Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Absolutely Appalling

It's major news so I don't have to tell you about William Strampel, former dean of the Michigan State Osteopathic Medical College. (For those of you who don't know, osteopathic medicine in the U.S. was once a form of quackery comparable to chiropractic, but they cleaned up their act. Osteopathic medical schools now teach scientific medicine and their graduates -- D.O.s -- are licensed, and practice, just like M.D.s. They like to say they put more emphasis on lifestyle stuff like diet and exercise, but that's really just a branding strategy. Michigan state also has a school that grants the M.D.)

What I have to add is that, if you read the account, obviously Strampel's vile behavior had to be widely known, but he got away with it without consequences for decades. He also obviously knew what Larry Nassar was doing, and apparently even had photographs of it. In the interest of the libel law, I'll pass on drawing any conclusions from that.

I do not understand why academic institutions protect and reward these evil men. It seems to be a pattern. No, I don't see it here, but obviously it's happening in a lot of places. Strampel is 70 years old so it's too late for him to really get what he deserves. 

Monday, March 26, 2018

The G word

German Lopez for Vox offers a good overview of the problem of gun violence. One indisputable fact that immediately cuts through the bullshit is that the U.S. has far more homicide deaths by firearm than all the other developed countries -- and that is by an astonishing margin. Homicides by firearm per year per 1 million people are 29.7 in the U.S. The comparable number in Australia is 1.4.

The U.S. is also unique in that it has -- again, by far -- the highest proportion of privately owned guns per person in the world -- not just the developed world, the entire planet. Number 2 is Yemen, by the way. The data are a bit old and I'm sure the number has increased, but Lopez tells us that in 2007, there were 88.8 guns in the U.S. per  100 people. If you subtract children, that's more than one gun per adult. The highest comparable numbers in any developed country are around 30, and most have far fewer.

Finally, the linear association between the number of firearms in a country and the number of firearm homicides is astonishingly strong. Here it is:

The U.S. is actually not an outlier in the overall rate of violent crime. What's different in the U.S. is the rate at which people die from it. The difference, in other words, between a gun, and a knife or a club or a fist. The homicide rate in the U.S. is about 5 times that of comparable nations.

Finally, the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is taking his gun away. In Australia, after a mass shooting in 1996, the government banned all semi-automatic weapons, and, yes, confiscated them. (They paid for them.)  It also required registry of all guns owned in the country and a permit to purchase guns. The homicide rate fell immediately by 42%, and the suicide rate by 57%.

So, what are the implications for U.S. policy? This discussion is often framed by the ammosexuals in the language of rights. Well, I have a right not to be shot. I have a right to be safe in my home, school, workplace and public places. That's my liberty interest here. At the same time, I do want people in my town to be shooting deer, of which there are far too many, since the Indians and cougars and wolves are gone. I would be delighted to see Americans do well in the biathlon. I might even want to shoot a gopher that's eating my vegetable garden. If people think it's fun to go to the gun range and shoot paper cutouts of people, I guess that's okay even though I don't get it.

So all this is achievable. There is no reason for civilians to legally own automatic or semi-automatic weapons of any kind, forget about the meaningless "assault rifle" concept. There is actually no reason for civilians to legally own handguns, which have no purpose other than to shoot humans. There was no such thing as a semi-automatic weapon in 1789, and the arms they were talking about were muzzle loading muskets in the hands of militia members. The purpose of the militia was to kill Indians, round up escaped slaves and put down any slave rebellions, and to provide for defense given the lack of a standing federal army.

So I'm willing to give a lot on this. The militia is now the National Guard, so the entire 2d Amendment is anachronistic and has no application to contemporary reality. But we should allow people to obtain permits to purchase bolt action rifles if they have an appropriate use for one, subject to sensible disqualifications, required training and compliance with regulations on such issues as keeping the weapons secure. (Nobody claims their rights are infringed by requiring a driver's license.) Licensed shooting ranges can hold other weapons for recreational use on site.

That's common sense.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Sunday Sermonette: Baffling, boring and BS

Genesis 10 is really boring and largely inane, but in keeping with our commitment I'm going to reproduce the NIV. As we keep discovering, we seem to have a major continuity problem here:

his is the account of Shem, Ham and Japheth, Noah’s sons, who themselves had sons after the flood.

The Japhethites

The sons[a] of Japheth:
Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshek and Tiras.
The sons of Gomer:
Ashkenaz, Riphath and Togarmah.
The sons of Javan:
Elishah, Tarshish, the Kittites and the Rodanites.[b] (From these the maritime peoples spread out into their territories by their clans within their nations, each with its own language.)
Uh oh! In the very next chapter we're about to find out that "Now the whole world had one language and a common speech."

The Hamites

The sons of Ham:
Cush, Egypt, Put and Canaan.
The sons of Cush:
Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah and Sabteka.
The sons of Raamah:
Sheba and Dedan.
Cush was the father of Nimrod, who became a mighty warrior on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; that is why it is said, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord.” 10 The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Uruk, Akkad and Kalneh, in Shinar. 11 From that land he went to Assyria, where he built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah 12 and Resen, which is between Nineveh and Calah—which is the great city.
 There is no historical record of this Nimrod, nor of a kingdom corresponding to the lands described here. Why he gets this prominent, but brief, mention is unclear.

13 Egypt was the father of
the Ludites, Anamites, Lehabites, Naphtuhites, 14 Pathrusites, Kasluhites (from whom the Philistines came) and Caphtorites.
15 Canaan was the father of
Sidon his firstborn,[g] and of the Hittites, 16 Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, 17 Hivites, Arkites, Sinites, 18 Arvadites, Zemarites and Hamathites.
Later the Canaanite clans scattered 19 and the borders of Canaan reached from Sidon toward Gerar as far as Gaza, and then toward Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboyim, as far as Lasha.
20 These are the sons of Ham by their clans and languages, in their territories and nations.
 Note that if the descendants of Canaan were supposed to be cursed and all be slaves, it didn't work out. They wind up with their own large country. Again, they already have their own languages, contrary to what is about to happen,

The Semites

21 Sons were also born to Shem, whose older brother was[h] Japheth; Shem was the ancestor of all the sons of Eber.
22 The sons of Shem:
Elam, Ashur, Arphaxad, Lud and Aram.
23 The sons of Aram:
Uz, Hul, Gether and Meshek.
24 Arphaxad was the father of Shelah,
and Shelah the father of Eber.
25 Two sons were born to Eber:
One was named Peleg, because in his time the earth was divided; his brother was named Joktan.
What the hell does "in this time the earth was divided" mean?  Some creationists actually believe that this is saying that continental drift began at this time.

26 Joktan was the father of
Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, 27 Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, 28 Obal, Abimael, Sheba, 29 Ophir, Havilah and Jobab. All these were sons of Joktan.
30 The region where they lived stretched from Mesha toward Sephar, in the eastern hill country.
31 These are the sons of Shem by their clans and languages, in their territories and nations.
32 These are the clans of Noah’s sons, according to their lines of descent, within their nations. From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood.
 Well, it seems the nations didn't spread beyond southwest Asia. Where did all those people in Europe, Africa, North and South America, central and east Asia, the Pacific Islands and Australia come from? Obviously the people who told these stories were unaware of the rest of the world, so the problem never occurred to them.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Mad Bomber

I think people often attach too much importance to the ostensible motives of the perpetrators of what are objectively senseless violent acts. Arguments over whether a particular incident should be labeled "terrorism" can be particularly feckless.

As I write, we don't yet know whether the Austin bomber had a stated or discernible motivation. But this is a good time to remember George Metesky, the "Mad Bomber" who planted 33 bombs in New York City over 16 years. He was ostensibly angry over the disposition of a worker's compensation claim. In fact he was nuts and he wound up civilly committed to a psychiatric hospital. We do know that Ted Kaczynski purportedly mailed out his bombs because he wanted to destroy civilization, but obviously there was no rational connection between his actions and his goals.

We have no idea why Stephen Paddock committed mass murder in Las Vegas. We do happen to know that the Omar Mateen said he shot up the Pulse nightclub because he claimed to be loyal to Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi and that he was specifically avenging the death of IS commander Abu Wahib. In fact, however, Mateen had serious behavioral issues from early childhood and he never had any contact with the Islamic State organization. At various times he had announced allegiance to rival organizations with incompatible ideologies, and there are strong indications that he was struggling with homosexual impulses.

Actual organizations with violent ideologies are of course a real danger that demands our understanding, and a response that properly addresses the organizations and works to deprive them of resources and influence. However, there is often a surrounding debris field of disturbed individuals whose violent fantasies coalesce around an ideology they may not even really understand, and who could as easily have built their fantasies around some other structure.

It isn't clear in these cases whether the organization and the ideology are really a cause of the violence. Of course we want there to be less incitement to violence in the public sphere, and the recruitment efforts of violent extremists must be combated. Extremist movements can indeed sweep up people who would otherwise have been essentially harmless -- all you have to do is look at the history of Nazi Germany, in which atrocities became normalized. I'm just saying that isn't necessarily the case with everybody who espouses a political motive for a violent act.

We'll see what's going on with this Austin bomber, and maybe there will be more to say about it.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Sunday Sermonette: Moral Philosophy

Okay, here's the rest of Genesis 9. In case you thought it couldn't get any weirder . . .

18 The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the whole earth.
We will once again ignore the implied incest, which was previously required of the children of Cain and Seth. 
20 Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. 21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked.
24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said,
“Cursed be Canaan!
    The lowest of slaves
    will he be to his brothers.”
26 He also said,
“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Shem!
    May Canaan be the slave of Shem.
27 May God extend Japheth’s territory;
    may Japheth live in the tents of Shem,
    and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.”
28 After the flood Noah lived 350 years. 29 Noah lived a total of 950 years, and then he died.
I need hardly point out how bizarre this is. In the first place, what did Ham do to Noah except look at him, by accident? And how did Noah know this had happened when he awoke? And why was Noah's response to curse Canaan, how had nothing to do with the whole thing? (As we'll see in the next chapter, it turns out that Ham actually had four sons so this is even weirder.)

Many conservative Christian commentators have presumed that Ham must have done more than just see his father naked, that this actually means to imply that Ham raped him or fondled his genitals or something, and that the punishment is actually for homosexual activity. Again, how would Noah have known that? But even if we assume this is the case, again, why does Canaan get the curse and not Ham or his other three sons?

This passage was used in the antebellum south to justify slavery. Africans were said to be the sons of Ham, and their enslaved status thereby biblically justified. Not that it matters, but of course Canaan is the region of the Levant which today corresponds more or less to Israel, Palestine and Jordan. It is not in Africa and its inhabitants have never been anything but Semitic people. Later in the bible the Canaanites are the non-Hebrew inhabitants of this area who the Jews are called upon to exterminate, not enslave.

This passage is one of the innumerable examples of moral depravity in the Bible. The most preposterous claim that Christian apologists make is that we need religion to know right from wrong. I know that this is wrong, thanks to my freedom from religion.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Stephen Hawking

Since this seems to be obituary week, I will take the opportunity of Hawking's death to comment on the relationship between physics (and particularly cosmology) and culture. As physicists have applied the tools of reason to gain understanding of the universe, fundamental knowledge has become further and further divorced from the mainstream culture and the need that ordinary people have to make meaning of the world.

Hawking was famous, and important, mostly as a popularizer. I'm not a physicist so I'm not competent to make a confident evaluation of his contribution. However it seems to me that as a physicist he was one of the leaders who helped advance cosmological theory during his career, but many of his ideas remain speculative and he was not really transformative. As I understand it he never won a Nobel prize because none of this key ideas have been subject to theoretical confirmation.

Nevertheless being the incarnation, for the general public, of the cosmic mysteries, was an important cultural role. Hawking's deep journey into cosmological science left him a fully convinced atheist. It took him a bit of a journey to get there but in 2014 he said:

Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation. What I meant by 'we would know the mind of God' is, we would know everything that God would know, if there were a God, which there isn't. I'm an atheist. 
The fact is, however, that relatively few people are atheists; and for most of those who are not, the scientific understanding of the cosmos is simply unacceptable. As Steven Weinberg famously wrote, "the more the universe seems comprehensible the more it seems pointless." As he goes on to say in the linked interview:

I think it's been the truth in the past that it was widely hoped that by studying nature we will find the sign of a grand plan, in which human beings play a particularly distinguished starring role. And that has not happened. I think that more and more the picture of nature, the outside world, has been one of an impersonal world governed by mathematical laws that are not particularly concerned with human beings, in which human beings appear as a chance phenomenon, not the goal toward which the universe is directed. And for some this has no effect on their religion. Their religion never looked for any kind of point in nature. For others this is appalling, the idea that all of the stars and galaxies and atoms are going about their business, and it's just by accident that here on this solar system the peculiar chemical properties of DNA acting over billions of years have produced these people who have been able to talk and look around and enjoy life. For some people that picture is antithetical to the view of nature and the world that their religion had given them.

It is not only antithetical to religion, it is also, well, counterintuitive and bizarre. Once Edwin Hubble used a powerful telescope to discover the universe, and discover that it was expanding, people tried conceptually running the tape backward and they got the so-called Big Bang. (There was no bang, of course. I want to call it the Initial Singularity, the IS, but the name is too entrenched now.) By mixing Einstein's theory of gravitation with quantum field theory, and making more and more sophisticated observations of the cosmos using ever more powerful and sophisticated instruments, cosmologists were able to deduce the history of the universe that Hawking discusses (as of its stage of development in 1988) in A Brief History of Time. Then, the accelerating expansion, dark matter, and dark energy had not been discovered, so in a sense we know less than we thought we did.

But all of this means nothing to the average person. It just seems crazy. The universe is 13.8 billion years old (approximately)? It started as an infinitely hot, infinitely dense point and suddenly started expanding and cooling? The earth is 4 1/2 billion years old, and it condensed along with the sun from the remnants of a previous generation of exploded stars? There are 100 billion stars in our galaxy (actually probably a lot more than that) and 100 billion galaxies (ditto). Prove it to me! 

Well, you know, unless you want to take a degree in cosmology you're just going to have to trust us. It seems that many people just don't.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Clown Show

I will outsource commentary on the appointment of Lawrence Kudlow to chair the National Economic Council to Brad DeLong. While most of this is characterization, there is a specific factual assertion in there that could be libelous. I don't know about that. (To be clear, Kudlow did admit to a $100,000 a month cocaine habit in 1994 -- Really! -- but I don't know if it's current, as DeLong implies.) But for those of you who don't know, Kudlow is not an economist but rather a wingnut TV commentator who hasn't been right about a single thing for many years. See also here. (He has no degree in economics, not even a B.S., and has never published a single peer reviewed paper.) I will buy this:
The right way to view this appointment is, I think, as if Donald Trump were to name William Shatner to command the Navy's 7th Fleet.
Well, Orange Julius says he's closer to getting the team he wants. I reckon that's so.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Barry Crimmins

I found out recently that Barry Crimmins died, quite prematurely, of cancer. (Actually we're the same age so that's disconcerting.)  Here's the Rolling Stone obit, which is quite cursory.

I knew Barry when he lived in  Cambridge. We were at a few parties together, and went out for drinks after Mobilization for Survival, of which I was a board member, gave him the Peace Leadership Award. (Which is mentioned, BTW, in his Wikipedia article.) The reason for this intersection, obviously, is that he was a progressive activist as well as a comedian and comedy impresario. His comedy was political. He was always outraged but always compassionate.

Then one day I picked up the Boston Phoenix, our alternative news weekly. (Yeah, that used to be a thing.) He had written a lengthy article describing how he was repeatedly raped as a child. He made it sound like a recovered memory and some people wondered if he really had it right, but it turns out it wasn't exactly a recovered memory,  just something he had tried to put out of his mind for most of his life. His sister had caught the guy (a detail that as far as I remember he didn't put in the Phoenix article) so there is corroboration.

He announced that he was giving up comedy to take up the cause of protecting children from pedophiles, and he moved to Ohio, then eventually to upstate New York. I'm not sure why he did that other than just wanting to make a break with his former life. It would have been hard for him to extricate himself from the scene if he remained in the Boston area. Anyway, he personally shamed AOL into shutting down pedophile chat rooms, which for a long time they pretended they didn't know about. He did eventually return to comic performance.

As an impresario, he helped start the careers of several very prominent comedians including Paula Poundstone and Bobcat Goldthwaite, who made a documentary about him. But I don't think he gets enough credit for his own work, I suppose because he truncated his own career. Anyway he did a lot of good in the world.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Sunday Sermonette: Bad Optics

Okay, Genesis 9 is really three different pieces so we'll continue to take them one at a time.

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you 10 and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”
17 So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”
It seems that God has a poor memory, so he needs to do something to remind himself not to do another flood, just like someone with mild dementia posting notes to self on the fridge.  As we noted before, there is still wickedness -- the flood didn't actually cure that problem. So maybe that's why God doesn't want to do it again, because it didn't work.

In any case, as we know thanks to Isaac Newton's exploration of the refraction of light, rainbows are caused by light being reflected and refracted inside water droplets. We can create small rainbows with the spray of a garden hose, and they may also be seen in the spray from waterfalls. As Newton discovered, light of differing wavelengths is refracted at slightly different angles, resulting in white light being decomposed into constituent wavelengths, which humans perceive as different colors. There were rainbows for billions of years before humans existed, and will be after we are gone.

Friday, March 09, 2018

The Flintstones

I believe I mentioned that my electricity was out from Friday to Sunday afternoon? Well, it went out again on Wednesday night, it's still out, and they are saying absolutely nothing about when it might be restored. We all take it for granted that not having electrical service is a denial of our basic human rights, but of course nobody had any electrical service until the 20th Century and even today, more than 1 billion people do not have regular access to electricity, although the number is declining.

Obviously, electrical service is not essential to human life or even to a luxurious life. I've been re-reading Shakespeare as a project (you always need one) and you don't even notice that it isn't there. But we've built our lives around it so we're miserable when we don't have it, even for a day or two. I'm lucky in that we have a shower here at work (from whence I write) and I can recharge my devices here as well, but I'll have to get through the weekend without those amenities. I can nurse my computer  through a few minutes of Internet access a few times a day, and maybe I'll turn my phone off overnight and get through the weekend, but otherwise I'll have to try to make a virtue of this.

No television is one possible benefit. I actually didn't have a television for a good part of my adult life, and there was no Internet at that time either. I read dead trees newspapers and books and did stuff in the real world. Sometimes if there was a sporting even I wanted to see I'd go to a bar. But along about 1990, I think it was, I got a little black and white TV with a stick antenna and then gradually upgraded over the years. It worked its way into my life as a pretty much reliable companion. At first I pretty much only watched sports, then I started watching Seinfeld and then news programming. Now I'd say I have TV dependency disorder. So I'll have to break the habit for a few days and see what happens.

Fortunately, I heat with wood, so that's no problem. I can try cooking on top of the woodstove. It severely limits what I can do -- probably not hot enough to sautee but I can try soup or chili, that sort of thing. Maybe I can wrap something in foil and put it on the coals.

And of course I'll spend my evenings reading by flashlight, as Abe Lincoln used to do by the glow of the fire. Getting enough candlelight to read would result in asphyxiation, which explains why they killed all those whales. But before whale oil, I imagine that for the most part, people just sat around in the dark. We don't really see that in old novels (or Shakespeare), it's sort of edited out of people's accounts of their lives. I wonder what exactly they did between dusk and bed time?

Obviously, people didn't bathe nearly as often as we do. In cold weather, it would have been a major project. We have to do it every day or we think we're unhygienic, but once a week was an accelerated schedule for most people before they had electric well pumps and water heaters to go with their indoor plumbing.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, March 05, 2018


I just finished reading The Second World War by Antony Beevor. This was a most unpleasant experience, but one to which you would be well served to subject yourself. Beevor discusses the subject of writing about horrific truths here, with reporter Keith Lowe.

“One has to try to understand these things,” he says. “Let’s face it, the duty of a historian is to understand, and to try to convey that understanding to others.” In fact, given the brutal nature of war, he feels he has actually been relatively restrained. There are many details that have never made it into his books. In his history of the Soviet attack on Berlin, for example, he stopped short of including graphic accounts of German suicide attempts, including the suicides of young children. “I left them out because you couldn’t read them without bursting into tears. There are things that you can’t put in a book because they are too horrific. And yet at the same time you wonder afterwards if you are chickening out by not putting them in.” 
In reading The Second World War, it never occurred to me that he had chickened out. He describes the Shoah, mass rape and murder of civilians, cannibalism, intentional starvation of whole cities, and a whole lot more with unflinching specificity. But as it turns out, he did omit the mass murder of German POWs by U.S. and British troops in the Battle of the Bulge, and he did omit the suicides of children in the fall of Berlin. So now he's telling it like it is.

Here's the deal, folks. War is not glorious, it is not ennobling, it is not patriotic. The term "war  crime" is redundant because all war is a crime. War is degrading, vile, and befouls every one who participates. The Nazis started WWII and there was no choice but to confront them. But the U.S. started the Vietnam War and the War in Iraq and both of those were crimes against humanity.

George W. Bush is now apparently regarded with growing fondness. He is in fact a monstrous criminal. And sadly, for all his accomplishments, Lyndon Johnson was as well.

No more.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Sunday Sermonette: A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds

The title is a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, and you can read the context here. He's basically saying it's okay to change your mind. Well then, I guess it's okay for God too. Here is Genesis 9, part the first.

Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.
“But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being.
“Whoever sheds human blood,
    by humans shall their blood be shed;
for in the image of God
    has God made mankind.
As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.”
As we shall shortly see, God does not in fact want everything that lives and moves to be food for us. And regardless of whether we are allowed to eat pigs and clams, a lot of it just isn't edible anyway. So you know, this just isn't true. Also, it is not true that all the animals fear us. I expect we're a lot more afraid of lions and grizzly bears than they of us, at least until we invented firearms several thousand years after God made this claim.

“Whoever sheds human blood,
    by humans shall their blood be shed;"

Hm. So why did God put a mark on Cain to make sure nobody would kill him?  And Lamech, in Genesis 4, who also confesses to killing a man and says that anybody who takes vengeance on him will in turn be avenged many times over? Later, God command the Hebrews to massacre people of conquered cities, and proscribes the death penalty for such offenses as gathering sticks on the sabbath.

So God is obviously batshit insane. Just sayin'.

I was late with this post because my electricity was out for 48 hours, from 2:30 Friday afternoon. Finally got my Intertubes back, now I'll have to find out what I missed.


Friday, March 02, 2018

Family Values

So I'm driving to work today and I get behind a pickup truck. The guy has a single big sticker on the tailgate. The top half has a cross. Across the top it says "Marriage," then on either side of the cross is "One man" and "One woman."

On the lower half of the sticker are the words "Stop Abortion -- Spay a Liberal."

That is of course the term for surgically removing the reproductive organs from a female animal.

Funny thing about the Bible. It endorses polygamy, but doesn't say anything at all about abortion, unless you interpret a passage in Numbers as endorsing it. (We'll get to it eventually.) Meanwhile, there's something in the Gospels about loving thy neighbor, and doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. So apparently this guy wants me to castrate him. Or rather, neuter him. It's the Christian thing to do.

You may have heard of the athlete Tim Tebow. He was extremely popular because every time he threw a touchdown pass, he would ostentatiously fall to one knee and pray. Jesus quite explicitly instructs people not to do that. (I hope we'll get to the NT in due course but it will be a while.) As it turns out, his prayers weren't worth very much because he totally sucked as an NFL quarterback and now he's playing baseball.

One of the biggest problems this country has right now is these self-styled Christians. They are smug, self-righteous, evil fools. It is long past time for them to land on the shit pile of history.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Waste, fraud and abuse

It turns out that Medicare spends something like $300 million every year on chiropractic treatment which the DHHS Inspector General deems improper. That's about half of all the money they spend on chiropractic.

The linked essay by Jan Bellamy sort of beats around the bush so I'll cut to the chase. In order to qualify for Medicare reimbursement, chiropractic treatment needs to address a diagnosed "subluxation" of the spine, and half the time they aren't actually doing that, according to the IG. Okay. But actually, they are never doing that, because there is no such thing, and chiropractic treatment is total BS.

So what they should really do is stop paying for it altogether and save $600 million. They don't pay for homeopathy or naturopathy, and they shouldn't pay for chiropractic treatment either. People who need physical therapy should go to a physical therapist.