Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Uber's State of California Proposition 22 Ruled Unconstitutional & Tesla's Autopilot Accidents And Future Of Autonomous-Driving Vehicles

 "The entirely of Proposition 22 is unenforceable." says Alameda County Superior Court Judge Roesch

On Friday, August 20th, Judge Frank Roesch, a Superior Court judge in Alameda County, California, ruled that the 2020 California voter initiative known as Proposition 22, a law  passed by a 58% vote margin after a $200 million dollar promotion campaign paid by Uber, Lyft and other TNC companies, was ruled unconstitutional (violating the State of California Constitution) and unenforceable because it limited the California Legislature's ability to organize and access worker's compensation by requiring a 7/8ths supermajority to amend the proposition, something viewed as impossible.  Anyone familiar with how government functions in the USA knows that the most stringent majority requirement is usually 2/3rds of the elected body, a 7/8ths requirement something straight out of a autocracy, something that might make a Stalin or a Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung) smile in appreciation. What Proposition 22 accomplished was abolishing California Assembly Bill 5, a law recognizing gig workers as employees.  No, no, Uber and Lyft didn't like that, a concept undermining their ability to keep the drivers corralled and pinned beneath their corporate thumb.  

In further explaining his ruling Judge Roesh wrote "A prohibition on legislation authorizing collective bargaining by app-based drivers does not promote the right to work as an independent contractor, nor does it provide minimum workplace safety and pay standards for those workers. It appears only to protect the economic interest of the network companies in having a divided, un-unionized workforce, which is not a stated goal of the legislation."  He could not have stated it any clearer, dismissing the lie that Proposition 22 would enhance gig workers lives.  In a survey of 500 California gig workers, only 10 percent have received the promised health care subsidy, that is, a mere 50 out of 500 individuals. 

In a published comment, University of California-Hastings Law Professor, Veena Dubal, said that the TNC companies "erred in trying to completely take away the right of legislatures and municipalities to do anything on behalf of workers, as well as trying to take the workers out of the state workers' state compensation system."  

It is clear that Uber and Lyft are doing everything they can to survive because they remain on the verge of failure, of disappearing completely from the transportation landscape.  Uber lost $6.77 billion in 2020 and $8.51 billion in 2019.   Lyft lost $1.75 billion in 2020 and $2.60 billion in 2019.  Ther rates charged to riders have gone up 92% from January 2018 to July of this year, 2021.  As of this July, their overall workforce is down by 40%.  

A good, bad example of what is occurring was the fellow I took home from 2nd and South Jackson Street to his place on the 900 hundred-block of 10th Avenue East.  Uber quoted him $60.00.  My meter read just over ten dollars.  It is the wild, wild west and now the taxis are winning the fare-based shootout.  Hurray!

Tesla's Potentially Fatal Autopilot Operating System

Pre-pandemic, us cabbies sitting at the train station argued about how we would or wouldn't be replaced by autonomous or robotic cars, vehicles not needing a driver to safely operate.  Finally, after a more or less hands off policy, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is opening an investigation into the at least 11 accidents involving Tesla's Autopilot system, the crashes killing one woman and injuring a total of 17 people.  It seems the Autopilot has a knack for running into emergency response vehicles parked on the side of freeways.  Not a good thing.  

And what does it mean concerning the replacement of cabbies by completely hands-free vehicles?  That it isn't happening soon, if at all, is the answer.  Despite all the previous media hype, our society is years away from that science fiction reality.  Instead, like in Germany, teach people to really learn and know how to drive a car.  Do that and we will all be safer, happier and wiser.   

Friday, August 20, 2021

No Compliments Please, Money Instead The Best Commentary Concerning Your Ride & Dead Drunk In Queens & Hard To Get A Taxi In Pacific, Missouri

 Not Praise, $$$$

It may seem impolite or uncouth but spare me the lavish compliments and covering, instead, my sweaty palms with greenbacks.  I say this because yesterday Puget Sound Dispatch sent out a fleet message praising two cabbies for good service rendered to some account customers, thinking somehow this alone, this "pat-upon-the-head" was "just reward" enough for simply being professional, doing what you are supposed to do, all the while smiling, not snarling.  I say, hell with that, give the guys money or a break on their dispatch fees.  In this business, that is how to show your appreciation, because it is money that motivates us and little else.  Yesterday I got a $70.00 tip, and you know what, did I really deserve it?  Of course not!  But I was damn happy to receive it.  Yes, even I can fake generosity when in reality I am the worst Scrooge, stealing your Christmas pudding.  And it is still summertime August. Enjoy Sunday's full moon.

Two News Items from that rag, the New York Post

Not Drunk, Dead

A NYC cabbie, plying the streets of Queens, picked up what he thought was an inebriated passenger but instead, was in a fatal state, dying in his cab. Rushing the passenger to a hospital, the customer was DOA. The article doesn't mention if he was paid for his troubles.

There is one VERY dumb taxi company owner in Missouri

Charlie Bullington, owner of Yo Transportation Service in Pacific, Missouri (suburban Saint Louis), he of a small fleet of pink painted cabs, has a message for anyone interested in using his taxi service: if you wear a mask or have received your coronavirus vaccination, he will not allow you into one of his cabs.  That's right, he would rather you spread the virus to his drivers than take precautions to protect yourself and others. Yesterday I transported, on a King County account, a COVID-19 infected passenger to a quarantine center in Issaquah, Washington.  Both of us were double- masked while she wore gloves.  What would Charlie the Bull have done?  Why get sick and die, that's what.  And as the saying goes, doing us all a "big favor."


Sunday, August 15, 2021

Greetings From Quincy, Washington: The American West Is Burning---I Got To See It For Myself & If You Don't Care, Why Should I? & Medallion Renewal Reminder---September 15th, 2021 & 2 Poems From The Road

You Should Visit the Quincy Public Library 

Today, this Sunday, my two weeks tripping around California, Oregon and now eastern Washington ends, yet despite all the smoke I will be unhappy coming back to Seattle and the cab, lonely roads like Oregon State Routes 66 and 31, nearly vacant of traffic, don't make me relish once again negotiating Seattle's  packed streets and crowded freeways and its forever foolish, too stupid drivers.  Especially in Eastern Oregon, there were few people, and returning to dumbbell Seattle is depressing, a backward city touting its imaginary forwardness, featuring spiraling costs but little true urban ambiance---a sprawling suburban center minus coffee after 9:00 PM.  

And the local governance is about to worsen, if that is entirely possible, with two of the poorest mayoral candidates possible, the wimpish  Bruce Harrell versus the "always theoretical" M. Lorena Gonzalez.  Yikes!  Let me run for the New Mexico hills, explaining why I am now registered to vote in Grant County, New Mexico and not King County, ready to vote for the first honest rattlesnake I see shaking its telltale tail.  There is venom and then there is the "I can never make up my god damn mind " poison that is Seattle and King County politics.  Quick, provide me an antidote, I am dying!

But reflecting a bit upon my recent travels, I can make a few recommendations for those traveling in and around north California and eastern Oregon, adding some pleasure to the drive.  If coming up from California, and thinking about exploring eastern Oregon, take State Route 66 eastbound beginning just north of Ashland proper and enjoy the quick accent up a twisting mountainside road, taking you first to the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, an interesting meeting of climate zones, and where, if you have the time, take a stroll down that part of the Pacific Crest Trail.  From there you are eventually going to descend into the Klamath River Valley, the road crossing that great river a few times.  It is very nice country, especially in and around the tiny burg of Keno, Oregon.  Though before you've turned off of 1-5 at Ashland, first make sure you stopped at the wonderful mountain town of Shasta City, California, buying provisions at the Berryvale Grocery Natural Foods, then enjoying a picnic at the Sacramento River Headwaters city park.  Great place to rest up and fill those empty water containers. Just head north down the main street and look for the entrance taking you across the railroad tracks, turning left.  

Continuing east like I did,  on SR 66, you will eventually connect with State Route 140, and the roadway taking you to Lakeview, Oregon.  It was along that road eastbound that I began wearily noticing the biggest smoke plume I will ever want to see rising ahead of me to the northeast.  Expecting at any time to be stopped by the local police, the still open roadway took me ever closer until I was about 2-4 miles away from a smoky blaze consuming a mountainside.  A giant orange flame, like a kind of big, hungry animal, bit into the forest. I even got to witness airplanes dropping fire retardant, the pilots bravely swooping into  smoky, wind driven clouds.  It was dramatic, a prime time movie minus the theater, no ticket required.  No, I don't want to see the sequel. 

After gassing up in Lakeview, I continued north on Hwy 395 to State Route 31 and Paisley, Oregon and the Chewaucan River, a favorite of mine from two previous trips. Unfortunately, fire had scorched the hillsides forming the river canyon, saddening me, certainly not pleased to see the many blackened trees.  My favorite campgrounds closed, and anyway, with the road also officially closed, I pulled off  and slept above the Chewaucan, the sky clear despite lingering smoke, a breeze cooling down the heated air. 

A note on camping:  Camping is cheaper and oft times free.  Both with her and alone and camping a total of nine nights, I paid a total of $18.00.  Think of all the fresh air and the pleasure of battling mosquitos. It's worth it, camping out in the great outdoors. 

Only a Fool continues to Care

While I will still mildly advocate when necessary, I have decided it is futile to care when no one else does, because, short of a class-action law suit, nothing it appears will compel any of the involved actors to do anything whatsoever to improve taxi customer service while also providing much needed justice for the cab drivers.  It is now that I declare, like everyone else, that I will cease to care to whatever happens to all those passengers never receiving their requested cab, missing jobs and airplane flights and everything else. 

Why care?  I have yelled enough, alerting everyone to problems that never end.  If the City and County fail to heed my warnings, well, so they do, having other matters on hand, like seriously submitting my writing and departing the taxi asylum.  I want to get out of the cab and Seattle, lingering much longer obviously a big, personal mistake.  Then I will no longer write what "she-who-can't-be-named" calls "that damn blog."  Yeah, I am ready to go.  As some might remember, she is the one who encouraged me to start writing it.  The truth is she wants me out of the cab as much I want to be gone.  It's unhealthy and besides, I've grown "long in the taxi tooth," time to pull these yellowish fangs.  Good idea.

30 More Days to Renew your Taxi Medallion

The end date is September 15th.  I say this because I have yet to renew YC 1092's medallion.  I'll get to it within the next two weeks, and I suggest you do the same.  Don't wait to the last moment. 

2 Poems

Coming Home to Tolstoy

Moving my camp to the Russian olive tree,

I am home, we discovering and naming this site

Tolstoy, the tree bordering the south side of Quincy

Lake, in 1989, and now memories of me and you,

always seeing you, there you are swimming

far out into the lake, watching you from the shore.


In the Marsh

Whirling forward, a concentrated swooping mass, excited dunlins 

instant feathered acrobats, the marsh their circus ring,

and godwits and avocets and sanderlings too winging shore to air

to water and back again and again,

all chittering, chattering, talking, warning  "look! look out above you! 

watch out! those harriers wanting lunch!"

the harriers sudden lethal missiles but missing

the sharp turning zigzagging dunlins, backs flashing sunlight,

all avoiding harrier talons five, ten, fifteen minutes more until 

their adversaries giving up, everyone now nervously happy as  

brown pelicans slowly glide down to their communal island.

"Did anything just happen? they ask, their friends replying, 

"No, No, only another pleasant Tuesday afternoon in the marsh."   


The actors in this real life drama:

Dunlin (calidris alpina)

American  Avocet (curvirostra americana)

Marbled godwit. (limosa fedoa) 

Sanderling (calidras alba)

Marsh hawk or Northern harrier (cirens cyaneus) 

Brown pelican (pelecanus accidentalis)

The stage was the Arcata Marsh, Arcata, California. 



Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Greetings From Union Street, Arcata: Who Is Ultimately In Charge Of Regulating Seattle And King County's Taxi Industry? Somebody? Anybody? Nobody? & Boston Cab Drivers Lose Uber Court Action

Thwarted Hegira---Camping on Hurdy Gurdy Creek and the Smith and Winchuck Rivers

After changing our plans due to fires in nearby wilderness and forest, we were forced to once more alter our intentions after encountering scores of travelers, who like us, sought the solace and embrace of woods and rivers and open sky---a watery and green and flowering balm soothing the urban blighted mind.  Even at the isolated North Fork section of the Smith River, an overnight encampment of eight vehicles and many shouting children took over a beach we had, so sublimely the day before, solely to ourselves, meaning there was no escaping the human species this time around.  Having accessed this part of the river by a twenty-mile gravel road drive over an unnamed mountain pass, their arrival was a surprise, telling us it was time to go.  

Retracing our tire tracks, grinding up the southwest side of the unknown mountain in second gear, and once atop, pulled off, taking in the spectacular view, as nothing is more freeing than a wide open, unblemished blue sky embracing our known world.  After that, and reaching Highway 101, we crossed over into Oregon, reaching the Chetco River outside of Brookings but hordes of sun-seekers crowded its shores, leaving us to hope the Winchuck River would be our deliverance, and it was, staying our last night at the Ludlum campground, a woodsy place harboring a nice swimming hole and sandy beach.  An evening stroll deep along a road bordering the Winchuck tied a bow over our pleasant discovery, the river saving what would have been a disappointing day to an abbreviated journey.   

In order, our resting sites were Flat Camp on Hurdy Gurdy Creek, two nights at North Fork and a last night at Ludlum. For anyone seeking quiet in that part of California, take Rowdy Creek Road off of Highway 101 and continue onto Forest Road 305, taking you up and over the big mountain and down once again to the Smith River and the North Fork.  We had a great campsite, a bit of wild paradise.  A deer, we believe, made an nocturnal visit, leaping near a tent, and in the morning, complaining Stellar's Jays (cyanocilla stelleri) hid their bright blue feathers amongst the evergreens.    

Who the Hell is in Control of Seattle's Taxis? 

This morning I emailed again those long suffering fellows at Seattle and King County Licensing, recounting once more additional tales of woe from my last weekend worked, telling how angry Martin was, having been kept waiting one hour just wanting to get home; and Sherry, frantic with worry, a nursing facility employee already an hour late for work.  Of course none of this is reasonable but it keeps happening day into night to erstwhile taxi customers calling and wanting to get somewhere but their cab either arriving late or not at all.  

And it just isn't Yellow vexing the passenger population, Farwest Taxi too less than adequate, informing a couple returning late from the University Hospital Medical Center after cancer treatment that, "no, there is no one available to take your Seattle Cancer Care Alliance Voucher," and "anyway, our dispatch is closed."  So much for being a 24 hour cab company, Farwest no longer fully operational but who knew, who was told?  But of course, no one telling anybody anything, clearly not telling the City and County, all of them peacefully asleep at that regulatory hour, asleep at the taxi wheel.

So the question is posed, who if anyone, is in charge of what is occurring at the area taxi associations?  The two prime remaining associations, Yellow and Farwest, remain deficient, providing a sometimes theoretical taxi service, leaving passengers to guess what is happening and why, why is the cab I ordered not showing up?  

But what about all those nice people working at the City and County, those responsible for licensing the drivers and cabs; are they solely responsible for both the good and bad service, and if the situation remains bad, are they going reorganize and restructure the associations?   Though perhaps a good idea, and something that could reshape the quality of the service for the better, it is very unlikely that will happen.  For one, does the City and County have the authority to take over, and two, do they have the will and momentum to take such a task on, finally telling the associations, "enough of your malfeasance, you gotta get it together, you gotta get it together now!?"

As is said, "god if I know" but something must change, one would think, especially after I have given everyone example after sad example of how the passenger public cannot reliably depend upon what currently is a large question mark minus ready answers.   In approximately eight days I will be back in the cab, and what will I find, will everything be changed, everything now "fine and dandy?"  Should I laugh, or cry?  Either way, perhaps I will know the reason why I can't wait to bid taxi a final saltatory goodbye. 

Banned in Boston: First Circuit Federal Court of Appeals Kicks Boston Taxi Butts

“We are faced with the narrow question of whether Uber's entrance and conduct in the transportation market during a period of regulatory uncertainty violated the statutory and common law governing the commercial marketplace,” Judge Gary Katzmann said. “We conclude that it did not.”

“There has been vigorous argument whether the new world created by TNCs has been good for the transportation industry as a whole or for the larger public; dispute regarding the impact of TNCs on road congestion and public transit usage; questions whether TNCs are being regulated appropriately in the best interests of public safety; and debate whether the legislature acted sufficiently, or should have acted, to protect the interests of taxicab owners who were affected by the TNCs,” said Katzmann. “These are no doubt important issues of public policy. “

These two quotes are from a Courthouse News Service article dated August 6th, 2021 written by Emilee Larkin, where it is reported that an appeal of a lawsuit filed by 30 Boston cab companies against Uber was rejected by the 1st Circuit Court, essentially saying that Uber's illegal operations from 2013 to 2016 within the City of Boston were valid, even though Uber was not licensed to operate in Boston.  Huh? is my response to this ruling, the court  seemingly sanctioning illegal activity.  

Further insult could be construed from Judge Katzmann's second set of remarks, comments both oddly dismissive yet strangely supportive for the taxi companies' position, the good judge perhaps displaying his judicial equanimity, telling us that while flushing Boston's taxicab industry down the regulatory toilet is okay, and if you don't like it for the many sundry reasons I have stated, well, you (government lawmakers) can do something about it yourself, because me and my fellow justices, we ain't doing nothing one way or the other.   And yes, thank you, its been my pleasure serving you.

Katzmann was joined in this three panel decision by Judges O. Rogeriee Thompson and Jeffery Howard.  For all you bleeding heart liberals out there, Thompson and Katzmann were appointed to the bench by President Obama. Howard is a George (screw the Afghanis) Bush appointee. 


Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Greetings Once Again From Arcata, California: The Smoke Report & What Is Advocacy? & Taxi Photos In The News

Barely Awake in Arcata

Back in Northern California to camp and hike and swim with "she who can't be named" but fires keep changing our destination, making us consider alternate sites. We were first heading to Silver Lake east of Lassen National Park but the biggest fire currently burning in the west dissuaded us, road closures and heavy smoke a poor vacation combination.  We then decided upon the Salmon River past Happy Camp but that area too now impacted by forest fires, which was disappointing as I was looking forward to a swimming hole locally called "Grubstake," just look for the green gate.   Finally, hemmed in by the fires, we have chosen by default two areas north of Crescent City: the Smith River Recreation Area and the Chetco River just  above the California in southwestern Oregon.  Looking forward to exploring the Chetco, a river new to me.  

Last night, as I was driving down from Seattle, and after refusing to pay $150.00 a night for a Grants Pass motel room, I ended up tossing my sleeping bag on the ground near the Smith River, the night sky incredibly clear, falling into an exhausted slumber.  Awakening to an almost blue morning sky, and driving the few miles south into fog enshrouded Crescent City, I was greeted by fog horns sounding a lugubrious moan over muttering grey waves.  A pop-up vaccination clinic was set was near a beach promenade, and like so many other Americans, the swooping gulls avoided the jab into their shoulders, the gulls and terns telling everyone what they thought of human folly, taking wing into the mist. 

Why Advocacy?

Many have termed my voicing of problems mere complaint, unnecessarily roiling calm waters but my advocacy impersonal, having nothing to do with me, only wishing for better and saner outcomes.  When I was nineteen, and working in a quilting warehouse containing scores of chattering sewing machines, I witnessed older immigrant women operating the many needled monsters for one dollar an hour.  In my attempt to organize I was fired, interested in a justice slow in coming for those hard working people.  And now, nearly fifty years later, my interest in justice unabated, only wanting it to happen but then as now, indifference colors the usual mind, life stumbling down a twisted path.

2 Recent Taxi Photos in the New York Times

One was a photograph from 1973 of a cabbie sitting on the hood of his NYC Checker Cab, leaning against the windshield reading a book.

Another from this week was of a London Black Cab driving through a flooded London Street, both photos capturing the true taxi experience.  I have done both, many times.