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Here’s the Potential Short List for Trump’s Supreme Court Pick

President-elect Donald Trump has narrowed his potential Supreme Court picks to only the federal appeals court judges on his broad list of potential nominees, according to CNN.

CNN reported that Vice President-elect Mike Pence said the team is “winnowing” the list that “is made up of mostly federal appellate court judges.” That doesn’t automatically mean all the others are off the list yet, according to Pence.

Appeals court judges on the list of 21 are Steven Colloton, Neil Gorsuch, Thomas Hardiman, Raymond Kethledge, William Pryor, and Diane Sykes. However, the story also mentions Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen.

Pence met with senators Wednesday about the potential pick, including Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V.

“There’s been some of the people on that list who have already gone through the process here as far as approving,” Manchin told CNN. “I guess they would look at someone who has gone through, somebody who’s made it through here before would have a chance.”

Trump said during his Wednesday press conference he would be making a decision on a Supreme Court justice choice within two weeks of his Jan. 20 inauguration.

The Trump transition team did not immediately respond to an inquiry from The Daily Signal as to whether the CNN report on the short list was accurate.

Here’s a look at all of the seven appeals court judges on the list, in alphabetical order.

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen was named to the state’s high court by Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican. Larsen, 48, in 2002 became an assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. Larsen, who also taught law at the University of Michigan, received her law degree from Northwestern and clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Judge William H. Pryor Jr., a President George W. Bush appointee, has served since 2004 on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Alabama, and there was a fight to get him on the court. Interestingly, Pryor’s comment about “nine octogenarian lawyers who happen to sit on the Supreme Court” deciding on the death penalty became an issue during his appeals court confirmation fight. Pryor’s confirmation came only after the May 2005 “Gang of 14” bipartisan Senate compromise, to break a Democratic filibuster of several Bush judicial nominations and also prevent the Republican leadership from invoking the so-called “nuclear option,” of curbing the filibuster. In a 53-45 vote, the Senate confirmed Pryor the following month. Pryor, 54, has a political background. He became Alabama’s attorney general in 1997 after his predecessor, Jeff Sessions, was elected to the U.S. Senate as a Republican. Trump designated Sessions to be his next attorney general. Pryor was elected in his own right in 1998 as state attorney general and was re-elected in 2002. In 2013, he was confirmed to a term on the United States Sentencing Commission. Pryor received his law degree from Tulane University.

Judge Thomas Hardiman was appointed by Bush in 2007 to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit in Pennsylvania. The Senate confirmed him 95-0 in March 2007. Hardiman, 51, previously was a federal district judge for the Western District of Pennsylvania, a position confirmed by a voice vote in October 2003. A Notre Dame graduate, Hardiman practiced law in Washington and Pittsburgh.

Judge Steven Colloton of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit in Iowa was appointed in 2003 by Bush. The Senate confirmed him in September 2003 by a vote of 94-1. Colloton previously served as a U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Iowa. The 53-year-old graduate of Yale Law School clerked for the late Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

Judge Neil Gorsuch, 49, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Colorado, was appointed in 2006 by Bush. The Senate confirmed him by a voice vote in July 2006. Before that, Gorsuch was a deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department. The Harvard Law School graduate clerked for both current Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and former Justice Byron White.
Judge Diane Sykes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Wisconsin was named by Bush. The Senate confirmed her by a vote of 70-27 in March 2004. Sykes, 58, had been a justice on the Wisconsin Supreme Court since 1999. Before that, she was a trial court judge in both civil and criminal matters. She received her law degree from Marquette University.

One federal appeals court judge on the list of 21 who wasn’t mentioned in the CNN story is Judge Raymond Gruender, 53. He was named by Bush to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit in Missouri. The Senate voted 97-1 to confirm him in May 2004. He previously was a prosecutor and served as the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri. He received his law degree from Washington University in St. Louis.

With a few exceptions, such as Justice Elena Kagan and retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, most justices in modern times have been federal appeals court judges. The list Trump considered was intriguing because it included many state supreme court justices, as well as Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.

Generally, there is a reason most justices are drawn from federal appeals courts, said John Malcolm, director of the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation.

“Federal appeals court judges have written more legal opinions about matters that are likely to go before the Supreme Court, while state supreme court justices have ruled mostly on state law and not federal law,” Malcolm, a former deputy assistant attorney general, told The Daily Signal.

But there is also merit to having state supreme court judges, said J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Department lawyer and president of the Public Interest Legal Foundation.

“I’m big fan of state Supreme Courts just because I think they might have a better understanding of overreach by the federal government, but the list I saw, they are all good names and any one would be fantastic,” Adams told The Daily Signal. (For more from the author of “Here’s the Potential Short List for Trump’s Supreme Court Pick” please click HERE)

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Airport Shooter Converted to Islam, Identified as Aashiq Hammad Years Before Joining Army

The Ft. Lauderdale Airport shooter is a Muslim convert who years before joining the U.S. Army took on an Islamic name (Aashiq Hammad), downloaded terrorist propaganda and recorded Islamic religious music online, according to public records dug up by the investigative news site of an award-winning, California journalist. This is pertinent information that the Obama administration apparently wants to keep quiet, bringing up memories of the Benghazi cover up, in which the president and his cohorts knowingly lied to conceal that Islamic terrorists attacked the U.S. Special Mission in Libya.

Information is slowly trickling out that links the Ft. Lauderdale Airport shooter to radical Islam while the official story from authorities is that the gunman is a mentally ill, Hispanic Army veteran named Esteban Santiago that became unhinged after a tour in Iraq. Only one mainstream media outlet mentions the possibility of Santiago’s “jihadist identity,” burying it in a piece about New York possibly being his initial target. A paragraph deep in the story mentions that investigators recovered Santiago’s computer from a pawn shop and the FBI is examining it to determine whether he created a “jihadist identity for himself using the name Aashiq Hammad…” The reset of the traditional mainstream media coverage promotes the government rhetoric that omits any ties to terrorism even though early on a photo surfaced of Santiago making an ISIS salute while wearing a keffiyeh, a Palestinian Arab scarf.

The public records uncovered in the days after the massacre suggest Santiago (Hammad) is a radical Islamic terrorist that’s seriously committed to Islam. Besides taking on a Muslim name, he recorded three Islamic religious songs, including the Muslim declaration faith (“there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger”) known as the Shahada. He also posted a thread about downloading propaganda videos from Islamic terrorists on a weapons and explosives forum. The investigative news site that unearthed this disturbing information connected the dots between Santiago, who is of Puerto Rican descent, and Hammad, an identity he created in 2007.

This week a prominent Ft. Lauderdale businessman and longtime resident addressed a letter to the city’s mayor and commissioners blasting county and federal officials for covering up that “Aashiq Hammad, not Esteban Santiago, attacked our city and county.” The businessman, respected Ft. Lauderdale real estate entrepreneur Jim Morlock, specifically names Broward County’s elected sheriff Scott Israel, Florida senator Bill Nelson, the first to identify Santiago as the shooter on national television, and congressman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, ousted last summer as Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair over a scandalous plot to damage Bernie Sanders during the primary. (Read more from “Airport Shooter Converted to Islam, Identified as Aashiq Hammad Years Before Joining Army” HERE)

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MARK LEVIN DRIVES MERYL STREEP BEFORE HIM: And Then Hears the Lamentation of the Actors

Okay, so I butchered a great line from Conan the Barbarian. But, hey, it’s Hollywood!

Writing on Facebook, America’s greatest living Constitutional educator laid waste to the preening, pretentious and pusillanimous pretenders at the Golden Globe Award Ceremony, starting with one of the most overrated actresses in history.

That would be someone named “Meryl Streep”, if indeed that is her real name.

Meryl Streep said nothing when Obama’s Justice Department was targeting reporters and intercepting their communications; she said nothing when Obama’s Justice Department was arming Mexican drug lords, resulting in murder; she said nothing when Obama’s IRS was threatening and intimidating private citizens because of their viewpoints; she said nothing when Obama’s NSA was gathering a massive amount of telephonic activity by American citizens; she said nothing when Obama threw Israel over the cliff at the UN; she said nothing when Obama’s policies (or lack thereof) contributed to the growth of ISIS and its genocide, rape, slavery, and torture; etc.

Streep is a liberal ass and partisan who should stick to what she knows — memorizing words written by people smarter than her and then repeating them when directed to do so. She’s incapable of basic reasoning and comprehension. She also disrespected her industry and the viewing public by using the Golden Globe Awards’ ceremony to burp up her baloney, as if what she had to say was so urgent and momentous.

Dead solid perfect.

Though I disagree slightly with Mr. Levin on one point.

Hollywood should keep on hectoring regular Americans. Dissing them to their faces. Slamming the folks who don’t get paid eight figure sums for “acting”. The folks who deliver food and oil and water and all of the goods and services that these elites take for granted.

I hope they keep it up. They’re the best advertisement for disruptors like Trump one could hope for. (For more from the author of “MARK LEVIN DRIVES MERYL STREEP BEFORE HIM: And Then Hears the Lamentation of the Actors” please click HERE)

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United States Included in Annual Christian Persecution Report

For the first time ever, the United States was included in the International Christian Concern’s annual “Hall of Shame Report.” In the 2016 edition, released last week, the U.S. appeared in the “New and Noteworthy” category.

“The persecution in these countries is not anywhere near the same level of persecution as those in the rest of the list,” the report explains, “but events in these countries indicate declining religious freedom and are cause for alarm.”

International Christian Concern (ICC) is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit that advocates for, raises awareness of and assists persecuted Christians around the world.

The report’s introduction explains that previous editions simply listed the top ten worst countries for Christians’ religious freedom. The 2016 edition splits featured nations into three categories: “Worst of the Worst,” “Core Countries,” and “New and Noteworthy.”

The “Worst of the Worst” category includes North Korea, Iraq, Syria, and Nigeria. “Core Countries” include Saudi Arabia, China, Egypt, Pakistan and India.

Russia and Mexico were also “New and Noteworthy.”

‘Alarming’ Decline in American Religious Freedom

On page 11 of the 16-page report, ICC details why the U.S. earned a spot in the “New and Noteworthy” category.

“Christians in the US are facing constant attacks in the media, where they are portrayed as bigoted, racist, sexist and close-minded,” the report states. It referenced as an example the fact that “numerous high profile media outlets” blamed last year’s nightclub shooting in Orlando on Christian attitudes toward the LGBT community, even though the shooter, Omar Mateen, declared his allegiance to ISIS.

The report also mentioned people like Eric Walsh, Joe Kennedy and Aaron and Melissa Klein, Christians who have been fired or faced penalties in the workplace because of their religious beliefs.

“Christians and all religious people are being marginalized through the law,” the report says, citing an annual study by First Liberty Institute. That report showed that attacks on religious people in the U.S. doubled between 2012 and 2015.

According to the ICC’s report, “the rise of these cases stems partly from a broad cultural shift towards secularism.” 23 percent of Americans now identify themselves as non-religious — compared with just 7 percent in 2007. “Anti-Christian entities have been able to leverage the growing secularization of society and culture to their advantage, utilizing the courts as a preferred venue to gradually marginalize and silence Christians.”

“Decades of accumulated poor judicial decisions and precedents have twisted the First Amendment,” the report notes,

so that the courts, in defiance of the Founders, are pushing religion out of the public square, and into the small space of private expression. In essence, the courts are deciding that you only have full religious freedom and expression in the church and your home. In the public domain, your religious views and thoughts must be restrained and controlled.

“While there is no comparison between the life of a Christian in the US with persecuted believers overseas,” the report concludes, “ICC sees these worrying trends as an alarming indication of a decline in religious liberty in the United States.”

‘Windows of Opportunity’

Kelly Shackelford, President and CEO of First Liberty Institute, previously told The Stream that 2016 saw “an increase in attacks on religious liberty.”

In an interview at the end of December, Shackelford expressed hope in the incoming presidential administration, saying that the future holds “huge windows of opportunity.” “There should be a big change in the hundreds of judges appointed being more favorable to religious freedom and the Constitution,” he said. (For more from the author of “United States Included in Annual Christian Persecution Report” please click HERE)

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Named and Shamed: Tom Cotton Calls out Cory Booker’s Disgraceful Sessions Chicanery

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark. (C, 76%) penned an impassioned Facebook post Tuesday afternoon, calling out Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. (F, 14%) for testifying against Donald Trump’s attorney general pick, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. (C, 78%).

Sen. Cotton referred to the unprecedented event of a sitting senator testifying against another sitting senator nominated for a Cabinet position a “disgraceful breach of custom.”

Cotton expressed his belief that Booker’s “shameful” decision to cast aspersions on a fellow senator (whom, just last year, he was “honored to have partnered with”) is part of a ploy to be elected president in 2020:

“Senator Booker is better than that, and he knows better.” (For more from the author of “Named and Shamed: Tom Cotton Calls out Cory Booker’s Disgraceful Sessions Chicanery” please click HERE)

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4 Ways Obama’s Final Speech Was a Load of Crap

Tonight, in Chicago — the nation’s murder capital, Barack Obama boasted of his self-styled achievements as president, and gave a preview of his future as the nation’s first activist former president. The setting provided a bitter irony for Obama’s self-praising. Chicago is both where Obama honed his activist chops, and is one of the places most negatively affected by his policies. A perfect allegory for a failed presidency.

In the final year of the Obama presidency, under the guidance of his former chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel, Chicago’s murder rate has spiked. This is directly the result of president Obama’s war on cops. Rather than put themselves in danger through aggressive policing, Obama’s friends in the Black Lives Matter movement have made their neighborhoods more dangerous, with police just staying out of certain neighborhoods.

Chicago is Obama’s legacy. Tonight he tried to put a shine on his legacy. But the facts tell a different story.

Obamacare

Obama once again touted success with Obamacare. He crowed about millions more now insured. That may be true, but at what cost? He even, with no hesitation, said that health costs are growing at their “lowest rate in 50 years.” As CR’s Daniel Horowitz recently explained Obamacare is more expensive than if nothing had been done … especially when it comes to Medicaid.

The cost of covering an individual in the subpar Medicaid program was $3,247 per individual in 2011 before Obamacare was enacted. In 2015, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services, the cost of enrolling an individual in Medicaid doubled to $6,366 per individual. And that is only for the second year of implementation. The cycle of regulation, public funding, overutilization, and lack of ability to peg the cost to the service has created a circuitous death spiral of unaffordable costs and unsustainable subsidies.

But it’s not just that. Millions of middle class Americans now have coverage they can’t afford to use. Before the election Bloomberg highlighted the problem:

Harris is one of many people with Obamacare plans that feature high out-of-pocket costs that can put health services out of reach. That’s because the insurance coverage Harris and others like her have purchased is designed not to kick in until patients have spent thousands of dollars.

She’s not alone. While the Affordable Care Act has pushed the uninsured rate in the U.S. near a record low, a Commonwealth Fund study this year found that about four in 10 adults in ACA plans aren’t confident they could afford care if they got sick.

Obamacare has also been a drag on the overall economic outlook for millions of Americans. The full-time employer mandate has meant more people are working part-time and in need of multiple jobs. The CEO of Carl’s Jr., a Trump supporter, said in January of 2015 that ‘Obamacare has caused millions of full-time jobs to become part time.” A statement that even Politifact had to rank as “half true” — a moniker they use when the facts buttress an argument but the editors of Politifact don’t like the outcome.

Oh and about that lowest health cost claim, CNNMoney reported in September of 2016 that healthcare costs rose the most in 32 years. Speaking of Politifact, they gave a similar claim by Hillary Clinton during the campaign a rating of FALSE.

National Security

Obama told the nation that we are safer because of his presidency. He touted that no foreign terrorist organization has attacked American soil. Of course, he is parsing words. As the Daily Wire wrote in December of 2016, many of the jihadi attacks in America have been inspired by jihadi organizations or the jihadis were trained by those organizations.

The list compiled by the Daily Wire reports on “the major, verifiable radical Islamic attacks over the last eight years.” The Daily Wire further explains that there have been other attacks in which jihad is suspected but not verified. The thirteen attacks highlighted include the Little Rock military recruiting station attack, the Fort Hood attack, the Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent firefight, a beheading in Moore Oklahoma, a Queens hatchet attack, the execution-style murders of two cops in Brooklyn, the Garland draw Mohammed attack, the Chattanooga recruiting station attack, the San Bernardino Christmas party attack, the Orlando night club attack, the St. Cloud mall attack, the New York/New Jersey bomber, and the Columbus Ohio State University attack.

“Climate Change”

Obama also took credit for his climate change agenda. Something he has always believed poses a greater threat to world peace than radical Islamic terrorism. Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE, explained on CNBC why Obama’s focus on climate change has hurt the nation as a whole.

Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric, said Thursday the Obama administration’s heavy focus on combating climate change is “radical behavior” that’s holding back the economy.

A longtime GOP supporter, Welch told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” the priority on preventing climate change spills over into “all kinds of policies throughout the different agencies.”

The result, he said: “You get an economy that won’t move. You get ozone regs that are wacky.”

“You [also] get a reduced military,” he added — saying the U.S. needs to rebuild its national defenses to combat the threat from the so-called Islamic State terrorist group. “You can’t be sitting here with the real threat of a caliphate and ISIL … and talking about climate change.”

The Obama focus on ‘climate change’ has led to a weaker, less prosperous, and less safe America. Hardly an accomplishment to crow about. Not to mention that now some scientists think we are headed into a new ice age.

Jobs

Obama also once again tried to paint the nation’s employment picture as rosy. He boasted about how he “unleash[ed] the longest stretch of job creation in our history.” While it may be factually correct, it belies the type of job growth and the stagnant rate of growth.

Because of Obamacare, there have been a disproportionate number of part-time jobs created. The labor force participation rate is still anemically low.

CR’s John Gray has blown a hole in Obama’s jobs record. Back in 2015 he laid out the case, which hasn’t changed much.

Obama Touts This. Currently at 5 percent, the unemployment rate is at the lowest level since Obama became president. In addition, the president has “created” about 8.1 million net new jobs since 2009 – a little less than the 8.7 million that were lost during financial crisis in 2008 and 2009.

But Not This. Those rosy unemployment numbers fail to factor in millions of people only marginally attached to the workforce, or those who would like to work, but have quit looking for employment out of frustration at the lack of opportunities. When those workers are factored in, the real unemployment rate, otherwise known as the underemployment rate is now 9.9 percent – nearly twice the rate of the “official” metric.

More importantly, a growing share of the population is no longer participating in the workforce altogether. The labor force participation rate has dropped to 62.4 percent, or nearly 94 million American not in the labor force; labor force participation has not been this low since 1977. Those are just a few of the areas that Obama tried to take “credit” for improving. He then went on to talk about areas he would be judging President-elect Trump on, signaling that he would not step aside quietly to let his successor govern, as is the precedent with past presidents.

Tonight’s speech was a powerful reminder of how much better the nation will be when the ink in Obama’s pen runs dry, and his government cell phone contract is dropped. Then all he’ll have is a soapbox, where he can utter “just words.” (For more from the author of “Named and Shamed: Tom Cotton Calls out Cory Booker’s Disgraceful Sessions Chicanery” please click HERE)

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Liberal Theology Empties Churches

The Episcopal Church in America reached peak membership in 1959, with about 3.5 million baptized members, rising from just over one million in a decade. Since the population of the USA also rose during this period, another way to put it is to say the Episcopal Church had in 1959 about 19.4 members per every 1,000 citizens, rising from 17 per 1,000 in 1949. Total church membership has since fallen, with membership about 1.8 million in 2015, or 5.5 per 1,000, and dropping none too slowly.

Liberal versus Conservative

Similar rapid decreases are seen among the Presbyterian (PCUSA), United Methodist, and Lutheran (ELCA) churches. Episcopalians, Presbyterians (USA), Lutherans (ELCA) and United Methodists represent historical or mainline Protestant Churches in the USA,

The much more evangelical Southern Baptist Convention, because of its age, is similarly situated. Numbers are better in the large Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) than in the Mainline. But membership in SBC congregations has not been keeping track with population increases.

In contrast, evangelical denominations, such as for example the Assemblies of God, while still individually smaller than mainline Protestant congregations, have seen significant growth. The Assemblies of God had only about 300 thousand members in 1950 (about 2.1 per 1,000), swelling ten times to 3.1 million last year (9.8 per 1,000).

Broadly speaking, and using the colloquial understanding of the terms, conservative Protestant churches have had increases this past half century, and liberal churches have had decreases. It is, of course, of interest to shore up these loose expressions and discover just what “conservative” and “liberal” mean in this context.

Enter the paper “Theology Matters: Comparing the Traits of Growing and Declining Mainline Protestant Church Attendees and Clergy” by David Millard Haskell, Kevin N. Flatt, and Stephanie Burgoyne in the journal Review of Religious Research. The trio asked questions of the clergy and congregations of 22 Protestant churches drawn from the Anglican Church of Canada (5), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (4), the Presbyterian Church in Canada (8), and the United Church of Canada (4) all centered in southern Ontario. Of these, 13 had declining populations from 2003 to 2013 and 9 had increasing populations.

Now this isn’t an especially large or necessarily representative sample of churches outside Canada; however, as the survey questions will show, there is still much that can be learned.

Congregations in Growing and Declining Churches
Several questions were asked of the congregants, and many answers showed wide disagreement between the Growing and Declining churches.

For instance, 79% of Growing congregants agreed strongly with the statement “Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, God provided a way for the forgiveness of my sins,” whereas only 57% of Declining congregants thought the same. About 19% of Growing congregants strongly agreed that “the beliefs of the Christian faith need to change over time to stay relevant,” whereas 31% of Declining congregants thought so.

Three questions in particular were revealing in the conservative-liberal gap. Only 7% of Growing congregants strongly agreed that “the Bible is the product of human thinking about God, so some of its teachings are wrong or misguided,” whereas over 15% of Declining congregants strongly agreed.

About 13% of Growing congregants strongly agreed that “all major religions are equally good and true,” but more than twice as many Declining congregants, or 25%, thought so. On the fundamental basis of the Christian religion, 66% of Growing congregants strongly agreed that “Jesus rose from the dead with a real flesh and blood body, leaving behind an empty tomb,” but only 37% of Declining congregants did.

Not surprisingly, about 29% of Growing congregants thought their church’s mission was evangelism, and 16% thought it was social justice, whereas the numbers in Declining congregations was 9% and 31%.

Clergy in Growing and Declining Churches

Questions were also asked of the clergy, and the differences between Growing and Declining congregations was starker.

The largest difference was in the statement “Jesus was not the divine Son of God,” where it might be expected no clergy member could agree. And, indeed, no Growing clergy member agreed in any way. Yet 13% of Declining clergy agreed at least moderately.

Likewise, no Declining clergy strongly agreed that “it is very important to encourage non-Christians to become Christians,” but 77% of Growing clergy did. The statement “The beliefs of the Christian faith need to change over time to stay relevant” could not get any Growing clergy to agree in any way, but 69% of Declining clergy at least moderately agreed.

Some 70% of Growing clergy strongly agreed that “those who die face a divine judgement where some will be punished eternally,” but only 6% of Declining clergy moderately agreed, and none strongly agreed. On that same fundamental question asked of the congregation, 85% of Growing clergy strongly agreed (and none strongly disagreed) that “Jesus rose from the dead with a real flesh and blood body, leaving behind an empty tomb,” yet only 38% of Declining clergy thought so (and 19% strongly disagreed).

Has the call for liberalization failed?

Writing in the Washington Post, one of the authors of the study (Haskell), reminds us of the 1999 book by Episcopalian bishop John Shelby Spong Why Christianity Must Change or Die. “Spong, a theological liberal, said congregations would grow if they abandoned their literal interpretation of the Bible and transformed along with changing times.”

The Episcopal Church followed this advice. They have female priests and bishops. They allow “the ordination of openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, and/or transgender clergy.” They even had a practicing homosexual bishop in a (government-defined) “marriage” to another man, a “marriage” which was further liberalized into a “divorce.”

Yet, even though Haskell says Spong’s theory “won favor with academics” and was “praised” at no less eminent a place than the Harvard Divinity School to assist in “shifting Christianity to meet the needs of the modern world,” the Episcopal Church’s membership dropped precipitously, with no sign of slowing. The Church even splintered, with the Anglican Church in North America forming from former Episcopalians who could not countenance Spong’s liberal theology.

As for the anti-climatic conclusion of his study, Haskell blandly writes, “Conservative Protestant theology, with its more literal view of the Bible, is a significant predictor of church growth while liberal theology leads to decline.”

Apparently theological liberalism empties churches. (For more from the author of “Liberal Theology Empties Churches” please click HERE)

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While America Was Watching Football, the FBI Dropped These 300 Clinton-Related Docs

While the rest of America was preoccupied with the NFL Wildcard Playoffs and the Golden Globes ceremony Sunday evening, the FBI released another batch of Hillary Clinton documents, completely unannounced. The 300 items contained information regarding the federal investigation into the form Democratic presidential candidate’s private email server and her questionable handling of classified material.

Wikileaks was the first to announce the news via Twitter:

According to Wikileaks, the documents were released at 22:37 p.m. UTC on the Bureau’s Vault website, where it publishes information regarding Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. Sunday marked the fifth of such Clinton document dumps on behalf of the FBI.

The Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross conducted a preliminary perusal of the 300 documents, many of which appear to be emails between State Department officials and federal law enforcement disputing whether certain emails sent over Clinton’s private server contained “classified” information.

From the Daily Caller:

In one April 27, 2015 email, an FBI official wrote to other officials that they were “about to get drug into an issue on classification” of Clinton’s emails. The official, whose name is redacted, said that the State Department was “forum shopping,” or seeking a favorable opinion on the classification issue by asking different officials to rate emails as unclassified.

The emails also appear to show that State Department officials made multiple special requests for the FBI to reduce its classification of certain emails found on Clinton’s.

More from the Daily Caller:

The FBI release also includes an email from the attorney of Bryan Pagliano, the Hillary Clinton State Department aide who set up and managed her secret email server. In the email, Mark MacDougall, Pagliano’s lawyer, informed the FBI that Pagliano would decline the bureau’s request for an investigation. Pagliano would eventually meet with the FBI in December, but only after receiving limited immunity from the Department of Justice.

Sunday’s low-profile email dump proves that the Hillary Clinton email saga is far from over, and that the FBI has some explaining to do. (For more from the author of “While America Was Watching Football, the FBI Dropped These 300 Clinton-Related Docs” please click HERE)

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Retired IRS Special Agent: Here’s How to Get Mexico to Pay for the Wall

The Washington Post published an article Friday reporting that American taxpayers will have to pay for the promised wall between Mexico and the southern U.S. border, despite President-elect Donald Trump’s earlier claims that Mexico would be forced to fund the project.

There is still a way that Mexico could pay for the wall, however.

How Illegal Immigrants Receive Hefty Tax Returns

Congress, through the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), allows illegal immigrants working in the United States to claim their relatives living in Mexico and Canada, or illegally in the Unitesd States, as dependents on their tax return, thus reducing their tax liability. Amending the IRC to allow only U.S. Citizens (USC’s) or legal residents to be claimed as dependents would likely generate billions of dollars in additional tax revenue which could then be earmarked for a border fence between Mexico and the United States.

Here’s how the system current works. An illegal immigrant living in the United States can file a Form W-7 through an “Accepting Agent” (usually a return preparer) with the IRS to get an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN). He then can get ITIN’s for his relatives living in Mexico or illegally in the United States.

When he files his Form 1040, he slaps his ITIN on the front of the return and attaches his Form W-2 showing his wages. The Form W-2 usually shows the social security number that he has purchased, stolen, or borrowed because he was ineligible to work in the Unites States. He then loads up his return with the ITIN’s of his dependents either living illegally in the United States or residing in Mexico. These dependents don’t have to be the taxpayer’s children. They can be his parents, uncles, and distant relatives such as nieces and nephews. The taxpayer’s 2016 taxable income is reduced by $4,050 for each dependent.

Crazy True Story

Here’s a true example. IRS special agents raided a one-person tax preparation business in a small Wisconsin town in 2014. Over the course of seven years, the owner filed 10,437 applications for ITIN’s on behalf of her clients. From the 2011 through 2014 filing season, her clients racked up over $34 million in refunds from the 9,489 returns she filed with the IRS. Her clients received an average refund of $3,509 even though 69 percent of the listed an ITIN holder as the primary taxpayer and about 75 percent of the claimed dependents had ITIN’s.

Translated into English, this means that 69 percent of her taxpayers were illegal immigrants working in the United States who got an annual check for about $3,600 from Uncle Sam after claiming other illegals (or relatives in either Mexico or Canada) as dependents. During an undercover operation, this return preparer counseled her client (the conversation was conducted in Spanish) to find children in Mexico to claim so he could get a tax refund instead of owing money to the IRS.

IRS Mismanagement

Now, matters are getting worse. Illegal immigrants who want to claim bogus dependents operate on the honor system because Congress decimated the IRS’s enforcement budget. This move was made in response, I believe, to former IRS director Lois Lerner’s pleading of the 5th, lost IRS emails, crashed IRS hard drives, a few million dollars spent on a Disney Land boondoggle for IRS management, and videos showing high ranking IRS executives practicing a line dance or parodying a Star Trek episode. (Note that they mix the bridge of the original Star Trek with the Next Generation uniforms. Atrocious.)

The IRS does not publish statistics on the tax revenue lost by allowing illegal immigrants to claim other illegal immigrants, or people residing in Mexico, as dependents. However, the example provided above shows that just one return preparer can cost the Treasury $34 million in a few short years. What we do know is that the IRS estimates that the Tax Gap (the amount of tax revenue that should be collected but isn’t) stands at $468 billion per year.

If President-Elect Trump wants Mexico to pay for the wall, I suggest he sign a revision of the Tax Code which eliminates the dependency exemption for persons residing in Mexico and illegal immigrants from Mexico residing in the Unites States. Doing so would both fulfill a campaign promise and reduce the Tax Gap.

By the way, the return preparer in my example was never indicted, though hope springs eternal. (For more from the author of “Retired IRS Special Agent: Here’s How to Get Mexico to Pay for the Wall” please click HERE)

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Ft. Lauderdale Shooter Another ‘Known Wolf’ Let Go by FBI

It is uncertain the motive or mental state of the man who walked off a plane in the Fort Lauderdale airport, loaded a gun, and murdered five people. What we do know is that he basically turned himself in to the FBI and once again the Bureau did nothing when confronted with the possibility that he had been influenced by radical Islam. This continues a disturbing trend of law enforcement knowing that specific violent jihadis, or known wolves, exist — and not doing anything to prevent attacks.

From Omar Mateen, the jihadi who shot up a gay nightclub, to the jihadi who set off a bomb in Manhattan, to seemingly countless others, the FBI has known about specific terrorists before they carried out attacks. The FBI has time and time again caught and released these jihadis, and yet again that appears to be the case.

It is uncertain if Esteban Santiago, the man in custody for the horrific attack, is a true believer in a radical Islamic ideology, or a severely mentally unstable person who carried out jihad because of the voices in his head. What is undeniable is that he walked into a FBI office in Alaska and told them “voices” were making him do things.

He told officials he was hearing voices in his head, some of which were telling him to join ISIS and watch their videos, and was taken to hospital for a mental health evaluation.

Santiago, who also told the FBI the government controlled his mind, gunned down 13 people at Fort Lauderdale airport today, killing five and injuring eight.

After the evaluation, and after agreeing to seek help for his mental issues, Santiago was freed. It looks as though there was very little monitoring of him afterwards. There also appears to have been no follow up or monitoring of Santiago, nor an attempt to use existing laws and due process to suspend his right to carry a gun, something that is permissible under current law.

Again, it is very much unsure at this stage if Santiago is an actual convert to radical Islam. But he did flash what is known as, for lack of a better term, the ISIS gang sign in a social media photo.

If, in fact, if it turns out that Santiago is mentally unstable and not a true jihadi, that brings another government agency into focus: the VA. It is well known that the VA health system has been letting down our nation’s veterans at an alarming rate, especially the mental well-being of those veterans. It has been reported that Santiago recently spent a tour of duty in Iraq. His family said that he was not the same since coming back.

The suspect’s aunt Maria Ruiz Rivera claimed the alleged shooter “lost his mind” while fighting in Iraq.

When quizzed why Santiago may have opened fire at passengers, her husband, Hernan Rivera, said: “No idea. Only thing I could tell you was when he came out of Iraq, he wasn’t feeling too good.”

No matter if Santiago was a true believing jihadi, radicalized while in Iraq, or a veteran who did not get the health care he deserved from the VA, it is beyond doubt that our government dropped the ball once again. President-elect Trump has promised to revamp both law enforcement’s stance toward jihad and the VA. The attack in Fort Lauderdale proves that new focus cannot come fast enough. (For more from the author of “Ft. Lauderdale Shooter Another ‘Known Wolf’ Let Go by FBI” please click HERE)

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