Lyn Ulbricht says Bilton’s book on her son Ross Ulbricht has glaring factual errors

You may have heard that a book about Ross Ulbricht has come out called American Kingpin. The author, Nick Bilton, asked Ross’s mother, Lyn, to participate in the project but she was warned away by a trusted advisor who said, considering those involved, it would be a regurgitation of the government’s narrative.
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Sure enough, he was right.
According to Lyn, Bilton bases his story of murder-for-hire as if it’s fact. Yet these allegations were never proven, prosecuted or even charged at trial and no murders occurred. Former Federal Judge Nancy Gertner joined Ross’ appeal saying it is wrong to use uncharged crimes against a person. Yet Nick Bilton has no compunction in doing this.
Nick Bilton says Ross is dangerous. yet all his convictions were non-violent and he has no record of hurting anyone. No victims came forward at trial to claim that Ross had harmed them in any way. Rather, Ross is widely known as peaceful and compassionate. You can read what 100 people who actually know him have to say.
Ross cannot defend himself or his reputation against this media onslaught. He is helpless to stop the feeding frenzy; sensationalizing, fictionalizing and profiting from his life. He’s just trying to survive each day, living in a cell, hoping that the appellate courts care more about the truth than the media does.
You can help counteract this by commenting on articles about the book and sharing/liking the #FreeRoss posts on social media. The facts speak for themselves. Bottom line: it has never been proven that Ross was involved in murder-for-hire. Even the government didn’t have the confidence to charge him with this at trial.

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Will Fake Honey Save the Bees?

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Photo Credit: StudioSmart

On Friday, February 12, 2016, Shark Tank, the investment television show, featured two nice ladies from Minnesota and their product “Bee Free Honee,” honee made from apples.

Is cheap, vegan honee a good idea? Perhaps but I was less than convinced by one of the arguments the ladies made for their honee — it will save bees! The ladies argued that reducing the demand for honey will encourage bee farmers to not work the bees so hard thus increasing their numbers.

I was expecting the acerbic Kevin O’Leary to have a field day with this economic fallacy. Or maybe, I thought, Mark Cuban will throw a dash of common sense into the tank. But no, all the Sharks cooed about this mad scheme. So it is up to me.

Reducing the demand for honey reduces the demand for honey bees. A cheap, high-quality substitute for honey doesn’t mean a world of bees gently pollinating flowers in an idyllic landscape — it means a beepocolypse. Bee free honee will save bees the same way the internal combustion engine saved horses.

You may be concerned about colony collapse disorder. Well, the commercial beekeepers are even more concerned, and they have been adapting to CCD and maintaining honey production and pollination services.

In fact, there are more bee colonies in the United States today (latest data) than there have been anytime in the last 20 years. CCD is still a problem, but it’s the demand for honey and pollination services that incentivizes solutions to the problem. Remember, without honey, it’s only a hobby.

(Perhaps the ladies have a sophisticated position on the Repugnant Conclusion, but I doubt it.)

A version of this post first appeared at Marginal Revolution.

Alex Tabarrok


Alex Tabarrok

Alex Tabarrok is a professor of economics at George Mason University. He blogs at Marginal Revolution with Tyler Cowen.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Action Item: Tell Congress To Quit Trying to Sabotage Net Neutrality

Net neutrality is under multiple threats in Congress. Whether it’s slashing the FCC’s budget, attempting to prohibit the agency from enforcing its Open Internet Order, or stalling net neutrality protections with redundant and unnecessary “studies,” lawmakers are using every trick they can to undermine the FCC’s work to keep the Internet free and open.

In the last few weeks, Congress has been relentless in its attempts to defund, stall, and hamstring the FCC from enforcing the net neutrality rules it passed last year, despite the fact that 4 million Americans spoke out in favor of the FCC using its regulatory authority to protect a free and open Internet.

Let’s tell lawmakers to protect net neutrality, not undermine it.

USE THIS LINK TO CONTACT YOUR MEMBER OF CONGRESS

How much money can I make with Lyft or Uber?

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This post is a follow-up to a blog post I made in September titled “My two days as a Lyft driver” detailing my initial experiment driving with Lyft (similar to better-known Uber). That post resulted in my receiving many inquiries focussed on the question of how much money someone can realistically make wth a ridesharing tech company such as Lyft or Uber. So I decided to try and go one week being in “driver mode” for 40 hours in to mimic a “normal” person’s full-time work week.

Unfortunately, because I have many other activities on my plate, I did not make it to 40 hours but did make it to 30 hours. There are two ways to look at earning money as a ridesharing driver, one as a worker bee (earnings by the hour) or from a business perspective (net profit). Let’s explore the financial end before getting into a few memorable ride experiences for the week.

First, let me suggest I could have made far more money if I didn’t have other obligations in my life and if I had focussed on making as much money as possible (see below). I also only drove for Lyft and not Uber for the week. I also focussed the week on Lyfting mostly in the Boca Raton/Delray Beach region during the day. One can make much more money driving at night and in more population dense areas like Miami Beach for example.

Another aspect of the ridesharing experience I would like to mention is how Lyft and Uber are self-regulating. Although most passengers realize they have the ability to rate the driver, most do not realize the driver is rating them as well. With Lyft, if either the passenger or driver gives a rating of 3 stars or below (out of 5), then those two will never see each other again. The purpose is to have a great experience for both the passenger and the driver, so if one is not happy with the other, then there is no purpose in matching them up again. If there is a driver doing something wrong, inappropriate or just giving poor service, that driver will not be on the driver platform very long, thereby not picking up any passengers. The same regarding the passengers. If a passenger is consistently unruly or bad-mannered, then they are going to get a poor rating and will find it hard to get a ride. Based on convos with some of my passengers, this has happened to a few of them on Uber, which is why they are now trying out Lyft. They could no longer get a ride on Uber because they’d been too drunk or whatever the reason. I can say, not one ride I gave was a bad experience.

What was my net profit for the week?

I drove a total of 30.8 hours, gave 37 rides and netted $329.31 after car expenses. That comes to $10.69 per hour. Not overly exciting, but pretty good if you’re out of work or looking to pick up some extra money for the holidays. My prior blog post showed me earning $13 per hour for my first two days. That said,  I truly believe that if someone did this full-time and didn’t mind working nights and putting in a minimum of 50 hours per week, you’d make $20-25 per hour after car expenses.

Now when I say, “I drove a total of 30.8 hours,” that simply means I was on the driver platform (on-call) for that time period. I was not driving rides to their destinations and may not have necessarily been driving around.

I did not factor in the tax savings because as a driver your phone, cell, data, text service, much of your car expenses, etc. now become tax deductible. I did not factor that in because that will affect different income level people differently, but it is not something to ignore.

How could I have made more profit and earned more per hour? 

One way would have been to drive more. This sounds counter=intuitive, but Lyft (and I believe Uber on some level) gets a commission for each ride you do. After all, they developed the technology (it’s their platform) and are making it very simple to acquire rides, so they deserve a cut. The standard is commission Lyft takes is 20% of your ride total (minus tips). This is reduced to 10% once you are on the driving platform for at least 30 hours and is eliminated COMPLETELY if you are on the driving platform for 50 hours or more during the week. This is a great incentive as my income for the week could have been given another boost had I stayed on longer as I would with any normal full-time job. Although I do not look at it this way, an hourly employee’s mindset may consider that overtime pay.

As I mentioned earlier, another way to earn more would be to focus more time in Miami Beach, Miami, Fort Lauderdale. It goes without saying that the more rides you make, the more money you’ll make. Spending time in a more suburban area as I did this past week is good, but without that population density, a driver is traveling farther to get to the person requesting the ride and there are fewer people looking for a ride.

Referrals are also another great way to increase your weekly income. Both Uber and Lyft offer this incentive and it is truly a win-win-win scenario for all involved. I will focus on Lyft because that is what I have experience. If you become a Lyft passenger using my link code then I will get a referral fee and you, as the passenger, will get some free rides so you can experience Lyft without any risk. If you become a Lyft driver using this link code then both you and I will receive a financial benefit. The incentives change frequently and it depends on your city, but you could get a $250+ “signing bonus” for becoming a driver. This is on top of your regular income driving.

Another way to make more money is to make sure you are available for prime time, which so far, is almost always in the Miami area. Lyft will pay you anywhere from 25 to over 100% more than your average ride income during certain hours of the day in certain areas. They call them “heat maps” where there is a need for more drivers due to high demand. This can be during rush hour during the day, rainy evenings, or recently most anywhere in South Florida during Halloween evening.

One could also have a more fuel efficient vehicle to net themselves more cash. I was using a BMW X5, but it would seem to me that a Toyota  Prius would be the ideal vehicle for a ridesharing driver. I have owned a Prius before and they are very low maintenance while getting 50+ miles per gallon. Buying your fuel for less money obviously, would net you more profit with each ride. It is important to note that one can be a driver in a Toyota Corolla or a Bentley, it doesn’t matter. Though you will earn a bit more money if you have a larger vehicle. And with Uber, if you have a high-end vehicle, then you can earn even more.

Lastly, before I get into some of the rides, you can earn more money by keeping your car clean and even more importantly not getting lost and knowing your way around. Nothing irritates a passenger more than you showing up at a different location or not showing up at all. Although the Lyft experience is meant to be a bit casual, that is not to be at the expense of getting from point A to point B safely and efficiently.

The Rides

As mentioned earlier in this post, I gave 37 rides this past week. The most memorable was picking up two young girls from a college campus on their way to a popular mall. The girls spent the morning getting stoned in their dorm room (I know, that never happens because weed is illegal, especially on campus) and one was on her way to a job interview with an high-end store. They were laughing hysterically and having a good time, but what was the one girl thinking??? I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for that job interview.

One thing I have heard from multiple young single women who I have given rides was how safe they feel with Uber and Lyft. Some said their experiences taking traditional taxis was one of dread. The most common complaint cited was the leering of the taxi driver. Single women rightfully feel that Uber and Lyft drivers are not going to harass them and they told me are more professional. This is funny to me because the taxi drivers are supposed to be the professionals in this industry.

I picked up one girl who had spent the weekend with her on again, off again boyfriend. I took her to the airport and we had a great conversation about life in general and how much she loved her first-time here, though had no intentions on moving here.

Another girl was in town for her friend’s 30th birthday party. She commented on how terrible the taxis are in NYC and how much better Uber and Lyft are. She even takes Lyft and Uber instead of her company provided black car service.

One gentleman has been through hell and back and this past week got another dose of hell. Although clean, he has had serious issues with addictions in the past, which is why he uses Lyft regularly. The government took his drivers license away. Within a day of losing his job late last week, his girlfriend left him. He had a positive outlook and I am not sure I would have been in his positive frame of mind. He’s an impressive guy and if you have a job available let me know.

I had a great conversation with a young guy on his way to a church function. He is an impressive person who I think is going to be doing some great things with his life.

There is also some confusion with some people who are new to using the Lyft app. One guy’s first ride with any ridesharing service was with me to PBI and he ordered it up well in advance because he was afraid he wouldn’t make his flight. I got to him in 3 minutes and he was stunned. He thought he’d have to wait 45 minutes like a regular taxi. We had a great time talking about his move back to his hometown.

Conclusion

All in all, I have not had one bad experience carting people around town. It is actually more enjoyable than I would have thought! None of the time did it seem like a job and would highly recommend the service, either as a driver or passenger.

The passengers and drivers come from all different backgrounds. One day you may be picking up someone at an oceanfront mansion and another in a low-income area — all are welcome rides in my car. And you never know where you’ll end up which is part of the fun.

There is so much more I could say about this past week and none of it is negative. Lyft is a great service for our community, one that should be embraced.

Below are some comments passengers made to Lyft about me. I do not see comments until the next day when Lyft sends me a summary of my day’s activities, nor do I know who made the comments.

“Awesome guy! One of the most comfortable rides I have had”

“Karl was great!”

“Hilarious!”

Bob Poole Responds to Will High-Speed Rail Drive Business??

Bob Poole Responds to Will High-Speed Rail Drive Business??.

The report from the U.S. conference of mayors is mostly wishful thinking. Many of the economic benefits it claims are not net additions to economic growth, but relocation of economic activity from one part of a state or region to another part (chiefly cities). Other alleged benefits fail to consider the costs to taxpayers, and thus represent gross, not net, benefits. And still other benefits depend on very large (but non-quantified) supporting public-sector investments. Let’s examine these three points briefly.

Economic development consultants have done extensive business in recent decades producing studies purporting to show the large net benefits of taxpayer-subsidized sports stadiums and convention centers. When independent economists review these studies, they find that most of the reported benefits represent the relocation of economic activity from one vicinity to another. For example, a new sports stadium generally will attract paying customers who will also pay to park their cars, stay overnight (at least some of them) in nearby hotels, and buy meals in local restaurants. However, this spending on sports entertainment almost certainly represents the substitution of one type of entertainment spending for another that would have occurred in other ways and other locations. There is little or no net gain to the regional, state, or national economy.

The same is true of the report’s estimated benefits from higher-density development near HSR stations, visitor spending due to enhanced tourism to the HSR city, and potential expansion of technology clusters. It’s easy to see why big-city mayors would be happy to have more economic activity shifted inside their borders, but this is a zero-sum game for the state and federal taxpayers who are being asked to pump (initially) tens of billions and ultimately hundreds of billions of dollars into HSR projects.

And this brings us to the second problem with these benefit estimates. For example, the report claims significant savings in time and travel cost to HSR users. This is like similar studies of urban rail transit that tout the low fares (compared with the user-cost of owning and operating a car) but ignore the fact that 100% of the capital costs and (in most cities) 70% of the operating costs are paid for by taxpayers, not rail transit users. Any realistic benefits estimate must use the fully allocated cost per HSR user trip, not the hugely subsidized fare.

Third, and perhaps least appreciated, is what’s in the fine print of the study. “In all four cities, the ultimate impact on regional economic growth depends on the effectiveness of connections between HSR stations and the surrounding area.” That’s a grudging admission that the large majority of hoped-for HSR trips will not be from station to station, but from one suburban location to another suburban location. That’s because of the past 50 years’ suburbanization not only of housing locations but also of job locations. So station-to-station HSR trip times are only part of the story; whether there will be net trip-time savings compared with driving depends on comparing door-to-door travel times. That’s certainly the case for the report’s claimed benefits of facilitating very long commutes such as Palmdale to Los Angeles or Lakeland to Orlando. A footnote to one table makes it even more clear that the potential economic benefits depend on “. . . supportive public policies and infrastructure investments to allow the benefits of HSR to be realized, and the projected additional business development to occur.” What it’s trying to say is that unless metro areas spend additional tens or hundreds of billions on a region-wide rail transit network, connecting everywhere to everywhere, much of the economic benefit will not materialize.

Again, that underscores that this report is nothing like a benefit/cost analysis. The costs are more or less taken as a given, able to be ignored, so that hypothetical gross benefits can absorb all the attention. Alas, the real world is not like that. The resources that building and operating HSR will consume have alternative uses, with potentially greater economic value added. A benefits-only study is useless as a guide to sound public policy.