Cynical Synapse

Sun, 20 Feb 2011

Opportunity Knocks; Jackson, Sharpton Run to Answer the Door

Filed under: Behavior, Deceit, Economy, Government, Greed, Hypocrits, Media, Opportunists, Politics, President, Unions — cynicalsynapse @ 3:50 pm

Revs. Jackson and Sharpton

Politics is full of opportunists and there’s certainly no shortage of people weighing in on the Wisconsin budget protests in Madison. The main stream media has become complicit in the rallying cry this is about preventing Gov. Scott Walker (R) from union busting. As a result, people and the media liken the Madison protests to those in Egypt. The reality is the budget repair bill limits public employee unions to wage increases tied to the Consumer Price Index. Unions can still bargain for higher raises, but the bill calls for those to be approved in a referendum before the people.

It’s no secret unions back Democrats and, not surprisingly, Democratic politicians tend to be pro-union. Thus, Pres. Obama has decried Walker’s blatant attempt to disempower workers. Never one to miss an opportunity to be a famewhore, Rev. Jesse Jackson descended on Madison to demonstrate his solidarity with the embattled workers.

Forty-nine million Americans are in poverty, 44 million are on food stamps, we give the wealthiest Americans tax cuts at Christmas time, and now lay off public workers. It’s not right, the workers ought fight back, and they are fighting back…That spirit of fighting back to close the north-south gap between the surplus culture and the suffering culture.

I payed for your pension

Jackson’s co-opportunist, Rev. Al Sharpton joined the labor movement under attack set, as well. Besides efforts to dimish public unions’ collective bargaining rights, Sharpton decries the detrimental effect on take-home pay the budget repair bill includes. Key elements elements at issue is the increase in pension contributions to 5.8% and in health insurance premiums to 12.6% for state employees.

Do you have a pension? Only 31% of US workers have a pension. I submit those are on the surplus side of Jackson’s culture divide.

got your race cards ready?

Another unfair burden Sharpton takes exception to is the higher health insurance premium costs Wisconsin workers may have to pay. But wait. According to the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, US workers pay 26.7% in health care premiums, more than double the 12.% proposed for state workers. Am I missing how downtrodden these guys are? They sure don’t seem to be just a step away from Jackson’s references to those in poverty and on food stamps.

Regarding public employee layoffs, Gov. Walker promised no furloughs and no lay off for 6,000 state workers if the bill passes. The only ones not working right now are those who are protesting, most of whom are teachers. Wisconsin teacher salaries average $77,718, nearly $24,000 more than the average of $53,724 for workers in Milwaukee. In 2009, the average statewide salary in Wisconsin was just over half that of the teachers: $38,500.

Sharpton, Jackson, and Obama have not come out in behalf of the downtrodden or even union rights. They participate in fomenting an issue to keep the working people of the suffering culture in their place. Sustainability is irrelevant.

Fri, 18 Feb 2011

Is Wisconsin Being Set Up as Republican Governors’ Egypt?

Filed under: Behavior, Budget, Economy, Government, Politics, Unions — cynicalsynapse @ 8:59 pm

Protestors outside Wisconsin capitol

Wisconsin public employees are protesting the bill they claim will destroy public employee unions. There are marches on the capital and the matter is very contentious. Gov. Scott Walker (R) hasn’t helped the situation, saying he’ll call out the National Guard. One cannot help but see some similarities between recent events in the Middle East and upcoming budget battles in a number of states with new Republican governors. Michigan’s Rick Snyder seeks concessions from public employees, as well.

There is much discussion—at least in Michigan—about how public employee wages and benefits compare to those in the private sector. One can cite statistics to substantiate whatever position you want. I can tell you, from personal experience, I had very good, and inexpensive, healthcare benefits while on state duty with the Michigan Army National Guard. When I became a Federal employee, my benefits were actually less than I was acustomed to in the private sector, yet entailed similar employee contributions. It sounds like great benefits for Wisconsin state workers is also the case.

Support Wisconsin workers

Still, the main stream media is painting Wisconsin’s budget bill as union-busting. Teachers, in particular, have taken up the hue and call. The fact is, the Wisconsin bill does not break unions. It places limits on pay raises, tying them to the Consumer Price Index, but doesn’t affect most other collective bargaining topics. Calling the bill anti-union is disingenuous and fails to recognize the other side of the coin.

Gov. Walker promised no furloughs and to not lay off 6,000 state workers if the bill passes. Seems like a pretty fair deal to me. The reality is Wisconsin has a structural deficit that needs to be addressed one way or another. There are only 3 options: increase revenues to cover expenses (raise taxes and/or fees), reduce employee expenses (concessions), or cut costs (employee layoffs).

Mon, 14 Feb 2011

US Position on Egyptian Events Dorked Up

Filed under: Allies, Diplomacy, Government, Indecision, Middle East, National security, Politics, President — cynicalsynapse @ 7:49 pm

IHOP pancake revolution

Official US reactions to events in Egypt have been adolescent and inconsistent at best. During the campaign, I was on my way to the airport after a conference in DC. A talk show was on the radio in the cab and the remark was made Barack “Obama’s foreign policy experience comes from eating at an International House of Pancakes.” My main issue with candidate Obama was experience. He was a first term US Senator; that doesn’t make you presidential candidate material in my book. According to Niall Ferguson:

President Obama is one of the least experienced men, in terms of foreign policy, ever to occupy the White House. And, yet, he has advisors around him who are, frankly, second, if not third, rate.

On top of that, after winning the election, Obama chose the equally inexperienced Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State. As for events in Egypt, the two have not been in synch and it becomes evident the US has no clear policy or objective concerning governance in Egypt.

Praying to Mecca

Some argue Mubarek’s abdication and the Army’s sole rule for the next six months, including disolving the Parliament and suspending Egypt’s Constitution, represent submission to the will of the people. Really? Military rule means victory for democracy? At the opposite end of the spectrum, Egypt could become an Islamic state.

The US enjoyed special privileges with Egypt, including priority use of the Suez Canal. Those are all at risk now, and the implications for our national security cannot be overstated. Lack of a focused, informed, long range Middle East policy could now have significant, long-term negative consequences.

Sun, 13 Feb 2011

What’s Next for Egypt?

Filed under: Allies, Business, Diplomacy, Government, Middle East, National security, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 10:20 pm

Egyptian protests

While hundreds of thousands of Egyptians celebrated Hosni Mubarek’s ouster as president, others were more skeptical. Numbering a few hundred, they stay in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of demonstrations that forced Mubarek’s resignation. They want a civilian-led interim government and an end to emergency laws. Amr Shalkami said:

The rest of the revolution is not complete. Since the beginning of the revolution we have trusted our army but if we leave the square our revolution will die. We must keep the revolution alive so that we get the 100% freedom we are asking for.

Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces promised democracy, saying the military will:

guarantee the peaceful transition of power in the framework of a free, democratic system which allows an elected, civilian power to govern the country to build a democratic, free state…The Arab Republic of Egypt is committed to all regional and international obligations and treaties.

Egyptian military near Tahrir Square

It’s ambiguous what the Egyptian populace wants. It becomes clear, however, the Egyptian military is pro-Western and wants to honor the Camp David Accords. A democratic Egypt that honors existing agreements is an ideal situation.

Apparently, Defense Minister and head of the military Supreme Council, Field Marshal Muhammed Hussein Tantawi, said “The army is not an alternative to the authority of the demands of the people.”

Field Marshal Muhammed Hussein Tantawi

Nonetheless, Field Marshal Tantawi leads the interim government in Egypt. The Egyptian military confirmed this in Communique 5. The document dismisses the parliament and suspends the civil government and parliament (with the Military Supreme Coucil in charge) until new elections.

Egyptian Ambassador to the US, Sameh Shoukry, said Egypt foresees maintaining close ties with the US.

These issues are driven by mutual interest, by Egyptian interest and the interest remains a close association to the United States.

Previously on Egypt:

Mon, 07 Feb 2011

Never Underestimate Detroit

Filed under: Bailout, Business, Cars, Congress, Detroit, Economy, Sports — cynicalsynapse @ 7:30 pm

Spirit of Detroit

Detroit, like any urban area, has had its issues, some for a very long time. And some have a considerable way to go before resolution. But never underestimate the spirit of Detroit.

When the Big 3—General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler—were in deep financial trouble, many wanted to write them off. Now they’ve rebounded and it turns out the real quality issues are with one of those much-touted Japanese car companies.

As if with some kind of synergy, Chrysler introduces the 200 model by highlighting the strengths of the Motor City. Don’t dis the D because it will never be out. Not even when everyone wants to write it off.

Fri, 04 Feb 2011

Lack of Moral Fortitude Led to Fort Hood Massacre

Fort Hood shooting casualties

Released yesterday, the US Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee investigative report on MAJ Nidal Hassan’s Fort Hood shooting spree identified a number of shortcomings, some of which harken back to the intelligence failures described in the 9/11 report. At a press conference about the Senate report, titled A Ticking Time Bomb: Counterterrorism Lessons from the Government’s Failure to Prevent the Fort Hood Attack, Chairman Joe Lieberman (I—CT) summed up the report’s findings, calling them a heartbreaking tragedy of errors:

Our report’s painful conclusion is that the Fort Hood massacre could have, and should have, been prevented.

Contrary to the Pentagon’s own investigation into the Fort Hood jihad, the Senate report primarily blames political correctness for Hassan’s retention. As many may know, I’m in the Michigan Army National Guard. The Army has seven values: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. Many responsible for decisions related to Hassan’s military career clearly failed to live up to the Army values. The day after the shooting, I noted my anger at the failure of Hassan’s superiors in preventing the killings of 13 in the service of our country.

Cover of the Senate report on Hassan

From the Senate report, we know MAJ Hassan is an Islamist and clearly opposed to US war efforts and policy:

The officers who kept Hasan in the military and moved him steadily along knew full well of his problematic behavior,” the report found. “As the officer who assigned Hasan to Fort Hood (and later decided to deploy Hasan to Afghanistan) admitted to an officer at Fort Hood, “you’re getting our worst.”

Clearly, none of Nidal Hassan’s superiors had the moral fortitude to address his radical views and abherent behavior. In fact, despite lackluster performance, Hassan received glowing evaluation reports. In my mind, that represents gross negligence on the part of anyone involved or complicit. Those individuals violated every Army value and are forever tained by the blood of MAJ Hassan’s victims.

Keystone Kops

Another finding, which harkens back to the failures in inter- and intra-agency communications from before 9/11, is the FBI’s failure to look into Hassan’s radicalization. One of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) knew Hasan was communicating with suspected terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Yemeni cleric. Yet, they failed to look into the nature of this contact. Even worse, a second JTTF dismissed the evidence and buried the matter rather than cause friction between the two JTTFs.

Lieberman said Hassan “was not just a ticking time bomb but a traitor.” I hate to agree with the whiny Lieberman, but he’s right on target on this. Hassan will likely stand trial for his 13 murder charges sometime this year. I hope he gets the death penalty and it’s administered in accordace with Sharia law.

Not to be forgottin is the Mengele-esque dysfunctionality in officers who place MAJ Hassan in the role of counseling veterans with behavioral health issues. That is the unseen tragedy from Fort Hood.

Previously on the Fort Hood Shootings:

Thu, 03 Feb 2011

Armagedden in Egypt?

Protests in Cairo

I usually prefer to post my own opinions on contemporary topics. Sometimes, however, a fellow blogger’s post is so thorough or recommendable that it bears repeating rather than just referencing. From Dewey from Detroit:

As Woody Allen put it: “More than at any time in history mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to total extinction. Let us pray that we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”

Egypt is like that: an enigma, wrapped in a conundrum, inside a problem. Even if you don’t subscribe to the “everything is gray” school of moral relativity, life often presents complex dilemmas with no ideal choice.

Choosing between the lesser of two evils makes us decidedly uncomfortable, especially if by so choosing we shut off access to the other option. It’s arrogant to assume that we can always determine the optimal solution in tricky situations like Cairo’s current uprising. Although generally we come down on the side of our allies, if they have disregarded our demand for reforms – first made and ignored in the Bush administration – despite the injection of huge sums of foreign aid to support their economy, it renders the relationship precarious. But throwing them overboard doesn’t exactly sent the right message to our other allies, current and potential, either.

The primary reason there is no optimal solution in this political crisis is because the entire Middle East – minus Israel – operates with its right foot planted in the 21st century and its left mired in the 13th. When the majority of your population adheres to a religion that still believes women are chattel, Jews are dogs and jihad is the directive of your supreme commander, Jeffersonian democracy is not really an option.

It’s always tricky for the U.S. when the citizens revolt against a totalitarian regime. Our moral compass tells us we should support such uprisings and do what we can to ensure their success (unless they belong to a subversive organization like the Tea Party). But when all of the governments in the region – including Iraq – are totalitarian and likely to remain that way, the question we must ask ourselves is, which form of totalitarianism do we care to support?

We’re not a fan on any form of authoritarian state, including Mubarak’s, where poverty and corruption are simply a given outcome of the power structure. Yet history tells us that Islamic Extremism loves a power vacuum, and more likely than not will be swept in to fill it in the event of the collapse of the Mubarak government. Good conscience dictates we search long and hard before facilitating that outcome.

So far it appears that our foreign policy, at least officially, is to stand and watch while the Egyptians make their own choice. That’s what we did last summer when the Green Revolution rose up against the theocracy of Iran. Unfortunately, in Tehran, the choice was far more clear cut, as they were already ruled by an Islamic fascist government that’s been in place pretty much since we allowed the last totalitarian regime of the Shah to fall in 1979. But at least we’re consistent.

It’s certainly hard not to sympathize with the Egyptians who are revolting. Their country is socially, economically and politically closer to the 13th century than the 21st, and with the advent of the internet, they now know that. The ruling class is wealthy and everyone else is poor. Poor beyond our comprehension and in ways that would simply not be tolerated in this country. That’s unlikely to improve under the control of another Islamic theocracy.

If the military government in Egypt is overthrown or co-opted by the Muslim Brotherhood, there will be a social transformation. along the same lines as the transformation that took place in Iran after the fall of the Shah and Lebanon after the fall of Beirut.

Poverty will not be eradicated, disease will not be eradicated, joblessness will not be eradicated and corruption will not be eradicated. But I can tell you for certain what will be eradicated: homosexuals. Just as they have been in Iran, as Ahmadinejad famously told his otherwise rapt audience at Columbia: “In Iran we don’t have that phenomenon.”

The Obama Administration has, by not insisting on changes in Mubarak’s government in the past 2 years, allowed itself to be placed in a catch 22 position: on one path stands our major Middle East ally with all his despair and utter hopelessness, on the other, the Muslim Brotherhood – and total extinction.

Choose wisely, weedhoppers.

Parting thoughts for your consideration from my Michigan Representative, Thaddeus McCotter:

America must stand with her ally Egypt to preserve an imperfect government capable of reform; and prevent a tyrannical government capable of harm.

For if Egypt is radicalized, all of the reforms sought by the Egyptian people and supported by the United States with them – including consensual and constitutional government; free elections; open and unbridled media; and Egyptian control of their natural resources – will be lost. Nascent democratic movements in the region will be co-opted and radicalized. The world’s free and open access to the Suez Canal’s vital commercial shipping lanes will be choked. And the Sinai Accord between Egypt and Israel – which must be protected as the foundation and principal example for Mideast peace – will be shredded.

Though many will be tempted to superficially interpret the Egyptian demonstrations as an uprising for populist democracy, they must recall how such similar initial views of the 1979 Iranian Revolution were belied by the mullahs’ radical jackbooted murderers, who remain bent upon grasping regional hegemony and nuclear weaponry…

This is not a nostalgic “anti-colonial uprising” from within, of all places, the land of Nassar. Right now, freedom’s radicalized enemies are subverting Egypt and other our allies.

I confess, if it were up to me to decide, I would have to come down on McCotter’s side.

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