Cynical Synapse

Mon, 17 Oct 2011

A Tale of Two Dysfunctional Systems

Filed under: Budget, Customer service, Detroit, Economy, Governor, Michigan, Politics, Stimulus, Transit — cynicalsynapse @ 8:17 pm

city and suburban buses in downtown Detroit

Detroit and its suburbs enjoy bus service from not one, but two dysfunctional systems. Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) buses primarily serve the city while Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) buses serve the suburbs, including forays into downtown Detroit. It’s not at all uncommon to see buses from one, the other, or both, chasing each other—even leap-frogging as one stops while another goes to the next stop. As many as half of DDOT’s buses are in the shop waiting to be fixed. Even former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick knew way back in 2004 that DDOT was a broken system. As for SMART, individual suburbs can opt out, so the system has traverse these unserved areas to connect those that are served. Declining property values left SMART underfunded by its millage, so the system plans to lay off 123 and cut or eliminate service on 36 routes.

Nine years ago, Southeast Michigan was on the cusp of a solution called the Detroit Area Regional Transportation Authority (DARTA). After years of negotiating and political maneuvering, the Michigan House and Senate had passed the necessary legislation. Then, in a moment of extreme self-importance and political spitefulness, the Jaba-the-Hut-esque John Engler (R) vetoed the bill mere nanoseconds before his rotundness rolled out of office as his term as governor expired. Thanks, John. The region has been paying the price ever since.

Peter Rogoff, Mayor Dave Bing, Sec. Ray LaHood, Gov. Rick Snyder

Ray LaHood, US Secretary of Transportation, was in metro Detroit today to meet with Detroit Mayor Dave Bing (D) and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) regarding transit in Southeast Michigan. During a press conference with Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff, LaHood announced $928.5 million in grants to over 300 projects nationwide. For once, Michigan faired well, snagging about 5% of the grant money. Ann Arbor will get $3.8 million, DDOT $6.8 million, and SMART almost $5 million of Michigan’s $46.7 million share to fund 16 projects.

The elephant in the room is still getting city and suburbs to put their differences aside and craft a true, workable transit solution for Southeast Michigan. Imagine how much farther along we would be if Engler hadn’t been such a jackass.
 

Well! The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Previously on Southeast Michigan transit:

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:

Sat, 15 Oct 2011

Herman Cain Tops Republican Polls but No Black Walnut

Filed under: Candidates, Politics, Rants, Taxes — cynicalsynapse @ 5:22 am

Herman Cain

When I first heard Herman Cain refer to himself as Häagen-Dazs Black Walnut, I cringed for two reasons. First, he’s using a company name for political purposes, either without permission, or they’re paying him for product placement. Second, I took the flavor to have a clear racial undertone contrary to Cain’s calling out Rick Perry for his leased camp’s former name. Maybe it’s just because Cain can say it, but if I did, I’d be considered insensitive, at best. In any case, Cain has been milking (no pun intended) the ice cream analogy.

I happen to believe there’s iced milk, and then there’s Häagen-Dazs black walnut. “Substance, that’s the difference. I got the substance. I’m the black walnut! It lasts longer than a week.

melting ice cream

Now, Herman Cain finds himself at the head of the pack of Republican contenders. This shouldn’t be too surprising since Mitt Romney speaks out of more mouths than the Mormon Tabernacle Choir has and Rick Perry has performed miserably in the debates. I don’t know why her constituents elected her in the first place—Michelle Bachman’s elevator stops a floor short. Never mind the also-rans.

Well, here’s a ripple for Mr. Cain: Häagen-Dazs no longer makes black walnut ice cream. It had a limited run because sales fell below expectations. Beyond his ice cream substance and 9-9-9 tax plan, what exactly is Herman Cain standing for or offering in his presidential bid? Hope and change didn’t work the last time, so if that’s his meme, he’s going to melt away.
 

Previously on Herman Cain:

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”.
 


 

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:

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, 03 Oct 2011

Herman Cain Desperately Plays Race Card

Filed under: Candidates, Politics, Racism — cynicalsynapse @ 5:29 pm

Cain's race card

Let me start with I really don’t like Presidential campaigning starting 2 freaking years before the election. I blame the Obama lovers because they’re the ones that set precedent this in 2007. I mean, seriously, the Republican candidates have already had 3 debates? It’s nearly half a year before most of the primaries.

Why, then, does Republican candidate Herman Cain have to play the Race Card on fellow Republican Rick Perry? Does this matter, since Cain says he wouldn’t rely on the Race Card? Is Cain so desperate already that he’s pulling out all the stops?

Rick Perry with a handgun

Make no mistake—I do not condone the disgusting, racially offensive name of the Perry hunting camp in years past. But, regardless of whether the rock was repainted 4 years or 28 years ago—or somewhere in between—Cain showed his hand before he should have. And, he’s admitted he has nothing beyond this round.

Voters now know that Cain will use the Race Card when he thinks it’s to his advantage. The majority of African-Americans tend to vote Democratic, so Cain’s machinations won’t pull them to his cause. As for Whites, those that might have considered Cain will be disgusted, leaving them to vote Romney, if liberal, or Perry, if conservative. Unless, of course, they’re still drinking the koolaid.

It figures, too, that Rev. Al Sharpton would not miss an opportunity to suck up Cain’s publicity for himself. That said, and frequent readers better take a seat, Sharpton’s got a point. Perry initially responded by saying his dad painted over the epithet in 1983. Since then, he’s left damage control and all statements up to his campaign spokesman. That seems odd, and a little disconcerting, to me.
 


 

Fri, 30 Sep 2011

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

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

MQ-1 Predator with Hellfire missile

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

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

Samir Khan, Anwar al-AWlaki

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

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

They got the due process they deserved.
 


 

Mon, 26 Sep 2011

Romney Picking Up Steam is Really Bad Hot Air

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

Romney loves Michigan and Detroit—not

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

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

Romney's inconsistencies

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

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

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

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

 

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

Previously on Mitt Romney:

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