Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Polling predicts Romney landslide

As the presidential election enters the home stretch, the race is still tight according to the polls. Most recent national polls now give Mitt Romney the edge. Gallup shows Obama trailing by five points nationally. According to a new Rasmussen poll released today, Romney leads 49-47 percent.

In the swing states, many races are trending towards Romney as well. In Florida (29 electoral votes), the majority of polls show Romney in the lead. This is also true in North Carolina (15 votes).

The swing states of Virginia and Ohio remain a statistical tie. In both states, however, President Obama is polling at less than 50 percent, a bad sign for an incumbent. In Virginia (13 votes), Real Clear Politics average of polls shows the president with an average of 47 percent. In Ohio (18 votes), President Obama gets 48 percent. The most recent poll in Ohio is a Rasmussen sample that shows Mitt Romney leading 50-48.

Historical precedent shows that undecided voters usually vote against the incumbent. Polling Report studies found that over 80 percent of the time, undecided voters chose the challenger. The Incumbent Rule holds that incumbents rarely get a higher percentage of the vote than they receive in pre-election polls. This means that Mitt Romney will probably win in both Ohio and Virginia. These victories would give Romney 266 electoral votes, four short of the 270 required to win the White House.

There are many opportunities to win the extra four votes. In six states, President Obama leads in the polling, but with less than 50 percent. These states include Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. A win in any of these states along with victories in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia would seal Mitt Romney’s victory. Current polling suggests that he may win all of them. Currently polling also suggests that Oregon, where the president is polling at 48 percent, may be in play.

The situation is discouraging for Obama because the states in play are all states that he won in 2008. There are no states that voted for McCain in 2008 that are trending toward Obama this year. Several possible swing states (Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania) are normally solidly Democratic.

The only swing state in which President Obama is polling at 50 percent or more is Nevada. Polls there have showed the president with 50 to 51 percent according to Real Clear Politics. This suggests a one to two point victory over Mitt Romney.

If the Incumbent Rule holds true, Mitt Romney will win the election with 331 electoral votes to Barack Obama’s 207. You can view the Atlanta Conservative Examiner’s prediction of the election’s outcome in detail on 270towin.com. You can also create your own electoral map.

Mitt Romney will also win the popular vote, avoiding a repeat of the divisive aftermath of the 2000 election in which George W. Bush won the electoral vote by winning Florida, but lost the popular vote to Vice President Al Gore. Based on current polls, Romney should win approximately 53 percent of the popular vote.

The idea of a Republican landslide in the presidential election is also supported by Gallup’s party identification poll. At this point in 2008, Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 34 to 33 percent with 32 percent considering themselves independent. In 2010, Democrats still outnumbered Republicans, this time by 32 to 29 percent. Independents had increased to 36 percent. The most recent data, from September 2012, shows 28 percent Republican, 32 percent Democrat, and 38 percent independent. This is almost identical to 2010, when the Republicans won a congressional landslide.

Additionally, the Associated Press reported last week that Mitt Romney had closed the gender gap with President Obama as well. At one time, Obama had a 16 point advantage among women. The recent AP-Gfk poll now shows the two candidates tied at 47-47 among women. Previous polls have shown the president losing support among black voters and young voters, two core constituencies from 2008.

Barring a successful last-minute October surprise, it seems almost certain that Mitt Romney will not only win the presidential election, but that he will do so handily. What was a close race throughout the summer now seems to be trending toward a landslide.

Originally published on Examiner.com

Voters need truth about Benghazi cover-up before election

An emerging aspect to the Benghazi attack story is the Obama Administration’s cover-up of the truth. From the beginning, President Obama and members of his administration have claimed that the attack was the spontaneous work of a mob protesting an anti-Islamic film. It is now apparent that the Administration knew even as the attacks were going on that it was a preplanned terrorist attack.

For over a week after the attack, President Obama and other government officials clung to the fiction that the attack was a reaction to “Innocence of the Muslims,” a film ridiculing Mohammed that had already been on Youtube for months. Charles Woods, the father of Ty Woods, one of the Americans killed in the attack, told radio host Lars Larson that Secretary of State Clinton vowed to have the filmmaker “arrested” and “prosecuted” in apparent disregard for the First Amendment.

In a timeline of the attacks and their aftermath posted on Oct. 26, Factcheck.org points out some of the flaws in the Administration’s claims. There was no mob at the Benghazi consulate in spite of President Obama’s claims to the contrary. State Department reports say that everything was calm until the attack started at approximately 3:40 p.m. At 6:07 p.m., while the attack was still in process, the State Department Operations Center emailed the White House and the Pentagon as well as several other agencies to tell them that Ansar al-Sharia had claimed responsibility for the attack. The attack continued until about 8:30 p.m. when Libyan security forces drove off the surviving attackers. The attack continued for approximately four to five hours.

Even though there were reports of al Qaeda involvement even while the attack was still in progress, President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, and other Administration officials persisted in blaming the film for over a week after the attack. There is no reasonable reason to deny al Qaeda’s involvement for national security reasons since the fact that there was no mob was common knowledge in Libya. The only logical reason to shift the blame to Youtube and away from al Qaeda is for President Obama’s political benefit.

Examiner previously described reports that the Obama Administration denied requests to increase security before the attack. Now there are reports that requests for assistance during the attack were denied as well. Fox News reports that CIA operators were denied permission to assist the Americans under attack inside the consulate. The unnamed sources “on the ground in Benghazi” said that a small team heard the shots from a safe house and requested permission to help. They were ordered to “stand down,” but several members of the team, including former Navy SEAL Ty Woods, ignored the order and were able to evacuate survivors from the consulate, possibly preventing even greater loss of life.

When they returned, the safe house itself came under attack. The CIA team again called for help and were again denied. The Fox News report indicates that a team member on the roof with a laser target designator asked for an airstrike by an AC-130 Spectre gunship. More than seven hours after the initial attack began, a mortar attack on the CIA safe house killed Ty Woods and Glen Doherty, another former SEAL.

The Fox report notes that the CIA denied the report. “We can say with confidence that the Agency reacted quickly to aid our colleagues during that terrible evening in Benghazi," said spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood. "Moreover, no one at any level in the CIA told anybody not to help those in need; claims to the contrary are simply inaccurate.”

The Fox report also states that two American surveillance drones were on the scene during the attack. In spite of the fact that these drones could send real time information and video to Washington, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters that officials had no clear idea of what was going on and could not provide assistance.

As yet unconfirmed are reports that General Carter Ham, commanding officer of the U.S. Africa Command, was relieved of his command because he was about to ignore orders not to help the Americans in Benghazi. Rumors are swirling that the general had a rapid response unit ready to go when he was ordered to stand down. The general responded that he was going to aid the consulate anyway. Less than thirty seconds later, the general’s executive officer relieved him and assumed command. The rescue mission did not take place. Defense Secretary Panetta previously claimed that Ham advised against a rescue mission.

Coverage of the rumor in the Washington Times notes that the Pentagon claims that Ham’s removal was planned in advance. Nevertheless, the article also states that Ham was in his post for only a year and a half. The normal tour length for such a command post is three years.

The reports of the circumstances surrounding General Ham’s dismissal are unconfirmed at this point, but given the other untruths coming from President Obama and his Administration they are plausible. In contrast to Obama’s claims that a Libyan mob killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, it now appears that the only Libyan mob was the one that found Stevens, at that point still alive, in the ruins of the consulate and took him to the hospital according to the Associated Press. At that point, U.S. and Libyan relief forces were still not on the scene.

Mark Thiessen of the Washington Post reported on Sept. 13 that the president’s public schedule showed that the last “daily” intelligence briefing that the president received was on Sept.5, more than a week before the attack. A spokesman for the National Security Council did point out that a printed copy of the President’s Daily Briefing is delivered to the president every day.

Additionally, the Long War Journal reports that a former Guantanamo Bay detainee and al Qaeda member was involved in the attack. Sufyan ben Qumu was transferred to Libyan custody in 2007. He was released by Qaddafi’s government in 2010.

On Friday, in response to repeated questions about the allegations, the president answered as quoted by USA Today, “Well, we are finding out exactly what happened. I can tell you, as I’ve said over the last couple of months since this happened, the minute I found out what was happening, I gave three very clear directives. Number one, make sure that we are securing our personnel and doing whatever we need to. Number two, we’re going to investigate exactly what happened so that it doesn’t happen again. Number three, find out who did this so we can bring them to justice. And I guarantee you that everyone in the state department, our military, the CIA, you name it, had number one priority making sure that people were safe. These were our folks and we’re going to find out exactly what happened, but what we’re also going to do it make sure that we are identifying those who carried out these terrible attacks.”

The FBI team dispatched to investigate the attack did not arrive in Libya until Oct. 4, three weeks after the attack. According to the New York Times, the Obama Administration blamed the delay on the Libyan government.

The investigation of the entire Benghazi matter is ongoing, but will not be complete until after the election. This is unacceptable. Voters deserve to know the truth about the attack in Benghazi and they should know before the election.

Originally published on Examiner.com:

Monday, October 29, 2012

Aviation and the election

As the presidential election approaches, most pilots will probably become voters as well. In addition to the other issues to consider this election, aviation oriented voters should consider the aviation issues at stake.

One obvious issue is high fuel prices. According to GlobalAir.com, the average fuel price for both 100LL and jet fuel is more than six dollars per gallon in most of the country. There are many factors in pricing fuel, but, as noted in an Examiner article from March, President Obama’s decisions regarding oil production have contributed to high fuel prices. The president rejected the Keystone XL pipeline that would have transported Canadian oil to U.S. refineries. Under his administration, the approval rate for drilling permits has fallen from 73 to 23 percent. The approval process also takes longer. This means that in the future the United States will have less oil available and prices will trend higher.

Airlines are heavily unionized and labor organizations have traditionally supported Democrats. Although the Air Line Pilot’s Association has supported several pieces of President Obama’s legislation, ALPA has not yet endorsed either candidate for president this year. Nevertheless, an ALPA White Paper, “Leveling the Playing Field for U.S. Airlines and their Employees,” does call for reform of aviation tax policy to increase competitiveness. According to On The Issues, Mitt Romney’s platform calls for lowering tax rates for business and streamlining regulations.

One new regulation that President Obama has proposed is aviation user fees. According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the proposal currently exempts piston engine airplanes and certain types of flight operations. Turbine aircraft would be charged $100 per flight in controlled airspace under the plan. In the October issue of “AOPA Pilot” magazine, Mitt Romney says, “Eliminating burdensome regulations and working with the aviation industry to ensure that consumers are receiving the best service possible are equally important to keeping cost down.”

President Obama has also repeatedly attacked general aviation throughout his four years in office. In 2008, Democrats took the CEOs of the Detroit automakers to task for using private jets to fly to congressional hearings. In 2011, President Obama accused Republicans of compromising “kids’ safety so that some corporate jet owner continues to get a tax break” according to Examiner. The Washington Times notes that Obama attacked corporate jet owners again in the first presidential debate in Denver, saying, “If you've got a corporate jet, you can probably afford to pay full freight.”

Finally, aviation obviously rises and falls with the general economy. When the rest of the country is doing well, people fly more, both in airliners and private planes. Under President Obama, the economy has performed poorly by most measures. Unemployment is up. Wages are down. Unfortunately, the president does not see the need to change his economic policies if he is elected for another four years. This means that the economy and aviation will continue to be stagnant and experience only slow growth at best.

Under such scenario, retirements may lead the airlines to start hiring again, but growth and expansion would be unlikely. Jobs in corporate aviation and charter will also be hard to find. As the demand for pilots slows further, so will the demand for flight instructors and aircraft.

One of the jobs that might be lost in second Obama term is mine. My company started furloughing earlier this year after recalling almost all of our furloughees from 2008. At this point, almost half of the pilots on the seniority list have been laid off or left voluntarily to retire or take other jobs. A true economic recovery is needed to generate demand for air travel. That recovery will not happen if President Obama is reelected. With the threat of the fiscal cliff hanging over businesses, it might not happen in a Romney Administration either.

President Obama is on the wrong side of a host of issues that affect aviation. The best chance for an economic recovery and growth in the aviation industry is for Americans and pilots to elect Mitt Romney.

Originally published on Examiner.com


Friday, October 26, 2012

Why you should vote for Mitt Romney

Recently Examiner made the case against Barack Obama’s reelection. There are a multitude of reasons to vote against Obama, but that is only half of the equation. There are many reasons to make a positive choice to vote for Mitt Romney.

First, when it comes to the economy, Mitt Romney is the anti-Obama. Obama’s plan, only unveiled on October 23, is to raise taxes, increase regulation and spend even more. On the other hand, Mitt Romney wants to reform the tax system by lowering rates and eliminating loopholes that favor the wealthy. He wants to replace burdensome regulations like those in Obamacare and the Dodd-Frank finance law with rules that reflect market realities and common sense. Romney would immediately reduce spending to 2008 levels. Romney proposes to cut spending back to 20 percent of GDP (from its high last year of 24.3 percent) by the end of his first term. In spite of Obama’s claims in the debates and on the campaign trail, Romney does provide specifics. You can find the details of his plan on his website.

Romney’s economic plan is based on history. Tax rate cuts have led to economic growth at several points in U.S. history, most famously under John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. Higher taxes and higher government spending has the opposite effect. These policies led to the Great Depression and the stagflation of the 1970s. The same is true in other countries as well. When Ireland cut its taxes and government, it went from one of the poorest nations in Europe to one of the most successful. When Japan tried to stimulate its way out of a recession it led to a “Lost Decade.”

Romney is also the anti-Obama on many social issues. Where President Obama negotiated a UN small arms treaty that threatens American Second Amendment rights, Mitt Romney promises to respect the rights of gun owners and is endorsed by the National Rifle Association. Where Obama presided over the erosion of religious freedom, Romney has a long record of supporting religious liberty. Where President Obama is out of the closet as a supporter of same-sex marriage, Romney favors an amendment to the Constitution defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. Noted evangelist Billy Graham told Mitt Romney, “I’ll do all I can to help you. And you can quote me on that” according to the Washington Post. Graham also took out several full page newspaper ads urging voters “to vote for those who protect the sanctity of life and support the Biblical definition of marriage….”“

The second reason to vote for Mitt Romney is his choice of running mate. Paul Ryan is the most serious reformer in Congress. Ryan is the only person of either party to put forth a credible plan for saving Medicare and balancing the budget. Ryan’s plan, the “Roadmap for America’s Future,” preserves Medicare and Social Security in their current form for seniors while giving younger Americans more choice in their health care and retirement planning. Ryan’s plan also does not raise taxes. By choosing Paul Ryan to be his vice president, Mitt Romney showed that he is serious about reforming the federal government.

Third, a recent Pew poll profiled in the Los Angeles Times indicates that a majority of Americans feel that Iran is a major threat and want the United States to take a “firm stand.” President Obama and Vice President Biden don’t seem to take the threat seriously. In the vice presidential debate, Biden said that he wasn’t worried about an Iranian nuclear weapon because “they have to be able to have something to put it in. There is no weapon that the Iranians have at this point.” The Wall Street Journal points out that building a weapon is the easy part. Iran is currently working on the hard part: amassing enough enriched uranium to explode one or several nuclear bombs. The Obama Administration resisted sanctions and issued waivers to Iran’s largest trading partners including China. Under Obama’s watch, Iran’s rate of enrichment has tripled according to the Washington Post.

As he made clear in the foreign policy debate, Mitt Romney wants peace not war, but realizes the danger to the United States that a nuclear Iran poses. Romney would make the sanctions even tougher, although time for sanctions to work is rapidly slipping away. Romney also pledges to support the Iranian opposition, noting on his website that President Obama missed the opportunity to support Iran’s Green Revolution in 2009. Romney says on his website, “Only if Iran understands that the United States is utterly determined when we say that their nuclear weapons program is unacceptable is there a possibility that they will give up their nuclear aspirations peacefully.”

Fourth, voters should not be concerned about the fictitious war on women that the Democrats allege that Mitt Romney and the Republicans are engaged in. In reality, the president does not have the power to end abortion, no matter how much he opposes it. In reality, no one has proposed banning contraception. In reality, the Democratic position is that taxpayers and employers should be forced to pay for contraceptive and abortifacient drugs, regardless of whether they want them or not. The issue isn’t the freedom to use contraceptives; the issue is the freedom to not purchase them.

The fifth reason to vote for Mitt Romney is because he isn’t a wild eyed, out-of-touch radical as the Democrats have led voters to believe. As Americans saw in the three debates, he is an intelligent, personable man with a command of the facts and issues that confront the United States. He is generous, having donated nearly 30 percent of his income to charity in 2011 according to the Wall Street Journal. His record in business and as governor of Massachusetts is one of building teams and getting things done.

When Americans go the polls on Nov. 6, they have a real choice. The two candidates differ on almost every issue. Americans must choose between a return to the policies that made the United States an economic powerhouse and the envy of the world or a continuation of the Obama Administration policies of the past four years. Choosing President Obama might very well lead to an American Lost Decade and a loss of liberty as well.

See reasons to NOT vote for Barack Obama

Originally published on Examiner.com:


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Reasons to NOT vote for Obama

Early voting has already started in many states for this year’s elections. In the rest, Election Day is now only two weeks away. The number of undecided voters is dwindling as most have already decided on which presidential candidate to vote for. This column is directed toward these undecided voters as well those who lean toward President Obama.

The most obvious reason not to vote for President Obama’s reelection is the economy. Even though the economy has officially been recovering for the recession for more than three years, most Americans still do not feel the recovery. Unemployment remains high. The poverty level is higher than it was when President Obama took office. Despite an increase in the U.S. population, fewer Americans are working today than when President Obama was inaugurated. In August, twice as many Americans went on food stamps as found jobs according to Forbes.

Much of the blame for the lagging recovery belongs to President Obama. In spite of his 2008 campaign promises, President Obama has passed a bundle of tax increases for the middle class as well as the wealthy. The most infamous of these is the individual mandate, which was ruled by the Supreme Court to be a tax, but Forbes lists seven additional taxes that hit the middle class. Obamacare itself contains a bevy of new taxes in addition to the individual mandate. Investor’s Business Daily found 20 more taxes totaling more than $675 billion.

In addition to taxes, President Obama has also dramatically increased the number of expensive regulations with which businesses must comply. The American Action Forum estimates that Obama’s regulations, including Obamacare and the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law, cost the economy more than $488 billion. The paperwork required to comply with these regulations is equal to what it would take to build 220 Empire State Buildings.

These factors combine with the federal debt that has increased by more than 40 percent under President Obama and the looming fiscal cliff, which is comprised of even more tax increases coming at the end of this year, to create uncertainty for businesses. This uncertainty and the cost of the tax increases that Obama has promised if he is reelected make businesses hesitant to expand and hire and consumers reluctant to spend.

An additional factor in the country’s economic difficulty is President Obama’s hostility to oil-based energy. As Examiner noted last spring, approvals for drilling permits under President Obama have fallen from 73 percent to 23 percent. Time for approving a permit has increased from 60 days to more than 90. Obama has canceled oil leases issued by the Bush Administration, issued new regulations to discourage fracking, and rejected the Keystone XL pipeline that would bring Canadian oil to U.S. refineries. The cumulative effect of these policies is to drive up the prices of oil and gasoline. High energy prices contribute to the poor state of the economy.

On foreign policy, Obama has had one big success, the killing of Osama bin Laden. His failures are only now becoming apparent. The fiasco and subsequent cover-up surrounding the al Qaeda attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is only the tip of the iceberg. More serious and far-reaching are Obama’s policies regarding Israel and Iran.

President Obama claims to be a friend of Israel, but his actions tell a different story. President Obama seems to see a moral equivalence between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian terrorists. He is the only president to ever propose that Israel go back to its pre-1967 borders. This would leave Israel with an indefensible and narrow frontier. More recently Obama declined to meet with Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, and his administration has reportedly pressured Israel not to attack Iranian nuclear facilities.

With respect to Iran, President Obama is fond of pointing to the tough sanctions in place on the rogue regime. What he fails to mention is that congress passed those sanctions over his objection. President Obama also issued 20 waivers to the sanctions. Countries receiving waivers include China, Iran’s largest trading partner. Yahoo News notes that Obama will have to decide whether to renew the sanctions after the election.

Iran is not intimidated by President Obama and or the sanctions. It has scarcely been a year since Iranian agents attempted to assassinate the Saudi ambassador with a terrorist attack in Washington, D.C. In the Jerusalem Post, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is gleeful that America’s debt is weakening the country. “How long can a government with a $16 trillion foreign debt remain a world power?” he asks.

President Obama’s term has also seen the erosion of personal freedom. The freedom not to buy a government mandated product is only the most obvious loss. Freedom of religion has also been disregarded by the administration, most notably in the Health and Human Services mandate that requires all insurance policies to cover contraceptive and abortifacient drugs.

Most disturbing, during and after the September 11 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in the Middle East, the Obama Administration was openly critical of the freedom of speech. Even before the Benghazi consulate was attacked, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt released a statement condemning the anti-Islamic film that allegedly sparked the attacks. The text of the statement, available on Politifact, says, “We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.” Fox News reports that when he spoke to the United Nations later in the month, President Obama said that the “future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.” The man responsible for the film was arrested in California on charges that he violated his probation.

If Obama’s record so far is disturbing, even scarier is what might lie ahead. Reuters reported last March that President Obama told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that “This is my last election ... After my election I have more flexibility.” The exchange evidently related to missile defense, but the same logic applies to every controversial issue from abortion to gun control to taxes.

Given that Obama has shown that he is willing to circumvent congress with executive orders, there is no practical limit to what he can do as long as congress does not override his veto. The president has used executive orders or rulemaking by executive branch agencies to change U.S. immigration law, implement net neutrality, and implement a cap-and-trade carbon regulation system. Further, the president unilaterally launched a war in Libya without informing congress and made several recess appointments while congress was still in session.

Some leftists have opined that a benevolent dictator might be what the United States needs to break the gridlock in Washington and get things done. Such an executive, who does not blanch at using his autocratic powers, might very well be what we get in a second Obama term. The problem with this idea is that the American economy is simply too complex to be micromanaged. And a benevolent dictator is still a dictator.

Next:  Reasons to vote FOR Mitt Romney

This article was first published on Examiner.com


Monday, October 22, 2012

Free showing of Obama movie in Carrollton this Thursday

The Carroll County Tea Party and the Carroll Country Republican Party have joined forces to sponsor a showing of "2016: Obama's America" in Carrollton, Ga.

The movie, which has been panned by many critics, details Barack Obama's early life and purports to show how he was influenced by radical anti-colonialists. The film argues that if Obama is elected to a second term, he will fundamentally alter the United States and its role in the world.

The movie is based on a book by best-selling conservative author Dinesh D'Souza and produced by Gerald Molen, who also produced "Schindler's List," "Jurassic Park," "Twister," "Days of Thunder," and "the Minority Report." D'Souza's book, "The Roots of Obama's Rage," was released in 2010 and is the basis for the fi lm.

The film was initially released in July and by August it was outgrossing new Hollywood films according to the Hollywood Reporter. It is poised to become one of the top political documentaries of all time. According to the Huffington Post, the Obama Administration called the film "an insidious attempt to dishonestly smear the president."

The movie can be seen at no charge on Thursday, October 25 at the Amp in Carrollton. The movie will run from 7:30 - 9:30 p.m. A second free showing will be on November 1 at the Mill in Villa Rica.

Originally published on Examiner.com


Obama rejects compromise to avoid fiscal cliff

Obama Administration officials recently confirmed that President Obama is prepared to veto any legislation addressing the looming “fiscal cliff” that does not accede to Mr. Obama’s demands for tax increases on upper-income Americans. The “fiscal cliff” is a bundle of tax hikes scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2013 unless Congress and the president take action.

On October 17, the Washington Post reported that the president’s plan is to wait until after the election, which he presumes he will win, and use his victory to force the Republicans to agree to tax hikes. Since they took control of the House of Representatives in 2011, the Republicans have allied with the Tea Party to resist calls by President Obama and the Democrats to raise taxes to pay for increased federal spending and deficits.

The congressional stalemate led to the creation of a deficit commission that called for spending cuts paired with tax and entitlement reform. Congress never enacted its own program of cuts so a package of automatic across-the-board spending cuts and tax increases is now very close to taking effect. In addition to dramatic increases on a number of taxes, deep cuts to defense spending and social programs will also take place.

In 2009, President Obama said, “You don’t raise taxes in a recession.” In a Youtube video of the question and answer session, the president continues, “We have not proposed a tax hike for the wealthy that would take place in the middle of a recession…. That would just suck up, take more demand out of the economy and put businesses in a further hole.”

While the recession is technically over, many Americans still feel that the recovery has not yet begun in earnest. Economic growth is barely above one percent and estimates are frequently revised downward after they are issued. Unemployment has ticked down officially, but is still almost eight percent. The poverty rate is up, income is down, and fewer Americans are working now than when Mr. Obama took office. Few would argue that the economy is at a point where it can sustain taking “more demand out of the economy.”

Tax increases in the current economic environment, especially tax increases of the size and scope now being threatened by President Obama, would almost certainly plunge the economy back into a deep recession. The prospect of these tax increases is a large factor in why the economy is not recovering as well as it should. Businesses are waiting to see what will happen over the next year.

The tax increases are not a panacea for the federal government’s debt and spending problem. A report by the Tax Policy Center, a group affiliated with the liberal Brookings Institution, says that President Obama’s proposal “not nearly enough to close the cumulative budget deficit.” This is because the biggest cost from extending the current, Bush-era tax rates comes from protecting the middle class from tax increases. Preserving the upper-income tax rates would only cost an additional $8 billion according to the Washington Post. These figures also do not reflect the negative economic effects of increasing taxes which often lead to lower than expected tax receipts.

Writing in the Washington Times, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Ca.) pointed out that even confiscating all of the income from the wealthy would not solve the federal spending crisis. “Even if the president took 100 percent of every millionaire’s income,” he says, “that still would leave a deficit of more than a half trillion dollars, and our national debt would remain at more than $15 trillion.”

President Obama’s insistence on tax increases may be his undoing. The economy is unlikely to improve under the threat of tax hikes and Mr. Obama is unlikely to be reelected unless the economy improves. Rasmussen reports that voters favor Mitt Romney over Obama on the economy by 13 points. After the first debate which dealt largely with economic issues, Mitt Romney surged in the polls nationally.

Even if President Obama loses the election, he can still force tax increases on the American people. Since a new president and congress will not be inaugurated until January, the tax hikes and spending cuts will already be law unless Mr. Obama allows them to be stopped in a lame duck session. Chastened by a defeat at the hands of Mitt Romney, it seems that President Obama would be unlikely to make that concession.

This article was originally published on Examiner.com


Friday, October 19, 2012

Ga. charter school ballot measure sparks controversy

The presidential race isn’t the only reason to go to the polls over the next few weeks. One big reason in Georgia is the charter schools referendum. In Georgia, this ballot measure has generated almost as much confusion and controversy as the election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Charter schools are public schools that receive public money, but are exempt from many normal rules in exchange for being more accountable. Charter schools cannot charge tuition and often have waiting lists for admissions. In some cases admissions are assigned by lottery. Although politically popular, charter school results are mixed. Some studies have indicated that they do not perform better than traditional public schools, while others paint a better picture.

According to Ballotpedia, the proposed text of the amendment is: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow state or local approval of public charter schools upon the request of local communities?” According to the Georgia Department of Education, Georgia already has a number of charter schools; however these are run by local school districts. In 2011, the state Supreme Court struck down a state commission that could approve charter schools over the objections of local school boards.

What the amendment would actually do would reinstate the State Charter Commission according to the Augusta Chronicle. The commission could override local denials for charter school applications. These local charter schools would be financed by local money. The amendment would also allow the commission to set up state charter schools with a statewide “attendance zone.” These schools would be financed with money appropriated by the General Assembly, not local tax money.

Opponents of the measure see the amendment as a threat to local control of schools and tax money. The measure is opposed by many school boards, administrators, and teacher groups around the state. The NAACP has also announced its opposition to the measure, telling the Augusta Chronicle that the “amendment is not about fixing the schools and school systems, but is designed to decide who gets to spend our hard earned tax dollars for ‘special schools,’ which are not under the control of local school boards.”

In a letter to the Monroe Patch, state School Superintendent John Barge also states his reasons for opposition to the amendment. Barge says that he favors charter schools, but wants to preserve local control. He also says, “Until all of our public school students are in school for a full 180-day school year, until essential services like student transportation and student support can return to effective levels, and until teachers regain jobs with full pay for a full school year, we should not redirect one more dollar away from Georgia’s local school districts.”

Proponents argue that the amendment is not about tax money or control of schools, but school choice. In the Columbus Ledger-Inquirer, Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus) says, “There are some school districts around the state who will not even talk to people in their area about setting up a charter school.”

Maureen Downey wrote in the Atlanta Journal about the concern that charter schools would attract for-profit school operators to the state. Downey references a Reuters article that points out a federal program called EB-5 allows foreign investors to essentially buy visas by investing in certain projects. Over the past few years, charter schools have become a popular investment choice for wealthy would-be immigrants. Reuters notes that the program benefits both schools and investors since schools in general and charter schools in particular often face financial pressures.

The outside funding for charter schools may make up for the discrepancy between funding for local schools and state charter schools. Downey notes in the AJC that the state has confirmed that under the law, more money per student would be sent to state charter schools than local schools.

In an op-ed in the Savannah Morning News, Senator Buddy Carter (R-Savannah), one of the senators who drafted the amendment, explained its purpose. According to Carter, “special” schools were authorized and defined in Georgia’s 1966 constitution. When the constitution was changed in 1983, the General Assembly was authorized to create special schools, but the term was not defined. Carter says the lack of a definition led to the ruling against the Georgia Charter Schools Commission.

Carter further notes that local control is preserved because the first step to creating a charter school is to apply to the local school board. These local charter schools would receive money from the local school district.

If the applicant feels that the local school board has unfairly denied the charter application, the next step would be to appeal to the state. Carter says, “Not a single dollar will be taken out of the traditional public school system” because state charter schools will be funded by money appropriated by the General Assembly. “Voting in favor of this amendment will give the ultimate local control — it will give parents more options and allow them to be more involved in the decision-making process in public education,” according to Carter.

Given the current state of the economy and cuts to the state budget, there is some question about where the additional money for state charter schools would be found, but supporters like Carter are adamant that it would not be redirected from existing public schools. This might mean cuts in other areas of the state budget, higher taxes, or donations and investments from private individuals and businesses.

While the amendment is very controversial, polling shows that voters are in favor. The most recent poll, a September poll by Sand Mountain Communications, found 50 percent of voters favored the amendment with 25 percent against. Another 25 percent of voters are undecided. A last minute blitz of opposition ads by groups like Vote Smart Georgia could easily sway voters on such a convoluted issue.

Originally published on Examiner.com:


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Book review: Secondhand Sight by Rocky Leonard

What would you do if a piece of clothing from a thrift shop opened up a channel of communications to the spirit world? That is the question put to Dan Harper, a mild mannered computer programmer from Atlanta. When he buys a used necktie to replace his own stained one, Dan begins seeing visions of grisly murder scenes. Suddenly he knows things about a sadistic killer that he could not possibly know.

Is Dan being used by the ghosts of the victims to exact their vengeance or is he the psychotic killer himself? As Dan tries to determine the answer, he attracts the attention of the police and begins a cat-and-mouse game in which he has to find a way to stay out jail long enough to determine what is really going on before the death toll grows.

Rocky Leonard, a native of Savannah and current Atlantan has done it again. “Secondhand Sights,” his second novel, much surpasses his debut effort, “Coastal Empire.” The book is fast paced and well written with a story line that leaves the reader wanting more.

Dan’s supernatural experiences force him to confront an evil that seems all too real. The brutal crimes could almost be plucked from actual newspaper accounts of senseless killings, but the twist comes when the unseen spirits tied to those crimes begin confronting Dan. The reader is forced to wonder whether spirits still lurk in the houses of the dead and whether they might, at times, steer the living in a direction that helps them find justice and revenge.

Leonard’s background as an Examiner.com writer in which he often investigated supernatural claims and accounts of near death experiences is evident in this well-spun tale. In a world where the spiritual is often not considered because it cannot be seen and touched, communication by a dead murder victim would make most of us doubt our sanity. Leonard puts the reader in Dan’s shoes as his ordered, normal view of the world is shattered and he fights to determine what is real and what isn’t.

You may have read murder mysteries and detective thrillers before, but you haven’t read one like this one.

“Secondhand Sight” is available as an ebook and paperback. It can be purchased on Amazon.com and GoodReads.com.

 Full disclosure:  I served as a proofreader for Leonard.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Benghazi security scandal may sink Obama campaign

On Wednesday, October 10, Congress began hearings on the September 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. In the aftermath of the attack, Obama Administration officials claimed that the attack was the spontaneous response to “The Innocence of the Muslims,” an internet video that also allegedly sparked protests in other Muslim countries.
Doubts were cast upon the administration’s story almost immediately. According to timelines compiled by CNN and USA Today, the president of Libya contradicted Obama’s movie claim on September 16. It was not until September 18 that an administration official, Director of National Intelligence Matthew Olsen, acknowledged publicly that the attack was a terrorist attack. It was not until September 26, more than two weeks after the attack, that the attack was carried out by Al Qaeda. The Obama Administration also denied that there was any intelligence that the attack was imminent and that officials had no knowledge of the impending danger.
Now State Department officials are testifying before congress that both claims were not true. According to CNN coverage of the hearings, Eric Nordstrom, the former regional security officer, told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that he had made repeated requests for more manpower at the Benghazi facility. At the time of the attack, there were five security officers, three who were assigned to the consulate and two who had traveled with Ambassador Stevens. Nordstrom had requested a total of twelve agents.
According to Wall Street Journal coverage of the hearings, Lt. Col. Andrew Wood of the Utah National Guard and former commander of the Site Security Team, security was actually cut at the consulate prior to the attacks. The 16 member team was replaced by Libyans trained by the State Department.
The State Department disputed Nordstrom and Wood’s testimony. House Democrats noted as well that budget cuts by Republicans had led to diplomatic security funding below what the White House had requested.
The congressional testimony is supported by Ambassador Stevens own journal, which was discovered by CNN. According a Huffington Post report, the journal showed that Stevens was concerned about the rise of Islamic extremism and Al Qaeda in Libya. Stevens noted that there were constant threats to security and even believed himself to be on an Al Qaeda hit list.
The reports of the Obama Administration’s failure to take Al Qaeda seriously and protect American diplomats are explosive. This is especially true considering that they come only a month before the presidential election. President Obama is already slipping in the polls after his lackluster debate performance last week and the new revelations about the Libya attacks present a new obstacle to his recovery.
If the matter is not pursued in the press, it almost certainly will be by Mitt Romney and the Republicans. The unfolding story of the Benghazi attacks and how they occurred will certainly be an issue in the upcoming presidential debates. The third debate between President Obama and challenger Mitt Romney is dedicated to foreign policy and will be held on Oct. 22. The subject will probably also be raised at tonight’s vice presidential debate between Vice President Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan as well the town hall debate between Obama and Romney on Oct. 16.
President Obama has largely avoided fallout from several other administration scandals. He was elected in spite of his ties to Rev. Jeremiah Wright and ‘60s radical Bill Ayres. The Solyndra scandal never totally captured the attention of the press and media. The president was able to maintain his distance from the Fast and Furious program, in which the federal government allowed illegal guns to cross the border into Mexico. One of those guns resulted in the death of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry. The publicity surrounding the Benghazi security scandal may mean that President Obama is unable to avoid damage to his reelection campaign.
Originally published on Examiner.com:

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What to expect in turbine training

As airline hiring begins to ramp up, many pilots will be going to class on a turbine airplane for the first time. Training on a jet or turboprop airplane is unlike the previous flight school experiences that most pilots have had in their piston-engine general aviation careers.

Prospective turbine pilots might go to training at an airline’s training center or, if they will be flying a corporate airplane, at a commercial flight training facility such as Flight Safety International or SimCom. Airline new hires can expect to be in training for about two months before they have the chance to fly an airplane. Students at commercial training centers can cut the time to two to three weeks, depending on which airplane they will be flying. Even though this may seem like a long time, the massive amount of information that the student must learn within a few weeks has caused turbine training to be likened to drinking from a fire hose.

Airline training generally starts with indoctrination or “indoc” classes. Indoc is an introduction to the company and its corporate culture. These classes also include topics that are common to all of the airline’s fleets such as company operating rules and standard procedures. How to fill out weight-and-balance forms, do performance calculations, and read dispatch releases, are subjects that are often covered in indoc. Other regulatory information such as company hazardous materials (“haz mat”) and security policies may also be discussed.

After indoc, the class will split up into groups assigned to different airplanes for systems training. Commercial training classes begin with this phase of training. In systems training, the students will learn about the inner workings of their new airplane. Turbine airplanes are incredibly complex and have a variety of interrelated systems. Students can expect to cover general information about the aircraft and engines as well as in-depth studies of the hydraulic, pneumatic, fuel, and pressurization systems.

The systems class also includes training on how to recognize and handle malfunctions. This is commonly accomplished through identifying the failure and accomplishing the appropriate checklist. Systems training will teach the pilots how the failure affects the flight and how and why to deal with it.

Some problems, such as fires or engine failures, require immediate action. Typically, these types of problems are associated with memory items, short emergency checklists that must be committed to memory. The pilot first accomplishes the memory item and then continues to the appropriate checklist. Turbine students can get ahead of their training by memorizing these memory items before they go to class.

Aircraft limitations should also be committed to memory before going to class. The limitations are rules for the airplane that cannot be violated. Limitations include speed limits for aircraft operation and for extending the flaps and landing gear as well as maximum operating altitudes. Engine starter limits, such as how many start attempts are allowed, for the engines and APU (auxiliary power unit) are also common limitations. Not all of the limitations will make sense at first, but as the systems class progresses the reasoning behind the rules becomes apparent.

At the end of the systems class, the students will take a written test. In most cases, the test is multiple choice and features questions that have been covered during the class. There might also be questions about the memory items and limitations.

After successfully completing the systems training, the turbine students move to simulator training. The best preparation for “the sim” is to become familiar with the cockpit layout and “flows” and “callouts.” Students can become familiar with the cockpit though the use of cockpit posters that are normally issued with their study materials. If students know where switches and controls for different systems are located in the cockpit, flying the simulator is much easier.

Flows are brief lists of items to accomplish from memory in a defined order at different phases of flight. Typically, a pilot executes a flow and then follows up with a checklist to ensure that no items have been missed. There are usually flows for engine start, after start, taxi, before takeoff, after takeoff, and after landing. When students practice these flows using their cockpit posters, it helps them to build a muscle memory that will aid them in the cockpit.

Callouts are the scripted lines of each pilot for different phases of flight. Like lines in a play, each pilot has lines that must be said verbatim and at the appropriate time. No ad-libbing is allowed. By memorizing and practicing these lines in advance, the student can concentrate on the job of flying the simulator and not struggling to remember what to say.

For some airplanes, sim training actually starts in a wooden mockup of the cockpit. These mockups allow students to practice flows in a low stress environment and to become more familiar with switch placement. Instructors may also walk students through a typical flight profile with their checklists in these mockups.

Next, the students move to the simulator, a large box on moving legs that contains a reproduction of the aircraft’s cockpit. Computer screens replicate the outside view in great detail while the legs move to give the pilots the feel of a flying airplane.

Sim training starts with normal operations to let the pilots get the feel of the airplane and become more familiar with the cockpit and checklists. The first sessions will cover territory that is familiar to the student from other airplanes. They will learn to take off and land as well as practicing stalls and steep power turns, maneuvers that the students have performed since their earliest days as flight students.

The training quickly moves into the meat of the course, emergency procedures that cannot be safely or efficiently performed in a real jet. There are rejected takeoffs in which the pilot aborts a takeoff and stops on the runway. There are missed approaches where the pilot flies an instrument approach to minimums and “goes around” without landing. The students practice emergency descents to simulate a cabin depressurization at high altitude. However, the signature maneuver of turbine training is the dreaded “V1 cut.”

V1 is defined as takeoff decision speed. In essence, once the aircraft reaches V1, which is computed for each takeoff, the decision is made to continue even if a problem arises because there is insufficient runway remaining to safely stop. Therefore the V1 cut, simulating the failure of an engine at V1, represents the worst case scenario for a turbine pilot. At V1, the aircraft is slow and still must accelerate to a safe takeoff speed. This is defined as Vr, rotation speed, the speed at which it is safe for the pilot to pull back on the control wheel and allow the airplane to leave the runway. Compounding the problem of speed is the fact that an engine failure makes the aircraft hard to control. Since the engines are mounted off center, either on the wings or tail, the operating engine will push the aircraft to one side unless the pilot takes action.

The basic procedure for handling a V1 cut is the same in most airplanes. The pilot uses the rudder to maintain directional control on the runway while allowing the aircraft to continue to accelerate. When a safe takeoff speed is reached, the pilot allows the plane to fly and climbs out at V2, the turbine equivalent of Vyse, the best single-engine rate of climb speed. At a safe altitude, the pilot levels off and continues the acceleration. When a safe flying speed is reached, the pilots retract the flaps used in the takeoff and run the appropriate checklists. Pilots will practice in-flight engine restarts as well as landing with an engine inoperative. Turbine students will get plenty of practice at V1 cuts.

A few other miscellaneous maneuvers round out simulator training. Students will practice landing the airplane without flaps. If the company allows its pilots to circle-to-land from an instrument approach, this maneuver will also be practiced in the sim. Students may also do a LOFT (line oriented flight training) in which they practice a typical flight from start to finish… without engine failures.

The culmination of the entire training process is the checkride. The checkride is composed of an oral exam and a flight test. The oral exam can include anything covered in the training so far, from indoc to systems to flight maneuvers. It is almost certain to include the memory items and limitations that the student memorized earlier.

The flight test is conducted in the simulator and covers most of the maneuvers learned earlier. The flight test normally begins with stalls, steep turns and “unusual attitudes,” recoveries from extremely high or low pitch attitudes and steep banks. It will include practice precision and non-precision approaches with one and two engines. There will be missed approaches, rejected takeoffs, and, of course, the dreaded V1 cut.

After successful completion of the checkride, the student will finally get to fly a real airplane. The first flight that the recent training graduate makes will be with a load of paying passengers on his IOE (initial operating experience). The new turbine pilot will fly with a Check Airman for a predetermined time (often about 25 flight hours) before being released to fly with other line pilots.

Turbine training represents a large commitment in both time and effort for pilots, but it opens the door to a new world of high performance aviation for pilots who can complete it. The training can be made easier if the student has a good foundation of basic aviation skills and knowledge before the first day of class. The best preparation for the training is to study hard and memorize limitations, callouts, flows and memory items early.

Originally published on Examiner.com: