Why America can’t handle an election

It’s US election day, and you don’t need to be The Amazing Kreskin to predict how things are going to go: badly.

Barring a miracle, we’re going to end up with another statistical dead heat, with Kang and Kodos splitting the popular vote and electoral college vote almost 50/50. Unfortunately, there are a lot of black box voting machines in marginal areas—with no tamper-proof audit trail and no way to re-count the votes. So in a close finish, we’re going to be left with literally no way to determine who actually got the most votes, or who actually won closely-fought states with electronic voting machines.

Yes, it’s going to be worse than 2000. In 2000, at least there were ballots that could be examined to determine who the voters really intended to vote for. The fact that the Supreme Court wouldn’t let that be done and instead handed the keys to the White House to Bush was regrettable, and it wasn’t exactly surprising that the corporate media decided to bury the actual vote results when they were finally tabulated by independent journalists. Nevertheless, there was at least the sense that we knew what was going on. This time, we’ll never know. No matter who wins, the other side will have entirely justifiable grounds for considering them fraudulently elected.

Election officials love all-electronic voting machines, precisely because there’s no way to do a recount. Recounts are boring, embarrassing, and can be disrupted by rioting partisans. If there’s nothing to be done but read the computer’s totals off the screen again, the supervisors are guaranteed that they’ll be at home in bed by midnight. So what if it means the results are meaningless? That’s somebody else’s problem.

But let’s look on the bright side. As a result of Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo Bay and the Iraq war, most people in the world hate America as a political entity, but love American people. If it were possible to re-elect the people who approved the torture, there’s a distinct danger that Americans would do so, and suddenly being American would be about as socially uplifting as being (say) a white South African in the 1980s.

So, when the polls fail to reach a conclusion, I say celebrate—it means you’re off the hook for another four years.

The Miracle of Birth, Part 2

One of the biggest problems in medical research is testing. When a disease only affects humans, animal testing is no use, and it’s often tough to get enough volunteers to test drugs which are possibly worthless, or even dangerous.

The massive multinational GlaxoSmithKline faced this problem in 1995. They had a number of experimental AIDS drigs they needed to test, and they just couldn’t find enough volunteers.

Happily, they were able to obtain assistance from the Catholic Church, who run an orphanage in New York called the Incarnation Children’s Center.

The Incarnation Children’s Center had quite a few orphans who had been born to HIV-positive mothers, as well as children whose parents had simply been deemed unfit to look after them. This meant that conveniently, no parental consent was required; the New York political authorities and the Catholic Church took the parental guardian role.

The New York Administration for Children’s Services agreed that experimental AIDS drugs might help the kids. Doctors from the US AIDS Clinical Trial Group at Columbia University Medical Center agreed to supervise the trials. Hence, starting in 1995, GlaxoSmithKline-sponsored scientists found themselves with a supply of more than 100 black and Hispanic orphans to perform medical experiments on. A range of ages was available, from three months old upwards.

Experiments with a seven-drug cocktail of AIDS medications went well, so in 1997 the orphans were used to obtain data on herpes drugs as well, and others were dosed with AZT. Finally, Glaxo and Pfizer got in on the action, and sponsored tests to determine the long-term safety of antibacterial drugs on three-month-old babies.

The medical trials ended in 2000. The story has been uncovered by The Observer. Let’s see how the US corporate media cover it…