Thursday assorted links


Photos 2 to 5 of the China post are of Los Angeles.

"Let's look at a typical American city (as an example, take Los Angeles). It looks something like this."

Online translators do work ;)

Muy bueno.

Microsoft has an experimental instant English-Spanish (& other languages) voice translator. Anyone tried it?

Uber and Lyft will certainly persist, at least in San Francisco itself.

SF cabs are a joke - they're impossible to get, costs like 30 bucks to go from one bar to another,the cabbies are rude, and most of them smell.

With Lyft, you push a button on your phone, a friendly driver in a clean car shows up within 15 minutes, they charge you like 6 bucks. If they have to go to 12 bucks to pay excess employee costs, its still a better deal than SF cabs.

What do you think will happen to Lyft drivers once they are entitled to receive minimum wage for standby time? I would expect their promptness to decline significantly.

Generally most of them do well in excess of minimum wage - most do around 20 per hour after expenses. Not much in SF, but it presumably beats begging.

If the author is trying to defend Uber, it does not help to argue that it is profitable only because regulations are not followed. The author expects empathy from readers when he confesses that he avoids paying health care to employees? Really?

Some people are libertarians and care about poor people who are unemployed

1.) The vast majority of his employees are retirees who get to park their campers for free over the summer in national parks as part of their work perks. He has people offer to work for free. They are already on medicare, but he would have to provide insurance for them under the ACA if he let them work full time. If he didn't employ them, they'd still be on medicare, still be camping out in national parks over the summer, but would be missing out on some income.

2.) Are all regulations automatically beneficial? Is paying mileage to a contractor, who presumably accounts for depreciation on their car already, meaningful? What about posting employment rights' posters in their place of work? Would the drivers be better off with Uber spending money complying with those regulations, or simply getting the money Uber spent complying with them?

"Are all regulations automatically beneficial?"

God no. In fact its the opposite.

They're beneficial for the regulators, which is presumably the point of them.

"empathy from readers when he confesses that he avoids paying health care to employees?"

With Obamacare, one no longer needs to be tied to employer provided health care.

"Think of an economy where people could be an artist or a photographer or a writer without worrying about keeping their day job in order to have health insurance." Nancy Pelosi

Uber drivers are just living the dream.

The author expects empathy from readers when he confesses that he avoids paying health care to employees?

Why are employees obligated to receive their compensation in the form of health coverage?

4. Feldman: "[T]he U.S. needs a range of tools beyond the military to contain China. A trade deal that excludes China is a good way to do it." TPP is part of a policy of containment, not unlike the policy toward the Soviet Union after WWII. It's true. And it's preposterous. Feldman mentions that the government of China is the single largest foreign holder of U.S. Treasury bonds, that the U.S. is the largest export market for Chinese goods, and that one reason China can’t join the TPP is that it isn’t about to allow labor unions or other progressive institutions that the TPP requires of its members. Hypocrisy on steroids! Why does China have a large trade surplus which allows it to buy U.S. Treasury bonds? Why is the U.S. the largest export market for Chinese goods? Could it be because China doesn't allow unions or other progressive institutions? My advice? It's the same as Vito Corleone's to Michael: keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.

I agree with the comment from the R Street guy in the Vox piece on Uber: we probably need a new category that lies somewhere between independent contractor and employee. Uber's "matching riders and drivers" is utter nonsense. Uber drivers work for Uber, it is merely a non-traditional arrangement. I don't think it's desirable to regulate on-demand workers in exactly the same manner as traditional employees, but it's also farcical to call them independent contractors. Uber is unlocking a lot of value that was eaten up by taxi regulation deadweight loss, but it's also engaging in regulatory arbitrage and I'm less comfortable with that.

In the end, though, isn't regulatory arbitrage what Uber sells?

I like thinking about it that way. Uber and Lyft allow people to vote *with their time and money* whether the befit of the regulations that others have imposed on their transactions are worth the cost. The answer is clear: no.

Never before has their been such a strong rebuke of the regulatory state.

"farcical to call them independent contractors"

People drive for both Uber and Lyft. Drivers use their own equipment (car and phone). Drivers work when and if they want. Drivers can decline a fare. Uber does not tell them what route to take from A to B, drivers decide.

Seems pretty independent to me.

I like to think of them as franchise owners.

They have to follow certain rules to stay part of the larger org but are otherwise independent.

Why is it that libertarians insist on refusing to understand how races to the bottom work. It's game theory 101.

Actually, it is a race to the top. For races to the bottom, see North Korea, Vz, USSR, etc.

Many drivers actually are registered on multiple ride-sharing services. They don't work exclusively for Uber.

I don't think uber is selling regulatory arbitrage, though that might provide part of their revenue.

What they have done, IMO, is bring modern technology to the taxi business. I can call them by pushing a button on my cell phone. The charge is automatically billed to my credit card, etc. Incidentally, this is surprisingly valuable to the driver.

I use uber fairly often and have had several drivers who had switched to uber from driving a cab tell me that they loved not having to deal with lots of cash, because it reduced their chances of being robbed dramatically. Let's not overlook that in our analysis.

this is surprisingly valuable to the driver.

Only to the taxi drivers who were reporting all or most of their cash income. Which is not most taxi drivers I know....

Uber is a rip off for drivers, which is why in a few years people will be complaining about Uber drivers just like they complain about taxi drivers now. (And yes, I have driven both cabs and for Uber. Uber is a dishonest company that made unilateral decisions about rates and fees with little advance notice to drivers.)

7. The people who complain about the "skills gap" are the same people who complain about Uber being required to treat their drivers as "employees". Clueless. You say you want "employees" with skills, then what you mean is that you want "employers" who train them.

Yeah this whole skills gap stuff is generally garbage. I was one of the lucky few to get training in a profession that pays well.

I don't know anybody who graduated after 2007 not in healthcare who is doing well.

Lots of people who went to work in iBanking or consulting are still doing well. I guess if you are too low IQ to make it into a decent profession then that's your problem.

Computer science? Engineering? Math/Physics? Marketing?

Compensation for engineering and marketing in startups and mid to top level tech firms has risen extremely quickly in the last 7 years. People in these firms are doing exceptionally well.

By "skills gap" I mean that many retail workers don't know how to give change from a purchase made with a $20 bill. I could do it in third grade. If I have to train an adult worker to do third-grade work, I don't want that worker. Employer-provided training should be job-specific, not basic knowledge that everyone should have.

I'm still surprised when I hear young adults say, "I never learned how to balance a checkbook!"

I knew how to do that in elementary school. It's easy. Keep a tally of what you spend and what you put into the account, and do arithmetic. How do people not learn this?

Harvard should buy Sienna.

Started to read 7 and thought it was going to be about the Dead Kennedys

7. handy that labor commissioner Julie su speaks mandarin and Spanish. I see she published about critical race theory and "sweatshops". Just the person we need to protect uber workers from those exploitative bosses.

5. Road Road Road Scooters Scooters Road Road Road Horses Scooters Building Lights Building Building Airport Building Lights Building Building Building Bridge Airport Building Building Bridge Scaffolding Scaffolding Bridge Building Building

That's an understatement.

While I had already seen many of the photos in Link 5 from various other sources, seeing them together in a single post is pretty damned astonishing. Where does the future lie? I would have to say China.

Agreed. Very impressive.

I travel a lot to China.

I have the opposite impression:

Roads and bridges: so...they didn't have a bridge already? Man, just how many low-hanging fruits of unconnected areas can exist?

Impressive fancy buildings: 3rd tier cities build these because they saw the Beijing Olympics. This is where all the municipal borrowing went. imagine every podunk city in America deciding they need a Sydney Opera House type convention center.

Scooters: they will be banned after enough purse robberies.

you are not impressed eh? tell that to the Indian, Russian, and Brazilian.

#2. Guest attraction consumption event is the English language at its finest.

Some corrections for 7:

1) The commission ruled that one, single, particular driver was an employee.
2) The ruling can't be used in court as precedence.

The goal of Libs is to create a permanent underclass so that they can perpetuate their rule. Hence they will wage war on the sharing economy, as that is a means for the unskilled to take part in the economy.

excellent troll, kudos to you.

Damn!! He's on to us.

Exactly, Dan. Great point.

While it is never wise to carelessly damage or destroy capital assets, the stated cost of park attractions is substantially less than the potential tort exposure in the event of an attraction-guest consumption event. In fact, the stated cost of the park’s most troublesome attraction is only $26 million.

I like "an attraction-guest consumption event". More to the point, most of that cost - which is absurdly small for a piece of pioneering genetic engineering - is in the R&D. Designing the damn thing. Not in raising it. Although the cost of cows is not negligible. Replacing it would not be as expensive as designing it in the first place.

And maybe next time they could study the damn thing a bit as it matures, instead of suddenly discovering a whole slew of dangerous but potentially controllable traits at its fucking bar mitzvah.

#7. I think Lee is overly optimistic. Uber cannot deduct expense reimbursements from drivers pay if that would put the driver's pay below minimum wage. If you factor in all of the forms of compensation employees are entitled to, which Uber can't just cut, that could easily push the cost per mile up to the point that Uber's advantage over traditional cabs is eliminated. Uber would just be reduced to nothing more than a cab-hailing app at that point.If the ruling ends up applying to all ride-sharing apps, it would essentially make it illegal for people to privately contract with customers over the internet to provide rides. It would ultimately amount to a ban on ride-sharing apps and a conversion of all ride sharing companies into taxi services.

That said, I suspect that the ruling may not stand, precisely because it would amount to an effective ban on freelance ride-sharing.
What may happen is that the state will define certain rules which distinguish between ride-sharing apps and taxi services, and Uber will simply reorganize to stay within the "ride-sharing" boundaries. For instance, the state might say that Uber can't terminate drivers whose ratings are too low.

How stupid are Uber drivers?

The unemployment rate in SF is quite low. There's no shortage of low wage jobs.

If you're an Uber driver and you average less than minimum wage, wouldn't you change careers and flip burgers instead?

How stupid are Uber drivers?

Depends on the city (rates and driver fees differ city to city), the unemployment rate, number of recent immigrants , and number of low or no-skilled people who can't easily find other work even at min wage.

Also see


Etc., etc.

The customers will "terminate" low-rated drivers by not using them. Having ridden (once) with a two-star driver and barely survived - the driver was terminated the next day - I cancel any ride with a driver rated below 4.0. So do a lot of other people, so low-rated drivers will self-terminate because they won't be making any money. That's the beauty of the system.

Right, but my point is that that if you leave it to consumers to do the terminating, then it's less plausible to call Uber an "employer". They aren't hiring or firing anyone, it's the consumer who is choosing not to use a particular driver.

Also, perhaps the two-star drivers could charge lower prices. An appropriately designed ride-sharing app would permit that and if that's what the state required to not be called an employer, then Uber would simply rewrite it's software to vdo that.


"Books and movies have depicted them as crazed suicide bombers who screamed "Banzai" as they met their end. But interviews with survivors and families by The Associated Press, as well as letters and documents, offer a different portrait — of men driven by patriotism, self-sacrifice and necessity."

People who do bad or crazy things usually still spend 90%+ of their time doing things that are neither. If I'm a normal guy 99% of the time, and the other 1% of the time I'm having carnal relations with a goat, I'm still a goatf---er. I love the false dichotomy, too: "Sure, some people say they're crazy fanatics who flew planes into ships, but in reality they were highly patriotic men who flew planes into ships." Perhaps these things aren't mutually exclusive? Maybe...they're _the same thing_? The problem is not that they weren't fanatic, but that the writer doesn't know what fanaticism is.

"a reminder of the illusory determination that gripped the imperialist forces, to keep fighting, no matter what."

What was so illusory about it?

The suicidal determination of the Imperial Japanese is just a historical fact. You can try to paper it over, but their individual and collective actions are too well documented for it all to be just a big misunderstanding. Yes, they were human, but believe it or not there is a wide range of human behaviors and much of it doesn't fall into the narrow precepts of whatever. This exact same damn article could have been written about Muslim suicide bombers and militiamen by another clueless Western liberal shaking her head at how a someone who listens to music could chose to die for a cause he believed in. The idealistic young men, the romantic allure, a few guilty reconstructed survivors, even the large families.

This doesn't look like anything more than a possibly unwitting attempt to--out of a sheer refusal to believe--whitewash the reality of the Japanese Empire.

*narrow precepts of whatever an AP journalist learns in college.

"And should we trust their accounts of why they survived?

It's right to be skeptical. The guy who literally never had a chance to get into his plane (if he's telling the truth) would be a good excuse. The guy who "couldn't find his target" isn't as suspicious as you would think; the ocean's a big place and it really wasn't that unusual for patrols to not find their targets. Even if it was intentional, that could have been the flight leader and everyone else just followed him. I doubt the kamikaze pilots were very well-trained navigators.

And plenty of suicidal behavior was demonstated by other members of the Japanese military during World War II. And also by members of other nations' millitaries. After Midway attempting to dive bomb American carriers and then escape was pretty suicidal and if you survived you'd just be asked to do it again anyway. And Allied airmen didn't have much hope of surviving 25 missions over occupied Europe. I presume there were cultural reasons involved in why our side went for the roll the dice until your dead method while Japan decided to do away with the element of chance, but if it was seen as an effective tactic and the situation was desperate, I'm sure we would have had volunteers here in Australia for Kamikaze style missions.

A curious potential outcome of the apparently impending sale of Monte dei Pasche is that it owns a very fine art collection that has been able to be viewed on special invitation (knowing an economist in Siena helped for getting in, which I did). These artworks, some of them famous, were acquired over the centuries as collateral for loans that went bad. I am wondering if all that will be sold off or moved to the new HQ or what.

According to The Times, the penguin slipped across the border and is on the loose in Azerbaijan. Ungated reprint here:

5. These photos should be more widely distributed. Like to Congressmen, and economists around the country. And those still in the thrall of American exceptionalism.

They do explain Australian growth...imagine how much copper is needed to build that stuff.

Also keep in mind that once its built, in a country with declining population soon, that it will never happen again.

I want to know what the Chinese are planning to do with the gigantic Van de Graaff generator near the top of the page.

My take on China and the TPP:

Pundits tend to overestimate the amount of competition in Asia (because of politics) and underestimate the amount of cooperation. China's rise as a trading power was largely based on integrating with the greater Asian supply chain - at that time Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Likewise, the growing export power of SE Asia has been encouraged by stronger business ties with China, which has pushed some of its lower-end process manufacturing offshore.

Pundits also tend to overestimate any country's ability to compete with China. Guangdong exported roughly 7 times more than Vietnam in 2013, and China's inland provinces have seen exports grow at a roughly comparable rate to SE Asia. China does not have a free trade agreement with the United States.

The Greater Asian Supply Chain is now a permenant feature of global manufacuturing, and China's central role in the Greater Asian Supply Chain is more or less unchallenged. China though depends quite a bit though on other members of the supply chain. The TPP would help countries on the margins of the supply chain become fully integrated - attracting more Chinese offshoring - and it would allow the US to push the supply chain to operate according to certain rules without negotiating with China. But the TPP would be a clear boon to Chinese exporting industries.

#5. Very happy to hear that many in Italy realize they need to streamline government, reduce bureaucracy, and attract investment.

#7 where were all these complains when the PPACA exempted employers with fewer than 50 employees and part time workers from provisions. If theses rules are important for Uber shouldn't they be important for everyone.

Also lots of people in this country work for less than minimum wage with no benefits a little consistency in enforcement might get these laws reformed. Our politicians are sooooo corrupt!

_The Divine Wind_ is an interesting history of the kamikaze force. Although the authors don't explain the numbers, in an appendix they show summary statistics of the attacks; an average kamikaze pilot had IIRC about a 40% chance of returning from a given mission. 40%!

I presume that this mainly happened because they couldn't find any targets to hit, a frequent occurrence during WW II. At the Battle of Midway, the USS Hornet lost an entire squadron of fighters because they fruitlessly searched for the Japanese fleet (which had already been sighted, but the trick was to find where the ships are now, not where they were when they were sighted) and ran out of fuel before they could get back to their carrier or to Midway Island.

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