Weekend Reading: December 31, 2016

Welcome to the final weekend of 2016!  Here are a few stories to scroll through as you enjoy your Saturday.

It seems like the most important stories of the last two weeks have been about foreign policy. In the space of only a few weeks, the outgoing President of the United States has managed to burnish his reputation as the most dangerously incompetent President since the obsequious foreign bootlicking Jimmy Carter.  In a masterful stroke of personal arrogance and pettiness, the President refused to exercise his veto capability during a United Nations vote to censure Israel for its settlements in the West Bank. Then,as if that wasn’t enough, the “haughty John Kerry” (2004 campaign c/f Rush Limbaugh) gave a speech to the world that essentially heaped more criticism on Israel. Here’s the National Review story on the speech. Here’s the Wall Street Journal take on Obama’s refusal to veto the resolution.  Here’s a story from Haaretz about how John Kerry colluded with the so-called Palestinians on the deal.

Next, there’s been a large outrage from the left over the Russian hacking of the DNC HQ during the election campaign. This has set off the Obama administration and caused them to expel 35 Russian “diplomats” – many are suspected intelligence operatives. I agree with the retaliation here, though the timing is pretty latent if you ask me. Frankly,  it begs (at least) two questions: 1. Why would Obama allow these people into (or to stay in) the country in the first place?! and 2. Would he have done the same thing if this had happened to Trump.  Now, I know the answer to the second question because of the President’s long record of perverting justice, but the answer to the first is not readily available, though its perhaps the scariest.

There are two other things to point out about all this Russian business, and the first is just a reminder that it was Mitt Romney who in 2012 was warning about Russia as a major threat, all the while Hillary Clinton was working on the “Russian reset” of diplomatic relations…how did that end up working for ya Hill?  The second is that the left is decrying the Russian hack as having effectively helped Trump win the election. Poppycock!  I like Erick Erickson’s common sense blog post on this, which explains that hacking the DNC is not nearly the equivalent of hacking the election. Yes its bad, but it has nothing to do with ballots or voting or the voting systems whatsoever. Donald Trump won the election fair and square – let’s not forget that Hillary Clinton was one of the worst candidates in modern history (and that takes some doing), and was extremely unpopular, AND ran a campaign in such a way that she expected to win. The combination proved too much, despite Republican’s failure to coalesce around a more appealing candidate.

In response to the expulsion of his people from America, Putin has said he will not respond in-kind. The aim of this response is naturally to show Obama as a blustering and reactionary child who is throwing a tantrum.  With a more pro-Russian President set to take the oath in a few days, Putin knows he can wait this issue out, and used the opportunity to a way to show the world he is more of a grown-up than Obama, and he’s really the one in control etc.  Whether or not this works, I don’t know. But the President-elect has already come out praising Putin for his cool reaction to the expulsion. There’s a lot going on here beyond the headlines, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out in the coming year or two.

As a side note to all this foreign policy news, there was a Politico story a few days ago about how Henry Kissinger has been sidling up to Donald Trump.  Kissinger, as you might recall, was the head of the NSA under Nixon, but in reality, his power extended beyond that of Nixon’s Sec. of State, and his influence was widely felt in the Nixon White House. This has led some to speculate about the kind of foreign policy that Trump will have – one thing we know for certain is that it will be more “unpredictable” (as he has said), and this is very Nixonian.  

Besides foreign policy, there are other interesting stories out there.  One is on Why Christians should Refuse to Support Female UFC-style fighting (h/t Adam J.).  This is a very thorough story on an odd topic that is likely instructive of where we are as a culture.

Similarly, INC.com’s business of the year is Riot Games Inc.  I had never even heard of Riot Games, but the (lengthy) story was both fascinating and eye opening. 

This was super cool: Where do People Say That? 

OUCH:  Man’s Shot from Frozen Hazard Goes Terribly Wrong

The Smithsonian has a blog post I found interesting (h/t Challies): Did Ellis Island Officials Really Change the Names of Immigrants?

Thomas Sowell retired from his column this past week. Here is a blog from Joe Carter that includes 6 great quotes from the great man. 

Carrie Fisher died this week, which was sad. He mother (Debbie Reynolds) died only a few days later. Fisher suffered a massive heart attack while on board an international flight from Europe back to Los Angeles.  One wonders about the human heart, and why there are so many heart attacks around the holiday season – one story here attempting to explain. Of course what is more fascinating to me is the death of Fisher’s famous mother so soon after. We all know from experience how loved ones pass away, and their husband or wife or close family member dies soon thereafter. This says a lot about the will to live, and the power of the mind on the body.

Fisher’s death will have implications, of course, for the Star Wars franchise. In the newest Star Wars flick, ‘Rogue One’, Fisher makes a CGI appearance that was nothing short of stunning from a technical perspective and has awed fans for its realism. The more pressing issue is that Fisher herself had been a part of Episode 7 (The Force Awakens), and one can assume was going to play some role in Episode 8 – she’s central to the plot of these movies as the one who has instigated the search for Luke Skywalker. How Disney chooses to deal with this now will be closely scrutinized.

Funny: That Time Pepsi Promised to Give Away a Harrier Jet

Thoughtful: From Sam Storms…10 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT GOD’S WILL(S)

TECH: Voice Is the Next Big Platform, and Alexa Will Own It

Implications of TECH: Police seek Amazon Echo data in murder case

This looks…outrageously bad: A Turkish Rip-Off Of ‘Star Wars’ Exists And, Oh Boy, Is It A Wild Ride

Where does Saint Nick come from? Stephen Nichols explains…

Along similar lines – John Piper answers the question of whether Santa Claus is harmless fun or dangerous. He is pretty doggon frank in this one…

Prominent Pastors within the Southern Baptist Convention have attacked Russell Moore for his writing about the Presidential Election. Here are two stories about it…WaPo: Southern Baptists who marginalize Russell Moore are making a grave mistake.  WORLD: Supporters rally to Russell Moore after Trump criticism.  If you’re not a theologian or a pastor, then at least scan the stories simply in order to know who is attacking Moore. I believe that there are even people who read this blog whose pastors are publicly attacking Moore. So pay close attention to what is going on here, and how far your pastor has strayed from reason (this is the ultimate mission creep, if you ask me).

Some of these pastors are very big voices in the megachurch movement today, and (as a Southern Baptist myself) I’d love to see them fail miserably in their attempts to take down Moore, who is an articulate and helpful voice for conservative Christians in America – even if you don’t agree with every position Moore takes.  This is the heart of the issue: Many pastors within the convention conflate their Christian beliefs with an implicit (and sometimes explicit) support of whomever the Republican Party nominates for President. Publically these pastors make it seem like there ought to have been no struggle, no thinking, no reasoning or wrestling at all in the decision of who to vote for – and that is a huge mistake. There is nothing wrong with having voted for Donald Trump, of course! But to not even wrestle or think through the issues – or even acknowledge the MANY issues – that surrounded Trump’s personal life, or candidacy or past immoral public statements, is absolute negligence. What I’m saying is that some of these men need to re-orient the way in which they come to their decision on matters of politics in order to help their congregants sort through how to make the best decision at the ballot box while still holding to the faith with a clear conscience. That is what Moore was attempting to do, and I think its good to have thoughtful – even dissenting – voices in Christian community.

Here’s an interesting story about a man who dug up a ton of treasure…then became a fugitive from the law! 

Fascinating article from the Atlantic on Sleep, and how to get better sleep and whether or not you can really do with less…

Lastly, before I get to the book section, because I took some time off for Christmas, I didn’t get to post this column by Stephen Wellum on The Ten Things You Should Know About the Incarnation. This is one that I’ll be saving for the future because its very very good.

Books, Books, and More Books…

I’ve been chatting with many of my friends and family about what types of books they’ll be reading in 2017, and planning my own reading (and the reading for my kiddos) this week as well. One book I plan on reading is ‘The Legacy of Luther’, which was available for free download earlier this week (that may have expired, still it’s going to be a great read!).

Here’s what I finished reading this past week or so since my last blog:  Samuel Johnson’s Insults (this was hilarious!), The Bird’s Christmas Carol (a classic I grew up hearing from my mom), Smith of Wooten Major (a short story from Tolkien), Fool’s Talk (a good book on apologetics),  Sojourner Songs (beautiful poetry based on the Psalms), The Trumpet of the Swan (an E.B. White classic that our family read together – it was fantastic), Essays from Samuel Johnson (I got through a dozen or so and really enjoyed them, though they aren’t always easy to understand).

Here’s what I’m currently reading: Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands (finally making good progress on this, and enjoying it despite its being too wordy), In Cold Blood (a classic recommended by my brother – Kate and I reading together, its very well written), Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Volume IV (sooooo close to finishing this!), The Birth of Britain (this is the first of 4 volumes in Winston Churchill’s ‘History of the English Speaking Peoples).  There are others as well, but this has been the focus of the current and upcoming week.

Soon I’m going to do a post of my favorite/top top 40(ish) books from 2016, organized by category (it’s almost done!).  I’d love to hear from you and learn what your favorite books were in 2016!  

Have a wonderful weekend – and a Happy New Year!

PJW

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