July 13, 2006

Republican Defended

I think TPMMuckraker is was wronging Alan Schlesinger here by calling him a card cheat [and has now corrected themselves, good for them]. Card counting at blackjack is not cheating, as I understand it; it's merely using the information available to you to improve your odds. Casinos ban card counters because they don't want their marks to improve their odds. Wikipedia says, "Essentially, card-counting, if done in one's head and with no outside assistance from devices such as blackjack computers, is not illegal, as making calculations within one's own mind is not an arrestable offence," and that in some jurisdictions it is illegal to ban card-counters.

Of course, I have an incentive to defend Schlesinger, because his continued presence in the Connecticut Senate race will pretty much guarantee that the seat remains with a Democrat of some sort, no matter what sort of crazy stuff goes on.

(I don't gamble myself, but I see card counting as sticking up for the little guy against the casino owners.)

[This entry is now pointless, but it's an entry, so I'm leaving it up.]

[NOTE: The anti-spam software will not allow you to include the string "casino" in a comment; please circumlocute or use extra spaces or write "c4s1n0" or something.]

Posted by Matt Weiner at July 13, 2006 07:34 AM

So what you are saying is that if a corporation makes a lot of money, it is ok to cheat them out of their money? Sticking up for the little guy? Well, good to hear...I needed to make a trip to Walmart...

Don't you teach business ethics? ;)

Posted by: Diana at July 13, 2006 11:32 AM

In the movie "The Rain Man," the Tom Cruise character wants to use his autistic-savant brother's prodigious memory to keep track of the cards in a Las Vegas establishment, to make a killing.**Diana, Matt said he didn't think counting cards was cheating, not that he thought that cheating was all right.

Posted by: Matt's mom at July 13, 2006 11:45 AM

What Mom said. Counting cards is just good strategy, not cheating.

The wikipedia entry says you don't have to be a savant to count cards, there are relatively easy-to-remember point systems. I'd forgotten about Rain Man, though.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at July 13, 2006 12:39 PM

However, avoiding the appearance of impropriety doesn't seem like a good reason for using an assumed name.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at July 13, 2006 02:39 PM

Y'all, especially Diana, MUST read this: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/10/business/media/10drill.html It seems that grocers (doesn't that conjure up a man behind a counter in a white apron?) hate "cherry pickers"--shoppers who go from store to store in one shopping trip, buying a few bargain-priced items at each. Fair enough. But some "used language like 'rape'" and "betrayal of trust." Gosh, fathomless malignity. But it isn't cheating, is it? And paying up your credit card bill every month instead of paying 12-21% interest--that isn't cheating, is it?

Posted by: Matt's mom at July 14, 2006 10:19 AM

NYT: Professor Fox said that few academics knew about cherry-picking [sale items from grocery stores]

Not a very flattering comment on academics...

Other things equal, the fact that a man was banned from gambling establishments would make me more likely to vote for him rather than the reverse. But if I found that he habitually played the slots a la Bill Bennett, he would lose my vote for sure.

Posted by: Richard Mason at July 15, 2006 01:24 PM

I had to write "gambling establishments" because Matt's blog won't let me use the c word!

Posted by: Richard Mason at July 15, 2006 01:25 PM

Permalink for the cherry-picking article.

The grocers may be thinking that their whole sales model depends on people not cherry-picking. So Kant might not approve of cherry-pickers; they're deliberately doing something that can't be made a universal practice. On the other hand, grocery sales are as I understand designed to lure or trick people into buying more profitable items while they're in the store, so I don't see why the customers are under an obligation to take the bait. Or to take the hook with the bait. In which respect it's like the c4s1n0 story; the c4s1n0 is counting on most people not using the best strategy, but it is within the rules to do so.

All this reminds me of the old grind about TV audiences' obligation to watch the ads (see here, though there's a juicier quote out there somewhere where a TV exec says that people who leave the room during the commericial breaks are thieves). Of course the TV networks are counting on people to watch the ads, but that doesn't create a contractual obligation on us to do so. If there were such a contract, it would also mean that when I subscribed to T-Mobile Catherine Zeta-Jones had to date me.

(Beta version of that joke here.)

Posted by: Matt Weiner at July 15, 2006 02:11 PM

In the first version of that comment, I was hoist by mine own spam filter.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at July 15, 2006 02:12 PM

Why wouldn't Kant approve of cherry-pickers? Aren't cherry-pickers acting out of a duty to provide the best life for their family?

Naively speaking, not only would the cherry-picker's reasoning pass the first CI, but his/her would also pass the second. If the person did not move from store-to-store choosing the bargain items, then s/he would be in violation of Kant's CI-procedure.

Cherry-pickers aren't cheaters; they're educated consumers.

(I feel an obligation to defend cherry-pickers b/c it sounds a lot like what I've been doing for the past few weeks in Boston. The open air market in the North End is all about finding the best bargain on groceries. Even though they're not big-time grocers, there's some equivalency.)

Posted by: Joe at July 17, 2006 03:42 PM

In fact, I guess cherry-pickers do pass the categorical imperative test under a reasonable construal of their maxim. Either "Get the best price" or "Buy items that are on sale" is universalizable, even if not everyone can do that in the way they do it under the current circumstances. Maybe "Buy only items that are on sale" isn't universalizable, because if everyone did that there would be no sales. But basically I think you're right, that cherry-pickers aren't cheaters, and I was taking a cheap shot at Kant.

On some prisoners-dilemma analyses they might be considered defectors, but then even I don't think it's always wrong to defect.

Anyway, you definitely shouldn't worry about cherry-picking. And the North End situation probably isn't analogous since it sounds like (unlike the grocers) the people there are counting on people looking for the best deals.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at July 18, 2006 03:13 PM

Today was a total loss. I haven't gotten anything done. More or less not much notable going on right now. That's how it is. I've just been staying at home doing nothing.
[This is a spam but I'm leaving it in, with the URLs stripped, because it's so beautiful. Also, since I get to say whatever I want when I'm using my administrative editor powers, casino casino casino.--MW]

Posted by: erlyam at July 30, 2006 02:51 PM