Weekend Reading: September 24, 2016

Good morning and welcome to your weekend reading, a summing up of my favorite blogs, stories, videos and books from the past week.

NOTE: There are newer weekend readers, and by way of explanation, I don’t always just post the big stories from the week here. That does seem to work out most of the time, but I sort of assume that you’ve seen or heard some of the obvious stuff.  So if I post something its because I felt it relevant to comment on, or worthy of your attention.  Many stories happened in the last week that everyone heard about (i.e. Brad and Angelina breaking up) but I don’t really care about all of them (i.e. Brad and Angelina breaking up).

Let’s start on the lighter side.  Challies reposted something from a popular grammar blog exploring the origin of the phrase “Roger That”.  I really enjoyed it because its a phrase I use pretty much every week.

And I finally got a chance to read ‘Dilbert Explains Donald Trump’ (h/t Dave B.) and enjoyed it.  Pretty funny stuff. If you’ve ever read Dave Barry, I read this interview in the same was I would if I were reading a Barry column. You pick up its flavors here and there.  Like when Adams (the Dilbert writer) says that he endorsed Hillary out of safety concerns:

He notes that detractors “have literally been comparing Trump to Hitler—an actual comparison to Hitler. . . . That is a call for assassination. There’s no other way you can [expletive] interpret that. . . . And you’ve seen how many Trump people have been beaten by crowbars for wearing his shirt, or beaten up [outside a rally] in San Jose, my backyard.”

Next up is a story sent to me by my Kate from the New York Post: It’s ‘digital heroin’: How screens turn kids into psychotic junkies.  This was a pretty startling, yet completely believable, article. Worth the read parents.

And a nasty little segue here: A Family Affair: How Incest will Expose the Philosophical Inadequacy of Contemporary Sexual Ethics.  I don’t care about the story itself, but rather wanted you to check out Trueman’s point about how the word/concept of “consent” isn’t strong enough to bear the weight of an entire county’s law on marriage and sexual relationships.

Candice Millard’s new book about Winston Churchill is out (my copy arrived this week!). The link above is to the Wall Street Journal book review.

Speaking of WSJ weekend reads, they had one that I have not yet read but intend to because it appeals to my sense of rebellion against the new normal: Get Your Children Good and Dirty.

In case you hadn’t heard, there’s a Presidential Debate on Monday evening. National Review’s Rich Lowry thinks that the Dems have set themselves up for failure.  Maybe he’s right.  All I know is that it ought to be most entertaining…

Maybe I read too many alarmist kinds of stories this week, but this one simply confirmed why its good to have a water filter – from CNN: New report finds ‘Erin Brockovich’ chemical in US drinking water. From the story:

“Whether it is chromium-6, PFOA or lead, the public is looking down the barrel of a serious water crisis across the country that has been building for decades,” Brockovich said in a written statement Tuesday, blaming it on “corruption, complacency and utter incompetence.”

Incompetence, corruption, complacency…yup, sounds like the government to me.

And in another h/t to Challies for the able curation of cool content: Collecting the World: Inside the Smithsonian. 

Switching Gears: Has Rome Really Changed Its Tune?  This is a slightly long post from a former professor of mine about the Catholic Church, and whether they’ve really changed since the Reformation. It’s the 500th anniversary of the Reformation next year, and Allison (the author) looks at several key points where reformers had taken exception to the church’s teaching…have they changed?  Unfortunately, I think the answer is clearly “no”.  This is the kind of thing that I think is worth really pondering for my Catholic friends.  I understand the draw of the church, I really do.  Stability, beauty, community – and the knowledge that its not simply local but worldwide community. You can step into a parish anywhere in the world and hear the same mass, and feel at home. You’re part of a worldwide community.  The issue is that at its core, the Catholic Faith is broken, and broken badly. We see the results of this every day as the Pope flails about as he deals with the culture – sometimes adeptly, and sometimes very poorly.  The problem is there is no anchor to his teaching – the Bible, the truth of God’s Word, is no longer the only thing he must contend with. The church has elevated church leader’s words to the authoritative level of the Scripture, and now these Popes must navigate a hundred differing and evolving opinions from past ages. Therefore, the church has abandoned the fundamental principles which made it Christian years ago. The outward beauty and its forms of community remain, but they are a shell which covers a rotten core – a core without the gospel, and the absolute truth of the Word to govern everyday life.

My heart aches as I write this because I know how difficult it is to leave a church. To leave friends and familiarity and the warmth of community isn’t an etherial concept to me. But when the core principles which bond that community together are perverted beyond recognition, and men’s writing and traditions have stollen away all semblance of cogency from the initial Biblical designs, then a break must occur. Community and fellowship can only go so far when not rooted in absolute truth. As our Lord said the night before He died on our behalf:

I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:14-17 ESV)

This sanctifying Word is no longer taught as singularly authoritative in the Catholic Church. It’s power has been covertly denied when the church subverts its authority with its’ own traditions, councils, and writings.

They say that people hate congress and yet love their congressman. I can equally say that I detest the Catholic Church, while loving my Catholic friends – each emotion strongly springing from a worldview shaped by Scripture, and a sinful heart transformed by Grace alone, through faith alone, by Christ alone, and for God’s glory.

Along similar lines, R.C. Sproul and Al Mohler did a question and answer session about the nature of Luther’s conversion, his affect on the church, and the coming anniversary of the Reformation.

This was pretty nifty: Archeologists are virtually unraveling ancient hidden texts that could rewrite biblical history. NOTE: I published this having read the story without seriously considering the headline. The headline is a bit deceptive. This story isn’t about re-writing Biblical history, its about technology. I’ve read enough to know that archeology has time and again proven, rather than disproven the history we’ve read about in Scripture. So don’t get the wrong idea!

The Chinese may hate individual liberty and freedom, but they love wine: The red planet: China sends vines into space in quest for perfect wine.

You can form your own opinion about Donald Trump, but Erick Erickson has lost his marbles...have others?

War Zone Chicago: Homicides are spiking again in some big U.S. cities. Chicago has seen nearly half the increase.

Olive Oil can come in handy when your beach trip goes south…

The Daily Signal has a story on how more people are using medical sharing plans to take care of catastrophic health care coverage while avoiding Obamacare penalties. I can attest that this works pretty darn well if you don’t have a lot of reoccurring medical costs and simply need catastrophic coverage.

Sinclair Ferguson from a few weeks back: Endless, Bottomless, Boundless Grace and Compassion.

Books: This past week or so, I read: The Prince (old Niccolo) , Tolkien and the Lord of the Rings: A Guide to Middle Earth (Duriez), True Community (Bridges), Man’s Search for Meaning (Frankl).   I’m almost done with Ayn Rand’s ‘The Fountainhead’ which has taken up a lot of my time, and have been enjoying a dozen other books, including the poetry of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  Last night Chloe and I read ‘The Ancient Mariner’ and found it a little creepy, and yet still enjoyable!

That’s it!  I am especially thankful for the gospel this morning, and the fact that no confirmation or sunday school class, no sprinkling, no works, no words of mine will save me. Only the grace of God working through faith He gave me will save me and keep me. I am thankful that the Bible is both available for me to read, and transformative when I do read it. I’m glad it serves as a solid truth upon which I can base my morals, ethics, and daily decisions. These are reassurances which I treasure as we head into another crazy election season!

Go enjoy your weekend!

PJW

Weekend Reading: September 16, 2016

Good evening, and welcome to the weekend!  Normally I don’t get a chance to write this post until Saturday morning – it has become a sort of ritual, I suppose.  But tomorrow I’m traveling with the family to Western Michigan, where we’ll enjoy a weekend with long time friends.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this week’s collection of stories, videos and blog posts. At the very end, I update you on books I’ve read and am reading.

Not sure where to begin…but let’s start on the lighter side.  Fallon had Trump on the show this week, and man this video is pretty hilarious. HINT: It has to do with the Donald’s hair.

And, more seriously, and thought-provokingly, Politico wrote a story up about how Trump seems to be very close to overtaking HRC in almost all the key battleground states. It wasn’t but a few weeks ago when the press seemed sure that though HRC was losing ground nationally, she was still ahead in the key battleground states like Ohio and Florida. Now, after a disastrous week, that assumption seems shaky.

Speaking of that disastrous week, I wonder who had a worse week, Wells Fargo, or Hillary Clinton?  Or, maybe Fox News who lost yet another key anchor.  Nah, not much of a competition – I say Clinton by a mile.  Oddly enough, it was the New York Daily News’ Gersh Kuntzman (whoever that is), whose story on the HRC faintness/whateverillnessitisness captures the issue the best with this headline: Clinton’s cover story for her pneumonia diagnosis further proves her first instinct is to lie.  And, there you have it. I don’t need to make any more comment, except simply to say that the reason why this illness won’t work to her favor politically is that whatever happens to her politically because of it won’t have anything to do with it at all.  Follow me?  In one exposing moment in front of millions of voters, HRC reminded them than their suspicions about her were correct: she’s a liar and not to be trusted. Talk all you want about illness…that isn’t what made her week bad.

Okay, I don’t talk a lot about the sexual revolution, per se. I don’t feel I have to – there are many already writing much more eloquently and poignantly about it. If you want to know how new sexual mores affect us in our Christian walks, then read Desiring God’s blog. If you want to keep up on the cultural impact of this stuff, then listen to Al Mohler’s podcast (just not around your children).  But from time to time I will post something on this front, because occasionally it reaches a level of ridiculous that can’t be ignored.  This week, the ridiculous arose from the Daily Caller: Overpriced Fancypants University Festoons Campus With Absurd ‘Ze, Zir, Zirs’ PRONOUN POSTERS.  I don’t know whether to be spitting mad, intellectually incredulous, or simply to laugh out loud at the preposterousness of the whole thing.  But there it is. Judge for yourself…judge rightly.

Since we’re on the topic of the ridiculous: Daniel Craig ‘offered $150 million to return as James Bond’.  I mean…I like Daniel Craig’s acting, but man that’s a lot of dough!  I can’t resist at this point to air a few thoughts about the Bond series…I think Craig has been the most authentic Bond to date. The rest were really just caricatures; Craig is a character, he’s created a character.  He’s made Bond human. The old ones were horrid, you didn’t know whether to laugh or what. Yet I still watched with guilty enjoyment. They were extremely degrading of women – something I always cringed at. The Craig ones didn’t seem that way. He was a real person; he was human. Relationships came at a human cost to him, and this made all the characters more human. Also, Bond actually fell in love – not simply lust. This deepened and enriched the story.  The irony of it is that I doubt the Hollywood producers recognized any of this…blind squirrels?

Something to Watch: More parents believe vaccines are ‘unnecessary,’ while a mumps outbreak grows. I am not going to say a doggone thing about this. I’m not sure there’s any social topic that is more decisive among friends over a casual dinner than to discuss this topic! Everyone seems to have an opinion, and an attitude to accompany it. I find it fascinating, and continue to learn more and more as time passes.  I will note that it seems this particular article is a bit tilted in favor of the traditional medical establishment’s opinions.

I think this probably flew under the radar this week, but it caught my attention: The Man Who Tried To Kill Reagan Walks Free — With Conditions

A weekend reader sent this to me and I got a good chuckle: John McIntyre’s “trigger warning” to new students at his editing class at Loyola University Maryland.

Interesting video about the 9/11 Boatlift – I had no clue this was a thing, but its pretty neat. This was making its way around social media this week, but I think I need to give credit to Marc W.

Call it clickbait, or whatever, but it still caught my attention: Here are the weirdest presidential eating habits (or maybe I just feel bad for poor neglected AOL.com).

I know very little about college football – except that I enjoy watching it from time to time. But this was really interesting: Finding the Small Stories in NCAA Football Data

Crrrreeepy: Kuwait plans to create a huge DNA database of residents and visitors. Scientists are appalled.

Haven’t gotten to this one yet…but it might be worth checking out: Lay Aside the Fear of Man

And this was excellent: If God Is Sovereign, Why Pray?  Snippet:

There is something erroneous in the question, “If God knows everything, why pray?” The question assumes that prayer is one-dimensional and is defined simply as supplication or intercession. On the contrary, prayer is multidimensional. God’s sovereignty casts no shadow over the prayer of adoration. God’s foreknowledge or determinate counsel does not negate the prayer of praise. The only thing it should do is give us greater reason for expressing our adoration for who God is. If God knows what I’m going to say before I say it, His knowledge, rather than limiting my prayer, enhances the beauty of my praise.

My favorite post of the week: LESS REDEEMING THINGS AND MORE ENJOYING THEM.  Excerpt worth reading, then re-reading:

Is it wrong to find the 8 gospel themes in The Revenant? Of course not. But it’s also okay to watch the movie simply for fun and to observe Leo’s bear skills. That too is a gift from God. An activity doesn’t need to be overtly “spiritual” for it to be deeply spiritual.

Someone over at the Federalist was perturbed…and rightly so: If You’re Not A Dad, Don’t Go To Dad Events At School.

This will get you thinking…despite the annoying nasal V.O.: Transistors – The Invention That Changed The World.

Would this surprise you? Study: Religion contributes more to the U.S. economy than Facebook, Google and Apple combined.

This is kind of a no-brainer, but Jim G. over at National Review says what needs to be said, and repeated, and thoughtfully digested on a regular basis I think: The Problem with Partisan Faith

For you golf fans, David Love III has chosen his Ryder Cup captain’s picks…I like Fowler, I really do, but I’m not sure he’s really broken out enough to deserve this.

David Mathis is at it again: Dad Enough to Sing.  I think my kids would disagree now, but maybe agree later on! haha!  I’ve been singing some twisted silly version (with my own silly lyrics) of the following Tolkien song from the Fellowship of the Ring all week long (much to their chagrin!).

Sing hey! for the bath at close of day
that washes the weary mud away!
A loon is he that will not sing:
O! Water Hot is a noble thing!

O! Sweet is the sound of falling rain,
and the brook that leaps from hill to plain;
but better than rain or rippling streams
is Water Hot that smokes and steams.

O! Water cold we may pour at need
down a thirsty throat and be glad indeed;
but better is Beer if drink we lack,
and Water Hot poured down the back.

O! Water is fair that leaps on high
in a fountain white beneath the sky;
but never did fountain sound so sweet
as splashing Hot Water with my feet!

Isn’t that pretty silly? I thought so as well…simply delightful!

And what in the world is going on here: Why a Chemical Banned From Soap Is Still in Your Toothpaste.  There’s some crazy stuff in toothpaste!

This one will make you a little hot under the collar, unfortunately: Zika Funding Bill Blocked Again by Senate Democrats over Planned Parenthood.

Okay…there are two more items to cover this week.  The first is media bias creeping up on my iPhone, and the second is literature.

I don’t get “shocked” or annoyed by media bias. It’s on both sides of the political spectrum, and so ubiquitous that it doesn’t phase me much anymore. Nonetheless, I decided to take two screenshots of my iPhone this week to show you what I encountered. One was a list of opinion articles from WaPo and the second was curated news items from Apple. Why do I display these?  Because these examples got me thinking about how, though we are familiar with media bias from both sides, there’s a difference between these two images that goes a bit beyond that…if “beyond” is the correct word. There is a newer phenomenon now: it is the bias injected into the curation of stories to our devices, to our social feeds, and to our inboxes. This is the new form of messaging control, and its becoming more and more prevalent. We ought to take care to ask ourselves “why are these stories populating?” “what are the assumptions behind these headlines?” etc.

Apple Bias

wapo-bias

Now, on to literature.  Many years ago I made myself the promise and the goal to read 100 books in a year. This week I finally achieved that goal, and I’m both excited about it and disappointed. I’m excited because it wasn’t that hard, and it was very enjoyable. I’m disappointed because I sometimes allowed myself to become a little too obsessed with the number, and the goal, and the prestige of the goal – pure pride. God has some work to do on me here, and I’ve felt is acutely in the last week or so. Yet He is gracious and has given me great enjoyment in literature.  This same enjoyment I sincerely wish for everyone.

Here’s the list of what I’ve read – I’m currently working on 7 or 8 books, including Ayn Rand’s ‘The Fountainhead’, which has been very interesting. I both despise it, and enjoy it at the same time. I’m not stopping reading just because I hit the goal.  One of the startling things I’ve learned this year, startling and shameful, is that I’m still learning how to read better, and have a long way to go in that department.

I’m not going to give any top tens or top whatevers list at this point. I’ll save that for later or at the end of the year, maybe.  For now, I hope to encourage you to read, and enjoy reading. Even if you only read 5 or 10 books a year, its important to be reading, to be learning, and to exercise those imaginative muscles that God gave you for the benefit of yourself, and others, and for his Glory.

That’s it for now – I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

PJW

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend Reading: September 10, 2016

Happy Saturday!  This is your weekend reading; a list of my favorite blogs, videos, books and more from throughout the week (with some editorializing from time to time!).  Something that hit me this week during a discussion with a weekend reader was that you may not realize this is actually a blog post, and not simply an email.  You can see the original online versions by visiting http://www.pjwenzel.com.

Speaking of feedback…I’m actually looking for some input from everyone. Right now I send this email in separate groups through my native email client, but the list of folks is growing and that’s becoming more onerous. I’ve stayed away from blast email services like Mail Chimp because I want you all to know that this is not some impersonal newsletter, but rather its something between friends, and that you can always respond back with thoughts. Anyway, let me know what you think about that, one way or another, and in the meantime I hope you enjoy the post…

The Washington Post had a story this week about how literary reading is on the decline. I’m unsure I buy the results wholesale, but there are some concerning trends here. They sort of bury this bit at the bottom, but I think its what was so thought-provoking:

A number of recentstudies have demonstrated that fiction — particularly literary fiction — seems to boost the quality of empathy in the people who read it, their ability to see the world from another person’s eyes. And good works of literature, particularly novels, can grant you direct access to another person’s mind — whether it be the mind of the author, or of one of their imagined characters — in a way that few other works of art can.

Over at Desiring God a post was written by one Paul Maxwell called ‘The Price Isn’t Quite Right’.  If I were to talk directly with Mr. Maxwell I’d tell him that he needs an editor, and badly (its just not very well written).  BUT, the topic fascinated me because he was taking aim at entrepreneurs and their love of money and success.  I count myself as an entrepreneur, and I thought much of what Mr. Maxwell had to say was a good reminder.  Here’s one of my favorite parts:

Do we have the luxury to believe that our hearts are money-love-repellent? “When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me” (Hosea 13:6, NIV). “Entrepreneurs” don’t struggle with greed — we are tempted by all the satisfactions we pursue through monetary accumulation: safety, worthiness, love, comfort.

And…

As Christians, it’s easy to be caught in an insane back-and-forth between feeling guilty for wanting money, and rabidly seeking financial gain. In that process, it becomes easier and easier to think that the laws of the market apply to God’s ways with us.

A little bit of brilliance by Kevin DeYoung this week: Stop the Revolution. Join the Plodders. There are some big things to digest before you even finish the first graph.  But he hits his stride here:

My generation in particular is prone to radicalism without followthrough. We have dreams of changing the world, and the world should take notice accordingly. But we’ve not proved faithful in much of anything yet. We haven’t held a steady job or raised godly kids or done our time in VBS or, in some cases, even moved off the parental dole. We want global change and expect a few more dollars to the ONE campaign or Habitat for Humanity chapter to just about wrap things up. What the church and the world needs, we imagine, is for us to be another Bono—Christian, but more spiritual than religious and more into social justice than the church.

From beginning to end, DeYoung is on to something here. If you’re a Christian, being part of the church isn’t just “a good habit” or “socially responsible” or something to do on a Sunday to make you feel better. It ought to be part of the very oxygen that keeps you alive. I’ll go one step further than DeYoung and say that Christians ought to cultivate and experience (to some degree!) a desire for it, a need for it, and enjoyment of it.

This was really funny: Nice Trash Can! Let’s See What the Bears Think

From Quartz: FAA on the Samsung Galaxy Note 7: Don’t turn it on, don’t charge it, don’t pack it in your luggage

The Presidential…this was all over the place this week: Inside the collapse of Trump’s D.C. policy shop.  Lot’s to ponder here about how the campaign interacted with these folks, and the seemingly tenuous relationship between NYC and D.C.  Others might wonder why all the work was done in the first place when it seems NYC wasn’t using it.

Fascinating: To Launch a Nuclear Strike, Clinton or Trump Would Follow These Steps

Breitbart: Confirmed: Obama’s $1.7B Tribute to Iran Was Paid in Cash to Circumvent Sanctions

New York Times: Evangelicals Ignore G.O.P. by Embracing Syrian Refugees.  I’m always interested in reading the depraved (and often very warped) perspective of the liberal media on Christian activity. But no matter what the writer was going for here, its cool to see the church being the church. What the author misses is that many Christians  who don’t think its wise to have these refugees come to America (by-passing the years-long immigration line), will still serve them like we serve everyone else because they’re people created by God in His image.

SIDEBAR: There ought not to be division of mind here, and I don’t think there is (despite what the NYTimes may suppose).  Christians – like many Americans – understand that its both unfair and potentially dangerous to allow a mass importation of refugees into this country. Yet, Christians follow a higher calling, even when politicians (read President Obama) do stupid and even lawless things. These truths go back to our nation’s founding in two ways. First, Christians recognize that there has always been a motive for coming to this great country – freedom and liberty. There Syrians aren’t coming here from a heart-swelling desire to assimilate into our great society. They don’t value our liberty, and they might even misunderstand it. Second, true Christians don’t see (ought not to see) a Syrian as someone less than human, less than an image bearer. Jesus radically broke down all national boundaries time and again in his teaching (think the Good Samaritan), and the church has always sought to make disciples of all people everywhere.

This is hilarious: Groggy, Bound Wayne Grudem Awakens In Warehouse To Discover Evil Twin Endorsed Trump In His Name.  Don’t get all worked up Mr. and Mrs. Trump supporter, I’m not bashing the GOP nominee here, just too funny not to post!

Well that was quick……..Fox settles with Gretchen Carlson for $20 million, Greta Van Susteren departs.

Soooo….goooood……Treat Yourself to the Voice of God

Interesting: The McMansion’s day has come and gone

Spooky: Promoting Infanticide in Newsweek.  Excerpt:

But beneath that veneer, the infanticide message is the same today as it was in the 1920s and 1930s. We ignore the approaching darkness at our own peril.

My buddy Ben sent this little gem along: Thank God For Your Job (Doesn’t Matter What Your Job Is!)

Creepy and Startling from CNN reporting on a story from Ohio: This is the devastating effect of heroin that police want you to see

I haven’t finished reading this yet, but its critical of Andy Stanley, so it must be good (I jest, I jest): Andy Stanley’s Statements about the Bible are not Cutting Edge—They’re Old Liberalism

In case you missed it, this was a huge financial story this week: Wells Fargo to Pay $185 Million Fine Over Account Openings.

Nate “sometimes I’m wrong, sometimes I’m right” Silver:  Election Update: Clinton’s Lead Keeps Shrinking

Okay, I know there wasn’t a ton of politics in there today, but that’s all I have!  I hope you enjoy the weekend!

PJW

Weekend Reading: September 3, 2016

Good morning and welcome to your Labor Day weekend!   I just woke up from an enjoyable camping experience in central Ohio with friends, and while some of the others locate the restoratives (coffee!!) I’ll pass along the best stuff I read this week before I leave my tent…

Here goes…

There were several stories about how The Donald was closing the gap on HRC in the polls.  I saw a few of those, though when you examine the battleground states, it’s still an uphill climb.  What’s shocking is that after all that happens he’s still right in the margin of error – she’s just THAT bad.  In fact, one of the big stories earlier in the week was how HRC’s Favorability Ratings had plunged to the same level as The Donald’s. So it should be no surprise that they’re running neck and neck. Who can offend and turn off fewer people? That seems to be the question at this point. 

And breaking: Vacationing President Obama Dedicates 18th-Hole Birdie To Louisiana Flood Victims.  Actually, though these are funny stories, I agree with my friend Chris who says that we could leave the POTUS alone about his golf…(I certainly have no room to speak!)

RC Sproul asks the question some of us might have wondered: Can Salvation be Lost because of Sin???

This was short but good: How Reliable Is Your Conscience? 

Piper Video: Does Baptism Save You?  He works through a difficult passage of scripture. 

This was pretty interesting: How The Catholic Church Documented Mother Teresa’s 2 Miracles.  I believe in the supernatural, but to attribute it to any saint and not to Christ is clearly counter to Scripture. “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” – 1 Timothy 2:5.  Hard to explain that one away. 

Two great photo essays this week. First: The Mammoth Pirates and Second: Tomato Slinging in Spain Sparks Food Fight Trend. Interesting stuff! 

SCANDAL: Secret exemption for Iran and Secret Payments for Iran.  There really are no words.  John Kerry will go down as the most ineptit diplomat since Chamberlain. 

Gene Wilder is dead at the age of 83.

Liberal, Moderate or Conservative? See How Facebook Labels You.  

FUNNY: The joy of betrayal: Bob Ross’ famous hair was the result of a perm.  

Erickson bemoanes the liberal media: Peak Trump Hatred. 

Oh man….Children’s Services launches Anthony Weiner probe

In case you missed it: Tim Cook: Apple tax ruling ‘political,’ ‘maddening’.  

Also: Senior ISIS Strategist and Spokesman Is Reported Killed in Syria

Wha??!!?? REPORT: One of the 100 Desks in the U.S. Senate Chamber is Full of Candy.  No wonder they’re able to talk so long…

Haven’t read this yet but looking forward to it!   20 Quick Tips to Improve Your Productivity  

That’s good enough I think!  Go enjoy your weekend!

PJW

Weekend Reading: August 27, 2016

Good morning, and welcome to the weekend!  I read many interesting items this week, but as I combed over the stories and posts as a whole, I noticed a specific trend: MANY of them came from the Wall Street Journal, and many were NOT financial in topic. What that means is that while most people see WSJ as a source for financial/market information, they’ve done a great job diversifying into other topics. It also means that not every one of the stories I link to will be accessible for people on this list. For that I make zero apologies – it costs hardly anything to have access, and if you want to be informed, you won’t mind paying, right?

Now that disclaimer is behind us, in the words of Monty Python, let’s “get on with it”!

Let’s start with an opinion piece by Kimberley Strassel on the ever evolving Clinton email saga.  This was a big week (as WaPo details here), and Strassel makes the argument that the media have missed the point of the purpose of this private email server – it wasn’t intended to discuss classified intelligence offline, that was just a consequence. It was intended to allow Clinton to run a global pay to play operation. Though many of the stories I read this week from Politico and WaPo emphasize how donors to the Clinton Foundation never got much more than “access” to HRC, that also misses the point, and the essential confluence between the Clinton Foundation and HRC’s role as Secretary of State. As Strassel explains:

Mostly, we learned this week that Mrs. Clinton’s foundation issue goes far beyond the “appearance” of a conflict of interest. This is straight-up pay to play. When Mr. Band sends an email demanding a Hillary meeting with the crown prince of Bahrain and notes that he’s a “good friend of ours,” what Mr. Band means is that the crown prince had contributed millions to a Clinton Global Initiative scholarship program, and therefore has bought face time. It doesn’t get more clear-cut, folks.

The AP has a big story on this as well, and how the State Department refuses to release more details of HRC’s calendar until after the election. I can’t be alone in thinking that the American people deserve to know if their next President is going to sell access to the Oval Office the way that she did during her tenure at State.  Then again, this is nothing new for the Clintons – anyone remember the Lincoln Bedroom scandal? Anyone? I guess even liberal internet rag Slate still does. 

How does she wriggle out of it? One way might be to blame someone else: Colin Powell Says Hillary Clinton’s ‘People Have Been Trying to Pin’ Email Scandal on Him

Strassel sums this whole thing up nicely: 

What we discovered this week is that one of the nation’s top officials created a private server that housed proof that she continued a secret, ongoing entwinement with her family foundation—despite ethics agreements—and that she destroyed public records. If that alone doesn’t disqualify her for the presidency, it’s hard to know what would.

Along similar lines, from the National Review’s Editorial Board: Mrs. Clinton and Her Fixer. They start off with an intriguing sentence, “Huma Abedin must be a remarkable woman: She has held down four of the worst jobs in politics, several of them simultaneously: right hand to Hillary Rodham Clinton, fixer and patron-patronizer for the Clinton Foundation, an editor of a journal spawned by a major al-Qaeda financier, and wife to Anthony Weiner.”

This one falls in the “I never thought about that” category: This Alabamian owes the government a bunch of money because he won Gold in Rio.

More Olympicshere’s the medal count (U.S. DOMINANCE). AND – this was really funny: Katie Ledecky Is Dominant Everywhere Except the Little Falls Swimming Club.

Technology: I can’t think of any reason I’d ever NEED this per se, but its super cool! (if not a little dangerous)  Maybe Joel Osteen could use it in one of his “sermons” as part of the show?

Heartbreaking: At least 50 in Turkey killed at wedding in likely Islamic State attack.  Along similar lines: Kayla Mueller in Captivity: Courage, Selflessness as She Defended Christian Faith to ISIS Executioner ‘Jihadi John’

In case you missed it: New details show how ‘swinger’ Army general’s double life cost him his career.  Stories like this remind us of how important integrity is for leadership in positions of power.  Often people forget that their personal lives open them up to blackmail or worse, and put many other people and classified secrets at risk. Along similar lined: Fox News faces another sexual harassment lawsuit.

From my friend Rod who spotted this: Good Lord! Cop says Red Cross told him not to pray with flood victims.

When you read stories like the ones I just posted, you shake your head. Some folks respond that we need to shake up the government, replace everyone with someone new (no matter how crazy they sound), strip organizations like the Red Cross of government grants etc etc. Certainly some change is needed, and we ought to fight to make changes and push for reforms (this isn’t the first time I’ve seen ridiculous stories about the Red Cross BTW). But, for those of us who are Christians, I was reminded this week that Paul’s first solution wasn’t to “throw the bums out” it was this:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (1 Timothy 2:1-6 ESV)

This assumes a belief that prayer actually changes things – that it is God’s first and most prominently prescribed method of overhauling tyranny, and promoting peace.  I have caught an attitude of anarchy among many of my friends who claim to follow Christ. They seek a (sometimes violent) political solution alone for what is obviously a moral failing among our country’s elite leaders – and they do so preparing for (even wishing) the collapse of the economy and our government “if that’s what is needed.”  This last sentiment is contrary to what Paul is saying. It’s not an either/or situation, its BOTH prayer and active engagement in our world – including politics. But for many, prayer and the desire/heart for a peaceful life has been replaced by anger and impatience and an attitude of (quasi?) anarchy that I believe is antithetical to the message of Scripture.

Similarly, this week’s Piper (except he takes it a step further): Do You Pray Like a Nonbeliever?

How then do they pray? Generally, they do not ask God to do bad things. They ask him to do good things without asking him to do the best thing. They pray as though God were the giver but not the gift. They pray for protection, and shelter, and food, and clothing, and health, and peace, and prosperity, and social justice, and comfort, and happiness. All of these good things are things the world wants. You don’t have to be born again to want these or love these. And you don’t have to be a Christian to pray for them — for yourself or for others. Every religion prays for them, more or less. So do the non-religious, when things get scary enough.

Moving on…here’s a wacky story from this week: Citing terrorism, the French mayor of Cannes has banned Muslim women from wearing “burkini” swimwear.  I take Quartz stories with a grain of salt in that they are pretty liberal in their worldview, but getting past that, I honestly haven’t seen a cogent argument that tells me why Muslim women must be stripped down to fit the profile of all the other beach-goers.  Of course the irony of the FRENCH claiming any sort of conscience when it comes to beach attire (national security or not) is pretty amusing. To me, this stuff falls into the overreacting category…am I wrong?

And along similar lines: 8 in 10 Germans Want to Ban Burqas From Public Spaces

Switching gears a bit here…if you’ve ever been up North to Michigan’s Mackinac Island, then you’ll enjoy this write up (and the pictures!): The Mansions of Mackinac Island.

Commerce story to watch: Mobile Bank Heist: Hackers Target Your Phone

The malware typically gets onto a phone when a user clicks on a text message from an unknown source or taps an advertisement on a website. Once installed, it often lies dormant until the user opens a banking app.

The malware then creates a customized overlay on the authentic banking app. This allows criminals to follow a user’s movements on the phone and eventually grab credentials to the account.

Oh Boy! Spotted: A Self-Driving Uber in Pittsburgh!

Culture and Fashion: The Strange Journey of Cary Grant’s Suits

New Planet Discovery: Scientists just discovered humanity’s best shot at seeing life outside our solar system.

Speculation: Hillary Clinton Has Parkinson’s Disease, Physician Confirms.  MORE (from the left this time): Rudy Giuliani Told People To Ignore The Media And Google Conspiracy Theories

Fascinating: Can the Devil Read My Mind?

Technology: The Robots Are Coming. Welcome Them

MORE: The Magician Behind R2-D2…the Magician’s book: Cinema Alchemist

Sports (from a politico): U.S. Men’s Basketball Was the Best In 2016, But Not Greatest Of All Time.  I think he’s onto something here.  I mean, there will never be another “dream team” like the 1992 team.

More Sports: TIGER AND THE RYDER CUP VICE CAPTAINS AND just FYI: NBA moves all-star game from Charlotte to New Orleans over anti-trans bill

And then there’s this: Hero museum employee keeps using a fake news exhibit to make harrowing golf videos.  HAHAHAHA!  (h/t Adam J)

Oh so sad: Target Dims Outlook as Sales Struggle

Keep an eye on this one: More of Kremlin’s Opponents Are Ending Up Dead

Used extensively in the Soviet era, political murders are again playing a prominent role in the Kremlin’s foreign policy, the most brutal instrument in an expanding repertoire of intimidation tactics intended to silence or otherwise intimidate critics at home and abroad.

Secretive Speeches: As Clinton asks for cash, campaign pitch remains a mystery

Into the Weeds: Hope for Trump: GOP winning registration race in key states

YES!  Jared Wilson strikes again: TOP 10 THINGS I WISH WORSHIP LEADERS WOULD STOP SAYING

I didn’t get to check this out but Challies posted it this week and it looks SUPER cool: The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks.

I think I’ll have to end it there…there’s actually more (crazy right?!) but this is probably plenty.  Pick what you like, scroll through it, sip your coffee and enjoy the day that God provided for you and yours!

Have a wonderful weekend!

PJW

Weekend Reading: August 20, 2016

Good morning and welcome to your weekend!  Here are the most interesting items I read or watched this week. I hope you enjoy these and wish you a wonderful weekend!

Let’s start with some humor. With the 2016 Olympics drawing to a close, some have discovered a neglected sport: team Preaching (h/t Adam J!!).  Funny preview:

…the Scottish-American preacher was disqualified upon the discovery by an Olympic investigative committee that he has been faking his accent for the past thirty years.

Shakeup in the Trump campaign came this week amid discoveries that the campaign chairman (Paul Manafort) had a complex relationship with the ex-President of Ukraine – a pro-Putin ally.  The new campaign manager position is being filled by Kellyanne Conway. Also, the CEO of Breitbart is going to be in an advisory position – which drew some fire from the right and the left.

I personally doubt that any of this really makes much of a political difference for Trump in the minds of voters. The political optics aren’t good, but its a complex issue to sort through for anyone, and unlike some politicians I’ve seen in the past, Trump wasted no time in hiring top talent to replace Manafort – Conway is a very well respected pollster in GOP circles, and was the manager for Ted Cruz’ superpac during the primary season. I think the next big thing to shake up the campaign on either side of the aisle will be the debate in September (h/t to my Pops who pointed this out). That could actually change some minds for folks on the sidelines, or harden their opinions…stay tuned.

The Olympics are pretty much wrapped up, and this was from a week ago (I’m sure he did more damage since): Michael Phelps ties 2,000-year old Olympic record (h/t Alex W.).  It’s too bad that his teammates are such imbeciles, the whole U.S. Swimming team was disgraced by the behavior of those few who lied about being held up at gunpoint last week.

Speaking of the Games, I saw this article which intrigued me:A Visual Guide to How Terribly the World’s Best Human Athletes Fare Versus Most Average Animals. I tried to find some third party verification, but actual videos showing me their thesis was correct are scant. However, there seems to be a consensus about the numbers they’re using.

No Kidding: Obama Betrayed Cuba’s Dissidents (Wall Street Journal)

More bad news for POTUS this week: Aetna pulling back from ObamaCare in blow to health law.

VIDEO: This was pretty interesting stuff…How the World Map Looks Wildly Different Than You Think

These people! (shakes head) Target’s $20 million answer to transgender bathroom boycott

Wonky but good: Seattle’s Minimum-Wage Education

Coolest thing I read all week (WSJ): Hyperloop Technology to Be Studied as Shipping Tool.

Hyperloop, a concept popularized in recent years by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, is a technology that would transport people or cargo in suspended capsules through miles-long near-vacuum tubes at speeds reaching more than 700 miles, or 1,120 kilometers, an hour.

I was really into the Journal this week, so you had probably better get a subscription I guess!  I don’t know how much of this is public versus behind the paywall.  I apologize for the inconvenience…but here’s one more that was good: The Rules That Make Airline Passengers Crazy.

Sobering: Haunting image of boy in an Aleppo ambulance captures plight of children caught in Syrian war

The Middle East (Con’t.): Russia deploys bombers to Iranian air base

The move shows Russia is expanding its role and presence in the Middle East and comes amid Russian media reports Moscow has asked Iran and Iraq for permission to fire cruise missiles at Syrian targets across their territory from the Caspian Sea.

AproposI suppose…Sproul: Are We Living in the Last Days?

In case you missed it from a few weeks back: John Piper’s Funeral Prayer for a Family of Five

I haven’t finished this but it looks good, from Powlison: Stop Having Quiet Times

AND…new video out from the Bible Project people, this one is on Ecclesiastes. 

That’s it!  I hope you have a wonderful weekend with your friends and family!

PJW

Weekend Reading: August 13, 2016

Good morning!  It’s a beautiful morning here in Dublin Ohio, and there’s lots to convey – lots of articles and videos and books that I enjoyed this week. For those of you who are newer to this email/post, I’m not attempting to cover everything in the news or culture. I’m just passing on what I (or what you who sent stuff my way) enjoyed most.  So here goes…

We can start with a story that folks sent my way, re: the media bias against Donald Trump.  This was posted on Drudge for a while, and makes some really good points. The most important is this:

These companies are engaging in activity that can quickly lead down a very dangerous slippery slope and this should concern all freedom-loving Americans—not just conservatives.

More Presidential – and this is crazy: Hillary Clinton has seizure when talking to reporters. There is some dispute from an AP reporter whose saying that, no way, it’s not a seizure. This event looks to have happened a month ago – which leads me to doubt why anyone would just now be looking at it.  Snopes says its unlikely she had a seizure. Regardless, of whether she’s just reacting in bobble-head fashion or not…its just weird…the whole thing is just weird. Judge for yourself.

If you watch Fox News, then you would have seen this story: Parents of 2 Benghazi victims sue Hillary Clinton for wrongful death, defamation.  But its worth watching the interview with ‘The Judge’ because he quickly dismisses this, and gives some good legal (and personnel) background. I’m reposting it here, because its pretty interesting stuff, and it caused my mind to think a bit about the kinds of headlines that peak my interest – human interest stories combined with politics. Those are going to get my attention!  Yet there’s nothing here – no substantive story. It’s the kind of thing you want to be on the lookout for and not allow the headlines of any news group to shape your viewpoint until you’ve read or watched the actual stories and weighed things for yourself.  Too often we’re quick to form opinions based on the scantiest of information!

Earlier in the week this story broke: WikiLeaks offers reward for help finding DNC staffer’s killer. The immediate assumption was that the Clintons were in some nefarious way connected with the death of this young (but rather prominent) staffer. Aside from the merits of this kind of speculation, ask yourself this question: Would President Obama, or Bush ever have faced this kind of speculation? My opinion is NO.  Over the years the Clintons have been involved in or just a few degrees separated from so many scandals (including ones involving untimely deaths), that this kind of speculation immediately crops up.

So that’s something to meditate on – especially when you think about certain Republicans endorsing Hillary Clinton.  It’s one thing to disagree with Donald Trump, or not want to vote for him, its another to endorse someone who has a pedigree of corruption.

The other angle on all of this is WikiLeaks, and its’ founder Julian Assange. They are offering a reward of $20k for anyone with information about the murder. What?!!  Of course this leads people to wonder if the murdered staffer was the one who sent all those DNC emails to WikiLeaks (the obvious conclusion), or whether the Russians are pressuring Assange to submarine Clinton’s campaign, or if there’s some other crazy agenda. It’s likely more complex that we’ll ever know. It’s bizarre – and worth keeping an eye on.

MEDIA WATCH: Wall Street Journal writer Bret Stephens absolutely pilloried Sean Hannity this week. I think its worth posting this here because in recent years Hannity has become more and more odious.  I can’t even watch those Fox or MSNBC shows anymore because its just a bunch of former C-level staffers turned “experts” yelling over each other (or getting yelled at by guys like Hannity).  I might agree with Hannity on 90% of his propositional statements (assuming he was speaking coherently enough to understand them, and you could make them out over all the shouting), but I simply can’t take the way in which those shows are conducted. Maybe its just me (probably is, given the ratings!).

Speaking of noise…check this audio clip out: Roger Scruton – The Tyranny of Pop Music. It’s not what I thought it was, he really spends a lot of time talking about the noise of music in the background of our life, and makes some startling good points.  Just this week I was at a diner which had indiscernible pop music in the background playing just loud enough so that I had trouble hearing the guy across from me. I was constantly leaning in, and asked him to repeat himself several times. This wasn’t a trendy place, it wasn’t normally known for its music. It was just a lot of people, and then this underlying noise of music that made everything very difficult. How can we have conversations this way? It really IS tyranny, and this Roger Scruton has some great points. NOTE: there are some explicit comparisons he makes between pornography and music that you’ll want to have discretion with if little ones are around. 

COOL: Tour the London of Yore With a Gigantic New Photo Map

Exciting: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Trailer (h/t Alex W.)

Funny! NYPD arrests man who scaled Trump Tower with suction cups

BOOKS!  Popular Stoic (yes, Stoic with caps, you read that right) writer Ryan Holiday has compiled a list of his top 58 books (h/t Nicole S!). Not every book is one I’m endorsing, but there are some good ones. FROM THE LIST: This week I listened to The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership by Bill Walsh, and really enjoyed it. 

Speaking of books, here’s what I read/finished reading this week (they’re all in chronological order and most have reviews attached – feel free to message me with specific questions about books).

HAHAHAHA: POLICE: TRAIN CAR DERAILS IN IOWA, HITS BAR CALLED DERAILED

Head Shaker: Money flows to man who ‘beat up Dylann Roof’ in Charleston jail shower ‘for job well done’

Eye Roll: France’s Socialist President Pays Nearly $11,000 A Month For Haircuts.  The waft of socialist hypocrisy is what you might be smelling here…

Speaking of hypocrisy, I don’t agree with everything this writer is saying, but the topic is interesting (and a little frustrating!): San Francisco Progressives Declare War on Affordable Housing

FASCINATING STUFF: Israel Proves the Desalination Era Is Here

MORE Interesting stuff….The chip card transition in the US has been a disaster – no kidding!  This was interesting because of some of the economic pressures behind the movement that I was unaware of.

SCIENCE (some interesting food for thought): The Ice Age and the Scattering of Nations.  I especially had thought this was interesting because a few weeks ago I finished reading Thomas Sowell’s ‘Conquests and Cultures’ and he alludes to some of the mysteries surrounding Indian habitation of N/S America.

Finishing Well: we don’t often talk about this kind of thing, but what is the environment going to be when you die? You going to sit and watch TV until you expire?  John Piper has an interesting post about this – and I can see why he’s stirred up over it. Anyone whose visited the hospital or longer term care facility can probably agree with some of his assessments.

Along similar, and very sad, lines: John Piper’s Funeral Prayer for a Family of Five (h/t KTW).

CULTURE: This is long article, but I thought there were a ton of good points: All of Us Sinners, None of Us Freaks: Christian Convictions for the Transgender Age.  From the article:

God could have designed human propagation in countless other ways, but he chose one way: two physically matured humans of complementing genders, each with unique DNA, forming a new family unity, and beget a child of the same human likeness — who will, upon conception, be given his or her own unique DNA and one of two genders, while still carrying the characteristics and likenesses of both parents.

One couple, following the pattern of millions of other couples in history, creates a family unit. Guided by a natural pattern, marriage calls men and women away from the immaturity of selfishly motivated casual sex and welcomes them into the selfless maturity of life as sexual beings living a story inside God’s natural pattern.

Now compare with WaPO: Do transgender athletes have an unfair advantage at the Olympics?  The obvious answer is YES.  Of course they seek to take you in another direction, and there’s some interesting science to back them up.  But note the phrase “science is science” in their article.  As if one study, or one experiment is sacrosanct. The general mindset of journalists is that scientists are the priests of our day, representing the god of science – they speak for the deity. And anything they say, no matter how preliminary, contrived, or speculative, is to be taken as sacred and absolute truth – just something to note as you read articles that intersect with science. Ask yourself “what kind of worldview would lead to writing that sentence?”

THEOLOGY: For the New Christian, the Christian looking for answers on a specific topic, or simply the curious observer wanting to understand Christianity better: Crucial Questions: 25 Free eBooks from R.C. Sproul.  These are very helpful. The one on Prayer was a foundational help to me personally several years back.

Daily Christian life stuff – this is Jon Bloom at his best: Lay Aside the Weight of Moodiness. 

…we are never “just” in a bad mood. Moods never come from nowhere. We may not always be conscious of what’s fueling our mood, but we can be sure something is.

That’s it!  I hope you enjoy your weekend – happy reading!

PJW