Archive

Category Archives for "Trajan’s Column"

End of the road for Travis

It was a sad to hear about Travis Kalanick’s mom passing away in an accident but we thought Uber’s statement was that he was taking a leave of absence a cop out. We nevertheless gave an Emperor thumbs up when they later upgraded that to a full firing along with a few others of his cronies.

We thought Travis was a prize dickhead and wrong person to lead a company.

However, we’ve wondered if his firing was not because because of social justice pressure with him being a dick, but was it the fact that Uber was loosing a ton of money and the Venture capitalists wanting some fiscal discipline. Uber is loosing a ton of money.

However, the gossip about getting Melissa Meyer in from Yahoo is in our opinion, a mistake. Just because someone had lucked up in riding the coat tails of success with google, doesn’t mean it means you are any good as a leader. Sometimes people are just lucky to be in the right place at the right time.

On the other hand, an ex-google person may help to de-escalate the lawsuits on Uber for stealing Google IP on driverless cars. [see Waymo scandal]. We don’t think Travis is crying too much either as he has a lot of controlling stock and maybe his replacement can actually take it to a successful IPO now.

Btw, we also noticed that you can finally tip inside the Uber app. This was a ridiculous shortcoming and a source of discontentment from the riders and passengers alike.

 

Things that go bump in the night

United’s new hand carry policy – Hand carrying paying passengers off the plane.

Normally we give a “Feed them to the Lions” verdict after we have carefully weighed up the evidence of a situation brought to our attention but in this case, we are declaring it upfront with United and their involuntary bumping policy or as they call it, “involuntary boarding denial”.

Involuntary boarding’, my imperial arse.

This Sunday evening a Doctor was dragged off a Louisville plane after not enough passengers had volunteered to accept their offer of a few hundred dollars, hotel and guaranteed flight the next day. (3 pm ! – what use is that if you work). The Doctor was selected to be involuntary boarded by United and after he refused, security was called in to remove him. Someone took a video of the bloodied Doctor and it has gone around the interwebs. The Doctor apparently needed to be in Louisville to attend patients.

United are saying the flight was was oversold.  The devil in the detail is that the seats were needed for their employees to make a “downline connection” as they call it which really means, flight crew for the day after.  Oversold my arse. Continue reading..

France industrial unrest: Henri the Strike Engine

If you can, avoid France. In addition to oil refiners which has led to gasoline shortages, the rail workers have now gone on strike nine days before the Euro soccer tournament starts. Air Traffic controllers are also threatening and so are Air France pilots.

According to SNCF, the state rail company about 60% of high-speed trains and between a third and a half of other services are expected to run. High-speed services to the UK and Germany (Eurostar and Alleo) are said to be normal. Only one third of SVI services to Italy and 40% of Ellipsos services to Spain will run,

So what is the strike over? From the BBC news.

French labour reform bill – main points

  • The 35-hour week remains in place, but as an average. Firms can negotiate with local trade unions on more or fewer hours from week to week, up to a maximum of 46 hours.

  • Firms are given greater freedom to reduce pay.

  • The law eases conditions for laying off workers, which is strongly regulated in France. It is hoped companies will take on more people if they know they can shed jobs in case of a downturn.

  • Employers to get more leeway to negotiate holidays and special leave, such as maternity or for getting married. These are currently also heavily regulated.

Incredible.

Washing and rinsing at Camp Clinton

American Camping Accociation : Enriching politicians through charities

American Camping Association : Enriching political friends through speech donations

We at Roam love camping, so was surprised to see American Camping Association (ACA) on the list of organizations that paid  to hear speeches from Hilary Clinton. In fact, theirs was the last one before she declared as a Presidential candidate.

Now curious,  I decided to take a deeper look into the ACA. From their website:

“The mission of the American Camp Association is enriching the lives of children, youth and adults through the camp experience”

Sounds great like a great mission doesn’t it. So why does ACA,  a  not for profit organization, spend 1/10th of it’s budget on a speech by a previous Secretary of a State ? Their annual report calls it out but isn’t much help – see excerpt.

2015 report from ACA calling out HRC's talk. Apparently Camp is very powerful.

The Washington Post back in 2015 wrote about the ACA event.  It mentioned some attendees questioning it’s value for money:

Still, with Clinton’s candidacy on the horizon, the price of Clinton’s speech caused chatter in the halls. Several counselors wondered if their group had paid Clinton’s usual fee of $200,000 or more, which would represent about 10 percent of the group’s annual budget.

Clinton, 67, has been giving regular paid speeches ever since she finished her tenure as secretary of state in 2013. In recent weeks, she has given speeches at the headquarters of eBay in San Jose, Calif., at an Emily’s List gala and at a conference for women working in Silicon Valley.

Nick Merrill, a Clinton adviser, declined to discuss compensation for Thursday’s speech. Jess Michaels, a spokesperson for the American Camp Association, referred questions to Clinton’s speaking agency, which did not respond to inquiries.

One interesting point about this is the Q&A from ‘camp owner and director Jay Jacobs’ from the report. Well it turns out Jay Jacobs is Democratic chairman of Nassau County, New York. He is also a member of the Democratic National Committee. At last but not least, he has involvement  with the Clinton Foundation. So being close to Mrs Clinton, ACA obviously got a reduction in HRC’s usual speaking fees. Far from it : They ACA paid $260,000.

This stinks.

So are there any other reason ACA may depart from their usual keynote speakers of child development or camp issues? The left leaning Daily Kos suggests it may have been to influence the State Department J-1 visa. The J-1 is an exchange visa where ACA uses this to staff their summer camps where in 2011, they had 25,000 Student Work Travel (SWJs). While promising a chance to visit America, the Students work the camps and get pocket money in return.

The SWT program grew dramatically – from 20,000 participants in the early 1990s to a peak of 153,000 workers in 2008. It is currently capped at 109,000 workers after public outrage over widespread abuses of working conditions, accommodation, compensation and a non-existent cultural component.

Participants pay significant fees to the sponsoring agencies ($1100 to $2000) in the hope they will experience America and make some money while they are here. In reality, the experience is often far removed from the exciting marketing materials on sponsor web sites. Sixty to eighty-hour weeks of making beds, flipping burgers, working the night shift and sleeping four, six or eight to a room in poor accommodations for minimum wage are all too common.

Employers in such resort towns as Ocean City, Maryland, employ thousands of these SWT workers for a variety of reasons divorced from any notion of cultural exchange. For starters, they save 8 per cent over the cost of employing domestic workers because they don’t have to contribute to Social Security, Medicare or Federal Unemployment Insurance.

The Camp Counselor program which the ACA fully embraces, offers similar advantages to employers. State Department rule changes in 2012 sought to draw a clearer distinction between counselors and SWT staff roles but tremendous ambiguity and virtually non-existent enforcement remain.

Those sponsoring agencies that do present an accurate picture of the job explain that counselors work 10 to 14 hours a day, six days a week during a nine-week camp placement. Sponsoring agencies describe compensation as a stipend and an ACA 2013 FAQ as “pocket money”. Even using the high end of the stipend range ($1800), you get abysmal compensation: $1800 for nine 72-hour weeks, works out to $2.77 an hour.

Now we see it.

And to think ACA want donatations to sponsor children. Well ACA, take a hike if this is how you spend your money. You don’t deserve your 503 status. As as for HRC and her speeches as a front for donations – fighting for us indeed..this better represents you.

The best things in life are free, but you can give them to the birds and bees..

The best things in life are free, but you can give them to the birds and bees..

Our verdict: Feed the ACA and HRC to the lions.

The TSA (Thousands Standing Around) is You and Me

I’ve got admit I didn’t pay attention too much to the headlines about why we should expect long lines at airports this summer. Then I saw this youtube video taken at O’Hare airport.

The videographer started his video at the beginning of the security line and filmed himself walking to the start of it. The duration just to walk to the back of the line was 2:16. Incredible.

The New York Times is saying that if you are planning on flying, you should allocate HOURS to get through the security lines where the TSA has allocated fewer resources to screening this summer. That’s right – FEWER.

At Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina, about 600 passengers missed their flights on March 25 because an inadequate number of screeners led to waits exceeding three hours, airport officials said. Brent D. Cagle, the airport’s interim director of aviation, complained to the T.S.A., calling the episode a “fiasco.” “This situation could have been avoided, had the T.S.A. had the proper staffing (or overtime budget necessary) to meet customer demand,” Mr. Cagle wrote in a letter to the security agency. (T.S.A. officials denied that the wait had ever been that long, telling local reporters that it had been 75 minutes for a short time.)

This was far from an isolated incident. Airports in Atlanta, Miami, New York, Seattle, Denver and Chicago, among others, have all experienced similar problems in recent months. Denver @tsa is always horrendous… 6:07 PM ­ 20 Apr 2016 · Colorado, USA, United States 3 www dot CharlotteFor dot me TSA checkpoints backed up at Charlotte airport during Spring Break.

Last month, Denver Airport advised travelers to get to the airport as much as three hours before their flights. Still, people waited for more than an hour and a half to clear security.

The TSA claims the reason for the long lines are there are more travelers.

They are also understaffed due to employee turnover but they are also inspecting more after a Security audit showed the TSA had missed weapons and explosives in undercover tests.

The Chicago Tribune adds some more details on the TSA numbers where they cut their budget by 10% based on expected uptick on TSA Precheck. It didn’t happen. As the consequence to all this is that people are missing their flights.

Friday morning, American Airlines held at least five flights at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport because of passengers stuck at security lines, according to airline spokesman Ross Feinstein.

On the 7:20 a.m. flight to Las Vegas, 52 of the 160 passengers were not onboard 10 minutes before departure. American held the plane an extra 13 minutes. That allowed 23 passengers to hop onboard, but 29 still missed the jet and arrived on later flights.

At another American hub, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, security lines peaked at one hour and 45 minutes on Thursday.

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian told The Associated Press Thursday that “the longer lines get the more passengers are going to miss flights and there’s not much you can do about that.”

The biggest help to ease lines is to have more fliers enroll in the PreCheck program.

A bit about the TSA Precheck is that it is $85 and valid for 5 years but even some Precheck passengers, had to queue for about 1 hour.

Anne Marie Harrison, a wine saleswoman who has signed up for PreCheck and who flies out of Newark Liberty International Airport about twice a month, said she nearly missed her flight after waiting more than an hour recently. 

That day, the security line started downstairs, in the baggage check­in area. That was odd, she said, especially for a Sunday morning when the airport was usually empty

But the pathetic part to all this is the attempt at positive spin by TSA’s administrator, Peter V. Neffenger. “It’s really a good­ news story. The economy is doing well, Americans are traveling more, and this equates with record numbers at our checkpoints”. 

What a dick head.

Since I plan to be traveling this summer, I’m seriously looking at the PreCheck now if this will help bypass some of these lines.

Two Texas Cities give Uber and Lyft the finger

Prop minus one

Latest news from Texas is that two most liberal cities of Texas – Houston and Austin – have demanded that Uber / Lyft, conduct more stringent security  background checks above what the companies are currently willing to do.

  • May 7th Austin: Prop 1 was voted DOWN so that potential drivers MUST do finger print based criminal checks.
    • Both Uber and Lyft are now saying they will shut down. Temporarily of course.
    • Uber and Lyft argues that their own background checks were stringent enough and that finger-printed checks by Austin city was an overkill.
    • From the Austin Statesman: The Voting populace didn’t agree and in Austin’s case, the vote was a backlash against the Uber/Lyft campaign who had spent $8m versus anti-prop 1 spend of $0.1m

In Houston, the City push back is bigger where City Hall requires finger-printing, drug testing and a physical which is far more than what Austin requires. Lyft has already had previously balked while finger printing requirement existed. Uber is threatening to follow.

Meanwhile the Texas legislature may come up with a State wide direction. That will be interesting considering Austin’s rhetoric about Big Government over-riding local voters.

An Indian take away

Karma suit Ya?

Karma suit Ya? The company doing the dirty to Uber

Uber is in court again. This time they are not the defender where in this World War on Taxis (WW T), they are taking their rival Ola to court in India.

From Reuters:

A flurry of complaints from Uber drivers about an unusually high number of canceled bookings was the spark that ignited a bitter legal fight with Ola, Uber’s rival for dominance of India’s $12 billion taxi market, according to court documents and a source with direct knowledge of Uber’s case.  

Uber is suing Ola for $7.5 million to compensate for lost revenue and goodwill, alleging the Indian market leader created about 94,000 fake user accounts with the ride-hailing service and used them to make more than 405,000 false bookings.

The broad outlines of the lawsuit were reported when it was filed last month, but a Reuters review of court filings and interviews with sources close to both sides have uncovered new details about how Uber says it was able to trace fake bookings and calls to Ola employees, and Ola’s response to the allegations.

I am shocked—shocked—to find that there dirty tricks going on here!

Before you all jump to Uber’s defence, I’d like to remind our Roaman audience of a prior instance where Uber was accused by Lyft of doing the very same thing in the US. – see ” NOW, PLAY NICE AND SHARE : UBER DIRTY TRICKS ON IT’S COMPETITOR, LYFT“.

Oh I love the smell of hypocrisy in the morning.

French air strike strands Easter get aways

A futile attempt against French air traffic controller strikes?

A futile attempt against French air traffic controller strikes?

And what a week it has been. The Brussels bombing was awful news but we will talk about this elsewhere.

However, some things are European business as usual such as air traffic control in France going on strike around a holiday. AGAIN. For those new to Roads-2-Roam, this is all too familiar pattern and covered our prior posts ‘FRANCE STRIKES. AGAIN’ and before that ‘FRANCE : A LAND OF STRIKING BEAUTY. A LAND OF STRIKING WORKERS.’

Of course, this has the usual consequences of stranding thousands of passengers whose flights needs to pass through French airspace. The passengers of budget airlines, EasyJet and Rynair, are particularly put out by these event. They are also getting an eye opener in what limited support such airlines offer – you’ll get a rescheduled flight back but not necessarily when you need it. You are probably on the hook for your unexpected accommodation unless you want to sleep at the airport.

From the Daily Mirror:

Tessa Hargrove, 35, was left in limbo in Marrakech after she and her 67-year-old mum, Helen Stephenson, were told their flights were cancelled by text at 10.30pm on Sunday night.

Tessa said: “Ryanair needs to give us more information, a text on the night before when there’s no other information is not good enough, they said they would send us an email but that didn’t come until 2.11pm, four hours after we were meant to get on a flight.”

Tessa and her mum were forced to queue for hours to find out what was going on.

She said: “The Ryanair people at check in were just crossing you off so they could send you to a hotel and the other desk was about an hour and a half queue to find out your options.

“You can get a free flight back to the UK but the first one we were offered by the time we got to the front was one on Thursday to Luton or on Friday to Stansted where we were meant to be flying to. “My mum and I were dashing from queue to the next so we didn’t lose our places. There weren’t enough people for you to actually speak to. Someone else spent ages queuing on the phone to try and speak to them.”

Tessa needed to get back for her work with a company which sells scientific equipment to research labs so booked to fly back on Wednesday online with easyJet costing £500.

She is now worried she will not be able to get on the flight because staff at the easyJet desk in Marrakesh told her that flight was already fully booked on their systems.

According to Ryanair this is the 41st such strike since 2009. Robin Kiely, head of communications at Ryanair said “It’s grossly unfair that thousands of ordinary European consumers have their travel and holiday plans disrupted by the actions of a selfish few. We also encourage any affected customers to sign our online petition, Keep Europe’s Skies Open.”.

Ryanair has said it plans to present it to the EU Commission and the EU parliament once it has attracted 1m signatures.

“As a member of Airlines for Europe ( ), we are working with other airlines including Air France KLM, Finnair, International Airlines Group (IAG), Lufthansa Group, Norwegian and Ryanair, to call on governments and the EU to develop an action plan to minimise the impact of ATC strikes on passengers.”

Here is the link to their petition : keepeuropesskiesopen.com .  I remain skeptical about Brussel’s willingness to act of it.

Our message to the French Air traffic controllers..

The Roaman anti-greeting.

Those damned French Air traffic controllers: Feed them to the Lions. Again.


 

Some links for further information of A4E

France strikes. Again

Anti-Uber taxi drivers block Paris road : Source BBC news

Anti-Uber taxi drivers block Paris road : Source BBC news

The workers of France are at it again : yep, they are on strike where millions of teachers, health workers and air traffic controllers are protesting against reforms.

This taxi drivers are also joining in and protesting against Uber.

This sucks if you are traveling where not only are roads blocked but a fifth of flights at Paris airports were cancelled.

We’ve warned you before but you must factor in the strong possibility of some strike or protest if you are visiting or flying over France. It could completely screw up your plans. I’ll bet money this happens again when the weather warms up.

Seattle gives the needle to Uber and Lyft

The Revolutionary Che'ring economy.

The Revolutionary Che’ring economy.

Uber and Lyft are like good friends and black sheep family members, just because we are not talking about them directly, doesn’t mean we are not thinking about them.

Their business model is one where you call a ride from an app on your phone. The app matches you with one of their drivers and they pick you up/drop you off and you settle with credit card on file. Most people like the service where they consider them better looking and presented that the traditional taxi companies which was overdue for competitive overhaul.

However, the devil is in the detail and much of this comes down to the laws of how they do business. Each country, state, city jealously protects the terms and conditions on doing business. If you look at a map, how Uber and Lyft operates there is piecemeal. Some have welcomed them with open arms, some have banned them outright.

A major issue is one of Licencing: Traditionally in the US, cities have strictly controlled the capacity of the taxi industry with the ‘medallion’ system. Only taxis with the medallions are allowed to operate. After forking out large sums of money for such tokens, the taxi barons are not happy with the upstarts threatening their monopoly. The taxi system regulated the fares within their jurisdiction but also who could be a taxi driver. Most require an in depth criminal background check that may go above what Uber/Lyft are prepared to carry out on the ground that this is costly.

The business model assumes the drivers are ‘independent contractors’ and this is of importance as there is class-action lawsuit filed by a number of its drivers in California. They contend that they’ve been wrongly classified as contractors, instead of full employees, and that Uber has withheld some of their tips. [see Atlantic for more details]. Up to 160,000 drivers from 2009, could join this in California. A similar class action case is going on in Oregon.

So what does Uber, the company who railed against monopolistic practices do? It updated their driver agreement so that drivers must sign before being able to accept any new rides to require private arbitrators. Except that they tried something like this in 2014 where the updated driver agreement included an arbitration clause that stripped drivers of their right to sue the company in regular court. A federal judge in San Francisco recently threw out that agreement.

Another interesting development was in Seattle: the city council voted to allow the drivers to organize a Union. From NPR:

 Seattle on Monday became the first U.S. city to vote to allow Uber and Lyft drivers to unionize and negotiate issues such as pay and working conditions.

The National Labor Relations Act regulates the right to unionize, but it doesn’t guarantee that right for independent contractors like the Uber and Lyft drivers.

The Seattle measure directs companies like Uber and Lyft “that hire or contract with drivers of taxis, for-hire transportation companies and app-based ride-hailing services to bargain with their drivers, if a majority show they want to be represented,” the Associated Press reports.

It passed the City Council 8-0.

So what does the brave Mayor do? He bravely decides to do nothing.

Mayor Ed Murray says he will not sign the bill because of the potential cost to the city, but he won’t veto it so the measure will become law without his signature.

And what is Uber’s reaction. They don’t like it one bit.

“Uber is opposed to Seattle enacting O’Brien’s ordinance and has ramped up its engagement in the city in advance of the council’s vote. David Plouffe, a former political strategist for President Obama now serving as Uber’s chief adviser, visited Seattle earlier this month to promote the company and criticize the ordinance.”

Ah we wondered before what Mr Plouffe would be doing. Being a good Democrat and fighting for the workers rights and social justice or being a good government insider fighting to influence the laws against the proletariat.  Guess which path he seems to have chosen.

Pesky things those laws. Funny thing you can be all for changing them one day but the next week, you are the ones being changed.


 

Further reading

 

1 2 3 7