The Great Mask War is finally ending. It was so stupid.

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"None of us lie." — White House coronavirus task force member Admiral Brett Giroir, when asked about President Trump's insinuation that government agencies are lying to the public about COVID to influence the election.


FILE PHOTO: A smartphone with the Huawei and 5G network logo is seen on a PC motherboard in this illustration picture taken January 29, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
FILE PHOTO: A smartphone with the Huawei and 5G network logo is seen on a PC motherboard in this illustration


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Navy sailors are still trying to quench the fire on the Bonhomme Richard. The huge amphibious assault ship mysteriously caught fire in San Diego, has been severly damaged by the 1,000 degree blaze, and is now listing.


coronavirus mask hand out
An NYC Social Distancing Ambassador gives face masks to people in Washington Square Park as New York City moves into Phase 3 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to curb the coronavirus pandemic on July 12, 2020

Noam Galai/Getty Images

The Great Mask War may finally be ending.

The culture war is everywhere, but no theatre of conflict has been more pointlessly destructive than The Great Mask War.

Wearing a mask will not protect you from contracting COVID, but it greatly mitigates the chance that you will spread it to someone else. Given the long incubation period, and the fact that many people are carriers of the virus without ever experiencing noticeable symptoms, it's the simplest gesture of social responsibility available.

But for nearly the past four months, President Trump has refused to wear a mask in public for fear of projecting "weakness."

His followers noticed, and responded with disgraceful displays of vice signaling.

That's why even when there's no government mandate to do so, like in a private business, many Trumpists have thrown shameful tantrums based upon the idea that covering their mouths and noses is the second coming of the Redcoats.

Then the coronavirus surged in a cluster of red states. Mitch McConnell found his mask religion. And even Trump finally wore a mask in public.

A new Axios/Ipsos poll shows 62% of Americans wear a mask "all the time" in public, an increase of nine percentage points from two weeks ago. Just 45% Republicans said they wear a mask all the time in public, but that's up a full 10 percentage points over the same timeframe.

Now that Trump has quietly ceded the mask fight and the coronavirus besieges red states, public mask compliance will likely only increase, and exposing your germs in public to own the libs will soon become passe.

It'd be great if this pointless culture war fight became a teachable moment, but I'm not holding my breath that any lessons have been learned. — AF

Stop being so stingy with the next rescue package, Mitch. 

FILE - In this June 30, 2020, file photo Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., listens to questions during a news conference following a GOP policy meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington. McConnell is emerging the GOP's mask spokesman, the highest ranking Republican in Congress proselytizing about the importance of wearing a face covering during the pandemic. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

Associated Press

The federal deficit ran a record $863 billion in June, and yet the federal government can still borrow ginormous sums of money without driving up interest rates. That's because the giant pool of capital sloshing around the world still sees US government securities as a safe investment.

So why are congressional Republicans and the President being so miserly with the next disaster relief bill?

The economy had been limping out of recession. Thanks to the blazing pandemic, it's now barely crawling. Nothing can't revive unless schools and childcare centers reopen for in-person learning, and that will require tens or hundreds of billions for staffing and space modification. The end of expanded unemployment benefits will make life precarious for tens of millions of people. Millions have lost health insurance. Hospitals need money, Local and state governments have never been so stretched, Small businesses have burned through their PPP funds and yet demand for their services hasn't returned because COVID rages.

Given the scale of the disaster and the looming election, you'd expect everyone in Washington to want to spend drunkenly, wildly. House Democrats sure do. They have passed a $3 trillion relief bill, and are now pushing for another $430 billion for schools and childcare.

But Republicans and the White House are countering with a $1 trillion ceiling. The Republican bills taking shape would offer very little to desperate local and state governments, shrink or eliminate the extra unemployment benefits, narrow who's eligible for a second round of stimulus checks, and give little to schools.

Why so skinflint? The best chance the GOP has to prevent electoral catastrophe is a massive government rescue package that perks up the economy for November. It's also, incidentally, the best way for the nation to avoid a long-term recession. And it's affordable, since the world is more than happy to loan the feds money at minimal interest rates.

In theory, and only when a Democrat is president, Senate Republicans object to wanton deficit spending. But why let that theory rule them right now, when it hurts the country and hurts their own interests? It's a bizarre time to let principle triumph over politics.

And presumably they won't let it. The White House signaled today that it will accept a more generous package of unemployment benefits. Ultimately, Trump and the Senate will complain and complain and then agree to a bill that's closer to $3 trillion than $1 trillion. — DP

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Perhaps you're confused about cancel culture...Read Ross Douthat's New York Times column about it. If you're like me, the letters and counter-letters about "cancel culture," the Twitter feuds and reverse dunks, have left you cross-eyed and your brain in tangle. Douthat's piece is probably a grotesque simplification, and likely wrong, and certainly just a middle-aged conservative white guy's perspective, but it has the virtue of creating an easy-to-follow framework for trying to understand what cancellation is or is not, what the internet has to do with it, whether the right and left practice it equally, and what to do about it if you oppose it. — DP

If you know where "cancel culture" came from, it's a lot easier to understand what it is (and calm down about it)

Yes, Plotz, Ross writes a nice column. But you can't talk about "cancel culture" (as we are debating it right now) unless you talk about where it comes from — the Black community. From there it was quickly adopted by the LGBTQ and other communities of color.

It comes from people who, historically, have not had power. And that's what cancel culture is about, using power to shape norms and values.

It was created because Black people grew tired of constantly trying to explain racism and how it appears in the world to people who don't experience or see it. Instead, thanks to social media and video evidence of racism, they can use their collective power to shame people for racist behavior and tell them to go away — to cancel them. This usually comes along with advice to read a book about racism (good advice in any situation) or Google any questions about why the behavior was offensive.

Like a lot of things that bubble up from the Black community and become huge (twerking, for example), cancel culture wasn't created with everyone's consumption in mind. Too late. Now it belongs to the whole internet, so is it going to be ridiculous sometimes? You bet. Will it seem, sometimes, like it's unfair and that someone has real questions to ask? Yessir. But do Black people have every right to be tired after years of having their concerns about racism ignored? Without question.

Cancel culture's power is being used to change and mold American values, so of course it's extremely uncomfortable work. When Twitter users share videos of "Karens" and what happens when they yell racist things in a grocery store or refuse to wear masks in public, they are sharing parables. These are morality tales of how not to behave in society.

And in a country where the President is racist, sexist, and homophobic in word and policy — where his inherent hyper-individualism is making it difficult to survive a pandemic — there is a vacuum for that kind of moral clarity on what is pro-social behavior. As Douthat points out, it certainly isn't coming from the right, so it's coming from the left.

He also, correctly, points out that cancel culture isn't new, he reminds us that conservatives canceled the Dixie Chicks (now just The Chicks) when they spoke out against President George W. Bush, for example. What's new here is who has the collective power to do the canceling. That is making people with real individual power very uncomfortable.

A lot of the people upset about cancel culture are poo-pooing from the perch of their New York Times columns or on the wings of their massive Twitter followings. They are not being canceled, and their views are being heard. They get to write letters in august magazines signed by professors and thought leaders. The creators of "cancel culture" still do not have that privilege. Individually, they do not have the power.

It is this lack of consciousness about power that makes this debate so exhausting, especially at a time when real power in Washington is being used to curtail the rights of millions of Americans. Is Black Twitter building a guillotine in Times Square? No. Is the mob taking away people's rights to vote? No. Do the authorities have to listen to the cancel mob? No.

For what it's worth, Elon Musk and his mob of Twitter fans tried to cancel me once and I'm still here standing. If this happens to you on the internet, mute liberally, block liberally. In real life you can probably avoid cancellation by wearing a mask, not saying the "n" word, and treating people the way you'd like to be treated. You'll manage to survive the cancel wars that way. — LL


FILE - In this April 23, 2020, file photo, President Donald Trump's name is seen on a stimulus check issued by the IRS to help combat the adverse economic effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, in San Antonio. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in coronavirus relief payments have been sent to people behind bars across the United States, and now the IRS is asking state officials to help claw back the cash that the federal tax agency says was mistakenly sent. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

Associated Press

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george conway kellyanne conway
White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway and her husband George Conway arrive for a candlelight dinner at Union Station on the eve of the 58th presidential inauguration in D.C. on January 19, 2017.

REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

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Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

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