Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Defunding Obamacare is GOP’s ‘mission impossible’

In recent weeks there has been a push among members of the Republican Party and Tea Party activists to “defund” the Affordable Care Act, “Obamacare.” The Republicans have devoted considerable time and energy to the repeal of Obamacare, which is driving up health insurance costs around the country according to UPI. According to NBC News, by the beginning of August the Republicans in the House had voted to repeal Obamacare no less than 40 times.

The problem for the GOP is that Democrats control the Senate and the White House. Repeal bills from the House die in the Senate, usually with a party line vote. If a repeal bill did somehow pass the Senate, it would face a certain veto from President Obama.

If Republican bills to repeal Obamacare have failed 40 times, what makes them think that a bill to defund the president’s health care reform can make it through the Senate? The plan, formulated by Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), centers around a pledge to “not support any continuing resolution or appropriations legislation that funds further implementation or enforcement of Obamacare.”

The defund Obamacare movement has several hurdles. The first is getting enough Republican support. Lee’s plan is supported by Senators Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). In all, about a dozen Republicans have signed onto the plan so far. Cruz told CNN on August 27 that 41 senators or 218 representatives would be needed to make the plan work. There are currently 233 Republican representatives and 45 senators. This means that the plan would require near unanimity among Republicans.

The second hurdle is negotiations with congressional Democrats. While the Democrats have never voted to repeal Obamacare, some new Democrats accept that Obamacare is deeply flawed and unworkable. Others might be persuaded to work with Republicans to fend off election year challenges. A compromise with congressional Democrats would be difficult but not impossible.

The final hurdle is President Obama. In 2011 and 2012, the two parties entered negotiations to raise the federal debt ceiling. At the end of 2012, the parties negotiated to avoid the tax cliff, a number of new taxes and tax increases scheduled to automatically go into effect. In each case, Obama adamantly opposed even token spending cuts. According to Bob Woodward’s book, “the Price of Politics” (excerpted in the Washington Post), Obama was willing to take the country to the brink of default and total financial collapse to avoid cutting federal spending in 2011. The story was the same in the tax cliff negotiations when, as reported by Examiner in December, the president refused to consider any plan that did not raise taxes.

The first test of the plan to defund Obamacare would likely come by mid-October when the federal government reaches its spending limit. Congress must act to raise the debt limit again before the limit reached and President Obama is refusing to even enter into negotiations over the increase. Where once Obama was considered by some to be “the adult in the room” during negotiations, he now seems more akin to a toddler who holds his breath until he gets what he wants. This is the man with whom the Republicans plan to issue an ultimatum to defund his signature piece of legislation. Last week, Cruz told Fox News that he believes that the president might agree to defund the Affordable Care Act. He did not say how he thought Obama might be persuaded to do so. A more likely scenario is that Obama would act unilaterally to raise the debt ceiling without Congress as the Democrats threatened last January.

Rasmussen reported on August 26 that a majority of Americans are still opposed to Obama’s health care law by a margin of 54-41 percent. Nevertheless, a poll commissioned by Republican members of Congress in early August found that 71 percent oppose shutting down the government to fight Obamacare according to the Washington Examiner. Among Republicans, 53 percent oppose a shutdown compared to 37 percent in favor. A more recent Rasmussen poll on August 27 found that 42 percent of Republicans thought a government shutdown would be good for the party while 28 percent thought it would hurt and 14 percent believed it would have no impact.

In practical terms this means that a government shutdown could jeopardize Republican chances of victory in the 2014 elections. As detailed in Examiner last week, Democrats are defending 20 seats to the Republicans’ 15. Of seven open seats, five are currently held by Democrats and three of these are in red states. The current Rasmussen generic congressional ballot favors the GOP by one point. The GOP had a similar edge in the 2012 elections and actually lost two seats in the Senate.

With less than two months left before Congress must act on the debt ceiling, it is unlikely that enough Republicans will sign onto the plan to block funding for the law. If Republicans did unite around the effort, the result would most likely result in a stalemate that would bring the country to the brink of a government shutdown. Given President Obama’s past history in such showdowns, he would be willing to allow the country to default and use the ensuing crisis as a weapon against the GOP. For example, Obama could delay military pay and entitlement checks or even making payments on the national debt while blaming Republicans. Republicans would be forced to choose between defunding Obamacare or a national default. Few would choose to default.

Even if Republicans were successful in their defunding effort, it might still not stop Obamacare. A Congressional Research Service report requested by Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) in July indicates that implementation of Obamacare would likely continue in a government shutdown for two reasons. First, some funding from discretionary and mandatory funds would still be available. Second, exceptions to the Anti-Deficiency Act would allow some pre-authorized spending to take place.

The long odds against defunding Obamacare bring to mind Pickett’s Charge or the Charge of the Light Brigade, a valiant effort that is doomed to almost certain failure. Nevertheless, some Republicans might personally benefit from a situation even as their party loses. The Washington Post points out that Cruz, Rubio, and Paul may well use the effort to make themselves more attractive as presidential candidates for 2016.

Coming soon! A better plan for Obamacare.

Originally published on Elections Examiner

Monday, August 26, 2013

Syrian intervention may shed light on Iraqi WMDs

Secretary of State John Kerry’s formal accusation today that Syria has used chemical weapons against rebel forces and civilians sounds somewhat similar to Bush Administration charges against the regime of Saddam Hussein in neighboring Iraq a decade ago. Saddam had used his chemical weapons numerous times against Iraqi minorities and was all but ignored by the world.

When the U.S. led a coalition of nations to depose Saddam in 2003, the belief that Iraq possessed stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons as well as a nascent nuclear weapons program was a major justification for the invasion. Failure to locate large stocks of the weapons led to charges that President George W. Bush had lied to lead the United States into an unnecessary war.

The fact of Syrian use of chemical weapons should call the conventional wisdom about Iraq into question. The two countries were linked by their ruling Baathist parties and, as neighbors, engaged in trade, both legal and illegal, before the war. In 2006, Georges Sada, a former general of Saddam’s air force, detailed in his book, “Saddam’s Secrets,” how Saddam had secretly moved much of his WMD material to Syria before the U.S.-led invasion under the cover of providing relief to Syrian earthquake victims. Sada’s claims were detailed in Examiner in 2011. Sada’s claim was be supported by other sources as well. In 2004, a Syrian defector, Nizar Nayouf claimed that Iraqi WMDs had been hidden at three sites in Syria. Nayouf’s story appeared the Dutch paper Der Telegraaf and is summarized on Satellite reconnaissance photos from 2010 published in Israel’s Haaretz show Syrian military facilities in the same areas that Nayouf fingered. The same sites were identified in the 2004 book “End Game” by General Thomas McInerney and Paul Vallely as well as another former Iraqi general, Ali Ibrahim al-Tikriti. If the U.S. launches airstrikes against Syria, these facilities are likely to be targeted.

The lack of large stockpiles in post-Saddam Iraq led to the myth that Saddam’s WMDs were nonexistent. In reality, Saddam’s use of chemical weapons against the Iraqi Kurdish minority was documented by the BBC in 1988. Saddam also used chemical weapons in his war against Iran and after the Persian Gulf War while combating the Shiite uprising of 1991. The destruction of an Iraqi munitions plant that produced the nerve gas sarin may be responsible for Gulf War Syndrome, a neurological affliction that affects as many as 30 percent of veterans from the Persian Gulf War in 1991 according to USA Today. In 2010, Wired Magazine detailed how classified military documents released by Wikileaks revealed the discovery of many small caches of chemical weapons by coalition forces during the occupation of Iraq.

While the shelf life of nerve agents such as the sarin, one of the chemical weapons found in Iraq and recently used in Syria, is short, an undated CIA report estimated that the Iraqis had improved their sarin stocks by increasing the purity of the chemical components and building binary weapons. In binary weapons, the components of the nerve agent are not combined until the weapon is ready to be used. This could make the shelf life of the weapon “irrelevant” and allow it to be stored for years before use. This means that if Iraqi stockpiles were transferred to Syria prior to 2003 they could still be lethal.

Syria has long had development programs for weapons of mass destruction of its own. In 2008, Time reported that North Korea was helping Syria to build a nuclear reactor. Israel bombed the Syrian reactor in 2007 according to Der Spiegel. The German weekly also reported last year that Iranian officers were involved in the testing of Syrian delivery systems for chemical weapons. The Nuclear Threat Initiative notes that Syrian WMD programs may have begun as early as 1971. The NTI also noted that the U.S. believed that Syria was dependent on “foreign sources for key elements of its CW program” as late as 2010. This may have included Saddam’s Iraq.

There are a number of objections to the theory that Syria benefitted from Saddam’s WMD programs. For example, Syria sided with the Coalition forces during the 1991 Iraq war. Therefore some question whether it would have cooperated with Saddam in later years. In reality, Syria was complicit in helping Saddam subvert UN sanctions on Iraq prior to the 2003 war. Congress estimated in 2004 that Syrian-Iraqi smuggling was worth more than $3 billion.

A second question is why Saddam did not admit to transferring the weapons when he was interrogated. Apparently Saddam did not take U.S. threats seriously and was more concerned about Iran. Transferring weapons to Syria would have prevented their discovery by UN inspectors, but would have left them available in the event of an Iranian attack. Not confessing as he faced death may have been as simple as going to his death knowing that he had the last laugh on his tormenters.

As yet there is no conclusive proof that Syrian chemical weapons can be traced to Saddam Hussein. Nevertheless, there is ample circumstantial evidence to take another look at the Iraqi-Syrian connection. If the Asad government falls, Syrian military files may shed light on the mystery of Saddam’s WMDs. The Syrian civil war may one day help to rewrite the history of the Iraq War.


Originally published on Atlanta Conservative Examiner

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Ancient prophecy may be linked to Egypt violence

The civil strife in Egypt seems to be coming to an end. CBS News reported on Saturday that the curfew for civilians would be shortened from 11 hours per night to nine. The Islamist former president of the country, Mohammed Morsi, is in jail along with many leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. Over a thousand pro-Morsi demonstrators have been killed by security forces according to a New York Times report. The crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood may have pre-empted Egyptian involvement a soon-to-come regional war against Israel and helped to fulfill a 2,000 year old prophecy.

In Ezekiel 38-39, an ancient Hebrew prophet foretold a future war in which a large Islamic army marched against a reconstituted Israel. Although many of the names of the participating nations are unfamiliar to modern ears, the identities of many can be determined by Biblical scholars. Ironically, Egypt, one of Israel’s largest and most powerful neighbors, is not mentioned in the prophecy even though its modern name is the same as it was in Ezekiel’s day.

Joel Rosenberg, a prominent scholar and insider of both American and Israeli politics, believes that the prophecy of an Arab coalition led by Iran (Persia) and Russia (Rosh and Magog) may be on the verge of being fulfilled. Rosenberg’s 2006 book, “Epicenter,” [Joel Rosenberg’s blog is and his podcast is available on iTunes] detailed how Vladimir Putin’s Russia and Iran under the Ayatollah Khamenei are be colluding on an Iranian nuclear weapons program that will eventually threaten Israel. Israel’s relations with Turkey (referred to as Beth-Togarmah, Gomer, and Meschech in the prophecy) have traditionally been friendly, but have become chilly since the 2010 Gaza flotilla raid in which several Turks died while attempting to smuggle supplies past the Israeli blockade of Gaza. In the book, Rosenberg pointed out that Egypt and Israel had signed a peace treaty in 1979 that had secured peace between the two nations for more than 30 years.

The victory of Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in the 2012 Egyptian election threatened to change all that. Even before the election, the Muslim Brotherhood had called for a review of the treaty. In 2012, the deputy head of the Brotherhood’s political wing told a London-based Arab newspaper, “We never promised that we would honor the peace treaty with Israel. The treaty is not sacred and we can and should make changes in it.” Israel Hayom also quotes another senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood who said the party’s position “is not to recognize the Zionist entity and not to recognize peace agreements with hostile entities.” It is likely that Morsi would have ignored or renounced the peace treaty with Israel had he remained in power.

The Egyptian military did not depose President Morsi because he threatened war with Israel. Morsi had angered many Egyptians by throwing out the country’s constitution and claiming sweeping new executive powers. Twenty-two million Egyptians signed a petition demanding that Morsi step down according to France 24. The army removed Morsi to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood from consolidating power and transforming Egypt into an Islamist state. Eventually the army used force to disperse pro-Morsi demonstrators and cracked down on Muslim Brotherhood members throughout the country. The provisional military government is considering banning the Muslim Brotherhood according to the Associated Press.

With a series of disastrous wars against Israel still in the memory of military leaders, the army may well have also wanted to prevent the nation from being dragged into another conflict by the Muslim Brotherhood. In fact, Turkey’s Islamist prime minister, Tayyip Erdogan, claimed that Israel was behind the coup. The Financial Times noted that since the coup the Egyptian military had stepped up cooperation with Israel to fight Islamic militants in the Sinai Peninsula. Although the Egyptian generals probably never considered Bible prophecy, their action against the Muslim Brotherhood they may have inadvertently helped to fulfill the prophecy that Egypt would not be part of the coalition against Israel.

The Bible does contain other prophecies of Egypt as well. Daniel 11, Ezekiel 29-30, and Isaiah 19 are all prophecies that deal with the judgment of Egypt. Daniel 11 describes wars between the King of the South, widely believed to be Ptolemy, a Greek ruler of Egypt, who lived 300 years after Daniel. Ezekiel spoke of Nebuchadnezzar’s victory over Egypt. This prophecy was fulfilled by the Babylonian victory over the Egyptians at the Battle of Carchemish in 605 B.C. and subsequent conquest of parts of Egypt. Isaiah 19 tells of God’s judgment on Egypt and their eventual repentance and worship of the Hebrew God. This prophecy has apparently not been fulfilled in total.

Most Bible scholars believe that the coalition of Ezekiel 38-39, often called the War of Gog of Magog, will occur before the end-time events described later in Daniel, by Jesus in his Mount Olivet Discourse, and by the Apostle John in the Revelation. In 2011, a group of Israeli rabbis said that they believed that the Arab Spring uprisings might be setting the stage for the Magog war. A number of Christian preachers have also suggested that Ezekiel’s prophecy may be nearing fulfillment. Also in 2011, the Iranian government released a film that indicated that the Mahdi, a Shia Muslim version of the Messiah, is will appear soon to lead his followers on a military conquest.

Israeli officials have had little to say about the unrest in Egypt except to denounce Erdogan’s charges of instigating the coup. Reuters reported on August 15 that Prime Minister Netanyahu had instructed his cabinet to avoid public comment about the fighting in Egypt.


originally published on Atlanta Conservative Examiner

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Atlanta school shooter had record of mental illness, criminal record

temporaryThe 20-year-old man who walked into a Decatur elementary school yesterday had a history of mental illness and a criminal record according to his brother. Michael Brandon Hill was arrested after he fired several shots at police and briefly held several employees hostage at the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Center.

Timothy Hill, brother of the alleged shooter, told WSB TV (view parts one and two of the interview) that Michael Hill had a long history of mental illness. According to his brother, Hill was placed on Adderall, a drug commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), at the age of six. He had a history of behavioral problems in school starting at age 13.

Timothy Hill said that he was estranged from his brother, who had threatened to kill him in December 2012. The brothers had not been in contact since a court placed a restraining order on Michael Hill. Hill was charged with making terroristic threats in connection with the incident. The mug shot of Michael Hill was from March 2013 in connection with the death threat.

Hill said that his brother had also had several run-ins with Henry Co. police for a series of burglaries. In one case when Michael Hill was 16, Timothy said that he set fire to a house with eight people sleeping inside. According to Timothy Hill, Michael was never charged with any of these crimes by Henry Co. authorities.

Hill’s brother said that Michael Hill had a “long history of medical disorders including bipolar,” but that he was never given help. At one point, Michael Hill was on so many medications that it was “like a drugstore.”

Mental illness has been a common thread in many recent spree shootings. As Examiner reported last January, Adam Lanza, the Newtown school shooter had been diagnosed with autism and Asperger’s syndrome. James Holmes, Colorado’s “Dark Knight” killer had seen three mental health professionals and reportedly mailed a package to his psychiatrist before his shooting spree in a Denver theater. Jared Lee Loughner, who shot Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson in 2011, also had a long history of mental illness, marijuana use, stalking, and had been involuntarily committed. Cho Seung-Hui, the Virginia Tech killer, had been diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were posthumously diagnosed with a variety of mental illnesses ranging from psychopathic tendencies to depression, paranoia and delusions.

After the Sandy Hook massacre, Dr. Harold Koplewicz wrote in the Huffington Post that 75 percent of psychiatric disorders appear by age 24 and that early intervention greatly improves the prognosis. Dr. Bill Knaus of the Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy network points out that many mentally ill people are not aware of their illness and therefore will not voluntarily seek help. A particularly dangerous time seems to be when people stop taking their medication, especially if they do so abruptly and without supervision.

In spite of the fact that most shooting sprees occur in states with strict gun control laws, the legislative response after the Newtown murders primarily involved attempts to ban so-called “assault weapons.” President Obama issued series of Executive Orders aimed at increasing gun control and asked Congress to pass a new “assault weapons” ban. New York passed a strict new gun control law in January 2013. Illinois expanded background check requirements to include transactions between private citizens on August 18.

It is not currently known how Michael Brandon Hill obtained the guns that he used in his attack on the school. WSB reported that Hill was armed with “multiple guns, including an AK-47.”

Originally published on Atlanta Conservative Examiner

Monday, August 19, 2013

GOP senate prospects good in 2014

Forecasts for the 2014 senatorial elections increasingly favor the Republican Party. The trend toward the GOP is likely driven by a combination of factors including the economy where President Obama’s approval has fallen to 35 percent in an August 15 Gallup poll. The problems with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act are also a drag on Democratic candidates. Rasmussen reports that only 41 percent of likely voters now have a favorable view of the health care law while 53 percent view it unfavorably. The Obama Administration’s scandals, particularly the IRS scandal and NSA wiretapping, have also hurt Democrats. A Fox News poll from early August showed that largely majorities of Americans believe that all of the Obama scandals should be taken seriously and investigated.

Rasmussen’s generic congressional ballot for August 12 shows 39 percent for both Democrats and Republicans, but the prior week showed the GOP with 41 percent to 38 percent for the Democrats. The two parties have spent much of the past four months in a statistical tie.

Over the summer, the Cook Political Report moved four races into the GOP column. One Democrat seat (Mark Pryor of Arkansas) moved from the Democratic column to tossup. No races were changed from likely Republican victories to Democrats.

In 2014, there are 15 Republican seats and 20 Democratic seats up for election. Republicans currently control 46 seats in the Senate. That number will probably drop to 45 in October since the Democratic candidate, Corey Booker, is expected to dominate New Jersey’s special election to replace the deceased Frank Lautenberg. This means that the GOP will likely need to win six seats to take control of the Senate next year.

So far there are seven announced Senate retirements for 2014. Five of these (Max Baucus of Montana, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Carl Levin of Michigan, and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia) are Democrats. This means that the Republicans only have to defend two open seats in Georgia and Nebraska, where Saxby Chambliss and Mike Johanns are retiring. Of the Democrat open seats, Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia voted Republican in 2012, making them likely pickups for the GOP.

There are four other tossup races. All of these are seats that are currently held by the Democrats. Most observers consider Arkansas (Mark Pryor), Louisiana (Mary Landrieu), Alaska (Mark Begich), and North Carolina (Kay Hagan) to be in play. All four states voted for Mitt Romney in 2012.

A statistical edge is not a sure thing. Republicans had a similar edge in 2012 and lost two seats in the final analysis. The Republican losses were largely due to missteps by candidates such as Todd Aiken in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana. Republican chances will hinge on the selection of viable candidates in next year’s primaries.

Democratic victories in 2012 were also due the party’s technological edge in identifying potential voters and urging them to the polls. The effect of IRS suppression of conservative groups leading up to the 2012 also cannot be discounted. These advantages may be hard to repeat in 2014.

At this point there are ten Senate races to watch for 2014:

Alaska: Mark Begich (D) was elected to the Senate in 2008, winning largely due incumbent Ted Stevens conviction for failing to properly report gifts just prior to the election. (The conviction was later overturned.) Alaska is a reliable Republican state in presidential elections and in a 2010 Senate election the two Republican candidates split 75 percent of the vote according to the N.Y. Times. Joe Miller, who won the 2012 Republican primary, but lost to Lisa Murkowski in the general election, is a likely challenger, as is Sarah Palin.

Arkansas: Mark Pryor is a two term Democratic senator in a state that has voted Republican since 1996. A recent internal GOP poll shows likely challenger Tom Cotton with a two point lead.

Georgia: Republican senator Saxby Chambliss, in office since 2003, is retiring. Georgia is a deep red state with a growing Republican delegation to Congress. Michelle Nunn, daughter of longtime Democratic senator Sam Nunn, is the Democratic frontrunner. Several prominent Republicans including congressmen Paul Broun and Gingrey and former gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel have announced for the seat. While the Republican candidate is favored in the race, many pundits believe that a growing minority population and a weak Republican candidate might make Georgia the best chance for the Democrats to pick up a Republican seat.

Iowa: Tom Harkin (D), senator since 1985 is retiring. Iowa has trended toward the Democratic presidential candidates in the past 20 years with the exception of 2004 when the state went for George W. Bush. Congressman Bruce Baley is the likely Democratic nominee, but there is no clear frontrunner among the GOP candidates. Baley is the favorite, but if 2014 is a bad year for Democrats a strong Republican candidate could pull off an upset.

Louisiana: Mary Landrieu has been a Democratic senator since 1997. Louisiana has voted Republican since 2000. Congressman Bill Cassidy is the Republican frontrunner.

Michigan: Carl Levin (D), senator since 1979, is retiring. Michigan is reliably Democratic in presidential elections, but elected a Republican governor in 2011. The economy in this Rust Belt state, including the bankruptcy of Detroit, may make it questionable for the Democrats. Congressman Rick Snyder is the likely Democratic candidate, but there is no clear frontrunner among the Republicans.

Montana: Max Baucus (D), senator since 1978 is retiring. Montana has voted reliably Republican in presidential elections since 2000. Cook currently rates Montana as leaning Republican. Former governor Brian Schweitzer announced in July that he would not run, leaving the Democrats without a viable candidate. There is no clear frontrunner from either party.

North Carolina: Kay Hagan is another member of the Democratic class of 2009. North Carolina has been swing state in recent presidential elections, but went for Mitt Romney by two percent in 2012. Thom Tillis, the likely GOP challenger, is off to weak start due to controversial fundraising tactics.

South Dakota: The retiring Tim Johnson has been a Democratic senator since 1997. South Dakota has voted for Republican presidents for his entire tenure. Rick Weiland (D) and former governor Mike Rounds (R) are the early frontrunners.

West Virginia: Jay Rockefeller, who is retiring, has been the Democratic senator since 1985. The state has voted Republican in presidential elections since 2000. In the 2012 senate elections there, popular former governor Joe Manchin (D) won 60 percent of the vote. The early GOP frontrunner is congresswoman Shelly Moore Capito. As yet there is no strong Democratic candidate.


Originally published as Elections Examiner

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Blue state laws enshrine gender confusion

Gender changeA new trend in blue states seems to be the notion that gender is less a biological reality than a choice that can be made by each individual. The most recent example of this came on Tuesday when California governor Jerry Brown announced that he had signed a law which will allow transgender students to choose which bathroom and locker room to use based on their self-perception and regardless of their biological gender. According to the Casa Grande Dispatch, the new law will even give transgender students the right to participate in either boys or girls sports and other “sex-segregated programs, activities and facilities.” Karen England, executive director of the Capitol Resource Institute, noted that the law does not require any proof of a gender-identity issue. Instead school administrator must rely on the student’s opinion of their gender identity.

California is only the most recent state to enact laws that prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. Employment law firm Jackson Lewis notes that New Jersey added “gender identity and expression” as a protected category to its employment and housing discrimination law in 2006. National Law Review pointed out that Connecticut has prohibited employers of three or more people from discriminating based on a person’s gender-related identity, appearance or behavior, whether or not that gender-related identity, appearance or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth” since 2011.

Georgia does not have a gender identity discrimination law, but some Georgia cities do. The GA Voice reported that a number of cities and counties in Georgia have enacted laws that prohibit discrimination against the gender confused. These include Atlanta, Athens, and Savannah.

Earlier this year, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education issued guidelines to schools after the legislature a gender identity law in 2011. According to, the guidelines state that transgender students can choose to use restrooms, locker rooms and changing facilities for gender that they currently identify themselves with. “While some transgender students will want that arrangement, others will not be comfortable with it,” the guidelines note and then continue, “Transgender students who are uncomfortable using a sex-segregated restroom should be provided with a safe and adequate alternative such as a single, unisex restroom or the nurse’s restroom.”

There are many potential problems with laws that seek to allow men to choose to live as women and vice versa. The privacy issue of mixing transgender boys and girls with the opposite sex in restrooms and locker rooms is only the most obvious. For example, some teenage boys might pretend to be transgendered in order to get into the girls’ locker room and watch girls change clothes. Mediocre male athletes might be tempted to identify as women to get more playing time and be stars on female teams.

Gender identity laws are already causing problems for children as young as six. In June 2013, CNN reported that a Colorado court decided that a first grade boy who identifies as a girl will be allowed to use the girl’s restroom at his school. This is in spite of the fact that the boy is still anatomically a male.

The next month, the U.S. Department of Education forced a California school district to allow a middle school girl to use the boy’s restroom. The complaint also noted that the school district refused to allow the girl to stay in a cabin with boys on an overnight trip according to the Daily Caller. The Education Department lawyers apparently had no problem with the mixed biological genders spending the night together as long as the girl considered herself a boy.

In yet another case, Olympia, Washington’s KOMO reported last year on Colleen Francis, a 45-year-old man who identifies himself as a woman. Francis is a student at Evergreen College in Washington State. Francis was accused of exposing himself in the girl’s locker room at the school’s pool and in the sauna. The locker room is shared by college students with members of a children’s swim academy and a high school swim club. Police were called when a 17-year-old girl told her mother that Francis was naked and “displaying male genitalia” in the locker room. Another report by a visiting swim coach said that Francis was seen with his legs spread and genitalia showing in the sauna with girls between the ages of six and 18 in view.

In spite of the fact that a man who did not claim to be a woman would be arrested for such behavior, Jason Wettstein, a spokesman for Evergreen, said, “The college cannot discriminate based on the basis of gender identity. Gender identity is one of the protected things in discrimination law in this state.” In 2006, Washington added gender identity to its nondiscrimination law according to the Washington State Human Rights Commission.

Gabrielle Ludwig, a 51-year-old man who identifies as a woman, decided to play basketball at California’s Mission College. The six-foot six-inch, 220 pound transsexual became the star of the Mission College girls’ basketball team according to the N.Y. Daily News. A 51-year-old playing college basketball is unusual, but a 51-year-old man playing on a girls’ basketball team is unique… at least so far.

Critics of gender identity laws point to many problems for the straight majority. Children are susceptible to possible abuse and may be exposed to the genitalia of strangers of the opposite sex. It is unreasonable to assume that sexual predators would not exploit gender identity laws. Parents have no recourse or right to complain about the violations of their children’s right to privacy. Employers may be forced to hire or be unable to fire obvious cross-dressers who hurt their business. Religious believers are forced to accept and even subsidize behavior that they find morally objectionable.

It is too early to tell whether the trend of gender identity as a protected class will continue, but, with the recent success of the same-sex marriage movement, more pushes toward normalization of sexual subcultures is likely. As with same-sex marriage, such movements are more likely to find acceptance in states that are predominantly Democratic.

Gender identity antidiscrimination laws essentially force the public to participate in a lie. As in the fairy tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” forcing public acceptance does not alter reality. Choosing to identify as a different gender does not change the biological and anatomical facts of a person’s body. (Even sex-change recipients require continuous use of hormones to simulate the body chemistry of the opposite sex.) Forcing the public at large to humor people in their delusion can only do harm to both society and the gender confused.

Originally published on Atlanta Conservative Examiner

Preliminary details of UPS crash in Birmingham

Yesterday United Parcel Service Flight 1354 crashed while on approach to runway 18 in Birmingham, Al. The crash occurred at approximately 4:45 a.m. Central Time (9:45 Zulu). Both crewmembers died in the crash. The flight originated at the UPS hub in Louisville, Ky.

The hourly weather report taken shortly after the crash at 4:53 a.m. (0953Z) indicated few clouds at 1,100 feet with a broken ceiling layer at 3,500 feet. There was an overcast layer at 7,500 feet. Rain was not reported. The wind was reported from 340 degrees at four knots. This would have meant a slight tailwind for a landing on runway 18, but would have likely been within acceptable limits.’s airport directory reports that runway 18 is 7,099 feet long. There are two instrument approaches to runway 18, a GPS approach and a localizer approach. Both approaches would have taken the airplane to a minimum altitude of 600 feet above the ground, which would have been sufficient to clear the lowest cloud layer.

The crash site was reported by Birmingham’s Fox 6 to be approximately one quarter mile north of the airport, indicating that the airplane would have been on short final to the runway. Normally the aircraft would have been about 100 above the ground at this point. Witnesses reported abnormal sounds coming from the plane’s engines, but the crew did not report any problems.

CNBC reported that the crash caused at least two explosions and a fire on the ground. The airplane came to rest in a field outside the airport perimeter. A CNBC video shows what appears to be an explosion amid the post-crash fire. Raw video from Birmingham’s WHAS also shows the post-crash fire. The crash reportedly did not damage any structures on the ground.

The pilots of the airplane were not identified, but the Moore County News reported that Shanda Carney Fanning, 37, of Lynchburg, Tenn. was killed. Fanning’s husband, Brett Fanning, is an employee at the Jack Daniels distillery. The Daily Mail reported that Fanning was the first officer of the flight.

The accident aircraft was reported to be an Airbus A300F4-600R. According to, the A300F4-600R is a modification of the A300 which first flew in 1983. First flight of the A300-600 was in 1987. The updated A300 incorporated a more advanced cockpit and increased range. The “R” denotes a long range version with a fuel trim tank in the tail and a higher maximum takeoff weight. The “F” denotes a freighter version of the aircraft. The UPS website notes that the company operated 53 of the heavy Airbus freighters.

The Aviation Safety Network lists a total of 21 hull-loss accidents for the A300 series. Only one of these accidents, the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 in Belle Harbor, N.Y. on November 12, 2001, was in the United States. This accident was determined to have been caused by the first officer’s excessive rudder inputs in response to a possible encounter with wake turbulence.

The Birmingham crash is the second fatal UPS Airlines crash. On September 3, 2010, UPS Flight 6 caught fire and crashed 45 minutes after takeoff from the Dubai airport in Qatar. Both crewmembers aboard the Boeing 747-400F were killed. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the crash according to Reuters, but the official report of the crash by the General Civil Aviation Authority of the United Arab Emirates focuses on the cargo of lithium batteries as a source of ignition for the fire.

In 2006, another UPS freighter was destroyed by fire in Philadelphia. The crew successfully made an emergency landing and escaped safely, but the DC-8-71F was destroyed. The NTSB report traced the fire to lithium batteries contained in electronic devices that were being shipped on board the plane.

The NTSB has dispatched an investigation team to Birmingham, but has not yet commented on the specific details of the accident.

Originally published on National Aviation Examiner

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

New FAA copilot rules in effect

2012-09-10 11.51.23A new Federal Aviation Administration rule that requires copilots on U.S. airlines to have additional training and flight experience is now in effect. The final rule, required by the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010, was published in the Federal Register on July 15, 2013.

Previously, first officers on scheduled airline flights were only required to hold a commercial pilot license. The commercial license requires a total of 250 hours flight time. Under the new rule, airline first officers are required to hold an airline transport pilot license. The ATP requires 1,500 hours of flight time. Pilots must be at least 23 years old to earn an ATP.

The rule also includes provision for some pilots to obtain a restricted ATP with fewer than 1,500 flight hours. To qualify for the restricted ATP, pilots must be at least 21 years old and must either be a military trained pilot or hold a bachelor’s or associate’s degree in an aviation major.

There are other requirements in the new rule as well. First officers in scheduled airline service must also hold a second class medical certificate. If the aircraft requires three or more pilots, the first officer must also have a type rating for the specific aircraft type to be flown and a first class medical certificate. Airline captains were previously required to hold an ATP, a type rating, and a first class medical certificate. A new requirement under the rule is that captains must have a minimum of 1,000 hours in air carrier operations.

The new rule was passed by Congress after the February 12, 2009 crash of Colgan Airlines/Continental Connection Flight 3407 in Buffalo, N.Y. The NTSB report faulted pilot training at the regional airline as a factor. The new rules also come in the wake of the July 6, 2013 crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 in San Francisco. Although the NTSB is still investigating the accident, early indications are that the crew training may have played a role in the accident according to Politico.

Kevin Kuhlman, professor of aviation and aerospace science at Metropolitan State University of Denver, is not sure that the rule change will be worthwhile. “It seems logical that more hours equals safety,” he argues in the Denver Post, “but the reality is that it is the quality of the training not the quantity that matters. That’s what the (Asiana Airlines) and Colgan accidents really show.”

Kuhlman also is concerned that the new requirements may lead some pilots to falsify their flight times. Pilot flight times are maintained largely by an honor system in which pilots log their flight hours in a personal log book. It is only when pilots are finally hired by commercial operators that their times are tracked by others. Even then, the company only keeps track of flight time earned by the pilot while at that particular company.

Another potential problem is that the more stringent requirements for an airline career may dissuade people from beginning an aviation career, especially after a decade of wage and benefit cuts for airline employees. When paired with looming retirements as hundreds of airline pilots reach age 65, the new rule may trigger a severe shortage of pilots qualified to fly airliners.

Originally published as National Aviation Examiner

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Unemployed Americans increase by 4 million under Obama

Obama labor rateBehind the math:

The population of the United States in July 2009 was 306.77 million according to  The current US population is estimated at 311.6 million.  Multiplying the population by each year’s respective labor rate yields approximately four million people.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Barack Obama as a benevolent dictator

The White House quietly announced on Wednesday that members of Congress can still their federal health insurance subsidies in spite of a clause in the Affordable Care Act that specifically says otherwise. The law requires members of Congress to purchase unsubsidized insurance on Obamacare’s new exchanges “notwithstanding any other provision of law.” Obama made a “personally request” that his Office of Personnel Management continue to pay the subsidies to congressional members and staffers with salaries as high as $175,000 according to the Wall St. Journal. In response, the OPM decided to interpret the clause completely opposite from the way it has been traditionally understood.

According to NPR, the prospect that Congress would have to pay the same insurance rates as the rest of the country led to a “bipartisan uproar” and fears of a “brain drain” as staffers retired to keep their benefits. When rumors of a congressional exemption became public last April, a Rasmussen poll indicated that 95 percent of Americans believed that Congress should face the same requirements as all other Americans. It would have been a political nightmare for Democrats in Congress to enact legislation exempting themselves from an unpopular law just prior to a hotly contested election. Fortunately for Congress, President Obama stepped in to save the day.

“No one so far who's really looked at this sees a legal way for them to do this,” Ed Haislmaier, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation told NPR. Haislmaier is one of the authors of a paper detailing the congressional health insurance problem and argues that only Congress could pass legislation to deal with it.

“Believe me, the idea of doing things on my own is very tempting,” President Obama said in July 2011. He continued, “But that's not how -- that's not how our system works…. That’s not how our Constitution is written.” The evidence shows that Barack Obama has succumbed to this temptation, not once, but many times.

The move to exempt Congress from Obamacare comes only a few weeks after President Obama also unilaterally delayed the implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate. On July 3, the White House announced the president’s decision to not require that businesses provide their employees with health insurance until 2015 according to The Hill. The law does not give the president the authority to delay implementation of the mandate, one of the central tenets of his signature piece of legislation.

These decisions were not the first time that the Obama Administration had violated the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. Since the law’s passage in 2010, the Department of Health and Human Services issued more than 1,400 waivers that allowed businesses to not meet the law’s requirements according to the Daily Caller. The problem is that these waivers were not authorized by the Affordable Care Act. Instead, President Obama’s Health and Human Services department issued new rules and regulations that gave itself the power to waive the law. Congress did grant waiver authority to HHS in some aspects of the law, but not the provision that required businesses to increase the amount of health insurance provided to employees.

The Obama Administration’s disrespect for the rule of law is not limited to Obamacare. Less than four months into his presidency, in April 2009, President Obama unilaterally ordered the bailout of General Motors and Chrysler using TARP funds even though TARP was specifically limited to financial institutions by Congress. When the auto giants went bankrupt anyway, President Obama and his advisors ignored established bankruptcy law and placed politically favored unions ahead secured creditors. National Affairs details how the president browbeat investors, including pension funds for state retirees, to write off their losses and then put the auto companies under the control of his “car czar,” Steve Rattner.

It was also in the auto bankruptcies that the first hints of the Obama Administration’s targeting of political opponents became public. In the summer of 2009, rumors flew that the Administration’s car czar was targeting car dealerships owned by Republicans for closure while sparing the majority of Democratic dealerships. In September 2009, denied the rumors, but with the recent revelations of the IRS targeting of conservative groups, two congressmen are calling for a new investigation of the Treasury Department’s role in closing the dealerships.

There are many other instances of President Obama’s executive overreach as well. In May 2010, after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Obama, again unilaterally, ordered a six month moratorium on deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. When a judge struck down the ban on drilling, Obama’s Interior Department ordered an almost identical ban the next day, an action that the judge to hold the Obama Administration in contempt of court. The contempt ruling was overturned in 2012 by a panel of judges though the order striking down the ban was upheld.

In April 2011, President Obama’s National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Boeing alleging that the company was engaged in illegal retaliation against unions by opening a new plant in the right-to-work state of South Carolina. Bloomberg notes that the complaint was suddenly dropped in December after Boeing reached an agreement with its machinist union.

In December 2010, President Obama’s FCC imposed “net neutrality” rules on internet companies by issuing a regulatory rule. According to CNET, the FCC had previously tried to impose net neutrality in 2008, but a three-judge panel ruled that Congress had not given the FCC the authority to regulate the network management policies of internet providers. When Congress failed to pass a net neutrality law, Obama’s FCC chairman imposed the rules anyway. A case challenging the FCC rules is currently before the Supreme Court.

In March 2011, even though President Obama had criticized President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, Obama decided to intervene militarily in the Libyan civil war. Unlike President Bush, who sought approval from Congress as required by the Constitution and the War Powers Act, Obama gave the order to go to war in Libya unilaterally. Obama did not seek congressional approval for the war and denied that the War Powers Act applied.

In January 2012, Obama made three recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board and one to the new federal Consumer Protection Bureau. While the Constitution does allow presidents to make recess appointments under certain circumstances, it requires Congress to actually be in recess when the appointments are made. Three federal courts ruled that Obama’s appointments were unconstitutional, but the NLRB simply ignored the rulings. The case was headed for the Supreme Court when Senate Democrats and Republicans reached a deal on the use of the filibuster. The deal may affect whether the Supreme Court hears the case.

In June 2012, as the election between Mitt Romney and Obama heated up, the president mobilized Hispanic support by unilaterally deciding not to enforce portions of current immigration law. Obama announced as part of his “We can’t wait” [for Congress to pass a law] campaign that he would stop deportation proceedings against young immigrants who had entered the country illegally. The decision derailed congressional work on the DREAM Act and was in direct violation of U.S. immigration law.

After the Newtown massacre, Obama bypassed Congress and issued 23 Executive Orders designed to further his gun control policies. According to Reuters, Obama said, “Where they [Congress] won’t act, I will.” Obama stopped short of ordering an assault weapons ban though he urged Congress to pass one.

Earlier in his presidency, Obama had asked Congress to pass cap-and-trade legislation to regulate carbon. Congress declined to pass the bill, even when Democrats controlled both houses, so President Obama is once again using executive agencies to legislate. The Washington Post reported in June 2013 that the EPA will use the Clean Air Act to impose carbon regulation on new coal and gas power plants.

To some extent, Obama’s executive actions are the result of an abdication by Congress. Timothy Lee pointed out in Forbes that the Affordable Care Act and the Dodd-Frank financial reform law both require thousands of pages of regulations that are written and enforced by unelected executive branch bureaucrats. Much of Obama’s executive overreach can be blamed on no one but Obama himself however.

Other aspects of Obama’s executive abuse are less benevolent. In May 2013, the IRS admitted to targeting conservative groups during the 2012 elections. Congressional investigations subsequently revealed that the IRS had been illegally working against Obama’s political opponents as early as August 2010 and possibly as early as 2008. Last week, the Federal Election Commission was implicated in the scandal as emails surfaced showing illegal collusion between FEC and the IRS officials investigating conservative groups according to CNN. On August 7, 2013, the Wall St. Journal reported that Democratic commissioners on the Securities and Exchange Commission tried to implement new rules on political contributions by public companies that would have also had the effect of making it more difficult for conservative groups to raise funds and speak out against Obama.

The sum total of Obama’s actions indicates that he may consider himself a benevolent dictator, an authoritarian ruler who acts for the benefit of the people rather than for himself. His repression of the free speech rights of his opponents is proof that a benevolent dictator is a dictator nonetheless. Rather than favoring the nation as a whole, Obama’s policies benefit favored demographic groups and political allies. President Obama’s “determined disregard” for the laws of the United States may be applauded by some who agree with his goals, but his actions set a disturbing precedent and raise grave questions about the future of the United States.

Originally published on Atlanta Conservative Examiner

Saturday, August 3, 2013

July jobs report not rosy in spite of unemployment decline

Democrats love the poorThe July Jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics unveiled a headline unemployment number that edged down slightly to 7.4 percent as the economy added 162,000 jobs. In spite of the decrease in the overall unemployment estimate, the report does not paint a bright picture for the jobs market. A forecast of economists by Bloomberg had predicted an increase of 185,000 new jobs.

Buried in the report, the Civilian Labor Force Participation Rate actually fell from 63.5 to 63.4 percent as job creation did not keep pace with population growth. According to BLS historical statistics, the rate reached a recent high in January 2007 at 66.4 percent before the onset of the recession. The rate has continued to decline during Barack Obama’s presidency from 65.7 percent in January 2009.

It might seem inconsistent that the labor participate rate declined at the same time that the unemployment rate fell. The answer can be found in the report’s measure of discouraged workers, people who are “not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them.” The number of discouraged workers rose sharply to a total of 416,000. The 136,000 increase in discouraged workers who dropped out of the workforce is almost equal to the number of workers who found jobs. The U-4 unemployment rate which adds discouraged workers to the headline unemployment rate is at 8.0 percent.

More bad news is that the number of workers who hold part-time jobs increased as well. This includes workers who work part-time for economic reasons such as the inability to find full-time work or declines in demand as well as those who work part-time because of noneconomic commitments such as family or school. These workers are considered “marginally attached” to the workforce. The U-6 unemployment rate which includes both discouraged and marginally attached workers is 14 percent.

As more part-time workers entered the work force, the average work week shortened to 34.4 hours, 0.1 hours shorter than June. The average work week for production employees was even shorter at 33.6 hours. Similarly, earnings for all employees fell by $3.09 and for production employees by $2.02.

Overall, the Yahoo News noted that 65 percent of the new jobs were part time. The industries with the largest numbers of new jobs were in low-paying sectors such as retail (47,000) and restaurants and bars (38,000). Professional and business services also added 36,000 new jobs.

One reason for the increase in the rate of part-time jobs created is the Affordable Care Act. New employment taxes in Obamacare encourage companies to avoid hiring full-time workers that will be subject to the provisions of the health care law that is scheduled to go into full effect in 2014.

Fifty-two percent of the unemployed have been out of work for more than 15 weeks. Thirty-seven percent have been unemployed for more than 27 weeks.

A final item in the report notes that employment figures for May and June were lower than previously estimated. These numbers were revised down by a total of 26,000 jobs.

Originally published on Atlanta Conservative Examiner.

Democrats love the poor

Democrats love the poor

Democratic policies produce more poor people.