Drum says it's time for an explanation!


Explanations no longer exist:
On the whole, we agree with what Kevin Drum says in this new, sensible post. He says it's time for someone to explain why coronavirus "cases" keep going up while deaths keep going down:
DRUM (7/7/20): I’ve mentioned the divergence between cases and deaths in the United States before, but it’s gotten to the point where it really needs more than the handwaving that it usually gets on TV and in newspapers. When cases were going up back in April, we were told that deaths followed by 2-3 weeks. But our second wave of new cases is over a month old at this point and so far it’s had no effect on mortality at all. The death rate just keeps on dropping.

Maybe there’s an explanation for this. Maybe next week the death rate will finally start to rise. But we keep saying that, and next week never comes. Are there any epidemiologists out there who are really working to come to grips with this?
On balance, we agree with what Drum says. But he's asking for an explanation and, within our failing journalistic culture, we're not sure they still exist.

Our failing culture is all about "the handwaving [this question] usually gets on TV and in newspapers." It's also all about repeating standard storylines while moving steadily toward the next commercial break.

Today, we actually decided to check one probable part of this mystery. We decided to fact-check an obvious question:

To what extent has our daily testing, nationwide, actually been increasing?

Trump has turned this topic into a clown show, but it's obviously true—to the extent that you conduct more tests, you will confirm and report more "cases." We were surprised by the extent to which daily testing has increased nationwide in the past month, even as the number of nationwide "cases" has been rising.

We'll show you the data in the next day or two. But we've told you that our public discourse is narrative all the way down. To a surprisingly large extent, this mystery may comport to that basic rule.

Drum says it's time for an explanation. As we sinks beneath the waves, do such creatures still exist?

A famous saying: In Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein famously said: "Explanations must come to an end somewhere" (see passage #1).

We agree with the frequently puzzling sage. But this isn't what he meant!


  1. “it's time for an explanation!”

    A good place to start would be that New York Times story that Somerby linked to yesterday, and apparently never read.

  2. While Somerby doubles down on his incorrect assertion, deaths are going up. Interesting.

    1. Fingers crossed, right? Orange Man Bad.

    2. https://gregolear.substack.com/p/too-many-smoking-guns

    3. You mean the Orange Man that ignored the pandemic which led to thousands of avoidable deaths, and knew that Russia was putting bounties out on American soldiers and did nothing about it?

      Yes pretty clearly Orange Man Bad.

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  3. Somerby and Drum expect certainty about a virus that is new to everyone on the planet.

    Also, they expect that a global number that encompasses a large geographical area should have a single explanation.

    The death rate will go up in Arizona and Houston, where hospital resources are inadequate to cope with new cases. It is going down in places where there is plenty of hospital capacity and new infections are largely among young people. It is going up in areas where there are lots of fat people (sunbelt) because the virus produces more serious symptoms among the obese. And so on. Merging all of these different patterns into a single number produces an unexplainable result.

    But to understand why single statistics can hide merged patterns, you have to think about what the numbers means, what is actually going on with the virus.

    And the handwaving -- it is because there are many unknowns. We don't know whether the virus currently affecting the US is mutated and perhaps weaker than the one in Wuhan. We don't know whether the aerosol transmission of the mutated virus is resulting in more cases with less severity. Why don't we know? Because this is a new situation and the resources for studying it have been systematically cut in recent years, handicapping our ability to research it.

    But Somerby expects certainties and ANSWERS!!! Because he doesn't have a clue how science works. And because he lives in an instant gratification culture where anything can be looked up online, and he has developed no tolerance for such uncertainties, the kind any scientist lives with.

    Why does Somerby believe that the answers he demands are not part of the narrative he decries? Because he wants his happily ever after ending. At some level perhaps he wants to hear that the death rate is going down because the virus is going away and it will soon be time for everyone to come out of their homes and walk in the sun again.

    1. https://gregolear.substack.com/p/too-many-smoking-guns

  4. I hear the new official CDC guideline is: you sneeze - you're infected.

    1. The official Trump guideline is: We don't care

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