A nightmare ticket?

Ah spring, when during presidential election years political pundits’ fancy lightly turn to thoughts of possible running mates. Usually these speculations try to construct so-called ‘dream tickets’, combinations that its advocates think would either increase chances of victory due to providing balance or satisfy a felt need for ideological consistency if the presidential nominee’s credentials are suspect. Campaigns at this time float many names as trial balloons in order to gauge reactions as well as placate the various factions in their parties that they are being respected and included, and so these rumors should not be taken too seriously.
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The sincerity of religious beliefs and doctrines

Over the weekend I attended a very interesting talk on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) by Nicholas Little who is the Legal Director for the Center for Inquiry. He reminded us that RFRA was originally meant to provide legal protection for minority religious practices but is now being used by majority religions to gain privileges and discriminate against others and has become the main vehicle for people to argue against the Affordable Care Act. He said that while courts are required to give deference to the religious beliefs of people because of RFRA, the closely related Religious Land Use And Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), and the Free Exercise of religion clause of the First Amendment, this poses a problem with people who try to use that to get special privileges.
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Einstein’s visit to Sri Lanka

Albert Einstein and his wife Elsa stopped off in Colombo in 1922 on their way to Japan but the visit did not receive the kind of widespread publicity in the local papers that one would have expected, given how famous he was. True, he had not as yet received the Nobel Prize. A few weeks after his visit, the announcement was made while he was in Japan that he had received his retrospectively for 1921, but he was still an eminent celebrity. I myself was not aware of this visit until a friend of mine recently sent me a link to this article that summarized what Einstein had written in his private notes about the visit and his encounter with a rickshaw, a mode of transport that has disappeared, though I remember seeing them as a child.
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Stephen Colbert apologizes to Australia

Recently actors and married couple Johnny Depp and Amber Heard created a controversy by trying to smuggle their two dogs into Australia on a visit while trying to evade that country’s strict quarantine laws. He got caught but was allowed to leave without suffering the serious punishment (that could go up to ten years in prison) that a non-celebrity might have received. He later provided a video of a grudging apology.
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The Spelling Bee gets even worse

I simply do not understand the attraction of the Scripps Spelling Bee competition. It now results in young people spending an extraordinary amount of time memorizing the spelling of words so esoteric that one is never likely to use or hear them except in highly technical contexts. In its early years the winning words were blackguard, conflagration, concede, litigation, breach, saxophone, license, and primarily. In recent years they were appoggiatura, Ursprache, serrefine, guerdon, Laodicean, stromuhr, cymotrichous, guetapens, knaidel, stichomythia, and feuilleton. (See here and here for my earlier posts and in particular read the comments to those posts by readers who added interesting information and insights.)
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Yehudi Menuhin

There has been a great outpouring of grief over the death of Prince who, by all accounts, was a highly gifted and innovative musician. I have not written about his life and death because, although of course I had heard of him, I was not at all familiar with his music, a telling sign of how ignorant I am of so much of popular culture. The Prince phenomenon occurred during a time when I was not paying much attention to the world of popular music.
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