Cynical Synapse

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.



Mon, 31 Oct 2011

In Detroit, Pumpkins Decorate You

Filed under: Detroit, Driving, Good job, Helping others, holidays, Humor, Life, People, Society — cynicalsynapse @ 1:41 pm

pumpkins littering I-696

Detroit has a long-standing tradition of beginning Halloween celebrations early; not always in the best light. This year was no exception as the holiday period kicked off, not with a famous act, or even an act of vandalism. North suburban Farmington Hills saw the arrival of the smashing pumpkins on I-696 last Wednesday, just in time for the morning commute. Drivers had to carve their way through the bouncing gourds which shattered at least one windshield but caused no injuries. According to Pat Carmichael, who witnessed the mayhem:

There are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of these pumpkins… There’s [sic] three lanes that are just covered with smashed pumpkins. I’m just now getting toward Telegraph and the truck’s been pulled over by a police officer. The back of the truck has been sheared off.

damaged I-696 pumpkin truck

Police said the driver, Brian Rose, could be cited for having an unstable load, which carries a $150 fine. But, Rose said he was cut off and struck a bridge pier. Excuse me? Why didn’t he stop to see if there was any damage? How about a ticket for fleeing the scene of an accident? How about restitution for the cost of clean up? As you can see at right, Rose’s hitting the bridge pier was more than just a little bump or scrape.

Later that same Wednesday, Detroit Zoo animals began their own Halloween festivities. In an effort to stimulate their natural behaviors, they were given pumpkins filled with appropriate treats. Some played with or guarded their treasure gourds while others enjoyed dismantling them in one manner or another. The Zoo was also decorated for Halloween, including zombies, which are not part of the Zoo’s regular exhibits.

During the mid-70s to mid-90s, Detroit’s early “celebrations” saw out-of-control arsons, approaching around 800 in later years. In 1995, then Mayor Archer countered Devils’ Night with Angels’ Night. Over the last 15 years, the Halloween holiday has become one of Detroit’s safest. The Angels’ Night mobilizations, which take place over about a 3 day period, are a model of a community taking back its streets. Kids can go trick-or-treating; adults can go on their zombie walks; everyone can have a good time. This is the real D and this is where we’re headed.


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.


Tue, 09 Aug 2011

Detroit Loses a Treasure in Focus: HOPE Founder’s Passing

Filed under: Civil liberties, Detroit, Education, Helping others, Heroes — cynicalsynapse @ 8:11 pm

Eleanor Josaitis

It’s no secret Detroit has its problems, but Focus:HOPE is one of its gems. Today we mourn the passing of one of Focus:HOPE’s founders, Eleanor Josaitis. While others fled Detroit following the 1967 riots, Josaitis moved into the city. She co-founded Focus: HOPE with Fr. William Cunnigham in 1968.

For the next 43 years, Josaitis worked to bring social justice, civil rights, and improved job skills to underpriviledged Detroiters. She cared about her community and its residents. Her goal was to overcome racism, poverty, and injustice. Josaitis frequently said:

There’s no greater way to eliminate racism and poverty than to see that people have education, skills, jobs and opportunities in life.

job training at Focus:HOPE

Josaitis’ legacy is an organization that provides an after-school photography program, gives people necessary and relevant job skills, and education, including engineering degrees.

Eleanor Josaitis “believed in Detroit and its people and believed each one of us can make a difference. … Her influence was felt from board rooms to soup kitchens.” Eleanor Josaitis was part of what makes Detroit great.

Previously on Focus: HOPE:

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’…

Mon, 13 Dec 2010

Citizen-Soldiers: On Guard for 374 Years

Citizen-Soldiers on Guard for 374 Years

First militia muster in 1636

The United States’ oldest military, the National Guard, turns 374 today. The National Guard traces its roots to the colonial militias formed before the birth of the country. It has always been comprised of Citizen-Soldiers, from the days of the Minutemen, who come from their communities to serve their nation and fellow citizens. How can a military force be older than the country it serves? In the case of the National Guard, the Massachusetts General Court established a militia in 1636

Colonial militias became the organized militias referenced in the US Constitution’s Second Amendment. Unique among US military forces, the National Guard has both state and federal roles. In peacetime, state and territorial governors are the Commanders-in-Chief of their National Guard personnel. As reserves of the US Army and US Air Force, Guardsmen are also subject to call-up for federal service. To that end, Guardsmen and Reservists must meet active component training requirements and standards. They receive equipment and training funding from the Department of Defense (DoD).

Minuteman statue

It is presidential mobilization authority that has seen the National Guard—both Army and Air—in active defense of the country since 9/11. In fact, over 225,000 Guardsmen have been called up in support of the Global War on Terror. According to DoD statistics, in 2005 National Guardsmen and Reservists made up about half the forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Fulfilling their federal mission, Guardsmen from each of the 54 states and territories (District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and Virgin Islands) have deployed overseas. Many units have deployed more than once and some Guardsmen are on or preparing for their third or fourth deployment. While consuming only 11% of the Army’s budget, Guardsmen make up almost 40% of its operational force.

National Guard 374th birthday

The National Guard, and its predecessor militias, have always been a good value for the country. Citizen-Soldiers have always answered the call. They have always fulfilled the mission with excellence and professionalism. And they have always remembered their roots in their communities.

It might sound like a bank’s motto, but the National Guard represents local values and skills with global reach. Happy 374th birthday, National Guard.

Mon, 25 Oct 2010

WOA Says Woah! to Charitable Gesture

Filed under: Behavior, Civil liberties, Helping others, Paradoxes, Politics, Society, Sports — cynicalsynapse @ 6:54 am

Football refs with pink whistles

Pacific Northwest Football Officials Association (PNFOA) referees used pink whistles and donated their checks for last Thursday’s game to support the Susan G. Komen Foundation. The 140 referees all agreed to raise breast cancer awareness and donate their pay for the game to breast cancer research. In an era of few suitable role models, the officials’ public statement and act of charity seems noble.

Not so fast. It seems the pink whistles violate Washington Officials Association (WOA) rules. The WOA provides oversight and direction for officiating in all interscholastic sports. According to WOA’s chairman, Todd Stordahl:

Todd Stordahl

They chose not to ask for permission, not to go the right route. It sends the wrong message to kids that are playing the game. ‘If they broke the rules why can’t I do the same.’

Instead of accolades for their civic mindedness, WOA is considering punishing the referees for being out of uniform. They could be suspended for two playoff games, depriving them of officiating at the premier events of their sport. The officials would also not be paid for those games. In that case, their donation of Thursday’s game check became three times as costly. High school referees don’t do it for the money, but that’s a pretty high price for demonstrating to kids they should be part of something bigger than themselves.

early poll results

According to a poll by TV station KING, 94% support the referees and only 4% think the WOA is in the right. The remaining 1% couldn’t make up their minds. It’s such a complicated issue, afterall.

Public opinion can influence decisions. It seems Stordahl is sorry he came out so strongly against the referees. Apparently, a decision on disciplinary action now won’t be made until after the season. Stordahl said it’s all about following the chain-of-command.

WOA deeply regrets that there’s any perception that we don’t support any breast cancer programs. As someone who follows sports, that’s all that we have are rules, regulations and interpretations.

Mon, 14 Dec 2009

Ambulance Gets New Lease on Life

Filed under: Behavior, Good job, Helping others, Heroes, Life, People — cynicalsynapse @ 3:24 pm

Ambulance donated to Dominican Republic

Just in time for Christmas, two Hazel Park firefighters deliver a used ambulance and donated protective gear to Villa Elysia, a poor town outside of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. The US military transported the ambulance under the Denton Program which allows private donations to be moved when space is available. Mast Ambulance, of Kansas City, donated the ambulance and Novi donated the protective gear.

Fire Chief Ray DeWalt and Firefighter Kyle Rowinski use their vacation time and pay their own expenses to travel to Villa Elysia, the hometown of former Tigers pitcher Roman Colon. Now playing for Kansas City, Colon is a friend of DeWalt’s and went with the firefighters when delivered a retired fire truck in April. Rowinski said:

When we were down there before we saw the ambulance they were using was an old beat-up minivan. They cover a 30-square-mile area and this ambulance will help them. The majority of emergencies for fire departments are medically related.

Retired fire truck unloading in Dominican Republic

Hazel Park became Villa Elysia’s benefactor when the best offer the city could get for its 20-year old pumper was for scrap. While looking for someone to donate the fire engine to, DeWalt’s friend Colon said his town had never seen a fire truck.

The firefighters found their way through the bureaucracy to get the engine delivered to Santo Domingo. They met it, drove it to Villa Elysia, and taught the locals how to use it. From that experience, Rowinski said he would always remember the townspeople’s gratitude.

We were able to take something that was going to be thrown in the garbage dump and helped a community. I think our next step will be to seek donations from other fire departments for old boots, helmets and gear they have taken out of service and send it down there.

Now Rowinski is seeing his next phase come true. And more.

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