Cynical Synapse

Mon, 31 May 2010

Pay Tribute to our Fallen Heroes

Filed under: Heroes, History, holidays, Life, Military, Patriotism, Society — cynicalsynapse @ 6:00 am

Memorial Day graphic

For some, Memorial Day is a long weekend, marking the beginning of summer, a time for family and friends to get together. It is that, but it is also an opportunity for us to remember the sacrifice of so many members of our Armed Forces, from before the Revolutionary War until the present. These military personnel gave their lives to form a new nation and to defend it and their fellow citizens. They have stood, and fallen, to safeguard our way of life and the freedom we sometimes take for granted. They were ordinary people like you and me. A great majority of them volunteered to serve their country. Memorial Day is the day designated for us to pay tribute to those veterans who paid the ultimate price to give us our country and our way of life.

Memorial Day in Iraq

Michigan has lost 179 service members in the current conflict. Regardless of whatever else you may think of Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D), she is one of 28 governors that order US flags to be flown at half-staff to honor those who have fallen in action. She also meets with families of the fallen, if they so choose, during the week before Memorial Day.

In the 8th year of the Global War on Terror—Overseas Contingency Operation just doesn’t cut it for me—there is personal significance to Memorial Day for service members. We know the fallen, either from serving with them or by association with their units. The same is, of course, true for their families and friends.

Memorial Day poster

Frequent readers will recall I’m a member of the Michigan Army National Guard. See Faces of the Fallen to learn more about our 12 fallen comrades.

  • 14 Apr 03—SPC Richard A. Goward, 32, convoy accident
  • 17 Jul 04—SPC Craig S. Frank, 24, IED
  • 15 Mar 05—SSG Ricky A. Kieffer, 36, small arms fire
  • 04 Nov 05—SPC Timothy D. Brown, 23, IED
  • 21 Nov 05—PFC John W. Dearing, 21, IED
  • 08 Dec 05—SGT Spencer C. Akers, 35, IED
  • 26 Dec 05—SPC Dane O. Carver, 20, small arms fire
  • 01 Mar 06—SGT Joshua V. Youmans, 26, IED
  • 27 Apr 06—SGT Matthew A. Webber, 23, IED
  • 10 Jul 06—SGT Duane J. Dresky, 31, IED
  • 06 Jun 07—SGT Matthew J. Soper, 25, IED
  • 26 Jun 08—SFC Matthew L. Hilton, 37, IED

Previously on Memorial Day:


Sun, 23 May 2010

The Incredibly Arrogant Mr. Cox

Filed under: Behavior, Detroit, Government, Governor, Kwamegate, Michigan, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 9:06 pm

Mike Cox

People in Michigan know Mike Cox is a Republican candidate for governor. Cox currently serves as the state’s Attorney General. Does that job qualify him to be governor? Well, it’s the gig Jennifer Granholm had before she became governor. It’s no secret how she fared.

As for Cox, he’s a love him or hate him kind of guy. His 2006 opponent, Amos Williams, characterizes Cox as “too aggressive, a bully”, and an opportunist. Funny—opportunist is the word that comes to my mind, too.

Rev. Al Sharpton delivers eulogy

Why, on earth, would Cox feel a need to say anything publicly about Rev. Al Sharpton giving the eulogy at Aiyana Stanley-Jones’ funeral Saturday? Saying he was “disgusted but not surprised,” Cox characterized Sharpton as someone who “parachutes in to get his name in the paper,” then leaves after creating “a worse racial divide than existed before.” While I don’t disagree with Cox on this one, I also find myself uncharacteristically siding with Rev. Sharpton. He said, “For [Cox] to play politics and try to get votes off the deaths of two young people speaks more of him than it does me.” Reminds me of Hoekstra using the Christmas Day terror attempt for fundraising.

Taking his chances with Detroit voters, who are largely Democrats and African-American, Cox is more direct than just his remarks about Sharpton. In April, Cox appealed the ruling against DPS Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb. The judge’s ruling stemmed from the Detroit School Board lawsuit alleging Bobb exceeded his authority. Cox is clearly betting on out-state voters by pandering to Granholm’s appointed financial manager. At the same time, Cox is telling Detroit voters they don’t matter by taking a stand against their elected School Board. The Board’s lawsuit claims Bobb is interfering in non-financial matters of the District and that he has no business meddling in academics.

Manoogian Mansion and slain stripper Tamara Greene

Cox has been plagued by what he called “an urban legend”, the rumored 2002 wild party at the Manoogian Mansion, official residence of Detroit’s Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. The murder, some months later, of stripper Tamara “Strawberry” Green is tied to the party at which she allegedly dance. Following Attorney General and Michigan State Police investigations in 2003, Cox said there’s no evidence of the party. Now, a retired Detroit Police dispatcher has testified the party happened and heard that Mike Cox attended. Cox is not helped when folks like Michigan State Police investigator Mark Krebs testified Cox interfered with the investigation into the party. So, the rumors persist and many believe Cox is involved in a cover-up.

Mike Cox also broke trust with his wife. The AG was involved in an affair in 2005, but the couple stayed married. While people make mistakes, his violation of private trust does call into question Cox’s commitment to the public trust.

Ironically, Michigan’s top law enforcement officer had more illegaly posted Cox campaign signs along Michigan highways in the days preceeding last year’s Republican summit on Mackinaw Island. I know Cox didn’t plant them, but his campaign did, and he’s responsible for his campaign. Never mind the cost to the taxpayers for state police and road workers to remove them.

Mike Cox and asian carp

True to his smugness, Cox has started running attack ads on his Republican primary rivals. In one of those, Cox’s ad features a man who plans to vote for Rick Snyder, a Republican primary rival. The unwilling extra, Derek Moss, wants to be removed from the ads. He said, “I find it appalling [Cox] is using my image in a shameful attack ad on another opponent.”

Other examples of opportunistic grandstanding by Mike Cox abound. Consider his lawsuit against the health care reform law. How much did that cost the citizens of cash-strapped Michigan? And what will that do for them before the law takes effect in 2014, long after this fall’s election? Then there’s the periodic forays in the news with Cox joining other Great Lakes AGs on the asian carp issue. That might make sense for Michigan, but Cox is playing to to political advantage.

When taken together, it seems pretty obvious that Cox plays to special interests and is out to make Mike Cox look good. Michigan doesn’t need a media governor or one that likes to grandstand. Michigan needs a governor that can lead, make tough and fair choices, and get the job done. Mike Cox falls a little short.

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.

Sun, 16 May 2010

Michigan Visionary’s Legacy of Unity

Filed under: Driving, Engineering, Government, History, Michigan — cynicalsynapse @ 6:27 am

Lawrence A. Rubin

One of Michigan’s great pioneers, Lawrence A. Rubin, died 11 May 2010. Gov. Granholm said:

Larry Rubin was synonymous with the Mackinac Bridge. You cannot think of one without the other and with good reason. As the first executive secretary of the Mackinac Bridge Authority, Larry was an advocate for the Mighty Mac before it was built, and he spent a lifetime committed to its enduring legacy as an icon for the state of Michigan.

Rubin spent years advocating for the Mackinaw Bridge, which connects Michigan’s upper and lower penninsulas. Before the bridge, which was completed in 1957, travelers depended on ferries between Michigan’s penninsulas. Rubin figured prominently in the Mackinaw Bridge’s financing and construction. The bridge cost $100 million in 1957.

Mackinac Bridge

As a result of his efforts and advocacy, Rubin became a bit of a legend in Michigan’s upper penninsula, commonly called the UP. Rubin headed the Mackinac Bridge Authority from 1950 until 1984. Since then, he’s lived in a St. Ignace MI house overlooking the straits. William Gnodtke, current Chairman of the Mackinaw Bridge Authority, said of Rubin:

[Rubin] said the last thing I see at night and the first thing I see in the morning is the light from the bridge.

An icon of Michigan, the Mackinac Bridge still remains an engineering marvel 53 years later. Even today, the Mackinac is the third longest suspension bridge in the world. “Big Mac” continues to have the third longest span in the US.

Sat, 15 May 2010

Demolishing Romney’s Boyhood Home Metaphor for Gubernatorial Candidates?

Filed under: Detroit, Economy, Government, Governor, Michigan, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 5:15 pm

Mitt Romney's boyhood home in Detroit stands abandoned

Mitt Romney long ago left Michigan. Politically, he’s the former Governor of Massachusetts and ran an unsuccessful bid for US President. In my mind, he has no business in Michigan politics. Still, Romney has endorsed Hoekstra for Michigan Governor. Never mind the quid pro quo here, since US Rep. Pete Hoekstra endorsed Romney in his Presidential bid.

As if to make a point about Romney’s irrelevance to Michigan politics, Romney’s boyhood home in Detroit is slated for demolition. The house is a 5,000 square foot structure in upscale Palmer Woods, so I’m surprised it’s abandoned. Like so many others, it’s fallen on hard times, leaving it on the list for the wrecking ball.

Mitt Romney

I’ve already said Hoekstra is not gubernatorial material. But I have issues with most of the candidates for Michigan Governor. I’ll be posting those concerns over the next few weeks.

Mitt Romney has never been involved in Michigan politics. He was opposed to a government bailout of the automakers. Even though he grew up here, he is not a friend of the Great Lakes State. Michigan voters need to vote based on what’s best for Michigan, not what charlatans like Romney imply is best.

So, Romney has no business in Michigan politics. And his endorsement for Governor is probably the least qualified, capable, or trustworthy. Bulldozing Romney’s boyhood home closes the chapter on his access to Michigan voters. To the voters’ advantage.

Previously on gubernatorial candidates:

Thu, 13 May 2010

Indicted Waters Runs for MI Senate

Filed under: Detroit, Government, Legal, Michigan, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 10:41 pm

Mary Waters

Are you kidding me? Former state Rep. Mary Waters is running for a Michigan Senate seat. She says “charges don’t mean you’re guilty.” Still, Waters faces Federal corruption charges over allegations of bribes to a Southfield councilman over a pawn shop’s rezoning efforts.

In case that’s not bad enough, Waters says she’s broke and wants taxpayers to defend her by providing a court-appointed attorney in her Federal trial. Nonetheless, a former Federal prosecutor representing Waters filed a motion in to dismiss Waters’ charges. In Wednesday’s motion in US District Court in Detroit, Richard Convertino said:

As fruits of the poisonous tree, it is clear that without these illegal wiretaps, the government would not have had any evidence from which to derive …. the purported bribe(s) of Southfield City Councilman William Lattimore.

Rick Convertino and Mary Waters

Sounds like a technicality to me. And if she’s broke, who’s paying for Convertino? I’ll bet he’s not cheap. Not to mention, how will she finance a campaign if she’s broke and has legal expenses?

Finances aside, how dumb does Mary Waters think voters are? She’s facing corruption charges and her co-defendant, Sam Riddle was convicted last week of felonious assault against Waters!

It’s not illegal for Waters to run for a Michigan Senate seat since she’s not been convicted. As Waters sees it, “Since I am a former legislator, this is an opportunity to go back into public service.”

Sam Riddle, Mary Waters campaigning

From my perspective, I can’t believe Mary Waters doesn’t see how she’s exactly the antithesis of what Detroit needs right now. The city—and region—must have leaders committed to its future.

Waters doesn’t pass that litmus test. Her actions prove she’s only interested in what she can do to benefit herself. Never mind

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