This is no way to run a republic or a business

Infrastructure

Jonathan Chait, “Kyrsten Sinema Threatens to Kill Her Own Infrastructure Bill,” New York, September 20, 2021, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/09/kyrsten-sinema-threatens-infrastructure-bill-biden-build-back-better.html

Mike DeBonis, Sean Sullivan and Maria Sacchetti, “After immigration ruling, Democrats’ once-sweeping agenda continues to shrink,” Washington Post, September 20, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/immigration-reconciliation-democrats-agenda/2021/09/20/bee98da2-1a29-11ec-a99a-5fea2b2da34b_story.html

Paul Waldman, “Kyrsten Sinema needs to show us what she believes in,” Washington Post, September 20, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/09/20/kyrsten-sinema-needs-show-us-what-she-believes/

Democracy Now! “‘We Need to Deliver’: Anger Grows at Sens. Manchin, Sinema over Obstruction of Democratic Priorities,” September 21, 2021, https://www.democracynow.org/2021/9/21/35_trillion_spending_bill_ro_khanna


Voting rights

Even some donors are getting fed up with the Democrats:

Still, some leading progressives haven’t felt that Schumer and Joe Biden are doing all they can to prioritize the [voting rights] legislation. Several major donors have lodged complaints with the White House and Democratic leadership about the lack of urgency, I am told, with some making vague threats about denying future funding to the party until some version of the voting rights bill becomes law. “It’s just good money after bad now. So much money and time went in, victory secured, and Dems can’t wield power,” one frustrated Democratic major donor told me. “So investing now is like an abusive relationship.”[11]

Theodore Schleifer’s article, from which I drew the above quotation, is principally a profile of Karla Jurvetson, presumably one of those donors. You probably haven’t heard of her—she mostly keeps a low profile—but she’s well known to the Democratic Party powers that be. And she’s talking about funding a primary challenge to Kyrsten Sinema.[12]

Theodore Schleifer, “The Los Altos Shrink Taking Over Washington,” Puck News, September 21, 2021, https://puck.news/karla-jurvetson-goes-for-broke/


Pandemic

National

Robbie Whelan, “Doctors Left to Decide Who Gets Extra Covid-19 Vaccines Amid Booster Debate,” Wall Street Journal, September 20, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/doctors-left-to-decide-who-gets-extra-covid-19-vaccines-amid-booster-debate-11632130200

Leana S. Wen, “The CDC should let Americans decide for themselves if their risk warrants getting a booster shot,” Washington Post, September 21, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/09/21/fda-limits-booster-shots-at-risk-americans/


Donald Trump

Coup attempt

Aymann Ismail interviews Jason Stanley in Slate:

The entire Republican establishment was taken over by this. It’s not the followers we should focus on, it’s the authoritarian movement growing inside the Republican Party that threatens not just the country, but with climate change, the world. The question is: Why is it not helpful to have mass violent rallies right now? It’s not helpful because the movement, the fascist social and politic movement, is winning. They’re changing the election laws in state after state. You want rallies, look at the anti–critical race theory and anti-mask rallies at school boards all over the country. That’s what we should be looking at.[13]

I’m not fond of interviews; I find them inefficient and indeed this one has Stanley repeating himself at Ismail’s prompting.[14] But it’s a terribly important interview and you should read it anyway.

Aymann Ismail, “Trumpists Don’t Need Rallies Anymore,” Slate, September 21, 2021, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2021/09/justice-for-j6-rally-capitol-dc-trump-jason-stanley-interview.html

William Rivers Pitt, “The Rally for the Capitol Mob Fizzled, But This May Be the Calm Before the Storm,” Truthout, September 21, 2021, https://truthout.org/articles/the-rally-for-the-capitol-mob-fizzled-but-this-may-be-the-calm-before-the-storm/


Gig economy

Bezzles

Uber reports and flaunts adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA). The list of exclusions is considerably longer:

We define Adjusted EBITDA as net income (loss), excluding (i) income (loss) from discontinued operations, net of income taxes, (ii) net income (loss) attributable to non-controlling interests, net of tax, (iii) provision for (benefit from) income taxes, (iv) income (loss) from equity method investments, (v) interest expense, (vi) other income (expense), net, (vii) depreciation and amortization, (viii) stock-based compensation expense, (ix) certain legal, tax, and regulatory reserve changes and settlements, (x) goodwill and asset impairments/loss on sale of assets, (xi) acquisition and financing related expenses, (xii) restructuring and related charges and (xiii) other items not indicative of our ongoing operating performance, including COVID-19 response initiative related payments for financial assistance to Drivers personally impacted by COVID-19, the cost of personal protective equipment distributed to Drivers, Driver reimbursement for their cost of purchasing personal protective equipment, the costs related to free rides and food deliveries to healthcare workers, seniors, and others in need as well as charitable donations.[15]

Hubert Horan, in Naked Capitalism, wrote in 2020:

For many years this series has argued that the market is fundamentally unwilling to pay prices that would cover Uber’s actual costs, that after ten years it has demonstrated that it cannot “grow into profitability” and that there is no evidence that Uber’s business model is capable of achieving the massive, multi-billion dollar improvements that would be required to achieve sustainable profitability anytime soon. There is no data in Uber’s 2019 Annual Report that would cast any doubt on these arguments.[16]

That the numbers fundamentally fail to come out in any humane way has always been the story. It was even the story with the taxi industry long before Uber and Lyft, even when I was a taxi driver in San Francisco in the dot-com era (I got sucked into Linuxcare as a technical writer about a year before it, both the era and the company, went bust) where restaurants were desperate for (and successfully lobbied for) more cabs to cover peak times, which meant drivers on ten-hour shifts suffered on non-peak times, but still, as so-called “independent contractors” (you didn’t really think Uber invented the worker misclassification scam, did you?) had to pay to work, whether they worked their entire shifts or not, whether they made any money or not.

At that time, I thought no reputable business person would touch the taxi business with a ten-foot pole. That was before I learned how capitalism works, that capitalism fundamentally relies on labor exploitation and depends on human misery and human desperation to enforce that exploitation.[17] It’s a little less often that capitalism targets investors as well, but Horan explains the adjusted EBITDA bullshit:

Since its GAAP profitability results are so awful, Uber’s financial releases and Dara Khosrowshahi’s public statements have come to almost exclusively emphasize EBITDA measures. The problem is that none of these honestly measure EBITDA, and Uber aggressively misrepresents EBITDA as “profit.”

Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA) is a non-GAAP intermediate contribution measure that has no obvious relevance to Uber, and even if accurately calculated should be ignored by investors. EBITDA is sometimes used by companies with very large fixed assets, large intangible assets (such as goodwill acquired after a major merger) or significant debt financing to give outsiders a crude sense of a company’s ability to meet its outstanding financial obligations. Uber has none of these characteristics.

More importantly, Uber’s reported “EBITDA” numbers exclude billions of expenses other than interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. Its primary EBITDA measure excludes the $5 billion in stock-based employee compensation. Its “Segment Adjusted EBITDA” measure also excludes all of the IT expense supporting the Uber platform, and the corporate expenses (accounting, lobbying, etc.) directly supporting all of its current operations.[18]

In short, this is a scam, and Horan stops just short of calling it one, observing how the EBITDA narrative is used to entice investors who don’t read or understand footnotes.[19] Yet it is only by the dint of those footnotes, that Uber avoids the accusation of deception.

Who wins? “[E]xecutives and investors who cash out during its many stock fluctuations.[20]

Tom McKay, “Uber Says It’s on Track to Maybe Make a Fake Profit,” Gizmodo, September 21, 2021, https://gizmodo.com/uber-says-its-on-track-to-maybe-make-a-fake-profit-1847716786


  1. [11]Theodore Schleifer, “The Los Altos Shrink Taking Over Washington,” Puck News, September 21, 2021, https://puck.news/karla-jurvetson-goes-for-broke/
  2. [12]Theodore Schleifer, “The Los Altos Shrink Taking Over Washington,” Puck News, September 21, 2021, https://puck.news/karla-jurvetson-goes-for-broke/
  3. [13]Jason Stanley, quoted in Aymann Ismail, “Trumpists Don’t Need Rallies Anymore,” Slate, September 21, 2021, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2021/09/justice-for-j6-rally-capitol-dc-trump-jason-stanley-interview.html
  4. [14]Aymann Ismail, “Trumpists Don’t Need Rallies Anymore,” Slate, September 21, 2021, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2021/09/justice-for-j6-rally-capitol-dc-trump-jason-stanley-interview.html
  5. [15]Uber, quoted in Tom McKay, “Uber Says It’s on Track to Maybe Make a Fake Profit,” Gizmodo, September 21, 2021, https://gizmodo.com/uber-says-its-on-track-to-maybe-make-a-fake-profit-1847716786
  6. [16]Hubert Horan, “Can Uber Ever Deliver? Part Twenty-Two: Profits and Cash Flow Keep Deteriorating as Uber’s GAAP Losses Hit $8.5 Billion,” Naked Capitalism, February 7, 2020, https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2020/02/hubert-horan-can-uber-ever-deliver-part-twenty-two-profits-and-cash-flow-keep-deteriorating-as-ubers-gaap-losses-hit-8-5-billion.html
  7. [17]David Benfell, “About that alleged ‘labor shortage,’” Not Housebroken, June 10, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/05/09/about-that-alleged-labor-shortage/
  8. [18]Hubert Horan, “Can Uber Ever Deliver? Part Twenty-Two: Profits and Cash Flow Keep Deteriorating as Uber’s GAAP Losses Hit $8.5 Billion,” Naked Capitalism, February 7, 2020, https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2020/02/hubert-horan-can-uber-ever-deliver-part-twenty-two-profits-and-cash-flow-keep-deteriorating-as-ubers-gaap-losses-hit-8-5-billion.html
  9. [19]Hubert Horan, “Can Uber Ever Deliver? Part Twenty-Two: Profits and Cash Flow Keep Deteriorating as Uber’s GAAP Losses Hit $8.5 Billion,” Naked Capitalism, February 7, 2020, https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2020/02/hubert-horan-can-uber-ever-deliver-part-twenty-two-profits-and-cash-flow-keep-deteriorating-as-ubers-gaap-losses-hit-8-5-billion.html
  10. [20]Tom McKay, “Uber Says It’s on Track to Maybe Make a Fake Profit,” Gizmodo, September 21, 2021, https://gizmodo.com/uber-says-its-on-track-to-maybe-make-a-fake-profit-1847716786

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