#ElizabethLauten, GOP hack, should “pray” for forgiveness

I thought I had seen members of the GOP (aka Republicans) sink as low as possible. I was wrong. Elizabeth Lauten, the communications director for Tennessee representative Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), thought it was appropriate to write

Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re a part of the First Family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play. Then again your mother and father don’t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I’m guessing you’re coming up a little short in the ‘good role model’ department. Nevertheless, stretch yourself. Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar. And certainly don’t make faces during televised public events.

I’m no fan of President Obama notwithstanding my support for his presidential campaigns (as the lesser of two evils). Nevertheless, it is outrageous to use the president’s teenage daughters, who did not seek the public positions they now endure, as an oblique way to attack the president. Especially since the situation is a farce that has existed since President Harry Truman introduced it in 1947.

Ms. Lauten followed up with a post saying “After many hours of prayer, … I pledge to learn and grow …”. Sadly, it seems highly unlikely she will do either given that nothing fails like prayer. My Xmas wish is that Ms. Lauten loses her privileged position and is forced to work a minimum wage job.

Walking while black? Not okay in Michigan

An anxious citizen in Pontiac, Michigan called the police to report a black man walking with his hands in his pockets. Bear in mind that the temperature was near freezing and it was snowing lightly. The police officer didn’t shoot the scary black man. On the contrary, he acted with a surprising amount of professionalism given what we’ve come to expect for such encounters. Nonetheless, the officer did attempt to interrogate the person on the basis of nothing more than a, presumably white, person who was made uncomfortable at the sight of a black man in their neighborhood.

What I don’t understand is why the officer didn’t simply observe the person and leave him be when it was clear he wasn’t doing anything that would warrant stopping and interrogating the person. This shit has got to stop.

P.S., Here is another excellent summary of this incident at Daily Kos.

Why can’t people admit the “Shroud of Turin” is a fake?

I just read Jerry Coyne’s monologue about the “Shroud of Turin”. I then read Dennis Smitton’s “My Selfish Gene” excellent explanation for someone not knowledgeable about physics how carbon dating tells us the “Shroud of Turin” is a fake. These are only two recent examples, of many, that make it obvious the relic is fake.

So why do so many people continue to believe this is the actual burial cloth of their patron saint? Obviously reality is not a factor. I too am prone to wishful thinking. Yet I find it abhorrent that so many educated people who should know better (and probably do) reinforce those wishes rather than help those people understand how the universe really works.

America, 2014, treasure it

This came to my attention thanks to the wonderful Charles P. Pierce. I think the image nicely encapsulates the fucked up state of this country. Presumably the National Guard presence is to keep people eager to save two dollars on some cheap crap from killing each other. But it wouldn’t surprise me to learn it was to keep the employees from picketing the store.

National Guard doing their duty on Black Friday
National Guard doing their duty on Black Friday

My first double-edge safety razor shave

A few days ago I wrote about my displeasure over the cost of razor blades for systems like the Gillette Mach 3 (which I’ve been using for a very long time). I placed my order with West Coast Shaving last Sunday evening. They emailed me Monday morning to say the items had been shipped. On Wednesday the USPS delivered a

  • Baxter of California Safety Razor
  • Baxter of California Best Badger Shave Brush
  • D.R. Harris Windsor Shaving Soap in Mahogany Stained Wood Bowl
  • Astra Superior Platinum Double Edge Razor Blades (100 Blades)

I was a bit nervous doing the first shave of my face and head. When I was done I found I had two barely perceptible nicks and the result was noticeably better than my Mach 3 produces. I hadn’t shaved for three days. My Mach 3 easily clogs under those conditions and requires careful rinsing. The new safety razor dealt easily with the heavy growth. I’m a convert.

Academy Awards best actor award goes to…

Being single and a long way from my mother and brother I went to the movie theatre today and watched “The Theory of Everything“. It is a certainty that Eddie Redmayne will be nominated for the Academy Awards best actor category. He should easily win the award for best actor. I haven’t been so enthralled by a portrayal of a living or historical person since I watched Daniel Day Lewis in last years “Lincoln“.

The film itself is very good but not quite great. It primarily focuses on Stephen Hawking’s relationship with his wife, Jane. Felicity Jones is marvelous in the role of Jane. There is great chemistry between the two lead actors. The film also does an admirable job of portraying the stresses inherent in every intimate relationship. I just wish there had been a little more emphasis on Dr. Hawking’s contribution to our understanding of the universe we live in. Having said that I was overjoyed to find the film portraying Dr. Hawking’s atheism in a straightforward manner with only one very brief (and unfortunate) scene where it was implied he might believe God exists in order to make his wife happy.

This weeks Darwin Award winner

Today we learn that a woman living near Ferguson, Missouri who was afraid bought a gun and killed herself accidentally. The new contestant for a Darwin Award was waving the gun in the car driven by her boyfriend. Which understandably distracted the driver causing him to rear-end another vehicle. Which in turn caused the new gun owner to shoot herself in the head. Dear NRA, please tell me again how wonderful it would be if every yahoo with no commonsense purchased and open carried a gun.

Changing my shaving regime

Today I ordered a double-edge safety razor. The type of razor my grandfather used. Why? Because I’m tired of paying through the nose for replacement blade cartridges. Not to mention that if I skip shaving for a couple of days the multi-blade cartridge clogs so easily as to be rendered almost useless.

I’ve used a Gillette Mach 3 razor as my daily shave for longer than I can remember. Before that I used other disposable cartridge blade razors. I’ve been reasonably satisfied. I say “reasonably” because even the Mach 3 with only three blades is prone to clogging and mediocre results if I go more than a couple of days between shaves. The five and six blade alternatives are even worse. They apparently expect you to shave at least once, if not twice, a day. Which is inexcusable given how expensive the system is on an ongoing basis.

I recently tried the Gillette Fusion powered razor. I tried it because I shave in the shower and have a mustache and goatee and shave my head. I was hoping to use it to trim my beard and shave the rest of my head and face. Disappointed would be an understatement. The shaving blades clogged easily and produced a result no better than my Mach 3. After a couple of weeks the beard trimmer stopped working because the blades refused to move. Which isn’t surprising given that everything but the cutting blades is plastic.

In a few days I should have a Baxter of California Safety Razor from West Coast Shaving in my hands along with some Astra razor blades. Even if the shaving results are only marginally better than the Mach 3 I’ve used for a long time I’ll be happy as I’ll no longer be contributing obscene profits to companies like Proctor & Gamble (which own Gillette).

Verizon is tracking your Internet use

If you use Verizon for your phone service you really should switch to a company that is less evil.

This paper by the Electronic Frontier Foundation describes how Verizon surreptitiously modifies your Internet browsing to make it possible for anyone to track your browsing across sites. They do it in a manner that means your usual techniques for limiting such tracking are useless. Furthermore, it also modifies HTTP requests from apps on your phone (not just the web browser) which makes it possible to correlate application use with other web browsing. This is the type of behavior that has so many people concerned about the elimination of net neutrality by common carriers like the phone companies and cable operators.

Fetus worshippers kill another woman

Today I read several stories (such as this story) about a judge who forced a critically ill woman to undergo a cesarean section. Causing the death of the woman and the fetus. This is the sort of thing that happens when the views of fetus worshippers hold sway.

If this incident was an anomaly it would be bad enough. But this sort of thing is the predictable outcome when people base their morals on bronze age religious beliefs rather than rational moral decisions. Which means that unconscionable outcomes tend to be the norm where religious based beliefs hold sway.

I honestly cannot fathom the thinking of people who believe a fetus has more rights than the woman, an actual person, whose body is host to the potential person. If you accept their logic why isn’t it acceptable to force people to donate blood in order to save a life? Or a kidney to a close family member?

For most fetus worshipers their stance appears to be based on a belief that a “soul” is bound to the potential person at conception. An idea that is not only not found in their holy book but is contradicted by the bible. Not to mention that their is no support for the concept of a soul outside of (some) religious tradition. Not to mention the incoherence of that viewpoint in light of our understanding of human biology where zygotes (i.e., fertilized eggs) can fuse (to create chimera) or split (to create identical twins).

Even if you accept the idea that a human blastocyst, embryo, or fetus has a soul I fail to see how the rights of that potential person trumps the rights of the woman it depends upon. Note that I nowhere above have I used the word “baby”. Confusing a baby with a fetus (or even earlier developmental stage) is something that is a favorite tactic of the fetus worshippers. Which is a deliberate attempt to use emotion to avoid rational discussion of the issue.