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The Challenge of Being a Living, Thinking Person

June 23, 2020


Take the time to today to read Jeff Sharlet’s Vanity Fair piece on the people who go to Trump rallies, which leads to the inescapable conclusion that calling the Trump following a “cult” is an understatement. It’s a gnostic religion:

“The Great Awakening?” I say, referring to a Q meme she’s searching for on her phone, tying Trump’s ascendancy to the religious revival that preceded the American Revolution.

“Exactly!” Diane says, proud. She points to the kabbalistic discipline of alphanumeric codes known as gematria, in which numbers and letters are treated as interchangeable. “The numbers tell us certain things,” she says. “And the capital letters”—the tweets, just as Pastor Dave had told me in Louisiana. “Anything capitalized,” Diane says, “we add up as a number.” Such codes are a baseline of conspiracy theories going back centuries. To Diane and other Q believers, this does not disprove the system; it is evidence of how deep runs the struggle. “Two thousand years,” says Diane. Christianity, roughly speaking.

“It’s a lot to take in,” I stammer. “I didn’t know Q had anything to do with God.”

“It’s all about God!” Diane shouts. “All about spiritual warfare. Trump will tell you that. Over and over and over.”

Trump tells David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network that if he loses the 2020 election, “religions I think will be almost wiped out at America.” (“At” America?)

If you look at it, pro-life will be absolutely wiped out. So if you have that happening, pro-life is going to be out. It’s going to be gone.

What…does…that…mean? I’m kidding, I know what it means. It means that Biden is starting to chip away at Trump’s numbers among evangelicals. Politico talks to that same David Brody, who says:

Here’s the problem for Trump: He needs to be at 81 percent or north to win reelection. Any slippage and he doesn’t get a second term, and that’s where Joe Biden comes into play. In this environment, with everything from the coronavirus to George Floyd and Trump calling himself the ‘law-and-order president,’ Biden could potentially pick off a percent or 2 from that 81 percent number.

Every Rose Has its Thorn

Trump is holding another rally today, this time at the Dream City Church in Phoenix. But don’t worry, it’s totally safe to smush yourselves together there and yell a lot, because the pastor says church members developed a new air purification system that kills 99.9 percent of the virus! WHY WON’T THEY SHARE THIS AMAZING TECHNOLOGY WITH THE REST OF THE WORLD?

A company called Brexo Bio is advertising services in which “STEM CELLS can be administered intravenously and by inhalation through a nebulizer to treat lung damage caused by COVID-19 and other non-related lung conditions.” In case you’re confused, “STEM CELLS” are different from “stem cells” in that STEM CELLS have magic powers. Anyway, USA Today reports that these guys are getting warnings from the FTC.

Folks in Washington State who got swindled by North Coast Biologics with their fake COVID-19 vaccine will get refunds, and the company is paying almost $40,000 in fees for a settlement. KXLY reports:

The Attorney General’s Office said that in one Facebook post, [owner Johnny T.] Stine said he would not wait for health agencies to approve a vaccine, and would not “wait several months for something so trivial it took me half a day to design???? OMFG!”

Stine also claimed “coronaviruses are easy as [expletive] to make a vaccine against.”

Probably as easy as making magic coronavirus air purifiers.

The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland is batting down some COVID-19 malarkey. One homeopath claims they have “researched and developed a homeopathic remedy that enhances the immune system and could help build a resistance to the Covid-19 virus,” and a nursery says they have “discovered the potential benefits” of rose bushes for curing things like cold and flu, which “may also be effective” against the coronavirus.

Social Distancing 4eva

Tired of all the threats and harassment, and at the worst possible time, public health officials are getting the hell away from us. I can’t say I blame them. The Post reports:

Public health workers, already underfunded and understaffed, are confronting waves of protest at their homes and offices in addition to pressure from politicians who favor a faster reopening. Lori Tremmel Freeman, chief executive of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, said more than 20 health officials have resigned, retired or been fired in recent weeks “due to conditions related to having to enforce and stand up for strong public health tactics during this pandemic.”

Although shutdown measures are broadly popular, a vocal minority opposes them vociferously. There have been attacks on officials’ race, gender, sexual orientation and appearance. Freeman said some of the criticisms “seem to be harsher for women.”

Florida’s COVID-19 cases have gone up 461 percent since reopening in May. Who coulda seen that coming?

The Times looks at the rather particular set of public places that allow the coronavirus to gorge on our bodies: Churches, bars, casinos, and strip clubs.

The NIH is ordering a end to clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19, and that’s important, but what I’m amazed by is how there are so acronyms in their announcement:

A clinical trial to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine for the treatment of adults hospitalized with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has been stopped by the National Institutes of Health. A data and safety monitoring board (DSMB) met late Friday and … recommended to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of NIH, to stop the study. … The Outcomes Related to COVID-19 treated with hydroxychloroquine among In-patients with symptomatic Disease study, or ORCHID Study, was being conducted by the Prevention and Early Treatment of Acute Lung Injury (PETAL) Clinical Trials Network of NHLBI.

Did you get that? DSBM told NIH’s NHLBI to declare ORCHID’s COVID PETAL DOA.

“Meditation in a bottle”??? Sign me up! Ugh, I wish this drug was real, but Harriet Hall has busted by bubble about Dr. Seeds’ Chill Pills.

Saudi Arabia says it’s not cancelling hajj, the huge pilgrimage to Mecca, but is only allowing “very limited numbers.” The AP reports, “The kingdom said that only people of various nationalities already residing in the country would be allowed to perform the hajj.”

Ars Technica reports on a big survey on COVID-19 conspiracy theory belief in the U.K., and it’s got its ups and downs:

On the plus side, only 7 percent of those surveyed think that we lack evidence of the virus’s existence. The belief that 5G networks are involved clocks in at 8 percent believing it. Things only creep up slightly when the vaccine conspiracy was considered.

On the less-good side, nearly a third of the UK populace believes in a number of blatant conspiracy theories, like the government hiding the number of people who have died or that the virus was created in a lab.

I’m gonna get there’d be a lot less plus and more less-good in a survey for the U.S.

Living is Easy with Eyes Closed

After the big Supreme Court decision barring discrimination against LGBTQ folks, a new lawsuit has been filed in federal court to challenge Trump’s rollback of LGBTQ protection measures.

Have you ever heard of the Order of the Nine Angles? It is not a geometry enthusiasts’ club, but apparently a British Satanic neo-Nazi group. It seems that U.S. Army Private Ethan Phelan Melzer has been charged with passing classified information about his unit’s deployments to the devil-Nazi-Brits and “planned a deadly ambush on his fellow soldiers in the service of a diabolical cocktail of ideologies laced with hate and violence.” What is this all about? NBC News reports:

The Order of the Nine Angles is based in the U.K., but has become a source of inspiration for violent American white supremacists. Brian Levin, a terrorism expert at California State University in San Bernardino, described it as “a decades old extreme satanic Nazi cult whose glorification of violence and mysticism has found a renewed international audience, including some young violent American neo-Nazis.”

According to a new survey, one out of five people in Northern Ireland identify as having “no religion,” which is double what it was ten years ago based on the country’s 2011 census.

Nothing is real. Brian Resnick at Vox explores how visual illusions show us that our perceptions of reality are, you know, really bad:

… illusions aren’t just science — they’re provocative art. They force us to reinterpret our senses, and our sense of being in the world. They tell us about the true nature of how our brains work: The same neurological machinery that leads us to discover the truth can lead us to perceive illusions, and our brains don’t always tell us the difference.

Navigating this is the challenge of being a living, thinking person. But simply acknowledging it and trying to put it into practice is a good place to start.

Strawberry Fields forever.

We’re keeping track of COVID-19 pseudoscience, snake oil, fake cures, and more at CFI’s Coronavirus Resource Center. Separate fact from fiction and inoculate yourself from misinformation at

Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is.