An American Enterprise Institute article cautions dying industries against merely tweaking their business models. Universities, for instance, can't afford to ignore MOOCs just because they start out crude and non-competitive:
[I]n 1955 Sony of Japan introduced the mass-produced battery transistor radio. It was cheap, plastic, and the sound was, well, pretty awful. But that didn’t matter. It wasn’t aimed at dad. It was marketed to teenagers, a customer base completely ignored by firms like RCA and the makers of high-quality vacuum-tube technology. Crackly sound was good enough for rock ’n’ roll, especially if one listened to it under the bed covers rather than in the living room. But Sony didn’t stop there. It steadily improved the technology while still focusing on its new listeners. Within a decade the transistor radio had been perfected into a direct competitor to RCA and the old technology, delivering similar quality at a fraction of the size and cost. That combination of comparable quality and sharply lower cost enabled the transistor radio to invade the living room market, crushing established industry leaders and transforming the family sound system.
* * *
Low-cost ventures of so-so quality also pose a potentially devastating threat by undermining cross-subsidies in a traditional business model. Website advertising and Craigslist were deadly to the economics of newspapers because experienced journalists and news bureaus need cross subsidies to survive, just as full-service hospitals do. The reason why getting a few stitches in the ER can cost a small fortune is that ER procedures make possible high-quality care in low-revenue generating areas such as pediatrics. That, in turn, is why the growth of walk-in clinics and other providers offering low prices for low-cost services is such a threat to big hospitals. The breakup of such cross-subsidized services is often referred to as “unbundling”, and it is a worrying phenomenon for “full-service” providers in any industry. This is precisely what we are seeing in higher education.
As with hospitals and newspapers, bricks-and-mortar institutions of higher education are particularly vulnerable to unbundling. Universities are modular institutions, and lower-cost competitors can easily siphon off customers and revenue from individual modules. For instance, universities are partly a hotel and food service industry, and partly sports and entertainment centers. They have invested heavily in buildings and services that package these elements together at essentially one price. But this makes them vulnerable to competitors that find much less expensive ways to provide discrete modules like housing or even basic first-year classes—or that simply shed costly facilities like libraries or student centers, as online colleges have done.

Wakey, wakey

A liberal psychological describes his dawning realization that it's not only conservatives who kowtow to authority.

I'm too mean to myself

Here's a new justification for the Nanny State's restless urge to protect us from ourselves:  the danger of "self-exploitation."  The only thing worse than a tyrannical boss with a monocle and a top hat is working for yourself, and not providing your employee with good enough pay and benefits.  We've got to nip this new "sharing economy" in the bud!  We can't just let layman put prices on the services they're willing to offer to others.

H/t Maggie's Farm.

Conditional perfection

The "conditional perfect" grammatical construction is dropping out of the English language.  It was once standard usage to say, for instance, "If I had worked harder, I would be enjoying a more secure retirement."   I almost never hear that any more, or read it in informal electronic prose, or even the slightly more formal prose contained in the average sports story.  These day, it's more often "If I would have worked harder . . . ."  I was just reading about a Cory Gardner Colorado senate campaign ad and noticed that the reporter rephrased part of it in brackets:
“Mark Udall has voted with President Obama 99 percent of the time,” Gardner said in a new campaign ad released Thursday in which he address the issue head on.  “I just wish that 1 percent [would have] been a vote against Obamacare.”
A nice quip, but what did he say in the original, I wondered?  Had he used the traditional conditional perfect, "I just wish that 1 percent had been a vote . . ."?  Well, sort of: in the video, he says, "I just wish that 1 percent hadda been a vote . . . ." His grammar is a hybrid, like a werewolf caught in mid-transformation.   Even at the halfway point, it sounded so wrong to the reporter's ear that he went to the trouble of "correcting" it to something even less traditional.  I suppose that's when real change occurs in a language:  when the old way of saying something is not only no longer required, but actually sounds wrong enough to correct in print.


As mentioned in the comments below, I'll be off hiking this weekend. See you on or about Monday.

A Rising Antisemitism?

The BBC asks the question, and thinks the data says the answer is 'probably not.' There's a big spike since the Gaza offensive, but...
Over the longer term, 2013 saw the lowest annual number of anti-Semitic incidents in Britain since 2005. During the past decade the levels have fluctuated making it difficult to identify a long term trend - although the number of incidents has declined steadily from a peak in 2009 to the end of 2013, it is higher than it was 10 years ago.

What about Europe? The European Union Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) publishes a report every year summarising data on anti-Semitic incidents supplied by governments and NGOs. The problem is that only around half the EU states collect this data, and the quality varies hugely.

"It is very incomplete - it's really difficult to tell trends over time at present," says FRA spokesperson Katya Andrusz

In the countries with better data, the picture is mixed. In Germany anti-Semitic acts declined in the decade to 2011, before rising slightly in 2012. In Sweden the trend has been upwards, although the overall number of incidents is low.
So that's good news.

Father and Parent

So, my question is, if the child wants to know who his mother was... say out of interest in whether he has inheritable diseases... is there just going to be no record kept? That strikes me as more than mildly insane.

This Is What I'm Talking About

I've known Deputy Pirkle since Junior High. He was in my Boy Scout Troop, many ages ago when his hair was not yet gray. (It's not that he's that old -- it's just that he's the only non-female in his house.)
Earlier this year, our very own Deputy Pirkle responded to a call involving a Forsyth County resident who had been the victim of an entering auto. Several hundred dollars in cash was stolen from her, money she had planned on spending on a church trip. While investigating the theft, Deputy Pirkle took it upon himself to reach out to the rest of his shift and dispatchers to collect up enough money to donate to the victim. They raised over $400 in three hours.

He didn't realize his actions would become public, and only did it because he felt it was the right thing to do.
It's worth looking at their whole photo stream. They do have that one armored car, though it's not military-spec; but what you mostly see is citizenship. Swimming lessons for the kids. Working with the Fire Department (no longer purely volunteer) to rescue some horses. Soccer matches.

That's the county where I grew up. I don't live there any more -- since Atlanta expanded into it, it's become too crowded and too rich for my blood. Out here where I live now we don't really have deputies around, but I did have one come by the house the other day. Some lady had hit my mailbox because a miscreant teenager had knocked it out into the road with a baseball bat. She called the deputy out to get my contact information and to file a report so her insurance agency could send us a check for a new mailbox. Even though they rarely come out here, when she called, he trucked what must be an hour out of his way, round trip, to save me fifty bucks or less.

That's the kind of full-time good citizens that exemplify the best of police work. They're the kind of people you're glad to have as part of your community.

Day of Rage

Already made your plans for today's Day of Rage around the country?  I'm afraid none of the planned festivities are located anywhere near me. Here is an interesting summary of similarities between the Trayvon Martin circus and the new one in Ferguson.

Remember that ISIS Guy Who Was Going To Raise the Islamic Flag Over The White House?

An Argument for Inducing Labor

So once I hit the [Obamacare plan's] deductible (and thus got halfway to my out-of-pocket max), I Iooked in our HSA, saw there was more than $2,500 and thought, "Good, we can afford any health care expenses that might come with a new baby."

But then my wife reminded me that some of the doctors or specialists who see us at the hospital might not be in network. And we have a totally separate (and higher) deductible for out-of-network care. We'd pay every penny for doctor out-of-network.

My wife called the hospital. The hospital said that some specialists are in network, some are out. Can we request an in-network anesthesiologist? Nope. We get whoever is on duty at the moment the contractions get too painful.
Doubtless this is part of the war on women.


“Let me finish, Ben. But listen. I think you are getting into semantics. Regardless of what you want to call it, an automatic or a semi-automatic weapon.”
So, conceptually, you'd be OK with me exchanging a semi-automatic weapon for a fully automatic one? There's no difference worth discussing?

Jackie Chan is A Great Guy, Part XXVIII

If only every father felt it proper to apologize for his son's arrest on drug charges.
"Jaycee and I together express our deep apology to society and the public," Chan wrote... "I say to Jaycee that you have to accept the consequences when you do something wrong. As your father, I'm going to face the road together with you."
Now that's a man.


You live in one, right now.
Asking "[w]ho really rules?" researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page argue that over the past few decades America's political system has slowly transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where wealthy elites wield most power....

As one illustration, Gilens and Page compare the political preferences of Americans at the 50th income percentile to preferences of Americans at the 90th percentile as well as major lobbying or business groups. They find that the government—whether Republican or Democratic—more often follows the preferences of the latter group rather than the first.
That was predictable from the redistributionist society we have developed. As Aristotle himself points out, in a democracy the most important thing to the stability of the regime is to protect the wealthy from having the democrats vote themselves access to the money and property of the rich. Because the people are really powerful, you have to protect the wealthy or they will be stripped of everything (and revolt).

In an oligarchy, by contrast, stability comes from 'sharing the wealth.' To put it another way, to make up for the fact that the political wishes of everyone else are ignored you buy them off with bribes. Because the people have no real power, only the illusion of power, to keep them in support of the system you have to provide them with real financial support.

So far, the system seems pretty stable in spite of the redistribution. That suggests, on independent grounds, that this study is correct about the real distribution of power.

On the Proper Role of Police

Douglas suggested he would like to see this comment as an independent post, so I comply.
I've said this before, Douglas, but perhaps it should be said again. I think police work done right is just being a citizen full time -- and being a good citizen is about the most honorable thing you can do as an American. It's inherently an honorable thing to do, if you're doing it right, because honor is sacrifice and you're always ready to sacrifice your time, your energy, to help your neighbors.

Cattle get out of the fence? If your real neighbors are off at work, that's OK: there's a full-time neighbor you can call to help you catch them and get them out of the road. Somebody break into your neighbor's house? There's a full time member of the community to come take a report and serve as a witness in court, so that your neighbor can get their insurance agency to pay their claim. Same if there is a car wreck: here's a full time citizen who's ready to render first aid and serve as a witness to what happened in court.

If there's a crime, all citizens have the power to make an arrest and bring the offender before a magistrate, as well as to testify as to what happened. Even detective work is just citizen work -- which is why there are private detectives, just as bounty hunters are just using the ancient power of citizens' arrest. It's just that few people have time to spend trying to figure out a crime that happened in the past, and we benefit from having forensic resources that cost money (and require training), so we pool our resources and designate someone to get training we all pay for. But it's citizen work.

There's a riot? All citizens should get together and, guided by the officials they have commonly elected to take charge, help restore order. That official is usually the elected sheriff. When I was a boy, my father and the rest of his volunteer fire department (once again, just citizens! though you can call on them any time if you have a fire) were called up to help stop a potential riot in town. They didn't end up doing anything except being present with the water hoses, but you didn't need a professional riot force to do this -- nor lethal weapons.

So as long as the police are just full time good citizens, they're among the most honorable and valuable people in the world. When we professionalize them, though, there's a danger we'll forget this root -- that we'll think of them as a special class, and that it's "their job" and not ours to do these things. That leads to a lazy citizenry that stops doing its duty.

It's even worse, though, if the police come to see themselves as a special class, deserving of special powers and immune to the same laws that they enforce on everyone else. Then you get a menace.

But it doesn't have to be that way. It shouldn't be. There's a very good, very healthy way to do this.


Pretty great interactive maps showing migration into and out of each state between 1900 and today.  Texans are either wildly happy and loyal or just big ole stick-in-the-muds.  Of course, you can do a lot of migrating and stay within the Texas borders.

Google Glass doctors

Hands-free computers come to the hospital.  When you're elbows-deep in someone's guts, that's a good time to be able to receive and transmit data via a headset.

Privatization and mass transit

I've been so focused on the Uber/Lyft drama that I completely missed stories about the private buses bringing Google and Apple commuters into San Francisco.  Of course it has spurred outrage.  What doesn't?

The off-their-meds squad

San Antonio has found a way to save money and policemen's time by creating a safe place to drop off raving citizens that's not quite an ER and not quite a jail.

Bring it on

Rick Perry's mug shot is better than most people's professional publicity photos.  This "smug shot" is already driving his political enemies nuts.  He sure doesn't look like someone who got caught doing anything he's ashamed of.

As Iowahawk said, the only thing that would have made this more awesome is a T-shirt with this one on it:

Or maybe this:

The high life

Whenever I read about an amazing swankienda, I'm struck with curiosity over how much money someone would have to have before setting aside that much of it for a house--especially one home among many, as often is the case--could possibly sound like a good idea.  Here's a little getaway penthouse in Monaco that's expected to sell for $400 million.  For $400 million, I'd want more than a water-slide between my dance floor and my swimming pool.  I'd want an island and a small navy and air force.

There's always the question of how you defend yourself while flaunting that much concentrated wealth, like wandering into a disco wearing the Hope Diamond.  The recent assault on a Saudi prince's motorcade in Paris must be making a lot of high-rollers thoughtful.  What kind of rich do you have to be to be carrying $350,000 in walking-around money?

Law and grace

It's an old dichotomy, about which every generation tries to write something new, but I like this exposition in the 1883 "Chautauquan," which I'm proofreading right now at Project Gutenberg:
For be assured, though we have read the New Testament, named the name of Jesus, and quite looked down on the Jews, some of us have not yet climbed up so far as to Moses and his Jewish law. In the Bible's older Testament there are needed examples for us yet. Not all of us have learned that majestic, unchangeable fact, that God is Sovereign; nor those related facts that, if we will perpetrate the wrong, we must suffer the penalty; that we can not dodge the consequences of what we do; that indolence must sap our strength; that selfishness must end in wretchedness; that falsehood is a mint, coining counterfeits that must return upon our hands; that hypocrisy to-day is disgrace to-morrow. This is law, everlasting, unrepealable law; and our poor attempts to resist, or nullify it, avail not so much as a puff of mortal breath against the gulf stream in the Atlantic. Blessed will it be for our peace, when we accept it, and bow to it, turning it into a law of liberty.
Remember that the grandest examples of sainthood, or spiritual life, that the ages have seen, have been souls that recognized this truth--the firm, Puritanical element, in all valiant piety; and without it mere amiable religious feeling will be quite sure to degenerate into sentimentality. We need to stand compassed about with the terrible splendors of the mount, and with something of the somber apparatus of Hebrew commandments, to keep us from falling off into some impious, Gentile idolatries of the senses. Holy places, and holy days, and solemn assemblies, still dispense sanctity. Our appetites have to be hedged about with almost as many scruples of regimen for Christian moderation's sake, as the Jew's for his monotheism.

Terrain Denial

A view from inside

Spiegel is running a fascinating interview with Mikhail Gorbachev, who is 80 years old now. The interviewer is testy, even confrontational, but well-informed, and Gorbachev stands up for himself with remarkable candor. It's hard for me to imagine a former Soviet premier speaking in this unguarded way: quite unlike a politician, more like a statesman with a conscience. Which is not to say that I understand a single thing either about how the USSR came to be or about how it abruptly fell apart. Gorbachev notes that a majority of former Soviet citizens will say today that they regret the USSR's breakup, but only 9 percent say they want it back.

Democratization of medicine

Doctors are famous for hating patients that Google, but the internet's ability to pry open a guild's lock on specialized knowledge in fast-changing technical fields is irreversible. Not all doctors like an informed patient, but some can respect one. Maybe the most self-assured doctors are best at this. Never trust a professional with a brittle self-image.

The Common Use Standard in Maryland

So while we were talking about other things, a judge in Maryland upheld the state's "assault weapons" ban. The NRA is not pleased. Their argument is interesting in places.
In Heller, the Supreme Court further suggested that the Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear only such arms that are not “dangerous and unusual.” Of course, “dangerous and unusual” weapon statutes, which date back to England before the founding of the United States, have historically prohibited dangerous and unusual conduct with a weapon, rather than the weapon itself. For example, in one ancient case, it was deemed “dangerous and unusual” to ride a horse through a courthouse at night while drunk, while riding a horse under more conventional circumstances was perfectly lawful.

Judge Blake, like other gun control supporters, instead interpreted “dangerous” and “unusual” according to their dictionary definitions.
Well, OK, although it's not clear to me that the SCOTUS didn't also interpret the language according to the dictionary definitions here. The judge is bound by how they read it -- alas! -- rather than by the ancient construction. I yield to none in my desire that the old liberty by law should be upheld in the old way, but we have to work with the very flawed institutions we have.

Of greater concern to me is this 'common use' standard.
She concluded, saying “Upon review of all the parties’ evidence, the court seriously doubts that the banned assault long guns are commonly possessed for lawful purposes, particularly self-defense in the home, which is at the core of the Second Amendment right, and is inclined to find the weapons fall outside Second Amendment protection as dangerous and unusual. First, the court is not persuaded that assault weapons are commonly possessed based on the absolute number of those weapons owned by the public. Even accepting that there are 8.2 million assault weapons in the civilian gun stock, as the plaintiffs claim, assault weapons represent no more than 3% of the current civilian gun stock, and ownership of those weapons is highly concentrated in less than 1% of the U.S. population.”
Now the NRA's argument is that, proportionately, these are among the most common firearms in the country -- a claim that is doubtless correct. Slate magazine's best effort put the number of AR-15 style rifles at a bit over three million, which is about 1% of all firearms in America -- not bad for a single design! Since "assault weapons" is very broadly defined, the judge's numbers almost certainly don't hold up (except perhaps in Maryland itself, where the weapons have been largely illegal).

But what does it mean to say that a weapon is protected if and only if it is in 'common use'? Well, technologies change. The weapons of the future are not at all in common use now, because they haven't been invented yet. Thus, this standard would seem to suggest that there's no problem with banning all weapons that aren't in current production -- any sort of weapon, that is, that has not yet been designed is not protected by the 2nd Amendment because it is not in common use.

My understanding of the 'common use' standard is not that it should be pointed at current common use among civilian owners, but rather that it is pointed at the kinds of weapons that are in common use should citizens be called up to perform their militia function. That was certainly what the Miller ruling seemed to say, too: the reason it found that sawed-off shotguns were unprotected by the 2nd Amendment was that they weren't the kind of a weapon that you might be called upon to use in militia service. (The court was doubtless wrong about that, as demonstrated by the popularity of 'trench guns' in the most recent major war to that ruling -- still, wrong or not, that was their standard.)

By this token, the AR-15 is currently the most properly protected of all firearms. But the standard will change, as the technology changes.

All the same, I'm not too inclined to be bothered by the ruling. While I think the inherent right of self-defense is a human right that must be protected always and everywhere, I tend to think it's at least as important to the health of the Republic to allow different communities to have different rules -- the old Federalism, in other words. Maryland should be able to construct its militia as it likes, provided that it doesn't try to ban the possession or carrying of the tools of self-defense entirely or outright. If we are going to keep this country together at all, we have to make room for those who disagree with us.

Fiscal sanity in academia

Not much public enthusiasm greeted Mitch Daniels' appointment a couple of years ago as the 12th president of Purdue University in Indiana. In his previous job as governor of the state, he championed vouchers and pushed through $150 million in higher-education budget cuts, about a fifth of which landed on Purdue's neck, so there was uneasy speculation over how he would implement the cuts after taking the helm at the university. Since then, Daniels has implemented the first tuition freeze in 36 years, cut dining-hall prices by 10 percent, and teamed up with Amazon to offer huge savings in textbook costs. He also set up a new program that permits students to complete their required credits for a B.A. in only 36 months, saving almost $10,000 in tuition. In various smaller ways, he cut waste in any number of areas not directly related to what the students are primarily there to do, i.e., get an education.
When asked by the [Chicago] Tribune if he worried about losing students to other colleges in the amenities race, Daniels replied:
“It could be that we’ll still lose students to someone with a higher climbing wall, but we are prepared to take that chance.”

"Mad Jack" Fought WWII with Longbow and Sword

We all know there's a thin line between genius and insanity. I think there's a similarly thin line between badassery and insanity.

The rule is, I think, that if it's functional, it's this side of the line. Of course, the crossbow does retain a tiny role in modern military operations.

A Proposal for Reform

A retired Lieutenant Colonel from the US Air Force, Mitchell Bell endured losing his son to a police shooting. He writes that this is not the racial incident that so many perceive it to be. The reaction was common enough even then:
After police in Kenosha, Wis., shot my 21-year-old son to death outside his house ten years ago — and then immediately cleared themselves of all wrongdoing — an African-American man approached me and said: “If they can shoot a white boy like a dog, imagine what we’ve been going through."
Once the worst of the grief had passed, he began to think about the problem in structural terms. What was needed, he decided, was a mandatory outside review of any police shootings. His model was the NTSB's painstaking review of any airline crashes.
And so, together with other families who lost loved ones, I launched a campaign in the Wisconsin legislature calling for a new law that would require outside review of all deaths in police custody. I contacted everybody I could. In the beginning, I contacted the governor’s office, the attorney general and the U.S. attorney for Wisconsin. They didn’t even return my phone calls or letters. I even contacted Oprah, every Associated Press bureau in the nation, every national magazine and national news agency and didn’t hear a word.

But Frank Serpico, the famous retired New York City police detective, helped. He had his own experience taking on police corruption. I set up billboards and a website and took out newspaper ads, including national ads in the New York Times and USA Today, and Serpico allowed me to use his endorsement. “When police take a life, should they investigate themselves?” the ad read....

In April of this year we passed a law that made Wisconsin the first state in the nation to mandate at legislative level that police-related deaths be reviewed by an outside agency. Ten days after it went into effect in May, local police shot a man sleeping on a park bench 15 times. It’s one of the first incidents to be investigated under the new law.

I’m not anti-cop. And I am finding that many police want change as well: The good officers in the state of Wisconsin supported our bill from the inside, and it was endorsed by five police unions.
That sounds to me like a reasoned, and reasonable, place to start.

Well, This is Encouraging

A description of the President's leadership team, with him at the Vineyard.
[Ben] Rhodes has risen from being an obscure and failed fiction writer to formulating foreign and national security policy for Obama precisely because he is willing to his superiors' bidding regardless of facts. He has a history of using whatever talents he has with the pen to do so.

A few years ago he had drafted the Iraq Study Group report on the causes and mishaps of the Iraq War to focus on Israel -- despite the fact that Israel was not part of the scope of the mission the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group was given. Witnesses and experts called by the Committee were appalled.

Obama's top-ranking adviser [in] Martha's Vineyard [Anita Breckenridge] is a former Illinois political operative who drove him around the state during his Senate campaign a decade ago and then was his personal secretary outside the Oval Office....

Tommy “Hey Dude, that was like two years ago” Vietor also went from driver/flunky to a top post at the National Security Council. No military, geopolitical, diplomatic, intelligence experience required.
It's good to know that we have a country where, regardless of education or experience, you can be anything you want to be. You just have to kiss the right boots.

Well, loafers. One doubts the President has ever worn a pair of boots.

Steyn on the Police

I am tempted to blockquote almost the whole of this piece, but that would be unfair. Nevertheless, I should say that I agree with almost everything he says, except perhaps to question some of the figures. He says that 120,000 American police have generated substantially more homicides than the entire nations of Canada or Australia in any given year; but I think the correct figure is closer to 780,000 American police who have done so.

The philosophical justification for the blue uniforms is an interesting one. "The police is the public; the public are the police." That's a maxim similar to the one I use myself in describing the proper role of the police as a kind of full-time citizen, with no greater powers (nor access to arms) than anyone else, just performing the citizen's role of upholding the common peace and lawful order full-time.

Rest in Peace, MG Greene

It is not more tragic when a Major General dies than when a private does. Major Generals are harder to replace, but there are many excellent officers who might have done well at that level who never rise to it simply because we need so few of them. In a nation that eschews titles of nobility, we have a kind of small-r republican sensibility about this.

Still, a man of that rank holds a position of honor in the army of the Republic. On the thankfully rare occasion that one is laid to rest, we should take a moment to mark his sacrifice. Not because it was greater than the sacrifice of so many others, nor because he was greater, but simply because a man who commands so many must serve as a symbol in death as in life.