This Makes Me Happy XV

February 16, 2012

The Fallacy of Personal Autonomy Part 1 of 3: Context

June 5, 2011

For present purposes, Identity is the group of characteristics that makes one thing distinct from everything else.  For example, the identity of “a” in “car” is something like the combined identities of:

1) the English letter A, 2) lowercase, 3) between the letters “c” and “r” in a three letter American English word for automobile, 4) written in this font and size.  So, the above “a” is not c”A”r or c”a“r.  But it is also not 5) c”a”t (different word), or 6) I love my c”a”r (combined with other words to form a different expression).  Ok?

Now imagine the English Language Literati decide the letter C is confusing, redundant, and unnecessary (after all it merely combines the sounds of two existing letters: K and S).  So they excise the excess.  C is no longer recognized as a letter and S and K are substituted for C where it used to appear.  What used to be spelled “car” is now “kar.”

Does this change the identity of the particular “a” referenced above?  Of course – it’s no longer part of a (pardon the pun) real word.

Point being, the above “a” depends for its identity on many, many factors outside of itself.  Things seemingly unrelated to that “a” – ie the abolition of the letter C – can greatly impact the very essence of that it is to be that particular “a.”

To a certain extent, this is true of all things – physical, psychological, simple, or complex.  That is, the identity of one depends on traits of others that seem to be separate from and outside of itself.

For example, a circle requires a point from which all locations on the circle’s perimeter are equidistant.  Where the point changes, so does the circle.  1+1=2 is only true within the context of certain numeral systems, eg true in base-10 but false in base-2 (binary).  Color depends on light frequency and reflective/absorptive properties of material.  Et cetera, et cetera.

Next, Part 2: Personal Identity



The Evolution of Music and Film

April 30, 2010

Teenage Jesus and the Jerks were an influential 1970’s No Wave band.  They inspired post-punk groups like Swans, who in turn influenced many modern day acts, including Tool.

Their respective music videos are below, the progression is apparent (albeit not for the faint of heart).

“Orphans” by Teenage Jesus and the Jerks

“Love of Life” by Swans

“Stinkfist” by Tool

This Makes Me Happy Part XIV

April 6, 2010

Joshua Sacco kicks off opening day at Fenway 2010.  Not a bad way to start the season.

Mr. Sacco’s debut

The original (be sure not to blink around 1:45)

A Quick Note on Healthcare

March 30, 2010

Everyone is sick of talking about healthcare (pun intended, sorry), so I’ll make this brief.  The following speaks to healthcare on a macro level and is not meant to take a position on the merits of the bill currently before Congress.

By law, hospitals must treat patients in emergency situations, even if the patient has no insurance or alternative means for covering the cost of care. A significant percentage of ER patients do not have insurance. This study, for example, places the number at 25%. This means the rest of the system, namely the insured, must absorb the cost of the uninsured i.e. pay higher premiums.

The solution is to 1) insure everyone, 2) refuse medical treatment to the uninsured.

(Keeping the current system is not an option.  Medical costs are rapidly increasing – 3x since 1990, 8x since 1980 – and will continue to do so until some kind of reform is implemented.  That point, at least, is well settled.)

Now, many believe option #2 is morally reprehensible, while others counter that option #1 is an unwarranted government intrusion into personal rights and privacy (personally I’d be more concerned about things like Sec. 203(b) of the Patriot Act, but that’s for another day).

Those who oppose universal healthcare have plenty of valid reasons for doing so.  However, it’s important to acknowledge the cost of not implementing universal healthcare: no insurance = no care.

The Best Video on Youtube

March 26, 2010

This is old news but worth repeating. Battle at Kruger is a beautifully shot, amateur video of an incredible battle between lions, buffalo, and a crocodile. Watch it now if you haven’t already, it’ll be the best 8:24 of your day.

Politics is About Policy NOT People

June 10, 2009

PopeYesterday U.S. Senators Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham sponsored a provision to the $100B spending bill for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The provision would bar the release of photographs showing U.S. abuses of suspected terrorist detainees (read: Guantanamo Bay).

This is a sensitive issue with compelling arguments on both sides.  However, like many of today’s hot-button political issues it essentially boils down to freedom (the right to know) versus security (or the perception of).

The alarming aspect of this debate is not the prohibition itself but the justification provided for it.  Yesterday Sen. Graham addressed his constituents and the possibility his provision may be removed from the bill:

“I cannot believe that we’re about to do this.  That we’re going to dismiss the advice of our commanders who are leading our country in the time of war to give in to the fringe element.”

(an audio clip can be found here)

Senator Graham believes his provision should pass because “our commanders advise it.”

This kind of blind faith in “authority” lead Congress to authorize the Iraq war before confirming the existence of WMDs.  This kind of blind faith is not patriotic.  It does not safeguard America or Americans; quite the opposite in fact.

One of the beautiful aspects of America is our intricate network of checks and balances.  However, for the American government to function properly, each division must remain autonomous – pursue its own interests, voice its own concerns, and rarely (if ever) defer to an authority on the sole basis of rank and file.

There is a plausible argument for preventing the release of certain photos.  It is not one that I personally agree with, but that is because of policies I support (e.g. freedom of information, full disclosure of government actions, and torture is never acceptable in any situation) not because an authority or commander says so.

People are fallible, policies need not be, and political decisions should be based on the latter, not the former.