10-1-16 Hodgepodge

Saturday, October 01, 2016

The Case for Abstention

"Digby" of Salon seizes on a couple of gaffes by Gary Johnson en route to introducing a half-way valid point:

... [M]ost of us used to think that presidents should have some basic knowledge of facts before they propose policies. The campaign of 2016 has revealed that such qualifications are no longer considered a requirement for the job -- at least not by the half of the electorate who claim to be voting for Trump or Johnson.
That's a good point, but Digby isn't taking it far enough. Digby wants "us" (by which she means Clinton supporters -- I am not) to "stop pretending" that Johnson is a "real alternative." Fair enough, but here's a whopper of a fact that both of the top two candidates are (at best) completely unfamiliar with: The proper job description of the President, as the chief executive of a government originally founded with the purpose of protecting individual rights. It is not necessary for me to list the many ways both of these candidates propose to make a mockery of this office, via wealth distribution or attacks on other rights (most alarmingly, freedom of speech). The very programs these two prevaricating proponents of improper, intrusive government threaten us with immediately disqualify them. So what if they both know that Aleppo is a large city in Syria? In that respect, it would appear that Johnson knows something that they don't.

Except that he doesn't, either. In "Why Not to Vote Libertarian," Peter Schwartz suggests that Johnson's party also doesn't know the proper purpose of government:
A mentality that regards the existence of government per se as odious will not distinguish between initiated and retaliatory force on the part of a government. It will simply mandate, as stated in the LP's platform, that we "avoid entangling alliances" and "end the current U.S. government policy of foreign intervention, including military and economic aid." Can there be alliances that enhance our defense against aggression? Can there be military efforts that protect our freedom? It's all part of one big hash called "intervention," according to the LP, and should be condemned. (Yes, the platform states that we should maintain "a sufficient military to defend the United States against aggression," but that's just window dressing. Whenever there is occasion for the proper use of military force -- against ISIS, for instance -- the libertarian directive invariably is: "non-intervention.")
But Johnson's a former Republican, so many, including myself, might think or say that he'll not toe the party line so tightly as to cause confusion. That might make a vote for him worthy of consideration -- but consider the following, from Power Line:
Unfortunately, Johnson appears clueless when it comes to foreign policy/national security, and not just because he doesn't know what Aleppo is and could not name a single foreign leader. Johnson wants to decrease military spending, ignore ISIS "until they attack us on U.S. soil," eschew enhanced interrogation techniques for terrorists, close Gitmo, and abolish the NSA.
Alas, it would appear that Johnson is indistinguishable from his adopted party, regarding "non-interventionism."

And (or on top of that) one could even argue that this has already happened, and one could further note that Hillary Clinton will likely continue Barack Obama's policy of deliberately importing refugees who may well be members of ISIS -- so how would voting for Johnson be worse? Schwartz answers as follows: "[The Libertarian Party] is conveying to the public the noxious message that laissez-faire means 'non-interventionism.'" Whatever smearing of what the left calls "capitalism" (often some measure of central planning) it has succeeded in, at least the American public does not (yet?) regard complete passivity against foreign aggressors as capitalism.

So, as much as it pains me as an Objectivist to agree with anything by an author from a publication that is hostile to Ayn Rand, I have to agree that we can't regard Johnson as a real alternative. But that doesn't mean I am going to join them in asserting that this election offers any real alternative.

Were this a regular job and I were on a hiring committee, I'd recommend making do without any of the "help" on offer. The best I can do in this election, is to vote for Republicans down the ticket (in the faint hope that they might rein in any winner) and abstain from casting a vote for any Presidential candidate. I am not "throwing away" my vote: The fools from both major parties who want the government to "take care of everyone" in any sense other than keeping us free "took care of" that months ago.

Weekend Reading

"The dollar is down nearly 5% in terms of one form of honest money." -- Keith Weiner, in "The Fed is Good for Gold" at Acting Man

"If you feel you have no choice but to rush, then something else is probably wrong." -- Michael Hurd, in "'Rush' Is A State of Mind" at The Delaware Wave

"Good mental health starts with identifying and correcting contradictions that we don't realize we're holding on to." -- Michael Hurd, in "How Confusion Can Be Helpful" at The Delaware Coast Press

Somehow, Not Ending With a Bang

Pharma blogger Derek Lowe's "Things I Won't Work With" posts are always a hoot. His latest, about a compound "that becomes less explosive as a one-to-one cocrystal with TNT," ends with him contemplating a lab procedure from a paper about the compound:
...I don't want any CL-20 (pretty sure about that), I don't want to handle any 98% hydrogen peroxide (very sure about that indeed), and once I've crystallized the two together, which is the sort of thing most people would consider a very unfortunate accident, I most definitely do not want to take the powder X-ray diffraction spectrum of the stuff by "finely grinding and packing the material" into a sample holder. Who the hell got to be the first person to try that, and what were they wearing while they did it?

I'd be dressed up like the first person to set foot on Venus, I can tell you ("That's one ... small... step for a foolhardy moron...") and while I picked up the mortar and pestle (assuming my suit allowed me that much mobility) and muttered a brief prayer to Cthulhu (edit: spelled his name wrong; I'm toast now), I'd be thinking that if I'd only planned my career with more attention that I could be wrestling a hungry carnivorous six-foot lizard instead. Mom always wanted me to go into reptile-wrangling, should have listened while I had the chance... [bold added]
And if drawing Cthulhu's attention isn't funny enough for you, his earlier post about hexanitrohexaazaisowurtzitane (aka CL-20) includes gems like the following:
Hexanitro? Say what? I'd call for all the chemists who've ever worked with a hexanitro compound to raise their hands, but that might be assuming too much about the limb-to-chemist ratio.
Oh, and if it's not odd enough that there are people willing to work with such things, see the addendum to this earlier post.

-- CAV


Today: Corrected "reign" to "rein" in first section. 


Anonymous said...

Hi Gus,

Grammar? Vocabulary? nazi here.

Thought that this might have gotten past your homophonic sensor array.

...(in the faint hope that they might reign in any winner)...

I have no doubt that they intend to rule and reign but I think you might actually be wanting the leather straps that keep a horse from running away with you. (Or with the gov't and the erstwhile protection of your individual rights.)

I have to agree that Johnson has thoroughly disappointed my nascent hopes of his being an alternative vote. But on the topic of wasting your vote...

The US Presidential Election arguably had 1 major party - the ever-present Democrats in favor of slavery - and three 'Third Party' candidates. I wonder how many of the present Republican Party-types would have argued against 'wasting your vote on Abraham Lincoln'.

And, of course, this gem from the Simpsons.


And the inevitable denouement.


c andrew

Anonymous said...

"The US Presidential Election [of 1860]..."

Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks for your comments and for catching the error, one of the few I seem to make consistently. I'm on the way to my kids' gymnastics lesson, so I'll enjoy the videos later.


Scott Holleran said...

The Power Line assertion that Gov. Johnson "could not name a single foreign leader" is false and it's too bad that most in the media perpetuate this distortion because, in fact, MSNBC's Chris Matthew's asked the governor to name a single foreign leader he "looks up to"; this is what Gary Johnson could not name. Big difference. To this point, Johnson himself later posted on Twitter that he still "could not name a single foreign leader he looks up to" a day or two later.

Gus Van Horn said...


Thank you for pointing that out. That is a big difference indeed, and the perpetuation of the incorrect impression not only is unjust, it sucks all the oxygen out of the fertile ground what Johnson's tweet could have opened up. Namely, "On what grounds does any leader derserve admiration?