In about an hour and a half from now, NASA will send an unmanned version of its new Orion spaceship up into orbit, riding on the back of a Delta IV Heavy rocket. It’s very retro-looking, without any fins or wings at all. The full name of the spaceship is rather institutional: Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.
You can watch the liftoff at the NASA web site, or through NASA TV, at about 7:05 AM.
The first planned launch of the Orion with people on board is scheduled for 2021. The spaceship might eventually go to Mars.
It seems exciting. Even enthusiasts for the Mars One private expedition to Mars are planning to watch. Still, my mind keeps coming back to the question: Why?
What makes putting people into outer space a project worth pursuing?
Ben Carson’s supporters are touting a new 2016 presidential candidate poll by ORC International, saying that it shows that Ben Carson has “strong” support among Republican voters. What counts as a “strong” showing in the polls, according to pro-Carson activists?
The poll indicates that Ben Carson is the primary choice of just ten percent of Republican voters. 10 percent support among Republicans.
The same poll indicates that Hillary Clinton is the first choice of Democratic voters. In comparison, Ben Carson looks like a pipsqueak.
So, why are Ben Carson supporters saying that this poll makes Ben Carson a strong contender in 2016? It’s because all the other prospective Republican presidential candidates are performing rather weakly as well. In comparison with these other limp candidates, Ben Carson looks somewhat energetic… at first glance.
Looking deeper at the poll results, beyond respondents’ first pick, shows that Ben Carson is actually rather weak in comparison to most of the other Republican contenders.
10 percent of participating Republican respondents in the poll chose Ben Carson as their first pick for President in 2016, but when asked who their second pick was, Carson’s results dropped dramatically to just 3 percent. That’s a total score of 13 out of a potential 200 for Ben Carson.
Mitt Romney, rejected soundly in 2008 and 2012 but nonetheless the Republican presidential frontrunner for 2016, starts with twice the support of Ben Carson: 20 percent. What’s more, his second choice support remains high, at 19 percent. That gives Romney a total score of 39 out of a potential 200 – three times as much as Carson.
The two candidates who at first appear to be behind Ben Carson in the GOP running are shown by this deeper analysis to greater overall support than Carson. Jeb Bush is the first choice of 9 percent of GOP respondents, and the second choice of 10 percent, for a total score of 19 out of 100.
Chris Christie is the first choice of 8 percent, and the second choice of 7 percent of Republican respondents in the poll. That gives Christie a two-point edge over Ben Carson, with 15 out of a possible 200.
Ben Carson is actually in fourth place, in a field of exceptionally weak candidates. Carson may have a few more die hard supporters than Jeb Bush and Chris Christie, but his support is thin. Beyond his core of zealots led by John Philip Souza IV, Ben Carson has the support of very few Republicans at all.
By all accounts, Richard III of England was a nasty piece of work. It’s generally agreed that he had his own nephews killed so that he could become king himself.
There are some in England, however, who seek to rehabilitate the reputation of Richard III, saying that he really wasn’t as bad as people made him out to be.
Most fervent among those who claim to be descendants of Richard III. Many of these are members of the Richard III Society, which insists that, although Richard III had his nephews rushed into the Tower of London, which was kept under his control, and they were never seen alive, their deaths remain a “mystery”. The FAQ section of the Richard III Society includes gems like this:
Question: “Was Richard a tyrant?”
Answer: “What is a ‘tyrant’?…”
Ian Reed of the The Daily Express has promoted the idea that “Blue Blood” must be worth something, because many world leaders are descended from Richard III. Descendents of King Richard III ruled the free world, is his headline.
Yesterday, we learned that the the dedication with which these descendents of Richard III are attempting to rehabilitate their patriarch is just a cruel joke. Scientists who analyzed genetic materials from a skeleton thought to be Richard III released the results of their study yesterday, and concluded that the skeleton, even under the most conservative standards, is “99.999%” likely to be Richard III.
However, the analysis also found that the skeleton’s “the Y-chromosome haplotype doesn’t match the male-line relatives of the king”. Researchers at the University of Leicester announced that, “we do not find a match between the living male-line relatives and the skeletal remains”.
In other words, many of those people who have dedicated themselves to defending Richard III because they believe themselves to be descendants of Richard III are, in fact, not descended from Richard III at all, despite what their geneological records say. How can this be explained? It has to do with a “false paternal event”. Someone in the family tree between the time of Richard III and the present thought he was the father of a child that in fact was the product of a sexual affair with another man.
Maybe the Richard III Society could rename itself the Cuckold Society, and change its mission to defending the honor of men who get other men’s wives pregnant.
The American Family Association is at it again, whipping up its latest
sales pitch religious objection to various companies around America that it says “hate Christ” and are part of a “War on Christmas”:
“With the goal of keeping Christ in Christmas, AFA has reviewed the websites, media advertising and in-store signage of the top 100 national retailers in an effort to help consumers know which companies are Christmas-friendly and which are acting like ‘Scrooge.’
“‘There are concerted efforts in our country to eliminate ‘Christmas’ because the word itself is a reminder of Jesus Christ,’ said AFA President Tim Wildmon. ‘Those who hate Christ want to eradicate anything that reminds Americans of Christianity. That is why it is important to remind companies to keep the word Christmas alive.'”
According to American Family Association President Tim Wildmon, the act of not mentioning Christmas is a sign that a company “hates Christ” and is engaged in an effort “to eliminate Christmas.”
Yesterday, I examined the odd consequences of that standard elsewhere in relationship to PetSmart, the company that as of today is the AFA’s #1 target. But the AFA hasn’t stopped there; it’s added Barnes & Noble to its list of companies that “censor Christmas” and “hate Christ.”
Why? A quick check with Google reveals that Barnes & Noble features the word “Christmas” on 376,000 pages of its website. The American Family Association only features the word “Christmas” on 717 of its web pages.
By the standards the American Family Association sets, Barnes and Noble loves Christmas 524 times as much as the AFA does. Or, conversely, you could say that the AFA hates Christ 524 times as much as B&N.
AFA, boycott thyself!
I have just spent the last 45 minutes trying to get a Time Warner Cable customer service agent to remove cable television from the services that I pay for. I use the telephone, and I use the internet connection that we get from Time Warner, but I just don’t watch television. Nobody in my family does. So, I told the customer service representative that I wanted to remove cable TV.
Not so simple, it turns out. The Time Warner representative refused to cancel my TV service. She told me that she would get me a great deal including cable TV, internet, and phone all bundled together.
I told her again, I don’t want TV service. “I know that everyone watches TV,” she said. “My grandmother likes the news. You at least want to watch the news,” she said.
“No,” I told her. “I don’t watch TV. I don’t watch it ever. I get my news using an Internet connection. I don’t need cable TV service. I want telephone and internet. Please”
The Time Warner representative wouldn’t move on. “I want to get you the best deal,” she said, “so I’m going to see if I can get you even faster internet, with continued telephone service, plus TV, at a special introductory rate.”
“I don’t want any TV,” I said again. “I will never use it, and I don’t want to get an introductory rate that will increase over time to become even more expensive than the service I already get but don’t use. Can’t you just tell me what price I will be charged for internet and telephone alone?”
“I can’t do that,” she said. “All I can see are a bunch of computer codes, rather than prices for services. I want to get you the best deal, so I’m going to put together some bundled packages for you with TV, internet and telephone.”
It went on like this for 30 minutes. Eventually, I simply hung up the phone. I called back, trying to get a more reasonable service representative on the phone, but the next Time Warner representative told me that she couldn’t access my account, because the previous representative wouldn’t log off. The online chat representatives Time Warner offers likewise refused to help me put a stop to my cable TV service. It’s been an hour now that I’ve been trying to get my cable TV service discontinued, and I’m no closer than I was at the beginning.
I see that I’m not alone in my bad experience. Customer Service Scoreboard reports that “Time Warner Cable customer service is ranked #403 out of the 752 companies that have a CustomerServiceScoreboard.com rating with an overall score of 32.23 out of a possible 200″. A letter signed by 37 professors of law and business and sent to the Federal Communications Commission advised that “The American Customer Satisfaction Index ranked Comcast and Time Warner last in a list of forty-three industries – which makes them the worst of the worst companies in terms of customer satisfaction.”
That letter urged the FCC to block a proposed merger between Time Warner and Comcast. If a merger between Time Warner and Comcast goes through, we can expect the abuse from the combined company to get even worse.
The political news of the day is that Jeb Bush admits that he’s nearing a decision about whether he will run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. If Jeb Bush is going to make his announcement soon, then the rest of us need to get ready too, because when a Bush runs for president, it’s a big deal…
…and not in a good way. Think back to what the last two President Bushes have brought us: War, debt, embarrassment, disaster.
Another Bush as President sounds like a crazy idea to liberal Americans, but many others seem to have forgotten how bad things got under George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush. They need a reminder, and I’m starting the project with this sarcastic bumper sticker: Bush for President: It worked out so well last time.
This last weekend saw the Gadhimai festival in southern Nepal, an annual Hindu event that involves the ritual slaughter of hundreds of thousands of animals.
Many people express outrage that such an event can take place… and then go off to a chicken BBQ, or a fish fry, or to cook themselves a nice juicy steak.
What is the ethical difference between religious ritual slaughter, after which the slaughtered animals are eaten, and another slaughter, after which the animals are eaten?
To see if you can tell the difference, I’ve created a special challenge. At the “Continue reading” link at the bottom of this article, there is a series of photographs of animals being slaughtered. Not all of them are being ritually slaughtered at the Gadhimai Festival.
See if you can pick out the ones from the Gadhimai Festival. Each photograph has a letter before it. Just write down the letters of the Gadhimai victims in the comments section at the bottom of the article.
Continue reading Gadhimai Challenge: Which Pictures Are From The Ritual Slaughter?
The American Family Association,
a media company that uses Christian branding to sell its products a fundamentalist Christian organization, has declared a boycott against PetSmart this holiday season. Why?
“AFA is calling for a limited one-month boycott of PetSmart over the company’s censorship of the word “Christmas.” For years, PetSmart has refused to use the word Christmas on its website…
On the basis of PetSmart supposedly not using the word Christmas on its website, the AFA has deemed PetSmart officially “Christmas-unfriendly.”
Yesterday, I checked the factual basis for the American Family Association’s claim. It turns out that a search of Google for the word “Christmas” on PetSmart’s website leads to 4,220 results.
I went to sleep confused. How can the AFA say that “PetSmart has refused to use the word Christmas on its website”? How could PetSmart be said to be “censoring” Christmas, to be “unfriendly” to Christmas, when the word “Christmas” appears on the AFA website thousands of times? This question troubled me all day, because surely, I thought, the American Family Association must be staffed with sincere, well-meaning, truthful people. They’re American, after all. They’re Family. The kind of people that Jesus would have shared His myrrh with.
But as I scoured the frying pan after dinner tonight, I thought, “What if my assumptions aren’t valid? What if the AFA is not what it seems? What if PetSmart is NOT the enemy of Christmas? What if the AFA is unfriendly? What if the AFA is the actual enemy of Christmas?”
There’s only one way to be sure. Let’s do a search of Google for the word “Christmas” on the AFA’s website. What do we find?
My stars and garters! The word “Christmas” appears only 688 times on the American Family Association website — less than 1/6 as often as it shows up on the PetSmart website. If PetSmart censors Christmas, then the American Family Association must be sextuply-censorious against Christmas. By the AFA’s own standards, if PetSmart is “Christian-Unfriendly,” then the American Family Association must hate Christmas with a vengeance. If PetSmart has declared a “War on Christmas” (another favorite phrase of the AFA), then the American Family Association must have declared a anarcho-terrorist-commie-nuclear Jihad against Christmas!
Why does the American Family Association hate Christmas so much? How will we tell the children?
Ben Carson looks to be in the same category as Sarah Palin was in 2008 – a Republican candidate who gives tremendous gifts to his opponents every time he opens his mouth.
Hard core Republicans just love Ben Carson. “Dr. Carson is the best hope for our country,” says Vernon Robinson, Campaign Director of the National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee. “What I see in Dr. Ben Carson is the best communicator since Ronald Regan [sic], says another Carson fan.
Republicans seem to think that Ben Carson has a devastating eloquence that is sure to win over even progressive Democrats. “Dr. Carson can clarify conservative ideas so skillfully that even a liberal can understand that conservatives have the best interests of all people,” says one Republican. Just what are those eloquently clarified conservative ideas?
How about Ben Carson’s explanation of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri after police there shot unarmed citizen Michael Brown? “I think a lot of it really got started in the ’60s with the ‘Me’ generation. ‘What’s in it for me?’” Ben Carson says. “I hate to say it, but a lot of it had to do with the women’s lib movement.”
Ben Carson’s eloquent clarification: Women’s rights are to blame for unarmed young black men being shot to death by police.
Just for the record, how many of you liberal readers out there see this evidence that “conservatives have the best interests of all people”?
The American Family Association is practicing its annual PR campaign to claim that corporate America is waging a War On Christmas. Our writer Jim pointed out yesterday that the AFA claims PetSmart is censoring Christmas even though PetSmart uses the word “Christmas” 4,220 times on its web site.
Of course, PetSmart isn’t the AFA’s only target. Also on the organization’s Naughty list is Victoria’s Secret, seller of sexy lingerie. The AFA claims that Victoria’s Secret does not recognize Christmas “as a company”.
How exactly does the American Family Association expect Victoria’s Secret to, as a company, recognize Christmas?
Victoria’s Secret encourages its customers to celebrate Christmas quite a lot, actually. There’s a video of Victoria’s Secret models wishing customers a merry Christmas. Victoria’s Secret has a CHRISTMAS DREAMS & FANTASIES 2014 collection, another CHRISTMAS SPECIALS 2014 VOL. 1 collection (with a promise of more), “CHRISTMAS DELIVERY GUARANTEED”, and a whole bunch of “STOCKING STUFFERS”.
The following image shows just a small sample of the Christmas messages being pumped out by Victoria’s Secret:
With all this positive attention to Christmas, why does the American Family Association think that Victoria’s Secret is waging a “War On Christmas”?
It must be because Victoria’s Secret doesn’t sell any sexy Santa’s Helpers outfits, or maybe hasn’t had any photoshoots with sexy angels holding crucifixes, as below. It sounds to me like the people at the American Family Association just want to have more material for their erotic fantasies about Christmas. So, why don’t they just ask nicely?