Keith Olbermann And The Real Hate Mongers

As I write this, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) is in critical condition in a hospital in Arizona after being shot in the head by a deranged psychopath at a political gathering in Tucson.

Six people were killed in the assault last Saturday, including a Federal judge and a 9-year-old girl. In a strange twist of fate, the child, Christina Green, was born on September 11, 2001. We extend our deepest sympathies to all of their families. Our prayers go out to them, as well as the 14 other people who were wounded in the assault, allegedly committed by a 22-year-old mentally ill person named Jared Lee Loughner.

The shooting was a tragedy. But what happened next was an outrage.

No sooner had the airwaves carried the news of the attack than the Left tried to blame the right for what happened. MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, whose vicious tirades against conservatives know no bounds, ranted on national TV that “the climate of hate” created by Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and their ilk was responsible for the assassination attempt.

Within hours it was revealed that the gunman was a misfit and no friend of conservatives. He was an angry nihilist who said his favorite books included Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifest and Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

How about that — two of the top 10 books on my list of The Worst Books Ever Written were among his favorites. (If you missed that column, click here to see it.) Clearly Loughner is a creature of the Left, not of the Right. But that didn’t stop the hate-mongers in the media from piling on.

The New York Times set the tone for the rest of the mainstream media with an article, “Bloodshed Puts New Focus on Vitriol in Politics.” Most of The Times’ examples of vitriol, you will not be surprised to learn, came from the right. Major targets were Tea Party members, Sarah Palin and virtually anyone who opposed Obamacare.

The Times’ Pulitzer-winning columnist Paul Krugman, who leans so far to the Left he’s in danger of falling over, joined the chorus with a column blaming conservatives for fostering “a climate of hate.”

Politico, a popular website about all things Washington, said that “a veteran Democratic operative” immediately advised the White House to “deftly pin this on the tea partiers.” I would have suspected Rahm Emanuel (he of the “never let a crisis go to waste” fame) of being the source, but apparently he’s too busy running for mayor of Chicago.

In an effort to tar Republicans with Loughner’s murderous assault, someone even created a fake voter registration document for the guy, purporting to show that he is a registered Republican. It looked pretty authentic — obviously, whoever did it used a genuine card as his model — except for one thing: The Leftwing dope who did it misspelled Tucson!

All of this reminds me of another tragedy that rocked the nation — the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas on Nov. 22, 1963. If you were an adult back then you remember that the airwaves were full of allegations that the President’s murderer must have been some crazed Right-winger. After all, the killing took place in Texas, right? A state that’s full of dangerous Rightists.

It turned out, of course, that the President’s assassin was a dedicated Marxist named Lee Harvey Oswald. The former sharp-shooter had even spent time in Mother Russia before returning to the U.S. and crusading for Fidel Castro.

The shooting in Tucson has provided another opportunity for the liars on the Left to blame patriotic Americans for what happened. Frankly, we probably should be used to it by now. For all of my adult life, patriotic Americans have been attacked and ridiculed by those on the Left as religious extremists, intolerant bigots, dangerous racists and worse. While the truth is, it is almost always people on the Left who advocate violence or make excuses for it, and try to smear their political opponents with the brush they themselves wield.

My fellow Personal Liberty Digest columnist Ben Crystal hit the nail on the head when he wrote two days ago:

“Nonetheless, while the Democrat Party urges its supplicant media to find a way to pin the murder of six people on Sarah Palin, the Tea Party and the GOP by proxy; the facts reveal a vastly different picture. It’s a picture of the ultimate expression of Leftist rage, fanned by monsters like Markos Moulitsas, raging idiots like Olbermann, violent union thugs from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and possibly the anti-semitic roaring of characters like former President Jimmy Carter.”

Thanks, Ben, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Ben’s column (which you really should read; go here to see it) also quoted these gems from the current occupant of the White House. How about these examples of fanning the flames of violence?

“If you get hit, we will punch back twice as hard.”

Or this one:

“If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun.”

Thanks, President Obama. You’re sure setting a wonderful example of calm, dispassionate, moderate leadership.

Over on Capitol Hill, things are almost as bad. Representative Jim Clyburn, the very liberal Democrat from South Carolina, said the real culprit was Sharron Angle, the feisty grandmother and outspoken Tea Party advocate who ran against Harry Reid in Nevada. Another Democrat congressman, Robert Brady from Pennsylvania, used the murders as an excuse to promote legislation that would make criticism of elected officials a Federal crime. Guess if Brady had his way, I’d not only get groped by Transportation Security Administration screeners every time I fly; I’d risk going to jail for some of my Straight Talk columns!

I just saw the results of a recent poll. It says that 57 percent of Americans do not believe that “overheated” or conservative rhetoric was responsible for Loughner’s murderous assault last week. That’s the good news.

Here’s the bad: 42 percent of respondents (most of them self-identified as Democrats) bought into this decades-long smear. It’s a sad commentary of how some people will believe anything — and say anything — to make their opponents look bad.

It’s not hate that motivates the Tea Partiers I’ve met. It’s love — love for this country and the principles upon which it was founded. Love of freedom. And yes, even love for our fellow man (and woman).

Like the incredibly brave men who signed the Declaration of Independence, many of us are willing to risk our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor to protect and promote the blessings of liberty. So I guess we can stand a little more name-calling. In the life-and-death struggle for freedom, what are a few more scurrilous smears?

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Two Lincolns

Here’s a bit of forgotten history. On Jan. 12, 1848 a freshman congressman from Illinois delivered his first major address to the House of Representatives. A clean-shaven Abraham Lincoln declared:

“Any people, anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, to shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better…

“This is a most valuable, a most sacred right, a right which we hope and believe will liberate the world.”

Thirteen years later, President Lincoln refused to permit this country to become “a house divided” and ordered Federal troops to invade the south, to prohibit the “most sacred right” of succession he had previously defended.

–Chip Wood

Thanks, The Kids Get Unhappy, In-Security And Starve It

*They only need a million more. There was a story in the papers just before Christmas about Dennis Ferguson, a recent retiree who sent the State of California a check for $10,000. The gift was his way of saying “thanks” for unemployment benefits he received back in 1964. Gee, if they could only get a few more folks to be so appreciative. It would only take … let’s see now … oh, about a million more such gifts to pay off the state’s deficit.

*No more Happy Meal toys. At least not in San Francisco, where city officials recently prohibited restaurants from giving away toys with “unhealthy” meals. McDonald’s can continue to give away Happy Meals there — but only if the meal is less than 600 calories, contains fruits and vegetables, and is served with a non-fatty and non-sugary beverage. Don’t you just love their Big Nanny attitude?

*So much for security on Capitol Hill. While security has gotten pretty strict for tourists in Washington, our elected representatives are able to wave and walk through the screening procedures on Capitol Hill. Every Senator and Representative wears a tiny lapel pin so the guards will recognize their special status. But guess what? You can buy a replica of the pin at the gift shop in the Longworth House Office Building for $4.14. Or you could go to the Capitol Hill gift shop and buy one for the Senate for $5. Hope no terrorists ever learn about this.

*Quote of the week. Like the story above, this one also comes from Washington. When one of the newly elected Tea Party congressmen was told there was no way the Senate would agree to abolish Obamacare, he replied, “Maybe we can’t repeal it. But we can starve it to death.” We’ll know pretty quickly how tough they will actually get.

–Chip Wood

Restoring The American Dream

“Don’t talk to me about slowing down government growth,” he said emphatically. “We don’t want the government to grow slower; we want to cut it back dramatically.”

I was speaking with Robert Ringer, the author of several bestselling books. His latest is called Restoring the American Dream and if you care at all about the fight for freedom — and you must, or why would you be reading this column? — then you definitely want to own a copy. That’s good, because at the end of this piece I’ll tell you how to get a free copy. Even better, it will be personally autographed by the author.

What is the American Dream? How has it changed since our parents’ and our grandparents’ time? And what will it take to restore it to what it once was? Ringer has some very specific thoughts on the subject.

“The American Dream is about freedom. It’s about liberty. It’s about the opportunity to succeed or fail according to your own efforts and ability,” he told me. “It’s about self-responsibility and self-reliance. It’s being able to keep the fruits of your labors. In short, it’s about the individual’s right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, without interference from others.”

According to Ringer, the American Dream began when the Founders of this country did something unique in history — something that had never happened before. They declared that the people were above their government; that the people they elect are their servants and not the other way around.

“You can argue about when things started to go wrong and who was most responsible,” Ringer said. “I blame Teddy Roosevelt for much of it, when he formed the American Progressive Party. Woodrow Wilson speeded things up and then they really went off the rails under FDR, followed by Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society schemes.

“Things slowed down a bit under Ronald Reagan, but most people don’t realize that the Federal government continued to grow during his presidency. It’s gotten so bad that many people think it’s a victory if we can just slow down the growth of government. I don’t accept that for a second. And I’m happy to say that many other people feel the same, as the Tea Party movement has shown.”

So I asked him, Are you a supporter of the Tea Party movement?

“I’m a big fan of the Tea Party,” he replied. “Frankly, it is something that I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. It is a truly spontaneous uprising against big government. At the biggest rally I attended, there were more than half a million people. Of course the media never admitted how large it was; they talked in terms of tens of thousands, but it was many, many more than that.

“Our enemies try to make it sound as though these are all cranks and crazies and some kind of dangerous extremists, but nothing could be further from the truth. They are just like your family, your friends and your neighbors. They are everyday Americans who got fed up with what they saw happening to their country. At the rallies I attended, I never saw a single person do or say anything inappropriate.”

Well, they certainly had an impact in the elections last month. But what happens next? Do you really believe the new Congress will not just slow the growth of government, but actually beginning cutting it back?

“I have a little bit of hope but a lot concern,” was his cautious reply. “Certainly there are many people in Congress — Jim DeMint, Paul Ryan, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul and now his son Rand — who are really going to make that effort.

“I hope I’m wrong, but I’ve predicted for a long time that there is going to be a civil war in the Republican Party. I don’t believe you’re ever going to convert pseudo-conservatives like Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Richard Lugar. So if Congress doesn’t act decisively — if they start compromising and back-tracking — I think you’re going to see an enormous backlash.”

What will happen then, I asked?

“I think you’ll see an even bigger bloodbath in the 2012 elections,” Ringer said. “And out of that will come a new political party — a true Tea Party party, if you will.”

Ringer was very clear about how demanding this new political force should be. “No compromise!” is his battle cry. “For years the progressives have gotten away with always promoting more government. When they’re in power, as they have been for the past two years, there’s a mad dash to the left. But even when so-called conservatives hold the reins, somehow government keeps spending more, taxing more, and growing bigger. That has got to stop.”

One of the most encouraging signs Ringer told me wasn’t what’s happening in Washington, but the dramatic changes that are taking place at the state level. “Jan Brewer, the governor of Arizona, is definitely someone I want in a foxhole with me. I think she’s absolutely terrific. And there are a bunch of Jan Brewers ready to fight the Feds.

“There are what — 28 states now — that have sued the Federal government to block Obamacare? And that’s just the beginning. I think you’re going to hear a lot about the nullification movement in the coming months and years — the argument that the states can ‘just say no’ to the Federal government when it gets too bossy.”

So the good news is; resistance is growing. Advocates of smaller government have never been more determined or more active. But what happens, I asked the bestselling author, if Congress really does start cutting some government benefits? You’ve got a lot of union members and government workers who will be very unhappy. Are you worried about that?

“Absolutely,” he declared. “There will be violence, I’m convinced of it. Look at what happened in France when the president proposed raising the retirement age to 62. Or in Greece, when it became obvious that government couldn’t continue its spendthrift ways.

“The Left and violence have always gone hand in hand. Look at what happened in Pittsburgh during the G20 meetings. In fact, if you want to know what the Left is up to, just look at what they’re accusing the right of doing. They accused the Tea Party supporters of being radicals, racists and dangerous extremists. Happily, their smears didn’t work, as the last election demonstrated. But I’m very worried that what they can’t get via the ballot box, they’ll try to get through violence and threats.

“Remember, some people will kill for money. So if you tell some government worker or union member (and more and more often they’re the same thing) that the party is over — that he’s not going to get $150,000 or more a year when he retires at 55 — you bet there will be trouble. I’m afraid it’s inevitable.”

Ringer had a lot more to say about the battle to restore our lost liberty. But you’ll have to get his book, Restoring the American Dream, to savor it all. That’s easy to do, since just about every bookstore in the country carries it, not to mention Amazon.com.

But here’s an even better deal. You can receive a free hardbound copy of Restoring the American Dream, personally autographed by the author. To learn how you can get your autographed copy, plus more bonus features, click here.

There you’ll find plenty of ammunition to help you become a more effective fighter in the battle for liberty. I hope you’ll take advantage of it. Because the price of not winning this war is too high to contemplate.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Happy Birthday Elvis!

Happy birthday, Elvis! America’s greatest rock and roll star, Elvis Presley, was born on Jan. 8, 1935. On his 19th birthday he paid Sun Records $4 to record two songs for his mother.

Two years later, on his 21st birthday, Elvis’s first two-sided hit, “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Hound Dog,” both went to No.1 on the pop charts. And a year after that, in 1957, Elvis passed his Army pre-induction physical exam. His entrance into the U.S. Army was the inspiration for the Broadway play and hit movie, “Bye Bye Birdie.”

Continuing the birthday tradition, the U.S. Postal Service chose what would have been Elvis’s 58th birthday in 1993 to issue the Elvis Presley Commemorative Postage Stamp.

Several generations of fans continue to respond to his request to "Love Me Tender." Today, more than 30 years after his death, Elvis’s records sell in the multimillions every year, and his movies are still a popular feature on late-night television.

–Chip Wood

Resolutions, The Census, Madoff Victims And App Snooping

*How to keep your new year’s resolution. Forget willpower, the experts say. It doesn’t work. (How many of us have learned that lesson how many times?) Instead, try punishments and rewards. Give yourself an extra treat when you achieve a goal for a certain length of time. And a punishment, such as missing a favorite TV show, when you have one of those inevitable lapses. Plan all of this in advance. And most important of all, keep trying until you make that new behavior a habit.

*The Census confirms a free-market bias. The numbers are in and guess who’s getting more Congressmen? Not New York, it lost two. Not California; for the first time since 1920, it didn’t gain a new House seat. The low-tax, free-market states did the best, with Texas gaining four new seats, Florida two, and other mostly red states (Arizona, Georgia and South Carolina) gaining one. Are the tax-and-tax, spend-and-spend boys listening?

*Madoff trustee wins back a bunch of money. Did you see the settlement Irving Picard wrested from Barbara Picower, whose deceased husband had made a bundle by referring clients to Bernie Madoff? Widow Picower agreed to pay the Madoff victims $7.2 billion. Guess I shouldn’t begrudge the five thousand bucks an hour Picard gets paid (along with millions more for his law firm). Hard as it is to believe, he may be worth it. At least the Madoff victims probably say so.

*”Your Apps Are Watching You.” That’s the scary headline in a Dec. 18 article in The Wall Street Journal. Few devices know more about you than your smart phone, the investigators found. And they don’t keep it secret. “They are sharing this personal data widely and regularly,” the story says. If you value your privacy, check it out. You may decide to restrict your phone to making or receiving calls. What a novel idea!

–Chip Wood

Will the New Congress Have the Guts to Do It?

Here we are on the final day of 2010. It’s a time of reflection, as we look back on the past 12 months and look ahead to the next 12. In fact, the month of January is named for the Roman god Janus who, thanks to two faces, was able to look forward and backward simultaneously.
                  
Looking back, I would have to say that the most pleasant surprise of 2010 was the astounding success of Tea Party candidates in the November elections. I’m still amazed that what began as a handful of rallies and occasionally uncivil “meet the candidate” meetings grew into a gigantic uprising against bloated, big-spending government.

Even as millions of newly aroused voters headed to the polls, the mainstream media continued to demonstrate how out-of-the-mainstream they really are, by dismissing the Tea Party as an insignificant bunch of racist malcontents.

But ignoring them didn’t work. And smearing them only caused their numbers to grow. By the evening of Nov. 3, the truth could no longer be denied — something new had happened in America. And a lot of the old guard, who had practiced “pork as usual” on Capitol Hill for many decades, found themselves swept out of office.
How sweet it was!

Ah, but while campaigning can be tough — the smears, the innuendos, the microscopic investigation of everything a candidate has ever said or done are enough to dissuade most mortals from ever running for office — actually doing what you promised can be even harder.

The 112th Congress will be sworn into office next week. Each and every Senator and Representative will take a solemn oath to “preserve and protect” the Constitution of the United States of America. Very soon thereafter we’ll see how many of them actually meant it.

Two key issues will come up almost at once. The first will be a new budget bill. As I’ve discussed in previous columns, nearly a dozen different appropriation bills were introduced in the last Congress. Not a single one of them passed.

So the Democrats in charge tried to pull off quite a stunt in the closing days of the recent and unlamented lame duck session. Senate Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and the White House agreed to combine everything they wanted into one gigantic 1,924 page legislative package. There was something in it for everyone. One columnist called it “one oozing ball of pork and bad policy, going beyond even the obscene budget of 2000.”

It was all of that and more. One of the bill’s sponsors was Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who has proven many times that he is a wily and sly strategist. This time was no exception. As a “favor” to his Republican friends on the other side of the aisle, Inouye and his staff dug out every earmark request they could find that a Republican had ever requested. No matter if they had long since abandoned such pork; they decided to cram it all into the new bill.

Word is that by the time they got done there were more than 6,000 earmarks in the new legislation. No one knows the exact number, because by the time the Frankenstein’s monster came up for a vote, no one had had a chance to read it. Which was just how Reid and his cohorts wanted it.

Two of the toughest conservatives in the Senate — Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Jim DeMint of South Carolina — came up with a great stalling tactic, however. They proposed that before a vote could be taken on the measure, the entire thing — all 1,924 pages of it — had to be read out loud to the assembled Senators.

When he finally realized he didn’t have the votes to squash debate and ram the measure through, Sir Harry finally threw in the towel. Instead of Reid’s nearly 2,000 page monstrosity, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell introduced a one-page resolution that would maintain spending levels for all departments at then-current levels for the next 60 days. There would be no new increases (such as the billion bucks the Dems wanted so they could start funding ObamaCare). But no cuts, either — something almost every Republican had promised the folks back home.

Facing the inevitable, Reid allowed a vote on the measure. A majority quickly said “aye,” then headed home for the holidays. The House approved the measure later that day on a 193-165 vote. (Yes, I know that only adds up to 358 votes. What can I tell you? Seems that 77 of your representatives pleaded they had a plane to catch and left early.)

So the 111th Congress is now history. And a pretty sad one it is. The latest Gallup poll, taken in the final days of the lame-duck session, showed that the approval rating of Congress hit an all-time low of 13 percent. Is there any profession anywhere in more disrepute?

What happens next? We’re about to find out, folks. Look for the fireworks to start soon after the new Congress takes their seats next week.

Among the many issues they’ll have to address fairly soon is raising the debt ceiling once again. Even without any new spending, total U.S. public debt continues to grow by more than $100 billion a month. This means it will approach the mandated limit of $14.3 trillion sometime in March. If Congress does not agree to raise the ceiling, the Treasury will not be able to continue issuing new debt.

I can already hear the near-hysteria in the popular press about what refusing to raise the debt ceiling would mean. After all, we have to keep the government operating, don’t we? We can’t have an “emergency” shut down of vital government services, can we?

One congressman you know is going to stand fast is Dr. Ron Paul of Texas. A few days ago, he issued this blunt warning:

“If the new Congress gives in to establishment pressure and media alarmism about shutting down the government by voting to increase the debt ceiling once again, you will know that the status quo has prevailed. You will know that Congress, despite the rhetoric of the midterm elections, is doing business as usual. You will know that the simple notion of balancing the budget by limiting federal spending to federal revenue remains a shallow and laughable campaign platitude.”

As you can see, the lines in the sand are already being drawn. I’ll be reporting on many of the battles in future columns. But for now, let me ask you something: In the coming contests, which side will your congressman be on? If you don’t know the answer — or even who he or she is — you’re not part of the solution. You’re part of the problem.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Goodyear And His Invention

One of the unluckiest entrepreneurs in United States history was born on this day in 1800. His name was Charles Goodyear and he is most noted for inventing vulcanized rubber.

In its natural state, rubber is sticky or runny when it is hot, and brittle and stiff when it is cold. Goodyear discovered that, by mixing sulfur with rubber, it would remain elastic at even extreme hot or cold temperatures. And thus the modern tire was born.

Goodyear was granted a patent in 1844 for his “vulcanized” rubber, but he had to fight patent infringements the rest of his life. Rather than joining the ranks of the wealthy because of his invention, Goodyear ended up in debtor’s prison in France in 1855.

When he died in New York in 1860, he was not only penniless, but left $200,000 in debts — the equivalent of several million dollars today.

–Chip Wood

The Lollipop Tree

Every year around this time, our home becomes a veritable museum of Christmas art and artifacts — and I love it!

Decorations that my wife and I have collected over the years — from around the world — come out of boxes and fill the Christmas tree. My wife’s extraordinary collection of Santa Clauses is carefully unwrapped, and she begins the lengthy process of deciding which one goes where. Thanks to gifts from family and friends, and her own enthusiastic shopping, she owns more than 100 visitors from the North Pole. They range from a life-sized Father Christmas to the handcrafted Santa fairies on the mantel above our fireplace.

There are music boxes and carousels everywhere. A Santa train, pulling a colorful elves’ workshop, makes its merry way around one corner of the living room. (I confess, I have as much fun tooting the whistle, ringing the bells and having Santa call out a cheerful "Merry Christmas!" as any child who visits us.) Candles are in the windows, wreaths are on the doors, and a colorful garland with big red bows is draped over the front door.

There are twinkling stars near the ceiling in our family room, thanks to some tin decorations we brought back from Mexico a while ago. In the living room, Mickey Mouse and his friends play Christmas carols on a xylophone. Everywhere you look there are things that twinkle, light up or play Christmas carols.

But of all the items we bring out of storage for Christmas, none gives me more pleasure, or fills me with more nostalgia, than a simple plywood Christmas tree my father made more than 50 years ago.

Each year we take the Lollipop Tree out of its box, put various colored lollipops in the spaces on its branches, add a string of red baubles around it and put it on display somewhere in the house.

Over time, my Lollipop Tree has become a bit battered and stained. There are chips in some of the paint. And compared to all of the bright, shiny, electronic marvels that fill every corner of every room, it is very plain and simple. In fact, it looks old. But I am thrilled to have it. It brings back vivid memories of my father’s one venture into entrepreneurship.

Back in the early 1950s we lived in an old farmhouse in northeastern Ohio. The land had been sold to neighboring farms long ago. But there were several sheds and a large barn on the property. All that space got my father wondering what he could build there.

The idea he came up with was the Lollipop Tree. The tree consisted of two pieces of plywood, cut in the shape of a Christmas tree, with a base on the bottom. Slots were cut in each tree, half running from the top down, half from the bottom up.
When slid together, you had a four-sided tree that stood on its own.

Two large vats of paint filled one side of a shed. One held red paint, the other green. The trees hung on racks, with their tops pointing down, as they were lowered into the green paint. Later, when they dried, the process was reversed and the bases were dipped in the red paint. Then, after the base dried, the edges of each limb were hand-painted in sparkly silver to imitate snow.

The Lollipop Tree

Next came the scary part, at least to a 9-year old. There were two large stapling machines, each one taller than me, on the opposite wall. The operator would guide each tree around a pattern, step on a foot pedal, and — wham! — a staple was banged into the tree. The noisy process was repeated again and again, until each branch had two staples in it, about an inch apart, pointing slightly upward. The machine was set so 1/8-inch of the staple was exposed — perfect for sliding a lollipop into it.

And man, did we have lollipops. They arrived by the thousands in huge cardboard boxes. They were yellow, orange, red, green and purple. Each one was wrapped in cellophane. There were always dozens of broken lollipops in each box. My friends and I were allowed to eat the fragments, but there were so many remnants we couldn’t eat them all. It wasn’t long before we completely lost our appetite for the colorful candy. Mine has never returned.

When the tree was assembled and each branch held a colorful lollipop, I thought it was one of the most beautiful Christmas decorations I had ever seen. Sadly, the market did not agree. My father sold a few to friends and neighbors. A couple of stores in our small town agreed to carry them and he sold a few more. Dad used the last of his savings to run an ad in a popular magazine of the time. I don’t remember the exact results, but I do know he did not sell enough to cover the cost of the advertisement.

The temporary help he had hired was let go. The fans and heaters in the sheds were turned off. The stapling machines were sold to someone who could use them. And Wood Enterprises’ first (and only) enterprise was shut down. As Christmas approached, the vast majority of lollipop trees were stacked in our sheds, along with paint, lollipops, shipping boxes and who knows what else.

I never knew how much money my dad lost on his one and only effort to launch his own business. He would work for somebody else the rest of his life. Nor do I know what happened to his inventory of lollipops and the trees to hold them. I thought all of them were lost forever until I got a call from a cousin several years ago. In preparation for a move to another state, she was cleaning out a long-neglected closet. In the back of it she found a Lollipop Tree in its original box. Would I like to have it?

Would I! I asked her to send it to me right away. It arrived in plenty of time for Christmas. As soon as it did, I rushed out to the nearest candy store and bought dozens of lollipops in various shapes, sizes and colors.

Every Christmas since then I conduct a small and private ceremony as I get dad’s Lollipop Tree out of storage. I set it up and go through my collection of lollipops, carefully selecting which ones will go on the tree this year. (As I travel, I keep buying more lollipops, especially when I see unique shapes and sizes in other countries.)

This year, the Lollipop Tree is on a stand in the hallway that leads into my home office. As a result, I pass by it several times a day. Every time I do, my mind drifts back to memories of Christmases past.

This Christmas, I hope your home is filled with wonderful memories of long-ago holidays. Chances are you’ll be with children and grandchildren who have no memory of the time before iPods and Xboxes. They won’t care to hear about the times when our Christmas pleasures could be as simple as fragments of broken lollipops.

Nowadays, I love seeing them roll their eyes at my stories and exclaiming "Oh, grandpa!" when they suspect I have been exaggerating a tad too much.

But there is no exaggeration today. The story of the Lollipop Tree is completely true. And so are my wishes to each and every one of you for a very Merry Christmas.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

One Solitary Life

I have heard this powerful piece of poetry many times over the years — from a simple, solemn reading in a country church to the majestic pronouncement at the conclusion of the Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas show — and I have never failed to be deeply moved by it.

I hope you will enjoy being reminded of it today, as we celebrate the birth of the Son of Man who was also the Son of God. Although only a few shepherds were aware of His arrival, the event was so momentous that it divided time itself.

Here is One Solitary Life.

He was born in an obscure village,
The child of a peasant woman.
He grew up in another obscure village
Where he worked in a carpenter shop
Until He was 30.

He never wrote a book.
He never held an office.
He never went to college.
He never visited a big city.

He never traveled more than 200 miles
From the place where He was born.
He did none of the things
Usually associated with greatness.
He had no credentials but Himself.

He was only 33
When He died.
His friends ran away.
One of them denied Him.

He was turned over to His enemies
And went through the mockery of a trial.
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.
While dying, His executioners gambled for His clothing,
The only property He had on earth.

When He was dead,
He was laid in a borrowed grave
Through the pity of a friend.

Twenty centuries have come and gone
And today Jesus is the central figure of the human race
And the leader of mankind’s progress.

All the armies that have ever marched,
All the navies that have ever sailed,
All the parliaments that have ever sat,
All the kings that ever reigned put together
Have not affected the life of mankind on earth
As powerfully as that One Solitary Life.

I didn’t know the origin of One Solitary Life until I researched it last year. It was written by Dr. James Allan Francis in 1925 and later appeared in a book he compiled, The Real Jesus and Other Sermons, published by Judson Press in 1926.

Today, there are many versions extant of One Solitary Life, but this is my favorite. I hope you enjoyed seeing it again.

Merry Christmas.

 — Chip Wood