SSM Roundup

Douthat last year:

But there’s another possibility, in which the oft-invoked analogy between opposition to gay marriage and support for segregation in the 1960s South is pushed to its logical public-policy conclusion. In this scenario, the unwilling photographer or caterer would be treated like the proprietor of a segregated lunch counter, and face fines or lose his business — which is the intent of recent legal actions against a wedding photographer in New Mexico, a florist in Washington State, and a baker in Colorado.

Meanwhile, pressure would be brought to bear wherever the religious subculture brushed up against state power. Religious-affiliated adoption agencies would be closed if they declined to place children with same-sex couples. (This has happened in Massachusetts and Illinois.) Organizations and businesses that promoted the older definition of marriage would face constant procedural harassment, along the lines suggested by the mayors who battled with Chick-fil-A. And, eventually, religious schools and colleges would receive the same treatment as racist holdouts like Bob Jones University, losing access to public funds and seeing their tax-exempt status revoked.

Matt sounding a similar note: Continue reading

The Man Who Sleeps in Hitler’s Bed

Via the Guardian:

When he was five years old, Kevin Wheatcroft received an unusual birthday present from his parents: a bullet-pocked SS stormtrooper’s helmet, lightning bolts on the ear-flaps. He had requested it especially. The next year, at a car auction in Monte Carlo, he asked his multimillionaire father for a Mercedes: the G4 that Hitler rode into the Sudetenland in 1938. Tom Wheatcroft refused to buy it and his son cried all the way home.

When Wheatcroft was 15, he spent birthday money from his grandmother on three second world war Jeeps recovered from the Shetlands, which he restored himself and sold for a tidy profit. He invested the proceeds in four more vehicles, then a tank. After Wheatcroft left school at 16, he went to work for a Leicestershire engineering firm, and then for his father’s construction company. He spent his spare time touring wind-blasted battle sites in Europe and North Africa, searching for tank parts and recovering military vehicles that he would ship home to restore.

Wheatcroft is now 55, and according to the Sunday Times Rich List, worth £120m. He lives in Leicestershire, where he looks after the property portfolio of his late father and oversees the management of Donington Park Racetrack and motor museum (which he also owns). The ruling passion of his life, though, is what he calls the Wheatcroft Collection – widely regarded as the world’s largest accumulation of German military vehicles and Nazi memorabilia. The collection has largely been kept in private, under heavy guard, either in the warren of industrial buildings Wheatcroft owns near Market Harborough, or at his homes in Leicestershire, the Charente in south-west France and the Mosel Valley in south-west Germany. There is no official record of the value of Wheatcroft’s collection, but some estimates place it at over £100m.

The Sharing Economy and the New Servant Class

From Vice:

It was seven o’clock on a cold January evening when Orhan, a taxi driver for Uber, first realized he had a problem. Well into his second shift of the day, he tried logging on to the mobile app that connects him with his customers but found himself shut out and staring blankly at the words “network error.”

Just an hour earlier he’d been on Twitter arguing with disgruntled Black Cab driverswho he says were racially abusing him. One of the “trolls”—upset at Orhan’s choice of language—had reported the exchange to Uber, and Orhan had been blocked from accessing the system.

Parked up in his gray Toyota Prius in the suburbs of North East London, a text came through from the company asking him to come in the following morning to “discuss the account.” He arrived on time, if a little nervous, expecting to have his case heard and quickly get back onto the system. Two minutes later he left the office without a job. In the cold, dystopian language of cyberspace capitalism, he’d been “deactivated.” And there was nothing he could do to contest it.

Amazon Paying Authors’ Per Page Read

From the Verge:

Amazon is introducing a new system that completely upends the way authors and publishers make money from their books. Starting next month, the company will pay authors based on the number of pages people read from their books — not the number of copies sold.

Of course, the change is limited in scope — at least for now. The new system adjusts how authors receive royalties for books listed on the Amazon Lending Library (included for free for every Prime customer) or Kindle Unlimited, both of which use a subscription model. Specifically, the rules apply to authors enrolled in Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select program, which provides an easy outlet for authors to self-publish their books. It’s not clear how or if the new system will apply to books from major publishers that are included in the Lending Library catalog.

Dating Books

A lovely piece from Wes Hill:

One of the pleasures of recording on the inside cover of a book the date you finished reading it—I’ve been doing that now for over a decade—is that, when you return to it, you can instantly imagine yourself back in time. When I recently opened Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, for instance, to start it again, I was surprised to find “June 2004” scribbled on the flyleaf. That was the month after I graduated from college, and seeing that date enabled me to recall some fascinating juxtapositions.

That summer I had also read The Moral Vision of the New Testament by Richard Hays, a tour of the various canonical voices and a proposal about how their harmonies may be received in contemporary ethical discourse. Hays’s book seemed an appropriate choice because I’d spent the last two years poring over thousands of pages of New Testament scholarship written by Hays’s good friend and comrade-in-arms N. T. Wright, who was then the bishop of Durham. (Hays and Wright see many issues in the same light, and their voices complement one another well, though not to the extent that they simply blend.) In the most recent of Wright’s books that I’d read at the time, Jesus and the Victory of God, Wright gives his interpretation of the so-called historical Jesus. He finishes with “The Return of the King,” a section whose title, Wright tells his readers, is an homage to J. R. R. Tolkien—another author I’d been reading in 2004, having finished The Lord of the Rings for the third time in January of that year.

This confluence of authors—Tolkien, Wright, and Rowling (the last one I’d forgotten about until I glanced at my handwriting in Sorcerer’s Stone)—goes a long way, I think, toward explaining the appeal that Wright’s theology had for me in those days. Having loved the dramatic sweep of Tolkien’s narrative, and having caught a glimpse of a derivative (but no less delightful) arc in Rowling’s tales, I was primed to embrace a biblical theology like Wright’s, whose major buzzwords were “story,” “narrative,” and the associated terms of literary analysis.

Laudato Si’ Roundup

Here is the text of Pope Francis’s new encyclical.

Dreher, predictably, loves it:

I have been struggling to know what to say about Pope Francis’s new encylical,Laudato Si. As my friend Frank Beckwith (who created the above graphic) notes, it really and truly hits the sweet spot for me — so much so that I have been stymied even knowing where to begin. So, like Francis, I’ll just start writing, with no idea where I’m going to stop.

Laudato Si (hereafter, “LS”) is sprawling, messy, wild, and visionary. It’s bizarre to consider that American conservatives were freaking out in advance about the prospect that the Pope was going to weigh in against climate change in this encyclical. He does, but to act as if that were the main thrust of the document is like judging Thanksgiving dinner by the quality of the cranberry sauce.

It is tempting to call LS a traditionally conservative document, but there is plenty in it that will unnerve free-market individualists, who generally call themselves conservative — and liberals will be just as challenged by it. What Francis has written is an encyclical that celebrates life as harmony, communion, and incarnation. He calls on all persons to revere nature as gift, and to think not as atomized individuals, but as stewards who owe a debt to others, as well as to the past and to the future.

Continue reading

Has the sustainable food movement failed?

Gracy Olmstead:

But of course the deeper problem here is that food is not just food—it’s a piece of a larger structure of economy, ecosystem, and community. And the blossoming prosperity of factory farms is not, in fact, a normal or organic outgrowth of free-market demand: it is an artificial construct, a bloated system sustained bygovernment subsidies, crop insurance, and regulatory supports. This should be made clear by the fact that, even as the locavore/farm-to-fork movement has swelled considerable over the past seven to 10 years, these factory farms are still doing incredibly well.

The federal government bolsters large farms and turns a blind eye to their environmental detriments (detailed at length in the Food and Water Watch report), while dis-incentivizing—and even crippling—smaller farms. As the report puts it, Big Ag corporations foster “an intensely consolidated landscape where a few giant agribusinesses exert tremendous pressure on livestock producers to become larger and more intensive.”

Heavily-subsidized corn becomes cheap feed for malnourished, maltreated cattle, as “misguided farm policy [has] encouraged over-production of commodity crops such as corn and soybeans, which artificially depressed the price of livestock feed and created an indirect subsidy to factory farm operations.”

What happens when we upload our brains?

From Vice:

Since the dawn of computer science, humans have dreamt of building machines that can carry our memories and preserve our minds after our fleshy bodies decay. Whole brain emulation, or mind uploading, still has the ring of science fiction. And yet, some of the world’s leading neuroscientists believe the technology to transfer our brains to computers is not far off.

But if we could upload our minds, should we? Some see uploading as the next chapter in human evolution. Others fear the promise of immortality has been oversold, and that sending our brains off to the cloud without carefully weighing the consequences could be disastrous.

Now go read THS.

The Child Preachers of Brazil

Via the NYT:

It was fall in Brazil, and rain drizzled under a gray moon. The faithful were beginning to arrive at the International Mission of Miracles, a Pentecostal church in the poor and working-class city of São Gonçalo, 10 miles from Rio de Janeiro. In front of the church, which was located between a supermarket and an abandoned lot, a banner staked in the muddy ground advertised a young girl named Alani Santos, whose touch could heal.

Inside the boxy, bright room, a boy played gospel songs on a turntable while the opening preachers gave sermons. Two home-goods-store employees — still wearing their aprons and name tags — took their usual seats. A man in a soccer jersey rocked a crying toddler in a plastic chair. In the back, Levan Lomsadze, a 24-year-old from the Republic of Georgia, paced nervously; he had flown from the Caucasus to Brazil in the hope that Alani could cure his severe speech impediment. Sergio Teixeira, 33, rushed in late; lean and tall, with imitation Nikes on his feet and a muay Thai tattoo on his arm, Teixeira had taken the day off from a temp job painting gates to travel to the church by bus from his home on the outskirts of Rio. Though it was only 20 miles away, the trip through jammed traffic on shoulderless roads had taken nearly five hours.

After the room filled with about 60 people, Pastor Adauto Santos, Alani’s father, took the stage. Heavyset and slow-moving, he was dressed in a navy blue three-piece suit. Adauto built the Mission of Miracles himself, partly using materials he repurposed from odd jobs. It was modest — uncovered fluorescent bulbs glared over the white tile floor — but had a few regal touches, like sliding Plexiglas doors, a large multicolored banner showing Jesus rising above a saturated blue sky and, in the shed that served as the church office, a chair decorated to look like a throne, with hand-stapled leather and gold paint.

The End of the Employee

Via TechCrunch:

Contract work is becoming the new normal. Consider Uber: The ride-sharing startup has 160,000 contractors, but just 2,000 employees. That’s an astonishing ratio of 80 to 1. And when it comes to a focus on contract labor, Uber isn’t alone. Handy, Eaze and Luxeare just a few of the latest entrants into the “1099 Economy.”

Though they get the most attention, it’s not just on-demand companies that employ significant contract workforces. Microsoft has nearly two-thirds as many contractors as full-time employees. Even the simplest business structures, sole proprietorships, have increased their use of contract workers nearly two-fold since 2003.

Four trends are converging to make contracting more attractive for both employers and workers, and reshaping how businesses and employees look at the traditional full-time model.