Union Cabbies want you to wait Longer for a Ride

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 19th, 2014

Week in Review

Today there is an app for everything.  Have smartphone will travel.  Literally.  Unless, that is, union cabbies want to make you stand in the rain/snow and cold for an hour in a bad neighborhood (see Why a taxi driver protest turned violent in Paris by Dylan Stableford posted 1/14/2014 on Yahoo! News).

The attacks by striking cab drivers on Uber cars in Paris on Monday — with protesters shattering windows, smashing mirrors and slashing tires — appear to be the first violent clashes in the ongoing battle between local cabbies and app-based car services.

But tensions, in Paris and elsewhere, have been brewing for months. Cab drivers say Uber and apps like it, which allow customers to hitch rides nearly instantly from their smartphones, create unfair competition and undermine the traditional cab-hailing business…

In Portland, Ore., Uber has urged lawmakers to change an ordinance requiring town cars to wait an hour before picking up would-be passengers.

In Paris, a “15-minute law” went into effect on Jan. 1, requiring all Uber drivers to wait 15 minutes after a request is placed to pick up a passenger — a move aimed at leveling the competition for traditional Parisian cabbies.

Nonetheless, hundreds of unionized cab drivers participated in Monday’s protests in Paris, demanding a 30-minute delay, minimum fares and a driver recruitment ban. At least 12 Uber cars were targeted, according to local reports.

Imagine that.  Because someone else found a better way to do things union cabbies want new laws to prevent that better way.  They want to make a person wait for an hour before anyone picks them up.  An Uber car could be around the corner when they get the request.  They could drive around the corner and pick this person up within three minutes.  But if the union cabbies get their way the Uber car will have to sit there for an hour before moving.  To give a union cabbie a chance to drive by and get hailed.  Leaving that person in the rain or snow.  Or in a bad neighborhood.  Just standing there.  Vulnerable.  Just so someone providing a poorer service can get his or her business.

This is the difference between free market capitalism and crony capitalism.  In free market capitalism the consumer is number one.  And gets the highest quality at the lowest price.  In crony capitalism unions, businesses and government are number one.  For they are cronies and look out for each other.  At the expense of the consumer.  Who gets lower quality and higher prices.  As unions, businesses and governments collude together to enrich themselves by forcing people to pay more for less.

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North Korea may not be able to Light up the Night or Feed her People but they now have their own Smartphone

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 17th, 2013

Week in Review

You know the machines are taking over the world when everyone must have a smartphone these days.  Even the North Koreans (see Skepticism as NKorea shows home-grown smartphone by Youkyung Lee, AP Technology Writer, posted 8/16/2013 on Yahoo! Finance).

North Korea’s announcement that it is mass producing a home-grown smartphone has been met with skepticism in the tech industry in South Korea and abroad.

The North’s state media last week showed leader Kim Jong Un inspecting “Arirang” phones at a Pyongyang factory. The Korean Central News Agency’s Aug. 10 report said the factory began manufacturing smartphones “a few days ago” and they were already in high demand.

No.  They’re not.

…access to the global Internet is severely restricted and mobile phones used on the state-authorized network cannot make overseas calls. The North’s Intranet gives access to government sanctioned sites and works with its own browsers, search engine and email programs, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry.

So, in other words, people can use these smartphones to only access the state propaganda that they are already being bombarded with.  Not the rich entertainment environment available just south of the border in South Korea.  Where people actually want smartphones.  Well, not smartphones per se.  But the cyberworld the smartphones bring to them.  A cyberworld strictly FORBIDDEN for the average North Korean.  So, yeah, there is a high demand for smartphones in North Korea.  Just as there is a high demand for famine and state-oppression.  Which, sadly, are the only things North Korea has an abundance of.

The 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce and the Korean Peninsula remains technically at war. Since then, the South has prospered and produced giant corporations such as Samsung Electronics Co., which is the world’s biggest maker of smartphones, computer memory chips and displays. The North’s economy has languished under socialist central planning though the capital Pyongyang is an oasis of relative affluence.

And there’s the problem.  Socialist central planning.  If that would ever go away the people could use smartphone like their neighbors to the south.  As well as losing their constant fear of famine.  And state-oppression.  Of course for that to happen will require the reunification of the Korean Peninsula.  With the North becoming like the South, of course.

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Stages of Production

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 16th, 2012

Economics 101

People used their Human Capital to Transform Raw Materials into Something Valuable

As we unleashed our human capital civilization advanced.  Our food needs taken care of thanks to advances in agriculture we used our new free time to think.  To think about transforming the world around us.  By exploring our world.  And the stuff that made it.  Great civilizations rose and fell throughout history.  But the ones that really advanced the world were those in northern Europe.  The people who conquered the oceans.  The Portuguese.  The Spanish.  The Dutch.  The French.  And the British.

As these great European powers set out to explore the world they established colonies in faraway lands.  To gather the raw materials available.  And to ship them back to their mother countries.  Where their advanced civilizations would transform those raw materials into higher value finished goods.  And then export them throughout the world.  Including their colonies.  This was mercantilism.  Establish colonies.  Ship raw materials to the mother country.  Export finished goods.  And Import bullion accepted in payment for those finished goods.

It’s not a good economic system.  Mercantilism.  But it did create the United States.  Which started out as a British colony.  But as a colony of a mercantilist country the Americans had to follow the rules of the mother country.  First of all they had to understand their place.  And purpose.  They were subordinate to the mother country.  And their only purpose was to procure raw materials and ship them to the mother country.  They couldn’t open trade with other countries.  Everything that left the colonies had to go on a British ship to a British port.  Where British manufacturers would transform those raw materials into finished goods for export.  The British did this because finished goods were more valuable than raw goods.  And sold for much higher prices than the raw materials sold for.  So Britain did the manufacturing.  While their colonies fed their manufacturers with raw material.

The Stages of Production is the Economic Activity that happens to bring Finished Goods to Market

The British eventually abandoned mercantilism and adopted free market capitalism and free trade.  And the British Empire went on to rule the world for a century or so.  This after losing the American colonies in the Revolutionary War, losing about half of their empire.  So free market capitalism is clearly superior to mercantilism.  But for a couple of centuries mercantilism built empires.  And provided an excellent example of the stages of production.

Raw materials mean little to consumers.  What we like are the things that people with human capital transform them into.  The things we go to the store to buy.  Such as a smartphone, for example.  Whenever a new model comes out we flock to our favorite retail store to buy it.  The retail store has it to sell because they bought a shipment from their wholesaler.  The wholesaler had it to sell because they bought it from the assembly plants that assembled them.  The assembly plants could build them because they bought the components (displays, hard cases, antennas, keys, circuit boards, etc.) from various manufacturers.  And the various manufactures bought raw materials from those who extracted them from the ground.  Interconnecting all of these is ship, rail and truck transportation.  Even planes.  Not to mention an extensive cellular network to make these smartphones work.  As well as all the software applications they run.  Adding value at every stage along the way.

There is much economic activity that happens to bring that smartphone to your favorite retail store.  Throughout these stages of production.  Note how everything else has to happen before you buy that smartphone.  Going all the way back to the extraction of raw materials from the ground.  All of these stages have to happen before you buy that phone.  So the payment for the phone follows much later than all of these other stages.  Introducing a very important element in the stages of production.  Time.  It takes time to bring things to market.  And because it takes time it also takes money.  Everyone working from raw material extraction to the salesperson selling you the phone earns an income.  And their employers pay them before you buy your phone.  Some a lot earlier than others.  Also, all of these people either work in a building.  Or in the field with equipment.  Things that others have to build first before we can even begin our raw material extraction.  Requiring an enormous capital investment before anyone earns a dime of revenue on the sale of a smartphone.

The British Empire went on to Rule the World for a Century or More because they let the Market Manage their Economy

To bring a smartphone to a retailer near you requires people to risk their money by investing in something that may earn a profit.  Investors.  And bankers.  As people saved their money they created large pools of capital for businesses to borrow.  Venture capitalists bankrolled promising entrepreneurs.  And the big corporations turned to the equity and bond markets to raise their capital.  Individuals worked hard and saved money to put in their savings account.  Or to buy stocks and bonds.  Because they did there was money to borrow.  Or to invest.  And because there was money to borrow and invest the stages of production could begin.

In the days of mercantilism the government controlled much of this.  Even providing some of that early capital.  But as the economy grew more complex it was too complex for government to manage.  Which is why the British Empire went on to rule the world for a century or more.  Because they let the market manage their economy.  A myriad of people in the market place pursuing their own interests.  Pursuing profits.  Which is why free market capitalism works.  For no one person could know enough to manage all of the stages of productions to bring a smartphone to market.  And the beautiful thing is in free market capitalism no one person has to.  For when people throughout the stages of production pursue profits smartphones arrive at a retailer near you.  At reasonable prices to boot.

So the next time you pick up a smartphone at a retailer think of everything it took to bring it to your hands.  And everything it takes to operate it as you wish.  Hundreds of thousands of people pursuing profits.  Most of which have no idea what they’re doing will allow you to hold a smartphone at your favorite retailer.  Because in the stages of production everyone does their part.  Without any consideration of what their part is in the big picture.  Which is why it works so well.  Thanks to people thinking.  And unleashing their human capital to create great things throughout the stages of production.

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Green Energy taking us to a George Orwell 1984 Future?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 8th, 2011

Smartphones so Smart they know where you’ve Been

The digital world leaves a lot of digital footprints.  And there’s a lot of money in those footprints (See Apple, Google to face lawmakers in privacy tussle by Diane Bartz posted 5/8/2011 on Reuters).

Tech companies such as Apple and Google are hoping the tracks of millions of mobile device users will lead to billions of dollars in revenue.

But where they see dollar signs, lawmakers see red flags.

Following us around and keeping track of where we went?  I don’t know.  Sounds a little creepy to me.  But I guess if everyone knows they’re doing this and voluntarily agree to it, I guess there’s no problem.

Smartphone and advertising companies argue that they use data on what users like (which they know because users use the phone to check prices); where they are (which they know because of contact with cell phone towers); and who their friends are (which they know from social media like Facebook) to give their customers ads for products they are most likely to buy…

But the discomfort comes with the failure of companies — ranging from smartphone makers, to app makers, to advertisers — to disclose to customers what information they are collecting and what they will do with it, said a staffer for Democratic Senator Al Franken, chairman of the online privacy subcommittee that will hold Tuesday’s hearing.

What we like?  Where we are?  Who our friends are?  Without our knowledge?  Sure, we clicked to approve the 50 million-word user agreement to activate our stuff so we could get on with our lives.  But we’re not all lawyers.  And some of us work.  We don’t have the time to read these agreements and then to hire someone to explain what they mean. 

It’s still creepy but as long as it’s not for nefarious purposes…

Franken’s staff has been concerned by reports that insurance companies have explored using location tracking to calculate insurance rates by noting where people go — for example if they go to a gym or a donut store…

“The fact is that they’re creating these sort of mobile digital dossiers based on what you do on your mobile phone and where you are,” said Jeff Chester, head of the Center for Digital Democracy.

Whoa.  This is just a little too KGB-like police state.  The government is right to step in stop this Orwellian activity.  Thankfully, we can always trust government to do what’s right for the people.  I mean, they would never consider tracking our whereabouts like these untrustworthy corporations.

Government Considering getting Deep into our Private Lives

Actually, as it turns out, they would.  Track us.  Or, rather, our cars.  Which typically only go where we go.  So it’s a lot like Apple and Google.  Only, unlike them, the government won’t be trying to persuade us to buy something.  They’ll just be taking our money (see Pay per mile: A timely tax idea, or a privacy threat? by Tom Curry posted 5/5/2011 on msnbc).

Department of Transportation officials have drafted legislation that would study a vehicle tax to track how far drivers travel and charge them by the mile. The proposal would create a “Surface Transportation Revenue Alternatives Office” to conduct trials of the concept.

The draft proposal was first reported this week in Transportation Weekly, a trade publication. A White House spokeswoman told The Hill newspaper that the draft “does not represent the views of the president” and is in no way an administration proposal.

To ‘track’ drivers.  Rather ominous.  Government tracking our whereabouts.  That’s more something out of 1984 than the United States of America.

A tax or fee on miles driven could possibly supplant the gasoline tax, which has has lost a third of its purchasing power since it was last raised by Congress in 1993. Since 2008, according to a Congressional Budget Office report, the money available in the highway trust fund has not been enough to cover federal spending on highways, requiring an additional injection of about $30 billion from the federal treasury. 

Yes, “supplant” the gas tax.  If there is one thing Americans are familiar with is the way government eliminates taxes that they don’t need any more.  And by ‘familiar with’ I mean it rarely ever happens.  Because new taxes are implemented to fund ever growing government spending.  And eliminating a tax just makes it harder to fund ever growing government spending.

But raising the tax when a gallon of gas costs more than $4 in many parts of the country is a nonstarter for most members of Congress.

And the gasoline tax is pumping less money into federal coffers over time, as automobile companies continue to improve the fuel economy of cars they manufacture.

So even though we are paying more for gasoline than we ever have and more people are driving than ever before, it’s not enough to fund government.  How much do you want to bet that gas prices will go down after they implement the new ‘government tracking your whereabouts’ tax?  Don’t bet.  Because they won’t.  And if you were about to bet that they would you should probably have someone else handle your money.

With the Obama administration encouraging people to buy fuel-efficient vehicles, “there’s a total contradiction in current government policy” in how highways are funded, said energy consultant Geoffrey Styles, who writes the widely followed Energy Outlook blog.

Styles said policy makers need to address this issue “before there are 20 million electric vehicles on the road.”

“If we’ve waited that long, and all those folks have been used to driving those cars without paying any energy tax, then trying to change what we do is going to be a big disconnect,” he said.

And there is that most coveted tax of all.  The energy tax.  And the electric car makes it the fair thing to do.  It kind of reminds me of that line in the movie Patton.  Near the end when Patton is talking on the phone with General Bedell Smith.  Patton is just itching to start a war with the Russians.  And says that he can.  That he can start a war with the “sons of bitches” and make it look like it was their fault.  General Smith calls Patton mad and hangs up.  Now I’m not saying that the government planned to pass the energy tax by making it look like the sons of bitches (i.e., we the people) asked for it.  I’m just saying it reminds me of that line in Patton.

As experts have recognized, many Americans would be wary of the idea of a government agency tracking their vehicle in order to tax the miles they drive.

“The problem comes the minute you introduce a device in the vehicle” because people “do not want the government to know where they are and where they are going,” Styles said.

That’s right.  Our privacy is sacred.  So sacred that the government is convening hearings to look into Apple and Google for violating that sacred trust.  Because targeting advertising at us threatens the very foundation of a free society.  Unlike an all-powerful government using its power to track what we do in our personal lives to extract tax payments.  Or, perhaps, to let them know we’re going somewhere they’d rather we didn’t.  No, that they’re okay with.

Green Electric Cars may Track you.  And Strand You.

These electric cars are more trouble than they’re worth.  Invasions into our private lives.  And a justification for more taxes.  Like that ever elusive energy tax the government so wants to implement.  Because energy is everywhere in a modern society.  Well, almost everywhere (see Electric car charging points ‘shortfall’ by the BBC posted 5/8/2011 on the BBC News UK).

Only 704 of the 4,700 expected by the end of the year are in place and two-thirds of towns with a population of over 150,000 do not have any public charging infrastructure.

David Martell, of charging supplier Chargemaster, said the lack of points can be very stressful for drivers…

Mr Martell said many electric vehicle drivers suffer from “range anxiety”, which concerns their fear that they run the risk of running out of power due to a lack of charging points.

As if fearing Big Brother might catch us going somewhere ‘inappropriate’ (a casino, a lingerie/sex toy store, a Kentucky Fried Chicken, a Republican fundraiser, etc.) wasn’t enough, now we have to worry whether or not we’ll ever be able to make it back home when we venture out in our electric cars.  And what may happen to us if we don’t.  I don’t know about you, but that internal combustion engine is looking better and better all of the time.  It sure delivers the liberty enshrined in our Founding Documents.  Unlike that ‘police state’ green technology.

Green Energy adds to Electrical Demand while Reducing Electrical Supply

Range anxiety may not be our only anxiety.  Because with the move to green energy sources there’s a good chance that even if you find a charging point, it may not have any juice in it to recharge your battery (see Wind farms produced ‘practically no electricity’ during Britain’s cold snap by Rowena Mason posted 1/11/2010 on The Telegraph).

The cold weather has been accompanied by high pressure and a lack of wind, which meant that only 0.2pc of a possible 5pc of the UK’s energy was generated by wind turbines over the last few days.

Jeremy Nicholson, director of the Energy Intensive Users Group (EIUG), gave warning that this could turn into a crisis when the UK is reliant on 6,400 turbines accounting for a quarter of all UK electricity demand over the next 10 years.

He said the shortfall in power generated by wind during cold snaps seriously undermined the Government’s pledge on Friday to build nine major new wind “super farms” by 2020.

“If we had this 30 gigawatts of wind power, it wouldn’t have contributed anything of any significance this winter,” he said. “The current cold snap is a warning that our power generation and gas supplies are under strain and it is getting worse.”

This is from a January 2010 Telegraph article.  That’s not one winter ago.  That’s two winters ago.  They are well aware of this problem.  Yet they move forward building windmills.  And with plans to shut down safe, reliable coal-fired plants.  Because they’re too dirty. 

In an effort to save the planet it is the human race that constantly has to make concessions.  They’ll walk back our standard of living right back to the 18th century when there were no cars.  No internal combustion engines.  No electricity.  To a time when the earth was a happier, cleaner place.  Where human and horse feces covered the streets and sidewalks.  And famine was just a part of life.

Our Green Future:  Higher Electric Bills, Service Interruptions and Big Brother

We bought more fuel efficient cars to protect the planet even though we wanted those big SUVs.  Then even though we were driving those small cars and using less gas we were spending more money for gas.  So some of us spent more money for an electric car and drove less.  But because we did and bought less gas there may be a new mileage tax.  Calculated by a little black box in our cars.  That tracks where we go.  To be fair.  So everyone pays for the amount of roads they drive on.  Which will probably negate any cost savings made by moving into an electric car.

And if that wasn’t enough, there will have to be a huge investment to install an electric car charging infrastructure.  All paid for by the new mileage tax.  Probably.  Or maybe the gas tax.  Or some new tax.  And when we put this huge new demand on our aging electrical grid that we’re trying to make green, we’ll probably pay higher electrical bills.  Or suffer through service interruptions when the wind doesn’t blow.

Well, that’s about as cheerful a future as poor old Winston Smith had in Orwell’s 1984.  And if you’re interested in seeing what that future is, you can read the book.  Or see the movie.  You know, while you can.  Before they consider these too inappropriate for us.  Like the SUV.  Because Big Brother will soon be watching and judging what we do.

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