IMAGES THAT CONNECT TO SOMETHING REAL

I hate LEED Certification

Posted in Uncategorized by a1icey on February 9, 2012

LEED Certification began in 2000 and has become extremely popular. We now have LEED version 3, featuring, among other things, an extremely restrictive lavatory water faucet “suggestion.” A lot of LEED decisions seem to be only tangentially related to the environment, like restricting cigarette smoking near entrances. But a place like New York Law School is incredibly susceptible to the alluring PR opportunities.

Do you know why I think that LEED certification is a bunch of bullshit?

The biggest environmental waste in NYC lifestyle/culture is eating at restaurants. Think about it (or read about it). We live in tiny group housing, take the subway to work, and live in an area with a massive supply of water, a system that famously leaks at a rate of 36 million gallons a day. Which isn’t worth fixing, frankly. We have tons of water. But Americans abuse our food supply in a way that’s getting increasing amounts of attention. The EPA is even publishing guidelines to encourage restaurants to waste less food. And New York leads the nation in wasting food. Meanwhile California is in a “water crisis.”

Why all this talk of water? Well, water is kind of the point. In New York, food is wasted at an astronomical rate, food that is already at the end of the supply chain, a resource in its fully consumable form. Ironically, California’s water goes towards growing this wasted food: 25% of America’s freshwater goes towards wasted food, and 80% of California’s water goes to agriculture. That means at least some portion of California’s water crisis is caused by food waste, or excessive food production. One of the most environmentally friendly things a New Yorker can do is prepare food at home, and control the amount of food they waste. I happen to make my food at home a lot. This involves a lot of tupperware and other plastic containers. It involves bringing knives and other silverware to school every day. It involves some elaborate reusable water bottles. But, in a school of 2,500 students, I have no place to clean my containers!

Thanks to our illustrious LEED Certification, there is only one (old) tap, out of almost a hundred, that actually produces a full flow of water. Nevermind how unhygenic everyones’ hands are, this is a major deterrent to preparing your own food. Everyone does a cost/benefit analysis, but convenience always wins in New York. The other taps produce a weak, thin series of water dribbles, that requires constant movement to keep activated, thanks to to a requirement by the LEED certification board that only accounts for a 20% reduction in water consumption.

So I have no water to clean my tupperware, because a state 3,000 miles away has overextended its’ water supply. Our city’s environmental problems are not the same as theirs. Of all the inconveniences we should add to our lives, controlling food waste rates a lot higher than unclean hands.

If people weren’t completely asleep at the wheel, there would be tupperware-cleaning station requirements for LEED certification in NYC.

 

Edit: TIL NYLS did not get LEED Certification – they merely complied (i.e., can call themselves “LEED Compliant” – certification is an additional 500,000 dollars of inspections and such, so props to them for forgoing that….

Courtney Stodden has more revolution in her than all of OWS combined

Posted in Uncategorized by a1icey on December 7, 2011

So, this year Courtney Stodden married Doug Hutchinson. And apparently, that’s not very popular. Her name appears on the list of “45 Things We Should Forget About 2011” but not “The Most Powerful Images of 2011.”  And that is fundamentally wrong.

I am being 100% non-facetious here. I’ve been a revolutionary my whole life, and I know quality when I see it. First of all, there’s nothing morally wrong with what she did. In most of the rest of the world, the age of consent is below 16. America has strange puritan roots that have been exacerbated by our reversion to religiosity since the 1950s. We’re an outlier and it is unhealthy. I believe our absurd relationship with sex causes a huge portion of society’s evils, including white collar crime, child abuse, sex trafficking and other social problems that we can’t talk about. People need to stop this love-hate relationship with sex. More importantly, we need to talk openly about this aspect of human existence. Which is where Courtney Stodden comes in. She throws it in your fucking face. She married someone to have sex with him. It’s the ultimate paradox – she took advantage of a marriage law loophole to do something overtly sexual, and all in the name of Jesus Christ Our Lord and Savior, as she proclaims in lisps on every interview. No one can question the Christian validity of her marriage. That’s the hard part – she’s spotless in her execution.

And for that, I think that Courtney Stodden’s marriage deserves acknowledgement as one of the most historically significant events of 2011.

The Summer of Lulz

Posted in Uncategorized by a1icey on July 29, 2011

I support civil disobedience. Civil disobedience is the antidote to Breivik. It lets off the pressure and anxiety that has infected my generation. While studying the First Amendment, I came to realize that the world is safer if angry people express themselves. A large burning cross is a red alert for those who must keep the peace, while importing fertilizers… just means local farm produce.

There are two sides to the movement lead by Lulzsec, recently arrested Mercedes and Topiary, and the thousands of other anonymous activists. On the one hand, there are activists who just want to create havoc, and seem inspired by Fight Club. They are willing to commit minor crimes. For example, they released user information from Sony when they could have made their point without harming the users (who used the same usernames and passwords on other sites, and lost access to email, among other things).  Then there’s the V for Vendetta activists, people who feel isolated in their commitment to ethics and honesty. As so eloquently put by Topiary, voluntary DDoSing should not be considered criminal, because it is the same as sit-ins for physical businesses. We live in an era where there is no central location or public face to our businesses. For these activists, civil disobedience like DDoSing seems like the only way to get their attention.

Half-way around the world, the Russian government has been suppressing their opposition over the last week with the use of – you guessed it – DDoSing. Livejournal is the largest social networking site in Russia, where many political dissidents and purveyors of uncensored ideas are gathering. Time magazine predicts that the DDoSing will continue for the next few months as the election season heats up.

Anarchists talk about the government as a monopoly on force. This is more true in Europe than in America, thanks to the Second Amendment which is still the law in the South West. Our federal government and its lifetime employees are best served by reinforcing this monopoly. HB Gary, a security firm the FBI has hired to try to combat so called “cyber terrorists,” is developing state-sanctioned malware. They’re a private company, but the government has asked them to do what the cyber terrorists do, so it’s legal.  When the federal government becomes involved in criminal law (where they never belonged) be wary of their monopoly on force, which is ever-expanding. It becomes a perfect playground for them to play the paradox to their advantage. They plan to use this particular tool to attack Wikileaks, which presents a threat to the federal government, but not to American citizens.

We are seeing a trend of the protection of the state over the protection of citizens. There are many secrets being kept, and the facebook generation doesn’t believe in secrets. Even outside of our generation, Americans understand that individuals have the right to privacy, but the government certainly does not. By creating these false wars to distract the population, incite fear and limit civil liberties, they can pretend that the exposure of diplomatic cables (of all things) could pose a security risk to citizens. Even 9/11 was not implemented with the use of any secret government information.

I also believe that all this hacking of corporations and governments won’t tell us anything new. Wading through the molasses of bureaucracy may confirm the web of personal allegiances that lead to the distribution of contracts and bail-outs, the head-in-the-sand approach to the torture and interrogation of Iraqis producing pamphlets on corruption (02:35:46 PM on May 23)… but really the government, our overlords, are all trying to look like they are busy, while secretly being really bad at their jobs. There’s not much to uncover and it might be that the V for Vendetta-style protestors are aiming for an empty space.

The underlying problem is that there is a vast, involuntary system of control that has been implemented by people who once were attendees of the Summer of Love, in the name of fear. Their children, a generation brought up on news television full of high-anxiety voices proclaiming the death of this person, the rape of that person, has had enough.  Exposing the sheer lack of danger is perhaps the best antidote. But the FBI and US Attorneys’ Office may have the last laugh, as they ask for longer jail sentences for their most awake, creative and independent citizens than they get for a murderer or a rapist.

So, what created the Summer of Love? An economic recession paired with a baby boom coming of age. And the Summer of Lulz, during another economic recession affecting the echo of that baby boom, forty years later, to reverse what they’ve done to America.

edit to add: This is an extremely valuable resource how to successfully engage in non-violent civil disobedience: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1B2CF32B0727D3EC

second edit: here is an expose of what really happened last summer: http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2012/03/06/hacking-group-lulzsec-swept-up-by-law-enforcement/

third edit: This quotation really captures my whole issue with this area of criminal law: “Currently there are three known classes of players who develop malware and spyware: hacktivists, cybercriminals and nation state.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-18238326

NYLS: NY’s Pariah School of Law

Posted in * by a1icey on July 25, 2011

I’ve felt a little irritated by Matasar’s bland responses to the New York Times article. And plus, he’s defending himself, not the school. And I am sick and tired of being New York’s favorite school to criticize. I’m pretty used to being part of a group with a bad public image (hola, libertarians).  So I want to clarify a few things.

1) There are a lot worse schools out there, but they don’t compete in the same market as T1 so T1 doesn’t bother trashing them. We’re criticized because we are in the picture. So let’s start with that: NYLS, in some way, is important to these people – important enough to devote a lot of energy to heckling us.

2) This article did not criticize the school over any other. It used us as an example, but the article maintained that every other school was just like us. The most damning part of the article was the percentage that goes to the universities’ general pot. We don’t have an affiliated university. Which brings me to…

3) Without a large university behind us, we do not have a lot of leverage in the world of journalism. NYLS is just a law school, and our PR department is no doubt much smaller than the one NYU Law shares with the larger university. We are producing one product, a law degree, instead of the whole range of degrees (if you went to Tisch, and NYU Law was continually trashed by the New York Times during your time there, would you give an interview when you are rich and famous? Hell no.) Lawyers don’t get famous, they don’t get to choose their clients, and they are not trained to have subjective opinions, even about newspapers.

4) I was never under any misapprehension about going here. And you know what? “$150,000 in debt [back to this later], three years of drudgery, and the anxiety of passing a bar exam” is not my experience. I have passionately enjoyed every moment, every class, and every person I have met since I matriculated. Bar our graded, mandatory legal writing class which is the bane of every 1L’s existence, it’s hard to imagine a friendlier, happier law school. And all the people from my posh high school, or my posh university, who have toddled off to to their designer T1? They are seething with hatred about their experience. What does that tell you?

5) It is this precise toxic mixture of sour, empty-achievement mainstream professionals, NYLS’s apparent relevance to their lives, and our lack of PR defenses that lead to our ranking of 135. That ranking is based on a poll of what people think of schools. This gives professors, who have a market interest in protecting their version of Tier One, the ability to drop NYLS as low down the ranking as they want.

6) I will grant the media one thing: this is the real scandal here. Yes, law schools are like Ponzi schemes. If you can’t hack it, you lose a huge amount of money with nothing to show for it. But, that’s a risk I relished in coming here. Business school is a orientation session for the country club. Law school is for competitive, driven people. I’m sort of at a loss as to why that’s so bad.

7) You’d be surprised how people manage to skirt the loans issue. From continuing to work in the evenings and on the weekend (even as a full time student), working construction in the summer, ensuring you have a safety net from a spouse or a benevolent parent if things go south, scholarships, and other things, no one is saying this but a lot of people have been able to keep their costs down. Say what you will about NYLS students being blind to reality, a lot of the students here are graduates of the school of hard knocks. What 20-something needs 160,000 a year, even with NYC taxes and rent? It’s a ludicrous figure. Matasar got something right: if you are in law school for the immediate benefits, you have got it all wrong.

8 ) It all comes down to one thing: everyone at NYLS wants to be here. Or at least, they want to be in law school. That’s evident from the massive risks involved. Some of us didn’t get the opportunity to go to a T1 school, but life without legal training just doesn’t make sense. I know that’s the case for me, and I for one am grateful that there is a school out there willing to provide the service.

And PS: Above the Law? Trying to milk our carpenter’s union dispute for further drama was pretty disgusting.

Municipal Governments Need To Fire Individuals

Posted in Uncategorized by a1icey on June 13, 2011

A topic that is making the rounds lately is how each state government is making budget cuts this year. There’s an interesting range of options. Some states have gotten a lot of attention for their attempts to curb public employee unions. New York State’s initial strategy was rather more docile – they offered early retirement packages to state employees. Similar problems occur at the local level.

I believe no state is doing what should be done, which is firing ineffective individuals on the government’s payroll. Three examples of where this is could help:

My mother teaches at Aguilar Library in Spanish Harlem. Aguilar Library is a public library that provides adult literacy classes, books, and internet resources, among other things. For the truly desperate, it is a resource for writing job applications, warming up in the winter or finding some peace and quiet. Libraries are a catch-all safety net for the many New York City residents that fall through the cracks. To cut their budget, Aguilar Library remains over-staffed, but decreased the number of hours that they are open. Visitors wait outside for the library to open, with nowhere else to go. Another example: New York County arraignments no longer fulfill the 24-hour turn around requirement because night court has been eliminated. Violations can lead to people being held for up to three days.

I worked in the New York County Supreme Court last summer. I sat in on meetings that discussed the retirement packages and several people I met that summer took advantage of it in the fall. The program had a target percentage participation that applied to every state agency uniformly. The court employees felt that it was disproportionately harming them. The judge I worked for was a Judicial Hearing Officer. This role was created because of enforced retirement ages for judges, so that judges who remained sharp and effective could continue working. This judge had at least double the case load of other judges. He ran trials and then heard 15 or more conferences in the evening. He didn’t take any bullshit and he had seen it all. He was very efficient. This spring, because the retirement incentive program didn’t attract enough participants, they discontinued the role of Judicial Hearing Officer, thus retiring this remarkable and infamous judge. It’s so much easier to let go a category of people than actual individuals.

The third example happened in New Jersey. The teaching unions prefer a “last-in, first-out” approach. A friend working for the last two years at a public school in New Jersey was let go last fall under this policy. She was energetic, empathetic, and a sophisticated person. No doubt she was more effective than some burnt out old-timer. Yet they enforced the rule without exception. New York is in the midst of its own dispute about this issue. People think it is so socially acceptable that they are willing to protest in public in large numbers in support of this rule. No one thinks of the customer in the public sector.

Whether it’s unions or a sheer lack of cajones, these employee reduction practices have to stop. What unites all of these tragic inefficiencies is that people really do not like to fire individuals. Yet it happens all the time in the private sector. I have noticed leadership in public agencies tend to be gentle people, not wanting to rock the boat, and certainly far too empathetic for their own good. Because leadership doesn’t require the profit motive, it doesn’t exactly attract strong personalities. In the private sector this would lead to the use of outside consultancy firms, to avoid doing it yourself.

But the problem with state bureaucracies is that it’s more than not knowing how to fire someone. Within them, you begin to make excuses for the problems, you bond with your co-workers, and you become like a litter of pigs happily suckling at the teat of the state. Unlike other professional roles, government jobs still remain lifetime careers. And those satisfied with and able to tolerate the inefficiencies of the system remain and reinforce it. In the private sector, management has a primary task of firing ineffective employees. If you asked a government employee with management responsibilities whether he considered firing incompetent employees to be part of his job description, I imagine his answer would be “no.”

The only way to solve this problem is to ban any alternatives. Budget cuts should not be effected by cutting hours, reversing recent hiring decisions on a purely chronological basis, or by eliminating titles. Department heads should be replaced with hardasses. Failing that, go the consultancy route. Interview each employee. Encourage people to report absences. Require that percentage cuts be met with individual names, that cannot be linked by any categorical bias.

I know the economy has not hit bottom yet. I know this because the flood of municipal bankruptcies has not begun. The placebo of the minor cuts that have occurred are causing damage to the quality of the workforce, and are pitiful in comparison to the size of the problem. This post is an entirely hypothetical conversation. Not only is it remote that any local government could be forced into this practice, they will go into bankruptcy before any action would be taken at their usual pace.

Edited to add:

Here’s our friend Justin Amash standing up for what’s right, while we are on the topic:

just voted no on the LaTourette of OH Amendment to H R 2055, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations. The amendment strips the underlying bill’s block of an executive order that encourages agencies to use project labor agreements. PLAs typically are union agreements that drive up the price of government contracts and discriminate against nonunion work. It passed 204-203.

Against “Traditional Morality” Libertarianism

Posted in Uncategorized by a1icey on June 1, 2011

The other day, scrolling through my blackberry, I came across this status update from Michigan Representative Justin Amash:

just voted yes on the Foxx of NC Amendment 7 to H R 1216, which prohibits funds from going to training doctors to perform abortions (except in response to rape, incest, or life of the mother). It also prohibits funds from going to a teaching health center if the center discriminates against an entity or physician for failure to provide, pay for, or refer for an abortion. The amendment passed 234-182.

I have spoken to many different kinds of libertarians in my lifetime, even inadvertent ones. But most can agree that while taxing and spending distorts free markets, spending that is contingent on details and heavily tailored to interest groups distorts free markets far more. Amash is an amazing politician and a model for small government advocates everywhere. The best thing about him (and the reason I subscribe to his Facebook updates) is that he posts a real-time explanation of every vote that he makes on his page, and invites comments. It’s clear from those comments that his constituency is conservative enough not to care when abortion causes his principles to lapse.

My generation is about to inherit the Libertarian cause in a big way. And there are two things that will change – apocalypticism and traditionalism. Apocalypticism, as an aside, is the expectation and hope for societal collapse. When we as Libertarians make our own story of “the end times” we disempower ourselves from participating in current debate. My concern about traditionalism is philosophically intertwined with that. Traditionalism is the idea that there was once a time of peace and happiness where all men only slept with one woman and babies were a-plenty. This is the future we will return to once all the evil is destroyed in the world through social collapse. This is the mythology, and Libertarians are above mythologies.

Libertarians evaluate themselves on the purity of the ethical basis of their thought. I submit that Traditional Morality Libertarians are engaging in an impure libertarianism. They may be motivated by drawing in the Republican or religious right as donors and subscribers. Or, they may just be old, call me ageist but that’s pretty realistic. Traditionalism, or the mythology that once things were better, is a logical fallacy which older people are prone to. For the sake of argument, traditional morality is not anti-immigration (borders were rarely enforced the way they are now), they are not against homosexuals getting marriage licenses (because that’s not the government’s business), and they’re not hateful people. They simply believe that the best version of society is one woman and one man, married before children are born, engaging as a team to build a future for those children.

My father’s middle name is Keith. Why? Because when Europeans first settled in the South, women constantly died in childbirth. Several generations back, a Townes had three wives, because the first two died. The third wife had the maiden name Keith – Mary Keith of Pendleton (from the History of South Carolina, page 189). This was so prevalent at the time that they formed a system for marking who was the child of which wife – the wife’s maiden name became the child’s middle name, even as late as 1877. So much for one man and one woman!

And these are elites. It would be extremely useful to research at what point in American history the poor and illiterate members of society got marriage licenses, or otherwise formed a legal contract. A brief Wikipedia expedition hints that this only became common in the 1920s in order to exclude mixed-race marriages. So the vast majority of people did not have the luxury of the formality of marriage until very recent times. It seems as though we are trying to enforce what was simply a ritual of the elites on all people.

Traditionally elites protected their women from outside men through “traditional morality” to protect the racial purity of the ruling class. For example, in Sparta, the population was split into citizens and non-citizens. Anyone born of a citizen and a non-citizen was a non-citizen. Women expected to produce citizen children were highly restricted and did not leave the home while they were reproductive. In theory, if she left her home, she could be impregnated and produce a child that would appear falsely to be of a citizen father. Coverings emerged as a way of permitting poorer women to move around while still remaining in her husband’s house. More recently, wives of the ruling class have had to be virgins, to ensure the racial purity.

So I am not sure about these “traditional values and morality” that these pseudo-libertarians espouse. The history books are the record of the elite. But almost everyone else has lived in sin for millennia and we have all turned out okay. Instead of abortion for unwed mothers in Sparta, they simply murdered the child. We have many luxuries in modern life – economies of scale, lower childbirth mortality, and reduced household labor. Women outside the home are no longer de facto prostitutes. We also have a much more visible proletariat – they are literate and they vote and they accumulate wealth. I’m not making a “changed circumstances” argument – I am arguing that things are as they have always been. So when the sight of such loose morals fills you with fear, perhaps try to read between the lines of the history books and figure out how the ordinary person lived.

Accessorize

Posted in Uncategorized by a1icey on May 24, 2011

“Red flocked wallpaper and a Victorian decor set the tone. Pale nervous girls with black-rimmed glasses and blunt-cut hair lolled around on sofas, riffling Penguin Classics provocatively. A blonde with a big smile winked at me, nodded toward a room upstairs, and said, “Wallace Stevens, eh?” But it wasn’t just intellectual experiences-they were peddling emotional ones too. For fifty bucks, I learned, you could “relate without getting too close.” For a hundred, a girl would lend you her Bartok records, have dinner, and then let you watch while she had an anxiety attack.”

Gods of the Hebrew Bible

Posted in Uncategorized by a1icey on November 18, 2010

OR:

Nothing happened next

Posted in Uncategorized by a1icey on May 20, 2010

“Colonel Townes’ public labors and services were not confined to official life. He was a long time one of the leading lawyers of this bar, having begun practicing in 1837 and continued it about thirty years, and was before the war commissioner of equity, an office corresponding to Probate Judge. In 1849 he was elected a member of the State Legislature, but in 1851 was defeated on the co-operation issue by the union men under the leadership of Governor Perry. He was a member of the first State Senate after the war, and in 1867 drew and succeeded in passing a bill defining the property rights of married women, the first law of the kind placed on the statute books of this state.

“Most of his work in public affairs was done with his pen. He was a close, deep and independent thinker and through all his life took much interest in all issues pending before the people, especially in Federal politics. He was one of the earliest editors of the old Mountaineer and was regarded by Mr. Calhoun, who was his close personal friend, as the ablest editorial exponent of his doctrines in the State and probably in the country.

“He wrote and spoke very clearly and vigorously, but with notable courtesy and fairness. He seemed to make it a rule of his life never to speak ill of others and many who have known him well for years can not recall an instance of his saying anything likely to would the feelings of any man. For all that, however, he was fearless and strong in expressing his sentiments. He fought issues and not men and wielded a powerful influence on that line. Of late years he has been especially interested in the administration of Federal finances. Colonel Townes was a man of high tone, of noble purposes and of pure heart. He was above the cheap arts and petty tricks of politics. He sought to sway men by their reasons and gave little attention to small questions and minor issues. He was one of a generation of big men-men big in brain and objects-and his habits of thought and life were in harmony with theirs.”

– Quotation regarding Col. George Franklin Townes from the entry for his son Henry Keith Townes in the History of South Carolina published in 1926 (edited by Yates Snowden and Harry Gardner Cutler).

a 70″ widescreen television

Posted in * by a1icey on March 26, 2010