Monthly Archives: March 2007

What Will Happen to the Kurds?

Wretchard at The Belmont Club points to an article in the Sierra Vista Herald about an address by Qubad J. Talabany, a representative of Iraqi Kurdistan, to a U.S. military Training and Doctrine Command Cultural Awareness Summit:

In 1974, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger led the United States away from supporting a Kurdish homeland.

After the first Gulf War against Iraq in the early 1990s, “we believed (President George) Bush senior,” Talabany said. When the current President George H.W. Bush’s father called for Iraqis to rise up against Saddam Hussein and promised support, the Kurds and Shiites in southern Iraq did, only to see the United States turn its back.

The end result was Hussein killed thousands of Kurds and caused others to flee into the Turkish mountains for protection, where many died of exposure.

“We didn’t trust the United States after that,” Talabany said.

But with the full commitment of American forces finally toppling Hussein in 2003, Kurds once again were willing to take a chance on America.

If the United States decides to pull out before the job is done, “we Kurds want guarantees we will be protected,” he said.

If the Democrats succeed in getting the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq, they need to ensure that we leave behind enough forces to protect the Kurds. All the good things we say we want for Iraq—democracy, freedom, wealth—the Kurds have been building for themselves. When we invaded, they really did welcome us a liberators. We owe them our support.

It Hurts Being Green

I would normally save a video like this until Friday, but I have a feeling we’re just counting the minutes until the DMCA take-down notice.

I don’t want to spoil it too much, but it’s Kermit the Frog following in Mr Johnny Cash’s footsteps with his own very special cover of Trent Reznor’s “Hurt.” To quote Radley Balko:

Warning: Contains muppet nudity, muppet sex, muppet vomiting, and muppet drug use.

…and it’s not safe for work.

Sad Kermit

At about a minute and a half in, there’s a disturbing scene involving Kermit’s, er, longing for an absent Miss Piggy, which is followed immediately by a moment of genuine poignancy.

Addendum: You might want to see the video before you read the rest of this.

Really, this was just an amazing production. It may be disturbing, but it was made with loving care. The puppetry is effective, and the videography was done by someone who knows how to use camera angles to accent the puppetry.

What’s weird, and a little embarrassing, is that seeing Kermit so trapped in the depths of despair actually kind of tugs at my heartstrings a bit. It’s a powerful image.

So far, my absolute favorite touch is the big pile of cocaine on a copy of Dawkins’s The God Delusion. Just…perfect.

Whose Freedom? Counting the Cost

I’m listening to the audiobook of George Lakoff’s Whose Freedom?: The Battle Over America’s Most Important Idea, in which he contrasts the progressive and conservative ideas of freedom.

Lakoff repeats over and over again that progressive morality is built on empathy, whereas conservative morality is based on discipline. That formulation makes a certain amount of sense, but it doesn’t get him where he wants to go.

For example, Lakoff claims that progressives empathize with the poor and want to help them with social programs, whereas conservatives say that social programs will make the poor dependant on government handouts, which hurts their self-discipline.

Now I’ve heard that argument from conservatives, and like Lakoff, I’m not impressed by it, but Lakoff is leaving out a huge part of the conservative case against social programs. It’s a point that should be immediately obvious to anyone with even a passing grasp of economic reasoning: Somebody has to pay for the social programs.

If a government social program gives a single mom $1000 to take care of her children, that $1000 has to be taken away from someone else. The single mom deserves our empathy, but so does the person who earned that $1000 in the first place. It’s okay to be empathetic, but be empathetic equally.

Lakoff could try to take a number of approaches to counter this argument. He could offer an argument as to why we should pay for social programs, or he could argue that the money would come from people who don’t deserve it, or he could reject the “somebody-has-to-pay-for-it” argument as irrelevant misdirection.

However, it’s disingenuous of him to completely omit a huge part of the conservative argument in a book that purports to explain conservative thought to progressives. It mischaracterizes the conservative view, which is unfair to conservatives and a disservice to his progressive readers.

Hacking John McCain

Apparently, Senator John McCain has a MySpace page. Rather than using the boring default design, whoever built the page for McCain used a customized MySpace template that he got from Mike Davidson.

Only problem is, he forgot to credit Mike, which is all Mike asks for if you want to use his template.

Well, that wasn’t the only problem. The web designer also left in the original image URLs, so that the template images were being served from Mike’s server rather than McCain’s server. Essentially, although probably unintentionally, the McCain campaign was stealing bandwith from Mike.

Mike didn’t like that, so he decided to teach them a playful lesson. You see, when you pull your page content from someone else’s server, you give them control over your page content… Visitors to Senator McCain’s page got a little surprise this morning:

This hack was in no way illegal, of course, because Mike is free to change the content of his own server any time he wants.

You can read Mike Davidson’s complete explanation of what he did.

(Hat tip: Sour)

Whose Freedom? Models For Government.

For reasons not worth explaining, I’ve been listening to the audiobook of George Lakoff’s Whose Freedom?: The Battle Over America’s Most Important Idea, which is about the conflict between progressives and conservatives over the idea of freedom.

The book’s subtitle is a bit misleading, although technically correct. I was expecting a book about different ideas of freedom. Instead, the book is about how progressives and conservatives discuss the idea of freedom. It is literally about the battle of words over the idea of freedom, rather than about the different concepts of freedom.

Lakoff is himself a progressive, which is what liberals are calling themselves these days now that the word liberal has been ruined by a conspiracy of leftist radicals and right-wing talk radio hosts. He believes progressive ideas about freedom are inherently correct, and he discusses how conservatives have used rhetorical methods such as framing metaphors to draw people away from the progressive vision.

Lakoff explains most of the differences between progressive and conservative rhetoric as a contrast between the different metaphors of morality that progressives and conservatives use to frame the concept of freedom. Conservatives, he say, use a “strict father” model of morality, whereas progressives use a “nurturant parent” model.

Right away, he’s lost me. I don’t like either of those models. The reason is that we’re not just talking about morality in the abstract. We’re talking about politics, and therefore we’re talking about the morality that should be enforced by our government.

I don’t want the government to act like any kind of parent. I want it to act more like a loyal employee or servant. Of course, a nanny is a type of servant, and no libertarian wants to live in a nanny state that watches our every little misstep and tries to make us act like perfect people, so maybe servant isn’t quite right.

Perhaps a better role model for government is a lifeguard at a pool. He spends most of his time sitting at the side of the pool. He’s vigilant, but he only intervenes when there’s serious danger. If the kids in the pool are splashing and yelling or calling each other names, he pays them no mind, but if someone’s life is in danger, he acts decisively and comes to the rescue. Otherwise, he lets the kids be kids and enjoy playing in the water.

You’d have to have a few other metaphors as well: The government as referee, resolving disputes according to pre-established rules. The government as trustee, administering the common wealth for the benefit of its owners. There are probably a few other useful metaphors that will come to mind if I think about it.

But the government as parent? I’d rather be an orphan.

This Can’t Be Good, Part 2

I’m holding in my hand one of those “Sorry We Missed You!” cards from the Post Office. It says they’re holding a certified letter for me. From the IRS.

Update: It turns out they just want money, and not a lot of it. I need to do a little research, but I’m pretty sure sure I’m going to send it to them tonight, and worry about whether I really owe them money some other time.

This Can’t Be Good, Part 1

I get my internet service from Speakeasy. They have a good reputation and terrific technical support.

Today I got an email from their CEO, Bruce Chatterley, announcing that they’ve just been bought by Best Buy. He’s real excited about all this, of course,

This agreement is a major step forward for our company. While our business remains strong, our relationship with Best Buy provides us with additional resources and brand recognition, while opening new sales channels which will dramatically accelerate our growth.

I can’t imagine why I should care about any of that.

Best Buy, like Speakeasy, is known for its high level of customer service. Our reputation as a trusted provider of voice and data services with stellar customer service will not change. Our values are similar too — Best Buy shares our customer passion, respect for individuals, and drive to do the right thing while achieving results.

Uh, that’s not the Best Buy I know. Maybe it’s one of those things that varies from store to store.

I wonder if Speakeasy will start trying to sell me magazine subscriptions every time I call support…