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Why Didn't Sidecar's Flex Pricing Work? 190

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-get-what-you-pay-for dept.
Bennett Haselton writes Sidecar is a little-known alternative to Lyft and Uber, deployed in only ten cities so far, which lets drivers set their own prices to undercut other ride-sharing services. Given that most amateur drivers would be willing to give someone a ride for far less than the rider would be willing to pay, why didn't the flex-pricing option take off? Keep reading to see what Bennet has to say.

Comment: Senator John McCain (Score 5, Insightful) 772

by TheNastyInThePasty (#48558351) Attached to: CIA Lied Over Brutal Interrogations

"I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence. I know that victims of torture will offer intentionally misleading information if they think their captors will believe it. I know they will say whatever they think their torturers want them to say if they believe it will stop their suffering. Most of all, I know the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies, our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights, which are protected by international conventions the U.S. not only joined, but for the most part authored."

From a Republican even.


Twitter Should Use Random Sample Voting For Abuse Reports 132

Posted by samzenpus
from the tell-us-everything dept.
Bennett Haselton writes: Twitter has announced new protocols for filing and handling abuse reports, making it easier to flag specific types of content (e.g. violence or suicide threats). But with the volume of abusive tweets being reported to the company every day, the internal review process will always be a bottleneck. The company could handle more abuse reports properly by recruiting public volunteers. Read what Bennett thinks below.

Big Talk About Small Samples 246

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
Bennett Haselton writes: My last article garnered some objections from readers saying that the sample sizes were too small to draw meaningful conclusions. (36 out of 47 survey-takers, or 77%, said that a picture of a black woman breast-feeding was inappropriate; while in a different group, 38 out of 54 survey-takers, or 70%, said that a picture of a white woman breast-feeding was inappropriate in the same context.) My conclusion was that, even on the basis of a relatively small sample, the evidence was strongly against a "huge" gap in the rates at which the surveyed population would consider the two pictures to be inappropriate. I stand by that, but it's worth presenting the math to support that conclusion, because I think the surveys are valuable tools when you understand what you can and cannot demonstrate with a small sample. (Basically, a small sample can present only weak evidence as to what the population average is, but you can confidently demonstrate what it is not.) Keep reading to see what Bennett has to say.

Debunking a Viral Internet Post About Breastfeeding Racism 350

Posted by timothy
from the believe-the-worst dept.
Bennett Haselton writes: A editorial with 24,000 Facebook shares highlights the differences in public reaction to two nearly identical breastfeeding photos, one showing a black woman and one showing a white woman, each breastfeeding an infant. The editorial decries the outrage provoked by the black woman's photo compared to the mild reaction elicited by the white woman's photo, and attributes the difference to racism. I tried an experiment using Amazon's Mechanical Turk to test that theory. Read on to see the kind of results Bennett found.

Comment: Re:America is a RINO (Score 4, Informative) 588

by TheNastyInThePasty (#48319501) Attached to: Marijuana Legalized In Oregon, Alaska, and Washington DC

In most states over 10% of the voters register as Independent. How do you gerrymander those to vote Republican?

It doesn't matter what they're registered as. What matters is what they vote for and most will vote predictably.

Democrats cluster in large cities. How do you evenly distribute their votes out into Republican districts on the other side of the state?

You don't have to distribute the democratic votes in the major cities. You assign as many as you can to majority Republican districts and then fit the rest into a district that is as close to 100% Democrat as you can.

Imagine a state with 800 people. Let's ignore the geographical distribution for simplicity. 59% (470) of the people vote purple, 41% (330) will vote orange, and you are in charge of drawing 4 districts such that the orange politicians remain in power. How will you do it?

3 districts with 110 orange people and 90 purple people (that's a 10% lead in elections which is plenty).
1 district with 200 purple people.

Congratulations! The orange people get 3 seats and the purple people get 1 despite the purple voters being a clear majority of the total. Here is a good illustration on wikipedia that also illustrates drawing the borders around geographically distributed voters.

Comment: America is a RINO (Score 5, Insightful) 588

by TheNastyInThePasty (#48317617) Attached to: Marijuana Legalized In Oregon, Alaska, and Washington DC

Yesterday's election was a message to Washington that America wants conservatives to represent them! Also, they want legalized pot, increased minimum wage, the right to have an abortion, insurance-provided contraception, and required paid time off at work!

Wait, what?

Comment: Re:how many small businesses has Obama killed? (Score 1) 739

by TheNastyInThePasty (#48279287) Attached to: Statisticians Study Who Was Helped Most By Obamacare

I see, so instead of constructively engaging to modify a plan built on a Republican plan, they decided to take their ball and go home. That's so mature of Republicans

The legislative agenda surrounding the 100% partisan ramming-through of the ACA precluded any Republican involvement. The Republicans put forth a constant barrage of their own ideas and (looking back on them) very accurate predictions about all of the wreckage that the ACA is now causing. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi ran the entire show, and shut down any involvement by Republicans.


The Republicans had no ability to "constructively engage" in the creation and underhanded passage of the ACA. They could only shout out loud about how outrageous so much of it is, since their votes - in committee and generally in the house and senate - were incapable of impacting the law.

I guess this never happened. I quote:

A small group of key senators known as the Gang of Six was once looked at as the key to passing a bipartisan health care bill in the Senate.

But the group of Senate Finance Committee members has, instead, proved a time-sucking bust, with no compromise after months of negotiations and plenty of Senate Democrats peeved at the influence ceded to the gang's GOP members.


"No public option. No play-or-pay. No things that are going to lead to any rationing of health care. No interference with the doctor-patient relationship," says [Republican] Grassley. "About the only place we haven't made progress along the lines of what Republicans are wanting on the bill is in tort reform."

Comment: Re:how many small businesses has Obama killed? (Score 5, Informative) 739

by TheNastyInThePasty (#48278073) Attached to: Statisticians Study Who Was Helped Most By Obamacare

Lets look at the history of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. Back in 2008, then-presidential nominee Barack Obama ran a campaign with healthcare reform as one of its central issues. He advocated for universal healthcare but opposed an individual mandate. However, after input from experts that claimed that government-guaranteed healthcare would encourage too many free-riders, Obama decided to include an individual mandate as a central part of his healthcare reform efforts.

The individual mandate is largely credited as an idea by the conservative think-tank The Heritage Foundation as an alternative to a system in which the government pays for healthcare. It required each person to pay for their own healthcare and was proposed by Republicans during the Clinton era as a free-market solution that embodies the tenant of personal responsibility that Republicans claim to hold.

Once adopted by the Democrats and proposed in a bill on September 17, 2009, the Republicans staunchly opposed the measure. The Republicans, some of whom have been around long enough to have supported a similar bill during the Clinton administration, claimed that the individual mandate was an unconstitutional assault on freedom.

After 3 weeks of debate and town hall meetings, the bill passed through the House of Representatives and was sent to the Senate. The Democrats attempted to gain the support of moderate Republicans like Olympia Snowe, Bob Bennet, Mike Enzi, and Chuck Grassley. However, the moderate Republicans found themselves subject to intense pressure by the party to fall in line and oppose any healthcare reform effots.

The bill continued to be opposed by conservatives in the Senate who claimed that the bill's "public option" was a deal-breaker. The public option was government-run healthcare insurance that would be available to people alongside private health insurance in the market. Conservatives claimed that the public option would put private insurance out of business because the government is under no pressure to compete or turn a profit. After over 3 months of debate, the public option was dropped from the bill. Senator Grassley was quoted as saying:

"No public option. No play-or-pay. No things that are going to lead to any rationing of health care. No interference with the doctor-patient relationship," says Grassley. "About the only place we haven't made progress along the lines of what Republicans are wanting on the bill is in tort reform."

Despite this, it still took several last-minute concessions for conservatives to get the bill passed through the Senate on December 24, 2009, with support from independents and conservative Democrats to overcome the Republican threat of fillibuster.

The bill languished in the House of Representatives for 3 more months. In order to gets the admendments made to the bill back in the House, the Democrats had to win support from pro-life Representatives who worried that the bill would allow federal funds to be used to pay for abortions. To assuage anti-abortion politicians' fears, Barack Obama signed an executive order on March 21, 2010 to affirm that no federal funds could or would be used to fund abortions. The amendments were finally passed through the House and signed into law by Obama on March 23, 2010 (over 6 months after being proposed).


Can Ello Legally Promise To Remain Ad-Free? 153

Posted by timothy
from the anyone-can-promise-anything dept.
Bennett Haselton writes: Social networking company Ello has converted itself to a Public Benefit Corporation, bound by a charter saying that they will not now, nor in the future, make money by running advertisements or selling user data. Ello had followed these policies from the outset, but skeptics worried that venture capitalist investors might pressure Ello to change those policies, so this binding commitment was meant to assuage those fears. But is the commitment really legally binding and enforceable down the road? Read on for the rest.

Why CurrentC Will Beat Out Apple Pay 631

Posted by timothy
from the some-downsides-might-strike-your-mind dept.
itwbennett writes Working closely with VISA, Apple solved many complex security issues making in-person payments safer than ever. But it's that close relationship with the credit card companies that may be Apple Pay's downfall. A competing solution called CurrentC has recently gained a lot of press as backers of the project moved to block NFC payments (Apple Pay, Google Wallet, etc.) at their retail terminals. The merchants designing or backing CurrentC reads like a greatest hits list of retail outfits and leading the way is the biggest of them all, Walmart. The retailers have joined together to create a platform that is independent of the credit card companies and their profit-robbing transaction fees. Hooking directly to your bank account rather than a credit or debit card, CurrentC will use good old ACH to transfer money from your account to the merchant's bank account at little to no cost.

An Algorithm to End the Lines for Ice at Burning Man 342

Posted by timothy
from the that-trick's-not-so-weird dept.
Any gathering of 65,000 people in the desert is going to require some major infrastructure to maintain health and sanity. At Burning Man, some of that infrastructure is devoted to a supply chain for ice. Writes Bennett Haselton, The lines for ice bags at Burning Man could be cut from an hour long at peak times, to about five minutes, by making one small... Well, read the description below of how they do things now, and see if the same suggested change occurs to you. I'm curious whether it's the kind of idea that is more obvious to students of computer science who think algorithmically, or if it's something that could occur to anyone. Read on for the rest; Bennett's idea for better triage may bring to mind a lot of other queuing situations and ways that time spent waiting in line could be more efficiently employed.

Riches: A gift from Heaven signifying, "This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased." -- John D. Rockefeller, (slander by Ambrose Bierce)