Statistics

Statistics, and How the World Works

A surprising number of people seem to believe that the "improbability" that Biden could have won (in a fair election) is evidence that he didn't win (in a fair election). It isn't.

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Imagine we are back in February 2019, at the start of Spring Training for the 2019 baseball season. I offer you the following wager:

I have $20 that says that the winner of the 2019 World Series will (a) lose 31 of its first 50 games; (b) find itself behind in in the 7th inning of each deciding game of each postseason series; (c) not win a single game in the Series at home; (d) have a starting left fielder from the Dominican Republic and a starting pitcher whose eyes are two different colors; and that (e) game 6 would be played before a crowd of precisely 43,384, and (f) game 4 would be played in precisely 4 hours 3 minutes and 41 seconds; and that (g) the first base umpire's brother-in-law would be hospitalized right before the start of the bottom half of the 6th inning in game 2; AND that (h) the Dow Jones Industrial Average would decline precisely 140.46 points to close at 27,046.23 on the date of the final Series game.

What odds would you have given me, at the start of the 2019 baseball season, that all of those conditions would be met?! Not a single one of them had ever come true in the prior 100+ years of baseball history; how likely was it that all of them would come to pass in a single postseason?!! Gotta be a quadrillion to 1, no?

So the Nationals must have cheated! Wake up America! How much more proof do you need?!

*********

Now that the dust is starting to settle from the Supreme Court's decision in Texas v. Pennsylvania, I want to take a moment to discuss—again—the "One in a Quadrillion" (OIAQ) Affair.

The OIAQ Affair refers, of course, to the preposterous and easily debunk-able claim, made in Texas Attorney General Paxton's brief before the Supreme Court, that Joe Biden had a "one in a quadrillion chance" of having overtaken Donald Trump in any one of the swing states, let alone all four.

I think there's more there than just laughably bad statistical mumbo-jumbo here (though there is that). The OIAQ Affair illustrates a rather important kind of reasoning fallacy, or cognitive bias, to which large numbers of people seem to be susceptible, a misunderstanding about the way that probability and causation operate. I don't know whether it has a name; perhaps it should have.

OIAQ is one part of the a larger "argument"—to the extent one can characterize his position as an "argument"—put forward by the President and his supporters: that the improbability that Biden could have prevailed, given other events that took place on Election Day, constitutes evidence that he didn't, actually, prevail, that there were—there must have been—some "irregularities" or fraud at work to bring about such an unlikely outcome.

As the President's lawyer put it in his brief in the case:

"The fact that nearly half of the country believes the election was stolen should come as no surprise. President Trump prevailed on nearly every historical indicia of success in presidential elections." For example, he won both Florida and Ohio; no candidate in history—Republican or Democrat—has ever lost the election after winning both States. [Ed. note: This is not correct, by the way. Nixon won both Florida and Ohio in 1960 but lost the election.] He won 18 of the country's 19 so-called "bellwether" counties—counties whose vote, historically, almost always goes for the candidate who wins the election.  Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate and U.S. House, down to Republican candidates and the state and local level, all out-performed expectations and won in much larger numbers than predicted, yet the candidate for President at the top of the ticket who provided those coattails did not himself get over his finish line in first place….

These things just don't normally happen, and a large percentage of the American people know that something is deeply amiss.

What are the odds?  What are the odds that Biden could have won given that the early returns in all four swing states gave Trump a sizeable lead? What are the odds that Biden could have won given that Trump ended up carrying 18 of 19 "bellweather" counties across the country? What are the odds that Biden could have won given that Trump carried both Florida and Ohio? And given that Biden under-performed Obama everywhere except in the four swing states; etc.?

This kind of argument shows up repeatedly. The President himself—who, like all talented stand-up comics, has a finely-tuned sense of the lines that resonate with his audience—referred to it over and over in his remarks at the recent rally in Georgia. [I've put some excerpts from his remarks at the end of this post]. Fox News, too, has been all over this claim [see, e.g., here and here, purportedly showing how a Biden victory was "statistically implausible" and "defied a dozen or more metrics that have 100% accuracy" in predicting the results of presidential elections]

It's total nonsense.  It makes as much sense as arguing that the Nationals cheated their way to the 2019 title because of the "statistical implausibility" of their victory.

Here are a couple of basic principles that explain just how nonsensical it is.

Principle 1: Improbable events—highly improbable events—happen.  All the time.

Getting two consecutive four-of-a-kind hands in five-card poker dealt from a fair deck is a highly improbable event; the odds against it are about 16 million to 1. If your uncle Joe is playing poker and turns to you and says: "I'm on a hot streak—I'll bet you $5 I get two consecutive four-of-a-kinds," take the bet.

But if he tells you that he was dealt two such hands in a row last night, don't call him a liar (or accuse him of cheating).  As improbable as it is, it happens all the time; I can pretty much guarantee you that it happened, somewhere, just this past week, probably several times over.** So perhaps uncle Joe was just one of the lucky recipients.

**That's based on the assumption that 10 million poker hands are dealt around the world—a million players, an average of 10 hands each—each day.  [Probably an underestimate, by the way].  In which case we would expect there to be two consecutive four-of-a-kinds every day or two, somewhere.

By the same token, the likelihood that all eight conditions listed in my opening paragraph would come true in 2019 was very, very low.

But if you had bet, in February 2019, on them all happening, you'd be rich today, because happen they all did. Wow!

It is just how the world works.  Any event—my spilling coffee on myself this morning—can be described, once it occurs (i.e., ex post), as having been, ex ante, spectacularly improbable.

Here's a spectacularly improbable event:  that 30 years from now, on December 15, 2050 at 8:48 AM EST, a man

(a) whose great-grandfather owned a fruit stand in Vinetsa, Ukraine; (b) whose father drove a Pontiac for several years; (c) who grew up on a street where two of the other children were named "Solomon"; (d) who married someone whose older brother moved, within the preceding 6 months, to Gainesville, Florida, where he had lived previously; (e) who recently re-read John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath; and (f) who got in trouble, in 4th grade, for tossing art supplies out the window,

would spill coffee on himself.

What are the odds of that!?!? Surely around a gazillion to one.

And if they're a gazillion to one today, regarding what may or may not happen in 30 years, the odds would have been a gazillion to one 30 years ago, in regard to an event happening today.

And yet it happened! Of all the people in the world, I meet all of those conditions, and damned if I didn't spill coffee on myself at precisely 8:48 this morning!!  Unbelievable! What are the odds!?

This leads to Principle 2: The notion of the "probability" or "likelihood" that such-and-such an event will or will not occur ceases to have any meaning once the event occurs.

This is probably just a fancy way of saying: It is nonsensical to talk about whether an event can happen, or the likelihood that it will happen, once it has happened.

Consider the dinosaurs. What are the odds, they surely said to one another, ex ante, back in 94 million BCE, that a comet would rip into Earth and throw up enough debris to cloud over the skies for many thousands of years and destroy 90% of all living things? Relax!

Once it happened, though, it no longer made sense to talk about the probability that it could happen. And however low that probability might have been ex ante, that is not evidence that it didn't happen, once it did.

So I don't care—and you shouldn't care, either—if there are 10 or 20 or 200 "historical indicia of presidential success" that are "defied" by a purported Biden victory. None of that is relevant to the question of whether he did or did not win, or to whether the election was or was not fair.

******************************

Here are some excerpts from the President's remarks at the Georgia rally [full transcript here]:

Well, thank you very much. Thank you. No, we won a lot of places. We won Florida. We won Ohio. Big, big. We won them big. Remember we were going to lose Florida they said. We were five down in Florida. We won by a lot. We were way down in Ohio and we won by a lot. I think they say that if you win Florida and if you win Ohio in history, you've never lost an election. This has got to be a first time. But the truth is they were right, we've never lost that election. We're winning this election.

Think of it, with over 74 million votes, over, think of that, more than … I got more votes than any sitting president in history. 11 million more votes than we got in 2016. And we thought that if we could get 68 million, 67 million that would be the end. All of our great, brilliant geniuses said you'd win if you get 67 or 68. It's over. We got 74 million-plus and they're trying to convince us that we lost. We didn't lose.

But listen to this. These are the facts. And each fact is irrefutable and it means win. President Trump received, done by one of the most brilliant political people, President Trump received more votes than any previous incumbent president in history. And we lost. And we lost. So, we received more votes than anybody in history, any incumbent in history, and we lost, supposedly. We didn't lose. You're going to see that. No incumbent who received 75% of the total primary vote lost reelection in the history of our country. President Trump received 94, not 74. 94, which is one of the highest in history.

In fact, President Trump is the only one of five incumbents since 1912 to receive more than 90% of the primary vote. And again, anybody received over 75%, they won. We got 94%. President Trump set a record for the most primary votes ever received by an incumbent, ever. And nobody that's received all of the primary votes, nobody's received at a much lesser level than what we, they always won. But we didn't according to what they say. It's rigged. It's a fixed deal.

Think of this one. President Trump won 18 of 19 bellwether counties. You know what a bellwether county is, it's a big deal. So I won 18 of 19, a record, never happened. That between 1980 and 2016 voted for the eventual president in every single election, and before that, it was almost every election. And we won a record 18 of 19. Never lost. Nobody's ever lost with anything like that.

Think of this. The first time that anybody, I think in history, we didn't lose one seat. Normally, you lose two, three, five, and you replay. We lost nobody sitting in Congress.

President Trump won. President Trump won as we said both in Florida and then Ohio. And by the way, won by a lot. Remember the fake polls where they said he's down by four in Florida, and I won by a lot. He's down by two in Ohio, and we won. I think we got eight or nine or something, up. But nobody's ever done that.

And many of these swing states, it's a very interesting statistic. President Obama beat Biden all over the country, except in some of the swing states where Biden beat him badly. How does that work? And they say it's statistically impossible. He beat crooked Hillary. Think of this. He beat crooked Hillary in the swing states, but she beat him everywhere else. Let me tell you, this election was rigged and we can't let it happen

 

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  1. The post makes good points. However, it was brought up before the election that Trump could lose after getting out to a large lead in states that counted mail-in votes last because the population of mail-in voters skewed heavily towards Biden voters. So, if there was evidence the mail-in and in-person populations were the same, then I think the one-in-a-quadrillion argument works. But, there is no such evidence and plenty to the contrary.

    1. That’s the problem with Post: For all that he claims to understand and have taught statistics, it is clear he does not understand the statistics used in the brief.
      There is a difference between a statistical analysis showing that this election was not like the best available predictor (the previous election) or that mail-in ballots were not like the best available predictor (in-person voting), and the conclusion that this must be because of fraud.
      The statistical analysis is sound – this election did differ from the best available predictors.
      The conclusion drawn by Paxton is not sound: there are many other reasons than fraud that the populations could be different. The analysis proves nothing as to cause. Rejecting the analysis because you don’t like the unsupported conclusion is purely idiotic.

      And the misunderstanding of black swan events that Post demonstrates here is actively embarrassing. I feel dirty for having read it, it is so bad. I almost believe that he is being deliberately deceptive about the meaning in order to toss this drivel out there, probably thinking it is some sort of witty mockery.

      1. Even though they were sound, I would not have signed my name to the statistics used in the brief because the author knew what they were going to be used for, and should have known such use was trivially illegitimate.

      2. This election was not a black swan event, neither was his coffee hypo.
        Indeed, that was the thesis of the OP.

        Where are you bringing this in from?

      3. Whether the statistical analysis is sound is, to my knowledge, an unknown because Dr. Cicchetti has only made public a summary of and conclusions drawn from his analyses. I doubt Dr. Cicchetti’s analyses will ever be peer-reviewed or replicated so we’ll never know for sure. However, as a statistician reading his declaration, his approach appears rudimentary and I wouldn’t be surprised
        to find he omits analyses used to validate his model and it’s assumptions.

        I’m reminded of Dr. George Box’s quote “Since all models are wrong the scientist must be alert to what is importantly wrong. It is inappropriate to be concerned about mice when there are tigers abroad.” The layman might better know the aphorism, “All models are wrong, but some are useful.”

        Focusing on the results and conclusions implicitly accepts Dr. Cicchetti’s model as useful. Had Dr. Cicchetti calculated a probability of 0.5 and failed to reject his hypothesis, the model would be no more or less useful. The results are irrelevant if the model is useless. We can’t conclude that this election differed from the “best available predictors” unless we first conclude the “best available predictors” represent a useful model. The elections of 2016 and 2020 certainly call into question the usefulness of these models.

        As Judge Stephanos Bibas’ wrote, “calling an election unfair
        does not make it so.” Similarly, declaring oneself an expert in a field of study does not make one so. This is just as true for Dr. Cicchetti as it is for the commentators at Reason and other outlets who’ve taken to opining about statistics. They should stay in their lane and limit their critique to the usefulness of the models. That might actually add something to the conversation other than good examples of useless models about spilling coffee on oneself.

      4. The statistics in the brief are not sound. The opinion assumed independence in voting that was simply belied by everything we knew about who voted. This required a Bayesian analysis, and he did not perform one, making it unsound.

        As for a Black Swan event, like the turkey that lived a good life, so too did the bellweather counties predict winners, until now. That’s enough for a Black Swan – it all depends on where and how you are looking for it.

  2. There is a second, subtler, problem with many these kinds of arguments.

    Consider the length of WS game 6. Sure, the probability of it taking “precisely 4 hours 3 minutes and 41 seconds,” is very small. So, of course, is the probability of it taking precisely 4 hours 3 minutes and 42 seconds, and so on.

    But it has to take some amount of time, and whatever that turns out to be will, in retrospect, look highly improbable. You hear this sort of nonsense all the time in sports discussions.

    Similar arguments turn up in stock market conversations and lots of other places.

    There are lots of historical events. It’s easy to pick out some that correlate, or don’t, with something that just happened.

    1. You have a point. On the other hand, if a world series game takes 7 hours, it raises the question “why”. No it isn’t hard evidence something was odd. However, outliers warrant investigation. In the case of a World Series, it would indicate extra innings or a rain out. In an election, it could indicate a large change of public sentiment, or it could indicate malfeasance.

      For example, the Michigan county that had the Dominion voting software was alerted by the fact that there was a huge, unprecedented swing to the Democrats. On Sunday, the results of the investigation were released, and it showed definitively that Trump had lost a net 6,000 votes due to changes and multiple local races had been completely falsified (the link was posted a bit down this page).

      So while statistical improbability isn’t hard evidence, it should not be ignored either. It is a starting point, not an ending one.

      The media’s suppression of any opposition, however, has caused people to build up to hysterical levels. There are clear indications that there might be a problem, but the demands that no review is required and that asking for one is to hate democracy is infuriating and clearly contrafactual.

      1. The media evaluating the opposition’s arguments and finding them wanting is actually part of them doing their job. They are not stenographers.

        1. Sacastro, but they aren’t evaluating. They are dismissing. They are suppressing. Yes, many of the arguments have been absurd, but there are reasonable ones as well. The reporting has only been on the absurd ones.

          1. Okay. Can you share some of the reasonable ones?

        2. Sarcastro, who is “the opposition” and who are they opposed to?

          1. Whomever Ben of Houston wants them to be.

            Really, the media is evaluating all sides. They’ve fallen down on that in the 90s and 2000s, but they’re slowly being kicked into shape.

            Will be interesting to see what happens with Biden’s spinmeisters. This is not Bill Clinton’s rather labile press corp.

            1. I think Ben’s point remains. The media should not consider opponents and should investigate allegations of impropriety for the benefit of the public. The media declined to do that in this case. Wonder why?

              1. Investigate what exactly? And so what if the media does or doesn’t? What does that have to do with the political parties, their response to the election, and whether or not the arguments are valid?

                The people who post here don’t control the media, so what is the purpose of acting as if it is a concerted effort by the attorneys that write here, liberal posters, and the media?

                1. Investigate whether there’s anything there or not. The media just assumed there wasn’t because they wanted there to be nothing.

                  It’s independent of the parties. There are deadlines in the political process that would not be affected by whatever the media does.

                  I’m not saying Trump is right and that he won. He isn’t and he didn’t. But the total lack of curiosity on the part of the media is just another example of why they’re thought of so poorly by the public. I mean, there really wasn’t anything to the Russia crap and they were on it like flies on shit for years.

                  I’d bet that an enterprising journalist will poke around and in a few years we’ll hear something. Be interesting to see what it is.

                  Not sure what your last point about concerted effort is. Nobody thinks that.

                  1. Perhaps the media isn’t taking much of these claims seriously because they’re facially non-serious claims? From the beginning, no wait, since way *before the beginning* of the election Trump was out there saying things like the only way he would lose is if the election was rigged, so his after the fact claims seem then less serious (he was going to yell ‘rigged’ under any circumstance other than him winning, he did this in 2016 to btw). Then, starting election night, he began making either colossally ignorant or dishonest claims such as that there was something fishy about counting ballots after election day, having networks call races based on the trends coming in the results, etc. Then his lawyers have been doing things like focusing on claims by people who soon recanted or had immediately non-creditability (the lady from the Michigan hearing), filing cases in the wrong courts, statistical experts confusing Minnesota and Michigan counties, the quadrillion to one argument, etc. A rightful air of non-credibility hangs massively over he and his team’s claims, sensible media persons rightly should face them with strong skepticism.

                    What’s happened though is that conservatives have long played this game where by playing upon the media professional’s stated commitment to fairness being reporting ‘both sides’ they get the most outlandish and silly claims reported, not vetted, alongside more serious claims. This led to some incredibly irresponsible and misleading journalism in 2016 and the media seems to have learned some lessons from that.

                  2. If it’s not a concerted effort – what do the actions of the media have to do with anyone here? let alone the propriety of the arguments made by the attorneys (or the ones not made by attorneys, which are even obviously more ridiculous)?

                    You bring up the media as if I’m supposed to think “oh right, the media didn’t report what bevis thinks they should” therefore the election is illegitimate?

                    I seriously do not understand the point you are trying to make about the media’s relevancy here. Maybe less people would find Trump’s misuse of statistics convincing? Probably… but it seems perverse if you are taking issue with the media’s poor debunking as opposed to his deliberate misapplication of statistics.

                    1. I didn’t bring up the media. Ben did and sarcastro engaged him on it and then I engaged the two of them. Don’t know why you’re putting it on me. And you’re the one that brought up the concerted effort concept. Nobody thinks that and I don’t understand why you even brought it up. But you’re arguing against a straw man that you raised.

                      Queen, I’m not a conservative but the media has no commitment to fairness. Why is the media held in such poor regard by the public? Because the public doesn’t find them trustworthy. Not the conservative public, the majority public.

                  3. The media just assumed there wasn’t because they wanted there to be nothing.

                    How do you know they didn’t investigate, and found nothing worth reporting?

                    They are not obligated to report every time they find some cock-and-bull story concocted by Sydney Powell is nonsense. Were they supposed to find a medium who cold talk to Hugo Chavez beyond the grave?

                    1. Simple. There wasn’t enough time to investigate before they started the “nothing to see here” stuff.

                    2. In my opinion, bevis, there was nothing to investigate – the cases laid out incorrect statements of law and had clear inaccuracies regarding basic election regulations.

                      But there are articles dutifully going through the affidavits and pointing out why they’re nonsense.

                      There are plenty of times where the press doesn’t bother to investigate and should (though often don’t have the funds these days). I don’t think these court cases and allegations are one of those times.

                  4. Perhaps because media members were in the same room as the poll and count watchers, and reported none of the supposed improprieties from first hand experience? Also, because they read the court briefs and saw that it was all made up fiction and there were no allegations under oath of any actual wrongdoing to investigate?

              2. The media often delved into why the claims were wrong (and often borderline ridiculous).

            2. Really, the media is evaluating all sides.

              I come here for my daily belly laugh. Thanks for not disappointing.

            3. This is not Bill Clinton’s rather labile press corp.

              I’d certainly like that to be true, but the supporting evidence thus far seems a little thin.

              1. There’s more fact-checking of Trump and his cohort now than in 2016, is what I’m seeing. It’s been a steady climb.

                We’ll see what 2021 and a Dem in the WH brings.

            4. Sarcastr0, this is a response to your message below as it wouldn’t let me respond down there. You may be right that there’s nothing. I don’t know and I’m not saying otherwise.

              But I agree with Ben that the media immediately jumped to the “move along, folks” side without considering any other potential scenario. It’s what they do now. They detested Trump (hard not to, I know) and always made it obvious and wanted him gone.

              In a way, this is a flaw in our system, in that the timing of things between election and certification doesn’t leave a lot of time for any investigation. If somebody is good they’ll pull if off just because of lack of time to figure it out. Our system basically assumes honesty and integrity among the players when we constantly see our political leadership engaged in dishonest behavior lacking in integrity. It also assumes no human error, which is wrong. There is no human endeavor that has an error rate of zero.

              I’d bet money that in a year or two that an independent journalist will have poked around and found some malfeasance and human error. Minor and it wouldn’t have affected anything, but it’s there.

              1. I’d bet money that in a year or two that an independent journalist will have poked around and found some malfeasance and human error. Minor and it wouldn’t have affected anything, but it’s there.

                Well, sure. Nobody can count 155 million votes without there being some error. My guess is you could count the votes ten times without ever getting exactly the same total.

                Malfeasance is another matter. Not that there may not have been some, but that first, it’s hard to prove, and second, that it won’t be one-sided. If I knew that there was 10,000 votes worth of malfeasance, I’d bet that there was 4000-6000 on each side.

      2. The 6,000 vote adjustment isn’t an after-the-fact probability-based claim of fraud. It’s an anomaly that requires explanation. Others can debate which explanation makes the most sense.

        1. But if there wasn’t an evaluation of statistics, there wouldn’t have been an investigation, and we would never have found out that it was an adjustment in the first place. That’s what I’m meaning.

          1. The error was noticed without a formal statistical analysis because it was very, very, very far from the norm (a Biden landslide in a red county), dare I say a one-in-quadrillion event. That level of after-the-fact improbability typically justifies further review. Also, the error would have been caught in the routine subsequent canvass even without an implied statistical analysis.

            1. Anything big enough to be a strong indicator can be generally caught with the naked eye if you look. That’s a general truth in all statistical analysis. If you have to do strong analysis, you’re more likely to be creating what you are looking for, not finding it.

              1. I don’t agree it is a general truth in all statistical analysis, but it is for after-the-fact claims, which is pretty much what David was saying.

      3. “You have a point. On the other hand, if a world series game takes 7 hours, it raises the question “why”.”

        Maybe, but no amount of statistical analysis will ever tell you anything about why.

    2. I think your observation is a result of David’s two principles. After the fact (principle 2), each a priori reasonable game time is very unlikely. And yet, one of them occurs (principle 1). That’s because the number of possible cases times the probability of any given case is close to 1.

    3. Bernard11: Exactly right.

  3. Maybe Trump ought to read the Black Swan.

    Sure, he got 74 million votes, more than anyone…except Joe Biden, who got 80 million votes. See also: population growth.

  4. While Professor Post is doubtless right that Mr. Trump has shown a charlatan’s insight into popular beliefs about probability, I suspect his statement that once an event happens probability becomes irrelevant Is an overstatement. Carbon dating (which uses probability-based calculations about radioactive decay) and many other standard tools use probability to make assessments about the past. These tools clearly are not pseudoscience. So it’s not solely past vs. present that’s the issue. A difference is that these tools make statements about the overall trend that occurred. They do not attempt to make statements about individual events. They also involve very regular and well-behaved processes, such as radioactive decay. Human life is not so regular.

    1. The problem with this statement, is that it implicitly assumes the event actually has happened.

      Trump isn’t claiming that Biden won. He’s claiming the election was rigged. At that point you have to assess the relative probability of Biden having won an honest election, and the election having been rigged, on the basis of the available evidence. Including statistical evidence such as described above.

      That Biden won isn’t evidence. It’s a possible conclusion in response to the evidence.

      Ilya has just engaged in a textbook example of “begging the question”.

      1. In Post’s world Kim Jon Un was fairly elected the election results say so and the party officials all agree it was on the up an up.

      2. He’s claiming the election was rigged. At that point you have to assess the relative probability of Biden having won an honest election, and the election having been rigged, on the basis of the available evidence. Including statistical evidence such as described above.

        What “statistical evidence such as described above?” That’s all bunk. You might consider pre-election polls as statistical evidence, but they sort of cut against you, so you want to talk about bellwether counties and other BS.

        And why do “you have to assess the relative probability of Biden having won an honest election, and the election having been rigged,” when there is no serious non-statistical evidence of rigging? “One of the poll workers was wearing rhinestones!” Yeah. That proves it.

        1. so you want to talk about bellwether counties and other BS.

          Of course, if it was BS, they wouldn’t be known as bellwether counties. It’s not like people came up with the list over the past several decades by throwing darts at a map.

          And why do “you have to assess the relative probability of Biden having won an honest election, and the election having been rigged,” when there is no serious non-statistical evidence of rigging?

          For all sufficiently subjective definitions of “no,” “serious,” and “evidence.”

          I’ll extend the same invitation to you that I did to Sarc the other day. Please provide an ex ante measuring stick for what you would consider to be “serious evidence,” and we’ll go from there. Can you improve on his crickets?

          1. So how do you know the Republicans weren’t committing fraud in the bellwether counties? Or in OH and FL?

            You want a statistical test? How about massively outperforming pre-election polls?

            Suppose the polls had favored Trump, and Biden had nonetheless won by the margin he got. Would you be citing that as evidence of fraud by Democrats? If so, do you regard GOP outperformance as evidence of nationwide fraud by Republicans?

            The problem with the bellwether county theory is, as I and others have pointed out, there are any number of historical voting patterns. Maybe there’s a group of counties that always vote for the loser. Maybe if we look at other sets of counties we find a different correlation. In this case there are some points worth considering.

            The nation, you may have noticed, is quite polarized. A county that voted for Trump in 2016 is highly likely to vote for him again.
            It’s noteworthy that one of the nineteen moved from Trump to Biden this year. I’d like to know what percentage of all 2016 Trump counties shifted to Biden. More than 5%? I don’t know, but I’d be surprised if it was much more. So this is hardly surprising.

            There is nothing magical about these counties. No one is ascribing particular insight to their voters. They are more of a statistical fluke than anything. Wikipedia lists about 40 counties that have missed the winner once since 1980, and over 100 that have missed twice.

            It really is just random. The thing is, to conduct a statistical test, you need a hypothesis, a model of what’s going on. I don’t think you have that here. Just a random correlation that broke down this year.

            1. You want a statistical test? How about massively outperforming pre-election polls?

              Oh, now. Pre-election polling has been D-slanted for years and nobody with a shred of intellectual honesty contests that. It’s crystal-clear at this point you’re just throwing confetti around.

              And your crickets are even louder than Sarc’s, btw — he at least left the plausible deniability that he didn’t see my invitation.

              1. Oh, now. Pre-election polling has been D-slanted for years

                Or else Republicans have been committing large-scale fraud for years. (More precisely, in 2016 and 2020).

              2. Pre-election polling was overly favorable towards Romney in 2012 and virtually perfect in 2008. In recent elections, 2018 pre-election polling was pretty much dead-on.

                Now, it’s worth considering that pre-election polling had serious issues in 2016 and even more serious ones in 2020. Understanding why is important going forward- perhaps there really is a shy Trump voter phenomenon? Perhaps polls badly missed the shift among Hispanic voters? Perhaps Democrats were more likely to stay home because of the pandemic and answer phone polls, while Republicans lived their lives with fewer restrictions? Any of those could be true, and some have significant implications for 2024 and maybe 2022. But to say that it’s all been D-slanted for years is nonsense.

              3. WTF are you talking about?

                I gave you a specific answer to your question. Significantly outperforming polls suggests fraud.

                You don’t like that because it suggests there may have been fraud by Republicans rather than Democrats, but that doesn’t change the logic. You can’t just wave it away with a claim that the polls were “slanted.” That’s idiotic. It’s denying the mismatch.

                By the way, I think there was fraud in FL and maybe OH too. I mean, the winner of the election almost always carries those states, but didn’t this year. Republicans control both states, and they used your hated Dominion machines, at least in part.

                Looks suspicious to me. What about you?

          2. Brett,

            Bellwether counties are nothing but the counties that have gone for the winner in past elections. Kind of like having 10,000 octopi pick the Powerball. The 10 octopi that picked the correct Powerball in the last 5, 10, or 20 drawings have no special insight into Powerball and there is zero reason to suspect that they will get the next Powerball correct (unless you have some evidence that these weren’t just the inevitable, random octopi who picked the right Powerball out of 10,000, or however many counties/octopi there are.) Now, of course, bellwether counties are going to be, by definition, close to the center politically….in each of the last X elections in which they were bellwethers. But I am willing to wager there is no bellwether county, much less multiple ones, for the past 100 years. Because demographics change, geographical alignment of parties changes, etc. If the bellwethers were “wrong”, it suggests the counties have changed, the alignments of interests/parties have changed, the candidates have changed, the correspondence of the counties to the rest of the state/nation have changed, etc.

            Fraud is perhaps the least likely reason a bellwether county in 10 consecutive elections of “good standing” got it “wrong.” Random chance is the most likely reason, kind of like getting heads 10 flips in a row. There was nothing suspicious about the last throw going tails. (Again, when 10,000 coins are flipped every four years, it would be highly unusual for there not to be long streaks of heads and long streaks of heads that end.) This is true even if it’s 10,000 die and some have 5 Heads and 1 Tail while others have 5 Tails and 1 Head and everything in between.

      3. But the statistician made one assumption that rendered his study invalid – he assumed that the aggregate of mail-in voters was the same as the in-person group. It wasn’t.

        What he should have done (and actually probably did but didn’t publish) was run a range of assumptions on how the two groups compared to see how sensitive his conclusion was to the assumption.

        Possible he was looking for a specific answer.

  5. Statistics-schmatistics. Who needs them when you have a forensic investigation of voting machines that shows how they were designed to enable fraud…

    https://www.scribd.com/document/488080093/Antrim-Michigan-Forensics-Report-121320-PRELIMINARY?secret_password=6tgofj7cUYx1kQwElves#from_embed

    I think all the voting machines need to be closely examined with a forensic investigation in light of this.

    1. Without wading through the whole thing, let’s just state for the record that I’m less inclined to credit the conclusions of a guy who most recently made a name for himself with an affidavit that mistook Minnesota for Michigan.

      1. There are three facts.
        1: The recount had a huge swing. 6,000 out of less than 20,000 votes were changed. Local races were changed absurdly.
        2: A test showed that 68% of votes resulted in a manual review, which would enable this to be done by corrupt officials.
        3: The audit and review logs for 2020 had been deleted.

        Unless you are going to claim that these extremely basic facts are completely wrong, there is no rational explanation for these three facts. It is the equivalent to finding a body stabbed thrice in the back and calling it a suicide. Technically it might be possible, but the idea is so absurd that it is not reasonable to even consider that.

        1. Which recount are you talking about?

          1. Read the report on the original link. This is concerning one county in Michigan on the Dominion voting scandal.

            1. Notably, the word “recount” does not appear once in that affidavit. So…which recount are you talking about?

                1. Thanks for pointing that out and linking to a better source.

                  Having said that, the word “recount” only appears twice and only in regards to Central Lake Township, where fewer than 6,000 votes were cast much less changed. So that still didn’t help clarify what recount Ben is talking about.

                  1. Ben is citing a mistaken talking point. On Election Day, the clerk in Antrim county mis_reported_, not mis_counted_, 6,000 Trump votes as Biden votes because of user error. The error was immediately caught and fixed, without the need for an audit or recount.

                    Trumpkins have seized on this because of, not despite, the fact that it was the only such error in this election. And when the clerk first announced the error, the term “glitch” was used rather than user error. So rather than understanding that this was just a colloquial word for an oopsie, they’ve decided that this is the secret revelation that proves the Dominion machines are manufacturing Biden votes at the behest of the late Hugo Chavez.

    2. This is why basically everyone who has ever done any computer security work has insisted on a voter-verifiable paper record in voting systems. This makes it possible to do things like the manual recount in Georgia (which would have been impossible in 2016).

      This is an easy issue and shouldn’t have a partisan valence.

      1. The massive error rate in the machines is a big problem. Given this, the rest of the machines should be forensically examined to determine their error rate.

        1. Did you read Washington Post’s statistical analysis on counties with Dominion voting machines? Even if all of them went to Trump, it would do nothing to change the outcome of the election. That begs the question as to why you are insisting they are relevant, let alone possibly dispositive regarding the outcome of the election.

          1. “Did you read Washington Post…”
            Nope, I prefer to do my own research.

            “Even if all of them went to Trump…”
            Let’s point out just 1 county that uses Dominion Voting Machines. Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. Biden won that county 319,000 to 185,000. Assume the same level of error in this county that happened in Antrim County Michigan. In Antrim County, the vote “shifted” from 7700 Biden: 4500 Trump to 6000 Biden : 9700 Trump, due to “errors”. A remarkable shift. 1.71:1 Biden:Trump to 0.61 Biden:Trump

            Montgomery County was a 1.72 Biden:Trump ratio. Shifting that to a 0.61 Biden: Trump ratio would mean ~200,000 Biden to 319,000 Trump. That would be a net shift of more than 200,000 votes. That would EASILY reverse Pennsylvania. 1/2 of that would reverse Pennsylvania.

            Remember, this is the same Company with the same voting machines that had such a massive discrepancy in Antrim county.

            What I’m saying is, just maybe, the voting machines in other counties, like Montgomery County PN, should be examined forensically.

            1. I like how “your own research” includes using the most outlier of counties (that caught its own error and didn’t actually certify an incorrect count), and also thinking that Biden:Trump would be .61 in Montgomery County. Using my own research, Biden should have won Texas 60-40, where Biden was up early and Trump came back and there’s no paper trail to prove otherwise on the Dominion machines they used. I hadn’t realized my own research would yield such terrific results.

            2. Registered Democrats in Montgomery County outnumbered registered Republicans by 3:2.

              JFTR.

              1. Right? It defies common sense.

    3. So I found this upon clicking through:
      42 minutes earlier on Nov 21 2020 at 15:53:09 a user attempted to zero out election results. Id:3168 EmsLogger – There is no permission to {0} – Project: User: Thread: 189.

      This is direct proof of an attempt to tamper with evidence.

      I’m not a computer person, but I know enough to know that ‘Permission to {0}’ is not an attempt to zero out election results.

      Also it’s pretty farfetched paranoia someone hacked these voting machines on Nov 21 in an attempt to stymie these clown’s ridiculous audit. This is bullshit from folks who have read too much Tom Clancy.

      If you had bothered to read what you linked, you might not have linked such clownish nonsense.
      You are so blindly outcome oriented, you are just making a fool of yourself.

      1. Dude. I am a computer person. “Permission to {0}” is a custom log. It could mean anything outside of context. This would be noted in the user’s manual. Unless you have read the manual yourself, trying to say “that’s not what that means” is absurd.

        Second. The audit logs were successfully deleted so we don’t know who did what manual review (the error rate that you derided).

        Third. There was evidence that a judge was (or at least could) order a review. I will agree that jumping to “clear evidence of attempts to hide” would be a bit much. However, any idiot knows you never modify records while they are under investigation. Doing so is almost always considered fraud. Dominion has lost the benefit of the doubt.

        If this was Trump’s actions, would you be so lenient on Dominion? I remember your posts during the impeachment. You weren’t.

        1. The point (and the only one I feel qualified to make) is that they’re making some seriously unsupported assumptions in that report. Rather dramatic assumptions that undercut their credibility a lot.

          1. Yes, his statements were overly dramatic for what was supposed to be a report. However, for the base conclusions, his reasoning is present and sound.

            Secondly, I cannot fault him too much for the hyperbole. In no small part because if he did not explicitly say that there was fraud and manipulation, the headline would be “no fraud found”, no matter what else the report said.

            1. Headline? Wasn’t the report supposed to convince a court, not the media?

              I mean, if you want to concede Trump and his team are playing to the media and public because they tend to be less careful than courts, by all means…

              1. Don’t be foolish. There are two cases here. To the courts and the public eye. To truly win, the sides will have to win both.

                At this point, the Trump team would be wise to aim for a “well, there were some fraud issues so they weren’t crazy” reaction.

        2. “Permission to {0}” is less likely to be a “custom log” than something like a log with a null reference, especially since it apparently appears nowhere in the manual. Which is certainly a sign of crappy programming, but it’s as likely to mean “print out all the results” or “turn on the screensaver” as “tamper with the results”. So the assertion in the affidavit, that this is evidence of an attempt to tamper with the results, is completely unsubstantiated.

          1. but it’s as likely to mean “print out all the results” or “turn on the screensaver” as “tamper with the results”

            Sure, because it’s childishly easy to believe that the system designers (who from other high-level indicia discussed in the report don’t exactly seem to have had a security-first mindset) would have been equally likely to require elevated permissions to do something that could have no possible effect on the election data stored in the machine, as opposed to something that could.

            Occam wept.

            1. Occam, says the guy positing a vast electoral conspiracy.

              1. It certainly is a relief to know that as of November 2020 conspiracies simply can’t happen anymore. Poof — gone! Sorta like whatever happened to the flu.

                1. Excluded middle.

                  You’re quite bad at this, you know?

      2. Why did someone attempt to access the machines on Nov 21st?

        1. There is only one explanation: Dems covering their tracks.

          You’re so deep you can’t even tell.

          1. Perhaps you can come up with a different explanation?

            1. Plenty.

              A random hacker,
              Someone in the auditors’ office who didn’t coordinate properly,
              The audit itself,
              Russia,
              Someone in the county office checking on the audit.

              There are countless explanations for an unexplained event. But you’ve got your story, and now fit everything into it.

              1. “Russia”?

                Ooh boy, someone’s off his medicine again…

                1. Hopefully you realize that with equal evidence for Russia or your evil cabal of Democratic operatives (i.e., none), that you sound just as ridiculous asserting that it’s the latter as you seem to think it would be for someone to assert the former.

                  1. ” your evil cabal of Democratic operatives”

                    This is called a “Strawman” for those who want a textbook example.

                2. Yeah, I’m not asserting Russia is behind it, chief.

                  1. Your explanation for why someone accessed the machines on November 21st, is…. “Russia”.

                    Wow.

                    1. No, it isn’t. That’s not what you asked and that’s not what I answered.

                      You’re just lying now. About stuff anyone can read.

                    2. Armchair,

                      This is in the running for most moronic comment. You asked Sarcastr0 for alternate explanations. He pointed out that there are innumerable alternative explanations that are both at least as plausible as your asserted conspiracy and have just as little evidence.

                      He was pointing out that an evidence-free claim that Russia did it is both just as plausible and just as supported with your evidence as the “zero” result was part of a Democratic conspiracy. His point was, frankly, that he had zero reason to believe Russia did it….or that Democrats did it, as opposed to it having one of the thousands of innocuous explanations (which he also listed).

                      When this is your gotcha moment, you need to go take a nap and hydrate.

            2. Republicans trying to create the appearance of fraud.

      3. “There is no permission to {0}”

        If you look at the paragraph before this, it’s clear that the user who attempted to zero out the election results was someone named either “Kim Jong Un” or “Vladimir Putin”.

    4. Later they talk about a high “error rate” (their quotes) of 68% with no definition or discussion of what this is or how it was derived.

      AL, this is hilarious!

      1. “Later they talk about a high “error rate” (their quotes) of 68% with no definition or discussion of what this is or how it was derived.”

        Read section B, part 6 for the discussion.

        1. ‘election error rate’ does not clarify things, and citing FEC regulations but not, you know, which regulation, does not help either.

          1. Then continue on to section B, part 8….

            Seriously, it’s not surprising you don’t understand what they mean by error rate, when you only “skip through the text”….

            1. Seriously, the document is a clown show. Not defining what the error is in your error rate is a pretty big tell.

              68% is an eye-catching number, except it’s not a real thing.

              1. It’s not a 68% error rate. The 68% figure that’s cited is errors or warnings. But the author of the report couldn’t tell the difference, any more than he could tell the difference between MI and MN.

      2. They explicitly explain and state where the 68% comes from. The tabulation log that was audited recorded x number of events. Of those events, 68% of them were tagged as having an error. The result of the errors were either tabulation errors on the final count or ballots that were kicked out of the normal counting path to be “adjudicated”… which the report then explains.

        I get that you don’t believe in fraud. I generally do not either. But you don’t have to go out of your way to be so obtuse that you lose any credibility you have. If you have an actual valid argument that undermines the claims in the report… go for it. Lay it out there. I’m quite certain there are very valid explanations for a fair chunk of those 68% of ballot errors. But given the numbers… I’m also certain that there was, to some degree, some illegitimate behavior (could be malice, could be ignorance… but still illegitimate even if it doesn’t change the outcome).

        1. You still haven’t explained what tagged as having an error means. 68% makes me think it’s not something extraordinary. And I’m still not clear what it has to do with FEC regs.

          BTW, it looks like The Michigan legislature has issues as well:
          In his court filing in the case, Brater said the report suggests it is improper to divert write-in ballots for adjudication, but that is the only way those ballots can be counted. Contrary to the suggestion in the report, this does not allow administrators to “change votes,” beyond determining for whom write-in votes should be counted, Brater wrote.

          Brater said the report references system capabilities for ranked choice voting, which is used in some jurisdictions, but which is not used or authorized for use in Michigan elections.

          “Because voting tabulators in Michigan use hand-marked, paper ballots, any alleged errors in tabulators can be caught during a hand recount, which any candidate could have requested in Antrim County,” Brater said.
          That’s not just shoddy, that looks like lying.

          https://www.freep.com/story/news/politics/elections/2020/12/14/michigan-company-officials-dispute-report-antrim-county-voting/6538325002/

          1. Presumably, absent any finer points to be made, one ought to conclude that it is a ballot that for any number of reasons (from stray marks to who-knows-what) do not run through the machine “cleanly.” Some of these issues may be indecipherable votes (a marker’s version of “hanging chads” or “dimpled chads”). But, in general… it is implied to be an error. A concept that, in most other cases, needs no further explanation. And it does not require a “fraudulent” explanation for the remainder of the argument to follow… when you see a batch of ballots that do not run cleanly through a machine, when there is an error rate way outside the norm, it warrants investigation… especially when, as it was discovered, these errors resulted in changed vote totals at later dates of significant quantities.

            Further, the implication is that FEC guidelines specify a range of accepted errors when counting votes (perfection is not attainable and no one, not even Trump, has demanded that). That range is well below 1%… and here we have a county that certified its vote with nearly 70% of its ballots being in error to varying degrees.

            And even if what you posted is true (I am not making a claim on it one way or the other… haven’t read up on it yet) it does not necessarily follow that the entirety of the lawyer’s report is wrong. There are technical, physical occurrences that were recorded that have little to do with procedural issues like handling write-in ballots. Things such as hundreds of votes appearing and/or disappearing between multiple machine counts (which one is accurate?), security logs not being produced, changing of the counting software (it appears no one is saying that didn’t happen, but instead tried to explain it by saying the first software was not working and so they changed it in order to get a machine operational… that’s really doing a hack job on how it is worded in the report, but you get my point), and no records of who logged into the system, when they did, what they did, if they did, etc.

          2. “Contrary to the suggestion in the report, this does not allow administrators to “change votes,” beyond determining for whom write-in votes should be counted, Brater wrote.”

            From a technical standpoint, while diverting into adjudication doesn’t authorize administrators to change write in votes, it certainly enables them to, in as much as the write-in votes aren’t read by OCR, they’re read by people, who are perfectly capable of reading “Bob” and recording “James”, unless watched carefully.

            1. Just asking questions, right, Brett?

        2. Of those events, 68% of them were tagged as having an error.

          Nope. They lied about that.

    5. Armchair Lawyer: To be clear, I agree that if there’s actual evidence of fraud, that should of course be investigated. I’m only saying that the “improbability” of the Biden victory is not, itself, evidence of fraud.

      1. I would agree 100%. But the converse (inverse?) is also true… the occurrence of improbable events is not proof that when they occur it is not due to maleficence (sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t). Change your opening World Series argument to factoids that relate to the 2017 World Series and see what happens. Just as improbable of an outcome… yet that time it was because of cheating.

        1. Nobody is claiming a Biden victory was more improbable than a Trump victory (or a Biden win in any particular county/state was improbable) and, therefore, that is evidence the Biden victory was legit.

          Are you making that argument just to use the word “converse”?

          Or are you reminding us of what cheaters the Houston Astros are and that they should forever live in infamy?

          If the latter, though irrelevant to this discussion, your contribution to society is a worthy one.

      2. “Improbability” is suggestive that something should be looked at more closely. Especially when there is an alternate potential explanation that explains the improbability.

        If the same family member of an lottery worker wins the lotto three times in a row…that’s pretty improbable. Not impossible. But…might be worth looking into that lotto worker a bit more carefully.

        Or, if you prefer, the original Antrim county results are an example of this. Is it “entirely plausible, if unlikely” that Biden would win Antrim county by more 2000 votes, when Trump won it in 2016 by more than 4000 votes (out of ~13000 total). Sure, it’s plausible. It’s also unlikely, and upon investigation it was seen as false.

        A statistical irregularity is worth looking at more closely. When people argue strongly against it….it’s like saying “we shouldn’t look at the family member who won 3 lottos in a row, it could happen, don’t even look!”

        1. But. There. Is. No. Improbability.

          1. But AL, apparently, always gets what he wants and he didn’t this time. This is, obviously, evidence of a fraud and a global conspiracy to deny AL what he wants.

            Next up, why was AL’s local grocery store out of his favorite ice cream the last three times he got a jones for rocky road?

      3. “I’m only saying that the “improbability” of the Biden victory is not, itself, evidence of fraud.”

        If we buy the 1 in 1 quadrillion claim, we can infer that the probability of fraud is quite a bit less than that. But without having looked at the analysis, I will happily infer that the 1 in 1 quadrillion claim is bunk.

    6. For some background see this Detroit News article.

      Russ Ramsland contended for the Republican nomination for the 32nd Congressional District of Texas in 2016 but was out-primaried by Pete Sessions. He has been promoting theories that voting machines are rigged since at least 2018, when Democrats in Dallas got more votes than Mr. Ramsland thought they should.

      His most this time around, the votes for Trump temporarily credited to Biden, has been explained as human error in updating election configuration data on some but not all the tabulators, causing them to transpose data when sending it to the county’s central collection system to report unofficial results. The responsible county Clerk, Cheryl Guy, has admitted the error and insists it would have been found anyway during canvassing when the official results are tabulated.

      Ramsland appears to be just another Trump conspiracy theorist, but it’s ironic that even if Trump and his squad were to find real evidence of deliberate fraud or vote manipulation now after weeks of frivolous claims and lawsuits it would be lumped in with them and prejudged unreliable. That is the danger of crying wolf.

  6. It does not change the perception that the Democrats cheated and that Biden should be referred to as “Mr. Fraudlent”.

    1. Just like the Birthers insisted Obama was perceived as a Kenyan Usurper and yet all they really did was make themselves look like racist fools.

    2. Neither Biden nor anyone else is responsible for your delusions.

  7. Oh, please. Yes, once an event has actually happened, the probability of it happening is, retrospectively, 100%, regardless of how low it was before hand.

    HOWEVER, extraordinary events require extraordinary proof. If your uncle says he was dealt 2 successive four of a kind hands, you might reasonably ask, “Were you the one who shuffled the deck?”

    If this had been a boring, by the book election, with all the usual safeguards still in place, every “i” dotted and every “t” crossed, I’d have a lot more confidence that the outcome was achieved honestly.

    But it wasn’t. All sorts of last minute changes were made to the rules, often without bothering to resort to actual legislation, and many of the changes, if they don’t prove fraud, at least opened the door to it.

    And like it or not, opening the door to fraud makes people, rationally, suspect fraud when unlikely outcomes occur.

    1. extraordinary events require extraordinary proof

      Not necessarily. In the election, Trump says his winning 18 out of 19 bellwether counties while losing the election is extraordinary. Let’s say it would happen 1 in 1000 times. The problem is that after the fact you could easily come up with 1000 other things that each have a probability of 1/1000 of occurring with Trump winning. But, the odds are in favor of at least one of them occurring.

      The key factor is whether the number of possible after the fact “extraordinary” cases in the denominator is close to the magnitude of the reciprocal of the probability of each “extraordinary” case.

      1. Yes, we need a better grade of statistical analysis than Trump is encouraging.

        I’m just saying we need a better grade of statistical analysis than Ilya is encouraging, too.

        We don’t have direct knowledge of the election outcome. We have evidence of it, which must be evaluated. This means we’re still in the realm of probability.

        1. Firstly. it’s David, not Ilya. Secondly, David is mostly correct per my above analysis. There hasn’t been any credible “extraordinary” event that can’t be dismissed by David’s analysis except perhaps the incredibly stupid one-in-a-quadrillion claim which can be dismissed on other grounds.

          1. “Firstly. it’s David, not Ilya. ”

            I mean, Brett has all the statistical details nailed down so he can’t be bothered to actually know who he’s talking about…

          2. I’ll admit to a stupid but ultimately trivial mistake. I am getting on in years, I confuse names.

            You can’t start your reasoning from, “The event happened”, when whether it really happened is exactly what is being argued about. Doing so is the literal definition of begging the question.

            1. What claimed “that event happened” are you referring to as begging the question?

            2. Brett,

              Picking your event (e.g., these “18 bellwether counties”) after the fact may not be begging the question, but it is entirely unsound.

              The whole point of the prior comment was that you can always construct an “improbable” event after any ordinary occurrence. Biden winning was not improbable.

              Biden winning “bellwether counties” (closely split counties that happened to go with the winner in X prior elections) while winning the electoral college is also not an “improbable” event that gives rise to suspicion. Consider finding (in a game where 10,000 die are thrown having various combinations of D and R on their six sides) that 17 of 18 die came up with the party of the winner of the Presidential election in the last X number of elections. Is that a predictable anomaly that some number of die would get it “right” X times in a row or is it “suspicious”? You have a lot more work to do before convincing anyone that 18 counties out of 10,000 counties in the U.S. (or 5,000 or however many thousands there are) have some special magic that predicts the president besides the fact that they are (1) relatively evenly split between R and D and (2) happened to go with the winner in past elections and (3) political alliances and geographic distributions are shifting pretty dramatically (Georgia has been getting bluer for years, just as Virginia did before it. That wasn’t fraud, it was shifting demographics. Just like Florida looks far more red this year than it used to be. Is that fraud too?).

              As your stock broker is required by law to tell you, past performance is not indicative of future performance.

      2. Trump says his winning 18 out of 19 bellwether counties while losing the election is extraordinary. Let’s say it would happen 1 in 1000 times.

        “Let’s say” indeed. Losing 18 out of 19 coin flips only happens about 1 in 260,000 times. And the odds of the winner of any given bellwether county also winning the election are (by their very nature as bellwether counties) higher than a coin flip. If the odds for any given county averaged just 55%, the odds of losing 18 of 19 would be less than 1 in a million.

        1. Once again, this is cherry-picked nonsense.

          Plus, the chance that Trump would win a county he carried in 2016 is pretty high. What would you guess? 80%, 90%? Surely a lot more than 45%

          Plus, it’s just as much “evidence” that Trump committed fraud in the bellwether counties as it is that Biden did elsewhere.

          I don’t see you calling for audits there.

          1. Once again, this is cherry-picked nonsense.

            It’s fascinating how bellwether counties were actually a well-recognized tool for predicting outcomes of elections until last month, when they suddenly became bullshit because there was no other way to deal with the inconceivably anomalous results across the board. 1984 was not an instruction manual, as the saying goes.

            But speaking of post-hoc cherry-picking, how about that synchronized fetch-me-a-rock technique you lefties are playing? “Nope — that’s not suspicious! Bring me something that’s REALLY suspicious! Nope — not that either!”

            1. Or, you know, the rapid acceleration of long term trends of white non-college educated voters voting heavily Republican and white college-educated voters voting heavily Democratic meant that relying on counties, most of which have a very significant majority of white voters (especially non-college voters) and some of which normally would balance that with college students from out of the area (many of whom are learning remotely) is a poor choice.

              Bellweather counties were bellweathers because there were fewer non-white voters voting in past elections, so heavily white counties weren’t especially non-representative, and because non-college whites outside of the South weren’t voting more and more like Southern Republicans; instead, they were swingier.

            2. It’s fascinating how bellwether counties were actually a well-recognized tool for predicting outcomes of elections until last month,

              Oh forget it. You’re being an idiot. Bellwether counties were never “a well-recognized tool for predicting outcomes of elections .” Show me the many examples of them being used that way.

              How could they be? Did everyone know in advance how they would vote? They were always a curiosity, an interesting but totally unimportant detail of elections.

              What amazing logic you use.

              “Here are 19 counties that supported Trump in 2016. Eighteen of them did so again in 2020. Obvious fraud!!”

              Damn, that’s stupid.

        2. A=Lose the election. B=win 18 out of 19 bellwether counties.

          You’ve computed P(B), but that’s not the statistic we want. Instead, we want P(A|B) =P(A intersect B) / P(B). Both the numerator and denominator are small, but your calculation doesn’t tell us their relative size.

          1. B=win 18 out of 19 bellwether counties.

            You’ve computed P(B), but that’s not the statistic we want. Instead, we want P(A|B) =P(A intersect B) / P(B).

            If you reread what I said, I actually accounted for that. The probability for each county was not simply the probability of winning the county, but winning the county and losing the election — i.e., just how much of a bellwether is that particular county?

            Since most of these counties were 10 for the last 10 election cycles, you don’t have to write a math paper to readily reach the conclusion that the overall probability of what we saw this year is plenty of orders of magnitude less than the 1/1000 you threw out.

            1. Are you saying that when you used 55%, you were calculating P(A intersect B), the probability of both winning the election and losing 18 out of 19 counties? And when you used 50%, you were calculating P(B), the a priori probability of losing 18 out of 19 elections?

              If so, then P(A|B), the probability of losing the election given you lost 18 out of 19 counties = 1/million / 1/260,000 = 26%.

              I checked the calculations in Excel and I believe the probability of losing 18 or 19 out of 19 fair coin flips is 1 in about 26,000 and the probability of losing 18 or 19 with a 55% coin in your favor is 1 in about 160,000. So P(A|B) = 16%.

            2. Except that a) an n of 10 is pretty small, and b) there are demographic factors that link many of these counties, such that they’re not independent variables. You’re making the same mistake that the super pro-Hillary poll aggregators did in 2016- Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania shared certain demographic and cultural similarities, such that if one flipped the others were significantly more likely to flip- any analysis treating them separately was really deficient. Most of these counties share significant demographic similarities, and the demise of local news and its replacement with the internet and with national news sources has nationalized culture to a certain extent. If your bellweather counties were mostly non-Southern non-college whites, then if non-Southern non-college whites have shifted their voting patterns, they’re going to do so together.

              1. All true.

                Plus, suppose we find a different set of counties with different pattern from 1980-2012. Say they alternated between the winner and the loser every election. Reagan 1980, Mondale 1984, Bush 1988, etc.

                Then in 2016 they were due to vote for Clinton, but voted for Trump instead. Fraud? After all, according to these counties, Trump should have lost, but he won. Must be fraud.

                The point is, there are lots of patterns counties can follow over 10 elections. That some set of counties broke its previous pattern means nothing – nothing.

    2. I think the point is you can cherry-pick past events to make this sort of argument. There are a zillion spurious correlations you can make to past events – weather on Election Day, whether the Dodgers had a winning season, on and on.

      Besides, why do you look at these things only one way? Let’s say it’s unlikely that a candidate who loses both OH and FL will win, therefore that’s evidence, or at least grounds to suspect, that there was fraud.

      But why is the hypothesized fraud elsewhere? After all, it’s just as unlikely for the winning candidate to lose OH and FL as it is for the losing candidate to win them. It’s the same thing.

      So why don’t you suspect pro-Trump fraud in those two states, instead of the other way around?

    3. “ All sorts of last minute changes were made to the rules”

      Meh, here in Wisconsinland, some of the rules Trump was whining about were the same rules that were in place in 2016. When he won WI.

      Which is why he lost on laches in the WI S.Ct., in an opinion authored by a conservative WI Justice.

      Ambiguous bleating about “sudden rule changes” doesn’t make it actually true, factual, or correct.

    4. extraordinary events require extraordinary proof.

      What “extraordinary event” are you talking about?

      All sorts of last minute changes were made to the rules, often without bothering to resort to actual legislation, and many of the changes, if they don’t prove fraud, at least opened the door to it.

      Bullshit.

      Oh, and where is that Trump concession you assured us would be forthcoming after the EV’s were cast?

    5. Brett Bellmore : “HOWEVER, extraordinary events require extraordinary proof”

      What extraordinary event? The only president in modern history who posted underwater favorability ratings thru an entire term lost. A president who faced the worst public health crisis in a century and failed miserably per the public didn’t get reelected. A president disliked by a clear majority of Americans failed to win a majority of votes. The weakest incumbent since Jimmy Carter was voted out of office. There’s nothing extraordinary in any of that; it’s the opposite result that would have been extraordinary.

      Brett Bellmore : If this had been a boring, by the book election …. (etc). But it wasn’t. All sorts of last minute changes were made to the rules …. (etc)

      Hilarious. Which of these changes affected votes in numbers necessary to change even a single state’s result? It’s a problem when your entire whine-fest litany of changes easily fits in a thimble. So you add the suggestion they somehow (magically) transmogrify to “hypothetical fraud”, but that’s just simple bullshit. You want an excuse to sulk over an election where your guy lost. That’s all. It’s the only “door opening” found in your screed. You got yourself an excuse. Congrats.

      “Like it or not” (you say) you’re gonna pretend this nonsense is rational. Fine. As long as you don’t mind other people making fun of you, there’s no reason why you can’t…..

      1. I’m pointing to the fact the deck was shuffled out of view, and you’re asking for proof it was stacked. We’re talking past each other.

        1. You’re claiming the deck was shuffled out of view.

          Not the same as “pointing to the fact.”

        2. Brett Bellmore : I’m pointing to the fact the deck was shuffled out of view

          And I’m asking you make that gibberish meaningful (knowing damn well that you can’t). “Deck was shuffled out of view” ?!? Give us all a break if that’s the best wheedling you can do.

          Of course isn’t that always the case with your voting fraud shtick? It’s a phenomena forever occurring just beyond the corner of your eye or maybe about to happen (surely!) next elections, since there was zero evidence from the vote just ended. Trump creates a commission to document voting fraud, fills it with members fanatical about voting fraud, heads it with the ultimate uber-opponent of voting fraud, and what happens? They find a few score cases from the past sixty years & then the commission collapses into chaos & failure.

          Meanwhile, sulking children blame Trump’s loss on fraud. Republicans in Georgia want to outlaw ballot drop boxes, scrap a court agreement to quickly tell voters about signature problems on ballots so that they could be fixed, and make it illegal for absentee voters to deposit ballots after business hours. What does that have to do with fraud? Nothing.

          Michigan Republicans want to ban straight-ticket voting. Texas Republicans want to restrict the ability of election officials to even distribute absentee ballot applications, and make it a felony to offer to help a voter fill out a ballot. What does that have to do with fraud? Nothing.

          It’s the same old story – and that story has nothing to do with “voting fraud”

          1. My goodness. Methinks grb doth protest too much.

            1. Said somebody whining nonsense ’cause his guy lost.
              Go find a mirror…..

            2. Not too much.

              If there’s one thing that is absolutely clear it’s that Republicans don’t like it when people vote, or at least when people who don’t fit their idea of “Real Americans” vote.

              1. And there you just reinforced my point, if unintentionally. However ridiculous the position you’re taking, it’s always possible to calmly and rationally state it.

                Skipping the histrionics does of course have the downside of making it easier to see how ridiculous it is, but there are all sorts of tradeoffs in life.

    6. “Extraordinary events require extraordinary proof”

      The only reason you think it’s an extraordinary event is because of mistakes made by Paxton’s statistician.

      High level, what was expected to be a close election between two “meh” candidates turned out to be a close election, which the candidate ahead in the polls won. It’s really pretty routine.

      If anything, 2016 was the extraordinary event.

    7. “extraordinary events require extraordinary proof”

      Yes, that is true. So if the assertion is that the election was subverted across multiple states, there should be extraordinary proof of that, not some cherry-picking of past correlated phenomenon.

      Are you really asserting that it is “extraordinary” that, comparing Obama’s win in 2012 and Biden’s in 2020, that Ohio, Florida and Iowa flipped from Blue to Red while Georgia and Arizona went in the other direction (i.e., that the only states that flipped from Republican to Democrat are states in which elections are overseen by Republicans?) You really think that this is such an aberrant electoral result that it requires an extraordinary explanation? ‘Cause it seems to me like the sort of shift in electoral outcomes that happens in basically every election and, as noted above, if anything we should be suspicious of the Obama states that went to Trump because they’re all run by Republicans.

      1. if anything we should be suspicious of the Obama states that went to Trump because they’re all run by Republicans.

        Exactly. And we should certainly be suspicious of FL and OH, because they almost always vote for the winner, and here they didn’t. Plus they used Dominion machines, at least in some counties.

        Which is more likely? Fraud in two states or fraud in four?

    8. If this had been a boring, by the book election, with all the usual safeguards still in place, every “i” dotted and every “t” crossed, I’d have a lot more confidence that the outcome was achieved honestly.

      This was a boring, by the book election, with all the usual safeguards still in place.

  8. In every election between 1952 and 1968, if an American League team won the world series, then a Republican won the White House and if a National League team won, then a Democrat won the White House. This was a cute story at the time that made the rounds.

    Of course, when the data was expanded to include all years from 1908 to 2008, the same results did not occur.

    That is the kind of non-sensical use of statistics confusing correlation with causation that is the foundation of much statistical nonsense.

    There is a quote attributed to a Scottish Poet, Andrew Lang that says, “He uses statistics as a drunken man uses a lamp post, more for support than illumination”

    I think that says it all.

  9. Statistics lessons from angry, obsessed partisans? No thanks.

    1. You mean the Trumpists? I agree.

  10. The likelihood of Democrats cheating in elections, to fulfill their stated goal of defeating Nazis by any means necessary, is about the same as the likelihood of taxpayers cheating on their taxes and drivers breaking the speed limit.

    1. Trenchant analysis from ML.

      1. You’re talking about people who read a transcript in which Trump demanded a political favor in exchange for releasing money he was legally obligated to release and saying, “I don’t see a quid pro quo.”

        1. Whoops, sorry; the favor in the transcript was for weapons, not the money. The money was in other testimony.

  11. “The President himself—who, like all talented stand-up comics, has a finely-tuned sense of the lines that resonate with his audience—referred to it over and over in his remarks at the recent rally in Georgia.”

    A more apt point is that Donald Trump, like any successful peddler of shoddy goods, understands his gullible, downscale audience with meticulous precision — and disregards everyone else, because those people are not in the market for lousy merchandise.

    1. So clever. Did you take clever lessons, you clever Dick?

  12. Now that there is newfound interest in actual data analysis, proper use of statistics, and embracing objective truth, hopefully we will see:

    -Some writing about the FAKE gender wage gap that has been debunked time and time again, but still persists. Maybe even Twitter will give it the “this is disputed” tag.

    -A renewed interest in gathering statistics related to race and crime then using those to propose actual public policy that might work instead of just using the rhetoric to inflame people.

    -An indepth analysis into the data that pushes so called “global warming” and why some of that data is simply not good.

    This could be the beginning of a beautiful bipartisan (non-partisan) to bring truth and reason back to political discussions.

    1. -An indepth analysis into the data that pushes so called “global warming” and why some of that data is simply not good.

      Because some guy on the Internet knows more about this data than all the scientists who develop it, analyze it, etc.

      1. So-called “scientists” that just happen to be funded by the whole climate industry and have no incentive to truthfully analyze the data.

        1. Is your argument seriously that Big Solar is throwing around more money than Big Oil?

          1. Not to speak for him but my guess is the following:
            He isn’t saying Big Solar is outspending Big Oil… but Big Gov is.

            1. To what end, though?

            2. I have a hard time believing that “government” is a synonym for “climate industry”.

              1. To you and sarc

                Years ago I was listening to something about the former (maybe even founder?) of Green Peace. He, according to this program, left the organization because it had become more focused on increasing state power for universalist goals (socialism) than the environment and that the imminent doom from climate change had been built up as a wagging of the dog to these ends.
                Look at Covid… dire circumstances lead meglomaniacs to think THEY need to do something and WE should obey for our own good. What better excuse to increase regulatory power, global redistribution, etc. than “We are all going to freeze to death by 1970… I mean burn up by 1990… I mean be underwater by 2000!!!!”

                1. None of which proves anything about climate change, or Covid, or anything else.

                  “Lying about some imminent danger can be excuse for government to expand its power.”

                  True.

                  But that doesn’t mean that every time government tries to expand its power to deal with some imminent danger it’s lying. In fact, when the threat is identified by a lot of independent knowledgeable people it’s quite likely to be real.

                  Look, the Gulf of Tonkin incident was BS, as were Iraq’s WMD. But neither of those things were confirmed by hundreds, thousands?, of independent observers.

            3. So your theory is that there are a bunch of people in the government, eager to expand its power, who see generating baseless concern over climate change as a way to do that, and that they are somehow persuading the large majority of climate scientists to go along, and publish fraudulent papers and whatnot?

              Do I have that right? Do you understand that’s a totally bonkers conspiracy theory, and that if someone tried it, the conspiracy would be exposed in a heartbeat?

              I mean, it would have to involve thousands of people, civil servants, scientists, their lab assistants, journal editors, article reviewers, etc.

              It’s utterly bonkers.

        2. Any scientist who was able to actually show that anthropogenic climate change is not in fact happening would immediately become the most famous scientist on the planet. They would massively transform economic incentives across numerous industries, realigning industry and government priorities worldwide. They would be able to write their own ticket going forward, as an academic chair, an in-demand public speaker commanding hundreds of thousands of dollars a throw, a leader in government or industry, or simply as a celebrity science a la Neil deGrasse Tyson.

          But I’m sure the prospect of spending the rest of their professional lives working 65-hour weeks in a small cinderblock office for $100k a year while juggling administrative duties, journal assignments and fundraising, overseeing grad students and dealing with snotty 19-year-olds is all the incentive they need to overlook the possibility of fame and fortune.

          1. Logic doesn’t work with these guys.

  13. I generally agree with Poet’s analysis here, and with most of the specific points, but I believe “Principle 2” goes too far. Consider this situation, an actual event. There was a close mayoral election in a smaller city in Connecticut, if I remember right, about thirty years ago. A very close election. In one larger precinct in the city, there were two voting machines. On one of the two machines, the distribution of votes between the two candidates was reasonably close to the overall breakdown. On the other, the share of votes received by the losing candidate was exceptionally low. Around 5%. And the %age of voters who voted for mayor was surprisingly low. Voters were directed to the individual machines at random. The likelihood of such a huge variation between the two machines happening by chance was extremely low, in the millions to one range. If the losing candidate had received even half the percentage of the votes on the “normal” machine on the apparently malfunctioning machine, he would have been elected. The lock g candidate went to court, claiming that the results were statistically unlikely by a huge factor and that it was overwhelmingly likely that the (mechanical) tabulating device in the second machine had not been properly set to zero before election day, but had accidentally been set to a number near its maximum, say 9000 on a 4-digit counter, and had then “rolled over” and produced an erroneously low total for the losing candidate.

    The CT Supreme Court, which has a track record of ghastly mishandling of statistical arguments, denied any relief. It said, as I remember, that such statistical arguments alone were insufficient. This strikes me as quite wrong, but I can’t easily come up with a good statement of principle to distinguish this well-founded argument from the Trumpian nonsense.

  14. Unfortunately the Republican Party can’t run away from the clown show we’ve seen over the past month, from “Four Seasons Total Landscaping” to “One in a Quadrillion” and back. They supported it; they never criticized the man who directed it; they never criticized any step of it or any argument that was made, including this one. The “One in a Quadrillion” argument is stupid and ignorant, but that’s only because it reflects today’s GOP.

    1. It would be nice if the media held the “defund the police” crazies to the same standard. And you know covered the huge increase of crime in jurisdictions that are adopted this insane approach.

      1. ? Is Biden saying to “defund the police”?

        The GOP is led by its “crazies”.

        1. Actually, Biden has specifically said he does not support defunding the police.

          While trump wants to use them to imprison Kemp and Raffensperger.

  15. \!/ This claim about the lack of election fraud is disputed \!/

    Sorry, need a disclaimer when something is disputed

  16. What were the odds of the Astros winning in 2017, AND the weather being what it was, AND etc…

    Turns out it was really unlikely. So unlikely, in fact…. that it was the result of fraud (more technically, cheating).

    I’m not saying fraud DID happen… I’m saying that simply because strange things do, indeed, happen isn’t proof of an absence of fraud, which this article is trying to put forward.

    Also… in the list of amazing things tied together with the World Series example… many of those things are wholly unrelated to the events that constituted the World Series even itself. Had you listed a number of factoids that were statistics regarding past influences on the actual game itself and how those influences tended to predict a winner… and then showed that it’s not merely possible, but plausible, to overcome those influences and have an otherwise unlikely victor in the World Series… now you’d have a point.

    Statistical anomalies DO happen all the time. But when they happen in the face of direct influences that either impact the event themselves or are indicative of the occurrence of the event itself then something needs to be looked at. For example… what are the chances that it floods after raining for 10 hours straight? If it does NOT flood… then something needs to be able to explain that other than “weird shit happens all the time!” Perhaps people were bailing water into containers to keep it from cresting over a levy. THAT is an explanation. Simply saying “Odds are it was bound to happen despite the unlikely nature of such a thing!” isn’t proof.

    1. Paragraph 4… World Series EVENT itself.

      And edit button, an edit button, my kingdom for an edit button

  17. A surprising number of people seem to believe that the “improbability” that Biden could have won (in a fair election) is evidence that he didn’t win (in a fair election). It isn’t.

    I’ll go even further. Everything that is possible, no matter how improbable, will eventually happen.

    1. Sure, but that doesn’t mean that if you enter a room and find somebody asphyxiated in the corner, you leap straight to the conclusion that all the air molecules randomly ended up in a different corner of the room, leaving him to suffocate in a temporary vacuum.

      Despite the fact that it would eventually happen, given enough time.

  18. Beware law professors without advanced quantitative training peddling dunking of statistical probabilities.

    1. Well, I actually do have some advanced training in statistics, but your hardly need that to see how stupid Trump’s arguments are.

  19. “A republic, madam, if you can keep it.”
    – The most apropos quote for today, methinks.

  20. What a fool believes, he sees
    No wise man has the power to reason away
    What seems to be
    Is always better than nothing

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