Cynical Synapse

Fri, 30 Sep 2011

Al-Awlaki Killed in Predator Strike—All’s Fair in Love and War

Filed under: Arab states, Global War on Terror, National security, Politics, Terrorism — cynicalsynapse @ 3:44 pm

MQ-1 Predator with Hellfire missile

SEAL Team 6, the same special operations group that killed Osama bin Laden in May of this year, killed Anwar al-Awlaki, the jihadist recruiter for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). The airstrike was carried out by an unmanned Predator drone; it fired a Hellfire missile at the car al-Awlaki was riding in. Also killed in the attack was Samir Khan, the media jihadist who published Inspire, AQAP’s webzine.

It’s not easy being a terrorist leader affiliated with al Qaeda these days. More than a half-dozen high-profile terrorist leaders have been killed or captured this year. Hunting and eliminating al Qaeda’s leadership has often been likened to a game of whack-a-mole. Granted, there’s always another one popping up, but the deaths of bin Laden and al-Awlaki are serious blows. Both were charismatic. Bin Laden was the soul, the ideology that was al Qaeda. Al-Awlaki was the jihadist recruiter able to radicalize via the Internet.

Samir Khan, Anwar al-AWlaki

Al-Awlaki was a US-born Yemeni cleric and key propagandist for AQAP. Prior to siding with al Qaeda, he visited and preached in the US as well as Yemen. His front man, Khan, was also born, raised, and educated in the US. He went to Yemen two or three years ago and “pledged to wage jihad for the rest of our lives.” So, because of their citizenship, there’s a hue and cry al-Awlaki and Khan had their rights violated. They were assassinated rather than brought to justice, denied due process. Seriously?

Besides being AQAP’s chief recruiter, al-Awlaki exchanged emails with MAJ Nidal Hassan, who shot and killed 13 at Fort Hood. He sent the Undie-bomber on his groin-burning failed attempt to bring down an airliner over Detroit. He attempted to ship explosives in cargo planes to the US. What part of al-Awaki was an enemy combatant do you not get? Both he and Khan were traitors, materially aiding and abetting AQAP in its efforts to attack their country and innocent civilians, including children.

They got the due process they deserved.
 


 

Thu, 29 Sep 2011

54 Years of Human Guinea Pigs Since Russian Nuclear Disaster

Filed under: Citizen rights, Deceit, Government, Life, Oppression, Russia — cynicalsynapse @ 6:42 pm

Mayak site and Kyshtym region

Today marks the 54th anniversary of the world’s first major nuclear disaster—the Kyshtym Disaster. The incident was due to failing to keep nuclear waste cool, resulting in it overheating and causing a chemical explosion equivalent to 70 or more tons of TNT. Only 1986′s Chernobyl reactor explosions and this year’s Fukishima meltdowns are considered worse catastrophes.

Mayak, then called Chelyabinsk-40 after the region’s largest city and Mayak’s postal code, spewed Strontium-90 and Cesium-137 into the atmosphere, contaminating an area of about 800 km2 (309 sq. mi.) and killing at least 200. The affected area was marked off and called the Taganai Nature Preserve. The accident was kept secret until the fall of the Soviet Union. Today, we know the contaminated area as the East Ural Radioactive Trace (UART) and we classify Kyshtym as a level 6 event on the 0-7 international event scale.

radiation warning sign

In fact, the Mayak complex was an on-going disaster from it’s first days. From its start-up in 1948, the plant, which produced weapons-grade plutonium from uranium, dumped the nuclear waste directly into the Techa River. In 1951, Soviet officials surveyed the river, finding extremely high radiation levels within 4 miles of the plant, affecting 28,000 people. They relocated about 7,500 villagers and fenced off the river. Doctors regularly checked sick residents but told them it was the flu, poor lifestyles, or even made-up maladies while the Soviets gathered data on health effects of radiation and long-term exposures. The people figured it out after Chernobyl, but the Russian Federation still has not relocated them and continues to collect data. Some are bribed to stay in the area with so-called “polluted zone” stipends.

After they stopped dumping into the river, Mayak engineers stored the nuclear waste in tanks of water for initial cooling. A faulty design led to some tanks not being cooled enough, which led to the 1957 accident. After cooling, the radioactive slurry was deposited in a retention pond called Lake Karachary. A drought in 1967 resulted in half the lake drying up. As a result, the exposed radioactive sediment was spread by the winds across the region, adding to the fallout from 10 years earlier.

Mayak PA today

Ozyorsk (alternatively Oszersk) remains a closed city and Mayak site is still operating. Mayak’s primary activity is reprocessing spent nuclear fuel from power plants. The facility also demilitarizes atomic weapons and has extensive research activities. Dubbed “Russia’s ticking time-bomb”, Mayak continues to experience routine radioactive contamination.

Radioactive contamination has made its way down the Techa and Ob Rivers to the Arctic Ocean. Mayak remains a festering, open wound that continues to maim, malform, and sentence to death thousands from its far-reaching, long-standing, and growing radioactive morass.
 


 

Wed, 28 Sep 2011

Detroit: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Filed under: Detroit, Economy — cynicalsynapse @ 6:08 pm

Detroit Renaissance Center

Metro Detroiters are fiercely loyal to the D. We’re so accustomed to negative news, it’s a pleasant surprise to hear something good about Southeast Michigan. Such was the case yesterday when I heard only Detroit and Washington DC saw housing values increase over the last year. Unfortunately, experts think renewed foreclosures will erase any gains achieved during the Feds looking into robo-signing and other lender irregularities.

After a nearly 3 year investigation, the former chief and 5 other Romulus police were charged in a corruption scandal. Former chief Michael St. Andre faces 10 charges; he and his wife could each be sentenced to 20 year terms. What’s bad is the allegation the chief and detectives used drug forfeiture money to buy drugs (marijuana), alcohol, and pay for prostitutes. Their criminal enterprise converted tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars to personal gain, but I can’t believe the amounts were worth the penalties they face.

Detroit map

Detroit and its suburbs have a love-hate relationship. Coleman A. Young, the city’s first Black mayor, characterized Detroit as surrounded by hostile suburbs. The suburbs, for their ugly part, are reluctant to play nice with Detroit. There are separate city and suburban bus systems—DDOT and SMART—in the tri-county service area. The suburbs get their water from Detroit Water and Sewerage, and the suburbs regularly posture for more control of the board.

Fundamentally, though, city and suburban acrimony stem from the 1967 Detroit riot. The region is still struggling, 44 years later, to move beyond its past. This is not rocket science, folks. Detroit needs the suburbs and Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties need the city. Like Rodney King said, “Can’t we all just get along?”
 

As an aside, it’s interesting to note then Gov. George Romney—father of presidential candidate Mitt Romney—called out 4,000 Michigan National Guardsmen in response to the riot. Subsequently, Romney requested Federal troops to augment DPD, the State Police, and National Guardsmen. While I’m not wearing his shoes, that’s a pretty significant escalation of forces in a very short period of time. It’s also a part of the elder Romney’s legacy you don’t hear anyone talking about, considering 43 (34 rioters) lost their lives in the 4 day period.
 

Mon, 26 Sep 2011

Romney Picking Up Steam is Really Bad Hot Air

Filed under: Candidates, Deceit, Michigan, Politics, Society — cynicalsynapse @ 4:40 am

Romney loves Michigan and Detroit—not

Michigan voters have shown they’re not very bright. They think of Mitt Romney as a favorite son so Romney garnered 51% in last week’s straw poll. Seriously? Romney left the state in 1965—46 freaking years ago—and hasn’t looked back since. No matter his rhetoric, Romney could care less about Michigan.

The straw poll results pile on Gov. Rick Perry’s poor performance at Thursday’s debate, adding to the Perry is out meme. Whether Perry can salvage his bid remains to be seen. In any case, it should not give pause to seriously consider Romney.

Romney's inconsistencies

Beyond Romney’s opposition to national health care reform and auto company bailouts, Mitt says he’s part of the middle class, in the 80-90% with us. I guess he feels our pain, too. Never mind, despite his father having been CEO of American Motors before his election as Governor of Michigan, Mitt wanted US automakers to go belly up. Never mind, as Massachussetts Govenor, he signed into law the very legislation on which Obamacare is modeled.

Consider Romney’s routinely changing positions. Case in point: the very issue Romney is beating Perry up with: social security. While claiming to be social security’s champion, the other side of Romney’s mouth said social security is unsustainable.:

Romney said he, too, would propose financial fixes for Social Security, most likely a slight increase in the retirement age for younger workers and a decrease in the plan’s growth rate for higher-income retirees.

“It can’t keep going forever the way it is,” Romney said.

 

Seems to me, a used car salesman is more trustworthy and believable than Mitt Romney.
 

Previously on Mitt Romney:

Sun, 25 Sep 2011

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise! Pakistan Denies Haqqani Ties

Filed under: Allies, Global War on Terror, Government, National security, Pakistan, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 11:04 am

Pakistani military officers and prime minister

Pakistan is decidedly not happy with Adm. Mike Mullen’s testimony to Congress that Pakistani intelligence supported the Haqqani terrorists. Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) “supported [the] Kabul [US] embassy attack” on 15 September. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Mullen testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.

The fact remains that the Quetta Shura [Taliban] and the Haqqani Network operate from Pakistan with impunity. Extremist organizations serving as proxies of the government of Pakistan are attacking Afghan troops and civilians as well as US soldiers.

Senior military officials in Pakistan wasted no time before blasting the allegations. Yousuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan’s Prime Minister, is also outraged and called the blame game self-defeating. In a policy statement, Gilani said:

We strongly reject assertions of complicity with the Haqqanis or of proxy war. … Pakistan’s credentials and sacrifices in the counter-terrorism campaign are impeccable and unquestionable.

stop drone attacks

To be sure, Pakistani-US relations have resembled a marriage on the rocks almost since the beginning. As much as they dislike and distrust each other, however, the simple truth is they need each other. Journalist Eric Margolis told RT:

The US is sort of handcuffed to Pakistan, unhappily, and the other way around even more.

Here’s the deal. Mullen must have had good reason for making his statement before the Senate panel. The US needs the use of Pakistani infrastructure to keep NATO forces in Afghanistan supplied. And the US does make use of ISI intelligence leads. For its part, Pakistan gets money, training, and plenty of opportunities to call the US arrogance for what it really is. No one else gets to do that like Pakistan. And, so, the dance goes on.
 


 

Fri, 23 Sep 2011

Obama Grandstands for Stimulus 2.0 Jobs Bill

Filed under: Budget, Economy, Employment, Government, Politics, President, Take action — cynicalsynapse @ 10:50 am

Obama pushing his jobs bill in Cincinatti

Pres. Barack Obama was in Cincinatti yesterday to push for passing his jobs bill, which is really just the Stimulus on diet pills. At $447 billion, Obama’s proposal is just over half the $850 billion economic stimulus package of 2009. Like the original Stimulus bill, Obama’s jobs bill focuses on infrastructure.

Behind us stands the Brent Spence Bridge. It’s located on one of the busiest trucking routes in North America. It sees about 150,000 vehicles cross over every day. And it’s in such poor condition that it has been labeled functionally obsolete. Functionally obsolete. It’s safe to drive on, but it was not designed to accommodate today’s traffic, which can stretch for a mile.

If the Brent Spence bridge is in such bad shape, why didn’t it get fixed by the original stimulus bill? Why is Obama advocating for it as part of his jobs bill? Could it be, oh, I don’t know, the bridge links House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH-8) district with Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home? Why, yes; yes it does. In his remarks, Obama said:

Mr. Boehner, Mr. McConnell, help us rebuild this bridge. Help us rebuild America. Help us put this country back to work.

will code for food

Obama’s jobs plan focuses on construction, which had 13.5% unemployment in August, compared to 9.1% overall. The the President talks about putting unemployed construction workers back to work. Unfortunately, his jobs bill won’t help the right people. Jobs grew over the last year in every construction sector except residential; they’re not the ones who build bridges. And what about all the unemployed in other industries? Less than chickenfeed for them.

Considering its questionable effect, Big Stimulus was very costly with little benefit. Unemployment was at 7.3% before enacting the stimulus bill; it’s 9.1% today. The government reports stimulus saved or added about 2.4 million jobs which means taxpayers spent $288,000 on each of them. That equates to 976 weeks (almost 19 years!) of unemployment benefits at the averge US amount of $295 per week. Seriously?

Tell your Senators and Congressperson we cannot afford Stimulus 2.0. It’s too costly and it won’t fix unemployment.
 

Previously on the stimulus bill:

Wed, 21 Sep 2011

Obama Photobombs President of Mongolia

Filed under: Behavior, Diplomacy, Good job, President — cynicalsynapse @ 7:51 pm

Obama photobombs the President of Mongolia

Way to go, Barack! This was just too amazing—and funny—to pass up! Why would US Pres. Obama wave in a picture like this in the first place?

Mongolia might not be a major player on the world political stage. Still, any bets on political fallout, nonetheless?
 

Two-Faced, Schizophrenic Nature of US Foreign Policy

Filed under: Allies, Arab states, Diplomacy, Hypocrits, Israel, Libyan War, Middle East, Oil, Palestine, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 1:50 am

schizophrenic

No wonder allies and enemies alike are confused by US foreign policy. We talk a good game, but we often fail to follow through. It seems we’re not very good at walking the talk; we don’t do as we say. Sometimes, in our arrogance, US motives are misperceived.

Consider the similarities and differences between Libya, where the US supported intervention, and Syria, where the US simply huffed and puffed, doing nothing. Syria is largely Arabic and Muslim; Libya is even more so. Syria is in the Middle East while Libya is in Africa. France and England have considerable interests in Libyan oil, but not in Syria. When the rebellion began in Libya, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)—mostly France and Britain—decided civilians needed protection from the regime’s heavy-handed response to the uprising. I wonder at what point did Libya cease being a sovereign state so such foreign military intervention became legitimate. Not that I’m a Qaddafi supporter, but the rule and application of law is not supposed to be just a matter of convenience.

Syrian police beat protestors

With Syria, the regime also responded with military force against rebelling civilians. The result has been at least 2,700 Syrians killed and probably double that as refugees. From NATO? Sanctions and finger-wagging.

The US praised the Arab Spring, the regime change it brought in Egypt and Libya, and the freedom and democracy it harkens. Why doesn’t this apply to the Palestinians? The US has long supported a two state solution between Israel and Palestine. I’m a slow learner, but recently it dawned on me, why do the Palestinians need Israel’s permission to become a sovereign state? Maybe the Palestinians realized the same thing and that’s why they’re going to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly and Security Council.

West Bank settlements

As for Israel’s opposition to Palestine’s bid for statehood, it should be obvious. A sovereign Palestinian state means Israel can’t invade at any whim or fancy, it can’t build settlements wherever, and it the Israeli state has to treat a Palestinian state as an equal. Even if Palestinian statehood is in Israel’s long term interests, it is happy being the dominant party in the ongoing feud.

If When they make their case before the UN Security Council, the Obama Administration intends to veto Palestinian statehood. While Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks about a two-state solution, I have to agree the US official position is on a collision course for disaster.

We are set to squander whatever remaining goodwill we have in the region at a crucial time, while demonstrating at the same time that we are incapable of being even-handed mediators in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As one European diplomat put it the other day “it’s almost as though the U.S. wants to be seen as being isolated with Israel.”

Israeli security check

When you consider Israeli raids, security checks, and property usurpation, it seems to me Israel took its lessons from Nazi Germany. Only paranoid states take national security to totalitarian and arbitrary extremes. And, we wonder why Muslims distrust us.

Previously on Israel and Palestine:

Tue, 20 Sep 2011

Matty Moroun the Loon; Efficacy of a Second Detroit-Windsor Bridge

Filed under: Business, Detroit, Driving, Economy, Government, Greed, Michigan, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 5:47 am

MDOT gateway project

Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and billionaire Manuel (Matty) Moroun’s Detroit International Bridge Co. (DBIC) had a legal agreement on the Gateway Project to connect I-75 and I-96 directly to the privately-owned Ambassador Bridge. Construction, which cost Michigan taxpayers $230 million and shut down I-75 to facilitate construction for over a year. Still, DBIC failed to live up to its commitments and 18 months after a court order to comply, DBIC is no closer to meeting its obligations.

At the heart of the matter, DBIC wants to twin its Ambassador Bridge. Officials in Canada and the US oppose twinning the Ambassador Bridge. While Canada and Michigan consider a second bridge across the Detroit River, Moroun and DBIC don’t want to hear about competition from a government-owned span. Uh, did it even occur to you guys if you’d simply lived up to your agreement with MDOT, which steers traffic (or would if DBIC didn’t block it) to the very doorstep of the Ambassador Bridge?

twin spanning the Ambassador Bridge

What makes this newsworthy today? It seems Matty Moroun and/or DBIC have been running ads against the proposed publicly-owned bridge. In fact, Ambassador Bridge owners have spent $4.7 million on advertising opposing a public Detroit-Windsor bridge this year alone. That’s a lot of money on local advertising.

In the past, DBIC claimed there is not enough traffic to support an additional span. If that’s true, why does DBIC want to build its own twin span? Obviously DBIC believes current, or future, traffic at the busiest US-Canadian crossing warrants another bridge. The question is, should it be publicly owned or subject to the whims of Moroun’s monopoly? Considering DBIC’s record on living up to its agreements, the public option seems in the best interests. Just sayin’.

What’s really interesting about this is both former Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) and current Gov. Rick Snyder (R) support the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC) public span, at odds with Moroun’s second private span.
 

Previously on the Ambassador Bridge:

Mon, 19 Sep 2011

Fort Monroe Closes; Historical Significance at Risk

Filed under: Government, History, Indecision, Military, Politics, Racism — cynicalsynapse @ 5:46 am

Fort Monroe

All of our military forts have some historical significance. Fort Monroe was the longest serving Army installation, having been completed in 1834. The site on which Fort Monroe sits has had defense works since 1609. Last week, Fort Monroe was decomissioned and is no longer an active military installation. Its closure is a result of the Base Realignment And Closure (BRAC) process.

The Army will turn Fort Monroe over to an authority of the State of Virginia by 2012, but there is considerable interest in making Fort Monroe a National Park or monument. Just as its location made it important from a strategic perspective in its day, what an amazing place for a national park.

Fort Monroe emancipates slaves as contraband of war

Without a doubt, portions of Fort Monroe will be sold to the private sector for development. Just as it’s an ideal location for a park, it’s also ideal for commercial exploitation. But the actual stone fortress itself must be preserved for its historical value for generations to come.

Fort Monroe was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. Even so, that’s not why we must preserve it. The simple fact is Fort Monroe provides the first tangible act of emancipation by sheltering escaping slaves when Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler classified them “contraband of war”. Next to the Emancipation Proclamation itself and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, this has got to be the most significant official action to recognize racial equality in US history.
 

Older Posts »

The Silver is the New Black Theme Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: