Cynical Synapse

Thu, 15 Jul 2010

Michigan Jobless Numbers: Smoke and Mirrors

Filed under: Business, Economy, Michigan, People, Unemployment — cynicalsynapse @ 10:01 pm

Will Work for Food

The Michigan unemployment rate fell to 13.2%, continuing a slow, but steady, decline over the last couple months. And this is the second consecutive month for which Michigan doesn’t have the highest unemployment rate in the nation. But it’s still not good.

Jobless line

But the news is not as good as it sounds. Department of Energy, Labor, and Economic Growth spokesman Bruce Weaver said fewer people were looking for work. When people who’ve quit looking, or part-timers seeking full-time work are counted, Michigan’s rate of unemployment and under-employment is 21.7%. To that end, 42,000 fewer workers were hunting for jobs this June compared to June 2009.

As to whether the recession is ending, initial jobless claims were down 29,000, but seasonally adjusted unemployment still topped 4.7 million across the country for the week ending 10 July. That’s an increase of 247,000 over the previous week. For the week ending 03 July, Michigan was third in increases for initial claims (+5,323).

Sun, 11 Jul 2010

US Passport Prices Up 50% Because They Can

Filed under: Behavior, Citizen rights, Government, Life, National security, Opportunists, Taxes, Travel — cynicalsynapse @ 11:46 am

US passports

Just announced this past week, US passport fees rise about 50% on 13 July. While it seems there’s hardly any notice for this hefty increase, the State Department has been considering it since February. What’s interesting is 70% of public comment was opposed to the increase. To skirt that, State just implements the price hike while Congress is recessed.

Why are prices going up now and by so much? According to the State Dept., it’s because new passports include high-tech security features. Woops. Those features have been in place since 2006. Never mind that those high tech features have been hacked already.

Customs and Border Protection checking documents

If it’s not the high-tech cost, then State says it’s because of increased demand. Woops! I’m sorry, but the increased demand is because US citizens need a passport to return to the US. This has been a requirement for air travelers since 2006 and in effect for land/sea crossings for the last year. So, the so-called increased demand doesn’t support a passport price hike right now, either.

I live 20 minutes from Windsor, Ontario, and it’s always been easier to go there than it has to come back to the US. The guys in the little booths on the US side are just so full of themselves. I’ve not been to Canada since 9/11 because I knew it would be painful to come back home. Maybe I just don’t like being treated like a suspect for no other reason than wanting to come home. Now the US has added a travel tax in the form of the passport requirement. And now, they’re raising that tax.

Nothing permitted in visitor center

The added hassle of entering the US has cost jobs, income, and taxes. It’s done little, if anything, to increase national and border security. As if that’s not bad enough, US passport security is in jeopardy because we outsouce making the smartchip to Thailand. Which means the passport requirement isn’t even accomplishing its intended purpose. Just more security theater with little tangible benefit.

Fri, 09 Jul 2010

Bouchard Grasps at Immigration Frenzy

Filed under: Government, Governor, Legal, Michigan, Opportunists, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 6:05 pm

Oakland Co. Sheriff Mike Bouchard

Immigration reform and enforcement are hot topics, of late, especially with Arizona’s new immigration law. After much ringing of hands, the US Justice Department filed suit against Arizona, disputing the constitutionality of the law. At issue, from the Feds’ perspective, is the state usurping Federal authority. The common counter heard to such a claim is states wouldn’t need to if the Feds were doing their jobs.

A grand opportunist, Michigan gubernatorial candidate Mike Bouchard has his own immigration enforcement scheme to put him in the limelight. You see, Oakland County’s Sheriff is in fourth place among Republican hopefuls for Governor. It’s actually a Federal program in which local law enforcement reports illegal immigrants to the Feds. Under the program, electronic fingerprints of arrestees will be sent to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to determine if the suspect has legal status or not.

While Bouchard claims he’s been working on this for years, and over 400 other jurisdictions participate, the timing couldn’t be more to his personal advantage. Any benefit to his constituency is just an added bonus. Michigan’s director of Reform Immigration America, Ryan Bates had this to say.

What we are seeing from Sheriff Bouchard is indicative of the politics of immigration being played out in the governor’s race.

Oakland County Sheriff's armored car

As for Bouchard’s other grandstanding and opportunism, why is his name on the Department’s armored car? He served in the Michigan House in 1990, but ran for the Michigan Senate the next year. He served in the state Senate until he accepted appointment to fill the remainder of Sheriff John Nichols’ term after he passed away. Why? Bouchard would say it’s because law enforcement is in his blood. I submit it’s the fact the Sheriff makes a third again as much as a state legislator. Don’t misunderstand—there’s nothing wrong with wanting to make more money. But term limits, which took effect in 1992, would have soon left Bouchard out of a job in the state Senate.

Bouchard was re-elected Sheriff in 2000, 2004, and 2008; his present term runs to 2013. He obviously has higher aspirations, however, since Bouchard ran for US Senate in 2006. During that race, he had no problem collecting his $130,969 salary as Sheriff even though he spent a lot of time on the campaign trail. Oakland County taxpayers are, once again, underwriting Bouchard’s political ambitions as he collects his Sheriff’s salary while out on the campaign trail. That seems unethical to me.

A slick way for Bouchard to get his name out is his Student of the Month bumper stickers, a program he started as a State Senator. It sounds good, but what value does it really add? Just like Bouchard touts his role in Michigan’s sex offender registry. The problem is, sex offender registries don’t change crime rates. It’s just grandstanding on Bouchard’s part. Since only 2-4% of predators on social networking sites were convicted sex offenders, the registration program is both ineffective and costly. According to the US Department of Justice, New Jersey’s sex offender registry costs have grown nearly 7 times, from just over a half million dollars in 1995 to $3.9 million in 2006.

There are those who question Bouchard’s ethics in office. Is it an abuse of office to have your children checked on by out-of-state police agencies? Others wonder what Mike Bouchard is up to.

A discrimination/wrongful discharge lawsuit about the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department is at the vanguard of issues. The suit has surfaced a number of issues within Bouchard’s administration of the Oakland Sheriff’s department. In fact, there are numerous allegations of wrong-doing in the Oakland Co. Sheriff’s Department under Bouchard.

He says he knows how to get state government back on track. In fact, Bouchard hasn’t been part of state government for a decade. And with the issues in the Oakland Co. Sheriff’s Department, why should Bouchard even be a serious contender for Michigan’s top job?

Previously on gubernatorial candidates:

Wed, 07 Jul 2010

Eastpointe Finds Racial Idiocy Still Exists

Filed under: Citizen rights, Crime, Life, Oppression, People, Racism — cynicalsynapse @ 8:53 pm

Kwanita Graham reading hate mail

It’s hard for civilized people in the 21st Century to comprehend, but sometimes the Race Card is real. Case in point: Nearly 20 Black families in Eastpointe, MI, got hate mail over the last couple of days. The gist of the mail: move back across 8 Mile—the symbolic divide between Detroit and its northern suburbs.

This is a significant event, when 20 families in the same neighborhood receive essentially the same letter. Fortunately, the Eastpointe Police and US Postal Inspectors are investigating. Using the mail to commit a hate crime makes it a Federal offense. That means whoever is behind this could be facing up to 20 years in the Federal penitentiary.

hate mail

As far as I’m concerned, that’s not nearly enough. I’m stunned to learn Federal hate crimes penalties are only a year. Michigan is no better. So, best case, the perpetrator gets a year per for a max of 20 years. In my opinion, this is way more serious than that. How would you feel if you saw this in your mail?

We tired of u [n word]s movin in are neighborhood. You need to move back across 8 Mile. We just need to start killing you [n word]s one by one.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this, ever. It’s shocking, very shocking,” said 7-year resident Darlene Foster. None of the 18 recipients, all African-American who live on Sprenger Street, should have experienced this at all.

My hope is the goofball responsible for this pathetic fiasco will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. That probably doesn’t make up for the disruption in their daily lives suffered by the affected Eastpointe residents. Perhaps, it shows most of us think alike and can agree that, sometimes, the Race Card is justified. Personally, I’m disgusted.

Mon, 05 Jul 2010

Just Who Is Elana Kagan?

Filed under: Government, Legal, Politics, Take action — cynicalsynapse @ 8:10 pm

People need jobs

So far, in hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Supreme Court nominee Elana Kagan revealed practically nothing on her views on any topic.

Nonetheless, I have to give Kagan credit for understanding the law of land warfare and its implications with enemy combatants. That’s something her predecessor, Attorney General Eric Holder, failed to fully understand. Kagan’s answers to Sen. Linsay Graham’s questions demonstrate a sound grasp of the nature of the threat, the law of war, the need for military detention and military commissions.

Hon. Alena Kagan

During confirmation for Solicitor General—head of the Justice Department—Kagan told Senators she would uphold the laws of the United States, no matter her beliefs. That’s very similar to what she’s saying during confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court. But is Kagan true to her word? The problem is, we don’t know. She has no experience on the bench. And, Kagan declined any insight into her views during confirmation hearings.

How can a Senator confirm a nominee who declined to provide any insight into how she would perform? She attempted to veil her answer to specific questions. In response to an angered Sen. Arlen Spector (D-DA), Kagan replied:

You shouldn’t want a judge who will sit at this table and who will tell you that she will reverse a decision without listening to arguments, and without reading briefs, and without talking to colleagues.

US Supreme Court Justices

While I get that, Kagan was actually trying to hide her judicial viewpoint. While many believe she was successful, Kagan actually telegraphed her views on several topics.

  • She’s not an “umpire” or a robot
  • She’s not a strict constructionist
  • She won’t rule out a federal “eat your vegetables” law
  • She subscribes to a “doctrine of humility
  • She may not believe people have a God-given right to gun ownership
  • She has a quick wit
  • She won’t take a stand on Vampire v. Werewolf
  • Oddly, she enjoys confirmation hearings

Personally, I’m opposed to Supreme Court candidates who don’t have any experience on the bench. That’s kind of like saying a nominee for the Joint Chiefs of Staff doesn’t really need to be a member of the military. Well, not only does Kagan not have judicial experience, but she did her best to hide what kind of Justice she would be. In my mind, she’s neither qualified nor trustworthy. Tell your Senator to vote no on Elana Kagan’s confirmation to the the Supreme Court.

Sun, 04 Jul 2010

Independence Day—What It Really Means

Happy Independence Day from the people of Wal-Mart

We tend to think of the signers of the Declaration of Independence as wise men who had nothing to lose. Rush Limbaugh’s father shows us they had everything to lose. His account also shows the Declaration, eloquent as it was, was the subject debate by the Continental Congress. From that telling:

Continental Congress

Our Lives, Our Fortunes, Our Sacred Honor

—Rush Limbaugh Jr

It was principle, not property, that had brought these men to Philadelphia. Two of them became presidents of the United States. Seven of them became state governors. One died in office as vice president of the United States. Several would go on to be U.S. Senators. One, the richest man in America, in 1828 founded the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. One, a delegate from Philadelphia, was the only real poet, musician and philosopher of the signers. (It was he, Francis Hopkinson not Betsy Ross who designed the United States flag.)

Richard Henry Lee, a delegate from Virginia, had introduced the resolution to adopt the Declaration of Independence in June of 1776. He was prophetic in his concluding remarks: “Why then sir, why do we longer delay? Why still deliberate? Let this happy day give birth to an American Republic. Let her arise not to devastate and to conquer but to reestablish the reign of peace and law.

“The eyes of Europe are fixed upon us. She demands of us a living example of freedom that may exhibit a contrast in the felicity of the citizen to the ever-increasing tyranny which desolates her polluted shores. She invites us to prepare an asylum where the unhappy may find solace, and the persecuted repost.

“If we are not this day wanting in our duty, the names of the American Legislatures of 1776 will be placed by posterity at the side of all of those whose memory has been and ever will be dear to virtuous men and good citizens.”

HT: pamibe

The Declaration of Independence

President Woodrow Wilson said, “The American Revolution was a beginning, not a consummation.” As if to underscore this, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen’s Independence Day message included these words:

This Independence Day we celebrate our Nation’s 234th birthday. As this holiday weekend approaches and we enjoy parades, picnics and fireworks, I hope we also take a moment to remember the generations of Americans who have safeguarded our independence.

Today, there are more than 200,000 uniformed American men and women deployed in harm’s way, protecting us. Their steady lives of dedication remind us that our Nation’s promise must be tended to everyday. I won’t forget the gifts of their service far away from home or the sacrifices of the families who wait for their return.

HT: Michelle Malkin

Remember, the 9/11 attackers were safeguarded and assisted by the Taliban in Afghanistan. We should make no mistake about the criticality of US efforts there. We also need to be mindful there are competing interests in the region. They cannot be taken for granted nor dismissed as irrelevant.

As you enjoy your Independence Day holiday activities, take a moment to remember the men and women of the Armed Forces. Many of them are fighting to protect our way of live and this holiday. Also keep in mind the families of deployed military personnel, as well as those of the fallen. They know, all too well, what’s at stake.

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