Obama trivializes terrorist threats

Kayla Jean Mueller, a 26-year-old humanitarian who was taken captive in Syria by Islamic terrorists in August 2013, is dead. We don’t know exactly how she died. The Islamic State, which had been holding her for the past 18 months, claims she was killed in a Jordanian air strike. U.S. and Jordanian officials doubt this, but cannot say for certain how she was killed or when or where she died.

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David Fitzsimmons, The Arizona Star

Kayla is the fourth American to die while in the hands of the Islamic State, but she was their only female captive. Three American men — journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid worker Peter Kassig — were beheaded by the group, which released videos of the atrocities. As if that weren’t bad enough, in their latest execution these Islamic butchers burned alive a captured Jordanian pilot.

President Obama said that Mueller “epitomized all that is good in our world” and vowed to retaliate against those responsible for her death. “No matter how long it takes,” he promised, “the United States will find and bring to justice the terrorists who are responsible for Kayla’s captivity and death.”

Tough words. I’d like to think he believes them and will actually do what he says. But the record says otherwise.

At the same time we learned of Mueller’s death, Obama had some very strange things to say during an interview on Monday by the media outlet Vox. First, he referred to the terrorist shooting at a kosher grocery store in France last month as “people randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.”

No, Mr. President, there was nothing “random” about that assault. The terrorists left written statements that they deliberately set out to murder Jews. They knew that what you described as a “deli” was in fact a kosher store. The murderers could be pretty sure of finding Jews inside.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest faced a barrage of questions about the president’s curious phraseology when he faced reporters the next day. While at first Earnest refused to qualify Obama’s remarks, he later sent out a tweet acknowledging that the attack was aimed at Jews. “Terror attack at Paris Kosher market was motivated by anti-Semitism,” he wrote. “POTUS (the President of the United States) didn’t intend to suggest otherwise.”

But Obama’s “random” comment wasn’t nearly as startling as what came next in that Vox interview. Matthew Yglesias asked: “Do you think the media sometimes overstates the level of alarm people should have about terrorism and this kind of chaos, as opposed to a longer-term problem of climate change and epidemic disease?” The president answered emphatically: “Absolutely.”

Got that? Obama believes climate change is a bigger threat to this country than Islamic terrorism. He said it’s all a matter of ratings on local television. “What’s the famous saying about local newscasts, right? If it bleeds, it leads, right? You show crime shows and you show fires, because that’s what people watch, and it’s all about ratings.”

No wonder the administration insisted on calling the mass murders at Fort Hood, Texas, a case of “workplace violence,” when it was obvious that the perpetrator was an Islamic extremist. Nidal Malik Hasan killed 13 people and injured 30 others before he was brought down.

But forget about that, the bombing at the Boston Marathon, the beheadings of three Americans by ISIS and all of the other murders and rapes committed by Islamic terrorists — most of them against their fellow Muslims.

Even while tens of thousands of people die in the Middle East and hundreds more in Africa, Obama insists that climate change is really the most serious “existential” threat we face.

Is it any wonder that he refuses to even utter the words “Islamic terrorism?” Or says he wants to “lead from behind” in any effort to confront these murderous extremists?

How many more innocent people will die at the hands of Islamic terrorists before they are stopped? We can’t know the answer, but it looks like it will be a bunch. For sure, it won’t happen until we get new leadership in the White House.

Until then, it looks like it will be a gruesome and bloody two years.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Obama compares Christians to Islamic butchers

Let’s get the chronology straight.

Last Tuesday, the Islamic State released a slickly produced video showing a captured Jordanian pilot being burned alive in a steel cage. To say it was horrifying would be an understatement.

On Wednesday, the United Nations released a report accusing the Islamic State of waging a systemic campaign of terror in the areas it controls, including “mass executions of boys, as well as reports of beheadings, crucifixions of children and burying children alive” — not to mention the rapes, forced marriages and other assaults on young girls it has captured.

Then on Thursday, President Barack Obama told attendees at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington that Islamic butchers aren’t the only ones who have committed terrible atrocities in the name of religion:

And lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.

What’s more, the president said, such “terrible deeds” didn’t stop several hundred years ago. They continued right up until recent times. Obama declared, “In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.” Thus did the president of the United States seem to find equivalency between the vicious brutality of the Islamic State and Christianity.

Needless to say, many Christian leaders were appalled not only by the president’s words, but also by the platform where he chose to express them. Remember, this was at a National Prayer Breakfast, an annual event that is hosted by the U.S. Congress. Talk about an inappropriate location for some impolitic remarks!

Ben Carson, the doctor and popular commentator who is widely expected to be a candidate for president in 2016, said that for Obama “to try to divert the attention away from the outrage that has been focused on the radical Islamic terrorist in this manner is rather disingenuous.” The Rev. Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, posted the following on Facebook:

Today at the National Prayer Breakfast, the President implied that what ISIS is doing is equivalent to what happened over 1000 years ago during the Crusades and the Inquisition. Mr. President–Many people in history have used the name of Jesus Christ to accomplish evil things for their own desires. But Jesus taught peace, love and forgiveness. He came to give His life for the sins of mankind, not to take life. Mohammad on the contrary was a warrior and killed many innocent people. True followers of Christ emulate Christ—true followers of Mohammed emulate Mohammed.

Obama, on the other hand, claims that the perpetrators of terrorism are betraying Islam, not following it. In his speech he said:

From a school in Pakistan to the streets of Paris, we have seen violence and terror perpetrated by those who profess… to stand up for Islam, but in fact are betraying it.

He also warned about “a rising tide of anti-Semitism and hate crimes” that is spreading across Europe. But such violent clashes aren’t just taking place between Muslim and Christians; the president also cited terrorist episodes in India, where Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Jains have also launched vicious attacks.

Obama concluded his remarks by saying we all must seek humility and strive to live side by side with people of other religious beliefs.

That’s all well and good, Mr. President. But how about first we help stop those murderous SOBs? We don’t have to provide boots on the ground to do it, just help persuade other Arab states to join Jordan in stopping this pestilence.

We’re still waiting to hear what your strategy is to “degrade and destroy” these butchers.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Obama’s absurd budget proposals

After not even bothering to present a budget proposal to Congress for most of his reign — something the law requires — President Obama decided to go the other way this year. He and his team put together a 2,000-page monstrosity that calls for all sorts of spending increases, along with a ton of new taxes to help pay for them.

The first thing the president wants to do is to get rid of the spending caps, known as sequestration, that have been in effect since 2011. Even though these mandatory limits on government spending were originally proposed by the president himself as part of a budget compromise four years ago, the White House now decries the “mindless austerity” the limits imposed.

The president’s budget for fiscal year 2016, which begins on Oct. 1, calls for $3.99 trillion in total federal spending. At the same time, it projects that federal income for the year will come to $3.53 trillion, leaving a deficit of $474 billion. Granted, this is an improvement over Obama’s first term in office, when he ran up deficits of over a trillion dollars a year.

Obama inherited a deficit of just over $10 trillion. Thanks to his massive deficit spending over the past six years, that number has skyrocketed more than 70 percent and now stands at a staggering $18 trillion. Even with the artificially low interest rates we’ve been enjoying, interest on the national debt is still the third-largest item in the federal budget. When interest rates begin to return to normal — something most economists say is inevitable — you can expect interest payments to soak up a much larger portion of the taxes Uncle Sam collects.

For the coming fiscal year, Obama has proposed a guns and butter budget. His proposals would increase military spending by $38 billion above the limit set by sequestration and raise non-defense spending by $37 billion.

To pay for all this new spending, the president has the same old solution: Tax the rich. His budget calls for increasing taxes on capital gains and dividends for top earners, new taxes on many inheritances and a brand-new proposal to tax the offshore profits of U.S. corporations. It’s been estimated that American companies hold as much as $2 trillion in offshore accounts, from profits they have made in other countries. They would face a 35 percent tax rate if they brought that money back to the U.S. — the highest rate in the industrialized world.

The obvious answer is to grant those companies some kind of tax holiday — a dramatic reduction in the amount they would have to pay in taxes — to bring a bunch of those funds back to this country. Instead, Obama wants to slap a new tax on them now.

All told, the president’s budget proposes tax increases of $1.44 trillion over the next 10 years. Of course, there is virtually no possibility that a Republican-controlled Congress will pass his tax-and-tax, spend-and-spend proposals. Consider them dead on arrival.

One of the president’s previous ideas has already been shot down. Last week, the White House said it was dropping its proposal to tax 529 education savings accounts. Obama raised the idea in his State of the Union address earlier in January, but the out roar of opposition was truly bipartisan. So that idea is dead, at least for now.

So are most of the president’s other recommendations. Sen. Orin Hatch (R-Utah), the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, dismissed Obama’s new budget as “(a) $4 trillion government spending spree propped up by massive new tax hikes.” He added, “This budget blueprint shamelessly panders to the Democratic base and does nothing to put our nation back on a sound fiscal footing.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was equally dismissive, saying the budget “contains no solutions to address the drivers of our debt, and no plan to fix our entire tax code to help foster growth and create jobs.”

As usual, the arguments aren’t about actually reducing government spending, but merely about where and how much to increase it. However it’s resolved, if you’re a hardworking, taxpaying American, you can expect the Feds to reach deeper into your pocket — not to mention those of your children and grandchildren.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Obama’s war on our energy independence

After three weeks of debate, the Senate finally passed a bill last week to authorize the Keystone XL pipeline. The vote was 62-36, which means that nine Democrats joined 53 Senate Republicans in voting “yes” on the measure to complete a pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast. The bill now goes to a House-Senate conference committee to iron out minor differences with the version approved in the House of Representatives late last year.

It’s worth noting that during the debate over the measure, the Senate considered 43 different amendments to the bill. This means the Senate debated more amendments in one month on this one bill than it did in all of last year on every bill that came before the Senate. What a difference now that Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is no longer Senate majority leader and can’t bottle up any measure he and President Obama didn’t like!

The president has vowed to veto the measure when it does finally reach his desk. And it doesn’t look like the bill’s supporters have enough votes in the Senate to override that veto. Five other Democrats would have to split with their party’s leadership to do that.

But preventing the Keystone pipeline from being completed is only part of the war that Obama is conducting against energy independence in this country. Even more significant are measures the president has taken that could mean the end of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.

A week ago, the president announced that he was using his executive authority to designate some 12 million acres in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (otherwise known as ANWR) as “wilderness.” Such a designation would prohibit any exploration for oil and gas in that vast area.

Such a directive flies in the face of a law passed by Congress in 1980. The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act agreed to put huge tracts of land in Alaska off-limits to exploration. But the bill also included a clause declaring that there would be “no more wilderness designations” in Alaska unless they were specifically approved by Congress. The president’s latest dictate ignores that long-standing agreement.

But this is far from the only way the Obama Administration is blocking oil and gas exploration in Alaska. Back in 2010, it ordered nearly half of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA) off-limits to development.

Plus, Obama’s minions are doing everything possible to stymie drilling in areas of Alaska where it has already been approved. Shell Oil has spent an estimated $6 billion on plans to drill in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas areas of Alaska, but federal regulators have thrown up so many roadblocks that the company can’t proceed.

The same thing has happened to ConocoPhillips, which years ago bought a lease to explore in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. So far, the federal regulators in charge have refused to allow the company to drill a single well. And that is certainly unlikely to change while Obama is in office.

When the Trans-Alaska Pipeline was completed, back in the mid-1970s, it carried some 2.2 million barrels of oil a day the 800 miles from the northern slope of Alaska to the Port of Valdez on the southern coast. Now, thanks to decreasing production from existing wells, that number has dropped to half-a-million barrels a day.

Environmental extremists know that the economic viability of the pipeline is at risk here. If they can squeeze production even further, it is possible that the pipeline may be closed.

But here’s the kicker: Under the law that established it, if the TransAlaska Pipeline shuts down, it will have to be dismantled. This would be a devastating blow to the possibility of America becoming energy independent.

Experts say that there is something like 27 billion barrels of oil in the Arctic Outer Continental Shelf. ANWR is thought to hold another 10 billion barrels. The National Petroleum Reserve probably holds an equal amount.

That is almost 50 billion barrels of oil this country could be producing. Yet thanks to the Obama administration, we are not getting a single drop.

And don’t even get me started on the administration’s war on coal, the most abundant energy resource we have in this country. We should be encouraging efforts to find cleaner ways to use this fuel; instead, Obama has made it clear that he won’t be satisfied until every coal-producing mine in this country has been closed and every coal-burning plant has been shuttered.

What will it take to promote energy independence in this country? A change of heart by the present occupant of the White House seems extremely unlikely. So the only other option is a change of occupant.

Frankly, it can’t happen soon enough.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

The controversial invitation to Israel’s prime minister

House Speaker John Boehner sure has stirred up a hornet’s nest with his invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress next month. The deal was arranged without any consultation with the Obama administration, which has angered a bunch of folks here and in Israel.

A White House official has been quoted as saying, “He spat in our face publicly and that’s no way to behave. Netanyahu ought to remember that President Obama has a year and half left to his presidency, and that there will be a price.”

This not-very-subtle threat follows another leak by a White House insider last year, when an anonymous official described Netanyahu as “chickensh*t.” Everyone knew that such nasty name-calling was a deliberate provocation — a warning shot in the diplomatic maneuverings, if you will. You can imagine how well it went over in the prime minister’s office.

The immediate issue concerns U.S. negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. The deadline for coming to an agreement has already been delayed twice and currently expires at the end of June.

Many in Congress are ready to impose tough new sanctions against Iran unless it halts any efforts to develop nuclear weapons — and allows outside inspectors to confirm it has done so. Since Iran’s leaders have repeatedly vowed to wipe Israel off the map, it is no surprise that Israel’s leaders consider a nuclear-armed Iran a threat to the country’s very existence.

Obama, on the other hand, wants Congress to cool it while negotiations continue. He has threatened to veto any legislation imposing new sanctions. And the administration doesn’t want the Israeli prime minister talking to our legislators about the issue — especially not before a joint session of Congress.

The latest controversy isn’t surprising. There has been no love lost between Netanyahu and Obama since they were elected as their countries’ leaders. Netanyahu is angry that the American president isn’t harsh enough on Palestinian ambitions and is always pushing Israel to compromise; Obama, on the other hand, believes that the Israeli leader is an irresponsible hard-liner who is an impediment to peace in the Middle East. To say that the two can barely suppress their disdain for one another is putting it mildly.

It’s certainly true that Boehner ignored the diplomatic niceties by issuing the invitation to Netanyahu without bothering to consult with the White House. And it’s true that Netanyahu didn’t follow the usual protocol when he accepted the invitation without any discussion with the administration.

Obama upped the ante by declining to meet with the Israeli prime minister when he visits Washington next month. It wouldn’t be appropriate, the White House said, because of the Israeli national elections that will take place two weeks later.

There has even been criticism of Netanyahu in Israel for accepting Boehner’s invitation. The purported reason is that the Israeli leader is wrong to do anything that would damage relations with the American president. But the fact that being invited to address a joint session of Congress will undoubtedly enhance Netanyahu’s prestige back home — right before he runs for re-election — undoubtedly has something to do with it.

The administration says it is inappropriate for the Israeli leader to insert himself in a political debate in the United States. But it had no problem with David Cameron, the British prime minister, urging Congress not to pass more sanctions. Does anyone detect a little Obama hypocrisy here?

But there is a lot more at stake than a mere political dispute. For Israel, a nuclear-armed Iran is a threat to the country’s survival. We shouldn’t be surprised if the Israelis will take any steps necessary to prevent such an outcome. Given what is at stake, a speech in Washington is a relatively minor consideration — even if it violates some diplomatic niceties.

I, for one, am eager to hear what Netanyahu has to say. I know he’ll benefit from what he’s been told by the Mossad, one of the most effective intelligence organizations in the world.

I also know that he is guided by an unwavering determination to protect his country and its citizens. Frankly, I can only wish that our own president were as devoted to safeguarding our lives and liberties.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Of course the left hates ‘American Sniper’

Bradley Cooper’s portrayal of Chris Kyle in “American Sniper” earned the actor an Oscar nod.

Finally, Hollywood has made a movie about a modern American hero — a U.S. soldier, no less, who was proud of doing everything he could to protect his fellow servicemen during four tours of duty in Iraq. The public has responded by setting all sorts of attendance records during the film’s first month of release.

I’m talking, of course, about “American Sniper,” the true-to-life story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the legendary sniper who had 160 confirmed kills in Iraq — and said he would be proud to “answer to God” for every one of them. His only regret, he said when he got home, was that he wasn’t able to save the lives of more American troops.

Kyle is portrayed in the movie by Bradley Cooper, who received his fourth Oscar nomination for his utterly convincing performance. The movie has been nominated for five other Academy Awards, including best picture.

Conspicuous by its absence, however, was a nomination for Clint Eastwood, the movie’s director. I can’t think of the last time a picture received a best picture and best actor nomination without the director being similarly honored. It seems the liberals who dominate Hollywood haven’t forgiven Eastwood for his “empty chair” mockery of Barack Obama at the 2012 Republican National Convention.

While Eastwood won’t get another Academy Award to put on his shelf, he can console himself with the knowledge that “American Sniper” will be the highest-grossing movie he ever made. It set a record for January when it opened with $107 million in ticket sales during the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.

Sales haven’t declined very much from there. The next weekend they came to $64.4 million, bringing the two-week total to more than $200 million. My wife and I saw the movie at our local multiplex that Saturday. The theater was absolutely packed. And there was a reverent silence in the audience during most of it — especially at the end (SPOILER ALERT) when actual footage of Kyle’s funeral procession from Arlington, Texas, to Austin, Texas, was included. The sight of so many thousands of people lining the streets, with signs and flags hanging from every overpass, was incredibly moving.

The movie has caught a lot of flak from the left, especially for seeming to endorse Kyle’s description of the enemy he faced in Iraq as savages. He never backed down an inch from that description. In his best-selling book, “American Sniper,” on which the movie was based, he wrote:

Savage, despicable evil. That’s what we were fighting in Iraq. That’s why a lot of people, myself included, called the enemy “savages.” There was no other way to describe what we encountered there.

Two scenes in the movie confirmed the appropriateness of the word. (SPOILER ALERT) In the first, a jihadist leader tortures a young boy by drilling into his knee, in order to force a confession from the lad’s father. In a second, a mother smuggles a grenade to a boy, who couldn’t have been more than 7 or 8, so he could blow up American troops — and himself.

Faced with an enemy who would stoop this low, “savage, despicable evil” seems to fit.

Of course, this sort of normal, patriotic reaction drives the left crazy. Mark Davis, a radio talk-show host in Dallas, explains why the left can’t stand such a portrayal:

The prospect of a selfless American hero willing to risk his life to fight the evils of global jihad offends leftism at every level. It speaks to a strong America, which they despise. It celebrates wartime sacrifice, which does not move them. And it highlights the evils of our Islamic enemies, which sends them over the cliff into an abyss of hostile loathing they cannot help but share.

I have to say I’m delighted when leftwing blowhards like Bill Maher and Michael Moore indulge in their childish rants against things like “American Sniper.” The natural reaction for most Americans is to want to have nothing to do with these jerks and their biases.

Honoring our warriors doesn’t mean that we glorify war. Far from it. But we should be glad there are men (and women) like Kyle and his colleagues, who are willing to risk their lives to protect and defend their country and their fellow servicemen.

The outpouring of support for this movie confirms there are many, many people who agree.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Barack Obama’s dangerously wrongheaded State of the Union speech

What planet did he just come from?

That was the first question that occurred to me after listening to the president’s State of the Union speech two nights ago. Because what he said — and maybe even more important, what he refused to say — certainly bore no resemblance to where this country is today or took into account the events of the past few months.

If a viewer had somehow slept through the elections two months ago and awoke just time for Obama’s hourlong peroration on Tuesday night, he would have assumed that the Democrats were the big winners in the midterm contests. There certainly wasn’t anything in the president’s remarks to indicate that he was speaking to the fewest number of Democrats to occupy Congress in a long time.

Talk about the same old same old progressive agenda; it was all there. Raise taxes on the rich. Bamboozle the public with all sorts of “free” stuff: free child care for working parents, free college when they grow up and free sick leave when they get a job.

The president said it was time to “turn the page” and work together for a better future. But every time he mentioned a way to do this, it was only to push for another government program, virtually none of which have a chance of passage in the current Congress — and Obama knows it.

Of all the exaggerations and omissions in the president’s speech, the biggest on the domestic front was how well the economy has been doing under his watch. The only way he can claim that unemployment has come down is to not count the millions of people who no longer even bother to look for work. Oh, and to give full credit to the millions more who would love to work full time, but can find only part-time jobs.

Things make look pretty good in our nation’s capital. But out in the real world, most people are barely getting by — if that.

When it comes to combating Islamic terrorism (a phrase the president still refuses to use), Obama said “the shadow of the crisis has passed.” Oh, really? That certainly doesn’t seem to be the case in Yemen. Or in Paris. Or where ISIS can murder 13 boys, just because they were caught watching soccer on television.

Of all the empty promises and rhetorical flourishes in the president’s remarks, it was a challenge to pick out the one that was the most wrongheaded. For me, it came near the end of his remarks, when Obama said it was time for us all to “debate without demonizing each other.”

Coming from the most divisive president to occupy the White House in years, lecturing anyone about “demonizing” issues took a ton of chutzpah. But that’s something Obama has never lacked. He is a master of promoting divisions among us, whether it is rich versus poor, black versus white or any other contrived conflict.

I haven’t seen any numbers on how many people actually watched the president’s State of the Union remarks. But I suspect it garnered the smallest audience he’s had in the six times he’s given this address to a joint session of Congress. That’s certainly been the trend, with every speech since the first one drawing a smaller and smaller audience.

No doubt many who tuned in at the beginning switched channels, or just turned off their TV, before it was over. Far fewer hung around long enough to hear the Republican response, which was delivered by Joni Ernst, the newly elected senator from Iowa.

That’s too bad. Because those who missed Ernst’s rebuttal didn’t see a rising star in Republican ranks. And unlike the president, Ernst stressed the significance of the November elections. “We heard the message you sent in November, loud and clear,” she said. “And now we’re getting to work to change the direction Washington has been taking our country.”

Those of us who believe that “middle-class economics” means working for what you get, paying your way and staying within your means hope she is correct. And we hope that the Republicans who now control both branches of Congress will put an end to the liberal refrain of more spending, higher taxes, greater debt and increasing dependence on government.

Yes, it is high time for a change. Let’s see if we get one — despite what our president says.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

The Supremes to rule on gay marriage

Last Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear appeals of four cases where states had banned gay marriages. The court will also rule on a related case of whether states must recognize same-sex marriages that were performed in other states.

Lower courts have been divided on both questions. Several circuit court decisions have invalidated state bans on gay marriages, citing a 2013 Supreme Court decision, U.S. v. Windsor. That ruling said that a federal ban on recognizing same-sex marriage, which was contained in the Defense of Marriage Act, was unconstitutional.

That bill, known as DOMA, was passed overwhelmingly by both the House and the Senate in 1996 and was signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton. It defined marriage as between a man and a woman and also allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Then in November, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld bans on gay marriages in four states: Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan and Kentucky. Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton, writing in the majority decision, said that voters and legislators, not judges, should be the ones to decide these issues.

That, of course, has been how our system of government has worked for most of the past 230 years. The framers of the Constitution would be appalled at the idea that the Supreme Court can somehow make law for the entire country. Under the system they established, a Supreme Court ruling was “the law of the case.” It’s been only in the past 50 years that Court rulings have somehow become “the law of the land.”

Now the Supreme Court has consolidated four cases where gay couples are seeking the legal right to get married in those four states, or to have a marriage ceremony performed in another state recognized as legal.

The court will hear oral arguments on the issues involved in April and will probably issue its decision by the end of June. Interestingly, that is the same time that the court is expected to issue its ruling in King v. Burwell, the case that could gut Obamacare by ending subsidies for people who sign up on the federal exchange.

The New York Times is excited by the prospect that the Supreme Court will “end the debate once and for all.” In a lead editorial on Jan. 16, the paper summarized how dramatically things have changed in just over a decade:

The 12 years since 2003 have seen enormous social change on this issue. Before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court legalized same-sex marriage in November 2003, no state permitted such marriages. Today, 36 states do, along with the District of Columbia — representing more than 70 percent of all Americans.

What the newspaper didn’t mention, however, is that almost all of those changes came from judicial fiat, not by a majority of people voting to change the law. Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, which supports traditional marriage, says “Lower court judges have robbed millions of people of their voice and vote on society’s most fundamental relationship — marriage.” And he declares, “There is nothing in the Constitution that empowers the courts to silence the people and impose a nationwide redefinition of marriage.”

That, of course, is the traditional view. But it is not one shared by today’s “activist” courts. Or people who want a dictate from the Supreme Court to give them a victory they can’t achieve by popular vote.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Why won’t Obama say ‘Islamic terrorism?’

The White House has finally admitted that yes, by golly, it did make a mistake in not sending a high-level representative to the anti-terror march in Paris on Sunday that was attended by more than 40 world leaders.

Although outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder was in Paris at the time, apparently he was told to “stand down” and not attend the demonstration. I’m guessing his boss made that decision because Holder’s presence would have put even more emphasis on President Obama’s absence.

In any case, White House spokesman Josh Earnest now says that was a mistake. “It’s fair to say we should have sent someone with a higher profile,” he admitted in a press conference on Monday.

As one of my kids would say, big deal. There’s a far bigger issue involved here than going to a march. And that is Obama’s persistent refusal to identify the enemy as what it really is: Islamic terrorism. It’s pathetic to see the contortions our president and various administration officials and spokesmen go through to avoid using the word “Islam” when talking about the people who are waging war on the West.

Thankfully, other world leaders are not so constrained. In a speech in their National Assembly two days ago, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that “France is at war with terrorism, jihadism and radical Islamism.”

His audience in their parliament greeted his remarks with what was described as “thunderous applause.” The members then voted overwhelmingly to extend French air strikes against Islamic State forces in Iraq.

Who would have thought the French would be giving lessons to U.S. leaders on how to confront an enemy?

Time after time, this administration has gone out of its way to deny that Islam has anything to do with the attacks against the West. Remember when terrorists killed four Americans, including our ambassador, in Benghazi, Libya? The Administration’s first response was to blame for protests on an obscure anti-Muslim video.

Or how about the fact that we actually paid to run commercials on TV in Pakistan, apologizing for that video because it offended Muslims? Remember, this is a nation that offered sanctuary to jihadist terrorists then and continues to do so today.

In 2012, Obama went before the United Nations and declared, “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.” So it was not surprising that when the satiric magazine Charlie Hebdo printed cartoons making fun of Muhammad two years ago, the administration was not amused. Jay Carney, the White House press secretary at the time, said, “We are aware that a French magazine published cartoons featuring a figure resembling the prophet Muhammad, and obviously we have questions about the judgment of publishing something like this. We know that these images will be deeply offensive to many and have the potential to be inflammatory.”

Of course anti-Christian bigots can be as “deeply offensive” and inflammatory as they want, without worrying about any criticism from the administration.

At least the White House is now willing to use the word “terrorism.” That wasn’t the case when Maj. Nidal Malik, another murderous jihadist, went on a rampage at Fort Hood in 2009. After he murdered 13 people and injured more than 30 others, the official White House explanation was that this was merely an example of “workplace violence.”

In a column in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal, former Sen. Joseph Lieberman said that a “history-changing opportunity still awaits President Obama: to lead a global alliance to destroy violent Islamist extremism.”

Yes, it does. But there is absolutely no chance that he will do so. Obama is looking more and more like what John Myers, my colleague here at Personal Liberty, called him yesterday: “America’s Muslim in chief.”

If we won’t even name our enemy, how can we expect to defeat it? Of course we can’t. The body count will get a lot higher before that changes.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Why wasn’t Obama in Paris?

That was quite a sight on Sunday, seeing millions of people all over Europe demonstrating their support of freedom and their opposition to jihadist terrorism. More than 40 world leaders marched arm in arm down the streets of Paris, leading crowds estimated at more than 1 million people.

Yes, it was impressive to see French President François Hollande being joined by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, EU President Donald Tusk and dozens of other world leaders. Even Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas were there.

But where was Barack Obama? He was the one world leader who was conspicuous by his absence. Nor did he send Vice President Joe Biden to represent him. The highest U.S. official in Paris over the weekend was outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder. And Holder chose not to join the march, perhaps because he realized his presence would call attention to the fact that his boss wasn’t there.

When I remarked to a neighbor that I thought it looked bad not to see Obama marching with the other world leaders in Paris, he made the rather snarky remark: “I’m not surprised Obama wasn’t there. Didn’t you say it was a gathering of world leaders?”

Greta Van Susteren, host of the popular Fox News show “Off the Record,” was outspoken in her criticism of our President. “I think this is insulting,” she said in a Facebook post. “The Obama Administration’s solution for not doing its job — the President going to Paris and standing with the 40+ Heads of State — is to INSULT us.”

She was referring to a remark by Secretary of State John Kerry, who said that criticism of the White House for missing the march was “quibbling.” That caused the popular TV personality to declare:

Face it, the President did not do his job representing us yesterday in Paris with 40+ world leaders. The Administration’s solution for not doing its job, the President not doing his job, is now to insult the rest of us (‘quibbling’) for whom it mattered.

And I’ve got to say, I agree with her conclusion:

Showing a united front — meaning our leader joined the other leaders — would have sent a powerful message. Wanting that done is not some petty little ‘quibbling.’

But even though our president’s failure to show up in Paris is mildly upsetting, there is another theme the mainstream media have launched that really annoys me. And that is the constant refrain that we better not blame all Muslims for the murderous actions of a tiny minority.

Hey, I’m willing to agree that the vast majority of the adherents of Islam aren’t murderous jihadists. Thank goodness that most of them are law-abiding folks who want to live peacefully with their neighbors.

But that said, let me also point out the obvious: Jihadist terrorism will never be defeated, so long as its murderous adherents (including some of their religious leaders) enjoy the protection of their neighbors — not to mention the overt support of such Muslim-run countries as Yemen and, yes, even Saudi Arabia.

After the murders in Paris at the satiric newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket, millions of people all over the world declared their support of freedom by proclaiming “Je suis Charlie.” France’s president said the world needs to declare a war on terrorism.

But this is a war that will never be won, until and unless we can identify the participants. We will never be able to persuade them that they are wrong. It’s going to come down to kill or be killed.

Sadly, I think the body count in the West will get a whole lot higher before we come to grips with these realities.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood   

We must support our local police

Make no mistake about it: The war on the nation’s police is a war on all of us — on our values, our traditions and what the demonstrators would scornfully call “the American way of life.” Theirs is a planned and deliberate assault on our system of limited, representative government.

When communists, anarchists and other left-wing rabble-rousers march through the streets of New York City chanting, “What do we want? Dead cops,” and, “When do we want it? Right now,” they aren’t merely attacking that thin blue line that has sworn to defend us; they are, in fact, trying to topple our very form of government.

When they block our streets, disrupt our stores and hurl epithets (and worse) at those who have sworn to protect us, they aren’t merely trying to protest a grand jury decision they didn’t like; no, their real goal is to make clear their utter disdain for the country that grants them the freedom to flout our laws and traditions.

And you know what? Most of us know this is true. We feel it in our gut. That’s why our instinct is to support the police, even when we know some of them have abused the power we have agreed to give them.

Three times in the past month, cops in New York City have turned their back when their mayor, Bill de Blasio, was speaking. The last time was just a few days ago, when the mayor was delivering a eulogy for Rafael Ramos, one of the two New York City policemen murdered by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, a deranged black gunman who had boasted that he was going to put “wings on pigs.”

I suspect that if I were a cop in New York City, I, too, would have turned my back on de Blasio, despite appeals from the commissioner of police not to. That gesture is about all that those police officers could do to show their utter disdain for the past words and deeds of their ultimate boss.

Well, there is actually something else they can do that isn’t as dramatic but can have an even bigger impact. That is to stop enforcing things like parking violations and other minor laws. This is no small matter: Fines from these less-significant violations bring in more than $10 million a week. But for the week that just ended, such ticket-writing in the city has dropped by more than 90 percent.

In other words, the police in New York City are hitting de Blasio where it might hurt the most: right in the pocketbook.

It’s not merely what they perceive as a lack of support that has these officers of the law so upset; they believe the mayor is on the side of their enemies. Judging by some of the things he’s said, including his very public support of racist agitator Al Sharpton, how could they not?

No wonder that Patrick Lynch, the head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association in the city, says that de Blasio has blood on his hands. Yes, Lynch’s remarks were certainly impolitic. But given what has been happening in New York City, can you blame him?

There has been a lot of talk about what it will take to restore trust between the police and the mayor’s office. Seems to me it’s the same thing that will be necessary to restore trust between the nation’s police (and many of us) and an even higher official: the person sitting in the White House.

In both cases, the answer will be a new occupant.

Sadly, we could see a lot of mayhem before that happens.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Will the Republicans dump John Boehner?

Just how tough will the Republicans be this year? We’ll get a major indication later today, when the Republicans in the House of Representatives vote on who will be their leader. Sadly, it looks like John Boehner (R-Ohio), the incumbent speaker, will win in a walk.

In other words, the Republican majority in the House will vote for business as usual, which really means compromise as usual.

Of the 246 Republicans serving in the House — the largest majority in more than 80 years — only a handful have declared their opposition to re-electing Boehner as their leader. Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) is one of them. He says he has been meeting with “a small group” of 16 to 18 fellow members who will vote for someone else.

Interestingly, it will take only a handful more opponents to deny Boehner the post. That’s because every member of Congress — not just the Republicans — votes on who will be speaker. With 434 eligible to vote (one seat is vacant, thanks to the resignation of a lawmaker), Boehner needs to get 218 votes to win.

Or to put it another way, if 20 House Republicans refuse to support him and no Democrats do, Boehner’s re-election bid will fail. If that happens, the anti-Boehner conservatives hope he will withdraw from the race, paving the way for someone else to be elected Speaker.

We know there will be some token opposition to giving Boehner another two-year term. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), a Tea Party supporter, has already announced that he will challenge Boehner for the job. And Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) has said that while he won’t campaign for the post, he is available if his colleagues should tap him.

Sean Hannity, the popular Fox News talk-show host, has been one of the conservative leaders urging Republicans to replace Boehner. His preference for the new speaker is Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), the former prosecutor who has been one of the toughest interrogators of administration officials. “It’s time for new dynamic leadership in the House of Representatives,” Hannity declared. He says that Gowdy “has the ability to articulate and implement the changes needed to get the country on the right path.”

A recent survey of Republican voters found that a majority want to see Boehner replaced. Caddell Associates said that 34 percent “definitely” wanted to see someone else serve as speaker, while another 26 percent said they “probably” wanted someone else in the post. Interestingly, an even larger majority of those polled, 64 percent, said that Boehner was “ineffective” in combating Barack Obama’s agenda.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel says the speaker is not worried about any potential opposition. “Rep. Boehner was elected as the House Republican Conference’s choice for Speaker last month,” he said, “and he expects to be elected by the whole House next week.”

Frankly, he’s probably right. The new Republican majority in the Senate has already re-elected Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as their leader there. McConnell and Boehner aren’t exactly the most eloquent and inspiring leaders of the Republic, are they?

So it looks like we’ll endure two more years of the same weak leadership we’ve had for the past six years. Not much to celebrate there.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood  

Why I’ve got to keep fighting big government

Well, here we are at the start of a brand-new year. The holidays will officially come to an end this weekend. I hope yours were wonderful. Ours certainly were. But now it’s time to say goodbye to the two grandchildren and their parents who have been staying with us for 10 days. Things are about to get a whole lot quieter around here.

But before they do, I expect them to get extremely noisy later this afternoon. You see, the stepson staying here is a Florida State grad. And he’s taught his 4-year-old son to be a rabid Seminoles’ fan.

In fact, one of the funniest sights this past week was watching this lad teach his 4-year-old cousin to do the one-armed Seminoles’ chop instead of the two-armed Gators’ chop. Yes, our guest’s brother is a University of Florida grad, so the rivalry can get pretty intense, especially during football season. We even have a “house divided” flag we fly then. But today we’ll all be FSU fans, hoping the Seminoles defeat the Oregon Ducks in the Rose Bowl and go on to play for another national championship. Go ‘Noles!

Most of the conversations when the families gathered around were fun and even a bit frivolous. But sometimes we’d get serious, especially when the talk turned to what sort of country these grandchildren would inherit.

We all shuddered at the size of the national debt and the dismal prospect that it will ever be paid off. Can you believe an official debt of over $18 trillion dollars — and unfunded liabilities that are many times more than that?

Even with interest rates at record lows, paying the interest on all of that debt is already the second biggest item in the federal budget. What do you think will happen when interest rates return to what used to be considered “normal” and those interest payments approach a trillion dollars a year?

So as you can see, I’ve got six powerful reasons to keep fighting to bring our profligate federal government under control. Add in the five other grandchildren I wasn’t able to visit with this Christmas, and there are 11 young Americans who provide all the inspiration I need to stay in this fight.

My wife and I have already provided two important legacies for our grandchildren. First, we made sure that their parents grew up with a love of reading. We read to them in infancy, and now we have the same great privilege with their children. And, yes, there were plenty of new books under the Christmas tree again this year.

Next, we’ve also stressed the importance of education. They’ve heard it from us again and again. When my wife’s children were young adults, they saw her return to college and get her degree. And they know we’ve been putting some aside some money every month in 529 plans for each grandchild.

We want our grandchildren to have the same freedoms and opportunities that we’ve been so fortunate to enjoy. But this won’t happen with a government that lies to us, spies on us and wants to take even more of our wealth and our freedoms.

So yes, we know we’re in a battle for their future. And we’re determined to win. I hope you are, too.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

A very bad year for the U.S. Constitution

OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE PHOTO/Before taking office, the president and all the members of Congress swear to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

As 2014 draws to a close, we can look back at many instances when an out-of-control federal government wasted tons of the money it took from us, repeatedly deceived us about its activities, and time and again trampled on the rights of its citizens. In short, it’s been a very bad year for the U.S. Constitution.

With my apologies to Judith Viorst, you might even call it a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” year for the Constitution. And if President Obama and his cohorts in the executive branch have their way in the coming year, the abuses are only going to get worse.

Congress is still investigating the way the IRS improperly targeted Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations. No one even tries to deny that our government has been improperly spying on its own citizens for years. Time after time, and on issue after issue, the Obama administration has made a mockery of the constitutional protections our Founding Fathers provided us.

This is probably a good time to remind ourselves that before assuming office, the president of this country and every single member of Congress take the following oath:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter, so help me God.

That’s what they say they will do. But in fact, a majority of them routinely betray that solemn oath, by supporting programs that have absolutely no constitutional justification. Meanwhile, since becoming a lame-duck president, Obama has become even more outrageous in his flagrant determination to violate the Constitution’s separation of powers.

Nowhere has this been more apparent than in his executive orders on immigration. No sooner were the 2014 midterm elections over than Obama said he would take executive action to grant amnesty to some 5 million aliens who are in this country illegally. No matter that on nearly two dozen occasions in the past the president admitted he lacked the legal authority to do such a thing. And no matter that, after he proclaimed the midterm elections would be a referendum on his policies, the results turned out to be a massive repudiation of them.

But immigration is just one of the issues where the Obama administration has demonstrated its utter distain for the Constitution. Many egregious examples can be found in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.

So far, the Obama administration has taken dozens of unilateral actions to change the law without an iota of authorization from Congress. These include delays in the individual and employer mandates and numerous waivers of fees for favored groups (read: unions) or businesses (read: campaign supporters).

One of the most blatant examples are the rules issued by the IRS allowing people who purchased healthcare through federal exchanges to qualify for subsidies the law specifically restricts to state exchanges. This one has been appealed to the Supreme Court, which could deal a devastating blow to the president’s program if it decides such subsidies are unconstitutional.

Of all the departments within the executive branch, however, there is probably none that can match the Environmental Protection Agency for its ruthless determination to impose its dictates on this country without any legal authority to do so. It has declared war on the coal industry and coal-burning power plants, wreaking havoc on the economy of West Virginia.

The situation has gotten so extreme that even The New York Times noted that Obama “could leave office with the most aggressive, far-reaching environmental legacy of any occupant of the White House. Yet it is very possible that not a single major environmental law will have passed during his two terms in Washington.”

Needless to say, The Times totally approves of the high-handed, unconstitutional actions of the Obama administration.

The Republicans have promised to do everything they can to stop Obama’s blatant usurpation of power. We’ll know pretty soon if they’re going to keep that promise.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood  

These celebs get the Grinch award

Americans are without a doubt the most generous people in the world. We give more of our time and money to others than any other nation. I’ll have some specific stats to share with you in a moment, which should make you feel very good this Christmas Day.

But there are also a bunch of folks who give charity a bad name. One of them is Lady Gaga, who has a charity called Born This Way Foundation. Its website says the foundation “is dedicated to creating a safe community that helps connect young people with the skills and opportunities they need to build a kinder, braver world.”

In 2012, the foundation raised $2.6 million from Lady Gaga’s fans. And how much of that money was given away to help young people build a “kinder, braver world,” do you think? If you guessed a couple of million dollars, you’re off by 97.5 percent. Lady Gaga’s foundation gave away only a paltry $5,000 of the money it raised.

Yes, you read that right: five thousand bucks out of $2.6 million. Heck, her costumes for one show probably cost more than that. C’mon, Lady, reach a little deeper, would you? Heck, reach a lot deeper.

Another celebrity who has some ‘splaining to do is Kim Kardashian. Like many other celebrities, Kardashian has closets full of clothes she’ll never wear again. So she auctions off many pieces for charity.

Before one of the auctions, Kardashian explained: “My dad passed away from cancer, so the funds go towards granting wishes for terminally ill adults.” Almost brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it?

Whenever one of her items appears, it’s accompanied by the tagline, “Charity Auction Supporting the Dream Foundation.” And it does … sort of. Turns out that Kardashian gives just 10 percent of the proceeds to charity. That just happens to be the absolute minimum percent eBay will permit, so the sale can be called a “charity auction.”

But it means that 90 percent of the proceeds go to Kardashian. In other words, she keeps nine times more money than is given to the Dream Foundation. Not exactly an example of giving until it hurts, is it?

By the way, Kardashian’s husband seems to have the same, shall we say flexible, standards when it comes to what constitutes a charity. In 2009, the Kanye West Foundation, which said it was founded to help teen dropouts, spent $553,826 on salaries, travel and other administrative expenses. In the same year, it only gave away $573 to charity. Happily, this one was closed three years ago.

The same Fox News website that contained the details of the Kardashian deceit shared several stories of celebrities who give 100 percent of their auction proceeds to charity. Among the names in this very generous category are Miley Cyrus, Sienna Miller, Barbra Streisand, Steven Tyler and even notorious bad boy Charlie Sheen.

Of course, there are plenty of other scams in the charity field. One of the biggest is paying out most of the money that’s donated to the people who raise it. One of the worst in this regard is something called the Kids Wish Network. Sounds a lot like the very respectable Make-A-Wish Foundation, doesn’t it?

In 2012 the Kids Wish Network raised $127.8 million from very generous donors. Of that amount, though, the vast majority — some $109.8 million — was paid to the people who raised the funds! Only 2.5 percent of the money was actually spent granting kids’ wishes.

But enough of the horror stories. Let me end this Christmas Day article with some information about how incredibly generous we Americans are. According to the Giving USA Foundation, in 2013 we gave a total of $335 billion to charitable causes. Of this amount, the vast majority, 72 percent, came from private individuals. Foundations gave 15 percent, bequests gave 8 percent and corporations gave 5 percent.

In addition, volunteers to various charitable endeavors donated time that, if the charities had to hire them, would have cost $163 billion. Taken together, that’s within a whisker’s worth of half-a-trillion dollars in charitable giving.

So yes, the spirit of giving is alive and well in the United States. That should make you both proud and glad this Christmas Day 2014. Congratulations to all of us.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Obama’s Cuban deal boosts his legacy, won’t help Cubans

Boy, is Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) ticked off. The son of immigrants from Cuba, he says that Barack Obama’s plan to re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba is an abject betrayal of American principles and the Cuban people.

Rubio has been all over the media recently, explaining why he is so opposed to Obama’s plans. In an op-ed last Thursday in The Wall Street Journal, Rubio pointed out:

[I]t has been the policy and law of the U.S. to make clear that re-establishing diplomatic and economic relations with Cuba is possible — but only once the Cuban government stops jailing political opponents, protects free speech, and allows independent political parties to be formed and to participate in free and fair elections.

So what did Raul Castro, the communist dictator who succeeded his brother Fidel, concede in exchange for Obama’s concessions? Why, absolutely nothing. In fact, Castro bragged in a speech last Saturday that the regime didn’t have to give up a thing in the deal with Obama.

In fact, restoring diplomatic and economic relations will actually strengthen the communist dictatorship in Cuba. With more American tourists coming to the island and with Cubans in this country allowed to send more money back to beleaguered relatives at home, the Castros will be able to get their hands on even more U.S. dollars.

According to Rubio, “The entire policy shift is based on the illusion — in fact, on the lie — that more commerce and access to money and goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people.” Just the opposite will occur, he insists: “More economic engagement with the U.S. means that the regime’s grip on power will be strengthened for decades to come.”

That’s a pretty hefty price to pay for the diplomatic gesture. But wait, Rubio says the actual consequences are even worse:

This precedent places a new price on the head of every American, and it gives rogue leaders around the world more clear-cut evidence of this President’s naiveté and his willingness to abandon fundamental principles in a desperate attempt to burnish his legacy.

It isn’t just Republicans who are upset by this policy switch. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the senior senator from New Jersey, who is also of Cuban ancestry, had this to say:

For compromising on bedrock U.S. values, we received zero commitments from the regime to change its ways, to hold free elections, permit dissent, halt censorship and free all political prisoners. We abandoned U.S. policy, while the Castro brothers’ stranglehold on power just got tighter.

Menendez, who is the outgoing chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, then added this warning: “This swap sets an extremely dangerous precedent and invites dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans serving overseas as bargaining chips.”

Not everyone agrees with Rubio and Menendez, of course. Even some conservatives say it’s time to try a new approach to our relations with Cuba. The always-eloquent Peggy Noonan sounded downright optimistic in her column this past Saturday in The Wall Street Journal:

Nothing will make Cuba democratic overnight. But American involvement and presence — American tourists and businessmen, American diplomats, American money, American ways and technology — will likely in time have a freeing effect. With increased contact a certain amount of good feeling will build. And that could make Cuba, within a generation or less, a friend.

In the long term, I think the lady is probably right. The majority of Cubans, like the majority of people everywhere, want to be free. They want the same basic rights we take for granted. And once the Castros are gone, there’s a good chance Cuba will start making moves in that direction.

Hopefully, over time the Cuban people will gain more political and economic freedom. As they do, their economy will improve and their standard of living will go up.

But all of that is many years away. And in the meantime, I have no doubt that the immediate effect of Obama’s unilateral action will be to strengthen Cuba’s desperate and deadly regime.

Rubio has vowed he will do “everything in my power to prevent President Obama’s dangerous policies from becoming reality.” That’s a worthy goal — and not just as it involves a communist dictatorship 90 miles from our shore.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood  

Is waterboarding torture?

Is waterboarding torture? The truth is most Americans don’t care how you define the word. What they care about are the results from it.

When the Pew Research Center took a poll of Americans asking whether CIA interrogation methods following 9/11 were justified, only 29 percent said they were not. More than half, 51 percent, said they were. The other 20 percent, or 1 in 5, said they didn’t know.

The Pew survey was taken just days before we learned about the Taliban’s slaughter of more than 130 schoolchildren in Pakistan. I bet if that same survey were taken today, the number approving those “enhanced interrogation techniques” would be substantially higher. It’s hard to argue that we can’t support aggressive interrogation when jihadist crazies will gloat about shooting children in the head at point-blank range and burning teachers to death in front of them.

The news out of Peshawar, Pakistan, is indeed disgusting. One of the more incredible headlines I read was this one on CNN’s website: “Taliban try to justify slaughter of children.” The Taliban said the children were fair game because most of them were the sons and daughters of military personnel. There’s no way to reason with fanatics like this; the only way to be safe from them is to kill them or imprison them.

When she released the 500-page “Executive Summary” of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s so-called “torture report” last week, Sen. Diane Feinstein, the committee chairwoman, attached a six-page foreword in which she claimed that the CIA’s “brutal interrogation techniques [were] in violation of U.S. law, treaty obligations, and our values.”

The first two parts of that sentence are a lie; the third is open to debate. In an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, former U.S. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey pointed out that in 2006 Feinstein co-sponsored an amendment to the Military Commissions Act that would have classified waterboarding as torture. The Senate refused to pass it.

Then, two years later, the Senate did approve a measure that would limit interrogators to techniques that were in the Army Field Manual. This would have, in effect, prohibited waterboarding. Although Congress approved the bill, it was vetoed by President George W. Bush.

So at the time it was used, waterboarding was legal. In fact, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel issued an opinion that the CIA methods were not torture.

Getting back to that Pew survey, it’s interesting to note that every single subdivision approved of the interrogation techniques — except one. Every age group was in favor, including the youngest. Those 18 to 29 said “yes” by 44 percent to 36 percent. The older the group, the more in favor they were; those 30 to 49 approved by 45 percent to 30 percent; those 50 to 64 by 59 percent to 26 percent; and those 65 and older by 62 percent to 26 percent.

Republicans approved the interrogation methods by a hefty margin; the numbers were 76 percent to 12 percent. Independents also approved, by 49 percent to 30 percent. You won’t be surprised to learn that people who described themselves as Democrats were the only group in opposition; the numbers there were 37 percent to 46 percent.

So, yes, Americans are deeply divided about how aggressive our interrogations of jihadist extremists should be — or how far we should go to defeat them.

These fanatics would love to do to us what a handful of them just did to those schoolchildren in Peshawar. Let’s pray that whatever we’re doing, it’s enough to prevent that from happening — without surrendering more of our essential liberties in the process.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Republicans’ abject surrender on spending

In a rare Saturday session, the Senate passed the “cromnibus” spending bill that the House of Representatives approved last Thursday. Twenty Republican senators joined 36 Democrats in voting for the $1.3 trillion measure, which will fund most of the federal government through September.

The one exception is the Department of Homeland Security, which gets funding only through February. This means the new Congress can take another whack at cutting off money to implement President Obama’s unconstitutional amnesty program. Based on what just happened, though, I wouldn’t bet on it.

There are so many things wrong with this legislative monstrosity that I hardly know where to begin. Let’s start with the fact that members of the House had less than 24 hours to review the bill before they had to vote on it. The chances that anyone actually read the 1,600-page conglomeration, and knew all of the pork that was packed in it, are just about zero.

Earlier this year, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) promised members they would always have at least three full days to review a bill before a vote would be taken. But when it came time to approve this one, that promise was tossed out the window.

It’s going to take a while to learn about all of the pork that this $1.3 trillion spending bill contains. Let me just point out that until last Friday, the “cromnibus” measure carried a $1.1 trillion price tag. But by the time it came up for final approval, another $200 billion had been added to it. Stand still, taxpayers, while we fleece you some more.

Almost every part of the federal behemoth is fully funded in this massive spending bill. The only exceptions are the Internal Revenue Service and the Environmental Protection Agency, which both had a little bit trimmed from their budgets. But the White House said no worries; even though Obama said there were a few parts of the measure he didn’t like, he would be certain to sign it when it reached his desk.

The most nauseating display of hypocrisy over the budget battle was the left’s outflowing of praise for their latest idol, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). She was hailed as a paragon of virtue because of her efforts to kill the measure and, thus, force a government shutdown.

When Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a Tea Party favorite, threatened to do the same thing over his opposition to funding Obama’s illegal and unconstitutional amnesty program, he was vilified in the mainstream media for being an irresponsible obstructionist. When a conservative makes a bold stand on principle, it’s not praiseworthy, of course. It’s an example of being a dangerous extremist.

God save us from the hypocrisy of the left!

Warren scored points from her progressive friends for her objections to part of the bill that would repeal some provisions of the Dodd-Frank law. The result would be to allow big banks to trade in some risky financial derivatives and still be eligible for federal assistance if things went wrong. “This is about preventing another financial collapse,” she thundered, “that could again wipe out millions of jobs and take down our whole economy.”

Her dire warnings weren’t enough to win the support of a majority of her Democratic colleagues. But they certainly gained her a ton of favorable publicity in the media. The hosannas got louder when 300 former Obama supporters issued an open letter urging her to run for president in 2016. And the super left-wing Moveon.org promised to put up $1 million to prime the pump for such a campaign.

The headline on the front page of The Wall Street Journal hailed the passage of the spending bill as “A Rare Bipartisan Success.” And I guess that’s true — if by “success” you mean business as usual in Washington, D.C.

If this is what “compromise” looks like, I prefer gridlock.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

The Democrats’ ‘reckless and irresponsible’ terror report

Let’s get one thing clear right from the start: That 500-page summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s lengthy and expensive investigation of the CIA’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” doesn’t come close to being a fair and objective account.

No, it’s a highly partisan document that will probably help our nation’s enemies a lot more than it will benefit us.

The study took more than five years to complete and cost taxpayers an estimated $40 million. And in all of that time, and with all of that money, the investigators somehow never found the time to interview any of the top officials at the CIA about the program or its results.

The report is so one-sided that not a single Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee would sign off on the thing. No wonder that, after sitting on the results for more than two years, Committee Chairwoman Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) decided to release it now. Next month, the Republicans will take over the Senate; she will no longer be in charge of things.

The report contends that the brutal techniques used against some detainees, including sleep deprivation and water-boarding, never yielded any valuable intelligence. Moreover, it says that the CIA deliberately misled Congress, the White House and the American people about what it was doing and the results it was getting.

But according to several top CIA officials, including those appointed by Barack Obama, this is simply not true. Former director George Tenet said in response, “We know that the program led to the capture of al-Qaida leaders and took them off the battlefield, that it prevented mass casualty attacks and that it save thousands of American lives.”

John Brennan, another Obama appointee to head the CIA, admits the agency made some mistakes and says it has learned from them. But he also insists that the coercive techniques “did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists and save lives.”

We’ll never get the two sides to agree on the results we got or whether the techniques used were worth it. But in all of the hullabaloo we’re hearing now, there are some points that have to be made.

First, the use of such “enhanced interrogation techniques” was legal. They were authorized by President George W. Bush and supported by his Justice Department. In fact, after repeated investigations by the current administration, Eric Holder’s Justice Department did not file charges against anyone in the CIA for using them. We make not like this, but it’s true.

Second, let’s keep in mind that in the aftermath of 9/11 most Americans were overwhelmingly in favor of doing whatever was necessary to get information from our enemies. More than 3,000 Americans had just been murdered in the attacks on the Twin Towers and Pentagon. A lot of us wanted revenge against the people who planned these atrocities.

Third, in conducting war against the jihadists who would destroy us, we continue to use measures that are far from what anyone would call a fair fight. Are the drone strikes that Obama has authorized, which have killed many innocent civilians along with identified terrorists, really “more humane” than how we questioned detainees a decade ago?

And finally, what do we gain by airing all of this now? Obama has said, “These techniques did significant damage to America’s standing in the world and made it harder to pursue our national interests with allies and partners.”

Even if all of that is true, I contend that releasing this biased and unfair report now will cause even more problems with our allies and partners, while it will encourage our enemies.

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho) issued a joint statement that spelled out just how much damage could result from this so-called terror report:

We are concerned that this release could endanger the lives of Americans overseas, jeopardize U.S. relations with foreign partners, potentially incite violence, create political problems for our allies, and be used as a recruitment tool for our enemies. Simply put, this report is reckless and irresponsible.

Yes, and it also happens to be highly biased and untrue. No wonder the mainstream media love it.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

A meaningless sop for conservatives

In a classic example of political grandstanding, the House of Representatives passed a meaningless vote last week in opposition to Barack Obama’s illegal executive order on immigration.

The proposed legislation would ostensibly thwart Obama’s plan to shield millions of illegal aliens from deportation. It passed the House by a vote of 219-197, with every Republican in the House supporting it and most Democrats opposing it.

And as both sides knew at the time, it won’t mean a thing. The measure now goes to the Senate, where lame-duck Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has made it clear he will not allow it to come to a vote.

So why all the fuss? The vote was a charade orchestrated by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) so conservative legislators could boast about it to their supporters, all the while making sure nothing will threaten the spending compromise Boehner had arranged.

Time is running out for Congress to pass a spending bill. Unless it does something in the next two days, the federal government won’t have the authority after Dec. 11 to spend any money or pay any of its bills. That possibility is viewed in Washington as an unmitigated disaster. Most Americans seem blithely unaware of the issue.

So how will our legislators solve the mess they have created for us? Why, the same way they always do — with another weak-kneed compromise that doesn’t do anything to reduce our gargantuan government. You can bet your bottom dollar, if you’ll forgive the expression, that it will be more of the same old same old.

The compromise that Boehner has arranged is a continuing resolution that will fund every federal agency until September, with one exception. The appropriation for the Department of Homeland Security, the agency that will implement Obama’s executive order on immigration, will last only until February. That will toss this political hot potato into the lap of the new Congress.

Or to put it another way, the measure will give the Obama administration the money it needs to begin implementing Obama’s executive order right away. As Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) pointed out, “It’s looking less and less likely there’ll be any significant response at all to the president’s executive amnesty.” He said that trying to block the plan next year will be too late, warning: “It will be a done deal by then.”

The midterm elections last month were a massive refutation of Obama’s policies. You’ll remember the president said that while his name wasn’t on the ballot anywhere, his policies were — every one of them.

Republicans focused on the two most unpopular policies: Obamacare and immigration. And in election after election, for the Senate, the House and hundreds of state races, they sent Democratic candidates down to stunning defeat. The latest example of this occurred last Saturday, when voters in Louisiana chose Bill Cassidy, the Republican challenger, to replace Mary Landrieu, the three-term Democratic incumbent. The runoff wasn’t even close; Cassidy won by a hefty 12-point margin, 56 percent to 44 percent.

Cassidy’s victory means Republicans gained nine Senate seats in the midterm elections. When the new Congress convenes in early January, they will enjoy a 54-seat majority.

With control of both branches of Congress, will Republicans finally start living up to their campaign promises? With these mealymouthed compromisers in charge, I wouldn’t count on it.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Beware the GOP internationalists

Anyone who expects the new Republican majority in the Senate to slam the brakes on Barack Obama’s meddlesome foreign policy may be in for a big disappointment. According to an op-ed in last Friday’s Wall Street Journal, most of the new senators will be supporting more U.S. intervention around the world, not less.

The piece by Matthew Kaminski, a member of the Journal’s editorial board, carried the title, “The Revival of the GOP Internationalists.” In it, he says that John McCain (R-Ariz.) is elated that at least five of the newly elected senators — David Perdue in Georgia, Dan Sullivan in Alaska, Joni Ernst in Iowa, Tom Cotton in Arkansas and Thom Tillis in North Carolina — are all “pro-defense internationalists.”

Kaminski quotes McCain as gloating, “We picked up allies. I did not see Rand Paul pick up one.” Sadly, that is probably true, as so many superb candidates got sandbagged in the primaries.

McCain, who has long been considered one of the most ardent internationalists in the Senate, is now slated to become the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. As such, Kaminski points out, he will be in a powerful position to promote an “assertive” foreign policy.

When this happens, it will mark be a significant change for the Republican Party. Kaminski notes that in recent years the non-interventionalists in Congress (Kaminski prefers to use the derogatory but inaccurate label “isolationists”) won many of the foreign policy debates in recent years. He writes:

The tea-party turks said no to the 2011 intervention in Libya and last year’s proposed bombing strikes on Syria. No to electronic surveillance, data mining and drone strikes. The GOP signed off on steep budget cuts for the Pentagon.

Hmmm, do you see anything there that didn’t have the support of a healthy majority of your fellow Americans? I don’t.

But according to Kaminski, all of that is about to change. He says: “In giving them majorities in both chambers, Americans voters will expect a responsible and mature GOP strategy for a world in turmoil.”

You can bet that by “responsible and mature,” Kaminski means getting even more involved in the affairs of other countries. Kaminski’s piece opens with the line, “John McCain is happy.” It concludes with this:

“The current leadership in Washington, never mind in Europe, isn’t rising to the challenge. There’s an opening here for the right kind of Republican.”

You’ve got to know that for Kaminski and his masters at The Wall Street Journal, McCain and his fellow internationalists represent “the right kind of Republican.” Kaminiski says that Ted Cruz’s name may be added to this list.

The article notes that McCain has just returned from this year’s gathering of the Halifax International Security Forum, where he has been a regular for several years. This year, he was joined by Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who has been a staunch critic of Obama’s foreign policy. McCain is quoted as saying that Cruz “is very much an internationalist.”

But Kaminski isn’t about to give Cruz a free pass into respectability; he had to take a final cheap shot at the Tea Party favorite: “The Cruz positions are either evolving, inconsistent or merely opportunistic.” And then he added, “You might call that the prerogatives of a ’16 hopeful.”

Pretty snarky, wasn’t he?

For a much better statement of what our foreign policy should be, read to the words of our first president. Here is what George Washington said in his farewell address:

The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible.

That standard served us well for the first 120 years of this country’s existence. Maybe someday we’ll elect more men and women who will try to return us to it. But if McCain has his way, it won’t be in the new Senate.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

The real heroes in Ferguson

Did you hear about the four black men, armed to the teeth, who pulled up to a white-owned gas station in Ferguson, Missouri, a week ago? They weren’t there to join the rioters, who burned and looted stores and vehicles up and down the streets that night. No, they were there to protect the gas station from the vandals.

One of the men, who was identified only as “R.J.,” explained the reason for the men’s actions. He said the owner, Doug Merello, had given many of them jobs over the years. “He’s a nice dude,” R.J. said. “He’s helped a lot of us.”

Merello said how grateful he was for the men’s actions: “We would have been burned to the ground many times over it if weren’t for them,” as were many of the black-owned businesses nearby.

In fact, one of the saddest images from the riots was that of Natalie DuBose, a black single mother with two children who begged the rioters to spare her cake shop. “If I can’t open my doors every morning, I can’t feed my kids in the evening,” she said. “Just don’t burn my shop down. Don’t destroy it.” Sadly, her appeal was ignored and her shop was vandalized.

Unless you read some of the alternative media in this country, such as Personal Liberty Digest™, you wouldn’t have heard about DuBose’s cake shop or Merello’s gas station. The mainstream media — the same folks who were so eager to justify the riots in Ferguson even before they took place — didn’t deem stories like these worth mentioning.

But those four armed guardians were just one example of genuine heroism that has taken place in Ferguson ever since a grand jury found that there was not enough evidence to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown Jr.

In fact, among the people who demonstrated extraordinary courage and integrity in Ferguson, you have to include the 12 members of that grand jury. The nine whites and three blacks who comprised it conducted their investigation in the midst of an incredible media fish bowl. They heard hundreds of hours of testimony by more than 50 witnesses, including some who claimed they saw Wilson shoot Brown in the back or while he had his hands in the air and was trying to surrender.

Other eyewitnesses, including several blacks, contradicted these inflammatory charges. So did three different autopsy reports, which proved that Brown had not been shot in the back. The so-called “witnesses” who said he was were lying. Will any of them be charged with perjury?

Yes, I think those 12 grand jury members deserve our commendation for calmly and courageously doing their duty. So do the half-dozen black witnesses who confirmed that Brown attacked police officer Wilson.

We should also praise Wilson for the way he has handled himself in these incredibly trying circumstances. The beleaguered police officer has seen his career destroyed. Fearing for his life, he had to flee his home and go into hiding. Then, over the weekend, he faced the inevitable and resigned from the Ferguson police force.

In his letter of resignation, Wilson wrote, “I have been told that my continued employment may put the residents and police officers in the City of Ferguson at risk, which is a circumstance that I cannot allow.” He said he hoped his departure will help calm the community.

Maybe it will, but not if Al Sharpton has anything to do with it. The racist agitator is still trying to stir things up in Ferguson. His latest demand is that Wilson be indicted on federal charges. “I believe justice will come,” he proclaimed.

Hey, Al, what about the poor blacks who’ve seen their businesses and jobs destroyed by the rioters you’ve encouraged? What about justice for them?

And can we hope that maybe someday there will be justice for “witnesses” who lie — and the agitators who encourage them?

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Give thanks for the Bill of Rights

I think it’s appropriate that we pause for a few moments this Thanksgiving Day to reflect on something uniquely American: the Bill of Rights. It is generally accepted that the Constitution would not have been adopted by the first 13 states if it had not been accompanied by these first 10 amendments.

Having just won a war to establish their liberty from tyrannical government, those early citizens were not about to allow the newly created government to curtail their rights. So they did their very best to enumerate exactly what this new entity could and could not do.

The 1st Amendment set the tone for all that followed:

Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

What a powerful group of freedoms are listed here: the freedom to worship as you please without the state imposing its dictates on you, the freedom of speech for you and your neighbors and even the media, the right to demonstrate and to petition government to change. It’s sobering to realize that most people who ever lived did not enjoy such freedoms.

Thanks to these protections, it is virtually impossible to keep Americans from expressing our views and working to implement our beliefs. The liberals might control most of the mainstream media. But they can’t suppress all of the alternative means of communication, from Fox News and talk radio to thousands of “contrary” websites like Personal Liberty Digest. No matter how much they may wish it were otherwise, they can’t keep us from communicating with each other or reaching out to our fellow citizens.

Yes, the 1st Amendment is essential to establish and protect our freedoms. But so is the 2nd Amendment:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Boy, have the liberals tried to get rid of this one! While they’ve managed to nibble away at the edges of this guarantee, putting limits in some areas on carrying or even owning some weapons, most of their assaults on our right to keep and bear arms have been defeated. And that’s a good thing, because tyranny can never be imposed on a population that is as well-armed as we are.

The 3rd Amendment isn’t much of a concern anymore; quartering soldiers in our homes hasn’t been an issue since the War Between the States.

But the 4th Amendment is one that needs a lot more attention these days. That’s the one that starts, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated….”

We now know that the government has been monitoring millions of our emails and cellphone conversations. It doesn’t matter that some well-meaning people are doing this because they think they’re protecting us; a lot of crimes have been committed by a lot of governments in the name of “national security.” It’s shameful that the United States has become one of them.

I’m going to skip over the next five amendments, so I can spend the remainder of this column discussing the last amendment in the Bill of Rights. Basically, the 10th Amendment says that if the Founders forgot to include something in the list of what government can’t do, well, it can’t do that, either. Here’s how the Framers of our Constitution put it in the 10th Amendment:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Sad to say, the courts have done a terrible job of enforcing this amendment. The central government now intrudes in so many areas that I think it’s safe to say that the Founding Fathers would be dismayed by most federal programs. Like me, they would believe that entire Cabinets, and everything they do, are unconstitutional. And our trillion-dollar budgets, and $18 trillion in debt, would leave them horrified.

Yes, we’ve come a long way from the kind of Constitutional government our Founding Fathers gave us. But the good news is that we still enjoy the rights and liberties we need in our efforts to bind government down with the chains of the Constitution.

So I repeat: As we give thanks this Thanksgiving Day for the many blessings we enjoy, let’s pause for a moment to reflect on the value and the importance of that incredible, invaluable document, the Bill of Rights.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood