electoral politics: it puts Trump up 1. By voting for Hillary, you add 1 vote to her, and 0 vote to Trump, and so that too is a real action in the real world of electoral politics: it puts Hillary up 1. Either vote is a real vote.
The real world of electoral politics is the foundation of democracy, without which it can’t function at all. Fantasy votes are not votes that can even possibly participate in democracy. For example: by voting instead for Jill Stein, you add 0 vote to each of the two real-world contestants, just the same as you would be doing by staying home on Election Day.
This is not the time to be holier-than-thou about voting. This year, Americans are voting to save or destroy what remains of the Great Republic.
Last Thursday, I saw shocking scenes of East Cleveland and Youngstown, Ohio, in a documentary on ITV1 called Trump’s America – Will It Happen?
East Cleveland is becoming the next Detroit. The mayor told the interviewer that he desperately wants to get the community incorporated into Cleveland so its residents have a chance of survival.
Currently, so many homes in East Cleveland have been razed that the land is becoming wild again, as it is in much of Detroit. The film crew were even able to get footage of a deer ambling down a street.
The programme opened with a profile of Youngstown. When I saw it, I nearly wept. What was filmed looked like a judgement.
When I was growing up, Youngstown was a model American city with hard working people. Of course, they had the steel industry then — long gone — and to hear former steel workers say that no one in Washington DC cares was heartbreaking, even though it is very true.
Generally speaking, this is the fault of the Democrats. Generations of voters have elected them to power time and time again. Each generation has lived in a more precarious environment socially and economically than the one before. Nowadays, even an eye-wateringly expensive college degree can’t guarantee economic security.
Donald Trump — with no establishment ties — is America’s last chance.
As the aforementioned Bernie supporter, a historian, wrote, not voting for Trump means:
throwing away the only such opportunity that the U.S. oligarchy (slipped-up and) allowed us to have.
Much like Brexit.
There is one chance, however accidental it might be, and one only.
Some churchgoers find other Christians blogging on politics distasteful.
I can assure everyone that if Hillary Clinton wins, I will do my best to refrain from writing posts on American politics in future.
Because — at that point — America will soon be finished.
We’ve all heard the expression ‘stubborn as a mule’, but are all mules stubborn?
Before motorised vehicles were invented — and became relatively affordable — American farmers used to rent mules to pull heavy items such as tillers and other equipment.
… rented mules were handled by umpteen different people with varying degrees of experience working them. That resulted in the animal being totally confused by what was expected of it, bad habits mounted on top of more bad and when one farmer’s way set the mule up to misbehave, the next found it non-responsive to expectations, thus the animal was abused for not performing. Add to that, greedy rent mule owners overworked the animal, as well, not concerned with its well being.
The predicament of the rented mule reminds me of electorates in various Western countries. We notice that we’re overly taxed, yet disdained by the elite, who laugh at us and, even worse, pretend we don’t exist. Never mind that they rely on our money for their salaries. That includes the media.
This the elite are angry that Britons voted for Brexit. They are angry that millions and millions of Americans are likely to vote for Donald Trump in November.
The three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.
Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.
My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.
The Temple Tax
24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” 26 And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. 27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel.[a] Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”
This scene no doubt took place at Peter’s house, where Jesus stayed when He was in Capernaum.
The temple tax was a religious tax and not a Roman one.
John MacArthur says it was first recorded in the Book of Exodus (emphases mine):
In Exodus chapter 30 when the tabernacle was established and it was carried from there to the temple, God gave a law through Moses. “And the Lord spoke unto Moses,” Exodus 30:11, “When thou takest the sum of the children of Israel after their number, then shall they give every man a ransom for his soul unto the Lord.” How much, verse 13 says, “Half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary.” A half shekel shall be the offering to the Lord. Verse 15 says, “They shall not give more if they’re rich, they shall not give less if they’re poor when they make an offering to the Lord, half shekel for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation that it may be a memorial to the children of Israel before the Lord to make atonement for your souls.” Half shekel.
Now Nehemiah reduced it to a third shekel when they came back from captivity because they were so poor. But the half shekel had been reinstituted and in this particular temple in Jerusalem, there was a half shekel temple tax that had to be paid by every Jewish male and had to be paid annually. And, by the way, if you didn’t pay it, they took compensation out of your personal belongings.
As for the word ‘two-drachma’, or ‘didrachma’ in some translations, and Jewish term ‘stater’, meaning ‘half a shekel’, he explains:
Now the term used here is didrachma. And basically a half a shekel, that’s a Jewish concept, was equal to two Greek drachmas, d-r-a-c-h-m-a-e, two Greek drachmas. And the tax then became known as the double drachma, or the didrachma, that’s the Greek term. And that is the one…it basically represents two days wages. That is the tax they were after. The half-shekel which equals the didrachma in Greek coinage.
And so, they came to collect that. Now commonly speaking, it was customary because there was no double didrachma in Greek coinage, they had the term but the economy had inflated to the point where they didn’t have didrachma. So what they used was a stater. And the stater was equal to two didrachma, or four drachma. Are you with me? So people would normally go together and pay one stater, and that would cover their temple tax.
However, Matthew Henry says that this tax was not insisted upon so much in Galilee. Therefore, when the temple tax collectors asked Peter whether Jesus paid the tax (verse 24), it was not meant as an attack but as a genuine, respectful enquiry — so much so that they did not want to bother Him, so they asked Peter. The tax collectors knew of Jesus, possibly witnessed His teachings and miracles, and thought He might be exempt from paying the tax:
The demand was very modest[;] the collectors stood in such awe of Christ, because of his mighty works, that they durst not speak to him about it, but applied themselves to Peter, whose house was in Capernaum, and probably in his house Christ lodged he therefore was fittest to be spoken to as the housekeeper, and they presumed he knew his Master’s mind …
they asked this with respect, intimating, that if he had any privilege to exempt him from this payment, they would not insist upon it.
Peter answered ‘Yes’, meaning that Jesus paid His taxes (verse 25). MacArthur reminds us that His is our example to follow:
There are people who are Christian people who don’t pay taxes. They don’t think they have any reason to pay taxes, they don’t like what’s done with their money and so forth and so they don’t pay. And some of them get away with it because the government knows that to prosecute and track them all down and go through the fight would be to lose more money than you would gain. But Jesus, does He pay taxes? Verse 25, “Peter said yes…yes, Jesus always pays His didrachma.” And you can imply from that that He always paid His taxes…always. Jesus is not a tax evader. He’s not a tax dodger.
Peter went indoors and Jesus asked him if kings taxed their own sons or other people. He was asking whether God would tax His Son. Peter replied that taxes came from other people, and Jesus affirmed that kings’ sons do not pay it (verse 26). The implication is that He is actually exempt from paying temple tax.
However, in order ‘not to give offence’ (verse 27), Jesus told Peter to go to the Sea of Galilee, take the first fish he caught and give the coin in its mouth to the tax collectors. The shekel would cover both Jesus’s and Peter’s temple tax.
Henry explains the possible offence given and why Jesus paid the tax:
Few knew, as Peter did, that he was the Son of God and it would have been a diminution to the honour of that great truth, which was yet a secret, to advance it now, to serve such a purpose as this. Therefore Christ drops that argument, and considers, that if he should refuse this payment, it would increase people’s prejudice against him and his doctrine, and alienate their affections from him, and therefore he resolves to pay it.
He makes this point:
Note, Christian prudence and humility teach us, in many cases, to recede from our right, rather than give offence by insisting upon it.
Henry also observes that a humble fish had the coin which would go to pay for the maintenance of the temple and provide the spiritual sustenance for God’s people:
when he could have taken it out of an angel’s hand.
That Peter had to go angling in order to catch the fish signifies that:
Peter has something to do, and it is in the way of his own calling too to teach us diligence in the employment we are called to, and called in. Do we expect that Christ should give to us? Let us be ready to work for him …
Peter was made a fisher of men, and those that he caught thus, came up where the heart is opened to entertain Christ’s word, the hand is open to encourage his ministers.
Finally, Jesus allowed Peter to benefit from his obedience and endeavour:
Peter fished for this money, and therefore part of it went for his use. Those that are workers together with Christ in winning souls shall shine with him. Give it for thee and me. What Christ paid for himself was looked upon as a debt what he paid for Peter was a courtesy to him. Note, it is a desirable thing, if God so please, to have wherewithal of this world’s goods, not only to be just, but to be kind not only to be charitable to the poor, but obliging to our friends. What is a great estate good for, but that it enables a man to do so much the more good?
Next time: Matthew 18:1-4
As we are on the subject of Downton Abbey and as Armistice Day is commemorated on November 11, it is worthwhile looking at how the Great War was the last nail in the coffin for the English country estate.
Today’s younger Britons as well as foreign tourists might think that the great estates were always few in number. However, that would be a false assumption to make.
We have this impression because these homes and gardens are open to the public. Therefore, we ‘know’ what we can visit.
One lesser-known benefit of Downton Abbey was a renewed research into the decline of the English country estate. Several books have been written since the series has been running. Among them are John Martin Robinson’s Felling the Ancient Oaks and Pamela Horn’s Country House Society: The private lives of England’s upper class after the First World War.
A number of online and offline articles have also addressed the subject.
19th century struggles
The Daily Beast discussed Robinson’s Felling the Ancient Oaks in 2012. We discover that many estates, based on agriculture, livestock and tenant farmers were already suffering in the early 19th century.
George Eliot wrote about the state of the estate in her 1832 novel, Felix Holt, the Radical (emphases mine):
… the fortune that was getting larger in the imagination of constituents was shrinking a little in the imagination of its owner. It was hardly more than a hundred and fifty thousand; and there were not only the heavy mortgages to be paid off, but also a large amount of capital was needed in order to repair the farm-buildings all over the estate, to carry out extensive draining, and make allowances to incoming tenants, which might remove the difficulty of newly letting the farms in a time of agricultural depression. The farms actually tenanted were held by men who had begged hard to succeed their fathers in getting a little poorer every year, on land which was also getting poorer, where the highest rate of increase was in the arrears of rent.
The reason for the decrease in income, the article says, was because of new innovations in food production overseas. This gave rise to cheap imports from as far away as the United States.
In 1894, the Liberal Party were in government. They instituted estate duty, a tax still with us to this day.
As with all taxes, it steadily increased. It hit large estates particularly hard. Heirs had to sell their land in parcels to make pay the duty and ends meet after a parent’s death. Estate duty, The Daily Beast explains:
proved frequently an expense that estates could not afford, and propelled increasing sales of land in a market where fewer and fewer buyers were prepared to purchase en bloc. Lots were inevitably broken up, and a large number of these properties were lost.
The examples detailed in Felling the Ancient Oaks almost invariably entail the loss of the main house, but make clear that the estate was more than this—not merely the home but also “gardens, parkland, farms, and woods with an attendant village or cottages, and a church with family tombs.”
These were vast landholdings. Some family land dated from the time of the Norman Conquest. Other estates were built on old abbeys destroyed in Henry VIII’s time. Later redistributions also occurred.
Even some of the estates open today which stretch as far as the eye can see are smaller than they were originally. The families have had to sell of large parcels to outside concerns, for example, British Rail (as was, for new railway lines), huge amusement parks, hoteliers or home developers.
Downton’s story explained
Owners of large estates devoted their lives to running them. Of course, not all were responsible farmers and landlords, but those who were, such as Lord Grantham and his son-in-law Matthew Crawley, had a great emotional and intellectual investment in responsible farming and associated tenancy.
The Tax Foundation has an excellent analysis of what happened at Downton. By 1922, Lady Cora’s own money was part of the estate and would be passed on. It was no longer hers. Lord Grantham had already regrettably lost money to a Ponzi scheme. Salaries were rising at a time when land revenues were decreasing.
Matthew came to the rescue and bailed out the estate. He and Lord Grantham signed a contract to co-own the estate.
When Matthew died in the car accident, his half of estate tax came due. (Lord Grantham’s half would come due upon his demise.) At that time:
by the period of Season 3 and 4 we’re operating under the Finance Act 1919. Rates were on a sliding scale up to 40 percent on estates exceeding £2 million, with only a tiny £100 exemption (about $8,000 today). Exemptions for amounts given to spouses or charity didn’t come about until 1974, so the full tax is due.
The Tax Foundation directs readers to Sam Brunson’s site which estimates what might have been due:
We discover that Matthew didn’t have a formal will. Without such a will, apparently the estate would pass to George.[fn1] Before Matthew took his trip to Scotland, though, he drafted a letter to Mary. In that letter, he tells Mary that he intends to write a will when he returns from Scotland, and he intends for her to be his sole heir. Although the letter was not a will, he had it witnessed by two clients and, with its testamentary intent, the family’s attorney says it will function as a will.
How sensible, right? Maybe not. At dinner, after the letter/will is read, Lord Grantham says:
“I’m not sure how sensible it is. If the letter is valid, the estate will have to pay death duties twice before it reaches little George.”
So what would the death duties on Downton Abbey have been? It depends on the value of the estate. Movoto estimates that it would have been worth $34.7 million in 1920 (which is roughly the right time period). If, in 1920, one pound were worth about $3.50, the estate would have been worth nearly £10 million. At that value, the estate would have been subject to a marginal tax rate of 40%. Matthew’s estate would have owed taxes of nearly £4 million.
Furthermore, despite Matthew’s laudable idealism, pragmatism is an essential part of estate planning:
If he had left it to his son, it would have only faced one level of 40% Estate Duty. But now it goes through the tax system twice, first when he leaves it to Mary, then again when Mary leaves it to George. By failing to plan, the family may ultimately have to pay somewhere around £8 million, rather than the £4 million it would owe had the estate passed straight to George.[fn4]
That said, in the end:
apparently, Mary gets half of the estate. I don’t know what happens to the other half. If it goes to George, that half will only face one level of taxation.
The situation could have been avoided had Matthew taken financial advice early in his marriage and then made a will.
20th century developments
In 1999 — before Downton Abbey — The Guardian had an informative article on the sale of great estates in the 20th century.
Patrick Collinson went back to the archives of Country Life magazine — which, incidentally, would have been a staple at Downton — to research the situation in 1900. The first edition published that year featured 13 properties offered by estate agents Knight, Frank and Rutley. Today, the firm is known as Knight Frank. Of those 13, today only one still exists, although it is now an adult residential college. The others had been sold over the century to house developers, hoteliers and golf course developers.
But, as Collinson notes, even in 1900, the estate agents were already advertising Avon Castle in Ringwood, Hampshire, as prime land for houses. And that is exactly what happened. The main house was demolished. Executive homes with swimming pools now occupy the site. Interestingly, in 1999, Knight Frank sold one of these homes for £600,000.
Country Life readers had no idea at the turn of the century how dramatically their lives — and estates — would change. Articles from the 1900 editions focussed on the Boer War and tenant farmers’ housing.
The rest of the century, as we see in Downton Abbey, and continuing in subsequent decades, offered no relief:
The first world war, death duties, the 1930s depression, second world war requisitioning and higher taxes under the first Labour government of 1945-1951 combined to destroy many of the big turn-of-the-century estates. ‘The staff needed to run these huge places were no longer available after 1918, and in the inter-war depression years many of the great houses ran on a shoestring,’ says a spokesman for FPD Savills. After the second world war many gave up the ghost and in remote areas houses were simply demolished.
Dr Pamela Horn’s aforementioned book, which The Telegraph reviewed in February 2015 gave more examples:
In 1918 Sir Francis Ashley-Corbett sold his entire 4,500-acre Everleigh Manor house and estate, in Wiltshire. The previous year Lord Pembroke had sold one of his estates in the same county, and went on to dispose of 8,400 acres of the Wilton estate, also in Wiltshire, with many of his tenant farmers taking the opportunity to buy their holdings.
Horn’s book, The Telegraph says, explains landowners’ mixed fortune during the Great War:
The relative hardship experienced by Britain’s aristocracy during that period began during the First World War itself when conscription led to shortages in the domestic labour needed to maintain their large stately homes.
There were also growing shortages of food and fuel, although the landed gentry were able to grow fruit and vegetables, and raise poultry and livestock on their country estates, unlike the mass of the population.
However, their tenant farmers still had to be paid. Times were difficult and resources, including money, had to be carefully managed.
The Tax Foundation tells us that, in 1923, Highclere Castle — where Downton Abbey was filmed — was nearly crippled by estate tax which was due when the 5th Earl of Carnarvon died:
£500,000 (about $40 million today) in death duties … suggesting an estate valuation of about £1.5 million (about $120 million today). One-third is a pretty hefty tax bite, and led to the dismantling of many English estates as they sold land and possessions to pay the tax bill. Countess Carnarvon held a huge auction of art and jewelry in 1926 to raise enough to keep the house and land intact.
Later, fortunes continued to decline for many. Although we think of 1929’s Wall Street Crash as an American event, The Telegraph says it had repercussions on this side of the pond, too:
The Wall Street Crash of 1929 had a dramatic impact on those members of the aristocracy who had invested heavily in the stock market, in the hope of maintaining their privileged lifestyle following the war.
Sir Arthur and Lady Sybil Colefax lost their life savings – she reinvented herself as a fashionable interior designer in partnership with Peggy Ward, the Countess Munster – while the wealthy heiress Mabelle Wichfeld, who had once employed a retinue of 80 servants at Blair Castle, in Perthshire, was so short of cash on her death in 1933 that her funeral at Savoy Chapel, next to London’s Savoy Hotel, was paid for by friends.
The Daily Beast states that some landowners sold their estates to the military. Chicksands in Bedfordshire served as a hospital during the Great War. Later, the Royal Air Force built a joint RAF and US Air Force base on the estate.
Whilst many, including the BBC — in a recent documentary on the upstairs-downstairs scene of the early 20th century (BBC4, October 2015) — deride the wealthy for having more money and land than they needed, they, too, had family and emotional hardship to cope with.
Everyone’s misfortune is relative.
On May 21, 2015, the Archbishop of Canterbury gave his thoughts on faith-based charity.
Faith groups are now filling a “huge gap” in British life occupied by the state until the financial crisis and onset of austerity forced a rethink, according to the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The Most Rev Justin Welby said churches, mosques, temples synagogues and other religious organisations had stepped in “in a most extraordinary way” over the past seven years.
Until the 20th century, charity was paramount. The welfare state didn’t exist.
First, it is natural that a religious person will want to give to help those in need. Why should this surprise a senior cleric?
Secondly, Welby seems to favour a bloated state welfare system. That is most disappointing.
It is only sensible that recipients of state aid — the dole — view it as temporary.
Possibly, just possibly, if we lessened the welfare budget gradually during times of recovery, we would have more people taking personal responsibility seriously and improving the lifestyle choices they make. Reflecting carefully rather than acting impulsively is one which comes to mind.
Relying on charity rather than the state is a tried-and-true tradition borne out through the centuries. Furthermore, less tax from all of us would no doubt result in a further increase in charitable giving to help those who really need it.
Disturbing news comes via the Episcopal/Anglican site Stand Firm, which recently explored the discrimination against Christians in the Middle East, specifically, their exclusion from refugee programmes.
A S Haley, who wrote the Stand Firm article, refers us to Philo’s Project which documents the State Department’s refusal to help Christians (emphases mine):
According to a March 26, 2015 article in Newsweek, as many as 1.4 million Christians lived in their ancestral home of Iraq prior to 2003. Now the number of Christians is estimated at anywhere from 260,000 to 350,000, with near half of that number displaced within the country. Newsweek explained that Iraq’s remaining Christians have mostly fled north to safer areas under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government. “But now ISIS is threatening them there, too.”
[The Rt. Rev. Julian M. Dobbs, bishop of the Diocese of CANA East (Convocation of Anglicans in North America)], accompanied to the State Department by humanitarian Sir Charles Hoare, 9th Baronet Hoare of Annabella, County Cork, informed State Department officials of a plan by one well-known Christian international aid agency to provide safer housing for Iraqi Christians. Christians are trying to survive in unfinished concrete buildings – such as shopping malls – in the Christian enclave of Ankawa rather than in the UNHCR camp with the other refugees, because they are even threatened by some of the Muslim refugees.
The organization purchased used military tents from British troops in Afghanistan to set up on land that had been provided by the local authorities.
These military tents have sanitary facilities. They are cool in summer and warm in winter. However, there is the problem of transporting them from Afghanistan to Iraq. Neither the British nor the US government intends on doing that, even though it involves only one military aircraft to transport the tents:
So instead, the group is working to raise some $778,000 to transport the tents to Iraq by land. Dobbs revealed that the State Department advised him against setting up emergency housing for Christians in the region, saying it was “totally inappropriate.”
Also inappropriate, it seems, is the resettling of the most vulnerable Assyrian Christians in the United States. Donors in the private sector have offered complete funding for the airfare and the resettlement in the United States of these Iraqi Christians that are sleeping in public buildings, on school floors, or worse. But the State Department – while admitting 4,425 Somalis to the United States in just the first six months of FY2015, and possibly even accepting members of ISIS through the Syrian and Iraqi refugee program, all paid for by tax dollars, told Dobbs that they “would not support a special category to bring Assyrian Christians into the United States.”
The United States government has made it clear that there is no way that Christians will be supported because of their religious affiliation, even though it is exactly that – their religious affiliation – that makes them candidates for asylum based on a credible fear of persecution from ISIS. The State Department, the wider administration, some in Congress and much of the media and other liberal elites insist that Christians cannot be given preferential treatment. Even within the churches, some Christians are so afraid of appearing to give preferential treatment to their fellow Christians that they are reluctant to plead the case of their Iraqi and Syrian brothers and sisters.
Meanwhile, Americans are paying for some very interesting things where refugees are concerned (H/T: Stand Firm):
17. Welfare use is staggering among refugees. Welfare usage is never counted by officials as part of the cost of the program. Yet, when it is included, the total cost of the refugee program soars to at least 10-20 billion a year.
As some Americans are pushed off of time-limited welfare programs many refugees are going on to life-time cash assistance programs. For instance, 12.7% of refugees are on SSI – a lifetime entitlement to a monthly check / Medicaid for elderly or disabled. This rate of usage is at least 4 times higher than the rate of usage for SSI among the native-born population and is reportedly rising from these already very high levels.
Permanent and intergenerational welfare dependence has been allowed to take hold to a significant degree in some refugee groups.
Find latest welfare usage among refugees here (latest data available is from 2009): https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/orr/fy_2009_annual_report_to_congress.pdf
Find table TABLE II-14: Public Assistance Utilization Among refugees who arrived during the 5 years previous to the survey 57.7% are on government medical assistance such as Medicaid, about 25% have no health insurance at all, 70.2% are receiving food stamps, 31.6% are in public housing (an additional percentage is on a public housing waiting list), and 38.3 % are getting cash assistance such as TANF or SSI.
The figure of 57.7% dependent upon government medical assistance is actually an undercount since it excludes children under 16.
18. Medium size towns, such as Bowling Green, KY, Nashville, TN, Ft. Wayne, IN, Boise, ID and Manchester, NH, are serving as the main reception centers for the refugee program.
19. Refugees are not tested for many diseases, such as HIV. Refugees are a major contributing factor to TB rates among the foreign-born. TB among the foreign-born now accounts for about half of the TB in America.
20. The money the U.S. spends bringing one refugee to the U.S. could have helped 500 individuals overseas in countries where they currently reside.
21. It has never been reported in the U.S. that 47% of loans made to refugees for transportation to the U.S. are unpaid leaving an unpaid balance of $450 million. This amount – slightly out of date, does not include interest or an unknown amount that has been written off. We will announce the new balance as soon as it is available.
Surely, all this could be better organised and managed? I imagine something similar is going on in the UK.
To cap it all off, Stand Firm‘s A S Haley tells us that church agencies are making money by working with the US government in receiving refugees:
Refugees designated to migrate to the United States are advanced travel money by an arm of the U.S. State Department. They land here, and are placed in the hands of (among other agencies) Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM), which helps them relocate into specific communities, find jobs, and settle in. Then EMM sees that they repay their travel advances to the Government, and pockets one-quarter of its debt collection proceeds for its trouble.
It’s a nifty racket, and ensures that annually over $300,000 comes into the Episcopal Church’s coffers, to help with its bottom line. Meanwhile, the U.S. Government reimburses EMM for all of its other refugee relocation expenses, to the tune of some $14 million annually …
It turns out that a good portion of the refugees EMM is assisting are not just any refugees, but are Muslims from some of the countries to which America has sent troops, bombs or both: Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and (soon) Syria.
… EMM is one of nine major Government contractors engaged in making money to bring in refugees from these war-torn countries, in which the United States has militarily intervened. Five others, along with EMM, operate under the aegis of major American religious denominations: the Church World Service (an umbrella organization), the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the evangelically connected World Relief Corporation.
This is much worse than I could have ever imagined. Meanwhile, our Christian brothers and sisters are left to languish under the very real pain of death.
Regardless of whether one smokes tobacco, it is instructive to read of the effects smoking bans have on the leisure industry.
The Pub Curmudgeon has a tally of the numbers of pubs which have closed since July 1, 2007, the date England’s smoking ban came into effect. As I write, the number of defunct pubs now totals 14,192.
Now there are those who do not go to pubs, however, when one thinks how one piece of legislation could cripple such an inherent part of English life and culture, it beggars belief. Think of all the jobs lost through this draconian law.
To be sure, there are other factors, and the Pub Curmudgeon explores these — such as drink drive laws as well as large pub companies’ arrangements with their tenants — but, there is no question that the smoking ban is killing our pubs.
The Pub Curmudgeon says (emphases mine):
This is not a beer blog. It’s a view of life from the saloon bar, not entirely about the saloon bar – which of course is a metaphorical place as well as a physical one. It is as much about political correctness and the erosion of lifestyle freedom as it is about pubs and beer. And, while I enjoy cask beer, I don’t assume that it is the only alcoholic beverage worth consuming.
I’m a non-smoker, but not an antismoker. I believe the owners of private property should be entitled to choose whether or not smoking is permitted on their premises. If any supporter of pubs still thinks the smoking ban was a remotely good idea, just look around at all the pubs that have closed since 1 July 2007. The smoking ban is what prompted the creation of this blog back then and, while it touches on many other topics, it remains essentially its core theme. However, there remains much to be enjoyed and celebrated in pubs despite the effects of the ban.
I condemn drunken driving, but there is no evidence that driving after consuming a small quantity of alcohol is dangerous, and the campaign to discourage driving even within the British legal limit has been a major cause of the decline of the pub trade in recent years. Reducing the current legal limit – a proposal fortunately rejected by the Coalition government – would lead to the closure of thousands more pubs and would not necessarily save a single life. In my view, this is at least as much a threat to pubs as the smoking ban.
When Labour MPs discussed the smoking ban on news programmes, many cited how well local, then afterwards, statewide bans worked in California. Hmm. Not many Britons would compare our climate to California’s.
However, the California comparison seems to have been used in the US as well. Yet, whereas it’s relatively easy to spend time outdoors on a bar or restaurant terrace there for a smoke, the rest of the United States has a variable climate depending on where one lives. This makes the California comparison particularly disingenuous.
The Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis has a few articles on the impact of smoking bans by state or region, including their effect on casino revenue.
In 2009, the St Louis Fed noted that Illinois was the only state at that time which extended the smoking ban to casinos. ‘No Ifs, Ands or Butts: Illinois Casinos Lost Revenue after Smoking Banned’ states:
In the first year after the smoking ban took effect, revenue at Illinois casinos fell sharply from the previous year.4 As shown in the figure, the decline in revenue stands in sharp contrast both to the growth of recent years and to the performance of casinos in nearby states.
The Illinois Casino Gaming Association, they say, disputes that and says the economic downturn was responsible.
I’m not a huge casino fan, but I do have empathy for people who may have lost their jobs there during that time. Casinos have gift shops and restaurants, too. They also generate a lot of tax, some of which gets put back into schools and communities.
The Fed’s chart shows that Illinois — in contrast to Indiana, Iowa and Missouri — experienced a huge drop in revenue in 2008:
Using our estimates of revenue losses and declining attendance at each of the casinos in Illinois, we find that the tax loss was more than $200 million in 2008. For the local communities, the total loss in tax revenue amounted to over $12 million.
The economic effects of the Smoke-Free Illinois Act—specifically with regard to casino revenue and government tax receipts—represent only part of the act’s overall impact. In a full analysis, these costs need to be considered alongside other costs and benefits, including the public health benefits of the legislation. But as policymakers in Illinois and elsewhere ponder the implications of the Illinois smoking ban, the impact on revenue, attendance and taxes should not be ignored.
It’s quite easy for people who live downstate to go to St Louis. Those in the Chicago area can spend an hour or less travelling to Indiana. Iowa is a stone’s throw away for many in western Illinois.
However, back to the California comparison. Another St Louis Fed article from 2008, ‘Clearing the Haze? New Evidence of the Economic Impact of Smoking Bans’ tells us:
A previous article in The Regional Economist (“Peering Through the Haze,” July 2005) described some early evidence on the economic impact of smoke-free laws and suggested that the findings were far from conclusive.1
As more communities have adopted smoke-free laws and more data have been gathered, economists have discovered new, significant findings. As an earlier article suggested, economic costs often focus on specific business categories—those that smokers tend to frequent.
They cite research saying that bar employment has gone down between 4 and 16 per cent. Restaurants have experienced less of a decline, however, it depends on where they are located and whether the majority of their clientele are smokers.
However, the real issue is climate:
Restaurants in warm climates fared better than those in cooler climates. The authors suggest that the reason for this might be that restaurants in warmer climates can more easily provide outdoor seating where smoking is not prohibited … Restaurants that suffered the dual curse of being in regions with colder climates and a high prevalence of smokers suffered statistically significant employment losses, on average.
California, therefore, cannot be used as a template for everywhere else in the Northern Hemisphere.
The article features an item about the effects of the smoking ban on restaurants in Columbia, Missouri. It says, in part:
Since January 2007, all bars and restaurants in Columbia, Mo., have been required to be smoke-free. Only some sections of outdoor patios are exempt from the requirement.
Some local businesses have continued to oppose the Columbia Clean Air Ordinance, circulating petitions to repeal the law by ballot initiative. According to local press reports, owners of at least four establishments have cited the smoking ban as a factor in their decision to close their doors in 2007.
Recent data from the city of Columbia show a distinct decline in sales tax receipts at bars and restaurants. After rising at an average rate of 6.8 percent from 2002 through 2006, tax revenue declined at an annual rate of 1.3 percent over the first seven months of 2007. (See graph.) Although the data are still preliminary, initial analysis suggests a 5 percent decline in overall sales revenue at Columbia dining establishments since the implementation of the smoking ban. This estimate takes into account past trends, seasonal fluctuations in the data and an overall slowdown in sales tax revenue in Columbia. 6
Of course, as is true everywhere else, the answer is outdoor patio space:
One owner was quoted as saying, “You have to have a patio to survive.”7 The expenses associated with these renovations may help buffer the sales revenue of these establishments, but they also represent profit losses that are above and beyond the measured sales declines.
Two things are certainly true of smoking bans: they harm business and create unemployment.
A comment recently appeared on a PoliticalBetting.com post which indicates that the average Englishman in 1914 had more freedoms — and less government interference — than in 2014.
Below, PB.com contributor Richard_Tyndall quotes historian AJP Taylor, who said (emphases mine):
Until August 1914 a sensible, law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state, beyond the post office and the policeman. He could live where he liked and as he liked. He had no official number or identity card. He could travel abroad or leave his country for ever without a passport or any sort of official permission. He could exchange his money for any other currency without restriction or limit. He could buy goods from any country in the world on the same terms as he bought goods at home. For that matter, a foreigner could spend his life in this country without permit and without informing the police. Unlike the countries of the European continent, the state did not require its citizens to perform military service. An Englishman could enlist, if he chose, in the regular army, the navy, or the territorials. He could also ignore, if he chose, the demands of national defence. Substantial householders were occasionally called on for jury service. Otherwise, only those helped the state who wished to do so. The Englishman paid taxes on a modest scale: nearly £200 million in 1913-14, or rather less than 8 per cent. of the national income. The state intervened to prevent the citizen from eating adulterated food or contracting certain infectious diseases. It imposed safety rules in factories, and prevented women, and adult males in some industries, from working excessive hours. The state saw to it that children received education up to the age of 13. Since 1 January 1909, it provided a meagre pension for the needy over the age of 70. Since 1911, it helped to insure certain classes of workers against sickness and unemployment. This tendency towards more state action was increasing. Expenditure on the social services had roughly doubled since the Liberals took office in 1905. Still, broadly speaking, the state acted only to help those who could not help themselves. It left the adult citizen alone.
Fair enough, some of these — National Service in the military — haven’t existed for decades.
Yet, others are still current: the need for a passport, ever-increasing taxes (the average is upwards of 60 per cent per annum) and, at least in the 1990s, the requirement for foreigners here on work permits to register with the police once a year.
The freedom of movement back then was impressive. Unfortunately, we could not go back to that, given our current immigration levels from around the world.
Passports became mandatory during the Great War (World War I) for reasons of security and immigration control.
In the United States, income tax was enshrined in the Constitution in 1913. As early as 1918, the annual internal revenue collection surpassed $1bn. By 1920, this amount had increased to $5.4bn.
This month’s posts will largely concern increasing statism, health
care control, church participation and the attendant peer pressure upon all three.
Some posts you might agree with, others might merely give pause for thought. In short, can we be certain that all we are told by governments and ‘experts’ is true?
And what about the personal conduct of the personalities behind morals and good causes? I explored two recent scandals yesterday.
Why October? Because this is the third year of the NHS’s Stoptober anti-smoking campaign. Yes, Britain has had a comprehensive smoking ban since 2007, which includes nearly all hotel rooms, sometimes entire hotel or B&B premises. It also mandates smoke-free company vehicles. Smoking cessation helplines have been in existence long before that and still continue.
We are all aware of them. Isn’t that enough, small ‘l’ libertarians ask?
No, anti-smoking campaigners say. There must be more, much more: plain packaging, restrictions on smoking in the car and so on.
Anti-alcohol campaigns running throughout the year use the same lines which once were ‘uniquely’ applicable to tobacco. Britain’s non-smokers who enjoy a glass of wine with dinner could well find that minimum pricing will make that gustatory and digestive pleasure cost that much more.
To counter this anti-smoking industry which is here to stay, a number of British bloggers participate in #Octabber as a contrarian voice for personal liberty for adult smokers. None of them is promoting smoking and not all are smokers. They are, however, asking governments to leave smokers alone. Seventy-five per cent of the price of a pack of cigarettes (19 or 20) goes to the British government. Should that not suffice?
#Octabber campaigner Pat Nurse explains in her 2014 post on the subject (emphases mine):
Here we are again. Now in it’s third year, Stoptober, Nanny’s do as we say October campaign is back again in a bid to force us all into the perfect size 10, non drinking, non smoking, tofu-eating, water-supping perfect human specimens to, presumably, ensure we can become 150 year old burdens on society. However, this year on Twitter, it seems to be targeting all sorts of undesirables from smokers, to drinkers to the overweight – and jumping on the bandwagon a month in advance is the long-running Movember and new Govember campaigns, for those who like to grow moustaches and goatee beards …
However, #Octabber is about much more than just a statement from informed adult consumers who want to be left alone in peace without harassment to enjoy a legal product of choice. We resent the waste of tax payers cash on such silly gimmicks which do not have the effect the professional healthists brag about. Thousands/millions (insert outrageous stat for effect) of smokers do not quit during the month and you only have to check out the #Stoptober hash tag to see that it’s mostly health professionals, local authorities, alleged charities, and other tax funded, Big Pharma and corporate funded organisations that are getting excited about it. After all, their jobs depend on coming up with such propaganda and they are as dependant upon smokers for their living as the tobacco companies.
Despite the ever increasing hate campaign, marginalisation and stigmatisation of smokers, calls to ban them from outdoor public places, that they have every right to use, moves to remove yet more private property rights with car bans and home bans on the horizon, it seems we are still increasing in numbers with new figures that show one in five people still smoke …
We are and remain totally against any bullying, coercion, community campaign, ban, junk science “study”, or untrue propaganda , such as smokers cost everyone else more money. – we don’t – which is aimed at making us quit through forced marginalisaton.
My problem with all these campaigns is that none of us really knows enough about the people behind the organisations promoting them. Certainly, we know names and see the leading personalities from ASH, to name one, on television, however, it would be helpful to know more about their worldview, their career progression and what the end game of anti-smoking and anti-alcohol movements actually is.
Churchgoers who think such public health campaigns are a better organised renaissance of temperance and clean living might be disappointed to find that, in time, they could progress to a push for legalisation of illicit, dangerous drugs.
Professor David Nutt is one such campaigner who is at least open about his intentions. He was an advisor in the preceding Labour government to the Ministry of Defence, Department of Health and the Home Office until his editorial ‘Equasy’ which appeared in the Journal of Psychopharmacology:
In February 2009 he was criticised by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith for stating in the paper that the drug ecstasy was statistically no more dangerous than an addiction to horse-riding. Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Nutt said that the point was “to get people to understand that drug harm can be equal to harms in other parts of life”. Jacqui Smith claimed to be “surprised and profoundly disappointed” by the remarks, and added: “I’m sure most people would simply not accept the link that he makes up in his article between horse riding and illegal drug taking”. She also insisted that he apologise for his comments, and asked him to apologise also to ‘the families of the victims of ecstasy’.
Prof Nutt was sacked by the then health secretary, Alan Johnson, from his post as chair of the government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs for publicly stating that alcohol and tobacco were more harmful than LSD, ecstasy and cannabis. Despite his dismissal, his forthright views on drugs have rarely been out of the headlines and he has continued to campaign for a more rational government policy on drugs that takes into account the actual harms caused by them.
His website makes his position on illicit drugs quite clear.
More adolescents are indulging in recreational drugs at the weekend. I’ll have more on them later this month.
For now, let us contemplate a world where mind-altering drugs could gradually take over our society as the norm, rather than tobacco and alcohol.