Monday, September 30, 2013

What the new Obamacare exchanges will mean to you

Healthcare monopolyThe Affordable Care Act’s, “Obamacare’s,” health insurance exchanges will open on Oct. 1 barring a last minute deal by Republicans and Democrats to delay the onset of the law. As the open enrollment period for the health care exchanges begins, Americans will be able to sign up for health insurance on their state exchange, also called health insurance marketplaces. The health insurance exchanges are only the most recent part of Obamacare to take effect. Some portions of the law took effect immediately on passage of the law in 2010 or in the years since.

If you currently have insurance coverage through your employer, Medicare, or Medicaid, you will not need to visit an exchange to purchase coverage. An exception to this is if you work for one of the many companies that are dropping health insurance coverage for their employees due to rising premium costs. Workers with company health insurance plans can also choose to buy coverage through their state exchange if their company’s plan does not meet certain standards. Workers who choose to participate in the marketplace in lieu of their company health plan may lose any employer contribution to their health insurance.

If you would like to shop for health insurance on your state exchange, you can find the web address through the Dept. of Health and Human Services website at Registration for the site will be available after Oct. 1 when the exchanges open. Open enrollment on the health care exchanges will last until March 31, 2014. Coverage purchased after Oct. 1 on the exchanges will take effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

There will be several different health insurance plans offered on the state exchange. All plans will be required to offer certain minimum levels of coverage, but additional features will be available for an additional cost. Users of exchange websites will be able to compare plans and costs in plain language.

The individual mandate requiring that all Americans purchase health insurance will take effect in 2014. When filing income taxes in 2014, Americans will be required to prove that they have health insurance or pay a fine. There are two ways to calculate the fine. In 2014, the fine will be $95 per adult and $47.50 per child. The maximum will be $285 per family. Alternatively, the fine could also be capped at one percent of family income. The fine will be prorated on a monthly basis.

Under certain circumstances, taxpayers can receive an exemption from the individual mandate fine. Situations where exemptions are permissible are listed at and exemption applications will be available on health insurance exchange websites. No exemption application will be required if your income is low enough that you are not required to file or pay taxes, if you live outside the U.S., or if your gap in coverage is less than three months.

The fine will increase in coming years. In 2015, the fine rises to $325 per adult and $162.50 per child with a maximum of $975 per family or two percent of family income. In 2016, fines will be $695 per adult or $347.50 per child with a maximum of $2,085 per family or 2.5 percent of family income.

While the fine is far less than the unsubsidized price of insurance, Americans who choose to pay the fine instead of buy insurance will run the risk of large out-of-pocket costs. Open enrollment on the health care exchanges will last from Oct. 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014. In subsequent years, open enrollment will last from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7 unless the individual has a qualifying life event. While insurance companies will no longer be allowed to deny preexisting conditions, individuals without insurance may have to pay their own costs until the next open enrollment.

Whether the exchanges prices for health insurance are good largely depends on the individual. An analysis by Forbes found that on average health insurance prices will increase by 99 percent for men and 62 percent for women. In general, because Obamacare uses health insurance premiums from healthy young people to subsidize those with health problems or those who are older, people with preexisting conditions and senior citizens might expect lower premiums while younger people will pay more.

For some Americans, the increasing cost of health insurance may be at least partially offset by the subsidies offered by Obamacare. To qualify for these subsidies, the individual or family must not be eligible for Medicare, Medicaid, or have affordable health insurance (defined as less than 9.5 percent of gross income for the employee only) from their employer. Subsidies are income based. Americans with incomes between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty line, less than $46,000 for individuals or $94,000 for a family of four, may qualify. The subsidies will be paid in the form of refundable income tax credits.

The Kaiser Family Foundation has developed on an online estimator for the government’s health insurance subsidies on their Kaiser website. According to Kaiser, an individual earning $30,000 would receive a $24 subsidy on their annual $2,535 premium. A family of four that earns the same amount would receive a subsidy of $6,677 on their $8,642 premium. This would pay 77 percent of the family’s health care premium costs.

There are more changes on the horizon as the Affordable Care Act continues to be implemented. The next big date will be Jan. 1, 2014. As notes, several more changes take place then. These include the requirement that insurance companies accept preexisting conditions (which most have already complied with voluntarily), the expansion of Medicaid eligibility to include adults up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($15,800 for individuals or $32,500 for a family of four), the elimination of lifetime limits for payouts on health insurance policies, and the expansion of small business tax credits.

Originally published on Elections Examiner

Obama and George Washington on executive power

Obama Washington king quotes

Obama’s quotes are from two different speeches, but follow the same line of thought:

Remarks by the president to the National Council of La Raza, July 25, 2011:

Remarks by the president at the Denver Police Academy, April 3, 2013:

Monday, September 23, 2013

Obama and income inequality

income inequlitySource:

Plain English analysis:

Friday, September 20, 2013

GOP shoots self in foot with defund vote

government shutdownThe House Republicans collectively took careful aim at their feet and fired today with a vote to defund the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as “Obamacare.” The continuing budget resolution passed this morning, largely along party lines. One Republican, Scott Rigell of Virginia, voted against the measure and two Democrats, Jim Mathison (Utah) and Mike McIntyre (N.C.), voted for passage according to CNN.

The vote to defund comes amid a flurry of warnings from GOP strategists that defunding Obamacare is impossible and will likely backfire on the party. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told Newsmax on Sept. 18 that “the president appears now politically to be in favor of shutting down the government” in order to score a “political win.”

Two days earlier, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said, “I think he wants this thing to happen, a shutdown of the government.” The comments, made on the Hugh Hewitt Show, were quoted in the Huffington Post.

If President Obama wants a government shutdown, the Republicans appear to be eager to give it to him. The budget resolution will now go to the Senate, where the Democratic majority will either do nothing or amend the bill to include funding for the health care and then send it back to the House. The showdown will continue until one side loses its nerve, which may well come after the government shuts down.

It is likely that Obama wants a government shutdown in order to distract from the economy and Syria, as well as to make Congress the obvious scapegoat for national problems. According to the Daily Caller, Obama’s campaign group, Organizing for America, is already running ads that attack Republicans for attempting to shutdown the government. The ad points out that Social Security and unemployment checks will be affected if the government shuts down.

On Sept. 18, pollster and strategist Dick Morris argued that the debt limit, not Obamacare is where the GOP should make a stand. In Morris’ view, there is a logical connection between spending and debt that is lacking in the movement to defund Obamacare. By focusing on spending and entitlements, which have expanded dramatically since 2008, Obama would be placed on the defensive.

Karl Rove also called the defunding strategy “self-defeating” in the Wall Street Journal on Sept. 19. Rove notes that independent voters increasingly resemble Republicans. With President Obama and the Democrats sinking in issue-based polls, the Republicans have a lot to gain in next year’s elections if they do not alienate the independent voters that they need to win.

Rove notes that the one issue in which independents disagree with Republicans is the issue of defunding Obamacare. Rove’s group, Crossroads GPS, polled independent voters and found that they oppose defunding Obamacare by 58 to 30 percent.

Rove also takes aim at claims that Republicans will be able to blame the shutdown on Barack Obama and the Democrats. Overall, independents reject the Republican argument that Obama is at fault by 57-35 percent. In battleground states, independent voters favored Obama’s claim that Republicans were to blame by 59 to 33 percent. Even in districts that lean Republican, voters accept Obama’s argument by56 to 39 percent. The 2014 Senate races currently favor the GOP according to Examiner’s analysis, but a government shutdown could change that.

On the contrary, Rove presents an alternative strategy of delaying the implementation of Obamacare, a strategy that has a precedent from President Obama himself. Rove’s poll found that independents favor delaying the individual mandate by 51 to 42 percent.

Rove also contradicts the Republican belief that the party did not suffer after the Clinton-era government shutdown. While acknowledging that the GOP won two Senate seats in 1996, he points out that the party “lost three House seats, seven of the 11 gubernatorial races that year, a net of 53 state legislative seats and the White House.”

It is certain that the Republicans will not be successful in defunding Obamacare. Simple math can establish that beyond a doubt. It would take five Senate Democrats to pass the budget resolution. When Obama vetoes the bill, as he is certain to do, 54 House Democrats and 21 Senate Democrats would be needed to override the veto. So far, the GOP has been joined by two Democrats.

What is not certain is what the ultimate outcome will be. Thus far, President Obama is refusing even to negotiate on the debt ceiling or the budget resolution according to the Washington Post, lending credence to the notion that he wants a government shutdown. In the end, the token concessions that the Republicans may win in the confrontation will be at the risk of losing of the 2014 elections, the only route to the full repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Originally published on Atlanta Conservative Examiner.

Contraception mandate may go to Supreme Court

The Obama Administration is headed back to court to defend another aspect of the Affordable Care Act. The Administration announced yesterday that it will appeal a June decision that issued an injunction against a government mandate that requires employers to provide coverage for abortion-inducing and contraceptive medications. The ruling came in a suit filed by the Hobby Lobby.

Last year, the Department of Health and Human Services ruled that employers must provide their employees with insurance that contains coverage for abortion-inducing and contraceptive drugs. Many employers, including the Catholic Church, contested the mandate on the grounds that it violated their religious beliefs.

Traditionally, religious exemptions were allowed for such controversial laws. Accommodations for religious believers are required by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The Obama Administration’s rule included a narrow exemption for churches, but not other religious organizations. Bishop David Zubik noted that the exemption could not even have been applied to Jesus and his disciples.

As dissent against the rule grew, President Obama announced a unilateral compromise in February 2012. As Examiner reported at the time, the compromise would still require religious groups to cover the abortion-inducing drugs in their insurance plans, but they would not be charged for them. Instead, the president would force insurance companies to provide the coverage at no cost to the religious groups. Presumably, the cost would be spread among other nonreligious insureds. There was no relief for private businesses who had moral objections to the mandate.

Several businesses filed suit against the mandate. In a June 2013 ruling, a judge issued a temporary injunction against government enforcement of the mandate for the Hobby Lobby, a company owned by evangelical Christians. According to Fox News, the company’s insurance provides 16 forms of birth control, but its owners oppose birth control methods that can prevent implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus, such as an intrauterine device or forms of emergency contraception, because they believe that life begins at conception.

The company had argued that the government’s action was a violation of the freedom of religion and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. According to the Wall St. Journal the act, passed in 1993 with only three nays and signed into law by President Clinton, requires that any “substantial burden” on the exercise of religion be “in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest” and be the “least restrictive means” of furthering that interest.

The injunction would apply until the 10th circuit federal appeals court could rule on the merits of the case. It also gave the government until Oct. 1 to decide whether to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. On Sept. 19, the Obama Administration asked the Supreme Court to reverse the Hobby Lobby decision according to Reuters.

In a separate case, the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal group, also filed a petition with the Supreme Court on Sept. 19 in a similar case. Conestoga Wood Specialties, a Mennonite-owned business in Pennsylvania, had filed a suit similar to that of the Hobby Lobby. A three judge panel of the third circuit federal appeals court ruled against Conestoga in July and denied the company an appeal to the full court. The ruling subjects the company to fines of $3 million per month if they do not comply with the mandate to provide their employees with abortion pills and contraceptives.

Reuters notes that because federal appeals courts are split on the issue, the Supreme Court is likely to take up at least one of the cases. If the high court does hear a case on the issue, a ruling would be expected during the current term which starts in October and ends in June 2014. In 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. In upholding the law, the Court opened a host of other issues, including the question of religious freedom for employers. Fox News notes that there are 63 other cases challenging the mandate, 34 of which involve for-profit businesses.

Originally published on Elections Examiner

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Navy Yard killer shared traits with other rampage murderers

Already there are voices calling for increased gun control in the wake of Aaron Alexis’ murders of 12 people in the Washington Navy Yard yesterday. As Examiner reported, traditional gun control seems to be counterproductive in reducing crimes and mass killings, but an analysis of this and other shootings reveals several common threads between many perpetrators of rampage killings. Diagnoses are made more difficult by the fact that the killers in many of the rampages are often killed themselves, but in many cases, the killer had been diagnosed with some form of mental illness or can plausibly be considered to have an undiagnosed mental illness. Other factors, such as video games, movies, or broken families are also common.

Aaron Alexis is reported to have been undergoing treatment for mental illness with the Veterans Administration according to the Washington Times. The report indicates that Alexis had reported hearing voices in his head and suffered from paranoia. NBC News reports that Alexis had two prior arrests for gun related crimes. In 2004, he allegedly shot out the tires of another man’s car during “an anger-fueled ‘blackout’” in Seattle. In 2010, he was arrested in Texas for shooting his gun through the ceiling of his apartment. The bullet went through his ceiling into the apartment upstairs. Alexis told police that the shooting was accidental. According to Seattle police, Alexis was present at the September 11 attacks and was an “active participant in rescue attempts” [at the World Trade Center according to the Telegraph] and may have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The Daily Mail also reports that Alexis’ best friend, Nutpisit Suthamtewakul, 31, of Ft. Worth, said that Alexis was obsessed with violent video games. Mr. Suthamtewakul said that Alexis would often play “zombie” shooter games for much of the night. Mr. Suthamtewakul also said that Alexis was a “hard core drinker.”

Atlanta’s 11 Alive News also reported a third arrest in Georgia. On August 10, 2008, Alexis was arrested in DeKalb County for disorderly conduct. There was no indication that a weapon was used. He was also discharged from the Navy Reserve in 2011 for unspecified misconduct. None of this prevented Alexis from obtaining a security clearance to work as a navy contractor. CNN reported that Alexis’ security clearance was renewed in July.

The full details of Alexis’ family and childhood are not available, but reports of the family make no mention of his father. A Newsday article quoted a former neighbor of the family’s apartment in Brooklyn who noted that the family consisted of a mother, a daughter, and two boys. Mr. Alexis reportedly lived with his grandmother in Seattle.

In the case of last year’s shootings at Newtown, Ct., the Hartford Courant and NBC’s WPTV reported that Adam Lanza was a frequent player of violent first-person shooter video games. Police report that Lanza destroyed his computer before his rampage, so the exact extent of his video gaming may never be known. Lanza was known to have been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism and had not seen his father since 2010.

Peter Bell, executive vice president of programs and services at Autism Speaks told PBS that some Asperger’s patients do have trouble controlling aggressive thoughts and behavior, but that there is no evidence linking the condition to violence. Nevertheless, Randi Rentz, a teacher specializing in Asperger’s, notes that some of her students exhibit hostility. There is also the possibility that other undiagnosed forms of mental illness were present along with the Asperger’s.

James Holmes, who went on a rampage in a movie theater showing “the Dark Knight” in Colorado in July 2012, apparently came from an intact family, but had seen three mental health professionals at the University of Colorado according to CBS News. Any diagnosis is unknown due to a gag order imposed by the judge in the case, but Holmes reportedly mailed a package to one of the school’s psychiatrists. Because of the gag order, not much information is available about Holmes’ mental state, but Fox News has reported that he was a frequent player of video games including “World of Warcraft,” a role-playing game. One friend told the Telegraph that Holmes preferred “Guitar Hero” to shooter games.

The Week reported that a local gun range owner flagged Holmes after he attempted to join the range. The man called Holmes’ answering machine “bizarre or freakish” and told employees to refer Holmes to him before letting him do anything there. In the months before the killing spree, Holmes’ grades had fallen and he had dropped out of graduate school. Apparently, one of the psychiatrists at the college had become concerned that Holmes might be a potential threat, but he dropped out before her concerns could be addressed according to a report from the local ABC affiliate.

Jared Lee Loughner, who shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killed six others in Tucson in January 2011, was both mentally ill and a video gamer. Several sources, including the Wall St. Journal, report Loughner’s obsession with games. Loughner had a long history of mental illness according to Time. He had made threatening and nonsensical comments to fellow students and teachers at his college. His tests and writings included bizarre and sometimes violent phrases. At times he seemed paranoid and unable to function socially. He was also a frequent user of marijuana which may have made his condition worse. He apparently was rejected for military service due to a failed drug test. He also had stalked several women and, at one point, was involuntarily committed to a mental institution.

A Wall St. Journal investigation of Loughner’s posts in online video game forums showed a number of disturbing posts. He pondered whether one should “hit a Handy Cap Child/Adult” [sic] and theorized that women enjoyed being raped. He also lamented his inability to find a job. According to the report, Loughner played role-playing video games such as “Starcraft,” “Diablo,” and “Earth: 2025.”

Cho Seung-Hui, who killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007, had been diagnosed with mental health problems at an early age according to a well documented report on the massacre by the State of Virginia. In elementary school, he was diagnosed with emotional issues that led to communication problems. In middle school, he was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, lack of verbal skills and immaturity. In 1999, after the Columbine murders, Cho wrote a paper for his English class that indicated that he wanted to carry out a mass murder as well. He was diagnosed with selective mutism in social situations and depression. At this point, he was given a prescription for antidepressants, after which his condition improved.

Cho had an above average IQ and, with special accommodations in high school, his grades were high enough that he was accepted at Virginia Tech. In eleventh grade, he had improved enough that he was able to stop the counseling sessions and never resumed them after he graduated and began attending college.

As a college sophomore, Cho’s grades began to drop. He changed his major to English, a subject that he struggled with. He became disruptive in class and his creative writing assignments reflected dark and violent themes. He was accused of stalking a female student and had stabbed the carpet with a knife at a party. A friend reported that Cho had threatened to kill himself and Cho admitted to having depression and anxiety, although he denied having suicidal thoughts according to ABC News. Cho talked to three counselors, but failed to come to counseling appointments and pursue treatment. Throughout his school career, Cho was known for not speaking or speaking in barely audible tones.

Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the Columbine killers, reportedly had different motives and illnesses. According to an assessment published in Slate, Klebold may have suffered from depression while Harris was likely a psychopath. Based on his journal, a panel of psychologists, psychiatrists, and FBI agents point to Harris’ contempt for others and his total lack of empathy and conscience as evidence of his psychopathic tendencies. Dr. Peter Langman, formerly a clinical director at Kids Peace Hospital and author of “Why Kids Kill,” agrees. His analysis of the writings of Klebold and Harris agrees that Harris was a psychopath while Klebold apparently suffered from a variety of psychoses including depression, paranoia, delusions and disorganized thinking. The two teens famously enjoyed violent video games as well.

Michael Brandon Hill, the gunman who invaded a school in Decatur, Ga. last month, also had a history of mental illness and a criminal record according Examiner. A quick-thinking school receptionist was able to convince Hill to surrender after exchanging shots with police.

There seems to be broad support for a system of screening students for mental illness. 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.

One solution to the problem of the mentally ill committing massacres would be reforming laws to allow state and local governments more flexibility in involuntarily committing people who might be a danger to themselves and others. This should include follow up visits to confirm that they remain on their medication and that their condition remains stable. This may also require that privacy laws be amended so that information can be shared between agencies. Such an approach has been used in Colorado where Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, reformed the state’s involuntary treatment laws in the wake of James Holmes’ killing spree.

A second strategy is to change popular culture. As Lt. Col. Dave Grossman describes on, violent images and games can condition children to kill in much the same manner that armies condition soldiers to be able to pull the trigger. Although popular culture does not turn all children into remorseless killers, the combination of cultural cues and mental illness may combine to push some people over the edge.

Finally, acting to preserve the family would help to grow stable adults. Children from single parent families and broken homes are far more likely to turn to crime and violence than children who come from stable families as Examiner previously reported. Single parent families are also far more likely to live in poverty and require government assistance as well.

There is a legitimate role for governments to play in keeping firearms out of the hands of potentially dangerous mental patients. However, addressing the underlying issues is much more difficult than returning to traditional and ineffective forms of gun control.

Originally published by Atlanta Conservative Examiner

Gun control and mass killings

examinerWhen Aaron Alexis used several guns to commit mass murder at the Washington, D.C. Navy yard yesterday, it was only the most recent in a string of mass shootings in areas where strict gun control is in force. In fact, statistics from past rampage killings show that mass shootings and killings are more likely to take place in states with rigorous gun laws.

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 last year’s Newtown massacre, 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.

Likewise, the District of Columbia’s gun laws are also tough. For years, the District had an outright ban of private weapons until it was struck down in the Supreme Court’s landmark Heller decision. Crime rates began to drop after the ban was ruled unconstitutional according to the Wall Street Journal. Because the District is not a state, it does not rank on the Brady Campaign’s list of state gun control laws, but “Guns and Ammo” magazine ranked it dead last among the “Best States for Gun Owners for 2013.”

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 Fort Hood, Tx., like the Washington Navy yard, military personnel 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. 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.

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 happening as often as in the past 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.

Portions of this article were originally published by Examiner on Dec. 19, 2012

Published on Atlanta Conservative Examiner

Friday, September 13, 2013

Welfare worth more than $15 per hour job in 12 states

examinerAccording to a report released in August by the libertarian Cato Institute, when the full package of benefits is taken into account, welfare pays more than a minimum wage job in 33 states. In 12 states, welfare pays more than an equivalent job that paid $15 per hour. In these states, the report notes that an individual who left the welfare rolls for a job paying the same amount would see a decline in take-home pay.

The report, the “Welfare vs. Work Trade Off,” notes that because welfare benefits are not taxable, their value is greater than the equivalent value of pay and benefits from an entry level job. This difference is partially offset by tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and various state tax credits. In some states, Cato notes, the combined value of the tax credits can be more than the value of taxes paid so the worker would receive a tax refund larger than their actual tax bill. In twelve states, however, the worker would have to earn more than the value of welfare benefits to bring home an equivalent income. These states include Hawaii, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maryland, California, Oregon, and Wyoming, as well as the District of Columbia. In Georgia, a salary of $14,060 would replace welfare benefits.

The report also estimates the value of welfare benefits in terms of an hourly wage equivalent. In 33 states, welfare benefits are worth more than a minimum wage job. In the same 12 states and the District of Columbia, welfare is worth more than a job that pays $15 per hour. In Georgia, welfare is equivalent to an hourly wage of $6.76.

In other terms this means that in 42 states and the District of Columbia, welfare recipients live above the federal poverty level. In Hawaii, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia, welfare recipients make more than twice the federal poverty level. In Georgia, welfare benefits are at 101 percent of the federal poverty level.

There are 126 federal programs targeted toward low-income Americans. Of these, 72 provide either cash or individual benefits. Such programs include Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food stamps, WIC vouchers, public housing, utility assistance and cell phones. Fraud is rampant in many programs.

The Cato study comes as the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the Civilian Labor Participation rate fell to 63.2 percent. According to CNN Money, this is the lowest percentage of Americans “over 16 who either have a job or are actively searching for one” since August 1978.

Michael Tanner, senior fellow at the Cato Institute, notes that work imposes other costs aside from taxes and lost benefits. People who choose to work will have to pay for clothing, transportation, child care, and will have less leisure time.

“To be clear: There is no evidence that people on welfare are lazy,” Tanner said. “Indeed, surveys of them consistently show their desire for a job. But they’re also not stupid. If you pay them more not to work than they can earn by working, many will choose not to work.”

Tanner notes that even though this may make financial sense in the short term, low wages for entry-level jobs eventually lead to better paying professional positions.

Find out where your state stands on welfare benefits HERE.

Originally published on Atlanta Conservative Examiner

Wednesday, September 11, 2013 introduces new mobile site for pilots has introduced a new mobile version of its website for pilots. The site is free, but resembles many downloadable applications in both appearance and utility. The site contains a wealth of information for pilots and can be a valuable resource. Additionally, the site can be easily used by nonpilots since it does not require a pilot license or any login information.

The mobile site, which was introduced to the public at Oshkosh, contains three sections, which are selectable from the home page. Users can choose from “Aircraft for Sale,” which lists aircraft classified ads. The “Airport Resource Center” provides pilots with access to airport, airspace and weather information. The “Aviation Directory” contains listings for a variety of aviation businesses.

Clicking the “Aircraft for Sale” button takes the user to a listing of broad categories of aircraft such as “jets” or “single engine pistons.” Selecting the desired category will open a menu of manufacturers, which can then be opened into that company’s various aircraft types. Many of the listings include pictures as well as buttons to send an email to the seller or to call the seller’s phone number with a single touch.

Realistically, most people probably will never buy an airplane, but it can be fun to browse the listings and dream. For example, what red-blooded pilot wouldn’t be tempted by the listing for a 1945 North American P-51 Mustang (dual controls, based in Texas, with only 135 hours since major overhaul on its Rolls Royce Merlin engine)? If you have $2.1 million, it can be yours. (Have you bought your lottery ticket yet?) The stunning photos of this beautiful warbird alone are worth scanning the listings.

Another interesting find is a 1967 Mikoyan Gurevich MiG-21 Fishbed. This former Soviet jet fighter, which now lives in California, can be acquired for the bargain price of $79,500. This is cheaper than many single-engine propeller planes.

Speaking of single-engine piston airplanes, pilots looking for a trainer or a family airplane won’t be disappointed. There are myriad listings for more traditional airplanes such as Cessna, Piper, Cirrus, Beechcraft, and the like. Many of these smaller airplanes will fit even limited budgets, such as the 1970 Cessna 150 that lists for $20,500.

The “Aviation Resource Directory” section contains listing for many aviation related businesses and organizations. The listings contain links to websites as well as phone numbers. There are numerous categories (and subcategories) so that users can find whatever service they are looking for. Business owners and organizations can also submit their own company information for a free listing.

Probably the most useful aspect of’s new mobile site for the pilot on the go is the “Airport Resource” section. This section allows the user to search for a variety of aviation facilities by state or by name. Unlike many websites or apps, allows the user to refine their search to seaplane bases, heliports, balloon ports or STOLports.

When a facility is selected, the information about the airport is available to the user. This includes common items such as an airport diagram if available, runway information, weather, terminal procedures and an airport business directory. also goes a step further by including a phone numbers and directions for nearby hotels and restaurants for those pilots seeking the proverbial “$100 hamburger.” The listings even include nearby golf courses.

Users can also use the mobile site to look up airspace fixes. In the age of GPS when going direct to a fix is often the primary means of navigation, is an easy way to find important details about fixes such as latitude and longitude, the chart where it can be found, the controlling air route traffic control center, and nearby airports. also provides weather information to the pilot’s smartphone or tablet. In addition to METARs and TAFs, includes aviation weather charts that are often not found on other weather sources. There are the expected radar and satellite weather maps, but also turbulence and icing potential charts, convection outlooks, winds and temperatures aloft, and significant weather prognostication charts. The lack of ability to zoom may affect the utility of some charts for users with devices that have small screens, but in general pilots and weather fans will appreciate the availability of so much information in one place at no cost. A local radar map is available on the airport resource page.

One of the most unique and useful aspects of’s site is the ability to compare fuel prices. In addition to listing fuel prices in the airport information section, the site has the ability to map fuel prices over a geographic area. The feature can be used for either jet fuel or 100 low-lead avgas. Think Gas Buddy for airplanes.

For example, suppose a flight crew will be flying the boss to a meeting in Denver. The meeting is downtown so the boss doesn’t have a preference on which airport to use. If the captain searches for Denver area fuel prices on, he would see a map of the Denver area with airports labeled. The pilot could then touch each airport to go to the airport resource page for the most recent fuel prices and other information.

Scrolling to the bottom of the map yields a list of the 10 lowest fuel prices for airports within a 50 nautical mile radius. In the case of our hypothetical flight to Denver, the cheapest jet fuel can be found at Denver’s Centennial airport (KAPA) at $4.31 per gallon. A minor drawback is that the fuel prices on the “10 cheapest list” are by airport only. The user must click the airport name on the list or icon on the map to find out which FBO has the best price. On the airport resource page, the pilot finds that Tac Air is currently the home of Denver’s cheapest jet fuel.

Because the is a mobile site rather than an application, it functions well for either Apple or Android products. Much of the information available on would cost several dollars for an app and perhaps more for a subscription. The site is totally free and users are not even required to log in. Users seeking the full functionality of can also choose to view the full site on their mobile devices.

Pilots and nonpilots alike will enjoy’s new mobile internet site. Whether perusing the catalog of aircraft for sale, planning a flight or checking the weather, provides a wealth of useful information for users.

Originally published on National Aviation Examiner

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Why did Obama go to Congress on Syria?


Late last week, President Obama abruptly decided to send a request for authorization to use force in Syria to Congress. The about-face came after several days of claims by aides that the president did not need permission from Congress to act. In fact, in a speech on Saturday, President Obama still denied that he needed permission from Congress and sources in the Administration told Press TV that the president had already made up his mind to strike Syria, even if Congress failed to give its approval.

Why did the president decide to seek congressional approval if he believes that he doesn’t need it and his mind is already made up? Obama has a long history of overstepping his constitutional authority in domestic matters so why does he suddenly feel the need to go to Congress when there is ample precedent for conducting limited attacks without congressional approval? Two years ago when Obama went to war in Libya, he not only did not ask for congressional authorization for the initial use of military force, but did not comply with the time limits of the War Powers Act, denying that U.S. forces were engaged in hostilities under the law, a position that Politifact said “violates our standards of common sense.”

There are three reasons that Obama may have moved the ball into Congress’ court. The first is that he wants to use the issue to split the Republican Party. There is an intense debate between the GOP’s foreign policy hawks and the party’s libertarian isolationist wing. Prominent Republicans like John Boehner, Lindsay Graham and John McCain have lined up to support the attack on Syria while Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have spoken out against it. Marco Rubio, who has advocated aiding the Syrian rebels for two years, seems to think that Obama’s response is too little, too late according to US News.

The downside to this strategy is that it has split Democrats as well. For the past half century, the Democrats have been the anti-war party (with the notable exception of President Clinton’s intervention in Bosnia). Florida Democrat Alan Grayson told the Australian that he believes as many as half of all Democrats will vote against the authorization.

Another motive may have been to share the blame if the intervention goes badly. President Obama’s foreign policy has led to a string of disasters from the expansion of Iran’s sphere of influence to include Iraq to the resurgence of al Qaeda and the rise of radical Islamism in many formerly secular Arab nations. Obama may well be looking at protecting himself politically if limited strikes ignite a wider war or lead to a victory by al Qaeda-supported rebels.

A key to understanding Obama’s flip-flop is the strong public opposition to attacking Syria. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released Sept. 3 shows that only 19 percent support an attack on Syria. Fifty-six percent oppose any intervention. A Washington Post/ABC poll released the same day showed 59 percent opposed. Opposition was almost identical for both Republicans (55 percent) and Democrats (54 percent), but stronger (66 percent) among independents.

A final possibility is that Obama is having second thoughts about attacking Syria and is hoping that Congress will deny the authorization to attack. Almost as soon as Obama announced his decision to attack, Administration sources began to leak information that indicated that the attacks would be very limited and half-hearted.

Yesterday, Obama tried to walk back his statement from a year ago that Assad’s use of chemical weapons was a “red line” that would “change my calculus” on intervention in Syria. According to Politico, the president’s new line is that “I didn’t set a red line. The world set a red line.” Obama continued, “So when I said that my calculus would be altered by chemical weapons, which the overall consensus of humanity says is wrong — that’s not something I just made up. I didn’t pick it out of thin air. My credibility is not on the line. The international community’s credibility is on the line, and America and Congress’s credibility’s on the line.”

Although four months ago, White House officials made clear that the red line was “absolutely” the president’s, Obama is obviously having second thoughts in the face of overwhelming opposition. In spite of strong rhetoric from officials that the strike will happen regardless of Congress’ approval, it is unlikely that President Obama would make such an unpopular decision after being turned down by Congress.

A congressional defeat of Obama’s request may be likely. Political analyst Charlie Cook told the Financial Times on Tuesday that he would be surprised is the authorization passed Congress. A Washington Post analysis found the Senate split and heavy opposition in the House. Many members of both houses are still undecided.

Having stirred up a hornet’s nest of strong bipartisan opposition as well as finding little international support, President Obama may actually be hoping for Congress to deny his request. A loss in Congress would give the president the ability to avoid attacking Syria and the ability to save face by blaming Republican lawmakers.

Originally published on Elections Examiner

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Obama was right on Syria… but then he screwed it up

President Obama was right in his initial decision to take military action against Syria. As evidence mounted that Bashar Assad of Syria had used poison gas against the civilian population of Syria, not once but repeatedly, the United States and the civilized nations of the world had to decide whether to take action or become complicit in the murders of untold thousands of innocents.

Though mass murders by dictatorial regimes are all too common, there has been an effective ban on the use of chemical weapons since shortly after World War I. The ban has only been broken four times. Italy used mustard gas against Abyssinia in 1935 and Japan used chemical agents in its conquest of China in 1938. In World War II, Adolf Hitler did not use poison gas against Allied soldiers for fear of retribution, but the Nazis did gas millions of people in their death camps. In the 1980s, Saddam Hussein used poison gas against the Iranian army as well as against the Kurds, an ethnic minority in Iraq.

Aside from the violation of international law and the moral implications of allowing Assad to gas innocent civilians, the U.S. also has a national interest in enforcing President Obama’s “red line.” Two of the Syrian government’s allies in the civil war are Hezbollah and Iran. Both Hezbollah and Iran have already shown willingness to take on the U.S. directly. Hezbollah, supported by Iran, was responsible for the 1983 bombings of the U.S. embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut. In 1985, they hijacked TWA Flight 847 enroute from Athens to Rome. They were also allegedly responsible for the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia which targeted US military members. Iran has also tried to attack the U.S. directly. Two years ago, Iran was implicated in a plot to carry out a series of bomb attacks in Washington, D.C. In spite of the plot and continued Iranian work on nuclear weapons, the Obama Administration has resisted any punishment for Iran including additional sanctions.

Ignoring Obama’s self-imposed red line for Syrian use of chemical weapons would increase the risk that use and development of weapons of mass destruction would become more common around the world. If the Iranians determine that the U.S. is not serious, it makes it even more likely that such weapons will be used again by terrorist groups like Hezbollah for use against Americans abroad, U.S. allies, or even the American homeland. It also makes it more likely that Iran would continue to develop and feel free to use nuclear weapons.

With ample evidence of Syria’s violation of international law and a compelling U.S. interest, President Obama should have ordered an attack on Syria’s WMD facilities and airbases as well as targeting President Assad. Although President Obama has a long history of abusing executive authority such an order would have been well within his constitutional role as commander-in-chief. The Constitution does not require a declaration of war in such an instance and there is a long history, dating back to Thomas Jefferson’s attack on the Barbary pirates, of presidents taking military action without congressional approval.

Instead, President Obama flip-flopped late last week after finding strong bipartisan opposition to an attack on Syria. After dithering for days, Obama abruptly decided that he would ask Congress for authorization to attack, but stopped short of asking representatives to cut their recess short and return to Washington to address the matter. According to CBS News, Congress will return to work on September 9.

The delay can only serve hearten President Assad and his allies in Tehran. Opposition to the attack in Congress could derail President Obama’s plan to attack Syria entirely. If it doesn’t, the Syrian government will have had nearly a month to prepare and disperse its chemical weapon stocks and other high priority targets. It will also have had plenty of time to beef up its air defenses making casualties among the attacking Americans more likely. All of this means that the deterrent effect of a strike will be lessened.

In reality, Obama would probably be relieved to be able to blame Congress for his inaction in Syria. His foreign policy has been one of American withdrawal from the world. Obama’s original campaign theme was calling for an end to the Iraq War. Today, the war in Iraq continues even though American forces are gone. Obama is planning a similar withdrawal from Afghanistan. During the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, the beginning of the Syrian civil war, the Obama was conspicuously absent from supporting democratic activists. This policy led to al Qaeda domination of the Syrian opposition forces and Islamist victories in Egypt and Tunisia. Obama had to be dragged into his unconstitutional Libyan intervention by several NATO allies. He also squandered a chance to support Iranian dissidents during 2009’s “Green Revolution.”

Obama seems to have long held the belief that American power has caused problems throughout the world and that disengagement is a key to peace. Obama’s policy of withdrawal and “leading from behind” is how that belief was put into practice. The chaos in the Middle East is the result.

Originally published on Atlanta Conservative Examiner