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Playing the Odds

Gingrich Team Quits, Signs with KhadafyWhy did Newt Gingrich’s entire campaign staff suddenly quit? Cartoonist Don Asmussen may have the answer.

Nobody wants to live entirely without hope, you know…

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Iconography

Tom Tomorrow brings us a Moment of Geek:

They’re standing with one of the single most enduring icons of popular culture, but nobody knows it yet.

Imagine being one of the actors who was to become an enduring icon of popular culture.

Science

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The Shape of an Electron

New science:

A 10-year study has revealed that the electron is very spherical indeed.

To be precise … if an electron was the size of the solar system, it would be out from being perfectly round by less than the width of a human hair.

This seems very strange to me. For some reason, I’ve always pictured electrons as very tiny minus signs.

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First the Tornado, Then the Hostage Crisis

Have you ever felt like politicians are holding you hostage?

If you didn’t feel that way during the posturing over a government shutdown a few weeks ago, and if you don’t feel that way during the ongoing posturing about the federal debt ceiling, how about now, when the subject is disaster relief for Missouri tornado victims:

Rescue workers worked through more storms in an effort to find potential survivors, even as the death toll rose to at least 119. President Obama pledged full support to the state Monday, telling survivors, “We’re here with you. We’re going to stay by you.”

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), however, said that before Congress approved federal funds for disaster relief, it had to offset the spending with cuts to other programs.

If this is how Republicans respond to disasters, then federal neglect after Hurricane Katrina starts to make sense…

Update: photos from Joplin.

Tattered flag

Another update: Apparently this attitude is catching on in Canada, too.

Airy Persiflage

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Prize the Doubt

Hilarious, though it’s being reported as news, so I guess we’re still listening:

The evangelical broadcaster who left followers crestfallen by his failed prediction that last Saturday would be Judgement Day says he miscalculated.

Harold Camping said it had “dawned” on him that God would spare humanity “hell on Earth for five months” and the apocalypse would happen on 21 October.

Billboard: That Was Awkward. No one knows the day or the hour... -- Matthew 24:36

I’ve read a lot of comments online that say “This is not a reflection on Christianity or the Bible; obviously these people didn’t interpret the Bible correctly.”

I believe — without any supporting facts; I’m going on faith here — that the majority of Biblical literalists didn’t actually believe that the world would end on May 21.

Camping and his followers represent a small fraction of Biblical literalists; literalists are a small fraction of all Christian fundamentalists, and fundamentalists are a small fraction of all Christians. (There are literalists who would say that anyone who isn’t a literalist isn’t a true fundamentalist, and there are fundamentalists who would say that anyone who isn’t a fundamentalist isn’t a true Christian. Cliques at work.)

Camping’s failure doesn’t cast a shadow of disrepute on the Bible or on Christianity, but it does cast a shadow. What it brings into disrepute is certainty.

It seems to me that, whatever you may believe, there should always be a small part of your mind whispering, “But I could be wrong.” As Robert Browning wrote:

Rather I prize the doubt
Low kinds exist without

The doubting part of your mind should always be on the lookout for evidence that you’re mistaken about anything you believe. The continual search for better understanding is the essence of being human.

Then, welcome each rebuff
That turns earth’s smoothness rough,
Each sting that bids nor sit nor stand but go!
Be our joys three-parts pain!
Strive, and hold cheap the strain;
Learn, nor account the pang; dare, never grudge the throe!

For thence, — a paradox
Which comforts while it mocks, —
Shall life succeed in that it seems to fail:
What I aspired to be,
And was not, comforts me:
A brute I might have been, but would not sink i’ the scale.

Certainty isn’t the end of the search for understanding; it’s the abandonment of the search. It’s the end of the road.

Airy Persiflage

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Only the Righteous

Okay, here’s my theory.

The Rapture actually did take place yesterday. The Righteous actually were taken up to Heaven. The self-righteous, who told us how we’d be left behind unless we became more like them? None of them made the cut.

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Early Rap

An early rap song…

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Ohio SB5 Petition Map

Here’s a map of locations and contacts for a ballot-initiative petition to repeal Ohio’s notorious Senate Bill 5, which stripped state workers of many of their collective bargaining rights.

There seem to be a lot of empty areas…

Airy Persiflage

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This Time for Sure

This time for sure, I think.

As you have no doubt heard by now, an evangelical broadcaster with lots of followers is predicting that tomorrow will be the end of the world. I think he’s probably right.

Evangelicals have been predicting the end of the world for a couple centuries, now, and so far, all the predictions have been false. The present-day prophet has been wrong once before, himself. After that embarrassment, he went back to the old drawing board, studied very hard, double-checked his math, and this time he’s sure. Doesn’t the law of averages tell us that he’s due?

In the unlikely event that the world doesn’t end tomorrow — or maybe by Monday; I’m willing to allow some slop for rounding errors — I’m going to have to re-evaluate the credence these people deserve.

In such a case, the next time one of them says, “God wants you to do this,” or “God forbids you to do that,” I will be sorely tempted to reply, “Hah! Like you know!”

But I’m sure it won’t come to that. This time it’s for sure!

Science

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Little Dipper, Big Sky

From Astronomy Picture of the Day: I’ve looked up at the Little Dipper many times, never suspecting just how much I was missing.

Little dipper

(Click the image to see a much bigger version.)

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It Ain’t Easy

For years, I’ve been trying to find a way to say what Lawrence O’Donnell said quite effectively on Tuesday.

The Trump message on governing was that it’s easy.

The sad truth of the “governing is easy” message is, that view is actually shared by something close to 50% of the electorate.

[Arnold Schwarzenegger] ran for governor of the biggest state in the union claiming that governing was easy.

What is true of both of these men, the movie star and the reality TV star, is that they were ignorant enough about governing to actually believe what they were saying about it. No one, no Republican or Democrat, who has ever taken an oath of office as mayor, governor, senator or congresswoman believes that governing is easy. Office holders who know better in both parties have trafficked in that lie. Their political sin is much greater than that committed by Trump and Schwarzenegger.

The Trump-Schwarzenegger-like candidate who comes along next will offer simple-sounding solutions to very complex problems that the candidate does not and cannot understand. That candidate will brand himself or herself as confident, bold, tough and truthful. That candidate will not have the experience to be able to tell the one simple truth we know about government: to govern is to choose, and the choices are never easy.

Airy Persiflage

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Sneaky Sign

Okay, now I think somebody’s just playing with certain Republicans’ heads.

This Sign is in Spanish When You're Not Looking

(Via DarkRoastedBlend.)

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Our Vaccine

A couple Fridays ago, I went downtown to see Jon Stewart — Live! In Person! — do his standup act.

It was the end of the week when President Obama, confronting a campaign of ludicrous lies by Donald Trump, obtained his “long form” birth certificate from Hawaii and released it to the public. It was one day before Obama and comedian Seth Meyers surgically eviscerated Trump at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. It was two days before Obama announced that we had tracked down and killed Osama bin Laden.

Stewart’s routine was a mix of comic stand-bys — such as a bit about computers rapidly becoming obsolete — and jokes “ripped from the headlines.”

He said he prayed that Donald Trump would run for president. Gee, that sounds so quaint now.

He talked about the big switcheroo from the “cool new generation” of Republican governors, like “backward chair guy,” Ohio’s own governor, John Kasich, who has stripped state workers of bargaining rights, and who called a policeman who pulled him over for a traffic violation “an idiot.”

At the end of the show, Stewart took a few questions shouted from the audience. Someone said, “What should we do about Kasich?” Very loosely paraphrased, his answer was something like this:

You have to understand that this guy is your vaccine.

Sure, it hurts, and you feel a little sick. But there’s only a limited amount of damage this guy can do. The things he’s doing are waking up your political immune system. When your newly-formed antibodies kick in on election day, your political system is going to heal itself.

My antibodies are itching to go.

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How to Fight Terrorists

Uncle SamTom Tomorrow brings back a comic strip from 2001, to remind us how Americans fight fundamentalist terrorists.

More retro-funnies here and here.

Airy Persiflage

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The Final Moment

Daily Kos looks behind the scenes at Osama bin Laden’s final moment:

Ah, yes, my [Terrorist Mastermind Daily Brief]! I don’t even know why I bother reading them anymore. They always say the same thing: ‘Trail is cold. Trail is cold. Trail is cold.’ Look, it’s been ten years…I got away with it. I tell you, this is going to be the last TMDB I ever read. I simply do not need them anymore.

Warning: some may be offended by the language.