Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, April 29, 2024

I got nothing to add

I direct your attention to Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern, and also to Digby. It appears that six of the so-called Justices of the Supreme Court intend to end the American experiment in democratic governance. You should read both of them -- they say pretty much the same thing but with significant stylistic differences. I'm not going to elaborate much, but here are a couple of pull quotes just so you know what were talking about here. From L&S:

For three long years, Supreme Court watchers mollified themselves (and others) with vague promises that when the rubber hit the road, even the ultraconservative Federalist Society justices of the Roberts court would put democracy before party whenever they were finally confronted with the legal effort to hold Donald Trump accountable for Jan. 6. . . . We promised ourselves that there would be cool heads and grand bargains and that even though the court might sometimes help Trump in small ways, it would privilege the country in the end. We kept thinking that at least for Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch and Chief Justice John Roberts, the voice of reasoned never-Trumpers might still penetrate the Fox News fog. We told ourselves that at least six justices, and maybe even seven, of the most MAGA-friendly court in history would still want to ensure that this November’s elections would not be the last in history. Political hacks they may be, but they were not lawless ones. . . .On Thursday, during oral arguments in Trump v. United States, the Republican-appointed justices shattered those illusions.


And Digby:


I had no expectations that the right wing Supreme Court majority would act with restraint on this issue. Bush v. Gore cured me of faith that they have any integrity when a presidential election is on the line. But going into the Supreme Court arguments last week, I think most legal scholars expected the court to be at least somewhat disdainful of the idea that a president must be allowed to be a criminal or he can’t do the job. But it turns out that at least four of them and possibly even six are quite open to the idea. Justice Samuel Alito went so far as to turn the whole case inside out and upside down by stating:

“If an incumbent who loses a very close, hotly contested election knows that a real possibility after leaving office is not that the president is going to be able to go off into a peaceful retirement but that the president may be criminally prosecuted by a bitter political opponent, will that not lead us into a cycle that destabilizes the functioning of our country as a democracy?”

I’m pretty sure that ship sailed on January 6th. But what that comment, and others made by the right wingers on the court, shows is that they’ve bought into Trump’s Big Lie that the prosecutions of Donald Trump are partisan exercises brought by his “bitter political opponent.” And they are clearly prepared to use their own vast, unaccountable power to even out the score.

If they had any concern about their institution’s credibility they wouldn’t have even heard the case. Obviously, they don’t care about that . . .


No, they don't. And it will take decades to repair, if we're lucky.


Sunday, April 28, 2024

Sunday Sermonette: We Bad

Psalm 106 is another lengthy "history psalm." The counterpoint to the previous recitation of God's goodness, it recounts (somewhat inaccurately) events in Exodus and Numbers in which the Israelites displeased Yahweh. Along the way, it praises the Big Guy in the Sky for the creative ways in which he murders people en masse -- drowning, plague, being swallowed by the earth, burning, etc.


The main inaccuracy is that it defines Aaron as "the holy one of the Lord," and attributes the golden calf to "they," i.e. the people. But it was Aaron who made the golden calf and this is just about the only act attributed to him. In verse 30, though Phine'has stayed the plague, it doesn't mention that 24,000 people had already died.  Anyway, I don't see a whole lot to praise God for in this sorry story.

106 Praise the Lord!
O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures for ever!
Who can utter the mighty doings of the Lord,
    or show forth all his praise?
Blessed are they who observe justice,
    who do righteousness at all times!

Remember me, O Lord, when thou showest favor to thy people;
    help me when thou deliverest them;
that I may see the prosperity of thy chosen ones,
    that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation,
    that I may glory with thy heritage.

Both we and our fathers have sinned;
    we have committed iniquity, we have done wickedly.
Our fathers, when they were in Egypt,
    did not consider thy wonderful works;
they did not remember the abundance of thy steadfast love,
    but rebelled against the Most High[a] at the Red Sea.
Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
    that he might make known his mighty power.
He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry;
    and he led them through the deep as through a desert.
10 So he saved them from the hand of the foe,
    and delivered them from the power of the enemy.
11 And the waters covered their adversaries;
    not one of them was left.
12 Then they believed his words;
    they sang his praise.

13 But they soon forgot his works;
    they did not wait for his counsel.
14 But they had a wanton craving in the wilderness,
    and put God to the test in the desert;
15 he gave them what they asked,
    but sent a wasting disease among them.

16 When men in the camp were jealous of Moses
    and Aaron, the holy one of the Lord,
17 the earth opened and swallowed up Dathan,
    and covered the company of Abi′ram.
18 Fire also broke out in their company;
    the flame burned up the wicked.

19 They made a calf in Horeb
    and worshiped a molten image.
20 They exchanged the glory of God
    for the image of an ox that eats grass.
21 They forgot God, their Savior,
    who had done great things in Egypt,
22 wondrous works in the land of Ham,
    and terrible things by the Red Sea.
23 Therefore he said he would destroy them—
    had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him,
    to turn away his wrath from destroying them.

24 Then they despised the pleasant land,
    having no faith in his promise.
25 They murmured in their tents,
    and did not obey the voice of the Lord.
26 Therefore he raised his hand and swore to them
    that he would make them fall in the wilderness,
27 and would disperse[b] their descendants among the nations,
    scattering them over the lands.

28 Then they attached themselves to the Ba′al of Pe′or,
    and ate sacrifices offered to the dead;
29 they provoked the Lord to anger with their doings,
    and a plague broke out among them.
30 Then Phin′ehas stood up and interposed,
    and the plague was stayed.
31 And that has been reckoned to him as righteousness
    from generation to generation for ever.

32 They angered him at the waters of Mer′ibah,
    and it went ill with Moses on their account;
33 for they made his spirit bitter,
    and he spoke words that were rash.

34 They did not destroy the peoples,
    as the Lord commanded them,
35 but they mingled with the nations
    and learned to do as they did.
36 They served their idols,
    which became a snare to them.
37 They sacrificed their sons
    and their daughters to the demons;
38 they poured out innocent blood,
    the blood of their sons and daughters,
whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan;
    and the land was polluted with blood.
39 Thus they became unclean by their acts,
    and played the harlot in their doings.

40 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people,
    and he abhorred his heritage;
41 he gave them into the hand of the nations,
    so that those who hated them ruled over them.
42 Their enemies oppressed them,
    and they were brought into subjection under their power.
43 Many times he delivered them,
    but they were rebellious in their purposes,
    and were brought low through their iniquity.
44 Nevertheless he regarded their distress,
    when he heard their cry.
45 He remembered for their sake his covenant,
    and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
46 He caused them to be pitied
    by all those who held them captive.

47 Save us, O Lord our God,
    and gather us from among the nations,
that we may give thanks to thy holy name
    and glory in thy praise.

48 Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
    from everlasting to everlasting!
And let all the people say, “Amen!”
    Praise the Lord!


  1. Psalm 106:7 Cn Compare 78.17, 56: Heb at the sea
  2. Psalm 106:27 Syr Compare Ezek 20.23: Heb cause to fall

Thursday, April 25, 2024

The Myth of the Free Market in Pharmaceuticals

Actually no, I didn't write that title, although I could have. In fact I could have written this entire article, but it was written by  Rena M. Conti, Ph.D., Richard G. Frank, Ph.D., and David M. Cutler, Ph.D. Unfortunately it's paywalled, and there's no abstract, but here's the link so you can read the first sentence, and you can register to read it for free. (You get two free articles per month.)


Since I'm giving them a referral, I don't feel terribly guilty about raiding this piece fairly extensively. It begins:

Critics of U.S. policy aiming to reduce spending on prescription drugs claim that the government is wrongfully interfering with a “free” market. A recent comment from Merck about the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) exemplifies industry complaints: “Congress has long been committed to a free-market approach based on market-driven prices. … Last summer, however, Congress charted a radical new course.”1 But the modern U.S. pharmaceutical market is not what Adam Smith would have considered "free."


They use quotations marks where I prefer to use the trademark symbol (Free Market™) but same idea. Actually there's no such thing as a Free Market™ for anything but we'll concentrate on pharmaceuticals for now. Here is their summary:



So here's today's challenge. Yes, there are products for which government intervention in the market is not as extensive, or at least not as obvious. But do they meet the three criteria proposed by these authors? (And by the way there are other criteria for the Free Market™ that they don't even mention, that also do not pertain to reality here or anywhere else, but I'll keep it simple.) Why or why not? And, given that some of the deviations from the Free Market™ fantasy in this particular case pertain to government regulation, should the government be less involved in some ways in the market for pharmaceuticals? If so, would the drug companies actually like it? It seems to me they're actually very happy about some of what we see in rows 2 and 3. Should it be more involved in some ways? Try to think very clearly and specifically about the reasons for government regulation of the pharmaceutical market. I'll give you a hint:  a lot of it has to do with the problems in the top row.