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Nate Silver’s Pandemic Observations As ‘Sharp’ As His Prediction About Trump’s Election
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Nate Silver, a statistician, is a mediocre mind.

In this “glorious commonwealth of morons”—H. L. Mencken’s description, not mine—there are many minds even more mediocre than Silver’s, who hype and highlight his banal observations. In the context of the coronavirus, I imagine this is motivated by their own pandemic politics.

But first, to Mr. Silver’s political prognostications during Donald Trump’s election campaign. As chronicled in my June 29 book, The Trump Revolution: The Donald’s Creative Destruction Deconstructed:

… whether they’re missing the Trump phenom or the casus belli for war in Iraq—America’s deeply stupid, self-anointed cognoscenti recognize truth only once card-carrying members arrive at it independently, grasp and broadcast it, sometimes years too late. Not so the marginalized writers of America. Not in 2012, but in 2002 did we pinpoint the wrongness of the Iraq War. And not in 2016, but on July 19, 2015—when this chronicle began—did some of us, not fortuitously, finger Trump as “a candidate to ‘kick the crap out of all the politicians’” and “send the system’s sycophants scattering.” (August 14, 2015). His appeal, as this writer has contended since late in 2015, transcended left and right, at the time.

Conversely, vaunted statistician Nate Silver ‘calculated that Trump’s support was “about the same share of people who think the Apollo moon landings were faked.”

No wonder Professor Tyler Cowen of George Mason University properly downgraded wonder boy Silver’s intellectual prowess. His prose, ventured Cowen, was a sprawl that “evinces a greater affiliation to rigor with data analysis than to rigor with philosophy of science or, for that matter, rigor with rhetoric,” wrote the good teacher, adding that to him, the Silver columns are “tweener” pieces, “too superficial for smart and informed readers, yet on topics which are too abstruse for the more casual readers.”

(MORE in “The Trump Revolution: The Donald’s Creative Destruction Deconstructed”.)

Now, Nate, that national treasure, is back. This time, he is constructing a straw argument on Fox News, to say nothing of wading into coronavirus politics. I thought he was an objective numbers man?

Nate states the obvious, saying that, “By focusing on coronavirus case counts, the media … makes the numbers look superficially worse … [since]… increases in testing [are what] have led to more cases being diagnosed.”

D’oh! And so obviously true. Does Nate really need to state the obvious? I guess so. (Meanwhile, Silver calls out others for their “boringly conventional positions in … political punditry.”)

The more fundamental point is this: Certainly in the U.S, the coronavirus case count is less significant than the death count: rates and absolute numbers. (Which is why, presumably, Ron Unz highlighted mortality in “The Government Employee Who May Have Saved a Million American Lives.”)

America’s case count, moreover, is scandalously inaccurate. According to the Economist:

Throughout April the number of daily tests has averaged around 150,000, with the share of positive tests staying around 20%. That suggests America is testing only people who are probably infected (in Taiwan, for instance, one in every 132 tests is positive), which in turn suggests that many mild or asymptomatic cases are going undetected. America may have 15 to 20 times more actual infected people than confirmed cases.

That more people are infected is a double-edged sword: More people infected means more people infecting other, but also, we hope, more population-level immunity.

A much more meaningful and reliable number is mortality, death rates and absolute numbers. Right now, the latter stands at 80,037. RIP.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Coronavirus, Donald Trump 
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  1. BuelahMan says:

    Why do so many authors here BELIEVE the official numbers?

    Do they also believe the official unemployment numbers? That the vaccines will fix us all? That tracking us is the answer?

    Why do so many supposed smart people BELIEVE them?

    • Replies: @Anon
    , @A123
  2. Realist says:

    In this “glorious commonwealth of morons”—H. L. Mencken’s description, not mine—there are many minds even more mediocre than Silver’s, who hype and highlight his banal observations.

    Mencken was right…you should not reject his observation…it has been proven correct a thousands times over.

  3. Anon[409] • Disclaimer says:
    @BuelahMan

    Why do so many authors here BELIEVE the official numbers?

    Because bodies can be counted and to believe otherwise requires the greatest conspiracy of all time covering millions of doctors, scientists, politicians, and nurses across dozens of advanced countries, all with extensive independent investigative media. Your comment is why China doesn’t allow democracy. The public is hardly a repository of wisdom.

  4. A123 says:
    @BuelahMan

    Why do so many authors here BELIEVE the official numbers?

    Those creating the numbers have incentives to manipulate them.

    In China under CCP rule, #Chinadidnotdoit is official government policy. WUHAN-19 is rarely lethal on its own and exploits pre-existing conditions. It is personally much safer for the physician to classify death as the pre-existing condition (e.g. emphysema) instead of the virus.

    In the U.S. there are political incentives to play down other issues. For example, a Chicago ER receives a gunshot victim who is also WUHAN-19 positive. What goes on the report when the patient dies? Listing WUHAN-19 first serves a political purpose. It prevents the death from being reported as a shooting in a gun-free zone.

    PEACE 😷

    • Replies: @Priss Factor
  5. Exile says:

    Because bodies can be counted and to believe otherwise requires the greatest conspiracy of all time covering millions of doctors, scientists, politicians, and nurses across dozens of advanced countries, all with extensive independent investigative media.

    Exactly.

    Since 9/11 I’m much more open to conspiracy theories because we’ve seen so much manipulation of public opinion – just look at 9/11, the Afghan & Iraq wars, the “killing” of Osama (had to “bury the body at sea” why exactly?) and the latest ham-fisted false flags in Syria, Iran and Venezuela.

    But there’s a point where the gaslighting renders some people so paranoid and Byzantine-minded that they can’t effectively discern, much less oppose, the misinformation and manipulation efforts that are actually underway.

    Every factor you cite plus millions of video-ready phones makes BUELAH’s level of contrail-chasing unBELIEVEable.

    • Replies: @schnellandine
  6. anon[230] • Disclaimer says:
    @Anon

    Why do so many authors here BELIEVE the official numbers?

    Because bodies can be counted and to believe otherwise requires the greatest conspiracy of all time covering millions of doctors, scientists, politicians, and nurses across dozens of advanced countries

    Obviously, bodies can be counted. Great example of the strawman argument logical fallacy. The point is that the death totals are being inflated by counting those dying with Covid-19 instead of just from Covid -19. They are even counting those who have never been tested for Covid-19 as Covid-19 deaths.

    • Agree: SteveK9, schnellandine
    • Replies: @SteveK9
    , @Sean
  7. SteveK9 says:
    @anon

    Worse, they are just putting Covid-19 on the death certificate of everyone who dies in NYC. If you die at home, Covid-19 (they don’t want to go out to the residence). Had a temperature? Covid-19. Coughed? Covid-19. They are padding the numbers, as the funeral director interviewed below states. Why? He think it is for NYC to get more Federal Funds. Clearly it is also to cover the asses of the fools that destroyed the economy, and our society … for nothing.

    https://www.anti-empire.com/funeral-directors-in-covid-19-epicenter-doubt-legitimacy-of-deaths-attributed-to-pandemic-fear-numbers-are-padded/

  8. Sean says:
    @anon

    The point is that the death totals are being inflated by counting those dying with Covid-19 instead of just from Covid -19

    A very high proportion of those whose death certificates say they died of old age or heart failure actually are finished off by pneumonia.

    • Replies: @Jim Bob Lassiter
  9. Was it Nate Silver or lil’ donny drumpf who stated about covid-19:

    1. “We have 15 cases and that will pretty soon be going to zero.”?

    2. “It will go away like a miracle.”?

    3. “There is one person from China and we have it totally under control”?

    (p.s. Surely even Menken would be amused at being used as a cudgel in an inter-tribal spat? The chutzpah never sleeps……)

  10. @A123

    China’s big crime was not suppressing but hyping the severity of C-19. But China is famous for what? The Great Wall. Chinese have a tendency of reacting wrongly and then going all out. Building the great wall was a stupid way to fend off Mongol invasions, but Chinese pushed on with it. China should have built up a big enough army, invaded the north, and then absorbed the Mongols. And under Mao, there was the Kill the Sparrows campaign.

    Same goes for the Covid crisis. Chinese should have increased medical services, let the virus spread, and just ride it out. But by over-reacting and building a wall around it, it sent a panic message to the rest of the world. The US totally over-reacted based on this hype.

    Next time, the Chinese should play a Chinese version of “Baby the Rain Must Fall” than “Baby We Must Build a Wall”.

    • Replies: @Exile
  11. Exile says:
    @Priss Factor

    b/c 2000 year old wall, C-19 reporting exaggerated. QED.

  12. @Exile

    Exactly.

    I’m embarrassed for you. How long have you been immersed in C19 debate, and still you don’t get it?

    So you embrace a skirt, assigning to detractors of officialdom that dumbest of disguised retreats, the conspiracy tag. “Blurch!” says I.

    Well, perhaps you are educable.

    “Conspiracy” requires secrecy. The distortion of the C19 body count evades the above-vaunted inelastic bodies problem by providing a body for every tick. And, as understood by everyone paying attention (everyone above psycho/dimwit/coward class), the ticks are tainted. Not secretly, but openly. They published the directives for the tainting. So, no conspiracy. Open falsification, even to the point of taking WHO directives and, as a matter of written policy, making it even worse. They threw out the data granularity necessary to correct the numbers if sanity returns. Again, not in secret. And again, secrecy is a required element of a conspiracy.

    All you “conspiracy” mouthers should be put to pasture. It’s the lamest of argument evasions. You really should be ashamed.

  13. anon[230] • Disclaimer says:

    That more people are infected is a double-edged sword: More people infected means more people infecting other, but also, we hope, more population-level immunity.

    Since death rates are simply the number of corona virus deaths divided by total infections, It also means that the claimed corona virus death rates have been vastly overestimated as well.

  14. nsa says:

    The Great Influenza of 1918 can be compared statistically to the present wu-wu pandemic. Taken from page 206 of Crosby’s America’s Forgotten Pandemic…….a must read along with Barry’s book on the subject. Crosby has gathered the statistics and states: “The best estimate for the number of Americans who died of flu and pneumonia from Sept 1918 to June 1919 is 675,000.” But how many of these were excess deaths? Crosby comes up with the conservative number 550,000 deaths that can be attributed to the influenza pandemic of 1918. By comparison, 80,000 deaths have been attributed to the wu-wu virus so far. Note the influenza first showed up in the early months of 1918, only to recede and mutate in army camps and reappear as a more virulent strain in the fall of 1918. History could easily repeat and the wu-wu could mutate into something less easily controlled. Afterall, the wu-wu virus is also a living entity struggling for its very survival.

    • Agree: Sean
    • Replies: @Sideshow Bob
  15. A much more meaningful and reliable number is mortality, death rates and absolute numbers. Right now, the latter stands at 80,037. RIP.

    Yes, but that number without context is meaningless. Here is a glance at 2017 US mortality data posted by CDC.

    Number of deaths: 2,813,503
    Death rate: 863.8 deaths per 100,000 population
    Life expectancy: 78.6 years
    Infant Mortality rate: 5.79 deaths per 1,000 live births

    Number of deaths for leading causes of death:
    Heart disease: 647,457
    Cancer: 599,108
    Accidents (unintentional injuries): 169,936
    Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 160,201
    Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 146,383
    Alzheimer’s disease: 121,404
    Diabetes: 83,564
    Influenza and Pneumonia: 55,672
    Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis: 50,633
    Intentional self-harm (suicide): 47,173

    COVID-19 draws on several of the major causes, so it will be interesting to see the actual “excess death” count after all is said and done, not to mention the ripple effect of the first-wave culling of the weakest on the case fatality rate in the second and third waves.

    • Replies: @Njall
    , @Jim Bob Lassiter
  16. Forget Nate Silver. Forget the whole cases vs. deaths numbers straw argument.

    Start here. Scroll about half-way down to the three-column presentation of “current daily testing vs. target” and “positive test ratios.”

    https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/05/07/851610771/u-s-coronavirus-testing-still-falls-short-hows-your-state-doing

    I’m not trying to make any argument or claim to have any answers but I find this data to be much more helpful in understanding the population’s observations and attitudes and local governments’ changing policies in different regions.

    The “targeted” testing levels are simply not going to happen.

    This data is also at odds with some of the assumptions in the Economist argument.

  17. Anon[204] • Disclaimer says:

    I understand we have about 2.8 million deaths per year in the U.S. now, coming out to about 863.8 deaths per 100,000.
    It will be intersesting to get a yearly tally this year-end in December. Unless the media causes another Ferguson, Missouri-nationally-angering event that gets people to kill each other more-often to inflate the year-end number, we may be suprised at how low the increased numbers are.

    Id trust funeral home data far over hospital data. How many extra bodies, buried or burned?

  18. Njall says:
    @The Alarmist

    That leaves 732,032 deaths, or 26% of total deaths unidentified, unexplained.
    Can you explain?

    • Replies: @The Alarmist
  19. A much more meaningful and reliable number is mortality, death rates and absolute numbers. Right now, the latter stands at 80,037. RIP.

    80,000 died from the flu in 2017-2018. They left us without the media breathlessly tallying their numbers day by day and without the benefit of masks, social distancing, lockdowns or hoarding of toilet paper. 75,000 deaths of despair are estimated to follow as a result of the unproven, unscientific lockdowns of what once were healthy populations. עליהם שלום

  20. @nsa

    Pathogens generally become less dangerous with time. The faster they kill their host the less time they have to spread. Consequently, milder strains win over time. In fact, many bacteria actually increase the survival of their hosts because it’s to their benefit, e.g. probiotics.

  21. @Njall

    Maybe it’s bad medical care.

  22. @Anon

    What bodies?

    Who is doing the counting?

    What ” extensive independent investigative media?”

    What about financial incentives to list cause of death as Covid-19?

    For each death attributed to Covid-19, how many autopsies were conducted to confirm the cause of death?

  23. @Sean

    As are a very high percentage of severe burn victims.

  24. @The Alarmist

    I don’t know whether or not to be surprised that the very broad category of “medical misadventure” didn’t figure into the CDCs list of leading causes of death.

    • Replies: @The Alarmist
  25. @Jim Bob Lassiter

    I saw a blurb once that suggested medical misadventure comes in at number three in causes of death. Here’s a quick summary:

    https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/22/medical-errors-third-leading-cause-of-death-in-america.html

    • Replies: @Jim Bob Lassiter
  26. @Anon

    They are LYING about the numbers because they attribute any and all deaths to Covid.

    This is common knowledge.

    The numbers are inflated for sure.

  27. “A much more meaningful and reliable number is mortality, death rates and absolute numbers.”

    Who believes the official numbers?

    Anybody who has the Covid virus (or may be believed to have it- no testing necessary) is reported as having died from it.
    The joke in London is that the WuFlu is a universal cure- It’s been six weeks since anybody has died of a heart attack.
    The hardest number to fake, raw total deaths is down year on year.
    https://www.iceagenow.info/death-rates-in-the-united-states-have-been-going-down-not-up/

  28. @The Alarmist

    Well I guess we know who’s buttering the CDC’s toast then.

  29. Hibernian says:
    @Anon

    Your comment is why China doesn’t allow democracy. The public is hardly a repository of wisdom.

    Utter Stalinism.

  30. anonymous[245] • Disclaimer says:

    No “#WuFlu” or “Kung Flu” here lately, just “the coronavirus.”

    So if we’re supposed to keep score, is Ms. Mercer still a Chinadidit?

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