Weekend Reading: July 22, 2017

Welcome to the weekend!  I hope you had a wonderful week, and are settling into a productive and/or relaxing few days.  Here are just a few of the stories, videos, etc. that I found interesting this week…

Let’s start with something that is going to affect everyone: groceries. From Gizmodo: At This Point, Amazon Can Crush a Company Just By Filing for a Trademark. Really interesting just how powerful Amazon is these days. I really love and enjoy Amazon, but I wonder if there will come a point when people resist convenience in order to fight monopoly. That point may never arrive in ‘Merica, but its an interesting thought nonetheless…

Sean Spicer resigned as White House Press Secretary. Sarah Huckabee Sanders will take the podium full time – congrats (I think?) Sarah!  Sarah is someone I have worked with in the past and admire for her hard work, and I wish her the best of luck.

Fuel for the Imagination: I found this story buried in the bowels of the Wall Street Journal: Elon Musk Teases a New York-to-D.C. Hyperloop. What’s so interesting is the speed at which he is talking about getting from NYC to D.C.:

In a message Thursday on his official Twitter account, Mr. Musk said he had “Just received verbal govt approval” to build a “Hyperloop” along the East Coast that could deliver people from New York to Washington in 29 minutes. Amtrak’s Acela Express travels between New York and Washington in slightly less than three hours.

To give you an idea of just how fast that is, depending on what road you take, the trip is between 226 and 243 miles according to google maps (an average car ride of 4-4.5 hours). Musk is talking about a speed of 12.8miles per minute or 768 miles per hour – Mauk 1 (the speed of sound) is 767 miles per hour!  

I’m unsure where these numbers are coming from, and why they differ so much from the video that Musk’s Boring Company released a few months back.  Maybe there’s a mistake…maybe…

Food for Thought: From Jon Bloom…Passive Christianity Is Dead Christianity.  This one is full of goodness. Excerpt:

Our pesky behaviors — they’re our worst betrayers. They keep leaking to the press what’s going on behind the closed doors of our hearts and undermining all the hard work our press-secretary tongues do trying to manage public perception.

Controversy: There’s been a lot of angst over the comments from Eugene Peterson that he would be okay officiating a gay wedding. This is a guy who many looked up to as a great Christian writer. I have never personally read any of his books, but a few of them are on my list for later in the year. Russell Moore asks the question, ‘Should We Still Read Eugene Peterson?‘ (h/t Aaron B.)

Strangely Edifying: Every Book of the Bible in One Word

Philosophy: Susan Wise Bauer, writing for Comment Magazine has some interesting point to make in this long-ish article, A FORM OF GODLINESS: Why civil religion won’t save us from religious nationalism or radical secularism.

Great Video: Cruise Ship Construction & Christening in 4K by MK timelapse (h/t to Marc W. for posting this one). 

For you golf fans, it’s British Open weekend. The official site can be found here. As of this writing, Matt Kuchar and Jordan Spieth are tied for the lead.

Keep an Eye on these items: First, Courts Rule E-Cigarettes Should Be Regulated Like Tobacco Products. Second, Why the Post Office Gives Amazon Special Delivery. 

Lastly, this is an interesting look at what happens when a Wal-Mart leaves a small poor community in West Virginia: What happened when Walmart left. Much demonized by the left, these stores actually provided a lot for their communities. But when they leave, the people in the community almost don’t know what to do.  Some turn to fast food for many of their meals, but others are starting to grow their own food in order to live more healthy lives. Just an interesting phenomenon to behold and consider.

That’s it!  I know that I haven’t posted a book update in a while, but I’m in the final days of a seminary semester, so soon enough I’ll be buzzing through books again, posting recommendations, and ideas. If you have some book recommendations for me, please send them along!

Have a great weekend!

PJW

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Weekend Reading: July 16, 2017

Welcome to another weekend!  I’ve gotten a few people asking me about why I haven’t done a weekend reading in the last few weeks, and the reason is that with seminary responsibilities and many Saturday activities during the summer, its been harder to sit down and blog/email regularly. I’m going to be a little hit or miss for the next several weeks until the summer settles down.

I do have a few items for your radar though, some are from the last few weeks.  Here we go…

A good friend of mine sent along this article by Walter Isaacson from the Harvard Business Review: The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs.  It’s about 5 years old, and its rather long, but its a great weekend article with some very insightful points, and worth taking some time to scroll through.

Over at Cardus, David Koyzis has written a book review on Walter Newell’s new book on Tyranny.  The title of the article is called: DOES TYRANNY NEED A TWELVE STEP PROGRAM: Democracy and tyranny have a codependent relationship. This is heady stuff, and its another long one, but I think he makes some good points here – especially his closing counter-point to Newell re: the anecdote to tyranny.  Newell seems to think that the anecdote is liberal arts education, and reading the classics to see how governments (mal)functioned in the past. Koyzis rightly says that its more than that, its putting into place (doing something!) governments that have separations of powers, and checks on the tyranny that comes from democracy, and authoritarian types (among other species of tyranny….of which I think he lists 4).

Of all the “trump is the devil and we are investigating him and Russian connections” articles out there in the last few weeks, I found this one to actually be the most interesting: Trump-Russia investigators probe Jared Kushner-run digital operation.

Now a few thoughts about the political state-of-play. A friend of mine brought up the frustrating nature of the last few weeks watching the news on Donald Trump, Jr. and said that his major frustration was that he’d see the President or his team say or do something that just seemed utterly reprehensible one day, and then a few days later when more facts came out, it seemed like maybe it really wasn’t that big of a deal (that the media over-hyped it).  The frustration wasn’t aimed at the media per se (though they are doubtless out of control), but rather the fact that its very easy to have ver mixed emotions about the President even factoring in the media bias.

I know there are people who will be loyal to him no matter what – but I think the media’s dishonesty and unprofessionalism actually aids in that sentiment and is a sample of the real reason he was elected in the first place. Namely, people so distrust the media and their elected leaders (note: ELECTED…by them) and the bureaucrats they put into place, that they were willing to put this man in the White House.  Those are the major factors in play here. As long as the major news outlets continue their bias and buffoonery (a la Joe Scarborough), then the President will be given a free pass on just about anything.

Momentary time out to clear my throat……*cough* *cough*  How Ironic: George Clooney Moving Family Out of England For ‘Security Reasons’ …okay…back to my political update…

I do think there are some seriously messed up freaks who support Trump (and you have that on both sides of the political spectrum).  But take that hilarious video that Trump tweeted out with him body-slamming CNN – that actually came from one such cuckoo.  This is the stuff that the media uses to characterize Trump supporters – which would be ridiculous and unethical of them to do that, IF THE PRESIDENT HAD NOT BEEN THE ONE TO PROMOTE THEM!!!  When the President re-tweets stuff like this from people like that, he is tacitly endorsing those people and what they are putting out there.

So the way I see it, right now, you have two parties in a standoff: the President and the 4th Estate.  Each is committed to this battle and each seems more efficient at self-harm than of doing their jobs. But what I will say is this – at least the President seems to care about the country, and its people and is working to further our interests (at least as far as he understands them – that is a disputed point), whereas the media is committed to destroying any public figure (esp. on the right), and has no compunction about the future of our country. That is the material difference that gets lost in the milieu.

Moving on…TECH news: Tesla’s first mass-market electric

and this: To improve AI, scientists may have to make it worse 

ALSO…a story about the way of the world, and technology: How Pokemon Go Went From Viral Sensation To Wasteland in Just One Year

Also…an interesting Foreign Policy backgrounder on past assassination attempts on North Korea’s Kim family. 

This is another discussion for another day…but in case you missed this: California Issues ‘Travel Ban’ on Some Red States.  When men fall deeply into sin, it is the normal pattern of sin to protect and defend that sin against all assaults. Putting up walls to any critique, whether caring or not, is the militant manifestation of how we lash out against all attempts to have light expose our depravity.  This is manifested socially as well as individually, and its what we’re seeing from the gay rights movement, which essentially leads the pubic policy makers of California on a leash.

Some interesting Jane Austen stories are being cranked out by those who enjoy her literature because its going on 200 years since she died.  Oddly enough, the New York Times has a few decent articles. One is a quiz on your Austen knowledge (I didn’t score as well as I thought I would…though I expect Jim B. to turn in a high %).  The second is a story about how Austen dealt with death:  In Jane Austen’s Pages, Death Has No Dominion.

As an avid reader, I found this interesting: Is Harry Potter the boy who saved reading?  My own opinion a year ago would have been decidedly derogatory, yet despite the fact that Tolkein, Lewis, L’Engle and others have written superior literary classics, my daughter Chloe absolutely adores the Harry Potter series, and this has come at a critical junction in her reading development.  So for that reason I am extremely grateful for Rowling’s work.

Food for thought here:  The Lowering Of The ‘Presidential’ Bar And How Moral Relativism Became ‘Conservative’

Lastly, I’ll leave you with this excellent piece of writing from Desiring God.  Here’s an excerpt:

Everyone we know and love will return to the dust. Family members will hear heavy words from their doctor. Great loss will strike dear friends. We will weep. And pretending like we can manage our sufferings on our own won’t help. We weren’t built to handle them. We need the body of Christ — and we need Christ himself, our sympathetic High Priest, the man of sorrows, the one who shouldered our grief.

I hope you enjoy the remainder of your weekend.  Thank you for your patience as I am more spotty with my writing (at least through the next few weeks).

PJW

Weekend Reading: June 24, 2017

Good morning everyone!  Here are the stories, videos, and blogs I enjoyed or felt were interesting enough to share this week, with one warning – a read a lot of WSJ articles, so if you don’t have a subscription you’ll not be able to access all of them (of course I would highly recommend a subscription).

A few items of interest in the political world this week that you may not have heard about (I’m assuming you heard about Georgia’s 6th CD special and have no need of yet another recap).

I thought this was pretty interesting: Protesters plan to greet Mike Pence in ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ garb at Focus on the Family speech in Colorado Springs. This is a gay rights group working to bring attention to their plight, and the supposed closed-mindedness of groups like Focus on the Family.  Note this quote from the group’s leader, “This is the way they see Focus, this backwards organization that’s promoting stuff that’s far beyond what most of us would consider applicable for modern society.”  Especially note his (am I okay to use that pronoun?) use of the phrase “most of us.”  Even just 10 years ago this might have been a fanciful statement, but we have reached a moment where the tyranny of the minority has taken captive the behavior and speech patterns of the majority of the country.

After the shooting in D.C. (the one successfully aimed at several members of Congress), some interesting stories came out.  First, this video from one of the Congressmen who describes the scene is worth reviewing.  Second, there’s an opinion piece in WaPo about the precarious nature of our constitutional backup plans in the event that certain heads of state get killed.  Third, in the aftermath of the shooting, several Democratic members of Congress got together to pray for their GOP colleagues who were shot at (and wounded). However, NPR changed their action from “praying” to “thinking”, and got caught. I’m not just posting that as a “gotcha” moment to shake your head at, rather I’m making your aware (again) that there are serious prejudices in the media against religion of any kind. Also…why is NPR publically funded in the first place? It’s not a public service – if you provide a good product, people will listen and you’ll get sponsors. Period. If not…goodbye.

And how about conservative columnist Erick Erickson calling for us to contemplate secession, and then tempering that post with another right away. Some interesting points to discuss here. Maybe I don’t have space or time here, but read these, and ask yourself if he’s got a point, or whether he’s taken The Benedict Option too far…

In terms of thinking about the nation’s future, Sen. Ben Sasse is out with a book called ‘The Vanishing American Adult.’  There’s a slightly critical review of the book at Cardus this week, which surprised me, given the positive reviews I’ve seen online. Still there are some good points in the review, points about the nature of automation and the future of work that need to be pondered I suppose.

Something actually worth reading from The New York Times: How We Became Bitter Political Enemies.  Excerpt:

Today, partisan prejudice even exceeds racial hostility in implicit association tests that measure how quickly people subconsciously associate groups (blacks, Democrats) with traits (wonderful, awful). That’s remarkable, given how deeply ingrained racial attitudes are in the United States, and how many generations they’ve had to harden, according to work by Mr. Iyengar and the Dartmouth political scientist Sean J. Westwood.

Foreign Affairs…in this week’s Columbus Dispatch: What can US do to North Korea to avenge death of Otto Warmbier?  (Spoiler Alert: Nothing)

More worth reading: 4 charts on how Russians see their country’s place in the world

And…U.S. Jet Shoots Down Syrian Pro-Regime Drone

These guys crack me up: Atheist Driver Spots Jesus Fish Eating Darwin Fish, Repents

“Ever since freshman philosophy class I’ve believed God is a fiction and humans are the product of natural selection, an accidental collocation of atoms,” Boyette recounted to reporters. “Then I spotted that car decal and heard the sound of crumbling. It was my worldview. I saw that Jesus Christ could eat Charles Darwin for lunch, just as the Jesus fish bearing the word ‘truth’ was swallowing up the smaller, weaker Darwin fish.’”

Tech

There are several stories of interest in the technology sector that you might want to check out.  Wired had something on Quantum computing, which was interesting but didn’t quite help me understand the advantages of the new tech. I’ll be on the watch for more information on this as it develops.

Also….How Facebook’s Telepathic Texting Is Supposed to Work – I found this really interesting.

Here’s an interesting piece from The Guardian about Apple’s manufactuing plant in China:  Life and death in Apple’s forbidden city

The ninnies at major corporations crack me up.  They find themselves in a bit of a quagmire (not ethically, because their branding isn’t based on ethics but on fear) when the people they’re happy to take money from also wander onto political sites they don’t like or watch videos on YouTube that make them uncomfortable. Here’s the story headline: Advertisers Try to Avoid the Web’s Dark Side, From Fake News to Extremist Videos  The issue here is that through advanced programmatic buying (the kind my own firm utilizes), companies like Target (for example) follow people around the internet, instead of camping out on certain websites that cater to their demographics. It’s a great way to advertise – it’s like going to a golf tournament. You have to decide whether to follow the players around the course, or sit on one hole and take in whatever action happens on that hole as the players come through – I’ve always preferred the former!

But what happens when that potential customer ends up watching a video you think is a bit risque (not sexually, Target would never care about that – I mean like terror videos or the like)?  What then?  Well, these big companies get mad when Ad buyers don’t block sites they don’t agree with, or want their brand associated with  – fair enough. But things get harder when you are talking about content within a site – like YouTube – that is harder to monitor for ad men placing bids on real estate on the site, and have little to no control over the content posted on said site. The funny thing is, that I wonder if faced with the ability to not take the money from people watching ISIS propaganda videos, whether Target would actually discriminate in this way. Or put more provocatively, what if they learned that 20% of their target audience was actually visiting Brietbart.com for news? Would they block those people from buying at their stores; tracing their IP’s back to their physical addresses, and then declining their credit cards for online or in-store purchases?  I’m just playing out one of the several scenarios that could be only a few years down the road…food for thought!

There are some interesting goings on in Memphis: Memphis activists target Confederate monuments after failed attempt to dig up general’s grave

Entertainment Stuff:  The Han Solo Movie Just Lost Its Directors Midway Through Filming

And…they’re back!  Drive in movies are making a big comeback.  My family recently benefited from this comeback, as a Friday night trip to the drive in proved to be a ton of fun for the kids (thanks to my friend Britain for the idea!).

This is excellent: Never Read the Bible Simply to Know

Lastly, I’ll leave you with this for your amusement, this was floating around social media circles this week, and it was too good not to repost here!  (h/t Kate):

That’s it!  Have a great weekend!

PJW

Weekend Reading: June 17, 2017

Welcome to Father’s Day weekend. Here are the most interesting blogs, stories, videos and books from the week (from what I saw and thought, at least).  I’ve only got a short post for you today, as I’m in the midst of a two-day golf tournament with my dad (can you think of a better way to spend Father’s Day weekend???).

Let’s get going…

One thing that caused me to shake my head this week was the continual blatant opinion-based headlines and “news reporting” from the news networks and major media outlets. It’s as if they are in a race to outdo one another in showing how partisan they can be.  Here’s a screenshot of my iPhone’s curated stories from the week. Notice how blatantly partisan each news organization is (of course the left controls most of these outlets so they stand out the most):

Then, of course, there were items like this: Trusted Source In News. CNN Claimed Trump Did Not Visit Scalise In The Hospital 

This is why I don’t watch cable news if I can help it at all. Gone are the days of real reporting, where journalists were scrupulously ensuring their stories were balanced and fair. Al Mohler, who I really respect a great deal, likes to point out how papers like the NY Times and Washington Post have all these editorial levels, which separates them from the average blog or radio talk show you would consume.But the reason I wanted to point this out was that if you’re watching or listening to this stuff for several hours each day, then you are necessarily feeding a certain perspective. A couple of hours of talk radio each day and you will think Obama is the spawn of Satan, and Trump is God’s gift to mankind.

But it Mohler’s point makes it all the worse when there can be layer upon layer of editorial input, and still, you end up with this trash – the TV networks are especially bad. Fox, CNN, and MSNBC are pretty much unwatchable for me.

I guess I’m only bringing this up because I know a lot of people who listen to talk radio all day or watch Fox or whatever, and they are just being spoonfed everything they already agree with.  The same goes for the other side.  It’s such a disservice to our country that real reporting is vanishing, mostly because our minds are being closed to any opportunity for checking our worldview or assumptions. And frankly, if you’re a conservative or a liberal, you don’t need someone telling you their opinion about politics all day long, once you read some straight journalism on the news of the day, I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to form a coherent opinion of your own. .

Rant over…

3 Stories I saved for my own weekend reading:

WSJ: Mueller Probe Examining Whether Donald Trump Obstructed Justice

NYTimes: How We Became Bitter Political Enemies

Challies: Consecutive Exposition Is Not the Only Way

And from the continual theme of “words matter”:  A Judge Just Cited a Trump Tweet When Ruling Against Him. Again.

US OPEN:  He Brought the U.S. Open to a Cow Pasture. All It Cost Was His Fortune.

Foreign Policy: Otto Warmbier, Cincinnati native held by North Korea, comes home in a coma

Mohler for Ligonier: How Will We Live Now? 

Stupid News of the Week: Demi Moore reveals she’s missing her two front teeth

Capitalism Vs. Socialism…from National Journal: The Kids Aren’t Alright

Batman Died: Why Adam West will always be the true Batman Forever

Every Saw this Last Week, right?? Sanders Blasts Trump Nominee Over Religious Post

BREAKING FROM THE BEE:  Man Accepts Jesus As Personal Butler

That’s it!  Go enjoy the sun and have a great weekend!

PJW

Weekend Reading: June 10, 2017

Good morning and welcome to the weekend!  Every week I gather up some of the most interesting stories, videos, and books that I took in and share them with you. This started about three years ago this month (if I recall correctly), and I appreciate the opportunity to continue to have the dialogue, and hopefully, serve some of my best friends inside and outside of politics.

I feel like it’s been total Comey overload this week. That’s all the media wants to talk about, so there’s some reticence on my part to bombard you with more of the same. But I was struck by a non-political friend, Brittany T., who had caught a part of the hearing and was having trouble remembering what had actually started the whole thing in the first place. Which, is a great question!  So great, in fact, that Jay Caruso over at RedState felt that we needed a quick reminder that there was/is a legitimate investigation going on into Russian influence on the 2016 election. I am personally not yet convinced that Russians did anything to actually change the voting outcome, nor am I convinced that team Trump had any control or influence over their activities, but it’s still a legit investigation nonetheless, and not simply a conspiracy theory.

Lost in all this was the ridiculous interview of Vladimir Putin by Megyn Kelly.  I don’t think she’s that great of an interviewer – a good interviewer knows how to draw out the other person, whereas she simply assaults him with allegations. Of course, it’s hard to imagine what a good interview would look like with someone so adept at deception.

So what was the main political upshot of this week’s Comey hearing? I think it will likely be that the President’s favorability ratings dropped a few points and that partisans on both sides became more entrenched (as the Babylon Bee reported!).  None of this is likely due to anything Comey said, but due to the realization that the President seems to have played fast and loose with the truth. Yes, Comey is a “leaker” and yes he’s too slick by half (I credit Brian R. for the Uriah Heep – as in Dicken’s Heep – comparison). But Comey isn’t the President.  He isn’t leading the nation. He’s just a Washington insider and a smarmy bureaucrat.  Comey isn’t the issue. He isn’t really all that important, even, in the long-term because it seems apparent that the President in no way obstructed justice. What seems apparent is that the President simply doesn’t understand the traditional separation of powers, and the way in which that works – Check out Peggy Noonan’s column in WSJ for more on that.

Aside from the separation of powers issue, there’s also this issue of the President’s veracity. If you’re old enough to remember the Clinton days in the 90’s, you’ll recall that one of the main allegations/issues that were continually brought to bear about the character of President Clinton was that he was a serial liar. Now, we are living in days when conservatives are saying the same of Donald Trump.  This is a major issue and one I’ve brought to the fore in the past. The man is continually waging a self-inflicted war, and for those of us who’d like to see him succeed, and see the country move forward in strength and honor, it’s hard to watch at times.

Okay – isn’t that enough of Comey?  Good!  Let’s move on…sort of…

One of the things I find popping up from reading news articles and political commentary from both sides of the partisan divide is that there is a widely held sense that the country is changing. Politics are changing. Values are changing. And folks are having a hard time pinning down all the ways in which this is so, but especially and what it means for the future of our republic. If you read one thing this week, read National Review’s David French as he grapples with these issues. His headline is ‘We’re Not in a Civil War, but We Are Drifting Toward Divorce’.  Excerpt…

None of this is surprising. Our national political polarization is by now so well established that the only real debate is over the nature of our cultural, political, and religious conflict. Are we in the midst of a more or less conventional culture war? Are we, as Dennis Prager and others argue, fighting a kind of “cold” civil war? Or are we facing something else entirely?

Lots of food for thought in his piece…

Other interesting items this week included this devotional from John Piper on Proverbs 22:13. It’s titled ‘When Reason Serves Rebellion’ and was really interesting for such a short piece.  You might also want to check out R.C. Sproul’s podcast on the difference between Paradox and Contradiction, if you’ve never thought much about those two terms and how they differ, then you’ll find this enlightening and helpful.

And did you catch Al Mohler’s summer reading list?  Here it is if not.  My good friend Derek S. mentioned (rightly) that it’s extremely heavy on history – especially war history. But I think that accentuates the need to be continually reading history. I’ve especially enjoyed his recommendation of ‘The Silk Roads’. I’m about half-way through now, and really like how he’s shown the centrifugal force of trade throughout the ages, and how important (but underappreciated by Western scholarship) the east was for centuries before the gold and silver discoveries in the Americas tilted the balance of population and power in the world.

A few weeks back James K.A. Smith had a thoughtful reminder of how marriage is meant to engage the culture. He obviously wrote the piece with the thought that we’re heading into wedding season, which will be accompanied by the typical social media postings etc. How we celebrate weddings can often distort how we’re to view marriage after the wedding is over.

Two stories that involve Israel this week.  First, it was the 50th anniversary of the 6-day war. If you know nothing about this, then read up. Mohler actually had a recommendation for this I think. But I especially enjoyed ‘The Lion’s Gate’.  Here’s an excerpt from the Federalist story I linked above:

It is no small thing that during the Cold War Soviet arms were left in burning heaps on the battlefield, a blow to Communism’s prestige that foreshadowed its doom. You don’t have to believe in miracles or Providence to grasp how important it is for civilization that the state of Israel persists to this day.

Secondly, our U.N. Ambassador delivered a fever-pitch ultimatum to the so-called UN Human Rights Council which routinely delivers excoriating denunciations of Israel, while ignoring atrocities committed by (U.N.) member nations. The double standard has long been ignored (especially by the Obama administration), and its good to see Ambassador Haley speak some truth to the world on this front.

Two random stories from this week.  First, was about how the Vice-President’s wife has installed a beehive at the official residence. And second, a hilarious story from Atlas Obscura titled ‘The Great Hanoi Rat Massacre of 1902 Did Not Go as Planned’.

Books: It’s been a good year of reading thus far. I’ve taken in well over 100 books since January, but my pace has slowed in recent weeks with the final push of finishing a home renovation, and now the workload associated with summer seminary class.  You can find my book list on Goodreads here.  Currently, I’m reading David Copperfield with Kate, a massive introduction to the New Testament for seminary, and I’m almost done with Cinema Alchemist by Roger Christian. Additionally, as I mentioned before, I’m about half-way through ‘The Silk Roads’.  I put aside Eichman in Jerusalem for now after having punched my way through about 60% of it (enough to get the thrust of her observations).  As a family, we finished ‘The Tale of Despereaux’, which was a gift from our good friends the Jacksons, and was really fun. We’re now reading the second installment of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ (The Two Towers), which was not even up for debate given the vehement pleadings of my middle child.

I hope you enjoy a fruitful summer of reading!  Any good recommendations to pass along? Let me know!

Finally, I want to note the passing of Bill Todd.  Bill was a Columbus attorney and former candidate for Mayor. I knew Bill for several years and helped out on this Mayoral run in a small way. Bill was an outspoken advocate for conservative principles and truth in the public square, and he will be missed.

That’s it for now. I hope you enjoy the weekend,

PJW

Weekend Reading: June 3, 2017

Happy weekend to everyone – and Happy Birthday to my beautiful daughter Chloe!  Let’s get into what was news and what was interesting this week (and maybe last, since I held over a few stories from before the holiday).  I’ll warn you in advance that there are some big topics here, and maybe you won’t agree with me on every conclusion – that’s fine!  Send me your articles and your ideas, I’m always learning, and appreciate your input!

Of course, the big deal politically was the Trump administration pulling out of the Paris climate agreement.  I’ve got a few very helpful articles that frame this for you. First and foremost is Marc Theissen’s rundown on why this is a good thing. 

But perhaps even more helpful is a piece written by  from back in December that the American Enterprise Institute linked to this week by way of reminder. This is the one great backgrounder on Trump’s thinking that you need to read this week.

…excerpt to get the flavor:

The grand total (from what would come from the Paris agreement): about half a degree, to be achieved at a cost of about 1 percent to 2 percent of global GDP every year, inflicted disproportionately upon the world’s poor. And so Mr. Trump is correct to conclude that climate policy is preposterous as a matter of the efficient allocation of scarce resources, and that the provision of clean water and the eradication of terrible diseases in the Third World are far more important priorities.

You can find Al Mohler’s take on the Paris story here. Mohler is helpful because he addresses both the economic and Christian worldview implications.

Tech peeps, keep an eye on this: Google could face a $9bn EU fine for rigging search results in its favour (U.K. Spelling, not mine!)

Perhaps this isn’t surprising….but some interesting perspective here: Here’s how chronic conditions drive up health spending

BREAKING: Enlightened ‘Minecraft’ Character Denies Existence Of Game Designer

Couple of personal productivity-type of articles hit my radar this week. The first is from those blind squirrels over at Quartz, who write about Kanban (which is actually a really helpful way of thinking through your daily checklist) who explore the myth of multitasking. The second come from my buddy Matt R and pertains to reading more in the coming year and how to do it/think of it.  Those are always helpful stories!

HOLIDAY WEEKEND RECAP: This was packed full of great information about Memorial Day. They talk about how Memorial Day started as a Civil War holiday, and gradually expanded after the first and second world wars. Check it out and bookmark it for the future.

WORDS MATTER: Something from last week that ought to be revisited, from WaPo: ‘Evil losers’: Trump joins world leaders in condemning Manchester terrorist attack.  I wanted to bring some attention to the reaction of the President to the most recent terror attacks. Of course, he condemns them. And of course, he is right to. But let me just opine….because it’s in these moments when I really miss the leader who can speak eloquently, accurately, and powerfully about the events of our world and what they mean. To call terrorists “losers” really misses the mark, and I can’t fathom how the President and his team couldn’t come up with anything more to the point. Life isn’t a game of winners and losers, and terrorism isn’t one side of that game while the Western World is full of “winners” on the other side. Words matter, and when the President chooses words that don’t live up to the solemnity and import of the moment or fail to accurately depict what is actually going on, he fails at one of the central aspects of his job – to powerfully verbalize the pillars, the principles, and the foundations of the United States of America in matters of policy, be they foreign or domestic.  Where is Reagan?  Where is Thatcher?  Where is the Churchill of our age?!!

Words matter. And it isn’t simply the way in which the President’s words are being delivered, it’s also the fact that many of the things he has been saying and doing in the first few months on the job are the exact same things he ruthlessly criticized Obama and Hillary for on the campaign trailas the Washington Post detailed here.  What is frustrating about articles like this is that as you read them, if you’re like me, you’re agreeing with the policy positions and the budget ideas that the Post is sneering at. In fact, this is the first President in modern history to seriously go after entitlement spending – something we should all be happy about, even if we don’t agree with every specific cut or idea.

BUT because the President waged a campaign of sarcastic and sneering rhetoric (often at a 3rd-grade level) that now comes into diametric opposition to his actions as President, it makes it difficult to take him seriously. Words matter. Remember the 2004 Presidential campaign??  I do because it was the first major campaign I worked on upon graduating from college. Republicans (like myself) mercilessly branded John Kerry as a “flip-flopper” – that was a centerpiece of the attack campaign – and here we have a Republican President making John Kerry’s flip-flopping look like amateur hour.  As much as I really want him to succeed, I just gotta shake my head at this guy sometimes…

Well…to help balance things out a bit, I was encouraged by Wall Street Journal editor and columnist Kimberley Strassel’s piece about ‘the news you didn’t hear’ this week.  Strassel goes into some detail about how the Trump administration has gotten some good stuff done in the past week or so which affects everyday Americans. This is the kind of thing you don’t hear reported, and yet it really is real news.

On to other things…

Here’s a helpful post from R.C. Sproul: What If I Don’t Feel Forgiven?

Tech and Morality: A few weeks back I read this thoughtful blog post by someone named Samuel James called ‘The Parable of Anthony Weiner’s iPhone’.  He dives into whether or not the unfortunately (though perhaps appropriately) named Weiner would have carried on inappropriate relationships and communications if he was not so tempted by the ease with which technology allowed him these liberties. Well reasoned and worth the read.

In a similar context, Tim Charlie’s blogged about the intersection of humanity and technology and explores whether artificial intelligence designers and technology wizards really desire to “eliminate the human”, even when they never implicitly say as much.  What do they have against humanity, anyway?   If you read this and ALSO listen to the Mohler podcast I posted here, you’ll notice a theme. Mohler even recommends historian Paul Johnson’s book ‘Intellectuals’, which explores this idea that many intellectuals (who are mostly liberals) who call themselves “humanitarians” actually hold to policies which are anything BUT humanitarian.  In fact, the intellectual elites usually prize pretty much any part of nature above the value of humanity. Yet this religion is not often rigorously observed in their lives.  The point is that these stories get us thinking about whether we are consistent in our use of technology (talking about more than simply your iPhones here) and our holding to certain beliefs and worldviews???

Good Culture Story:  Here’s One of the Scenes That Probably Got Tim Allen’s Show Canceled

This is wacky, you gotta check it out: Nancy Lee Carlson Bought a Piece of the Moon—NASA Really Wants It Back

In Case You Missed It: Ben & Jerry’s Bans Same-Flavored Scoops to Support Same-Sex Marriage in Australia

Video of the Week: God Made You Believe in God  EXCERPT:

Grace is not God’s response to our initiative: “first, I will believe, and then you will make me alive.” Are you kidding me? After all of this, you will claim that you will defeat the course of this world, you will defeat the prince of the power of the air, you will defeat the spirit that now is at work, you will defeat the passions of your flesh, you will defeat what’s at work in your body and your mind, you will overcome the nature to be a child of wrath, you will overcome the nature to be a son of disobedience, and you will produce the glorious reality of faith, to which God will say, “Well done: you’re alive — I make you now alive” (see Ephesians 2:1–3)?

Let me conclude with an interesting read from ten years agoLIVING WITH ISLAMISM: A call for Christians to understand the Islamist narrative, and to adopt a Christian response…..Excerpt:

How should we respond to this radical, worldwide movement with millions of adherents whose programme it is to unite Muslims worldwide into one people, with one divinely sanctioned leader, governed by a reactionary version of Islamic law, and organized to wage a permanent war on the rest of the world—a war that from its perspective can only end in the annihilation, conquest or conversion of all non-Muslims?

AND…

As the late Lesslie Newbigin insisted, Christianity is public truth. Islamism makes public claims for the truth of Islam. Christians must counter with public claims for the truth of the teachings of the Bible. The gospel is not proclaimed in vain, and the present and next generations must proclaim it in every sphere of human life and every geographical area of the earth with both humility and courage.

Finally…

Military action is not the ultimate answer to the challenge of Islamist terror, but it is a political responsibility that we must acknowledge and bear, even as its consequences for affected civilians must break our hearts.

That conclusion is right on point. The challenge to my fellow Christians is this: do you cheer the death of Muslims? If so, what separates you from those Muslims cheering the death of Christians in Egypt?  We fundamentally need a change in attitude toward Islam, in my opinion. A more detailed understanding of its origins would be a helpful start. After all, from the first, Islam was really just seen as another Christian heresy (which is basically is), and not a whole other religion. There are many things we hold in common with these folks – namely our belief in monotheism, and our humanity (we are all created in the image of God). But we mostly need a heart that doesn’t rejoice in the death of the wicked.

So yes, let’s defend our nation. Yes, let’s support our country as it kills terrorists who threaten our citizens and wage war on our people. But let’s do so not with rejoicing, but with heavy hearts, knowing that these are people made by the hand of God in the image of God, who need the truth of God as much as we do. Simply killing terrorists will not transform the Middle East or the world. You cannot do battle on those terms alone while neglecting the deeper driving motives of these warriors (the faith elements). So while the state is concerned to keep us safe (and thank God they are doing a great job of it), the church is charged with saving souls by courageously proclaiming the truth of the gospel to Muslims who have distorted scripture for over 1000 years, yet who need these truths as much as we do.

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

PJW

Weekend Reading: May 20, 2017

Welcome to the Weekend Reading.  Just thinking about all the news items that occurred this week was a bit overwhelming for me last night. Not only did a lot happen this week, but a lot of pretty crazy things happened – things that need thoughtful reading and time to digest.  Here’s what I found most interesting…

By far the biggest news item was that a special investigator was appointed by the Deputy Director of the FBI to explore any possible mischief between Trump Campaign operatives and the Russians.  The man they appointed was former long-time FBI head, Robert Mueller.  Mueller is universally respected on both sides of the aisle, and there seemed some sense of relief when the appointment was made. You’ve seen all this news, but I thought that the most helpful recap of the last two weeks was put together by the editors at the Weekly Standard.  Helpful excerpt:

Trump defenders are fond of saying there’s no hard evidence of collusion between Trump associates and the Russian government. Fair enough. But Trump’s first national security adviser resigned because of misleading claims he made in relation to his contacts with a Russian official. Trump’s campaign chairman resigned amid questions about his work for pro-Putin politicians and entities. And a foreign policy adviser quit after questions about his continuing contact with Russians. Justifiably or not, such a string of coincidences raises suspicions. The president himself will benefit enormously if an investigation widely seen as thorough, professional, impartial, and independent dispels them.

What are we to think of all of this?  As a Christian who is an American, I am always hopeful and desirous that the truth comes to light – and especially so at this stage of a potential scandal. As painful as truth can be, it often serves as a disinfectant in the political world, and a good reset. Remember, there are many important policy matters that are still being worked on, such as tax reform, and finishing the healthcare reform (the Senate is sitting on it at present).

The second thing to note is just how powerful words are in the life of our country. I was reading Hannah Arendt’s classic work ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem’ this week, and it struck me as incredible that the German high command had created an entirely new vocabulary to use in the case of any discussion of the Final Solution, or death camps etc. The reason being that they knew that over time their words would have a demoralizing, and even an unhinging effect on soldiers downstream in the chain of command. So they had to speak in their own version of newspeak in order to keep sanity in the ranks.  I’m not making a one-to-one comparison of the political situation, but pointing out that the power of words that come down from on high (so to speak) in the American government are often dispensed with too much ease and not enough thought by our leaders. Words matter, and even more so the words of very powerful people. Lives hang in the balance, wars are started, markets shift and fluctuate based on the words of leaders.

Perhaps the most caustic example from the last few weeks came in a story first written (I believe) in the New York Times entitled Trump Told Russians That Firing ‘Nut Job’ Comey Eased Pressure From Investigation’.  Growing up, my parents had a rule that you never said anything bad about your family to your friends. If you had an issue with your brother, that’s between you and him and you weren’t to slander him to your best friend. It was a big no-no in our home.  The family is sacred, and they come first.  They knew something of the power of words.  What Trump has allegedly done here is sold out his family, his fellow American, in order to score points with a “friend.”  This isn’t behavior fitting for any leader, much less our President, and I hope it doesn’t prove to be simply the tip of the iceberg.

Moving on…but not really: Dwayne Johnson Sounds Pretty Serious About Running for President.  That was probably one of the most discouraging headlines of the week. I literally got done reading all the stupid things going on in Washington, and then read this story and just about lost my lunch. America, please….please do not tell me that we’re going to make ‘The Rock’ our next President…

Did anyone see this???  Dutch King Reveals Secret Life As Part-Time Pilot On KLM Airline.  WHAT????  Like, when did he have TIME for that?  How did no one know of this (it’s been going on for a few decades)? What bank account were they sending those pilot checks to?  What did he put on the application as his current or last job “I am your lord and sovereign the king”?  This is Monty Python stuff. 

More of the ridiculous…Turkish leader comes to visit our cozy capital and his thugs beat down protestors (some of which are AMERICANS). I mean, think of this, if it was the middle ages that king wouldn’t have made it back to his horse – our king would have thrown him in the tower, raised and army, and slaughtered his people like chickens headed to a Chik-Fil-A staff retreat!  If it were just a hundred years ago, we would have had another world war on our hands. Incidents less crazy led to WWI for heaven’s sake. Today it just barely makes it into the Daily Show, because, alas, we’re a bit busy with other scandals at the moment, and key allies like the king of Denmark couldn’t be reached for advice due to the fact that it was time for the in-flight coffee service.

I saw this article, Who’s in Charge of Outer Space?and thought immediately of my friend Tyler, a bright young attorney who had already seen the article by the time I’d sent it to him, and had told me months ago about this way big corporations are tangling with the legal implications of who owns what in space…I hope the king of Denmark isn’t in charge because I’m told he’s really hard to get a hold of.

Hilarious: The Bee Explains: Calvinism Vs. Arminianism

This was pretty cool: This is an American Workday, By Occupation

Erickson must have been a bit depressed this week: Aesop’s Washington: Perhaps It is Time to Dissolve Our Union.  The sad thing is that he has a few good points but they don’t come until the very end. The reason I post stuff from Erick is because he’s an influential voice on the right in American politics, and when he starts sounding alarms, then you know that there will be a few ripples (maybe even felt by monarchs cruising the atmosphere).

This was a good reset…from David Mathis: Set the Soundtrack of Your Mind.  His first sentence is really one of the great takeaways, “Leave your mind on autopilot (like the king of Denmark?), and distractions will dictate your life. Set your mind above, and God will.”

The Culture: Americans Hold Record Liberal Views on Moral Issues.  Al Mohler featured this as part of a Briefing this week.  It’s worth digging that up for some commentary if you want more context. But the key takeaway is that, other than abortion, Americans are more liberal on every moral issue we face today.  My personal opinion is that Hollywood and the movie and TV show industries are the key culprits, though we are all responsible for what we put before our eyes. What you watch, read, listen to changes you as much as who you hang out with or admire. We were designed this way. We become what we behold.

What I didn’t get to but want to: How Pixar Lost Its Way (basically how Disney ruined Pixar…shocker, I know)

FYI, not a headline most probably saw: Sessions delivers on gang crackdown: Over 1,000 arrested.

Beautiful rendition of It Is Well with My Soul was sent my way this week (h/t Matt R.)

There was certainly some ridiculous stuff going on this week – some of it was so outlandish that I am unsure how to appropriately or helpfully comment on it. But one of the things that come to mind when I read about this nonsense is just how broken the world is, and how fallen we all are from grace. Sometimes it seems like the glimpses of heaven are few and far between – heck, just a glimpse of NORMAL boring life would be a nice change for a country (and world) wracked by drama, discord, and divers dilemmas (like the alliteration?!).  What is your reaction when you read these stories?  What do you think after the thought of “boy this world is messed”? My next thought is that yes, while it is messed up, and while people are estranged from any sense of normal sometimes, it was into this state of things that Jesus stepped 2000 years ago.  The world wasn’t any less messed up then as it is now (trust me, I’ve read the history books and it wasn’t pretty).  Yet into that mess, he stepped.

The thing about being a Christian is that your eyes are opened to how messy things really are – you start seeing not only the reality behind the mess, but you see your own evil as well.  I realized again this morning just how things stood in my life before God entered in. The Apostle Paul describes is well:

Romans 5:6-11 says this…

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. [7] For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—[8] but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. [9] Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. [10] For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. [11] More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

God didn’t save people who were good and just on the brink of greatness. He didn’t come into a world that had political order, and justice and grace all figured out.  He entered a world of slavery, disease, and oppression. This was a world riddled with evil – evil people doing evil things.

Knowing my own state of things prior to Christ, and my proclivity to still do and say hurtful, messed up things, helps me to show mercy on those in the political space who we read about in these stories.  But for the grace of God, I would be on my way to hell and rightfully so.  Therefore my reaction to crazy news items and mismanaged leadership in the White House and Congress is to yes, first shake my head in incredulity, but to then show mercy and recall my own state.  Things need fixing in this world – politically and otherwise – but it starts at the individual level. Reconciliation with God begets social peace and reconciliation with our neighbors.  Pray for the eyes of leaders to be opened to these truths, and for wisdom to follow repentance.

Enjoy the weekend,

PJ