Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 311

wide-ranging links with a focus on the pandemic

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues (although I skipped last week because I was on vacation and it was glorious). 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.

This is the 311th installment. 311 is something called a permutable prime (aka absolute prime), which means that it is prime no matter how you reorder the digits. In other words because 311, 113, and 131 are all primes they are permutable primes. Nifty!

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The New Moral Code of America’s Elite (Elizabeth Bruenig, The Atlantic): “…it’s decent, if you have a problem with someone, to take it up with them before running it up the nearest flagpole. But this is something people with the right views and the best degrees, it seems, simply do not do; just as the distinction between tattling and whistleblowing—resting, as it does, on a sober evaluation of one’s own motives and the stakes at hand—is one they often fail to make.” THIS IS WILD and 100% worth using up a paywall view on.
  2. The German Experiment That Placed Foster Children with Pedophiles (Rachel Aviv, New Yorker): “Perhaps the politicians were receptive because the project seemed to be the opposite of the Nazis’ reproductive experiments, with their rigid emphasis on propagating certain kinds of families, or perhaps they were unconcerned because, in their opinion, the boys were already lost.” Actually insane.
  3. “These Bastards Will Never See Our Tears”: How Yulia Navalnaya Became Russia’s Real First Lady (Julia Ioffe, Vanity Fair): “She said, ‘I think there is no chance that they will let him out. He will be in jail for a long time,’ ” Grozev recalls. “You must understand how shocking this conversation was. She’s this wide-eyed, earnest, honest person. She says these things like they’re the most obvious things on earth, but she’s saying very nonobvious things. You have to process what she says before you realize that it’s obvious only in a certain universe.” That universe was the imagined future in which Russia is free and happy.
    • What an absolutely astounding lady. Recommended by a student.
  4. Call it Racism, Not ‘White Supremacy’ (Samuel D. James, Substack): “ ‘Whiteness is a system, not white skin’ is a perfectly plausible reality, but it has the laws of ordinary language working against it, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. My sense is that you can have the language of whiteness or you can have an audience that understands what you’re saying, but you can’t have both.”
  5. A whole passel of pandemic-related articles, all of which are extremely worthwhile.
    • The Noble Lies of COVID-19 (Kerrington Powell & Vinay Prasad, Slate): “Public health messaging is predicated on trust, which overcomes the enormous complexity of the scientific literature, creating an opportunity to communicate initiatives effectively. Still, violation of this trust renders the communication unreliable. When trust is shattered, messaging is no longer clear and straightforward, and instead results in the audience trying to reverse-engineer the statement based on their view of the speaker’s intent.”
    • The Myth of Panic (Tanner Greer, Palladium Magazine): “This is the great lesson of the 2020 coronavirus: We should have been allowed to fear. Alas, our leaders feared our fear more than they feared our deaths. ” The latter half (about the motivations of the ruling class) is particularly insightful. Recommended by an alumnus.
    • ‘I’m sorry, but it’s too late’ Alabama doctor on treating unvaccinated, dying COVID patients (Dennis Pillion, “You kind of go into it thinking, ‘Okay, I’m not going to feel bad for this person, because they make their own choice,’” Cobia said. “But then you actually see them, you see them face to face, and it really changes your whole perspective, because they’re still just a person that thinks that they made the best decision that they could with the information that they have, and all the misinformation that’s out there. And now all you really see is their fear and their regret. And even though I may walk into the room thinking, ‘Okay, this is your fault, you did this to yourself,’ when I leave the room, I just see a person that’s really suffering, and that is so regretful for the choice that they made.” Sobering.
    • Let’s get more people vaccinated (Matt Yglesias, Substack): “Now if I went around tweeting all day ‘don’t take the vaccines unless you’re highly vulnerable, they’re experimental treatments the FDA hasn’t approved because they say they don’t have enough safety data yet’ people would (rightly) get very mad at me. Spreading that message would (rightly) be considered an anti-social and chaotic thing to be doing. But the message is true, and a good way to cut down on its spread would be to make it not be true, rather than trying to informally stigmatize saying it.”
    • The New COVID Panic (Susan Matthews, Slate): “The most important thing to realize is that breakthrough cases are going to continue to surface in our lives. ‘The goal was never to eradicate COVID from being annoying—it was to eradicate it from being a killer,’ said Dara Kass, an emergency medicine physician in New York. (She emphasized, again, that the vaccines are very good at doing the latter.) And so even while you have likely heard that breakthrough cases are ‘rare,’ that’s a subjective assessment that is probably worth adjusting upward.”
    • Are COVID Restrictions the New TSA? (Richard Hanania, Substack): “It’s like God was designing the easiest moral and utilitarian question possible. Here we have a situation where a disease 1) Spares children 2) Spares those who behave responsibly; and 3) Therefore has a burden that falls almost exclusively on those who behave irresponsibly.” This is an uneven essay but on the whole quite strong.
    • Good morning. Covid is more mysterious than we often admit. (David Leonhardt, New York Times): “Social distancing and especially vaccination can save lives. But much of the ebb and flow of a pandemic cannot be explained by changes in human behavior. That was true with influenza a century ago, and it is true with Covid now. An outbreak often fizzles mysteriously, like a forest fire that fails to jump from one patch of trees to another.” Super interesting!
  6. Inside a KKK murder plot: Grab him up, take him to the river (Jason Dearen, AP News): “A confidential informant had infiltrated the group, and his recordings provide a rare, detailed look at the inner workings of a modern klan cell and a domestic terrorism probe. That investigation would unearth another secret: An unknown number of klansmen were working inside the Florida Department of Corrections, with significant power over inmates, Black and white.” Odd capitalization decisions aside, a worthwhile story.
  7. The Illusion of Porn “Literacy” (Samuel D. James, First Things): “Education is about discernment, yes, but it is also moral formation. No teacher or administrator interested in keeping her career would advocate a curriculum that treated racism the way porn literacy treats smut, as a substance with which to become better acquainted and a more informed consumer. Likewise, any teacher who invited a CEO of Big Tobacco to give a lecture on why his career is satisfying would be sharply rebuked. What we as a society deem harmful and unjust is taught as such.”

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

  • Aliens and Pronouns (Dilbert): I am genuinely curious what the popular reaction to this strip will be. I wish I had access to his analytics! He’s going to learn some interesting things about our culture. People on Twitter will lose their minds… but Adams must be gambling that most people will find it funny.
  • Shark Fishing (Penn & Teller Fool Us, YouTube): nine minutes.
  • Strange Ways Airlines Cut Costs (QI, YouTube): four minutes

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Letter To My Younger Self (Ryan Leaf, The Player’s Tribune): “Congratulations. You officially have it all — money, power and prestige. All the things that are important, right?… That’s you, young Ryan Leaf, at his absolute finest: arrogant, boorish and narcissistic. You think you’re on top of the world and that you’ve got all the answers. Well I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but the truth is….” Such a gripping letter. Highly recommended. (first shared in volume 99)

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.

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