Friday, March 22, 2013

Our Economic Wreck of a City, Los Angeles

Even if you, dear reader, do not live in Los Angeles County, California let this be a warning to you.

Does the reputation of our City and County of Los Angeles as hostile to business have any harmful effect?  Well, the Los Angeles Business Journal reports that Los Angeles County managed to shed 81,000 payroll jobs in January, with the unemployment rate rising to a France-like 10.4 percent!  81,000 payroll jobs gone in a single month!  While about a quarter of the job loss, some 20,000 jobs, represented the layoffs by the retail trade of its holiday hiring, that still leaves a 61,000 job loss in other sectors.

Although the rest of the State of California is by no means enjoying a business boom,  even with the drag of the Los Angeles County figures, the State as a whole posted a net gain in January of 1700 jobs.

If Los Angeles County leads the entire State downward, the City of Los Angeles leads the County.  The unemployment rate in the City of Los Angeles was above 12%.  That compares with 9.8% statewide and 7.9% nationally.

The only good news is that things were even worse a year ago, in January 2012.

Leading Los Angeles Mayoral Candidate Wendy Gruel announced this week that upon taking office she will erase one of the few accomplishments of current and outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa--she will reopen negotiations with the City's public employee unions on the pension plan reforms implemented by Mayor Villaraigosa and the City Council.

With leadership like that, perhaps job loss and unemployment in January 2014 will match those January 2012 figures.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ben Shapiro: To Save Traditional Marriage, End State Involvement

I do not always agree with my neighbor and friend, Ben Shapiro, the Breitbart editor, AM 870 talk show host and conservative pundit, but I do with his column posted today at the AM 870 webside, entitled "To Save Traditional Marriage, End State Involvement in Marriage."  The political battle to preserve government benefits for traditional marriage, but not same-sex marriage, is lost.  I know that others whom I respect, such as Michael Medved, will disagree, but the time has come to divorce marriage from government.

Marriage in its essence is a religious covenant or sacrament, sanctioned by God, not by the state.  If the state is involved in marriage, and confers special benefits on married persons, including same-sex couples, then in our current culture and political climate, traditional Christians, Jews and Moslems will be compelled to in effect recognize same-sex marriage.  By removing marriage as a state-sanctioned institution, and leaving it as a purely private relationship, governed by contract and one's personal religious beliefs, that concern is removed.  Those liberal churches and synagogues that wish to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies will be able to do so, removing the argument that traditional marriage advocates are trying to impose our religious beliefs on them.  Those traditional religious institutions that will not recognize same-sex marriage will not be compelled to do so.

I do believe that there will ultimately will be a societal cost to pay for same-sex marriage, even as a purely private institution, although the adverse effects may be subtle and take many years to manifest themselves.  It is possible that the damage to society will be difficult to identify and measure even once it occurs.  Think about the effects that past "progressive victories" such as unrestricted abortion, easy availability of contraception and no-fault divorce laws, have had on our society in the last 50 years.  Although progressives will not acknowledge it, those consequences include a loss of respect for life, promiscuity, epidemics of sexually transmitted diseases, and, ironically, an explosion in births out of wedlock and single-parent households.  So I am not unmindful of the potential damage from fully separating Church and State when it comes to marriage.

However, that risk seems preferable, to me at least, to having the State officially recognize same-sex unions as marriage.

If, contrary to what Ben would advocate, the public determines that there are sound policy considerations to conferring special benefits on certain types of unions, the appropriate way to confer those benefits is through recognition of civil unions, not through state involvement in a religious sacrament.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Official Palestinian Daily Lauds Hitler, Blames 9-11 on Freemasons and Zionists

Where a government controls and censors the press, nothing is published that does reflect the regime's own point of view.  Therefore when an op-ed piece by Mr. Hassan Ouda Abu Zaherone appeared today in the official Palestinian Authority daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, praising Hitler, and blaming 9-11 on Freemasons, one can be confident that the Palestinian Authority itself has approved the message.

Here is an excerpt from what one might call the PA's welcome to President Obama on his visit to Israel and Ramallah:

"'History is a great lie written by the victors' - said Napoleon Bonaparte, the source of dubious historical writing and father of Freemasonry in France. If so, is the history planted in us through TV and the standard educational curriculum indeed true? The source of this history is the West - the victor ever since the fall of Andalusia (Muslim Spain)! ...Our history is replete with lies, from lies about the corrupt [Caliph] Harun Al-Rashid, which ignore the sources indicating that he dedicated one year to pilgrimage [to Mecca] and one year to Jihad (i.e., he was a good Muslim), to the lie about Al-Qaeda and the Sept. 11 events, which asserted that Muslim terrorists committed it, and that it was not an internal American action by the Freemasons, which was mentioned in the Illuminati game cards ten years before it took place, and in over 15 Zionist and Freemason Hollywood-produced films in the 1990s. The method of repeating [the lies] over and over has authenticated false facts. Had Hitler won, Nazism would be an honor that people would be competing to belong to, and not a disgrace punishable by law. Churchill and Roosevelt were alcoholics, and in their youth were questioned more than once about brawls they started in bars, while Hitler hated alcohol and was not addicted to it. He used to go to sleep early and wake up early, and was very organized. These facts have been turned upside down as well, and Satan has been dressed with angels' wings..."

Kudos to Palestinian Media Watch for translating and publicizing this column, as part of its ongoing mission to make the English-speaking world aware of what is published and broadcast in Palestininan and other Arab media.

About those "Illuminati game cards," are any of our readers familiar with the paranoid fantasy that Mr. Zaherone is spinning here?  It's new to me, but as a card-carrying Zionist myself, I sure would like to get myself a deck.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Big Data in the Big Apple

Slate has published this fascinating article  on how Mike Flowers (photo above), the first City of New York "director of analytics," adapted data analysis techniques he initially learned from the military in Iraq to revolutionize building inspections in the Big Apple.  According to authors Viktor Schönberger and Kenneth Cukier:

Prior to the big-data analysis, inspectors followed up the complaints they deemed most dire, but only in 13 percent of cases did they find conditions severe enough to warrant a vacate order. Now they were issuing vacate orders on more than 70 percent of the buildings they inspected. By indicating which buildings most needed their attention, big data improved their efficiency fivefold. And their work became more satisfying: They were concentrating on the biggest problems. The inspectors’ newfound effectiveness had spillover benefits, too. Fires in illegal conversions are 15 times more likely than other fires to result in injury or death for firefighters, so the fire department loved it. Flowers and his kids looked like wizards with a crystal ball that let them see into the future and predict which places were most risky. They took massive quantities of data that had been lying around for years, largely unused after it was collected, and harnessed it in a novel way to extract real value. Using a big corpus of information allowed them to spot connections that weren’t detectable in smaller amounts—the essence of big data.
The application of innovative data analysis to municipal governance  potentially offers as significant paybacks as have been produced in law enforcement by the policies and techniques developed by Chief William Bratton in New York City and later employed by him with great success in Los Angeles. Mr. Flowers was fortunate to have the enthusiastic support of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is always on the lookout for innovation in municipal governance.  That is why New York City is probably the best-governed large city in the United State.

In contrast, the municipal government of the City of Los Angeles  is. to say the least, not so enlightened and effective. Whoever becomes the next mayor of Los Angeles, let us hope that he or she will look hard at the achievements of Mike Flowers in New York.

 [Hat tip to SZ for calling my attention to this story]

Monday, March 04, 2013

Department of Irrefutable Truths: The Grateful Dead Were at Their Best in 1972

Over the past two days I have listened a number of times to the performance of the "China Cat Sunflower--Know You Rider" medley from the Grateful Dead's Europe 72 live performance album.
Those numbers recorded the Dead at the height of their ensemble artistry, and in my humble but infallable opinion rank among the best rock and roll concert performances of all time.  More than 40 years later, I still marvel at their virtuosity.