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The Road to the Constitution

The high (as in positively blotto) court’s decision would invite Constitutional reforms big and small.

Not going to go into the actual process in detail, what’s required in terms of fractions and votes. This is more about the idea of a movement to fix in the Constitution the right to choice in pregnancy and abortion. But it’s also about the movement that will be needed, and the ways to help that along.

If you want to amend the Constitution, state-level support is necessary. All amendments must be ratified by the states (at least three out of four). But if you want to amend the Constitution, that’s a feature! Yes, a number of states are domineered by anti-rights Republicans who hold power by a number of mechanisms including gerrymandering, voter suppression, lack of public-access laws, so the road to ratification has to drive through at least a few of those, requires their rectification.

But a campaign for the Constitution is an asset in building those roads! It draws media attention, and if done properly, it magnetizes different groups to pitch in. So let’s start with that second thought: this isn’t about an abortion amendment by itself. This is about renewal. It’s about taking up that mighty pen and fixing the holes that have developed over the past decades.

So in the states, you don’t only push an abortion amendment, you also push for gay marriage and civil rights for LGBTQ persons. Rally for the Equal Rights Amendment for women, for a piece to fix campaigns and gerrymandering. Update the second amendment! Term limits, number of seats in the House, abolish the filibuster, and so on. Whatever the mix. Not all of them will pass. But the commitment and the collaboration are important.

More important is many things deserve to be in the Constitution, if only to memorialize the struggles it took to make progress. The Constitution should be not just a record of the highest law, but it should be a teaching tool, a history of America’s progress toward liberty and justice. It was written “to form a more perfect Union,” and each major step we take to improving its perfection deserves to be added to that.

What can states do to help this along? They can signal willingness to ratify, they can push state-level amendments ahead of the effort for amending the federal constitution, and they can call for a constitutional convention to attempt to propose the amendments for ratification, going over the heads of Congress. They will also garner media attention, help spread the word.

The media attention is key. People need to know about the road to use it. It’s not a shortcut, it’s not a dead end, it’s the way forward. People need to know a road is being built to get our country back into the future. In some states, those which already will codify and protect their citizens’ rights, it will be an easy sell. They’ll pass state-level protections, pass a resolution calling for a convention, but some of them will also help organize neighboring states where the path for the road needs clearing, or where a bridge needs to be built.

We’ve never had a constitutional convention other than since the one that created the Constitution. That may be another amendment that’s needed: that we hold conventions every ten years, or every 20 years. It is a document that needs more tending than we have given it. The Constitution was written with an expectation that it would be amended over time, but perhaps they were too generous in expecting the convention mechanism would see some use by accord of the states rather than as a requirement. That is among the mistakes they made for which we owe our current crusty impasse on political progress.

There are risks to a convention, that conservatives want an amendment to require the federal budget be balanced in terms of revenue and spending. We’ve almost never had a balanced budget, going back to the founding. It’s a bad idea. But would it pass the states? If proposed, we’d find out. All the while, it would keep the other amendments in the news, for gay rights and abortion and all the others that might be proposed.

And in the worst case, that such a dumb amendment was to pass, the federal government’s hands unduly bound by its budget, it would surely be repealed as prohibition once was. The risks of conservative amendments being ratified simply does not rate against the need to protect our citizens and renew our Constitution to protect the nation’s future.

Or maybe the conservatives at a convention would rally for some other dumb idea. We cannot let fear of more bad law stop us from seeking good laws. We already have more than our share of bad rulings and laws, thanks to the conservatives. We already have failed in environmental protections, in education, in civil rights protections, in blocking corruption, in all these things, for the Republicans have used their fiats and their vetoes to see to it.

As women’s rights are stripped away in some states, as women suffer, the media will be covering that issue until the right is restored to the whole country. Advocates are already poised to use that attention to keep pressing the issue, but if they can wed it to the broader movement of constitutional reform, it will help people to understand the difference. We can no longer rely on statutory protections or precedents that may be gone by the end of the court’s next sitting.

The anti-abortion movement has not prepared for a post-Roe world. The things that a good government would have already done, regardless of abortion politics, have not been done. (On 18 May 2022, a mere dozen Republicans voted to spend $28 million to alleviate the baby formula shortage! See US House: 18 May 2022: Roll Call 220.) These include:

  • Family leave
  • Reducing poverty
  • Clean air policies to reduce miscarriages and stillbirths
  • Healthcare access, including Medicaid expansion (especially prenatal care)

Indeed, they would have long been done by empowered Democrats, but even as Republicans have agitated to ban abortions, they have sought to make abortions all the more attractive to those who are left unsupported, and their pro-pollution policies have resulted in large numbers of miscarriages and stillbirths.

The media hasn’t done enough to tell those stories, but in a post-Roe world, the media will start telling them, and it should relate them to women’s rights and the failures of the anti-abortion movement. At the same time, if the reform movement advocates for some change, it will do well to prepare by pushing for any laws or programs that would be needed should their goal be reached.

A constitutional reform movement will make it clear, as the robed Republicans would do in overturning Roe, that we must memorialize our nation’s progress in the Constitution. Nothing less will do. They will steal our rights away from us if we do not put them out of the reach of those spoiled children.

The Voting Rights Act—a statute, a codification—was constitutional until the court decided a Black president meant racism was through. And now the states are using their power to make voting harder, even banning handing out water to the thirsty people waiting to vote. Abortion was protected until Republicans stole enough seats to tear it away. It needs to go in the strongbox of the Constitution, where it can be amended out if need be, but it can’t be taken out by the black dresses.

There are those who say codifying Roe, much less amending the Constitution, is all but impossible. Today it is. Today we suffer under the regime of the past, under the shadows of bygone sins, the remnant pollutions of racism and sexism. But tomorrow? Are we forever stuck in this moment? Do our clocks no longer tick? I say they do.

If trampling rights signifies anything, it is that politics do change, and that we have the choice and the right to alter or abolish governments—through voting—that have become destructive to our liberty. Journalists and writers who don’t remind you of that do a disservice to the document protecting their right to write.

Review of Baba is You

Game is FUN. Thinking is HARD. Brain is FRIED.

Baba is You is a 2D grid-based puzzle game. You play as some character-icon (most often the titular Baba, some kind of four-legged animal) and push other icons and tiles around to solve level-based puzzles. What makes the game unique is that the rules of the levels are the puzzle, and the rules are part of the level—are tiles in the level.

For example, if a level has the rules Baba is YOU and Flag is WIN, you must navigate the YOU (a Baba icon) to the WIN (a Flag icon). But you usually have to build the rules to make it possible to beat the level. And therein lies the fun!

The artstyle is basic. As with most puzzle games, that’s probably for the best. It keeps you from being distracted while looking acceptable enough. It has the feel of being a classic computer game that could’ve come from the early days, could’ve been made in the 80s.

It takes a bit for the logic to sink in. Part of that is learning the different types of blocks. There are non-logic blocks (like the Baba icon and Flag icon), which only have properties by virtue of what the logic blocks say.

As for logic blocks, there are names (Baba, Flag, etc.), which represent one or more icons on the board, there are operators and connectors (in white letters) like is and and, which connect those names to properties, and there are the properties, which are labeled in inverted blocks (here in all-caps). A few are WIN, YOU, PUSH. The other thing to know is that names can also be properties. What that means is if you have a sequence like Man is Dog, it will transform all man icons into dog icons.

One of the early tricks you have to learn is that any of the blocks can be reused by having them cross vertically and horizontally. This is similar to how tiles in crossword puzzles (or a game of Scrabble) can serve double duty.

The teaching of new properties is decent. Each area starts with some easier ones that demonstrate the new concepts you’ll see used in that set of levels. Sometimes it felt like I didn’t fully understand them when I was expected to use them (EMPTY from the “Rocket Trip” levels is a good example of that). That’s part of the challenge, though, the difference between knowing a little and mastery of the concepts.

Some the level solutions are kind of complicated to get set up right. Others are messy, requiring a lot of stuff to be moved around on the board that didn’t matter in the moment, next to things that did. And in general, order of operations and the specific properties of specific board pieces matter a lot. It’s a game probably best received by programmers and other technically-minded types. But most of the levels are likely accessible enough to anyone who likes puzzling their way through.

Another messiness issue arises when multiple items are stacked in the same spot. It could be confusing to figure out which items you have stacked. That’s true both for items of the same type (multiple copies) and for mixes of different items and words. The good news is that there is an undo feature (the z key) that you will use often to fix mistakes or remind yourself the correct first part of a solution after the second part falls apart. (You’ll also use the r key to reset the level as needed.)

Most areas have bonus levels, which are numbered by dots instead of numerals. The bonus levels are copies of their neighbors with tweaked rules to puzzle out an alternate way to solve. So if something doesn’t work on a level, keep it in mind! On a number of bonuses, I had to implement a solution that didn’t work for the main level, that I had to abandon.

Most levels’ difficulty arises from figuring what to do. For the harder levels, and some of the others, the challenge comes more from figuring out how to do what you know you have to do. And then for a few levels, most of them not particularly hard, the hurdle is doing the solution that’s obvious enough. But you might get stuck here and there. It’s easy to overthink some of the puzzles.

A good help in dealing with those cases was Key of W (Michael Matlock): “Baba is Hint: A Spoiler-Free Guide”. It let me think about my approach without telling me the answer (and it helped me make sure I didn’t miss any levels). Steam Community: rjdimo: “Guide Has Hint Is Not Solution (WIP)” was also good for some hints, though it’s less complete. Fandom: Baba is Wiki is a full wiki with lots of information about the game, including levels. Unfortunately, the level pages have full solutions in plain view.

“Baba is Hint” is well put-together, with each map area having its own page (use the pictures near the top of each section to navigate to the right one). It’s got several hints per level from nudges to bigger hints, and it rates level difficulty and offers some commentary. Toward the end-game, it does tend to reference prior levels (but you may not remember what or when or how), so clicking around is necessary for those hints. I tended to use the Fandom wiki for looking up solutions to levels I’d already completed to refresh my memory, rather than going back to them in-game or looking at their hints again.

The nature of puzzles always makes it difficult to give useful hints that are not outright solutions. About half the time I looked for a hint, I was overthinking the solution, believing I had to do things I didn’t need to do (some of which I would later have to do for a bonus level). The other half of the time, it was usually a matter of confirming I had to do what I thought I did, and then I figured out how to do it.

The endgame levels of “Baba is You” are many. This is a deep and involved endgame. After you complete the regular levels, things get crazy. I would not have beaten everything without at least some hints and nudges to keep me sane.

A well-done puzzle game, it took me about 53 hours to complete with all achievements, though I spent a little time after messing with the level editor and user-made levels. Unless you’re adverse to puzzles you should give this one a try.

The Right to Reproductive Autonomy

If the court makes this mess, America will have to clean it up.

If the circulating draft is anything like the decision by the Supreme Court, there is but one remedy: amending the Constitution.

To that end, here is a draft article of amendment:

Section 1. The right to reproductive autonomy must not be denied or abridged by the United States nor by any State.
Section 2. No pregnancy may be terminated upon viability, except when it particularly threatens the mother’s life.
Section 3. The Congress has the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

What does that mean?

  1. Abortion will be legal and not subject to the whims of madmen. Any pregnancy may be terminated, whether for rape or incest or any other reason, up to viability.
  2. Pregnancy cannot be terminated once a fetus can live outside the womb. The only exception to that is when continuing the pregnancy or inducing labor or caesarean birth would result in death or major health complications for the mother.

I am not sure this would be the best language for a Constitutional amendment, but it’s what I think would work. Lawyers and experts will surely propose their own language and whatever is eventually ratified will differ somewhat.

It will take time and work to achieve such an amendment, but it is the only reasonable guarantee of a natural right to reproductive autonomy. The people of the United States will support the passage of such an amendment, though it will take a decade to get there.

First, what is required to amend the Constitution? Either you go through a convention (called by two-thirds of the states; has never happened before) or you get two-thirds of both Houses of Congress to propose it to the states. Three-fourths of the states (that’s 38 total) must ratify it.

Efforts will be made on both methods of proposal. Liberal states will quickly pass resolutions calling for a constitutional convention, and there will be proposals in states with mixed government, some of which may pass. There will be proposals floated in Congress. But without a reshaped politics, it will come down to grinding out better elected representatives to make it happen.

For the court to strip away women’s rights would reshape politics. There will either be moderate pro-choice Republicans elected, or that party will be throttled in their ambitions to allow for a mixture of independents, third-parties, and Democrats to do the work needed to enshrine this natural right in our written Constitution. Some of that will require new political alliances and forms. Some of it will result naturally from the media publication of the harms of denying women bodily autonomy.

That last part means citizens will suffer very real oppression from a pseudo-Christian cult’s misinterpretation of scripture and law. Some will die from bleeding and sepsis. Some will be imprisoned for working to secure healthcare for the vulnerable. But we live in a media age where hiding or dismissing the real harms will be impossible. Politicians, likely including Republicans, will have no choice but to affirm women’s rights.

That’s not to say it will be an easy struggle, but it will be necessary and it will happen. All of it will take a lot of work and voting. Please register to vote. Go on Ballotpedia and other resources to look into who’s and what’s on your ballot and when you vote on it.

There are other things that will likely happen along the way. The Supreme Court will be reformed. The filibuster rule may go away. But none of that changes the fundamental goal and outcome: Constitution or bust.