Cynical Synapse

Sat, 29 Sep 2007

What Else Can I Say?

Filed under: Duh, Michigan, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 3:33 pm

The state of Michigan, fast approaching the point of bouncing checks, is considering a government shutdown. As always in these situations the obligatory statement was issued containing the wording

[The governor] said non-essential services will stop…

which leads to the inevitable question “Well, if they were non-essential…?”

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Top 10 Cuts for Michigan’s Budget

Filed under: Michigan, Politics, Rants — cynicalsynapse @ 12:33 pm

Most people with common sense (which, apparently, escapes our state legislators) realize the solution to Michigan’s current budget crisis must include both cuts and revenue (tax and service fee) hikes. Discussions on tax hikes are a big topic in the news but there’s not much about what’s being considered for cuts. So, to help our inept lawmakers out with some practical options, how about this for the Top 10 Things to Cut?

10. Make DIT part of Management and Budget—why does it need to be a cabinet-level department anyway? Besides, don’t you think the techies would rather be part of BIT (Bureau of Information Technology) than be called called DITs?

9. State-owned cars—if agencies have offices and employees where they’re needed, why are there so many state-owned cars constantly on the roads? Relocate the people and offices if they’re not where they need to be so they can use “windshield” time for their jobs instead.

8. Sell the excess MDOT equipment—MDOT has one or more yards full of millions of dollars of brand new trucks and equipment just sitting there. If they need it, then use it; if they don’t need it, then why was it bought in the first place?

7. Eliminate MIOSHA and DEQ29 other states are happy letting the Feds take care of private sector employee safety and health. And what does DEQ do that the US EPA can’t? Why not let Michigan “cost-share” something back to the Feds for a change?

6. State employees cutting grass—contract this service out and reduce the total area being cut. For example, prisons aren’t supposed to be appealing anyway, so why cut their grass at all?

5. New State Police headquarters—The State Police didn’t ask for this $116 million no-bid deal, which lawmakers approved without question, and their present headquarters seems to be more than adequate while also complimenting and benefiting from MSU’s Criminal Justice program. It’s a questionable deal at best and unnecessary at worst.

4. So-called Intelligent Traffic System—lots of money has been wasted to put in costly variable message signs and camera controls for traffic lights. The stupid signs rarely have any useful information on them about actual live traffic conditions. The traffic lights are out of sync with each other and fail to see cars are backed up behind them sometimes for more than a half mile! Not to mention a room full of people to “manage” them. What’s the point? Shut it down and save the utility costs and the wasted salaries.

3. State liquor warehouses and deliveries—last time I checked, private industry did just fine getting their products from factory to stores without needing the government do do it for them.

2. First Gentleman’s Staff—probably won’t save much money compared to the $1.75 billion budget gap. But, it just looks bad and doesn’t benefit the state or its citizens anyway; it’s all just pomp and circumstance.

1. State Legislature—they can’t do their jobs anyway, so why do we need to waste $54.3 million on them?

Fri, 28 Sep 2007

Inept Politicians Fail Michigan’s Citizens; Deserve to be Fired

Filed under: Behavior, Michigan, Politics, Rants, Take action — cynicalsynapse @ 5:00 pm

There are 148 of them and they’ve been huffing and puffing to no avail about $1.75 billion budget gap since before they took up residence in the capital building last January. I know they do other things, but the budget is the only thing they really have to take care of and that’s what the citizens hired them for. With all but essential health and safety services looking like they’ll be shut down at midnight on Sunday, it becomes painfully obvious the legislators have failed in their most critical duty. If the rest of us proved to be that inept on our jobs, would we still have that job? Susan Demas made similar remarks in her commentary in yesterday’s Battle Creek Enquirer. I challenge Michigan voters to remember this next election!

Now let’s consider that Michigan is one of only 11 states that has a full-time legislature. That’s right, 39 other states get by with a part-time legislature. Now, to add insult to injury, only California pays their legislators more than Michigan does. So, here’s what our do-nothing state senators and representatives are costing us. For not doing their jobs, they each collect a base salary of $79,650 (second highest in the nation), plus a monthly per diem for expenses of $1,000. In just salary and per diem, we’re paying $13,564,200.00 for a bunch of people who can’t get the job done. The actual cost is probably closer to three or four times that once you factor in benefits and their office staffs.

A Detroit Free Press editorial claims foolish politics ruins [the] state. Although we all know it’s more complicated, they summarize the issue as Republicans, who hold the majority in the Senate, poo-pooing Democratic Gov. Granholm’s insistence on raising taxes. It seems the Republicans want to cut their way out of the budget deficit, but they’ve failed to come up with a plan that can do that. The Democratic House can’t seem to figure out how to bring the other two sides together. As the Free Press says, the three parties “comprise a tyranny of incompetence that’s unable to lead, unable to work together, and has no discernable plan even now for getting the state out of this predicament.” The shutdown will have very real impacts on daily living, not to mention the serious long-term consequences for the state’s economy.

All three sides say they agree government reform is an important element to help contain the cost of government. But almost no reforms have been agreed upon. The Freep hits the nail on the head:

After seven months, reasonably capable leadership should have been able to sort out the give-and-take among all three of those options and come up with something that everyone could live with. There have to be cuts. There must be a tax increase. And reforms have got to begin to take hold in the next 12 months to prevent this all from happening again.

To the legislature: in the words of Larry the Cable Guy, “Git-r-done!” And since you can’t come up with your own ideas, how about this for starters? Eliminate the state legislature! The way I see it, that’s both a reform and a $54.3 million cut the Republicans should be able to live with since it culls a whole ineffective and wasteful body from state government. Gee—only $1.69 billion to go…

Tue, 25 Sep 2007

So, What About O’Reilly?

Filed under: Behavior, People, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 9:31 pm

I expected a big outcry over Bill O’Reilly’s allegedly racist remarks on the September 19th edition of The Radio Factor. Amazed at the relative silence, I found the following comment from “DaTruth” in response to CNN radio personality Roland Martin’s commentary on O’Reilly’s hang-up with Sharpton and Jackson.

This is SO far out of context that it’s ridiculous. O’Reilly has made the entire hour of this show free on his website. I checked it out to see what the fuss was about. I think this guy’s wrong on tons of issues, but this time Media Matters blew it.

If you actually listen to it, you’ll see that the point he was making –if clumsily in the so-called offensive part– was that despite the fact that black culture is mostly defined in the media nowadays by gangster rappers, that in reality day to day black culture is not really different than day to day white culture in terms of their interests, their sense of norms, etc.

So, go ahead and criticize the guy for his politics. I’ll be more than happy to join you on many fronts.

But if you take this out of context Media Matters blurb and try to make it about “O’Reilly’s a racist”, you’re just plain wrong.

I’m interested in the facts; the truth. In this case, Media Matters went way overboard in trying to play this into something that it’s obviously not.

If you’re not going to actually listen to it, you can’t really make the judgment.

Go to www.billoreilly.com. You’ll see a headline about “CNN Moves to the Dark Side”. If you click on that, you’ll get a link to the actual audio of the hour in question.

I don’t listen to Bill O’Reilly or any of the the other self-righteous radio personalities, whatever their political leaning, so I didn’t hear the original show. But, I have to admit the hour 2 audio does not paint the racist picture Media Matters would have us see.

Still, while O’Reilly might get a by as the unoriginal gangster, his comments are, at best, ill-considered. While he may be attempting to be positive, he still sounds condescending and strained in his efforts to embrace racial equality or claim assimilated cultures. Remember those commercials from the 70s? Kinda sounds like one of them. You know, “some of my best friends are Black.”

Mon, 24 Sep 2007

The Truth About Jena

Filed under: Behavior, Civil liberties, People — cynicalsynapse @ 9:37 pm

Townsfolk admit Jena’s not perfect but claim the town is not the racial hotbed it’s been made out to be in the media. “You have good people here and bad people here, on both sides,” Ben Reid said. “Once all is said and done and you media folks leave, we’re the ones who’re going to have to live here.”

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Sun, 23 Sep 2007

O’Reilly’s Racist Attitude Demands Action

Filed under: Behavior, Racism, Rants, Take action — cynicalsynapse @ 3:13 pm

It seems Bill O’Reilly and Al Sharpton had dinner together recently in a restaurant in Harlem. And now Bill’s all proud of himself for discovering Blacks are decent folk after all. In an interview with NPR’s Juan Williams, O’Reilly he went on about it on the air in extremely condescending terms—just unacceptable!

O’Reilly’s blatant racism demands we call for his ouster. Read the interview; it’s far worse than those remarks Don Imus made causing his downfall. We cannot now, in good conscience, tolerate the public display of Bill O’Reilly’s Jim Crow beliefs. Visit O’Reilly’s website, get the list of stations and advertisers that give him a platform, and let them know his type of vitriole is cannot be tolerated.

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What Can You Do?

Worthless, Spineless Windbags in Lansing

Filed under: Michigan, Politics, Rants — cynicalsynapse @ 1:56 pm

An editorial in today’s Detroit Free Press sums it up: an utter failure of leadership. Once proud Michigan’s tourism slogan used to be “Yes! Michigan!” I think maybe now it’s “what Michigan?” That may really come true if the legislature and governor don’t resolve a $1.75 billion revenue shortfall before next year’s budget takes effect October first—failure to do so will shut down state government.

What on earth do Gov. Jennifer Granholm and the state Legislature think they were elected to do, wring their hands and play politics while the state sinks into chaos?

Their lack of accomplishment for the last nine months has been a horrible disservice to the people of Michigan, already living under clouds of uncertainty about their jobs, their children and their homes. Instead of doing their part to clear things up, the state’s chosen leaders have made the skies darker by failing to enact a state budget — the fundamental way elected officials provide a stable, functioning government that delivers basic services and makes Michigan a good place to live, work and learn.

So what do we need a legislature for if they can’t do their damn jobs? I say vote them all out at the next election regardless of which way they vote on tax hikes or spending cuts. It’s not rocket science! They have to eliminate the budget deficit. There are only 4 options: raise revenues (either through tax hikes or increased user fees—a form of taxes anyway), cut spending (and, thereby, services), borrow (which just defers the real problem), or some combination thereof. Here’s the part that seems to elude our so-called representatives: do something!

Now, I’m not an expert on the state budget or anything. I’m not in favor of cutting essential services like law enforcement, oversight of childcare, unemployment services, and things like that. But everyday on my way home from work, I pass an MDOT lot with what must be $2 million worth in new trucks and dumpers just sitting there. Been that way for at least the two years I’ve been passing it. Looks like a reasonable cut right there to me, along with the half-dozen or so state jobs for the idiots involved in wasting our tax dollars to put that stuff in a yard to begin with. Are there other yards like this one? Does every state government department have similar waste, fraud, and abuse?

I drive a lot, and this year nearly every major Michigan interstate and state highway I’ve driven on—at least a thousand miles worth—has been repaved. I realize federal money pays for part of that, but how much is the state match? How much of those contracts actually went into Michigan workers’ pockets? Not enough, since Michigan’s 7.4% jobless rate is the highest in the nation! If Michigan’s workers didn’t come out ahead on this deal, then we should have told the feds maybe next time. And what about the work that’s been underway to add more of those stupid variable message signs around Detroit and even rural Grayling (when’s the last time you saw a traffic jam at the I-75-US-127 interchange)? The signs are virtually worthless with messages like “Estimated time to xx: 9 min” as you sit in stop-and-go traffic or “slow down on wet pavement” when it rains. Duh. These added signs have got to cost in the millions. Again, if state benefits to exceed the state’s match, this is not a deal for Michigan citizens.

About a year ago, I asked MDOT about the cost of replacing perfectly good Big Green Signs with brand new Big Green Signs and upgrading the plain old mile marker signs from “Mile 123″ to “North I-75 Mile 123.0″ and “North I-75 Mile 123.2″ and so on, but got no response. When I complained to my state representative that MDOT didn’t answer, they told me to file a Freedom of Information Request. Doesn’t the legislature know how much the state departments are paying for things? Doesn’t the legislature know where they’re getting their money for such programs? Isn’t the legislature supposed to provide oversight? Don’t they care?

Seems like government isn’t “by the people” or “for the people” anymore. Like the Free Press says to the governor and the legislature: “Suck it up, make some decisions.” I’m stuck with you until the next election, but you can bet I won’t be voting for a single incumbant. If I wanted worthless, spineless windbags, I’d tune in to reality TV or shows like Jerry Springer. In the meantime, tell them to get the job done!

Sat, 22 Sep 2007

About Jena—The Other Side of the Story

Filed under: Behavior, Civil liberties, People, Politics, Racism — cynicalsynapse @ 8:27 pm

Jena, like elsewhere in America, has its share of racial concerns. There appears, however, to be “another side of the story.” It seems Jena has been made the poster child for racial inequality based largely on media hype. Apparently, the “Jena 6″ are really just ordinary thugs who may now unfairly benefit from efforts to improve race relations.

I can understand why everyone’s jumping on the Jena 6 bandwagon. The concept of the blatant inequality that it represents is so heinous as to make anyone mad. It seems, however, the media has been like sharks in the water with chum on the Jena 6 recently. Even the US District Attorney for Jena, who happens to be Black, while appalled, determined the noose incident didn’t meet hate crime criteria.

I’m not retracting my previous post because I think the country needs to consider its race relations. It’s easy to say everyone is equal but that doesn’t necessarily make it so. There are no magic wands here. But, it seems there’s reasonable doubt as to whether the Jena 6 is really an appropriate place to play the Race Card.

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Sometimes the Race Card Is Justified

Filed under: Behavior, Civil liberties, People, Racism — cynicalsynapse @ 12:39 pm

“The tree had been a gathering spot for white students,” the Associated Press reports. “The nooses were found after a black student asked school officials if blacks could sit there too.”

That’s what started the Jena 6 controversy, although the problem must actually be deeply rooted, extending back all the way to slave days. Why would the Black students even feel a need to ask if they could sit under the tree? That’s just idiotic in the 21st century! Sadly, then, it’s no surprise that, in Jim Crow Jena, the aftermath of serious, apparently systemic, racial tensions is a slap on the wrist for some white students and excessive criminal charges for the Jena 6, who are Black.

Al Sharpton’s not my favorite guy, but on this one, I’m right there with him. As if we needed any other proof there are still racist extremists out there, look at these two nutcases arrested with nooses on their pickup truck in Alexandria, just down the road from Jena. Is this mentality more prevalent than we thought or hoped? Would Alexandria’s police and mayor have responded the same way without all the media attention? Have we really not made as much progress in race relations as we like to believe?

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Arrested At Circuit City: Conclusion

Filed under: Behavior, Civil liberties, Legal, Oppression — cynicalsynapse @ 10:50 am

Michael Righi announces charges have been dropped from when Brooklyn, Ohio, police arrested him after he refused to show his receipt at Circuit City on September first. Charges were dropped in exchange for agreeing not to sue the city, implying the city knew they had overstepped their authority.

Lest there be any doubt that his sole intention in this matter was to assert the right to not be treated like a criminal by retailers and that the law does not require citizens to “present their papers,” Mr. Righi also announced his decision to donate $5,197.23 in paypal donations for his defense to the ACLU of Ohio.

We should all be pleased with this outcome as it represents a check on the police state mentality that has been insinuating itself into a variety of aspects in our lives since 9-11. More importantly, this case has served to generate a lot of discussion, and I believe increase awareness, of the whole receipt checking issue. My hope is that a growing number of people will not put up with receipt checking. When enough people do, the retailers will feel it financially and realize the stupidity of this impotent effort in the name of loss prevention.

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