Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 276

I really like the stories of the shamelessly sketchy judge near the end

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

  1. Azerbaijan’s drones owned the battlefield in Nagorno-Karabakh — and showed future of warfare (Robyn Dixon, Washington Post): “In a matter of months, however, Nagorno-Karabakh has become perhaps the most powerful example of how small and relatively inexpensive attack drones can change the dimensions of conflicts once dominated by ground battles and traditional air power.”
  2. The U.S. Divorce Rate Has Hit a 50-Year Low (Wendy Wang, Institute for Family Studies): “Divorce in America has been falling fast in recent years, and it just hit a record low in 2019. For every 1,000 marriages in the last year, only 14.9 ended in divorce, according to the newly released American Community Survey data from the Census Bureau. This is the lowest rate we have seen in 50 years. It is even slightly lower than 1970, when 15 marriages ended in divorce per 1,000 marriages.”
  3. Gender Activists Are Trying to Cancel My Book. Why is Silicon Valley Helping Them? (Abigail Shrier, Quillette): “This is what censorship looks like in 21st-century America. It isn’t the government sending police to your home. It’s Silicon Valley oligopolists implementing blackouts and appeasing social-justice mobs, while sending disfavored ideas down memory holes. And the forces of censorship are winning. Not only because their efforts to censor leave almost no trace. They are winning because, thus far, most Americans have been content to surrender virtually every liberty in exchange for the luxury of having products delivered to their door.”
    • Related: How corporations can delete your existence (Gavin Haynes, Unherd): “In the banking system’s capacity to disable the individual without pro-actively doing them harm, there’s an echo of the elegance of the Chinese government’s social credit.”
  4. On the validity of the election:
    • Who’s covering this? Are charismatics and Pentecostals behind Trump’s refusal to concede? (Julia Duin, GetReligion): “…these folks are a subset — a movement among charismatics/pentecostals — of a Christian subset and not well known to the general public. However, when you have flocks of Republicans calling foul on the election and the president’s most high-profile pastor is having nightly prayer meetings because she is certain that prophets have decreed four more years for Trump, it’s time more reporters give a listen.”
    • How we can be confident that Trump’s voter fraud claims are baloney (Henry Olsen, Washington Post): “Mass voter fraud should be relatively easy to detect, even if it might be difficult to prove. Since we elect presidents through the electoral college, political operatives trying to nefariously produce a victory would focus on states critical to an electoral college majority…. None of these early warning signs of fraud appear in the results.”
    • The Presidential Election Was Legitimate. Conspiracies Are Not. (David French, The Dispatch): “The counting must continue and all legal challenges must be heard, but as of this moment there is nothing—absolutely nothing—that should cause Americans to believe that this election was illegitimate, and it is shameful and dangerous for anyone to suggest or allege otherwise.”
    • A Primer in Basic Electoral Skepticism (Douglas Wilson, blog): “We have reports that everything is fine and normal. We have reports of voter fraud. We do not know which reports are true. But we do know which reports are censored. And if that doesn’t tell you something, then you are not paying attention.”
    • Means, motive, and opportunity (Ed Feser, blog): “…some mainstream historians and journalists, including liberal ones, think that these states were indeed stolen from Nixon [in 1960]. For example, Kennedy biographer Seymour Hersh judges that the election was stolen. Historian Robert Dallek thinks that at least Illinois was stolen, via Daley’s political machine. Historian William Rorabaugh thinks that Nixon may have been cheated out of as many as 100,000 to 200,000 votes in Johnson’s corrupt Texas.” Wild stuff that I did not know. The author is a professor of philosophy at Pasadena City College. 
    • My own view: the election was valid and of course there was cheating. People cheat at cards, people cheat on their taxes. Why in the world wouldn’t people try to cheat in an election? But it seems unlikely to me that despite all the eyes on the process any cheating was significant enough to change the outcome of the election. Having said that, it is inevitable that people are skeptical. The media and the tech firms have made themselves so partisan that they have forfeited the trust which would be very handy for them to have right now.
  5. Lessons from the election
    • When Political Prophecies Don’t Come to Pass (Craig Keener, Christianity Today): “This year, many Christians have listened to leaders prophesy that Trump would again win the election. Some, such as Jeremiah Johnson, have continued to affirm that their prophecy will turn out to be true in the end. Others, such as Kris Vallotton, have publicly apologized. For now, many will decide that the prophecy was contingent, mistimed or, more likely, mistaken.” This is outstanding.
    • Why California Rejected Racial Preferences Again (Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic): “As I understand the state’s history, the country’s history, and the world’s history, government officials cannot be trusted to factor race into decision making without treating people unjustly, and intergroup stigmas and resentments tend to increase when any group is given preferential treatment.”
    • May God Bless President Biden (David French, The Dispatch): “So here’s my simple prayer for President Biden: May God bless him and grant him the wisdom to know what’s just, the courage to do what’s just, and the stamina to withstand the rigors of the most difficult job in the world. May his virtuous plans prevail and may his unrighteous efforts fail. And may God protect him from all harm.” Amen.
    • A Moment Of Peril (Matt Yglesias, Substack): “But the broad reality remains that in order to obtain and wield political power, Democrats need to embrace candidates who are less reflective of the progressive worldview of young college graduates, and they need to run them in states that are less right-wing than Alabama or Montana.”
    • How 2020 Killed Off Democrats’ Demographic Hopes (Zack Stanton, Politico): “For years, the Democratic Party has operated under one immutable assumption: Long-term demographic trends would give the party something like a permanent majority as the country as a whole grows less white and more urban. President Donald Trump’s reliance on the politics of racial resentment would only quicken the process, solidifying support for Democrats among people of color. Then came November 3, 2020. And all those assumptions now seem like total nonsense.” An interview with David Shor. 
    • LatinX-plaining the election (Antonio Garcia-Martinez, The Pull Request): “The problem with basing a political platform on white guilt is that, at some point, you run out of either whites or guilt. Which is what happens in a truly majority-minority nation when non-whites (at least as currently defined) assume their equal place in the economic and political firmament.” The author normally writes about technology issues (hence the title of the newsletter).
  6. Secularization and the Tribulations of the American Working-Class (Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution): “I praise the scholarship and courage of Brian N. Wheaton.”
    • Related: Getting Past the Gatekeepers (J. Budziszewski, personal blog): “Your gatekeepers want you to write a book more like the one they would have written. If you do make revisions, make them in such a way that the book becomes not less your own, but even more your own. That’s not pride. If God condescends to allow certain insights to the historians on your board, how wonderful! Let them write about them! Read and learn from them! But if He condescends to allow certain other insights to you, you should write about yours, not theirs.” The author is a professor of politics and philosophy at UT Austin. 
  7. COVID-related
    • Super-spreader wedding party shows COVID holiday dangers (Karen Kaplan, LA Times): “Only 55 people attended the Aug. 7 reception at the Big Moose Inn in Millinocket. But one of those guests arrived with a coronavirus infection. Over the next 38 days, the virus spread to 176 other people. Seven of them died. None of the victims who lost their lives had attended the party.”
    • COVID-19 Mobility Network Modeling (Stanford): “Our model predicts that a small minority of ‘superspreader’ POIs [points of interest] account for a large majority of infections and that restricting maximum occupancy at each POI is more effective than uniformly reducing mobility.” Click on “Simulation” and play around with the Religious Organizations toggle. Recommended by a friend of the ministry, who drew my attention especially to figures 2d and 3c in the appendix of the paper.

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 Asymmetric Weapons Gone Bad (Scott Alexander, Slate Star Codex): “Every day we do things that we can’t easily justify. If someone were to argue that we shouldn’t do the thing, they would win easily. We would respond by cutting that person out of our life, and continuing to do the thing.” This entire series of articles (this is the fourth, the others are linked at the top of it) is 100% worth reading. It’s a very interesting way to think about the limits of reason and the wisdom hidden in tradition. First shared in volume 206.

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 227

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.

In case you were wondering, so far I have found the impeachment hearings and the commentary on them uninteresting. Let me know if you read something fascinating about them, though.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. The Dishonesty of the Abortion Debate (Caitlin Flanagan, The Atlantic): “The argument for abortion, if made honestly, requires many words: It must evoke the recent past, the dire consequences to women of making a very simple medical procedure illegal. The argument against it doesn’t take even a single word. The argument against it is a picture…. The truth is that the best argument on each side is a damn good one, and until you acknowledge that fact, you aren’t speaking or even thinking honestly about the issue. You certainly aren’t going to convince anybody. Only the truth has the power to move.”
    • This article has received praise from across the ideological spectrum. There is an interesting Twitter response thread by Charlie Camosy, a professor of ethics at Fordham. 
  2. India is trying to build the world’s biggest facial recognition system (Julie Zaugg, CNN): “‘We were able to match 10,561 missing children with those living in institutions,’ he told CNN. ‘They are currently in the process of being reunited with their families.’ Most of them were victims of trafficking, forced to work in the fields, in garment factories or in brothels, according to Ribhu. This momentous undertaking was made possible by facial recognition technology provided by New Delhi’s police. ‘There are over 300,000 missing children in India and over 100,000 living in institutions,’ he explained. ‘We couldn’t possibly have matched them all manually.’”
    • That’s a really wonderful use of the technology and it makes me very afraid, because the obvious positive uses are likely to prevent us from building in adequate legal safeguards against the outlandish tyrannical power this technology makes possible.
  3. Mental Health, Bullying, Career Uncertainty (Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed): “More than a third of Ph.D. students have sought help for anxiety or depression caused by Ph.D. study, according to results of a global survey of 6,300 students from Nature. Thirty-six percent is a very large share, considering that many students who suffer don’t reach out for help. Still, the figure parallels those found by other studies on the topic. A 2018 study of mostly Ph.D. students, for instance, found that 39 percent of respondents scored in the moderate-to-severe depression range. That’s compared to 6 percent of the general population measured with the same scale.”
  4. Pete Buttigieg wants to build a bridge to the religious right. But tension within his in-laws’ family highlights how difficult that may be. (Amy B. Wang, Washington Post): “Three days after Christmas 2017, Rhyan Glezman got a text from his youngest brother, Chasten, saying he was engaged to his boyfriend of 2½ years — Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind. Rhyan, an evangelical Christian pastor, texted back: ‘I love you and is the only reason I’m going to share this one question to you. Are you willing to surrender to God ‘the one who created you and I’ to whatever he says? I love you beyond what you will ever think or know. I think the world of you and Pete, you need to know that. Have a great day brother!!!’”
  5. Why my college pals went to Yale while my high school friends went to jail (Rob Henderson, NY Post): “It is fascinating to hear affluent people discuss the reasons for upward mobility. They suggest solutions like ‘opportunity’ and ‘education.’ Seldom do they mention ‘parents’ or ‘family.’ This is why: Affluent people take their families for granted. They’re so used to having stable families, it doesn’t occur to them what it would be like to go without. It’s like asking a fish about the importance of water.”
    • This is something I’ve been fascinated by for years — Stanford students are far more likely to come from intact families than are the students I meet while doing retreats for other Chi Alphas. The author is a doctoral candidate in psychology at Cambridge.
  6. Statement from Medill Dean Charles Whitaker (Northwestern University):”…I patently reject the notion that our students have no right to report on communities other than those from which they hail, and I will never affirm that students who do not come from marginalized communities cannot understand or accurately convey the struggles of those populations. And, unlike our young charges at The Daily, who in a heartfelt, though not well-considered editorial, apologized for their work on the Sessions story, I absolutely will not apologize for encouraging our students to take on the much-needed and very difficult task of reporting on our life and times at Northwestern and beyond.” This is straight fire. Recommended by an alumnus.
    • The backstory: Jeff Sessions (former US Attorney General) spoke at Northwestern University. The campus paper covered the event and the protestors, and received sharp criticism from activists for so doing. The editorial board of the Daily Northwestern issued an apology via op-ed. A lot of people (including high-profile professional journalists) expressed strong opinions about the coverage of the event and the apology, and this is the dean’s response.
  7. The Place of Christian Religion in the American Founding (Thomas Tacoma, Public Discourse): “Take the notion that ‘almost all’ of the American founders were deists. Ethan Allen was the lone confirmed American deist of any influence in the founding period. Thomas Paine, who spent relatively little time in the United States—and became deeply unpopular in America after writing The Age of Reason—was the era’s other famous deist. Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin were much quieter about their heterodox beliefs, and even they were not dyed-in-the-wool deists. Franklin, for example, often spoke of Providence, and of a God who did in fact intervene in the affairs of men.” The author is a history professor at Blue Mountain College and is reviewing a book by Mark Hall, a professor of political science at George Fox University.

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 On Obstinacy In Belief (C.S. Lewis, The Sewanee Review): this is a rewarding essay from way back in 1955. (first shared in volume 6)

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.