Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Why I want Republicans to make good on their threats to boycott CNN and NBC

Who is the "liberal media?" Anyone that isn't Fox News!
If you follow the Republican National Committee on facebook or Twitter, you've likely seen their campaign trying to guilt CNN and NBC, which they characterize as "the liberal media" into dropping documentaries about Hillary Clinton. Their mechanism of enforcement? They're threatening refuse to let those networks host 2016 presidential debates. 

Here's why I think CNN and NBC should air the documentaries and make the Republican Party boycott them: There's no way the RNC can do it. If the RNC prohibits their candidates from appearing on CNN, a station that Democrats trust more than most, and NBC, they'll be stuck with PBS, a station the party wants to defund, ABC, or CBS. Since neither of the latter stations have a cable news presence comparable to Fox, NBC, or CNN, what the RNC is essentially saying is the only major cable news station that can host a debate is Fox News. This presumes that a Democratic candidate will appear in a debate on that station while stations more sympathetic to him or her are blacked out. Ultimately, it makes it very easy for Democrats to not deal with Fox News, while Republican candidates would have to boycott all stations except Fox News to protect themselves from a similar kind of criticism. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

We can't talk about the reality of American politics on TV because David Gregory's kids might have dick-pic nightmares

Not worried about his kids hearing questions about
whether the president is legitimate, but super concerned
about dick picks
The August 4, 2013 episode of Meet the Press was pretty uneventful all things considered. To me, the most interesting thing said was a question by host David Gregory, who asked former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani - himself a sex scandal survivor - "is there something disqualifying at a point when I can't even turn on the news, that that's going to create a bigger conversation than I want to have with my eight year old?"

Giuliani, in typical MTP form, dodged the question. For once though, I agree that a politician should dodge the question. It's a stupid question. David Gregory, host of the longest running news show on television, just asked if a politician should be disqualified from office for private indiscretions because he was afraid his kid would see David Gregory, who chooses to give coverage to this local non-story coverage, talking about it. 

Mr. Gregory, let me give you a quick rundown on American politics, the media, and children, since a life in Washington and being a father has apparently taught you nothing about them. 

Exhibit A. 
1. American politicians frequently do things with their penises that their wives would not approve of. Joy-Ann Reed had JUST EXPLAINED THAT to you. The only difference between the sex scandals of Anthony Weiner and Bill Clinton and those of John F. Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt is that in the past the press had the common decency to leave public figures' personal lives alone, and now people like you circle it like carrion birds. 

2. Your eight year old knows about sex. He's probably heard you having it. He's seen it on TV and read more detailed explanations of it in issues of Spider-man. At the very least, he goes to school with someone whose parents aren't as afraid of talking to them as you are and he now knows a way more vulgar and detailed version of sex than any news show has presented. 

3. Your concern with how these scandals might lead you to have an uncomfortable conversation with your kid leads me to a statement made my comedian Louis CK about gay marriage: "'How am I supposed to explain to my children that two men are getting married?' I don't know. It's your shitty kid, you fucking tell'm... Two guys are in love and they can't get married because you don't want to talk to your ugly child for five fucking minutes?" 

I understand this isn't an exact parallel and that being gay is not the same as deviating from your marriage on company time, but the point remains valid. If we have decided that the sex lives of politicians are news (which David Gregory has), why can't we talk about it just because somebody doesn't want to have to explain a real world situation to his kids? If David Gregory is so concerned with the moral fortitude of political candidates, he should not vote for those candidates. If he is concerned about how their sex lives might scar children, he should make an effort to stop talking about it so much on his very frequently watched show.

4. I've been eight years old. No eight year old is intently watching Meet the Press. It's what my parents used to put on when I was being bitchy about nap time. I conked right out. Further, if they are watching the news, there is way worse stuff on it than discussions about Mr. Weiner's self-titled selfie. I don't know if you've heard, but Northern Africa and the Middle East have been in a perpetual state of war for a while and maimed children have been making pretty regular appearances on TV. Football players have murdered people. Baseball players are being suspended for drug use. A huge child prostitution ring was just broken up in America. Boy Meets World is getting a spin-off. All of these things are more important and will have a bigger impact on your children than the sex scandals of municipal politicians.

It is astounding to me how much the media talks about how terrible all these non-stories are while putting past political figures who did the same things but who weren't persecuted by the same media. Anthony Weiner might not be a particularly good or effective politician. He may not have a very good platform in is run for mayor. If he's not the right guy for the job, it will be easy enough to prove that without talking about his phone sex habits. If you find yourself forced to bring it up though, you might have to explain to your kids that when a man and a woman love each other very much, they send each other digital representations of their affections in the form of lecherous sexy-texties that sometimes give birth to a scandal. If you have to have that conversation because you talked about it yourself on a show you let your kids watch, it's your own damn fault.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Geez. Leave Colin Powell alone.

He's denying it, but it appears from emails released by a hacker that Colin Powell had a pretty personal relationship and possibly an affair with a Romanian politician. I won't bore you with the "why do we care about public figures' sex-lives" diatribe, as that's been well-tread. What I want to know is why this should be considered a strike against citizen Powell, who is not currently employed by the American people.
How do you not have an affair with this guy?

Colin Powell has made a name for himself for being a moderate and generally trustworthy (except that one time) military and political figure. He most recently raised the ire of conservatives over his endorsement of Barack Obama over Mitt Romney, which was, according to some douchebag on the radio, obviously because they're both black. Before that, Powell had served in the Reagan and Bushes 41 & 43 administrations, not to mention that whole 4-star general thing. While in those capacities, if it had been exposed that he was having or had had an affair with a foreign politician of an allied nation, it would have been nobody's business unless national secret swapping was part of some weird pillow-talk ritual. Maybe his wife would have been rightly pissed, but it wouldn't have been anyone else's business unless government money or national security was involved.

That would have been the case when he was in the employ of the United States. He's not now. Now, Colin Powell is a pretty smart guy whose sex life, like the rest of his life, is entirely private. The way this information came to public attention was itself illegal and, unlike the Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden leaks, which one could argue at least had some semblance of public interest, it has nothing to do with government policy, national security, or even have to do with how government works. They're private emails on an American citizen's private account.

While the whole nation is losing their goddamn minds over whether the NSA is spying on us, there seems to be no outrage toward the personal information of private citizens being made public. What this hacker did to Colin Powell was worse than anything the NSA has done to anyone reading this. If you're concerned with your own privacy, you should be shaming the media for running these stories and calling for serious consequences for hackers of this type.

If this kind of thing continues, it will further discourage good people from running for office in fear that the things they do privately will lead to their names being dragged through the mud. Then all we'll have left are the Anthony Weiners and Mark Sanfords of the world - public figures who don't have any dignity, and so don't care when it is sullied.

2013 Boston Mayoral Race - Track the Candidates

Below is a roundup of website and social network links for all mayoral candidates appearing on Boston's 2013 preliminary ballot on September 24.

Felix Arroyo - website / facebook / twitter
John Barros - website / facebook / twitter
Charles Clemons - website / facebook / twitter
Daniel Conley - website / facebook / twitter
John Connolly - website / facebook / twitter
Rob Consalvo - website / facebook / twitter
Charlotte Golar Richie - website / facebook / twitter
Michael Ross - website / facebook / twitter
Bill Walczak - website / facebook / twitter
Marty Walsh - website / facebook / twitter
David James Wyatt - No online presence found.
Charles Yancey - website / facebook / twitter

I mean, come on. Who wouldn't want to work here.
As you can see, David Wyatt's campaign doesn't really have an online presence. Charles Yancey's online presence exists, but his campaign page hasn't been updated since his last bid for D4 Councillor. The rest are on top of it, and I recommend reading/liking/following all of them to stay as informed as possible about the upcoming Boston mayoral race. This is not a particularly exciting election, but whoever wins gets to shape Boston's post-Menino legacy. That's kind of a big deal.

If you don't know where to vote, you can find out here. If you're not voting, no big deal. It's only one of the three things you're absolutely responsible for in the republic and will take maybe fifteen minutes. But by all means, skip it and say something clever like "they're all corrupt!"

(Updated 9:28am 8/2/13 because I initially forgot Marty Walsh. Sorry about that.)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Congratulations Boston! Your hollow outrage gave Rolling Stone a windfall!

Remember a few weeks ago when everybody in Greater Boston was having a collective brain aneurysm about the Rolling Stone cover featuring Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? There was an online cause to boycott the issue on Facebook that drew 170,000 likes, refusal by some stores to carry it, and general insistence by most of your friends and colleagues that they would never again buy or read a magazine they probably already didn't buy or read. All because Rolling Stone published an issue where they labeled a very normal looking American kid a "monster" and had the audacity to ask "how could this happen?"

How dare you use a picture of a person
looking like a person!
The outrage about this cover was centered not around the terrorist on the cover (we've seen that before), but that the terrorist didn't "look" like a terrorist, but rather like a rock star (or, if you'd prefer it, a semi-attractive normal teenager, which is how most rock stars start out). When bin Laden was on covers of magazines, he was wearing Middle Eastern attire we associate with Islam. Tsarnaev, on the other hand, has messy hair, facial stubble, and a kind of cool t-shirt on. He looks like your kids, and because of that, some people seem to think seeing him will turn kids (not your kids! They're perfect!) into terrorists in the future. Apparently most parents are not confident that their parenting skills can effectively deter their children from blowing up their neighbors when faced with a cover on a magazine that was last relevant when Led Zeppelin was still putting out records.

So folks took to the streets (or the internet) and worked the whole region up into a lather. End result? Rolling Stone's retail circulation doubled!

Hey Massachusetts! Tax Alcohol!

As of yesterday, Massachusetts raised taxes on gas and cigarettes again. Honestly, I don't have much of a problem with this. It certainly doesn't affect me much, as I don't smoke or drive a car. Further, as gasoline is subsidized by federal tax dollars, contributing to absurd profits for oil companies and making it so even with the tax, gas is still cheaper here than in Europe, it's hard to complain. I'm certainly not going to defend cigarettes, either. They're gross, cause cancer, are the source of litter in gutters near bars everywhere, and frankly, I hope the tax deters my neighbors from smoking so I don't have to breathe that garbage as it wafts in my bedroom window at night from their late night porch smoking.

These are taxed.
The issue here is that these two products keep getting tax increases while other things remain untouched. The number one culprit in Massachusetts? Alcohol.

For those who don't remember, Massachusetts had a brief-but-bitter affair with alcohol taxes, which were ultimately overturned in early 2011 by voters, who apparently think that alcohol, as a sort of consumable, should be taxed like food (not at all) rather than a vice (a lot). I voted against repealing the alcohol tax in 2010, and I still oppose it now. It's not because I think we should deter drinking, either. I'm not sure cost is much of a deterrent. If it were, people would stop using cocaine rather than living their own private Less Than Zero lives. Rather, the reason support taxing alcohol is that you don't need it to live or be a citizen. In Massachusetts, in the tradition of the Commonwealth's founding, we do not tax food, clothing, or periodicals. As such, one can be fed, clothed, and informed without paying the state anything. The consumption of alcohol (which I'm a huger fan of than I should be) provides no benefits to any of these natural or civic necessities.

These are not taxed.
See what I'm saying?
We live in a state where we pay a 6.25% tax on books - the things we spend millions of dollars annually to encourage children to use. Meanwhile, we spend tax dollars and volunteer hours through programs like D.A.R.E., M.A.D.D. and S.A.D.D. trying to dissuade young people from abusing alcohol, not to mention the cost of treating alcoholism and alcohol-related medical problems to the state. How does it make sense that we tax beneficial things like books, and even necessary things like housing, but allow this one vice a free pass while demonizing others like cigarettes and criminalizing other drugs?

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Massachusetts LLC costs are prohibitive

It's a rare day when I think conservatives are right about something, but their constant and incessant whining has produced a pretty good point - the cost of running a business in Massachusetts is prohibitively high.

As you can see, we're a big money operation.
My wife and I recently started selling posters at farmers markets and like shows. Sales have been good and more and more, we are receiving requests to do work for other people. We'd also like to expand the business. Many people recommended we file as a limited liability corporation (LLC) to separate ourselves from the business. I looked into it. It costs $500 a year in Massachusetts to start and then another $500 annually to file a report - one of the most expensive LLC filing fees in the United States.

Since I was a kid, I've been hearing complaints from Republicans and some Democrats that policies in this state hurt small business. I generally didn't care, as I wasn't a business owner, and thought that it would only benefit the rich. Now though, as I look into starting a business, I find my state has higher rents and other start-up costs than almost anywhere. Many of the start-up costs, particularly rents, are outside government control. I understand that - it's valuable real estate. But fees like the LLC fee just add to the overwhelming cost of starting a small business.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Clearer rules and better enforcement needed to make Boston safer for cyclists

Without fail, whenever somebody I know has a bad experience with a cyclist, they come to me about it.

Whether it be co-worker, friend, or family member, if they're not cyclists themselves, they feel the need to report to me that this cyclist was going up the street the wrong way or that cyclist almost ran over an old lady in the crosswalk. You know, because we all know each other. I should bring up these injustices at the next meeting we all have. It was a college kid in skinny jeans. It was a middle-aged Latino guy with window washing equipment. Do I know them?

It usually comes as something of a surprise to people that I do not know the people who are running lights or riding on the sidewalk any better than they know the driver who parked at a bus stop or refusing to pick a lane. All cyclists are not created equally.

In years past, I always wished people would ride more and that the city would be more bike friendly. In more recent times, I got my wish, and now I regret I made it. The rise of programs like Hubway, which rented its 1 millionth bike last month, and the cultural shift in acceptance of bicycles as an alternative form of transportation have led to an explosion of riders on Boston's roads. The problem is that most of them don't know how to ride in the city, and it's making us all look bad.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Boston Bulletin’s Editorials and Op-Eds lock up the grumpy old man market

I don’t know why I do it exactly, but I try to read the free Boston weeklies when I can. Some of the reporting is solid, and they cover things that are sometimes overlooked by the dailies. Wow, though. The editorials and op-eds usually sound like they gave a page to my grandfather and asked him to write about things he was no longer comfortable saying out loud.

The Bulletin. Keeping a finger
on the pulse of the nearly pulseless.
See, for example, the July 25, 2013 edition of the Boston Bulletin[i] (I’d love to link to the actual stories, but the Bulletin, a free paper, doesn’t post their stories online unless you buy a subscription, and then it’s just a PDF. All this despite the fact that there’s an ad in the paper that reads “What drives the internet? CONTENT. Read the Bulletin online at In it, among a lot of advertising for things you won’t use, ten actual stories, some event listings, one editorial and two op-eds. We’ll start with the op-eds.

In “If I Had A Son,” Frank Sullivan (regular writer of the “Frank Reflections” column) nails the tone-deaf white Irish-American attitude, implying that President Obama is a racist because the latter had the temerity to suggest that if he had a son, that son would resemble Trayvon Martin. Frank, who totally recognizes that America’s racial history is “disgusting,” argues “I thought we are not supposed to use phrases that suggest ‘They all look the same,’ [sic] when describing a black teenager.” His whole follow-up, where he pretends that if he had a son he’d explain to them that they should respect Rosa Parks and MLK, but that any present-day racial struggles are fabricated race baiting, is based on this idea, which is to say “Obama thinks all black kids look alike.” Except that’s not what Obama is saying. He’s saying if he had a son, that son would look black and black teenagers, in his experience, are profiled and in the instance of Trayvon Martin, stalked and ultimately killed for being black. His point is not that all black kids look the same. It’s that all black kids look the same to white people. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Private Spy Network: You’re Afraid of the Wrong People

Ever since the whistleblower/traitor (take your pick) Edward Snowden brought to it to everyone’s attention that the United States Government was collecting data on American citizens exactly like they told us they were going to, folks have been a little touchy about government surveillance. Among the spying revelations, it has been brought to light that there’s even a secret big-but-not-as-big-as-originally-reported data facility in Utah that can pretty much store all data that man has ever created. Presumably the same storage space will be available in thumb drive size by next Christmas.
This is Larry Page, CEO of Google.
He knows everything about you.
Mostly because you told him.

In the midst of all this big brother panic, most people seem to be overlooking that the organization that has the most data on you isn’t the NSA, but likely a private company like Google or Facebook. Why is this? Because you keep giving them all your information! On a regular basis, we enter very real and personal information – our addresses and phone numbers, our interests and political views, compromising photographs and vacation plans – to the social networks. Many of us then use those same social network signins to gain access to other websites. Those websites then also get access to some of your information, not to mention the social networks gaining information about your activity on those websites you’re using them to sign in with.

Think about what has been the most destructive force to the American people in recent years. If you work really hard, you can try to blame Chris Dodd and Barney Frank for some of it, I guess. Really though, the most destructive force in peoples’ lives since 9/11 has been private corporations (mostly banks) taking advantage of folks’ desires to own houses and other property. The information that individuals keep willingly allowing private companies to collect (which we usually do not out of necessity but convenience) is a much clearer invitation to be taken advantage of or otherwise injured.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Unpaid internships are exploitative, classist bull$#!+

Over the past few years, unpaid internships have popped up everywhere, often seemingly replacing what had previously been jobs that adult people with paid vacations did. Plenty of people have gone into great detail about how unpaid internships are exploitative and usually don’t lead to jobs, but let’s say they do. If working for free is a requirement to get a job that pays, I’ll make the case that that arrangement is even worse.
My compensation is a thing I also have to pay for? Super cool, bro!

To start, there’s the obviously exploitative nature of the internship. At its very best, you are learning a skill in much the same way that an indentured servant in a colonial print shop would. Sure, at the end you will have the skillset to open your own shop (if you can somehow acquire the capital after not working for so long. Maybe you can borrow $20,000 from your parents?), but in the meantime, your boss made a bunch of profit having you do a bunch of stuff he either a. should have been able to pay you at least minimum wage for, or b. couldn’t afford to pay you minimum wage for because his business model doesn’t bring in enough profit for the required labor. At worst (and I’ve seen this done many times) someone doesn’t want to do something in an office or a “start-up,” and so they say “we can just get an intern for that.” The company fills out some paper work, the intern packs and sends mailers or orders, and at the end, they both lie to a university and pretend the kid learned something about marketing.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Anthony Weiner. Come on, dude.

I was really happy to see Anthony Weiner mounting a comeback in American politics. While short on actual accomplishments, Weiner was a good liberal advocate in Congress. More to the point, though, I’m not really comfortable with people losing their jobs because of their marital infidelities.

Anthony Weiner (NSFW)
America has proven time and again in recent years that, in regard to sex scandals, there can be second acts in politics. Bill Clinton is the most obvious figure here, but more recently, Mark Sanford was elected to congress after stealing taxpayer money to go on a sexy excursion with then-mistress/now-wife. Even Weiner’s NYC pal, Eliot Spitzer, who had some fun with prostitutes on the public dime, is up 15 points in his primary for New York Comptroller. All three of these examples were pretty indisputably worse infidelities than Weiner sending selfies to women not named Huma. And worse still, all of the above cost taxpayer dollars which, unless you’re counting a data plan, Weiner did not do.

So I was happy to see the Weiner surge in the polls. He was up 3 points on City Councilor president  Christine Quinn as recently as last week. Then he had to go and muck it up again.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Mayoral candidates have exact same opinion on T service

As previously mentioned, I’m a bit dissatisfied with the current crop of Mayoral candidates. That said, I’m willing to hear what they have to say, and will inevitably vote for one who loses in the run-off (looking at you, Arroyo) before being forced to choose between a corporate shill and a union hack.

But okay, currently there are a lot of candidates. I wasn’t excited to have to wade through all of their platforms, but luckily on the issue of late-night transportation, they’ve saved me the trouble by all having virtually the same position![i] And what’s that position? According to a “Meet the Mayoral Candidates” piece, it’s that Boston should be open later.

City Councillor John Connolly. Get used to this face.
He's probably your next mayor.

So every candidate agrees we should be open later. Then how do they separate themselves from each other and help us separate the almost nonexistent wheat from this ever-growing pile of chaff? Let’s read more closely and find out!

Both Felix Arroyo and John Connolly manage to use the term “24/7,” while Bill Walczak suggests we become a “24-hour city.” Mike Ross, John Barros, and Walczak all hoped for “late-night” service, while Charlotte Golar-Richie couched her position by saying she’d “strongly encourage the MBTA to make improvements to the system.” That’s lovely, candidates. Very innovative. But what are you actually planning to do?
As far as tangible ideas and proposals, John Barros came out swinging. He mentioned working with the Governor (which, to fix the T, you’d need to do) to get system the funding it needs, and proposed a student discount pass for university students, which is a really good idea given how expensive being a student in Boston is.

There’s a new royal baby. Can we all calm the hell down, please?

Kate Middleton and whichever actual British Prince she is married to (I’m guessing William?) had a baby yesterday. I’m sure they’re thrilled. The American press sure is!

Huffington Post - by most accounts now a major news source - is leading this with ridiculous headline:

Boy King! I’m serious right now. An American news source is leading with the birth of the newest incarnation of an institution we oppose as a nation on principle. And what’s worse, we only do it for that royal family. There are royal families in Belgium and Spain. Where was all this press for Infanta Sofia of Spain or Princess Elisabeth, Duchess of Brabant? We don’t celebrate them. Why? Partially because they don’t speak English and we like that, but mostly because Americans are under this insane impression that we are somehow linked to Great Britain because the majority of the founding population was Anglo-Saxon. Nevermind that we aren’t anymore, or that they consciously made the decision to no longer be British and specifically avoided establishing an American royal family.

Monday, July 22, 2013

2013 is not Boston's year.

I'm a big fan of the city of Boston.

I grew up around here. I’ve lived in the city proper for 12 years. I’ve voted in every election, been in the clubs, seen a lot of the bands, and watched all the teams. There have been few moments where I haven’t been proud to be from here, and I have a knee-jerk civic pride that borders on supporting forming our own New English nation-state and declaring Boston the capital.

With that in mind, it’s hard to say we’ve been having a very good year.

There’s the obvious thing – the bombing. The bombing was terrible, but produced a really interesting and positive reaction within the community. Boston Strong, before it was co-opted to be a synonym for “Yankees Suck” or “Fuck the Canucks,” was a really positive rallying point that definitely made me feel closer to my neighbors. But then Boston Strong became some weird money-making scheme. T-shirts with no connection to One Fund Boston have popped up everywhere, and the benefit concert went unaired due to rumored promoter opposition in hopes that they could sell a DVD, despite airing the concert live being a much more beneficial way to raise money and serving as one big advertisement for the DVD besides. So now I guess they’ll release it on a medium most people don’t use anymore long after the majority of people even care about the cause (not trying to be nasty on that last part – people have short memories and other bad things happen). The lineup also left something to be desired. While the Sandy benefit had predictably big names because of its NYC connection, Oklahoma’s Tornado fundraiser had the (granted terrible) national names like Tobey Keith and Garth Brooks. Sure, we had Aerosmith, but really, the Boston concert wasn’t exactly dripping with relevance. Names like Dropkick Murphys and NKOTB certainly have national appeal too, but they’re really local names at heart. At least Dane Cook was there. He just doesn’t ever want anyone else to see it.