More Of Obama’s Massive Lies

There have been so many lies flooding out of Washington lately that’s it’s hard to keep up with them all, much less rebut them. But let’s tackle as many as we can today.

And let’s start with a lulu that took place last week, when Barack Obama was interviewed on CNBC. John Harwood asked him about the appropriateness of some of the recent Presidential rhetoric. In his reply, Obama said, “I think it’s fair to say that during the course of my Presidency I have bent over backwards to work with the Republican Party, and have purposely kept my rhetoric down.”

Can you believe it? The most divisive, vitriolic, partisan President we’ve had in years claims that he has “bent over backwards” to work with Republicans and that he’s actually “kept my rhetoric down.” Calling your opponents extortionists, arsonists, extremists and other choice epithets is apparently Obama’s idea of keeping his rhetoric down.

After hearing his ludicrous claim, I looked very closely at my TV screen. To my amazement, Obama’s nose didn’t grow a bit. It should have shot out so far that it knocked his interviewer off his chair.

Another whopper the President has repeated numerous times is that before today, raising the debt limit has never been a subject of negotiation between the White House and Congress. Or as Obama likes to put it, the debt limit has never been used “to extort a president or a government party.”

His Treasury Secretary, Jack Lew, has repeated the same nonsense, saying “until very recently, Congress typically raised the debt ceiling on a routine basis… the threat of default was not a bargaining chip in the negotiations.”

The truth is exactly opposite of Obama’s claims. Time and time again, Congress has demanded — and gotten — compromises from whoever was sitting in the White House (whether Republican or Democrat) before agreeing to raise the debt ceiling. According to the Congressional Research Service, Congress raised the debt ceiling 53 times between 1978 and today. Of those, in only 26 cases, or less than half of the time, were no conditions attached.

Even in cases where other stipulations were included in the debt increase, some members of Congress refused to go along with the deal. Such was the case in 2006, when then-Senator Obama voted against raising the debt limit. Listen to what the two-faced dissembler said back then:

The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. government cannot pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our government’s reckless fiscal policies. Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that “the buck stops here.” Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. We do deserve better. By the way, when the hypocritical Obama delivered those remarks, the debt ceiling was being raised to $8.965 trillion. Today, after five years of his trillion-dollar annual deficits, the debt ceiling stands at $16.7 trillion. And that’s not high enough for the big spenders in his administration. Talk about putting more burdens “onto the backs of our children and grandchildren.”

But the battle over raising the debt ceiling is just one area where we are being deluged with lies. Another is Obamacare. Remember all those Presidential promises that the measure would lower premiums for most Americans — and that if you liked your present health insurance, you could keep it? Turns out (surprise, surprise) neither one of these Presidential promises is true.

Now that the program has officially been launched, it’s turning out to be even more of a disaster than its worst critics predicted. The program’s apologists claimed that the system suffered repeated and near-total crashes on its Oct. 1 launch day because of its popularity. “[I]t’s sort of a great problem to have,” gloated Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Hardly.

The Covered California website claimed that it got more than 5 million hits on Oct. 1. Turns out that the number was inflated by more than 4 million; the actual count was 645,000.

And how many of those folks actually signed up for the government-mandated health insurance? Oops, supposedly the administrators won’t be able to get that information to us for a few more weeks.

What a crock! Of course, they can tell, minute by minute and second by second, exactly how many people have signed up. Can you imagine any private business trying to tell you that it doesn’t know how many orders its website has logged? (And a lot of those handle far more transactions every hour than even the most glowing claims for the ones taking orders for Obamacare.)

The fact that they won’t tell us how many sign-ups they’ve received suggests that the number is incredibly low. How low? Well, in at least some States, the number of successful applicants on Day One seems to be… zero. Yes, that’s even true of Sebelius’ home state of Kansas. My, that’s got to be a bit embarrassing.

So a system that took three years to create and cost untold millions of dollars can’t even tell how many orders it received? If that had been a private business, you can bet that heads would have rolled the next day. But in government, there is no penalty for failure — at least not on the participants. It’s only the taxpayers who have to cough up the dough to pay for all of this. And pay and pay and pay.

The final Big Lie I want to mention this morning concerns all of those “catastrophic consequences” that will occur if Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling by next Thursday. Of course that is absolute bunk. No matter what happens in the current standoff between the White House and the Congress, billions of tax dollars will continue to flow into the Federal Treasury every day. There will be enough money to pay every penny of interest on the national debt many times over.

Yes, there will be a shortfall between how much money the Federal government receives and how much it wants to spend. But if government expenditures could be cut back to what they were when Obama first assumed office, we wouldn’t have to borrow a single dollar to pay them. Just think of it: Washington could be forced to live within a budget. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

The assertion that the United States will have to default on its debt is just one of the many big lies Obama and his supporters are using, in a heavy-handed effort to browbeat Congress into giving them what they want.

But there are encouraging signs that more and more Americans are catching on to how we’re being played for suckers. According to the latest polls, a majority of Americans are ready to say “no more!” to automatically raising the debt ceiling without significant spending cuts.

Let’s hope they’ll remember this next November, when we’ll get a chance to replace a lot of the folks who are pushing us closer and closer to fiscal disaster. Topping the list for me is Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see him forced to retire?

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood 

The White House Versus Some World War II Vets

We’re finding out just how petty the Administration of President Barack Obama can be when it comes to making the government shutdown as painful as possible for as many people as possible. Just as we predicted, the answer is very petty indeed.

It seems the White House lackeys made a serious mistake, however, when they tried to keep some World War II veterans from visiting a memorial in their honor. Have you ever been to the National World War II Memorial? It’s an open plaza on the National Mall in Washington. And like most other monuments in the open air, it’s available to the public 24 hours a day. Or at least it used to be. Now, someone in the Obama Administration has decided to make it off limits.

The whole incredible saga began on Tuesday morning, when three busloads of World War II veterans showed up at the site. The trip had been arranged by Honor Flight Network, a wonderful charity that brings World War II vets to Washington to see the monument that was erected in their honor.

But when 91 veterans (ranging in age from 84 to 99) got off their bus, they found that barricades had been erected around the monument. Signs were posted that declared: “Because of the Federal Government SHUTDOWN, All National Parks Are CLOSED.”

In other words, someone ordered the National Park Service to work harder and spend more money to shut the memorial than it would have taken to simply leave it open. In the past, it was mostly unattended, but not now.

The barriers didn’t stop the veterans or the Congressmen who were there to welcome them. Representative Steve Palazzo (R-Miss.), who helped push aside the barricades, later said, “These men and women didn’t cower to the Japanese and Germans. I don’t think they’re about to let a few National Park Police stand in their way.”

The group was led into the memorial by a man playing bagpipes. A crowd of people who witnessed the event burst into applause.

The park police didn’t try to stop the veterans — at least not that time. One officer, who said he had to remain anonymous, told The Washington Post, “I’m not going to enforce the ‘no stopping or standing’ sign for a group of World War II veterans. I’m a veteran myself.”

The next day, park workers were ordered to erect additional fencing and station more patrolmen around the memorial. And guess what? Another group of elderly veterans moved the barricades and entered the memorial anyway.

There’s a photograph of one of them holding up a piece of the tape park police had placed around the barricades. The stern warning on the black and yellow tape, “POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS,” didn’t stop these vets from paying tribute to their fallen brothers, who paid the ultimate price to defeat the armies of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany.

That time, the veterans were applauded by a group of demonstrators waving flags and holding up signs supporting them. My favorite was the one that referenced Ronald Reagan’s demand when he stood next to the Berlin Wall three decades ago:

Protersters Rally outside of the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

The Honor Flight visits to Washington are arranged many months ahead of time. And they’re expensive, costing an estimated $80,000 to $100,000 per group. Since Honor Flight of Northwest Ohio was scheduled to bring a group of World War II veterans to Washington next week, Lee Armstrong, the group’s president, called the National Park Service to ask about visiting the memorial. He was told that anyone crossing the barricades could face arrest.

Armstrong was dumbfounded. “I said, are you kidding me? You’re going to arrest a 90/91-year-old veteran from seeing his memorial? If it wasn’t for them, it wouldn’t be there.” The park service rep replied, “That’s correct, sir.”

So you see what happens when the White House decides to play hard ball. It’s probably going to get worse, the longer this contrived crisis continues. This is the first government shutdown in 17 years. The last one, back in 1995-1996, occurred when Bill Clinton was President and Newt Gingrich was Speaker of the House. It was the longest government shutdown this country had seen until then, lasting 21 days. I don’t think this one will last as long, but so far neither side is willing to blink.

In fact, they’re barely willing to talk. Obama did ask Congressional leaders to meet with him in the White House two days ago. According to reports, he made it clear there wouldn’t be any negotiations until the Republicans agreed to fund the government without any conditions. Oh, yeah, and they’ve also got to agree to raise the debt limit, again without conditions. Only after doing that will the Democrats agree to negotiate.

For “negotiate,” read “total Republican capitulation.”

Hey, that’s pretty much what the Democrats got back in 1996. Why should they expect anything different this time? After all, they control the Senate and the White House. And a compliant media is only too willing to echo Obama’s rhetoric, as he continues to refer to what’s happening as “the Republican shutdown.” Even TIME magazine’s Mark Halperin acknowledged that the Democrats’ strategy depends on the mainstream media blaming Republicans for the government shutdown.

Lost in all of the partisan rhetoric is the fact that the Republicans in the House have passed five resolutions to fund the government, and the Democrats in the Senate have rejected them all.

So what happens now? It looks like our dysfunctional government will continue to play chicken, at least for a while. Here’s how RedState editor Erick Erickson puts it:

Democrats keep talking about our refusal to compromise. They don’t realize our compromise is defunding Obamacare. We actually want to repeal it.

This is it. Our endgame is to leave the whole thing shut down until the President defunds Obamacare. And if he does not defund Obamacare, we leave the whole thing shut down.

So who’s going to blink first? Sad to say, I’m afraid it will once again be the Republicans. But maybe, just maybe, that will make a lot more Americans angry enough to bust some barricades themselves.

This shutdown is showing just how “non-essential” a lot of government really is. Especially if you’re a 91-year-old veteran trying to visit a memorial honoring your fallen comrades.

Will we actually learn anything from this latest confrontation? I’m not very optimistic. But what do you think?

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Obama’s ‘Please Kick Me’ Appearance At The U.N.

Chalk up another embarrassing rebuff for a U.S. President at the Mecca of international socialism, the United Nations.

Barack Obama’s team let it be known that the President would be delighted to meet Iranian President Hasan Rouhani while the two were at the U.N. this past Tuesday. The two could shake hands, smile at each other and pose for an historic photo op. They wouldn’t even have to discuss anything of substance, merely look like they were prepared to get along.

“Thanks, but no thanks” was the insulting Iranian response. At least their rebuff was announced before Obama was left standing alone, with his arm stuck out and a stupid smile on his face.

Guess Obama’s peeps didn’t learn anything from history. Back in 2000, then-President Bill Clinton offered the same opportunity to Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, another supposed moderate. Khatami also nixed shaking hands with the President of the United States.

Wouldn’t you think that someone on Obama’s staff would have made sure he and Rouhani would be smiling together for the camera before leaking news about it to the media? This is not only sloppy diplomacy, Mr. President; it’s downright embarrassing incompetence.

Please note that Obama is so eager to negotiate with Iran that he’s even willing to put up with some egg on his face. And Rouhani isn’t the only nasty ruler he’s been willing to make nice with. Heck, we’re even willing to sit down at a conference table with the lunatics who run North Korea.

And don’t forget about all of those cozy chats with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, who has been only too happy to step into the role of negotiator-by-proxy. No doubt Obama is hoping that the world will soon forget all that talk about military strikes, inviolable red lines and the need to see Bashar Assad kicked out of the Syrian presidency.

Is there anyone this President isn’t willing to negotiate with?

Yes, there is one group that is beyond the pale and one issue that Obama won’t discuss under any circumstances. Negotiate with Republicans over the fate of the U.S. economy? Not on your life!

Obama has made it clear he won’t give an inch over his demand that Congress raise the debt ceiling without attaching any conditions to it. No reduction in spending, no promise to balance the budget someday, no give-and-take under any circumstances. Here is the one issue on which he vows there will be absolutely no compromise whatsoever.

The President has the nerve to claim that this is how it has always been, that Congress has never attached non-budget items to legislation raising the debt ceiling. Here’s how he put it last week, when he spoke to the Business Roundtable:

You have never seen in the history of the United States the debt ceiling or the threat of not raising the debt being used to extort a president or a governing party and trying to force issues that have nothing to do with the budget and nothing to do with the debt.

His claim, like so many other things he has said with such certainty, is total bunk. Glenn Kessler, the fact-checker for The Washington Post, didn’t have to dig very far to confirm that debt-ceiling legislation has been linked to such disparate causes as campaign-finance reform, Social Security, ending the bombing in Cambodia and voluntary school prayer.

A classic example occurred in 1980, when the House and Senate voted to repeal one of Jimmy Carter’s favored solutions to the energy crisis that existed then. Carter had demanded a fee on imported oil that would have raised the cost of a gallon of gas by 10 cents. Congress said “no way” in an attachment to legislation Carter very much wanted: authorization to borrow even more money he could spend.

When Carter vetoed the measure, the House and Senate voted overwhelmingly to override him. The vote was 335-34 in the House and 68-10 in the Senate. So much for Obama’s claim that such legislation was “never seen in the history of the United States.” Kessler rightly gives the president four Pinocchios for his duplicity on this one.

So what could be attached to a new debt-ceiling bill? For starters, how about a one-year delay in Obamacare? Obama has already agreed to a one-year delay for many businesses; how about giving the same break to the rest of us?

Yes, I know. The House has passed a bill to halt all funding for this healthcare monstrosity. But there is no chance that the Senate will agree. And even if by some miracle the bill’s proponents could find five or six Democrats who would vote with them (something I give a 0 percent likelihood of happening), does anyone think there are any circumstances that would persuade Obama to sign it? Not on your life.

Looks like we’ll see another exciting game of Washington playing chicken, folks.

In the meantime, what did you think of Texas senator Ted Cruz’s dramatic, all-night speech on the Senate floor, listing all of the reasons to oppose funding Obamacare?

He talked about a lot more than the Affordable Care Act, of course. He narrated the classic Dr. Seuss book Green Eggs and Ham, described the incredible bravery of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence and even compared conservatives’ efforts today to the rebel alliance in the “Star Wars” films. All in all, the freshman Senator put on quite a show.

Despite some catty remarks from his opponents (Senate Majority Leader Harry Read called the near-filibuster a “massive waste of time”) and much mockery in the mainstream media, I think Cruz scored a lot of points for his cause. The response on Twitter and other social media confirms that opinion. So congratulations to him and the other conservative stalwarts who had the courage to stand with him.

And speaking of Cruz’s fellow Republicans, shame on those who have been trying to stab the Tea Party favorite in the back. The latest example of their despicable behavior came last week. After Chris Wallace announced that Cruz would be interviewed on his “Fox News Sunday” program, the TV host described what happened next:

This has been one of the strangest weeks I’ve ever had in Washington, and I say that because as soon as we listed Ted Cruz as our featured guest this week, I got unsolicited research and questions, not from Democrats, but from top Republicans.

Wallace said the reason for slipping him the negative material was obvious: so he could “hammer Cruz” when he appeared.

Ain’t politics fun?

By this time next week, I expect that some sort of funding for the Federal government will be approved by Congress and signed by the President. It may just be for a few months, but I don’t think the Republican majority in the House will agree to a government shutdown. Not yet. Too bad; if we could control who got sent home and who kept getting a paycheck, it could be the best thing to happen to our country in years.

We all know that Obama and his henchmen would make any shutdown as painful as possible for as many of us as possible — just as the Administration did with sequestration, but a thousand times worse.

But don’t despair. This just one battle in a long-range war, my friends. And there is no doubt we’re getting more warriors on our side every day.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Obama And Putin Got It Wrong: Why The U.S. Is Exceptional

What a wonderful brouhaha Russian President Vladimir Putin stirred up when he (or one of his PR flacks) wrote an opinion piece for The New York Times earlier this month.

Much of the piece was pretty much what you would expect from the Russian strongman and former KGB thug. He denied that Syrian president Bashar Assad used chemical weapons against his own citizens. “No one doubts that poisoned gas was used in Syria,” Putin wrote. “But there is every reason to believe it was used not by the Syrian Army, but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons.” If you buy that one, he has a bridge is Vladivostok he’d like to sell you.

And don’t assume that his remark about “powerful foreign patrons” was a sly reference to Russia’s relationship with Syria. No, no, not a bit. After all, Putin wrote: “We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law.”

Yes, I know. It’s hard to keep from laughing out loud at some of his absurd protestations. Here’s another one: “We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.” Like you did in Chechnya, comrade?

But nothing stirred up more response than Putin’s parting shot. In his final paragraph, he said he disagreed with President Barack Obama’s comments regarding American exceptionalism. The Russian near-dictator had the unmitigated gall to lecture his American audience on the subject, writing: “It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.” And he concluded: “We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”

I doubt if Putin himself believes what he wrote in that final sentence any more than our own President really believes in American exceptionalism. Oh, sure. Barack Obama has used the words a few times, such as in his address to the Nation that Putin referenced, but never with any real conviction.

Four years ago, for example, Obama answered a reporter’s inquiry on the subject by saying: “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” Doesn’t that fill your heart with patriotic fervor?

Yes, America is exceptional. And it’s exceptional for a reason that neither Putin nor Obama will ever admit. America is unique among all the countries that have ever existed for one simple but profound reason: The United States was founded on the principle that our rights come from God, not from government.

One of the most majestic phrases in the English language is the one Thomas Jefferson included in Declaration of Independence expressing that thought. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It was our Creator who gave us our rights — rights that are unalienable. That means they cannot be withdrawn or transferred. At least, that’s the theory. I have no doubt that the Founding Fathers would be shocked by how powerful the Federal government has become today. And dismayed at how much it encroaches on our liberties (not to mention our wallets).

By the way, the Declaration of Independence not only opened with an acknowledgement of God, it also ended with the same recognition: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of a divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

Yes, this country was founded on the principle that our rights come from God — and that governments exist not to grant them, but to protect them. The Declaration also said: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

The men who drafted our Constitution worked very hard to craft a document that would limit what a central government was allowed to do. They wanted to “bind it down” with the chains of a constitution.

But even that wasn’t enough to satisfy the leaders of our new Republic, who were very aware of the lessons of history. They knew that governments, always and everywhere, tried to expand in reach and power. Even before the new Constitution was submitted to the 13 States for ratification, they added a list of Amendments, to make even more specific what the new government was not allowed to do.

The first eight Amendments in what became known as the Bill of Rights enumerate a whole list of things that the new central government cannot do. The 1st Amendment begins: “Congress shall make no law…”

And just to make sure that the people’s rights shall not be infringed, the framers added the 9th and 10th Amendments, basically saying that if they overlooked anything, government can’t do that either. They made it as clear as they could 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.”

While government in this country was limited, the ability of our people to prosper was not. America became the freest, the wealthiest and the most powerful nation on Earth. It made us the hope (and the envy) of the world.

That is why the United States is exceptional — or maybe I should say why this country was exceptional. Because there is no question that our central government has become a bloated monstrosity, bearing almost no resemblance to the very limited government our Founding Fathers envisioned.

One of the charges against King George in the Declaration of Independence was: “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.”

Let’s face it: Those colonists had it easy, compared to all the ways that our present government “eats out” our substance.

I wouldn’t be the first to suggest that it’s time for a new American revolution.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

P.S. There was one more comment in Putin’s opinion piece that merits a rebuttal. He said, “No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations.”

Wrong again, Mr. President. There are many of us who believe one of the greatest things we could do for freedom, peace and prosperity in the world is to get the U.S. out of the U.N. and the U.N. out of the U.S. And our numbers are growing every day.

Is This Obama’s Dumbest Mistake Yet?

For a while, it looked as though Barack Obama would suffer his most humiliating political defeat ever. Congress was about to tell the President a loud and emphatic “No!” to his request for legislation authorizing a military strike against Syria, when suddenly who should come galloping to his rescue other than his longtime nemesis, Russian President Vladimir Putin?

What the heck is going on here?

The present charade began last Monday, when Secretary of State John Kerry made a supposedly off-hand remark at a press conference in London. When asked if anything could avert the United States from taking military action against Syria, Kerry said there was. All that was necessary was for Syrian President Bashar Assad to “turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community.”

But Kerry then said, “He isn’t about to do it.” And referring to the fact that it would be impossible to verify that all chemical weapons had been surrendered, even if Assad were to agree, Kerry added, “And it can’t be done.”

But it looks like we’re all going to pretend that it can be. The Russians promptly grabbed the Kerry fumble and scored a touchdown with it. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said his country would be delighted to supervise the compliance by its longtime ally.

And Assad — who up until now had denied that his government even possessed chemical weapons, much less used them against any of its citizens — said he’d go along with the plan. Sure he will.

Prior to these latest developments, the White House had been lobbying Congress day and night to give the President permission to attack Syria. We’d do it all long-range, you understand, without a single American soldier ever stepping foot in the country. “No boots on the ground,” we were promised, just “unbelievably small” air strikes.

President Barack Obama said he really didn’t need Congress’s permission to launch the missiles, he just thought it would be a good idea to get the support of the people’s representatives. Not only would his people lobby hard on Capitol Hill, the President would take his message directly to the public. The White House asked the major television networks to carry Obama’s remarks live on Tuesday night.

In a lifetime of watching Presidential addresses, I have never seen a bigger waste of time than Obama’s speech that night. The best thing about it was that it was short: only 16½ minutes long. But what was the point of it?

In her blog, Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan called the speech a “time filler.” That it was. She wrote:

He should have canceled the speech. It was halfhearted, pro forma and strange. It added nothing, did not deepen or advance the story, was not equal to the atmosphere surrounding it, and gave no arguments John Kerry hasn’t made, often more forcefully, in the past 10 days.

True. The original purpose of the speech — to rally support for military strikes against Syria — was no longer valid. Instead, the President said he had asked Congress “to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force, while we pursue this diplomatic path.” He’s called for meetings of the U.N. Security Council in New York City. He’s sent Kerry to Geneva to meet with the Russian foreign minister. He himself will continue to talk with Putin. Meanwhile, he’ll keep all U.S. military forces in place, just in case.

In another post, Noonan wrote: “The president will keep the possibility of force on the table, but really he’s lunging for a lifeline he was lucky to be thrown.”

Conservative columnist Pat Buchanan said the same thing, but more colorfully: “Kerry fumbled the ball into the end zone and Obama fell on it, and now we’re not going to have a war,”

Don’t be so sure. Just after all the glad-handing and merrymaking, Putin dropped a major fly in the ointment, saying that Russia would pursue the deal only if the United States would promise that it would not take any military action against Syria. And he followed up that demand with the announcement that Russia was going to supply Iran, its other ally in the area, with sophisticated air defense missile systems. Not only that, but it would also build a second nuclear reactor in the country.

As if that weren’t insult enough, yesterday The New York Times published an op-ed piece allegedly written by the Russian president. In it, Putin lectures the United States about what could happen if Obama proceeds with his oft-threatened military strikes against Syria. And he actually claims: “We are not protecting the Syrian government, but international law.” Sure thing, buddy.

The whole idea of “the international community” getting hold of Syria’s chemical weapons is absurd. There is no way to rid Syria of chemical weapons in a few weeks, even if Assad were to agree. Remember what happened in Iraq after Saddam Hussein was ousted? It took authorities more than two years to complete their search of the country. And that was after “peace” had allegedly been restored. Syria is in the middle of an incredibly savage civil war.

The rebels are just as barbaric and bloodthirsty as the government’s troops. Many of them are fanatical jihadists with links to al-Qaida. And these are the people we want to see overthrow Assad?

Yes, the price being paid in Syria is dreadful. More than 100,000 people have been killed. Several million people have fled the country; more people are trying to do so every day. But for now, the United States will stand down. And the grand charade will continue — at least for a while.

By the way, the next time Obama wants to address the Nation, I hope he’ll do it from the Oval Office. That location conveys a certain majesty and gravitas, which should be appropriate for a Presidential address.

By comparison, the long, empty corridor behind the President on Tuesday night seemed bleak and insignificant. At least this time the location matched the content.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Warmongering Republicans Support Obama

You’ve heard the story that Nero fiddled while Rome burned. I guess the modern equivalent is playing poker on your smartphone while debating going to war.

That’s what Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), the top hawk on the Republican side of the aisle, was caught doing three days ago, during a hearing by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Barack Obama Administration’s top guns were there to testify in favor of a resolution authorizing a military strike against Syria.

McCain later joked about his lapse: “As much as I like to always listen in rapt attention constantly with the remarks of my colleagues over a three-and-a-half-hour period, occasionally I get a little bored.”

Hey, who wouldn’t, after hearing Secretary of State John Kerry’s fumbling, bumbling testimony? Bet you’d also be desperate for any sort of distraction if you had to sit through several hours of mumbo-jumbo like the response Kerry gave to the question: “[A] prohibition for having American boots on the ground — is that something that the administration would accept as part of a resolution?”:

Mr. Chairman, it would be preferable not to, not because there is any intention or any plan or any desire whatsoever to have boots on the ground. And I think the president will give you every assurance in the world, as am I, as has the secretary of defense and the chairman. But in the event Syria imploded, for instance, or in the event there was a threat of a chemical weapons cache falling into the hands of al-Nusra or someone else and it was clearly in the interest of our allies and all of us, the British, the French and others, to prevent those weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of the worst elements, I don’t want to take off the table an option that might or might not be available to a president of the United States to secure our country.

Kerry was accompanied by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The trio had trudged up to Capitol Hill to seek support for a resolution authorizing military action in Syria. Kerry almost blew it when he suggested that the resolution shouldn’t rule out the deployment of U.S. troops. He was forced to “clarify” his remarks:

Well, let me be very clear now because I don’t want anything coming out of this hearing that leaves any door open to any possibility. So let’s shut that door now as tight as we can. All I did was raise a hypothetical question about some possibility — and I’m thinking out loud — about how to protect America’s interests. But if you want to know whether there’s any — you know, the answer is, whatever prohibition clarifies it to Congress and the American people, there will not be American boots on the ground with respect to the civil war.

Kerry was also asked if all the various intelligence agencies came to the same conclusion: that Syria had used chemical weapons against its own citizens. He replied: “To my knowledge, I have no knowledge of any agency that was a dissenter or anybody who had, you know, an alternative theory.” No wonder McCain would rather play poker!

Meanwhile, Kerry’s boss was in Stockholm, Sweden, en route to a G-20 meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia. Obama tried to deny that he was the one who drew a “red line” regarding the use of chemical weapons. The present confrontation isn’t his fault, he insisted; it’s “the world’s” fault.

First of all, I didn’t set a red line. The world set a red line. The world set a red line when governments representing 98% of the world’s population said the use of chemical weapons are [sic] abhorrent and passed a treaty forbidding their use, even when countries are engaged in war.

Of course, that’s not what the President said last year, as The Wall Street Journal pointed out. On Aug. 20, 2012, he issued the following warning:

We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.

Oh, and if you won’t agree that the whole mess is the world’s fault, Obama had some other culprits to blame: You, me and his favorite whipping boy, Congress.

The President actually declared: “My credibility is not on the line. The international community’s credibility is on the line.” And he added, “America and Congress’s credibility is on the line, because we give lip-service to the notion that these international norms are important.”

McCain had already declared his fervent support for letting the missiles fly.

Now that a resolution is going to be before the Congress of the United States, we want to work to make that resolution something that majorities of the members of both houses could support. A rejection of that, a vote against the resolution by Congress, I think would be catastrophic, because it would undermine the credibility of the United States of America and of the President of the United States. None of us want that.

Wrong again, Senator! Even after weeks of hearing about the Syrian president’s “crime against humanity” for using chemical weapons against his own citizens, 50 percent of Americans still oppose taking military action against Syria. That’s according to the latest NBC News poll, which found that only 42 percent of Americans support a military response.

Nevertheless, at the end of the hearing, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution authorizing the President to use limited military force against Syria. No boots on the ground, you understand. No forcing Bashar Assad out of office. No, all we’re going to do is to “degrade” Assad’s ability to wage war on his own citizens.

No doubt, a majority of Democrats will meekly agree to give the President the war-making power he wants — even though many of them screamed to high heaven when Obama’s predecessor in the Oval Office sought Congressional approval for waging war against Saddam Hussein. Does anyone remember that Joe Biden and Obama were among the most fervent in their opposition? Biden even threatened to lead impeachment efforts against George W. Bush over the issue. But that was then and this now.

McCain’s shilling for the war resolution probably won’t affect the outcome in the Senate, where the Democratic majority will carry the day. If the measure is going to be defeated, it will have to happen in the House.

Sadly, the Republican leadership there is already on record as supporting military intervention in Syria. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said: “I’m going to support the president’s call for action. I believe that my colleagues should support this call for action.”

And House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said in a statement: “I intend to vote to provide the President of the United States the option to use military force in Syria.”

We’ll find out next week if enough members of Congress will say “no” to taking military action against Syria. Do you know how your Representative will vote? Now would be a very good time to find out. And let him know how you feel.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Another Stupid, Senseless, Illegal War

The headline over a New York Times opinion piece said it all: “Bomb Syria, Even If It Is Illegal.” How’s that for a bald-faced declaration of warmongering intent?

Ian Hurd, the author of the article, is an associate professor of political science at Northwestern University. In his column, he admits: “As a legal matter, the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons does not automatically justify armed intervention by the United States.”

But his attitude is pretty much, “So what?” Here’s what he says next: “There are moral reasons for disregarding the law, and I believe the Obama administration should intervene in Syria. But it should not pretend that there is a legal justification in existing law.”

Got that? Existing law doesn’t justify our armed intervention in Syria. So what would? Hurd writes: “… Mr. Obama and allied leaders should declare that international law has evolved and that they don’t need Security Council approval to intervene in Syria.”

What a wonderful Machiavellian solution! Just declare that international law has “evolved” enough to justify whatever the heck you want to do, and then go ahead and do it. That attitude would certainly put the final nails in the coffin of our Constitutional protections, wouldn’t it?

The good professor concludes his argument: “This would be popular in many quarters [want to bet?], and I believe it’s the right thing to do. But if the American government accepts that the rule of law is the foundation of civilized society, it must be clear that this represents a new legal path.”

No it doesn’t, professor. It represents a new illegal path — one that can result only in more tyrannical actions by even more dictatorial governments.

It’s Thursday morning as I put the finishing touches on this piece. So far, the United States and its allies haven’t fired the first shot. With Obama heading to a G-20 conference (in Russia, of all places) next week and Congress not back in session for two more weeks, it may be a while before the first missile is launched.

But every leak out of the White House indicates the President is going to do something, by golly. Even Barack Obama is now referring to firing a shot across Bashar Assad’s bows. But not to worry; we’re promised that there will be no “feet on the ground” by U.S. forces. Our surgical strikes will be quick, lasting only two or three days.

That’s what our leaders say. But when have our policies in the Mideast ever worked out as promised? Our billions in aid to Egypt sure haven’t won us much respect there or brought their own citizens much peace, have they?

If you think The Times’ piece was provocative, just wait until you hear what the supposedly conservative Wall Street Journal had to say on the subject. Bret Stephens, who writes the “Global View” column in The Journal, had a doozy. He argued that the “main order of business” for any military intervention in Syria “must be to kill Bashar Assad.”

And not just Assad: “Also, Bashar’s brother and principal henchman, Maher. Also, everyone else in the Assad family with a claim on political power.” But Stephens doesn’t want the death toll to stop there. The fatalities should also include “all of the political symbols of the Assad family’s power, including all of their official or unofficial residences.”

Forget about hitting military targets, Stephens says. Just kill the rulers and blow up their palaces. According to the columnist, “a civilized world cannot tolerate” a government’s using chemical weapons against its own citizens. That “plumbs depths of barbarity matched in recent history only by Saddam Hussein.”

I’d argue that the Muslim jihadists’ use of suicide bombers to massacre innocent civilians — whether in Israel, the Mideast or the Twin Towers in New York City — is as barbarous as anything done by Saddam or Assad to their own citizens.

At the end of his column, Stephens says, “What’s at stake now is the future of civilization, and whether the word still has any meaning.” Sorry, but I don’t agree that the “civilized” response to Assad’s butchery is for us to kill him and his family. I think we should stay out of the whole bloody mess. I believe George Washington got it right in his farewell address, when he urged this country to avoid foreign entanglements.

I suspect most Personal Liberty readers agree with me. But a whole lot of our opinion molders don’t, including FOX TV’s superstar host, Bill O’Reilly. This past Tuesday, he opened his program with a “Talking Points” segment: “What President Obama Should Do About Syria.”

In his remarks, O’Reilly called Syria’s tyrannical president “a war criminal, a mass murderer and baby killer.” He left no doubt he believes Assad has used poison gas against his own citizens and “is now responsible for thousands of injuries and hundreds of deaths.”

Then O’Reilly declared:

“So there is no question that Assad must be held accountable. If you believe in American exceptionalism, that this country has a moral obligation to save lives where it can all over the world, then you know the USA must act against Assad, as it did against Sadam Hussein.”

Hold on just a minute, O’Reilly. You must have a very different definition of American exceptionalism than I do. I’m one of the most passionate defenders of our Constitutional Republic you’ll ever find. But I certainly don’t agree that we have a “moral obligation to save lives where [we] can all over the world.” Certainly not by military intervention in a country that poses no threat to us. That’s the worst prescription for sticking our fat fingers in other countries’ affairs I’ve ever heard.

O’Reilly says that Obama “has a unique opportunity not only to damage Assad [at least he doesn’t advocate deliberately killing him and his family] but to show the world that we are the good guys and those helping Assad are the bad guys.”

Does he really think that throwing our weight (and our missiles) around is the way to convince more of the world that we’re the good guys? I don’t. In fact, the more we mind our own business and the less we try to be the policeman for the world, the better off we’ll all be.

O’Reilly had some further advice for Obama, including securing the support of “as many Arab countries as possible, beginning with Saudi Arabia.” Also, “Obama should go to Congress and ask for a vote of affirmation on using military power.” And finally, we should “ask Russia and China to support NATO actions.”

I’d rate his third suggestion as hopeless, his first as highly unlikely and his second as doable — but not before sometime in mid-September. Will the warmongers be willing to wait that long?

O’Reilly concluded: “If America wants to be a world leader, we cannot allow a tyrant to violate international law by using chemical weapons.”

I’ve got a better idea: Let’s stop trying to be the policeman for the world. The world doesn’t want it. And we can’t afford it.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Boy, Did I Get That One Wrong

In all the years I’ve been writing this column, I have never had readers jump all over me like they did last week. Some of them were even polite about it! Here are just a few of the nearly 500 comments I received:

“The first thing I did after I read the article … checked my calendar to make sure it wasn’t April Fool’s Day,” said Average _Joe56. “Imagine my surprise when it wasn’t.”

GQ4U had the same reaction: “An anti-liberty article in Personal Liberty Digest? Am I on Candid Camera?”

TheOriginalDaveH, one of our most frequent posters, asked, “What? Did I wake up on the wrong side of the bed? Is Chip really arguing against the 4th Amendment?”

GiveMeLiberty,OrGiveMe Death (don’t you love his pen name?) was more emphatic: “Chip, have you lost your ever-loving MIND????? Seriously, you claim to be a conservative and you think stop-and-frisk is okay????? What the heck, dude, that is just wrong.”

Karolyn, another frequent correspondent, summed up her disappointment in just 10 words: “So now Chip is an advocate for the police state!”

A lot of folks were less kind than these examples. The cause of their ire was my defense of the stop-and-frisk program by the cops in New York City and my criticism of a Federal judge who found much of it unConstitutional.

You know what? I was wrong. My readers, bless their libertarian sentiments and uncompromising principles, are right.

I got blinded by two things. The first was the distorted logic the judge in this case exhibited. The second was the undisputed fact that major crime in New York City has plummeted.

Here’s one example of the kind of tortured thinking U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin showed in her ruling. She said that the police were justified in stopping and questioning David Floyd, the lead plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit. And it was even okay when they searched the pockets of his outer garments.

But they went too far, she ruled, when they also frisked his pants pockets. Searching his jacket was okay, but not his pants? Give me a break.

So let’s go back to the basics: the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. (Yes, in answer to one reader’s rhetorical question, I have heard of them. In fact, I keep a well-thumbed copy of both in my top desk drawer.)

Here’s what the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution says:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

That’s as clear as our Founding Fathers could make it. Unfortunately, it wasn’t clear enough to keep the courts from permitting some incredible abuses. So today, 80-year-old grandmothers can be groped at an airport in the name of security. The NSA can collect information on the emails and phone calls of virtually every American in the name of combating terrorism. And the police can stop, question and frisk anyone they want in the name of fighting crime. All they need to do is claim to have reasonable grounds for their suspicions. They don’t even have to believe that a crime has been permitted by the suspect – merely that some sort of criminal behavior may be going to take place.

All of this is perfectly okay with the Federal courts, which have repeatedly sided with the authorities in permitting stop-and-frisk programs. Even Judge Scheindlin, whose ruling led to last Friday’s column, found the basic premise of stop-and-frisk to be acceptable.

But the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, have ruled in favor of many things that we Constitutionalists know are flat-out wrong. For most of the past century, the Federal government has acted as though the 9th and 10th Amendments to the Constitution simply don’t exist. Time after time, the Supreme Court has supported massive expansion of Federal programs and power, no matter how much they have to twist and distort the Constitution to allow it.

And let’s not even get into the 2nd Amendment, which promises all of us that “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” Of course it is infringed all of the time. And nowhere are there more restrictions on our Constitutional right to bear arms than in New York City.

The most recent example of the Supreme Court’s tortuous logic in justifying yet another expansion of Federal power is when Chief Justice John Roberts said that the abomination known as Obamacare is Constitutional because it is a tax. So what if President Barack Obama and it supporters in Congress repeatedly denied that this was the case?

What about the claim that stop-and-frisk helps reduce crime? That’s the argument favored by its supporters, including Mayor Michael Bloomberg. (As one critic pointed out, “The first clue is that if you agree with Bloomberg on ANYTHING, you must immediately check yourself. The next thing you know, you’ll be agreeing with [Jesse] Jackson and [Al] Sharpton.” Ain’t gonna happen, medbob.)

Best-selling author Ann Coulter is one of many conservative commentators who support stop-and-frisk programs. In her syndicated column, “Stop and Frisk Policies Are Saving Lives,” she said that murders in the Big Apple were averaging about 2,000 a year when Mayor Rudy Giuliani took office in 1994. There were 714 – a decline of almost two-thirds – by the time he left office seven years later. And the number of murders has continued to fall, dropping to 419 murders last year.

That’s a big improvement. So it should come as no surprise that many of the citizens of New York City approve of stop-and-frisk. They think it makes them safer. And it probably does – at least from hoodlums and street criminals.

But remember what Benjamin Franklin, that very wise Founding Father, said. “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

How many Americans are willing to exchange some essential liberty for a little temporary safety? Or to ask it another way, how many will exchange much of their independence for security? I’m afraid the answer is a whole bunch of them.

But not among the readers of Personal Liberty Digest™. You are a proud, feisty and independent crowd, and I’m grateful for it… and for you.

So thank you, DavidForward, for saying, “It takes an honest man (or woman) to admit they may have made a mistake and reevaluate their position. Congratulations on proving you are such [an] individual! Personal integrity and common sense are sorely missed in our devolving police state; keep up the good work, honest thoughts, and evaluations.”

Thanks, too, to TheOriginalDave, who wrote, “Wow. I’m impressed. Not many people will own up to their errors. Thanks, Chip.”

And to frequent commentator Vicki, who wrote, “Thank you, Chip. We were wondering ‘cause you have always been a staunch supporter of individual liberty for all.”

I still am and always will be, Vicki. But I’ve got to admit, I blew it this time. Thanks to everyone who made sure I didn’t get away with it.

Next week we’ll be back taking aim at the enemies of liberty. I hope you’ll join us.

Until then, keep some powder dry.

-Chip Wood

 

A Judge Handcuffs The Cops

There can be no doubt that the stop-and-frisk actions of New York City’s police department have been hugely successful in lowering the crime rate there.

So, of course, they’ve been under attack by liberal do-gooders. Sadly, this past Monday, a Federal judge ruled that they violated the Constitutional rights of minorities. Is anyone surprised?

Stop and frisk has been an important weapon for police departments everywhere in their efforts to deter crime. Mayor Michael Bloomberg defended the program in New York City, saying:

The NYPD’s ability to stop and question suspects that officers have reason to believe have committed crimes, or are about to commit crimes, is the kind of policing that courts across the nation have found, for decades, to be constitutionally valid.

If this decision were to stand, it would turn those precedents on their head — and make our city, and in fact the whole country, a more dangerous place.

Thanks in large part to the stop-and-frisk program, Bloomberg says that New York is the safest big city in the United States. Unlike Chicago and other cities where crime rates are skyrocketing, New York is seeing record lows in many areas of violent crime.

You won’t be surprised to learn that most of the violent crime in the city is committed by blacks and Hispanics against other blacks and Hispanics. Or that most of the people stopped and questioned by police are also members of these two minorities.

So it follows, as night follows day, that the stop-and-frisk program was challenged in the courts. U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin ruled in a pair of decisions that the police department’s policy violated the Constitutional rights of minorities.

It just so happens that blacks and Hispanics make up about 60 percent of the population in the precinct under dispute in the case. But they made up 96 percent of the people the police stopped and questioned. This was enough to convince Scheindlin that the police department’s actions were racist and unConstitutional.

The judge ignored the fact that an overwhelming majority of crimes committed in the area are by minorities against minorities. In New York’s 88th Precinct, where the alleged discrimination took place, 99 percent of violent crimes (and 93 percent of all reported crimes) were committed by blacks and Hispanics.

Or as former New York Governor George Pataki put it, “You go where the crime is if you want to stop the crime.” And he added, “The effect of the policy is thousands of lives that are saved, largely low-income, minority lives, because we have much lower rates of violent crime.”

Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute pointed out the absurdity of the judge’s logic:

[T]hough whites and Asians commit less than 1 percent of violent crime in the 88th Precinct and less than 6 percent of all crime, according to Scheindlin 40 percent of all stops should be of whites and Asians, to match their representation in the local population.

That would be as ridiculous as having airport screeners pick on grandmothers and young children, just to show they’re not “profiling.” Oh, wait; that happens all the time.

Columnist Gary Bauer points out how stop and frisk benefits minorities in New York:

The irony is that the vast majority of people whose lives are saved by stop-question-and-frisk are minorities, the vast majority of the police officers who employ it on their patrols are minorities and the vast majority of residents who are safer because of the policy are minorities.

But, of course, liberals on a crusade — especially one that will hamstring and handcuff the police — will simply ignore any facts that get in their way.

To realize how absurd some of the arguments can be, consider the case involving David Floyd, the primary plaintiff in Floyd v. City of New York, the class-action lawsuit brought before Scheindlin. Here’s how The Wall Street Journal described what happened with him:

[Floyd] was observed trying numerous keys and jostling a door in an area where a series of burglaries had recently been reported. Because burglary is often a violent crime, the judge thought the cops were justified in stopping and frisking the men’s’ outer garments but went too far in checking Mr. Floyd’s pockets. Therefore the judge ruled that his Fourth Amendment rights had been violated.

Can you believe what you just read? According to Scheindlin, the police were justified in searching Floyd’s jacket. But how dare they see what he had in his pants’ pocket!

Here’s how The Journal describes a second of Judge Scheindlin’s examples:

Then there’s Clive Lino, stopped and frisked in 2011 because he matched the description of a homicide suspect from a wanted poster distributed to officers that morning – right down to his red leather Pelle Pelle jacket.

Sounds like good police work, doesn’t it? Not good enough, the judge ruled: “Here again the judge saw a reasonable stop and even a reasonable frisk, but a frisk that went too far and created another alleged Fourth Amendment violation.”

In her ruling, Scheindlin said that the New York Police Department conducted 4.4 million stops from January 2004 through June 2012. Yet the class-action lawsuit brought before her cited only 19 cases. You would think that if you could cherry-pick just 19 examples out of a total of 4.4 million cases, all of them would be horrifying examples of police misconduct.

That isn’t what happened. The judge said that in five cases, such as the two cited above, the stops were reasonable but the frisks went too far. In another five cases, neither the stops nor the frisks were unreasonable.

That left only nine cases — fewer than half — wherein she concluded that both the stops and the frisks were not based on reasonable suspicion and thus were unConstitutional.

Scheindlin ordered that new procedures be enacted by the police to end the discrimination and that a Federal monitor be appointed to make sure her instructions are carried out.

Bloomberg promptly announced that the City will appeal Scheindlin’s decision. Hopefully, the U.S. Court of Appeals — and, if necessary, the U.S. Supreme Court — will overturn her ruling.

What if that doesn’t happen? The Wall Street Journal put it this way:

The tragedy is that if the judge’s ruling isn’t overturned, the victims won’t be in the tony precincts of liberal New York. They will be in the barrios and housing projects where stop-and-frisk has helped to protect the most vulnerable citizens, who are usually minorities.

Once again, liberal policies hurt the most the very people they claim to want to help. So what else is new?

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Please, Governor Christie: Shut Up!

What is it with Republicans anyway? Why, when public sentiment is shifting in their favor, do they form a circular firing squad and begin taking pot shots at each other?

Let’s begin the sad survey with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s needless denunciation of the “dangerous” tilt toward libertarianism represented by Rand Paul, the junior Senator from Kentucky.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hlDj7ZLWTo

Sitting on a panel with other Republican Governors last month, Christie fired the first shot when he said: “This strain of libertarianism that’s going through both parties right now and making big headlines I think is a very dangerous thought.”

He went on to say: “I love all these esoteric debates that people are getting in.”

Asked if he was referring to Paul, who is often mentioned as a potential rival for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2016, Christie replied, “You can name any number of people who have engaged in it, and he’s one of them. I mean these esoteric, intellectual debates.”

Christie suggested that anyone who opposes National Security Agency surveillance efforts should talk to the families of those who died in the 9/11 attacks. “I want them to come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and orphans and have that conversation,” he declared. “And they won’t. ’Cause that’s a lot tougher conversation to have.”

Paul responded via Twitter.

Regarding Christie’s comments, Paul told Newsmax: “It’s a low blow to anyone to use someone’s tragedy.”

Could the debate sink any lower? Well, yes, it could. And it did, when Representative Peter King (R-N.Y.) decided to pile on. He declared that his fellow Republican (Paul, not Christie) would have favored a policy of appeasing Adolf Hitler if he had been in Congress in the years leading up to World War II.

Turns out that both Christie and King are still annoyed at Paul for not agreeing to all of the Federal aid they wanted in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. Paul tried to set the record straight on that one.

“I actually supported giving them one year’s worth of funding and then offset the spending that we spent on Sandy — offset it with spending cuts with money that we’re spending overseas giving to countries that are burning our flag,” he told Newsmax.

But the argument over government snooping on our emails and phone calls is just one of the battlegrounds dividing Republicans in Congress. Immigration is another big one. So is the coming battle over raising the debt ceiling.

But the biggest one right now is on efforts to defund Obamacare.

While no one thinks that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act can be repealed in the current Congress, Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) are leading efforts to cut off the money to implement it. Doing that is “the single best opportunity to defeat Obamacare,” Cruz says. And he adds, “The fight we are engaged in in the next 60 days is the most important fight of this Congress.”

Not every conservative agrees with him. Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who can usually be counted on to support any effort to trim Federal spending, has been outspoken in his opposition to the defunding efforts. He’s called the proposals “hype,” “dishonest” and “impossible.”

“I’m getting phone calls from Oklahoma saying ‘Support Mike Lee,’” Coburn has said. “And I’m ramming right back: Support him in destroying the Republican Party?”

Those are unusually harsh words from the normally mild-mannered Coburn. They earned him some applause from Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), who once dubbed his libertarian colleagues as a bunch of “wackobirds.” McCain sent out this tweet:

And Richard Burr (R-N.C.) called the defunding proposal “the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.”

What’s got them all so upset? It’s the idea that if Congress doesn’t pass a continuing resolution by Oct. 1 to fund the Federal government, the government will have to shut down. And the Democrats have said they won’t approve any measure that doesn’t include money for Obamacare.

Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer has made it clear that he does not agree with the GOP insurgents:

This is nuts. The president will never sign a bill defunding the singular achievement of his presidency. Especially when he has control of the Senate. Especially when, though a narrow 51 percent majority of Americans disapproves of Obamacare, only 36 percent favors repeal. President Obama so knows he’ll win any shutdown showdown that he’s practically goading the Republicans into trying.

Never make a threat on which you are not prepared to deliver. Every fiscal showdown has redounded against the Republicans. The first, in 1995, effectively marked the end of the Gingrich revolution. The latest, last December, led to a last-minute Republican cave that humiliated the GOP and did nothing to stop the tax hike it so strongly opposed.

Karl Rove has also joined the “don’t defund” side of the debate. In his column last week in The Wall Street Journal, the Republican bigwig warned:

For congressional Republicans, the challenge is to keep the upper hand provided by their strategy of passing continuing resolutions at current levels to fund the government. They must not overreach. For it’s an iron law that Republicans get blamed for any government shutdown, no matter who controls the White House or Congress.

So Mr. Obama is baiting Republicans to overplay their hand by forcing a government shutdown or failing to offer a constructive conservative agenda.

Daniel Horowitz, policy director for the Madison Project, is one of many conservatives who disagree. He has called for a “fight to the death” over this issue:

We stand today at the precipice of enacting the worst government program ever. We have two choices: we can continue funding Obamacare, only to find ourselves discussing modest tweaks to the law in 10 years from now — not unlike the way we are forced to approach Medicare now. Or we can end the cycle of big government by forcing a fight to the death over this cancer to our country before it take effect. It is that simple. There are no other options. Anyone who opposes the defund effort before the law takes effect is essentially admitting that Obamacare will become enshrined into the welfare state forever.

Cruz agrees. “If we don’t stand and fight now,” he said, “we never will. If we don’t stand and defund Obamacare today, we are saying we surrender.”

So the battle lines have been drawn. Expect the war of words to escalate dramatically when Congress comes back from its August recess. The pressure to cave will be enormous.

Do you know where your Congressman stands on this issue? If you don’t, this would be a mighty good time to find out. And help stiffen his backbone, if he needs it.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Hillary Clinton’s Sexting Problem

You know Hillary and Bill Clinton wish that Anthony Weiner and his wife would just disappear. Vanish into thin air, never to be heard from again. They’ve got to be sick and tired of hearing people say that Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, is “just like Hillary.”

You would have thought that after a sexting scandal that forced him to resign from Congress two years ago, Weiner would have learned his lesson. But, no, the contender to be the next mayor of New York has sent sexually explicit text messages to several other young women over the past couple of years. And still, his long-suffering wife says she has forgiven his wayward ways and will stick by him.

It’s just like Hillary Clinton did for husband Bill 15 years ago, when news got out of his sexual hanky-panky with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Remember how Hillary Clinton tried to blame reports of her husband’s indiscretions on a “vast right-wing conspiracy?” That didn’t work very well, did it?

Apparently, the comparison of the two scandals is driving the Clintons bonkers. The New York Post reports that a top Democrat told the paper: “The Clintons are pissed off that Weiner’s campaign is saying that Huma is just like Hillary. How dare they compare Huma with Hillary? Hillary was the first lady. Hillary was a senator. She was secretary of state.”

And for much of that time, Abedin was there beside her, both as a friend and as an employee. Columnist Christine M. Flowers pointed out: “Huma Abedin has been by her mentor’s side for almost two decades, and it is reasonable to think that she spent a large part of that time taking notes about how to thrive and prosper in the political jungle…. Anthony’s wife has taken a page from her pseudo-mama’s dog-eared book and has perfected the art of damage control.”

Flowers wrote: “[W]e are now in the presence of Hillary Clinton, version 2.1.”

Maureen Dowd, the preachy liberal columnist for The New York Times, reminded her readers that Bill Clinton officiated at Abedin’s and Weiner’s wedding in 2010. And she managed to find one positive result from the latest Weiner escapades: “Aside from being a gift to clowns, hacks, punsters, rivals and the writers of ‘The Good Wife,’ Carlos Danger [one of Weiner’s texting non de plumes] is also a gift to political-scandal survivors. His behavior is so outlandish and contemptible — the sort of thing that used to require a trench coat and a park — that it allows Eliot Spitzer and Bill Clinton to act huffy.”

“Huffy” isn’t quite the right word to describe how Bill and Hillary Clinton feel about the constant comparisons — and reminders. A much better description would be “furious.” And no wonder. Of course they’d be angry about anything that reminds voters of the Lewinsky scandal. After all, it was Bill Clinton’s less-than-honest testimony back then (remember his claim that “it depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is”?) that led to his impeachment by the House of Representatives.

Yes, if the media keep reminding people of what happened back then, it just might cut into the millions of dollars in speaking fees that Bill Clinton is earning today. Even worse, it could affect Hillary Clinton’s chances to be elected President herself in 2016. So no wonder they both wish that the comparisons would stop. And that Weiner would cancel his campaign for mayor and just quietly fade away.

The New York Times says it has seen and heard enough. An editorial on the subject concluded, “The serially evasive Mr. Weiner should take his marital troubles and personal compulsions out of the public eye, away from cameras, off the Web and out of the race for mayor of New York City.”

But it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen anytime soon. In fact, Weiner himself has repeatedly vowed that he won’t drop out of the race, no matter how many editors and politicians urge him to do so. “Quit isn’t the way we roll in New York City,” he declared.

He also said he didn’t much care what Hillary or Bill Clinton thought. “I am not terribly interested in what people who are not voters in the city of New York have to say,” Weiner told reporters.

Apparently, he doesn’t much care what likely Democratic voters in New York City think either. According to the latest Quinnipiac poll, a majority of them also say that Weiner should withdraw from the race.

Nor is Weiner’s sexting scandal all the negative publicity his campaign is receiving. Now it’s his communications director, Barbara Morgan, who’s making headlines. Seems she went on an expletive-filled rant against a campaign intern. And she did it while a reporter was recording every word.

I can’t repeat most of what Morgan said, because it was too X-rated for this publication. One of the few allowable epithets she used was “slutbag.” Will Morgan’s dirty language take the spotlight off her boss’s dirty text messages? Not for long.

In the meantime, there’s another election in New York City that will also test voter forgiveness. Former Governor Spitzer is running for city comptroller. Spitzer resigned as Governor in 2008, after only a year in office, when revelations emerged that he was Client No. 9 of a high-priced prostitution service.

And through it all, Spitzer’s wife, Sida, also stood by her man. That scandal was said to be the inspiration for the popular TV show “The Good Wife.”

So far, the media response to all of this has been to treat Weiner like a laughing-stock, his wife Abedin as an unfortunate victim and Hillary Clinton like an innocent bystander.

Hillary Clinton gets to enjoy lunch with the President outside the Oval Office, far above all the mud that’s being flung below her. She’ll pretend she doesn’t hear any of the comparisons with her former friend until New York’s mayoral election is over and Weiner’s sexting problem is finally forgotten.

At least, that’s what she hopes. Based on what’s happened since her husband’s sex scandal 15 years ago, Hillary Clinton has every reason to be optimistic.

Isn’t it wonderful what can happen (and what won’t happen) when you have the mass media running interference for you?

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

– Chip Wood

Edward Snowden: Traitor Or Hero?

In today’s column, I’m going to share an extraordinary email exchange between a former U.S. Senator and Edward Snowden, the infamous betrayer of Washington secrets. I think I can promise that it will cause you to look at this controversy in a whole new way.

By now, you can almost feel a bit sorry for Snowden, the whistle-blower extraordinaire who has been forced to remain in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport for more than a month. I’ve been stuck at a lot of different airports over the years, and it was never fun. And none of them, thank God, was in Russia.

Now comes word that the Russian authorities will finally permit Snowden to leave the airport while they consider his application for asylum. I have no idea why it took so long. Like bureaucracies everywhere, the ones in Moscow apparently move at their own glacial pace.

So what do you think? Is Snowden a traitorous dog who deserves the harshest penalties the United States can impose on him (if U.S. authorities can ever get their hands on him, that is)?

Or is he an authentic American hero who sacrificed a comfortable life to bring us the truth about how far our government has gone to snoop on all of us? Even the members of the intelligence committees in Congress, who supposedly knew all about the secretive surveillance being carried out by the National Security Agency and other government watchdogs, say they have been shocked to learn of the extent of what was going on.

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to ask more than 1,000 liberty lovers what they thought of Snowden. I was the master of ceremonies at something called FreedomFest, an annual conference that describes itself as “the world’s largest gathering of free minds.” Most of the attendees would probably describe themselves as libertarians, although traditional conservatives were certainly well-represented, both in the audience and at the podium.

When I asked the audience for their opinion of Snowden and what he did, I expected them to be fairly evenly divided. It was not even close. Fewer than 10 percent raised their hands when I asked if they thought he should be prosecuted for revealing state secrets. The overwhelming majority — by a rough estimate, more than 85 percent of the audience — said he deserved our praise and thanks for helping to expose what one speaker referred to as “the surveillance state.”

Shortly after returning home, I received a fascinating email exchange between Snowden and a former politician I remember fondly. Gordon J. Humphrey was a two-term Senator from New Hampshire. Here is the message he sent Snowden, via Glen Greenwald, the writer for The Guardian in London who broke the story of Snowden’s incredible disclosures:

Mr. Snowden,

Provided you have not leaked information that would put in harms (sic) way any intelligence agent, I believe you have done the right thing in exposing what I regard as massive violation of the United States Constitution.

Having served in the United States Senate for twelve years as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, the Armed Services Committee and the Judiciary Committee, I think I have a good grounding to reach my conclusion.

I wish you well in your efforts to secure asylum and encourage you to persevere.

Kindly acknowledge this message, so that I will know it reached you.

Regards,
Gordon J. Humphrey
Former United States Senator
New Hampshire

Humphrey received the following email from Snowden. Its authenticity was also confirmed by Greenwald.

Mr. Humphrey,

Thank you for your words of support. I only wish more of our lawmakers shared your principles – the actions I’ve taken would not have been necessary.

The media has distorted my actions and intentions to distract from the substance of Constitutional violations and instead focus on personalities. It seems they believe every modern narrative requires a bad guy. Perhaps it does. Perhaps, in such times, loving one’s country means being hated by its government.

If history proves that be so, I will not shy from that hatred. I will not hesitate to wear those charges of villainy for the rest of my life as a civic duty, allowing those governing few who dared not do so themselves to use me as an excuse to right these wrongs.

My intention, which I outlined when this began, is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them. I remain committed to that. Though reporters and officials may never believe it, I have not provided any information that would harm our people – agent or not – and I have no intention to do so.

Further, no intelligence service – not even our own – has the capacity to compromise the secrets I continue to protect. While it has not been reported in the media, one of my specializations was to teach our people at DIA how to keep such information from being compromised even in the highest threat counter-intelligence environments (i.e. China).

You may rest easy knowing I cannot be coerced into revealing that information, even under torture.

With my thanks for your service to the nation we both love,

Edward Snowden

So what do you think of that? When he talks about media distortions that are being done “to distract from the substance of Constitutional violations,” Snowden sounds like a columnist for Personal Liberty Digest™, doesn’t he?

And when he wonders if “loving one’s country means being hated by its government,” he sounds like many of our readers.

Right now, there’s only one thing keeping me from coming down 100 percent on the side of “hero.” And that is the path Snowden has chosen to follow since those first incredible disclosures.

When the story first broke, I was impressed that this obscure contractor was willing to turn his life upside down to expose the truth about the NSA’s massive surveillance efforts. “Good for him,” was my first reaction. What an incredibly brave thing to do, I thought, knowing that he would immediately become the declared enemy of the most powerful government on Earth.

But it’s not civil disobedience if you’re not willing to face the consequences of your actions. I hoped that Snowden would come back to the United States and face his accusers in an open and public trial. Instead, he fled to China and then on to Russia — two countries that aren’t exactly known for a commitment to the freedom of their own citizens. And if he ever gets permission to leave Russia, he’s indicated that he might like to settle in Venezuela or Bolivia — two countries that are a lot closer to a “dictatorship of the proletariat” than anything resembling the Constitutional protections that we have long taken for granted.

What’s next? Anatoly Kucherena, Snowden’s Russian attorney, told CNN: “As far as I know, he’s planning to stay in Russia to learn Russian culture, Russian language and (to) live here.” If he does, it won’t be anything like his life in Hawaii before all this happened, where Snowden himself said he lived in “paradise.”

Our government has asked Russia to extradite Snowden back to the United States, but it doesn’t sound like Russian President Vladimir Putin has any intention of granting that request. (There is no extradition treaty between the two countries.) Putin has said that Snowden will need to “stop his work aimed at harming our American partners” if he wants to remain in the country.

Meanwhile, both Venezuela and Bolivia have said they would be delighted to grant asylum to Snowden. And Nicaragua has said it would do so “if circumstances permit,” whatever that means.

Oh, and one more thing. When Greenwald contacted Humphrey, to confirm the authenticity of his original email, Humphrey expanded on what he wrote Snowden:

I object to the monumentally disproportionate campaign being waged by the U.S. Government against Edward Snowden, while no effort is being made to identify, remove from office and bring to justice those officials who have abused power, seriously and repeatedly violating the Constitution of the United States and the rights of millions of unsuspecting citizens.

Americans concerned about the growing arrogance of our government and its increasingly menacing nature should be working to help Mr. Snowden find asylum. Former Members of Congress, especially, should step forward and speak out.

Count me among those willing to speak out. I’d love to see us bring to justice those officials who have “abused power, seriously and repeatedly violating the Constitution of the United States.” Wouldn’t you?

In the meantime, I think we owe Snowden a huge “thank you” for what he’s done to expose the Big Brother surveillance taking place in what used to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. Now it seems we’re the not-so-free and the not-very-brave.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

The Media Fail To Start A Race War

You have to wonder: Does the mainstream media really want blacks in this country to riot because a jury of his peers found George Zimmerman “not guilty” of the charges against him?

That’s certainly the impression I get from the coverage of the trial and its aftermath.

Correction: The incredibly biased and often incendiary reporting began long before the first day of the trial. It started, in fact, shortly after the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, 2012. And it skyrocketed when authorities in Sanford, Fla., said there wasn’t enough evidence to charge Zimmerman with murder.

That was all the professional race-baiters needed to launch a national crusade for “justice.” Virtually overnight, Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, NAACP officials and numerous other crusaders had an issue that would get them in front of the cameras again. They grabbed their megaphones and put on their marching shoes. And the mainstream media promptly gave them all of the publicity they could want.

The pressure for the authorities to bring charges was impossible to resist. The Sanford police chief was fired for refusing to arrest Zimmerman. Angela Corey, the State Attorney in Florida, led a prosecution that was so biased and dishonest that Alan Dershowitz, the liberal Harvard Law professor, says she should be the one to be put on trial.

“I think there were violations of civil rights and civil liberties — by the prosecutor,” Dershowitz said. “The prosecutor sent this case to a judge and willfully, deliberately and, in my view, criminally withheld exculpatory evidence.”

The famous criminal-law expert added specifics: “They denied the judge the right to see pictures that showed Zimmerman with his nose broken and his head bashed in. The prosecution should be investigated for civil rights violations and civil liberty violations.”

Fat chance that will happen.

As just one example of how viciously the media distorted things before the jury rendered its verdict, consider Zimmerman’s telephone call to 911 on the night of the shooting. Here’s what the “Today” show played for its audience a month later: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. He looks black.”

Sure makes it sounds as though Zimmerman based his concern on Martin’s skin color, doesn’t it? That’s what the media wanted you to think. But as we subsequently learned, the “Today” editors deliberately omitted an important part of that telephone call. Here’s a transcript of the actual conversation:

Zimmerman: “This guy looks like he’s up to no good. Or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.”

Dispatcher: “OK, and this guy – is he black, white, or Hispanic?”

Zimmerman: “He looks black.”

You’ll be pleased to learn that Steve Capus, who at the time was president of NBC News, said that the edited phone call was most emphatically “not a deliberate act to misrepresent the phone call.” Sure thing, Steve. And thanks for assuring us that the people guilty of this flagrant distortion were “disciplined,” whatever that means.

As it happens, a lengthy investigation by the FBI could find absolutely no evidence that Zimmerman has ever expressed any racist sentiments. And you can bet the liberal media tried desperately to find some.

Zimmerman’s attorneys say that now that his trial is over, they plan to proceed with a defamation lawsuit against NBC News. I wish them well. In fact, I hope Zimmerman collects a ton of money. He’s going to need it, since it looks like he will be put on trial again.

That’s right. The NAACP is leading an effort to have Zimmerman face Federal charges of violating Martin’s civil rights. Some even want him charged with a hate crime. The NAACP has collected more than 450,000 signatures for a petition campaign with this appeal: “A jury has acquitted George Zimmerman, but we are not done demanding justice for Trayvon Martin. Sign our petition to the Department of Justice today.”

If the race-baiters have their way, Zimmerman will once more be on trial — this time in a Federal court. So we’ll once again hear the media go through distortions to make everything about race. That’s why we got such absurdities as the media description of him as “a white Hispanic.”

Meanwhile, the Orlando Sentinel reported that the Justice Department is asking for the public to assist in its investigation: “The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday afternoon appealed to civil rights groups and community leaders, nationally and in Sanford, for help investigating whether a federal criminal case might be brought against George Zimmerman for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, one advocate said.”

Apparently, if you know anything that could lead the Feds to press charges, they want you to send them an email about it. Can you imagine the kind of “tips” they’re going to receive? And probably not just about Zimmerman. I’ll bet they receive all sorts of rumors and accusations about his defense attorneys. Heck, they’ll probably even get a ton of scuttlebutt about some of the jurors.

Much was made of the fact that, of the six women on the jury that acquitted Zimmerman, not one of them was black. There were five whites and one Hispanic. But here’s something you may not have known: There was a black male in the jury pool, but he was rejected by the prosecution. Why? Because he admitted that he watched FOX News. That was all the prosecution needed to hear.

According to a recent Rasmussen poll, more blacks think other blacks are racists than whites. Yes, you read that correctly. The Rasmussen pollsters say that 31 percent of blacks believe most blacks are racist, while only 24 percent of blacks believe that most whites are. Interesting, isn’t it?

Thankfully, some black leaders are speaking out in opposition to more criminal prosecution of Zimmerman. Alveda King, the niece of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., had this to say about the efforts of the NAACP and other organizations: “We need to wonder why they’re doing that, what kind of checks and money they’re getting behind the scenes to stir us up into racial anarchy. We should be speaking non-violence, justice, peace and love as Trayvon’s parents are doing, by the way. So we need to ask why they’re race baiting, because they are.”

After what was probably the most highly publicized trial of this century, Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges against him. That’s not good enough for Sharpton and the other professional race baiters. Nor is it good enough for the liberal-dominated media. They love to feature any criticism of this country, no matter how distorted or exaggerated.

Thankfully, so far at least, all we’ve seen are what the media refer to as “mostly peaceful” demonstrations against the verdict. It could have been a lot worse. And if the race baiters get their way and Zimmerman goes on trial again, I’m afraid it will be.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

An Expert Games The System

You’ve got to hand it to Dorothy Dugger. The lady is an absolute genius when it comes to squeezing every possible penny from her former employer and from the taxpayers who ultimately foot the bill.

For more than 20 years, Dugger was employed by the Bay Area Rapid Transit system in San Francisco. And even though she didn’t do a lick of work for BART last year, she still managed to earn more than any of the other 3,340 BART employees — including the person who replaced her as general manager.

Although it sounds impossible, she earned a gross salary of more than $333,000 in 2012 without putting in a single hour on the job. Hers was the top wage at BART. I’ll tell you in a moment how she did it.

But that’s not all. Check out the other ways the longtime government employee found to game the system. Her ultimate payoff could be in the millions of dollars.

The sad charade began in the spring of 2011, when BART’s board tried to fire her as general manager. However, in the process, the board failed to follow some of the State’s public-meeting laws. Rather than face a messy lawsuit over their mistake, the board agreed to pay Dugger $920,000 if she’d just go away.

Dugger agreed and tendered her resignation in May 2011. But that was far from the end of the story. She then said she wanted to start collecting for all of the vacation time she had earned but not used in the 20 years she worked for BART. Believe it or not, that came to nearly 3,100 hours of unused vacation time.

Unlike most businesses, which have a “use it or lose it” policy when it comes to vacations, BART allows its employees to bank the value of those unused vacation days. And get this: The “value” is calculated not at what the employee was earning at the time, but at whatever salary was being paid when the employee decides to collect on it. Because Dugger got a raise of nearly $100,000 a year when she became general manager of BART in 2007, her unused vacation time took a considerable jump in value. It was now worth a small fortune.

As a result, she was able to sit at home, not doing a lick of work, and still collect a full salary, for more than 19 months. Impressive, huh?

Dugger got a paycheck and full benefits from May 2011 until December 2012. That came to another half-a-million bucks the lady collected. But there’s more. For “working” those extra 19 months, Dugger also collected an additional $138,000 in vacation time and bonuses.

That’s right. Because of the screwy way BART calculates employee benefits, Dugger earned two more months of vacation time while she was, in effect, on a paid vacation. And she got “management bonuses” even though she didn’t manage a single employee. How’s that for a sweetheart deal?

Oh, and now that she is finally off of BART’s payroll, the goodies won’t stop. She’s now collecting a pension of $181,000 a year. That figure would have been lower, but those 80 weeks of unused vacation time also boosted her pension by more than $1,000 a month.

The San Jose Mercury News reported on the grand total of Dugger’s post-resignation payday. Here’s what it found:

Settlement payment to avert lawsuit, May, 2011: $920,000
Unused vacation time as of May 2011: About 3,100 hours
Gross pay, June 2011 to December 2012: $558,000
Cost to BART for benefits, June 2011 to December 2012: $138,000
Monthly pension payments, beginning January 2013: $15,083

I hope you’re as outraged as I am by this incredible abuse of what is clearly a very lax and overly generous system.

If you are, here’s something that should make you even more upset: There are literally millions of Americans who are counting on you to provide them with a cushy, comfortable retirement. And many of them will also game the system to make their retirement pensions as high as possible. (Putting in lots of expensive overtime the last year or two on the job is just one way many of them can jack up their retirement pay.)

And unlike private companies which can go bankrupt, taking many employees’ pension plans down with them, government employees can be confident the goodies will never end. They know that governments can raise taxes (and in the case of the Feds, simply print more money) to keep those pension checks coming.

But present and future government pensioners aren’t the only ones who are counting on taxpayers to make life better for them. Consider: The U.S. Department of Agriculture now reports that 101 million Americans now participate in at least one of the 15 food assistance programs that the agency offers. The total cost for those 15 programs in fiscal 2012 was a staggering $114 billion.

At the same time, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says the number of full-time employees in the private sector came to 97,180,000 in 2012. In other words, there are more people getting food assistance in this country than there are people working full-time outside of government to pay for it.

If you think your share of the price tag has gotten bigger, you are absolutely right. Here’s how former Senator Phil Gramm summarized the situation in a column in The Wall Street Journal:

In 1980, the top 1% and 5% of income earners in America paid 19.1% and 36.9% of total federal income taxes. Today, the top 1% and 5% pay 37.4% and 59.1%. Meanwhile, 41.6% of American earners now pay no federal income taxes.

The bottom line is that there are fewer and fewer of us picking up the tab for more and more freeloaders. No wonder our share of the bill is getting higher.

It’s a battle between the taxpayers and the tax receivers. And right now, the tax receivers are winning.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Even More Reasons To Hate Obamacare

Tick, tick, tick. That’s the sound of the clock ticking down to when the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPAACA) — the monstrosity known as Obamacare — will go into effect. If you think there are good reasons to detest this legislation now, just wait until you actually have to begin obeying it.

As we celebrate this Independence Day weekend, I’ve got a suggestion on how the House of Representatives could take a giant step toward gaining our independence from this massive government takeover of our healthcare system. More on that later in this column. But first, let’s look at some additional reasons why we must drive a stake through the heart of this beast.

Remember when then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said we had to pass Obamacare to find out what’s in it? At the time, the bill was more than 2,700 pages long. You can bet your bottom dollar that not a single member of Congress had read the darned thing, much less understood what implementing it would mean for this country.

Since then, more than 20,000 pages of new regulations have been issued by the Federal government to interpret and enforce the legislation’s new requirements. That’s more than twice as many pages as the Internal Revenue Service tax code — and you know how easy it is to understand and comply with that Federal juggernaut.

Speaking of the IRS, it should send chills up and down your spine to realize that this is the agency that will be responsible for enforcing many of the provisions of Obamacare. The IRS says it will have to hire 17,000 new agents to insure compliance. Oh, boy. I can hardly wait.

Meanwhile, we’re starting to get a better idea of just how expensive this Federal takeover of our healthcare system will be. This past Monday, the lead story in The Wall Street Journal carried the headline, “Insurance Costs Set for a Jolt.” The first sentence began: “Healthy consumers could see insurance rates double or even triple when they look for individual coverage under the federal health law later this year.”

Don’t say we didn’t warn you. The article adds that many of the most cost-effective plans currently available may disappear: “The exchanges, the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s health-care law, look likely to offer few if any of the cut-rate policies that healthy people can now buy, according to the Journal’s analysis.”

Many businesses did a catch break earlier this week, when the Obama Administration announced that it would delay for a year enforcement of one of the law’s most onerous provision: the requirement that any business with 50 or more full-time employees offer healthcare benefits starting Jan. 1, or face fines of $2,000 per employee or more.

That means this provision won’t kick in until after the November 2014 elections, when one-third of the Senate seats and all of the House seats will be up for grabs. Just an eerie coincidence, I’m sure.

Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), one of the legislators who helped draft the original legislation, said of the bill’s implementation, “I just see a huge train wreck coming down.” The veteran politician, who currently serves as chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, has decided to head for the hills before the damage becomes obvious to everyone. He’s announced that he will retire at the end of next year, rather than face the voters in Montana another time.

No wonder some potential endorsers of the legislation are also saying “no thanks.” Last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius proudly announced that the NFL was “enthusiastically engaged” in talks with the Administration about how it could help promote the new health-insurance options mandated by Obamacare.

It turns out she was a bit premature. After hearing about the Administration’s plans to line up celebrity endorsements for Obamacare, Senate Republican leaders Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) sent the five major professional sports leagues a letter urging them not to do so.

The NFL promptly issued a statement saying it “currently [has] no plans to engage in this area.” And the NBA also denied plans for any such promotional efforts, saying there is “nothing we plan to announce at this point.”

So we may be spared hearing a millionaire athlete telling us how good Obamacare will be for us. But Investors Business Daily has the details of an even more nefarious scheme to gain support for Obamacare. The newspaper says that over $1 million bucks is being spent in California to turn students into advocates for socialized healthcare. Tell me this doesn’t make your blood boil:

The goal is to train millions of student messengers statewide to sell the idea of government-subsidized health insurance to parents and relatives at home and to get more people enrolled in Obamacare.

Taxpayer-paid public school staff will also be used to phone students’ homes urging enrollment under Obama’s Affordable Care Act. And they will be used to consume precious class instructional time to teach the students all about the healthcare program that the Democrat Congress did not read before passing in 2010.

Now, I realize that California is the most liberal State in the country. A friend of mine who lives there likes to refer to it as “the People’s Republic of California.” But I can’t believe there won’t be a ton of parents furious at these plans to turn their children into miniature propagandists for Obamacare.

By the way, if you think the new healthcare exchanges will be a train wreck, just wait until the Independent Payment Advisory Board is fully operational. This is the outfit that Sarah Palin referred to as a “death panel.” Although she was lambasted unmercifully at the time for that description, it turns out the former Alaska Governor was, if anything, understating the case.

David B. Rivkin Jr., the lawyer who led the legal challenge to Obamacare in the courts, has warned of the “god-like powers” the PPAACA bestowed on this powerful group.

In an article for The Wall Street Journal, Rivkin and Elizabeth Foley, a professor of Constitutional law, wrote:

The bottom line is that the Independent Payment Advisory Board isn’t a typical executive agency. It’s a new beast that exercises both executive and legislative power but can’t be controlled by either branch. Seniors and providers hit hardest by the board’s decisions will have nowhere to turn for relief–not Congress, not the president, not the courts.

How could this possibly be?

“The Obamacare law also stipulates that there ‘shall be no administrative or judicial review’ of the board’s decisions,” Rivkin and Roley report.

How could Congress vote to create such an obviously unconstitutional group? Remember that statement by Pelosi? Clearly, they didn’t know they were doing it. And clearly, the bill’s supporters planned it that way.

So what can we do about it? There’s no point asking the House of Representatives to pass another repeal bill. Been there; done that. Nothing will change here until we get a conservative majority in the Senate (hopefully in 2014) or a new occupant in the White House (hopefully not Hillary Clinton in 2016).

But here’s something the House could do tomorrow: Cut off funding to implement the darned thing.

Yes, I know. For the past umpteen years, the attitude in Washington has been that once a program has been approved, of course it has to be funded. But does it? The Constitution doesn’t say so. In fact, it states very clearly that every spending bill, every time, must originate in the House of Representatives.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see the House refuse to vote the funds to pay for those 17,000 new IRS agents or a bunch of the other mandates in the badly misnamed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act?

How about defunding the unconstitutional National Labor Relations Board or the outrageous edicts emanating from the Environmental Protection Agency? In fact, how about defunding enough Federal programs to end deficit spending? Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

This is a battle I’d love to see us wage. So how about it, Congressmen? Isn’t it high time to stop signing all of those checks? Especially when you have to borrow the money to pay for them?

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Marco Rubio’s Big Immigration Mistake

What a sad transformation it’s been to see Senator Marco Rubio go from being a Tea Party hero to an apologist for the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill.

Back in 2010, Rubio was a handsome and articulate State Senator in Florida when he decided to run for the U.S. Senate. Doing so meant defying the Republican establishment’s hand-picked selection, then-Governor Charlie Crist.

There were two make-or-break issues in the Republican primary that year. The first was Barack Obama’s massively expensive stimulus program. Crist was so enamored of it that he actually agreed to have a photograph taken of him publicly embracing the President. We’ll never know how many votes that hug cost him, but it was a bunch.

Rubio said that counting on Federal handouts to create jobs was a huge mistake. He called instead for letting the free enterprise system work, by lowering taxes and reducing regulation. The voters made it clear which message they preferred.

The other issue that marked a sharp disagreement between the two candidates was immigration reform and, in particular, amnesty for the millions of people who were in this country illegally. Crist endorsed amnesty; Rubio, the son of immigrants from Cuba, said he was unalterably opposed to it. In speech after speech, Rubio repeated this warning in some form: If you grant amnesty in any form, you will destroy any chance we ever have of having a legal immigration system that works here in America.

It was those two stands, more than any others, that made Rubio a Tea Party favorite and led to his victory over his much more liberal opponent. Crist subsequently resigned from the Republican Party and joined the Democrats.

But since then, Rubio agreed to become one of four Republican members of the Senate’s Gang of Eight. Since two of his Republican colleagues were John McCain of Arizona and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina and the Democrat members included Chuck Schumer of New York and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, you won’t be surprised to learn that the final agreement includes amnesty.

It was also apparent that a whole lot of horse-trading was going on behind the scenes to ensure passage of the bill. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), one of the Tea Party heroes who has not abandoned his opposition to the current immigration bill, castigated the “laundry list of buyoffs” that has been made to insure a favorable vote. These include:

  • Diverting a chunk of the money for border security to Maine — a State that, so far as I know, has never had a problem with illegal immigrants hiking in from Canada — to win the support of Susan Collins, that State’s Senator.
  • Some special bequests for the seafood industry in Alaska, so that State’s two Senators, Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich, will get behind the bill.
  • And in one of the smelliest deals of all, a $1.5 billion jobs program, the price demanded by Vermont’s socialist Senator Bernie Sanders for his support.

All of that helps explain why Cruz said, “Rarely do we see so transparently how votes in the Senate are bought and sold.” Oh yes we have, Senator. It’s just that in the past they were called “earmarks.”

After weeks of behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing, the current immigration bill was finally made available for Senators to see last Friday afternoon. The Senate was expected to vote on some of its most important provisions just 72 hours later. Does the process remind you of the way Obamacare was rushed through Congress?

No matter. The bill was approved yesterday by a vote of 68-32, followed by a ton of self-congratulation among the victorious Senators. The measure now goes to the House of Representatives, where it will face a much tougher battle.

If there’s any lesson we’ve learned over the recent past, it’s that we can’t trust a politician’s promise. Yet that’s exactly what this current measure does when it comes to protecting our borders. It calls for beginning the legalization process now and says that border protection will follow. “Trust us on this” is the refrain.

Are they crazy?

The proposal says that the border is “secure” when it catches or keeps out 90 percent of those who try to enter the country illegally. That’s far from perfect, but it’s sure a heck of a lot better than we’ve been doing.

The question is: Who decides when that goal is achieved? The current legislation calls for the President and his minions to make that determination. We’re supposed to trust the same folks who have screwed up on so many fronts for so long. That’s ridiculous.

Instead, Congress should be the branch that determines when our border is secure. Members of the House of Representatives are a lot more accountable to the voters than any President — especially a lame duck who won’t run for office again.

What This Bill Doesn’t Do

There’s been a lot of talk about what this bill does, including all of the promises about tightening up our borders. But far more important is something it doesn’t do. In fact, it’s an issue that is almost never even mentioned in the immigration debate.

I’m referring to the absurdity of granting citizenship to each and every child who is born within our borders — no matter if the parents are here legally or not.

That’s right. It is the official policy of the U.S. government that any child, born in this country to illegal immigrants, automatically and immediately becomes a citizen of the United States.

Such infants are sometimes referred to as “anchor babies,” because their immediate and automatic citizenship is the “anchor” on which a host of other claims, from welfare to others’ citizenship, can be made.

On the face of it, this sounds patently absurd. How can a newborn baby be eligible for citizenship when his parents are not? Not merely eligible, mind you, but granted it automatically? The new citizen is immediately entitled to all the benefits that accompany citizenship: schooling, medical care, food stamps and other welfare, and a whole host of “public assistance.”

This is not how it should be. Yes, it’s true we are a Nation of immigrants. But what a difference there is between this process and what our predecessors experienced. Many of us have grandparents or great-grandparents who overcame incredible obstacles to become citizens of this country. Before they were accepted, they had to pass a rigorous and demanding test. The questions they were asked and their answers had to be in English.

As an essential part of the process, every immigrant was required to renounce allegiance to the country he had left and to swear allegiance to his newly adopted home, the United States. And every new citizen was thrilled to do so.

There was a solemn ceremony, often conducted by a judge sitting high on a bench above them, issuing the oath of allegiance. Friends and family welcomed the new citizens with flag waving, hugs and tears, and enthusiastic applause.

That is what citizenship for an immigrant used to mean — and still does, for many adults who follow the rules. But today, we are required to grant the same privileges to anyone whose mother can sneak across our border a few hours before her baby is born. That is insane. And it must be changed, if we ever hope to regain control of our immigration policies.

Rubio recognizes that many of his supporters disagree with him on immigration. A Rasmussen poll says his support among conservatives has dropped 15 percent since February.

Rubio admits it’s been difficult for him to hear “the growing anger in the voices of so many people who helped me get elected to the Senate and who I agree with on virtually every other issue.”

Rubio, there’s an easy solution here: Please come back to your base. Remember why so many of us hailed your triumph three years ago. And return to the principles that lead to your amazing victory.

As the son of (legal) immigrants and a proud Hispanic yourself, you are in a unique position to insist that first we must secure our borders. That’s our right — and our obligation. And that we must end the absurdity of granting instant citizenship to anchor babies.

If you’ll use your eloquence and enthusiasm to make sure we don’t compromise here, you’ll be doing a huge service to the country you love.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Obama’s Plunging Popularity

What a difference a month can make. Last month, a majority of Americans said they liked the job President Barack Obama was doing leading this country. Today, that’s no longer true, according to the latest CNN/ORC International poll.

In May, according to the pollsters, 53 percent of Americans said they approved of Obama’s performance, and 45 percent disagreed. Now, 54 percent say our Teleprompter in Chief is doing a poor job, while 45 still support him.

CNN reported:

The overall decline in his approval rating was partially fueled by a plunge in support from younger Americans, a huge base of Obama’s support.

Last month, nearly two-thirds of those in the 18-29 age group gave the president a thumbs up. His approval rating among that bracket fell 17 points in Monday’s poll and now stands at 48%.

And it isn’t just Obama’s personal popularity that has suffered. In every category that was measured, Americans have become more negative about Obama’s leadership:

  • The number who thinks he’s doing a good job on the economy fell by 2 points, from 44 percent who supported him in April to just 42 percent today.
  • Obama’s handling of foreign affairs has also taken a hit, with his support here dropping from 49 percent in April to 44 percent today.
  • Approval of his leadership on immigration is down even more, falling from 44 percent in April to just 40 percent, according to the CNN pollsters.
  • Americans have an even lower opinion of Obama’s leadership on our deficits. His approval fell from 38 percent in April to 34 percent today.
  • The scandal over the government’s surveillance of Americans’ phone calls and emails has also hurt the president. Just 35 percent say Obama is doing a good job here, while 61 percent disagree.

And it isn’t just Obama’s leadership on important national issues that has taken a hit. Our trust in the man personally has also fallen, according to the poll. Last month, 58 percent of respondents said that Obama was honest and trustworthy. Now, that number has dropped to 49 percent. (Among my friends, the number is closer to zero.)

And here’s what may be the best news of all: Nearly two-thirds of the people who participated in the poll responded affirmatively to the following question: “Do you think the federal government has become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens, or not?”

Yes, 62 percent of the people surveyed say that the Federal government poses “an immediate threat” to our rights and freedoms. Isn’t that wonderful?

Given all of this, you won’t be surprised to learn that a huge majority of Americans now believe that the country is heading in the wrong direction. In the most recent poll by Real Clear Politics, only 31.3 percent of Americans feel the country is on the right track. While almost twice that number, 59.4 percent, says the country is on the wrong track.

Clearly, despite all of the efforts of the mainstream media to defend and excuse the present Administration, the wave of recent scandals is taking its toll — as well it should. When the Justice Department targets respected journalists as potential criminals, the Internal Revenue Service harasses patriotic organizations and the National Security Agency collects billions of phone records and millions of emails from virtually every citizen of the country, no wonder so many fear and mistrust our leaders.

And we get new evidence almost every day to support our position. One of the latest examples concerns the government program to give away free cellphones.

Have you heard about the scandal over the “Obama phones”? It’s a mind-blowing example of how the welfare state has run amok.

It started as one of those ideas that liberals just love: Give poor people access to telephones, to help them look for work and call for assistance in case they face an actual emergency. And thus the Lifeline program was born.

But guess what? Turns out that giving folks something for nothing leads to all sorts of abuse and corruption. And thanks to some conservative activists armed with a video camera, we can see for ourselves just how rotten the program has become.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzViw2ipw5k&w=560&h=315]

Investigators for a group called Project Veritas took their hidden cameras along when they applied for some of the free phones. They told the people processing the applications that as soon as they got them, they intended to sell the phones and use the money to buy drugs.

“No problem” was the typical response. One representative even suggested the investigator visit a pawn shop, to find out how much cash he would receive. “Yeah, I don’t care what you do with it,” the clerk can be heard to mutter.

In another encounter caught on tape, one of  Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe’s investigators says she has to sell “a lot of phones” to pay for her Louis Vuitton handbag. The woman dispensing the free cellphones makes it clear that her job is just to give away the phones — not to question what the recipient will do with it.

Oh, one rep did point out that selling the free phones was illegal — but then suggested “pleading the Fifth” if caught. The Project Veritas video illustrates this last point with another knee-slapper — a clip from IRS official Lois Lerner pleading the 5th Amendment in her appearance before a Congressional committee last month.

We have Project Veritas and its founder to thank for this maddening report of how taxpayer funds are being so badly misused. You may remember the group from the exposure it did back in 2009 of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), one of Obama’s favorite “community activist” organizations. ACORN employees were caught on camera promoting child prostitution, human trafficking and tax evasion.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LtTnizEnC1U&w=420&h=315]

As a result of the scandal, the House and Senate voted to stop all Federal subsidies to the group. The U.S. Census, which had provided many of the grants that funded the organization, severed its ties with the organization. Ultimately, ACORN was forced to disband.

We enjoyed a wonderful victory then. Now, we’ll discover what lawmakers will do when presented with undeniable evidence of fraud and deceit in the $2.2 billion Lifeline program.

By the way, if you’re one of the suckers who actually pays for your telephone service, take a closer look at the next bill you receive. You’ll see a “Universal Service Charge” somewhere on it. That’s the fee you pay to help fund this $2.2 billion giveaway.

I’ll grant you, having a majority of Americans say they mistrust and fear big government isn’t the same thing as getting them to vote for candidates who will actually do something about it. Nor is it the same as finding candidates who will keep the promises they made back home once they get to Washington.

But Obama’s plunging popularity means a lot of our friends and neighbors share our concerns. Our job now is to get more of them to agree with us on the solutions.

We’ll find out next November how good a job we’ve done there.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Yes, We Can Abolish the IRS

Jay Leno knows what his audience likes to hear. In his opening monologue last week, the “Tonight Show” host had a wonderful suggestion on how we should deal with the Internal Revenue Service:

“President Obama says he’s renewing his efforts to close Guantanamo Bay. Guantanamo Bay? How about closing the IRS? Why don’t we do that?”

The reaction, you won’t be surprised to hear, was thunderous applause. So Jay offered a follow-up suggestion: “How about shipping the IRS to Guantanamo Bay?” The laughs and applause were long and loud.

[hulu id=uhhm0fgxn0l12nrym52tiq width=512]
 
OK, let’s admit we’re not going to ship America’s most unpopular agency to a remote corner of Cuba — as attractive as the idea might be. But let’s not overlook the incredible opportunity we’re being given here.

Bless their arrogant little hearts. By spending taxpayers’ money so foolishly, and targeting conservative and patriotic groups for special scrutiny, the bureaucrats at the IRS have given us the best opportunity in years to rein in their power.

Rein it in? Heck, how about launching a national campaign to abolish this odious agency once and for all?

I’m not kidding. The scandals embroiling this detested agency have presented us with a tremendous opportunity to expand the debate from the IRS’s misbehavior and instead put the emphasis on an issue that could truly transform this country: Let’s replace the income tax with something a whole lot simpler and fairer. That’s the best way to abolish the IRS.

Everybody admits that the present tax system is an abomination. The tax code is so complicated that it is virtually impossible for the average taxpayer to understand. But that’s just the least of the objections to it.

The graduated income tax is an essential part of the plot to transform our free and independent Republic into a socialistic state. Very few Americans are aware that a graduated income tax was one of Karl Marx’s essential recommendations to create a communist society. In fact, a heavy progressive or graduated income tax is the second plank of his Communist Manifesto.

Long before the present scandals erupted, the IRS was the most hated and feared agency of the U.S. government. It’s easy to understand why. What other agency can grab your bank account, padlock your business or seize your property (including your home) without even bothering to get a court order?

President Ronald Reagan’ son, Michael Reagan, put it very well when he wrote in a recent column:

The federal income tax code deserves the death penalty for a lot of good reasons. It’s unfair, overly complex, horribly politicized, harmful to individuals and the economy, helpful to the forces of big government, and impossible to understand without a CPA.

It’s also a costly waste of money and time. Just complying with our unnecessarily (but deliberately) complicated federal tax system costs Americans about $430 billion a year, according to economist Arthur Laffer.

Right. So how do we convert the present anger about IRS abuses into an effective national campaign to abolish the IRS? We need to make it an issue — maybe the issue — of next year’s national elections.

Remember, every seat in the House of Representatives will be at stake in 2014. Barack Obama has already promised to do everything in his power to see that Democrats regain a majority there.

I shudder to think what will happen to this country if he succeeds. Can you imagine what it will be like if Nancy Pelosi wins back her title as Speaker of the House of Representatives?

Needless to say, the left will pull out all of the stops to campaign against “the rich.” We’re about to see some of the nastiest, most scurrilous campaigns in history. They’ll make the “Granny Off The Cliff” commercials from the last go-around seem mild by comparison.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGnE83A1Z4U&w=560&h=315]

 
But there is one issue that will appeal to every working American: curbing the outrageous abuses of the IRS. Eliminating the graduated income tax is the best way — in fact, the only way — to do so.

The two most popular proposals out there to replace the present tax system are the flat tax and the FairTax. The former would impose a simple flat-tax percentage on all incomes, with only a few deductions still allowed. The latter would replace an income tax with a national sales tax.

Which one should we favor? I like what Reagan had to say about this argument:

If my father Ronald Reagan were around today, I know what he’d do.

He’d do exactly what I’d do — get the flat-taxers and the fair-taxers together in a room and have them hash out a single tax reform program to sell to the American people.

The Flat Tax and the Fair Tax each have pluses and minuses that need to be debated. But in the end it really doesn’t matter which idea triumphs.

America and all Americans would be better off with either one. Either would eliminate the progressive tax system and make federal taxes simpler, fairer, smarter, and apolitical. And, best of all, either one would kill the IRS as we know it — forever.

I can’t think of anything that would do more to help our economy than eliminating the progressive income tax. Existing businesses would expand. New businesses would be started. Millions of new jobs would be created.

No longer would April 15 represent a dreaded national nightmare. Instead, your tax obligation would be easy to calculate and reasonable to pay. Our savings in time, effort and anguish would be enormous.

Instead of a system built on fear and intimidation, we would be proud to have helped to create one that is simple, reasonable and fair.

Replacing the present system won’t be easy. But our enemies have given us an incredible opportunity to go on the offensive against the monstrosity they have birthed. Let’s take full advantage of it.

Leno had the right idea — and his audience loved it. Let’s seize the day. After all, we have nothing to lose but our chains.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Obama To Ignore Senate, Sign 2nd Amendment-Violating U.N. Gun Treaty

A majority in the U.S. Senate has told President Barack Obama not to do it. There’s no doubt that an overwhelming majority of Americans would oppose it — if the media ever told them about it.

Nonetheless, this past Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry said that Obama will sign a controversial gun-control treaty promulgated by the United Nations. “We look forward to signing it as soon as the process of conforming the official languages is completely satisfied,” Kerry said in a prepared statement.

Although the treaty is being touted as a way to prevent “illicit trade in conventional weapons,” it actually does far more than that. Among other outrages, it demands that every nation create a registry of gun owners, manufacturers and traders within its borders. And also that each country establish mechanisms that could prevent private individuals from purchasing ammunition for any weapons they do own.

In other words, this U.N. treaty would mean the end of our 2nd Amendment rights. And Kerry says Obama will sign it. What kind of madness is this?

Resolutions condemning the treaty were promptly introduced in both branches of Congress. The measures submitted to the Senate by Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and to the House of Representatives by Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) declare that the U.N. Small Arms Treaty “poses significant risks to the national security, foreign policy, and economic interests of the United States, as well as to the constitutional rights of United States citizens and United States sovereignty.”

Then in March, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) submitted an amendment to the budget bill that urged the Obama Administration “to uphold Second Amendment rights and prevent the United States from entering into the United Nations Small Arms Treaty.” Inhofe’s amendment was approved by a vote of 53 to 46.

So a majority of Senators have publicly declared their opposition to this dangerous treaty. Doesn’t sound like there’s much chance the treaty will get a positive vote by two-thirds of the Senate, which the Constitution says must be done for any treaty to take effect.

Despite rumors to the contrary, I don’t think even Obama — surely one of the most arrogant people to ever occupy the Oval Office — will try to do an end-run around this Constitutional requirement. But still, the President has come out in favor of it. And Kerry says the Administration is eager to sign it.

Which makes me wonder, have these guys lost their minds?

I’ll grant you, both men have made it clear throughout their careers the utter disdain they hold for the idea of any Constitutional restraints on their actions. But still, coming out in support of such a flagrantly unConstitutional measure now makes me wonder what is really going on here.

I’ve heard suggestions that the U.N. gun control treaty is being brought forward now to distract us from all the other scandals that are besetting the Obama Administration. But that’s as unlikely as the idea that the Administration decided to unleash the story of what the IRS did to Tea Party and other patriotic groups in an effort to distract people from two other scandals — the Administration’s response to the terrorist attacks in Benghazi and the Justice Department’s surreptitious seizure of some reporters’ emails.

Okay, so we now know that the IRS actually planted the question that led to the story first breaking about how they targeted conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status. And of course it was incredibly stupid to ask for donors’ names and addresses and even questioning what some of the applicants believed.

Passing on some of that private information, so it could be posted on-line by a left wing group, compounded the folly. Clearly, some heads will have to roll over all of this. By the time Congress finishes its various investigations, some IRS employees may even face criminal penalties. From what we know, they should.

But I haven’t seen enough evidence yet to convince me that the IRS scandal will reach into the Oval Office. Yes, Obama set the tone that led to the malfeasance below him. But I don’t think he issued the orders. Unlike Watergate, there’s no recorded conversation or other smoking gun here: or, so far as we know, any impeachable offense.

But that’s emphatically not the case with the Administration’s active support of the U.N. Small Arms Treaty. Obama and his allies, including Kerry, know exactly what they’re doing. And they seem determined to proceed, no matter what anyone says.

The United Nations Small Arms Treaty was going nowhere last year. Obama, who was running for reelection, said he opposed it. Negotiators couldn’t agree on terms.

But then on Nov. 7 — one day after Obama won his second term — the President reversed himself and instructed our delegation at the U.N. conference to agree to a “Final United Nations Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty” to be held in New York City in March.

When that conference voted to send the treaty to the U.N. General Assembly, the U.S. representatives fully supported the move. Subsequently, on April 2 the U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of its passage. The vote was a lop-sided 154 to 3. The Untied States was one of the “ayes.”

The “no” votes came from three of most notorious human-rights violators in a body that’s filled with them — Iran, Syria, and North Korea. China and Russia joined 21 other nations in abstaining.

How many of those countries were founded on the principle that the citizens’ rights come from God, not government? How many have anything resembling our own Bill of Rights, where the people’s rights (and the limitations on their rulers) are spelled out so forcefully and specifically?

I’m pretty sure the answer is zero.

No, those 154 countries represent some of the most repressive regimes on earth. There aren’t too many friends of freedom sitting in that glass palace on the East River.

The United Nations is been a notorious hotbed of anti-American sentiment since the day it was founded. We don’t have many friends there and never have. Heck, its very creation was virtually a communist plot against this country, as G. Edward Griffin proves in The Fearful Master, his invaluable study of the origins of this one-world monstrosity.

Allowing the United Nations to void our 2nd Amendment rights, and determine gun-control policies for this country would be a huge step down the road to our own enslavement. As I said before, it’s utter madness.

Let’s make sure that Barack Obama, John Kerry and their left wing allies don’t get away with it.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

-Chip Wood

P.S. Once again I’ll be serving as master of ceremonies for FreedomFest, “the world’s largest gathering of free minds,” in Las Vegas, Nevada this July 10-13. Check out the amazing line-up of speakers, programs and debates at Freedom Fest. I encourage you to attend this inspiring gathering. If you do, please be sure to stop by and say hello.

It’s Time To Fire Eric Holder

Did the Attorney General of the United States commit perjury when he appeared before the House Judiciary Committee two weeks ago? It sure looks like it.

Eric Holder was testifying about the growing scandal over the Justice Department’s seizure of telephone records of some Associated Press reporters and editors. Representative Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), one of the committee members, asked him if the Justice Department thought it could use the Espionage Act of 1917 to prosecute reporters.

Holder offered what appeared to be a straightforward reply. He said, “In regard to potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material — this is not something I’ve ever been involved in, heard of, or would think would be wise policy.”

Ah, but we later learned that is precisely what Holder’s agency had done against James Rosen, a reporter for FOX News. The Justice Department warrant authorizing the seizure of Rosen’s emails declared that there was “probable cause” to believe the reporter violated the Espionage Act “at the very least, either as an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator.”

Based on this extraordinary accusation, a Federal judge agreed to the Justice Department’s request for a secret search warrant for Rosen’s private Gmail account. And guess what? The person who signed the Justice Department affidavit making those allegations was none other than the head man himself, Holder.

And while some of Holder’s defenders claim that he had just scribbled his signature on a whole bunch of papers his staff put in front of him, apparently this isn’t true either. Several reports say that he “carefully vetted” the Rosen paperwork.

It appears that the top boss at Justice knew exactly what he was doing when he ordered the surreptitious search of a reporter’s emails. So much for Holder’s claim that this is “not something I’ve ever been involved in.” As Desi Arnaz used to say to Lucille Ball, the Attorney General has “got some ’splainin’ to do.”

Of course, this was also the case three years ago, when Congress tried to find out what went wrong in Operation Fast and Furious. You’ll recall that this was a botched effort by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to trace how weapons went from the United States to Mexican drug cartels. Some 2,000 firearms went missing from the program. One of those weapons subsequently was used in Arizona to kill U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian A. Terry.

Congressional investigators looking into the fiasco asked Holder to give them certain documents relating to the Fast and Furious program, since ATF is a part of the Justice Department. When he refused, they served him with a subpoena demanding them. President Barack Obama then asserted executive privilege, and the Administration refused to surrender them.

As a result, the House of Representatives voted to hold the Attorney General in contempt of Congress. To no one’s surprise, the Justice Department refused to prosecute the case.

The Administration was able to protect its guy back then. But even many Democrats are starting to question Holder’s veracity now. Representative John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, says he is “deeply troubled” by some of the Justice Department’s actions. But he’s willing to give Holder the benefit of the doubt… at least for now.

“Certainly, it is fair to ask additional questions about the Rosen investigation, and any role the attorney general may have played in it,” Conyers said in a statement. Then he added, “[B]ut I do not believe it credible to level charges that he may have intentionally misled the committee on this matter before we know the facts of the case in question.”

So what will the facts ultimately reveal? Did the Attorney General perjure himself this time around? Representative Peter King (R-N.Y.) is one of many people who seem to think so. He said, “There’ve been other people over the years indicted for perjury or tried for perjury on a lot less evidence than that.”

The House Judiciary Committee has sent Holder a letter, asking him to explain the apparent discrepancy between his actions against Rosen and what he told the committee when he testified under oath on May 15. Representative Robert W. Goodlatte (R-Va.), the committee chairman, said, “We will withhold judgment on what the attorney general’s actions constitute until we give an opportunity for him to explain himself.”

Even Obama said a couple of days ago that he is “troubled” about these apparent assaults on the freedom of the press by the Justice Department. But, hey, not to worry: He is going to ask Holder to investigate matters and report back to him.

In other words, the President will ask the fox to look into what’s been happening in the chicken coop. That should make everyone feel better, shouldn’t it?

One liberal law professor has had enough. In a powerful column in USA Today, Jonathan Turley, the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, said that a hallmark of Holder’s service as attorney general has been his unquestioned loyalty to Obama:

“When the president promised CIA employees early in his first term that they would not be investigated for torture, it was the attorney general who shielded officials from prosecution.

“When the Obama Administration decided it would expand secret and warrantless surveillance, it was Holder who justified it.

“When the president wanted the authority to kill any American he deemed a threat without charge or trial, it was Holder who went public to announce the ‘kill list’ policy.”

But now, Turley says, the Justice Department has gone too far. “The attorney general has done little in his tenure to protect civil liberties or the free press,” the law professor wrote. “Rather, Holder has supervised a comprehensive erosion of privacy rights, press freedom and due process.”

Turley says the Justice Department’s sweeping surveillance of journalists represents “the greatest attack on the free press in decades.” And he has had enough. “I am neither a Republican nor conservative,” he declared, “and I believe Holder should be fired.”

Right now, the Attorney General is scrambling to protect himself. While he claims that the Justice Department hasn’t violated any laws or guidelines, he admits that the rules “need to be updated.” And he called the controversy “an opportunity for the department to consider how we strike the right balance between the interests of law enforcement and freedom of the press.”

Nice try, Holder, but it won’t work. Better dust off your resume and start exploring opportunities in the private sector, as the soon-to-be-departed like to say. Looks like we can color you gone. And it’s about time.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

IRS Cover-Up Continues

Two days ago, Lois Lerner, the director of the Internal Revenue Service’s Exempt Organizations division, told the House committee investigating the IRS scandal that she didn’t do anything wrong. She then refused to answer any questions and invoked her Constitutional right against self-incrimination. In other words, she pleaded the 5th.

So far, both Congressmen and reporters trying to find out who knew what and when they knew it are having a mighty hard time getting anyone to tell “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” about this spreading scandal.

We now know that White House officials were told of the accusations and a resulting internal investigation long before the news became public. But we’re supposed to believe that no one told President Barack Obama about it. Just like the rest of us, he didn’t know anything until the story made national TV. Sure.

Turns out that several other things we have been told are simply not true, either — like the fairy tale that Obama fired the acting commissioner of the IRS. Acting Commissioner Steven Miller’s appointment was going to end early next month anyway.

Nor did the commissioner in charge of the tax-exempt division get the ax. James Grant, a veteran IRS bureaucrat, quietly announced his retirement as of June 3. The IRS issued a very respectful statement about Grant’s departure, without any hint of a problem or that he had had suffered any sort of punishment or disgrace.

In other words, despite all of the claims to the contrary, not a single person in the IRS has lost his job over the scandal. In fact, the one person who was supervising those so-called “rogue” IRS employees when the infractions occurred not only wasn’t dismissed or demoted, she actually received a promotion.

In fact, Grant was made commissioner of the tax-exempt department only a little while ago. For the past three years, his boss was a woman named Sara Hall Ingram. And she didn’t get fired or demoted over the abuses by her staff; she got promoted.

That’s right. Ingram is now the director of the IRS’s Affordable Care Office. As hard as it may be to believe, the person in charge of the division at the IRS that singled out patriotic groups for special scrutiny is now the chief enforcer of Obamacare. Doesn’t that make you feel warm and cozy?

Oh, by the way, Ingram was handsomely rewarded for all of her efforts on behalf of the regime. Check out the loot that a grateful government awarded her while her employees were putting the squeeze on Tea Party types: In addition to a six-figure salary, Ingram collected bonuses of $34,400 in 2010, $35,400 in 2011, and $26,550 in 2012.

Who says crime doesn’t pay?

When The Media Turn On Obama

Yes, I know, it’s probably too much to hope that most of the mainstream press will put down their rose-colored glasses long enough to take a hard, unvarnished look at their liberal hero, Obama.

But it doesn’t take many cracks in the dyke for the truth to start leaking out. And in the past few days, there have been several encouraging signs that many in the media are starting to look past the White House spinmeisters. When they do, no wonder they’re deeply disturbed by what they see.

I call as my first witness Bob Woodward. Along with his partner, Carl Bernstein, Woodward helped expose the Watergate scandal back in the 1970s that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

Woodward says he sees a similarity between those events and the scandals that are now embroiling the Obama Administration over events in Benghazi, Libya.

“I have to go back 40 years to Watergate, when Nixon put out his edited transcripts of the conversations,” Woodward said. “He personally went through them and said, ‘Let’s not tell this, let’s not show this.’”

The famed reporter says the controversy is not going to go away any time soon. “I would not dismiss Benghazi,” he said, “It’s a very serious issue. As people keep saying, four people were killed.”

Meanwhile, Bernstein said the actions of Obama Administration officials who seized the phone records of Associated Press reporters were “outrageous.” He added that even if Obama did not know about the details of the action, he was certainly aware of the policy.

Now we’ve learned that three years ago, the Justice Department labeled FOX News correspondent James Rosen as a possible co-conspirator in a criminal case involving leaked classified information. The government lawyers did so to justify going through Rosen’s personal emails. But at no time was Rosen notified that he was a target of the probe, as the law requires.

This obvious violation of Rosen’s 1st Amendment rights should alarm every reporter and editor in the country. Heck, it should make all of us furious at the Administration’s callous disregard of our Constitutional guarantees. But, then again, when has the Obama Administration paid more than lip service to the U.S. Constitution anyway?

As more and more reporters refuse to accept the White House’s absurd explanations for events and start digging for the truth themselves, much of what they find will alarm them. Who knows what could happen as more of this Administration’s deceit is revealed?

Consider, for example, what happened when a reporter from The Washington Post talked with an IRS worker in the Cincinnati office — you know, one of those “rogue employees” who allegedly decided on their own to target conservative groups with extra scrutiny.

“We people on the local level are doing what we are supposed to do,” The Post quoted the indignant staffer as saying. “Everything comes from the top. We don’t have any authority to make those decisions without someone signing off on them. There has to be a directive.”

And even when aides do come to the Administration’s defense, sometimes they just dig the hole deeper. That’s what happened when Dan Pfeiffer, a senior adviser to Obama, made the rounds of the Sunday morning talk shows five days ago. Instead of defusing questions about the three crises that have engulfed the White House, Pfeiffer only made matters worse.

His first miscalculation came when he appeared on “Fox Sunday Morning” with Chris Wallace. The reporter wanted to know where the President was, and what he was doing, the night of the terrorist attack on our consulate in Benghazi. Was he monitoring events from the Situation Room? “That’s a largely irrelevant fact,” Pfeiffer replied.

Oh, really?

The aide seemed to like that dodge so much that he tried it again when he appeared on ABC’s “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos. The host pressed him about the growing IRS scandal: “What does the president believe,” he asked. “Does the president believe that [targeting conservative groups] would be illegal?”

Pfeiffer replied, “The law is irrelevant.” A visibly astonished Stephanopoulos replied, “You don’t really mean the law is irrelevant, do you?”

Yes, George, they really do. The truth is whatever they say it is. And how dare anyone question them about it.

Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) put it well when he said, “The president’s entire program is based on giving more and more power to the same executive branch agencies demonstrating themselves this week to either be criminally incompetent or tyrannically corrupt.”

And Lee concluded, “This is what always happens when government gets too big. The Founders knew that over time, either the people would control the government or the government would control the people. That’s why they bequeathed us a constitutionally limited government — a republic, if we could keep it.”

We’ve seen other Presidents try desperately to sweep a growing controversy under the rug. But the truth can defeat them every time, if sufficient pains are taken to bring it to light.

Let’s do our part to continue shining the spotlight where it’s needed the most. And watch the cockroaches scurry for cover.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood