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Why is my “Winston Churchill” post so popular? And other rants.


Why is my “Winston Churchill” post so popular? It’s not a movie review, although it does review a movie. It’s not a source page on Winston Churchill, although it does discuss the apocryphal nature of certain Churchill quotes. For the last week, it has been among the top posts in views– in fact, in November (this month) it has already received 196 views. Somebody is linking to it.

Let me know if you have an answer to this question: who cares about what I wrote about Winston Churchill– and why so much, so recently?

The desperation of the fans of our friend he-who-must-not-be-named.

I received a link to this “declaration” from “Bits of DNA” (another web site from WordPress) that just shows you how desperately crazy certain Republicans can be.

First, the declaration: it purports to be a rigorous mathematical/statistical analysis of Republican absentee ballots requested by someone other than the registered voter in the state of Pennsylvania. It is, however, motivated by a desire to prove “fraud” (although that word is not used anywhere in the declaration) and it is couched in lawyer’s language in an attempt to build up the credibility of the declarer in front of a judge.

The declarer is Steven J. Miller, a mathematician at Williams. The author of the website is Lior Pachter, a computational biologist who does get into the weeds.

Lior Pachter is, on the web site, writing about things he gets “over the transom” and in other ways, but mostly about data, or the absence of data, in things he reads.

This is what I wrote in my comment… now you’ll have to go to “Bits of DNA” for the rest.

Is Steven J. Miller a real person?

I should have gotten my two cents worth in earlier, but I didn’t have time to read Steven J. Miller’s text that prompted your outraged refutatory rant, so I put it off a while. I’m glad I did, because while I was busy elsewhere, some other people put in some very helpful information about the ballots and you even got a snotty remark from the guy who put Steven J. Miller up to his “analysis” of the “data.” — in other words, the guy who pulled the wool over his all-too-willing eyes.

What would be real evidence of fraud?

I read the “declaration”– it appears to be an attempt to be evidence. If we’re looking for evidence, then we would like to have a person say, “I requested a ballot and returned it but it wasn’t counted.” Or, “I didn’t request an absentee ballot, but one was returned in my name.”

Those responses would be prima facie evidence of fraud. But that’s not what we got (as far as I know; surely, there would be big headlines if one person said that they returned their absentee ballot but it wasn’t counted OR that they never requested an absentee ballot but one was requested (by a fraudster) and it was returned BUT they didn’t vote, OR that they tried to vote and were told that an absentee ballot had been returned in their name.)

What did Miller write instead?

Why is someone (Steven J. Miller) doing a complex statistical analysis of murky data? I don’t understand the data nor his analysis, but then I barely passed a course in basic statistics and barely graduated from college, much less medical school. Is this an attempt to allege fraud without using the word “fraud”? Without actually presenting any evidence that would constitute fraud?

I don’t know. But if you (Lior Pachter) understand what he (Steven J. Miller) is saying and you conclude that he’s talking through his hat, then I won’t argue with you. Clearly, this “declaration” was intended to be presented to a judge as “evidence.” Clearly, Google Scholar is not a reliable way to assemble a publication list for a single person, even if it was curated by that person (I’m still unclear on that and I don’t have time to re-read it carefully enough to figure out whether Steven J. Miller actually curated his Google Scholar list.)

Matt Braynard is behind it all

Just as clearly, the declaration proves nothing, no matter what Mr. Braynard in his snotty way says about your analysis. Why would you bother to study a collection of data that comes from the horse’s mouth (that’s what Mr. Braynard is offering) for free when someone (Steven J. Miller) clearly motivated to produce the desired result (even if he didn’t get paid) doesn’t even come within shouting distance of producing said result?

I don’t recall your implying anything about whether Steven J. Miller was paid for his motivated analysis of bad data or not. All you said was that he didn’t say anything about a source of funding or whether there was any conflict of interest– something that scholarly papers usually do say, but which is usually left out of depositions by lawyers. So don’t feel reprehensible.

I forgot that I requested an absentee ballot.

The comment by Dmitry Kondrashov provides an innocent explanation for why some people might have requested an absentee ballot and then forgot about it… although I would have remembered if I received an absentee ballot because, if I went to vote in person, I would have taken care to bring it with me so that it could be invalidated. I’m a little more obsessive-compulsive than the average voter.

The bottom line, though, is Where are the prima facie evidences of fraud– where are the people who attest that they didn’t request an absentee ballot, but one was returned in their name anyway? Or, where are the people who attest that they returned an absentee ballot but it was never counted? Or, where are the people who attest that they tried to vote only to be told that an absentee ballot had already been returned in their name?

In the absence of those attestations, a series of phone calls, no matter what response anyone says they got or how many calls they say they made (“almost” a million), are not evidence.

This won’t hold up in court.

No wonder those suits are being thrown out. Just like all the other lies told by he-who-must-not-be-named, they stand up right to the point where they are supposed to count, and then they fall down.

So don’t feel bad that Mr. Braynard is accusing you of running your mouth without the facts or being reprehensible– we still like you, and we’re (fortunately) in the majority (I checked on that.) Dammit, Jim, I’m a doctor, not a statistician– nor a lawyer– but I can tell when someone is talking through their hat (Steven J. Miller) or just being snotty (Matt Braynard.)

Ted Kaczynski, mathematician and mad bomber.

PS for those who are interested, one commenter mentioned idiot savants and… the Unabomber. Ted Kaczynski (a genius and a PhD mathematician) was severely psychologically damaged by a supposedly great psychologist, Henry Murray, as part of a “scientific study” (he spent 200 hours as a subject in an experiment, part of which involved filmed weekly sessions in which he was belittled and humiliated based on personal information he had given to the researcher initially– this was “research” because his EEG was recorded while these sessions were repeatedly replayed to him) while he was an undergraduate at Harvard. He graduated in 1962, before this sort of so-called research became frowned upon. See Wikipedia (and an article in the Atlantic from 2000) for a brief summary of this torture that probably had something to do with his later behavior.

There but for the grace of G-d…

(photo courtesy of 5688709 via

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