Cynical Synapse

Mon, 20 Jul 2009

65th Anniversary of Hitler Assassination Attempt

Filed under: History, Oppression — cynicalsynapse @ 6:42 am

Today marks 65 years since the most famous attempt to kill Adolf Hitler. The Nazi Führer orchestrated the deaths of millions through murder, genocide, and an aggressive, offensive total war. The bombing at Wolfsschanze came the closest of dozens of assassination attempts, but if failed.

Although there were other conspirators, Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg placed the bomb at Hitler’s East Prussian headquarters. The attempt’s failure resulted in thousands of arrests, essentially crushing any further serious effort to kill the dictator.

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Sun, 19 Jul 2009

Way to Go, Bozo!

Filed under: Behavior, Budget, Detroit, Driving, Duh, Legal, Rants, Stupid car tricks — cynicalsynapse @ 8:26 pm

Burning fuel on I-75 under 9 Mile Road
Courtesy: jalopnik.com

A 2004 Honda Civic apparently lost control on northbound I-75 in suburban Detroit on July 15th. The car hit a semi between the cab and its tanker trailer, breaking the trailer loose. With 14,000 gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel, the tanker erupted. Flames reached 150 feet into the sky. Another semi carrying produce was able to avoid the original collision but was caught in the inferno.

Immediately following the accident, other drivers went right on through the burning flames. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt. The east half of the 9 Mile overpass eventually collapsed as a result of the intense heat. As a result, I-75 was closed in both directions from I-696 to 8 Mile Road. Nine Mile is also closed, obviously, at the I-75 service drives. The service drives are closed as well during the clean-up. Southbound I-75 reopened today; the northbound side may reopen late Monday. As for the 9 Mile bridge—not before November or December.

MDOT spent $78,000 to demolish the 9 Mile span over I-75 south and clean up the debris. Repaving I-75’s damaged roadway is costing another $90,000. Replacing the 9 Mile bridge, which had just been re-built last year, will cost $2 million. Total expense, which MDOT hopes to get reimbursed from insurance companies: $2,168,000.


State Police look at Haidarian-Shahri’s burned out Civic
Brian Kaufman, Detroit Free Press

State Police and National Transportation Safety Board officials are investigating. There have been no citations pending the outcome of the investigations. Saied Haidarian-Shahri, who caused the accident, was apparently going about 70 MPH on the S-curve before the bridge. Although that’s the speed limit, the curve carries a 50 MPH advisory speed.


Saied Haidarian-Shahri (from his WSU web page)

The 27-year-old Iranian-born PhD student has only had his license since May. Haidarian-Shahri offered no apologies, saying “I don’t think I made a mistake”. So, let me see. He lost control, hit a fuel hauler that crashed and burned, destroyed a major surface street bridge, and closed one of metro Detroit’s key north-south arteries for as much as a week or more. I’d hate to see the outcome of what he considers a mistake!

Wed, 15 Jul 2009

Obama Promises Retraining for Lost Auto Jobs

Filed under: Bailout, Economy, Government, Life, Michigan, People, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 8:24 pm

Obama speaking at Macomb Community College

Yesterday, President Obama visited Macomb Community College in Warren, his first visit to Michigan since last October. What was suppposed to be a town hall style event became an invitation-only speech. During his remarks, Obama admitted many auto jobs were permanent losses.

[T]he hard truth is that some of the jobs that have been lost in the auto industry and elsewhere won’t be coming back… My expectation is, is that we will probably continue to see unemployment tick up for several months.

Meanwhile, Michigan unemployment spiked to 15.2% in June, the highest rate since 1983. The state’s unemployed, at 740,000, is the highest it’s ever been since 1973! In fact, since Obama was last in the state, Michigan’s situation has gotten much worse:

Since Obama was last in Michigan Oct. 2, its financial picture has only worsened. The state’s jobless rate has jumped 5 percentage points to 14.1 percent as it shed 245,000 jobs, including nearly 50,000 in auto manufacturing. General Motors and Chrysler have gone through Chapter 11, even though many in Michigan thought bankruptcy was a dubious strategy.

No fear. During his speech, Obama promised $12 billion to community colleges for retraining. But wait a minute. The money is to be doled out over the next decade. So that’s only $1.2 billion per year. And who gets the money? There are about 1,570 community colleges in the country. So, if each gets an equal share, that means each gets $764,000 per year. Therefore, Michigan’s 32 community colleges will rake in $24,448,000, a not insignificant amount, eh? Until you spread it among the 740,000 unemployed. Then it is a pitiful $33 per person. How much retraining can $33 buy?

Never mind the small details like what jobs should we retrain for? Wind power? Solar energy? Movies? Ethanol?

Mon, 13 Jul 2009

Groundhog Day in July: AIG Bonuses

Filed under: Bailout, Business, Congress, Economy, Government, Politics, Take action — cynicalsynapse @ 8:02 am

AIG Financial Products plans to pay $235 million in bonuses on July 15th. This despite the company being valued at $100 billion while owing the taxpayers $173 billion. Excuse me? There shouldn’t be any such thing as a bonus for a company losing money. I said that last time. Second, AIG is worth less than it owes; bonuses are not warranted. Third, the clowns wanting those bonuses are the same idiots who caused this whole mess in the first place!

Company officials say they need to pay the bonuses to retain the best qualified people. AIG wants the government to run interference so they don’t suffer the same taxpayer backlash as last time. What have they done to warrant that? How many people are unemployed because of the AIG charlatans? Where’s their bonus? And don’t start with the “we have a contract” whining. So did the UAW workers who were forced to give concessions and yet still watch Chrysler and GM descend into bankruptcy. Did I mention I think the auto industry’s woes were preciptated by the greedy alchemists on Wall Street?

The bonuses are, technically, 2008 bonuses. In my mind, that’s the same as Obama singing the Omnibus Spending Bill, claiming it was last year’s business. No matter how you look at it, Obama signed a bill laden with earmarks. Similarly, AIG shouldn’t be paying bonuses when they have no legitimate reason to do so.

According to the Washington Post:

Separately this week, a Citigroup analyst warned that AIG might be worthless to shareholders if or when it ever pays back the billions it owes the U.S. government.

“Our valuation includes a 70 percent chance that the equity at AIG is zero,” Joshua Shanker of Citigroup wrote in a note to investors. He cites the continuing risks posed by the company’s exotic derivative contracts, called credit-default swaps, and its sale of assets at low prices. AIG’s stock plummeted by more than 25 percent yesterday.

We can’t accept this continued perversion of our democracy and diversion of our tax dollars. As posted on the Common People’s Source for News:

AIG’s executives intended from the start to milk as much money as they could out of the taxpayer before they go under. In March I wrote this post about the $170 million dollars in bonuses they were handing out that month from the taxpayer bottomless pit, and I also warned in March, as did others, that another planned extortion was scheduled for this month. Now here we are.

Allowed to get away with this, the banks and all 535 (corrupt) officials in the Capital building will accelerate the next round of abuses. And it’s obvious the White House doesn’t care, so we can lump them in with the hordes of thieves. Therefore, we must accept that those who could do something about it aren’t going to. And sitting on our ass and doing nothing but complain is never going to work, and words of anger, insults and damnation won’t work either. If the latter is all they have to suffer in exchange for millions of free, unearned, pocket-dollars extorted from taxpayers, they are more than willing to accept the humiliation. And that includes the bought-off public officials we elected.

So, let your Senators and Representative know you don’t approve of AIG’s impending bonus payments. As long as AIG owes taxpayers money, they shouldn’t pay anyone any bonuses.

Sun, 12 Jul 2009

Michigan’s Budget Dance More Like Voodoo Dance

Filed under: Bailout, Budget, Business, Economy, Government, Michigan, Politics, Rants, Take action — cynicalsynapse @ 4:56 pm

The budget dance is in full swing here in Michigan, even as legislators plan their summer vacations. Gov. Granholm presented her proposals in February, but the State House and Senate are just getting around to them. Those three need to come to agreement on closing the expected $2.1 billion shortfall or Michigan could see a government shutdown like in 2007. I’m sorry, but Michigan’s state legislature is the second highest paid state legislature in the country, and one of only 11 full-time state legislatures. Their primary job is the budget. So, how are they doing?

Not so well, I’m afraid. The House and Senate have considered 8 appropriations bills for 2009-2010 and each has ended up being referred to conference to settle the differences. In every case, when the bill went from one chamber to the other, it got changed enough so the iniating chamber found the revisions unacceptable. What’s a little more disconcerting, however, is the votes are almost exclusively along party lines. That can’t be a good thing.

Bill Budget 1st Vote 2nd Vote
D R D R
S.245 General government 16 20 64  1
S.248 Human Services  1 20    
S.250 Military & Veterans Affairs  1 19 54 13
H.4435 Community colleges 67 20 16 20
H.4436 Community Health 64  1  1 19
H.4437 Corrections 63  1 19
H.4441 Higher education 67 23 16
H.4446 Natural Resources 67 43 20
H.4447 School aid 67 40 19

Michigan’s Senate has 16 Democrats and 21 Republicans while the House is split 67 Democrats to 43 Republicans. The table at right shows a breakdown of votes in favor for the respective versions of the budget bills. The first vote is in the chamber initiating the bill and the second vote is after the other chamber made its changes.

General government, in S.245, includes the Attorney General, Civil Rights, Executive Office, Information Technology, Legislature, Legislative Auditor General, Management and Budget, State, Treasury, and the Michigan Strategic Fund. The legislators haven’t tackled the State Police appropriation yet.

Funding for Executive Senate House
General government   $2.976 billion $3.081 billion
Human Services   $5.837 billion
Military and Veterans Affairs $0.149 billion $0.149 billion $0.146 billion
Community colleges $0.299 billion $0.296 billion $0.396 billion
Community Health $12.967 billion $12.859 billion $13.481 billion
Corrections $1.958 billion $1.930 billion $1.958 billion
Higher education   $1.826 billion $1.609 billion
Natural Resources   $0.624 billion $0.626 billion
School aid $12.964 billion $12.743 billion $13.132 billion

Here’s what we do know as legislators enjoy their summer vacation. The proposed appropriations are significantly different from the 2008-2009 fiscal year.

So, things are not looking so great right now. Can they be fixed in the next 2-1/2 months? I’m not so sure. With a Democrat-controlled State House and Governor’s Office, with a Republican-controlled State Senate, I’ll be surprised if there’s a state budget by October 1st. The current partisan voting record just serves to reinforce that perspective. Does anyone remember the Michigan government shutdown of 2007?

Write, phone, or email your state representative and state senator. Tell them to do their dang jobs; they are, after all, the second highest paid state legislature. Be sure to let them know what your priorities are for Michigan’s budget. Keep in mind, stuff either needs to get cut, revenues need to go up, or a combination of each.

Fri, 10 Jul 2009

Jim Crow Swims at The Valley Club

Filed under: Behavior, Civil liberties, Legal, Life, People, Racism, Rants, Take action — cynicalsynapse @ 5:50 pm

Swimming pool segregation

Un-freaking-believable! In 2009! In an urban area! In the northeast! Disgusting!

Suburban Philadelphia’s Valley Club kicked out 65 minority day camp kids because the club’s members were disgruntled. Then they canceled their contract with Creative Steps Day Camp and refunded the $1,950 paid to use the club’s pool. Excuse me? If the club signed the contract, wouldn’t they have informed the members? That way the club’s idiots could stay home that day instead of parading their ignorance at the expense of young, impressionable kids. Creative Steps’ kids are aged 5 to 12 or 13.

Instead, the members present June 29th when the day camp kids showed up, turned up their noses, making remarks those young kids couldn’t help but overhear. Incredulously, all but a few white kids got out of the pool! Even the day camp’s director heard snide remarks from Valley Club members to the effect of ensuring the group did not return.

Just in case you’re not taken aback by the story so far, the club’s explanation is beyond belief. The Valley Club issued a statement in which president John Duesler said (emphasis mine):

There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion … and the atmosphere of the club.

Duesler added he “underestimated the impact the children would have” and that the kids “fundamentally changed the atmosphere” at the pool.” How amazingly idiotic! Turns out Duesler’s a doctor, too: must be a DS (doctor of stupidity).

Jim Crow Swims Here

On Saturday, the club’s gates were padlocked and a few protestors stood outside. Club member Jim Flynn came up and told reporters he was at the pool on the 29th. He said he voiced his concerns because “the pool was too crowded, not because the children were black.” This is where I throw the “bullshit” flag. According to Creative Steps’ director Alethea Wright, who was also there that day: the Valley Club covers 10 acres, has a nice-sized pool and a kiddie pool, the club knew her group size was 65, and none of her kids misbehaved. “We were not welcome, once the members saw who we were,” she said. The over capacity defense doesn’t pass the common sense test.

Dr. John Duesler Jr.

Ordinarily, this is where I’d call upon readers to register their feelings, but the Valley Club’s website is down, their voicemail off. If you live nearby, those inspired to action have probably already joined the protests. I’m not normally prone to advocating violence, or even threats of violence, but if you see Duesler on the street and you decide to kick him in the ass, I’d pretend I didn’t see it. Duesler. Hmmm. How about Diss-him instead? Since the usual methods for voicing concern or discontent aren’t available to most of us, I invite you to take action in another, small way. Do something nice for someone of another race that they might not expect. It could be as simple as holding the door for someone.

Haste Costs 5 Young Lives

Filed under: Behavior, Cars, Driving, Life, People, Railroads, Safety — cynicalsynapse @ 11:36 am

Detroit Free Press by Regina H. Boone

Yesterday 5 metro Detroit kids lost their lives in a gamble they could beat the train through the crossing. The Amtrak train was going about 70 mph. It took about a mile for it to stop, leaving a trail of debris all the way back to the crossing. No word on whether the kids had their seatbelts on, but that probably didn’t much matter in this case. It’s also not clear if they were on their way to the beach or to one of their homes. However, the 19 year old driver had numerous traffic violations, including speeding and running a stop sign. And a judge had just suspended his license for a month for failing show his license.

The youngest in the Ford Fusion was a 14 year old girl; the boys were 18, 19, 20, and 21. Their deaths are certainly a tragedy for their families and friends. It’s also terrible for the locomotive’s crew. After throwing the train into emergency braking, there’s nothing they can do but ride it out, certain of what the outcome will be. It’s simple physics: a 530-ton train, with steel wheels on steel rails, going 70 mph takes a long time to stop. And a 2-ton car is no match for the train.

Some of the comments blame the parents, questioning why a 14 year old girl was in a car with 4 older boys, of which the 18 year old was her boyfriend. The girl’s mother had told her she had to come home rather than go to the beach, but didn’t expect the girl to comply. While I wondered the same, none of us who don’t know the actual details and circumstances should pre-judge. In any case, I’m sure that doesn’t matter in the least as far as the mother’s grief is concerned.

Another commenter noted the kids all probably learned how to drive from their parents. The post remarked on people driving 80 mph on metro Interstates, weaving in and out of traffic, citing the “me first” syndrome. People tend to become anonymous and invulnerable in their cars. Maybe that’s why the driver went around another car stopped for the gates and lights and tried to make it through the crossing. That poor decision to try and save a minute or two resulted in 5 young lives being cut far too short.

Unfortunately, grade crossing incidents happen way more than they should. All railroads are involved with Operation Lifesaver which works to educate the public on rail safety. The address both grade crossing accidents and the dangers of walking on tracks or in rail yards. Incidentally, tracks and yards are private property, so trespassers could also be ticketed or arrested. Traffic safety folks are also working to protect people from themselves. At Denton Road in Wayne County, a test set of barricades rise up when a train approaches to prevent drivers from crossing the tracks. Sadly, this test site is on the same rail line about 5 miles west of yesterdays crash site.

Update: The Free Press has the surveillance camera footage.

Update 2: Canton Police reduced the train cam footage which clearly indicates the Amtrak engineer was sounding the horn and bell. It’s also obvious the engineer had practically no warning of what was going to happen.


Thu, 09 Jul 2009

Poll: Cut State Legislature First

Filed under: Behavior, Government, Michigan, People, Politics, Rants — cynicalsynapse @ 8:30 pm

In an Epic-MRA poll released yesterday, most news sources report voters prefer to cut the state legislature before schools, police, and fire. I went to Epic-MRA’s site, but their only reference to the poll is a PDF version of the Detroit News story on the poll. Fortunately, WXYZ has posted the entire poll results.

Frequent readers will know this plays right into my perspective. I’ve been disenchanted with Michigan’s legislature since the state government shutdown fiasco of 2007. Recently, I’ve called for state legislators to share the pain. Had they cut their staffs and pay by 10%, Michigan could have avoided laying off 100 State Troopers, one of the areas the poll says voters want least affected. Voters’ priorities: local schools, police and fire, and State Police.

As I first heard the story on Lansing’s National Public Radio (NPR) station, WKAR, Epic-MRA’s Bernie Porn blamed term limits:

“The legislators do not look at the long-term problems and long-term plans and solutions,” he says. “They’re more attuned to the six years they have to serve.”

That’s different from our so-called representatives in Washtington, how? They don’t think beyond the current term in office either, and they’re not subject to term limits. I’ll admit term limits presents some difficulty in that no legislators are truly “experienced” with the system, but I think the anti-sheeple benefit far outweighs the cost. By that, I mean state legislators can only serve so long. People who tend to vote incumbent have no choice but to pick someone new from time to time.

Porn also annoyed me by saying the Legislature eats up less than 1% of the state’s total budget, and “cutting funding would hardly be worth it.” Tell that to the 100 State Troopers that got laid off! They’re way less than 1% of the budget, but they’re out looking for jobs now. Meanwhile, Michigan’s legislature, the second highest paid in the country, is on it’s two week summer recess.

Wizard Kitten observes “citizens want their government services”. There is a certain amount of government services I expect and I don’t want to pay fees for those services. Realizing that, if the services cost more than current revenues, I have to accept additional taxes. If I don’t want more taxes, then I have to accept reduced services. That’s not a complicated mathematical equation. The poll results on WXYZ’s site show where people’s priorities are.

Tue, 07 Jul 2009

Detroit Pay-to-Play Scandal Expands

Filed under: Behavior, Detroit, Government, Politics, Rants — cynicalsynapse @ 10:10 pm

Ziedman's in Southfield

As Southfield City Councilman William D. Lattimore is indicted for bribery, it’s apparent the pay-to-play scandal goes beyond Detroit boundaries and former Detroit councilwoman Monica Conyers. This is the same pawn shop owner praised by Monica Conyers in a 2007 Detroit Council meeting.

So, before his indictment, Lattimore was part of the “he said, she said.” While the Southfield location may not be the same, there’s no disputing former Detroit City Council memberMonica Conyers has ties to Ziedman’s. Apparently the connecting link in all of this is one Bobby Ferguson.

And no one believed Detroit was open to regionalism!

Mon, 06 Jul 2009

Honest Scrap Award

Filed under: Blogroll, Life, Politics, Take action — cynicalsynapse @ 7:40 am

As a relative newcomer to the blogosphere, I’m happy Cynical Synapse received the Honest Scrap Award. In researching this award, it’s actually a “semi-award”, meaning no committees are involved in the nominations and awarding process. But it’s still important because one of my respected blog-mates—theblogprof—picked Cynical Synapse as one of 7 of his nominees. He’s got dozens of blogs he’s following, so Cynical Synapse must be on target, and I’m pleased by that.

Just what is the Honest Scrap award? It’s an independent “semi-award” that fellow bloggers bestow on one another. From Rena Jones:

Scrap means left over, fragments, discarded material. Many times truth and honesty are discarded material, considered fragments and left over. People like us need to tell it like it is, and let the scraps fall where they will.

There are two qualifications to the award:
1. You must list 10 honest things about yourself, and they must be interesting (let’s hope I meet that).
2. Designate 7 other bloggers as recipients of this award.

As for the honest things about me, I:

  1. Am saddened by the direction our government has taken over the last 20-40 years (less representational, more special interest oriented)
  2. Believe in the equality of man but realize not all men have the equal access needed to maximize their talents
  3. Like a common sense approach, which is why I have low tolerance for airport security measures and other “feel good” actitivities
  4. Have a low tolerance for sheeple who relect inept politicains even though they know they don’t represent them
  5. Am opposed to the Peter Principle, which is one of the reasons MDOT is on my short list of evil government agencies
  6. Think greed and corporate largesse brought about the current economic maelstrom
  7. Admit to some degree of parochialism, since I was opposed to the Wall Street bailout (which I maintain has done nothing for Main Street) while I was incredulous no one supported help for domestic automakers
  8. Tend to think of myself as a Republican, but don’t hesitate to vote for, or support, the candidate I believe best meets the needs of the country
  9. Am tired of voting for the lesser of two evils, and I’m proud I voted for Ross Perot in 1992
  10. Thank God I voted for Bush in 2000 even though I was not supportive of his later policies; Gore just couldn’t have handled 9/11

The tougher challenge is nominating 7 bloggers worthy of this award. Here are my choices, in no particular order:

I’m not the most liberal, nor am I the most conservative. Right is right and it transcends labels and viewpoints. Our government—especially our elected representatives—have lost focus of this fundamental point of view, I think.

So, as a young blogger, I’m honored to be nominated for this award over some that have been out there far longer than me.

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