Cynical Synapse

Thu, 24 Jun 2010

Kwamegate Goes Federal

Filed under: Congress, Crime, Detroit, Government, Greed, Kwamegate, Michigan, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 10:05 am

Kilpatrick taken into custody after violating probation

Authorities indicted Kwame Kilpatrick on 19 Federal charges Wednesday, 23 Jun 2010. Charges against Detroit’s former mayor include 10 counts of mail fraud, 5 counts of falsifying tax return, 3 counts of wire fraud, and 1 count of tax evasion. If convicted, Kilpatrick faces up to 20 years in prison and fines of $250,000.

Charges layed by a Federal grand jury stem from investigations into misuse of funds from Kilpatrick’s non-profit Civic Fund. The improper spending involves a variety of personal expenses:

  • Yoga lessons for Kilpatrick
  • Golf expenses, including lessons, a set of clubs, and golf bag
  • Summer camp for Kilpatrick’s kids
  • College tuition for relatives
  • A birthday party
  • A video documenting Kilpatrick’s family history
  • A spokesman to manage Kilpatrick’s public image after the text messaging scandal
  • Personal moving expenses when Kilpatrick moved out of the mayoral mansion and lease of his new personal residence
  • Personal travel costs and private jet flights
  • Car rental and leases
  • Counter-surveillance and anti-bugging equipment

Kilpatrick is already serving 18-60 months in a northern Michigan prison for violating his probation on his perjury conviction. What’s funny is Kilpatrick spokesman Mike Paul pointed out there were no bribery charges. Is that supposed to be a sigh of relief? As in “heck, it’s just fraud charges”? Kilpatrick and Paul probably better not hold their breath. The FBI is still looking into Kilpatrick running a criminal organization. Don’t be surprised if more charges get filed.

US Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick

Here’s the next big question: will Kwame’s mommy’s political career suffer? As far as I can see, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick has done little to nothing for her constituents. Never mind Rep. Kilpatrick (D) narrowly escaped House ethics charges. She also changed her vote from no to yes for the Wall Street bailout after the Senate added another 100 billion to the package. How many of her Detroit constituents benefited, do you think?

Previously on Kwame Kilpatrick:

Tue, 22 Jun 2010

Detroit’s Night Sky Like Shooting Stars

Filed under: Detroit, holidays, Life, People — cynicalsynapse @ 2:30 pm

52nd Annual Target Fireworks

Detroit has many bright spots; some are routinely overlooked or downplayed. The annual fireworks display over the Detroit River is almost universally hailed as one of—if not the—best in the country. About the 52nd Annual Target Fireworks show, Logan Randolph had only praise. The 9-year old Jacksonville, FL, boy said:

Oh, it’s the best in the world. Any other fireworks are nothing compared to this.

Nearly a million people attended Detroit’s fireworks. For years, the firworks were part of the Canadian-US Freedom Festival, but the Freedom Festival became River Days four years ago.

Hart Plaza

For many people, the fireworks extravaganza is an all day affair. The epicenter on the Detroit side is Hart Plaza, a riverfront venue. Musicians and food vendors have people enjoying themselves up until the start of the firworks. The fireworks include 10,000 or more pyrotechnic devices.

Launched from 3 barges in the Detroit River, the fireworks mark the beginning of summer for metro Detroit. Several other festivals take place in Detroit throughout the summer.

Fri, 18 Jun 2010

Michigan Surrenders Top Jobless Spot

Filed under: Business, Economy, Government, Governor, Life, Michigan — cynicalsynapse @ 6:56 pm

People need jobs

Even though the state has added jobs in the past year, Michigan’s May unemployment rate is still 13.6%, seasonally adjusted. Never mind it’s the same rate as a year ago. Still, Nevada edged Michigan for highest unemployment in the US, ending Michigan’s 50 month reign.

So, is Michigan better off? Well, not really. Michigan’s job gains are largely temporary. Government jobs increased about 7,000, mostly for census workers. As for 6,000 additional jobs in manufacturing, they’re mostly seasonal food processing. According to Bruce Weaver, an economic analyst with the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor, and Economic Growth, 662,000 Michiganians are still looking for jobs. About the new jobs, Weaver said:

This was more diffuse hiring in the manufacturing sector, mostly in durable goods and seasonal manufacturing, like food processing.

Blueberry pickers

Duh! I worked at a pickle plant several summers and I picked blueberries as a kid. So I know what “seasonal food processing” means. Like Stimulus jobs, it’s smoke and mirrors. In September, the seasonal jobs will be gone and Michigan may well lead the country in unemployment rates again. Anyone who is patting themselves on the back for Michigan’s current unemployment rate is an idiot or an opportunist hoping to fool voters in the August primaries. Still, voters will see the real jobs landscape before the November general election.

Incidentally, my experience picking blueberries was just fine. Did I like it? Not really. Did I feel exploited? Not at all! I was 12 or 14 at the time, so, to me, this is a non-issue. And, in any case, I suspect blueberry pickers, whether minor children or migrant workers, or both, don’t largely impact the workforce and employment statistics.

Where does that leave us? Aren’t you blown away yet?

Mon, 14 Jun 2010

WWII Vet Honored on Eve of Flag Day

Filed under: Flying, Heroes, History, holidays, Military, Patriotism — cynicalsynapse @ 8:11 pm

WWII B-25 pilot Larry Kiger with his hat and medalion from the Yankee Air Museum crew

My Dad bought rides for himself, my brother, and me on the Yankee Air Museum’s B-25 Mitchell bomber on 13 June. Lots of people don’t get to see historic aircraft like that, let alone ride on one. The event was part of a fly-in at the Mason Jewett Airport in Mason MI. Generally, these are events with historic and experimental aircraft and a lot of comeraderie among the pilots and crews. The weather was kind of punk, however, with low visibility and low ceilings, meaning cloud cover was close to the ground. As a result, attendance was low and not that many aircraft had flown in.

FAA regulations require 3 miles visibility and 1,500 foot ceilings before the B-25 could take on passengers. It was almost 2 PM by the time those conditions finally materialized. Persistence pays off and the lucky 7 got their ride on the Yankee Warrior, the only B-25D documented combat medium bomber still flying. During the flight, passengers were able to explore the dorsal turret, which is actually remote-controlled, and the waist, tail, and nose gunners’ positions.

B-25D Yankee Warrior

What truly impressed me, however, was when we landed. After the 7 passengers got certificates signed by the pilot, the Yankee Air Museum crew presented World War II veteran Larry Kiger with a medalion and thanked him for his service. This is all the more significant since Larry was a B-25 pilot during the war. One of the Yankee Air Museum folks told me that, when we were preparing to taxi for take-off, Larry said he could remember feeling the vibration from the controls in his hands. What an amazing connection to history!

Most of the B-25s were flown by the Army Air Corps. It’s only fitting we were able to be part of honoring Larry’s service on the eve of the Army’s 235th birthday, 14 June 2010. I’m proud to have been a part of this small ceremony in mid-Michigan and to have honored such a great American. I’m sure Larry doesn’t think of himself as a hero, but there’s no doubt those of us who met him consider him such.

In the US, 14 June is also Flag Day, representing the day our Stars and Stripes were adopted as the US Flag. Flag Day has always been an under-recognized holiday. This year it took on a grand new significance, at least for me.

Wed, 02 Jun 2010

Holiday Driving Fatalities Down, Water-Related Deaths Climb

Filed under: Behavior, holidays, Life, Michigan, Safety — cynicalsynapse @ 6:03 am

Vehicle rollover accident

It seems increased police presence on our highways during holiday weekends has led to a steady reduction in fatal crashes. Preliminary information from Michigan State Police indicates Michigan experienced just 9 highway deaths this Memorial Day Weekend, compared to 11 for last year’s holiday weekend. That’s good news and probably correlates to alcohol and seatbelt enforcement efforts. In fact, Michigan traffic fatalities fell to their lowest since 1924 last year at 871.

Still, I-96 in Michigan made the top 100 deadliest Interstates list, ranking at 100. Interestingly, I-96’s entire length is within Michigan’s borders. As for this year’s holiday road deaths? In 4 of the 9 fatalities, police say alcohol is a known factor. Seatbelts were used in 4 cases as well.

Searching for a drowning victim

Unfortunately, Michigan saw 6 swimming and boating fatalities this holiday weekend, marking a 4 year increase. Thomas Anzivino, 55, of Zeeland, fell overboard into Lake Michigan, west of Port Sheldon. John Tymensky, 41, died when he crashed his speedboat into a pile of cement rocks. Besides the 2 boating fatalities, 4 people drowned in Michigan waters.

  • Dustin Anderson, 21, Clean Water Beach, Monroe, MI
  • Zayar Khin, 35, Lake St. Clair, Grosse Pointe, MI
  • Brent Ford, 25, Scripter Park Beach, Oxford, MI
  • Demond Harps, 12, Pirolli Park, Summerfield Twp, MI

Here’s hoping we don’t have a long hot summer of discontent in the city. And we don’t see a continued death toll on our lakes and waters.

Tue, 01 Jun 2010

Ambassador Bridge Owner Gets Double-Tapped

Filed under: Budget, Business, Greed, Justice, Legal, Paradoxes, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 1:32 pm

Detours remain at Ambassador Bridge

Grosse Pointe billionaire and Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun did not have a good week leading up to the holiday.

First, the Michigan Supreme Court declined to hear Moroun’s case against the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) lawsuit over the Gateway Project. MDOT says Moroun, or more precisely his Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC), failed to provide freeway connections according to the agreed upon designs and signed contract. Unless Moroun takes the case to Federal court, he’ll have to reconstruct connections to I-75 and I-96 at, perhaps, a cost of millions of dollars. If Michigan invested $230 million in taxpayer dollars on the Gateway project, why couldn’t Matty Moroun meet his part of the bargain? Maybe because Moroun built a duty-free store and gasoline pumps in anticipation of his second span, at least partially on land owned by the City of Detroit. Kind of arrogant and presumptuous, don’t you think, Mr. Moroun?

Second, the Michigan House passed a bill to allow Michigan to finance a second, publicly-owned Detroit River crossing (aka bridge). Ambassador Bridge owner Moroun has been seeking Coast Guard approval for a second span. Nonetheless, he claims a second—Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC)—span is not economically viable. What he means is “I want my own second span, but yours is no good.”

No to Moroun's second bridge span

Considering that Detroit-Windsor is the highest volume border crossing between the US and Canada, it’s not prudent to leave a private entity with total control over cross-border traffic. Granted, there is the tunnel, but it’s not really a commercial crossing; trucks use the bridge. And, since Moroun doesn’t want to live up to the terms of the Gateway Project, a public span seems more in the interests of citizens in the region than a second Ambassador Bridge span.

Granted, the Michigan House bill still needs to make it past the Michigan Senate and Gov. Granholm who supports DRIC. Canada has already offered to fund Michigan’s part of the span, to be reimbursed by tolls until paid off. Environmental impact studies are, essentialy, done. This all seems like a no brainer to me.

Previously on the Ambassador Bridge:

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