Torture is stupid. And not just because it doesn’t work: Daily Bullshit, August 24-25, 2016 (updated)

Updated for an article challenging the rationality of a marketplace that simultaneously needs more professors for a growing student body and leaves folks with Ph.D.s like myself scrambling (unsuccessfully) for employment.[1]


I’ve been in email hell for the last few days and, almost certainly, some, hopefully not a lot, was lost.

I’d run into problems a few weeks ago with a flood of duplicated email. I couldn’t identify the cause but had been wanting to try a more secure operating system for my mail server anyway. So I installed OpenBSD and tried to get stuff working properly. And tried. And tried. And tried. Last night, I gave up and put FreeBSD back on. And a lot of stuff is working better already. I still have a ways to go, but progress is being made.


Torture

Okay, I don’t mean to suggest that OpenBSD is torture, but I can see where you might get that idea. (And for the record, while I had problems with OpenBSD, it’s important to recognize that the OpenBSD folks have made several important contributions to the open source software world that should be appreciated.)

Douglas A. Johnson, Alberto Mora, and Averell Schmidt, “The Strategic Costs of Torture,” Foreign Affairs, September/October, 2016, https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/strategic-costs-torture


Uber

So let’s do some arithmetic. Apparently, Uber has cut rates so far that drivers are down to 80 cents a mile. Uber takes 20 percent of that, so they’re making 64 cents a mile. But that’s only when they actually have a passenger in the car. Apparently about half their total miles are “dead” miles—a proportion consistent with my own experience as a cab driver—for which they don’t get compensated at all.[2] So they’re really making 32 cents a mile overall. If we accept the Internal Revenue Service allowance of 54 cents per mile[3] as an indication of actual operating costs, Uber drivers are losing 22 cents a mile.

Jacob Bogage, “Uber’s controversial strategy to finally defeat Lyft,” Washington Post, August 23, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2016/08/23/ubers-controversial-strategy-to-finally-defeat-lyft/

Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “Uber is offering retirement accounts for some drivers,” August 25, 2016, http://blog.seattlepi.com/techchron/2016/08/25/uber-is-offering-retirement-accounts-for-some-drivers/


Obamacare

“Increasingly, there are two ObamaCares,” writes Peter Sullivan for the Hill. “There’s the one in coastal and northern areas, where the marketplaces include multiple insurers and plans. And there’s the one in southern and rural areas, where there is often little competition, a situation that can lead to higher premiums.” Insurers say they have been losing money in the Obamacare marketplaces, but Sullivan offers no explanation for why this seems to be the case in southern and rural areas and not in coastal and northern areas. One piece of the puzzle might be that the plans—apparently often Blue Cross Blue Shield plans—remaining in many of these areas “have expressed reservations about continuing to offer ObamaCare plans, particularly if they do not win their preferred policy changes [like tightening up the rules for extra sign-up periods that sick people can use to game the system].”[4]

That would seem to suggest that people in southern and rural areas are more often “gaming” the system. It’s a leap to suggest that they may be doing so because of their opposition to Obamacare, but these are the same sorts of areas where authoritarian populists are more prevalent.[5]

Peter Sullivan, “How ObamaCare is splitting in two,” Hill, August 22, 2016, http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/292019-how-obamacare-is-splitting-in-two


Unemployment

Aaron R. Hanlon, “Are PhD Students Irrational?” Los Angeles Review of Books, August 24, 2016, https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/phd-students-irrational/

  1. [1]Aaron R. Hanlon, “Are PhD Students Irrational?” Los Angeles Review of Books, August 24, 2016, https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/phd-students-irrational/
  2. [2]Jacob Bogage, “Uber’s controversial strategy to finally defeat Lyft,” Washington Post, August 23, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2016/08/23/ubers-controversial-strategy-to-finally-defeat-lyft/
  3. [3]Internal Revenue Service, “2016 Standard Mileage Rates for Business, Medical and Moving Announced,” December 17, 2015, https://www.irs.gov/uac/newsroom/2016-standard-mileage-rates-for-business-medical-and-moving-announced
  4. [4]Peter Sullivan, “How ObamaCare is splitting in two,” Hill, August 22, 2016, http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/292019-how-obamacare-is-splitting-in-two
  5. [5]Thomas Frank, What’s the Matter with Kansas? (New York: Henry Holt, 2005).

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