Weekend Reading: March 25, 2017

Good morning and welcome to the weekend!  It was a busy week in the world of news. The two big political items were the defeat of the GOP healthcare replace/repeal bill (although no actual vote was taken), and the continuing (although now more serious) saga of stories about high level Trump campaign operatives having been in strategic communications with Russian officials during last year’s campaign.

Now, I’m sure you’ve heard a LOT about all these stories, and there are many other interesting items to get to. But in case you haven’t, there are a few good ones you may have missed. First, reporter Bob Costa jotted down his conversation with the President over the phone after the Healthcare Bill failed – I found this interesting because it gives you a window into how Trump is going to spin this defeat.

The next is a column from Fred Barnes. Fred doesn’t hide his contempt for the Freedom Caucus (the small group of conservative Congressmen who successfully blocked the bill), but he also gives them some props for understanding some of the flaws of the bill and standing tenaciously on principle. The Dems also stood against it – as you’ll read in the Costa piece, not one of them switched sides to vote with Speaker Ryan.

During it all, I guess the siren call of the slopes couldn’t be resisted by top White House advisor (and Trump son in law) Jared Kushner: Trump unhappy Jared Kushner took a powder on the ski slopes as health care bill floundered.  Now, this was reported by CNN, so take it with a grain of salt. But again, interesting dynamic there.

Sort of along similar lines: FIRST DAUGHTER IVANKA TRUMP GETS WEST WING OFFICE.  At first I read this story about Ivanka with indifferent amusement – it brought me back to my own days at the White House, and how cool the West Wing was (it never got old!), and how special it must have been to have an office there. Most of the staff is dispersed across three other buildings near the White House, and only the top echelon get to actually have an office IN the West Wing. But as I read along, I became bothered by the thought that someone not employed by the government and therefore not accountable to those standards, has an office in the West Wing of the White House. I think its great that Ivanka can advise her father on some issues – that must be a really special relationship. But if you’re going to have security clearance, a special phone, and a special office next to the most powerful man in the world, then it stands to reason that you should also have the responsibility that comes along with those perks.

Now I want to give you two pieces that are a bit older, but are pretty interesting and will get your mind churning.

The first has a title as long as a Puritan sermon and is called ‘Welcome to the Dark Net, A Wilderness Where Invisible World Wars are Fought and Hackers Roam Free’ (seriously, that’s the title).  You’ll enjoy this one if you have even a passing interest in what goes on behind the scenes on the interwebs.

The second is from the Atlantic, so understand that its coming from the quasi-intellectual bastion of the left. It’s called ‘How Casinos Enable Gambling Addicts’.  I am unsure that I agree with the conclusions in this article, but there are some interesting items in here, and especially interesting insights into how slot machines are made to function these days. My view on gaming is that if you walk into a casino with $200, a reasonable (and sane) position to hold is that you’ll not be walking out with it. It’s entertainment, and its expensive entertainment at that. If that’s how you get your kicks, then go for it. But what is at issue here (at least in my mind) is the predatory nature of the gaming industry, and how far they’re willing to go to get more money – the article paints them as overtly greedy, which differentiates them from most fortune 500 companies who at least try and appear (or pretend to be) interested in the social implications of their products/work/influence. There’s also an apparently growing amount of evidence that the areas surrounding casinos (for instance) increase in crime, and even some opponents who say that politicians aren’t getting all the money from the deal they had hoped when negotiating casinos in their states, due to the crime costs – its not a net victory, some say.  Though I don’t know if these are verifiable stats, they are items of concern mentioned in the article as well.  Good food for thought here.

Did anyone else see this?  ‘In Cold Blood’ Killer’s Never-Published Memoir Raises Questions About His Motive.  I thought it was pretty interesting, especially after having slogged through Capote’s original hit book on the matter just this year.

This was funny: O NSA, You Have Searched Me and Known Me

Now, let’s get to the Russian stuff…First, from the Denver Post, Fox pulls legal analyst Andrew Napolitano from air after Trump report’.  And then…from the Associated Press, ‘Before Trump job, Manafort worked to aid Putin.’  Manafort seems to have been an international “gun for hire” (says the AP’s Horowitz).  This is all new information, but it also all happened a decade ago (which the AP acknowledges).

That’s interesting stuff, but not really super relevant since Manafort has long since been at a distance from the Trump orbit.  What seems to be a lot more relevant is this story from CNN: US officials: Info suggests Trump associates may have coordinated with Russians.  This is all emanating from Monday’s revelation from FBI director Comey’s testimony before Congress.  Heck, all of this may be nothing at all. But there’s a lot going on here on multiple fronts, and we may never know if its anything legit or not. Usually in politics, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. But we’re living in a world right now where news organizations that used to be legitimate have been going out of their way to ruin politicians from opposing political factions irregardless of how flagrant their bias appears.  Mike Allen concluded as follows,

Watergate was a coverup of a burglary. This could be the coverup of a nuclear-armed U.S. nemesis that infiltrated our politics with the specific aim of disrupting the very foundation of our democracy — a presidential election — and did so, possibly, in a manner that elected its preferred candidate and locked in all party control that could decimate the opposition party for years.

My CONCLUSION…In days like these, we must be extra discerning before we jump to partisan sounding conclusions, and weigh everything we hear with wisdom. Mouthpieces on the tube and the twitters all have agendas and perspectives to justify – this goes for folks on the right and left alike.

Speaking of the Twitters: Why Even Donald Trump Can’t Save Twitter

DID YOU KNOW…that during all this hubbub about Russia and healthcare, there’s been a Supreme Court nomination in progress?  Here’s a funny moment from the hearings this week. 

OOOOOPS: Authorities: Man errantly texted prosecutor about drug swap

Also happening in the midst of our American political mess, was a terrorist attack in London. The Bobbies have two in custody (the attacker was dead on the scene). Apparently this attacker was operating as part of a wider group/plan.  These are the kinds of things that happen and you shake your head and wonder ‘what can I do about this?’  It all seems so far away, doesn’t it?  Possibly the best thing to do would be to pray for the family members of the victims, that their lives would be protected, and that they’d find more ultimate salvation and comfort spiritually.

Physics Lesson? From the Wall Street Journal: How a 145-Pound Golfer Became One of the Game’s Longest Drivers

Lastly, I wanted to bring some items to your attention this week that were really fascinating and sad. The first is on how secularization is letting us down. The Atlantic (again) talks about how there was this great promise of secularization sweeping away all the tension and strife and polarization in society, and how that promise was wrong.  The second is how Tim Keller, one of the most popular and helpful and conservative preachers/theologians in America is now being denied some snooty award from Princeton, after Princeton initially offered him the award. The reason seems to be that (all of a sudden?) there has been an uproar over Keller’s views on the role of women in the church. Keller believes women ought to have a prominent and important role in the life of the church, but unlike the liberals at Princeton, he doesn’t believe women should be ordained to preach, nor does he believe that people of an LGBTQLMNOPQRSTUVWZYZ (just wanted to cover all my alphabetical bases there) persuasion ought to be ordained ministers. In other words, he holds to the Bible.  Al Mohler covers both items really pretty well in his briefing here.  Of course the sad thing about the Keller situation is that Princeton used to be a great bastion of conservative intellectual thought, and produced some of the great defenders of orthodoxy a hundred years (and longer) ago. The institution has teetered on liberalism many times and was rescued in the past by towering conservative intellects like Gerhardus Vos. This was once the home of the great B.B. Warfield. It’s sad to see it degenerate into theological heresy/liberalism.

That’s it – that is all I have in terms of news and such.  It was a sobering and not a super uplifting group of stories from the week. Corruption/compromising of prominent institutions (both state and religious) is discouraging. So what are Christians supposed to think and do? Do we cynically say “well that’s just the way the world is”?  I think we have to acknowledge that we’re living in a fallen world, certainly, and that all of us (even those of us who have been rescued and redeemed by the Lord) are sinners whose mess gets on everything.

But Christians are also called to take the word of Truth, the Bible, notjust  the opinions of the church or of man, but the Bible, and shine the light of the Gospel through word and deed. More often than not, this means individual conversations. Corruption in the public square ought only to serve as a ratification for all we know about the human heart, and what we know of the solution.

That same Bible says that Jesus lived during a time of extreme corruption and violence. Not only were the Romans violent oppressors of the populace, but in the case of the Jews of Palestine, even their own people sold them out for money.  But I am hopeful – even for our own times – because I remember men like Matthew. He was a tax collector, one of these turncoats who sold his own people down the river, extorting hefty sums from them so he could live in opulence. His situation, his influence created a social and political problem – the kind we read about in the stories I posted above – and it was solved. It was solved in his life and sphere of influence when he was ransomed by Christ. He was drawn to a much more desirable kingdom.

The gospel changes lives; Christ still changes lives. And for those of us involved in the world of politics, it would be good to remember that – even when the headlines, and the people we know, seem to be gradually succumbing to and reflecting a greater tide of corruption and polarization.

PJW

Weekend Reading: March

Welcome to the weekend everyone!  There are some interesting stories out there to check out…ready? Here we go…

Society: The NYTimes has a story about the ‘Decline of Men’ and its significance that is worth skimming. It’s sort of a cultural and educational gut check.  One of the things that seems to be a significant takeaway is the importance of the family:

Among children raised in single-parent households, however, boys performed significantly less well than their sisters in school, and their employment rate as young adults was lower. “Relative to their sisters,” Autor and his collaborators wrote, “boys born to disadvantaged families” — with disadvantage measured here by mother’s marital status and education — “have higher rates of disciplinary problems, lower achievement scores, and fewer high-school completions.”

It’s not surprising to me that what shows up in the studies is what most folks held as common sense for years: family (traditional family with a man and a woman as the parents) is a good thing for kids.

Society Con’t………The Boston Globe as interesting article, Paltering,’ a New Way to Not Tell the Truth, in which fellow weekend reader David Clementson is quoted using the word “diabolically”, so it must be good!

Should we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day?  Stephen Nichols has a great little article about the day and its origins.  Of course the Babylon Bee reports Nation Celebrates Devout Christian Missionary by Getting Totally Hammered.  

This was really good……from R.C. Sproul ‘What is Free Will’?  Dr. Sproul has a talent for taking complex issues and sorting through them winsomely and helpfully.

Spies and Such: The Graveyard of Empires and Big Data.  I am not sure what the takeaway on this one is. It ended in a sort of odd way, but its pretty fascinating nonetheless. Speaking with my brother about it afterwards, he pointed out that it brings up the familiar dilemma between data, its maintenance, and our freedoms.

Along similar lines, former Congressman Pete Hoekstra had an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal that is worth scanning:  Can Americans Trust Their Spies? “If intelligence agencies can’t keep their secrets, they can’t credibly assure us they follow other rules.”

Culture and Religion: So there’s a guy named Rod Dreher and he’s got a new book out called ‘The Benedict Option’ and its causing a lot of buzz, some good and some bad (I guess).  The book is less important than the discussion it brings to the fore, namely the changing society we live in, and how its becoming less and less Christian. Some have put it this way: cultural Christianity is going away (others have tacked on “good riddance” – and I tack onto their tack on “amen”!).  The election of Donald Trump was a flash point I think, not really because of who he is or the political dynamic, but for what it revealed about the culture as a whole and its pastors. When I say “revealed”, I’m not talking about an analysis of the ballot box results or who people ended up voting for, but rather the things they were saying about their choice, and the reasons we were given by leading pastors and Christian advocates for supporting Trump.  It opened up the hood on the thought process of Christians in America. That thought process, the morals that govern the country, are said to be on the decline. I think that’s a fair statement, with some caveats. First, we haven’t acted like a “christian nation” in several decades at least…and 2. even when we did act like a Christian nation (scratching around for examples here…maybe the nuclear family and values pre-television era?) those were inherited social mores created by a tradition of christian foundation, not personal christian morals sprung from a heart changed by God. 

There are a few articles to tease this out a bit that deal with the Dreher book, but also take on the topic of christianity and morality in America and where we’re going.

Moral Minority – Patrick Deneen, a prof. at Notre Dame takes an extensive look at this and contrasts the Jerry Falwell ‘Moral Majority’ from the 80’s with the situation we have now. I think this is an insightful article, and I agree with most of his assessment of the culture, BUT he is Catholic, and though I agree with much of what he has to say in analysis, when it comes to solutions he’s all bandaids. This is where the rubber meets the road, and if you have no gospel-based solution you will never have any hope to change lives. This shows up in places where Deneen seems to think it odd another Catholic author would advance the notion of the Bible and the church actually having the power to change the culture. This is typical of a tradition that doesn’t read their Bible, and doesn’t hold to Sola Scriptura. True Christians believe that the Word of God actually changes people and institutions, because its a living and powerful and inspired truth that God’s Spirit uses to change the minds and hearts of men. So keep all that in mind as you read this article.

Jamie Smith over at Cardus has a pretty good response to the book called ‘The Benedict Option or the Augustinian Call?’ the sum of which is a call to be in the culture and not of it.  On of his summary graphs:

Dreher’s Benedict is one option the church could take in the twenty-first century. As I argue in Awaiting the King, my hope is that instead we’ll answer an Augustinian call: centring ourselves in the life-giving practices of the body of Christ, but from there leaning out boldly and hopefully into the world for the sake of our neighbours.

Andy Crouch breaks down the book by percentages

D.A. Carson did an interview with Desiring God guys on this Benedict Option.  “Scripture stands over against all parties.” More:

There is a sense in which instead of having a Judeo-Christian heritage all around us in which we’re playing a slightly more righteous part and preaching the gospel, we’re increasingly dealing with, especially in the most secular parts of the country, an essentially alien society. Then, it’s important for not just the individual Christian, but for the Christian church, the Christian community to live differently. That needs to be thought through and worked out much more systematically than it has been.

This is getting soooooo old: Could Southern Baptist Russell Moore lose his job? Churches threaten to pull funds after months of Trump controversy.  But again, its another outgrowth of the stuff above and how some mega church baptist pastors would rather have their guy in DC go along to get along so he can have “influence” with the White House, rather than helping the church fulfill its prophetic role in society.

I know many people saw the McDonalds tweet bashing the President. The tweet said that Trump was ‘actually a disgusting excuse of a President and we would love to have Barak Obama back, also you have tiny hands’……what?!   They claim their account was hacked, but then didn’t really feel like removing the tweet – maybe its finally down now? Who knows…all I know is that its pretty ironic for McDonalds to call anything “disgusting”.

Tim Challies wrote this week on Suburban Sprawl and the Dying Dream of Community Churches.  I’m not entirely sure he’s correct on this, that is to say that I think his assessment is probably correct, but I’m still pondering his conclusions. He admits at the end that he has much more to say on the matter.  So its worth pondering and thinking about how and why it is that we choose our churches.

Fascinating stuff here: ‘Don’t be so quick to laugh at Trump’s wiretap claims’ – maybe “wiretap” is the wrong vocab, but the right idea. How our government works with other governments to illegally spy on our own citizens is scary stuff. (h/t Alex W.)

Oh WAIT! What?  ——- Putin Spokesman: Russian Ambassador Met With Clinton’s Aides During The Presidential Campaign

Books….

This week I finished a few books, you can find my complete list here.  This week’s books were ‘Einstein’ by Walter Isaacson (interesting insight into his personal life here), Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church, by Michael Lawrence (very helpful book for preachers and teachers), Tempted and Tried, by Russell Moore (definitely worth reading for anyone going through difficulties or wanting to learn more about Jesus’ temptation in Matthew 4), The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde (a creepy, cynical, and dark classic that is instructive in several ways, if accidentally), The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, by Joseph Ellis (an invaluable book on the formation of the country’s constitution and bill of rights and government structure etc.). I also read a few Sherlock Holmes adventures, which was enjoyable. I’ve been making my way through these when I have time, and find them a nice distraction from the norm.

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

PJW

 

 

 

 

Weekend Reading: March 11, 2017 Reformation Edition

Happy weekend to you from Orlando!  Kate and I have been enjoying the Ligonier National Conference. The central theme of the conference is the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. You can find video from talks already given along with the live stream on their Facebook page. 

Let me talk a bit about why I’m here in Orlando, and what it is that these people are celebrating. Ligonier’s celebration of the Reformation has not simply been a look back in time, but a look forward. With the Roman Catholic church, and some top Anglican church leaders, calling for more and more ecumenicalism (in attitude, though not in doctrine, it would seem), its important to note that the reason for the Reformation still stands today. The Catholic church organization, along with many other so-called Christian churches throughout the world, are still mired in the darkness of the dark ages. Rome still lives in the dark ages – they still abide by the Council of Trent and Vatican I, though with the attitude of Vatican II, one might say. There’s some irony in this, but you might rightly say that their theology isn’t old enough!  For they have forsaken the Bible’s teachings for centuries leading up to the Reformation, and still do so today. This grieves any Christian who reads Francis, or the 1993 catechism, or the pronouncements of Popes for the last few hundred years. Reformation is needed more than ever, and I pray that some of the light spoken from this conference and others throughout this anniversary year will vanquish the darkness of ignorance and pride and superstition that still inhabits many churches today.

Now, perhaps you think that I’m being melodramatic, or over-hyping the importance of these issues. But I think these are issues of vital importance – especially as someone with many close Catholic friends whom I dearly love. I’d challenge you to take a little time travel trip back to the days before Luther.

500 years ago, the church was a sham living in and propagating utter darkness. The one institution supposed to bring hope, joy, and truth to the earth, was preaching superstition and lies to the poor, and acting as a footstool (or worse) for the rich and powerful. Life dramatically changed all over the world for the better thanks to men like Luther, Calvin, Knox and others. How did it happen? They read the Bible. They preached the Bible. They believed the Bible, and they did so over against the opinions of men in the church who had created their own rules – their own doctrines and traditions. These non-sensical traditions and superstitions still reign in the Catholic Church today, and I’d urge anyone who doubts this, to read. Read and discover the sad truth of that situation. But most of all, read the Bible, and discover THE truth.

Where are we today? Doctrinally, nothing has changed in the Catholic Church. They never reformed their waywardness. They never recovered the gospel, and therefore ceased to be much more than a social club long ago.

That’s why we’re here in Orlando. Because theology matters, and we’d like to see truth reign on this earth.  If you’d like to listen to a few messages from the conference, then I’d recommend elders and pastors hear some encouragement from Steve Lawson on the preaching of the reformation, and that everyone listen to John MaArthur on the “non-negotiable gospel.”

If you’re of the Catholic Faith, and think that perhaps we ought to find common ground, I’d encourage you to read R.C. Sproul’s book ‘Are We Together?’. This will talk eloquently, fairly, and plainly about the differences between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism.  There are significant differences, indeed. Life and death differences.

Now…Some Articles…

While we’re on the topic!  The Pope himself made some news this week by saying he may allow priests to marry. My first thought was that perhaps the Pope read 1 Corinthians or something, but it seems that the impetus (according to news reports) has more to do with a declining clergy, and the need to expand into the pool of non-celibate folks. Generous of the Pope to (after hundreds of years) consider giving his stamp of approval on something God in his divinely inspired Word already gave approval to.  Heck, the next thing he might say is that the God’s Scriptures carry as much authority as his papal pen……..but I’m not holding my breath!

Since we’re sort of on a theology kick here, I want to draw some attention to what John MacArthur said in his sermon at this Ligonier conference last night about N.T. Wright. If you connect these dots, he’s calling Wright a false teacher. He’s not the first to bring up issues with Wright, just the latest. My friend Jack J. reminded me that Dr. Tom Schreiner had written an easy to understand refutation of Wright’s incorrect view on the imputation of Christ’s righteousness which (ironically) was posted on Ligonier’s site a few years back.  This is stuff worth considering because of how many people really admire and enjoy Wright’s past teaching.

MORE FOR THE CHURCH: Tim Keller Stepping Down as Redeemer Senior Pastor (h/t Jim B.) This is a pretty big deal, though I think Keller’s literary output is not going to slow down an iota.

Mohler spoke out on the ‘The Shack’ and the lost art of evangelical discernment. 

SATIRE: and oh, is this perfect timing: Washed-Up Actor Excited To Begin New Career In Christian Films

CULTURE: And since I have Mohler on my mind, he linked to this little piece worth tumbling around in your cranium: No, Stay At Home Moms Don’t ‘Waste’ Their Education

ART- Thank goodness for Craig’s List? The American Government Is Searching For Its Own Lost Art.  The whole time I read this I kept thinking Carl Hanratty would make a surprise appearance.

Wha??? Say it isn’t so! – The Flag Office elevator goes up and down, flying American flags in bulk “over the U.S. Capitol.” 

MILITARY: To keep an eye on: US COMMANDER SIGNALS LARGER, LONGER US PRESENCE IN SYRIA…..AND…GENERAL SAYS NO BAD DECISIONS IN YEMEN RAID, PROBE IS OVER. This was in follow up to this disappointing story: Slain SEAL’s dad wants answers: ‘Don’t hide behind my son’s death’

NOT SATIRE:  ‘Rent is Too Damn High’ Leader Running for Manhattan Council Seat as a Republican

Kinda Gross: Vets remove 915 coins from stomach of turtle named ‘piggy bank’

From the department of ‘Put that in your pipe and smoke it’: Trump Tells Planned Parenthood Its Funding Can Stay if Abortion Goes

I know this will shock you: Rapport Between Donald Trump, Barack Obama Crumbles

Somehow I forgot to post this last week, but its just too funny not to:  Which Character Are You In The Story Of David And Goliath? Take The Quiz!

That’s it for now – I hope you enjoy your weekend. And if you have any questions or thoughts about my post, or the Reformation, please send me a direct message and we’ll discuss!

PJW

 

Weekend Reading: March 4, 2017

Good morning and welcome to the weekend. I’m going to do a bullet-version of the reading today with less commentary, as I’m in the midst of some home renovation projects!  Enjoy the morning speed read…

Tim Challies posted a brand new Visual Theology. This one’s on the Old Testament Tabernacle and is pretty cool.

Apparently Scott Pruitt lied under oath during his confirmation hearing…oops.

We’re back in the 5th grade this week, as House and Senate Dems call for impeachments and resignations and recusals, while the President calls for the same from them. From Fox:  Trump slams Pelosi, Schumer as Russia meeting pics emerge

Most people felt the sting of this one: Amazon typo hobbled large part of internet.  Amazing how connected things are, and how influential Amazon’s services are.

Speaking of Amazon, this one is from WaPo: An exclusive look at Jeff Bezos’s plan to set up Amazon-like delivery for ‘future human settlement’ of the moon.  Excerpt:

Bezos’s proposal comes as SpaceX founder Elon Musk made a stunning announcement this week that his company planned to fly two unnamed, private citizens on a tourist trip around the moon by next year — an ambitious timeline that, if met, could beat a similar mission by NASA.

Pop Culture: The alchemy of the perfect pop song, according to the elusive songwriting genius behind hits by Britney Spears and Taylor Swift

I liked how Al Mohler explored/discussed the President’s address to Congress this week.  In case you haven’t seen the address, here’s the full thing on YouTube.  Here’s the take from the right. 

Similar topic here…from the Wall Street Journal, ‘The Pantsuit Rebellion: Pelosi Presides over a Political Disaster.’

John MacArthur was the guest speaker on Ligonier’s audio podcast this week, and he was really fantastic. The topic was the holiness of God. 

Haven’t read this yet…but looking forward to it: What Tolkien Did So Well, What We Do So Poorly

TAKE NOTE: ‘Beauty and the Beast’ will introduce world to first gay Disney character

This is…a lot of money!  From Michael Rubin ‘Iran confirms: US paid ransom’

Just…Odd: Humans’ Hidden Ability to Navigate the World With Tongue Clicks.

Apple’s new corporate campus is a builder’s nightmare...and looks like its going to be no fun to work at either.

Hilarious: pretty funny political commercial here from the Georgia special election campaign to replace HHS Secretary Tom Price.

This promises to be intriguing…’Throw Like a Girl: Why Feminism Insults Real Women’.  I haven’t read it yet, but its on the top of my list along with that Tolkien article from Challies.

Weekend Reading: February 25, 2017

Welcome to the weekend reading!  Happy Saturday from our Nation’s Capital, where our family is touring some museums and historical sites for the weekend. So given my time restraints, I’m going to keep this brief…

There has been some major success in Iraq that’s worth reporting, because I didn’t see this hit a lot of the regular news outlets. Iraqi, and U.S. coalition forces are close to taking back Mosul, which is the second largest city in Iraq. For the last two years the group ISIS has been in control of the city.

More national security stuff this week, this one you probably saw: Trump picks Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster to be national security adviser.  Ironically, several months ago I had purchased McMaster’s book Dereliction of Duty, but have yet to read it. The General wrote the book and released it in 1977, and it focuses on how Generals at the time of the Vietnam War caved to political pressure from politicians.  The Washington Post, whose writing since the Election has become rather venomous, used this literary ditty on McMaster as a way to verbally backhand the President who was cagy about how much golf he’d been playing in the last few weeks.  But they do give a good little summary of the book:

McMaster’s narrative focused on a handful of key decisions that were made from 1963 to 1965. “The war in Vietnam was not lost in the field,” he concluded. “It was lost in Washington, D.C., even before Americans … realized the country was at war. … The disaster in Vietnam was not the result of impersonal forces but a uniquely human failure, the responsibility for which was shared by President [Lyndon] Johnson and his principal military and civilian advisers. The failings were many and reinforcing: arrogance, weakness, lying in the pursuit of self-interest, and, above all, the abdication of responsibility to the American people.”

Anyone who calls our Lyndon Johnson for the corrupt politician that he was is a hero in my book.

The American Conservative ran a provocative headline, with a more informational story worth scanning: Polygamy: The Next Frontier.  This is something that Al Mohler and others have been warning us about for years now.

Funny: Someone had linked to a GQ article about how fashion designers are contemplating a move back to baggier, boxier suits for men again. I’m totally against going back to giant shoulder pads, btw.  But this story, the pictures, they’re just outrageous. This designer was hailed as some sort of genius, but if I wore ANY of these things, I’d be ridiculed…nothing fits anyone in any way. It just reminded me of how ridiculous the world of fashion can be.

There’s some weird religions around the world: Bare cheek as Japan men strip off for naked festival.  I can see some inspiration for Ace Ventura 3…

TECH: The incredible moment Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket lands back at Cape Kennedy.

MORE TECH: The Man Who Broke Ticketmaster…

Interesting Weekend Read: “Raised in East Germany, Jack Barsky abandoned his mother, brother, wife and son to spy for the KGB. In America, he started a second family. And then it all came crashing down…”  Anything with spies and international intrigue is pretty good reading, right?

Books: It was a bit of a boondoggle this week on the book front. I got quite a bit of the way into two books and decided to quit reading them both because of how bad/annoying they were. The worst part was that they were the handiwork of two of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien.  The culprits were ‘Pilgrim’s Regress’ by Lewis, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight – which Tolkien had translated. I think that the latter’s audio reading is what was what pushed me over the edge. The only way I can explain it is that the recording seemed to be overly feminized or something (Terry Jones is the artist to avoid, I suppose)…it wasn’t good. Lancelot is supposed to be this strong and chivalrous knight, after all. As for Lewis, I’m not entirely sure what he was going for, but this book was almost unreadable. I have read in other places (I think Jacob’s bio on Lewis points this out) that Pilgrim’s Regress was his worst book; now I know it for myself!  To top all of this off, my family started the second book in the Wrinkle in Time series, and the book got off to a VERY slow and repetitious start…I surely hope that this coming week is better!

What made my reading tolerable this week was time I got to spend in Psalm 119. It was obvious to me that the writer is someone who has a strong desire for reading and treasuring the Word of God. Here’s a great sample:

Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart. Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared. Turn away the reproach that I dread, for your rules are good. Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life! (Psalm 119:33-40)

That’s it!  I hope you enjoy your weekend.

 

Weekend Reading: February 18, 2017

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 Notehere’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.

TECHfrom 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!

PJW

Weekend Reading: February 11, 2017

Welcome to your weekend!  As you may have noticed, I didn’t get to send out a blog posting last week – sometimes life just gets a bit too hectic.  So I have some stories and blogs that may be a bit older than one week.  I hope you enjoy!

First on the list is a compelling story in the Federalist by Bre Payton which wins the award for longest headline: A Disabled Lawmaker Speaks Out About Abortion: ‘People Like Me’ Are Facing Extinction. I like the points being made here, and am glad that there is some pushback across the pond to the almost continual devaluation of life by society and political elites.

Next…the big to-do in the news this week was how the courts have blocked (for now) the travel ban that President Trump put in place. In his Briefing from Friday, Al Mohler talks about what’s going on here, and helpfully focuses on the separation of powers. This is part of what makes our country so unique – we aren’t a pure democracy, and we aren’t a pure dictatorship, we are a republic. Along similar lines, Mohler also discusses how liberal Senator Elizabeth Warren was rebuked for her breach of decorum on the U.S. Senate floor. Warren, who might be labeled one of the most liberal politicians in American, was criticizing Senator (now Attorney General) Jeff Sessions in remarks that were too personal to find a place within the Senate’s standards of debate. Mohler ties this story into his larger discourse on the nature of our republic, and how the Senate was put in place as a check on the democratic passions of the House. So when Warren started behaving in such a way that reflected the worst sensibilities of the mob, she was silenced by the leadership of that institution which she (unforunately) belongs. Not because what she was saying was just an attack on decorum, but because it represented a type of discourse that didn’t belong in the Upper Chamber. Certainly this was an interesting week to watch the American political system at work.

On the travel ban...I found an interesting opinion piece over at the Washington Examiner this morning, which is more well-rounded (or at least more civil) in its appeal than I’d heard out of either side recently.  The piece starts from the assumption that as Americans one of the ways we like to keep the peace and promote that peace throughout the world is to spread our ideas around the world, and give deserving people a chance to enjoy our ideas and values here on these shores. In the end, the author argues for some tweaks to the travel ban (no specifics here though), and spends significant time giving examples of those worthy folks making their way to our shores.

FUNNY: Alex Trebek makes fun of Jeopardy contestant’s music preference

Quick Theology Hit: What is the most important factor in your life? Steve Lawson gives a short answer here.

And…since its almost Valentines Day: The Rude, Cruel, and Insulting ‘Vinegar Valentines’ of the Victorian Era

valentines

NOT THE ONION:  Bibi Netanyahu on meeting with Chuck Norris: ‘Israel is strong but it’s indestructible now’

NOT THE ONION…but close enough…this one is for my friend Rob L:  Family Exiting Church Unable To Find Minivan In Sea Of Identical Minivans

“Squirrel!!”  Trump Supports Ex-Im Bank, Democrats Say After White House Visit. (requires WSJ subscription…i.e. pony up if you want to read)…sneak peak:

Conservative Republicans have waged a battle over the past two years to close the agency, which finances exports by companies based in the U.S., because they say it is an example of the government picking winners and losers. The bank’s backers say the agency allows U.S. firms to compete on equal footing against foreign rivals that receive similar support from their governments.

Top Story I will be reading today: The Next Big Blue-Collar Job Is Coding

As you know, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as the next Secretary of Education earlier in the week. Beth Green from Christian (Canadian) think tank Cardus has a blog entitled, ‘Advice for Betsy DeVos From Canada’.  If you like to nerd it out a bit on the policy front, then Cardus is a good place to peak at.

On to Foreign Policy: Nicholas Eberstadt writing for Fox News Opinion discusses ‘How to really deal with the North Korean nuclear threat’.  Excerpt:

As bizarre and satire-prone as the North Korean regime’s buffoonish-looking Kim Jong-Un and his servile courtiers may be, Pyongyang’s leadership is neither irrational nor suicidal. The rationale behind this confrontation would actually be to achieve a maximum of strategic gain with a minimum of actual destruction and violence.

The basic idea is to force Washington to blink in an escalating crisis on the Korean peninsula—a crisis of Pyongyang’s own making, at a time and under circumstances of Pyongyang’s own choosing.

TECH: Uber Hires Veteran NASA Engineer to Develop Flying Cars

TECH: WHY HOLLYWOOD AS WE KNOW IT IS ALREADY OVER (h/t Lisa W.) This was really a great read – highly recommend!

Funny! From Aimee Byrd:  ‘How John Owen Proposed to His Wife’ (h/t my Kate)…”That he who possesses a happy wife doth, as spake some philosopher, possess also a happy life.”

Popular in my Facebook feed this week, from National Geographic: Why All the Cool Kids Love Columbus, Ohio.  Oh ya!  I love me some CBUS bragging!

Fascinating stuff from Atlas Obscura: Watch a Massive Swirling Tornado of Tuna.

SCOTUS Watch…from Ramesh Ponnuru writing for National Review: Neil Gorsuch: A Worthy Heir to Scalia 

From Jon Bloom over at Desiring God: Your Weakness is Not Meaningless…excerpt: “What do our limitations have to do with love? Just about everything. Because the way God made us, we always experience love most in the places where grace is most needed. This is true both in how we receive love (from God and others), and in how we give love.”

In Case You Missed it: A good Q&A with R.C. Sproul from January has been posted up on Ligonier’s website here. 

Literature Alert: A Tale of Two Tolkiens. This is about the grandson of the famed novelist who has come out with a new novel himself. The novel is somewhat inspired by the real life events of his grandfather.

John Piper addresses the Old Testament’s relevance: Which Old-Testament Promises Apply to Me?   SAMPLE TASTING re: 2 Chronicles 7:14…

Therefore, the application we make of this verse is not that if Christians will repent God will heal America. We have no such promise in the Bible. Rather, if Christians repent, turn from their wicked ways, humble themselves, and pray to God, he will do a mighty work in and through the church however he please.

Christians – please soak that in.  If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard Christians preach, pray and claim 2 Chron. 7:14 in a way that pertained to America, then I would have paid for my kids’ college by now. However, Piper goes wider than this, and looks at more examples, so it worth considering what he is saying here, and thoughtfully applying it to other such passages.

Books…Here’s where you can find the books I’ve read and/or am reading right now. This week I read several short stories adapted from Shakespeare with my kiddos, and also finished Paul Tripp’s ‘Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands’ as well as Bauer’s ‘The History of the Ancient World’. I’m half way through two biographies, one on Elon Musk, and one on Michael Jordan. Both have been very enjoyable thus far!  I’m also about a third of the way through Roger Christian’s book on industrial art and set creation for Star Wars, which has been insightful, but really poorly written. Speaking of poorly written, after 40 or so pages in ‘We Two’, a biography looking at the marriage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, I had to put it down. It was so scatter-brained and poorly executed that I couldn’t take anymore assault on my senses.  Short stories from the week included Oscar Wilde’s ‘Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime’ and Sir Walter Scott’s ‘The Tapestried Chamber’, both of which were interesting – Wilde’s short book was pretty amusing but ended in a disappointed fashion – it almost seemed Wodehouse-like in its humor.

That’s it!  I hope you enjoy your weekend!

PJW