Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Wednesday Bible Study: The worst person in the world

God loves it when David is slaughtering and raping and enslaving people who aren't Israelites, but now David does something God doesn't like. I do agree it's really bad. In a nutshell, he sees a woman he fancies, he rapes her and gets her pregnant, then he tries to get her husband to have sex with her so the pregnancy won't be suspicious, and when that doesn't work, he has the guy killed. Then he marries the woman, which is another way of saying he rapes her whenever he wants since she obviously has no choice in the matter. So yeah, this displeases the Lord. 

 

BTW, the RSV headline for this chapter is "David commits adultery." No, he commits rape.


11 In the spring of the year, the time when kings go forth to battle, David sent Jo′ab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking upon the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathshe′ba, the daughter of Eli′am, the wife of Uri′ah the Hittite?” So David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her.

He's the king, right? It's not as though she has a choice in the matter.

(Now she was purifying herself from her uncleanness.)

Evidently he saw her doing the ritual bath after menstruation.

Then she returned to her house. And the woman conceived; and she sent and told David, “I am with child.”

So David sent word to Jo′ab, “Send me Uri′ah the Hittite.” And Jo′ab sent Uri′ah to David. When Uri′ah came to him, David asked how Jo′ab was doing, and how the people fared, and how the war prospered. Then David said to Uri′ah, “Go down to your house, and wash your feet.”

I.e. "fuck your wife." This is a euphemism though I don't know the origin of it.

And Uri′ah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king. But Uri′ah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. 10 When they told David, “Uri′ah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uri′ah, “Have you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?” 11 Uri′ah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths; and my lord Jo′ab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.” 12 

I.e., he's a general, he will be with his troops.

Then David said to Uri′ah, “Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will let you depart.” So Uri′ah remained in Jerusalem that day, and the next. 13 And David invited him, and he ate in his presence and drank, so that he made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.

David Has Uriah Killed

14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Jo′ab, and sent it by the hand of Uri′ah. 15 In the letter he wrote, “Set Uri′ah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.” 16 And as Jo′ab was besieging the city, he assigned Uri′ah to the place where he knew there were valiant men. 17 And the men of the city came out and fought with Jo′ab; and some of the servants of David among the people fell. Uri′ah the Hittite was slain also. 18 Then Jo′ab sent and told David all the news about the fighting; 19 and he instructed the messenger, “When you have finished telling all the news about the fighting to the king, 20 then, if the king’s anger rises, and if he says to you, ‘Why did you go so near the city to fight? Did you not know that they would shoot from the wall? 21 Who killed Abim′elech the son of Jerub′besheth? Did not a woman cast an upper millstone upon him from the wall, so that he died at Thebez? Why did you go so near the wall?’ then you shall say, ‘Your servant Uri′ah the Hittite is dead also.’”

22 So the messenger went, and came and told David all that Jo′ab had sent him to tell. 23 The messenger said to David, “The men gained an advantage over us, and came out against us in the field; but we drove them back to the entrance of the gate. 24 Then the archers shot at your servants from the wall; some of the king’s servants are dead; and your servant Uri′ah the Hittite is dead also.” 25 David said to the messenger, “Thus shall you say to Jo′ab, ‘Do not let this matter trouble you, for the sword devours now one and now another; strengthen your attack upon the city, and overthrow it.’ And encourage him.”

26 When the wife of Uri′ah heard that Uri′ah her husband was dead, she made lamentation for her husband. 27 And when the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son.

Again,, it's not as if she had a choice.

But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

The Death Cult

While there has always been an anti-vaccination fringe, ever since there was such a thing as vaccination (and no, I'm not sure why) the Republican party and conservatives have never as a class been hostile to the vaccine mandates that have been in place in every state for decades. Until now

 

The ginned up hysteria about Covid-19 vaccine, based on batshit insane conspiracy theories about microchips and alterations to DNA and lizard people, was just one more manufactured outrage to stir up the MAGAts, like Critical Race Theory, the castration of Mr. Potatohead, and of course the Big Steal, better known as the Big Lie.


But the logic of it now compels them to oppose all vaccine mandates. Georgia schoolchildren are required to be immunized against diphtheria, hepatitis B, polio, mumps, measles, rubella, and chickenpox. The Georgia bill, which has 17 co-sponsors, would eliminate all of these. 


The most astonishing achievement of the 20th Century, the biggest news story of all time, is this: prior to the 20th Century, about 40% of all children in the United States died. That's right. Today, the death of a child is an unendurable tragedy, but for all of human history until very recently, it was absolutely commonplace, affecting almost every family. Clean water, pasteurized milk, and antibiotics all have a lot to do with the 20th Century miracle, but so do vaccines. 


In the name of a grotesque caricature of freedom, these evil people want to murder your children.  Human life begins at conception, and ends at birth.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Strange Interlude

This is probably off topic for the blog but I can do whatever I want. Anyway I don't know why I suddenly thought of this but it is a good reminder of how weird people are and maybe somebody has a comment.


My first year in college -- what we called my freshman year back in the day -- during orientation I found myself standing next to a guy at one of the tedious events they subjected us to. We were leaning against the railings around the track in the field house. So I tried to start a conversation with him. He seemed very aloof and unfriendly and didn't seem to want to strike up an acquaintance so that was that. He also seemed somewhat older than 18 -- he even had a bald spot.

I never talked with him again, but I did hear about him. The story came mostly through the grapevine but it's sparse enough and straightforward enough, and was going around consistently enough that I'm sure it's true. He told everybody he'd been in the army, but he didn't like to talk about it, which was plausible. The Vietnam war was still going on and four or five years previously he certainly could have been drafted. But people who were in his classes  got the impression that he must have had a lot of time to read in between marching and killing people. He would raise his hand and talk about stuff that was four weeks ahead in the syllabus or not on it at all. He already knew calculus so why was he taking it?

 

About halfway through the semester, maybe in late October, the deans somehow found out that he had not been in the army at all. In fact he had been in Cambridge, Massachusetts, attending Harvard University, from which he had graduated. He had somehow created a fraudulent application to Swarthmore and gotten himself admitted as a freshman. When they asked him why he had done this he said he was writing a book about it. Of course they immediately barred him from campus (and maybe sued him?) so I never got to ask him.

 

Much about this is puzzling. Anyone who could have plausibly provided a letter of recommendation would presumably have known that he was attending Harvard, and not in the army. High schools keep track of their alumni college admissions. A white guy going to Harvard who must have had plenty of money would probably have gone to prep school or at least public school in a leafy suburb and they would know. It's also hard to believe the admissions office didn't want to see his discharge letter and maybe more of his service record. Forging all that would be quite an undertaking. I suppose he could have gotten his high school transcript sent without any questions asked but it would have been a risk.

Then there's the financial aid application. As a veteran, he would have been entitled to educational benefits and that would have to be part of his submission. It's barely possible that by policy, they didn't have the same people look at both the admissions and financial aid application and he could have gotten away with that. 

 

But this was a very expensive stunt. Since he couldn't have actually gotten any sort of scholarship, even if he could get Swarthmore to reduce his tuition he still would have had to pay a lot, plus room and board, and of course he was foregoing the opportunity to work. Maybe at 21 he'd come into his trust fund.

 

And the book idea is obviously ridiculous. There are millions of college freshman every year, and he had already been one. If anybody would be interested in a book about that experience there could already be thousands of them. Going back and doing it again means that every single character in your book would be a victim of your deception and betrayal. What would be the point?


Of course everybody has the fantasy of going back and doing major life events again, knowing what we know now. We are too soon old and too late smart, and youth is wasted on the young. But come on man.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Sunday Sermonette: A big misunderstanding

In Chapter 10, more than 47,000 Syrians get themselves killed, along with an undisclosed number of Ammonites, because of some minor stupidity. Reminds me of the War of Jenkins Ear. Anyhow ---


10 After this the king of the Ammonites died, and Hanun his son reigned in his stead. And David said, “I will deal loyally with Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father dealt loyally with me.”

This refers to a previously unmentioned incident. The only previous reference to Nahash was in 1 Samuel 11, while Saul was King, when Nahash threatened to gouge out  the right eye of all the men of  Jaeshgilead. Nice guy!

So David sent by his servants to console him concerning his father. And David’s servants came into the land of the Ammonites. But the princes of the Ammonites said to Hanun their lord, “Do you think, because David has sent comforters to you, that he is honoring your father? Has not David sent his servants to you to search the city, and to spy it out, and to overthrow it?” So Hanun took David’s servants, and shaved off half the beard of each, and cut off their garments in the middle, at their hips, and sent them away. When it was told David, he sent to meet them, for the men were greatly ashamed. And the king said, “Remain at Jericho until your beards have grown, and then return.”

Yeah, that's pretty funny! But if the whole point was that they were afraid David was going to attack them, and then they realized yeah, he's gonna be pissed about this and attack us, I guess you could say the joke wasn't very smart.

When the Ammonites saw that they had become odious to David, the Ammonites sent and hired the Syrians of Beth-re′hob, and the Syrians of Zobah, twenty thousand foot soldiers, and the king of Ma′acah with a thousand men, and the men of Tob, twelve thousand men. And when David heard of it, he sent Jo′ab and all the host of the mighty men. And the Ammonites came out and drew up in battle array at the entrance of the gate; and the Syrians of Zobah and of Rehob, and the men of Tob and Ma′acah, were by themselves in the open country.

When Jo′ab saw that the battle was set against him both in front and in the rear, he chose some of the picked men of Israel, and arrayed them against the Syrians; 10 the rest of his men he put in the charge of Abi′shai his brother, and he arrayed them against the Ammonites. 11 And he said, “If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me; but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come and help you. 12 Be of good courage, and let us play the man for our people, and for the cities of our God; and may the Lord do what seems good to him.” 13 So Jo′ab and the people who were with him drew near to battle against the Syrians; and they fled before him. 14 And when the Ammonites saw that the Syrians fled, they likewise fled before Abi′shai, and entered the city. Then Jo′ab returned from fighting against the Ammonites, and came to Jerusalem.

15 But when the Syrians saw that they had been defeated by Israel, they gathered themselves together. 16 And Hadade′zer sent, and brought out the Syrians who were beyond the Euphra′tes;[a] and they came to Helam, with Shobach the commander of the army of Hadade′zer at their head. 17 And when it was told David, he gathered all Israel together, and crossed the Jordan, and came to Helam. And the Syrians arrayed themselves against David, and fought with him. 18 And the Syrians fled before Israel; and David slew of the Syrians the men of seven hundred chariots, and forty thousand horsemen, and wounded Shobach the commander of their army, so that he died there. 19 And when all the kings who were servants of Hadade′zer saw that they had been defeated by Israel, they made peace with Israel, and became subject to them. So the Syrians feared to help the Ammonites any more.

Footnotes

  1. 2 Samuel 10:16 Heb river

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Be Prepared Part Two

Not only did our public health infrastructure have no surge capacity for the pandemic, neither did our health care infrastructure, most notably hospital capacity. That was in fact one of the most publicly visible and damaging facts about the pandemic. Judd Legum explains it here


In a pistachio shell, the number of hospital beds in the U.S. has been declining for 45 years, even as the population has increased. Although Legum doesn't emphasize it, this is not entirely bad. In fact some decline was desirable. With better surgical techniques and other advances, many procedures that used to require hospitalization can now be done in outpatient surgical centers without requiring an overnight stay. Length of stay for many conditions has also decreased. To some extent the latter results from financial pressures and it may be that sometimes people would benefit by a longer stay, but it's also true that hospitals are not where you want to be if you can help it. 


However, because the hospital industry is, after all, part of the capitalist system, two trends have happened that are not good for the public. The first is massive consolidation of hospitals into larger and larger chains, both for profit and nonprofit -- which doesn't actually make much difference -- along with so-called vertical integration in which hospitals buy physician practices, other outpatient services, and nursing homes. This eliminates competition, causes prices to rise, and creates an incentive to push services out of the hospital into the other kinds of facilities the same facility owns, where they can be delivered more cheaply. 

 

It also causes them to close down unprofitable facilities, which are mostly in rural areas, and to eliminate bed capacity because of the pressure to make immediate profits. Your quarterly and annual statements aren't going to look good if you have to maintain a lot of what the industry calls "cold sheets." 


But all this means that if demand unexpectedly surges, the supply is not there to meet it. And that's what happened to us. Keeping some capacity mothballed wouldn't actually be very expensive and it wouldn't be that hard to design a way of maintaining it. But don't ask congress to do anything useful these days.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Wednesday Bible Study: Inheritance

Chapter 9 is another of those stories that seems puzzling from our cultural perspective. David wants to find a son of Jonathan to be kind to, but he defines the criterion as one of Saul's house. Of course it goes without saying that he means a male. He ends up giving the fortunate son, Mephib′osheth, an estate and a whole bunch of slaves.  We're to understand this as an act of kindness, I suppose, but we're supposed to just ignore the slaves.


Since we're cataloguing the contradictions, remember that in Chapter 5, when David conquers Jerusalem, we get this:


And David said on that day, “Whoever would smite the Jeb′usites, let him get up the water shaft to attack the lame and the blind, who are hated by David’s soul.” Therefore it is said, “The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.” 9

Well, Mephib'osheth is lame.  So evidently David changed his mind about that, which I grant you is a good thing.

And David said, “Is there still any one left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” Now there was a servant of the house of Saul whose name was Ziba, and they called him to David; and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” And he said, “Your servant is he.” And the king said, “Is there not still some one of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God to him?” Ziba said to the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is crippled in his feet.” The king said to him, “Where is he?” And Ziba said to the king, “He is in the house of Machir the son of Am′miel, at Lo-debar.” Then King David sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Am′miel, at Lo-debar. And Mephib′osheth the son of Jonathan, son of Saul, came to David, and fell on his face and did obeisance. And David said, “Mephib′osheth!” And he answered, “Behold, your servant.” And David said to him, “Do not fear; for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father; and you shall eat at my table always.” And he did obeisance, and said, “What is your servant, that you should look upon a dead dog such as I?”

Then the king called Ziba, Saul’s servant, and said to him, “All that belonged to Saul and to all his house I have given to your master’s son. 10 And you and your sons and your servants shall till the land for him, and shall bring in the produce, that your master’s son may have bread to eat; but Mephib′osheth your master’s son shall always eat at my table.” Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants. 11 Then Ziba said to the king, “According to all that my lord the king commands his servant, so will your servant do.” So Mephib′osheth ate at David’s[a] table, like one of the king’s sons. 12 And Mephib′osheth had a young son, whose name was Mica. And all who dwelt in Ziba’s house became Mephib′osheth’s servants. 13 So Mephib′osheth dwelt in Jerusalem; for he ate always at the king’s table. Now he was lame in both his feet.

Footnotes

  1. 2 Samuel 9:11 Gk: Heb my

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Be Prepared

I was in fact a Boy Scout, and that was our motto. We had a creed and an oath as well, which were more controversial, but the motto carries over into the realm of public health very well. Preparedness is a major obsession of public health planners and advocates, but it's hard to maintain because people get complacent and politicians don't want to raise the taxes and spend the money for preparedness in between crises.


Covid-19 has demonstrated what fools we are in that regard. Now JAMA has a theme issue on pandemic preparedness and response, including some prognostications about how we can live with this going forward, and they've taken down the paywall for the articles. (The link is only good for  a week -- I'll see if it can be updated when the time comes.)


I can't comment on all of it in a blog post, but you might want to look specifically at Nuzzo and Gostin specifically on preparedness. They discuss inequity, lack of infrastructure, and other issues, but I'll quote this:


Public distrust of health agencies and lack of population-level adherence to risk-mitigation measures proved major impediments in the COVID-19 response. A US survey of 1305 people in early 2021 found high levels of distrust: only 52% expressed high trust in CDC, 37% in the Food and Drug Administration, and 41% in state health departments.4 This distrust has led to social and political division over the utility of masks and vaccinations. Nonpharmaceutical interventions require high levels of population-level adherence. Even highly effective medical countermeasures such as vaccines require population-wide uptake to reduce disease transmission and progression to serious disease. Building public trust in scientific recommendations, especially through community leaders and social and religious institutions, is vital to future preparedness.

 

Obviously the government response in 2020 was abysmal, and distrust in scientific authorities and public health leadership was fostered directly by the person occupying the office of president. However, we have an underlying socio-cultural problem with two major dimensions: rejection of expertise, and rejection of collective action on behalf of the public good. People used the former to rationalize the latter, in many cases. As a society we are in serious trouble if we cannot mobilize the population on behalf of real dangers, but that's what it has come to. It is a badge of pride for many people to deny both the reality of threats to the public good, and the responsibility we each have to it. This must end.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Crank Magnetism

Crank Magnetism is a phrase coined by the blogger Orac (who is actually oncologist David Gorski), who observed that believers in a given wacko theory tend to believe in others. Alex Kaplan at Media Matters for America  find that the Anti-vax and QAnon forms of collective insanity are merging. Prominent anti-vaxxers go on QAnon podcasts, and speak at their rallies, and vice versa, and they are increasingly endorsing each other's theories.


In case you haven't been paying attention -- and why would you? -- QAnon theories have been evolving, but the core ideas are still there. The Public Religion Research Institute asked poll respondents three questions: “The government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex-trafficking operation”; “There is a storm coming soon that will sweep away the elites in power and restore the rightful leaders”; and “Because things have gotten so far off track, true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.” They coded people who agreed with all three statements as believers. "Doubters" mostly disagreed, and "Rejecters" totally disagreed. Check this out:


 

 

By June of last year, 42% of vaccine refusers agreed that  “The government, media, and financial worlds in the U.S. are controlled by a group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles who run a global child sex-trafficking operation,” and believed in the coming "storm." Nearly all of the rest weren't sure about that. While it is unclear what these two sets of beliefs have to do with each other, it is even less clear what they have to do with conservative ideology. But there you are. According to the same poll, 23% of Republicans are QAnon believers. 


We are so screwed.