Ten people currently entitled to state-supported health care

1. Sirhan Sirhan (Assassin of Robert Kennedy, living in Pleasant Valley State Prison in California)

2. Charles Manson, cult leader who is imprisoned in Corcoran State Prison (we have a lot of pens in California) for his joint responsibility inspiring the brutal murders of actress Sharon Tate, her guests, and grocer Leon LaBianca and his family).

3. David Berkowitz (Son of Sam killer, currently at Sullivan Correction Center in New York)

4. Kenneth Bianchi (who along with his partner, Angelo Buono, were the Hillside stranglers responsible for the torture and death of at least 10 women. Buono had the decency to die of a heart attack a few years ago.)

5. Gary Ridgway (40+ victims as the Green River Killer)

6. Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker of Los Angeles who killed 13 women, currently awaiting his execution at San Quentin.

7. Dennis Lyn Rader, the BTK killer who is currently associated with 10 deaths, living in the El Dorado Correctional Facility courtesy of the state of Kansaas.

8. Charles Ng, who is suspected of murdering between 11 to 25 people with his partner Leonard Lake (who killed himself). Ng has health care provided by the state of California on death row at San Quentin.

9. Joel Rifkin, who is in in Clinton Correctional Facility in New York, for killing 17 (perhaps more) people, and is suing the state for $77 million for keeping him in solitary. He might want to ask what happened to Jeffrey Dahlmer when he got to have exercise time with the regular, non-flesh-eating residents in the Columbia Corrections Institution.

10. Patrick Kearney, one of several “Freeway Killers” in southern California who confessed to killing 26 young men. He is serving consecutive life sentences in the California state pen, Mule Creek.

Now, I’m not claiming that prison health care is *good* care–because it’s not– but I do think it’s a bit of an oddity that it is cruel and unusual punishment to not provide health care to prisoners or to execute an unhealthy person, but it’s accepted that ordinary people are not so entitled, and neither are their kids. Kind of makes that whole “deserving” poor question get weird, doesn’t it?

Can I ask a question without the NBA fining me $25,000?

For those of you worried about minor things like your dissertation and/or the general state of society/the planet/your children, you may have missed the fact that the NBA fined Laker center Andrew Bynum $25,000 for criticizing the officiating during the 101-96 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

Now, ok. Suckitup, right? Bynum had a pretty bad game by any measure, and he can’t go pointing at the officials as the reason for his poor performance or the loss.


The NBA isn’t paying Bynum. The Lakers franchise is. He can go talk all the smack he wants about his team, his coach, his colleagues, etc. But he can’t point out that the officiating was poor? Um. Doesn’t this strike anybody as unnecessarily controlling? What about when the officiating actually IS poor? What makes these guys so dainty boo-boo that they can’t take some snark? What he said was clean. It wasn’t exactly Mr. Sportsmanship, but we are dealing with great big children here.

Maybe I’m just bitter. My life is snark central. Senior faculty snooter me around shamelessly and get on my case when I screw up. Reviewers trample all over MY feelings. Nobody looks out for MY ego.

Dear Editor:

Reviewer # 1 criticized me. Everything he says is specious and hurts my little feelers. I am therefore going to assess him a $25,000 fine. Reviewer #3 agrees with me so he’s off the hook.



Harlem’s History and Showgirls

Wonderful movie called “Been Rich My Whole Life” by Heather Lyn MacDonald about the Silver Belles, a group of some of the original dancers from the choruses at the Apollo Theater and the Cotton Club in Harlem. The Belles still dance professionally, in their 80s: one is in her 90s. The Sweet Georgia Brown number is priceless.

As one of the younger dancers said: “They put seasoning in their steps.”

Fierce and unbelievably lovely: smiles like that should be everywhere!

This is a history of Harlem, its clubs, and the key contributions made to place development by these women and the musicians they worked with.

It’s also a love story.


Here’s the trailer:

Don’t think for two seconds this doesn’t have a transportation theme: they are on buses, on the subway. One has a two-hour bus/subway commute so that she can be part of the group.

Resisting segregation on transit

US transit has always been a place where failing to recognize civil rights becomes contested. Though most people know about Rosa Parks and the historic bus boycott in Montgomery, not as many people know about the ways in which African Americans worked through the courts to try to gain rights to equal citizenship through mobility.

David Skillen Bogen has a nice manuscript up on SSRN:

SSRN-Precursors of Rosa Parks: Maryland Transportation Cases Between the Civil War and the Beginning of World War I by David Bogen

I’m not really qualified to judge this manuscript as scholarship, as I am not an attorney, but I learned a lot reading through it about the history of segregation in Maryland following the Civil War, such as the resistance to segregated depots.

The costs of marriage inequality on gay households

One of the reasons why I love being associated with Brookings is that I will come up with a research idea that I think is brilliant only to discover they have already sponsored some research on it.

So here’s an example of just that. I was skylarking with some numbers this weekend about the economic costs to gay couples of not being able to take advantage of married filing jointly. It turns out, Brookings sponsored an event on this topic just in December. Here’s the link, with the podcast:

TPC Events | The Higher Cost of Being Gay: Life, Death, and Taxes

What do proffies do all day ? Why aren’t they here?

Rate Your Students has a student editorial posted from a University of Wisconsin student in forestry. In it, the writer says:

Well, please allow me to sound off:

I have seen faculty parking lots clear out at 2 p.m., office doors closed and locked for days at a time, and professors who seemingly care more about referring to their useless research and countless petty awards than they do about teaching. Until the impracticality of their knowledge is realized, I will challenge their salaries, seeing as I contribute to them, because some have yet to show me that they have earned them.

Ah, I feel better.

And the comments. Good Lord. Such abuse for everybody, from this writer to universities as “ponzi” scheme.

First, I wonder about how familiar this writer is with salaried labor anyway. Most of us in the salaried world do have to leave our offices during the day–that’s why employers do not bother with time clocks on us, though I am surprised sometimes we don’t have personal monitors attached to our legs by now. Anyway. Lawyers have to go to court, doctors go between hospitals and clinics, engineers, architects, etc go to project sites, etc. Professors are no different from these groups; we don’t have a “teachers’ lounge” for a reason, as a lot of our work–even the ones about teaching–does not take place in an office.

So I can be pretty sure that when my colleague Richard Green, who directs the Lusk Center for Real Estate, leaves the building, he is doing so because he has to go meet with potential donors or the press or consulting with politicos working on housing issues. The same is true of all of my other colleagues in various ilks: we have off-campus meetings and those meetings may be directly related to the mission of the university and for teaching–such as when my colleague Chris Redfearn, the director of the MRED program here, missed a meeting with me recently: he was meeting with the City of Los Angeles to give his MRED students greater learning opportunities. All that stuff takes time, and it’s not all necessarily related to our silly research and petty awards.

Second, if an office is closed or locked for days at a time, it probably means that they have either taken on a visiting role somewhere or they are at a meeting. Again, my colleague Richard Green is an excellent example. He recently spent a month in India: does that do nothing for our students? He’s building up a partnership that, yes, yields research gains to him but also might open international learning opportunities.

Professor work isn’t like other work. Higher education is an industry but it is not like other industries with traditional customer service constraints. When higher education starts to become ostensibly customer oriented, it undermines itself and those customers a lot. Does a program succeed by making 19 year-olds happy at Scantron evaluation time, or does it succeed after they have graduated with much higher human capital than when they came in? Are they better judges of that, or their employers? Some 19 year-olds are capable of recognizing their own gains in human capital and others aren’t: but the labor market, though flawed, is excellent at discriminating who has learned and who hasn’t. And if you think programs and universities don’t pay attention to where they place their grads, you aren’t paying attention.

So he says he pays our salaries. When he graduates, chances are very good that he will work either in an industry that receives substantial taxpayers subsidy (like mine and a lot of others) or a governmental employee outright. That means I’ll pay his salary, a miniscule part, in the same way he pays a small part of mine. I’ll cut him a deal: I’ll let people who are actually qualified to judge his performance as a forester judge his performance if he does the same for me as a professor.

LA and California History viewed through Perry Mason and Paul Drake’s Hair

Ok, where to begin?

Perry Mason, for those who don’t know, is a fictional defense attorney practicing in Los Angeles, created by the mystery writer Earle Stanley Gardner, shown here. If you’ve never picked up a Perry Mason novel, I highly recommend.

Perry Mason was the basis of the long-running tv series–it ran from 1957 to 1966!–featuring Raymond Burr (one of my favorite actors) as Mason and the extremely lovely Barbara Hale as his secretary/confidante Della Street (shown below) . The show featured an excellent ensemble cast, including William Hopper as Paul Drake, Mason’s go-to private investigator, and undeservedly obscure character actor William Talman as the always-foiled district attorney Hamilton Burger.

So what lessons can we learn about urban and state history from the Perry Mason universe? A bunch.

First off, Raymond Burr’s lifelong commitment with his partner Robert Benevides is a object lesson for why California’s Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage is a civil rights problem, no matter what you personally believe about the morality of homosexuality. Burr met Benevides in 1960 and together they built Burr’s acting career and a vineyard. Partners, no matter what sex they are, often sacrifice for the partnership, and theirs was no exception; Benevides gave up acting to help Burr manage his increasingly successful career. Together, they were philanthropists and buisinessmen. That is shared work and economic value.

After Burr’s death in 1993, Burr’s niece has challenged Benevides controlling Burr’s estate, particularly their vineyard, which he still runs. She may a point, for all I know, but it should caution us. Marriage isn’t just about a bedroom; it’s a set of property agreements, and under no accepted measure of justice should Benevides be threatened with the loss of what he built with Burr over the course of nearly 40 years. In some states, he would be in more jeopardy than he was in California. Everybody should have equal protection under the law, and that includes rights to property. The easiest way for partners to take care of each others’ property in legal agreements is marriage and pre-nuptials. .

Secondly, William Hopper himself was the son of high-profile Hollywood gossip Hedda Hopper, who is one of the early chroniclers of Hollywood history.

Hopper’s character, Paul Drake, is one of the most interesting in the series. Hypermasculinized as a player, his smooth blonde pompadour and his Thunderbirds were a California male ideal. Throughout the series, he drove Thunderbirds*: 1957, 1958, 1961, 1963, 1964, and 1965, including the convertible models. I think its hard for my car-hating students to understand just how unbelievably cool these cars were, shown below.


1965 convertible

There is no disputing that these are two of the most beautiful cars ever produced, and no, car culture isn’t just about waste. In more innocent times, they manifested the beautiful material craftmanship of human imagination and vision.

Finally, when you watch Perry Mason, occasionally Paul has to take the Thunderbird out “all the way to the North Hollywood.” The glimpse you get from Mason in the late 1950s is a North Hollywood full of farms–way suburban fringe. It was really far out of town, you know. Now it has a subway station:

*Mason also drove some pretty cool cars, including the Ford Fairlane.