Cynical Synapse

Sat, 30 May 2009

Axis of Evil Spinning Out of Control

Filed under: Behavior, North Korea, Politics, Rants, Rogue states — cynicalsynapse @ 10:56 am

Kim Jong-Il, North Korea’s dictator, has taken his country off the deep end. While we were enjoying beer and brats over the holiday weekend, the Communist regime successfully tested a nuclear bomb. Not satisfied with just that, North Korea launched two test missiles, one a surface-to-air and the other a surface-to-ship. So, in two days, North Korea demonstrated it was now a member of the nuclear club and that it had a delivery capability. With Iran’s nuclear huffing and puffing, North Korea’s actions underscore the axis of evil concept.

Naturally, there was world outrage and the UN Security Council condemned the tests. So, why did North Korea conduct the atomic explosion? How about proof of concept or negotiating position? Or maybe just just mocking Obama. The proof-of-concept ties into what is probably the larger concern, however. North Korea probably won’t use nukes on South Korea; China probably wouldn’t stand for that. But, North Korea could sell the technology, which is probably the bigger concern.

Since the tests, South Korea signed on to the US-led Proliferation Security Initiative. North Korea called it an act of war and said it’s no longer bound by the 1953 armistice. Kinda seems to prove the point, doesn’t it?

Although the level of commitment is less clear, the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council denounced North Korea’s actions. Big woopie do! No better than Secretary of State Clinton’s comment “there are consequences.”

Ever the spoiled brat, North Korea said sanctions would trigger “further self-defense measures”. There is discussion about the effectiveness of sanctions, considering average North Koreans are practically starving and living in abject poverty. The key is to employ effective sanctions; there are some.

There’s been much huffing and puffing on the situation, including claims North Korea’s test was inconclusive. There’s been no shortage of North Korean rhetoric and calls for tougher sanctions. At least it seems China and Russia are in agreement this time. It sure took them long enough to realize what a nutjob Kim Jong-Il is and how out of control Pyongyang is.

Thu, 28 May 2009

Driving With the Hood Up

Filed under: Cars, Driving, Safety, Stupid car tricks — cynicalsynapse @ 8:48 pm

OMG! On my way home today, there was a Dodge Neon on the other side of the freeway with its hood laying against the windshield. How’d that happen? Was the driver looking between the narrow gap between the hood and the car body? At highway speeds? I wish I could have gotten a picture of this bizarre event. Fortunately, as I passed this guy, he was getting off the expressway.

Mon, 25 May 2009

Honor Our Fallen Comrades

Filed under: Heroes, holidays, Life, Patriotism, People, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 12:42 am

There's no app for that

To many, the Memorial Day holiday weekend marks the beginning of the summer season. Some people forget the historical significance, which should be all the more important to us as a country entering the 8th year of the “overseas contingency operations”, formerly known as the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT).

As some may know, I’m a Michigan Army National Guardsman. I know people who have been killed in the Global War on Terror. Although I didn’t know him, one Guardsman is from the city I live in. We must remember those who are willing to give the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms we enjoy today. Their service is not political, regardless of your views on the current conflict.

Military graves

Many people are unaware of the background of Memorial Day. Here are 10 things to know about Memorial Day.

Update: This video sums it all up.

HT: Gateway Pundit via theblogprof.

Sun, 24 May 2009

Detroit’s Kids Left Behind

Filed under: Bailout, Behavior, Detroit, Economy, Life, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 5:08 pm

It’s no secret Detroit Public Schools (DPS) have been in dire straits for years. Obama’s new Education Secretary caught on pretty quick. Sec. Arne Duncan said DPS will be a “huge focus” of his tenure, indicating there’s a moral obligation to Detroit’s kids. In reporting Duncan’s remarks, the Detroit News said

The Detroit schools are beset by daunting problems: troubles with funding, a poverty rate among the highest in the state and students who perform poorly. Detroit Public Schools’ students have typically posted some of the worst scores in the state while its high schools are graduating just over half its students.

Certainly Detroit’s tax base is not what it once was and there’s no doubt districts like West Bloomfield spend more per student. It doesn’t help when folks like Councilwoman JoAnne Watson skimped on her property taxes. But, the state gives DPS the same per student amount as every other district in Michigan; DPS starts with a level playing field. On top of that, the state gave DPS a $70 million loan on top of two previous $19 million advances in July and August of 2008. On top of that, DPS got $355 million from the stimulus bill.

Robert Bobb

Funding doesn’t seem to be the fundamental problem. Bob2 (Robert Bobb), the emergency financial manager appointed to staunch DPS’ bleeding fiscal abscesses, has found ineptness and corruption contributing to the financial morass. Two have been indicted, two more are suspect, and I’m sure there will be more to follow. Besides blatant corruption, there are cases like the contract to secure and clean out closed schools. The contactor, with ties to school board members, never performed the work.

school violence

Many folks like to label urban areas as welfare cheat havens. While there are certainly those types of people, I have long believed the fundamental issue with urban dysfunction has to do with the disparity of education. If we dont’ teach Johnny how to read, he won’t be able to get and hold a job. Many want to blame the city, the school system. No doubt both have a role. But dropout rates have a basis in violence. That’s actually not as surprising as it should be. On an individual level, why would I want to go to school if I was afraid I’d get mugged or killed? It’s not a big leap, therefore, to violence being a disincentive to getting an education. How many bright, talented young people has society squandered because they live in an urban school district?

Looks to me like Bob2 is making great headway in addressing the financial woes of Detroit’s schools. Mayor Bing needs to focus on addressing the safety issue. Without both, DPS will be no better off.

Sat, 23 May 2009

Obama: Automaker Woes Impact Entire Country

Filed under: Bailout, Business, Cars, Congress, Detroit, Economy, Michigan, Politics, Rants — cynicalsynapse @ 6:00 pm

President Obama still treats the auto industry unequally compared to the financial industry. Both are vital, he says, yet banks and Wall Street get shored up. We can’t let either fail. If it’s unacceptable for GM or Chrysler to just liquidate, why is it ok to give them a bailout so pitifully small there’s no doubt both will be driven into bankruptcy? I guess uncontrolled liquidation would be like murder. The pocket change given to Chrysler and GM was designed to give them time to get their affairs in order before pulling the plug on their life support.

Back in December, I pointed out automaker problems would have far reaching effects”. Apparently, no one got that until Chrysler chopped 798 dealers, impacting 40,000 dealership employees in every state of the union. Suddenly, some politicians are upset, including Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL), Vern Buchanan (R-FL), and at least 66 other Congressmen are agitated about the dealer closings. Duh! Did y’all think this was just a Detroit thing?

Chrysler is cutting 789 dealerships which will affect about 40,000 employees. That equals about 50 employees per dealership. Assuming the same ratio for GM, the net affect on jobs touches over 96,000 people. In Michigan, the 39 Chrysler dealers to be shuttered equates to about 1,980 workers. Michigan should expect another 2,675 jobs to be affected by GM dealership reductions. So, on top of the Big 3 job losses, Michigan is losing at least 4,700 dealership jobs. What’s hard to track is the ancillary jobs, like the barber, party store, donut shop, and neighborhood restaurant.

Fri, 22 May 2009

City Council Wants to Dump Cobo Jobs, Too!

Filed under: Behavior, Cars, Detroit, Economy, Michigan, Politics, Racism, Take action — cynicalsynapse @ 5:37 pm

On May 19th, the Michigan Senate introduced Senate Bill 585 for another opportunity to keep Cobo Hall viable. In particular, the intent is to keep the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. I don’t live in Detroit, but I seriously want the Auto Show to be in Detroit. That means Cobo Hall needs repairs and improvements the City of Detroit can’t afford.

Since the Auto Show represents about $500 million to the local economy, we’ve got to have it. This is particularly important in view of the loss of automotive jobs, production, and shuttered suppliers and dealerships in the southeast Michigan region. To some, it doesn’t matter whether the show is in Detroit or a suburb. I admit either is good, but it’s a matter of pride to me that the show be at Cobo in Detroit. The D is Motown! It’s not time to ignore what made Detroit great like some disused neighborhood because of mistrust or myopic pomposity.

Considering the Detroit City Council rejected the last Cobo fix-up deal, the current bill, sponsored by 4 Republican Senators, hopes to at least keep the Auto Show in Michigan. The primary sponsor, Sen. Jud Gilbert (R-Algonac), and co-sponsor Jason Allen (R-Traverse City) aren’t from southeast Michigan. While the other co-sponsors (Sen. Michael Bishop, R-Rochester, and Nancy Cassis, R-Novi) are, it should be apparent this is not the hostile suburbs attempting to steal Detroit’s assets. Here’s the kicker from a Free Press editorial after Council’s blatant racial bigotry and spiteful short-sightedness:

Emmet Moten, the developer who just opened the Fort Shelby Hotel downtown, was at the meeting and found it appalling. Moten went to Lansing in 1983 on behalf of Mayor Coleman Young to successfully lobby for a regional tax to support Cobo.

“And now we’re saying, ‘We don’t want your money,'” Moten says. “If Coleman were alive today, he’d be outraged. It hurts, it really hurts.”

Coleman A. Young was Detroit’s first black mayor, elected in 1974 in the wake of the ’67 Riots which are still a sore spot for Detroiters. Early in his tenure, he remarked that Detroiters “are surrounded by hostile suburbs.”

I don’t keep track of events at Cobo Center, but I’m sure the Auto Show is not the only event held there. If the Auto Show moves to the suburbs to an improved facility, how many other events will follow? The potential loss to the city has got to be in the billions! Despite his flaws, former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was stewarding investment in Detroit, efforts started under Dennis Archer. If Cobo becomes a disused shell at the heart of Detroit, the new hotels and other downtown businesses will shrivel up. Unemployment, already at 20% or higher in Detroit, will jump even higher. The city will lose revenue from precipitous drops in hotel stays and even the casinos will be impacted.

Today, I discovered Detroit wants to host the 2020 Olympiad. What do you suppose the chances will be if Cobo goes under, taking Detroit hotels with it? The 2020 Olympiad may be 11 years away, but the decision will be made before then. Which brings us to the deadline for a decision on Cobo that Detroit City Council equates to a gun held to their heads. Do they not have a clue about how business works? Frankly, I’m surprised the Auto Show is willing to give them until after July 1st to decide. Most convention venues book up more than a year, even two years, out. Admittedly, I’m amazed the Council is proposing to nix the Cobo deal a second time before the State Senate bill even passes. I’m truly saddened by the apparent disregard for Detroit’s citizens and reputation evidenced by the Detroit City Council. Monica Conyers, Barbara Rose Collins, and Martha Reeves are the chief antagonists. Looks like Emmet Moten thinks Coleman would support the Cobo deal and if Kenyatta supports it, it must be good for Detroit. The only gun being held to Detroit City Council’s head is the one they’re playing Russian Roulette with.

Michiganders, let your State legislators know you support Senate Bill 585. Detroiters, tell Council enough already—let’s fix Cobo for everybody’s benefit.

Thu, 21 May 2009

Michigan Still Better Off than California

Filed under: Bailout, Economy, Life, Michigan, Paradoxes, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 7:18 am

April unemployment figures came out today. Michigan leads the country at 12.9%, the national rate being 8.9%. March’s rates were 12.6% for Michigan compared to 8.5% nationwide. Imagine where we’d be without the stimulus. But wait; it appears the recovery plan has no effect on unemployment. So where’s all that money going?

California’s unemployment rate is 11.2%, so they could surpass Michigan, but it’s not likely. On the other hand, Gov. Schwartzenegger faces a $33.9 billion budget deficit. While it’s certainly not good, Michigan’s $1.3 billion shortfall pales in comparison. California voters turned down proposals to solve the fiscal morass. The proposals included a tax increase and shuffling money from the state lottery and local health and mental health fenced funds. Voters did approve one proposal, though. They told the legislature no pay raises when the state faces a deficit. No matter how the Governator fixes this one, I’ll bet he won’t be back.

Despite lower unemployment, California has a higher foreclosure rate than Michigan. In California, foreclosures are at 4.19% with Michigan at 3.7%. Florida and Nevada far outpace the rest of the country at 8.95% and 6.58%. What’s up with that?

Michigan has a longer shoreline, touching 4 of the 5 Great Lakes. California has the Pacific Ocean, but it also has mudslides, earthquakes, and annual nasty forest fires. And the Redwings beat the Ducks in the playoffs.

Mon, 18 May 2009

Planes, Ships, and Automobiles

Filed under: Humor, Paradoxes — cynicalsynapse @ 10:11 pm

ships_use_airport_exit

This must be a holdover from the flying boats of the first half of the 20th century. And what are cruise ships doing on the expressway in the first place?

Credit: US Navy Safety Center and David Daniel who says this sign was on I-5 a few years ago.

Sat, 16 May 2009

Nancy Pelosi Backpedalling On Calling CIA Liars

Filed under: Blogroll, Congress, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 4:00 pm

The Speaker of the House released a statement saying she really meant it was the Bush Administration that misled the Congress. She says she has respect for the CIA’s employees. Then why did she say it would be nice if they released the briefings so we’d know what they briefed and when? Still doesn’t change the fact she knew about waterboarding.

Pelosi seems to have the first two covered pretty well (pun intended). Seems she’s not too good on that last one…

read more | digg story

Obama’s Short List—Who Owes the Most Back Taxes?

Filed under: Economy, Justice, Michigan, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 8:17 am

Amid much speculation as to who President Obama will likely nominate to replace retiring Justice Souter, Donklephant commented on this short list from First Read:

  • Diane Wood—7th Circuit
  • Merrick Garland—DC Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Sonia Sotomayor—2nd Circuit
  • Elena Kagan—Solicitor General
  • Jennifer Granholm—Michigan Governor
  • Janet Napolitano—Homeland Security Secretary

Despite the hype of a thorough vetting process, there’s no need to read the tea leaves to find out the most likely propspect. Cross out three names right off the bat. Kagan and Napolitano are already Administration big wigs, so no new scandal there. They won’t have any back taxes due. And Merrick Garland’s out from the get-go because of his name. While being the only male on the list might give him an edge, he’s obviously missing something the other candidates have in common.

Wood seems to be a person of character. Independent-minded, she’s willing and able to stand up for what she believes, even when her opinion is not popular. Those are characteristics I value in a Supreme Court Justice. They’re probably also disqualifying once she hits the Senate confirmation meatgrinder.

But I couldn’t find anything on Google about Wood owing back taxes. Same for Sonia Sotomayer, who was maligned by The New Republic‘s Jeffrey Rosen. The blogosphere if full of posts about Sotomayer being qualified. There are a lot of opinions both for and against Wood and Sotomayer based on their rulings, opinions, and perceived positions.

Everything considered, however, only one name on the short list is likely to be a serious contender. Even though she has zero time on the bench and her only court-related experience is as Attorney General, Michigan’s Gov. Jennifer Granholm has one thing over all the other candidates. Granholm has tax problems! Fits right in with the deficit reduction plan.

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