Stark Relief



To sum up...

In an email to me, Noumenalself summarizes what he thinks the difference between a Bush Presidency and a Kerry Presidency would be, namely Bush would make things worse, long-term, by entrenching religion into the government, and he lulls America into a false sense of security, by making us think that he's fighting a war against our enemies, when he isn't. Noumenalself has argued [I, II, III, IV] that fighting a half-assed war may make things worse than no war at all, and I agree. We don't see much of a difference between them in short-term policy. I would also add that the other difference depends on who loses. To wit, will the major opposition and dissent come from the Right or from the Left? In "The Moratorium on Brains" [The Ayn Rand Letter, Vol. 1, No. 2 October 25, 1971], Ayn Rand addresses this point:
"It used to be widely believed that the election of a semi-conservative (a 'moderate') is a way of gaining time and delaying the statist advance. President Eisenhower proved the opposite; President Nixon proved it conclusively. Their policies have not delayed, but helped and accelerated the march to statism. A major reason is the silencing and destruction of the opposition. If Mr. Nixon's program had been proposed by a liberal Democrat, the Republicans would have screamed their heads off—either on some remnant of principle or, at least, on the grounds of narrow party interests. But when total economic controls are imposed by a Republican President—in the name of preserving free enterprise—who, among today’s politicians, is going to protest and in the name of what?"
I believe that the exact same principle applies to foreign policy as well as domestic.

*Good* advice for the Kerry campaign

Don at Anger Management comments on an open letter to the Kerry campaign about how to effectively run against George W. Bush on the War on Terrorism. Don starts out: "I still haven't decided for whom I'm voting, but if Kerry doesn't shape up his campaign quickly, it won't matter," which is all too true [although I have decided]; he then highlights an important identification of the letter's writer [William Saletan]. The entire open letter is worth reading.


On why a parrot is not an Objectivist, an "Objectivist Sympathizer," nor an ally

Recently, in email to Noumenal Self [I highly recommend his blog, as well], I outlined a problem that I see when some Objectivists discuss Presidents Reagan, George W. Bush or Republicans in general [although it occasionally arises when discussing Democrats]. The problem is that a statement is made by a non-Objectivist that, if made by an Objectivist, would be a true statement. This statement is then used to argue that the person [or group they represent] is an "Objectivist Sympathizer" and can be our ally. I won't bother to touch the reductio-ad-absurdum of this argument: Libertarians.

What I will cover is what the argument drops: context.

Admittedly, it is tempting to fall into this argument and not recognize it because it does takes work to analyze their context and to hold the correct context to compare it against, but it is vital to do so.

The purveyors of this argument are quick to ascribe their context to the statements of non-Objectivists and think that because they're saying the right words, that they agree with Objectivists: "Abortion is a right of women," or "Free markets are good," or "You're either with us or with the terrorists." But the others who say such things hold a different context and different definitions of the words they are using than an Objectivist saying the exact same statements would.

"Abortion is a right of women." They mean that a woman has a "right" to privacy; a right that is "limited" by the government's interests. [The "right to privacy" is a package deal designed to obliterate the true right to property.]

"Free markets are good." They mean that competitors must be "helped" by the government to compete; that there must be an "even playing field" in the market; that everything must be insured by the government: banks, retirements, stock markets, food, drugs, firearms, smoking: all risks in life.

"You're either with us or with the terrorists." They mean "us" [including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Jordan, Malaysia, Libya] and "the terrorists" [Al Qaida, the Taliban, Saddam Hussein and 55 select members of his government]; they mean that you are with us by virtue of not blatantly proclaiming that you are with Al Qaida, the Taliban, or Saddam Hussein, regardless of what you actually do to support either side. They mean that once you're "with us," you will have input on which actions "we" should take. They mean that they will attempt to determine which camp each individual in countries controlled by those with "the terrorists" fall into before possibly hurting them. And of course, American lives are no object, it's the "just," "moral" thing to do.

Next time you hear a statement that you think you agree with; remember to hold the context that it is being spoken in; including what the speaker means by the words that he uses. Especially examine those words for which he has a different meaning than you do. Then you can accurately evaluate the truth or falsehood [or arbitrariness] of the statement.


The Belmont Club on 'Dark Networks'

First off, let me say that the Belmont Club is a very worthwhile blog to bookmark. Wretchard's posts are always insightful and interesting. His latest is no exception, here's a taste, but I recommend reading the whole thing:
John Robb took at look at the September 11 network and analyzed its characteristics. The Mohammed Atta network had evolved under Darwinian pressure until it reached the form best suited for its purpose: to conduct strategic attacks against the United States of America. Robb concludes that a cell of 70 persons will answer to the purpose, yet be sparse enough to allow its members to remain in relative isolation. For example, no one member of Atta's cell knew more than five others. Moreover, the average distance between any two members was more than four persons. Crucially, but not surprisingly, this disconnected network of plotters maintained coherence by relying on a support infrastructure -- probably communications posts, safe houses, couriers -- to keep themselves from unraveling. Because security comes at a price in performance and flexibility, Robb arrives at an astounding conjecture: you can have small, operationally secure terrorist groups, but you can't have large, operationally secure cells without a state sponsor.
Yet another piece of evidence for why we need to End States Who Sponsor Terrorism.


No Comment

Meet Microsoft's 'spiritual leader' for Antitrust Compliance:
Even after the trial, however, Snapp and her team are grappling with some significant antitrust issues.

One of them began last year, when the Justice Department and the states involved in the settlement raised concerns over the terms of a licensing program through which Microsoft offers competitors access to "communications protocols" that let their server software work more effectively with Windows for PCs.

The idea is to help level the playing field between Microsoft and its rivals. But critics called Microsoft's original terms unreasonable, and demand for the licenses has been less than the government had hoped. As a result, Microsoft has made a series of changes designed to encourage more licensing deals.

Inside the company, Snapp has "tirelessly championed" the effort to rework the program's terms, said Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel. "Even in situations where other people might have lost their patience or succumbed to frustration, Mary just kept pushing things forward, which is absolutely what we needed to do to be successful."

One of Snapp's colleagues in the legal department said it wasn't an unusual role for her to play.

"We are all advocates for compliance, but Mary is in the position of really having an impact on other people's attitudes," said Nancy Anderson, a Microsoft deputy general counsel. "It's absolutely critical that the person who has her set of responsibilities be that advocate, that spiritual leader."

Another indicator of the philosophical bankruptcy of the Left

Roger L. Simon makes an observation already familiar to many Objectivists about the dead-end of post-modernism:
Who knows if this will actually connect up with the Kerry Campaign, but, you know, who cares? The whole thing is already so pathetic, just as the campaign itself is. The Democratic Party this year is running on fumes and those fumes are equal parts Bush hatred, paranoia and projection. Ever since Kerry got up and "reported for duty," not a single constructive idea or even thought has been in evidence. Bob Shrum and his cohorts are the most overpaid group of political advisers (if such a thing is possible) in history. They have made hundreds of thousands of dollars, I would imagine, for absolutely nothing. This is the emptiest campaign I can recall in my lifetime. People accuse Kerry of flip-flopping, but what's he flip-flopping from and to? You can't flip-flop if you have no starting point. To say there's no there would be an insult to the city of Oakland, the original butt of Gertrude Stein's sarcasm. I'm a registered Democrat and sometimes I'm so disgusted I think I should get in my car and go register Independent. But what's the point? What would I be leaving? It doesn't even exist. Can anyone tell me what the Democratic Party stands for besides keeping some people in their jobs? And please don't give me this palaver about socialism, crypto or otherwise. That's an insult to Karl Marx. He had a real philosophy, like it or not. These people have bubkus.

I agree. Hopefully, their vacuum is filled with something that isn't religion once they don't have Bush to hate anymore. As Michael J. Totten pointed out in the article I linked to below:
Electing John Kerry won't put radical left activists into power. It will put them in a box. Their knee-jerk anti-American jackassery won't get a hearing if mainstream liberals are the "establishment." Soccer moms who voted for John Kerry are not going to put up with punks who say he is the "real" terrorist. Mainstream liberals won't want to march in the streets against the president they elected alongside ranting neo-Stalinist goons from International ANSWER. Radical leftists will be first isolated then ridiculed by the overwhelming majority when they and the Democratic Party have no common "enemy" to unite them.

"Hawks" for Kerry

Michael J. Totten makes a pretty good case.

For more, I recommend Don's summary post on Anger Management.

UPDATE: For the record, I do plan on voting for Kerry for president. Yes, I do consider him to be repugnant, disgraceful and thoroughly obnoxious. But I believe strongly that the worst enemies of Capitalism and America are its "defenders" who base their defense on altruism, blind-traditionalism and/or the argument that no man is good enough to rule over others leaving freedom as the only alternative for us "flawed" humans. More on that in a few days.

As for the national security concerns over a Kerry Presidency [no, I don't like the sound of that at all], I don't think any reasonable American expects that America will not have another attack on its soil in the near future. President Bush's altruistic, appeasing wars [nothing wrong with wars, everything wrong with how they were conducted] and homeland defense [which has never permanently won a war in history] have not given anyone the confidence that we are safe now, least of all President Bush himself.

If we grant that another attack will occur in America, the question is how will the country and its President will react. I think we all have a good idea how President Bush would react, with strong words and appeasing actions; with altruism as the touchstone of it all. I believe that because Kerry is a disgustingly pragmatic politician [who can argue that he doesn't take every position he can on a subject, depending on the audience], his response would be very much dictated by the country's and the Republicans' outcry. [Remember that under President Bush, there is no organized political group to argue against his policies from the right; and any one who doesn't support his policies is commonly seen as helping the enemy.] Under a Democratic President, the Republicans' statements [which, lately, usually advocate action that is much better than the action that they actually undertake] will be the driving dissenting voice in the nation. If we are attacked under Kerry's Presidency and he tries to appease the world and blatantly defaults on America's self-defense, I believe it would be political suicide for him.

Incidentally, the above should explain why I am aiming for a Republican Congress [that and the fact that I despise Patty Murray; voting against her will be the highlight of November 2nd for me, even though she will probably win again].

I plan on taking the same stance here in Washington: voting Democrat for governor and Republican for state legislature [gridlock, you are my friend]; and against any Libertarians on any other part of the ballot.