Cynical Synapse

Sun, 21 Aug 2011

Romney to Supersize $12 Million Oceanfront Mansion

Filed under: Behavior, Candidates, Hypocrits, Life, Michigan, Opportunists, Paradoxes, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 4:59 pm

Romney's ocean front mansion

Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney plans to replace his west coast mansion with one over 11,000 square feet in size. The two-story behemoth will be nearly four times the size of the current $12 million estate overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The Romneys also own a $10 million home on Lake Winnipesaukee in Wolfeboro, NH. Their townhouse outside of Boston is the Romneys’ official residence. Meanwhile, average homeowners just want to keep their house.

It seems the 3 bedroom, 3,000 square foot beachfront mansion is “inadequate for their needs”, according to a campaign official. The rationale? Five married sons and 16 grandchildren. As to why he bought the La Jolla CA house in the first place, Romney explained:

I wanted to be where I could hear the waves. As a boy, we spent summers on Lake Huron and I could hear the crashing waves at night. It was one of my favorite things in the world; being near the water and the waves was something I very badly wanted to experience again.

Mitt Romney in a FL coffee shop

Uh, Mitt, then why not come back to Michigan? He’s the son of a Michigan governor (George W. Romney), but went into politics in Massachussetts. He doesn’t own any property in Michigan, chosing three other states instead. And, even though his father was the head of American Motors before getting into politics, Mitt opposed automaker bailouts, writing an op-ed titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” in the New York Times.

In the 2008 primaries, Michigan voters bought Romney’s snake oil because they associated him with George Romney. But, it’s becoming clearer just what kind of charlatan Mitt is. wishy-washy on taxes. As Massachussetts Governor, Romney a healthcare bill very similar to the Federal bill he opposes. How does that work?

Romney: 'Stop me when you've heard something you like'

It should be obvious Romney has no clear vision nor commitment to a stand on the issues. Mitt’s only concern for Michigan is nostalgic voters casting their ballots for him based on his father’s reputation as Governor. As if that’s not enough, Romney’s campaign received $1 million from a shell company set up by a Bain Capital crony, Edward Conrad. Two other shell companies may also be investigated.

Exit question: Why won’t construction at La Jolla begin until after the campaign? Can you say taxpayer funded?
 

Previously on Mitt Romney:

Mon, 08 Aug 2011

Jill Biden Visits Starving Somalis to Address Their Concerns

Filed under: Africa, Famine, Helping others, Hypocrits, Opportunists, Paradoxes, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 6:37 pm

Dr. Jill and VP Joe Biden visit Somali refugees

All the media hype has been about Jill Biden visiting a Somali refugee camp in Kenya. As it turns out, Dr. Jill’s husband, Vice President Joe Biden is clearly pictured as being there, too. The US officials are touring the most populous refugee camp in the world “to underscore the United States’ commitment to working with the governments and people of the region, and the international community, to assist the people of the Horn of Africa.” How do you suppose Somalis in the Dadaab camp felt about their VIP visit?

To be sure, hundreds of thousands of children may die in East Africa’s famine, perhaps up to 12.5 million total, according to the UN. Dr. Biden’s whole point is to bring awareness to the crisis and increase donations.

What I’m asking is for Americans reach out and help because the situation is dire. There is hope if people start to pay attention to this.

C-32/Boeing 757

How do you suppose Dr. Biden got to the refugee camp in Kenya? Probably by C-32, the US Air Force designation for a Boeing 757 aircraft. The flight to and from cost taxpayers about $797,066, based on official costs of $25,547 and flight times of 15.6 hours. On top of that, add Secret service and protection costs, ground transportation, and lodging costs.

At a cost easily exceeding $1 million, can someone tell me how Jill Biden’s visit to a refugee camp is helping address the problem? Wouldn’t it just make more sense to provide direct aid to the Somalis? Just sayin’…
 

Sat, 06 Aug 2011

Seriously? North Korea Heads Non-proliferation Effort

fox done guarding the henhouse

Talk about the proverbial fox guarding the henhouse. North Korea assumed the presidency of the Conference on Disarmament today. The presidency rotates alphabetically among the 65 participating countries for 4-week terms. Ri Jang Gon—deputy to North Korean Ambassador to the UN in Geneva So Se Pyong, now chairing the Conference—had this to say to the body:

The DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] remains consistent in its support for total and complete elimination of nuclear weapons in the world and is fully committed to this goal.

Really? North Korea has proven that it’s not trustworthy. They are, obviously, actively pursuing nuclear weapons capabilities, to include missile delivery systems.

Conference on Disarmament

As the Council on Disarmament plenary session opened, Canada boycotted the session and no less than 28 groups protested. Not surprisingly, the North Koreans criticized Canada’s boycott. But, as U.N. Watch’s director Hillel Neuer said:

Allowing an international outlaw to oversee international arms control efforts is just plain wrong. North Korea is a ruthless regime that menaces its neighbors and starves its own people, and should not be granted the propaganda coup of heading a world body dedicated to peace.

While the propaganda point certainly has merit, this is really mostly meaningless. You see, it seems it’s time to recognize North Korea is part of the nuclear club.

sign not in use

It’s apparent the Conference on Disarmament hasn’t done anything substantive for years, maybe even a decade. Perhaps, as the UN considers budget cuts, they UN should consider eliminating the Conference on Disarmament.

Fri, 04 Feb 2011

Lack of Moral Fortitude Led to Fort Hood Massacre

Fort Hood shooting casualties

Released yesterday, the US Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee investigative report on MAJ Nidal Hassan’s Fort Hood shooting spree identified a number of shortcomings, some of which harken back to the intelligence failures described in the 9/11 report. At a press conference about the Senate report, titled A Ticking Time Bomb: Counterterrorism Lessons from the Government’s Failure to Prevent the Fort Hood Attack, Chairman Joe Lieberman (I—CT) summed up the report’s findings, calling them a heartbreaking tragedy of errors:

Our report’s painful conclusion is that the Fort Hood massacre could have, and should have, been prevented.

Contrary to the Pentagon’s own investigation into the Fort Hood jihad, the Senate report primarily blames political correctness for Hassan’s retention. As many may know, I’m in the Michigan Army National Guard. The Army has seven values: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. Many responsible for decisions related to Hassan’s military career clearly failed to live up to the Army values. The day after the shooting, I noted my anger at the failure of Hassan’s superiors in preventing the killings of 13 in the service of our country.

Cover of the Senate report on Hassan

From the Senate report, we know MAJ Hassan is an Islamist and clearly opposed to US war efforts and policy:

The officers who kept Hasan in the military and moved him steadily along knew full well of his problematic behavior,” the report found. “As the officer who assigned Hasan to Fort Hood (and later decided to deploy Hasan to Afghanistan) admitted to an officer at Fort Hood, “you’re getting our worst.”

Clearly, none of Nidal Hassan’s superiors had the moral fortitude to address his radical views and abherent behavior. In fact, despite lackluster performance, Hassan received glowing evaluation reports. In my mind, that represents gross negligence on the part of anyone involved or complicit. Those individuals violated every Army value and are forever tained by the blood of MAJ Hassan’s victims.

Keystone Kops

Another finding, which harkens back to the failures in inter- and intra-agency communications from before 9/11, is the FBI’s failure to look into Hassan’s radicalization. One of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) knew Hasan was communicating with suspected terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Yemeni cleric. Yet, they failed to look into the nature of this contact. Even worse, a second JTTF dismissed the evidence and buried the matter rather than cause friction between the two JTTFs.

Lieberman said Hassan “was not just a ticking time bomb but a traitor.” I hate to agree with the whiny Lieberman, but he’s right on target on this. Hassan will likely stand trial for his 13 murder charges sometime this year. I hope he gets the death penalty and it’s administered in accordace with Sharia law.

Not to be forgottin is the Mengele-esque dysfunctionality in officers who place MAJ Hassan in the role of counseling veterans with behavioral health issues. That is the unseen tragedy from Fort Hood.

Previously on the Fort Hood Shootings:

Wed, 12 Jan 2011

Global Warming is Real

Filed under: Deceit, Environment, Government, Life, Paradoxes, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 12:25 am

If you’ve looked at the weather report lately, what other conclusion could you come to?

HT: theblogprof

Wed, 24 Nov 2010

People Like Full-Body Scanners. Why?

Full-body scanner at Detroit Metro

As most will know, there has been a lot of media hype about the full-body scanners and/or “enhanced” pat-down procedures the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) put into effect recently. Even the Senate joined the media frenzy by grilling TSA head John Pistole. He has held firm on the procedures.

We know the terrorists’ intent is still there. We are using technology and protocols to stay ahead of the threat and keep you safe. [Several near-misses by terrorists on airplane bombings] got through security because we were not being thorough enough in our pat-downs.

Excuse me, Mr. Pistole, but the last terrorists on domestic flights were the 9/11 terrorists. They used box cutters, which are detectable by metal detectors; they were permissible at the time. Since then, the shoe bomber—Richard Reid—and underwear bomber—Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab—both were stopped by passengers, not TSA or Homeland Security. And both boarded aircraft overseas, not in the US.

TSA octopus

The key concern has to do with whether full-body scanners and pat downs are a necessity or invasion of privacy. They are both invasive and not proven effective, in my opinion. Others have called for more efficient screening as well. According to US Rep. Candace Miller (MI-R), we’re quite at risk:

There are well-trained, well-armed terrorists trying to get on planes and kill us…I want to be sensitive to preserve privacy, but I don’t want to die in an airplane getting blown up.

So, when’s the last time Rep. Miller flew on a regular airliner like the rest of us? And does she go through the screening like the rest of us? Any bets?

TSA enhanced pat down

Ancillary to the issue of the full-body scanners and “enhanced” pat downs is a backlash against TSA. Feeding this frenzy is US Rep John Mica (R-FL), who calls TSA “dangerously ineffective. Its specialty is what (its) critics call ‘security theater’.”

Most of us are accustomed to TSA officers at the screening point. There is a growing movement to ditch TSA without realizing private screeners must meet the same standards. While the law permits using non-TSA screeners, it does require adhering to TSA security edicts, so the same rules about scanners and enhanced pat downs apply.

Police and TSA at Newark

Despite the fact our country is fast becoming an overbearing police state, there remains popular support for the invasive screening procedures. In an ABC News/Washington Post poll, 64% favored full-body scanners and 48% had no issue with enhanced pat-downs. How can people be so willing to give up their freedoms for no tangible purpose or benefit? Reminds me of the 1967 Country Joe and the Fish song lyrics:

And it’s one, two, three, four
What are we fighting for?

Seems to me, the terrorists have won, with so many people willing to surrender their dignity, rights, and freedoms all in the name of security. Problem is, it’s not real security. There are 494 airports with commercial airline service, but full-body scanners are in place at only about 70 airports. That leaves 424 airports serving commercial air travel with the old-fashioned metal detector only passenger screening procedures. TSA head John Pistole withheld information on the new procedures until implementation so they would make us safer.

I wish I could say somebody else was responsible for that, but that is my decision and it was a risk-based decision. … In this instance my concern was … that we not publicize that because it would then provide a roadmap or blueprint to terrorists.

Just so I understand, Pistole didn’t want terrorists to figure out how to get around the new screening procedures before they rolled out. Will they somehow not be able to figure that out now that millions of law-abiding citizens must suffer invasive screening? That logic is so flawed as to warrant John Pistole’s resignation or firing for exceptionally idiotic and poor judgment. I live about 45 minutes from Detroit Metro Airport, which has millimeter wave scanners installed. About an hour away is Flint Bishop Airport, which does not have full-body scanners. For an extra 15 minutes, I can avoid the whole process. So what’s the point of wasting taxpayer dollars and punishing rule followers? Pistole said it himself—terrorists will find a way around the system.

The furor has been good for at least one entrepreneur, however. He’s marketing special underwear to prevent TSA from seeing your privates. At best, wearing these is likely to get you a free follow-on full-body massage in the form of an “enhanced” pat-down.

Previously on security theater:

Fri, 12 Nov 2010

School Denies Flag Rights During Veterans Week

Filed under: Citizen rights, Civil liberties, Government, Hypocrits, Justice, Legal, Life, Paradoxes, Politics, Racism, Schools — cynicalsynapse @ 9:21 pm

Cody Alicea rides bike with a US flag

On Monday, 08 November, Denair Middle School told a student to stop displaying the US flag on school grounds. According to Superintendent Edward Parraz, officials were concerned about racial tensions. Excuse me? The US flag causes racial tensions? I thought that was the Stars and Bars.

Mr. Parraz said the Campus Supervisor told Cody Alecia he couldn’t fly the US flag out of concern for Cody’s safety. Parraz blamed the matter on Cinco de Mayo which, by the way, is not a US holiday like Veterans Day.

Our Hispanic, you know, kids will, you know, bring their Mexican flags and they’ll display it, and then of course the kids would do the American flag situation, and it does cause kind of a racial tension which we don’t really want.

Denair Middle School

Denair Middle School is in mid-central California, southeast of Modesto. I realize all of California has a large Hispanic population, but it’s not like Denair is a border or urbanized region. Thus, it doesn’t follow that Cody’s display of the US flag could be seen as anti-Hispanic or even counter to celebrating Cinco de Mayo. Alecia had been displaying the US flag on his bike since the beginning of the school year, so this is not a new issue.

Today, 12 November, the school district decided Cody Alecia could display the US flag. This was in the face of nationwide outrage and a community march on the school. As a side note, perhaps Fox 40 personnel should undertake some remedial spelling and grammar classes. In any case, Supt. Parraz said:

[The] First Amendment is important. We want the kids to respect it, understand it, and with that comes a responsibility.

Burning constitution

Besides dissing veterans in this week that includes Veterans Day, Denair fails to address the underlying issues. Does anyone doubt this could have longer term impact on society at large?

As a result of the nationwide controversy, Cody Alecia is flying the US flag from his bike once again. Score one for correct over political correctness.

Previously on the US Flag:

Tue, 02 Nov 2010

Not Voting is Idiocy

Filed under: Behavior, Citizen rights, Congress, Life, Michigan, Paradoxes, Patriotism, Politics, Rants, Society, Take action — cynicalsynapse @ 5:45 am

Silverliner V pair

Unfortunately, significant numbers of eligible voters in the US don’t exercise their most basic right to vote. Everyone has an opinion on the weather and everyone has feelings about how they think the country is going. If you’re registered, you need to go cast your ballot. Michigan has two congressional races that are very close. If you live in the 7th or 9th districts, your vote could determine which candidate becomes your next representative.

Both major parties have efforts underway to get the vote out. Michigan Secretary of State, Terri Lynn Land, estimates about 52% of registered voters will vote> in tomorrow’s general election. Land, who is term-limited and lost a bid for Lt. Governor, thinks Michigan’s voter turnout should be higher.

This election represents a prime opportunity for voters to affect the direction of their state and local communities for the next several years. With more than 95 percent of eligible residents registered to vote here in Michigan, it’s time for those voters to speak up. I encourage everyone to make their voices heard by casting a ballot on Nov. 2.

Afghan woman shows her dyed finger after voting

Believe me, I am more cynical than most when it comes to the state of our political affairs and processes. Compare Land’s projection with Iraq’s 62% turnout for parliamentary elections in March. No presidential election, just legislators. Terrorist attacks killed 38 people who were simply trying to exercise their right to vote. On September 18th, 5.6 million Afghans risked the wrath of the Taliban to vote in parliamentary elections. Fourteen died as a result. When’s the last time anyone was killed on the way to vote in the US?

Yes, you have a right to not vote. And I am sworn to defend that right for you. But, if you don’t vote, I don’t want to hear your complaints about politicians or the direction the country is going in. Not voting shows you don’t care, according to Lonnie Allen.

Not voting is simply an ignorant act on your part. I guess wisdom is too much too hope for in a country where on average around 40 percent elect a president, but 65 percent choose who sings well.

Fri, 29 Oct 2010

Europeans Call for Curtain on Security Theater

department of security theater

Earlier this week, European airline and airport executives decried the burdonsome security requirements, labeling them “unnecessary and overly intrusive”. British Airways’ chairman started the furor in remarks he made before the UK Airport Operators Association.

Martin Broughton complained specifically about separate checks of laptop computers and forcing people to take off their shoes for checking, saying that such measures are “completely redundant,” the Financial Times reported Wednesday.

UK pilots, Heathrow airport’s operator, several European airlines, and even security experts welcomed Broughton’s observations.

“We need to keep passengers safe, but there’s also a whole bunch of security rules that could be eased out,” said Chris Yates, an aviation security analyst in London.

The requirement to remove shoes for screening, for example, was “the knee-jerk reaction after Richard Reid.” The newest metal detectors would sense any metal such as wiring in shoes, he contended.

tsa frisks terror suspect

Much of the security charades are simply feel-good measures with no significant security value. There are substantial costs in time, productivity, real estate, equipment, and manpower. Some have even referred to TSA—Transportation Security Administration—as Thousands Standing Around. Removing shoes was a knee-jerk reaction to the lone shoe bomber, Richard Reid. The plastic baggies and liquids limits resulted from the liquid explosives plot in the UK. Emphasis and speed-up on installing full-body scanners is because TSA knew they couldn’t demand we take our underwear off so they settled for a virtual strip search. The problem is these approaches are not effective.

However, all that “security” is not all that secure. According to articles by the BBC, Time, and Discover Magazine, pat-downs do not detect devices stowed in bodily orifices and invasive body scanners do not detect liquid, the most common form of explosives used by airborne terrorists. The Wall Street Journal notes that hardened cockpit doors and a trend of terror threats coming from coach class hint that deterrence may not be the main reason that federal marshals fly first class.

Are you kidding me? Air Marshals fly first class? If Osama Bin Laden himself was sitting in the window seat in row 38, what do you think the chances are of stopping him from blowing up the plane with his “netbook”? Netbooks don’t go through separately like laptops. An Air Marshal in first class would have had zero chance to stop the underwear bomber.

security screening

All the so-called security measures seem to address a real and reasonable threat. They should be reassuring. Instead, the process is dehumanizing and conducted with much the same compassion as sending cattle down the chute to the truck for the slaughterhouse. It feeds on and expands the irrationality of fear that is all around us.

Nevertheless, we should be thankful TSA is working so diligently to save rule-following, law-abiding citizens in close coordination with other countries around the world. In response to Broughton’s comments, a TSA statement said the US:

works closely with our international partners to ensure the best possible security. We constantly review and evolve our security measures based on the latest intelligence.

Previously on security theater:

Mon, 25 Oct 2010

WOA Says Woah! to Charitable Gesture

Filed under: Behavior, Civil liberties, Helping others, Paradoxes, Politics, Society, Sports — cynicalsynapse @ 6:54 am

Football refs with pink whistles

Pacific Northwest Football Officials Association (PNFOA) referees used pink whistles and donated their checks for last Thursday’s game to support the Susan G. Komen Foundation. The 140 referees all agreed to raise breast cancer awareness and donate their pay for the game to breast cancer research. In an era of few suitable role models, the officials’ public statement and act of charity seems noble.

Not so fast. It seems the pink whistles violate Washington Officials Association (WOA) rules. The WOA provides oversight and direction for officiating in all interscholastic sports. According to WOA’s chairman, Todd Stordahl:

Todd Stordahl

They chose not to ask for permission, not to go the right route. It sends the wrong message to kids that are playing the game. ‘If they broke the rules why can’t I do the same.’

Instead of accolades for their civic mindedness, WOA is considering punishing the referees for being out of uniform. They could be suspended for two playoff games, depriving them of officiating at the premier events of their sport. The officials would also not be paid for those games. In that case, their donation of Thursday’s game check became three times as costly. High school referees don’t do it for the money, but that’s a pretty high price for demonstrating to kids they should be part of something bigger than themselves.

early poll results

According to a poll by TV station KING, 94% support the referees and only 4% think the WOA is in the right. The remaining 1% couldn’t make up their minds. It’s such a complicated issue, afterall.

Public opinion can influence decisions. It seems Stordahl is sorry he came out so strongly against the referees. Apparently, a decision on disciplinary action now won’t be made until after the season. Stordahl said it’s all about following the chain-of-command.

WOA deeply regrets that there’s any perception that we don’t support any breast cancer programs. As someone who follows sports, that’s all that we have are rules, regulations and interpretations.

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