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This is my personal website. My professional website is https://www.engineering.purdue.edu/~milind. The views and opinions on this blog are my own and do not reflect those of my employer.

May 9, 2005

Maybe irony really is a British thing…

Filed under: Journal — Milind Kulkarni @ 5:46 pm

Have you ever wanted to listen to celebrities expound on their political views? (Sidebar: Ron Silver excepted, does answering “yes” to the previous question automatically make you a Democrat?) Because if you have, then do I have a doozy of a ‘blog for you: The Huffingon Post, run by everyone’s favorite conservative-suv-driver-turned-card-carrying-greenie, the Grecian Arianna Huffington. She’s managed to bring together a bunch of A-, B-, and even C-list celebrities (and, I’ll grant, a few noteworthy commentators as well) to wax philosophical and political on her website. Despite being only up for one day, it’s already got more posts that I really want to read.

But there was a more salient reason for my bringing this up, which hearkens back to the title of the post. Among the guest contributors to the blog is Hilary Rosen, nee “RIAA Queen Bee,” who contributed this gem of a post, wherein she berates Steve Jobs for allowing the iPod to work only with songs from the iTunes music store, something that she considers an unfair restriction.

I ask you, is she just completely off her rocker? Is she completely immune to irony? I’ll give you a second to spot it. Another contributor took a stab at it, offering up the “How can Hilary Rosen complain about consumer choice when the RIAA has absolutely no consumer street-cred” argument. To this, I will give the “close, but no cigar” award.

What’s truly baffling about Ms. Rosen’s post is that the iPod is perfectly happy to play unrestricted music in the form of MP3s. So as long as any music you have is in the MP3 format, it will play merrily on your iPod. So why aren’t the songs from other music stores (not to mention the iTunes Music Store) playable on your iPod? Why aren’t they MP3s? Why the “anti-consumer” behavior of the iPod? Because of the RIAA! The DRM restrictions on iTMS and the other music stores are entirely because of Hilary Rosen’s merry band of lobbyists and lawyers. Without those restrictions, any music bought from any store (as long as it is in the widely accepted MP3 format) could be played on the iPod. Echoing the other link, I want some of what Hilary Rosen is smoking.

May 4, 2005

Finally!

Filed under: Website — Milind Kulkarni @ 1:15 pm

After much struggling, I got the LivePress plug in working with the ‘blog. Now whenever I post to my WordPress blog, it should get cross-posted automagically to LiveJournal. w00t!

Keanu Reeves, I Ain’t

Filed under: Journal — Milind Kulkarni @ 8:50 am

Advocatus Diaboli is Latin for Devil’s Advocate. Its original use (which persists to this day) was to describe an official of the Catholic church whose job it was to argue the case against canonization (here’s hoping the one for JP Duece is a good one). The more common use, these days, is to describe someone who takes the opposite position in an argument, often simply for the sake of opposition.

The hardest part of playing Devil’s Advocate is when you don’t actually agree with the position you are taking. I think that in some ways this is the truest test of one’s argumentative skills; it’s much easier to argue from passion than it is to argue simply from facts, and it’s nigh impossible to generate passion for a position you dislike (unless you just happen to like arguments). Taking the Devil’s Advocate position can also be beneficial: by arguing the other side, you can often discover flaws in, or better counter-arguments for, your own position.

It’s something that I used to like to do (because hey, I like arguments). But I’ve noticed something troubling. I’m having a harder and harder time playing a good Devil’s Advocate. Which is to say, I am no longer able to argue against a position that I support.

This bothers me because I think this indicates that I can no longer argue dispassionately. If I have a strong position on an issue, I can’t distance myself from that position; when I try to take a position counter to my beliefs, I spend most of my time thinking, “Man, this is a stupid argument,” or something similar.

A good example of this is the Social Security debate. I can’t come up with a good argument for privatizing Social Security that doesn’t seem either to have an obvious counter, to be a simple strawman or to be plain dishonest. Maybe it’s because the arguments really are stupid. Or maybe it’s because I’ve just become dogmatic. That second option worries me.

Given that it doesn’t really happen for issues that I don’t care strongly about (I am perfectly willing to argue both sides of a gun control argument), that second option seems like it could be the truth. I think it may be a consequence of becoming more politically aware, and at the same time becoming more strident in my defense of my positions. I’m so tied to my position that I can’t countenance arguing against it.

So, is dogma bad in and of itself? Or is it only bad when it’s obviously flawed? Or is it ok for me to have this problem? Is it even a problem? I don’t know. It’s (obviously) something I’ve been thinking about for a while, and something I’ll keep thinking about.

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