“You have already drawn some of the brightest minds from academia and policy circles, many of them I have stolen ideas from liberally, people ranging from Robert Gordon to Austan Goolsbee; Jon Gruber; my dear friend, Jim Wallis here, who can inform what are sometimes dry policy debates with a prophetic voice.”
Sen. Obama made these comments on April 5, 2006
… There is absolutely no question that a national breakdown of morality is seriously problematic to the survival of a free republic. No doubt about it! … The real problem is the CHURCH. A soft, uncommitted, carnal, materialistic, lazy, self-righteous church is the root cause of ALL of America’s problems…Too many of today’s churches are thoroughly consumed with self-righteousness and self-centeredness. They either try to mimic the world and by doing so become just like the world, or they think themselves better than the world and by doing so become worse than the world…
By Chuck Baldwin
November 20, 2014
What makes America America? What distinguishes this country from the nations of the world–or from world history, for that matter? Even casual historians must admit that there has never been a country like the United States of America ever to exist. This nation is unique to world history. There has never been a country like this–and probably will never be one like it again.
As hard as it is for the anti-God types to admit, America has a deeply-rooted Christian history and culture. However, when one says, “America is a Christian country,” (usually spoken by a Christian, of course), he or she may mean something that NEVER existed. So, let’s set the record straight: America was never founded as a theocracy. And even though there are some well-meaning, albeit naïve, Christian people today who pretend that America once had, and should have again, a theocratic-type government and society, the fact is, America was NEVER a theocracy.
The only theocracy in the history of the world was Old Testament Israel under Moses. After the death of Moses, God expected Israel to be governed by the principles established through Moses. Even the reign of Israel’s greatest king, King David, could not be classified as a theocracy. He, too, was expected to adhere to the tenets and principles of Moses. Only through Moses did God directly govern the people. And even within the government of Israel, God established the roots of what became known as republican (small “r”) government. But I will save that discussion for a later day.
So, if by “Christian nation” people mean that America was established as some sort of theocracy, they are gravely mistaken. It is also unfortunate that some well-meaning (at least, I think they are well-meaning) Christian people give the unchurched world the impression that they are trying to create some sort of theocracy in America today. Some even go so far as to teach that we don’t need a Constitution or State and municipal laws–and any such laws are themselves evil. This is an asinine philosophy, to say the least.
I, for one, would never want a so-called theocracy administered by the likes of the vast majority of Christian teachers and pastors today. Are you kidding? Most of them can’t even govern a small congregation of believers who are ostensibly assembled under the same ideology, same eschatology, same ecclesiology, etc. Have you been to a church business meeting lately? You really want those people dictating national laws? God forbid!
No! There is no Moses on the scene today with new revelation dictating God’s will for the nation. That being said, there is no mistaking the fact that America has a deeply-rooted, rich Christian tradition.
America’s founders, even those who were not professing Christians, as we understand the term today, acknowledged that fact.
Benjamin Franklin wrote a pamphlet called, “Information to Those Who Would Remove to America.” It was intended to be a guide for Europeans who were thinking about relocating to this country. In it, he said, “Hence, bad examples to youth are more rare in America, which must be comfortable consideration to parents. To this may be truly added, that serious religion, under its various denominations, is not only tolerated, but respected and practiced.”
Franklin continued, “Atheism is unknown there; infidelity rare and secret; so that persons may live to a great age in that country without having their piety shocked by meeting with either an Atheist or an Infidel.”
Franklin went on: “And the Divine Being seems to have manifested his approbation of the mutual forbearance and kindness with which the different sects [Christian denominations] treat each other; by the remarkable prosperity with which he has been pleased to favor the whole country.”
Noah Webster (himself an outspoken Christian, of course), said, “The religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and His apostles, which enjoins humility, piety, and benevolence; which acknowledges in every person a brother, or a sister, and a citizen with equal rights. This is genuine Christianity, and to this we owe our free Constitutions of Government.”
Webster also said, “When you become entitled to exercise the right of voting for public officers, let it be impressed on your mind that God commands you to choose for rulers just men who will rule in the fear of God. The preservation of a republican government depends on the faithful discharge of this duty.”
Notice, Webster did not say we should vote for “Christians.” He said we should vote for “just men who will rule in the fear of God.” That is the correct model set forth in both Natural and Revealed Law. Today, most Christians have never been taught this rudimentary truism.
Daniel Webster noted the following: “Finally, let us not forget the religious character of our origin. Our fathers were brought hither by their high veneration for the Christian religion. They journeyed by its light, and labored in its hope. They sought to incorporate its principles with the elements of their society, and to diffuse its influence through all their institutions, civil, political, or literary.”
There is the correct understanding of America as a “Christian” nation. America’s founders never thought they were creating a theocracy, but they did have a “high veneration” for the Christian faith and “sought to incorporate its principles” into American government.
The principles of the Christian faith include both Natural and Revealed Law. The Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, especially, clearly illustrate the founder’s understanding and appreciation for these principles.
The Declaration begins, “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which THE LAWS OF NATURE AND OF NATURE’S GOD [emphasis added] entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the cause which impel them to the separation.
“We hold these truths to be SELF-EVIDENT [emphasis added], that all men are CREATED [emphasis added] equal, that they are endowed BY THEIR CREATOR [emphasis added] with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
As Thomas Jefferson quickly penned the Declaration (and he did write it rather quickly), he was borrowing heavily from John Locke and the commonly understood principles of Natural Law. Though the founders were dissimilar in regards to their understanding of Biblical teaching, to a man, they understood and agreed with the “self-evident” principles of Natural Law, or “the Laws of Nature.”
Furthermore, virtually every “right” enumerated in the Bill of Rights can be traced directly to commonly understood principles contained in Natural and Revealed Law. That fact is unassailable.
In addition to our common Christian heritage, America was united with a common language, along with a common culture and history. The loss of our Christian heritage, our common language, along with our common culture and history would certainly transform America into something other than America.
Unfortunately, however, there are those who share our common faith and history who are also contributing mightily to the destruction of America. I am talking about those who would identify themselves as Christians and/or conservatives. Of course, to hear these people talk, America’s problems are all caused by “liberals,” or Democrats. They would also single out drug-dealers (except they always seem to leave out certain politicians who are the true drug lords in America), pornographers, Hollywood entertainers (not all of whom are immoral reprobates, of course), and similar sorts, as being the cause of America’s destruction.
There is absolutely no question that a national breakdown of morality is seriously problematic to the survival of a free republic. No doubt about it! My only contention on this point is that the groups mentioned above are not the true problem; they are only symptomatic of the true problem. The real problem is the CHURCH. A soft, uncommitted, carnal, materialistic, lazy, self-righteous church is the root cause of ALL of America’s problems, including the ones mentioned above.
Too many of today’s churches are thoroughly consumed with self-righteousness and self-centeredness. They either try to mimic the world and by doing so become just like the world, or they think themselves better than the world and by doing so become worse than the world.
Phariseeism is a major problem today. Have you ever noticed that you seldom, if ever, hear a message about Christ and the Pharisees? Why is that? It’s because a study of the subject will reveal that too many church leaders are nothing more than modern-day Pharisees in practice. It’s a lesson that hits uncomfortably close to home.
Okay. Let me toot my own horn here. I have a DVD with three messages on the subject, “Christ And The Pharisees” available. And, seriously, when is the last time you ever heard the subject mentioned from anybody’s pulpit? I submit that one CANNOT possibly understand the ministry and teachings of Christ if one does not understand the contentious contest that took place between Christ and the Pharisees. If you would like to purchase this three-message series on ONE DVD, go here: Christ And The Pharisees DVD
The spirit of Phariseeism is so prevalent among the Church today that is no wonder why so many unbelievers refuse to darken the doors of a church. Many of today’s Christians are as enslaved to the traditions and doctrines of men as any slave anywhere. How in the name of common sense can one expect Christians to fight for the political liberties of our country when they, themselves, are enslaved to the machinations of modern-day Pharisees?
Some of the most enslaved people on the planet are professing Christians. Many of our churches, Christian schools, colleges, seminaries, etc. are filled with the “servants of men.” The fact that our public education system fails to teach children to think critically is only matched by too many of today’s churches and Christian schools.
Not only do so many Christians have a slave mentality; they also have a war mentality. Who are the ones who are the first and loudest cheerleaders for perpetual wars of aggression in the Middle East? Christians and conservatives! But why should that surprise us? Look at our churches. What do you see? Perpetual war: infighting, gossip, slander, backbiting, name-calling, character assassination, etc. Some of the most mean-spirited, low-down, dishonest, conniving, and blood-thirsty people on the planet call themselves Christians. Believe me, if they could get away with it, there is no telling how many people in our country would be losing their heads at the hands of these pious-talking Christians. Hatred and bitterness is nothing more than murder of the heart; and millions of professing Christians are as guilty as can be.
Speaking of losing one’s head, the anti-Muslim bias and hysteria being evidenced in most churches today is absolutely alarming! In the mistaken notion that somehow it is God’s will that the American army be used as some sort of holy crusade against Islamic states, Christians are spearheading a perpetual war doctrine that has become the bane of freedom within our own country.
In the name of fighting a “war on terror,” America is being turned into a giant Police State–and Christians seem to be among its most ardent supporters. But Washington, D.C., is not fighting a “war on terror,” it is fighting a “war on liberty.” Our Bill of Rights is being decimated! We are living under an Orwellian surveillance society, the likes of which Hitler and Stalin could have only dreamed about. And, again, Christians and conservatives are among the loudest proponents.
Now that the GOP has control of both houses of Congress in Washington, D.C., and with a pro-war Democrat in the White House, we can expect an escalation of foreign wars during the next two years analogous to those of the G.W. Bush years. And, unfortunately, most of the Christian war fever seems to be predicated on the erroneous John Hagee theology that modern-Israel is Bible-Israel and, somehow, it is America’s responsibility to fight all of Israel’s wars.
The war fever demonstrated by too many Christians and conservatives is destroying our country. Endless wars abroad; hundreds of thousands of innocents killed–many of whom are our Christian brothers and sisters; trillions of dollars of deficit spending to fund these perpetual, unconstitutional wars of aggression; a burgeoning Police State at home under the rubric of “we are at war”; ad infinitum.
Worse still is the way Christian war fever has turned the nations of the world, not only against America, but against Christianity. How are our missionaries supposed to take the message of the Prince of Peace to a people whom we have just bombed into the Stone Age, killing their parents, children, brothers and sisters, etc.?
Since 1980, the United States has invaded, occupied, or bombed fourteen Islamic countries. Fourteen! But the pro-war politicians in D.C. keep telling the American people the reason that Muslims hate us is because of our freedom. What a crock! Some of us can remember when some of the best friends this country had were Islamic states in the Middle East. A meddling, intrusive, arrogant, war spirit in Washington, D.C., has turned people who were once friendly to the United States into some of our most fierce adversaries. And all Christians and conservatives can do is demand more and more war.
The assault against the United States is massive. We are fast losing our Christian heritage and culture–and Christians are as much to blame as anyone. They have tried to turn the Lord’s Church into a playground or entertainment center–or even worse, a corporation. Phariseeism is rampant. As a result, unbelievers have lost all respect for churches in general. I, for one, don’t blame them.
We have lost our understanding of, and appreciation for, Natural Law. Even most pastors cannot articulate the fundamental principles of Natural Law, even though this is the Law upon which America was founded. This means, we have lost the true meaning of America’s Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights.
We cheer as our country has turned into a “Warfare State.” We applaud as our nation has turned into an Orwellian surveillance society. We are losing our common language, our common history and heritage, and our common faith. Christianity in 2014-15 is not even comparable to Christianity in 1775-76. We have traded Jonas Clark for Joel Osteen.
Yes, the very people who claim to love America the most and who claim to be interested in her blessing and prosperity are too often the very ones who are helping to destroy her.
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
By ERIC LICHTBLAU and WILLIAM M. ARKIN
NOV. 15, 2014
WASHINGTON — The federal government has significantly expanded undercover operations in recent years, with officers from at least 40 agencies posing as business people, welfare recipients, political protesters and even doctors or ministers to ferret out wrongdoing, records and interviews show.
At the Supreme Court, small teams of undercover officers dress as students at large demonstrations outside the courthouse and join the protests to look for suspicious activity, according to officials familiar with the practice.
At the Internal Revenue Service, dozens of undercover agents chase suspected tax evaders worldwide, by posing as tax preparers, accountants drug dealers or yacht buyers and more, court records show.
At the Agriculture Department, more than 100 undercover agents pose as food stamp recipients at thousands of neighborhood stores to spot suspicious vendors and fraud, officials said.
Undercover work, inherently invasive and sometimes dangerous, was once largely the domain of the F.B.I. and a few other law enforcement agencies at the federal level. But outside public view, changes in policies and tactics over the last decade have resulted in undercover teams run by agencies in virtually every corner of the federal government, according to officials, former agents and documents.
Some agency officials say such operations give them a powerful new tool to gather evidence in ways that standard law enforcement methods do not offer, leading to more prosecutions. But the broadened scope of undercover work, which can target specific individuals or categories of possible suspects, also raises concerns about civil liberties abuses and entrapment of unwitting targets. It has also resulted in hidden problems, with money gone missing, investigations compromised and agents sometimes left largely on their own for months.
“Done right, undercover work can be a very effective law enforcement method, but it carries serious risks and should only be undertaken with proper training, supervision and oversight,” said Michael German, a former F.B.I. undercover agent who is a fellow at New York University’s law school. “Ultimately it is government deceitfulness and participation in criminal activity, which is only justifiable when it is used to resolve the most serious crimes.”
Some of the expanded undercover operations have resulted from heightened concern about domestic terrorism since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
But many operations are not linked to terrorism. Instead, they reflect a more aggressive approach to growing criminal activities like identity theft, online solicitation and human trafficking, or a push from Congress to crack down on more traditional crimes.
At convenience stores, for example, undercover agents, sometimes using actual minors as decoys, look for illegal alcohol and cigarette sales, records show. At the Education Department, undercover agents of the Office of Inspector General infiltrate federally funded education programs looking for financial fraud. Medicare investigators sometimes pose as patients to gather evidence against health care providers. Officers at the Small Business Administration, NASA and the Smithsonian do undercover work as well, records show.
Part of the appeal of undercover operations, some officials say, is that they can be an efficient way to make a case. “We’re getting the information directly from the bad guys — what more could you want?” said Thomas Hunker, a former police chief in Bal Harbour, Fla., whose department worked with federal customs and drug agents on hundreds of undercover money-laundering investigations in recent years.
Mr. Hunker said sending federal and local agents undercover to meet with suspected money launderers “is a more direct approach than getting a tip and going out and doing all the legwork and going into a court mode.” “We don’t have to go back and interview witnesses and do search warrants and surveillance and all that,” he added.
But the undercover work also led federal auditors to criticize his department for loose record-keeping and financial lapses, and Mr. Hunker was fired last year amid concerns about the operations.
‘A Critical Tool’
Most undercover investigations never become public, but when they do, they can prove controversial. This month, James B. Comey, the director of the F.B.I., was forced to defend the bureau’s tactics after it was disclosed that an agent had posed as an Associated Press reporter in 2007 in trying to identify the source of bomb threats at a Lacey, Wash., high school. Responding to criticism from news media advocates, Mr. Comey wrote in a letter to The New York Times that “every undercover operation involves ‘deception,’ which has long been a critical tool in fighting crime.”
Just weeks before, the Drug Enforcement Administration stoked controversy after disclosures that an undercover agent had created a fake Facebook page from the photos of a young woman in Watertown, N.Y. — without her knowledge — to lure drug suspects.
And in what became a major political scandal for the Obama administration, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowed guns to slip into Mexico in 2011 in an operation known as Fast and Furious that involved undercover operations.
In response to that episode, the Justice Department issued new guidelines to prosecutors last year designed to tighten oversight of undercover operations and other “sensitive” investigative techniques, officials said. Before prosecutors approve such tactics, the previously undisclosed guidelines require that they consider whether an operation identifies a “clearly defined” objective, whether it is truly necessary, whether it targets “significant criminal actors or entities,” and other factors, the officials said.
Peter Carr, a department spokesman, said that undercover operations are necessary in investigating crime but that agents and prosecutors must follow safeguards. “We encourage these operations even though they may involve some degree of risk,” he said.
Those guidelines apply only to the law enforcement agencies overseen by the Justice Department. Within the Treasury Department, undercover agents at the I.R.S., for example, appear to have far more latitude than do those at many other agencies. I.R.S. rules say that, with prior approval, “an undercover employee or cooperating private individual may pose as an attorney, physician, clergyman or member of the news media.”
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An I.R.S. spokesman acknowledged that undercover investigators are allowed to pose in such roles with approval from senior officials. But the agency said in a statement that senior officials “are not aware of any investigations where special agents have ever posed as attorneys, physicians, members of the clergy or members of the press specifically to gain information from a privileged relationship.”
The agency declined to say whether I.R.S. undercover agents have posed in these roles in an effort to get information that was not considered “privileged,” meaning the type of confidential information someone shares with a lawyer or doctor.
José Marrero, a former I.R.S. supervisor in Miami, said he knew of situations in which tax investigators needed to assume the identity of doctors to gain the trust of a medical professional and develop evidence that is tightly held. “It’s very rare that you do that, but it does happen,” Mr. Marrero, who has a consulting firm in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and continues to work with federal agents on undercover investigations, said in an interview. “These are very sensitive jobs, and they’re scrutinized more closely than others.”
Oversight, though, can be minimal. A special committee meant to oversee undercover investigations at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, for instance, did not meet in nearly seven years, according to the Justice Department’s inspector general. That inquiry found that more than $127 million worth of cigarettes purchased by the bureau disappeared in a series of undercover investigations that were aimed at tracing the black-market smuggling of cigarettes.
In one investigation, the bureau paid an undercover informant from the tobacco industry nearly $5 million in “business expenses” for his help in the case. (The agency gained new authority in 2004 allowing it to take money seized in undercover investigations and “churn” it back into future operations, a source of millions in revenue.)
Financial oversight was found lacking in the I.R.S.’s undercover operations as well. Detailed reviews of the money spent in some of its undercover operations took as long as four and a half years to complete, according to a 2012 review by the Treasury Department’s inspector general.
Across the federal government, undercover work has become common enough that undercover agents sometimes find themselves investigating a supposed criminal who turns out to be someone from a different agency, law enforcement officials said. In a few situations, agents have even drawn their weapons on each other before realizing that both worked for the federal government.
“There are all sorts of stories about undercover operations gone bad,” Jeff Silk, a longtime undercover agent and supervisor at the Drug Enforcement Administration, said in an interview. “People are always tripping and falling over each other’s cases.”
Mr. Silk, who retired this year, cited a case that he supervised in which the D.E.A. was wiretapping suspects in a drug ring in Atlanta, only to discover that undercover agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement were trying to infiltrate the same ring. The F.B.I. and the New York Police Department were involved in the case as well.
To avoid such problems, officials said, they have tightened “deconfliction” policies, which are designed to alert agencies about one another’s undercover operations. But problems have persisted, the officials said.
It is impossible to tell how effective the government’s operations are or evaluate whether the benefits outweigh the costs, since little information about them is publicly disclosed. Most federal agencies declined to discuss the number of undercover agents they employed or the types of investigations they handled. The numbers are considered confidential and are not listed in public budget documents, and even Justice Department officials say they are uncertain how many agents work undercover.
But current and former law enforcement officials said the number of federal agents doing such work appeared to total well into the thousands, with many agencies beefing up their ranks in recent years, or starting new undercover units. An intelligence official at the Department of Homeland Security, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified matters, said the agency alone spent $100 million annually on its undercover operations. With large numbers of undercover agents at the F.B.I. and elsewhere, the costs could reach hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
In a sampling of such workers, an analysis of publicly available résumés showed that since 2001 more than 1,100 current or former federal employees across 40 agencies listed undercover work inside the United States as part of their duties. More than half of all the work they described is in pursuit of the illicit drug trade. Money laundering, gangs and organized crime investigations make up the second-largest group of operations.
Significant growth in undercover work involves online activity, with agents taking to the Internet, posing as teenage girls to catch predators or intercepting emails and other messages, the documents noted. The F.B.I., Department of Homeland Security and Pentagon all have training programs for online undercover operations.
Defendants who are prosecuted in undercover investigations often raise a defense of “entrapment,” asserting that agents essentially lured them into a criminal act, whether it is buying drugs from an undercover agent or providing fraudulent government services.
But the entrapment defense rarely succeeds in court.
In terrorism cases — the area in which the F.B.I. has used undercover stings most aggressively — prosecutors have a perfect record in defeating claims of entrapment. “I challenge you to find one of those cases in which the defendant has been acquitted asserting that defense,” Robert S. Mueller III, a former F.B.I. director, said at an appearance this year.
The Times analysis showed that the military and its investigative agencies have almost as many undercover agents working inside the United States as does the F.B.I. While most of them are involved in internal policing of service members and defense contractors, a growing number are focused, in part, on the general public as part of joint federal task forces that combine military, intelligence and law enforcement specialists.
At the Supreme Court, all of the court’s more than 150 police officers are trained in undercover tactics, according to a federal law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity because it involved internal security measures. At large protests over issues like abortion, small teams of undercover officers mill about — usually behind the crowd — to look for potential disturbances.
The agents, often youthful looking, will typically “dress down” and wear backpacks to blend inconspicuously into the crowd, the official said.
At one recent protest, an undercover agent — rather than a uniformed officer — went into the center of a crowd of protesters to check out a report of a suspicious bag before determining there was no threat, the official said. The use of undercover officers is seen as a more effective way of monitoring large crowds.
A Supreme Court spokesman, citing a policy of not discussing security practices, declined to talk about the use of undercover officers. Mr. German, the former F.B.I. undercover agent, said he was troubled to learn that the Supreme Court routinely used undercover officers to pose as demonstrators and monitor large protests.
“There is a danger to democracy,” he said, “in having police infiltrate protests when there isn’t a reasonable basis to suspect criminality.”
Michael S. Schmidt contributed reporting.
Oct 31, 2014 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
During a speech in Rhode Island today, President Obama called for more taxpayer-spending on pre-school in order to “make sure that women are full and equal participants in our economy” and said the following:
Sometimes, someone, usually mom, leaves the workplace to stay home with the kids, which then leaves her earning a lower wage for the rest of her life as a result. And that’s not a choice we want Americans to make.
Watch the video here: