00m53s Election results. (Probabilities and possibilities.)
04m20s Counting the votes. (More approximate than usual.)
08m21s Bring on the math geeks! (Do vote counts follow Benford's Law?)
12m09s The people who matter. (It's gentry progressives all the way down.)
21m56s How to fix the vote-counting mess. (If you want to.)
26m57s The Viennese spirit. (Desperate but not serious.)
32m19s Sean Connery, RIP. (The Boomers' Bond.)
33m32s Bond movie No. 27. (With a black female 007.)
35m53s Celebrity murder of the week. (Death of the Sausage Tsar.)
37m22s Signoff. (With bells.)
Not much doubt what this week's main news item has been, and still is as I go to tape. Yes, we've been having elections. How did they work out? What did we learn from them?
Here are some observations.
There are scenarios where things might turn out differently, but those are the ways to bet — and the ways people are in fact betting.
Where those scenarios are concerned, taking those three results in turn:
In one of those two races, nobody got close to fifty percent, so there'll definitely be a runoff. In the other, Republican Senator David Perdue was looking good to beat the fifty percent threshold at midweek, but now his numbers have dipped below it and he'll likely face a runoff too. These runoffs are scheduled for January 5th.
There's a Senate race in North Carolina under different rules — no runoff — with the GOP incumbent running a very thin lead over a strong Democrat challenger. Still waiting for a final result there.
Bottom line: The Senate could still flip blue, though the odds are modestly against it.
There are moving targets there, of course. When you're listening to this, twelve hours or more after I'm recording it, some of the uncertainties will have been resolved. So I shall just step back here and pass some general remarks on the election.
It's not just a mess, in fact; it's "messes" plural, because of the Constitutional requirements that state legislatures set the rules. That was never going to yield a tidy process, and we Tenth Amendment fans, wary of too much centralized, standardized federal power, tolerate the untidiness.
The nationwide adoption of mail-in voting this year, supposedly on account of the Covid pandemic making people reluctant to vote in person, amped up the messiness, along of course with the opportunities for hanky-panky in the vote counting.
There has always been a certain amount of shenanigans in vote counting, and I think American voters at large understand that the vote numbers you see are approximate to a degree, especially in the big old boss-ruled urban centers of corruption: Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Milwaukee, and so on.
Watching the news this week, the name of Clark County, Nevada kept turning up as a little hot-spot of uncounted votes. Excuse my ignorance, but I couldn't figure why some dusty fly-blown county out there in the Western desert was making controversy. I looked up Clark County. It's the home of Las Vegas. Oh, right …
This approximate quality of the numbers doesn't matter when one party is plainly dominant over another, least of all when there's a nationwide landslide. When the election's close, though, as it is this year; when control of the entire federal power apparatus — executive, legislature, and (indirectly) judiciary — is at stake, it matters a lot.
How much jiggery-pokery has there been this time around? More than usual, for sure. Those mail-in ballots are an irresistible target for vote-harvesters. Fake ballots — you can just photocopy them — partisan post-office employees, co-operation from nursing-home staff … There are a dozen ways to do it.
That's all on top of more traditional methods like voting from the grave and impersonation. Do you know about impersonation? Names of registered voters who never bother to vote are publicly available. Just show up at the polling place declaring yourself to be one of those names.
So yes, the numbers here are more crooked than usual. Is there a way to quantify how crooked they are? Maybe …
04 — Bring on the math geeks! Math geeks have been having fun with Benford's Law. You can read up Benford's Law on Wikipedia. Here's a very short account.
Consider a big list of numbers identifying something in the real world. Wikipedia offers, quote, "electricity bills, street addresses, stock prices, house prices, population numbers, death rates, lengths of rivers, and physical and mathematical constants." End quote.
OK, you're looking at your list of house prices (say). How often is the lead-off digit in a price — the leftmost digit — how often is it a 1? Well, since it can be any one of nine digits, and there seems no reason why any digit should be favored over any other, that lead digit will be a 1 one-ninth of the time, which is to say, 11.1 percent of the time. Right?
Wrong! Benford's Law tells us that digit will be a 1 more than thirty percent of the time. At the other end, it'll be a 9 less than five percent of the time.
I know: It's weirdly counterintuitive. Math can be like that. It's a real law, though, with solid theoretical explanations supporting it.
Most to the point here, it offers a way to look at a big list of numbers and see if it is, so to speak, normal. Does it obey Benford's Law? If it doesn't, there might be a good reason; but you'd want to know the reason. You'd particularly want to know if the reason was, that someone just made up the numbers, or cranked them out of a computer random-number generator.
The computer-programming website Github.com has been running the numbers for vote counts by precinct in select cities and counties. You can view results over there: Go to Github.com and search for "2020 Benford's."
The ones I've seen so far are suggestive but not, I'd say, conclusive. The biggest departures from Benford's Law show up in the Joe Biden vote counts for … uh-oh, Milwaukee and … double-uh-oh, Chicago.
Dispositive? No. Worth investigating? Definitely, if anyone's keen to do so.
All the commanding heights of political power and influence in the U.S.A. today are held by gentry progressives. The corporations, the universities, the media, the churches, the courts, the politicians — including plenty of Republicans: Hey, there, Paul Ryan! Hey there, Mitt Romney! — even the military: Where power and influence are concerned, it's gentry progressives all the way down.
Permit me to re-quote the old friend I quoted two weeks ago. Re-quote:
On the side of the Democrats are: The FBI, the CIA, the federal bureaucracy, academia, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Hollywood, NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, NPR, the NYT, every magazine on the shelf, BLM, Antifa, 50 million illegal aliens, and now, the Chinese Communist Party.
If they can't steal an election with that group of supporters, what does it say about their general level of competence?
Well, of course they can steal an election, and very likely stole this one.
The reason they can is, they are by definition the people who really matter. Collectively, they have the power, and all its external trappings — mainly, luxury beliefs. Quote from Rob Henderson in the New York Post last year, quote:
In the past, upper-class Americans used to display their social status with luxury goods. Today, they do it with luxury beliefs.
If you don't share those luxury beliefs, you're not upper-class and you don't matter. You're one of those deplorable people, probably keen on guns and churchgoing.
And if it looks as though you, or your faction, is going to win an important election, then the people who matter have every right — the right of class privilege, droit du seigneur … well, perhaps not that particular right … every other right to preserve the existing order by making a few phone calls, calling in a few favors, pulling a few levers, handing over a few thick brown envelopes.
You think I'm being too cynical? Well, maybe: but I'm in some very good company. Here for example is Roger Kimball, writing at American Greatness yesterday, Thursday.
If you don't know the name, Roger Kimball is editor and publisher of The New Criterion, a monthly journal of high culture with a conservative editorial line. I have written a lot of stuff for The New Criterion, and have even written about the magazine.
Full disclosure: I'm personally acquainted with Roger. I admire him immensely, as one of the most erudite and prodigiously well-read people I know, and also one of the most good-natured. I don't think of him as being political in a partisan way. He's written a shelf-full of books, but none so far as I know dealing with retail politics. His most common topic is our culture, the ocean we dwell in, not particular sharks, molluscs, or schools of dolphins.
In this American Greatness piece, though, Roger doesn't hold back. Why didn't Joe Biden do some actual, you know, campaigning? asks Roger. His answer, quote:
Biden didn't really campaign because he — or at least his handlers — knew the fix was in.
Biden didn't bother to campaign, Roger implies, because he knew that the people who matter would take care of things.
That includes of course the media. Further quote:
That most of the media was all-in for Biden was also clear during the election itself. Fox News notoriously acted as a cheerleader for Biden. They refused to call Florida for Trump for hours after it was clear that he had won it. They then ceded Arizona to Biden, though it was by no means clear that he had prevailed there and some voters were still in line at the polls. Fox eventually walked back its call (sort of), but only after the damage to Trump's momentum had been clocked.
I stress again that this is not some hired party hack writing there. It's a thoughtful, independent-minded, witty, and convivial gent of great learning. Roger Kimball is nobody's hired man, and nobody's fool.
That early Fox News call of Arizona for Biden has particularly angered Trump supporters. The scuttlebutt is, it mightily angered Trump himself. Reporter Joel Mathis, writing at The Week yesterday, actually quoting a different source at Vanity Fair, tells us that both Trump and his son-in-law Jared called Rupert Murdoch to demand Fox retract the Arizona call, but Murdoch refused.
Edited quote from Joel Mathis, quote:
Murdoch — through Fox News — makes and breaks Republican politicians. They serve his interests, not the other way around …
What Murdoch gives, though, he can take away. And there have been signs that he is ready to be done with Trump, reportedly telling friends over the last few weeks the president would lose the election in a landslide. That hasn't turned out to be true, of course, but it probably hints at why Fox has been a less-than-stalwart ally to the president in recent days. Trump needs Fox News more than Fox News needs Trump.
Rupert Murdoch is definitely one of the people who matter.
Wait a minute, though, I hear you cry. All this stuff about the people who matter: doesn't the President of the United States matter rather a lot? Cabinet appointments, judicial appointments, executive orders, the nuclear football? Isn't that power?
Sure it is, but it's concentrated in that one guy, and depends for lasting results on his abilities, his understanding of what he's dealing with.
To return to my oceanic analogy: A modern cruise ship has lots of power — twenty or thirty thousand horsepower. The ocean has its own swells and currents, though, its own deeps and shallows; and the master of that cruise liner needs skill and foresight to navigate them. Absent those abilities, the tens of thousands of horsepower are useless, and the master is a person who doesn't matter.
Yes it can. In some states it has been. Texas, a huge state spanning two time zones, had election results within hours. So did Florida, the third most populous state after California and Texas. Georgia, with half Florida's population, is still uncertain late on Friday.
Yes, I'm still a Tenth Amendment fan. Different election laws in different states? I'm fine with it. I do find myself wondering, though, if there isn't a case for some minimal federal requirements on voting procedures. A really good strict audit of the vote counts would surely help. So of course would stricter voter-ID laws.
There you see the problem, though. Voter ID laws are such an obvious thing, it's amazing they're not universal. How many times have you heard: "I have to show ID to get into a government office or even a hotel. Why don't I have to show ID when I go to vote?"
So why don't you? The official reason brought out by politicians when the issue comes up is that voter-ID laws are racist. See, it's easy enough for bourgeois white types like John Derbyshire to get ID. For poor ol' shoeless black Joe, however, down in his tarpaper shack on the banks of the Yazoo, it's impossible — impossible, I tell you! It would take us back to Jim Crow!
That's nonsense, of course. It only works because of our national neurosis about race. Conjuring up that image of shoeless black Joe shuts down all debate — even now, today, when you need to be approaching retirement age to remember Jim Crow laws, and shoeless black Joe has a degree in post-colonial studies and a job as Human Resources Director for Microsoft.
But why do politicians — mostly Democrats — keep making that appeal? Discarding the possibility that they believe what they're saying, the only other possibility is, they don't like voter ID laws because they get in the way of vote-rigging. Anything else that got in the way — federal requirements for strict auditing of the vote counts, for instance — would likewise be voted down in Congress.
Looking forward, we could reduce the human element in the vote-counting business very considerably, perhaps altogether, via technology. Modern automated data management, backed by Artificial Intelligence, could fix all the problems.
Leaving aside that our gentry-progressive elites don't want the problems fixed, remember that high up in their ranks, gazing down god-like at all that transpires, are the billionaire bosses of our software and social-media companies. You want a technological solution? They'll be glad to oblige — oh, very glad.
So yes, the messiness and the opportunities for chicanery it offers, they could be fixed with some modest federal legislation and/or some up-to-date technology. Nothing will get fixed, though, because the people who matter like things the way they are. They have an opinion about how elections should turn out, and they want to be able to turn that opinion into reality.
The messier things are, the happier our ruling class is.
07 — The Viennese spirit. That's enough on the elections. I'm pretty much electioned out. So are the TV commentators I've been watching, to judge from their increasingly wild-eyed look, minor temper tantrums, and spreading patches of dead air. Poor devils! — It's not a job I could do.
So, enough election coverage. Let's have some foreign news.
Here's a quote from myself, from back in my days as a National Review columnist. Longish quote:
[Inner quote.] "In Berlin the situation is serious but not desperate; in Vienna, the situation is desperate but not serious." [End inner quote.] This quip was heard around Central Europe in the closing days of both world wars, but certainly predates 1918 … The point of the quip is to show the different outlooks of Prussians and Austrians: the first soldiering on to the end in dogged hope, the second in fatalistic acknowledgment that while the curtain may indeed be about to fall, there is no point forgoing life's normal pleasures in the interim.
That came back to mind when I was reading about the terrorist attack last Monday in Vienna. A crazy Islamist, 20-year-old Kujtim Fejzulai, strolled around downtown Vienna shooting people at random with an M70 assault rifle until his walkabout was terminated with extreme prejudice by police. He killed four people and wounded more than twenty.
The gunman's itinerary on that shooting spree passed close by the Vienna State Opera, where a performance of Cavalleria Rusticana was under way. Officials, patrons, and performers at the opera house could hear the gunfire outside. Management made an announcement to the audience that everyone should stay inside for safety.
That done, they continued with the performance — their last performance before a state-mandated coronavirus lockdown.
When the opera was over, management was still not sure of the situation outside; so to keep people in their seats they put on an impromptu performance of one of Franz Joseph Haydn's string quartets — not, alas, one of the Derbyshire Marches.
A spokeswoman for the opera house told CNN that, quote:
The audience was very calm, nobody panicked … The quartet was not arranged. They played it very spontaneously, there were not many people in the hall. They played a quartet by Joseph Haydn, one of the greatest composers of our country.
I am very glad to know that the old Viennese spirit is still alive and well, and that the perception of a situation as "desperate but not serious" is still current in that beautiful city.
A footnote here. That gunman, Kujtim Fejzulai, was European, not Middle Eastern. He came from the Albanian minority of North Macedonia. That's a country, North Macedonia, just north of Greece, one of the pieces that Yugoslavia broke up into after the Cold War. It was just called Macedonia until recently; then, after years of bickering with Greece, which considers the name "Macedonia" to belong to one of their regions, the two countries agreed on "North Macedonia."
The place is one-third Muslim. Not all Europe's issues with Islam are imported.
Not in any way to belittle his other acting achievements, or the efforts of Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, Daniel Craig, et al., to us late Silents and early Boomers Connery was James Bond, and no-one else was or ever will be.
Everyone has his favorite Bondism. I may as well record mine. This is an exchange between Connery and Jill St John in Diamonds are For Ever. She's changed her hair color since he last saw her, and he remarks on the fact.
He: I tend to notice little things like that, whether a girl's a blonde or a brunette.
She: And which do you prefer?
He: Oh, providing the collars and cuffs match …]
Bond, pure Bond.
Item: I lost interest in Bond movies a couple of decades ago, but they're still making 'em. So far there have been 26, according to Wikipedia, with Number 27 due this coming April, title No Time to Die.
The lead role in this latest movie is played by Lashana Lynch, a British-born black actress of Jamaican parentage. No, she's not James Bond in the movie; she's only Agent 007, that designation having passed on to her somehow from Bond. Her movie name is Nomi.
Hey, I don't see why not. If, in the storyline, Bond has retired or been killed off, there's no reason his agent number shouldn't go to a black girl, although I think it would have been classier of MI5 just to retire the number along with the man, the way they do with the shirt numbers of star baseball players.
My reaction to this casting news was in fact a cynical smile at the thought that some dimwit Hollywood producer thought it would be bold, edgy, and daring to cast a black lady in the role. The point our culture is at now, it would be bold, edgy, and daring to go on casting white guys.
Shall I be watching No Time to Die? Nah — no offense to Ms Lynch, to whom I wish all the luck in the world. It's just that, as I've said, I lost the Bond thing altogether back in the Clinton administration.
Although, if they were to cast Zhang Ziyi as Agent 007, I might change my mind …
Item: Celebrity murder of the week took place at a country house outside Moscow. The victim was Vladimir Marugov, tagged in all the headlines as "Russia's Sausage King," except in one or two of the more culturally punctilious outlets, where he is the "Sausage Tsar." He was thus tagged because he made his fortune from ownership of sausage factories, sausage being one of the five staple food groups in Russia.
Mr Marugov was in a sauna with his girlfriend when he was killed. He seems to have had some dealings with organized crime, and had gotten on the wrong side of the mobsters somehow — a seriously bad idea in Russia.
They came looking for him, tied up him and his girlfriend, demanded cash, shot him with a crossbow, and tortured him for an hour. The girlfriend escaped through a window and called police, but Mr Marugov had lost too much blood and died.
Rest in peace, Sausage Tsar.
After all the election-season Sturm und Drang I figure we need something soothing to play us out. On a name association with the phrase "soothing music," the first composer that comes up — after Haydn, I mean: I've already given you some Haydn — is Albert Ketèlby.
There's a grave accent over that second "e" in "Ketèlby," which always led me to assume he was from one of the East European countries, perhaps the same one that Vienna terrorist was from. In fact he was perfectly English — from the West Midlands, like my mother's people; the grave accent was just an affectation.
Here's one of Ketèlby's soothingest: Bells Across the Meadows.
There will be more from Radio Derb next week.
[Music clip: Ketèlby, "Bells Across the Meadows."]