Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Friday, April 30, 2021

A couple of recommended reads and critical thinking lesson #79

First, I commend to your attention Johnathan Gruber and Simon Johnson on infrastructure. You may have noticed that the Republican response to the administration's infrastructure proposal is that "infrastructure" only means roads and bridges and therefore the rest of it is unworthy of federal support. That's an example of argument by vocabulary, a type of fallacy that I've noted before. e.g.:

"Organic" means carbon compounds.

All food consists of carbon compounds.

Ergo the concept of organic food is meaningless.


If I need to explain to you what's wrong with that, you probably should give someone your power of attorney. As Gruber and Johnson assert, "Infrastructure is the name given to shared systems that underpin productivity and make it possible to create good jobs at high wages." In the post-war era, U.S. government investment in basic science paid immense dividends:

By the mid-1960s, the US government was spending nearly 2% of GDP on public science investments – and the returns were extraordinary. Every tech giant of today stands on the shoulders of federal investments in research and development (R&D). On the health side, the honor roll begins with large-scale production of antibiotics in the 1940s, and stretches to the Human Genome Project in the 1990s and the COVID-19 vaccines of today.These investments in science did not just change the way we solve problems and save lives; they also created countless good jobs. The genomics sector that arose from the Human Genome Project now employs around 270,000 people at an average annual wage of $70,000. Every dollar invested in the National Institutes of Health creates more than $8 in complementary private investment and yields three dollars of stock-market value to share prices of companies that use the technology developed.

But now federal spending on science has fallen to 0.6% of GDP, placing the U.S. 12th in the world. China's investment is at twice the level. There's more in the infrastructure bill that's essential to keeping the U.S. economy strong in the 21st Century, but that's one important piece.


Nicole Hemmer writes about living in a world of lies.  She's an Associate Research Scholar at Columbia (hey, that's what I am at a different university). She notes that starting with the escalator descent at Trump Tower in 2015, 


From exhaustive fact checks to contentious briefing-room clashes over the administration's "alternative facts," debunking the whirl of lies became a full-time process and started derailing pressing long-term conversations. But as the past few weeks have shown, the mendacity that once seemed like a feature of politics in the age of Trump has outlived the former president's Twitter feed.

The past week alone has featured increasingly ridiculous false claims issuing from the right. There's the one about the Biden administration taking away Americans' hamburgers. And the one about the White House giving gift bags with the vice president's book to migrant children -- that one was effectively retracted by the New York Post and the reporter resigned, saying she was forced to write a false story.


She goes on to discuss the difficulty journalism as it is conventionally practiced has in dealing with the shameless mendacity of the right. It's worth your time to read it.


Now, although Dr. Hemmer is a scholar and an employee of Columbia University, this essay happens to appear in CNN. I am often unhappy with CNN -- they relentlessly promoted the Trump Candidacy in 2016 as a matter of fact, because it was good for ratings. But they do have a basic commitment to the truth.

Now let us suppose that you come across a video purporting to be a hidden camera interview with an unwitting interlocutor named Chuck U. Farley. The presenters -- consisting only of an obscure right wing web site, a Russian propaganda organ, and two Murdoch-owned tabloids -- purport that Farley is a "technical director" at CNN, whatever exactly that means, and that he is being interviewed by a spy who is pretending to be a nurse of something. Farley says that he took a job at CNN because they were committed to making Joe Biden president and he wanted to be a part of that. Specifically the way they did that is by reporting favorably on Biden's health and suggesting that Trump's wasn't so great, and that was decisive in the election. (Of course these media organs all claim that Trump actually won the election but we'll put that aside for now.)

If you are a person with the least bit of skepticism, you might want to check this out. CNN lists all of its executives on a readily accessible web page, maybe 24 people. None is named Chuck U. Farley. On a separate page, it lists all of its on-air presenters, reporters, and producers. None of them is named Chuck U. Farley. If you enter Chuck's name into your favorite Internet search engine, you will find a dead British comedian, and these five presentations of the hidden camera interview story, and that is it. No such person appears to exist outside of this hermetic environment. Even more curious, this blockbuster story has not been picked up any other outlet, including Faux News. CNN has not bothered to comment on it. 

Maybe, just maybe, you've been duped.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Religious Exemptions

Connecticut has just become the 6th state to end religious exemptions for childhood vaccination. Medical exemptions, of course, are still allowed. Note that the law does not require parents to vaccinate their children, but it does require that children receive a specified schedule of vaccinations in order to attend public school.

I can understand why this is a difficult issue for liberals, in the post-FDR sense of the word. Speaking only for myself here, while I personally do my best to be guided by science and reason, I see freedom of belief as an inherent value -- not an absolute, value, of course, because liberty interests are always in conflict and every case is a balancing act. But a value nevertheless. I respect the First Amendment on this. 

But of course, religious belief does not in general exempt people from the secular law. If your religion demands human sacrifice, you don't get to practice it. If your religion demands that other people not be allowed to practice theirs -- assuming no human sacrifice or other violations of the secular law are involved -- you don't get your way. Adults can choose to harm themselves for religious reasons, as for example by refusing medical procedures or following an unhealthy diet. However, there is plenty of case law that says they can't refuse life saving treatment for their children, or starve them, or torture or imprison them, because they think Jesus wants them to do it.

In the case of childhood vaccination, people who claim religious exemption aren't just harming their own children, the are endangering others who cannot be vaccinated, or for whom vaccination is ineffective, for legitimate medical reasons. So this falls very close to, if not within, the human sacrifice moral category. I also have to say that I doubt that most people who want to claim this exemption really do have any religious objection, it's just an excuse. The only religion with a substantial number of followers that has an actual objection to vaccination, as far as I know offhand, is Christian Science. Most of these people have just made up their own religious beliefs, for the occasion. What's actually going on is that they have false factual beliefs. 


So on reflection, I support this legislation. Happy to hear other opinions, but any based on factually false assertions about vaccination will not be entertained.

I''m just going to rip off the American Constitution Society on this one

This is really off topic for this blog, but it's important to continue to emphasize that a good percentage of the population exists in an alternate, Faux News-induced non-reality. Robert Mueller, unfortunately, had the highly legalistic attitude that if he couldn't indict, he shouldn't make any judgment. Since he believed that it was not possible to indict a sitting president, he didn't draw conclusions about Individual One. This is unfortunate because -- along with AG Barr's initial misrepresentation of the report -- it allowed Faux News and others in the alternate reality sphere to claim that the report exonerated the Great Orange Excrescence. It did not. As always, they are lying. Here is a summary from the ACS:


Before reading further, remember that Merrick Garland has been Attorney General only since March 11, and he and is DoJ do have a few matters to deal with. There is also a question of what the president and congressional leadership will consider politically expedient at this point. I have no particular insight about that.



The Special Counsel investigation uncovered extensive criminal activity

  • The investigation produced 37 indictments; seven guilty pleas or convictions; and compelling evidence that the president obstructed justice on multiple occasions. Mueller also uncovered and referred 14 criminal matters to other components of the Department of Justice.
  • Trump associates repeatedly lied to investigators about their contacts with Russians, and President Trump refused to answer questions about his efforts to impede federal proceedings and influence the testimony of witnesses.
  • A statement signed by over 1,000 former federal prosecutors concluded that if any other American engaged in the same efforts to impede federal proceedings the way Trump did, they would likely be indicted for multiple charges of obstruction of justice.


Russia engaged in extensive attacks on the U.S. election system in 2016

  • Russian interference in the 2016 election was “sweeping and systemic.”[1]
  • Major attack avenues included a social media “information warfare” campaign that “favored” candidate Trump[2] and the hacking of Clinton campaign-related databases and release of stolen materials through Russian-created entities and Wikileaks.[3]
  • Russia also targeted databases in many states related to administering elections gaining access to information for millions of registered voters.[4]


The investigation “identified numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump Campaign” and established that the Trump Campaign “showed interest in WikiLeaks's releases of documents and welcomed their potential to damage candidate Clinton” 

  • In 2015 and 2016, Michael Cohen pursued a hotel/residence project in Moscow on behalf of Trump while he was campaigning for President.[5] Then-candidate Trump personally signed a letter of intent.
  • Senior members of the Trump campaign, including Paul Manafort, Donald Trump, Jr., and Jared Kushner took a June 9, 2016, meeting with Russian nationals at Trump Tower, New York, after outreach from an intermediary informed Trump, Jr., that the Russians had derogatory information on Clinton that was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”[6]
  • Beginning in June 2016, a Trump associate “forecast to senior [Trump] Campaign officials that WikiLeaks would release information damaging to candidate Clinton.”[7] A section of the Report that remains heavily redacted suggests that Roger Stone was this associate and that he had significant contacts with the campaign about Wikileaks.[8]
  • The Report described multiple occasions where Trump associates lied to investigators about Trump associate contacts with Russia. Trump associates George Papadopoulos, Rick Gates, Michael Flynn, and Michael Cohen all admitted that they made false statements to federal investigators or to Congress about their contacts. In addition, Roger Stone faces trial this fall for obstruction of justice, five counts of making false statements, and one count of witness tampering.
  • The Report contains no evidence that any Trump campaign official reported their contacts with Russia or WikiLeaks to U.S. law enforcement authorities during the campaign or presidential transition, despite public reports on Russian hacking starting in June 2016 and candidate Trump’s August 2016 intelligence briefing warning him that Russia was seeking to interfere in the election.
  • The Report raised questions about why Trump associates and then-candidate Trump repeatedly asserted Trump had no connections to Russia.[9]


Special Counsel Mueller declined to exonerate President Trump and instead detailed multiple episodes in which he engaged in obstructive conduct

  • The Mueller Report states that if the Special Counsel’s Office felt they could clear the president of wrongdoing, they would have said so. Instead, the Report explicitly states that it “does not exonerate” the President[10] and explains that the Office of Special Counsel “accepted” the Department of Justice policy that a sitting President cannot be indicted.[11]
  • The Mueller report details multiple episodes in which there is evidence that the President obstructed justice. The pattern of conduct and the manner in which the President sought to impede investigations—including through one-on-one meetings with senior officials—is damning to the President.
  • Five episodes of obstructive conduct stand out as being particularly serious:
    • In June 2017 President Trump directed White House Counsel Don McGahn to order the firing of the Special Counsel after press reports that Mueller was investigating the President for obstruction of justice;[12] months later Trump asked McGahn to falsely refute press accounts reporting this directive and create a false paper record on this issue – all of which McGahn refused to do.[13]
    • After National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was fired in February 2017 for lying to FBI investigators about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Kislyak, Trump cleared his office for a one-on-one meeting with then-FBI Director James Comey and asked Comey to “let [Flynn] go;” he also asked then-Deputy National Security Advisor K.T. McFarland to draft an internal memo saying Trump did not direct Flynn to call Kislyak, which McFarland did not do because she did not know whether that was true.[14]
    • In July 2017, the President directed former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to instruct the Attorney General to limit Mueller’s investigation, a step the Report asserted “was intended to prevent further investigative scrutiny of the President’s and his campaign’s conduct.”[15]
    • In 2017 and 2018, the President asked the Attorney General to “un-recuse” himself from the Mueller inquiry, actions from which a “reasonable inference” could be made that “the President believed that an unrecused Attorney General would play a protective role and could shield the President from the ongoing Russia Investigation.”[16]
    • The Report raises questions about whether the President, by and through his private attorneys, floated the possibility of pardons for the purpose of influencing the cooperation of Flynn, Manafort, and an unnamed person with law enforcement.[17]


Congress needs to continue investigating and assessing elements of the Mueller Report

  • The redactions of the Mueller Report appear to conceal the extent to which the Trump campaign had advance knowledge of the release of hacked emails by WikiLeaks. For instance, redactions conceal content of discussions that the Report states occurred between Trump, Cohen, and Manafort in July 2016 shortly after Wikileaks released hacked emails;[18] the Report further notes, “Trump told Gates that more releases of damaging information would be coming,” but redacts the contextual information around that statement.[19]
  • A second issue the Report does not examine is the fact that the President was involved in conduct that was the subject of a case the Special Counsel referred to the Southern District of New York – which the Report notes “ultimately led to the conviction of Cohen in the Southern District of New York for campaign-finance offenses related to payments he said he made at the direction of the President.”[20]
  • The Report also redacts in entirety its discussion of 12 of the 14 matters Mueller referred to other law enforcement authorities.[21]
  • Further, the Report details non-cooperation with the inquiry by the President, including refusing requests by the Special Counsel for an interview; providing written responses that the Office of the Special Counsel considered “incomplete” and “imprecise” and that involved the President stating on “more than 30 occasions that he ‘does not recall’ or ‘remember’ or ‘have an independent recollection.’”[22]


Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Wednesday Bible Study: Get ready for some tedium

The next few chapters of Joshua are far more boring than watching grass grow. It's an endless recitation of the tracts given to the various tribes. Scholars can't associate most of the place names with known locations, so we don't even know who gets what. There really isn't much to say about this, except that the repeated assertion that the Levites get "no inheritance," the idea being that they will live off of the temple offerings, is contradicted later on when they get cities, suburbs and farm land. Whatev. There is also the promise at the beginning of future genocide and theft of land, but we'll get to that later.

13 When Joshua had grown old, the Lord said to him, “You are now very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over.

“This is the land that remains: all the regions of the Philistines and Geshurites, from the Shihor River on the east of Egypt to the territory of Ekron on the north, all of it counted as Canaanite though held by the five Philistine rulers in Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron; the territory of the Avvites on the south; all the land of the Canaanites, from Arah of the Sidonians as far as Aphek and the border of the Amorites; the area of Byblos; and all Lebanon to the east, from Baal Gad below Mount Hermon to Lebo Hamath.

“As for all the inhabitants of the mountain regions from Lebanon to Misrephoth Maim, that is, all the Sidonians, I myself will drive them out before the Israelites. Be sure to allocate this land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have instructed you, and divide it as an inheritance among the nine tribes and half of the tribe of Manasseh.”

Division of the Land East of the Jordan

The other half of Manasseh,[a] the Reubenites and the Gadites had received the inheritance that Moses had given them east of the Jordan, as he, the servant of the Lord, had assigned it to them.

It extended from Aroer on the rim of the Arnon Gorge, and from the town in the middle of the gorge, and included the whole plateau of Medeba as far as Dibon, 10 and all the towns of Sihon king of the Amorites, who ruled in Heshbon, out to the border of the Ammonites. 11 It also included Gilead, the territory of the people of Geshur and Maakah, all of Mount Hermon and all Bashan as far as Salekah— 12 that is, the whole kingdom of Og in Bashan, who had reigned in Ashtaroth and Edrei. (He was the last of the Rephaites.) Moses had defeated them and taken over their land. 13 But the Israelites did not drive out the people of Geshur and Maakah, so they continue to live among the Israelites to this day.

14 But to the tribe of Levi he gave no inheritance, since the food offerings presented to the Lord, the God of Israel, are their inheritance, as he promised them.

15 This is what Moses had given to the tribe of Reuben, according to its clans:

16 The territory from Aroer on the rim of the Arnon Gorge, and from the town in the middle of the gorge, and the whole plateau past Medeba 17 to Heshbon and all its towns on the plateau, including Dibon, Bamoth Baal, Beth Baal Meon, 18 Jahaz, Kedemoth, Mephaath, 19 Kiriathaim, Sibmah, Zereth Shahar on the hill in the valley, 20 Beth Peor, the slopes of Pisgah, and Beth Jeshimoth— 21 all the towns on the plateau and the entire realm of Sihon king of the Amorites, who ruled at Heshbon. Moses had defeated him and the Midianite chiefs, Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur and Reba—princes allied with Sihon—who lived in that country. 22 In addition to those slain in battle, the Israelites had put to the sword Balaam son of Beor, who practiced divination. 23 The boundary of the Reubenites was the bank of the Jordan. These towns and their villages were the inheritance of the Reubenites, according to their clans.

24 This is what Moses had given to the tribe of Gad, according to its clans:

25 The territory of Jazer, all the towns of Gilead and half the Ammonite country as far as Aroer, near Rabbah; 26 and from Heshbon to Ramath Mizpah and Betonim, and from Mahanaim to the territory of Debir; 27 and in the valley, Beth Haram, Beth Nimrah, Sukkoth and Zaphon with the rest of the realm of Sihon king of Heshbon (the east side of the Jordan, the territory up to the end of the Sea of Galilee[b]). 28 These towns and their villages were the inheritance of the Gadites, according to their clans.

29 This is what Moses had given to the half-tribe of Manasseh, that is, to half the family of the descendants of Manasseh, according to its clans:

30 The territory extending from Mahanaim and including all of Bashan, the entire realm of Og king of Bashan—all the settlements of Jair in Bashan, sixty towns, 31 half of Gilead, and Ashtaroth and Edrei (the royal cities of Og in Bashan). This was for the descendants of Makir son of Manasseh—for half of the sons of Makir, according to their clans.

32 This is the inheritance Moses had given when he was in the plains of Moab across the Jordan east of Jericho. 33 But to the tribe of Levi, Moses had given no inheritance; the Lord, the God of Israel, is their inheritance, as he promised them.


  1. Joshua 13:8 Hebrew With it (that is, with the other half of Manasseh)
  2. Joshua 13:27 Hebrew Kinnereth

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Just a quick follow-up . . .

 . . . on the ridiculous Biden wants to ban beef lie. Daniel Dale tells the quick history of this malevolent idiocy, although he feels compelled by the corporate media kneejerk to say "inaccurate" instead of "made up, fictitious, mendacious, malicious and false." Anyway the point is that Republican politicians and conservative media all picked this up and yelled and screamed about it and amplified it and deceived their millions of sheeplike followers, because they do not care about the truth and neither do the idiots who pay attention to them. We cannot survive this.

A thing or two more: People may wonder why I mention this here but whatever my reasons, it's worth remembering. This is from a little more than a year ago. Remember who controlled the Senate at that time.

Senate panel backs assessment that Russia interfered in 2016: A bipartisan Senate report released Tuesday affirms the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusions that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election in a far-ranging influence campaign approved by Russian President Vladimir Putin and aimed at helping Donald Trump win the White House.

The report rejects Trump’s claims that the intelligence community was biased against him when it concluded that Russia had interfered on his behalf in the election. It says instead that intelligence officials had specific information that Russia preferred Trump in the election, that it sought to denigrate Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton and that Putin had “approved and directed aspects” of the Kremlin’s influence campaign. . . .

Trump has repeatedly questioned the assessment, which was also endorsed by former special counsel Robert Mueller in his report last year. Mueller concluded that Russian interference was “sweeping and systematic,” but he did not allege a criminal conspiracy between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., said in a statement that his panel “found no reason to dispute” the intelligence community’s conclusions, saying they reflected strong tradecraft and analytical reasoning.

Mueller got more than two dozen indictments, and convictions of several high ranking Trump campaign officials. One of them, Paul Manafort, the campaign manager, has since been found to have provided internal campaign polling information to a Russian spy, Konstantin Kolimnik, who passed the information on to the GRU for use in shaping the campaign of interference. There is a good deal more that can be said about all this but it's not really the focus of this blog.

Thing two: It took less than 24 hours for Faux News and it's far right minions to perpetrate yet another ridiculous hoax. 

Well, Stayin' Alive

Steven Johnson has written the book I've been meaning to write, about the history of human life expectancy. (Don't worry, I've got another project in the works.) I'm not sure how the paywall works with the NYT magazine, but he provides a great overview here, which I hope you can read. 

As I've discussed here more than a few times, life expectancy bounced around just a little from time to time and place to place from the neolithic until the late 19th Century. Then it doubled, quite suddenly, first in the wealthy countries and then around the world. It's an artificial construct and interpreting it isn't straightforward, but to put it in a pistachio shell the most important difference is infant mortality. In the old days, a whole lot of babies and young children died. So while life expectancy was around 40 years give or take, if you got past the age of 5 or so, you could hope for your three score years and ten, although not with as much expectation as we enjoy today. Women still died in large numbers in childbirth, people died of infections subsequent to minor injuries, and they died of viral diseases, notably smallpox. 

This has been the most dramatic change in the human condition ever. Sure, fire was nice and iron tools, and while agriculture may not have made us better off on the whole it certainly changed things. But the idea that it's normal for children to survive and the typical person in many countries lives to be at least 80 is mind boggling, if you allow yourself to think about it long enough to get boggled.


As Johnson explains, scientific advances of the late 19th and early to mid 20th Century had a lot to do with what amounted to a transition of the human species into a different universe, but by itself scientific understanding of mortality wouldn't have made much difference. Pasteur figured out how to kill pathogens in milk, but it didn't start saving millions of children's lives until laws were passed that made it mandatory. Milk producers refused to do it voluntarily. It required a substantial public investment to deliver clean drinking water to cities, which was the other biggie. Smallpox vaccination existed since 1796, but it took a massive, coordinated global effort to eradicate the scourge from the earth in 1979. It took more than 10 years from Fleming's discovery of penicillin before it became possible to produce it on a large enough scale to matter, and again that took a large public investment -- specifically by the U.S. government during WWII. Most medications were completely useless until the FDA began to require manufacturers to prove their safety and efficacy in randomized controlled trials.

I could go on but these are the highlights. Public health is a public responsibility.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Keep America Stupid


Erik Loomis has discovered that people are selling, and a fortiori buying, fake vaccine cards, so they can get in to ball games and concerts and so on without actually getting vaccinated. And guess who these people are: "Among all groups, Republicans and white evangelical Christians were the most likely to say they will not get vaccinated, with almost 30% of each group saying they will “definitely not” get a shot."


So what exactly does this have to do with conservatism or Christianity? Obviously nothing. But it does have a lot to do with not living in reality. Then there's Republican outrage over the Biden plan to ban beef. These malignant clowns have absolutely nothing to offer people but lies.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Sunday Sermonette: Notching the belt

Joshua 12 is just a list of all the genocide victims up till now. There really isn't much to say about it except that it seems pointless. So I''ll take this opportunity to say that the Book of Joshua is notable because the the title character is a complete cipher. God tells him to lead the Israelites in multiple acts of genocide, and he does so. Then God tells him to divide up the stolen land among the tribes, and he does so. Then he dies. We never learn if he marries or has any children, he never says anything interesting, we have no description of him. He's just a placeholder. Many people name sons after him, but I can't see why. We only know one thing about him, that, if he actually existed, he would be one of the most monstrous figures in world history. It's like naming your kid after Adolf Hitler. Go figure.

12 These are the kings of the land whom the Israelites had defeated and whose territory they took over east of the Jordan, from the Arnon Gorge to Mount Hermon, including all the eastern side of the Arabah:

Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon.

He ruled from Aroer on the rim of the Arnon Gorge—from the middle of the gorge—to the Jabbok River, which is the border of the Ammonites. This included half of Gilead. He also ruled over the eastern Arabah from the Sea of Galilee[a] to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea), to Beth Jeshimoth, and then southward below the slopes of Pisgah.

And the territory of Og king of Bashan, one of the last of the Rephaites, who reigned in Ashtaroth and Edrei.

He ruled over Mount Hermon, Salekah, all of Bashan to the border of the people of Geshur and Maakah, and half of Gilead to the border of Sihon king of Heshbon.

Moses, the servant of the Lord, and the Israelites conquered them. And Moses the servant of the Lord gave their land to the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh to be their possession.

Here is a list of the kings of the land that Joshua and the Israelites conquered on the west side of the Jordan, from Baal Gad in the Valley of Lebanon to Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir. Joshua gave their lands as an inheritance to the tribes of Israel according to their tribal divisions. The lands included the hill country, the western foothills, the Arabah, the mountain slopes, the wilderness and the Negev. These were the lands of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. These were the kings:

the king of Jerichoone
the king of Ai (near Bethel)one
10 the king of Jerusalemone
the king of Hebronone
11 the king of Jarmuthone
the king of Lachishone
12 the king of Eglonone
the king of Gezerone
13 the king of Debirone
the king of Gederone
14 the king of Hormahone
the king of Aradone
15 the king of Libnahone
the king of Adullamone
16 the king of Makkedahone
the king of Bethelone
17 the king of Tappuahone
the king of Hepherone
18 the king of Aphekone
the king of Lasharonone
19 the king of Madonone
the king of Hazorone
20 the king of Shimron Meronone
the king of Akshaphone
21 the king of Taanachone
the king of Megiddoone
22 the king of Kedeshone
the king of Jokneam in Carmelone
23 the king of Dor (in Naphoth Dor)one
the king of Goyim in Gilgalone
24 the king of Tirzahone
thirty-one kings in all.


  1. Joshua 12:3 Hebrew Kinnereth

Friday, April 23, 2021

Weird comments

As far as I can recall, I have never written -- or even much thought about -- the organization called Black Lives Matter, i.e. the non-profit corporation that owns the trademark to the name. I believe I came across the name of at least one of the founders once, but I don't remember it. I don't know anything about them and I don't even know what, exactly, they do. I can assure you that 99.9% of people who attend demonstrations against police violence are not associated with the organization and know no more about it than I do, if they even know it exists. I actually did not know that an actual organization of that name existed until fairly recently. I am unaware that any elected official is associated with it, and I know that the prominent civil rights leaders who are often seen at news conferences and funerals, such as Al Sharpton, are not.

Why, therefore, someone would think that constantly sending me what he considers to be derogatory information about this organization is somehow on topic to anything I discuss here eludes me. I do know that this has nothing at all to do with the actual issues that concern me and confront the nation. If there happened to be an organization named Save the Kittens, and it turned out that their leaders were actually dog lovers who were pocketing the contributions, would that be an argument against saving the kittens?

This is what is called a distraction, and it is a basic technique of Faux News and other Murdoch-owned properties. Since they can't discuss the issues in good faith, inasmuch as their actual positions are unconscionable, they send their brainwashed followers off in pursuit of shiny objects. 

Similarly, I don't understand how rooting for Derek Chauvin's conviction to be overturned on a technicality is supposed to be an argument against accountability for what is, quite obviously and indisputably, a conscienceless, cold blooded murder. The jury saw what we all saw.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Sympathy for the Devil

As the aptly named Mr. Chauvin awaits sentencing, I get the impression that many people think he will get a much longer sentence than is likely to be the case. I've read up on this a bit and while the statute in Minnesota allows up to 40 years for second degree murder, in fact the guidance for a first time offender is only 12 1/2 years. 


Lest you be too outraged, the definition of the crime for which he was convicted does not include that he intended to cause death. (About that question we cannot know.) Since there are hints the judge is sympathetic to him, it's doubtful he'll impose a longer sentence than the guidance, and the standard is parole after 2/3 of the time, so Chauvin will likely be out in less than 9 years. He will on the other hand not have a good time at all in prison, as he'll have to be in protective custody, i.e. solitary confinement, the entire time. Chances are the guards will sympathize with, if not admire him, however.

No doubt many people will find this deeply unsatisfying, and claim that it falls far short of justice. However, as I tried to explain in an earlier post, I don't look at it that way. In fact calling the whole enterprise the criminal "justice" system seems a misnomer. There ain't no justice. Justice would mean George Floyd is still alive, maybe getting substance use treatment, and that he had a chance in life from childhood for dignified work and the respect due to any human. But the world doesn't work that way. Nothing that could possibly happen to Derek Chauvin, or any other offender for that matter, can produce justice. 

So, if you believe in lex talonis, retribution, then presumably you think somebody should kneel on Chauvin's neck until he dies. But I see no value in that. Nor would I imagine that a prison sentence of any length would "rehabilitate" him. He won't ever be a police officer again, so he won't have the kind of power over people, or what he thought was impunity, that enabled this to happen. That's the most that can be accomplished for Mr. Chauvin. Nine years and loss of status is some measure of accountability.

So what is the point of the conviction and sentence? There is one, and it matters a lot. It's a signal that yes, George Floyd's life mattered and police should be accountable for their actions, or at least that some higher ranking Minneapolis police officer believe that, or want us to think they do, along with 12 anonymous citizens. That tells the dead man's family and friends, his community, and the rest of us who care about such things that it might some day be the case that respect for human life, including black lives, will be extended to everyone. But it doesn't accomplish that. The work lies ahead of us all.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Wednesday Bible Study: Moar Genocide

I'm in a meeting all day (and yesterday), so drive by blogging only. Joshua 11 is just more of the same, massacring whole peoples. I will just say that it's evidently a coincidence that there's a land of Goshen in Canaan. This couldn't be the region where the Israelites once resided in Egypt. The "Anakim" who get wiped out in the end are a race of giants. Anyway, once again you can take comfort in knowing that this is all entirely fictitious.

11 When Jabin king of Hazor heard of this, he sent word to Jobab king of Madon, to the kings of Shimron and Akshaph, and to the northern kings who were in the mountains, in the Arabah south of Kinnereth, in the western foothills and in Naphoth Dor on the west; to the Canaanites in the east and west; to the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites and Jebusites in the hill country; and to the Hivites below Hermon in the region of Mizpah. They came out with all their troops and a large number of horses and chariots—a huge army, as numerous as the sand on the seashore. All these kings joined forces and made camp together at the Waters of Merom to fight against Israel.

The Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, because by this time tomorrow I will hand all of them, slain, over to Israel. You are to hamstring their horses and burn their chariots.”

So Joshua and his whole army came against them suddenly at the Waters of Merom and attacked them, and the Lord gave them into the hand of Israel. They defeated them and pursued them all the way to Greater Sidon, to Misrephoth Maim, and to the Valley of Mizpah on the east, until no survivors were left. Joshua did to them as the Lord had directed: He hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots.

10 At that time Joshua turned back and captured Hazor and put its king to the sword. (Hazor had been the head of all these kingdoms.) 11 Everyone in it they put to the sword. They totally destroyed[a] them, not sparing anyone that breathed, and he burned Hazor itself.

12 Joshua took all these royal cities and their kings and put them to the sword. He totally destroyed them, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded. 13 Yet Israel did not burn any of the cities built on their mounds—except Hazor, which Joshua burned. 14 The Israelites carried off for themselves all the plunder and livestock of these cities, but all the people they put to the sword until they completely destroyed them, not sparing anyone that breathed. 15 As the Lord commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses.

16 So Joshua took this entire land: the hill country, all the Negev, the whole region of Goshen, the western foothills, the Arabah and the mountains of Israel with their foothills, 17 from Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir, to Baal Gad in the Valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon. He captured all their kings and put them to death. 18 Joshua waged war against all these kings for a long time. 19 Except for the Hivites living in Gibeon, not one city made a treaty of peace with the Israelites, who took them all in battle. 20 For it was the Lord himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that he might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the Lord had commanded Moses.

21 At that time Joshua went and destroyed the Anakites from the hill country: from Hebron, Debir and Anab, from all the hill country of Judah, and from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua totally destroyed them and their towns. 22 No Anakites were left in Israelite territory; only in Gaza, Gath and Ashdod did any survive.

23 So Joshua took the entire land, just as the Lord had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions. Then the land had rest from war.


  1. Joshua 11:11 The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them; also in verses 12, 20 and 21.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Dah Poleez

What do they actually do? Here is an informative article from the New Haven Independent. They got a record of all the dispatch reports in New Haven for a two year period. These include dispatches in response to 9-1-1 calls, non-emergency calls from citizens, and police-initiated actions such as traffic stops. Only 4.4% involved any form of violence. 


The most frequent reason was for burglary alarm activation. Unfortunately the data doesn't specify how many of these were false, but I'm guessing it's a lot. Anyway that was less than 8% of calls. It seems that is within the common perception of what ought to be a police responsibility and it seems to me a reasonable claim that an armed officer should respond to these because you never know if there's a perpetrator there who might be dangerous. However, for the majority of dispatches, it's a very legitimate question whether the police -- given the nature of their training and skills, the powers they have, and their martial culture -- are the right kind of people to respond. 

The second most common dispatch, actually, is motor vehicle accident, no injury. Others high on the list, in order (some of which would seem to overlap and perhaps be somewhat arbitrarily classified) are breach of the peace/disorderly conduct; domestic dispute; theft; trespass/"unwanted person"; parking violation; noise complaint; public hazard; welfare check; evading/no injury (I'm guessing this means leaving the scene of a motor vehicle accident); and finally the only violent situation on the list, "assault/fight". Then there's "person down"; behavioral/psych/suicide; criminal mischief; motor vehicle stop; harassment; tenant/neighbor issues. (I've skipped "miscellaneous" and 9-1-1 hangup calls.) Emotionally disturbed/intoxicated; drug offenses; and prostitution are father down the list.

It certainly seems to me -- and this is more than just common sense because I have interviewed police officers about these issues for reports I did for community groups, and yeah, even some of the wiser police leaders know this -- that the most appropriate responders to most of these problems are not heavily armed people whose training has been mostly about effecting forceful apprehension and shooting or otherwise disabling uncontrollably violent people. These situations call for medical and psychiatric personnel, social workers and other people trained in dispute resolution and counseling. If they find that they need police backup, they can call for it, and maybe in some cases the judgment would be to have backup nearby, but to keep out of the way until called. 


It seems to me this even applies in the case of say, a store clerk believing that a customer may have passed a counterfeit bill. The sort of person who responds to that can be more like a parking enforcement officer. They can collect contact information for the parties, and take the bill for examination. If they determine that it was fake, or apparently fake, they can write a ticket. There is no good reason to detain the person, any more than there is to detain people for running a red light. 

The Independent interviewed criminal justice professor and former police officer Kalfani Ture:


He said he consistently hears complaints from past colleagues as well as from officers he talks to today about police officers “having to do work that is beyond the scope of policing.” This current nationwide rethinking of policing underscores the necessity of training social workers, counselors, and crisis intervention specialists to respond to incidents that society currently leans on “warrior-minded” police officers to handle instead, he said. . . . 

“When warrior-oriented policing became the dominant paradigm after 9/11, we were taught about how it takes just a fraction of a second for someone to take your life. Therefore you should be proficient in being a killing machine, if circumstances call for it,” Ture said.

He said he and his colleagues in Atlanta would spend a significant amount of time learning defensive tactics, firearms training, and how to forecfully gain compliance from a suspect, and relatively little time on deescalation. He said deescalation was largely treated by police officers with a “hug a thug” mentality: that is, that a suspect inherently presents a violent threat to the officers and their surroundings.

He said many officers — in Connecticut as well as all over the country — spend much of their spare time training in mixed martial arts, which only reinforces that warrior mentality.

This militant stance runs in direct contradiction to the types of calls that police officers increasingly respond to, as borne out by the NHPD dispatch data. Those calls are for drug-dependent issues and mental health crises and traffic stops, he said, and only a very small portion require a forceful response. . . .

He said the warrior mentality . . . encourages officers to look for violent crime where it may not necessarily exist. “If you are searching for crime where it may not even exist, you may end up in a situation where you’re not policing, you’re harassing.”


The calls to "defund the police" were an unfortunate choice of language. Almost no-one I know of is advocating completely abolishing the police as we know them. There are situations that require a forceful response. However, they are far more rare than the general impression. What people are calling for is redirecting resources to more appropriate resources for the bulk of what police are now doing. And the remaining police force needs a radically different kind of training, and needs to recruit based on different criteria. 



Sunday, April 18, 2021

Sunday Sermonette: God the compassionate, the merciful

I'm afraid that Joshua 9 offers only a brief respite from genocidal slaughter. Joshua 10, one of the longest chapters we've read so far, and in case you thought it was impossible to scale greater heights of depravity, it manages the feat. In this single chapter, Joshua and the Israelites murder all of the inhabitants of 12 cities. God gets involved directly, helping to wipe out the Amorite alliance with a hailstorm, and making the sun stand still in the sky so Joshua can get his mass murder done in the daylight. Then we get an elaborate depiction of the humiliation and murder of the Amorite kings, followed by a relentless, repetitive recitation of the genocide of seven more cities. I don't think I really need to comment on this. 

BTW the "Book of Jasher," mentioned as depicting the standing still of the sun, is unknown. It is mentioned again in Samuel, so perhaps it existed. I note this only because it suggests there could have been some prior sources for material in Joshua. I'm inclined to think, however, that it was largely or entirely invented de novo on behalf of King Josiah. Again, the good news is that these events, nor anything like them, never happened. This is a work of fiction.

10 Now Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem heard that Joshua had taken Ai and totally destroyed[a] it, doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king, and that the people of Gibeon had made a treaty of peace with Israel and had become their allies. He and his people were very much alarmed at this, because Gibeon was an important city, like one of the royal cities; it was larger than Ai, and all its men were good fighters. So Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem appealed to Hoham king of Hebron, Piram king of Jarmuth, Japhia king of Lachish and Debir king of Eglon. “Come up and help me attack Gibeon,” he said, “because it has made peace with Joshua and the Israelites.”

Then the five kings of the Amorites—the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon—joined forces. They moved up with all their troops and took up positions against Gibeon and attacked it.

The Gibeonites then sent word to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal: “Do not abandon your servants. Come up to us quickly and save us! Help us, because all the Amorite kings from the hill country have joined forces against us.”

So Joshua marched up from Gilgal with his entire army, including all the best fighting men. The Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them; I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you.”

After an all-night march from Gilgal, Joshua took them by surprise. 10 The Lord threw them into confusion before Israel, so Joshua and the Israelites defeated them completely at Gibeon. Israel pursued them along the road going up to Beth Horon and cut them down all the way to Azekah and Makkedah. 11 As they fled before Israel on the road down from Beth Horon to Azekah, the Lord hurled large hailstones down on them, and more of them died from the hail than were killed by the swords of the Israelites.

12 On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel:

“Sun, stand still over Gibeon,
    and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”
13 So the sun stood still,
    and the moon stopped,
    till the nation avenged itself on[b] its enemies,

as it is written in the Book of Jashar.

The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. 14 There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!

15 Then Joshua returned with all Israel to the camp at Gilgal.

Five Amorite Kings Killed

16 Now the five kings had fled and hidden in the cave at Makkedah. 17 When Joshua was told that the five kings had been found hiding in the cave at Makkedah, 18 he said, “Roll large rocks up to the mouth of the cave, and post some men there to guard it. 19 But don’t stop; pursue your enemies! Attack them from the rear and don’t let them reach their cities, for the Lord your God has given them into your hand.”

20 So Joshua and the Israelites defeated them completely, but a few survivors managed to reach their fortified cities. 21 The whole army then returned safely to Joshua in the camp at Makkedah, and no one uttered a word against the Israelites.

22 Joshua said, “Open the mouth of the cave and bring those five kings out to me.” 23 So they brought the five kings out of the cave—the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon. 24 When they had brought these kings to Joshua, he summoned all the men of Israel and said to the army commanders who had come with him, “Come here and put your feet on the necks of these kings.” So they came forward and placed their feet on their necks.

25 Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Be strong and courageous. This is what the Lord will do to all the enemies you are going to fight.” 26 Then Joshua put the kings to death and exposed their bodies on five poles, and they were left hanging on the poles until evening.

27 At sunset Joshua gave the order and they took them down from the poles and threw them into the cave where they had been hiding. At the mouth of the cave they placed large rocks, which are there to this day.

Southern Cities Conquered

28 That day Joshua took Makkedah. He put the city and its king to the sword and totally destroyed everyone in it. He left no survivors. And he did to the king of Makkedah as he had done to the king of Jericho.

29 Then Joshua and all Israel with him moved on from Makkedah to Libnah and attacked it. 30 The Lord also gave that city and its king into Israel’s hand. The city and everyone in it Joshua put to the sword. He left no survivors there. And he did to its king as he had done to the king of Jericho.

31 Then Joshua and all Israel with him moved on from Libnah to Lachish; he took up positions against it and attacked it. 32 The Lord gave Lachish into Israel’s hands, and Joshua took it on the second day. The city and everyone in it he put to the sword, just as he had done to Libnah. 33 Meanwhile, Horam king of Gezer had come up to help Lachish, but Joshua defeated him and his army—until no survivors were left.

34 Then Joshua and all Israel with him moved on from Lachish to Eglon; they took up positions against it and attacked it. 35 They captured it that same day and put it to the sword and totally destroyed everyone in it, just as they had done to Lachish.

36 Then Joshua and all Israel with him went up from Eglon to Hebron and attacked it. 37 They took the city and put it to the sword, together with its king, its villages and everyone in it. They left no survivors. Just as at Eglon, they totally destroyed it and everyone in it.

38 Then Joshua and all Israel with him turned around and attacked Debir. 39 They took the city, its king and its villages, and put them to the sword. Everyone in it they totally destroyed. They left no survivors. They did to Debir and its king as they had done to Libnah and its king and to Hebron.

40 So Joshua subdued the whole region, including the hill country, the Negev, the western foothills and the mountain slopes, together with all their kings. He left no survivors. He totally destroyed all who breathed, just as the Lord, the God of Israel, had commanded. 41 Joshua subdued them from Kadesh Barnea to Gaza and from the whole region of Goshen to Gibeon. 42 All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one campaign, because the Lord, the God of Israel, fought for Israel.

43 Then Joshua returned with all Israel to the camp at Gilgal.


  1. Joshua 10:1 The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them; also in verses 28, 35, 37, 39 and 40.
  2. Joshua 10:13 Or nation triumphed over

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Where I've been . . .

I didn't post here for a couple of days because I've been reviewing proposals for a federal agency. I'm not allowed to say anything specific about it, but it did get me to thinking. First of all, as I've been saying here lately, federal support for basic science and innovative technology that has the character of public goods is essential to national welfare and for that matter the future of humanity. 


Yeah yeah, technology got us into most of this mess but it's also the only way out. Starting in the 19th Century -- well a bit before maybe but it really got going then -- humanity experienced an explosion of knowledge and technological development. But what didn't come with it was the wisdom to use it responsibly or the understanding of our place on the planet and its limitations. Now, at least some of us are starting to understand that better. (Not, unfortunately, anyone who identifies with the Republican party.)

While we need a second Great Transformation, there are some smaller transformations going on that we barely notice. One of these is in health and medicine. Telecommunications, machine learning, and artificial intelligence are starting to revolutionize diagnosis, treatment decision making and disease management, clinical communication, and personal wellness and self care. For  while now, if you wind up in the ER in the middle of the night, you X-ray may have been read by a radiologist in Australia. Soon, however, it might be a computer. The pandemic has accelerated a trend that probably would have gotten going pretty soon anyway, of remote interaction with health care providers. Technology is also just starting to revolutionize psychiatry, by finally elucidating the neurobiological basis of behavior and emotion. Machine learning is also starting to revolutionize our understanding of clinical and counseling communication.


There's a lot more going on, but what it adds up to is overturning everything I've spent my career studying. Very quickly it's all going to be a whole lot different, and this old dog is going to have to learn some new tricks.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Basic info on the J&J vaccine kerfuffle

I've seen a lot of chatter to the effect that the FDA/CDC advise to pause administration of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is ignorant, counterproductive, foolish and contrary to the public interest. The same reaction followed when many countries in the EU halted administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine, accusing the authorities of succumbing to the post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy. Well no. There is a legitimate debate about whether this was an overreaction, I suppose, but it isn't simple.

Here's a good summary of the issues. It isn't as simple as saying there have been six cases of the adverse effect -- cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, a rare event in the first place, but associated with low platelet count in these cases which is unusual -- out of more than six million doses. So that's one in a million, far less dangerous than actually getting Covid-19, so why are we even paying attention to it?

Well, in the first place, all of the cases are in young adult women, who are at low risk from Covid-19 complications, so the cost-benefit calculus isn't quite as extreme as it might appear at first glance. And it's not just "blood clots," as most news stories have it, it's something more specific and much more rare. Also, most doctors have never seen this and won't know to recognize it or how to treat it. Also, if this can happen maybe there is some biological mechanism going on that could have other ill effects which haven't yet been recognized. The same complication seems to be associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine and they both use adenovirus vectors, so something seems to be going on there that the regulatory agencies want to understand.

They may move very quickly to make recommendations, which might be, for example, that this is not the best choice of vaccine for women younger than 50; that information be disseminated to the medical community about how to recognize this and treat it; and that research continue and very careful monitoring be instituted for this vaccine. There is little cost to the pause because there is a lot of Pfizer-Biontech and Moderna vaccine available and this one isn't really needed in the U.S., although it's a lot easier to distribute and administer under some relatively challenging circumstances. It only requires one dose and it doesn't need to be kept as cold, so it's handier. 

The fear is that this may contribute to more general distrust of vaccines. It shouldn't, logically. On the contrary, the risk is very low, no matter how you slice it, and the regulators have demonstrated extremely high vigilance. Unfortunately facts and logic aren't that influential any more. But if you're willing to take it from me, not to worry. Get vaccinated.

Wednesday Bible Study: One weird trick

Joshua 9 is a very strange story. Of course Biblical apologists find deep meaning in it, although I would say that whatever moral lesson you might try to draw is easily demolished, especially in the context. The Gibeonites trick the Israelites into a treaty which precludes the Israelites from massacring them as they are everyone else in the area. When the Israelites discover the deception, they nevertheless still consider themselves bound by the treaty, but only part way. They won't murder the Gibeonites, they'll just enslave them. 

So why is this here? I haven't been able to find that there's any historical record of it, but it is possible that at the time this was written -- 300 years or more after it supposedly happened -- the Gibeonites were a subject people of Judah. That's what the text literally says. Or at least, in general terms, the writers wanted to endorse the idea of subjugation. Note that Yahweh butts out of this -- he could have warned the people of the deception, but he is absent from this part of the story. Make of it what you will.

Now when all the kings west of the Jordan heard about these things—the kings in the hill country, in the western foothills, and along the entire coast of the Mediterranean Sea as far as Lebanon (the kings of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites)— they came together to wage war against Joshua and Israel.

However, when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to a ruse: They went as a delegation whose donkeys were loaded[a] with worn-out sacks and old wineskins, cracked and mended. They put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. All the bread of their food supply was dry and moldy. Then they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and the Israelites, “We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us.”

The Israelites said to the Hivites, “But perhaps you live near us, so how can we make a treaty with you?”

“We are your servants,” they said to Joshua.

But Joshua asked, “Who are you and where do you come from?”

They answered: “Your servants have come from a very distant country because of the fame of the Lord your God. For we have heard reports of him: all that he did in Egypt, 10 and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan—Sihon king of Heshbon, and Og king of Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth. 11 And our elders and all those living in our country said to us, ‘Take provisions for your journey; go and meet them and say to them, “We are your servants; make a treaty with us.”’ 12 This bread of ours was warm when we packed it at home on the day we left to come to you. But now see how dry and moldy it is. 13 And these wineskins that we filled were new, but see how cracked they are. And our clothes and sandals are worn out by the very long journey.”

14 The Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord. 15 Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath.

16 Three days after they made the treaty with the Gibeonites, the Israelites heard that they were neighbors, living near them. 17 So the Israelites set out and on the third day came to their cities: Gibeon, Kephirah, Beeroth and Kiriath Jearim. 18 But the Israelites did not attack them, because the leaders of the assembly had sworn an oath to them by the Lord, the God of Israel.

The whole assembly grumbled against the leaders, 19 but all the leaders answered, “We have given them our oath by the Lord, the God of Israel, and we cannot touch them now. 20 This is what we will do to them: We will let them live, so that God’s wrath will not fall on us for breaking the oath we swore to them.” 21 They continued, “Let them live, but let them be woodcutters and water carriers in the service of the whole assembly.” So the leaders’ promise to them was kept.

22 Then Joshua summoned the Gibeonites and said, “Why did you deceive us by saying, ‘We live a long way from you,’ while actually you live near us? 23 You are now under a curse: You will never be released from service as woodcutters and water carriers for the house of my God.”

24 They answered Joshua, “Your servants were clearly told how the Lord your God had commanded his servant Moses to give you the whole land and to wipe out all its inhabitants from before you. So we feared for our lives because of you, and that is why we did this. 25 We are now in your hands. Do to us whatever seems good and right to you.”

26 So Joshua saved them from the Israelites, and they did not kill them. 27 That day he made the Gibeonites woodcutters and water carriers for the assembly, to provide for the needs of the altar of the Lord at the place the Lord would choose. And that is what they are to this day.


  1. Joshua 9:4 Most Hebrew manuscripts; some Hebrew manuscripts, Vulgate and Syriac (see also Septuagint) They prepared provisions and loaded their donkeys

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Shorter Philip E. Agre . . .

 By David Roberts. Read the whole thread, but here are the highlights.

All the people who think there was some noble, credible US conservatism that has "fallen," or been "taken over" by Trumpism, tell me: why was it so weak? Why did it offer so little resistance? Why did it devolve so *easily* into reactionary madness? Doesn't it make you wonder?


Pizza's cooking, so: my theory of conservatism. Basically, in any society, there's a group/class/demographic that has power & privileges, sometimes economic, sometimes relating to race or caste. And every such group has a story about why their place at the top is justified. The US was founded on equality -- at least that's what it said on the tin -- so its ruling class (white property owning males) came up w/ a story about property rights, "free markets," "small government," & federalism. They *earned* their privileges! . . .

But in all societies, when that privileged class begins feeling threatened, outnumbered, & insecure, the politesse fades. The high-toned philosophical justifications drop out. Raw tribalism takes over. The class is always, first & foremost, for its own continued hegemony. 
And this has basically been the course of US conservatism in the 21st century: from a self-serious, high-falutin' "party of ideas" to a raw, raging army fighting for white hegemony. Once they got scared, all pretense of "free market" & "family values" went right out the window.