Cynical Synapse

Sat, 26 Mar 2011

Inconsistency, Questionable Morality Mark War in Libya

Filed under: Africa, Allies, Arab states, Budget, Government, Hypocrits, Libyan War, Military, Oil, Opportunists, Politics, President — cynicalsynapse @ 11:40 am

US F-15 crash in Libya

Operation Oddity Dawn might be a better name for US military actions in Libya instead of the Pentagon’s Operation Odyssey Dawn. The Libyan war marks an increase in US military commitment without Congressional approval. There was no message from President Obama to the American people. And yet, US military are engaged in hostile missions over Libya on a daily basis. Never mind where funds are coming from to pay for this major operation by a US fleet in Libya while under a continuing resolution. By definition, continuing resolution means funding at previous year levels and no new programs or expenses.

Beyond domestic politics and policy, why Libya? President Obama says the basis of intervention is preventing a “humanitarian threat.” But how is Libya different from Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, or even Darfur? Certainly there were or still are humanitarian threats in those places. But no international hue and cry and no international intervention. With inconsistent policy and unpredictable actions, we should not be surprised other countries view the US with suspicion and a degree of mistrust.

Qaddafi compound hit by air strike

Last time I checked, Libya was a sovereign state; a full member state of the United Nations. Whether you like Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi or not—and I don’t—he is recognized as head of state. Clearly, the popular uprisings—revolution—is strictly an internal matter. There is no legitimate basis for the UN to sanction military action against the Libyan regime absent some threat to the international community.

At best, the “humanitarian threat” is a selectively applied rationale for attacking Libyan forces. The as-yet nebulous mission morphed from establishing a no-fly zone to attacking Libyan ground forces to regime change. Those are all questionable escalations of force or end state. Consider, also, the disproportionate use of force in attacking ground troops with jet combat aircraft and precision guided munitions.

NATO air strike in Libya

So, why did a western coalition come together so quickly? Simply put, Western Europe has a lot of business interests in Libya and there’s a lot of oil there. And what of the driving force behind the UN resolution on Libya? It seems the Arab League is not actively involved in the no-fly zone. It is more likely using Western forces to its own ends.

Here’s the real question: will Libya be better off without Qaddafi? Will the world?

Sun, 20 Feb 2011

Opportunity Knocks; Jackson, Sharpton Run to Answer the Door

Filed under: Behavior, Deceit, Economy, Government, Greed, Hypocrits, Media, Opportunists, Politics, President, Unions — cynicalsynapse @ 3:50 pm

Revs. Jackson and Sharpton

Politics is full of opportunists and there’s certainly no shortage of people weighing in on the Wisconsin budget protests in Madison. The main stream media has become complicit in the rallying cry this is about preventing Gov. Scott Walker (R) from union busting. As a result, people and the media liken the Madison protests to those in Egypt. The reality is the budget repair bill limits public employee unions to wage increases tied to the Consumer Price Index. Unions can still bargain for higher raises, but the bill calls for those to be approved in a referendum before the people.

It’s no secret unions back Democrats and, not surprisingly, Democratic politicians tend to be pro-union. Thus, Pres. Obama has decried Walker’s blatant attempt to disempower workers. Never one to miss an opportunity to be a famewhore, Rev. Jesse Jackson descended on Madison to demonstrate his solidarity with the embattled workers.

Forty-nine million Americans are in poverty, 44 million are on food stamps, we give the wealthiest Americans tax cuts at Christmas time, and now lay off public workers. It’s not right, the workers ought fight back, and they are fighting back…That spirit of fighting back to close the north-south gap between the surplus culture and the suffering culture.

I payed for your pension

Jackson’s co-opportunist, Rev. Al Sharpton joined the labor movement under attack set, as well. Besides efforts to dimish public unions’ collective bargaining rights, Sharpton decries the detrimental effect on take-home pay the budget repair bill includes. Key elements elements at issue is the increase in pension contributions to 5.8% and in health insurance premiums to 12.6% for state employees.

Do you have a pension? Only 31% of US workers have a pension. I submit those are on the surplus side of Jackson’s culture divide.

got your race cards ready?

Another unfair burden Sharpton takes exception to is the higher health insurance premium costs Wisconsin workers may have to pay. But wait. According to the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, US workers pay 26.7% in health care premiums, more than double the 12.% proposed for state workers. Am I missing how downtrodden these guys are? They sure don’t seem to be just a step away from Jackson’s references to those in poverty and on food stamps.

Regarding public employee layoffs, Gov. Walker promised no furloughs and no lay off for 6,000 state workers if the bill passes. The only ones not working right now are those who are protesting, most of whom are teachers. Wisconsin teacher salaries average $77,718, nearly $24,000 more than the average of $53,724 for workers in Milwaukee. In 2009, the average statewide salary in Wisconsin was just over half that of the teachers: $38,500.

Sharpton, Jackson, and Obama have not come out in behalf of the downtrodden or even union rights. They participate in fomenting an issue to keep the working people of the suffering culture in their place. Sustainability is irrelevant.

Sun, 31 Oct 2010

Trick or Treat, the Lure of Free Candy

Filed under: Behavior, Greed, holidays, Life, Opportunists, People — cynicalsynapse @ 10:58 am

halloween candy

Some cities have official trick or treat times. In my area, they vary from only an hour to three hours. For the cities that “officially” allow trick or treating from 6 PM to 7 PM, have you noticed it’s not even dark yet? My city recommends 6 to 8 pm.

teen halloween

I have no clue where some people come from to trick or treat in my neighborhood. You see them get out of cars. I’m ok with that, but don’t ask for candy for the 3 month old or the sibling that got sick.

On the other hand, I don’t really like it when the big kids show up. You see, there’s an age when you’re too old to trick or treat. Just sayin…

Tue, 26 Oct 2010

Good Money After Bad

Amtrak on it's own rails at Dowagiac

Lest there be any doubt, I am a strong proponent of mass transit by rail and intercity rail passenger service. But…

The announcement of US DOT investing $150 million plus in Michigan’s high speed rail corridor is a misnomer. The grant is for Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) to acquire and rehabilitate track between Dearborn and Kalamazoo. When done, the track will allow passenger rail speeds of 79 mph. First, that’s not high speed. Second, the track is already rated at 79 mph for passenger trains. Besides relieving present owner Norfolk Southern of maintaining the track, the only tangible benefit in the grant is improving connecting track in West Detroit. The grant also includes $3.2 million for planning the Detroit-Chicago high-speed corridor. Isn’t it already planned? Work has already been done on the Amtrak-owned Kalamazoo to state line portion. What more planning needs to be done?

railroad diamonds

Just over $7.9 million will be spent on connections between Detroit area trackage and the main line in West Detroit. That part probably makes sense. But here’s a piece no one is talking about: Michigan needs to fund $30 million to get the grants. Any bets on how likely that is, given the current budget situation?

Interesting, too, is how the value of the grants is $150 to $161 million and how Sens. Levin (D) and Stabinaw (D) and Rep. Dingell (D) are all claiming credit. Regardless, they’re claiming credit for spending taxpayer dollars on something that provides little, if any, tangible benefit. In fact, if anything, it saddles taxpayers with maintaining Norfolk Southern’s right-of-way. And, if I had to bet money, I’d bet they had little or nothing to do with it. Otherwise Michigan would have been awarded these grants in the first round when Stimulus was big in the news. The fact they’re claiming responsibility just before the election is unadulterated, disgustingly sick, opportunistic grandstanding.

money up in flames

So far, Pres. Obama’s stimulus-related high speed rail initiative has amounted to jack nothing for Michigan in regard to improved travel times. Remodeling some stations and taking over a rail line is still the same 79 mph route. You won’t get people out of their cars with that. And it’s still shorter to fly, even with all the so-called security crap.

Previously on high speed rail:

Wed, 08 Sep 2010

“Pastor” Terry Jones is a Traitor

Filed under: Behavior, Global War on Terror, Hypocrits, National security, Opportunists, Rants — cynicalsynapse @ 8:59 pm

Nazi book burning

He most certainly has the First Amendment right to express his opinion and, even, burn the Koran. But that doesn’t make it right.

Virtually no one of any significance supports the plan by Dr. Terry Jones to burn the Koran on 9/11. In fact, the Commander in Afghanistan, GEN David Patraeus, condemned the planned Koran burning. He said:

Images of a burning of a Koran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan—and around the world—to inflame public opinion and incite violence. Such images could, in fact, be used as were the photos from Abu Ghraib. And this would, again, put our troops and civilians in jeopardy and undermine our efforts to accomplish the critical mission here in Afghanistan.

The Dove World Outreach Center hardly seems interested in peace or outreach, as it’s name might imply. In fact, the pastor of it’s 50-some congregation, Dr. Terry Jones, plans to proceed with burning the Koran no matter what, emphasis added:

Of course we care, it would be tragical [sic] if, if, because of this, one person, one person died. But, at the same time, we do not feel responsible for that.

Dr. Terry Jones

Terry Jones is supposed to be an educated man and a man of God. Yet, Jones makes up words and could care less about the teachings of Christ in the bible. He is an extremist in the same light as the Taliban. While he has the First Amendment right to burn the Koran, he is doing so at the expense of National diplomatic and security strategies. He is doing so while putting the lives of US and NATO military personnel on the line. He is risking nothing for his 15 minutes of fame. Yet, he refuses to even think twice about the disastrous effects his stunt could have on the Global War on Terror.

He may claim his Koran burning is a tribute to the victims of the attacks on 9-11, but he misses some of those victims were Muslim. Jones says he’s only protesting radical Islam, but he’s going to burn the holy book of all Muslims. He claims he’s not racist or intolerant, but he’s against any new mosques or immigration by Muslims. I’m sorry; I seem to be missing his point.

US troops in Afghanistan

In light of GEN Petraeus’ view, which I believe is accurate, Dr. Jones’ intentions are nothing short of treason. He is conspiring to provide aid and comfort to the enemy. The Taliban and al-Qaeda will use video of his Koran burning to recruit new insurgents and suicide bombers. Just the idea of Jones’ Koran burning has stirred anti-US sentiment in Afghanistan. In short, this clown is threatening to undo everything that’s been accomplished through blood and sweat in Afghanistan over the last 8 years. And what about Iraq, as well?


Sun, 11 Jul 2010

US Passport Prices Up 50% Because They Can

Filed under: Behavior, Citizen rights, Government, Life, National security, Opportunists, Taxes, Travel — cynicalsynapse @ 11:46 am

US passports

Just announced this past week, US passport fees rise about 50% on 13 July. While it seems there’s hardly any notice for this hefty increase, the State Department has been considering it since February. What’s interesting is 70% of public comment was opposed to the increase. To skirt that, State just implements the price hike while Congress is recessed.

Why are prices going up now and by so much? According to the State Dept., it’s because new passports include high-tech security features. Woops. Those features have been in place since 2006. Never mind that those high tech features have been hacked already.

Customs and Border Protection checking documents

If it’s not the high-tech cost, then State says it’s because of increased demand. Woops! I’m sorry, but the increased demand is because US citizens need a passport to return to the US. This has been a requirement for air travelers since 2006 and in effect for land/sea crossings for the last year. So, the so-called increased demand doesn’t support a passport price hike right now, either.

I live 20 minutes from Windsor, Ontario, and it’s always been easier to go there than it has to come back to the US. The guys in the little booths on the US side are just so full of themselves. I’ve not been to Canada since 9/11 because I knew it would be painful to come back home. Maybe I just don’t like being treated like a suspect for no other reason than wanting to come home. Now the US has added a travel tax in the form of the passport requirement. And now, they’re raising that tax.

Nothing permitted in visitor center

The added hassle of entering the US has cost jobs, income, and taxes. It’s done little, if anything, to increase national and border security. As if that’s not bad enough, US passport security is in jeopardy because we outsouce making the smartchip to Thailand. Which means the passport requirement isn’t even accomplishing its intended purpose. Just more security theater with little tangible benefit.

Fri, 09 Jul 2010

Bouchard Grasps at Immigration Frenzy

Filed under: Government, Governor, Legal, Michigan, Opportunists, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 6:05 pm

Oakland Co. Sheriff Mike Bouchard

Immigration reform and enforcement are hot topics, of late, especially with Arizona’s new immigration law. After much ringing of hands, the US Justice Department filed suit against Arizona, disputing the constitutionality of the law. At issue, from the Feds’ perspective, is the state usurping Federal authority. The common counter heard to such a claim is states wouldn’t need to if the Feds were doing their jobs.

A grand opportunist, Michigan gubernatorial candidate Mike Bouchard has his own immigration enforcement scheme to put him in the limelight. You see, Oakland County’s Sheriff is in fourth place among Republican hopefuls for Governor. It’s actually a Federal program in which local law enforcement reports illegal immigrants to the Feds. Under the program, electronic fingerprints of arrestees will be sent to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to determine if the suspect has legal status or not.

While Bouchard claims he’s been working on this for years, and over 400 other jurisdictions participate, the timing couldn’t be more to his personal advantage. Any benefit to his constituency is just an added bonus. Michigan’s director of Reform Immigration America, Ryan Bates had this to say.

What we are seeing from Sheriff Bouchard is indicative of the politics of immigration being played out in the governor’s race.

Oakland County Sheriff's armored car

As for Bouchard’s other grandstanding and opportunism, why is his name on the Department’s armored car? He served in the Michigan House in 1990, but ran for the Michigan Senate the next year. He served in the state Senate until he accepted appointment to fill the remainder of Sheriff John Nichols’ term after he passed away. Why? Bouchard would say it’s because law enforcement is in his blood. I submit it’s the fact the Sheriff makes a third again as much as a state legislator. Don’t misunderstand—there’s nothing wrong with wanting to make more money. But term limits, which took effect in 1992, would have soon left Bouchard out of a job in the state Senate.

Bouchard was re-elected Sheriff in 2000, 2004, and 2008; his present term runs to 2013. He obviously has higher aspirations, however, since Bouchard ran for US Senate in 2006. During that race, he had no problem collecting his $130,969 salary as Sheriff even though he spent a lot of time on the campaign trail. Oakland County taxpayers are, once again, underwriting Bouchard’s political ambitions as he collects his Sheriff’s salary while out on the campaign trail. That seems unethical to me.

A slick way for Bouchard to get his name out is his Student of the Month bumper stickers, a program he started as a State Senator. It sounds good, but what value does it really add? Just like Bouchard touts his role in Michigan’s sex offender registry. The problem is, sex offender registries don’t change crime rates. It’s just grandstanding on Bouchard’s part. Since only 2-4% of predators on social networking sites were convicted sex offenders, the registration program is both ineffective and costly. According to the US Department of Justice, New Jersey’s sex offender registry costs have grown nearly 7 times, from just over a half million dollars in 1995 to $3.9 million in 2006.

oaklandsheriff.net

There are those who question Bouchard’s ethics in office. Is it an abuse of office to have your children checked on by out-of-state police agencies? Others wonder what Mike Bouchard is up to.

A discrimination/wrongful discharge lawsuit about the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department is at the vanguard of issues. The suit has surfaced a number of issues within Bouchard’s administration of the Oakland Sheriff’s department. In fact, there are numerous allegations of wrong-doing in the Oakland Co. Sheriff’s Department under Bouchard.

He says he knows how to get state government back on track. In fact, Bouchard hasn’t been part of state government for a decade. And with the issues in the Oakland Co. Sheriff’s Department, why should Bouchard even be a serious contender for Michigan’s top job?

Previously on gubernatorial candidates:

Sat, 22 May 2010

Tangled Web of Two Kids’ Killings and Opportunistic Grandstanding

Filed under: Behavior, Crime, Detroit, Hypocrits, Legal, Opportunists, People, Politics, Racism — cynicalsynapse @ 4:38 pm

Jerean Blake

The story that’s caught the nation’s attention started with the senseless point-blank killing of Jerean Blake on Friday, 14 May. The 17 year old was shot to death outside a party store after leaving Southeastern High School where he was preparing to graduate. Blake planned to enter military service. According to the teen’s mother, Lyvonne Cargill, the string of events that followed isn’t “as innocent as it looks”. She said:

It didn’t take me an hour to know who killed my son. I do not know them. I never seen them before. All I knkow is that they bragged about the way they killed my son.

Chauncey L. Owens

Just 34 hours after Blake’s murder, Detroit Police Special Response Team officers were at a duplex to arrest a suspect. Police arrested Chauncey Louis Owens, 34, during the raid early Sunday morning. Owens was in an upstairs flat of the duplex, just two blocks from the store where he gunned down Blake. Owens’ actions were unquestionably pre-meditated. He told his victim “You better not be here when I come back.” Apparently he had to run home to get the gun he used to slaughter a kid half his age. Why? Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy summed it up:

The death of Jerean Blake is as senseless as it can get. The allegations are that [Owens] killed the 17-year-old high school student because he looked at [Owens] the wrong way.

Owens faces charges of first-degree murder and using of a firearm in the commission of a felony. He’s being held without bond until his June first arraignment. Owens’ prior criminal record includes 2 counts of auto theft, for which he was still on probation, breaking and entering, and escaping from the Washtenaw County jail.

Aiyana Stanley-Jones

Unfortunately, DPD’s raid went bad and 7 year old Aiyana Stanley-Jones was killed when an officer’s gun discharged. As Assistant Police Chief Ralph Godbee said, “This is a tragedy of unspeakable magnitude.” But, in the wake of the raid, the circus began and the original victim was all but forgotten. Beyond speculation and questions about what really happened, crews from A&E were filming for the network’s “First 48″ series. Some claim police were overly aggressive and used a flash-bang (stun) grenade because there were going to be on TV.

Aiyana’s family lawyer, Karri Mitchell, said the family wasn’t even thinking about a lawsuit. Speaking to the Detroit News on Monday, Mitchell said:

We’re not indicating the officer’s actions were intentional. We know it was an accident, but the method that they used in executing the search warrant was flawed. The family understands that the officer is not a monster. He didn’t intentionally shoot a 7-year-old girl.

Fieger press conference

Next in the 3-ring circus is the sheister lawyer made famous by representing Dr. Death, Jack Kervorkian, in his assisted suicide cases. By Tuesday afternoon, bottom-feeder Geoffrey Fieger was filing lawsuits in both federal and state courts on behalf of the family. This is the same family that, as late as Tuesday morning, Fieger was still arm-twisting so he’d have something to say at the press conference he’d already called. Fieger doesn’t care any more about little Aiyana or her family than he does about yours. As Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said, “[Fieger's] taking advantage of a terrible situation and it’s about money as far as he’s concerned.” Meanwhile, Fieger says the police raid was improperly executed and overzealous.

Despite Michigan State Police handling the investigation into the police raid that took Aiyana’s life, the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality called on US Attorney General Eric Holder to have the Justice Department investigate. Not to be left behind, especially in an election year, US Rep. John Conyers sent Holder a letter requesting federal resources to ensure the case gets the “close scrutiny” it deserves. Conyers (D-Detroit) is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees Holders’ Justice Department. No undue influence there, ya think?

Off. Joseph Weekley

Detroit Police announced <a href="http://www.racewire.org/archives/2010/05/detroit_police_departments_long_troubled_history.html&quot; target="_blank"Joseph Weekley is the officer whose weapon discharged, the round striking Aiyana Jones in the neck. Weekly, 34, is a 14-year veteran of the Department. He’s spent the last 6 with DPD’s Special Response Team.

The fact Weekley has been profiled by A&E’s show Detroit SWAT fuels speculation he might have been “hotdogging” for A&E First 48 film crews. DPD said Weekley was involved in a non-fatal shooting last year involved a barricaded gunman. The department determined he acted appropriately. In another federal lawsuit, filed last year, Weekley is named as part of a raid team during which an officer shot two dogs and pointed a weapon at children, including an infant. DPD is also under two federal consent decrees stemming from Justice Department lawsuits over excessive force and unsafe holding cells.

But Weekley has been involved in charitable and community events, as well. In 2003, he founded the SWAT for Tots program to collect toys for homeless and abused children during the holidays. Just last month, Weekley was involved in “Run With the Cops, Not From Them” to raise money for kids with cancer. A coworker said Weekley “tried to make kids see that the cops are the good guys.”

Al Sharpton grind

Even before the cop’s race was known, race-baiters and professional opportunists Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson began coming out of the woodwork. On Wednesday, 19 May, although stopping short of calling Aiyana’s shooting a racial incident, Jacksons wickered race in on the guise of deaths in other cities. Speaking to Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, Jackson said, “So there’s a racial dimension to this, which is volatile and ugly.” Then he drug up the riots of the 60s and health care disparity. Excuse me, Rev. Jackson, but none of that has anything to do with this case! Stop trying to turn a tragedy into a purposefully orchestrated act of genocide.

A week after her death, Aiyana Stanley-Jones’ funeral took place at Second Ebenezer Church. Rev. Jackson, John Conyers, Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, and several Detroit City Council members attended the 22 May service. Hundreds of mourners were also there.

Aiyana Stanley-Jones' casket

Rev. Al Sharpton gave the eulogy ostensibly at the request of the family, though I suspect it was the other way around. In the eulogy, Sharpton said, “I came because I feel we must stand and show the value and worth of the lives of our children.” At one point, he called on the congregation to help stop the violence in Detroit, saying, “This is it. This child is the breaking point.” While he condemned Detroit Police’s actions, asking if police in the affluent suburbs would use a stun grenade, Sharpton took a surprisingly positive approach:

I’d rather tell you to start looking at the man in the mirror. We’ve all done something that contributed to this.

In a typical, self-aggrandizing, egotistical display, Fieger also spoke at the service. As if to, yet again, make a mockery of the innocent girl’s death, a virtual spitting on her casket.

Will Jackson and Sharpton attend Jerean Blake’s funeral? John Conyers or Ficano? Detroit City Council members? I doubt it. The death of both kids is terrible and tragic. But Jerean Blake’s killing doesn’t suit the opportunists needs.

Aiyana Jones' house

Some have questioned why the police were in Aiyana’s apartment at all, but the warrant was valid for both flats in the duplex. Fieger questions the flash-bang grenade, perhaps rightly so, citing toys and neighbors telling police there were kids in the apartment. The accidental discharge that killed an innocent 7-year old does not change her family’s bad choices. Neighbors even said the girl’s house was no place for kids. Aiyana’s aunt, Regina Morgan, was engaged to Blake’s murderer, Charles Owens. Aiyana’s family harbored Owens in their house, albeit the upstairs flat. Aiyana’s father, Charles Jones, had also been seen at the party store on the day Blake was killed. And they had to have known if Lyvonne Cargill knew as early as Friday evening. Owens’ heinous crime set in motion the series of events that led to Aiyana Jones’ tragic death.

Not to excuse the police—this is still a wrongful death—but who will compensate Jerean Blake’s family? Fieger didn’t jump on the bandwagon to represent his mother in a lawsuit. I doubt Fieger will give his share of the Aiyana Jones lawsuits to Ms. Cargill. She wants Chauncey Owens charged with another murder. She summed it up:

I feel like [Owens] should do time for two murders. He’s the reason why the 7-year-old girl’s life was in danger. The whole family should go to jail. You don’t harbor a fugitive that you know killed my son.

Off. Brian Huff

And, to add some additional context, Detroit has seen a startling increase in homicides over the last month or so. On 3 May, Jason Gibson, a career criminal, shot 5 Detroit police officers responding to a 9-1-1 call. Detroit Police Off. Brian Huff was killed in that altercation, just 2 weeks earlier. His family and fellow officers just laid him to rest a week before Jerean Blake’s murder.

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