A reason to use the NRSV/ESV/NABRE over the ASV/NASB/others

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The NRSV/ESV/NABRE incorporate a lot more DSS/Septuagint readings into their main OT text than the other versions.

Take, for example, Deuteronomy 32:8 and 32:43, both of which make much more sense when relying on the DSS/Seputagint in place of the Masoretic Text.

My physical copy of the NASB95 doesn’t even contain any notes at all on the page containing v.43 and doesn’t have a note for v.8 (despite the LXX version of Deuteronomy 32:43 being quoted in Hebrews 1:6!). The ASV, of course, can be excused for being written before the discovery of the DSS.

The NLT also uses the DSS readings in both verses, but that translation is too liberal in general to make a good study bible.

The HCSB uses the MT readings in both verses, but has good notes, so it gets three quarters credit.

The NET uses the DSS reading in v. 8 but curiously uses the MT reading in v. 43 without a note (!), again, despite the obvious Hebrews 1:6 issue, so it gets half-credit.

The ESV remains probably the best of the modern translations, though the generally somewhat less literal NRSV and NABRE are not far off.

Remarks on Bible Translations

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Section 1

My favorite translation for most purposes is the 1901 ASV (American Standard Version). It’s out of copyright, so noone’s gonna sue ya if you use it. It was a product of a well-respected translation committee, so it’s very much acceptable for academic citation. It relies on a superior textual basis to the KJV/NKJV/YLT. It consistently transliterates the tetragrammaton instead of obscuring it with “LORD” in small caps, as most translations do. It’s fairly literal, surprisingly faithful to the original text (e.g., keeping all of Marks “kai” (“and”)s; the ESV and NASB keep most, the NRSV and most other modern translations keep hardly any) and keeps some of the KJV’s linguistic variety (e.g., pronouns), which is often quite helpful in exposing some of the subtlety of the Greek text (e.g., Matthew 20:20-28). The best online edition of the 1901 ASV (including the notes) is on BibleGateway. The CCEL and BibleHub versions are partially defective (e.g., their Revelation 19:16 wrongly has “KINGS of KINGS”, rather than, as is proper, “KING OF KINGS”). I generally prefer the principles of the American translators to those of the English Revised Version (though the English principles are better in some places, e.g., Exodus 20:13). The most obvious problem with the ASV is that its insistence on KJV English to reduce backwards incompatibility is often more a liability than an asset to comprehensibility by modern-day Americans.

As for the WEB (World English Bible; a public-domain translation loosely based on the ASV), it is the product of one man with an excessively simple website layout, and so is not suitable for academic citation. I like some of the translation changes it makes (it makes the language far more modern and comprehensible, transliterates Gehenna instead of translating it as hell, changes the transliteration of the tetragrammaton from Jehovah to Yahweh, etc.), but it tends to blunt the force of the original ASV, removing some linguistic dynamism (e.g., all of Mark’s “kai”s are removed, as is the KJV/ASV’s versatility with pronouns), and unnecessarily adds some inconsistent translation, as well (e.g., Matthew 2:11 v. Mark 15:19). Overall, I prefer the ASV.

The earlier YLT is also a very good translation on its principles, though it’s also subject to some obviously unnecessary inconsistent translation (e.g., Red Sea/Sea of Suph) and I’m not a fan of its textual basis.

Section 2

My favorite modern translations are the ESV and the NRSV, which are both basically the same translation (both are direct revisions of the 1952 RSV, itself a less literal revision of the ASV), the former with a conservative (often literal and OT-in-light of the NT) and the latter with a liberal (often figurative or gender-neutral) bent. I find it often a good idea to read the ASV, NRSV, and ESV on BibleGateway side-by-side. The NRSV is a de facto academic translation and is one of the few post-1983 complete translations of the Bible accepted by the Roman Catholic Church for private study. Neither is by any means a bad translation, with the NRSV’s greater theological liberalism in translation often leading to greater accuracy. The NASB is generally (by no means always) more literal than these, but it sometimes descends into paraphrase or unnecessarily inserts words into the text without any notification whatsoever (e.g., Mark 6:10), making it less advisable to use than the ASV.

Section 3

I do not have sufficient experience with the HCSB (a fairly unique translation; transliterates the tetragrammaton selectively, a bad decision however you look at it, but makes some refreshing and beneficial breaks from tradition in its translation), NET (said by its defenders to cut down time on explanation of the text by a third due to it often inserting commentary in place of the Bible’s wording), or NABRE (which I found surprisingly theologically liberal, not always in a bad way; i.e., it’s often refreshing) to make remarks on them, but they all have their defenders. Read them all side-by-side at this link.

The most used translation in these United States, the NIV, suffers too much from theological bias (especially against works, which it tends to translate inconsistently to suit sola fide doctrine) and unnecessary departures from literal wording to be advisable, though on occasion (e.g., Galatians 1:19) it ends up having the most accurate rendering of any translation.

Saturday Assorted Links

1. The Reaganization of Mother Jones

2. Basically my view of Obama from the very beginning (and part of why I preferred HRC 08 to him). Even his release of Manning was only because the dude went trans.

3. Interesting argument on future of medicine and DNA

4. Trump says something actually disgusting

5. Ballsiest move of the week. I’m still amazed they actually managed to do it.

6. Interesting attempt by left-wing U.S. Senators to impose a religious test for public office

7. Wise words on terrorism

8. Wise reminder on arguments from silence

A Cushion for the Trump Economy

I strongly suspect the U.S. will be in recession at some point during Trump’s first term due to the Federal Reserve once again messing up monetary policy (which I think is inevitable at some point in the next five years, at least). Thus, I expect the U.S. labor market to worsen again (though far more mildly than in 08-09 due to the absence of bubbles). However, I also expect the economy to start growing reasonably fast again reasonably soon. Why? A revival of productivity growth. Since 2011, a key headwind for the Obama economy has been a lack of productivity growth, especially in manufacturing, generally associated with the slowdown of world trade and the reduction of the 2000-07 offshoring of less productive sectors to China.

Notice that manufacturing productivity has already started rising again, beginning in September 2016. Sadly, it still has not surpassed its previous peak. But it will, more likely than not this year.

Note, my prediction would be the same under a Hillary administration. Presidents do not have much of an impact over the economy. Though it does seem the total sum of the Trump’s team’s economic knowledge is a tad better than that of HRC’s, the difference is not huge, and both have similar assets and deficiencies about them.

Outline of a Climate Treaty that might actually work (in 365 words)

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Today, the President of the United States (whom I admit I voted for in a key swing state) took the correct course to pull out of the hilariously ineffective and ridiculously unfair Paris Climate Agreement. Which, of course, left me wondering what would an actually effective and fair climate agreement look like? I think the following outline below which I came up with in a couple minutes will suffice to make everyone understand the necessary scope of a climate agreement that might actually work at achieving its stated aims.

1. Convene the top four emitters of greenhouse gasses (currently China, the United States, India, and Russia).

2. Make this a binding treaty, not an executive agreement, which every country of the original four must ratify within a year after the treaty’s negotiation for it to come into effect.

3. Get this treaty to state that each of the four countries must institute a carbon tax increasing by 20 U.S. CPI-adjusted dollars per ton of carbon dioxide every year from the treaty’s coming into effect and impose climate-equivalent taxes on all the other greenhouse gasses. Absolutely no source of greenhouse gasses should be in any way exempt.

4. The treaty should be designed with the intent of one country joining the treaty each year, in order from largest to smallest emitter of greenhouse gasses (i.e., Japan in 2018 followed by Germany in 2019 followed by Iran in 2020 followed by South Korea in 2021 and so on). This is to encourage countries to compete to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions before they even join the treaty. To encourage countries to join the treaty, a flat tariff on all goods and services exports, increasing by 20 percentage points each year, should be imposed by all the countries in the agreement on the countries that don’t join in the above-mentioned order.

5. Every ten years, there is to be a verification whether the treaty countries are actually enforcing the necessary tax(es). Cheaters are to be determined by a majority of countries within the treaty. They are to be punished by mandatory retaliatory tariffs levied by all the other countries in the treaty in proportion to the cheating country’s lack of enforcement it should have done by the treaty’s requirements.

Notes on the Politics of Oklahoma

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I have never been to Oklahoma (a heavily Republican state today, in which every county went for every Republican presidential candidate since Bush in 2004), but I have recently found some interesting data on its politics. As far as one can tell on a map, the state seems to be politically divided into four (actually five, if you count Native Americans as a group separate from Appalachian Democrats) groups (all of which but the first went for Trump in 2016):

1. The inner city. These are generally minorities and urban White liberals. However, these are a minority even in the urban counties of Oklahoma. By far the most likely voters to favor drug liberalization, banning cockfighting, and banning capital punishment.

2. Western Republicans. These are the most conservative people in Oklahoma, both on supporting agricultural pollution and imposing Christianity onto the state government.

3. College Republicans (really, college-educated voters, but these were traditionally Republican before this party system). Heavily concentrated in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and its suburbs. Distinct from urban liberals in that they vote heavily Republican. This is the most politically correct voting bloc in Oklahoma, as well as the most college educated. Not all are actual Republicans. By far the most Republican demographic in the state in 1976, by 2016 they were definitely to the Left of the state as a whole in their presidential voting habits, though still went heavily for Trump by any measure. The most likely Romney-Hillary voters. Generally likely to favor drug and alcohol liberalization, and the most likely voting demographic in the state to favor same-sex marriage, and quite possibly alcohol liberalization as well (though the urban liberals may tie for this).

4. Appalachian Democrats. The demographic farthest to the left of the state on some issues (e.g., public education) and furthest to the right on others (e.g., drugs, cockfighting). The least politically correct demographic in the state. Traditionally Democratic on the presidential level since the days Oklahoma became a state, but became much more Democratic as a result of the Fair Deal. Similar voting behavior to Arkansas, Tennessee, the rural Florida panhandle, and northern Alabama. This demographic still helps elect Democrats to the state House (unlike the college Republicans). The most likely Obama-Trump and Kerry-Clinton ’08-McCain voters in Oklahoma. On a map, it’s hard to separate them from Native Americans, who tended to favor Affirmative Action. Native Americans are the Oklahoma demographic most supportive of alcohol restriction. Native Americans were the least likely group to support imposing Christianity onto the state government.

Thursday Assorted Links

1. Colorado will never vote GOP again

2. Due to having fewer non-Asian minorities among their ranks, GOPers much more scientifically literate than Dems

3. Ancient Egyptians closely related to Natufians/Western Farmers

4. Russia lifts sanctions on Turkey

5. Manipulate the paperwork. I deeply respect Caplan, despite his critics.

6. More government spending on something leads to more of it supplied

7. Government health care does not always lead to better outcomes

8. If Charles Murray is wrong

Wednesday Assorted Links

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1. The Hillary Man Id. Also read this and this. Probably the best-written glimpses into the Hillary Man’s mind. Horrible views of course, but people with exactly these views constitute somewhere around 25% of the U.S. voting population. That’s why cuts to Hispanic and African immigration are necessary.

2. The Media deserves to be nationalized and politicized, part 444445

3. FBI leaks to NYTimes, CIA leaks to WaPo

4. Dem ratings dip to nearly GOP levels; Trump’s approval rating continues to dip

5. Richard Carrier overviews the arguments against Q

6. The whole point of Krugman’s column is to simply bash what he wrote in the latest edition of his textbook

7. Income-to-rent ratio for college grads in their 20s highest in Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota

8. Economic booms now raise births, not marriage

Sunday Assorted Links

1. Men, Whites, Silent Generation, better educated more likely to correctly North Korea on a world map; Blacks, Women, Generation X least likely

2. Montana U.S. House debate. Race believed to be highly competitive by pollsters and skilled observers.

3. This is basically how a bunch of the climate alarmist rhetoric works

4. Internet archive to start ignoring robots.txt

5. This isn’t a bad take

6. In Eastern Europe, atheists are most likely to oppose Muslim immigration

7. There are more than twice motor vehicles and parts dealer jobs than motor vehicles and parts manufacturing jobs in the US

8. Venezuela

On preventing sectionalism

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John Cochrane makes the only even barely persuasive argument for the U.S. electoral college method of selecting presidents I’ve ever heard, which is that the electoral college, by making votes in already very heavily partisan states worthless to candidates, discourages presidential candidates from fanning the flames of promoting their own party’s most safest section of the country above all the others. Of course, James Madison made a similar argument, but for a somewhat different system of selecting electors to the electoral college. Madison argued for winner-take-all by district (the closest the U.S. has to this currently is the system used in Maine and Nebraska, though Madison supported having all electoral votes be allocated by district, without any statewide component), in place of winner-take all by state, on the basis that

The States when voting for President by general tickets or by their Legislatures, are a string of beads; when they make their elections by districts, some of these differing in sentiment from others, and sympathizing with that of districts in other States, they are so knit together as to break the force of those geographical and other noxious parties which might render the repulsive too strong for the cohesive tendencies within the Political System.

that is, winner-take-all by district would be less prone to sectional parties and be more likely to promote truly national ones than winner-take-all by state.

Now, granting the truth of this -there would be no point for Democrats to campaign in Nebraska or Republicans to campaign in Maine were their electoral votes allocated statewide-, and assuming the districts were drawn by independent commissions (as in California, Arizona, Minnesota, etc.) to eliminate all complaints of gerrymandering, what would be the result of the U.S. moving to a system of allocating electoral votes entirely by district? It would lead to politicians ignoring the vast majority of the country, an even larger portion than that ignored by the current winner-take-all the state system of allocating electoral votes. It would result in presidential candidates promising all sorts of favors to the tiny number of swing districts in, say, southern California, suburban Minnesota, southern Nevada, and rural Iowa at the expense of the entire rest of the country. It would lead to political apathy in every portion of the country outside those key swing districts. It would make Americans subject to the vicissitudes of the thoughts of a few over the general opinion of the many. This would be a great deprovement on even the present way of candidates concentrating on key swing states. But these same criticisms of the district method apply equally as well to the current method of winner-take-all by state.

The electoral college rewards presidential candidates who prioritize the interests of swing states at the expense of those of safe states. Thus, while hemorrhaging margins in the vast, but safe states of California and Texas, Donald Trump sacrificed their interests to those of the key swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan by promoting protectionist and nativist policies. Is such dictatorship by the minority befitting of a democracy? And though it is true that the electoral college as it exists today does result in the winner’s margins more evenly spread out within the states he wins, it also allows his offensiveness to the states he loses to be as large as is conceivable without any trouble for his political fortunes. Is a Republican candidate today being able to ignore California’s slide into becoming a 90% Democratic state or the Republican candidates of the late 19th century being able to totally ignore the South truly healthy for government? Abraham Lincoln, whose election by the swing states of the electoral college caused the War Between the States by his disregard for the interests of the South, could never have won a national popular vote precisely due to his extreme unpopularity in the South. Thus, the present electoral college permits -indeed, encourages- the infinite increase of sectionalism within the states that comprise the losing coalition by incentivizing the winner to promise benefits for the swing states to be paid for by the residents of those states he cannot win. Under a national popular vote, however, if a presidential candidate aims to increase his votes by fanning the flames of sectionalism, whether of the safe states of his party or of the swing states, he is likely to symmetrically alienate the voters of the other sections of the country, thus bringing these efforts at boosting vote share to nought.

In short, even the best argument for the Electoral College over the national popular vote as a method of selecting presidents is badly lacking. Politicians are much more incentivized to play sectional zero-sum games in the electoral college than under a national popular vote.

Now; this is not to say Trump did not deserve to win; far from it. Both candidates knew the rules of the contest beforehand, they would have had very different strategies were the rules different. Trump had the better electoral college strategy under current rules, and there’s nothing wrong with following the rules as they exist.