Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Wednesday Bible Study: Science

 Note: I am aware that the charter of Hamas can be construed as racist. I do not defend Hamas. That is beside the point of my recent post.


Psalm 19 is interesting for at least two reasons. Verses 5 and 6 were cited by the court in the trial of Galileo, for his heresy of claiming that the earth rotates, and revolves around the sun. The last verse, omitting the words "my rock and my redeemer," are recited by the priest from the Book of Common Prayer in the Episcopal church. It may be used in other denominations as well, but that's the one I'm familiar with.


Psalm 20 is a prayer for victory in war, about which little more need be said. For those of you who believe the Bible calls for the sanctity of human life, nope, Psalm 21, among innumerable Biblical passages, calls for the murder of children.

 Your hand will find out all your enemies;
    your right hand will find out those who hate you.
You will make them as a blazing oven
    when you appear.
The Lord will swallow them up in his wrath;
    and fire will consume them.
10 You will destroy their offspring from the earth,
    and their children from among the sons of men.


To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

19 The heavens are telling the glory of God;
    and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours forth speech,
    and night to night declares knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
    their voice is not heard;
yet their voice[a] goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.

In them he has set a tent for the sun,
which comes forth like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
    and its circuit to the end of them;
    and there is nothing hid from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
    enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
    enduring for ever;
the ordinances of the Lord are true,
    and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
    and drippings of the honeycomb.

11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can discern his errors?
    Clear thou me from hidden faults.
13 Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins;
    let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
    and innocent of great transgression.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in thy sight,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.


  1. Psalm 19:4 Gk Jerome Compare Syr: Heb line

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

20 The Lord answer you in the day of trouble!
    The name of the God of Jacob protect you!
May he send you help from the sanctuary,
    and give you support from Zion!
May he remember all your offerings,
    and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices!Selah

May he grant you your heart’s desire,
    and fulfil all your plans!
May we shout for joy over your victory,
    and in the name of our God set up our banners!
May the Lord fulfil all your petitions!

Now I know that the Lord will help his anointed;
    he will answer him from his holy heaven
    with mighty victories by his right hand.
Some boast of chariots, and some of horses;
    but we boast of the name of the Lord our God.
They will collapse and fall;
    but we shall rise and stand upright.

Give victory to the king, O Lord;
    answer us when we call.[a]


  1. Psalm 20:9 Gk: Heb give victory, O Lord, let the King answer us when we call

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

21 In thy strength the king rejoices, O Lord;
    and in thy help how greatly he exults!
Thou hast given him his heart’s desire,
    and hast not withheld the request of his lips.Selah
For thou dost meet him with goodly blessings;
    thou dost set a crown of fine gold upon his head.
He asked life of thee; thou gavest it to him,
    length of days for ever and ever.
His glory is great through thy help;
    splendor and majesty thou dost bestow upon him.
Yea, thou dost make him most blessed for ever;
    thou dost make him glad with the joy of thy presence.
For the king trusts in the Lord;
    and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved.

Your hand will find out all your enemies;
    your right hand will find out those who hate you.
You will make them as a blazing oven
    when you appear.
The Lord will swallow them up in his wrath;
    and fire will consume them.
10 You will destroy their offspring from the earth,
    and their children from among the sons of men.
11 If they plan evil against you,
    if they devise mischief, they will not succeed.
12 For you will put them to flight;
    you will aim at their faces with your bows.

13 Be exalted, O Lord, in thy strength!
    We will sing and praise thy power.



Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Personal Connections

Of the three Palestinian young men who were shot in Vermont two days ago, one is a student at Brown University, where I am on the faculty; one is a student at Haverford College, the "sister" institution of my alma mater, where I spent two summers participating in a theater program and otherwise visited often to see friends; and Trinity College in Hartford, which I have also visited at least twice. They became friends because they all attended a prep school in Ramallah, in the West Bank. Their families thought they would be safer now that they are all in the U.S. So obviously I can relate to them. At their age I was in a similar situation.


A man simply stepped out onto his front porch and shot all three of them without saying a word, probably because they were speaking Arabic and two of them were wearing kafiyehs. What I am about to say should be obvious but apparently it is too complicated for some people to understand, judging from the racist comments I have received on my posts about the conflict in Gaza. The Hamas militants who entered Israel and murdered civilians and kidnapped others, however legitimate you may consider their grievances against the state of Israel, made a fundamental error of attribution. Their grievance was not with the Jews, certainly not with Jewish children or farmers or shopkeepers. It was with the leadership of a specific political entity, and over complex historical events. 

It works the same way in the other direction. It was not the Palestinians that committed the atrocities of October 7, it was a few hundred individuals, representing a political entity that had developed in the context of complex historical events. Just as we cannot know what any Jewish Israeli, chosen at random, thinks about those same events or would like to see as the outcome for Israel and Palestine, we cannot know that about any random resident of Gaza, or any Palestinian anywhere. Furthermore, people are responsible for their actions, not their thoughts or identity. Therefore, the actions of the Hamas militants on October 7 do not constitute moral justification, or even amelioration, for inflicting mass death and suffering indiscriminately on the people of Gaza, or any sort of hostility toward Palestinians in general, anywhere on earth. That is the very definition of racism. 


We need to think, and try to understand, in terms of humanity, not tribe. That is the only hope for the species.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Sunday Sermonette: Cut and Paste

Psalm 18 is the longest of the psalms, so it's the only one you'll get today. However, I thought of skipping it because it's actually copied from 2 Samuel 22.  Since they didn't have a Xerox machine there is a word or two different here and there, but it's just as possible that this was the original and the song in Samuel is the copy. Anyway, you've certainly forgotten it but you've already read it if you've been with us long enough. 

It's the usual jingoistic, exterminationist violence from the Deuteronomistic history. It's not just boasting of winning the civil war over Saul -- it also boasts of conquest, see verses 37 through 45.

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David the servant of the Lord, who addressed the words of this song to the Lord on the day when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. He said:

18 I love thee, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer,
    my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
    and I am saved from my enemies.

The cords of death encompassed me,
    the torrents of perdition assailed me;
the cords of Sheol entangled me,
    the snares of death confronted me.

In my distress I called upon the Lord;
    to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
    and my cry to him reached his ears.

Then the earth reeled and rocked;
    the foundations also of the mountains trembled
    and quaked, because he was angry.
Smoke went up from his nostrils,
    and devouring fire from his mouth;
    glowing coals flamed forth from him.
He bowed the heavens, and came down;
    thick darkness was under his feet.
10 He rode on a cherub, and flew;
    he came swiftly upon the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his covering around him,
    his canopy thick clouds dark with water.
12 Out of the brightness before him
    there broke through his clouds
    hailstones and coals of fire.
13 The Lord also thundered in the heavens,
    and the Most High uttered his voice,
    hailstones and coals of fire.
14 And he sent out his arrows, and scattered them;
    he flashed forth lightnings, and routed them.
15 Then the channels of the sea were seen,
    and the foundations of the world were laid bare,
at thy rebuke, O Lord,
    at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.

16 He reached from on high, he took me,
    he drew me out of many waters.
17 He delivered me from my strong enemy,
    and from those who hated me;
    for they were too mighty for me.
18 They came upon me in the day of my calamity;
    but the Lord was my stay.
19 He brought me forth into a broad place;
    he delivered me, because he delighted in me.

20 The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness;
    according to the cleanness of my hands he recompensed me.
21 For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
    and have not wickedly departed from my God.
22 For all his ordinances were before me,
    and his statutes I did not put away from me.
23 I was blameless before him,
    and I kept myself from guilt.
24 Therefore the Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness,
    according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight.

25 With the loyal thou dost show thyself loyal;
    with the blameless man thou dost show thyself blameless;
26 with the pure thou dost show thyself pure;
    and with the crooked thou dost show thyself perverse.
27 For thou dost deliver a humble people;
    but the haughty eyes thou dost bring down.
28 Yea, thou dost light my lamp;
    the Lord my God lightens my darkness.
29 Yea, by thee I can crush a troop;
    and by my God I can leap over a wall.
30 This God—his way is perfect;
    the promise of the Lord proves true;
    he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

31 For who is God, but the Lord?
    And who is a rock, except our God?—
32 the God who girded me with strength,
    and made my way safe.
33 He made my feet like hinds’ feet,
    and set me secure on the heights.
34 He trains my hands for war,
    so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
35 Thou hast given me the shield of thy salvation,
    and thy right hand supported me,
    and thy help[a] made me great.
36 Thou didst give a wide place for my steps under me,
    and my feet did not slip.
37 I pursued my enemies and overtook them;
    and did not turn back till they were consumed.
38 I thrust them through, so that they were not able to rise;
    they fell under my feet.
39 For thou didst gird me with strength for the battle;
    thou didst make my assailants sink under me.
40 Thou didst make my enemies turn their backs to me,
    and those who hated me I destroyed.
41 They cried for help, but there was none to save,
    they cried to the Lord, but he did not answer them.
42 I beat them fine as dust before the wind;
    I cast them out like the mire of the streets.

43 Thou didst deliver me from strife with the peoples;[b]
    thou didst make me the head of the nations;
    people whom I had not known served me.
44 As soon as they heard of me they obeyed me;
    foreigners came cringing to me.
45 Foreigners lost heart,
    and came trembling out of their fastnesses.

46 The Lord lives; and blessed be my rock,
    and exalted be the God of my salvation,
47 the God who gave me vengeance
    and subdued peoples under me;
48 who delivered me from my enemies;
    yea, thou didst exalt me above my adversaries;
    thou didst deliver me from men of violence.

49 For this I will extol thee, O Lord, among the nations,
    and sing praises to thy name.
50 Great triumphs he gives to his king,
    and shows steadfast love to his anointed,
    to David and his descendants for ever.


  1. Psalm 18:35 Or gentleness
  2. Psalm 18:43 Gk Tg: Heb people

Saturday, November 25, 2023

The Chaos Machine

That's the title of a book by Max Fisher. I'm only halfway through it but I've already seen plenty. Fisher documents with excruciating detail how so-called social media -- most notably Facebook, YouTube, the application formerly known as Twitter, and TikTok -- use mindless machine learning to hijack some of people's natural tendencies and drive them into cesspools of disinformation, extremism, and hatred. 


The companies that own that own these platforms know full well what is happening but they only care about money and they adamantly refuse to do anything about it. Facebook has literally caused mob violence, mass murder and in Myanmar, actual genocide. This happens because the platforms exploit human tendencies to seek out social connection and support, while at the same time identifying "others" who are outside of the group, responding to perceived threats, and punishing moral transgressors. The algorithms that suggest posts to users take advantage of these tendencies in order to keep people transfixed, clicking, posting, and most important, looking at advertisements. Quoting from the Amazon review:

Traversing the planet, Fisher tracks the ubiquity of hate speech and its spillover into violence, ills that first festered in far-off locales, to their dark culmination in America during the pandemic, the 2020 election, and the Capitol Insurrection. Through it all, the social-media giants refused to intervene in any meaningful way, claiming to champion free speech when in fact what they most prized were limitless profits. The result, as Fisher shows, is a cultural shift toward a world in which people are polarized not by beliefs based on facts, but by misinformation, outrage, and fear.

And in case you have been as baffled by the DJ Trump cult as I have been, now you have your explanation.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

A bit more on Israel/Palestine

 I'm just going to outsource to Josh Marshall here, this is a bit he shows on his front page so no problem sharing it, although the rest of it is paywalled.

In a few recent posts we’ve discussed the question of whether one state or two states is the most logical or possible resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (You can see my argument here.) A few days ago TPM Reader RC sent me this April Foreign Affairs article, Israel’s One-State Reality. It was written by three scholars at GW and another at the University of Maryland. The piece was interesting to me because it illustrates a lot of what the one state argument is really about. As the title suggests, the article is not so much an argument that one state in Israel-Palestine is a solution to anything but an assertion that it is the current reality.

In other words, Israel’s not a country that functions as a democracy while controlling occupied territories whose final status will be decided at some point in the future. It’s a single country in which all Jews have political and civil rights and most Palestinians have limited civil rights and no political rights. Given that the post-67 occupation has persisted for 56 years, this argument has many merits to it. But what is the import of that assertion? In itself it’s simply a definitional claim. That part comes next. It’s an argument for the withdrawal of US support and some escalating framework of sanctions to compel Israel to come up to international standards in which one ethnic group or most of it facing systemic legal discrimination just isn’t okay.


The secular, democratic state in all of Palestine was a widely shared goal some 60 years ago, but of course it means that Israel would no longer be an ethno-nationalist and theocratic state. In other words, a secular democracy would not be a Jewish state but rather a state with a lot of Jews in it. This goal, by the way, is commonly misrepresented. It does not imply killing Jews, or removing them. Agreed, given relative birth rates the secular democratic state would likely become minority Jewish at some point. This is obviously unacceptable to Zionists, including most Israeli Jews, which is why the two state resolution is usually seen as more plausible. I don't disagree with that but I do want people to understand the current reality.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Straw men

I got a few comments on my post about gun safety that I didn't publish because they attack a straw man. I explicitly, and loudly, at the very beginning, said that I did not have any problem whatsoever with people owning guns. In fact I'm all for it because the deer population here is out of control. This is also true of the approximately 80% of Americans who favor gun safety laws that are quite similar to the Swiss laws, which are not generally in effect in the U.S. and which the Supreme Court would probably rule to be unconstitutional. The Swiss ban large capacity magazines, automatic weapons and many non-firearm weapons which are  sold over the counter in the U.S. You need to have a specific reason -- police or security duty -- to get a permit to carry a handgun. In order to own any sort of a firearm, you need to pass a strict background check, and the permission is revocable. That's what people want here, they don't want to take away your guns or impose "draconian" regulations.

As for Israel offering a two state solution to the Palestinians, that is unmitigated bullshit. Not true. Historically in accurate since they repudiated the Oslo accords. Israel has been slowly but steadily trying to absorb the West Bank by continually confiscating Palestinian land and building new settlements. That's what has been happening, and the Swiss cheese bantustan that has resulted would not be a viable Palestinian state. A solution would require Israel to withdraw to the 1967 borders -- perhaps with some tradeoffs -- meaning the settlements go back to Palestine and the settlers go back to Israel -- and provide a land corridor between Gaza and the West Bank. That they have adamantly refused to do. Because they are trying to take it all. Maybe you're for that, but that's what we're talking about.

Wednesday Bible Study: Specificity

The next four psalms -- 14 through 17 -- are particular reminders that these were mostly written for specific occasions, in response either to the writer's perception of current events, or his personal situation.  Actually I don't know if any of these might have been composed by women. While it's likely that the priesthood had a monopoly on literacy during the time most of these were composed, priests could have served as scribes for others. I note that in Exodus, Miriam leads a female choir and implicitly was the composer of their song. 


Some are more general assertions of what the writer values morally, or general praise of God. But many, if not most, are not hymns that would be sung regularly. A few are regular parts of current Jewish liturgy, but note how few have been adopted as Christian hymns or common prayers. (We'll note those that have when we get to them.) These are mostly topical.


Psalm 14 is notable because it asserts that there is not a single individual on earth that acts wisely and seeks after God -- presumably including the author? So the writer must have been alienated from society. In Psalm 15, the writer gives us a list of pet peeves. (Remember that the attributions to David are universally fictitious.) The Hebrew word "miktam" in the title of Psalm 16 is of unknown meaning. Note that the psalm refers to Sheol -- there is an ancient Jewish conception of hell, which for some reason people are wont to deny. The writer of Psalm 17 evidently is feeling persecuted. Again, this is a very personal, statement, specific to an event in the writer's life.

14 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
    They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,
    there is none that does good.

The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
    to see if there are any that act wisely,
    that seek after God.

They have all gone astray, they are all alike corrupt;
    there is none that does good,
    no, not one.

Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers
    who eat up my people as they eat bread,
    and do not call upon the Lord?

There they shall be in great terror,
    for God is with the generation of the righteous.
You would confound the plans of the poor,
    but the Lord is his refuge.

O that deliverance for Israel would come out of Zion!
    When the Lord restores the fortunes of his people,
    Jacob shall rejoice, Israel shall be glad.


A Psalm of David.

15 O Lord, who shall sojourn in thy tent?
    Who shall dwell on thy holy hill?

He who walks blamelessly, and does what is right,
    and speaks truth from his heart;
who does not slander with his tongue,
    and does no evil to his friend,
    nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor;
in whose eyes a reprobate is despised,
    but who honors those who fear the Lord;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;
who does not put out his money at interest,
    and does not take a bribe against the innocent.

He who does these things shall never be moved.


A Miktam of David.

16 Preserve me, O God, for in thee I take refuge.
    I say to the Lord, “Thou art my Lord;
    I have no good apart from thee.”[a]

As for the saints in the land, they are the noble,
    in whom is all my delight.

Those who choose another god multiply their sorrows;[b]
    their libations of blood I will not pour out
    or take their names upon my lips.

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
    thou holdest my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    yea, I have a goodly heritage.

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
    in the night also my heart instructs me.
I keep the Lord always before me;
    because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;
    my body also dwells secure.
10 For thou dost not give me up to Sheol,
    or let thy godly one see the Pit.

11 Thou dost show me the path of life;
    in thy presence there is fulness of joy,
    in thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.


  1. Psalm 16:2 Jerome Tg: The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain
  2. Psalm 16:4 Cn: The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain

A Prayer of David.

17 Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry!
    Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit!
From thee let my vindication come!
    Let thy eyes see the right!

If thou triest my heart, if thou visitest me by night,
    if thou testest me, thou wilt find no wickedness in me;
    my mouth does not transgress.
With regard to the works of men, by the word of thy lips
    I have avoided the ways of the violent.
My steps have held fast to thy paths,
    my feet have not slipped.

I call upon thee, for thou wilt answer me, O God;
    incline thy ear to me, hear my words.
Wondrously show thy steadfast love,
    O savior of those who seek refuge
    from their adversaries at thy right hand.

Keep me as the apple of the eye;
    hide me in the shadow of thy wings,
from the wicked who despoil me,
    my deadly enemies who surround me.

10 They close their hearts to pity;
    with their mouths they speak arrogantly.
11 They track me down; now they surround me;
    they set their eyes to cast me to the ground.
12 They are like a lion eager to tear,
    as a young lion lurking in ambush.

13 Arise, O Lord! confront them, overthrow them!
    Deliver my life from the wicked by thy sword,
14 from men by thy hand, O Lord,
    from men whose portion in life is of the world.
May their belly be filled with what thou hast stored up for them;
    may their children have more than enough;
    may they leave something over to their babes.

15 As for me, I shall behold thy face in righteousness;
    when I awake, I shall be satisfied with beholding thy form.






Monday, November 20, 2023

Okay, Israel and Palestine

I've been circumspect about this, because people hear what they want to hear or think they're hearing about it, instead of what people actually say; and they believe what they want to believe. Furthermore, certain truths may not be spoken. But Fintan O'Toole has said what needs to be said (registration required, though I have a subscription) succinctly and clearly enough that I'll take his essay as guidance. First, I'll quote his setup:

If war is supposed to be the continuation of politics by other means, Israel’s assault on Gaza seems to be the continuation by other means of the absence of politics. It does not seem that Israel understands what its endgame is. Without a clear sense of an ending, there can be no answer to the most crucial moral and strategic question: When is enough enough? Even in the crudely mathematical logic of vengeance, the blood price for Hamas’s appalling atrocities of October 7 has long since been paid. The body count—if that is to be the measure of retribution—has mounted far beyond the level required for an equality of suffering. Yet it appears to have no visible ceiling. What factor must Jewish deaths be multiplied by? When, as W.B. Yeats asked in a different conflict, may it suffice?


The truth is that successive Israeli governments have tolerated Hamas rule in Gaza precisely because  the organization is implacably opposed to the existence of Israel and therefore, as long as it remained in power, peacemaking with the Palestinian Authority that governs the West Bank was impossible, and Israel does not want a peace agreement. It wants to gradually squeeze the Palestinians out of the West Bank and seize the territory. As O'Toole summarizes:

A review of Israel’s Gaza wars between 2009 and 2014, commissioned by the US military from the RAND Corporation and published in 2017, points out that this was warfare specifically designed not to defeat the enemy:

Israel never strived for a decisive victory in Gaza. While it could militarily defeat Hamas, Israel could not overthrow Hamas without risking the possibility that a more radical organization would govern Gaza. Nor did Israel want to be responsible for governing Gaza in a postconflict power vacuum.  

Implicit in this policy of repeatedly attacking a regime with overwhelming firepower while not wanting victory over it was the impossibility of an endgame. There would be no peace but also no decisive war. Even if thousands of Palestinians and hundreds of Israelis died in these intermittent eruptions of extreme violence, their purpose was to maintain this brutality at what RAND calls a “manageable” level. . . .

Bombs and tanks do not answer questions. Who is to govern Gaza if not Hamas or Israel itself? Does Israel really think that, without the creation of a Palestinian state, somebody else—either an international consortium or a Palestinian puppet regime—will sail into a blood-soaked hellscape of rubble and dust, inhabited by traumatized survivors, and take responsibility for rebuilding, policing, and governing it? How is Israel going to make the kind of peace with its immediate neighbors without which the security of its citizens cannot be rebuilt?

Well yes. There you have it. The goal is not peace and security, but conquest. Meir Kahane said it in a NYT op ed in 1983, titled "For a Jewish State, Annex and Expel." 


More and more we hear from those who in truth are hardly friends of Israel or Jewishness the argument that, for Israel's own sake, it must rid itself of the ''occupied'' lands. Why? For the pragmatic reason that holding them involves adding more than a million Arabs to Israel's population. How, such liberals ask, can Israel keep its Jewish character if it incorporates all these non-Jews? It is for Israel's sake, then, and in the name of its ''Jewishness,'' that these liberals urge Israel to give up the lands of 1967. . . .

The very idea of a ''democratic Jewish state'' is nonsense. A state can be permanently defined as Jewish or as democratic, but never both. Already, the Galilee has a majority of non-Jews - a majority of Arabs. Acre is more than a third Arab; Ramle and Lydda 25 percent; Jerusalem, rapidly approaching 30 percent. Divesting ourselves of the liberated lands of 1967 only postpones the inevitable dilemma between democracy and Jewishness. For me, the choice is easy. I have no desire to continue living as a minority at the sufferance of a majority - a situation that inevitably leads to Inquisitions, pogroms and Auschwitzes. I have not the slightest guilt about choosing a Jewish state - and life -over the democratic possibility of losing that state. Physical survival and my commitment to building a center of Judaism lead me easily to that choice - even at the expense of Western democracy. The answer is not to give up the lands of 1967 or those of 1947. For me, the moral answer lies in annexation of all the lands and the completion of an exchange of populations begun in 1948, when more than 700,000 Jews fled Arab lands. For the sake of survival -and to assure that the Galilee does not become another Northern Ireland -let us carry out the second stage: The removal of the Arabs in the Land of Israel to their own Arab lands.

This has been Netanyahu's goal all along. You may even agree, but let's be clear what we're talking about.




Sunday, November 19, 2023

Sunday Sermonette: A few shorties

We have some mercifully short psalms on the menu for today, so we can plow through a few of them and work toward getting this over with. These mostly seem to have been written in response to the composer's personal circumstances or experience, so they may be theologically suspect. Sometimes God seems to misbehave or get moody.

Psalm 10 is the longest of today's offerings. It seems to have been written in response to someone -- a chieftan, perhaps, a landlord or a plutocrat of some sort -- oppressing poor people. The writer is essentially complaining that God is allowing this to happen. (My advice: Don't waste time complaining, organize!) Psalm 11, in direct contrast, fully trusts God to punish the wicked. (Good luck with that!)

Regarding Psalm 12, remember that "sheminith" is probably an indication of the key. This seems to have been written in times like ours, when there is a whole lot of disinformation going around, and the writer wants God to put a stop to it. Again, good luck with that. In Psalm 13, the writer seems to feel that God has abandoned him in time of need, but is trusting God to come through in the end. Well, you never know. Again, the attributions to David are almost certainly fictitious.

10 Why dost thou stand afar off, O Lord?
    Why dost thou hide thyself in times of trouble?
In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor;
    let them be caught in the schemes which they have devised.

For the wicked boasts of the desires of his heart,
    and the man greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord.
In the pride of his countenance the wicked does not seek him;
    all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”

His ways prosper at all times;
    thy judgments are on high, out of his sight;
    as for all his foes, he puffs at them.
He thinks in his heart, “I shall not be moved;
    throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.”

His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;
    under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.
He sits in ambush in the villages;
    in hiding places he murders the innocent.

His eyes stealthily watch for the hapless,
    he lurks in secret like a lion in his covert;
he lurks that he may seize the poor,
    he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net.

10 The hapless is crushed, sinks down,
    and falls by his might.
11 He thinks in his heart, “God has forgotten,
    he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”

12 Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up thy hand;
    forget not the afflicted.
13 Why does the wicked renounce God,
    and say in his heart, “Thou wilt not call to account”?

14 Thou dost see; yea, thou dost note trouble and vexation,
    that thou mayst take it into thy hands;
the hapless commits himself to thee;
    thou hast been the helper of the fatherless.

15 Break thou the arm of the wicked and evildoer;
    seek out his wickedness till thou find none.
16 The Lord is king for ever and ever;
    the nations shall perish from his land.

17 O Lord, thou wilt hear the desire of the meek;
    thou wilt strengthen their heart, thou wilt incline thy ear
18 to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
    so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.


To the choirmaster. Of David.

11 In the Lord I take refuge;
how can you say to me,
    “Flee like a bird to the mountains;[a]
for lo, the wicked bend the bow,
    they have fitted their arrow to the string,
    to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart;
if the foundations are destroyed,
    what can the righteous do”?

The Lord is in his holy temple,
    the Lord’s throne is in heaven;
    his eyes behold, his eyelids test, the children of men.
The Lord tests the righteous and the wicked,
    and his soul hates him that loves violence.
On the wicked he will rain coals of fire and brimstone;
    a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
For the Lord is righteous, he loves righteous deeds;
    the upright shall behold his face.


  1. Psalm 11:1 Gk Syr Jerome Tg: Heb flee to your mountain, O bird

 To the choirmaster: according to The Sheminith. A Psalm of David.

12 Help, Lord; for there is no longer any that is godly;
    for the faithful have vanished from among the sons of men.
Every one utters lies to his neighbor;
    with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.

May the Lord cut off all flattering lips,
    the tongue that makes great boasts,
those who say, “With our tongue we will prevail,
    our lips are with us; who is our master?”

“Because the poor are despoiled, because the needy groan,
    I will now arise,” says the Lord;
    “I will place him in the safety for which he longs.”
The promises of the Lord are promises that are pure,
    silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
    purified seven times.

Do thou, O Lord, protect us,
    guard us ever from this generation.
On every side the wicked prowl,
    as vileness is exalted among the sons of men.


To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

13 How long, O Lord? Wilt thou forget me for ever?
    How long wilt thou hide thy face from me?
How long must I bear pain[a] in my soul,
    and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
    lighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death;
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him”;
    lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

But I have trusted in thy steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
    because he has dealt bountifully with me.


  1. Psalm 13:2 Syr: Heb hold counsels




Friday, November 17, 2023


It's rifle season for deer here in Connecticut, so I've heard at least three or four gunshots today from the woods around my house, two of them followed after a few seconds by another, which would of course be the kill shot. (My property is embedded in state forest, and I've also signed permission for a couple of people to hunt on it.) One thing that these are not, however, is semi-automatic rifle fire. 


Digby gives a free link to a WaPo article  about the effects of AR-15 type weapons, including photos from mass shootings. Many people have chosen not to look at them. It's up to you, but the Post is just trying to tell us all the truth. I do have one problem with the article, however. It says "The review lays bare how the AR-15, a weapon that has soared in popularity over the past two decades as a beloved tool for hunting, target practice and self-defense, has also given assailants the power to instantly turn everyday American gathering places into zones of gruesome violence." 


No. It is not a beloved tool for hunting, nor is it useful for self-defense. Why the authors could be so ignorant about a subject they have presumably researched is a mystery. However, there is only one use for the AR-15 and that is to kill humans. It is a weapon of war, developed for the U.S. army. It is not a hunting weapon and it is very difficult to imagine any circumstances in which a person might end up using it for self defense. While it is important to emphasize that the large majority of fire-arm related deaths in the U.S. are caused by handguns, there is no reason why it should be legal for civilians to own semi-automatic rifles of any kind. And no, they have nothing to do with hunting.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Wednesday Bible Study: Flunking the vocabulary test

Psalms 7 through 9 contain a few words of uncertain meaning. This serves to remind us that, of course, everything we read is a translation from a language that was long dead at the time the translation was made. Note that modern Hebrew is an attempt to resurrect Biblical Hebrew and of course that means it is also a kind of translation -- what the words mean today cannot really be what they meant in the 5th Century BC because the context is entirely different, and of course many words had to be invented for things that didn't exist then. Conversely, many things that did exist then no longer exist, so the words have either been adapted to other meanings or are simply unused. 

Regarding Psalm 7, the meaning of "shiggaion" is disputed. One source very confidently maintains "from the verb shagah, "to reel about through drink," occurs in the title of Psalms 7 . The plural form, shigionoth, is found in Habakkuk 3:1 . The word denotes a lyrical poem composed under strong mental emotion; a song of impassioned imagination accompanied with suitable music; a dithyrambic ode."However, others are not so sure and provide a variety of guesses, including entirely different etymology. In Psalm 8, the "gittith" is apparently a particular type of stringed instrument, but it's exact nature is unknown. In Psalm 9, in the title "muth-labben" is thought to refer to the death of a person named Labben, in other words this is a funeral lament. The word "higgaion," which appears coupled with Selah, is generally said to refer to the sound of a harp, although translators assign it other meanings when it appears elsewhere in the Bible. In any case, this does suggest that Selah indicates an instrumental sound or a musical motif of some sort. However, this writer says it means "meditation," meaning a moment of silence, and that Selah also therefore indicates a pause. So we just don't know.  (However, since Psalm 9 and some others actually end with "Selah," the idea that it indicates a pause doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense.)

A Shiggaion of David, which he sang to the Lord concerning Cush a Benjaminite.

O Lord my God, in thee do I take refuge;
    save me from all my pursuers, and deliver me,
lest like a lion they rend me,
    dragging me away, with none to rescue.

O Lord my God, if I have done this,
    if there is wrong in my hands,
if I have requited my friend with evil
    or plundered my enemy without cause,
let the enemy pursue me and overtake me,
    and let him trample my life to the ground,
    and lay my soul in the dust.Selah

Arise, O Lord, in thy anger,
    lift thyself up against the fury of my enemies;
    awake, O my God;[a] thou hast appointed a judgment.
Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about thee;
    and over it take thy seat[b] on high.
The Lord judges the peoples;
    judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness
    and according to the integrity that is in me.

O let the evil of the wicked come to an end,
    but establish thou the righteous,
thou who triest the minds and hearts,
    thou righteous God.
10 My shield is with God,
    who saves the upright in heart.
11 God is a righteous judge,
    and a God who has indignation every day.

12 If a man[c] does not repent, God[d] will whet his sword;
    he has bent and strung his bow;
13 he has prepared his deadly weapons,
    making his arrows fiery shafts.
14 Behold, the wicked man conceives evil,
    and is pregnant with mischief,
    and brings forth lies.
15 He makes a pit, digging it out,
    and falls into the hole which he has made.
16 His mischief returns upon his own head,
    and on his own pate his violence descends.

17 I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness,
    and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.


  1. Psalm 7:6 Or for me
  2. Psalm 7:7 Cn: Heb return
  3. Psalm 7:12 Heb he
  4. Psalm 7:12 Heb he

O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is thy name in all the earth!

Thou whose glory above the heavens is chanted
    by the mouth of babes and infants,
thou hast founded a bulwark because of thy foes,
    to still the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers,
    the moon and the stars which thou hast established;
what is man that thou art mindful of him,
    and the son of man that thou dost care for him?

Yet thou hast made him little less than God,
    and dost crown him with glory and honor.
Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands;
    thou hast put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
    and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
    whatever passes along the paths of the sea.

O Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is thy name in all the earth!


To the choirmaster: according to Muth-labben. A Psalm of David.

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;
    I will tell of all thy wonderful deeds.
I will be glad and exult in thee,
    I will sing praise to thy name, O Most High.

When my enemies turned back,
    they stumbled and perished before thee.
For thou hast maintained my just cause;
    thou hast sat on the throne giving righteous judgment.

Thou hast rebuked the nations, thou hast destroyed the wicked;
    thou hast blotted out their name for ever and ever.
The enemy have vanished in everlasting ruins;
    their cities thou hast rooted out;
    the very memory of them has perished.

But the Lord sits enthroned for ever,
    he has established his throne for judgment;
and he judges the world with righteousness,
    he judges the peoples with equity.

The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed,
    a stronghold in times of trouble.
10 And those who know thy name put their trust in thee,
    for thou, O Lord, hast not forsaken those who seek thee.

11 Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion!
    Tell among the peoples his deeds!
12 For he who avenges blood is mindful of them;
    he does not forget the cry of the afflicted.

13 Be gracious to me, O Lord!
    Behold what I suffer from those who hate me,
    O thou who liftest me up from the gates of death,
14 that I may recount all thy praises,
    that in the gates of the daughter of Zion
    I may rejoice in thy deliverance.

15 The nations have sunk in the pit which they made;
    in the net which they hid has their own foot been caught.
16 The Lord has made himself known, he has executed judgment;
    the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands.Higgaion. Selah

17 The wicked shall depart to Sheol,
    all the nations that forget God.

18 For the needy shall not always be forgotten,
    and the hope of the poor shall not perish for ever.

19 Arise, O Lord! Let not man prevail;
    let the nations be judged before thee!
20 Put them in fear, O Lord!
    Let the nations know that they are but men!Selah