Category: Power and Politics

Vanco-Uber

Is Uber dehumanizing? I’ve been thinking a lot about the ride sharing apps lately. I’ve never taken one, but from what I understand people ‘take an uber’ like they’d ‘take a cab’ and, maybe I’m crazy, but it seems weird to me.

Maybe it isn’t, I’m probably overthinking it.

It’s just that with a cab there’s a certain fairness to linking the driver with the car, it’s his profession (or her, though I don’t think I’ve ever been in a cab where it wasn’t a guy driving), it’s bright yellow, it’s a whole thing. With an Uber it’s a regular person, it’s generally not their full-time job (I think), and it’s their own car. But what else would you say besides ‘take an uber’? I don’t know.

My beef with the company (and Lyft too, I guess?) is that it feels like a new form of subjugation. I like ride sharing, and I think that allowing anyone to give rides and be compensated for it is a great idea, but I don’t like the idea of an American company just making money hand over fist on the backs of local drivers, while at the same time threatening the livelihoods of all the cab drivers.

Is our taxi-system shitty? Yeah, I’d say. It’s too expensive, there was that issue where cabs were refusing to go to North Van from downtown for a while (maybe still?), whenever you need one it feels like there aren’t enough, and I imagine that’s just the beginning. Honestly, the whole taxi industry has done a great job of making itself incredibly unlikable, and without government protection they’d be really hurting right now.

There must be a solution in the middle, something to phase out taxi drivers, compensating them for the amount they may have invested in their licenses, and installing a ride sharing system that benefits everyone. Taxis are the only ones equipped to take wheelchairs, for example. Some guy’s 2015 civic probably doesn’t have a lift. We’ll still need a service that caters to people with mobility issues. Also taxi drivers, though it may not seem like it, are more accountable. There’s more than just a rating system and a powerpoint presentation behind their jobs.

All the companies do is link drivers with people who need rides. They don’t support the drivers at all, and while people seem to like it as a part time thing, it doesn’t work out full time (from some articles I’ve read, hardly a reasonable sample size). Uber takes 20% of the fare, and your driver pays for gas, repairs, and other incidentals (like cleaning). I guess my question would be, is 20% a reasonable amount for them to take? If other apps joined the market and started undercutting Uber and Lyft would that help? Or would the money just come from the drivers at the end of the day?

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that I think we can be a little quick to embrace new technologies like Uber without thinking of the real costs. Letting ride sharing entrench itself in Vancouver without seriously considering the ramifications (the 20% of every ride heading straight to Silicon-freaking-Valley or wherever Uber is headquartered for instance) would be irresponsible. It’s clear we need a better system than the taxi-reliant one we have, but I don’t think it’s as easy as opening the gates to an American app. It’s just zeroes and ones!

Democratic Hangover

I stayed up late watching the votes come in last night, and as the talking heads on Global pointed out over and over again, it was the closest race we’ve had for a long time. The last time BC was ruled by a minority government was in the 1950s and, barring any swings in some of the closer ridings, we could be in for a short term for the Liberals this time around.

The BC Greens didn’t win my riding, unfortunately. It was a fairly safe Liberal seat, and has been for some time. They tripled their seats though, leaving the Liberals with the most seats (43), the NDP next (41), and the Greens holding the balance (3) which should give them some significant concessions from the Liberals (fingers crossed).

Voter turnout was abysmal. Less than 60% of eligible voters cast a ballot.

I don’t want to get too into it, but I wanted to give a little recap from my perspective.

I made the worst omelette this morning. It had mushrooms, green pepper and spinach, and then I added nutritional yeast. But I didn’t just add an appropriate amount of yeast, I dumped far too much into one small part of the omelette and couldn’t spread it out. I just finished it and I think I might cry it was so awful.

I haven’t managed to find a good use for nutritional yeast yet. I’ve only tried a couple recipes so far, but none of them tasted better than okay. I think part of the problem is I’ve been using recipes that call for yeast as a substitute for cheese. You can’t replace cheese! It’s irreplaceable.

I think one of the important things to realize if you’re a vegetarian is that you have to change the things you eat. You can’t just use meat substitutes and expect life to go on.

Meat substitutes suck.

I mean, they have their place. Like, I’ll be the first one to scarf down a baker’s dozen of tofu dogs but it’s because I respect the medium. The hot dog format is one that I love, and I’m not going to let my personal choices get in the way from enjoying culinary perfection. And veggie dogs aren’t that bad.

Most of the meat-substitutes seem to be soy based as well, and I don’t know the science, but I don’t think it’s good to be eating too much soy. I love tofu, but I don’t get all my protein from it.

Oh, have you tried veggie ground though? It’s like vegan ground beef. That’s a good substitute for meat. I bought a small pack of it yesterday for $3.5 and I think it’s around 320g. Hopefully those numbers make sense, I’m going off the top of my head.

It feels like the mushrooms are punishing me right now for what I said earlier. My stomach is making some weird noises and it feels like there’s some plotting going on. I didn’t mean it mushrooms!

Overall, I’m a pretty bad vegetarian. I ate a lot of meat when I was in Asia, and I have had some questionable miso soups since I got back (is it fake crab that they put in it? don’t tell me, I don’t want to know). I’m working on it though.

Best,

Mark

Election Day 2017

I can’t imagine a lot will change for me if we see a new government elected this evening. My job won’t change, my rent won’t change, my cost of living probably won’t change. I don’t envy people who watch these elections knowing that the difference in leadership may seriously affect their livelihoods.

The BC Greens are the best option, in my opinion. I haven’t combed through the platforms and I’ve tried to avoid reading articles about any of the parties (because I think it’s all bullshit), but I watched the debate and was really impressed with Andrew Weaver. It worked almost as a process of elimination, I can’t vote BC Liberal, and I don’t like the NDP this time around. John Horgan seems like an asshole and I don’t trust his connections to some big unions (and I really like unions).

Ultimately, none of the parties come anywhere near promising the BC that I want to see. I don’t want LNG, Site C, any oil extraction or pipelines, and I feel like all natural resource extraction should be nationalized. To me it seems crazy to give up the province’s rich resources to private companies for a royalty. Especially when we (the people) are left with the cleanup when the projects are over or when the projects leak. Also, could we please start considering Indigenous communities in these decisions. The government pays them lip service every time they want to appropriate some land and it’s just a joke.

If I was in charge, all resource extraction would be done by crown corporations. We don’t need to incentivize these industries when we can do it ourselves. At the same time we should encourage businesses that rely on people to set up shop. Things like film and tech can benefit from the wealth of talent in BC. They’re the international companies we want.

Also, we should embrace ride sharing, but I don’t see why we can’t do that ourselves too. I can’t imagine it’s that hard to create an app, and if it was run through the province we could pay the drivers more and the profit the app generated could help buy back the taxi tickets (or whatever is making it so hard to move taxi drivers into the 21st century). Then once that was sorted you have a nice little revenue stream that could be used to fund public transport for people with mobility issues, or whatever.

I don’t think private schools should get public funding. If they want to run a business, they should run a business. Education is one of the most important things the government does, it’s not good enough to let the free market handle it. Because the free market is bullshit and if people want to send their kids to private schools, that’s great, but while our public infrastructure is suffering these companies shouldn’t be subsidized.

The province should start looking into a basic minimum income too. We have too much poverty for such a rich province. For all the focus that politicians put on the economy, it doesn’t seem to be helping average people all that much. I’d love to see a government committed to ending poverty. I think a good place to start would be increasing access to mental health and addiction treatment. Decentralizing treatment away from the DTES could help soften the burden on that part of the city too.

I’d probably run the province a lot differently than Weaver, Horgan or Clark but, keep in mind, I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Best,

Mark

April 30, 2017

So I didn’t think I liked the Weeknd, but I found out the other day that I Feel it Coming is one of his tracks (ft. Daft Punk) and now I’ve decided that he’s not so bad. Plus the Star Trek-style landscape in the video is cool.

I finally got suckered into The New Yorker’s 12 issues for $12 promotion and the other day I got my second issue. I love it. When I was a kid I used to always have magazine subscriptions. I think it was Owl or Chickadee or something like that when I was a kid, and then as a teenager I used to get Mad Magazine, which I think is still around but I don’t know if I’d pick one up today.

Anyway, I love magazines. The New Yorker, The Walrus and others give a sort of long-form, in-depth journalism that you don’t find in other places. It’s news, but it isn’t up-to-the-minute, so it gives you a chance to understand the nuance in issues. Media today, whether online (through social-media) or in traditional forms like TV, polarizes issues. Because everything needs to be as up-to-date as possible reporters cut corners and because all the news organizations are owned by a smaller and smaller group of wealthy white men, we’re getting less and less unbiased reporting.

A false dichotomy is an issue that is presented as black and white, or two-sided, when it’s actually more nuanced (because almost everything is actually more nuanced). Politics are often painted as two-sided because of the influence of American elections on popular culture in Canada. We tend to see things (though we have five somewhat-legitimate parties) as Liberal or Conservative. Our upcoming election in BC will be a good judge on whether or not we’re still stuck in the BC Liberal vs. BC NDP dichotomy in the province, because the BC Greens are clearly the best option.

Of course there are a ton of reasons why good journalism seems to be less common in the news. There’s the convergence of ownership groups; meaning more news papers, radio stations and TV networks are staffed by fewer people and therefore benefit from less ideas and less attention. The constant cost-cutting of corporate news enterprises means that journalists are doing much more of the work than they used to, being in charge of writing stories, taking photos and running their social media. It seems ridiculous that in response to declining readership/viewership the first thing to go is the quality of the content, but the people making these decisions must know far more than I do.

It feels like a scary time for the truth. We use terms like post-truth to discuss the rise of the current American president and the overall swell of nationalistic, anti-intellectual sentiment in the world, but it’s probably more serious than we realize. The concept of post-truth means that the truth doesn’t matter. It’s the reason climate change denial is still up for debate in the USA. It’s the reason why even in Canada we still don’t make policy based on science, fact, or logic, but based on emotions.

For one, even though the federal government is committed to legalizing marijuana, they’re still committed to convicting people right up until it’s formally legalized. There’s no decriminalization and no reason for the full year delay. It’s embarrassing to watch our politicians talk around issues without giving clear answers.

They’re trying to figure out who to sell the industry to. Pot will make a lot of people incredibly rich, and I bet the federal Liberals are trying to figure out who gets the cash. I guess we’ll see what happens next summer.

Best,

Mark

Christy Clark is a Lizard Person

It should seem pretty clear from her time in office that Christy Clark cares about three things:

  1. Money
  2. Turning BC into a Pinochet-era Chile
  3. Finding a hot lamp with which to warm her cold blood (because she’s a lizard person)

The televised leader’s debate was on CTV tonight, featuring Clark, John Horgan (NDP) and Dr. Andrew Weaver (Green). After tackling broad issues like jobs, the economy, leadership, etc, the party leaders took questions from British Columbians. Like usual, the mainstream CTV moderator refused to ask the leaders any of my questions, notably:

Who do you think you are?

In an era of unprecedented inequality, which one of you supports the worker’s revolution wherein we rise up and seize the means of production?

Where did you get that human skin you’re wearing, Christy?

If a demand for our LNG appears out of nowhere will the plants be run as worker-owned cooperatives? 

What gives you the right?

And that was just the beginning. The moderator, Jennifer Burke, performed her duties admirably (even though she snubbed my questions). And though none of the candidates demonstrated a commitment to the socialist cause, we’re pleased to announce that the editorial team at Mark Dunn.ca fully throws its support behind Andrew Weaver and the BC Green party.

Image stolen from the Vancouver Sun website (not sure where they got it).

Andrew Weaver: Hopefully Not a Lizard Person.