Reminder to Self

Reminder to Self:

  • New York is officially the most corrupt state (see NPR article from today)
  • We don’t have ballot initiatives or referendum
  • We don’t have early voting or vote by mail
  • We have lax campaign finance laws
  • We have a very complex court system that costs billions of dollars per year to operate AND most people are not happy with the outcomes

. . .

  • We have the opportunity this year to vote to hold a constitutional convention to revise the NYS constitution
  • We will not have another opportunity to vote on this for another twenty (20) years
  • Vote Yes



The Inevitable Shift in Resources from Lawyers and Courts to Mediation

It has long been a frustration of mine that states have set up structures and programs for volunteer mediation to resolve disputes at no pay for the mediator, while simultaneously sustaining multi-billion dollar legal (court) systems that provide a unique playing field for attorneys who are expected to charge at least $100 an hour, minimum, for their time, while often making conflicts more intense rather than less so.

We live in a world where information is easier and easier to locate, read, and apply to one’s own situation.  One of the attorney’s primary roles has been to keep up to date on specific areas of information that pertains to certain areas of law.  Yet the other role of attorneys has been, and continues to be, to WIN cases for a client in an adversarial process – a process that systematically encourages procedural tricks, intimidation, and withholding information rather than talking things out and working towards cooperation.  In both the business world and world of interpersonal relationships, more and more people are realizing that the “transaction costs” of going to court are just not worth it.

In the State of Colorado, where I am licensed, official statistics show that 70% of all parties in civil court do not have attorneys representing them.  Many analysts predict that this trend will only increase, as more people rely on the internet to get information.  In Great Britain, chat bots are providing legal case evaluations of real claims over the internet without an actual person listening and giving advice.  And in the United States, many online companies now provide legal forms for all 50 states for common matters such as divorce and writing wills.

Mediation fits in by providing an alternative venue for legal disputes – with an alternative framework and lower transaction costs.  Yet currently that venue is typically nothing more than a small conference room in a low-rent office building in the county in which you live, instead of an elaborate stone courthouse with a dome on top.  The mediator is usually a volunteer, a member of the community who can afford not to work for a few hours during the day – instead of an elected or appointed Judge with a six figure salary.  The contrast in official state support for the courts and for mediation is striking – but the difference in types of cases that each venue can handle is not.

Although we may not realize it today, the stone courthouse with its strictly adversarial system is a relic of our past that will be overcome by the laws of entropy and the laws of the free market.  The law of entropy states that energy moves from order to disorder and from isolation to dispersion.  In society, entropy means that structures and institutions only persist to the extent that they are maintained with resources and energy, but the natural state of things is to change.  The laws of the free market, assuming that they exist, state that a more efficient use of resources will be selected and favored over a less efficient use of resources.  In society, the free market means that when a structure or institution becomes too expensive to use, the people will find and use alternative means to get things done.  Mediation is one of those alternative means that addresses problems efficiently and quickly and at lower cost.

You may be wondering – what about attorneys?  There is no doubt that people will still need legal advice, and in many cases, lawyers will be needed to participate in mediation to ensure that their clients are aware of their legal rights throughout the process.  But once legal information is more readily available and a non-adversarial dispute resolution system is established and funded at a level that can serve large numbers, people will (justifiably) not be willing to pay as much for attorneys as they do now.




Searching for meaning and money

How do you decide what job to look for and what job to take?  What factors go in to the decision?

I am finding that scrolling through available jobs on job list websites is totally depressing because I find myself trying to fit my image of myself into random positions that I never would have considered except for the fact that they popped up on a screen in front of me.  It’s not that productive nor, I think, very effective of a job search method.

But where should I begin?  One might say I should visualize the ideal position that I want to find, then craft a resume and cover letter to match, and go seeking for that position.  But I lack the vision right now.  I do not have a clear next step in mind, and once again (as I was during the 3 years after law school) I am pondering a variety of different paths –  immigration law, environmental law and policy advocacy, political involvement, or continuing in the ADR field with mediation.  Any of these options would be great – but in a big job market like NYC, how do you tailor yourself and network and make contacts in these different fields?  It seems impossible because it is overwhelming to try to join three or four different professional communities at the same time in one of the biggest cities in the world.

Secondly, how much credit, faith, concern should I put in the actual credentials and job experience required to get a job in any one of these fields?  My gut tells me not to care, not to let others’ limitations cast a net over my creativity and idealism.  But I question my own enthusiasm by only seriously considering jobs for which I actually meet the minimum qualifications – and that seems like a waste of my potential.

It’s too late to hold back.  It’s too late to carefully consider all of the options.  However, if I make a  bold move – such as going out on my own, starting my own business – I need to really commit to it, and I don’t have a great track record of committing to such ideas.  Once I tried to start a labor union for unpaid interns, and I got as far as buying a website and getting an employer ID number from the IRS.  I also got a logo made up.  And I never did anything more.

I wish there was a conclusion to this story, but you will have to hold out for the next chapter.



Thoughts on Cinco de Mayo

I’ve seen a number of Facebook posts warning the world not to engage in Cinco de Mayo celebrations unless they really know what it’s about.  I am not Mexican, and until today I really did not know specifically what this holiday was about.  I only had a vague notion that it celebrated Mexican culture.

So I googled Cinco de Mayo and discovered that – like many other holidays – it commemorates a historical event that was quite violent and of questionable moral value.  Somewhat along the lines of St. Patrick’s Day, which celebrates the deliberate cultural colonization of an indigenous religion (St. Patrick was known for converting all of the pagan druids to Christianity) – Cinco de Mayo celebrates a major battle between Mexico and France in which a lot of people died fighting over debts.  Moreover, although Mexico won the battle against the well-equipped French forces, this battle led to the fame and eventual dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz, known for ruling Mexico much in the same way that Trump rules the United States today.  Namely, a corporate oligarchy that centralizes wealth and legitimates civil repression.

However, in spite of the dark side of history, Mexico’s victory over France in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862 has been a source of great pride for Mexico, and it remains a celebration of Mexican culture and Mexican pride to Mexicans living all over the world – many of whom live in the United States.  Moreover, it is more widely celebrated in the U.S. than in Mexico.

So in response to those who are saying “don’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo unless it/you are authentic,” I say that (a) it has been celebrated in the U.S. just as long as it has been celebrated in Mexico, and (b) the blend of new and old, the adaptation of Cinco de Mayo in the U.S., and the general sentiment of respect for Mexico that it engenders are in fact better than the actual, historical events it was made to commemorate.

And likewise, I would say the same for St. Patrick’s Day.  (not that they are the same!)






Thawing out

Spring is in the air and things are changing!  Trump’s healthcare bill did not pass, the DNC is replacing all of their staff, the Republicans want to repeal the loan forgiveness plans that are in place, and people all over the country are uniting to defend basic values like science and respect for human dignity.  Ithaca seems to be abuzz with plans for new green buildings and sustainability and sanctuary city policies.  Debate on racial issues and gender issues is popping up in unexpected places.  The courts are transitioning to using email.   Lol

On a more personal level, I feel a willingness to reconsider my values and realign my work and my life with what I believe in.  Granted, I already do believe in what I am doing and who I am working for, but I have this feeling that I can be a greater advocate for people and causes.  And I am better equipped to ascertain what I enjoy and what motivates me and what my strengths can bring to the world.

So I say to the optimists and pessimists alike, welcome 2017!



Holistic approach to health

I have a chest cold, not too serious.  But every time I get sick, I wonder/ponder about the emotional aspect of sickness – how emotions can be stored in the body and how the body processes them.  Within this framework, sickness seems like a way to get rid of old emotions and move on to the new.  Granted, I believe in science and I know there are viral and bacterial causes of illness.  But the strength of the immune system is linked to stress, and stress is a mindset and a state of being highly influenced by emotions.

Chinese medicine also draws connections between the emotional and physical bodies.  I do not remember many details, but I do remember that different organs in the body help deal with different aspects and issues in life.  For example, if you have a problem with your lungs, you may be dealing with anxiety or grief.  Treating the lungs physically, with medicine or body work, as well as dealing with the causes of anxiety and/or grief in your life, would result in healing.

The tricky part is to avoid blaming yourself for doing things that make you sick.  It doesn’t help to feel guilty or angry at yourself for getting sick.  True, there may have been things you could have done to prevent it.  But the key lesson is to listen to your body and see how you can make changes in habits and lifestyle, both physical, and  emotional, in order to improve and be a healthier happier person.



What is it like to live in New York City?

My girlfriend Tanya wants me to move to the big Apple this summer.  I have never lived in New York City and I am skeptical about living in such a busy and populated place.  How do introverts handle it?  How do people who like alone time find it in the city?

I guess you can retreat to the apartment.  But in that case, you need a very comfortable apartment or at least one that’s not too cramped.  You could go to a park, but when I was here in NYC this past summer, the parks were more crowded then the grocery stores are in Ithaca.  I like the space and the woods and the openness of a small town.

I would love to hear from other people who lived in New York City for part of their lives, especially those who have lived in Ithaca at some point.  Please let me know your thoughts.