Posts Tagged Worcester

Anyone want to buy a newspaper?

Today the New York Times Company announced that it is putting its New England Media Group, which includes the Boston Globe, Worcester (MA) Telegram & Gazette, and other related properties, up for sale.

Since the Internet became a thing, it seems like everything something bad or unusual happens to a newspaper prophecies of doom fill the air. While this definitely puts the fate of the Globe and Telegram & Gazette up in the air, it’s not like a newspaper has never been sold before.

The sale is definitely news but, it’s easy to forget that speculation is not news. These papers’ fates are obviously less stable than they were yesterday, but that doesn’t mean they, or print journalism in general, are finished.

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Apple’s taxes: What is the right thing to do?

Ben Franklin famously said that there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. Over 200 years later, it’s still impossible to cheat death, but not taxes. The New York Times recently published an expose on how Apple and other tech companies use perfectly legal loopholes to finagle their way out of paying state and federal taxes. Apple uses subsidiaries in states (Nevada) and countries (Luxembourg) with more favorable tax rates in order to hang on to as much cash as possible.

Apple isn’t the first American company to be accused of cheating on its taxes, but that doesn’t explain why. Apple wants to maximize profits like any other company, but it also has a reputation for good citizenship. Doesn’t being a good citizen include paying taxes?

In a statement, Apple noted that it gives a significant portion of its untaxed profits to charitable organizations. “We have contributed to many charitable causes but have never sought recognition for doing so,” the company said, “Our focus has been on doing the right thing, not on getting credit for it.” Over the past two years, Apple has donated $50 million to Stanford University, another $50 million to an African aid organization, and started a matching donation program for employees.

If Apple is willing to give freely to charity, why does it squirm at the thought of paying taxes, which fund the same good works. Taxes take away from a company’s profits, but so do donations. At least taxes pay for the infrastructure required to keep a company in business and, you know, keep it in compliance with the law.

Some people believe that, by headquartering itself in California, Apple has “done enough.” The company does not need to pay more taxes, because paying some is better than paying none. If we were still talking about charity, that would make sense; you can’t force an organization to donate a certain amount of money to African aid.

However, taxes are a legal, not a moral, issue. For both individuals and companies, being in the United States means paying taxes. The amount is determined by a duly-elected representative government. Apple needs to pay its fair share, because otherwise everyone else will have to pay more than their fair share. Paying the correct amount of taxes is not optional, at least not for most people.

Companies may hate to part with cash, but taxes benefit them in other ways. The government programs funded by taxes make our society work. How can we help people in Africa if we can’t even maintain streets in Worcester, Massachusetts?

It’s a point that often goes unnoticed in our modern society of corporate worship. Yes, Apple gives us amazing technology that makes our lives easier. It also creates jobs and pays some taxes. Still, Apple needs the United States as much as the U.S. needs Apple. Steve Jobs gave his customers personal computers, and his customers made him rich. He took advantage of America’s entrepreneurial spirit, and rich economy, to found a company. Would things have worked out as well if Jobs was born in Russia?

I’m a huge fan of Apple products (this piece was written on an Apple computer), and I’d like to think that there is more than sheer greed behind the company’s actions. Apple said it just wants to do the right thing, regardless of public recognition. Not dodging taxes is definitely the right thing to do. If Apple continues to scrimp, it may getting some unwelcome publicity, and not the kind that includes awards and pats on the back.

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Worcester: You can’t escape

Worcester: Illinois and GrandSometimes, memories of places you’ve been will not go away, even if you want them to. I went to Clark University in the dystopian city of Worcester, Massachusetts, and as a junior I wrote a short article for the school paper about Worcester’s uncanny fame. Four years later, it’s still bizarre.

Like many New England cities, Worcester is a former industrial powerhouse that progress seems to have left behind. A city that once manufactured everything from corsets to railroad cars is now an eyesore, full of abandoned buildings (and people) that wouldn’t look out of place in a zombie apocalypse movie.

The logos of Worcester-based companies may have disappeared from American products, but Worcester itself still clings tenaciously to the popular consciousness. Because of its central location in Massachusetts, Worcester is often used as a reference point for weather reports.

The city alternately known as the “Heart of the Commonwealth” and “Wormtown” is also the birthplace of the birth control pill and the smiley face. The rocket Robert Goddard built in the basement of a Clark academic hall shares the main lobby of the National Air & Space Museum with the Spirit of St. Louis and Apollo capsules.

I thought leaving would allow me to escape Worcester’s grip, but no. Reading a biography of John Adams, I learned that his first job was as a schoolmaster in Worcester. Fair enough, Adams was from nearby Boston, but I expected another book on Thomas Jefferson to be Worcester-free.

Instead, I was surprised to see historian Joseph J. Ellis open his biography of Jefferson, American Sphinx, with a Jefferson impersonator performing at Worcester’s American Antiquarian Society.

Worcester is more interesting than it appears; what other city is a crossroad for rocket scientists and Jefferson impersonators? Most people who go there are eager to get away, but Worcester is so intwined with American culture that I’m beginning to think that’s impossible.

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Want to help save a lunatic asylum?

The Worcester State Hospital Clock Tower looks like it could house a colony of vampires. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Worcester, Massachusetts would be the perfect place to film a post-apocalyptic zombie movie. This city, about an hour from Boston, was a manufacturing powerhouse and is now a poster-child for American urban decay and economic depression. The upside is that it’s full of interesting old buildings. Among the most interesting is Worcester State Hospital.

The remains of what was also called the “Lunatic Hospital” stand on a hill overlooking Lake Quinsigamond. Times have certainly changed since the hospital was built in 1877: it’s surrounded by biomedical research companies and the UMass Medical Center.

Today, only two buildings remain: the Clock Tower, an administrative building that, with its Victorian Gothic style, looks like a mad scientist’s mansion, and the Hooper Turret. A significant portion of the hospital was destroyed in a fire in 1991, the rest was demolished to make way for a new hospital beginning in 2004.

In the interim, Worcester State Hospital became a favorite site for photographers, urban explorers, and even college art students. When I was in college at Clark University, some of my professors talked about taking their classes to the Clock Tower for outdoor drawing sessions. You used to be able to drive right up to it, but the site has been fenced off while demolition and construction work have been going on.

The demolition work denied Worcester State Hospital its “15 minutes of fame.” In 2008, there were plans to film the movie Shutter Island at the hospital, but the ongoing demolition made that impossible and filming was done at Medfield State Hospital.

If the Massachusetts Division of Capital Asset Management has its way, the demolition will continue until none of the original buildings are left. At a recent meeting with preservationists, they announced plans to demolish the Clock Tower and Hooper Turret prior to opening the new hospital in March 2012.

The buildings may be in poor condition, but it would be a shame to see them go. Worcester holds an important place in the history of mental health: Sigmund Freud made his only public appearance in the United States at Clark in 1909, and the American Psychological Association was founded there.

The hospital itself is one of the oldest of its kind in the United States. With that in mind, it would be very fitting to turn the remaining two buildings into a mental health museum. It would give tourists a reason to visit Worcester (the city needs all the help it can get) and, at the very least, a museum could serve as a reminder of how far the treatment of mental illness has come and a warning from history about the potential for abuse in institutions.

Photo by Jon Doe.

Worcester State Hospital is off Route 9 (Belmont Street), just before Lake Quinsigamond and the Worcester/Shrewsbury line. Turn onto Plantation Street; the Beechwood Hotel should be on your left and the UMass Medical Center should be on your right. Take the first possible left. Make a right and look for Clocktower Drive. Go as close as you can get before the fence.

It might be best to leave your car and walk to the site. Some good views can be gotten by walking through the grass between Clocktower Drive and Hospital Drive. I’ve also heard that there are some weak spots in the fence.

If you would like to help save the Clock Tower and Hooper Turret, Preservation Worcester is running a letter-writing campaign. You can find all of the pertinent information at preservationworcester.org or look up “Save Worcester State Hospital” on Facebook.

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Other People’s Cars: Dodge Ram

In the world of full-size trucks, the Big Three each have a recognizable player: Ford has the F-Series, Chevy has the Silverado, and Dodge has the Ram. This modified Dodge Ram sports the 1994-’01 body style, which debuted the macho, big-grilled style seen on every generation of Ram since.

This particular Ram sports some typical American truck modifications. The big tires and raised suspension help it get traction on rough terrain and climb over obstacles when the road ceases to exist. The giant exhaust stacks mean the truck is probably a diesel; they evoke the black-smoke belching pipes of an eighteen-wheeler.

Overall, the blue Ram is as close to typical as custom 4x4s get. The most unusual part of it is its location. I found the mud-splattered truck parked on a city street in Worcester, Massachusetts. The potholes may be bad, but they don’t require that much suspension articulation.

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