Every picture tells a story

by Daniel on January 21, 2004

[I’ve moved the picture below the fold to save bandwidth]

Can we no longer hear about the “predictive power” of the Iowa Electronic Markets, please? They were bamboozled to exactly the same degree as the rest of us.

[UPDATE]: A couple of people in comments have pointed out that this market is for the nomination, not the Iowa Caucus itself. Fair point, but sadly, no. Either the Iowa Caucus is an important determinant of who gets the nomination, or it isn’t. If it isn’t, there shouldn’t have been anything like this sharp movement on the 19th. If it is important, then trading in these contracts ought to have reflected relative chances of winning in Iowa. Either way, big spikes like this on news days are not consistent with semistrong market efficiency. I’d also note that the Iowa Electronic Markets are strongly linked with Iowa University’s business school, so the Iowa caucus is their best chance of having local tacit knowledge. While we’re noting things, I’d make a few points on the alternative prediction methods. The Irish Independent’s online poll seems to have done at least as well as IEM if not a little better (fair enough, I don’t have a time series for this one), and BBC Newsnight ran a big feature on Kerry last week; they’d clearly picked up the buzz.

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When Philosophers Attack

by Brian on January 21, 2004

I was thinking of leaving my little rant about Colin McGinn somewhere where other Timberites might not get any blame for it, but since Chris mentioned it, I figure it’s worth reposting here. McGinn is a relatively famous British philosopher, now at Rutgers, who in the 1980s produced some influential material on the mind-body problem, although his more recent work has not attracted as much attention. For various reasons (including his meteoric rise through the profession, the accessibility of his theories, his wide ranging interests, and his willingness to produce harsh verdicts on other philosophers) he became fairly well-known in broader intellectual circles. And now he’s written an autobiography. This led to an interview in the Times of London. (Note this is now subscriber-only, but I’ve put most of the text on my site.) The most notable passage is:

“I won’t talk to my colleagues about philosophy. It is too boring to me,” he says.

But why?

“They are too stupid.”

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A Poor Cousin of the Middle Class

by Henry Farrell on January 21, 2004

Patrick Nielsen Hayden “says”:http://nielsenhayden.com/electrolite/archives/004559.html#004559 about this NYT “story”:http://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/18/magazine/18POOR.html?ex=1389762000&en=ac9ac775c3fc94c3&ei=5007&partner=USERLAND

bq. State of the union. The great feminist science fiction author Joanna Russ once remarked to me, “Homophobia isn’t there to keep homosexuals in line. Homophobia is there to keep everyone else in line.”

bq. Caroline Payne is in her condition in order to keep the rest of us in line.

What he said. I feel angry and ashamed.

Update: via Kip of “Long Story Short Pier”:http://www.longstoryshortpier.com/ in comments, comes this “charming response”:http://www.iwf.org/inkwell/default.asp?archiveID=135 from the so-called “Independent Women’s Forum.”

bq. I must have a heart made of granite, but I just can’t feel sorry for Caroline Payne, the off-and-on welfare mother/credit-card binger who’s supposed to an example of our nation’s beleaguered working poor, the “millions at the bottom of the labor force who contribute to the country’s prosperity” but don’t get anything back, as writer David K. Shipler puts it in “A Poor Cousin of the Middle Class,” this week’s sob story in Sunday’s NYT magazine—in which Caroline whines about her $6.80-an-hour job at a convenience store.

bq. From the way I read Caroline’s saga, it’s prosperous America that’s been handing out tens of thousands of dollars worth of freebies to Caroline over the years (Shipley is coy about her age), and Caroline who’s given very little back. One big reason that Caroline hasn’t moved up the economic ladder looks pretty simple to me: She refuses to wear her (free, Medicaid-supplied) dentures (check the photo). Sorry, Caroline (and oh-so-politically correct Shipler, who remarks sarcastically that Caroline is “missing that radiant, tooth-filled smile that Americans have been taught to prize as highly as their right to vote”). This may sound harsh, but if you want a job that entails interacting with the public or supervising employees, you gotta have teeth. Ask George Washington

This doesn’t leave me angry or ashamed. It leaves me disgusted. There’s something vicious and depraved (in the strongest sense of the word) in the unwillingness of many US conservatives and libertarians to admit that people can get screwed by the market through no fault of their own. D-squared is fond of quoting Galbraith’s dictum that “the project of the conservative throughout the ages is the search for a higher moral justification for selfishness” – this seems appropriate here. I still think that a principled conservatism is possible in theory – I just don’t see much evidence of it in the US today. A little, but not much.

A ban on beards

by Chris Bertram on January 21, 2004

“This is getting ridiculous”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/3416091.stm :

bq. A proposed ban on religious symbols in French state schools could include a ban on beards, according to the French education minister. Luc Ferry said the law, which will be debated in parliament next month, could ban headscarves, bandannas and beards if they are considered a sign of faith.

UPDATE: “According to Le Monde”:http://www.lemonde.fr/web/article/0,1-0@2-3224,36-349896,0.html , Ferry invoked Saussure’s principle of the “arbitrary nature of the sign” in defence of the policy. We’re not going to hear any think like _that_ from a minister in London or Washington any time soon!

Charming philosopher

by Chris Bertram on January 21, 2004

Brian has “a post on his other blog”:http://www.brown.edu/Departments/Philosophy/tar/Archives/002462.html which I think ought to get wider circulation: it is a discussion of and reproduction of a Times interview/profile of cuddly, charming, self-effacing philosopher Colin McGinn.


by Chris Bertram on January 21, 2004

The story of the true origins of Monopoly, which I covered “here”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/001119.html the other day, gets “recounted in today’s Guardian”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,3604,1127421,00.html in the course of an article on the highly dubious game “Ghettopoly” of which the object is “to become the richest playa through stealing, cheating and fencing stolen properties.” Hasbro, the current owners (or should that be “owners”?) of the rights to Monopoly are threatening legal action.


by Chris Bertram on January 21, 2004

No sooner have I “mentioned”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/001180.html 1960s expectations of what the future would be like — “future cities in which we’d all be whizzing about in our personal aeroplanes” — than I read “John Kay in the Financial Times”:http://www.johnkay.com/trends/318 doubting whether our age is, as commonly supposed, one of unprecedented technological advance:

bq. I began to doubt the conventional wisdom when I discovered a Hudson Institute report from the mid-1960s that predicted technological changes from then till 2000. Its prognostications about information technology were impressively accurate – it foresaw mobile phones, fax machines and large-scale data processing.

bq. But in other areas the Hudson Institute was wide of the mark. Where are the personal flying platforms, the space colonies, the artificial moons to light our cities, the drugs that make weight reduction a painless process? Progress in IT has fully matched the expectations of three or four decades ago. But advance in other areas has, by historic standards, been disappointing.

Worth a glance.

Democracy in America

by Kieran Healy on January 21, 2004

Tina Fetner waxes Tocquevillian about her participation in the Iowa Caucuses:

bq. Well, I did it. I participated in the glorious process that is the Iowa Caucus. It was my first time, and I was so excited about this down-home version of participatory democracy. What a pile of crap it turned out to be.

North By Northwest

by Chris Bertram on January 21, 2004

I watched “North By Northwest”:http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0053125/ again last night and was struck more than I had been before by the boldly modernist style the film projects. The texture of the film is wonderful: the future we were promised and never had. The opening title-sequence in which the titles are aligned with the straight lines of an international-style skyscraper with New York taxis reflected in the windows is really striking (the Seagram building?). And Roger O. Thornhill and Eve Kendall (Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint) throughout project a thoroughly enviable lifestyle that is sharply at variance with other images of the 1950s. In fact the whole film (1959) has a taste of the optimistic side of the 1960s about it: the NASA–Expo 67–white-heat-of-technology–007 side. That optimistic image of the future is something I grew up with: children’s comics like Look-and-Learn painted a picture of future cities in which we’d all be whizzing about in our personal aeroplanes (those who weren’t travelling by monorail of course). That isn’t exactly what is happening in North by Northwest, but rather a projection of of what the future might be like if the world of North by Northwest were the present (a TV in every hotel room in 1959!). Architecture and design do the work: from that opening sequence, through the United Nations (clean, sharp lines) through the exquisite train ride from New York to Chicago, through the scene in the cafe at Mt Rushmore (such a clean Scandinavian feel) to the Frank Lloyd Wright-style house at the end. Fantastic.

Timing the State of the Union

by Micah on January 21, 2004

Patrick Belton, over at “OxBlog”:http://oxblog.blogspot.com/, has this “analysis”:http://oxblog.blogspot.com/2004_01_18_oxblog_archive.html#107465452760080391 of President Bush’s State of the Union address:

bq. If the amount of time given over to a single idea reflects its relative importance in the State of the Union speech (a reasonable assumption), then the most important themes in tonight’s speech, in descending order, are: the need to commit adequate resources to the military for the war on terror (87 seconds); that government will act against single-sex marriage (84 seconds); the administration’s commitment to strengthening families and religious communities, and to combat juvenile use of drugs (78 seconds); the government’s commitment to education and excellence for each child in America (72 seconds); that the world without Saddam is a better and safer place (69 seconds). The closing matter took 78 seconds, centered around the idea that we are living in historic times.

So, at least on this view, what we should take away from Bush’s speech is roughly: we live in historic times in which our major priorities are fighting terrorists, gays and atheists. And who says there’s no culture war in America?

UPDATE: While I’m at it, the funniest moment in the speech had to be when Bush said:

bq. Key provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire next year.


A big bonus for the speechwriter who left a fat pause after that sentence!