Obama for middle-managers

(inspired by the ‘Yes we can’ powerpoint slides…)

We Will

  • act – not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth
  • build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together
  • restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost
  • harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories
  • transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age
  • begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people
  • work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the spectre of a warming planet
  • [To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent], extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist
  • [for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents], defeat you

We Will Not…

  • give [those ideals] up for expedience’s sake
  • apologise for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defence

Nokiana: the one about the CIA, Syria, and the N95

Matt Kane resurfaced on Bristol‘s underscore mailing list  with this intriguing snippet, after some travels around the middle-east: ” … discovered N95s (not mine) cannot be taken into Syria”.

I asked for the backstory, which goes like this:

Quite a palaver. Got the train from Istanbul to Syria (amazing trip!). At the border they didn’t search the bags of “westerners” but asked us all to show our phones and cameras. They glanced at them all quickly, checking the brand (“Nikon, ok. SonyEricsson, ok”). One guy had an N95 and they led him off the train. His sister informed us that they’d said it wasn’t allowed in Syria, and that if she knew her brother he’d not give it up without a fight. Despite being on contract, he argued with them for an hour and a half, even calling the embassies in Damascus and Ankara. In the end he gave it up, with a promise that they’d send it on to the airport from where he was leaving. A few days later we’re chatting with a barman and spot his phone – an N95, and yes, he got it in Syria! A few days after that we found out the full story from our hotel owner in Damascus. Apparently the CIA gave a load of bugged N95s to high-ranking Kurdish officials in Iraq, many of which were then smuggled into Syria and given as gifts to various shady characters. After the Hezbollah guy was assassinated in Damascus a few months ago, the Syrians set about trying to root out spies, which led to this ban on bringing N95s into the country. Apparently.

This is the first I’ve heard of it, but searching throws up a few references to rigged N95s as “spy phones”.

Somewhat-unrelated aside: I don’t believe the relevant functionality is exposed in the N95’s widget APIs yet. I had trouble making it vibrate, let alone self-destruct after this message. But at least widget/gadget/app security is getting some attention lately. It can’t be too long before “spy widgets” on your phone become a real concern, particularly since the exposure of phone APIs to 3rd party apps is such a creative combination. I should be clear that AFAIK, Nokia’s N95 widget platform is free of such vulnerabilities currently, and any “spy phone” mischief so far has been achieved through other kinds of interference. But it does make me glad to see a Widgets 1.0: Digital Signature spec moving along at W3C…

Empathy, Art or Science?

head of a  papier-mâché model from Dr. Auzoux collection, Smithsonian.From xForums, “the last bastion of intelligent discussion”, via Daily Kos:

That sucks and the guy deserves money but it’s really not the guards fault his spine is made out of paper mache.

If America were Iraq what would it be?, Juan Cole (Informed Comment, 22 September 2004).

What if, from time to time, the US Army besieged Virginia Beach, killing hundreds of armed members of the Christian Soldiers? What if entire platoons of the Christian Soldiers militia holed up in Arlington National Cemetery, and were bombarded by US Air Force warplanes daily, destroying thousands of graves and even pulverizing the Vietnam Memorial over on the Mall? What if the National Council of Churches had to call for a popular march of thousands of believers to converge on the National Cathedral to stop the US Army from demolishing it to get at a rogue band of the Timothy McVeigh Memorial Brigades?

Papier Mâchè spine xrayImagine having a papier mâchè spine…

Under Mars

Via Raed in the Middle, awful pictures from Iraq: Undermars.com. As I write, the site is barely getting any attention, according to Google News. Shannon Larratt’s Zentastic Blog claims some backstory:

I want to be clear as well this is not a pro-war or anti-war or pro-Bush or anti-Bush site; it’s just an attempt to help people express what’s going on in their lives and communicate it to others. The more we know about each others lives, the better this world will be.

These are some of the worst pictures I’ve seen online. I expect we’ll be hearing more about ‘Under Mars’…

Why War? Metaphor and War

Why War? Metaphor and War, by George Lakoff (AlterNet, Mar 18 2003).

One of the most central metaphors in our foreign policy is that A Nation Is A Person. It is used hundreds of times a day, every time the nation of Iraq is conceptualized in terms of a single person, Saddam Hussein. The war, we are told, is not being waged against the Iraqi people, but only against this one person. Ordinary American citizens are using this metaphor when they say things like, “Saddam is a tyrant. He must be stopped.” What the metaphor hides, of course, is that the 3000 bombs to be dropped in the first two days will not be dropped on that one person. They will kill many thousands of the people hidden by the metaphor, people that according to the metaphor we are not going to war against.

[...] One of the fundamental findings of cognitive science is that people think in terms of frames and metaphors — conceptual structures like those we have been describing. The frames are in the synapses of our brains — physically present in the form of neural circuitry. When the facts don’t fit the frames, the frames are kept and the facts ignored.

It is a common folk theory of progressives that “The facts will set you free!” If only you can get all the facts out there in the public eye, then every rational person will reach the right conclusion. It is a vain hope. Human brains just don’t work that way. Framing matters. Frames once entrenched are hard to dispel.

See also earlier pieces on the first Gulf War and metaphor (part 1, part 2). Also, more recently, his commentary on on the “war on terror” and other conservative catchphrases.

There are also a few excerpts from his’ book Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think available online.

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