Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 315

some extraordinarily interesting articles this week — highly recommended

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.

Today’s number is 315, which is northwest when measured on a compass.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. OnlyFans and the Sexual Revolution (Samuel D. James, First Things): “If you look carefully, you can see how sobriquets such as ‘sex worker’ give away the game. The contemporary liberated social order is an order of workers: naked bodies laboring round the clock, sacrificing dignity and reputation for the opportunity to nibble the crumbs that fall from Big Tech’s table. Our civilization’s efforts to commodify sexuality cannot deliver what they promise. It is impossible to make sex a product or subscription; the closest thing is human trafficking, which, as it turns out, is a feature and not a bug of the adult content industry.” Straight fire.
  2. The World Is Catechizing Us Whether We Realize It or Not (Kevin DeYoung, Gospel Coalition): “It is worth remembering David Well’s famous definition: worldliness is whatever makes righteousness look strange and sin look normal. Here’s the reality facing every Christian in the West: the money, power, and prestige of the mainstream media, big time sports, big business, big tech, and almost all the institutions of education and entertainment are invested in making sin look normal.”
  3. Nike’s End of Men (Ethan Strauss, Substack): “For all the talk of a racial reckoning within major industries, Nike’s main problem is this: It’s a company built on masculinity, most specifically Michael Jordan’s alpha dog brand of it. Now, due to its own ambitions, scandals, and intellectual trends, Nike finds masculinity problematic enough to loudly reject.” This is WAY more interesting than I anticipated.
  4. Tetlock and the Taliban (Richard Hanania, Substack): “I have a PhD in political science with a focus on international relations. Most people in my position would tell you that you should give my opinions on my topic of expertise more weight because of my credentials. I believe if anything, you should hold my degree against me, as getting a PhD is probably the most inefficient way to understand a topic, and a person seeking that credential has shown that they don’t understand that. I think I’ve been right on Afghanistan and other American interventions because of good intellectual habits, including a genuine concern with what is true. But that has little to do with any training I got from political science.” This piece is quite good. I feel like I should add a disclaimer like, “Warning: academic heresy ahead.”
  5. ‘When My Satire Becomes Popular, I Must Ask, What Is the Problem?’ (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “[Popular satirists] can’t say, ‘I’m calling out power.’ No, you are power. Satirists must interrogate their own positionality. I try to say, ‘How am I implicated in this thing personally?’ Because satire never used to be popular.… So when my satire becomes popular, I must ask, What is the problem? Why are there so many people that are comfortable with my work?” A very perceptive interview with Elnathan John. Emphasis in original.
  6. Hospitals and Insurers Didn’t Want You to See These Prices. Here’s Why. (Sarah Kliff & Josh Katz, New York Times): “This year, the federal government ordered hospitals to begin publishing a prized secret: a complete list of the prices they negotiate with private insurers.… data from the hospitals that have complied hints at why the powerful industries wanted this information to remain hidden.” This is revealing and irritating.
  7. About Afghanistan:
    • We Must Learn From Our Defeat (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “We must learn the lessons of our failure with great urgency. American primacy has insulated America from the pains of our defeat. This will not be true for much longer. As I type these words my nation hurtles towards a dark and uncertain future. The challenge posed by an ambitious and revisionist Communist Party of China dwarfs any problem a movement of illiterate poppy farmers could create. We have wasted the profits of our imperium away; in this more feeble state we now confront the challenge of a century. We must not face it armed with the dysfunction of our past two decades. We must relearn how to be serious.”
    • US special operations vets carry out daring mission to save Afghan allies (James Gordon Meek, ABC News): “The Afghan operators, assets, interpreters and their families were known as ‘passengers’ and they were being guided remotely by ‘shepherds,’ who are, in most cases their loyal former U.S. special operations forces and CIA comrades and commanders, according to chat room communications viewed by ABC News.… Looking back at an effort that saved at least, by their count, 630 Afghan lives, Redman expressed deep frustration ‘that our own government didn’t do this. We did what we should do, as Americans.’ ” Amazing.
    • Three major networks devoted a full five minutes to Afghanistan in 2020 (Jim Lobe, Responsible Statecraft): “If the U.S. government was caught up short by the dramatic denouement of its 20-year war in Afghanistan, viewers of the three major networks must have been taken entirely by surprise. Out of a combined 14,000-plus minutes of the national evening news broadcast on CBS, ABC, and NBC last year, a grand total of five minutes were devoted to Afghanistan…”
    • Let’s Not Pretend That the Way We Withdrew From Afghanistan Was the Problem (Ezra Klein, New York Times): “I will not pretend that I know how we should have left Afghanistan. But neither do a lot of people dominating the airwaves right now. And the confident pronouncements to the contrary over the past two weeks leave me worried that America has learned little. We are still holding not just to the illusion of our control, but to the illusion of our knowledge.”
    • The economics of Taliban finance (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “An example of Islamist governance can be found on the stretch of road from Kabul to the Mile 78 border crossing in south-west Farah province that borders Iran. The road has more than 25 government checkpoints and a fee is charged at multiple points on the journey. By contrast, the Taliban who police the same road have far fewer checkpoints and give a receipt, so only a single payment is necessary.” Very interesting, summarizing a paywalled piece.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have Ian McEwan ‘dubious’ about schools studying his books, after he helped son with essay and got a C+ (Hannah Furness, The Telegraph): this is a real article. First shared in volume 151.

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.

Disclaimer

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.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 314

Afghanistan links at the bottom.

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.

314 is roughly π times 100, and that makes me happy.

Afghanistan links are at the bottom and are well worth reading, but other stuff is up top in case you’re overwhelmed already.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. A Guide to Finding Faith (Ross Douthat, New York Times): “…the world in 2021, no less than the world in 1521 or 321, presents considerable evidence of an originating intelligence presiding over a law-bound world well made for our minds to understand, and at the same time a panoply of spiritual forces that seem to intervene unpredictably in our existence.” This is a wonderful thing to have printed in the New York Times.
  2. The Real College Scandal (Agnes Callard, The Point Magazine): “If I had to measure the worth of my classes in my students’ subsequent civic virtue or life satisfaction, I couldn’t afford to lose touch with most of them after graduation. I am sometimes saddened when I lose touch with them, but it never causes me to wonder whether their education was worthwhile.” Enthusiastically recommended by an alumnus.
  3. OpenAI Codex Live Demo (OpenAI, YouTube): thirty astounding minutes. This technology is going to change SO MUCH. I’m honestly blown away. Sign up for beta access at https://openai.com/join
  4. Unmarried Sex Is Worse Than You Think (Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra & Collin Hansen, Gospel Coalition): “Americans talk a lot about sex. Anyone would think they’re having a lot of it.… Instead, the opposite has happened. Young people are having less sex—and are less happy—than the married, churchgoing generation before them.”
  5. Does Canada have a religion problem? (Ray Pennings, Substack): “In partnership with the Angus-Reid Institute, Cardus has been measuring Canadian spirituality. We asked about seven practices — belief in God’s existence, prayer, reading a scripture, participating in worship, believing in an afterlife, having religious experiences, teaching your kids about faith. We termed the 16 percent who do at least six of these ‘religiously committed’ and the 19 percent who do zero or one ‘non-believers.’ That leaves the 64 per cent of Canadians in the middle — neither devoutly religious, nor religiously indifferent. They’re a big chunk of the 86 per cent of Canadians who pray at least monthly.  But many religious Canadians, of various faiths, don’t necessarily feel it’s safe to be public about their beliefs.” The author is the co-founder of Cardus, a Canadian think tank. Recommended by a friend of the ministry.
  6. Who Tells Them Things They Don’t Want to Hear? (Freddie deBoer, Substack): “…I don’t think and have never suggested that crowdfunded media can replace the basic newsgathering function of newspapers and that the NYT in particular still serves a vital function in its fundamental reportorial duties. This is, in fact, precisely why I am so disturbed by the paper’s takeover by a fringe ideology embraced by a tiny sliver of the American public and by behind-the-scenes high school bullshit.”
    • These two lines at the end grabbed me, “It’s only integrity when it hurts, guys. Something you write is only brave when it pisses off all your friends and colleagues.
  7. Concerning Afghanistan, the working out of which has made me more ashamed of my country than I can put into words.
    • What We Got Wrong in Afghanistan (Mike Jason, The Atlantic): “We didn’t send the right people, prepare them well, or reward them afterward. We rotated strangers on tours of up to a year and expected them to build relationships, then replaced them. We were overly optimistic and largely made things up as we went along. We didn’t like oversight or tough questions from Washington, and no one really bothered to hold us accountable anyway.… We didn’t fight a 20-year war in Afghanistan; we fought 20 incoherent wars, one year at a time, without a sense of direction.” The author is an Army vet who served in Afghanistan. Recommended by a student. Brutal.
    • I Was Deeply Involved in War in Afghanistan for More Than a Decade. Here’s What We Must Learn (James Stavridis, Time): “The on-the-ground leaders in Afghanistan, mostly Army and Marine Corps, were overwhelmingly brave, thoughtful, and competent. But as we learned over the long years, we simply rotated them too frequently. If we had fought World War II by limiting General Eisenhower or Admiral Nimitz to one year tours of duty, the outcome would have been different, to say the least. We made the same mistake in Vietnam, where everyone was on a one year tour, and the outcome was a disaster. This was reflected up-and-down the chain of command, and the lack of continuity and sense of ‘I’ve just got to make it to my departure date’ hindered strategic coherency badly.” The author is a former commander of NATO. Recommended by a student.
    • National Humiliations (Mark Tooley, Providence): “And America like all great nations will endure and hopefully learn from its humiliations, whether 1941 or 1950 or 1975 or 2001 or today. All nations ultimately decide their own destinies mediated by divine judgment and mercy. Maybe Afghanistan’s collapse is a divine judgment on it and us. But there is mercy always available, accompanied by wisdom.”
      • The survey of history at the beginning is what caught my attention. Some of those disasters are barely on my historical radar.
    • Afghan Travesty (Douglas Wilson, personal blog): “God knows how to humble great military powers. He has done it numerous times, and that is what you are seeing right now. What are we to make of that great patriotic vaunt, ‘these colors don’t run’? The reply is that they will run any and every time God determines that they will.” Theologically bracing.
    • Disaster in Afghanistan Will Follow Us Home (Bret Stephens, New York Times): “But didn’t we have to leave Afghanistan sometime? So goes a counterargument. Yes, though we’ve been in Korea for 71 years, at far higher cost, and the world is better off for it.”
    • Did America just lose Afghanistan because of WhatsApp? (Preston Byrne, personal blog): “The United States thought it was fighting an army. I suspect the reason we lost is because we were fighting a meme.”
    • The above dovetails nicely with a Tanner Greer essay: Fighting Like Taliban (Tanner Greer, personal blog): “War in Afghanistan often seemed like a game of pickup basketball, a contest among friends, a tournament where you never knew which team you’d be on when the next game got under way. Shirts today, skins tomorrow. On Tuesday, you might be part of a fearsome Taliban regiment, running into a minefield. And on Wednesday you might be manning a checkpoint for some gang of the Northern Alliance.”
    • Dishonor in Afghanistan (Jonah Goldberg, The Dispatch): “You can believe that getting out of Afghanistan is the right policy––again, I have friends whom I respect who believe that––while also understanding that this was a terrible way to get out of Afghanistan. We can all agree that it’s time to leave a party; that doesn’t automatically mean you should jump out the nearest window to make your exit.”
    • The Fall of Imperial America (Rod Dreher, The American Conservative): “As a friend of mine put it this morning, how many meetings to plan an orderly evacuation of Afghanistan did our military brass miss so they could attend diversity training? Again, we are an unserious country, and the world knows it. A friend of mine whose son is headed to West Point told me that in the boy’s packet of information that just came in there is a rainbow-flag diversity sticker. America might not know how to win actual wars, but it sure is going to equip its troops to win the culture war against traditional morality and old-fashioned American values.” Feisty.
    • What We Can Learn From Europe’s Refugee Crises (John Gustavsson, The Dispatch): “As a European with experience of working with economic and migration policy, and who witnessed what happened in my home country of Sweden, I have seen what works—and especially what doesn’t.”
      • Full of real talk. I am in favor of resettling virtually anyone who can get out (or who we can get out) of Afghanistan and putting them onto a path to citizenship (likewise for Hong Kong). I am also in favor of being thoughtful in the ways described in this article.
    • Today’s Taliban uses sophisticated social media practices that rarely violate the rules (Craig Timberg and Cristiano Lima, Washington Post): “…U.S. conservatives have been demanding to know why former president Donald Trump has been banned from Twitter while various Taliban figures have not. The answer, analysts said, may simply be that Trump’s posts for years challenged platform rules against hate speech and inciting violence. Today’s Taliban, by and large, does not.”
      • This illustrates a weakness in the West. We punish procedural violations more than we punish actual vice, in part because so many of our elites don’t have a moral compass that they view as true and binding. It’s OK if the Taliban uses social media to achieve actual evil as long as they don’t make us think about what they’re doing. Kind of like it’s okay for China to brutalize their own population as long as they don’t tweet about it and lie about doing it. Tech companies will boycott Georgia but not China; they will dismantle Parler but not TikTok.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have If I Were 22 Again (John Piper, Desiring God): “There have been about 18,340 days since I turned 22, and I think I have read my Bible on more of those days than I have eaten. I have certainly read my Bible on more of those days that I have watched television or videos.… Read your Bible every day of your life. If you have time for breakfast, never say that you don’t have time for God’s word.” This whole thing is really good. Highly recommended. First shared in volume 151.

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.

Disclaimer

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.