Cynical Synapse

Mon, 29 Jun 2009

Michigan’s Troopergate

Filed under: Economy, Michigan, Politics, Rants, Safety — cynicalsynapse @ 8:48 pm

Michigan State Trooper on a traffic stop

In a sad game of political chicken, Gov. Jennifer Granholm issued an executive order to cut 100 Michigan State Police troopers. Although the State Senate had the opportunity to oppose Granholm’s plans to close a $1.3 billion budget hole, Mike Bishop (R-Rochester) and his ilk sat silent for a month. In mid-June, they were “outraged.” I’m sorry. Where was the outrage when there was a chance of doing anything about this? The troopers’ union was also drawn into the game of chicken, asked to give up furlough days (without pay) to save the 100 jobs. While I, personally, would have voted yes, the union’s perspective:

“Whether 100 troopers are laid off or 1,569 of our members take furlough time, the result is still the same; it’s troopers off the street,” said Mike Moorman, president of the Michigan State Police Troopers Association.

At the end of their shifts today, 100 troopers are turning in badges, identification cards, and weapons as politicians play “Make the Public Pay.” This is the equivalent of Granholm playing the race card and the legislature being too self-important to do the right thing. I proposed Michigan’s legislature accept 10% cuts and eliminate $12,000 annual per diems to offset the State Police layoffs. Granholm put the troopers on the block as a political bargaining chip and the legislature let them run down the gutters like nothing better than chum.

So, penny-wise and dollar foolish, Michigan spent about $8 million for the 2008 State Police academy, which graduated in December. Six months later, we’re laying them all off to save an estimated $1.7 million in salaries and another $3 million in “at post costs”. Personally, I question the “at post” costs since salaries and benefits are usually way more expensive than lockers, a desk, a car, bullets, and fuel. But, accepting the Granholm administration’s figures, it’ll take 2 years to break even in savings on the cost of the Trooper School. In the meantime, Michigan’s citizens suffer the loss of a 10% reduction in protection and those trained police officers are likely to move out of state.

All of this is beyond the fiasco of MSP’s controversial new headquarters. And Michigan’s politicians wonder why the state’s at the bottom of the pile in so many issues? How about this as a prime example of myopic self-centeredness?

Shock and Awe: Monica Resigns Council

Filed under: Detroit, Legal, Michigan, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 7:05 pm

I gotta admit, I’m shocked Monica Conyers is doing right by the citizens of Detroit. Flamboyant City Council member Conyers submitted her resignation to the City Clerk:

Effective, Monday July 6, 2009, I hereby resign from my position as Council President Pro-Tempore of the Detroit City Council. My staff will be available until December 31, 2009 to assist in the offices of my colleagues.

Council President Ken Cockrel Jr and other council members were prepared to hired lawyers (I though Council’s lawyers weren’t so sure she was technically forfiet of office until sentenced) to force Conyers out of office, just like when former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick refused to step down until he pleaded guilty to perjory. I’m in awe that Monica, almost as arrogant and self-centered as Kwame, spared the city, it’s citizens, and the region further embarrassment. I’m also happy she took away the opportunity for Attorney General Mike Cox (R) to grandstand by interfering in Detroit just for political traction in his 2010 bid for Governor.

“What happened today was necessary. It was not something that was easy,” Cockrel said. “The next step is for the City Council to really get back to business as usual.” Hold on, there, Ken. With the likes of Martha Reeves and Barara Rose Collins, Council’s idea of business as usual isn’t really the same as most of us. What you really mean is it’s time for Council to get down to the business of taking care of Detroit and its citizens. How about starting with the Cobo Hall regional authority? Let’s keep Detroiters employed and lets keep the North American Auto Show in Motown, for crying out loud!

Apparently there’s a lot more behind the Monica Conyers corruption scandal, but other City Council members are off the hook. And, whatever your feelings toward Mrs. Conyers, you’ve got to respect her not dragging this out any more than it already has. I’m just waiting to see who she fingers in this FBI probe.

Now I’m just waiting to see how many folks vote for her in the fall elections. Apparently, for some stupid reason, Conyers’ name will remain on the August primary ballot.

Sat, 27 Jun 2009

Monica Conyers Pleads Guilty to Bribery

Filed under: Behavior, Detroit, Duh, Justice, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 12:55 pm

Monica Conyers, September 2008 (AP photo)

Controversial and scandal-riddled Detroit City Council member Monica Conyers pleaded guilty to bribery charges in US District Court this morning. She could get 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. U.S. Attorney Terrence Berg said Monica Conyers admitted to “a pattern of conduct of accepting bribes.”

Monica Conyers’ plea deal said she received two payments from Synagro officials. Rayford Jackson and Jim Rosendall, of Synagro, have already pleaded guilty of bribery. At the same time, the Feds said they are not investigating other Council members. While still a black eye for Detroit, the city can now move forward, putting the Kwame catastrophe and Monica malevolence behind it.

[US Attorney Terrence]Berg said the Conyers plea doesn’t end the Synagro investigation, but it does mark the conclusion of the probe into elected officials in the case. He called the plea deal an “appropriate and fair resolution to the matter,” with a “high-level public figure pleading guilty” to bribery.

Next up: Since U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn said, “The defendant now stands convicted,” Conyers should no longer be a Detroit City Council member. But her lawyer, Bill Goodman, said Conyers’ plea does not mean she will immediately leave office automatically. If Conyers is officially convicted, as Cohn says, Detroit’s city charter states she’s subject to forfeiture. But Mayor Dave Bing isn’t calling for Conyers to step down and Council’s attorneys say she’s not officially convicted until sentencing.

Conyers, who could receive up to 5 years in prison, just do the right thing for Detroit and its citizens she so patheticly let down. Any bets on whether she’s big enough for that? I’m not holding my breath…

Fri, 26 Jun 2009

Obama: “Soft” Earmarks are OK

Filed under: Congress, Economy, Michigan, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 7:42 am

Obama's nose grows

President Obama requested $84.3 for the “last” supplemental appropriations bill. While supplementals have been the funding mechanism for the Bush administration’s Global War on Terror, Obama believes Overseas Contingency Operations should be included in the base budget. But the FY-09 budget comes from his predecessor, so he’s hostage to the supplemental process this time around. In principle, which is Obama’s key point, a supplemental is an emergency funding mechanism for unforseen circumstances. It’s now 7-1/2 years since 9/11/2001.

So here’s the path this year’s supplemental has taken. The House added $9.3 billion to the President’s request. Although military-related, the adds intend to keep constituents working, even on cancelled projects like the C-17. Then the Senate chewed on the bill, adding $1.9 billion of its own and $9 billion President Obama requested for the International Monetary Fund and H1N1. The Senate chopped $9.3 billion from the House version to make up for the adds. In conference, the House and Senate came up with a final bill totalling $105.9 billion. That’s $21.6 billion more than the President originally requested!

For the original House Resolution, the House overwhelmingly supported the measure 368 to 60. After their ammendments, the Senate voted 86-3 in favor. The differences were referred to conference between the chambers and the result was a new HR 2346 presented to the President. One of the non-emergency provisions is the so-called “cash for clunkers” provision.

Michigan Senators Levin and Stabinow, both Democrats, voted yes for the first Senate mod and the final conference bill. Michigan’s representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of the original House resolution. On the final version, all the Republicans—except Miller—voted no. Only Ehlers (R) and Conyers (D) voted no on both versions.

District Representative Party 05/14 Vote 06/16 Vote
1 Stupak D Yea Yea
2 Hoekstra R Yea No
3 Ehlers R No No
4 Camp R Yes No
5 Kildee D Yea Yea
6 Upton R Yea No
7 Schauer D Yea Yea
8 Rogers R Yea No
9 Peters D Yea Yea
10 Miller R Yea Yea
11 McCotter R Yea No
12 Levin D Yea Yea
13 Kilpatrick D Yea Yea
14 Conyers D No No
15 Dingell D Yea Yea

And that’s, largely, the issue. Democrats tended to vote in favor and Republicans tended to vote against the conference bill on supplemental appropriations. There must be obvious flaws in the bill when you see 151 Republican Representatives change their votes from yes to no. To me, that’s a red star cluster (or red flag). Here’s what I said on the White House contact web form:

HR 2346, as amended and agreed to by the House and Senate, must be vetoed. While the bill doesn’t contain the “traditional” earmarks, it is $21.6 billion higher than the President’s original request. These additions must be considered earmarks and, therefore, contrary to President Obama’s stated policy of not signing legislation containing earmarks.

In its present form, this bill is highly politicized, with 24 additional House Democrats voting yes on the conferee version over the original House version. Only 2 House Democrats changed their votes to no, compared to the original version, while 151 Republican representatives did so. This casts serious doubt on House Bill 2346 as the best solution for supplementary appropriations. By itself, this should be sufficient to warrant President Obama’s veto.

Our service men and women deserve better. Our country deserves better. It’s time to be fiscally responsible while also getting the job done. If $84.3 billion is what’s needed, then that’s all the supplemental should include. Anything else is a violation of the trust of the American people and the military serving on our behalf.

Unfortunately, our so-called representatives played politics as usual. Since President Obama wasted no time in signing the bill into law, he sent the message that’s just fine. If “soft” earmarks are ok, why not blatant markups? And, taxpayers have an unnecessary $22 billion added to the national debt.

Thu, 25 Jun 2009

Only in Detroit: Best Fireworks

Filed under: Behavior, Detroit, Life, People — cynicalsynapse @ 7:54 am

Fireworks display over the Detroit skyline

Last night’s international fireworks display over the Detroit River came off without a hitch. There were no arrests and many people made a day of it, arriving at Hart Plaza as early as the morning. The event has a carnival-like air, with food vendors and a variety of entertainment.

With all the black clouds hanging around the D these days, the fireworks are just one of the region’s silver linings. And, except for the temps in the 90s, yesterday’s weather was perfect. From the Freep:

“The fireworks are like a grand finale the whole time,” said [Susan] Marz, 54, who staked out their spot at 3 p.m. “This is the greatest time of year for me, because I was born in July, so to come to the fireworks for free is especially special.”

Sponsored by Target and The Parade Company, Detroit’s fireworks put about 30 tons of pyrotechnics into the sky for Canadians in Windsor and metro Detroiters in Hart Plaza and surrounding areas. Tens of thousands attended the 51st annual display in Detroit which lasted about a half-hour.

Wed, 24 Jun 2009

Nazis Wish They’d Thought of This

Filed under: Behavior, Civil liberties, Oppression, Politics, Rogue states — cynicalsynapse @ 10:02 pm

I’ll bet the Nazis wish they’d thought of the concept of driving motorcycles into dissenting crowds and beating them with batons, nightsticks, truncheons, or clubs.

Tue, 23 Jun 2009

Obama: I Don’t Want to Run a Car Company. Wink, wink

Filed under: Bailout, Business, Cars, Economy, Michigan, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 8:42 pm

How many times have you heard President Obama or the administration don’t want to run a car company? But, do the facts bear that out? I think not.

First, the Obama administration “fired” GM CEO Rick Wagoner. They pushed for the sale of Chrysler to Fiat. And now they’re involved in selecting which plant will build GM’s new small car.

While lots of folks insist domestic automakers are in the trouble they’re in for not making the “right” vehicles, I submit they produced what consumers wanted to buy. Consider reactions to Obama’s increased MPG requirements. The domestic auto industry is the victim of the financial industry’s greed and last year’s $4/gallon gas prices. The lingering effect is no one can get a loan to buy a car. Hmmm. So what’s up with the $700 billion to the banks just for that?

President Obama has said, repeatedly, that he doesn’t want to run a car company. Actions speak louder than words, however, and the actions don’t seem to match the words. And then there’s that pitch…

Sun, 21 Jun 2009

Monica Conyers Do the Right Thing? lol

Filed under: Behavior, Detroit, Duh, Legal, Paradoxes, Politics, Racism, Rants — cynicalsynapse @ 2:39 pm

Monica Conyers at Eastern Market. Charlie LeDuff, The Detroit News

Big city politicians are not known for doing the right thing. That should be painfully obvious for Detroit, in particular, since former mayor’s text messaging scandal and the $9 million whistleblower lawsuit. In that fiasco, which made national headlines, Kwame Kilpatrick refused to step down until it became part of his plea deal.

Councilmember Monica Conyers, wife of US Rep. John Conyers (D-Det.) seems to be in a similar situation as the former mayor. Monica Conyers is, apparently, still mulling over a plea deal on bribery charges stemming from her changed vote on a contract with sewage sludge hauler Synagro. Local businessman Rayford Jackson has already pleaded guilty, as has Michigan Synagro VP James Rosendall. Former Conyers aide Sam Riddle seems to be the thin line between guilt or innocence for Conyers.

But Synagro isn’t council member’s only scandal. Conyers took part in Detroit pension funds’ excessive travel, although she no longer serves as a trustee. There are also implications Conyers was involved in questionable pension fund deals involving loans, investments, and alledged contributions. And the Feds are also looking into whether or not Conyers accepted jewelry from a pawnshop. The alleged bribe was in exchange for not supporting increased regulations for that industry.

The bribery allegations are on top of Conyers’ controversial, sometimes abherrent, behavior in council chambers. This is the woman that threatened former mayor Kilpatrick’s aide, hinting at a gun. Conyers called Ken Cockrel Jr, the council president, Shrek and also criticized fellow council member Kwame Kenyatta’s health and demeanor. In the wake of council’s torpedoing a Cobo Hall regional authority, Conyers’ bigoted words pushed the envelope even further. Oh, but I forgot—Black people “cannot be racist”, according to Conyers.

Wouldn’t it be nice if, just once, a highly placed official would do what’s best for the citizens they’re supposed to serve? The Freep called for just such a thing in Thursday’s editorial. Citing how tired Detroiters are of scandal in city government, the Freep did not mince words in asking Monica Conyers to resign. Admitting seeking re-election “might not be worth it”, Monica doesn’t seem to get it. Even with the polls showing widespread disapproval, she’s likely to hang on until the very last, just like not-so-suave Kwame Kilpatrick before her.

How do I know? From an interview Friday with The Detroit News:

Conyers said she sometimes feels she should give up public life, but, “I love helping people; I love my city. It’s all about helping people in the city of Detroit.”

Gag me with a spoon.

Thu, 18 Jun 2009

Construction Zones Gone Wild

Filed under: Behavior, Driving, Humor, Life, Michigan, Rants — cynicalsynapse @ 10:09 pm

You may know road construction zones are one of my pet peeves. Michigan has two seasons: good snowmobiling and orange barrels, separated by deer hunting in the fall. This is the second summer in a row my 87 mile commute pretty much starts and ends with construction zones.

I can deal with construction zones when they make sense. I don’t quite understand why they often close down a lane a mile or so before the actual work zone, however. I’m also confused by one work zone that shifts 3 lanes to one side or the other for a 3 or 4 mile stretch when the only construction taking place is replacing a bridge over I-96. Then there’s the construction zone that extended for a 3 mile stretch on US-127/I-496, but now the work remaining is the southbound ramp to I-96 east and a bridge over 127/496. The whole stretch is still posted Speed Limit 60, however. Are traffic fines still doubled if the work on that stretch is completed?

My worst nightmare is evil construction barrels come to life. What I’m trying to figure out now is should I sue sculptor Joseph Carnevale for mental anguish or intellectual property theft?

Wed, 17 Jun 2009

Monica Conyers Up in Flames?

Filed under: Congress, Detroit, Legal, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 10:53 pm

Apparently, Detroit City Councilperson Monica Conyers (D), wife of US Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit), will accept a plea deal in an ongoing corruption probe. Previously, she was considering a plea bargain deal in the Federal bribery investigation. Without admitting any connection, her response on Monday? “…if you’re not praying for me, then you’re just adding to the problem.”

Video HT: theblogprof

What Monica doesn’t realize is she doesn’t have the broad support she thinks she has. It seems she’s delusional if she expects broad support in the next election. That may be just the point.

Consider how obstructionist Conyers has been. Her departure from the local political scene will benefit Detroit and the entire region! Can anyone be surprised Conyors is detrimental for Detroit?

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