The Donald, TSA, Obama’s Deceitful Staff And A Crook

*Can Donald Trump Save America? That was the unlikely headline of a lengthy (and mostly admiring) article in Human Events, the weekly tabloid that likes to brag it’s been “leading conservative media since 1944.” It sure sounds as though The Donald will be making a run for the Presidency next year. And while I disagree with a ton of things he’s said and done, one argument he made sounded interesting. Rather than bring our troops home from 120 countries around the world, his solution is simpler: Bill each country for the protection we’re providing for them and demand they pay up.

*The airport gropers want more of your money. The Transportation Security Administration says that so many more Americans are carrying on luggage these days, rather than pay baggage fees to the airlines it’s costing TSA more than $250 million a year to inspect them all. Guess who will be asking Congress for more money? If anyone on the Hill is listening, how about offering businesses that money to find less intrusive ways to protect us?

*More deceit from Barack’s staff. Jack Lew, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, coined an interesting phrase when he testified before Congress recently. “We’ve got to put a plan forward that would get us to primary balance by the middle of the decade.” What is “primary balance,” you ask? It’s what the annual budget would be minus any interest payments on the national debt. Hey, bet if you didn’t have to make any interest payments on your home, car or credit cards, you’d find it a lot easier to “primary balance” your budget, too. What a bunch of con men we’ve got running this country.

*It takes one to know one. Did you see what Bernie Madoff said in his jail-house interview with New York magazine? Sure he was a crook, he admitted. But it all happened because his clients were “greedy.” And besides, he added, the Federal government is nothing more than a giant Ponzi scheme. Oh, and by the way, he’s really “a good person.” Sure, Bernie. I’m so glad I’m helping pay the tab for your room, board and medical care for the rest of your life.

–Chip Wood

What Should I Do About My Suicidal Cardinal?

I know of a suicidal cardinal.

Let me make something perfectly clear, as a disgraced former President used to say, I am most emphatically not talking about a high Catholic official. I’m referring to a little feathered friend that’s been pestering me lately.

A female cardinal has apparently decided that my office window is the worst threat she and her babies have ever faced. For the past month or so she has been attacking it dozens of times a day. The top-right window pane (too high to reach from the outside without a ladder) is now covered with marks from the times she has tried to peck it to death.

By the way, I am not alone. Two of my neighbors also have cardinals that are driving them crazy with their all-out attacks on their windows. Dean, the gentlemen on my left, has gone to extremes to find a preventative.

First, he went to the local hardware store and asked if they had anything that would help. “Sure thing,” they responded. They sold him a very handsome wooden hawk that stands about two feet high.

A few days later, Dean reported the results: Zero. Nada. Nothing. Zilch. His cardinal was still attacking his window with wild abandon. So he called the hardware store to complain that their “solution” didn’t work.

“Where did you put the hawk?” he was asked. “On the lawn in front of the window,” was his reply.

“Well, that’s your problem,” he was told. “The bird can’t see it down there. You need to hang it in front of the window she’s attacking.” “How do I do that?” was his response.

When they tried to sell him a pole he could put in front of his window, to hang the hawk from, he asked if there wasn’t any other solution he could try first. “Sure,” they told him. “Cover the inside of your windows so the bird doesn’t see her reflection. That’s what she’s attacking — she thinks it’s another bird invading her territory.”

So now Dean has newspapers taped all over his front windows. The blackout seems to be working fairly well. Most of the time the bird leaves him alone, he tells me. It’s only when the sun strikes the window exactly right that she’s back, flying against his window again and again.

“What about the hawk?” I asked him. “It’s still on the ground in front of the window,” he told me. “I like it too much to take it back. And who knows? Maybe it’s keeping the squirrels from invading my attic.”

“And how do you like having your window covered with newspaper” I asked him. He just looked at me.

A few days later, Dean and I were talking with our across-the-street neighbor, Dale. It turns out Dale has the same problem Dean and I have been experiencing — a delusional cardinal keeps attacking the windows on the eastern side of his house. Dale said he done a little research and learned the following:

First, cardinals are incredibly territorial. They mate for life, use the same nest over and over again and go crazy when any other cardinal tries to invade their territory. I knew this was true from experiences I had back in Atlanta. We abutted a tributary of the Chattahoochee River and all of the acreage behind us had been declared wetlands. It was strictly off-limits to developers, so we had all sorts of wildlife back there. The deer were so prolific that they became a threat to landscaping — and your car. A friend had a nasty accident when one ran right in front of him and he couldn’t stop in time.

We had several bird feeders in our back yard and a family of cardinals was quite happy to make their home in the area. That is, until the following year, when their offspring became adults. I thought it would be cool to see two or three generations of cardinals gobbling down the seeds we put out for them. Nope. Year after year, mama cardinal drove her sons and daughters away.

Dale and I enjoyed a hearty laugh as Dean explained the on-going battle he was engaged in. Dean, a kind and gentle soul, was determined to keep his bird from killing itself. Dale and I disagreed with him.

“I’m sorry, Dean,” I told him, “but I believe in the survival of the fittest. If my bird is so stupid that it knocks its brains out, or even kills itself, I’m not going to interfere. Maybe other babies will be smarter.”

I also said that, in time, her eggs would become babies and her babies would grow up. When that happened, I was willing to bet, mama bird would cease her attacks on my window.

When I repeated the story to my wife, she glared at me. A few days later she dropped a small package on my desk. “Put these up,” she ordered.

It turns out she had done something Dale, Dean and I never thought of doing. She went to the nearest Wild Birds Unlimited store and asked them what to do. If you’re not familiar with Wild Birds, it’s a national franchise composed of local owners who are dedicated birders. In addition to all sorts of bird seed, including unique blends made just for that area, they sell bird feeders, fountains, recordings and more paraphernalia than you knew existed, all related to birds. I was such a good customer of the store near us in Atlanta, I think that when we moved away the owners sold it and retired to a wealthy community in Arizona.

Anyway, Wild Birds said they had the answer. The package my wife dropped on my desk consisted of two plastic decals of hawks. The package promised that, if I would peel ‘em off and stick them on the outside of my windows, Mrs. Cardinal would not bother me again.

The package for WindowAlert® proclaimed, “Millions of wild birds are killed each year from flying into windows. You can help reduce this loss of life,” it promised.

Here was the explanation I found inside: “The decal contains a component which brilliantly reflects ultraviolet sunlight. This ultraviolet light is invisible to humans, but glows like a stoplight for birds. Birds have vision that is up to 12 times better than that of humans.”

For those of you who are more technically minded, the insert went on to explain that we humans have only 10,000 color-vision cells per square millimeter, while our bird friends have 120,000. Also, we have 200,000 low-light rod cells per sq/mm, while birds have 500,000. And here, for me, was the clincher: Our eye retina is three-cone, or trichromatic, while birds’ are four-cone, or quad-chromatic.

Of course they’ll see a hawk decal that is invisible to me!

So as soon as I finish this Straight Talk column, I’m going to get the extension ladder out of our garage, place it against the roof in front of my office window, climb the darned thing and carefully affix the plastic hawk decals to my window.

I gotta tell you, if I fall off that thing and break my neck, my parting thought will be imagining mama cardinal bragging to her husband how she beat the big creature that tried to scare her off. “Our babies are safe!” she’ll trill.

Well, actually not trill. Cardinals don’t make beautiful music, like many other birds. Their “speech” is sort of a monotone stutter. Still, I’ll try to keep the one who has adopted us from killing herself.

I’ll report back in two weeks whether or not the decals worked. Of course, even if mama bird does leave us alone, how do we know the decals were the reason? Maybe her babies were born and she’s been too busy feeding them to bother about a reflection from my window.

Yes, I know. Some of you will think this story is strictly for the birds. And I can’t say I blame you.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

The Stamp Act

On March 22, 1765, the British Parliament passed an odious piece of legislation known as the Stamp Act. It imposed a tax on every piece of paper used by colonists in America, including all legal documents, licenses, newspapers and other publications… and even playing cards.

The colonists were outraged by this "taxation without representation" and launched massive protests. After a decade of appeals accomplished nothing, Patrick Henry urged Virginia’s House of Burgesses to adopt his Stamp Act Resolves. When the legislators approved four of the resolutions, Virginia Governor Fauquier (who was appointed by the King) ordered the assembly dissolved.

The next day, on March 23, 1775, Henry gave his famous speech, which ended with, "I know not what course others may take, but as for me, Give me Liberty or Give me Death." Within a month, Britain and the colonies were at war, Fauquier fled his post, and Patrick Henry was named Governor of Virginia.

I think you know how the story ends.

–Chip Wood

Queen Pelosi, Michael Moore, “Too Much” And Kennedy’s Brothel

*Bet she still won’t be flying coach. A recent tidbit about former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reveals that the Air Force spent more than $2 million flying her and her cronies between San Francisco and Washington for the past two years. The tab includes $101,429.14 for such “in-flight expenses” as chocolate-covered strawberries. Yes, Madam Speaker liked to live well—at our expense.

*Bet he doesn’t give them any of his money. Far-left filmmaker Michael Moore was in Madison, Wis., recently, urging pro-union demonstrators not to surrender in their battles against the Republicans who are trying to bring some fiscal sanity to the State. As is his custom following his socialistic rants, the multi-millionaire propagandist did not offer to give the demonstrators any of his own money. He just wants them to get yours.

*That’s a whole bunch of “too much.” Many years ago, a profound and patriotic writer captured the difference between economic systems with this simple explanation: “Under socialism, you have a million ration clerks trying to distribute the ‘too little.’ While under free enterprise, you have a million salesmen trying to move the ‘too much.'” A recent article about toothpaste brought the differences home to me. In most socialist countries you’ll find a handful of national brands, while in the U.S., there are 352 distinct types or sizes of toothpaste. That’s a lot of “too much,” I admit. But aren’t you glad some government bureaucrat isn’t determining your choices?

*Another Kennedy scandal emerges. Did you see the story that while he was visiting Chile on a State Department-sponsored visit in 1961, President John Kennedy’s younger brother Ted rented a brothel for the night?  Satyrism seems to have run in the family. But at least young Ted was democratic; he offered to share the pleasures of the evening with his chauffeur.

–Chip Wood

“Hey Bud, That’s My Money You’re Giving Away”

A casual conversation at a cocktail party a little while ago almost turned into fisticuffs—something I haven’t experienced firsthand since the second grade. Let me tell you about it. But before I do, permit me to say that I’ve changed some of the names and details in what follows to protect the innocent—and my jaw.

I was introduced to someone who, I was told, was responsible for many good deeds. “What does he do?” I asked, expecting that the answer would have something to do with volunteer work or private philanthropy.

Nope. Turned out he was a big-time executive with a Fortune 500 company. His job was presiding over all of the charitable contributions the company makes. Since that amounts to more than $10 million a year, he gets his name and face in the local paper a lot.

“Isn’t that just wonderful?” one of the ladies in the group gushed.

“Well, no, it isn’t,” I replied. “In fact, I think it’s a completely inappropriate use of shareholder money.” There was an audible gasp from one of two people and the whole crowd seemed to back away a couple of feet.

“How can you possible say that?” someone challenged me. “I think it’s absolutely wonderful that some of the greedy businessmen in this country give something back to those who are less fortunate.”

Before I got a lecture on how business can only succeed by ripping off the poor downtrodden workers, I said, as calmly as I could, “But it’s not his money to give away. He is simply an employee of the company. The real owners—the ones whose money he is so generously doling out to others—are the shareholders. They are the ones who should decide how their money is used. After all, they’re the ones who risked some of their savings by buying shares in the company.”

I was on a roll now, so I continued: “Any profits the company makes should go to its real owners, the shareholders. They should be the ones to decide what to do with any excess money, not some company executive.”

By this time, I actually had a few heads nodding in agreement. One gentleman even told me, “Why, I’d never thought of it that way before. But what you say makes a lot of sense, young man.” There was no comment from the corporate big-wig who had sparked my remarks; he had stormed off in a huff several minutes earlier.

The attitude that businesses should be praised for giving away their shareholders’ money is nothing new. I remember half a century earlier when my father was named the head of the United Way in the small Southern Indiana town where we lived. Since he was the president of the largest employer in the county, I guess the job was one of the perks he got—like being elected to the board of the local country club.

Anyway, I remember there was a lot of pressure among all the businesses in town to make sure their employees were “100 percent participants” in that year’s fund drive. Woe unto you if every other employee had made a contribution to the United Way and you were the only hold-out.

As it happens, for a few days I was. I worked part-time, on weekends and after school as a stock boy in the town’s only department store. And I didn’t want to give any of my meager earnings to the United Way—or anyone else, for that matter.

Rather than admit I was just a selfish, greedy teenager, I decided to take a stand against the whole issue of group giving.

“Why should some anonymous group of self-appointed leaders decide where these contributions go?” I argued. “Why can’t people decide on their own whom to support?”

The answer, I was told, was that this way—the United Way—was much more efficient. Every cause or organization that wanted funds had to submit an application in writing. Various experts reviewed each appeal. Only the most worthy would receive any funds, I was assured.

“But who decides what’s worthy and what’s not”? I persisted. (Yes, I know. There are few people on earth who can be more annoying than a bright and persistent teenager. God made sure I learned that lesson by blessing me with five of my own.)
I finally shut up when my father made it clear to me that (a) since he was the head of United Way in our county I should not embarrass him by publicly questioning the organization and (b) if I knew what was good for me, I’d shut up and donate some of my earnings to it.

Although the role of teenage martyr held some appeal, I decided that this time around discretion was the better part of valor. I put a smile on my face (after all, as our pastor had just reminded us, the Lord loves a cheerful giver) and handed over part of that week’s paycheck.

But you know what? To this day, I still don’t like the idea of some large, anonymous group deciding how much money to take from me or how it will be spent. Not even if they call themselves the United States Congress or have the Internal Revenue Service to back up their edicts.

Charity at gunpoint isn’t charity at all. It’s theft. I don’t care whether it’s the U.S. government taking our tax dollars or some Fortune 500 company taking profits from its shareholders. When it’s done without the owners’ permission, it’s wrong.

That said, I have to add that I’m very proud that we Americans are the most generous people who have ever lived. We give more of our time and our money to help the less fortunate than any other nation or people on earth.

But let me point out that if our government didn’t take so much from us, we could be a lot more generous… and surely would be. And I for one would be a lot more cheerful about it, too.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

St. Patrick’s Day

Sure an’ begorrah, this is the week when everyone is Irish, at least for a day.

Yes, tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day. Or, as they say in Celtic, Lá Fhéile Pádraig. It’s the annual feast day of the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick, who is generally credited with bringing Christianity to the Emerald Isle. Oh, and in the process, driving all the snakes out of the country.

To this day, there are no snakes there. And the shamrock, whose three parts helped St. Patrick teach the Irish about the Trinity, has become a worldwide symbol of the country.

Although St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday in Ireland (as well as on the Caribbean island of Montserrat), the most enthusiastic celebrations each year occur in the United States. In Chicago, the river is died green for the day. Massive parades are held in New York City, Savannah, Ga., and many other cities. Green beer becomes the drink of the day—and night.

So I hope you will wear something green tomorrow. And enjoy a pint o’ Murphy’s, Beamish, Smithwick’s, Harp or Guinness. Or an Irish whiskey, Irish coffee or Irish cream.

May the luck of the Irish be with you all year long. As a favorite poem says:

“May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
May the rain fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.”

–Chip Wood

Who’s The Idiot Who Foisted Daylight Saving Time On Us?

Who’s the idiot who foisted daylight saving time on us? Oh, wait, I know. It was Congress. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Most of the really dumb things this country has done over the past 50 or 100 years began with something the politicians and their do-gooder friends dreamed up.

It all began back in the dark days of the Great Depression, I’m told. The idea was that moving clocks forward in the spring and back in the fall would give farmers one more hour of daylight each day. All of the money they’d save not having to burn kerosene or use electricity for that extra hour would save so much money the depression would soon be over.

Sure it would.

Truth is, all of the New Deal schemes Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his cronies could think of (some of which were modeled very closely on the economic practices of their buddies in Soviet Russia) didn’t do a thing to end the depression. What did bring that ghastly period of massive unemployment to an end was America’s entry into World War II. It got our factories roaring again—but at a terrible price.

With that depression long since gone and farmers having dwindled to a tiny fraction of our population, why then do we still have daylight saving time inflicted on us?

And not just inflicted, mind you, but “improved?”

The wizards of Washington decided in 2007 that if seven months of daylight saving time is good for us, eight months would be better. From 1986 until 2006, daylight saving time ran from the first Sunday in April until the last Sunday in October. Then Congress decreed that it would run from the second Sunday in March until the first Sunday in November.

I don’t know how many folks were late for church the first time the new rules took effect, but I’ll bet it was a bunch.

By the way, here’s an interesting twist in the law imposing daylight saving time on us. No state or municipality is required to follow it. But any that do (and that’s almost all of them) must follow the dates Congress imposes.

You may be aware that Arizona has never agreed to change its clocks. If you live there or do any business there, you certainly are. So for part of the year, Arizona is on the same time as California; the rest of the year, it’s on the same time as Colorado.

Confusing? Wait, it gets worse. Even within Arizona, the Navajo Nation decided it would obey the Big Chief in Washington. So it goes on daylight saving time with the rest of the nation.

Except it’s not the rest. Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands and American Samoa all decided to opt out of the time-changing deal. Hot as those places can be, I guess they didn’t need an extra hour of sunlight in the summer.

If you think all of this can be difficult to keep straight, consider what it must have been like in Indiana for most of the 20th Century. First, the Hoosier State is split into two time zones and, until recently, neither area participated in daylight saving time. Under the old system, 77 of the state’s 92 counties were in the Eastern Time Zone—but stayed on standard time all year. But two of those 77 followed the example of the larger cities nearby—even though those cities were in the States of Ohio and Kentucky—and adjusted their times each spring and fall.

The counties in the Central Time Zone—mostly ones in the Northwest, near Chicago, and the Southwest, near Evansville—alternated. Some followed daylight saving time, some did not.

More than two dozen efforts were introduced in the Indiana legislature to put the entire State on the same clock, so to speak. But until April 2005, they all went down to defeat. But that year a measure to join daylight saving time finally passed. But get this: 18 counties are in the Central time zone, while 74 others observe Eastern Daylight Saving time.

Are we having fun yet?

So this Sunday at 2 a.m. you’re supposed to turn every clock in your house forward one hour. (And don’t forget the clock on your microwave, your stove and in your car.) Says who? Says Congress, which in its infinite wisdom decided back in 2004 that an extra hour of daylight at night would save us beaucoup batches of energy.

Are they right? I have absolutely no idea. It means it stays darker longer in the morning. And it seems to me that sending our children off to school when it’s still pitch black outside is a bad idea.

Nor am I convinced that an extra hour of daylight at night is all that great. I remember when I was a youngster, back when the earth was cooling, how much I hated being sent to bed when it was still light outside. I had a very simple philosophy then: Night was for sleeping, daylight was for playing. (Okay, it was also for homework and chores. But those weren’t nearly as important to me and my friends.)

I’ve learned to my surprise that moving the start of daylight saving time is no minor matter. Microsoft has issued a warning that users of its software “should view any appointments… as suspect” until they have been reconfirmed. That sounds rather ominous, doesn’t it?

What’s the problem? Well, it turns out that any software written prior to the enactment of the new law has the time change wrong. Your computer or other digital device will tick off the hours as usual this coming weekend—but come April 4 will move all times forward an hour.

This reminds me of the time our company accountant missed a meeting with one of the most unusual excuses I’d ever heard. He claimed that the time on his computer had somehow been reset for the time zone in Tahiti, or something like that.

Anyway, all of his calendar reminders and appointments were off by several hours. Could the same thing to happen (albeit on a lesser scale) next week? We’ll soon find out.

My point is none of this was necessary. Someone needs to remind our Congress people, “It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature.”

Here’s a suggestion for those lawmakers: Why don’t you do us all a huge favor and just leave things alone?

Come to think of it, that’s a pretty good idea to apply all of the time.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Fat Pets, Beheading Sarah, Paying More And Congressional Watchdogs

*Is it really this big a problem? The Wall Street Journal touted one of its major stories in an “above the fold” headline on the front page two weeks ago. Ready for the earth-shaking story? “Fat Pets: A Growing Problem.” The article inside, in case you want to look it up, contained all sorts of suggestions for how to help Fido lose weight. Glad they’re not worried about anything serious—like, say, riots and revolutions in the Middle East.

*Teaching kids to murder your opponents. In one of the most incredible stories I’ve heard in quite a while, the folks producing Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado at Children’s Theatre in Missoula, Mont., decided it would be fun to add a line about beheading Sarah Palin to the story. When news of their addition got out the producers explained that they were just trying to “spice up the opera to make it more relevant to today’s audience.” Wonder how many taxpayer dollars they got to do that?

*These parents want to pay MORE in taxes. Let’s hear it for parents in the Shawnee Mission School District, a wealthy Kansas City suburb. They were so distressed by cuts in State funding for their schools that they asked to be allowed to voluntarily pay more taxes. The State said “no,” that they’d be breaking the law if they did. Wasn’t it Charles Dickens who said the law can sometimes be an ass?

*Keeping tabs on your Congressman. Hats off to the Tea Party Patriots. After scoring some huge legislative victories last November, the put-Uncle-Sam-on-a-diet group has announced a new program: They’ve called for volunteers to track every statement and every vote by every member of Congress. Won’t that be fun—seeing some genuine accountability for a change?  Good luck with that effort, guys. I look forward to learning what you find.

–Chip Wood

The Emergency Banking Relief Act

The very first act in President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal” was passed on March 9, 1933, four days after Roosevelt had declared a nationwide bank holiday. The measure was called the Emergency Banking Relief Act, and it allowed the President to seize insolvent banks, direct the Federal Reserve to make unsecured loans to them and reopen when he decided. Sound familiar?

Because of panic over bank failures that were sweeping across the country, the measure was introduced to a joint session of the brand-new Congress. More than 100 new legislators had been elected the previous November, all of them Democrats.

And let me quote from a history of the time: “The sense of urgency was such that the act was passed with only a single copy available on the floor and most legislators voted on it without reading it.”

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

–Chip Wood

Dirty Fighting, Stupid Mullahs, Zimbabwe And Tax Cheats

*The Islamofascists fight dirty. Did you see what Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, the 20-year-old Saudi jihadist who was just arrested, wanted to do? One of his plots involved planting explosives in baby dolls and placing them in strollers around popular New York City tourist destinations such as the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and Wall Street. These suicidal maniacs are not nice people.

*Some of them are really stupid, too. Like the leaders in Iran who decided to outlaw Valentine’s Day this year. “Symbols of hearts, half-hearts, red roses and any activities promoting this day are banned,” the state media announced. “Authorities will take legal action against those who ignore the ban.” For their next trick, the mullahs who rule that sorry country will order the tides to recede.

*Meanwhile, Zimbabwe bans watching TV. Dozens of students, trade unionists and political activists who were caught watching BBC news reports on the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia have been arrested on suspicion of plotting to oust President-for-Life Robert Mugabe. Police also seized a video projector, two DVDs and a laptop computer. How long will such tactics keep the Marxist dictator in power? My guess is, not long. (But then again, I thought Fidel Castro would have been deposed or dead several decades ago.)

*It’s not nice to cheat Uncle Sam. An investigation by the Treasury Department revealed that roughly 13,000 U.S. taxpayers — including prisoners and some Internal Revenue Service employees — cheated the government out of some $33 million by falsely claiming tax credits for electric vehicles. Happily, the report also found that some claims were rejected — such as ones for a Hummer H3, a Cadillac Escalade and a golf cart.

–Chip Wood