Dig Baton Rouge

STATESMEN & SNOLLYGOSTERS

By Nick BeJeaux

Last week, we published an article showcasing the Freagle platform, and I couldn’t be more excited for its launch. It and the potential for more platforms like it very well could be our best hope to restoring our democratic republic to a balanced, working order.

The manner of discussing politics in the U.S. is in a sad state of affairs, and while some fault lies within the electorate, constituents are just as, if not more so, culpable because of political cynicism, ignorance and apathy.  Freagle was conceived and designed to remove these obstacles by collecting and presenting definitive information that previously had been often mired by biased campaign ads and pundits. Sources of campaign funds, voting history, etc. will be at the fingertips of voters, rather than heard second-hand from triple-filtered “news” sources.

Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that only 57.5 percent of voting-age citizens cast their ballot during the 2012 presidential election. In 2011’s Louisiana gubernatorial race, only 35.9 percent of registered voters went to the polls. Aside from the fact these stats are morbidly low, tracking them down and verifying them was so frustrating and depressing it was like watching the ending of Prometheus all over again. By providing this information more quickly and efficiently, Freagle can boost voter participation by boosting voter confidence through making unbiased facts easily accessible.

In my previous column, I named politics as our state’s biggest political problem. The second biggest is today’s for-profit media model.

In a perfect world, my job is unnecessary because people find the time to get their own damn information about the world around them. Political ads, 24-hour news feeds and “Infotainment” have changed the rules of the game, and not for the better. Watching CNN is like reading a 300-step how-to for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, sprinkled with viral cat videos and penis enlargement ads. “Fair and balanced” Fox News is so remarkably and toxically biased that you’d be better off smoking crack than watching it. A platform like Freagle cuts out the BS and provides direct contact to the electorate and pure, clean facts. It’s what journalism should be.

While we’re talking about things that should be, Uber launched operations in Baton Rouge, this week and it’s about damn time. The Taxicab Commission is understandably upset – hell, if I was selling unpunctual, vomit-scented rides to a mile from where I’m going and someone showed up offering the same thing in a clean car five minutes before I need it for 40 percent less than the average price, I’d be pissed too. BR has had lackluster public transportation for, well, forever and the emergence of Uber presents a solid case that the private sector is the only one that can fix that problem.

To be fair, I had some reservations about Uber. While riding around in a clean vehicle summoned by a map ping on a mobile app is a plus over a normal taxi, getting into a car with a complete stranger goes against the prepubescent programming drilled into my head by my mother. But once I realised that Uber has policies in place to protect riders and drivers from psychos, my anxieties were immediately erased.

You know who your driver is, and their performance review, before they even pick you up, and they know who you are before they you up through your Uber account. Furthermore, Uber records when the driver receives your pickup ping, when and where you’re picked up and dropped off. So if you’re worried about being kidnapped, don’t be.

By the way, if a driver’s rating drops below 4.5 stars (out of five) they’re called in for an evaluation and told to tighten up or find another job. Considering that the drivers must adhere to a dress code, observe a level of cleanliness and drive a car no more than four years old, Uber meets and exceeds the standards of traditional taxis. Also, I can’t remember the last time a taxi driver got out of the car and opened the door for me.

Now, there is some stickiness as to the legality of Uber operating in BR, but that allegation has a ring of animosity to it. However, being a tech-addled millennial, all I know is that Uber is to a taxicab service as the TARDIS is to a 1971 Ford Pinto ­– bigger on the inside and way cooler.

 

 

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