Charleston

Yes, the motive was race hatred. Yes, the prevailing atmosphere in South Carolina as epitomized by the Confederate Battle Flag situated in a place of honor on the Statehouse grounds and by the celebration of Confederate Memorial Day is one that validates segregation of the races. No, Fox News, this was not part of a war against Christians. No, Republican Presidential candidates, it wasn’t an “accident” (Governor Perry), an “act of sickness” (Rand Paul), a vehicle by which you can re-express your love of the Second Amendment (Marco Rubio) or an act of a “whacked-out kid” (Lindsey Graham).

This was an act of racial hatred. Pure and simple. No frills added.

Here, watch Jon Stewart’s monologue. If you’ve seen it already, watch it again.

R.I.P. Phil Austin

Austin was one of the three surviving members of The Firesign Theater (Pete Bergman died in 2012). Austin died today. I spent many a night listening to their first four albums, trying to understand their surrealistic humor while ingesting substances which might have had an impact on that understanding.

His most famous role in the troupe was Nick Danger, Third Eye.

Catapult the Propaganda!

Apparently the words the alleged shooter spoke before opening fire last night at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston mean less than nothing to Fox News, at least if the panelists on its “Fox and Friends” show are any guide. According to a survivor he said “I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”

Somehow I don’t think he thought that Christians were perpetrating crimes of that nature against his fellow whites, but then I’m not employed by Fox.

“Most people jump to conclusions about race [said pastor E.W. Jackson, who not so coincidentally is both black and a losing Republican candidate for Va. Lieutenant Governor a while back]. I long for the day when we stop doing that in our country. But we don’t know why he went into a church, but he didn’t choose a bar, he didn’t choose a basketball court, he chose a church, and we need to be looking at that very closely.”

As Wonkette says, if he’d wanted to shoot black people he’d have gone to a basketball court, but he went to a church so he must have wanted to shoot Christians.

How the hell do you make your mind work that way?

Tangentially, I wonder if Fox has ever employed a Jew, an atheist, or a Buddhist? Employing a Muslim would be right out, of course.

Blood from stones

The European Union’s Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission seem to be hell-bent on forcing Greece’s new ruling government to agree to even more pension cuts (they’ve already been cut by about 30-50 percent in the past five years) and raising value-added taxes in order to get more cash to pay the current pensions and some of its debt obligations.

These pensions are not particularly generous now; they’ve already been trimmed by at least 15% and up to 44%.

Greek pensions are now, on the whole, far from exorbitant: social security ministry figures show the average main pension is €713 a month, and the average top-up pension – typically funded by an industry retirement scheme – €169 per month. Some 60% of pensioners get less than €800 gross a month, and 45% live on less than the monthly poverty limit of €665.

I’m no expert, but it seems to me that since the current Greek government won election by saying there would be no more austerity programs instituted and that the Greeks have suffered enough (unemployment jumped to 28% in the five years that Europe has been demanding these programs), trying to force it to accept more would mean it would be forced out of office. Europe seems to think it can just push and push and push and eventually the poorer EU members will have to acquiesce to its “take your cod-liver oil” approach. The anger at Europe is already high; I suspect it would be so high if that happened that Greece’s ultra-right-wing Golden Dawn party might win enough seats to form a government. Considering that Golden Dawn is at least fascist if not neo-Nazi, that doesn’t seem to be a result the rest of Europe should want.

Tuesday’s Women’s World Cup results

Australia played Sweden to a 1-1 draw, meaning the Aussies finished second in Group D with a 1-1-1 record. Cameroon defeated Switzerland 2-1 to advance to the knockout round from Group C, Japan beat Ecuador 1-0 to advance, also from Group C, and oh yeah, the Americans beat Nigeria 1-0 to finish first in Group D (2-0-1) and advance to the knockout round themselves.

The Americans got their goal from Abby Wambach (number 183 overall and number 14 in World Cup play for her career) in the 45th minute, which made for a very worrisome second half for the average fan like me. Every run the opponent makes could tie the match, so my stomach starts to churn when they get possession. But the Americans held Nigeria off and I didn’t have to resort to Pepto-Bismol. Their next match will be

against the third place finisher from Group B/E/F, with the opponent to be determined after tomorrow’s final Group Stage matches. The Round of 16 contest will take place June 22 at 8 p.m. ET at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta.

Rip Van Philae wakes up!

Holy flyin’ toasters, the European Space Agency’s Philae has awakened from its seven-month sleep on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Even better, it’s sending telemetry data back to Earth!

When we last heard from Philae the lander’s batteries had given out and it was shutting down in November, 2014. Its landing was not in a nice smooth sunlit crater but rather on an obstruction of some sort which caused it to bounce several kilometers away from its intended resting place. It ended up against a cliff which shaded the solar panels which were meant to provide it with power.

In March ESA activated the communication unit on Rosetta, the space probe which carried Philae to the surface of the comet, hoping it might hear from Philae. Nobody’s yet admitting they felt it was unlikely they ever would.

When analysing the status data it became clear that Philae also must have been awake earlier: “We have also received historical data – so far, however, the lander had not been able to contact us earlier.”

Now the scientists are waiting for the next contact. There are still more than 8000 data packets in Philae’s mass memory which will give the DLR team information on what happened to the lander in the past few days on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Philae shut down on 15 November 2014 at 1:15 CET after being in operation on the comet for about 60 hours.

The reason it was able to come back to life seems to be that the comet has gotten much closer to the sun (relatively; it’s now 132 million miles away from the sun and 188 million miles away from Earth and getting closer by the second). Because of that, the solar panels can collect enough sunlight to recharge the lander’s batteries. If it continues to send data, this will be the first opportunity science has had to actually observe the formation of a comet’s tail.

This is so cool!

It’s only Rock n’ Roll

But to Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, it’s a commitment, I guess.

Grohl fell off the stage while doing a show in Gothenburg, Sweden Friday night. It wasn’t a casual fall, either; it looked like he fell nearly six feet. So while he was flat on his back and hurting, he announced he thought he’d broken his leg but the show would continue while he went to the hospital to have his leg treated.

Amazingly, he did.

Now that’s a commitment to the old adage “the show must go on.”

Have I ever mentioned that Grohl attended the same high school I did? Yep. He went to dear old Thomas Jefferson High School in Alexandria, Virginia for his freshman year, some 15 years after I graduated from the place. He then transferred to another school in the district, but that hasn’t kept the school from claiming him. It needs all the acclaim it can get, since it was forced to merge with its biggest rival in 1988 so its physical plant could be given to a new magnet school. Not that there’s any bitterness remaining, you understand. None. Water over the dam, ancient history, that’s the ticket.

White Like Me

I admit that other than John Howard Griffin I’ve never heard of a white person passing as black before, but I’m hard-pressed to know why I should care about Rachel Dolezal’s apparent attempt to do so.

There’s some human-interest value, of course, starting with “Why did her white parents feel a need to let the secret out?” From what I’ve heard on the news she’s been estranged from them for years, so what precipitated this? But really, other than as gossip, why should I care?

A new Wiki

Wikipedia, sure. Wiktionary, of course. But did you know there’s a thing called Wikivoyage? It’s the same user-edited content idea but it’s a travel guide. Here’s one for the Trans-Canada Highway. Here’s one for Hawai’i. I’ve read it; it’s pretty accurate on the big things, as you’d expect from a wiki.

I foresee much use of this newish tool.