Sunday 8 November 2020

You are gaslighting yourself.

I am a mathematician. Not professionally, but mentally. I'm one of those people who had an affinity with numbers and logic from a very early age, which led eventually to a degree in maths and a career in IT. I understand that a lot of what seems bleeding obvious to people like me is opaque to many people. (This is not to be boastful: we all have our strengths and weaknesses, and Lord knows there's plenty I don't understand, like football and small talk and not making people want to punch me.) But I honestly did not appreciate until this week the extent to which obvious mathematical truths are complete mysteries to such a huge chunk of humanity.

Of course I'm talking about the cursed election. You may have seen these graphs:

Those graphs are evidence of something highly suspicious happening. Clearly and obviously, to anyone who understands numbers. That has nothing to do with what they're measuring. If they were graphs comparing the performance of two brands of dishwasher, they'd be suspicious. If they were exchange rates or share prices, the financial regulator would be demanding an explanation from the banks involved, and actively considering raiding those banks if such explanation was not forthcoming. The idea that those numbers are not suspicious is just preposterous. I shan't bother explicating why; one thing I've discovered this week is that those who can't already see it will determinedly continue not to. But the evidence honestly couldn't be much clearer. And yet the dominant claim, repeated all week throughout the world's media, is that there is "no evidence". Not that the evidence is, on balance, unconvincing, or that it can be explained, but that there simply is none. That so many millions of people are apparently willing to believe such a thing is the most damning indictment I have ever seen of the state of maths teaching.

Now, let's be clear here about what the word "evidence" actually means. It doesn't mean "proof". When a defendant is found not guilty, all the evidence against them doesn't cease to exist; it is still evidence against them, which has been weighed and found not damning. Even though they were not guilty, the evidence against them is the reason why it would have been remiss not to try them in court at all. Evidence is something that is worth looking into.

There are various scenarios that could explain graphs like that. "This is normal; nothing to see here" is not one of them — but that's the one we've been given, again and again, smugly and condescendingly, by people insisting that even being suspicious of numbers like that is a sign of knuckle-dragging stupidity.

But, utterly unsurprisingly, it turns out that the evidence was worth looking into. For instance, Antrim County, Michigan discovered that software had allocated 6000 votes to the wrong candidate. That's not a conspiracy theory; it's not a paranoid accusation by the losing party; it's a fact, verified and confirmed by the election officials. The numbers were evidence that something was wrong, so people investigated the numbers, and found that indeed something was wrong. That's how evidence is supposed to work. It may be that the software was hacked with the intent of fraud; it may also be a mere innocent error. But what it most certainly is not is nothing.

That software, incidentally, is in use in 47 counties. Since we now have proof that it malfunctioned to the tune of thousands of votes in one of those counties, that proof is in turn evidence that it may have done something similar in the other counties. That evidence should of course be investigated. It might turn out that it only miscounted in Antrim and worked correctly everywhere else. That's how evidence is supposed to work too. But claiming that it might have behaved the same way everywhere it was used (which is, after all, what such software is explicitly designed to do) is not crazy, is not sore losing, and is not an attempt at a fascist power-grab. It's an entirely reasonable suggestion. And refusing to investigate it would be insane.

I currently work in financial regulatory reporting. If I were to see numbers like that and not investigate them, I could go to prison. And I'd deserve it.

The graphs are far from the only evidence. Larry Correia set a load of it out here, along with a good explanation of what a red flag is in an audit and what it does and doesn't mean. I recommend reading it if you're interested in the US election.

But, believe it or not, I don't want to talk about the US election.

I've deliberately not mentioned Trump till now, because this isn't really about him — or shouldn't be. Trump will be gone in four years or a few weeks, and either one is the blink of an eye. (Note to teenagers: Yes it really is. Just wait.) Democracy, we should hope, will be with us somewhat longer.

Four years ago, in a context that was different yet ultimately the same, I wrote this:

But to think that that makes the theft of our rights and powers OK is to fall into the usual trap of thinking that democracy is just a decision-making mechanism, and that therefore it is the decision it reaches that matters. But democracy is not primarily a decision-making mechanism. I mean, really, if you were setting out to design a good way of making good decisions, would you come up with democracy? Of course not. Because it's laughably useless.

However, democracy is a very very good civil-war-prevention mechanism.

Democracy works because enough people believe that they will get their way some of the time. Because of that, they are willing to accept the result when they don't get their way — they know their time will come soon enough. It is this general belief spread throughout the populace that has effectively stopped people resorting to violence. This is why not only actual propriety but the appearance of propriety in the electoral process matters so much. This is why it is vital that suspicious events be investigated seriously. This is why investigating events and finding them to be above board is not the same as pre-emptively declaring that they are not worth investigating in the first place. The process matters far more than the result, because the process is the alternative to what our ancestors did. Our ancestors killed each other. In huge numbers. The best estimate of the effect of the English Civil War on Ireland is that about 41% of the population were killed. No, that's not a typo. Over disagreement about who should be in charge of another country.

Personally, I prefer voting.

American ideas have a way of spreading. For a long time, that hasn't happened with their electoral fraud. They have generally had a bigger corruption problem than the rest of the English-speaking world for some reason — just compare the number of entries for the US to those for the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand on Wikipedia's list of controversial elections. That is about to change.

Because any tactic that works will be used.

Try and forget about your dislike of Trump for a second. Sure, you want him gone, for whatever reason. It ought to be possible to say so and yet still notice crap like this:

Just a general observation from a foreigner feeling ever more foreign since Wednesday morning: I have spent election night in many countries over the years, and have never seen what I saw on Tuesday night. And I am amazed that even the parochial brain-dead American legacy media could pass off what happened in Philadelphia as normal. Everywhere else the polls close and the riding or constituency counts the votes until they're all done and they have a final 100 per cent result - by 9pm, 11.30pm, 3am, however long it takes. But, in Philadelphia and elsewhere, they suddenly stop counting and everyone goes home until late the following morning to start counting the boxes that have shown up under cover of darkness.

And everybody on ABC, CBS, NBC pretends this is perfectly normal.

If that were to happen in a British election, we'd regard it as completely mental. I'd expect every candidate to protest — not on the grounds that they suspected their opponents of nefarious shenanigans, but for the more basic reason of seriously, what the utter fuck? This is just not how one does elections.

Until this week.

Because what happens when you insist that this is unremarkable, that there's nothing to see here, that this is a correct way of conducting affairs, is that you make it more likely. Half of America have their own reasons for insisting that it's AOK. You don't have to agree with them to prove your hatred of Trump. As long as the British were outsiders looking in, regarding such behaviour as a bizarre foreign American thing, it remained a bizarre foreign American thing. This week, when you declared you were fine with it, you invited it in.

Political parties are full of devious cheating bastards — because they are groups of human beings, so of course they are. Devious cheating bastards will do whatever they can get away with to win — you could look it up. Up till last week, there were things they thought they couldn't get away with in Britain. You are now busily telling them otherwise. You have told them that you're happy for polling centres to have their staff sent home and for tens of thousands of votes to be delivered while they're away. You have informed them that you will avert your eyes from obviously suspicious numbers. You have even told them that you will accuse anyone who does notice obviously suspicious numbers of corruption. The safeguard against this stuff was your refusal to stand for it. And you threw it away.

Any tactic that works will be used. Sooner or later, it will be used against you. Once these practices take hold, they'll be in our elections in twenty years, in fifty years; they'll be entrenched in the elections your grandchildren vote in. They won't even have heard of Trump, but they'll be stuck with this shit. Until they get fed up with it not working, so start killing instead.

Because half our generation eagerly lied to themselves because they disliked one politician, who wasn't even in this country.

Trump didn't do this. You did.

Update, 10/11/20:

The original version of this article contained a third graph. It has since been removed from its original source, so I've removed it from here too.


Unknown said...

Absolutely spot on.

Claireberrett said...

Brilliant. And yet no one who should read this, will read this.

anntendlerfineart said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dr. Robert Newton said...

Being the author of fourteen books, twelve published, I must not only applaud your research and conclusions, therefrom, but your cogent and flowing style of conveying your thoughts. I only wish I had known you and included your BRILLIANT expose in my book, "A Nation of Deceit: Revenge of the Deep State, as to what you knew about 2016 election, rife with fraud, to wit. Would love to have you on my shows, Solution Revolution and Real Conspiracies with Scientific and Spiritual Solutions. Dr. Robert J. Newton 714 296 2328

genwolf said...

Deserves to be widely shared and heeded.

forthespacemen said...

Utterly superb

Lisandro Staut said...

The only problem is that the graphics is a myth, you base your good article in something that was immediately fixed, the 138k votes in MI placed incorrectly by Decision Desk HQ, it was not even a mistake made by the county. Other than that we agree on everything.

Unknown said...

You're good and the county you mentioned id correct. Somebody caught it. Otherhand these votes in the swing states don't smell right herr id the proof you eantrd

Unknown said...

Excellent piece. Extremely worrying times.

Unknown said...

Excellent explanation.. everything I KNOW spelled out for anyone to understand. However, what now?

Anonymous said...

I'm curious on your thoughts as to whether the late rally for Biden is not sufficiently explained by the order in which the states chose to count the mail-in ballots? These skewed heavily for Biden since Trump urged his supporters to physically go to the polls, and Biden supporters tend to be more virus-restrictions-adherent anyway? What am I missing?

Annasiel said...

Anonymous said...

If these obviously questionable voting / counting patterns are not thoroughly investigated in a bipartisan manner (and, instead, are merely dismissed as "Nothing to see here. Move along."), the days of the great American experiment as a constitutional republic are over. In its place will be a huge banana republic with a massive nuclear arsenal, and criminals at the helm. God help us all...

Unknown said...

Biden supporters lent towards mail in votes. Mail in votes were counted in some states after the in person votes so Trump percentage seemed higher at first. Some states wanted to count these votes before election day to speed up the process. Trump was the one that litigated against this.

Mail in votes are 100% legal and include things like overseas armed services votes.

If you have any actual evidence of voter fraud then please share it with the authorities and it will be taken very seriously. Republican officials were present in the counting rooms and they have not provided any evidence.

Anonymous said...

Where are the comparisons of other years? Those graphs could be very strange or completely normal but we have no reference points. Doesn't take a mathematician to see that the dataset is far too small for any conclusions or opinions.

Anonymous said...

No references to where the data has been obtained from or the graphs taken from. The writer could have literally made up these graphs himself. Or they could have been taken from a known right wing media channel. No links or references have been included.

None of the math is explained, just a vague statement of 'if your understand the numbers' which a normal laymen is not going to.

The writer also claims he works in 'financial regulatory reporting' and yet also has a career in IT. Which is it cause they are vastly different.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jeff Corkran said...

Very well stated. Thanks. As someone else already said, however, those who need to read this won't.

Squander Two said...

Thank God you're here. Otherwise, I might not know what my own job is.

Squander Two said...

You're right: 149.5M votes is an absurdly small data set.

Squander Two said...

Oo, insinuating that I'm a Nazi. That's an amazingly clever tactic. You should suggest it to some of your fellow travellers, in case it hasn't occurred to them.

Still deleted, though. Wanker.

The Pedant-General said...

Can you provide explanation and source of the third graph?
I've not seen that one before and I can't quite make out what it's saying from the axes.

Are those some outlier points falling on a precise line? If so that's actual shite and people need jailing.

The Pedant-General said...

Also, the fact that the narrative was "no evidence" since Wed evening, despite the fact that this stuff was floating about and there were already eye witness reports from postal workers, GOP count observers etc etc.

Also the Benford law breaking results...

The thing that really irks is the simple lack of curiosity. If it had gone the other way, CNN et al would have swarmed the area looking for corroborating reports. You would have had breathless interviews with the observers and, yes, the US would be on fire right now.

It stinks to high heaven, but you're captured the real implications of this far better than I have been able to.

Dusan Dusan said...

You're interfering with his confirmation bias :)

Squander Two said...

Hi, PG.

As far as I can tell, the third graph has been deleted from its original source. Although there is loads of stuff being oublietted by the social media giants just now, it looks like whoever put it together may have withdrawn it, so I'll delete it too.

No doubt someone will be along to crow about this, but it's exactly the process I said we should follow: there's evidence; you look into it.

The Pedant-General said...

Thanks S2. I'm still absolutely staggered that the whole narrative is "no evidence" - last I saw they've got 130 affidavits filed for the case in Philly. I've never seen such a stubborn refusal even to look. "No evidence" is being repeated so often that it genuinely smells of the "big lie repeated often enough", with all the overtones thereof. What I simply cannot fathom is the media's complicity with the big lie. At least with Goebbels, it was HIM doing the lying.

And in other news, how did you get on with your customer service/flight diverted to Dublin disaster?

I never saw the outcome of that fight.

Squander Two said...

The media have been disgraceful. This all started with their self-aggrandizing conviction that their job is to help people rather than to report facts. They've reached the bottom of that slippery slope now. Are there no "reporters" at all who thought it would be pretty cool to be the one who got the scoop on what might turn out to be one of the biggest events in American history? Apparently not.

Have you seen the frantic editing of the Wikipedia entry for Benford's Law?

Ah, things got in the way of that Aer Lingus fight and I got tired. Still, the time limit on claims for such crap is a few years, so I'll revisit it at some point.

The Pedant-General said...

Re Aer Lingus - try your credit card company.

I spent 5 months trying to get a refund out of RyanAir after they cancelled our flights (and offered a cash refund), with absolutely no joy at all. 5 months!

Raised it with the card company and we had the cash 3 days later....

Anonymous said...

As I understand it, the "no evidence" claim is always followed by the words "of widespread fraud". I think people are acknowledging that there were some wackos trying to pull some pranks or whatever, as there probably always are, but nothing to the level that would swing a state the size of PA or WI. That would need some serious meddling and there doesn't seem to be evidence of that. (I didn't believe the whole Russian collusion thing either. That level of fraud requires a ton of very slick work.)

The Pedant-General said...

Anon @3:51

"As I understand it, the "no evidence" claim is always followed by the words "of widespread fraud"."

And that's the thing. In the first instance - and I'm talking just the morning after the night before - it was simply "no evidence". This message was almost universal and used - on the morning of Wed 4th - by the BBC here in the UK. There was already evidence appearing but was it was being flagged or vanished by Twitter etc on the one side and systematically ignored by the MSM. IT'S THEIR F*CKING JOB TO GO AND INVESTIGATE. Get reporters on the ground. Interview the people making the claims - pound the streets. Instead, what we saw was _widespread_ (watch how that word is used) total lack of interest in doing any actual news-gathering. They just didn't want to hear.

So, roll forward to today and you do indeed have ample evidence of just a ton of stuff that is really weird. The evidence is also pointing to the effects being most obvious in the places where it's really important - the swing states - such that this election could have been materially affected without any fraud being widespread.

It's only NOW that the message has changed from plain "No evidence", which is laughable, to "no evidence _of widespread_ fraud" which is handy because it's true but irrelevant and serves to undermine the complaint being made.

We are being gaslit again. The overton window is moving AGAIN. If you claim this whole stinks, you will be told you're a conspiracy theorist. It's already happening and it's terrifying.

Anonymous said...

Fantastically written. I might want to add a snippet to it…we are supposed to be a “republic” (a state in which supreme power is held by the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch); rather than a “democracy” (a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives); definitions according to google. I prefer to call our system “REPUBLIC”…as in Republican, rather than a much over used term “DEMOCRACY” as in referring to the Democrats. Our World History teacher in high school was very determined that we pupils learned the difference.
Another friend sent me an excellent sermon stating that is was not so much “who” we voted for…as to “what” we voted for. We are trying to keep our nation free & safe & so many liberals do not see the danger we see coming.
Keep the Faith in GOD where it belongs and hopefully the outcome will be what we are hoping for.
Pax Christi

Unknown said...

"I'm a mathematician."

Sorry, but I find this to be a disappointing article. "The idea that those numbers are not suspicious is just preposterous. I shan't bother explicating why..." Isn't that exactly the point..? The whole piece boils down to two scary graphs, appeals to authority ("I'm a mathematician" and "I work in financial regulatory reporting"), and hand-waving.

I've earned a CFA and worked for decades in finance. Zero idea what it is you'd be fired for without more explication. Here's the thing: the reported votes in the charts were provided at discontinuous intervals, in lumpy increments. Entirely unlike financial markets, which tend to be highly liquid and continuous. (Yet still exhibit occasional discontinuities, such as the "flash crash" etc). Election officials reported tallies in discontinuous irregular "dumps"--one might include 1,000 votes, the next 6,000. Anyone who understands basic data science and reporting understands that would make a time series chart suspect. Moreover, Trump encouraged his voters to vote in person and not by mail (or even twice!), while Democrats were known to be much more likely to vote by mail. In MI a law passed shortly before the election allowed officials in some counties to begin processing mail in ballots the day before the election--thought NOT to start counting them. In WI, officials could not do anything until the day of the election.

So the fact Democrat leaning mail in ballots would lag the in person voting counts is hardly a surprise. In fact it's not at all a surprise--it was thoroughly predicted and discussed in the days and weeks before November 3rd.

Finally, you cite Antrim County as evidence of issues with the voting counts. A simple 10 seconds of Google-fu gets you to the statement by the Michigan Secretary of State ("False claims from Ronna McDaniel have no merit", November 6) pointing out that the 6,000 discrepancy had nothing to do with the voting machines--it was a clerical error with respect to the reporting. This was two days prior to your article so the failure to run that little point to ground calls your motives and rigor into question, I'm sorry to say.

Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. So far the Trump Campaign is 0 for 12 in court cases, where evidence actually matters.