Reasons to chill and reasons not to chill
Okay, I'm not an epidemiologist or a virologist. But I do know something about those subjects, I'm a public health professor, and I am an expert in clinical communication and risk communication. So I'm going to offer some observations that I hope will help people keep this public health scare in proper perspective and maybe be of practical use.There are two important parameters we need to understand the risk caused by any communicable disease. I'm going to broadly say transmissibility, and the probability that exposure will lead to serious disease.We often see transmissibility represented as a single number, called R0 or &...
Source: Stayin' Alive - February 26, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Doctor Doom prognosticates again
Nouriel Rubini is the economist nicknamed " Dr. Doom " because he correctly predicted the 2007-2008 financial crisis and the resulting Great Recession.Now he's at it again. This time, however, it's not just one thing. He's seeing geopolitical stresses, notably the quadruple confrontations of the U.S. with China, Russia, Iran and North Korea. He's seeing the coronavirus. He's seeing natural disasters associated with climate change. I don't know what he's on about with the abnormal seismic activity and undersea volcanoes, but he's got enough to legitimately worry about.The situation regarding coronavirus is becomin...
Source: Stayin' Alive - February 23, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Sunday Sermonette: Okay, but why?
I warned y'all that Leviticus is generally quite boring. We're now about to do chapter 5 and it's still specifying the rules for sacrifice. (We do get a first mention of " uncleanness, " which will be a big subject soon.) So I got to wondering; why do they have this idea that God wants them to burn parts of animals? I did a little research -- okay, I read the Wikipedia article.It turns out that animal sacrifice was very widespread in ancient Europe and the Near East -- basically the Mediterranean region cultures that are the focus of the history most of us are taught. The idea was apparently tempting enough to pe...
Source: Stayin' Alive - February 23, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Punditry
I usually refrain from commenting on politics as opposed to policy. The corporate media provides plenty of horserace coverage, and as far as the current Democratic nominating contest is concerned I'll be happy enough with four or five possible outcomes and what really matters is November. I've got better axes to grind. Howsomever --I do agree with our frenemy Peckerwood that were the Dems to nominate Michael Bloomberg it would constitute a betrayal of much of what the party purports to stand for. It does not surprise that by spending several bazillion dollars on advertising he can get a bump in the polls from people who do...
Source: Stayin' Alive - February 21, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Freedumb
So, Connecticut wanted to join several other states in ending the religious exemption to childhood vaccination requirements, andthousands of people showed up to protest the bill at a hearing that lasted 24 hours.Okay, I suppose you want to know how I feel about this.First let me get a couple of points out of the way that are specific to this issue but not really to the principles involved. The only, for want of a better word major religion I can think of that would actually forbid vaccination is Christian Science. That doesn't really matter, however, because people can make up whatever religious beliefs they want and even ...
Source: Stayin' Alive - February 20, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

A story we should not forget
To be honest, the U.S. government has done a lot of bad, weird stuff over the decades.This is one of the worst, in several respects. MK-ULTRA was a top-secret program in which the CIA gave LSD without consenting to unsuspecting people. The purpose was to see if it could be used for mind control, to extract confessions, or to mess up foreign leaders. Among  many fun activities, the CIA actually set up its own brothels, gave the customers LSD, and watched them with the sex workers behind one-way mirrors. (Yes, this is true.) They also gave LSD to one of their own agents, without his knowledge, and he either killed himse...
Source: Stayin' Alive - February 18, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Sunday Sermonette: Drowning in blood
Leviticus 4 continues with the instructions for animal sacrifice. In this case the cause for the sacrifice is reasonably well specified, although it seems a bit odd. It's how people are to expiate sins they didn't realize they were committing. The text is silent as to how this might come about, or how the transgression might be recognized. Oddly, however, as we shall see the next chapter does specify some possibilities, but applies a slightly different penalty, at least for common people. As always, the strong inference is that this is a compilation of various source materials, that aren't always entirely consistent.4 ...
Source: Stayin' Alive - February 16, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

State of Emergency
I'm not talking about the coronavirus. (For the record, and I may have more to say about this later, right now I think that situation is being seriously overblown. Hope I'm right.)I'm talking about the death of democracy and the rule of law.Walter Shaub led the Office of Government ethnics before resigning in July 2017, specifically over the Resident's failure to divest from his various businesses. We now just accept that the federal government spends millions of dollars literally every month at properties he owns to rent hotel rooms and buy meals and even golf carts for the Secret Service to follow him around; as do forei...
Source: Stayin' Alive - February 15, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Darwin Day
I must interrupt these grand musings to acknowledge the birthday of Charles Darwin (which also happens to be the birth date of Abraham Lincoln). There are various Darwin Day celebrations going on but rather than focus on the individual I'd like us to think about the intellectual revolution he kick-started and what it has meant both culturally and scientifically.If you are interested in a well-organized set of informational and educational resources you can find one here.Copernicus and Galileo removed the earth from the center of the universe. While that was very upsetting to the Pope and Bishops, and got Giordano Bruno bur...
Source: Stayin' Alive - February 12, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

The Fate of Humanity Part 3: How many of us will there be?
Jared Diamond wrote this famous essay in 1987, although the link is to a 1999 reprint. He calls the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture " The worst mistake in the history of the human race. " He seems to have a point. Hunter-gatherers were healthier, taller, lived longer and had more leisure time than farmers. In fact life expectancy at birth pretty much throughout the planet fluctuated in a narrow range of around 40-45 years from the dawn of agricultural civilization some 12,000 years ago (and more recently elsewhere of course) until the late 19th Century. And in all that time, the majority of p...
Source: Stayin' Alive - February 10, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Sunday Sermonette: What not to eat
Leviticus has all of these elaborate (and highly repetitive) instructions delivered to Moses by God while the people are camped out in the desert subsisting on magic cookies that appear overnight. Just sayin'. In reality, of course, these rituals and rules must have developed over time and then were codified in this form. The puzzle is the rationale for all of this. None is offered in the text, it all seems arbitrary. We can see the priests making a substantial profit from the deal, which certainly can explain some of it, but much else is mysterious.Regarding ch. 3, the Revised New Standard Version calls this instructions ...
Source: Stayin' Alive - February 9, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

The fate of humanity: Part 2
Okay, we've run out of arable land and we've probably wrung most of what we're going to get out of the Green Revolution and increased crop yields. As a comment on the last post notes, meanwhile, we're running out of fresh water. Assuming predicted population growth, hotter temperatures, and increased agricultural and industrial demand, here's what's going to happen to fresh water demand in the coming decades:Is there that much fresh water available? What do you think?All those red areas are going to be running out. As you can see, that includes much of the agricultural land of the US., Europe and the Near and Middle East.&...
Source: Stayin' Alive - February 7, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

The fate of humanity
As a friend of the blog asks, will there really be 10 billion humans alive in 2050? Well, maybe not.First of all, can we feed that many people? Right now 50% of the habitable surface area of the earth is dedicated to agriculture.There is no way we can afford to cut down any more forest, which will just accelerate climate change -- but we're doing it anyway. Nevertheless, there's hardly any room left.Actually, we would have run out of food a long time ago, except for a development called the Green Revolution, which greatly increased crop yields using technology. Unfortunately a big part of that technology is based on f...
Source: Stayin' Alive - February 6, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

The real cost, and longer term implications, of the Wuhan coronavirus
It's too soon to know for sure how the tale of the novel coronavirus will play out,but at this point we have a pretty good idea. A stipulation in both of the scenarios at the linked essay is that yeah, it gets loose into the wild and eventually can show up anywhere in the world. I think that's pretty much definitely going to happen if it hasn't already.Scenario number 1, and most likely, in my view, it will just be one more virus that causes what amounts to a common cold and in a few people who are otherwise debilitated goes on to be complicated by pneumonia. In that case, for a year or two it will circulate as a novel vir...
Source: Stayin' Alive - February 5, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Blog Policy
I'm afraid I must reiterate that anonymous comments will not be published. I don't care if you have the wisdom of Socrates and the eloquence of Shakespeare. That's the policy. Pick a handle and stick to it. (Source: Stayin' Alive)
Source: Stayin' Alive - February 3, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Sunday Sermonette: Burned crackers
I warned you that Leviticus is not exactly your hot beach read. What is going on here, with all of these elaborate instructions for preparing offerings? Well, obviously, we're feeding the priests. God loves to smell burned food, but most of the food doesn't get burned, it gets eaten -- just not by the farmers who produced it. The main point of Leviticus is to establish and justify the parasitism of the priestly caste.BTW Leviticus 2 in KJV is very confusing because it uses the term " meat " for these offerings, which evidently consist of grain. I presume that the Revised Standard Version, which we have here, is m...
Source: Stayin' Alive - February 2, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

One more reason why libertarianism is nuts
As I have said, it's not clear yet how serious the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak really is, because we don't yet know what percentage of the time it causes serious illness. Maybe the Chinese have overreacted by their draconian isolation measures, on the other hand as I have said I wouldn't want to be the guy who made the decision to react too conservatively. That said, if we do get a serious epidemic here, of that particular virus or anything else, we are screwed, lassoed and tattooed.Here's Laurie Garrett in Foreign Policy:It ’s impossible to watch [the Chinese] without wondering, “What would we do? How would my ...
Source: Stayin' Alive - February 1, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Hagiography
Proposed headline: " Rapist who played a children's game for a living dies flying af.ing helicopter to his daughter's basketball game. "Think about this. Routinely getting around town in a helicopter is absurdly self-indulgent and environmentally irresponsible,as the LA Times kind of hints at but doesn't exactly want to say, because you know, a WaPo reporter got suspended for linking to a perfectly legitimate news article about the time Kobe Bryant raped a 19 year old hotel clerk. The helicopter Bryant was riding in costs about $5,000 an hour, so let's say he spends 2 hours at the basketball game, we're talking $...
Source: Stayin' Alive - January 30, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

The hard problems
I've said before that in the view of many, there are three profound questions that pose a fundamental challenge to scientific inference. I think that only two of them really count however.The first I discussed last time. We've been able to deduce approximately when the universe came into existence and how it has evolved since. But it is not apparent what path of scientific inquiry could explain why that happened when it did (if " when " even means anything before there was time), and why it has the observed laws and physical parameters, To put the problem in an epistemological nutshell, the answer to these questi...
Source: Stayin' Alive - January 29, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Cosmology
For most of our maybe 250,000 years as a species, people were aware only of their local environment. Eventually, as trade networks grew, they started to gain a dim awareness of distant lands, and by the time of classical Greece they knew that the earth is roughly spherical, although they were largely unaware of what lay beyond the Middle East and the steppes of Asia. (Alexander of course expanded their knowledge and drew the central Asian empires into the orbit of Greece.)But it was not until Galileo's time, in the late Middle Ages, that some people began to believe that the earth was not at the center of the universe. Nev...
Source: Stayin' Alive - January 27, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Sunday Sermonette: Air Pollution Warning
The Skeptics Annotated Bible introduction to Leviticus begins, " I wouldn't read Leviticus if I were you. No one else does. " That's probably good advice, but we're committed to this project so off we go. One of the key reasons I'm doing this is to prove that people who claim that the Bible is the literal, inerrant word of God a) must have a very low opinion of God and b) don't pay any attention to 99% of what he says.Leviticus begins with detailed, specific instructions for dismembering and burning animals. And that is a good percentage of the entire book, actually, along with several other categories of bizarre...
Source: Stayin' Alive - January 26, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Wuhan Ban
By now you probably know thatthe Chinese authorities have taken drastic measures to isolate Wuhan and other cities, shutting down all transportation services from the city. They have also started building hospitals to quarantine infected people.The U.S. is evacuating its diplomats from Wuhan, and offering to evacuate other Americans who want to leave China. No doubt similar measures will be taken elsewhere in China and in other countries where the virus appears. The economic cost of these measures will be at least many tens of billions of dollars, probably in the hundreds of billions. And of course isolation and quarantine...
Source: Stayin' Alive - January 25, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

White collar crime
John Kapoor, CEO of Insys Therapeutics, was sentenced yesterday to 5 1/2 years in prison. That's a pretty stiff sentence, right?Well let's see now. What did he do exactly?His company sold fentanyl under the brand name Subsys. As you probably know, fentanyl is an extremely powerful synthetic opioid that is responsible for a high percentage of the overdose deaths in the current epidemic of opioid addiction. As a prescription drug, it was approved by the FDA only for so-called breakthrough pain in cancer patients. But Insys literally bribed doctors to prescribe it inappropriately, resulting in8,000 known deathsand countless m...
Source: Stayin' Alive - January 24, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Oh no! Are we all going to die?
Yes. However, very probably not because of the novel coronavirus that has appeared in China. This seems to be front page headlines in every media outlet on the planet, and  the World Health Organization has convened a meeting to decide whether to declare an official Global Health Emergency.This sort of flapdoodle happens every time a novel pathogen appears. Back when I lived in the Hub of the Universe a mosquito-borne disease called West Nile virus appeared (having formerly been large confined to, yes, west of the Nile). For weeks, every time a new case was identified it would be on the front page of the Boston Globe....
Source: Stayin' Alive - January 22, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Stepping back and looking at the big picture
I'm going to step away from current events for a bit -- okay, I might intersperse a post on something exigent -- and contemplate the nature of the historic epoch in which we find ourselves. I'll begin with the most basic history of Homo sapiens. Paleontologists use the abbreviation Kya for " thousand years ago. " So, our species emerged in southern Africa maybe 200 Kya or slightly more. We can't be sure because we might not have found fossils of the oldest of our kind and we also can't be sure if the earliest anatomically modern humans were also behaviorally modern, the most important question obviously being lan...
Source: Stayin' Alive - January 21, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Checking up on the economy
I am continually amused by the claims of Trumpistas that the U.S. is experiencing an economic resurgence and utopia, for which of course the vulgarian in chief deserves all the credit. Joseph Stiglitz, who unlike them and me has won a Nobel Memorial Prize in economics (it's not a real Nobel prize, economists added it later because they wanted one too)knows otherwise.This is a fairly dense essay which it's difficult to summarize without quoting, but I'll try. Meanwhile one pull quote:Two years ago, a few rare corporate leaders were concerned about climate change, or upset at Trump ’s misogyny and bigotry. Most, howeve...
Source: Stayin' Alive - January 19, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Sunday Sermonette: Exiting Exodus
We've finally come to the end of the incredibly long, detailed, multiply repetitious tale of the tabernacle. This obviously seemed very important to the people who wrote it down (and wrote it down, and wrote it down . . . .) but it is not at all obvious why. In the final chapter it gets switched on, as it were. While this is said to happen on the first day of the first month, we don't know immediately when that actually is. The Jewish calendar has multiple " first months " for different purposes. Nisan is the first month of the ecclesiastical calendar, from which the dates of festivals are counted. Passover is on...
Source: Stayin' Alive - January 19, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Denial is not only a river in Egypt . . .
it's a river in the U.S. as well. I've mentioned this before but it seems like a good time to pay it a visit, since the world in general has its collective head up its ass in many ways. (Vix.Australia.)Over geological time, the Mississippi River has continually changed its course. This has been known for a long time.Here's a map made in 1944 that shows some of the geological history that was already known back then. This happens because it flows across the flat midsection of the country and it meanders. On the outside of a meander the water moves faster and cuts into the bank. On the inside, it flows slowly and deposits se...
Source: Stayin' Alive - January 15, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

It can be done
Dylan Scott tells the tale of Taiwan's successful implementation of single payer national health care. If you read the whole article you'll find a strange ambivalence. He seems to feel compelled to practice both-sideism and find a downside, but he fails to put it in context.The purported downside is that health care costs keep rising so they have to choose between raising more revenues and restricting services. But that has nothing to do with the single payer system. That's true everywhere, no matter what kind of payment system, including in the U.S. In the UK, the Conservative governments have failed to provide enough rev...
Source: Stayin' Alive - January 14, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Sunday Sermonette: Bez does it all
Yep, he's not just a carpenter and a goldsmith and a perfumer, he's a tailor and a jeweler . . .Thank God [sic] Exodus is almost over. There's one more chapter after this, then we get into Leviticus, which is maybe slightly more interesting than all of these specifications. However, the narrative doesn't start up again until Numbers. We're going to spend the next few months mired in the intricacies of various categories of rules, including believe it or not a Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Skin Diseases. The interesting thing about these last few chapters of Exodus is that nobody pays any attention to them any more. ...
Source: Stayin' Alive - January 12, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

The Growing Importance of Medical Intervention
For most of the years while I was coming up in the world of public health and social policy, it was accepted truth that medical intervention made only a small contribution to population health. Quantifying " population health " as a single entity is obviously highly problematic. There are many components that people will value differently. There is mean life expectancy at birth, which is a common measure that is not terribly difficult to calculate; although as I have explained here before and won't bother to do again right now it's a fictitious construct that does not predict how long you actually have to live. R...
Source: Stayin' Alive - January 9, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Regrettable News
Sadly, I events have motivated me to re-launch the blog formerly known as Today in Iraq, Iraq today, Today in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Today in Afghanistan. I have also retitled it,Today in the Endless War. I will make appropriate changes to the sidebars in due course. I am profoundly sorry, and angry, that this occasion has arisen. (Source: Stayin' Alive)
Source: Stayin' Alive - January 5, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Sunday Sermonette: A whole lotta loot
Exodus 38 continues the repetitive, mind numbing description of the tabernacle. The interesting part is at the end, however. According to Skeptics Annotated Bible, the amount of metal used for the tabernacle works out to a metric ton of gold (i.e. 1,000 kg), 3.5 metric tons of silver, and 2.45 metric tons of bronze. According to my calculations, the gold alone would be worth more than 54 million dollars today. This is particularly strange because, as you may recall, all of their gold has already been melted down to make the golden calf and then destroyed.Also rather strange is that there are 603,555 men in the group, and t...
Source: Stayin' Alive - January 5, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Bullet List
Too much going on for one post today.1. Sock puppet?We have a reader who is obsessed with his false conclusion that the commenter Don Quixote is actually my sock puppet. I ask you please to stop wasting your time and mine with this delusion. We do know each other, but we have seen each other once in the past 15 years or so. I live in Connecticut and he lives in the midwest, more than 1,000 miles away. Whatever I have to say, I am more than happy to say in my own name, and I do. BTW I am not known as Michael.2. Mad KingYour Intertubes are all aflutter with speculation and discussion about the neurodegenerative disease many ...
Source: Stayin' Alive - January 3, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Personal Responsibility
A fundamental assumption of libertarianism, and of ordinary conservatism, is that people's lot in life is generally deserved. Poor people, substance abusers, offenders -- they didn't work hard enough, they are moral failures, they don't love Jesus, whatever, it's their own fault. People who are economically and socially successful earned what they have. Social problems are individual problems -- if we try to help the unfortunate, we just enable their failings.Back in the 1990s (while Bill Clinton was president) the CDC cosponsored a study withKaiser-Permanente on what are called Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE). Sure, w...
Source: Stayin' Alive - January 2, 2020 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Truth vs. the conservative movement
It isn't news, but the New York Times hasdone a retrospective summarizing the current Administration's war on science. Because of the paywall, you might want to go to thisDaily Kos diary that summarizes it, with some supplementary links.The story is that the administration has been systematically destroying the federal government's scientific resources, and purging scientific expertise and even generally known facts from the decision making process. To quote the Times story:In just three years, the Trump administration has diminished the role of science in federal policymaking while halting or disrupting research projects ...
Source: Stayin' Alive - December 30, 2019 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Sunday Sermonette: Deja vu all over again
I must warn you: the four remaining chapters of  Exodus, and all of Leviticus, are tedious beyond description. They have almost no relevance to Christians, and limited relevance to contemporary Jews. Even orthodox Jews take only a few principles from this, such as not eating pork or shellfish. The narrative stops and instead we are given long, very specific lists of rules. There isn't any evident underlying or organizing ethical philosophy behind this.Some of the rules have to do with how God wants to be worshiped. This has been a particular emphasis in Exodus and it's largely the focus on which the book concludes. Le...
Source: Stayin' Alive - December 29, 2019 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

On " On Bullshit "
" On Bullshit " is a well-known essay by philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt. Princeton University Press for some reason published it as a tiny book, but you can enter the title into your favorite Internet search engine and find a free PDF. It's only about 20 pages if you care to read.But you don't have to. Frankfurt's basic concept is that the difference between lying and bullshit begins with recognizing that a liar knowingly utters (in speech or writing) falsehood. Being aware of the difference between truth and fiction and concerned that the audience may detect deception, the liar must use artifice to align his or ...
Source: Stayin' Alive - December 28, 2019 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

A digression
But one I probably ought to take. The Clinton impeachment is irrelevant to the present situation, which concerns a completely different factual basis. It is even less relevant to the question of the current Resident's mental and moral condition and his fitness for office, which is what my previous post is about. In other words, it's an attempt to change the subject, a typical troll tactic.So I'll take the subject change right here. Regarding the exact nature of Mr. Clinton's misconduct, I believe that Paula Jones initiated the activity. I don't think Clinton demanded it of her and I don't think he promised her anything in ...
Source: Stayin' Alive - December 26, 2019 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

A mystery
We seldom examine the assumption that achieving wealth and power requires some degree of cunning and awareness. Sure, you can be evil, and you don't necessarily need to be good at math, and you can subscribe to various false beliefs, but you need to be able to match intentions to results, communicate coherently, and competently execute plans, right?Well, no.There's the president's personal lawyer, who also owns a " consulting " firm that rakes in millions of dollars for, err, doing something. I've linked to a summary butyou can read the full report of the interview here. The guy is certifiably wacko and totally i...
Source: Stayin' Alive - December 24, 2019 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Sunday Sermonette: Crass materialism
As I have warned you, the remainder of Exodus is an unbearably tedious, repetitive and evidently pointless description of the tabernacle and its associated paraphernalia. You may ask:a) Why do the compilers of this text subject us to this? What is its theological importance, and why the multiple repetitions of seemingly meaningless details?b) How is it that a bunch of runaway slaves, who are camping out in the desert and subsisting on fungus, have such mass quantities of luxury goods?Thank you for asking! First, I remind you ofChristopher Beha's review of John Barton's History of the Bible. Beha writes:Clearly the Torah's ...
Source: Stayin' Alive - December 22, 2019 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

The Long Emergency: Roast Koala
Australia is now experiencing the hottest weather ever recorded there. For those of you who don't grok Celsius, the average temperature across the entire continent was about 105 degrees Fahrenheit. And it's predicted to get even hotter. Temperatures on Wednesday in some places reached 119 degrees. (It's Wednesday here as I write but still the wee hours of Thursday there.) As you may already know, this baking heat is accompanied by a lengthy drought and raging wildfires. Sydney is enveloped in smoke while some 70 fires are burning in Queensland forcing evacuations.The worst fire season has been in New South Wales where...
Source: Stayin' Alive - December 18, 2019 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

The very strange world of today
Via Brad DeLong,an analysis of archaeological data that shows a sharp rise in living standards (PDF) in the Roman Empire around Year 1, followed by the well known decline and fall and the long languishment of the Dark Ages. Author Willem Jongman offers no particular explanation for the rise,  and he rather lamely blames the fall on the Antonine plague and climate change. In any case, I draw attention to this because it is the only strong precedent for the astonishing developments of the past two and a half centuries.While many people do still live at a bare subsistence level, that was the norm for the vast majority of...
Source: Stayin' Alive - December 17, 2019 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Sunday Sermonette: My eyes glaze over
Exodus 35 is proof that the scribes just threw together whatever material they had, including multiple versions of the same story. Here Moses starts to tell the people what's on the new and largely different set of Ten Commandments, but he only gets through one. He then repeats the gift list we were already subjected to in Exodus 25. Oh yeah -- it's coming again in 39. God's utter self-absorption, narcissism and psychopathy are still very much in evidence. Remind you of anybody?35 Moses assembled all the congregation of the Israelites and said to them: These are the things that theLord has commanded you to do:2 S...
Source: Stayin' Alive - December 15, 2019 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

This didn't even make the front page . . .
" President " pays $2 million to charities in settlement with NY AG for misuse of charitable foundation. Do you remember when the NYT had articles every day about the Clinton Foundation, that started with ominous sounding allegations and you finally found out in paragraph 15 that they weren't true? That and best e-mail management practices were the most important issues facing the country during the 2016 campaign. Let us suppose not just any other president, but any politician, at any level, did this:As part of the settlement, Mr. Trump,who at first dismissed the suit as a political attack, made 19 detailed admis...
Source: Stayin' Alive - December 12, 2019 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

War, what is it good for?
Some of my 2 1/2 long-time followers know that I maintained the Today in Iraq and Afghanistan blog for many years. I've set it aside for a while, out of a general feeling of despair. But now I do want to say something about theWaPos's publication of the report of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. SIGAR reports frequently featured in Today in Iraq and Afghanistan.IG Sopko has been speaking truth to power for many years, mostly exposing the utter failure of development projects. But now he has done a comprehensive assessment of the goals and accomplishments of the United States'longest war. The an...
Source: Stayin' Alive - December 10, 2019 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Sunday Sermonette: Which Ten Commandments?
What happens in Exodus 34 is very strange indeed. You may remember that Moses broke the tablets with the Ten Commandments because he was pissed off about the golden calf and all that. So God calls him back up the mountain to get a new set. Only -- they're completely different.34 TheLord said to Moses, “Cut two tablets of stone like the former ones, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets, which you broke.2 Be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai and present yourself there to me, on the top of the mountain.3 No one shall come up with you, and ...
Source: Stayin' Alive - December 8, 2019 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Oh SNAP
You've probably heard that the Residential Administration ischanging the eligibility rules for he Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program which will result in loss of benefits for an estimated 700,000 people. In a nutshell, the rule will make it more difficult for states to waive the work requirement, which is that " nondisabled " adults have to work at least 20 hours a week to be eligible. The ostensible rationale is that a lot of people who could be working are lazing around and that if they lose their SNAP benefits they'll get off the couch and get a job.This is actually bullshit. The people we are talking a...
Source: Stayin' Alive - December 5, 2019 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Sunday Sermonette: The Divine Mooning
 Exodus is, as we have seen, tedious and turgid. It's full of repetition, and also slightly different versions of similar constructs. Clearly it's an amalgamation of various source materials. But it is clear that the concept of God is still very limited compared with the modern version. He is not ubiquitous: he has a finite, physical body, in the shape of a human, and he exists in a specific location. He is definitely not universal; his only relationship is with the Hebrews. (The apparent flirtation with the Midianites was more or less forced because they adopted Moses and gave him a wife.) And he continues to make pr...
Source: Stayin' Alive - December 1, 2019 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Science and The People
I actually find it pretty easy to understand why many people reject science that conflicts with their religious beliefs. One obvious reason is that membership in most religious communities requires accepting, or at least pretending to accept, certain factual propositions. Community membership is valuable to people, emotionally and in many situations for practical and material reasons. It's hard, and for many people impossible, to walk away from kith and kin.But there is also a deeper reason. The universe discovered by physicists and the sub-discipline of cosmology is grant, wonderful and astonishing but also very cold and ...
Source: Stayin' Alive - November 30, 2019 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs