Thoughts on Owning a Business and Using a Bank

I have been using various banks in and outside Connecticut since I was young. My initial experience with personal banking involved accounts as Dutch Point Credit Union and Equity Bank. I continue to use Dutch Point Credit Union in conjunction with Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct) as my personal banking solution and also have a Bank of America credit card. However, for political campaigns and business banking I have been using TD Bank. For the most part I am happy to recommend all of these companies.

TD Bank is ubiquitous across the nutmeg state and for that reason they are a good option for business banking. I have used them for political campaigns and having an account there does not cost anything to the campaign. Fees for checks and other services are minimal or non-existent. It is slightly different if you own a business account: you get a free trial of their premier service and then have to maintain a minimum balance to avoid fees. However the least expensive option only charges $8/month which was cheaper than the competitors that I had researched. As a bonus TD Bank can print and activate a debit VISA check card in its branch. You can have a nearly fully functional account in under an hour. The online banking takes a little longer to set up but it otherwise works well.

Personal banking has been a more confusing conglomeration of solutions for me. I like and have used Dutch Point Credit Union my entire life but the interest rates on their savings accounts are low and their online banking interface and features are lacking. On the flip side the fees the credit union charges are minimal. When I had to get certified bank checks to pay my bar registration fees they cost significantly less than my friends using Bank of America had to pay.

To make up for the lack of online features I setup an ING Direct account several years ago. The advantage of ING Direct was a large interest rate on its savings account, however it has now dwindled to about 0.6%. Their iPhone application allows for the deposit of checks using the iPhone camera, and that convenience along with their providing of easy tools for inter-account transfer of money and printing voided checks has made keeping the account worth it. Even as they have been taken over by Capital One and been renamed Capital One 360 they provide bleeding edge online banking, and you can withdraw money from ATMs at any CVS without being charged a fee. Without physical branches this account works well as a companion to an existing account.

I also am a Bank of America customer since they bought out the company they issued me my first credit card years ago. A nice feature of many modern credit cards is that they provide an additional year of warranty protection for items purchased on the credit card at no cost to you. However most cards hide this feature. It took some extra legwork to get reimbursed for a keyboard repair on my MacBook Pro by the company that Bank of America contracted with for this, but my check did arrive and I was happy. They also have not charged me fees. At one point I accidentally overcharged my card by a few dollars and a phone call was all it took to get the fee waived.

It is my hope that eventually one of these banks will be able to be the best at everything since this mishmash of solutions is a little annoying to manage. However I think if you are willing to take a little time and work the system it is not hard to maximize the value you get from banks here in the state.

S.E.C. Is Asked to Make Companies Disclose Donations

A loose coalition of Democratic elected officials, shareholder activists and pension funds has flooded the Securities and Exchange Commission with calls to require publicly traded corporations to disclose to shareholders all of their political donations, a move that could transform the growing world of secret campaign spending

via S.E.C. Is Asked to Make Companies Disclose Donations - NYTimes.com.

For reformers disclosure laws are a favored method of combatting potential campaign corruption. I think it helps, but recent prosecutions and scandal seem to suggest it does not prevent it. The concerns about chilling speech are likely overblown. Years into disclosure requirements for individuals we continue to see more people participate in the system, not less.

Bring Back the Phone Booth

After looking at some pictures of the Foursquare offices on Business Insider it made me realize that the world suffers from a new problem: a lack of private spaces to take phone calls. This leads to people taking their phone calls in public or inconvenient places and the rest of the world learning the private details of their conversations. If you are in an office or school your options for taking a phone call are limited: a public space, a conference room, or go outside. To solve this I think it is time to bring back the phone booth.

Gadget Review: Logitech Ultrathin iPad Keyboard

I was recently lucky enough to get a Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard for my iPad for my birthday. Getting an iPad keyboard was something I had been considering for a while and the Logitech model (along with ZAGG) seemed to have the most favorable buzz. After using the keyboard for a couple weeks I think it is a great addition to my gadget arsenal, but there are a few drawbacks.

Physically the keyboard fits well with the iPad. It is easy to attach in cover mode and when the iPad is docked for keyboard mode magnets keep it in place. No need to worry about the iPad flying around if you carry it with one hand. In cover mode it slightly less than doubles the thickness of the iPad but still feels thin and light and enough to toss around. The drawback is that the keyboard does not have a place to go if you are not in keyboard mode or as a cover. I often remove it and leave it on a table somewhere when I am reading.

Software support varies. Google Drive supports the arrow keys in edit mode. However apps like Facebook and Tweetbot do not support the keyboard shortcuts that their desktop counterparts do. If you use a lot of keyboard shortcuts then it will feel strange to have to reach out and touch buttons to submit tweets. Some searching has revealed that iOS supports a certain list of common keyboard shortcuts and Apple does not allow developers to implement custom shortcuts. A big mistake on their part.

If you want to use your iPad as a thin and light laptop replacement the keyboard brings the iPad experience to the next level. It is significantly easier to edit documents and browse the web with an external keyboard than an integrated one. It is also nice to reclaim the screen real estate. However you will not reach the productivity potential of the MacBook Pro.

We Don't Grow by Fiat

Last night the state legislature, in a bipartisan vote, passed the gun control legislation it drafted in response to the tragedy at Sandy Hook. Some, felt that this was a process that took too long, and in some ways the outcome falls short of our expectations. However, we should not be disheartened. The legislation is a positive step forward, and Speaker Sharkey was right to build a bipartisan bill.

Laws make a difference, but they will not change the culture. We can ban assault weapons but we cannot ban gun supporters obnoxiously yelling at our legislators as they go to vote. We can regulate what kinds of magazines gun owners use, but we cannot regulate what magazines they read before they distort the meaning of the Constitution. Certain things are not the province of law making, but of the conversation we have around our laws when we make them. Connecticut and the legislators needed to listen and speak with both sides to build the buy-in on sweeping gun control legislation.

There were many rallies, conversations, and public hearings before they crafted something that truly reflected the values of the Connecticut people. Through these we saw the contrast between responsible firearm owners and those that are more extreme in their views. The firearm lobby was at the state capitol spreading fear, their favorite marketing fuel, on more than one occasion. However responsible gun owners and Republicans understood the importance of imposing certain limits on ownership while allowing people to hunt or go to the shooting range. Lawmakers listened to both sides and managed to balance their needs. The final bill is something our legislature should be proud of.

Instead of using their super-majority to create a bill that would anger a lot of constituents Democrats worked with the Republican minority to craft a bill that the majority of Connecticut people could get behind. Neither side is going to be completely happy with what passed, but I think most people agree it is a positive step forward, and that is what is important. Our legislators showed us that when the goal is to make things better instead of creating partisan gain, they can accomplish great things. Members of the federal legislature could learn a lot if they took a day to drop by and see how we do things under the gold dome in Connecticut.

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