Of course the left hates ‘American Sniper’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Barack Obama’s dangerously wrongheaded State of the Union speech

What planet did he just come from?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

The Supremes to rule on gay marriage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Why won’t Obama say ‘Islamic terrorism?’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Why wasn’t Obama in Paris?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood   

We must support our local police

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Will the Republicans dump John Boehner?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood  

Why I’ve got to keep fighting big government

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

A very bad year for the U.S. Constitution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood  

These celebs get the Grinch award

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood  

Is waterboarding torture?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Republicans’ abject surrender on spending

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God save us from the hypocrisy of the left!

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

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

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

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

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

The Democrats’ ‘reckless and irresponsible’ terror report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

A meaningless sop for conservatives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Beware the GOP internationalists

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pretty snarky, wasn’t he?

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

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

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

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

The real heroes in Ferguson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Give thanks for the Bill of Rights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Will the Republicans have the guts to play hardball?

Barack Obama has certainly tossed down the gauntlet in front of the Republicans, hasn’t he? In an address to the nation last Thursday night, he finally confirmed all of the trial balloons the White House had launched, promising he would issue some sort of executive order on immigration.

Turns out the reality goes even further than we were warned about. Although the president has said the Administration will establish procedures that will permit some 5 million illegal aliens to remain in this country and receive work permits, he is in effect stopping the deportation of all illegals, except for criminals, terrorists and the latest arrivals. By doing so, Obama has made sure that almost all of the estimated 11 million to 12 million illegals in this country are in no danger of being deported. In effect, he has granted amnesty to all but a handful of them.

Of course, his actions now fly in the face of his repeated assertions over the past six years that he did not have the authority to do so. “The problem is,” Obama said last year, “that I’m the president of the United States. I’m not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed.”

That was just one of 22 different times Obama was recorded saying that he did not have the authority to do what he just did. In a Town Hall meeting back in 2011, the president said:

There are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system that for me to simply, through executive order, ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as President.

But that was then; this is now. So the question today is: What should the Republicans do about the president’s unconstitutional actions?

In last Thursday’s column, I analyzed one possible strategy: Congress could cut off the funds the president will need to implement his program. The Constitution is unequivocally clear that all spending bills must originate in the House of Representatives. If Congress won’t fund it, the president can’t spend it.

The liberal media are already screaming that doing such a thing could lead to another government shutdown. They claim that this would be disastrous for Republicans.

There are two false assumptions here. First, the only way a shutdown would occur would be if the president vetoed any spending bill that Congress passed. That could happen if Congress approved a single continuing resolution. But what if Congress approved a series of authorizations? Would Obama really veto every one of them? I suspect that’s one publicity war he would lose, no matter how much the mainstream media tried to defend and protect him.

But even if that were to happen and the government had to shut down for a while, would it really be a disaster for the country or for the Republican Party? Based on what just happened in the midterm elections, I don’t think so. The voters made it pretty darn clear they want the GOP to run things for a while. There didn’t seem to be any residue of anger over the shutdown two years ago.

Controlling the purse strings is just one of the things the new Republican majority could do. Another is to refuse to vote on any of Obama’s nominations for various federal posts. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is one of the fiercest advocates of drawing this line in the sand.

Both parties have used this tactic on occasion in the past. But I can’t remember when it was applied across the board for an extended period of time. If the goal is to force the president to back down, I don’t think this will do that.

But throwing some sand in the works isn’t the worst thing that could happen. No, a much worse thing would be for Republicans to roll over and allow Obama to continue to trammel the Constitution for two more years.

Hey, Republicans, you’ve finally got the votes to stop him. So how are you going to do it? I can’t wait to hear your answer.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

The Democrats abandon one of their own

You can almost feel a little bit sorry for Mary Landrieu, who has been fighting an uphill battle to retain her Senate seat in Louisiana. In the election earlier this month, voters refused to give the three-term incumbent a majority, forcing a runoff on Dec. 6. The oddsmakers don’t think much of her chances of winning.

Landrieu became convinced that her best chance to get the voters to return her to office was to win passage of the bill approving construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Doing that would have been quite a trick. Barack Obama, playing up to leftist environmentalists in his party, had stalled the measure for the past six years by ordering study after study. Majority Leader Harry Reid had refused to allow the Senate to vote on any of the eight previous bills approving the measure that had been passed by the House.

Ah, but now things were different, or so Landrieu hoped. With her Senate seat on the line, Reid finally agreed to allow a vote to be taken on the measure, after the ninth iteration was approved overwhelmingly in the House last week. The vote there was 252-161.

In a ploy that must have sent shivers up Landrieu’s spine, the lead sponsor of the measure in the House was Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana who just happened to be the chief vote getter among Republicans to oppose her for the Senate seat. If the bill failed in the Senate, Landrieu would have egg all over her face. But if it passed, her Republican opponent would be able to claim much of the credit. Talk about a lose-lose proposition!

While Landrieu tried to convince the voters back home that her long tenure on the Senate Energy Committee made her invaluable to the state, there were two embarrassing disclosures that tarnished her claims. The first was that during her 18 years in the Senate, she had never introduced a significant piece of legislation. The second was that she had somehow failed to attend almost 70 percent of the meetings of the most important assignment she had in the Senate: the Energy Committee.

Even the media were asking just how valuable her service to Louisiana had been. A “yes” vote on Keystone would probably not be enough to save her job. But she was going to give it her best shot.

Turns out her best wasn’t enough. There were all sorts of maneuvering before the vote in the Senate, including what was described as “an impassioned plea” behind closed doors to her colleagues by Landrieu. But when the votes were counted two nights ago, the measure came up one vote short.

Thanks to Senate rules, 60 “aye” votes were required for passage. When the tally was taken early Tuesday evening, the measure got the votes of all 45 Republicans in the Senate. But only 14 Democrats defied their party’s leaders to give their approval. The measure failed by a vote of 59-41. Sorry, Mary.

So now what happens? There are two easy predictions:

First, Cassidy will defeat Landrieu in two weeks by a substantial amount, further increasing the Republican majority in the Senate.

Second, soon after the new members take their seats in January and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) replaces Harry Reid as Senate majority leader, a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline will be brought to the floor again. With nine new Republicans eager to grant their assent, the bill should easily win the 60 votes necessary for passage.

After a six-year wait, the measure approving the Keystone XL pipeline will finally land on the president’s desk. If Obama does veto it, as the wacko environmentalists have demanded, we will then find out if enough Democratic senators will defy their leadership and vote to override the president’s veto.

The battle hasn’t been won yet, folks. But in the past week, victory got closer.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Will Obama really be this stupid?

Well, that didn’t last long. I’m referring to the “new era of cooperation” that was supposed to dawn between Republicans and the Obama Administration after the massive Democratic losses in the midterm elections.

It was just two weeks ago when the Republicans regained control of the Senate, increased their majority in the House and won scores of statewide races, including governorships in such normally solid-blue states as Massachusetts and Maryland. To say that the Democrats endured a shellacking would be an understatement.

Some pundits predicted that the results would force Barack Obama to become a tad more conciliatory toward his opponents. Not a chance, I said. I predicted that the president would be just as arrogant as ever, maybe even more so. Looks like I’m being proven correct in spades.

The media are filled with stories about how Obama is going to defy Republicans, and even many in his own party, by issuing an executive order granting millions of illegal immigrants the right to remain in this country. He’s not going to negotiate with the new Congress. Heck, he won’t even wait until they take office six weeks from now. If the rumors are right, he’s going to act this week.

Talk about throwing gasoline on the fire! House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) promises that Congress will fight the president “tooth and nail” if he does such a thing. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says issuing such an executive order would be like “waving a red flag in front of a bull.”

Obama knows this. And it looks like he’s going to do it anyway. If he does, you can expect both sides to be even more hardheaded and intractable over the next two years than they have been in the past. Hurray for gridlock!

What should the Republicans do now? Actually, they have a relatively simple strategy available to them to defeat the president on this. They can cut off the money he needs to implement his unconstitutional scheme.

Thanks to the wisdom of our Founding Fathers, the Constitution requires that every penny the federal government spends must first begin with an appropriations bill in the House of Representatives. If the House won’t vote to authorize it, the president can’t spend it. It’s as simple as that.

Of course, the Constitution also says that it is the Congress that is responsible for writing all of our laws. The job of the president is to enforce them — not to make them up by executive fiat.

The way things stand today, almost all spending authorization for the federal government is due to expire next month, on Dec. 11 to be exact. That means the lame-duck Congress has less than a month to approve some sort of spending bill to keep our government operating.

What Congress should do is approve a short-term measure that authorizes most activities — but that specifically prohibits the president from spending a single cent to implement his amnesty plan.

Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) claims that such a provision will stop Obama “dead in his tracks.” He says the House has the power to insist “that no money in that spending bill can go for these purposes, for this executive amnesty. If he does that, he’s in direct violation of the law.”

In order to stop the president, Salmon says, “Why not use every tool in our toolbox? This is the biggest hammer that we have.”

Yes it is. Will the Republicans have the guts to swing it? We’re about to find out.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Obamacare designer admits lies were necessary

Jonathan Gruber, a professor at MIT who was also one of the key architects of Obamacare, told a panel last year that the Obama administration deliberately deceived the public about several aspects of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the bill that gave birth to Obamacare. If it had told the truth, Gruber admitted, the bill would never have passed Congress.

In a video clip that just surfaced, Gruber said: “Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage. And basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever, but basically that was really, really critical to get for the thing to pass.”

One of the key deceptions, Gruber acknowledged, was to keep the public from realizing that the bill was actually a major new tax. “I mean, this bill was written in a tortured way to make sure CBO [the Congressional Budget Office] did not score the mandate as taxes. If CBO scored the mandate as taxes the bill dies. OK? So it’s written to do that.”

To make sure the audience understood what he was saying, Gruber added, “[I]f you had a law which said that healthy people are going to pay in, you made explicit healthy people pay in and sick people get money, it would not have passed.”

Let’s be clear about what Gruber is saying here. He’s admitting that the language of the Affordable Care Act was “tortured” so those stupid American voters wouldn’t realize it is actually a massive program to redistribute wealth. Oh, and it’s perfectly OK to lie to the American people about this because of the noble result: getting Obamacare passed. Or, as he said on the panel, “Look, I wish Mark was right that we could make it all transparent, but I’d rather have this law than not.”

President Obama played along with the deceit, repeatedly saying that the legislation “absolutely is not a tax increase.” But as it turned out, the Supreme Court later ruled that it was only the fact that Obamacare was a tax that made the darned thing constitutional.

Of course, disguising the employer mandate was just one of the deceptions that were used to get Obamacare approved. Another was Obama’s massive and repeated falsehood, “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” And the companion deceit, “If you like your doctor, you can keep you doctor.”

Oh, and how about the dishonest promise that under Obamacare, the cost for health insurance would go down? Millions of Americans are learning that precisely the opposite is true, as they see the price they must pay skyrocket.

The fact of the matter is Obamacare was built on lies from the very beginning. Even the name is a fraud. The Affordable Care Act is not “affordable” — not for millions of Americans who will be forced to pay much higher premiums for their health insurance and certainly not for us taxpayers, who are being forced to cough up billions of dollars to pay for it.

Remember that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wasn’t able to corral a single Republican vote for Obamacare. Of the 60 Democrats who obediently pulled the “aye” lever, 28 of them, or almost half, are now out of office. Some retired, so they wouldn’t have to face the voters again; others tried desperately to distance themselves from the measure and their president but went down to defeat.

In January, there will be a new Republican majority in the Senate and an even larger one in the House. Let’s see how quickly they can agree on a bill to repeal this monstrosity and put it on the president’s desk.

Sure, Obama will veto it. We can then begin disassembling it piece by piece, while giving Republicans a powerful campaign issue for 2016.

Hey, if we can’t win on this one, where can we win?

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood

Obama is as arrogant as ever

After the incredible shellacking that Democrats received a week ago, wouldn’t you think that President Barack Obama would be a tad more conciliatory? Maybe a little less arrogant? A tiny bit more willing to compromise?

Not a bit of it. In a news conference last Wednesday, the president made it clear that he isn’t going to budge an inch. Pre-election, he had boasted that the elections of course would be about his policies, “every one of them.” But now that the voters had delivered a massive repudiation of them, he refused to take any responsibility for the massive Democratic loses.

In a Wall Street Journal column three days later, Peggy Noonan said that the president should have shown some humility. “Humility has power,” she explained. “It shows people that you have some give — you get the message, you are capable of self-correcting.”

Instead, the Republican analyst and former presidential speech writer said: “That is not what he’s doing. The President is instead doubling down on hostility, antagonism and distance.”

Exactly. As just one example, consider Obama’s repeated insistence that unless Congress passes an immigration bill he likes, he will start issuing more executive orders to achieve his aims. He even had the nerve to claim, “I think it’s fair to say that I have shown a lot of patience and have tried to work on a bipartisan basis as much as possible.”

Sure thing, Mr. President — if you define “as much as possible” as never.

Of course, the Big Lie is nothing new in Washington. Back in 2006, when Harry Reid (D-Nev.) first became the Senate majority leader, he declared that it was “time for bipartisanship, it’s time for open government, transparency, and it’s time for results.” The pretense of bipartisanship didn’t last long. First, Reid helped ram the Affordable Care Act through the Senate without a single Republican vote. After that, he steadfastly refused to allow the Senate to consider a single one of more than 300 bills that were passed by the House of Representatives. In fact, he wouldn’t even allow any Republican amendments on the handful of bills that he allowed to come before the Senate.

Will things be any different once the Republicans are in charge of both branches of Congress? Let’s hope so.

One of the first things the new Republican majority should do is to pass legislation authorizing the Keystone Pipeline. Hopefully, the same bill would include other energy reforms, such as removing restrictions on energy exports and allowing more drilling offshore and on federal lands.

Such a bill is likely to get some significant Democrat support in both the House and the Senate. And if the president dared to veto it, the Republicans would have a very popular issue to campaign on in the 2016 elections.

Another area where the Republicans could act quickly is on tax reform. They should pass a measure that drastically slashes taxes on overseas profits of U.S. companies. The U.S. tax rate is currently among the highest in the world. Let’s lower it enough so that U.S. companies are encouraged to bring some of that estimated $3 trillion back to this country. Imagine how many jobs that could help create!

If that same bill also reduced taxes on corporate income and dividends, the result would be a massive shot in the arm for the U.S. economy, which badly needs it.

The Democrats played political hardball for the past six years. Let’s see what the Republicans do once they control what happens in Congress. It could hardly get any worse.

Until next time, keep some powder dry.

–Chip Wood