Archive for January, 2010

Musings on Rights

January 31, 2010

…or, I love it when liberals contradict themselves…

Over at Bob S.’ place last week, in the comments to this post arose quite an interesting discussion of where rights originate. One R. Stanton Scott claimed right off the bat that rights more or less depend on society — that is, that certain rights are not inherent to humans by virtue of their very existence but are dependent on societal mores and whims. I suppose one might say that last term is a loaded one, as it implies that society would do things to bestow rights on people or strip said rights from them by way of chasing certain fads or what-have-you. But is that opinion really that far-fetched, considering what happened to the Jews and other folks in Nazi Germany? As I noted in the comments, to say that people only have the rights society decides to let them have is a recipe for discrimination, tyranny and genocide — with Nazi Germany being a textbook illustration of that.

RSS defended his position by saying that rights being dependent on societal norms “makes them no less real.” And here he contradicts himself for the first time, at least in this particular debate. If rights are dependent on societal norms and relations — thereby subject to revocation depending on societal attitudes — do they exist at all in any meaningful sense of the word? I would argue that they don’t. If humans aren’t entitled to be treated in a certain way by virtue of their very existence — if they’re only entitled to said treatment because society says they are — then that opens the door to all sorts of scum to perpetrate all sorts of villainy upon those that societal consensus deems deserving of it. A couple of us asked if the Founders were wrong when they wrote in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” RSS answered by saying yes, they were wrong, that all men were NOT created equal with certain unalienable rights, “(a)t least not the dark-skinned ones.” To which I replied:

“The point about the treatment of ‘the dark-skinned ones’ is well-taken; however, I do not regard the Founders’ failure to perceive the incongruity between their words and their actions as a justification for following generations’ failure to recognize and respect inalienable rights. The treatment of ‘the dark-skinned ones’ was wrong. But if your view is the correct one, it was just peachy because they didn’t have the right to be considered equal anyway. After all, that was the societal consensus back then…”

To which RSS replied: “(A) ‘right’ to be free did not exist for slaves at the time of the Founding, since rights only exist when social understandings include the concept. This does not make such a situation just of course, or suggest that enslaving them was not unjust–it simply means the understandings of the day included a different concept of justice.”

Here RSS contradicts himself yet again. If you acknowledge any kind of injustice in what certain societies did in the past, then you are necessarily acknowledging by implication that somebody’s rights were violated somewhere along the way. And this, in turn, completely negates the argument that rights are dependent on societal norms and understandings, as it implies those rights were there before society decided they weren’t. This leads to the question that I posed, which by the way was never answered: If rights aren’t dependent on societal understandings, then where exactly do they come from? I would love to see someone answer that question who would argue that rights are not inherent to one’s existence.

For a little bit there I was trying to put my finger on what exactly irks me so about that position, but I think I figured it out. It all goes back to something Sabra and I have spoken of before — the phenomenon of moral relativism. This is exactly what the “rights are dependent on societal consensus” argument smacks of, as it implies that whatever societies decide to do to certain segments is okay. If you’re going to argue that, then you necessarily have to argue that the societal consensus is just, and I think — as the old saying goes — down that road lies nihilistic madness. As I said in the comments:

“Society can contest certain rights to its heart’s content, but the recognition — and respect — of a right to life is ultimately the only thing that keeps said society from descending back into the tribal warfare that Hobbes argued was man’s natural state. If we’re not going to acknowledge and respect the basic human right to life — yes, inherent to one’s very existence — then what’s the point of existing at all? And we can talk all day long about this individual vs. collective right manure, but the fact is that if an individual is denied the best tools of self-defense, said individual is denied the right of self-defense, which ultimately can be seen as depriving him of his right to life. Which takes us right back to the question of whether said right is inherent to one’s existence or dependent on society’s whims. Do you really want to live in a world that is the latter? I sure as hell don’t.”

Yes, there is — dare I say it? a certain pragmatism in acknowledging that rights are endowed upon us by our Creator. One could almost say acknowledging those rights is the only way humankind will survive. It’s pretty frightening to think there are those who still think rights are what society says they are.

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That’s a mighty big assumption there, Sparky…

January 29, 2010

…but then, modern country fans seem to be really good at that sort of thing:

gotta love the people dissing auto tune and kanye west / t pain, I laugh at you country music extremists who only know of country, bluegrass and some southern rock
I am a listener to all genres, open your head and your ears up…

…The Fog Horn String Band
Ray Wylie Hubbard
Elvis Costello
okay so that says you like older music, which is fine but you need to mix it up with current or you’re gonna turn into one of those people who hates everything out there

This is perhaps the most common of said assumptions — that is, that those of us who deride what much of mainstream country has become only listen to the older and more traditional country music. And the people who make these assumptions have absolutely nothing to back them up. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: My dislike for new country didn’t make me go back and just listen to the classic and red-dirt country. I branched out more into rock and metal and found a lot to like there, and I’d venture to say I’m not the only one. If people like that want to call people like me a “country music extremist,” I don’t really have a problem with that, but I really wish they’d dispense with the unfounded assumption that the old country is all we listen to.

For the record: I listened to the Fast Ryde song so as to be able to make an informed decision. It sucked. Just like I figured it might. I don’t agree with everything Jim Malec writes at The 9513, but he pretty much nailed it here.

Wow, did I really read this?

January 29, 2010

Somebody made this comment to Jonathan Gurwitz’s column in the San Antonio Express-News:

Do not look for a solution from the Holy Bible or the “Founding Fathers” – all the USA needs is an overdue redistribution – simply nationalize all individual wealth over $ 20 million – and use it to pay the debt and current bills. There is no sane reason why some should own billions or hundreds of millions. On the global scene the USA simply has to switch from protecting the wealthy and instead support the “average person”. Luckily the USA will not and cannot do it and that is why the USA sinks hanging on to wisdom from the Holy Bible and what some rich slave-owners pretended to obscure with elegant phrases.

Did this guy say what I think he said? Is he really proposing that government, in effect, go out and confiscate American citizens’ money just because he thinks they have too much? One wonders what he thinks their reactions would be. Does he really think they’d just sit there and take it and, after it was taken, go out and make more just to have IT taken from them too? I think it’s safe to say people who think like that are one of the main reasons the Founding Fathers put RKBA protections in the Constitution.

Whoops!

January 29, 2010

Scene: Yesterday at Bill Miller’s BBQ, adjacent to the San Antonio College campus just north of downtown. Sabra and I are sitting there eating breakfast, as Alan Jackson’s “Good Time” comes on KJ97. I think that’s perhaps my least favorite AJ tune after “Chattahoochee.” And the following bit of conversation ensues:

Me: “That song makes me understand perfectly why you don’t like Alan Jackson as much as I do.”
Sabra: “But I LIKE that song.”
Me, as I burst out laughing: “Ohhh, okay!”

She defended her like of the song by saying it was just a fluffy, fun piece — which it is, of course. But that’s all right. No one said our tastes had to line up 100 percent. They almost do, though — a damn sight more than mine and Kitty-Eater’s tastes did, I’ll tell ya that right quick. 😉 Sure is nice, too.

Huh, isn’t this interesting, Cody Canada and the boys doing “Whiskey River”…a damn fine job of it, too. Sabra and I agree on that!

Okay, now this is getting ridiculous.

January 28, 2010

From the letters to the editor in this morning’s San Antonio Express-News:

Big money rules

By any fair legal definition, the decision by a gang of five right-wing judicial outlaws on our Supreme Court constitutes nothing less than an act of treason against the people. Corporations are not the people, and nothing in the Constitution fairly lends itself to any such interpretation. It was only an act of judicial and intellectual fraud by which any contrary holding could emerge.

The Supreme Court Five haven’t just made law from the bench; they have fabricated the Constitution. And while other decisions may have nibbled around the edges of this patently dubious proposition, in one gulp this disreputable majority now presumes to swallow it whole hog.

Will there be no constraints on big money in this country? Are we reverting to a society ruled by the few, a de facto monarchy where Wall Street is king? Patrick Henry would have said, “Forbid it, almighty God.”

Robert Patton

Wow. Of all the lefty diatribes against the Citizens United v. FEC decision this is perhaps the most hysterical I’ve seen yet. Treason? Corporations are not the people? There they go again, claiming one particular collective is undeserving of Bill of Rights protections. Would that we could find out what Robert Patton thinks the Second Amemdment protects so I could mock him even more than I can with what he has given me to work with. But considering he labels the bloc that voted to uphold BoR protection for corporations as a “gang of…right-wing judicial outlaws,” I would feel quite comfortable with betting that he comes down on the same side as do the people who mocked Heller — that is, the wrong one.

Where does he think those ads are gonna run?

January 27, 2010

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that Washington Post lefty E.J. Dionne would be whining about the death of McCain-Feingold, but I still thought this was quite amusing:

Think of this rather persuasive moment in a chat between a corporate lobbyist and a senator: “Are you going to block that taxpayer bailout we want? Well, I’m really sorry, but we’re going to have to run $2 million worth of really vicious ads against you.” The same exchange might take place on tax breaks, consumer protections, environmental rules and worker safeguards.

I alluded to this just the other day, but where does he think those ads are going to run? The only power and influence the corporations have vis-a-vis advertising is the power that the media outlets give them. If the media don’t want the corporations to have that power, all they have to do is not sell them ads. All they have to do is not buy what those eeeevil corporations are trying to sell them. Hey, E.J. and all the rest of you Old Media hacks whining about this: Put your money where your damn mouth is. Go to your advertising departments and let them know when those corporations’ ad reps come calling during election time to buy column-inches or airtime, that they are to tell those reps to put their money back in their pockets and hit the door. Honestly, is it really that hard to figure out? I guess it is, if you’re an “Authorized Journalist.”

On another note, I have noted before how appalling I think it is when said journalists use their First Amendment rights to take a dump on the Second. I thought there was nothing more despicable than that, but then I never thought I’d see anyone who’d call himself or herself a journalist use his or her own First Amendment rights to shit on OTHER people’s 1A rights. But ultimately I’d guess it’s more sour grapes than anything else. I remember this comment from The Bayou blog post mentioned the other day, and I’d have to say it’s about right:

…you are part of a huge corporation who has had unfettered political access for the last 63 years. The only difference between your big corporation and most others is that you a goddamned failure. It pisses you off that corporations that actually pay their talent big bucks to do their thing have now leveled the playing field with your idiot business model.

Yep. Damn journalists can piss and moan about greed and money fueling the process all day long, but I bet you deep down most of them would love to make more of that money, no matter how well they’re compensated, too. And I bet you most of them know deep down that it’s those eeevil corporations that help keep food in their mouths and roofs over their heads. Which is the most likely explanation of why you see them keeping their asses in their seats instead of going to the ad departments and telling the ad salespeople to stand up for principle, because deep down they know they’d be laughed out of the room for the monosynaptic mouth-breathing morons they are.

How exactly do they think…

January 27, 2010

…they’re going to reconcile the two things mentioned here?

Obama will offer fresh details about how he wants to salvage an overhaul of health care, rein in the national debt and help businesses hire again. He will call for education reform and more money for schools, take responsibility for mistakes in his first year and follow up his speech with a dash to Florida to announce $8 billion in awards for high-speed rail.

Rein in the national debt, yet in the same paragraph they say he’s going to demand more money for education. And how about that $8 billion for high-speed rail? I noticed that there was a mention of calling for a freeze on some domestic spending, which is all fine and good; but let’s take a look at this. A freeze in some areas and an increase in others works out to still more spending overall. Combine that with the rhetoric about lowering the national debt, and what does that translate to? Looks to me like it’s going to translate to yet more tax increases on teh eeeevil rich folks — you know, the ones that provide the jobs the president says he wants to create. What kind of fantasy world do these people live in?

Wow, that’s pretty scary.

January 26, 2010

Or, I was a lot smarter than this at that age (emphasis mine)…

Leftists are pouring into town to rail against freewheeling capitalism during the World Social Forum, gleefully cheering the humbling of bankers and business titans by the global economic meltdown.

Gustavo de Biase, a 22-year-old Brazilian wearing a shirt proclaiming “Socialism is Liberty,” said the world’s leftists are convinced they can get presidents from the U.S. to Brazil to embrace policies “of respect and equality aimed at lifting the poor out of misery.”

“We want to distribute the riches to people,” he said. “We’re fighting for a more equal society and we’re saying ‘Down with hunger’ and ‘Down with war.'”

Wants to distribute the riches to people, hmm? Exactly whose riches are we talking about here? I am going to hazard a guess that Mr. de Biase means the money made by the richer in society. Furthermore, I am also going to hazard a guess that he thinks the better-off among his people should just sit there and take it as those tyrannical idealists plunder their wallets and give their money to those who didn’t earn it. One wonders what he and his kind thought of the Boston Tea Party, in which the colonists protested over a 3 percent tax. One also wonders if he sees any contradiction at all in the slogan emblazoned on his shirt — because, at its core, socialism functions by doing exactly what he seems to want to do, plundering from the rich to give to the poor — and that is about the furthest thing from liberty, because those people are essentially being denied the right to their property, and if you don’t have that, you really don’t have liberty. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at their rhetoric, but it’s still disgusting.

Never thought I’d say this…

January 25, 2010

…but I gained a lot of respect for Toby Keith when I read this snippet from a CMT interview:

Speaking of award shows, at the People’s Choice Awards, Keith Urban said something controversial during his acceptance speech: “I don’t even care if you guys download my music illegally. I really don’t care. …” You’re a head of a label. How does that strike you?

Maybe he don’t care. I care. But it’s his call. You have to be able to protect your copyright. The people you do have to protect in copyrights are the songwriters. So, you come to this town and you write. For 20 years, you work at Spaghetti Warehouse and you bus tables, and all of the sudden you’re 38 years old, and you’ve been here 18 years, and all the sudden you write a song and Keith Urban goes and records it. And it’s a smash. You get paid on that. If everybody downloads it for free, you don’t get paid on that. So all you become is unpaid. You’ve offered a treasure, a piece of history to the public and they’re using it to fill their dancehalls and fill their dance floors and listen to the music in their car. Put it on their iPods and all that. And if it is all for free, this guy is still at Spaghetti Warehouse. He gets nothing for it. Keith Urban gets paid. The guy at the bar that plays his music to pack the dance floor gets paid. So artists get paid because they go work and sell the T-shirts, but that songwriter won’t get paid. That’s the guy you have to protect.

I’ve heard people attempt to justify their illegal downloading of music for years by saying “the artist makes more off touring anyway,” but no one ever said anything about the fact that they were in effect taking food out of the mouths of the songwriters and their families. God knows I’ve had enough issues with Toby Keith’s post-“How Do You Like Me Now” attitude and music, but I will give credit where credit is due — and it’s due in a big, big way here. I’d hate to think Urban could be so ignorant about the business he’s in that he wouldn’t know that the music being paid for is one of the chief revenue sources, if not THE chief revenue source, for the songwriters. But either way that doesn’t speak well for him. If Keith Urban wrote all his own songs that’d be one thing, but of course he doesn’t. I know that two of his biggest hits, “Raining On Sunday” and “Making Memories Of Us,” were both penned by favorite Texas singer-songwriters — Radney Foster and Rodney Crowell, respectively. I know if I were either of those two gentlemen I’d be royally pissed off. It pisses me off anyway, actually. It’s bad enough that country radio sees little to nothing that doesn’t come out of Nashville worthy of playing, but here we have one of Nashville’s biggest stars saying in effect it’s all right to make it that much harder for the non-Nashville artists. Even if he doesn’t mean to, it’s almost like he’s saying, “I got mine, the rest of you can go pound sand.” I would love to know what folks like Crowell and Foster think of that.

(h/t The 9513)

On the death of McCain-Feingold…

January 24, 2010

…I am not surprised that our Dear Leader is flustered by it…

The White House and Democratic lawmakers are moving swiftly to come up with new restraints on corporate political spending, including advertising limits on any company receiving bailout money, to blunt the impact of a Supreme Court ruling President Barack Obama calls “devastating.”

“We don’t need to give any more voice to the powerful interests that already drown out the voices of everyday Americans,” Obama said Saturday, devoting his weekly radio and Internet address to the topic. “And we don’t intend to.”
The White House is working chiefly with Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y, on a bill pushing back on the court decision. The goal is to put forward legislation within two weeks, Van Hollen said Saturday, but the choices are limited by the nature of the court’s First Amendment ruling.

…because considering that he and his fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill have zero respect for the Second Amendment, why would any sentient being think they give a damn about the First? I know everyone probably thinks the Democrats are always on the side of the little man, but with their constant assaults on individual rights in so many arenas, that should have been shown as the falsehood that it was long ago. I wonder, though, what does one make of them on one hand saying one collective (the militia) is deserving of constitutional protection while another (the corporation) isn’t? Is a little consistency too much to ask for here?

What really gets me, though, is the media attacking the decision in Citizens United v. FEC:

Mark your calendars, folks. Yesterday, we the people lost all control over our representation. Whether your (sic) a Democrat, Republican or conscientious objector, the U.S. Supreme Court rained on your election parade.

The court based its ruling on the notion of the corporation as individual. These entities have the same First Amendment rights as all of us. The problem, of course, is that we don’t have millions at our disposal to influence elections. They do.

Huh. Here’s a question all those who take that line of thought (and most of those who believe it) apparently haven’t stopped to consider. Where exactly do those corporations get that money? Out of their damn fourth points of contact? If individuals don’t like the tack certain corporations take politically, they are more than free to support corporations who will support the same things they do. You see to this day, for example, gunnies talking about the boycott of Smith and Wesson after the company made that deal with the Clinton DOJ and how said boycott affected the company. There’s no reason that same principle can’t be applied elsewhere.

And here’s another thought: Most if not all the money we’re talking about here is going to be spent on advertisements — advertisements in media outlets. These media outlets are absolutely free NOT to take the money or run the ads. The ONLY way corporations get more power here is if the media GIVE IT TO THEM. Hey, Big Media? If you don’t like the corporations’ ability to spend their money with you, DON’T TAKE THEIR DAMN MONEY! IT REALLY IS THAT SIMPLE! Seems to me the media are only willing to stand up for the individual only to the extent their collective bottom lines won’t be affected.

Sabra has more thoughts, bringing teh snark as only she can:

First off. “The court based its ruling on the notion of the corporation as individual.” Damned activist judges. I mean, it’s not as if corporations have been treated as individuals since at least the 1700s. Really, we need to restrict the concept of First Amendment rights to actual individuals. That way we can concentrate on important things, like ensuring strippers have the right to dance fully nude.

Yep, and if the corporations CAN’T spend the money to counter whatever media bias they encounter, the media can continue to spin whatever issues they want in whatever way they want and say, “let the corps buy an ad! Oh, wait…they CAN’T! HAHAHAHA!” But now, the media are going to have to take a look at selling that ad space, more so considering the dire financial straits in which media find themselves these days. You’d think they’d be rejoicing. I wouldn’t be surprised if the ad departments and most rank-and-file reporters are, though…