Presidential campaign ads

by Eszter Hargittai on August 3, 2004

I realize some blogs have already covered this, but just in case people missed it, the American Museum of the Moving Image has an interesting online exhibition about presidential compaign commercials since 1952. You can watch all the ads online, which are organized by year, type of commercial and issue. They also have a section on Web ads. A propos the Museum and campaigns, Richard Gere had a related comment at the end of the Museum’s tribute to him in April: “Never trust anyone who believes that God is exclusively on their side. [- — long pause – –] Especially when that man is the President.” [Hat tip for URL: my friend Jeff whose site is currently down so no links.]

Babbling taxis

by Henry on August 3, 2004

I’m preparing an introductory course on game theory at the moment, and selecting readings for the week on communication and games of limited information. One of the key contributors to this literature is Joseph Farrell (no relation) who has done seminal work on how “cheap talk” (costless communication) may affect rational actors’ behaviour when it conveys useful information about an actor’s type. He also shows that “babbling equilibria” are always possible, in which actors’ communication conveys no information about their type whatsoever, and is consequently always ignored by others. This seems to be a rather abstruse argument with little real world relevance – but I reckon that one nice way to bring it home to my students is to point to how it helps explain DC taxi-cabs. In many (perhaps most) cities, cabs use their cab-sign to signal whether they are available or not. A lighted cab-sign indicates that the taxi-cab is free; an unlighted sign indicates that the cab is occupied. Washington DC, for some reason, is different. As far as I can tell, whether or not a cab’s sign is lighted bears no relationship to whether it is occupied. Thus, after some initial confusion, newcomers learn to ignore whether the cab has a lighted sign or not, instead squinting as best they can into the interior, to see whether they can spot any passengers. This is about as close to a babbling equilibrium as one may reasonably expect to find in the real world. How this came about in DC, and not in other American cities, is anyone’s guess.

Congratulations to Chris!

by Eszter Hargittai on August 3, 2004

In an effort to demonstrate that blogging is not detrimental to one’s health, uhm, career that is, I am happy to let you know that Chris Bertram is no longer “Senior Lecturer in Philosophy” but “Reader in Social and Political Philosophy” at the University of Bristol. From now on, when you imagine him writing blog posts, feel free to add a special purple robe to the image. Congrats, Chris!

I have it on excellent authority that small kittens have done literally dozens of impossibly cute things in Iraq, yesterday alone. But are we going to read about that in the so-called paper of record? No, it’s all “there was this coordinated attack on Christian churches”, and “militants kill Turkish hostage; trucking group withdraws from Iraq over safety concerns.” As Tacitus blogger Bird Dog rightly asks, “Which is actually more newsworthy, something we hear about every day (terrorist bombings) or previously unheard of signs that Iraqis are stepping forth and taking steps to restore their country?” Signs like that one time in Mosul, when the kitten pretended to stalk and pounce on that dented beer cap, like it was a mouse or something, and everybody laughed. Remember that? Right before the mortar attack, remember?

Then and now

by Chris Bertram on August 3, 2004

I bought a copy of “Transformer”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000001U3K/junius-20 the other day. I was fourteen when it first came out in December 1972, and I probably paid about the same amount of money back then (£5), or maybe the year after. 1972 is a long time ago — thirty-two years — but Transformer is clearly an album that lives on this side of a temporal watershed. If a song with the lyrical content of “Walk on the Wild Side” had been made ten years earlier, it probably wouldn’t have received much exposure, and certainly wouldn’t have been in the record collections of fourteen-year-olds (invisibly shaping their perception of sexual possibility and acceptability). But if it is an album from _now_, rather than _then_, it is still stiking how close it was to _then_. In Britain the Sexual Offences Act had been passed only five years before. _Five years_ . Not that the following years have been ones of seamless progress, what with “Section 28”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Section_28 and that.

To check on some of the dates, I looked at this “gay rights timeline”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay_rights_timeline . Shocking — so shocking — to read entries like the following

bq. * 1945 – Upon the liberation of concentration camps by Allied forces, those interned for homosexuality are not freed, but required to serve out the full term of their sentences under Paragraph 175

Unimaginable. And yet closer in time to 1972 than we are. Remember that next time you hear a commentator deploring the influence of the 1960s.

Sidney Morgenbesser

by Chris Bertram on August 3, 2004

“Brian Leiter”:http://webapp.utexas.edu/blogs/bleiter/archives/001764.html reports that “Sidney Morgenbesser”:http://www.columbia.edu/cu/philosophy/ has died at the age of 92 [Sorry, that’s what NPR said, the right age is 82]. NPR have “an audio tribute with Arthur Danto”:http://www.npr.org/features/feature.php?wfId=3810783 . I’ll post links to obituaries as they appear. There was a rash of Morgenbesser anecdotes posted a while back, the best place to start is probably with “this post at Normblog”:http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2004/05/more_sydney_sto.html and follow the links back. My favourite:

bq. Question:”Why is there something rather than nothing?”
Morgenbesser: “Even if there were nothing you’d still be complaining!”

Obits: “New York Times”:http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/04/obituaries/04morgenbesser.html , “New York Sun”:http://daily.nysun.com/Repository/getmailfiles.asp?Style=OliveXLib:ArticleToMail&Type=text/html&Path=NYS/2004/08/03&ID=Ar01400 , “Columbia News”:http://www.columbia.edu/cu/news/04/08/sidneyMorgenbesser.html ,