Cynical Synapse

Sun, 31 Jul 2011

These Are Not the Oil Profits You’re Looking For

Filed under: Business, Congress, Economy, Gas Prices, Government, Greed, Hypocrits, Oil, Politics, Rants, Taxes — cynicalsynapse @ 2:41 pm

big oil's big gusher

ConocoPhillips, BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, and Exxon Mobil, the five biggest oil companies, reported skyrocketing profits for the second quarter. The profit jumps result from higher oil prices, which seems counterintuitive to me. Obviously the cost is simply passed along to consumers and not absorbed by the oil companies. The top 5 Big Oil companies increased profits almost 10% over second quarter 2010. Their combined profit for second quarter 2011 was $35.1 billion.

Although second quarter profits were up 41% compared to last year, the results are “below expectations.” Investors called BP’s 13% improvement in profit over 2010 “disappointing” at $5.6 billion in the second quarter 2011.

Hoekstra on healthcare

On top of increased, but disappointing profits, Exxon Mobil pays a lower effective tax rate than individuals, at 17.6% compared to 20.4% for individual US Federal taxpayers.

With record profits and low effective tax rates, why do big oil companies get $70+ billion in tax breaks? How about slashing those to reduce the deficit? Silly me, Big Oil owns Congress.

Previously on Oil:

Thu, 21 Jul 2011

Lose-Lose: Hoekstra vs. Stabinaw

Filed under: Congress, Michigan, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 6:13 am

stabinaw dangerously incompetent

This is not good. Former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R) will run against Stabinaw (D) in 2012 Senate bid.

There are a myriad of problems with this, starting with Michigan’s primary system. In the primaries, voters must vote either Republican or Democrat. The dilema for me is do I vote against Hoekstra (R) in the Senate race or against Sander Levin (D) in the Representative race. I won’t be able to do both and it’s a real challenge to discern the lesser of all evils in this one.

Hoekstra on healthcare

If you ask me, both Debbie Stabinaw and Sander Levin need to go. Neither is responsive or considerate of their constituency. But, Hoekstra is not an acceptable replacment for either. He’s an opportunist who is, simply, not trustworthy. He was not a suitable US Representative; he was not a good gubernatorial candidate; he’s not an acceptable Senatorial candidate.

Where does that leave me? I can vote for/against Hoekstra in the Republican primary or for/against Sander Levin in the Democratic primary. Either way, I lose. One, or both, are likely to win the their primary.

Previously on Pete Hoekstra:

Previously on Pete Hoekstra:

Wed, 20 Jul 2011

What if Stauffenberg had been a Suicide Bomber?

Filed under: History, Military, Society — cynicalsynapse @ 6:51 am

Hitler and Stauffenberg

Today marks the 67th anniversary of the 20 July 1944 Operation Valkyrie plot, the most famous attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler. There were many other attempts to kill Hitler. The most famous 20 July conspirist, Lt. Col. Claus Graf Schenk von Stauffenberg, was part of at least a handful of assassination attempts before 20 July.

Obviously, none of the myriad attempts to kill Hitler succeeded. The key failure in the 20 July attempt was another officer pushing Stauffenberg’s bomb-laden briefcase further under the heavy oak briefing table in the briefing room. Another factor was the room’s open windows. What many don’t consider, however, is the fact Stauffenberg didn’t see to it his bomb hit its target. Stauffenberg was already on his way back to Berlin when the bomb actually went off.

suicide bomber

The concept of a suicide bombing shouldn’t have been foreign to Stauffenberg, based on a least one movie. And Stauffenberg’s plot failed because he was not willing to be a suicide bomber.

Yes, Stauffenberg took action on his beliefs, which is more than most of his peers did. Yes, he paid the ultimate price for his efforts. But Stauffenberg failed because he was not willing to blow himself up to kill Hitler.

Tue, 19 Jul 2011

House Republicans Use Flood Relief for Political Gain

Filed under: Congress, Deceit, Government, Hypocrits, Passenger rail, Politics, Stimulus — cynicalsynapse @ 6:00 am

high speed rail awards

On Friday, 15 July, the US House voted to redirect high-speed rail funding to flood relief in the Midwest. In the balance is about $1 billion in high-speed rail funding Florida said no thanks to but which is not yet obligated to other projects even though the Department of Transportation has named new recipients. The vote on House Resolution 2354 was largely along party lines with 219 for (mostly Republicans, 196 opposed (mostly Democrats), and 16 not voting. The same is true for Michigan’s delegation, with only Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI-3) breaking party ranks. Rep. Mike Rodgers (R-MI-8) did not vote. Even though Rep. Mark Walbergh’s (R-MI-7) district stands to benefit, he voted to strip the high-speed rail money.

Before the vote, Rep. Louise Slaugher (D-NY) said redirecting the high-speed rail funding was “misguided”.

[Cutting high-speed rail funding] will eliminate thousands of jobs, will halt a large number of rail projects across the country and we are way behind every other nation, industrial nations anyway, and hurt local and station economies. This is the latest in the majority’s agenda that can best be described as penny-wise and pound-foolish. The high speed and intercity passenger rail program is critical to our country’s competitiveness. It puts Americans back to work, it revitalizes our construction and manufacturing sectors, boosts the domestic economy and helps in U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

Amtrak Acela express train

Full disclosure: I am a rail enthusiast and it saddens me the US has a passenger rail system that even third world countries would denounce. In an effort to avoid full-body scanners at the airport, I found out it would take me 40 hours to get to Orland from Detroit by rail. Excuse me? Nonetheless, passing HR 2354 is unadulterated political grandstanding. It is unlikely the Senate will pass the bill, so House Republicans are simply using flood victims as human shields. And, even if the Senate did pass the House bill, Pres. Obama would probably veto it.

Amtrak is not perfect, but it suffers from a dirth of Amtrak haters in Congress. While politicians decry subsidizing Amtrak, how many billions are spent on airports, air traffic control, and highways every year? Conventional wisdom holds we cannot build our way out of road congestion. The US transportation network faces a lack of focus and strategic planning that seriously hampers the country’s global competitiveness. While there is a failure to integrate transportation planning and funding, there is also a lack of strategic foresight. This is exacerbated by the short-term mindsight of our elected officials who rarely see beyond the fiscal year, let alone to the far reaches of an entire term in office.

Previously on passenger rail:

Mon, 18 Jul 2011

Hugo Chavez Dissess His Own Healthcare System

Filed under: Diplomacy, Hugo Chavez, Hypocrits, Medicine — cynicalsynapse @ 5:09 am

chavez feeling ill

Apparently, Venezuelan Dictator—er, President—Hugo Chavez doesn’t trust healthcare in his own country. Who can blame him after the wreck Chavez made of the Venezuelan economy. So, perhaps at Castro’s behest, Hugo’s gone to Cuba for chemotherapy. On top of admitting his own country’s healthcare is anadequate, Chavez essentially gave Brazil the bird, turning down treatment in Sao Paolo.

For what may be the first time, Chavez delegated some of his presidential powers to the Vice President Elias Jaua and Planning and Finance Minister Jorge Giordani. Jaua will handle budget transfers to government ministries, presidential commissions, any approved expropriations of businesses, and other budget-related responsibilities. Obviously the pace of socialist co-option of private property must continue unabated during Hugo’s absence. Budget shortfalls and certain tax exemptions will get Giordini’s attention.

Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Raul Castro

Chavez, who has held power in Venezuela for 12 years, abruptly flew to Cuba for surgery in late June. The mysterious illness was confirmed as cancer, most likely colon cancer. In an effort to allay concerns about not yielding all power to Jaua, Chavez gave these upbeat remarks on state TV Saturday:

It’s not time to die. It’s time to live. I’m saying goodbye for some days, but in a deeper sense I’m not saying goodbye. … I’ll be attentive every day, every hour, every minute to internal events and I’ll be in permanent contact.

I despise Hugo Chavez and denounce his politics. I refuse to buy gasoline from Citgo because it’s Venezuelan- (read Chavez-) owned. Still, I hope his treatment goes well. Nonetheless, it’s time for the US to consider what they can do to shape what will likely be a chaotic power vacuum in Venezuela if Chavez dies suddenly. I don’t think Hillary Clinton even has her eye on that ball.

Previously on Hugo Chavez:

Sun, 17 Jul 2011

Michigan’s Old-Timer Politicians Need to Fade Away

Filed under: Congress, Government, Hypocrits, Michigan, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 7:33 am

grumpy old men

Michigan’s Republican-led State House and Senate have redrawn the state’s Congressional districts, as well as those for the State House and Senate. The plan is awaiting Gov. Rick Snyder’s (R) signature. Michigan’s population loss according to the 2010 census resulted in the loss of a seat in the US House, thus requiring redistricting. Because of some rather obvious gerrymanderlisciousness, there are likely to be legal challenges.

Although the new districts clearly benefit Republicans, some districts are also more solidly Democratic, such as Dale Kildee’s 5th. But, after 36 years in office, Kildee, 81, will retire from Congress. Good for him, but he’s not the only one who needs to go.

Reps. Levin, Peters, Conyers, Dingell

With Michigan’s new districts, Reps. Sander Levin and Gary Peters will vie for for the same seat, both Democrats, in 2012. Levin, at 79, should retire. He’ll have 30 years in Congress. He’s my representative, only he doesn’t represent me. He doesn’t even answer my emails with thoughtful or considerate responses. His staff just sends me arrogant form emails. If Peters and Levin both run, I’ll vote for Peters.

Next on the list is that buffoon, John Conyers (D). He’s been wallowing in the public trough for 46 years and is out of touch with his Detroit constituents. Conyers is at the periphery of a number of scandals, including his son unlawfully using his Congressional vehicle, a Cadillac Escalade. He’s been before the ethics committee, his wife is in prison for bribery, and he doesn’t read the bills he votes on. Heck, Conyers doesn’t even maintain his property.

no country for old men

Rounding out my list of over-the-hill Hillsters are Rep. John Dingell (D) and Sen. Carl Levin (D). Dingell is a fossil at 85 and the longest serving elected official in the country. He’s been a US Representative longer than I’ve been alive, having taken office in 1955. That’s 56 years! As for Sen. Levin, Sander’s younger brother, he’s 77 and been in office 32 years. Like Sander, Carl has no respect for my opinions, either. His staffers also reply with form letters. How about actually addressing my concerns, chump? I guess senility gets you out of that.

Sat, 16 Jul 2011

Most Oppose Repealing Michigan’s Helmet Law

Filed under: Citizen rights, Driving, Government, Legal, Medicine, Michigan, Politics, Safety, Take action — cynicalsynapse @ 7:38 am

helmet laws

Two recent polls yielded similar results on the degree of support for keeping Michigan’s decades-old helmet section in the vehicle code. It requires motorcyclists to wear a US Department of Transportation (DOT) approved helmet. The Macomb Daily poll found 71% say keep the helmet requirement while 26% favored repeal and 2% were undecided. A more scientific EPIC-MRA poll found 68% oppose repealing the helmet law, with 31% wanting to ditch requiring helmets and 1% undecided. The EPIC-MRA poll has a margin of error of 4%.

Motorcyclist killed

Proponents of the helmet law reduced medical costs with helmet use by bikers. Helemt use can significantly reduce injury severity. In fact, a biker who was killed in a helmet protect ride likely would have lived if wearing an approved helmet. There will be increased costs for Michigan residents, both in insurance rates and Medicaid expenses. Michigan is a no-fault state, so if a motorcyclist is hit, it’s the other party’s insurance that pays, not the biker’s.

Opponents of mandatory helmet use say wearing a helmet should be a personal choice. Here’s the rub: 49 states have mandatory seatbelt laws (only New Hampshire does not). How is that any different than choosing to wear a helmet? And yet, with more drivers on the road, traffic fatalities continue to decline, likely due to seatbelt use. It simply does not pass the common sense test to allow one group of road users to choose to stop using the one safety device—a DOT-approved helmet—with any significant chance of minimizing the severity of injuries in an accident.

Save Michigan motorcycle riders. Save your tax dollars. Save your insurance premium costs (both vehicle and health). Tell your State Representative to vote no on SB 291.

Fri, 15 Jul 2011

Green Jobs Evaporating from Michigan

Filed under: Business, Deceit, Economy, Government, Hypocrits, Michigan, Technology, Unemployment — cynicalsynapse @ 10:52 am

Annual green job changes

Riddle me this: how is it that Michigan is the only state to lose so-called green jobs? According to a report released this week by the Brookings Institution, Michigan lost 1,596 “green” jobs from 2003 to 2010. That is a 0.3% decline during each of those 7 years.

With excess manufacturing capability, skilled labor and engineers aching for work, and a good transportation network, Michigan should have been gaining high-tech “green” jobs. Former Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) made growing the state’s “green” economy a priority of her administration. As recently as two weeks ago, Granholm bragged “green” economy investment helped Michigan:

In the space of about a year and a half. we were able to convince 17 battery companies or their suppliers to locate inside Michigan, and those companies promised to create 63,000 jobs.

Apparently the part Granholm missed was where all those new jobs were going to be. Former Gov. Granholm’s administration focused on growing “green” jobs during most of the time Michigan was actually loses such jobs.

Previously on jobs in Michigan:

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