don’t panic

A Murmur Before the Buzz

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks to the General Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church during their annual convention at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 8 July 2016. (Photo: Charles Mostoller/Reuters)

Of course this feels inevitable:

Hillary Clinton is being urged by a group of prominent computer scientists and election lawyers to call for a recount in three swing states won by Donald Trump, New York has learned. The group, which includes voting-rights attorney John Bonifaz and J. Alex Halderman, the director of the University of Michigan Center for Computer Security and Society, believes they’ve found persuasive evidence that results in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania may have been manipulated or hacked. The group is so far not speaking on the record about their findings and is focused on lobbying the Clinton team in private.


Two important caveats from New York magazine:

• It would take overturning the results in both Wisconsin (10 Electoral College votes) and Pennsylvania (20 votes), in addition to winning Michigan’s 16, for Clinton to win the Electoral College.

• The academics so far have only a circumstantial case that would require not just a recount but a forensic audit of voting machines.

There is a reason this feels inevitable. Still, though, neither are these signals that should be raising or dashing hopes, nor sounding alarms from sea to shining sea that the Russians have finally won.


Image note: Photo by Charles Mostoller/Reuters

Sherman, Gabriel. “Experts Urge Clinton Campaign to Challenge Election Results in 3 Swing States”. New York. 22 November 2016.

Freedom (American Check the Party Mix)

Science of Us“Take that, American companies with product names that sound as though they come from the language of a country that disagreed with the U.S. on a foreign-policy issue!”

Jesse Singal

What? It’s not like this is surprising. Or is this another moment from American history people would prefer pretend never happened?

Freedom fries? Freedom toast? Freedom poodle? What’s that? Going to forget that first freedom kiss?

Yeah. Not surprising in the least.


Singal, Jesse. “Americans Punished French-Sounding (But American) Brands During the Iraq War Argument With France”. Science of Us. 4 May 2015.

The Latest Poop From Puti-Toots

Emperor Puti-Toots the Last looks bored upon his throne.

It is important enough to not allow that John Sweeney’s report for BBC Panorama should pass unnoticed or unmentioned. Then again, neither is it such bad news that we should panic.

Three eyewitnesses, all civilians, separately told Panorama that they saw a missile-launcher in rebel-held territory a few hours before the Boeing jet was hit.

One eyewitness saw the missile-launcher roll off a low-loader at Snezhnoye, around ten miles from the crash site, at around 13:30 local time (10:30 GMT).

“We just saw it being offloaded and when the BUK started its engine the exhaust smoke filled the whole town square,” he said.

The eyewitness told the BBC that the crew struck him as Russian soldiers: “Well-disciplined, unlike the rebels, and not wearing the standard Ukrainian camouflage uniform sported by government and rebel troops alike.”

“They had pure Russian accents. They say the letter ‘g’ differently to us,” he said.

In eastern Ukraine, most people speak Russian but the BUK crew did not speak Russian with a local accent.

Sweeney also reports that the testimony has been corroborated by a second witness “who added that an officer in a military jeep escorting the BUK spoke with a Muscovite accent.”

It seems beyond question that Vladimir Putin wants a war; a really, really big war. What remains unanswered, though, is why.

Meanwhile, there really is no point in panicking. Indeed, mere daily fretting might be overkill. This isn’t the sort of thing, like bad groundwater or poor nuclear safety, that the politicians can overlook. And, plus, wars are spectacular, whereas bringing nuclear plant safety up to par isn’t; it’s the nuclear accidents that are spectacular. That is to say, war will come or else it won’t, and if Putin intends to light up the sky, it would seem reasonable to suggest that he won’t give much immediate warning. In the question of why, it seems more and more evident that Vladimir Putin has simply lost his mind. At this point, expecting the ordinary geopolitical jousting would be the extraordinary expectation.

But the line of the day goes to Mikhail Khordokovsky, the former oligarch and present staunch foe of the Putin regime, who asserted:

“The prospect of democratic change of power in Russia does not exist anymore. There will be more blood in the future.”


Sweeney, John. “MH17 disaster: Russians ‘controlled BUK missile system'”. BBC. 8 September 2014.