The Internet Monk Saturday Brunch: 3/18/17


”It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”

Well, so far, approaching and during Lent at our Internet Monk Saturday Brunch, we’ve featured pancakes, soup, and beer. What shall we highlight today?

How about bread?

Finally, here is an article about “Fasting Bread for Lent” at Catholic Cuisine. Not only is there a recipe and description, but a lesson on the ingredients you can share with children, and this beautiful prayer, which we’ll use as our Lenten Quote of the Week:

Heavenly Father, Let us enter the season of Lent in the spirit of joy, giving ourselves to spiritual strife, cleansing our soul and body, controlling our passions, as we limit our food, living on the virtues of the Holy Spirit;

Let us persevere in our longing for Christ so as to be worthy to behold His most solemn Passion and the most holy Passover, rejoicing the while with spiritual joy. Amen.


Mockingbird ran a wonderful piece by Rebecca Florence Miller on the tradition of the Lutheran Lenten soup supper held in the church basement.

Here’s a savory sip to whet your appetite:

There is a holy hovering around the sacramentally bubbling soups, an anticipation of the sustenance, laughter, and fellowship to come. After repeatedly being urged to get this party started, the pastor lifts his voice and leads a table prayer, even as a few sneaky folks slide over a wee bit closer to the table. “Amen!” Everyone falls into formation in two lines, one on each side of the table—mothers, dads, gray-haired ladies, bald old fellows, the proper and coiffed, the off-the-cuff and blue-jeaned. Laughing, smiling, anticipating. We, the church.

Some settle into familiar tables, as if resting into the relief of a well-worn pew. But familiar groupings also mix with unfamiliar ones. After all, soup supper isn’t coffee hour. You can sit literally anywhere. Old timers compliment young folks—“great recipe!”—and the favor is returned. Stories flow with the black coffee from the old, silver percolator. Someone remembered to plug it in early; nothing worse than coffee you can see through, as everyone knows. Well done, good and faithful servant, you old bubbling purveyor of koinonia. Without coffee, the people perish, I think it says in the good, old Book.


Here’s one of my favorite stories of the year so far.

Last week, an elderly resident of Homewood, Alabama – affectionately known as “Mr. Frank” – went to his mailbox and found a hate-filled letter. This is what it said:

“We are a group of your neighbors who are concerned about the appearance of some homes on the street (and property values.) We are writing to you to ask you to remove your Christmas decorations!!! Also, please consider cleaning up your yard and remove the plants along the edge of the yard.

“It might be in your best interest to consider selling your home so the yard can be properly landscaped and the house torn down (so a new one can be built that is more fitting with the other homes on the street.) Thank you.”

I’ll let Carol Robinson at take it from there.

“Mr. Frank,” who grew up in his family home and moved back after his mother died, confided to a neighbor about the letter and soon word of the nastiness got around. “He was devastated,” said another neighbor, Carrie Engle. “It horrified all of us that knew about it.”

So they took action. Dozens of neighbors – at least 30 of them – went into their attics and basements and pulled out their own Christmas lights in a brightly-colored show of solidarity. “He told our neighbor the reason he keeps his Christmas lights on his tree is because he sits on his porch and sees people constantly run our stop sign and he’s afraid they’ll hit his tree and get hurt,” Engle said.

As for “Mr. Frank’s” yard, Engle said it’s beautiful, and a source of pride for all of the neighbors. “He works in his yard nonstop and personally I think he does nothing but increase the value of my home,” she said. “He’s taught me more about gardening than anybody. He’s a gentle, kind soul.”

Engle said the neighborhood has turned it into a teaching moment, for both adults and kids alike. She has three children, ages 16, 13 and 9, and said the ordeal has upset them. “I was telling them that this was bullying, and we’re taught to love our neighbors so that’s what we should do,” she said.

Already loved, “Mr. Frank” has become increasingly popular in recent days. Engle estimates that he’s received between 50 to 100 cards in his mailbox, as well as baked goods. Here’s what her own 9-year-old, Cade, wrote to him: “Dear Mr. Frank, I’m so sorry that that person rote (sic) that note. We do not want you to leave. Don’t put your Christmas lights up, keep them up. It looks so pretty.”

Thank you, Homewood residents, for loving your neighbor.


Lois Smith Brady writes for the wedding pages of the NY Times. She’s used to hearing clichés about love, but when someone says something truly original it gets her attention. She wrote an article discussing ten of those contributions.

Here are a few of them:

  • “I now know what love is,” one man said. “It’s when someone becomes part of every breath, in what way I do not know. But I couldn’t breathe without her.”
  • “In a sense, the person we marry is a stranger about whom we have a magnificent hunch.”
  • “Of my own accord, I present myself, my days, my nights and my life. I present them freely and willingly because they cannot be better spent than in your company.”

Few things nourish the heart more than love well spoken.


I myself have always been a fan. I guess that puts me on one side of a bitter debate. Do we use the “Oxford comma,” or is it unnecessary?

Here’s the debate: In a list of three or more items — like “bread, milk and vegetables” — some people would put a comma after milk, and some would leave it out. A lot of people feel strongly about it. I myself always do, for I feel it distinguishes each separate item on the list, whereas without it, it might be implied that the second and third items have a different relationship between each other than the first and second.

How much does it matter? Possibly up to $10 million.

The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, in a recent 29-page court decision, made a ruling that could cost a dairy company in Portland, Me. that much.

Here’s the story:

In 2014, three truck drivers sued Oakhurst Dairy, seeking more than four years’ worth of overtime pay that they had been denied. Maine law requires workers to be paid 1.5 times their normal rate for each hour worked after 40 hours, but it carves out some exemptions.

…The debate over commas is often a pretty inconsequential one, but it was anything but for the truck drivers. Note the lack of Oxford comma — also known as the serial comma — in the following state law, which says overtime rules do not apply to:

The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:

(1) Agricultural produce;

(2) Meat and fish products; and

(3) Perishable foods.

Does the law intend to exempt the distribution of the three categories that follow, or does it mean to exempt packing for the shipping or distribution of them?

Delivery drivers distribute perishable foods, but they don’t pack the boxes themselves. Whether the drivers were subject to a law that had denied them thousands of dollars a year depended entirely on how the sentence was read.

If there were a comma after “shipment,” it might have been clear that the law exempted the distribution of perishable foods. But the appeals court on Monday sided with the drivers, saying the absence of a comma produced enough uncertainty to rule in their favor.

And who said grammar doesn’t matter?


  • Why am I just no good at memorizing Scripture?


We had a wonderful opportunity to have a house concert last night in our home, welcoming Frank Lee and Allie Burbrink to share their old time songs along with phenomenal banjo and guitar accompaniment.  About 25 of us gathered, had a St. Patrick’s Day feast with Irish stew and shepherd’s pie and some good Irish beer, and enjoyed some fantastic music.

Here’s a taste of Frank & Allie…

147 thoughts on “The Internet Monk Saturday Brunch: 3/18/17

  1. There is tribalism in the Bible. That’s a no-brainer. The question is whether or not the Bible as a whole commends tribalism and whether, in the light of Jesus Christ, tribalism is God’s ultimate plan for humans. I don’t think there’s any question about the answer to that.


  2. I rarely ever agree with SG but explain how Ezra chapter 10 isn’t tribal in the extreme. (We just read it last night at a small group meeting.)


  3. Yeah, he gave us the 12 tribes; later on he gave us two tribes; believers and unbelievers. He also put a spoke in the globalist movement known as the Tower of Babel,

    I just think, C.M., we are all tribalists by nature. I think God implanted that in the human brain. We all gravitate towards our tribe; whomever or whatever that may be.


  4. And with Trumpcare, I’m bracing for the flood of junk mail and spam getting through my spam filters. Which judging from prior floods (like dot-coms & flipper real estate), will all go like this:



  5. Why can’t we make comparisons? Is the US somehow Exceptional and incomparable to any other nation?

    “My Little Snowflake,
    My Speshul Snowflake…”


  6. I know health insurance is the only thing keeping me in my present job, counting off each and every day until I can get on Medicare and finally retire.


  7. I’ve been thinking about it and I’m pretty sure I’m a tribalist.
    You may be surprised to learn that the rest of us figured that out several years ago.

    I suspect even the “globalist” are actually tribalist – it’s just that their tribe are their fellow globalists.
    Interestingly self-validating, but as a proposition it cannot bear the weight of intellectual scrutiny.


  8. I think there is a lot of benefit to giving things up in general. Not sure that it has got anything to do with Lent. I actually pick one thing to do without each month. It helps me maintain discipline. Nothing spiritual about it.


  9. I realize that this is derivative theology worthy of the scholastics, but here goes: hockey is God’s sport; Tim Horton’s sponsors hockey; therefore Jesus drinks Tim Hortons. And if you can’t accept that, then I’m going to have to break fellowship with you.


  10. Sure. Thanks for making it plain.

    IOW, you were expressing a random thought/opinion that had nothing at all to do with any of the discussion taking place here at iMonk during our brunch. Excuse me for thinking otherwise. In the future I’ll try to keep in mind that you’re not trying to convince anyone of anything by your use of passive-agressive non-rhetoric.


  11. If you ever start doing any technical writing you will almost have to start using it or you will create continuous confusion by people trying to understand what you mean.


  12. how would you propose limiting administration costs?

    For one thing marketing costs would go down to maybe zero.

    And all those different “what we do and don’t pay for” systems would collapse into one. When many fewer details.


  13. You’re right, Charles. Just saying that in Lent these obligations are, as it were, intensified and given extra attention. Matthew 6 was the text for Ash Wednesday this year. I think there is room for special emphases throughout the Church Year. I don’t agree with “enforced” disciplines.


  14. We’re incomparable! If that doesn’t sound like American Exceptionalism writ large, I don’t know what does. But in this case, we have the Exceptional inability to do what every other country in the developed world has already done. Ain’t we special!


  15. Well, I hope it’s coffee, but I think it’s necessary to retain a degree of agnosticism on this issue. Don’t you agree, Tom?


  16. Tom,

    I believe I have spoken plainly, but I’ll try to be even more plain. I didn’t argue for any system period. Nor did I indict those who give good evidence, nor are my feelings were hurt, nor did I say you were arguing theology in this case. What I indicted is the idea that someone who disagrees with universal or one payer care is necessarily uncaring about their neighbor. Even if they are wrong about which system is the best or can actually be sustained. It was a thought that came to mind as I read the headlines on Internet Monk this morning and thought of some of the comments I’ve heard surrounding this issue, as well as other issues that have revolved around this past election. We can disagree without demonizing. That was my point, plain and simple. It wasn’t directed at anyone in particular, just something I felt like saying. I realize that there are a lot of people on here arguing for the universal system of other countries, but I wasn’t responding to anyone, my post was its own independent thought. I haven’t responded to your evidence because I’m not trying to argue which way is better, (I freely admit I don’t know) but rather made a point about the way this issue is sometimes argued. Is that plain enough?


  17. >> the three basic Jewish works of righteousness: almsgiving, prayer, and fasting.

    CM, I understand Jesus to have enjoined these disciplines as ongoing thruout the year, not constant but not confined to any particular period of time. Further, I understand him to recommend practicing them so as no one but God, and perhaps the recipients of almsgiving, know that you are doing them. I certainly don’t see him offering ways to get around the limitations of fasting with substitutes that legally allow you to continue your pleasure. I wish I were more disciplined in my life, but for myself I fail to see the benefit of enforced deprivation for a limited time and then party hearty for the rest. I believe some early Christians fasted regularly twice a week for a good part of the day all year round, probably an extension of Jewish custom. That makes more sense to me than forty days of public and enforced deprivation and gloom leading up to the most positive and beneficial day in all history.


  18. Oh, and btw, if your assertion contains any logic, perhaps we can’t make comparisons because we have terrible government, terrible culture, and total disregard for anything except filling our own personal barn.


  19. Oscar, I’ll wait to respond to your “devil” question until after we clear up this assertion;

    We cannot compare ourselves to Sweden, Germany, Canada, or ANY other country. We have different dynamics, different government, and different cultures.

    Why can’t we make comparisons? Is the US somehow Exceptional and incomparable to any other nation? Are we so good that we have absolutely no need to learn from others? Do not the stats on expenditures vs outcomes make an argument in and of itself? Are you sure we can’t make comparisons–or is that just a manifestation of your nationalistic blinkeredness?

    I do not accept your assertion as valid. Rather, I see it as a self-satisfied excuse.


  20. Come to think of it, so is pizza dough. I lost my head there. Thanks for bringing me back to earth.


  21. Jon, you didn’t argue directly for a particular system. However, you did make an indictment against people who present good evidence for one system over another–and you gave an example couched in the 1st per. sing. about seeing a neighbor neglected in their need.

    Each of us who have replied to you have given concrete evidence for our preferred systems–not exhaustive, but adequate for the moment–and you haven’t responded to any of it except to essentially say something on the order that your feelings are hurt because you feel like we’re being disagreeable.

    Grow up bro. State what you mean. Don’t impugn me and others as “demonizers” because we argue strongly.

    And I ain’t arguin’ theology. I’m talking feet on the ground practicalities that effect every last one of us.


  22. Numb, the three basic disciplines of Lent are outlined in Matthew 6, which describes the three basic Jewish works of righteousness: almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. Almsgiving covers not only giving money, but serving the poor in any number of ways. Fasting is the only discipline of “abstinence,” while the others are disciplines of engagement and positive service and giving attention to God.


  23. >> I find it pretty pointless.

    Numo, I’ll stand with you on that one. Quite willing to let others go with the programs that suit them best, but it tends to spill over a lot. Always glad when it’s done, Advent too, and totally expecting to find neither on the other side.

    Chuck Berry died today at the age of 90. Rest in peace.


  24. I’ve been thinking about it and I’m pretty sure I’m a tribalist. I suspect even the “globalist” are actually tribalist – it’s just that their tribe are their fellow globalists.


  25. The eating part is to remind you to do that other stuff, numo. If you’re not praying more or whatnot, you’re just on a diet, not fasting. =)


  26. sometimes, keeping solidarity with those who have less may seem pointless, but it isn’t . . . . . . I expect most of us need to live for a while with simplicity and in quiet in order to get back in touch with what IS THE POINT of our lives.

    There is no greater teacher than the poor for people with much to remember to give thanks to God . . . . . and that sharing what we have that we do not need is a way of returning God’s gifts to us to them what were meant to have them from us anyway 🙂


  27. great, Robert ………

    if you substitute ‘dog’ for ‘cat’ in your poem, it’s a picture of my husband with the puppy 🙂


  28. These are all problems the entire rest of the developed world has solved, and they all have lower costs and better health outcomes to prove it.


  29. In terms of net increased costs, these will only come by providing coverage to people currently lacking health care, non-disabled poor, and given this is a Christian blog, there is a divine command to care for the poor.


  30. Most healthcare spending in the US is already coming from the government as essentially no one with serious healthcare needs can privately afford insurance or care. Heance the elderly and disabled are already covered by the government extending this to basically healthy people would be reasonably inexpensive and a net benefit for most people because we can remove uncertainties about payment coverage provider networks etc.


  31. I wonder why doing without certain foods is a thing re. Lent – why not *add* positive things, like additional time for reflection and prayer, or volunteering at a local soup kitchen, or…? Honestly, even though I was raised with the practice of “giving up things for Lent,” I find it pretty pointless.


  32. There’s only one way to get ahead for yourself:

    (I’m not kidding — the positions ARE becoming hereditary. In my state, if your father was a Congressman, State Senator, Assemblyman, or “Public Sector Worker”, YOU will effectively inherit his position. No Lowborn allowed.)


  33. I was inches away from death and all they could worry about was a strip of land, without lifting a ruddy finger.

    Because you were harming MY Property Values!!!!!

    (I live behind the Orange Curtain, where corrupt HOAs demanding increasing squeeze are a way of life. After all, you don’t want to rub shoulders with those Lowborn in their HOA-less Unplanned “Communities”, do you? Think of your Property Values!)


  34. Tom,
    I didn’t argue about which system is the best or the worst. How the heck would I know if our present system is better than everybody else’s? I was making a point about rhetoric, and about constantly casting people who disagree with us in the worst possible light. It doesn’t help, it doesn’t persuade, and it only further divides. I think the health care system needs a lot of work. I think both the cost of insurance and care are way too high. But I don’t think that because one of you argues for a single payer system and the other for a totally free market that either are evil or uncaring. It may just be that both of you are convinced that this is the best possible way to make health care good as well as affordable. In political (and theological) discussions anymore I see a lot more accusations made against people than I do arguments made for an idea, and it only further divides. If I think my opponent is evil, what is the point of a dialogue, it is much better to just shut them up.


  35. Very much this! We have been convinced that we should demand nothing less than perfect, which is unobtainable; so we have a license to do nothing. Yes, universal healthcare will cost each of us more–but collectively, we will all be better off. It may not ever be perfect, but it would be better for most of us than what we have now.


  36. I’m with you Adam. Sometimes it’s just silly; but once in a while, it’s absolutely necessary. Better safe than sorry.


  37. Allow me to play “devil’s advocate” here.

    IF, and that is a BIG if, we went to single payer, and it was the government that administered that system, how would you propose limiting administration costs? Since government workers are now members of a union, you KNOW that there would be a battle royale to keep those positions high and including MORE workers and MORE pay to do it as well.

    Legislation to keep it low? Has that EVER worked in the past? Usually bureaucracies are creatures of a different order and live and grow despite any attempt to limit them. There would be demands for assurances that this new entity would be protected from political interference from both the Executive and Legislative branches, leaving only court actions to make changes. We see that happening right now on the front page as one bureaucracy is fighting the attempt to replace its director.

    I do not trust government to do ANYTHING well and consider all of its promises to be transitory and open to interpretation. THAT is why I am skeptical of single payer in this country. We cannot compare ourselves to Sweden, Germany, Canada, or ANY other country. We have different dynamics, different government, and different cultures.


  38. If Jesus is hobnobbing with working class folk like fishermen, it would have to be strong tea with milk and sugar. If with the ruling class then the Earl Grey or the Darjeeling.


  39. That Lenten bread seems a bit flat and heavy this morning, but nothing that an hour binge reading Pearls Before Swine down the street can’t remedy. The article on the Tsimane was heartening. I need all the heartening I can get these days.


  40. The US has a long history of snake-oil salesmen (that term originating with Clark Stanely in 1897 at World Fair). Trump is just the latest and yuuugest example of it.


  41. And Jon, see Tom aka Volkamer’s comment above regarding the huge amount of administrative cost that takes a big slice out of the American healthcare pie, precisely because it’s being administered by private healthcare insurance companies that produce nothing except distribution of services, while taking an immense profit. Get rid of the leeches, and the cost of care diminishes greatly.


  42. David, and who requires doctors to do those mundane task?

    Hint; starts with an I and ends with insurance companies…the firm had of maximizing profits by draconian cost controls hence enhanced shareholder returns.


  43. “Health care” is synecdoche for the whole shebang/enchilada.

    In this whole health care debate there seems to be an assumption by some that if you don’t support universal health care you are some sort of selfish individual that just doesn’t care if his or her’s neighbor dies or goes broke for lack of health care. And quite frankly this is ridiculous and judging people in the absolute worst light possible.

    If you’re neighbor dies or goes broke for lack of health care and you don’t give a flip, then it may be a correct assumption that you just don’t care–and that is not a judgement in the absolute worst light possible, rather, it is a judgement in the light presented.

    There are many people who are don’t support it because they don’t think it will work, or that if you allow the government to totally takeover healthcare all we will have is just one big VA system, and that hasn’t exactly been getting the greatest press lately. People aren’t necessarily evil or heartless because they disagree with a policy decision you think will help others. They may just think you are wrong.

    All that may or may not be true. The reality is that in EVERY OTHER DEVELOPED COUNTRY IN THE WORLD some form of universal health care WORKS. None are absolutely perfect in every possible way or instance, but THEY WORK. Can you honestly say that our present system works better than every other developed country’s system??

    But, of course, I’m sure it can’t work here because after all “this is America!!”


  44. Yes, I agree. Certainly if there is a shortage it’s in generalists/primary care doctors over the specialized doctors. That article also makes a valid point about efficiency–you have trained doctors that end up spending half their time doing mundane tasks like filling out paperwork, editing charts, etc.


  45. Trump is a bad businessman, except in the area of sales. He’s an uncannily insightful (though obnoxious) and predatory salesman; he could sell milk to a cow, or at least some cows. Like any good predator, he targets the weak and hurting ones on the edge of the herd. And many Americans seem to admire swindlers; in fact, admiration for lawless grifters seems to be part of our cultural profile. Now we have one as POTUS.


  46. My mom (may she RIP) made focaccia bread at Christmas and Easter, about a dozen of them for each occasion. But we called them apizz. It was leavened. I remember the smell of the yeasty dough as it raised under the clean dishtowels she put over it to keep it warm.


  47. WE define “well being”. It takes give and take and a lot of discussion and haggling.

    We can pay for whatever we want. We just need to know what we want.

    Would you have been saying the same things in the 30’s when FDR was fighting for Social Security–something which is of some benefit to you in the present?


  48. 13 years ago after I was shot I obviously didn’t get to mow the lawn on my large sidewalk area (corner property, large stretch of municipal property which they never mowed) often for a month or 2. I was shot in front of my house. Sure enough, a local busybody put a nasty letter in my box, suggesting a hire a landscaping company. I was inches away from death and all they could worry about was a strip of land, without lifting a ruddy finger.

    Some people are bastards.


  49. Tom, I’ll answer my own question “equitable to all”: We currently DON’T! It is easy to say “rearrange your priorities” but nasty difficult to DO it! You give no answers because you have none to offer that are realistic. The only thing that we can control is our OWN lives, and even THAT is limited.

    The government is a leviathan that is beyond our control, and every attempt at corralling it only adds to its size. If we demand more from it, it responds with “SURE, I can do that!” The problem is that the creature needs to feed, and the source of its nutrition is our wallets.

    You’re stuck, bro. You’ve swallowed the wrong pill. You believed the propaganda. You’ve forgot how to imagine something better–not perfect, but better. We will not survive as individuals, however, we can come to our senses and realize that we’re all in this together.

    If the government is “beyond our control” it is so because we have allowed the moneyed fraction to be our masters.


  50. Of course, it’s hard for me to be philosophical about these subjects, since it’s the poor that suffer disproportionately from bad or no health care and gun violence, and I’m on the cusp of being poverty-stricken myself. That makes me and my wife more likely than the average middle-class American to die as the result of one of these defects in American society.


  51. No brainer? Hardly! Who defines “well being”? And what, exactly does that mean? And HOW does it go about it? And how does it PAY for that service? No, it is definitely NOT a “no brainer”!


  52. Exactly. It is Economics 101. A clean environment, a healthy wotkforce is as important as a corruption-free, safe society free from invaders.


  53. Another reason why no new taxes are necessary; of the health care pie in the US, approx 30-35% is “administrative cost”. Every insurance company constitutes a duplicate expenditure that is reflected across the entire industry. All other countries that have either a single-payer or minimal-payer system spend less than 15% on administrative cost. Canada is at 9-10%. Germany is around 7%. Because of our scale of size if we lowered our administrative cost to the 10% range–IMAGINE THE SPARE CHANGE WE’D HAVE LAYING AROUND!!

    This makes economic sense.

    The US spends more as a perc. of GDP than any other country, yet has consistently lower outcomes.


  54. Tom, I’ll answer my own question “equitable to all”: We currently DON’T! It is easy to say “rearrange your priorities” but nasty difficult to DO it! You give no answers because you have none to offer that are realistic. The only thing that we can control is our OWN lives, and even THAT is limited.

    The government is a leviathan that is beyond our control, and every attempt at corralling it only adds to its size. If we demand more from it, it responds with “SURE, I can do that!” The problem is that the creature needs to feed, and the source of its nutrition is our wallets.


  55. Oscar, how do we pay for ANYTHING in this country that is “equitable to all?” How do we pay for Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid? How do we pay for military expenditures that are at least 2x the budget of our closest possible enemy?

    Doesn’t it really boil down to priorities? Apparently in the past week or so it is deemed a greater priority to increase the DoD budget by $54B instead of funding and improving programs that actually increase the quality of life for people.

    Personally, I don’t think any new taxes are actually necessary. I know for a fact that on average US taxpayers pay a greater percentage of their income in taxes as Canadians and get a hell of lot less bang for our bucks. We’re taxed on so many multiple levels.

    “… but other countries are not like the USA when it comes to obligations and roles in the world.”

    Correct. Other countries are smarter in this area and refuse to be empire builders or squander wealth in the Forever War in the Middle East.


  56. You’re right, oscar, it will never happen, just like the low-level war gun-carnage in this country will never stop. I’m trying to learn to just accept both situations the way I would regularly occurring deadly natural disasters unique to this country.


  57. Indeed. This is the thing about Trumponomics (and the Randian economics pushed by the hyper conservatives) – it is economic nonsense, the ideas of either economic illiterates or robber-barons. Free market capitalism cannot flourish in what amounts to be economically lawless, cut throat (to citizens) societies. That is Economics 101. I mean literally, that is obe of the first things you learn in courses on Macroeconomics – and Microeconomics for that matter.


  58. Tom, I have only one question regarding universal health care (INSURANCE, really, if we are being honest about it): How do we pay for it in a way that is equitable to all?

    Obviously additional taxes are the main solution, but then that leads to another question of “How are those taxes going to be levied?” And, in addition, on whom and how much? Do we exempt some classes and people as we do Social Security and those living below a certain income level? And if we do THAT how much more of a burden will that be for the rest of us? Will the tax be progressive depending on income, or will it be a flat tax for all?

    Other countries may have Universal Health Insurance, but other countries are not like the USA when it comes to obligations and roles in the world. This, then, becomes a discussion on the nature of government and how much of a role a nation should have in a world economy, etc.

    This is just an academic question here in the USA because it will NEVER happen!


  59. The White House budget would defund Chesapeake Bay clean-up; without that federal money, the Bay will go to hell-in-a-hand-basket sooner rather than later. That would result in fisheries unsafe for human consumption, and be a big blow to the tourist industry, among other things. None of this is good for business, never mind the environment, although there probably is some way that Goldman-Sachs would benefit from it…


  60. >> The second word there is derived from “focus,” meaning the hearth.

    Good find, Richard! I really like that one. Perhaps not as meaningful with central heating, but then that might be an apt metaphor for what passes as “focus” nowadays. I have a wood-burning fireplace insert, with propane boiler backup, the best of both worlds, at least until free energy becomes available to the herd. That wood stove is indeed my winter focus. Lotta work tho. Always enjoy your comments!


  61. Jon, One factor, among others, making healthcare so expensive is that universal healthcare is provided in an inefficient and very expensive way through hospital emergency rooms, which are required by law to provide medical care to patients regardless of inability to pay or lack of insurance. This is very expensive because people are often in bad shape before seeking emergency room care for health issues that should’ve been addressed by a primary care physician long before; and care delivered via emergency room is just generally more expensive for everyone, for reasons apparent and not-so-apparent. The whole healthcare system has to absorb the cost of care that emergency room patients receive when they cannot pay. In my view, it would be better and less costly for all of us to provide care for those who cannot afford to pay at the primary care end rather than at the emergency room end.


  62. The shortage of doctors is certainly a big problem, in any model of a health care system. But you’ll notice that there isn’t any shortage of doctors in cities where a lucrative living is to be made, whereas out in the boonies, good luck. Also, we might not need more doctors if we relied more on mid-level practitioners, such as nurse practitioners, who require less training and are just as effective in many matters that more expensive doctors attend to now. So distribution of care and level of provision may be two ways of addressing shortage problems in any model. See attached article.


  63. Good points. I’m mostly on board with those above and certainly agree with universal health care in theory, but I understand there are many hurdles in achieving it in practice. The issue certainly isn’t as black-and-white as most paint it out to be. The problem is the field of health/medicine is such an enormous, intertwined mess that it can’t be easily fixed without affecting everything else in some significant manner (often detrimental). My wife is a family medicine doctor, and as it is now, she is insanely overworked, doesn’t even have enough time to properly care for just the patients she currently has. Imagine if we were to just suddenly add millions of people to the system–the whole system would simply crash. Given the size of our nation’s population, we’re simply not as equipped to handle universal health care like most other nations (that we are often compared against). One of the issues is how incredibly expensive medical school is to begin with, and how incredibly few doctors we have. If becoming a doctor was made more accessible (without lowering standards of course), that would certainly be a giant step in the right direction in my opinion.


  64. In this whole health care debate there seems to be an assumption by some that if you don’t support universal health care you are some sort of selfish individual that just doesn’t care if his or her’s neighbor dies or goes broke for lack of health care. And quite frankly this is ridiculous and judging people in the absolute worst light possible. There are many people who are don’t support it because they don’t think it will work, or that if you allow the government to totally takeover healthcare all we will have is just one big VA system, and that hasn’t exactly been getting the greatest press lately. People aren’t necessarily evil or heartless because they disagree with a policy decision you think will help others. They may just think you are wrong.

    Beyond that, why is the only thing that is ever discussed is health insurance, and not just simply the cost of medical care. Why the heck does it cost $4000 to get a MRI or $250 to see a specialist for five minutes. If these things were more reasonably priced I wouldn’t need health insurance to do them. But as it is I don’t need a catastrophic incident to go broke without health insurance, I just have to get a scan.


  65. I’m certain that most discussions around healthcare (or politics) on this site are going to revolve around ethics or religion (formal or civic), but I have noticed an interesting trend in the last few months. All of the intentionally capitalist publications like Money and Bloomberg have done nothing but publish pieces lamenting Trumps policies and proposed policies. Conspiracy agenda? Nope. It’s just that things like GOP “health” “care” and lowering CAFE standards are sure-fire ways to make everyone poor. So maybe if you feel like having a discussion about loving your neighbor, you should consider the implications of political buffoonery.


  66. Yes, I think you’re right, Adam. In the public square, religious language is rarely used to support what is in effect social Darwinism. It is used in-house, when Christians who support these positions speak to, or at, each other or those over whom they see themselves as having religious authority. It’s at this juncture that using religious language to counter may be productive, though just how productive I wonder.


  67. Universal health care makes economic sense. Like you, Robert, I don’t need “Biblical” reasons, though some are good.

    When being bankrupt by a single serious illness or injury is no longer a burdensome worry, then people are freed to expend energy and imagination into other matters, such as becoming entrepreneurs or pursuing careers that are absorbing and productive instead of taking jobs primarily because of the security of health coverage. We simply don’t realize the negative energy we are forced to deal with in this area. It greatly impinges on our happiness and well-being. Our mal-health care system has made us into a miserly, grasping, desperate culture of manipulated troglodytes. When we realize we’re all in this together, then perhaps we’ll begin to work for the good of all instead of the promotion of ideological sacred cows.


  68. Pogacha: Fascinating. The word obviously is related to the Italanian “focaccia.” Focaccia is a flat bread. Think of pizza dough, then take it in an entirely different direction. It can be delicious. When I lived in Philadelphia there was a bakery off of Rittenhouse Square that sold it. Whenever I was in the area I would buy a slice and go eat it in the square.

    The pogacha in this recipe seems unrelated. In particular, it is leavened. Upon investigation, “focaccia” comes from the Latin “panis focasius”. The second word there is derived from “focus,” meaning the hearth. (This is itself interesting, given what “focus” means in modern English–tells us something about Roman culture.) So focaccia is hearth bread, presumably as contrasted with leavened bread which requires special equipment. The Serbian usage seems to have drifted away, hence the leavening.


  69. > At least with those who try to dress those tendencies up with religious language

    Agree. But I have to admit I rarely hear religious language used directly to support laisaiz faire / Libertarianism. The two are somehow correlated; and concomitant for many people, but the correlation is mostly just-assumed. If you push them just a bit the Christian angle is quickly abandoned for a more Manifest Destiny or Natural Rights via Darwinian Selection kind of glob of cultural slime – mostly it boils down to either “i’ve got mine, too bad for them” or “i don’t got anything, so why should they?”.

    It simply is not a religiously principled argument, IMNSHO. Religion is merely consenting to being used, as it so often does.

    Universal health care needs no argument other than its ****demonstrable**** success. If people do not care about evidence… well, you are not really having a conversation.


  70. I think we’ve reached agreement, as my comment above explains.

    I think I have a pet-peeve against framing positions in terms of being our “brother’s keeper”, because the text concerned nowhere implies that we should be; what it clearly expresses is that we should not be our brother’s murderer.


  71. I do agree that it’s appropriate to use religious language in response to religious language used by others. I do that with my Trump-supporting, anti-universal healthcare Pentecostal co-worker when we discuss (or argue about) this and other issues, to let him understand that he, and his position, does not hold a monopoly on the religious understanding and shaping of values in society.


  72. Again, I don’t think that article was aimed at the general public, but the hyperindividualists using religious language as a cover.


  73. And you certainly don’t support universal healthcare by invoking a religious obligation for everyone to be their “brother’s keeper”, whatever that would mean. For one thing, it would be impracticable; for another, it conjures images of some people patronizingly keeping others in zoo-like enclosures “for their own good”.


  74. Which is all well and good – but our biggest problem in most of these debates today is people who have NO sense of “universally shared human and humane interests”. At best they’re tribalists, at worst hyperindividualists. At least with those who try to dress those tendencies up with religious language, we can remind them that they are not correct to do so – and THAT is what I think the original article was attempting to do.


  75. Yes, but you don’t invoke the specific language of Christian morality to support the imposition of such values and policies in society. You speak, instead, of universally shared human and humane interests; incidentally, those who support the abolition of abortion rights can use religiously neutral language to support their own positions in the public square as well, as I’m sure you know.


  76. I don’t use the Oxford comma. I was taught not to use it by my teachers in the public educational system; if it’s confusing, blame them.


  77. Some values need to be imposed – which is why we have laws against murder, rape, discrimination, slavery, etc. Society is not an inchoate cloud of unrelated isolated “sovereign individuals” – the sickness of one is a drag on many. There are many things that benefit all, even if everyone doesn’t always make direct use of them, and thus all are expected to help pay for them – roads, schools, police and fire protection, etc. Health care should be one of those things.


  78. Oy vey, yeah. Many a “neighborhood association” are essentially POAs (Property Owner Associations, or for local renters – Pack Of As******”). I have neighborhoods on each side of mine that are polar opposites of what these kind of things can be: on one side a POA where the audience boos and hisses [yeah, for real] at the leaders racial dog whistling, and the other side a real NA where great people struggle to accommodate everyone, fight for more affordable housing, make sure things are accessible to the elderly. It’s amazing – you’d think you were in different countries. But it is a 20 minute walk, or a four minute transit ride.


  79. I would support universal, single-payer health care in the U.S., if there were a bill to legislate it. But I don’t think of my position in support of this in religious terms; instead, I think of it as the most humane and human way to organize health care for everybody in a society, without invoking specific Christian moral terminology. But if I were to base my position on Christian morality, for instance by invoking the Biblical text about being “my brother’s keeper” (interestingly, it’s not God but Cain the murderer who uses the term to avoid answering a question that would reveal his criminal guilt, not his lack social consciousness), wouldn’t I be imposing my religious values on fellow citizens in a way that we tend to object to when done by our coreligionists on the other side of the political spectrum who support political positions with which we disagree? Say, on the subject of abortion, or gender issues? Wouldn’t I in fact be waging “culture war”?


  80. Commas, periods, colons and semi-colons, dash, and capitalization are indispensable for written communication. Flow-of-consciousness efforts at writing which eschew these tools does not communicate, rather, it constitutes an expurgation of linear verbiage.


  81. Go Homewood residents! If the “Neighborhood Character” arguments are all you can come up with – odds are you’re a bully.


  82. I am fervently pro Oxford comma. This may not be a hill I would die on… but I will stand on it and shout at pedestrians.


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