Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Friday, April 29, 2022

On the declining prestige of expertise

Yeah, it's something of a hobby horse. But it's important. Sean Illig interviews Michael Lewis about why people don't trust experts. I don't think Lewis gives anything like a full explanation, but he does make a point I'd like to pick up on. Much of what experts say about the world  is probabilistic, and people just don't understand probability and statistics, either in a philosophical or a technical sense.

Actually, probability is difficult to understand philosophically. I'll stay out of those weeds for now but most predictions, at least the interesting ones, come with a degree of likelihood, they aren't definite. Maybe there's a 1 in 500,000 probability that you'll have myocarditis as a side effect of a vaccine. That shouldn't be anything to worry about, especially if it's 1/1,000 of the probability you'll get myocarditis if you get the disease the vaccine prevents, but for some reason, that's hard to explain to some people. It also means that the experts can appear to be wrong. It's much more compelling if someone you know does get the side effect, than if someone tells you it's rare. Samples of 1 can be more convincing than samples of 1,000,000.

But people also don't understand probabilities technically. That's a fact well known to con artists, including the ones who run the old carnival game Razzle. At the link is the clearest explanation I've found of this. The game consists of a surface with many holes, each of which is numbered 1 through 6. You throw 8 marbles onto the surface and add up the numbers of the holes they land in. This is exactly equivalent to throwing 8 dice, BTW, and the game can be played that way.) There's a chart on the wall that shows how many points you get for each possible score. It looks like this:



As you can see, you get some amount of points for about half the numbers. The idea is that you pay, say $1 per roll, and if you get to ten points, you win a prize, which is usually quite valuable. If you roll an 8 or a 48, you win instantly! But you can win on two rolls with a 13 and a 10, and if the prize is worth a lot of money, you don't even mind spending a buck to get a point and a half or a half point. 


There are some other tricks the con man uses to pull more money out of you, on of which has to with the 29 score (read the linked article if you're interested) but he doesn't really need to use them.  The odds of rolling an 8 or a 46 are approximately 1 in 1.6 million. In fact, the chance of rolling any number that scores points is 1 in 36, and most of those just get you a half point. To get to 10 points you'd have to spend your life's savings. 

If you roll multiple dice, the numbers in the middle of the possible range are much more likely than the numbers on the extremes. If you roll two dice, there's only one way to score a 2 or a 12, but there are 6 ways to score a 7. With 8 dice, the probabilities at the extreme are infinitesimal. The probability of scoring an 8 is 1/6^8. Try it on your calculator.

In coming days, I'll have more to say about probability and statistics. Meanwhile, if you come across a Razzle game, walk away.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

The Foundation of Collective Insanity?

There have always been fairly widely shared delusions out there -- from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, to the Illuminati, to the Reptiloids, and on and on endlessly. (The Illuminati was a real society of secularists in Bavaria but it was outlawed in 1790 with the encouragement of the Catholic Church. The delusional theory is that they continue to exist and secretly manipulate world events.) I wouldn't say that crazy beliefs have necessarily always been way out on the fringe. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, for example, has at times been widely believed. But it does seem that the takeover of much of one of the two major parties in the U.S. by outright batshit insanity is something new, at least in recent times. 

Marin Cogan interviews NYT reporter Elizabeth Williamson, who traces the trajectory of craziness to the "false flag" claims about the Sandy Hook school massacre, thence to pizzagate to Covid-19 conspiracy theories to QAnon to the Big Lie about the 2020 election. One of Williamson's premises is that similar nutso responses to novel and shocking events have happened regularly in the past, but now they are amplified by social media. (Think of the moon landing.) There might have been similar claims about the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, but if so we didn't hear about them because the channels to amplify them didn't exist. Alienation from authority and expertise by a growing segment of the population also contributes. As Williamson says:

There’s another reason why Sandy Hook was one of these watershed moments. It came at a moment when President Obama had just been reelected and there was a reaction to his election in general, this sense that he was an outsider and was going to propose some sort of draconian measures on people. His presidency was fertile ground for a lot of conspiracy theorists.

Or, to put it a bit more clearly, since Williamson doesn't seem willing to do it, Barack Obama had too much melanin and that felt threatening to Republican voters. Anyway, for people who feel that  history is passing them by, being "in the know" feels empowering.

It’s less about politics than psychology and a need for social connection and status. Many of the people that I interviewed for the book who are conspiratorially-minded started out being on the political left and then they moved to the far right. What I learned through the psychologists and the political scientists I interviewed for the book, about the motives behind the spread of these conspiracy rumors, is that it can be about fact-finding, it can be about a shared doubt in the official narrative. There’s an element of self-esteem involved — they are possessors of superior knowledge. It’s, as one family member described it to me and psychologists have confirmed, an element of narcissism: You’re the only person who knows. There’s a sort of smugness I noted —I guess you only understand half the narrative at best” — that kind of thing.

The big problem here is that evidence and reason are of no use against these beliefs. They aren't about the standards that the reality based community uses to assess truth, they're a foundation of identity. I don't know what to do about it.


Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Wednesday Bible Study: False Prophets

Chapter 13 tells the story of an unnamed "man of God" who has two adventures. In the first, he comes out of Judah to denounce Jeroboam for his phony altar and his non-Levite priests. He prophecies the coming of a King Josiah who will trash the altar and kill all its priests. That would be a pretty good prophecy except that this was written some 300 years after the events  it purports to describe, probably during or after the reign of King Josiah. So no credit for the prophecy! Jeroboam tries to have the moG arrested but his hand withers. Jeroboam asks the moG to intercede for him with God,, which moG does, and Jeroboam gets his hand back. So Jeroboam invites the guy over for lunch but he says no, for unknown reasons God has commanded him not to eat or drink, and also not to go back to Judah by the way he came. Whatev.

The man of God's second adventure is puzzling, to say the least. .He meets another prophet, who lies to him and says an angel said he could forget about the not eating or drinking thing. Some prophet! So the moG goes back and has a meal, whereupon God has him killed by a lion. Why is God messing with the guy in this way? No clue. Then Jeroboam goes back to his blasphemous ways. End of story.

 As odd and off topic as the second story seems to be, the first one is a big reveal. We're starting to get a clue as to why this was written, and what it's really all about.Yes, in large part it's a compilation of older stories, but they've been selected, organized and edited with a purpose.

13 And behold, a man of God came out of Judah by the word of the Lord to Bethel. Jerobo′am was standing by the altar to burn incense. And the man cried against the altar by the word of the Lord, and said, “O altar, altar, thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josi′ah by name; and he shall sacrifice upon you the priests of the high places who burn incense upon you, and men’s bones shall be burned upon you.’” And he gave a sign the same day, saying, “This is the sign that the Lord has spoken: ‘Behold, the altar shall be torn down, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out.’” And when the king heard the saying of the man of God, which he cried against the altar at Bethel, Jerobo′am stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, “Lay hold of him.” And his hand, which he stretched out against him, dried up, so that he could not draw it back to himself. The altar also was torn down, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the Lord. And the king said to the man of God, “Entreat now the favor of the Lord your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored to me.” And the man of God entreated the Lord; and the king’s hand was restored to him, and became as it was before. And the king said to the man of God, “Come home with me, and refresh yourself, and I will give you a reward.” And the man of God said to the king, “If you give me half your house, I will not go in with you. And I will not eat bread or drink water in this place; for so was it commanded me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘You shall neither eat bread, nor drink water, nor return by the way that you came.’” 10 So he went another way, and did not return by the way that he came to Bethel.

11 Now there dwelt an old prophet in Bethel. And his sons[a] came and told him all that the man of God had done that day in Bethel; the words also which he had spoken to the king, they told to their father. 12 And their father said to them, “Which way did he go?” And his sons showed him the way which the man of God who came from Judah had gone. 13 And he said to his sons, “Saddle the ass for me.” So they saddled the ass for him and he mounted it. 14 And he went after the man of God, and found him sitting under an oak; and he said to him, “Are you the man of God who came from Judah?” And he said, “I am.” 15 Then he said to him, “Come home with me and eat bread.” 16 And he said, “I may not return with you, or go in with you; neither will I eat bread nor drink water with you in this place; 17 for it was said to me by the word of the Lord, ‘You shall neither eat bread nor drink water there, nor return by the way that you came.’” 18 And he said to him, “I also am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you into your house that he may eat bread and drink water.’” But he lied to him. 19 So he went back with him, and ate bread in his house, and drank water.

20 And as they sat at the table, the word of the Lord came to the prophet who had brought him back; 21 and he cried to the man of God who came from Judah, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Because you have disobeyed the word of the Lord, and have not kept the commandment which the Lord your God commanded you, 22 but have come back, and have eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which he said to you, “Eat no bread, and drink no water”; your body shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.’” 23 And after he had eaten bread and drunk, he saddled the ass for the prophet whom he had brought back. 24 And as he went away a lion met him on the road and killed him. And his body was thrown in the road, and the ass stood beside it; the lion also stood beside the body. 25 And behold, men passed by, and saw the body thrown in the road, and the lion standing by the body. And they came and told it in the city where the old prophet dwelt.

26 And when the prophet who had brought him back from the way heard of it, he said, “It is the man of God, who disobeyed the word of the Lord; therefore the Lord has given him to the lion, which has torn him and slain him, according to the word which the Lord spoke to him.” 27 And he said to his sons, “Saddle the ass for me.” And they saddled it. 28 And he went and found his body thrown in the road, and the ass and the lion standing beside the body. The lion had not eaten the body or torn the ass. 29 And the prophet took up the body of the man of God and laid it upon the ass, and brought it back to the city,[b] to mourn and to bury him. 30 And he laid the body in his own grave; and they mourned over him, saying, “Alas, my brother!” 31 And after he had buried him, he said to his sons, “When I die, bury me in the grave in which the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones. 32 For the saying which he cried by the word of the Lord against the altar in Bethel, and against all the houses of the high places which are in the cities of Samar′ia, shall surely come to pass.”

33 After this thing Jerobo′am did not turn from his evil way, but made priests for the high places again from among all the people; any who would, he consecrated to be priests of the high places. 34 And this thing became sin to the house of Jerobo′am, so as to cut it off and to destroy it from the face of the earth.


  1. 1 Kings 13:11 Gk Syr Vg: Heb son
  2. 1 Kings 13:29 Gk: Heb he came to the city of the old prophet

Monday, April 25, 2022

Commenting Policy

I am more than happy to publish comments by people who do not agree with me. Let me explain once more that I do not publish comments that are illogical, irrelevant, or based on false premises. Often I will point out that someone is basing an argument on a false belief, whereupon they will simply shift their premise and construct some sophistry based on the new premise that manages to reach some other conclusion they think I won't like. Or else they'll throw up some completely irrelevant "but what about this other thing," or quote somebody out of context who they think I admire. (Often I don't, actually.) In other words, they are not trying to have a reasoned dialogue. They are just trying to blow smoke. And if you have been banned for doing this repeatedly, it won't do you any good to try to worm your way back in by saying something reasonable for a change. You're banned.

Unfortunately, this is now characteristic of a broad swath of political discourse in our country. Alex Pareene explains it well. The occasion is publication by Washington Post reporter Taylor Lorenz of the identity of the person behind the repulsive "Libs of TikTok" account, which exists to expose random LGBQT people to harassment and retaliation, spreads lies about gender non-conforming people, and is a major driver of the phony right wing moral panic about "grooming." The right wing echo chamber exploded in indignation that a journalist would expose the identity of the person behind this (whose name is Chaya Raichik,)


As Pareene says (and he gives permission to share freely):


If you are attempting to persuade this creep's defenders, specifically, and not a general audience, that what Lorenz did was ethical, and that the creep's identity is newsworthy, you have made a category error. These people on this ascendant right don't just have different ideas about the role and function of journalism; they don't just believe journalists are biased liberals; they don't just believe the media is too hostile to conservatives; they are hostile to the concept of journalism itself. As in, uncovering things dutifully and carefully and attempting to convey your findings to the public honestly. They don’t want that and don’t like it and are endeavoring to end it as a common practice. You are debating logic and facts with frothing bigots with a bone-deep opposition to your entire project.

This new right fundamentally doesn’t want "newsgathering" to happen. They want a chaotic information stream of unverifiable bullshit and context collapse and propaganda. Their backers, the people behind the whole project, are philosophically and materially opposed to the idea that true things should be uncovered and verified and disseminated publicly about, well, them, and their projects. This may have started as a politically opportunistic war against particular outlets and stories, but it has quickly blossomed into a worldview. It’s an ideologically coherent opposition to the liberal precepts of verifiability and transparency, and the holders of those precepts are too invested in them to understand what their enemy is doing. The creep’s account, everyone in the press should understand, is the model for what they will be replaced with.

It’s not even that the right needs people to lose “trust” in traditional news organizations to win elections or start wars. That already happened and they won. It’s more like they need people to just randomly trust whatever bullshit feels right, to get them to fall for scams and believe propaganda. In the grandest dreams of the pathetic people doing most of the unpaid work, the end game is the eradication of “deviance” from public life. And that is a real threat that the people opposing this should take more seriously. Upstairs from them are the people whose job it is to make sure old people set up recurring payments. Upstairs from them, the goal is that no one finds the boss’s shell companies or offshore accounts. The mission is mainly to prevent, stigmatize, and delegitimize the discovery and confirmation and dissemination of information about how a few people got their money, where they keep it, and what they do with it—like spending it on subsidizing bigotry about trans people and getting gay teachers fired.


Sunday, April 24, 2022

Sunday Sermonette: New wine into old bottles

For some reason, the wine industry adopted Jeroboam and Rehoboam as the names for large-size bottles. You can look it up. Anyway, while the division of the Israelites (defined presumably by the Hebrew language) into two kingdoms is probably historically real, the similarity of the names points to the likely fictitious nature of this story about how it happened. 


We learned in the previous chapter that Yahweh wanted it to happen because Solomon's wives seduced him into promoting the worship of other Gods. Yahweh somehow induces Rehoboam to say exactly what will cause the people to rebel against him, although exactly why Judah and Benjamin put up with it is not explained. It's been confusing, but now it turns out that Benjamin is staying with Judah and the line of David which accounts for the missing tribe in the previous chapter. (They really needed an editor.) It's also news that Solomon's yoke was heavy on the people, but it's necessary to make the plot work. It seems rather puzzling that it's apparently just fine with Yahweh that Jeroboam sets up two golden calves for the people to worship, which as you may recall from Exodus was just about the worst thing you can do; and that Jeroboam also appoints priests who are not Levites and that seems okay as well. The only logical conclusion is that Yahweh has decided that the northern tribes are apostate so let them go their own way, and Judah + Benjamin will keep faith with the cult and the law. As we shall see in the next chapter this is essentially correct: Yahweh's forbearance is temporary. At that point we'll start to see where all  this is going and why it was written.

12 Rehobo′am went to Shechem, for all Israel had come to Shechem to make him king. And when Jerobo′am the son of Nebat heard of it (for he was still in Egypt, whither he had fled from King Solomon), then Jerobo′am returned from[a] Egypt. And they sent and called him; and Jerobo′am and all the assembly of Israel came and said to Rehobo′am, “Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke upon us, and we will serve you.” He said to them, “Depart for three days, then come again to me.” So the people went away.

Then King Rehobo′am took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father while he was yet alive, saying, “How do you advise me to answer this people?” And they said to him, “If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants for ever.” But he forsook the counsel which the old men gave him, and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him. And he said to them, “What do you advise that we answer this people who have said to me, ‘Lighten the yoke that your father put upon us’?” 10 And the young men who had grown up with him said to him, “Thus shall you speak to this people who said to you, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but do you lighten it for us’; thus shall you say to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins. 11 And now, whereas my father laid upon you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.’”

12 So Jerobo′am and all the people came to Rehobo′am the third day, as the king said, “Come to me again the third day.” 13 And the king answered the people harshly, and forsaking the counsel which the old men had given him, 14 he spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.” 15 So the king did not hearken to the people; for it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that he might fulfil his word, which the Lord spoke by Ahi′jah the Shi′lonite to Jerobo′am the son of Nebat.

16 And when all Israel saw that the king did not hearken to them, the people answered the king,

“What portion have we in David?
    We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse.
To your tents, O Israel!
    Look now to your own house, David.”

First Dynasty: Jeroboam Reigns over Israel

So Israel departed to their tents. 17 But Rehobo′am reigned over the people of Israel who dwelt in the cities of Judah. 18 Then King Rehobo′am sent Ador′am, who was taskmaster over the forced labor, and all Israel stoned him to death with stones. And King Rehobo′am made haste to mount his chariot, to flee to Jerusalem. 19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day. 20 And when all Israel heard that Jerobo′am had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. There was none that followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only.

21 When Rehobo′am came to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah, and the tribe of Benjamin, a hundred and eighty thousand chosen warriors, to fight against the house of Israel, to restore the kingdom to Rehobo′am the son of Solomon. 22 But the word of God came to Shemai′ah the man of God: 23 “Say to Rehobo′am the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people, 24 ‘Thus says the Lord, You shall not go up or fight against your kinsmen the people of Israel. Return every man to his home, for this thing is from me.’” So they hearkened to the word of the Lord, and went home again, according to the word of the Lord.

Jeroboam’s Golden Calves

25 Then Jerobo′am built Shechem in the hill country of E′phraim, and dwelt there; and he went out from there and built Penu′el. 26 And Jerobo′am said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David; 27 if this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehobo′am king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehobo′am king of Judah.” 28 So the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” 29 And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. 30 And this thing became a sin, for the people went to the one at Bethel and to the other as far as Dan.[b] 31 He also made houses on high places, and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites. 32 And Jerobo′am appointed a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month like the feast that was in Judah, and he offered sacrifices upon the altar; so he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he had made. And he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places that he had made. 33 He went up to the altar which he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and he ordained a feast for the people of Israel, and went up to the altar to burn incense.


  1. 1 Kings 12:2 Gk Vg Compare 2 Chr 10.2: Heb dwelt in
  2. 1 Kings 12:30 Gk: Heb went to the one as far as Dan

Saturday, April 23, 2022

In the beginning was the Word

You may have heard about this guy who was arrested for threatening to blow up the offices of Merriam Webster and kill their employees because their dictionary now offers as one definition of the word "female" "having a gender identity that is the opposite of male.(I note that the first definition is still ": of, relating to, or being the sex that typically has the capacity to bear young or produce eggs.")


Among other rants and threats, Jeremy David Hanson wrote:


It is absolutely sickening that Merriam-Webster now tells blatant lies and promotes anti-science propaganda. There is no such thing as ‘gender identity.’ The imbecile who wrote this entry should be hunted down and shot.


You [sic] headquarters should be shot up and bombed. It is sickening that you have caved to the cultural Marxist, anti-science tranny [sic] agenda and altered the definition of ‘female’ as part of the Left’s efforts to corrupt and degrade the English language and deny reality. You evil Marxists should all be killed. It would be poetic justice to have someone storm your offices and shoot up the place, leaving none of you commies alive.


I really don't know why the idea that someone might identify as female outrages these people, or why they would believe it is "anti-science." People are who they are, they feel how they feel.  As a scientist, I can observe that fact, and I can ask how it comes about. Some people who identify as female are born with standard female sexual organs and grow up feeling female. Others have different stories, but science does indeed observe that they exist, whether you like it or not. 

On the other hand, this  incontrovertible fact has nothing to do with Marxism or Communism, but of course Mr. Hanson, like seemingly all right wing nutjobs these days, has no idea what either of those words actually mean. But most fundamentally, obviously, it is the purpose of a dictionary to define words as they are used. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines innumerable words for entities that do not, in fact exist, such as unicorn, Zeus, Atlantis, and free market. People who identify as female do exist, but that a word exists does not bring what it signifies into existence. That's an entirely different question.

It is possible, using words in the dictionary and the rules of English syntax, to write "intelligent conservative." But that is an entity which, like unicorn, does not exist.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

A fair and balanced take

I wrote here some weeks ago that I didn't think mask mandates were still necessary or generally productive. Mike Nichols in The Atlantic agrees and he raises the difficult questions we face every day and seldom think about regarding what risks to accept. What worries me is that these problems are complicated and the people who are trying to make them simple have caused a lot of problems.

Before we had effective vaccines and a high level of population immunity, masks and distancing were the only means we had to mitigate the pandemic. And yes, they worked where they were consistently applied. This is convincingly demonstrated by comparisons both international and within the United States. And an uncontrolled Covid-19 epidemic was not something we could just accept as should be obvious from the overloaded hospitals and more than a million deaths. However, as of now, the Omicron variant is so transmissible that cloth masks actually don't do a whole lot to block it, but population immunity is high enough that the surge in infections has not been matched by a surge in hospitalizations. Requiring masks and restricting businesses have costs and the tradeoff now makes it just not worth it any more, in my opinion.

But people just have a hard time getting adjusting to complexity, and change in any direction. Saying that mask mandates aren't indicated today is going to make some people claim that means they were never necessary and no, that doesn't follow and it isn't true. As for people who are vulnerable because they have weakened immune systems or can't be vaccinated, they're vulnerable to all sorts of infections and I don't mean to sound callous, but it's impossible to turn the whole world into a sanitary bubble. People who want to continue masking should certainly do so and nobody should have any problem with it. And if you are going to a gathering where there will  be vulnerable people, and they want people to be masked, you should graciously go along. If a new more virulent variant comes along, or another pathogen altogether, and masking is again indicated, you should just do it. 

But for now, no I don't think it's generally necessary.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Wednesday Bible Study: Losing the plot

In Chapter 11 Solomon, supposedly the wisest man who ever lived, is seduced by some of his 700 wives into worshiping Gods other than Yahweh. God doesn't like this, obviously, but instead of the usual military defeats and plague and famine and all that, we just get the kingdom divided after Solomon dies peacefully of old age. By the way, Solomon's 700 wives and 300 concubines produced only three children: his son Rehoboam and daughters Taphaph and Basmaph.


There are hints that he faces rebellions of some kind but we learn nothing about them. First there is the story of Haddad, who was purportedly the sole escapee from the massacre of the Edomites by David's lieutenant Joab. We get a substantial history about him escaping to Egypt, finding favor with Pharaoh who marries him to Pharaoh's sister in law. Then Haddad learns that David and Joab are dead and asks to go home. Pharaoh doesn't want him to but he does anyway, and that's the last we ever hear of him. Then we also learn about a guy named Rezon who became king of Syria and was supposedly an adversary of Israel, but that's the last we ever hear of him as well. Both of these stories are total non sequiturs.

Then there is the strange arithmetic of the prophet Ahi′jah, who meets Jeroboam on the road, takes off his garment and rips it into 12 pieces, apparently symbolizing the 12 tribes of Israel. He explains this strange gesture as meaning that Jeroboam will become king of 10 tribes, while Solomon's son will retain Judah and the city of Jerusalem. Let me see now. 10+1=12. Really. Read it yourself and try to find the missing tribe. 

Finally, Solomon dies and we don't learn anything else, because it's all written in the Book of the Acts of Solomon. That book, alas, if it ever existed, is lost. So this is all we'll ever know.

11 Now King Solomon loved many foreign women: the daughter of Pharaoh, and Moabite, Ammonite, E′domite, Sido′nian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods”; Solomon clung to these in love. He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ash′toreth the goddess of the Sido′nians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.

And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, 10 and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the Lord commanded. 11 Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this has been your mind and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. 12 Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 However I will not tear away all the kingdom; but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.”

Adversaries of Solomon

14 And the Lord raised up an adversary against Solomon, Hadad the E′domite; he was of the royal house in Edom. 15 For when David was in Edom, and Jo′ab the commander of the army went up to bury the slain, he slew every male in Edom 16 (for Jo′ab and all Israel remained there six months, until he had cut off every male in Edom); 17 but Hadad fled to Egypt, together with certain E′domites of his father’s servants, Hadad being yet a little child. 18 They set out from Mid′ian and came to Paran, and took men with them from Paran and came to Egypt, to Pharaoh king of Egypt, who gave him a house, and assigned him an allowance of food, and gave him land. 19 And Hadad found great favor in the sight of Pharaoh, so that he gave him in marriage the sister of his own wife, the sister of Tah′penes the queen. 20 And the sister of Tah′penes bore him Genu′bath his son, whom Tah′penes weaned in Pharaoh’s house; and Genu′bath was in Pharaoh’s house among the sons of Pharaoh. 21 But when Hadad heard in Egypt that David slept with his fathers and that Jo′ab the commander of the army was dead, Hadad said to Pharaoh, “Let me depart, that I may go to my own country.” 22 But Pharaoh said to him, “What have you lacked with me that you are now seeking to go to your own country?” And he said to him, “Only let me go.”

23 God also raised up as an adversary to him, Rezon the son of Eli′ada, who had fled from his master Hadad-e′zer king of Zobah. 24 And he gathered men about him and became leader of a marauding band, after the slaughter by David; and they went to Damascus, and dwelt there, and made him king in Damascus. 25 He was an adversary of Israel all the days of Solomon, doing mischief as Hadad did; and he abhorred Israel, and reigned over Syria.

Jeroboam’s Rebellion

26 Jerobo′am the son of Nebat, an E′phraimite of Zer′edah, a servant of Solomon, whose mother’s name was Zeru′ah, a widow, also lifted up his hand against the king. 27 And this was the reason why he lifted up his hand against the king. Solomon built the Millo, and closed up the breach of the city of David his father. 28 The man Jerobo′am was very able, and when Solomon saw that the young man was industrious he gave him charge over all the forced labor of the house of Joseph. 29 And at that time, when Jerobo′am went out of Jerusalem, the prophet Ahi′jah the Shi′lonite found him on the road. Now Ahi′jah had clad himself with a new garment; and the two of them were alone in the open country. 30 Then Ahi′jah laid hold of the new garment that was on him, and tore it into twelve pieces. 31 And he said to Jerobo′am, “Take for yourself ten pieces; for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon, and will give you ten tribes 32 (but he shall have one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel), 33 because he has[a] forsaken me, and worshiped Ash′toreth the goddess of the Sido′nians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the Ammonites, and has[b] not walked in my ways, doing what is right in my sight and keeping my statutes and my ordinances, as David his father did. 34 Nevertheless I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand; but I will make him ruler all the days of his life, for the sake of David my servant whom I chose, who kept my commandments and my statutes; 35 but I will take the kingdom out of his son’s hand, and will give it to you, ten tribes. 36 Yet to his son I will give one tribe, that David my servant may always have a lamp before me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen to put my name. 37 And I will take you, and you shall reign over all that your soul desires, and you shall be king over Israel. 38 And if you will hearken to all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did, I will be with you, and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you. 39 And I will for this afflict the descendants of David, but not for ever.’” 40 Solomon sought therefore to kill Jerobo′am; but Jerobo′am arose, and fled into Egypt, to Shishak king of Egypt, and was in Egypt until the death of Solomon.

Death of Solomon

41 Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, and all that he did, and his wisdom, are they not written in the book of the acts of Solomon? 42 And the time that Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel was forty years. 43 And Solomon slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David his father; and Rehobo′am his son reigned in his stead.


  1. 1 Kings 11:33 Gk Syr Vg: Heb they have
  2. 1 Kings 11:33 Gk Syr Vg: Heb they have

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Dah Polees

Simon Balto, in The Guardian, points out what should be obvious.  The New York City Police Department is one of the largest in the world. (Okay, it's also a big city.) The Metropolitan Transit Authority employes its own police force of 3,500 officers who heavily patrol the subway system. But they couldn't stop a 62 year old man with a bad back from setting off smoke bombs and shooting up a subway car, and then disappearing for more than 24 hours, until he apparently called the police to tell them where he was.

Mayor Adams responded by pledging to double the size of the MTA police force, which, according to Balto's analysis, would eventually cost more than $700 million a year. This is insane. Quoth Balto:

When we are told that police organizations like the MTA’s force exist to “keep us safe”, what are we to make of the fact that they quite clearly cannot or do not in moments of legitimate crisis, but that, as evidence suggests, they primarily engage in punishing low-income people of color for fare evasion? . . .

The amount of money we spend on police has no demonstrably measurable positive impact on “public safety”. Exactly none. And yet we are expected to believe that propositions like that of Eric Adams – to double the number of transit police in New York City in the face of Tuesday’s incident – will magically change that pattern. When the city that spends more on its police than any other in this country not only cannot keep a person from shooting up a train station, but also cannot find him for more than a day and cannot do so without asking every living, breathing person with a cell phone to help them do so, we are asked to believe that the solution is to simply give more money over to the police.


Let's spend that money in ways that will make people safer. 

And by the way, Frank James owned his weapon legally.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Deep Thoughts

 I'm reading The Dawn of Everything: A New History of the World, by the late David Graeber and David Wengrow. I haven't quite finished it but I don't need to for the discussion to follow. 

Graeber and Wengrow are often tendentious, and I note that the book is controversial and has attracted both ecstatic and hostile reviews. But for my purposes today they don't need to be right about everything. You can read a (very positive) review that summarizes their argument by William Deresiewicz in The Atlantic if you like.

The basic mission of the book is to demolish the conventional story about human history. We started in the "state of nature," living by foraging in small bands, which were highly egalitarian. Then people invented agriculture, which which caused them to settle down and the population to grow, while at the same time there was a surplus for some people to seize, and dominate others. Then we lived in cities that required complex administration, and bureaucracy in the service of the ruling alliance of a priestly caste with warrior kings, and the emergence of the state. Then there was the industrial revolution and science and capitalism, new forms of domination and inequality, along with an ever larger bureaucracy and managerial class that was necessary to administer all the complexity.


G&W's main idea is that while it is true that bureaucratic states, defined essentially as entities with a monopoly on legitimate violence, today cover the earth, this was not inevitable nor was the process of getting here the linear story of "stages" that inevitably followed on after another. Some foraging societies developed very large polities, featuring periodic assemblages of thousands of people, but with little sign of inequality. Others did develop hierarchies including kings and slaves. Some people tried farming and didn't like it and stopped doing it; some large cities with surrounding farmland did not develop hierarchies or bureaucracies. Sometimes people overthrew bureaucratic states and lived in more egalitarian societies for a long time after.


They don't give a very satisfactory answer as to how we got stuck in the present universality of nation states, but they do make a convincing case that it happened in very messy way and with very different trajectories around the world. Which means, they think, that we don't have to live this way, that there are possible alternatives even in our age of high technology. 

Just as important, although they don't much dwell on it, states have not historically been a permanent, well, state of affairs until fairly recently. We all know what happened to Rome and the various Chinese dynasties -- which, unlike say English dynasties did not sequentially succeed to a continuous nation state but rather were interrupted by non-dynastic periods in which there was no  single Chinese state. And there are many other examples. If the United States dissolves, as it very well may, there will be human societies left within what are now its borders, and they may take various forms. Some, to be sure, will be very unpleasant and destructive, but others may create more congenial and productive forms of society. 

However, our species faces critical challenges, which will require global commitment and cooperation. Whether that can happen within the present system of nation states is a challenging proposition.



Sunday, April 17, 2022

Sunday Sermonette: International Trade

The visit of the Queen of Sheba is well known and no doubt features in the Bible stories for children genre. However, the legends that have grown up around her in the Jewish, Christian and Moslem traditions are all built from very sparse material. In this telling, we never learn her name, where the heck Sheba is, or what any of the profound wisdom was with which Solomon dazzled her. Not that it particularly matters, but scholars believe that Sheba may be based on Saba, a people of the southern Arabian peninsula. It is interesting that Solomon, along with the narrator, take the idea of a polity ruled by a woman completely in stride.

As for the point of all this, and why it's in the Bible, at first glance it seems to be just more of the panegyric to Solomon and his kingdom. But if you look a bit more carefully you'll see that in return for all the booty she gives to Solomon, the queen gets whatever she asks for. (It isn't really specified although a possible implication is that it includes some of this almug wood, and no, nobody knows what species that is.) So this is really a trade mission, and some scholars believe that this is intended to promote Judah as a hub for trade with what is today the Arabian Gulf coast. That actually makes some sense given when and why this was written, especially as the remainder of the chapter also concerns trade with Egypt, Lebanon, and with "Ku'e," which is usually spelled Quwe and refers to a region in what is today southern Turkey; and exports to the Hittites, also in what is now southern Turkey, and Syria. Of course the number of Solomon's horses and the quantities of gold are ridiculous but that's just standard.

10 Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions. She came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices, and very much gold, and precious stones; and when she came to Solomon, she told him all that was on her mind. And Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing hidden from the king which he could not explain to her. And when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his cupbearers, and his burnt offerings which he offered at the house of the Lord, there was no more spirit in her.

And she said to the king, “The report was true which I heard in my own land of your affairs and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it; and behold, the half was not told me; your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report which I heard. Happy are your wives![a] Happy are these your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord loved Israel for ever, he has made you king, that you may execute justice and righteousness.” 10 Then she gave the king a hundred and twenty talents of gold, and a very great quantity of spices, and precious stones; never again came such an abundance of spices as these which the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.

11 Moreover the fleet of Hiram, which brought gold from Ophir, brought from Ophir a very great amount of almug wood and precious stones. 12 And the king made of the almug wood supports for the house of the Lord, and for the king’s house, lyres also and harps for the singers; no such almug wood has come or been seen, to this day.

13 And King Solomon gave to the queen of Sheba all that she desired, whatever she asked besides what was given her by the bounty of King Solomon. So she turned and went back to her own land, with her servants.

14 Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred and sixty-six talents of gold, 15 besides that which came from the traders and from the traffic of the merchants, and from all the kings of Arabia and from the governors of the land. 16 King Solomon made two hundred large shields of beaten gold; six hundred shekels of gold went into each shield. 17 And he made three hundred shields of beaten gold; three minas of gold went into each shield; and the king put them in the House of the Forest of Lebanon. 18 The king also made a great ivory throne, and overlaid it with the finest gold. 19 The throne had six steps, and at the back of the throne was a calf’s head, and on each side of the seat were arm rests and two lions standing beside the arm rests, 20 while twelve lions stood there, one on each end of a step on the six steps. The like of it was never made in any kingdom. 21 All King Solomon’s drinking vessels were of gold, and all the vessels of the House of the Forest of Leb′anon were of pure gold; none were of silver, it was not considered as anything in the days of Solomon. 22 For the king had a fleet of ships of Tarshish at sea with the fleet of Hiram. Once every three years the fleet of ships of Tarshish used to come bringing gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks.[b]

23 Thus King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. 24 And the whole earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind. 25 Every one of them brought his present, articles of silver and gold, garments, myrrh, spices, horses, and mules, so much year by year.

26 And Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen; he had fourteen hundred chariots and twelve thousand horsemen, whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem. 27 And the king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stone, and he made cedar as plentiful as the sycamore of the Shephe′lah. 28 And Solomon’s import of horses was from Egypt and Ku′e, and the king’s traders received them from Ku′e at a price. 29 A chariot could be imported from Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver, and a horse for a hundred and fifty; and so through the king’s traders they were exported to all the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Syria.


  1. 1 Kings 10:8 Gk Syr: Heb men
  2. 1 Kings 10:22 Or baboons

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Fighting the last war

I didn't graduate from the war college, but even I can figure out that a billion dollar ship that can be sent to the bottom by a cheap missile is a less than worthless asset. A tank that can be destroyed by a guy with a tube on his shoulder isn't worth much more.

What this means for the future isn't clear, and it probably isn't good. Drone warfare is cheap and easy to start. You don't need to obviously mass troops and equipment, and you don't even have to risk your own warriors. The U.S. has been doing it on a small scale now for a couple of decades and it's hardly even been noticed. But now just about anybody can make those machines. What will a full-fledged war look like next time?

Friday, April 15, 2022

Slow motion catastrophe

As severe storms sweep through the south day after day, spawning tornadoes and wiping out whole neighborhoods, it gets almost no attention in national corporate media. Meanwhile, the years-long drought in the southwest is threatening to put a large portion of America's farmland out of business, while deadly wildfires are scarcely news any more.


I give you Rick Perlstein:

I cherished Eric Boehlert's witness on the moral catastrophe that is mainstream political journalism and punditry. Here is my tribute to his memory with this episode of "The Daily" on US failing to meet Biden's climate goals without...FUCKING MENTIONING THE FUCKING POLITICAL PARTY THAT DOESN'T BELIEVE CLIMATE CHANGE IS A PROBLEM. Framed as 90% fault of Biden's political timidity, 10% "stalled in Congress," "political realities," "partisan bickering." The media bias against providing a minimally basic description of reality, if that description helps the only American political party THAT BELIEVES CLIMATE CHANGE IS A PROBLEM, is a form of moral decadence I can't comprehend. The kind that ends civilization.





Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Wednesday Bible Study: Fantasyland

Chapter 9 starts with yet another repetition of the motif that has appeared maybe a hundred times since Exodus: God tells Solomon that if the people stay faithful to him, he'll reward them with great power and riches, but if they stray, he'll destroy them. Yeah, we got that.

Then we get more absurd claims about Solomon's wealth and power. Hiram had given Solmon 120 talents of gold, which would be four metric tons. Sure. (That happens to be what the Queen of Sheba will give him in the next chapter.) This is despite Hiram, for some reason, not liking the cities Solomon had given him. Solomon then enslaves the  Amorites, the Hittites, the Per′izzites, the Hivites, and the Jeb′usites, who are Israel's slaves "to this day," although, as we know, by the time this is actually written the temple has been destroyed and the Israelite elite exiled to Babylon. But whatever. The preposterous alliance between Solomon and Pharaoh continues, with Pharaoh capturing a city and giving it to his daughter who is Solomon's wife. No. That is historically absurd. Solomon then builds a navy and uses it to steal (presumably) 15 metric tons of gold from a city called Ophir. We're talking Fort Knox here. Anyway, here it is.


When Solomon had finished building the house of the Lord and the king’s house and all that Solomon desired to build, the Lord appeared to Solomon a second time, as he had appeared to him at Gibeon. And the Lord said to him, “I have heard your prayer and your supplication, which you have made before me; I have consecrated this house which you have built, and put my name there for ever; my eyes and my heart will be there for all time. And as for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and keeping my statutes and my ordinances, then I will establish your royal throne over Israel for ever, as I promised David your father, saying, ‘There shall not fail you a man upon the throne of Israel.’ But if you turn aside from following me, you or your children, and do not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them; and the house which I have consecrated for my name I will cast out of my sight; and Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all peoples. And this house will become a heap of ruins;[a] everyone passing by it will be astonished, and will hiss; and they will say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ Then they will say, ‘Because they forsook the Lord their God who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods, and worshiped them and served them; therefore the Lord has brought all this evil upon them.’”

10 At the end of twenty years, in which Solomon had built the two houses, the house of the Lord and the king’s house, 11 and Hiram king of Tyre had supplied Solomon with cedar and cypress timber and gold, as much as he desired, King Solomon gave to Hiram twenty cities in the land of Galilee. 12 But when Hiram came from Tyre to see the cities which Solomon had given him, they did not please him. 13 Therefore he said, “What kind of cities are these which you have given me, my brother?” So they are called the land of Cabul to this day. 14 Hiram had sent to the king one hundred and twenty talents of gold.

Other Acts of Solomon

15 And this is the account of the forced labor which King Solomon levied to build the house of the Lord and his own house and the Millo and the wall of Jerusalem and Hazor and Megid′do and Gezer 16 (Pharaoh king of Egypt had gone up and captured Gezer and burnt it with fire, and had slain the Canaanites who dwelt in the city, and had given it as dowry to his daughter, Solomon’s wife; 17 so Solomon rebuilt Gezer) and Lower Beth-hor′on 18 and Ba′alath and Tamar in the wilderness, in the land of Judah,[b] 19 and all the store-cities that Solomon had, and the cities for his chariots, and the cities for his horsemen, and whatever Solomon desired to build in Jerusalem, in Lebanon, and in all the land of his dominion. 20 All the people who were left of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Per′izzites, the Hivites, and the Jeb′usites, who were not of the people of Israel— 21 their descendants who were left after them in the land, whom the people of Israel were unable to destroy utterly—these Solomon made a forced levy of slaves, and so they are to this day. 22 But of the people of Israel Solomon made no slaves; they were the soldiers, they were his officials, his commanders, his captains, his chariot commanders and his horsemen.

23 These were the chief officers who were over Solomon’s work: five hundred and fifty, who had charge of the people who carried on the work.

24 But Pharaoh’s daughter went up from the city of David to her own house which Solomon had built for her; then he built the Millo.

25 Three times a year Solomon used to offer up burnt offerings and peace offerings upon the altar which he built to the Lord, burning incense[c] before the Lord. So he finished the house.

Solomon’s Commercial Activity

26 King Solomon built a fleet of ships at E′zion-ge′ber, which is near Eloth on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom. 27 And Hiram sent with the fleet his servants, seamen who were familiar with the sea, together with the servants of Solomon; 28 and they went to Ophir, and brought from there gold, to the amount of four hundred and twenty talents; and they brought it to King Solomon.


  1. 1 Kings 9:8 Syr Old Latin: Heb high
  2. 1 Kings 9:18 Heb lacks of Judah
  3. 1 Kings 9:25 Gk: Heb burning incense with it which


Tuesday, April 12, 2022

The moral panicmongers

Apparently the wingnut attention span is so short they've had to forget all  about Critical Race Theory, and now they're resurrecting the most twisted forms of anti-gay bigotry. I thought this was relegated to an ignorant fringe but now it's become the jihad of the Republican party. Of course it's the main premise of Q-Anon but now Ron DeSantis thinks it's going to win him the presidency.

"Grooming" is of course a real concept, meaning pedophiles working to entice children into sexual relationships, but it is unrelated to sexual orientation. As a matter of fact, 82% of children under 18 who are sexually abused or assaulted by an adult are female. In other words, it's the heterosexual men who we need to be worried about. But the new right wing jihad asserts that all LGBT adults are "groomers," as is anyone who wants to talk with children honestly about human sexuality. This, folks, is really sick shit.

You should read the Media Matters piece but I'll give you an excerpt.

Prior to the [don't say gay] bill’s passage in the state legislature, DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw wrote a tweet characterizing the legislation as “the Anti-Grooming Bill,” and said opponents of it “are probably a groomer or at least you don’t denounce the grooming of 4-8 year old children.”

Right-wing media were quick to adopt Pushaw’s sick messaging. Right-wing websites and Fox News falsely labeled opponents as sexual predators who are “grooming” students. But the hateful comments really picked up after The Walt Disney Company announced on March 28 that “our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts.” And it’s not just Fox News that has adopted this messaging; conservative radio hosts and podcasters began blasting opponents of the bill as “groomers” the day after Disney’s announcement, with the attacks picking up steam on April 6:


And you can read the many examples that they give. This libel was used to smear newly confirmed Justice Jackson, as well as Florida's biggest tourist attraction and the country's biggest producer of family entertainment. It libels every person who has a nonconforming gender or sexuality, and everyone who thinks they should live with dignity, respect and equality. It's primitive, ignorant bigotry that should not be tolerated in the modern world. 

If these malignant clowns think it will win them elections, I think they're in for a surprise.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Actual causes of death

This by Sandro Galea in JAMA Health Forum has a lot of good information, but it isn't really the whole story. As we all know, there are large disparities in health and longevity associated with income -- the richest Americans live on average ten years longer than the poorest. Galea cites a study by Puka et al that attributes these disparities to behaviors such as smoking, excessive drinking, and lack of physical activity, though to be precise the Puka studied correlated these behaviors with level of formal education, not income.

Galeo is at pains to argue that just targeting risk behaviors misses the real point because there must be something causal about socioeconomic status and behavior. Well yes, but that's very complicated. It's also not the whole story. The famous Whitehall II study in Britain found that among British civil servants, occupational status -- managerial, professional, skilled labor and unskilled -- was strongly associated with longevity. And while smoking, poor diet and inactivity contributed, disparities remained even while controlling for these risk behaviors. Psychosocial stress and lack of agency seem to contribute. 


Lower income people are also more exposed to air pollution, because they are more likely to live near highways and other pollution sources; to occupational hazards; to violence and other external risks. They often have poorer diet because they live in so-called "food deserts," places where there are no grocery stores selling fresh produce and in any case, a poor diet is cheaper. They can't exercise because they can't afford a gym membership and the parks and streets aren't safe. And so on. Eliminating disparities is not just about encouraging people to quit smoking. It's about fundamental social conditions.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Administrative update

Blogger used to e-mail me any time someone submitted a comment. A few days ago, they suddenly stopped doing that, without telling me. I discovered it thanks to a friend. Now I have to log in and go to a comment moderation page. Since I have a life, I might not do that as soon as you would like. Please be patient.

I didn't want to do this . . .

I felt I didn't have time to argue over something so ridiculous, which is really off topic for this blog, but I'd like to set the record straight. The claim that the United States is responsible for the Syria civil war, and that it would have been over in a year if the U.S. hadn't supplied weapons to the rebels, is preposterous. Sorry, but that is Russian propaganda, and that's what concerns me. There is a Wikipedia page, in fact, that details all of the weapons used by Syrian rebels and what is known about where they came from. Much of their weaponry was captured or taken from stockpiles. Some of it came from Iran or the Gulf states. Many Chinese and Soviet weapons were in the hands of rebels, probably supplied by Saudi Arabia or other Gulf states. In fact the majority of heavy weaponry in the hands of the rebels was of Soviet origin, probably coming from Saudi Arabia. The rebels also had WWII era weaponry from various European countries. The U.S. provided small arms to a limited number of groups, all of them in the region near the Iraqi border and in Kurdish held territory in the north.

The Russian destruction of Aleppo from the air was the most appalling incident of the war, and the U.S. had absolutely nothing to do with it. Aleppo is in the northwest of the country hundreds of miles from anywhere the U.S. was involved. You're free to argue about the righteousness of U.S. involvement, but to claim that it was the cause of the war or even prolonged it in any way is just not true.

WTF does this have to do with the Sony pictures hack?

God moves in

Chapter 8 is very long, possibly the longest chapter so far though I haven't been keeping track of that. The writers obviously see these events as extremely important, and indeed, this symbolism as resonated through history to the present day. The narrative strongly ties the Israelite religion to a place, a specific spot on earth. In the story from the beginning, they were first a decentralized tribal people without a clearly defined territory, then they were exiled and enslaved, then they were wanderers who carried the main symbol of their religious devotion with them, then they were conquerors but only gradually developed a centralized polity while the ark still had no fixed abode, then they established a capital and finally, built the temple and now install the ark in it's putatively permanent place.

In this mythical moment, what will become the Jewish religion, and its associated ethno-nationalist identity, becomes inseparable from the city of Jerusalem and specifically the Temple Mount. (Modern Rabbinical Judaism is of course very different from the religion depicted here.) The essentiality of place meant that Jesus had to die and be resurrected in Jerusalem, and that Mohammed had to visit the city. It produced the crusades, and Zionism, and the modern state of Israel, all for the sake of this symbolic association of God with a specific place on earth. 


There are several flaws in the story, of course. Although Ch. 8 says that the poles of the tabernacle are "there to this day," in fact the ark disappeared with the destruction of the Temple, before this was written. Here, the only contents of the Ark are the tablets Moses brought down from the mountain, whereas in Exodus it also contains a pot of manna and Aaron's blooming rod; and in any case, we know from Samuel that anyone who looks inside it will die. We also have the usual absurd hyperbole, including sacrificing twenty-two thousand oxen and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep. Anyway, here it is.

Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the fathers’ houses of the people of Israel, before King Solomon in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, which is Zion. And all the men of Israel assembled to King Solomon at the feast in the month Eth′anim, which is the seventh month. And all the elders of Israel came, and the priests took up the ark. And they brought up the ark of the Lord, the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels that were in the tent; the priests and the Levites brought them up. And King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were with him before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be counted or numbered. Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the most holy place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. For the cherubim spread out their wings over the place of the ark, so that the cherubim made a covering above the ark and its poles. And the poles were so long that the ends of the poles were seen from the holy place before the inner sanctuary; but they could not be seen from outside; and they are there to this day. There was nothing in the ark except the two tables of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. 10 And when the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, 11 so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.

12 Then Solomon said,

“The Lord has set the sun in the heavens,
    but[a] has said that he would dwell in thick darkness.
13 I have built thee an exalted house,
    a place for thee to dwell in for ever.”

Solomon’s Speech

14 Then the king faced about, and blessed all the assembly of Israel, while all the assembly of Israel stood. 15 And he said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who with his hand has fulfilled what he promised with his mouth to David my father, saying, 16 ‘Since the day that I brought my people Israel out of Egypt, I chose no city in all the tribes of Israel in which to build a house, that my name might be there; but I chose David to be over my people Israel.’ 17 Now it was in the heart of David my father to build a house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. 18 But the Lord said to David my father, ‘Whereas it was in your heart to build a house for my name, you did well that it was in your heart; 19 nevertheless you shall not build the house, but your son who shall be born to you shall build the house for my name.’ 20 Now the Lord has fulfilled his promise which he made; for I have risen in the place of David my father, and sit on the throne of Israel, as the Lord promised, and I have built the house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. 21 And there I have provided a place for the ark, in which is the covenant of the Lord which he made with our fathers, when he brought them out of the land of Egypt.”

Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication

22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread forth his hands toward heaven; 23 and said, “O Lord, God of Israel, there is no God like thee, in heaven above or on earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to thy servants who walk before thee with all their heart; 24 who hast kept with thy servant David my father what thou didst declare to him; yea, thou didst speak with thy mouth, and with thy hand hast fulfilled it this day. 25 Now therefore, O Lord, God of Israel, keep with thy servant David my father what thou hast promised him, saying, ‘There shall never fail you a man before me to sit upon the throne of Israel, if only your sons take heed to their way, to walk before me as you have walked before me.’ 26 Now therefore, O God of Israel, let thy word be confirmed, which thou hast spoken to thy servant David my father.

27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built! 28 Yet have regard to the prayer of thy servant and to his supplication, O Lord my God, hearkening to the cry and to the prayer which thy servant prays before thee this day; 29 that thy eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which thou hast said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that thou mayest hearken to the prayer which thy servant offers toward this place. 30 And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servant and of thy people Israel, when they pray toward this place; yea, hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place; and when thou hearest, forgive.

31 “If a man sins against his neighbor and is made to take an oath, and comes and swears his oath before thine altar in this house, 32 then hear thou in heaven, and act, and judge thy servants, condemning the guilty by bringing his conduct upon his own head, and vindicating the righteous by rewarding him according to his righteousness.

33 “When thy people Israel are defeated before the enemy because they have sinned against thee, if they turn again to thee, and acknowledge thy name, and pray and make supplication to thee in this house; 34 then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy people Israel, and bring them again to the land which thou gavest to their fathers.

35 “When heaven is shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against thee, if they pray toward this place, and acknowledge thy name, and turn from their sin, when thou dost afflict them, 36 then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy servants, thy people Israel, when thou dost teach them the good way in which they should walk; and grant rain upon thy land, which thou hast given to thy people as an inheritance.

37 “If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence or blight or mildew or locust or caterpillar; if their enemy besieges them in any[b] of their cities; whatever plague, whatever sickness there is; 38 whatever prayer, whatever supplication is made by any man or by all thy people Israel, each knowing the affliction of his own heart and stretching out his hands toward this house; 39 then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and act, and render to each whose heart thou knowest, according to all his ways (for thou, thou only, knowest the hearts of all the children of men); 40 that they may fear thee all the days that they live in the land which thou gavest to our fathers.

41 “Likewise when a foreigner, who is not of thy people Israel, comes from a far country for thy name’s sake 42 (for they shall hear of thy great name, and thy mighty hand, and of thy outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this house, 43 hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place, and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to thee; in order that all the peoples of the earth may know thy name and fear thee, as do thy people Israel, and that they may know that this house which I have built is called by thy name.

44 “If thy people go out to battle against their enemy, by whatever way thou shalt send them, and they pray to the Lord toward the city which thou hast chosen and the house which I have built for thy name, 45 then hear thou in heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause.

46 “If they sin against thee—for there is no man who does not sin—and thou art angry with them, and dost give them to an enemy, so that they are carried away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near; 47 yet if they lay it to heart in the land to which they have been carried captive, and repent, and make supplication to thee in the land of their captors, saying, ‘We have sinned, and have acted perversely and wickedly’; 48 if they repent with all their mind and with all their heart in the land of their enemies, who carried them captive, and pray to thee toward their land, which thou gavest to their fathers, the city which thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for thy name; 49 then hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause 50 and forgive thy people who have sinned against thee, and all their transgressions which they have committed against thee; and grant them compassion in the sight of those who carried them captive, that they may have compassion on them 51 (for they are thy people, and thy heritage, which thou didst bring out of Egypt, from the midst of the iron furnace). 52 Let thy eyes be open to the supplication of thy servant, and to the supplication of thy people Israel, giving ear to them whenever they call to thee. 53 For thou didst separate them from among all the peoples of the earth, to be thy heritage, as thou didst declare through Moses, thy servant, when thou didst bring our fathers out of Egypt, O Lord God.”

Solomon Blesses the Assembly

54 Now as Solomon finished offering all this prayer and supplication to the Lord, he arose from before the altar of the Lord, where he had knelt with hands outstretched toward heaven; 55 and he stood, and blessed all the assembly of Israel with a loud voice, saying, 56 “Blessed be the Lord who has given rest to his people Israel, according to all that he promised; not one word has failed of all his good promise, which he uttered by Moses his servant. 57 The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our fathers; may he not leave us or forsake us; 58 that he may incline our hearts to him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, his statutes, and his ordinances, which he commanded our fathers. 59 Let these words of mine, wherewith I have made supplication before the Lord, be near to the Lord our God day and night, and may he maintain the cause of his servant, and the cause of his people Israel, as each day requires; 60 that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other. 61 Let your heart therefore be wholly true to the Lord our God, walking in his statutes and keeping his commandments, as at this day.”

Solomon Offers Sacrifices

62 Then the king, and all Israel with him, offered sacrifice before the Lord. 63 Solomon offered as peace offerings to the Lord twenty-two thousand oxen and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep. So the king and all the people of Israel dedicated the house of the Lord. 64 The same day the king consecrated the middle of the court that was before the house of the Lord; for there he offered the burnt offering and the cereal offering and the fat pieces of the peace offerings, because the bronze altar that was before the Lord was too small to receive the burnt offering and the cereal offering and the fat pieces of the peace offerings.

65 So Solomon held the feast at that time, and all Israel with him, a great assembly, from the entrance of Hamath to the Brook of Egypt, before the Lord our God, seven days.[c] 66 On the eighth day he sent the people away; and they blessed the king, and went to their homes joyful and glad of heart for all the goodness that the Lord had shown to David his servant and to Israel his people.


  1. 1 Kings 8:12 Gk: Heb lacks has set the sun in the heavens, but
  2. 1 Kings 8:37 Gk Syr: Heb the land
  3. 1 Kings 8:65 Gk: Heb seven days and seven days, fourteen days