Two envelopes

by John Q on May 18, 2004

Via Juan at Philosophy617 (who doesn’t think much of the proffered solutions, and probably won’t like this one) I came back to this version of the two-envelope problem put forward by Brian, a bit before I joined CT.

In this case, once you observe that Brian’s angel is giving you faulty theology, it’s easy to show that you should reject his[1] mathematics, and his offer. At the end of the problem, the angel says “It’s purgatory,” says the angel, “take all the time you want.” But the whole point of Purgatory is that it’s finite – you purge off your sins one at a time until they’re all paid off. Since we now have a finite problem, the solution is straightforward.

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No one left to lie to

by Ted on May 18, 2004

Christopher Hitchens has just put up a piece in Slate. It’s a response to Sy Hersh’s most recent New Yorker story about the connection between Abu Gharib and Rumsfeld’s policies. Here’s Simpler Christopher Hitchens:

What Went Wrong: The flaw in Seymour Hersh’s theory.

I, Christopher Hitchens, present Sy Hersh’s story as such: Rumsfeld was frustrated at the legal obstacles that (for example) prevented combat forces from firing at a convoy that they believed contained the Taliban leader Mullah Muhammed Omar. Rumsfeld loosened the rules. The loosening of the rules led to the torture of Iraqi prisoners.

I, CH, believe that this is an incoherent story. There is no necessary link between overruling the combat restrictions that I have highlighted and prison abuse. Furthermore, regardless of the decisions of Rumsfeld, there would still have been bad apples in the military.

Shouldn’t opponents of the war have some explaining to do? Now they say that the Bush Administration should have killed the leaders of al-Qaeda. I believe that, had the Bush administration taken the steps necessary to take out the leaders of al-Qaeda during major combat operations in Afghanistan, they would have opposed them. Therefore, they are hypocrites.

The struggle against terrorism will be long and difficult. Rumsfeld should treat the soldiers who abused the Iraqi prisoners as traitors and enemies.

P.S. I’d like everyone to look at the bomb with sarin in it, and the uncovery of a mustard gas weapon in Iraq.

If anyone thinks I’ve misrepresented Hitch, please pitch in in the comments. Because if I understand him correctly, this is a truly shameless piece of misdirection.

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The Day After Tomorrow

by Kieran Healy on May 18, 2004

In the wake of the “insta-criticism”: of the film “The Day After Tomorrow”: because it is a silly big-budget action movie and not a policy briefing paid for by the coal industry, CT will be providing further movie criticism along these lines. Reel in shock at _The Fast and the Furious_ for its inaccurate picture of driving conditions in Los Angeles! Be outraged at _The Pricess Bride_ for its whitewashing of the reality of aristocratic forms of government! Fume at _Godzilla_ for ignoring basic facts about radiation and the typical size of lizards! And get ticked off at almost every movie ever that suggests that you eventually get the girl. Or that girls even look like that in the first place.

*Update*: Re-rading this post in a more non-jetlagged state than when I wrote it, I think I was a bit unfair to Glenn Reynolds. I still think carrying on a debate about global warming through the medium of the people who brought you _Godzilla_ isn’t a good idea, but let that be a general principle rather than a criticism of Instapundit.

If I were to criticise James Wolfensohn as a World Bank President, then I’d say that if he has a failing, it’s probably that he errs on the side of being a worthless globetrotter far more adept at schmoozing politicians than getting his hands dirty with policy issues, blaming his staff for failures while taking personal credit for successes and that his nine years at the WB have been associated with a general slump in morale that would make Field-Marshall Haig look like Anthony Robbins. Apart from that, he’s pretty much sucked.

So when I saw his name in the story linked above, I thought to myself “I wonder if this might possibly be a plausible-sounding think tank idea which pushes a lot of currently popular political hot-buttons but which is regarded by anyone who knows a bit about the subject area with abject terror?”. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce to you the concept of “Rights-Based Lending”.

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Quick Eurovision Followup

by Kieran Healy on May 18, 2004

Nottingham today, and I eventually found wireless access in the lobby of a rather better hotel than the one I’m staying in. Just time to note that, in the light of last weekend’s Eurovision song contest, my “network analysis of voting”: is now both confirmed and redundant.[1] The introduction of the Eastern European bloc of countries has had striking structural and cultural effects. Structurally, political voting for neighbors is now blatantly obvious love fest and openly commented on by the returning officers for each country. When Russia its _douze points_ the Russian announcer said highest marks went “to our great friends, Ukraine.” “We used to be so close,” Terry Wogan commented on the BBC. Culturally, the “Euro Heritage” type song also seems to be eclipsed and the contest has returned to its roots as a festival of tat and pap, thanks mainly to the fashion and musical tastes of the breakaway republics and former Yugoslavian countries. From sub-Britney to proto-Xena to quasi-Miami Vice, there’s clearly no sleaze like Balkan sleaze.

fn1. That was real data, by the way. I abused it but I didn’t make it up.

WWW conference

by Eszter Hargittai on May 18, 2004

Today, I will be attending a conference workshop in New York on Measuring Search Effectiveness: The User Perspective. I will be presenting some findings about What Makes an Expert Searcher? Evidence from User Studies. (That paper is not ready for distribution, but I will take this opportunity to link again:) to the paper that presents the coding scheme I used to analyze most of the data.) The workshop is being held in conjunction with WWW2004, the Thirteenth International World Wide Web Conference.

I am reminded of my attendance at The 4th International World Wide Web Conference in Boston in 1995. I was a senior in college writing a thesis on the unequal international spread of the Internet. I went to this conference with the hopes of learning what research was being done about the social implications of the Internet. There were very few sessions on the program that were about any aspects other than technical. After one of the few sessions where panelists discussed some philosophical questions related to the Internet, I walked up to someone to ask whether they thought the government was doing anything about the Web. His response: “Yes, I think they have a Web page now.” This wasn’t exactly what I was getting at. I had hoped to see some sessions discussing policy implications. But this was still the era when many people thought the medium was somehow going to evolve in a vacuum, in isolation from existing social institutions.

Looking at this year’s program, it is clear that technical questions are still the overwhelming topic of this particular conference so perhaps it was a mistake to look for other types of content at WWW4. But this is easy to say today when the conference scene is littered with meetings discussing all aspects of IT. Back in 1995, there weren’t too many meetings you could go to where people would care to discuss any aspects of the Web.