Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Sunday Sermonette: Strange Interlude

We have seen that Genesis is a conglomeration of stories and fragments from various sources. Most of it likely existed in some form as pre-literate oral tradition before being written down. These have been stitched together into the semblance of a historical narrative, but it's filled with continuity errors, contradictions, impossibilities and absurdities, multiple versions of the same story, omissions and elisions, gratuitous factoids. The story of Joseph, as we noted, seems more coherent and better crafted than most of what has gone before. It was likely the thoughtful creation of a relatively skilled author, rather than a transcript of old campfire tales by a scribe. It is interrupted, however, by the bizarre digression of chapter 38. And I do mean bizarre. As is often the case, the NIV seems to try to sanitize this. I don't read Hebrew, but other translations I have looked at make some of this even weirder.

At that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullam named Hirah. There Judah met the daughter of a Canaanite man named Shua. He married her and made love to her; she became pregnant and gave birth to a son, who was named Er. She conceived again and gave birth to a son and named him Onan. She gave birth to still another son and named him Shelah. It was at Kezib that she gave birth to him.
Neither the KJV nor the American Standard Version say that Judah married the unnamed daughter of Shuah; he just boinked her. Note that up till now, it has been shameful for Hebrews to marry Canaanite women, but in this case it seems to be okay with God.

Judah got a wife for Er, his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death.
We are given no indication of how Er got on the Lord's bad side. This is the first time we have heard of God killing a specific individual, actually. (Yeah, he did destroy most of creation in the flood, then wipe out Sodom and Gomorrah.) Massacring all the men of a town and taking the women and children as slaves, because you suspect one of them of raping your sister, does not warrant punishment. Neither does selling your brother into slavery. But Er's mysterious transgression gets him whacked. 
Then Judah said to Onan, “Sleep with your brother’s wife and fulfill your duty to her as a brother-in-law to raise up offspring for your brother.” But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother. 10 What he did was wicked in the Lord’s sight; so the Lord put him to death also.
Like much of biblical morality, this is completely alien to contemporary culture. Anybody who actually did "live biblically," shaping conduct to the morality of the Bible, would be in prison or committed to a psychiatric institution. The requirement that a man impregnate his brother's widow was likely compassionate. There was no way for women to make a living or acquire wealth and there was no Social Security. Tamar needs children in order to survive. It is not clear, however, why Onan didn't want to give her any. As the story clearly says, Onan would not have been responsible for any child, so it's no skin off his nose. Something about the motivation is missing. (Later, it seems that men are required to marry their brother's widow rather than just knock her up.) For some reason some people have interpreted Onan's sin to have been masturbation rather than what it clearly is, coitus interruptus. And it is not that, per se, but rather not fulfilling his duty to impregnate Tamar.
11 Judah then said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, “Live as a widow in your father’s household until my son Shelah grows up.” For he thought, “He may die too, just like his brothers.” So Tamar went to live in her father’s household.
12 After a long time Judah’s wife, the daughter of Shua, died. When Judah had recovered from his grief, he went up to Timnah, to the men who were shearing his sheep, and his friend Hirah the Adullamite went with him.
13 When Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law is on his way to Timnah to shear his sheep,” 14 she took off her widow’s clothes, covered herself with a veil to disguise herself, and then sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that, though Shelah had now grown up, she had not been given to him as his wife.
15 When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. 16 Not realizing that she was his daughter-in-law, he went over to her by the roadside and said, “Come now, let me sleep with you.”
“And what will you give me to sleep with you?” she asked.
17 “I’ll send you a young goat from my flock,” he said.
“Will you give me something as a pledge until you send it?” she asked.
18 He said, “What pledge should I give you?”
“Your seal and its cord, and the staff in your hand,” she answered. So he gave them to her and slept with her, and she became pregnant by him. 19 After she left, she took off her veil and put on her widow’s clothes again.
It's mildly interesting that prostitutes wear veils. It is quite implausible that Judah would not have recognized her nevertheless, but we'll let that go. Note that there is no indication that there is anything sinful about this, on either side of the transaction, until later.
20 Meanwhile Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite in order to get his pledge back from the woman, but he did not find her. 21 He asked the men who lived there, “Where is the shrine prostitute who was beside the road at Enaim?”
“There hasn’t been any shrine prostitute here,” they said.
Again, NIV seems to be cleaning things up. The ASV glosses what is here translated as "shrine prostitute" as "kedeshah, that is, a woman dedicated to impure heathen worship." According to Wikipedia, however, kedesah literally means "consecrated." It apparently refers to sexual rites in certain cults. As the Wikipedia entry discusses, this is a complicated subject about which the historical truth is unknown. In any case, there is no indication in this story that Tamar was purporting to be anything but an  ordinary prostitute, Hebrew zonah.
22 So he went back to Judah and said, “I didn’t find her. Besides, the men who lived there said, ‘There hasn’t been any shrine prostitute here.’”
23 Then Judah said, “Let her keep what she has, or we will become a laughingstock. After all, I did send her this young goat, but you didn’t find her.”
24 About three months later Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result she is now pregnant.”
Judah said, “Bring her out and have her burned to death!”
25 As she was being brought out, she sent a message to her father-in-law. “I am pregnant by the man who owns these,” she said. And she added, “See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are.”
26 Judah recognized them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn’t give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not sleep with her again.
Okaaaaaaay. So Judah was going to burn Tamar alive for engaging in prostitution until he discovered that he was the John. So now it's more than okay. So why was he planning to give the woman a goat, rather than burn her alive, until he learned her identity? Prostitution is only sinful if done by your daughter-in-law? BTW does Tamar get to keep the goat?
27 When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. 28 As she was giving birth, one of them put out his hand; so the midwife took a scarlet thread and tied it on his wrist and said, “This one came out first.” 29 But when he drew back his hand, his brother came out, and she said, “So this is how you have broken out!” And he was named Perez.[a] 30 Then his brother, who had the scarlet thread on his wrist, came out. And he was named Zerah.[b]
Babies obviously don't stick their hands out first, ordinarily. Not clear why the midwife tied a thread on his hand in any case. According to Luke 3, BTW, Perez is an ancestor of Jesus. Well, not really, he's an ancestor of Joseph, who was not actually the father of Jesus.  But Luke tries to have it both ways, because Perez is in the line of the Messiah according to Jewish tradition. Anyway, Live Biblically! We return to our friend Joseph and see how things are going for him as Potiphar's slave in our next episode.


  1. Genesis 38:29 Perez means breaking out.
  2. Genesis 38:30 Zerah can mean scarlet or brightness.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Weird accounting

I manage my mother's affairs. She's been in a nursing home since she was hospitalized last July for 11 days. So all of a sudden, on December 26, I get a bill from the hospital. I didn't expect one since she has a Medicare Advantage plan, but apparently there is a copay for this. Here's the itemization of the bill:

CT Scan: $5,075
EKG/ECG: $198
Emergency Room: $2,609
Laboratory: $3,429
Medical/Surgical Supplies/Devices: $2,192.76
Occupational Therapy: $2,901
Other Care Items: $3,734
Pharmacy: $1,369
Physical Therapy: $5,913
Room and Board: $46,838

Total: $74,259

In case you're wondering, room and board comes to $4,258 a day. That's a pretty fancy hotel.

The good news is that the insurance company paid $6,605.43. Don't know how they got to the 43 cents. Then there was an "insurance adjustment" for $67,454.12. The net result is that my mother owes 200 bucks, which she does happen to have so I sent them a check as I assume this is legit, but how am I to know?

So what's going on here? The answer is that they have a negotiated price for all this stuff with the insurance company, which is less than $4,258 a day for room and board, and comparably less for all that other stuff. The list price is entirely fictitious, except that they will in fact try to extract it from uninsured people. Why do they do this? Beats the hell out of me. It seems completely nonsensical. And I'm a health services researcher.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Deep and Lasting Damage

Individual 1's tantrum over his inane border wall has real consequences. It will cause substantial economic damage in the short run, and further damage the legitimacy and reputation of the federal government in the long run. The latter, I suppose, is a feature, not a bug, for many conservatives.

The political discourse about immigration is very much about cultural resentment vs. inclusiveness and compassion. It isn't very much about facts. The Balance is a web site that offers financial advise, but it covers issues of economic importance with accessible fact sheets. Their discussion of immigration seems to me pretty well balanced, in other words they earn their name here, although I do have a couple of quibbles.

The first important fact that seems to get lost is that immigration has a substantial net benefit to the U.S. economy. This is partly because immigrants tend to be entrepreneurial, and because we admit quite a few people with high level technical skills. It's also because we face a structural problem with our aging population, and the fertility rate is not high enough to replace retirees in the labor force and pay for future Social Security and Medicare benefits. In other words, we really need the workers. Undocumented workers are actually a bonus because many of them pay social security and income taxes but aren't eligible to receive Medicare or Social Security.

Many politicians claim, and many people believe, that people enter the U.S. illegally in order to collect "welfare." This is 100% false. Undocumented people, and even people with green cards who have held them for less than 5 years, are ineligible for public benefits of any kind. The only arguable exception is that children do receive a public education, although it's not clear that the marginal cost of a few extra children in a school is significant. (You'd need to have enough to require a whole new classroom.) And U.S. born children are citizens and so may be eligible for Medicaid. But remember, like all children, they will go on to become workers and contribute to the economy, which is why we educate U.S. born children (among other reasons), so long-term, again, this is all good.

Undocumented immigrants do disproportionately work in certain low-wage occupations -- farm labor and restaurant kitchens -- and also in construction where they may do relatively skilled jobs such as carpentry.  Kitchen and construction work may indeed displace some U.S. born workers or keep wages in those fields lower. On the other hand, that means lower prices for consumers. Housing and restaurant meals would be more expensive without immigrant labor, including undocumented immigrant labor. However, this is not true of farm labor. Even with rising wages, U.S. citizens won't do it, in some cases leaving crops to rot in the fields.

So, we need comprehensive reform in order to supply the immigrant workers who are absolutely necessary in agriculture, and the industrious and entrepreneurial immigrants who keep our economy vibrant and innovative, while at the same time providing farm workers with dignity and personal security. Right now they are exploited and vulnerable to wage theft and sexual assault.

I don't know that there are a lot of citizens who are hurting right now because they can't get that dishwashing or food prep job they desperately want, but construction workers, at least in times of slack demand, can be said to have a legitimate beef about illegal immigration. So that should be discussed rationally.

Now, as for the inane border wall. In the first place, the majority of people who are in the U.S.  illegally did not cross the border illegally, they overstayed visas. In the second place, much of the border wall already exists. There are 640 miles of physical barriers along the 1,933 mile U.S.-Mexico border. Much of the unfenced area is essentially impenetrable because of geography. Other areas are desert in which it is possible to cross but many migrants perish. According to Dinah Bear of the organization Humane Borders:

Whereas it was common in the 1990s to see large groups of 20, 30, or even 40 migrants at a time, Bear said, Humane Borders volunteers typically only see one or two people at a time these days.
"Most of the migrants now don't come from Mexico. They come from Central America, which is much further," Bear said. "So by the time they get to the border, they're already in pretty bad shape; they've just been traveling from much further away."
Bear said it's now far more common for the nonprofit to find human remains than to find living migrants.
"When we do see a migrant, on the very few occasions we do see migrants these days, inevitably they ask us to call the Border Patrol, because they are in really bad shape and they need help," she said.

In other places border fencing would cause catastrophic environmental damage. There are Arizona ranchers who support building physical barriers in their own area. The U.S. has been steadily adding border fencing for decades and one could certainly make an argument for more fencing in specific areas, and some is already underway.

However, most of the unfenced border consists of the Rio Grande in Texas.

A host of laws and regulations — from international treaties to flood-zone requirements — make wall-construction along the Texas-Mexico border a daunting task.
All those obstacles mean that when fencing does get constructed, it usually ends up being placed far inland, cutting across private property. And Texas landowners haven't taken too kindly in the past to government officials attempting to co-opt their land. . . .
Texas Border Volunteers, essentially a private militia group, says:

The group has observed a massive downturn in border-crossing traffic in recent years. They attribute the change less to Trump's tough-talk on border security, and more to the enhanced technology that Border Patrol agents and state authorities now use.
For TBV, which patrols private lands some 70 miles inland near Falfurrias, the heightened technology means that Border Patrol is "responding quicker" to migrant traffic, which "never gets a chance to make it [to] where we're at."
Gibson said the technology, combined with increased manpower of the Border Patrol and National Guard troops, will ultimately make more of a difference in securing the border than any physical wall could.
And this is the sensible action democrats want. More physical barriers in certain places where the locals want them and the environmental impact is acceptable; and high tech surveillance technology where the damage that would be caused by a physical barrier is unacceptable, or a barrier is technically not feasible.

There is no political disagreement about whether the border should be secure. There is only disagreement about the sensible, affordable, and non-destructive means of achieving this. The border wall is an idiotic campaign slogan, not a sensible or even possible solution.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Sunday Sermonette: The rules of commerce

Today we'll finish Genesis 37, which ends at another cliffhanger so that's in keeping with the usual strategy of serial publication. Again, keep in mind that this story is most likely entirely fictitious. We need to keep in mind the actual intent of the author. Note that there is no point of view. This is what's called the Omniscient Author form of fiction. Unlike, say, Moby Dick, where we observe events from the point of view of a narrator, this author knows what is happening to people in various places, who have no knowledge of what is happening to each other. In order to reconstruct a true story in this way, the writer would have to interview various people and piece their stories together. Okay, here goes.

25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.
 I've noted this a few times but just to remind you, camels had not been domesticated at the time these events supposedly happened.
26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.
28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels[b] of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.
An obvious continuity problem here, maybe a transcription error or a conflation of two versions of the story. The Midianites and the Ishmaelites are completely different people. Which is it? It is also kind of interesting that a few guys sitting around eating lunch can offer to sell a person into slavery to passing strangers. The rules of commerce here are not the ones we observe today.
29 When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes. 30 He went back to his brothers and said, “The boy isn’t there! Where can I turn now?”
31 Then they got Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. 32 They took the ornate robe back to their father and said, “We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son’s robe.”
33 He recognized it and said, “It is my son’s robe! Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces.”
34 Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. 35 All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “No,” he said, “I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.” So his father wept for him.
36 Meanwhile, the Midianites[c] sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard.
Again, the brothers sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites but the Midianites sold him to Potiphar. But this writer probably doesn't have an editor. Also, too, note that God renaming the guy Israel still hasn't stuck. He stubbornly remains Jacob.

Note that the overland journey from Bethlehem to Cairo is quite substantial, even for people who actually do have camels. It's about 200 miles, mostly across the Sinai desert, so Joseph is probably done with the sackcloth by the time Joseph gets there. We'll learn more of his fate next week.


  1. Genesis 37:3 The meaning of the Hebrew for this word is uncertain; also in verses 23 and 32.
  2. Genesis 37:28 That is, about 8 ounces or about 230 grams
  3. Genesis 37:36 Samaritan Pentateuch, Septuagint, Vulgate and Syriac (see also verse 28); Masoretic Text Medanites
New International Version (NIV)

Saturday, December 22, 2018

On Syria and Afghanistan

I haven't been keeping it up lately, but for many years I have maintained a blog called Today in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have followed the U.S. involvement in these places closely since the U.S. first invaded Afghanistan. Here are some thoughts on the recent abrupt announcement of troop withdrawals.

The sudden announcement by Individual 1 that the U.S. military will withdraw entirely from Syria, and troop strength in Afghanistan will be reduced by half, has created shock around the world. I have tried to be circumspect about my own opinions here, but I think it's clear I view the Afghanistan operation as a Sisyphean and pointless folly. I haven't referenced the U.S. presence in Syria much although it is obviously closely linked to the Iraqi operation. My general position is that the U.S. is far too  inclined to try to solve problems militarily. However, since the U.S. created the catastrophe of IS,  we did have an obligation to help solve it. Staying back and providing logistical and some air and artillery support to local troops was probably the best of bad choices.  The question of when to go, and on what terms, is still critical. Here is Adam Silverman on Syria.

"So what, exactly, are we actually doing in Syria? What is it that will stop as a result of this withdrawal order? We are basically doing two things in Syria. The first is a train, advise, and assist mission with our local Syrian partners who are predominantly Kurdish, but some are Arabs, who are fighting ISIS. This is a Special Forces mission supported by a some Marine Corps artillery. The second thing we’re doing is, as an extension of the train, advise, and assist mission, conducting stability operations among the Syrian population where we are partnered with and training our local Syrian partners. This is being done within a “by, with, and through” strategy of partnering with vetted local groups. If we pull out there will be four immediate effects.
  1. The collapse of the local stabilization we’re contributing to. This will result in increased internally displaced Syrians and Syrian refugees who will flee ahead of both Syrian and ISIS efforts to fill the vacuum the withdrawal will create.
  2. As a result of the first effect, we will see an increased humanitarian crisis in the areas we withdraw from.
  3. We will once again have abandoned the Kurds despite the promises we’ve made to them, which further diminishes the United States ability to exercise any form of national power (Diplomatic, Information, Military, Economic), because it further demonstrates that we can’t be trusted, won’t keep our word, and can’t be counted on.
  4. The vacuum and destabilization created by the withdrawal will be filled by both Syrian forces and ISIS. They will move to occupy and control the areas we’ve left, will fight each other in them, and this will lead to further destabilization in Syria and, potentially, throughout the Levant. It creates new stresses, challenges, and threats for Iraq and Lebanon, as well as for Israel and Turkey even though both of those states have been pursuing their own interests in Syria. And because of increased refugee outflows, it will increase pressures and problems for our allies in the EU."

 So, this is not a combat operation. There have been at least a few commando operations in Syria that we know about, to apprehend specific individuals and gather intelligence, but none have been publicly known for quite a while.

Extraction of the U.S. forces without producing catastrophe would require, at a minimum, guarantees from Turkey to  refrain from attacking the Kurds while working toward a rapprochement such as they have with Iraqi Kurdistan. That would require the Syrian Kurds to repudiate the PKK. I don't know if they would do that but it's their only long-term hope, in my view. The Kurds would also have to be left with the means to defend themselves, and they would also have to negotiate federal status with Damascus, again analogous to Iraqi Kurdistan. Such arrangements would take time to negotiate, might be impossible, but certainly cannot happen without U.S. involvement.

As for Afghanistan, obviously the Kabul government is slowly but inexorably losing, even with the 14,000 U.S. troops who are there currently. I can't say what difference removing 7,000 will make, but this was done abruptly, without consultation with the Afghan government or NATO allies.

The Taliban, not suprisingly, have welcomed the announcement because they have made withdrawal of foreign troops a precondition for peace. However, of course, this actually complicates prospects for peace because they can wait until all the U.S. forces are gone and then largely dictate terms to the Kabul government, a view shared by many Afghans. Nevertheless NATO remains committed to Afghanistan so perhaps this will make little difference. In any case it was done impulsively and without proper planning and coordination.

Friday, December 21, 2018

The Far Right Goes Anti-Vax

A phenomenon which has always puzzled me is popular resistance to vaccination. It goes back to the very beginning, vaccination against smallpox, which was a terrible scourge that killed 30% of its victims and left the rest disfigured. When Edward Jenner proved in 1796 that inoculation with cowpox, which caused only mild disease, conferred immunity to smallpox, the world was given a priceless gift.

Yet popular movements arose almost immediately to oppose vaccination, both in England and the U.S. Eventually smallpox vaccination became widely accepted, and smallpox was eradicated from the earth. Later, the terror of the polio epidemic of the 1950s, which is nearly forgotten today, was ended when Jonas Salk developed a safe and effective vaccine. He became the most celebrated scientist in the world and a popular hero.

And yet now we have growing resistance to safe and effective vaccines against measles, mumps, rubella, and other diseases. Right wing parties in Europe, as well as Individual 1, are denouncing vaccination as some sort of conspiracy against the people. As a result, the incidence of measles has risen sharply in parts of Europe. We have also had outbreaks in the U.S., and all but three states allow parents to opt out of vaccinating their children because of political resistance. As The Guardian reports:

Populist rightwing politicians, from the US to Italy, Poland and France, have jumped on the anti-vaccine bandwagon, supporting the sceptics and championing the right of parents not to immunise their children in countries where it is mandatory before starting school. . . .

Populist rightwing politicians and others leading anti-establishment parties have said they were against globalisation and profiteering multi-national corporations, the commissioner noted. They give credence to “fake news” stories on social media claiming drug companies are disseminating viruses into the population in order to sell vaccines. And they support calls to overturn mandatory vaccination where it could win them votes.
Andriukaitis said: “It is very dangerous. My message is very simple now – you elected a lot of anti-vaccine politicians into parliament and now you have them in some governments. Are you ready to follow their decisions based on fake news or decisions based on evidence? There are only two options – fake news or evidence-based.”
Denial of science has become a basic feature of right wing politics around the world. Scientists were once celebrated in popular culture and the idea of the progress of knowledge was a common frame for understanding the world. Now we have a movement that wants to take us back to the 12th Century. It's terrifying.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

This could be a problem

I have long wondered why people who want to cause chaos and disruption -- terrorists of any stripe, or nutjobs, or foreign adversaries -- don't use a little imagination. Setting off bombs or driving into crowds or shooting people is effective, certainly, but there are ways to cause very big trouble that cost very little and probably won't get you caught.

Flying drones over airports is one of them. You could cause economic catastrophe by doing this in New York, Chicago and Atlanta. You could go away for a couple of days and then come back -- they would never know when you were coming. You could intentionally fly one right in the path of a plane taking off or landing, and this possibility makes the tactic impossible to ignore and means you can't re-open the airport with any confidence.

There are a lot of comparable asymmetrical warfare tactics that people oddly avoid. I don't want to give people ideas, you can use your own imagination. Not that we need one more thing to worry about . . . 

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Terms of debate recede like a desert mirage

Here's Martin Longman having a dispassionately reasoned debate with himself about whether the hush money payments constitute grounds for impeachment. Yeah yeah, they're crimes because Michael Cohen is going to jail for them and it isn't fair that the guy who ordered him to do it is not, but is this a high crime?

I dunno about that either, but listen folks, this is what it's come down to.

The malignant clown known as Individual 1  was installed in office by the machinations of a foreign adversary. The same foreign adversary that rescued him from bankruptcy by using him as a high throughput cash washer. The same foreign adversary for whom he is a toady. Is any of that grounds for impeachment? Apparently nothing can be grounds for impeachment unless it can be proved that he was a co-conspirator in the election rigging. Not anything, no matter what, including:

He launched his political career by aggressively promoting the absurd racist lie that Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

Shortly after the election, he settled a lawsuit for $25 million, over a fraud that victimized 6,000 people. Why the fraud was not criminal is unclear.

His campaign chair and campaign foreign policy adviser are both in prison. His National Security Adviser has pleaded guilty to felonies. His lawyer, as noted above, will soon be in prison. These would at least be minor embarrassments to  most presidents.

He continually spews lies, several times a day, including multiply repeating lies which have been fully debunked.

His charitable foundation was a fraud and a scam and has been forced to liquidate under court supervision. The investigation is continuing and may well result in criminal charges.

He employs undocumented immigrants in his  hotels. Funny thing, ICE has never raided any of them. Undocumented nannies have 86ed a couple of cabinet nominees over the years, BTW.

Here's a funny thing. A DoD official thinks he is making critical national security decisions in order to distract from scandals.

He is facing a lawsuit from a woman who who claims he sexually assaulted her and defamed her by calling her a liar. At least a dozen women have made similar allegations, and he has boasted of sexual assault in a recorded conversation.

We don't know what Robert Mueller knows, or what's in the National Inquirer files that are now in the possession of the Justice Department, or what indictments the Attorney General of New York is going to produce. We already know that Trump University and the Trump Foundation were fraudulent enterprises. Apparently that's not enough. But they could yet result in criminal indictments. What if we get definitive proof of the money laundering, of co-conspiracy with Paul Manafort to subvert U.S. foreign policy to the will of Vladimir Putin, indictments from the NY AG for Trump Foundation or University, more sex scandals from the bowels of American Media Incorporated? Will any of that be sufficient?

The answer is no, because the Republican party has long ago abandoned truth, basic morality, and democracy. Individual 1 is not actually the problem.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Sunday Sermonette: More family values

With Genesis 37 and the story of Joseph we enter new literary territory. Scholars now generally agree -- and it makes sense to me -- that this is essentially the artful creation of a single author. In other words, unlike what we have seen so far, generally crudely rendered transcriptions of what was originally oral tradition and vital records, pieced together from various sources by scribes, this is a novella. It has vivid characters whose emotional lives are visible to us; strong plot elements including suspense, reversals of fortune, foreshadowing, theme and variation, changing affections and character development.

However, it also has a political agenda, or agendas. This is about the origin of the 12 tribes and an argument for their relative standing. So think of it like Shakespeare's histories, which reflect his loyalty to the Tudor monarchs. Also, perhaps because of sloppy editing, it does have a couple of continuity errors and ambiguities. There is no evidence that any of this is based on historical fact. Its rather a founding myth of the Israeli nation. It will take a while to get through it. Here goes.

Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.
This is the account of Jacob’s family line.
Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.
Here's a continuity error, not internally but with other material. Bilhah and Zilpah were concubines -- handmaids to Rachel and Leah, given to Jacob as sex slaves, not wives. Also, we still have Jacob rather than Israel.

Joseph is obnoxious the first time we see him, tattling on his half brothers about some unspecified misbehavior.
Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate[a] robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.
The footnote says that the meaning of the Hebrew word translated as ornate is uncertain. KJV has "a coat of many colours" which is the familiar phrase. 
Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”
His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.
Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. “Listen,” he said, “I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.”
10 When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” 11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.
KJV has "his father observed the saying." I'm not sure what it means either way.  I'm also not clear about the "eleven stars."  Joseph is certainly obnoxious and I can't blame his brothers for disliking him, but they do seem to take things a bit far . . .

12 Now his brothers had gone to graze their father’s flocks near Shechem, 13 and Israel said to Joseph, “As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them.”
“Very well,” he replied.
14 So he said to him, “Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me.” Then he sent him off from the Valley of Hebron.
When Joseph arrived at Shechem, 15 a man found him wandering around in the fields and asked him, “What are you looking for?”
16 He replied, “I’m looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they are grazing their flocks?”
17 “They have moved on from here,” the man answered. “I heard them say, ‘Let’s go to Dothan.’”
You should know that these are long journeys. It's about 50 miles from Hebron to Shechem, and another 13 to Dothan. So this must have taken him a week or more.
So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. 18 But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.
19 “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. 20 “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”
21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. “Let’s not take his life,” he said. 22 “Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.” Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.
23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing— 24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.
We'll pause here till next week. You know, cliffhanger. As I say, Joseph is obnoxious but killing him is probably taking things too far. But as you probably know, they end up with a plan B.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Ad Hominem

There are many logical fallacies that have been formally identified and you may profit from following the link and seeing a big long list.

A particularly common fallacy is called ad hominem. The linked Wikipedia article defines it as "attacking the arguer instead of the argument." There are sub-types, for example "Circumstantial ad hominem - stating that the arguers personal situation or perceived benefit from advancing a conclusion means that their conclusion is wrong," and "Traitorous critic fallacy (ergo decedo, 'thus leave') – a critic's perceived affiliation is portrayed as the underlying reason for the criticism and the critic is asked to stay away from the issue altogether."

We have a commenter who thinks it's clever to claim that we should ignore the information I linked to yesterday because the writer is often critical of Individual 1. That is an inane form of argument. You must assess the evidence the writer provides. Attacking the writer -- in this case because he has a consistent opinion, no less -- is not refutation. But suppose you want additional analyses to support the claim that Individual 1 has been laundering money for Russian mobsters for many years.

You might check out David Leonhardt in the New York Times. Or Sean Illing in Vox. Or maybe you'll be interested in what Craig Unger had to say in The New Republic. Or Adam Davidson in the New Yorker. Or Garrett M. Graff in Wired. Or even Michael Gerson, who is officially a conservative columnist, although as I say, that doesn't matter. And I could continue. Many people have looked at this and it's just completely obvious. Michael Cohen was totally mobbed up with the Russians and he was responsible for a lot of these deals. Which the Justice Department now knows all about.

Now it is true that all of these people are consistently critical of Individual 1. Why is that? It's because they know he is a criminal.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Individual 1 and cash washing

A commenter (unpublished, because I'm responding to it here) asks why I'm so confident that individual 1's business consists of laundering money for Russian mobsters. The case is made here, by John Feffer, and it's pretty compelling. Too long, do read, but a couple of money shots:

Before he became president, Donald Trump was basically an unsuccessful businessman who managed, time and again, to fail upward. He filed for bankruptcy six times — five times for his casinos and once for the Plaza Hotel.. . . An astounding number of his other business ventures have gone belly up too, including Trump Airlines, Trump University, and Trump Magazine.

Trump’s business failures over the years and his unorthodox financial behavior pushed him to the margins of the financial world. . . . Trump began to rely on some questionable characters and networks. He created baroque financial arrangements involving shell companies. He used pseudonyms on contracts. He became squirrely about his tax returns. And he started to use large amounts of cash. For instance, he purchased huge properties — golf courses in the UK ($79 million), a Scottish estate ($12 million), a Virginia winery ($16 million) — in cash. In all, since 2006, he paid for properties in cash to the tune of $400 million. It just so happens that these are all telltale signs of money laundering: the cash, the shell companies, the pseudonyms, the lack of transparency and due diligence.. . .

Many of the purchasers of Trump properties are Russian. A Reuters investigation last year discovered that Russian buyers purchased nearly $100 million in condos in Florida from Trump. A Russian-Canadian billionaire poured millions into a Trump property in Toronto, including a $100 million “commission” to a Moscow fixer to attract other Russian investors. In 2008, a Russian oligarch paid $95 million to Trump for a Palm Beach mansion that the Russian never subsequently occupied. It was an extraordinary mark-up for a property Trump had bought four years before for $41 million. . . .
Yes, it's unfortunate that the practitioners of journamalism weren't interested in all of this before Individual 1 became president -- Hillary Clinton's e-mail management practices were obviously far more important. But some people have finally noticed.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

The Party of Law and Order

In addition to being the Party of Fiscal Responsibility™, the Republicans are the Party of Law and Order™. That was of course a favorite slogan of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George Bush the First, who gave us the Willie Horton ad among other cultural gifts. Campaigning against Democrats as Soft on Crime™ is routine.

Funny thing. Now Republican senators are saying stuff like this:

You know, you can make anything a crime under the current laws if you want to, you can blow it way out of proportion, you can do a lot of things.
 "The Democrats will do anything to hurt this President." Informed it was alleged by federal prosecutors in New York, Hatch said: "OK, but I don't care, all I can say is he's doing a good job as President."
Look I'm not minimizing it, this campaign finance act is important. But No. 1, it's a long way from collusion with a foreign agent to influence the election in 2016, which is what I thought this was about. No. 2, Campaign Finance Act violations are, generally, civil matters.
And this:

It's just like a lot of other things that we've done in Washington. We've over criminalized campaign finance. . . . 

Next up: The Party of Free Trade™.

Their problem, as I have said before, is that they are proactively working to own the consequences of their folly. True, we don't know everything that's going to come out of the special counsel investigation and the SDNY, but we know enough already to be pretty sure it's not going to be flattering to the patriotism, honesty or legitimacy of the delusional idiot they have chosen to be their hill to die on. This does not seem smart to me. Am I missing something.

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Sunday Sermonette: Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies . . .

 which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.

1 Timothy 1

So why does the Torah spend so much papyrus on what will soon follow on this page? First, let me give you the historical facts. The Edomites and their kingdom were real. They existed at about the time where all of this is supposedly happening and they continued to exist until the first century BC, at which time they were conquered by the Hasmonean dynasty of Israel and converted to Judaism. The purported common ancestry between the Hebrews and the Edomites of which so much is made here is certainly fictitious. In fact, as we will see, the Hebrews and the Edomites will frequently come into conflict, and at other times will avoid each other. At one point the purported common ancestry will be invoked by the Hebrews seeking safe passage in Exodus, but they will be refused.

So why all of this interest in the supposed descent of the Edomites from Esau, and the names of their kings and chieftans ("dukes" in the KJV)? My guess is that this is material the scribe just happened to have available, so he stuck it in. There isn't much to say about it but there are a few continuity errors, which I'll note just because I like to be annoying. You may choose not to bother to read it.

This is the account of the family line of Esau (that is, Edom).
Esau took his wives from the women of Canaan: Adah daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon the Hivite— also Basemath daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth.
Apparently there is a great deal of confusion about who Anah is and how she is related to whom. I won't bore you with it here but follow the link if you are interested. Note that polygamy is the norm and remains so. If you believe that marriage is between one man and one woman because that's biblical -- not.
Adah bore Eliphaz to Esau, Basemath bore Reuel, and Oholibamah bore Jeush, Jalam and Korah. These were the sons of Esau, who were born to him in Canaan.
Esau took his wives and sons and daughters and all the members of his household, as well as his livestock and all his other animals and all the goods he had acquired in Canaan, and moved to a land some distance from his brother Jacob. Their possessions were too great for them to remain together; the land where they were staying could not support them both because of their livestock. So Esau (that is, Edom) settled in the hill country of Seir.
This is the account of the family line of Esau the father of the Edomites in the hill country of Seir.
10 These are the names of Esau’s sons:
Eliphaz, the son of Esau’s wife Adah, and Reuel, the son of Esau’s wife Basemath.
11 The sons of Eliphaz:
Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam and Kenaz.
12 Esau’s son Eliphaz also had a concubine named Timna, who bore him Amalek. These were grandsons of Esau’s wife Adah.
Amalek is born many generations after his descendants are "smitten." (Genesis  14)
13 The sons of Reuel:
Nahath, Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah. These were grandsons of Esau’s wife Basemath.
14 The sons of Esau’s wife Oholibamah daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon, whom she bore to Esau:
Jeush, Jalam and Korah.
15 These were the chiefs among Esau’s descendants:
The sons of Eliphaz the firstborn of Esau:
Chiefs Teman, Omar, Zepho, Kenaz, 16 Korah,[a] Gatam and Amalek. These were the chiefs descended from Eliphaz in Edom; they were grandsons of Adah.
17 The sons of Esau’s son Reuel:
Chiefs Nahath, Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah. These were the chiefs descended from Reuel in Edom; they were grandsons of Esau’s wife Basemath.
18 The sons of Esau’s wife Oholibamah:
Chiefs Jeush, Jalam and Korah. These were the chiefs descended from Esau’s wife Oholibamah daughter of Anah.
19 These were the sons of Esau (that is, Edom), and these were their chiefs.
20 These were the sons of Seir the Horite, who were living in the region:
Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, 21 Dishon, Ezer and Dishan. These sons of Seir in Edom were Horite chiefs.
22 The sons of Lotan:
Hori and Homam.[b] Timna was Lotan’s sister.
23 The sons of Shobal:
Alvan, Manahath, Ebal, Shepho and Onam.
24 The sons of Zibeon:
Aiah and Anah. This is the Anah who discovered the hot springs[c] in the desert while he was grazing the donkeys of his father Zibeon.
25 The children of Anah:
Dishon and Oholibamah daughter of Anah.
26 The sons of Dishon[d]:
Hemdan, Eshban, Ithran and Keran.
27 The sons of Ezer:
Bilhan, Zaavan and Akan.
28 The sons of Dishan:
Uz and Aran.
29 These were the Horite chiefs:
Lotan, Shobal, Zibeon, Anah, 30 Dishon, Ezer and Dishan. These were the Horite chiefs, according to their divisions, in the land of Seir.

The Rulers of Edom

31 These were the kings who reigned in Edom before any Israelite king reigned:
32 Bela son of Beor became king of Edom. His city was named Dinhabah.
33 When Bela died, Jobab son of Zerah from Bozrah succeeded him as king.
34 When Jobab died, Husham from the land of the Temanites succeeded him as king.
35 When Husham died, Hadad son of Bedad, who defeated Midian in the country of Moab, succeeded him as king. His city was named Avith.
36 When Hadad died, Samlah from Masrekah succeeded him as king.
37 When Samlah died, Shaul from Rehoboth on the river succeeded him as king.
38 When Shaul died, Baal-Hanan son of Akbor succeeded him as king.
39 When Baal-Hanan son of Akbor died, Hadad[e] succeeded him as king. His city was named Pau, and his wife’s name was Mehetabel daughter of Matred, the daughter of Me-Zahab.
40 These were the chiefs descended from Esau, by name, according to their clans and regions:
Timna, Alvah, Jetheth, 41 Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon, 42 Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, 43 Magdiel and Iram. These were the chiefs of Edom, according to their settlements in the land they occupied.
This is the family line of Esau, the father of the Edomites.


  1. Genesis 36:16 Masoretic Text; Samaritan Pentateuch (also verse 11 and 1 Chron. 1:36) does not have Korah.
  2. Genesis 36:22 Hebrew Hemam, a variant of Homam (see 1 Chron. 1:39)
  3. Genesis 36:24 Vulgate; Syriac discovered water; the meaning of the Hebrew for this word is uncertain.
  4. Genesis 36:26 Hebrew Dishan, a variant of Dishon
  5. Genesis 36:39 Many manuscripts of the Masoretic Text, Samaritan Pentateuch and Syriac (see also 1 Chron. 1:50); most manuscripts of the Masoretic Text Hadar

Thursday, December 06, 2018

The Party of Fiscal Responsibility

Unless you need a proctoscope to find your head, you know that for the past many decades -- in fact my entire life -- the Republican brand has been all about balanced budgets and "fiscal conservatism."

They have in fact campaigned on a platform including a constitutional amendment to require a balanced federal budget. Never mind that this is insane, as any economist will tell you. Paul Ryan built a reputation among the journalistic classes as a serious policy wonk by claiming he had a plan to eliminate the federal deficit, which if you actually read it was nothing of the sort. But still.

The reporters continued to regurgitate this fiction as conventional wisdom and uncontested fact -- the Republicans were fiscally responsible, the Democrats were profligate -- without noticing the True Fact that the federal deficit ballooned under Reagan and Bush the First, and then declined to zero under Clinton. That's right folks, the last time we had a balanced federal budget, William Jefferson Clinton was president of the United States. Then, under George Bush the Second, the deficit ballooned again. Then, under Barack Hussein Obama, the Kenyan usurper, it ultimately declined, despite the entirely necessary and appropriate, though inadequate, fiscal stimulus at the beginning of the Obama administration. (The debt increased under Obama, as it always will if the deficit is more than zero. People often confuse these.) Well, you know what's happened now. The Party of Fiscal Responsibility has complete control of every branch of the federal government. And the deficit has exploded with no end in sight. Specifically:

The U.S. federal budget deficit rose in fiscal 2018 to the highest level in six years as spending climbed . . . . The deficit jumped to $779 billion, $113 billion or 17 percent higher than the previous fiscal period, according to a statement from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. It was larger than any year since 2012, when it topped $1 trillion.
Not to worry! We have a strong leader in charge who always wins! He will fix this problem, because he loves us so much.

Since the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump’s aides and advisers have tried to convince him of the importance of tackling the national debt.
Sources close to the president say he has repeatedly shrugged it off, implying that he doesn’t have to worry about the money owed to America’s creditors—currently about $21 trillion—because he won’t be around to shoulder the blame when it becomes even more untenable.
The friction came to a head in early 2017 when senior officials offered Trump charts and graphics laying out the numbers and showing a “hockey stick” spike in the national debt in the not-too-distant future. In response, Trump noted that the data suggested the debt would reach a critical mass only after his possible second term in office.
“Yeah, but I won’t be here,” the president bluntly said, according to a source who was in the room when Trump made this comment during discussions on the debt.

But to Cokie and the gang, the Republican party is the Party of Fiscal Responsibility, eternally and ineluctably, now and always.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Speaking ill of the dead

The TV news, web sites and papers have been all about nothing else other than the fact that George Bush the First is still dead for the past several days. Also, his greatness and his awesomeness.

He was not great. For one thing, in spite of lip service, he continued his predecessor's policy of largely ignoring the HIV/AIDS crisis. From the ACT-UP web site we have this, for example:

September 1, 1991: 2500 AIDS activists marched on President Bush's vacation home in Kennebunkport, Maine to demand leadership and to declare that THE AIDS CRISIS CAN END. After a die-in on the road to the Bushs' house, activists unrolled a fifty foot long banner which outlined a 32-point plan to end the AIDS Crisis. The next day the President said that he was more moved by the demonstration of the unemployed the week before. "That one hit home" he said, "because when a family is out of work, that's one that I care very much about.“
September 30, 1991: ACT UP targets President Bush at the White House, declaring that, with over 120,000 Americans dead from AIDS, the President is getting away with murder. In a loud and angry march to the White House, activists demanded that the President stop his deliberate policy of neglect. Eighty-four people were arrested in acts of civil disobedience that included chaining themselves to the gates of the White House and to each other. Bush spent the day in Disney World.
Bush, in the end, bowed to the same extremists Reagan did when it came to AIDS and LGBTQ rights. As The Washington Post noted, Bush allowed evangelicals to mature as a movement within the GOP after Reagan brought them in, rather than pushing back. . . .
And after Buchanan, who Bush offered a prime slot at the Republican National Convention in Houston, gave his infamous “culture war” speech, declaring there is a “religious war” in this country, and attacking, among others, the “militant homosexual rights movement,” Bush refused to denounce the speech and instead publicly denounced same-sex marriage, which was nowhere near a reality at the time. This prompted even the Log Cabin Republicans, the largest gay GOP group, to refuse to endorse him.
Meanwhile, the GOP platform that year condemned anti-discrimination statutes protecting gays and lesbians, and, responding to Democratic nominee Bill Clinton’s campaign promise to end the ban on gays serving in the military, adopted a plank banning gay service.
He also practiced and furthered the racist campaign tactics that have defined the Republican party since Richard Nixon, for example the famous Willie Horton ad, and filled his administration with religious extremists.  

The result is apparent for all to see.


Sunday, December 02, 2018

Sunday Sermonette: What's this really all about?

As I've noted before, Genesis is full of continuity errors, and seems to dwell tediously on trivia at times and to underdevelop or fail to explain a good deal that seems important. We have to remember that it is a compilation of old stories that originally came down through oral tradition. We don't know if there were earlier written versions of some of this. There probably were. We have more than once seen the same basic story happening repeatedly to different characters, or to the same characters in different times and places. These may have come from separate written sources that were then pasted into a rough chronology. It's also possible that some of this is the first written version of oral tradition. We do know that there were different original scribes and writers.

Scholars identify four principle sources or scribes whose work somehow got compiled into the Torah. They call these the Jahwist (or Yahwist) who calls God Jahweh, designated J; the Eloist, who calls God Eloim, designated E; the Deuteronomist (D); and the Priestly Sources (P). There is debate about the process by which these sources got compiled into the Torah, and when. J is thought to be the oldest, and a D writer is thought to have first compiled J,E and E. P then did a new compilation and added additional material. At least that's the most popular version. As I said early on, I'm not going to worry about when we're reading J and when we're reading E. Apparently Genesis 34, the previous chapter, was by J and there is a suggestion that the allegation that Shechem was captured by a massacre of its original inhabitants is a dis of the Northern Kingdom, as J is partial to Judah. (That's all future history we'll get to eventually.)

Anyhow, it's important to keep all this in mind as we grapple with the somewhat confused story. Here's Genesis 35.

Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.”
So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.” So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem.
I have to say the writer is awfully reticent about this. There's no commentary about why Jacob told the people to get rid of the "foreign Gods." We heard before about Laban's "household Gods," which Rachel stole, so obviously she thought they were valuable. Are these the same entities? If so that's the only previous mention of them, if not they have never merited previous mention. Presumably they are statuettes of some kind. Was there any objection to this order?  There's no indication that God was behind it, it seems to have been Jacob's idea. And what's with burying the earrings?

Then they set out, and the terror of God fell on the towns all around them so that no one pursued them.
Remember that Jacob was afraid the locals would take revenge for the Shechem massacre, so evidently God protects the tribe. I guess it was okay with him.
Jacob and all the people with him came to Luz (that is, Bethel) in the land of Canaan. There he built an altar, and he called the place El Bethel,[a] because it was there that God revealed himself to him when he was fleeing from his brother.
Jacob had already named the place Bethel in Genesis 28, before he even met Rachel. So now he names it Bethel again. (
Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died and was buried under the oak outside Bethel. So it was named Allon Bakuth.[b]
After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram,[c] God appeared to him again and blessed him. 10 God said to him, “Your name is Jacob,[d] but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.[e]” So he named him Israel.
God is getting to be something of a pest. He has already renamed Jacob Israel, but it didn't stick. This time, Jacob is called Israel again in this chapter, but then he goes back to being Jacob. 
11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty[f]; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. 12 The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.” 13 Then God went up from him at the place where he had talked with him.
14 Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it. 15 Jacob called the place where God had talked with him Bethel.[g]

 For the third time.
16 Then they moved on from Bethel.
Uhm, God just commanded them to settle there. . . . Guess he didn't really mean it.
While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty. 17 And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, “Don’t despair, for you have another son.” 18 As she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named her son Ben-Oni.[h] But his father named him Benjamin.[i]
19 So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). 20 Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb.
The pillar may have existed when this was written, who knows? But the true location is not known today. There is a monument in Bethlehem which is said to mark Rachel's tomb, but it is very unlikely that is true.
21 Israel moved on again and pitched his tent beyond Migdal Eder. 22 While Israel was living in that region, Reuben went in and slept with his father’s concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard of it.
Did he mind? Does this matter for some reason? Why is this little factoid here?
Jacob had twelve sons:
And now he's Jacob again.
23 The sons of Leah:
Reuben the firstborn of Jacob,
Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun.
24 The sons of Rachel:
Joseph and Benjamin.
25 The sons of Rachel’s servant Bilhah:
Dan and Naphtali.
26 The sons of Leah’s servant Zilpah:
Gad and Asher.
These were the sons of Jacob, who were born to him in Paddan Aram.
27 Jacob came home to his father Isaac in Mamre, near Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had stayed. 28 Isaac lived a hundred and eighty years. 29 Then he breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, old and full of years. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.
Right. He was 180 years old.


  1. Genesis 35:7 El Bethel means God of Bethel.
  2. Genesis 35:8 Allon Bakuth means oak of weeping.
  3. Genesis 35:9 That is, Northwest Mesopotamia; also in verse 26
  4. Genesis 35:10 Jacob means he grasps the heel, a Hebrew idiom for he deceives.
  5. Genesis 35:10 Israel probably means he struggles with God.
  6. Genesis 35:11 Hebrew El-Shaddai
  7. Genesis 35:15 Bethel means house of God.
  8. Genesis 35:18 Ben-Oni means son of my trouble.
  9. Genesis 35:18 Benjamin means son of my right hand.