Economics 101, Lesson One
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17h ago
  One way you can create jobs is to lower people's taxes. If people have more money to spend, it means somebody has got to produce more for them. And the producers then need to hire people. It's Economics 101!   -- George W. Bush, Springfield, MO, January 14, 2002* Mr. Bush was very fond of saying "It's Economics 101!" It was a catch phrase for him, and other politicians often say it. But can you think of a critique of the above statement? Is there anything wrong about it? (Jeopardy! music plays.)   Okay. When government acquires revenue from taxes, what happens to the money? Do ..read more
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Sunday Sermonette: A digression to current events
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2d ago
The next two psalms are just the usual pleading for God to be good to me and to screw over my enemies, so I won't say anything else about them.  But I will take this opportunity to comment on the Alabama Supreme Court ruling that an embryo is legally a child, with Chief Justice Tom Parker writing that "human life cannot be wrongfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God, who views the destruction of His image as an affront to Himself." Presidential candidate Nikki Haley said she agrees, that she believes an embryo is a baby.  It is something of a mystery why this very ..read more
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Root causes
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4d ago
My mission, should I choose to accept it, is to explain why we're spending all this money on medicine and getting sick and dying more and sooner than the countries that spend half as much. First, we need to take a step back and consider the actual determinants of health. The Kaiser Family Foundation has offered a convenient picture ..read more
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Hoovering up the cash
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6d ago
 I think I might have shown this before. It's spending on "healthcare," i.e. medical services and goods in the U.S., as a percent of GDP. It leveled off for a while after passage of the ACA, but it's going back up ..read more
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Wednesday Bible Study: Imprecatory prayer for terrorism
Stayin' Alive
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6d ago
In Psalm 69, the protagonist has for unspecified reasons become an outcast, so he begs God to destroy his enemies. Check out verse 22 et seq. While this is attributed to David, there isn't really any point in David's story that would correspond to this situation. But petitioning God to commit mass violence is a common theme in the psalms. To the choirmaster: according to Lilies. A Psalm of David. 69 Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. 2 I sink in deep mire,     where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters,     a ..read more
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The inflection point
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1w ago
Okay, pretty correct answers from our two commenters on the previous post. Not just chlorination, but clean water generally, i.e. sewage treatment and separating sewage from drinking water sources. Also pasteurization of milk was very important. But the story is a bit more complicated. Pre-industrial people were mostly rural, obviously drank their milk fresh and didn't have a lot to fear from waterborne diseases since their population was sparse. Obviously they did suffer greatly from other plagues -- the Black Death killed something like half the population of Europe in the mid-14th Century ..read more
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Mid-term exam: Essay question
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1w ago
 Here is a historical graph of life expectancy at birth, for Homo sapiens on planet Earth ..read more
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Sunday Sermonette: Obscurantism
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1w ago
Psalm 67 is a mercifully brief, simple song of praise. Psalm 68, however, is both exceedingly long and has been called the "most difficult and obscure of the psalms." The RSV actually covers up some of the difficulty, for example by translating verse 4 as "His name is the Lord," whereas the Hebrew actually says "His name is Yah." That is a specific short form of Yahweh. The KJV spells if Jah, as do Rastafarians who prefer it as the name of god, but the Hebrew pronunciation is closer to English Y than J. The form Yah appears 43 times in the Psalms, but otherwise only once in Exodus and several ..read more
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More epistemology
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1w ago
Many people find it uncomfortable to live with deep mystery. They want their questions answered. Many people also need to be handed meaning and purpose on a platter -- it's too difficult to make their own, especially in the face of hardship and injustice. Making up stories that seem to satisfy the need for explanation and meaning is a temptation that many just can't resist. But for other people, testing stories against empirical reality is more important. Whatever dissatisfaction or psychological distress we suffer from choosing to live in reality is worth it to us, because we want the truth m ..read more
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The knowledge machine
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1w ago
 That's the title of a book my Michael Strevens, which I recommend. (Liveright, New York, 2020) Strevens presents his own take on the philosophy of science accessibly and persuasively. If you've even dabbled in this area you've heard of the so-called demarcation problem -- how can we tell science from pseudoscience -- and the two best-known modern conceptions of science, Kuhn's construct of paradigms and paradigm shifts, and Popper's construct of falsfiability. Strevens doesn't think Kuhn or Popper are quite right. However I would say that without quite realizing it, he's pretty close to ..read more
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