Do these people even hear themselves?

Pandemic

There is a new blog post entitled, “The capitalist death cult.” It is from an early draft of this post that I draw this issue’s title.

Meanwhile, Uber seems to have drawn at least some drivers back on the road by making it easy for them to also do Uber Eats deliveries. I avoid deliveries because, in my experience, the pay is about half what one gets for transporting people, because there are often parking issues—and possible citations—at both ends, and because discrepancies between what customers think they ordered and what they actually ordered are apt to be blamed on the drivers. But in addition, when it comes to food, I’m vegan and it is an ethical issue for me to deliver any animal products. So I’ll only do it if I have no choice and I’m not at that point yet. Yet.

Yascha Mounk, “This Is Just the Beginning,” Atlantic, March 25, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/national-shutdown-least-bad-option/608683/

Erica Werner, Paul Kane, and Mike DeBonis, “Trump signs $2 trillion coronavirus bill into law as companies and households brace for more economic pain,” Washington Post, March 27, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/us-policy/2020/03/27/congress-coronavirus-house-vote/


 

The devil and the deep blue sea

Gig economy

Funda Ustek-Spilda et al., “The untenable luxury of self-isolation,” New Internationalist, March 18, 2020, https://newint.org/features/2020/03/18/untenable-luxury-self-isolation


Coronavirus

Center for Systems Science and Engineering, “Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases,” March 24, 2020, Johns Hopkins University, https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html


More of the same in 2020

89834228_10157922659964220_30750
Fig. 1. Shoe, by Susie MacNelly Brookins, for March 18, 2020, downloaded from Facebook, fair use.

In early 2016, I wrote a post entitled, “Why I do not vote.”

I can’t afford more of the same. Whether it’s Democratic National Committee more of the same or Donald Trump more of the same or neoconservative more of the same or any other form of more of the same. It has cost me far too much already.


Gig economy

The drop in business is palpable. It is also showing up in the numbers.[1] And at the worst possible time. I may need rear brakes now (and have scheduled an appointment with my tire shop for 8:30 am tomorrow to have them assessed); I just dropped $500 on an oil change and tune-up.

Preetika Rana, “U.S. Spending on Ride-Hailing With Uber, Lyft Falls as Coronavirus Spreads,” Wall Street Journal, March 18, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-spending-on-ride-hailing-with-uber-lyft-falls-as-coronavirus-spreads-11584525600


  1. [1]Preetika Rana, “U.S. Spending on Ride-Hailing With Uber, Lyft Falls as Coronavirus Spreads,” Wall Street Journal, March 18, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-spending-on-ride-hailing-with-uber-lyft-falls-as-coronavirus-spreads-11584525600

Communication disruption now in progress

Housekeeping

IMG_20200316_181327
Fig. 1. The Pixel 4 XL finally arrived. Photograph by author, March 16, 2020.

After what has to be the worst FedEx Ground experience I’ve ever had—understand I don’t do this a whole lot—a somewhat battered box arrived today. Fortunately, the contents were undamaged, as expected, and I am charging the Pixel 4 XL before beginning the transfer from the Pixel 3 XL.

The AT&T and Verizon phone numbers have already been taken off of iMessages and the communication disruption originally planned for Friday should be presumed to have begun. Watch this space for further updates. As always, contact information is here.

Coronavirus

I’m seeing more of how coronavirus is impacting my business. The shutdowns mean a lot of my customers suddenly are out of work, not formally laid off, but not working either, and therefore not being paid.

Some economists say the increasing lockdown in the United States could lead to an even sharper contraction than during the Great Recession. “It’s not just a loss in activity. It’s a stop, full stop,” said Diane Swonk, chief economist at accounting firm Grant Thornton.[1]

And it’s a “full stop” that hits the poor hardest. It’s not enough to talk about halting evictions[2] because the rent is still due and there’s no money to pay for it. And the poor still have to buy groceries and pay other bills.

So what we’re hearing about evictions[3] isn’t really about concern for the poor. It’s concern about even bigger homeless encampments, even more visible homeless that might disturb the people the powerful really care about.

Were it otherwise, we would be hearing more about replacing the lost income that we cannot make up.[4]

Don Lee and Laura King, “Fed slashes rate to near zero to counter coronavirus as Fauci warns ‘worst is yet ahead,’” Los Angeles Times, March 15, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-03-15/fed-slashes-rate-to-near-zero-eases-lending-rules


  1. [1]Don Lee and Laura King, “Fed slashes rate to near zero to counter coronavirus as Fauci warns ‘worst is yet ahead,’” Los Angeles Times, March 15, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-03-15/fed-slashes-rate-to-near-zero-eases-lending-rules
  2. [2]Hanna Kozlowska, “Coronavirus is revealing ugly truths about social structure in the US,” Quartz, March 14, 2020, https://qz.com/1818548/coronavirus-is-revealing-ugly-truths-about-social-structure-in-the-us/; Jenny Schuetz, “America’s inequitable housing system is completely unprepared for coronavirus,” Brookings, March 12, 2020, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2020/03/12/americas-inequitable-housing-system-is-completely-unprepared-for-coronavirus/;
  3. [3]Hanna Kozlowska, “Coronavirus is revealing ugly truths about social structure in the US,” Quartz, March 14, 2020, https://qz.com/1818548/coronavirus-is-revealing-ugly-truths-about-social-structure-in-the-us/; Jenny Schuetz, “America’s inequitable housing system is completely unprepared for coronavirus,” Brookings, March 12, 2020, https://www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2020/03/12/americas-inequitable-housing-system-is-completely-unprepared-for-coronavirus/
  4. [4]John Cassidy, “What Would a Proper Coronavirus Stimulus Plan Look Like?” New Yorker, March 14, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/what-would-a-proper-coronavirus-stimulus-plan-look-like; James Hamblin, “What Will You Do If You Start Coughing?” Atlantic, March 11, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/03/where-do-you-go-if-you-get-coronavirus/607759/

Winter will be extended

Coronavirus

A couple days ago, I wrote:

Since the panic began, I’ve been seeing a bump in business driving for Lyft, which has kept me sufficiently busy that I haven’t even tried driving for Uber. I attribute this to three possible factors, none of which seem to be mutually exclusive. I am not able to determine the extent to which any of these may be, if at all, true:

  1. It is March. We might be coming to the end of winter, which has, as long as I’ve been driving cab (and for Uber and Lyft) been a horrible season.
  2. Some drivers may be staying offline, to avoid coronavirus exposure.
  3. Some passengers may be avoiding public transportation, to avoid coronavirus exposure.[1]

Naturally, it was just about the time I posted that, that I started noticing a softening of business.

Today, while the iPhone I’m relying on to get mobile data to my Pixel 3 XL, which I’m using while I await the Pixel 4 XL (now expected tomorrow, with a planned communication disruption to follow), has started to act up, particularly with the hotspot function, I’m getting a picture of the answer:

  1. It appears winter will be extended. Usually, Sunday is one of my better days. Although, the iPhone screw-up might be a contributing factor, I got relatively few passengers today. Usually, I see some trips to retrieve vehicles left near bars. I saw none of these today even after the Saint Patrick’s Day celebration yesterday. And judging from the grocery store loads, the shelves are now well and truly empty; there weren’t even very many of these trips today. The trips I did see today were generally short.
  2. Drivers are staying offline. When I’m traveling long distances for rides, I infer that no one closer was available. I did a fair amount of that today.
  3. Folks now appear to be heeding advice to “stay home.”[2]

How the psychology of all this plays out remains to be determined, and it will, of course, be psychology that determines individual decisions to go out, to stay home, to work, to not work. But right now, I’m feeling pessimistic.

Among the articles below, there is one by Jennifer Gonnerman, given the headline, “How Prisons and Jails Can Respond to the Coronavirus.” That headline should have the words “and how they probably won’t” appended.[3]

Why are prisons and jails especially dangerous places to be during a pandemic?

Jails and prisons are full of people who are at higher risk than the general public. We have filled them up with people who have high rates of serious health problems. We also, especially in the state prison systems around the country, have an increasingly older population of people. So we have lots of people who are at high risk for serious complications.

All of the new terms of art that everybody has learned in the last two weeks, like “social distancing” and “self-quarantine” and “flattening the curve” of the epidemic—all of these things are impossible in jails and prisons, or are made worse by the way jails and prisons are operated. Everything about incarceration is going to make that curve go more steeply up.

If you think about how a county jail works, the first thing upfront is that people—when they’re arrested in the precinct and then when they go to court and then when they get to jail—they’re in these court pens with lots of other people. You could have a dozen or even two dozen people in a small pen, where there’s not room to really sit down, where you’re sitting on the floor or you’re sitting on benches.

Every time we do much smaller investigations of outbreaks—if there’s a bacterial meningitis or if there’s a pulmonary TB case—those are the places we worry about and where we see transmission happening, very quickly, of communicable disease. The jails are built to operate this way: big pens, big groups of people coming in. Five, ten, fifteen, twenty at a time going in blocks through cells. They start out in one cell, then they go to a second cell. They might go through six or eight cells. They don’t really have hand-washing access built in. That is basically a system designed to spread communicable disease.

Once people get through that intake process, if you go to housing areas in jails and prisons today, whether it’s a cell or a dorm-housing area, if you go to the bathrooms, you would find that many of the sinks don’t work. Many of them don’t have soap, and many of them don’t have paper towels to dry your hands.[4]

In addition, Uber is now providing details to their driver “sick leave” plan for coronavirus. It’s based on the last six months of earnings,[5] which might work out if Lyft matches it, as many drivers drive for both.

Jennifer Gonnerman, “How Prisons and Jails Can Respond to the Coronavirus,” New Yorker, March 14, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/how-prisons-and-jails-can-respond-to-the-coronavirus

Bloomberg, “CDC says U.S. gatherings of over 50 people should not be held for eight weeks,” Los Angeles Times, March 15, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-03-15/cdc-us-gatherings-over-50-people-should-not-be-held-for-eight-weeks

Eric Heyl, “Four Coronavirus Cases Now Confirmed In Allegheny County,” Patch, March 15, 2020, https://patch.com/pennsylvania/baldwin-whitehall/s/h1t4f/third-coronavirus-case-confirmed-in-allegheny-county

Heather Long, “Federal Reserve slashes interest rates to zero as part of wide-ranging emergency intervention,” Washington Post, March 15, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/03/15/federal-reserve-slashes-interest-rates-zero-part-wide-ranging-emergency-intervention/

Brent Kendall, Chad Day, and Alex Leary, “U.S. Officials Urge More Action to Combat Coronavirus,” Wall Street Journal, March 15, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/fauci-urges-americans-to-stay-home-amid-coronavirus-11584284229

Uber, “Supporting you during the Coronavirus,” March 15, 2020, https://www.uber.com/blog/supporting-you-during-coronavirus/

Wes Venteicher and Theresa Clift, “California plans to use private hotels, motels to shelter homeless people as coronavirus spreads,” Sacramento Bee, March 15, 2020, https://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article241216061.html

Washington Post, “Mapping the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. and worldwide,” March 15, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2020/01/22/mapping-spread-new-coronavirus/


  1. [1]David Benfell, “The panic,” Irregular Bullshit, March 13, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/03/13/the-panic/
  2. [2]Bloomberg, “CDC says U.S. gatherings of over 50 people should not be held for eight weeks,” Los Angeles Times, March 15, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-03-15/cdc-us-gatherings-over-50-people-should-not-be-held-for-eight-weeks; Brent Kendall, Chad Day, and Alex Leary, “U.S. Officials Urge More Action to Combat Coronavirus,” Wall Street Journal, March 15, 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/fauci-urges-americans-to-stay-home-amid-coronavirus-11584284229
  3. [3]Jennifer Gonnerman, “How Prisons and Jails Can Respond to the Coronavirus,” New Yorker, March 14, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/how-prisons-and-jails-can-respond-to-the-coronavirus
  4. [4]Jennifer Gonnerman, “How Prisons and Jails Can Respond to the Coronavirus,” New Yorker, March 14, 2020, https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/how-prisons-and-jails-can-respond-to-the-coronavirus
  5. [5]Uber, “Supporting you during the Coronavirus,” March 15, 2020, https://www.uber.com/blog/supporting-you-during-coronavirus/

Gig workers forgotten. As usual.

Updates

  1. Originally published, March 14, 9:48 am.
  2. March 14, 10:35 am:
    • The Los Angeles Times has a list of events that have been canceled or postponed due to coronavirus. Of course, this emphasizes Southern California and, though the Times has made a stab at more global coverage,[1] cannot reasonably be expected to be comprehensive elsewhere. But as the social world shuts down, Uber and Lyft drivers will, of course, be affected, even if they aren’t quarantined or diagnosed with COVID-19.

Housekeeping

After a transit lasting 27 hours and 45 minutes, for a trip that should have taken less than four hours, my Pixel 4 XL has apparently finally made it to Pittsburgh, is now scheduled for delivery on Monday, and the planned communication disruption will, assuming no further stupidity, occur on that date.

FedEx Ground is just inexcusably stupid.


Coronavirus

It doesn’t sound like there’s anything in this “sweeping” legislation that will help gig workers.[2]

Gig workers are generally forgotten whenever it comes to labor protections of any sort. That’s the point.

Even those oh so pious words uttered by Uber and Lyft in response to Mark Warner’s request have yet to be followed up with any substance whatsoever. Not even the promised hand sanitizer. Not even the promised cleaning supplies.[3] (Even that ever-so-controversial California bill banning misclassification of workers is still, in the words of the headline attached to Diane Mulcahy’s article last year, all bark and no bite.[4]) There has been no direction on what to do if we are quarantined or diagnosed with COVID-19. Just oh so pious words. That is, when we’re remembered at all.

Los Angeles Times, “Here are events canceled or postponed due to coronavirus,” March 13, 2020,https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-03-12/events-canceled-postponed-coronavirus

Sarah Ferris et al., “House passes sweeping coronavirus response package,” Politico, March 14, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/13/congress-coronavirus-stimulus-package-deal-friday-128140


  1. [1]Los Angeles Times, “Here are events canceled or postponed due to coronavirus,” March 13, 2020,https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-03-12/events-canceled-postponed-coronavirus
  2. [2]Sarah Ferris et al., “House passes sweeping coronavirus response package,” Politico, March 14, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/2020/03/13/congress-coronavirus-stimulus-package-deal-friday-128140
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Pieties for gig workers,” Irregular Bullshit, March 7, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/03/07/pieties-for-gig-workers/; David Benfell, David Benfell, “Lots of people will die who didn’t need to,” Irregular Bullshit, March 10, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/03/10/lots-of-people-will-die-who-didnt-need-to/; Megan Rose Dickey, “Senator urges Uber, Lyft, Instacart and others to offer gig workers financial security in light of COVID-19 concerns,” TechCrunch, March 6, 2020, https://techcrunch.com/2020/03/06/senator-urges-uber-lyft-instacart-and-others-to-offer-gig-workers-financial-security-in-light-of-covid-19-concerns/; Mekhla Raina, “Uber says it will compensate drivers diagnosed with coronavirus,” Reuters, March 7, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-uber-idUSKBN20U105
  4. [4]Diane Mulcahy, “California’s New Gig Economy Law Is All Bark, No Bite,” Forbes, September 20, 2019, https://www.forbes.com/sites/dianemulcahy/2019/09/20/californias-new-gig-economy-law-is-all-bark-no-bite/

Imagine wanting Joe Biden to be your nominee

Updates

  1. Originally published, March 12, 9:40 am.
  2. March 13, 7:23 pm:
    • The Pixel 4 XL has not arrived and therefore, the expected communication disruption has not begun. Please watch The Irregular Bullshit for updates.

Joe Biden

As of now, FiveThirtyEight scores the endorsement race at 682 for Joe Biden to 73 for Bernie Sanders.[1]

Glen Kessler defends Biden’s record on Social Security, sort of, against Sanders’ attacks by calling attention to context: Austerity had wide support, at least within the Washington, D.C., elite—in Kessler’s phrasing, it was uncontroversial. Biden allegedly was seeking to stave off even worse cuts. And it wasn’t just Social Security.[2] It’s damnation by faint praise.

Neoliberalism remains intellectually utterly discredited.[3] To advocate it is not an intellectually honest position, but rather one that appeals to the “donor class,” that is, the filthy rich.


Housekeeping

There will be significant disruptions to my phone communications beginning sometime tomorrow.

The iPhone just wasn’t cutting it. The myriad annoyances with workflow were one thing. It was another when I discovered I was missing Uber orders because of something that wasn’t working correctly (the old sound system in my car may bear some blame here).

But what was really getting me is that Lyft is pretty aggressive about reshuffling orders among drivers, presumably to optimize overall utilization. Often, I’m in Pittsburgh traffic[4] at a crucial moment, making a turn, whatever, when Lyft does this. With the iPhone, I was having to push three buttons to get navigation back on track. It’s press, wait for response, press, wait for response, press.

So I dredged out that Pixel 3 XL I’d received on a warranty exchange, the phone that can’t handle dual SIM, dual standby (DSDS, a requirement to ensure maximum mobile data availability), put it on a cheap Google Fi plan (their plans really are cheap but they run off third-tier mobile providers), and tried running it off a personal hotspot on the iPhone.

The difference was amazing. All those annoyances were gone. Presto. Poof. Gone. And it’s only one button to get navigation back on track when Lyft does its thing. In general, the integration works far better with Uber and Lyft.

But running a personal hotspot like that is unsustainable. Sometimes things really go wrong. And I’m having to carry two phones. And sometimes that third-tier provider stuff or that routing voice calls over WiFi on the personal hotspot stuff doesn’t work so well when I have to call passengers.

The Pixel 4 XL is due to arrive tomorrow. I’m going to be going through hell getting it set up. And communication might not work as intended at that point.

Use the Google Voice numbers as appropriate for any urgent contact. The Pixel 3 XL will be unperturbed until I shut down the Google Fi plan and it has Google Voice.


  1. [1]FiveThirtyEight, “The 2020 Endorsement Primary,” March 12, 2020, https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2020-endorsements/democratic-primary/
  2. [2]Glenn Kessler, “Sanders versus Biden on Social Security: a guide to the claims,” MSNBC, March 9, 2020, https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/factcheck/sanders-versus-biden-on-social-security-a-guide-to-the-claims/ar-BB10TIMr
  3. [3]Mark Blyth, Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea (Oxford, UK: Oxford University, 2013); Amir Fleischmann, “The Myth of the Fiscal Conservative,” Jacobin, March 5, 2017, https://jacobinmag.com/2017/03/fiscal-conservative-social-services-austerity-save-money; Jason Hickel, “Progress and its discontents,” New Internationalist, August 7, 2019, https://newint.org/features/2019/07/01/long-read-progress-and-its-discontents; Daniel Stedman Jones, Masters of the Universe: Hayek, Friedman, and the Birth of Neoliberal Politics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University, 2012); Robert Kuttner, “Austerity never works: Deficit hawks are amoral — and wrong,” Salon, May 5, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/05/05/austerity_never_works_deficit_hawks_are_amoral_and_wrong/; Dennis Loo, Globalization and the Demolition of Society (Glendale, CA: Larkmead, 2011); Thomas Piketty, Jeffrey Sachs, Heiner Flassbeck, Dani Rodrik and Simon Wren-Lewis, “Austerity Has Failed: An Open Letter From Thomas Piketty to Angela Merkel,” Nation, July 6, 2015, http://www.thenation.com/article/austerity-has-failed-an-open-letter-from-thomas-piketty-to-angela-merkel/; John Quiggin, “Austerity Has Been Tested, and It Failed,” Chronicle of Higher Education, May 20, 2013, http://chronicle.com/article/Austerity-Has-Been-Tested-and/139255/; David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, “How Austerity Kills,” New York Times, May 12, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/13/opinion/how-austerity-kills.html; David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu, “Paul Krugman’s right: Austerity kills,” Salon, May 19, 2013, http://www.salon.com/2013/05/19/paul_krugmans_right_austerity_kills/
  4. [4]David Benfell, “Pittsburgh driving for the uninitiated,” Irregular Bullshit, n.d., https://disunitedstates.com/pittsburgh-driving-for-the-uninitiated/

Lots of people will die who didn’t need to

Coronavirus

From what I can see, coronavirus is now pretty much out of control.[1] Draconian measures are being taken to attempt to contain it in lots of places.[2] By all means blame Donald Trump for making the situation worse.[3] But remember also that there are structural factors at work that are probably more to blame.[4]

Most people will suffer only mild symptoms.[5] But apparently, when the disease migrates into the lungs, the consequences become a lot more serious, including possible death.[6] That most folks might not even realize they’re infected helps its spread, which will increase aggregate mortality.[7] That functional testing for the virus has gotten off to a slow start[8] means more people will be unaware they were infected.[9] When they speak of “community” spread of the disease, where they don’t know how or from whom sufferers were infected, this is at least part of what they’re talking about: Lots of people will contract coronavirus, think little of it, and unwittingly spread it to others.[10] And as David Von Drehle points out, official disinformation exacerbates the problem. So yes, this is going to be bad.[11]

How bad remains to be seen. But it’s a solid bet that people will die, and probably have already died, who didn’t need to.

On a related note, on March 7th, I reported an email I’d received from Lyft regarding coronavirus.[12] on the same day that Mark Warner had requested gig economy companies take care of their drivers.[13] Tonight, I’ve received a similar email from Uber. This one promises cleaning supplies for cars but notes that these items are in short supply. Again, there are no details on compensation for missed work.

David Von Drehle, “If Trump doesn’t like the coronavirus news now, he’ll hate what comes next,” Washington Post, March 10, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/if-trump-doesnt-like-the-coronavirus-news-now-hell-hate-what-comes-next/2020/03/10/e478c314-62ea-11ea-acca-80c22bbee96f_story.html


Bernie Sanders

Sometimes the irony is just too rich.

I happened to notice a new Bernie Sanders campaign office opening in Pittsburgh, which according to an email I received, is at 831 East Warrington Avenue. The email includes a map (figure 1)[14] which contains the irony I noticed:
unnamed
Fig. 1. Map of Bernie Sanders campaign office via their email.[15]

Brosville Street runs downhill from East Warrington, just on the other side of Arlington Avenue, which is very near the new office. Yes, Brosville, as in Bernie Bros.


  1. [1]Colby Itkowitz, Ashley Parker, and Seung Min Kim, “Coronavirus continues its rapid spread, confounding efforts by global leaders,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/03/07/coronavirus-continues-its-rapid-spread-confounding-efforts-by-global-leaders/
  2. [2]James Hamblin, “You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus,” Atlantic, February 24, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/02/covid-vaccine/607000/; David Von Drehle, “If Trump doesn’t like the coronavirus news now, he’ll hate what comes next,” Washington Post, March 10, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/if-trump-doesnt-like-the-coronavirus-news-now-hell-hate-what-comes-next/2020/03/10/e478c314-62ea-11ea-acca-80c22bbee96f_story.html
  3. [3]Dana Milbank, “For Trump, a reckoning has come,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/28/trump-reckoning-has-come/; Ashley Parker, Yasmeen Abutaleb, and Lena H. Sun, “Squandered time: How the Trump administration lost control of the coronavirus crisis,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-coronavirus-response-squandered-time/2020/03/07/5c47d3d0-5fcb-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html; Paul Waldman, “How coronavirus has deeply flummoxed conservative media,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/28/how-coronavirus-has-deeply-flummuxed-conservative-media/
  4. [4]Sara R. Collins and David Blumenthal, “Without universal healthcare, coronavirus puts us all at risk,” Los Angeles Times, March 5, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-03-05/op-ed-time-to-ramp-up-medicaid-to-pay-for-universal-coronavirus-care; Mariel Garza, “Why aren’t we paying people with the coronavirus to stay home?” Los Angeles Times, March 6, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-03-06/opinion-why-arent-we-paying-people-with-the-coronavirus-to-stay-home; Amy Goldstein, “Worries about medical bills and lost pay may hamper coronavirus efforts in the United States,” Washington Post, March 2, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/worries-about-medical-bills-and-lost-pay-may-hamper-coronavirus-efforts-in-the-united-states/2020/03/02/75825be0-5c9c-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html; Nitasha Tiku, “Gig workers face the spread of the new coronavirus with no safety net,” Washington Post, February 29, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/02/29/gig-workers-face-spread-new-coronavirus-with-no-safety-net/
  5. [5]James Hamblin, “You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus,” Atlantic, February 24, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/02/covid-vaccine/607000/
  6. [6]Frank Chung, “Chinese doctors say coronavirus ‘like a combination of SARS and AIDS’, can cause irreversible lung damage,” News, March 5, 2020, https://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/health/health-problems/chinese-doctors-say-coronavirus-like-a-combination-of-sars-and-aids-can-cause-irreversible-lung-damage/news-story/f58f19c5eeae99b845c54e2d2b9305ca; Richard Read, Soumya Karlamangla, and Colleen Shalby, “Coronavirus deaths in U.S. increase as officials send alarms about spread,” Los Angeles Times, March 3, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-03-03/six-dead-coronavirus-kirkland-seattle-california-cases
  7. [7]James Hamblin, “You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus,” Atlantic, February 24, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/02/covid-vaccine/607000/
  8. [8]Jon Cohen, “The United States badly bungled coronavirus testing—but things may soon improve,” Science, February 28, 2020, doi: 10.1126/science.abb5152; Julia Belluz and Brian Resnick, “The coronavirus diagnostic testing snafu, explained,” Vox, February 29, 2020, https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2020/2/28/21155917/preparing-for-coronavirus-in-the-us-cdc-diagnostic-testing
  9. [9]James Hamblin, “You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus,” Atlantic, February 24, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/02/covid-vaccine/607000/
  10. [10]James Hamblin, “You’re Likely to Get the Coronavirus,” Atlantic, February 24, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/02/covid-vaccine/607000/
  11. [11]David Von Drehle, “If Trump doesn’t like the coronavirus news now, he’ll hate what comes next,” Washington Post, March 10, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/if-trump-doesnt-like-the-coronavirus-news-now-hell-hate-what-comes-next/2020/03/10/e478c314-62ea-11ea-acca-80c22bbee96f_story.html
  12. [12]David Benfell, “Pieties for gig workers,” Irregular Bullshit, March 7, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/03/07/pieties-for-gig-workers/
  13. [13]Megan Rose Dickey, “Senator urges Uber, Lyft, Instacart and others to offer gig workers financial security in light of COVID-19 concerns,” TechCrunch, March 6, 2020, https://techcrunch.com/2020/03/06/senator-urges-uber-lyft-instacart-and-others-to-offer-gig-workers-financial-security-in-light-of-covid-19-concerns/
  14. [14]Bernie 2020 to supporters, “[RSVP] Bernie 2020 Office Opening in Pittsburgh → can we count on seeing you there?” March 10, 2020, https://events.berniesanders.com/event/260500/
  15. [15]Bernie 2020 to supporters, “[RSVP] Bernie 2020 Office Opening in Pittsburgh → can we count on seeing you there?” March 10, 2020, https://events.berniesanders.com/event/260500/

So Uber and Lyft drivers are supposed to buy electric cars now?

Updates

  1. Originally published, March 8, 2020, 9:35 am.
  2. March 9, 3:17 am:
    • I have updated the citations in my self-quotation in the section on coronavirus to reflect the articles that have been published[1] since I originally wrote that passage. My claim hasn’t changed; there’s just more evidence supporting it.

Gig economy

Previously, a Union of Concerned Scientists study found that Uber and Lyft vehicles emit 70 percent more pollution per passenger mile than if the gig economy didn’t exist.[2] The states of California and Washington are looking to regulation to address the problem.[3]

I wonder how many Uber and Lyft drivers in the states of California and Washington face a similar dilemma to my own: It’s extremely unlikely a new electric car can pencil out financially. Where I presently drive a 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid that I bought for cash, I would have to make car payments and higher insurance payments—this before we even get to depreciation costs on a new car. I have no charging station for an electric car nearby and no place to plug one in where I live, even though I rent a garage.

And I really need to wait for the next generation of batteries. The range with lithium-ion is really much too short, especially for the occasional cross-country trip; and to take care of the battery, I should only charge to between 20 and 80 percent, slowly, which reduces both range and availability. I don’t know how I’d even manage that in my present situation.

The battery technology that General Motors is still developing, with a range of 600 miles,[4] would meet my criteria if it can be charged to full capacity quickly. I would still need to make it work financially.

Hydrogen—as with the Toyota Mirai that costs nearly $60,000—would be attractive except there are no hydrogen stations in Pennsylvania.[5] Cross-country trips would be a problem, and again, this would need to work financially.

All in all, I’m once again feeling like the world presumes I’m made of money. I’m not. I’m poor.

And there are very few Uber and Lyft drivers who aren’t poor. We wouldn’t be subjecting ourselves to this abuse otherwise.

Tony Barboza, “Taking an Uber or Lyft pollutes more than driving, California finds. Next stop: Regulations,” Los Angeles, March 7, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2020-03-07/uber-lyft-ride-hailing-air-pollution-greenhouse-gas-emissions


Coronavirus

Coronavirus is officially a fuck-up. More people are getting sick and dying because of this.[6] And its spread is out of control.[7]

It may seem callous to discuss implications for Donald Trump in an election year. But the delusional raging narcissist-in-chief’s presidency is already vicious, lethal, and incompetent. Coronavirus adds to the toll.

As I have noted, however, this is largely a structural problem (citations updated):

  • Capitalist medicine hinders rather than helps.[8]
  • Neoliberal employment policies, in which “efficiency” is defined as low labor cost, such as those the gig economy depends upon, hinder rather than help.[9]
  • People in charge should care more about taking care of people than about taking care of the stock market.[10][11]

Yes, Trump is incompetent. Yes, his administration is incompetent. And no, there’s no excuse for it.[12] But the structural factors predate him, in some cases, by millenia.

Since the Neolithic, we have organized ourselves for greed and acquisition, principally for the few, principally at the expense of the rest of us (I would include non-human animals here) and of the environment.[13] Now, we are overrunning the planet, facilitating the spread of disease. Trump is almost entirely a symptom of that; from a position of power, he contributes to it, but he is certainly not an original cause.

Trump will be blamed nonetheless, as indeed the Washington Post does[14] and as indeed others do.

But the Democrats are now highly likely to nominate their own dementia case. Joe Biden is who the party powerful want to nominate[15] and Bernie Sanders faces a now nearly insurmountable challenge in overcoming that.[16]

And from what I can see driving around southwestern Pennsylvania, Trump’s base sees him as heroic. They will blame the bungling—and yes, they’ll acknowledge it is bungling—on “bureaucracy” and applaud Trump’s efforts to trim it further.

That’s how coronavirus plays out in November.

Colby Itkowitz, Ashley Parker, and Seung Min Kim, “Coronavirus continues its rapid spread, confounding efforts by global leaders,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/03/07/coronavirus-continues-its-rapid-spread-confounding-efforts-by-global-leaders/

Ashley Parker, Yasmeen Abutaleb, and Lena H. Sun, “Squandered time: How the Trump administration lost control of the coronavirus crisis,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-coronavirus-response-squandered-time/2020/03/07/5c47d3d0-5fcb-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html


  1. [1]Sara R. Collins and David Blumenthal, “Without universal healthcare, coronavirus puts us all at risk,” Los Angeles Times, March 5, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-03-05/op-ed-time-to-ramp-up-medicaid-to-pay-for-universal-coronavirus-care; Mariel Garza, “Why aren’t we paying people with the coronavirus to stay home?” Los Angeles Times, March 6, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-03-06/opinion-why-arent-we-paying-people-with-the-coronavirus-to-stay-home; Ashley Parker, Yasmeen Abutaleb, and Lena H. Sun, “Squandered time: How the Trump administration lost control of the coronavirus crisis,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-coronavirus-response-squandered-time/2020/03/07/5c47d3d0-5fcb-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html
  2. [2]Andrew J. Hawkins, “Uber and Lyft generate 70 percent more pollution than trips they displace: study,” Verge, February 25, 2020, https://www.theverge.com/2020/2/25/21152512/uber-lyft-climate-change-emissions-pollution-ucs-study
  3. [3]Tony Barboza, “Taking an Uber or Lyft pollutes more than driving, California finds. Next stop: Regulations,” Los Angeles, March 7, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2020-03-07/uber-lyft-ride-hailing-air-pollution-greenhouse-gas-emissions
  4. [4]Peter Valdes-Dapena, “GM’s new electric car battery tops Tesla’s,” CNN, March 5, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/04/business/gm-electric-car-battery-400-miles-of-range/index.html
  5. [5]Department of Energy, “Pennsylvania Transportation Data for Alternative Fuels and Vehicles,” n.d., https://afdc.energy.gov/states/pa
  6. [6]Ashley Parker, Yasmeen Abutaleb, and Lena H. Sun, “Squandered time: How the Trump administration lost control of the coronavirus crisis,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-coronavirus-response-squandered-time/2020/03/07/5c47d3d0-5fcb-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html
  7. [7]Colby Itkowitz, Ashley Parker, and Seung Min Kim, “Coronavirus continues its rapid spread, confounding efforts by global leaders,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/03/07/coronavirus-continues-its-rapid-spread-confounding-efforts-by-global-leaders/
  8. [8]Sara R. Collins and David Blumenthal, “Without universal healthcare, coronavirus puts us all at risk,” Los Angeles Times, March 5, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-03-05/op-ed-time-to-ramp-up-medicaid-to-pay-for-universal-coronavirus-care; Amy Goldstein, “Worries about medical bills and lost pay may hamper coronavirus efforts in the United States,” Washington Post, March 2, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/worries-about-medical-bills-and-lost-pay-may-hamper-coronavirus-efforts-in-the-united-states/2020/03/02/75825be0-5c9c-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html
  9. [9]Mariel Garza, “Why aren’t we paying people with the coronavirus to stay home?” Los Angeles Times, March 6, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/opinion/story/2020-03-06/opinion-why-arent-we-paying-people-with-the-coronavirus-to-stay-home; Amy Goldstein, “Worries about medical bills and lost pay may hamper coronavirus efforts in the United States,” Washington Post, March 2, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/worries-about-medical-bills-and-lost-pay-may-hamper-coronavirus-efforts-in-the-united-states/2020/03/02/75825be0-5c9c-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html; Nitasha Tiku, “Gig workers face the spread of the new coronavirus with no safety net,” Washington Post, February 29, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/02/29/gig-workers-face-spread-new-coronavirus-with-no-safety-net/
  10. [10]Dana Milbank, “For Trump, a reckoning has come,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/28/trump-reckoning-has-come/; Ashley Parker, Yasmeen Abutaleb, and Lena H. Sun, “Squandered time: How the Trump administration lost control of the coronavirus crisis,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-coronavirus-response-squandered-time/2020/03/07/5c47d3d0-5fcb-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html; Paul Waldman, “How coronavirus has deeply flummoxed conservative media,” Washington Post, February 28, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/28/how-coronavirus-has-deeply-flummuxed-conservative-media/
  11. [11]David Benfell, “Coronavirus shows how Joe Biden is the wrong answer,” Irregular Bullshit, March 3, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/03/03/coronavirus-shows-how-joe-biden-is-the-wrong-answer/
  12. [12]Ashley Parker, Yasmeen Abutaleb, and Lena H. Sun, “Squandered time: How the Trump administration lost control of the coronavirus crisis,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-coronavirus-response-squandered-time/2020/03/07/5c47d3d0-5fcb-11ea-9055-5fa12981bbbf_story.html
  13. [13]John H. Bodley, Victims of Progress, 5th ed. (Lanham, MD: AltaMira, 2008).
  14. [14]Colby Itkowitz, Ashley Parker, and Seung Min Kim, “Coronavirus continues its rapid spread, confounding efforts by global leaders,” Washington Post, March 7, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/03/07/coronavirus-continues-its-rapid-spread-confounding-efforts-by-global-leaders/
  15. [15]FiveThirtyEight, “The 2020 Endorsement Primary,” March 8, 2020, https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2020-endorsements/democratic-primary/
  16. [16]David Benfell, “Four more years,” Irregular Bullshit, March 5, 2020, https://disunitedstates.com/2020/03/05/four-more-years/

Pieties for gig workers

Updates

  1. Originally published, March 7, 2020, 7:45 pm.
  2. March 7, 9:30 pm:
    • While I have not received an email from Uber like the one I received from Lyft,[1] Reuters is reporting that Uber will compensate drivers.[2] The same absences of detail apply.

Gig economy

All these oh so pious words and a couple bucks might—only might—buy you a small cup of coffee. Senator Mark Warner of Virginia wants gig companies to take care of their drivers who may have to take time off due to coronavirus, and whom we all want to follow medical advice, including that which would help to limit the spread of the virus. The companies profusely promise that they are looking into doing just that.[3]

I cannot afford to be so easily impressed.[4] I have, however, received the following from Lyft (I’ve chased down actual links and substituted those for the email redirects so they should all actually work):

With recent news around coronavirus (COVID-19), we want to help you stay informed. We’re continuing to update our online resource with answers to frequently asked questions.

In addition, we wanted to share actions we’re taking to help support the community.

Hand sanitizer

We’ve partnered with our friends at EO Products, makers of Everyone, to offer free hand sanitizer at our Driver Hubs and Service Centers. These will be ready for pickup in the coming days and we’ll let you know when they are available in your city.

Driver fund

We’ve set up a fund to support drivers should they be diagnosed with COVID-19, or put under individual quarantine by a public health agency.

Sharing updates

We’re getting guidance from health officials as this develops, and will continue to share any updates on our online resource.

Thanks for doing your part to help the community.[5]

There are no further details on the “driver fund.” Especially missing here is an assurance that a full income, paltry though it is, will be assured. The nearest driver hub or service center to where I live is clear on the other side of Pittsburgh; it’d have to be a pretty big bottle of hand sanitizer (assuming it’s even vegan) to warrant the trip.

Megan Rose Dickey, “Senator urges Uber, Lyft, Instacart and others to offer gig workers financial security in light of COVID-19 concerns,” TechCrunch, March 6, 2020, https://techcrunch.com/2020/03/06/senator-urges-uber-lyft-instacart-and-others-to-offer-gig-workers-financial-security-in-light-of-covid-19-concerns/

Mekhla Raina, “Uber says it will compensate drivers diagnosed with coronavirus,” Reuters, March 7, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-uber-idUSKBN20U105


  1. [1]Lyft to David Benfell, “Caring for the Lyft community,” March 7, 2020, https://www.lyft.com/
  2. [2]Mekhla Raina, “Uber says it will compensate drivers diagnosed with coronavirus,” Reuters, March 7, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-uber-idUSKBN20U105
  3. [3]Megan Rose Dickey, “Senator urges Uber, Lyft, Instacart and others to offer gig workers financial security in light of COVID-19 concerns,” TechCrunch, March 6, 2020, https://techcrunch.com/2020/03/06/senator-urges-uber-lyft-instacart-and-others-to-offer-gig-workers-financial-security-in-light-of-covid-19-concerns/
  4. [4]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/
  5. [5]Lyft to David Benfell, “Caring for the Lyft community,” March 7, 2020, https://www.lyft.com/