Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Wednesday Bible Study: More names

Chapter 2 focuses on the genealogy of the tribe of Judah, the kingdom of Judah being, as it will emerge, the Chroniclers main focus. Some of these names are taken from the Torah, the Deuteronomist History, and the Book of Ruth, but most of them are not found elsewhere in extant sources. Whether the Chronicler made them up or found them somewhere is unknown, but remember that at least up until David, the history was largely fictitious and these are presumably fictitious characters. 

Note that in verse 7, he makes a pun. He refers to "Achar, the troubler of Israel . . . " but this man is called Achan in the book of Joshua. Recall that he pillaged some valuables from Jericho, contrary to Yahweh's command that they all go to the priesthood. (Quite a coincidence that the priests would convey that particular command.) He was stoned to death. Anyway, "achar" means "trouble" which is presumably why the Chronicler changed the consonant. Quite droll.

These are the sons of Israel: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Is′sachar, Zeb′ulun, Dan, Joseph, Benjamin, Naph′tali, Gad, and Asher. The sons of Judah: Er, Onan, and Shelah; these three Bath-shu′a the Canaanitess bore to him. Now Er, Judah’s first-born, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and he slew him. His daughter-in-law Tamar also bore him Perez and Zerah. Judah had five sons in all.

The sons of Perez: Hezron and Hamul. The sons of Zerah: Zimri, Ethan, Heman, Calcol, and Dara, five in all. The sons of Carmi: Achar, the troubler of Israel, who transgressed in the matter of the devoted thing; and Ethan’s son was Azari′ah.

The sons of Hezron, that were born to him: Jerah′meel, Ram, and Chelu′bai. 10 Ram was the father of Ammin′adab, and Ammin′adab was the father of Nahshon, prince of the sons of Judah. 11 Nahshon was the father of Salma, Salma of Bo′az, 12 Bo′az of Obed, Obed of Jesse. 13 Jesse was the father of Eli′ab his first-born, Abin′adab the second, Shim′e-a the third, 14 Nethan′el the fourth, Raddai the fifth, 15 Ozem the sixth, David the seventh; 16 and their sisters were Zeru′iah and Ab′igail. The sons of Zeru′iah: Abi′shai, Jo′ab, and As′ahel, three. 17 Ab′igail bore Ama′sa, and the father of Ama′sa was Jether the Ish′maelite.

18 Caleb the son of Hezron had children by his wife Azu′bah, and by Jer′ioth; and these were her sons: Jesher, Shobab, and Ardon. 19 When Azu′bah died, Caleb married Ephrath, who bore him Hur. 20 Hur was the father of Uri, and Uri was the father of Bez′alel.

21 Afterward Hezron went in to the daughter of Machir the father of Gilead, whom he married when he was sixty years old; and she bore him Segub; 22 and Segub was the father of Ja′ir, who had twenty-three cities in the land of Gilead. 23 But Geshur and Aram took from them Hav′voth-ja′ir, Kenath and its villages, sixty towns. All these were descendants of Machir, the father of Gilead. 24 After the death of Hezron, Caleb went in to Eph′rathah,[a] the wife of Hezron his father, and she bore him Ashhur, the father of Teko′a.

25 The sons of Jerah′meel, the first-born of Hezron: Ram, his first-born, Bunah, Oren, Ozem, and Ahi′jah. 26 Jerah′meel also had another wife, whose name was At′arah; she was the mother of Onam. 27 The sons of Ram, the first-born of Jerah′meel: Ma′az, Jamin, and Eker. 28 The sons of Onam: Sham′mai and Jada. The sons of Sham′mai: Nadab and Abi′shur. 29 The name of Abi′shur’s wife was Ab′ihail, and she bore him Ahban and Molid. 30 The sons of Nadab: Seled and Ap′pa-im; and Seled died childless. 31 The sons of Ap′pa-im: Ishi. The sons of Ishi: Sheshan. The sons of Sheshan: Ahlai. 32 The sons of Jada, Sham′mai’s brother: Jether and Jonathan; and Jether died childless. 33 The sons of Jonathan: Peleth and Zaza. These were the descendants of Jerah′meel. 34 Now Sheshan had no sons, only daughters; but Sheshan had an Egyptian slave, whose name was Jarha. 35 So Sheshan gave his daughter in marriage to Jarha his slave; and she bore him Attai. 36 Attai was the father of Nathan and Nathan of Zabad. 37 Zabad was the father of Ephlal, and Ephlal of Obed. 38 Obed was the father of Jehu, and Jehu of Azari′ah. 39 Azari′ah was the father of Helez, and Helez of Ele-a′sah. 40 Ele-a′sah was the father of Sismai, and Sismai of Shallum. 41 Shallum was the father of Jekami′ah, and Jekami′ah of Elish′ama.

42 The sons of Caleb the brother of Jerah′meel: Mare′shah[b] his first-born, who was the father of Ziph. The sons of Mare′shah: Hebron.[c] 43 The sons of Hebron: Korah, Tap′puah, Rekem, and Shema. 44 Shema was the father of Raham, the father of Jor′ke-am; and Rekem was the father of Sham′mai. 45 The son of Sham′mai: Ma′on; and Ma′on was the father of Beth-zur. 46 Ephah also, Caleb’s concubine, bore Haran, Moza, and Gazez; and Haran was the father of Gazez. 47 The sons of Jah′dai: Regem, Jotham, Geshan, Pelet, Ephah, and Sha′aph. 48 Ma′acah, Caleb’s concubine, bore Sheber and Tir′hanah. 49 She also bore Sha′aph the father of Madman′nah, Sheva the father of Machbe′nah and the father of Gib′e-a; and the daughter of Caleb was Achsah. 50 These were the descendants of Caleb.

The sons[d] of Hur the first-born of Eph′rathah: Shobal the father of Kir′iath-je′arim, 51 Salma, the father of Bethlehem, and Hareph the father of Beth-gader. 52 Shobal the father of Kir′iath-je′arim had other sons: Haro′eh, half of the Menu′hoth. 53 And the families of Kir′iath-je′arim: the Ithrites, the Puthites, the Shu′mathites, and the Mish′raites; from these came the Zo′rathites and the Esh′taolites. 54 The sons of Salma: Bethlehem, the Netoph′athites, At′roth-beth-jo′ab, and half of the Man′aha′thites, the Zorites. 55 The families also of the scribes that dwelt at Jabez: the Ti′rathites, the Shim′e-athites, and the Su′cathites. These are the Ken′ites who came from Hammath, the father of the house of Rechab.


  1. 1 Chronicles 2:24 Gk Vg: Heb in Caleb Ephrathah
  2. 1 Chronicles 2:42 Gk: Heb Mesha
  3. 1 Chronicles 2:42 Heb the father of Hebron
  4. 1 Chronicles 2:50 Gk Vg: Heb son

Tuesday, August 30, 2022


Here is an important essay by Jeffrey Flier, former dean of Harvard Medical School. It's a PDF, and it's long, substantial and complicated, so click the link only if you're prepared to make the effort.

Flier approaches the subject with trepidation, as do I, because we both fear that honest discussion of the problem of reproducibility in science can play into the hands of science deniers, who are running rampant and doing great harm to humanity and the rest of the planet. It turns out that systematic attempts to replicate results of published research in the biomedical sciences find that only around 25% are successful, with considerable variation. This means that other scientists followed the methods described in the original paper -- perhaps consulting the authors to get more detail than was published -- and usually failed to get the same results. This is a problem that has been much discussed lately, and I addressed it here a few years ago referring specifically to the work of John Ioannidis (who has since gone off the rails, it happens).

A naive conclusion might be that accepted scientific knowledge is more likely to be wrong than right so why should we believe scientists about anything? But that would be extremely naive. There are literally millions of scientific publications every year, most of which disappear into the slag heap and go unnoticed. It doesn't really matter if they're reproducible. Now, that is a problem in itself. Faculty evaluation, tenure and promotion is largely based on quantity of publication, not quality, and that incentive drives all this publication of work that may not be of the highest quality.

Another problem is that work that does get noticed is likely to present novel or surprising results. I don't want to get too deeply into the philosophy of science here, but the basic problem is that researchers conventionally use frequentist statistics, that is contextless rues of probability and conclude that a finding is correct if it could only happen by random chance 5% of the time or less. But, the likelihood that a finding is correct depends on how likely it was before you did the experiment, not just on the experiment itself. Scientists do many experiments, but they're only likely to write up and publish the ones with "significant" findings -- but if the finding was unlikely before they started, it's still a lot less likely than 95% even after the experiment appears to confirm it. (This is called Bayesian reasoning, after the discoverer of a quantitative theorem about this.)

There are other reasons -- unconscious bias on the part of investigators, unmeasured confounding factors in the experiment, inconsistent reagents and cell lines -- Flier explores these in depth. But . . . 

If researchers go on to rely on these irreproducible findings as the basis for further investigation and experiments, they will soon enough find out that the program of research isn't working and they aren't getting anywhere. Sometimes that takes too long and a lot of time and money are wasted, but it has to happen eventually. Propositions are generally accepted as scientific knowledge only when they make consistent predictions and serve as the basis for additional development of knowledge. All that chaff buried in the mountain doesn't really matter, except for the waste it represents. So when the relevant scientific community tells you, consensually and with confidence that ivermectin is useless against Coviid-19, and anthropogenic climate change is real, you can believe it.

Monday, August 29, 2022

It's too bad denial isn't a river . . .

. . .  because we could use one. For Americans, even though the reality of climate change is all around them, it still isn't real in their minds. Even as Lake Mead disappears and the Colorado River dries up, and the Southwest is hit by massive wildfires, heatwaves and drought, that's where Americans are moving and buying up real estate. 

According to an analysis published earlier this month by the Economic Innovation Group, 10 of the 15 counties last year were in the water-strained Southwest. Since 2012, an additional 2.8 million people have moved to counties that spent the majority of the past decade under “severe” to “exceptional” drought conditions.

Leading the way in growth was Maricopa County in Arizona, home to Phoenix, a desert metropolis that receives more sunshine than any other major city on Earth — and averages more than 110 days with highs of at least 100°F. Average temperatures in Phoenix are already 2.5°F hotter than they were in the middle of the last century, which helps explain why there were 338 heat-associated deaths last year in Maricopa County.

Despite that — and despite worse to come — the population in Maricopa increased by 14 percent over the last decade, to nearly 4.5 million people. A similar pattern is at work in states like Florida and South Carolina that experience high storm and flood risk, or in states like Colorado and Idaho that face major wildfire risk. Altogether, according to an analysis from the real-estate site Redfin, the 50 US counties with the largest share of homes facing high climate and extreme weather risk all experienced positive net migration on average between 2016 and 2020.


Now, humans naturally tend to discount the future, and it's psychologically hard to accept the reality of radical discontinuity. But people are paying high prices for real estate on Florida barrier beaches that won't exist in 30 years, and in places where there won't be any water. These are just cold truths. It doesn't matter what your political beliefs are. It doesn't matter if you are suspicious of scientists and what you think of as "elites," this is happening. Now. And it's going to keep getting worse. And worse. 


I despair.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Sunday Sermonette: Zzzzzzzzzz

Chronicles is without a doubt that most boring book in the Bible. It is actually the last book of the Tanakh, but in the protestant Old Testament it comes after Kings and that's the order we're using. It is generally thought to be the work of a single individual, presumably a Levite priest. Some believe he was also the author of Ezrah and Nehemiah, but this is disputed. Because it concludes with the ascendance of Cyrus the Great to the throne of Persia, the earliest possible date is 539 B.C., and the latest possible date is the creation of the Septuagint around 350 B.C. 

Chronicles selectively recapitulates the history from Genesis to Kings, with the addition of extensive male genealogies. These consist of nothing but names, with no context and no information about the people named. Why anyone would care about this certainly escapes me, but we have seen that this culture is obsessed with the maintenance of male lineages. Although Chronicles follows the general outline of the Deuteronomist history, it contradicts it in numerous details, some trivial, some substantive. This could mean the Chronicler relied to some extent on different sources than D, or he may have made some changes himself, for whatever reason. Note that D also contradicts himself in several places. For example, there are three versions of the death of Saul in the Deuteronomist history, and yet a fourth version in Chronicles. Chapter One is the most boring of all, nothing but a list of names. Some of this is transcribed from Genesis. As for the rest, there's no telling if he had sources or just made it up. Enjoy!

Adam, Seth, Enosh; Kenan, Mahal′alel, Jared; Enoch, Methu′selah, Lamech; Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

The sons of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. The sons of Gomer: Ash′kenaz, Diphath, and Togar′mah. The sons of Javan: Eli′shah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Ro′danim.

The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. The sons of Cush: Seba, Hav′ilah, Sabta, Ra′ama, and Sab′teca. The sons of Ra′amah: Sheba and Dedan. 10 Cush was the father of Nimrod; he began to be a mighty one in the earth.

11 Egypt was the father of Ludim, An′amim, Leha′bim, Naph-tu′him, 12 Pathru′sim, Caslu′him (whence came the Philistines), and Caph′torim.

13 Canaan was the father of Sidon his first-born, and Heth, 14 and the Jeb′usites, the Amorites, the Gir′gashites, 15 the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, 16 the Ar′vadites, the Zem′arites, and the Ha′mathites.

17 The sons of Shem: Elam, Asshur, Arpach′shad, Lud, Aram, Uz, Hul, Gether, and Meshech. 18 Arpach′shad was the father of Shelah; and Shelah was the father of Eber. 19 To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg (for in his days the earth was divided), and the name of his brother Joktan. 20 Joktan was the father of Almo′dad, Sheleph, Hazarma′veth, Jerah, 21 Hador′am, Uzal, Diklah, 22 Ebal, Abim′a-el, Sheba, 23 Ophir, Hav′ilah, and Jobab; all these were the sons of Joktan.

24 Shem, Arpach′shad, Shelah; 25 Eber, Peleg, Re′u; 26 Serug, Nahor, Terah; 27 Abram, that is, Abraham.

From Abraham to Jacob

28 The sons of Abraham: Isaac and Ish′mael. 29 These are their genealogies: the first-born of Ish′mael, Neba′ioth; and Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, 30 Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, 31 Jetur, Naphish, and Ked′emah. These are the sons of Ish′mael. 32 The sons of Ketu′rah, Abraham’s concubine: she bore Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Mid′ian, Ishbak, and Shuah. The sons of Jokshan: Sheba and Dedan. 33 The sons of Mid′ian: Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abi′da, and Elda′ah. All these were the descendants of Ketu′rah.

34 Abraham was the father of Isaac. The sons of Isaac: Esau and Israel. 35 The sons of Esau: Eli′phaz, Reu′el, Je′ush, Jalam, and Korah. 36 The sons of Eli′phaz: Teman, Omar, Zephi, Gatam, Kenaz, Timna, and Am′alek. 37 The sons of Reu′el: Nahath, Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah.

38 The sons of Se′ir: Lotan, Shobal, Zib′eon, Anah, Dishon, Ezer, and Dishan. 39 The sons of Lotan: Hori and Homam; and Lotan’s sister was Timna. 40 The sons of Shobal: Al′ian, Man′ahath, Ebal, Shephi, and Onam. The sons of Zib′eon: A′iah and Anah. 41 The sons of Anah: Dishon. The sons of Dishon: Hamran, Eshban, Ithran, and Cheran. 42 The sons of Ezer: Bilhan, Za′avan, and Ja′akan. The sons of Dishan: Uz and Aran.

43 These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the Israelites: Bela the son of Be′or, the name of whose city was Din′habah. 44 When Bela died, Jobab the son of Zerah of Bozrah reigned in his stead. 45 When Jobab died, Husham of the land of the Te′manites reigned in his stead. 46 When Husham died, Hadad the son of Bedad, who defeated Mid′ian in the country of Moab, reigned in his stead; and the name of his city was Avith. 47 When Hadad died, Samlah of Masre′kah reigned in his stead. 48 When Samlah died, Shaul of Reho′both on the Euphra′tes reigned in his stead. 49 When Shaul died, Ba′al-ha′nan, the son of Achbor, reigned in his stead. 50 When Ba′al-ha′nan died, Hadad reigned in his stead; and the name of his city was Pa′i, and his wife’s name Mehet′abel the daughter of Matred, the daughter of Me′zahab. 51 And Hadad died.

The chiefs of Edom were: chiefs Timna, Al′iah, Jetheth, 52 Oholiba′mah, Elah, Pinon, 53 Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, 54 Mag′diel, and Iram; these are the chiefs of Edom.

Friday, August 26, 2022

The Cult that Caught the Car

Now this is amusing. Blake Masters, the Republican candidate for Senate in Arizona, is frantically scrubbing his web site of references to his position on abortion. He was all for a "fetal personhood" amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would define a fetus as a human being and abortion as murder. Now it seems, he supports a ban on, in his own words, "very late term and partial birth abortion." 

In fact, Republican candidates all over the country are trying to hide from the issue, and Democratic candidates are taking advantage.  According to recent polling, there are only 10 states where a majority -- in most cases a bare majority -- supports outlawing abortion, and even that may have changed now that the reality of what it means is becoming apparent. 

The fact is the religious fanatics who have taken over the Republican party have long had a highly disproportionate influence on politics and policy -- they are a small minority of the public. I have discussed the reasons for this before -- it's pretty basic poli sci. I believe that many of the states that have moved quickly to impose draconian limits on reproductive health care will see those actions reversed in the coming year, as the public sees the results and makes their outrage apparent at the ballot box. I think we'll see the same with gun safety regulation, perhaps to a lesser degree.

I don't usually like to make predictions, but obviously I'm not the only person who's seeing this -- the Republican candidates seem to agree with me.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Wednesday Bible Study: The End

This is the last chapter of the Book of Kings, and the conclusion of the Deuteronomic History. It describes the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the First Temple. As far as historical accuracy, the only important quibble would be the number of captives taken to Babylon. Most likely it was not in the thousands, but more like the dozens. In essence, Nebuchadnezzar wanted to remove the literate priests and scribes -- what we might call he intelligentsia in a modern context -- and any military leaders or aristocrats who could challenge Babylonian rule. This chapter describes the massacre of some of them, but apparently ole Neb thought that some of them could be of value as captives. So the so-called Babylonian captivity was not at all like the (fictitious) Egyptian captivity -- most of the population remained, but under foreign rule.

Looking ahead, just so you don't have to wonder because the Tanakh won't get around to the next part of the story for quite a while, Cyrus the Great of Persia will conquer Babylon. His philsophy of empire was different from Neb's. He freed the captives and sent them back to Jerusalem to rebuild the Judean state, as a tributary to Persia, rather than trying to rule directly. Yes, that's historically accurate. They built the Second Temple, and restored the monarchy and the Levite priesthood. Unfortunately, we're going to have to slog through the Book of Chronicles before we get there. 

And in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, Nebuchadnez′zar king of Babylon came with all his army against Jerusalem, and laid siege to it; and they built siegeworks against it round about. So the city was besieged till the eleventh year of King Zedeki′ah. On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land. Then a breach was made in the city; the king with all the men of war fled[a] by night by the way of the gate between the two walls, by the king’s garden, though the Chalde′ans were around the city. And they went in the direction of the Arabah. But the army of the Chalde′ans pursued the king, and overtook him in the plains of Jericho; and all his army was scattered from him. Then they captured the king, and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah, who passed sentence upon him. They slew the sons of Zedeki′ah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedeki′ah, and bound him in fetters, and took him to Babylon.

In the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month—which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnez′zar, king of Babylon—Nebu′zarad′an, the captain of the bodyguard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. And he burned the house of the Lord, and the king’s house and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down. 10 And all the army of the Chalde′ans, who were with the captain of the guard, broke down the walls around Jerusalem. 11 And the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had deserted to the king of Babylon, together with the rest of the multitude, Nebu′zarad′an the captain of the guard carried into exile. 12 But the captain of the guard left some of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and plowmen.

13 And the pillars of bronze that were in the house of the Lord, and the stands and the bronze sea that were in the house of the Lord, the Chalde′ans broke in pieces, and carried the bronze to Babylon. 14 And they took away the pots, and the shovels, and the snuffers, and the dishes for incense and all the vessels of bronze used in the temple service, 15 the firepans also, and the bowls. What was of gold the captain of the guard took away as gold, and what was of silver, as silver. 16 As for the two pillars, the one sea, and the stands, which Solomon had made for the house of the Lord, the bronze of all these vessels was beyond weight. 17 The height of the one pillar was eighteen cubits, and upon it was a capital of bronze; the height of the capital was three cubits; a network and pomegranates, all of bronze, were upon the capital round about. And the second pillar had the like, with the network.

18 And the captain of the guard took Serai′ah the chief priest, and Zephani′ah the second priest, and the three keepers of the threshold; 19 and from the city he took an officer who had been in command of the men of war, and five men of the king’s council who were found in the city; and the secretary of the commander of the army who mustered the people of the land; and sixty men of the people of the land who were found in the city. 20 And Nebu′zarad′an the captain of the guard took them, and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah. 21 And the king of Babylon smote them, and put them to death at Riblah in the land of Hamath. So Judah was taken into exile out of its land.

Gedaliah Made Governor of Judah

22 And over the people who remained in the land of Judah, whom Nebuchadnez′zar king of Babylon had left, he appointed Gedali′ah the son of Ahi′kam, son of Shaphan, governor. 23 Now when all the captains of the forces in the open country[b] and their men heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedali′ah governor, they came with their men to Gedali′ah at Mizpah, namely, Ish′mael the son of Nethani′ah, and Joha′nan the son of Kare′ah, and Serai′ah the son of Tanhu′meth the Netoph′athite, and Ja-azani′ah the son of the Ma-ac′athite. 24 And Gedali′ah swore to them and their men, saying, “Do not be afraid because of the Chalde′an officials; dwell in the land, and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall be well with you.” 25 But in the seventh month, Ish′mael the son of Nethani′ah, son of Elish′ama, of the royal family, came with ten men, and attacked and killed Gedali′ah and the Jews and the Chalde′ans who were with him at Mizpah. 26 Then all the people, both small and great, and the captains of the forces arose, and went to Egypt; for they were afraid of the Chalde′ans.

Jehoiachin Released from Prison

27 And in the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoi′achin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, Evil-mer′odach king of Babylon, in the year that he began to reign, graciously freed Jehoi′achin king of Judah from prison; 28 and he spoke kindly to him, and gave him a seat above the seats of the kings who were with him in Babylon. 29 So Jehoi′achin put off his prison garments. And every day of his life he dined regularly at the king’s table; 30 and for his allowance, a regular allowance was given him by the king, every day a portion, as long as he lived.


  1. 2 Kings 25:4 Gk Compare Jer 39.4; 52.7: Heb lacks the king and fled
  2. 2 Kings 25:23 With Jer 40.7: Heb lacks in the open country

Monday, August 22, 2022

The bias of social media

I got a comment on my recent post about monopolies that amused me no end, but didn't surprise me. As you may have noticed there's been a concerted campaign by right wingers to claim that social media is biased against conservatism. The commenter said it's a wonder the conservative message gets through at all. Of course the exact opposite is true:


Facebook has had a long and complicated relationship with progressives after allowing former President Donald Trump to violate terms of service with posts and ads during the 2016 campaign season. Facebook also made money off of international companies that were driving wedges and stoking fears targeting races.

A 2021 analysis by The Washington Post revealed that the site gives an advantage to conservatives on the platform. Facebook says that the right-wing is just better at stoking fears and responses than progressives. The reality is that Facebook has allowed false information to stand from conservative sources. While there are supposed to be protections in place to stop fake news, it typically takes so long for the review and removal that the story has already spread across the platform. As a result, the top 25 posts on Facebook are very rarely from Democratic sources.

The argument conservatives have is with the truth. Dump was kicked off of Twitter because of his relentless lying, not because he is "conservative," which in fact he is not. He's just a narcissistic psychopath.  That Facebook gets around to removing lies after three or four days is what bothers Republicans in congress. They should let lies stand forever, is the complaint.

Update: For those whose reading ability is apparently limited, this post is about so-called "social media," not the corporate media that produce TV news, and wire services. Whether you think an outlet leans "right" or "left" obviously depends on how you define those terms and furthermore, it is not a measure of accuracy or credibility. In fact, as I have repeatedly argued and demonstrated, "right wing" in the current political climate means ipso facto false and misleading. There is no virtue in being "centrist," there is only virtue in being factually accurate.


Sunday, August 21, 2022


That could be the Irish Republican Army, or your Individual Retirement Account, but today it refers to the Inflation Reduction Act. Columbia economist Gernot Wagner has a very  favorable view of the Act regarding climate change. (You need to register to read but it's free.) It actually doesn't have a lot of new spending -- just $369 billion over ten years. Yeah yeah, that sounds like a lot of money but by federal government standards it's peanuts. It also authorizes the Department of Energy to make up to $250 billion in loans. However, this modest initiative is well structured to elicit vastly larger private investment.

Wagner also debunks some common misconceptions -- or rather, Fox News lies -- about the global response to climate change, notably the role of China vs. the U.S.


According to Bloomberg, global investments in the energy transition topped $750 billion last year, with China alone spending $266 billion, compared to $47 billion in Germany and $114 billion in the US. And McKinsey & Company offers an even more generous accounting, putting total current investments in clean energy and its supporting infrastructure at $2 trillion. 


A strong performance in the clean-energy race will be good for business, the economy, and national security. And this is not just a transatlantic affair. China arguably has a solid lead in the race to manufacture much of the energy transition’s hardware. It now produces over two-thirds of all solar panels and lithium-ion batteries, and around half of all wind turbines sold globally. But by doubling down on industrial policy, the US may well peel off some of this market share. 

Of great importance, the Act will result in lower energy prices for U.S. consumers, and consumer savings on cars and appliances. So yes, it really will reduce inflation, although not immediately. There are plenty of other Fox News lies about the Act, notably about the Internal Revenue Service, but that's not so much on topic here. Anyway, don't watch it if you want to hold on to your brain cells. 

Update: Obviously I did too talk about inflation. Read the above paragraph.


Sunday Sermonette: The fall of Judah

The last two chapters of the Book of Kings are more or less historically accurate, although the story is a bit muddled in that Judah appears to be conquered twice, first in this chapter and again in the next. It is true that Judah was for a time a vassal kingdom, then it rebelled and Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and took its leading citizens into captivity in Babylon, but the story seems to be duplicated. Maybe there's some historical accuracy to this, or maybe it's just the usual two versions of the same story phenomenon. In case you're wondering what happened to Assyria, Nebuchadnezzar conquered it, and also defeated Egypt, which left Judah without any potential savior.


24 In his days Nebuchadnez′zar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoi′akim became his servant three years; then he turned and rebelled against him. And the Lord sent against him bands of the Chalde′ans, and bands of the Syrians, and bands of the Moabites, and bands of the Ammonites, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the Lord which he spoke by his servants the prophets. Surely this came upon Judah at the command of the Lord, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manas′seh, according to all that he had done, and also for the innocent blood that he had shed; for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the Lord would not pardon. Now the rest of the deeds of Jehoi′akim, and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? So Jehoi′akim slept with his fathers, and Jehoi′achin his son reigned in his stead. And the king of Egypt did not come again out of his land, for the king of Babylon had taken all that belonged to the king of Egypt from the Brook of Egypt to the river Euphra′tes.

Reign and Captivity of Jehoiachin

Jehoi′achin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned three months in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Nehush′ta the daughter of Elna′than of Jerusalem. And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father had done.

Capture of Jerusalem

10 At that time the servants of Nebuchadnez′zar king of Babylon came up to Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. 11 And Nebuchadnez′zar king of Babylon came to the city, while his servants were besieging it; 12 and Jehoi′achin the king of Judah gave himself up to the king of Babylon, himself, and his mother, and his servants, and his princes, and his palace officials. The king of Babylon took him prisoner in the eighth year of his reign, 13 and carried off all the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king’s house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold in the temple of the Lord, which Solomon king of Israel had made, as the Lord had foretold. 14 He carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes, and all the mighty men of valor, ten thousand captives, and all the craftsmen and the smiths; none remained, except the poorest people of the land. 15 And he carried away Jehoi′achin to Babylon; the king’s mother, the king’s wives, his officials, and the chief men of the land, he took into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon. 16 And the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon all the men of valor, seven thousand, and the craftsmen and the smiths, one thousand, all of them strong and fit for war. 17 And the king of Babylon made Mattani′ah, Jehoi′achin’s uncle, king in his stead, and changed his name to Zedeki′ah.

Zedekiah Reigns over Judah

18 Zedeki′ah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hamu′tal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. 19 And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that Jehoi′akim had done. 20 For because of the anger of the Lord it came to the point in Jerusalem and Judah that he cast them out from his presence.

The Fall and Captivity of Judah

And Zedeki′ah rebelled against the king of Babylon.


Friday, August 19, 2022

How not go get cancer

The Global Burden of Disease project is a decades long international collaboration, based at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, but involving researchers around the world. It was originally funded by the World Bank, and now receives its principal support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

GBD (not to be confused with golden brown and delicious) essentially tries to quantify the prevalence of diseases, and injuries around the world; the prevalence of associated disability; causes of death; and risk factors. They use a lot of complicated methods. If you're really interested you can read about them on the GBD website. There is certainly room for controversy about the accuracy of some of their estimates -- data sources are not great in many places -- and also about the philosophical validity of some of their concepts. But for understanding the essential challenges for public health around the world, they're the best we've got.

One construct I do need to explain for this post is the Disability Adjusted Life Year, or DALY. It doesn't actually tell us very much to just enumerate the causes of death. Everybody dies, after all, so what matter is at what age and what state of health they are in before they shuffle off this mortal coil. You could quantify the former just by using a metric called Life Years Lost -- assume that people naturally will live to some arbitrary age, say current life expectancy at birth*, and for all the people who die younger add up all the years between Age X and their deaths. But for people who are in a coma, or with severe dementia in a nursing home, or in chronic pain or whatever other ill fate they suffer, that isn't really good enough either. 

So DALY combines YLL with years spent in a condition of less than ideal health, various of which conditions are considered to represent fractions of a life year. For example, if you live for a year being blind, that might be worth six months off your life. (I don't know that for a fact, just making up an example.) There are various ways of getting to those fractions, the most straightforward of which is to survey a bunch of people, ask them how much life time they would give up not to have the condition, and average the responses. There's a lot wrong with that, but at least it's something.

Anyway, a new GBD analysis finds that in 2019, 44.4% of all cancer deaths, and 42% of DALYs attributable to cancer, resulted from preventable risk factors. The most important of these, for both sexes, is not a surprise, tobacco. Since the reason so many people around the world use tobacco is marketing by tobacco companies, these deaths may be considered homicides. Alcohol use and what the authors call "dietary risk" were number two and three for males. I think dietary risk refers to consumption of cured and charred meat products. For females, they call the second leading risk factor "unsafe sex," but this mostly means human papilloma virus, which is preventable by a vaccine. Body mass index came in third -- obesity is a risk factor for cancer. Air pollution comes in fifth. 

So it's possible to cut the burden of cancer nearly in half, without any sort of medical intervention or high technology. But there's little political will to do so, anywhere in the world.

*Right now it's 92 years, which is the "frontier life expectancy in 2050," although I seriously doubt we'll get there.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Rearranging the deck chairs?

 CDC director Rochelle Walensky has announced a reorganization of the agency, which is intended to respond to some of the problems I discussed here a few days ago. While some of this seems largely rhetorical -- they aren't going to issue confusing and contradictory guidance for example -- establishing an office of intergovernmental affairs to coordinate with other federal agencies and state and local public health agencies seems like a good idea. The mystery is that it didn't exist before. Walensky also wants congress to mandate that state and local jurisdictions share their data with CDC. Again, it's mysterious why that isn't already the law.

While this all seems well and good, our problems go far beyond the CDC:


A group representing infection preventionists and epidemiologists pointed out that the nation’s public health failures extend well beyond the CDC, including supply chain weakness, misinformation on vaccines and masking, lack of standards and interoperability for gathering public health data and the need to invest in infection prevention and control.

“While improvements to the operation of the CDC are important, they must be done in concert with other key actions in order to build a strong public health system,” the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology said in a statement on the potential CDC reorganization.

However, we aren't going to fix these problems without a substantial Democratic majority in congress -- nor will we fix any of our other problems. 


Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Wednesday Bible Study: Yahweh cleans up

Having "discovered" the book of the law they had just written, Josiah and his priests set out to establish worship of Yahweh according to the Torah law as the sole religious practice in Judah, and to cleanse the kingdom of all traces of worship of other gods. This involves, as usual, slaughtering a lot of people, but that's righteousness in Yahweh's world. I can't prove it, but I believe this was supposed to end with verse 25, with the panegyric to King Josiah.. There may have been a closing statement, which has been replaced. That would be the appropriate denouement to the entire plot, and explain why Josiah had this written. (Remember that the division into chapters happened in medieval Europe.) However, subsequent events required that the remaining material be added. As a heads up, there are only two chapters after this one.

23 Then the king sent, and all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem were gathered to him. And the king went up to the house of the Lord, and with him all the men of Judah and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the priests and the prophets, all the people, both small and great; and he read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant which had been found in the house of the Lord. And the king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep his commandments and his testimonies and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book; and all the people joined in the covenant.

And the king commanded Hilki′ah, the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the threshold, to bring out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels made for Ba′al, for Ashe′rah, and for all the host of heaven; he burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron, and carried their ashes to Bethel. And he deposed the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense in the high places at the cities of Judah and round about Jerusalem; those also who burned incense to Ba′al, to the sun, and the moon, and the constellations, and all the host of the heavens. And he brought out the Ashe′rah from the house of the Lord, outside Jerusalem, to the brook Kidron, and burned it at the brook Kidron, and beat it to dust and cast the dust of it upon the graves of the common people. And he broke down the houses of the male cult prostitutes which were in the house of the Lord, where the women wove hangings for the Ashe′rah. And he brought all the priests out of the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had burned incense, from Geba to Beer-sheba; and he broke down the high places of the gates that were at the entrance of the gate of Joshua the governor of the city, which were on one’s left at the gate of the city. However, the priests of the high places did not come up to the altar of the Lord in Jerusalem, but they ate unleavened bread among their brethren. 10 And he defiled To′pheth, which is in the valley of the sons of Hinnom, that no one might burn his son or his daughter as an offering to Molech. 11 And he removed the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun, at the entrance to the house of the Lord, by the chamber of Nathan-melech the chamberlain, which was in the precincts;[a] and he burned the chariots of the sun with fire. 12 And the altars on the roof of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars which Manas′seh had made in the two courts of the house of the Lord, he pulled down and broke in pieces,[b] and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron. 13 And the king defiled the high places that were east of Jerusalem, to the south of the mount of corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had built for Ash′toreth the abomination of the Sido′nians, and for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 14 And he broke in pieces the pillars, and cut down the Ashe′rim, and filled their places with the bones of men.

15 Moreover the altar at Bethel, the high place erected by Jerobo′am the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, that altar with the high place he pulled down and he broke in pieces its stones,[c] crushing them to dust; also he burned the Ashe′rah. 16 And as Josi′ah turned, he saw the tombs there on the mount; and he sent and took the bones out of the tombs, and burned them upon the altar, and defiled it, according to the word of the Lord which the man of God proclaimed, who had predicted these things. 17 Then he said, “What is yonder monument that I see?” And the men of the city told him, “It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and predicted these things which you have done against the altar at Bethel.” 18 And he said, “Let him be; let no man move his bones.” So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet who came out of Samar′ia. 19 And all the shrines also of the high places that were in the cities of Samar′ia, which kings of Israel had made, provoking the Lord to anger, Josi′ah removed; he did to them according to all that he had done at Bethel. 20 And he slew all the priests of the high places who were there, upon the altars, and burned the bones of men upon them. Then he returned to Jerusalem.

The Passover Celebrated

21 And the king commanded all the people, “Keep the passover to the Lord your God, as it is written in this book of the covenant.” 22 For no such passover had been kept since the days of the judges who judged Israel, or during all the days of the kings of Israel or of the kings of Judah; 23 but in the eighteenth year of King Josi′ah this passover was kept to the Lord in Jerusalem.

24 Moreover Josi′ah put away the mediums and the wizards and the teraphim and the idols and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, that he might establish the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilki′ah the priest found in the house of the Lord. 25 Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; nor did any like him arise after him.

26 Still the Lord did not turn from the fierceness of his great wrath, by which his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manas′seh had provoked him. 27 And the Lord said, “I will remove Judah also out of my sight, as I have removed Israel, and I will cast off this city which I have chosen, Jerusalem, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there.”

Josiah Dies in Battle

28 Now the rest of the acts of Josi′ah, and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 29 In his days Pharaoh Neco king of Egypt went up to the king of Assyria to the river Euphra′tes. King Josi′ah went to meet him; and Pharaoh Neco slew him at Megid′do, when he saw him. 30 And his servants carried him dead in a chariot from Megid′do, and brought him to Jerusalem, and buried him in his own tomb. And the people of the land took Jeho′ahaz the son of Josi′ah, and anointed him, and made him king in his father’s stead.

Reign and Captivity of Jehoahaz

31 Jeho′ahaz was twenty-three years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hamu′tal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. 32 And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his fathers had done. 33 And Pharaoh Neco put him in bonds at Riblah in the land of Hamath, that he might not reign in Jerusalem, and laid upon the land a tribute of a hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold. 34 And Pharaoh Neco made Eli′akim the son of Josi′ah king in the place of Josi′ah his father, and changed his name to Jehoi′akim. But he took Jeho′ahaz away; and he came to Egypt, and died there. 35 And Jehoi′akim gave the silver and the gold to Pharaoh, but he taxed the land to give the money according to the command of Pharaoh. He exacted the silver and the gold of the people of the land, from every one according to his assessment, to give it to Pharaoh Neco.

Jehoiakim Reigns over Judah

36 Jehoi′akim was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Zebi′dah the daughter of Pedai′ah of Rumah. 37 And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his fathers had done.


  1. 2 Kings 23:11 The meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain
  2. 2 Kings 23:12 Heb pieces from there
  3. 2 Kings 23:15 Gk: Heb he burned the high place

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

What they don't bother to tell you

Complaining about the corporate media is like talking about the weather. It doesn't ever seem to do any good. But at least my 4/12 readers deserve to know something very important about the Biden administration, which for some reason is a big secret. It also has to do with a big secret about the previous administration. This site keeps track of air strikes in Iraq and Syria by the  U.S. led coalition.

Bet you didn't know this. These are civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria by presidential term. Note that the chart includes allegations that the investigators don't consider confirmed, but they're very up-front about that. It's a little bit hard to read in the blogger window but you can go to the site and look at it if you wish:

Don't you think that's news? And maybe it should have been news during the previous administration? Res ipsa loquitur.