Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Sunday, December 10, 2023

Sunday Sermonette: Tell it to Job

In Psalm 26, the singer boasts of being perfectly righteous and faithful to the Lord; he (presumably) expects to be rewarded. In Psalm 27, the singer is absolutely confident of God's protection. We know, of course, that the real world doesn't work that way. Very often, the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer. Being pious isn't any protection at all. This is what we call magical thinking. Praying, purporting to believe, performing the rituals, and obeying the commandments just aren't going to protect you from the dangers of the world. But many people would like to think so.

A Psalm of David.

26 Vindicate me, O Lord,
    for I have walked in my integrity,
    and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.
Prove me, O Lord, and try me;
    test my heart and my mind.
For thy steadfast love is before my eyes,
    and I walk in faithfulness to thee.[a]

I do not sit with false men,
    nor do I consort with dissemblers;
I hate the company of evildoers,
    and I will not sit with the wicked.

I wash my hands in innocence,
    and go about thy altar, O Lord,
singing aloud a song of thanksgiving,
    and telling all thy wondrous deeds.

O Lord, I love the habitation of thy house,
    and the place where thy glory dwells.
Sweep me not away with sinners,
    nor my life with bloodthirsty men,
10 men in whose hands are evil devices,
    and whose right hands are full of bribes.

11 But as for me, I walk in my integrity;
    redeem me, and be gracious to me.
12 My foot stands on level ground;
    in the great congregation I will bless the Lord.


  1. Psalm 26:3 Or in thy faithfulness

A Psalm of David

27 The Lord is my light and my salvation;
    whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold[a] of my life;
    of whom shall I be afraid?

When evildoers assail me,
    uttering slanders against me,[b]
my adversaries and foes,
    they shall stumble and fall.

Though a host encamp against me,
    my heart shall not fear;
though war arise against me,
    yet I will be confident.

One thing have I asked of the Lord,
    that will I seek after;
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord,
    and to inquire in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter
    in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent,
    he will set me high upon a rock.

And now my head shall be lifted up
    above my enemies round about me;
and I will offer in his tent
    sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud,
    be gracious to me and answer me!
Thou hast said, “Seek ye my face.”
    My heart says to thee,
“Thy face, Lord, do I seek.”
    Hide not thy face from me.

Turn not thy servant away in anger,
    thou who hast been my help.
Cast me not off, forsake me not,
    O God of my salvation!
10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
    but the Lord will take me up.

11 Teach me thy way, O Lord;
    and lead me on a level path
    because of my enemies.
12 Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
    for false witnesses have risen against me,
    and they breathe out violence.

13 I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living!
14 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage;
    yea, wait for the Lord!


  1. Psalm 27:1 Or refuge
  2. Psalm 27:2 Heb to eat up my flesh

Saturday, December 09, 2023


I bought an electric car -- a Chevy Bolt to be specific. I bought it used, but it only has 16,000 miles on it so it's about as good as new. And guess what else? It was cheap. The sticker price was $16,500 and with the dealer conveyance fee, registration and taxes I handed over a check for $19,000 and drove away. I'm spending about another $800 to install a fast charger, and that will be that. I will never pay for an oil change, or an emissions test, or a muffler, belts, coolant, any of the maintenance expenses you expect for an automobile. There's no catalytic converter to steal. I don't have to stop and pump gas, I just plug in the car when I'm home. 

However, in case you haven't noticed, there is a lot of hostility out there to the whole idea of electric cars. Somehow they constitute an assault on our freedom, apparently because people don't just have a right, but affirmatively take pleasure in spewing toxins out of the back end of their conveyance. And yes, it is true that most of the automakers have committed to going all electric in the near future, and many states are considering banning the sale of new gasoline powered vehicles in the fairly near future. But what people are missing is that the reason the automakers are going all electric is because they know that is what the people will want to buy. Once you try it, you aren't going back.

That's because electric cars are better. They're quicker and more responsive, and they handle better, because the weight -- the battery -- is in the middle, not the front. There's no transmission, and no differential -- just the right amount of power goes to each wheel exactly as it's needed. It seems wealthy enthusiasts are buying up all the high end muscle cars they can before the gasoline engines go away, but the manufacturers are just waiting for them to find out the truth:

Owning a vehicle with a large, powerful engine has long been a status symbol for drivers. Yet these gas-guzzling vehicles -- trucks included -- are now scorned by an industry that's quickly replacing them with fewer cylinders or electric motors. Bugatti will soon cease production of its storied W16. Production of Bentley's mighty W12 engine will finish next April. Audi recently said "Tschüss" to its euphoric V10.

"When enthusiasts hear that gas engines are going away, they think, 'They'll take my Lamborghini and put me in a Nissan Leaf,'" Jonny Lieberman, a MotorTrend TV host and editor, told ABC News. "Few people think an electric vehicle is engaging to drive -- but it is. Electric sports cars are coming."

Lieberman pointed to the next generation of the 718 Cayman and Boxster, which Porsche confirmed will be electric-only by 2025.

"It will be interesting to see how the electric Cayman is perceived," he noted. "The Porsche Mission R was incredibly potent as a sports car." . . .

Ryan Lanteigne, a test driver for Rimac, has driven Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Porsches over his career, pushing each one to its limits. Like many enthusiasts, Lanteigne "loves" a high-revving V8 and V10. Then he started driving the Rimac Nevera, a $2.2 million electric hypercar that goes 0-60 mph in a blistering 1.74 seconds. The GT makes 1,914 horsepower and has broken 20 acceleration and braking records in a single day.

"The performance is going to surprise enthusiasts," he told ABC News. "You can get hard on the throttle -- the back end does not start to rotate, there's no wheel spin. The car gives you so much confidence. There is no modern supercar or hypercar that can match the Nevera."

No, I don't want anything like that, I wouldn't even if I were wealthy. But if that's your thing, don't worry -- you'll be happy.


Thursday, December 07, 2023

Economics 101: For real this time

As you know, I'm what's called an econoclast -- I think standard economic theory with which freshmen are indoctrinated is bullshit. However, there are actual real facts about the economy that correspond to history and common sense. One is that over the long run -- and even almost always over the short run -- prices go up, and money is worth less and less. Here is the U.S. consumer price index since 2014:



The only time it's actually gone down since the Great Depression is the 2008 financial crisis, and even then you can barely see it. This chart ends before the recent moderation in inflation, but yes it did take a turn upward in 2020 which exceeded the average, but the slope wasn't actually that much higher than the entire period from 1984 to 2007. Note also the downturn in 1920, known as the "Forgotten Depression," in which the stock market fell by 50%; then the lengthier downturn of the Great Depression in the 1930s; and finally the latest one that ended the George W. Bush presidency and doomed the McCain candidacy.


In other words, when prices actually fall, it's bad. It only happens when the economy contracts sharply. It means businesses can't sell their goods and services, and they also stop investing. Maybe this won't always be true in the future, and the comparison is a little strained I'll admit since it was impossible to buy a computer or a jet liner in 1914 so it's not exactly clear what we're comparing. So here's part of a Delmonico's menu from 1913.