Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Waiting To Exhale: Hillary, In Sickness And In Health

What’s wrong with Hillary? Since her collapse on 9/11, that question has become inescapable.

I am not going to try to prove that Hillary Clinton has Parkinson’s Disease, or some other serious, degenerative neurological or neuro-vascular condition. I suspect she does, especially since her collapse on 9/11, and the acknowledgement that she was passing off as an allergy what she now claims is pneumonia. Suddenly, the various videos of her strange tics, and the diagnoses thereof, have been less easy to dismiss. One can’t help but wonder what better explains her lackluster campaign?

But the speculation is futile at this point. Either she has some serious condition or she doesn't, and if she does, it will likely manifest itself in undeniable ways. If her head-shaking, coughing, and collapsing episodes are effects of discrete, trivial things like allergies and overheating, these episodes will stop, and she'll continue merrily along with her campaign (and likely presidency). She'll have a lot of public appearances, perform well in the debates, hold regular press conferences, etc., without incident. Of course, the obvious and best thing for her to do, if she’s really healthy, would be to show full medical files with raw test results.

If she does have a serious and degenerating neurological condition, she will try to avoid press conferences, lengthy public appearances with lots of people, and any stressful event where she cannot be physically managed by handlers. But avoiding all that in a presidential campaign is virtually impossible, starting with the debates. So if she is seriously ill, it’s inevitable that obvious symptoms will re-appear, in public and with more frequency.

We shall see.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Prime Directive: Trust the System, Blame the Russians

There are increasing doubts about the trustworthiness of America’s now ubiquitous electronic voting systems. For all the reasons I put forth in my previous post, including the suspicious results in the Democratic primary this year (analyzed in detail in a Stanford study), wider swaths of the public are aware and concerned about whether voters can have confidence that their votes will be counted for whom they are cast.

So the establishment media had to address this issue in some way. I guess that’s why the New York Times put David E. Sanger and Charlie Savage on the case, with their September 14th article, “Prime Danger in Vote Hack: Sowing Doubt.”

As the title indicates, the prime objective of this article is to allay any doubt voters might have about the reliability of the American electoral process, while at the same time acknowledging (kinda, sorta) that there’s some “danger” involved in the opaque, proprietary technologies that now determine the outcome of our elections. It’s a tricky needle to thread, and the convoluted and self-contradictory argument they use to do it is woven around the first two words of the article: “Russian hackers.”

Strike the Vote

As we enter the final lap of another quadrennial presidential horserace, let’s consider again the question of how to vote. This is not just a question of whom to vote for; it is also a question of whether to vote at all. Before deciding whom to vote for, we must, and do (explicitly or implicitly) make a decision about the electoral system that solicits our participation. We should make that decision explicitly, based on a clear-eyed understanding of how the electoral system actually now works.

It's my reluctant but considered conclusion that, in the United States of America today, the only effective way to use one's own vote is by withholding it. An organized, public boycott of the presidential election is, I think, the only tactic, within the electoral process, that might provoke important reforms—including of the electoral process itself—that would make other advances possible.

To be clear, I think voting is a fundamental political right. I have seen how people who don’t have that right fight for it, embrace it, and go to extraordinary lengths to use it.  Although electoral politics is only one aspect of a thoroughgoing democratic polity and of individual political engagement, it is hard to conceive of a democratic schema in which a transparent, trusted voting process was not important. It may be one among many, but a vote is an important political tool, and a terrible thing to waste.

There’s also the noteworthy fact that without honest, transparent elections, there is no possibility of significant change by non-violent means.

That’s why I have always made sure to register and vote. For me, in American presidential elections, the most un-wasteful use of my vote has been for some third-party candidate or party whose politics I could actually support. No matter how few votes that candidate got, I thought it was important that support for an alternative politics – substantively left and at least quasi-socialist – be registered and recognized. In the present case, the Stein-Baraka ticket and the Green Party would be such an alternative. 

At this point, however, given what the American electoral system has become, I have concluded that, even in these limited terms, voting for a third party is no longer a politically relevant gesture.

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