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Dying in the light

‘Democracy dies in darkness’ is on the masthead of the Washington Post. They say it as if it is their fear, but they behave as if it is their hope (for example, when hiding the story of Hunter Biden’s laptop). One thing it isn’t (yet) is literal fact. Despite the efforts of many, there’s still enough light around that anyone who chooses to look can see some of what is happening to democracy in the US today.

PART I: let’s examine an example – Arizona.

PAST PERFORMANCE …

The usual suspects spun the Arizona-State-Senate-mandated audit of the 2020 election and its results like a top – but they could not literally suppress it. Anyone who wanted to could (and still can) watch the presentations and/or read the audit reports themselves, not the spin about them.

“None of the various systems related to elections had numbers that would balance and agree with each other. In some cases, these differences were significant. There appears to be many ballots cast from individuals who had moved prior to the election. Files were missing from the Election Management System (EMS) Server. Ballot images on the EMS were corrupt or missing. Logs appeared to be intentionally rolled over, and all the data in the database related to the 2020 General Election had been fully cleared.

On the ballot side, batches were not always clearly delineated, duplicated ballots were missing the required serial numbers, originals were duplicated more than once, and the Auditors were never provided Chain‐of‐Custody documentation for the ballots for the time‐period prior to the ballot’s movement into the Auditors’ care.” [FYI, this is a reformatted summary from ‘Maricopa County Forensic Election Audit Volume I: Executive Summary & Recommendations’. As there was a draft release of the report shortly before the late september presentation and filing, there is more than one version of this text extant, all very very similar but not quite identical.]

Anyone who wanted to look could also see that the people who administered the 2020 Maricopa County election were very hostile to being audited.

“By the County withholding subpoena items, their unwillingness to answer questions as is normal between auditor and auditee, and in some cases actively interfering with audit research, the County prevented a complete audit,”

They were also keen on deleting records (the MSM tried to spin that too), and they continued to withhold information in the face of pressure from the Arizona Senate and Attorney General:

Arizona Senate President Karen Fann and Arizona Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Warren Petersen have pressed the county and Dominion Voting Systems to produce routers, traffic logs, mail-in ballot envelopes, and other information in their investigation. The county has refused. … in its response MCBOS [the Maricopa county election administrators] failed to explain why it is not required to comply with the legislative subpoena. Its only response was that the Arizona Senate is not currently in session, so MCBOS could not be held in contempt. (August 21st, 2021)

This very cautious audit nevertheless found 23,344 mail-in ballots voted From prior address (and no one with the same last name remaining at the address), 9,041 more ballots returned by voters than were sent to them, and so on and so on for a total of well over fifty thousand flagged ballots (more than five times Joe Biden’s declared margin of victory) – the data breakdown is in the Maricopa County Forensic Election Audit
Volume III: Result Details
(scroll to page 5, ‘Findings Summary Table’).

The canvas audit was a private effort (it resembled some of the follow-up checks the official audit advised in its report but was not a state-run activity: hundreds of canvassers went door-to-door verifying registration and voting information for thousands of residents (and, of course, very properly not asking for whom any responder voted). This method found examples of what the state audit’s methods could not:

“American citizens living in Maricopa County who cast a vote, primarily by mail, in the election and yet there is no record of their vote with the county and it was not counted in the reported vote totals for the election.”

Unlike the state audit’s method, the canvas audit’s statistical samples (and so the estimates made from them) are capable of being overstated, not just of being understated – for much the same reason as an opinion poll can be off in either direction (albeit the canvas audit was on a larger scale than typical polls of comparably-sized populations IIUC). People could simply forget that they had not in fact voted. Or they could lie; it is possible (but a bit odd) that someone who had not bothered to post or cast their vote in the election might nevertheless be motivated to lie that they had. Etc. But the canvas audit found enough cases to estimate 173,104 such “missing or lost” votes (plus four times as many unknown-at-address/departed-from-address mail-ins as the state audit reported). That’s enough for a many-times-over result reversal even if your estimate of the unreliability of the canvas’ audit’s estimates is high. (And of course it would be a additional challenge to justify estimating the lying or errors of audit-canvassed voters very high while estimating those same qualities very low in the unprecedented 2020 statistics of mail-in voters from the same population – or in the administrators who verified them.)

→ Continue reading: Dying in the light

Samizdata quote of the day

Most mainstream journalists cannot be relied upon to critically uncover and impartially convey the facts surrounding a complex and unfolding crisis. If you watched RTE, BBC during the unfolding pandemic, you were fed naively one-sided stories laced with fear-mongering, misleading use of statistics, etc. PCR results, for example, were reported uncritically as though they corresponded to serious cases of disease, when we knew that many PCR positives did not actually correspond to active infections or connoted very mild cases that would not even require medical attention.

David Thunder

Say the bad spell backwards, that’ll work!

“Shoplifting isn’t the real crime, poverty is”, tweets Owen Jones.

The tweet links to this video excerpt from the Jeremy Vine Show, in which the host tries several times to get Mr Jones and the other panellists to give straight answers on whether it is wrong for shops to put anti-theft tags on commonly stolen goods. He doesn’t get any. The responses he does get are variations on two themes, firstly, the non-sequitur “Yes, it is wrong for shops to try and stop their goods being stolen because poverty is the bigger crime”, and secondly, “I don’t condone shoplifting, but here’s why I condone shoplifting.”

At 2:25 Mr Jones says, “The way to abolish shoplifting is to abolish the underlying cause, which is poverty and the cost of living crisis”.

So the answer was in front of our silly noses the whole time!

In future videos Mr Jones will tackle the shocking prevalence of “food deserts” and “health care deserts” in poor areas because so many supermarkets, corner shops and pharmacies have closed down.

“Why aren’t China’s Covid lockdown measures working?”

“Why aren’t China’s Covid lockdown measures working?” asks Tom Whipple, Science editor of the Times:

The original R rate of the Wuhan strain was 3, meaning that each infected person passed it to three others. Estimating the R of Omicron is near-impossible — but we know it is vastly harder to contain. It has evolved to spread more effectively and infect more easily.

In the rest of the world, its spread, as well as the Delta variants, has given us “hybrid immunity”. People have been infected after being vaccinated, and the population has a soup of varied antibodies working against infection and serious illness.

In China, they have less a soup of antibodies than a single distilled flavour — from averagely-effective vaccines designed to repel a virus that no longer exists. Omicron has plenty of virgin territory to conquer.

Despite some of the debates we are having today, at a very basic level and on their own terms, lockdowns clearly work. China is proof of that; if people can’t meet each other they can’t infect each other.

But restricting people’s lives entirely is impossible. Eventually both the virus and human nature find ways to circumvent restrictions. Only a country with the state apparatus of China could have hoped to have maintained rolling lockdowns so strict, for so long, that it could persist with zero Covid.

Why is President Xi doing it? Western scientists are increasingly bemused. One answer is vaccination — the country isn’t where it needs to be. Although overall more than 90 per cent of the 1.4 billion Chinese have received two doses and a third booster shot, the rates tail off among the elderly. According to the latest statistics, only 40 per cent of the over-80s have been fully vaccinated. But this just leads to another question: why not?

Some Chinese speculate that the older population, especially, have been reluctant to get boosted and lulled into a false sense of security by strict measures and state propaganda that lauds the country’s lower cases and death rates compared to the West. Distrust in vaccine safety, inevitably, also plays a part.

But another reason China is still focused on prevention, not treatment, could be the lack of intensive care beds — less than four for every 100,000 people, according to the National Health Commission in Beijing, which means a large-scale Covid outbreak could have disastrous consequences. In Britain, the figure at the start of the pandemic was 7.3 critical care beds per 100,000 people, less than half the average in other European nations (15.9).

In its pursuit of zero Covid, China was not blessed by geography, it was instead blessed with a powerful state and fewer qualms regarding civil liberties. What is baffling to outside observers is that the same state that is so effective at imposing extremely severe restrictions on its people is so ineffective at getting all of them vaccinated, or providing enough hospital beds.

Don’t fixate on Mr Whipple’s use of the word “blessed” in “blessed with a powerful state and fewer qualms regarding civil liberties”; he clearly means it ironically. Alongside many others, he is finally beginning to understand. A pity it comes so late, but better late than never. One day it may no longer baffle him that a society that runs on lies cannot get science right, and that a society that runs on force cannot get anything right.

Samizdata quote of the day – state mandated recession edition

To see the folly of the UK’s approach, you just have to look at Sweden, which had no lockdown and far lighter restrictions. As a cancer surgeon pointed out in the Spectator last year, the difference in access to cancer services was astonishing. Taking prostate cancer as an example, during the first wave in 2020, the number of patients undergoing prostatectomies fell by 43 per cent in Britain, but by just three per cent in Sweden. Such a stark gap cannot simply be blamed on the virus. Lockdown is the difference here.

Perhaps the most obvious impact of lockdown has been on the economy, where a new grim milestone is surpassed every month. Shops, restaurants, offices and factories were shuttered for months on end in 2020 and 2021. Vast swathes of the economy were either mothballed or severely disrupted – far more by state-enforced restrictions than by the pandemic itself. The lockdowns of 2020 resulted in the UK’s worst recession in the history of industrial capitalism – a fall in economic output not seen since the Great Frost of 1709.

Fraser Myers

So who signed off the Tots ‘n’ Bondage Bears ad, Balenciaga?

Remember what a fun day it was when the Rainbow Dildo Butt Monkey came to Redbridge children’s library?

I posted about it here, and asked, “How did this happen? Why did no one question it?” The answer was the title of that post: it was a bad career move to be the first one to object. Objecting would have marked you out as a prude, a bigot, a hater.

The Daily Mail‘s headline writer probably thought his next chance to write a headline like “Parents’ disgust as actor in rainbow coloured monkey costume with fake penis and nipples appears at library event encouraging children to read” would not soon come again.

He need not have worried. Today’s Mail gave him another opportunity to practise his art: “Balenciaga apologizes for bondage-themed campaign featuring a child and excerpt from SCOTUS ruling on child pornography – fashion house vows to sue photographer behind it”

  • Fashion brand Balenciaga is apologizing for a photoshoot with a child holding a teddy bear dressed in a BDSM outfit that outraged many
  • Perhaps even more bizarrely one of the photos hides an excerpt from the US Supreme Court opinion in United States v. Williams, which upheld part of a federal child pornography law
  • Balenciaga appear to be laying the blame at the photographer, Gabriele Galimberti
  • They released a statement apologizing for the shoot and seemingly suggesting they would take legal action against Galimberti and anyone else involved
  • ‘We sincerely apologize for any offense our holiday campaign may have caused,’ they wrote
  • They continued: ‘We take this matter very seriously and are taking legal action against the parties responsible for creating the set’
  • One thing that comes with the territory of being a libertarian is a lifetime of explaining that one can very much not wish to say “Ban this sick filth”, while still thinking the thing concerned is sick filth. Whether for racism or “edgy” adverts that promote sexualised images of children, I think the moral obligation on libertarians to condemn morally bad speech is greater, not lesser, because we do not seek to silence the speaker.

    From what I have seen of the adverts they managed to stay this side of the line of actually violating the child actors themselves, but “the makers of this advertisement would probably escape jail time” is not much of a recommendation. Balenciaga as a company ought to be ashamed. And enough with the weasel words about it all being the fault of the photographer. Someone at the company signed this off. Why didn’t he or she take one look at the juxtaposition of a sad-eyed child and BDSM imagery and have Gabriele Galimberti escorted off the premises by security? The answer is the same as for the Redbridge Rainbow Dildo Butt Monkey. It was a bad career move to be the first to object.

    “Rare unrest in Guangzhou”

    This video comes via the Guardian: “Rare unrest in Chinese city of Guangzhou as people protest over Covid restrictions”

    Is unrest such as this really so rare? Would we know if it were not rare?

    Related posts: “Riding the Covid tiger” and “Sci-Fi dystopia or real world?”

    Samizdata quote of the day – Tory doom spiral edition

    The Autumn Statement was a tragic miscalculation, the final failure of a project to undo the gravest mistakes of the New Labour era and shift the UK in a more dynamic, more conservative direction. Lacking any meaningful plan for economic growth, and postponing many of the most difficult decisions on spending until after the next election, the Statement passed the costs of a ballooning state onto the productive parts of the economy when disposable incomes are collapsing. It was a victory for the Treasury technocrats who have resisted every attempt to move the UK away from Brownite orthodoxy.

    Telegraph editorial

    Samizdata quote of the day – coup d’état edition

    The brutal demise of the Truss administration following the mini-budget has been widely attributed to the market’s reaction to the expectation of unfunded borrowing occasioned by tax cuts and the fuel price cap. To the contrary: the market’s behaviour was quite clearly a response to the actions — and inactions — of the Bank of England, before, during and after the mini-budget.

    One part of, but not all of, the case against the Bank has been cogently made by Narayana Kocherlakota, a well-respected economist and former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, in a Washington Post piece entitled “Markets didn’t oust Truss — the Bank of England did”. Kocherlakota’s view was that the Bank of England was responsible for the crisis, through “poor financial regulation and highly subjective crisis management”. Outside the UK chatterati, this view is widely supported.

    Jon Moynihan

    Samizdata quote of the day – heavier taxes edition

    “Today’s Autumn Statement was the latest confirmation that at some point British politicians replaced the idea that ‘people should be able to live well’ with ‘pensioners should be able to live well, and damn the rest’. You are expected to scrimp, save, forgo the pleasures of youth, postpone having a family, and possibly never have one, in order that your money and earnings can be directed to the most noble cause there is: propping up the value of rental properties, and paying for the healthcare and pensions of Boomers.”

    Sam Ashworth-Hayes.

    As I noted earlier this week, there is a problem with a lot of people not bothering to get a job, and there are issues there. Some of you have argued that young people, weighed by debt and alarmed by where things are going, are giving up on work and ambition. I think this is a bit glib – gaining work skills and character is still important, for all economic and political weathers. There’s no doubt though that the sort of message coming out of today’s autumn statement by Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, is that if you are ambitious and fortunate enough to be earning a lot of money, even more of that is going to the State, and in many cases, to support the older generation. We are seeing, I think, the politics of ageing right in front of our eyes.

    Samizdata quote of the day – US political dumpster fire edition

    As he announces his candidacy once again, Trump can boast of the impressive feat of being just as unpopular as the dreadful Joe Biden. A recent poll suggests that 65 per cent of Americans do not want Trump to run again; the exact same number do not want Biden to run again.

    Tom Slater

    Samizdata quote of the day – lazy lump edition

    “Almost unbelievably, nearly a quarter of our working age population is reported to have some form of long-term illness or disability that in most cases prevents them from working. The numbers are more alarming still among younger cohorts, which theoretically should be the healthiest and most able to work. Among 16 to 24-year-olds, one in eight are being signed off with long term health conditions.”

    Jeremy Warner, talking about the state of the UK economy. Let’s be blunt: a large chunk of the population in the UK are lazy, stupid and with all the ambition and zest for life of a lump of concrete. In the 21st Century, it seems frankly absurd that a quarter of the work-age population are ill or incapable of doing anything. It is a disgrace.