Revenge on the Nerds III: Covid-19

I really don’t know that this is…

The original:

The collapse of Long-Term Capital Management in the 1998.

Plot summary: Geeks finally use their brains and math to beat the market, but it blows up in the face, nearly taking a good portion of the banking system with it.

Taxpayers save the day.

Subtitle: Beware of geeks bearing models.


2008 Financial Crisis: Beware of Geeks Bearing Models II

Plot Pitch: Long-Term Capital Management was like the Death Star. This movie needs to be bigger! The latest trilogy of Star Wars, the evil empire harnessed the power of a star. We will do something like that.

Plot Summary: Ignoring the lessons of Long-Term Capital Management, the masses again put their trust in the nerds. After all, they have discovered with their brains and math ways to hide the risk of making home loans to cats and dogs.

Let’s bury the whole economy. And, yet again, taxpayers to the rescue.

Second sequel:

2020 Covid-19 Pandemic: The Perfect Storm

The pitch: It’s 12-years later. The masses have mysteriously forgotten the damage caused by the previous generation of nerds who could not, in fact, make dogs and cats pay on their loans, and again, put their trust in them. After all, Stitch Fix’s algorithm now dresses them to look almost cool. If math can make make nerds look cool, then of course it can predict pandemics.

Meanwhile, the media has become so bad at words and math that what they report is quite often something from an alternate universe.

And, the third element of the perfect storm: reasoning has been weakened through a generation of PC culture, which evolved into cancel culture, where the only acceptable approach to disagreement is inspired by Orwell.

Mix those three elements and watch the damage caused be far greater than any one element could have done. It’ll hit the hospitals, the economy and basic human rights all at once!

Cue the heroes, yes taxpayers.

Is there a chance for a third sequel in another 9-10 years? Stay tuned. The writers are still working on the ending for this one.

It’s worth mentioning that a third sequel would be timed just about right to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the prequel to all this: The Great Depression: The Nerds Still Aren’t Sure What Caused This, So Quit Trusting Them!

$s Matter for MLS; but there’s more to it

Leave it to Zlatan Ibrahimovich to say like no other, according to this tweet (ht to Daniel Workman):

Here’s the text, in case the tweet ever disappears:

When I asked Zlatan what it will take for MLS to achieve parity with Europe and South America, he responds with a question.

“Do they want to make it?”

“Who is ‘they’?”

“They that control it. The owners. Do they want it to be big?”

“Yeah. Of course.”

“You think?”

“You don’t?”

“I don’t.”


“Because you don’t make money in soccer,” he tells me. “In Europe, I can pick two clubs that make money. The rest don’t; they do it out of passion. Here, with the sports, you make money. That’s it. And I think with all the rules you have you are not boosting up soccer.”

“What rules?”

“The budgeting things. The salary cap. You cannot bring in players you want. They have more rules here than I have in my home.”

The author of the book Soccernomics agree. They pick apart the bad economics of European clubs. I wrote about that here. They quote A.T. Kearney:

you could…argue that soccer clubs are nothing more than vessels for transporting soccer’s income to players.

European soccer clubs spend most of their revenue to buy the best talent they can afford to play the best football possible. This means the players receive most of soccer’s cash flow.

So, why would someone want to own a soccer club?

Passion is a piece. But, there’s more…People don’t get wealthy owning sports teams, even in the U.S. They get wealthy doing other things and then buy sports teams for status and to help grow their other businesses even more.

When your primary business sells concrete, it might give you a leg up if you can host potential customers in the owner’s box for a game.

So, why does the U.S. have the budgeting rules, as Zlatan calls it?

To keep a few passionate owners with deeper pockets from buying the best talent and dominating. League managers think fans of weaker teams will lose interest and stop spending money if their team doesn’t have a chance to win.

With the current pro leagues in the U.S., they may be right.


Pay cuts for Congress?

I might have missed it, but do the CARES or HEROES acts include pay cuts for Congress until unemployment gets under, let’s say, 8-9%?

How we place some moratorium on campaign contributions, too?

A few interesting flu and pneumonia tidbits

A friend asked me to make a chart of H1N1 deaths in the U.S. 2009 vs. covid-19 deaths in 2020. While researching that, I found a few interesting tidbits.

Is covid-19 the first time we’ve ever tracked cases and deaths for a specific illness? It seems all data for H1N1 is estimated rather than based on specific testing data.

I thought it was interesting to learn that H1N1 did not affect those over the age of 65 as much as younger folks, because it is thought that many over that age had a prior exposure to an H1N1 strain long ago, that younger folks had not.

Also, I found some death rates by age charts for regular seasonal flu viruses that looked awfully similar to covid-19.

The estimated number of flu & pneumonia deaths going back to about year 2000 is around 60,000 and there was no spike in this in 2009 with H1N1. I expected there to be a spike that wasn’t there.

But, one of the most interesting things I found was the information in the chart below for flu and pneumonia deaths per 100,000 population going back, for select years, to 1950.

By my estimates, covid-19 in the U.S. is currently over 26 per 100,000 (86,000 deaths / 3,300 (x100,000) population).

What’s striking is how high the flu and pneumonia death rates were as recently as the 1990s.

I wonder why? Have flu vaccines improved or become more widely adopted since the 2000s? Maybe. I don’t recall flu vaccines being as widely available until then.

Do those years provide better baselines for understanding what’s happening now because it better represents with viruses that have little or less prior immunity?

Flu Deaths by Year

Btw…what I found is that the CDC estimates between 8,000 and 18,000 H1N1 deaths in the 2009 and about 60,000 deaths from flu and pneumonia causes, which compares to about 86,000 covid-19 deaths over the course of 2 months or so.

But…CDC estimates for flu deaths is always a small fraction, because many flu deaths are categorized as pneumonia because that’s eventually what causes the death.

Also, since the H1N1 was only estimated and not specifically tracked like covid-19, I felt the direct comparison is a bit apples-and-oranges.

Even with those caveats, I told him it’s easy to draw conclusion that covid-19 is, so far, worse, than H1N1, and outside the upper bound of the for typical seasonal cold and flu, with time to go.

I also mentioned, when I look at numbers that represent 0.03% of the population, it’s difficult to separate noise and signal, unless you start getting into half order of magnitude (5x) to order of magnitude (10x) differences.

CDC Deaths by Week

I found the chart I’ve been looking for on the CDC website:

CDC Death Chart

Caveat: The notes of the chart says the last few weeks are estimated.

This shows estimated excess deaths of 53,000 from March 28 to April 25, which lines up closely with estimated covid-19 deaths during that period.

It also shows that 50,000 – 60,000 people normally die each week in the U.S.

More Clay Travis

Clay Travis, a Fox Sports guy, has been one of the best sources of information on coronavirus. Good for Clay. Bad or the rest of media.

More Scott Gottlieb, less Dr. Fauci

Gottlieb provides pertinent, helpful and balanced information that can help folks make good choices and better understand their risks.

Dr. Fauci seems to have some motivation to not discuss positives. At best, he’s being overprotective to manipulate behavior in an overly cautious way. At worst, who knows?

I believe we need fewer folks manipulating our behavior for what they believe is the best for us, because they are often wrong, and more folks telling us the TRUTH.