Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Wednesday Bible Study: Hit the snooze button

Ch. 3 is the kind of list of meaningless names of which the Chronicler was fond. There is no reason to read this. The question is why it's here at all -- what was the author's purpose in making this list? We can guess that it's intended as a sort of honor roll, a way of building community by acknowledging everyone's contribution to rebuilding the city wall. I would presume that the people who are named didn't personally, physically do the work. That would be impractical, the actual building would have been done by a crew of appropriately skilled tradesmen, which would mean this is actually a list of donors, like the plaques in various rooms of the buildings on campus.

Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests went to work and rebuilt the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set its doors in place, building as far as the Tower of the Hundred, which they dedicated, and as far as the Tower of Hananel. The men of Jericho built the adjoining section, and Zakkur son of Imri built next to them.

The Fish Gate was rebuilt by the sons of Hassenaah. They laid its beams and put its doors and bolts and bars in place. Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz, repaired the next section. Next to him Meshullam son of Berekiah, the son of Meshezabel, made repairs, and next to him Zadok son of Baana also made repairs. The next section was repaired by the men of Tekoa, but their nobles would not put their shoulders to the work under their supervisors.[a]

The Jeshanah[b] Gate was repaired by Joiada son of Paseah and Meshullam son of Besodeiah. They laid its beams and put its doors with their bolts and bars in place. Next to them, repairs were made by men from Gibeon and Mizpah—Melatiah of Gibeon and Jadon of Meronoth—places under the authority of the governor of Trans-Euphrates. Uzziel son of Harhaiah, one of the goldsmiths, repaired the next section; and Hananiah, one of the perfume-makers, made repairs next to that. They restored Jerusalem as far as the Broad Wall. Rephaiah son of Hur, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section. 10 Adjoining this, Jedaiah son of Harumaph made repairs opposite his house, and Hattush son of Hashabneiah made repairs next to him. 11 Malkijah son of Harim and Hasshub son of Pahath-Moab repaired another section and the Tower of the Ovens. 12 Shallum son of Hallohesh, ruler of a half-district of Jerusalem, repaired the next section with the help of his daughters.

13 The Valley Gate was repaired by Hanun and the residents of Zanoah. They rebuilt it and put its doors with their bolts and bars in place. They also repaired a thousand cubits[c] of the wall as far as the Dung Gate.

14 The Dung Gate was repaired by Malkijah son of Rekab, ruler of the district of Beth Hakkerem. He rebuilt it and put its doors with their bolts and bars in place.

15 The Fountain Gate was repaired by Shallun son of Kol-Hozeh, ruler of the district of Mizpah. He rebuilt it, roofing it over and putting its doors and bolts and bars in place. He also repaired the wall of the Pool of Siloam,[d] by the King’s Garden, as far as the steps going down from the City of David. 16 Beyond him, Nehemiah son of Azbuk, ruler of a half-district of Beth Zur, made repairs up to a point opposite the tombs[e] of David, as far as the artificial pool and the House of the Heroes.

17 Next to him, the repairs were made by the Levites under Rehum son of Bani. Beside him, Hashabiah, ruler of half the district of Keilah, carried out repairs for his district. 18 Next to him, the repairs were made by their fellow Levites under Binnui[f] son of Henadad, ruler of the other half-district of Keilah. 19 Next to him, Ezer son of Jeshua, ruler of Mizpah, repaired another section, from a point facing the ascent to the armory as far as the angle of the wall. 20 Next to him, Baruch son of Zabbai zealously repaired another section, from the angle to the entrance of the house of Eliashib the high priest. 21 Next to him, Meremoth son of Uriah, the son of Hakkoz, repaired another section, from the entrance of Eliashib’s house to the end of it.

22 The repairs next to him were made by the priests from the surrounding region. 23 Beyond them, Benjamin and Hasshub made repairs in front of their house; and next to them, Azariah son of Maaseiah, the son of Ananiah, made repairs beside his house. 24 Next to him, Binnui son of Henadad repaired another section, from Azariah’s house to the angle and the corner, 25 and Palal son of Uzai worked opposite the angle and the tower projecting from the upper palace near the court of the guard. Next to him, Pedaiah son of Parosh 26 and the temple servants living on the hill of Ophel made repairs up to a point opposite the Water Gate toward the east and the projecting tower. 27 Next to them, the men of Tekoa repaired another section, from the great projecting tower to the wall of Ophel.

28 Above the Horse Gate, the priests made repairs, each in front of his own house. 29 Next to them, Zadok son of Immer made repairs opposite his house. Next to him, Shemaiah son of Shekaniah, the guard at the East Gate, made repairs. 30 Next to him, Hananiah son of Shelemiah, and Hanun, the sixth son of Zalaph, repaired another section. Next to them, Meshullam son of Berekiah made repairs opposite his living quarters. 31 Next to him, Malkijah, one of the goldsmiths, made repairs as far as the house of the temple servants and the merchants, opposite the Inspection Gate, and as far as the room above the corner; 32 and between the room above the corner and the Sheep Gate the goldsmiths and merchants made repairs.


  1. Nehemiah 3:5 Or their Lord or the governor
  2. Nehemiah 3:6 Or Old
  3. Nehemiah 3:13 That is, about 1,500 feet or about 450 meters
  4. Nehemiah 3:15 Hebrew Shelah, a variant of Shiloah, that is, Siloam
  5. Nehemiah 3:16 Hebrew; Septuagint, some Vulgate manuscripts and Syriac tomb
  6. Nehemiah 3:18 Two Hebrew manuscripts and Syriac (see also Septuagint and verse 24); most Hebrew manuscripts Bavvai

Tuesday, May 30, 2023


 I don't remember offhand if I mentioned this in my previous post on the subject, but Sarah Palin's grotesque lie about "death panels" also contained a reference to a claim by conservative economist Thomas Sowell:

The Democrats promise that a government health care system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost. And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course.


Sowell is obviously an ignorant idiot. As you presumably know, government already paid for health care for the elderly and the disabled, as it still does today. The ACA did nothing to change this, on the contrary it extended medical insurance to people who didn’t already have it, including notably people who couldn’t get it because they were sick, i.e. had pre-existing conditions. Furthermore it required that insurance pay for services that previously, it often did not. 


Government health care does not "refuse to pay the cost," it is in fact the only way for old and poor people to get health care, and it does pay. Guess who doesn't? Private insurance companies. As Elizabeth Rosenthal reports in Kaiser Health News, "Denials of Health Insurance Claims Are Rising — And Getting Weirder." Private health insurance companies (not the government) are increasingly refusing to pay legitimate insurance claims in order to boost their profits. One way they are doing this is by using artificial "intelligence" to churn out denials.


[T]he increase in denials, and the often strange rationales offered, might be explained, in part, by a ProPublica investigation of Cigna — an insurance giant, with 170 million customers worldwide. ProPublica’s investigation, published in March, found that an automated system, called PXDX, allowed Cigna medical reviewers to sign off on 50 charts in 10 seconds, presumably without examining the patients’ records.


Here are some examples Rosenthal provides of bizarre denials.

  • Dean Peterson of Los Angeles said he was “shocked” when payment was denied for a heart procedure to treat an arrhythmia, which had caused him to faint with a heart rate of 300 beats per minute. After all, he had the insurer’s preapproval for the expensive ($143,206) intervention. More confusing still, the denial letter said the claim had been rejected because he had “asked for coverage for injections into nerves in your spine” (he hadn’t) that were “not medically needed.” Months later, after dozens of calls and a patient advocate’s assistance, the situation is still not resolved.
  • An insurer’s letter was sent directly to a newborn child denying coverage for his fourth day in a neonatal intensive care unit. “You are drinking from a bottle,” the denial notification said, and “you are breathing on your own.” If only the baby could read.
  • Deirdre O’Reilly’s college-age son, suffering a life-threatening anaphylactic allergic reaction, was saved by epinephrine shots and steroids administered intravenously in a hospital emergency room. His mother, utterly relieved by that news, was less pleased to be informed by the family’s insurer that the treatment was “not medically necessary.”

HHS is supposed to be monitoring the insurance companies to make sure they aren't doing this, but it has been falling down on the job. " One insurer denied 49% of claims in 2021; another’s turndowns hit an astonishing 80% in 2020." 


We need universal, comprehensive, single payer national health care. We also need to stop giving tenure to incompetent fools.



Sunday, May 28, 2023

Sunday Sermonette: The dung gate

Nehemiah 2 generates a mystery. Remember this is some 80 years after the original return of the Israelites from exile, and the Temple and city walls were rebuilt in the first generation. The history recorded in the Tanakh gives no indication of why the city walls have been burned in the meantime, so that's just an omission we'll have to live with, apparently. The "dung gate" is presumably the gate by which excrement and probably trash in general are removed from the city, but the rationale for the names of the other gates is not clear. The Jackal Well is called the Serpent Well in the KJV. The format of the excerpt here is different than you are used to because my usual source is down, but this is the NIV.

In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before;
so the king asked me, "Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart." I was very much afraid,
but I said to the king, "May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my fathers are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?"
The king said to me, "What is it you want?" Then I prayed to the God of heaven,
and I answered the king, "If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my fathers are buried so that I can rebuild it."
Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, "How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?" It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time.
I also said to him, "If it pleases the king, may I have letters to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, so that they will provide me safe-conduct until I arrive in Judah?
And may I have a letter to Asaph, keeper of the king's forest, so he will give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel by the temple and for the city wall and for the residence I will occupy?" And because the gracious hand of my God was upon me, the king granted my requests.
So I went to the governors of Trans-Euphrates and gave them the king's letters. The king had also sent army officers and cavalry with me.
When Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite official heard about this, they were very much disturbed that someone had come to promote the welfare of the Israelites.
I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days
I set out during the night with a few men. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on.
By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal [1] Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire.
Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King's Pool, but there was not enough room for my mount to get through;
so I went up the valley by night, examining the wall. Finally, I turned back and reentered through the Valley Gate.
The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work.
Then I said to them, "You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace."
I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me and what the king had said to me. They replied, "Let us start rebuilding." So they began this good work.
But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. "What is this you are doing?" they asked. "Are you rebelling against the king?"
I answered them by saying, "The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it."
  1. [13] Or Serpent or Fig

Saturday, May 27, 2023

The world is flat

And while we're at it, here are a few more doses of craziness to consider. "Murderers" and "criminals": Meteorologists face unprecedented harassment from conspiracy theorists. This isn't just in the U.S., but in Europe as well. Since climate change is actually a liberal hoax, when they report on extreme weather they must be making it up. "National weather services, meteorologists and climate communicators in countries from the US to Australia say they’re experiencing an increase in threats and abuse, often around accusations they are overstating, lying about or even controlling the weather." This article also mentions the chemtrails  absurdity.

Climate change denial and chemtrails go back a long way, basically since right wing politics in the U.S. and Europe went batshit crazy. They obviously didn't like the Affordable Care Act, but the reasons they said they didn't like it were hallucinatory. Remember Sarah Palin and "death panels"?

The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society.'

That was a total fabrication, with no basis in reality, AKA a lie.  Obviously  Palin doesn't have the intelligence or imagination to make this up herself. She was probably inspired by former New York Lieutenant Governor and conservative activist Betsy McCaughey, who claimed that the ACA would mandate counseling sessions telling seniors how to "to do what’s in society’s best interest … and cut your life short." McCaughey is a much more inventive and prolific liar than Palin. The original version of the ACA provided for voluntary counseling about end of life care, including such issues as designating a health care proxy, advance directives, and hospice care. Nobody was ever to be required to obtain such counseling and the people who did could, of course, make their own choices. The linked Factcheck article goes on to list numerous other lies by Republicans about the bill.

You may also remember the "Tea Party," an Astroturf movement funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, that disrupted congressional candidates' town meetings in the 2012 election campaign screaming all of these lies, including the famous "Keep your government hands off my Medicare." In other words, these are people who need a glass navel to see. 

The question of end-of-life care, and the appropriateness of having insurers pay for services in situations physicians deem hopeless, is one well worth discussing. However, the ACA does not address it. While the Tea Partiers were dupes, the real reason the Koch brothers and Betsy McCaughey didn't like it is because it instituted some new taxes to pay for the Medicaid expansion and the premium subsidies on the insurance exchanges. Since these taxes fell exclusively on wealthy people, the Tea Partiers themselves were unaffected, which is likely why they were scarcely mentioned. 

It's good for there to be parties representing different value orientations, but what we have right now in the U.S. is the party of truth, and the party of falsehood. That is not good. See Tom the Dancing Bug.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Shape of the Earth: Views Differ

A newly elected Republican district chair in Georgia wants to tell you about the most pernicious and widespread conspiracy on, well, earth:

In an interview with David Weiss (AKA “Flat Earth Dave”) and Matt Long on her “Jesus, Guns, and Babies” podcast, Taylor and her guests discussed biblical “evidence” that the Earth is actually flat as a pancake. “The people that defend the globe don’t know anything about the globe,” said Weiss. “If they knew a tenth of what Matt and I know about the globe they would be Flat Earthers.” 

“All the globes, everywhere” Taylor said later in the discussion. “I turn on the TV, there’s globes in the background … Everywhere there’s globes. You see them all the time, it’s constant. My children will be like ‘Mama, globe, globe, globe, globe’ — they’re everywhere.”  

“That’s what they do, to brainwash,” she added. “For me if it’s not a conspiracy. If it is real, why are you pushing so hard everywhere I go? Every store, you buy a globe, there’s globes everywhere. Every movie, every TV show, news media — why? More and more I’m like, it doesn’t make sense.

It is indeed a mystery why this global (oops) cabal has penetrated so deeply into our society. Here's another: (from The American Prospect)


So what's all this about the debt limit? Very simple. Republicans -- GW Bush and RJ Trump -- cut taxes on wealthy people and corporations, resulting in more than 100% of the deficit. Without those tax cuts, the national debt would be declining right now. But the Republicans in congress are refusing to pay for them. That's the entire story. Not that the editors and reporters at the New York Times understand it.