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.