SUNSHINE ON A RAINY DAY

Almost everything was down yesterday (‘on inflation fears’), but one stock I’ve followed on and off for years – with very mixed success – had a good day, up 63%. It’s a little Canadian natural gas producer, symbol CSPLF, first suggested as a speculation here at the end of 1998, ‘under 5,’ then variously as high as $6.50 (oops) and as low (‘given my penchant for self-destruction and farce,’ as I explained it then) as $2.65 four years ago. Well, I have no idea why it’s performed so badly – it closed at $4.75 Wednesday, having somehow missed the entire spectacular run up in energy stocks and a very nice appreciation of the Canadian dollar – but yesterday a hostile takeover bid was announced and the stock closed at $7.77 (can you think of a luckier number?). Who knows what will happen, but I assume a deal may get done, either here or higher (buyers don’t always start with their final offer). This will hardly have proven to be any great shakes for anyone who bought it at $6.50. But for those of us who bought lower – especially if the final price should come in higher – it won’t be so bad at all. If all my losers worked out this way, ‘I’d be a rich man today.’ (That’s what one of my parents’ friends told them years ago, when I was a boy, and they loved telling me the story ever after: ‘If I had put just two million dollars into that deal,’ he apparently moaned to them about some deal he had missed, ‘I’d be a rich man today!’ My parents, who had never seen anything like $2 million, thought it was hysterical. Everything is relative. Most of us are richer in creature comforts – and all of us are richer in technical magic – than any pre-Twentieth Century potentate ever was.)

EAT FEWER PILLS, DRINK LESS MOCHA

Michael Axelrod: ‘This whole ruckus over the prescription drug plan masks a deeper issue: we are over medicated by the medical industry. Some of the people I know take an astoundingly large number of medications every day. For some people, I think there is more harm than good being done. One needs to remember that the distinction between the primary effect and side effect is largely semantic. You give an organism a chemical compound and a plethora of biological effects occur. You label the effects you don’t like as “side effects.” Many medications are given to alleviate the side effects of other medications, and pretty soon the patient takes an armload of drugs. Some medications should only be a last resort. For example drugs to lower your LDL cholesterol – satins. First try diet, aerobics and weight training. It’s amazing how effective these simple measures are. Of course you can do everything right and still have high LDL, so in some cases taking satins is certainly justified. Insulin resistance is another largely preventable problem by simply keeping your weight down. You do this by caloric restriction. This will almost always work. One pound of fat equals 3,500 (kilo) calories. So ten days of lowering your caloric intake by just 350 per day will lose you one pound. That’s approximately one Starbucks Venti Caffe Mocha (no whip). Thus if you add just one of these drinks per day, you will gain 37 pounds in one year everything else being equal. Ouch! ‘Another reason people gain weight as they age is the loss of muscle mass. Muscle tissue, unlike fat tissue, takes energy to maintain, so as you lose muscle mass you decrease your basal metabolism and consequently gain fat tissue for a fixed caloric intake. The solution for this common and growing problem of insulin resistance is weight training, not medications. Give people cheaper access to medications and they are going to be more inclined to take drugs than give up that Grande Mocha. Why work hard when you can take a pill? By the way, you can always order ‘a short’ (not on the menu) at Starbucks. This size is even smaller and cheaper than ‘tall.’ Every little bit helps. That 390-calorie Mocha drops to 120.’ But . . . but . . . it’s so much smaller! You could thirst to death!

OKAY – BUT EXPLAIN THIS

Here’s the part of Greg Palast’s forthcoming Armed Madhouse I find troubling. (I expect I’d find a lot more of it troubling, but this is the only part I’ve read.) Click here if you want Larry David to read it to you:

In Ohio, there were 153,237 ballots simply thrown away, more than the Bush “victory” margin. In New Mexico the uncounted vote was fives times the Bush alleged victory margin of 5,988. In Iowa, Bush’s triumph of 13,498 was overwhelmed by 36,811 votes rejected. In all, over three million votes were cast but never counted in the 2004 presidential election. The official number is bad enough – 1,855,827 ballots cast not counted, reported to the federal government’s Election’s Assistance Commission. But the feds are missing data from several cities and entire states too embarrassed to report the votes they failed to count. Correcting for the under-reporting of the undercount, the number of ballots cast but never counted goes to 3,600,380. And there are certainly more we couldn’t locate to tote up.

Why doesn’t your government tell you this? Hey, they do. It’s right there in black-and-white on a U.S. Census Bureau announcement released seven months after the election – in a footnote to the report on voter turnout. The Census tabulation of voters voting “differs,” from ballots tallied by the Clerk of the House of Representatives for the 2004 presidential race by 3.4 million votes.

This is the hidden presidential count which, excepting the Census’ whispered footnote, has not been reported.

Unfortunately, that’s not all. In addition to the 3 million ballots uncounted due to technical “glitches,” millions more were lost because the voters were prevented from casting their ballots in the first place. This group of un-votes includes voters illegally denied registration or wrongly purged from the registries.

In the voting biz, most of these lost votes are called “spoilage.” Spoilage, not the voters, picked our president for us.

Joe Stalin, the story goes, said, “It’s not the people who vote that count; it’s the people who count the votes.” That may have been true in the old Soviet Union, but in the U.S.A, the game is much, much subtler: He who makes sure votes don’t get counted decides our winners.

In the lead-up to the 2004 race, millions of Americans were, not unreasonably, panicked about computer voting machines, “black boxes,” that could flip your vote from John Kerry to George Bush. Images abounded of an evil hacker-genius in Dick Cheney’s bunker rewriting code and zapping the totals. But that’s not how it went down. The computer scare was the McGuffin, the fake detail used by magicians to keep your eye off their hands. The new black boxes played their role, albeit minor, but the principal means of the election heist – voiding ballots, overwhelmingly of the poor and Black – went unexposed, unreported and most importantly, uncorrected and ready to roll out on a grander scale in 2008.

I went to sleep election night with the exit polls showing Kerry ahead in swing states. But between 1:05 am and 6:41 am the next morning, goblins went to work. By dawn, the network’s exit poll for Ohio showed Kerry dead even with Bush among women, and down by five percentage points among men.

What happened? Were thousands of Bush voters locked in the voting booths, released at 2am, then queried about their choices? Not quite. The network’s polling company applied a fancy “algorithm,” a mathematical magic wand, to slowly transform the exit polls to match the official count.

And that’s bad. By deliberately contaminating the exit polls, the networks snuffed the canary that would signal that something was deeply wrong about the vote count.

Hunting for a Democrat to defend the Twilight Zone between the exit polls and the “official” polls, media grabbed on Dick Morris, Bill Clinton’s old advisor. An expert at walking that fine line between minor criminality and psychopathic ambition, Morris knows which way his next client’s wind blows.

Morris said:

“Exit polls are almost never wrong. So reliable are the surveys that actually tap voters as they leave the polling places that they’re used as guides to the relative honesty of elections in Third World Countries. To screw up one exit poll is unheard of. To miss six of them is incredible.”

His opening was promising, but then he switches into full Morris: “It boggles the imagination how pollsters could be that incompetent and invites speculation that more than honest error was at play here.”

So, Dick, you’re telling us there was an evil cabal among six pollsters, competitors who don’t even like each other, conspiring one dark night to make George Bush look like a vote thief.

There’s another explanation: Kerry won.

☞ I don’t know whether he did or didn’t. But isn’t that the point? In America, of all places, shouldn’t we have verifiable elections – with a paper trail – we can trust? If you agree, click here to join the chorus.

 

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