Quotulatiousness

December 18, 2014

A mandatory registry that might actually do some good

Filed under: Law, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:03

At Reason, Ed Krayewski suggests that a Police Offenders Registry might be an excellent start to reduce some of the worst interactions between the police and the public they are supposed to serve:

This week, the Department of Justice announced new guidelines against racial profiling. The changes don’t actually change all that much. As regular incidents of police brutality get more and more mainstream media attention, it’s time for a bold move from the White House.

There’s a moral obligation to keep bad cops off the streets. A job with a police department is not a right and shouldn’t be treated like one. Police unions that push for permissive rules that end up protecting bad cops pose a serious public safety threat. Nevertheless, dismantling them where they’ve taken root is a difficult prospect even in the long-term. There are other ways to keep bad cops off the streets. The federal government, and state governments, ought to create and encourage the use of a police offender registry list. Such a list would register individuals who while employed as law enforcement officers were found unfit for duty or faced serious disciplinary issues they may have resigned to avoid. Just as any other component of comprehensive police reform, this won’t eliminate excessive police violence, but it’s a start.

When actually identified, a surprising (or not) number of officers involved in controversial, high-profile use of force incidents have previously disciplinary history. Officer Daniel Pantaleo, the New York City cop who put Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold, had been previously accused, at least twice, of racially-motivated misconduct, including strip searching a man in the middle of the street and allegedly hitting his testicles. The police union in New York City is among the strongest in the country. When a rookie cop shot Akai Gurley in apparent panic last month, he didn’t think twice to reportedly contact his union rep first. A man lay dying in a stairwell for no other reason that he startled a rookie, and the fact that the officer called his union representative before calling for assistance isn’t shocking enough to lead to the officer’s termination. Even if it were, it would still be impossible to terminate the officer immediately. While all this is happening, the state of New York is on the verge of placing even more of the disciplinary regime that applies to cops under the purview of the police unions.

April 2, 2014

Mapaholics rejoice!

Filed under: History, Media, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 07:53

The New York Public Library has released over 20,000 historical maps under a Creative Commons license:

Lionel Pincus & Princess Firyal Map Division is very proud to announce the release of more than 20,000 cartographic works as high resolution downloads. We believe these maps have no known US copyright restrictions.* To the extent that some jurisdictions grant NYPL an additional copyright in the digital reproductions of these maps, NYPL is distributing these images under a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication. The maps can be viewed through the New York Public Library’s Digital Collections page, and downloaded (!), through the Map Warper. First, create an account, then click a map title and go. […]

What’s this all mean?

It means you can have the maps, all of them if you want, for free, in high resolution. We’ve scanned them to enable their use in the broadest possible ways by the largest number of people.

Though not required, if you’d like to credit the New York Public Library, please use the following text “From The Lionel Pincus & Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library.” Doing so helps us track what happens when we release collections like this to the public for free under really relaxed and open terms. We believe our collections inspire all kinds of creativity, innovation and discovery, things the NYPL holds very dear.

World's Fair New York 1939-1940. Proposed World's Fair site.

World’s Fair New York 1939-1940. Proposed World’s Fair site.

Complete railway map designed and engraved from the original maps, charts and schedules furnished by railway engineers, agents &c. to accompany the American Railway Guide (detail)

Complete railway map designed and engraved from the original maps, charts and schedules furnished by railway engineers, agents &c. to accompany the American Railway Guide (detail)

February 16, 2014

The crime that launched a thousand (bad) editorials

Filed under: Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:20

In the New York Post, Larry Getlen retells the tale of Kitty Genovese’s murder and the myths that grew up around it:

The murder of Kitty Genovese shifted from crime to legend a few weeks later, when The New York Times erroneously reported that 38 of her neighbors had seen the attack and watched it unfold without calling for help.

The Times piece was followed by a story in Life magazine, and the narrative spread throughout the world, running in newspapers from Russia and Japan to the Middle East.

New York became internationally infamous as a city filled with thoughtless people who didn’t care about one another; where people could watch their neighbors get stabbed on the street without lifting a finger to help, leaving them to die ­instead in a pool of their own blood.

The people of Kew Gardens — before that, a relatively crime-free neighborhood where few bothered locking their doors — were referred to in the press as monsters.

But as journalist Kevin Cook details in his new book, Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime that Changed America (W.W. Nor­ton), some of the real thoughtlessness came from a police commissioner who lazily passed a falsehood to a journalist, and a media that fell so deeply in love with a story that it couldn’t be bothered to determine whether it was true.

December 22, 2013

Fairytale of New York

Filed under: Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Time:

“Fairytale of New York,” The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl

This song came into being after Elvis Costello bet The Pogues’ lead singer Shane MacGowan that he couldn’t write a decent Christmas duet. The outcome: a call-and-response between a bickering couple that’s just as sweet as it is salty.

October 16, 2013

Cultural organizations and unions

Filed under: Economics, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:41

Richard Epstein looks at two recent disputes between unionized employees and cultural organizations:

This past week featured two stories about major orchestras dealing with their adamant unions. The first incident occurred on Wednesday, October 2 at Carnegie Hall in New York City. A fancy opening night gala, featuring the violinist Joshua Bell and the young jazz performer Esperanza Spalding, was called off due to a surprise strike by Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.

The second dispute, still unresolved, involves the protracted labor impasse at the Minnesota Orchestra. On October 1, true to his promise, star music director Osmo Vänskä resigned because of the inability of the orchestra and its musicians’ union to hammer out a new contract in time to prepare for concerts scheduled at Carnegie Hall on November 2 and 3. The issues in these two labor disputes could scarcely be more different. But each of them, in its own way, illustrates the long-term toll that American labor law takes on the cultural lifeblood of our nation.

The incident at Carnegie Hall raised more than a few eyebrows when it was revealed that the strike was organized by the five full-time Carnegie Hall stagehands who were members of Local One. Their annual compensation in wages and overtime averaged a cool $419,000 per year, making them — one properties manager, two carpenters, and two electricians — five of the seven highest paid workers at Carnegie Hall after Carnegie CEO Clive Gillenson. Other union members in unspecified numbers were called in to help from time to time, presumably at rates on par with those Carnegie Hall paid to its full time workers.

As befits the sorry state of labor relations in the United States, the dispute was not about the status of these five workers. Rather, it focused on the new jobs that would open upon the completion of a new education wing in 2015. Mr. Gillenson was not exactly breathing fire when, well-coached in the pitfalls of labor law, he eschewed any anti-union sentiment and announced that he expected union workers to take the stagehand slots in that new facility. It was just that he insisted on dealing with unions that lacked the clout and the wages of the hardy men from Local One.

[…]

The bargaining dynamics could not have been more different in the Minnesota dispute. It is no secret that unionized musicians command a short-run monopoly premium for their members. The orchestra knows that it can earn back some fraction of that wage premium by securing the most talented musicians. But by the same token, any generous deal opens the orchestra up to financial ruin if its endowment shrinks or if its key donors cut back their support in hard times. But usually the large gains for older musicians carry the day.

Unions in all industries — think of the debacle at General Motors — do not do well in negotiating givebacks to management. Yet, ironically, the higher the premium that unions are able to extract during good times, the larger the give-backs are needed to bring the employer’s fiscal position into balance during bad times.

Just that dynamic was in play with the Minnesota Orchestra. The high wages before 2009 led to one round of union concessions. But in 2011, the budget was still out of balance, and management came back with a request for further cuts of about 32 percent. It later softened its demands to insist on wage cuts that would reach 25 percent after three years. Those cuts would be offset by a one time $20,000 bonus, which would, of course, not be part of the wage base in future years.

The union proposals were for pay cuts in the range of six to eight percent. This would have left an annual deficit in the order of $6 million. In the end, no deal could be reached, which precipitated Vänskä’s departure and the subsequent huge hit to prestige of the orchestra’s hard-earned international reputation.

August 20, 2013

The odd pre-history of the Statue of Liberty

Filed under: Europe, History, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:52

B.K. Marcus on what schoolchildren don’t learn about the famous New York city landmark:

Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi wanted wealth and world renown for building a celebrated colossus, and he was willing to shop the idea around — even to the era’s most illiberal customers.

His first pitch for a giant, torch-bearing statue was to the Ottoman viceroy of Egypt, which was, at the time, the single greatest commercial conduit for the international slave trade.

The statue that now stands in New York Harbor is officially called “Liberty Enlightening the World” (La Liberté éclairant le monde). The statue in Egypt was to be called “Egypt Enlightening the World” or, more awkwardly, “Progress Carrying the Light to Asia.”

Failing to close the deal in Egypt, Bartholdi repackaged it for America.

When this bit of backstory reached the American public, Bartholdi denied that one project had anything to do with the other, but the similarity in designs is unmistakable.

Egypt was a vassal state of an authoritarian empire and the gateway for the colossal African slave trade into Asia — whereas the fundraising for the Statue of Liberty proposed a monument not merely to liberty but to the recent abolition of American slavery. (Picture the broken chains at the Statue of Liberty’s feet.)

The original statue was to be an Egyptian woman — a fellah, or native peasant — draped in a burqa, one outstretched arm holding a torch to guide the ships on the great waterway over which she would stand.

Bartholdi had wanted to place his piece at the northern entrance to the Suez Canal in Port Said because the canal represented French greatness in general and engineering greatness more specifically. His statue was to be a synthesis of French art and French engineering, as well as a political symbol of the progress that France offered the East.

The canal was indeed a great engineering accomplishment and a giant step forward for world trade and greater wealth and comfort for everyone — including the toiling masses. But it was built on the back of slave labor, a 10-year corvée that forced Egyptian peasants to do the digging. Thousands died.

July 31, 2013

Even police chiefs can get racially profiled

Filed under: Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:17

An absolutely fascinating story in the New York Daily News. (It’s from several years back, but brought to my attention today by Radley Balko):

At least one cop has been disciplined for ordering the NYPD’s highest-ranking uniformed black officer out of his auto while the three-star chief was off-duty and parked in Queens, the Daily News has learned.

“How you can not know or recognize a chief in a department SUV with ID around his neck, I don’t know,” a police source said.

Chief Douglas Zeigler, 60, head of the Community Affairs Bureau, was in his NYPD-issued vehicle near a fire hydrant when two plainclothes cops approached on May 2, sources said.

One officer walked up on each side of the SUV at 57th Ave. and Xenia St. in Corona about 7 p.m. and told the driver to roll down the heavily tinted windows, sources said.

What happened next is in dispute.

“What LEED designers deliver is what most LEED building owners want – namely, green publicity, not energy savings”

Filed under: Business, Environment, Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:24

A bit of LEED debunking at The New Republic:

When the Bank of America Tower opened in 2010, the press praised it as one of the world’s “most environmentally responsible high-rise office building[s].” It wasn’t just the waterless urinals, daylight dimming controls, and rainwater harvesting. And it wasn’t only the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification — the first ever for a skyscraper — and the $947,583 in incentives from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. It also had as a tenant the environmental movement’s biggest celebrity. The Bank of America Tower had Al Gore.

The former vice president wanted an office for his company, Generation Investment Management, that “represents the kind of innovation the firm is trying to advance,” his real-estate agent said at the time. The Bank of America Tower, a billion-dollar, 55-story crystal skyscraper on the northwest corner of Manhattan’s Bryant Park, seemed to fit the bill. It would be “the most sustainable in the country,” according to its developer Douglas Durst. At the Tower’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, Gore powwowed with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and praised the building as a model for fighting climate change. “I applaud the leadership of the mayor and all of those who helped make this possible,” he said.

Gore’s applause, however, was premature. According to data released by New York City last fall, the Bank of America Tower produces more greenhouse gases and uses more energy per square foot than any comparably sized office building in Manhattan. It uses more than twice as much energy per square foot as the 80-year-old Empire State Building. It also performs worse than the Goldman Sachs headquarters, maybe the most similar building in New York — and one with a lower LEED rating. It’s not just an embarrassment; it symbolizes a flaw at the heart of the effort to combat climate change.

[…]

“What LEED designers deliver is what most LEED building owners want — namely, green publicity, not energy savings,” John Scofield, a professor of physics at Oberlin, testified before the House last year.

Governments, nevertheless, have been happy to rely on LEED rather than design better metrics. Which is why New York’s release of energy data last fall was significant. It provided more public-energy data for a U.S. city than has ever existed. It found the worst-performing buildings use three to five times more energy per square foot than the best ones. It also found that, if the most energy-intensive large buildings were brought up to the current seventy-fifth percentile, the city’s total greenhouse gases could be reduced by 9 percent.

July 24, 2013

Actually, these sound like typical characteristics for political candidates

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:37

Jim Geraghty talks about the treasure-trove of media gaffes that is the Anthony Weiner campaign:

We can still laugh at Anthony Weiner… and we will be laughing at him for a long time. But it is starting to feel like we’re watching a man with serious, deep-rooted psychological issues relating to his sexuality, his self-control, his ability to assess risk, his inability to admit the truth unless confronted with overwhelming evidence of his falsehoods, his willingness to see others as objects and God knows how many other issues…

[…]

Did anybody really think Weiner had really changed from the man caught in scandal two years ago? Some may have hoped that fatherhood would make him grow up some, and some may be surprised that he would be so reckless as to choose to run for mayor with additional women out there, waiting to tell their tales of his much more recent tawdry behavior… but did anybody really believe that he had turned over a new leaf and become a changed man? Back in June, BuzzFeed’s Ruby Cramer quoted professional therapists who contended Weiner’s description of his short stay at a psychiatric evaluation center did not come close to what they would consider serious treatment.

People go into politics for a lot of reasons – some altruistic or idealistic or principled, some base, and for many, a mix of both. A career in politics can provide an individual with a lot of what they desire – power, admirers, fame, money. Kissinger declared power to be the ultimate aphrodisiac, so perhaps political stature is indeed a great way to enhance one’s sex appeal. (Right now, half my male readers working in politics just mumbled to themselves, “I must be doing it wrong.”)

Clearly, those fulfilling those desires can be addictive. We’ve seen the comeback playbook executed by politician after politician, time after time, so that it has become a boring, predictable cliché; the more a candidate sticks to the playbook, the less persuaded we should be that there is any real remorse or acceptance of responsibility.

After the “deny, deny, deny” strategy (as Monica Lewinsky quoted Bill Clinton) blows up in a politician’s face, he admits some portion of the accusations, but denies others. (A “modified limited hangout.”) There may be counter-accusations; there is an acceptance of some consequences but not others. At the press conference, the wife may be rolled out as a human shield. There is an insistence that the focus on the scandal has been a distraction from the politician’s real work. There is an insistence that this wrongdoing was a private matter and not the public’s concern. The accusations are driven by partisan motives, anyway. There is an admission of sin and often a very public seeking of spiritual counsel from political allies who are religious figures. There is a soft-focus interview that appears to be an open confession but that remains vague on key details; the privacy of others will be cited. God will get mentioned a lot. And throughout it all, the politician remains convinced: I can come back from this. This isn’t the end of me. As his presidential campaign flopped and his sex scandal ticked like a time bomb, John Edwards was utterly convinced he could trade his endorsement for the running mate slot to either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton; when that effort went nowhere, he set his sights on being attorney general or, ultimately, nominated to the Supreme Court.

They need this. They so, so need this. They really cannot go on to living a life outside the spotlight, just practicing law somewhere or running a hardware store. (Well, John Edwards is apparently returning to practicing law.)

The spoils of political victory – power, fame, groupies, lucrative post-elected-office jobs in lobbying or consulting – will always attract a certain number of unscrupulous head cases, egomaniacs, narcissists, and borderline unhinged. They will only go away when the voters say “no.”

July 18, 2013

Foodstamps as a form of corporate welfare

Filed under: Business, Government, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:43

Mike Krieger explains how the US foodstamp program can be seen as a form of corporate welfare:

This ridiculously condescending budget put out by McDonald’s in partnership with Visa has been making the rounds today. I’ll allow excerpts from the Gothamist article on it and their corresponding video do most of the explaining, but the key point I want to hammer into people is that food stamps are corporate welfare. They actually are not welfare for the workers themselves, who undoubtably don’t have wonderful lives. What ends up happening is that because the government comes in and supplements egregiously low wages with benefits like food stamps, the companies don’t have to pay living wages. So in effect, your tax money is being used to support corporate margins. Even better, many of these folks who get the food stamp benefits then turn around and spend them at the very companies which refuse to pay them decent wages. Who benefits? CEOs and shareholders. Who loses? Society.

From the Gothamist post by Nell Casey:

Let’s take a look at what else McDonald’s imagines its employees’ expenditures should look like. First off, the site sets employees’ mortgage/rent at $600, which even if we didn’t live in an outrageously expensive city is still a laughably small figure. Next, the site tallies health insurance at a mere $20 per month. Where is this magical land of nearly free independent healthcare? We want Obama’s unicorn to fly us there! Also as a McDonald’s employee, your cable and phone bills should only come to $100 a month (HA!), your electric bill should hover around $90 (for serious?) and apparently if you work at a fast food chain there’s absolutely no need to ever buy any food ever. Maybe they offer employees a lifetime supply of fries?

So tallying up all of these totally realistic expenses, a McDonald’s employee would need to net $2,060 per month to make this budget work. Broken down, that would mean working at least 40 hours per week and making at least $15 an hour pre-taxes to earn the necessary $12.86 an hour. Currently, McDonald’s workers earn an average of $8.25 per hour, barring any funny business.

Update: A couple of comments have been logged on this post, and Megan McArdle’s first Bloomberg column also addresses the McDonalds/Visa budget thingy:

Speaking of food, a sample budget put together by Visa Inc. and McDonald’s Corp. is rocketing around the Internet. Most of the commentary suggests that McDonald’s is heartless, and gauche, to suggest how its employees might live on the embarrassingly paltry wages that they are paid. (According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey of 2009-11, median earnings for a fast-food worker were $18,564 a year.) The budget is based on two jobs, which has aroused special ire: Is McDonald’s telling its employees to get a second job so they don’t have to pay them anything?

[…]

Keep in mind that most McDonald’s workers don’t live close to New York City or Washington, the sources of much of the commentary I’ve seen. These are, respectively, the first- and fourth-most-expensive cities in the country. In many areas, the median after-tax household income is not that far from that on the McDonald’s worksheet, and it’s pretty easy to rent a room in a friend’s house for less than $600 a month. Memphis, Tenn., for example, has a median household income of $35,000, which, according to Paycheckcity.com’s take-home calculator, would give a single person about $2,300 a month after taxes. And that’s the median — 50 percent of the city is below that. You should not develop a theory of household finance that declares that the city of Memphis does not exist.

Survival on such a lean budget is possible because people who do it are not trying to live the atomized life of an upper-middle-class college graduate. They band together, sharing rent, cars and cash when needed, handing down clothes and generally spreading fixed costs over as many people as possible.

Should McDonald’s pay enough to support a thrifty-but-not-too-difficult independent lifestyle? Is that now the minimum decent standard for society? Obviously, a lot of people think that they should. Washington’s City Council just passed a “living wage” law directly targeted at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. that aims to force the retailer to pay its workers $12.50 an hour.

What would that look like nationwide? Let’s set the floor a little above the amount in the budget — about $27,500 after taxes, which will allow them to enjoy the full McDonald’s budget, plus health insurance on an exchange. That’s a minimum wage of $13.75 an hour for a full-time worker, almost double the current minimum; obviously, everyone else would also have to be paid more. The minimum that a two-earner household could bring in would be $55,000 a year — not that far from the current median income for a two-earner household.

Even if it were possible to mandate that everyone in the country make almost the median income, this would come with a cost; I’d guess that most economists would agree that such a hike in the minimum wage would cause fairly significant job losses.

July 7, 2013

Trying to prevent another “flash crash”

Filed under: Business, Economics, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:57

Tim Harford discusses high speed trading and its potential problems:

“High-frequency trading” is a rich environment of algorithms, of predators and prey, all trying to make money by trading financial products at tremendous speed. But the basic proposition is simple to state. When the price of a share rises in New York, the price of related contracts will rise in Chicago just as soon as the news arrives. But if everyone else gets the news on the regular cable, and you’re renting space on the faster cable, you can see into everyone else’s future by (say) 0.7 milliseconds, plenty of time to buy soon-to-rise assets and then, less than a thousandth of a second later, to sell them again.

You don’t have to be a socialist to find this kind of thing discomfiting. There are three concerns. The first is that scarce resources are being spent on high-speed connections that have no social value in what is at best a zero-sum game. The second is that high-frequency traders may be making money at the expense of fundamental investors. The third problem is that such trading appears to introduce systemic risks. The “flash crash” of May 2010 is still poorly understood, which should ring alarm bells — especially since the need for speed means most high-frequency algorithms are simple and therefore stupid.

What, then, should be done? Rather than trying to slow down the algorithms, why not slow down the market? Most financial exchange markets run continuously, effectively assuming that traders can react instantaneously, withdrawing out-of-date offers and replacing them with up-to-the-picosecond prices. It’s this flawed premise — that all trades could be instantaneous — that means that no matter how fast the computers get, there will always be an incentive to go faster still.

A simple way for an exchange to improve matters would be to run an auction once a second, batching together all the offers to buy and sell that have been submitted during that second. Unsuccessful bids and asks would be published and would remain on the books for the next auction, unless withdrawn. One auction a second ought to be enough for anyone; it would deliver a stream of well-behaved data to regulators — currently unable to figure out what is going on — and it is plenty of time for a computer to weigh its options.

June 24, 2013

Express art-while-you-wait – NYC skyline in spray can paint

Filed under: Randomness — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 08:54

H/T to Roger Henry for the link.

April 9, 2013

Surveillance is only good when they do it to us, not vice-versa

Filed under: Government, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:41

David Sirota on the blatant hypocrisy of Big Brother surveillance fans now objecting when they’re the targets of surveillance:

The Big Brother theory of surveillance goes something like this: pervasive snooping and monitoring shouldn’t frighten innocent people, it should only make lawbreakers nervous because they are the only ones with something to hide. Those who subscribe to this theory additionally argue that the widespread awareness of such surveillance creates a permanent preemptive deterrent to such lawbreaking ever happening in the first place.

I don’t personally agree that this logic is a convincing justification for the American Police State, and when I hear such arguments, I inevitably find myself confused by the contradiction of police-state proponents proposing to curtail freedom in order to protect it. But whether or not you subscribe to the police-state tautology, you have to admit there is more than a bit of hypocrisy at work when those who forward the Big Brother logic simultaneously insist such logic shouldn’t apply to them or the governmental agencies they oversee.

[. . .]

Yet, in now opposing the creation of an independent monitor to surveil, analyze and assess lawbreaking by police and municipal agencies after a wave of complaints about alleged crimes, Bloomberg and Kelly are crying foul. Somehow, they argue that their own Big Brother theory about surveillance supposedly stopping current crime and deterring future crime should not apply to municipal officials themselves.

This is where an Orwellian definition of “safety” comes in, for that’s at the heart of the Bloomberg/Kelly argument about oversight. Bloomberg insists that following other cities that have successfully created independent monitors “would be disastrous for public safety” in New York City. Likewise, the New York Daily News reports that “Kelly blasted the plan as a threat to public safety,” alleging that “another layer of so-called supervision or monitoring can ultimately make this city less safe.”

If this pabulum sounds familiar, that’s because you’ve been hearing this tired cliché ad nauseam since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Whether pushed by proponents of the Patriot Act, supporters of warrantless wiretapping, or backers of other laws that reduce governmental accountability, the idea is that any oversight of the state’s security apparatus undermines that apparatus’ ability to keep us safe because such oversight supposedly causes dangerous second-guessing. In “24″ terms, the theory is that oversight will make Jack Bauer overthink or hesitate during a crisis that requires split-second decisions — and hence, security will be compromised.

March 29, 2013

Duffel Blog: F-35 inducted into NYC Air Museum

Filed under: Humour, Military, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:28

A scoop from the keen bunch at The Duffel Blog:

Sources confirmed that the F-35 Lightning II was inducted yesterday into the Intrepid, Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York City. The closed door ceremony was the high point for the F-35, capping off the fighter’s illustrious warfighting career as the most colossal fuck-up in military acquisition history.

Speaking to Duffel Blog reporters, museum curator Saul Rosenblatt said, “We weren’t sure if the F-35 was up to snuff as an exhibit in this museum. We take great pride in displaying planes with a robust combat history, like the A-4 Skyhawk and the A-6 Intruder. We passed on the F-22 Raptor because that was an even bigger piece of shit fighter jet. We had no choice but to display the F-35 between the crapper and the concession stand.”

[. . .]

“At a cost of over $137 million per plane, it makes the surface area underneath the exhibit’s landing gear the most expensive real estate in New York City. Per square foot, this will drive up apartment values across the entire West Side,” said an overjoyed real estate agent.

“For the project’s total cost of almost $400 billion you could have bought the Louvre and had some money left to shop at Saks,” a downtown designer told TDB. When asked his opinion about the F-35, construction worker Dominick Antonelli said “that’s all we need here, another overpaid, sucky, New York Jet.”

January 29, 2013

NYC’s petty bureaucrats and the evolution of modern jazz

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Law, Media — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:09

From the latest issue of Reason, Chris Kjorness outlines some of the pitfalls New York City thoughtfully put in the way of some of the greatest performers of Jazz:

For more than two decades musicians, comedians, and anyone else employed by a Gotham nightclub would be fingerprinted, photographed, and interviewed by police in exchange for a license to work. The card had to be renewed every two years, and it could be revoked at the whim of the police. The story of the cabaret card illustrates how small men with a little bit of power can inhibit creative expression, stifle artistic growth, and humiliate individual citizens, all in the name of the “public good.”

The cabaret card had its origins in the roaring ’20s. Prohibition made outlaws out of ordinary Americans, and the allure of booze, jazz, and debauchery brought the upper and lower classes together in clandestine after-hours spots. It was the height of the Harlem Renaissance, and white New Yorkers frequently made the trip uptown, looking for adventure and an escape from the tight moral constraints of downtown society.

[. . .]

More than just a barrier to work, the cabaret card for beboppers was an impediment to self-expression and artistic fulfillment. While originating in nightclubs, bebop represented something much more than bar music. The color line had not been broken in American symphony orchestras, so for a young black musician at a prestigious music conservatory — Miles Davis at Julliard, for example — sharing a cramped stage in a 52nd Street nightclub with someone like Charlie Parker was the highest realization of artistic ambition. But before he could do so, a musician would have to be judged not just by lauded masters and discerning aficionados but by the police.

Cops distrusted beboppers for three main reasons: The new breed of jazzmen were anti-establishment, they were confrontational in matters of race, and they had a fondness for heroin. The police had an unlikely ally in their crusade against the upstarts: older establishment jazz musicians who had their own reasons to dislike the beboppers.

In a 1951 Ebony article, Cab Calloway, a king of the 1930s jazz world, decried the widespread drug use in the current jazz scene. Though Calloway didn’t single anyone out by name, the magazine illustrated his essay with photos of bebop musicians, and the publication coincided with an upswing in police enforcement. One musician snared in this crackdown was Charlie Parker.

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