January 24, 2014

A good put-down...

Peggy Noonan, The Sleepiness of a Hollow Legend:

Good snark, (and a great title) but wrong on a deep level...

...The poor speechwriters. They are always just a little more in touch with public sentiment than a president can be--they get to move around in the world, they know what people are saying. They have to imitate the optimism of the speeches of yore, they have to rouse. They are the ones who know what a heavy freaking lift it is, what an impossible chore. And they have to do it with idiots in the staffing process scrawling on the margins of the draft: "More applause lines!" The speechwriters know the answer is fewer applause lines, more thought, more humility and candor. Americans aren't impressed anymore by congressmen taking to their feet and cheering. They look as if they have electric buzzers on their butts that shoot them into the air when the applause line comes. "Now I have to get up and enact enthusiasm" is what they look like they're thinking. While the other party thinks "Now we have to get up too, because what he said was anodyne and patriotic and we can't not stand up for that." And they applaud, diffidently, because they don't want the folks back home--the few who are watching--to say they looked a little too enthusiastic about the guy who just cost them their insurance.

They are all enacting. They are all replicating. They're all imitating the past.

You know when we will know America is starting to come back? When some day the sergeant at arms bellows: "Mr. Speaker, the president of the United States" and the camera shows a bubble of suits and one person emerges from the pack and walks into the chamber and you're watching at home and you find yourself--against everything you know, against all the accumulated knowledge of the past--interested. It'll take you aback when you realize you're interested in what he'll say! And the members won't just be enacting, they'll be leaning forward to hear.

And the president will speak, and what he says will be pertinent to the problems of the United States of America. And thoughtful. And he'll offer ideas, and you'll think: "Hey, that sounds right."

That is when you'll know America just might come back.

Until then, as John Dickerson just put it: Barack Obama, Inaction Figure.


I don't actually agree with that "America is starting to come back" stuff. I don't think America is an organism controlled by a central processing unit in Washington. Or in New York. The important changes happen elsewhere, often in places nobody expects them to. This is more true in the Information Age by an order of magnitude.

And if we ever become a country dependent on top-down management, then we are not America anymore.

But this is dead on: "They are all enacting. They are all replicating. They're all imitating the past." When you enter a new age of the world, then every institution needs to change or die. And that change involves two necessary things. One, you must adapt to a new situation, a new way of thinking. Two, you need to remain who you are, in essence.

And the almost-invariable response is to try to do one or the other. You get liberals who want to tear everything apart and rebuild it the image of whatever impressed them when they were in their 20's. And conservatives fighting the liberals and trying to keep things "the way they're supposed to be." Both are wrong. Either response fails.

Posted by John Weidner at 7:39 AM

January 16, 2014

We have a great plan to fix Obamacare... but only if Republicans give us candy

Democratic Senator: We've Never Discussed Plans to Fix Obamacare at Party Meetings | The Weekly Standard:

As the implementation of Obamacare sent Democratic poll numbers plummeting in recent months, party leaders responded with an Obamacare message they hope will spare their candidates from the wrath of voters in 2014: Mend it, don't end it. [In related news, Democrats declare most voters wish to fix the Death Star, not abolish it.]

"I think what most Americans want us to do is not repeal Obamacare, which is what our Republican colleagues are focused on, but fix it," Senator Chuck Schumer of New York said during a December 22 appearance on Meet the Press. "The president is working to fix it; we are working in the Senate to fix it; we urge our Republican colleagues to join us in fixing it." [For maybe the first time in my life, Republicans aren't going to play your sucker's game. Ha ha.]

Which parts of Obamacare need to be fixed, and how will Senate Democrats fix them? Schumer didn't say. Perhaps that's because a Democratic plan to fix Obamacare doesn't exist. [The only plan is to talk vaguely about a plan, to conceal their utter intellectual bankruptcy.]

One Democratic senator tells THE WEEKLY STANDARD that plans to fix Obamacare haven't even been discussed at weekly Democratic Senate caucus meetings. "Never talked about it in the caucus," Senator Pat Leahy of Vermont said on Tuesday. "But I would note just a generality: It's difficult to get a consensus on fixing when the other side simply says, 'Repeal it all--all-or-nothing.'" [Why would that be? Why would a Dem plan require this?]

Other Democrats insist they're working in a smaller group on a plan to fix Obamacare, but they just haven't released it yet. "There's actually a group of us who are starting to work on a series of changes," Senator Mark Warner of Virginia told THE WEEKLY STANDARD on Tuesday. "The question will become: Will this be able to build a bipartisan approach, or it will be one side only?" [Why should Republicans pull your chestnuts out of the fire? Screw bipartisanship. It's always a fake.]

Warner didn't elaborate on who is in the group or what fixes might be proposed. "I'd rather not get into the some of the details yet," he said. [I'll bet] The only specific problem he mentioned was the "30-hour cliff"--the law's (temporarily-suspended) provision that large employers must provide health insurance to employees who work more than 30 hours per week or pay steep fines. [A nation of part-timers they've made us. Brilliant!]

Warner declined to say if he would support a delay of the individual mandate for all Americans in 2014. "I think I'll get back to you when we get the whole package together," he said. [Uh huh. Right.]

Democrats are quick to point out that President Obama has used his executive authority to change problematic parts of the law. But many of the administrative "fixes"--delaying the employer mandate and delaying the individual mandate for people who lost plans because of Obamacare--have actually undermined the law. [Not to mention that he violated the very law the Dems passed. The Rule of Law of course no longer applies to "Democrats."] Letting some people temporarily escape from the law isn't supposed to down costs, it's supposed to make the law more palatable to voters.

If and when Senate Democrats get around to fixing Obamacare (a law that's been on the books for nearly four years), it's not clear that they will propose anything designed to address any of the law's biggest problems, such as higher costs and narrower provider networks for people forced onto Obamacare.  [There's still probably no human being who has read the whole law. 2,700 pages. But they propose to "fix" it.]

When Virginia's junior senator, Democrat Tim Kaine, was asked last week if premiums for Obamacare plans are too high, he replied, "No."

"It depends sort of on where you are," Kaine told THE WEEKLY STANDARD. "You read about some premiums that are really good stories, and then you read some challenging stories. And there are going to be people who are better off and worse off." [Stories! Pfui. They have the same problem socialists always have. Once the government starts setting prices, it is no longer possible to know what anything casts, or should cost.]

According to Kaine, Democrats are "kicking ideas around" to fix Obamacare, but he didn't provide any specific examples. "I'm going to keep it kind of vague," he said. "When I'm ready to sign onto something, I'll sign on to something." [Coward.]

When Pennsylvania senator Bob Casey was asked which parts of the law needed to be changed, he highlighted repeal of the medical device tax as a top priority. "Medical device is one of them. That's probably the most significant example," Casey told THE WEEKLY STANDARD last week. [That tax is pure insanity, to be sure. But repealing it won't give the slightest bit of help to ordinary Americans.] "There might be others down the road." A standalone measure to repeal the medical device tax already passed the House and has the support of 79 senators, but Majority Leader Harry Reid has refused to bring this minor proposal up for a vote.

Democratic senators like Tim Kaine and Bob Casey have the luxury of supporting vague or minor tweaks to the law. They're not up for reelection until 2018. Their colleagues who have to face voters in less than ten months may need to come up with better ideas--if they can. [They couldn't do it even if they weren't stupid. The whole thing is rotten deep down. It can't be fixed.]

Lucy football Republicans

Posted by John Weidner at 7:38 PM

January 10, 2014

Communities of practice...

US bike messenger stamp 1902

As I've written before, the limiting factor in the Industrial Age was information processing. [Links] You could build a trans-continental railroad system, but you still moved information on little slips of paper. Which was painfully clumsy and inefficient. So every organization became a sort of "computer with human components." Processing information into reports and graphs; filing, collating, retrieving... boiling it down.

Colleges and the college degree was one of those mechanisms. A degree was worth having because it was a compilation of information an employer could rely on. In a rough way, you could say that an Ivy League degree would put you on a track into top management, a state college degree said you were middle-management material, and a junior college diploma meant you were a person for supervisor level jobs. (A degree worked the same way for social status. An Ivy degree said you were fitted for the elite.)

But the degree system was an awkward work-around, because there was no simple way to investigate thousands of people in detail.

The Degree Is Doomed - Michael Staton - Harvard Business Review:

...The value of paper degrees will inevitably decline when employers or other evaluators avail themselves of more efficient and holistic ways for applicants to demonstrate aptitude and skill.  Evaluative information like work samples, personal representations, peer and manager reviews, shared content, and scores and badges are creating new signals of aptitude and different types of credentials. Education-technology companies EduClipper and Pathbrite, and also general-interest platforms such as Tumblr and WordPress, are used to show online portfolios.  Brilliant has built a math-and-physics community that identifies and challenges top young talent. Knack, Pymetrics, and Kalibrr use games and other assessments that measure work-relevant aptitudes and attitudes. HireArt is a supercharged job board that allows applicants to compete in work challenges relevant to job openings.  These new platforms are measuring signals of aptitude with a level of granularity and recency never before possible.

There are sites -- notably Degreed and Accredible -- that adapt existing notions of the credential to a world of online courses and project work. But there are also entire sectors of the innovation economy that are ceasing to rely on traditional credentials and don't even bother with the skeumorph of an adapted degree.  Particularly in the Internet's native careers - design and software engineering -- communities of practice have emerged that offer signals of types and varieties that we couldn't even imagine five years ago.   Designers now show their work on Dribbble or other design posting and review sites.  Software engineers now store their code on GitHub, where other software engineers will follow them and evaluate the product of their labor.  On these sites, peers not only review each other but interact in ways that build reputations within the community. User profiles contain work samples and provide community generated indicators of status and skill.

In these fields in the innovation economy, traditional credentials are not only unnecessary but sometimes even a liability. A software CEO I spoke with recently said he avoids job candidates with advanced software engineering degrees because they represent an overinvestment in education that brings with it both higher salary demands and hubris. It's a red flag that warns that a candidate is likely to be an expensive, hard-to-work-with diva who will show no loyalty to the company.  MBAs have an even more challenged reputation in the innovation economy.  Several of the education startups I advise that directly provide programs to students -- notably Dev Bootcamp and the Fullbridge Program -- recently met with other immersive unaccredited programs to consider whether to jointly develop a new type of credential. Their conclusion: Credentials are so 20th century....

And note, when you have "communities of practice" doing the evaluating and sorting of people, this is using all the brains of the community to solve a problem. This is the opposite of top-down management.

Posted by John Weidner at 8:12 AM

January 9, 2014

Behold now behemoth...

I've been thinking about health care for a long time, but never blogged it much, because, well, 'cause I just never got around to it. But I saw my physician today, and she is SO not happy with Obamacare.

So I may be inspired to do some serious blogging again...

Concierge Medicine Gains Ground:

...Nunamaker and Umbehr opened Atlas MD, a direct primary care practice, in 2009 shortly after Umbehr left residency. They charge $50 a month in membership fees for adults ages 20 to 44, with fees ranging from $10 to $100 a month for pediatric and older patients.

They describe their payment structure on the Atlas MD website as a "direct fee-for-services arrangement [that] frees us from the typical contractual agreements that prevent physicians from offering wholesale prices on laboratory tests, imaging, and medications."

The practice quickly grew to about 600 patients in the first couple of years, with a monthly revenue of $30,000 in membership fees. The only marketing has been word of mouth.

They said patients loved the open access to their physicians. Patients are encouraged to email, call, or text their doctors with questions. The office has no office staff, and the physicians answer the phones, which they said "freaks out" patients at times.

Nunamaker and Umbehr said they loved not having to deal with insurance payers for such issues as prior authorizations or rejected claims....

I fortunately have not had my insurance cancelled... yet. But even so I am filled with bitter hatred of this loathsome and un-constitutional power grab by Democrats. And proud that I've never voted for the Party of Death in my life!

Posted by John Weidner at 2:11 PM