Thursday, January 14, 2021

Publicly Over the Line


The January 6th videos are beginning to come in, from all over the political spectrum, and from sources ranging from mainstream media through pro-Trump demonstrators to simply curious onlookers,.  A lot of the videos taken by non-professionals have been posted at odd (sometimes very odd) corners of the Internet, simply because they couldn't get posted anywhere else.  Regardless of the politics of the photographers or posting sites, the evidence in the footage is significant.,6%20Derrick%20Evans.%20...%207%20Bradley%20Rukstales.%20

The best media reaction I've seen, from a purely journalistic point of view, comes from The Epoch Times, and is a constructed timeline of the known events:

Now the Epoch Times is an interesting newspaper;  it was founded with set-up money from the Falun Gong organization, headquartered in Deerpark, New York, and Falun Gong sympathizers are still its strongest supporters.  Falun Gong is a religious sect of pacifist Buddhists with additions of traditional Chinese yoga, and they've been persecuted rigorously by the Chinese government.  As a result, the Epoch Times daily reports always include sidebar articles about the sins of the Chinese government.  They absolutely hate the Chinese Communist Party, for obvious reasons.  This has caused western media to proclaim that the Epoch Times is a "right-wing" or even "far-right" paper, regardless of its attitudes toward other political organizations.  In fact, I haven't seen evidence of any political bias in the Epoch Times aside from its hatred of the CCP.  It's a good example of the smaller news media that are filling in the vacuum left by public disillusionment with the major news media.  

All these little-guy media have to be checked out individually for bias and accuracy, and whoever does the evaluating has to be checked out too -- who watches the watchers -- but we have to begin doing it now, ourselves.  The alternative is to keep on blindly believing Big Media and Big Tech information platforms which have publicly revealed themselves as biased, vindictive, spiteful and overbearing.  "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty", and that means accepting the chore of always checking out your information sources.

Nobody deserves blind faith, not even -- in my not-so-humble opinion -- the gods themselves.

--Leslie <;)))><     

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Your Lying Ears

 Backstory:  when Rasty watches TV, he likes to listen through headphones that give him clearer sound than the built-in speakers.  The headphones keep sounding when the speakers are muted, so a click of a button on the remote will let him keep listening while nobody else in the living-room hears anything.  This explains why I came into the room a little while ago to see Rasty steaming and muttering in front of a silent -- to me -- TV screen.  He was watching, as usual, MSNBC with occasional forays to CNN. Both of them were covering the big pro-Trump rally in Washington DC that's been announced for the past week.

What I saw was a bunch of mostly-middle-aged people bundled up in winter jackets,  hats and masks -- even in DC this is early January, and it's cold -- either plodding around the Capitol Building or standing on the steps, holding or waving flags.  There were no rocks or bottles flying, no fists raised, no clubs swinging, and no fights visible.  At one point a camera showed a broken door and people climbing through it.  Another view showed the floor of the Senate, with a few protesters strolling through it;  papers were still on the desks, not the floor, and none of the chairs were so much as disarranged.  None of the Senators were present, and the protesters simply walked through.  Another quick shot revealed a single protester, looking somewhat bemused, sitting in Pelosi's office taking a selfie with his phone.  A  text-banner at the bottom of the TV screen claimed: "Pro-Trump rioters storm capitol".  

Riot?  What riot?  

What my eyes saw was a large and somewhat sloppily-arranged crowd standing on the capitol steps or strolling around on the lawn, holding flags, holding signs, and taking pictures with their phones.  Yes there was a single-file line of police standing at the top of the steps, doing nothing, with a good strip of space between them and the protesters.  Eventually a group of yellow-vested police threw some tear-gas and marched across part of the lawn, driving some of the protesters ahead of them.  The protesters duly trooped away, several taking pictures with their phones, until they were gone.  I've seen sale-shopping frenzies at Wal-Mart that were more "violent" than this.

Then Rasty took off his headphones, turned on the speakers, and...  Hoo-hah!  Talk about disconnect!

The voices of the TV news reporters panted breathlessly about "mob rule!" "Violent protesters!"  "Storming the capitol!"  "Attack on Congress!"  "Assault on democracy!"  "Clashes with police!"  "Insurrection!"  "Shots fired!" "Rioters attempt to overturn the election!" ...And of course "Trump refuses to condemn violence!"  

I've never seen a greater difference between what I was seeing and what the Official Voices were telling us we were seeing.

It's clear that the media think they can talk us into disbelieving what our own eyes see.  I think they've gone too far, especially since the media-flacks have changed their stories and contradicted themselves so much.  When it comes to a choice between what you're told and what you see yourself, what are you going to believe, really?  The best propaganda machine in the world can't gaslight even the majority of the people into doubting their eyes.  

I suspect that the media-flacks figured that out too, because as soon as the 6 PM curfew came on in Washington, and the protesters walked away, the stories -- and the images -- began to change and contradict each other.  Quick shots appeared, showing the Capitol police aiming rifles at the protesters, while voice-overs questioned why the DC police "allowed" the crowd to get into the Capitol building.  Other voices wailed about "the halls of Congress littered with trash and rubble" while actual footage showed clean floors and undisturbed desks.  Other voices claimed that "protesters came armed" and "shots were fired and a woman was killed", followed by another announcement that the woman was a protester who was shot by police.  Images of protesters obligingly walking away from the police were interspersed with video-clips -- clearly taken during the summer, in another city -- of mobs having truncheon-fights with police during real street-riots, while voice-overs claimed they were both happening here and now.  

Only at the end of the 6 o'clock news did one commentator -- ironically, from Fox News -- note that one reason for the public's disgust with politicians is that the media can't be trusted to tell us the truth.

The best solution I can think of right now is to watch the TV news twice: the earliest reports with the sound turned off, studying the videos with a critical eye, and the later news with the sound turned on, and comparing what the talking-heads tell you with what you've already seen.

--Leslie <;)))><      




Sunday, December 20, 2020

Possible Solutions

    As the election results drag down to their final days, and more and more fraudulent results are unearthed ,voters are asking what we can do to prevent more vote-fraud in the future.  I've been running a thread about this on Facebook, and here are some answers we've come up with.

    1) While it's theoretically possible to build a system of transparent and instantly correctible tabulating computers, that day is not yet.  Therefore, the first thing we need to do is throw out computerized voting and tabulating machines.  Fill out sturdy paper ballots by hand, with black ink from any kind of pen, seal them by hand, count them by hand and tally the counts by hand -- with constant witnesses and security cameras along every step of the way.

    2) All ballots, whether in-person or mail-in, must be received by midnight on election day.  That must be the unquestioned cut-off.  (And of course anyone who prevents ballots from being received by that time must be arrested and jailed.)  Walk-in voting can start at midnight on the day before, and mail-in ballots can be mailed in up to a week before.

    3) Matching that, all ballots must be kept securely locked up and no ballot counted before midnight-plus-one on election day.  The news media are not to see anything in advance.

    4) Ballot-counting must be thoroughly witnessed -- in person and on camera -- by representatives from every party (or non-party) on the ballot.  The news media may be invited in to watch and record the process.

    5) Ballots considered "questionable" must be separated as "provisional" and securely set aside to be verified and counted after the unquestionably legitimate ones.  Such verification and counting must likewise be thoroughly witnessed.

    6) Mail-in ballots can be sent only to voters who request them at registration;  not broadcast to all and sundry.  

    7) Ballots must be printed only in the state, county, municipality, and precinct where they are to be cast, not farmed out to foreign printers.

    8) The number of ballots printed shall not exceed the number of registered voters by more than one half of one percent, to allow for physical losses without allowing box-stuffing.

    9) Voter registration must close at least two weeks before election day.  No more register-and-vote on the same day funny business.

    10) In order to register to vote, people must show proof that: a) they are who they say they are, b) they live where they say they live, c) they are at least 18 years of age, and d) they are American citizens.  

    (Such proofs can include birth certificates and utility bills, birth certificates and drivers' licenses, court decisions, tribal registries, passports and utility bills, citizenship papers and utility bills, real-estate tax statements, military records, baptismal records, hospital records, midwives' affidavits, and legally verified entries in family bibles.)  

   11) Convicted felons who have served their time shall have their prison records sent to county registration offices on being set free, so they can apply for and receive restoration of rights before the closing of registrations in advance of the next election.

    12) Citizenship shall be conferred by birth, legal naturalization, government fiat, or completed military service with an honorable discharge.

    13) Voting registration offices must also include an investigative wing to examine suspicious registrations.  For example, a lot of registrations coming from the same physical address, with only minor differences, should be checked to see if the address is an apartment complex, a group home, a mental hospital or a cemetery.  The investigative division shall make annual reports to the state government.

    These are the very least of the reforms that need to be made to ensure that the kind of cheats that have been reported -- and still are being reported -- in this last election don't happen again.

    Anybody, please feel free to add more ideas.

--Leslie <;)))>< Fish      


Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Anarchist PIzza

Back in my wild and wooly college days at the University of Michigan I ran around with various political reform groups, including Students for a Democratic Society.  At the time, SDS was deliberately non-Marxist;  it even had an Anti-Totalitarian clause in its constitution which forbade membership to any "supporter of totalitarianism" -- which meant total government control of society.  Of course SDS was an irresistible target for the Marxists, who kept trying to infiltrate it and take over.  In reaction to these attempts a number of us began studying the opposite of totalitarianism, which is Anarchism.  One thing that both fascists and communists can agree on is that they totally hate real ideological anarchists.  Dealing with attacks by both of them tends to give the anarchists a weird sense of humor.

For example, some snarky political jokes:

    Q:  What's the difference between a Communist and an Anarchist?                                                            A:  Communists want the government to run everything;  Anarchists want the government to run nothing -- not even to exist.

    Q:  What's the difference between a Socialist and an Anarchist?                                                                  A:  Anarchists grow up and get real jobs.

    Q:   What's the difference between a Libertarian and an Anarchist?                                                            A:   About $20,000 a year.

Another cute trick we used on the Marxists was to infiltrate their meetings and shame them into "reality-tripping": getting working-class ID and spending at least their summers taking working-class jobs and living on that income -- and nothing else -- in real working-class neighborhoods.  This proved wonderfully effective;  those who managed to stick it out for a whole summer or more were no longer Marxists when they came back to school, but were eminently practical and realistic -- and tended to vote Republican.  

We also went to big all-day rallies and got ourselves on the speakers' lists under various unremarkable names, such as "The Polyindustrial League", and sing our own folksongs instead.  For example, after a long and boring speech -- carefully repeated, word-for-word in Spanish -- by a droning Marxist, my buddies and I stood up and said: "We're the Anarchists.  Long speeches make us tired, so we'll just sing instead."  And then I and my buddies broke into a lively rendition of Joe Hill's "The Preacher and the Slave", followed by half an hour of other songs.  Needless to add, the audiences liked us a lot better than the speakers.

We would also hold well-planned but impromptu-looking square-dances (or other dances) at lunch hour in any handy park.  While crowds gathered and watched, we'd circulate among them handing out one-page flyers saying things like: "When people fight for your country in war, the least they deserve is full citizenship in the country they've defended" -- practical statements like that, which worked a lot better than political moralizing about The Ruling Class.

One of my favorite stunts, though, happened at the next-to-last SDS national convention, which was held at dear old U of M, in the South Lecture Hall.  The Marxists showed up in force, the Liberals did likewise, and we Anarchists managed to get a literature table in the front vestibule.  It soon became clear that the Liberals were losing ground to two competing factions of Marxists -- Progressive Labor and the Weathermen, who were later to tear the organization apart with their feuding -- but one thing they could unite behind was their absolute hatred of the Anarchists.  Seeing how the political winds were indeed blowing, we spent our efforts pitting the Marxists against each other and diverting them from ganging up on the Liberals.  Some of our distractions were distinctly surreal -- such as throwing paper airplanes whose noses had been dipped in tiny amounts of NI3 explosive, so that they'd go off with a snap-crackle and flash when they landed -- but probably our best stunt was purely spontaneous.

After speechifying and voting and arguing all day, the other delegates were ready to take a break and go "caucus" -- plot and scheme among themselves -- for an hour or so.  None of them wanted to leave the building and go outside, where the non-campus police might grab them, they planned to hold their meetings in the various rooms inside South Hall.  Seeing what was coming, we Anarchists plotted to order a pizza: extra large, with mushrooms and pepperoni, from the local Domino's Pizza, which had made itself famous the year before by delivering pizzas to occupied buildings.  We weren't about to desert our literature table to the mercies of the Marxists, either, so we asked specifically that the pizza be delivered to "the Anarchist literature table in the foyer of South Hall, at the SDS convention".  Few were the restaurants that would have delivered to that address, but we figured that Domino's would have the guts to do it.

Soon enough the moderator -- as I recall it was either Mike Klonsky himself or his sidekick -- stood up and announced:  "Caucus break!  Caucus break for an hour.  Weatherman Caucus, go to room 120 down the hall to your right, and bring your notebooks.  League for Industrial Democracy, go to room 140 in the same corridor, and bring your position papers.  Progressive Labor, go to room 110 in the same hall, to the left, and bring your policy statements.  Anarchists..."  Then he got a pole-axed look as he announced slowly: "Go to your literature table in the front foyer.  Your pizza has arrived."

And all of us Anarchists jumped up and stampeded out the door to the front foyer.

 A bunch of fascinated Liberals followed us out, and got to our table to see us surrounding a nervous pizza-delivery boy and a box opened on the table, displaying a mouth-watering pizza.  My buddy Rick was arguing: "Being Anarchists, we don't believe in government-controlled money, so we shouldn't use it."  My buddy Mary replied: "We can argue about proper labor-exchange mediums in the future, but right now the economy is run on cash money.  And if the pizza-shop doesn't get paid, it won't make any more pizzas, which will harm all of us.  'The laborer is worthy of his hire'."  My pal Kathy piped up: "And they gave us exactly what we asked for, and still hot, too.  Good behavior deserves its reward."  To which I added: "We should also reward the employee who had the guts to deliver a pizza to the 'Anarchist table at the SDS convention'."  So we quickly gave the pizza-boy the twenty dollars for the  pizza and a twenty-dollar tip for himself plus a fistful of literature.  Then we happily fell upon the pizza.  The watching Liberals gave us a spontaneous round of applause, and the pizza-boy strolled out mumbling: "...Yeah,  Anarchism."

I learned the rest of the story a couple weeks later.  It seems the pizza-boy had gone back to the local Domino's shop telling tales about his adventure and displaying the leaflets we'd given him.  He was a high school senior himself, working that summer to save up for college, and the incident got him interested in odd political theories.  Starting with the brief bibliographies listed in the flyers, he'd started going to the library and looking up books on Anarchism, and regaled his buddies with odd information from the books he'd read.  One questioned he'd relayed back to us was: "Who was Max Stirner, and why did Karl Marx hate him so much?" to which we replied: "A wild-ass teacher in a girls' junior high school, who liked to shock stodgy people."  

I never heard anything further about the radicalized students in that pizza joint, but I always figured that our stunt was a good day's work.

--Leslie <;)))>< Fish 





Tuesday, December 1, 2020

None Dare Call It 'Germ Warfare'

    Just over a century ago an airborne plague called the Spanish Flu swept over the world, infecting at least 500 million people and killing at least 50 million before it burned itself out in 1920.  At the time nobody knew just what it was, where it came from, or how to deal with it.  Then as now the only remotely-effective defense the experts could think of was to wear face-masks in public, and a lot of people objected to that.  Nobody had any idea how to create a vaccine for it.  Nobody considered closing schools or shutting down the economy.  Not until 1991, with the benefits of modern medical knowledge, was the source of the "Spanish Flu" identified as a variant of the H1N1-A virus -- definitely a member of the Corona virus family -- while biologists were isolating  H1N1 Swine Flu in mainland China.  The Chinese government then insisted that it had been brought into China via pigs imported from North America.  This did not prevent the 2009 outbreak of H1N1 Swine Flu in China.

    In fact, with the exception of Polio, Ebola and AIDS,  all of the major viral plagues of the 20th century -- including SARS, MERS, H1N5, H1N1, Covid-19 -- can be traced to the Corona virus family, which is permanently entrenched in China.  It's also notable that over the last 50 years China has made great efforts to capture most of the world's medical-supply industry.  

    The present pandemic, despite odd accusations from the Chinese government, originated in the city of Wuhan, in China.  Wuhan is a sizable city, which supports the University of Wuhan, which maintains the Wuhan Medical College, which administers the Virology Institute of Wuhan.  The official story is that the virus traveled from infected bats in the city's live-animal market to the rest of the city.  The story from various doctors who have defected from China is that the virus "escaped" from the Wuhan Virology Institute to the live-animal market and from there to the rest of the city.  What we do know is that as far back as December 2019 the Chinese government banned travel from Wuhan to the rest of China -- but not from Wuhan to the rest of the world.  This allowed China to celebrate its lucrative New Year holiday season without being interrupted by the epidemic.   

     By January of 2020 the virus had spread to the rest of the world, and no quarantine orders could keep it contained.  By now it's become clear that China severely "mishandled" the outbreak -- by allowing the virus to escape in the first place, by allowing widespread travel once the New Year celebrations were over, by telling the WHO initially that there was no danger of human-to-human transmission, by withholding information about the genetic structure of the virus (necessary for constructing vaccines), and initially withholding sales of medical supplies to the rest of the world.  It's also obvious how political factions have "weaponized" reactions to the virus -- particularly in the US, where Democrat officials have used lockdowns to cripple the US economy, therefore wrecking the major victory of Trump's administration.  Since Trump has been a serious opponent of China's economic warfare policies, getting him out of office could only serve China's interests.

    Since this is not the first time that various forms of Corona virus have come out of China in the past 40 years, there's some reason to wonder whether such "escapes" are accidental or not.  

    For most other countries, the chief objection to deliberately spreading plague to one's political enemies -- in other words, "germ warfare" -- is that the plague will inevitably spread to one's own population.  China is one of perhaps two countries on Earth, the other being India, which would have no problem with that.  China has the biggest population in the world -- one and a half billion people -- while India has one and a third billion.  Both countries have been trying, for generations, to cut their excessive populations down -- sometimes resorting to draconian methods that would appall the rest of the world.  Remember that the Spanish Flu killed roughly one-tenth of the people it infected, and the other Corona viruses have lethality rates much lower than that.  The government of China would not grieve if it lost a million, or ten million, or a hundred million, or even half a billion of its own people;  after all, it would still have a billion more to obey its edicts and pay its taxes.  It would certainly feel no pain if the rest of the world lost half a billion people, or more.  

    So far, the only downside to the Chinese government for allowing the Covid-19 pandemic to spread has been "loss of face" -- i.e. embarrassment -- in front of the rest of the world, and one lawsuit filed in the UN's world court by, IIRC, the governor of Missouri for "reckless endangerment".  The upside has been the weakening of its assorted enemies, economically and politically.  Motive alone is not sufficient for conviction, and there's no evidence that the Wuhan Virology Institute actually did let loose the Covid-19 virus deliberately, but there's certainly motive for it not to be too careful about its safety and containment protocols -- and history to suggest that it hasn't been too careful in the past.  Nobody is saying the words "germ warfare" in public, but I suspect that a lot of health officials and politicians in the world are thinking them.

--Leslie <;)))>< Fish           



Monday, November 23, 2020

Election Fraud and How To Stop It

    It was Stalin who famously said: "It doesn't matter how people vote;  what matters is who counts the votes."  

    Anyone who has ever lived through an election in Chicago knows that Stalin was a piker.  

    When I left college I lived for twelve years in Chicago -- all these years later, no doubt I'm still voting there -- and I saw for myself that there are many more ways to cheat than that.  As a general rule Republicans cheat by tossing people off the registration rolls (or artfully throwing ballots away) while Democrats stuff ballot-boxes, but either of them will use either method when it suits them.  Classical methods include:

    "Vote early -- and often":  In some states, counties and municipalities, voting registration clerks are remarkably tolerant about what they accept as identification for voting.  It's dismayingly easy for somebody to get several forms of ID and register several times over.

    "This city is so democratic that even the dead can vote": Doting registration clerks must be sternly warned (and watched) about a lot of people signing up to vote who have the same address, differentiated only by "suite" or "apartment" numbers;  such addresses should be checked against the tax records to see if the address is truly a large apartment building, a resident hospital, or a cemetery.

    "Vote once, vote always": Despite state laws which insist that a registered voter who hasn't voted for two elections must be taken off the rolls, a lot of registration clerks somehow fail to remove such entries -- sometimes for decades -- leaving available names for other people to use with less-than-accurate ID.

    "Unfit ballots": In some states "illegible" or otherwise "marred" ballots are rejected out of hand, instead of being relegated to "provisional" status where they can be examined further.  In such states, a bit of pencil-lead tucked under a fingernail can be used to swipe across a ballot, thus "marring" it, without being spotted by a poll-watcher -- and there are other methods.  

    "The wrong box": In states where "marred" or otherwise questionable ballots must be put in the "provisional" category for further examination, it's possible to sneak perfectly good ballots into the "provisional" category -- or even the trash-basket -- if the poll-watchers aren't looking, and there are many ways to distract a poll-watcher.

    "Midnight Donation": After the polling-place closes, a vehicle pulls up to the back door, but instead of taking in boxes of ballots, it drops some off.  They've been filled out before-hand, and now they're mixed in with the ballots from the polling-place.

    "Lost in transit": Ballots on their way to a counting-center are usually packed in labeled boxes and transported by a vehicle with a driver and a witness -- but sometimes there are shortages of personnel and only one driver transports the boxes.  It's easy for a box or two to "fall off the truck", especially if the poll they're coming from has a history of getting a lot of votes for one party in particular.    

    "Too far to see": A more blatant cheat, this consists of keeping poll-watchers from the "wrong" party out of the polling-place or counting-center, or stationed too far away to see what the counters are doing.

    "Lopsided": Poll-watchers are supposed to represent all available political parties, but there's usually a preponderance of watchers from one party or another.  Quiet collusions can occur.

    With the present fad for mail-in voting the possibility of cheats increases.  New tactics can include:

    "Blizzard": In most states voters who want to vote by mail must register at their local or county registrar's office, in person, showing adequate ID, and deliberately ask for mail-in ballots.  Usually this is granted without question.  Some states require a reason, but acceptable reasons are military service, distance from a polling place, or health requirements;  avoiding a plague is definitely an adequate reason.  The problem with voting by mail is that the filled out and returned ballot contains no proof of the voter's identity except the registration number and the voter's signature on the ballot's envelope.  It's rare that any mail-in ballot that isn't "marred" or "questionable" has its voter's signature checked against the signature on the original registration application.  When mail-in ballots are broadcast to every registered voter in the book, inevitably some of them will go to addresses -- and names -- of voters no longer actually there.  Such can be used by anyone who finds them.  

    "Interception": Where there are a lot of mail-in ballots, less-than-scrupulous mail-carriers, or even local post offices, can quietly divert ballots from neighborhoods known to vote a certain way -- and a certain percentage of those ballots can even-more-quietly disappear.

    "Harvesting": When there are so many mail-in voters that the post office might be overwhelmed, there are always friendly officials willing to provide "drop-off boxes" to help out.  There's no guarantee that whoever comes to collect those drop-off boxes will deliver them to legitimate polling places.

    Ah, but the use of computers for recording and tallying votes would make Stalin wet his pants.  Consider the case of Diebold Election Systems, center of a voting scandal a few years back:

    And then there's the parallel case of Dominion Voting Systems, which was caught "flipping" some 6000 pro-Trump votes to pro-Biden: 

    These are the reasons why I laughed my @ss off when I heard various Democrats piously insist that there is "no evidence" of voter fraud in the 2020 election.  There are plenty of accusations -- including the "Sharpiegate" case of disqualifying ballots right here in my home county -- and all of them need to be investigated before the final decision on this election can be settled.

    So there's the problem.  Now, what can we do about it?

    First, we must stop using the damned computers.  Go back to using solid paper ballots and counting them by hand, with adequate poll-watchers -- of all political parties -- watching.  That would include Libertarians and Independents, and secure high-resolution video-cameras too.

    Second, go back to giving mail-in ballots only to voters who specifically ask for them.  

    Third, devise a third method of proving the identity of a mail-in voter on or inside the ballot's envelope;  this could be as simple as requiring a xerox copy of the driver's license, and maybe passport, along with the ballot.  

    Fourth, put secure videocams on "drop-off" boxes and inside post offices during the days when mail-in ballots are dropped off.  Also have secure cameras watching not only the polling-places themselves but their back doors and parking lots.    

    Fifth, call in the state police if necessary, but make sure that the collected ballots are never out of sight from the moment they're filled out until they arrive at the vote-counting center -- and after.  The "chain of custody" must be ironclad.  This applies to the "provisional" ballots too.

    Sixth, print no more ballots than there are registered voters in the state.  "Same day" registration must be totally outlawed.  

    Seventh, stop using "private" voting systems completely.  Elect the state's Electors early, and have the Electors themselves conduct the election.  That was the original function of the Electoral College:  to guarantee that the people who conducted an election were themselves elected, and therefore under the control of the voters.

    I doubt if this will stop absolutely all election fraud, since cheats will always find a way when the stakes are high, but it will make the frauds a lot more difficult.

--Leslie <;)))><  


Monday, November 16, 2020

A Conversation on Psionics

    Now for something completely difference: a discussion at a WorldCon party, a few years ago, on the subject of psychic phenomena.

    I don't remember which WorldCon it was (I've been to so many, they begin to blur together), but by some forgotten circumstances I wound up in the Con Suite, nursing a beer and nibbling some pretzels, at a table with a gritty-looking middle-aged guy who's badge wasn't visible, grousing about the lousy state of science education in the public schools.  Eventually Mr. Gritty got around to sneering at the number of college students these days who "actually believe in" psychic phenomena.  

    At that point I felt that I should chime in on the side of forgotten facts.  I didn't quote the large and growing body of established evidence, since I didn't have access to the records at the time, but instead claimed:  "Well, in my case I've got no choice;  I've not only seen it done, but I've done it myself -- several times."

    "Oh yeah?" he countered.  "So what am I thinking about right now?"  And he squeezed his eyes tight shut, concentrating.

    The answer to that was almost too easy.  "Some big long number that doesn't mean anything to me, although it... hmmm, has something to do with... avocados?"

    He snapped his eyes open, and couldn't help correcting: "Avogadro's number."

    "Still means nothing to me," I said.  "The talent doesn't make you all-knowing, and it isn't easy, and because it works through a human nervous system, it's not 100% accurate.  And even under the best of circumstances, it's hard to prove it's real to a determined skeptic.  For instance, I could tell you about incidents where information that I couldn't have gotten any other way saved my neck -- but then, you'd say I was lying, or remembering wrong.  Or I could drop into alpha-trance state, lay hands on your bare skin and tell you things about yourself that you haven't told me---"

    He jerked his bare forearm out of my reach.

    "--but then, you'd say I was just making good guesses, or must have heard something from somebody else and consciously forgotten about it.:

    He couldn't help smirking at that.

    "No, about the only psychic talent that would prove its existence is telekinesis -- moving physical objects with psychic energy alone.  And of course that's the rarest and weakest of the psychic talents."

    Oh?  Why is that?"

    Because moving matter around takes a lot more energy than transmitting information, because there's a helluva lot more energy tied up in matter.  E equals MC squared, and no matter how you slice it, C is one helluva big number.  The human brain doesn't really have much energy to play around with.  I think a brain at full gallop produces only 25 volts of energy -- or is it joules?  I forget -- and at least 7 of those are tied up in basic maintenance: things like maintaining your heartbeat, breathing, working the guts and glands -- stuff like that.  That leaves, what, 18 volts, at most?  And keeping even that much focused and aimed isn't easy."

    "But you say you can do it?"

    "Yes, but mostly on small stuff: moving a column of cigarette smoke, nudging rolling dice, little things like that."

    He broke off a piece of a pretzel, set it on the table and said: "There.  Move that."

    I tried, and managed to feel my way into the piece of pretzel, but I couldn't find enough resonance to move it.  "I can't,"  I admitted.  "It's too heavy."

    "Dice are a lot heavier."

    "I can't move a stationary die, either," I explained.  "I can only nudge them while they're in motion -- sort of like the working of a transistor: using a little energy to divert a lot.  I've learned how to feel my way into dice, though it's tough because they're made out of plastic.  Metals and crystals are a lot easier.  Plastic is like a tangle of dried spaghetti;  there's enough space between the molecules to make it sort of like a sponge, and you can fill that sponge with psychic energy the way you fill a regular sponge with water.  Again, that's easier with metals or crystals.  But anyway, once I've got the energy in there, I sort of create a mood in it;  I make the dice want to land in a certain position -- ones down, sixes up.  I call it 'tits down, teeth up'.  Then I shake the dice -- in my cupped hands or in a real cup -- until I can feel the precise instant when, if I drop the dice right then, they'll land the right way.  It works about two-thirds of the time."

    "Then why," he bristled, "Haven't you gone to Las Vegas and cleaned up at the craps tables?"

    "I did," I said.  "Last time I was passing through Las Vegas with my publishers, we stayed overnight and spent a couple hours in the casino.  I used my talent then.  And guess what I found out."


    "That proper, respectable, rrrrrrreputable scientists may not believe in psychic phenomena, but Las Vegas croupiers do."

    "In what way?"

    "Well, when the guys running the table saw that I was rolling up the six-face way too often for chance, first they changed the dice on me.  Then they changed them again.  When that didn't stop me, they tried shouting at me -- 'Come on, throw already!  Quit holding up the line!  Throw!' -- in order to break my concentration.  When that didn't stop me, they sent in a spoiler disguised as an amiable drunk.  He slapped an arm around my shoulders and mumbled cheerfully: 'Hi.  I'm from St. Louis.  Where're you from?'  So I answered and shook hands and chatted politely until it came my turn to throw the dice again, and he kept his hand on my shoulder while I shook and threw the dice -- and came up with a double-six. After that he gave up.  I don't know what he signaled to the croupiers, but they called out that they were closing the table for 'maintenance', so we wandered off elsewhere.  I'd been making only one-dollar bets, so my winnings after an hour and a half of playing were all of ninety dollars;  not exactly a big score, but satisfying."

    "Do you have any witnesses for this story?"

    "Sure.  My publishers were right there at the table with me.  They're in the dealers' room right now, if you want to talk to them."

    "...Do you think you could move smaller objects?"

    "Sure," I enthused.  "I'd love to get access to a bubble-chamber, or a cloud-chamber.  I'm sure I can push atom-trails around, and that would give us conclusive proof. Say, do you know where I could get access to something like that?"

    "Maybe," he muttered.  Then he took his cup, got up and went back to the bar.  

    I didn't see him again, not through the whole convention.  I guess he lost interest in the subject.

--Leslie <;)))>< Fish