Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

I am not a crank

And James K. Galbraith certainly is not. In 1992, 29 years after the Kennedy assassination, congress passed  and the president signed a law stating that "all Government records concerning the assassination ... should carry a presumption of immediate disclosure, and all records should be eventually disclosed." The only reasons to delay disclosure were to protect the identity of "currently utilized" intelligence agents or sources, or disclosures that would harm the national security interest of the U.S.

Kennedy was murdered 58 years ago. It is very difficult to see how any of these conditions could possibly pertain if the truth is that Lee H. Oswald, without any assistance or collaboration, was the sole perpetrator of the assassination. And in fact, after 25 years, even the provisions in the above paragraph lapsed. In order to keep the records secret, the president has to certify that the risk to the national interest of disclosure outweighs the public interest in releasing the records. Well guess what? Joe Biden has done so. The certification is supposedly temporary and agencies are investigating whether release would harm the national interest, but what's to investigate? They presumably already know what's in the records.

Lettuce B. Kleer. I do not make any assumptions or draw any conclusions about what is really going on here. It still seems to me unlikely that we don't know the real story of the assassination. But at the very least, something else, or more than one something else, came up in the course of the investigation that no president since 1992 has wanted you to know about. Keeping those secrets is just going to keep people not believing that the true story of the assassination has been revealed.

Sunday Sermonette: Military Technology

Ch. 17 is one of the best-known  Bible stories, but I must say it is usually interpreted rather oddly. The Deuteronomic history is mostly about war, to the point of being very tiresome. You will notice that battles are fought hand-to-hand, with swords and spears. The spears are not thrown, but thrusted. The bow and arrow seems not to have come to Canaan. However, there is a single mention of slings as weapons of war in Judges 20, when the Benjamites are about to get massacred by the rest of the Israelites:

15 And the children of Benjamin were numbered at that time out of the cities twenty and six thousand men that drew sword, beside the inhabitants of Gibeah, which were numbered seven hundred chosen men.

16 Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men lefthanded; every one could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss.

I don't know why it matters that they were lefthanded, but anyway, people are obviously aware that slings can be wielded in combat. So this is not, as commonly presented, a tale of the doughty underdog little guy triumphing by guile. Either Goliath and the rest of the Philistines are so stupid it never occurs to them that somebody might hit the big fellow with a slingstone; or David is cheating, and the rules of single combat are that you have to fight hand-to-hand. Either way it's certainly no miracle and David didn't need any help from God. I have looked it up and yes, it is certainly possible to sling a stone hard enough to knock a man out. 


There is a major continuity problem. At the end, Saul does not recognize David, apparently has never heard of him, and David has to introduce himself. But Saul knows David very well. 1 Samuel 16 (KJV):


16 And David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him greatly; and he became his armourbearer. And Saul sent to Jesse, saying, Let David, I pray thee, stand before me; for he hath found favour in my sight. And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him. 


And of course, in this very chapter, they have a lengthy discussion before David goes to battle Goliath. (Note also that Saul is very much still king.)


17 Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Sokoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Sokoh and Azekah. Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them.

A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. His height was six cubits and a span.[a] He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels[b]; on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels.[c] His shield bearer went ahead of him.

Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” 10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified.

12 Now David was the son of an Ephrathite named Jesse, who was from Bethlehem in Judah. Jesse had eight sons, and in Saul’s time he was very old. 13 Jesse’s three oldest sons had followed Saul to the war: The firstborn was Eliab; the second, Abinadab; and the third, Shammah. 14 David was the youngest. The three oldest followed Saul, 15 but David went back and forth from Saul to tend his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.

16 For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand.

17 Now Jesse said to his son David, “Take this ephah[d] of roasted grain and these ten loaves of bread for your brothers and hurry to their camp. 18 Take along these ten cheeses to the commander of their unit. See how your brothers are and bring back some assurance[e] from them. 19 They are with Saul and all the men of Israel in the Valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines.”

20 Early in the morning David left the flock in the care of a shepherd, loaded up and set out, as Jesse had directed. He reached the camp as the army was going out to its battle positions, shouting the war cry. 21 Israel and the Philistines were drawing up their lines facing each other. 22 David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and asked his brothers how they were. 23 As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. 24 Whenever the Israelites saw the man, they all fled from him in great fear.

25 Now the Israelites had been saying, “Do you see how this man keeps coming out? He comes out to defy Israel. The king will give great wealth to the man who kills him. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his family from taxes in Israel.”

26 David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?”

27 They repeated to him what they had been saying and told him, “This is what will be done for the man who kills him.”

28 When Eliab, David’s oldest brother, heard him speaking with the men, he burned with anger at him and asked, “Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the wilderness? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle.”

29 “Now what have I done?” said David. “Can’t I even speak?” 30 He then turned away to someone else and brought up the same matter, and the men answered him as before. 31 What David said was overheard and reported to Saul, and Saul sent for him.

32 David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.”

33 Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a young man, and he has been a warrior from his youth.”

34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”

Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you.”

38 Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. 39 David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.

“I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine.

41 Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. 42 He looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him. 43 He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44 “Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!”

45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47 All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”

48 As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him. 49 Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.

50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.

51 David ran and stood over him. He took hold of the Philistine’s sword and drew it from the sheath. After he killed him, he cut off his head with the sword.

When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran. 52 Then the men of Israel and Judah surged forward with a shout and pursued the Philistines to the entrance of Gath[f] and to the gates of Ekron. Their dead were strewn along the Shaaraim road to Gath and Ekron. 53 When the Israelites returned from chasing the Philistines, they plundered their camp.

54 David took the Philistine’s head and brought it to Jerusalem; he put the Philistine’s weapons in his own tent.

55 As Saul watched David going out to meet the Philistine, he said to Abner, commander of the army, “Abner, whose son is that young man?”

Abner replied, “As surely as you live, Your Majesty, I don’t know.”

56 The king said, “Find out whose son this young man is.”

57 As soon as David returned from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with David still holding the Philistine’s head.

58 “Whose son are you, young man?” Saul asked him.

David said, “I am the son of your servant Jesse of Bethlehem.”


  1. 1 Samuel 17:4 That is, about 9 feet 9 inches or about 3 meters
  2. 1 Samuel 17:5 That is, about 125 pounds or about 58 kilograms
  3. 1 Samuel 17:7 That is, about 15 pounds or about 6.9 kilograms
  4. 1 Samuel 17:17 That is, probably about 36 pounds or about 16 kilograms
  5. 1 Samuel 17:18 Or some token; or some pledge of spoils
  6. 1 Samuel 17:52 Some Septuagint manuscripts; Hebrew of a valley




Friday, October 29, 2021


One of the strangest responses to the recent phony culture war flapdoodle is that schools should be limited to teaching basic skills -- reading and math, I suppose, and maybe shop and home economics. If public schools teach history, science, social studies and literature, students might learn something their parents don't want them to.

It seems to me there are really  two or three separate phenomena going on here. We need to keep them straight. 

The first is people who don't believe certain objective truths, of science or history. An example which the courts have already dealt with is evolution.  In 2004, the Dover Area School District in Pennsylvania required that "intelligent design" be taught as an alternative to evolution in 9th grade biology. Some parents sued. The court ruled that intelligent design is not science, and permanently enjoined the school board from requiring teachers to disparage the theory of evolution, or to present intelligent design as an alternative scientific theory. Creationism is also is incompatible with physics, geology and astronomy. 


To have a successful society, we need a scientifically literate populace, and that means that children need to learn how scientists think and what constitutes a scientific theory, and conclusion. Parents who object to this are simply ignorant, and wrong. They are not acting in the best interest of their children. So this one is easy.


There are also historical truths to which some people object. They don't want any discussion of slavery in the U.S., or they want to diminish its horrors. They don't want students to learn about racism and discrimination. They don't want any critical discussion of the dispossession and genocide of Native Americans, or U.S. imperialism, or economic inequality. They claim the Civil War wasn't really fought over the issue of slavery. Some deny the Nazi holocaust. While there are certainly factual disputes in history, these basic facts are indisputable. 


But it's not just denial of facts that comes into play here. We hear two other kinds of complaints. One is that it might make some children feel bad to learn about all this sad history. So be it. It made me feel bad when I was a kid, actually. But that's part of growing up. We need to understand and accept reality. Actually that was the stated reason why a woman in Virginia objected to her son being made to read Beloved -- it gave him nightmares. But of course that wasn't her real reason.


And that's the third category: that "patriotism" or some other ill defined value requires that we adjust our beliefs to its requirements. If we teach children historical truth, their pride in their nation or their (white) heritage may be diminished.  I see bumper stickers all the time saying "Proud to be an American," and I think, "What the hell are you talking about?" Let me tell you something: I'm not proud to be American, or white, or anything else that I didn't achieve. It's an accident of birth, it's just something that happened to you. It's nothing to be proud of. What should make you proud is learning, and growing, and putting your learning and your maturity to work to do good in the world. But to do good, you have to recognize the bad.

And that's what the public schools should be doing. Equipping our children with the truth, and the skills to make the most of it. The 12th Century is over.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Cancel Culture

You have  no doubt heard about Republican candidate for governor of Virginia Glenn Youngkin supporting banning teaching Toni Morrison's Pulitzer prize-winning novel Beloved to high school seniors. For those who don't know, the novel tells the story of a family of formerly enslaved people shortly after the Civil War. It is a painful story because the characters have been psychically scarred by their former enslavement. Youngkin has joined a growing movement of Republican politicians who are demanding that students not be exposed to the truth about the nation's past.

Now a Texas state representative has drawn up a list of 850 books "that could “make students feel discomfort,” and is demanding that school districts across the state report whether any are in their classrooms or libraries." He also demanded that districts identify “any other books” that could cause students “guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex or convey that a student, by virtue of their race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.” 


Among the books he apparently wants to consider banning are William Styron's The Confessions of Nat Turner,  John Irving's Ciderhouse Rules, and The Handmaid's Tale. (BTW, as a literate citizen, I have read all of those books.)

You know who else banned books? Hitler, Stalin and Mao. To be sure, Republicans aren't calling for banning these books outright, but they are calling for banning them as assigned reading in schools. These are among the landmarks of modern English literature, some of the most important works of fiction of the 20th Century. And they confront the reality of slavery, racism, misogyny, and they have sex in them. Which is something that people do.

The hypocrisy and stupidity of these people is beyond the power of words.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

: Wednesday Bible Study: Who's the Boss?

The story continues with the confusing assertion that God no longer recognizes Saul as king and is going to choose a new one. But that isn't actually what happens. In this chapter, David gets "anointed," but that has no evident practical effect. He becomes a servant of king Saul, who goes right on being king. To be fair, in the coming chapters David will be more popular than Saul, who will fear usurpation, but it doesn't happen. So apparently God doesn't get to choose the king after all.


The process of selecting David seems unnecessarily lengthy. I'm not sure what the point is.

16 The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.”

But Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”

The Lord said, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what to do. You are to anoint for me the one I indicate.”

Samuel did what the Lord said. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town trembled when they met him. They asked, “Do you come in peace?”

Samuel replied, “Yes, in peace; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Consecrate yourselves and come to the sacrifice with me.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Then Jesse called Abinadab and had him pass in front of Samuel. But Samuel said, “The Lord has not chosen this one either.” Jesse then had Shammah pass by, but Samuel said, “Nor has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 Jesse had seven of his sons pass before Samuel, but Samuel said to him, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 So he asked Jesse, “Are these all the sons you have?”

“There is still the youngest,” Jesse answered. “He is tending the sheep.”

Samuel said, “Send for him; we will not sit down until he arrives.”

12 So he sent for him and had him brought in. He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features.

Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”

13 So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David. Samuel then went to Ramah.

David in Saul’s Service

14 Now the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil[a] spirit from the Lord tormented him.

Saul develops what we would today diagnose as a psychiatric disorder, apparently. In the Bible these are often interpreted as demonic possession, but this one comes straight from God.  But God also sends the cure in the person of David. Again, this is very confused. David is supposed to replace Saul, but instead he takes care of him.

15 Saul’s attendants said to him, “See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. 16 Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the lyre. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes on you, and you will feel better.”

17 So Saul said to his attendants, “Find someone who plays well and bring him to me.”

18 One of the servants answered, “I have seen a son of Jesse of Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man. And the Lord is with him.”

19 Then Saul sent messengers to Jesse and said, “Send me your son David, who is with the sheep.” 20 So Jesse took a donkey loaded with bread, a skin of wine and a young goat and sent them with his son David to Saul.

21 David came to Saul and entered his service. Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armor-bearers. 22 Then Saul sent word to Jesse, saying, “Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him.”

23 Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.


  1. 1 Samuel 16:14 Or and a harmful; similarly in verses 15, 16 and 23

Monday, October 25, 2021

The Lone Star Republic

Update: Dear Dipshits:


Since you obviously cannot read, this post is about what would happen if Texas were to secede.  The current condition of the state is irrelevant. That is not what it is about. Learn how to think.


For quite a while now, there has been a movement for Texas to secede from the U.S. I think this is a great idea! There might be a few minor complications, however.

First, all of the U.S. military bases in Texas would immediately close. All of the moveable equipment would be trucked out, and all the personnel would leave. Too bad for local businesses. Since Texas would now need its own army, navy and air force, it might be able to use the bases, but it would have to buy all of the aircraft, ships, trucks, tanks and weapons. Texas would also need its own coast guard, of course, and it would need to patrol its own borders, with Mexico and with the U.S. -- and securing the borders with Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico would be quite an undertaking! Of course the Republic would have to raise the tax revenue to do all this.

Then they would need to execute trade agreements with the U.S., Mexico, and the world. Until that was done, no goods could enter or leave the republic. Whatever agreements were ultimately negotiated would likely include tariffs and various bureaucratic procedures and regulations that would make trade with the U.S., and the world, far more expensive. Texas could no longer import goods coming in through Pacific or Atlantic ports without paying additional duties at its own border. 


Texas students would not be able to study at U.S. colleges and universities without a visa, and vice versa. Texas universities and medical centers would no longer have access to NIH , NSF or PCORI funding which means that scientific research in the state would effectively end, and its universities would face financial collapse. NASA's Houston facility would close.


Everyone who currently lives in Texas and works in a neighboring state would lose their job. Federal funding for housing, highways, Medicare and Medicaid, education, SNAP, community health centers and other health care safety net programs, would end. The FBI would no longer investigate federal crimes in Texas, and the DEA would go away as well. The republic would need to negotiate on behalf of Social Security, SSI and SDI recipients but it's hard to imagine that the latter two categories would get a dime and it would be entirely up to the U.S. whether retirement benefits would continue.


The republic would no longer have the benefit of forecasts from the National Weather Service, information from the census or Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. patent protections and copyrights, the Agricultural Extension Service and agricultural subsidies and crop insurance, flood insurance, FEMA assistance, or the CDC. It would need to negotiate agreements for telecommunications and Internet access. I could, of course, go on.

One would expect a massive population exodus, but that's okay. Those are probably the very same people who are teaching critical race theory to third-graders, gay marrying, and making war on Christmas. So it's all good in the end.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

The final frontier

As the world -- or at least the corporate media -- seems enthralled by the spectacle of billionaires taking joy rides to the edge of space, I feel compelled to comment on the larger implications. There are no larger implications, other than the prospect that billionaires may continue to take joyrides to the edge of space until they get tired of it, then they'll find some other way to waste their ill-gotten gains.


This may seem a digression, but bear with me. Many people find it so compellingly obvious that we ought to have discovered other technological civilizations in the galaxy, and even be in contact with them, that they actually call the absence of detectable extraterrestrial civilizations a "paradox."  That is ridiculous. Would we be detectable to ET? Our feeble radio broadcasts are undetectable a couple of light years away, and since the nearest star is more than 4 light years away, that means nobody but Homo sapiens is watching I Love Lucy reruns.

Sadly, Einstein was right. It is impossible to travel faster than light. Physicists have had more than a century to chew over relativity and this conclusion is absolutely airtight. Star Wars, Star Trek, the C.J. Cherryh universe, Asimov's Foundation, Dune, the Hyperion Tetralogy, Buck Rogers -- all that is impossible. Actually, it's practically impossible to travel at even a substantial fraction of the speed of light. If you're going at 20% light speed and hit a grain of sand, it will be like an atomic bomb. The starship Enterprise has a deflector array but they never explain how it works, and that's because it can't.

But you're never going to get to that velocity anyway. It's also impossible to accelerate in a vacuum without throwing away reaction mass. They've had since 1687 to chew over Newton's conclusion on that subject and it's also airtight. That means you can't accelerate to anything like 20% of light speed without an immense store of fuel and you need to save more than half of it to decelerate and maneuver once you reach your destination. So while travel between stars is physically possible, it requires decades if not centuries. I'm not holding my breath until people invest in sending a robot to Proxima Centauri in the hope it may send a radio message to their great grandchildren, and I don't expect many extraterrestrials are particularly motivated to do that either.

If Elon Musk really wants to go to Mars, a rocket that shoots people up 69 miles and then falls back to earth is not a step in that direction. It's irrelevant. The journey would require a totally different technology.


I can't think of any particular reason to go to Mars in person. It's a very unpleasant place to say the least, the average temperature being -63 C which is -81 F and no breathable atmosphere. While we've gotten pretty good at sending robots, sending people is not possible with current technology because nobody has figured out a practical way of shielding them from radiation. (In low earth orbit we're inside the earth's magnetosphere, which gives us shelter from charged particles.) 

So it's fun to explore the solar system with robots, but there is no payoff to earthlings to traveling in space in the flesh. There is no conceivable economic payoff. Low earth orbit is a commercially valuable space, but even there humans have no useful role to play. So let's pay attention to the one planet that really matters to us.

Sunday Sermonette: Let's do the Time Warp again

You may recall a few chapters back that Samuel gave his farewell address. Then he didn't go anywhere. He's still here and in fact he will continue to stick around for many years to come. In this chapter, he tells Saul that God regrets making Saul king, that he is no longer king, and God will give his kingdom to someone else. Then Saul goes on to continue being king for many years to come. He fights and wins several battles and engages in much further ado, until he finally loses a battle and dies -- as king. 

The chapter also concludes saying that Samuel will never see Saul again for the rest of his days. Spoiler alert: Samuel sees Saul just three chapters later. Obviously, at least two and probably three versions of the story have been muddled together, and passages are inserted in the wrong places to achieve any narrative coherence. 

I won't harp on why God supposedly turns against Saul (even though he doesn't.) It's the same depravity that pervades the Deuteronomic history. God commands Saul to murder all of the Amalekites - men, women, babies -- and all of their animals, because of something Amalek did hundreds of years ago. Saul spares their king and a few animals, which is unforgivable disobedience. Family values, folks, that's what you'll find in the Bible!

15 Samuel said to Saul, “I am the one the Lord sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy[a] all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.’”

So Saul summoned the men and mustered them at Telaim—two hundred thousand foot soldiers and ten thousand from Judah. Saul went to the city of Amalek and set an ambush in the ravine. Then he said to the Kenites, “Go away, leave the Amalekites so that I do not destroy you along with them; for you showed kindness to all the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt.” So the Kenites moved away from the Amalekites.

Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, near the eastern border of Egypt. He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword. But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves[b] and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed.

10 Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel: 11 “I regret that I have made Saul king, because he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions.” Samuel was angry, and he cried out to the Lord all that night.

12 Early in the morning Samuel got up and went to meet Saul, but he was told, “Saul has gone to Carmel. There he has set up a monument in his own honor and has turned and gone on down to Gilgal.”

13 When Samuel reached him, Saul said, “The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.”

14 But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?”

15 Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”

16 “Enough!” Samuel said to Saul. “Let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.”

“Tell me,” Saul replied.

17 Samuel said, “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. 18 And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out.’ 19 Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?”

20 “But I did obey the Lord,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. 21 The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”

22 But Samuel replied:

“Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
    as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
    and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination,
    and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,
    he has rejected you as king.”

24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them. 25 Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord.”

26 But Samuel said to him, “I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel!”

27 As Samuel turned to leave, Saul caught hold of the hem of his robe, and it tore. 28 Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors—to one better than you. 29 He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.”

30 Saul replied, “I have sinned. But please honor me before the elders of my people and before Israel; come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord your God.” 31 So Samuel went back with Saul, and Saul worshiped the Lord.

32 Then Samuel said, “Bring me Agag king of the Amalekites.”

Agag came to him in chains.[c] And he thought, “Surely the bitterness of death is past.”

33 But Samuel said,

“As your sword has made women childless,
    so will your mother be childless among women.”

And Samuel put Agag to death before the Lord at Gilgal.

34 Then Samuel left for Ramah, but Saul went up to his home in Gibeah of Saul. 35 Until the day Samuel died, he did not go to see Saul again, though Samuel mourned for him. And the Lord regretted that he had made Saul king over Israel.


  1. 1 Samuel 15:3 The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them; also in verses 8, 9, 15, 18, 20 and 21.
  2. 1 Samuel 15:9 Or the grown bulls; the meaning of the Hebrew for this phrase is uncertain.
  3. 1 Samuel 15:32 The meaning of the Hebrew for this phrase is uncertain.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

The lab leak hypothesis: Stick a fork in it

I have never really understood why this is so important to the wingnuts. Oh well, I suppose I do. It was a way to gin up a narrative to smear Anthony Fauci. That is the claim that Covid-19 originated in a laboratory in Wuhan which had indirect funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, which Fauci heads. The non-insane version of this was that it was an accidental release, which would be worth knowing. The insane version was that Fauci was the mastermind of a plot to foist the virus on the world in order to bring about a One World Socialist Dictatorship. On the other hand, the pandemic is a hoax and it's not worse than the flu, but if you can't hold at least three contradictory ideas at once, you ain't a Republican.

Anyway, the retiring director of NIH, Francis Collins, exits with the following conclusion:


Statement on Misinformation about SARS-CoV-2 Origins

Analysis of published genomic data and other documents from the grantee demonstrate that the naturally occurring bat coronaviruses studied under the NIH grant are genetically far distant from SARS-CoV-2 and could not possibly have caused the COVID-19 pandemic. Any claims to the contrary are demonstrably false. The scientific evidence to date indicates that the virus is likely the result of viral evolution in nature, potentially jumping directly to humans or through an unidentified intermediary animal host.


I won't crowd the plate with all of the data, but here's a fairly easy to understand graphic that is dispositive:




The blue bars show the percent genetic overlap of the viruses studied in the Wuhan lab with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. The light orange bars show the viruses, occurring in nature, which are most similar to SARS-CoV-2. They were not studied in the Wuhan lab. QED. You will find the source document here

From this analysis, it is evident that the viruses studied under the EcoHealth Alliance grant are very far distant from SARS-CoV-2. Included for comparison is RaTG13, one of the closest bat coronavirus relatives to SARS-CoV-2 collected by the Wuhan Institute of Virology (ref) and BANAL-52, one of several bat coronaviruses recently identified from bats living in caves in Laos (ref). Although RaTG13 and BANAL-52 are 96-97% identical to SARS-CoV-2 at the nucleotide level (>900 nucleotide differences across the entire genome), the difference actually represents decades of evolutionary divergence from SARS-CoV-2. Experts in evolutionary biology and virology have made it clear that even the closest known relatives of SARS-CoV-2, which were not studied under the EcoHealth Alliance grant, are evolutionarily too distant from SARS-CoV-2 to have been the progenitor of the COVID-19 pandemic (ref, ref).  Field studies continue the search for more proximate progenitors.

Of course the corporate media won't get this, they're scientifically illiterate.