Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Rocky Leonard’s “Coastal Empire”

Rocky Leonard’s first novel, “Coastal Empire,” is a fast ride through Georgia’s coastal Chatham County and Savannah. The book features Robert Mercer, a Marine veteran (“there’s no such thing as an ex-Marine”) who runs a private detective agency in the Savannah suburb of Thunderbolt with the help of Ox, his very capable German Shepherd partner.

When Mercer comes to the aid of a damsel in distress, it puts him on the trail of a sinister plot involving precious jewels, high-priced real estate, and murder. Before long, the bodies start to pile up as drug dealers, jewel thieves, and a professional hit man stalk Mercer and his associates, including Kelly, a sexy jewelry store employee who may not be as innocent as she seems.

Leonard takes his readers on a journey through the local haunts of Savannah, Tybee Island and coast al Georgia. Local readers will appreciate the attention to detail in the descriptions of the area, and those who admire Savannah from afar will find hints of places to go and things to see when they have the chance to visit.

The book moves quickly and its many plot twists keep readers guessing. The criminal mastermind’s ingenious plot is simple but effective and plausible enough to feel threateningly possible. It is also easily concealed from the eyes of the public and law enforcement… until Mercer’s client stumbles upon it.

Leonard’s villains are not caricatures. In fact, one of the most interesting characters is DeVaughn Harris. A mild-mannered auto mechanic by day, Harris moonlights as a hit man by night. The juxtaposition of friendly boss and cold-blooded contract killer makes Harris seem all the more real and leaves one wondering about the secret lives of people that we encounter on a daily basis.

“Coastal Empire” is the first book in the Robert Mercer series. He will likely be back with his Savannah buddies to solve a new mystery soon. It will be interesting to find out more about Mercer and his friends, such as how a seemingly supernatural event in a historic Savannah cemetery affects him, whether Kelly remains in the picture, and whether the events in “Coastal Empire” inspire Nick, a brilliant programmer and confirmed Generation X slacker, to change his life’s course.

“Coastal Empire” is available as an ebook from Smashwords.com.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The GOP’s Mormon question

(Salt Lake City, Ut.) A mostly unspoken reason for Mitt Romney’s failure to break away from the pack in the Republican presidential primary may be his Mormon faith. Beyond the famous Mormon Tabernacle choir, the fact that Mormons once practiced polygamy, and the internet picture of a voluptuous model wearing a shirt bearing the words “I can’t, I’m Mormon,” most voters in Georgia and around the country are probably unfamiliar with the Mormon religion. According to the Association of Religious Data Archives, only about five percent of Georgians are Mormon. The Pew Religious Landscape Survey indicates that nationally the percentage of Mormons is even lower at less than two percent.

Briefly, the official name of the Mormon Church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The church got its start in New York around 1820 when Joseph Smith said that God told him that all religions were wrong. As he recounted in his testimony, Smith tells of heavenly visions and visits by angels over the next few years. Smith said that in 1823 a resurrected prophet named Moroni directed him to a collection of buried golden plates that contained the writings of early American writings of Jesus. Smith recovered and translated the writings on the golden plates and published them in 1830 as “the Book of Mormon,” named for one of the prophets who compiled the writings.

Mormons believe that the Book of Mormon contains descriptions of an ancient Israelite immigration to America and Jesus Christ’s visit there. In addition to the Bible and the Book of Mormon, the LDS Church has two other sacred texts. The Doctrine and Covenants is a collection of Joseph Smith’s prophetic writings and the Pearl of Great Price contains Joseph Smith’s recreations of lost Biblical texts and a record of Abraham’s life in Egypt, which Smith allegedly translated from an ancient papyrus.

Smith started the church in Ohio, and eventually moved his followers to Missouri and then to Illinois. According to HistoryofMormonism.com, Smith was killed by a mob in Carthage, Il. in 1844. After Smith’s death, Brigham Young led the Mormons to Utah where they established a theocratic settlement.

Because of Mormonism’s unique history, many mainstream Christians do not consider Mormons to be Christian and some even call it a cult. Unlike the Bible, much of which is supported by archaeological finds, the Book of Mormon’s history is vastly different from archaeological evidence. There is no physical evidence that supports the idea of ancient Israelites in the Americas and, because Smith returned them to Moroni after he had translated them, the golden plates cannot be examined. Further, the LDS Church believes in “open canon.”

As History of Mormonism.com puts it, “Church leaders called General Authorities are also considered to speak the word of God in their callings. All these sacred words are considered to be scripture as well, and are treated as such.” At various times, this has allowed leaders of the church to reverse traditional church doctrines in short order such as the declaration in 1890 that prohibited polygamy and a more recent declaration in 1978 that permitted “all worthy male members of the Church may be ordained to the priesthood without regard for race or color.” Previously, the church had taught that one of the Israelite tribes that immigrated to America was punished with a “skin of blackness” for their disobedience (2 Nephi 5:21). Open canon is sharply different from the evangelical doctrine of Biblical inerrancy.

There are other important theological differences as well. The LDS Church teaches that believers will be made “equal in power, might and dominion” to Jesus and God, essentially becoming gods themselves, in the afterlife. With respect to the virgin birth, the official Mormon position is that Mary’s conception of Jesus was supernatural, but critics point to writings by Mormon leaders that say that Jesus was conceived naturally. Where mainstream Christians believe that hell is a place of everlasting torment, Mormons believe that, for most people, hell is a temporary “spirit prison” where they will have a second chance to repent. Along these lines, Mormons believe that the dead can be baptized vicariously, while mainstream Christians reject this doctrine. The Southern Baptist Convention created a video, “the Mormon Puzzle,” that addresses many of the differences between the LDS and other Christian churches. Many Mormons believe that this video portrays them unfairly.

Conversely, Mormons do share many values with mainstream Christians. These include patriotism, a strong sense of morality, and a belief in the importance of families. Like most Christians, Mormons tend to oppose abortion and same-sex marriage. This often places Mormons in the Republican camp with other religious conservatives. Utah is a reliably Republican state.

While there are definite theological differences, the question is how much they will (or should) matter in the presidential race. Article VI of the Constitution prohibits a religious test for any public office so Romney’s (or Jon Huntsman’s) religion cannot officially be considered. Unofficially, Americans have the right to vote for whoever they want for whatever reasons they choose. Polls by ChristianPost.com and the Salt Lake Tribune indicate that a strong majority of Americans (and a slight majority of Democrats) prefer a Christian president. Almost half of the respondents in the Tribune poll either did not believe or were unsure that Mormons were Christian. On the other hand, one in five respondents to the Christian Post poll still believe that President Obama is a Muslim.

Voters in the Republican primary will have to weigh Romney’s Mormon religion against a number of other factors. Romney has consistently performed better against Obama than the other GOP candidates in polls showing prospective matchups for the general election. Further, Romney’s platform, which includes promises to repeal Obamacare and keep taxes low, is more in line with the beliefs of most Republicans and Americans than that of President Obama.

Even though he is a Christian, President Obama’s policies have often angered Christians. There have been attacks on the freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, support for abortion and same-sex marriage, and a general insensitivity to religious believers such as omitting “by their Creator” when quoting the Declaration of Independence and not mentioning God in his Thanksgiving address.

In a close election, even a few votes swayed or not cast by Romney’s religion could return President Obama to the White House. Voters concerned about his Mormonism will have to decide whether to support a conservative Mormon or a nominal Christian whose administration is largely secular and far to the left of the American mainstream.

This article was first published on Examiner.com:


Friday, January 27, 2012

Speed limits in the sky

One of the most common questions that non-pilots ask is whether airplanes have to obey a speed limit like cars do. The answer, as with many things in life, is that it depends.

Aircraft operations are governed by the Federal Aviation Regulations, more commonly called the FARs. Aircraft speed limits are found in FAR 91.117, which spells out different speed limits for several different situations.

A common speed limit encountered by all airplanes is the restriction to fly at 250 knots (288 mph) or less when under an altitude of 10,000 feet. The vast majority of light general aviation airplanes cannot fly faster than 250 knots and most never go above 10,000 feet, but after every takeoff and before every landing jet pilots must make sure that they obey the speed limit. Above 10,000 feet, jets typically fly at faster airspeeds during cruise flight.

A second speed limit applies below 2,500 feet within four nautical miles of “of the primary airport of a Class C or Class D airspace area.” Class C or D airports are small to medium-sized airports with a control tower. If an airport has airline service, chances are good that it is a Class C or D airport. Many busy general aviation airports fall within these categories as well. The speed limit for these areas is 200 knots (230 mph).

A speed limit also applies beneath Class B airspace. Class B airspace surrounds major metropolitan airports in places like New York, Atlanta, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Class B airspace starts at the surface immediately surrounding the airport then goes higher as the distance from the airport increases. It is commonly described as an “upside down wedding cake.” When flying underneath the outer rings of Class B airspace, aircraft are restricted to 200 knots (230 mph). Aircraft flying through the Class B airspace, like airliners taking off and landing at the main airport, are not subject to the speed limit, but they do have to abide by the 250 knot speed limit below 10,000 feet.

A common misconception even among experienced pilots is that Class B airspace does not have a specific speed limit. Aircraft flying through the Class B airspace, like airliners taking off and landing at the main airport, are not subject to the speed limit, but they do have to abide by the 250 knot speed limit while they are below 10,000 feet.

Class B airspace typically extends from the surface to 10,000 but in some cases it goes higher. For example, in Atlanta the ceiling of the Class B airspace extends up to 12,500 feet. In Denver, where the airport elevation is 5,348 feet, the ceiling of the Class B airspace is 12,000 feet. If an aircraft is descending into the Class B airspace from above, there is no speed limit when it enters the Class B. It can maintain a higher cruising speed until it descends below 10,000 feet.

Outside of these specific instances, airplanes have a limiting “never exceed” speed. This is a speed that is determined by the aircraft manufacturer and is the maximum safe speed for the aircraft to fly. Above the never exceed speed, the aircraft may not be structurally sound, especially in turbulence or if maneuvered abruptly.

Other than these cases, pilots are free to fly their airplanes as fast as they will go and they usually do. At least until the air traffic controllers make them slow down for other traffic.


This article was first published on Examiner.com:


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Romney is more charitable than most, tax returns show

When Mitt Romney released his tax returns earlier this week, most of the attention was on the tax rate that he paid on his income. Romney paid less than 15 percent of his income in taxes due to the fact that his money comes from capital gains and dividends rather than from a salary, but he still pays a higher rate than most Americans.

The real surprise in Romney’s tax return is that the Republican presidential candidate is more charitable than most Americans. The Wall Street Journal states that Romney gave 13.8 percent of his income to charity in 2010 and more than 19 percent in 2011. This means that Mitt Romney is giving more to private charities than he is giving to the federal government.

In dollars, Mitt and his wife, Ann, earned $21.7 million in 2010 and $21 million in 2011 according to an analysis by CNN. They paid $3 million in taxes in 2010 and $3.2 million in 2011. They donated $2.9 million to charity in 2010 and $4 million in 2011 according to the WSJ figures.

In comparison, the Journal notes that Barack and Michelle Obama gave 13.6 percent of their income to charity in 2010. This was a marked increase from previous years. Between 2005 and 2009, the Obamas gave between 4.6 and 6.2 percent to charity. Before Obama became a national political figure, the rate was much lower, between 0.4 and 1.4 percent.

In another incident last week, Romney put his wallet where his mouth was. On January 14, ABC News reported that an unemployed woman asked Romney for money while he was meeting voters in South Carolina. Romney pulled out his wallet and gave the woman “a wad of cash,” later estimated to be about $50-60. Romney also introduced the woman to Nikki Haley, governor of South Carolina, and the state treasurer, Curtis Loftis. Loftis reportedly gave the woman $150 to pay her light bill. The woman, Ruth Williams, told ABC that God directed her to Romney’s campaign bus and told her to follow it. She has reportedly been volunteering for the Romney campaign since meeting the candidate.

The Washington Post reported that the Romney’s action was not filmed, but was witnessed by an ABC News print reporter who later interviewed Williams. The Post writes, “There was no indication that Romney’s cash gift was calculated or anything more than a spontaneous reaction to one woman’s story of personal struggles.”

Contrast this with President Obama’s reaction when Henrietta Hughes asked him for help at a rally in February 2011 being filmed by Fox News. Hughes was unemployed and living in a car and asked for help finding a house. On live television, Obama responded, "We're going to do everything we can to help you, but there are a lot of people like you."

Hughes did get a house. A local NBC affiliate reported that a couple who owned a vacant rental house had donated its use to Hughes and her family “for as long as she needs it.” The house belonged to Nicholas and Chene Thompson. Nick Thompson is a state representative. They are Republicans. There is no evidence that Obama or his staff ever followed up with Hughes.

These figures may be surprising, but they are not atypical. The 2006 book, “Who Really Cares,” examined giving trends in America. Its author, Arthur Brooks, found that on average conservatives gave more to charity even though liberals typically earned more. This may be partly due to the fact that conservatives tend to be more religious and both Christianity and Judaism encourage charity (Proverbs 14:21, 2 Corinthians 9:6-7).

The difference between Obama and Romney underscores the different philosophies of liberals and conservatives. Where liberals believe that it is the role of government to help people like Ruth Williams and Henrietta Hughes, conservatives see it as their personal responsibility. The liberal philosophy is one of waiting on the government for help while conservatism empowers individuals. Obama made vague promises that help was on the way while Romney and Chene Thompson actually worked to make a difference. Conservatives like Mitt Romney believe that charity, like the economy, is better left in the hands of individuals than delegated to government bureaucrats.

It is obvious that many, if not most, conservatives do not deserve their reputation as heartless moneygrubbers. After all, is it really giving when it doesn’t come out of your own wallet?

This article was first published on Examiner.com:

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Roe v. Wade and the global war on girls

In the 39 years since the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade, abortion has resulted in a holocaust of unborn babies, not just in the United States, but around the world. One of the great ironies of the abortion debate is that what its proponents tout as “a woman’s right to choose” has resulted in a genocide against baby girls in many countries.

The root of the problem is that abortion is being coupled with sex determination techniques in many parts of the world. In many countries, it is considered more desirable to have a boy than a girl. In some cases, they are patriarchal societies with a bias against women. In other cases, the reasons are more practical. Boys can help work the fields and will be better able to care for parents in their old age than a girl who will likely marry and move away from home. Boys are also needed to maintain the family lineage.

Demographer Nicholas Eberstadt wrote in his report, “The Global War Against Baby Girls,” that normal sex ratios favor boys slightly. Typically boys outnumber girls by about 105 to 100. An early German statistician and priest, Johann Peter Sussmilch, speculated that “the Creator’s reasons for ensuring four to five percent more boys than girls are born lie in the fact that it compensates for the higher male losses due to the recklessness of boys, to exhaustion, to dangerous occupations, to war, to seafaring and immigration, thus maintaining the balance between the two sexes so that everyone can find a spouse at the appropriate time for marriage.”

However, in the last Chinese mini-census of one percent of the population, taken in 2005, the sex ratio at birth was 119 to 100. The sex ratio for children up to four years old was even higher, almost 123 to 100. The ratios for rural areas are markedly higher than for towns and cities, which are still elevated above normal levels. The sex ratios tend to decrease as the location becomes more urban.

Although China is well known for its pro-abortion culture and rigid laws preventing large families, the problem extends around the world. Eberstadt notes that abnormal and impossible-under-nature sex ratios are found in many countries around the world. The nations represent all major religious and cultural traditions and almost every continent. Although the United States has a statistically normal sex ratio of 105 according to the Census Bureau, even certain demographic groups within the United States exhibit higher than natural sex ratios. In almost all cases, sex ratios have increased markedly since the 1990s when abortion and sex determination became widely available.

An exact sex ratio at birth statistic for Georgia could not be located, but census data shows that males under five years old outnumber females. There were 346,660 males and 335,654 females under five in Georgia in 2010. This can be extrapolated to determine a sex ratio under five of 103 for Georgia. This is well within the normal range.

Further, Eberstadt cites the World Health Organization’s 2009 Life Tables which reveal that over 60 countries have mortality rates that are higher for age 1-4 girls than for boys. The higher mortality rates are often the result of discrimination and maltreatment of girls and may indicate more areas where the skewed sex ratio is likely to result.

In human terms, the unnatural sex ratio means that millions of baby girls who should have been born never were. Eberstadt estimates that the “girl deficit,” the shortage of females under age 20, can be conservatively estimated at roughly 33 million never-born girls. He also estimates that over 95 percent of these girls were Chinese and Indian.

Tragically, the United States is helping to fuel the diverging birth rates of boys and girls. In 2009, in one of his first acts as president, Barack Obama eliminated the Mexico City Rule prohibiting the U.S. from funding groups that provide abortion services in other countries. The policy was created by President Reagan and reinstituted by George W. Bush after being revoked by Bill Clinton. Under President Obama, American taxpayers are funding abortion, both at home and abroad.

The consequences of the worldwide shortage of girls cannot be stated with certainty. Some believe that since unmarried men are generally less healthy than their married counterparts, larger numbers of unmarried men may not bode well for the health of their societies. Similarly, in countries without adequate pension systems, the rising number of men with no children to support them as they age may lead to increasing instances of poverty. Some economists even believe that as women become more scarce their value will increase, leading to more instances of prostitution, kidnapping, and slavery. A large number of frustrated and single males may also lead to more crime, violence and social instability.

Eberstadt notes that one country, South Korea, has shown elevated sex ratios in the past, but stepped back from the brink. He says that no government policy reversed this trend. Instead, it was “the spontaneous and largely uncoordinated congealing of a mass movement for honoring, protecting, and prizing daughters. In effect, this movement — drawing largely but by no means exclusively on the faith-based community — sparked a national conversation of conscience about the practice of female feticide.”

South Korea’s example illustrates the need for ethics and morality to guide the use of science. When left unchecked, the amoral use of technologies like sex determination and abortion can change the demographics of entire nations and possibly lead to social unrest. Laws are not enough. Eberstadt notes that the Chinese sex ratios are increasingly skewed in spite of the fact that the Chinese government outlawed prenatal sex determination in 1989 and sex selective abortion in 2004.

In the U.S., over 35 million babies have been killed since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. This includes more than 815,000 abortions in Georgia. As in South Korea and China, simply changing the law will not provide a solution. What is needed is a change in our thinking and morality that will help parents to realize that a baby in the womb is a living human and then encourage them to love, honor, and protect the life that they have created.

This article was first published on Examiner.com:


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

iPads in the cockpit

The next time you get on an airline flight, don’t be surprised if you see the pilots carrying iPads into the cockpit. Don’t worry. They won’t be planning to catch up their ebook reading or play Angry Birds while enroute. Instead, iPads are replacing paper maps and charts for an increasing number of pilots.

When you see an airline pilot walking through the terminal carrying a rolling suitcase with another smaller bag strapped to its back, it isn’t because he needed more room for his clothes. The smaller bag contains maps, charts, the aircraft flight manual, and company operating procedures. These chart cases often weigh as much as 50 pounds, almost all of which is paper. That is a lot of dead trees.

Now new technology available in the iPad allows all of these maps and books to be contained in one small, lightweight package. The iPad can replace an entire suitcase of books.

IPads have been used by private pilots for years, but were only recently approved for airline use by the FAA. In December 2011, American Airlines became the first of the major airlines to receive FAA approval to replace its paper charts and manuals with iPads. It was quickly followed by United.

IPads are also easier to update than the paper charts they replace. Maps and charts are typically revised every two weeks. Under the old system, pilots were required to thumb through their map binders to find the outdated charts, remove them, and then replace them with the new charts. For companies that fly all over the country or world, this was a time consuming process. Updating outdated pages in the manuals was a similarly lengthy process. With an iPad, updates can be accomplished in a matter of minutes with the push of a button.

Ipads have additional uses for pilots as well. Paperwork can be transmitted via text message or email, rather than carried by hand. When a maintenance problem or broken item is discovered, it may be easier to simply take a picture and send it to the mechanics than describing the problem in detail over the radio. Pilots can obtain weather updates easier with an iPad than through the old process of calling their dispatcher and having him check the weather reports at the destination. This is especially useful when looking at the radar images of a line of thunderstorms. Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.

Even though many airliners are equipped with in-flight wireless internet, many companies will probably be reluctant to allow their pilots to use the internet in flight. Memories of the Northwest Airlines crew that overflew their destination while looking at a computer are probably still fresh in the minds of many airline policymakers and chief pilots.

Nevertheless, as the internet becomes more ubiquitous and it’s utility to airline flight operations is shown, this will likely change. It would be useful for pilots to have a big picture of weather systems from composite radar rather than relying on the head-on view currently provided by airborne weather radar installed in the airplane even though there is a slight lag in the radar information provided by online weather sites. Airline scheduling departments would also appreciate the ability to notify crewmembers of schedule changes while the airplane is still in flight (although crewmembers might not be so appreciative).

Ipads and similar devices are the future of aviation charts and manuals. The possibilities are limited only by the imaginations of pilots and programmers. With the FAA already considering whether to allow mobile phones to be used in flight, in the not-too-distant future flight crews may never have to put their iPads into airplane mode.

This article was originally published on Examiner.com:


Monday, January 23, 2012

Occupy Atlanta back in Woodruff Park

Four months after Atlanta police evicted Occupy Atlanta protesters from Woodruff Park, they are back. With apparently little to no fanfare, a small number of Occupiers and less than ten tents have again taken up residence the downtown Atlanta park.

The new encampment is a far cry from the group that was evicted in October. In mid-October, the activists had set up a thriving hamlet within the confines of what they called “Troy Davis Park” in a nod to the convicted cop-killer who was executed by Georgia in September. At that time, the activists in the park easily numbered more than 100 and scores of tents filled the park. There was a “free store,” a medical tent, and a “free child care” tent. Signs proclaiming “we are the 99 percent” littered the grounds of the park. Visitors were welcomed at tables under a large canopy. The sound of drums permeated the air and protesters marched up and down the sidewalks at intervals. (View photos from the October occupation here.)

In contrast, the new encampment consists of only a handful of tents and three visible occupiers, all men. Two occupiers talked while another played with his dog on the grass. The only sign in evidence, other than scribbled notes on the tents, was one with a rambling message about a “Jewish rebel,” an apparent attempt to link the encampment to Jesus Christ.

One of the occupiers said that he had been a protester during the Vietnam War. The man said that he believed that the U.S. did “need to be in Afghanistan,” but offered his belief that that the City of Atlanta discriminated on the basis of economic status as justification for the presence of the protesters.

As justification for this belief, he said that an Atlanta police officer allegedly arrested him for jaywalking while he was dressed shabbily and had his long hair down. He said that he later did the same thing in front of the same police officer while wearing business clothes with his hair tucked under a hat. On that occasion, he said the officer simply waved at him.

The man said that he had been camping in the park for several months although he did not live there full time because he “like[s] to be indoors.” He did not offer a specific date for when the protesters returned to the park after the Mayor Kasim Reed had them evicted in October. He did say that the current group was very different from the idealists who inhabited the park in the fall. He said that fights now occurred frequently. In October, both police and protesters said that there was no trouble from the Occupiers.

A downtown ambassador wasn’t sure how long the Occupy Atlanta encampment had been back either. He confirmed that the new group was not as peaceful as the original encampment. According to the ambassador, 80 to 90 percent of the new Occupiers were homeless people who spend their time in the park drinking. This often leads to violence. The larger encampment in October prohibited the use of alcohol and drugs. The ambassador did not know if the mayor plans to order the new Occupiers evicted from the park as well.

A spokesman for the mayor was not aware that Occupy Atlanta was camping in the park again. He stated that the group was allowed to be in the park until it closes at 11:00 p.m., but that no overnight camping is allowed. He planned to have Atlanta police officers investigate.

This article was first published on Examiner.com:


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Democrats may be behind Ron Paul’s success

Ron Paul’s surprisingly strong showing in the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary is likely due to several factors. One of those factors may be Democrats crossing party lines to vote for him in the primary.

There is some statistical support for this notion from the exit polls in New Hampshire. New Hampshire is an open primary state which allows voters unaffiliated with a party to vote in either primary. Voters could also change their affiliation several months before the primary date in order to vote in the other party’s primary.

One way to tell would be to compare the number of registered Democrats and Republicans in 2008 and 2012. However, a comparison of registered voters, either total or by party, between 2008 and 2012 would be skewed because New Hampshire purged its voter rolls of more than 97,000 voters between the two elections. This is a decline in total voters of about 11 percent.

The Boston Globe reports that the number of registered Republicans actually voting in the N.H. primary was down from 2008 and 2010, even though the number of total voters increased in 2012. According to the Globe, there were 249,655 votes cast with “around 152,000” votes cast by registered Republicans. However, the N.Y. Times elections results show a total of 248,485 votes cast for Republican candidates. This means that around 96,000 votes in the Republican primary were cast by independent or unaffiliated voters for Republican candidates. This is almost 40 percent of the total. Former Democrats might well choose to become independent rather than registering as Republican.

New York Times exit polls from New Hampshire seem back up the hypotheses that many of Ron Paul’s votes came from people that typically would not vote Republican. Jon Huntsman won the most votes from self-described Democrats (40 percent), but Ron Paul won the most independents (31 percent). Paul also won younger voters (46 percent) and lower income voters (31 percent). Paul also took 47 percent of the voters who claim no religious affiliation. These categories of voters typically lean Democrat.

CNN exit polls from Iowa show similar findings. Paul won handily among young and low income voters. He also won 40 percent of moderate and liberal voters. Iowa does not allow Democrats to caucus with Republicans, but Paul won the most independents (43 percent).

There are several possible reasons for Paul’s strong showing among Democratic cohorts. One possibility is that dissatisfaction with President Obama is driving Democrats out of their party. This theory is borne out by a Gallup poll from 2011 that shows identification with the Democratic Party is trending down.

If Democrats left their party to support a Republican, Ron Paul would be a logical choice. According to the ACLU, Ron Paul is more “progressive” than President Obama on a host of civil liberties and anti-war issues. There is even a website, BlueRepublican.org, dedicated to “joining the Republican party for one year to help Ron Paul.”

Similarly, Paul may be benefitting from an influx of Occupy Wall Street voters and campus radicals who are unhappy with Obama. Last summer, several of the Occupy Atlanta members reported that they were considering Ron Paul. Other reports throughout the OWS movement revealed anger at Obama for his support of corporate bailouts and his failure to swiftly end the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.

Another possibility is that Democrats are crossing party lines to sabotage the Republicans. With President Obama running unopposed in the Democratic primary, there is little incentive for Democrats to go to the polls on his behalf. Democrats might be tempted to vote for the Republican least likely to win the general election. Ron Paul would likely meet these criteria, with a number of fringe positions and extremist followers.

As the Republican race continues, more will be learned about Ron Paul’s surge. If Democratic voters are turning out to vote for him in large numbers, he will likely do well in the states with open Republican primaries. Many of these voters will ultimately vote for President Obama or a third party candidate in the general election when Paul fails to become the GOP candidate.


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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Citation Ten makes first flight

Cessna Aircraft announced the first flight of its new Citation Ten business jet on January 17. The Ten is the prototype of the follow-on to Cessna’s popular and successful Citation X, the fastest commercial jet in production, which first flew in 1990.

According to previous press releases on the Cessna website, the Ten will feature a larger cabin, new G5000 avionics by Garmin, autothrottles, a new electrical system, and a new fiber-optic cabin management system that will undoubtedly include wireless internet. The most obvious change to most observers is the addition of winglets.

The new Ten will be faster than the old X, which cruised at a maximum of 0.92 Mach, 92 percent of the speed of sound. New Rolls-Royce AE 3007C2 engines give more power at greater fuel efficiency. This translates into better time to climb and faster cruise speeds as well as increased range. Cessna estimates the top speed at 527 knots (606 mph) and a range of 3,242 nautical miles (3,728 miles).

Cessna plans to certify the Citation Ten with the FAA next year. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in the second half of 2013.


CaptainKudzu is now the Aviation Examiner on Examiner.com:


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2012 voter guide: Rick Perry

Campaign Website: RickPerry.org
Supporting PAC: makeusgreatagain.com
Ga. Website: Georgians for Rick Perry on Facebook

Rick Perry is the governor of Texas. Read a full biography of Rick Perry by the Atlanta Conservative Examiner here.

Taxes: Perry favors an optional 20 percent flat tax that can be filled out on a postcard. He would eliminate the capital gains and death taxes, as well as the tax on Social Security benefits. He would reduce the corporate tax rate to 20 percent and tax repatriated profits at a reduced rate.

Economy: Perry would help encourage growth by reducing federal regulation and taxes. He believes that his energy plan would create millions of new jobs.

Obamacare: Perry would repeal Obamacare.

Energy: Perry would open up federal lands to exploration and streamline the permitting process for oil drilling. He would eliminate many of the Obama Administration’s EPA regulations and return environmental authority to the states. He would remove federal subsidies and loans for politically favored companies. Perry favors eliminating the Department of Energy.

Life: Rick Perry is pro-life and has a record of passing pro-life legislation.

Iran: Rick Perry believes that a nuclear-armed Iran is threat to the U.S. He believes that the U.S. should act with its allies to revisit the options for dealing with Iran that President Obama has taken off the table, including tougher sanctions and a military strike.

Immigration: Perry supports secure borders and would deploy the National Guard to border areas. He supports expedited construction of border fencing.
National Security: Perry believes that a strong economy is vital to national security. He believes that the proposed Obama Administration cuts to the defense budget are irresponsible. (CBS News)

Spending: Perry would cap federal spending at 18 percent of GDP and reduce non-defense discretionary spending by $100 billion in the first year. He favors a balanced budget amendment that does not raise taxes.

Entitlements: Perry favors the reform of Social Security and Medicare.

Second Amendment: Perry believes that the second amendment is an individual right and supports the right to carry.

Gay Marriage: Perry supports traditional marriage and a federal marriage amendment.

Where possible, the positions of the candidate were taken from the campaign websites cited above. When this was not possible, the source of the information presented is cited in parentheses and linked.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Why did God allow Tebow, Bachmann to fail?

It is seemingly a bad year for God and his followers. Outspoken Christian Tim Tebow and his Denver Broncos suffered a blowout loss in the NFL playoffs at the hands of the New England Patriots. Of the three Republican candidates who claim that God told them to run for president, two (Michelle Bachmann and Georgia native Herman Cain) have already withdrawn from the race and the last (Rick Perry) is on the ropes.

Why would God put some of his most high-profile followers in the position to suffer such humiliating defeats? Why would God tell three different candidates to run for office in the same election? Is God hedging his bets?

Questions similar to these are not new. Believers have wrestled with the question of why bad things happen to good people at least since the Old Testament days of Job and probably earlier. Job was tormented by Satan, who that took all his worldly possessions, killed his family, and left Job with painful illnesses.

In response to Job’s questioning, God answers that he is the sovereign ruler of the universe and does not answer to men. Essentially, humans with limited knowledge cannot hope to understand why God chooses to do what he does.

Nevertheless, it is tempting to speculate on the possibilities. One obvious answer is that God may not have instructed the candidates at all. It is possible that one or more may have misinterpreted his message. Atheists would probably default to this argument since they don’t believe that God is real. Therefore, any presumed communication from God must be a misunderstanding in their view.

A second possibility is that God’s goal for his people was not what the rest of us think. It is obvious that God’s priorities are not the same as our own. In some cases, God gives instructions to people that are not meant to succeed by the world’s standards. The Old Testament prophet Hosea is one such case.

Hosea was called by God to preach God’s unending love to the people of ancient Israel. During the time of Hosea’s ministry, the ancient Israelites were rejecting God in favor of Canaanite gods such as Baal. God sent Hosea to tell the people that he still loved them, but that they would be punished if they continued to reject him. In the process of spreading God’s message, Hosea entered into an unhappy marriage in which his wife was unfaithful. Her rejection of Hosea became a metaphor for Israel’s rejection of God. Hosea never had a single convert throughout his ministry, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he was a failure since he fulfilled the role that God had for him.

Maybe Tim Tebow isn’t a failure because he failed to win the Super Bowl. Maybe Tebow is a success because he honors God and sets a good example. Maybe Tebow is a success because he lives the words of the Apostle Paul who said, ”Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17). It is much more difficult to be a good loser than a good winner.

Perhaps Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, and Rick Perry had a purpose for being in the presidential race that did not involve becoming president. Perhaps they added a dimension to the race that would not have existed otherwise. Cain’s 9-9-9 plan changed the debate by introducing the idea of sweeping tax reforms that would change the entire structure of the American tax system. Other candidates responded to his proposal with their own reform ideas. Maybe that’s why he was there.

Perhaps, the failures of Tebow, Bachmann and the others affected something or someone in a way that will not be known for years, if ever. Like the Butterfly Effect, a small and seemingly insignificant event can lead to cataclysmic events in the future. Perhaps, their failures now prepare them, or someone that they touched, for future success.

In Herman Cain’s case, God may have led him to run for president in order to deal with Cain’s secret sins. God does not allow sin to persist in a believer’s life indefinitely. God disciplines his people when do wrong (Revelation 3:19). As Jesus said, “Nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light” (Luke 8:17).

One thing that is evident from the failures of Tebow, Bachmann, Cain, and Perry is that belief in God and following God’s commands is not an easy thing. Contrary to charges from atheists that belief in God is intellectually lazy, they illustrated the principle of John 16:33 in which Jesus told his followers, “In this world you will have trouble.” Failure and problems are not a possibility; they are a certainty, even for believers.

The last part of the verse is what makes all the difference. Jesus concluded by saying, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” The God who created the universe holds the earth and its occupants in his care and has our best interests at heart (Jeremiah 29:11, John 14:27).


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What to expect from the Obama birth certificate hearing

Earlier this month, a Georgia judge set the stage for a confrontation between President Obama and attorneys representing the birther movement. In the case, David Weldon, a Georgia citizen, had filed a complaint questioning the legality of Obama’s placement on the ballot due to their belief that he is allegedly not a “natural born citizen.” A Georgia judge refused a request by Obama’s lawyers to dismiss the case and set January 26 as the date for a hearing.

As illustrated by the comments on a recent Examiner.com article, many birthers believe that this case will result in the dismissal of President Obama and the rescission of all the legislation and executive orders of the past three years. They should disabuse themselves of such foolish notions.

Article II of the Constitution makes only three requirements for eligibility of a president. First, a president must be a “natural born citizen.” Second, he must be 35 years old. Lastly, he must have been a resident of the U.S. for 14 years.

The Constitution does not define what a “natural born citizen” is, but the evidence is that Barack Obama is one. Although he had released a short form birth certificate in 2008, in 2011 Obama released his long form birth certificate that shows that he was born in Honolulu, Hawaii on August 4, 1961. Hawaii became America’s 50th state on August 21, 1959. Therefore, Barack Obama is a “natural born citizen” by virtue of the fact that he was born in the United States and “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof” (14th amendment).

There is other circumstantial evidence to support the information on the birth certificate as well. Obama’s birth announcement was in not one but two Honolulu newspapers in 1961, the Sunday Advertiser and the Star Bulletin. A Honolulu obstetrician actually remembers discussing the birth of Obama according to Snopes. The combination of a Stanley giving birth (Obama’s mother’s name), the first black student at the University of Hawaii, and the “musical name” of Barack Hussein Obama apparently made the birth memorable.

On the other hand, the evidence against the birthers is mounting. Several purported Kenyan birth certificates have been proven forgeries. Likewise, claims that Occidental College records showed that Obama, a.k.a. Barry Soetoro, was awarded a scholarship for foreign students was revealed to be an email hoax. Occidental has not released his records at all. A claim that Obama’s grandmother said that he was born in Kenya is taken wildly out of context. The full transcript makes it clear that she said that Barack Obama was born in the U.S.

Obama is also a natural born citizen because his mother was a U.S. citizen. In the Wong Kim Ark case (1898) the Supreme Court ruled that the only native-born children excluded from citizenship were those born to foreign diplomats, born on foreign public ships, born to enemy forces engaged in hostile occupation of enemy territory, or to Indian tribes which were excluded from U.S. jurisdiction.

Birthers argue that, because Obama’s father was a Kenyan citizen and British subject, Barack Obama is a British citizen under the British Nationality Act of 1948. According to FactCheck.org, Obama did indeed hold dual citizenship as a child. After Kenyan independence, however, the Kenyan Constitution prohibited dual citizenship. Dual citizens lose their Kenyan citizenship at age 23 unless they renounce their non-Kenyan citizenship and take an oath of allegiance to Kenya. Obama never did so.

Dual citizenship does not affect Obama’s status as a natural born U.S. citizen. In Afroyin v. Rusk (1967) the Supreme Court ruled that “"Congress has no power under the Constitution to divest a person of his United States citizenship absent his voluntary renunciation thereof." Again, in Vance v. Terraza (1980), the Court ruled that citizenship must be surrendered voluntarily. Barack Obama has never renounced his U.S. citizenship.

Even if Barack Obama were not a natural born citizen, there is no legal remedy for his removal from office at this point. If such a fact were determined prior to the 2008 election, or ideally before his election to the Illinois legislature and the U.S. Senate, he could have been kept off the ballot, but the Constitution makes no provision for removing a president from office because he is ineligible.

According to the Constitution, there are only two ways to remove a president from office. The first and most obvious way is to have him lose his re-election attempt. The second method is impeachment, which is addressed in Article II Section 4.

Grounds for impeachment and removal from office include “Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.” Being ineligible to hold office is, perhaps ironically, not grounds for impeachment. This is especially true in light of the fact that Obama has no personal knowledge of his birthplace. No one can remember the time and place of their birth.

Even to allege fraud on the part of the president, which is arguably not a “high crime and misdemeanor,” prosecutors would have to prove that Obama had the intent to deceive, not with regard to his radical agenda, but with regard to his birth certificate. Obama can plausibly make the claim that he thought that he was born in Hawaii because his parents told him so and gave him a Hawaiian birth certificate.

Further, in the impeachment process the House of Representatives makes the original finding of guilt, but the Senate has to vote to remove the official from office. Given that the Democrats control the Senate, can anyone seriously believe that they would vote to remove a president of their own party on such as flimsy basis? By the time the Republicans gain control of the Senate, Barack Obama will hopefully be out of office as well.

The Constitution does not give the judiciary the power to remove any elected official from public office. It would therefore be unconstitutional for a judge to exceed his authority and remove President Obama from office. This is a good thing. It would set a terrible precedent for an unelected judge to overrule the will of the people and their electoral college.

Even if President Obama were impeached and removed from office, it would not erase the damage of the past three years. People who believe that all of the Obama-era legislation and executive orders would magically disappear are deluding themselves.

Article I Section 7 of the Constitution stipulates that “if any Bill shall not be returned [vetoed] by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law” unless Congress adjourns before the ten days is up. The president does not have to sign a bill for it to become law. Even if President Obama is not eligible, the members of Congress who voted for legislation such as the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and the Dodd-Frank financial reform were eligible to hold office and voted to pass legislation that was legally binding. These bills would have become law even without Obama’s signature.

When the hearing is held in an Atlanta courthouse on January 26, the judge’s hands will be tied. The only question that he is legally entitled to decide is whether Barack Obama is eligible to appear on the ballot for Georgia’s 2012 presidential election. When Obama’s lawyers present the president’s Hawaiian birth certificate, the judge will rule in their favor.

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Sunday, January 15, 2012

2012 voter guide: Jon Huntsman

Campaign Website: jon2012.com
Supporting PAC: ourdestinypac.com
Ga. Website: Georgia for Jon Huntsman Jr. on Facebook

Jon Huntsman is a former governor of Utah and U.S. ambassador to China. He is an experienced businessman, having served as an officer in his family businesses. Read a full biography of Jon Huntsman by the Atlanta Conservative Examiner here.

Taxes: Huntsman supports a version of the Bowles-Simpson commission’s “zero plan.” He favors a revenue-neutral plan that replaces current individual tax rates with three new rates: 8, 14, and 23 percent. In exchange for lower rates, all tax deductions and credits would be eliminated. Huntsman would reduce the corporate tax rate to 25 percent and eliminate the capital gains and dividends taxes. He would also eliminate taxes on repatriated profits.

Economy: Huntsman proposes regulatory reform that would repeal Obamacare and the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, rein in the EPA, and improve the cost-benefit ratio of future regulation. He supports free trade and would pursue new trade opportunities, especially in the Pacific Rim.

Obamacare: Huntsman favors the repeal of Obamacare.

Energy: Huntsman supports the safe use of fracking and conversion of coal to liquid fuel. He believes that the importation of Canadian oil can help the U.S. reduce its dependency on unfriendly nations. He would remove roadblocks to the development of American natural gas fields. Additionally, Huntsman favors the modernization of the electrical grid with an eye toward the increased use of electric vehicles in the future.

Life: Huntsman is pro-life. He would reinstate the Mexico City policy and veto a budget that funded Planned Parenthood. He opposes most embryonic stem cell research, but would allow the use of discarded embryos. (lifenews.com)

Iran: Huntsman said, “"I cannot live with a nuclear-armed Iran. If you want an example of when I would use American force, it would be that." (Politico)
Immigration: Huntsman supports “a pathway out from the shadows” for illegal immigrants. He personally does not like the idea of a border fence, but says that one is necessary. (the politicalguide.com)

National Security: Huntsman believes that the U.S. has made great accomplishments in the war on terror, but that “mission has evolved into an ill-advised counterinsurgency campaign which continues to carry heavy costs in terms of blood and treasure.” He believes that the core of the military needs to be rebuilt after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and continually modernized. He believes that counter-terrorism needs to become more flexible and that preventing WMDs from falling into the hands of terrorists should be a primary goal.

Spending: Huntsman favors spending cuts and is favor of a balanced budget amendment. He believes that the current level of debt is a threat to national security. He believes that some defense cuts are necessary as well.

Entitlements: Huntsman favors entitlement reform along the lines of Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposal for Medicare, which do not cut benefits for current seniors. He believes that nothing is off the table to reform Social Security, including means testing. (Wall St. Journal, thepoliticalguide.com)
Second Amendment: Huntsman supports gun rights and is viewed positively by the NRA. (2012.republican-candidates.org)

Gay Marriage: Huntsman supported civil unions as a governor of Utah, but he does believe that marriage should be reserved for one man and one woman. (thepoliticalguide.com)

Where possible, the positions of the candidate were taken from the campaign websites cited above. When this was not possible, the source of the information presented is cited in parentheses and linked.

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2012 voter guide: Newt Gingrich

Campaign website: newt.org
Supporting PAC: winningourfuture.com
Ga. website: newt.org/states/georgia

 Biography:  Gingrich is a former Speaker of the House of Representatives from Georgia.  Read his full biography by the Atlanta Conservative Examiner here.

Taxes: Newt Gingrich would make the low Bush-era tax rates permanent. He would also create an optional flat tax with a 15 percent rate. This tax would preserve the home mortgage interest and charitable deductions, as well as establishing a $12,000 standard deduction.
Economy: Gingrich would encourage job creation by repealing cumbersome regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley, the Dodd-Frank finance law, and the Community Reinvestment Act. He would replace the EPA with an “Environmental Solutions Agency” that works closely with local governments. Gingrich would like to break up Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to eliminate their implicit government backing.
Obamacare: Newt Gingrich would repeal Obamacare. He favors tax credits, health savings accounts, and the sale of health insurance across state lines. Gingrich would set up a high risk pool to cover sick people who would otherwise be uninsurable. He would prohibit insurance companies from canceling policies or raising rates due to sickness. Gingrich believes that an electronic health records system could prevent fraud. He favors tort reform and government investment in “research for health solutions.” He would reform the FDA to speed new treatments.
Energy: Gingrich favors development of American energy sources including shale oil and offshore drilling. He would finance clean energy research with oil and gas royalties. Gingrich would replace the EPA with an “Environmental Solutions Agency” which would use incentives and cooperation with local governments and industry and consider the economic impact of environmental regulation.
Iran: Gingrich believes that the U.S. should consider a military strike to destroy Iran’s nuclear program “as a last recourse, and only as a step toward replacing the regime." (Wall St. Journal)
Immigration: Gingrich favors secure borders. He would reform the immigration process and give precedence to those adhere to the law, but would also create a path to legalize illegal immigrants who have deep ties to the U.S. He would encourage investment and legal immigration. Gingrich would allow noncitizens to earn U.S. citizenship through military service. He believes that English should be the official language.
National Security: Gingrich says, “Military force must be used judiciously and with clear, obtainable objectives understood by Congress.” He would try to understand our enemies and build a grand, unified strategy to fight the terrorists. He would create a plan to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and incentivize math and science education to ensure that the U.S. remains a leader in technology.
Spending: Gingrich presided over the House of Representatives when Congress balanced the budget in the 1990s. He has signed a pledge to “cut, cap, and balance.” (thepoliticalguide.com)
Entitlements: Gingrich has released a comprehensive plan to reform entitlements. He favors allowing young workers to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes in personal accounts based on a successful program in Chile. He would use block grants to the states to make welfare and Medicaid more efficient. Gingrich’s plan would reduce federal spending by 10 percent GDP when fully implemented. (Forbes)
Second Amendment: Gingrich believes in an individual right to keep and bear arms. He is a Life Member of the NRA and has earned an NRA A+ rating.
Gay Marriage: Gingrich believes that marriage is between a man and a woman and that same-sex marriage is “a temporary aberration that will dissipate.” (Yahoo)
Where possible, the positions of the candidate were taken from the campaign websites cited above. When this was not possible, the source of the information presented is cited in parentheses and linked.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

2012 voter guide: Rick Santorum

Rick Santorum recently gained notoriety as the second place winner of the Iowa caucuses. Santorum is a lawyer and former U.S. Senator representing Pennsylvania. Read a full biography of Santorum by the Atlanta Elections Examiner here.

Campaign website: ricksantorum.com

Supporting PAC: Red, White and Blue Fund (rwbfund.com)

Ga. website: fundly.com/georgiaforsantorum

Taxes: Rick Santorum would simplify personal income taxes by establishing two lower rates: 10 and 28 percent. He would reduce corporate taxes to 17.5 percent (from 35 percent) and eliminate the tax on repatriated income. He would eliminate the death tax and the Alternative Minimum Tax. Santorum would also increase a variety of tax credits and deductions.

Economy: Santorum would repeal all Obama-era legislation that costs more than $100 million to implement. He also promises to negotiate five free trade agreements in his first year. Santorum favors tort reform and would approve the Keystone XL pipeline. Santorum also supports an audit of the Federal Reserve and a return to its original charter in which its sole purpose is to manage inflation.

Obamacare: Santorum would repeal Obamacare. He favors health savings accounts and giving Americans the option to purchase low cost, high deductible major medical plans. He would like to increase competition to lower costs, along with allowing health insurance to be sold across state lines. He would give a tax credit for health insurance premiums paid by individuals. Santorum would enact tort reform to cut costs and give Medicare block grants to the states.

Energy: Santorum opposes cap-and-trade and believes that ethanol subsidies should be phased out. He believes that the U.S. needs an “all of the above energy policy that utilizes oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy.” He would remove government roadblocks to domestic oil exploration. (thepoliticalguide.com)

Life: Santorum opposes abortion, euthanasia, assisted suicide and human cloning. He supports stem cell research that uses non-controversial methods and does not destroy human embryos. He supports religious freedom and opposes discrimination on the basis of opposition to abortion.

Iran: Santorum would support the Iranian democracy movement and work with Israel to eliminate the Iranian nuclear threat, using military force if necessary. He would use sanctions and diplomatic pressure against the Iranian regime. He would work to implement a missile defense system and defend against an EMP attack. He would also put pressure on Hamas and Hezbollah and recall the U.S. ambassador to Syria.

Immigration: Santorum supports comprehensive immigration reform including a border fence and eliminating benefits to illegal immigrants. He does believe that immigrants already in the U.S. must be dealt with separately. Santorum would make English the official U.S. language. (thepoliticalguide.com)

National Security: Santorum favors a missile defense system and protection against EMP attacks. He opposes cuts to the defense budget, but would work to eliminate waste. He cites the need to have U.S. bases around the world in order to fight the War on Terror. While in the Senate, Santorum had a pro-military voting record. (ontheissues.org)

Spending: Santorum would cut $5 trillion in five years and immediately cut non-defense discretionary spending to 2008 levels. He favors a balanced budget amendment that would cap spending at 18 percent of GDP. He would cut the federal workforce by 10 percent and freeze non-defense salaries for four years. He would reduce foreign aid and his website specifies a number of government programs and subsidies that he would cut or eliminate.

Entitlements: Santorum favors the Paul Ryan plan to reform Medicare while preserving current benefits for seniors. He would reform Social Security to put the program on a sustainable path. He would use block grants to empower the states to find more efficient Medicare and welfare solutions.

Second Amendment: Santorum is a supporter of the individual right to keep and bear arms and has received high ratings from the NRA and other gun groups.

Gay Marriage: Santorum is a supporter of traditional marriage. He also authored the “Workplace Religious Freedom Act” to ensure individuals of all faiths could not be discriminated against while on the job.

Where possible, the positions of the candidate were taken from the campaign websites cited above. When this was not possible, the source of the information presented is cited in parentheses and linked.

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Friday, January 13, 2012

Does new law allow for indefinite detention of US citizens?

Many Americans are concerned about the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed by Congress in December 2011. Rumors have spread around the internet that the NDAA contains a sweeping assault on civil liberties that includes the authority to detain American citizens indefinitely on suspicion of terrorism.

H.R.1540, “the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012,” was signed into law by President Obama on December 31, 2011. According to Govtrack.us, the House passed the bill in May 2011 by a vote of 322-96. It passed the Senate in December 86-13.

Both votes were passed by strong bipartisan majorities. The only member of the Georgia House delegation to vote against the bill was Rep. John Lewis. All other Georgia representatives, both Republican and Democrat, voted for the bill, as did both of Georgia’s senators.

The controversy centers on sections of the bill that would purportedly allow the U.S. government to detain U.S. citizens indefinitely without trial or even being charged. An alert by the ACLU from November 2011 says, “The power is so broad that even U.S. citizens could be swept up by the military and the military could be used far from any battlefield, even within the United States itself.” The alarmist cry was picked up by conspiracy mongers such as Alex Jones and even mainstream talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh.

If true, the claims would be very disturbing. The right to habeas corpus, which requires the government to give cause or evidence to imprison people, is a fundamental part of American law. Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution states, “The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may require it.” Imprisoning Americans without evidence would clearly be unconstitutional.

Section 1022 of the bill, “Military custody of foreign a-Qaeda terrorists,” allows the military to “hold a person described in paragraph (2) who is captured in the course of hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40) in military custody pending disposition under the law of war.” Paragraph (2) specifies that the law covers people who are determined to become a “member of, or part of, al-Qaeda or an associated force” and who “have participated in the course of planning or carrying out an attack or attempted attack against the United States.”

Missed by the alarmists, however, is paragraph (b) of Section 1022. Paragraph (b) (1) explicitly says “The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States” [emphasis added]. Paragraph (b) (2) further states that the law “does not extend to a lawful resident alien of the United States… except to the extent permitted by the Constitution of the United States.”

Further, in the preceding section (1021 “Affirmation of the authority of the armed forces of United States to detain covered persons pursuant to the authorization for use of military force”), the authors of the legislation also specifically excluded U.S. citizens from the detention law. Paragraph (e) says, “Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.”

When the bill is examined in its entirety, it is clear that the conpiricists and alarmists are wrong. The NDAA does not allow the government to arrest and imprison American citizens without charge. Instead, the law allows the military to hold captured foreign terrorists who are captured abroad while engaging in hostile acts against the United States. In short, the law appears designed to prevent the extension of habeas corpus rights to terrorists who are not U.S. citizens or legal aliens and who are captured outside the United States.

Additionally, the law provides for a waiver in Section 1022 (a) (4). This paragraph allows the president to submit to Congress that a waiver of the requirement to hold the terrorists prisoner is “in the national security interests of the United States.” Therefore, prisoners can be released from military custody by the president if he deems that they are no threat.

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CDC death statistics challenge liberal beliefs

For years, liberals have held that crime was linked to the economy and a person’s socioeconomic status. Although it seems logical that poverty and economic stress could induce people to commit crimes, statistical data observed since the onset of the Great Recession in 2008 challenges the idea.

If there really is a link between poverty and crime, then crime should increase during a major period of economic upheaval such as the Great Recession. The reality, however, is that according to FBI crime statistics, crime rates have actually been falling throughout the past several years.

The release of new cause of death statistical report by the Centers for Disease Control, headquartered in Atlanta, is further confirmation that the link between poverty and crime does not exist. In the new report, homicide is not among the top 15 causes of death in the United States for the first time since 1965. Homicide was replaced as the 15th leading cause of death by “Pneumonitis due to solids and liquids.” In the most recent data for Georgians, Department of Public Health statistics from 1999-2002, homicide was not one of the top ten causes of death.

The declines in crime and homicide are all the more unexpected because of the dramatic increase in gun ownership in the past few years. Gun sales spiked in the weeks and months following Barack Obama’s election victory in November 2008. The trend has not stopped. Atlanta’s 11 Alive reports that, according to the FBI, December 2011 was a record high month for gun sales.

According to a Gallup poll from October 2011, gun ownership is at its highest level in almost 20 years with one in three American adults personally owning a gun. Guns are in almost half of U.S. households. In southern states like Georgia, the gun ownership rate is even higher.

Under prevailing liberal orthodoxy, in a bad economy with gun sales at record high levels, crime rates should be through the roof. As with other liberal beliefs that have recently been discredited, such as the belief that spending is the proper prescription for an ailing economy, it is time to reevaluate the belief that crime is a product of poverty and guns.

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2012 voter guide: Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney is the former governor of Massachusetts. He was the head of Bain Capital, an investment firm that bought troubled companies, and also managed the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. Read a full biography of Romney by the Atlanta Elections Examiner here.

Campaign website: mittromney.com

Supporting PAC: restoreourfuture.com

Ga. website: gaformitt.com

2008 Ga. results: 30.2 percent/third place (RCP)

Latest 2012 Ga. poll: 15 percent/second place (RCP)

Taxes: Mitt Romney would maintain current tax rates on personal income and capital gains. He would eliminate the death, capital gains, interest and dividend taxes for taxpayers with an AGI of under $200,000. He would reduce corporate tax rates to 25 percent (from 35 percent currently) and push for a complete overhaul of the tax system.

Obamacare: Romney favors a repeal of Obamacare.

Energy: Romney would amend regulation to allow expedited approval of resource development projects, including nuclear plants. He would open America’s energy reserves for development, including shale oil and gas. Romney supports the construction of pipelines to bring Canadian oil to the U.S. Romney believes that the government should not be involved in “steering investment toward particular politically favored approaches,” but should limit its funding to basic research.

Life: Romney’s website does not address abortion or other life issues. He is formerly pro-abortion, but says that he had come to believe abortion was immoral before his first presidential run in 2008. His record on abortion is mixed. Romneycare, the Massachusetts health plan, covers abortion, but it did not do so in the original legislation. In a veto message regarding an emergency contraception bill, Romney cited his belief that life begins at fertilization and his support for parental consent laws. (aboutmittromney.com, prolifeprofiles.com, Factcheck.org)

Iran: Mitt Romney wrote in the Wall Street Journal that he would back up American diplomacy with a “very real and very credible military option.” He states explicitly that he will act with U.S. allies to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

Immigration: Romney supports the right of states to restrict illegal immigration. He would veto the DREAM Act and opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants. He supports secure borders. (Fox News)

National Security: Romney believes that military spending should be increased to four percent of GDP and would increase the active duty work force by 10,000. He would pursue military, nonmilitary and diplomatic avenues against the jihadists. He believes that the FBI should have the power to wiretap mosques and investigate suspected domestic terrorists. He regrets not having served in the military. (boston.com, 2012.republican-candidates.org)

Spending: Mitt Romney believes that “we have a moral responsibility not to spend more than we take in.” He would end deficit spending and work toward a balanced budget. He would have the federal government publish a balance sheet each year.

Entitlements: Mitt Romney would reform entitlements as a path toward balancing the federal budget. Romney will not cut benefits for current retirees.

Second Amendment: Romney supported gun control while governor of Massachusetts. He became a life member of the NRA in 2007. He now opposes a nationwide “assault weapons” ban and supports the second amendment as an individual right. (thepoliticalguide.com)

Gay marriage: Mitt Romney opposes gay marriage, but has stated his opposition to discrimination against homosexuals in the past. (LA Times)

Where possible, the positions of the candidate were taken from the campaign websites cited above. When this was not possible, the source of the information presented is cited in parentheses and linked.

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