Online opinion outpost: June 23

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The Opinion Outpost features opinions and commentary on the latest hot topics from national news sources. As much as you love hearing from The Universe, we thought you might like to hear from journalists around the nation.

Women in science
Sarah Clatterbuck Sopper, The New York Times

Given this landscape, a “girl” who is lucky enough to land in a prestigious laboratory may be expected to put up with a lot to stay there. Recently, a postdoctoral fellow asked a career advice columnist with the journal Science about the problem of her mentor trying to look down her shirt. The columnist, Dr. Alice Huang, advised her not only to put up with it, but to do so with “good humor.” This response engendered no small amount of furor, and was soon retracted. Despite this, I found myself thinking that Dr. Huang’s counsel was regrettably sound. Getting on your mentor’s bad side could ruin your career.

Rachel Dolezal
Blair L. M. Kelley, The Washington Post

But full-blown comparisons to African American passing — the practice of living with one’s blackness concealed — fall flat. To read Dolezal’s racial ruse — which ranged from getting elected, as a putative black woman, to lead the NAACP chapter in Spokane, Wash., to teaching an African American studies course — as “passing” is to misunderstand the lives of the thousands of African Americans who passed for white, particularly during the socio-political nadir of post-slavery African American life and the high point of racial passing, between the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In that era, passing was a difficult and dangerous choice in a world stunted by emerging systems of legal segregation, disfranchisement and extra-legal racial terror.

James L. Calcagno, Chicago Tribune

Dolezal grew up white, according to our cultural standards. But one’s racial classification can change depending upon the culture you visit, and in some societies one’s cultural identity can be altered frequently throughout life. It is unfortunate that Dolezal felt the need to claim African-American ancestry to validate her identity, and I certainly don’t condone deception for personal gain — if that indeed happened. But I fault the overall culture that continues to make this genetically baseless distinction so important.

Camille Gear Rich, CNN

In my view, hate the sin but love the sinner. Dolezal lied. She should not have lied, but she lied for reasons with which we can sympathize.

I admire the way she chose to live her life as a black person. Advocating for anti-racism efforts is ethical and admirable if she wanted to claim blackness as a social identity. Those quick to throw stones well know that there are costs to living life as a black person, and once Dolezal made the switch she seems never to have looked back.

Jeb Bush
The Washington Times

The nice people who expected Jeb Bush to be different, and not like the others who have been sharpening their spikes in anticipation of a street fight, might not get the above-the-fray candidate they were hoping for. Jeb more and more looked like just another not-so-happy warrior.

United Nations
Brett D. Schaefer, Fox News

The U.N. badly needs reform, but the U.S., despite the mammoth checks it writes, can’t reform the U.N. alone. In the one-nation, one-vote world of the U.N., it needs support from other nations. Unfortunately, many of them remain blasé about U.N. budget increases, corruption, and inefficiencies because the financial impact on them is miniscule.

To change the institution, the first thing that needs to change is the thumb-on-the-scales system that makes the U.S. the biggest bill-payer, but just one of 193 voting members when it comes to demanding honesty, efficiency and effectiveness in return for its over-generous payments.

Pope Francis and the environment
Sister Simone Campbell, The Guardian

Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment was delivered to the entire world, but much of what he wrote was important for those of us in the US – especially our political leaders. It is a strong wake-up call that market-driven approaches to climate change and environmental degradation are not sufficient. Strong government action is needed, but most people, including political leaders, really don’t like a call to conversion.

Supreme Court tenure
Gabe Roth, LA Times

If lifetime appointments are a bad idea, what’s a better one? Standardized, 18-year, nonrenewable terms for Supreme Court justices would be ideal.

Even the most ardent defenders of extended tenures on the high court should be satisfied with 18 long years on the bench.

And because there are nine justices, appointments could — in time — be spaced out evenly: one every two years. This change would lower the temperature of confirmation hearings and end the possibility that one president would get to appoint almost half the court, with the next appointing no one.

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