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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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.

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

Could The IRS Scandal Bring Down Obama?

So the first head has rolled in the scandal that has engulfed the Internal Revenue Service. On Wednesday, President Barack Obama ordered Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller to get the ax.

And you can bet that if the powers that be in Washington could turn back the clock, Douglas Shulman’s head would also be on the chopping block. After all, he was the IRS commissioner last year who flatly denied that his agency had ever targeted Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations.

“There’s absolutely no targeting,” Shulman testified before a congressional committee last March. But of course there was. Last Friday, the IRS admitted as much — although it tried to put all the blame on a bunch of low-level employees at its office in Cincinnati.

After intimidating honest taxpayers for decades, the IRS is finally on the receiving end of some nasty publicity. The President has called its behavior “outrageous.” The FBI is launching an investigation of possible criminal violations. Isn’t it delightful?

The scandal erupted last week when an IRS official admitted for the first time — after high-level officials had denied it for years — that the agency singled out groups that had the words “Tea Party” or “Patriots” in their name for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status.

And it wasn’t just such obvious right-wing organizations. If your group focused on government spending, debt or taxes, or if it criticized how the country was being run, chances are it would make the list. Heck, even such an innocuous objective as “trying to make America a better place to live” could be enough to get your application flagged.

This isn’t the first time that such allegations have been made. In fact, Senator Orin Hatch (R-Utah) said it was precisely because he had heard such complaints that he specifically asked the IRS commissioner about them last year. On three separate occasions, Miller assured the Senator that there was no truth to the accusations.

Miller “basically misled me and purposefully did so,” Hatch said earlier this week. “He purposely misled me because he knew better.” And in a classic bit of understatement, the Utah Republican concluded, “That bothers me quite a bit.”

It’s probably no coincidence that the scandal first erupted last Friday afternoon. That is the traditional time for Washington spinmeisters to release bad news, since most folks are thinking more about their plans for the weekend than what the folks in Washington are up to. The worried parties no doubt hope that by the time Monday morning rolls around, any embarrassing disclosures from last Friday will be long forgotten.

That certainly didn’t happen this time. In fact, every passing day brought forth new and even more damaging revelations. By Tuesday, the Boston Herald actually ran the word “Obamagate” in bold, black type on its front page. Another headline read, “Scandals Invoke Comparison To Nixon.”

I’ll bet that last one made some White House staffers cringe. They remember (or surely have been told about) the scandal that erupted four decades earlier, when White House counsel John Dean told a congressional committee that Richard Nixon’s “enemies list” was turned over to the IRS, with instructions to “use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.”

As a result, when the House of Representatives drew up articles of impeachment against Nixon in 1974, the second article accused the president of using “income tax audits or other income tax investigations” to intimidate his political opponents.

Could something similar happen again? Veteran political analyst and best-selling author Dick Morris says absolutely:

What’s going to happen is you’re going to get a congressional hearing. They’re going to call some of these people under oath. They’ll call Miller for example, the head of the IRS, they’ll call [Douglas] Shulman, the former head of the IRS, and they’ll ask, did you know about this?

Then the obvious question is who else knew? Who did you tell? I doubt that there’s a lot of people who are willing to commit perjury to save the president, and undoubtedly what they’ll say is, well, I told such and such in the White House. Then they’ll get this person under oath and you just go step by step up the food chain.

At the end of it, it’s an impeachable offense, which is the key thing.

Caught In Two Lies

So far, IRS officials have been caught telling at least two lies in an effort to contain the growing controversy. The first is that it was all done by a small group of low-level employees in the IRS office in Cincinnati who just weren’t supervised closely enough.

Nice try, but no cigar. We now know that some of the inquiries came from IRS headquarters in Washington, D.C. Oh, and at least some of the requests included demands for the names of donors, contributors and grantors — even though the laws governing such organizations specifically protect the privacy of the people who support them.

Hatch confirmed that the IRS was playing fast and loose with the truth here. “It wasn’t just some lowly staffer in Cincinnati who made a mistake,” he said. “Very senior management at the IRS here in Washington knew what was going on for over a year and didn’t say a word.”

Actually, it isn’t true that the IRS “didn’t say a word.” In fact, the agency issued many words — all of them designed to hide the truth.

The second whopper from the cover-up cohorts is that all of this took place over a few weeks in 2011 and it was promptly stopped when higher-ups learned about it. Wrong again! We now know that the troubling investigations began back in 2010 and continued for more than a year and a half.

At the same time conservative groups were subject to all sorts of scrutiny and delay, many liberal and progressive groups were put on the fast track for approval. If your organization was run by an Obama relative, let’s say, or former White House staffers or operatives from Obama’s 2012 Presidential campaign, the normal approval process could be cut from more than a year to as little as one month.

Yes, indeed, in this bright new era of fairness and transparency, some pigs are sure more equal than others.

And conspiracy buffs have got to love this one: One of the rumors making the rounds in Washington is that some top Administration honchos decided to release the story about the political-audit scandal in an effort to distract public attention from the furor over what happened (and most pointedly, what didn’t happen) in the terrorist assault on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, last September.

If that was the goal, the media manipulators sure made a major miscalculation. Most of us may not be terribly concerned about the activities of an obscure jihadist group in a remote country like Libya — even when it causes the death of four Americans, including our ambassador.

But every taxpayer in this country has a visceral fear of getting on the wrong side of the IRS. We’re aware of past efforts to use the IRS as a political enforcement branch of the White House. And we don’t like it a bit.

You can bet that more heads will roll before all the investigations are over. House Speaker John Boehner says that firings won’t be enough: “My question isn’t about who is going to resign. My question is who’s going to jail over this scandal?”

I’m more eager to see how far the fallout spreads. Remember, no amount of sacrificial lambs was enough to keep Nixon safe in the White House.

“Could the IRS scandal bring down Obama? Let’s hope so.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Obama’s ‘Biggest Lie of All’

Will we ever get all of the truth about the false explanations and misdirection from the Administration of President Barack Obama after the terrorist assaults on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11?

Probably not. But we’ve gotten a lot closer in the past few days, thanks to three courageous State Department employees who refused to be part of a cover-up and a House committee that dug long and hard to get more of the truth.

It’s too soon to know what all of the consequences of Wednesday’s hearings by the House Oversight and Government Reform committee will be. One popular White House critic was probably way too optimistic when he predicted that the revelations could bring down Obama’s Presidency.

But on the bright side, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that this story could end any hopes Hillary Clinton had of being elected President in 2016. More on this in a moment.

Whatever happens next, it is now indisputably clear that the murder of Ambassador Chris Stephens and three other Americans was planned by an al-Qaida affiliate in Libya. The CIA knew it — and told Washington. Our staff in Libya knew it — and told their superiors. Top Libyan officials knew it — and repeatedly said so.

So why was any reference to terrorism or al-Qaida carefully and deliberately removed from the “talking points” handed to our U.N. Ambassador, Susan Rice, before she made the rounds of the TV talk shows the Sunday following the attacks?

About that, we can only speculate. Because no one in authority in Obama’s White House and what was Clinton’s State Department  will fess up.

Are you really surprised?

It was deeply moving to listen to the three State Department veterans who had the guts to come forward and testify on Wednesday. I was especially impressed by Gregory Hicks, the former deputy chief of mission/charge d’affairs in Libya. He was in Tripoli, a two-hour flight from Benghazi, when Stevens called to tell him, “Greg, we’re under attack.”

Hicks told the committee that none of his efforts to get military assistance for the beleaguered Americans in Benghazi was successful. He revealed that a Special Operations team in Tripoli was ordered to “stand down” and not fly to Benghazi. The officer in charge of the team told Hicks, “I have never been so embarrassed in my life that a State Department officer has bigger balls than somebody in the military.”

Hicks said he was absolutely “dumbfounded” when he heard that an obscure anti-Islamic video was being blamed for turning a group of demonstrators into a murderous mob. “I was stunned. My jaw dropped, and I was embarrassed,” Hicks told the committee. He knew it wasn’t true. But that was the Administration’s story; and, by golly, they were going to stick with it.

Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, no doubt engaged in a bit of hyperbole when he told Sean Hannity before the hearings began that his committee would force the Administration to come clean about “the biggest lie of all.” Issa said:

The Administration has made a claim that for classified reasons they changed the story. We believe right now that may be the biggest lie of all, and we intend on making the president come clean as to, quote, ‘what the classified reasons are that would justify lying to the American people.’

Gripping as the day-long hearings were, of course they didn’t force Obama or anyone in his Administration to “come clean” about the attempted cover-up. That was too much to hope for.

Still, at least one prominent critic believes that the Administration’s deceit about Benghazi could spell the end of Obama’s Presidency.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee didn’t mince words on his radio show earlier this week. “When a president lies to the American people and is part of a cover-up,” the one-time Republican Presidential candidate declared, “he cannot continue to govern.”

Did Huckabee really mean to suggest that Obama could be impeached over the attacks that led to the deaths of Stephens and three other Americans? It sure sounded like it. How else could you interpret comments like these: “As the facts come out, I think we’re going to see something startling. And before it’s over, I don’t think this president will finish his term unless somehow they can delay it in Congress past the next 3 ½ years.”

Huckabee is probably overstating the case. It’s certainly true that seemingly minor incidents can have enormous consequences. Who could have imagined at the time that an amateurish burglary of a Democratic Party office in the Watergate complex in Washington would ultimately force Richard Nixon to resign his Presidency? Or that a sexual escapade with an intern would lead to Bill Clinton’s impeachment?

Huckabee is not alone in warning how serious the consequences of Benghazi could be. John Bolton, our ambassador to the United Nations under George W. Bush, said that the growing scandal could lead to the “unraveling” of the Obama Administration. “This could be a hinge point for the Obama Administration,” Bolton declared. “It’s that serious for them.”

We’ll see.

While it’s too soon to declare that our lame-duck President is a dead duck politically, I think it’s very likely that the hearings and the attendant publicity may have had a major unintended consequence. They may have saved us from a Clinton Presidency in 2016.

Remember when Clinton was finally well enough to testify about the assault this past January? She lost her cool (or at least pretended to do so) during her interrogation by a Senate committee. She was almost yelling when she lashed out at Senator Roy Johnson (R-Wis.), saying, “With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans. Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk one night decided to go kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make?”

Actually, Madame Secretary, you knew very well that the murders occurred, not because of a protest that got out of hand or because some “guys out for a walk one night decided to go kill some Americans.” The assault on our consulate was planned by an al-Qaida affiliate to coincide with the anniversary of 9/11 — and there were plenty of people who knew it.

We still don’t have “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” about the events in Benghazi on Sept. 11, or about the lies and obfuscations that that started in Washington, D.C., almost immediately thereafter.

But we do know that Clinton was part of the effort to stonewall us. And I think enough voters will remember this in 2016 to deny her what she wants more than anything else: the keys to the White House.

Let’s make sure we do our part to see that they do.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Welfare For Terrorists And Other Outrages

Well, well, well. It seems the accused Boston bombers managed to swallow their disdain for all things American long enough to enjoy years of taxpayer-funded welfare benefits.

The media in Boston report that brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and their relatives collected more than $100,000 in benefits since their arrival in this country. The assistance ranged from “cash and food stamps to Section 8 housing,” the Boston Herald revealed.

And get this. The same newspaper reported that the Administration of Governor Deval Patrick tried to keep this information from becoming public, allegedly because of the need to protect “privacy concerns” of the accused jihadists. Sure thing, Governor.

Massachusetts authorities said that the Tsarnaev brothers stopped receiving welfare last year. So at least they weren’t on the public dole when their homemade bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 200.

No one has explained how elder brother Tamerlan, clearly the leader of the duo, was able to afford a C-class Mercedes sedan and the fancy designer clothing he seemed to prefer, while at the same time qualifying for public assistance in Massachusetts. Or how he paid for a six-month trip to Russia.

It’s bad enough to learn that taxpayers paid for a significant chunk of the Tsarnaev brothers’ cost of living in this country while they were plotting to harm us. But it’s even more frustrating that younger brother Dzhokhar was in the middle of being interrogated by the FBI and willingly answering their questions, or so we’re told, when it came to a screeching halt.

It seems that representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, along with U.S. Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler and other officials, interrupted the questioning to read Dzhokhar his Miranda rights. It’s no surprise that once that happened, the accused murderer promptly stopped talking.

Prior to that, authorities had invoked the “public safety exemption” to the Supreme Court’s requirement that a suspect be read his Miranda rights right away. The exemption permits law enforcement personnel to question a suspect for up to 48 hours without informing him of his rights, if they have reason to believe there is an imminent threat to public safety.

Rudy Giuliani, who was Mayor of New York on 9/11, was one of many observers who was furious that the interrogation was halted. “This guy is kind of telling you about how he’s coming to New York and do a bombing in New York, a judge walks in and we cut off the questioning?” Giuliani said. “What are we, crazy?”

Representative Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, also blasted the decision to halt the questioning. He called it a “horrible, God-awful policy” that was “dangerous to the greater community.” He vowed that Congress would take action to correct the situation: “We have got to get to the bottom of this and we’ve got to fix it right now.”

Sure thing. In the meantime, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev isn’t talking. He’s been moved from Boston to a prison hospital at Fort Devens, Mass., where he will continue to recover from bullet wounds.

Another story making headlines is how many warnings officials in this country received about Tamerlan Tsarnaev before he set off his bombs. Intelligence services in Russia (where the older brother visited for six months) and Saudi Arabia (where he was denied permission to visit Mecca) allegedly sent us warnings that the older brother could be a potential problem.

We don’t know at this point exactly what the warnings said, who received or what, if anything, was done about them. (The Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C., has denied its government warned the United States about Tamerlan Tsarnaev.) But now that the rumors have become public, this story won’t disappear. In fact, it won’t be long before various Congressional committees promise to uncover “all the facts” for us. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, three of Dzhokhar’s college buddies have been arrested for trying to conceal evidence of his crimes. It seems two of them went to his college dorm room three days after the bombings and removed a backpack containing hollowed-out fireworks. Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev, both of whom came to the U.S. from Kazakhstan, are charged with conspiring to obstruct justice. A third friend, Robel Phillipos, was charged with lying to investigators about visiting Dzhokhar’s dorm room.

Obviously, none of the three friends will ever win a genius award. But then again, nothing we’ve learned so far suggests that Dzhokhar or his brother was very bright, either. In fact, it’s almost amazing to contemplate the destruction and panic these two would-be jihadists were able to cause with some recycled fireworks and hardware-store purchases.

Meanwhile, the boys’ mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, continues to claim that the whole thing is a plot against her innocent angels by agents of the United States government. In a telephone interview with a reporter from CNN, she sounded like a demented jihadist herself, when she ranted: “If they are going to kill him, I don’t care. My oldest son is killed, so I don’t care. I don’t care if my youngest one is going to be killed today. I want the world to hear this. And I don’t care if I am going to get killed, too. And I will say, ‘Allahu Akbar.’”

Of course, this is the same person who was accused of stealing $1,600 worth of clothing from a department store when she lived in the United States. She fled the country rather than face her day in court and hightailed it back to Dagestan in Russia. I don’t think she’s a very reliable character witness. Do you?

More Washington Hypocrisy

If halting the questioning of an accused Muslim mass murderer isn’t enough to raise your blood pressure a bit, try this one on for size:

The Washington website POLITICO kicked up a furor a few days ago, when it reported that Democrats in Congress have been meeting “in secret” for several months with Republican leaders there, to figure out how they can exempt themselves and their staffs from Obamacare.

You may recall that during the debate over the healthcare overhaul, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) offered an amendment that would require members of Congress and their staffs to be subject to the same rules and regulations that would apply to the rest of us.

Knowing that exempting themselves would be a public-relations problem, Democrats at the time went along with the measure. But now that it’s about to become a very expensive reality, they want out.

Although Congress is in recess this week, House Speaker John Boehner’s office issued a statement acknowledging the report and declaring that this is the “Democrats’ problem to solve. [The Speaker] will not sneak any language into bills to solve it for them.”

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said: “The fact that Democratic leaders want to opt themselves out of the Obamacare exchanges shows that Senator Baucus isn’t the only one who realizes the President’s healthcare law is a ‘train wreck.’ The Speaker would like to see resolution of this problem, along with the other nightmares created by Washington Democrats’ health law, which is why he supports full repeal.”

Of course, we all know that there’s not a chance of this happening anytime soon. In fact, we shouldn’t expect anything good to come out of Washington until and unless we can replace a whole bunch of Senators, and even a few Representatives, in 2014.

Yes, we have our work cut out for us. In the meantime, stay on guard. And keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood 

Stop Washington’s Latest Tax Grabs

Some 21 years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court did us all a huge favor. It ruled that states don’t have the legal authority to tax purchases you made from an out-of-State retailer, unless the retailer had a “physical presence” in your State.

Back in 1992, most of us didn’t purchase all that much from out-of-State companies, so the loss in tax revenue wasn’t significant. But, boy, how times have changed. Today, we buy more than $250 billion worth of stuff from online retailers each year, and that number is expected to rise to $370 billion by 2017. On most of it, we pay no sales tax.

With local and State sales taxes averaging about 10 percent, that’s $25 billion that stays in consumers’ pockets now. Needless to say, there are an awful lot of politicians who want to get their greedy little hands on those funds. You won’t be surprised to learn that the Administration of President Barack Obama wants to make it happen.

In fact, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is so eager to get an Internet sales tax bill passed that he has skipped the normal committee process and is bringing the bill directly to the Senate floor. Word is that he’s lined up several moderate Republicans who will vote in favor of the measure so the big spenders can claim that it has bipartisan support.

And, of course, many State governors love the idea of collecting hundreds of millions of dollars in new taxes. Many State budgets are already perilously close to bankruptcy, thanks in large part to the incredibly generous pensions and other benefits that State and local government employees have extracted over the years.

In an editorial supporting passage of the Internet tax bill, USA Today complained that its lack “forces cash-strapped states to raise other taxes, or go into debt, to compensate for the $23 billion in annual uncollected e-commerce sales taxes.” Got that? Forget any nonsense about reducing spending. The only choices those poor States have if this measure isn’t passed is to “raise other taxes, or go into debt.”

But an Internet sales tax is just one of the schemes Washington has come up with to extract more money from you. Several others can be found in the new Federal budget proposal that the White House finally released this month.

The English newspaper the Daily Mail had the best description of Obama’s budget I’ve seen. It called it a mixture of “bad math, phantom revenues, imagined spending cuts and a middle-class tax hike.”

It’s all of that… and more. Among the budget’s optimistic forecasts is that Federal revenues will more than double over the next decade, rising 113 percent by 2023. During the same period, spending will go up “only” 60 percent. But even if both were to happen, deficits would not be eliminated. That’s why the budget calls for the debt ceiling to be raised by another $8 trillion, to $25 trillion.

While we were promised that the long-overdue White House proposals would be replete with “big ideas,” the sad truth is that they are the same old solutions we’ve heard for many years: bigger and bigger government, only partially paid for by higher and higher taxes. Rather than see any reduction in Federal debt, Obama wants to increase it by another $8 trillion.

When he released his budget, the President claimed, “I am willing to make tough choices that may not be popular within my own party, because there can be no sacred cows for either party.” What a bunch of baloney!

The White House claims that the budget contains $2 of spending cuts for every $1 in new taxes. But it’s all a bunch of smoke and mirrors. The so-called spending cuts are a cruel illusion. They are achieved by allowing minor reductions to previously proposed increases. Spending doesn’t go down one thin dime in Obama’s new budget. Instead, it will increase by at least $680 billion over the next five years.

Maybe figures don’t lie. But liars sure can figure.

Yes, there’s a lot not to like in Obama’s budget for fiscal 2014. One of the sneakiest proposals it contains is for the Federal government to change the way cost-of-living increases are calculated, by switching to something called a “chained CPI” (Consumer Price Index). Here’s how the Daily Mail describes the effect of this sleight of hand:

The chained CPI signals a shift in how the federal government will calculate everything from Social Security payouts and congressional pensions to college students’ Pell Grants and veterans’ benefits. Anything tied to cost-of-living increases would be subject to a new formula.

The White House’s budget blueprint suggests that these programs would see $230 billion in costs savings over 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office puts the number at $216 billion.

Does anyone believe that today’s calculations for the consumer price index are anywhere close to being correct? Most of us who live in the real world know that the prices we pay for most things are going up by a heck of a lot more than 2 percent a year.

Now Uncle Sam wants to change the formula to reduce the payouts even further. That doesn’t sound very fair to me. But wait, it gets worse. Switching to a chained CPI will also hit the middle class with a huge new tax increase.

How is that possible? Here’s how the Daily Mail explains it:

The money will come pouring in because the consumer price index also controls income tax brackets, tax filers’ standard deductions, nontaxable contribution limits for 401(k) retirement plans, and more.

So millions of individual Americans will see themselves moved involuntarily to higher tax brackets, and middle-class taxpayers in particular will lose some of the tax credits and deductions that they count on.

Forget all of Obama’s blarney about only the rich being hit by these higher taxes. The brunt of these increases will fall squarely on the middle class. And, of course, the same thing will be true of the costs of Obamacare, which will be fully implemented next year.

Do you remember when Nancy Pelosi said “we have to pass” the badly misnamed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to see what’s in it? Pretty soon, we’ll all get to see the higher costs and increased regulations this monstrosity will produce. It won’t be pretty.

So now Congress has three different budgets for 2014 to consider: one passed by Democrats in the Senate, one approved by Republicans in the House and one presented by the White House. All of them call for increased government spending next year. None of them will reduce the deficit by one penny over the next decade.

Margaret Thatcher famously observed that “the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” The big spenders in Washington seem determined to speed the day when that happens in this country.

It seems to me this could be a mighty good time to trade some of your rapidly depreciating dollars for assets of enduring value. I hope you noticed that gold and silver have been on sale recently.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

A Huge Defeat For The Gun Grabbers

Congratulations, patriots! Thanks to your unremitting pressure on the politicians in Washington, every single assault on our 2nd Amendment rights went down to defeat in the Senate this week.

Prior to the votes, Senate leaders had agreed that a 60-vote majority would be necessary for approval of the various proposals. They did this to head off a threatened filibuster led by Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

For one of the few times this year, Vice President Joe Biden even returned to the Senate to preside over the voting. The gesture was purely symbolic, since there wasn’t a snowball’s chance that he’d get to exercise his Constitutional prerogative to cast the deciding vote in case of a tie. He was there to gloat in victory; instead, he looked like he had been sucking on lemons when he had to announce the agony of defeat.

Gun control advocates had pulled out all of the stops to get passage, including numerous appearances by relatives of the victims from the schoolhouse slayings in Newtown, Conn., and Tucson, Ariz. President Barack Obama had flown many of them to Washington on board Air Force One so they could lobby lawmakers, appear with him in a photo op in the Rose Garden and pack the Senate galleries. (One violated Senate protocol, and demonstrated very bad manners, by shouting “Shame on you!” after the vote.)

The first vote was taken on the measure gun-control advocates were most confidant of getting passed: expanding background checks to include the private sale or transfer of firearms. This was the highly publicized “compromise” measure put together by Senators Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

When the votes were tallied, the measure failed by 54-46. Five Democrats joined 41 Republicans in opposing the measure. They included three Senators facing re-election next year: Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Max Baucus of Montana. Significantly, all three States gave Mitt Romney a solid majority last November. The nervous Senators were joined by Heidi Heitkamp, the newly elected junior Senator from North Dakota. And a name most people would be surprised to see on the “no” side was that of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He made it clear that he cast his negative ballot purely as a procedural matter, so he could bring the measure back up for a vote sometime in the future.

The three Republicans who voted “aye,” in addition to Toomey, can usually be found voting in favor of tougher gun-control measures. They were John McCain of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois. No surprises there.

Among the other measures that went down to defeat last Wednesday afternoon were a proposed ban on assault weapons, which got only 40 votes, and an effort to block the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines, which received 46 “ayes.” Even a measure that was endorsed by the National Rifle Association, which would have expanded concealed carry permits, got only 57 positive votes — three short of the 60 necessary for passage.

Obama wasted no time in declaring that the votes two days ago made it “a pretty shameful day for Washington.” His anger at being thwarted was obvious. He vowed that gun-control advocates will redouble their efforts to regulate and restrict our right to keep and bear arms. “This effort is not over,” he declared.

But for now it certainly is. Proponents failed to persuade opponents that expanded background checks would do anything to help prevent future tragedies like the ones in Newtown; Tucson; or Aurora, Colo. Of course they won’t. And every gun grabber knows it.

What would make a difference? Let’s take a look at what some cops say. When some 15,000 law-enforcement personnel were asked that question, here’s how they responded:

When asked what the likely outcome would have been at Aurora and Newtown had a legally armed civilian been there, 80 percent said there would have been fewer casualties; 6.2 percent said it would have prevented casualties altogether. Only 5.5 percent thought it would have led to greater loss of life.

When asked what could be done to prevent future mass public shootings, the most popular answer — picked by 28.8 percent  — was for more permissive concealed carry policies for civilians. More aggressive institutionalization of the mentally ill was the choice of 19.6 percent. More armed guards were favored by 15.8 percent. Of course, none of these solutions are acceptable to the gun grabbers.

Improved background checks were in fourth place, the choice of 14 percent of the respondents, followed by longer prison terms when guns are used in violent crimes (7.9 percent).

What did the law-enforcement professionals have to say about the left’s favorite solutions? A meager 1.5 percent put tighter limits on weapons sales at the top of their list. While legislative restrictions on “assault weapons” and larger magazines didn’t even get a nod from one out of 100 of the boys and girls in blue, it was the choice of .9 percent.

When it comes to making the public safer, including our children, “the only professional group devoted to limiting and defeating gun violence as part of their sworn responsibility” has the right answer: Get more arms in the right hands. And do a better job of getting the truly crazy off the streets.

Now there’s a program that would make us all sleep better at night. Don’t you agree?

In the meantime, have a wonderful weekend, knowing that we won some significant victories in Washington this week. But remember, too, that eternal vigilance will always be the price we must pay to preserve and protect our liberties.

So until next time, stay on guard. And keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

We Need Our Own Iron Lady (Or Man)

Margaret Thatcher, one of the most remarkable leaders of the 20th century, died in London on Monday at the age of 87. The only woman ever to serve as prime minister of her country, and the longest-serving prime minister in the past 100 years, she helped put the “great” back in Great Britain. She did it by an unwavering devotion to conservative principles and her country’s interests. Would that we had some leaders like her today.

Here’s how historian Paul Johnson began his tribute to Lady Thatcher in a column in The Wall Street Journal: “Margaret Thatcher had more impact on the world than any woman ruler since Catherine the Great of Russia. Not only did she turn around–decisively–the British economy in the 1980s, she also saw her methods copied in more than 50 countries. ‘Thatcherism’ was the most popular and successful way of running a country in the last quarter of the 20th century and into the 21st.”

Needless to say, the left hated Thatcher. And they still do. When her death was announced, the Communist Party, the Socialist Party and others of their ilk held celebrations throughout the United Kingdom. One of the more popular refrains at their demonstrations was singing “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead.”

Britain’s current prime minister, David Cameron, expressed the opposite point of view. “She saved our country and I believe she will go down as the greatest British peacetime prime minister,” he declared.

I have no doubt that Thatcher would have been as proud of the response by her enemies today as she was nearly four decades ago, when a Soviet newspaper first referred to her as the “Iron Lady” because of her outspoken opposition to Marxism, socialism and communism.

When she was elected to the leadership of the Conservative Party in 1975, Thatcher promised a new and tougher approach to the major political issues of the day.

“I am not a consensus politician,” she warned. “I’m a conviction politician.”

For the next four years, Thatcher served as leader of the opposition to the ruling Labour Party. During that time, economic conditions in the country steadily worsened, while the unions grew more powerful and demanding. Conditions became so bad that in the United Kingdom, late 1978 became known as the Winter of Discontent.

In the national elections that followed in May 1979, the Conservative Party won a 43-seat majority in the British Parliament. The Labour Party was ousted, and Thatcher became prime minister.

She came into office at a time when Britain, like the United States, had a double-digit inflation rate, a top income tax rate of 83 percent on earned income and an unbelievable 98 percent tax rate on “unearned” income.

Slowly but steadily, Thatcher began dismantling the power of the state. She was undeterred by protests, demonstrations and even some riots that turned deadly. As she said at the time, “The lady’s not for turning.”

Her resolve was quickly tested by many of Britain’s labor unions, which for years had used crippling strikes to assert their power. They had made Britain the most strike-ridden country in Europe. Prior to Thatcher, few politicians in Britain dared challenge them.

The most militant was the miner’s union, which launched a nationwide strike in 1984. Thatcher refused to bow to their demands and increasingly brought public sentiment to her side. Although it took a year, the stranglehold that British labor unions had enjoyed for years was finally broken.

When she first became prime minister, state-owned industries represented nearly one-third of Britain’s economy and workforce. She launched a vigorous program of privatization, selling shares of the coal, steel, railways and utilities that the government owned. By the time she left office 11 years later, the state’s ownership of major industries had declined dramatically. For the first time ever, the newly privatized businesses began paying taxes, rather than merely consuming them.

Thatcher’s biggest foreign policy test came in 1982, when the military dictatorship that ruled Argentina ordered its forces to seize the Falkland Islands. Many in the West, including some in her own party, didn’t think the tiny islands in the South Atlantic were worth fighting for. Thatcher disagreed and dispatched to the area a task force that ultimately totaled 127 ships, dozens of planes and several thousand troops.

After several weeks of fighting, the Argentine forces on the islands surrendered. The Falklands were brought back under British control, much to the delight of the 1,800 English-speaking residents there. The victory made Thatcher more popular than ever back home. “We have ceased to be a nation in retreat,” she declared. The following year, the Conservative Party won re-election by a much bigger majority than it had in 1979.

Years later, she demonstrated the same fortitude when she encouraged George H.W. Bush not to permit Saddam Hussein to get away with his invasion of Kuwait. “This is no time to go wobbly,” she told the President.

Thatcher found a kindred spirit in Ronald Reagan, who was elected to this Nation’s highest office 18 months after Thatcher became prime minister in the U.K. They rekindled the “special relationship” between the two countries. Together, they were instrumental in launching the policies that led to the collapse of communism and the Soviet empire. Free people everywhere — but especially in countries behind what was once called the Iron Curtain — owe them an immense debt of gratitude.

Thatcher was finally forced from office in 1990, not because of victories by the opposition, but because she no longer had the support of a majority of Conservative politicians. She left No. 10 Downing Street in November 1990. Having been made a baroness by Queen Elizabeth, Thatcher took a seat in Britain’s upper branch, the House of Lords.

She made one of her last public appearances in 2007, when she returned to the House of Commons to unveil a bronze statue of herself. “I might have preferred iron,” she said at the time, “but bronze will do.”

Yes, in a world that desperately needs leadership that is proudly patriotic and unyielding in its commitment to principle, the Iron Lady’s example will certainly do.

Let’s hope that many of our conservative and libertarian politicians are inspired by her example and echo her resolve.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood 

Working For The Man

Celebrate Tax Freedom Day. The Tax Foundation says that Tax Freedom Day — the day when the average American has earned enough money to pay all the taxes for the year — arrives on April 18 this year. That’s five days later than last year. The delay is largely because of the fiscal cliff deal that raised Federal taxes on individual income and payroll. Because of high State taxes, residents of Connecticut won’t enjoy Tax Freedom Day until May 13. Folks in Mississippi and Louisiana celebrated Tax Freedom Day on March 29.

Employment continues to tank. The jobs report for March was especially grim. Instead of the 200,000 new jobs that had been predicted, the Labor Department says only 88,000 people found work in March. But the ranks of the unemployed dropped because nearly 500,000 people left the job market, according to The Wall Street Journal. As a result, the unemployment rate actually declined to 7.6 percent. At the same time, the number of Americans collecting disability hit an all-time high. So much for the “recovery” that the Administration of President Barack Obama has been bragging about.

You can’t say that here. The Associated Press, which claims to be “the world’s largest news-gathering organization,” has added a new page to its politically correct style manual. Or rather it’s removed one. It is banning the phrase “illegal immigrant” and says it will no longer be used in anything it publishes unless it is a direct quotation. Columnist Michelle Malkin said in response that she will no longer use the word “journalist” when referring to members of the mainstream news organizations “who pose as neutral news-gatherers while carrying out a blatantly ideological agenda.”

Identifying “the most racist” segment. Dr. Ben Carson, the black neurosurgeon and director of pediatric neurosurgery at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, became a conservative sensation because of his anti-Obama remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast in February — with the President sitting right in front of him. Now the left is out to get him. Carson said his white liberal critics are “the most racist out there.” And he added, “They need to shut me up, they need to get rid of me.”

–Chip Wood

‘Tyrannical’ Obama

Black business leader blasts Obama. Harry C. Alford, president and co-founder of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, created a furor in February with his criticism of the Barack Obama. He said the President’s use of executive orders is “tyrannical” and a violation of the Constitution. Moreover, he added, Obama’s economic policies are “borderline communist.” Although a video of his remarks has gone viral, they have been pretty much ignored by the mainstream media. There’s no surprise there.

Why not sequester foreign aid? The White House announced last week that it will release $1.5 billion in foreign aid to Egypt. The disbursements had been held up because of concerns about Egypt’s anti-Western posturing and anti-democratic policies. At the same time, the Administration released $500 million to the radicals who control the Palestinian Authority. Hey, Mr. President, if money is so tight you had to cancel the White House tours, here’s a way to save $2 billion — and make the world a safer place, too.

Rand Paul did not say that. Despite several misleading and inaccurate reports to the contrary, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) did not propose a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants when he made a major address to a Hispanic group last month. What he did say was that his plan would “allow us to admit we are not going to deport the millions of people who are currently here illegally.” And that we need to find a way of “bringing these workers out of the shadows and into being taxpaying members of society.” He never mentioned citizenship in his speech. (Yes, I read it). And his office made it clear that he is not in favor of it.

Charging passengers by weight. Samoa Air, which flies passengers between the Samoan islands in the Pacific, announced that from now on, passengers will be charged by how much they weigh. The exact amount will depend on the distance flown. Passengers will be asked how much they weigh when they purchase a ticket — and they will then be weighed when they check in at the airport, to make sure they weren’t fibbing. Sounds fair to me. But can you imagine the howls we’d hear if a U.S. carrier tried the same thing?

–Chip Wood

The Battle To Define Marriage

Rush Limbaugh said that allowing gay marriage in America is now “inevitable.” Do you agree?

The popular talk-show host told his radio audience the issue was lost when the word “marriage” was redefined. “So far as I’m concerned, once we started talking about ‘gay marriage,’ ‘traditional marriage,’ ‘opposite-sex marriage,’ ‘same-sex marriage,’ ‘hetero-marriage,’ we lost. It was over. It was just a matter of time.”

It is amazing to me how quickly sentiment on this issue has changed. When the Defense of Marriage Act was introduced in Congress in 1996, the measure defining “marriage” as the union of one man and one woman enjoyed overwhelming popular support. It sailed through the House of Representatives by a vote of 342-67 and by an 85-14 vote in the Senate. It was promptly signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton.

Now, the former President says he regrets that decision. He has been outspoken in his support for the right of gays and lesbians to marry. And he hopes that the Supreme Court will declare that the legislation he himself signed into law is ruled unConstitutional.

Most of the Democratic Senators who voted for the measure agree with him. Of the 36 who are still in the Senate, 27 have come out in support of gay marriage. There has not been nearly as big a shift on the Republican side of the aisle. Of the 51 Republican senators who voted for DOMA and are still in office, only two have changed their position.

DOMA was one of two challenges to the definition of marriage that occupied the Supreme Court (and much of the media) last week. The other was California’s Proposition 8, an amendment to the California constitution approved by voters in 2008.

The California initiative was in response to a ruling by the California Supreme Court overturning an earlier measure, Proposition 22, that tried to outlaw same-sex marriage in the State. But Proposition 22 was an ordinary statute, not a constitutional amendment. It was invalidated by the California Supreme Court in 2008. Opposition to that ruling led to the passage of Proposition 8 later that year.

Of course, that measure quickly faced legal challenges. In 2010, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that the new measure was also unConstitutional. However, at the same time he also issued a stay of his ruling, pending appeal.

Last year, a panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Walker’s decision but also continued a stay on the ruling until it could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. And that’s where the matter stands today.

Same-sex marriages are now legal in nine States and Washington, D.C., as the result of court rulings, statutory changes made by legislative bodies and popular vote.

Across the country, voters in a majority of States have said that marriage should be defined as the union of one man and one woman. Thirty-eight States have passed legislation banning same-sex marriages, most in the form of amendments to their constitutions. You won’t be surprised to learn that these are among the more conservative States in the union; in fact, Mitt Romney carried 24 of them last November.

So what happens now? There’s no question what the advocates of marriage equality want to see: a Supreme Court decision declaring unequivocally that gays and lesbians have a Constitutional right to marry in every State, no matter what the local laws or State constitution might say.

Meanwhile, about the best the opponents can do is hope that the Supreme Court will agree that this should not be a Federal issue and that, instead, the requirements for getting married should be left to the individual States to decide, as has been the case for more than 200 years.

You won’t be surprised to learn that that is my own position as well. By and large, I have a very “live and let live” attitude. I don’t care if a gay couple wants to live together. I don’t want any say in what their domestic arrangements should be. Voters in three States have agreed to allow them to get married in their State, and I have no doubt that number will increase. I just don’t want to see it done as a matter of judicial decree.

It’s difficult to argue what our Founding Fathers would say on the subject, since they would undoubtedly be dumbfounded by the suggestion that homosexual couples should be allowed to marry. However, they did establish some clear Constitutional principles that I hope would apply here.

First is the principle that most matters should not be up to the Federal government to decide. It is good for different States to have different policies on different matters. Competition and diversity are positives, not negatives; they will lead to more benefits than any proscribed uniformity.

Who can get married and under what circumstances should not be a matter for the Federal government to decide. It never has been in the past; it shouldn’t be in the future.

Marriage licenses aren’t issued by the Federal government. Traditionally, it has been left to each individual State to decide what requirements (age, residency, blood test, etc.) should be followed.

“Let’s not make a Federal case of it” is a sentiment that should be applied more often than it is. Is there any chance that the Supreme Court will accept it on this very divisive issue?

I suspect the answer is no. I’m afraid that the same court that found a specious way to rule that Obamacare is Constitutional will declare that prohibiting gays from getting married is not, which means that the country is about to take another gigantic lurch to the left.

I hate to agree with Limbaugh on this. But, yes, I think it’s inevitable.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

The Republican Shell Game On Obamacare

Give us a break! That’s what Congress finally did on Saturday, when after a marathon session in the Senate, Congressmen all agreed to head out of town for their two-week spring break. So we’re safe from their meddlesome efforts until April 8.

But what a show they put on before they left. After arguing most of the night, the Senate finally managed to pass its first budget in four years at 4:56 in the morning. The final vote was 50-49, with every Republican opposing it. They were joined by four Democrats: Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Begich of Alaska and Max Baucus of Montana. Not so coincidentally, all four are up for re-election next year.

I’ll have more to say about the battle of the budgets in a moment. But first I need to comment on two recent Senate votes on Obamacare and the incredible hypocrisy they demonstrated. First, Congressional Republicans declared their unwavering opposition to the badly misnamed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Then they voted to fund it for the rest of the year.

What the heck’s going on here?

Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), two tough young conservatives who defeated more establishment-type Republicans to win election, lived up to their campaign promises to try to end Obamacare. They forced a vote in the Senate on an amendment to defund the program. As expected, the measure lost on a straight party-line vote, with 55 Democrats voting against it and all 45 Republicans in the Senate voting in favor.

On March 20, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made a wonderful speech on the floor of the Senate:

In my view, Obamacare is a colossal mistake for our country. There’s just no way to fix it. It needs to be pulled out by its roots and we need to start over.

This bill needs to be repealed and replaced — not with another unreadable law or another 20,000 pages of regulations – but with common-sense reforms that actually lower health care costs.

And anyone who thinks we’ve given up that fight is dead wrong.

On March 15, McConnell gave a speech denouncing Obamacare at the Conservative Political Action Conference. He stood next to a stack of papers that were taller than he was, which he said were the 20,000 pages of new regulations that have been issued so far to implement this healthcare monstrosity. Some 828 pages of new regulations were issued in just one day, he said; and he warned that there are many more to come.

On March 11, in remarks on the Senate floor, McConnell said:

This law is a disaster waiting to happen.

Imagine the burden we’re placing on the single mom who wants to open her own store. Or the young entrepreneur who wants to sell some new idea. Or the business owners we all know from back home — the folks who employ so many of our constituents.

Instead of encouraging them to create jobs and grow the economy, we’re hitting them with a brick of regulations.

That all sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? But McConnell and 19 other Republican Senators voted to fund Obamacare for the rest fiscal 2013.

What you’ve got here is a perfect example of how many Republicans can vote for “business as usual” in Washington, while at the same time making sure they can posture as staunch conservatives for the folks back home.

Here are the 20 Republican Senators who voted in favor of the Cruz amendment, knowing it would fail, but then voted in favor of a measure to make sure the healthcare monstrosity gets all of the taxpayer funds it needs to continue operations for the rest of this fiscal year:

Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, John Barrasso of Wyoming, Roy Blunt of Missouri, John Boozman of Arkansas, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Dan Coats of Indiana, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Susan Collins of Maine, Bob Corker of Tennessee, John Cornyn of Texas, Orrin Hatch of Utah, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Mike Johanns of Nevada, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Richard Shelby of Alabama, John Thune of South Dakota and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.

By the way, you may be wondering why the vote to fund Obamacare was included in an omnibus piece of legislation called a “continuing resolution.” The reason is that our august leaders know that they can get a lot more votes for their massive spending programs if they lump enough things together in one humongous package. So rather than individual votes on various parts of the Federal budget, we get one all-inclusive continuing resolution.

It’s so much safer that way. Witness what just happened with efforts to defund Obamacare.

In the predawn hours of March 23, the Democratic majority in the Senate also did something that it has vigorously avoided for the past four years: It passed a budget.

As the kids would say, big whoop. The Democrats’ plan calls for almost $1 trillion in new revenue over the next 10 years. But thanks to 62 percent more spending over the decade, even if they get all that new revenue, the budget still won’t balance.

The Republicans, meanwhile, didn’t do much better. The Paul Ryan budget, which the House passed and the Senate rejected, also called for more spending, just not quite as much. The Republican budget would have increased Federal spending by 40 percent over the next 10 years. But thanks to increased revenue from our slowly growing economy, the budget was supposed to have balanced by year 10.

Mind you, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are actually calling for a reduction in government spending. The best we can hope for, they say, is a slight reduction in the proposed growth of government.

Until we more people in the U.S. Senate who will stick to their campaign promises on every vote and who don’t engage in the sort of shell game we just saw with funding for Obamacare, I’m afraid they are probably correct.

Of the 21 Senate seats currently held by Democrats that will be contested next year, Republicans have to win only six of them in addition to retaining the seats they hold in order to regain control of the Senate.

But it sure wouldn’t hurt if, at the same time, some of the soft-as-marshmallows Republicans in the list above could also be replaced by some people with a little more backbone.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood