Will The NFL Finally Clean Up Its Act?

Forget the protests by angry women’s groups. Ignore all those politicians’ demands for tougher sanctions against abusers. Now the NFL must placate its most serious critics: the advertisers who have made so many players multimillionaires and so many owners billionaires.

In the previous season, advertisers spent a reported $3.9 billion to run their commercials during NFL games. At the top of the heap is Anheuser-Busch InBev NV (ABI), which has committed $1.2 billion over a six-year period to make its Bud Light the official brew of the NFL. So when the company says it is “increasingly concerned” by reports of domestic violence, you can bet the honchos in the league offices sit up and pay attention.

The maker of Budweiser and other brews issued a statement saying, “We are not yet satisfied with the league’s handling of behaviors that so clearly go against our own company culture and moral code.” In response, the league office replied, “We understand. We are taking action and there will be much more to come.”

The league got a black eye, if you’ll pardon the expression, over the way it handled disclosures that Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice had knocked out his then-fiancée in a casino elevator. When a video was released showing Rice dragging the unconscious woman out of the elevator, the league responded by suspending him for two games.

Then a video emerged taken inside that casino elevator. It showed Price delivering a knock-out punch to the woman who is now his wife, Janay Palmer. The brutality of the incident caused a national outcry against the NFL’s admittedly mild punishment of the athlete. The Baltimore Ravens responded by dropping Rice from the team. And NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell increased Rice’s suspension to a full year.

The controversy might have quieted down a bit when another incident erupted. Adrian Peterson, the all-star running back for the Minnesota Vikings, was indicted by a grand jury in Texas on a felony charge of child abuse. It seems Peterson “disciplined” his 4-year-old son by whipping him with a switch so severely that it left welt marks on the youngster’s back and legs.

Peterson has apologized profusely for his actions. He issued a carefully worded statement that said, in part:

I have to live with the fact that when I disciplined my son the way I was disciplined as a child, I caused an injury that I never intended or thought would happen. I know that many people disagree with the way I disciplined my child.

You think?

The athlete went on to defend the way his parents had disciplined him:

But deep in my heart I have always believed I could have been one of those kids that was lost in the streets without the discipline instilled in me by my parents and other relatives. I have always believed that the way my parents disciplined me has a great deal to do with the success I have enjoyed as a man.

I’ll bet a whole bunch of people who were raised by parents who also believed “spare the rod, spoil the child” agreed with Peterson. In fact, Fox TV host Sean Hannity took off his belt during his show and beat his desk with it, to demonstrate how his own father had disciplined him. “And I deserved it,” Hannity declared.

In all this latest hullabaloo, one thing I haven’t heard is exactly what Peterson’s son did to warrant the beating he received. The kid is just 4 years old. How vile could his actions possibly have been?

The Minnesota Vikings suspended Peterson, then reinstated him, then placed him “on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission list, which will require that Adrian remain away from all team activities while allowing him to take care of his personal situation until the legal proceedings are resolved.”

With all of the controversy, one thing that hasn’t changed is the American public’s total infatuation with professional football. Of the seven most-watched TV programs last week, six of them were NFL games. After the Rice scandal broke, viewership of “Sunday Night Football” went up 8 percent, for a total of 22 million viewers.

With the rewards of fame and fortune going higher and higher, and players getting bigger, faster and tougher, only an idiot would expect the incidents of violence, on and off the field, to go down.

We love our bread and circuses, don’t we? Even if it means that some of our gladiators occasionally go berserk.

What a sad commentary on what this country has become.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

That’s Not What the Constitution Says!

In a column last week, I had some harsh things to say about those wimps in Congress who seem perfectly willing, even eager, to surrender the war-making authority that the Constitution gives them to our imperial president.

But then I misstated what the Constitution does require. And several readers were quick to point it out. Here’s how commenter Vigilant described my error:

[Mr. Wood] says, “Whatever U.S. actions the President recommends, there is one thing his spokesmen have been clear that he definitely will not do. He will not ask Congress for a declaration of war, as the Constitution requires.”

The Constitution requires no such thing, Mr. Wood. Congress may declare war any time they so desire, and it does not require a request from anyone.

Vigilant is absolutely correct. While we have a tradition in this country of the president of the United States asking Congress for a declaration of war — such as Franklin Roosevelt’s “day of infamy” speech to a joint session of Congress after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor — there is no such requirement in the Constitution.

World War II was the very last time that Congress issued a formal declaration of war. Every single military action since then, including the ones in Korea, Vietnam and the Middle East, has been fought under some other so-called authority. Remember the Tonkin Gulf Resolution that was used to justify our military involvement in Vietnam?

It’s enlightening to see exactly what the Constitution does say — and sometimes, what it doesn’t say. Article I begins by declaring: “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives.”

What follow are several sections describing the qualifications for senators and representatives, how they shall be selected, when they shall meet and even how they shall be compensated.

It is Section 8 of Article I that lists the specific powers that the Constitution grants to the Congress. Among the long list there is the simple phrase, “To declare War.” That same proviso also gives Congress the right to “grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water.”

Section 8 also says it is the responsibility of Congress “To raise and support Armies,” “To provide and maintain a Navy,” and “To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions.”

We’ll talk another time about the lousy job Congress has done on that final instruction to “repel Invasions.” What else can you call the flood of millions of illegal aliens that have streamed across our Southern border other than an invasion?

The qualifications and responsibilities of the president of the United States are explained in Article II. That’s where you’ll find the pesky requirement that a newly elected president, “Before he enter on the Execution of his Office,” take an oath that says:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of the President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Of course, there hasn’t been a chief executive in the past 100 years who has paid more than lip service to this solemn pledge.

It is Section 2 of Article II that declares:

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States.

It is this same section that gives the president the power to negotiate treaties and to appoint “Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States.” But the Constitution is very clear that none of these actions can take effect without the advice and consent of two-thirds of the U.S. Senate.

If the Constitution says that the president of the United States can’t even appoint an ambassador without the approval of the Senate, what are the chances that the people who created this magnificent document would permit him to take this country to war without the approval of Congress? I’d say absolutely none, wouldn’t you?

So while Vigilant is right in saying that the Constitution doesn’t require the president to ask for a declaration of war, I stand by my larger point: It is the people’s representatives, not the president, who must agree to send U.S. forces into battle.

This country has paid an enormous price, in blood and in money, for allowing our imperial presidents to violate that clear Constitutional requirement.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Harry Reid’s Attack On The Constitution Backfires

No sooner had nastily partisan Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared the Senate back in session after its five-week summer recess than he launched a one-two punch that he was sure would score points for Democrats in the upcoming elections. Reid is desperate to preserve the Democratic majority in the Senate — and his plush and powerful position as majority leader.

First, he took to the Senate floor to launch another one of his frothing-at-the-mouth diatribes against those notorious Koch brothers, whom he claims are using their vast wealth to purchase elections for the far right. He never mentions, of course, that conservative Republicans are routinely outspent by wealthy liberal Democrats. He knows that the mainstream media is delighted to help hide the truth and play along with this charade.

But Reid’s angry and dishonest rhetoric was just Part 1 of his cynical campaign. Part 2 was for the Democrats to introduce a new constitutional amendment that would allegedly “correct” the problem, by overriding the freedom-of-speech guarantees in the 1st Amendment.

Just how bad is this Democratic proposal? National Review described it as “an attack on basic human rights, the Constitution, and democracy itself.” It said the measure “would invest Congress with blanket authority to censor newspapers and television reports, ban books and films, and imprison people for expressing their opinions. So long as two criteria are met — the spending of money and intending to influence an election — the 1st Amendment would no longer apply.”

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was equally alarmed. He described the bill as “bar none the most radical proposal that has been considered by the United States Senate in the time I have served.”

But the fact is, the bill had absolutely no chance of passage — and Reid knew it. In fact, he was counting on the Republicans’ not even allowing it to be debated on the floor of the Senate. This would give the Democrats some powerful sound bites for campaign attack ads. “See? The Republicans block all of our efforts to prevent those evil billionaires from buying elections.”

But the Republicans derailed Reid’s scheme by actually agreeing to consider the measure. Here’s how Politico described what happened:

Several Senate Republicans joined Democrats on Monday to advance a constitutional amendment that would give Congress and the states greater power to regulate campaign finance.

But the bipartisanship ends there.

Many of the Republicans only voted for the bill to foul up Democrats’ pre-election messaging schedule, freezing precious Senate floor time for a measure that ultimately has no chance of securing the two-thirds support necessary in both the House and the Senate to amend the Constitution.

Thanks to that Republican support, the vote to advance the bill — and, thus, require floor debate — passed by 79-18. Reid was furious that his scheme had collapsed. He said it was all part of a nefarious Republican plot to “stall” other action in Senate.

Sorry, Harry. Now you won’t be able to introduce some of your other go-nowhere grandstand plays this week, such as gender pay equity and raising the minimum wage.

That’s the kind of games the Democrats who control the Senate have been playing this week. It’s no surprise that Reid is terribly worried, as he sees the Democratic majority in the Senate — and his position as majority leader — slipping away.

You can bet that he’ll dream up several other slimy stunts over the next couple of months. Desperate people do desperate things. And Reid is getting desperate.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Note: The biggest story of the day was, of course, President Obama’s televised address last night. Because of PLD deadlines, I had to turn in this column yesterday morning. I’ll have a lot to say about Obama’s warmongering in subsequent columns.

Let’s Remind Those Wimps In Congress What The Constitution Says

Congress has finally returned from its five-week summer vacation. Now our Senators and Representatives are supposed to knuckle down and deal with some fairly serious issues.

At the top of the list is what to do about the Muslim terrorists running the Islamic State. The cries to “do something” increased exponentially after they beheaded two American journalists and posted the videos on the Internet.

President Obama brought some well-deserved scorn down on his head when he admitted last month that his administration has not yet agreed on a strategy of how to deal with the terrorists. In remarks last week, the President went from promising to “degrade and destroy” the Muslim terrorists to making their threats “manageable.”

Vice President Joe Biden was much more dramatic, promising that the U.S. would chase ISIS “to the gates of hell.” However, he did not say how we were going to do it — or what we’d do when we caught them.

During his meetings with NATO members last week, the President managed to get nine other nations to agree that they’d do something to help counter the growing threat of Islamic terrorism in the Middle East. There was no unanimity on exactly what those measures might be, but everyone agreed that it would not include those notorious “boots on the ground” that Obama has promised to avoid.

Now the President says he’s ready to announce a plan. He will address the nation tomorrow night to tell us what it is.

Whatever U.S. actions the President recommends, there is one thing his spokesmen have been clear that he definitely will not do. He will not ask Congress for a declaration of war, as the Constitution requires.

And here’s what’s even worse: Most members of Congress, including the leaders of both parties, are perfectly fine with that abnegation of their Constitutional authority.

Yes, both Republicans and Democrats are more than content to let our imperial president do whatever he wants when it comes to confronting the Islamic State. With elections just two months away, the last thing Democrats want to do is to be forced to vote on going to war. And even most Republicans seem delighted to avoid being put on the spot.

Oh, a few of them have said something about paying lip service to Congress. Even Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is sounding more amenable to taking military action against ISIS. A few days ago he declared: “If I were President, I would call a joint session of Congress. I would lay out the reasoning why ISIS is a threat to our national security and seek Congressional authorization to destroy ISIS militarily.”

Of course, “seek[ing] Congressional authorization” is emphatically not the same thing as a formal declaration of war, which is what the Constitution requires.

That same Constitution gives the House of Representatives the authority to say how money will be spent by the federal government. But those wimps in Congress have seldom exercised their Constitutional prerogatives here, either.

The Founding Fathers knew that unchecked government always and everywhere posed the greatest threat to our “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” That’s why they did their best to “bind men down with the chains of a Constitution.”

Too bad there are so few men (or women) in Washington today who will live up to that sacred responsibility.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Responding To Another Barbaric Beheading: ‘Kill Them,’ ‘Degrade And Destroy’

That’s done it. The beheading of a second American journalist has convinced a majority of Americans that the jihadist terrorists known as the Islamic State pose a significant threat to the United States. And they want this country to do something about it.

As everyone knows by now, the Islamic State posted another video to its website on Tuesday, showing the beheading of freelance journalist Steven Sotloff, who was captured in Syria a year ago. U.S. officials have confirmed that the video is authentic.

In the video, a militant dressed entirely in black, including a mask across his face, says: “I’m back, Obama, and I’m back because of your arrogant foreign policy towards the Islamic State. Just as your missiles continue to strike our people, our knife will continue to strike the necks of your people.”

The fighter appears to be the same person who appeared in the video that ISIS released two weeks ago, showing the beheading of James Foley. That video ended with a shot of Sotloff, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, kneeling in the sand. The militant standing next to him displays a knife and says, “The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision.”

The latest video ends the same way, this time showing a captive who has been identified as a British citizen, David Cawthorne Haines.

After the murder of Foley, President Obama created a storm of controversy when he responded to a question about how the U.S. will respond to ISIS advances in Syria by saying, “I don’t want to put the cart before the horse. We don’t have a strategy yet.”

While no Pentagon official would publicly contradict the president, many of them said privately that the military had come up with several strategies to counteract ISIS, including detailed and specific plans. But so far, none had been approved by the president and his advisers.

The video of Foley’s murder was posted while Obama was vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard. After making a statement condemning the act, he then returned to his vacation. Less than 10 minutes after issuing his remarks, he was back on the golf course.

This was in stark contrast to the actions of British Prime Minister David Cameron, who canceled his own vacation, returned to his office and promptly raised the threat level in the U.K.

After the release of the video showing the murder of Sotloff, the president was a little more emphatic. Obama said the U.S. “will not be intimidated” by the jihadists and declared: “So the bottom line is this:  Our objective is clear, and that is to degrade and destroy ISIL so that it’s no longer a threat not just to Iraq but also the region and to the United States.”

The president promised: “And those who make the mistake of harming Americans will learn that we will not forget, and that our reach is long and that justice will be served.”

Do you believe that? Going by the evidence so far, it’s no wonder that the jihadists don’t.

When asked what the U.S. response to the latest atrocity should be, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) replied simply, “Kill them.” It won’t take too many more “incidents” before a majority of our fellow citizens will be ready to go to war to do precisely that.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Jimmy Carter Raises Money For Terrorists

Former President Jimmy Carter has done and said a lot of stupid things over the past 40 years. But the muddle-headed octogenarian may have reached a new low. He agreed to be the featured speaker at an organization that has raised millions of dollars for Hamas, the terrorist organization that controls the Gaza Strip.

Carter agreed to speak in Detroit at the convention of the Islamic Society of North America, a group that has been implicated by the Justice Department in a scheme to funnel $12 million to Hamas. Other speakers included Jamal Badawi and Siraj Wahhaj, both of whom have been listed by the Justice Department as unindicted co-conspirators for their pro-terrorist activities.

Harvard professor and constitutional law expert Alan Dershowitz said that Carter’s appearance at the meeting put him “very close, if not across the line” of criminal behavior. Dershowitz pointed out that Section 18 of U.S. Code 2339B makes it a federal crime for any U.S. citizen to provide material support for any group that has been designated by the U.S. State Department as a foreign terrorist organization, as Hamas has been.

In the past, Carter has made no secret of his support of Hamas in its conflicts with Israel. He has bitterly denounced the actions of Israel, while all but ignoring the terrorist activities of Hamas. In a recent article in Foreign Policy, for example, Carter said that it was Israel that was guilty of committing war crimes in Gaza. He wrote:

There is no humane or legal justification for the way the Israeli Defense Forces are conducting this war. Israeli bombs, missiles and artillery have pulverized large parts of Gaza, including thousands of homes, schools and hospitals. More than 250,000 people have been displaced from their homes in Gaza. Hundreds of Palestinian noncombatants have been killed.

In his incredibly one-sided article, Carter declared, “There is never an excuse for deliberate attacks on civilians in conflict. These are war crimes.”

Hey, Mr. President, which side was the first to launch attacks on innocent civilians in the other area? Which has hidden its missiles in schools and hospitals, then used them to fire on civilian targets?

Heck, which one has spent millions of dollars building tunnels under the border between the two areas, so it can launch surreptitious attacks on the other and even kidnap hostages?

In Carter’s myopic view, it’s perfectly OK to ignore the thousands of missile strikes that Hamas has launched against civilians in Israel. No, it is only Israel that should be condemned.

Carter’s anti-Israel stance has created some problems for his grandson, Jason Carter, who is the Democratic nominee to become the next governor of Georgia. David Perdue, young Carter’s Republican opponent, has said that he is “offended” by the former president’s remarks about Israel. As well he should be.

Jason Carter has tried to put some distance between himself and his grandfather on the issue. “I have been on the front page of the paper talking about ways in which I disagree with my grandfather,” the younger Carter has said. And he added, “I believe that Israel has a right to defend itself, especially against Hamas’ terrorist actions.”

So one Carter is willing to denounce Hamas a terrorist organization, while the other agrees to help raise money for it.

Maybe it’s time for Carter family members to urge their 89-year-old patriarch to sit down and shut up, especially when it comes to defaming our staunchest ally — and the only democratic country in the Middle East.

And maybe it’s time for the Justice Department to investigate whether Jimmy Carter’s actions have violated the law. Wouldn’t that be an interesting case to see them prosecute?

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Leading Us To War Again

The drumbeats for going back to war in the Middle East are getting louder and louder. There’s no question that the barbaric jihadists known as the Islamic State make an almost ideal enemy. They’ve slaughtered, crucified or beheaded hundreds of opponents (both Christians and their fellow Muslims) as they’ve marched across northern Iraq.

They’ve bragged that they will carry the war to the United States, and even distributed a faked photograph showing their flag flying over the White House. In their most publicized atrocity, they beheaded American photojournalist James Foley — and posted the despicable act on the Internet.

The terrorists of ISIS (or ISIL, as the federal government calls them) are incredibly well-equipped, thanks to millions of dollars’ worth of armament — much of it brought to the area by the United States — that they’ve seized along the way. And they’re also incredibly well-financed, thanks to the oil revenue from the territories they’ve conquered, millions of dollars from banks that they’ve looted and funds they’ve received from Qatar, Kuwait and even our nominal allies in Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

The group is so viciously militant it’s even been denounced by al-Qaida and Hamas. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said the Islamic State “is beyond anything we’ve seen” and is “an imminent threat to every interest we have.”

Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) believes that thanks to ISIS, this country is “in the most dangerous position we’ve ever been in.” And he added, “They’re crazy out there. And they are rapidly developing a method to blow up a major U.S. city.”

Senator Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) said the group poses “an existential threat” to the United States and warned, “I think of an American city in flames.”

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) agrees. He said that ISIS represents “a direct threat to our homeland.”

It’s beginning to sound as though President Obama won’t have much trouble getting Congress to agree to expanding our military efforts in the Middle East, doesn’t it?

The president has promised that there will be no more U.S. “boots on the ground.” But, of course, that can change. In the meantime, he’s already dispatched several hundred more military advisers. We’ve increased drone strikes in areas controlled by ISIS and have even begun surveillance flights over parts of Syria — both indisputable acts of war.

And with daily reminders in all of the media about just how bloodthirsty and barbaric these jihadist terrorists are, I don’t doubt that a majority of Americans will enthusiastically applaud our taking even more aggressive actions against them.

We’re being conditioned to go to war, folks. But before you join the marching bands, please remember there is no surer road to expanding the power of the central government than by launching a “patriotic” war.

Oh, and by the way, waging war against a despised enemy is also the best way would-be tyrants have found to distract the public from the failures of their domestic policies. William Shakespeare was well aware of this, when he had King Henry advise Prince Henry, “Be it thy course to busy giddy minds with foreign quarrels; that action, hence borne out, may waste the memory of former days.”

Yes, indeed, can there be any doubt that Obama and his cohorts would love to “waste the memory of former days?”

What better way to do this than to do have the public support taking action against a bloodthirsty enemy that has beheaded one of your own?

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

The Race Baiters Fail In Ferguson

The charges seemed ideal to stir up an angry mob. A white policeman shoots and kills an unarmed black teenager. The teen’s companion says his friend, Michael Brown, was shot in the back. Another alleged eyewitness claims the boy had his hands up and said “Don’t shoot” when he was gunned down.

Suddenly, the tiny town of Ferguson, Missouri, was the site of demonstrations that turned into riots. Stores were looted and burned. Police were stoned. Molotov cocktails were hurled. State police were called in to try to prevent things from getting completely out of hand.

Notorious racist agitator Al Sharpton flew into town to add his own incendiary remarks to the volatile mix. For a while, it looked as though an escalation of violence was inevitable.

But then an amazing thing happened: As more facts began to emerge, the picture started to change. Police released a video from a nearby convenience store, taken moments before the shooting on the street. The video allegedly showed Brown threatening and pummeling a store clerk and stealing a box of cigars. This happened minutes before Brown and his companion, Dorian Johnson, were stopped by a local policeman for blocking traffic by walking down the middle of a street.

An autopsy confirmed that Brown had not been shot in the back, as his companion claimed. That was simply a flat-out lie. While officer Darren Wilson’s statement hasn’t been released yet (and it certainly should be!), a woman who said she was a friend called a local radio station and said that Brown punched and pushed Wilson and tried to take his gun. There were reports that Wilson had been severely beaten around the face and suffered a fractured eye socket.

Brown was 6-feet-4 and weighed close to 300 pounds. If he did strike Wilson several times, as has been alleged, I don’t think anyone would blame the policeman for fearing for his life. Wouldn’t you?

The fact is we don’t know exactly what happened that day in Ferguson. But that hasn’t stopped agitators like Sharpton and Jesse Jackson from demanding “justice” for Brown. Even Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon joined the clamor, demanding the “vigorous prosecution” of Wilson. Shame on him for jumping to judgment!

Attorney General Eric Holder flew to Ferguson to head up the federal investigation of the shooting. Shortly after he landed, he proved that he wasn’t exactly unbiased, when he revealed several confrontations he said he had with white law enforcement officers when he was younger. All of them seemed to demonstrate an anti-black bias.

Way to help calm things down, Attorney General!

As I said, the first reports out of Ferguson seemed ideal to stir up the mob. And for a while, it worked. But thanks to the alternative media in this country — things like talk radio, Fox News and websites such as Personal Liberty — it’s almost impossible to suppress the “other side” of a story for long. And the more facts that came out, the harder it became for the racist agitators to succeed with their bigoted, one-sided portrayals.

Because of this, things are calmer now in Ferguson. Thank goodness! If it hadn’t happened, I have no doubt that there would be more riots, more looting and more bloodshed — probably in many other cities, in addition to that small St. Louis suburb.

Thanks for doing your part to make sure that “the other side” continues to be heard.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Stop The Militarization Of Our Police

Capt. Ron Johnson pulled his men away from aggressive protesters in Ferguson on Monday night.
MCT/Capt. Ron Johnson pulled his men away from aggressive protesters in Ferguson on Monday night.

What on Earth is happening with the local police forces in this country? The Washington Post vividly described just how much things have changed:

The events in Ferguson, Missouri … are an uncomfortable reminder of the militarization of America’s small town law enforcement agencies. The photos coming out of the town–of heavily armed officers in full combat gear squaring off against unarmed protesters–look like images we’re used to seeing from places like Gaza, Turkey, or Egypt, not from a midwestern suburb of 21,000 people.

Yes, indeed, things are sure different now. And while the massive amounts of military equipment being given to local police may make the cops feel safer, it’s got to be a pretty scary thing for the innocent civilians in their path — and for all of us who prize liberty more than security.

Is it possible that what we’re seeing in Ferguson, and in hundreds of other small towns and cities across the country, is a deliberate plan to transform local police departments into well-armed agencies of the central government?

There’s no question that you can blame Washington, D.C., for much of the transformation. For years, the federal government has been giving local police forces surplus military equipment under something called the 1033 Program. And thanks to winding down the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, there has been a lot of stuff to give away.

Since the program began in 1997, more than $5 billion worth of weapons have been given to local law enforcement. Last year alone, Uncle Sam bestowed more than $449 million in equipment, weapons and vehicles to police departments. Who could resist such generosity?

We’re not just talking about arms and body armor, by the way, but even things like the 30-ton mine-resistant, armored-protective vehicles, known as MRAPs — and otherwise known as tanks. When you see one of those beasts rolling down the street toward you, it’s got to feel more like a military invasion than your friendly neighborhood cop coming to protect you.

The head of a libertarian think tank based in Washington, D.C., believes the changes are downright dangerous. Watchdog reported:

“There’s a blurring of the military mission and the civilian police mission and that is a dangerous thing,” Tim Lynch, director of the Project on Criminal Justice at the Cato Institute, said two months before the Ferguson unrest. “We want our civilian police departments not to lose sight of the fact that they are dealing with people on a day-to-day basis with constitutional rights, and we want them to use a minimum amount of force to bring suspects into a court of law.”

Both of those considerations were tossed aside in Ferguson, where reporters have been threatened and arrested, and where scores of civilians have been treated more like enemy combatants than the people they have sworn to protect.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wrote an important essay on this subject with the title, “We Must Demilitarize the Police,” which Time published. Paul noted:

Not surprisingly, big government has been at the heart of the problem. Washington has incentivized the militarization of local police precincts by using federal dollars to help municipal governments build what are essentially small armies–where police departments compete to acquire military gear that goes far beyond what most of Americans think of as law enforcement.

Paul rightly pointed out:

When you couple this militarization of law enforcement with an erosion of civil liberties and due process that allows the police to become judge and jury–national security letters, no-knock searches, broad general warrants, pre-conviction forfeiture–we begin to have a very serious problem on our hands.

Indeed we do.

Maybe one of the few good things to come out of the conflicts in Ferguson, Missouri, will be a new national debate on the militarization of our local police. We need them to get back to their mission of “protect and serve” and off the path of “intimidate and control.”

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood  

Democrats Try To Derail Rick Perry

Even those of us who are used to seeing politics get pretty tough and dirty are startled by what just happened in Texas. Last Friday, Governor Rick Perry was indicted by a grand jury on two counts of abusing his office. If convicted, he could face more than 100 years in jail.

Now, that’s hardball politics.

The case revolves around Perry’s efforts to get Rosemary Lehmberg, the district attorney in Travis County, to resign her office after her arrest on drunken driving charges. A video taken at the police station at the time showed her kicking the door of her cell and yelling at police officers, who had to put her in restraints. A blood test confirmed that her blood-alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit for driving.

Lehmberg pleaded guilty to the charges and received a 45-day jail sentence. After her conviction, Perry said that “the people of Texas” had lost confidence in her and demanded that she resign as district attorney.

Perry argued that a prosecutor who breaks the law and abuses law-enforcement personnel is in no position to judge the “public integrity” of others in government. Unless she agreed to step down, Perry said he would veto a $7.5 million appropriation that the Texas Legislature had voted for the Public Integrity Unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s Office. I’ll pause for a moment while you consider the irony of the dispute being over funding for a “Public Integrity Unit,” when the person in charge of the money had been jailed for drunken driving.

Ah, but this was in Travis County, the most liberal county in Texas. Democrats pretty much rule the roost in the area, which includes Austin, the state capital. When Lehmberg refused to resign her post, Perry followed up on his threat and vetoed the appropriation. When the Legislature refused to override him, the funding was dead.

Now, here’s where it gets a little tricky. No one disputes that, as governor of Texas, Perry had every right to veto the funds. But Michael McCrum, the special prosecutor pursuing the case against the governor, charged that threatening to do so was an illegal effort to intimidate Lehmberg.

The indictment said that Perry “intentionally or knowingly misused government property” and brought two charges against the governor: abuse of official capacity, which is a first-degree felony and carries a penalty of five to 99 years in prison, and coercion of a public official, a third-degree felony with a two-to-10-year jail term.

Charging that Perry “misused government property” by getting the state not to spend money certainly seems like a stretch. And what about the governor’s right to free speech? Doesn’t the constitution have something to say about that?

No matter. Leading Democrats in Texas were quick to celebrate the news. Gilberto Hinojosa, the chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, issued a statement saying, “Gov. Rick Perry has brought dishonor to his office, his family and the State of Texas.” U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) said, “For the sake of Texas, Governor Perry should resign following his indictment on two criminal felony counts involving abuse of office.”

Perry, of course, denies that he did anything wrong. “I stood up for the rule of law in the State of Texas,” he declared, and vowed that he wouldn’t change a thing if he had it to do all over again.

It’s too soon to tell what effect all of this will have on a possible run for the presidency by Perry in 2016. While it will probably galvanize his present supporters, the controversy could become an expensive and time-consuming distraction as he tries to expand his base.

No doubt, that is exactly what some powerful Democrats intended.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood