The Reason Why Silicon Valley Can’t Find Europe… Because Europe Doesn’t Deserve To Be Found.

I got 79 languages and startups ain't one...

I got 79 languages and startups ain’t one…

I recently read Sten Tamkivi’s post on TechCrunch that states some reasons why Americans, in Silicon Valley specifically, should be investing in European startups. Tamkivi’s post was echoed by similar sentiments in a post by Union Square Ventures’ Fred Wilson. While there are here are 5 major tech hubs in the US (SF, NYC, Boston, LA, Austin) and a similar number in Europe (Berlin, London, Paris, Stockholm, and Helsinki/Tallinn), I do not equate these groups with each other, for reasons I will outline below. And while I admire both Tamkivi and Wilson, they are both wrong in this instance.

Here’s why:

1. Europeans Don’t Want To Put In The Work: In general, and I know this is a stereotype based on my time living in Denmark, Amsterdam, and London, Europeans are just not as hungry for success as Americans. In America, we are often ostracized by Europeans for not having a positive work-life balance. Well, any entrepreneur will tell you, that it’s really difficult to build a company when you’re only working for 7.5 hours per day. (I won’t take low blows on Greece and Spain here, as in America, we have Kentucky and West Virginia to grapple with…) That said, Germans do have a tendency to work hard, as do the Brits (due to the Protestant work ethic I learned about in high school).

2. In Europe, There Is Too Much Regulation: In Europe, everything is slow. Blame the bureaucracy. Blame the welfare state. Blame the aforementioned work ethic, but I found that it took months to do things that would be done in America in days. It’s so simple to hop on a web site and start a Delaware Corporation. (I know, lawyers are still better when starting a business, but it really is easy to do on your own.) Even when you look at the whole micro-entrepreneur food truck boom in America, it happened very quickly. In Europe, there are more food regulations than you can possibly imagine (though the food is certainly tasty over there). Europe’s more complex regulatory system, given how varied countries in the EU are, might be what tears that union apart.

3. Language: In Amurrrrica, we generally speak one language. English. It’s simple. You call your developer in San Francisco and he speaks the same tongue as your sales guy in New York and your CEO in Austin. In Europe, there are so many languages spoken that to attract a substantial and scalable user base for your product, you would have to have it translated into many different tongues.

4. Europeans Stay In School Forever: How many times have you met an Italian dude who’s working on his 3rd Masters Degree at La Sapienza in Rome and still lives with his parents even though he’s 37? Or a Danish guy who is doing his Post-Doctoral research despite being 42 years old? In America, we are surely educated, but in Europe, people are over-educated. I have attended both public and private universities in America, as well as public and private universities in Europe: In America, everything moves more quickly. You have more hours of class per week, and you learn a heckuva lot more. In Europe, how are people going to be starting companies when they finally finish school but also have a family to support? That’s why there are fewer European Mark Zuckerbergs or Evan Spiegels.

5. Security And Privacy: Tamkivi writes that “security and privacy” are great reasons to start companies in Europe. Find me an entrepreneur who doesn’t want to collect people’s data. Data = dollars. Harsh personal privacy laws, while good for consumers, mean less money for most entrepreneurs. There goes the incentive to start a business.

6. “400 Million Customers,” But Many Don’t Spend: Europeans are far more frugal than Americans. In America, we love junk. We love the latest and the greatest. We love to fill our closets with 85 pairs of the latest wears. In Europe, people buy things once, spend decent money on their purchases, and then don’t buy them again for years. Personally, I really like this about Europeans, but if I were a European entrepreneur, it would make me wary. Yes, they may have invented Hermes and Ferraris, but how many Europeans can really afford to buy a Hermes bag and a Ferrari?

7. Europe Is Old: Europe is the oldest continent ever. Medicine and technological breakthroughs will keep these folks living until they’re close to 100. Of those “400 million” consumers, most of them aren’t ideal customers. It’s too bad the healthcare sector is publicly funded in most European societies, as in this area I see room for innovation.

8. Global Skills = Nonsense: Yes, I agree that Europeans travel more frequently than Americans and are thus exposed to different ideas. However, some Americans (like, ahem, me) have traveled frequently and can also be exposed to these ideas. To think that Europeans have better soft skills than those from other places is nonsense. Yes, foreign exchange programs like Erasmus have become ubiquitous in Europe, and this is amazing, but Americans are also now studying abroad at higher rates than ever before. While Americans should surely learn more languages than just English, English has become the de facto business and consumer language of the world.

9. Grants: When you compare how films are funded in America vs. how films are funded in Europe, they are very different from one another. European countries have film commissions that deliver grants to filmmakers. Filmmakers apply for the grants and then wait months or years to learn whether they have been selected. In America, films are made by means of capitalism and Kickstarter: You hustle your brains off or you don’t get your film made. (Kickstarter, however, may further democratize European film production.) That said, my friends Torsten Mueller and Frederik Fischer received money for their startup Tame.it from “the German Ministry of Technology and Economics, the business development and promotion bank of the Federal Land Berlin and from a successful Crowdinvesting campaign on Companisto.de.” In America, our government may give money to occasional startups in the energy/defense sectors, but they sure as heck ain’t giving it to a Twitter context search engine. Plus, Americans are way more likely to use our disposable income for crowdfunding. (That said, in America, we still have nonsense laws that prevent the common man from crowdfunding in exchange for equity, which they have eliminated in Europe.)

In Europe, there’s a higher expectation that the government and regulation will solve problems. Perhaps it’s the inner-Ayn Rand libertarian in many Americans, but we have greater faith in the private sector than in the public sector. In Europe, there is also a more incremental, rather than disruptive, approach to progress. That said, don’t forget that the Dark Ages lasted for nearly 1,000 years.

This isn’t meant to knock European companies. I have many European startup founder friends, and I admire the work they do. I am also a fan of European companies like Skype and Spotify. That said, these companies had to come to America to truly make it.

I don’t think the future of Silicon Valley investors is across the pond. Tamkivi writes, “Yes, stuff is happening in Boston and New York, but not so much that a once-a-month trip can’t cover most of it.” Quite frankly, this is an idiotic statement, as New York specifically has seen its technology sector grow rapidly during the past few years. (I’m surprised that Mr. NYC VC Fred Wilson didn’t call Tamkivi out on this falsehood.) So yes, while Europe is certainly the place to go for wind energy startups (Denmark), architecture firms (the Netherlands), and a whole host of random startups from London to Sweden to Finland to Berlin, my bet is still on America.

7 Reasons Why Japan’s PR Troubles Can’t Stop It From Being Awesome

Japan has a major public relations problem.

Yesterday, an article in the Guardian titled “Why have young people in Japan stopped having sex?” made its way around the highbrow social circles of the internet. Then there’s the continued fallout from Japan’s two-year-old nuclear reactor disaster in Fukushima, which continues to present problems of epic proportions. There’s also the issue of the Japanese economy, which people love to refer to with negative terms like “The Lost Decades,” despite the fact that things in Japan appear to be rosier than they are in many other places. Finally, on the foreign policy front, Japan’s problems with China and Russia continue to be a source of international tensions.

But Japan is awesome. Really awesome. And it doesn’t deserve this negative press, when Japan has solved many of the problems that plague us every day. Here are some things that I love about Japan.

1. Crime

Japan has the lowest crime rate, by far, of any country on earth. This leads to a significantly higher quality of life than one would have elsewhere. Whether you’re going home by yourself late at night or traveling to a rural place alone, you feel incredibly safe in Japan. No place is perfect, but in this respect, Japan comes as close to perfection as anything I have ever experienced.

2. Public Transportation

Japan’s system of public transportation is nothing short of incredible. In San Francisco, people complain that a propensity for earthquakes and a seaside locale has prevented the city from building an extensive underground transportation system. I actually believed this was true… until I visited Japan, where every city has incredible public transportation, typically in the form of subways, despite being close to the water and in earthquake-prone zones. Japan also has bullet trains that make it easy as pie to travel between Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, and other major cities. And domestic air travel is a breeze. The country’s low crime rate means that domestic airports are similar to what American airports were like pre-9/11, with very few security checkpoints. Also, in New York, I am used to being barrelled over by SDPs (Seriously Disgusting People) whenever I am on the subway. In Japan, there is tons of order. People wait in two places to board the next subway — in one line that guarantees you will get on the next train, or a second place that guarantees you a seat on the second train (that typically comes just two minutes later)!

3. Pride and Honor

Whether I am handing money to a cashier at 7-11, getting served dinner at an izakaya, or asking for assistance at the train station, in Japan, I was treated with respect and everything operated with incredible efficiency. Last year, I wrote an article for PolicyMic about the drawbacks of a tip-based culture, and I acknowledged that in Europe service is restaurants is inferior because of a lack of tips. However, Japan provided me with service that was superior to that of any American restaurant, because people take pride in their work. After eating approximately 30 meals at restaurants, I had not one complaint.

4. Heated Toilet Seats

5. The Cleanest Public Restrooms Ever

Yes, I will say more. Every restroom in Japan is incredibly clean. True story: I didn’t even consider building a nest when going #2!

6. Convenience

With vending machines everywhere, one never has to worry about getting a nice cold coffee or tea for little more than $1.

7. The Food

You may say, “I live in New York and we have the world’s best food.” I don’t think that’s true. Sorry broseph, but in New York, lots of the food isn’t fresh. In Tokyo, you have the Tsukiji Market in your backyard. I ate many of the best meals of my life in Japan. And they were super healthy too. Three words: Sushi. Sushi. Sushi.

Yes, I love Japan for all of the above reasons and many more. Any Guardian readers who doubt it would do well to visit the country and see for themselves.

Want More Millennials in Office? Then It’s Time to Ditch the Two-Party System

9023454411_2897b5e9be_b

If you’re reading this and you’re a millennial, there’s a high chance that you’re a a political independent. A plurality (45%) of millennials identify as independents, compared to 33% who identify as Democrats and 23% who identify as Republicans. I am proudly a member of this 45%. And this isn’t because I’m uninterested in politics, but because I am uninterested in the two political parties that I have to choose from.

At different times, I have felt disgusted by both political parties. Yes, there are certainly some smart people who accept their party’s faults and work within them to make changes… and then there are the slimeballs who we see on TV every day. It seems like most millennials would prefer to run the other way from the rats.

If America had a parliamentary system, like the UK or Australia or Canada, life would be very different, and I can almost guarantee that our generation would already have a strong political presence in Congress. But instead, the two-party system is dominant, and that has made life horrible for anyone trying to work from outside the political system to break in. The American political system has been carefully designed to screw over outside contenders from third parties and political independents, so that Democrats and Republicans gain instead.

Only in rare cases have independent politicians made any strides in America. Sure, George Washington is the most notable example, but it’s been all downhill ever since. Yes, we have Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the Senate, and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) used some trickery to run (and win) under the Connecticut for Lieberman Party after he lost the Democratic primary in 2006, but that’s about all we’ve had at the national level recently.

But what happens when you try to run for office from outside the system?

For example, take Carl Romanelli, who was almost the Green Party’s 2006 United States Senate candidate for Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, to even get on the ballot, the cards are completely stacked against you if you are not a Democrat or a Republican. In order to qualify for the ballot in Pennsylvania, the major parties have to submit only 2,000 signatures, but third-party candidates have to collect 20,000 or more signatures.

According to Pennsylvania law, candidates who are not Democrats or Republicans must collect signatures equal to two-thirds of the number of votes that the highest vote-getter received in the last statewide election. This is complete and utter nonsense for anyone who wants to run as a third party candidate. (I made a feature-length documentary about Romanelli’s plight that you can watch for free.)

America also creates a system where there are many candidates who literally never face an opponent in elections: In the 2012 elections in Pennsylvania, of the 203 state House races, 96 were unopposed, and nine out of 25 candidates were unopposed in state Senate races. This would never happen in a parliamentary democracy, or in a society that values its citizens’ opinions.

As Melissa Daniels writes on Watchdog.org, “in many unopposed races, a strong party in one region may deter its opposition from putting up a candidate. For example, the majority of the House delegation running this year in Philadelphia is unopposed Democrats, and in northern Pennsylvania, incumbent Republicans run unopposed.”

So what is the real Step One in terms of how to create a true democracy in America? Change all of these laws that favor the ruling elite and prevent newcomers and those affiliated with third parties or no party at all from running in elections. Because right now, millennials are prevented from running for office our way, as independent-minded people who are not affiliated with the two major parties. And yes, in this case, Democrats and Republicans are equally to blame.

Millennials, It Was Your Moment, And You Failed

9023458423_de875d8c9f_b

Millennials, I love you, but you’ve failed. The government shutdown should have been your moment to shine, but instead, what did you (we!) do? We took to Twitter and kvetched, we took to Facebook and moaned, and we didn’t do a single thing to actually take political action. But there’s still time to change this.

It seems like it was just yesterday that the Occupy Wall Street movement gained tons of traction, but I, like many others, was not wholly on board with the movement. Perhaps it was because its “leaders” were a bunch of (dare I say…) dirty hippies, and people who it seemed like never had jobs to go to, and didn’t really want to do much other than complain. At least that’s what it appeared to be for me when I witnessed these events in New York and London. They weren’t the intellectuals, the elite members of our generation. But now, as all of us are getting screwed by the U.S. government, it’s time to do something.

Here, before us, we have 100 Senators and 435 Representatives (plus a few non-voting reps from Puerto Rico, Guam, etc.) who don’t want to work. But what will we do when the 2014 election cycle comes around? We will, in all likelihood, re-elect most of the people we are currently referring to as douchebags, scumbuckets, and lazy-ass mofos.

If history teaches us anything, and I can thank Mr. Kohut at Oceanside High School for teaching me this during my senior year, being re-elected to the U.S. Congress as an incumbent is one of the most sure things out there. Even with the “Tea Party Revolution” of 2010, some 87% of Congress was re-elected. And that’s just pathetic, since Congress had an approval rate of 13% that same year, just months before the elections! We are all fools though, because we decided to give these creeps a second (or 25th) shot!

But why do we keep doing this? Has the internet finally tipped the scales in favor of electing individuals who are not crazy, criminals, or otherwise incompetent people?

John Catsimatidis spent $419 per vote in his failed bid for New York City Mayor, and Anthony Weiner spent $190 per vote, and of course they didn’t get elected because neither man would have been competent enough to fill the role! These politico-wannabes are pathetic. And we knew it, in part because of the power of the internet. Anthony Weiner’s “Carlos Danger” scum-mongering alias flew around the web faster than he could pull off his pants! These failed candidates couldn’t hide their nonsense from anyone, because the age of transparency is here. (Yes, we can thank social media for this phenomenon!)

So what don’t we the people have? We don’t have money from special interest groups, that’s for sure. We don’t have cozy relationships with the lobbyists who throw suitcases full of money at us every single day. Nope. But we can fight that.

We do have crowdfunding, as President Obama’s campaign team showed us. We have the power of the internet. And we have tons of ideas. We have undiluted brains that are fed up. And we have lots of complaints, because there’s so much that should be changed.

If this shutdown mess taught us one thing, it should be that we need to elect new candidates in 2014. I’m talking to you! Yes, you may be 25 or 30 years old. Yes, you may not have political experience. But when we’re talking about a room full of criminals, you’re probably just as smart as they are, more willing to compromise, and have better ideas about how to run the United States of America.

Let 2014 be the year that the people rise. Let 2014 be the year where Congressional re-election rates plummet like never before. Let 2014 be the year that millennials make their way to the United States Congress and every other deliberative body in this country. (I’m talking state senates, assemblies, city councils, and even school boards.)

Yes, it is very easy to sit back and let the Baby Boomers (and their parents) run America into the ground. It’s very easy to say, “This blows!” and continue to kvetch. But why should we do this? Why should we not fight the idiots who made things bad, the people who won’t even show up to work to govern this country? We shouldn’t have the attitude that I know so many Europeans have, that they accept their governments are corrupt and inept institutions.

No, that’s not the American way. And it will be up to millennials to put our brains where our mouths are. Let’s all make a pact to run for some office in 2014, if only to ensure that the bozos in power now make sure they know we’re watching them. And you never know, you could very well win.

The One Thing That Makes a Country Work — and That the U.S. Will Never Have

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I first read the statistics in Jeffrey Gettleman’s piece in The New York Times Magazine last weekend: Malaria-related deaths in Rwanda plummeted 85% between 2005 and 2011. And average life expectancy has increased from 36 to 56 years since 1994. While Rwanda’s leader, Paul Kagame, may deserve praise for implementing the changes that created these astounding figures, I attribute them to something a bit less remarkable: Rwanda’s small size.

Rwanda has a population of approximately 11.5 million people, which is a small enough number that small changes in policy have led to long-term changes that positively effect people’s lives.

While Rwanda certainly doesn’t have the high quality of life that Denmark (which was once again recently ranked the “happiest country on earth“) has, its improvements should be lauded and policy advisers should take note.

When one looks at the list of countries with the highest per capita GDP, small countries come out on top:

1. Luxembourg (population 540,000)

2. Macau (population 590,000)

3.Qatar (population 1.9 million)

Plus, there are some serious advantages to being a small country, specifically when it comes to life expectancy: Among the top 10 countries in this category are San Marino (population 32,000), Singapore (population 5.3 million), Andorra (population 78,000), and Iceland (population 320,000).

When one compares these countries to those with the lowest in life expectancy, it is interesting to note that there are small countries on the very bottom of the life-expectancy list (Swaziland, situated within South Africa, has an extremely high mortality rate based upon the proportion of its population infected with HIV/AIDS), but as a general rule, the smaller a country is, the easier it gets for it to solve its problems head-on.

As USA Today reported, “The world’s corrupt nations differ in many ways. Four are located in Africa, three in Latin America, and two in Asia. These nations also vary considerably in size and population. Mongolia has just 3.2 million residents, while Mexico, Nigeria, and Russia are three of the largest countries on the globe, each with more than 100 million people. Based on the percentage of surveyed residents that reported corruption in the public sector is a very serious problem, these are the world’s most corrupt nations.” One can argue that larger countries have greater bureaucracies, and therefore corruption may be more likely to occur since there are multiple levels of governance.

While the Nigerian film industry, dubbed Nollywood, makes more than $800 million per year and is the third largest in the world, it is the Danish film industry that interests me more, as it sells 13 million tickets per year, meaning that each of Denmark’s 5.5 million inhabitants attends 2.36 films annually. Film and television are industries that can thrive and prosper in small countries. For example, state subsidies have caused the growth of the globally acclaimed Danish film and television industry. Denmark puts out more than its fair share of amazing films and television shows, fueling further growth of the industry.

But let’s get back to Rwanda: Yes, having a government that thwarts corruption is certainly important. It is also excellent to have a government that is data-driven in its approach to management. But if Rwanda were bigger, neither of these things would be feasible because of an increased likelihood of corruption, an impossibility of containing problems, and a greater risk of violence.

Will Rwanda continue on its path to become the crown jewel of Africa? I don’t know. But its smaller population is certainly something that gives it a fighting chance.

29 Things I Learned in the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

29, things, i, learned, in, the, aftermath, of, hurricane, sandy, 29 Things I Learned in the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy

As anyone who’s been following me on Twitter or is a Facebook friend knows, I’ve been quite obsessive in trying to coordinate relief efforts post-Sandy. I’ve now been to many of the most affected areas of New York, and I know that recovery will take years. In this list, I mix the funny with the serious, hoping that we can laugh and learn.

1. New York State Troopers need a fashion makeover, ASAP.

/images/white1x1.png

2. LIPA is the worst power company on the face of planet earth!

3. Hurricanes don’t discriminate between rich and poor.

/images/white1x1.png

4. There is no shortage of bottled water donations to Sandy victims.

/images/white1x1.png

5. Your and you’re will always be difficult … (especially when trying to stop potential looters!)

6. People have shotguns on my sister’s street, and are ready to defend themselves.

7. People who helped others for many years can find themselves in need.

8. People keep a boatload of junk in their basements.

/images/white1x1.png

9. A petition can be an extremely effective tool for change and media will take note! (Heck yes, we stopped the marathon!)

/images/white1x1.png

10. Minimalism should always be in vogue, because nobody needs so much stuff.

/images/white1x1.png

11. Some people will profit from disasters, but it’s okay, because it’s necessary.

12. Don’t take your favorite local brewery for granted! (We’ll get you back on your feet, Barrier.)

/images/white1x1.png

13. When there is no power, communication goes old school. (I spent time distributing flyers around Long Island with the latest information, and at times, when there was no paper, people even had to act, essentially, as town criers.)

http://bsgeweb.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/hurricane-sandy-coat-drive-flyer-copy-2.jpg?w=300&h=400

14. You sometimes need to turn into a press conference into an angry rally to get stuff done. (And for this, I am proud of the citizens of Oceanside, my home town.)

15. People are generally good except for the 0.1% who are absolute scumbags. (People have become known as “regulars” at donation sites, as they’re clearly hoarders who are stocking up based on the goodwill of others.)

/images/white1x1.png

16. If politicians try to place sole blame for the lack of response post-disaster on a power company, they should be booted from office in their next election (or sooner!).

/images/white1x1.png

17. You don’t feel the pain when you’re not in an affected area. (When I’ve been at work in Manhattan, I would never know that 10 miles away there are people who are desperate.)

18. Nor’Easters suck, and so does that mid-word apostraphe.

/images/white1x1.png

19. Rebuilding should be strong and take advantage of technology.

/images/white1x1.png

20. We need oysters to protect us from the next big storm.

/images/white1x1.png

21. Hopefully evacuation orders will be taken seriously in future storms.

22. Zipping around Manhattan on a bicycle out of necessity isn’t as scary as it would seem.

/images/white1x1.png

23. There are so many individuals who have gone above and beyond their call of duty, who will never get the recognition that they deserve. (The folks who take care of my grandma, for one.)

24. Suburban areas that are incorporated as villages or cities face an easier time recovering from the storm because they have government and emergency officials on staff. (My hometown, Oceanside, only has a volunteer fire department, a school board, and a library to absorb all of the administrative efforts associated with what will surely be a long relief process.)

25. Tragedies do ignite a strong sense of community that would not exist otherwise.

26. The Occupy Movement has been able to re-brand itself as a force for tangible social good with Occupy Sandy.

/images/white1x1.png

27. Don’t go swimming around here for a while.

/images/white1x1.png

28. Lydia Callis, NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s interpreter, deserves a Tony Award.

/images/white1x1.png

29. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is here to help (even though their name is un-PC).

NYC Marathon Cancelled: Why We Had to Protest the Bloomberg Decision to Hold the Race

When I first heard the news that Mayor Bloomberg was planning not to cancel the New York City Marathon, I was completely shocked. When I learned that 40,000 hotel rooms that could be used to house storm victims were allocated for out-of-town runners, I was more than shocked. When I learned that generators would be used for the race and medical staff provided for the runners, as people and thousands of locals businesses are still without power in all of downtown Manhattan, and residents of Staten Island are stuck without shelter, food, and other basic necessities, I was overcome with a disgust that I cannot ever remember feeling.

When thousands of police officers are used to block roads (of course, at overtime rates, shattering the economic benefits of the race argument), and the only methods of transportation from outer boroughs are sealed off completely, it is mortifying that a public health hazard is taking a back seat to a recreational event. People will die because they cannot reach hospitals during this race. Mayor Bloomberg, along with his advisers and the sponsors of the race, will have blood on their hands.

I fear that Mayor Bloomberg’s government has become an authoritarian force that is not acting in the people’s best interests. When government steps on the will of the people, in this case to benefit the few at the expense of the many, it is the job of the citizen in a democracy to stand up and do something. So I created a StopTheMarathon page and a petition (for all of you to sign and spread, my dear fellow millennials!) encouraging the mayor to rethink his poor decision.

(Should the mayor proceed, we should form a human chain to prevent the marathon from being run, but that’s only a last resort if the mayor and his cronies don’t change their decision immediately.)

Supporters of continuing the marathon have cited the philanthropic efforts that are underway to raise money for victims of Hurricane Sandy. It’s quite clear that $500,000 coming from ING (the race’s sponsor) and the rebranding of the marathon as the “Race to Recover” is just corporate social responsibility nonsense which fails to correct a poor decision. ING should cut their losses. But we know why they’re doing it: ING, along with real estate developer Jack Rudin, who donated $1.1 million to the recovery efforts in the name of the race, will happily be claiming their tax write-offs for their philanthropy in a couple of months.

I’m not saying that they should cancel the 2012 marathon forever. But this is the the worst week ever to run it. If the city waited a mere two weeks, the event would have greater integrity, be more safe, and be less damaging to the city.

Of course, Michael Bloomberg lives in a bubble. If you were a multi-millionaire mayor of a major city, you would too.

A large part of New York City is still without power. People are lacking food and water and other necessities. It is a stark reality that critical New York City resources will have to be diverted to permit the marathon to be run. In what rational world can we justify benefiting 40,000 individuals as millions suffer? Imagine if instead we put all of the runners to work helping storm victims rebuild their lives.

In 1980, the United States boycotted the Olympic Games in Moscow, Russia, because we stood up for what we believed in. Would we have held a marathon less than a week after 9/11? Would we have held a marathon less than a week after Hurricane Katrina? Of course, the answers to the above questions are no and no.

New York will always be a tourist hub. Yet it is unthinkable that there are millions of people without power, and thousands of businesses that are currently closed while a small number of people take part in a recreational activity. Citizens must band together to prevent this marathon from being run. We have 48 hours to make our cause known to the world!

The New York City War on Tennis: Mayor Bloomberg Bans Smoking and Sodas, But Taxes Those Who Want to Stay Fit

While everyone’s talking about the War on Women, I want to shed light on another war: New York City’s War on Tennis Players.

While it may be more of a European past-time than an American one, tennis has always been my most beloved sport to play: The workout, the intensity, the one-on-one (or two-on-two) components … I could go on and on.

And with pride, I estimate that 98% of my playing has been done on public courts.

After failing to make it to any local New York City courts this summer, a friend and I decided to play.

This isn’t as easy as it sounds.

In New York, you cannot just play tennis on a whim. Nope, you need a permit. And there are two options: a $200 permit valid from April through November, or a one-hour, $15 permit.

Then, you have two more options: either purchase permits at the one or two locations in each borough that sells them (though they’re not at the courts), or order one online and wait for a week while it’s mailed to you.

(If you ever dreamed to experience a life like that of Kafka’s Josef K. in the 21st Century, then attempting to play tennis on New York’s public courts is surely your best option.)

Plus, there aren’t any mobile apps for booking courts! Parks Department spokesman Philip Abramson wrote me over e-mail, “We have launched a pilot program for online tennis reservations. It is in its early phases of development and we hope to further enhance it with additional services in the future. We don’t have any developments to speak of at this time regarding a mobile app.” So much for New York being a technology hub or having a “Chief Digital Officer” to make life easier. Blah!

Plus, tennis fees are up by 100% since 2010. The New York City Parks Department’s First Deputy Commissioner Liam Kavanagh told me, “Prior to 2011, tennis fees had not seen an increase since 2003 … While we recognize that this increase may be unpopular to some, we believe it is fair and necessary. The increase in permit fees goes towards the city’s general fund which helps pay for services such as teachers, police, and sanitation, as well as our parks, playgrounds, recreation centers, ball-fields and tennis courts.”

Because of the aforementioned 100% price increases, far fewer people are playing tennis, even though Mayor Bloomberg wants us all to be healthy and fit while not smoking anywhere and never drinking soda.

In 2010, when a full season tennis permit was sold for $100 for those aged 18-64, and $10 for anyone older than 64, the city sold 12,416 adult permits, 4,2032 senior permits, and 40,778 single play permits.

Yet in 2011, when the fees were massively increased to $200 for those aged 18-64, and $20 for anyone older than 64, only 7,411 adults bought permits (and 5,202 seniors, perhaps on post-Recession highs).

This amounts first to a tax on working-age people, who are paying substantially higher prices for the same services. A 90% senior discount? That’s ludicrous. If diners or movie theaters and theme parks offered 90% off year-round, they’d be out of business. Plus, retirees presumably have a lot more time to play tennis (ahem, 9-5 Monday through Friday), so they’ve also got way more access to facilities than working people and students.

Therefore, to presumably appeal to older voters, who vote at much higher rates than young people, Michael Bloomberg has created a de facto young person’s and working person’s tax on tennis. Per capita income in New York state only changed from $35,448 to $41,108 between 2003 and 2011, yet Bloomberg raised fees on tennis players by 100%. (Of course this is not a problem that a member of the 1% would deal with, as he and his chums just pay the $60-$120 hourly fees that are charged at private courts.)

This makes me wonder: Why doesn’t New York charge people each and every time they play basketball or handball on public courts? Volleyball? Football? Why is there only a tennis tax?

Abramson explained, “Parks has a long tradition of charging for tennis permits to raise revenue for the city, just as there is a fee for leagues to play on ball-fields and for members of the public to use our indoor recreation centers.”

Well, some traditions, like this one, should die.

The Parks Department did not answer my repeated attempts for comment about why non-league play in other sports is free while tennis courts are always charged for.

And what about low income people who want to play tennis?

“There is no discount based on income but we do have the free and low cost programs for children,” said Abramson, referring to $10 per year access permits.

So while other sports are egalitarian, tennis is still a sport of the elite in New York, but for no good reason.

The middle class, working class, student class, and impoverished class of New York, I’m talking about the 99% here, should rise up against this punishing tax that prevents people from playing one of the greatest games on earth. Share this article and complain to your local City Council Member today!

Why I Should Be the Next American Ambassador to Denmark, Even Though I Didn’t Give Obama $500K

Ever heard of Laurie S. Fulton? Didn’t think so. She’s America’s ambassador to Denmark and a political appointee. And thus far, in my humble opinion, a very mediocre one, because despite living in a globalized world, so many brilliant Danish ideas still remain on the other side of the Atlantic because this diplomat has failed to spread them to America (including, but not limited to, the brilliance of the television series Forbrydelsen).

As Fulton’s Wikipedia page states, “Her great-grandfather served in the Danish parliament from 1918 until 1940. Through the years, she has visited her relatives who reside in Denmark to directly absorb their culture. Her knowledge of Danish history and society, coupled with her years of professional experience and success, provide her an exceptional background for the position of United States Ambassador to Denmark.”

Is America a land of peerage? Nope! Why should an American serve as ambassador simply because his/her family has ancestral ties to a nation? And why are we sending members of the 1% to represent us abroad?

In our “democracy,” ambassadors should be selected based on merit, and perhaps younger, more forward-thinking, adept at using the media, and skilled at building an image abroad of America as a land of progress, opportunity, and innovation.

What Fulton’s biography doesn’t state: That she “bundled” $100,000 in donations for President Obama to secure her job.

I garner from various biographies that Ambassador Fulton has lived her whole adult life inside the Washington, D.C., beltway (her trips to visit relatives in Denmark not withstanding), and thus she knows very little about how the rest of the world lives and works.

(I, on the other hand, lived in Denmark as an adult and earned a master’s degree there, and thus understand Danish culture from the perspectives of people who don’t take chauffeured cars everywhere they travel.)

I’m not trying to pick on Ambassador Fulton, because there are certainly worse bundlers-turned ambassadors, like Cynthia Stroum, but Fulton’s life as a Washington insider makes her, in my opinion, a horrible ambassador. America should be choosing its non-career civil servant ambassadors from the worlds of technology, academia, media, and potentially non-profits. Candidates for these ambassadorships should be people with a vast exposure to foreign cultures, ideally the ones where they will be serving, not just the people who worked at D.C. law firms and then threw large wads of cash at political candidates.

While Obama has successfully limited some lobbying efforts and increased transparency within the Executive branch, both he and George W. Bush have both made their former roommates ambassadors to Belize cheapens our relations with that country, and quite frankly, should be insulting to Belizeans. This kind of kickback process is not American.

But let’s get back to Denmark, a country of just 5.5 million inhabitants that has revolutionized wind energy, green building, bicycle transportation, while building up a disproportionately overpowering artistic, cinematic, and creative industries. Ambassador Fulton has done nothing to convey the achievements of the Danish way of thinking and way of life to America, or to attempt to implement positive Danish achievements in America.

Consider this the start of my grassroots campaign to become America’s next ambassador to Denmark, because regardless of whether Obama or Mitt Romney are resident in the White House in 2013, I will serve as an excellent liaison to spread American  ideas, interests, and beliefs to Denmark while also encouraging strong American collaborations with Danish scholars, thinkers, politicians, scientists, inventors, entrepreneurs, artists and more.

I just hope that my efforts go farther than those of Carl Malamud, whose valiant and legitimate campaign to become Public Printer of the United States has thus far been rebuffed by the Washington insiders who will never understand that the future is already here.

Hilary Rosen is Right to Call Out Ann Romney in Mommy Wars

In the wake of Democratic operative Hilary Rosen’s recent accusation that Ann Romney has not worked a day in her life, my thoughts drifted back to my days as a Women’s Studies minor at Penn. (Finally, this is my chance to show that I really learned something!)

Among the canons of feminist writing that I consumed at school, there’s one body of work that is particularly relevant to this debate: Arlie Hochschild’s classic study, The Second Shift. In this work, Hochschild reveals that women who work outside of the home are also disproportionately affected by then having to complete their domestic labor.

And this is why I am upset that Democratic heavyweights like David Axelrod would come out in defense of Ann Romney’s choice not to work. I don’t blame Ann Romney for marrying a man who’s salary and family wealth made it such that she didn’t have to work. I also don’t blame her for choosing to raise her kids without working.

(Both parties have failed American women by not understanding the realities of a society where the gap between rich and poor has risen considerably, forcing more middle class women into the workplace, but I will save my CEO compensation over-time analysis for a future article.)

However, I do blame Ann Romney, Axelrod, and everyone else who has tried to imply that women who are housewives, domestic engineers, or whatever other in-vogue term they are being called today, work as hard as women who for whatever reasons (financial need or personal ambition) work outside of the home.

Why is Hilary Rosen being skewered from both the left and the right for stating the truth, that it is more difficult to work a paying job in addition to carrying out domestic duties? Let’s face the facts America, more women are working than ever before, and women are becoming educated at higher rates than men. Let us also remind politicians on both sides of the aisle, as well as the mainstream media, that we are not out of the recession just yet. And one thing that this recent recession showed us is that women were the backbone of our economy during these tough times, oftentimes working when men did not.

As the son of a woman who worked while raising me and the grandson of two more women who worked, I am shocked by how this conversation has taken such an anti-working women turn. Why are both Democrats and Republicans insulting the many millions of women who will be voting in upcoming elections? Someone needs to step up and say, “We know how hard you work out of the house and in the house.” And that someone is me.  I hope others join my chorus.