Tag public policy

How to keep things nice: Enforce rules. Be a train, not a bus.

Here are a set of tips on riding the SF MUNI from the tragic story of an 11 year old boy randomly stabbed by a vagrant while riding the bus in San Francisco. These tips could save your life. They would be comedic if they weren't true.
  1. Sit in the middle. The mentally unstable and homeless sit up front where they grope or panhandle at will. The hood rats sit in the back where they can punch people in the head on the way out just for kicks.
  2. Keep your purse jammed under your arm and the strap wrapped around your wrist, lest someone grabs it on the way out the door.
  3. If you listen to music, don't use the telltale white earbuds of an iPod - it's just asking for trouble. And never listen to music so loud that you can't tell what's happening around you.
  4. Finally, don't say anything to the three teenagers who are screaming at the top of their lungs, though they are just 2 feet from each other. To do so ensures you'll get jumped, and you won't get much help.

The MUNI bus system in San Francisco is a complete disaster. You are guaranteed to run into insane street people and misanthropic hoodlums.

Contrast this to Caltrain, the local commuter train system on the Peninsula. I've often felt unsafe on MUNI, but never even slightly threatened on Caltrain. Why? Caltrain has conductors. They roam the trains making sure people have correct tickets. They throw people off and fine them if they try to sneak free rides. They must be strict in enforcing rules and they patrol it with almost an air of tradition. You can't even put your feet up on the seats. That's disrepectful. That's how things are on trains.

Buses don't have this tradition. Nobody every yelled at you for putting your feet on a seat on a bus. In fact, if you give someone a the dirty look or talking-to they deserve for their behavior, you're liable to catch a beating. Why doesn't a bus driver have the same capacity to kick people out and command authority? They really should.

Damn it, people. Turns out you need law and order and authority to keep things from degenerating into anarchy. Or worse, MUNI. This applies to online communities as well. You need rules and restraint to keep bad things from happening. Like 11 year old children getting stabbed for no reason.

Most unpaid internships are actually illegal violations of labor law. Mark Cuban hates it, but maybe its fair?

In order to qualify as an unpaid internship, the requirement is simple:  no work can be performed that is of any benefit at all to the company.  That is, you can not deliver mail, sort files, file papers, organize a person’s calendar, conduct market research, write reports, watch television shows and report on them, read scripts, schedule interviews, or any other job that assists the employer in any way in running their business.

Examples of internships that have been legal are where the job is a “dummy” job.  For example, there was a case of an internship for working on a train.  The company had the interns driving trains from one end of their yard to the other under close supervision.  The moving of the trains was completely unnecessary and was just being done to train the potential employees. As such, no “work” was being performed, so the internship was legal.  On the other hand, if the workers were moving the trains as part of the regular re-positioning of the trains, but were still performing it under close supervision, they would be required to be paid for the work.

Labor law via Mark Cuban's blogmaverick.com

Mark Cuban is pretty angry about this. He says unpaid internships should be 100% legal, and the government is being short sighted.

I could see where this law can be useful though -- in cases where workers start getting abused in various situations. It can be used as a way for companies to skirt minimum wages.

When running a business, you typically try to think about the value-accretive things in life, e.g. letting an unpaid inexperienced person get valuable experience... but when making laws, policy wonks must think about the base realities of how humans will exploit the laws and each other.