Sunday, December 30, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published on

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Gun control not the answer to mass killings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published on

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Delta announces deal with Virgin

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

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

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

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

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

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


Originally published on

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Fiscal cliff poll has good news for both sides

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

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

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

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

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

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


Originally published on

Republicans should vote ‘present’ on fiscal cliff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published on

Monday, December 10, 2012

Jenni Rivera killed in Mexican Lear crash

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

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

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

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

Originally published on

How to avoid TSA hassles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This article was originally published on

Saturday, December 8, 2012

FCC wants to allow electronic devices in flight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published on

Obama doesn’t want deal on fiscal cliff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Originally published on

Thursday, December 6, 2012

'Divine wind' swept Obama to second term

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit:  NASA/Wikimedia