A Ferguson neighbor

Dellwood, which adjoins Ferguson, has a different approach to police work.
In Dellwood, a “citizens academy” was started for residents. They graduate, receive certificates and shirts and then can volunteer at events to essentially help keep the peace. It “brings the community closer to the police department,” according to [Mayor] Jones.
The police chief in Dellwood has also apparently issued an order to have each officer meet one new person each week and file a report on who they met. This is “another way to ensure the officer is talking to people” and “getting to know residents.”
If you know the people, you are policing then you don’t have as much fear of what those people are going to do. Fear seems to have been a huge contributing factor to the arrests and police violence that have unfolded in the past weeks. So, Jones said that the city makes an attempt to make sure the relationship between the community and police is not a “me against you” relationship.
* * *
The city of Ferguson has red light cameras that were installed in August 2011.
“We don’t do those kind of things, which frustrate residents,” Jones asserted. “Those kind of things create a bad relationship between government and residents when you have all these kind of things you are constantly using—and for revenue purposes—but seventy percent of the time you’re frustrating people.”
“I believe in good old-fashioned policing. Pull you over with a radar, and write you a ticket,” Jones added. “True, we can put a camera up and boost revenue, but I just don’t think that’s necessary because, again, you create that bad relationship with your residents and your police or even your government when you start doing that.”
Jones has been the mayor since April 2013. He ran based on a vision of uniting the city because there had been a “big political fight” that had divided it. He put forward a platform that included listening to more voices in the community and, according to him, city council meetings now have “great attendance” with people coming out to see how government is operating and what is going on.
* * *
Like many who have observed and been involved in what was happening, Jones contended that what Ferguson residents need to learn is to vote in their city’s elections. The city is nearly 70% African-American and there is only one black on the city council. There are only three black police officers. Yet, in the last election, voter turnout was 12%.


Someone has developed a nail polish that allows the wearer to dip her finger in a drink and detect knock-out drugs.
Some opponents were outright angry at the invention.
“I don’t want to f[***]ing test my drink when I’m at the bar,” said Rebecca Nagle, one of the co-directors of an activist group called FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture. “That’s not the world I want to live in.”
Well, princess, go find another to live in, then.

Students' spirits brutally crushed by regressive pedagogic techniques

When I tutored fourth-grade kids in a bombed-out section of Houston some decades back, I was surprised to find that they'd been confidently reassured by teachers and family that they need never memorize the multiplication table. Given a problem like 6x7, they would laboriously add 6 and 6, get 12, add 6 again, and so on. They would get there eventually, of course, and it's nice that they understood the connection between addition and multiplication, but we'd reach the end of the hour before they had time to grind through more than a couple of problems. They weren't ever going to advance any further, without some shortcuts that involved memorization. But no one really expected them to progress. The main focus was social promotion, keeping the age groups together. The teachers knew barely more than the kids did, though they all seemed awfully nice and well-meaning. They welcomed the volunteer efforts of my colleagues and me without any visible trace of suspicion or resentment, and generally maintained order among their young students.

"So persecute me for 200 years"

Just 'cause I lied, now no one believes me?
And reports that [Michael Brown's] friend Johnson had a criminal record that including lying to police has put Johnson's credibility in question.
In 2011, Johnson was arrested and accused of theft and lying to police about his first name, age and address. Johnson said Monday night he doesn't understand why some are questioning his credibility.
"I see they bring up my past, my history, but it's not like it's a long rap sheet," Johnson told Lemon. "This one incident shouldn't make me a bad person."
I wish I could find a clip of the old Garrett Morris SNL skit about Kermit Washington's complaint that the media were portraying him as though he had punched Rudy Tomjanovich right in the face.

An unusable back-up

Is it just me, or is a back-up for your computerized agency less than useful if retrieving anything from the back-up system is too onerous to be attempted?

I really wouldn't want to have to take this position in front of a federal judge who's already showed signs of ceasing to believe anything I or my client had said about the discovery process for the last year or so. I'd expect him to suggest gently that the magistrate he has appointed to look into possibly criminal offenses has got plenty of time and won't find the task onerous at all.

Politically, however, the problem is less daunting. The broadcast news channels simply ignore it, so most voters will never hear about it. Maybe it will get some coverage if someone goes to jail.


The Epicurean Dealmaker writes from Wall Street:
I prefer to label these special snowflakes Trophy Kids, since their entire young lives have been spent in pursuit of trophies and awards of all kinds, scrapping and scrambling to get into the best schools and the best clubs and the best jobs from the moment their hypercompetitive parents decided they should. Of course, “best” in this context means what everybody else thinks is best, so the trophies we are talking about are clear, unambiguous, and well recognized by everyone: top grades in school, passionate commitment to approved extracurriculars, conspicuous community service to high profile, photogenically needy causes, and the right employer out of college.

“Trophy Kids” is also apt because these socioeconomic poster children make themselves highly desirable as acquisitions by those institutions which aspire to have the best themselves, just like aging billionaires like to accumulate trophy wives and girlfriends. It is not too far to stretch a metaphor to observe that Trophy Kids’ relationships to high-prestige employers are fundamentally the same as trophy wives’....

And this explains why investment banks like Goldman Sachs want to recruit the tippy top of the best and brightest to their sausage factories, O Dearly Beloved: they want trophy employees. They want them not because, as Kevin Roose correctly observes, they need such hyper-accomplished hothouse flowers to program their 50-page spreadsheets and 100-page PowerPoint presentations. I have banged on at length about this before: they don’t. Trophy Kids often make lousy investment bankers, at least over the long term, because my business is a client service business. In contrast, Trophy Kids have been raised from birth to want and expect to be the client.

That's a relief

As long as there's no conclusive link, we should be OK:
The VA response — copies of which were obtained by USA TODAY — includes talking points that reveal at least one crucial finding by investigators: No deaths of veterans at a Phoenix VA hospital could be "conclusively" linked to delays in care at that facility.

The inside scoop on amnesty

Goldman Sachs probably has as much insight as anyone into what's about to issue forth from the President's telephone and pen. I fully expect whatever happens to be a blend of political opportunism, condescension, economic madness, and wishful thinking, so it's not as though I'm likely to be disappointed. I will say, though, that there's one aspect of what's likely to come that makes some sense to me: if we're not going to deport people, which is clearly the case, then it's both monstrous and destructive not to let them work. But soon, no doubt, we'll start worrying about letting them self-exploit, so we can undermine their employment rates for their own good.

Are America's poorest left to hang?

A British blogger compares American prosperity to British in each of twenty percentile groups, and finds Americans better off economically in all but the bottom 5%, where Britain has a narrow edge. There's also a ranking of each America state, with some European countries included for comparison. Only Mississippi loses out to Britain. H/t Maggie's Farm.

Four Guys Against Rape

So rape drugs are a problem. For years -- indeed, for decades -- I've heard people advising women not to drink anything they haven't had positive control of every second since they watched it being poured.

Four college students, all men, thought this was a problem. So, they're fixing it.

Solid work, boys.

Too Much Individualism

I don't think Milbank understands the TEA Party very well, and in fact I think his proposal here is not very likely to work. Nevertheless, I am surprised to see that we seem to agree about the problem with American culture, even if we disagree about the solutions:
Liu observes that American culture now has an excess of individualism, short-term thinking and prioritizing of rights over duties. He calls for “a corrective dose” of Chinese values: mutual responsibility, long-term thinking, humility, moral character and contribution to society.
Now, I was just praising Jackie Chan on exactly this ground, so it may seem that we have some agreement about the solution set as well. Certainly Chinese culture currently has a stronger sense of the family as an institution that is (and ought to be) binding on its members: America has largely disposed of every binding institution except the State, following the logic of the Enlightenment philosophers from Hume and Locke to JS Mill -- to say nothing of Marx and those under his influence. We have come to see the world in terms of atomic individuals and their governments, so much so that the Democratic party now speaks of government as 'the thing we all belong to,' or 'the word for what we do together.'

Still, there are two things to say about this:

1) Chinese culture is not the answer. For one thing, as Milbank's article itself points out, Chinese culture isn't a hedge here -- it's breaking down on the same lines as we speak. For another, the authoritarian response that Milbank describes is very much at the core of Chinese cultural ideals. The boss in China is a very different figure than an American boss, as the fourth of these graphics relates.

Part of the reason is that Chinese culture is incompatible with direct confrontation between individuals, which is very much necessary to the American form of government. In order for a republican form of government to work, people have to speak the truth as they see it, and hash out their differences in conflict. A society that believes that politeness is built around not making others uncomfortable may be noble on its own terms, but it requires the authoritarian mode of government that Chinese culture produces not only in government itself, but in the family, and in the business world. Someone has to be empowered to make a decision binding on everyone else just because you can't have direct confrontations that would allow you to hash things out. If you don't like a proposal you can signal it by saying things like, "Maybe we could do that," rather than, "Yes, let's do that!" But you can't have the kind of frank exchange of views that is necessary for the traditional American city council that would allow you to come to a compromise position. You need someone to make the call, and you need a culture of submission to that call when it is made.

2) We have an American solution that is fully formed. It's just been abandoned. But America used to have stronger families, we used to have more of a sense of duty and community, we used to celebrate faith and religion.

Why did it fall apart? Industrial economics. The move from extended families to nuclear ones follows from the need of an industrial economy for mobile workers, which shatters the old model of families because it requires the children to move in different directions. The sort of small Protestant churches that were historically so prominent in America break up for the same reason. Only larger churches that one can belong to without being tied to a particular place can hold generations of people together if the families are going to break up and move in different directions every few years. The same holds for private clubs and other small cultural organizations.

An information economy makes larger families possible again, and stable churches and other community organizations, insofar as you do not need to move to be physically present at a given office, but such an economy isn't fully realized even here in America.

For the moment the philosophy of individualism is triumphant, in other words, in part because the forces that would resist it have been broken by the economy on which we all rely for survival. As we transition to a new way of producing, the old institutions may recover -- and if they do, they will be better positioned to reassert the more traditional modes of American thought on things like family and church.

In the meantime, individualism is so convincing to so many because it is the only way of thinking that seems to match the physical reality they encounter. It isn't obvious to them that this reality is a human construction, in part because the structure of the economy is beyond human control. It is wholly our production, but it is the force of so many of us acting at once that no group -- even a nation -- can really alter the basic facts about it to any substantial degree. Efforts at control fail to produce the intended results.

Now Milbank intends, when he talks about Americans thinking of themselves as belonging to a community, something like these 'efforts at control.' He thinks of the TEA Party as a kind of revanchist movement because he doesn't understand their economic points, which aren't about individualism per se but about eliminating government meddling with the economy (such as taxation, regulation and mandates) in order to allow the economy to flourish. This same economy has been destroying families and communities, but the only hope to recover lies in moving forward, not in trying to build dams. That's what they're arguing -- not that they should not be thought of as members of communities. Of course they don't think that. If they did, there wouldn't be such a profusion of community-oriented symbolism at TEA Party functions: religious communities, families, and of course the basic symbolism of belonging to an American political community that is captured in the tricorner hats and copies of the Constitution.

The solution, then, isn't to import other cultures to improve ours. The solution can only be to move forward with developing an information economy, while mindful of the need to build and sustain communities and families and churches. The solution is to push down power to localities when possible, states when not, and to diminish the role of the Federal government -- in that way, you'll get people working together to solve problems because the government will be operating at a scale they can actually affect with their efforts.

The introduction of "whiteness" is a red herring. The problem is not ethnic, and the solution is not either.

Diplomatic Jokers

The British Embassy is having some cake.

Unpronounceable hazards

Alarms are beginning to sound a little less shrilly over the possibility of a big air-travel disrupting volcanic explosion under one of Iceland's glaciers.

I give this volcano high marks for its name, Bardarbunga.  Not that I'm likely to be able to remember it an hour from now--except as some kind of mashup between Mordor and Cowabunga--but it sure beats Eyjafjallajokul.


These sights in the sky would certainly get me thinking about alien invasions.

Seriously, I need to do some more doomsday prepping.

Bugging out, New-York style

Cheer up:  doomsday preppers no longer are restricted to those scary hyper-male government-conspiracy-obsessed Christians you see on TV.  Manhattanites are embracing the trend, in their own Manhattanish way.

Speaking strictly for myself, I'd say that Rule #1 for surviving an apocalypse would be "move out of Manhattan this instant."  For some New Yorkers, though, that's unthinkable, so they've turned their attention to practical plans for escaping the island in an emergency.  Inflatable kayaks are one approach.

As a species, we don't seem to have much imagination when it comes to the sudden loss of the intricate web that supplies us with food, water, and other necessities of life--and that goes eleventy for people who live in tall buildings on a small island crammed with 3 million people:
Urban survivalist culture also overlaps with sustainability and homesteading culture. Many preppers are interested in organic and local foods, farmers' markets and the reduction of toxic chemicals. Some meetings, for instance, have focused on such things as how to make deodorant and laundry detergent at home . . . .

Curves bending the wrong way

For a week or more recently, I hunted for new statistics on the Ebola outbreak, but the official death toll was stuck in the 800 range, despite hints that the reporting system had broken down.  It now looks as though the infections and deaths were indeed piling up silently.  Reported deaths are now over 1,400.  WHO now admits that the outbreak has spread to the Congo, after initial denials.  The Ivory Coast has closed its borders.

Ebola remains a relatively difficult disease to transmit, or we wouldn't be seeing deaths in the 2,000 range six months into an epidemic in countries with almost no institutions capable of slowing its spread: we'd be seeing millions. The 1918 influenza spread worldwide in a few months and killed something like 50 or 100 million people (the world was in such a mess, and reporting systems so rudimentary, that it's hard to be sure). Now, the flu: there's a virus that knows how to spread. It's contagious before symptoms occur, for instance, which is not the rule with Ebola.

Ebola kills just over half of the people who contract it, in horrific conditions. We have no information to speak of on what percentage of people it kills in a modern hospital capable of delivering good supportive care while the body mounts its own immune response. As infected Europeans come home for decent treatment, though, we may be about to find out.

Like many of the diseases that have intruded themselves on human attention, including HIV, influenza, West Nile virus, bubonic plague, Lyme disease, and salmonella, Ebola is an example of zoonosis, meaning that it has an animal reservoir and occasionally spills over into the human race. The current thinking appears to be that Ebola, like rabies, Chunkunguya, influenza A, SARS, Hendra virus, and Nipah virus, may have its reservoir in bats. Bats make a good reservoir for human disease. They resemble humans in several important respects: they're long-lived mammals, they cover long distances on the wing, and they live in huge communities capable of sustaining an infectious disease. Bats are lovely creatures that serve their neighbors well by eating lots of insects, but it's a really terrible idea to go into a bat-cave, especially in Africa.

Lately it's a bad idea to go anywhere in Africa.  Ebola is the least of their worries.


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.