Archive for July, 2008


Thursday, July 31st, 2008

I have had strong opinions about the origin of homelessness for a long time. In 1962, I spent a summer working in the VA psych hospital in West Los Angeles. It was one of the more interesting experiences of my life. The professor and chief of the service was George Harrington, one of the most colorful and impressive people I have met in medicine. At that time, psychiatry was dominated by the psychoanalysts and schizophrenia treatment was just starting to use anti-psychotic drugs like Thorazine. Harrington had been trained as an analyst but had a funny story about how he had learned as a medical student that analysis just didn’t work. He was convinced, he told me, that psychosis, particularly schizophrenia which constitutes the vast majority of cases, was an organic disease, possibly even an unknown vitamin deficiency. Time has proved him correct and present-day treatment is with drugs that target specific receptors for neurotransmitters like GABA and serotonin. There are theories of the cause that may be startling to those who have not spent time reading the literature. For example:

Schizophrenia and prehistory: the price we pay for language?
Robert Kaplan
Graduate School of Medicine
Wollongong, Australia
The defining characteristic of humans is language: the expression of the capacity to handle abstract symbols. A growing body of evidence shows that the essential hu-man features did not occur in a ‘big bang’ in Europe around 50Ka, but developed over a 100-200Ka period in Africa.

Schizophrenia, the most severe psychiatric illness, is remarkably consistent in all populations – average 2% – regardless of climate, geography and industrial conditions. As the Australian Aboriginals, who have the same incidence of schizophrenia, were separated by rising seas from early humans, it is clear the illness is genetic and arose sometime between 137,000 and 60,000 years ago..
The other unique feature of the schizophrenia is that it occurs during the reproductive age; despite the obvious disadvantage, it remains prevalent. This suggests that there is a balancing factor which overcomes the reduced reproductive capacity of patients.

Crow, a leading schizophrenia researcher, has put forward the provocative hypothesis that schizophrenia is a disturbance of language, resulting from problems in development of brain asymmetry. A gene on the short limb of the X chromosome has been identified as the possible site that leads to brain asymmetry, an essential development for language. As a result, the speech centre is located in the dominant [left] hemisphere, eliminating the delay from sending a signal across the commissure.

In view of the earlier onset in males, Crow has postulated homologous X and Y genes.
The ‘psychosis’ gene may be a consequence of the development of language: is schizophrenia the price we pay for language? Recent discoveries at MSA sites in Southern Africa coastal regions – such as the cross-hatched ochre from Blombos – give rise to hopes that further evidence of first human capacity to utilise symbols will be found in this region.

Anyway, treatment was severely disrupted about 40 years ago when the politics of mental illness trumped medicine and the state mental hospitals were emptied onto the street. Some of the sad story is described here. The “homeless problem” arose from this action and has persisted since then, garnished with Maxist rhetoric and vapid social theories. Now sense may slowly be returning.

The homeless population continues to decline, by an estimated 12% per year between 2005 and 2007, according to a new report released Tuesday.

Why ?

Homelessness is one of the few corners of public policy in which traditional liberal ideas have gone largely unchallenged. But Mangano believes that many professional activists, though well intentioned, have given up on ending homelessness. They have accepted the problem as intractable and fallen back on social work and handouts as a way to make broken lives more bearable. In doing so, he says, they have allowed “a certain amount of institutionalism” to take root. The Bush Administration proposes to solve the problem by beginning with the hardest cases: the 10 percent who are severe addicts or mentally ill, and consume half of all resources devoted to homeless shelters. Mangano believes that by moving these chronic cases into “supportive housing”—a private room or apartment where they would receive support services and psychotropic medications—the government could actually save money, and free up tens of thousands of shelter beds. The Bush Administration, spotting an opportunity to increase the return on its investment, is seeking to end chronic homelessness within ten years.

It seems to be working. What is unknown is what the next president will do with this program. This is a subtle way of returning to the institution care of severely psychotic individuals and that may be too much like sense for Obama’s liberal theology

Comment spam

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

I am getting deluged with comment spam every day, sometimes 500 to 1,000 spam comments per day. The filter catches about 2/3 and puts them in moderation where I delete them. The spammers are smart enough to keep changing addresses so the filter does not keep up. I spend about an hour each day deleting messages and have come to the place where I will have to require registration to comment. If that doesn’t work, I will have to redesign the site. The Word Press support is very poor and they do not answer questions. There is no technical assistance telephone number. My hosting company, Blue Host, does do a good job with customer support so I will turn to them if I have to do more than turn on registration. We’ll see how this works and I’m sorry for the inconvenience. Not that many people comment anyway so one registration should do it.

Michael Yon in Nepal

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

The war in Iraq is over. This from a man who knows.

Many people are coming to realize that the war in Iraq is over. The situation is still violent, but the fast progress is undeniable. The Iraqi government is inept, yet is largely seen as legitimate. The Iraqi government has dramas, but we need look no further than to our friends in Thailand or South Korea or India to see even greater governmental dramas. I remember living in Poland when they traded communism for democracy and capitalism. Unemployment, inflation and economic woes were as bad (perhaps even worse) than in Iraq. Poland is one of America’s closest allies and has been an important partner in Iraq. Poland knows that Iraq can make it, although the war has been divisive in Poland, too.

Even Barry Obama may realize that it is over and we won.

An interesting comparison

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

Today, Philip Terzian has a column on the similarity between Obama and Thomas Dewey in 1948. I hadn’t thought of this before but it makes some sense. Republicans hated Roosevelt and were desperate to get the White House back after 16 years. They had just taken control of Congress after 14 years in the wilderness. The Bill Clinton interregnum makes the comparison inexact but the political left is salivating at the chance to finally have both houses of Congress and the White House in their control. They are confident that they are about to triumph. Look at the triumphalism in leftist blogs.

Personally, I still think the chances are better than even that we will have to endure a President Obama for a term but I’m not ready to count McCain out yet. Obama has to close the deal with the American public and he is a ready source of gaffes. There is a widely held theory that Dewey lost the election because of an outburst where he cursed a railroad engineer for moving the train unexpectedly while Dewey was making a speech from the back platform, a common campaign method of the day.

Truman campaigned by telling the voters that Dewey did not understand the needs of the average American. He called Dewey a candidate of rich people.

One day, Dewey got angry at a railroad engineer because his campaign train was late for a speech. Truman charged that this proved that Dewey did not understand the problems of railroad engineers and other working Americans. He tried to make the election a choice between hard-working Democrats and rich Republicans.

The story isn’t quite correct because what really happened was the train moved unexpectedly, risking injury to the spectators listening to Dewey’s speech. He made a remark about the engineer that he thought would be taken as sympathetic to the crowd. However, it fit another scenario; one of a man who had little sympathy for the common man.

Then on Oct. 12, 1948, Dewey’s train pulled into Beaucoup, Ill. As a crowd of 1,000 people surged toward the rear of the train to greet the governor, the train lurched backward. “That’s the first lunatic I’ve had for an engineer,” Dewey said. “He probably should be shot at sunrise,” the candidate muttered into a microphone, “but we’ll let him off this time since nobody was hurt.” Lee Tindle, the 54-year-old engineer whom Dewey had insulted, was a 30-year veteran of the rails. “I think just as much of Dewey as I did before, and that’s not very much,” Tindle told an Associated Press reporter.

Even without the aid of YouTube or television, word of Dewey’s outburst spread, and Truman took full advantage. He praised his “all Democratic” train crew. Supporters wrote “Lunatics for Truman” on dusty boxcars. While Republicans touted Dewey’s New York administration and his campaign for its efficiency, Truman’s running mate, Alben W. Barkley, chimed in with a timely response: “The governor of New York showed his hand recently by advocating ‘shooting at sunrise’ as a cure for his conception of inefficiency,” Barkley quipped. “We at the Democratic Party do not consider ‘ruthlessness’ a proper synonym for ‘efficiency.’ “

Obama has already set the stage by making comments about small town voters.

He said: “You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And it’s not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

A few more like that and maybe we can start saying President McCain

A You-Tube campaign

Friday, July 25th, 2008

Obama says different things to different groups and often gets away with it. He gets into trouble, however, when he says things on camera. Here are two clips of Obama saying opposite things about the same topic. I hope someone is collecting these things and will use them to run political ads during the fall campaign. There are already a few examples. One is here.

Obama is a gaffe machine saying, for example, that he has campaigned in 57 states and will be dealing with world leaders as president for 8 to 10 years.

Obama supporters, like Alan Colmes on Fox News, tries to counter with alleged McCain gaffes. One was his statement that Iran was supporting Sunni terrorist groups. He was accused of not knowing that Iran is Shiite and will not cooperate with Sunnis. That is untrue. Secondly, this week, Colmes tried to make an issue of McCain saying that the Surge was responsible for the Anbar Awakening. This story is all over the left wing blogs. What they don’t understand is that “The Surge” was not the addition of more troops to Iraq but a change in strategy that required more troops to carry out. That change coincided with the Anbar Awakening. The video linked to by the piece above is absolutely accurate. It is the political left’s ignorance of military strategy that is on exhibition, not McCain’s error.

Here is more on McCain’s statement.

“Yesterday,” a reporter asked McCain, “you suggested that the surge in Iraq predated the Anbar rebellion, and actually the Anbar rebellion came a couple of months previously. Did you misspeak, or did you have something else in mind?”
McCain said that he was referring to the successful counterinsurgency strategy in the Anbar — the co-option of the Sunni sheiks — which provided a model for troops who later surged into the country.
“First of all, a surge is really a counter-insurgency strategy,” McCain said.
I’ll separate that, because McCain says it often. Most of us equate the surge with troop levels, but for McCain, it has always been about a strategy; to executive the strategy, more troops were needed.
Colonel McFarland, in Anbar province, McCain said, “had already initiated that strategy in Ramadi by going in and clearing and holding in certain places. That is a counter-insurgency. And he told me at that time that he believed that that strategy, which is quote the surge, part of the surge, would be, would be, successful. So then, of course, it was very clear that we needed additional troops in order to carry out this insurgency.

Don’t expect to see anything about that from Obama supporters. You-Tube will define this campaign, both supporting and refuting what the candidates say. McCain is consistent and it should help him.

What Corruption in detail looks like

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

UPDATE: John McCain has come out with a good op-ed on the topic that should be reprinted widely. Unfortunately, it looks as though Bush has given up and will sign the pork fest bailout bill. I guess he is ready for next January and President Obama.

That’s not a very good headline but the Paul Gigot article today in the Wall Street Journal tells the story of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae with the names named. It can’t be any clearer how the Washington insiders kept the ball rolling.

Angelo Mozilo was in one of his Napoleonic moods. It was October 2003, and the CEO of Countrywide Financial was berating me for The Wall Street Journal’s editorials raising doubts about the accounting of Fannie Mae. I had just been introduced to him by Franklin Raines, then the CEO of Fannie, whom I had run into by chance at a reception hosted by the Business Council, the CEO group that had invited me to moderate a couple of panels.

Mr. Mozilo loudly declared that I didn’t know what I was talking about, that I didn’t understand accounting or the mortgage markets, and that I was in the pocket of Fannie’s competitors, among other insults. Mr. Raines, always smoother than Mr. Mozilo, politely intervened to avoid an extended argument, and Countrywide’s bantam rooster strutted off.

I remember reading those editorial page pieces and wondering why nothing happened. Now we know.

In late 2001, I got a tip that Fannie’s derivatives accounting might be suspect. I asked Susan Lee to investigate, and the editorial she wrote in February 2002, “Fannie Mae Enron?”, sent Fannie’s shares down nearly 4% in a day. In retrospect, my only regret is the question mark.

Mr. Raines reacted with immediate fury, denouncing us in a letter to the editor as “glib, disingenuous, contorted, even irresponsible,” and that was the subtle part. He turned up on CNBC to say, in essence, that we had made it all up because we didn’t want poor people to own houses, while Freddie issued its own denunciation.

The insiders turned up the pressure by complaining to Dow-Jones executives, Mr. Gigot’s bosses.

At the time, Wall Street’s Fannie apologists outdid themselves with their counterattack. One of the most slavish was Jonathan Gray, of Sanford C. Bernstein, who wrote to clients that the editorial was “unfounded and unsubstantiated” and “discredits the paper.” My favorite point in his Feb. 20, 2002, Bernstein Research Call was this rebuttal to our point that “Taxpayers Are on The Hook: This is incorrect. The agencies’ debt is not guaranteed by the U.S. Treasury or any agency of the Federal Government.” Oops.

Mr. Gray’s memo made its way to Wall Street Journal management via Michael Ellmann, a research analyst who had covered Dow Jones and was then at Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co. “I think Gray is far more accurate than your editorial writer. Your subscribers deserve better,”

Paul Gigot, who was not then the editor of the op-ed page, is not deterred although Congress is busy feeding at the trough and does not want to hear any bad news.

I also received several interventions from friends and even Dow Jones colleagues on behalf of the companies. But I was especially startled one day to find in my mail a personal letter from George Gould, an acquaintance about whom I’d written a favorable column when he was Treasury undersecretary for finance in 1988.

Mr. Gould’s letter assailed our editorials and me in nasty personal terms, and I quickly discovered the root of his vitriol: Though his letter didn’t say so, he had become a director of Freddie Mac. He was still on the board when Freddie’s accounting lapses finally exploded into a scandal some months later.

The companies eased their assaults when they concluded we weren’t about to stop, and in any case they soon had bigger problems. Freddie’s accounting fiasco became public in 2003, while Fannie’s accounting blew up in 2004. Mr. Raines was forced to resign, and a report by regulator James Lockhart discovered that Fannie had rigged its earnings in a way that allowed it to pay huge bonuses to Mr. Raines and other executives.

Remember that Raines was a Bill Clinton appointee, even though this was now the Bush administration. They still had enough politicians in their entourage to stave off the final reckoning, though. Republicans were every bit as complicit in the fiasco.

Such a debacle after so much denial would have sunk any normal financial company, but once again Fan and Fred could fall back on their political protection. In the wake of Freddie’s implosion, Republican Rep. Cliff Stearns of Florida held one hearing on its accounting practices and scheduled more in early 2004.

He was soon told that not only could he hold no more hearings, but House Speaker Dennis Hastert was stripping his subcommittee of jurisdiction over Fan and Fred’s accounting and giving it to Mike Oxley’s Financial Services Committee. “It was because of all their lobbying work,” explains Mr. Stearns today, in epic understatement. Mr. Oxley proceeded to let Barney Frank (D., Mass.), then in the minority, roll all over him and protect the companies from stronger regulatory oversight. Mr. Oxley, who has since retired, was the featured guest at no fewer than 19 Fannie-sponsored fund-raisers.

Bipartisan financial malpractice. And the taxpayers will be bailing them out.

Or consider the experience of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, one of the GOP’s bright young lights who decided in the 1990s that Fan and Fred needed more supervision. As he held town hall meetings in his district, he soon noticed a man in a well-tailored suit hanging out amid the John Deere caps and street clothes. Mr. Ryan was being stalked by a Fannie lobbyist monitoring his every word.

On another occasion, he was invited to a meeting with the Democratic mayor of Racine, which is in his district, though he wasn’t sure why. When he arrived, Mr. Ryan discovered that both he and the mayor had been invited separately — not by each other, but by a Fannie lobbyist who proceeded to tell them about the great things Fannie did for home ownership in Racine.

When none of that deterred Mr. Ryan, Fannie played rougher. It called every mortgage holder in his district, claiming (falsely) that Mr. Ryan wanted to raise the cost of their mortgage and asking if Fannie could tell the congressman to stop on their behalf. He received some 6,000 telegrams. When Mr. Ryan finally left Financial Services for a seat on Ways and Means, which doesn’t oversee Fannie, he received a personal note from Mr. Raines congratulating him. “He meant good riddance,” says Mr. Ryan.

That wasn’t enough.

about half of the implicit taxpayer subsidy for Fan and Fred is pocketed by shareholders and management. According to the Federal Reserve, the half that goes to homeowners adds up to a mere seven basis points on mortgages. In return for this, Fannie was able to pay no fewer than 21 of its executives more than $1 million in 2002, and in 2003 Mr. Raines pocketed more than $20 million. Fannie’s left-wing defenders are underwriters of crony capitalism, not affordable housing.

And we will bail them out because “they are too big too fail.” Why did a Republican Speaker cooperate in this debacle ? The GOP paid the price in 2006 but the rest of us will be paying for years.

Apologies to the WSJ but I was afraid that piece was behind the subscription wall and it is too important to hide. Everyone should read it.

Here’s what they were saying a year ago. Pretty funny, eh ?

Obama’s security

Monday, July 21st, 2008

Obama is set to visit the West Bank and Ramallah soon. His pro-Palestinian sympathies are well known but this goes a bit beyond the expected.

Members of the most active West Bank terror organization are set to serve in security forces being deployed to protect Sen. Barack Obama during his trip to the West Bank tomorrow, WND has learned.


The image of Hezbollah

Monday, July 21st, 2008

Look at that image for a second. If Hitler had risen from the grave, what do you think he would look like ? This is one of the Palestinian “Freedom Fighters” that Israel released in exchange for two bodies of kidnapped soldiers. We can talk about the present folly of the Israeli government. Ehud Olmert is mired in scandal, but look at the enemies he faces. The face of pure evil stares from that photo.

On the other side, the disgraceful celebration of baby-murderer Kuntar as a national hero in Lebanon, where the government shut down to celebrate his arrival, and by the Palestinian Authority, which called him a “heroic fighter,” reveals the depths of Lebanese enmity to Israel and its immorality, disturbing to anyone concerned with the Arab soul.

Read the account of Kuntar’s “operation.” Then look at that celebration again.

A problem that Obama cannot solve

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

The unforced error by Prime Minister Maliki this weekend, described below, makes the possibility of a President Obama more likely. This is a frightening prospect but it is worse even than we had been told. The real threat to the western world is not Iraq or Iran. It is Pakistan. The government is unstable and has the Bomb. What could be worse ? Read the story and see.

Then think about a new president who does not know that Afghanistan does not speak Arabic ! I thought the infamous interview with Bush in 2000 showed appalling ignorance but that was before 9/11. We are now at war in Afghanistan. The young man who scolds his fellow countrymen for failing to learn languages that he, himself, does not speak, is frighteningly ignorant, not only about the world outside Chicago, but about about how ignorant he is.

Maliki learns a hard lesson

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

UPDATE # 3: Politico has an explanation of Maliki’s behavior but it also suggest that he has lost control of what he was trying to do.

ASTONISHING QUOTE OF THE DAY – AP’s Baghdad bureau chief, Robert H. Reid, writes in ‘Analysis: Iraq playing US politics for best deal’: ‘The Iraqi prime minister’s seeming endorsement of Barack Obama’s troop withdrawal plan is part of Baghdad’s strategy to play U.S. politics for the best deal possible over America’s military mission. The goal is not necessarily to push out the Americans quickly, but instead give Iraqis a major voice in how long U.S. troops stay and what they will do while still there. …

‘With the talks bogged down, the Iraqis sensed desperation by the Americans to wrap up a deal quickly before the presidential campaign was in full swing. ***’Let’s squeeze them,’ al-Maliki told his advisers … The squeeze came July 7, when al-Maliki announced in Abu Dhabi that Iraq wanted the base deal to include some kind of timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops. …

‘[T]he White House agreed this past week to a ‘general time horizon’ for withdrawing American troops — short of a firm timetable but a dramatic shift from the administration’s refusal to accept any deadline for ending the mission in Iraq.’

On Maliki’s unconvincing walk-back of that endorsement, an administration official told the aforementioned Jonathan Martin: ‘We suspected Maliki didn’t intend for his comment to be interpreted the way it was. He didn’t know it was being interpreted that way. The U.S. government let the Iraqis know that it was being picked up widely. The Iraqis issued a statement to make Maliki’s position clear.’

Maliki may be wiser now. I’m sure he does not understand that Democrats will throw him and his country under the bus just as quickly as they threw Pastor Wright and a numbers of others, including Obama’s grandmother who raised him. No one can get between Obama and his ambition and be safe.

UPDATE #2: Maliki still has not been able to control how his words are being used against him. The New York Times today repeats the Der Spiegel version of his comments.

The following is a direct translation from the Arabic of Mr. Maliki’s comments by The Times: “Obama’s remarks that — if he takes office — in 16 months he would withdraw the forces, we think that this period could increase or decrease a little, but that it could be suitable to end the presence of the forces in Iraq.”

He continued: “Who wants to exit in a quicker way has a better assessment of the situation in Iraq.”

There is still no inclusion of the words:

Assuming that positive developments continue, this is about the same time period that corresponds to our wishes.”

That caveat changes the meaning of the statement. Either the NY Times deliberately omitted that sentence (not an unreasonable assumption) or the story is still going.

UPDATE: It looks as thougn Der Spiegel lied about Maliki’s remarks but we will see how this plays out.

Asked in an interview with German news magazine Der Spiegel of when he would like to see American forces leave Iraq, Maliki said: “As soon as possible, as far as we’re concerned.” He then added that “Obama is right when he talks about 16 months. Assuming that positive developments continue, this is about the same time period that corresponds to our wishes.”

Maliki has just gotten a lesson about international media. They are no friends of Iraq.

Yesterday, Der Spiegel, the German magazine published a story that Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki supported Obama’s plan to withdraw US forces from Iraq in 16 months. A furor ensued and Maliki put out a clarification that he had been misquoted. The left was having none of it and even was alleging tha Maliki’s denial was false.

The retraction claimed that Maliki’s comments were “were misunderstood, mistranslated and not conveyed accurately,” which might be plausible if there were only a single sentence in question. However, how likely is it that Spiegel mistranslated three separate comments? Here are the relevant excerpts from the interview:

“Today, we in Iraq want to establish a timeframe for the withdrawal of international troops — and it should be short.

….U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes.

….Those who operate on the premise of short time periods in Iraq today are being more realistic….The tenure of the coalition troops in Iraq should be limited.”

There’s just no way that all three of these passages were mistranslated.

Why, when his success as the head of a free country is at stake, would Maliki make such an error ?

The most plausible explanation to me is that this was Iraqi politics speaking.

Why did al-Maliki do it? Your choice of interpretations, not mutually exclusive:

a) “Yanks Out!” is a winning slogan in Iraqi politics, and al-Maliki has an election to fight in October.

b) He figures Obama is going to win, and this way Obama owes him one.

c) He thinks he’s now strong enough to take out the Sadrists and either make make a deal with some group of Sunnis or just rule them as a subject population after our troops leave.

d) “100 Years” genuinely creeps him out.

I’m not offering any bets about what al-Maliki really wants in the way of a timetable. But I’d bet something that he really doesn’t want a long term protectorate, and/or doesn’t think he can make that fly politically in Iraq.

My personal theory is that Maliki doesn’t understand that Democrats want to ditch Iraq and they don’t care what happens after we leave. Maliki just gave them the cover they needed. It may have been a fatal mistake.

Those Republicans, who think that letting Obama win the election and who are then counting on him being the worst president in American history, might have gotten their wish compliments of Maliki. All we have to do now is survive it.