Wandering Eye: More trouble for Boss Hög, the 'Uber Election,' and more

Two Uber-related pieces by Kevin Roose in Fusion illustrate the website’s amusing incoherence. In "Welcome to the Uber Election," Roose calls Uber "a $50 billion Rorschach test," noting that while Jeb Bush and the Republicans are basically all-in on the "disruptive," regulation-flouting upstart, Democrats have a choice to make. Hillary Clinton has treated the company gingerly, saying how the "gig economy" is "raising hard questions about workplace protections." Roose thinks Clinton has more to lose than Uber—because Uber has already framed the narrative in which opponents are neo-luddites in thrall to the rapacious taxi industry. "Until skeptics of the gig economy find new and better ways to articulate their concerns," he says, "it might be better for Clinton to make a play for less flammable ground." Maybe. We'll see. In another piece about the rumored (yeah, we know) sale of HomeJoy (a.k.a. Uber for Maids), Roose focuses on the company's seldom-discussed price-dumping model. That's when a company sells its product or service at below costs in order to drive competitors out of the market. It's a losing strategy until the company can create a monopoly and raise prices, and it's worked a treat in the 1970s and '80s in the newspaper business. We know how that ended up. In the housecleaning game, of course, it's hard to imagine the barriers to entry that could make this strategy work—and bigger rivals are already getting in (Oh, hi there, Amazon.com). Meantime, enjoy your semi-clean house, courtesy of stupid, too-rich venture capitalists. Neither piece discusses the model's effect on workers, which might seem surprising given that Fusion self-consciously targets the millennial demographic most likely to be working as HomeJoy cleaners and TaskRabbits and such. But then you remember: Fusion is a joint venture of those young, hip, radical upstarts Disney-ABC and Univision. (Edward Ericson Jr.)

 

Rock legend Neil Young pulled all his music off streaming sites yesterday. No, it had nothing to do with the paltry money those sites pay artists. It's all about sound quality. "I don't need my music to be devalued by the worst quality in the history of broadcasting or any other form of distribution. I don't feel right allowing this to be sold to my fans. It's bad for my music," Young wrote in a message on his Facebook page. He did, however, promise that: "When the quality is back, I'll give it another look. Never say never." Oh and, lest we forget, Young is heavily involved in Pono, a "music download-service and dedicated music player focusing on 'high-quality recorded audio," according to its site. Bold move, sir. (Brandon Weigel)

 

In last week's City Paper feature, "Boss Hög: Larry Hogan has Baltimore right where he wants it," Kate Drabinski detailed the many ways Governor Hogan has been hurting, ignoring, or just plain erasing Baltimore City. The concern seems to be spreading, as evidenced by Dan Rodricks' Sun column about the Red Line today in which Rodricks slams Hogan for pandering to right-wing suburbanites: "After feigning interest in having the project evaluated by his transportation secretary, Hogan declared the project 'too expensive' and 'a boondoggle,' pure poetry to the despise-government, despise-Baltimore, despise-it-even-more-since-the-riot crowd. In fact, declaring it a waste is the easiest thing to say about any high-profile project (except sports arenas) the government takes on. It's the cheap rhetoric of right-wing talk radio, not what you'd expect of a governor who's thoughtful and serious about his duties." And yesterday on WYPR, senior news analyst Fraser Smith and Brian Sears of The Daily Record detailed the ways Hogan has been "not as friendly to the city as we would like him to be" and wondered what the governor might do to improve his standing in the city. Hogan's Friday announcement of $2 million in new funding for city arts organizations may be a small effort, but putting forth a concrete proposal—and funding—for an alternative to the Red Line would be a much bigger, more important one. (Evan Serpick)

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