Thursday, May 22, 2014

Debunked: Obama’s third term

temporary4An alert reader recently sent a link that purported to prove that President Obama “wished to seek an unprecedented 3rd [sic] term as Commander in Chief.” The article, published as “breaking news” by the Rand Paul Review website claims that Obama made the announcement of his intention to seek a third term “earlier this week” in a “speech to supporters.” The reader cited this article as proof of President Obama’s intent to subvert or alter the Constitution and install himself as an authoritarian ruler.

Upon investigation, Examiner has determined that the article is a hoax. Red flags were raised immediately by the undated article which was not attributed to a legitimate news source. The date of the article was determined to be August 2013 by examining the link’s URL. There is also no author listed.

An obvious problem with the article’s claim was that the quote from President Obama did not announce his intention to run for a third term. Additionally, a third term would not be “unprecedented” since President Franklin Roosevelt was elected to a third term in 1940 and fourth in 1944.

According to the Rand Paul Review, Obama told supporters:

“I would put [my administration] up against any prior administration since FDR,” Obama said. “We didn’t ask for the challenges that we face, but we don’t shrink from them either.” He continued, “And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades. It will require common effort, shared responsibility, and the kind of bold, persistent experimentation that Franklin Roosevelt pursued during the only crisis worse than this one.”

The author of the article jumps to the conclusion that, because Obama says that “it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades,” he intends to run for a third term. The author never makes the claim that Obama had explicitly declared his candidacy for 2016.

An additional problem with the claims made in the article is that Obama did not make that speech in 2013. A search of the internet found a Politico article that referenced the same Obama quote. The date on the Politico piece? May 27, 2009. This was a mere four months into President Obama’s first term.

In fact, the Politico quote is slightly different from the Rand Paul Review quote. In the Politico piece, which is accompanied by a video clip of the quote, President Obama actually says, “I would put these first four months up against any prior administration since FDR”[emphasis mine]. He then continues, “We didn't ask for the challenges that we face, but we don't shrink from them either."

The authors of the Rand Paul Review apparently edited the Obama quote to conceal the fact that the President’s words were from 2009 and not 2013. In context, the president is clearly referring to the next three years of his first term and not announcing his intention to seek a not-unprecedented third term.

The Politico article also gave the location of the speech in question. It reportedly took place during a Democratic National Committee fundraiser at the Beverly Hills Hilton. The date was presumably May 27 or shortly before.

With this information the original speech can be located on the White House website. The speech titled, “Remarks by the President at a DNC fundraiser reception” and gives the location as the Beverly Hills Hilton. The published version of the speech is dated May 29, 2009. Interestingly, the text of the speech does not contain the FDR comparison. Another video on the Politico site shows the president with a microphone in hand giving the speech on the White House website while he was at a podium in the first video. This may mean that the FDR comparison was not part of the president’s speech, but was given at a question-and-answer session. In either case, Obama definitely made the remark only four months into his presidency.

When Examiner contacted the Rand Paul Review, Kevin G., a spokesman for the site, responded that the article is “labeled as political satire and links to a petition that calls for term limits for all Congressman [sic]. This issue is important to those of at Rand Paul Review, as well as Rand Paul's campaign and superpacs” [sic]. The Rand Paul Review does note on its Facebook page that it is a “grassroots effort” and states that it is “not Rand Paul’s official page,” but this is not apparent on the website.

While the article was not real, Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) did introduce a bill in 2013 that would repeal the 22nd Amendment and allow President Obama to run for a third term. The bill has apparently died in committee in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives since no action has been taken. Govtrack gives the bill a zero percent chance of becoming law.

Read the full article on Atlanta Conservative Examiner

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Pilot’s rules of thumb

Aviation is as much art as science. In many aspects of aviation, math is needed to precisely fly the airplane. Few pilots want to constantly do calculations with an E-6B flight computer or handheld calculator. Fortunately there is an easier way. Over the years, many rules of thumb have been developed to help pilots fly with more precision, but without the hassle. Here are a few that I frequently use flying jets. Many can be used in piston airplanes as well.

One simple rule of thumb is how to smoothly level off from a climb or descent. When changing altitudes, lead the level off by 10 percent of the vertical speed. If the airplane is climbing at 500 feet per minute, start the level off 50 feet before the altitude is reached to avoid an overshoot or undershoot. If the thought of percentages is daunting, just drop the last zero from the rate of climb.

Similarly, a good rule of thumb for planning a cruising altitude is to use 10 percent of the trip length, multiplied by a thousand. If the flight is 200 miles, an efficient cruising altitude would be 20,000 feet. Obviously, the service ceiling of the airplane becomes a limiting factor as well. No matter how long the trip, a Cessna 172 is not likely to climb into the flight levels (18,000-60,000 feet).

It can be helpful to know how fast your airplane is traveling in nautical miles per minute to determine how quickly you will arrive at a fix. To determine your speed in miles per minute, simply divide the speed in knots by 60 minutes per hour. Some commonly used speeds in jets are 200 knots (3.3 nautical miles per minute) and 250 knots (4.1 miles per minute). A piston single that flies at 120 knots is also traveling at two miles per minute.

The figure above can be used in the formula, distance = rate x time, to determine the time to a fix. Time would be equivalent to distance divided by rate so the piston airplane traveling at 120 knots would take 50 minutes to fly to a fix 100 miles away (100 miles / 2 miles per minute). A jet flying at 250 knots would cover the same ground in about 25 minutes. (To make the calculation even simpler, round 4.1 miles per minute to four. The answer using 4.1 is 24.39 minutes. Twenty-five is close enough for government – or pilot – work.)

Descent planning is a common math problem in airplanes. In modern airplanes, the flight computer (FMS) can be programmed to initiate a descent, but it never hurts to double-check the computer. The first step in the process is to determine how much altitude the airplane will need to lose. In my Lear 45, we commonly cruise at FL400 (40,000 feet). If we were planning to descend into a sea level airport such as our home base at Houston Hobby, we would need to lose 40,000 feet. For airports at higher elevations, (such as Aspen, Colorado, field elevation 7,820 feet), we would need to plan on losing about 32,000 feet (40,000 – 8,000). Airport elevations are recorded in heights above mean sea level (MSL) and can be found on charts or websites such as’s airport directory.

One you have determined how much altitude to lose, divide that number by 300 to determine how far out to begin a descent in order to maintain a typical three degree glide path. This means that the airplane would be descending about 300 feet per nautical mile. To descend into Aspen, we would want to start 106 miles from our destination (32,000/300). To make the calculation easier, you can drop the last two zeros from both numbers (320/3). The longer descent into Houston would require 133 miles.

Now that we know how far out to start the descent, we need to know what rate of descent will yield a three degree glide path. This number varies with groundspeed, which in turn is affected by the winds aloft. The simple way to determine a three degree rate of descent is to multiply the groundspeed (typically read directly from cockpit instruments) in knots by 5. For example, if the airplane has a groundspeed of 450 knots, the descent rate must be 2,250 feet per minute (FPM) to maintain a three degree glide path.

Because ILS (instrument landing system) approaches are also based on a three degree glide path, this rule of thumb can also be used to determine what rate of descent will keep the airplane on the ILS glideslope. If you plan to fly the approach at 100 knots, you should plan to descend at about 500 FPM.

Since official weather reports and ATIS broadcasts give temperatures in Celsius, another useful rule of thumb helps to convert Celsius temperatures to the more familiar Fahrenheit temperatures for briefing passengers. Start with the Celsius temperature from the ATIS, 34 degrees today in Midland, Texas where I am writing this, and double it (34 x 2 = 68). Next, subtract 10 percent of the result (68 – 7 = 61). The final step is to add 32 to the result of the second step (61 + 32 = 93 degrees Fahrenheit). With a little practice, this conversion can be done easily in your head.

When considering fuel performance, jet pilots generally think in terms of weight rather than gallons. This can be confusing because most airport fuel trucks pump fuel by the gallon. There is a rule of thumb to help pilots quickly determine how much fuel to order so that they don’t buy too much or – worse yet – not enough.

To start the planning, two pieces of information are needed: the fuel required for the trip and how much is already on board the airplane. A one hour flight in the Lear 45 can be expected to require approximately 1,700 pounds of jet fuel. (This number is obtained from aircraft performance data and flight planning sources available online). If the airplane already has 1,000 pounds on board, we need to buy at least 700 pounds of fuel to complete the flight.


Don’t stop there though. We don’t want to land with no fuel left in the tanks!

The FARs (federal aviation regulations) and company procedures specify that pilots must carry reserve fuel. A typical fuel reserve for the Lear 45 is 1,500 to 2,000 pounds. We should also plan for APU (auxiliary power unit) fuel usage of about 100 pounds. Therefore, the total fuel needed is 3,800 pounds (1,700 + 2,000 + 100). We would need to purchase 2,800 pounds since we already have 1,000 on board.


To convert jet fuel weight to gallons, divide by 6.7 pounds per gallon. This means that we would need to order 418 gallons from the fuel truck. A quick and dirty rule of thumb is that 150 gallons of jet fuel is approximately 1,000 pounds. This method can be used to check your math or for a quick estimate.

One last rule of thumb is that no rule of thumb that goes unused will be remembered. Practice using rules of thumbs to crosscheck the automation on every flight in order to keep yourself sharp.

Read the full article on Aviation Examiner

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Armed rebellion is not a conservative idea

With the recent revelations that some members of the militia defending Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch may have plotted to raid a U.S. Air Force installation, it seems necessary to hold a logical discussion of the risks of armed revolt against the federal government. An astonishing number of Americans are coming to believe that armed conflict between Americans and their government may be likely or even inevitable. Last year, a Fairleigh Dickinson poll found that 29 percent of Americans believed that armed revolution might be necessary within a few years to protect civil liberties. Almost half of Republicans held this view.

The fact that this option is even being considered by otherwise rational people is an indictment of the state of the country and the ongoing degradation of the rule of law under Barack Obama and the Democrats. The push to implement Obamacare against the opposition of the majority of Americans is only the tip of the iceberg of grievances against the present administration. On many occasions, the Obama Administration has chosen to ignore written law or implemented its own will over that of Congress by executive fiat. The revelations of domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency have convinced Americans that they are monitored constantly by the federal intelligence apparatus. The harassment of ordinary Americans by the Internal Revenue Service acts to intimidate citizens who care enough to get involved in the political process in opposition to the president. The trickle of information about the Benghazi killings argues that the Obama Administration would let Americans die and cover up the cause for political gain.

Into this mix of ever more intrusive government power and well-earned mistrust of those in charge comes those who, fueled by conspiracy theories of federal gun grabs, UN troops on American soil, “false flag” terror attacks, and FEMA concentration camps, feel that the only way to preserve American freedom is to violently rise up and destroy the current federal government which has expanded far beyond it limited constitutional role.

The potent mix of paranoia, misguided patriotism, and paramilitary training has produced a number of domestic terror plots in the past. Although Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City is the best known militia-based terror plot, McVeigh was far from being the only such plotter. One of the most recent plots to be broken was the Hutaree group in Michigan, which planned to murder local police officers. A lesser known case was the Tyler, Texas cyanide bomb plot from 2003 in which several people were arrested with a cyanide gas bomb that could have killed thousands.

Those who argue for an armed rebellion to preserve the Constitution miss the obvious fact that armed rebellion is itself unconstitutional. The Second Amendment preserves the right of the people to keep and bear arms, but there is no right to take up those arms against the constitutionally established and democratically elected government of the United States.

The First Amendment protects the “right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for redress of grievances.” There is no mention of a right to violently fight to overthrow the government.

In contrast, the Constitution makes clear that an armed rebellion would be a justification for an even greater abridgment of rights. Article I Section 9 provides that the “writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it[emphasis mine].”

The fledgling United States of America suffered its first rebellion long before the Civil War. In 1791, during the presidency of George Washington, a group of Pennsylvania farmers, angered by a federal tax on whiskey rebelled against the federal government. President Washington and founding father Alexander Hamilton, at the time Secretary of the Treasury, did not celebrate the Whiskey Rebellion as citizens exercising their constitutionally protected right to revolt against a law that they disagreed with. Rather, they sent a force of 13,000 militia troops, led by Hamilton himself and Virginia governor Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee (the father of Robert E. Lee) to crush the rebellion. Most of the rebels fled, but two of the leaders were captured and convicted of treason.

That is essentially what armed rebellion is. Treason.

Article III Section 3 of the Constitution eliminates any doubt that armed revolt is treason. The Framers wrote, “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort” [emphasis mine].

If the prospect of committing treason is not enough to discourage would-be rebels from taking up arms against the federal government, there are many other practical reasons as well. The most obvious is that such a rebellion would be doomed to failure from the outset.

In both the American Revolution and the Civil War, rebels had popular support for their positions. Prior to the Revolution, patriot activists had gained control of colonial legislatures and militias. Modern militia activists are fond of claiming that only three percent of the colonial population took up arms against the British government, but the percentage of the colonists supported the struggle for independence was much higher, approximately 40 percent by the end of the war according to some recent estimates. In the Civil War, secession had overwhelming support in both the Confederate state governments and among the white Southern population.

Today, opinion polls may point to unhappiness with the current federal government, but it is beyond debate that the current government was elected by a majority of American voters. Rebels would be fighting against the democratic will of the American people. If mainstream conservatives, to say nothing of advocates of revolution, cannot win at the ballot box, it is extremely unlikely that they would be able to win a war of rebellion. Even among the people who voted against President Obama, roughly half the country, many would not support an armed revolt.

Historically speaking, insurgencies almost never defeat conventional armies. The only real hopes for most insurgencies are to outlast their foe or hope for aid from outside. In the American Revolution, the Minutemen did not defeat the Redcoats on their own. The war did not end until after the French entered the war on the American side with a massive contribution of regulars and naval ships. In Vietnam, the South did not fall to the Viet Cong as commonly believed, but to a conventional North Vietnamese invasion. In Iraq and Afghanistan, insurgents, after being defeated on the battlefield, have merely waited for American troops to withdraw.

If there is little hope of a militia insurgency defeating the federal government on its own or benefitting from a foreign intervention, the big question is how the U.S. military would react. Members of the armed forces take an oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. In a situation with rebels illegally taking up arms against the constitutionally established and democratically elected government of the United States, the course of action that America’s soldiers would take should be clear.

The irony of an armed revolt by militia members is two-fold. On one hand, recent polling in the run-up to this year’s elections indicates that voters will hand the Democrats a historic defeat. Such a rejection of progressive policies after six years of Barack Obama and eight years of Harry Reid could indicate the electoral course correction back to constitutional principles that many militia members claim to desire. Violence against federal law enforcement or military personnel could endanger that correction by pushing moderate voters away from conservative candidates and back toward the Democratic liberals.

On the second hand, an armed revolt would give the current administration even more of an excuse to crack down on political opponents. The Obama Administration has shown the willingness to use any excuse available as a pretext for advancing anti-gun legislation and subverting individual freedoms of speech, religion and press. With a violent rebellion or insurgent campaign underway, President Obama would have the constitutional power to arrest and detain American citizens without presenting evidence against them (habeas corpus), ushering the indefinite detention of American citizens that many fear.

Conservative candidates who were perceived to agree with the insurgents who prey on their fellow Americans would likely face defeat at the polls. This would mean an increase in the liberal voting bloc that is only too willing to vote away constitutional freedoms and to confirm judges with an activist interpretation of the Constitution.

Thus, the erosion of rights feared by the militia could become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Read the full article on Atlanta Conservative Examiner

Friday, May 9, 2014

Bundy militia may have planned to attack military base

When the standoff between federal agents and militia groups supporting rancher Cliven Bundy ended peacefully a few weeks ago, much of the nation breathed a sigh of relief. It had seemed to many that the situation was likely to end in a modern version of an Old West shootout or worse, a battle on par with the 1993 botched ATF raid on David Koresh’s Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. Now Examiner has learned just how close violence came to erupting in Nevada as an exclusive new report indicates that some of Bundy’s defenders may have planned to raid a U.S. Air Force base to resupply their ammunition.

The information, which comes from a person with contacts inside the militia movement, states that a small number of militia members who refer to themselves as “Three (III) Percenters” had plotted via Facebook chats to raid what one of the militia members identifies as an “ammo dump” on the grounds of the Nellis Air Force Range northwest of Las Vegas. The location that was pinpointed by the plotters has been confirmed by Examiner to be on the outskirts of the Nellis range.

The information provided indicates that the plot was allegedly spearheaded by Richard X. Nelson III, who is connected to several militia groups. The “III” does not signify that Nelson is the third man in his family with the same name, but rather is an appellation to identify him as a Three Percenter. On his Facebook page, Nelson claims to be the “Nevada administrator for the Three Percent Club.”

According to several militia related websites and blogs, “Three Percent” (III%) refers to the percentage of the American colonists who actually fought against the British in the American Revolution. The connotation is that Three Percenters are ready, willing, and in some cases eager to take up arms to fight “for the freedoms the nation we love and honor was founded on.” Many view the federal government as the enemy threatening those freedoms.

A similar group in which Nelson also claims membership is the Oath Keepers (OK), a group for military and police founded by Stewart Rhodes, a former Ron Paul aide. The Oath Keepers, according to its website, is a “nonpartisan association of current and formerly serving military, police and first responders who pledge to fulfill the oath all military and police take to ‘defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.’” The group’s website lists ten orders that members will refuse to obey. Several of these orders relate to conspiracy theories such as imposing martial law, blockading cities to “turn them into giant concentration camps,” forcing Americans into detention camps, and aiding the use of “foreign troops on US soil against the American people.” More realistic scenarios include detaining US citizens as “unlawful enemy combatants” and conducting warrantless searches. The Oath Keeper website further notes that while the OK and the III% are each “unique” and “autonomous,” due to common interests and values “it follows naturally that some Oath Keepers are also III%ers, and vice versa.”

In online conversations that occurred more than a week after the standoff ended on April 12, Nelson can allegedly be seen attempting to convince other members to join in an attack on what he believes is “a secret base that I discovered being built out there in the middle of nowhere that contains a hardened dirt landing strip, 2 [sic] f-117 stealthy [sic] bombers parked in the dirt (really bad for the engines by the way) as well as thre [sic] facilities of very odd design... one of which is a personnel training facility that is clearly shown as such by the track and shooting ranges located near it.”

In one conversation on April 22, a week after the federal retreat from the Bundy ranch, Nelson calls the federal actions equivalent to the first shot of a war being fired and asks, “Since government is firing upon us why is it so [expletive deleted] HARD for me to get a strike force together to go raid ammo dumps?”

Frustrated that other Three Percenters and Oath Keepers are not responding to his calls for action, Nelson threatens to get help from a different militia group, the OMA, in order to carry out the attack. The source identified the OMA as “Operation Mutual Aid” and referred to them as “radicals.” The OMA has been confirmed to be the “support operation” for the Cliven Bundy defense effort.

Another of the militia members in the conversation notes, “OMA is the enemy of all who stand for patriot[ism] and truth. They are the ones wanting a revolution to get bloody and were willing to [t]rick the Bundy's [sic] to get it. They do not care who is sacrificed in order to start a bloody revolution.”

Nelson later responds, “I don’t wish for blood but its [sic] evident[ly] inevitable.”

This exchange was preceded by a discussion that included theorizing about several conspiracy theories including the possibility that solar flares would trigger earthquakes, that foreign troops from the United Nations were supplementing the federal agents around the Bundy ranch, and that the government was about to detonate nuclear bombs in an electromagnetic pulse “false flag” attack that would be used to implement martial law and keep President Obama in power.

The group was concerned about infiltration by federal agents and monitoring by federal law enforcement and intelligence services. One says, “My phone turned on last summer and took my picture while setting [sic] on a dresser. Not cool. I had just spoke [sic] a couple days earlier with people of their [federal authorities] interest.” Another says, “I have come in the house and found my computer on and someone trying to type in passwords remotely. And I know I had turned it off before I left.”

According to Examiner’s source, the member’s concerns were valid. One or more members of the circle publicized Nelson’s alleged intentions among the other, more mainstream, militia members. When the plot was exposed, Nelson lost his command status with the Nevada III% and the other members of the circle, in the words of the source, “had their moral compass corrected to true North. By true North, I mean constitutionally correct in defense rather than rules of engagement for offensive posture (domestic terrorism….”

Because the source believes that the other members of the circle were duped and caught up in the group think of the moment, he asked that plotters other than Nelson not be identified. The others “were and are only guilty of being stupid and talking stupid stuff,” he says. “The person planning, however, needs to be made an example of what not to do.”

Dawn Appelberg, a self-described intelligence analyst with the Glass Antler Facebook page who was also involved in the Bundy protection effort, denied that there ever was a plot to raid a military installation. “We were in a conversation about finding out who is coming in and where to send them when someone posted a picture of what he considered to be a secret military installation,” she told Examiner. “No one responded to the picture.” Appelberg and other members of the circle also said that Richard Nelson has been excluded from the Facebook group where the discussion took place.

Attempts were also made to contact Richard Nelson. Mr. Nelson was not reachable by phone and did not return emails.

The conversations do indicate that many of the people involved with the Bundy effort were not eager to respond to Nelson’s calls for a raid. His comments indicate that it was difficult to find volunteers to take part. Conversely, it also seems that few were willing to take a principled stand against an attack on a military base. There is no evidence that anyone took Nelson to task for suggesting a first strike against the federal government or that he has been separated from the Bundy defense effort.

There is also no evidence at all that any member of the Bundy family was aware of the plot. Several comments were made by members of the circle that some of the Bundys were uncomfortable with having large numbers of armed men surrounding their home.

Neither the OMA, the Three Percenters nor the Oath Keepers are listed as a hate or terrorist group by the FBI or the Southern Poverty Law Center although a 2009 report by the SPLC, “The Second Wave: Return of the Militias,” does call the Oath Keepers “particularly worrisome” due to the involvement of many active duty law enforcement and military personnel. In contrast to the opinions in the SPLC report, there was no evidence of racism among the circle of plotters. Majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was criticized just as sharply as America’s first black president, if not more so.

The existence of individuals within the militia movement who are willing to foment a revolution that they see as inevitable may not surprise many in law enforcement. According to a Fairleigh Dickinson poll from May 2013 nearly a third of Americans believed that armed revolution to protect civil liberties would be necessary within the next few years. Since that time, the revelations of IRS targeting of conservative groups and NSA surveillance programs have made the situation seem all the more dire and urgent for many. As one law enforcement officer told the SPLC, “All it’s lacking is a spark. I think it’s only a matter of time before you see threats and violence.”

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