Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Friday, June 30, 2023

The boys are always prepared

I live in eastern Connecticut, not far from the Coast Guard Academy. For those who don't know it's in New London, actually across the street from Connecticut College, which my cousin attended and a friend of mind taught at, so I've been in the area a few times. The Academy is a source of pride to our state and one of a few important symbols of our maritime tradition. Actually I drive right past it whenever I'm headed to Mystic and points nearby. The Mystic Seaport museum is another of those important symbols -- home, among other rare artifacts, to the only surviving wooden whaling ship, the Charles W. Morgan.


Every year, the CGA graduation is a big event, bringing at least one important speaker -- this year, Kamala Harris -- hundreds of proud parents, and a stampede of news crews. I've always been interested in the Coast Guard and I know a fair amount about the vessels they operate and their seacraft. Alas, however, this does not really surprise me.

CNN -- A secret investigation into alleged sexual abuse at the US Coast Guard Academy, the training ground for the Coast Guard’s top officers, uncovered a dark history of rapes, assaults and other serious misconduct being ignored and, at times, covered up by high-ranking officials.. . . 

Despite credible evidence of assaults dating back to the late 1980s, investigators found that most of the alleged perpetrators were not criminally investigated at the time. Instead, the incidents were handled as administrative violations, and punishments, if they happened at all, were as minor as extra homework or lowered class standings. Sometimes, even those pushed out of the academy were still able to serve in the US military.

As a result, some of the accused ascended to top roles at the Coast Guard and other military agencies. In contrast, many alleged victims left the academy after reporting their assaults, ending their hopes of a career in the service.


Yes, they kept the report a secret for years. If you read on, you will find that many of the incidents they are talking about are just flat out rape, and that the boys just thought it was a fun game, as apparently did the administration. This is pretty similar to what happened in other military institutions* when women entered what had previously been all male preserves, and the instinct by superiors to just cover it up and make it go away rather than confront the problem is also all too typical. They don't seem to understand what does and does not reflect badly on them.

* The Coast Guard is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security, not the Defense Department, and unlike the military services it has, obviously, a domestic law enforcement, regulatory, and rescue mission. However, it is military in organization, and can be brought under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Navy in time of war. In fact, it's capability as an armed naval force exceeds that of most nations.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Wednesday Bible Study: Hit the snooze button

As I said last time, don't worry we're almost done with this dreck. Here we get another meaningless list of names. The whole proposition doesn't make a lot of sense, or at least it hasn't been explained. Remember that most of the exiles returned something like 100 years ago. Nehemiah is parachuting in to a society that has already become established. For some reason, the number of people who have settled in the city of Jerusalem is fewer than he considers desirable, so he invites people to come in from the countryside and forces a number more to do so when he doesn't get enough volunteers. Why anybody would care to see the list of names escapes me. So I'll just post this and get it over with.

11 Now the leaders of the people settled in Jerusalem. The rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of every ten of them to live in Jerusalem, the holy city, while the remaining nine were to stay in their own towns. The people commended all who volunteered to live in Jerusalem.

These are the provincial leaders who settled in Jerusalem (now some Israelites, priests, Levites, temple servants and descendants of Solomon’s servants lived in the towns of Judah, each on their own property in the various towns, while other people from both Judah and Benjamin lived in Jerusalem):

From the descendants of Judah:

Athaiah son of Uzziah, the son of Zechariah, the son of Amariah, the son of Shephatiah, the son of Mahalalel, a descendant of Perez; and Maaseiah son of Baruch, the son of Kol-Hozeh, the son of Hazaiah, the son of Adaiah, the son of Joiarib, the son of Zechariah, a descendant of Shelah. The descendants of Perez who lived in Jerusalem totaled 468 men of standing.

From the descendants of Benjamin:

Sallu son of Meshullam, the son of Joed, the son of Pedaiah, the son of Kolaiah, the son of Maaseiah, the son of Ithiel, the son of Jeshaiah, and his followers, Gabbai and Sallai—928 men. Joel son of Zikri was their chief officer, and Judah son of Hassenuah was over the New Quarter of the city.

10 From the priests:

Jedaiah; the son of Joiarib; Jakin; 11 Seraiah son of Hilkiah, the son of Meshullam, the son of Zadok, the son of Meraioth, the son of Ahitub, the official in charge of the house of God, 12 and their associates, who carried on work for the temple—822 men; Adaiah son of Jeroham, the son of Pelaliah, the son of Amzi, the son of Zechariah, the son of Pashhur, the son of Malkijah, 13 and his associates, who were heads of families—242 men; Amashsai son of Azarel, the son of Ahzai, the son of Meshillemoth, the son of Immer, 14 and his[a] associates, who were men of standing—128. Their chief officer was Zabdiel son of Haggedolim.

15 From the Levites:

Shemaiah son of Hasshub, the son of Azrikam, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Bunni; 16 Shabbethai and Jozabad, two of the heads of the Levites, who had charge of the outside work of the house of God; 17 Mattaniah son of Mika, the son of Zabdi, the son of Asaph, the director who led in thanksgiving and prayer; Bakbukiah, second among his associates; and Abda son of Shammua, the son of Galal, the son of Jeduthun. 18 The Levites in the holy city totaled 284.

19 The gatekeepers:

Akkub, Talmon and their associates, who kept watch at the gates—172 men.

20 The rest of the Israelites, with the priests and Levites, were in all the towns of Judah, each on their ancestral property.

21 The temple servants lived on the hill of Ophel, and Ziha and Gishpa were in charge of them.

22 The chief officer of the Levites in Jerusalem was Uzzi son of Bani, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Mika. Uzzi was one of Asaph’s descendants, who were the musicians responsible for the service of the house of God. 23 The musicians were under the king’s orders, which regulated their daily activity.

24 Pethahiah son of Meshezabel, one of the descendants of Zerah son of Judah, was the king’s agent in all affairs relating to the people.

25 As for the villages with their fields, some of the people of Judah lived in Kiriath Arba and its surrounding settlements, in Dibon and its settlements, in Jekabzeel and its villages, 26 in Jeshua, in Moladah, in Beth Pelet, 27 in Hazar Shual, in Beersheba and its settlements, 28 in Ziklag, in Mekonah and its settlements, 29 in En Rimmon, in Zorah, in Jarmuth, 30 Zanoah, Adullam and their villages, in Lachish and its fields, and in Azekah and its settlements. So they were living all the way from Beersheba to the Valley of Hinnom.

31 The descendants of the Benjamites from Geba lived in Mikmash, Aija, Bethel and its settlements, 32 in Anathoth, Nob and Ananiah, 33 in Hazor, Ramah and Gittaim, 34 in Hadid, Zeboim and Neballat, 35 in Lod and Ono, and in Ge Harashim.

36 Some of the divisions of the Levites of Judah settled in Benjamin.


  1. Nehemiah 11:14 Most Septuagint manuscripts; Hebrew their

Monday, June 26, 2023

This and that

Responding to some of the responses to my last post on global carbon emissions, yes, we agree on the facts, the issue seems to be the implications. It is correct that at this moment, the U.S. accounts for about 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and we have been heading downward; while China in particular has been going in the wrong direction and is the largest emitter. Maybe "fairness" is an issue here, since the U.S. is responsible for far more cumulative emissions and China's emissions per capita are not as large, but given the crisis facing humanity I think that's pretty much beside the point. What matters is what is to be done? 

Fifteen percent isn't trivial and it still matters that the U.S. continue to reduce emissions, as quickly as possible. If we say, "We won't bother to do anything until China takes effective action" that isn't going to help the situation one bit. We need to be an example to the world that creating a sustainable economy is consistent with prosperity, quality of life, and equity. And as I say, we need to engage with China and India on this problem. Worrying about whether they are democracies or their leaders are good people is a separate issue.

In health news, severe shortages of common, inexpensive generic chemotherapy agents are putting the lives of cancer patients at risk. As long as we leave drug manufacturing to private corporations and the profit motive, we're going to have problems like this, and the corresponding problem of medications that are absurdly expensive and largely unaffordable. So yes, "free enterprise" and capitalism are not capable of delivering what humanity needs in this instance, as in many others.

For example, large hospital chains and insurance companies are buying up physician practices and turning what had been independent professionals into high status proletarians whose employers only use them to squeeze out money. They have to churn out visits and billable services, and they can't take care of their patients. As a result, many of them are experiencing what's called moral injury.  Physicians, despite their high social status, actually have a high rate of suicide. 

In July 2018, [psychiatrist Wendy] Dean published an essay with Simon G. Talbot, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, that argued that many physicians were suffering from a condition known as moral injury. Military psychiatrists use the term to describe an emotional wound sustained when, in the course of fulfilling their duties, soldiers witnessed or committed acts — raiding a home, killing a noncombatant — that transgressed their core values. Doctors on the front lines of America’s profit-driven health care system were also susceptible to such wounds, Dean and Talbot submitted, as the demands of administrators, hospital executives and insurers forced them to stray from the ethical principles that were supposed to govern their profession. The pull of these forces left many doctors anguished and distraught, caught between the Hippocratic oath and “the realities of making a profit from people at their sickest and most vulnerable.”


There is a solution to these problems. 

Sunday, June 25, 2023

Sunday Sermonette: Taking the pledge

 Don't worry, we're getting close to the end of Nehemiah and the books that come next are a lot more interesting. 


Ch. 10 starts off with the sort of pointless list of names that the Chronicler and whoever wrote this seem to like. Note, however, that Ezra once again seems to have disappeared.

Then it describes the pledge the people took which mostly has to do with giving stuff to the priests, which is a major emphasis of all the material we've been reading going back to Deuteronomy. Which is no surprise, don't forget who wrote this.

Nehemiah the governor, the son of Hakaliah.

Zedekiah, Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah,

Pashhur, Amariah, Malkijah,

Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluk,

Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah,

Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch,

Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin,

Maaziah, Bilgai and Shemaiah.

These were the priests.

The Levites:

Jeshua son of Azaniah, Binnui of the sons of Henadad, Kadmiel,

10 and their associates: Shebaniah,

Hodiah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan,

11 Mika, Rehob, Hashabiah,

12 Zakkur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah,

13 Hodiah, Bani and Beninu.

14 The leaders of the people:

Parosh, Pahath-Moab, Elam, Zattu, Bani,

15 Bunni, Azgad, Bebai,

16 Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin,

17 Ater, Hezekiah, Azzur,

18 Hodiah, Hashum, Bezai,

19 Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai,

20 Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir,

21 Meshezabel, Zadok, Jaddua,

22 Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah,

23 Hoshea, Hananiah, Hasshub,

24 Hallohesh, Pilha, Shobek,

25 Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah,

26 Ahiah, Hanan, Anan,

27 Malluk, Harim and Baanah.

28 “The rest of the people—priests, Levites, gatekeepers, musicians, temple servants and all who separated themselves from the neighboring peoples for the sake of the Law of God, together with their wives and all their sons and daughters who are able to understand— 29 all these now join their fellow Israelites the nobles, and bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the Lord our Lord.

30 “We promise not to give our daughters in marriage to the peoples around us or take their daughters for our sons.

31 “When the neighboring peoples bring merchandise or grain to sell on the Sabbath, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on any holy day. Every seventh year we will forgo working the land and will cancel all debts.

32 “We assume the responsibility for carrying out the commands to give a third of a shekel[b] each year for the service of the house of our God: 33 for the bread set out on the table; for the regular grain offerings and burnt offerings; for the offerings on the Sabbaths, at the New Moon feasts and at the appointed festivals; for the holy offerings; for sin offerings[c] to make atonement for Israel; and for all the duties of the house of our God.

34 “We—the priests, the Levites and the people—have cast lots to determine when each of our families is to bring to the house of our God at set times each year a contribution of wood to burn on the altar of the Lord our God, as it is written in the Law.

35 “We also assume responsibility for bringing to the house of the Lord each year the firstfruits of our crops and of every fruit tree.

36 “As it is also written in the Law, we will bring the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, of our herds and of our flocks to the house of our God, to the priests ministering there.

37 “Moreover, we will bring to the storerooms of the house of our God, to the priests, the first of our ground meal, of our grain offerings, of the fruit of all our trees and of our new wine and olive oil. And we will bring a tithe of our crops to the Levites, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all the towns where we work. 38 A priest descended from Aaron is to accompany the Levites when they receive the tithes, and the Levites are to bring a tenth of the tithes up to the house of our God, to the storerooms of the treasury. 39 The people of Israel, including the Levites, are to bring their contributions of grain, new wine and olive oil to the storerooms, where the articles for the sanctuary and for the ministering priests, the gatekeepers and the musicians are also kept.

“We will not neglect the house of our God.”


  1. Nehemiah 10:1 In Hebrew texts 10:1-39 is numbered 10:2-40.
  2. Nehemiah 10:32 That is, about 1/8 ounce or about 4 grams
  3. Nehemiah 10:33 Or purification offerings

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Carbon footprint

Whenever I post anything about anthropogenic climate change, I get "What about China?" comments. It is true that the U.S. has actually reduced its carbon emissions slightly in recent years, and that China has now surpassed the U.S. in annual emissions. But we're still the #2 emitter in the world. Growing emissions from India are also a problem. Note that because the U.S. was the #1 emitter for most of the industrial age, we're still far an away responsible for the largest cumulative amount of anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere.



 Here's the story for the whole planet right now.



So yes, if we want to solve this problem we're going to need China,  India and the EU to get serious about it, as well as the U.S., and obviously the rest of the world also matters. China is the world's largest manufacturer of photovoltaics, but they've built their industrial economy on coal and they're still dependent on it. So what can the U.S. do about China? 

The Chinese leadership certainly says that they take the problem seriously and they intend to address it. I have to assume that's true but they haven't been able to make the transition so far. So we need to collaborate with them in trade and technology. We need to buy their photovoltaics and other green technology, to encourage those industries in China as well as use the products ourselves. We are more technologically innovative and we need to share technology with the rest of the world. A hostile relationship with China, trade barriers, and technology embargoes, are the worst possible scenario. 

The only way to solve a global crisis is as a global community. No, we can't fix the inside of Xi Jinping's head, but we need to find ways to work with him.