Cynical Synapse

Wed, 14 Dec 2011

Detroit’s Woodward Light Rail Torpedoed

Detroit light rail sinks
Image by Jerry Paffendorf. HT: Detroit Curbed

Big news in the Motor City today is the “sudden” cancellation of the Woodward Light Rail project slated to begin construction within the next year. The line would run up Woodward Avenue from downtown Detroit to the city limits at 8 Mile Road. The US Department of Transportation had already awarded federal funds toward the program, with more promised. Awards included $2 million for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) to study expanding the line into the northern suburbs. The project, including its extension, seemed to have local, regional, state, and federal backing&ellipses;until now.

Known as M-1 Rail, for Woodward’s designation as Michigan state highway 1 (M-1), several years of planning and discussions, including such hurdles as environmental impact studies, are already done. Perhaps more significantly, the transit line represented a new era of regionalism and cooperation between city and suburbs. Add to that the $100 million in private seed money to jump start M-1 and you can sense the larger importance of Woodward light rail. Even now, the M-1 Rail consortium wants to build the 3.4 mile phase I line in Detroit. Full disclosure: I’m a rail and transit enthusiast. When entrepreneurs and private foundations still want to invest their money, civic leaders should pause and take notice.

bus rapid transit

Initially I had Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood cast as the bad guy. He met with Detroit Mayor Dave Bing (D) and Gov. Rick Snyder (R) last week, so I presume this announcement has been festering since then. Even Detroit City Council had no clue, interviewing project managers just this week. It becomes apparent, however, Mayor Bing made the decision; perhaps under duress from Gov. Snyder who is not a rail proponent. In place of the Woodward light rail line is a proposal for several bus rapid transit lines. According to Bing, this is the right decision for Detroit and the region. Except no one asked the transit folks at SEMCOG, or Detroit City Council, or Detroit’s congressional delegation, any of which seem none too happy with this turn of events.

Mayor Bing contends the same money will buy bus rapid transit from downtown Detroit out Woodward and Gratiot into Oakland and Macomb Townships, a line between those suburban endpoints, and another connecting downtown Detroit with Metro Airport. There’s no question such a plan would serve more than Woodward light rail alone. As M-1 Rail points out, however, there’s been no work on funding, no environmental impact studies, or any other preparatory work. Bus rapid transit is, thus, at least a couple of years down the road—pun intended—before the first shovel-ful of dirt is turned. Never mind Detroit already has two dysfunctional bus systems. The “plan” is to overlay bus rapid transit so it complements the current Detroit Department of Transportation (D-DOT) and Suburban Mobility Authority for Rapid Transt (SMART) bus systems. Just what we need, a third metro Detroit bus system.

Besides my predictable chagrin at yet another nail in the coffin of Detroit rail transit, the region is left as the only major metropolitan area without an integrated transit system and, particularly, no light or commuter rail or subway systems. Taking a more pragmatic view, however, loss of the Woodward light rail line equates to a loss of an estimated $3 billion in development along the light rail route. Bus systems do not bring the same degree of transit-oriented development as rail. Did I point out the entrepreneurs behind M-1 Rail still want to proceed with at least phase I construction?
 

Previously on metro Detroit transit:

Fri, 09 Dec 2011

Workplace Violence is Bigger than Islamist Extremism

Filed under: Congress, Deceit, Good job, Government, Hypocrits, Islamophobia, Media, Military, Politics, Terrorism — cynicalsynapse @ 5:37 pm

Rep. Peter Kane (R-NY)

Propaganda is propaganda and fabrications are fabrications. The blogosphere has come alive with claims DoD and the White House labeled the Fort Hood Massacre simple workplace violence. Normally, I would be very quick to jump on this bandwagon of apparent political correctness run amok. As it turns out, however, this is a politically-motivated twisting facts to create a sound bite by the House and Senate Homeland Security Committees.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Rep. Peter King (R-NY-6) wanted so bad to have Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Security Stockton admit the biggest threat is “radical Islamist extremists”. While agreeing on the need for vigilance and increased security, Stockton said, “The threat we are discussing is serious and enduring. The Department of Defense has become their target of choice.” Consider the following exchange, which brings to mind the Inquisition, where Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA-3) practically waterboards Asst. Sec. Stockton:

REP. LUNGREN: I didn’t ask that — I did not ask that, sir. I asked whether we’re at war with violent Islamist extremism. That’s my question.

MR. STOCKTON: No, we’re at war with al-Qaida and its affiliates.

REP. LUNGREN: Well, al-Qaida — how does al-Qaida define itself? Are they dedicated to violent Islamist extremism?

MR. STOCKTON: Al-Qaida would love to convince Muslims around the world that the United States is at war with Islam.

REP. LUNGREN: I didn’t say that.

MR. STOCKTON: That’s a prime propaganda tool.

REP. LUNGREN: Sir —

MR. STOCKTON: And I’m not going to aid and abet that effort to advance their propaganda goal.

REP. LUNGREN: No, no, my question is, is there a difference between Islam and violent Islamist extremism?

MR. STOCKTON: Sir, with great respect, I don’t believe it’s helpful to frame our adversary as Islamic with any set of qualifiers that we might add, because we are not at war with Islam.

Capt. Humayun Kuhn's grave marker

While homegrown, self-radicalized jihadists are certainly a concern, they’re not the only ones who kill servicemembers or their families. The January 2010 Department of Defense report, Protecting the Force: Lessons from Fort Hood, took a holistic approach. The report identified DoD’s need to improve its posture concerning all types of internal threats—what civilian organizations call “workplace violence”—not just al Qaeda wannabes. Defense Secretary Robert Gates directed the military to implement Fort Hood recommendations in August 2010. His memorandum referenced both workplace violence and force protection.

It is interesting to note the Pentagon’s report on the Fort Hood shootings never once mentions radical Islamists and only uses the word “terrorist” in the context of muti-agency information sharing and expanding current Army force protection training. It does refer to “workplace violence” in several recommendations, however. How is it that wasn’t a problem almost 2 years ago when the report came out but it is now? Could it be, oh, I don’t know, election season?

Fort Hood east gate

In their desires to politicize the Fort Hood tragedy, Collins and King miss the fact DoD has implemented 43 recommendations from the Fort Hood report, with another 15 to be implemented by March 2012. In what seems to be a rarity, we have a government agency addressing identified issues, but Congress wants to beat them down because they’re not blaming the right bogeyman. Collins, King, et al, are on a witch hunt and Stockton won’t play along. Even worse, they have no care or concern for non-Islamist threats. Ranking minority House Homeland Security Committee member Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS-2) expressed concern about the Committee’s direction.

Focusing on the followers of one religion as the only credible threat to this nation’s security is inaccurate, narrow, and blocks consideration of emerging threats.


 

Fri, 25 Nov 2011

Mitt Romney: Much Ado About Nothing

Filed under: Candidates, Hypocrits, Paradoxes, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 11:05 am

Mitt Romney flip-flops

Every now and then I happen across something so well written there’s no point in me attempting to develop my own post on the topic. Such is the case with Streiff‘s post on RedState regarding the unelectable Mitt Romney.

Generally speaking, I think the Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson is the most profoundly stupid and uninsightful writer on any editorial page in any paper in any country. But file this one under “Blind Hog/Acorn”.

Moderator Wolf Blitzer opened Tuesday’s Republican debate by introducing himself and adding, for some reason, “Yes, that’s my real name.” A few moments later, the party’s most plausible nominee for president said the following: “I’m Mitt Romney, and yes, Wolf, that’s also my first name.”

But it’s not. Mitt is the candidate’s middle name. His first name is Willard.

And people wonder why this guy has an authenticity problem?

For a while Dem strategists have been making public pronouncements on Romney’s seeming inability to distinguish fact from fiction and his near pathological instinct to make his audience believe he is just like them. Even Jon Stewart has poked fun at Romney’s flip flops.

When the election season started I was convinced that even though I did not like Romney, he was the most electable candidate in the pack. Since then I’ve changed my views. Romney can’t win in a general election because very few people, outside the 20% who like his hair and a handful of devoted fluffers, will vote for the man.

He will lose a lot of conservatives because we fear that he will energetically return to his past persona as a liberal New England governor if he is elected. As the GOP winning the Senate in 2012 is very close to a “gimme” we have to ask: can conservatism survive a President Romney and a Senate Majority Leader McConnell?

He will lose a lot of GOP, as opposed to conservative, support because he is a supremely smarmy and untrustworthy character whose core value is defined by a strong belief that he should be president and nothing more.

While Plouffe and Carville are validating our feelings about Romney’s squishiness, the real attack, the one that will strip away the moderate center that Romney has been relying on is waiting in the wings.

Obama can’t attack Romney as a flip-flopper because many of the flips and flops Romney has held dear at one time or another are actually Obama’s own positions. The Romney response to that line of attack in a national election is easy: I held that position then but have sense [sic] developed information that makes me believe it was incorrect and I have changed it and everyone want’s [sic] a pragmatic president who can change his mind, right?

The main attack will be on Romney’s long time affiliation with the corporate chop-shop known as Bain Capital. In an environment were most people are concerned about their jobs and virtually everyone is angry at Wall Street, Romney will be the perfect poster boy for the 1% that the “99%” rails on and on about.

So abandoned by conservatives, the GOP, and moderates who is left as his logical constituency? The same tiny group of admirers that follow him today.

I don’t know if Newt Gingrich or Rick Perry can beat Obama. What I am positive of is that Mitt Romney cannot win a general election against any national Democrat figure. The only saving grace is that he probably can’t win a GOP primary either.

Previously on Mitt Romney:

Sat, 29 Oct 2011

Snyder’s Romneyesque Approach to Michigan Transportation

Filed under: Driving, Government, Governor, Hypocrits, Michigan, Politics, Roads, Taxes, Transit — cynicalsynapse @ 1:48 pm

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R)

Although I’ve got to give Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) credit for thinking outside the box, splitting hairs doesn’t change the growing deviation from his own campaign rhetoric. While more subtle than flip-flopping Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Snyder is still back-pedaling from previous positions. Regarding his proposals for road and transit improvements, the disconnects are more significant than they appear at first glance. As a reminder, here’s candidate Snyder’s view on transportation funding in October 2010:

Asked if he’d support increasing Michigan’s gas tax, given that the state has the nation’s worst-maintained roads, Snyder said no, “because we need to get efficient first” with the state’s existing transportation funds. …

“So let’s get efficient about where we’re deploying these dollars. There’s a much better way to do things, and that’s what we should focus on first.”

First, the Governor wants a revenue-neutral change in the fuel tax. Snyder’s plan eliminates the 19-cent “current gas tax on consumers”, shifting it to a percentage at the wholesale level. Wow! I won’t have to pay state gas tax anymore! Except, does anyone believe wholesalers won’t pass the cost of that tax onto retailers? Is the average retailer likely to discount his pump price by the amount of the wholesale tax passed to him? As the Brits would say, not bloody likely. While this proposal is initially revenue-neutral for the gas tax, a percentage tax on wholesale fuels will go up as prices rise. The proposal includes another hidden tax increase. Michigan levies sales tax, presently 6% on goods sold, including gasoline. Retailers don’t include the current 19-cent gas tax when calculating the sales tax. Since the wholesale tax will be part of the price retailers pay, it will now become subject to the 6% sales tax. On day one of a wholesale tax, Michigan will collect more than a penny per gallon in additional taxes from consumers. So much for “revenue-neutral”; never mind Michigan’s fuel taxes are already among the highest in the country.

fuel tax comparison by state

Next up, Snyder figures Michigan needs an extra $10 per month from every vehicle registration. Sounds minimal, but that’s $120 per year, on top of what you’re already paying for license tabs. As Stephen Henderson noted, it disproportionately impacts poor people.

It’s a big hit to people’s wallets in a state still struggling to rebound from a decade-long recession. A family with three cars registered to one person would have to fork over $360 extra all at once.

From my perspective, the increased vehicle registration fees are neither logical nor beneficial. Snyder says they will raise about $1.4 billion for roads. They will also price many out of their cars in a state with few functioning transportation options. Don’t be surprised if there is an increase in license plate thefts or cutting their corners off to get someone else’s current year tab. Here’s a novel concept: how about charging heavier weight vehicles for the road damage they cause? A 5,000-pound car exerts a mere 2,500 pounds per axle while Michigan allows up to 17,000 pounds—nearly seven times that of the car—per axle. Financing road repairs also needs to ensure non-resident users pay their share, not just Michiganians. Earlier this year, a bipartisan legislative report said Michigan needs $1.4 billion more for roads each year. Coincidence? I think maybe not.

road workers

Snyder also proposed voluntary elimination of county road commissions, folding their responsibilities into general county government. Such a move would save money by eliminating a separate bureaucracy and improve accountability, through county commissioners, to county residents. Since I absolutely abhor my road commission, I’m tempted to support this proposal. The only problem is Snyder wants counties to be able to levy their own $40 vehicle registration fees on top of the state’s. In the 3 car example, the cost now skyrockets to $780, based on a $100 per car average at present, plus the added $120 state and $40 county fees.

Having nothing to do with the state of Michigan’s roads, or fixing them, Snyder also suggested the red herring of so-called “high-speed buses” on key metro Detroit routes. What he means is rapid-transit buses, which often operate in dedicated lanes, but are still subject to speed limits, traffic lights, and road conditions, like standard buses. The concept of dedicated lanes means either removing lanes from availability to motorists or spending money to add sole-use lanes. Personally, I’m not sold on the idea of bus rapid transit, but what concerns me about the Governor’s plan is its creation of yet another transit agency in Southeast Michigan. Say what? Just over a week ago, I posted on metro Detroit’s two dysfunctional bus systems. How is adding another layer going to fix that? How does this fit with Snyder’s push for local governments to consolidate?

Let’s summarize.

  • Candidate Snyder said no new gas tax, but even his “revenue neutral” proposal increases taxes consumers would pay on fuel
  • Candidate Snyder wanted to eliminate transportation administration/funding inefficiencies, but the Gov. Snyder wants taxpayers to fork over $1.4 billion instead
  • Gov. Snyder wants to eliminate Michigan’s extra layer of county road commissions, but will allow counties to charge vehicle registration fees on top of taxes
  • Gov. Snyder wants local governments to consolidate services, but he proposes adding another transit agency to those already preexisting in southeast Michigan

Gov. Snyder ran on the claim he was a political outsider. What he’s showing us is the same smoke and mirrors approach used by seasoned politicians.


 

Sun, 16 Oct 2011

Will the Real Mitt Romney Please Stand Up?

Filed under: Candidates, Environment, Global warming, Government, Hypocrits, Indecision, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 3:04 pm

flopping fish

In the polls, Mitt Romney is wallowing in second place at best, with Herman Cain taking first from Rick Perry. Still, 51% of Republicans expect Romney to become the party’s candidate in the 2012 elections. Why? Romney’s done more flip-flopping than a freshly landed fish. People don’t trust Romney but think he’s electable, so they’ll likely nominate him. Seriously?

Earlier this week, the long term care provisions of the Federal health care reform—ObamaCare—were rescinded, having been determined to be unsustainable. This must be why Romney opposes the Federal plan despite continuing support for its template, health care reform in Massachussetts—RomneyCare. Herman Cain summed it up this way:

I don’t think he’s a staunch conservative because he’s changed his position on too many things over the years. The other thing is, if you just look at Romneycare in Massachusetts, no matter how much he tries to pretend that it was supposed to be good for Massachusetts, a conservative would never have signed that Romneycare legislation in Massachusetts.

doctor mitt will see you know

In all likelihood, Romney probably wouldn’t repeal national health care reform as he promises during the campaign. During his public life, Romney has held opposing views on just about every key topic, demonstrating a lack of political courage or moral conviction. Consider Romney’s position on abortion in 2002 while running for Massachussetts governor: “I don’t accept either label, pro-life or pro-choice. Instead, I make it clear that I will preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose.”

You may recall, Romney opposed bailouts for the Detroit-based automakers, even though his dad, former Michigan governor George Romney, had once been CEO of American Motors, which was subsumed into Chrysler. Still, Romney supported Pres. Bush and the Wall Street bailout and now opposes future bailouts. Flip-flop-flip! As if that all is not bad enough, Romney is a climate changer:

I don’t speak for the scientific community, of course, but I believe the world’s getting warmer. I can’t prove that, but I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer. And number two, I believe that humans contribute to that. I don’t know how much our contribution is to that, because I know that there have been periods of greater heat and warmth in the past but I believe we contribute to that.

For those who really know who Romney is and what he stands for, please let the rest of us know. As far as I can tell, he’s a liberal, not a conservative, who can’t or won’t say what he believes in, with two exceptions. He praises RomneyCare, which is just baby ObamaCare, and he believes the global warming meme. And that’s different from the current guy in the White House how?
 

Previously on Mitt Romney:

Fri, 14 Oct 2011

Gore Spews CO2 at Detroit Great Lakes Conference

Filed under: Environment, Global warming, Hypocrits, Life — cynicalsynapse @ 6:01 am

Al Gore

Former Vice President Al Gore linked recent natural disasters and Great Lakes health to climate change on Thursday. Gore spoke before the International Joint Commission at Wayne State University in Detroit. “There is a relationship between continuing progress in the Great Lakes basin and progress in dealing with the climate crisis,” he said.

As if there wasn’t enough carbon dioxide coming out of that emissions port Al Gore calls his mouth, he ratcheted up his climate change meme. Gore said increased water vapor in the atmosphere, due to climate change, causes more violent storms. These, in turn, overwhelm sewer systems, which overflow, and algae results. Except a report released at the concurrent Great Lakes conference found no scientific basis for Gore’s anecdotal claims.

Al Gore's mouth an exhaust port

While there is disparate information about just how big Al Gore’s carbon footprint is, but Gore claims to be carbon neutral, a slight of hand trick achieved through purchasing carbon offsets. Just how does that work, since there’s no agreed-upon standard, or even a recognized cap-n-trade exhange. If I rode the bus, would that make me carbon-neutral since I’d be using the bus as a carbon offset?

In his remarks, Gore said climate change is real:

Every single national academy of sciences of every major nation in the entire world agrees with the consensus [on global warming], and together they have called on governments and nations to act urgently. They say the need to act urgently is now, to use their words, indisputable.

Previously on climate change:

Tue, 11 Oct 2011

The Incredibly Inconsistent, Opportunistic Rev. Al Sharpton

Filed under: Behavior, Candidates, Deceit, Hypocrits, Media, Opportunists, Politics, Racism, Society — cynicalsynapse @ 4:32 am

Rev. Al Sharpton and Russell Simmons in Zuccotti Park

Frankly, I’m amazed Rev. Al sharpton waited 24 days before showing up at Occupy Wall Street. Reminiscent of Underdog, Sharpton’s motto is, “When opportunism knocks, I am not slow. It’s hip, hip, hip, and away I go.” Keepin’ It Real, Sharpton’s radio show, broadcast Monday afternoon from Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan. During his show, Sharpton exclaimed common cause with the causeless protest:

We [Sharpton and his show] are here today because we agree 1% should not be controlling the [nation’s] wealth. These [demonstrators] are regular people trying to feed their families, trying to pay their rent and mortgages, trying to survive.

Can I get a fact check on aisle 1, please? While there’s no question the 1% hold a disproportionate share of wealth, 66.6% of US wealth was held by the remaining 99% of the population in 2004, according to the Federal Reserve. Where do you suppose Rev. Sharpton falls in the net worth band? While he’s surely not in the despicable 1%, Rev. Sharpton’s $5 million net worth puts him in the top 10%, I’m sure. The same Federal Reserve data said the top 10% of the population held 69.5% of 2004 wealth. I’m thinking Rev. Al is not one of us regular people.

Russell Simmons, co-founder of the Def Jam hip-hop record label, joined Rev. Sharpton for his radio broadcast from Zuccotti Park. Simmons, reputedly worth $500 million, is not a regular guy, either. Sharpton has a TV show, too. Why not put Occupy Wall Street on his TV show? As the Gothamist put it, “Is he saying that the protesters have faces for radio?”

Herman Cain

Maybe Gothamist isn’t so far off the mark. Rev. Al Sharpton, and others of his ilk, can’t wrap their heads around Herman Cain not being an angry, race-baiting black liberal like the good Reverend himself. Maybe Sharpton is nervous because Republican Presidential candidate Cain has been steadily rising in the polls. Cain is the epitomy of the American dream, having become successful by will and effort. Cain threatens Sharpton’s powerbase and relevance, which exists largely on the basis of racial devisiveness and a continuing victim meme. And that might be the very reason Cain made the remark about African Americans being brainwashed into voting for Democrats.

From Keepin’ It Real‘s Friday (07 October) show, Rev. Al Sharpton said of Cain:

If Herman Cain were to come on my show radio or TV, I would say to him how could anyone in their right mind that grew up in the South and saw what they saw, or stand up there and act like anybody and that is unemployed and that is not rich did it to themselves starting with your momma. I could have understood someone with Barack Obama’s background having that kind of confusion. So, I would only assume that he is either socially ignorant or playing games to get votes. Cause he couldn’t possibly have grown up and come to that conclusion unless he was one or the other.

Mon, 10 Oct 2011

Snyder Pulled a Romney; Wants Higher Michigan Gas Taxes After All

Filed under: Budget, Deceit, Government, Governor, Hypocrits, Michigan, Politics, Taxes — cynicalsynapse @ 2:02 pm

Southfield Freeway reopens after summer closure

Michiganians want good roads and there is no doubt a good transportation infrastructure is important to Michigan’s economy. Of course, this takes money and there’s no secret Michigan is struggling with budget deficits. Last month, a bipartisan legislative committee recommending doubling Michigan’s road funding. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) even made a propaganda film, using my tax dollars, to justify it. And now, Gov. Rick “No New Gas Tax” Snyder flip-flopped, à la Romney, and climbed on board the tax increase steam roller.

I want good roads, just like everybody else. But I’m not convinced MDOT is spending our money as wisely as they say. I get the whole Federal-State match thing, but to squander 20% on stupid stuff to get the 80% is not solving the problem. I offer Exhibit A: mile marker signs with the direction, highway designation, and, in urban areas, placed every 1-2 tenths of a mile. If someone needs to be reminded what highway they’re on and which direction they’re going every 2/10ths of a mile, they shouldn’t be driving. Even if these markers cost the same as the originals, which they don’t, the cost has skyrocketed 5 times; for no significant value. The irony is the example pictured was part of a Detroit News article warning how bad Michigan’s roads are going to get. And don’t even get me started on the project a few years ago when the replaced all of the big green signs for better night visibility. Why not replace them as they wore out or got damaged?

West Michigan variable message sign

As Exhibit B, I offer Michigan’s so-called Intelligent Transportation System (ITS), intended to facilitate traffic around greater Grand Rapids and southeast Michigan (metro Detroit). The most visible aspect of ITS are the nearly 100 variable message signs (VMS) like the one pictured, including those at Grayling and Clare for which there is no traffic congestion justification. The VMS routinely depict messages about as useful as the one pictured near Grand Rapids. With fall approaching, you can expect them to say “Don’t veer for dear.” I spend a lot of time on the road and I think I can count one one hand the number of times a VMS has assisted my travels in any meaningful way.

But ITS is more than just useless electronic signs. It includes nearly 270 closed circuit TVs, not counting the out-state ones like those in the upper peninsula, obviously with no congestion management purpose. And it includes two manned operations centers. MDOT’s website shows 3 people in the metro Detroit center, presumably a typical shift of staff that “oversees a traffic monitoring system”“. Neither these MDOT employees nor the VMS they are masters of contribute substantially to reducing congestion. At what expense are we gaining such miniscule benefit?

I-94 west to I-696 west

For Exhibit C, I offer the I-94/I-696 interchange. MDOT completely reconstructed this interchange in 2010 to the same exact specifications as existed previously. Here’s the problem with that: two lanes exit from I-94 east and west each to become four lanes of I-696 west, except the right lane becomes exit only in a quarter mile at Gratiot, a major arterial. Why didn’t MDOT add another lane to accomodate this and allow four lanes to continue past Gratiot? Gratiot’s westbound on-ramp restores the fourth lane. The same intersection was previously rebuilt, again to the same standards, in the late 1990s. So, despite changes in traffic volumes and flows, MDOT has rebuilt the I-94/I-696 interchange twice to 40-year-old (1968) design criteria.

While I could keep going on, let me finish with Exhibit D, the 30 MDOT transportation service centers across the state. This includes five in metro Detroit alone. At least MDOT plans to consolidate some service centers. I hope they reduce their seemingly large fleet of red minivans, with several to a dozen or more at each service center.

Before MDOT expects additional state revenues for road projects, they need to show they’re fiscally responsible and working smart with what they get. The additional lanes at the reworked Okemos/I-96 interchange is proof they can when they want to. Oh, and don’t use my tax dollars to lobby me about your funding.
 


 

Previously on Michigan Roads:

Sat, 08 Oct 2011

Saudi Attempt to Enter Cockpit is Ok; Everyone Else Gets Patdowns

Filed under: Civil liberties, Flying, Government, Hypocrits, Paradoxes, Rants — cynicalsynapse @ 3:46 pm

typical flight deck door

A 20-year-old Saudi Arabian, Abdulaziz Mubarak al-Shammari, twice tried to enter the cockpit of American Airlines flight 1936 from New York’s JFK to Indianapolis On 05 October. On the second attempt, fellow passenger Rodney Bailey intervened. He asked al-Shammari if he was looking for the bathroom which evoked a head shaking no. Bailey said he has traveled “all over the world. I’m not going to die over a cornfield in Indiana.”

Operated by American Eagle, the flight landed safely in Indianapolis and al-Shammari was detained by airport police. American Eagle spokesman Ed Martelle said, “He might have briefly touched it [the cockpit door], but there is no indication that he was headed there. Those doors don’t open.” Seriously? What’s the purpose of the door, then? And al-Shammari went to the door, not once, but twice. Martelle, you weren’t there, but Capt. James K. Kolostyak told police he heard someone trying to open the cabin door and saw the interior door light come on. So, yeah, al-Shammari was trying to get in.

American Eagle aircraft

Claiming he’s a student at University of Indianapolis, al-Shammari was on the third leg of a flight from Saudi Arabia. Except the University of Indianapolis has no record of al-Shammari as registered there. Does al-Shmmari have a student visa? Were his tickets one-way? Authorities said al-Shammari is not on any terrorist watch list. Neither were the 15 young Saudi Muslim males who participated in the attacks on 9/11.

Despite a thousand holes in his story, al-Shammari was released without charges! And here’s the kicker: “The police report stated: ‘T.S.A. would not respond to the scene.’” According to Transportation Security Administration (TSA) spokesman Jim Fotenos:

‘The flight landed safely and local law enforcement responded. TSA monitored the situation and was satisfied with the actions taken by local and federal law enforcement.

TSA patting down a toddler at Denver International

Obviously, TSA is too busy treating US citizens like criminals to be even the least bit interested in al-Shammari’s highly suspicious airborne activities. Never mind his story is flimsy at best and totally fabricated at worst. It’s not likely al-Shammari went through any serious security check in Riyadh. As recent as May 2011, a traveler said he found Riyadh’s “security screening laughable.”. According to TSA, Saudi Arabia has no restrictions on bringing liquids on board aircraft.

Once you’re through the security checkpoint, you have access to most of the rest of the air travel network, with exceptions, without having to go through re-screening. So, was al-Shammari confused, the excuse people are trying to make for him? Or was he making a dry run or collecting intelligence for some future jihadist act? Is anyone checking out the giant chasms of his story?
 

HT: Small dead animals
 

Wed, 21 Sep 2011

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:

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