Sunday, December 30, 2012

New Year’s Resolution for Republicans: Find sensible immigration policy

As we prepare to ring in 2013 and another four years of Barack Obama, Republicans should make a resolution to find an immigration policy that won’t turn off minority voters. Exit polls from the 2012 elections show that immigration was the single worst issue for Republicans. By a more than two-to-one margin, voters believed that illegal immigrants should be offered legal status rather than being deported. This issue undoubtedly influenced Hispanic voters and Asian voters to flock to Barack Obama by 71 and 73 percent respectively.

Obama’s record on immigration is less than stellar, but he proved less frightening than many Republicans. After ignoring the immigration issue for three years, the president issued constitutionally questionable orders to limit deportations. Although this order may have exceeded his authority as president, it proved more popular than Mitt Romney’s promise to veto the DREAM Act. Republican rhetoric on immigration has often been harsh, sometimes bordering on racist, and attempts by states to regulate illegal aliens were easily demonized by the Democrats.

Ironically, the Wall Street Journal pointed out that the state immigration laws are often bad for businesses. In Alabama, where the crackdown on illegal immigration was sold as a way to increase employment for U.S. citizens, there was a shortage of workers in industries that traditionally hired both legal and illegal Mexican immigrants. As Hispanics left the state regardless of their immigration status, employers turned to Haitian and African immigrants because native Alabamans did not pursue the open jobs. In 2011, the Journal reported that many crops were rotting the fields because there were not enough workers to harvest them.

In 2011, Georgia passed an immigration law similar to those of Arizona and Alabama. Implementation of the law was postponed by the courts, but parts of the injunction were lifted earlier this month. The law is intended to encourage illegal immigrants to leave the state, which may lead Georgia industries that depend on immigrant labor to experience difficulties in the coming year.

Republicans should recognize that the immigration problem is one of our own making. The tacit acceptance of illegal immigration for decades has encouraged more migrants to come to the U.S. to work. For years, immigration law was akin to the speed limit. Everybody knew that a lot of people were breaking the law, but it was accepted with a nod and wink. Large sectors of the economy now depend on labor provided by immigrants who entered the country illegally.

Republicans should also realize that these immigrants are coming to the country in pursuit of the American dream as our own ancestors did. Immigrants come to this country because opportunities are not good in their homelands. They come here to provide for their families and to make a better life, just as the English, Irish, Germans, and multitudes of others did since the birth of America.

The dilemma is that the needs of the economy must be squared with the need for national security in the post-9/11 world. The border must be secured to prevent the infiltration of terrorists, but legal immigration should be encouraged. In no case should otherwise law-abiding immigrants be deported simply for entering the country illegally or for something as simple as a traffic infraction. The idea of splitting up families and deporting parents or children is not something that a pro-family party should endorse.

Stories abound of illegal immigrants like Jose Castro, arrested in Hall County, Ga. for fishing without a license and threatened with deportation. In another Georgia case, Jessica Colotl was a college student arrested for driving without a license in Atlanta. After the arrest, Colotl, a Kennesaw State University student, was revealed to have entered the U.S. illegally as a ten-year-old. These cases make Republican immigration hardliners look heartless. Worse, it pushes millions of voters into the arms of President Obama and the Democrats.

The obvious solution is to allow migrants to enter the country on work visas. Illegal immigrants who are here already should be allowed to stay provided that they register with the government and pay a fine. They should not be granted amnesty or citizenship, but the right to work legally is something that both the immigrants and employers need. It would also be a boon to the government by bringing part of the underground economy into the light where it can be taxed and regulated.

It is simply not realistic to expect immigrants already in this country, many of whom already own homes or businesses, to return to their native countries before being able to obtain legal status. In many cases, the illegal aliens came here at such a young age that they have no real connection to their so-called homelands and don’t even speak the language there. A solution that is so draconian as to be unworkable is not a solution at all. If the solution is too harsh, illegal immigrants will simply remain in the shadows.

It should be easier for immigrants to come to the U.S. legally. It has long been noted that the U.S. is suffering a “brain drain” of university students who come to the U.S. to study but are unable to stay here to work. These students with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees then go abroad to work for competitors of U.S. companies. This is causing a shortage of technical workers in the U.S. Foreign STEM graduates don’t take jobs from Americans because very few Americans pursue these types of degrees.

If it weren’t for the immigration controversy, Republicans might get more votes from minority voters as well. Many immigrants tend to be socially conservative. According to a Pew poll, foreign born Hispanics tend to be much more conservative than their U.S. born counterparts. Many Hispanics also tend to be pro-life and strongly oppose same-sex marriage. They also tend to be very religious and religious voters tend to favor the GOP. Likewise, Asian voters have many reasons to lean Republican as well, but have not done so in recent elections.

It is extremely likely that the next four years of Barack Obama will prove as disastrous for immigrants and minorities as they will for the rest of the population. The 2012 election should underscore the fact that many people need more than an economic reason to cast a ballot for a Republican. They need to feel that they aren’t hated.

Republicans can reach out to the immigrant and minority communities by taking the initiative on immigration reform. Immigration languished on President Obama’s backburner for more than three years until he needed Hispanic votes for the election. He has very little credibility on the issue, but Republicans have even less. They might be able to change that by promoting common sense reforms that work for both immigrants and businesses.

Originally published on

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Gun control not the answer to mass killings

In the wake of last week’s school shooting in Newtown, Ct. there have been many renewed calls for gun control from the left. On Monday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Ca.) said on MSNBC that she will introduce a bill to ban “assault weapons” and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) called on President Obama to “exploit” the killings according to the Washington Times. Today, President Obama announced that Vice President Biden will head a group to craft new gun control policy and that the issue will become a second term priority. Many pro-gun Democrats, such as West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, are changing position.

The liberal position is that if there had only been more laws, Adam Lanza would not have been able to steal the guns that he used to kill 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School. A look at past mass killings indicates that the opposite may be true.

The Citizens Crime Commission of New York City lists 27 mass shootings (defined by the FBI as four or more victims killed) in the United States from 1984 through August 2012. When geographical location is considered, the majority of these shootings took place in states with strict gun control laws. Two of the states with the most restrictive gun control laws, Wisconsin and Illinois, were both the site of mass shootings. Two mass shootings occurred in Wisconsin. Four mass shootings took place in California, despite its gun control initiatives. Connecticut was the site of two previous mass killings before Sandy Hook, even though the state’s gun laws are considered some of the toughest in the nation according to a Washington Post article that cites studies by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Brown University.

A common argument is that gun control fails because criminals buy weapons in states with lax gun laws. If this is true, then mass shootings should be more common in states that allow freer access to guns. In reality, many states with unrestrictive gun laws saw no mass shootings. When shootings did occur in these states, they often happened in places such as schools where guns were not allowed. In the Aurora, Co. movie theater shooting, the theater did not permit guns. In the Fort Hood, Tx. shooting, soldiers were not permitted to carry weapons on base.

There is a striking similarity to the map showing locations of mass shootings and blue states from past elections. Although the comparison is not perfect, the red states across the south from Louisiana to North Carolina had no mass shootings. Likewise, the Midwest experienced few mass shootings while liberal meccas like California, Illinois, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, and New York all made the list.

The failure of gun control to prevent mass shootings is even more stark when other countries are considered. Without even considering mass killings perpetrated by governments (the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, the Rwandan genocide, etc.) and terrorist groups (the Palestine Liberation Organization, al Qaeda, the Irish Republican Army, etc.). Governments and paramilitary terrorist groups have murdered far more innocent civilians than any lone gunman could ever hope to.

Even without considering killings by organizations, mass shootings occur around the world. This is true even though the United States is one of the few countries in the world where the ownership of firearms is legal and common for civilians. In fact, of the top ten rampage killings listed on, only two occurred in the U.S.

Lists compiled by Wikipedia concur that mass shootings are not an American phenomenon. The worst mass shooting in the world occurred in Norway in 2011 when 68 people were murdered and 110 were injured by Anders Behring Breivik. Breivik also killed another eight people with a car bomb. The second worst shooting occurred in South Korea in 1982 when a man killed 62 people and wounded another 37 before committing suicide. The worst mass shooting in the Americas occurred in Bogota, Colombia in 1986 when a man used a variety of weapons to kill 30 people and injure another 15.

In one interesting case, the same man perpetrated two mass killings in Africa. William Unek murdered 21 people with an axe in the Belgian Congo in 1954. He escaped to Tanganyika where he went on another rampage three years later, this time using a rifle as well as an axe to kill 36 people.

In Europe there have been a surprising number of mass shootings in the past few decades in spite of onerous laws against the private ownership of guns. According to the Associated Press, in addition to Norway’s Anders Breivik, there were mass shootings in the United Kingdom in 2010 and 1987, Switzerland in 2001, France in 1989 and 1995, Russia in 1999, Finland in 2007 and 2008, Germany in 2009 and 2002, and Spain in 1990. In 1996, sixteen kindergarteners were murdered in Scotland by a gunman who then committed suicide.

Even communist China, a literal police state, is not immune to mass shootings. A man killed 23 people and wounded as many as 80 in Beijing before being shot by police in 1994. Other mass murders in China used other weapons. In 2001, two Chinese men killed 14 people in China with guns and knives. In 2006 in Gongyi, China, 12 kindergarteners and four adults were killed with knives and a gasoline fire. A man killed seven children and two women with a meat cleaver in Xian in 2010. In Hebei in 2010, a man ran over 17 people with a shovel loader tractor.

Knives and explosives have been used to kill large numbers of people on many occasions. In 1950, a man killed 22 people in India with a knife. The worst school massacre in American history used explosives, not guns. According to, in 1927 a former school board member in Bath Township, Mich. set off three bombs that killed 45 people and wounded 58.

The worst school massacre in the world occurred in Beslan, Russia in 2004 when Chechen terrorists took 1,200 students and adults hostage. In the ensuing gun battle, 355 people were killed (not including the 31 terrorists) and more than 700 were injured. Of the dead, 186 were children between the ages of six and 16.

Conversely, legal guns in the hands of citizens have prevented several massacres. Days before the Sandy Hook shooting, Portland’s News Channel 8 reported that a concealed carry holder confronted a man who had already killed two people in a mall in Clackamas, Wash. When he saw that he was confronted by an armed civilian, the murderer then killed himself before he could take any more lives.

It wasn’t the first time that citizens had prevented such a tragedy. In 1997, an assistant principal retrieved a pistol from his car to stop a shooting spree at Pearl High School in Mississippi. In 2002, two students used their personal guns to help end a shooting spree at the Appalachian School of Law in Virginia. In 2007, a churchgoer shot a man who had killed four people in a Colorado Springs church. A Salt Lake City gun owner stopped a man who suddenly began stabbing shoppers in a grocery store. There are many other reports of armed citizens saving lives as well.

In spite of the perception that mass shootings are becoming more frequent, criminologists say that random shootings are not becoming more frequent according to the Associated Press. Grant Duwe, a criminologist with the Minnesota Department of Corrections and the author of a book on mass murders in America, says that mass shootings increased between the 1960s and 1990s, but that mass killings have decreased since 2000. Duwe says mass killings in the U.S. peaked in 1929. In spite of the emotional impact of random killings, the majority of murder victims know their killer.

It seems that no amount of gun control, even outright bans, can effectively prevent mass shootings from occurring. In fact, by disarming legal gun owners who are often on the scene before police, strict gun control laws might often make these rampage attacks even worse.

Originally published on

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Delta announces deal with Virgin

28080_322163534565285_1740587373_nDelta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic jointly announced a new alliance yesterday. The press release from both companies unveiled Delta’s purchase of a 49 percent stake in the British carrier for $360 million. The airlines will remain separate but will share costs and revenues from joint venture flights. The 49 percent share to be purchased by Delta was previously owned by Singapore Airlines.

There will be 31 peak day round trip joint venture flights between the U.K. and the U.S., Canada and Mexico. There will be nine flights daily between Heathrow and the U.S. Seven flights will go to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and two will fly to Newark, N.J.

Passengers will be able to connect to U.S. destinations through Delta’s hubs and to the U.K. through Virgin’s base in London-Heathrow. U.S. passengers will have access to other European destinations through Delta’s alliances with Air France, KLM, and Alitalia in Paris, Amsterdam and Rome. Members of Delta Skymiles and the Virgin Atlantic Flying Club will earn miles on both airlines. Members of Delta Sky Clubs and Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses will also receive reciprocal access.

The alliance will require approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Department of Justice, and agencies in the European Union. The companies expect approval by the end of 2013.

According to the press release, “The partnership allows both carriers to offer a greatly expanded network at Heathrow and to overcome slot constraints, which have limited the growth and competitive capability of both airlines.”

Sir Richard Branson is the President and principle owner of Virgin Atlantic. Branson is also a minority shareholder in Virgin America, a Virgin brand airline headquartered in Burlingame, Calif. with a hub in San Francisco. Virgin America is a separate company from Virgin Atlantic and is unaffected the new alliance.


Originally published on

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Fiscal cliff poll has good news for both sides

A new poll released on December 10 by Battleground is being touted to show President Obama’s edge in the fiscal cliff negotiations. While it is true that the poll shows that 60 percent of voters favor the president’s plan to raise taxes on Americans who earn more than $250,000, other items in the poll are not as favorable for Obama. Sixty-five percent of respondents also favor increasing taxes on large corporations even though the U.S. corporate tax rate is already the highest in the world.

In the same poll, 69 percent opposed raising taxes on small businesses that earn more than $250,000. The problem is that many small businesses are privately held by individuals who earn more than $250,000.

Seventy-six percent favor cutting government spending across the board, a position that President Obama is at odds with as he tries to negotiate for the ability to unilaterally increase the debt limit to avoid spending cuts. Sixty-nine percent of respondents opposed making significant cuts to the debt limit.

Respondents were evenly split on several issues. There was slight approval (51 percent) for reducing Medicare benefits for wealthy seniors. Fifty percent approve of reducing Social Security benefits for the wealthy. Forty-eight percent want to end foreign aid while 46 percent disapprove.

Obama gets bad marks for his job performance on several issues as well. Fifty-nine percent disapprove of his handling of the deficit and 53 percent disapprove of his handling of the economy. He gets marginal approval (50 percent) for working with Congress, taxes (49 percent) and Medicare (48 percent).

For Republicans, the current battle is largely lost on tax increases even though the wealthy already pay the vast majority of taxes. The challenge is to use their mandate to cut spending and reduce the deficit to force President Obama and the Democrats to compromise on real spending cuts.


Originally published on

Republicans should vote ‘present’ on fiscal cliff

The Republicans face a lose-lose proposition on the fiscal cliff. Even though President Obama ruled out a compromise on tax rates long before the election, a new poll by Battleground released on December 10 indicates that most voters favor raising taxes on Americans who earn more than $250,000 and large corporations. Further, Examiner’s analysis of exit polls showed that a majority of voters favor increasing taxes on the wealthy. These results have been consistent with other polls for some time. As late as yesterday, the president was still indicating his refusal to compromise on tax hikes for the wealthy according to CBS.

Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson is almost certainly right that President Obama does not really care if the country goes over the fiscal cliff. If there is no compromise prior to January 1, then President Obama will get the tax increases that he wants on the wealthy. It is also likely that he will get credit for enacting tax cuts when the Democrats push through a bill to return tax rates to their pre-cliff levels for all but the top income brackets. Republicans will have no choice but to vote for the tax cuts on middle and lower income brackets unless they want to be blamed for increasing taxes.

In essence, it is inevitable that taxes are going up. It is in the Republicans best interests to negotiate a deal as quickly as possible on the best terms possible. Republicans should categorically reject President Obama’s desire to be able to unilaterally increase the federal debt limit. They should also insist on the maximum amount of immediate spending cuts that they can get from the Democrats. Spending cuts should real, not reductions in the rate of increase, and not be future promises.

President Obama and the Democrats will blame Republicans no matter how the fiscal cliff negotiations proceed. If the country goes over the cliff, then they will blame Republicans for being unwilling to compromise on taxes for the wealthy. If the Republicans agree to the tax hikes, then Democrats and conservatives alike will attack them for raising taxes in the next election.

One possible solution is for Republicans to adopt then-Senator Obama’s strategy of voting present. Republicans should get the best deal that they can from the Democrats and then abstain from the vote. The bill will go through because Republicans won’t vote against it, but their fingerprints will not be on any tax increase. If and when the economy slips back into recession because of the president’s insistence on raising taxes, the Democrats will have no one to blame but themselves.

Republicans do hold some cards in the negotiations. Examiner’s analysis of exit polls showed that 74 percent of voters believe that the deficit or the economy was the most important issue facing the country. Sixty three percent of voters opposed raising taxes to cut the deficit. A majority rejected the proposition that the government should do more. Additionally, the middle class voters that the Democrats are holding hostage went convincingly for Mitt Romney.

The Battleground poll also found that voters favor across-the-board cuts to federal spending and oppose raising the Social Security retirement age. They were evenly split on cutting Medicare and Social Security benefits for seniors with higher incomes. Voters still disapprove of President Obama’s handling of the economy and the deficit by large margins. They only agree with him on taxing the wealthy.

President Obama does not have a strong mandate from the 2012 election, but Democrats do hold the presidency and the senate. Elections have consequences. If the Mitt Romney and the Republicans had been elected in greater numbers, America would not have to cope with a tax increase and another likely recession. As things are, the only question is what President Obama and the Democrats will have to give up to get their way.

Originally published on

Monday, December 10, 2012

Jenni Rivera killed in Mexican Lear crash

The National Transportation Safety Board has confirmed in a press release today that Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera has died in a plane crash in Mexico. The NTSB is assisting Mexican civil aviation authorities in the investigation.

According to preliminary details published on, the crash occurred on December 9 at approximately 4:00 a.m. local time. The crash occurred shortly after takeoff from Monterrey, Mexico (MMMY). The aircraft was enroute to Toluca airport (MMTO) near Mexico City. The crash site is reportedly near the town of Iturbide, Mexico which is located approximately 100 miles south of Monterrey.

Weather reports from the time of the crash available on indicated visibility as low as one eighth of a mile in fog and mist. The fact that Monterrey is surrounded by high terrain coupled with the low visibility at the time of the accident point to controlled flight into terrain as a possible cause of the accident.

The accident aircraft was N345MC, a 1969 Lear 25 private jet. The aircraft was registered Starwood Management of Las Vegas according to Although the aircraft has a capacity of eight passengers and two crewmembers, only five passengers were aboard the accident flight. All five passengers and both crewmembers were reportedly killed in the accident. The aircraft was totally destroyed.’s accident database lists a total of 55 Lear 25 accidents dating back to 1969 when the aircraft was first produced. Forty of the accidents resulted in fatalities. Production of the model ended in 1984 with 373 airplanes.

Originally published on

How to avoid TSA hassles

2012-12-10 09.34.15Many Americans will soon head to the airport to take off on a holiday journey. As these passengers head for their flights, they will have to pass through Transportation Security Administration checkpoints for security screening. For many travelers, the prospect of a TSA screening is daunting, but the process can be made quick and stress free with a little preparation.

Making your TSA experience stress free begins with packing correctly. The TSA website contains a list of prohibited items. In general, anything with a blade or anything that can be considered a weapon cannot be in a carryon bag. Many items, from knives to guns, can be placed in checked baggage, but some items, such as flammable products, cannot be carried on aircraft at all. If in doubt, the TSA website offers a search engine where travelers can search for information on specific items.

Most liquids are still not permitted to be carried through security. To carry liquids, gels or aerosols, passengers must adhere to the 3-1-1 rule. Containers must be 3.4 ounces or less and stored in a one quart or liter zip-top bag. Only bag is allowed per person.

If a greater amount of a liquid is required for medical reasons, just tell the TSA officer. Extra medical liquids can be carried but will be subject to additional screening. The TSA recommends that these medications be labeled to assist in the screening process. Many airports have special lanes for passengers that require special assistance.

If you are carrying gifts, leave them unwrapped until you reach your destination. If they need to be inspected by a TSA officer, they might have to be unwrapped otherwise.

On the day of your flight, be sure to allow adequate time for check-in and screening. Lines can be long during the holidays. Plan to arrive at the gate at least 30 minutes prior to the flight’s departure time. This may require arriving at the airport at least two hours early. Be sure that you have your identification and boarding pass handy when you arrive at the screening checkpoint.

When you arrive at the checkpoint, remove your shoes and place them in one of the plastic bins to be screened. If you have on outer clothing such as a jacket, that must also be removed. Items from your pockets should also be placed in the bin. Belt buckles, cell phones, keys, change and other metal items can cause the alarm to go off when you step through the metal detector.

Some airports now have Advanced Imaging Technology scanners. The TSA recommends that you remove all items from your pockets if you are screened by one of these devices. If you don’t want to go through the body scanner, you can opt for a pat down. Travelers might also be subjected to a pat down if they set off an alarm.

If you are traveling with children who cannot walk through the detector without assistance or animals, you should carry them through the metal detector. Strollers, child seats and pet carriers must be scanned by the X-ray machine with your baggage. Children under 12 can leave their shoes on. Children will not be separated from their parents.

The TSA website contains many other tips for travelers. There is also a My TSA app for smart phones that contains guides to TSA policies as well as information on current TSA wait times. Your airline’s website also contains information about baggage policies. The holiday travel season is a hectic and busy time, but, with a little planning and preparation, at least the trip through the TSA checkpoint can be quick and easy.

This article was originally published on

Saturday, December 8, 2012

FCC wants to allow electronic devices in flight

airlinepaxFor frequent travelers, one of the biggest drawbacks to ereaders is that they can’t be used during taxi, takeoff and landing on commercial airline flights. As other passengers relax with newspapers or old fashioned books, tech savvy travelers have to twiddle their thumbs while the airplane moves to the runway and climbs through 10,000 feet. That may be about to change soon.

This week The Hill learned that Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, had sent a letter to the acting administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, Michael Huerta, recommending that the FAA “enable greater use of tablets, e-readers, and other portable devices” in flight.

Earlier this year, The Hill reported that the FAA was studying the possibility of allowing expanded use of electronic devices. While the FAA study specifically excluded the use of “voice communications” in flight, the FCC recommendation may pave the way for passengers to use tablets, ereaders, MP3 players and DVD players during all phases of flight.

Last year, American Airlines became the first airline to allow its pilots to use iPads to access charts and manuals in flight. Many passengers have undoubtedly wondered why pilots can use electronic devices when passengers cannot.

If the FAA does approve expanded use of electronic devices, passengers will likely still be limited to using “airplane mode.” The FAA will probably not allow the use of devices that transmit or receive while the aircraft is in flight. According to the FCC website, both agencies prohibit the use of wireless devices in flight “because of potential interference to the aircraft’s navigation and communication systems.”

The FCC had considered allowing in-flight use of wireless devices in 2007, but decided that there was insufficient information to determine whether airborne devices could harm networks on the ground. Passengers would still be able to purchase internet access from a provider such as Gogo if their plane is equipped.

The FAA points out that cell phones are different from other electronic devices because they transmit signals over long distances. To allow phones to be used for voice communications in flight, the air carrier would have to demonstrate that each particular model of phone would not interfere with each particular type of aircraft. The extensive testing required would make certification costs prohibitively expensive. The FAA does allow phones to be used for voice communications after landing as the plane taxies to the gate.

The FAA website also notes that most domestic airlines block the use of Skype and other voice-over-internet-protocol (VOIP) applications through their in-flight internet service providers. This is not because of an FAA restriction, but because most passengers don’t want to hear other passengers talking on the phone. This makes it questionable whether airlines would permit in-flight voice communications even if the FAA and FCC allowed them.

Any FAA rule change regarding electronic devices is unlikely to come before this year’s Christmas travel season. If you want to use your electronic device during your holiday air travel, keep it handy, but don’t turn it on until after takeoff.

Originally published on

Obama doesn’t want deal on fiscal cliff

473px-Johnny_IsaksonGeorgia Senator Johnny Isakson wrote yesterday that he is concerned that President Obama is not sincerely negotiating to avoid the fiscal cliff. The comment, written in Isakson’s weekly newsletter to constituents on Dec. 7, echoed a statement made earlier this week on MSNBC’s Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd.

Isakson wrote, “I am concerned that the president is not acting in good faith and actually wants us to go off the fiscal cliff, let tax cuts expire, cut defense spending and then turn around and cut taxes on just a few later on in order to gain exactly what he has wanted all along while looking as though he has single-handedly rescued the country.”

The senator believes that President Obama and the Democrats are presenting the Republican negotiators with unrealistic proposals in order to force the country toward the fiscal cliff. He believes that the president intends to either force the Republicans to give in to a one-sided deal or simply wait for the automatic tax hikes to take effect. Afterward, the Democrats would attempt to enact new tax cuts for all but the top two percent of taxpayers.

Senator Isakson told MSNBC that he favors an approach that would “raise the base” by “capping itemized deductions at means-tested levels.” Tax reform of this type would increase tax revenue without raising tax rates as wealthy taxpayers would be able to take fewer deductions, leaving them with more taxable income. Isakson says that this was the approach favored by President Obama’s own bipartisan deficit commission.

This sort of tax reform was also used by President Reagan in 1986 in a tax compromise with Democrats. The Tax Reform Act of 1986 lowered the top marginal rate from 50 percent to 28 percent while at the same time eliminating many loopholes and tax shelters. According to historical data from the Tax Policy Center, federal tax receipts increased both in terms of dollars and as a percentage of GDP after the reform.

As support for his position that President Obama does not really want a deal, Isakson cited the fact that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R – Ky.) offered Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D- Nev.) the chance to vote on President Obama’s proposal. Sen. Reid declined to allow the senate to vote on the measure. The proposal included $1.6 trillion in new taxes and would have given the president the power to raise the federal debt limit without congressional approval. A Republican summary of the president’s proposal provided to Huffington Post also includes an additional $600 billion in taxes effective in 2014, more stimulus spending, an extension to unemployment payments, and a one year deferral of the spending cuts included the fiscal cliff.

Meanwhile, President Obama repeated that he is not willing to compromise on raising tax rates. The president told Yahoo News, “If we're serious about reducing our deficit while still investing in things like education and research that are important to growing our economy - and if we're serious about protecting middle-class families - then we're also going to have to ask the wealthiest Americans to pay higher tax rates. That's one principle I won't compromise on.”

Rep. Tom Price (R- Ga.) had previously pointed out on MSNBC that Congressional Budget Office figures show that Obama’s tax increase would generate only $82 billion per year. According to Price’s figures, this represents just over two percent of the $3.5 trillion 2012 federal budget, enough to fund the federal government for about eight days. The 2012 federal deficit is $1.1 trillion according to the Treasury Department.

The president’s confidence may be the result of two new polls that show that a majority of voters trust the Democrats to make “a good-faith effort to cooperate with Republicans” according to Yahoo News. By almost two-to-one, voters would blame Republicans over Democrats if the country goes over the fiscal cliff.

Originally published on

Thursday, December 6, 2012

'Divine wind' swept Obama to second term

In the thirteenth century, two Mongol fleets under Kublai Khan attacked Japan.  On both occasions, the Mongol invasion fleets were ultimately destroyed by timely typhoons that the Japanese came to know as kamikaze or “divine wind.”  The Japanese believed that the storms were summoned by the gods to protect their homeland.  Hundreds of years later, during WWII, the term kamikaze was adopted by the Imperial Japanese government to describe suicide pilots who crashed their planes into American ships.

Now it is possible that another divine wind has again changed the course of history.  According to an Examiner analysis of exit poll data from the 2012 presidential election, Hurricane Sandy played a crucial role in the election.  In the days after the final debate between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, polls showed a slight Romney lead with the president polling below 50 percent in most swing states.  Then, on October 29-30, Hurricane Sandy struck the Mid-Atlantic States, causing flooding and heavy damage from Washington, D.C. to New York City. 

In the wake of the hurricane, polling data from both Rasmussen and Gallup showed a bump for the president.  Many observers attribute this to the perception of bipartisanship and leadership that Obama received as he toured storm damaged areas of New Jersey with Republican Governor Chris Christie.  The bump eventually moved the needle in the swing states enough to give Obama slim victories in Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania and other crucial states.  Examiner’s analysis of exit polling showed that 64 percent of voters said that the president’s response to the hurricane was a factor in their vote and 62 percent of these voters chose Obama.

It is interesting to consider the possibility of whether Hurricane Sandy was a divinely directed storm.  In Biblical history, God’s use of natural phenomena to change the course of human events is well established from the flood of Noah to Moses parting the sea.  Even in U.S. history, there have been instances of divine intervention.  One such case was the Battle of Long Island in the Revolutionary War in which George Washington and the Continental Army were saved from British annihilation by a miraculous fog.  More direct divine intervention has been cited in the U.S. victory at Midway in WWII.
If Hurricane Sandy did represent God’s intervention in the American electoral process, what would the Almighty have hoped to gain by influencing Americans to vote for Barack Obama?  Was it a divine rejection of the Republican Party and its ideals or something else?  Could a second Obama term be a blessing for the country or a curse?

Some clues can be found in recent events.  A Boston art exhibit recently made news when a painting depicting the president as Christ-like figure with a crown of thorns in a pose that mimicked the crucifixion was displayed at a public gallery.  Entertainer Jamie Foxx recently referred to Obama as “our lord and savior, Barack Obama” at the Soul Train Awards.  Before the election at the Democratic National Convention, a motion to add a reference to God to the Democratic platform was almost rejected.  The delegates had to be polled three times before the chairman deemed the motion to have passed by a very close voice vote.  In the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20), God says, “You shall have no other gods before me.”   

The state of the United States in general also indicates a country in rebellion against God.  For example, 54 million babies have been legally killed in the United States since the Supreme Court ruled that abortion was a constitutionally protected right in 1973 according to an estimate by the American Life League.  Under President Obama’s health care reform law, abortion will be funded by tax dollars in spite of the president’s promises to contrary according to an analysis by the American Center for Law and Justice.  The United States has moved from tacit acceptance of abortion to official government approval and subsidies. 

More recently, the movement to force acceptance of same-sex marriage has gained steam as well.  President Obama became the first president to openly endorse government recognition of same-sex marriage in spite of his professed Christianity and the numerous religious and secular objections to redefining marriage.  In Charisma magazine, Franklin Graham, head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said that President Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage is tantamount to “shaking his fist in God’s face.”

Many have used the decline of heterosexual marriage in America to justify acceptance of same-sex marriage.  Married couples now make up less than half of U.S. households according to the Economist.  The magazine calls marriage “a luxury for educated and affluent.”  Government entitlement programs have long had the effect of discouraging marriage.  As a result, fewer poor people marry even though there is a very strong correlation between marriage and financial stability.  The assault on marriage was taken to its logical conclusion in President Obama’s “Julia” ad from 2012 in which the government became a substitute for a husband.

The Obama Administration has also spearheaded an assault on religious freedom.  The attacks on religious freedom often involve religious opposition to abortion or same-sex marriage and free speech issues.  Health care workers are compelled to perform abortions.  Military chaplains are performing same-sex marriages in military chapels in violation of the Defense of Marriage Act.  Additionally, Obamacare mandates that all Americans purchase coverage for contraceptive and abortifacient drugs, even if they don’t want them or are morally opposed to them.  The Obama Administration went so far as to have the maker of a controversial anti-Islam film arrested and asked Google to remove the film from Youtube.

Chai Feldblum, Obama’s head of the EEOC, has openly said that religious freedom is a lower priority than sexual freedom.  Quoted in a 2010 Examiner article, she said, “I'm having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.  Sexual liberty should win in most cases. There can be a conflict between religious liberty and sexual liberty, but in almost all cases the sexual liberty should win because that's the only way that the dignity of gay people can be affirmed in any realistic manner.”

Abroad, the president’s Israel policy is the most hostile of any American president.  The United States and Israel have historically had a close relationship.  The U.S. was the first country to recognize the new nation of Israel in 1947.  America has long supplied the Jewish state with military assistance, including vital supplies that helped Israel survive the Yom Kippur War in 1973.  The U.S. has often been Israel’s only friend in the United Nations when Arab countries and their allies often try to pass resolutions condemning Israel while all but ignoring Arab terrorist attacks against Israelis. 

In 2011, President Obama became the first president to ask that Israel return to pre-1967 borders.  Such a move would require Israel to evacuate its capitol of Jerusalem and return large swaths of land to the Arabs, leaving the remainder of the country indefensible.  One of Obama’s earliest diplomatic moves in 2009 was to request a unilateral freeze on Israeli settlement of the West Bank.  In the months prior to the 2012 election, Obama declined to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he came to the U.S. 

The Obama Administration has also reportedly restrained Israel from attacking nuclear weapons facilities in Iran.  Iranian nuclear weapons threaten not only Israel, but the U.S. as well.  Since the election, President Obama announced opposition to new sanctions on Iran that received unanimous and bipartisan support in the Democratic-controlled senate.

Considering that the United States is outside of God’s will, it is possible that God used Hurricane Sandy to set the stage for divine judgment.  In fact, divine judgment on the United States may have begun long before Hurricane Sandy. 

Some idea of judgment can be obtained from Romans 1:18-32 in which God “gave over” a sinful and rebellious society “to a depraved mind.”  Paul writes that the effect of this depraved mind is that “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.”  One aspect of divine judgment is social decay that results from turning away from God’s principles and commandments.  As society becomes more depraved, the societal costs of social diseases, crime, welfare, greed and corruption increase, placing an ever greater strain on the nation as a whole. 

Other aspects of divine judgment can be seen from the ancient Israelite history in the Old Testament.  Ancient Israel and Judah were divinely established nations.  God had promised Abraham that he would “make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Gen 12:2-3). 

When the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were established in Canaan hundreds of years later, their history followed a pattern of prosperity, rebellion and judgment.  When times were good, the people of Israel would reject God’s commandments and face judgment in the form of internal strife, wicked leaders, national decline, and, finally, total defeat and enslavement.  The people assumed that, as the recipients of God’s promise, they were immune to God’s judgment.  They could not fathom that God would use heathen nations like Babylon and Assyria to punish his chosen people.  Many Americans make the same mistake today, even without a specific promise to bless America. 

It is likely that America’s judgment will follow the same pattern.  According to USA Today, Munich Re, an insurance company, released a report just prior to Hurricane Sandy that noted that the number of natural disasters is increasing worldwide, but the biggest increases have been in North America.  This includes hurricanes like Sandy and Katrina, tornados, fires, droughts, and floods.

America has experienced prosperity and the following bust.  The 2008 real estate crash ushered in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.  Although the recession is technically over, the economy has not recovered.  President Obama’s stimulus spending has set the stage for a debt crisis that could permanently hobble the American economy. 

Another possibility is that there may be more terrorist attacks on the scale of the September 11 or larger.  It is not unlikely that the U.S. will be the target of an Iranian nuclear attack, possibly a catastrophic attack using electromagnetic pulse technology.  Such an attack could destroy the majority of the electrical capacity that makes modern American life possible.    

Divine judgment of America may be part of God’s grand plan as described by Jesus in the Mount Olivet Discourse, John in the Revelation and various other prophets throughout the Bible.  Many theologians believe that America must decline and fall away to set the stage for the final end-times Battle of Armageddon in which the world aligns against Israel (Rev. 16:16).  This theory was described in a September 2012 article on and a 2009 article on CaptainKudzu.  If Israel is the key to the end-times and the U.S. is the protector of Israel, then the U.S. must be removed from the picture.  This could be through an economic collapse, a military catastrophe, or a combination of disasters.

If the United States is being judged by God, is the future preordained or can we avert a national disaster?  The Bible promises “if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chron 7:14). 

Last summer, Billy Graham called on Americans to repent, writing on his website “My heart aches for America and its deceived people. The wonderful news is that our Lord is a God of mercy, and He responds to repentance. In Jonah’s day, Nineveh was the lone world superpower—wealthy, unconcerned, and self-centered. When the Prophet Jonah finally traveled to Nineveh and proclaimed God’s warning, people heard and repented.  I believe the same thing can happen once again, this time in our nation.”

As our national debt piles up at an alarming rate and Iran grows closer to a nuclear weapon each day, time may be running out quickly.

Photo credit:  NASA/Wikimedia

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Med Express now required for FAA pilot medicals

FAA MedXPress LoginThe next time you go for a flight physical, you will be required to fill out the application online at The old paper application for an FAA medical certificate is no longer being used. The site is now also used by student pilots who wish to apply for a combination student pilot certificate and medical.

To apply for an FAA medical certificate, pilots must first create an account. To do this, go to the Med Express home page and click the button in the grey box that says “request an account.” This opens a page that asks for the user’s name and email address. After filling out the form, click “submit” and a temporary password will be sent to your email address.

The email from the FAA contains a link back to the site. Click the link and you will be prompted to select a new password. Once the new password is set, you will be taken to the home screen.

From the menu on the left side of the home screen, select “Form 8500-8” to access the medical application. The application screen asks for the same information that was required on the paper form. Note that the list of medical history questions covers your whole life, asking “have you ever had” any of the following conditions.

Any yes answers require an explanation. To provide an explanation, click the “add comment” button. This opens fields for each of the required explanations. If the condition has been reported on an older medical application and there has been no change, you can click the “PRNC” button at the right to indicate “previously reported, no change.”

As on the paper application, you must list any medications and doctor visits. It would be helpful to gather your medicines and doctor’s addresses when you fill out the application. The form requests dosages and the frequency of medicines. For doctor visits, the name, date and address of the visit are required as well as the reason. To add medicines and doctors, simply fill out the appropriate blanks and then click the “add” button.

When the application is completed, click the button at the bottom to validate it. The application will be checked for errors and unanswered questions. If any problems are found, the user will be directed to correct them.

A “save” button is also found at the bottom of the page. I recommend that you save the application frequently. When I completed my application, I was disconnected several times and had to start the application from scratch.

As you navigate through the application, there are question mark icons that are supposed to open help screens for different fields. In practice, when I clicked the help icons, they took me to the login screen. More helpful was the Med Express Users Guide, which contains step by step instructions for registering with Med Express and completing the application. A link to the user guide is on the home page.

When the application is complete and validated, enter your password at the bottom to submit the application to the FAA. No changes can be made to the application after you submit it until you are with your doctor. When an application is saved, the FAA will store it for 30 days. After the application is submitted to the FAA, you have 60 days to visit an Aviation Medical Examiner for your physical exam.

After the application is submitted, you will receive a confirmation number. Write this number down and take it with you when you go for your physical. The AME will use this number to access your medical application. An email will be sent to you with the confirmation number as well. If you lose the number, you can find it again by logging into Med Express and viewing your application. The confirmation number is at the top.

The FAA suggests that you print out the application and take it with you to your physical. Some doctors only want the confirmation number, so check with yours to find out what they want you to do.

If you have problems with website or the application, the FAA provides support via telephone and email. The telephone number, 1-877-AVS-NSD1 (1-877-287-6731), is monitored continuously. The email address for support,, is only monitored from Monday through Friday during business hours.

Originally published at

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Election exit polls hold silver lining for GOP

The 2012 presidential election was definitely a disappointment for Republicans. In spite of a poor economy and questions about his leadership, Barack Obama won a narrow victory in the popular vote by a margin of 51 to 48 percent over Mitt Romney. The electoral vote margin was 332-206 in favor of Obama. A comparison of 2012 and 2008 exit polls by CNN shows that there are some silver linings for the Republicans.

In 2008, John McCain lost virtually every demographic except for white men and women. Mitt Romney improved on McCain’s performance among white voters by winning 59 percent to McCain’s 55 percent. From 2008 to 2012 the percentage of the electorate represented by white voters declined from 74 to 72 percent, which meant that Romney’s improved performance counted for less.

A major problem for Romney was that Obama retained the lock on black voters and Romney actually lost ground among Hispanics and Asians. Obama won 95 percent of black voters in 2008 and 93 percent in 2012. The percentage of Hispanics voting for the GOP candidate declined from 31 to 27 percent and the percentage of Asians voting for Romney was 26 percent to McCain’s 35 percent.

When gender and race are considered, black and Hispanic men supported Obama with much less enthusiasm than did minority women. Only 87 percent of black men voted for Obama versus 96 percent of black women. Sixty-five percent of Hispanic men and 76 percent of Hispanic women supported the president. White women favored Romney, but Obama’s support was greater among white women (42 percent) than among white men (35 percent).

By gender, Mitt Romney won 52 percent of the male vote to Barack Obama’s 45 percent. The female vote remained almost the same in the two elections. Obama won 56 percent in 2008 and 55 percent in 2012. John McCain lost the male vote by one point.

In 2008, John McCain won only voters who were older than 65. In 2012, Mitt Romney won voters age 40 and above. Both Republicans also won married voters, McCain by 52 percent and Romney by 56 percent. Obama won unmarried voters in both years by more than 60 percent.

With respect to ideology, in 2008 22 percent of voters identified as liberal, 34 percent conservative and 44 percent moderate. In 2012, there were 25 percent liberal, 35 percent conservative, and 41 percent moderate. In 2008, 60 percent of moderates voted for Obama. In 2012, the president again won the moderate vote, this time by 56 percent.

Party affiliation in 2008 was 39 percent Democrat, 32 percent Republican, and 29 percent independent. This was almost exactly the same as 2012. All three candidates won approximately 90 percent of their party in both elections. In 2008, Barack Obama won the independent vote by 52-44 percent. However in 2012 Mitt Romney won independents by 50-45 percent.

Romney also won the middle class and upper income voters handily. Romney won the middle class by a margin of 52-46 percent. Voters who earn more than $100,000 voted for Romney by 54-44 percent. In 2008, John McCain tied Barack Obama in these two groups at 49 percent each. In both years, Obama won lower income voters (less than $50,000) by 60 percent.

The problem for Romney was that there weren’t as many middle class voters in 2012 as there were in 2008. Voters earning from $50-100,000 declined from 36 to 31 percent of the electorate. The percentage of voters earning less than $50,000 increased from 38 to 41 percent.

Seventy-four percent said that the economy or the deficit was the most important issue facing the country. Romney scored higher on both those issues as well as on taxes. Obama scored higher on housing and unemployment. The two candidates tied on who would better handle rising prices.

Eighteen percent said that healthcare was the most important issue facing the country. Of those voters, 75 percent chose Obama. Voters favored repeal of all or part of Obamacare by a margin of 49-44 percent.

A majority of voters did believe that taxes should be increased. Forty-seven percent said that taxes should be increased on Americans who earn more than $250,000 while 13 percent said that they should be increased on everyone. At the same time, 63 percent said taxes should not be raised to cut the deficit.

Seventy-seven percent of voters agreed that the economy was poor. Thirty-nine percent believed it was improving. Romney won a majority of the 59 percent who said the economy was getting worse or staying the same. Voters rejected the idea that government should do more by 43-51 percent.

Abortion was not the disastrous issue for the GOP that some have presented it to be. While most voters (59 percent) said it should be all or mostly legal, 40 percent of the 30 percent who said that it should be mostly legal voted for Romney. Abortion did not rank as one of the most important issues.

The issue that seemed to hurt Republicans most was immigration. With most other issues were tied or nearly so, the Republican position on immigration was rejected in a landslide. By more than a two-to-one margin (65-28 percent), voters believed that illegal immigrants working in the U.S. should be offered legal status. The hard line on immigration taken by many Republican candidates obviously cost the party many votes in the Hispanic and Asian communities.

Several other factors helped to save the day for Obama. The first was that although more than three quarters of voters thought that the economy was poor, only 38 percent blamed Obama. Fifty-three percent still blame George W. Bush.

More voters had a favorable view of Obama than Romney. Obama’s favorable rating was 53 percent while Romney’s was 47 percent. Ironically, the president’s approval rating was stronger in exit polls than both Rasmussen and Gallup polling showed at the time (50 and 49 percent respectively). This may suggest that some voters who did not approve of Obama stayed away from the polls.

Negative ads may have influenced some Romney voters to stay home. Obama outspent Romney on political ads according to the Wesleyan Media Project and a larger percentage of Obama’s ads were negative according to Politico. In 2008, Obama ran a largely positive campaign in contrast to 2012 when he began attacking Mitt Romney long before the Republican nomination was decided.

The final factor was Hurricane Sandy. Sixty-four percent of voters said that the president’s response to the hurricane was a factor in their vote and 62 percent of these voters chose Obama. Both Rasmussen and Gallup polling showed an uptick in Obama’s approval in the days after Hurricane Sandy struck New York.

There were bright spots for Republicans. Voters sent a decidedly mixed message on Election Day. They oppose the growth of government and still dislike Obamacare. The middle class and the wealthy solidly supported Romney, as did independent voters. Most voters do not trust Obama to handle the economy. The election was not a wholesale rejection of Republican principles with the exception of one issue: immigration.

The worst news for the country was the decline in voter turnout as a whole. In 2012, there were 121 million voters. This was down from 125 million voters in 2008. President Obama won the election, but with more than 4 million fewer votes than in his first election. These numbers reflect a very divided country and a loss of faith in government.

Originally published on

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Obama not taking bipartisan tack after election

President Obama won a narrow election victory over Mitt Romney earlier this month, but if voters expected the president to take a more conciliatory tone and seek a middle ground with Republicans, they are likely to be disappointed. In spite of the fact that President Obama is the only president to have been reelected with less support than he won in his first election, he has doubled down on the policies that cost him much of his popularity in his first term.

One of the first actions taken by the Obama Administration after the election was to reopen talks with the committee drafting the United Nations arms trade treaty. According to Reuters, the talks on the treaty will resume on March 18. The treaty was scheduled to be signed last July, but opposition from groups concerned that the treaty would infringe on Second Amendment rights led the Obama Administration to table the treaty until after the election.

An unnamed U.S. official told Reuters, “We will not accept any treaty that infringes on the constitutional rights of our citizens to bear arms.” Nevertheless, many Second Amendment activists believe that the treaty could subject the U.S. arms industry and Second Amendment rights to the control of the U.N. Critics also point out that it could make it difficult for legitimate freedom fighters to defend themselves against tyrannical governments.

The president has also taken a hard line with respect to negotiations for a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff. Yahoo News reports that when talks resume this week that the president will ask Republicans for $1.6 trillion dollars in tax increases over ten years. This is double the $800 billion in new taxes that President Obama had sought during the 2011 budget negotiations. The president’s request is also higher than the automatic tax increases scheduled to kick in if the country reaches the fiscal cliff. According to Businessweek, the automatic tax increases are estimated at $536 billion.

The fiscal cliff also includes $100 billion in spending cuts for 2013 according to Businessweek. Many of these cuts would affect the defense budget. The White House did not specify what level of spending cuts President Obama would be willing to accept under a compromise. As the Wall Street Journal recently pointed out, the emergency stimulus spending of 2009 has now become a permanent part of the baseline federal budget.

Annual deficits for the federal government have been in excess of a trillion dollars for each year of President Obama’s administration. Combined spending cuts of $100 billion and tax increases of $500 billion would still not allow the federal government to operate in the black.

Two of President Obama’s potential second-term cabinet picks also seem calculated to provoke Republican opposition. Susan Rice, the apparent frontrunner for Secretary of State, and John Kerry, a potential Secretary of Defense, have already drawn strong opposition.

Susan Rice, currently the ambassador to the United Nations, has been criticized for her role in the administration’s misstatements in the wake of the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. A statement by Rice that the attack was the result of an anti-Islamic video was featured prominently in the days after the attack. Subsequent information revealed that the president and administration officials knew as the attack was occurring that it was a terrorist attack, not the result of a spontaneous mob.

President Obama reacted to the criticism with outrage, telling the Wall Street Journal, “If Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham and others want to go after somebody, they should go after me. But for them to go after the U.N. ambassador, who had nothing to do with Benghazi and was simply making a presentation based on intelligence that she had received and to besmirch her reputation, is outrageous.”

John Kerry is also a controversial nominee. Kerry was the Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, losing to George W. Bush. Kerry is perhaps most well known for his 1971 testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in which he said that American soldiers in Vietnam “had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, tape wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the country side of South Vietnam….” During the 2004 campaign, a number of veterans came forward to dispute Kerry’s account.

CNS News also notes that Kerry has long supported engagement with Syrian President Bashar Assad. Kerry met with Assad at least six times and shortly before the Syrian uprising began in March 2011 he was still voicing his belief that “Syria will change, as it embraces a legitimate relationship with the United States and the West and economic opportunity that comes with it and the participation that comes with it.”

Democrats control the senate, which is responsible for confirming presidential appointments. Republicans do have enough support to filibuster controversial nominees, however.

President Obama’s second term is still several months away from its official beginning, but the battle lines are already being drawn. It seems that voters who hoped that giving the president a second chance to make good on his promises of bipartisanship will probably be not be satisfied in the near term.


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