Weekend Reading: August 19, 2017

Good morning and welcome to the weekend!  Here are the stories, videos, and books I found most interesting this week…

Let’s start out with Barcelona. Here’s the most updated video/news site I found with the very latest, in case you haven’t been able to catch up on the terrorist attack that happened on Thursday.

With the solar eclipse coming up on Monday, Atlas Obscura has put together a story with answers to a lot of the most interesting questions about the eclipse. 

In case you missed it, Steve Bannon resigned from the White House yesterday. In recent interviews, he’d been contradicting the President on the Korean situation and no-doubt that his influence post-Charlottesville was less helpful than ever. Bannon had always been a bit of a boogieman for the left. And it seems like he’s not super happy about his departure.  Very practically speaking, I think there will be good and bad from this. The bad will be that he likely balanced out the more liberal voices in the administration (Kushner and Ivanka) on domestic policy, and the more internationalist approach of some of the generals on the staff (by the way, I dispute that General McMaster is a globalist – anyone who has actually read his book on Vietnam will see that he seems to detest politicians jumping into conflicts overseas when they’re unnecessary).

On the other side of things, the positive side, I see Bannon’s leaving as a positive for the integrity of the White House and the office of President. He was probably responsible for many of the leaks to Breitbart (a site he used to run and will once again take the helm of) and other news outlets. Additionally, for a staffer to come out and directly contradict the President in public (which he did in several interviews this week) on Korea or any other matter, is grounds for dismissal. I’m not saying it’s wrong to contradict Trump, but if you’re on his staff, then you need to sing from the same sheet of music – he’s the boss.  Bannon must have felt as though he was smarter than Trump, and could say whatever he wanted with complete impunity. He was wrong.

A few items on Charlottesville…

Someone asked me this week if I think that it was fair for the President to receive so much criticism about his remarks after the terror attack.  I think the question is a bit of a loaded one because we know that editors and anchors and journalists in the media lean left, and had been hammering the President from day one of his administration (and before).

That said, if you look through the Washington Post’s whining here, there emerges a good point, namely that past Presidents have used terror attacks as a stage to magnify their leadership, and remind Americans of what makes this country great. There are two sides to how you respond to these kinds of things, the first is the negative and the condemning, and the other side of it is the casting of a vision for what America is all about.  There is no way that any President should be taking a polling hit after something like this, and yet this President seems most adept at shooting himself in the foot. This man who manipulated the media into giving him billions of dollars in free coverage throughout the election cycle (to the detriment of far superior candidates), cannot be said to be ignorant of how to turn these events into public relations gold.  But instead what we’ve seen is the opposite. I have a few theories on why that is, but it’s worth pondering…

SIDEBAR: In case you had forgotten what thoughtful leadership looks like, outside the circus, both former Presidents Bush released a joint statement on the matter.  I applaud their leadership and their positive vision of the country – however flawed it may be. Indeed, critical thinkers will recognize that those men’s statement isn’t free from critique. They conclude by saying, “We know these truths to be everlasting because we have seen the decency and greatness of our country.” What does that even mean? For two men who are governed by Christian faith, this is an inane and fallacious way to conclude such an important statement. They state that Americans are all created with “certain inalienable rights” (quoting Jefferson), and then say they know these are everlasting – how do they know these rights are everlasting? They say it is “because” they’ve witnessed the “decency and greatness of our country.” WRONG.  You cannot base a statement of men’s rights being everlasting upon the waxing and waning behavior of citizens. If you were to say that men are “sinful and in need of salvation from the One who created them to have equal rights” because of what they’ve seen in lives of men, then I’d be on board. But you cannot base a supposed eternal/everlasting truth upon the fleeting behaviors of the masses. In fact, this is exactly what our founders were trying to avoid, having witnessed the horrors of the French Revolution! No, no, no. These inalienable rights are not based on any decency we have witnessed in our fellow man, or in the power of one country, but rather they are grounded in the “everlasting” nature of our God who created us all in His image.

Eternal truth must be grounded in the eternal Being, not in the whims of society, or the “greatness” of a country.

Here’s another opinion piece for critical thinkers. It’s by conservative columnist Ramesh Ponnuru who says Bury the Confederacy for Good’.  My southern friends will probably hate this one – but I think my southern friends probably need a bit of a wake up as well. Ponnuru seems to want to get at some of the historical issues underlying the racial issues from last week. He makes some really good points, reminding us that while Robert E. Lee fought “long and valiantly” (to quote General Grant), still he had committed treason against our country. There’s more here than can be discussed in my post because as a man intensely interested in history, I’m concerned that tearing down historical markers may erase that history. That said, why would we ever memorialize men who committed treason. Lee made the wrong choice, and he lost – praise God, he lost.  Are we mature enough to honor the fallen and accurately remember the history without celebrating the wrong ideas for which they fought?  

Moving on to tech and other good things…

I thought this was pretty interesting:  Hyundai unveils new fuel cell SUV with longer travel range

And, I missed this a few months back, but appreciate my brother digging it up:  What does the new ISP data-sharing roll back actually change?

From the NY Times: Learning to Learn: You, Too, Can Rewire Your Brain

Popular Mechanics: The Remarkable, War-Torn, Spacefaring History of the Slinky

A few stories on Elvis Presley this week. The first comes from the Opinion Page of the Wall Street Journal, and is a first hand account of what it was like at Presley’s viewing the day after he died.  The second is a vintage column from R.C. Sproul from that same year, talking about Elvis, and the national phenomenon that had sprung up around him. Fascinating stuff.

LASTLY, I want to point you to an article by Jon Bloom that plays off of the moxie of Winston Churchill and is called ‘Never Give In, Never Make Peace’.  It’s a brilliantly timed article in the wake of the last week of tumult.  I will leave you with the best excerpt:

A year before his speech at Harrow, in even darker (sterner) days, immediately following the heroic deliverance of 335,000 British and French troops from German capture in the Battle of Dunkirk, Churchill encouraged the British Parliament and people, as well as the world, with these words of resolve:

Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

This is what encouragement sounds like. Encouragement is not just tender consolation for the suffering, it is strong exhortation to the fainthearted. This is how we should speak to each other in wartime, especially when the shadow of evil is cast over us. This is not a time to give in to fear. It is not a time for despair. This is a time for resolve. It is a time, not for posturing and swagger, but for a humble, Jesus-trusting, Word-grounded, Spirit-filled determination. It is a time for holy Christian moxie.

That’s it!  I hope you have a great weekend.

PJW

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