New York State & Airbnb

Did you ever see the 2002 movie Minority Report with Tom Cruise? It is a great film with a brilliant premise which is that  it is better to stop a crime before it ever happens. Tom Cruise plays a police officer in a unit called “The Pre-Crime Task Force.”  With the aid of super psychics, they use their abilities to stop crimes just prior to their commission.

precrime

Once notified by the psychics, the police officers arrest the perpetrators before the crime is committed and incarcerate the “criminals”  before they can take action. So, even though they’ve committed no actual crimes, they are still sent to prison.

The “intent” was all that mattered.

Although it’s a science fiction movie and takes place in the “future” you’re left with the impression that the idea is far fetched and could never happen. That is….until now.

Just last week Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York State, signed a bill making it illegal to advertise your home for short-term rentals on websites like Airbnb. So, even though you might not ever rent your space, the sheer fact of publicizing your intent to rent will run you afoul of the law. Like pre-crime, you don’t even have to rent out your unit to get into trouble.  You just need the intent. No it’s not science fiction…its New York State.

As it stands, New York already has a law on the books making it illegal to rent out your home, or rooms, to short term tenants. The state also has heavy handed condo Boards that rule and restrict New York real estate associations. Most of them have stringent measures that forbid short term rentals.

The penalties to advertise carry up to a $7500 fine. Seem egregious? Yes…when D.W.I fines in N.Y range from $500 to $5,000 dollars and reckless driving fines are only $300 dollars! These are fine for actual crimes not an intent to commit one.

The fact is, Airbnb solved a huge issue for visitors to N.Y.  New York, especially New York City, has some of the highest hotel rates in the world along with some of the highest hotel occupancy rates. It is hard to find a hotel room that rents for less than $200 a night in New York City, so cheaper alternatives were needed.

Companies such as Airbnb filled a need. It’s not like New York City isn’t benefiting. Airbnb generated over $400 million dollars for New York City property owners last year.  So, at face value, it would seem everybody would be better off by having Airbnb in New York.  Hotels still have high occupancy rates that are not being negatively effected and property owners can generate additional income while having visitors enjoy a better experience. Finally, even the politicians get their tax slice of the $400 million.

Now those benefits are gone.

The reason why Airbnb was barred was alleged to be “safety reasons.” This seems always to be the justification of every action the government takes.  The statement read, “The government must ensure that all buildings comply with fire, building and other safety codes relative to their class.”

Give me a break!

I lived in New York City. You can barely walk down the street without obtaining a multitude of permits. Now, all of a sudden, those rental properties built over the years somehow slipped through licensing and zoning agency purview and were built without the government’s oversight in the first place? Please.
 
State Senator Liz Krueger issued a statement in favor of the law, calling it “a huge victory for regular New Yorkers over the interests of a thirty-billion dollar corporation.” Really?  The majority of Airbnb’s profits flow to individuals. In fact, the company Airbnb has lost billions of dollars since it was founded. It has never generated a profit. The platform was designed for individual parties to benefit, not corporations. Senate Liz Kruger is a liar for saying something so blatantly false and misleading!

So this “victory” is actually one for the power brokers and against regular New Yorkers…ordinary people who use the site to generate extra income and help make ends meet. These people will now lose that needed extra income.

With stupidity like this so pervasive in government, especially in N.Y., it’s no wonder why people are leaving the state. Since the 2010 census  653,071 people have left the state. This was the largest decrease of any state, both in absolute terms and as a percentage of estimated population since the start of the decade.

The Empire State doesn’t say why residents are leaving, but we can think of several possible reasons: high taxes, high unemployment upstate, high housing costs in the city, and a large (and corrupt) bureaucracy—for starters.

Ironically, New York City already has the infrastructure within the surveillance state to “detect” pre-crime…not unlike the world which “Minority Report” portrayed.  So it should not come as a shock that in real life, and in real time, the bureaucrats and administrators are already writing laws that will allow them to impose upon New Yorkers what they obviously thought was a darn good plot.

Truly scary stuff.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

Boredom and the Digital Age

When I was a young kid I spent my summer months by myself in Ecuador.

boredom

Well that is not entirely true.  I stayed with my grandparents. But, since my grandmother was bedridden and my grandfather spent all day at work, I was left on my own.

My day began at 7am and from that point on I was on my own. I had no friends and nobody to play with. All of my cousins were at school so I only saw them on Sundays.  Being away from home,  I had none of my usual toys to entertain me.

Those years were pre-internet. TV was out of the question because there were only three channels anyway and the TV was in my grandmother’s room. I was really left up to my own devices so I learned how to deal with silence and boredom and how to entertain myself.

I grew up in boredom and know how to use it. That experience taught me how to work independently and without much guidance.  Its fair to say that the seeds of my independence were born during those years..

Now, I look at my children and see that they have no periods of boredom. They are continually connected through their phones, computers, video games and streaming companies such as Hulu and Netflix. I do limit their use but its an ongoing battle.

My oldest child is really a fan of pop culture and will “binge watch” shows for hours on end. I know this is bad for her and have implemented ways to budget her time; yet, she still finds a way to watch her shows. I am not alone on this. Many of my friends’ parents have expressed their dismay at the amount of time their children spend on electronic devices.

Admittedly, all of these mediums have some benefits to them if used in the proper context. However, I personally fell that, in the end, these new tools can become vices that seductively lure us away from a meaningful life. Boredom never enters into the minds of children today simply because they are forever being entertained. That quiet space where self-direction and creativity are born is disappearing.

Boredom trained me to become patient and to allow things to unfold naturally.

When I was in the Marine Corps, we had to do one particular training on how to plot ambushes.  An ambush is a tactic where the attacker hides him/herself and waits for the enemy to walk into its trap. One emphasis of the exercise was to stay in position, motionless, for hours on end. Regardless of the weather conditions, bodily needs and mental state, we had to learn to stay quiet and still without moving. Even the Marine Corps, which prides itself on its aggressiveness, understood the need to be silent and still for long periods of time in order to be successful in war…even if t iss maddeningly boring!

My tenure as a professional bond trader also required immense patience. One of the main skills needed was the ability to watch computer screens for hours on end in order to identify subtle price movements  It was not uncommon for me to spend eight hours a day glued to my screen, unable to leave my desk, because of the demands of the job. Many times, the days were tedious and the work grueling; but, I was self-trained in knowing I could sit there and do the work. Part of the job was to sit, watch and pounce like a tiger when price aberrations appeared on the screen. The success only came to the traders who had the ability to watch and wait for long periods of time, the ones who could handle boredom, and be there in the moment to seize the opportunity when it arose.

I am not so sure that our devices and our culture are forming the types of people who can sit down and do the grueling  work that is needed to accomplish so many necessary aspects of productivity.

Take the classic song Hallelujah written and performed by Leonard Cohen which was released in 1984 and never found an audience. The reason was that the first iteration of the song was not very good and Cohen knew it. But he also he knew the song contained seeds of greatness.  Cohen would not relent. He went over and over the song. He picked at it and picked at it n an effort to refine it. For him it never became a hit. And yet other artists saw the beauty and power within the song and, for years fiddled, with it for years. For years. It wasn’t until an artist named Jeff Buckley shortened the song and edited the lyrics that it became a hit. That was 15 years after Leonard Cohen wrote it.

“Hallelujah” is now considered one of the greatest songs of all time. Some songwriters call it one of the top ten songs of all time. One of the reasons that the song is considered great is because of the sheer amount of effort by various artists over the years who took the time, and exhibited the patience, to do the work. They studied, played and tinkered until a masterpiece was emerged.

Think about it. A five minute song took 13 years to create.

Admittedly, I too have been affected by this digital age. I’ve wasted plenty of time on my phone knowing the time was being misused. But at least I have a point of reference.  I have something against which to measure myself..all those years when I learned the value of downtime.

All of these terrific companies that have been created over the last few years such as Facebook, Instagram and Snap Chat are a testament to the genius of their creators; yet, there was a “method to their madness.”  They were designing systems and processes to grab your attention so you’d waste your time on their platforms and to their economic gain.

Slavery comes in many forms.

Steve

sleeclark@gmail.com

 

 

The Trumps and The Clintons Have a Sex Problem

Even Huma Abedin knows when its time to leave a pervert.

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I find it inconceivable that there is so much indignation, righteous and otherwise, over the latest tapes released of Donald Trump’s bravado in trash talking about women. Its who he is. He has made no efforts to present himself otherwise.  In fact, when asked early in the campaign if he, as a Christian, had ever asked God for forgiveness his reply was ,”No because I’ve never done anything I needed to be forgiven for.” Not even ceremoniously groping a woman’s crotch and breasts, without permission, rates as an act Trump feels is in need of his seeking forgiveness from God… or from the woman for that matter.

I find his discussions and references to his daughter’s body particularly disturbing. I watched Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. What I found incredible and deeply disturbing was how, at its conclusion, when Ivanka walked out on stage to congratulate him, he grabbed her by the hips and pulled her into him as a man does with a woman with whom his is being, or intends to be, intimate. It was such an inappropriate way for a father to touch a daughter; yet, it was automatic and seemingly natural to them both.

But let’s not cast too shallow a net.

Bill Clinton is a rapist at worst and a sex addict at best.  I believe Juanita Broderick, Kathleen Willey, Jennifer Flowers, Paula Jones and whoever else says they were accosted and or assaulted or raped by him. I believe them the same way I believe all those women who came out against Bill Cosby. The numbers are too great and the stories too similar. Besides, I met Bill Clinton when he was running for President at an “invitation only” fundraiser. I spoke with him for about two minutes as we shook hands. He held onto mine the entire time. In that two minute conversation I felt undressed in public. I even returned to our table and said to my then husband, “I feel as if I have just been seduced and undressed with someone’s eyes.” I wasn’t reading anything into it at the time other than my personal experience. All the stories of his sleazy behavior were not yet in the public domain.

I also remember the Clinton Presidency when, driving our then grammar school age daughter to and from school, I had to monitor the car radio in case news came on and words like “oral sex” and “semen stains” became everyday vocabulary.

Then there are the “stand by your man” women. Hillary and Melania ought to have gotten out of Dodge a long time ago. But each is in their game for higher stakes than they can find elsewhere. For Hillary, its the Presidency. For Melania, its a lifestyle that is the stuff only dreams are made of back in Slovenia. So they endure public humiliation by supporting men who have no boundaries, no ethics, no morals and no respect for women…regardless of what they say when they are caught.

On occasion, I have been around such men in my life.

Men who think a woman’s body is theirs for the touching or taking, without the need for permission and certainly absent conscience. These are men who feel powerless and only force, or crossing boundaries, gives them a false sense of power. But its fleeting because its an illusion…and so they must do it again and again. Its like a drug that makes them, for themselves, feel more important than they actually believe they are. When the effect of the high wears off, they need to act out again. And so they do.

Even Huma Adedin has a lower humiliation threshold than either Hillary or Melania. Even she knew when to leave a pervert who has no regard for how he dishonors himself or her.

So, let’s not get all bent out of shape at these recent tape revelations about Donald Trump.  Donald, Melania, Hillary and Bill are all sick and they all need to go. Then, at least, we can choose between Mike Pence and Tim Kaine.  After all, when you’re in the gutter, anything is up.

Carole

contact@carolegold.com