On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.
Things Glen Found Interesting
- Why Obama Fears for Our Democracy (Jeffrey Goldberg interviewing Barack Obama, The Atlantic) “You mentioned earlier that I’m in some ways a never-Trump conservative. That’s not quite right, but what is true is that temperamentally I am sympathetic to a certain strain of conservatism in the sense that I’m not just a materialist. I’m not an economic determinist. I think it’s important, but I think there are things other than stuff and money and income—the religious critique of modern society, that we’ve lost that sense of community.” There is an absurdly lengthy introduction. Skip down to “Our conversation has been edited for clarity and concision” about a fifth of the way down the page.
- The Children of Pornhub (Nicholas Kristof, New York Times): “The world has often been oblivious to child sexual abuse, from the Catholic Church to the Boy Scouts. Too late, we prosecute individuals like Jeffrey Epstein or R. Kelly. But we should also stand up to corporations that systematically exploit children. With Pornhub, we have Jeffrey Epstein times 1,000.” Kristof goes out of his way to make it clear that he is not condemning pornography itself, just abuse. I’ll go farther: pornography is vile and I think it is a national shame. If you watch porn, know that forgiveness and freedom are available in Christ and I a happy to talk with you about it.
- The Mass Murder of Nigerian Christians (Rabbi Abraham Cooper and Rev. Johnnie Moore, Tablet Magazine): “Officials’ initial refusal to attribute the attack in Kaduna to Islamists—in any form—reflects a black hole of denial that is pronounced in Nigerian politics. This endemic self-censorship has now been absorbed by many professionals in the foreign policy establishment who have adopted a policy of not mentioning the religious components of these outrages at any cost, in order to prevent being accused of politicizing religion. This denial serves as an accelerant of religion-fueled conflict—until the facts and blood on the ground can no longer be denied.”
- Big Government’s Overlooked Americans (Nicholas Eberstadt, National Review): “How could American health authorities completely miss a domestic epidemic of such severity and duration? Even during the Cold War, remember, U.S. researchers were quicker to spot the advent of the health crisis for the working-age population of the Soviet Union: and this during the heyday of Soviet disinformation and strategic deception, long before glasnost. Whatever else may be said about this signal U.S. failure in disease prevention and control, it occasioned remarkably little reflection, self-criticism, and course correction on the part of America’s public-health apparatus.”
- The Supreme Court Was Right to Block Cuomo’s Religious Restrictions (Michael W. McConnell and Max Raskin, New York Times): “In the beginning of the pandemic, no one knew what worked and what didn’t. Courts were understandably reluctant to second-guess. But we are now 10 months into the pandemic. Why are governments still picking and choosing among constitutional rights without explaining their reasoning?” McConnell is a Stanford law prof, Raskin a law prof at New York University.
- Denigrating Hoover (Victor Davis Hanson, Stanford Daily): “[Some Stanford students and faculty complain about Hoover, yet] Hoover scholars as a general rule do not fixate on Stanford, whether the University, its students or its professors, for their perceived lapses in judgement or controversies that often can arise at large campuses — such as the recent sensational allegations concerning admissions fraud; a recent Stanford affiliated visiting researcher arrested for allegedly hiding ties with the Chinese military; Department of Education allegations that Stanford had not properly and fully disclosed, as required, sizable gifts from Chinese government-related sources; sex scandal allegations at the business school; efforts to disrupt a campus speaker while spreading a grotesque anti-Semitic flyer; and general concern on the campus concerning a wave of anti-Semitic incidents.”
- Misaligned incentives and the scale of incarceration in the United States (Aurélie Ouss, Journal of Public Economics): “Typically, prison is paid for at the state level, but county employees (such as judges, prosecutors or probation officers) determine time spent in custody. I exploit a natural experiment that shifted the cost burden of juvenile incarceration from state to counties, keeping overall costs and responsibilities unchanged. This resulted in a stark drop in incarceration, and no increase in arrests, suggesting an over-use of prison when costs are not internalized. The large magnitude of the change suggests that misaligned incentives in criminal justice may be a significant contributor to the current levels of incarceration in the United States.” The author is a criminologist at U Penn. Found via Tyler Cowen.
Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen
- A wild optical illusion (Imgur): this one is really good.
- Life Before The Pandemic (xkcd)
- Causal (SMBC): for my Calvinist friends
- 2020 Rated Worst Year Ever, Provided You Never Lived At Any Other Time In History (Babylon Bee)
Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago
Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have An Epidemic of Disbelief (Barbara Bradley Hagerty, The Atlantic): “Historically, investigators had assumed that someone who assaults a stranger by the railroad tracks is nothing like the man who assaults his co‐worker or his girlfriend. But it turns out that the space between acquaintance rape and stranger rape is not a wall, but a plaza. When Cleveland investigators uploaded the DNA from the acquaintance‐rape kits, they were surprised by how often the results also matched DNA from unsolved stranger rapes. The task force identified dozens of mystery rapists this way.” Infuriating and highly recommended. First shared in volume 211.
Why Do You Send This Email?
In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.
Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it). And to the extent you can discern my opinions, please understand that they are my own and not necessarily those of Chi Alpha or any other organization I may be perceived to represent. Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it. If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.