More Uber

Many of the pro UBER comments that appear in the media and the comment sections for newspaper websites make three arguments in favour of UBER.

First, UBER X is cheaper.  This of course is true except when you really need the service and surge pricing takes effect.  Prepare to lose all that is saved by using the illegal and unsafe UBER X in one surge pricing incident when it costs $100 or more to get home.  However, the big unsolved issue is the lack of proper insurance.  Saving three or four dollars – or even $20 – is not worth the risk that one could be injured in an uninsured accident.  Rehab takes money and in the worst case scenario lifelong assisted care takes lots of money.  This risk is not worth taking.  Finally, respect for the law is an important concept.  UBER X is illegal.  Embracing lawbreaking is not a defensible behaviour.  How would you feel if someone decided to “share” your iPhone or Bicycle.

Second, reactionary posters – using anonymous pseudonyms – quite regularly post the most horrible things online.  Attacks are made on the “Taxi Union”, various racist comments are made and suggestions are made that all taxis are dirty and decrepit.  First of all, there is no Taxi Union.  Drivers are independent contractors, most of whom are renting cars by the day.  A lucky few own their own car and plate and make a little bit more.  However, the income – pre UBER – for Taxi drivers has never been excessive.  They are amongst the worst paid in our society.  There was – and may still be – an extremely weak Taxi Association.  It is little more than a newsletter publisher for drivers.

The racist comments are despicable and not in keeping with our modern multicultural society.  Most of us in Toronto have moved on to a modern world and are not stuck in the prejudice of the past.

I ride cabs regularly.  The ones i have been in have been clean and well kept.  There are no KFC boxes on the floor or any of the other nonsense that regularly appears in posts.

Finally, and this is true, reference is made to the fact that the vast majority of City Standard Plates are owned by investors who – under various schemes – rent to the actual drivers.  Every time the City puts up Taxi fares, the plate and or car rental is increased by those investors.  This leaves the majority of the drivers scraping by on a paltry income.  I have talked to drivers – pre-UBER – who told me they worked their twelve hour shift and then had to get a top up from the bank machine to pay for their car rental when they returned the car.  The Taxi Plate oligopoly does need addressing.  It is unfair.  A license granted for a nominal amount by the City should not be a tool to reap huge profits and consign drivers to relative poverty.  However, the City is taking action on this front and a solution – though elusive – is within sight.  Further work in this area is necessary.  However, the short term answer is not complete defiance – ignoring and disrespecting the law.

 

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UBER X

There is very poor reporting about UBER in the media.  There is very little accurate description of the services UBER offers and how they differ,  UBER offers three classes of service:

UBER Black Car;

UBER Taxi; and

UBER X

I am unfamiliar with UBER Black Car.

UBER Taxi is a close to legal service – but not quite.  HAILO, when operating in Toronto had a Toronto dispatch license.  It was 100% legal.  UBER Taxi on the other hand – in its arrogance – did not get a dispatch license.  It claims to be different and does not need a license.  However, it is difficult to see what is different from conventional dispatchers – including those that use apps – and UBER

UBER X is an illegal service that puts passengers and drivers at risk.  Let’s deal with the drivers first.

UBER X drivers are told they only need to carry personal insurance.  If they have an accident while acting as a commercial carrier they will not be covered.  This is not open to debate.  Personal insurance does not cover this type of activity.  In the event of an accident a driver has two choices – defraud the insurance company by making an inaccurate claim or pay for the accident.  UBER claims to have an umbrella policy, but there is no evidence that every driver is covered.

UBER X drivers also get paid at about 50-60% of the rate paid to Taxi Drivers.  This is a very low wage, given the cost of cars, depreciation, gas and repairs.  It is dubious that these drivers are making any profit at all – let alone a living wage.  Essentially what they are doing is monetising their depreciation and future repair expenses and turning it into today’s spending cash.  There are, of course, no benefits or pension.  This does not lead to a great society.  It leads to poverty.

UBER X passengers are unprotected by the personal insurance supplied by UBER X drivers.  If the true nature of the arrangement is known to the insurance company, coverage will be very dicey.  Once again, we do not have any assurances that UBERs proported $5mm insurance policy will actually pay out in the case of injury to a passenger.

UBER X effect on legitimate cab drivers:  Cab drivers carry proper commercial insurance and pay top dollar for their licenses or to rent a car from another license holder.  The vast majority are in the latter category.  These drivers are amongst the lowest paid of our society.  Just like UBER X drivers they have no benefits or pension.  It is a difficult career with low income and few prospects.  However, they operate in a regulated industry with many safeties built in.  The competition from the illegal UBER X is hurting the incomes of these hard working poorly paid individuals.

Who gets rich from UBER X.  It appears that it is a few rude arrogant, disrespectful, lawbreaker 20 somethings in California.  Everyone else loses.

UBER X is not a “disruptive technology”.  The concept of legally dispatching legitimate cabs by app and allowing in app payment is an enhancement of the legacy cab service – as shown by the fully legal HAILO service.  The “disruption” that UBER offers is a complete and total disregard and disrespect for the law. It is nothing less than selfish arrogance.

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Tim Hudak

Tim Hudak is swimming against basic macro-economic principals.  When governments spend money, on civil servant salaries for example, it expands the economy.  Civil Servants spend their salaries in our economy to buy goods and services and thereby fund other purchases of goods and services and salaries.  The effect of a dollar spent on the civil service is multiplied many times as economic prosperity.

Cutting the civil service does not increase wealth It has a dramatic reducing effect and leads to a spiralling decline in economic success.  This is only based on the selfish belief that someone would benefit.  It doesn’t take into account that civil servants provide vital support to the populace or that his proposals are unfair, discriminatory and wrong.

There are no examples in Western Nations where austerity has resulted in prosperity.  More wealth for the top 1% – perhaps.   But prosperity for the Middle Class or Poor – never.

 

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Racist, Sexist, Drunk

This is the headline n today’s Toronto Star.  While undoubtedly accurate I am not sure that is what our Mayor deserves.  This headline suggests that some of the evil that our Mayor spouts is based on the fact that he has imbibed.  This is not true.  The comments the Mayor makes while in a “drunken stupor” are most decidedly a view into his true soul.  A better description would be “Racist, Sexist, Misogynist, Homophobic, Misfit.”  This is what our Mayor really is.

No one who speaks like Rob Ford does can be the legitimate Mayor of Toronto.  The Mayor has to be Mayor of all the people – including those of us he hates.   (In my own case what he describes as a Downtown Elite.)  We cannot have a Mayor who divides and hates.

 

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Where is the Mayor

If Rob Ford has truly entered rehab, more power to him.  No one should be bothering him there and he should be left in peace.  If he can truly conquer his demons that is great news for his wife and children.  I sincerely hope he succeeds.

However, rehab is supposed to be a closed environment.  There is no phone to the outside world and cell phones are not permitted.  Why is Rob Ford calling his brother – at council meetings – and getting passed on to another Councillor so he can express his point of view.  Either he is in rehab or he isn’t.  Based on his calls we are able to legitimately ask the question about what he is up to.

 

 

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The Mayor’s Vile Accusations

The Mayor appeared with Conrad Black last night.  I did not watch that interview and am not really interested in the Mayor’s “explanations”.  However, the Mayor made a vile insinuation (which I saw in a clip) about Daniel Dale, a Star reporter who was visiting some parkland that the Mayor wanted to buy and which the City declined to sell.  The Mayor made completely unfounded aspersions on the character of that Star reporter – only for the possibility of political gain.  I can’t believe that a politician could sink as low as the Mayor has done.  His accusations are completely unfounded, vile, crass and hateful.  Previously I thought my differences with the Mayor were based on differing views about how the City should be run.  I now know that this man grasps political power, no matter what the cost.  He is vile, hateful and despicable.  No decent person should vote for his re-election, no matter what their ideology.

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Mayor Ford and his Defenders

The current situation surrounding our Mayor is one where I will not make any comment.  What I do find offensive is the recurring theme from some of his defenders that the “Liberal Elites” have shown improper “glee” in reporting the developments.  It seems to me that there has always been a partisan divide where politics is reported.  It also seems to me that the unfairness more commonly belongs to the right who attacked Mayor Miller more-so than the left who have reported a lot of unusual activities.

I will concede that The Star was definitely offside with its report on the current Mayor’s dinner at KFC during his “Cut the Waist” challenge.  On the other hand  it is also true that the Mayor – perhaps unduly influenced by his nasty brother – chose to make the issue of weight loss a public issue.  However, on balance, The Star should not have reported that story.

Sue Ann Levy leads the charge in saying that never before has a Mayor been subject to such negative reporting.  Amongst the media reporting the Mayor’s excesses, I never see expressions such as “Socialist Silly Hall” or “His Blondness”.  These are expressions of derision that are designed to be just that.  They are not the reporting of facts – which no matter how embarrassing in the current context – are in fact, facts.  Sue Ann also railed at length about the increase in employment by the City under Mayor Miller, but never once explained that the new employees were actually popular police hires and TTC Operators who facilitated the Ridership Growth Strategy.  The impression that every manager at City Hall (or Socialist Silly Hall) had two or three secretaries was deliberately created and propogated.

It is obvious where my politics lie.  However, I throw out the challenge.  Show me where any reporting about the current issues is based on false facts or distortions.  I do not believe that there are any examples.  Vitriol without supporting arguments will be edited.

 

 

 

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City Employees

Anytime that Giorgio Mammoliti has a contribution, it is likely to be cringeworthy and unpleasant.  It is not a surprise that he has set a new low for respect of our City work force and for one individual in particular.  Our Mayor, The Buffoon, reacted in a very unMayorworthy way, which is of course also not a surprise,

According to the Union, as reported in The Star, the individual involved is most likely a minimum wage part time worker.  There are two issues at hand.  First, and most important, discipline of any employee, including City employees, is a private matter between the employer and the employee.  It is never acceptable to drag an employee through the media based on his/her performance at work.  Giorgio Mammoliti and the Mayor are both very wrong to do this.  The Mayor is even more wrong to vent his spite against the employee’s manager as well as the employee that might be – emphasise might be – at fault.

Second, the Mayor has used this incident as a bully pulpit to once again attack our City employees.  Amongst other things he has suggested that this is another reason he seeks to privatise “parks and rec”.  This is a part time employee of the City, whose rights have been violated as noted above.  He is not in any way representative of City workers as a whole or those in Parks and Recreation.  In fact, it has not been proved that this employee did anything wrong.  It may be that, as the union suggests, that the employee was on his break.  However, we do not know if this is true or if it  is an example of minor employee misconduct.  In any case, there is no relevance to the potential support for privatisation.

Privatisation is a neo-con love child.  The fact that it is often counter-productuive is not an issue.  Neo-cons never let the facts get in the way of their ideology.  To the extent that part time minimum wage employees are part of Parks and Recreation, there is no benefit at all to paying a third party to make a profit paying people that same minimum wage.  Parks and Recreation employees who earn a better (union) wage have a right to continue their tenure as loyal City employees.  Cruelly throwing them out of work and replacing them with “poverty wage” employees does not make our society a better place.  Once again, we are paying a third party to make a profit from City expenditures.  By definition, if the City is to “save” any money, the reduction in wages and benefits must be more than the profit made by the third Party.  You can be sure that the Third Party will not miss out on that profit.

Middle class City employees can afford to be productive members of our society – pay many taxes at all levels of government – and keep our economy humming.  Poverty wage outsourced employees do not make as many contributions, if at all, and the corporations that employ them tend to hoard their profits and pay dividends only to rich investors.  We also must remember that all human beings are worthy of being treated with dignity and respect.  It is easy to castigate “unions” but it is also easy to forget that unions are made up of the “membership”.  Those are honest hardworking individuals – real people – who have real families, dreams, dependants and lives.  It is wrong to throw them out of work based on the politics of resentment.

Girogio Mammoliti is wrong to have made this public shaming.  The Mayor is even more wrong to exploit it.

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Fukushima

Every few months we receive further information about Fukushima – further admissions of disaster and mankind’s inability to cope.  Now, the admission is that leaking waste is at a concentration that could kill a human being within 4 hours.  This is not really unexpected, but incredible.

Nuclear waste takes up to 10,000 years to degrade to a harmless level.  If the Romans had a nuclear accident (assuming they had such technology) the disaster zone would be 20% of the way towards harmless.  Based on the state of the Coliseum, it is hard to believe that “nuclear containment” could have been successfully maintained from then to now, and of course for a further 8,000 years.

We are told that nuclear plants are “fail safe” and yet they keep failing.  We were told that the odds of a nuclear accident are one in ten thousand years.  Is it really 20,000 years since TMI and 10,000 years since Chernobyl.  Apparently not.

Even if there were no more accidents we have no idea how to get rid of the waste.  Currently there is a plan to bury it beside the Great Lakes (Lake Huron) which, if there was a miscalculation would poison the largest fresh water body in the world and leave millions without drinking water.

We do need to find alternatives to carbon producing fossil fuel.  Nuclear is not that answer.  We should never build another nuclear power plant in the world, and the existing ones should be decommissioned as soon as possible.  The existing waste is a real problem.  There is nowhere safe to put it.

 

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Bangladesh Tragedy

Galen Weston says that he is “shaken” by the building collapse in Bangladesh.  I am sure that he truly is and feels that an injustice has been perpetrated.  He has vowed to compensate the victims and increase the level of inspection and compliance with respect to his subcontractors.

Also, let me say that Loblaws/Joe Fresh are the victims of a public relations fiasco where they are getting a disproportionate share of the blame.  One of their labels was captured by the international press in a disaster where many, many, companies bear a portion of the responsibility.  This is not fair.  All the others are equally responsible.

Having said that, the Galen Weston lead Loblaw has been singularly focused on improving the bottom line without any real regard for the plight of workers.  Canada’s most successful retailer – highly profitable – has succumbed to “WalMart fright” and systematically participated in the quest for lower costs.  In Canada, Loblaw has converted Loblaws Stores – with decent middle class wages – into Loblaw Great Food outlets with much lower wages.  In at least one case, this transition was based on the addition of a Joe Fresh boutique in a corner of the same grocery store.

A weak and compliant union has gone along with this sellout of their membership.  Middle class Canadians have seen their wages slashed or seen their jobs replaced by people that make much less.  This is fundamentally wrong .  We need a middle class in Canada in order to have a successful society.  In the end, the greedy Loblaw Management will find that they cannot prosper when there are not enough middle class Canadians to shop at their store.

In Bangladesh, before the building fell down, non-unionised workers were paid as little as 15 cents per hour to make Joe Fresh clothes.  They worked 12.5 hours per day.  This is by any definition, a sweatshop.  Loblaw knew, or should have known, that they were exploiting human beings in order to maximise profits and lower their cost of doing business.  This is not morally defensible.

As I said, I am sure Galen Weston is truly upset by the collapse of the building.  However, he needs to dig deeper and understand that exploitation of human beings – in Canada and in Bangladesh – is fundamentally wrong.  By participating in the15 cents an hour marketplace for labour, a company is setting itself up for other exploitations, which may be against the “contract” they sign, but are common and inevitable.

If Galen is really “shaken: he needs to re-evaluate his values.  Pay Canadians a fair wage and in the third world, pay a living wage to all employees and guarantee them a 40 hour week.  A Bangladeshi woman paid $3 an hour for a 40 hour week would be in heaven.  This would still provide Loblaw with a reduced labour cost compared to Canada and would show true leadership.  Of course, it would still be necessary to have “feet on the ground” to ensure the $3 was not stolen and only 15 cents went to the workers.

How about it Galen.  Do you really care and are you ready to adjust your outlook.

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