Forecast: A blizzard of bullshit, no clearing expected

The last few days: Bullshit, mostly.

It was supposed to snow here, and didn’t. It did get cold, but the streets had dried from the rain that was supposed to turn to snow, so there wasn’t even very much ice.
FireShot Capture 039 - Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson for November 10, 2019 - GoComics_ - www.gocomics.com
Fig. 1. Screenshot of comic by Bill Watterson from 1989. Actually, I’d be just fine without the snow, and especially the ice.

I’m beginning to get the picture that folks have been telling me about for months. I’d still desperately rather be doing something besides driving for Uber and Lyft in a Pittsburgh winter or anywhere in any season.[1]


Pete Buttigieg

Which, come to think of it, isn’t much of an improvement on calling Donald Trump’s supporters “deplorables.”[2]

The neoliberal party does not engage on issues because its issue is neoliberalism and even it knows that that’s a loser. It claims a progressive mantle by running on identity. And some idiots still fall for it.


Uber

Kia Kokalitcheva, “Uber says it’s likely to pay Waymo or revamp its self-driving tech,” Axios, November 7, 2019, https://www.axios.com/uber-says-its-likely-to-pay-waymo-or-revamp-its-self-driving-tech-ffa6e420-4273-4cf1-8161-fc40e25b61da.html


Trade

Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury, “Trade Liberalization for Development?” InterPress Service, November 5, 2019, http://www.ipsnews.net/2019/11/trade-liberalization-development/


California

fireseasons
Fig. 2. California climate change since 1895.[3]

Santa Rosa Press Democrat, “How California’s weather has changed during fire season since 1895,” n.d., https://www.pressdemocrat.com/multimedia/10274200-181/how-californias-weather-has-changed


  1. [1]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/
  2. [2]Jonathan Capehart, “This is what’s ‘deplorable’ about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and this campaign,” Washington Post, September 12, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2016/09/12/this-is-whats-deplorable-about-hillary-clinton-donald-trump-and-this-campaign/
  3. [3]Santa Rosa Press Democrat, “How California’s weather has changed during fire season since 1895,” n.d., https://www.pressdemocrat.com/multimedia/10274200-181/how-californias-weather-has-changed

Uber’s lockup expires and we still don’t know what investors think

FireShot Capture 038 - Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson for November 06, 2019 - GoComics_ - www.gocomics.com
Fig. 1. Screenshot of comic from 1989 by Bill Waterson.


Uber

The bottom line here is that this is simply not, cannot be, and never will be a sustainable business model.[1] The question, which remains even with today’s sell-off,[2] is to what extent investors will continue to believe the contrary.

Tom McKay, “Surprising No One, Uber Continues to Hemorrhage Cash,” Gizmodo, November 4, 2019, https://gizmodo.com/surprising-no-one-uber-continues-to-hemorrhage-cash-1839625062

Heather Somerville, “Uber Booked Another Quarterly Loss as Revenue Climbed,” Wall Street Journal, November 4, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-booked-another-quarterly-loss-as-revenue-climbed-11572901549

Megan McArdle, “Uber can’t keep bleeding money, can it? It apparently thinks it can,” Washington Post, November 5, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/uber-cant-keep-bleeding-money-can-it-it-apparently-thinks-it-can/2019/11/05/4aa4fec0-000b-11ea-8501-2a7123a38c58_story.html

Sebastian Herrera and Heather Somerville, “Uber Shares Hit New Low as Post-IPO Lockup Expires,” Wall Street Journal, November 6, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-shares-face-more-pressure-as-post-ipo-lockup-is-set-to-expire-11573041602″

Erik Sherman, “Yesterday, Shareholders Bailed on Uber. Today, Insiders Got Their Chance,” Fortune, November 6, 2019, https://fortune.com/2019/11/06/uber-stock-insiders-growth-profit-lockup-period/


Pacific Gas and Electric

Rebecca Smith, “California Mayors Join Campaign to Buy Out PG&E,” Wall Street Journal, November 5, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/california-mayors-join-campaign-to-make-pg-e-a-cooperative-11572955201


Ageism


Bhaskar Sunkara, “Why it’s time to ditch the ‘ok boomer’ meme,” Guardian, November 6, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/nov/06/ok-boomer-meme-older-generations


  1. [1]Rich Alton, “Basic economics means Uber and Lyft can’t rely on driverless cars to become profitable,” MarketWatch, August 12, 2019, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/basic-economics-means-uber-and-lyft-cant-rely-on-driverless-cars-to-become-profitable-2019-08-12; Richard Durant, “Uber’s Profitability Problem Is Structural,” Seeking Alpha, August 21, 2019, https://seekingalpha.com/article/4287055-ubers-profitability-problem-structural
  2. [2]Sebastian Herrera and Heather Somerville, “Uber Shares Hit New Low as Post-IPO Lockup Expires,” Wall Street Journal, November 6, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-shares-face-more-pressure-as-post-ipo-lockup-is-set-to-expire-11573041602″; Erik Sherman, “Yesterday, Shareholders Bailed on Uber. Today, Insiders Got Their Chance,” Fortune, November 6, 2019, https://fortune.com/2019/11/06/uber-stock-insiders-growth-profit-lockup-period/

Burning California

I keep forgetting to publish this. So it gets a little bit longer and a little bit longer and a little bit longer. There really hasn’t been a lot.


Racism

In the Pittsburgh area, while driving for Lyft, I had noticed that a large proportion—almost certainly a majority—of my passengers were Black. Since switching to Uber,[1] my passengers are now predominantly white.

One of my Lyft passengers had mentioned to me that Uber doesn’t accept debit cards as a form of payment. I don’t know if that’s true, but if it is, this is an example of systemic discrimination, that is, discrimination that may occur without racist intent but in which rules and systems have a discriminatory effect.

If indeed you need a credit card to pay for an Uber ride (I think you can get around this with PayPal), that tends to exclude people with poor or no credit. To the extent that racial stratification coincides with class stratification, which is very visibly the case in the Pittsburgh area, it becomes systemic racism. And the failure to recognize and rectify systemic racism is, itself, racist.

Of course, to say this means that I should (as I have in the past) recognize the classism in the gig economy: It does generally require an electronic form of payment, which “unbanked” folks will have a harder time managing. On the other hand, it also means that Uber and Lyft drivers are not sitting ducks for cash robberies (a significant risk for traditional taxi drivers).

One of my passengers, a Black, told me that western Pennsylvania is one of the worst places in the country to be Black. He says that Blacks are informed here upon arrival that they exist to serve the capitalist economy; they are not persons, but numbers.

Which is yet another example of how it is impossible to separate classism from racism. These forms of discrimination form a hydra-headed monster. You have to cut them all off at once to destroy the beast.

Blacks also bear the brunt of criminal injustice.[2] In California, fire fighting relies upon inmate labor,[3] making it part of the prison-industrial complex.[4] Again, it will be Blacks who bear the brunt of inadequately compensated risks in this activity. And again, this is systemic racism.


California

Kevin Fixler, “From fierce winds to flames: How the Kincade fire made Sonoma County history,” Santa Rosa Press Democrat, November 1, 2019, https://www.pressdemocrat.com/multimedia/10249729-181/how-the-kincade-fire-spread

Nicole Goodkind, “Prisoners Are Fighting California’s Wildfires on the Front Lines, But Getting Little in Return,” Fortune, November 1, 2019, https://fortune.com/2019/11/01/california-prisoners-fighting-wildfires/


Long term unemployment

Patricia Cohen, “Lots of Job Hunting, but No Job, Despite Low Unemployment Lots of Job Hunting, but No Job, Despite Low Unemployment,” New York Times, November 1, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/31/business/economy/long-term-unemployed.html


Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris should be a cautionary tale for neoliberals: At least some progressives want real progressives and are fed up with the fake ones the neoliberal party has been pushing on them.

Shikha Dalmia, “The real reason Kamala Harris is tanking,” Week, November 4, 2019, https://theweek.com/articles/875020/real-reason-kamala-harris-tanking


Recession

It’s one thing to note that economists are bad at predicting recessions[5] and are even bad at recognizing them once they’ve started.[6] All these decades later, they finally seem to be recognizing what just about any idiot at the local tavern could have told them: It’s the unemployment:[7]

The unemployment rate has risen sharply in every recession, and thus economists have long looked for recession signals in its behavior. Ms. [Claudia] Sahm spent weekends playing with a massive spreadsheet, testing different rates of increase over varying periods of time, to arrive at the following formula: If the average of unemployment rate over three months rises a half-percentage point or more above its low over the previous year, the economy is in a recession. . . .

“The reason [this formula has] been getting attention is it is simple, it is understandable, it is something people can observe themselves,” Mr. [Jay] Shaumbaugh said.[8]

Sorry, but it’s hard—really hard—for me to imagine that economists couldn’t have come up with this sooner and it is very telling that Claudia Sahm had to work on this on her own time. Had this sort of inquiry even a chance of being taken seriously before she had the numbers to prove it, she’d have been able to work on it during office hours. But economists before Sahm didn’t come up with this and the Federal Reserve didn’t enable her to work on it on their dime, because they all really just don’t fucking give a damn. What Sahm has done—and she deserves a great deal of credit for overcoming what were surely formidable institutional obstacles—is to shame the fuck out of them with the blindingly obvious.

By the way, going by Sahm’s formula, we are not yet in a recession.[9]

Kate Davidson, “Are We in a Recession? Experts Agree: Ask Claudia Sahm,” Wall Street Journal, November 3, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/are-we-in-a-recession-experts-agree-ask-claudia-sahm-11572789602


  1. [1]David Benfell, “Uber, again,” Irregular Bullshit, October 19, 2019, https://disunitedstates.com/2019/10/19/uber-again/
  2. [2]Jeffrey Reiman, The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison, 7th ed. (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2004).
  3. [3]Nicole Goodkind, “Prisoners Are Fighting California’s Wildfires on the Front Lines, But Getting Little in Return,” Fortune, November 1, 2019, https://fortune.com/2019/11/01/california-prisoners-fighting-wildfires/
  4. [4]Empty Cages Collective, “What is the Prison Industrial Complex?” n.d. http://www.prisonabolition.org/what-is-the-prison-industrial-complex/; Daniel Moritz-Rabson, “‘Prison Slavery’: Inmates are paid cents while manufacturing products sold to government,” Newsweek, August 28, 2018, https://www.newsweek.com/prison-slavery-who-benefits-cheap-inmate-labor-1093729
  5. [5]Hites Ahir and Prakash Loungani, “‘There will be growth in the spring’: How well do economists predict turning points?” Vox, April 14, 2014, https://voxeu.org/article/predicting-economic-turning-points; Richard Alford, “Why Economists Have No Shame – Undue Confidence, False Precision, Risk and Monetary Policy,” Naked Capitalism, July 19, 2012, https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/07/richard-alford-why-economists-have-no-shame-undue-confidence-false-precision-risk-and-monetary-policy.html; Ha-Joon Chang and Jonathan Aldred, “After the crash, we need a revolution in the way we teach economics,” Guardian, May 10, 2014, https://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/may/11/after-crash-need-revolution-in-economics-teaching-chang-aldred; Barry Eichengreen, “Economists, Remove Your Blinders,” Chronicle of Higher Education, January 12, 2015, http://www.chronicle.com/article/Economists-Remove-Your/151057/; Paul Krugman, “How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?” New York Times, September 2, 2009, https://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/06/magazine/06Economic-t.html; Paul Krugman, “Triumph of the Wrong?” New York Times, October 11, 2012, https://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/12/opinion/krugman-triumph-of-the-wrong.html; Andrew Simms, “Economics is a failing discipline doing great harm – so let’s rethink it,” Guardian, August 3, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/aug/03/economics-global-economy-climate-crisis; Mark Thoma, “Restoring the Public’s Trust in Economists,” Fiscal Times, May 19, 2015, http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Columns/2015/05/19/Restoring-Public-s-Trust-Economists; Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux, “Economists Are Bad At Predicting Recessions,” FiveThirtyEight, August 21, 2019, https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/economists-are-bad-at-predicting-recessions/
  6. [6]For example, it took about a year to formally recognize the financial crisis of 2007-2008 as a recession: National Bureau of Economic Research, “Determination of the December 2007 Peak in Economic Activity,” December 11, 2008, http://www.nber.org/cycles/dec2008.html
  7. [7]Kate Davidson, “Are We in a Recession? Experts Agree: Ask Claudia Sahm,” Wall Street Journal, November 3, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/are-we-in-a-recession-experts-agree-ask-claudia-sahm-11572789602
  8. [8]Kate Davidson, “Are We in a Recession? Experts Agree: Ask Claudia Sahm,” Wall Street Journal, November 3, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/are-we-in-a-recession-experts-agree-ask-claudia-sahm-11572789602
  9. [9]Kate Davidson, “Are We in a Recession? Experts Agree: Ask Claudia Sahm,” Wall Street Journal, November 3, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/are-we-in-a-recession-experts-agree-ask-claudia-sahm-11572789602

Uber, again

Gig economy

I’m back to driving for Uber.

It’s been a tough week driving for Lyft. I just haven’t been getting very many rides and the rides I have been getting have been low value.

Retail is fickle, and this certainly applies to the gig economy, but a lot of drivers suspect that it isn’t just that, but rather that these “mystery slowdowns” are intentional, that the companies are playing head games with their drivers.

The idea is to keep drivers hungry. In this hypothesis, the low pay isn’t just about the companies’ likely futile quests for actual profitability,[1] but a ‘Theory X’ management style[2] treatment of workers in which they can’t be allowed to feel too comfortable, feel too confident, lest they take some time off and reduce their availability for exploitation.

In California, where I focused on Marin County, where Uber had the vast majority of the business, I usually just worked for Uber. But when these “mystery slowdowns” arose, I’d switch to Lyft, which would mysteriously be busy for a while. Then when a “mystery slowdown” arose with Lyft, I’d switch back to Uber, which would remarkably be back to being busy.

If one assumes that market conditions should similarly affect Uber and Lyft, that is, that when Uber is slow, so, too, should be Lyft, and vice versa, then market conditions cannot explain my relative success when switching companies. Which in turn suggests that some form of dispatch manipulation is occurring.

In Pittsburgh, around the time of Uber’s initial public offering, they got weird about paying me. Payment arrangements that had worked for months suddenly stopped working. They had given out a lot of free rides and I had, they said, unknowingly taken too many of those free rides (for which I was still owed money), so they cut me off from instant pay. The banking details for the weekly payout, the same details that had worked before, were suddenly wrong. They were, I surmised, attempting to boost their cash flow for their IPO at my expense. But whatever the reason, getting weird about paying is a huge red flag for me. So I cut them off.

The trouble is that Lyft also plays head games. I suspect that some of the complaints they said passengers had made about my driving were simply made up. Citing privacy concerns, they never inform me of these complaints with any detail even though I have repeatedly explained to them that credible complaints are specific and detailed. Sometimes these complaints are completely at odds with how I drive, even in Pittsburgh,[3] and so I doubt their provenance.

And then there are the “mystery slowdowns.” I haven’t even the beginnings of a means to determine whether these are in fact the results of dispatch manipulation. But I can’t help but be suspicious.

I don’t like head games anyway. People who know me know that, in fact, I respond very poorly to them and that, in fact, one reason I have all but given up on ever finding a real job is that, after eighteen years of futility,[4] I have come to feel that the application process is little more than a head game. It’s best to be straight with me and if you don’t feel that’s how you can get what you want from me, then I don’t want to be dealing with you. I have severed relationships over this in the past and fully expect to do so in the future.

And here I am with a “mystery slowdown” with Lyft. So I’m back trying Uber. It sucks but a real job doesn’t seem to be an option for me.[5]


Brexit

William Booth and Karla Adam, “Parliament votes to withhold approval of Brexit deal, postponing Boris Johnson’s moment of reckoning,” Washington Post, October 19, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/boris-johnson-faces-historic-brexit-vote-in-parliament/2019/10/19/dba7cc70-f1a8-11e9-bb7e-d2026ee0c199_story.html


  1. [1]Rich Alton, “Basic economics means Uber and Lyft can’t rely on driverless cars to become profitable,” MarketWatch, August 12, 2019, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/basic-economics-means-uber-and-lyft-cant-rely-on-driverless-cars-to-become-profitable-2019-08-12; Eliot Brown, “Uber Wants to Be the Uber of Everything—But Can It Make a Profit?” Wall Street Journal, May 4, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-wants-to-be-the-uber-of-everything-11556909866; Richard Durant, “Uber’s Profitability Problem Is Structural,” Seeking Alpha, August 21, 2019, https://seekingalpha.com/article/4287055-ubers-profitability-problem-structural; Ryan Felton, “Uber Is Doomed,” Jalopnik, February 24, 2017, https://jalopnik.com/uber-is-doomed-1792634203; Yves Smith, “Uber Is Headed for a Crash,” New York, December 4, 2018, http://nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/12/will-uber-survive-the-next-decade.html; Stephen Wilmot, “Uber’s Long Road to Profits,” Wall Street Journal, August 22, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/ubers-long-road-to-profits-11566471068; Julia Carrie Wong, “Disgruntled drivers and ‘cultural challenges’: Uber admits to its biggest risk factors,” Guardian, April 12, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/apr/11/uber-ipo-risk-factors
  2. [2]In contrast to ‘Theory Y,’ in which workers are presumed to care about their work and are treated as having valuable insight that should be taken into account in making management decisions, should be treated as well as conditions of competition permit, and in which companies have responsibilities not merely to shareholders but to stakeholders and the environment. More familiar to many workers is ‘Theory X,’ which presumes that workers are, at best, indifferent to their work (Karl Marx’s theory of alienated labor in “Estranged Labor,” in Social Theory, ed. Charles Lemert, 6th ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2017), 29-33, comes to mind), that management is the sole source of expertise in how work should be done, and that workers respond only to reward and punishment. Theory X seems to prevail even in organizations that profitably experiment with Theory Y. See Yvon Chouinard and Vincent Stanley, The Responsible Company: What We’ve Learned From Patagonia’s First 40 Years (Ventura, CA: Patagonia, 2012); Chip Conley, Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2007); Gary Heil, Warren Bennis, and Deborah C. Stephens, Douglas McGregor Revisited: Managing the Human Side of the Enterprise (New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2000); Art Kleiner, The Age of Heretics: A History of the Radical Thinkers Who Reinvented Corporate Management, 2nd ed. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008); Carol Sanford, The Responsible Business: Reimagining Sustainability and Success (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011); Marvin R. Weisbord, Productive Workplaces: Dignity, Meaning, and Community in the 21st Century, 3rd ed. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2012).
  3. [3]The driving situation in Pittsburgh is very different from California, and legitimately, the most difficult I have ever encountered. See David Benfell, “Pittsburgh driving for the uninitiated,” Irregular Bullshit, n.d., https://disunitedstates.com/pittsburgh-driving-for-the-uninitiated/
  4. [4]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/
  5. [5]David Benfell, “About my job hunt,” Not Housebroken, n.d., https://disunitedstates.org/about-my-job-hunt/

Parliament wanted a deal. Will it vote for the one Boris Johnson got them?

Brexit

Rory Carroll and Lisa O’Carroll, “Rival unionists accuse DUP of catastrophic Brexit miscalculation,” Guardian, October 17, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/oct/17/rival-unionists-accuse-dup-of-catastrophic-brexit-miscalculation

Rowena Mason and Rajeev Syal, “‘It’s painful to choose’: ERG locked in internal talks over Brexit deal,” Guardian, October 18, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/oct/17/its-painful-to-choose-erg-locked-in-internal-talks-over-brexit-deal


Kurdistan

Delil Souleiman, “Deadly Turkish airstrikes shatter deal to pause Syria offensive,” Times of Israel, October 18, 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/deadly-turkish-airstrikes-shatter-deal-to-pause-syria-offensive/


Recession

Derek Thompson skillfully distinguishes between the dot-com crash and what is happening with some so-called “tech” companies (like Uber, Lyft, and WeWork) now. But he focuses too much on stock market valuations[1] and not enough on the effects, like mass unemployment such as that which followed the dot-com crash. We still don’t know what’s going to happen to Uber and Lyft employees, let alone the legions of drivers whom the companies refuse to count as employees,[2] when these companies fold.[3]

Derek Thompson, “The Not-Com Bubble Is Popping,” Atlantic, October 18, 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/10/are-we-cusp-next-dot-com-bubble/600232/


  1. [1]Derek Thompson, “The Not-Com Bubble Is Popping,” Atlantic, October 18, 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/10/are-we-cusp-next-dot-com-bubble/600232/
  2. [2]Noam Cohen, “How Tech Firms Like Uber Hide Behind the ‘Platform Defense,’” Wired, September 13, 2019, https://www.wired.com/story/how-tech-firms-like-uber-hide-behind-the-platform-defense/; Kate Conger, “Uber Says It Will Not Change Driver Status Under California Gig-Worker Law,” New York Times, September 11, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/11/business/economy/uber-california-bill.html; Shirin Ghaffary, “Uber and Lyft say they don’t plan to reclassify their drivers as employees,” Vox, September 11, 2019, https://www.vox.com/2019/9/11/20861599/ab-5-uber-lyft-drivers-contractors-reclassify-employees; Aaron Gordon, “Uber To California: Make Us,” Jalopnik, September 11, 2019, https://jalopnik.com/uber-and-lyft-drivers-shouldnt-expect-to-be-employees-a-1838048966
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Liking Lyft, not liking Uber,” Not Housebroken, August 27, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/08/27/liking-lyft-not-liking-uber/

Weep for anyone but gig economy drivers

Gig economy

Heather Somerville, “Uber Shedding About 350 Jobs to Shore Up Business,” Wall Street Journal, October 14, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-shedding-about-350-jobs-to-shore-up-business-11571092680

David Shepardson, “Uber and Lyft are refusing to appear at a Congressional hearing, angering lawmakers,” Business Insider, October 15, 2019, https://www.businessinsider.com/us-house-panel-strongly-urges-uber-lyft-to-take-part-in-hearing-2019-10


Brexit

Boris Johnson appears—the text is not yet public—to be accepting a customs border through the Irish Sea. It remains unclear that he can get such a deal, which apparently relies on a distinction between Northern Ireland being de jure in the United Kingdom customs zone and de facto in the European Union customs zone, through the Commons.[1] And yeah, you’re entitled to ask just how that distinction could actually work.

Daniel Boffey et al., “Boris Johnson ‘on brink of Brexit deal’ after border concessions,” Guardian, October 15, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/oct/15/boris-johnson-close-to-brexit-deal-after-border-concessions


  1. [1]Daniel Boffey et al., “Boris Johnson ‘on brink of Brexit deal’ after border concessions,” Guardian, October 15, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/oct/15/boris-johnson-close-to-brexit-deal-after-border-concessions

Reading the tea leaves

Updates

  1. Originally published, September 22, 5:44 pm.
  2. September 22, 7:42 pm:
    • So-called “Arab” (for which, read “Palestinian”) parties have thrown their support behind Benny Gantz in an effort to stop Binyamin Netanyahu. A curious part is that Avigdor Liberman seems to have taken himself out of the game, refusing to endorse either Blue and White or Likud and instead insisting that the two major parties should form a unity government. Liberman doesn’t care whether Netanyahu or Gantz serves first.[1]

I’ve begun work on a new page entitled “Pittsburgh driving for the uninitiated.“

My real purpose is to have something to point to when the Lyft safety team relays a complaint (which they never describe with any detail or specificity and which I suspect they sometimes pull out of thin air) about the difficulties of Pittsburgh driving. And of course they won’t actually read it because they don’t really give a damn, would be happy to just terminate me regardless, and in the meantime satisfy themselves with messing with my head. But it does show something of what I’m up against and what all Pittsburgh drivers are up against.


I’ve added photographs to my last blog post entitled, “The banners and the guns: Flagrant racism in Pittsburgh.


I’m not fond of the class of coverage I have here for both the Brexit and Israel headings and that nothing else had reached my very arbitrary and very ambiguous threshold for coverage here yesterday explains the absence of an issue. I’m less interested in speculation than in what actually happens. But sometimes the analysis is worth reading.

With both these issues very much up in the air—no one can predict these outcomes with confidence—I hope these analyses offer a little additional insight.


Brexit

Jamie Doward, “Supreme court poised to rule against Boris Johnson, say legal experts,” Guardian, September 22, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/law/2019/sep/22/supreme-court-verdict-boris-johnson-prorogation


Israel

Natan Sachs, “The End of Netanyahu’s Unchecked Reign,” Atlantic, September 19, 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/09/israel-steps-back-two-brinks/598384/

David Horovitz, “Results aren’t even official, but already nightmare 3rd election scenario looms,” Times of Israel, September 20, 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/results-arent-even-official-but-already-nightmare-3rd-election-scenario-looms/

Oliver Holmes, “Israel: Wounded Netanyahu in desperate battle for political survival after poll blow,” Guardian, September 21, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/21/netanyahu-battle-for-survival-after-israel-poll-shock-benny-gantz

Ruth Eglash, “Arab parties throw support behind Gantz as they seek to block Netanyahu,” Washington Post, September 22, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/in-second-stage-of-israels-election-process-president-could-be-kingmaker/2019/09/22/9cd4849c-dbce-11e9-a1a5-162b8a9c9ca2_story.html


Gig economy

This[2] is not what I wanted to hear.

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/


  1. [1]Ruth Eglash, “Arab parties throw support behind Gantz as they seek to block Netanyahu,” Washington Post, September 22, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/in-second-stage-of-israels-election-process-president-could-be-kingmaker/2019/09/22/9cd4849c-dbce-11e9-a1a5-162b8a9c9ca2_story.html
  2. [2]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/

Politics, whether or not by other means

Iran

Paul Schemm, “Saudi military presents weapons debris, says oil attacks ‘unquestionably sponsored’ by Iran but launch point not yet determined,” Washington Post, September 18, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/iran-warns-us-of-broad-retaliation-in-case-of-any-attack/2019/09/18/35a1275c-d99f-11e9-a1a5-162b8a9c9ca2_story.html


Israel

Aron Heller, “Gamble pays off for Lieberman, who becomes Israeli kingmaker,” Associated Press, September 17, 2019, https://apnews.com/192335a30dca44e59fb1534974de5891


Gig economy

John Myers, Johana Bhuiyan, and Margot Roosevelt, “Newsom signs bill rewriting California employment law, limiting use of independent contractors,” Los Angeles Times, September 18, 2019, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-09-18/gavin-newsom-signs-ab5-employees0independent-contractors-california


 

California’s AB 5 has larger implications

Gig economy

There is a new blog post entitled, “The larger question of California’s AB 5.”

Angela Chen, “This is one way Uber and Lyft want to get around making drivers employees,” MIT Technology Review, September 13, 2019, https://www.technologyreview.com/s/614308/uber-lyft-ab5-gig-workers-labor-classification-third-category-tech-policy/

Noam Cohen, “How Tech Firms Like Uber Hide Behind the ‘Platform Defense,’” Wired, September 13, 2019, https://www.wired.com/story/how-tech-firms-like-uber-hide-behind-the-platform-defense/


Brexit

Tim Ross, Jess Shankleman, and Alex Morales, “Boris Johnson’s Nightmare on Downing Street,” Bloomberg, September 13, 2019, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-09-13/nightmare-on-downing-street-as-team-johnson-fears-brexit-mutiny


Iran

Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed credit for a drone attack on Saudi Arabian oil production facilities 500 miles away.[1]

Hours later, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo directly blamed Iran for “an unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply.” Pompeo, however, offered no specific evidence.[2]

If the Trump administration is looking for an excuse to attack Iran, I suppose this will do. Even if Mike Pompeo is wrong about Iran launching the attack,[3] Iran backs the Houthi rebels and would likely have supplied the drones that would capable of hitting the target. It would almost be as if Donald Trump got rid of John Bolton[4] just in time (four days ago) to avoid him taking credit or blame for such a decision.

Kareem Fahim and Steven Mufson, “Saudi Arabia oil output takes major hit after apparent drone attacks claimed by Yemen rebels,” Washington Post, September 14, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/drone-attacks-on-saudi-oil-facilities-spark-explosions-and-fires/2019/09/14/b6fab6d0-d6b9-11e9-ab26-e6dbebac45d3_story.html


  1. [1]Kareem Fahim and Steven Mufson, “Saudi Arabia oil output takes major hit after apparent drone attacks claimed by Yemen rebels,” Washington Post, September 14, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/drone-attacks-on-saudi-oil-facilities-spark-explosions-and-fires/2019/09/14/b6fab6d0-d6b9-11e9-ab26-e6dbebac45d3_story.html
  2. [2]Kareem Fahim and Steven Mufson, “Saudi Arabia oil output takes major hit after apparent drone attacks claimed by Yemen rebels,” Washington Post, September 14, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/drone-attacks-on-saudi-oil-facilities-spark-explosions-and-fires/2019/09/14/b6fab6d0-d6b9-11e9-ab26-e6dbebac45d3_story.html
  3. [3]Kareem Fahim and Steven Mufson, “Saudi Arabia oil output takes major hit after apparent drone attacks claimed by Yemen rebels,” Washington Post, September 14, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/drone-attacks-on-saudi-oil-facilities-spark-explosions-and-fires/2019/09/14/b6fab6d0-d6b9-11e9-ab26-e6dbebac45d3_story.html
  4. [4]Anne Gearan, John Wagner, and Robert Costa, “Bolton out as national security adviser after clashing with Trump,” Washington Post, September 10, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-fires-bolton-as-national-security-adviser-saying-he-disagreed-strongly-with-many-of-his-suggestions/2019/09/10/13409e2c-d3b9-11e9-9610-fb56c5522e1c_story.html

Uber and Lyft defiant

Gig economy

We already knew Uber was planning to defy California’s AB 5 requiring it to classify its drivers as employees.[1] Now we see Lyft will do the same.[2] It’s no surprise and the Vox article[3] otherwise adds nothing new to earlier coverage.[4] Nathan Heller’s article[5] is a bit more retrospective, with little new for those of us who’ve paid close attention, but possibly useful for those who haven’t.

I guess two things are remarkable to me here: First, how widely and generally accepted it is that Uber and Lyft drivers deserve better protection from neoliberal bullshit; and second, that Uber and Lyft really imagine they can prevail in a court system that handed down the Dynamex decision. Really, what they can do is stall, and I suspect that’s the real plan, to delay being busted for their bezzle.

Shirin Ghaffary, “Uber and Lyft say they don’t plan to reclassify their drivers as employees,” Vox, September 11, 2019, https://www.vox.com/2019/9/11/20861599/ab-5-uber-lyft-drivers-contractors-reclassify-employees

Nathan Heller, “A New California Law Takes Aim at Uber and Lyft,” New Yorker, September 12, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-silicon-valley/a-new-california-law-takes-aim-at-uber-and-lyft


Brexit

Boris Johnson has repeated the lie[6] that everyone, including the Scottish Court of Session, knows is a lie.[7]

Francis Elliott, “I didn’t lie to the Queen, says Boris Johnson,” Times, September 12, 2019, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/i-didnt-lie-to-the-queen-says-johnson-q875lrxzk


Palestine

Times of Israel, “Netanyahu: I tried to annex Jordan Valley before election but AG said I couldn’t,” September 11, 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/netanyahu-tried-to-annex-jordan-valley-before-election-but-was-told-to-wait/

Jacob Magid, “PM’s Jordan Valley map was error-strewn, but is his vow worth taking seriously?” Times of Israel, September 12, 2019, https://www.timesofisrael.com/pms-jordan-valley-map-was-error-strewn-but-is-his-vow-worth-taking-seriously/


  1. [1]Kate Conger, “Uber Says It Will Not Change Driver Status Under California Gig-Worker Law,” New York Times, September 11, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/11/business/economy/uber-california-bill.html; Aaron Gordon, “Uber To California: Make Us,” Jalopnik, September 11, 2019, https://jalopnik.com/uber-and-lyft-drivers-shouldnt-expect-to-be-employees-a-1838048966
  2. [2]Shirin Ghaffary, “Uber and Lyft say they don’t plan to reclassify their drivers as employees,” Vox, September 11, 2019, https://www.vox.com/2019/9/11/20861599/ab-5-uber-lyft-drivers-contractors-reclassify-employees
  3. [3]Shirin Ghaffary, “Uber and Lyft say they don’t plan to reclassify their drivers as employees,” Vox, September 11, 2019, https://www.vox.com/2019/9/11/20861599/ab-5-uber-lyft-drivers-contractors-reclassify-employees
  4. [4]Kate Conger, “Uber Says It Will Not Change Driver Status Under California Gig-Worker Law,” New York Times, September 11, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/11/business/economy/uber-california-bill.html; Aaron Gordon, “Uber To California: Make Us,” Jalopnik, September 11, 2019, https://jalopnik.com/uber-and-lyft-drivers-shouldnt-expect-to-be-employees-a-1838048966
  5. [5]Nathan Heller, “A New California Law Takes Aim at Uber and Lyft,” New Yorker, September 12, 2019, https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-silicon-valley/a-new-california-law-takes-aim-at-uber-and-lyft
  6. [6]Francis Elliott, “I didn’t lie to the Queen, says Boris Johnson,” Times, September 12, 2019, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/i-didnt-lie-to-the-queen-says-johnson-q875lrxzk
  7. [7]Karla Adam and Michael Birnbaum, “Allies of British prime minister resign amid outrage over Parliament suspension,” Washington Post, August 29, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/british-leaders-backers-dismiss-outrage-over-parliament-suspension-as-candyfloss/2019/08/29/fa1e2c96-ca3c-11e9-a4f3-c081a126de70_story.html; Griff Witte and Karla Adam, “Scottish court rules Johnson’s suspension of Britain’s Parliament was illegal,” Washington Post, September 11, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/scottish-court-rules-johnsons-suspension-of-britains-parliament-was-illegal/2019/09/11/84265a36-d40a-11e9-8924-1db7dac797fb_story.html; Griff Witte and Karla Adam, “Scottish court rules Johnson’s suspension of Britain’s Parliament was illegal,” Washington Post, September 11, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/scottish-court-rules-johnsons-suspension-of-britains-parliament-was-illegal/2019/09/11/84265a36-d40a-11e9-8924-1db7dac797fb_story.html