The ongoing gong-show of very large numbers!

TUESDAY, APRIL 7, 2020

What we've been talking about:
In his ludicrous Sunday night fully televised pseudo-briefing, President Trump engaged, as he constantly does, in the gong-show of very large numbers.

The press corps simply lets this go. According to the White House transcript, here's part of what he said:
TRUMP (4/5/20): In the last seven days, FEMA has airlifted critical supplies and protective equipment from every corner of Earth. They’re coming from all over the planet, including from within the United States, where the equipment isn’t as necessary.

Since last Sunday, cargo planes have delivered almost—Listen to this!—300 million gloves, almost 8 million masks
, and 3 million gowns. And many more fully loaded cargo planes are right now on the way. Three big ones landed today. And these supplies are being distributed directly to the hospitals and healthcare providers all across the nation so that that massive amount of material that we’re getting in is being delivered all over the country.
Listen to that! Almost 8 million masks! That sounds like a very large number!

Eight million masks does sound like a lot. But in this morning's New York Times, we're told that Peter Navarro used a much larger very large number in a February 23 memo:
HABERMAN (4/7/20): Among other things, the memo called for an increase funding for the government to purchase personal protective equipment for health care workers, estimating they would need “at least a billion face masks” over a four-to-six-month period.
How many face masks will our health care workers need? We have no idea.

We do know this. Within the ongoing context, it's meaningless to rattle off the number of items which have been supplied without making reference to the number of items which will likely be needed.

Trump stages this gong show every night. Our cable channels air it live. Our journalists sit there and watch him.

This is the way our species is wired. Or at least, that's what dozens of top anthropologists have convincingly said.

31 comments:

  1. "estimating they would need “at least a billion face masks” over a four-to-six-month period.
    How many face masks will our health care workers need? We have no idea."

    Why doesn't Somerby have any idea when Haberman just gave an estimate? Is he saying he doesn't believe Haberman? Can he not read?

    This kind of suspension of belief results in a failure of communication. Somerby seems to be suggesting that if there is a number in the sentence, it becomes meaningless. That isn't the case. He shows this unwillingness to accept Haberman's statement because he ulterior motive is to show that Trump is conducting a "gong show" by including numbers that are beyond our immediate frame of reference. But when Haberman estimates the need, then the supply is given a context and it is no longer just an empty big number.

    Today, Somerby is just phoning it in. He wants to say that journalists are not doing their job because they let Trump snow us with big numbers, but Haberman's estimate gives us a point of comparison. Somerby is wrong if he thinks people cannot process numbers in the millions or billions. And we are not "wired" in a way that prevents math, given that we humans invented (or discovered, as you will) math.

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  2. "Within the ongoing context, it's meaningless to rattle off the number of items which have been supplied without making reference to the number of items which will likely be needed."

    No it isn't meaningless, dear Bob.

    A large number of masks delivered since last Sunday. Since last Sunday is the context here. Those masks are in the hospitals now, right now.

    A 4 to 6 months projection - or, for that matter, a 10-year projection - that's not the contexts for this current event.

    I'll tell you this, though: Orange Man Bad mindless dembottery certainly is the ongoing context of this post, as well as most of your other recent posts. Oh well.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. What's the number of deaths of Americans since Trump called the pandemic "a hoax" and went golfing?

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    2. Here's the important statistic: As of now, no hospital has lacked any necessary equipment or personal protective stuff. There have been concerns about stuff running out, but it always got replenished in time. That statement was made at a White House press conference just recently

      That's a credit to the structure set up by the Administration. The organization, attention to detail and the hard work being done to procure and distribute this stuff is impressive. The nation should be grateful for this team's efforts.

      Based on all the Trump Administration has done, I don't think there will ever be a hospital lacking essential equipment and stuff. Of course, time will tell.

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    3. "Based on all the Trump Administration has done, I don't think there will ever be a hospital lacking essential equipment and stuff."

      David, the federal government doesn't manage individual hospitals.

      They're at the top of this, managing the highest levels of the supply chain, and obviously the president can't guarantee that every hospital always gets all the supplies it might need. Not federal responsibility. The Feds deal with millions of masks, but then they're kept, rationed, and delivered by state, and perhaps local authorities. Anything can happen on those levels of the hierarchy.

      It's just like our dear Bob's insistence a few days ago that Our Beloved Commander must put on his Superman suit, fly to Queens, and organize the crowds waiting for testing there.

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    1. Judges have the luxury of escaping to small townships that don't encourage a cynical view of elections. They don't take hours at a time off to vote, and if they had to, it wouldn't risk their jobs or livelihood.

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