Strong Opinions @marksbirch

Random thoughts from a NYC entrepreneur and investor about start-ups, technology and the people that make it all happen. Also find time for good tunes and good food.
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We believe it borders on insanity to train intelligent and motivated people in our universities — often subsidizing their education — and then to deport them when they graduate. Many of these people, of course, want to return to their home country — and that’s fine. But for those who wish to stay and work in computer science or technology, fields badly in need of their services, let’s roll out the welcome mat.
I won’t say that at New York T.L.C., we always got it right,” he said. “Regulators often move slower than entrepreneurs.

Taxi Commission Official Plans to Join Uber via NYTimes

I think he meant to say “always” move slower…

Court Tosses FCC’s ‘Net Neutrality’ Rules" via The Wall Street Journal

Heh, heh….”traffic jammers”.  Yes, they use plenty of bandwidth but let’s face it, without these companies and many others offering content (WSJ included), there is no Internet worth using.  Remember the days when the telcos offered their own content stores?  Shudder to think…

In 1978, the United States had 307,000 inmates in state and federal prisons. That soared to a peak of more than 1.6 million in 2009. Since then, the number of inmates has declined for three consecutive years to 1.57 million in 2012. The number of juveniles detained has also begun to drop since peaking in 2000, although the U.S. still detains children at a rate five times that of the next highest country.

Help Thy Neighbor and Go Straight to Prison" via The New York Times

Also noteworthy in the article ”With less than 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States has almost one-quarter of the world’s prisoners.”


"California devotes $179,400 to keep a juvenile in detention for a year, and spends less than $10,000 per student in its schools."

What are we doing America?

As we Americans watch our parades and fire up our grills this 4 July, the 237th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence – the seminal document of the United States – we should take the time to ask ourselves some related questions: how did we come to this state of mind and behavior? How did we become so fearful and timid that we’ve given away essential liberties? Do we realize what we’re giving up? What would the nation’s founders think of us?

via AlterNet

Certainly something we should all keep in mind.  Do we know exactly what we are giving up in the name of security?

Let me show you what this congressperson [Rep. Steve King] is doing. Basically they’re pinning the problems that we have in this country on people who are poor. If you think about people who are poor really— you have 80 percent of people who are food insecure are actually working. That means their wages are so low that they’re eligible for food stamps. So you want to talk about dependency in this country? Let’s talk about corporations and businesses that pay such low wages that they depend on the United States government to add money to those wages through the Income Assistance Programs, like SNAP. So because if you take a company like Walmart, pays their workers so low that their workers are actually eligible for food stamps. Who’s dependent on the U.S. government? I’d have to say it’s Walmart is the welfare queen here.

Mariana Chilton (via azspot)

Can we officially declare this the War on the Poor?  Now they want to attack access to food.

(via rafer)

The omnibus bill, which arrived on the full Senate floor this week after intense negotiations in the Judiciary Committee, contains several provisions directed specifically at the technology sector. It makes it easier for foreign students who get science and engineering degrees at American universities to get permanent residency, creates a new temporary visa for entrepreneurs, and in the most contested clause, vastly expands how many temporary contract workers can be brought into this country under so-called H-1B visas, while also raising the minimum wages they must be paid.
Many businesses agree to settle because the cost of fighting the charges in court would be so high. One Boston University study found that patent trolls cost businesses $29 billion in 2011 alone.

"White House to act against patent trolls" via TheHill

Not that I expect any substantive change anytime soon, but at least this issue is still circulating around Congress.

There are other forces at work that are a lot stronger (than Immigration Reform). Graduate students from places like India and China are returning to their home countries in far greater numbers not only because we have made it harder to stay post 9/11 but also because those countries have rapidly growing domestic economies which offer a lot of opportunity.

Albert nails an important subtly which seems underrepresented in the current conversation on Immigration Reform. (via brycedotvc)

Have to disagree here.  Not with the fact that those foreign graduate students are going back to their home countries.  That is indeed a trend that has been in the works for the past decade.  They are going back to economies that have improved significantly in that time, providing an incentive for those talented students to return home.

What I disagree with is that there is still a significant gap between an opportunity in the US and an opportunity in other countries.  I have spoken with many entrepreneurs, some of whom are close friends, and they have expressed deep frustrations with the cultural and regulatory roadblocks to entrepreneurship in their home countries.  So yes, there are opportunities, but the barrier to entry is still much steeper there than in the US.  If we get immigration reform passed now, we have a chance to convince these talented individuals to return to the US.

United Guns of America Part II

A few weeks after the Aurora, Colorado shootings, I wrote about the entwined nature of guns and America.  While I support strong gun control measures, many in the US do not, and historically, unfettered guns ownership has enjoyed significant public support.  Back in August, I concluded with the following:

The reality is that gun ownership will forever be a part of America’s history, now and into the future.  Public sentiment still supports the Second Amendment and comprehensive gun control is simply too politically radioactive for any politician to touch.

We are now experiencing yet another mass shooting.  Sadly however I doubt that this tragedy will do much to sway public perception on gun control.  To ban or heavily restrict guns would be deemed un-American in the eyes of many, include those that personally revile guns.  Gun control offends our American belief of freedom as ingrained in our psyche as freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Maybe then we should not be calling it “gun control” then.  When people are asked about specific policy such as checking backgrounds, restricting access to certain groups, or banning specific types of weapons, then support is strong across the board, including from many NRA members.  While I still harbor doubts of meaningful action taking place to advance gun control in the near-term, there are ways that we can enact sensible legislation if Congress shows leadership on this issue.