Breaking up Large Cities: Husock

Let’s Break Up the Big Cities, by Howard Husock

Civic Bulletin
No. 14 May 1998

Let’s Break Up the Big Cities

Howard Husock

Howard Husock is Director of Case Studies in Public Policy & Management at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. He is author ofRepairing the Ladder: Toward a New Housing Policy Paradigm, and has written forThe Wall Street Journal and The Public Interest.

* This Bulletin is adapted from a longer article in the Winter, 1998 City Journal.

The idea of metropolitan government—a single, benevolent, expert central administration for urban areas—has tempted efficiency-minded urban theorists for generations. Here, they’ve argued, is a way of bringing order to the chaos of central cities surrounded by a crazy quilt of independent suburbs. Yet across the country local activists have been rejecting the push to create bigger jurisdictions. They want to retain—or create—smaller governments, by seceding from existing city governments; by incorporating new, smaller jurisdictions carved out of larger ones; or by resisting annexation by larger governments. Most notably, in Los Angeles, the ValleyVote movement, with Governor Pete Wilson’s support, proposes to detach the entire San Fernando Valley (population: 1.2 million) from the rest of the city. Proponents say such a secession could come to a referendum vote in the year 2000.

The conflict between localism and metropolitan government is a clash not over form but philosophy of government. To liberals, localism reflects a greedy retreat from the commonweal, sacrificing the city for the short-term improvement of the suburbs. If the suburbs shared their often considerable riches, older, poorer neighborhoods wouldn’t decline into dilapidated urban ghettos. This view, the elite wisdom about secession and incorporation movements, is simply wrong. Localism is popular not because it promises a sweetheart deal for a few privileged suburbanites at the expense of the greater good, or because the unsophisticated fail to understand a demonstrably superior metropolitan approach. Instead, it rests on common sense—which economics and political science amply confirm. Voters’ common sense tells them that the closer they are to government, the more it will respond to their demands. They will see their hard-earned tax dollars spent on the kind of projects they prefer and will have a greater assurance that interest groups—such as public employee unions—will not usurp local government for the benefit of their own members, who may not even live in the city in which they work.

In fact, there are good reasons to go one step further. To improve older neighborhoods in older cities requires not a single, bigger government but increased numbers of smaller ones. Rather than expanding cities, we should break them up into an array of independent, neighborhood-based governments that would set their own property tax rates, elect their own officials, and give city residents the same control and sense of community that their suburban counterparts take for granted.

In Los Angeles, the secessionist movement makes just such arguments. The head of the ValleyVote movement is a commercial real estate broker named Jeff Brain. In his professional life, Brain rents out storefronts in this and other small strip malls along the length of Ventura Boulevard, one of the San Fernando Valley’s main streets.

Brain’s complaints are very specific. Most nights, only two police cars patrol his own community of Sherman Oaks, which, like other residential areas in the Valley, has its own name but not its own government. Sidewalk cleaning in the commercial areas along Ventura Boulevard is dismal, even though merchants pay extra fees to the city for a private contractor to do the work. Brain also resents the private school tuition he pays for his four children to keep them out of the giant LA Unified School District, with its unmanageable 800,000 students. Moreover, the city pays little for Valley road repair (only $4 million out of a $28 million budget), even though the Valley contains a third of the city’s total area. Look at the number of residents per City Council member, Brain complains: some 250,000 people per Council district. With fewer than 100,000 residents, nearby independent cities like Burbank and San Fernando have their own mayors and city councils, along with lower business taxes and an easier permit process. Brain looks enviously at older commercial main streets in these neighboring communities, where small beautification steps have paid big dividends by helping to attract and retain shoppers and businesses, while Van Nuys Boulevard, another of the Valley’s main drags, grows shabbier by the day.

For Brain, being too distant from local government to get anything accomplished is more than a metaphor. “In order to get something for our area,” he observes, “we have to go downtown. That’s an hour’s drive to start. Then we have to convince council members from all over the city. They say, ‘Why should you get something if my neighborhood doesn’t?’ Then you reach an impasse.”

Such frustration drove Brain to mount a successful campaign this past fall to persuade Governor Wilson to sign legislation allowing city neighborhoods to detach, without first getting the permission of their existing city councils. Next he’ll try to get the more than 100,000 petition signatures necessary to get a regional advisory board to examine the issue, as required by law. Brain expects the petition drive—and then the secession vote—to succeed. And he believes that large parts of Los Angeles will follow suit, seeking to detach and incorporate on their own.

The reason to believe that Brain and other incorporation and secession leaders are right begins with history—even though the metropolitanists assert that history is on their side. Americans historically have supported the creation of more local governments, not fewer. The formation of independent cities and towns fueled the explosive economic takeoff of the late 1800s; it defused tensions between immigrant and native born; and it allowed the upwardly mobile to build communities that reflected their hard-won new social status. Distinct ethnic and cultural groups established their own niches, as in the once “dry” towns of Pasadena and Compton, California, where Methodists for many years used local control to keep out alcohol. The lesson is crystal clear: independent jurisdictions are a crucial means through which a nation as diverse as the U.S. can develop a modus vivendi among peoples of wildly various backgrounds. Even as advocates (including the Department of Housing and Urban Development) beat the drums for metropolitan government, the number of local governments in the U.S. has kept rising. From 1952 to 1992, the number of municipalities grew from 16,807 to 19,279.

There’s no shortage of theory to explain why this long-standing American preference for localism makes sense. The key fact: we don’t all want the same things from our local jurisdictions. Those with small children may care most about education, unmarried joggers may want to spend public money on parks, and the tidy-minded may want the streets cleaned three times a week. Forty years ago, in a brief but classic essay, economist Charles Tiebout argued that local governments do more than coexist side by side. Instead, they compete with one another for residents by offering different packages of services. Of course, wealthier communities can provide more amenities than poorer ones; that’s part of the free-market incentive structure. But at equivalent income levels, governments can differentiate themselves, in terms of the kinds of services they offer and also the cost-efficiency with which they provide them. If they fail to provide what people want at reasonable cost, residents can “vote with their feet,” wrote Tiebout. When municipalities lose residents, property values fall, leaving remaining residents with a powerful incentive to figure out what’s gone wrong.

Daniel Elazar, Director of Temple University’s Center for the Study of Federalism, observes that some of the nation’s most smoothly functioning cities may owe part of their success to competition of this sort. Elazar notes that in the Bay Area, three flourishing midsized cities—San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose—compete (and also cooperate) with one another and with Silicon Valley towns like Palo Alto and Sunnyvale. Prosperous and efficient Minneapolis and St. Paul, along with a gaggle of nearby cities with populations between 100,000 and 150,000, do the same.

In other words, because of this anti-monopolistic mechanism, smaller—not bigger, as the metropolitanists contend—is more efficient. New research from the Institute of Government at Florida International University, located right in the middle of Dade County’s wave of incorporations, soundly debunks the big-is-efficient argument that is the linchpin of the metropolitanists’ case. Public administration professor Milan Dluhy examined the costs per resident for a wide range of core municipal services in metropolitan Dade County and in 24 “fragmented municipalities” within and around the county. Dluhy found that economies of scale existed in only two areas: fire protection and library services. Localities can provide all the other services—police, recreation, public works, waste management—at equal or         less cost.

In addition, as government jurisdictions get larger, control gradually melts away from voters; realizing the difficulty of influencing officials, and increasingly impotent against the organized electoral power of public employees, individuals give up: as Jeff Brain likes to point out, voter participation is much lower in the San Fernando Valley areas that are part of Los Angeles than in those that are independent municipalities. Growing voter apathy gives organized public employees and other special interests a clear field to advance their own agendas, while the higher campaign spending that comes with big government allows unions and government contractors to sway officials by providing campaign funds and volunteers.

Not only are metropolitanists mistaken when they assert that bigger jurisdictions are more efficient than smaller; they are equally in error when they claim that such jurisdictions promote growth better. The reverse is closer to the truth: metro government is more likely to discourage than to foster growth. Why? Consider what I’ll call the golden goose effect. Communities are willing to accept new development, the golden goose, so long as they can be sure of getting the golden eggs—strengthening their tax base and adding or improving such neighborhood amenities as schools, parks, or police protection. Metro government changes this whole calculation. Suddenly there is no guarantee that city hall will use new tax revenues the neighborhood generates to improve the neighborhood. A community’s incentives change dramatically. Suddenly new developments bring a guarantee of costs but not of benefits. Areas asked to accept the new industrial park may get no improved services or new school buildings; the additional tax revenue, if not simply swallowed up in the day-to-day administration of the consolidated government, may well be spent in other parts of the city—probably those with the most political clout, which will probably not be the poorer areas.

Helping poor neighborhoods is the real agenda for metro government, which at heart, its supporters believe, will help less by facilitating economic growth than by facilitating redistribution. Stripped of its pretenses about efficiency and economic growth, the metro movement turns out to be a campaign to support the growing package of social services that our big cities provide—what might be called the municipal welfare state. Those who have fled the crime and disorder of inner cities must be joined with those who have been “left behind,” metropolitan advocates argue.

Instead of promising more of the redistributionist machinery that has failed so roundly over the last generation, however, breaking up the cities holds out a more valuable promise to poor neighborhoods: it offers them the incentive and the means to encourage economic growth. Knowing for sure, as suburbs now do, that they will benefit directly from new investment, poor municipalities would try to make their business climate accommodating. Independent municipalities will have the option of limiting regulation and accepting employment-generating businesses, even waste-recycling centers or power plants, that middle-class areas may not want, but whose financial benefits a poor community might find well worth the costs. (State and federal health and safety standards would still  apply, of course.) Neighborhoods would have the incentive to find the highest and best use of their land and buildings.

Whatever the complications very poor neighborhoods pose to creating a system of independent city neighborhoods, though, they should not obscure the tremendous benefits that such a system would bring the vast majority of neighborhoods. Not the least of these would be the new political cultures that will have a chance to take root, more communal and truly democratic than today’s. Here’s how it would work.

Neighborhoods that already have their own, informal identity, and often their own zip codes, would become formal municipalities, empowered to set property tax rates, operate police and fire departments, make zoning and land-use decisions, pick up garbage, and clean and repair their own streets. This does not, mean, however, that each municipality will in fact do all these things. Like suburbs, they will provide some services themselves and contract out others to either a private firm or another public entity, typically a county. Over time, individual municipalities will doubtless figure out which services should remain local, which are better provided through joint effort, and what is the best way to pressure outside contractors to keep prices down. The costs and revenues of those services for which metropolitan economies of scale exist could be shared through special-purpose districts that would oversee airports, say, or libraries or arterial roads.

Some new municipalities wouldn’t have to raise all their tax revenue internally. New municipal boundaries might divvy up poor communities among more prosperous neighboring areas. Any municipal breakup campaign will have to recognize that some sort of regional revenue sharing will have to guarantee that all areas have  decent schools and adequate police and fire protection. But assuring, say, a floor below which school spending must not fall is a far cry from aiming at overall tax equalization. What percentage of tax revenues should be shared? And who should pay it? All communities above a certain income level? Only the winnowing of the political process can provide final answers to such questions.

This is a radical proposal, true. The neighborhoods of our big cities have long been bound together; residents think of themselves as New Yorkers or Chicagoans. But they also think of themselves as residents of Flatbush and Canarsie—and in that capacity they lack the means of exerting political control over the places they call home, in contrast to people short distances away who have, in effect, greater rights to influence where they live. Perhaps the strongest argument in favor of the unthinkable possibility of breaking up the cities is that the movement to do so has already, spontaneously, begun. Metropolitan advocate David Rusk has written that we should not consider the “political geography of mature metropolitan areas” to be “immutable.” Just so—but not in the way he believes.


Wine from the Oregon Grape

Oregon Grape

The highlight for me of a recent Valentine’s Day Party was some wine made from the Oregon Grape.

There are at least two  very common varieties of this on the island. Both are named in the settler world after one Bernard McMahon, a friend of Jefferson. The most common in the forests is Mahonia repens, which is low to the ground and spreads out to protect its turf. Mahonia aquifolium or the holly grape, is tall and bushy.

And it can be quite prolific:  

Oregon Grape, aka Mahonia, aka Mountain Grape, aka Grape Holly, aka Tall Oregon Grape, aka Hollyleaf Barberry

Although the leaves look just like English Holly, Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium) is really a barberry shrub. It grows seven to ten feet in height, & can be three to five feet wide. To limit its width, suckers can be removed as they appear, encouraging only the upward branches, creating very narrow upright specimens. If the species seems a bit big, there are smaller cultivars including “Compacta” & “Mayhan Strain” that are three by three feet or smaller. “Apollo” is a true dwarf that flowers heavily & makes an excellent evergreen groundcover under trees.
The dwarfs I’m fairly certain are always hybridized with the ground-creeping M. repens, either crossed in cultivation or even occurring naturally in the wild. A pure wild M. aquifolium is a very erect shrub, whereas specimens that grew from casual pollinization with M. repens will be more varied in form, being shorter, wider, clumpier, but only occasionally completely prostrate.
We have two specimens of M. aquifolium one planted under large evergreens in considerable shade, the other under the Paperbark Maple where it gets indirect sunlight at least. The above photo was snapped the day we brought one home & just before we planted it under the Paperbark Maple (it was not planted in front of that Camellia japonica the leaves of which can be seen behind it in the photo). It’s a June photo so it’s full of green berries that will not ripen until Autumn. I remember the day we bought this shrub, there were some very densely foliaged specimens we might have chosen instead, & the nurseryman seemed surprised we wanted this thin one, but after looking at scores of them offered by various nurseries,  this was the first one that said “Take me home!” We later added the bushier one farther along the cliff edge, because to fruit well, they need to be able to crosspollinate with other mahonias.
We’ve also two specimens of M. repens in shady dry ground not far distant from the aquifoliums, both a little farther down the tiny cliff. Their conditions are a bit harsh because a large holly tree & a fir tree suck the ground dry, & the shade is so deep even weeds don’t much grow on that slope. But if anythiung, the M .repens are doing even better, as they bloom first & better. All the four shrubs of the two species are doing just fine, though, whereas if they’d been in a sunny & well-watered location, they probably wouldn’t do as well.
Mahonias only fruit if they can pollinate with nearby specimens of its own species, or with a compatible species, & these two species do cross-pollinate at will.
Oregon Grape is the state flower of Oregon. M. aquifolium is native of the Pacific Northwest from northern California through Oregon, Washington & British Columbia. The genus name honors Irish-American pioneer nurseryman Bernard McMahon  (1775-1816), a pal of Thomas Jefferson who was a radical gardener for much longer than he was a president, & whose gardens persisting at Montecello to this day include much that was provided to Jefferson by McMahon.
The Philadelphia nurseryman became curator over the seeds & plants gathered in the west during the Lewis & Clark Expedition, & he was the author of the horiticultural classic The American Gardener’s Calendar (1806). Botanist Thomas Nuttall named the western group of shrubs mahonias in remembrance of McMahon within two years of the death of America’s first national nurseryman.
In the garden Oregon Grape is not at all fussy as to soil conditions. It grows in most any lighting condition from deep shade to full sun, though it definitely likes partial shade or dappled sunlight best. It gets redder in winter with more sun exposure, but has a better overall appearance year-round when provided with a bit of shade. With too much winter sunlight it will get spotty, ruining its bronzy coloration; ours being in deeper shade, they never get the winter spottiness, but instead have a bronzy winter cast to the green leaves that lasts until spring.
A first-rate hedgerow can be made from mahonia, for areas too shady to grow other hedgeable shrubs.  It can be cultivated from seeds sewn winter or spring, or by digging up suckers & babying them in pots for a while. They’ll also reproduce from autumn leaf-cuttings.
The fragrant flowers appear as early as January & last through May. In the most southerly part of its range into California, where it experiences fairly warm winters, it will bloom beginning in December. These flowers are  edible &  can be used raw in salads, or fried in tempura. The flowers can also be boiled to make a lemonade substitute.
Spring’s yellow blooms have turned into green berries by June. The berries darken to a beautiful dusty or frosted blue beginning in July, but will not really be ripe until autumn, when the blue-black berries on red stems amidst bronzy leaves place this lovely shrub at the height of its ornamental powers.
The fruit occurs in bunches & really do look like small grapes, the size of large black currants. They are quite tasty right off the bush despite being seedy & acidic. Cooked, sieved, & sweetened for jams is best. As with most acidic autumn berries, if they are harvested in winter after they have gone through a couple of frosts, they taste much better, as the cold breaks down the pectins & increases the percentage of fructose. All mahonia species have edible berries, but M. aquifolium is one of the best, & is the most heavily productive.
Unfortunately for us, the birds very much agree the grapes are tasty. We have many autumn & winter berries that the birds only eat sporadically because most cold-season berries are simply too tart to be a first choice of meal. But for the mahonia, as soon as a short cold spell sweetens them a bit, the birds get them all. One day the bush is full of berries, the next it has none! Wherever this is predictably going to happen, they can be picked the instant they turn black, & “frosted off” artificially in the freezer.
The First Peoples of Oregon, Washington & British Columbia made a bitter tea from the root as a general tonic to treat weariness, loss of apetite, venereal infections, digestive problems, or gargled for soar throat & bronchial infections. The fruit was used as a mild laxative. And a yellow dye was made from a substance taken from the underside of the bark, violet dye from the berries, & green dye from the leaves.
As a medicinal plant, Oregon Grape extract has been shown to be useful in treatment of skin disorders such as soriasis & fungal infection. Acting on reports of a Vancouver Island Salishan woman who successfully treated dermatitis with bark of the Oregon Grape, a 1992 dermatological study was conducted in Germany to assess the value of this folk-remedy & its known active ingredients, berbamine, oxycanthine, & berberine. The outcome of the study became notoriously exaggerated when filtered through the wild promises of herbal remedy manufacturers, but even so, the medical value of mahonia is worth taking seriously.

FROM 1898.


Berberis Aquifolium.—Oregon Grape.

Fig. 47. Leaves of Berberis aquifolium. Photo: Mahonia aquifolium 1. Preparations: Fluid Extract of Berberis Aquifolium Related entries: Berberis.—BarberryHydrastis (U. S. P.)—Hydrastis

The root of Berberis aquifolium, Pursh (Mahonia aquifolium, Paxton). Nat. Ord.—Berberidaceae. COMMON NAMES: Mountain grape, Oregon grape. ILLUSTRATIONS: Pursh, Vol. I, Plate iv; Botanical Register, 1425.

Botanical Source.—Berberis aquifolium is a shrug having stems about 6 feet high, erect, and of rapid growth. The leaves are alternate and consist of 3 or 4 pairs of leaflets, and an odd one. They are evergreen, coriaceous, bright and shining upon the upper surface, and very ornamental; hence, the shrub is frequent in cultivation, often under the improper name “holly.” The leaflets are smooth, ovate, from 2 to 3 inches long, and one-half as wide. They are acute, sessile, pinnately veined, and the margin is indented with from 15 to 30 repand spiny teeth. The lower pair of leaflets is from 1 to 2 inches distant from the base of the common petiole. The flowers are numerous, small, yellowish-green, and appear in early spring, borne in fascicled, terminal racemes. The calyx has 9 distinct sepals, colored like the petals and disposed in 2 rows, the outer of which consists. of 3 sepals (bracts?). The petals are 6, distinct, orbicular, and in rows of 3 each. The stamens are also 6, and opposite the petals; they have irritable filaments, and extrorse anthers, opening, each by 2 little valves, hinged at the top. The fruit, which is known as “Oregon grape,” is a cluster of purple berries, each containing an agreeably acid pulp, and from 3 to 9 seeds.

History.—This is a tall shrub, native of the western section of the United States. It grows from Colorado to the Pacific Ocean, and is especially abundant in Oregon and the northern part of California. Berberis aquifolium belongs to the section Mahonia of the genus Berberis, which section is considered by some botanists a distinct genus, The following synopsis of the difference between the two sub-genera is taken from “Berberidaceae ” (a pamphlet by C. G. and J. U. Lloyd, 1878):

“The Berberis proper has simple leaves clustering in the axis of a simple or 3-parted spine. The petals have two glands on the inside of each, at the base. The filaments have no teeth. Berries 2 to 3-seeded.

“Mahonia has oddly, pinnately, compound leaves, with no spine at the base, but with spiny-toothed leaflets. The petals are glandless. The stamens have a tooth on each side of the filament, near the top. Berries 3 to 9-seeded.”

The section “Mahonia” is represented in the western United States by six species, viz.: Berberis pinnata, Lag., a tall shrub with the general appearance of B. aquifolium, distinguished from it by the leaflets, which are glaucous underneath, and the lower pair approximate to the base of the petiole; Berberis repens, Lind., a small creeping plant, with leaves often ternate, and leaflets nearly orbicular, and which has been much confounded, and frequently described as Berberis aquifolium. Berberis nervosa, Pursh, a small erect shrub, with leaves often longer than the stem—it appears to be more generally distributed than the other species. The chief characteristics of this species are, the leaflets are three-veined from an oblique base, the common petiole is jointed “like a bamboo stem,” and the flowers are in slender racemes. The two other species, B. Fendleri and B. Fremonti, are of rare occurrence.

Berberis aquifolium and the other species long in use in domestic practice throughout the West, were brought into general notice a few years since by Parke, Davis & Co., of Detroit, who gave the remedy great conspicuity. Dr. Bundy, of Colusa, Cal., wrote many papers on its therapy; these were published in their journal, “New Preparations.” From an examination of the drug, as thrown upon the market, we find the species are confounded, several of them being generally sold as B. aquifolium. The B. nervosa is more commonly met within these sophistications, but we have likewise noticed B. repens in considerable amount. The confusion is, perhaps, unimportant from a therapeutical point, as all the Mahonias are bitter, and seem to contain berberine in nearly the same proportion (see Related Species).

Description.—The root of Berberis aquifolium is from 1/2 to 1 inch in diameter, often increasing to 2 and 3 inches at the base of the stem. It is woody, yellow throughout, very hard. The bark is deep-yellow beneath and brown upon the surface. It is without odor and very bitter. The roots of the other species of Mahonia are smaller; the B. pinnata more nearly approaching the B. aquifolium in size; the B. repens is the smallest of any of the known species.

Chemical Composition.Berberis aquifolium contains berberine, a yellow alkaloid (see Hydrastis), berbamine, and oxyacanthine, both white alkaloids, and phytosterin, gum, and sugar. The flowers contain, in addition to the above alkaloids, volatile oil, and the berries contain malic acid.

The presence of berberine renders both root and bark bitter. The white alkaloid, oxyacanthine (C19H21NO3, Rüdel), which forms soluble salts with most acids, is itself practically insoluble in water, soluble in hot alcohol and hot ether, and slightly so in cold alcohol and cold ether. It dissolves freely in fats and volatile oils, and in chloroform and benzol. It is alkaline, bitter, and in the presence of sunlight changes color, becoming yellowish. Iodic acid is reduced by it with the liberation of free iodine. With nitric acid a yellow color is produced, which, when heated, changes to purple. Cold sulphuric acid turns it brownish-red; on heating it changes to a vivid red, and finally a brown, color. With ferric chloride, in dilute solution of potassium ferricyanide, a blue color is produced with salts of oxyacanthine. Other names have been given this alkaloid to avoid confounding it with products of a species of thorn-apple, the Crataegus Oxyacantha. Thus vinetine was applied to it by Wacker, while Berzelius christened it berbine. Berbamine (C18H19NO3) is a white alkaloid the salts of which dissolve slightly in solutions of Chili saltpetre (nitrate of sodium). These salts strike a blue color with ferric chloride in a weak solution of ferricyanide of potassium. Phytosterin (C26H44O.H2O) is a neutral body (found also in Calabar bean, Physostigma venenosum, Balfour), differing from cholesterin, which it closely resembles, by its solution in chloroform not having any affect on polarized light.

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—This agent has justly been extolled as an alterative and tonic, and has been recommended in syphilitic affections, salt-rheum, pityriasis, psoriasis, and other cutaneous affections, as well as in maladies supposed to be due to some mal-condition of the blood. Excretion and secretion are promoted by it; digestion and assimilation improved; the lymphatic glandular system and the ductless glands are stimulated; and the renal secretions somewhat augmented. Thus it acts as a blood-maker, and is therefore a remedy to oppose depraved conditions of the body-fluids. As a tonic, it may be employed as a synonym of hydrastis, colombo, berberis, etc., possessing in addition its own peculiar virtues, in dyspeptic conditions, chronic mucous maladies, and in certain enfeebled conditions of the system, etc. Owing to its invigorating power over the gastric functions, it is a valuable remedy for atonic dyspepsia, and more particularly if associated with hepatic torpor, for which it is also an excellent remedy. A cirrhotic liver, associated with gastro-enteritis, has been benefited by it, and for chronic constipation it is a useful agent when combined with cascara sagrada. It is said to be effectual in stomatitis.

The great field for berberis aquifolium is in constitutional syphilis and its manifold complications and sequelae. The disorders named above are more amenable to this drug when associated with a syphilitic taint than otherwise. If given early enough it will prevent tertiary phases, provided the patient has not been too thoroughly mercurialized. Its use must be prolonged in appreciable doses. It is especially adapted to long-standing cases of syphilis, the older the better, according to some of its advocates, and yet it is a remedy of much value all through the course of the disease. It is the remedy for that broken-down state so frequently following in the wake of that malady. The various eruptions give way to it, the gastric complications are subdued, and the mucous membranes are toned so that excessive secretions are restrained. Ɣ The bone and periosteal, as well as the muscular, pains of syphilitics, are amenable to berberis. Its action is slow but sure, as it is also in severe muscular pains, with partial paralysis, due to spinal disease. Long standing syphilitic phagadenae and herpetic and eczematous states, yield to it better than to most agents. It should not be forgotten in syphilitic anemia. Several stubborn cases of psoriasis (Ed. E. M. J., p. 148, 1896) have been cured by it, and it is a valuable drug in erysipelatous and chronic scrofulous affections. While it has failed to cure carcinoma, as its introducer, Dr. J. H. Bundy, believed it would, it has, however, shown itself of value in the dyscrasiae due to a cancerous cachexia.

Berberis aquifolium commends itself for study in certain pulmonic troubles, on account of its excellent results in controlling secretions of the mucous tract. Cases of purulent bronchorrhoea, pronounced incurable, have been cured by it, and Prof. Webster asserts that he has seen cases of phthisis recover, even where there were extensive cavities, under the use of this agent. The appetite improved, hectic subsided, expectoration became lessened, the cough milder and less frequent, and flesh and strength were augmented. The remedy should be long continued. Berberis is of some value in leucorrhoea, and particularly when a syphilitic taint exists. Owing to its remarkable power over mucous structures we would suggest its employment in gastric and intestinal catarrh. The principal uses of this drug have been developed by Dr. J. H. Bundy and Prof. Herbert T. Webster. The dose of berberis aquifolium should be relatively large. Small doses, as required of most of our important agents, do but little good.

The dose of the fluid extract is from 10 to 20 drops every 3 or 4 hours; of specific berberis aquifolium 5, 10 or 15 drops, every 3 or 4 hours.

Specific Indications and Uses.—Syphilitic dyscrasiae, constitutional syphilis, with periosteal or muscular pains; chronic skin affections, with blood dyscrasiae; profusely secreting, tumid mucous tissues; indigestion, with hepatic torpor; yellow skin, with marked weakness and emaciation.

Related Species.—”MAHONIA, the sub-genus of the genus berberis, is a fine, showy family of evergreen shrubs. The distinction between this sub-genus and the berberis proper, although very obvious, is not considered sufficient by authorities to entitle it to the rank of a distinct genus, hence the generic name is berberis, the same as the common barberry. The two species of the berberis proper, which grow in this country, are both deciduous shrubs, although there are several evergreen species found in the Old World. All the plants of the sub-genus, mahonia, are evergreen, and on this account they are often cultivated in yards and cemeteries, frequently under the improper name holly. There are four indigenous species found in the United States, all west of the Mississippi, and there are also a few other species in Mexico. Our native species are B. nervosa, B. repens, B. pinnata, and B. aquifolium. The two former are small plants, never over 2 feet high, and often only a few inches, while the other two are large shrubs from 3 to 6 feet high; hence by their height alone B. nervosa and B. repens can be distinguished from B. pinnata and B. aquifolium.

B. nervosa, Pursh, is a little erect shrub, with leaves often longer than the stem. The leaves consist of 3 to 6 pairs of leaflets and an odd one. The main leaf stalk of each leaf is very conspicuously jointed at each pair of leaflets, as remarked by Dr. Lindley, ‘like a bamboo stem.’ The leaflets are ovate, lanceolate, acute or acuminate; triple veined from the oblique base, and have teeth, not repand, but serrate. The flowers are in erect racemes, which are more slender than those of any other species. The plate of B. nervosa, tab. 5, vol. I, in Pursh’s work, is spurious. The leaves are correct, as intended, but the flowers are of the B. aquifolium. Since the plate is made up of two species, and hence liable to confuse, Lindley proposed to remedy the matter by changing the name to B. glumacea, but the change was not received with favor by botanists, and the name B. nervosa is still applied to the plant.

B. repens, Lindley.—A small shrub, procumbent, with short, erect branches. The leaves are often ternate, but generally of 5 or 7 leaflets. Leaflets are ovate, orbicular, acute, or the terminal leaflet obtuse; pinnately veined with repand teeth. Flowers in terminal fascicled racemes.

B. repens and B. nervosa are both employed by the western miners as blood purifiers, and as an antiperiodic, the B. repens extensively. We have several letters from physicians in widely separated portions of the great West, enclosing leaves of these varieties for us to classify and examine, all saying the root is extensively used for the above purpose. It is made into infusions and decoctions. The acid berry of the Berberis repens, under the name ‘mountain grape,’ is made into confections and freely eaten. It acts as an antiscorbutic, and is of great benefit to persons long deprived of fruit.

“The following description was kindly furnished by Dr. C. L. Aylworth, of Montana State: ‘The plant I enclose for description is called the Oregon grape. The fruit is eaten. It grows in medium or rich soil, among rocks or bushes, seldom in open ground. It is more plentiful upon the foot-hills of mountains, and along the banks of mountain streams, extending far down into the valleys. It does not grow in clusters, but I have seen it nearly cover the ground. It is common about all the small streams in this section of the Yellowstone valley, and about the headwaters of the Missouri river.’

“The root of the B. repens is a small, vine-like rhizome, resembling somewhat in appearance the Menispermum C., though not so fibrous. It is yellow throughout, woody, hard, and brittle. The bark, yellow within, is brown upon the surface and easily separated. The root and bark contain a large amount of berberine, which, together with other principles, is readily extracted by alcohol. It contains a principle in combination, precipitated by alkalies from aqueous solution. This, very likely, is identical with the white alkaloid of Hydrastis canadensis, or oxyacanthine.

“The medical profession at large is not acquainted with either of these plants under their proper names, although they may be upon the market for B. aquifolium.

B. pinnata, Lagasca.—This is the only species that is liable to be confused with the medicinal species, B. aquifolium, as both are about the same size, and closely resemble each other. The leaflets are lanceolate, acuminate, and of a light-green color, glaucous on the under side. There are 2 to 6, seldom more, large teeth on each side of the leaflet, each ending in a slender spine. The specific character by which this species may always be distinguished from the B. aquifolium, is the position of the lower pair of leaflets. These leaflets are approximate to the base of the common petiole in the B. pinnata, and never at a distance from it, as they are in the aquifolium.

B. pinnata, often called Mahonia pinnata, has not been used by the medical profession unless in local practice. It has been mistaken for B. aquifolium, which it nearly resembles, and from which its root can not be easily distinguished. Its berries are eaten by western settlers, and a tea from the root is used as a medicine” (from Berberidaceae, by C. G. and J. U. Lloyd) (see also Berberisand Berberis aquifolium).



On Apr 14, 2011, Erutuon  from Minneapolis, MN wrote:

Last year I planted Oregon grape in the shady area between our house and the next. It was a single-stemmed plant when I bought it, and it grew to about 4 feet high in two growth spurts in summer.
It stayed dark green for most of the winter, but when the snow started melting, the leaves that were above the snow (about 2 feet deep) began to turn tan and fall off. The upper part of the stem is dry and somewhat shriveled. Apparently only the snow-covered part survived the winter.
Two tiny leaves below the snow line are still green. Some sprouts are emerging on the lower part of the stem. I guess this year the plant will turn into more of a bush. Hopefully there will be enough snow next winter to protect it… without snow it doesn’t seem to be really hardy. Hopefully a flowerbud will survive till spring.
Update: This past winter (2011-12) there was very little snow, but the plant survived — I think all of its stems, actually. It’s grown a lot this summer. It’s now at least four feet high. It didn’t flower yet. I hope it will sometime. But till then, it’s still very interesting with its spiny and glossy leaves, especially when they’re young and rosy yellow.
Read more:

Courageous Blogger: Taslima Nasreen



Syrian girl is stoned to death for having a Facebook account

In Syria, a girl was stoned to death for having a Facebook account.

The girl, Fatoum Al-Jassem, was executed by a mob of Islamic extremists after being sentenced to death by a Sharia court.

The Al-Reqqa religious court, under the jurisdiction of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), ruled that having a Facebook account was “Zina” or immoral behavior, and deserved to be penalized the same way as adultery, Arabic-language media reported.


ISIS is a hardline Islamic group present in Iraq and Syria. The predominantly Sunni jihadist group has been active in the civil war against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria and government forces in Iraq.

Recently the central leadership of al-Qaeda sharply renounced ties with the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. ISIS’s savagery and draconian interpretations of Islamic law has alienated many Syrians and drove a wedge between rebel groups.The group’s ideology is based on an extremely strict interpretation of Islam.

This resistance group is generally described as being made up of Sunni Islamist mujahideen. Its goal is to overthrow the Assad government and to create an Pan-Islamic state under Sharia (the moral code and religious law of Islam) and aims to reinstate the Caliphate.


Sometimes I do not find any word to express my anger.

How Google gets rich off of Android system by pretending that it is “Open SOurce”



Since Android was first released, many of us have wondered how open it really is. Last week, we learned more about Google’s (GOOG) tight control over Android through documents released as part of an European antitrust investigation.

The story was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, based on an analysis by Harvard professor Ben Edelman. (The WSJ said that Google declined to comment). The meat of the revelation were copies of the 2011-2012 “Mobile Application Distribution Agreement” (MADA) that was signed by Android licensees Samsung (OTC:SSNLF) and HTC(OTC:HTCCY). The agreements were exhibits in the Google-Oracle (ORCL) (née Sun Microsystems) Java copyright lawsuit in the Federal District of Northern California.

Ties That Bind

Rolfe Winkler of the WSJ summarized the (MADA) agreements as follows:


The Samsung and HTC agreements specify a dozen Google applications that must be “preinstalled” on the devices, that Google Search be set as the default search provider, and that Search and the Play Store appear “immediately adjacent” to the home screen, while other Google apps appear no more than one screen swipe away.

The terms put rival mobile apps, like AOL Inc.’s MapQuest and Microsoft Corp.’s Bing search, at a disadvantage on most Android devices. Mr. Edelman, who is a paid consultant for Microsoft, said the terms “help Google expand into areas where competition could otherwise occur.”

Google has successfully promoted its own apps on Android. Four of the top 10 most-used apps on Android smartphones in the U.S. during December were Google’s, according to comScore. On Apple’s iPhone, only one Google app—YouTube—was among the top 10.


Calling Edelman a Microsoft consultant seems like a red herring. More relevant is that he embarrassed Google by noting that it tracked user browsing even when users disabled it. Edelman seems an equal opportunity Internet activist, having spent his entire adult life at Harvard (earning an AB, AM, JD, and PhD in econ before becoming an assistant and associate professor at Harvard Business School).

In his own analysis, Edelman shows how Google’s activities constitute tying:


If a phone manufacturer wants to offer desired Google functions without close substitutes, the MADA provides that the manufacturer must install all other Google apps that Google specifies, including the defaults and placements that Google specifies. These requirements are properly understood as a tie: A manufacturer may want YouTube only, but Google makes the manufacturer accept Google Search, Google Maps, Google Network Location Provider, and more. Then a vendor with offerings only in some sectors—perhaps only a maps tool, but no video service—cannot replace Google’s full suite of services.

I have repeatedly flagged Google using its various popular and dominant services to compel use of other services. For example, in 2009-2010, to obtain image advertisements in AdWords campaigns, an advertiser had to join Google Affiliate Network. Since the rollout of Google+, a publisher seeking top algorithmic search traffic de facto must participate in Google’s social network. In this light, numerous Google practices entail important elements of tying:



If a wants Then it must accept
If a consumer wants to use Google Search Google Finance, Images, Maps, News, Products, Shopping, YouTube, and more
If a mobile carrier wants to preinstallYouTube for Android Google Search, Google Maps (even if a competitor is willing to pay to be default)
If an advertiser wants to advertise on anyAdWords Search Network Partner All AdWords Search Network sites (in whatever proportion Google specifies)
If an advertiser wants to advertise onGoogle Search as viewed on computers Tablet placements and, with limited restrictions, smartphone placements
If an advertiser wants image ads Google Affiliate Network(historic)
If an advertiser wants a logo in search ads Google Checkout(historic)
If a video producer wants preferred video indexing YouTube hosting
If a web site publisher wants preferred search indexing Google Plus participation


Not all tying is illegal. But tying by a dominant firm is legally suspect — even more so in Europe, where the competition policies are more aggressive (especially for US firms like Google).

Technically Open, Commercially Not

From a practical standpoint, phone makers have no choice but to comply with Google’s terms (with the exception of China’s domestic market, where Google’s services are blocked). As OSS IP maven Florian Muellerwrote:


Technically you can take the free and open parts of Android (in terms of the amount of code, that’s probably the vast majority, though the share of closed, tightly-controlled components appears to be on the rise) and build a device without signing any individual license agreement with Google, and some have indeed done so. If that is so, why did Samsung and HTC sign those agreements that have now come to light? For commercial reasons.

If you want your Android device to sell, you normally want to be able to call it an Android device. To do that, you need a trademark license from Google. Open source licenses cover software copyright, they may come with patent provisions, but licenses like the GPL or ASL (Apache) don’t involve trademarks.

The trademark — the little green robot, for example — is commercially key. In order to get it, you must meet thecompatibility criteria Google defines and enforces, which are mostly about protecting Google’s business interests: the apps linked to its services must be included. And those apps are subject to closed-source, commercial licensing terms. That’s what the MADA, the document Samsung and HTC and many others signed, is about.

Even if you decided that the trademark isn’t important to you, you would want at least some of the apps subject to the MADA. What’s a mobile operating system nowadays without an app store? Or without a maps/navigation component? Google gives OEMs an all-or-nothing choice: you accept their terms all the way, or you don’t get any of those commercially important components. And if you take them, then you must ensure that the users of your devices will find Google services as default choices for everything: search, mail, maps/navigation, etc.



This “free” software comes at a price. Even if Google doesn’t charge royalties to use its applications, the London Guardian estimated last month that it costs $40k-$75k to test a new handset for compliance with Google’s standards and thus be allowed to ship Google’s applications.

Google Isn’t Open About Not Being Open

Most troubling for me has been — since the beginning of Android — thegap between Google’s rhetoric of openness and the reality; for example, see “Open source without open governance” (June 2008), “Perhaps someday Android will be open” (July 2008), “Sharing in faux openness” (October 2009), “Google’s half-full glass of openness (January 2010), “Andy wants you to buy his openness (June 2010) “Semi-open Android getting more closed” (October 2013).

While these agreements have been in place for at least three years, Edelman notes that Motorola redacted the most important provisions of the MADA when it disclosed excerpts in a 2011 SEC filing. Google’s lack of transparency about its non-openness helps it be more successfully non-open:


MADA secrecy advances Google’s strategic objectives. By keeping MADA restrictions confidential and little-known, Google can suppress the competitive response. If users, app developers, and the concerned public knew about MADA restrictions, they would criticize the tension between the restrictions and Google’s promise that Android is “open” and “open source.” Moreover, if MADA restrictions were widely known, regulators would be more likely to reject Google’s arguments that Android’s “openness” should reduce or eliminate regulatory scrutiny of Google’s mobile practices. In contrast, by keeping the restrictions secret, Google avoids such scrutiny and is better able to continue to advance its strategic interests through tying, compulsory installation, and defaults.

Relatedly, MADA secrecy helps prevent standard market forces from disciplining Google’s restriction. Suppose consumers understood that Google uses tying and full-line-forcing to prevent manufacturers from offering phones with alternative apps, which could drive down phone prices. Then consumers would be angry and would likely make their complaints known both to regulators and to phone manufacturers. Instead, Google makes the ubiquitous presence of Google apps and the virtual absence of competitors look like a market outcome, falsely suggesting that no one actually wants to have or distribute competing apps.



With some irony, the WSJ article quoted Google’s former CEO:


“One of the greatest benefits of Android is that it fosters competition at every level of the mobile market—including among application developers,” Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt wrote to then-U.S. Senator Herb Kohl in 2011.


Peeling Back the Layers of Openwashing

While the most specific and conclusive, this latest revelation is not the only evidence that Android is more openwashing than open source.

For example, in October Ron Amadeo of Ars Technica listed all the cases where “open source” Android once came with a key application available in open source, but then Google orphaned the open source app when it brought out a fully-featured closed-source replacement. This includes the Search, Music, Calendar, Keyboard, Camera and Messaging apps.

At the same time, Google (with great success) sought to convince app developers to use the Google Play APIs rather than the official Android APIs — thus making these apps incompatible with devices that use only the open source part of Android (e.g. Amazon’s Kindle). If you want to use apps from the Google app store, you have to use the Google APIs.

Finally, there’s the matter of the Open Handset Alliance, the organization nominally leading Android development. Amadeo makes clear that OHA is more like the Microsoft Developer Network than the Eclipse Foundation (emphasis in original):


While it might not be an official requirement, being granted a Google apps license will go a whole lot easier if you join the Open Handset Alliance. The OHA is a group of companies committed to Android—Google’s Android—and members are contractually prohibited from building non-Google approved devices. That’s right, joining the OHA requires a company to sign its life away and promise to not build a device that runs a competing Android fork.


Google: Partly Open and Opening Parts

In the early 2000s, open source was a paradox. When I began researching my second open source article (which I used as a job talk in December 2001 and was published in 2003), it was not clear how firms could make money from something nominally open. Based on a study of Apple, IBM and Sun, I concluded that firms made money off of openness with strategies that were open in one of two ways: they opened parts (leaving other parts close) or they were partly open (granting some rights, but not enough to enable competitors).

Google is clearly doing both. Amadeo emphasizes that with Android, Google is only opening parts — leaving key components under tight control. Meanwhile, the latest news points to Google being only partly open: rights to use the “open source” (actually, a mixed-source) system depend on complying with a series of Google restrictions.

In 2011, mobile analyst Liz Laffan studied the openness of eight mobile-related open source communities. Building on a 2008 study I did with Siobhan O’Mahony, she developed a 13-factor openness score for firm controlled open source communities. In her report (summarized in a 2012 journal article) Laffan assigned scores from 0-100% open. Android was lowest at 23%, and in fact the only project less than 50%. At the other extreme, Linux was 71% and Eclipse (designed to be open from the start) was 84%.

Conclusion: Real World Android is a Proprietary Platform

In the 1980s and 1990s, Microsoft won commercial success by widely licensing its PC operating system to all comers. However, after the initial licenses (with its launch customer IBM), Microsoft largely dictated the terms of these licenses.

When people buy an Android phone, they are not buying the Android Open Source Project but (as Amadeo makes clear) the Google Play Platform. This platform — call it Real World Android — has the following characteristics

  • Like Apple’s (AAPL) OS X (or IBM’s WebKit), it combines open source and proprietary elements.
  • Like Windows, it is licensed to a wide range of hardware manufacturers.
  • Like both OS X and Windows, much of the value comes from bundling a wide range of proprietary, closed-source applications

In short, Real World Android is a proprietary platform: proprietary in that it is a mixture of open source and proprietary elements, but the complete platform (including application functionality and access to the Android app ecosystem) requires licensing proprietary technologies under a restrictive proprietary contract. (For a true open source system, the open source license would be enough).

A few market experiments (notably Kindle and the Chinese market) have been made using the Android open source project (which Amadeo dubs AOSP). For the remainder, as Florian notes, commercial success requires agreeing to Google’s terms to use its proprietary platform. If it was ever accurate to refer to Android as an open source platform, it’s clearly no longer true today.

Yes, by using an ad-supported (two-sided market) approach Google doesn’t have to charge royalties, but that doesn’t make it free (as in speech or as in beer). With 42% of the US mobile ad market — and Android accounting for the majority of US smartphones — Google makesbillions off of Android users. Google’s preloaded apps command choice real estate, and if Google didn’t control this real estate, handset makers could sell this real estate to the highest bidder.

So despite all the rhetoric, Google is just another tech company that wants to rule the world and make zillions for its founders and executives. It controls its technology to gain maximum advantage, and (like many firms nowadays) uses openwashing to render spotless its proprietary motivations. This shouldn’t be surprising. It won’t be a surprise for anyone who reviews the how Android evolved (and the strategy emerged) over the first five years.


Professor, tech, energy