October 22, 2020

The IM Saturday Monks Brunch: July 11, 2020

Matt Davies – Newsday and Andrews McMeel Syndicate

The IM Saturday Monks Brunch: July 11, 2020

I’m sorry, but we’re in for a rather melancholy Brunch this week. I’m finding it harder to be optimistic with each passing day, and I’m grateful for your company and conversation here at the table. I keep waiting for some good news, some relief in the midst of our national nightmares, but am not hearing much. Perhaps you have a good word to share today.

Quote of the week

Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed—in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical—and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack. For that reason, greater caution is called for when dealing with a stupid person than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “After Ten Years” (Letters and Papers from Prison)

What happened to religious liberty?

Christianity Today reports:

The United States is on track to welcome the fewest refugees since its resettlement policy was formalized in 1980, by a substantial margin.

Capped at 18,000 people for 2020—the lowest ceiling on record—the US has resettled 7,600 refugees, with only three months left in the fiscal year.

According to a joint report released today by World Relief and Open Doors USA, persecuted minorities representing a variety of religions have been harmed by the decline in resettlement.

“Among those most disadvantaged have been Christian refugees from the countries where Christians face the most severe persecution in the world,” the report states. [emphasis mine]

So far in 2020, the US has resettled fewer than 950 Christians from the 50 countries where it is hardest to be a Christian, according to Open Doors’s annual World Watch List. At this rate, the US will receive 90-percent fewer Christian refugees this year than five years ago.

Have you heard an outcry about this? No, me neither. I guess American Christians’ desire to protect “religious liberty” is somewhat selective, huh?

In times like this, I find the blues help…

Disney World Reopening

Disney World begins re-opening today. They ran a new ad to encourage people to return, but some found it a bit disturbing, like Starr Rhett Rocque at Fast Company:

 

It’s all supposed to be reassuring, but it’s strange. Creepy, even. As the colorful cups from the Mad Tea Party ride swirl by on screen, it’s hard not to focus on all the potentially lethal germs that will build up in those vessels in a matter of seconds. And if you stare long enough at the group of masked park employees waving to cameras in formation, you might find yourself thinking you’ve fallen into some Brave New World.

In times like this, I find little comedy helps…

Like many parents, Jim Gaffigan just finds Disney World itself a bit too much.

Our Worthless Passports — Pray to God this guy isn’t right…

One perspective on the U.S. and the pandemic at Medium:

America is now ruled by COVID-19. Welcome to the Plague States of America.

…The most reliable projections are saying 200,000 dead and 50 million infected by election day in November. Even these projections struggle to account for completely irrational federal actions like denigrating masks, pushing to reopen early, and pushing students back into schools. This is not the absence of public health, this is its opposite.

It is, in effect, governance by COVID-19. Not a failed state. A plague state.

…America will be lucky to exit this pandemic with less than a million dead and 100 million infected. The living will be lucky to exit their country within the next five years.

…American now have access to exactly two dozen states, four more (*) if they want to endure a 14-day quarantine on the end. Americans have gone from world power to getting the side-eye from Ecuador in a matter of months. Right now Americans are only really welcome on remote islands or at corralled resorts in Mexico, where they can be isolated from everyone else.

It’s not that other nations don’t want to welcome Americans, they just can’t. The point of a passport is that a sovereign power vouches for its bearer, but America can’t vouch for the health of their citizens at all. America’s public health regime is far less trustworthy than Liberia’s (which is actually quite good). Its sovereign is mad.

At the same time, you can’t trust Americans. Americans have poor hygiene (low masking rate) and at least 40% of the population can’t be trusted to even believe that COVID-19 exists, let alone to take it seriously. They’re likely to refuse testing, not report symptoms, break quarantine, and generally follow rules. Americans have a toxic combination of ignorance and arrogance that makes them unwelcome travelers.

In times like this, I find a little joy (along with some cowbell!) helps…

A Letter on Justice and Open Debate

Harpers published a letter this week, calling for all sides in the various current socio-cultural debates to refrain from creating an intolerant climate that stifles legitimate open debate. Its message is directed specifically to those on the left, who have, at times, responded to the forces of illiberalism on the right with a “cancel” culture that threatens “the free exchange of information and ideas.”

A diverse group of people, including some of the left’s strongest proponents, like Margaret Atwood, Noam Chomsky, and Gloria Steinem, signed on to this letter. who noted that signatories include “Black thinkers, Muslim thinkers, Jewish thinkers, people who are trans and gay, old and young, right wing and left wing.” Some have reported that a few have expressed regrets about signing the letter.

Our cultural institutions are facing a moment of trial. Powerful protests for racial and social justice are leading to overdue demands for police reform, along with wider calls for greater equality and inclusion across our society, not least in higher education, journalism, philanthropy, and the arts. But this needed reckoning has also intensified a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity. As we applaud the first development, we also raise our voices against the second. The forces of illiberalism are gaining strength throughout the world and have a powerful ally in Donald Trump, who represents a real threat to democracy. But resistance must not be allowed to harden into its own brand of dogma or coercion—which right-wing demagogues are already exploiting. The democratic inclusion we want can be achieved only if we speak out against the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides.

The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted. While we have come to expect this on the radical right, censoriousness is also spreading more widely in our culture: an intolerance of opposing views, a vogue for public shaming and ostracism, and the tendency to dissolve complex policy issues in a blinding moral certainty. We uphold the value of robust and even caustic counter-speech from all quarters. But it is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought. More troubling still, institutional leaders, in a spirit of panicked damage control, are delivering hasty and disproportionate punishments instead of considered reforms. Editors are fired for running controversial pieces; books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity; journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a researcher is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study; and the heads of organizations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes. Whatever the arguments around each particular incident, the result has been to steadily narrow the boundaries of what can be said without the threat of reprisal. We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement.

This stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time. The restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society, invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation. The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away. We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without each other. As writers we need a culture that leaves us room for experimentation, risk taking, and even mistakes. We need to preserve the possibility of good-faith disagreement without dire professional consequences. If we won’t defend the very thing on which our work depends, we shouldn’t expect the public or the state to defend it for us.

This Weekend’s Special Edition of the New York Times Magazine

From the NYT:

Inspired by Giovanni Boccaccio’s “The Decameron,” a 14th-century collection of tales told by a group of 10 characters taking shelter in an Italian villa during the Black Plague, this weekend’s special issue of the magazine features stories from Margaret Atwood, David Mitchell, Téa Obreht, Karen Russell, Tommy Orange, Yiyun Li and others. The so-called Decameron Project is the first time in the magazine’s modern history that an entire issue is devoted to new fiction.

…The authors wrote while quarantining in their homes across the country (Oakland, Miami, Portland) and the globe (Mexico, Ireland, Mozambique, Israel). The stories grapple with fear, loss, sickness and uncertainty, but also with kindness, connection and humor. Back-to-back, they knit a record of the shared experiences that can transcend circumstances to unite us.

…Ms. Gutierrez found reading the stories to be cathartic. “The news is really bleak right now, and it is hard to handle,” she said. “In this issue, you will be able to enjoy the language, the images, the plots, but by the end of it, you’ve also been forced to think about the pandemic in different ways.”

…Sophy Hollington, the artist responsible for the cover and the unifying lettering throughout, used hand-cut relief techniques to pay homage to medieval manuscripts.

…“Fiction is a way to make sense of the world around us, a way to narrate it back to us,” Ms. Lalami said, “and in that sense, impose some sort of order on the chaos.”

Here is a small sample from one of the stories. This is from “How We Used to Play,” by Dinaw Mengestu.

Before getting off the phone I told him I was going to drive down from New York to see him. It was March 12, 2020, and the virus was about to lay siege to the city. “We’ll go to the grocery store,” I said. “And stuff your freezer so you can grow old and fat until the virus disappears.” I left New York early the next morning to find the highways between New York and D.C. already crowded with S.U.V.s. On his only visit to New York, my uncle asked me what happened to all the cars buried deep underground in expensive parking lots scattered throughout the city. Before buying his own cab, he had worked for 15 years in a parking garage three blocks from the White House, and he often said that he would never understand why Americans spent so much money to park big cars they never drove. As I passed my first hour in traffic, I thought of calling to tell him I finally had the answer to his question. For all the talk of American optimism, we were obsessed with apocalypse, and those big empty cars that now filled all four lanes of the highway had simply been waiting for the right explosion to hit the road.

In times like this, I find that beautiful, sad songs help…

Written by the incomparable Townes Van Zandt. Performed by Nancy Griffith and her bandleader.

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Comments

  1. Robert F says

    I apologize for adding to the melancholy Brunch, but I ask for prayer for my wife, who has just received a diagnosis of breast cancer. We are consulting with a surgeon first thing early Monday morning. This is her fourth go-round with cancer in the last twenty years. We are reeling.

  2. Robert F says

    the clock
    ticks out its
    near echo

  3. Robert F says

    Re: Harpers’ “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate”: While I understand and sympathize with the concerns expressed by the letter and its signatories, all heretofore considered liberal writers and thinkers, I wonder where the limits of openness to debate are to be drawn when the national discourse is changing, as it is now. For there have always been limits, and there always will be, not necessarily to free speech — although, even in that there are limits, for instance, using the old example, yelling “Fire!” in a crowded movie theater when there is no fire — but to institutions taking certain ideas seriously or providing room for them to be discussed. Should, for instance, Holocaust revisionism be openly discussed and considered in universities and by journalistic media as serious ideas worthy of respect and the historians who write them treated as respectable and serious academics and thinkers? Should anti-vaccination curriculum and speakers be presented as having credibility at medical schools? Should Truther ideas about President Obama be included in serious histories as reliable information about the details of his biography? Or should the three examples I’ve listed, and a good many other things like them, rightly be dismissed and their promulgators be “canceled” by universities and journalistic media as unworthy of serious consideration, and only be discussed as examples of misinformed and even malicious thinking, as they mostly have heretofore?

    • Agreed. We cannot confuse freedom to say things with the notion that all things are equally worthy to be said, or that you can say anything with no consequences.

      • Nor that all things are equally worthy of being listened to. Someone wants to discuss whether or not the Holocaust occurred? That is their right. “But I need not listen to it. And if a publication chooses to print this discussion, this will inform my opinion about that publication, and whether or not to devote my attention and money to it. A variant of this is why I dropped my subscription to The Atlantic after years of devoted reading. Their desire to present a wide range of viewpoints led to willingness to present the overtly stupid. When I realized that reading the magazine involved more sifting through it to find the non-stupid parts, I let my subscription lapse.

        • That’s how I feel about the New York Times. When they gave editorial space to Nicolas Maburro, I threw up my hands and gave up.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says

            I’ve kept the NYT, but they certainly do fall into the “to be Fair-And-Balanced we need to occasionally publish idiots” trap.

            Worse then that they have long running contracts with hacks like Joel Kotkin.

            But the list of even mildly credible media has become so short I will continue to stick with the NYTs.

            Bloomberg purchasing of CityLab was tragic. 🙁 That cost some top-notch writers and journalists.

            • What would you recommend for credible media sources? I normally just skim through google news but not sure exactly how best to sort through it all…

              • My advice to anyone on this is, given a choice, go local and/or international, because both have a respectful distance from the audience-numbers driven partisanship of US national media. Also, their biases are easier to spot and correct for.

                From the international side, BBC and the Economist are good places to start (BBC is center-left, Economist is center-right), and surprisingly (if you don’t take their Israel reporting at face value) Al Jazeera English. There’s a whole lot going on in the world that US-centric outlets just don’t cover, because, well, Americans are self-centered as hell.

                Local news is, well, local, and you’re bound to get much more details about specific events from local media than when you read the national news crib notes on those same events.

        • “Nor that all things are equally worthy of being listened to.”

          Precisely. Then the question becomes exactly to whom are we willing to cede the power to decide what these things worth being listened to are?. No one has a right to be granted a platform from which to speak but we really don’t won’t to inculcate into the body politic the idea that the best way to respond to people who disagree with us is to silence them, right? Right?

          • Robert F says

            So we shouldn’t seek to silence the boycotting method of those using social media to “cancel” viewpoints they find unacceptable, since that method is a form of expression, though we may disagree with it.

      • Robert F says

        I do have a concern that in the current progressive political movement some thinkers and writers whose ideas deserve to be explored and discussed are being unfairly punished and excommunicated via social media campaigns aimed at their career viability for expressing ideas that until a few years ago were considered liberal, but now fall outside a developing narrow progressive orthodoxy that a times is veering off into political fundamentalism. This scares me whether it happens on the Left or Right.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          At which point we’re all in 1932 Germany, where the only ones who can Save Us from the Communists are the Nazis and the only ones who can Save Us from the Nazis are the Communists.

          • It would not be good to be caught between the Boogaloo Boys and the Woke Army.

            • Burro (Mule) says

              “Praise be to Nero’s Neptune, the Titanic sails at dawn
              And everybody’s shouting, ‘Which side are you on?’ “

              • Robert F says

                “And Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot are fighting in the captain’s tower/ While Calypso singers laugh at them an fisherman hold flowers….

            • Headless Unicorn Guy says

              It would not be good to be caught between the Boogaloo Boys and the Woke Army.

              Especially when both One True Ways are operating under the final Khmer Rouge Kill Orders:
              “ALL WHO WERE NOT ONE OF US FROM THE VERY BEGINNING!”

    • Fred “Slacktivist” Clark has probably the best explanation of “cancel culture” I’ve seen so far…

      https://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2020/07/09/canceled-disgraced/

      • Robert F says

        Cancel culture has always existed, it’s just that different people were doing the canceling, and they were using different methods — for example, board and conference rooms full of white men preemptively and quietly canceling everybody they wouldn’t allow into the clubhouse, and canceling their ideas. That’s the way newspapers were run for the longest time, and the way curricula were set at universities for educating the next generation.

        • They only thing that makes them mad about “cancel culture’ is that it’s no longer them doing the cancelling.

          • Bingo. And as I tell my fellow middle aged white male friends, now we know what minorities have lived with for decades and also what it feels like, and it might also give us some sense at why people take to the streets in protest.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        Yep, this: “”””And the ease with which these pundits are able to publish their views on multiple, lucrative, prestigious platforms also hasn’t stopped them from posturing as somehow being threatened and sidelined and oppressed by this nefarious, but imaginary, thing called “cancel culture.””””

        And the music of R. Kelly is still readily available.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Though (like all those “Pill” Cosby comedy albums) it’s gotten to leave a bad taste in our mouths.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      > Holocaust revisionism be openly discussed and considered in universities and by
      > journalistic media as serious ideas worthy….

      And that these kinds of ideas are not only openly discusses, but wide spread, alive and well, in out culture puts the lie to the Cancel Culture panic.

      If I want to hear from an anti-vaxxer or a white supremacist there are a myriad of channels to do so; the government is doing nothing to censor them [and, let’s be clear: only the government censors, if I delete comments on my BLOG that does NOT constitute censorship]

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        People don’t have a right to be platformed, that’s what many are missing. And we’ve made terribly platforms – Cancel Culture Panic is missing the point.

        As someone who spent a l-o-n-g time in the Open Source space, where lots and lots of people talked about the issues of platforms – – – this xkcd cartoon ***NAILS IT EXACTLY*** : https://xkcd.com/743/

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        If I want to hear from an anti-vaxxer or a white supremacist there are a myriad of channels to do so

        Including a LOT of Churches and Christian Leaders(TM).

    • Michael Z says

      I doubt the writers of the letter are advocating for anti-vaxxers, “truthers,” or holocaust deniers to be given a platform or legitimized. But there *are* examples of young liberals getting fired up about much more minor things.

      For example, Hamilton is being criticized for not sufficiently addressing the issue of slavery. For some people that totally eclipses the empowerment that comes from a Broadway musical where (nearly) everyone is a person of color. The musical *does* address the way that Hamilton and others had to make political compromises because of the power of the slave states, but to some people the simple fact that slavery was not a central focus of the musical makes it worthy of being “canceled.”

      The problem is that 1. teens and young adults *always* see the world in stark black-and-white terms because of the stage of mental development they’re in, 2. social media amplifies the voices of the loudest, angriest people, and 3. many people in the US continue to have an adolescent way of thinking well into adulthood or even for their whole lives. The kind of nuance the letter-writers are advocating is something we grow into with age, experience, and wisdom, but the people who model that sort of mature thinking are often not the loudest or most prevalent voices.

      • Robert F says

        Actually, I’m not altogether sure that anti-vax is altogether absent among the signatories of the letter, since anti-vaccination belief seems to afflict otherwise smart people on both the Left and Right.

        • anonymous says

          anti-vax movement will eventually die out

          literally and after a lot of needless suffering for little children

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        > Hamilton is being criticized for not sufficiently addressing the issue of slavery

        And it is still streaming on Disney’s network.

        > there *are* examples of young liberals getting fired up about much more minor things.

        Yes, certainly. The error being made is the degree to which some, from particular, perspectives, believe anyone cares. There is a Social Media distortion field; Social Media is not reality.

        I’ve listened, directly, to so many Left organizers – as in: people who do organizing day-to-day – and Policy Wonks – say “yeah, get off Twitter, it isn’t worth a minute of your time”, “Facebook advocacy is a waste of time”. Again, from people doing advocacy and organizing, for real, on the ground. People who ‘do’ political campaigns – for real, like “do”, not comment on. So: don’t get obsessed with what is going on online. Reality doesn’t work at all like Online, and soooo many of those Online Pundits have utterly inaccurate perceptions of Reality.

        • Klasie Kraalogies says

          Exactly. There will always be idiots.

          “social media distortion field” is a wording I am definitely going to use!

      • Robert F says

        The question is: what criteria do the writers and signatories of the letter want to set for distinguishing the crazy, over-the-line, beyond-the-pale, not-worthy-of-serious-discussion things from the “much more minor things”? The question does not answer itself, and different answers from different parties are not only the result of different levels of maturity.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        The musical *does* address the way that Hamilton and others had to make political compromises because of the power of the slave states…

        Which goes back to the beginning.
        In an earlier musical “1776”, one of the constant conflicts is between the Northern colonies (personified by Adams of Massachusetts) and the Southern slave-economy colonies (personified by Rutledge of the Carolinas).

      • “I doubt the writers of the letter are advocating for anti-vaxxers, “truthers,” or holocaust deniers to be given a platform or legitimized.”

        Perhaps not, but if they are OK with a holocaust denier, for example, being “cancelled,” at that point we aren’t talking about opposition to “cancel culture,” but are discussing who gets to decide who gets cancelled. As it happens, I think this is exactly the discussion they are really having, but if they were being honest about this they would have to be far more specific, and the ensuing discussion would turn to those specifics. Hence the strategic vagueness. Given the identity of the signatories and the venue in which it is published, the clear intent is to protect their turf. I am not impressed.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says

      In principal I am all for free speech*. But note that that includes the notion that someone that doesn’t like what you say organizes a boycott of like minded people. That someone can say your writings are a ball of tiddlywaffle.

      I’d be more convinced if some of the authors (like JK Rowling for insyance) weren’t so intent on shutting down their critics. Freedom for me but no freedom for thee is not free speech.

      *it goes without saying that this excludes manifest hate speech, incitement to harm etc.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        In principal I am all for free speech*. But note that that includes the notion that someone that doesn’t like what you say organizes a boycott of like minded people.

        Christians are very prone to such “Tyranny of the Most Easily Offended”. Back before Lost Genre Guild folded, several members spoke of “Christian Karens who will read your book specifically to look for things so they can get offended” and call for your destruction by boycott. Insiders of Chrstian(TM) radio and music industry have said that their target audience is (can’t remember the name but it may as well be “Karen”) a “Christian soccer mom who has X kids, drives an SUV, attends a Megachurch, and wants to be kept comfortable”>

    • A few years ago, the local school board where I grew up voted to rename the middle school I attended in the early 1970’s. The former senator for whom the school was originally named opposed school desegregation in the 1950’s, when many schools in the South were still segregated. Now there is a push to rename the high school from which I graduated 43 years ago, because the newspaper editor and historian for whom the school was named wrote a biography of Robert E. Lee. The school also used the Confederate battle flag for a number of years as well as a Confederate-themed mascot; the school fight song was “Dixie.” That all changed by the mid-1990’s, but that apparently isn’t enough to satisfy those embracing “cancel culture.” Also, can we justify the cost of renaming a large high school, a sum likely exceeding $1 million, at a time of budget shortfalls due to pandemic-related economic turmoil?

      I’d like to push the “pause” button and halt the push to rename schools and remove statues until passions have cooled and our society can have a frank but civil discussion concerning these matters. Yet I wonder if we can do so at a time when the nation is so deeply divided.

      • The only problem with that is that, unless passions are hot, things don’t change. The reason passions are so high is that “moderance and pacing” have essentially been cover words for “we’re not changing anything, deal with it”. And people are no longer in any mood to deal with it. Perhaps we should have thought of that years ago, when passions hadn’t run so high yet.

        • Robert F says

          Yes.

        • Hence the invariable tactic of responding to righteous protests by trying to change the subject. Once you know to look for it, this turns out to be a frequent tactic. Say that black lives matter and the response is that all lives matter. This is true, but black lives are among all lives, and it is black guys who are getting murdered by bored cops. Responding that all lives matter changes the subject, moving from the concrete problem of bored cops murdering black guys to a vague sentiment, thereby avoiding talking about it.

    • Laura W. says

      It seems to me that the only answer is “You are entitled to your opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.”

      • The crazies have never acknowledged this responsibility. Consider their recent discovery of carbon dioxide. The crazies assure us that this is a decisive, factually based reason not to wear a mask. Ask how it is that medical professionals have been wearing masks for decades with no reports of this problem, and they will change the subject. Are they lying, or engaging in aggressive cognitive dissonance? Does it matter?

      • Rick Ro. says

        This is the reason I had to disengage from the Republican party over the past 10+ years, the continual ignoring of facts and evidence just because either: 1) the facts and data supports “a liberal agenda” (like global warming), and dang it, we can’t let THAT happen; or 2) the facts and data are affects the Republican way of life, and dang it, we can’t let THAT happen (such as the seriousness of the Covid pandemic and attempts to thwart it).

        For instance, I recently had a Republican friend continue the mantra that Covid is no worse than the common cold as born out by THESE (unsubstantiated) statistics. My reply: Well, evidence would suggest — evidence being hospitals at the brink of being overrun with patients in areas that are surging with virus numbers — that it IS worse than the common cold, because I’ve never seen the common cold push the health system to the brink like this thing does.

        Opinions are one things, ignoring facts and evidence STARING YOU IN THE FACE is another. Not sure when the Republican party put their collective brains on hold. Maybe it happened during the culture war, when “beating the liberals and their agenda” became paramount to everything else.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Opinions are one things, ignoring facts and evidence STARING YOU IN THE FACE is another. … Maybe it happened during the culture war, when “beating the liberals and their agenda” became paramount to everything else.

          “THE DWARFS ARE FOR THE DWARFS! WE WON’T BE TAKEN IN!”
          Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle

  4. Pellicano Solitudinis says

    God be with you.

    • Pellicano Solitudinis says

      Sorry, this was meant to be a response to Robert F’s news about his wife.

  5. Robert F says

    International travel? Americans can’t even move freely from state to state anymore because of our failed coronavirus policy.

    • Frankly, I can’t imagine even going out to eat in the town I live, much less travel outside it.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says

      I made to be sure to have enough cash in reserve to fly to Europe when a vaccine becomes available – as their health systems are competent. Now, what? I’ve going to have to sneak over the Canadian border in a box car?

      Half kidding, or maybe less than half.

  6. “At the same time, you can’t trust Americans. Americans have poor hygiene (low masking rate) and at least 40% of the population can’t be trusted to even believe that COVID-19 exists, let alone to take it seriously. They’re likely to refuse testing, not report symptoms, break quarantine, and generally follow rules. Americans have a toxic combination of ignorance and arrogance that makes them unwelcome travelers.”

    As usual, Calvin and Hobbes has it nailed…

    https://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/1988/09/28

  7. Adam Tauno Williams says

    > he often said that he would never understand why Americans spent so much money to
    > park big cars they never drove.

    Yep. And I sold my car I never drive this week. Money in the bank.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says

      I did too! A few weeks ago. I rarely drive, and the shutdown showed me I don’t really need to own a vehicle. I now belong to a car co-OP which costs me less than my monthly insurance (nevermind gas and maintenance), and I have much less worries. The closest vehicle in the co-op is electric too which is just awesome.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says

        Nice! we have been supposed to get a co-op here for a couple years now. We’ll see. Anyway, I can get by on foot, bike, and public transit. Fortunately my entire day-to-day world has ~2 mile radius. :). There are always taxis in a pinch. None of those things all added up come anywhere close to the cost of ownership.

        • Klasie and Adam you are both obviously neoMarxists who are trying to contaminate the precious bodily fluids of Western Civilization (which of course consists chiefly of gasoline).

          I’m practicing my jargon in case Trump wins again.

  8. WOW!! That Bonhoeffer quote! That tells me we are not living in a totally unique moment. It’s so true. It’s not the thoughtful people who scare me. I have many in my family who are on the right, hate the democrats, yada yada yada. That makes me a little nutty but doesn’t frighten me. What frightens me is the utter susceptibility to conspiracy theories and absolutely absurd memes. The easily swayed masses are the great danger to a society when a demagogue takes the reins. I’m sorry but there seems to be an abundance of stupidity these days and you can’t even point it out without being labeled.

    • I used to think we were living in the Age of the Easily Offended, but somewhere along the way it turned into the Age of the Stupid.

      • How has this happened?

        • When simple folk are kept from cares, simple they will be.” – Aragorn son of Arathorn

      • The Venn diagram on that has a great deal of overlap.

      • There was a comic in the Dallas morning news today where a woman is in the doctors office and she says “I, like, went out drinking with my friends at a crowded bar last week and now I have a cough and a fever?” The doctor responds, “You are experiencing symptoms of selfish stupidity.”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      What frightens me is the utter susceptibility to conspiracy theories and absolutely absurd memes.

      Of which American Evangelicals have been into for a LONG time.
      (Remember all the Satanic Panics and Pin-the-Tail-on-The-Antichrist?)

      The easily swayed masses are the great danger to a society when a demagogue takes the reins.

      And guess who are the most Loyal of the Loyal this time around, lining up to take The Mark of their NEW LORD and Savior?

    • Quite a few people where I work, and not just Trump supporters, say they will not take any newly developed coronavirus vaccine for at least a year after the initial rollout. They believe the initial phase of public vaccination will be experimental, with major side effects, and they don’t want to be part of the experiment. In the meantime, without a significant majority of the population getting vaccinated, herd immunity cannot be achieved. At this point, however, much of that seems moot, because it looks like coronavirus is going to rip through the whole population, with the healthcare system getting overloaded in many places, before a vaccine is ready. After that happens, many people now resistant to the idea of vaccination will beg for it.

      • It won’t help if the vaccine costs $3000 per, and none of the insurance companies will cover it.

        • Robert F says

          No, it certainly won’t. It would, however, help if we had universal healthcare, and no one had to worry about paying for the vaccine out-of-pocket. But the richest country in the world can’t afford healthcare for all its citizens. That would be socialistic, and next thing you know George Soros would be running the whole country.

    • Christiane says

      cult time has come upon us now:
      “what rough beast, its hour come round at last . . . “

  9. So, to comment on Bonhoeffer’s quote, there’s a post going around facebook of the Miami Herald, with a front page headline saying “Florida schools ordered to reopen in August” and another below it saying, “Miami-Dade restaurants, gyms, closing to fight COVID surge.”

    I assume it’s true, and not photoshopped. A Miami Herald article of July 6 does say,

    “There is a need to open schools fully to ensure the quality and continuity of the educational process, the comprehensive well-being of students and families and a return to Florida hitting its full economic stride,” the order states.

    Under the emergency order, all public schools will be required to reopen in August for at least five days a week and to provide the full array of services required by law, including in-person instruction and services for students with special needs.

    Note the underlying reason in the first paragraph: “…a return to Florida hitting its full economic stride.”

    Health? Education? Sure, that too.

    • Like I said earlier this week – they can’t fully reopen the economy without the free daycare that schools provide. And unless the economy reopens, You Know Who is in deep doodoo. So… schools HAVE to reopen, damn the costs.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Note the underlying reason in the first paragraph: “…a return to Florida hitting its full economic stride.”

      As the CHRISTIAN Lt Gov of Texas put it, the high-risk have a duty to sacrifice themselves for the economy and prosperity of the younger low-risk generation.

    • The corn laws must not be repealed otherwise the economy will tank (at least for the big landowners). At least they did eventually repeal the corn laws but not before people starved to death in large numbers. (Different country, different century)

      In California Covid-19 is hitting some of the prisons and jails; prisoners have few options. We are also in wildfire season though so far no huge fires (by California standards, they are mopping up a 5500+ acre fire in my county). At least the state and many county governments seem to be acting halfway rationally and for the commonweal.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Under the emergency order, all public schools will be required to reopen in August for at least five days a week and to provide the full array of services required by law, including in-person instruction and services for students with special needs.

      Did the Emergency Order quote the Bible or end with “Hail Trump”?

      Given that Florida’s official policy is Climate Change Denial because BIBLE (Genesis 9:11 to be precise), that’s not much of a stretch.

  10. I’ll defend the first amendment because there’s no law against being an idiot. But I cannot subscribe to the notion that every idea deserves equal time or consideration. Falsehoods and evil notions and systems that harm other human beings, often willfully, certainly do not. Previous comments have brought up some of the more egregious of these, and I agree.

    Just today I read an article in the L.A. Times about an African-American woman who was harassed and ultimately kicked off of a church lawn, by church members and staff, for doing nothing more than sitting on the lawn working at her profession remotely. The opinions and attitudes of those who did this to her do not deserve equal time; they deserve to be shamed, scorned and eliminated. They meet the standard for slander and libel in that they are both untrue and malicious.

    • It was a Lutheran church. My first guess was Missouri Synod. Upon investigation, it turned out to be Wisconsin Synod. By way of background, the Missouri Synod is the major conservative wing of American Lutheranism. The Wisconsin Synod thinks the Missouri Synod are a bunch of Birkenstock-wearing hippies.

  11. Andrew Zook says

    Regarding, “Plague States of America…” Can we be even more honest and ironic and admit that maybe we live in a “sh_thole country”?

    • Klasie Kraalogies says

      Saw this on Twitter this morning:

      ” Watching a while country fail the marshmallow test”.

      Very apt.

    • Rick Ro. says

      This is the first time ever that “I’m gonna move to Canada” has seemed like such good wisdom.

      • Klasie Kraalogies says

        But would we take you? 🙂

      • This isn’t the first time moving to Canada was good wisdom.

        1. Revolutionary period. Some of my ancestors moved out of NY into Ontario. Loyalist.

        2.Mid-60’s to early 70’s; Can you spell “HEY HEY LBJ, HOW MANY BOYS DID YOU KILL TODAY?!”

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      After the 2016 Elections, word went out to European diplomats:
      The USA is now another Third World Kleptocracy with Nepotism.

  12. Rick Ro. says

    Not that I think being in an echo chamber is healthy for an individual’s or a community’s growth, but it’s nice having a Saturday brunch without certain individuals bringing their opposition/negativity. As concerning and/or melancholy as today’s topics and comments have been, it’s been a much more pleasant discussion/brunch today.

    • Having an “echo chamber” is infinitely preferable to troll wrestling. Would having conservatives you could really debate with be nice? Yes. But nowadays they’re rarer than hen’s teeth.

    • Well nothing freaks me out faster than being surrounded by people who agree with me about everything. What passes for the “Left” in this country is just as batsh*t crazy as the “Right” and I think honorable conservatives realize that the best thing that can happen to the Republican Party is for Trump and co to be thoroughly rejected by the electorate in the fall.

      The truth is, I’m very conservative. It’s just that what I want to conserve is far different than Franklin Graham or Mitch McConnell.

      • There certainly is a batshit crazy American Left, but the difference is that they hold little power within the Democratic Party. The nomination of Joe Biden, while hardly breaking a sweat, proves this.

  13. “What happened to religious liberty?”

    Well taking into consideration some recent SCOTUS decisions, it’s being thoroughly confused with religious privilege.

    • Christiane says

      SCOTUS gives us, in this ruling, the best possible reason for taking ‘medical insurance’ out of the hands of employers

      and creating ‘Medicare For All’

      the little sisters had a real case, but they hire those who are not of their own religion, and who need medical care they are uncomfortable morally with providing

      solution: relieve them of the problem AND relieve their employees of the problem also

      both entities deserve respect

      it’s time to change and find a better way to help our nation and to opt out of the crazy system we now have that doesn’t serve the nation’s needs in this present era

      • Robert F says

        I would love universal healthcare in this country, but it won’t happen anytime soon, given the political realities in Congress. Just won’t happen, and for many of the same reasons that the Electoral College won’t be eliminated. And you can find most those reasons in the intransigent resistance of many Senators.

        • The Democrats have a legit shot at a Senate majority. It isn’t a slam dunk, but so long as Trump keeps on tweeting, it is a real possibility. If they get it, I hope the first item on the agenda is statehood for DC and Puerto Rico.

          • Robert F says

            I’m pessimistic, I guess, but I hope you’re right.

          • Rick Ro. says

            Given the current state of affairs in the good ol’ US of A, why would Puerto Rico want to join the disUnion?!?!?!

            • Serious answer: Because the alternatives are worse. The current territory model has broken down, putting it in an impossible budgetary position. Independence would be worse, as they clearly could not count on support from the US, and their citizens would lose the right to live in the US. Become a state and their problems become, to some extent, the US’s problems. At least as much as are the problems of, say, Alabama, which is to say that they will be imperfectly addressed, but not simply ignored. See also: Hurricane Maria.

      • Christiane; ditto.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Have you heard an outcry about this? No, me neither. I guess American Christians’ desire to protect “religious liberty” is somewhat selective, huh?

      Religious Liberty for MEEEEEEE, NEVER THEE!

      “NOW WE GET TO HOLD THE WHIP!!! PRAISE GAWD!!! FEEL THE WHIP, HEATHENS!!!!!!”

      • Robert F says

        American Christianity = Song of Myself

        • anonymous says

          you’ve got that right!

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          “THERE IS NO YOU!
          THERE IS ONLY ME!
          THERE IS NO YOU!
          THERE IS ONLY ME!
          THERE IS NO F’IN YOU!
          THERE IS ONLY MEEE!
          — Nine Inch Nails

          I have long maintained that the Evangelical Gospel of Personal Salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation is at heart a very SELFISH gospel.

  14. Best News of the Week!

    Boneless Chicken Ranch; Midvale School for the Gifted

    Gary Larson is back!

  15. Mike, you can post Colt Clark and the Quarantine Kids anytime.

  16. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice.
    Cross-index this with Holy Nincompoop Syndrome, where the more stupid and ignorant you are, the more Christian and Godly you must be.

    “He has NO Book Larnin’, and HE IS LOUD!”
    — Michael Spencer on the highest complement you could say about a preacher in his area of Kentucky

  17. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice.

    Cross-index this with Holy Nincompoop Syndrome, where the more stupid and ignorant you are, the more Christian and Godly you must be.

    “He has NO Book Larnin’, and HE IS LOUD!”
    — Michael Spencer on the highest complement you could say about a preacher in his area of Kentucky