While I do get to sign off a bit earlier today, I might not read all of these articles until tomorrow:
Finally, despite today's near-record low temperatures in Chicago, we expect a 12°C increase from earlier this morning until tomorrow afternoon. Hey, if this is the only day all winter that even flirts with -18°C, I'm happy.
Did someone get trapped in a closed time loop on Sunday? Did I? Because this week just brought all kinds of insanity:
Well, one of those is good news...
A year ago today, I got this lovely plug-in hybrid:
Because she (her name is Hana, or 初夏) has an on-board computer (well, probably a couple dozen, to be honest), I know exactly how well she did:
|Total fuel consumed
||2.7 L/100 km
Sad to see she never made it all the way to the 88th meridian, given that I live only about 21 minutes east of it. But she did make it to five states and one Canadian province, with trips to Toronto and Cleveland.
In all, I filled up the car six times, five of those on road-trips, and spent only $130.77 on gasoline all year.
As I suspected when I went car shopping a year ago, a plug-in hybrid is the perfect car for me. On average I drove 18.6 km per day overall, which is deceptive because I didn't drive on 228 days of the last 366. On the 138 days I did drive, I averaged 50.5 km per day. Which again doesn't paint the full picture, because I only crested 50 km on 19 occasions, 100 km on 10, and 200 km on 4. Take those 19 days out and I averaged just 21 km per day.
In other words, out of 366 days, I needed to use gasoline about 30 times, and usually only a few centilitres per trip. Hana can go about 40 km on a charge in winter and 50 km in summer (because the heater uses more power than having the windows down).
For an urban dweller who primarily uses public transportation, but who occasionally needs to haul a big old dog somewhere or go out of town, a plug-in hybrid makes a ton of sense. And it's fun to drive, too.
As I try to understand why a 3rd-party API accepts one JSON document but not another, nearly-identical one, who could fault me for taking a short break?
Back to JSON and my miserable cold.
Transport for London (TfL) has declined to renew Uber's operating license for that reason:
Uber has lost its licence to operate private hire vehicles in London after authorities found that more than 14,000 trips were taken with more than 40 drivers who had faked their identity on the Uber app.
Transport for London announced the decision not to renew the ride-hailing firm’s licence at the end of a two-month probationary extension granted in September. Uber was told then it needed to address issues with checks on drivers, insurance and safety, but has failed to satisfy the capital’s transport authorities.
TfL said on Monday it had identified a “pattern of failures” by Uber, including several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk.
Steve McNamara, the general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, which represents London black-cab drivers, said: “It’s all about public safety and the mayor has taken the right decision.
“As far as we’re concerned Uber’s business model is essentially unregulatable. It is based on everyone doing what they want and flooding London with vehicles. Uber cannot guarantee that the cars are properly insured, or that the person driving the car is the one that is supposed to be driving, as recent incidents show.”
I expect Uber will work something out with TfL, eventually. For now, they'll continue to operate while appealing the ruling.
As Gordon Sondland throws the president under the bus (probably because (a) he's under oath and (b) the president would do it to him soon enough), there are actually a lot of other things going on in the world:
More work to do now.
And it's not even lunchtime yet:
- A storm has left Venice flooded under 187 cm of water, the second highest flood since records began in 1923. Four of the five largest floods in Venice history have occurred in the last 20 years; the record flood (193 cm) occurred in 1966.
- As our third impeachment inquiry in 50 years begins public hearings, Josh Marshall explains what the Democrats have to prove.
- Yoni Appelbaum wonders if the country can hold together. He's not optimistic.
- Via Bruce Schneier, the NTSB has released a report on the autonomous car accident in 2018 that killed Elaine Herzberg. A notable detail: "Police investigators later established that the driver had likely been streaming a television show on her personal smartphone."
- Chicago Tribune restaurant critic Phil Vettel lists his 50 favorite restaurants in the area. I have a mission.
And you should see Sir Rod Stewart's model railroad. Jaw-dropping.
Uber, the ride-sharing company that pretends it isn't a ride-sharing company, has started a massive PR campaign against the city of Chicago because Mayor Lori Lightfoot wants them to pay for the damage they're causing to the commons.
Let's unpack all of that.
Lightfoot has proposed a $3 tax on ride-sharing trips into the Loop, Near North, Lincoln Park, and other affluent areas, and a smaller tax on trips out of the center city, because trips in and out of those areas cause several kinds of damage to the city's infrastructure. This is the definition of "negative externalities." In fact, Uber's and Lyft's pricing model has caused the following problems:
- A glut of cars on the road during rush hour, with all the emissions and traffic they cause;
- Reduced public-transit ridership and revenue, which disproportionately harms less-affluent users;
- The destruction of the regulated taxi industry in Chicago, including thousands of bankruptcies due to taxi medallions losing more than two-thirds their value since 2014; and
- The enrichment of Uber's officers and shareholders on the backs of underpaid Uber drivers.
Lightfoot's tax will increase the cost of a trip from Lincoln Park to Chicago by $3. If that pushes people to use public transit instead, we win. If people pay the tax, we win. If Uber's board take home less money, that's a neutral result we can all cheer anyway.
Compared with the way London, for example, has dealt with the environmental damage of cars in the central city, Uber's getting off easy in Chicago.
But of course, having gotten very rich through exploitation of other people, they don't see i that way. (Why are billionaires so whiny these days? Even Carnegie built libraries.)
Because we don't have Satanic mills employing thousands of 9-year-old orphans any more, it's hard to see the direct similarities between companies like Uber and companies like those portrayed in Dickens novels. But guess what? They're fundamentally the same. And Lightfoot's tax is only the first, modest step in Chicago government making life better for everyone in the city in the aggregate. The people complaining the most about the Uber tax are the people to whom $3 hardly matters. You can tell because $3 is more than the price of a CTA ride, and less than the current cost of an Uber ride.
If some Uber shareholders have to suffer a little so that people on the South and West Sides can get to work more reliably, I'm OK with that.
Extinction Rebellion, a climate-change protest group, targeted three working-class Tube stops near the Canary Wharf financial district in east London this week. In doing so they've given their opponents a massive boost:
The stations targeted by activists—Canning Town, Stratford, and Shadwell—are physically very close to the financial district of Canary Wharf. But they are a world removed from it. These stations serve some of the poorest areas not just in London, but in Western Europe. Most commuters shuffling to the train platforms at 7 a.m. (in a country where professionals usually start work after 9) are not wealthy financiers—they’re lower-income workers scraping a living in a notoriously expensive city. Footage of climate protesters with what British people would instantly read as middle-class accents blocking working-class men and women trying to get to their jobs soon after dawn—where they might be sanctioned for lateness—is terrible image-making. It plays into the hands of people who dismiss environmental activism as a hobby for privileged progressives.
These protests not only missed their intended target—the finance companies of Canary Wharf, which are located on private land with ludicrously tight security controls—they ended up creating a false dichotomy, setting up a conflict between the climate movement and public transit users. The optics of the incident end up wrongly implying that working-class London commuters neither care about, nor are affected by climate change.
As the urgency for climate action grows, Londoners who support Extinction Rebellion’s broader aims can only hope that the group can learn from this experience and adjust their tactics accordingly. The group suggested as much in a statement it released after the incident: “In light of today’s events, Extinction Rebellion will be looking at ways to bring people together rather than create an unnecessary division.”
If that happens, a vital lesson will have been learned. The U.K. capital is a critical player in the global battle for decarbonization. The climate movement needs victories here, and can ill afford to lose the sympathies of its residents.
Nice work, guys. Even absent the class conflict this particular action set up, I would recommend not disrupting public transport, which, you know, helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
I mentioned earlier today Aaron Gordon's evisceration of Uber's and Lyft's business model. It's worth a deeper look:
The Uber and Lyft pretzel logic is as follows: Drivers are their customers and also independent contractors but cannot negotiate prices or any terms of their contract. Uber and Lyft are platforms, not transportation companies. Drivers unionizing would be price-fixing, but Uber and Lyft can price-fix all they want. Riders pay the driver for their transportation, not the platforms, even though the platforms are the ones that set the prices and collect the money and allocate it however they want, often such that the driver does not in fact receive much of the rider’s fare.
There is a version of Uber and Lyft that might be profitable even if drivers are employees, but it is a much humbler one. It is one that uses the genuine efficiencies of app-based taxi hailing—the very ones Uber and Lyft claim is their actual secret sauce other than widespread worker exploitation—to get a smaller number of drivers more customers for each of them.
Exactly. If Yellow Cab in Chicago had created an app to find and direct taxis, it would be just as good as Uber or Lyft, but it would cost consumers more to use because taxi fares are regulated. That would be OK by me.
I can't wait to see the effects of California Assembly Bill 5 on the two companies.