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Number 445

To lose oneself completely in a spontaneous flood of music is one of the great human joys: one isn’t creating, but being created — in fact, one no longer exists. At the same time, there’s a give-and-take, a handing off of ideas that mimics the process of thought itself, as if we were synapses in a greater mind.

It Can Get Worse, And It Probably Will

The third debate between the presidential candidates left much of the US press fussing over Trump’s refusal to say that if he loses he will accept the verdict of the electorate. In fact that is a virtually meaningless issue. When he refused to respond with insincere political correctness, Trump signaled once again his unusual independence from the standard model of a “good” candidate. (See this if you disagree.)

Those who wonder what he might do next are focusing, however, on an issue that is not just speculative, but a total waste of time: after all, Trump will not be elected.

Meanwhile stifling secrecy hides essential information from the public. The reference is to Hillary’s amazing abuse of digital technology, and to the utter failure of her staff to correct the problem and keep her out of hot water. Part of the cause for the blunders is technological: computers and the internet have introduced means of communication and data storage that are literally mysterious to most folks. It could also be that nobody in Hillary’s Inner Circle knew enough to understand what the security rules were, and why ignoring those rules was incredibly dangerous. (Give Foggy Bottom a failing grade for incompetence.)

Then consider that Wikileaks and the existence of “hackers” (the correct term is crackers) are denizens of a new environment. Not many folks genuinely understand how things work there.

Yes, there is in the governmental bureaucracy a dim apprehension that somehow outsiders can break into one’s files and copy them, or destroy them, at will — all without alerting the owner of those records. Now ask the big questions: how do office workers assess the threat? Do they talk it over, reassure one another, and then go back to work — without having learned or changed anything?

When there is a security breach — or simply might be one — the scramble to avoid responsibility can become frantic. Lies, speculations, inaccurate recollections, technologically ignorant assumptions, and outlandish scenarios can abound. So…

…Hillary denies everything, and insists there was neither an infraction nor a warning of a problem. Her loyal staff rallies to her.

Then there are the voters. They are severely challenged, because one typically assumes that political ideology plays its familiar major role in this election. The electorate tries to make decisions on the basis of traditional political distinctions; that is of little help. The actual problem is that Hillary and her helpers not only did not understand what they were doing, but refused (and still refuse) to believe they had made some horrible mistakes.

Hillary appears to have regarded a server as just another appliance, such as a coffee-maker. She might still consider that misconception appropriate.

Well. What the public can not know about Hillary’s crew has been first muddled by their shocked surprise and then buried under a strong reluctance to break ranks. It should be unsurprising that Hillary and her loyal staff were not tripped up by their political philosophy; they were prepared for that, for politics is a constant struggle over doctrine. It was that new gizmo in the basement that did them in.

Though it’s always true that voters can believe whatever they want to believe, this year an understanding of how digital technology impacts secrecy is required. Matters of political philosophy and commitment to partisan politics are parts of an environment that has become more complex.

No longer can politically motivated individuals be successful simply on the basis of their ideology and loyalty to a beloved leader. Huma Abedin, for example, has to be more than just a devoted admirer of Hillary and a good secretary; now she has unfamiliar concepts to learn as well as inflexible rules to follow and to impose on others.

As the computer and internet have added to what civil servants must be able to do, so too explanations are now more complex. How the system really works and who is important are still vital questions, but the world also presents more varieties of threats. Here, for example, is what some will consider a plausible explanation for some of what has happened.

(Tip: due to a technical flaw in the video, view from the start to fourteen minutes and thirty-nine seconds; pause there. Then advance to nineteen minutes and twenty seconds, and watch to the end.)

Hillary’s fiasco is proof that digital technology’s novel challenges to security have been poorly understood and improperly managed. The general assumption has too often been that one draws up regulations and tells everyone to follow them; end of report. Oh?

It is not that simple. Famous personalities, stellar figures, iconic team leaders — impressive folks, in other words — can ignore the details and tell their staffs to press on regardless. That might be what Hillary did.

If anyone working for her knew the proper procedure, certainly he/she was not prepared to stand up to the boss, tell her she was wrong, and take the consequences of having committed a heretical/disloyal act. Recall Hillary’s explosion when questioned by a Congressional committee on the Benghazi disaster; that took place in public, not behind closed doors. Hell hath no fury….

Indeed Hillary’s ignorant but autocratic ways tell a cautionary tale. Perhaps her prideful blunders will inspire qualified observers to study the emergence of a novel workplace (characterized by extensive use of digital technology) and its impact on the social-organizational psychology of cowed groupies like Hillary’s. One can hope.

What, meanwhile, should the voters do?

This newsletter has two suggestions.

First, realize that neither of the two major political parties offers a qualified candidate for the presidency. For some citizens, that will constitute good reason not to vote at all; others might consider casting “protest” votes for the Libertarian candidate.

Second, make known your demand that Hillary be pressed strongly to make the full status of her health public. This issue has been ignored by the press, but it is crucial; in fact the news media’s refusal to demand candor should have generated a tsunami of anger. Parkinson’s disease damages the brain, and physical and mental deterioration can only increase over time. In fact the drugs used to reduce the physical symptoms of the disease have to be used sparingly because of their unpleasant side effects.

That is not all. Before Hillary becomes president, the electorate needs to know more about the political views and qualifications of her proposed vice-president. How much do you know about Hillary’s partner on the ballot? How much should you know?

The coming transfer of executive power is a major concern. The nation will soon be severely tested by an ethically challenged clan that has prevailed in many rude struggles — because the electoral process failed to discover and promote excellence in governance. Thoughtful citizens owe it to succeeding generations to ponder how and why that happened.

Links Courtesy Of The Desert Rat

Here are a number of links regarding various aspects of the US presidential election. Begin with this. (It is highly recommended by this newsletter’s editor.) Here is additional commentary; Hillary’s security breaches are covered in this item, and finally, these predictions are chilling.

A Link Courtesy Of The Tramp Abroad

Why don’t scientists always want to share their data?

A Few Ordinary Links

Reader JH suggests this commentary on OPEC, and that “Hot Air” is a good source of news and opinion.

Another of JH’s picks: the sophisticated technology of US railroads is interesting.
The masthead includes a quote from the works of Phil Lesh.

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