Cynical Synapse

Wed, 16 Nov 2011

Congress Hits Rock Bottom: 9% Approval Rating

Filed under: Congress, Good job, Government, Hugo Chavez, Politics, Rants, Take action — cynicalsynapse @ 8:05 pm

Congressional popularity

Colorado’s junior Senator, Michael Bennet (D) recently assailed what appears to be a sparsely attended Senate session with Congress’ abysmal approval rating of just 9%!Bennet underscored how pathetic that was before comparing Congress to the IRS, Fidel Castro, and banks.

We’re almost at the margin of error for zero!

Fricking Hugo Chavez has the same approval rating as Congress, for crying out loud! Next election, turn these arrogant, worthless buffoons out on their duffs!
 


 

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, 23 Sep 2011

Obama Grandstands for Stimulus 2.0 Jobs Bill

Filed under: Budget, Economy, Employment, Government, Politics, President, Take action — cynicalsynapse @ 10:50 am

Obama pushing his jobs bill in Cincinatti

Pres. Barack Obama was in Cincinatti yesterday to push for passing his jobs bill, which is really just the Stimulus on diet pills. At $447 billion, Obama’s proposal is just over half the $850 billion economic stimulus package of 2009. Like the original Stimulus bill, Obama’s jobs bill focuses on infrastructure.

Behind us stands the Brent Spence Bridge. It’s located on one of the busiest trucking routes in North America. It sees about 150,000 vehicles cross over every day. And it’s in such poor condition that it has been labeled functionally obsolete. Functionally obsolete. It’s safe to drive on, but it was not designed to accommodate today’s traffic, which can stretch for a mile.

If the Brent Spence bridge is in such bad shape, why didn’t it get fixed by the original stimulus bill? Why is Obama advocating for it as part of his jobs bill? Could it be, oh, I don’t know, the bridge links House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH-8) district with Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home? Why, yes; yes it does. In his remarks, Obama said:

Mr. Boehner, Mr. McConnell, help us rebuild this bridge. Help us rebuild America. Help us put this country back to work.

will code for food

Obama’s jobs plan focuses on construction, which had 13.5% unemployment in August, compared to 9.1% overall. The the President talks about putting unemployed construction workers back to work. Unfortunately, his jobs bill won’t help the right people. Jobs grew over the last year in every construction sector except residential; they’re not the ones who build bridges. And what about all the unemployed in other industries? Less than chickenfeed for them.

Considering its questionable effect, Big Stimulus was very costly with little benefit. Unemployment was at 7.3% before enacting the stimulus bill; it’s 9.1% today. The government reports stimulus saved or added about 2.4 million jobs which means taxpayers spent $288,000 on each of them. That equates to 976 weeks (almost 19 years!) of unemployment benefits at the averge US amount of $295 per week. Seriously?

Tell your Senators and Congressperson we cannot afford Stimulus 2.0. It’s too costly and it won’t fix unemployment.
 

Previously on the stimulus bill:

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.
 

Sat, 16 Jul 2011

Most Oppose Repealing Michigan’s Helmet Law

Filed under: Citizen rights, Driving, Government, Legal, Medicine, Michigan, Politics, Safety, Take action — cynicalsynapse @ 7:38 am

helmet laws

Two recent polls yielded similar results on the degree of support for keeping Michigan’s decades-old helmet section in the vehicle code. It requires motorcyclists to wear a US Department of Transportation (DOT) approved helmet. The Macomb Daily poll found 71% say keep the helmet requirement while 26% favored repeal and 2% were undecided. A more scientific EPIC-MRA poll found 68% oppose repealing the helmet law, with 31% wanting to ditch requiring helmets and 1% undecided. The EPIC-MRA poll has a margin of error of 4%.

Motorcyclist killed

Proponents of the helmet law reduced medical costs with helmet use by bikers. Helemt use can significantly reduce injury severity. In fact, a biker who was killed in a helmet protect ride likely would have lived if wearing an approved helmet. There will be increased costs for Michigan residents, both in insurance rates and Medicaid expenses. Michigan is a no-fault state, so if a motorcyclist is hit, it’s the other party’s insurance that pays, not the biker’s.

Opponents of mandatory helmet use say wearing a helmet should be a personal choice. Here’s the rub: 49 states have mandatory seatbelt laws (only New Hampshire does not). How is that any different than choosing to wear a helmet? And yet, with more drivers on the road, traffic fatalities continue to decline, likely due to seatbelt use. It simply does not pass the common sense test to allow one group of road users to choose to stop using the one safety device—a DOT-approved helmet—with any significant chance of minimizing the severity of injuries in an accident.

Save Michigan motorcycle riders. Save your tax dollars. Save your insurance premium costs (both vehicle and health). Tell your State Representative to vote no on SB 291.

Sun, 30 Jan 2011

TSA Tightens Fascist Grip; Stamps Out Competition

Filed under: Business, Citizen rights, Flying, Government, Hypocrits, Politics, Take action, Travel, Unions — cynicalsynapse @ 3:16 pm

US Department of Security Theater

Only a couple months after the uproar over full body scanners, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has put a halt to the private screening option. Only 16 commercial airports, out of 494, use private security screeners in lieu of the TSA. Amazingly, the TSA and its union are obviously intimidated by privitization. John Gage, President of the American Federation of Government Employees, said:

The nation is secure in the sense that the safety of our skies will not be left in the hands of the lowest-bidder contractor, as it was before 9/11. We applaud Administrator Pistole for recognizing the value in a cohesive federalized screening system and work force.

Clearly, the union is happy to not face challenges from privatized (whether union or not) security personnel. Despite what he says, there’s no mistaking Mr. Gage’s primary concern is not losing dues-paying members.

TSA pats down old lady in a wheel chair

Just two months ago, TSA was “neutral” on private screeners. Now Administrator John Pistole’s attempt to protect his fiefdom is thinly veiled, at best. Loss of airports to private security means reductions in personnel—and funding—for the TSA. Pistole’s comment:

“I examined the contractor screening program and decided not to expand the program beyond the current 16 airports as I do not see any clear or substantial advantage to do so at this time.

Since when does government have the authority to limit free enterprise? If private companies can meet (or exceed) the government standard of service, why are they being denied the opportunity to do so? And why is capitalism being stiffled in deference to the interests of a monopolistic government agency? If the Screening Partnership Program is no longer part of TSA policy, why is it still on their website?

More importantly, why are Americans willing to surrender more of their freedoms to Government? Ask your Congressman and Senators to question TSA’s business unfriendly position.

Previously on security theater:

Sun, 28 Nov 2010

Rick Snyder on High Speed Rail: Crickets

Filed under: Government, Hypocrits, Life, Michigan, Passenger rail, Politics, Railroads, Stimulus, Take action, Travel — cynicalsynapse @ 2:23 pm

Midwest High Speed Rail Initiative

Michigan is sucking eggs in the quest for Federal dollars to develop high speed rail. Grants this year total only $200 million out of a request for $993 million. And none of that money is actually being used for high speed rail. From the Stimulus bill, Michigan got $40 million for new stations in Troy and Dearborn plus renovations to the Battle Creek station. The October grant—which requires Michigan to match $30 million&mash;covers purchasing Norfolk Southern’s track from Dearborn to Kalamazoo and upgrading it to 79 mph. It also includes reconstructing connecting track in West Detroit. None of this is the 110 mph or faster promised by high speed rail.

Amtrak owns the line between Kalamazoo and the state line near New Bufalo. In partnership with Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Amtrak’s Michigan line has been upgraded to 95 mph speeds along some segments. That’s almost high speed and plans call for raising the segment to 110 mph. Why Michigan didn’t get any Stimulus money for this is beyond me. Where are Sens. Carl “Leave ’em” Levin (D) and Debbie “Stab me now” Stabinow on this? How about US Reps. Fred Upton (R-06) and Mark Schauer (D-07)?

Amtrak 452 F59PHI

A recent poll of over 24,000 by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) found 62% would ride high speed rail if it was available and competetive in time and price with flying or driving. I’ll bet the number would go up if it meant avoiding full body scanners and/or “enhanced” pat downs. Amtrak wants to cut time from Detroit to Chicago from 5-1/2 to 3-1/2 hours. I’d call that competive with driving. Round trip on Amtrak costs $62-84 depending on times. Airfare starts at $190, so travel by rail is more cost effective than flying. The problem is 5-1/2 hours takes too long while 3-1/2 hours makes skipping the security lines at the airport worth it.

Amtrak on its Michigan Division at Durand

Republicans John Kasich and Scott Walker, Govs.-elect in Ohio and Wisconsin, are hostile to high speed rail. In fact, Mr. Kasich wants to give up a $400 million grant for new passenger service from Cleveland to Columbus to Cincinatti, the 3C line. Despite popularity for a new Milwauke to Madison line, Walker wants to forego $810 million in high speed rail grants. Both expected to be able to repurpose the money for roads. Says US Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood: Not!

Like pirhana swarming to fresh blood in the water, a dozen states are asking for the $1.2 billion to be rejected by Ohio and Wisconsin. LaHood said there are “a lot of states that would like to have access to that money.”

What’s the word out of Michigan? Nothing. From Gov.-elect Rick Synder? Crickets. Good start on your 10-point plan, Gov. Nerd. Michigan needs the jobs and the infrastructure. Tell the “tough nerd” to take his hat off and belly up to the table with his empty plate and get Michigan’s fair share.

Previously on high speed rail:

Sun, 14 Nov 2010

Fight the Invasion of the Body Scanners

Millimeter wave full body scanner

Ever increasing numbers of airports have full-body scanners, euphemistically called Advanced Imaging Technology (AIT) in use by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). While manufacturers tout their safety and eficacy, there is little empirical data regarding either. There are two types of scanners. Millimeter wave technology bounces electromagnetic waves—which TSA terms as harmless—off the body to create the passenger’s image. Backscatter technology bombards passengers with low level X-ray over the body to generate a reflection displayed on the monitor.

Electromagnetic radiation is the same radiation as in the somewhat controversial health concerns with cell phones. X-rays are ionizing radiation and there is no doubt they present a health risk. What’s under scrutiny is how much health risk does body scan radiation present. Increased dosage will represent an increased risk. On that basis, frequent fliers are more likely to suffer health impairment as a result of full body scanning. And, for pilots, it becomes an occupational hazard. But, ironically, those most at risk are the TSA agents who work around them all day.

Image from advanced imaging technology

For most people, the issue with the full body scanners is a privacy issue. TSA says they are secure and no images will be stored. Consumer advocate Ralph Nader and the watchdog group Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) disagree. EPIC says the machines are hackable, can have external storage devices attached, and agents could easily take cell phone pictures. Citing privacy concerns, EPIC filed a lawsuit requesting suspension of full body scanning with the US Court of Appeals in Washington DC.

Unions for two airlines advised pilots no opt out of scanning citing privacy reasons for their members. Pilots at US Airways and American Airlines, numbering about 14,000, were told to go the route of the “enhanced pat down” instead. Those who decline the scanners are subject to thorough pat down searches.

TSA patting down child and woman

There is growing pushback to TSA’s intrusive screening measures. Last month, ExpressJet First Officer Michael Richards refused both the scanner and pat down. As a pilot, Richards has already had a through background check and he’s low risk at wanting to blow up his own plane. His fundamental concern, for which he intends to file a lawsuit, is violation of the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment which prohibits unreasonable search and seizure.

Yesterday, passenger John Tyner opted out of scanning. Tyner says he checked the TSA website before going to the airport to see if San Diego was listed as using the scanners. Even today, San Diego Airport is not listed on TSA’s site as using AIT. Tyner recorded the encounter with his cell phone. Many think TSA is heavy-handed and here’s what the TSA agent said at the metal detector:

Anything else in your pockets, paper, everything needs to come out…paper needs to come out, otherwise I’ll pat you down.

TSA pat down

After the TSA agent explained the “standard pat down”, Tyner inquired if they were going to pat down his groin. The answer was an indirect affirmative, to which Tyner responded, “If you touch my junk, I’ll have you arrested.” While waiting for various levels of supervision to sort this out, the TSA agent said, “By buying a ticket you gave up a lot of your rights.” I don’t think there’s anything about buying an airline ticket that suspends provisions of the US Constitution, including it’s Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

An interesting side note is the similarities between Mr. Richards’ and Mr. Tyner’s cases, which took part at two different airports. They were both courteous and non-confrontational. Yet, in both cases, resolving their declination to abdicate their rights would be considered an unlawful detention. And, in both cases, as they were about to leave the airport terminal, they were subjected to yet another unlawful detention.

Some commenters have questioned Mr. Tyner’s motiviation for declining both virtual strip search and sexual molestation by TSA. His eloquent reply:

Every attempt to blow up a plane since 9/11 has been stopped by passengers after the government failed to provide protection for them. Every incident, however, has been met by throwing more money and less sensibility at the problem.

Bill of Rights

And each new effort to address the threat results in a further erosion of citizens’ rights. TSA maintains their right to full body scans or “enhanced” pat downs is lawful. The Fourth Amendment was intended to protect us from overreaching government intrusion.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Stand up for your rights. Send a clear message to the US Government and TSA. Join the National Opt-Out Day, 24 November 2010. Either way, you should probably plan to arrive at the airport several hours before your flight that day.

Previously on security theater:

Update:

20 Nov 2010

I have to retract my implication the use of full-body scanners and/or “enhanced” pat downs at airports represent a violation of the Fourth Ammendment. While I believe those procedures are invasive and their efficacy and health effects unknown, they are easily avoided by not flying. Travelers can choose any of a wide variety of alternate modes of travel.

That said, I still believe these procedures represent a further totalitarianization of the so-called Land of the Free. And while alternate methods of travel are available, the cost- and time-effectiveness of air travel make it the only practical choice in many circumstances.

A recent CBS News poll found 80% support full-body scanning. They may change their mind when it becomes their turn, but for now, the will of the people is clear.

Tue, 02 Nov 2010

Not Voting is Idiocy

Filed under: Behavior, Citizen rights, Congress, Life, Michigan, Paradoxes, Patriotism, Politics, Rants, Society, Take action — cynicalsynapse @ 5:45 am

Silverliner V pair

Unfortunately, significant numbers of eligible voters in the US don’t exercise their most basic right to vote. Everyone has an opinion on the weather and everyone has feelings about how they think the country is going. If you’re registered, you need to go cast your ballot. Michigan has two congressional races that are very close. If you live in the 7th or 9th districts, your vote could determine which candidate becomes your next representative.

Both major parties have efforts underway to get the vote out. Michigan Secretary of State, Terri Lynn Land, estimates about 52% of registered voters will vote> in tomorrow’s general election. Land, who is term-limited and lost a bid for Lt. Governor, thinks Michigan’s voter turnout should be higher.

This election represents a prime opportunity for voters to affect the direction of their state and local communities for the next several years. With more than 95 percent of eligible residents registered to vote here in Michigan, it’s time for those voters to speak up. I encourage everyone to make their voices heard by casting a ballot on Nov. 2.

Afghan woman shows her dyed finger after voting

Believe me, I am more cynical than most when it comes to the state of our political affairs and processes. Compare Land’s projection with Iraq’s 62% turnout for parliamentary elections in March. No presidential election, just legislators. Terrorist attacks killed 38 people who were simply trying to exercise their right to vote. On September 18th, 5.6 million Afghans risked the wrath of the Taliban to vote in parliamentary elections. Fourteen died as a result. When’s the last time anyone was killed on the way to vote in the US?

Yes, you have a right to not vote. And I am sworn to defend that right for you. But, if you don’t vote, I don’t want to hear your complaints about politicians or the direction the country is going in. Not voting shows you don’t care, according to Lonnie Allen.

Not voting is simply an ignorant act on your part. I guess wisdom is too much too hope for in a country where on average around 40 percent elect a president, but 65 percent choose who sings well.

Sun, 24 Oct 2010

Rep. Moran (D-VA) Disses Military Service

Filed under: Congress, Deceit, Government, Hypocrits, Military, Politics, Take action — Tags: — cynicalsynapse @ 6:39 am

Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA)

US Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) said his opponent’s military service was not public service. Referring to Republican challenger Patrick Murray’s Army career, from which he retired as a Colonel, Moran equated Murray’s 24-year military career with welfare. Moran also implied Murray’s platform of reducing government spending was disingenuous since the military is part of the Federal government.

The moron Moran is also trying to tie Federal spending cuts to weakening the military. It’s the same political meme as threatening to cut police or fire in tough budget climates.

pot calling kettle black

Does anyone see the irony in Moran implying his service counts while COL Murray’s doesn’t? As it turns out, Jim Moran has been feeding at the public trough his entire adult life. According to Moran:

What [Republicans] do is that they find candidates – usually stealth candidates – that haven’t been in office, haven’t served or performed any kind of public service. My opponent is typical.

It seems Moran thinks his Congressional service is more significant than military service:

[I]n his twisted mind the experience of putting your life on the line for your country pales in comparison to public drunkenness, bar fights, personal bankruptcy, anti-semitism, public corruption and assaulting 8-year old kids who you claim are trying to carjack you.

Patrick Murray

COL (retired) Murray has served four combat tours. Rep. Moran visited Afghanistan as a publicity stunt in August.

Moran claimed Murray was an inexperienced newcomer. Moran obviously doesn’t realize voters are upset with entrenched politicians that don’t represent their constituents’ interests.

Currently holding a 13 point lead, here’s hoping Virginia voters wake up to charlatan Jim Moran’s duplicitous ways. Seems like a number of former military personnel in his district, which includes Arlington and Alexandria, would not tolerate Moran’s dismissal of the honor and value of military service.

HT: The Blogprof

Update:

24 Oct 2010

A fellow blogger—and retired military officer—pointed out Jim Moran dodged military service during Vietnam. The man who has the gall to cast aspersions on his challenger’s 24 years of honorable military service, including 4 deployments supporting the Global War on Terror, somehow managed to avoid his own military service obligation. It wasn’t a college deferrment. Moran earned his bachelor’s degree in 1967 and a Masters of Public Administration in 1970.

military draft lottery for 1970

Coincidentally, 1970 is also the year the Selective Service conducted the first Vietnam-era lottery for birth years 1944 through 1950. Moran’s birthdate is 16 May 1945 and his lottery number was 055. The highest lottery number called that year was 195, so why didn’t Moran fulfill his military obligation?

In our all-volunteer military, especially considering we have been a nation at war for nine years, Jim Moran has no place to denigrate anyone’s military service. Not even the private just reporting to basic training. They all have more cuhones than draft-dodging Jim Moran.

Here’s another reason why Rep. Moran does not deserve reelection. Moran said he’s going to secure an earmark to help save the Arlington planetarium. Excuse me? Didn’t your top Democratic Party official, President Barack Obama, say no more earmarks? Why, yes. Yes, he did. So, why isn’t Moran toeing the party line?

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