Good morning, and welcome to the weekend reading. For those of you who are new to this email/blog, what I’m doing is rounding up all the stories, blogs, books and videos from that past week that I found most interesting and passing it along to you. Very often I’m not going to simply send out the stuff you already heard about, unless I want to comment on it. What I’m trying to do here is give my friends in politics more access to good Christian material that can be hard to find, while giving my friends in the church more information on political events from the week from the perspective of a political professional, all while discussing tech, literature, and more. So here’s what I found interesting this week…
The most interesting thing that happened politically this week was the 80 minute press conference that President Trump held, ostensively to announce his replacement pick for labor secretary (Andy Pudzer having withdrawn from the process). However, the presser took on the form of a rant against the media for being so hate-filled. I watched most of the press conference, and found it absolutely hilarious, and highly entertaining. Erick Erickson mentioned that as enjoyable as the press conference was, it was still not how most Americans would want their President to behave. Still, I think Erickson might be a bit tainted in his opinions of the President, having been a long-time Trump basher. Still, he’s not wholly incorrect. I would just say that he may not fully grasp the danger that the mainstream media poses to our Republic. They taint everything they write with agenda driven opinion. I think this happens on both sides of the spectrum, and its the reason I have as difficult a time watching Fox “News” as I do watching the Clinton News Network.
That said, the liberal media has gone completely berserk. I can’t even read the Post or Politico anymore without it being completely saturated with opinion – no serious news reporting. If you’re curious as to the political bent of a particular reporter, simply find them on Twitter. It is on the Twitters that these folks generally loose their sense of decorum and let their proverbial hair down. After the presser, I saw one major Ohio reporter infer that the President was being a racist, completely taking comments he made out of context (I took him to task, and he quickly admitted that, perhaps, I was correct…the whole thing left me shaking my head). I don’t think these guys do it maliciously, but from what I can discern, it springs from a few things. 1. They have a built in hatred for the President and even think he’s nuts (the Times actually ran an opinion piece this week saying as much!) 2. They don’t think carefully before they tweet/speak/write 3. They have laid aside/forgotten the fact that they are responsible to the public for their journalism, and have thus forfeited their responsibilities 4. They don’t know what it means to do hard work of true un-biased journalism (i.e. real reporting with no opinion inserted) 5. They have egos the size of the President they criticize…but forget they aren’t as important as he is.
Did the President breach decorum? Yes, probably so. But given the way the media has been covering the President, he might rightfully believe they pose a real threat to our Republic because of their willful neglect of their duty to the American public.
The President isn’t making it easy on himself though – for good and for bad. The nomination process for his cabinet picks has been dicey, and he just had a major cabinet official (Michael Flynn) resign in the wake of inappropriate (illegal?) conversations he was holding with the Russians (prior to Jan. 20?) re: sanctions and other important matters. It remains to be seen if there are people within our intelligence community who are actually disrupting the President’s agenda (some reports out about them not fully briefing him, and worse). Some of this drama is self-imposed, some of it is the result of the media making a mountain of a molehill, some is because his cabinet picks have been so fantastic, and some of it is because he’s running a hurry-up offense and mistakes tend to happen when you’re doing that.
Side Note – here’s a funny moment from the presser…
Staying on politics for a moment, I caught a small story in the Wall Street Journal this morning about the Consumer Protection Agency that Richard Cordray heads up. A court has finally ruled that this thing just might be unconstitutional, and the President is starting to turn on the heat. I’m keeping an eye on this because this is an agency completely out of control, and its headed by a man who just might come back and make a run for statewide office in Ohio.
Speaking of the WSJ, they have a long Saturday Essay on Christians choosing “a life apart” from modern society. I’m a little wary of this one, and haven’t read it yet, but its the kind of article you want to keep an eye on…
In case you missed it, Samsung big-wig Jay Y. Lee was arrested this week in South Korea. This is part of a major corruption scandal that extends all the way up the chain of SK government. I suspect that there will be a lot more info on this in the weeks to come.
More international politics: Nikki Haley: U.S. supports 2-state Israel-Palestinian solution. This is only interesting because her boss has been floating the idea that a two-state solution is out the door. In fact, a Wall Street Journal headline from the week (front page, big banner deal) said, “U.S. Drops Longtime Push for a Two-State Solution.” So…some mixed signals coming from the administration on this front. They’re going to have to get this straightened out one way or another eventually, but it sort of plays into the POTUS’ modus operandi when it comes to international politics – namely that he wants to keep people confused and on their heals.
TECH – from Bloomberg: Elon Musk is Really Boring (h/t Alex W.) Preview:
For years he’s been thinking about tunnels—both out of a personal fascination and because they’d be an important component of the Hyperloop, the fanciful high-speed rail system he proposed in 2013. All the while he’s been quietly encouraging anyone who asks him about new business opportunities to consider digging for a living. “I think they were hoping I’d say some sort of iPhone app that they could make,” he says with a smile. “I would just say, ‘Do tunnels.’ It would obviously solve urban congestion—and we wouldn’t be stuck in soul-destroying traffic all the time.”
This story was made more interesting for me because I just finished Musk’s bio last week (h/t Brian R. for the great suggestion!).
When one thinks of Musk one thinks of space, which leads to this little ditty: Lost Winston Churchill essay reveals his thoughts on alien life. (h/t Parris P.) I don’t really want to encourage all the leftist scientists in their salivating, as if they can use WSC for proof that they were right all along etc. But its still a pretty funny article. I’m also not entirely sure this was really a “lost” essay. Seems like Manchester might have covered some of these items in his definitive series…I could be wrong, it just sounded familiar.
MORE TECH – How algorithms (secretly) run the world
Theology for Thought – John MacArthur has a guest column on the Ligonier blog this week which is worth reading and pondering. The Title, ‘What Is the Relationship Between Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility?’
A few Pop-Culture stories…
This guy just can’t keep a plane in the air: Harrison Ford in Incident With Passenger Plane at California Airport
Why I Won’t Be Seeing (or Reviewing) The Shack Movie – Challies has some thoughtful points on this one. I like where he’s going. (h/t Scott Z. for having me take a closer look at this article)
Hilarious: Vehicles Flung off Carrier in Test (what is it with the Weather Channel now showing all these random videos which have absolutely nothing to do with weather???)
WHOA! Discovery of intact WWII-era bomb under Greek gas station prompts mass evacuation.
Now, some thoughtful longer-form pieces for review. First, is James K.A. Smith’s editorial in Comment Magazine, ‘Teach Us (How) to Trust‘ which looks at society and how trust is the foundational element/glue that holds us back from complete chaos. Some interesting points here to consider. Second, is from Max Boot over at Foreign Policy Magazine titled, ‘Trump’s Big Mouth Has Already Weakened America‘. I don’t agree with everything he’s saying here, but his main point is that POTUS is his own worst enemy, and that is certainly the case. Ironic that he’d post this just a day or so before the big White House presser. I think there are some things in here worth considering for any leader, and if you want a more reasoned dissent from a liberal, this would be the story to read. I personally really like knowing the mindset of my liberal opponents, and Boot has a long history of journalism that (from my experience) isn’t as reactionary or over the top as some of the others in the mainstream media, so its a good place to start.
There were three really exceptional articles/blogs over at Desiring God this week. I don’t know how they manage so much good content each week, but all three of these are of the must-read variety. The first (and my favorite of the three) is called ‘How to Love When You Don’t Feel It’, by a man named Greg Morse. This is absolutely great stuff. Here’s an excerpt:
The command to love God with everything, and others as ourselves, often assaults this kind of love, oppresses our natural cravings, and inconveniences our self-actualization:
- Love your neighbor as yourself regardless if they have wronged you.
- Love your neighbor as yourself no matter how unpopular they are.
- Love your neighbor as yourself notwithstanding the fact that they embody every pet peeve that you didn’t even realize you had until you met them.
Or, more importantly:
- Love God with everything no matter how busy you are.
- Love God with everything no matter how angry with him you may be.
- Love God with everything no matter how sick, tired, or confused you are.
No footnotes, asterisks, or qualifications nuance these two commands. “Not feeling it” is the problem to overcome, not an excuse to disobey.
The second is about disciple making and is called ‘You are My Joy’ (David Mathis), and finally, one by a lady named Vaneetha Rendall Risner entitled ‘Where is God When Things Keep Getting Worse’ which is really fantastic.
Books: As I mentioned earlier, the Musk book was pretty darn interesting, though it was full of swear words. I also read G.K. Chesterton’s classic work ‘Orthodoxy’ after some inspiration from my friend Nic M. Ironically, one of my favorite chapters in the book was chapter 4, where I find Chesterton is both at his best and his worst. He sublimely explains why he believes in democracy, and then is studiously conveys his own misapplied reasoning for the importance of ‘tradition’, revealing some of the incorrect underpinning for his Catholic faith. It is almost as if an a priori belief in democracy has influenced his thinking on the role of tradition (in fact, there really is no “almost” about it). I thought Chesterton magnificently explained some of his reasoning as to why he is a Christian, while showing some willful ignorance on others – I especially thought his treatment of Calvinism horrendously unintellectual (or at least beneath his abilities). In addition to these, I finished ‘Alexander Hamilton’ by Ron Chernow, thereby confirming that Hamilton was as deserving of my low opinion as I thought he might be (still the book was really interesting, and his life would make a good movie…its probably why the broadway play is so successful). Conrad’s famous ‘Heart of Darkness’ was polished off early in the week, and I found it really interesting. The style of writing was something else. I’d grown up watching ‘Lord Jim’ with Peter O’Toole, and seeing how Conrad’s characters dealt with personal moral struggles. He does a good job of conveying some of that in his halting style of writing. Finally, I read ‘The Billionaire’s Vinegar’ which was a fascinating story (about 300 pages, maybe 75 too long) about ancient wines…well wines from two hundred years ago. Specifically it focuses on the drama surrounding some bottles of French wine supposed to have been owned by Thomas Jefferson. There’s a lot of modern day legal intrigue that makes the book drag at certain points, but overall very interesting stuff.
The Tele – and lest you think I’m simply a bookish troglodyte, I do watch some TV (from time to time). Last night we finally got around to finishing the third (and final?) installment of the recent Sherlock Holmes (season four from PBS). It had parts that were not as believable from an acting standpoint, than others, but overall it was nice. This one felt as though the ending was a bit more true to the books – at least that’s the sense I got.
That’s it! I hope you enjoy the weekend!