Cynical Synapse

Sun, 31 Oct 2010

Trick or Treat, the Lure of Free Candy

Filed under: Behavior, Greed, holidays, Life, Opportunists, People — cynicalsynapse @ 10:58 am

halloween candy

Some cities have official trick or treat times. In my area, they vary from only an hour to three hours. For the cities that “officially” allow trick or treating from 6 PM to 7 PM, have you noticed it’s not even dark yet? My city recommends 6 to 8 pm.

teen halloween

I have no clue where some people come from to trick or treat in my neighborhood. You see them get out of cars. I’m ok with that, but don’t ask for candy for the 3 month old or the sibling that got sick.

On the other hand, I don’t really like it when the big kids show up. You see, there’s an age when you’re too old to trick or treat. Just sayin…

Sat, 30 Oct 2010

Sheeple Betray Michigan Again

Filed under: Behavior, Congress, Hypocrits, Michigan, People, Politics, Rants, Society — cynicalsynapse @ 3:45 pm

give us back our country

For all the hype about incumbents’ political careers being at risk, Michigan voters want to keep their incumbents. When you talk to people, they say throw them out, but that’s not how they’re going to vote.

Michigan has 15 US Congressional districts. Four have no incumbent seeking reelection. In the remaining 11, incumbents enjoy commanding leads in all but two races. Party affiliation makes no difference in how incumbents are doing in Michigan.

District Republican Democrat Lead
 1 Benishek, 62 McDowell, 40 2
 2 Huizenga, 62 Johnson, 34 28
 3 Amish, 46 Miles, 37 9
 4 (I) Camp, 65 Campbell, 32 32
 5 Kupiec, 33 (I) Kildee, 63 29
 6 (I) Upton, 62 Cooney, 34 28
 7 Wahlburg, 43 (I) Schaurer, 50 7
 8 (I) Rogers, 61 Enderle, 35 26
 9 Raczkowski, 48 (I) Peters, 43 5
10 (I) Miller, 68 Yanez, 28 39
11 (I) McCotter, 58 Mosher, 39 18
12 Volaric, 30 (I) Levin, 67 36
13 Hauler, 27 Clarke, 68 38
14 Ukrainec, 21 (I) Conyers, 76 55
15 Steele, 36 (I) Dingell, 53 17


Only two incumbents are even close to being at risk: Mark Schauer (D-7th) and Gary Peters (D-9th), with only Peters projected to lose. But Schauer and Peters voted Nancy Pelosi’s party line about 95% of the time. They are simply Pelosi puppets and need to go.

Long-time feeders at the public trough and octogenarians John Dingell (D-14th) and John Conyers Jr (D-15th) were never in real danger of losing their seats. They’ve been in office 55 and 45 years, respectively. Conyers is going to investigate Karl Rove. Instead, what Conyers should investigate Justice Clarence Thomas for possible impeachment. On top of that, Conyers can’t be bothered to read the bill or, it seems, the US Constitution.

Mad Conyers

As for Dingell, he intimidates constituents into toing the line. Both of these old fogeys need to go. Conyers, Dingell, Kildee, Levin and Schauer all voted to add $.27 billion more to the congressional budget beyond what Pres. Obama requested.

Just for the record, 5 of Michigan’s incumbents received over $1 million in health care donations during the last 20 years. The are Camp (R-4), Upton (R-6), Rogers (R-8), Levin (D-12), and Dingell (D-15). Apparently, Michigan voters are satisfied with special interests continuing such influences instead of electing candidates to represent the people. Like lemmings over the cliff, once again the sheeple refuse to take back control of the government.

Fri, 29 Oct 2010

Europeans Call for Curtain on Security Theater

department of security theater

Earlier this week, European airline and airport executives decried the burdonsome security requirements, labeling them “unnecessary and overly intrusive”. British Airways’ chairman started the furor in remarks he made before the UK Airport Operators Association.

Martin Broughton complained specifically about separate checks of laptop computers and forcing people to take off their shoes for checking, saying that such measures are “completely redundant,” the Financial Times reported Wednesday.

UK pilots, Heathrow airport’s operator, several European airlines, and even security experts welcomed Broughton’s observations.

“We need to keep passengers safe, but there’s also a whole bunch of security rules that could be eased out,” said Chris Yates, an aviation security analyst in London.

The requirement to remove shoes for screening, for example, was “the knee-jerk reaction after Richard Reid.” The newest metal detectors would sense any metal such as wiring in shoes, he contended.

tsa frisks terror suspect

Much of the security charades are simply feel-good measures with no significant security value. There are substantial costs in time, productivity, real estate, equipment, and manpower. Some have even referred to TSA—Transportation Security Administration—as Thousands Standing Around. Removing shoes was a knee-jerk reaction to the lone shoe bomber, Richard Reid. The plastic baggies and liquids limits resulted from the liquid explosives plot in the UK. Emphasis and speed-up on installing full-body scanners is because TSA knew they couldn’t demand we take our underwear off so they settled for a virtual strip search. The problem is these approaches are not effective.

However, all that “security” is not all that secure. According to articles by the BBC, Time, and Discover Magazine, pat-downs do not detect devices stowed in bodily orifices and invasive body scanners do not detect liquid, the most common form of explosives used by airborne terrorists. The Wall Street Journal notes that hardened cockpit doors and a trend of terror threats coming from coach class hint that deterrence may not be the main reason that federal marshals fly first class.

Are you kidding me? Air Marshals fly first class? If Osama Bin Laden himself was sitting in the window seat in row 38, what do you think the chances are of stopping him from blowing up the plane with his “netbook”? Netbooks don’t go through separately like laptops. An Air Marshal in first class would have had zero chance to stop the underwear bomber.

security screening

All the so-called security measures seem to address a real and reasonable threat. They should be reassuring. Instead, the process is dehumanizing and conducted with much the same compassion as sending cattle down the chute to the truck for the slaughterhouse. It feeds on and expands the irrationality of fear that is all around us.

Nevertheless, we should be thankful TSA is working so diligently to save rule-following, law-abiding citizens in close coordination with other countries around the world. In response to Broughton’s comments, a TSA statement said the US:

works closely with our international partners to ensure the best possible security. We constantly review and evolve our security measures based on the latest intelligence.

Previously on security theater:

Wed, 27 Oct 2010

Constitutionality of Obamacare

Filed under: Citizen rights, Congress, Government, Legal, Medicine, People, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 6:39 am

Pres. Obama signs the healthcare bill into law

Everyone knows the health care bill, officially the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, includes penalties for people who do not obtain health insurance. In common parlance, this is a mandate to buy a product—the health insurance mandate. There has been much discussion on the constitutionality of requiring people to buy health insurance.

Before its passage, I asked my Senators and Representative to tell me what clause of the US Constitution gave Congress the right to mandate citizens buy a product or service. Sens. Carl Levin (D) and Debbie Stabinaw (D) did not provide any constitutional citation. Neither did Rep. Sander Levin (D).

constitutionality of health care bill

Tuesday morning, NPR asked two former Solicters General about the insurance mandate’s constitutionality. Bill Clinton’s Solicitor General, Walter Dellinger, said encouraging people to buy health insurance is an essential corollary to requiring insurance companies to cover everyone, preexisting conditions notwithstanding. Paul Clement, Solicitor General for Pres. George W. Bush, had a different view.

[T]he Constitution does not give the Federal Congress plenary power. So they can’t do anything they want.

I think there’s a strong argument that the health care mandate is pretty far removed from the Framers’ original conception of what Congress’s Commerce Clause power would be.

So, constitutional challenges are proceeding. Since many provisions of the law don’t even take effect until 2014 or so, it’s likely going to be years before all of the issues are litigated and resolved. And this helps contain skyrocketing medical costs how?


27 Oct 2010

How could I have forgotten about this gem?

And how could Rep. Conyers have found anything unconstitutional in the bill? He openly admitted that he never read it. I’m sorry—isn’t that your fricking job, Congressman?

Tue, 26 Oct 2010

Good Money After Bad

Amtrak on it's own rails at Dowagiac

Lest there be any doubt, I am a strong proponent of mass transit by rail and intercity rail passenger service. But…

The announcement of US DOT investing $150 million plus in Michigan’s high speed rail corridor is a misnomer. The grant is for Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) to acquire and rehabilitate track between Dearborn and Kalamazoo. When done, the track will allow passenger rail speeds of 79 mph. First, that’s not high speed. Second, the track is already rated at 79 mph for passenger trains. Besides relieving present owner Norfolk Southern of maintaining the track, the only tangible benefit in the grant is improving connecting track in West Detroit. The grant also includes $3.2 million for planning the Detroit-Chicago high-speed corridor. Isn’t it already planned? Work has already been done on the Amtrak-owned Kalamazoo to state line portion. What more planning needs to be done?

railroad diamonds

Just over $7.9 million will be spent on connections between Detroit area trackage and the main line in West Detroit. That part probably makes sense. But here’s a piece no one is talking about: Michigan needs to fund $30 million to get the grants. Any bets on how likely that is, given the current budget situation?

Interesting, too, is how the value of the grants is $150 to $161 million and how Sens. Levin (D) and Stabinaw (D) and Rep. Dingell (D) are all claiming credit. Regardless, they’re claiming credit for spending taxpayer dollars on something that provides little, if any, tangible benefit. In fact, if anything, it saddles taxpayers with maintaining Norfolk Southern’s right-of-way. And, if I had to bet money, I’d bet they had little or nothing to do with it. Otherwise Michigan would have been awarded these grants in the first round when Stimulus was big in the news. The fact they’re claiming responsibility just before the election is unadulterated, disgustingly sick, opportunistic grandstanding.

money up in flames

So far, Pres. Obama’s stimulus-related high speed rail initiative has amounted to jack nothing for Michigan in regard to improved travel times. Remodeling some stations and taking over a rail line is still the same 79 mph route. You won’t get people out of their cars with that. And it’s still shorter to fly, even with all the so-called security crap.

Previously on high speed rail:

Mon, 25 Oct 2010

WOA Says Woah! to Charitable Gesture

Filed under: Behavior, Civil liberties, Helping others, Paradoxes, Politics, Society, Sports — cynicalsynapse @ 6:54 am

Football refs with pink whistles

Pacific Northwest Football Officials Association (PNFOA) referees used pink whistles and donated their checks for last Thursday’s game to support the Susan G. Komen Foundation. The 140 referees all agreed to raise breast cancer awareness and donate their pay for the game to breast cancer research. In an era of few suitable role models, the officials’ public statement and act of charity seems noble.

Not so fast. It seems the pink whistles violate Washington Officials Association (WOA) rules. The WOA provides oversight and direction for officiating in all interscholastic sports. According to WOA’s chairman, Todd Stordahl:

Todd Stordahl

They chose not to ask for permission, not to go the right route. It sends the wrong message to kids that are playing the game. ‘If they broke the rules why can’t I do the same.’

Instead of accolades for their civic mindedness, WOA is considering punishing the referees for being out of uniform. They could be suspended for two playoff games, depriving them of officiating at the premier events of their sport. The officials would also not be paid for those games. In that case, their donation of Thursday’s game check became three times as costly. High school referees don’t do it for the money, but that’s a pretty high price for demonstrating to kids they should be part of something bigger than themselves.

early poll results

According to a poll by TV station KING, 94% support the referees and only 4% think the WOA is in the right. The remaining 1% couldn’t make up their minds. It’s such a complicated issue, afterall.

Public opinion can influence decisions. It seems Stordahl is sorry he came out so strongly against the referees. Apparently, a decision on disciplinary action now won’t be made until after the season. Stordahl said it’s all about following the chain-of-command.

WOA deeply regrets that there’s any perception that we don’t support any breast cancer programs. As someone who follows sports, that’s all that we have are rules, regulations and interpretations.

Sun, 24 Oct 2010

Rep. Moran (D-VA) Disses Military Service

Filed under: Congress, Deceit, Government, Hypocrits, Military, Politics, Take action — Tags: — cynicalsynapse @ 6:39 am

Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA)

US Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) said his opponent’s military service was not public service. Referring to Republican challenger Patrick Murray’s Army career, from which he retired as a Colonel, Moran equated Murray’s 24-year military career with welfare. Moran also implied Murray’s platform of reducing government spending was disingenuous since the military is part of the Federal government.

The moron Moran is also trying to tie Federal spending cuts to weakening the military. It’s the same political meme as threatening to cut police or fire in tough budget climates.

pot calling kettle black

Does anyone see the irony in Moran implying his service counts while COL Murray’s doesn’t? As it turns out, Jim Moran has been feeding at the public trough his entire adult life. According to Moran:

What [Republicans] do is that they find candidates – usually stealth candidates – that haven’t been in office, haven’t served or performed any kind of public service. My opponent is typical.

It seems Moran thinks his Congressional service is more significant than military service:

[I]n his twisted mind the experience of putting your life on the line for your country pales in comparison to public drunkenness, bar fights, personal bankruptcy, anti-semitism, public corruption and assaulting 8-year old kids who you claim are trying to carjack you.

Patrick Murray

COL (retired) Murray has served four combat tours. Rep. Moran visited Afghanistan as a publicity stunt in August.

Moran claimed Murray was an inexperienced newcomer. Moran obviously doesn’t realize voters are upset with entrenched politicians that don’t represent their constituents’ interests.

Currently holding a 13 point lead, here’s hoping Virginia voters wake up to charlatan Jim Moran’s duplicitous ways. Seems like a number of former military personnel in his district, which includes Arlington and Alexandria, would not tolerate Moran’s dismissal of the honor and value of military service.

HT: The Blogprof


24 Oct 2010

A fellow blogger—and retired military officer—pointed out Jim Moran dodged military service during Vietnam. The man who has the gall to cast aspersions on his challenger’s 24 years of honorable military service, including 4 deployments supporting the Global War on Terror, somehow managed to avoid his own military service obligation. It wasn’t a college deferrment. Moran earned his bachelor’s degree in 1967 and a Masters of Public Administration in 1970.

military draft lottery for 1970

Coincidentally, 1970 is also the year the Selective Service conducted the first Vietnam-era lottery for birth years 1944 through 1950. Moran’s birthdate is 16 May 1945 and his lottery number was 055. The highest lottery number called that year was 195, so why didn’t Moran fulfill his military obligation?

In our all-volunteer military, especially considering we have been a nation at war for nine years, Jim Moran has no place to denigrate anyone’s military service. Not even the private just reporting to basic training. They all have more cuhones than draft-dodging Jim Moran.

Here’s another reason why Rep. Moran does not deserve reelection. Moran said he’s going to secure an earmark to help save the Arlington planetarium. Excuse me? Didn’t your top Democratic Party official, President Barack Obama, say no more earmarks? Why, yes. Yes, he did. So, why isn’t Moran toeing the party line?

Sat, 23 Oct 2010

Pilot Says No to Security Theater of the Absurd

Filed under: Behavior, Citizen rights, Civil liberties, Flying, Government, Legal, Oppression, People, Technology, Terrorism — Tags: — cynicalsynapse @ 3:31 pm

ExpressJet pilot Michael Richards

ExpressJet First Officer Michael Richards refused to be abused by airport security screeners at Memphis International Airport on 15 October. This is the same screening point he’d gone through every week for the past 4-1/2 years. The difference? Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials asked Roberts to go through the newly installed full-body scanner. TSA calls this opting out, so Roberts was told he needed to go through the metal detector and undergo a hands-on search, a pat-down. Again Roberts declined, so he was told he could not pass the checkpoint.

Roberts’ fundamental concern, for which he intends to file a lawsuit, is violation of the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure. Roberts said:

It’s an outrage. The Fourth Amendment is there for a reason. It’s not dispensable for the sake of security, just to make us feel better or that something’s being done.”

full body scan image

Clearly, Roberts disagrees about the effectiveness of either the scanners or the patdown in ensuring security of the travelling public. Even security experts disagree on the full-body scanner’s effectiveness. Israeli security expert Rafi Sela testified before the Canadian parliament:

I don’t know why everybody is running to buy these expensive and useless machines. I can overcome the body scanners with enough explosives to bring down a Boeing 747. That’s why we haven’t put them in our airport.

His message to TSA: “No groping me and no naked photos.” Roberts finds TSA’s virtual strip search or fondling options overburdonsome. On top of all this, he still had to take his shoes off. In my mind, that could have been the only benefit of what TSA calls Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT).

security screening leaves little to hide

Ever since shoe-bomber Richard Reid tried to light his foot on fire, TSA makes law-abiding citizens take their shoes off to pass through security screening. Following Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s failed attempt to blow up his underwear, TSA has wanted to be able to make passengers take off their underpants. Knowing that would never be tolerated, TSA is implementing virtual strip searches. But Richards is not one of the sheeple.

In addition to their questionable security effectiveness, what are the health implications of full-body scans? There are two types of full-body scanners. One uses millimeter-wave radio frequency energy supposedly 1/10,000th that emitted by a cell phone. The other uses backscatter technology in the form of ionizing radiation at a dosage about equivalent of two minutes on a cross-country flight.

HT: Dewey from Detroit

Previously on security theater:

Wed, 20 Oct 2010

University Presidents in Dreamland

Filed under: Economy, Education, Michigan, Schools — cynicalsynapse @ 8:57 pm

Rising tuition costs

The 12-month consumer price index (CPI) is 1.1% for all items. Amidst that backdrop, University of Michigan President Mary sue Coleman accepted a 3% raise.

Wonderful that Coleman gave up a raise last year, but her compensation went from $783,850 to over $800,000 this year. And, while the President’s pay went up 3%, tuition at U of M was up 1.8% over last year and 68% since the 2001-02 school year. Since then, the CPI only rose 21%. So, U of M costs rose at 3 times the rate of inflation. Did I mention that Coleman is the 6th highest paid public university president?

0% tuition hike at EMU

Michigan has 6 university presidents in the top 185 of public institutions. Among public university presidents, the median compensation was $436,111 in 2009-10, with 4 of Michigan’s exceeding the median. Over the last four years, they’ve seen increases of 7.6% to 18.9%, which is quite substantial. And, on top of base pay, university presidents have additional compensatory benefits. Here’s how Michigan’s top universities stack up.

University President 2009 Compensation Rank 2010 Tuition Increase
University of Michigan Mary Sue Coleman $783,850   6 1.5%
Michigan State Lou Anna K. Simon $572,000  43 2.5%
Western Michigan John M. Dunn $459,439  78 7.4%
Oakland Gary D. Russi $436,650  92  
Central Michigan Michael Rao $418,857 107 2.1%
Wayne State Jay Noran $360,000 131  

If the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 1.1%, why did Michigan public university tuition rise anywhere from 1.5% (U of M) to 7.4% (Western), excluding EMU’s 0%? In the meantime, public university presidents enjoy exhorbitant salaries and benefits.

Mon, 18 Oct 2010

John Conyers, Fruitcake Extraordinaire

Filed under: Congress, Economy, Global War on Terror, Government, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 6:15 pm

Arrogant John Conyers

Bear in mind, John Conyers (D-MI) is the same guy that didn’t see any point in reading the bill before voting on the massive healthcare bill.

Now, at 4:10, John Conyers supports Looney Tunes’ Dennis Kucinich’s proposal for a Department of Peace. Great concept, but just what would such a cabinet-level agency do? Disarm the military? Undermine the State Department’s public diplomacy? Push its own agenda, like most Federal bureaucracies do?

At 5:20, Conyers says “There probably isn’t anybody above the tenth grade who doesn’t know you cannot win a war in Afghanistan.” Excuse me? I thought Conyers was an Obama supporter. Right after that, Conyers said President Obama has to do something about “jobs immediately.” At 6:33, Conyers mentions the so-called Tea Party, calling it “small and dismissible.”

So, let’s see. Conyers wants an immediate solution to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (even though he doesn’t mention that one). He wants jobs. And Conyers dismisses voter unrest. All without ever having “read the bill” or understanding voter discontent. Why would anyone re-elect this fruitcake?

HT: The Blogprof

Previously on John Conyers:

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