Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Wednesday Bible Study: Boredom unto death

The lists of priests and musicians at least gave us a chance to talk about the priesthood, and music, which are interesting subjects. Here we get lists of gatekeepers, accountants, and administrators. I really don't have anything to say about this other than once again to question why the hell anybody would be interested in these disembodied monikers. Don't worry, the author is running out of professions. Next chapter he'll do the military officers, and then we'll be back to a narrative, such as it is.

26 The divisions of the gatekeepers:

From the Korahites: Meshelemiah son of Kore, one of the sons of Asaph.

Meshelemiah had sons:

Zechariah the firstborn,

Jediael the second,

Zebadiah the third,

Jathniel the fourth,

Elam the fifth,

Jehohanan the sixth

and Eliehoenai the seventh.

Obed-Edom also had sons:

Shemaiah the firstborn,

Jehozabad the second,

Joah the third,

Sakar the fourth,

Nethanel the fifth,

Ammiel the sixth,

Issachar the seventh

and Peullethai the eighth.

(For God had blessed Obed-Edom.)

Obed-Edom’s son Shemaiah also had sons, who were leaders in their father’s family because they were very capable men. The sons of Shemaiah: Othni, Rephael, Obed and Elzabad; his relatives Elihu and Semakiah were also able men. All these were descendants of Obed-Edom; they and their sons and their relatives were capable men with the strength to do the work—descendants of Obed-Edom, 62 in all.

Meshelemiah had sons and relatives, who were able men—18 in all.

10 Hosah the Merarite had sons: Shimri the first (although he was not the firstborn, his father had appointed him the first), 11 Hilkiah the second, Tabaliah the third and Zechariah the fourth. The sons and relatives of Hosah were 13 in all.

12 These divisions of the gatekeepers, through their leaders, had duties for ministering in the temple of the Lord, just as their relatives had. 13 Lots were cast for each gate, according to their families, young and old alike.

14 The lot for the East Gate fell to Shelemiah.[a] Then lots were cast for his son Zechariah, a wise counselor, and the lot for the North Gate fell to him. 15 The lot for the South Gate fell to Obed-Edom, and the lot for the storehouse fell to his sons. 16 The lots for the West Gate and the Shalleketh Gate on the upper road fell to Shuppim and Hosah.

Guard was alongside of guard: 17 There were six Levites a day on the east, four a day on the north, four a day on the south and two at a time at the storehouse. 18 As for the court[b] to the west, there were four at the road and two at the court[c] itself.

19 These were the divisions of the gatekeepers who were descendants of Korah and Merari.

The Treasurers and Other Officials

20 Their fellow Levites were[d] in charge of the treasuries of the house of God and the treasuries for the dedicated things.

21 The descendants of Ladan, who were Gershonites through Ladan and who were heads of families belonging to Ladan the Gershonite, were Jehieli, 22 the sons of Jehieli, Zetham and his brother Joel. They were in charge of the treasuries of the temple of the Lord.

23 From the Amramites, the Izharites, the Hebronites and the Uzzielites:

24 Shubael, a descendant of Gershom son of Moses, was the official in charge of the treasuries. 25 His relatives through Eliezer: Rehabiah his son, Jeshaiah his son, Joram his son, Zikri his son and Shelomith his son. 26 Shelomith and his relatives were in charge of all the treasuries for the things dedicated by King David, by the heads of families who were the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and by the other army commanders. 27 Some of the plunder taken in battle they dedicated for the repair of the temple of the Lord. 28 And everything dedicated by Samuel the seer and by Saul son of Kish, Abner son of Ner and Joab son of Zeruiah, and all the other dedicated things were in the care of Shelomith and his relatives.

29 From the Izharites: Kenaniah and his sons were assigned duties away from the temple, as officials and judges over Israel.

30 From the Hebronites: Hashabiah and his relatives—seventeen hundred able men—were responsible in Israel west of the Jordan for all the work of the Lord and for the king’s service. 31 As for the Hebronites, Jeriah was their chief according to the genealogical records of their families. In the fortieth year of David’s reign a search was made in the records, and capable men among the Hebronites were found at Jazer in Gilead. 32 Jeriah had twenty-seven hundred relatives, who were able men and heads of families, and King David put them in charge of the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh for every matter pertaining to God and for the affairs of the king.


  1. 1 Chronicles 26:14 A variant of Meshelemiah
  2. 1 Chronicles 26:18 The meaning of the Hebrew for this word is uncertain.
  3. 1 Chronicles 26:18 The meaning of the Hebrew for this word is uncertain.
  4. 1 Chronicles 26:20 Septuagint; Hebrew As for the Levites, Ahijah was

Monday, November 28, 2022

The Republican Base

 Donald Trump knows that he can't win an election if he alienates his neo-Nazi constituents. From The Guardian


Donald Trump repeatedly refused to disavow the outspoken antisemite and white supremacist Nick Fuentes after they spoke over dinner at his Mar-a-Lago resort, rejecting the advice from advisers over fears he might alienate a section of his base, two people familiar with the situation said. . . . Trump eschewed making outright disavowals of Fuentes, the people said, and none of the statements from the campaign or on his Truth Social account included criticism of Fuentes, despite efforts from advisers who reached Trump over the Thanksgiving holiday. . . .Trump has had a long history of delaying or muting criticism of white supremacy, drawing moral equivalency in 2017 between neo-Nazis and counter-protesters at the deadly unrest in Charlottesville, Virginia, and refusing to denounce the far-right Proud Boys group at a 2020 presidential debate

Who is Nick Fuentes? First, just so we're clear, a snip from the NYT article I mentioned previously:

In recent years, Mr. Fuentes, 24, has developed a high profile on the far right and forged ties with such Republican lawmakers as Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona, largely through his leadership of an annual white-supremacist event called the America First Political Action Conference.

A Holocaust denier and unabashed racist, Mr. Fuentes openly uses hateful language on his podcast, in recent weeks calling for the military to be sent into Black neighborhoods and demanding that Jews leave the country.


Here's what the ADL has to say about him. He sometimes cloaks his ideology by positioning "himself as “Christian conservative” who opposes societal shifts – on immigration, abortion and more -- as nefarious efforts, led by the left, to fundamentally erode America’s Christian values. This cloaking of ideology is a ploy to attract mainstream support and distract from the group’s fundamentally white supremacist ideology." In reality:

Fuentes has made a number of racist and antisemitic comments under the guise of being provocative and ironic. For example, he has referred to Daily Wire columnist Matt Walsh as “shabbos goy race traitor” because he works for Jews (Ben Shapiro, a Jewish conservative, runs the Daily Wire). On a livestream episode, Fuentes “jokingly” denied the Holocaust and compared Jews burnt in concentration camps to cookies in an oven. On May 24, 2021, Fuentes participated in a debate on right-wing conspiracist Alex Jones’ InfoWars with Robert Barnes, a man described as a “constitutional lawyer” who has legally defended both Jones and Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse. During the debate, Fuentes made numerous antisemitic remarks, including, "I don’t see Jews as Europeans and I don’t see them as part of Western civilization, particularly because they are not Christians.” In April, Fuentes appeared to urge mainstream Republicans to champion an antisemitic focus on “Jewish control,” tweeting, “The next big frontier for populist and conservative inc [sic; this is the America First term for establishment GOPers] to coopt [sic] is discussing Jewish Power. Somehow I don’t think they’ll broach that one!”


And so on. And of course Trump knows perfectly well who he is. 

And I might add: Galvanized by his idol Ye's latest antisemitic outbursts, white nationalist Nick Fuentes unleashed his own rant last week telling Jews to "get out fuck out of America": "You serve the devil. You serve Satan. ... I piss on your Talmud."


Sunday, November 27, 2022

Sunday Sermonette: Droning on

 Side note: Saying that Jews should be expelled from the country is hate speech. I'm not gratuitously labeling what I don't agree with. Nick Fuentes is a Nazi.

Chapter 25 continues with the interminable recitation of meaningless names, in this case of musicians. While the names are pointless, we can divine a little bit about Judean music, but it really is just a little. We don't know when the Chroniclers source material for this was written, but when Chronicles was written, probably in the mid 6th Century BCE, the instruments named here were evidently still characteristic. We don't know what other role, if any, music may have played in the society, but these musicians are assigned to accompany "the ministry of prophesying," which I presume is what we would call a sermon, although perhaps the words were, at least sometimes. See verse 3, "Jeduthun, who prophesied, using the harp in thanking and praising the Lord." Of course, he could have used the harp to accompany spoken words.


It appears there was ensemble performance, as per verse 6: "All these men were under the supervision of their father for the music of the temple of the Lord, with cymbals, lyres and harps." (The KJV translates "psaltery" rather than "harp." A psaltery is essentially a fretless guitar, but it probably had not been invented at this time. Harp is more likely.)  Elsewhere in the Bible the tambour is mentioned, though not here. This chapter does not name any specialists in singing, though as I say perhaps the "prophesying" is supposed to be done in song. So we know there was rhythmic accompaniment with the cymbals. The harp and lyre are capable of producing chords, so there was likely some form of harmonic structure. But that's all we know. We don't know what scales were used, or harmonies; whether there may have been duet or ensemble singing; and when and where, other than for religious observances, music may have been played. All we have is this list of names.

We know from

25 David, together with the commanders of the army, set apart some of the sons of Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun for the ministry of prophesying, accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals. Here is the list of the men who performed this service:

From the sons of Asaph:

Zakkur, Joseph, Nethaniah and Asarelah. The sons of Asaph were under the supervision of Asaph, who prophesied under the king’s supervision.

As for Jeduthun, from his sons:

Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei,[a] Hashabiah and Mattithiah, six in all, under the supervision of their father Jeduthun, who prophesied, using the harp in thanking and praising the Lord.

As for Heman, from his sons:

Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shubael and Jerimoth; Hananiah, Hanani, Eliathah, Giddalti and Romamti-Ezer; Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir and Mahazioth. (All these were sons of Heman the king’s seer. They were given him through the promises of God to exalt him. God gave Heman fourteen sons and three daughters.)

All these men were under the supervision of their father for the music of the temple of the Lord, with cymbals, lyres and harps, for the ministry at the house of God.

Asaph, Jeduthun and Heman were under the supervision of the king. Along with their relatives—all of them trained and skilled in music for the Lord—they numbered 288. Young and old alike, teacher as well as student, cast lots for their duties.

The first lot, which was for Asaph, fell to Joseph,
his sons and relatives[b]12[c]
the second to Gedaliah,
him and his relatives and sons12
10 the third to Zakkur,
his sons and relatives12
11 the fourth to Izri,[d]
his sons and relatives12
12 the fifth to Nethaniah,
his sons and relatives12
13 the sixth to Bukkiah,
his sons and relatives12
14 the seventh to Jesarelah,[e]
his sons and relatives12
15 the eighth to Jeshaiah,
his sons and relatives12
16 the ninth to Mattaniah,
his sons and relatives12
17 the tenth to Shimei,
his sons and relatives12
18 the eleventh to Azarel,[f]
his sons and relatives12
19 the twelfth to Hashabiah,
his sons and relatives12
20 the thirteenth to Shubael,
his sons and relatives12
21 the fourteenth to Mattithiah,
his sons and relatives12
22 the fifteenth to Jerimoth,
his sons and relatives12
23 the sixteenth to Hananiah,
his sons and relatives12
24 the seventeenth to Joshbekashah,
his sons and relatives12
25 the eighteenth to Hanani,
his sons and relatives12
26 the nineteenth to Mallothi,
his sons and relatives12
27 the twentieth to Eliathah,
his sons and relatives12
28 the twenty-first to Hothir,
his sons and relatives12
29 the twenty-second to Giddalti,
his sons and relatives12
30 the twenty-third to Mahazioth,
his sons and relatives12
31 the twenty-fourth to Romamti-Ezer,
his sons and relatives12.


  1. 1 Chronicles 25:3 One Hebrew manuscript and some Septuagint manuscripts (see also verse 17); most Hebrew manuscripts do not have Shimei.
  2. 1 Chronicles 25:9 See Septuagint; Hebrew does not have his sons and relatives.
  3. 1 Chronicles 25:9 See the total in verse 7; Hebrew does not have twelve.
  4. 1 Chronicles 25:11 A variant of Zeri
  5. 1 Chronicles 25:14 A variant of Asarelah
  6. 1 Chronicles 25:18 A variant of Uzziel

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Rise and Fall

As I believe I have mentioned, I am reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by William Shirer. It's a cube of paper, and he spends a lot of pages on meticulous detail of large events, so it's a slog. I'm about 1/3 of the way through. At this point Neville Chamberlain, who has a more than fair bid to be history's greatest fool, has gifted Czechoslovakia to Hitler in exchange for Hitler's assurance that he has no further territorial designs. The persecution of Germany's Jews is well advanced, with Jews having been barred from all professions, synagogues burned, businesses smashed, and property looted. Many have been murdered, but so far on only a retail scale Chamberlain has had nothing to say about this at all. I presume you know what happened next, at least in broad outline.

Imagine my total lack of surprise on learning that the former Resident hosted a dinner at his Florida estate for the Asshole Formerly Known as Kanye West, and Nick Fuentes, an actual Nazi. The New York Times at least bothered to cover this, albeit briefly.

Former President Donald J. Trump on Tuesday night had dinner with Nick Fuentes, an outspoken antisemite and racist who is one of the country’s most prominent young white supremacists, at Mr. Trump’s private club in Florida, advisers to Mr. Trump conceded on Friday. . . .

In recent years, Mr. Fuentes, 24, has developed a high profile on the far right and forged ties with such Republican lawmakers as Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona, largely through his leadership of an annual white-supremacist event called the America First Political Action Conference.

A Holocaust denier and unabashed racist, Mr. Fuentes openly uses hateful language on his podcast, in recent weeks calling for the military to be sent into Black neighborhoods and demanding that Jews leave the country.


I should note that expelling the Jews from Germany was the Nazis first idea, and that's what they were discussing at the time referenced above. The extermination concept came a bit later.The dinner host will be the Republican presidential nominee in 2014, but that's perfectly okay with Kevin  McCarthy. Just so you understand what's actually happening.



Thursday, November 24, 2022

Bayes Theorem: Let's do it

I was briefly conflicted thinking I should do something Thanksgiving-related, but nah, I've been there and done that. It can mean whatever it means to you today, the unpleasant truth about that Pilgrim feast can be considered at another time.

Anyway, Thomas Bayes was an English minister, mathematician and philosopher who died in 1761. A lot of educated Englishmen in those days trained for the clergy so it wasn't at all unusual for clergymen to make secular intellectual contributions. Anyway here's the theorem:



This means that the probability of some proposition or event called "A", given that we know that "B" is true -- aka the probability of A given B, which is what the leftmost term means -- equals the probability of B given A, times the probability of A before we knew about B -- the prior probability of A, divided by the prior probability of B.


It isn't important that you memorize this or go around applying it formally in real life, but it is important to at least have an intuitive understanding of it and reason in this way qualitatively, even if you can't usually plug in real numbers. The easiest way to explain this is with an example. Suppose you go to the doctor and learn that a test result for a rare disease came back positive. The doctor tells you that if somebody has the disease, the test will always be positive; but if they don't have the disease, it will be negative 99% of the time. If you're doctor is like most doctors, he or she will tell you the chance you have the disease is 99%. But that's because doctors don't understand this. True fact! It's been studied. If any physicians are reading this, read carefully!


Remember that this is a rare disease -- in fact only 1 out of 10,000 people actually has it. That's the prior probability of A. That means if you test 10,000 people, 9,999 won't have the disease; but 1 out of 100 of those people will test positive, so on average 99.99, or almost 100 people who don't have the disease, will test positive, while only one person who tests positive will in fact have the disease. Plugging this into the formula, to make it more exact and mathy and stuff, the probability of B given A is 1 but the prior probability of A is only 0.0001. That's the numerator. The denominator -- the prior probability of B - is that -- .0001, the one true positive) + 0.00999, almost 1 out of 100 false positives.  positives out of 10,000 people = just slightly more than .01. So your chance of actually having the disease is still only about 1%.

The lesson for life is that if something seems highly improbable to begin with, you should be skeptical even of what seems like pretty convincing evidence. Now, it would be a whole different story if you actually had symptoms of the disease, in other words this is a diagnostic test, not a screening test. If half the people who have the symptoms actually have the disease, the prior probability is .5. Running that through the Bayes mill, if you test positive, your chance of actually having the disease is now more than 95%. So everything depends on that prior probability.

To build up a picture of the world that is likely to be true. we need to put together evidence from various sources. We need to adjust our beliefs based on new evidence, but we need to look skeptically at evidence that doesn't fit at all with the picture that already seems highly likely, in other words we need to seriously consider the hypothesis that there is something wrong with that new evidence, that we have misinterpreted it, or that it's maybe just a coincidence. If I tested positive for a rare disease, I'd probably at least want to have another confirmatory test or diagnostic procedure, but I also wouldn't assume the worst. Be skeptical, look for confirmation, but be willing to be convinced.




Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Wednesday Bible Study: Hit the snooze button again

The Chronicler drones on with more meaningless drivel about the genealogy of the Levite priests, and how David assigned them to responsibilities regarding the future temple. Why anybody would be interested in these meaningless lists of names hundreds of years after this ostensibly happened I have no idea. But it does prompt me to reflect on the origins of the hereditary priesthood.

If you've been putting up with this for a while you know that Aaron was the brother of Moses, they were of the tribe of Levi, and in Exodus Yahweh gave responsibility for maintaining the tabernacle and the ark to the Levites and for the sacrifice to the descendants of Aaron specifically. However, we also know that this is fiction. The Egyptian captivity, the 40 years wandering in the desert, and Joshua's conquest of Canaan never happened. I must say, however, that as preposterous as the story is, it is also richly imaginative fiction. 

Because the priesthood obviously comes with privileges -- those being a major focus of Leviticus -- and emphasized at other  points in Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomist History -- priests would obviously want to pass them on to their sons. how the sustaining mythology developed we will never know, but keep in mind that everything we have read so far was written by Levite priests and is therefore polemic in their interest, also reflecting their alliance with the warrior kings. They needed each other.

The source of this is lost -- there is nothing of this in the Book of Kings -- but the Chronicler (who was also a priest) does refer to a specific scribe who recorded this information so, if he's being honest, he had a signed account. Other than that, as I say, it's just a meaningless list of names.


24 These were the divisions of the descendants of Aaron:

The sons of Aaron were Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. But Nadab and Abihu died before their father did, and they had no sons; so Eleazar and Ithamar served as the priests. With the help of Zadok a descendant of Eleazar and Ahimelek a descendant of Ithamar, David separated them into divisions for their appointed order of ministering. A larger number of leaders were found among Eleazar’s descendants than among Ithamar’s, and they were divided accordingly: sixteen heads of families from Eleazar’s descendants and eight heads of families from Ithamar’s descendants. They divided them impartially by casting lots, for there were officials of the sanctuary and officials of God among the descendants of both Eleazar and Ithamar.

The scribe Shemaiah son of Nethanel, a Levite, recorded their names in the presence of the king and of the officials: Zadok the priest, Ahimelek son of Abiathar and the heads of families of the priests and of the Levites—one family being taken from Eleazar and then one from Ithamar.

The first lot fell to Jehoiarib,

the second to Jedaiah,

the third to Harim,

the fourth to Seorim,

the fifth to Malkijah,

the sixth to Mijamin,

10 the seventh to Hakkoz,

the eighth to Abijah,

11 the ninth to Jeshua,

the tenth to Shekaniah,

12 the eleventh to Eliashib,

the twelfth to Jakim,

13 the thirteenth to Huppah,

the fourteenth to Jeshebeab,

14 the fifteenth to Bilgah,

the sixteenth to Immer,

15 the seventeenth to Hezir,

the eighteenth to Happizzez,

16 the nineteenth to Pethahiah,

the twentieth to Jehezkel,

17 the twenty-first to Jakin,

the twenty-second to Gamul,

18 the twenty-third to Delaiah

and the twenty-fourth to Maaziah.

19 This was their appointed order of ministering when they entered the temple of the Lord, according to the regulations prescribed for them by their ancestor Aaron, as the Lord, the God of Israel, had commanded him.

The Rest of the Levites

20 As for the rest of the descendants of Levi:

from the sons of Amram: Shubael;

from the sons of Shubael: Jehdeiah.

21 As for Rehabiah, from his sons:

Ishiah was the first.

22 From the Izharites: Shelomoth;

from the sons of Shelomoth: Jahath.

23 The sons of Hebron: Jeriah the first,[a] Amariah the second, Jahaziel the third and Jekameam the fourth.

24 The son of Uzziel: Micah;

from the sons of Micah: Shamir.

25 The brother of Micah: Ishiah;

from the sons of Ishiah: Zechariah.

26 The sons of Merari: Mahli and Mushi.

The son of Jaaziah: Beno.

27 The sons of Merari:

from Jaaziah: Beno, Shoham, Zakkur and Ibri.

28 From Mahli: Eleazar, who had no sons.

29 From Kish: the son of Kish:


30 And the sons of Mushi: Mahli, Eder and Jerimoth.

These were the Levites, according to their families. 31 They also cast lots, just as their relatives the descendants of Aaron did, in the presence of King David and of Zadok, Ahimelek, and the heads of families of the priests and of the Levites. The families of the oldest brother were treated the same as those of the youngest.


  1. 1 Chronicles 24:23 Two Hebrew manuscripts and some Septuagint manuscripts (see also 23:19); most Hebrew manuscripts The sons of Jeriah:


Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Wonking Out

I've just read Bernouill's Fallacy, by Aubrey Clayton. I couldn't put it down. I feel I need to discuss it here but it's very technical and not easy to summarize for people who haven't studied probability theory and statistics. I will at least try to get the implications across.

The fallacy in question is based in Bernouill's seminal thinking about sampling theory, but it is most easily explained in terms of 20th Century statistical innovations. Put succinctly, the p value is the probability of the observation given the hypothesis. It is not the probability of the hypothesis given the observation. 

Since the early 20th Century, the principle method of scientific inference has been computing a p value for what is called the null hypothesis, i.e. that there is not really any difference between two (or more) groups. These could be, for example, the intervention and control arms of an experiment, or men and women who respond to a survey. The p value is ostensibly the probability that any observed difference is due solely to chance in sampling process, and the convention is that if it is less than .05 (or 5%, same thing) you "reject the null hypothesis" and publish your finding.

There are many problems with this conventional procedure. Clayton wrote a whole book about them so I obviously can't do the subject justice in a blog post. Actually I have discussed a few of them recently. The procedure is only valid in its own terms if the experiment or survey was done in an exemplary manner, which is unfortunately often not the case. But even granted impeccable methodology, the inference rule is valid only in exceptional circumstances. Actually it's never entirely valid. What I should say is that it provides useful evidence about whatever your (non-null) hypothesis may be under exceptional circumstances.

The first problem is that there may be alternative hypotheses that explain the observation. The p value gives you no information about which is correct. Another problem is that there are an infinite number of possible hypotheses. If you go about testing them at random, at least 5% of them will give you p <.05, and possibly get published, but the vast majority of these findings will be false. Problem 3 is that if you have a large enough sample, you will just about always get p<.05, even for differences which are trivial and of no practical importance. Problem 4 is that p>.05 doesn't mean the null hypothesis is true.

A common mistake -- and I can't believe this gets published, but it does -- is to conclude that because for group A (say people under 60) p<.05, but for group B (people over 60) p=.08, let's say, the phenomenon affects young people but doesn't affect older people. This is totally nonsensical.

Clayton attributes what is called the "replicability crisis" largely to this flawed form of reasoning. It turns out that several systematic efforts to reproduce published results in various scientific fields have found that on repeating the original procedure, most of the findings don't hold up. Even when they do, the effect sizes are usually smaller. Unfortunately, journal editors are usually not very interested in replication studies, and tenure and promotion depend on getting innovative findings. 

That's not to say you shouldn't believe most scientific conclusions. The important ones do get retested and confirmed or overturned through various processes. But a lot of time and money are wasted going down false pathways, and some damage may be done to patients or the economy or other important interests until false findings are corrected. Clayton's solution is to stop doing the conventional forms of significance testing and to use what are called Bayesian methods in all circumstances. So I'll discuss Bayes in the next post, unless something really important comes up first.

Monday, November 21, 2022

What's in a name?

As regularly as the tide, some right-wing aspiring genius makes the amazing discovery that Nazi is short for National Socialism. Aha! The Nazis were actually socialists!

Did you know that the official name of the North Korean state is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea? Aha! North Korea is a democracy!


In fact, the major financial backers of the Nazi party during its rise to power were Germany's leading industrialist and bankers. (Who obviously were not Jewish.) The other two major parties in Germany throughout the period when the Nazis were contesting elections were the Communists and the Social Democrats. In other words, you had communists, socialists, and Nazis. When Hitler took power, he outlawed the Communist party and murdered its leaders. He imprisoned much of the Social Democratic leadership and eventually abolished the party, leaving only the Nazi party. He outlawed collective bargaining and eliminated meaningful labor unions. His political strategy, which he stated overtly, was to create an alliance with existing powerful institutions, specifically capitalists and the army. The Nazi government purchased its armaments, and the Zyklon B gas used to murder the Jews of Europe and other prisoners, from capitalist corporations. It also supplied its corporate partners with slave labor.

There were indeed some members of the party who took the word "socialist" in the name seriously, but Hitler would have none of it. He either persuaded them to change their views, or he purged them. And I must point out that 1927 was six years before the Nazis took power, and Hitler said all sorts of things he didn't mean for short term tactical purposes throughout his career. This is not a matter that historians dispute or even consider. The Nazi regime was not in any way socialist, it was in fact the exact opposite.

And while we're on the subject of what isn't true, no, Trump did not say, referring to the Charlottesville Neo-Nazi demonstration, "There were very fine people on both sides, & I'm not talking about the Neo-nazis and white supremacists because they should be condemned totally," and the fact check to which you referred me, which you evidently did not read, says precisely that he did not. He said, "There were very fine people on both sides," period, full stop. Only later, in a separate statement, after badgering from reporters, did he condemn Neo-nazis and white supremacists. However,  since 100% of the people on one side were Neo-Nazis and white supremacists, this doesn't seem very sincere. I don't publish comments that are factually untrue.

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Sunday Sermonette: Hit the snooze button again

Ch. 23 is just more of the Chronicler's obsession with lists of names, and religious orthodoxy. Specifically, he lists the Levites at the end of David's life, their ancestry and their duties. Why we should care about the names of these people who were long dead by the time Chronicles was compiled I have no idea.  

What is noteworthy,, however, is that the Chronicler completely omits the very bloody history of the succession recounted in Samuel and Kings. In addition to Solomon, there was another pretender to the throne who was actually briefly anointed king, and a deadly civil conflict before Solomon finally took the throne. All of this is unmentioned in Chronicles.

23 When David was old and full of years, he made his son Solomon king over Israel.

He also gathered together all the leaders of Israel, as well as the priests and Levites. The Levites thirty years old or more were counted, and the total number of men was thirty-eight thousand. David said, “Of these, twenty-four thousand are to be in charge of the work of the temple of the Lord and six thousand are to be officials and judges. Four thousand are to be gatekeepers and four thousand are to praise the Lord with the musical instruments I have provided for that purpose.”

David separated the Levites into divisions corresponding to the sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath and Merari.


Belonging to the Gershonites:

Ladan and Shimei.

The sons of Ladan:

Jehiel the first, Zetham and Joel—three in all.

The sons of Shimei:

Shelomoth, Haziel and Haran—three in all.

These were the heads of the families of Ladan.

10 And the sons of Shimei:

Jahath, Ziza,[a] Jeush and Beriah.

These were the sons of Shimei—four in all.

11 Jahath was the first and Ziza the second, but Jeush and Beriah did not have many sons; so they were counted as one family with one assignment.


12 The sons of Kohath:

Amram, Izhar, Hebron and Uzziel—four in all.

13 The sons of Amram:

Aaron and Moses.

Aaron was set apart, he and his descendants forever, to consecrate the most holy things, to offer sacrifices before the Lord, to minister before him and to pronounce blessings in his name forever. 14 The sons of Moses the man of God were counted as part of the tribe of Levi.

15 The sons of Moses:

Gershom and Eliezer.

16 The descendants of Gershom:

Shubael was the first.

17 The descendants of Eliezer:

Rehabiah was the first.

Eliezer had no other sons, but the sons of Rehabiah were very numerous.

18 The sons of Izhar:

Shelomith was the first.

19 The sons of Hebron:

Jeriah the first, Amariah the second, Jahaziel the third and Jekameam the fourth.

20 The sons of Uzziel:

Micah the first and Ishiah the second.


21 The sons of Merari:

Mahli and Mushi.

The sons of Mahli:

Eleazar and Kish.

22 Eleazar died without having sons: he had only daughters. Their cousins, the sons of Kish, married them.

23 The sons of Mushi:

Mahli, Eder and Jerimoth—three in all.

24 These were the descendants of Levi by their families—the heads of families as they were registered under their names and counted individually, that is, the workers twenty years old or more who served in the temple of the Lord. 25 For David had said, “Since the Lord, the God of Israel, has granted rest to his people and has come to dwell in Jerusalem forever, 26 the Levites no longer need to carry the tabernacle or any of the articles used in its service.” 27 According to the last instructions of David, the Levites were counted from those twenty years old or more.

28 The duty of the Levites was to help Aaron’s descendants in the service of the temple of the Lord: to be in charge of the courtyards, the side rooms, the purification of all sacred things and the performance of other duties at the house of God. 29 They were in charge of the bread set out on the table, the special flour for the grain offerings, the thin loaves made without yeast, the baking and the mixing, and all measurements of quantity and size. 30 They were also to stand every morning to thank and praise the Lord. They were to do the same in the evening 31 and whenever burnt offerings were presented to the Lord on the Sabbaths, at the New Moon feasts and at the appointed festivals. They were to serve before the Lord regularly in the proper number and in the way prescribed for them.

32 And so the Levites carried out their responsibilities for the tent of meeting, for the Holy Place and, under their relatives the descendants of Aaron, for the service of the temple of the Lord.


  1. 1 Chronicles 23:10 One Hebrew manuscript, Septuagint and Vulgate (see also verse 11); most Hebrew manuscripts Zina

Friday, November 18, 2022

More on Hitler

Although the name of the Nazi Party is short for "National Socialist," the Nazi were not socialists in any way whatever. The reason for the name is that Hitler took over an existing party, called the German Workers Party, later renamed the National Socialist German Workers Party, and its initial platform had socialist elements, although it was primarily racist and nationalist. Those socialist platform items were dropped long before the Nazis took power. The Nazis were closely allied with German capitalism and enjoyed the full support and collaboration of Germany's industrial barons. They were also bitter opponents of socialism and murdered socialists and communists by the tens of thousands.

The core of Nazi ideology was a bizarre, mystical ideology, which had actually developed in Germany in the 19th Century, which Hitler absorbed in his formative years. This ideology divided humanity into races in a more finely grained way than even most modern racists are inclined to do, and imagined a pure "Aryan" race that was the superior version of humanity. The only country where relatively pure examples of the Aryan race existed was Germany, southern Europeans and Slavs and even to some extent the French having degraded their racial purity by interbreeding with lesser races. Hitler actually despised the French but he apparently believed the English were relatively pure. 

It was the divine destiny of the Master Race, the pure Aryan Germans, to rule the world. The plan specifically was first to neutralize France by conquering it and setting up a puppet state, then turn to the east, conquer the Slavic lands, enslave their people, move in German overlords and extract the wealth of the conquered territory for the glorification of Germany. .Hitler also believed that "the Jews" constituted a monolithic conspiracy that had undermined German greatness and polluted the purity of the German homeland. Hitler initially contemplated removing them from Europe, and even had talks with Zionists who wanted to join him in that project, but ultimately decided on extermination. He also set out to exterminate "defectives" in order to improve and further purify the German Master Race. This included people with disabilities. It also included homosexuals which was kind of ironic considering that many of the Nazi leaders were homosexuals, which Hitler knew full well and with which he had no problem. Like J. Edgar Hoover and Roy Cohn, they evidently had no problem persecuting people like themselves. 

The MAGA cult is mostly not so explicit about these matters, although some of its thought leaders such as Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka are, and that's what the infamous Charlottesville rally, with "good people on both sides," was about. But it's still a white ethno-nationalist movement, albeit with a somewhat more inclusive concept of whiteness, and as we have seen with numerous threats and attacks on Jewish institutions it has plenty of antisemitism mixed in, along with homophobia (another word that isn't quite right) and patriarchy, which was also a component of Nazism. Immigrants trying to enter from the south are of course racially impure. Ever wonder why they aren't much worried about the Canadian border, or immigrants such as Rupert Murdoch and Elon Musk? 


Anyway they don't have any other platform or policy agenda, except to end multi-ethnic democracy and install autocratic rule on behalf of the Real Americans, i.e white Christians. So yeah, it's kind of similar.



Thursday, November 17, 2022

Understanding the MAGA cult

William Shirer, many years before he published The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, published Berlin Diary, an account of his time as a correspondent in Berlin during the ascendancy of Hitler. When the war started, he of course had to leave. In Berlin Diary he wrote:

"We are strong, and we will get stronger," Hitler shouted at them through the microphone, his words echoing across the hushed field through loudspeakers. And there in the floodlit night, massed together like sardines in one mass formation, the little men of Germany who have made Naziism possible achieved the highest state of being the Germanic man knows: the shedding of the individual souls and minds -- with the personal responsibilities and doubts and problems -- until under the mystic lights at the sound of the magic words of the Austrian they were merged completely in the Germanic herd.


I find Shirer's use of the phrase "little men" particularly telling. Hitler was of course far more intelligent than Trump, and despite his lack of formal education much better read. He actually wrote a book, as opposed to putting his name on books written by others, and developed a coherent ideology. But they both exploited the same psychological vulnerability, of people who have little self worth or meaningful personal aspirations and rewards, to fuse their own feeble identities with an entity they perceive as great and powerful, elevating their self-perception in the process. In both cases a major component of this mystical process was racism, and also creation of an alternative factual reality. 


We have so far been spared the worst by Trump's intellectual and psychological incompetence. That he has gotten as far as he has despite his crippling narcissism and cognitive limitations is actually quite disturbing and scary. If it was that easy, what if the next guy is just a little bit smarter and a little more secure?

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Wednesday Bible Study: All the gold in Fort Knox

Chapter 22 is not derived in any way from the Deuteronomic history -- which is now at the beginning of  the Book of Kings, in which David dies and Solomon becomes king. However, while in Kings David does designate Solomon to be us successor, there is none of this discussion about the Temple, or preparations for it. We only start to learn about the physical nature of the Temple when Solomon starts to build it, after David's death. 


The idea that God doesn't want David to build the Temple because he has shed too much blood seems quite hypocritical since God for the most part told him to do it, and supported his military adventures and genocidal campaigns, as he has with the previous leaders of the Israelites. But this does seem to be a signal that the days of national militancy and conquest are coming to an end, and Solomon is to establish a more peaceable kingdom. As usual, the Chronicler skips over a lot of material from the Deuteronomic history that would be embarrassing to David. There is also a lot of intrigue and violence around the succession that gets skipped over here -- this is on the whole a much more pacifist story than was told in Samuel and Kings.

The amount of gold David gives to Solomon to build the Temple comes to 3.4 million kilograms, which is about as much as there is in Fort Knox. Seems kind of unlikely.


22 Then David said, “The house of the Lord God is to be here, and also the altar of burnt offering for Israel.”

Preparations for the Temple

So David gave orders to assemble the foreigners residing in Israel, and from among them he appointed stonecutters to prepare dressed stone for building the house of God. He provided a large amount of iron to make nails for the doors of the gateways and for the fittings, and more bronze than could be weighed. He also provided more cedar logs than could be counted, for the Sidonians and Tyrians had brought large numbers of them to David.

David said, “My son Solomon is young and inexperienced, and the house to be built for the Lord should be of great magnificence and fame and splendor in the sight of all the nations. Therefore I will make preparations for it.” So David made extensive preparations before his death.

Then he called for his son Solomon and charged him to build a house for the Lord, the God of Israel. David said to Solomon: “My son, I had it in my heart to build a house for the Name of the Lord my God. But this word of the Lord came to me: ‘You have shed much blood and have fought many wars. You are not to build a house for my Name, because you have shed much blood on the earth in my sight. But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon,[a] and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign. 10 He is the one who will build a house for my Name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.’

11 “Now, my son, the Lord be with you, and may you have success and build the house of the Lord your God, as he said you would. 12 May the Lord give you discretion and understanding when he puts you in command over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the Lord your God. 13 Then you will have success if you are careful to observe the decrees and laws that the Lord gave Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged.

14 “I have taken great pains to provide for the temple of the Lord a hundred thousand talents[b] of gold, a million talents[c] of silver, quantities of bronze and iron too great to be weighed, and wood and stone. And you may add to them. 15 You have many workers: stonecutters, masons and carpenters, as well as those skilled in every kind of work 16 in gold and silver, bronze and iron—craftsmen beyond number. Now begin the work, and the Lord be with you.”

17 Then David ordered all the leaders of Israel to help his son Solomon. 18 He said to them, “Is not the Lord your God with you? And has he not granted you rest on every side? For he has given the inhabitants of the land into my hands, and the land is subject to the Lord and to his people. 19 Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God. Begin to build the sanctuary of the Lord God, so that you may bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord and the sacred articles belonging to God into the temple that will be built for the Name of the Lord.”


  1. 1 Chronicles 22:9 Solomon sounds like and may be derived from the Hebrew for peace.
  2. 1 Chronicles 22:14 That is, about 3,750 tons or about 3,400 metric tons
  3. 1 Chronicles 22:14 That is, about 37,500 tons or about 34,000 metric tons


Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Monty Hall problem -- solution and significance

 First of all, I should state for the record that Philadelphia jokes are actually neither true nor funny. Phillie is a great city to visit. It has a world famous art museum -- with a nearby Rodin museum -- world class symphony, sites of historical importance, famous and not-so-famous great restaurants, a vibrant independent theater and music scene.

Anyway, Marilyn's solution to the Monty Hall problem does depend on a couple of assumptions, which I'm not sure she spelled out explicitly. Maybe if she had it would have given all those outraged Ph.D.s a hint. The assumptions are that the rules of the game require Monty to show you a losing door, and to give you a choice to switch. This was not actually the case, which complicates matters, but for the sake of the puzzle the assumptions do pertain.


Here's how it works. When you first picked a door, you indeed had a 1/3 chance of getting the Corvette. That means there was a 2/3 chance it was behind one of the other doors. But when Monty shows you the losing door, there is now a 2/3 chance it's behind the other door you didn't pick. In other words, you now have more information, and you would be wise to revise your probability estimate accordingly.

There are two reasons this is interesting. One is that people generally tend not to revise their opinions when they get new information. We are inclined to dig in our heels and keep believing what we already believe no matter what new evidence comes our way. The other reason is that the pervasive approach to statistics in the sciences is what's called frequentism and it doesn't take into account any information other than the experimental or observational sample, which is why it was so hard for all those Big Professors to see how they should be incorporating additional information. I suppose there is a third reason, which is that peoples' intuitions about probability are largely wrong, and that evidently includes Big Professors who should know better. I'll have more to say about all this.

Monday, November 14, 2022

The Monty Hall problem

I talk from time to time here about inference and probability. I'm reading Bernoulli's Fallacy, by Aubrey Clayton, which is a deep re-examination of the conventional way of doing scientific inference. It's too complicated and too profound for me to do a blog post right now -- I have talked about some of these problems before -- but early on he mentions the Monty Hall problem so just for fun, I'll present it here. Many people know it have learned what the answer is, but still have a hard time understanding it. Marilyn vos Savant, who billed herself as the smartest person in the world (hint: not) presented it in Parade Magazine many years ago, with the correct answer, and got bags full of hate mail from Ph.D. statistics professors who thought she was crazy. 

If you're old enough to remember the daytime TV show Let's Make a Deal, host Monty Hall would present a contestant with three doors. Behind one was a fabulous prize, such as a new car, and behind two of them were joke prizes such as a goat or a free trip to Philadelphia. You had to pick one, then Monty would show you the joke prize behind one of the doors and ask if you wanted to switch your original guess. The question is, should you switch?

The Ph.D. statistics professors said it doesn't matter, you had a 1 out of 3 chance of picking the right door the first time and your chance is still 1 out of 3. Marilyn said you should switch. She was right. Why?

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Sunday Sermonette: Explain it to me because I don't get it

Chapter 21 repeats the story of 2 Samuel 24 -- the last chapter of Samuel -- but does try to fix one obvious problem. In Samuel, God tells David to take the census, and then gets mad at him for doing it. That doesn't seem to make any sense, so the Chronicler has Satan tell David to take the census. There are several other discrepancies as far as the census numbers, and the number of people God kills because David took the census. (Might have been 70,000, might have been 200,00) Either way, the census numbers are ridiculous. In Samuel, there are 1.3 million soldiers in Israel and Judah, while in Chronicles there are 1.5 million. There are currently 485,000 personnel in the United States army.

The less obvious is why the census is somehow sinful or an offense to God.In fact, the Book of Numbers is so called because it includes not one, but two censuses, both ordered by God and perfectly acceptable to him. (Those numbers are equally ridiculous, by the way.) Of course a commander want to know how many soldiers he has. There is something weird going on here but I don't know what it is.

21 Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, “Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so that I may know how many there are.”

Viz. 2 Samuel 24: 24 Again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah.”

But Joab replied, “May the Lord multiply his troops a hundred times over. My lord the king, are they not all my lord’s subjects? Why does my lord want to do this? Why should he bring guilt on Israel?”

The king’s word, however, overruled Joab; so Joab left and went throughout Israel and then came back to Jerusalem. Joab reported the number of the fighting men to David: In all Israel there were one million one hundred thousand men who could handle a sword, including four hundred and seventy thousand in Judah.

But Joab did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, because the king’s command was repulsive to him. This command was also evil in the sight of God; so he punished Israel.

Then David said to God, “I have sinned greatly by doing this. Now, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.”

The Lord said to Gad, David’s seer, 10 “Go and tell David, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am giving you three options. Choose one of them for me to carry out against you.’”

11 So Gad went to David and said to him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Take your choice: 12 three years of famine, three months of being swept away[a] before your enemies, with their swords overtaking you, or three days of the sword of the Lord—days of plague in the land, with the angel of the Lord ravaging every part of Israel.’ Now then, decide how I should answer the one who sent me.”

13 David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is very great; but do not let me fall into human hands.”

14 So the Lord sent a plague on Israel, and seventy thousand men of Israel fell dead. 15 And God sent an angel to destroy Jerusalem. But as the angel was doing so, the Lord saw it and relented concerning the disaster and said to the angel who was destroying the people, “Enough! Withdraw your hand.” The angel of the Lord was then standing at the threshing floor of Araunah[b] the Jebusite.

16 David looked up and saw the angel of the Lord standing between heaven and earth, with a drawn sword in his hand extended over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell facedown.

17 David said to God, “Was it not I who ordered the fighting men to be counted? I, the shepherd,[c] have sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Lord my God, let your hand fall on me and my family, but do not let this plague remain on your people.”

David Builds an Altar

18 Then the angel of the Lord ordered Gad to tell David to go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. 19 So David went up in obedience to the word that Gad had spoken in the name of the Lord.

20 While Araunah was threshing wheat, he turned and saw the angel; his four sons who were with him hid themselves. 21 Then David approached, and when Araunah looked and saw him, he left the threshing floor and bowed down before David with his face to the ground.

22 David said to him, “Let me have the site of your threshing floor so I can build an altar to the Lord, that the plague on the people may be stopped. Sell it to me at the full price.”

23 Araunah said to David, “Take it! Let my lord the king do whatever pleases him. Look, I will give the oxen for the burnt offerings, the threshing sledges for the wood, and the wheat for the grain offering. I will give all this.”

24 But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.”

25 So David paid Araunah six hundred shekels[d] of gold for the site. 26 David built an altar to the Lord there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. He called on the Lord, and the Lord answered him with fire from heaven on the altar of burnt offering.

27 Then the Lord spoke to the angel, and he put his sword back into its sheath. 28 At that time, when David saw that the Lord had answered him on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, he offered sacrifices there. 29 The tabernacle of the Lord, which Moses had made in the wilderness, and the altar of burnt offering were at that time on the high place at Gibeon. 30 But David could not go before it to inquire of God, because he was afraid of the sword of the angel of the Lord.


  1. 1 Chronicles 21:12 Hebrew; Septuagint and Vulgate (see also 2 Samuel 24:13) of fleeing
  2. 1 Chronicles 21:15 Hebrew Ornan, a variant of Araunah; also in verses 18-28
  3. 1 Chronicles 21:17 Probable reading of the original Hebrew text (see 2 Samuel 24:17 and note); Masoretic Text does not have the shepherd.
  4. 1 Chronicles 21:25 That is, about 15 pounds or about 6.9 kilograms