Cynical Synapse

Tue, 27 Apr 2010

Trust My Government? Not!

Filed under: Congress, Government, Politics, Rants, Take action — cynicalsynapse @ 8:09 pm

We the people will not shut up

A Pew Research Center poll found 78% of Americans distrust their government. That’s the highest discontent in nearly a half century. Coincidentally, the survey found only 19% were satisfied with the Federal government, down from a decade ago. As if that’s not bad enough, satisfaction with Congress has have declined by half—from 50% to 25%—over the last year. This represents the lowest approval rating of Congress in a quarter century.

Congress fairs the worst in approval ratings. That shouldn’t be a surprise after the shady deals and machinations of health care reform. It is also consistent with a mid-March Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll that found a 77% disapproval rating of Congress among US voters.

Anger with government

The people have become angry with government because they feel it is ignoring their wishes. They believe government no longer represents them. They fear government is taking over the private sector. Said Cindy Wanto, a registered Democrat:

The government’s been lying to people for years. Politicians make promises to get elected, and when they get elected, they don’t follow through.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) said, “Distrust of government is an all-American activity.” That may be, and voters always like to complain, but it’s much more vociferous than ever before. According to independent David Williams of Sarasota FL:

I want an honest government. This isn’t an honest government. It hasn’t been for some time.

More blame Congressmen

The problem, in large part, is too much partisan bickering. At least that’s an improvement over the racially charged rhetoric of some months ago. Matthew Dowd, a Bush re-election strategist, says “What the country wants is a community solution to the problems but not necessarily a federal government solution.” According to the Pew report, the public largely blames Congress, rather than the political system, as the problem.

Anger with government is more than just a feeling, however. There are reasons why people are angry with government. And they’re tangible reasons. They include continuing high unemployment, with Michigan having the highest rate at 14.1%. RealtyTrac expects 4 million or more foreclosures by the end of 2010. People are fed up with Wall Street compensation and bonuses, which are, yet again, in the news. And then there’s the political dealmaking, like with health care reform.

There is record discontent with Congress, and elected officials in general. Who can dispute such discontent when there is rampant corruption in the so-called earmark process? Three-quarters of voters agree politicians are out of touch.

And then there’s Michigan’s legislature. Those clowns don’t deserve reelection. And people wonder why I will vote out anyone who is an incumbent. Everyone needs to take this stand in order to send a message to the people who are supposed to represent us.

Mon, 26 Apr 2010

Obama Sidesteps Armenian Genocide, Calls it Massacre

Filed under: Behavior, Congress, Diplomacy, History, Hypocrits, Politics, President — cynicalsynapse @ 8:27 am

Armenian genodice

While campaigning for president of the US, candidate Barack Obama promised to label the 1915 massacre of Armenians as genocide. Yet, once elected, the US President has failed to call Armenian deaths genocide. April 24th was Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. The date marks the first deportations of Armenians from Turkey’s capitol in 1915.

President Ronald Reagan referenced the fate of Armenians in 1981. Although he didn’t use the term genocide, the fate of the Armenians remains uncontested today.

Armenians hanging

So, while Obama campaigned he would be blunt about the Armenian genocide, political expediency keeps him from actually labeling it as such. You see, Turkey—the perpetrator of the genocide—is a member of NATO and a US ally in the Global War on Terror, which we now call Overseas Contingency Operations.

Nonetheless, a US House Subcommittee voted to recognize the genocide, but only by a vote of 23-22. This resulted in Turkey recalling their Ambassador to the US in protest.

As for Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton? The latter said:

Both President Obama and I have made clear, both last year and again this year, that we do not believe any action by the Congress is appropriate, and we oppose it.

Pres. Obama did decry the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians in a statement. But he stopped short of calling the pogrom genocide.

Henry Morgenthau Sr.

In 1915, US Ambassador to Turkey Henry Morgenthau Sr.’s conclusion was succinct: “If America is going to condone these offenses … she is party to the crime.”

What’s different between then and now? Today, we have political expediency. Nowhere is this more evident than between Obama’s campaign promise on the genocide and his lack of follow-through as president. As Paul Greenburg wrote in his April 20th column:

In short, when a single truth must be avoided, falsehoods multiply. And diplomats impose a discreet silence. Why offend?

Over time the Armenian massacres faded from the world’s memory, but at least one statesman remembered, and drew the inevitable conclusion: that the world would scarcely notice a little genocide among friends. Or as he put it, speaking to a group of his confidants:

It’s a matter of indifference to me what a weak Western European civilization will say about me. I have issued the command—and I’ll have anybody who utters but one word of criticism executed by a firing squad—that our war aim does not consist in reaching certain lines, but in the physical destruction of the enemy. Accordingly, I have placed my death-head formations in readiness—for the present only in the East—with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion men, women and children. … Only thus shall we gain the living space we need. Who, after all, speaks today of the extermination of the Armenians?

—Adolf Hitler

Sat, 24 Apr 2010

Romney Endorsement Just Chum in Michigan Guv Race

Filed under: Government, Hypocrits, Michigan, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 11:23 am

Luring sharks with chum

Mitt Romney’s endorsement of US Rep. Pete Hoekstra just dirties the waters of the Michigan gubernatorial Republican primary. Romney said “Michigan is special for me.” If that’s the case, why does he live in Massachusetts and why have all his non-Presidential political campaigns been in that state? Romney’s a Bay Stater, not a Michigander.

So why did Romney endorse Hoekstra? Quid pro quo. Simple as that. Hoekstra and Romney are political buds. Hoekstra endorsed Romney in his ill-fated 2008 presidential bid.

Mitt Romney's many mouths

Romney’s got his own reasons, too. Conventional wisdom is he’s going to make another run for president in 2012. Romney’s looking at changes to his political image to improve his chances of winning. Backing Hoekstra is Romney’s best choice to leverage his 2008 primary win in Michigan for his next shot. Just because Mitt’s dad was a 3-term Michigan governor in the 1960s, voter identification with Mitt “Turn Your Back on Michigan” Romney is a not insignificant benefit for Hoekstra’s campaign for governor.

There’s no reason for Michigan voters to be infatuated with Romney, however. Does anybody remember Romney opposed saving Michigan jobs with the automaker bailout? Has anyone noticed Romney flip-flops on issues a lot? Can anybody explain why Romney opposes federal health care reform but signed much the same into law as Governor of Massachusetts in 2006? During his 2008 campaign, Romney’s national security advisor was Blackwater vice-chairman Cofer Black. Blackwater, formed by Holland MI native Erik Prince, was the security contractor running rogue and killing Iraqis. Interestingly, Hoekstra’s district includes Holland. Finally, there’s No Apology: The Case for American Greatness, Romney’s new book defining the country’s ills and providing common sense solutions. He’s on a book tour touting his ideas, but Romney’s book has no citations or bibliography to back up his claims.

Pete Hoekstra

As for Hoekstra, I’ve already posted a couple of times on why Hoekstra is not governor material. Despite being ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Hoekstra is a security leak. And not just once. He’s a serial intelligence spewer, including his itinerary in a trip to Iraq, information being gleaned after the Fort Hood massacre, and in a “protect secrets” column in the Washington Post. He’s a loose cannon.

Being an opportunist is part-and-parcel of being a politician, I guess. But Hoekstra’s pretty good at it. He’s one of three Michigan Representatives that voted no on Monday and yes on Friday for the Wall Street bailout. Joe Knollenberg, the other Republican lost his reelection bid. I’m still wondering what Democrat Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick got out of it. I just don’t see it benefiting her Detroit district constituents in any meaningful way.

Hoekstra used the Christmas day airliner bombing attempt in fundraising letters for his gubernatorial campaign. In part, he said:

We don’t have much time, so I will get right to the point. In the midst of enjoying Christmas with my family, we were quickly reminded that there is still a war against the American way of life; on Christmas morning, it came right here to Detroit.

Hoekstra’s appeal and promises to safeguard Michigan are both pathetic and inaccurate. In June 2009, 37 Republican representatives, including Hoesktra, voted against the Homeland Security and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2010. He, and 108 other Republicans also voted against the conference bill in October. Not quite the record of someone looking out for the safety of Michigan’s citizens, is it?

Previously on Hoekstra:

Previously on gubernatorial candidates:

Tue, 06 Apr 2010

Big Branch Mine Disaster Preventable

Filed under: Behavior, Government, Greed, Life, Safety — cynicalsynapse @ 10:17 pm

Upper Big Branch mine

With 25 dead and 4 missing, the Upper Big Branch disaster is the worst coal mining accident in the US since 1984. Although the reason for the explosion remains to be determined, it’s highly likely methane gas is the culprit. Upper Big Branch is eerily like the Sago disaster that killed 12 miners in 2006.

As for the 4 missing miners, officials hold out hope for their survival, but it seems unlikely. Rescuers are unable to enter the mine, due to the methane levels, until 1,200-foot ventilation shafts are drilled. If the methane levels will support explosive combustion, they also suppress breathable oxygen, meaning survival of the unaccounted for miners is not likely.

Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine is a non-union operation. Significantly, it “liberates” 1.5 million cubic feet of methane gas in a 24 hour period. United Mine Workers spokesman Phil Smith had this to say about the mine’s safety violations.

Ventilation—which is very important in mining and when a mine liberates as much methane as this one—and maintenance of mine escapeways are two of the most serious.

mine injury rates

Sadly, the Upper Big Branch disaster should never have happened. The mine received 39 violations regarding extracting methane in 2009, 15 of which were considered “significant and substantial.” It should be no surprise, then, that Massey is a big political donor, and not necessarily to candidates in so-called mining country.

Owners of the mine, Massey Energy, have a history of safety infractions. The Upper Big Branch mine alone has been assessed about $1.8 million in safety violation penalties. Of that, the company has paid a mere $365,000.

The Upper Big Branch mine liberated, or off-gassed, 1.5 million cubic feet of methane every day! That’s a helluva lot! What about capturing that for generating electricity? I get worked up about a local landfill that routinely burns off minor amounts of methane gas. In any case, ventilation of the mine is critical for safety and the amount of methane warranted spot inspections by regulators every 5 days.

Sago mine disaster crosses

Massey’s 2009 safety violations were double 2008. Massey Energy paid nearly $900,000 for safety violations last year. The Upper Big Branch mine, alone, was cited for 458 safety violations in 2009. Many of those were related to the ventilation plan and its implementation. According to Davitt McAteer, former director of the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) under Pres. Bill Clinton:

That’s a high number. That’s a number that suggests that you’ve got some problems and should be a red flag for people who are involved in management to say “are we going in the right direction here?”

So, Massey’s safety violations were up, along with penalties. The company donates big to political campaigns. And the Upper Big Branch mine has excessive methane gas. Sounds like a recipe for disaster. Yet, according to McAteer:

We ought not to have disasters of this magnitude in this country. We’ve got mines that operate 25, 30 years without a fatal. Um, we’ve got mines that operate 40 years without a disaster. Tens of dozens of mines. We shouldn’t have a standard that allows for mines to have this kind of accident, uh, where you kill 25 people.

Preventable? You betcha.

Mon, 05 Apr 2010

Detroit Homicide Rate Down 25%

Filed under: Detroit, Driving, Economy, Good job, Government — cynicalsynapse @ 8:48 pm

shooting investigation

Detroit doesn’t often have good news it can brag about. But Police Chief Warren Evans reports homicides in Detroit are down 25% for the first 3 months of 2010 compared to 2009. That’s pretty significant, especially considering Michigan’s, and Detroit’s, unemployment rates. Michigan’s unemployment rate in February was 14.1%. The Bureau of Labor Statistics breaks the Detroit metropolitan area into two divisions, including parts of the city and suburbs. This skews the real unemployment rate in the city, which has been estimated at 50%.

Chief Evans credits his “mobile strike force” concept, which calls for increased traffic stops in statistically high crime areas. He is committed to getting as much dope and weapons off the street as possible. The former may be a motive, while the latter an instrument, for homicide. If statistics tell the story, the Chief may be on to something.

Detroit Police Chief Warren Evans

Evans can point to reduced homicde rates to support his efforts. But critics claim the measures amount to racial profiling or other abuses. In a city that’s 90% black, how can there be racial profiling against the majority?

“We’re asking officers to make legal stops of cars that look suspicious that have broken traffic laws,” Evans said. “Is that too much to ask?”

The Chief’s commitment impresses 38-year-old Detroit resident Kevin Rice, who recognized Evans while the Chief was on patrol on the city’s northwest side. “To see him out here means he’s not just collecting a paycheck,” Rice said. “He’s actually trying to see what he can do to solve some of these problems.”

Sun, 04 Apr 2010

Fathers Gone Wild

Filed under: Behavior, Justice, Legal, Life, People — cynicalsynapse @ 11:22 am

Jamar Pinkney Sr. being led off

Jamar Pinkney Sr. was convicted of murder in the second degree by a Wayne County, MI, circuit court on April 1st. Pinkney’s lawyer, Corbett Edge O’Meara, admitted he didn’t expect exhoneration. Sentencing is set for 15 April.

Pinkney, who is 37, fatally shot Jamar Pinkney Jr., 15, on 16 November 2009. The elder Pinkney apparently became enraged upon learning the younger Pinkney had apparently admitted to molesting his 3-year-old half sister.

Jamar Pinkney Jr.'s death spot

While I can understand the father’s rage, here’s where the connection breaks for me. After marching his son, naked, from the house, Jamar Pinkney Sr. shot his son, execution style in an open field. The whole time, the boy and his aunt were begging Pinkney to spare the boy’s life.

Nonetheless, the jury took 2 hours and 50 minutes to reach a second-degree murder verdict. Pinkney was also convicted of three counts of assault and using a firearm in a felony. He faces life imprisonment with possibility of parole. Sentencing is slated for 15 April. Hope he has his taxes done.

Joseph Raymond Cox

But Jamar Pinkney Sr. is not the only dad with no respect for his child. Joseph Raymond Cox used his 2-year old daughter to protect him from police Tasers. The resident of Detroit suburb Belleville faced off police a week ago after they were called to Cox’s former wife’s suburban Warren home.

Cox forced his way into his former wife’s home after she refused to let him in. When police arrived, he took “what we call a fighting stance, clenched his fist”, Warren Police Sgt. Heidi Metz said. Police were able to arrest Cox without using Tasers. His daughter was not injured.

Candidate Charlie Sheen uses a child to shield himself from sniper

Cox faces second-degree child abuse, home invasion, and resisting and obstructing police charges as a result. He remains in Macomb County Jail, with bond set at $15,000 cash or surety, pending his preliminary hearing on 8 April.

Kind of reminds you of that scene in The Dead Zone where candidate Charlie Sheen uses a child to shield himself from a sniper, doesn’t it?

HT: theblogprof

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