August 2010, Part 1

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Who Planned Michelle Obama's Latest Vacation?  I almost think that it had to be an unscrupulous Republican operative.  And I can imagine him talking to himself as he checks off his list:

"A European nation.  Check.
A European nation that has annoyed many Americans in recent years.  Check.
A European nation with foolish 'Green' policies that Obama has touted.  Check.
A region in that nation famous for drug smuggling and organized crime.  Check.
A region in that nation famous for its Muslim occupation.  Check.
A very expensive hotel.  Check.
A vacation without her husband — on his birthday.  Check.
A social meeting with royalty, in order to justify spending tax dollars on the trip.  Check."

And there would probably be more items on his check list.  It is hard to think of a better combination of location, activities, and timing for this vacation — if you were that hypothetical unscrupulous Republican operative.

Her vacations earlier this year — seven, I think — weren't quite as well designed to annoy most of the voters.  (The Obamas' longest vacation will be later, on Martha's Vineyard, which is not a place that attracts many poor or middle class people, except as servants.)

So if there was an unscrupulous Republican operative planning this latest vacation, either he held back until just the right time, or has just recently penetrated the Obama organization.

I suppose that it is far more likely that Michelle Obama actually is this tone deaf politically, as hard as that is to imagine, than that this trip was planned by someone trying to sabotage her, and her husband.  It is more than a little surprising that none of their own political operatives warned her about this trip, or that she ignored their warnings, if they did.

(The trip is so bad politically that Maureen Dowd is urging Michelle Obama to be more domestic.  Really.  And, yes, that is the Maureen Dowd of the New York Times, not another woman by the same name, who is urging Michelle Obama to "make her husband toast, or better yet a martini".)
- 1:11 PM, 8 August 2010   [link]

Machine Politics And The Sotomayor And Kagan Judicial Picks:  In 2008, David Freddoso argued that Obama was best understood, not through his unusual ancestry, but through his "political pedigree", a mix of 1960s radicalism and machine politics.

Obama's two Supreme Court nominees, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, are the kind of picks a machine politician would make.

To get an idea of what kind of judges a machine politician would want, let's go back to the original Mayor Daley, and one of his strongest supporters, Vito Marzullo.  Here's how Mike Royko introduced Marzullo in Boss, his biography of Mayor Daley.
Vito Marzullo is a ward committeeman and an alderman.  He was born in Italy and has an elementary education, but for years when he arrived at political functions, a judge walked a few steps behind him, moving ahead when there was a door to be opened.  Marzullo had put him on the bench. (pp. 67-68)
Judgeships were patronage positions, given out to lawyers who were strong supporters of the machine.   Because they were so valuable, the lawyers had to prove their loyalty over the years, and almost always had to be a friend of the party official who controlled their appointment.

Because the Chicago machine relied on many ethnic groups for support, they tried to choose judges, like candidates, for ethnic balance.  Now, achieving that balance is more complicated, because the Democratic party also has to satisfy feminists, gays, et cetera, but the basic idea is the same: The party wins votes by choosing representatives of various groups for top positions.  Taxes and crime may be high, but many voters will be satisfied if they can see someone they identify with in court, or on the city council.

When the judges are in office, a machine expects them to follow party policy, just as it expects everyone else who owes their jobs to the political machine to follow party policy.  In other words, the machine's judges are not supposed to think of themselves as independent of the machine, regardless of what the law may say.

Typically, the judges chosen by political machines are undistinguished, as you would expect, given that kind of selection process.

By now, you can probably see that the first Mayor Daley would understand exactly why Obama picked Sotomayor; she is a representative of two constituencies, Latinos and feminists.  A white male judge of English ancestry with identical accomplishments and views would never have been considered for the position.  She was chosen because of her ancestry, and because she emphasized it with her disgraceful claim that a "wise Latina" would be a better judge than a white guy.  (Not that long ago, most people of Puerto Rican descent in the United States did not think of themselves as Latino, so it was important to Obama that she did, or at least said she did.)

Kagan, too, was chosen because she represents several constituencies, feminists, again, of course.  ( The Obama administration is especially sensitive on that point because of his long primary fight with Clinton.)  She also represents Jews, who were extremely important to political machines in the past, and still are in a few places.  (Reports that she is a closeted lesbian, whether true or not — I have no idea whether they are, and don't much care — were probably another plus, as long as she stayed in the closet.)  She also represents leftist academics.  We don't usually think of them as an ethnic group, but, given their frequently tribal behavior, that's often appropriate.

Sotomayor has had an undistinguished judicial career; Kagan has had an undistinguished academic career, with few important publications.  Both, however, have shown that they can be good politicians, in fact, Kagan has shown that she is an exceptional academic politician.

Neither is likely to be a distinguished justice.  Obama won't mind that; they were chosen because he believes they will support his policies on the court, and because their nominations can be used in his 2012 campaign.

(If Obama gets another Supreme Court pick, what kind of person will he choose?  Mostly likely someone of East Asian descent, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, or Korean.  And this time it might be a man.

Of course, I very much hope that he does not get another pick, but I do think that we'll see many lower court appointments from those groups.)
- 10:55 AM, 7 August 2010   [link]

About 150,000:  That's how many jobs that the economy needs to generate each month, just to keep up with population growth.  (Exactly how many would depend on, among other things, the level of illegal immigration.)

We didn't come close to that in July, or in June.
Private employers added 71,000 jobs last month, easily overtaken by the 143,000 cut as the Census winds down, and about half the number that economists say is needed to simply accommodate population growth.  The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.5 percent.

The Department drastically revised its number for June down to a loss of 221,000 jobs.  The agency originally reported that 125,000 jobs were lost in June.  Private sector hiring in June, originally reported at 83,000, was revised downward to 31,000.
President Obama has said, correctly, that we have had seven successive months of private sector job growth.  But in only two of those months, March and April, were the gains greater than 150,000 (158,000 and 241,000, respectively).
- 1:30 PM, 6 August 2010   [link]

Private Corzine, Public Corzine, Private Corzine:  Success, failure, success.  Former New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine made stacks of money at Goldman Sachs.  Which he then used to buy himself, first a place in the Senate, and then the New Jersey governorship.  (Whether he earned the money, as opposed to just making it, is hard to tell without knowing more than I do about the innards of Goldman Sachs.)

As New Jersey governor, he made a good start toward bankrupting a state that was already in serious fiscal trouble.

Now that Chris Christie has given Corzine more time to spend — though not, it would appear, with his family — Corzine is back to making money.
MF Global Holdings Ltd (MF.N) reported better-than-expected quarterly earnings on Thursday, returning to profitability in the brokerage's first full quarter under new CEO Jon Corzine.

MF Global shares climbed 5 percent to $7.01 in premarket trade, their best level since mid-June.

The futures- and options-focused company made good on its aggressive plan to streamline operations, cutting 12 percent of its staff, or about 400 employees, mostly in the latest quarter.
There are many Democratic politicians (and more Republican politicians than I would like) who have no idea how to balance a budget.  Obviously, Corzine is not one of them.

So, here's what I have been wondering for years:  Why is a man who is so good at making private money so bad at managing public money?

(There may be a clue in this long-running scandal.)
- 12:49 PM, 6 August 2010   [link]

Hillary Clinton, Big Giver:  If you consider 10 bucks a big gift.  This would be funnier if she weren't secretary of state, and acting in her official capacity.

And, no, I don't think her gift will go over well in Pakistan, where the United States is not wildly popular, anyway.

(I've heard that she and Bill Clinton spent a lot on their daughter's marriage, so perhaps they are short on cash.)
- 7:13 AM, 6 August 2010   [link]

Senator Lugar Wants To Keep Spending Big Bucks On Child Nutrition Programs:   In part, because:
Nearly one-third of our children are either overweight or obese, which is telling evidence of greater social problems.
I can understand the argument he makes in the op-ed; maybe with better foods available, fewer children would eat too much "junk" food.  But I do think that Senator Lugar should consider the possibility that the federal programs have contributed to the childhood obesity problem.
- 1:45 PM, 5 August 2010   [link]

Worth Reading:  Dorothy Rabinowitz on the proposed Islamic center and mosque so near to the New York 9/11 attack.
It's unlikely that the preachments now directed at opponents of the project by Mayor Bloomberg and others will persuade that opposition. Those fighting the building recognize full well the deliberate obtuseness of Mr. Bloomberg's exhortations, and those of Mr. Cuomo and others: the resort to pious battle cries, the claim that antagonists of the plan stand against religious freedom. They note, especially, the refusal to confront the obvious question posed by this proposed center towering over the ruins of 9/11.

It is a question most ordinary Americans, as usual, have no trouble defining. Namely, how is it that the planners, who have presented this effort as a grand design for the advancement of healing and interfaith understanding, have refused all consideration of the impact such a center will have near Ground Zero? Why have they insisted, despite intense resistance, on making the center an assertive presence in this place of haunted memory?
Everyone who wants to know the answer to those questions, knows the answers to those questions.  Everyone who wants to know about the history of Islam knows that Islamists, from the very beginning, made a point of building their religious shrines on top of the shrines of other religions.

And since we all know that — if we want to — it is infuriating to have politicians like Mayor Bloomberg, or journalists like Thomas Friedman, condescend to us on this subject, as if we do not know what anyone who wants to know, knows..
- 1:16 PM, 5 August 2010   [link]

Marie Antoinette Obama?  Andrea Tantaros makes that comparison.
But while most of the country is pinching pennies and downsizing summer sojourns - or forgoing them altogether - the Obamas don't seem to be heeding their own advice.  While many of us are struggling, the First Lady is spending the next few days in a five-star hotel on the chic Costa del Sol in southern Spain with 40 of her "closest friends."  According to CNN, the group is expected to occupy 60 to 70 rooms, more than a third of the lodgings at the 160-room resort.  Not exactly what one would call cutting back in troubled times.

Reports are calling the lodgings of Obama's Spanish fiesta, the Hotel Villa Padierna in Marbella, "luxurious," "posh" and "a millionaires' playground."  Estimated room rate per night?  Up to a staggering $2,500.  Method of transportation? Air Force Two.
. . .
Instead, Michelle Obama seems more like a modern-day Marie Antoinette - the French queen who spent extravagantly on clothes and jewels without a thought for her subjects' plight - than an average mother of two.  While she's spent her time in the White House telling parents they should relieve their chubby kids' dependency on sugar and stressing the importance of an organic veggie garden, hopping a jet to Europe to meet with Spanish royalty isn't the visual the White House probably wants to project.   Perhaps they've forgotten the damning image of John Kerry, on the eve of the 2004 election, windsurfing off the coast of Nantucket?
There are Republican strategists who are delighted by this trip — and the Obamas preference for living like celebrities, at taxpayer's expense — and Democratic strategists who are wincing at stories like this one.

(Incidentally, the comparison may not be entirely fair to Marie Antoinette, who seems to have behaved somewhat better than the average princess of her time.)
- 6:39 AM, 5 August 2010   [link]

States Dominated By Urban Democrats Tend To Borrow More:  This map will give you an idea of how close that relationship is.  (If I get time, I may calculate the correlation between the state debts and the 2008 vote for Obama.)
- 6:13 AM, 5 August 2010   [link]

Can't Leave Those Judges Alone For A Minute:  This afternoon, I sat down to do another brief post on one of our state senate candidates.  And by the time I was done, a federal judge had decided that the people, in this case the people of California, didn't know what was good for them.  And so the federal judge overturned the results of an election.
Supporters argued the ban was necessary to safeguard the traditional understanding of marriage and to encourage responsible childbearing.

[Judge Vaughn] Walker, however, found it violated the Constitution's due process and equal protection clauses while failing "to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license."

"Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples," the judge wrote in his 136-page ruling.
The judge doesn't seem to have much respect for the democratic process, and for the opinions of the majority of the state's voters.

(Meanwhile, journalists are assuring us that, of course, the judge's personal predilections have nothing to do with his decision.  A few of those journalists may even believe what they say.)
- 5:15 PM, 4 August 2010   [link]

Carbon-Emission-Free Goats?  This Wall Street Journal article describes the increasing use of goats in clearing brush and weeds in urban areas.  Nothing wrong with that, but the reporter, Gwendolyn Bounds, makes a common mistake.
Recently, the patch of weeds behind Steve Holdaway's Chapel Hill, N.C., home grew so unkempt that he hired outside help. For six hours, the crew's members tackled tall grass and thorny blackberry plants and toiled without a break—other than to chew their cud, that is.

His workers: seven hungry—and carbon-emission-free—goats.
The goats may be fine workers (and quieter than the power equipment often used for the same thing), but they are not "carbon-emission-free".  The goats, like almost every other animal, breath in oxygen and breath out carbon dioxide, CO2.  The goats, like almost every other animal that eats plants, ferment their food internally, producing, among other things, methane, CH4.

Bounds would know the first if she was paying attention in her grade school science classes; Bounds would know the second if she reads science articles, even occasionally.

(Do the goats emit less CO2 and CH4 than a man using power tools to clear the brush?  Probably not, though I haven't even tried to do the arithmetic.  I do recall seeing an analysis showing that you didn't necessarily reduce carbon emissions by walking to the grocery store, instead of driving.)
- 8:03 AM, 4 August 2010   [link]

Breast Milk Isn't Just Good For Babies Directly:  It's good for them indirectly, by providing food for beneficial bacteria.
A large part of human milk cannot be digested by babies and seems to have a purpose quite different from infant nutrition — that of influencing the composition of the bacteria in the infant's gut.

The details of this three-way relationship between mother, child and gut microbes are being worked out by three researchers at the University of California, Davis — Bruce German, Carlito Lebrilla and David Mills.  They and colleagues have found that a particular strain of bacterium, a subspecies of Bifidobacterium longum, possesses a special suite of genes that enable it to thrive on the indigestible component of milk.

This subspecies is commonly found in the feces of breast-fed infants.  It coats the lining of the infant's intestine, protecting it from noxious bacteria.
Babies almost certainly get this subspecies from their mothers — but no one has detected it in adults.  (The species is found in almost all adults, for which we may be grateful.)
- 7:01 PM, 3 August 2010   [link]

BrainGate:  Engineering professor John Donoghue explains his invention.

A. It's a way for people who've been paralyzed by strokes, spinal cord injuries or A.L.S. to connect their brains to the outside world.  The system uses a tiny sensor that's been implanted into the part of a person's brain that generates movement commands.  This sensor picks up brain signals, transmits them to a plug attached to the person's scalp.  The signals then go to a computer which is programmed to translate them into simple actions.
BrainGate is still experimental, but the results are promising, and the invention may do much for those paralyzed people, in time.

Here's the company's web site, which has a collection of videos, among other things.
- 3:28 PM, 3 August 2010   [link]

Claudia Berlinski Has Changed Her Mind On Burqas:  She now thinks they should be banned.

The argument that the garment is not a religious obligation under Islam is well-founded but irrelevant; millions of Muslims the world around believe that it is, and the state is not qualified to be in the business of Koranic exegesis.  The choice to cover one's face is for many women a genuine expression of the most private kind of religious sentiment.  To prevent them from doing so is discriminatory, persecutory, and incompatible with the Enlightenment traditions of the West.  It is, moreover, cruel to demand of a woman that she reveal parts of her body that her sense of modesty compels her to cover; to such a woman, the demand is as tyrannical, humiliating, and arbitrary as the passage of a law dictating that women bare their breasts.

All true.  And yet the burqa must be banned.  All forms of veiling must be, if not banned, strongly discouraged and stigmatized.  The arguments against a ban are coherent and principled.  They are also shallow and insufficient.  They fail to take something crucial into account, and that thing is this: If Europe does not stand up now against veiling — and the conception of women and their place in society that it represents — within a generation there will be many cities in Europe where no unveiled woman will walk comfortably or safely.
That is already true, Berlinski says, in many parts of Istanbul, which is, though we tend to forget it, a city in Europe, if not exactly what we think of when we say European city.
- 1:21 PM, 3 August 2010   [link]

Adam Smith On Colleges And Universities:  From the Instapundit, who got it from the TaxProf, I learned that Mark Bauerlein and authors Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus think that our colleges and universities are run for the benefit of the administrators and the tenured faculty.  I've been saying that for some time myself, but I was about two centuries behind Adam Smith.

I've quoted his indictment before; this time I'll give a longer quotation, so that you can see more of his argument:
The discipline of colleges and universities is in general contrived, not for the benefit of the students, but for the interest, or, more properly speaking, for the ease of the masters.  Its object is, in all cases, to maintain the authority of the master, and, whether he neglects or performs his duty, to oblige the students in all cases to behave to him as if he performed it with the greatest diligence and ability.  It seems to presume perfect wisdom and virtue in the one order, and the greatest weakness and folly in the other.  Where the masters, however, really perform their duty, there are no examples, I believe, that the greater part of the students ever neglect theirs.  No discipline is ever requisite to force attendance upon lectures which are really worth the attending, as is well known wherever any such lectures are given.  Force and restraint may, no doubt, be in some degree requisite, in order to oblige children, or very young boys, to attend to those parts of education, which it is thought necessary for them to acquire during that early period of life; but after twelve or thirteen years of age, provided the master does his duty, force or restraint can scarce ever be necessary to carry on any part of education.  Such is the generosity of the greater part of young men, that so far from being disposed to neglect or despise the instructions of their master, provided he shews some serious intention of being of use to them, they are generally inclined to pardon a great deal of incorrectness in the performance of his duty, and sometimes even to conceal from the public a good deal of gross negligence.

Those parts of education, it is to be observed, for the teaching of which there are no public institutions, are generally the best taught.  When a young man goes to a fencing or a dancing school, he does not, indeed, always learn to fence or to dance very well; but he seldom fails of learning to fence or to dance.  The good effects of the riding school are not commonly so evident.  The expense of a riding school is so great, that in most places it is a public institution. The three most essential parts of literary education, to read, write, and account, it still continues to be more common to acquire in private than in public schools; and it very seldom happens, that anybody fails of acquiring them to the degree in which it is necessary to acquire them.

In England, the public schools are much less corrupted than the universities.  In the schools, the youth are taught, or at least may be taught, Greek and Latin; that is, everything which the masters pretend to teach, or which it is expected they should teach.  In the universities, the youth neither are taught, nor always can find any proper means of being taught the sciences, which it is the business of those incorporated bodies to teach.  The reward of the schoolmaster, in most cases, depends principally, in some cases almost entirely, upon the fees or honoraries of his scholars.  Schools have no exclusive privileges.  In order to obtain the honours of graduation, it is not necessary that a person should bring a certificate of his having studied a certain number of years at a public school.  If, upon examination, he appears to understand what is taught there, no questions are asked about the place where he learnt it.
(Americans may need to be reminded that, in England, the "public" schools in his third paragraph are what we would call "private" schools.  In that paragraph, he is contrasting, for example, Eton, with Oxford and Cambridge.)

Smith could have made his arguments more clearly, but we can understand them, with a little effort.  The "masters" at universities of his time often taught badly, and so had to force their students to come to lectures, and to respect the masters.  The masters drew their pay, not from the students they taught, but from the government.  In contrast, students who went to dancing and fencing schools — and paid directly for their lessons — generally learned what they had come to those schools to learn.  Similarly, schools like Eton taught their students more than universities like Cambridge and Oxford because the incomes of their "schoolmasters" depended on the "fees or honoraries" from their students.

(If you don't have a copy of the Smith's Wealth of Nations, you can download one here, or buy one here.)
- 1:00 PM, 3 August 2010
More:  A few pages earlier, Smith said:
If the authority to which he is subject resides in the body corporate, the college, or university, of which he himself is a member, and in which the greater part of the other members are, like himself, persons who either are, or ought to be teachers, they are likely to make a common cause, to be all very indulgent to one another, and every man to consent that his neighbour may neglect his duty, provided he himself is allowed to neglect his own.  In the university of Oxford, the greater part of the public professors have, for these many years, given up altogether even the pretence of teaching.
Minor correction:  The Oxford professors, according to Smith, were able to neglect teaching because they were not supported by the students.  Instead, they drew most of their incomes from endowments, not directly from taxes, as I implied above.
- 9:09 AM, 4 August 2010   [link]

A Veteran Of The Math Wars Reports From The Front:  Debra Saunders tells us a little about her experiences.
I am a veteran of the math wars. I was there in 1995 when the shiny new California Learning Assessment System (CLAS) test told graders to award a higher score to a student who incorrectly answered a math problem about planting trees — but wrote an enthusiastic essay — than to a student who got the answer right, but with no essay.

The genius responsible for that math question explained that her goal was to present eighth-graders with "an intentionally ambiguous problem in which no one pattern can be considered the absolute answer." Gov. Pete Wilson's education czar, Maureen DiMarco, promptly dubbed new-new math "fuzzy crap."
Since then, reformers in California, among them Hoover Institution fellow Bill Evers and Palo Alto software engineer Ze'ev Wurman, have able to bring back actual math teaching , but their gains are now threatened.   Fortunately, Saunders, Evers, and Wurman are not giving up their fight.
- 10:57 AM, 3 August 2010   [link]

Djou Leads In Hawaii's 1st:  The Republican who won the special election in Hawaii's 1st district is now leading his Democratic opponent.
Just two-and-a-half months after winning his special election in HI-01, a new poll from Rep. Charles Djou's (R) camp shows he starts the general election in a rather strong position. In the survey, Djou led state Senate Pres. Colleen Hanabusa (D) 50-42%.

The poll, which surveyed 400 LVs and was conducted by the Tarrance Group from 7/26-27, had a margin of error of +/- 4.9%.

In the May contest, Djou defeated Hanabusa 39-31%. But Dems believe that Djou's victory in the all-party special -- which also featured ex-Rep. Ed Case (D) -- was an anomaly, and that in a one-on-one matchup with Djou, Hanabusa will prevail in the strongly Dem CD. Case took a disappointing third in that contest, and later dropped plans for a general election primary run. That further emboldened Dems, as the specter of a costly primary would've dampened the party's fall chances against Djou.
Granted, that's his own poll, but I don't see anything implausible about the result, for reasons I explained here.
- 7:09 AM, 3 August 2010   [link]

For The Good Of The Country, Majority Leader Harry Reid Should Spend More Time With His Family:  But incidents like this one make me wonder whether Sharron Angle is the right person to help Reid into a graceful retirement.

Don't get me wrong; if I were in Nevada, I would vote for her over Reid.   But I do wish the enthusiasts who backed her in the primary had taken a closer look at the other candidates.

(Harry Reid and the Tea Party folks both wanted Angle to be the Republican nominee, which should have given the Tea Party folks second thoughts, since Reid knew Angle better than they did.)
- 6:41 AM, 3 August 2010   [link]

Are Congressman Rangel's Sins Mortal, Or Venial?  Many, for instance lefty Joe Klein, think Rangel is a "crook".  Others, including some on the right, like Ira Stoll, aren't so sure.
On the substance of the various charges against Mr. Rangel, it just seems bizarre to fault him for trying to raise private money for an academic center that otherwise would have probably been funded out of taxpayer dollars, which would have been worse.  On the rent control matters, the scandal isn't Mr. Rangel but the whole system.  The most serious matter appears to be the IRS issues involving income from a rental villa.  It's hard to see how on that one the House ethics cops are in any better position to pass judgment on the matter than is the IRS.
That Congressman Rangel broke House rules is not in doubt.  That he underpaid his income taxes for years is also not in doubt.  (He has now caught up.)  But, as of now, I don't know enough to decide whether this shows that he needed better staff and a better accountant, or whether this shows that he thought that he didn't need to follow the same rules as the little people.

In general, however, I would rather bet on Ira Stoll than on Joe Klein.

(Klein and Stoll agree on one thing.  Both think that the majority-minority districts that shield black and Hispanic congressmen from real competition are bad ideas.  I agree, even though I recognize that they help the Republican party.)
- 12:58 PM, 2 August 2010   [link]

Women Are Much Less Likely To Be Homeless Than Men:  But if you pay them enough, a few women will choose to be homeless, and will congregate in places like Santa Monica.

I wrote that sentence, which some might think heartless, without doing a check on whether Santa Monica really subsidized the homeless.  A very quick search confirms my guess; Santa Monica subsidizes the homeless on a grand scale.  (And got sued for their efforts by the ACLU.)
Santa Monica is known nationwide for its long history of responding to homelessness with compassion, innovation and funding.
. . .
The Action Plan to End Homelessness in Santa Monica is a focused strategy developed by the City with local service providers and other agencies to ensure the most vulnerable and chronically homeless people on the streets are served.  Its ultimate goal is permanent, supportive housing.  Further, there are over 450 shelter beds available to homeless individuals in Santa Monica, much more than most other cities in the region.

Key components of the Action Plan include a Homeless Community Court (with major funding from LA County); an Eviction Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing program (that since November 2009 has assisted 70 local low-income households impacted by the economic downturn); a Service Registry (that directs resources to over 400 chronically homeless individuals, including veterans, who have been on Santa Monica's streets for an extended period of time); and Project Homecoming, (a program which since 2006 has reunited over 650 homeless individuals with family and services in their home towns).

Santa Monica's taxpayers fund over 20 non-profit programs to serve the homeless population.  In addition, the Santa Monica Housing Authority provides rental subsidies to homeless and formerly homeless individuals for permanent housing.  In total, Santa Monica spends $5.7 million annually on these programs.  Therefore on a per capita basis the City spends $60 per resident to address homelessness, far outstripping what other localities spend.  In addition, local nonprofit organizations use City of Santa Monica funding to successfully leverage other regional, state, and national dollars.  As a result, for every $1 of City investment in homeless programs, local agencies raise on average $12.63 from other sources.
By providing all these services, Santa Monica is encouraging homeless people to come to Santa Monica, rather than try to find a home where they are.  Many homeless people are alcoholics, or addicted to drugs.  Santa Monica is enabling their addictions, which may seem kind, but is horribly cruel, in the long run.
- 11:52 AM, 2 August 2010   [link]

Kaizen Comes To Seattle Children's Hospital:  And produces benefits for staff and patients, according to this New York Times article.
The [supply] system is just one example of how Seattle Children's Hospital says it has improved patient care, and its bottom line, by using practices made famous by Toyota and others.  The main goals of the approach, known as kaizen, are to reduce waste and to increase value for customers through continuous small improvements.

Manufacturers, particularly in the auto and aerospace industries, have been using these methods for many years.  And while a sick child isn't a Camry, Seattle Children's Hospital has found that checklists, standardization and nonstop brainstorming with front-line staff and customers can pay off.

"It turns out the highest-quality care also is the most cost-effective because we make fewer mistakes and create better outcomes," says Patrick Hagan, the hospital's president.
Staff, because they find it easier to do their jobs, patients because they are getting better care.

The whole article is worth reading, especially for people who are looking for a "big-bang" solution for organizational inefficiency.  We can often do better by adopting the less dramatic kaizen approach, instituting small improvements now, rather than looking for some large change that will fix everything.   (Especially since that change may not even exist.)

(One of the people who objects to this approach is Nellie Munn, a leader of a nurses union.  That doesn't surprise me, and shouldn't surprise you.

More on kaizen here and here)
- 10:04 AM, 2 August 2010   [link]

Meanwhile, Back In Barack Obama's Illinois (2):  Crime is soaring, from Chicago.
It's a shame that the public has to be reminded of this from time to time, but any cop can testify to this inescapable fact of police work: Where there is no punishment for criminal behavior, crime will flourish.

Nowhere has this been demonstrated with greater clarity lately than in Chicago, where the Sun-Times has taken notice and sounded the alarm.  In a three-part series that concluded Tuesday, reporters Mark Konkol and Frank Main examined the violent incidents that occurred over a single weekend in Chicago two years ago.  During that 59-hour period, from April 18 -20, 2008, forty people were shot in the city, seven of them fatally.  Stop and consider that for a moment: one city, one weekend, seven people murdered, and 33 others shot but still alive.
. . .
As it happens, not a single suspect in any of those shootings has been convicted of a crime.  One accused shooter, says the Sun-Times, awaits trial for killing his boss.  The other six murders remain unsolved, as do nearly all of the non-fatal shootings that occurred that weekend.
To East St. Louis.
Rev. Joseph Tracy said he's tired of going to funerals.  And now, he suspects he'll be going to more of them.

"It's open field day now," said Tracy, the pastor of Straightway Baptist Church here.  "The criminals are going to run wild."

Gang activity.  Drug dealing.  Cold-blooded killing.  Tracy worries that a decision to shrink the police force by almost 30 percent will bring more of everything.
(Dick Durbin, the state's senior senator, is from East St. Louis.)

The East St. Louis dispute over union contracts is revealing, especially if you know about the city's history of corruption and misgovernment.  As poor as it is, the city could probably afford most of the police it needs, if it were better managed.

Barack Obama has held three elected offices, state senator, senator, and president.  As far as I can tell, he did nothing while state senator or senator to reduce crime in Illinois, even though his Chicago constituents are often crime victims.  (Nor, as far as I can tell, did he do anything to reduce crime as a community organizer.)

(The first post in this series is here.)
- 8:43 AM, 2 August 2010   [link]

Kenneth Howell Was Hired By The University of Illinois To Teach About Catholicism:   So he taught about Catholicism.  And then the university fired him for teaching what he was hired to teach.

If that sequence seems a little mysterious, you just have to remember that Catholic doctrine is politically incorrect in many areas, including homosexuality.
David French, a lawyer with the Alliance Defense Fund, which is representing Howell, underscores an important point:  "Dr. Howell's case illustrates the absolute intolerance that has long been emerging on campus towards any kind of dissent or disagreement against the prevailing sexual orthodoxy.  It's as if the university community views traditional Christian ethics as the moral equivalent of racism and treats Christians in the same way it would treat a white-sheeted bigot."
Old-fashioned liberals would have defended Howell on the academic freedom grounds, but there aren't many old-fashioned liberals left in our universities, and those that are left are not always willing to speak out on such a sensitive subject.

Professor Howell has been reinstated, which will please almost all of his students.  The University of Illinois may have learned something about the 1st Amendment's protections for freedom of speech and religion, which will please most of us.

But what strikes me about this incident is how routine it sounds — until we get to the reinstatement.  Everything happened as if the people involved were following a much-used script, from Howell's innocuous statement of Catholic doctrine, which triggered the anonymous "hate speech" charge, to the panicked firing.  We've seen this all before, but usually it does not end as well as it has in Howell's case.

Because these cases are so common, we now have — and need — the Alliance Defense Fund, established in order to defend religious freedom, even on college and university campuses.

(FWIW — not much to administrators at the U of I — Illinois is one of our more Catholic states.)
- 7:42 AM, 2 August 2010   [link]

Washington State Voters Have No Shortage Of Choices This Year:   For instance, we have fifteen candidates to choose from in the Senate race.  We could, in principle, end up with any two of those candidates to choose from this November.  Washington state has, I am embarrassed to admit, switched to a "top two" primary system, so we could — though it is quite unlikely in the Senate race — see two minor party candidates, or even two candidates from the same party on the ballot in the general election.

In principle, we could even see a race between Goodspaceguy and Mike The Mover, both Democrats, though with rather different platforms.

And, I must admit, I am more than a little curious to see how well Mohammad H. Said will do in this first round, given his platform:
Though long life democrat, I am running now on Centrist party losing my faith in both democratic and republican parties establishment as they are subservient to special interest groups particularly to AIPAC.  As a physician with one of the highest medical degrees in the U.S.A. and after examining more than six thousand patients qualified for medical marijuana under State rules, it is important to make marijuana available and economical.  It is helpful in conditions such as anxiety, depression, bipolar, PTSD, ADDH, etc.  As Palestinian American, an expert in matters related to Muslim world, with eighty percent of President Obama's speech to Muslim world in Cairo and to Turkish Parliament came from my two letters to him.  His involvement in Afghanistan ill advised contrary to my letter.  I believe his advisors and chief of staff, the Neo-leftist?, are no different from Neo-conservative of President Bush who put America in harm's way.  Both groups care more about Israel than U.S.A. Grant County Democratic Convention passed resolution twenty years ago and reaffirmed this year for secular state in Palestine where Jews, Muslims and Christians can live like us with equal rights that I introduced.  This will end the conflict.  In January 26th I was summoned to Washington DC in live debate to ninety million Arab audiences for 50 minutes through Al Jazeera that Obama was no different from Bush.  My participation was tremendous. I educated Arab audience about our political system.  I put my heart, soul, pocketbook as volunteer in his campaign so when he had a meeting with preachers in Brownsville, Texas on February 29, 2008, I was twenty miles away campaigning for him.  I chose not to meet with him to protect his campaign.  I could have been his Secretary of Health or special Envoy to Muslim world!
I wouldn't expect Dr. Said to get past the primary, though I can see how he would appeal to two distinct, but overlapping groups, the far left and the marijuana smokers.

(Amusing:  Dr. Said has lived for many years in a small town in eastern Washington, which, as almost any lefty in this area will tell you, is where you find most of our state's intolerant, and even racist, conservatives.)
- 7:19 PM, 1 August 2010   [link]

R.I.P., John Callahan:  If his name isn't familiar, the New York Times will give you the basics of his life in this obituary.

John Callahan, a quadriplegic, alcoholic cartoonist whose work in newspapers and magazines made irreverent, impolitic sport of people with disabilities and diseases and those who would pity and condescend to them, died on Saturday in Portland, Ore.  He was 59 and lived in Portland.
. . .
Looking askance at the culture of confession and self-help fostered by the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Geraldo Rivera, he was not inclined in his work to be outwardly sympathetic to the afflicted or to respect the boundaries of racial and ethnic stereotyping. His cartoons were often polarizing: some found them outrageously funny, others outrageously offensive.

And then some, definitely including me, often found him funny because he was offensive, in politically-incorrect ways that only a disabled person could get away with.

In the Seattle area, his work appeared in the Seattle Times magazine, Pacific Northwest, which always seemed odd to me.  I often studied his cartoon, glanced at the table of contents, and then recycled the rest of the magazine.

You can see samples of his work, including a wonderful Oprah-Satan cartoon, here.

Cross posted at Sound Politics.

- 1:38 PM, 1 August 2010   [link]

Le Messie, C'est Moi?  Louis XIV is credited, probably falsely, with saying, "L'Êtat, c'est moi."  (Usually translated, "I am the state.")

Prince Charles has topped him.
The Prince of Wales says he believes he has been placed on Earth as future King 'for a purpose' - to save the world.

Giving a fascinating insight into his view of his inherited wealth and influence, he said: 'I can only somehow imagine that I find myself being born into this position for a purpose.
You don't have to know a lot about Jewish or Christian theology to recognize that claim.  And by now, even if you don't know French, you have probably figured out that "Messie" is French for "Messiah".

As I said before, I want to wish Queen Elizabeth a long life.
- 6:57 AM, 1 August 2010   [link]