Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Unmasking

Notice how the mask has completely dropped away now. It was never about "protecting" innocent bystanders from the bogus dangers of ETS. It was always about acclimating the population to being engineered into conformity.

It doesn't end with tobacco. The same MO will be used to promote other people-control agendas. We can see the same MO at work with the streets. The evil automobile is replacing evil tobacco as the next target for denormalization. The automobile exclusions zones.... unused bike lanes are the most obvious, along with those areas that have been cordoned off by the vertical white rubber poles (what do you call them?) are the new version of the 25% of restaurants and bars that were being cordoned off in the 90's.

When Hamilton made the bars 75% smoke-free back in '01, I worked briefly as bar security in Hess village. The Side Bar was one of my assignments. The 75% reserved for non-smokers was almost completely empty but you could hardly move in the 25% where smoking was allowed. Even the non-smokers were crammed in there. The human congestion resembled the auto congestion we now see on the roads.

It may be a good thing to quit smoking but it is not a good thing to get used to having the government dictate your behaviour. I would rather have smoke billowing out of every doorway than live in a socialist ant-hill.


How Australia is stubbing out smoking

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Pro-Uber Cosmic Debris

Depending on where you are situated, at any given time, the insights you can gain from observing the political process can be amazing.

Consider Mayor Fred Eisenberger's claim, as reported several times on CHML the other day, that Hamilton's taxi industry "backs" the new amendments to the taxi bylaw, which exempt the Uber taxi company from almost all of the restrictions that are imposed upon the other two taxi companies in Hamilton.

As a member of Hamilton's taxi industry, I must admit that Fred Eisenberger's announcement came as quite a surprise to me because, frankly, my casual surveys of Hamilton cab drivers reveal that almost *NONE* of them "back" the idea of a two-tiered taxi regulatory regime.

Who, in the Hamilton taxi industry *would* back the idea that:

1 - they will still be forced to pay $100 a year to the City for a cab driver's license, while Uber cabbies pay nothing?

2 - that non-Uber cab drivers will still be required to piss their money away on a ridiculous cab driver training program, while Uber cabbies will be exempt?

3 - that Uber cab owners will only require a Safety Standards Certificate while, while non-exempt cab owners will still require a Safety Standards Certificate PLUS a redundant inspection at a City of Hamilton taxi inspection station, manned by a government employee, who's job security rests upon always finding *something wrong* with the cab that the Safety Standards Certificate missed?

4 - that non-exempt taxi operators must comply with the mandate that taxi transportation for the disabled is a "fundamental human right," regardless of how much of a burden it imposes upon certain taxi owners, while Uber cab owners are exempt from the same obligation?

5 - that, in order to have permission to make a living in the City of Hamilton, as cab operators, non-exempt cab owners must each pay about $600 a year (times 447 cabs) equals about $270,000 per year, at the same time as Uber taxi is given the right to operate an unlimited number of taxis for a flat fee of $60,000?

6 - that non-exempt taxi operators must install expensive cameras to monitor the goings on in their cabs, while Uber cab owners are exempt, on the ridiculous grounds that Uber lacks payment flexibility, and only serves customers who can qualify for credit card accounts? (Which rules out many of Hamilton's citizens, you know... like the poor, the unemployed, the mentally ill, the panhandlers, the Syrian refugees... you know... the people the politicians pretend to *care so much about?*) 

What else?

Oh yeah. The amended taxi bylaw will ban the use of ex-cop cars for use as taxicabs. But, unless I am wrong, this will only apply to non-Uber taxis. As more and more Uber cabbies realize they are being financially skinned alive by Uber's ridiculous %25 income tax on their earnings, more and more of them will discover why non-Uber taxi operators have opted to employ used cop cars for, at least, the last fifty years.

According to information I have received recently, the use of ex-cop cars for Ubering has already been adopted in the city of Chicago.

Go figger!

Given what I have written above, do you really think that the Hamilton taxi industry backs the new two-tiered Hamilton taxi bylaw?

Or do you think that Mayor Fred Eisenberger is full of excrement?

He could have showed some balls. Instead he chose to cave in to political expediency. The people are getting fed up with this endless charade of unprincipled leadership.

And please don't forget what these politicians promised you, all along, as they pretended to do all that was within their power to, "level the playing field," and compare that promise with my earlier prediction that, when a politician makes a bold statement about his fundamental convictions, take his words and reverse the meaning?

I ask you. Do you think Hamilton's new taxi bylaw levels the playing field?


How do I know that the people are finally getting fed up with this BS?

President Trump.

Please comment below.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Uber Taxi Regulation Exemption: Chickens Already Coming Home to Roost.

Uber drivers are now learning a simple truth long understood by their more experienced counterparts in the non-exempt taxi sector:

The more drivers on the road, the less each driver makes.

In a robust economy with a healthy demand for labour, higher wages in other kinds of work limit the number of cab drivers. When alternate employment opportunities become scarce, people pour into the taxi business. That's one reason the industry has come to be dominated by immigrants over the last thirty years.

Because the taxi biz is usually not covered under minimum wage laws, there is no bottom to the wages available to cab drivers.

A majority of starry-eyed libertarians, especially the newbies, drunk on their free market economic theories, make the mistake of concluding that deregulating micro sectors of an otherwise sclerotic welfare state economy will lead to miracles.

Well, here's a wake-up call for you. It doesn't.

What we are starting to see now in Canada is a repetition of the same circumstances that lead to the taxi medallion system in New York City. (See here, and here.)  And the regulation of the hackney business in London in 1654. (see here.)

"Forasmuch as many Inconveniences do daily arise by reason of the late increase and great irregularity of Hackney Coaches and Hackney Coachmen in London, Westminster and the places thereabouts: For remedy thereof, Be it Ordained by his Highness the Lord Protector, with the consent of His Council, that from the four and twentieth day of June, One thousand six hundred fifty and four ensuing, the number of persons keeping Hackney-coaches and Hackney horses for Coaches, within the City of London, Westminster and six miles about the late lines of communication, do not exceed at one time two hundred; nor the Hackney-coaches to be used by them, three hundred; nor their Hackney Horses for Coaches do not exceed the number of six hundred.

As a driver in the non-exempt taxi sector, I knew this from the start which was why, despite the plethora of idiotic taxi regulations harassing my business, I never considered Uber as a viable option.

As I write, I expect Hamilton City Council has already voted on its new bylaw exempting Uber from most taxi regulations, and opening the door to an unlimited number of taxicabs on Hamilton streets.

I expect the experiment will have the same results as it has always had in the past. I know from familiarity and experience that Hamilton's politicians know nothing about taxi history and even less about economics.

Uber drivers are also rediscovering the realities of taxi economics.

The whine fests on uberpeople.net are becoming more frequent (see Uber is Dead,) and the lawsuits are starting to roll. (see here.)

Also worth watching:

It's amusing to see how the Trump phenomenon even divides the taxi community. (see here.)The thing is, I have always advocated an open taxi market since I first started ridesharing in 1977. Seven or eight years ago, while a member of the taxi advisory committee, and seeing how destructive a sudden, overnight deregulation (or worse, Uber exemption) would be upon people who invested their lives in this business, I recommended a phased withdrawal of the closed entry system, over say fifty years (freedom in fifty) in favour of a market oriented entry model.

Not one other person on the committee was willing to give the proposal any consideration, and I am confident that, had my recommendation been put before city council, it would have been soundly rejected.

What disgusts me to no end is the ease with which Uber was able to prompt the politicians to do an abrupt about-face and take an absolute wrecking ball to the system that was so sacred to these governments in the past, regardless of the strife it has caused. It has revealed the true nature of most of these politicians for those who have eyes to see.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Hamilton-Uber Deal in Plain English

Check out this report from the January 19, 2017 edition of the Hamilton Spectator.

The title of the article is "Hamilton councillors pave way to Uber legalization."

With all the talk these days about "fake news" I think we have a good example in this headline. There never was any question about whether Uber could start a third taxi company in Hamilton. As Ken Leendertse, the city's licensing director, said,

"We share the opinion of other municipalities that Uber would be operating as a taxicab service, as such, they are required to register with the municipality as a broker and are subject to the same provincial and municipal regulations — and penalties — that ensure consumer protection of residents and visitors, and ensure the health and safety of passengers and drivers."

So, contrary to the implication of the misleading Spectator headline, there was never any doubt about Uber's legality, so long as it complied with the same regulations as other taxi companies.

Uber wasn't demanding legalization. It was demanding exemption. Uber chose, instead, to pretend that it was not in the taxi business and, therefore, not subject to the laws applicable to taxis. That is like saying that regulations that apply to used car dealers do not apply to the sellers of "pre-owned" vehicles.

There has been a lot of back and forth over the question of whether Uber is operating a taxi business, or something fundamentally different, like a massage parlor. I am not going to waste any time on this question.

Uber is operating a taxi service. I have "interviewed" hundreds of ordinary people over this question. The responses are almost unanimous. "Of course, Uber is a taxi service." The only people dumb enough, or dishonest enough to disagree are the politicians and the media. The real question is, should the Uber taxi company be exempt from the laws that apply to other taxi companies?

I don't think so.

And if the Spectator had any decency or honesty, the headline should have stated,

"Uber Gets Deal from City of Hamilton. Wins Exemptions from Most Taxi Regulations."

But I have come to expect no less from the Hamilton Spectator over the years. It's nothing more than just another part of the FakeStream media that was recently repudiated by the election of Donald Trump. Utterly repudiated.

Far from levelling the playing field, this deal with Uber creates an almost vertically skewed un-level playing field.

Consider the annual $50,000 license fee Uber will pay the city for the equivalent of an unlimited number of taxi licenses and compare that to the approximate $270,000 the city extorts from all of the non-exempt taxi operators every year. Oh, and let's not forget the taxi driver license fees that the city plans to lower to $100 per year. 1,200 drivers equals $120,000.

Does that sound like a "level playing field" to you?

Very shortly after Ken Leendertse announced that Uber would be required to comply with the existing taxi bylaw he started to backtrack, as reported in the Spectator on Jan 23, 2015.

"In all honesty, if, in fact, Uber is going to come to our community and operate, effectively dealing with their business model, they'll require a political solution versus an enforcement solution," Ken Leendertse said Thursday.

When I read that report, I knew the fix was in. Uber had gotten to them.

The fix was later confirmed in a CBC report dated Feb 03, 2016.

At a city council meeting on Feb. 10, Coun. Sam Merulla will move that the city create a category to ensure "consumer and public safety" when it comes to Uber, and a "level playing field" with the taxi industry.

Sam Merulla's strange notion of what constitutes a "level playing field." I.E. a playing field heavily tilted in favor of Uber is typical of politicians who have mastered the art of dancing around issues. I knew it was a lie. As a general rule, take whatever a politician says and reverse the meaning.

The mayor was no less adept with fancy political footwork.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger not only supports Merulla's move but was about to introduce a similar idea himself. Increasingly, the city has accepted that Uber is here to stay.

"In many respects, it's like chasing your tail," he said of trying to stop Uber.

"Legitimizing them is going to be more open and transparent and safer for users out there."

I don't know much about city politics, but I do know a thing or two about the taxi business, and it is obvious to me that the mayor doesn't know and doesn't care to know what he is talking about.

Imagine if he spewed the same hogwash in response to complaints about hookers, or drug dealers, or panhandlers.

"In many respects, it's like chasing your tail."

"Legitimizing them is going to be more open and transparent and safer for users out there."

If the issue were about hookers, drug dealers, or panhandlers you KNOW that the mayor would have a very different response. And the reason comes down to simple arithmetic. A lot more voters would be pissed off.

With only 1,200 cab drivers and their families to piss off, it's a political price worth paying. The mayor knows his political calculus.

Piss off? That is too mild a term. The sudden entry of this third taxi company has negatively impacted the lives of everyone engaged in the non-exempt taxi sector. Some (i don't know how many) have quit. A few have jumped over to Uber, not realizing they were screwing themselves as well as their colleagues, and others are still hanging on, dealing with depression, wondering whether they shall lose their homes. One even mentioned to me thoughts of suicide.

When the government of Dublin, Ireland, pulled the same political stunt, pre-Uber, fifty Dublin cab drivers eventually ended up taking their own lives.

I don't know exactly how Uber got to the local politicians. I doubt it was anything as dramatic as grocery bags full of cash being passed under the table, or compromising recordings of politicians saying things like, "grab her pussy."

For one thing, the politicians have zero skin in the game. If they make a bad decision they suffer no personal consequences. From their point of view, it is easy to sell out their own constituents so long as those constituents remain small in number and voiceless. It's especially easy to sell out those constituents when the media goes out of its way to demonize cab drivers. Who cares if taxi license owners who invested their lives in their licenses lose everything they ever worked for so long as it can all be swept under the rug? Who cares if the city's taxi drivers lose half of their income so long as the media continues to paint them as a bunch of rude, unhygienic losers with no teeth. (Not to mention the fact that most of the drivers are immigrants.)

There was that fake survey the city posted on its website. The one with the questions that were clearly structured to provoke a positive result for exempting Uber from the taxi bylaw. "Would you like to have a choice between paying for sex or hiring a hooker?" Questions like that.

Then their was the fact that most other Candian cities that Uber decided to set up shop in caved in with barely a whimper. The politicians always like to say, "Well, other cities are doing it. Therefore we should copy them."

I've never been a fan of copy-cat policy making.

It reminds me of when I was a kid. All sorts of kids were wearing those kewl peddle-pusher pants, but my parents made me wear shorts. I would protest, "but Jimmy Craw Legs (not his real name) has a pair." My dad would reply, "Well, if Jimmy Craw Legs jumped in the lake, would you want to do that too?"

Plus there is the fact that I have never been much of a deferential thinker. I like to think for myself and take my chances about being right or wrong rather than simply accept any kind of bullshit that is being spewed just because other people seem to accept it.

When I hear a politician invoke the "other jurisdictions are doing it," justification, I want to puke at the utter cowardice, or sheer negligence, overuse of this mantra reveals.

Oh how I would love to see someone stand up against prevailing fashions and actually show some guts! (Wait, we did have a guy like that in the news lately. He is now the president of the United States.)

Back to the central point. Uber is just another taxi company that has found a way to conduct its business without following the same rules as less powerful taxi companies.

And that is, basically, what the City of Hamilton is doing in this case for the American taxi company who transfers all of its profits to Holland for favorable tax treatment.

What does Hamilton actually get out of this deal? Not much. A few foreign students and McMaster students save a few bucks on cab rides. A few millennials get to pretend they are kewl. And the politicians get to pretend they are visionaries.

Sidenote: I could not help but think of Donald Trump again. No one would argue that Mr. Trump is your average politician. I have so enjoyed this Trump phenomenon, if only to have, for the first time in my life, witnessed a politician with real courage actually get elected. That is priceless.

I was going to go into more detail with my comments on this obnoxious display of everything that stinks about politics, and those who practice it, but I think I have gone on long enough for now.

Friday, January 6, 2017

More Uber: Is this weird, or what?

I just finished reading a story from MailOnline about a young woman who is suing an Uber cab driver who was driving an uninsured Uber cab that was owned by someone else altogether. Apparently, he ran a red light, was t-boned, and the victim's spine was severed.

You can read about it all here.

There are a couple of interesting things about this article.

"She was opposed to drinking and driving and figured it was unsafe to walk at around 1 am, so they called an Uber, thinking it was the responsible thing to do."

How did this impressionable young woman get the idea that jumping into a complete stranger's car was the responsible thing to do? After a hundred years of parents warning their kids never to get into cars with strangers, WHO TOLD HER THIS WAS NOW OK?

Do the politicians who have been kissing Uber's butt by pretending to believe that Uber is not in the taxi business because people use their cellphones to call Uber cabs, share any of the responsibility for this young woman's predicament?

Why isn't she suing them?

After hearing decades of pretentious BULLSHIT from the politicians about why it was so necessary to apply the heavy hand of regulation, often spitefully, (See Jaspal Gill Case.) upon the existing taxi industry, only to watch them do an abrupt about-face when Uber cab started operating in their jurisdictions demonstrates exactly how committed to safety they really are.

It was all just for show.

The advent of Uber has shown us, with stunning clarity, how easily that commitment to "safety" has been discarded to facilitate Uber's "business model."

In other words, when it comes to political integrity, though they will proclaim it whenever it suits their policy needs, safety is CLEARLY NOT their main priority.

The City of Toronto, for example, has closed its Vehicle Inspection Office because of Uber. I'm not sure if Toronto required a Safety Standards Certificate in addition to a vehicle inspection but, for years people in the Hamilton industry grumbled about the idiotic requirement that taxi owners be required to have their vehicles inspected by city employees in addition to providing a Safety Standards Certificate.

In the interests of safety, both had to be done. There was no debate.

Until Ubernacht.

Then, at least in Toronto, "meh, who needs it?" It remains to be seen whether Hamilton follows suit. I feel sorry for the poor guy down at Hamilton's taxi inspection office. Either he will lose his job, or he will see his workload increase from 447 taxis to... how many? 1,000? 2,000? Then again, maybe the new bylaw will simply exempt Uber cabs, keeping playing field tilted.

And now that Uber is here, taxi "schools" are suddenly being questioned or abolished by many of the same politicians who imposed them in the first place.

How does a simple non-Uber cab driver like myself account for this sudden realignment of the principles of so many "principled" politicians?

A paradigm shift?

Nope. It's Uber.

Another sad dimension to this story is that this young woman, likely, will no longer be able to get around in an Uber cab. From now on she will have to rely upon an accessible taxi.

But the part that really shouted out to me when I read the report was this part,

"DeLeon was charged for causing the accident, which resulted in serious bodily injury.

Yusufzai, who had a criminal history that involved a gambling den and drug possession, was not charged even though he ran a red light, the Dallas News reported." (italics: mine)

The Uber guy who caused the accident by running a red light was not charged? The other guy was charged? This world makes less sense every day.

That's like charging a guy for hitting someone's fist with his face.

Does Uber's corrupting influence reach right into police departments?

These days, a lot of my passengers ask me this question:

"Is Uber affecting you guys at all?"

I tell them, "No. But we have been severely affected."

What DOES affect us is a corrupt political system that does not believe in treating people equally.

It's really quite simple.

We had a set of rules that applied to the taxi business in this city.

Then when Uber showed up, the politicians decided to change all the rules to accommodate them, and they really didn't give a fuck about who got hurt in the process.