Blog


Preferential Rent - Aftermath

A day or two after writing the previous entry, I met another long-time tenant in front of the building and asked her if she had received a similar notice announcing the withdrawal of her preferential rent.  She said, no and suggested that I speak to the mating agent since it might be an error.  I called the Managing Agent’s office and after receiving an initial determination that I might have misinterpreted the Lease Rider’s language, received a call back reporting that “Ya-da ya-da, long time tenant, ya-da ya-da, we’re sending you a substitute Preferential Rent Rider with the original language that had been used for the last 20 years.  An error? A reaction? I don’t know.


Are NYC Landlords (Or At Least Mine) Retaliating for the 1% Rent Guideline?

Background: For those of you who do not live in New York, a good portion of the rental housing market in buildings six units or larger is subject to some form of rent regulation.  Among the privately-owned housing stock most post-war buildings are regulated under a system called Rent Stabilization in which a Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) composed of “landlord,” “tenant,” and “public” members appointed by the Mayor votes on an allowable maximum rent increase based on rather profressional research performed the RGB staff.  Every year the public hearings leading  to the Board’s vote are a bit less civil than a circus and every year the RGB determines that an increase of at last 2% is justified for one-year leases and often 3-5%.  Actual rent also depends on how much the owner has invested in the building since capital improvements result in an incremental “base rent” increase that is permanent.  

In Manhattan and some parts of Brooklyn and Queens regulated rents are usually lower than market rents, which is what you might assume.  But owners who operate well within the regulated system maintain their buildings well, get base rent increases resulting from capital improvements have rather high base rents regardless of this year’s rent guideline.  In parts of the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens there are many buildings which have “Maximum Base Rent” that is higher than what the landlord can get on the market in that neighborhood.  I know it’s not the urban legend of New York City rent regulation based on movies and TV with people living in Manhattan in huge apartments paying a pittance.  Not true much any more.

When a landlord can’t get market rent that equals the Maximum Base Rent, the owner agrees to a  lower “Preferential Rent” that is limited to that particular tenancy or even limited to that one- or two-year lease.  That has been my case, and probably the case for most people in my building, for years.

The current story: When my rent renewal package arrived this week, in addition to being offered a one-year lease with a 1% increase or a two-year lease with a 2.7% increase I was informed that after this next lease the landlord would be withdrawing the Preferential Rent and increasing rent to the Maximum Base Rent.  This represents a 27% rent increase.

Now, I’m not even totally sure that the landlord can do this since my previous leases have not stated that the Preferential Rent is limited to the current lease but if if he can either I’ll pay it or i’ll move.

The interesting question is, after 21 years, why now?  Perhaps the landlord has decided that he can now collect the MBR, but rents in this neighborhood and my observations of recent arrivals - not attorneys, investment bankers or other professionals - suggest this is not likely.  

Is it just a coincidence that this coincides with the RGB issuing the lowest rent guideline in history?  The new Mayor and others campaigned for no increase and the approved 1% is the lowest guideline in history.  I’m generally not someone who believes in coincidences.  

I’ll be interested to see how this all plays out.

I also apologize for not including a detailed commentary on New York’s system of rent regulation, which is far more complicated and strange than any ideological perspective of the issue.

New Mexico: San Fidel, Grants and Crownpoint

Right after picking up the rental car at the ABQ Sunport I drove west toward Grants, intending to visit Guadalupe Vineyards in San Fidel which is located about midway.  Guadalupe is the only vineyard along the route or in that portion of New Mexico.  The vineyard is about a 1.5 mile drive down a gravel road from I-40 and when I arrived they were closed.  After turning around and starting to drive back down the gravel road to I-40 a deer (or antelope) doe jumped across the road about 20 feet in front of me.  Not a close call, but startling in it's beauty. 

I returned the next day and spent an hour or so with Antonio Trujillo, the co-proprietor (with his wife, Lucinda) of Guadalupe Vineyards.  Oh yes, they have a German Shepherd who produced the contractually-required show of territoriality and then settled down into friendly and snoozy mode.  They produce several hundred cases each of dry Rielsing, Gewürztraminer, Muscat and a white table wine.  It's really fine stuff but unfortunately it's not available in New York nor do they ship here.  If you're traveling by they are a short drive from Exit 100 off I-40.  Their phone number is (505) 552.0082.  While they had a website at www.guadalupe.com before my trip, the site is not active as I write this.

It's a beautiful place near the foot of Mount Taylor and receives its water from an acequia fed from s spring originating from the mountain.  

On the drive back after the visit a horse came trotting up the road toward me and then turned and circled a few yards in front of me before continuing on its way.  

Guadalupe Vineyards 2
Guadalupe Vineyards 3


I don't urge people to visit Grants.  It's not a horrible place, the people are fine and the scenery surrounding the town is wonderful, but there isn't much there.  It had lumber booms and mining booms. The dry climate and supply of available space means that the failed businesses of the 1990's, 1980's etc. are still sitting there, boarded up and sitting as mute testimony to the whatever percent of businesses that fail.  

If you're visiting the Crownpoint Navajo Rug Auction you have limited options for overnight accommodations.  Grants and Gallup are the closet population centers to the east and west.  There's a Mining Museum in Grants, which is in pretty urgent need of an update but still worth a visit and the town is worth a short car tour.  There are several good places to eat: El Cafecito, WOW Diner, and the La Ventana Steakhouse.

Grants - Hotel Looking East


One of the draws of New Mexico is the mix of cultures and with that, crafts handmade by regional Indian nations.  One of the best places to buy crafts is the monthly Navajo Rug Action held at the elementary school in Crownpoint, a community of about 2,700 on the Navajo Reservation.  In addition to the auction of rugs and weavings, there are 10-20 crafts people who set up tables in the school's corridor selling jewelry, pottery and other forms of crafts. The 40-minute drive from I-40 to Crownpoint is stunning and worth the trip by itself, but the monthly event is a great opportunity to buy crafts from the people who actually created them, providing them with the full benefit of the sale and a reasonable price for you.

Road to Crownpoint 3
Waiting to Enter Rug Weaver Auction




Health Care Reform

I have to admit that a primary reason I was attracted to "Health Care Reform: What It Is, Why It's Necessary,How It Works" (Jonathan Gruber, Illustrated by Nathan Schreiber, Hill and Wang, 2011 http://us.macmillan.com/healthcarereform/JonathanGruber ) is that it's a comic. Sort of.  Someone wisely decided that this format might do a better job of communicating this complex subject to a wider audience.  Less dry, more nourishing.  While the health care debate has often been reduced to the charge that the mandate for everyone to purchase health insurance is or isn't an overreach of Federal power, of course the issue is far more complex.  The real issues are what we expect from health insurance and the consequences of not dealing with an increasingly-large uninsured or under-insured population.  While this 150-page book isn't completist, the fact that it takes a 150-page "comic" to explain the entire issue is a better indication of how complex the subject really is.  

Drawing people to that complexity and the need to address the underlying issues helps to separate the goals from a simple debate over the means, and challenges the reader to decide how they would address the underlying problems if not through The Affordable Care Act.  That isn't Gruber's primary purpose since this book is clearly meant as an explanation and defense of the Affordable Care Act, but forcing the reader to face the underlying problems begs the question of what means they would use other than a mandate for universal insurance.  Gruber honestly points out policy points that the Act only begins to address, that will inevitably require fine tuning over time or will remain as unresolved issues.  I think he's a bit less honest about a couple of issues, most prominently his claim that reducing employer health care costs will free up money for higher salaries.  Maybe, but it might also free up money for expansion of businesses, or increasing profits. His presentation of this argument might seen to make tactical sense as he's trying to communicate to wage earners reading the book but for others it may simply be presented as his anti-market motivations.  I also wonder if he passed too quickly though the subject of tax liability for high-cost insurance plans and its impact on civil servants and other union members.

He does not spend much of the book debating the universal mandate issue. Where he does one of his arguments that I particularly enjoyed  is that the proposed mandate for everyone to have health insurance is not a new policy since people are already required to have liability insurance if the own or drive a car.   As a general concept I think this is an important argument, particularly because the requirement for auto liability is based on your potential impact on others.  It's far from a perfect argument since auto insurance requirements are based on state rather than Federal law and vary from state to state.  They are also not universal since if you don't drive a car it's not required and if you don't own a car it's required only when you drive.  I think these are distinctions of minor importance for the larger issue, but they're worth noting.

You can certainly find books that will cover the arguments over the Affordable Care Act in greater detail but all of those are more likely to induce slumber. Gruber at least makes an important but dry subject a bit entertaining.  But only a bit entertaining. There are no monsters,  no superheroes and it won't be turned into a summer movie. 



New World Mall - Flushing

I finally got around to visiting today a year after the place opened.  Although there are a lot of small shops over three or four floors I was there primarily for the food court and Jmart, the predominantly Asian megamart.  

The food court is much like any mall food court, except there aren't any of the usual fast food chains but instead three or four different places selling hand-pulled fresh noodle variations, foods from several regions of China, Japan, Vietnam and whoever came up with bubble tea types that God did not intend.  I had some great noodles with spicy chicken, fresh veggies and herbs from "Sliced Noodles" and a pork Bahn Mi from Pho Bac.  There are dozens of choices.

There are at least three major Asian supermarkets in downtown Flushing with Jmart being the largest and newest.  I didn't but any seafood on this visit but the seafood section was AWESOME.  Very fresh, very crowded, lots of choices.  I cook many kinds of food but I like Asian cuisines since they offer a wide variety of tastes, textures and Jmart had almost everything I wanted.  The only things I couldn't find were Drangonfruit, Custard Apples and some other  specialty fruit.  When I advanced to the checkout cashier she looked over my  purchases, rang them up, and asked, "So, your wife is Chinese?"  "Regrettably no," I answered. "But you know all these foods?"  "Yeah, mostly. And that's for thinking i have a Chinese wife."  Navigating social graces over black chicken and egg tofu.  

   

The Big Book of Megadeath

One of the books I'm finishing right now is especially strange.  It's difficult to put down even though it's an historical summary of humanity's greatest hits of killing each other off. The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of History's 100 Worst Atrocities is Matthew White's compendium of "multicide" through history.  While the book's primary appeal may be to amateur history nerds, his treatment and subject matter should also interest anyone who wonders about exactly how crazy the human race is nowadays, as compared to "the good old days."

He writes well and alternates between a very serious narrative and occasional asides with a twisted sense of humor.  The humor is directly mostly at human weaknesses and incompetence, as in:

"Some historians say that the Crusades drove a wedge between Christianity and Islam that still exists to this day, but let's be realistic. Neither or these religions gets along with anybody."

"The Huns camped across the Danube and raided into Roman Pannonia (western Hungary) for a quick pillage now and then to keep in practice."

"A firm Christian, Theodosius outlawed paganism and transferred the title of supreme pontiff (high priest) from the emperor to the bishop of Rome. He put a stop to pagan rituals like Olympic Games and allowed Christian mobs to destroy ancient shrines such as Serapeum, which was part of the library complex in Alexandria. The sacred flame of the Vestal Virgins in Rome was extinguished after a thousand years of careful tending.  Pagans warned that this would anger the  gods and bring nothing but trouble.  Apparently they were right." (From the section Fall of the Western Roman Empire)

The reader can obsess too much about The List itself and White readily acknowledges that his list provides plenty of grist for debate and complaint.  For example, while he has important separate sections on The Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide and the Bosnian War, on The List the Holocaust is included within World War Two, the Armenian killings in World War One and the Bosnian War of the 1990's not at all.  The reason for this treatment, in part, is that recent events that hold an emotional attachment for us are not necessarily more important than even larger events from the past.  There may also be a valid debate over large numbers of people killed over decades as compared to a similar number killed over a shorter period of time.  These are all worthwhile debates but the List is not really the point, more of a gimmick.  

He also has fascinating things to say about how well, or not, history can know the number of deaths from events many hundreds or thousands of years old.  Debates over census results, archaeological findings and other methods make for interesting reading, again, mostly for the amateur history nerd.  The changing bias of historians over time and paradigm shifts are thrown in as well.

Part of what he's doing is to address or challenge some common ideological biases: lefties claiming that fascism is the root of all violence, rightists making the same claim for state socialism and the argument that says that "more people have been killed in the name of Jesus Christ…"  It should be noted that religion in general does not come off well in this story and in particular we're reminded that the Catholic Church has quite a few sins to atone for over the centuries.  China's reputation for "thousands of years of 'civilization'" also suffers unless you consider a series of civil and regional wars as civilized behavior.  He also makes a strong point that civilians suffer more than combatants in most wars and that the collapse of government order and civil organization can be as lethal as swords and bullets during a war.

I don't think his purpose is to argue that humans are marginally less bloody now than they were in past centuries but that may be the most interesting discussion this book may generate.  People who are not world historians or at least amateur versions tend to forget, or never even know, the sorry state of events in past centuries much less millennia, much less eastern cultures versus western.  It's well worth discussion.  Hopefully, the book breeds more people with some level of consciousness about history.

New York Times Review

For those of us who like the nice pictures instead of words...

Cashing in Another Installment of My 15 Minutes of Fame

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/17749196/0299_pipeline.pdf

Chinese Clay Pot

I traveled to downtown Flushing on Friday to do some pantry shopping (shrimp paste, dried squid, dried shrimp, fresh lemongrass, fresh noodles) and to search for a Chinese style clay pot.  What's a clay pot, at least as it relates to Asian cooking?  It's a traditional method of slow cooking that differs from the western "dutch oven" or casserole dish by being capable of stove top cooking under low heat as well as oven service.  Some argue that even used in the oven it's better than western ceramic cooking options due to better heat transfer.  That seems questionable but a far more interesting question is whether its better than cast iron that can be used both stove top and in the oven.  We'll see about that, although the clay pot is a lot lighter than anything cast iron.  The clay pot, however, will break without too much problem and will crack if used on high heat on a stove top.

We'll see. The first attempt will probably be a Vietnamese catfish dish.

In the meantime, later today I'll be adapting the great recipe for Vietnamese Five Spice Burgers to turkey:

Vietnamese Five-spice Pork Burgers

Traditional Vietnamese sandwiches, made with deli meats and baguettes, are hard to beat, but this burger has done it! Tangy and sweet carrot and daikon pickles are a great addition to the juicy, flavorful pork burgers. The pâté spread on a buttered, grilled bun is pure luxury. Every component of this burger has a separate role (i.e. the cucumbers cool your tongue from the heat of the jalapeños), which is why nothing should be left out. When put together, they create a beautifully colorful burger that's incredibly innovative and traditional at the same time.

These burgers can also be served on baguettes, if preferred, in which case, the patties should be formed into oblong shapes. Hamburger buns are a bit softer and easier to manage, which is why I've chosen them for this recipe. If available, buy a peppercorn pâté, which adds a great hint of black pepper to the burger.

Ingredients

Pickled Daikon and Carrot

1 1/2 cups julienned daikon

1 1/2 cups julienned carrot

3/4 cup distilled white vinegar

3/4 cup sugar

Patties

2 lbs. ground pork

6 cloves garlic, minced

2 jalapeño chiles, seeded and diced

1 tablespoon minced ginger

2 tablespoons Vietnamese fish sauce (nuoc man)

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon Chinese 5-spice powder

2 tablespoons sugar

Zest and juice of 1 lime

2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, for brushing on the grill rack

6 good-quality sesame-seed hamburger buns, split

6 tablespoons salted butter, softened

6 tablespoons mayonnaise

6 tablespoons spreadable pork or liver pâté

1 English cucumber, thinly sliced

2 jalapeño chiles, thinly sliced

18 fresh cilantro sprigs

Method

To make the pickled daikon and carrot, combine the daikon, carrot, vinegar, and sugar in a bowl, tossing well to coat. Set aside to marinate. Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover, or preheat a gas grill to medium-high. To make the patties, combine the pork, garlic, diced chiles, ginger, fish sauce, soy sauce, 5-spice powder, sugar, and lime zest and juice in a bowl, mixing well to incorporate. Divide the mixture into 6 portions and form into round patties. Brush the grill rack with vegetable oil. Place the patties on the rack and grill for 6 to 7 minutes per side, until cooked through. Turn the patties 90 degrees halfway through cooking on each side, to attain grill marks. Spread the cut side of each bun half with 1/2 tablespoon butter and grill until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Spread 1 tablespoon of the mayonnaise on the cut side of each bun bottom and 1 tablespoon of the pâté on the cut side of each bun top. Place the patties on the bun bottoms and top with the cucumber and chile slices. Drain the carrot and daikon pickles and pile a generous amount atop each patty. Add the cilantro sprigs and the pate-smeared bun tops. Enjoy!

Servings: 6

Source: Viet World


Obligatory Cute Cat Photos

Ginger Serious

Ginger is Serious About Something


IMG_0054

Cat Thoughtful


"Hydrofracking"

There's been quite a bit of debate in New York State over advanced methods of extracting natural gas from shale and similar formations.  It involves pumping a lot of water and chemicals underground to purge the gas out of the rock and out to the surface.  Not surprisingly, this has raised concerns over water use and contamination of groundwater and aquifers.  Water utilities are nervous and environmentalists and generally opposing the practice, at least within proximity to water supply aquifers.

Most of the articles that have appeared have not provided much of a detailed technical overview of the practice.  An article from the American Water Works Association's "Opflow" magazine does a pretty good job.  

Buffy Quote of the Week

[Spike can't bite people because a chip has been implanted in his brain which causes great pain if he tries.  If you know the show then you'll already know this]

Spike: I don't understand. This sort of thing has never happened to me before.

Willow: Maybe you were nervous.

Spike: I felt all right when it started. Well let's try it again.

[Spike tries to bite Willow and backs off screaming in pain]

Spike: Damn it! What's wrong with me?

Willow: Maybe you're trying too hard. Doesn't this happen with every vampire?

Spike: Not to me it doesn't!

Willow: It's me isn't it?

Spike: What are you talking about?

Willow: Well you came here looking for Buffy, and settled.  I just happened to be around.

Spike: Piffle!

Willow: I know I'm not the kind of girl vamps like to sink their teeth into. It's always, "ooo, you're like a sister to me," or "oh, we're such good friends."

Spike: Don't be ridiculous. I'd bite you in a heartbeat.

Willow: This doesn't make you any less scary.

Spike: Don't patronize me! I'm only 126 years old!

Willow: You're being too hard on yourself. Why don't we wait half an hour and try again?


Red Hook Park and Food Vendors

Today's journey took me to the Red Hook portion of Brooklyn to meet S.J. Rozan followed by Manny and Eileen for lunch at the string of food trucks along Bay Street.  Red Hook Park is composed of several city blocks of soccer, baseball and cricket fields where thousands of people come to play every weekend.  Many of them are immigrants from Mexico, Central and South American countries and for years a group of food vendors have set up shop along Bay Street and the intersection of Bay and Clinton Streets.  Fresh-cooked foods from Mexico, El Salvador, Columbia, Ecuador, Chile and Guatemala have been a feature for several years now. The vendors started out with outdoor grilles and coolers in some cases but all have now evolved into full food truck operations. Each of them is described on their web page

Getting There

If you're in Brooklyn just go south on Smith, Court, Clinton or Henry Streets to Bay Street. The B57 bus runs into the neighborhood; the Carroll Street and Smith/9th Street F/G stops are nearby.  Check travel advisories for these subways on the weekend.  The Smith/9th station has been closed for renovations and the G train is, well, the G train.  I walked the two miles from downtown Brooklyn on Smith Street in part because Brooklyn is always cool and in part because I really really need the exercise. On the way I found that Smith Street from Pacific to Bergen was closed to vehicular traffic as the neighborhood was celebrating Bastille Day several days early. Actual Bastille Day is, of course July 14, which is also Matthew Chachere's birthday. Happy Birthday Matthew!  In any case, your homework assignment for Bastille Day is to watch "Casablanca" and learn the words to La Marseillaise.  If you never have, read the lyrics.  When the French write a battle song, they don't frack around.

There were a series of playing areas set up on Smith Street for people playing pentanque, which is French variation on bocce, or perhaps both are variations of boule.  

IMG_0034


Chili Mixes

A friend texted me recently asking for a chili recipe.  I provided a recipe from scratch, which is dependent on finding a source of good dried chiles (Ancho, New Mexican and others) instead of the "chili powder" you'll usually find in the megamart's spice rack.

Although "scratch" is best, there are a few good quality mixes that use very good spices and high quality chiles. Some are based on award-winning chile recipes: Cin Chili, Happy Trails (somewhat more cumin taste than other mixes), and another yummy product that might be particularly suited for nostalgic conservatives, or anyone who likes good chili, The Senator's Chili Mix by Goldwater's, owned by Barry's daughters and granddaughter. You may also find these occasionally in specialty marts. Pepperheads in Port Jefferson carries Cin Chili. Wegman's carries Goldwater's products.  An honorable mention goes to Ass Kickin', which is a delicious mix, but assumes the use of beans. I am a purist.  Onion, garlic, meat, spices.  Of course if you're a vegetarian, beans and tofu will work out just fine.

Ongoing Series: Buffy Quote of the Week

Willow: I knew it! I knew it! Well, not in the sense of having the slightest idea, but I knew there was something I didn't know.

Migrating to a New Mac

OK, I am one of those smug Mac owners who can be heard at work occasionally saying, "This wouldn't happen if we were using Macs."  Well, it's true.  Although Windows XP and Windows 7 have moved that platform beyond "annoying and dysfunctional," Windows still trails OSX in features, ease-of-use and stability.  

That's not the point of this entry. My first iMac was from the 2006-2007 generation and I purchased a new one in May.  Apple has a very useful utility called The Migration Assistant that automates movement of all of your stuff (or less if you prefer) from your old machine to a new one.  For 95% of situations it works perfectly and seamlessly.  In a few cases the programs involved had different ideas.  My copy of MS Office supports up to three machines.  It wanted the new machine to be registered separately.  There may be a way to transfer registration from one Mac to another but its something you might want to explore before you perform a migration. There were one or two small programs that required re-entry of license numbers. I'm not sure why but it's a reason to keep those emails they send you with your license number.

Otherwise, a routine process.

BTW, why buy a new iMac?  Back in 2006-2007 IMacs came with only 1 GB or RAM and could not be expanded beyond 3 GB. While all of my software ran on 1 GB or my expanded 3 GB, more RAM, in any computer, will improve speed and performance and the Activity Monitor indicated that I was moving into the red zone at times.  There's always the issue of Speed Lust. Coincidentally, at about the same time I made one of my extremely rare game purchases, Portal 2. After I installed that I learned that while I had enough RAM and a sufficient processor to run that high-end simulation, my graphics card didn't make the grade.  That didn't influence the purchase of a new iMac, which was already decided, but it turned out to be the only piece of software that was unable to run on my old iMac.

Thin Skin and Promotion Without Principles (Channeling Abe Simpson)

I've been working in New York City government since 1992 after working in both the private and non-profit sectors and an activist life that includes work that I think made some difference.  When I began working for the city I largely ended my links to activist organizations for reasons originating in both those organizations and NYCDEP.

Generally, I have welcomed constructive criticism of DEP from activist organizations since government benefits from people pushing it along and engaging in a debate over public policy.  People in government have a bias informed by their organizational roles and the very real limitations of government itself and New York City government in particular.  We also have no monopoly on information or Truth. Being on the receiving end of public discourse benefits both sides in the conversation.  Having said that, of course, some people, some in elected office, are jerks.

Perhaps my favorite example goes back quite a few years when I learned that an NGO had created A Citizen's Guide to the Sewershed, a pretty unique and pretty technically substantial volume aimed at raising people's understanding of their connection to infrastructure as it affects the environment and their everyday lives.  I think it's a volume that should have been created by government and it's so cool that it was produced by an NGO, and to be honest, an indvidual, the awesome Kate Zidar.  There are times when activist organizations are a bit over simplistic in their statements, as in the oft-quoted claim that Combined Sewer Overflows occur every time it rains in New York City, which simply isn't true and does not contribute to an understanding of the very local nature of the CSO problem. But no one agrees on everything, people debate endlessly about tactics and strategy and the NGO's mostly make a great contribution to both the public debate and the public's understanding of important issues.

Yet I found myself surprisingly bothered, even irritated, by recent statements by former Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez to a Huffington Post environmental interviewer that New York City has a 30% unaccounted-for water rate, suggested that meant leakage and stated that "they have no idea where the water is going."  All of these statements have no basis in fact, are misleading, or both.  There are several reasons to think that I am taking this too seriously. First, even if his example was incorrect and hurtful, he was using it to argue for repair and maintenance of public infrastructure.  Second, I am a long time fan of New Mexico, and Albuquerque in particular and spend some time there every year, so I don't like thinking that the former progressive Mayor of Albuquerque is acting irresponsibly.  The counter argument to that, of course, is "politician...no qualms about over stating his case or just making things up...what else is new?" and in fact Albuquerue has a history of poorly controlled development that makes Long Island look good by comparison.  For an interesting commentary on that issue see, "Albuquerque: A City at the End of the World." What irked me was that he wasn't speaking as an objective commentator but as the leader of an NGO who was trying to gain publicity (i.e., raise money) for his organization.  Now he could have presented a factual critique that would have made the same point, but he chose to take the "low road".

Activists on both the "left" and "right" often maintain a self image of being objective, without the financial conflicts they project onto elected and appointed officials.  Not only do individuals occasionally influence citizen organizations to take positions that directly or indirectly benefit them but far more commonly, organizations raise funds by misleading donors about their level of involvement in a particular issue.  

Martin Chavez was discussing an issue that has a direct and active association with his NGO's activities and it's clear to me that raising funds on that issue is completely legit.  Some organizations seem to have few scruples, raising funds based not on their involvement in an issue but its perceived popularity.  Locally this can be seen on the issue of advanced natural gas development.  There have been several environmental organizations, local, regional and national, that have been involved in urging a critical, or at least objective review of these plans to ensure that development will not have an impact on water supplies.  There are also a few organizations that have had relatively little active involvement in the issue and certainly not a leadership position yet are very actively raising funds suggesting they have been actively involved.

Beyond that there is the question of to what extent NGOs' action agendas are based on a relatively objective assessment of the importance of different issues or their economic viability.  A counter argument would be an NGO Executive Director or Development Director noting, "Yo! Doofus. You try running a non-profit organization in this economy. Or any economy."  True but it doesn't change the dilemma, only justify individual decisions.

End of rant. Hopefully I'll be more coherent most of the time.



Bye-bye MobileMe

Those of you who don't follow the evolution of Apple won't know that they are retiring their website creation software, iWeb and the web hosting services that Apple has provided through their MobileMe service. This means that in the next year those of us who have been using MobileMe need to pull up stakes and go elsewhere.  For me, the first step was to find a new website creation package, in this case Sandvox, and then a new web hosting service.  More on both of these later.


© Warren Liebold 2011