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.

Agony in Texas

The Republican legislature in Texas declared war on women’s health a long time ago, but the war escalated in 2013 when the legislators passed House Bill 2. Under that law Texas

can require all abortion clinics in the state to meet the same building, equipment and staffing standards that hospital-style surgical centers must meet, which could force numerous clinics to close, abortion rights advocates said. In addition, Texas can require that doctors performing abortions obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of a clinic.

Today the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that law. What’s the practical effect of that? Well, if no stay is granted while the decision is appealed to the US Supreme Court, there will be fewer than a dozen clinics left open in the state, a state which brags about its great size. Somehow the judges on that court persuaded themselves that requiring doctors to gain admitting privileges to hospitals within 30 miles of the clinics was feasible, even in a state where there might only be 12 clinics in 267,000 square miles. By my arithmetic that seems impossible.

It seems pretty obvious that this court wanted to limit abortions as much as possible. In its opinion it cited the language in the legislation as evidence enough for it. Then there’s this:

Lawyers for the Texas clinics that sued the state said about 900,000 reproductive-age women will live more than 150 miles from the nearest open facility in the state when the surgical-center requirement and admitting-privileges rule take effect.

The Fifth Circuit panel found that the percentage of affected women who would face travel distances of 150 miles or more amounted to 17 percent, a figure that it said was not a “large fraction.” An abortion regulation cannot be invalidated unless it imposes an undue burden on what the Supreme Court has termed “a large fraction of relevant cases.”

I don’t know about you, but nearly a fifth of a population seems like a pretty large fraction to me.

When this gets to the Supreme Court it could give Roberts and his fellow conservatives the best chance they’ll have to limit or destroy Roe v. Wade in a long time. Any woman, any Democrat, any Republican with daughters should bear that in mind when going to the polls in November of 2016.

Women’s World Cup tix

Plus accommodations! Yep, there are travel companies which put together soccer tours for the World Cup. Here’s a 7-day 6 night deal for $1,190 which has a trip leader, match tickets for four Group D games (okay, you’ve missed two that were played today, but still), guided tours around Winnipeg, and all ground transportation.

If you’re a soccer fan rather than a US team fan particularly, they also offer a deal for the same duration starting tomorrow for the same price in Montreal and Ottawa. That gets you eight tickets for matches in Groups B and E as well as all that other stuff too, and you can explore two cities rather than just one.

That’s just one tour company. There are others. If you think it might be fun to visit Canada and see some soccer while you’re there, now’s your chance!

Globalization sooner than we thought

Ah, those archeologists! They’ve discovered an ancient gold route between Southwest Britain and Ireland.

They were measuring the chemical composition of some early Irish gold artifacts and learned that the gold actually originated in Cornwall, that piece of land at the southwestern tip of England. It’s famous for its mining, so I am not surprised some gold was mined there. It’s interesting that it would be mined and shipped north across the Celtic Sea to be worked into artifacts, since there were gold deposits aplenty in Ireland at the time. There’s speculation that coming from afar it had “exotic” value to the people living in Ireland then.

The time? Oh, yeah. This was early Bronze Age, about 2500 B.C.E.

Mitch McConnell: “Obstruction now, obstruction forever!”

You know, even at the height of the run-up to the Civil War I’m reasonably sure most members of Congress tried to keep the wheels of government turning. Not now.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell suggested Friday to a conservative radio host that President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees are going nowhere fast — unless they’re blessed by a Republican.

“Well, so far, the only judges we’ve confirmed have been federal district judges that have been signed off on by Republican senators,” the Kentucky Republican said in an appearance on Hugh Hewitt’s show.

Will that continue for the remainder of Obama’s presidency?

“I think that’s highly likely, yeah,” McConnell said.

In McConnell’s five months running the Senate, just four judicial nominees have received floor votes—all were U.S. district court judges, three in Texas and one in Utah. All were pre-approved by Republican senators, and all were easily confirmed by the Republican-led chamber.

Why? Well, Jonathan Bernstein of Bloomberg has an idea, and I think I agree with him.

There’s simply no precedent for the Senate flat-out refusing to act on (most) nominations. It means poor government, mismanagement, justice delayed — and therefore justice denied.

This isn’t about the specific nominees. Mostly, this is just an expression of contempt for the man in the Oval Office — and, really, contempt for the Constitution and the senators’ oath of office.

Mitch McConnell really doesn’t care about good government. I think he cares about the Republican Party’s continuation of power in order to funnel government largess to its backers. In fact, old Mitch reminds me of Sepp Blatter of FIFA; “as corrupt as I need to be to keep getting me and my team elected.”

Pluto has moons?

Evidently so, and they do odd things.

The erratic behavior of Pluto’s moons is the fault of the dynamically shifting gravitational field created by Pluto and Charon. For many years it was thought that Charon was Pluto’s lone moon, but in the past decade astronomers have discovered four minor moons orbiting what is really a binary planet system, made up of Pluto and Charon mutually orbiting a center of gravity between the [sic] them.

In other words, Pluto and Charon are like twin bodies engaged in an eternal and rambunctious dance, while four smaller moons orbit the pair. But the gravitational field created by this dance is much more complex than the one generated by the simple rotation of Earth. This fact, combined with the oblong shape of the smaller moons, is what the researchers believe causes their odd movements.

Science is wonderful.

The campaign press is revolting

Read Joan Walsh at Salon and shake your head yet again at the entitlement on exhibit by the elite media. Then read Paul Farhi’s column about that same media and its reluctance to talk about its work without negotiation.

These people aren’t stupid. They must realize how asinine they look. So why don’t they change their behavior?