Amazon’s same DAY delivery

We blogged earlier about how online shopping sites have a big advantage over local businesses in not having to charge sales tax.  So states and now Congress have been trying to pass laws to collect those taxes.  Amazon used to fight those efforts, but no longer, saying, in effect, throw me into that briar patch. From Farhad Manjoo in Slate:

Why would Amazon give up its precious tax advantage? This week, as part of an excellent investigative series on the firm, the Financial Times’ Barney Jopson reports that Amazon’s tax capitulation is part of a major shift in the company’s operations. Amazon’s grand strategy has been to set up distribution centers in faraway, low-cost states and then ship stuff to people in more populous, high-cost states. When I order stuff from Amazon, for instance, it gets shipped to California from one of the company’s massive warehouses in Kentucky or Nevada.

But now Amazon has a new game. Now that it has agreed to collect sales taxes, the company can legally set up warehouses right inside some of the largest metropolitan areas in the nation. Why would it want to do that? Because Amazon’s new goal is to get stuff to you immediately—as soon as a few hours after you hit Buy. . . .

It’s hard to overstate how thoroughly this move will shake up the retail industry. Same-day delivery has long been the holy grail of Internet retailers, something that dozens of startups have tried and failed to accomplish. (Remember But Amazon is investing billions to make next-day delivery standard, and same-day delivery an option for lots of customers. If it can pull that off, the company will permanently alter how we shop. To put it more bluntly: Physical retailers will be hosed.

via Amazon same-day delivery: How the e-commerce giant will destroy local retail. – Slate Magazine.

On the road again

I leave today for two weeks, in which time I will have three speaking engagements, attend a conference, and visit relatives in Oklahoma.  I won’t be in the big woods, though, this time, and I do plan to keep my blog up the best I can, this being a hobby I enjoy, rather than work.  I might not be able to put up quite as many posts per day as I usually do.  And there may be days when I can’t put up anything new, so don’t worry if that happens.  I won’t.

I may have some help in the event of news emergencies (for example, if Mitt Romney announces his vice presidential running mate).   In any event, thank you for following this blog and I hope you keep up the habit!

Conservatives won at the University of Virginia

You have perhaps heard about how the University of Virginia board fired the university president Teresa Sullivan, whereupon a huge uproar ensued, and she was hired back.

I’ve heard conservatives lament the re-hiring, saying that the lunatics are in charge of the asylum, that this just re-enforces the corruption in higher education, that this is another example of  academic elites stifling reform, etc., etc.

But in this case a conservative philosophy of education was victorious over more progressive attempts to make higher education, which is admittedly frought with problems today, even worse.

First, the board members who led the charge against President Sullivan were liberals and Democratic appointees.  But more importantly, the issues she was fired over had to do with her championing traditional education over and against the changes that are already damaging many colleges.

She resisted the proposal to have UVA go in the direction of online programs.  (I’m not saying online courses are necessarily bad, but the example of for-profit online colleges is not a good one to follow.)  Most telling was this complaint from the board, her resistance to shutting down “obscure academic departments in classics and German.”

Classics an obscure program?  In Mr. Jefferson’s day, classics (the study of Latin and Greek, as well as the history and literature of those ancient societies) was about the only program there was!   Since classics exists to preserve and pass down the heritage of our civilization, it’s often a haven for conservative faculty and students.  German is obscure?  The eclipse of  foreign language is one of the weaknesses of American education.

What is at issue here is preservation of the liberal arts tradition in higher education over against contemporary academic  trendiness.

The problems in higher education are thoroughly documented in Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses.  It isn’t the conflict between “impractical” and “practical” education or humanities vs. science.  (Science and math are also part of the liberal arts tradition.)  As that book, written by mainstream scholars and not conservative culture warriors, shows, students are graduating without knowing or being able to do very much, due to the collapse of academic standards, bad teaching, a hedonistic student culture, the bad effects of federal funding, and all kinds of other dysfunctions.  As a result, graduates are learning less than they did under old school colleges (when the values of the liberal arts ruled).

At any rate, this time conservatives–in the sense of conservative educators and conservative higher education theory–won at the University of Virginia.

via U-Va. board leaders wanted President Teresa Sullivan to make cuts – The Washington Post.

John the Baptist and us

We had another great sermon from Pastor Douthwaite on the death of John the Baptist (Mark 6:14-29).  A sampling:

John the Baptist never was at home in this world. He was an interloper. A stranger. A misfit.

It began with his birth which was not the usual way. He was born miraculously to a couple who could not have children because they were too old and she was barren.

He was given the wrong name (in the opinion of all who were there when he was born). Everybody wanted him named Zechariah, after his father. That was how it was done; that was the tradition – to name the first born son after the father. But no. His name would be John.

He didn’t wear what everyone else was wearing. If he was around today, he’d be one of those people you notice walking down the street that everyone points to and snickers and says “really?” A camel’s hair shirt with a leather belt around your waste?

Then there was his diet. John went primal before it became a fad diet! Locusts and wild honey.

He did his preaching out in the wilderness. And he didn’t pander to the crowd – he was a fiery preacher of repentance. And if you got into his crosshairs, he wouldn’t let you out. He didn’t care who you were – Pharisee, Sadducee, Scribe, King. And he’d keep after you, even from prison . . . he didn’t care. He just didn’t care.

John was like a bizarre visitor from another place and time. The world was not his home. It never would be. . . .

Truth is, Christians do have a little John in them; a little bit of weird in them. Because like John, we have a whole lot of Jesus in us.

Think about it. Like John, you too were miraculously born – born from above by water and the Spirit in Holy Baptism.

Like John, you too wear different clothes – the robe of righteousness given to you by Christ.

Like John, you too eat strange food – the Body and Blood of the Lord in His Supper here.

Like John, your thinking and values and loves are different.

And so as a Christian, like John, you’re never quite at home in this world and life. Just a bit out of step.

Then again, we are also like Herod:

King Herod, on the other hand, was a man of the world. He lived large. He saw what he wanted and took it. And he made no apologies for it. Yet even so, though Herod gets what he wants, he never seems to get what he wants. He’s never satisfied. Never at peace. But that’s the way of the world. That’s the way of it with sin. It never leaves you satisfied, but always wanting more. It enslaves in that way.

And it enslaved Herod on his birthday. A lustful king made a foolish promised and an angry wife took advantage of the situation. And Herod, who didn’t want to disappoint his guests or look out of step with the world, is trapped. Sin isn’t as harmless as it looks. A dancing girl, a little lust, what’s the harm?  . . .  But Herod’s hand is forced. He’s not as free as he thinks. So he sadly gives the order, and John loses his head. . .
To confess that we’ve played the Herod and played the Herodias and listen to John, who though he was beheaded so many years ago is still preaching to us today. Preaching to us to repent – but not only that! But even more, preaching us to the cross. To behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

To see Jesus there on the cross as the one who became enslaved for you and bound to the cross with the chains of your sin, in order to set you free. For that’s what forgiveness is. The word for forgiveness in the Greek is the same word for being released, for being set free. And so forgiveness is to be set free from your sin, from your slavery to sin, from the condemnation of sin – free to be a child of God. And that is what you are. In Jesus. . . .

And so Jesus, in your place, enters the prison of sin, death, and the grave. He puts His neck on the chopping block for your foolishness, your lusts, your murder and anger and pride and hate and rebellion . . . and as the blade is coming down says: Father, forgive them. Set them free. And He does. And you are.

via St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Pentecost 7 Sermon.

Changes in the Orthodox church

Metropolitan Jonah, the evangelical convert who became the head of the Orthodox Church of America (one of several Eastern Orthodox denominations in the U.S.), has been ousted from his office.  The reason, reportedly, is his aggressive public stands against abortion, homosexuality, and other controversial moral issues.  (Metropolitan Jonah was one of the signatories of LCMS president Matt Harrison’s open letter opposing the Obamacare contraceptive/abortifacient mandate.)

I realize that Eastern Christianity is more quiescent on cultural issues than that of the West.  Metropolitian Jonah is being accused of being political, but I suspect that’s more on the other side, since far more Orthodox are Democrats than Republicans.  But then I read that part of the conflict has to do with a movement within the Orthodox Church, including some bishops, to change the teaching about sexual morality, including accepting same-sex marriage.

Now wait a minute.  One of the major arguments I keep hearing from advocates of swimming the Bosporus is that Orthodoxy never changes.  Has never changed.  Can’t change.  Has an uninterrupted universal doctrinal agreement among its members that goes back to the early church.  Can it be that Orthodox Christians have theological liberals among them just like other traditions?

Some people convert to Catholicism because of the glories of Medieval theology only to find in their local parish feminist nuns, leftist priests, and treacly guitar masses.  Or to Lutheranism only to find that the local congregation has sold out to the worst excesses of the church growth movement.  Such disillusioning experiences do not invalidate the conversion.  Inconsistencies, misbehavior, and doctrinal indifference do not mean that the underlying theology is necessarily wrong.   It does, though, perhaps prove the Lutheran distinction between the visible and the hidden church.  Though attacking that doctrine in favor of the notion that the church must be fully manifested in the visible institution is another major argument of both Catholics and Orthodox.

Covering warfare in a Byzantine maze — literally » GetReligion.

What are some good songs?

I really enjoyed yesterday digging up those old songs on YouTube, not just those that shed light on the article we were blogging about but also the ones you suggested in the comments.  I was also trading songs back and forth off line, with my assistant Zach showing me a tune by the Ozark Mountain Daredevils and me coming back with Roy Acuff’s “Wreck on the Highway.”

Let’s do that for its own sake.  Given that YouTube seems to have virtually every song anyone has ever heard of, post a YouTube link in the comments to a song that you would like to share with the present company of Cranach readers.  Pick ones that you think the rest of us would enjoy or find edifying or find interesting.  Obscure songs–ones that most of us probably are not aware of–would be especially welcome.

I myself, for all of my high culture pretensions, am pretty well-versed in rock ‘n’ roll circa 1950-1980, as well as folk and classic country music, but I am way out of touch with popular music today.  So I would appreciate learning about some contemporary artists.  I have been critical of contemporary Christian music, but I suspect there are some good songs in that genre, so if you know of some, I’d be glad to learn about them.

I suspect others of you are sadly ignorant about musical geniuses such as Bob Wills, Bill Monroe, and Hank Williams.  Or cutting-edge musicians like Django Reinhardt or Bela Fleck and the Flecktones.  Perhaps someone could complete your education.  All genres are fair game:  bluegrass, jazz, classical, even rap and metal as long as the lyrics don’t transgress the PG-13 standards of this blog.  Everything from opera to the op’ry.

Get the idea?  A word of introduction would be helpful–why do you think this is so good and what do we need to know to appreciate it?–followed by a link.  Take it away. . .