February 3, 2013

Bureaucracy and the would-be small business owner

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Business, Cancon, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 11:40

It took me less than a day to start my own business — and it was all done online. We have it good: Canada is at the top of the league table for ease of starting a new business. Americans don’t have it as easy as we do:

Last week, having read my own writing about how it’s cheaper to buy a house than rent one in most markets, I decided to take my own advice. My wife and I bought a new place, and instead of selling our old condo, we’re going to rent it out. And thus I became a small-business man.

Or, rather, I’m becoming one. Entrepreneurship — even on the smallest and most banal scale — turns out to be a time-consuming pain in the you-know-what. My personal inconveniences aren’t a big deal, but in the aggregate, the difficulty of launching a business is a problem and it may be a more important one as time goes on.

[. . .]

The striking thing about all this isn’t so much that it was annoying — which it was — but that it had basically nothing to do with what the main purpose of landlord regulation should be — making sure I’m not luring tenants into some kind of unsafe situation. The part where the unit gets inspected to see if it’s up to code is a separate step. I was instructed to await a scheduling call that ought to take place sometime in the next 10 business days.

Not that I expect your pity. I don’t even pity myself. Going through the process, I mostly felt lucky to be a fluent-English-speaking college graduate with a flexible work schedule. But the presence of a stray pamphlet offering translation into Spanish, Chinese, or Amharic seemed like it would be only marginally useful to an immigrant entrepreneur. A person who needs to be at her day job from 9 to 5 would have a huge problem even getting to these offices while they’re open.

The bureaucratic hassles of entrepreneurship turn out to vary pretty substantially from place to place. The World Bank has a fairly crude measure of how easy it is to start a business in different countries and ranks the United States 13th. North of the border in Canada (ranked third), there’s typically just one “procedure” — a paperwork filing, basically — needed to launch a business. In America, it takes more like six.

US poised to increase involvement in Mali

Filed under: Africa, France, Military, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:27

Sheldon Richman explains why it could be a problem if the American presence in northwestern Africa is further expanded:

Ominously but unsurprisingly, the U.S. military’s Africa Command wants to increase its footprint in northwest Africa. What began as low-profile assistance to France’s campaign to wrest control of northern Mali (a former colony) from unwelcome jihadists could end up becoming something more.

The Washington Post reports that Africom “is preparing to establish a drone base in northwest Africa [probably Niger] so that it can increase surveillance missions on the local affiliate of Al Qaeda and other Islamist extremist groups that American and other Western officials say pose a growing menace to the region.” But before that word “surveillance” can bring a sigh of relief, the Post adds, “For now, officials say they envision flying only unarmed surveillance drones from the base, though they have not ruled out conducting missile strikes at some point if the threat worsens.”

Meanwhile Bloomberg, citing American military officials, says Niger and the U.S. government have “reached an agreement allowing American military personnel to be stationed in the West African country and enabling them to take on Islamist militants in neighboring Mali, according to U.S. officials.… No decision has been made to station the drones.”

The irony is that surveillance drones could become the reason the “threat worsens,” and could provide the pretext to use drones armed with Hellfire missiles — the same kind used over 400 times in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, killing hundreds of noncombatants. Moving from surveillance to lethal strikes would be a boost for jihadist recruiters.

Adrian Peterson named NFL MVP

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:02

The man who almost single-handedly pushed the Minnesota Vikings into the playoffs has won the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award (and is the first Viking to win the award since Fran Tarkenton back in 1975):

Adrian Peterson racked up a bunch of awards on the night, starting with the NFL Fantasy Football Player of the Year Award. Peterson thanked the folks that drafted him in fantasy football this year … NO PROBLEM, ADRIAN … because that’s just the kind of guy he is.

The next award Peterson racked up on the evening was the award for NFL Offensive Player of the Year, which shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.

The biggest highlight, however, was when Peterson was named the Most Valuable Player of the National Football League. This morning, I wondered whether or not Peterson would be able to fend off the challenge of Peyton Manning for the award, and it turns out that he did. In a season that started just eight months after Peterson had surgery on his left knee to repair a torn ACL (among other damage), he put together a season for the ages, rushing for 2,097 yards. That’s the second-highest total in NFL history, and just eight yards fewer than Eric Dickerson’s all-time single-season record of 2,105 yards. He also led the way in taking a Vikings’ team that was a 3-13 disaster the year before to a 10-6 record and a spot in the 2012 NFL playoffs.

There will be some people that will jump up and down and throw a fit about Manning not getting the award, but really … and yes, I’m biased … but Peterson really was the best choice for the award. If you base the award on who had the best season, nobody had a better year in 2012 than Adrian Peterson. If you base the award on who meant the most to their team, nobody meant more to their team than Adrian Peterson meant to the Vikings in 2012.

Judd Zulgad has more:

Peterson, who suffered torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee late in 2011, finished this season with 2,097 yards rushing on 348 carries, giving him an average of 6 yards per attempt, and 12 touchdowns.

His rushing total was the second best in NFL history behind the 2,105 yards that Eric Dickerson had in 1984 with the Los Angeles Rams.

Peterson beat out Peyton Manning, who in his first season as Denver’s quarterback contended for a fifth MVP trophy. Manning’s four are a record.

Peterson received 30½ votes from a nationwide panel of 50 media members who regularly cover the NFL. Manning, who also won the Comeback Player of the Year award after missing the 2011 season following neck surgery, got the other 19½ votes for MVP.

“It’s truly an honor to be recognized as the league’s most valuable player,” Peterson said in a statement issued by the team. “While the award is considered an individual achievement, I couldn’t have had the success that I did without my teammates, my coaches and the Vikings organization. I’m blessed to be a member of the Vikings, and I hope next year we can get the ultimate team award by bringing a Super Bowl championship to Minnesota.”

Cris Carter (finally) voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Filed under: Football — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 10:49

The “receiver log-jam” has finally broken in favour of former Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Cris Carter. Picking him up off waivers was the best $100 the Vikings ever spent. After all, “all he does is catch touchdowns“:

Carter’s numbers, as they have for years, speak for themselves. His 1,101 career receptions are still fourth in National Football League history. He is ninth all time in receiving yards with 13,899, and his 130 receiving touchdowns is fourth-best in NFL history. When he retired from the game after the 2002 season, he had more receptions, yardage, and touchdowns than any wide receiver in NFL history not named Jerry Rice.

1500ESPN’s Judd Zulgad has the full story:

Carter began his career with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1987 after being a fourth-round pick in the supplemental draft out of Ohio State. Carter had 19 touchdowns among his 89 catches in three years with the Eagles. That caused then-Eagles coach Buddy Ryan to utter the now famous phrase, “All he does is catch touchdowns,” when talking about Carter.

The Vikings landed Carter before the 1990 season, paying only $100 to get him off of waivers. Carter, who had some issues early in his career with the Eagles, spent the next 12 seasons with the Vikings.

Carter is still fourth in NFL history in career receptions and fourth in receiving touchdowns. He is now ninth in receiving yards (13,899).

Asked if he thought he might not get elected to the Hall, Carter said: “No. I never let people do that. Those years I didn’t make it, I took two or three hours to cry or mourn or think about it, then right after that I went right back to what I had to do. I’ve got stuff, I’m busy. It’s a great experience but, no, I thought I was going to get in.

“Then this year, I said to myself, ‘I’m going to get in the Hall. I believe I’m going to get in the Hall.’ I just believed. It’s always the right time to do the right thing. With this list and these players, and the wide receivers, eventually one of us had to get in. Eventually, one of us had to get in.”

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