A Coincidence?

Believers in the coincidence theory of history will have fun with this one. It was 64 years ago this week when witnesses claimed that something fell from the sky and crashed on a ranch outside of Roswell, N.M.

Ever since July 8, 1947, rumors have persisted that the unidentified flying object, or UFO, contained visitors from outer space. Allegedly, their bodies were hidden away by government agents and became the object of various secret experiments.

I scoff at such preposterous allegations, of course. Nevertheless, it gives me pause to realize that nine months later, in March 1948, Al Gore was born.

Hey, have you got a better explanation?

—Chip Wood

A World Gone Crazy

Not always this peaceful. London must be one of the most civilized cities in the world. But this civilized? During a recent visit, I came across two demonstrations facing each other across a street. On one side stood a small pro-Israel group, waving a blue and white flag. Across the street, several pro-Palestinians held aloft their black, red and green flag. Both groups seemed to be enjoying themselves. I hope it didn’t turn into a riot after I passed.

Are we worse off than the Greeks? Greece is about to go bankrupt, possibly taking down the euro with it. Thanks to their profligate borrowing and spending, the country’s debt is a staggering $42,888 per person. But here in the good ol’ USA, our debt comes to even more: $46,403 per person. Our government wants to borrow several trillion dollars more, and other countries seem eager to lend it to us. We truly live in a world gone crazy.

We’re getting too politically correct. I just learned that the U.S. Navy has decided to name one of its newest ships after Latino civil-rights activist Cesar Chavez. What happened to the proud naval tradition of naming ships in honor of a military hero? Shouldn’t this honor be reserved for someone who proudly served his country as a member of the armed forces?

Our kids are too plugged in. A 2010 survey by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation reports that children in this country spend an average of 7½ hours a day, seven days a week, plugged into some sort of electronic media. Yes, our children are on electronic devices for more than 52 hours a week — more time than most adults spend at work.

–Chip Wood

Would You Be This Brave?

On July 4, 1776, after months of heated debate, representatives of the Continental Congress voted unanimously that “these United Colonies are and of right ought to be Free and Independent States.”

Thirteen colonies voted to become something new: the United States of America. All they had to do was to win their independence from a government that would consider them traitors.

Fifty-six men bravely affixed their signatures to the Declaration of Independence. What sort of men were they? And what became of them?

Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists, 11 were merchants, nine were farmers or plantation owners. They were well-educated men of means. All of them had a great deal to lose when they voted to defy what was then the most powerful nation on Earth.

One of the signers was Richard Stockton, a distinguished jurist from New Jersey. At the conclusion of the meetings, he proudly affixed his signature to the Declaration, joining 55 other delegates. Each of them willingly risked everything when they pledged to each other “our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

Sadly, the revolution was to cost Judge Stockton the first two. But he would never surrender the third.

As he returned from Philadelphia to his home in New Jersey, Judge Stockton was warned that British troops were coming to arrest him. He fled to a neighbor’s house with his wife and children. But a Loyalist, a supporter of the British cause, betrayed the family’s hiding place. Here is what happened next, as described in a wonderful little book Personal Liberty wants to give you this Fourth of July:

The judge was dragged from bed and beaten, then thrown into prison. This distinguished jurist, who had worn the handsome robes of a colonial court, now shivered in a common jail, abused and all but starved.

A shocked Congress arranged for his parole. Invalided by the harsh treatment he had received, he returned to (his home at) Morven to find his furniture and clothing burned, his fine horses stolen, and his library — one of the finest private collections in the country — completely destroyed. The hiding place of exquisite family silver, hastily buried, had been betrayed by a servant.

The Stocktons were so destitute that they had to accept charity. For the judge’s fortune was gone, too. He had pledged it and his life to his country. He lost both. He did not live to see the Revolution won.

That account comes from a wonderful little book called They Signed For Us. It was written half a century ago by Merle Sinclair and Annabel Douglas McArthur, two patriotic ladies who wanted to help others learn more about the remarkable men who signed the Declaration of Independence.

At the end of today’s column, you’ll find a link that will take you to a copy of the book. You may read it online or download it and print your own copy. The file also includes a list of all of the signers and the States they represented, plus the complete text of the Declaration of Independence.

To whet your appetite a bit more, here’s another excerpt from They Signed For Us.

SUDDENLY THE BIG BELL in the State House steeple pealed joyously. The appointed signal! Cheers rose from the waiting crowds.

Proclaim liberty throughout the land….’

Cannon boomed, drums rolled. Church bells rang, sounding the death knell of British domination!

News of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence spread like wildfire. Ready messengers leaped into their saddles to ride and spread the word. The Declaration had been ordered printed on a single large sheet, ‘45.5 x 37.5 cm.,’ or approximately eighteen by fifteen inches. These broadsides were distributed with all possible speed, to be read in the provincial assemblies, pulpits, market places, and army camps.

The story continues:

On July 8, the Liberty Bell summoned citizens of Philadelphia to the State House yard for a public reading of the document. Colonel John Nixon mounted a high platform and spoke the noble lines in a strong, clear voice. The crowd, now hushed, listened intently throughout.

‘…for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.’

It was almost a month later that the Declaration was engrossed on parchment and ready for signing by the delegates to the Continental Congress. Members gathered on Aug. 2 for the ceremony.

The only person who had signed the Declaration on July 4, 1776 was John Hancock, a delegate from Boston who had been elected president of the Continental Congress. He wrote his signature in large, bold letters and as he did, in a reference to the near-sightedness of the British king, he declared, “There! John Bull can read my name without spectacles and may now double his reward of £500 for my head. That is my defiance.”

As the delegates gathered around a desk to sign the Declaration, William Emery, one of the representatives from Rhode Island, moved as close as he could. “I was determined to see how they all looked as they signed what might be their death warrants,” he later wrote. “I placed myself beside the secretary, Charles Thomson, and eyed each closely as he affixed his name to the document. Undaunted resolution was displayed on every countenance.”

Contrasting with Hancock’s confident signature was the shaky scratch of Stephen Hopkins from Rhode Island. Hopkins, the second-oldest signer, suffered from palsy. As he handed the quill to the next person, he valiantly proclaimed, “My hand trembles, but my heart does not!”

As one or two delegates hung back, seemingly reluctant to add their signatures to such a momentous declaration, John Hancock encouraged them. “We must be unanimous,” he said. “There must be no pulling different ways. We must all hang together.”

Legend has it that Benjamin Franklin replied, “Yes, we must all hang together. Or most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

Happily, none of the signers was hanged by the British. But all of them were considered traitors to the Crown. And many of them suffered terribly for the cause they so ardently supported.

John Morton, a delegate from Pennsylvania, was the first of the signers to die. His last words for his family, before his death in April 1777 (just eight months after he signed the Declaration), were, “…tell them that they will live to see the hour when they shall acknowledge it to have been the most glorious service I ever rendered to my country.”

The following month, Button Gwinnett, the commander in chief of Georgia’s militia, was badly wounded in a duel with a political opponent. He died a few days later — the second signer to die.

But by and large, the signers of the Declaration of Independence were a hardy bunch. Three of them lived until their 90s — a remarkable accomplishment in a time when most men did not see their 50th birthday.

Only two of the signers were bachelors. Sixteen of them married twice. Records indicate that at least two, and perhaps as many as six, were childless. But the other 50 signers were a prolific lot, having a total of 325 children between them. William Ellery of Rhode Island had 17 children; Roger Sherman of Connecticut had 15.

Fifty years after the united colonies declared their independence from Britain, plans were made for jubilant celebrations on July 4, 1826. Only three of the original signers were still alive: Charles Carroll, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Here is how Sinclair and McArthur describe what occurred that day:

“In a dramatic climax that even their agile minds would not have contemplated, these two principals in the struggle for Independence left the nation awestricken and touched, by dying hours apart on the Fourth of July. Jefferson died at one o’clock in the afternoon, Adams toward evening.”

Ten days earlier, Jefferson had written the mayor of Washington, expressing his regret that ill health prevented him from coming to the nation’s new Capitol to join the festivities.

“I should, indeed, with peculiar delight, have met … with the small band, the remnant of that host of worthies, who joined with us on that day, in the bold and doubtful election we were to make for our country, between the submission or the sword.”

He concluded by writing, “Let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollection of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.”

As part of that “undiminished devotion,” we are delighted to provide you with a copy of They Signed For Us. Please click here for it.

And please share this copy of Straight Talk with others you know, so they may enjoy it as well. Just forward this column with a short note, urging them to read about the incredibly brave patriots who won our freedom for us when They Signed For Us.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

P.S. Happy anniversary to us! This weekend marks two full years of Straight Talk columns for Personal Liberty. How time flies when you’re having fun! As many of you know, I also write two other, shorter features for Personal Liberty every week: Chip Shots, which appears at the bottom of each Friday email, and This Week in History, which appears at the bottom of each Wednesday email.

As it happens, my very first piece for Personal Liberty was about the incredible men who pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to secure liberty for us. So it seems only appropriate to share that message again today, as we prepare to celebrate 235 years of independence. Happy July the Fourth!

One Madman’s Legacy

It was on June 28, 1914 that a single act of violence led to one of the greatest bloodbaths the world had ever seen.

The perpetrator was someone you probably never heard of: Gavrilo Princip. He was a Serbian nationalist who, on that day, murdered Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife, Sophie.

Within a month, World War I started in Europe. Before it was over, the Habsburg dynasty (the reigning power in Europe for six centuries) would be deposed, deficit spending to finance the war would destroy most countries’ currencies and end the gold standard, the income tax was adopted in the United States to pay for the war and the seeds would be planted for the rise of communism in Russia, Nazism in Germany and fascism in Italy.

It’s amazing what one madman’s deed led to, isn’t it?

—Chip Wood


Weiner Roast

● So Weiner is worse than Assad? I was glad to see that Barack Obama finally weighed in on the fate of Anthony Weiner. His exact words in his interview with NBC’s Today were: “I can tell you that it if was me, I would resign.” Dear, dear, did no one teach the one-time professor to say “if it were me?” Anyway, it’s worth noting that our President has never taken such a strong stand against Syria’s murderous dictator, Bashar Assad. Apparently, sexting teenagers is worse than murdering innocent civilians.

● Hey, U.N., where did they go? Thanks to the Alert Reader who asked me to check out a grim warning from a U.N. agency that has been shoved down the memory hole. In 2005, the U.N. Environmental Programme warned that by 2010, there would be “fifty million climate refugees” fleeing man-caused disasters across the globe. When a reporter asked the U.N. agency about that dire prediction, the U.N. bureaucrats acted as you might expect from those hypocrites: They deleted the article and accompanying map from their website. No apologies for getting it wrong, of course.

● Granted, John Edwards is a scumbag. But is he a criminal? I have no sympathy for the pretty-boy politico and multimillionaire trial lawyer. After all, he cheated on his wife while she was dying of cancer, tried to pay an aide to claim he was the father of Edwards’ illegitimate child and spent a small fortune from his campaign funds trying to cover up his misdeeds. As someone else observed, he’s guilty of behavior that would make Representative Anthony Weiner blush. But is he a crook? Would someone please tell me what Federal statute the poor slob broke?

● Those dastardly French did what with their wine? In 2010, a French court found 12 businessmen guilty of lying about the quality of wine they were exporting to the United States. It seems 18 million bottles of inferior-grade plonk were marketed as top-quality pinot noir. The culprits received suspended sentences and fines of 3,000 to 18,000 euros for a crime that allegedly netted them millions of euros. To teach them a lesson, a wine-loving friend of mine suggests switching to Argentine malbec or Australian shiraz. I already have.

–Chip Wood


Tossing Grandma Off The Cliff And Other Democratic Lies

The hysterics and hyperbole over raising the Federal debt ceiling are becoming absolutely absurd. If you were to believe Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geitner, Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Austan Goolsbee and other Administration spokesmen, you would think we are about to face financial Armageddon.

Of course, if you believe Geitner, Goolsbee, et al, you’re a fool.

I can’t remember when the big spenders in Washington have conspired to tell a bigger pack of lies than they have about the dire consequences that will take place if Uncle Sam isn’t allowed to continue borrowing money. I wrote an entire column about Barack Obama’s Lying Liars in January; click here if you missed that one.

Among the deliberate misstatements are the threat that “we won’t be able to pay our troops who are fighting in Afghanistan.” That, of course, is a total fabrication. Our military personnel are considered “essential personal.” They would be paid every penny they are due even if the debt ceiling isn’t raised. So, unfortunately, would our Senators and Representatives. Yes, even the despicable Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are considered “essential personnel.” Who on Earth drafted such a law? Oh, right. Congress.

Remember, even if the debt ceiling isn’t raised, money will continue to pour into Washington by the bucketful. Do you think your withholding taxes are going to go away? That they won’t continue to collect every penny due for Medicare, Social Security and the million-and-one taxes that are imposed on businesses? Dream on, brother.

Here’s the shocking truth — shocking to anyone who believes the mainstream media, that is: The Federal government will continue to take in plenty of money to pay our troops, pay the interest on the national debt and pay almost everything else you and I would consider necessary.

What it won’t be able to do is to pay for all the socialistic boondoggles Barack Obama and his buddies want. Boo hoo. Too bad. What the guys and gals in Washington need to do is what every responsible family in America has already done. That is, reduce expenditures to match income. Live within your means. Don’t borrow money to finance a bunch of stuff you can’t afford.

Funny thing is, a lot of our leaders used to say the same thing. Let me call to the witness stand an obscure but ambitious senator from Illinois. Here’s what Obama said five years ago, during a similar debate over raising the debt: “The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure… Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here.’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better. I, therefore, intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.”

Today, of course, Obama is willing to pile a ton more debt on “our children and grandchildren.” I hope you won’t let him get away with it.

Another Vicious Lie

Did you see the Democratic commercial that’s been credited for defeating a Republican in what was supposed to be a “safe” district in upstate New York? It’s part of the left’s “Mediscare” campaign. In it, a conservatively dressed white businessman pushes a wheelchair holding an agitated grandma to the edge of a cliff — then promptly dumps her over the edge.

The video suggests that this is what Republicans want to do to every senior citizen — and will do if the budget plan devised by Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is allowed to pass.

If you believe the mainstream media, the fear campaign was so successful that the Republicans lost a special election for Congress that “everyone” expected them to win. But here’s what the lying media didn’t tell you.

It’s true that Kathy Hochul, the Democratic candidate, got 47 percent of the vote and was declared the winner. The Republican candidate, Jane Corwin, received 43 percent of the vote and lost.

What few accounts bothered to mention is that there was a spoiler in the race. A political opportunist named Jack Davis ran as a self-proclaimed “Tea Party” candidate. He spent a reported $3 million of his own money on the race and received 9 percent of the vote — enough to prevent a victory for the Republican.

Here’s the kicker: Davis had previously run for the same seat three times — as a Democrat. Moreover, he was actively opposed by the real Tea Party leadership. I don’t know what sort of reward he will receive for his actions, but don’t be surprised if it makes his $3 million “investment” seem worth it.

Will the “Mediscare” smear work next year? You can bet your bottom dollar that the Democratic leadership hopes so.

When Is A War Not A War?

The answer, I guess, is whenever the Democrats say so.

Under the terms of the War Powers Resolution, whenever the President commits American troops to battle anywhere in the world, he then has 60 days to tell Congress what he is doing and win approval for the engagement, and then 30 days after that to recall the troops if approval is not given.

But now, that 90-day deadline has come and gone. Is anyone interested in upholding the law here? Not in Barack Obama’s Administration. In fact, the No. 1 law enforcement officer in the country — Attorney General Eric Holder — has argued that the War Powers Resolution doesn’t apply here… because what’s happening in Libya is so inconsequential, it doesn’t amount to a “war.”

In the Alice-in-Wonderland world that our leaders inhabit, it doesn’t matter how many air strikes we’ve ordered or how many combatants have been killed — or innocent civilians, for that matter. If they say it’s not a war, then the rules of war — and the laws of Congress — don’t apply.

I could go on and on with other examples of the deliberate obfuscation our President and his cronies have been practicing. How about the whopper that “if you like your health insurance, you can keep it?” The latest estimates are that under Obamacare, some 80 to 120 million Americans will lose the independent health insurance they and their employers have been paying for.

Unless you’re a friend of the Administration, that is. In that case, you will probably be granted a waiver that exempts you from the law. It seems that just about everyone in Nancy Pelosi’s district has gotten one; how about you?

Yes, the rules are definitely different now. And they’re getting more different every day. That’s what happens when liars and lawbreakers are put in charge.

Hopefully, all of this will change dramatically 17 months from now.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

The Birth Of A Humanitarian Effort

The Battle of Solferino was fought in Northern Italy 152 years ago this week. The combatants were the Austrian army and the alliance of France and Sardinia, led by Napoleon III. After 15 hours of fighting, the Austrians retreated, leaving more than 40,000 men killed or injured. Even Napoleon III was said to have been sickened by the slaughter.

Another man who was also appalled was Henri Dunant, a Swiss businessman who passed through a village where many of the wounded were being treated. He returned home and wrote a book about what he had seen, called A Memory of Solferino.

Dunant proposed forming an association of trained volunteers who would care for the wounded in future wars. His idea led to an international humanitarian movement that now has more than 90 million volunteers, members and staff worldwide.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on three different occasions – in 1917, 1944 and 1963. Sadly, it looks as though the need for it will not end anytime soon.

–Chip Wood


Blacks Picket The NAACP

For a moment, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Thousands of residents of Harlem, a New York City neighborhood, had taken to the streets to protest the NAACP. And yes, virtually every one of them was black.

What was it all about? Apparently, a huge number of parents in Harlem believe the quality of education their children are getting is more important than the color of the skin of their teachers. They were demanding better schools — even if that meant a bunch of black teachers lost their jobs.

You won’t be surprised to learn that many of our inner-city schools do a terrible job of educating the young people entrusted to them. More than half of the children who start first grade in inner-city schools drop out before they graduate. Many of those who do make it through 12 grades can’t read above a see-spot-run level. Nor can they do such simple math as making change for a purchase of a Big Mac and fries. No wonder the graduates of inner city schools are virtually unemployable.

Officials in New York City decided to do something about this sorry situation.  They announced plans to close 22 of the worst-performing schools in the city. That was enough to get the teacher’s union riled up. But what really put the union on the warpath was when those same city officials said they would permit charter schools to operate in some of the buildings that would soon be vacant.

But charter schools don’t hire members of the teacher’s union. They don’t guarantee teachers jobs for life or steady increases in pay and benefits every year, no matter how badly the teachers do their jobs. Charter-school teachers get paid based on results — not on tenure or political clout.

Of course, all of this is completely unacceptable to the United Federation of Teachers. No wonder union members went ballistic when they heard about the plan. They were simply protecting their turf. After all, the teachers’ union had demonstrated for years that for them, jobs were job one. Political clout ran a close second. Children’s education was not worth worrying about.

This situation is nothing new. Many years ago, the most powerful leader the teachers’ union ever had, Albert Shanker, was honest enough to admit: “When schoolchildren start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of schoolchildren.”

Hey, he who pays the piper calls the tune. I get that.

And that, my friends, explains why the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has aligned itself with the United Federation of Teachers. The NAACP cares more about the jobs of black members of the teachers union — and in New York City that’s a lot of jobs, folks — than they do about the education of children.

So now you understand why thousands of black parents took to the streets of Harlem last month. Will they make a difference? Not if Hazel Dukes, president of the NAACP in New York, has her way. Dukes said the parents “can march and have rallies all day long… We will not respond.”

The teachers’ union and the New York State chapter of the NAACP have filed suit to stop the city from closing those 22 schools or allowing any charter school to operate in any building occupied by a traditional public school.

Will the officials stick to their guns? Or will they cave from the pressure brought by two of the most powerful entities in the State: the teachers’ union and the NAACP?

I wish I could predict a happy outcome. But I suspect that, once again, the right thing to do will be sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.

Meanwhile, what sort of education are the children in your area getting? What percentage of kids who enter the first grade graduate from high school? And of those who do, how well can they read, write and do basic arithmetic?

It’s been a long time since Why Johnny Can’t Read was a national bestseller. But the problem and the solution to the problem haven’t changed. Fire bad teachers. Pay good teachers more. Get the politicians and bureaucrats out of the way.

And if you really want to see some positive changes in our schools, end the monopoly by union thugs and their political buddies. Open up education to competition. Give more money to those who do a better job and less to those who don’t or can’t.

Sure, there would be weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth from one end of this country to the other. But it wouldn’t come from most students, since they know they are being used by people who really don’t give a hoot about them.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Misery In America

*No wonder we’re miserable. Do you remember when the former peanut farmer from Georgia harped on the misery index? To get the misery index, add the inflation number to the unemployment number. In the mid-1970s, the misery index was bad enough to help Carter get elected president. Today, according to John Williams of ShadowStats.com, the true number (not the fabrications the government now promotes) is 25 percent. That’s consumer price inflation of 10 percent, plus unemployment of 15 percent. The total is the highest it’s ever been. No wonder Barack Obama makes us feel miserable.

*“Sheriff” Joe Biden is doing a terrible job. Do you remember when the President put the Vice President in charge of the stimulus program because “nobody messes with Joe?” Obama went on to say, “If you’re misusing taxpayer money, you’ll have to answer to him.” It turns out that contractors who got $24 billion in stimulus money owed more than $750 million in back taxes. Where’s “the Sheriff” when you need him?

*A cheater gets cheated… and wants justice! This one is a hoot. A college senior in Colorado who ordered a custom-written term paper from a firm she found on the Internet felt cheated when it wasn’t delivered on time. When the company refused to give her a refund, she complained to the Better Business Bureau about its dishonest practices. I wonder what her professor said when he found out.

*If you own a cell phone, you must be… poor? Here’s a weird one. Relying on a cell phone is one metric government staticians use to decide whether someone fits the description of “poor.” I kid you not. The more people in a given area abandon land lines for cell phones, the “poorer” that area is considered. Leading the list of states in which citizens have done this are Arkansas and Mississippi, so obviously it must be true. What’s next, counting color TVs? (Come to think of it, that might be a pretty accurate indicator of someone’s ability to read and write.)

–Chip Wood

An Annual Patriotic Tradition

On June 14, 1777, Congress passed a resolution that read: “Resolved, that the flag of the thirteen United States shall be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the Union be thirteen stars, white on a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

The colors used in the flag were the same as those used in the Great Seal, the creation of which Congress authorized on July 4, 1776. In reporting to Congress about the Great Seal, Charles Thompson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, said: “The colors of the pales (the vertical stripes) are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness and valor, and Blue, the color of the Chief (the broad band above the stripes) signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice.”

In 1877, Congress passed another resolution, urging that U.S. flags be flown on all public buildings annually on June 14 to mark the flag’s birthday.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed “that throughout the nation and if possible in every community “ June 14 should be observed as Flag Day. And on Flag Day in 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a bill adding the phrase “under God” to the pledge of allegiance.

Flag Day was yesterday.  I hope you remembered to fly the Stars and Stripes at your home and place of business. If not, make a note to do so next year, would you?

–Chip Wood

If It Weren’t For McDonald’s…

*Look who is hiring. That sure was a miserable jobs report for May, wasn’t it? The Labor Department said that after spending billions of dollars on Federal boondoggles, only 54,000 new jobs were created in the country that month. But here’s the real stunner: More than half of those jobs may have been from just one employer. McDonald’s hired 30,000 new employees in April, continuing its reputation of helping more young people enter the workforce than all other employers combined.

*And look who’s picking on McDonald’s. Did you see the ad signed by 500 doctors urging McDonald’s to “retire” Ronald McDonald? The docs’ complaint is that the McDonald’s mascot encourages children to make poor food choices. Have these people never heard of parental responsibility? What a bunch of pompous blowhards. If you see your doctor’s name on the list, I hope you will find another healthcare provider.

*Are fat people starving in this country?A USA Today headline warned that hunger is a serious problem in the land of plenty. It read: “1 in 6 hungry in America.” Another article in the same issue of the same paper warned that “rising obesity” costs the nation $344 billion annually. According to the paper’s experts, fat people are responsible for 21 percent of the healthcare bills in this country. According to 2007 figures from the Centers for Disease Control, about one in four Americans is obese.

*The butchery in Syria gets worse. Here is the first sentence in a New York Times article about violence in the Middle East: “Syrian security forces fired at mourners in the central city of Homs during a funeral procession on Saturday for eight protesters who died the previous day, killing at least five people and wounding several others, witnesses and human rights activists said.” For once, I am at a loss for words to express my disgust at what tyrannical government will do to its citizens.

–Chip Wood

Obama Betrays An Ally… Again

When a woman showed up at the Soroka Medical Center in Beer Sheva, Israel, she had burns covering more than 45 percent of her body. A tragic accident at her home in a Gaza refugee camp came close to taking her life.

There was never a thought of turning her away simply because she was Palestinian. That’s not how things are done in Israel. Jewish doctors worked day and night to save her, without expecting that they would receive even a penny in payment.

After extensive treatments that did, in fact, save her life, Wafa al-Biri was released from the hospital and returned to her family in Gaza. She was told to come back for a routine follow-up and assured there would be no charge for that visit, either.

Al-Biri returned to the border between Gaza and Israel and asked permission to enter. A routine security check revealed she was carrying enough explosives in her underwear to destroy the clinic where she was treated and kill not just herself, but the doctors who worked so hard to save her.

And that, my friends, is what it’s like to live in Israel these days.

As terrible as this story is, here’s a sequel that’s even more horrible: Had al-Biri succeeded in her deadly mission, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would probably have named a public park after her.

This is the kind of enemy Israel faces. These are the sorts of people who have taken a solemn vow to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth. They have been taught — and they honestly believe — that they have a sacred duty to kill any infidel they can. (That includes us, by the way; Jews are at the top of the list.)

Here’s the point of today’s column: These are the same people the President of the United States wants to guarantee sanctuary a stone’s throw (or a rocket’s launch) from Jerusalem.

Make no mistake about it: If Barack Obama’s insane policy of forcing Israel to retreat to its pre-1967 borders is implemented, the very survival of the most loyal friend we have in the Middle East will be at risk.

If you opened this article hoping to find a word of sympathy for the Palestinian cause, you will be sorely disappointed. I want to correct some of the appalling lies that have been told about the Palestinians’ so-called “noble struggle” for their homeland. First of all, the Israelis did not drive a single Arab from their “sacred homeland.” Arabs living in what became Israel in 1948 were welcome to stay. They might not enjoy all of the rights, privileges and advantages of the people who won the war. But they were not slain, enslaved or driven from their homes.

I visited Israel. I was a guest in the homes of several Arabs whose parents (and in some cases, whose grandparents) decided to stay. Every single person with whom I spoke was glad to be living in Israel. They were grateful for the opportunities they had, the affluence they enjoyed and the security they felt. Their lives were so much better — and in so many ways — than what their relatives in surrounding lands endured.

The women in particular were glad they were not subject to the ancient traditions of their Muslim ancestors. They were proud to be educated and independent. Not for them concealment behind a burqa that left only their eyes exposed.

They did not hesitate to tell me their greatest fear: that the jihadists in neighboring countries would start a war that would destroy them, their families, their homes and their homeland.

While I was in the Middle East, I also visited some of the refugee camps in Jordan, Syria and Egypt. Or rather, I visited camps in what used to be those countries, before they waged a surprise war on Israel in 1967… and lost.

In the aftermath of what became known as “The Six-Day War,” thousands of Arabs fled from what had been their ancestral homes into neighboring countries, where they were herded into concentration camps and forced to stay for the next 30 years.

Please understand what I’m saying: The Arab countries surrounding Israel refused to let their brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews assimilate into their own lands. Instead, they were kept in unbelievable squalor for a generation. Whole families were confined to one room in a mud hut, with no electricity and no running water. And they were forced to live like this not for a year or two, but for decades.

You will not be surprised to learn that the camps became breeding grounds for terrorists and suicide bombers. I, for one, believe it was planned that way.

In speech last month, Obama insisted Israel agree to return to borders that did not even exist prior to the Arab war against Israel. Since I agree that to do so would be suicide, I was glad to see that Israel’s prime minister wasted no time in rejecting our President’s outrageous demands.

I thought Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to a joint meeting of our Congress was incredibly powerful. A lot of U.S. Congressmen obviously agreed, because they interrupted him with applause more than 50 times. It made the Democrats’ reaction during Obama’s State of the Union speech look pallid by comparison.

I have a few comments before I sign off and turn the rebuttal over to you. I always enjoy my readers’ responses. But I’m especially looking forward to seeing what some of you have to say when you comment at the end of this piece. First, let me make two more observations.

One is that I wish our President were one-tenth as passionate in defending our country and our interests as Israel’s prime minister is in representing his. We used to have Presidents who were proud of their country and eager to defend it; I hope next year we will elect one again.

The other is a question: What is it with Jewish people who live in the United States? No sooner had Netanyahu returned to Israel than a Zogby poll came out, stating that the majority of Jews in this country still support Obama.

To any sons or daughters of Judah reading this, may I ask you something? Don’t you realize that your people, their country and their noblest aspirations are being sacrificed by a scheming, amoral politician who happens to inhabit the White House? Wake up and smell the coffee, people, as my teenage grandchildren would say.

By your votes and your financial support, you are contributing to the destruction of everything you say you hold dear. Stop listening to media that have betrayed you and a leadership that has abandoned you. Open your eyes. Listen to your heart. Recognize the truth. And then join those of us who believe we must find someone else to represent this country, our people and our sacred principles.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Pay As You Go

One of the more nefarious schemes ever hatched by Congress turns 68 years old this week. It was on June 9, 1943, that the U.S. Congress ordered employers to begin withholding funds from workers’ pay to cover their income-tax obligation. The legislation — passed as “an emergency wartime measure” — was officially called the “Current Tax Payment Act.” But it became known as the “Pay As You Go Tax.”

For the first time in our country’s history, the money an employee would owe the U.S. government in income taxes was taken out of his pay before he saw it and sent to the Internal Revenue Service in Washington. The measure was sold as a favor to workers, who otherwise wouldn’t set aside enough funds to pay their taxes when they came due.

The real effect, of course, was to hide the increasing bite that government would take from everyone’s pay.

Today, most employees think of their “income” as the net amount they receive each payday. They never consider that 20 to 40 percent of their earnings vanished before they received them. Later on, if they do receive refunds of some of these paid-in-advance taxes, they consider them gifts from a beneficent government.

You have to admit it: The folks who think they can spend your money better than you can are awfully clever about how they get their hands on it.

—Chip Wood

The Grass Really Is Greener

*The grass really is greener. We’re just back from a family wedding in Worthington, Ohio, one of the Buckeye State’s beautiful small towns. And you know what? The grass really is greener there than it is in north Florida. It smells better when it’s freshly mown. And it feels better when you walk on it. I love a lot about the low country, but not the St. Augustine grass.

*The smell of summer. I admit it; if it weren’t for the fact that I love many of our creature comforts, I’d make a great beach bum. My favorite form of “exercise” is taking long walks on the beach. I love to watch the waves and smell the ocean. Two special treats are seeing the dolphins go by and watching the endless entertainment of pelicans dive-bombing the water. It’s funny, but all it takes is a sniff of suntan lotion, especially Coppertone®, to bring all those memories flooding back.

*Government can’t even get this right? Someday, I’m going to write a column about how outrageous it is for government to sponsor gambling to raise money for schools. I can think of few things worse at teaching people to hope for something for nothing — and taking from those who can least afford it — than state-sponsored lotteries. But at least the darn things are profitable. So would someone please explain how the bureaucrats in New York bungled Off-Track Betting so badly that it had to declare bankruptcy? Losing money when you have a monopoly on gambling; now, that’s really incompetent.

*This just ain’t right, either. Speaking of something that’s not right, have you heard about the latest fad among some dog owners? It’s coming up with a new breed. Cross a cocker spaniel with a poodle, I’m told, and you get a cockapoo. Breed a schnauzer with a poodle and you’ll get — do you really want to know? — a schnoodle. And maybe my least favorite is the blend of a beagle and a Pekinese. Anyone want a Peagle? Reminds me of that long-ago commercial that said, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.”

–Chip Wood

‘You’re A Grand Old Flag’

When’s the last time you heard (or better yet, sung) the lyrics to George M. Cohan’s marvelous tribute to the country he loved?

“You’re a grand old flag,
You’re a high flying flag
And forever in peace may you wave.
You’re the emblem of
The land I love.
The home of the free and the brave.
Ev’ry heart beats true
‘neath the Red, White and Blue,
Where there’s never a boast or brag.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
Keep your eye on the grand old flag.”

Tell the truth now: Didn’t your pulse start beating a little faster, didn’t you sit up a little straighter, didn’t you feel a surge of pride in your country, just by reading those wonderful words?

Sure, you did.

The song has a fascinating history.  Here’s how the Library of Congress explains how it came to be:

“The original lyric for this perennial George M. Cohan favorite came, as Cohan later explained, from an encounter he had with a Civil War veteran who fought at Gettysburg. The two men found themselves next to each other and Cohan noticed the vet held a carefully folded but ragged old flag. The man reportedly then turned to Cohan and said, ‘She’s a grand old rag.’ Cohan thought it was a great line and originally named his tune ‘You’re a Grand Old Rag.’”

Wow, that sure doesn’t have the same patriotic sizzle, does it? One hundred and five years ago, a whole bunch of people thought so, too. The Library of Congress explanation continues:

“So many groups and individuals objected to calling the flag a ‘rag,’ however, that he ‘gave ’em what they wanted’ and switched words, renaming the song ‘You’re a Grand Old Flag.’”

Thanks, Cohan, that’s more like it.

The public heard the song for the very first time when Cohan’s musical “George Washington, Jr.” debuted on February 6, 1906, at the Herald Square Theater in New York City. Patrons left the theater singing the tune and promptly made it the most popular song in our history. Sheet-music sales alone surpassed 1 million copies — the equivalent of going quadruple-platinum today.

While the song has remained a huge hit for more than 100 years, the musical in which it first appeared has almost totally disappeared. I could not find any indication that “George Washington, Jr.” has been performed anywhere in the past 50 years. That’s too bad, because the plot sounds as though it would make a good TV drama today.

It concerns a U.S. Senator who wants a niece to “marry up.” So he’s arranged a marriage with a man who claims to be of European royalty. However, the Senator’s teenage son discovers the so-called count is not only a fake, but an international criminal. After much travail, the son saves his father’s reputation and his cousin’s virtue. Hurrah!

OK, I’ll grant you, it does sound a bit hackneyed and clichéd. So forget about that musical. Instead, I have another one I want to recommend to you: A classic black-and-white movie about the guy who wrote the play. It’s called “Yankee Doodle Dandy.” And if you’ve never seen it, you must.

This is the delightful and infectious movie that Hollywood made in 1942 about Cohan’s legendary life. As you can imagine, coming just as World War II was getting underway, the film bursts with patriotism.

To the surprise of many, America’s favorite gangster, James Cagney, was cast in the starring role. And what an incredible hoofer he turned out to be! If you’ve never seen Cagney singing and dancing, you’ll be amazed how good he is.

His colleagues in Hollywood agreed, because they gave him the Best Actor Oscar for 1942. The film also won Oscars for Best Musical Score and Best Sound Recording. It was nominated in five other categories. Imagine, there was a time when Hollywood honored patriotism. Hard to believe, isn’t it?

The film is a winner. But don’t take my word for it. Instead, go to your local video store and rent it. Or better yet, go to Amazon.com and buy a copy. If you have a drop of patriotic blood in your body, you will love it, too. And you will want to enjoy it again and again.

But believe it or not, watching “Yankee Doodle Dandy” isn’t my No. 1 recommendation for celebrating your patriotism. For that, I have an even simpler suggestion: Fly the flag. And especially, fly the flag a week from Tuesday, on Flag Day.

Why June 14? That is the day in 1777 when the Second Continental Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes as our national flag. Flag Day was first proclaimed by former President Woodrow Wilson in 1916. Strangely, Congress did not officially proclaim Flag Day for 33 years; it was not until August 1949 that National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress.

Flag Day is not a national holiday. But it is a State holiday in Pennsylvania. Good for you, Pennsylvanians.

I was not home for the Memorial Day weekend, as any of you who have read this week’s Chip Shots already know. (If you’re not familiar with this weekly collection of tidbits, it appears at the bottom of each Friday’s issue of Personal Liberty Digest™. Check it out.)

But I did make arrangements with a neighbor to make certain our flag was proudly flying. Just as he did with his own flag, Dale put mine up every morning and carefully and respectfully took it down at dusk. (No comments from the peanut gallery, please, about Chip having a neighbor named Dale. No, we do not dress up as cartoon characters on Halloween.)

OK, that’s enough about flags and patriotism for today. But you can be confident I’ll be beating this drum again and again. For now, I’m going to turn off the computer and turn on the DVD player, so I can queue up “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

Hope you’ll soon be doing the same. Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

How Soon We Forget

On June 4, 1789, the U.S. Constitution became the official governing document of a young United States, when it was ratified by a two-thirds majority of the 13 existing States.

Our Founding Fathers labored for more than a year to create a document that would make the people as free as possible — and the government (especially the Federal government) as limited as possible. Even so, a majority of States would not approve the document until 10 amendments were added. The Bill of Rights was even more definite in telling government what it could not do.

The new Constitution received extraordinary praise from other political leaders, including William Pitt of England, who said, “It will be the wonder and admiration of all future generations.” His colleague William Gladstone agreed: “It is the greatest piece of work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man.”

It’s too bad this inspired document isn’t held in the same high regard today by the citizens who have benefited so mightily from it — or the politicians who have sworn to honor and protect it.

–Chip Wood

How to Make the World’s Best Burger

After all the heat and hyperbole of the past few weeks, let’s take a break today. Instead of politics, let’s argue about something that’s really important: how to make the world’s best hamburger. A former classmate of mine spent a fortune trying to determine the answer. With the official start of summer this weekend, let’s see if what he learned can help you be a backyard hero.

Years ago, I thought I had the best job on Earth. Back in the late ’70s and early ’80s, I got paid to talk. And unlike a salesman, I didn’t even have to get an order when I did. All my bosses wanted was to hear the phones ring.

This was in the early days of talk radio. My task was to sit behind the microphone and, when the light came on, try to say something interesting enough (or controversial enough) that a listener would pick up the phone and call “The Chip Wood Show.” All of us “ringmasters,” as the talk hosts on WRNG Radio were called, were pretty good. One, however, was the master. And he’s still at it today, 34 years later. Anyone heard of Neal Boortz?

My job at Ring Radio was so much fun, I almost would have done it for free. But then, at a high-school reunion a few years ago, I learned one of my former classmates had an even better gig. As the food critic for The Wall Street Journal, he got paid to fly around the world and eat. Yep, his publisher picked up the tab for him to dine on and then describe some of the hottest of the world’s haute cuisine.

Of course, you don’t just walk into the boss’s office and say you want such a job. You have to earn your stripes… and your expense account. My classmate Raymond Sokolov had certainly done that. For many years, he was the restaurant critic for The New York Times. He has written a number of award-winning cookbooks. Later, he became the Arts & Leisure editor at The Wall Street Journal. In short, he knows food. And he can string words together pretty well, too.

A few years ago, Sokolov told me he would be coming to my hometown of Atlanta to do some culinary research. He asked if I had any suggestions for him. No, he didn’t want suggestions on our greatest chefs, fanciest meals or finest wine lists, darn it all. His subject this visit was hamburgers.

As The Wall Street Journal said in the introduction to the lengthy article that resulted: “Our food critic takes a cross-country, artery-clogging journey to find burger perfection.”

Today, I will tell you about Sokolov’s quest… the characteristics all his favorites shared… and the surprising switch he made before his journey was over. I will also throw in some suggestions from other cooks and critics to determine what makes the world’s best burger.

Where’s the beef?

Sokolov says, and I agree, that the world’s best burger is made with ground chuck. Forget the fancier grades of meat. Ground sirloin is unnecessary; ground Kobe just a foolish extravagance. Sokolov says chuck has “the Goldilocks amount of fat.” It’s not too fat and not too lean. In short, it’s just right. The patty should be thick enough that you can char the outside and the meat will remain moist on the inside. And we both like ours medium rare — hot enough to melt the fat, rare enough so you get the full flavor of the beef.

Another food critic says the only way to get the perfect burger is to grind your own hamburger, from meat you have carefully selected from the butcher’s counter. He even gave instructions on how to pulse it properly in a food processor, but that sounds like a prescription for disaster to me. If you’re going to be this authentic (which certainly isn’t necessary), why not go all the way and buy an old-fashioned grinder with a hand-turned crank, like your grandma used? Does anyone anywhere do this at home?

How do you cook it?

Grill or griddle? Ah, there’s a division that could keep strong men arguing for weeks. It seems to be a truism in America that if it’s cooked on a stove, the women do it. And if it’s cooked outdoors, that’s a guy’s job. I don’t mean to be sexist here; I’m just passing on an observation I’ve heard many others make.

So I was surprised to learn that all of Sokolov’s favorites were cooked on a griddle — and most of the time (but not at his No. 1 choice) by a man. Maybe there is something special about the taste from a griddle that hasn’t been cleaned in years. (Scraped, sure. But washed — with soap, water, and a wire brush? — never!)

Cook and critic David Rosengarten says he comes close to duplicating the magical flavor of a well-seasoned grill at home. What’s his secret? He keeps some beef fat in his refrigerator for just such occasions. And don’t worry if it’s been in there a while. He says it won’t go bad. In fact, he insists a little age is good for it.

“Just get that pan a little shiny with melted fat,” he says. When you’re done, “put your fat treasure back in the fridge. You will have made a major advance toward the ravishing taste of griddledom.”

Personally, I think a red-hot grill seals in the flavors in a way no griddle can. In the past, I didn’t care if the flame came from propane or charcoal. That’s a view that would be considered heresy by all of my barbecue buddies in the South. I recently got a Big Green Egg® and I suspect by this time next year, I will be as intolerant of propane grills as they are.

There’s just something special about a burger that’s seared on a grill. Slap a piece of cheddar on top, close the lid and let the cheese melt while the burger steams. The result will transport you to hamburger heaven.

What about the bun?

I have heard there are places where hamburgers are served on toasted white bread, but I have never seen such apostasy with my own eyes. There are many ways to serve hamburgers that are wrong. Kaiser rolls, for one. But as far as I’m concerned, only one way is right. Go to your local supermarket and get yourself some plain hamburger buns. Not bagels or buns covered with sesame seeds. Not pretzel twists or other weird concoctions. Just plain buns. Nothing does a better job holding everything together while it keeps your fingers clean.

Slice them in half and, when your burgers are almost done, lay them cut-side down on the back of the grill. Keep them there for no more than two minutes. If your timing is right, your lightly toasted buns will be ready when your hamburgers are.

What else do you put on it?

If you think there’s disagreement about where the world’s best burger is cooked, wait until you ask a few folks what should go on it when it’s done. Or, in the case of cheese, just before it’s done.

I’m perfectly fine with turning a hamburger into a cheeseburger. I’m not even all that fussy about what kind of cheese is used. Those single slices of processed something are OK by me, but many critics will turn up their distinguished noses at anything but hand-sliced pieces of the finest cheddar.

Pickle slices? Not for me. But I’ll have them handy if someone else wants them. Lettuce and tomato? Sure. (But if I use them, I like a spoonful of mayo, too.) Crushed corn flakes? I’d never heard of such a thing until I read Sokolov’s column. That still strikes me as a bit weird. But hey, I’m the guy who believed for years that the only thing that would make a fresh-grilled burger taste even better was a big dollop of peanut butter. (Creamy, not chunky.) So who am I to argue?

Under the right circumstances, I can go for a nice slice or two of bacon on top of my cheese. But please don’t overcook it. I want it to be a little bit chewy, not dry and crunchy. And please note: If you’re going to put bacon on your burger, you must lay down a slice of cheese first. As Frank Sinatra used to sing, you can’t have one without the other.

What about onions? Most of the time I skip them. But sometimes, I really crave a medium-thick slice of a Vidalia onion. Others feel the same way about Bermudas. Raw is fine. Sautéed until they’re slightly caramelized is even better. But don’t expect that when I’m cooking; that’s too much extra work for me.

And if you want someone to sauté onions and mushrooms together for your burger, I’ve got news for you, buddy. You don’t want a hamburger; you want a Salisbury steak.

Now, are you ready for the shocker? Somewhere on his cross-country odyssey, Sokolov was persuaded that mustard is better on a burger than ketchup. How did this happen? Who got to him? I can’t prove it, but I suspect that money from the Mustard Council may have changed hands.

Out of respect for my former classmate, I did try a bite of burger with my favorite mustard — stone ground brown, with some real “bite” to it. Sorry, Sokolov, but I think both the burger and the mustard suffered. I’m still squarely on Jimmy Buffett’s side: “I like mine with lettuce and tomato, Heinz 57® and French-fried potatoes.” And as far as I’m concerned, you can hold the BLT and the French fries.

Where’s the best burger stand?

Now you know all there is to know about making the world’s best burger at home. (Or at least start a mighty good argument about how to do it.) But where did my burger-buying former classmate find the juiciest, tastiest commercial version? I’m very proud to announce that it was at one of our down-home recommendations: Ann’s Snack Bar on Memorial Drive in Decatur, Ga.

Sokolov declared Ann’s “ghetto-burger” — a two-patty concoction with cheese, bacon and a light dusting of cayenne pepper — as “the next level in burgerhood.” So when you can, come on down and bite into one. Once you do, you will never need to ask: “Where’s the beef?”

Meanwhile, I hope you and your friends enjoy some fabulous cookouts this summer. I promise I’ll be following my own recommendations: ground chuck cooked medium rare, with cheese and some other accoutrements on top. If I’ve done it right, the bun will be lightly toasted. And the applause will be gratifying.

Happy Memorial Day, everyone. And until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

An Expensive Election

*The most expensive election in history. That’s what pundits expect the 2012 presidential race to be, with estimates that the Obama campaign will raise — and spend, of course — more than $1 billion. Three of the top five Democratic donors last year were the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the National Education Association and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Can anyone spot what they all have in common?

*Why don’t they practice what they preach? How many times have you heard a wealthy liberal say he thinks he should pay more in taxes? It’s a regular pronouncement from Warren Buffett, George Soros, Bill Gates Sr., Mark Zuckerberg and even Barack Obama. But how many actually do pay more, by making extra contributions to Uncle Sam? As far as I can determine, the answer is a big fat goose egg. What’s stopping you from putting your money where your mouth is, guys?

*Turning a movie into a Disney ride. Is there a movie theater near you equipped with D-Box seats? I haven’t experienced one yet, and it will probably be a while before my hometown has one. But apparently these seats — which cost $10,000 each — pitch, roll and vibrate to accompany the action on the screen. I don’t know how they do it, but I’m told the seats can generate up to 2Gs of force. Will they be worth the extra $8 theaters will charge for the experience? You tell me.

*Hey, Congress, start trimming here. While you contemplate how much your stocks have gone up in the past 10 years (for most people the answer is “zero”) and your salary (the average annual increase is less than 4 percent), consider this: Military spending since 2001 is up more than 70 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars. It’s not going to our fighting forces, of course; military pay still stinks. It’s the bureaucrats and their toys that rack up the big bills.

—Chip Wood

‘Woodstock Of The Web’

The “Woodstock of the Web” took place in Geneva, Switzerland, on May 25, 1994, when 380 scientists gathered in CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, for the first World Wide Web Conference.

Although only 380 people attended the conference, this seminal event has become so important in the history of the Internet that several thousand more have claimed to have been there. Thus, the event earned the “Woodstock” moniker.

Despite the claims by Al Gore, our pudgy former Vice President, that he helped invent the Internet, most reputable historians give the credit to British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee. Of course, Berners-Lee never won an Oscar for a propaganda film about the environment, either.

–Chip Wood



From The Peanut Gallery

*Please, Mr. President, shut up. There’s a lot I love about the South, particularly my adopted state of Georgia. But there’s one thing I am definitely not proud of: the wacky pronouncements from incredibly ineffective do-gooder Former President Jimmy Carter. Did you hear his latest? He said we are guilty of a “human rights violation” because we “deliberately withhold food aid to the people of North Korea.” After all, “one of the most important human rights is to have food to eat.” So every hungry person in the world has a claim on what we grow? Only a peanut brain — excuse me, I meant a peanut farmer — would say so.

*Someone should tell the Feds to butt out. The U.S. Department of Justice has promised to investigate whether college football is unfair in the way it selects its national champion. I kid you not; the Federal agency says it is concerned that the Bowl Championship Series may violate Federal antitrust rules. It wants to know why college football doesn’t use a playoff system, as so many other college sports do. If you think this issue sparks some heated debates now, just wait until Washington tells us how to pick the winner.

*Elvis no longer makes the list. For the first time in 55 years, “Elvis” is not one of the 1,000 most popular boys’ names in America. When he heard the news, Commissioner of Social Security Michael Astrue, whose agency tracks baby names via applications for Social Security numbers, said: “I was all shook up.” The most popular boys’ name continues to be “Jacob.” The most popular girls’ name is “Isabella.” Also continuing a very old tradition, “Barack” did not make the list.

*Aren’t you glad you didn’t bid? Here’s another example of how quickly computers can screw things up. It happened when two booksellers offered the same title on eBay — but one instructed the auction house to list its copy for a little bit more than any other copy. When a second seller told eBay to price his copy at 99.83 percent of the highest price, a robotic price war broke out. Before it ended, eBay was offering “The Making of a Fly” (surely not the most popular book it ever offered) for $23.7 million. You will not be surprised to learn there were no takers at that price — or even .01 of 1percent of it.

–Chip Wood

Jailed For Questioning Barack Obama

Some of the more emotional reunions I have ever witnessed occurred at airports. Few can match the joy of wives (and, sometimes, husbands) and children as they welcome a service member returning safely from overseas.

This past Saturday, such a reunion took place at Baltimore Washington International Airport. But in this case, the highly decorated veteran wasn’t returning from Iraq or Afghanistan. Instead, he had just been released from military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

Lt. Col. Terry Lakin had been sentenced to six months in jail and dismissed from the Army because he had the temerity to question whether Barack Obama was Constitutionally qualified to serve as President of the United States and, thus, as his Commander in Chief.

But this is not just another “Birther” story. The issues Lakin raised, and the mockery of a trial he received, go much deeper than that. Bear with me while I tell you a little more about them.

First, you need to know that Lakin served his country honorably and well for more than 17 years. His numerous awards and decorations include: the Army Flight Surgeon Badge, Combat Medical Badge, the Bronze Star Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Army Achievement Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Service Star, the Armed Forces Expedition Medal, the Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon sixth award and the NATO service medal.

Lakin previously served with distinction in Honduras, Bosnia, El Salvador, Korea and Afghanistan. His problems began two years ago, when he was first exposed to material that made him question whether Obama was Constitutionally eligible to serve as his Commander in Chief. Yes, Lakin got sucked into the whole “Birther” controversy.

For more than a year, Lakin asked — first through his chain of command (this was the Army, after all) and later through his congressional delegation — for proof that would satisfy his questions. Then, something happened that stiffened his resolve: He received orders in February 2010 to report for deployment in Afghanistan. And as part of his orders, he was told to provide a certified copy of his birth certificate to the responsible authorities.

Normally, Lakin would have had no problem complying with either the deployment (he had served with honor in Afghanistan once before) or with the request. He had provided a certified birth certificate when he was commissioned in the U.S. Army the first time, when he applied for a marriage license and when he received his first security clearance. This time, however, he had a concern.

Lakin asked his commanding officer why, if he was required to routinely provide such evidence, wasn’t his Commander in Chief?

As you might guess, Lakin never received a satisfactory answer. So he then did something he later admitted might not have been the smartest decision he ever made: He declined to go until he was shown the proof he had previously requested.

Uh-oh. That’s when the feathers hit the fan. (I suspect soldiers use a stronger term.) Asking a question about your Commander in Chief became disobedience of a lawful order. A court-martial would follow.

Lakin looked forward to his day in court. He hoped to present his case, tell a jury how he came to have such questions, call witnesses, ask for discovery, present evidence: all the things we Americans have come to expect as a normal part of the justice system.

But this wasn’t “the justice system;” it was the U.S. military. And as the saying goes, things are different there. A military judge ruled that the only issues before the court martial were “the facts of the matter.” That is: Did Lakin disobey a lawful order? He was not allowed to explain why he did so; he was not allowed to call any witnesses or present any evidence.

So no one, not even Lakin or his most ardent supporters, was surprised with the result: Guilty as charged. Lakin was sentenced to six months in Leavenworth (it could have been five years), a reduction in rank, the loss of pension and pay and dishonorable discharge. It is a heavy price to pay for what many will consider a legal dispute.

Then, just days before Lakin was due to be released from military prison — and after two years of stonewalling — Obama changed tactics. He asked officials in Hawaii for a copy of the long-form “Certificate of Live Birth” that would prove he was, in fact, a native-born American. So eager was he to get it that he had a staffer fly from Washington to Honolulu to pick it up. Express Mail wasn’t good enough.

In a statement afterward, a spokesman for the Lakin family said, “Had the Obama Administration agreed to allow the document unveiled today and other related documents as requested for discovery in Lakin’s first pretrial hearing, the matter would have been resolved and soldiers assured their military orders were lawful, given by a lawful Commander in Chief.”

The statement added, “A good soldier, having played his part in this issue, would have returned enthusiastically to the service for which he is so ably trained.”

Of course, none of that was allowed to happen.

As many of you know, I wrote extensively about the whole “Birther” issue last week, in a column called Obama’s Birth, Bin Laden’s Death. As expected, nearly 1,000 readers have added their 2 cents to the debate. In fact, many wrote so extensively and so passionately that I should probably say their $2 worth. The debate got hot and furious. And I don’t think it will calm down anytime soon.

But Donald Trump has declared he will not run for President next year. No other viable candidate seems interested in making Obama’s antecedents an issue. Time will tell if the old adage “ignore it and it will go away” will work again, as it has so many times in the past.

In the meantime, if you would like to thank one brave soldier for taking a principled stand — and who paid a pretty high price for doing so — go to www.terrylakinactionfund.com and send Lakin and his wife, Pili, a note of appreciation. You might even consider making a donation to help them pay the mountain of bills they face.

Lakin could probably make a bunch of money on the lecture circuit or writing a book about his ordeal. But until the military process is complete — and that could take years — he has been ordered to keep his mouth shut.

As I said, military justice isn’t what you’re used to seeing on Law and Order. I think it’s the right place to try any al-Qaida terrorists we capture. But I’m not sure it prevailed in this case. What do you think?

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Lindbergh Flies Solo Across Atlantic

All pilots know this is an incredibly important week in aviation history. Leading the list was Charles A. Lindbergh’s solo flight across the Atlantic. It was a rainy morning on May 20, 1927, when Lindbergh took off from Long Island’s Roosevelt Field. He landed 33.5 hours later at Le Bourget field in Paris, France.

Lindbergh’s plane The Spirit of St. Louis carried so much fuel that it barely cleared the trees at the end of the runway when he took off for Paris at 7:52 a.m. But clear the trees he did and he remained airborne for 3,610 miles, averaging a mere 108 miles per hour. The flight made Lindberg an international hero.

Here’s an interesting footnote to that historic flight: My mother was a teenager working in New York City when she helped throw confetti from her office window several days later, as “Lucky Lindy” starred in a tickertape parade down Broadway. Fewer than 40 years later, Mom watched on live TV as an American astronaut walked on the moon. Imagine the progress those two events represent. What technological miracles we’ve witnessed in our lifetimes!

A mere 12 years after Lindbergh’s miraculous flight, Pan American Airlines began transatlantic passenger and airmail service on May 20, 1939, flying from New York City to Marseilles, France. The cabin actually had bunk beds built in, much like sleeper cars on trains today, so passengers could sleep part of the way across the ocean.

— Chip Wood




The Week’s Wackiest Headline

*To balance your budget, just do this. The wackiest headline of the week came from CNN.com, which promised “No inflation unless you eat.” Doesn’t that make you feel better? Your paycheck is bound to stretch far enough, if you persuade your family to go on an all-air diet. Oh, while you’re at it, you had better not use any gas, oil or other fuel; require any medicine or medical services; or attend college. Don’t do any of that, and you will be fine.

*Rigging the bestseller list. Well, I’ll be doggoned. I didn’t think I would ever see The New York Times admit it fudges the numbers on its list of bestselling books. And while it didn’t come right out and say it had, it did finally acknowledge that sales of Mike Huckabee’s book “A Simple Government” had earned it a place on the list. Now, how about admitting Fox contributor Dick Morris’s “Revolt!: How To Defeat Obama And Repeal His Socialist Programs” has also earned a place on the bestseller list?

*You didn’t have to do that, Mr. President. President Barack Obama keeps saying America’s millionaires need to pay more taxes. But when it came to his own tax return, our Hypocrite in Chief took every deduction he could. Had he instead used the simplified form with no itemization, his taxes would have been nearly $200,000 higher. Gee, Mr. President, how about leading by example here and just pay more?

*Welcome aboard, Mr. Ringer. I’m delighted to welcome a longtime friend, bestselling author Robert J. Ringer, as the latest columnist at Personal Liberty Digest. In case you missed his premier column, click here to read such gems as, “It’s time to get real and admit that Obama is not just another ultra-liberal President cut in the mold of Bill Clinton. It’s time to stop tiptoeing and pretending. It’s time to say it: We have a communist in the White House! Say it out loud. Say it clearly. Say it with conviction: communist.”

–Chip Wood