Proving the Unprovable: The White House Ties Itself Into A Statistical Knot Over Covid-19 Harm

donald_trump_president-elect_portrait_croppedThe problem with never admitting a mistake as President is that it requires others to defend it no matter how indefensible.  That is the problem with declaring that “99 percent” of U.S. coronavirus cases are “totally harmless”  is that statistics are tricky things that often demand actual proof.  Mark Twain once said “facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable,” just not this pliable.  Rather than just admit that the President overstated this point, the White House proceeded to try to prove the unprovable with predictably ridiculous results. Even the President’s top health advisers refused to support the statement. It is another example of the expenditure of unnecessary energy and focus to avoid admitting a mistake.  One can still maintain that most people exposed to this virus show mild or no symptoms without dying on this statistical hill (with graphs that actually show that the statistical claim is wrong).

I have been critical of the unrelentingly negative coverage of many news outlets over the last three years.  There is a loss of objectivity in much of the reporting as we have discussed in prior postings. However, many of these negative pieces are legitimate stories like the President telling the public that 99 percent of virus cases are harmless.

During his July 4 “Salute to America” speech on the South Lawn of the White House, Trump noted that the administration conducted more than 40 million coronavirus tests. That is an impressive figure. However, he added that “by so doing, we show cases, 99 percent of which are totally harmless.”

On its face, the statistic is clearly wrong.  It is certainly true that a very high percentage of those who test positive for the virus do not show serious symptoms.  However, President Trump elected to put a statistical twist on that fact.  As a result, it was immediately ridiculed.  The President has been repeatedly criticized (often fairly) for downplaying the threat of the virus or making dangerously ill-informed comments.  This is another example of sending a message directly at odds with what his public health officials are trying to convey to the public.

Putting aside the public health dangers for such statements dismissing the threat to individuals, it makes even less sense politically. With the President struggling with dropping polls, it would seem obvious that fighting on this issue would play directly into the hands of his critics.  Yet, rather than walk it back, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany defended the statement as factual with two charts illustrating the country’s COVID-19 death rate.

There were two obvious problems. First, just showing a chart of deaths does not show the percentage of harm.  Many of those who recover from the virus are experiencing long lasting symptoms. Moreover, even those with “mild cases” report some serious symptoms, including neurological symptoms now being documents even in mild case recoveries.

Second, McEnany’s slides showed a case fatality rate of 4.6 percent, not 1 percent. So even if you are just talking death rather than harm that is almost 500 percent off.

What is intriguing about this latest pile up is that it was again entirely avoidable with a simple correction. This is why Benjamin Disraeli said “There are three types of lies — lies, damn lies, and statistics.”

545 thoughts on “Proving the Unprovable: The White House Ties Itself Into A Statistical Knot Over Covid-19 Harm”

  1. John Say, you misspell the names:
    Planck
    Arrhenius

    Indeed these famous physicists have suitable formulae. You just don’t know what those are or what the application is.

    1. Criticising spelling is not argument either.

      If you wish to waste your time with perfect writing – that is your perogative.

      I get all aspects of english communications perfect – when I am paid to do so.
      I am not paid here.

      To conclude I will quote you – as your statement is quite obviously more relevant to you than me

      “Indeed these famous physicists have suitable formulae. You just don’t know what those are or what the application is.”

      As you seem to think you actually do grasp those things – explain ?

      I cited SB, Plank and Arrenhius – those as well as ECS are all linked together. While ECS is todate only determined pseudo empiracally by hindcasting using GCM’s – you know those things that are completely wrong but not actually important – well except that they are the entire basis from claims that the planet will warm by some ridiculous amount by 2100.

      Regardless they can all be restructured to in the approximate over simplified Form of dT = SQRT(E). with other constants etc.
      ECS is dT = SQRT(CO2) because CO2 works by capturing energy.

  2. John Say, your understanding of climatology is seriously limited by your blinders. Climatology is not just the big GCM climate models, the purpose of which you fail comprehend. I have linked for you other sources to understand climate.

    So far you have failed to utilize those or indeed made any serious attempt to understand the subject.

    1. “John Say, your understanding of climatology is seriously limited by your blinders. Climatology is not just the big GCM climate models, the purpose of which you fail comprehend. I have linked for you other sources to understand climate.

      So far you have failed to utilize those or indeed made any serious attempt to understand the subject.”

      As noted in a prior post – the very atmospheric physics you cite – which is just a small part of actually calculating future climate – are not merely beyond the power of humans to calculate – they are beyond the power of the woulds largest super computers to calculate – faster then real time for the entire planet.

      Yes, the GCM’s are the core of CAGW – because without them the math is infinitely outside the scope of human ability.

      Further unless you have blinders on – you know this. If the climate models could have been corrected while sustaining the CAGW thesis – they would have been. They haven’t because they can’t.

      And my attack on the climate models – is primarly because every layman in the world can grasp they have failed.

      Go sell your secret priesthood of purported experts with knowledge beyond that of mortals – somewhere else.

      BTW ECS – is defined as dT/doubling of CO2 – so please go way with this nonsense that we are dealing with a linear phenomena.
      While ECS is purportedly empirically determined – it is actually determined by hindcasting using the GCM’s – which once again are a linchpin that you can not avoid. And exposes another GCM problem – ECS is both and input and an output of the models. Not acceptable in real science. ECS is also important – because the current claimed value for ECS is 1.5-4C – and just like the models – that ECS is clearly too high.

  3. John Say, on inspection, climatology is too difficult for you as you can’t do Physics 101 themo correctly.

    No, despite your profound ignorance and prejudice, there’s nothing wrong with climatology.

    1. again not an argument.

      Lets start with Arenhius or the fundimentals of CAGW.

      The most fundmental climate related CO2 claims are that each doubling of CO2 results in a linear increase in temperature.

      Why does CO2 need to double ? Because the energy capture needs to double.

      Or you can check SB. Or Plank.

      Or are they all wrong too ?

    2. “No, despite your profound ignorance and prejudice, there’s nothing wrong with climatology.”

      I have never said there was.

      What I have said OVER AND OVER is that CAGW is a demonstrable fraud.

      You keep spraying an assortment of random bits of atmospheric physics – that is not being debated – though I will be happy to use your own claims of basic physics against you when they result in contradictions.

      If your argument contains a contradiction it is an invalid argument.

      CAGW – the climate models have a fundimental problem – they do not forecast. They are not even close.

      That is all that matter in terms of falsifying the models.

      While you have done a poor job of addressing the remainder of my arguments – they are irrelevant – so long as the models fail.

      I can provide a long criticism of the models. But that is at best possibly relevant to fixing them. As warmists are not even trying – why does that matter.

      But one of the many fundimental problems with the models is that because of the modern limits of super computers and the requirement that to be useful the model must be run in faster than real time – all that atmospheric science that you cling preciously too has been vastly over simplified to make it possible to run the calculations substantially faster than real time.

      I worked with FPGA based HPC’s for the purpose of code breaking and stock projections – these are exponentially easier tasks than trying to predict the entire climate of the earth at much faster than real time. An FPGA can – be programmed to do a task like code breaking and one FPGA programmed for a take can outperform a CPU by as much as a factor of 3000 for some tasks. We did HPC arrays with over 100 FPGA’s for the FBI, That is about 300,0000 times the performance of a single CPU – there exist Super Computers with more performance than that – The NSA could beat us by about an order of magnitude – but not in a unit affordable enough to put in every FBI office in the country.

      Regardless, no one has the computational capability to run climate simulations at the necescary size in faster then real time.

      It does not exist, and it will not exist so long as we are using silicon.
      Thus there no climate models that run the actual physics equations you cite at the requisite grid sizes. the equations are simplified, and the grid sizes increased.

      That is only the begining of the problems.

      You rant about atmospheric physics, and all kinds of other science that I doubt you actually know. But it is entirely irrelevant even if you do.
      Humans can not do the calculations, but neither can computers. The problem is too large.

      I have deliberately avoided claiming expertise in other areas – I do not need to. As I said, my expertise is irrelevant. If climate models do not track reality – they are wrong PERIOD. If your IQ is 85 and you make that claim – you are still correct.

      But I am expert in the areas of computing I mentioned above. I have even been published a couple of times.
      and in HS I was published for work in chemistry once. So I am not ignorant of science.

    1. Ad hominem is not argument.

      Do not lecture me on science – which so far I have little reason to beleive you are competent about beyond reading wikipedia,
      until you are capable of making a valid argument.

      If you are incapable of basic logic – you are incapable of science.

  4. With respect to the remainder of the statitics you cite. All the rest are only meaningful as predictors of rise in GDP,
    Rise in GDP is rise in standard of living. And that is the only measure that actually matters.

    If we can figure out how to constantly raise standard of living without investing in business – that is all that matters.

    You have no jumped bad to the begining of Obama’s presidency – first that does not help you.
    In fact it makes things worse. Average Growth for Obama’s 8 years was 1.8%.

    Obama was elected in the teeth of a recession, He took office just before the bottom.
    He could hardly have been elected at a better possible moment. He could have done nothing – and expected 5-7% growth.
    Instead he dicked arround with crap he was incompetent at – just like Hoover and FDR before him and got an incredibly weak recovery – only the great depression was worse.

    That is not something to be proud of.

    If you do nothing recovery from a recession will be swift and strong.

    Thus far all you are doing with your statistical games is proving that somewhere you can find someone who will make a has of statistics.

    While I told you I like TE because you can set time periods and then ask for means or medians or curve fitting.

    You can also go anywhere and take the Start of 2013 GDP, and the end of 2016GDP subtract and divide and get the change for the period.
    And you can do the same for Trump. Obama had an 11% increase Trump had a 14+% increase.

    Both are poor compared to 20th century but anything you are doing to get Trump;’s gain below Obama’s is dishonest.

  5. Please source your statistics.
    You are not even close to trustworthy.
    Anyone selling the collusion delusion should expect demands of proof for anything they say.

    I will give you that Trump’s economy has never been as good as he brags – but it has averaged .7% better than Obama’s.
    And people know that.

    Using absolute numbers the Economy in the last 3 years of Obama grew by 1.9T that is 11.45% more than it starting value.
    The economy under the first three years of Trump grew 2.7T that is 14.45% more than its starting value.

    That discards all the crap about individual quarters. And your claim is STILL false.

  6. There are probably minor differences between the BEA data and Trading Economics.
    TE is my goto because they have far more data for far more countries.

    Further there site comes with tools.

    You said Trumps 1st 12Q’s were less than Obama’s last 12Q’s

    Absent a large difference between BEA and TE that is false.

    Absolutely Trump has not delivered an economy even close tot he 20th century average.
    I have said that over and over.

    No one disagrees that Trump brags alot, exagerates and is a narcist.
    So are pretty much all politicians.

    Regardless his voters understand the difference between a brag and a promise,

    And the know the difference between the stagnant Obama economy and Trump’s.

    1. I do not think that ANYONE has challenged the claim that the number of positive test results in TX and other states is higher.

      Tests are not infections – study after study across the world has established that the number of cases is approximately 10 times what has been reported in the past.

      If more testing is done – the number of positive test results will increase. That is pretty much a given.

      Unless you beleive that the hospitalization rate and the death rate are highly variable, the actual number of infections – even if unknown must still follow the same trend as the number of deaths or hospitalizations – with the appropirate lag between them.

      Todate there has been no dramatic spike in deaths or hospitalizations anywhere in the US.

      There have been small increases as we have opened up – the operative word being SMALL, and these were to be expected.

      Testing has always been a red herring. There were a few meaningful uses early on – when the numbers were low and we thought we were trying to stop this at the borders – though we were already too late.

      But in theory with a quick enough response while the number of infected people was small and the ability to contact trace them feasible testing could have been a valuable tool to stop the spread. But we missed that window – probably by a month.

      After that testing is a poor metric to track the progression of the virus – but unless you scale the results by the change in the rate of testing, you get a false picture – the one you are selling now.

      I do not doubt that many of these states that are opening up are seeing increases.
      But the evidence of consequence sugguests those increases are small, and your claims based on testing are a red herring.

      And if you are not smart enough to grasp this – then it is not worth discussing anything with you.

      If you are unable to grasp the simple concept that in a population where you know you are missing 90-95% of cases. That increased testing is not going to tell you that you have an increase in infections – it is going to tell you that you have increased your testing.

  7. John Say, Wikipedia is as good as any other encyclopedia. Like all encyclopedias it is only a place to start.

    But for you, it appears that you never properly learned Physics 101. Better review that first.

    1. “John Say, Wikipedia is as good as any other encyclopedia. Like all encyclopedias it is only a place to start.

      But for you, it appears that you never properly learned Physics 101. Better review that first.”

      Wikipedia is highly inconsistent On non controversial subjects it is excellent – often better than the best encyclopedias and many science or other texts. But hit something that is a hot spot for some wikipedia editor and it turns to garbage fast.

      I recall an instance several years ago where there was a wikipedia feud over something stupid like the height of various towers accross the world. The end result was a mess that had nothing to do with reality.

      Wikipedia is nearly worthless for controversial topics, and it frequently can not even be corrected – not even to reflect that any controversey exists.

      So do not bother linking wikipedia on anything related to climate, it is possible – maybe probable that 90% of what is in a section is correct,
      But actual science is 100% correct – or it is not science.

      Regardless the climate debate ended almost a decade ago.

      The models do not track reality.

      AS I said in a different post – a contradiction – especially with reality is all that is necessary to falsify ANYTHING that claims to be science.

      You warmist like to play this game that every aspect of climate science must be refuted or the entire thesis remains true.

      The opposite is true. If any single element of the thesis does not conform to reality, the thesis is false.

      Correcting it is YOUR PROBLEM not mine.

  8. John Say —Completely wrong about CFCs. The atmosphere is well mixed on a scale of about 2 years.

    Be a help if you actually studied some elementary atmospheric physics before pontificating about the harder bits.

    1. “John Say —Completely wrong about CFCs. The atmosphere is well mixed on a scale of about 2 years.”
      Which is why the hole in the Ozone layer is near the bottom of the southern hemisphere.

      You do not seem to understand – I am not directly challenging most of the physics you think I am. I am not agreeing or disagreeing.
      I am pointing out that you have a self contradictory mess.

      In the real world contradictions do not exist. When you find one – check your premises – one of those is wrong.

      “Be a help if you actually studied some elementary atmospheric physics before pontificating about the harder bits.”
      Be helpful if you actually studied some elementary logic before pontificating about pretty much anything.

      It is not my job to figure out the error you or climate nazi’s have made.
      I have pointed out in numerous instances that you have fundimental contradictions in your conclusions.

      How you screwed up is your problem.

      You claim the atmosphere is well mixed on a scale of 2 years – I suspect that is wrong by a factor of about 7, but it does not matter.

      If it is well mixed then ozone and CFC’s are evenly dispersed and there would be no hole in the ozone layer but even thining.

      Just to be clear, because you keep confusing this – this is the consequences of YOUR claims – not mine.

      Do not screw up your own atrmospheric physics and then when I show the contradiction in your claims – try this nonsense that your errors are mine.

    2. David, elementary to science is that when one draws a conclusion there should be no contradictions. If there are then the conclusion is only theory. When there is theory the scientific community is supposed to be open to multiple theories.

      In your case you do not believe any other theories need exist because you have a scientific conclusion. Immediately without much knowledge in climate science one this demonstrates you are totally wrong.

  9. John Say, that is flat out wrong. To raise the temperature by dt requires heat, Q, proportional to dt. The constant of proportionality is the mass times the heat capacity of the material.

    Everything else you state is at least as confused.

    However, we don’t require GCM climate models to offer some projections of future climate. Notice that I stated projection, not prediction. Just look at the climate of the past:
    https://bravenewclimate.proboards.com/thread/561/back-future

  10. John Say — The Clausius-Clapeyron equation tells us quite a bit about climate. What does it state? When did the two discoverers devise the equation? What is the observational evidence for this equation from the remote past?

    That’s much easier than the atmospheric physics which informs about the heat-trapping, so-called greenhouse gases. What are the laboratory experiments informing this difficult part of physics?

    Don’t know, do you? So as the phrase goes, you ain’t got boopis.

    You could bother learning some of it…

    1. David Benson is the God Emperor of Making Stuff Up and owes me forty-five citations (one from the OED, one from the town ordinances and two from the Old Testament), an equation and the source of a quotation, and his mental health professional certificate after eighty-three weeks, and needs to cite all his work from now on. and is suffering from cementia – the word is bumpkis not boopis. If you were a polymath, you would know that.

    2. If your thesis fails as a black body – you are done. That is basic physics,

      If your models fail to forecast by 2.5 std dev – you are done. That is basic statistics and logic.

      I do not care if you think you have shroedinger’s paradox down if you are claiming that 1 + 1 = 3 – your done.

      You seem to think that one needs to be one of the hoi -poloi of climate to be entitled to speak.

      The mass collapse of large portions of modern psychology was the consequence of a british plumber grasping that “primining” was crap.
      It took him years and alot of help to get something published that cause psychologists to cede the obvious – that the emporor had no cloths.
      But the collapse of priming lead to a revaluation of psychology to determine if many things that were sacrosanct were actually reproduceable, and some very famous psychologies studies that had been accepted for decades and are in nearly ever high school pyschology text could not be reproduced at all – they were frauds.

      Grow up – false is false.

      If you successfully kick one leg out from under a scientific hypothesis – the whole thing collapses.
      I have kicked out several legs

      There is no such thing in science as “it feels true” or “truish” or reproduces 2% of the time.

      There is completely correct, and WRONG,
      If you are not completely correct – then you are wrong, and you go back and fix your hypothesis until it is completely correct,
      until it reproduces 100% of the time. Certainly 2% is not good enough.

  11. John Say, there is nothing wrong with climatology. You ought to learn some before pontificating.

    1. “John Say, there is nothing wrong with climatology. You ought to learn some before pontificating.”

      Are you capable of a clear statement ?

      There is nothing wrong with mathematics. That does not make 1 +1 = 3

    1. I will be happy to read most anything Krugman when he was an actual economist,
      Much of what he writes today is completely at odds with the work that got him his nobel.

    2. Try Coase, Hayek, Freidman, Buchannon. Lucas, Stigler, Olstrom, Fama – all economics nobel winners,

      Or Schleifer, Acemoglu, Barro all top ten ranked Ideas/Respec economists.

  12. John Say claims expertise in
    Economics;
    Foreign Affairs and National Security;
    Epidemiology;
    Climatology.

    What a Polymath!

    1. David Benson is the God Emperor of Making Stuff Up and owes me forty-five citations (one from the OED, one from the town ordinances and two from the Old Testament), an equation and the source of a quotation, and his mental health professional certificate after eighty-three weeks, and needs to cite all his work from now on. and is suffering from cementia – many of us are polymaths, David. If you could shake the cementia out of your head you would realize it.

    2. I have not claimed expertise in anything.

      What I have claimed is the ability to process facts, using logic and reason.

      I further claim the obvious – no one else is responsible for my life.

      The same is true for you and everyone else.

      You can surrender control to someone else – but it still remains your life.

      If you are persuaded out of fear to allow someone else to burn your life to the ground – that is your problem.

      But if in addition to ceding control of your own life you force others to cede control of theirs – you act immorally.

      We are in the midst of a great debate over slavery at the moment – and yet those on the left fail to grasp that whenever you take the right to self determination from another – you make them a slave.

      Apparently for the left slavery is OK so long is it is driven by government and the majority – wasnt slavery in the US driven by government and the majority ?

  13. What I do know as truth is the common every year flu got me. Nothing alleged, purported reported about it. While in our area the incidents of Corona was next to nothing as full bore protection was taken. Also gave me a view of the tallest easiest to read BS meter in town.
    From that we learn the vast majority don’t know who, whom, what or why they are voting for? Why? No civics, no ethics, no grounding in basic citizenship and two many BS spreading enough garbage we should call it the Gahrohner epidemic.

    Question? How many Presidents will you be voting for at one time?

    1. David Benson is the God Emperor of Making Stuff Up and owes me forty-five citations (one from the OED, one from the town ordinances and two from the Old Testament), an equation and the source of a quotation, and his mental health professional certificate after eighty-three weeks, and needs to cite all his work from now on. and is suffering from cementia – prove it!!!!

    1. David Benson is the God Emperor of Making Stuff Up and owes me forty-five citations (one from the OED, one from the town ordinances and two from the Old Testament), an equation and the source of a quotation, and his mental health professional certificate after eighty-three weeks, and needs to cite all his work from now on. and is suffering from cementia – my course schedule is already full and I do not think I can get the Dean to give me an over-ride. Maybe next semester.

    2. Until climate science fixes their broken models, there is as much benefit studying a climate text as their is studying ptolemic models of the heavens.

      1. Until a republican can do anything but crash economies there is no point in listening their economic nonsense at all. Bahahahahaha.

        1. Someone say I am a republican ?

          Almost all the mess that caused the housing bubble occured under Bush.
          Though to be honest this was a monetary policy failure and that makes it greenspans fault – but he was a republican appointee to.
          He even did incredibly well as Fed Chair – until he started to beleive he had magical powers and that anything he touched turned to gold.

    1. “John Say also misunderstands economics, that is, macro-economics.”

      Arguments are made with facts, data, logic, reason

      Not be insulting those you disagree with.

      If you think something I have stated is in error.

      Demonstrate the specific error.

      Vague blanket insults are not arguments.

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