Cynical Synapse

Thu, 24 Nov 2011

Nothing to Be Thankful For? Think Again

Filed under: Behavior, Driving, holidays, Life, People, Roads — cynicalsynapse @ 12:07 pm

blessings we take for granted

A couple nights ago, I picked my car up from the dealership and was enroute home on the rain-soaked Interstate. Just 15 minutes into my trip, the car started losing power. I managed to work my way from the left lane to the exit before the car died along the side of the ramp. Fortunately, the dealer hadn’t yet closed and they agreed to come collect me. I’m sure, like me, they didn’t think the problem was related to any work they had done.

While I was sitting on the side of the ramp, I realized I’d been lucky this happened when and where it did and that I was able to get ahold of the dealership. Still, as is human nature, I couldn’t help thinking how this was one more trial in a year that seems to have more than its share of tribulations. At the very same moment, the police were working an accident scene just a few miles ahead on the same Interstate I had been on. A women had been struck and killed while attempting cross the highway.

My little problem saved me the aggravation of the traffic backups on the Interstate. More importantly, all of my problems pale in comparison to that young lady’s death and the tragic loss to her family, especially before the holiday. I’m thankful for my car’s acting up because that girl’s death has more significance to me. I have a heck of a lot of things to be thankful that I too frequently take for granted. Do you?

Enjoy time with family and friends. Be thankful for what you have. And have a great, safe, and happy Thanksgiving!

HT: Stealth Magnolia

Sun, 20 Nov 2011

Charity with Dignity is Worthy of Thanksgiving

Filed under: Behavior, Good job, Helping others, holidays, Life, Paradoxes, People — cynicalsynapse @ 9:44 pm

5 points of Calvinism

In West Michigan, the dominant religious tradition is Calvinism. Although born and raised there, I was not brought up with Calvinist beliefs. In fact, I confess I didn’t really know much of anything about Calvinism until today. At left are the 5 points of Calvinist theological doctrine.

What I do remember from my younger days is being told you can’t be saved by good works. It didn’t make sense to me at the time, but now I see it’s a fundamental element of Calvinism. Calvinists believe God knows everything, including whether you’ll be saved or not. They also believe you cannot fully make up for your sins and only the select will be saved. As I understand it, most Calvinists don’t see this as predestination, but a lot of non-Calvinists do.

Pacific Crossroads Church Boxes of Love

My religious foundation recognizes a graceful value in good works. If God is merciful and all loving, how could it be otherwise? Is it really plausible a merciful and loving God would condemn all non-Christians?

Imagine my surprise, then, when I ran across the article “How Calvinists Spread Thanksgiving Cheer” in Friday’s Wall Street Journal. Yesterday, Pacific Crossroads Church delivered Boxes of Love with Thanksgiving dinner ingredients to Los Angeles area underprivileged. The boxes contain ingredients for families to make their own dinners instead of having to line up at a soup kitchen. If that’s not an awesome good work, I don’t know what is.
 


 

Sat, 19 Nov 2011

PETA Is Out to Lunch

Filed under: Behavior, Congress, Deceit, Humor, Life, Opportunists, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 6:46 pm

food pyramid and pizza slice

So, pizza is considered a vegetable, by act of Congress, due to the tomato sauce. Minor detail that tomatoes are actually a fruit. Never mind pizza includes cheese, a dairy product, and, usually, pepperoni, a meat. Heck, even turkey bacon is part of vegetarian cuisine in some circles.

Apparently, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) didn’t get the memo. With Thanksgiving approaching, PETA requested Turkey, Texas, change its name to Tofurkey, a vegan alternative. Seriously? Change the name of a town because it was an animal some people consider vegetarian? But, wait! There’s more!

Mario savages tanooki

Lest you thought it couldn’t get any lamer, never underestimate the crusading pomposity of the lunatic fringe. With the changes in status for pizza and turkey, PETA must be running out of issues to champion that have any degree of significance. Not to be relegated to irrelevance, however, PETA began chastising Mario for his Tanuki suit. According to PETA, Nintendo’s popular video game encourages kids to wear fur or something. Get a life, you fruit cakes.

Tanooki [sic] may be just a “suit” in Mario games, but in real life, tanuki are raccoon dogs who are skinned alive for their fur. By wearing Tanooki [sic], Mario is sending the message that it’s OK to wear fur.

Update:

25 Nov 2011

Biden pardons a tofurkey

And the madness spreads, or so it would seem.

Wed, 19 Oct 2011

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

Filed under: Behavior, Good job, Government, Politics — cynicalsynapse @ 7:36 pm

Caution Exotic Animals

Police in rural eastern Ohio were on safari last night and today. They’re hunting about 4 dozen exotic animals let loose from a private preserve, the Muskingum County Animal Farm, near Zanesville.

Muskingum County Sheriff’s Office got calls of exotic animals near roadways beginning about 5:30 PM yesterday. When deputies responded to the animal farm, they found owner Terry Thompson dead of a self-inflicted wound and the cages and pens open. Overnight, police killed all but a mountain lion, a bear, and a monkey. The president of the Humane Society of the US, Wayne Pacelle, described the situation as:

Local authorities are now spending enormous resources on personnel, helicopters, infrared, and equipment chasing down and killing free-roaming exotic animals in order to protect public safety.

Terry Thompson

Most states regulate exotic animal ownership, but not Ohio. That’s how Thompson, 62, and just released from a year in jail on weapons charges, was able to collect his menagerie. This was not the first time authorities had been called to the exotic animal farm, Muckingum County Sheriff Matt Lutz said.

We’ve gotten about 35 calls since ’04, ’05, with complaints the animals were running at large and not being treated properly. We’ve handled numerous complaints here, we’ve done numerous inspections here. So this has been a huge problem for us for a number of years.

As one might expect, animal lovers are not happy with the slaughter, but they fault Ohio’s lack of legislation and Thompson’s inhumane treatment and final release of the animals. The clear message is predatory, exotic animals don’t belong in private, unregulated hands. The animals, by nature, are aggressive and unpredictable. They need to be treated with respect, dignity, and be left to their habitats or professionals at zoos or sanctuaries.

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.

Wed, 21 Sep 2011

Obama Photobombs President of Mongolia

Filed under: Behavior, Diplomacy, Good job, President — cynicalsynapse @ 7:51 pm

Obama photobombs the President of Mongolia

Way to go, Barack! This was just too amazing—and funny—to pass up! Why would US Pres. Obama wave in a picture like this in the first place?

Mongolia might not be a major player on the world political stage. Still, any bets on political fallout, nonetheless?
 

Tue, 13 Sep 2011

How Not to Be an Islamophobe

Filed under: Afghanistan, Behavior, Global War on Terror, Iraq, Islamophobia, Military — cynicalsynapse @ 8:34 pm
US, Afghan forces greet kidsU.S. Air Force Senior Airman Lauren Everett, medic attached to Laghman Provincial Reconstruction Team, greets a group of children in Alisheng district, Laghman province, Sept. 12. The PRT, partnered with the security forces assistant team and the Afghan National Police, patrolled through a village to talk to the locals and teach the ANP proper procedures during patrols.
Defense Video and Image Distribution System (DVIDS)

An excellent post from Attackerman: first, be a combat veteran:

What follows is pure and unadulterated speculation. I can’t prove what I’m about to contend. I have no data, no studies, no statistically-relevant sample. Just anecdotes and a hunch.

The least Islamophobic cohort in American society — except of course, for Muslims themselves — consists of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans between the ages of 25 and 40.

I’m basing this entirely on my interactions with combat vets over the years — both downrange and back here in the States. It would be easy — lazy, even — to expect them to harbor blood-curdling hatred of Muslims. The insurgents they fought deliberately blended in with the populace, after all.

Some of them came to war harboring precisely such hatred. They wanted to avenge 9/11, and the average Iraqi or Afghan would do. Not all did, but it would be a whitewash to ignore that some did. I had a long and mournful conversation with one such officer in Mosul in 2007.

Then something unexpected happened. They got familiar with Afghans and Iraqis. “Local nationals” translated for them. They met with local dignitaries and heard plaintive cries for help. They heard locals express bitterness and outrage over the million indignities of war. They found themselves understanding. Then sympathizing. Then wanting to help.

And then they found something more powerful than sympathy: mutual interest. They learned that they couldn’t do anything significant in their unfamiliar stretches of a foreign country without the aid — or at least the acquiescence, or apathy — of the locals. A choice between working together or failing was no choice at all.

Some even made friends. Iraqis and Afghans, especially those who work as interpreters or intelligence analysts, often have wonderfully vile and profane senses of humor. (In my experience, this is truer for Iraqis than Afghans, but not unheard-of for Afghans, either.) A dirty joke, a bullshit boast and an unspeakably nasty DVD or video game can bond people in warzones for life.

Suddenly, those same Americans who barely even knew any Muslims back home — didn’t know that Allah is just the Arabic word for the exact same God many of them worship — wanted to know more about Iraqi or Afghan culture. It didn’t seem so unfamiliar; or if it did, it was the kind of unfamiliarity that posed an appealing challenge to understand. They wanted to debate about the world with the locals, and didn’t even mind when the locals debated back and challenged basic points about America.

Some came home and kept up a correspondence with their new friends. Some took classes about the Middle East or South Asia to contextualize their experience. Some didn’t come home at all.

Obviously, there are exceptions here. I have no illusion that this a universal experience of two searing wars. I know combat veterans who have neither love nor hate in their hearts for Muslims, just… emptiness.

But ever since last year’s “Ground Zero Mosque” flap, it’s struck me that the Robert Spencers and the Pamela Gellars and the lot of them don’t have their stock veterans to trot out in service of the idea that the mosque down the street is a threat to your grandmother. I do not believe that is an accident.

Most non-Muslim Americans don’t have many interactions with their Muslim neighbors. Or if they do, it’s not an issue. I grew up in Brooklyn, one of the most diverse places in the U.S., and it only occurred to me after 9/11 that one of the members of my high school crew was a Muslim. Combat veterans had perhaps the most self-conscious familiarity with Iraqis and Afghans of all Americans. They had no other option.

And many, if not most, came home understanding that Muslims aren’t so different. Muslims don’t have heat vision. They’re not implacably opposed to freedom and all that shit. They’re not looking to join a terrorist group, and “proto-terrorism” doesn’t lurk in their hearts.

Like I said, I can’t prove any of this. It’s all anecdotal. But the more I think about it, the truer it seems. I can’t think of anyone who came home from Iraq or Afghanistan more furious at the average Muslim, which is perhaps of the most surprising and profound aspects of the 9/11 Era.

HT: Doctine Man!!

Previously on Islamophobia:

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:

Fri, 02 Sep 2011

Islamophobia Unchecked Equals Freedom Unprotected

Filed under: Behavior, Citizen rights, Civil liberties, Government, Legal, Life, Oppression, Society — cynicalsynapse @ 1:00 pm

Anti-Islamic grafitti

As the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks draws near, coming on the heals of the end of Ramadan and releases of a couple reports on Muslims in America, it’s easy for conversations to turn to jihadists—Muslim extremists. The truth is extremists of any kind are dangerous. It’s also true the majority of terrorist activities in the past decade were carried out by people hiding behind the Islamic religion. This does not make them Islamists, although some may have been. The Ayatollahs in Iran are real Islamists. Still, the end result is a very real and deliberate undertone of Islamohobia—the fear of Muslims.

A Center for American Progrss report released 26 August describes the funding and efforts fueling Islamophobia. Despite their loyalties, good work ethic, civic-mindedness, and being law-abiding, in general, there is a lot of mistrust of Muslims in the population at large.

Muslim-Americans are, generally, satisfied with current conditions “despite a feeling [Muslims] are being targeted by anti-terrorism government programs.” While we want feel and be secure, we value our rights more. Consider the Old Man’s post about concerns with the hijab:

There’s been a lot of flack over Muslim women wearing their traditional head dress out in the public here in America. One of the latest was at Rye Playland in New York where a group of Muslim women were barred from certain rides because of their headscarves. Do we, the other public, know what banning the religious head dress for a particular religious culture could lead to?

Yeah, yeah! The Old Man is fully aware of the attacks on America, and Americans abroad, by Muslims. But have we taken our revenge too far? It may be appropriate to check people, and even their clothing, for any weapons or bombs in public gatherings or boarding a public means of transportation. But think about this for a moment. If we are to ban Muslim clothing simply because a certain group of people don’t like it, what are we supposed to do about the other religions??????

Amish

Catholic Nums

Latter Day Saints

Orthodox Jew

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.
 

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