Quick Roundup 362

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

(Just Part of) The Difference between Houston and New Orleans

As my property sits unattended after Ike's unwelcome visit Saturday, I find the Houston Chronicle news report containing the following to be encouraging:

Houston police have arrested almost 100 people suspected of looting since Hurricane Ike barreled through the area. Sixty-one were taken into custody from 6 a.m. Saturday to 6 a.m. on Sunday and another 33 during the following 24-hour period.

"We expect those numbers to continually decrease," said HPD Sgt. John Chomiak. He said additional police patrols are working 12-hour shifts.

At Sonny Ngo's east Houston convenience store, the S&T Food Mart on Navigation near Wayside, two men on Sunday tried to force their way into his business. "I didn't let them inside," Ngo said. "They weren't from the neighborhood."

Ngo said a group of regular customers confronted the two men, keeping them there until police arrived. "The good people in the neighborhood supported me," Ngo said. "They backed me up." [bold added]
The paper is also keeping tabs on power restoration efforts on its front page -- except that I'd prefer this to be listed in terms of "percent restored" rather than "percent out". This is, after all, only the biggest power outage in Texas history!

Wordweb Environmentalism

Dinesh Pillay used a software program called "Wordweb", until he read its unreasonable licensing conditions:
WordWeb free version may be used indefinitely only by people who take at most two commercial flights (not more than one return flight) in any 12 month period. People who fly more than this need to purchase the Pro version if they wish to continue to use it after a 30-day trial period.
In better days, an airline executive would hear about this and find a way to bankroll a competitor, and there would be a critical mass of people calling for the boycott of this software that it deserves.

The Case for Abstaining

I will not be casting my vote for John McCain in the upcoming presidential election because he has a track record as an enemy of freedom of speech. So should I help elect his collectivist twin, Barack Obama, or should I abstain?

A recent posting at HBL by Harry Binswanger points the the below video of Barack Obama as food for thought for those considering voting for him. It comes from the time before he moderated his stated positions in order to broaden his appeal among the general electorate.

After considering his suicidal views on national defense, it is also worth noting his dearth of character witnesses, something Charles Krauthammer recently discussed:
Eerily missing at the Democratic convention this year were people of stature who were seriously involved at some point in Obama's life standing up to say: I know Barack Obama. I've been with Barack Obama. We've toiled/endured together. You can trust him. I do.
The strategy of the Democrats, ever since the party was taken over by the New Left, has been to conceal its agenda from the voting public, and Barack "the human Rorschach Test" Obama would seem to be the very incarnation of this strategy. Electorally, this strategy can easily backfire, as Myrhaf (from whom I learned of the Krauthammer piece) describes: "An undefined man is vulnerable to hostile definition."

I don't want McCain, but I am afraid he will win.

Update: See also, Myrhaf's post, "The Blank Screen President", for another take on Obama's changing "positions".

Two Interesting Reads

Darren Cauthon
recently read -- and strongly recommends -- the book based on Randy Pausch's inspiring "Last Lecture".

Meanwhile, Apollo points to some talks by Michelle Goldberg on her book, Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism.

-- CAV

Updates: (1) Changed "Abstention" to "Abstaining". (2) Added update to "The Case for Abstaining".


Richard said...

I suggest that Obama as president will serve to drive Republicans, and voters in general, to choose a more pro-American (qua America) platform for the next election.

McCain will likely be equal to or worse than Bush in foreign policy (particularly wrt the war) and his failures would prompt support for the Left. That would lead to another anti-American Leftist president (who would also be presented as "change").

Obama's foreign policy will not be very different from McCain's; only the rhetoric will differ. It would be better if Obama is worse (both in practice and in rhetoric) because either way, America's enemies will gain but, under Obama, Americans are more likely to be horrified. The result would be support for the rebuffed Republicans, who would be more inclined to develop a pro-American platform (but no promises).

Given the present candidates' identical domestic policies, the long term outcome is all that remains for 'us' to work towards, as voters who appreciate a free America.

I believe enough Americans are sufficiently pro-America to react, once shown that neither party is truly American. That popular understanding would not develop under a President McCain, whose rhetoric will make his policies seem to be American.

I know my argument reduces to "it has to get worse before it gets better", but what else is there in this election?

A third party vote (e.g. Libertarian or Objectivist Party) would make no statement, as it would both support an enemy of rational politics and of Objectivist principle, and it would have little or no influence in this and subsequent elections.

I am a Canadian hoping religion won't gain more power, and trusting that U.S. military intelligence will stave off true catastrophe. I do not want the religious in our Conservative camp (or in America's) to feel empowered by the religiosity of a McCain/Palin administration.

Furthermore, if Obama does harbor Muslim and seriously far-Left political principles —derived from his past mentors—, then he would have no problem tempering his platform in order to get elected. As president he would be willing to implement policies that are far worse than many who voted for him expected (i.e. he is lying).

The Obam/Biden abomination can only last four years. So, perhaps, just perhaps, the MSM, facing extra-ordinary anti-American policies, will then excoriate him & the Democrats. Better still, the American public may grasp that they are "losing the Republic".

In contrast, a vote for McCain would bring religion to the fore (consider Palin), with the same sacrificial practice in his domestic and foreign policies as Obama. Except, that approach from the Republicans would not appear to be as vicious. The MSM and public reaction would be little different from their response to Bush.

A gut wrenching vote for Obama and against McCain would enable the blame to fall on the Democrats, but would also repudiate the Republican's religious anti-Americanism. [It may also demonstrate that skin color is not something to vote for.]

Gus Van Horn said...

"I believe enough Americans are sufficiently pro-America to react, once shown that neither party is truly American. That popular understanding would not develop under a President McCain, whose rhetoric will make his policies seem to be American."

It could, possibly, but it would be much more likely with Obama.

"A third party vote (e.g. Libertarian or Objectivist Party) would make no statement, as it would both support an enemy of rational politics and of Objectivist principle, and it would have little or no influence in this and subsequent elections."

An "Objectivist party" is a contradiction in terms, and betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of philosophical ideas in shaping history by any supporters.

Richard said...

Hi Gus.

I wrote,
"That popular understanding would not develop under a President McCain, whose rhetoric will make his policies seem to be American."

and you replied,
"It could, possibly, but it would be much more likely with Obama.

I interpret that as a rather cynical view of the American electorate in general, and I can see why! The popularity of the abominable candidates in the last four elections is strong evidence.

I have a slightly more optimistic view. To know more, I would be interested to see a poll reporting on why abstainers abstained. Are they disgusted with the candidates and hoping for something better? Are some who did vote, hoping for better too?

Sure, as Rand said, "It's earlier than you think." but the Obama Democrats, with some justification, see McCain's Republicans as status quo American. I'm suggesting that voters have the Democrats play their card, while rejecting that Republican, "us too", status quo. It's a slim chance, but what's better?


P.S. I realize the Objectivist Party is a contradiction, and that they are actually a Libertarian group trying to garner Objectivist support —as so many Libertarians do here and in America. I did not want to get into it in an already long comment, I just wanted to reject the the third party option and stop.


Paul Hsieh said...

I recognize that the position I'm about to set forward here (vote for Obama) is at variance from those who say, "abstain". And I'm not fully committed to this position. But here is my current thinking:

The longest term threat to America is still religion. And the Religious Right is currently in bed with the Republican Party.

McCain's choice of Palin as VP was a clear attempt to get the Evangelicals in his camp, and he succeeded.

Hence, if he wins it will tell all future Republicans that the key to success is to kowtow to the religionists. On the other hand, if he loses then the Republicans *might* get the message that they lost because they were too religious.

Of course, this message has to be made explicitly, repeatedly, and loudly to the Republican Party. Several of us in Colorado have contacted our own state Republican Party officials and told them that the Republicans have lost our vote because they were *too religious*.

Of course, if the Republicans lose, they will also hear people telling them that they lost because they were *not religious enough*. But this is a battle of ideas we can win.

On the other hand, if the Republicans win in 2008, then it will merely reinforce the worst elements of the party and further weaken the few remaining good elements. We'll see Huckabee-clones in the near future as the only choice put forward by the Republicans.

I still really dread the prospect of an Obama presidency. For most of the concrete issues that I am concerned about (health care policy, gun rights, environmental regulations, etc.), he is completely on the wrong side. And I also recognize that Palin has a decent "American sense of life", although one that is unfortunately linked to a terrible explicit philosophy.

But the last thing I want is for that good American "sense of life" to be linked in people's minds with a bad explicit philosophy which stresses self-sacrifice, "national greatness", and other conservative flavors of altruism. This will retard (or perhaps even stop) the eventual successful inroads of Objectivism in our culture far more than 4 years of a socialist-hell Obama administration. Instead, that sense of life must be linked to the right explicit philosophy, based on reason, egoism, and capitalism.

Hence, that's why I'm still thinking of biting a really big bullet and voting for Obama, despite the fact that he stands for nearly everything I oppose. In the full long-range context of my values, I believe that McCain-Palin poses a bigger threat than Obama-Biden.

Gus Van Horn said...


I wasn't being cynical. I merely think that a McCain presidency will make the task of intellectual activism much harder because most people, including lots of admirable ones, fail to see through McCain.

Regarding the idea of an Objectivist Party, I was merely taking the opportunity to hammer home something that mightn't be obvious to all passers-by.


I do currently lean the same way as you on that score, but thanks for adding that argument for consideration all the same.


Richard said...

"... a McCain presidency will make the task of intellectual activism much harder..."

Exactly. As Paul Hsieh points out, voting for Obama is an awful bullet to bite. There may be some benefits if Obama were to win. Rejecting the Republicans
* opposes the Religious Right,
* enables Obama and the Democrats to expose their anti-Americanism, whereas McCain will be as bad but will appear more American, and
* might prompt the Republicans to develop a better platform for the next election.

By then I am sure it will feel as if America had been reduced to rubble.

Gus Van Horn said...

With that last line, let me reiterate that I hate even thinking about this election!

Richard said...

Oops, sorry! :-(

Gus Van Horn said...

No apologies necessary, of course.

mtnrunner2 said...

>The prospect of voting for either man is extremely revolting to me.

No kidding. If we think Bush has been the worst president ever, let's just wait and see what the next four years bring. We could probably go on forever about the relative demerits of the candidates.

However, in the absence of a specific emergency (and Democrat-led health care comes pretty close), I'd like to focus on the longest-term course possible. In historical terms, political platforms are relatively inconsequential, and are just not going to be the deciding factor for me unless there is a possible devastating short-term impact. At this point I don't see anything drastic to sway my default strategy of keeping the Religious Right at bay. Jesus offers salvation and a good life, and that's a more powerful foe than the Audacity of Living With Less.

I am tempted by a protest non-vote, but I am not willing to do that quite yet. I'd want to make sure that does not constitute succumbing to a short-term focus.

No matter what happens, it's going to take a lot of mental effort to not second-guess myself when the inevitably horrible rulers begin their reign.

Gus Van Horn said...


You appear to be responding to this post.

FYI, Obama has been rather explicitly theocratic on the campaign trail, speaking of "doing God's will" and remaking the faith-based initiatives.