The internet is awash with examples of people in the US who believe in the craziest things. Even without seeking them out, my casual websurfing throws up so many that I have become somewhat numb to the examples that I find that demonstrate deep stupidity. But once in a while, I come across things that really boggle the mind, the more so when the perfectly normal way that people start out talking give you no warning that they are about to say things that are completely bonkers.
Take this woman who rose to speak at a school board meeting in Kansas where they were debating whether to require students to wear masks.
I just returned from a trip to the supermarket and noticed that pretty much everyone, except for four people of whom three were young, is wearing masks again. While I always wore masks there and at any indoor venue where I was not sure that everyone was vaccinated, I had noticed last month that mask usage had dropped considerably. I wondered whether people would be more resistant to the advice to mask up again and was glad to see that, at least in this area, people seem to have adopted them again. The county has as yet not mandated that everyone mask up indoors, though with the rising number of infected people due to the Delta variant, I expect to see such a mandate soon.
What do the terms ‘politically correct’, ‘cancel culture’, ‘woke’, ‘death panels’ and ‘death tax’ have in common?
They are all terms that have neutral or positive meanings that right wingers have turned into terms of abuse.
‘Politically correct’ has a long history, originating as a sarcastic reference to orthodox opinions in intra-left debates that then morphed into meaning the avoidance of using terms that were offensive, mostly to marginalized groups. It meant being sensitive to others in our use of language. Weirdly, the right wingers have used it to defend the right of those who want to say offensive things, arguing that they are the victims of ‘political correctness’. When someone begins by saying, “I know that this is not politically correct but …”, you can be sure that they are going to say something that will make you cringe if not angry.
The so-far unsuccessful search to find direct evidence for the existence of dark matter is raising an issue in science that is often misunderstood and rarely gets the attention it deserves. And that issue is how we know in science that something does not exist. I discuss that in some detail in my book The Great Paradox of Science (yes, yet another plug for those who have not read it to buy it!) because it is hard to understand the logic of scientific progress without it. The history of science is replete with things that were once thought to exist but are no longer so. The aether and phlogiston are two famous example and another is N-rays. Trying to understand why we think those entities no longer exist will enable us to better understand when it might happen that dark matter is also thought to not exist.
Despite some vague gestures towards progressivism early on in his life, Barack Obama clearly saw that being a Wall Street-loving neoliberal while spouting lofty rhetoric was his ticket to bigger things. After largely squandering away his chance while president to strive for major accomplishments, since leaving office, he has been indulging in extremely ostentatious self-glorification, as Liza Featherstone writes.
He’s distinguished himself as an enemy of labor and friend of racist cops. NBA players began to go on strike last August after Jacob Blake, a black man, was shot by police seven times in front of his kids, in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Amid a national uprising over the shooting and many other acts of racist police brutality, Obama called LeBron James and players’ union leader Chris Paul and urged them to get back on the court and finish the playoffs, which they did.
After much back and forth, the US Senate has finally passed an infrastructure bill. The bill has a total cost of one trillion dollars and was arrived at after weeks of haggling in which Republicans fought to reduce it from the more ambitious plan that Joe Biden and progressive Democrats had initially wanted. In the end 19 Republicans voted for it, joining all 50 Democrats, and Biden hailed the compromise as a sign that the much sought-after unicorn of bipartisanship was not dead.
I wrote two weeks ago about the resignation of a high-ranking Catholic official, Monsignor Jeffrey Burill, the general secretary of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, after a Catholic publication named The Pillar used cellphone data to deduce that he was a frequent user of Grindr, the queer dating app, and regularly visited gay bars. I wondered at the time whether this exposure was due to homophobia and it appears that it was.
In an interview with Michael O’Loughlin, a national correspondent at the Catholic media organization America, the radio program On The Media provides some background on The Pillar, that it is a small but virulently anti-gay organization dedicated to getting rid of all gay Catholic priests from the church.