Cynical Synapse

Sat, 26 Mar 2011

Inconsistency, Questionable Morality Mark War in Libya

Filed under: Africa, Allies, Arab states, Budget, Government, Hypocrits, Libyan War, Military, Oil, Opportunists, Politics, President — cynicalsynapse @ 11:40 am

US F-15 crash in Libya

Operation Oddity Dawn might be a better name for US military actions in Libya instead of the Pentagon’s Operation Odyssey Dawn. The Libyan war marks an increase in US military commitment without Congressional approval. There was no message from President Obama to the American people. And yet, US military are engaged in hostile missions over Libya on a daily basis. Never mind where funds are coming from to pay for this major operation by a US fleet in Libya while under a continuing resolution. By definition, continuing resolution means funding at previous year levels and no new programs or expenses.

Beyond domestic politics and policy, why Libya? President Obama says the basis of intervention is preventing a “humanitarian threat.” But how is Libya different from Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, or even Darfur? Certainly there were or still are humanitarian threats in those places. But no international hue and cry and no international intervention. With inconsistent policy and unpredictable actions, we should not be surprised other countries view the US with suspicion and a degree of mistrust.

Qaddafi compound hit by air strike

Last time I checked, Libya was a sovereign state; a full member state of the United Nations. Whether you like Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi or not—and I don’t—he is recognized as head of state. Clearly, the popular uprisings—revolution—is strictly an internal matter. There is no legitimate basis for the UN to sanction military action against the Libyan regime absent some threat to the international community.

At best, the “humanitarian threat” is a selectively applied rationale for attacking Libyan forces. The as-yet nebulous mission morphed from establishing a no-fly zone to attacking Libyan ground forces to regime change. Those are all questionable escalations of force or end state. Consider, also, the disproportionate use of force in attacking ground troops with jet combat aircraft and precision guided munitions.

NATO air strike in Libya

So, why did a western coalition come together so quickly? Simply put, Western Europe has a lot of business interests in Libya and there’s a lot of oil there. And what of the driving force behind the UN resolution on Libya? It seems the Arab League is not actively involved in the no-fly zone. It is more likely using Western forces to its own ends.

Here’s the real question: will Libya be better off without Qaddafi? Will the world?

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Sat, 19 Mar 2011

TSA Jackboots Assault Train Passengers

Filed under: Business, Citizen rights, Duh, Government, Life, Oppression, Passenger rail, Railroads, Rants, Transit, Travel — cynicalsynapse @ 6:53 pm

VIPR team expands

Frequent readers may know that I am a railfan, meaning I like railroads. That may bias me, but I also believe passenger rail is essential to America’s prosperity. We cannot spend out way out of road congestion and there are physical constraints on air travel. A coherent rail passenger policy, including high-speed rail, is essential to our country remaining competetive in the not-so-distant future. Unfortunately, many myopic politicians can’t see past the measley Federal subsidies to Amtrak. That’s different from airport and highway subsidies how? Never mind Amtrak ridership has been rising since 2000. But, I digress.

Most frequent readers probably know of my disdain for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). On February 13th, the government thugs took over the Savannah GA Amtrak station to screen passengers. Two big problems. First, TSA was screening passengers after they got off the train. Second, passengers don’t have to go through the station to get to or from the train platforms. More pointless security theater.

subject to mandatory screening

While TSA claims they made prior arrangements with the rail passenger agency, the Amtrak police chief says TSA’s actions were illegal and a surprise to Amtrak. In fact, Chief John O’Connor thought initial blog posts on the TSA extremism were a joke. He noted Amtrak police operate within the Constitution and TSA agents have no right to go beyond that.

TSA justifies their actions, saying people didn’t have to enter the station. I’m sorry—doesn’t that prove the idiocy of TSA’s whole concept? If you don’t want to be screened, just go around the station. If you don’t want a full-body scan, just go to one of 85.6% of airports that don’t have the scanners.

TSA at Tampa bus terminal

February’s assault on Savannagh was part of TSA’s VIPR program. While it sounds good, VIPR—Visible Intermodal Protection and Response—teams are randomly executed and consist of ad hoc groups. These include Air Marshals—to provide TSA with armed agents on the ground—and bomb detection teams. They descend on bus terminals and wherever else they happen to want to.

Not satisfied with harassing the flying public, TSA has teams of shock troops running amok to subjugate bus riders and intimimdate train passengers. Didn’t we used to claim these were the evils of communism? Can anyone show any tangible security benefits to the TSA’s excesses?

Previously on security theater:

Tue, 15 Mar 2011

Some Things Don’t Get Better With Age

Filed under: Behavior, Budget, Congress, Government, Politics, President, Rants — cynicalsynapse @ 8:09 pm

Twilight Zone

Like politics. When I was 18, I was idealistic and relished the right to vote. I considered myself a supporter of one of the major parties at that time, although I’ve never been a member of any party.

After the first couple of presidential elections, I began to cast my vote more on the basis of the candidate I thought was the lesser of two evils. That was the end of any semblance of party allegiance, although I still tend to identify with one over the other. And I’ve always been opposed to straight party ticket. The vote all one party lever/box/chad/radio button simply panders to laziness and facilitates thoughtless lack of reasoning on the issues of the day so people can say they voted. A straight ticket vote is like a plebiscite in a dictatorship; there’s no real choice there.

Candidate Obama was not my choice for president in 2008. In fact, most of the candidates raised my ire by dissing Michigan. Nonetheless, I never expected the divisiveness and extreme partisanship that followed Mr. Obama’s inauguration. It seems politicians, and those who consider themselves political pundits, have lost all sense of civility. They refuse to compromise, or even discuss matters, with the other side, simply because.

Pig putting on lipstick

Before the elections in 2010, it was Democrats Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi who were arrogant as hell and did whatever they please. Now it’s Republicans stonewalling everything based on the “will of the people.” Wake up! We voted for change (except in Michigan) because we were tired of politics as usual and failure to deliver. What did we get? A pig with lipstick. We’re halfway through the fiscal year and there is no sign of an honest-to-goodness effort to sponsor and pass any appropriations bills, one of Congress’ key Constitutional obligations.

Lest you all consider this is a strictly US phenomenon consider, and all of my rant just to introduce, I Wish by Uncommon Sense:

I find it really hard to care about Canadian politics these days.

The same old parties are ranting along the same old lines about the same old things. Not a one of them offers or even wants any change to the system. Sure they gripe and moan about how “they” would do it differently, about how “they” are the only ones offering any new this or that, but the fact remains that if you look at it really hard you can see that all you need to do is change the faces, and the rants spewing forth across the house could come from any party at any time.

We don’t have political parties we have pragmatic collectives who feed, vampire like off the votes of those who they dupe into their ideological lairs. Conservatives sell their souls in the hope that their particular status-quo will be maintained, Liberal voters pant and repent at the altar of progressive reform while the Dippers don the revolutionary garb and wave the red flag of socialism. All, in the end, get exactly nothing.

Our politicians word is written in water and nailing down any ideal (other than their prime directive of “thou shall get re-elected”) is like nailing jello to the side of a battleship in a North Atlantic gale.

The best-worst thing is I can see an end to it, but it relies on the end of the entire system, which is to say a political or social or economic apocalypse the like of which has never been seen.

I imagine an Atlas Shrugged type collapse, a greatest depression, widespread social chaos spread across the entire planet. I see an unstoppable absolute and irretrievable end to the world as we know it and it think…

I wish.

Sun, 13 Mar 2011

I Hate Changing the Clock

Filed under: Behavior, Economy, Environment, Life, Politics, Rants, Safety — cynicalsynapse @ 7:11 pm

Alarm shock

Irreverently, I refer to the 4 months that are not part of Daylight Saving Time as Daylight Wasting Time. And why not? If we’re not saving daylight, we must be wasting it, right? What is the value of that wasted daylight during those four months of the year?

Well, today marks the beginning of Daylight Saving Time in the US. Proponents use catchy phrases like “Spring Ahead”. The reality is you lose an hour’s sleep. And, for me, I was at a program this weekend that started an hour earlier on Sunday. So I lost two hours, not just one. Some will say I’ll gain an hour back in the fall, but I think that’s doubtfull. Even so, I’m still down one.

The blogprof has similar concerns as he notes in Once again, the dreaded switch to daylight-savings time…:

I write a post every year about how I dread the “spring ahead” into daylight savings time (I Despise Switching to Daylight-Saving Time). I indicate downsides to doing this, including:

  • Debbie J. Frank, co-owner of Sleep Associates Inc. in Saginaw Township, said a National Sleep Foundation Poll revealed traffic crashes increase in the days after the spring switch because people are more sleep-deprived and less alert.
  • Shari S. Drake, clinical coordinator for Covenant HealthCare Sleep Center in Saginaw said daylight-saving time exacerbates sleep disorders, and more than 70 million Americans have one.
  • A study in Sweden showed more heart attacks during the first three weekdays after daylight-saving time in the spring, perhaps because of sleep deprivation, and a corresponding decrease in the risk during the more-restful fall back of the clocks in autumn.

You get the gist, no? Plus this: Time to spring ahead, but benefits and savings are unclear.

In 2005, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act, which included a provision to extend daylight-saving time by three weeks in the spring and one week in the fall. The idea was that later hours of daylight would promote energy conservation. Actual energy savings as a result of daylight-saving time remain unclear, however, and the policy may even contribute to additional energy usage — the opposite effect it’s supposed to have.

Ah yes – the law of unintended consequences. A good example of what happens when the government gets involved in societal policies with good intentions. Always seems to be a repeating pattern. Welfare? War on poverty? Medicare? Medicaid? Social Security? Community Reinvestment Act? Affirmative Action? So onto the results of this policy:

One of the most recent extensive studies on daylight-saving time’s relation to energy found little evidence the policy actually saves energy.

Yup. Sounds about right. Shocker, eh? Can we please just get rid of daylight savings entirely and never utter the phrase again? Ever? Please??? Another research group found that

…daylight-saving time “increases residential electricity demand.” Estimates of the overall increase are about 1 percent. While daylight-saving time did seem to save electricity for lighting, these savings were more than offset by usage for heating and cooling.

The law of unintended consequences (which itself is a corollary to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics)… Intend to save the environment (good intention), put a bigger load on it instead (bad result). And kill a few more people to boot…

Sat, 12 Mar 2011

Patriotism and Gratitude Are Alive

Filed under: Behavior, Global War on Terror, Heroes, Military, Patriotism, People, Terrorism — cynicalsynapse @ 8:36 pm

Frequent readers may recall that I’m in the Army National Guard. I personally know more people who have deployed in support of Overseas Contingency Operations the Global War on Terror than I have fingers and toes to count. As I go to departure and homecoming ceremonies, I’m struck by the amazing level of community support. And, since becoming a Battalion Commander, I grown to appreciate and respect the selfless service and commitment of members of the Patriot Guard Riders.

Lest We Forget…Taking Zac speaks to the heroicism of our military, simply by viture of volunteering to serve, and the spirit of their communities and those who appreciate that service. From Dewey from Detroit:

Lest We Forget

In the words of Harry S. Truman,

Lest We Forget!

Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid . They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.

A1C Zac Cuddeback was shot in the head by an Islamofascist in Germany last week. Yesterday he made his final return home to O’Fallon, Illinois. He will be laid to eternal rest today, March 12, 2011. Officiating will be Father Bill Hitpas, who also baptized Zac just 21 years ago at St. Clare’s church.

St. Clare Church

He was welcomed home last evening in a procession that made it’s way from nearby Scott Air Force Base to Zac’s uncle’s house in O’Fallon. The processional route was lined with 1000 flags provided by the VFW and placed by local townspeople.

Also lining the route as Zac came home were his soldier colleagues from the Air Force Base, a local Boy Scout Troop, and hundreds of people who just wanted to turn out to express their condolences and to offer a small thanks to Zac. Instead, to their surprise, Zac’s family thanked them for coming. These are the kind of people you’re likely to find in fly over country.

The somber military procession began at the Air Force base and rolled slowly through town. It was headed up by fire and emergency trucks from surrounding towns and over 200 Patriot Guard Riders who have made it their mission to accompany fallen heroes to their final resting place, and to shelter and protect the family from the likes of viral protestors from Westboro Baptist church.

US flags and A1C Cuddeback remembrances

Earlier last week people, churches, businesses and schools all over town honored Zac in any way they could. To some people it might seem a perfunctory gesture and even inconsequential, especially in comparison to the sacrifice made by Zac. But imagine if Zac were your son, brother, grandson, husband, nephew or friend. You would feel otherwise. You would feel the small gesture was quite profound. And you would be grateful.

Because you would know that sometimes simply recognizing great sacrifice is all we can do.

US flags line the route

Also in advance of yesterday’s funeral cortege, [S]oldiers and locals turned out to plant flags along the entire funeral route.

They began in the cornfields outside of town, and continued into town and through the suburban style neighborhoods to the home of Zac’s uncle, where he laid last night.

Zac's uncle's house

If you’ve seen Taking Chance, the story of Lt. Col. Michael Strobl’s mission as a military escort accompanying the body of a fallen Marine home to his family in Wyoming, you might better understand the sense of honor and dignity that overwhelms everyone involved in delivering a fallen soldier home.

There is nothing inauthentic in this journey. People turn out simply to bow their heads and thank the selfless soldier who gave his own life to protect our values and way of life. You form the natural sort of bond that we do with our guardians. It is not one that can be manufactured of or from cheap emotions. Rather, it is an indelible linkage to something in our life that’s good and true. It is at once simple and profound: a bond that requires no words to explain why we fight, and why we must. Lest we forget.

Photos via Boots on the Ground

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