We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

‘Time’ to neutralise the truth

That many men were undone by not going deep enough in roguery; as in gaming any man may be a loser who doth not play the whole game. (Henry Fielding)

The temptation to go just deep enough but not too deep is very understandable. If Hillary had won in 2016, there is much we might never have suspected, let alone known, about how she was helped. It was a great surprise to the deep state to learn they had not gone deep enough.

This time round, they went deep enough. But history teaches us that that too has its problems. When you have to go deep indeed to go deep enough, even the most determined propaganda denial may have to ‘evolve’ over time.

For example, in December 1934, Stalin arranged for Kirov, head of the communist party in Leningrad, to be assassinated – and over the next few years convicted millions for being part of the ever-expanding conspiracy accused of the murder – but the story of how it happened kept changing.

Finally, in 1938, the Soviet view took the form it was to keep until 1956: … the assassination … had been facilitated by Yagoda, head of the Soviet secret police. … This change of line, which contained elements of the truth, was designed to mask or neutralise the real version, which began to circulate in the secret police within weeks of the crime … (Robert Conquest, The Great Terror)

It’s an old propaganda technique – but a risky one – to confirm a half-truth to mask the truth.

‘Time’ magazine is taking the lead in ‘evolving’ the MSM’s election narrative. As late as a week ago, it was “baseless” to claim that 2020’s huge increase increase in vote-by-mail (“the largest source of potential voter fraud) had other suspicious characteristics. But now, the “safest election ever” was in fact “fortified” by a elite cabal.

This was not news to me, of course, but the spin may be a bit of a whiplash for some. I agree with Neo’s take: it was going to come out in time, so better for the cabal that it come out in ‘Time’; someone had to neutralise the truth. It’s the past tense of the woke Law of Merited Impossibility – not “That will never happen (and you’ll so deserve it when it does)” but “That never happened (and what a good thing it did)”. As the deep state went abruptly from not existing to being the heroes a year ago, so ‘Time’ has replaced ‘baseless” with praise of this solid base.

However if I were Joe Biden, I would rather have seen this article after more than a year in the White House than after less than a month.

All who died on the 6th supported Trump. What else do we truly know?

Truth is the daughter of time. Meanwhile, what do we actually know about the events of the 6th?

Ashli Babbitt died because she was shot. Three protestors died of medical emergencies (it happens in crowds but still …). And Brian Sicknick, a Capitol policeman, a Trump supporter and no friend to the deep state died.

[BE AWARE: truth is indeed the daughter of time. The first sentence of the next paragraph now appears to be completely incorrect – evidence of how someone cautious of the MSM can still be deeply deceived by them. Read the final paragraph of this post for summary and links to better information about Brian’s death.]

Brian died because a man threw a fire extinguisher onto a group of policemen and it struck him. (The clear video hasn’t prevented some accounts, and even more comments, confabulating tales of his being beaten to death by a frenzied mob, but you can click the link to see what actually happened – a professional-looking strike by a man who approaches from the left of the video and then as swiftly retreats when the deed is done.) Throwing a fire extinguisher is no way to kill a specific targeted person, but it is a way to inflict death or injury on a random policeman. (Four years ago, in early 2017, the rioters threw concrete blocks at the police – luckily, IIRC, no-one was killed then.)

Andy Ngo said it did not look like Antifa to him. He was in England at the time, not Washington DC, so is working from videos of the event, but he has a great deal of experience of what Antifa in Portland look like. Michael Yon says in this video that it looked like standard Antifa false flag agent-provocateur tactics to him. He was there outside the Capitol and he has seen Antifa in Portland (and has seen many protests around the world). Michael Waller, another eyewitness, is very sure he saw agent-provocateurs, and that some were Antifa false flags – and is not so sure about others. The impeachers and the MSM remain in denial but gradually others – even the FBI – are deciding that the crowd listening to Trump’s split infinitive (“to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard”) were not first on the scene at the Capitol.

One thing seems clear. The US right believe in the second amendment – and in their right to shoot second, to shoot back. If last Wednesday had been a coup attempt, the shooting of Ashli would have been met with return fire. This was no coup attempt. Whatever the first-at-the-Capitol group intended, it was not that.

One thing is not yet clear to me. Who were they, really, and what was their goal? It is horrible to think that Brian Sicknick may have been killed by someone from the side he sympathised with. It is horrible – and dangerously consoling – to think he was killed by an enemy activist wearing a reversed Trump hat.

– On the one hand, the collusion investigation in the first two years of Trump’s presidency and the impeachement a year ago were both deep state operations. Both were designed to deflect and delay they themselves being investigated (for the FISA warrants / Fusion GPS stuff, for Biden’s exploiting US aid to get the investigator of his son’s employer fired). This could just be third time round – a false flag operation to enable a riot-justified impeachment to drown out discussion of election fraud.

– On the other hand, more than once since the election, I’ve seen posts note that people are so angry about the steal that ‘someone on our side’ might do something violent. In November 2012, Republicans felt disappointed but not cheated – everyone could see there had been some vote fraud but they could also see that Obama won anyway. It’s different now. Throwing a fire extinguisher onto a bunch of cops facing away from you, not at some politicians or deep staters, doesn’t fit my idea of what that anger would prompt, but in such volatile situations all sorts of things can happen, so who really knows. Remember also that pollsters before the election sometimes asked not, “Will you be voting for Trump?”, but ,”Will your neighbour be voting for Trump?”, knowing that cancel culture meant the latter question gave a more accurate answer to the former. The idea of political violence in the US is ugly. So is the idea of a blatantly stolen election being supinely endured. Did some people think these neighbours could become violent?

We may know more in time, but, as Natalie points out, we cannot trust the MSM to report whatever does not suit them. Meanwhile we must live in interestingly uncertain times.

[CORRECTION (February 2021): I was made aware the day after I wrote this post that the fire extinguisher incident may have had nothing to do with Brian’s death. This has since been admitted so widely that I feel I should alert any late-coming readers to the fact. It appears that an extinguisher was thrown at some police by one man, but it seems this did not cause death, and Brian’s death is looking more like another medical emergency death. It also appears to have happened after the Capitol protest was over and in another location.]

That’s Niall Ferguson, not Neil Ferguson

North American academia is in the grip of a hideous mania, a cross between the early-modern witch craze and Mao’s Cultural Revolution, in which implacable zealots conduct grotesque show trials, innocent individuals have their reputations, careers and sanity destroyed, and everyone else cowers, terrified that they will be next to be ‘canceled’. (Niall Ferguson, blurb from Quillette book, ‘Panics and Persecutions’).

Now let’s be accurate here. The millions of victims of Mao’s cultural revolution had a very high tendency to end up dead. In early-modern England, you were vastly less likely to be suspected of being a witch, and suspected witches had far better odds: 60% of English witch trials ended in acquittal, and in fully half of those that convicted, the penalty was not death (and those statistics include the notorious brief episode of Matthew Hopkins under the puritans during the civil war, without which they would be noticeable less lethal still). But even an English witch faced greater physical danger than the modern western ‘cancelled’. Who was more cancelled than Mark Judge, but he is still alive and even earning money – washing dishes.

In short, Niall Ferguson’s comparisons, like Neil Ferguson’s pandemic models, exaggerate. What Niall describes is a vile change from academia a few decades ago (politically one-sided though that already was), but it could yet be very much worse – and maybe one day will be if we neglect Edmund Burke’s wise warning:

The only thing necessary for the victory of evil men is that good men do nothing.

A self-surpassing argument about the (‘not quite’) stolen election

Most attempts to claim the election was not stolen for Biden demand you ignore its blatant statistical oddities – so are wholly unconvincing. J. Christian Adams has been fighting voter fraud corruption since long before Eric Holder shut down his cast-iron case against the Black Panthers over ten years ago. Christian makes the statistical oddities a key part of his theory – that what happened is “sadly, generally legal”.

Two things happened in 2020. First, COVID led to a dismantling of state election integrity laws by everyone except the one body with the constitutional prerogative to change the rules of electing the president – the state legislatures.

Second, the Center for Technology and Civic Life happened. … left-leaning donors Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan gave $350 million to an allegedly “nonpartisan” nonprofit, the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), which in turn re-granted the funds to thousands of governmental election officials around the country to “help” them conduct the 2020 election. … billionaires made cash payments to 501(c)(3) charities that in turn made cash payments to government election offices. … It converted election offices in key jurisdictions with deep reservoirs of Biden votes into Formula One turnout machines. …

As far as it goes, this is sadly sensible. My sole but absolutely central criticism of the argument of Adams (whom I respect) is that it cannot go so far without going further. US politicians have been trying to build formula 1 turn-out machines for two centuries. The law of diminishing returns means that turning-out actual voters gets harder and harder as the percentage racks up. The obvious shortcut of just turning out votes is very much easier – and has also been practiced for two centuries. Adams provides a context for poll workers cheering as Republican observers are excluded – but that’s also the context for what happens after they are removed. Wealthy Dem donors can build this machine but there is a psychological improbability, which in today’s cancel culture becomes a psychological impossibility, that they could build a machine that would turn out inner city voters in such numbers while at the same time respecting their secret ballot choice, freedom from fear of its compromise, and so on.

This psychological impossibility is fully matched by statistical rebuttal of any claim that they did. Adams analysis provides a counter-argument to “the bizarre turn-out percentages alone prove fraud”. But by the self-same token, it provides a counter-argument only to “the bizarre turn-out percentages alone prove fraud”. The statistics of ratios and co-anomalies are just as telling as before. The machine did indeed go thus far and much further. It was criminal even in its own corrupted terms.

All this is probably not fair to what Adams actually meant when he said “sadly, generally legal”. Firstly, because he well knows that

fraud was a problem. …Mail ballots went to dead people. Mail ballots went to abandoned mines in Nevada. Mail ballots went to vacant lots in Pittsburgh. Mail ballots went in the garbage. Mail ballots were voted by people other than the voter.

Secondly because he probably just as well knows that a law on the books says that you cannot visit a Minneapolis minority suburb and burn down properties, but if the operation of the law means the perpetrators predictably evade penalty and the owners as predictably fail to gain remedy, then there is sadly a sense in which it is legal. Laws in various books say the secrecy of the ballot must be respected, and all and only legal ballots counted, but if ignoring secrecy sleeves carries no penalty even when seen, if poll counters (not just formula 1 turnout machines) act location-aware, and reported examples gain no remedy, then it could be said that, like some of Trump’s tweets, Adams “sadly, generally legal” should be taken seriously if not literally.

Walter Williams and Western Civ

thou was the meekest man and the gentlest that ever ate in hall among ladies. And thou were the sternest knight to thy mortal foe that ever put spear in the rest.

(Sir Ector, speaking at the death of Sir Lancelot, on the last page of the Morte d’Arthur.)

Holding a black belt in karate, Walter was a tough customer. One night three men jumped him — and two of those men ended up in a hospital.

The other side of Walter came out in relation to his wife, Connie. She helped put him through graduate school — and after he received his Ph.D., she never had to work again, not even to fix his breakfast.

Thomas Sowell’s obituary of Walter Williams, who died on December 2nd.

I tagged this ‘sui generis’, because Sowell also wrote:

Walter Williams was unique. I have heard of no one else being described as being “like Walter Williams.”

Good news! I can believe my eyes.

I’m not one to stay up late watching an election count – let alone stay up even later to watch a US one (and I discourage the habit in my nearest and dearest). I always tell myself (wrongly, as you shall see) that the result will look just the same in the morning whether I follow it overnight or not. So a month ago on Wednesday 4th, by the time we were up, had breakfast and started looking at how it was going across the pond, it was past 8 o’clock in my (Greenwich) time zone (much the same time of day as it was when the household first learnt we’d won the Brexit referendum four years earlier).

At that moment, Trump was the bookies’ clear favourite to win. Browsing the election map for five or ten minutes, I saw why they were giving him such strong odds. The cumulative vote total graphs for each candidate in the swing states were curving over towards flatness and the gaps below Trump’s lines, above Biden’s, were sufficient. I started to get on with the day’s business, still glancing at the electoral map at times.

Then I saw the one of the four anomalous data points analysed in this article*. That is, I looked away from my computer screen momentarily, drank some more tea, looked back – and wondered if my (rather good!) memory for figures had abruptly failed me. What it said simply didn’t fit what I remembered when I’d started sipping my still-very-hot cup of tea.

It was an astonishing thing to see.

That was in Wisconsin. While I was still trying to check my memory, Michigan did the same, as another of the paper’s four anomalies hit. By 9 o’clock UK time, the bookies were rethinking things – and so was I. I did some work, then went out for a walk and got back around half-past eleven, just in time to see the last anomaly take effect in Michigan.

The linked analysis of these four events is very easy to read – or so say I, but for five years my work was researching aspects of statistical anomalies, so here is my summary for anyone who feels differently.

Batches of counted votes can be very unbalanced towards either candidate or they can be large, but there is a strong inverse relationship between the two. The paper analyses a lot of data to show the improbability of both very unbalanced and very large. This is a good test because it tends to get past fraudsters, who are focussed on the raw margin of votes more than the ratio or the batch size.

A secondary tell – and this one is already well-known in fraud detection in third-world countries – is improbable ratios of the losing candidate to minor candidates, e.g. Trump getting little more than twice as many votes as the minor candidates in the second Michigan anomaly when the state’s average (calculated including that data point) was 31 to 1. The paper finds this combination of grossly-violated size-margin ratio and grossly-violated Trump-to-third-party ratio particularly suspicious (as do I). It also computes what happens if you pull these four data points in towards merely the 99th percentile of the size-margin relationship – leaving them still anomalous but not so wildly implausible. (Biden loses his alleged lead in all three states.) It also notes some related statistical oddities.

My guess is that the idea of the US waking up to what I’d woken up to – Trump the heavy odds-on favourite – terrified his enemies. Their pre-election narrative was that Trump would at first ‘appear’ to win, after which ‘days and weeks of counting’ (Zuckerberg) would show he had lost. But while Zuckerberg promised to ‘educate’ America to believe in that, I think someone in the early hours of the 4th panicked that if the US electorate woke up to a bookies-call-it-for-Trump breakfast on Wednesday morning, that would never be erasable from the US mind, no matter how many votes they then ‘found’. So they made sure that didn’t happen. (You never know: it might yet be that what they did to prevent that becomes equally hard to remove from America’s consciousness. You don’t have to be a statistician to think a sudden step function in a smooth graph looks odd.)

So the good news is that my memory for numbers is working fine. The bad news is that I may lose a night’s sleep next election. The very first of the four anomalous points went into the Georgia vote totals soon after 6:30 AM my time – half-an-hour after the normal rising time of Donald Trump and Margaret Thatcher, I am told. (I guess the reason I’m not PM or president is that I’m usually asleep then.) When I first glanced at the results, I thought Georgia was surprisingly close given e.g. the Florida result, but if I’d missed the other three oddities as completely as Georgia’s, I’d have been far less cautious in reviewing the outcome.

*FYI: the linked paper was easy to access this morning in the UK, but sometime before 9 o’clock eastern US time, it became hard to reach via the link above. (Massive interest overwhelming server, DoS attack, both, …? – Your guess is as good as mine.) You can try here. Another summary of it is here. (I’ll arrange a robust link if the problem does not clear.)

Screaming at the sky versus sitting by the sickbed

Four years ago, rage at the election of Trump expressed itself in a lot of what looked like performance art: screaming at the sky, ‘the literal shakening’ and so on. The usual celebrities as usual did not keep their promises to leave the USA if it happened – but I know from personal contacts that not all of it was cost-free to its enactors. One west-coast guy decided he had to abandon a trip abroad “because Trump may not let me back in!” This guy was a US citizen. He was not even a muslim. In fact, he was the kind of guy some muslims throw off tall buildings. But he seemed genuinely to think the risk that Trump would (and could) not let people like him back into the country exceeded the risk of his meeting one of that sect of muslims (or similar) while out of it. Much calming talk was needed to persuade him that just maybe he could risk leaving his country and returning after the inauguration as arranged, rather than endure the non-zero inconvenience of staying put. If this was performance art, it at least presented as willing to pay a small personal price.

Today, people like Sarah Hoyt feel worried about the state of US democracy. As a poll watcher in Colorado in years past, she witnessed Democrat fraud and GOP spinelessness at close quarters. Born in Portugal, she knows another political culture as well as America’s, so she has a keener sense of what could be lost. She likens her feelings to sitting by a sickbed – something she has also experienced. Sometimes you are in the hospital room with the one you love – for whom you can do almost nothing. Sometimes you can’t be with them but must sit in the waiting room – and must force yourself to plan, to think, to use the time. Sometimes you are back home where there are things you must do, other people you must care for – or at work from which you must keep earning. There is no scope for the indulgence of screaming at the sky. You have to manage your feelings as best you can.

Another way of not letting yourself fret at moments when you have nothing relevant to contribute is to let your mind step back and reflect on – for example – what these different reactions say about the rival movements they represent. At the 10,000 foot level, there are some very broad psychological similarities between the state of some people in 2016 and others today. In 2016, many hoped that faithless electors, the emoluments clause, the clause about removing an insane president, Jill Stein’s recount or finding proof that Russians hacked the voting machines would make Trump vanish like a bad dream. Today, many hope that fraud of a more domestic and familiar kind, unusual mostly only for its scale, can be demonstrated. I think they do so with better cause, of course, but that is only secondarily related to the difference in how they manage stress. I think the decision to manage stress with (relatively) more self-discipline or more self-indulgence is the more basic fact – related to who adopted which politics in the first place.

Are incentives better than commands – when the goal is fraud?

In the old days, Mayor Daley commanded his goons to “vote early, vote often” and Lyndon B. Johnson ordered his fixers to write down the vote tally required.. Etc.

I think incentives work better than commands, in general. I also think that these days, when there’s a non-zero risk that even the thickest goon just might have a smartphone and a grudge, it is prudent, as well as effective, for some forms of voter fraud (not all) to avoid the overt top-down command-driven model. Teach a general political philosophy that values achieving the noble goal far above pedantically observing the rules of the process. Garnish with four years of proclaiming loudly that electing Trump president is fundamentally illegitimate (to a degree that obviously no irregularity on your side could match). Drizzle with half-a-year of normalising the burning down and looting of property to make burning or looting its owners’ votes seem trivial, while also passing voting laws (or proclaiming governors’ orders) that make doing so easy and safe.

Given the things Biden does say, I hesitate to assure you we will not find a recording of him saying “Vote months early, vote often”, but after doing the above, there was far less need for anyone to say that in so many words.

A guy with some experience investigating fraud thinks the same but (like me) he also thinks incentivised fraud has a downside.

Real errors go both ways. … errors going all one way means it is systematic across the entire organization. Different errors all going one way means that it isn’t one state, one software company, one voting method… this is everyone in the organization getting the message to move the stats one way. And they did it sloppy and across the board because although the message was sent and received, it wasn’t *organized* from the top. It was handled from the local level. It was impossible to be slick and smart, the front line knew what the top level wanted as a result and no one knew how much it would take so it became super obvious…

As statistics and examples of vote fraud accumulate – and are swiftly repeated and denied in haste from site to site on both sides by both the statistically literate and the anything but, by both the cautious and the furious – I advise investing a little thought in the underlying state(s) and model(s) that these details are intended to clarify.

I’ve given one example above – consider how much of this was incentivised, not centrally controlled. Governor Newsom could hardly tell the pair arrested for making more than 8000 fictitious voter registrations between July and October 2020 that the California Democrats only needed each activist to register a few tens or hundreds at most; incentivising enough while also restraining enough, while saying nothing overt outside one’s inner circle, is a difficult trick to pull off.

A second example is the fact that mail-in voting notoriously makes voter fraud much easier – and also, as a side-effect, makes it even easier than it already is to submit a single legitimate vote. For several reasons there was real increased turnout as well as fictional, and all of it showed up in the totals – which should be remembered when, for example, a statement about Biden underperforming Hillary or not in some context shows up far down some comment thread with any original ‘relative’ / ‘absolute’ qualifier long forgotten in the twenty repetitions the point took to get there.

A third is that when a Rasmussen poll reports 30% of Democrats saying it is likely the election was stolen from Trump, what you think that means will be affected by what you think about the (in)accuracy of polls in general – and whether you think that, like voting anomalies, polls overwhelmingly err in a pro-Democrat direction.

How does this ban fit with that rename?

It can be hard to keep the narrative consistent.

It appears that BLM enthusiasts love anti-police murals but just hate the idea of a mural claiming that ‘Black preborn lives matter’. Evidently the limit on whose lives can be said to matter is strictly defined indeed.

So why is the Marie Stopes clinic renaming itself? It is true that the current racial ratios of US terminations would gladden the heart of the clinic’s eugenicist nazi-sympathising founder. But if that doesn’t bother BLM supporters, why should it bother the clinic?

Historic first: Lord Ahmed of Rotherham to be expelled from House of Lords (you’ll never guess what for)

In the old days, peers were put to death, not expelled. In Edward VI’s time, the Venetian ambassador, dining with some six or so Englishmen, was astonished to learn that all but one of them had at least one ancestor who’d been executed for high treason. The ambassador started talking about how amazed he was at just one exception – but was promptly kicked under the table by his neighbour, who whispered in his ear, “You’re embarrassing the poor fellow – it means he’s not quite a gentleman.”

It seems Lord Ahmed of Rotherham is not quite a gentleman either. Today, the Lords Conduct Committee stated that he has done what a Lord Ahmed of Rotherham who desired to oppose stereotypes would have refrained from doing. They are treating his sexual assault of Ms Zaman on 2 March 2017 as fact. They add

at no point in the process did Lord Ahmed show any remorse or take any responsibility for any aspect of his conduct towards the complainant…

Of course, it never seemed to me that Nazir Ahmed of Rotherham was that plausible a candidate for either gentleman or lord.

– In 2009, texting on his phone while driving his Jaguar on the M1 motorway, he killed a man. He was given a 12 week prison sentence but served only 16 days. He blamed his conviction on a Jewish conspiracy.

– Also in that year, Dutch politician Geert Wilders was invited to the House of Lords by three peers of the realm to show his film FITNA, but was prevented from entering Britain by the Home Office (perhaps I should have tagged this post ‘immigration’, as well as ‘UK affairs’?). To give his party colleagues (PM Gordon Brown and Home Secretary Jacqui Smith) cover for that decision, Ahmed threatened to lead 10,000 Muslims to the Palace of Westminster to prevent Wilders from entering it, and to take the people who had arranged it to court if Wilders was let in.

Nothing about this breaking story on the BBC last I looked. I’m sure they’ll mention it sometime.

Kristallnacht versus BLM

Goering (shouting): “Why did you not kill 200 Jews instead of destroying so many valuables!”

Heydrich (defensively): “36 Jews were killed.”

[Words uttered during ministerial discussion with a representative of the German insurance industry after Kristallnacht.]

Kristallnacht was pretty-well the last of the Nazi’s anti-Jewish exercises that were more incentivised than directly commanded and supervised. They had learned the habit in their pre-power days. As the party court (the Uschla) reported afterwards, old party comrades understood that “certain hints meant more than their mere verbal contents”, so when told that “von Rath’s murder was a crime of Jewry as a whole … every party comrade should know what to do”, they went out and – to the great annoyance of Goering when he realised the economic impact – did a fantastic amount of property damage while only killing, by later standards, a derisory number of Jews.

BLM operate the same way. The stormtroopers broke glass and smashed things up because fire could spread to ‘aryan’ properties, whereas BLM don’t care if black-owned businesses burn. But with the exception of that very peculiar way of not making racial distinctions, BLM have shown the same common tendency of an incentivised but loosely-commanded Western/European mob to do a lot of property damage for each life they take.

Inflation adjusted, I think the direct financial cost of Kristallnacht far exceeded that of all BLM’s destruction to date. On the other hand, by murdering the eight-year-old black girl Secoriea Turner, the black man David Dorn and various others, it looks like BLM can get into the ballpark of Heydrich’s figure just in killing ‘Lives That Matter (TM)’ – and if you also count lives that don’t matter then maybe they can compete with the higher number that were actually murdered during 9-10 November 1938.

However, BLM needed many nights of rioting to achieve this, whereas ‘Crystal Night’ was done in a day and a night. So I leave it to readers to decide “the point of precedence between a louse and a flea” – or to take Dr Johnson’s advice not to bother – as my focus here is on the specific similarities of technique I’ve mentioned.

(Just a ‘seasonal’ thought prompted by the time of year. I apologise to any who are distressed by the very dark humour of this ‘Godzilla versus King Kong’-style comparison.)

And now for something completely different

This joke-post is the kind of thing that should normally appear on The Babylon Bee satire site or similar, alongside such stories as “CNN calls Arizona 2024 for Biden” and “Trump locks himself in Oval Office, Swallows Key” (and I’d be only too pleased if they used any or all of mine gratis). However I felt we could all do with a little humour in these endlessly uncertain times. 🙂


Breaking: Biden broke Benford’s Law

In a controversial ruling, the US Supreme Court has found that Biden vote totals in key districts violate Benford’s law, which states that numbers the American people can be required to believe should start with 1 more often than 2, 2 more often than 3 and so on.

US liberals were not slow to denounce the court’s ruling. “The crucial vote came from Amy Coney Barrett – the NINTH justice!”, raged Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “By Benford’s law, she should forbid us to believe herself.” Replying, Justice Barrett said that 5-4 rulings were more in accord with Benford’s law than 9-0 ones, pointedly adding that she looked forward to many more such.

In a more nuanced version of AoC’s argument, a trio of California-based federal judges urged the decision be left to Justice Roberts (whose balanced, middle-of-the-road submission weighed the statistical improbability of the vote totals against the statistical improbability of orange hair in a president), on the grounds that Benford’s law should weight the first justice far above the ninth. However it was then put to them that, since they themselves served on the ninth circuit, these judges’ argument also overturned itself. Advised that the analysis of self-referential statements belonged to another, yet more abstruse, branch of mathematics than Benford’s law, one of the judges promptly shot himself in despair, while the other two endorsed Kamala Harris’ statement that the size of the supreme court must immediately be raised from the unacceptable number 9 to a more Benford-friendly total.

President Trump immediately went on televison to boast of being “number one” – but took the fifth when a New York Times reporter claimed that Trump’s true wealth violated Benford’s law. “You tell the American people you are worth ten billion dollars, but I know from my secret IRS source that the true value is only nine billion!” Meanwhile, Joe Biden also appeared on TV to explain that Benford’s law had no relevance to elections but, despite help from both his wife and the teleprompter, became hopelessly confused – which caused many Americans to say he was a good representative of the average guy, since Benford’s law confuses them even more than lockdown rules. (Later, professors at the University of California presented a statistical analysis demonstrating that counts of Biden’s gaffes obeyed Benford’s law, which therefore showed that whatever he had been trying to say was the truth.)

Elsewhere in academia, Professor Lawrence Tribe, expert in constitutional law, pointed out that there was no mention of Benford’s law in the constitution or any amendment. “I find it disgusting that biased justices feel they can casually re-‘interpret’ the constitution to suit modern ideas. This law was not even suggested until a century after the constitution was ratified, and not given a mathematical proof till over a century after that. The founding fathers never even imagined such a thing!”

The NeverTrumper ‘Lincoln Project’ denounced the ruling’s indirect endangering of the 9th amendment (which says that the enumeration of certain rights in the consititution shall not deny or disparage others retained by the people) as a typical example of the way in which Trump’s “pyrrhic” victories were defeats for true conservatism, and promised to spend the vast sums they raised in this election cycle on overturning the result.

LATE UPDATE: The New York Times has published a special insight article on Benford’s Law, explaining that mainstream media’s calling of the election for Biden came first, so outweighs the USSC ruling, which came second. It is rumoured that social media giant Mark Zuckerberg tried to agree – but was censored by the Facebook algorithm he put in place days ago to suppress any mention of Benford’s law. Here in the UK, media concurrence was marred by a Guardian article’s repeated references to ‘Bentham’s law’, suggesting they thought the USSC had ruled that Trump’s re-election would made for the greater net happiness – which, Guardian commenters said, was not the case for them.

So much for satire. Anyone who would rather have had a serious discussion of Benford’s law can start with this intuitive example, then look at this application of it to huge amounts of data. (The really keen can download these Excel-oriented DIY instructions.) FWIW, my earlier comment on the story that prompted this is here.