Ah, crony capitalism.
As is well known, Über is as close to Google as 1 is to 2. So, if there’s any silver lining in the Über corporate power grab going on in Austin right now over a ballot measure to bring Über drivers in line with background checks on taxi drivers, it’s that all the world can see just how self-centered, entitled and power hungry Googleworld has become.
As we have warned a number of times, the reason that Google invested $235 million in Über is not because Travis Kalanick is a great brogrammer, it’s because Google wants to replace Über drivers (aka suckers) with robots. How do we know this? Because Travis Kalanick said so.
This made Über an attractive investment for Google for the reason why Google bought the Boston Dynamics firm that makes military robots for its war making unit (probably called Google Porridge or something suitably childlike).
So what about driverless cars and robots is inconsistent with treating drivers as expendable part-time independent contractors who get no severance when it’s hasta la vista, baby? If you think that’s implausible, you haven’t been keeping up with the public statements of Google and especially Über. Good thing for you Über drivers that Travis Kalanick’s ego is so huge he just can’t stop gloating.
Would you be surprised that after all the handwringing in Austin about how great Über is for jobs and the local economy, it turns out that it’s all just a step on the way to firing all those drivers? (Now be nice all you who know how it is to do business with Google. Stop your snickering. That’s just rude.)
Attention Über Drivers: The Man 2.0 Is Going to Take Your Jobs and Give Them to a Machine
The Singularity is Silicon Valley’s version of the “Second Coming”. Yes, we’re way beyond Hale Bop now. (The Singularity is remarkably similar to the exteriorization of the havingness of the thetan for David Miscavage fans.)
We can joke about The Singularity, when Man is melded into machine Terminator style, but it’s not a joke to Google and Über. Planning for The Singularity is Ray Kurzweil’s gig at Google. Google has a major funding commitment to Singularity University–yes, there really is a Singularity University. It’s based at NASA’s Moffet Field near San Francisco, a facility that Google has on a controversial long-term lease courtesy of the Obama Administration that drew the ire of Senator Chuck Grassley. It’s right next to where Google keeps its fleet of corporate jets, including the Big Google 767 (N2767) and where Google buys discounted jet fuel according to NASA.
That’s why it should come as no surprise that Google, Ford, Volvo, Über, Lyft hired another Obama Administration revolving door lobbyist David L. Strickland to lead their effort. (Volvo is owned by owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co.)
Strickland joins the coalition to eliminate Über and Lyft drivers from Washington, DC lobby shop Venable where he’s worked since 2014 after leaving the post of –where else–Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
In a statement, Strickland said:
“The best path for this innovation is to have one clear set of federal standards, and the coalition will work with policymakers to find the right solutions that will facilitate the deployment of self-driving vehicles.”
This echoes what Über CEO Travis Kalanick told anyone who cared to listen a couple years ago as reported by The Verge:
Über will eventually replace the people who drive its cars with cars that drive themselves, CEO Travis Kalanick said today at the Code Conference. A day after Google unveiled the prototype for its own driverless vehicle, Kalanick was visibly excited at the prospect of developing a fleet of driverless vehicles, which he said would make car ownership rare.
“The reason Über could be expensive is because you’re not just paying for the car — you’re paying for the other dude in the car,” Kalanick said. “When there’s no other dude in the car, the cost of taking an Über anywhere becomes cheaper than owning a vehicle. So the magic there is, you basically bring the cost below the cost of ownership for everybody, and then car ownership goes away.”
Yes, that’s right. “Magic.” Which kind of sums up what Mr. Strickland said.
But implicit in Mr. Kalanick’s magic is that car ownership won’t be economically rational, yet there will be cars for Über. Who do you think will own those Über cars? Skynet? Or Google?
This is What Hypocrisy Looks Like
The Austin-American Statesman reports that the Über PAC formed to jam Über’s self-regulation magic down the throats of Austinites has spent over $3 million including over $600,000 on prime time television ads among other outlets to saturate the airwaves in Austin with Über’s message to vote for Über’s regulations to replace the City Council’s duly enacted regulations. Early voting on the now-notorious “Prop 1” is now open and the vote occurs on May 7. So we have more fun to come on obnoxiousness.
It’s like living in Iowa during caucus season if only one party had the money to advertise and only advertised negative ads–like magic.
This included Über PAC magically hiring Lee Leffingwell, the former mayor of Austin, as the head lobbyist for the Über PAC.
See a pattern in the magic here? It’s called the “revolving door,” the same reason Google hired now-Senator Ted Cruz to stop a state antitrust lawsuit. Which did stop. They do it because it works and it’s cheap.
Today’s Bureaucrat is Tomorrow’s Google Lobbyist
Mr. Strickland’s hire is of particular interest given the restrictions of Executive Order 13490, Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel:
4.Revolving Door Ban — Appointees Leaving Government. If, upon my departure from the Government, I am covered by the post-employment restrictions on communicating with employees of my former executive agency set forth in section 207(c) of title 18, United States Code, I agree that I will abide by those restrictions for a period of 2 years following the end of my appointment.“5.Revolving Door Ban — Appointees Leaving Government to Lobby. In addition to abiding by the limitations of paragraph 4, I also agree, upon leaving Government service, not to lobby any covered executive branch official or non-career Senior Executive Service appointee for the remainder of the Administration.
We can’t quite tell precisely when Mr. Strickland left the Obama Administration for ethics purposes (someone knows), but it appears that he joined Venable in January 2014. So it is likely that the 2 year revolving door ban in paragraph 4 has been satisfied.However, it is hard to see how the ban in paragraph 5 is not currently in effect, and how Mr. Strickland will be able to work his “magic” to eliminate jobs of Über drivers without violating the Executive Order. But if anyone could finesse that, it would be David Plouffe, former Obama campaign manager and current political director for Über.
Mr. Strickland says the coalition will “work with policymakers”. If Über’s handling of Austin’s Prop 1 is what “working with policymakers” looks like, I wonder how Mr. Strickland describes taking a hot poker up the butt.