Cynical Synapse

Tue, 13 Dec 2011

Nation’s Oldest Military Services Celebrates 375 Years

Filed under: Government, History, Military, National security, Patriotism, People — cynicalsynapse @ 5:49 am

The National Guard of the United States traces its roots back to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, long before the United States existed or even declared its independence. On 13 December 1636, the Massachusetts General Court established a militia, which makes today’s Guard our nation’s oldest military service. The General Court’s declaration is the only colonial era government-issued proclamation authorizing a militia like that stipulated in the US Constitution.

In the spring of 1637, militia regiments mustered at Salem Common to drill in the interests of defending the colony and not just Salem. Massachusetts Congressman John Tierney (D-MA-6) introduced legislation designating Salem the birthplace of the National Guard, a measure supported by the entire Massachusetts delegation. Tierney described it this way:

Among its rich history, Salem was the site where our country’s earliest military regiment met, organized and conducted drills in preparation for defending the local community.

Guard UH-60 helicopter drops water on a forest fire

After consideration, the House included the designation of Salem as birthplace of the National Guard in H.R. 1540, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, which the House passed 322-96 (with 13 not voting) in May. Of Michigan’s representatives, only Justin Amash (R-3), Hansen Clarke (D-13), and John Conyers (D-14) voted against the measure. As of 7 December, the Senate-approved bill is in conference to incorporate Senate modifications.

Just as in 1637, the Guard of today consists of Citizen-Soldiers. They live, work, and go to school in the same communities as their fellow citizens. In every state and 4 territories (District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and US Virgin Islands), the Guard is just hours away when disasters or other state emergencies strike. At least since the early 1980s, Guard Soldiers and Airmen have had to meet the same training and qualification requirements as their active duty counterparts. Guard members drill 39 days a year, unless preparing for mobilization. While no one advocates eliminating the standing Army or Air Force, the Guard’s cost-effectiveness and community ties are its strengths. As Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) noted the Guard is a great value for the country. While the Reserves of all the services are also a good value, only the Guard has a dual mission in the states and in support of the national military strategy.

Our National Guard and Reserve forces have taken on a major role in our combat missions abroad, while continuing to take the lead on the front lines during disasters here at home. This nation’s increased reliance on the National Guard has earned them a seat at the table along with our active duty forces.


 

Sun, 09 Oct 2011

Fire Prevention Week: Protect Your Family from Fire

Filed under: Helping others, History, Life, People, Safety, Society, Take action — cynicalsynapse @ 12:11 pm

Great Chicago Fire of 1871

Pres. Barack Obama proclaimed this week as Fire Prevention Week. A long-standing tradition spearheaded by the National Fire Protection Association, Fire Prevention Week commemorates the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and includes 09 October, the date the fire was most destructive.

Chicago’s was not the only devastating fire in October of 1871. This year marks the 140th anniversary of Peshtigo, Wisconsin’s fire, as well. That fire killed 1,100 people, destroyed $5 million in property, and ravaged over 2,400 square miles of forest. In contrast, the Chicago fire killed 250 and devastated more than 2,000 acres, accounting for about a third of Chicagoland.

Fire Prevention Week 2011 banner

Many community fire departments have open houses during Fire Prevention Week. Schools often have special programs or invite the fire department in. Fires occurred in 362,500 homes, killing 2,565 and injuring 12,560 in 2009, according to US fire statistics. Don’t assume it won’t happen to you or your family.

evacuation plan

Be sure you’ve got an exit plan from every room in your home. If you have children, explain it to them and practice it. Have a predesignated place where you will meet. Get everyone out of the house first, then call 9-1-1 (or your local emergency number). Fires double in size every 10-12 seconds, so time is of the essence. Have smoke detectors on at least every level of your house, if not in every bedroom, and ensure they work.

When you go to sporting events, conventions, or stay in hotels, know where the nearest exits are and how to get to them. When the fire alarm sounds, it’s too late to think about an emergency plan.
 


 

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.
 


 

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.
 

Sun, 11 Sep 2011

9/11 Ten Years Later

Filed under: History, holidays, Life, Patriotism, Society, Terrorism — cynicalsynapse @ 12:10 am

9/11 commemoration

Outside of the United States, there is a widespread belief the US is not telling the whole story about the 9/11 attacks. In China, only 37% believe al Qaeda was responsible, despite Osama bin Laden taking credit for them.

The facts are 2,977 innocent people were killed on 9/11/2001 by 19 Islamist extremists, members of the al Qaeda terrorist organization. The attacks radically changed the world as we know it. A decade later, we have kids who weren’t old enough at the time, but now are able to form their own opinions. And we have adults that don’t understand 9/11:

Ten years later we find America in a state of confusion and disunity concerning the meaning and lessons to be drawn from the Islamist terror attacks of 9/11. This article is offered both as a remembrance of those who were killed by an act of war, and a plea for understanding the nature of the ideology that motivated the terrorists. The decision by a Sharia promoting imam to build a triumphalist mosque adjacent to the 9/11 site has highlighted a great schism in America. There are those who understand the threat posed by fundamentalist Islam and those among us who are unable to. Understanding the threat and confronting it effectively at home and abroad is one the of great challenges America faces today.

The quote comes from Remembering and Understanding 9/11. I encourage you to view the rest of the post, which I found a very powerful and compelling way to remember, honor, and celebrate Patriot Day 2011.

Previously on Patriot Day:

Sun, 07 Aug 2011

Honoring the Warriors Shot Down by the Taliban

Filed under: Afghanistan, Allies, Global War on Terror, Heroes, History, Military, National security, Terrorism — cynicalsynapse @ 1:20 pm

Revs. Jackson and Sharpton

Yesterday, I had the priviledge of attending the 1225th CSSB’s homecoming ceremony at the Detroit Light Guard Armory. The Combat Sustainment Support Battalion was deployed in August 2010 to Afghanistan. These Soldiers set logistical support records and earned a Meritorious Unit Citation. More importantly, everyone came home without serious injury. I served many years in that Battalion and personally know several of the Soldiers in the unit. I’m proud of them!

I was truly saddened when I learned the Taliban shot down a Chinook helicopter, killing all 38 on board in eastern Afghanistan. Those killed were 30 US military personnel, including 20 Navy SEALs, 7 Afghan special forces, and a civilian interpreter, who is most likely also Afghan. These heroes paid the ultimate price in the service and defense of their countrymen. The Commander of International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF), Gen. John Allen summed it up best:

No words describe the sorrow we feel in the wake of this tragic loss. All of those killed in this operation were true heroes who had already given so much in the defense of freedom. Their sacrifice will not be forgotten. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families who are now waiting for their loved ones to return home. We will do everything in our power to support them in this time of need. We also mourn the loss of our heroic Afghan partners who fight with us shoulder to shoulder, every day.

Afghan National Policeman on guard

Far more Afghans than most people realize have taken the risk, for themselves and their families, to serve with the Afghan National Army and National Police. Do some have ulterior motives. Certainly, but so do some of our service members, such as Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan. Those who question Afghan resolve should talk with some of my comrade who have been there mentoring Afghan Army and Police, unanimously described to me as rewarding experiences.

We mistakenly assess things from our very ethnocentric perspective. Afghanistan is a poor country with minimal infrastructure, traditions of tribalism instead of a central government, and proud people whose culture includes very little of what comprises our culture. None of that is wrong; it’s just different.

Afghan National Army soldiers marching

Lest anyone forget, the Taliban harbored bin Laden and al Qaeda when they were in charge in Afghanistan. This sanctuary allowed al Qaeda to plan and conduct the attacks on 9/11.

If we do not ensure a stable Afghanistan, capable of preventing the Taliban from reasserting itself, we will end up recommiting US forces at some future point. It will cost less blood and treasure to finish the job now than it will to start over again.

Regarding the propaganda coup for the Taliban in killing these highly trained special operations warriors, I’m angry. If reports they were members of sEAL Team 6 are true, the Taliban gets twice the bragging rights. It, in no way, dimishes the sacrifice and patriotism of our warriors, however. And it will not even dent our progress toward success as long as we maintain our political resolve. Even thouh we now call it Overseas Contingency Operations, we are still fighting the Global War on Terror.
 

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.

Mon, 02 May 2011

Karma Exacts Justice on Osama Bin Laden

Filed under: Global War on Terror, History, Justice, Middle East, National security, Politics, President — cynicalsynapse @ 9:11 pm

Deceased Osama Bin Laden

We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail.

—George W. Bush
   20 September 2001

Millions of people around the world do not mourn the death of Osama Bin Laden, long considered Public Enemy Number One. To be honest, many are celebrating the terrorist’s death at the hands of US Navy SEALs. For a not insignificant number, such emotions are conflicting, since it’s not a very Christian viewpoint.

Taliban fighters

As I see it, Bin Laden’s death is a good thing. Still, we must steel ourselves against those who might argue against the belief the War on Terror is not over. I’ve already seen a lot of people questioning when troops will come home from Afghanistan and Iraq simply because Bin Laden is dead.

Unfortunately, the reality is Bin Laden is not al-Qaeda’s only bad guys. And the US must be careful to not squander the political capital of Bin Laden’s death.

Fri, 21 Jan 2011

Back to the Future: Transit Returning to Detroit

Filed under: Detroit, Economy, Government, History, Life, Politics, Transit — cynicalsynapse @ 4:38 pm

Concept M-1 light rail station at Grand Blvd.

On 20 January 2011, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced a $25 million light rail grant for Detroit‘s M-1 transit project. The project takes its’ name from its route up Woodward Avenue which is state highway M-1. The grant is for the first phase to run from Hart Plaza, at the foot of Woodward by the Detroit River, and the New Center area, where GM’s headquarters once stood. Detroit’s Amtrak station is adjacent to Woodward in the New Center.

In announcing the grant, LaHood said:

Building this light rail system will create jobs for this great American city, and it will stimulate long-term economic growth by attracting investment to downtown Detroit and the New Center area.”

Most people opposed to the M-1 project point to the costly People Mover. Detroit’s People Mover is an elevated, automated train that runs in a loop around downtown. Opponents highlight cost overruns during construction, operating costs at least six times fare revenue, and low ridership. The naysayers say the M-1 project is doomed to the same fate. The People Mover has low ridership because its route was selected when Detroit’s downtown was vibrant. While there are still lively areas, many People Mover stops are not near businesses or attractions. From planning to opening day, it took 12 years to build the People Mover. Inflation certainly contributed to rising construction costs.

M-1 light rail project plan

Detroiter Thomas Page summed up the view of M-1 light rail proponents.

We have to have this if we want to be even a mediocre city, let alone a world class city. Real cities have rail systems. Even people who don’t use them want to live near transportation systems. If we don’t build this now, I don’t see much hope for Detroit or the state of Michigan.

As the saying goes, if you build it, they will come. Woodward Avenue has always been Detroit’s axis. It demarks the east and west sides. It is the address for Foxtown (the theater district), art and history museums (in the Cultural Center), and Detroit’s football and baseball stadia. There is commercial, office, and residential along most of Woodward in Detroit. Transit accessibility will help revitalize the areas in between the gems along Woodward. Detroit should incorporate\ transit-oriented development to manage redevelopment in between Woodward’s bright spots.

Street car on Woodward at 6 Mile

Rather than Woodward light rail becoming another white elephant like the People Mover, imagine the synergy of the systems feeding each other. Wouldn’t it be cool to park in a cheap lot, hop the M-1, transfer to the People Mover to Greektown for dinner? Then grab the People Mover back to the M-1 for a game or show at the Fox. And finally, take the M-1 back to your car and avoid the traffic jams around the lots by the stadium.

Planners of M-1 rail will start construction by the end of this year. They intend to have Detroit’s first light rail operational by 2016. Ironically, the Woodward street car line shut down 60 years earlier, the last of what once was the country’s largest street car operation. Who would have thought?

Thu, 06 Jan 2011

House Reads the Constitution

Filed under: Congress, Government, History, Legal, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 10:16 pm

US Constitution

Public officials who are sworn into office swear to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States. It seems only fitting that they realize just exactly what they’ve sworn to. It became painfully obvious in the 111th Congress that US Representatives had no clue, nor any concern, with the content or meaning of the US Constitution.

New leadership in the House of Representatives set the tone today. From Motor City Times:

The Constitution has never been read aloud, on the floor of the House of Representatives since it was ratified in 1788 until today. As expected, most Liberals (Democrats) began screeching loudly about the idea.

They complained that reading it was a waste of time. They called it political theater and generally mocked the idea.

One example of sneering elitism comes from Democrat Jerrold Nadler of New York, who thinks us simple folk don’t even know what the Constitution is:

Nadler agreed. “A lot of the tea party people, I wonder how many of them have read the Constitution,” he said. “A lot of them, they seem to think the Constitution is the Articles of Confederation.”

Nadler said he anticipates a raft of “idiotic amendments” from Republicans, such as an effort to allow states to nullify acts of Congress, that would blatantly violate the Constitution.

Suspicious and mocking as Nadler was of the Republicans’ motivation for reading aloud what he affectionately characterized as “a long, dry, boring document with details about how Congress will have power to lay imposts and taxes,” he agreed with other constitutional experts, and even the tea party, that there was a potential benefit.

“Maybe,” he said, “it will be a little educational.”

It was uncomfortable for Liberals (Democrats and some Republicans) to read aloud the Constitution because it reminds everyone that there are strict limits to the reach of the governments power.

The best quote about today’s reading of the Constitution goes to Rush Limbaugh:

Thinking about the Democrats, I was watching a little bit of the Constitution being read today on the floor of the House and I said, “This has gotta be like waterboarding to these Democrats.” It has to be torture, because the Constitution is anathema to them, the Constitution limits the power of the government, limits the size, limits the role of government, and to have to not only sit there and listen to it, but to share in the punishment of reading it. I’m sure that’s how they’re looking at this. They wouldn’t have to do this if they’d won the election. They lost, so they’re being punished. They have to read the Constitution, tantamount to waterboarding.

What a novel concept. Maybe Congressmen won’t read the bill, but at least they’ll have heard what the US Constitution says.

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