Monday, August 29, 2005

Bush's Draft Letter to Cindy Sheehan

From a conservative blog ostensibly seeking to restore objectivity to Nevada County media ( comes this link: A supposedly leaked draft speech of Bush's response to Cindy Sheehan, so belatedly late, is available there. Interspersed are my comments.
“Dear Mrs. Sheehan,
You have asked me to identify the noble cause for which your son died. I have not answered you personally out of respect for the nobility of your son's sacrifice.”

Putting aside the nobility of said sacrifice: How is not responding to one's grieving mothers and taking a vacation while others die under one's command respect? How do conservatives find this impressive? Because there are noble-sounding words? Yes, and Hitler's mouth was full of sweet sounds.

“Being president forces me into the spotlight, but I would rather stand in the shadows of men like Casey Sheehan.”

And your cowardice assures that you do stand in their shadows, but I would think there are rather longer shadows to stand in: women and men fighting for good causes with courage, not bad ones with courage.

“Directing national attention on my response to your protest creates a distraction from what matters. The focus of our attention, and our admiration, should rest on people like Casey Sheehan, who stand in the breach when evil threatens to break out and consume a helpless people.”

So responding to individual dissidents ain't allowed, but honoring individual soldiers is? What kind of double standard is this? And if the cause is indeed so noble, why not just respond and get it done with?

Evil threatens to break out? Saddam was at his weakest before the invasion, as everyone knew. He had no intent to “break out”, and Bush cannot provide one ounce of evidence to prove that, even if the Kuwaiti invasion was not a misguided attempt to appeal to the imperial master (among other things, of course).

The Iraqi people were not helpless in 1991 against Saddam; they got crushed because of your father, boyking George. And they are not helpless now, as more and more still resist your soldiers trying to turn their country into you and your puppetmaster's playground.
I will discuss this more extensively in a post coming up, but let me point out that even if the story of “liberation” is not mostly a crock, 100,000 civilian deaths and 1500 military deaths for said liberation, especially since we did not consult the Iraqi people before liberating them (largely because the Administration was quixotically looking for WMDs), may not be worth it. In any respect, no one gave us the right to answer the question, “Was it worth it?”, with other people's lives.

“The running story on the news networks should be the valiant efforts of our troops -- the merchants of mercy who export freedom and import honor. They trade their own lives for the sake of others. “

And, as FAIR indicates, indeed the running story is the nationalist mythos, and if it had not been those boys would not have died.

“As a result, we live in a nation where a woman can camp outside of the president's house and verbally attack the president for weeks on end without fear of prison, torture or death. And the number of nations where such protest is possible has multiplied thanks to the work of our military.”

Multiplied? As in Vietnam, Chile, Iran, Nicaragua, Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and elsewhere where freedom was conquered by the Americans?

“You ask for what noble cause your son died?

In a sense he died so that people like you, who passionately oppose government policies, can freely express that opposition. As you camp in Crawford, you should take off your shoes, for you stand on holy ground. This land was bought with the blood of men like your son.”

Actually, this land wasn't “bought”, it was stolen through extortion and sheer cowardice. And watch as Bush attempts to appeal to the national identity to override dissent!

“Now, 25 million Iraqis cry out to enjoy the life you take for granted. Most of them will never use their freedom to denigrate the sacrifice of those who paid for it. But once liberty is enshrined in law, they will be free to do so. And when the Iraqis finally escape their incarceration, hope will spread throughout that enslaved region of the world, eventually making us all safer and more free. “

They cry out to be free of the American occupiers as well. Why they are not out is the real question that American news should be asking.

“The key is in the lock of the prison door. Bold men risk everything to turn it.”

Turn it for others in total disregard for their safety?

“Mrs. Sheehan, everyone dies. But few experience the bittersweet glory of death with a purpose -- death that sets people free and produces ripples of liberty hundreds of years into the future.”
Hitler could easily have uttered such words. All empire masters say that service to the state is the highest end and that sacrifice to its graveyards and its burgeoning stomach of stolen life is the best way to do.

“Casey Sheehan died that freedom might triumph over bondage, hope over despair, prosperity over misery. He died restoring justice and mercy. He lived and died to help to destroy the last stubborn vestiges of the Dark Ages.”

The last stubborn vestiges of the Dark Ages? As a billion live on less than a dollar a day? As hundreds of millions starve? As Africa remains a poor continent thanks to what European imperialism did to it? Are these comments intended to be taken seriously by anyone?

“To paraphrase President Lincoln, the world will little note nor long remember what you and I say here. But it can never forget what Casey Sheehan did during his brief turn on earth. If we are wise, we will take increased devotion to that cause for which he gave the last full measure of devotion.”

Actually, the world is doing a great job of trying to forget Casey Sheehan. It is trying to silence the mother of this soldier. It is refused to photograph the dead coming home in coffins. And many other soldiers fighting for great empires are not remembered.

“Our brave warriors have blazed a trail. They have entrusted the completion of the task to those of us they left behind. Let's, you and I, resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.
Let's finish the work that they have thus far so nobly advanced.”
With torture, death, colonial occupation, plunder and terror?

George W. Bush”

Except for the word “sincerely”, the only honest words in this letter.


Consider, for a moment, the audacity of the conservative movement.

Dinesh D'Souza, in his debate with Tim Wise at a community college, had the audacity to say that he knew Martin Luther King, Jr's outlook on affirmative action better than MLK's own wife.

A Marines recruiter managed to delude a very good friend of mine into joining the military. Said friend became so depressed by the experience that he punctured his own arm with pencils. As we knew because we were waiting for him to get out of boot camp, he was in there for a few weeks. The same recruiter called another friend and tried to sell him on the Marines. My second friend referenced our buddy who had just gotten out of boot camp. The sergeant, who must have known damn well that we knew when our ex-Marine bud had gotten back, said (paraphrasing) "Oh, him! Don't listen to him, he was only here a few days." In short: This recruiter thought it prudent to lie to us about information we had readily available even if memory had failed us, all to satisfy his quota.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

A Bit of Fallacy?

I bet you've all heard something like this before:

"Man, believing in something and fighting for it?! That's what those people who crashed into the World Trade Center thought!"

"Welfare? Isn't that what Stalin did?"

And so on. Basically, pick X bad group of people and say that they did that too. But let's try another one and see if the fallacy becomes obvious:

"Hitler breathed! You should stop breathing too!"

The fact is that it's not a point of logic that people who we think of as "bad" did only bad things, so that by association only people like that would do X or Y thing. People are complex, multi-faceted entities, and often do many good and many bad things. Hitler was a monster, but the Third Reich provided employment for a previously collapsing nation.

The act in question might be such a good idea that it's just a matter of simple logic. Even monsters could agree with it. Or some similar variant.

What someone has to prove is that there is something intrinsically wrong with the act. There are a variety of ways to do this. For example:

"Hitler killed Jews. Killing is wrong. Therefore, Hitler did a wrong thing." Or perhaps:

"Everyone says nice things. Hitler says nice things. Osama bin Laden says nice things. What matters is actions. So Bush doesn't get away with murder because he has good speech writers." Here, we see a sharp distinction: In one column, everybody fits. In another column, we see that Bush, Osama and Hitler are together, but not anyone else, especially the interlocutors. Further, this is not a matter of coincidence.

It can get even more subtle. So perhaps believing in something and fighting for it, while sounding good, has this intrinsic direction towards making someone intolerant, overzealous, and desperate, such that they are more likely to commit acts like the ones done on 9/11. But then one has to prove that that intrinsic direction clouds out all other possibilities and that there is no way to head a different direction: say, by being compassionate, by holding good values, etc. After all, one could say regarding the 9/11 hijackers that of course people fighting for bad values will do bad things. The rebuttal would be that the 9/11 hijackers could easily have said the same thing, and that "bad values" depends a lot on the beholder. And so on.

My point here is to separate the cases where someone is simply doing a kneejerk from where there is a good analogy to be made.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Response to Ann Coulter's "Cindy Sheehan: Commander in Grief"

“To expiate the pain of losing her firstborn son in the Iraq war, Cindy Sheehan decided to cheer herself up by engaging in Stalinist agitprop outside President Bush's Crawford ranch. It's the strangest method of grieving I've seen since Paul Wellstone's funeral. Someone needs to teach these liberals how to mourn.”

Stalinist agitprop? Is this remotely meant to be taken seriously? Does every reactionary rightist have to say that we're Stalinists? Fine, then. “Ann Coulter saw fit to engage in Nazi perception management today when...”

Of course, as Albert points out, he was anti-Stalinist when Dave Horowitz was a Leninist, and most of the Left has a better critique of the USSR than the mainstream, so hey.

“Call me old-fashioned, but a grief-stricken war mother shouldn't have her own full-time PR flack. After your third profile on "Entertainment Tonight," you're no longer a grieving mom; you're a C-list celebrity trolling for a book deal or a reality show.”

Ah, but Terry Schiavo's parents should! And surely nobody has made money on the right.

“We're sorry about Ms. Sheehan's son, but the entire nation was attacked on 9/11. This isn't about her personal loss. America has been under relentless attack from Islamic terrorists for 20 years, culminating in a devastating attack on U.S. soil on 9/11. It's not going to stop unless we fight back, annihilate Muslim fanatics, destroy their bases, eliminate their sponsors and end all their hope. A lot more mothers will be grieving if our military policy is: No one gets hurt!”

Really? A simple test would answer this question: Has terror gone down since Bush came into office? No, it has gone up, both in long-term success and raw numbers of deaths. Is Coulter capable of citing one statistic, one authority, one actual argument with logic?

And how was the whole of America attacked? Yes, 9/11 was a tragedy, and it was designed to terrify the American people, but that doesn't mean John Q. Public is more threatened by terrorism than traffic. Coulter's rhetoric actually helps the terrorists (not that I think this is the relevant issue).

Destroy their bases, eliminate sponsors, end hope... That is a laughable and incomplete way of saying “Don't just capture some dudes, but actually end the organization.” But Bush hasn't even tried to do that. Further, Coulter offers zero ethical reasoning here as to why relentless attacks from Muslim fanatics justifies violent retribution, especially violent retribution that does not target said fanatics and actually gives them what they want at wholesale prices.

Ms. Coulter, even conservative security analysts have attacked Bush's policies on a simple efficacy method, let alone on the ethics of killing hundreds of thousands in exchange for our few thousand.

“Fortunately, the Constitution vests authority to make foreign policy with the president of the United States, not with this week's sad story. But liberals think that since they have been able to produce a grieving mother, the commander in chief should step aside and let Cindy Sheehan make foreign policy for the nation. As Maureen Dowd said, it's "inhumane" for Bush not "to understand that the moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute.”
Wrong again. Foreign policy isn't just handed to the President on the silver platter. Congress must be consulted and informed and must ratify treaties, appoint ambassadors, actually declare wars, etc. So Bush's rule is unconstitutional as well.

“I'm not sure what "moral authority" is supposed to mean in that sentence, but if it has anything to do with Cindy Sheehan dictating America's foreign policy, then no, it is not "absolute." It's not even conditional, provisional, fleeting, theoretical or ephemeral.”

So someone who has suffered thanks to someone else's decisions has no moral authority? What is this garbage? Of course, the Right doesn't actually believe this. Suffering Iraqis are every reason to justify their imperialist oil grab.

“The logical, intellectual and ethical shortcomings of such a statement are staggering. If one dead son means no one can win an argument with you, how about two dead sons? What if the person arguing with you is a mother who also lost a son in Iraq and she's pro-war? Do we decide the winner with a coin toss? Or do we see if there's a woman out there who lost two children in Iraq and see what she thinks about the war?”

No. Coulter can build strawmen all she wants, but that's not the argument. Rather, if one's son has died, one should demand some answers, and we should respect the deep emotions they may be feeling (instead of publicly lambasting and lampooning them, which, as it is what the Right is doing, leaves Coulter argument-free as always). “Dowd's "absolute" moral authority column demonstrates, once again, what can happen when liberals start tossing around terms they don't understand like "absolute" and "moral." It seems that the inspiration for Dowd's column was also absolute. On the rocks.”

And rightists are so restrained about that word?

“Liberals demand that we listen with rapt attention to Sheehan, but she has nothing new to say about the war. At least nothing we haven't heard from Michael Moore since approximately 11 a.m., Sept. 11, 2001. It's a neocon war; we're fighting for Israel; it's a war for oil; Bush lied, kids died; there is no connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida. Turn on MSNBC's "Hardball" and you can hear it right now. At this point, Cindy Sheehan is like a touring company of Air America radio: Same old script and it's not even the original cast.

These arguments didn't persuade Hillary Clinton or John McCain to vote against the war. They didn't persuade Democratic primary voters, who unceremoniously dumped anti-war candidate Howard Dean in favor of John Kerry, who voted for the war before he voted against it. They certainly didn't persuade a majority of American voters who re-upped George Bush's tenure as the nation's commander in chief last November.

But now liberals demand that we listen to the same old arguments all over again, not because Sheehan has any new insights, but because she has the ability to repel dissent by citing her grief.”

She only has that ability if others give it to them. But what kind of inhuman monster would not reevaluate a war based on courage and conviction like Sheehan has shown? Yes, Sheehan might still be wrong. Fine. But that is precisely the question Sheehan is asking.

But that's silly. A new death is a new insight. New facts come up all the time (apparently, given the American people's waking up to the injustice and death). Before the war, we only thought there would be looting; now, we know there was. And so on.

Coulter implies here that the popular position is the right one. But not only is that a blatantly ridiculous rhetorical ploy, she doesn't even believe it, nor does the Right. For the Right, if the position is unpopular or not current government policy, they are morally dissenting (say, being against abortion or affirmative action or international law or... actually, the majority of liberal positions, according to poll after poll, but hey); if it is, then they are just representing the opinions of mainstream America, so buzz off. Sorry, two contradictory premises don't work. Positions are right and should be advocated based only on their logic and reasoning, not on whether or not a majority was convinced. Only in this case, Coulter's flatly wrong about some things and begs the question with others. In fact, the majority is against the war and was against unilateral action or action outside of Congress' mandates before the war began. The fact that the majority opinion did not become policy answers Coulter's blather about the relative success of candidates in elections: even rightists can recognize that success is determined at least as much by incumbent status, money, popularity among corporate and other elites, and “image”/media appeal as by issues (and, in fact, I'd daresay that, combined with the media culture we have, politics are in fact 95% horseraces and PR contests, not discussions about issues).

Coulter and the right more generally argues that liberals blame conservatives for leveraging Terry Schiavo's private pain for public gain. Of course, the best they've done is to either prove that both Schiavo's and Sheehan's tactics are fair or that both are unfair, neither of which does the conservative movement any good. But there is a fundamental disanalogy between Terry's parents, who were making an open ploy to try to hijack control from the legal caretaker in what was essentially a private decision affecting only a small set of people, versus Sheehan, who is discussing a fundamentally public issue. Either of them may be right or wrong (Schiavo's parents being mostly wrong, Sheehan being mostly right, in my obviously totally objective view ;), but Schiavo's death was not caused by a governmental mandate.

“On the bright side, Sheehan shows us what Democrats would say if they thought they were immunized from disagreement. Sheehan has called President Bush "that filth-spewer and warmonger." She says "America has been killing people on this continent since it was started" and "the killing has gone on unabated for over 200 years." She calls the U.S. government a "morally repugnant system" and says, "This country is not worth dying for." I have a feeling every time this gal opens her trap, Michael Moore gets a residuals check.”

Ah, yes, guilt by association! First of all, none of these things prove her wrong, especially not the Michael Moore bit (for a laugh, check out a recent Daily Show wherein Jon Stewart plays Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon with the right's logic); second of all, none of this is remotely as hateful as Coulter's comments, such as “We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals...” Sorry, Ann, I'm not scared, nor was I scared when a skinhead inspired by nationalist commissars like you threatened me with violence or when my friend got pummeled for trying to set up an anarchist club. Some people actually have convictions, ones that are not popular and do not get them syndicated columns.

How is it somehow irrational or insulting to say a fact: that America has been killing since it started? One can nitpick (can one say "America" killed the Native Americans? and so on), but the general picture is accurate, despite what conservatives like to imply while conceding the facts used to make the argument. But even if it wasn't, this is NOT a polemic remotely like what the Right does, which in fact hurls ad hominems, not arguments (however offensive said arguments may be).

“Evidently, however, there are some things worth killing for. Sheehan recently said she only seemed calm "because if I started hitting something, I wouldn't stop 'til it was dead." It's a wonder Bush won't meet with her. “

This is our courageous warrior president?! With Secret Security and the whole of the military behind him, he backs down from a mother who lost her son? Coulter reveals more than she knows with this snide joke.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

GTA and Censorship: "Hot Coffee"

There has been a controversy recently (sorry for the relatively late post) over Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas' "hot coffee" mod, wherein a player can have crudely simulated sex with the main character's girlfriend, Denise. I hope that the ridiculousness of taking Rockstar Games to task for material that must be unlocked by third party software is transparently obvious. Can I sue Id Games now for players making nude models to shoot railguns with?

Of course, this is just another aspect of the "Our kids are being corrupted" crusade that has been launched in recent years against violent media, video games, the Internet...

Tell me: Is anybody more concerned about the fact that a kid can, with a little Internet savvy (and most kids nowadays have it in spades), unlock an almost infinite tract of hardcore bondage, rape or snuff porn, not to mention graphic videos of helicopter pilots shooting innocent people and the effects of a shotgun blast on a person? And that they can do so even with the protections that some parents purchase or implement to protect their kids from such material?

Of course, despite this, I would not propose banning one pornographic picture, which brings to mind a discussion that is often simply passed over by folks like Thompson, Clinton and Lieberman. People have the right to produce objectionable material. You may complain all you want, sirs, but aside from giving parents more tools to protect their kids (and even that must be balanced by children's rights), government has very little public policy reasoning to ban video games.

My position is much less extreme than other video gamers like Scott Ramsoomair of VG Cats or Mr. Buckley of Ctrl-Alt-Delete, though when push comes to shove I side with them in a second. For one thing, while many parents are very derelict in their duties, to "blame the parents" is very uncompassionate and ignores the complex issues at play. Many parents simply do not have the time to monitor their children, as to support them they have to work overtime at awful and draining jobs. This is not their fault, but the economy's, by demanding that more and more productivity be done for less and less wages, such that two parents spend 40 hours a week outside the house at the least. Further, older generations do not have the tech savvy to compete with their kids' abilities to trick them. So they must take responsibility, but so must a whole host of others.

For there are many advocates (Ralph Nader among them) who fully respect the free speech issues and nonetheless feel that it is a sad tribute to a militarized culture that game after game is released that stresses violent and sexist solutions to problems. What do I say to those people?

1) Violent video games do deal with violence, yes, but they do so in a far more open and silly way than even Looney Tunes. Far more violence and serial killing has undoubtedly been caused by kid's cartoons or the Bible (the latter of which includes, in the Old Testament, descriptions of slaughter and debauchery that is being honored).

The question of, "What is the impact to kids?" is an empirical one. Note that millions of gamers have been playing games since Pong, and an infinitestimal minority, probably less than would be expected statistically, kill others. Further, in an increasingly fragmented culture, video gamers often meet each other through a shared experience. Friends of mine have met through Doom. Serious studies have found that, while there may be some bad influences on already disturbed kids (but that is reverse causal: disturbance causes video game playing, not video game playing causes disturbance), the vast majority of gamers are actually more healthy. Let me repeat that: The cathartic effect of exercising one's fantasies of violence, which will occur to pretty much anyone (and especially in such a militarized culture), is very well documented, and helps form healthy behavior patterns. Angry, lonely kids will exist in our culture (and I will get to why) no matter what. The question is, will they shoot up their school? Solve their problems with drugs, alcohol and street brawls? Or will they play Doom and get that rage out? I have seen my generation do all three. The latter are the best off.

Imagine if Bush, instead of resolving his daddy issues with Saddam by killing 100,000 people, had done a Counter-Strike match. Heck, he could even have played Counter-Terrorists.

2) What do these advocates say about the fact that our media regularly says that blacks are inferior, that they riot and "play the race card" and do all these things, but is silent about white behavior? What do they say about the fact that the media outlets take it for granted that jingoist subservience to state violence is considered the honorable norm, and that the media regularly imply that it is okay to bomb other countries for no especially good reason?

3) Video games are not homogenuous. Yes, GTA may stress carjacking and killing, but even it also tests a wide variety of skills (and may even make better drivers: after all, the linkage between video games and hand-eye coordination is very well-established.) Role playing games like Fallout, Arcanum, Final Fantasy and similar often contain adult material, but they also stress conversation, puzzle-solving, and a variety of outlooks to solve problems. Further, many of these games have interesting political, personal, or cultural philosophies and expose kids to advanced concepts. Many games make kids feel like heroes, something I think parents should be encouraging.

I wouldn't mind the crusader-like mentality of folks like Hillary Clinton if it wasn't transparently obvious sleight-of-hand trickery for what they are trying to do, in cahoots with the neo-cons, to this country. The moral sanctity of America is far less threatened by kids playing Halo 2 than by the fact that we are among the most militarized countries on the planet, regularly threatening the world with predominant military might, while millions starve in the most affluent of nations.
But to crusade against those things would harm Clinton's true constituencies, and that would be taboo. So good little liberals must focus on fantasy, as people before them apologized for power and wondered about the effect that mass printing or novels or radio or television would have on the moral fabric of society.

The fact that Hillary Clinton and her cohorts don't care about children is drastically shown by their general support for empire, of whom the victims are typically the young both in other countries and in our military. It is shown by their refusal to pay teachers anything remotely like their professional cohort would justify. It is shown by their inability to acknowledge that people like them have contributed to our society becoming fragmented, poor, socially immobile (and even The Economist notes that people will stay in their caste far more often than not in this country), alienated, isolated, and angry, with no hope for a better future. It is shown by the polls that ask both children and parents "Do you think the children of today will be better off than the previous generation" and getting substantial pluralities or majorities saying "No" (see the August 8, 2005 issue of Time among others).

In short, Hillary Clinton: You, and your husband, and his predecessors and successors in the White House, and the whole elite culture has created the hate, the alienation, the anger, the apolitical and apathetic attitudes. Until you take responsibility for that, I'll put you and your minions' models on enemy bots in my Quake 3 games.


Monday, August 15, 2005

Kung Fu Hustle

I recently watched, for the first time, the brilliant kung-fu comedy flick Kung Fu Hustle. When you're as big a fan of wuxia and martial arts as I, the movie is a lot less surreal. I was very impressed by it: It was very funny, very fun to watch, and the special effects were unique. But my friends' response surprised me. They didn't like the ending shot, where the peddler who gave the main character the Buddhist Palm manual gives a little girl multiple manuals. They thought it made no sense. But in fact, the scene ties together the whole movie.

You see, it begins with the two main characters attempting to be thugs. The people of the town are revealed to be unbelievably tough, especially the older individuals. But this old generation has weakened over time and cannot defeat the assassins sent after them. The hope lies in the young, who are bamboozled by unethical salesmen, beaten up, humiliated, and finally find their power and path, unleashing a new power never before seen. The old generation begs to learn from the new (the Beast begging at the hero's feet after feeling the ultimate attack of the Buddhist Palm). Romance is consummated at new maturity is found, and the next generation begins to learn in the same way as the old.

I think this is a remarkably optimistic outlook about human nature. Yes, one can find a message from a comedy kung fu movie. It says that the young will of course make their share of mistakes, but in the end they will surpass their elders, and the cycle will begin again.

Let's hope it's true.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Right to Life and Other Rights Discussions

When one discusses welfare and socialized health care, as well as capitalism, as much as I do (and that isn't even that much compared to others), one of the most appealing arguments out there is that people have a right to life. That society has an obligation to protect its weaker members. Yet libertarians often say that the right to life cannot be extended to tax some for the benefit of others, saying that this saps individual ingenuity on both the demand and the supply end. Some of the reasoning was provided by Ayn Rand in such works of awful literature and awful philosophy as Anthem and The Fountainhead.

Let me point out that the "self-reliance" arguments are totally beside the point unless the rights questions have been determined. Ironically, the argumentation for the right to property superseding the right to life is almost always laughably weak.

After all, Thomas Jefferson declared that all human beings have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Notice two things: life is before liberty, and property doesn't even show up there. In fact, the common cry was "Liberty and property!", but Jefferson replaced the crass "property" with the pursuit of happiness, in a more aesthetically and spiritually cleansing way.

What does this prove?

Well, actually, that was sort of a trap, because it really proves almost nothing. Thomas Jefferson could be wrong. He was a slaveowner, and that was wrong. He argued for strict construction yet extended the Constitution to allow the Louisiana Purchase. Only with the secular cult attitude that enshrines the Founders can one believe his attitudes are ipso facto correct.

However, more subtly, I think it shows that the Enlightenment values that Jefferson and the other Founding Fathers enshrined were deeply anti-capitalist in nature. While sounding vaguely like capitalist concepts when uttered, the same could undoubtedly be said for Stalinist proclamations. When looking at actual institutions, the illusion falls.

Why can one say that the right to life should be enshrined centrally?

1) Because the converse has frightening implications. Denying the right to life may deny welfare, but (though I do not want to make a crude cudgel of a "slippery slope" argument) where does one draw the line? Might it also deny law and order expenditures, which defend life? Might it allow state-sanctioned murder, the death penalty and war? The right to property could be almost completely taken away and one would still be alive; if the right to life is breached, as one is dead, all other rights cannot be used. (Though this is a bit of an unfair argument, as I go over later).
2) A society based on the notion that the right to life should exist is one that breeds compassion. It reduces inequity. It increases solidarity. It reduces crime. It seems morally superior.

And what of the individual ingenuity argument? My response is: Who cares? The society has to support individuals even if they don't like what the people do with their resources, just as the society must support free speech even if it doesn't like what is said with said free speech. In any respect, no advocate I've seen for insuring that everyone is taken care of is against education of all kinds; in fact, they're all for it, quite loudly. To use the commonly offered metaphor: I just don't see a contradiction between giving somebody a fish and teaching them how to fish, especially during the learning process when giving them a fish will keep them alive to learn and not doing so either lets them die or forces them to steal fish from others.

The question may be, "Why would someone want to work if they're provided for?" But that's silly. There's no correlation between poverty or welfare recipience and work that I've seen made out. Some rich folks work very hard; others not at all. Some are poor because they don't work or don't have drive; the majority are poor despite incredibly hard labor, in fact doing the most onerous jobs of society. This puts the lie to the myth that people won't work hard without the incentive to get rich: For those who work hardest in our society are often paid virtually none at all.

Some people will not work no matter what. Those people should not be allowed to die. The question now becomes, how many people won't work if they'll be provided for? Even if the society privileges a work ethic? Even if luxury items can only be gained by working very hard at a balanced job complex? Even if training is free? Who wouldn't want to work at a job they'd actually like? On the other hand: How many people who would work if they could find a job they like or that utilized their skills or, heck, any job at all will become weak and use sick because they were down on their luck? How many people will use their second chance? I think any rational person could see that the former seems to make quite a bit mit more sense. And the statistics bear this out. The majority of welfare recipients in the modern system are white middle-class families coming on hard times.

I think that people have an innate creative drive. Even the laziest people I've met, the least likely to hold down jobs, have worked hard, and have dreams and skills they could use. Capitalism is just too inefficient and unjust to provide.

Incidentally, a parecon might actually make the decision to deny free money to the poor, especially in times of scarcity. But parecon is the only economy I can see that could justly do this, as balanced job complexes, remuneration for effort and sacrifice, worker's councils, etc. provide that everyone who can work should be able to and enjoy it.

To rebut, some advocates say that the property right is the foundation for all other rights. But this is shoddy logic at best. Yes, define "property" as someone's physical body, intellectual "property", perhaps relationships and intangible assets, and eventually one will get through simple connection-drawing the entirety of someone's existence, and ipso facto the basis for all other rights. But the same could be said for speech. The Supreme Court in essence declared that money is political speech because it can be used to influence the political process. Every action someone could take could be seen as an endorsement of a position or some kind of speech act. Thus, the right to free speech could cover every other right.

Why segment these rights, then? For the same reason someone creates other conceptual boundaries: to understand issues. One can imagine a society where no individual owned anything per se yet was totally free to do anything they wished, drawing on communal property. One could imagine (and indeed, such societies have existed) where freedom of religion is tolerated but freedom of dissent is not; smart empires, like Persia, Rome or America, tend to operate in that fashion.

The point is that some limitation of the property right, not its elimination but the replacement of private ownership of the means of production, is vital to preserve an infinite array of other rights. And even if private property occasionally makes good or non-tyrannical decisions, that no more justifies it as an institution than the fact that a dictatorship may make good decisions justifies tyranny.

Some say that they should be able to opt-out of any societal expenditure they don't like. But if that's the case, they should also lose benefits concurrently. As a practical matter, membership in any society requires compromises. As Shalom outlines in his parpolity vision, individuals who wished to secede from a parpolity/parecon could do so at will, as long as they did not take assets they didn't earn with them. But it strikes me that these libertarian advocates demand that they not have to pay a pittance to the poor while their entire education and the functioning of their favored economy, the market, was based on the society coming together and defending those values. An odd little contradiction, there.

Equality of opportunity is always trumpted by these advocates, yet do any of them propose races where both runners are given equal lengths of track and no disabilities vis-a-vis each toher and the loser is shot? The point to me is clear: Equality of opportunity can only be based on justice. Under the Nazi system, one with real grit could probably succeed: through acquiescence and cowardice. We would not want to reward such behavior and would view someone with such a hard-working ethic as a monster, not a saint. So a CEO may work very hard, but she makes money not just or even primarily because of hard work but because the society allowed conspicuous consumption. But even if everyone has truly equal opportunity, the losers under the system should not be given horrific fates. I think Rawl's standard of ethics, wherein one imagines oneself in every position in society and considers what it would be like in each (assuming that they might be blindly placed into any position, even the worst), is a fair one here.

I have nothing against enhancing control of the individual over the society, increasing opportunities for dissent, etc. But I don't think anyone gave you the right to deny people food. If you don't like it, then leave.