Sunday Sermonette: God the compassionate, the merciful
I'm afraid that Joshua 9 offers only a brief respite from genocidal slaughter. Joshua 10, one of the longest chapters we've read so far, and in case you thought it was impossible to scale greater heights of depravity, it manages the feat. In this single chapter, Joshua and the Israelites murder all of the inhabitants of 12 cities. God gets involved directly, helping to wipe out the Amorite alliance with a hailstorm, and making the sun stand still in the sky so Joshua can get his mass murder done in the daylight. Then we get an elaborate depiction of the humiliation and murder of the Amorite kings, followed by a relentless,...
Source: Stayin' Alive - April 18, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Where I've been . . .
I didn't post here for a couple of days because I've been reviewing proposals for a federal agency. I'm not allowed to say anything specific about it, but it did get me to thinking. First of all, as I've been saying here lately, federal support for basic science and innovative technology that has the character of public goods is essential to national welfare and for that matter the future of humanity.  Yeah yeah, technology got us into most of this mess but it's also the only way out. Starting in the 19th Century -- well a bit before maybe but it really got going then -- humanity experienced an explosion of knowl...
Source: Stayin' Alive - April 17, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Basic info on the J & J vaccine kerfuffle
I've seen a lot of chatter to the effect that the FDA/CDC advise to pause administration of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is ignorant, counterproductive, foolish and contrary to the public interest. The same reaction followed when many countries in the EU halted administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine, accusing the authorities of succumbing to thepost hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy. Well no. There is a legitimate debate about whether this was an overreaction, I suppose, but it isn't simple.Here's a good summary of the issues. It isn't as simple as saying there have been six cases of the adverse effect --cerebral venous ...
Source: Stayin' Alive - April 14, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Wednesday Bible Study: One weird trick
Joshua 9 is a very strange story. Of course Biblical apologists find deep meaning in it, although I would say that whatever moral lesson you might try to draw is easily demolished, especially in the context. The Gibeonites trick the Israelites into a treaty which precludes the Israelites from massacring them as they are everyone else in the area. When the Israelites discover the deception, they nevertheless still consider themselves bound by the treaty, but only part way. They won't murder the Gibeonites, they'll just enslave them. So why is this here? I haven't been able to find that there's any historical record of ...
Source: Stayin' Alive - April 14, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Shorter Philip E. Agre . . .
 By David Roberts. Read the whole thread, but here are the highlights.All the people who think there was some noble, credible US conservatism that has " fallen, " or been " taken over " by Trumpism, tell me: why was it so weak? Why did it offer so little resistance? Why did it devolve so *easily* into reactionary madness? Doesn't it make you wonder? Pizza's cooking, so: my theory of conservatism. Basically, in any society, there's a group/class/demographic that has power& privileges, sometimes economic, sometimes relating to race or caste. And every such group has a story about why their p...
Source: Stayin' Alive - April 13, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Like I've been telling you . . .
 Open letter from prominent economists to federal leadership:The share of our Gross Domestic Product invested in federally funded research and development has fallen from around 2 percent in 1960 to just 0.6 percent today; this means less knowledge-creation, fewer good jobs, and a harder time boosting employment in new sectors. Research —and common sense—tell us that this disinvestment is damaging for U.S. communities and our economy as older infrastructure depreciates, and economic and social challenges go unaddressed.This government disinvestment has also placed the United States at an extreme competitiv...
Source: Stayin' Alive - April 12, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

State of Denial
It's just human nature, I suppose, but we have to face and defeat our instinct to turn away and pretend that predictable catastrophe isn't actually happening. Al Gore titled his documentary An Inconvenient Truth, recognizing that people won't see what they don't want to see, but 15 years later, nothing has really changed. So here's the deal. Much of the southwest U.S is already in extreme drought, and it's going to get much worse. The cold truth is that there will not be enough water to sustain the population and industry of a vast stretch of the country. To quote the CNN story, " While there will be wet years, t...
Source: Stayin' Alive - April 12, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Sunday Sermonette: More family values
I'm afraid the Book of Joshua is going to be very tedious. It's one genocide after another. You will find many religious apologists claim that religion is necessary for morality, that without religious faith there can be no way to tell right from wrong. Isn't it odd that I, who have no religious faith, can determine that the entire Book of Joshua is monstrously wrong, and that living according to Biblical morality would make you the precise moral equivalent of Adolf Hitler? Regarding the ending of the first part of the chapter, what did the king of Ai ever do to the Israelites? 8 Then theLord said to Joshua, &ldq...
Source: Stayin' Alive - April 11, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Hoarding: Buried Alive
The U.S. and some other wealthy countries are making progress toward vaccinating enough people to achieve herd immunity. Whether we will actually get there depends on whether disinformation promulgated mostly by conservative propagandists stops people from doing what's right for themselves, their families, their community, and their country --which for example 40% of Marines have refused to do. But even if we can overcome this insanity, we have an even bigger problem.So far 87% of vaccine doses have gone to high or upper middle income countries, and only 0.2% to people in low income countries. That's because the rich count...
Source: Stayin' Alive - April 10, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

A word or two more about Gaetzgate
It was pretty funny when Mitch McConnell said that corporate CEOs should stay out of politics, since as everybody who doesn't need a glass navel to see already knows, McConnell has been the political poodle of corporate CEOs for his entire career. Because the basic mission of the Republican party is to transfer wealth from working people to plutocrats, hardly anybody would vote for them if they campaigned on their actual platform. Hence we get Dr. Seuss, Mr. Potatohead, and Family Values ™. It isn't just the occasional sinner, however, who exposes the basic hypocrisy of the conservative " movement " . ...
Source: Stayin' Alive - April 8, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Wednesday Bible Study: A major f.up
Remember that the Book of Joshua is a fictitious work created with a purpose: to assert the claim of the kings of Judah, both to territory and to wealth. It seems a dubious claim from our point of view because it is based on theft and genocide, but in this case it is theft and genocide endorsed by God, so that is presumably the source of legitimacy. Chapter 7 is not about territory, but about property, specifically the priestly treasury. And once again, it also enforces the absolute requirement of obedience.7 But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things[a]; Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri,[b...
Source: Stayin' Alive - April 7, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

The Days of Miracles and Wonder
Here's a good overview by Derek Thompson in The Atlantic ofthe history of mRNA technology. This heretofore obscure field of biomedical research burst into view with the Covid-19 vaccines, but the apparent suddenness of vaccine development was misleading. As I have noted here before, the technology was decades in development. As the technology became more mature, Pfizer partnered with one of the speculative ventures, BionTech, originally to develop flu vaccines, and then of course pivoted to Covid-19. Unlike Moderna, Pfizer actually didn't take federal funding for that final stage of development. But for most of the decades...
Source: Stayin' Alive - April 6, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Sunday Sermonette: Not very spiritual
Joshua 6 is one of the better known chapters in the Bible, probably because it is the subject of a famous and much-recorded African American slave song, usually titled " Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, "  fit, of course, being dialect for fought. It is interesting that the subject matter of most slave songs with Biblical content, conventionally called spirituals, is Old Testament. That suggests that the slaveholders'religious instruction of their slaves focused heavily on OT stories, or perhaps that the  slaves found the OT more inspirational. The symbolic meaning of the song to its creators and the p...
Source: Stayin' Alive - April 4, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Crime and Punishment Part Two
I noted a couple of days ago that the jails are full of people with mental illness or substance use disorders, that incarceration does not do anything to help these people, and that we would have less crime if we were to decriminalize possession or sale of small amounts of controlled substances, and divert people who commit non-violent drug-related crimes to treatment and supportive services instead of prosecution. Well, maybe I didn't spell all that out quite as explicitly as I could have, but that's what I'm arguing for.However, that obviously does not account for everybody who is incarcerated. I need to explain somethin...
Source: Stayin' Alive - April 3, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

The Party of Family Values
The increasingly tawdry and grotesque story of Trump Mini-Me Matt Gaetz --here's an update -- is just the latest in an unending, continual, predictable, depressing, ugly and yet darkly comical procession of Bible thumpers and political champions of " traditional " sexual morality who are publicly exposed as total hypocrites.  I can't say whether Republican politicians are more likely than Democrats to be the subject of sex scandals in general, if you include sexual harassment -- Andrew Cuomo needs to resign, BTW -- but some kinds of scandals are only possible for so-called social conservatives. It isn't...
Source: Stayin' Alive - April 2, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Further follow up on crime and punishment
Comes now the question: what can be done about racial disparities in law enforcement. As I have said, there are multiple decision points and decision makers: police, prosecutors, judges and juries. However, since something like 80% of cases are plea bargained (probably effectively more if you count dismissals and diversion) judges and juries come in for only a minority of cases. Plea bargaining seems to be where most of the action is.So maybe the answer is to eliminate plea bargaining and have every case go to trial. Seems easy, right? Well, before we get to plausibility, would that eliminate disparities? Judges will still...
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 31, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Wednesday Bible Study: Ouch!
I think I speak for nearly all members of my sex in saying that Joshua 5 is my least favorite chapter of the Bible. Why the baby boys were not circumcised while the people were wandering in the wilderness is not explained, but it is what it is. 5 Now when all the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how theLord had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites until they[a] had crossed over, their hearts melted in fear and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites.2 At that time theLord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelite...
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 31, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Crime and Punishment
Update: Learn how to read:Idid not say that only poor people plea bargain, or anything remotely like that. I said that only people who can afford good lawyers have a decent chance of getting their case dismissed. As I said correctly, the vast majority of cases are plea bargained. And as I also said, explicitly, clearly, and truthfully, it would be impossible for every case to go to trial because the courts can't handle the workload they have now.I do not publish idiotic comments. Please stop wasting my time with stupid crap.  It is possible for a law to be explicitly racist, and of course throughout much of U.S. ...
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 30, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Sunday Sermonette: How's that again?
We have a lot of fun pointing out the innumerable contradictions in the Bible, but Joshua 4 is extra special in containing a blatant contradiction within a single chapter. This author really needs an editor! Other than that, the only apparent purpose of this chapter is to harp on the miracle of stopping the flow of the Jordan, to demonstrate God's power.4 When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, theLord said to Joshua,2 “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe,3 and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are sta...
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 28, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Some specific thoughts on gun safety
Thanks for the comments on the previous post.  That most of the media and political attention goes to the occasional mass shootings, while the daily toll of smaller scale incidents that account for the vast majority of firearm injuries and deaths is mostly ignored should not be surprising. It's front page news, sometimes for days, when an airliner goes down and a hundred people or more die, but the daily toll of motor vehicle deaths and injuries, which is a couple of orders of magnitude greater over time, is scarcely news at all. This is in part because of the sheer scale of the mass  catastrophe events, and...
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 26, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Discussing good public policy
A very common problem in policy debates is conflation of what would be wise policy with what the courts think is permissible under the constitution. After all, the Constitution has been amended many times because 2/3 of both houses of congress and 3/4 of state legislatures thought it was a good idea. Sometimes this happened because the plain language of the constitution was thought to be inadequate or inappropriate -- viz. 13 and 14 -- or because politicians didn't like the way the courts were interpreting it -- viz. 16. So it should be possible for us to have a discussion about what sensible public policy would be on gun ...
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 25, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Wednesday Bible Study: A recycled miracle
Since the scouts have already forded the Jordan, we know it's perfectly possible. However, apparently we an never get enough demonstrations of Yahweh's power so he parts the waters of the Jordan as he had parted the Red Sea. Of course nobody is chasing the people this time, it's just for show. A couple of additional comments at the appropriate place.3 Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over.2 After three days the officers went throughout the camp,3 giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the cov...
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 24, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

The truth about the National Rifle Association
Drawing here on Jill Lepore's " These Truths: A history of the United States, " know that gun safety legislation was widespread in the early 19th Century. Carrying concealed weapons was outlawed in Kentucky and Louisiana (yes) in 1813, and by numerous other states by 1859 including Texas, Indiana, Oklahoma, Alabama and Tennessee. In western cities and towns, sheriffs routinely confiscated the guns of visitors. This was completely normal and subject to no constitutional challenge whatever.The National Rifle Association likes to represent itself as America's oldest civil rights organization, but that is complete bu...
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 23, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Starting a new life
I'm getting the second shot of the Pfizer vaccine this morning. CDC says to wait two weeks until I assume I'm fully protected but I expect that's being over-conservative. Anyway, it will mean real freedom for me. However, the ending of mitigation measures all over the country is premature. Yes, most of the most vulnerable people -- not all of them -- are now protected against serious disease, but we have seen that many young people end up with long term suffering and disability, even after a very mild acute course. Now is not the time to pretend this is over. (Source: Stayin' Alive)
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 23, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Windham County
 I've started posting again on theWindham County blog. Check it out if you might be interested. (Source: Stayin' Alive)
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 22, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Scientificness
 By way ofPharyngula, there's this:   In case you don't know, Thomas R. Holtz is one of the world's foremost vertebrate paleontologists. And no, there's no such thing as the Dinosauria kingdom, dinosaurs are definitely animals, and birds are dinosaurs, just as humans are mammals. I draw your attention to this because it is an epidemic --people who think they know more about a subject than actual experts. They are following the example of their Dear Leader, which is why they can just decide that masks don't protect against transmission of Covid-19, that climate change is a hoax, or that taxes on pro...
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 22, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Sunday Sermonette: Scout's Honor
Joshua 2 is inherently puzzling. Why is this story here? What are we to take from it? And, like many of the stories in the Bible, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.Remember that in Numbers 13, Joshua was one of 12 scouts Moses dispatched to check out Canaan and assess it for conquerability. God wound up killing 10 of them for not telling Moses what he wanted to hear, but Joshua and Caleb said it was definitely gettable, so they were spared and in fact Joshua wound up getting the top job. So obviously these two guys know what news they're supposed to come back with. Note that they don't learn anything of tactical value, ...
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 21, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Frieden's complaint
 Former CDC Director Tom Frieden talked with an editor at BMJ. He did not mince words:In the US what we ’ve seen is a response [to the Covid-19 pandemic] that wasn’t organised, wasn’t based on science, and didn’t communicate openly, honestly, or forthrightly with the American public. So I’m enormously encouraged by the start of the Biden administration where it’s very clear there’s o rganisation, there’s a plan, there’s clear communication, and science will rule again. Q:It must have been painful to watch as political appointees to the CDC began making decisio...
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 19, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Wednesday Bible Study: Meet the new boss, same as the old boss
As I briefly mentioned previously, scholars believe that the core of the Book of Joshua was written at about the same time as Deuteronomy, perhaps based on some older sources, but probably didn't take its final form until much later. In any case, D was obviously aware of its basic contents.  The purported events of the book happened hundreds of years before it was written. Like everything that has gone before, Joshua is almost certainly entirely fictitious. The Israelites did not conquer Canaan from the east. They were indigenous to the area. There is no archaeological evidence of the conquest and sacking of the ...
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 17, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

I want to say one word to you, just one word:
Plastics. That was famous advice given to Dustin Hoffman's character in The Graduate, and if we were only concerned about Benjamin Braddock's financial future, it was actually excellent advice. But the recent discussion in the comments prompted me to hoist the issue to the front page. The problem of plastic waste is already catastrophic, and it's on track to get worse.  There are lots of good sources about this, including the Wikipedia article, but look out: there are industry front groups that are pretending to want to do something about it but they're largely fraudulent. As commenters have noted, recycling is a...
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 16, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Sunday Sermonette: The end
With the death of Moses, we now come to the end of Deuteronomy and the end of the Torah. The Book of Joshua, which follows, continues the same story with the prophesied conquest of Canaan from the west. Scholars believe that core portions of Joshua were written at about the same time as Deuteronomy, but it didn't take it's final form until much later. Like Deuteronomy, it depicts events that purportedly took place hundreds of years before it was written, and it is entirely fictitious. We'll say more about this next time when we introduce it. For now, this is short and semi-sweet.34 Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from t...
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 14, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Impossible
 I finally broke down and tried the impossible burger. They sell it at my local superduperhyperultramegamart, so I figured I didn't have an excuse not to. I haven't eaten beef for about 45 years, so I really didn't remember what it tastes like and I had some trepidation. Everybody says it's a convincing imitation, and I thought I might be grossed out.Well, no, I wasn't really grossed out, but on the other hand I didn't feel like I'd been missing anything. I actually think some of the veggie burgers you can get (or make yourself) that aren't pretending to be meat are better. And by the way they are also nutritionally s...
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 13, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

More on how to think
Theargument from authority is fallacious only under specific circumstances. The range of human knowledge is so vast, and knowledge in specific areas so deep, that none of us can have a substantial grasp of more than a fraction of our heritage of learning. I don't know much about opera, shipbuilding, barley cultivation, electrical engineering, parasitology, Sanskrit literature, or the mathematics of infinities. Obviously, the list of subjects I don't know much or anything about is orders of magnitude larger than the subjects about which I have some substantial grasp -- enough to read critically what others write -- and the ...
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 12, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Wednesday Bible study: One more thing
It so happensthere is an article in the NYT today about Deuteronomy. It's paywalled,  so you may not be able to read it. It's about a scholar with the unfortunate name of Dershowitz (no relation apparently) who thinks that a text found in 1883 and proclaimed to be an early version of part of Deuteronomy, and commonly believed to be a forger, was not a forgery after all. That's a complicated sentence. Anyway, if you're interested and you can read it, great. Meanwhile I thought I'd just excerpt this paragraph which briefly explains the common understanding of the nature of Deuteronomy, which is more or less as I describ...
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 10, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Wednesday Bible Study: The blessing of the tribes
As he prepares for death, Moses blesses each of the tribes in turn. However, the list of the tribes of Israel varies from place to place in the Bible. In this instance, there are only 11. Simeon, Ephraim, and Manasseh, each of which appear elsewhere, are omitted here. The usual number we think of is 12, but it's 13 in Numbers 1. Here's a handy dandy table from SAB:    33 This is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death.2 He said,“TheLord came from Sinai,    and dawned from Se ′ir upon us;[a]   &n...
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 10, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

The American Rescue Plan
 The contents are not actually a secret.You can read a good quick summary here, provided by NPR.You can read the whole thing here. There's a handy dandy outline so you can see a headline for each and every provision. For example, here are the provisions that came out of the Committee on Agriculture: In contrast to what we have been used to seeing, much of this benefits people who tend to vote for the other party. What a concept!   (Source: Stayin' Alive)
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 9, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Offered wthout comment
This report by theLancet Commission on Public Policy and Health in the Trump Era assesses the repercussions of President Donald Trump's health-related policies and examines the failures and social schisms that enabled his election. Trump exploited low and middle-income white people's anger over their deteriorating life prospects to mobilise racial animus and xenophobia and enlist their support for policies that benefit high-income people and corporations and threaten health. His signature legislative achievement, a trillion-dollar tax cut for corporations and high-income individuals, opened a budget hole that he use...
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 9, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

More on What is Conservatism
One important reason I wanted to discussAgre's essay is because, while it was written a decade and a half ago, the issues it raises have become particularly salient since then. He noticed phenomena that were not as obvious then as they are now. Today I note the following excerpt:Conservatism promotes (and so does liberalism, misguidedly) the idea that liberalism is about activist government where conservatism is not. This is absurd. It is unrelated to the history of conservative government. Conservatism promotes activist government that acts in the interests of the aristocracy. This has been true for thousands of years. Wh...
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 8, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Dumbth
  " Philip E. Agre is obviously not a conservative, therefore any critique he makes of conservatism is invalid. " " I don't understand something that Philip E. Agre wrote, therefore he must be stupid. "" Somebody else wrote a description of conservatism that doesn't accord with that of Philip E. Agre, although I can't be bothered to actually read it and tell you what it says. "That is not engaging with the conversation. It is moronic. You are permanently banned, because you are incapable of making a constructive contribution. Get an education. (Source: Stayin' Alive)
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 7, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Opinions
Continuing my occasional series on constructive discourse and logical fallacies, consider the word " opinion. " As I noted last time, words generally have a range of meanings. In scientific writing, a word may be given a very specific, narrow definition, but if the same word also exists in the vernacular, it may be commonly used more broadly. That isn't a mistake, it's just that the meaning of a word can be dependent on context, and on the style of writing or discourse. It is a mistake if the broader, common meaning is used to read back the scientific discourse, or if the narrow technical meaning is used to criti...
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 7, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Sunday Sermonette: Sing that Thing
Deuteronomy 32 is the song we were promised in the previous chapter. It isn't clear if he actually sings it or if this is more a poetry slam performance. Anyway it once again summarizes the basic theological points: Yahweh chose Israel, he is specifically the God of Israel, not the God of humanity; he will reward the Israelites if they worship him properly and obey his laws, including by helping them massacre other people; when (not if, it's a prediction) they cease to obey him, he will torture them horribly and see to it they are murdered en masse in turn. That's the essential message of the Torah. I've inserted a few com...
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 7, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

The Universe
I'd like to digress for a few minutes to consider the mind boggling revolution in physics and cosmology of the 20th Century. Copernicus and Galileo established that the earth and planets revolve around the sun in the 17th Century. This overturned established doctrine, but did not in itself pose a major challenge to the human centered philosophy of the Abrahamic religions, in which we are the principal preoccupation of the all powerful creator God. However, as astronomers continued to look through telescopes and discovered the vast number and great distance of the stars of our galaxy, that belief became less tenable. T...
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 5, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

No, ivermecting doesn't work either
I've said it before but I need to keep saying it. The majority -- probably a large majority -- of drugs that appear promising in animal models,  Phase 1 or observational studies turn out not to be effective when subjected to larger scale, more rigorous trials.Ivermectin is ineffective against mild Covid-19, which means it's probably not effective against more severe disease. We'll know that soon enough.That's nothing new, health services researchers have long known it. But we've gotten into a weird place where it's a marker of right wing politics to believe that unproven drugs must work. How this is a political issue ...
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 5, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Blog policies
I sometimes post updates in response to comments which I choose not to publish. I do this because the comments do not contribute to constructive discourse, but I want to illustrate a point about critical thinking. Here are some common categories of comments which I find not to be constructive.1) Vocabulary quibbles. I once knew a guy who thought he was really smart, who thought he had a killer point: the concept of organic food is meaningless because " organic " means carbon compounds, and all food consists of carbon compounds. All words have a range of meanings. Purporting to refute an argument by insisting that...
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 4, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Wednesday Bible Study: Change of command
In Deuteronomy 31, the passing of leadership from Moses to Joshua begins. There's a lot of repetition of the prophecy of the conquest of the promised land, followed by apostasy and Yahweh temporarily abandoning the people. Then there's a lot of business about writing down the law -- again, not clear if it's the whole of the law as given in Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy, or some excerpt. Finally, God has Moses write a song, but we don't get to read the lyrics until the next chapter. Unfortunately, the music is not supplied, and we don't know much about the music of that culture.According to Wikipedia:The earliest synago...
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 3, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

I got shot
Specifically, I got the first shot of the Pfizer/Biontech mRNA vaccine yesterday. The needle was so thin I didn't even feel it. (Bill Gates must have made those microchips incredibly small. It's actually somewhat comforting to know he's tracking me.)Anyway, I had no side effects at all, not even the dread pain at the injection site. So when you get the chance, go for it. I know people are having to wait until their age category becomes eligible and even then it's hard to get an appointment, but it will open up. Keep trying. We need everybody to do this, for the sake of everyone else. (Source: Stayin' Alive)
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 3, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

On liberalism
Before we can proceed with our discussion of Philip Agre's essay on conservatism, I need to say a bit about liberalism. The meaning of the word has changed somewhat since it first developed in the 19th Century. John Stewart Mill was not far removed from feudalism and monarchical rule, while industrial capitalism was just recently in the ascendant. Modern mass communication and public relations did not yet exist, while British (and American) democracy was pretty much exclusive to men of property.Therefore, in thinking about how liberty could be maximized, Mill and classic liberals were most concerned about the prospect of a...
Source: Stayin' Alive - March 2, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

What is conservatism?
 As the Conservative Political Action Conference is happening, it seems a good time to ask what conservatism actually means. The dictionary definition is:1. commitment to traditional values and ideas with opposition to change or innovation2. the holding of political views that favor free enterprise, private ownership, and socially traditional ideasIs that really what it means? Hardly anybody in the U.S. is opposed to private ownership in general, or to " free enterprise, " whatever that means. And what ideas are considered " socially traditional " depends on your tradition.  I'll grant you tha...
Source: Stayin' Alive - February 28, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Sunday Sermonette: A problematic passage
I don't know for sure, but I have to think that Deuteronomy 30 has been an inspiration, and perhaps cited as a justification, for Zionism. It explicitly predicts the return of the Israelites from diaspora to the promised land. However, in historical fact the diaspora did not happen because of apostasy, as the previous curses predicted. On the contrary, it resulted from a failed result against Roman rule in 67 CE, that culminated in the sack of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple in 70. This is remembered as a heroic collective act with a tragic outcome, the central symbol being the mass suicide at Masada, although...
Source: Stayin' Alive - February 28, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs

Vaccine disinformation
I wrote a background piece on the mRNA vaccine recently. Since then I've come across some weird false claims about it, so I figured I'd take a minute to set things straight.A very quick review I won't  take up a lot of time with the basics of the cellular machinery, but as you ought to know if you don't already DNA, which resides in the cellular nucleus, contains the instructions for making proteins. A " gene, " basically, means the instructions for making a specific protein. Proteins are long chains of smaller chemicals called amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids encoded by DNA. (Some others...
Source: Stayin' Alive - February 27, 2021 Category: American Health Source Type: blogs