Cynical Synapse

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
 

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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:

Sun, 04 Sep 2011

To Hybrid or Not to Hybrid

Filed under: Behavior, Business, Deceit, Environment, Hypocrits, Life, Oil, Paradoxes, People, Technology — cynicalsynapse @ 12:17 pm

hybrid in front of wind turbines

It depends. The hype with hybrid vehicles is they’ll save you gas money and will help reduce dependence on foriegn oil. The benefits of hybrid technology apply mostly at lower speeds, so if you do a lot of highway driving, a hybrid is probably not for you. In my job, I visit a number of work sites around the state. I have a Ford Fusion hybrid assigned to my office. It averages 36 mpg, largely due to mostly highway driving. I also commute 87 miles to work with 80 of those miles on Interstates. After calculating gas savings, I figured out the break-even point was over 10 years if I were to buy a Chevy Volt compared to a new Hyundai Tucson. Why? Because of the substantially higher cost of the hybrid Volt. Oh, and the Volt’s generator requires premium fuel, which is poor engineering, if you ask me.

Another fallacy of hybrids, especially the plug-in ones, is they use clean energy. Based on data from the US Energy Information Administration, only 14.2% of our electricity comes from clean (wind, solar, geothermal, and hydro) sources. Another 17.6% is generated at nuclear power plants. The rest comes from burning stuff, mostly (42.5%) coal. And, did you know many of the hybrids have idiosyncracies concerning their expensive batteries? Like, if the Chevrolet Tahoe and silverado shut down if you run out of gas. Talk about being stranded.

Thanks to Big Government for putting hybrids on my mind:

Today, in 1957, Ford introduced the Edsel. Think Chevy Volt.

1957 Ford Edsel

Previously on hybrid cars:

Sat, 03 Sep 2011

Panetta’s Trips Home: Real Issue is Government Aircraft Costs

Filed under: Budget, Congress, Flying, Government, Hypocrits, Paradoxes, Politics, Rants — cynicalsynapse @ 2:47 pm

Panetta arrives in Iraq

Thursday, 1 September, the Los Angeles Times “broke” the story Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has flown home to California 5 times in his 9 weeks in office. No one begrudges the man his weekends to decompress and spend time with family. The article’s tone suggests insiders wonder if Panetta takes his job seriously and just how in charge is he. To clarify the significance of this, the Service Secretaries (Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force) and the Combatant Commanders report directly to him. He is second, only to the President, in the National Command Authority.

Curiously, the article fails to cite any specific allegation the Secretary’s shirking his duties. To the contrary, several official sources state Panetta is available 24/7 and taking care of business. Panetta is required to use government aircraft to ensure he has secure communications available. There’s no doubt Secretary Panetta has secure communications capability in his Monterey CA home, what some are calling the Pacific Pentagon. So that’s not the issue, nor is it Panetta himself. From the Times article:

It is common for members of Congress to fly back to their districts every weekend or so, and Panetta did so when he represented Monterey in the House from 1977 to 1993, and as CIA director, his first job in the Obama administration.

Some general arriving somewhere

For his trips home, Panetta must reimburse the Treasury for the cost of commercial coach fare. Since he’d never fly coach, why not require him to reimburse the cost of first class? I checked coach from DC to Monterey; round trip cost was $427. Panetta typically flies on a C-37b, the military version of a Gulfstream 550, which costs $3,200 an hour to operate. Flight time by C-37b between DC and Monterey is 4-1/2 hours, so each round trip is $33,280. After Panetta pays his share, taxpayers are left with the remaining $32,853 per trip cost. At the current rate, Panetta will make about 26 trips per year, taking $854,178 out of our pockets.

We all know, however, Panetta is not the only senior official who takes junkets in government aircraft. Suppose, for the sake of argument, the 21 other cabinet and cabinet-level officials make 10 trips per year equivalent to Secretary Panetta’s. In such a scenario, there’s an annual cost to taxpayers $7.75 million. There are 535 Sentators and US Representatives, which the Times article mentioned also make frequent trips home. Since travel distances are different for each, and some travel more or less frequently, let’s assume each makes the equivalent of 10 of Leon Panetta’s round trips per year. Under that assumption, total cost to the taxpayers for our elected officials to commute is $178.05 million. Ending this perk, just at this level, could cut the deficit by $186 million annually. That’s not much by deficit standards, but it’s a start and it doesn’t affect the little guy.
 

Previously on government travel costs:

Sun, 28 Aug 2011

Senate Candidate Mike McCalister Abuses His Military Career

Filed under: Behavior, Candidates, Congress, Deceit, Hypocrits, Military, Opportunists, Politics, Rants, Take action — cynicalsynapse @ 8:53 am

Senate candidate Mike McCalister (R)

Visit Florida GOP Senate candidate Mike McCalister’s campaign website. Do you see any of his political views? No. Do you see any of his stands on the issues? No. Do you see he was a Colonel? Why, yes! That seems to be the only thing his website is about. He’s a Colonel. In fact, the website’s title is “Colonel Mike McCalister for Senate”. There’s no “about the candidate” section, but there is a “Meet the Colonel” tab that does nothing but justify the “facts” of COL (Ret) McCalister’s 33 year career in the Army National Guard, Army Reserve, and a few years on active duty. In short, this guy’s entire campaign is based on his being a retired Colonel. While I respect his service, it doesn’t automatically translate into credentials for elected office.

Not much of a platform, but ok. Unfortunately, it seems the Colonel has embellished his record, implying he participated in “black ops” when, in fact, he was a desk jockey. McCalister thinks he’s a superior operator when, in fact, he was just a staff officer.

COL (Ret) Mike McCalister at a political fundraiser

While every officer knows they are entitled to their own political views, they also know they cannot use their military position to support those views. In particular, it’s clearly against regulations to wear the uniform—retired or not—to political events. Yet, COL Mike McCalister did so, wearing his Mess Dress Blues to a fundraiser in February. Any claim by him that he didn’t know any better is inexcusable; a Colonel should know better or research the regulations to know what is permissible.

COL McCalister (“Ret”) says he’s waiting for DoD approval to post copies of his Officer Evaluation Reports (OERs). Dude, they’re your OERs; you don’t need DoD approval to post them. Along the same lines, the award citations on your website are not the official citations presented with your claimed Legion of Merit and Defense Meritorious Service Medals. How about copies of the actual citations accompanying the presentation of the medals? You know, the ones with the signature of the awarding authority.

Pinocchio

Hello, Florida voters: can it be any more obvious this guy is only about padding his resume and personal gain? Even worse, it seems McCalister is not a serious candidate, playing on public goodwill toward the military for nefarious and, as yet, undisclosed purposes. Is that why he’s got absolutely no political positions regarding any issues on his website?

This guy casts a bad name on military officers from all branches and components of the services. His underhandedness and self-aggrandizement makes me sick. It’s time to “terminate the Colonel’s command.”

Take Action: Contact Mike McCalister’s campaign and tell him what you think of his embellishment.
 

Wed, 24 Aug 2011

Just When it Seemed There Was Hope, Michigan Voters Get Stupid Again

Filed under: Behavior, Candidates, Hypocrits, Michigan, Opportunists, Paradoxes, Politics, Rants — cynicalsynapse @ 7:55 pm

sheeple

In the last election, Michigan voters turned out US Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D), gave newcomer Rick Snyder (R) the governor’s office instead of several seasoned politicos, and changed the state legislative landscape. Despite reelecting all but one US Congressional incumbent in the general election (throw out the incumbents, but mine’s ok), it seemed like Michigan voters might actually be starting to think for themselves. Could it be they’re no longer interested in superfluous hype? Will they really hold elected officials accountable to do their jobs?

Alas, probably not. Did I mention, Michigan voters returned 10 of 11 incumbents to Congress? The reason for this rant is polls show Mitt Romney leading Republican challengers in Michigan. Seriously? Just because he was born in the state and his father served as Michigan governor January 1963 to January 1969 doesn’t mean Mitt should be Michigan’s favorite son. He left the state in 1965 and hasn’t been back for any appreciable time since. That’s 46 years—more than 2/3 of his 64 years and all his adult life!

Mitt Romney at auto plant

George Romney had been an auto company executive, but Mitt opposed the auto company bailout, calling for GM and Chrysler to go bankrupt instead. Still, even though Michigan jobs rely heavily on the auto industry, Romney stood in front of an auto plant and promised jobs in his 2008 presidential bid. So, which is it, Mitt? Pro automakers and Michigan jobs or not?

Then there’s that health care thing. Romney signed insurance mandates into law for Massachussetts but opposes Obama’s health care reform. How does that even make sense? The similarities are so coincidental, Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty calls health reform “Obamneycare”. He’s not the first to point out so-called Obamacare is patterned after the like-named Romneycare.

Why do voters in other states get it but those in Michigan don’t?

Previously on Mitt Romney:

Sun, 21 Aug 2011

Romney to Supersize $12 Million Oceanfront Mansion

Filed under: Behavior, Candidates, Hypocrits, Life, Michigan, Opportunists, Paradoxes, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 4:59 pm

Romney's ocean front mansion

Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney plans to replace his west coast mansion with one over 11,000 square feet in size. The two-story behemoth will be nearly four times the size of the current $12 million estate overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The Romneys also own a $10 million home on Lake Winnipesaukee in Wolfeboro, NH. Their townhouse outside of Boston is the Romneys’ official residence. Meanwhile, average homeowners just want to keep their house.

It seems the 3 bedroom, 3,000 square foot beachfront mansion is “inadequate for their needs”, according to a campaign official. The rationale? Five married sons and 16 grandchildren. As to why he bought the La Jolla CA house in the first place, Romney explained:

I wanted to be where I could hear the waves. As a boy, we spent summers on Lake Huron and I could hear the crashing waves at night. It was one of my favorite things in the world; being near the water and the waves was something I very badly wanted to experience again.

Mitt Romney in a FL coffee shop

Uh, Mitt, then why not come back to Michigan? He’s the son of a Michigan governor (George W. Romney), but went into politics in Massachussetts. He doesn’t own any property in Michigan, chosing three other states instead. And, even though his father was the head of American Motors before getting into politics, Mitt opposed automaker bailouts, writing an op-ed titled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” in the New York Times.

In the 2008 primaries, Michigan voters bought Romney’s snake oil because they associated him with George Romney. But, it’s becoming clearer just what kind of charlatan Mitt is. wishy-washy on taxes. As Massachussetts Governor, Romney a healthcare bill very similar to the Federal bill he opposes. How does that work?

Romney: 'Stop me when you've heard something you like'

It should be obvious Romney has no clear vision nor commitment to a stand on the issues. Mitt’s only concern for Michigan is nostalgic voters casting their ballots for him based on his father’s reputation as Governor. As if that’s not enough, Romney’s campaign received $1 million from a shell company set up by a Bain Capital crony, Edward Conrad. Two other shell companies may also be investigated.

Exit question: Why won’t construction at La Jolla begin until after the campaign? Can you say taxpayer funded?
 

Previously on Mitt Romney:

Sat, 20 Aug 2011

Seriously? Space Aliens Might Kill Humans over Global Warming

Filed under: Deceit, Environment, Global warming, Government, Hypocrits, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 12:48 pm

'aliens' ponder their risk over so-called climate change

You just can’t make this stuff up! The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, released a research report warning aliens may be forced to attack to save themselves. Researchers at Pennsylvania State University collaborated with NASA scientists. It seems these pseudo-scientists believe so-called climate change is more than just a global threat:

A band of moralistic, environmental-loving aliens may attack and destroy humanity (for the greater good of the universe, of course!), unless we can get our carbon emissions under control.

Forgive me, but I don’t recall any proof extraterrestrial life actually exists. While I concede there are several places in the universe where life as we know it could exist, there’s no evidence it actually does. This makes me wonder why a taxpayer funded government scientific organization (NASA) could produce such a fatally flawed, laughable research paper. Was it peer-reviewed? If so, do those peers all take up residence in insane asylums?

Al Gore

Climate change proponents will get a boost from NASA’s science fiction. Global warming fanatics already want to suspend democracy so they can impliment Draconian measures for our own good. Never mind their plans would destroy an already feeble economy.

Many highly respected scientists have refuted claims of man-made climate change. Remember the blizzards in January, 2011? Al Gore said the blizzards proved the effects of climate change. Tell me that’s not quackery. Then there’s the University of East Anglia’s ClimateGate in which hacked emails show manipulated data by the Climate Research Unit.

While scientific research is challenging work, its basic premise is simple. If you start with a flawed hypothesis and prove it with selective data and analysis, your results will be wrong. Just sayin…

Previously on Global Warming:

Update:

22 Aug 2011

On 18 August 2011, the Guardian reported research suggested aliens may destroy humans over global warming. They correctly noted the authors of the report as a NASA-affiliated researcher and colleagues at Penn State. From there, the Drudge Report picked up the story and it went viral. Drudge’s headline: “NASA REPORT: Aliens may destroy humanity to protect other civilizations…” Interestingly, there’s no sign of the headline, or Drudge’s post on it, on their website or even when googling it. Hmmm.

The problem? It’s not a NASA report nor even work funded by NASA. Shawn D. Domagal-Goldman says:

Yes, I work at NASA. It’s also true that I work at NASA Headquarters. But I am not a civil servant… just a lowly postdoc. More importantly, this paper has nothing to do with my work there. I wasn’t funded for it, nor did I spend any of my time at work or any resources provided to me by NASA to participate in this effort. …

But I do admit to making a horrible mistake. It was an honest one, and a naive one… but it was a mistake nonetheless. I should not have listed my affiliation as “NASA Headquarters.” I did so because that is my current academic affiliation. But when I did so I did not realize the full implications that has. I’m deeply sorry for that, but it was a mistake born our of carelessness and inexperience and nothing more. …

For anything I have done to mis-convey that to those covering this story, to the public, or to the fine employees of NASA, I apologize.

No apology for aliens potentially attacking over global warming, which Domagal-Goldman considers a low likelihood, but possible all the same. And never mind he’s, essentially, destroyed a likely employment opportunity. Sheesh.

Thu, 18 Aug 2011

Political Brinksmanship, the Debt Bubble, and Impending Anarchy

Filed under: Africa, Congress, Crime, Government, Hypocrits, Indecision, Opportunists, Oppression, Politics, Society — cynicalsynapse @ 4:48 pm

ready for a political fight

The recent refusal of either party to compromise on the debt ceiling issue, and the resulting lowering of the United States’ credit rating, should be proof enough of the dysfunctionality of our current Congress. People talk about debt reduction and deficit reduction as though they were one and the same, but they are two distinct issues. Every deficit adds to the debt. So, until the US stops spending more than it takes in, the national debt will continue to grow.

In theory, the debt reduction “Super Committee” will fix the national debt. In reality, it fixes nothing. It will not eliminate annual deficit spending. As a result, the national debt will continue to spiral out of control.

project funded by your grandkids

During his midwest bus tour, Pres. Obama actually called for more spending:

[T]he key is not to try to cut more out of programs for poor folks or programs for seniors. The key right now is to get a long-term plan for fiscal stability. And in the short term, we should actually make more investments that would put people to work and get the economy moving.

While many want to reign in entitlement spending, including Social Security and Medicare, new laws are actually expanding entitlement programs. Illinois, Kentucky, and Michigan are the three pilot states, with the program expanding to all 50 states by the 2014-15 school year. It’s all part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. The program will provide free meals to all students, regardless of ability to pay in districts where at least 40% of families are on public assistance.

flash mob

The rise of dissent via social media has resulted in peaceful flashmobs becoming violent menaces to society. In the absence of proof positive, it appears social media definitely fueled the London riots.

What does this matter to us, as in the US? How about we don’t have a clue what’s going through these peoples’ minds? We don’t have a solution to their economic or political disenfranchisment.

The riots we saw play out in London and the greater UK may have involved thuggery and looting, but the driving force was much the same as the protests, riots, and uprisings we saw in the middle east in the first half of 2011. As in the middle east (specifically, Tunisia), the catalyst for the London riots involved a single person, in this case a teenager who was reportedly beaten by police. In response and looking for any reason to rebel and revolt, large masses of people, namely those living in poverty in the UK, organized and then headed for town squares, where the burned, pillaged and fought. While the London riots are being written off by many as nothing more than a bunch of vagrants and welfare recipients looking to loot small businesses, there is a strong likelihood that similar incidents will play out on the streets of America. In fact, it can be argued that this is what we are seeing already, as groups of teenagers and gangs are organizing via social networks and subsequently causing chaos, violence and looting. For now, like in London, we are seeing the poverty stricken segments of society losing it, and it is being downplayed strictly as criminal mob-driven behavior. But soon, as Michael suggests in the article below, more and more people will lose everything. And, as our favorite trend forecaster Gerald Celente has oft repeated, “when people lose everything, and they have nothing left to lose, they lose it.”

Mon, 08 Aug 2011

Jill Biden Visits Starving Somalis to Address Their Concerns

Filed under: Africa, Famine, Helping others, Hypocrits, Opportunists, Paradoxes, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 6:37 pm

Dr. Jill and VP Joe Biden visit Somali refugees

All the media hype has been about Jill Biden visiting a Somali refugee camp in Kenya. As it turns out, Dr. Jill’s husband, Vice President Joe Biden is clearly pictured as being there, too. The US officials are touring the most populous refugee camp in the world “to underscore the United States’ commitment to working with the governments and people of the region, and the international community, to assist the people of the Horn of Africa.” How do you suppose Somalis in the Dadaab camp felt about their VIP visit?

To be sure, hundreds of thousands of children may die in East Africa’s famine, perhaps up to 12.5 million total, according to the UN. Dr. Biden’s whole point is to bring awareness to the crisis and increase donations.

What I’m asking is for Americans reach out and help because the situation is dire. There is hope if people start to pay attention to this.

C-32/Boeing 757

How do you suppose Dr. Biden got to the refugee camp in Kenya? Probably by C-32, the US Air Force designation for a Boeing 757 aircraft. The flight to and from cost taxpayers about $797,066, based on official costs of $25,547 and flight times of 15.6 hours. On top of that, add Secret service and protection costs, ground transportation, and lodging costs.

At a cost easily exceeding $1 million, can someone tell me how Jill Biden’s visit to a refugee camp is helping address the problem? Wouldn’t it just make more sense to provide direct aid to the Somalis? Just sayin’…
 

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