Cynical Synapse

Wed, 12 Oct 2011

Ron Paul Indulging in a Lunatic Binge

Rep. Ron Paul

Ever since the radical, jihadist cleric Anwar al-Awlaki was killed 30 September by a drone attack in Yemen, Republican presidential contender Ron Paul has been crying foul. He contends al-Awaki’s Constitutional rights, as US citizen, were violated, denying him due process guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment. ls al-Awlaki’s “assassination” a dangerous precedent. Paul stated “there has been no formal declaration of war and certainly not one against Yemen.”

What Ron Paul misses is the fact al Qaeda declared war on the United States in 1998 and we reciprocated in 2001. A state of war has existed between the US and all the branches of al Qaeda ever since. Just because Pres. Obama changed terminology to “Overseas Contingency Operations” doesn’t mean the nature of the Global War on Terror has changed in any fundamental way.

Rep. Ron Paul

Most of us (59%) believe al-Awlaki’s killing was Constitutional. Ron Paul continues his government assassination meme, however. Last week Paul spoke to the National Press Club:

Can you imagine being put on a list because you’re a threat? What’s going to happen when they come to the media? What if the media becomes a threat?

But, Paul’s fearmongering is not new, having reared its ugly head in the last presidential campaign. Today, Paul cites Timothy McVeigh and Nidal Hasan as terrorists whose right to due process was not abridged in contrast to al-Awaki. The difference, Mr. Paul, is they were not part of al Qaeda. The difference is al-Awlaki joined Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and actively aided and abetted the terrorist organization. Al-Awlaki was an enemy combatant and AQAP confirmed his importance, calling him the “mujahid heroic sheikh”.
 


 

Fri, 07 Oct 2011

Global War on Terror 10 Years Later

US 10th Mountain Div. Soldiers in Afghanistan

Today marks the 10th anniversary since US forces began fighting in Afghanistan. It marks the start of the Global War on Terror and was a direct result of Taliban refusal to turn over Osama bin Laden, an issue that predated the 9/11 attacks. Al Qaeda’s leader was already wanted by the international community for embassy bombings in Africa and other terrorist acts.

I was glad I had not voted for Al Gore in the 2000 Presidential elections. There’s no doubt he wouldn’t have responded as decisively as George W. Bush, who started off right. (Concerning the distraction that became Operation Iraqi Freedom—which I was no in favor of—that’s for another post.) In Afghanistan, US forces, along with those from North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies, completely ousted the Taliban from power within 2 months. The hunt for bin Laden was on and efforts to build a stable Afghan government began.

Pres. Karzai opens session of Afghan Parliament

What do we have to show after 10 years at war?

Is our national security better off? The verdict is still out, and it’s a subject for much debate. From my view, we’re about even. China’s rise as a world power and the Arab Spring have certainly changed the geopolitical landscape, on which Russia is still a somewhat contrary power not to be discounted. We have less to fear from international terrorists and terror organizations, but a growing trend in so-called homegrown radicals means we must stay vigilant. To counter international and domestic threats, we have willingly surrendered freedoms in exchanged for a perception of security.
 


 

Sat, 01 Oct 2011

Hey, Due Processers: Here’s the Smoking Underwear Bomb

remnants of underwear bomb

Almost before the smoke cleared after Friday’s Predator drone attack on US-Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, there’s been a popular uprising questioning the legality of killing the jihadist cleric. Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul blasted Obama for violating al-Awlaki’s Constitutional right to due process. With just 8% support in a recent Florida poll, Paul was joined by 1%-er Gary Johnson in crying fowl in “assassinating” al-Awlaki. Gag me with a spoon. Al-Awlaki was an enemy combatant, pure and simple. Citizenship is not part of the equation.

Since that’s clearly not sufficient for the “due processers”, consider Ibrahim al-Asiri was also killed in the Predator airstrike. Al-Asiri, then, was in the same motorcade with al-Awlaki, so there is a definite connection. And the FBI pulled al-Asiri’s fingerprint of the underwear bomb remnants. How can there be any question about al-Awlaki’s active engagement in jihad against the US, which clearly makes him an enemy combatant?

al-Asiri's cargo bomb threat

The killing of al-Awlaki, Samir Khan (also a US citizen), and al-Asiri, all members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), is both lawful and justified. They were enemy combatants engaged in the fight against our way of life.

Kudos to Republican candidate Rick Perry’s praise for Pres. Obama’s commitment to hunting down terrorists. That’s a radical, and welcome, departure from Paul, Johnson, and those who thought Obama would be soft on terrorism.
 

After seeing the video, I hope the disconnect between Paul’s call for due process in al-Awladi’s case, but no need for same for 9/11 accused becomes apparent. And, forgive me, but every time I hear of Ron Paul, I can’t help but think of Ru Paul.

Update:

03 Oct 2011

It almost seemed too good to be true when I first heard al-Asiri was killed in the Predator strike on al-Awlaki and Khan. Alas, it seems it was more than we should hope for. Yemeni officials said AQAP bombmaker al-Asiri was not killed with al-Awlaki in Friday’s aerial targeting of the terrorist cleric’s motorcade. While there may no longer be a smoking underwear link, the fact remains al-Awlaki served AQAP and was at war with his native country.

Al-Awlaki’s value to AQAP was his knowledge of US culture and his ability at radicalizing, enabling, and recruiting to the jihadist cause homegrown extremists like MAJ Nidal Hassan and the Times Square bomber. Ironically, if he’d stayed in the US, he’d be a criminal (can you say conspiracy?), but since he moved in with AQAP in Yemen, he was an enemy combatant.
 

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.
 


 

Sun, 18 Sep 2011

Constitution Day—Our Way of Life is At Risk

Filed under: Citizen rights, Civil liberties, Congress, Customer service, Government, Legal, Life, People, Politics, Rants — cynicalsynapse @ 10:02 am

US Constitution

Yesterday, 17 September, marked the 224th anniversary of the signing of the US Constitution. Of late, it seems our Constitution is under attack and the federal government wants to expand its reach beyond Constitutional authority.

As a case in point, from my perspective, the government has no authority to require me to buy health insurance. Or anything else, for that matter. Requiring the purchase of health insurance does not fall under the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution. The Constitution is as the center of the political debate:

The struggle over the holiday is yet another proxy in the fight over the proper role of government. On one side are those who embrace an “originalist” view of the Constitution, where New Deal judicial activism started the country down the path to ruin. On the other are those who say that its language — allowing Congress to levy taxes to provide “for the general welfare,” to regulate commerce, and to do what is “necessary and proper” to carry out its role—affirms the broad role of the federal government that has developed over the last 100 years.

TSA montage

The fear induced by the attacks of 9/11 led to the USA PATRIOT act and subsequent losses or restrictions of civil liberties and freedoms. The most apparent aggregiousness is with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and their seemingly arbitrary and inefective rules for airport checkpoint screening.

Not satisfied with just cowing ordinary citizens, the today’s government seeks to silence internal dissenters and whistleblowers. The federal hegemonic conspiracy is no longer a Republican or Democratic construct. Rather, it is the result of the government seeking to ensure its own continued survival despite its citizens.
 

Previously on the Constitution and rights erosion:

Fri, 02 Sep 2011

Islamophobia Unchecked Equals Freedom Unprotected

Filed under: Behavior, Citizen rights, Civil liberties, Government, Legal, Life, Oppression, Society — cynicalsynapse @ 1:00 pm

Anti-Islamic grafitti

As the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks draws near, coming on the heals of the end of Ramadan and releases of a couple reports on Muslims in America, it’s easy for conversations to turn to jihadists—Muslim extremists. The truth is extremists of any kind are dangerous. It’s also true the majority of terrorist activities in the past decade were carried out by people hiding behind the Islamic religion. This does not make them Islamists, although some may have been. The Ayatollahs in Iran are real Islamists. Still, the end result is a very real and deliberate undertone of Islamohobia—the fear of Muslims.

A Center for American Progrss report released 26 August describes the funding and efforts fueling Islamophobia. Despite their loyalties, good work ethic, civic-mindedness, and being law-abiding, in general, there is a lot of mistrust of Muslims in the population at large.

Muslim-Americans are, generally, satisfied with current conditions “despite a feeling [Muslims] are being targeted by anti-terrorism government programs.” While we want feel and be secure, we value our rights more. Consider the Old Man’s post about concerns with the hijab:

There’s been a lot of flack over Muslim women wearing their traditional head dress out in the public here in America. One of the latest was at Rye Playland in New York where a group of Muslim women were barred from certain rides because of their headscarves. Do we, the other public, know what banning the religious head dress for a particular religious culture could lead to?

Yeah, yeah! The Old Man is fully aware of the attacks on America, and Americans abroad, by Muslims. But have we taken our revenge too far? It may be appropriate to check people, and even their clothing, for any weapons or bombs in public gatherings or boarding a public means of transportation. But think about this for a moment. If we are to ban Muslim clothing simply because a certain group of people don’t like it, what are we supposed to do about the other religions??????

Amish

Catholic Nums

Latter Day Saints

Orthodox Jew

Sat, 27 Aug 2011

PC Gone Berserk; Goshen College Bans “Too Violent” National Anthem

Filed under: Behavior, Citizen rights, Paradoxes, Rants, Society — cynicalsynapse @ 3:23 pm

burning the US Flag

As a commissioned officer in the Army National Guard, I took an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic”. As a result, and because of the First Ammendment guarantee of free speech, I believe in the right to speak against government actions and policies, even to the point of burning the US Flag in protest, which makes me cringe in a mixture of horror, anger, and restraint. This is significant since, in the military, the US and organizational flags—the Colors—symbolize the lineage and honors of the fighting formation and their national patriotism. Military personnel always salute the US Flag in passing.

While not often considered, I submit the First Amendment equally guarantees the right to not say things. This is the basis for not requiring students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. For many, the politically correct issue in the Pledge is two words: “under God”. For others, refusal to participate is a form of demonstration. So, we have Constitutional basis for disrespecting national symbols such as the Flag and Pledge.

National Anthem, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, June 14, 2011

I didn’t pay it much attention when Goshen College banned the words of the National Anthem last year. But, this year, Goshen College banned even the score of the US National Anthem! Their reason for this abberation is the song is “too violent”. For real.

Located in north central Indiana, Goshen College operated by the Mennonites, a Christian denomination. Instead of the Star-Spangled Banner, Goshen will play America the Beautiful, which better suits their pacifist traditions. All of this makes me wonder two things. First, do they keep score at their sporting events, even at the risk of winners and losers? Second, have they banned the Old Testament, which has far more violence in it than the National Anthem?

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.

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:

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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