Autonomy?

According to this New York Times article, more adults, especially women, are becoming more attached to their mothers in adulthood.

Some of the things described in that article is somewhat unsettling to me, like calling your mom more than four times a day, for more than 8 hours total, or buying a house two blocks away from your mother, and talking about sex with parents.

Perhaps it’s just me, but I find these things reflect some kind of neediness. Whatever happened to autonomy? I mean I’m grateful for my family’s support, but most of the time I resolve things on my own, and I turned out fine.

Oh wait, no I didn’t. I turned out to be a hyper-conscious, skeptical pseudo-intellectual who’s ambivalent about everything because he is epistemologically confused.

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The Lowest Common Denominator

This Washington Post story about Bill Richardson’s talk at the Center for National Policy yesterday speaks volumes about the way America conducts its politics today. The story focused, almost next to nothing, on the actual substance of of Richardson’s proposal for how to deal with Iran in the future. Instead, it’s almost strictly a story about how Richardson’s campaign is boring compared to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Indeed, the writer claims that this same “boring” quality is what will make Richardson a good VP-candidate.

The sad reality is: reasonable arguments just don’t sell. Why? Because they are not exciting, not flashy enough. Because we all just need one more self-aggrandizing platitude about hope. Give me a break. It’s sad to me that experience counts for very little, if at all, in any political campaign. But then again, not everyone’s a college graduate.

But back to Richardson’s speech, and unlike the Washington Post story, I’m actually going to talk about what he actually said yesterday. Overall I felt it was a well-argued, reasonable speech that actually says something. Working within a neo-realist IR framework, Richardson is essentially proposing a carrot-and-stick approach to Iran.

However, he failed to address what I thought was two important points, which, if addressed, would’ve made his argument that much stronger. First, he failed to mention, at all, whether or not the military option is off the table. Maybe he doesn’t know and is trying to evade the question, but he should’ve just acknowledged it. Second, he failed to mention whether or not economic sanctions will create greater anti-American sentiments in Iran and cause an increase in fundamentalist/extremist tendencies inside the country.

All in all, not a bad speech, although I would’ve preferred pot roast to cold sandwiches in a plastic box.

The Cheney Vice Presidency

For this week, the Washington Post is running an exclusive, unprecedented look at the Cheney vice presidency.

In my opinion, this is the only work of journalism that is a must-read this year. It breaks down the entire Cheney vice presidency, chronicling it in extensive detail and precision, how it would probably go down in history as the most powerful vice-presidency of all time.

If you care at all about this country, which I know you don’t, you must read this.

Does The World Need Another Paul McCartney Solo Album? (The Answer is No)

In answering whether the world needs yet another Paul McCartney solo album, one must first answer an even more pressing question: can one ever have too much money?

And the answer, like the answer to the original question, is no.

First, let me just say that I have nothing against Paul McCartney, at least not against his Beatles-era work. Those were great: Yesterday, Hey Jude, and all the other classics. Although I do slightly begrudge him for writing “When I’m 64”, which I felt totally out of place on Sergeant Peppers, but that is a debate for another time and place.

Hell, I even find his earliest solo work fine.

But by God, what is a man doing when the pinnacle of his music was fucking FORTY years ago? What does he have to prove? Paul McCartney does not need to put out shitty solo albums in his 60s to prove that he’s still relevant. I mean, for Christ’s sakes, the man wrote some timeless songs that my grandchildren’s generation will still be listening. So instead of playing those three goddamn fucking chords over and over again on his ukulele on “Dance Tonight”, that utterly lame, insipid lead-off single for his new album, Paul McCartney should just shut the fuck up and enjoy his millions and millions of money in peace.

Which brings us back to the first question: can one ever have too much money? How much of a corporate whore does McCartney have to be when he releases an album on a record label owned by Starbucks? Star-fucking-bucks!! It’s not like the guy is panhandling outside of Abbey Road for crack.

All in all, another Paul McCartney solo album just doesn’t make any sense. And if I hear “Dance Tonight” one more time in the Starbucks that I go to every morning for coffee, I’m going to have to burn down the motherfucker.

Martys of Ideology

I was reading an op-ed in the NYT on Saturday, and this particular piece argues that a Michael Bloomberg run would have the Nader-effect, namely, steal votes away from the Dems and install another Republican in the White House. The argument goes like this, and I’m quoting here:

“If you closed your eyes and you were told that someone was pro-public education, pro-choice, pro-immigration rights, pro-gun control, pro-civil rights, pro-gay rights and pro-women’s rights — you would be pretty happy if you were a Democrat.”

The logic goes that because Bloomberg sides with the Democrats on traditionally Democratic platforms, some Democrats, moderate Republicans, and Independents will vote for Bloomberg, thus robbing whatever candidate the Dems eventually end up nominating.

What struck me was not this particular argument, since it’s been well re-hashed time and again. Rather, it’s the way that the statement quoted bunches together a various host of issues under the “Democratic” banner. But let’s ask ourselves: what exactly about those issues, and one’s position on them, that makes a voter “Democratic”? Is there any coherent, underlying foundation?

The answer is no, because there’s no compelling reason why one must take the same position on all of these issues. Is there a compelling reason, or underlying coherent philosophy, that says that one must be pro-civil rights AND pro-choice? What if someone’s Catholic and believes that civil rights should be protected, but who, because of his religion, does not believe in pro-choice?

My point is this: these so-called traditional party platforms do not, in any way, constitute a coherent political philosophy. They are marriages of convenience, created and designed to appeal to the broadest demographic possible. In other words, they are cobbled together. As such, they are only instrumental in nature, whose only purpose is to create an electoral coalition. But because they lack any inherent coherence and consistency, such a coalition is not designed to last. This is why every twenty years or so, we have a major electoral shake-up. The Democratic coalition, built upon northern industrialists, pro-civil rights African Americans, and agrarian Southerners during FDR’s administrations in the Great Depression, collapsed under its own contradiction in the 1970s. After all, what unites these very disparate groups with very different and often opposing political agendas? Nothing.

But because the system is set up this way, all politicians seeking viability must inevitably play by its rules. And those who do not pay the price, like John McCain is paying now. McCain has managed to piss off two of the largest demographics in the current Republican coalition: big business and the South. He pissed off big business by pushing for much stricter campaign-finance laws, and he pissed off the South by pushing for immigration reform that would legalize immigrants currently living in the US. McCain was for banning torture way before it became popular, and he still supports the troop surge even as America wants troops pulled out of Iraq.

Is this a man of contradictions? It would be if you assume that the Republican platform is coherent to BEGIN WITH. Since I argue that it is not, I see no problem with McCain being pro-war on one hand but pro-immigration reform on the other. In fact, I might venture to say that this is how politics OUGHT to be conducted: examining each issue carefully and taking a position that is consistent with one’s own political philosophy, instead of blind obedience to the party platform, which is not a political philosophy to begin with.

But he pays the price, because his ratings have fell among the Republicans. Is John McCain a martyr to ideology? I would say yes.

Resistance Is Futile: You Will Be Assimilated

I have always known that commercialism has the capability to assimilate anything into its folds, but today a particular instance of this assimilation really points out the degree of absurdity of the whole thing.

Behold, the Kurt Cobain lunchbox.

Now, there are only two relevant questions that one can ask in the face of such a monumental cluster-fuck. One, who’s the douchebag that thought it would be a good idea to put a man who is known for his intense anti-commercialist tendencies on a lunchbox? And two, who’s the Nirvana “fan” that would get this item?

Commercialism is truly egalitarian and democratic: after all, everyone can happily consume products that totally fail to realize the irony of the product themselves.

A Case For The Absurdity of Faith

I am not a theist, but over the years, I’ve developed a distaste for the often strident shrieks of atheist arguments. Often times I find that both sides completely miss the point; both of them try to subjugate the other into a set of assumptions that are completely incompatible with each other.

First, as an ontological and metaphysical tool, religion simply cannot have anything to say against the scientific method. Why? Because religion by its nature is not falsifiable, since it does not submit itself to repeated testing of its claims about the natural world, i.e., that God created the world, that everyone descended from Adam and Eve, that a flood destroyed the world, etc. So simply as a descriptive tool, religion fails completely to adequately explain the natural world.

But here is where my first disagreement with most atheists come in. The atheists are right in claiming that science is much better equipped to give an ontological account of the world. However, the same atheists would then go on to attack the religious foundations of morality. The two sets of claims are not inter-related: science can tell you what the world is, but since its central feature is falsibility, it is not very helpful in speaking about ethics. It may be possible that science, with time and research, accurately describe motivations for moral behavior either genetically or through natural selection; but none of this ontological account can provide an adequate guidance for how to behave morally.

Conversely, the theists make the mistake of conflating the moral claims of their religion with its ontological claims, when in fact these two sets of claims do not have much in common. So both sides make the mistake of putting morality and ontology together when they should and are logically apart from each other.

But one might say that if the ontological claims of religion, then what else is left? If one no longer believes that an omnipotent, perfectly-good God created the world in seven days, then can one really call himself a Christian? Further, if ethical claims no longer relied on a religious ontological foundation, then can those claims be called religious claims? The answer is no. But that is only if one chooses to define religion as it is manifested today.

If you strip everything away, eventually you end up with a subjective account of personal ethics, which is inherently not falsifiable in the scientific sense, because everyone is using terms differently, and it’s not likely a consensus will emerge. Then what drives moral motivation? Certainly not reason, because reason, by definition, is transcendental and beyond any single individual. But if not reason, then what? We have no real word to describe the alternative, but the next best thing, you guessed it, is faith.

Which will of course drive the atheists crazy, since faith cannot be falsified through empirical testing. This is where I see atheists as missing the point. Yes, you can show, through empirical observation, that faith in a religiously-oriented ontological account of the world is ludicrous and absurd, but the same cannot be said about faith about personal/subjective moral system.

So this kind of faith is inherently absurd, since it’s not possible, even in theory, to provide justifications that can be proved or disproved empirically. But this in it of itself cannot deter an individual from having faith in his own moral code, one that is divorced from any ontological account. THis is the point that both theists and atheists make.