Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How to learn to fly

Maybe you’ve always dreamed of learning to fly. Maybe you’d like to have an aviation career flying jets to distant corners of the world. Maybe you’d like to spend your retirement flying your own airplane on trips to visit tourist locations. Maybe your dream is simply to “slip the surly bonds of earth” and leave the world behind for a few hours. Whether you are a young person excited about the prospect of flying, a middle-aged career changer, or a senior chasing a lifelong dream, there is no time like the present to learn to fly.

There are two different tracks to becoming a licensed pilot. Prospective pilots can choose between a sport pilot or private pilot license. The sport pilot license requires less flight time and therefore less money, than the private pilot. However, since sport pilots have less training, there are more restrictions on their ability to fly.

Pilot licensing requirements are set forth in Part 61 of the Federal Aviation Regulations. The sport pilot license requires that the applicant be 17 years old (although students can solo at 16) and hold a U.S. driver’s license without health restrictions. The pilot must earn a minimum of 20 hours of flight time, pass a written test, and a practical test in the airplane, more commonly referred to as a check ride. Sport pilots are restricted to flying light sport aircraft and may not carry more than one passenger. They are not allowed to fly into airports with a control tower, above 10,000 feet, at night, or in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC), more commonly referred to as clouds and fog.

Private pilots are required to log at least 40 hours of flight time and must also be at least 17 years old. They must also pass a written test and check ride. Private pilots are not restricted to light sport aircraft, banned from towered airports and night flying, or limited to one passenger. Private pilots are limited to visual meteorological conditions (VMC) unless they have earned an instrument rating. Neither private pilots nor sport pilots are allowed to be paid for flying. That requires a commercial pilot license.

There are two different routes to earning either license. Most student pilots attend schools operated under FAR Part 61. These schools are informal and are found at many small airports around the country. They allow students to learn at their own pace and allow the instructor to have more flexibility with the syllabus.

The alternative is a school operated under FAR Part 141. These schools are typically larger flight academies, although some local schools also have approval from the FAA to operate under FAR 141. FAR 141 schools are more regimented, but allow students to earn their license with a slightly lower minimum number of flight hours.

In reality, either type of school is sufficient for most students. The important thing is to find a good flight instructor (CFI) with whom the student feels comfortable. A good instructor should have a good safety record and a record of training students successfully as well as a good rapport with the student. Don’t be afraid to ask for references from previous students.

Students who are considering an aviation career may want to consider attending one of the large professional aviation academies for subsequent training, but initially a local school should be sufficient for most pilots. Earning the private pilot license locally will allow the student to decide whether an aviation career is for them and will also likely be cheaper than attending a full-time school. The typical progression for professional pilots after the private license is the instrument rating, and then the commercial license and the multi-engine rating. After years of experience and 1,500 hours comes the airline transport pilot license (ATP), which allows the holder to fly as an airline pilot or captain of a private jet.

A common question is how much it costs to learn to fly. The answer varies depending on location, the aircraft used, and the learning ability of the student. In this era of high gas prices, the current price of fuel is a major factor. Often this cost is included in the total cost of aircraft rental. A sample listing of aircraft rental rates can be seen on the website of Lanier Flight Center, an Atlanta area flight school. Rental rates range from $124 per hour for a two-seat Cessna 162 Skycatcher to $143 per hour for a Cessna 172 Skyhawk. The Cirrus SR20 is a newer aircraft with more power and electronic flight displays, often called a “glass cockpit.” Air Ventures at Atlanta’s DeKalb-Peachtree airport rents these aircraft for $240 per hour. Many flight schools offer discounts for purchases of block time, for example, buying ten hours at once rather than paying for one hour at a time.

In addition to aircraft rental rates, the student must also pay the instructor for dual flight time, tuition for ground school, and a written test. Private pilot students must also get a flight physical by an FAA-approved Aviation Medical Examiner. Sport pilot medical requirements are met if the student holds a valid driver’s license. Local prices may vary, but All ATPs, a national chain of flight schools, offers the complete private pilot license for $9,995 as a 60 day course.

There are many free or low cost resources available to prospective pilots. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association offers a free trial subscription to “Flight Training”, a magazine focused on student pilots. AOPA also sponsors Project Pilot, a program in which current pilots mentor new flight students. Additionally, a free Apple app for AOPA members offers online weather, airport and flight planning information. The Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles program offers free discovery flights to youths aged 8-17. The EAA also offers aviation camps and scholarships. Similarly, the Civil Air Patrol offers solo scholarships to some of its young cadet members. Many flight schools offer discovery flights to prospective pilots at special introductory rates.

The first step in learning to fly is to go to go talk to an instructor. Take an introductory flight to find out if flying is for you. Stop dreaming and start flying.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Obama proposes new rules banning profits, losses

_cfimg-3009238567917831330In the wake of last week’s news that investment bank JP Morgan had lost a staggering $2 billion in hedge fund trading, President Obama today proposed a new “Dimon Rule” that would prohibit banks from investing in securities that lose money. The rule, named for JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon, would hold investment firms civilly and criminally liable if their investments decrease in value.

President Obama announced the initiative in a press conference at the White House this morning. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, President Obama praised Dimon and JP Morgan saying, “JP Morgan is one of the best-managed banks there is. Jamie Dimon, the head of it, is one of the smartest bankers we got, and they still lost $2 billion and counting."

Obama continued, “That is why I have directed the Securities and Exchange Commission to make it illegal to lose money in the markets. Jamie Dimon is a good and honorable man and if it was illegal to lose investment money, he would not have broken the law. Americans are hurting and making losing money illegal is one thing that the government can do to make their lives easier.”

The proposed Dimon Rule is the latest in a series of Obama Administration reforms of the financial industry. In 2010, Congress passed the Dodd – Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act which protected against future financial crises by placing more power in the hands of the federal regulators who did nothing to prevent the 2008 financial crisis. The law also includes the Volcker Rule, which bans banks from using deposits for trading on the bank’s proprietary accounts. More recently, Obama proposed the Buffett Rule, a minimum tax for millionaires that would generate $36 billion annually as the solution to the nation’s $1.3 trillion annual federal deficit. The president’s signature legislation, Obamacare, was a remaking of the health insurance industry that made it illegal to not purchase health insurance policies.

In tandem, President Obama also attacked what he called excessive profits earned by the oil industry. “When oil companies are making huge profits and you’re struggling at the pump, and we’re scouring the federal budget for spending we can afford to do without, these tax giveaways aren’t right,” Obama said in the Washington Post. “They aren’t smart. And we need to end them.”

He continued, “That is why I am proposing that we return to the policies that worked in the past. By reinstituting the Excess Profits Tax that President Roosevelt used to help end the Great Depression, we can spread the wealth of these greedy corporations to where it is needed most, to the least among us.”

The proposed Exxon Rule actually goes a step farther that the New Deal-era Excess Profits Tax. Under the new law, companies would be taxed to exact value of any profits that they report to the IRS. Explains Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in the Huffington Post, “"Democrats won't agree to a one-sided solution that lets the super-wealthy off the hook while forcing the middle class, and those in greatest need, to bear all the hardship.” Reid said, “"Republicans refused to be reasonable. They refused to raise even a penny of new revenue, or ask millionaires to contribute their fair share to help reduce our deficit and our debt.”

Reid continued, “That is why Democrats have proposed that 100 percent of profits of wealthy corporations and their millionaire owners be shared by all Americans. These new revenues will go to help fund necessary and vital programs like Social Security, Medicare, deficit reduction, and the cowboy poetry festivals that so many Americans know and love.”

Apparent Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney blasted the two new proposed rules at a speech before the Hahira, Ga. Rotary Club’s annual pancake breakfast. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, Romney told the gathered Peach State Rotarians, “President Obama and I have very different visions. Government is at the center of his vision. It dispenses the benefits, borrows what it cannot take, and consumes a greater and greater share of the economy…. This President is putting us on a path where our lives will be ruled by bureaucrats and boards, commissions and czars. He’s asking us to accept that Washington knows best – and can provide all.” At the conclusion of his speech, Romney noted, “Speaking of consuming, this maple syrup is really delicious. I would love to be provided with another short stack.”

Rep. Ron Paul, who recently stopped spending money on his campaign, also weighed in on the new rules. Paul told Marketwatch, “"My ultimate goal remains to repeal the 16th Amendment and end the tyranny of the IRS once and for all.” Rep. Paul concluded by urging his supporters to rally in Tampa at the Republican National Convention, where they would “have a hoe-down and then march on the Federal Reserve.”

Economists noted that the president’s new rules would prevent any transfer of wealth except through the government, turning banks into giant holding companies that were only allowed to return the exact amount that the customer deposited. Milton Bergman of the People for American Dollars pointed out that without the risk of loss or the possibility of profits, investments would cease and economic growth would stop. “How does the president plan to reduce unemployment without jobs associated with growing and profitable industries?” Bergman wondered.

White House press spokesman Jay Blarney responded, “All we are trying to do is get through the next six months until the election. After that, if we win, we’ve got another two years to worry about job creation. If we don’t, its Romney’s and the Republicans’ problem.”

In case you haven’t guessed, this is a work of satire. It is not real. Some real quotes were used. When a real quote was used, its source was cited with a hyperlink. Milton Bergman and Jay Blarney are entirely fictitious. Don’t believe everything you read.

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Marriage evolution may cost Obama votes

President Obama’s evolution on marriage in which he returned to his previously stated position of supporting a right for same-sex couples to marry may hurt the president with black and independent voters in November. The president, who was widely believed to be a closeted supporter of same-sex marriage, removed all doubt in a statement last week in which he said that he personally believed that “it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married” according to ABC News.

The president did say that the issue belonged to the states, but his administration is not defending the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The act, passed with broad bipartisan support in 1996 prevents states from being required to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states and defines marriage as between a man and woman for the purposes of federal law.

Obama’s decision to endorse same-sex marriage is widely believed to have a positive effect on his re-election campaign. Gay marriage supporters typically point to polls that show that gay marriage has gained acceptance in the past decade. Some recent polls even show that gay marriage support outstripping opposition by small margins.

The vote on a definition of marriage amendment to North Carolina’s constitution should serve as a warning to those who believe that same-sex marriage is a winning issue for the president. Before the election, polling in North Carolina had indicated that voters in the Tar Heel State were poised to reject the amendment. In a Public Policy poll from September 2011 North Carolina voters opposed the amendment by a margin of 55-30 percent. Fifty-four percent of respondents favored legalizing gay marriage or civil unions. The results cut across party lines.

More recently, in April 2012, another Public Policy poll found that 53 percent of North Carolina voters supported either gay marriage or civil unions, while 54 percent of voters supported the marriage amendment. In the final analysis, the North Carolina marriage amendment passed by a margin of 61-39 percent according to CBS News, an even larger margin that polling had predicted especially given that the trend was in the direction of rejecting the amendment.

The potential problem for President Obama is that polls on same-sex marriage seem to consistently overstate its support in the electorate. Even though same-sex marriage has gained approval in opinion polls, it has never won at the ballot box. When Georgians voted on marriage in 2004, 76 percent favored traditional marriage according to results from the Secretary of State. Even in the bluest of the blue states, traditional marriage always wins out when the voters have a chance to decide. The logical conclusion is that polling about same-sex marriage errs on the side of gay marriage advocates.

The question is whether opposition to gay marriage will translate into opposition to President Obama now that he has publicly and irrevocably identified himself with the issue. Even a small number of voters who desert the president because of his stance on marriage may be enough to sway the election. In the swing states, the defection of voters over the marriage issue could prove decisive.

Just before the president’s announcement, Politico recently analyzed polls about same-sex marriage from several of the battleground states. In addition to North Carolina, a plurality of voters in Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Iowa oppose same-sex marriage. The results from Pennsylvania were mixed. Since almost all of the swing states clearly support traditional marriage by large margins, President Obama runs the risk of alienating independent voters with his newfound support of gay marriage.

Black voters in particular represent a vulnerable constituency for the president. President Obama won 95 percent of black voters in 2008 according to the Roper Center. Yet according to a Pew poll, only 36 percent of black voters approve of same-sex marriage. Compounding the problem for Obama is that his economic policies have not been kind to blacks. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the unemployment rate for blacks is at 13 percent, significantly above the national average. The question for 2012 is whether black voters will put ethnicity ahead of their social values and economic interests.

Until Election Day there is no way to know for certain the impact of President Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage. Early indications are that there are a wide range of reactions in the black community ranging from condemnation to cautious support. Often there seemed to be support and admiration for the president in spite of opposition to his stance. An Atlanta pastor, Rev. Tim McDonald, told CBS Atlanta, “You can say I'm opposed to it (same-sex marriage), but that doesn't mean I'm against the president.”

Precedent for this perception can be found in California in 2008 when Californians voted against same-sex marriage and for the Democratic Party, the pro-same-sex marriage party, at the same time. CBS Atlanta notes that 70 percent of blacks voted to preserve traditional marriage while 94 percent voted for then-Senator Obama. The difference is that, at the time, Obama supported traditional marriage as well even though many in his party did not.

In the final analysis, it is likely that President Obama’s position on same-sex will cost him votes, the question is how many. Even a relatively small percentage of defections from black and independent voters could radically alter the outcome of the election.

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Friday, May 11, 2012

Obama’s legal problems

By now most Americans are familiar with the legal challenges to President Obama’s signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act. In March, the Supreme Court heard three days of oral arguments on the constitutionality of the various aspects of the law including the government’s mandate that all Americans must buy health insurance. Although the Court has not yet ruled on the case, pointed questions from the justices lead many observers to believe that at least part of the law will be struck down.
If the Supreme Court does rule that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, it will not be the first time that the Obama Administration has been chastised by the judicial branch. Last year, President Obama’s Interior Department was held in contempt for violating a federal judge’s ruling striking down the moratorium on offshore oil drilling imposed after the BP oil spill in 2010. After the judge ordered the moratorium lifted, the Interior Department continued to refuse to issue drilling permits for months. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar also imposed onerous safety rules on drilling that the judge ruled were in violation of federal law.
The Obamacare case is not the first time that the Obama Administration has found itself in legal trouble. In February 2011, a federal judge held the administration in contempt for continuing its deepwater oil drilling moratorium after the policy was struck down. According to Bloomberg, the government acted with “defiance” and “determined disregard” in refusing to issue drilling permits even after a court struck down Obama’s ban on offshore drilling.
President Obama’s EPA has suffered several defeats recently. In a March 2012 Supreme Court ruling, an Idaho couple was building a house when the EPA ordered them to restore the wetlands on their property and threatened fines of $75,000 per day according to the Washington Post. There was no noticeable water on the property. Lower courts ruled that EPA compliance orders were not subject to judicial review, but the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the couple could challenge the EPA’s order in court.
Another EPA case involves the agency’s refusal to approve a Texas plan for implementing air quality standards. According to Businessweek, a U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the EPA had “no legal basis” to reject the Texas standard after it failed to identify where federal standards were not met and missed a deadline to rule on the plan by three years according to the Austin Statesman.
The EPA has recently lost another case to Texas as well. In December 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals issued a stay on an EPA rule regarding cross-state air pollution that was set to take effect in January. The ruling means that the EPA regulations will not take effect until the court makes a decision on the case. Arguments in the case were heard in April, but the court has not issued a decision yet. Georgia is also a party to the cross-state lawsuit.
In more litigation relating to the EPA, the Southeastern Legal Foundation, a Marietta, Ga. based group, is challenging the Obama EPA’s decision to unilaterally amend the Clean Air Act to allow it to regulate carbon. On April 2, Shannon Goessling, the executive director of the Southeastern Legal Foundation, was interviewed about the lawsuit on the Michael Medved Show. (Listen in Atlanta on AM-920. The interview is archived at MichaelMedved.com and the SLF website.) Goessling said that 15 Georgia businesses and business associations as well 7 members of Congress from Georgia are among the parties to the lawsuit.
According to Goessling and SLF court filings, six million businesses would potentially be subject to EPA carbon rules under the new regulations. The expansion of EPA regulatory power would have a devastating effect on the economy, dramatically increasing the cost of energy and costing millions of jobs. The result of the regulation would be to reduce the world temperature by 0.00071 degrees Celsius, “70 times smaller than the smallest change that can be detected” according to the SLF brief. The annual emissions reduced by the regulation would be replaced by China in 13 days.
The question is whether the EPA had the right to regulate carbon at all. Congress failed to pass cap-and-trade carbon regulation in 2010. Since Congress did not pass the legislation, President Obama’s EPA chief, Lisa Jackson, decided to bypass Congress and regulate carbon as a pollutant in the wake of a Supreme Court ruling, Massachusetts v. EPA, which directed the agency to review whether it could legally regulate carbon. According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, EPA regulations will take effect on power plants this month and refineries in November 2012. If the regulations are allowed to take effect, energy costs are poised to skyrocket. The case was recently heard by a federal appeals court which has not yet ruled.
The rash of cases against the EPA for unconstitutional and illegal overreach reflects the attitude of EPA Regional Administrator Al Armendariz who recently surfaced in a video favorably comparing EPA enforcement actions to Roman crucifixions. Armendariz implied that he felt the need to make an example of a few companies in order to intimidate the rest. He resigned after the video went public.
Other members of the Obama Administration have their own personal legal problems. Attorney General Eric Holder may be held in contempt of Congress for his role in the cover-up of the Fast and Furious scandal according to ABC News. Holder’s Justice Department has not complied with congressional requests for many documents detailing the failed gun sting. In Operation Fast and Furious, federal agents allowed straw purchasers to smuggle thousands of guns purchased in the U.S. into Mexico. The guns were used in several murders, including that of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in December 2010.
Finally, the Obama Administration was the plaintiff in a case against Arizona’s controversial immigration law. The administration sued to block implementation of the law on the grounds that only the federal government has the right to set immigration policy. Nevertheless, according to Yahoo, the Supreme Court appeared ready to uphold at least part of the Arizona law. At times even liberal judges were critical of the government’s case.
President Obama’s legal problems reflect a disregard for the letter of the law and an arrogant attitude that the government always knows best. Ironically, the disregard for constitutional principles and the rule of law may sink his signature legislative accomplishment and be the ultimate undoing of his presidency.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Obama and Romney are not the same

A common theme heard in the wake of Mitt Romney’s primary victories is that the former Massachusetts governor’s platform is almost indistinguishable from President Obama.  Even a cursory examination of the two men shows that the charge is manifestly untrue. 

Perhaps the most obvious area of apparent similarity is health care reform.  While governor of Massachusetts, Romney presided over the enactment of an individual mandate to purchase health insurance that President Obama has claimed as the inspiration for his own landmark legislation. 

There are important key differences between the Romney and Obama laws.  Not the least of these is the fact that Massachusetts did not face the same limits that the federal government faces under the Constitution.  The federal government is granted certain powers under the Constitution.  The rest are reserved to the states and the people.  The federal government does not have the right to force people to engage in commerce, but the state of Massachusetts may have that power under its state constitution.

The Constitution notwithstanding, many Americans believe that the states should not have the right to mandate the purchase of health insurance or other products.  In Massachusetts however, the reform plan was popular when it passed and remains so.  A poll last year reported by Reuters found that 84 percent of Massachusetts residents are satisfied with the state’s health care reform.  Nevertheless, Romney has repeatedly pledged to repeal Obamacare if elected and block its implementation with an executive order on his first day in office.  Of course, President Obama would block any attempts to repeal his signature achievement and would try to pass a new version if it is struck down by the Supreme Court.

Another obvious difference is in the types of judges that President Romney would appoint.  Because judges serve for life, the impact of judicial appointments will last far beyond the four-year presidential term.  Under Barack Obama’s judicial philosophy, judges should have “empathy” for the poor and be “sensitive to issues of social justice” says the New York Times.  In contrast, GOPprimary2012.com reports that Romney has said that he has a “strict constructionist judicial philosophy.”  As governor of Massachusetts, he appointed lower court judges that were tough on crime.  He reformed the judicial nominating process to make it easier for conservatives to be appointed and named a conservative to the chair of the Judicial Nominating Commission. 

Judge Robert Bork, quoted by GOPprimary2012.com, said in 2008, “No other candidate will do more to advance the conservative judicial movement than Governor Mitt Romney…  [He] is committed to nominating judges who take their oath of office seriously and respect the rule of law in our nation.”

Two of the most pressing issues faced by our country today are the skyrocketing federal debt and the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon.  With respect to Iran and its rush to obtain a nuclear weapon, Obama has dragged his feet since his election.  He failed to support the Iranian uprising in 2009 and continued to make diplomatic overtures to the Iranian government.  The president resisted tightening sanctions until pressed by Congress.  President Obama did, however, call an Iranian nuclear weapon “unacceptable” in an interview with The Atlantic and said that a “military component” would be the last option.

In a Republican presidential debate last January, excerpted on 2012.republican-candidates.org, Romney said, “…  If we re-elect Barack Obama, Iran will have a nuclear weapon.  And if we elect Mitt Romney, if you elect me as the next president, they will not have a nuclear weapon....”  He continued, “I will make sure that the sanctions, diplomatic pressure, economic pressure and support of insurgents within the country help them become dissuaded to get away from their nuclear ambition.”
Under President Obama, the federal debt has risen sharply, both in real dollars and as a percentage of GDP.  The president has resisted almost all spending cuts.  His proposed budget for 2013 was a $3.8 trillion package that did not get a single vote, Republican or Democrat, in the House of Representatives. 

Mitt Romney has promised to immediately cut non-defense discretionary spending by five percent across the board.  He supports Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan that would reform Medicare while preserving benefits for current retirees, create a simplified income tax system, and reduce non-defense discretionary spending below 2008 levels.  Romney’s goal would be to reduce federal spending below 20 percent of GDP. His campaign website provides a roadmap of cuts to achieve that goal.

Closely related to the issues of spending and debt are taxes and regulation.  President Obama has presided over a massive increase in federal regulation and has made no secret of his desire to raise taxes.  A report by the House Government Oversight and Reform Committee cited by the Washington Examiner states that the Obama Administration has “imposed 75 new major regulations costing more than $380 billion over ten years” and another 219 regulations that will cost $100 million or more. 
According to MSNBC, Romney told supporters that he would consolidate or eliminate some departments and agencies of the federal government.  Specifically, he said that he would “either consolidate [the Department of Education] with another agency, or perhaps make it a heck of a lot smaller,” but that he would not eliminate it entirely.  He also hinted that “things like Housing and Urban Development…  might not be around later.”  Romney said that he would “send a lot of what happens in Washington back to the states."
Romney also proposes regulatory reform.  His proposal would work to repeal regulations that “unduly burden the economy or job creation.”  He would also require the cost of new regulations to be offset by reducing the regulatory burden elsewhere.  Romney would also propose a law that would require major rules to be approved by both houses of Congress, not delegated to federal bureaucrats via the administrative rulemaking process.
Even on social issues there are vast differences between President Obama and Mitt Romney.  Barack Obama has unquestionably been a pro-abortion president and has worked to expand federal funding for abortion.  In contrast, Mitt Romney, who admittedly favored abortion earlier in his career, has converted to the pro-life viewpoint.  NARAL Pro-Choice America notes that Romney supports a constitutional amendment defining that life begins at conception and would defund Planned Parenthood.  Romney also opposes Obama’s contraception and abortifacient mandate.  Romney is endorsed by pro-life groups like the National Right to Life Committee and the Susan B. Anthony List.
Similarly, Barack Obama is a strong supporter of same-sex marriage and in 2011 announced his decision not to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court on the grounds that he believed it to be unconstitutional.  Vice President Biden’s recent comments about same-sex marriage may signal that repealing the DOMA will be a priority in Obama’s second term. In contrast, Mitt Romney has made clear that he supports traditional marriage.  He opposed the 2003 decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Court while he was governor and supported a constitutional amendment to preserve traditional marriage there.  In a November 2011 interview linked on 2012.republican-candidates.org, Romney says that he believes that “the Defense of Marriage Act was well constructed and should be maintained.”

Mitt Romney may not be the first choice of many conservatives, but even a cursory example of his platform reveals that his plans for the country are not the same as President Obama’s.  In many policy areas, the two men could not be more different.  For the 62 percent of Americans who believe the country is on the wrong track (according to Rasmussen), the choice should be clear.

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Ron Paul wins Maine but nomination still a long shot

public domainRon Paul shook up the Republican Party over the weekend when he won a majority of delegates at the Maine Republican convention. Paul is mounting an insurgent strategy in caucus states where his supporters disregard the nonbinding results of straw polls and commandeer delegates in spite of the fact that their candidate has not been able to win a single election.

In spite of the apparent success of the strategy in several states including Maine, the Boston Herald reports that Paul’s delegates may not be a factor at the convention. The Romney campaign alleged that Paul supporters had committed rules violations and claimed that ballots were tampered with. Romney supporters are considering challenging the results with the Republican National Committee. Romney supporters who objected to alleged rules violations were overruled by convention chairman Brent Tweed, a Paul supporter.

The Herald quotes Maine state representative Jeffrey Timberlake as saying, “This thing is going to get thrown out. Nearly everything they did here was illegal.”

Paul supporters indicated that their legal team was ready to meet the legal challenge from Romney. Romney’s legal team includes Benjamin Ginsburg, who was also an attorney for George W. Bush during the 2000 Florida recount.

The big question is whether Ron Paul’s strategy of flooding the caucus states with supporters has a chance of succeeding. According to the Republican primary schedule on 2012.presidentialelectionnews.com, 17 states and territories use the caucus system. These states and territories include Iowa, Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota, Maine, Wyoming, Washington, Alaska, Idaho, North Dakota, Kansas, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Marianna Islands, Hawaii, American Samoa, and Missouri. There are a total of 481 delegates available in these areas according to The Green Papers .

A total of 1,144 delegates are needed to nominate this year’s GOP candidate. Even if Ron Paul supporters were to secure the all of caucus state delegates, which they have been unable to do, Paul would still not receive enough delegates to secure the nomination.

There are no more caucus states left on the primary schedule. The remaining 14 states (Indiana, North Carolina, West Virginia, Nebraska, Oregon, Arkansas, Kentucky, Texas, California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota and Utah) are all primary states. Of these, only Utah and New Jersey are winner-take-all states according to The Center for Voting and Democracy. This means that Ron Paul does have the chance to pick up some additional delegates in the majority of states where delegates are awarded proportionally.

Thus far in the primary season, Mitt Romney has proved much more popular with voters than Ron Paul. Paul has not won a single election. According to results on Politico, his best showing has been the 40 percent of the vote that he carried in Virginia where only he and Romney were on the ballot. Mitt Romney has won the elections in 32 states and territories so far.

The picture may change slightly for the remaining primaries with Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich out of the race. There are three primaries scheduled for this week: North Carolina, West Virginia, and Indiana. According to Real Clear Politics, Romney leads Paul by comfortable margins in all three states. In North Carolina, Romney is at 48 percent and Paul at 12 percent. Gingrich is in second place with 30 percent. In Indiana, Santorum and Romney are in a statistical tie at 27-26 percent respectively. Paul trails with six percent. In a West Virginia poll from October 2011, the latest available, Gingrich led Romney 18-16 percent, while Paul was at six percent.

The results of the remaining primaries depend on whether Santorum and Gingrich supporters will break for Romney or Paul. In any case, Paul faces an uphill battle. The remaining 14 primaries are worth a total of 770 delegates. The New York Times estimates that Ron Paul has 94 delegates so far. This means that he would have to win almost all of the caucus delegates as well as most of the remaining primary delegates to win the nomination. In contrast, Mitt Romney, with 856 delegates, needs only 288 plus however many caucus delegates he loses to Paul. Romney’s total also does not include voting at-will party leaders according to Yahoo. These party leaders are more likely to vote for Romney.

Paul’s likely strategy is to try to win enough delegates to deny Romney a victory on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention. Political scientist Jonathan Bernstein told Talking Points Memo, “Basically, if we ever get there [to a brokered convention], it’s up for grabs and we have no idea who the delegates will be loyal to. They may just be an individual case by case basis.”

An open question is how many Romney delegates might be closet Paul supporters that would reveal themselves when they are unbound after the first round of voting. The delegates committed to Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum would also be added to the mix.

It is unlikely that Ron Paul will be able to force a brokered convention, but there is a slim chance. Despite his early success in the caucus states, the Romney campaign will undoubtedly be ready to fight for every delegate in subsequent caucus state conventions. Likewise, non-Paul Republicans in the remaining primary states are likely to be galvanized by what many may feel is an unfair strategy. Nevertheless, Paul will almost certainly amass enough delegates to rate a prominent slot at the Republican National Convention in Tampa in August.

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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Democratic politicians desert Obama

In what may be the first of many similar stories this election year, a Democratic governor and U.S. senator have announced that they will not endorse President Barack Obama for re-election. In an Associated Press report this week, West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and Senator Joe Manchin both decline to support the president due to his energy policies. Manchin announced his decision not to endorse Obama last month.

Tomblin told the AP, “President Obama has apparently made it his mission to drive the backbone of West Virginia's economy, coal and the energy industry, out of business. That will not only hurt thousands of West Virginia families, it will destroy the economic fabric of our state."

Neither Tomblin nor Manchin said that they would support Republican Mitt Romney against Obama. Tomblin criticized Romney for “supporting policies that will end Medicare and Social Security as we know it,” a reference to the Republican budget plan crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan that would reform Medicare, which is rapidly approaching insolvency.

There are indications that other Democrats are deserting the president as well. In many campaign stops prior to the 2010 elections and since, Democratic politicians have been conspicuously absent from Obama’s visits. When President Obama visited Atlanta in August 2010, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Roy Barnes was a hundred miles away in Monroe County near Macon according to 11 Alive. Few Democratic politicians have opposed the president as overtly as Tomblin and Manchin, although Rep. Jim Marshall (Ga. – 8), who lost to Republican Austin Scott in 2010, was singled out as one of the “top ten Democrats opposing Obama” by Newsmax.com.

Many Democrats are opposed to the president’s policies. A report and video of interviews with protesters at Occupy Wall Street on May Day by the Washington Free Beacon revealed that many members of the left feel betrayed and angry by the president’s foreign policy, saying that little has changed since President Bush left office. Others are unhappy with what they see as the president’s assault on civil liberties. President Obama’s corporate bailouts have also earned him the ire of some in the Democratic base.

Anecdotal data indicates that some disaffected Democrats are crossing party lines to support Ron Paul. A number of groups such as Democrats for Ron Paul and the Blue Republicans are comprised of Democrats who have dumped the president for Ron Paul’s anti-war, anti-bailout philosophy. At Occupy Atlanta last year, more protesters told Examiner.com that they supported Ron Paul than President Obama.

Natural News listed ten reasons why “Democrats, liberals and progressives are choosing Ron Paul over Obama.” The list ranges from his support for legal marijuana and opposition to war to Paul’s desire to end the Federal Reserve and stop the bailouts of “wealthy banksters [sic].” The article also cites the belief that Obama will use the NDAA to put Americans “in secret military prisons, interrogate them and even kill them with no due process.” The ACLU agrees that Ron Paul is more progressive than Obama on a host of civil liberties and anti-war issues.

The Democratic opposition to Obama is reflected in an April 2012 CBS News poll. Thirteen percent of Democrats disapproved of the president’s job performance and more than a third of Democrats believed that the country was headed in the wrong direction. In comparison, in a February 2009 CBS poll, “nearly all” Democrats approved of the president. According to New Hampshire’s official Democratic primary results, Ron Paul finished second behind Barack Obama with almost five percent of the vote.

Although many of the Democrats who are dissatisfied with Obama will vote for him anyway, if even a small number write in Ron Paul or vote for Ron Paul on a third party ticket, it could be enough to cost Obama several important swing states. In the absence of a Ron Paul candidacy, many Democrats might simply stay home rather than go to the polls for Obama. With the election in a statistical dead heat, even a small number of disaffected voters could sway the outcome.


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Friday, May 4, 2012

For the Rolling Stones fans

There are a few conservatives left in California!  Here's one in San Luis Obispo.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Occupy Wall Street poses election year liability for Democrats

Occupy protesters celebrated May Day, the traditional labor and communist holiday, with spasms of violence across the country on Monday. According to Buzz Feed, “Black Bloc” protesters in New York, the cradle of the Occupy movement, attacked photographers and tried to take their cameras. The New York Daily News reports that the NYPD arrested 86 protesters on charges “ranging from disorderly conduct to assaulting cops.”

On the West Coast, there was even more violence. In Oakland, police used tear gas and “flash bang” grenades to break up demonstrations and arrested at least 25 protesters according to CBS News. In Seattle, the violence seemed to be the worst as Occupiers dressed in black broke windows, vandalized cars, blocked traffic and did extensive damage to the federal courthouse MSNBC reports.

In Cleveland, protests were canceled after five members of Occupy Cleveland were arrested by the FBI for plotting to blow up bridges. The Plain Dealer reports that the men are anarchists who were part of the Occupy encampment on Cleveland’s Public Square. One of the men had been arrested with others in the Occupy movement for disrupting a Cuyahoga County foreclosure sale in March.

As the Occupy movement reawakens, it is becoming more of a liability for Democrats. A Quinnipiac poll from November 2011, the end of last year’s protest season, found that registered voters disapproved of the Occupy movement by a margin of 39 to 30 percent. A further 30 percent were undecided, but if the violence becomes more pronounced it is likely that more voters will turn against the Occupiers.

The problem for Democrats is that President Obama and many other prominent party members have backed the movement since its inception. Democrats have defended the movement as similar to the Tea Party, which has been linked to virtually no violence, and expressed support for the Occupiers and their goals. Democratic support for the movement continued even after protests turned violent in New York and elsewhere across the country.

In an ABC News interview from October 2011, President Obama responded to the protests saying, “The most important thing we can do right now is those of us in leadership letting people know that we understand their struggles and we are on their side, and that we want to set up a system in which hard work, responsibility, doing what you’re supposed to do, is rewarded.”

The president also noted in the same interview that “In some ways, they [Occupy Wall Street] are not that different from some of the protests that we saw coming from the Tea Party.  Both on the left and the right, I think people feel separated from their government. They feel that their institutions aren’t looking out for them.”

On another occasion, after being heckled by Occupy protesters, President Obama responded “Families like yours, young people like the ones here today — including the ones who were just chanting at me — you’re the reason that I ran for office in the first place.” A video of the incident is linked by the Weekly Standard.

Similarly, Vice President Joe Biden said in an interview quoted on Talking Points Memo, ““What is the core of that protest, and why is it increasing in terms of the people it’s attracting — the core is the bargain has been breached with the American people. The core is the American people do not think the system is fair or on the level….. That is the core of what you’re seeing on Wall Street.” Biden went on to compare Occupy Wall Street with the rise of the Tea Party.

Even congressional Democrats stated support for the Occupy Movement. Senate majority leader Harry Reid said that “the gulf between rich and poor… has motivated thousands to occupy parks across the country and make their voices heard” according to Politico. Former house speaker Nancy Pelosi told ABC News “I support the message to the establishment, whether it's Wall Street or the political establishment and the rest that change has to happen.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee posted an online petition supporting Occupy Wall Street. The website says that the petition is a response to Rep. Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) comment that he was “increasingly concerned by the growing mobs” of protesters. The petition begins, “As Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters, ‘The message of the American people is that no longer will the recklessness of some on Wall Street cause massive joblessness on Main Street….’”

The Occupy movement has not returned the Democratic love. Anger at President Obama’s corporate bailouts has been a central pillar of the Occupy movement since its inception. An informal survey of Occupy Atlanta protesters last summer on Examiner.com revealed that more were aligned with Ron Paul than with Barack Obama. As noted earlier, Occupiers also harassed and heckled President Obama at speeches. When Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) tried to address Occupy Atlanta last year, he was turned away because the movement was “not about one individual” and recognized “no hierarchy” according to Creative Loafing.

All of this puts Democrats in a difficult position with respect to the November elections. The Democrats have publicly aligned themselves with a movement that is physically attacking businesses and spawning domestic terrorists. As the movement becomes more overtly violent, it is likely to lose even more support among the American people.

If the Democrats continue to stand with Occupy Wall Street as it becomes more violent, they risk alienating independent and moderate voters. If they reject the Occupiers and their violent tactics, they risk alienating the left-wing Democratic base, which is already unhappy with many of the president’s policies. To win their elections, President Obama and threatened Democrats in the senate need to win the majority of independent voters while maximizing the turnout of their base.

Much of the damage to the Democratic base may already be done. A video posted by the Washington Free Beacon shows Occupiers in New York expressing their dissatisfaction with President Obama this week at the May Day gathering. The protesters say that President Obama betrayed them and call him a liar. One man (not on the video) said, “I feel that Obama, especially on the civil liberties perspective, has raped me in the a–.” Another says that he will “never again vote for a Democrat for anything, not even dogcatcher.”


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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

New AOPA pilot app for Apple

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association recently announced the release of a new Apple application for pilots.  The application, called FlyQ, is free to download and use for AOPA members.  The app uses DUAT, the FAA’s online weather source for pilots, to provide pilots with legal weather briefings and the ability to file flight plans.

The app consists of three main areas, which are tabbed across the bottom of the screen.  The first of these is the airports tab.  This uses the location feature of the iPhone or iPad to automatically bring up a list of nearby airports.  Along with airport data such as runway, fuel available, and frequencies is a small tab that tells whether each airport is VFR, marginal VFR, IFR, or low IFR at a glance.

When an airport is selected from the list, more detailed information is available.  This includes most of the pertinent information that you would find in the Airport Facility Directory such as all frequencies, the airport elevation, and a runway diagram are listed as well as other items such as satellite photos of the airport.  Recent weather reports and forecasts are also displayed.  This page also lists nearby navaids and airports.  Airport services from FBOs to ground transportation to restaurants and local attractions are also listed.

The weather tab automatically pulls up nearby weather reports and radar along with nice-to-know things like the expected high and low temperatures and general forecasts for the next week.  The radar can depict local, regional or national information.

Weather charts for the U.S. and Canada are available under the Gallery section.  This allows pilots to view useful graphic charts such as Freezing Levels, Icing Potential, and Turbulence charts quickly and easily.  The search function allows the pilot to type in another airport, such as the destination or alternate, to view the weather there.  Aviation weather reports and forecasts can be viewed in the standard coded format or in a plain English translation.

The plans section allows the user to log into their DUAT account to create flight plans and receive official weather briefings.  This requires creating both a pilot profile and an aircraft profile.  Many aircraft have default values that populate their profile, but the user should confirm the entries before relying on the flight plan data.  The ability to build a profile for almost any airplane, along with a variety of routing options such as jet airways, GPS direct, and optimizing for best winds means that even professional pilots of long range jets can use the app for most of their flight-planning needs.

There are some weaknesses with the FlyQ app.  The most obvious is that it is currently only available on Apple products.  AOPA does say that there is an Android version in the works, but there is no word on when it will be released.

Another is that the app is limited to the United States.  Canadian weather and airport data is accessible from the app, but the flight plan feature does not work for flights to Canadian airports.  Likewise, the user can look at Caribbean and Mexican airports and weather, but cannot file a flight plan to or from these destinations.

Finally, it was hard to figure out how to delete an old flight plan.  The FAQs suggested selecting the flight plan and then tapping on the action button, the box with an arrow coming out of it, in the upper left corner.  This brings up several options including emailing, printing or deleting the flight plan.  Unfortunately, this does not always work.

The AOPA FlyQ app is a good tool for any pilot with an iPad or iPhone.  For the most part it is very quick, easy to use, and works well.  As a free service of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, FlyQ could easily replace more expensive apps or programs.  With avgas and jet fuel prices so high, most pilots would probably be happy to save the money.  FlyQ is available in the Apple app store.

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