Rod Rosenbladt’s classic, the sequel

Patrick Kyle, Cranach commentator and editor of New Reformation Press, announced a new resource that is now available:

Wanted to let you know that we have a new presentation up on our site from SOCO (South Orange County Outreach) The lectures are entitled ‘Where in the Church is the Gospel?’ and it is the follow up to ‘The Gospel for those Broken by the Church.’ Both Rod Rosenbladt and Craig Parton speak and they are some great lectures.

You can get the recording here.

Just last week someone commented on that Rosenbladt testimonials post of four months ago about how helpful that first lecture was to her. (Go to the link and scroll down to the last comment. It’s quite a moving testimony.) May the sequel have a similar impact on gospel-starved souls.

The House has a health care bill

House Democrats have reached an agreement on a health care bill, though it won’t be voted upon until September, violating the President’s deadline. The moderate “blue dog” democrats were thrown some bones, so this version should pass. Here are some elements:

Among other things, the House deal, put together with heavy involvement by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, would exempt more small businesses from a requirement to provide insurance to employees or pay a penalty. The deal would require that payments to health-care providers under a new public health plan not be pegged to Medicare, the health plan for the elderly. And it would also pare back the 10-year cost of the bill, estimated at roughly $1 trillion, by $100 billion. The cuts would be achieved in part by asking states to share in a planned expansion of Medicaid, which offers health insurance for the poor, and by requiring low-income people to pay higher premiums to purchase insurance. . . .

On the Senate side, Mr. Baucus is close to securing agreement with three top Finance Committee Republicans. The emerging Senate package would expand coverage by creating a network of nonprofit cooperatives that would compete with private insurers. That contrasts with the House bill, which would create a government-run public health plan. . . .

The deal cut by the Blue Dogs didn’t address rank-and-file Democratic concerns about a proposed surtax on wealthy households. The House legislation has included an extra tax on households making more than $350,000 a year, while Mr. Obama has suggested he would support a tax on those making more than $1 million to fund expanded health coverage.

The deal exempts more small businesses from the mandate to provide insurance to workers. The original House bill exempted businesses with annual payrolls below $250,000; the new deal would raise that threshold to $500,000.

Under the revised bill, companies with payrolls from $500,000 to $750,000 would face a penalty equivalent to 2% of payroll if they fail to offer insurance. Companies with payrolls above $750,000 would pay an 8% penalty.

After the changes, some 5.3 million employers would be exempt from the mandate, about 400,000 more than under the original House proposal, said the National Federation of Independent Business, a trade group representing small businesses.

So, setting aside the question we have been discussing of whether the government should take over health care, let’s just consider this proposal. Is this the health care reform that so many people have dreamed of? What will this one do, and what will it not do?

(Notice, for example, that the lawmakers are patting themselves on the back for cutting the price and thus saving taxpayers $100 billion. And they have done that in part by making the states pay for it. But the states have no money–maybe California can pay its share by issuing IOUs–and so such unfunded mandates still have to come from taxpayers!)

The new business model: Give it away free

Here is an interestingreview of a new book by Wired editor Chris Anderson entitled Free: The Future of a Radical Price:

It’s called “freemium.”

That term, first popularized by venture capitalist Fred Wilson, describes a business model that combines free with premium and is based on the underlying assumption that the most effective price is free. Anderson says that companies can use the powerful marketing tool of “free” to garner the largest possible audience, and then convert a portion to additional premium services for which companies would charge a fee, or “premium.” From there, one figures out his optimal free-to-paid ratio. “You give away 75% to 90% of your goods and sell the rest,” Anderson said.

Applying the freemium model to mobile phones, you would get the cell phone but pay for the minutes. For the music industry, you would give away your music for free, people would sample it, some would pay for the mp3, and some would attend the concert — the premium part of the equation. . . .

Anderson’s rationale for why the model will work
Anderson explains the reason this model will work is because people are psychologically drawn to free, and offering content or services over the Internet has no “real” costs associated with it.

According to Anderson, the Internet is the first deflationary industrial economy we’ve ever created. He says that digital is the first to progressively fall 50% every year — and has been for 50 years. Once the Internet took the constrained processing from Moore’s law, a rule stating that the number of transistors on a chip doubles every 24 months, and added storage and bandwidth — both of which fall faster — Anderson says we created a medium that basically says everything can be available in a free form.

As a result, Anderson says media companies have infinite competition, and the marginal cost of production and distribution is zero. “Whatever the cost is today, it’s going to be 50% as much as a year from now, and fall 50% every year forever because of Moore’s law.”

Sooner or later, everyone will compete with free, Anderson says. “Free is not a choice,” he said. “If you don’t do it for free, someone else will. The question is, is yours worth paying for?

What do you think about this business model? Setting aside the techno-utopianism, what might be some applications? (A publisher offering free downloads of titles, but then charging a premium for printing them out? Giving away Volt cars, but charging $40,000 for the batteries?) Give suggestions both real and whimsical.

Which would secularists rather have, Christianity or Islam?

Peter Hitchens is a Christian, but his brother Christopher is a militant atheist, author of the book God is Not Great. Peter recently posed a dilemma for Christian-bashers like his brother. From Christian Telegraph:

A broadcaster and journalist has been telling London’s Premier Radio that the United Kingdom ‘could soon become a Muslim country,’ reports Michael Ireland, chief correspondent, ASSIST News Service.

Peter Hitchens, who is an Anglican, says it’s because Christianity is too feeble in Great Britain.

According to a broadcast story by the radio station, Hitchens is concerned the Christian religion that British society is based on is ‘constantly trashed’ and he predicts eventually Islam will become the dominant religion in Britain.

He said: “The problem is that it will happen not because Muslims are working or conspiring for it to happen, I don’t believe for a moment that only but a tiny few would think in those terms. It will happen because Christianity in this country is too feeble.”

Hitchens added: “Islam has the strength and will eventually also have the numbers to become dominant. That will change Britain in many, many different ways and people who want to drive Christianity out should work out now which one of those they prefer because if they don’t get one they will get the other.”

Megachurches and big corporations

A New York Times website explores the relationship between big churches and big corporations:

Successful megachurches reflect American corporate history and management theory. Their architecture and organization “are best compared to those of the modern white-collar workplace.”

In an essay and slide show from Triple Canopy, Joseph Clarke [follow the links] says it may be tempting to compare megachurch pastors like Joel Osteen to arena rock stars, but a more apt analogy is C.E.O.

And the modern megachurch is as much the cultural heir of the corporate Organization Man as it is of the revival tent.

Clarke notes parallels in the evolution of modern corporation and megachurch, in particular the similarity of their suburban campuses — “the mid-century embrace of car-friendly, arcadian settings for work and worship.” (As if to spur suburban development during the postwar atomic threat, some preachers like the Rev. Billy Graham warned their flocks in apocalyptic terms about the dangers of cities.) Both corporate managers and preachers alike found that “to minister effectively to suburbanites, they would have to be subdivided; they would have to adopt organizational and spatial frameworks capable of reducing their perceived size and conveying their appreciation for the individuality of workers and worshipers.”

The results today can be seen in the “remarkable” correspondences between Google’s California headquarters, Googleplex, and the Saddleback Church of the Rev. Rick Warren (a friend of the late management guru Peter Drucker):

Rigid building models were broken down into amorphous, disaggregated masses, screened from their parking lots by trees and artificial hills; both campuses include plush lounges, landscaped paths, beach-volleyball courts, and cafés (with “outdoor seating for sunshine daydreaming,” Google’s Web site boasts). The architecture is meant to persuade church members or secular employees — especially younger people — to spend their most productive time there.”

Death of an avant garde artist

The avant garde choreographer Merce Cunningham has died at the age of 90. He was for dance what John Cage, his collaborator was for music; that is, he eliminated virtually every traditional element of the art form. Cunningham had his dancers move with no reference to the music that was playing. He determined sequences by flipping a coin in an effort to make his art random and to eliminate any personality or expressiveness. He was praised for having his dancers move in a way that was “unnatural,” something that could be said of much of the modernist movement.

Now that he is dead, his dance troupe is disbanding. No one is performing his works anymore or will be likely to in the future. An article in the Washington Post on Cunningham’s death laments this. From Merce Cunningham’s Modern Dance Steps in Jeopardy With His Passing:

“Why do we have to throw away the old stuff? No other art form does it,” says Janet Eilber, artistic director of the Martha Graham Dance Company. “If Merce’s works are truly relegated to historic reproductions at the university level, and are not danced with the full-on professional power of people who have been trained in that genre, they won’t really exist in their full artistic power. And I think that’s depressing.”

The reality is that Cunningham’s death and the eventual self-destruction of his company may be as good as consigning his works to the dustbin. Fans might as well envision black edges all around Cunningham’s works now — the glorious creation myth that is “Sounddance,” with its fierce, cyclonic score; “XOVER,” a final collaboration with painter Rauschenberg, and a meditation on eternity. Cunningham loved the randomness of life that he represented in his work with the toss of a coin. But in a field ill-suited to keeping its history alive, too much is now being left up to chance.

Do you see the excruciating irony here? It was “contemporary” artists like Cunningham used to be who dismantled the artistic traditions, who literally and self-consciously threw away the old stuff. Artists who rejected universality should not be surprised to find that their works are not universally interesting. Artists who embrace randomness, who reject canons of beauty, who eschew creativity, and who invest everything in being of the current moment cannot expect their works to last.