Peter Navarro and the epistemic problem

A top White House adviser starkly warned Trump administration officials in late January that the coronavirus crisis could cost the United States trillions of dollars and put millions of Americans at risk of illness or death.

The warning, written in a memo by Peter Navarro, President Trump’s trade adviser, is the highest-level alert known to have circulated inside the West Wing as the administration was taking its first substantive steps to confront a crisis that had already consumed China’s leaders and would go on to upend life in Europe and the United States.

Here is the full story (NYT), and of course he wasn’t heeded.  I have disagreed with Navarro on most major issues, most of all on trade and quite possibly he is overpromoting chloroquine.  Still, I think we should reconsider in light of this new information.  I have not changed my mind on the previous issues, but should we not now all admit Navarro is, in expected value terms, one of the best advisors in recent memory in any administration?


He right on trade too

Playing out as well is his concerns with supply chains, given the fact of our current PPE supply chain issues

Oh please.

Ah yes, a guy that the Times would ordinarily vilify, but he's useful to them as a phony means of attacking Trump. At the time, he had already assembled the CVTF and instituted the travel ban. OTOH, there is way too much evidence of many other Democrats, including the esteemed Dr. Fauci, downplaying the threat well into February.

If you get your news from sources like the Times and WaPo, you are sadly misinformed.

So, Navarro is now part of the fake news hoax fearmongering hordes out to get Trump?

And Dr. Fauci has never declared any political affiliation, and was first appointed by Ronald Reagan, a man who would at least know how to act the role of president in a reassuring and competent fashion during a pandemic, without meandering about his ratings or various enemies.

I see reading comprehension is not your strong suit.

Clearly, this was too hard to understand - "there is way too much evidence of many other Democrats, including the esteemed Dr. Fauci, downplaying the threat well into February." Obviously, Dr. Fauci should not be included among Democrats, one assumes. Please let us know which interpretation is correct.

As for Navarro. luckily that memo did not become public knowledge before now, because it would have been a reason to remove a clearly disloyal adviser. Today, though, it makes him look good - you could even wonder how the NYT managed to get a copy.

Stop laughing in the back row, please.

I see comprehension in general is not yours.

Whole heartedly agree about Navarro...

> but should we not now all admit Navarro is, in expected value terms, one of the best advisors in recent memory in any administration?

No, because to compute expected value you need to take into account the probability of the various possible outcomes, (including the rare wildly positive and negative ones). We also don't know all the mistakes that other advisors avoided (or created), so can't really compare.

Yes, because recent memory is very very short.

I believe "in expected value terms" might have referred to Mr Navarro himself.

To put January 29th in context:

I would say "everybody" was concerned at that point. Good on Navarro for getting on board, but it's a pretty low bar "in expected value terms" to be happy that one guy in the White House took notice.

Here are the top 5 things from CNN on the 29th:

Navarro is talking about trillions. CNN is talking about a petition at some university.

Exactly the same.

That is not honest reporting on what your own link is about. They actually had a big coronavirus section, ending with:

"At least 132 people are dead and 6,000 cases have been confirmed in mainland China, which overtakes the scope of the SARS pandemic there in 2003."

And see the other link below, Trump's own tweet on a situation room meeting.

The only thing on the front page on Jan 29 about the virus was "Fifth US case of coronavirus confirmed as China warns people can spread the virus before they feel ill"

That was buried among a zillion other stories, including several about Kobe. The link right above the virus had the headline "This 9-year-old weightlifter is breaking records"

Remember, Jan 15 the WHO said nothing to worry about. On On Jan 17, the CDC began screening at airports for all Wuhan arrivals. On Jan 18 China held a massive potluck. then Jan 23, China shut down Wuhan.

Two days prior to that the CDC activated their emergency operations center. On the 27th, Pence held press conferences outlining the interworking with China on the issue.

Jan 29, the plan was given final review for restrictions and Jan 30 it was activated. And it was widely reported as "not needed" by WHO, Pelosi, Biden, NYT, VOX and on and on.

the question isn't whether Trump did everything right. The single question is whether or not a dem lke Bernie, Biden or Pelosi or Cuomo would have moved even faster. And the answer is an a clear "no" based on all their comments at the time and their actions in the coming weeks.

That is not interesting question or claim.

As noted below, Trump used January 29th to send out a picture of himself at a critical meeting specifically about Coronavirus.

How the hell do you know that any other chief executive sitting in that same meaning with those same experts would have the same conclusion?

> How the hell do you know that any other chief executive sitting in that same meaning with those same experts would have the same conclusion?

Because we saw world leaders from around the world, presumably with access to similar information via their own health and gov agencies. And they didn't respond like Trump.

And we saw our legislative leaders, armed with the same information, decide this wasn't worthy of a big reaction. Except to sell some of their stock.

So, we have a test where we've seen thousands of world leaders subjected to the same information Trump was, and and for the most part, they didn't respond as aggressively as Trump did.

In fact, many of them mocked him openly.

That is how I know.

Maybe I'm not following you, I don't think the US has been the best performer:

"According to numbers by Johns Hopkins collected by the website Worldometers, case counts in the U.S. and Spain have been growing faster than elsewhere."


First, you should look at cases per capita. Next, cases are tenuous and depend on testing, test criteria and test reliability. Instead, look at deaths per million. That is the best universal comparison we have. Western Europe as a collective about the same size as US has performed dismally, with figures in the triple digits--France, Span, Italy...all horrid.

I'm not saying the US is the best performer. I'm simply saying that Trump was way ahead of the curve AND the US response versus EU in terms of outcomes (deaths) has been much, much better.

As I said a moment ago.

These apologies for failure might be getting too boring for me.

I know, numbers can be tedious. It's much better to state everything sucks and then claim boredom when confronted with numbers.

*chirp chirp*

Didn't around 40 or 50 countries enact China travel bans before Trump? Admittedly in some cases it was only days before Trump, and the statistics of its efficiency are still unknown, but it might be wise to get the facts right. There are around 200 nations in the world, so claiming Trump was "ahead of the curve" is small potatoes on this issue. Considering he went on for 6 more weeks saying it was no big deal, rather laughable actually.

> Didn't around 40 or 50 countries enact China travel bans before Trump?

The biggest country I know if Italy on same day or day before. I'm not asking about small countries nobody has heard of. I'm asking specifically about Trump's peers: Leaders of larger nations (5-10M or more).

it's not possible to be much earlier than Trump: China closed Wuhan on Jan 23rd and prior to that, the message out of China was "No problem, everything is under control" which the WHO dutifully repeated.

I'm certain that no dem would have closed the gates faster than Trump. But considering even Biden in mid-March was saying closing the gates to on the EU was stupid.

So, it's likely certain nobody would have closed them sooner, and it's very likely many would have closed them much later.

The efficiency is actually very well known: For every halving of the infected population you let in, you buy yourself and extra 5-7 days of prep time. That is huge and it would move our peak by a lot. If NYC hit their peak 3 weeks ago because of unfettered movement from China, it would been much, much worse.

Most people have probably heard of the countries of Philippines, Singapore, Australia, Afghanistan, El Salvador, Iran, Jamaica, Australia, Vietnam, New Zealand, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, -- in addition to Italy -- to name less than half of the nations that enacted a travel ban before, or on, the same day as the US. The theoretical efficiency of a ban is known, but we still don't know how efficacious this particular ban is.

Why are Trump supporters suddenly blaming China? No one believes China about anything else, so it shouldn't matter WHAT China said. Here, Trump really shot himself in the foot: he cut CDC staff in Beijing by 2/3rds and axed the NSC pandemic task force, both prior to the outbreak. That is just short-sighted and irresponsible.

A POTUS is supposed to be on top of this stuff, NOT Biden nor anyone who isn't privy to secret meetings. In fact you don't KNOW what another President would have done; that is nonsensical blabber.

Trump gets no credit, not even for the ingenuity of the US population and economic in avoiding an even higher death rate (although he will probably try to take credit).

I'd not consider the leaders of most of those countries to be Trump's peers. A few, yes. But only two (NZ and AU, and Italy, which I already mentioned) are OECD countries. The rest are culturally and economically very far removed from the US peer group. Many of those countries are far more autocratic and can put much more draconian measures in place that any western country ever can.

> The theoretical efficiency of a ban is known, but we still don't know how efficacious this particular ban is.

The math is easy as I've explained. Imagine you let one infected person in and the cases double every week. In that case, in 5 weeks you have 32 cases. Imagine you let 16 infected people in. In 5 weeks you have 512 cases. This means log2(16) = 4 * 7 = 28 days. Letting in 1 instead of 16 buys you 28 days.

And the NYT has reported the WHO believes this bought the US 2-3 weeks. The NYT writes: The W.H.O.’s epidemic-modeling teams concluded that travel restrictions had slowed the spread of the virus outside China by two to three weeks.

Fact: Trump's ban bought the US time. Experts believe it was 2-3 weeks.

Fact: Trump's ban was rare among his peer group

Fact: Trump's contemporaries in the US (Biden, Pelosi, Bernie, Hillary) all believed any travel ban, even through mid March was unneeded

Conclusion: Trump's move was unique among his international peer group, and unprecedented among his domestic rivals. Had Biden or Pelosi been in charge, a ban wouldn't have come until at least 6-7 weeks later. And instead of a 2-3 week delay in chaos, the chaos would have occurred far sooner and well before we were ready.

> Why are Trump supporters suddenly blaming China?

Because China knew in December this was SARS with demonstrated human to human spread. Had the US and WHO known that in December, then all travel from China would have been stopped and this would have been managed world wide. The US wouldn't have had a single case. Instead, China told doctors to destroy data, told WHO and CDC this wasn't SARS and claimed there was not human to human transmission. As of mid Jan WHO was still claiming no human to human transmission.

> In fact you don't KNOW what another President would have done; that is nonsensical blabber.

Of course we do. Pelosi was privy to all of this information. She wasn't worried by it at all. And she told everyone to keep living their lives as they were doing. Enough congress folks that saw the information were scared enough to sell stocks, we do know that. So, yes, we do know that congress was apprised of this.

And we know the heads of France, Canada, Germany all talk. They all decided it wasn't serious enough to close travel when Trump did.

Weak excuses that won't work. POTUS has access to the most advanced intel in the world. And by law, POTUS can effect various emergency measures; autocracy is not required. Now ABC is reporting that in November -- repeat, November -- NCMI developed intel of the situation inside China and a possible cataclysm, then informed DIA, the joint chiefs and NSC, and after vetting & analysis it made it into Trump's daily briefing in early January. Trump should not be awarded special credit for enacting a ban weeks later -- at the same time as dozens of other countries -- and then downplaying the threat for another 6 weeks into mid-March. It's hard to imagine another President performing this badly.

A day later I want to emphasize this part:

"Good on Navarro for getting on board"

If he did write up and present "that the coronavirus crisis could cost the United States trillions of dollars and put millions of Americans at risk of illness or death" that was a job well done.

Especially at a time we the public were told of just 6000 cases in all of China.

He is a keen China watcher and would have followed that story closely.
To be honest, I was worried myself in late January. It was clear reading the Asian press that the situation was ominous and could not be contained.
I don’t really understand why a lot of western leaders were whistling past the graveyard thinking it was only a Chinese problem.
At any rate, the CDC et al should have been putting out big press releases warning of the potential danger.

Because there were already worries of a supply shock rippling through Western economies and with the business cycle already being towards its end no one wanted to unleash a recession.

We got one anyways because boomers really just suck so hard but their behavior was extremely rational. Some of the European countries had even had pretty aggressive and wasteful responses to bird flu that lingered.

Also January 29th:

"Just received a briefing on the Coronavirus in China from all of our GREAT agencies, who are also working closely with China. We will continue to monitor the ongoing developments. We have the best experts anywhere in the world, and they are on top of it"

Trump's January 29th tweet includes shots of (I think) the situation room. I recognize the head of the CDC and Fauci. I don't see Novarro.

It would be sad if scary economic models were excluded.

I remember that sit room shot for some reason. Actually I know why I remember, since I would not be particularly interested in such a picture. It was brought to my attention on the internet - whether by the media or twitter; whichever, their interest lay in the skin color of the people in the room.

Yeah, I saw some of those too.

But their criticism would be better answered if the room of old white dudes had knocked it out of the park.

Instead we are left to wonder what the CDC asked for, and what marching orders they were given .. instead?

People complain about what the head of the CDC said later, but he's not much removed, as an underling of the president.

Yeah, nobody need have died.

People should stop and not make obviously self-indicting comments like this.

As if the only bar you're ever going to set yourself was "one death, ten thousand deaths, no difference."

People should not reveal such an indifference to the natural world as to fantasize that the US was ever going to evade 10,000 deaths. A bar for your fine feelings is immaterial. Enough with the hubris, even if merely in the service of the larger and no doubt noble goal of ensuring that the US becomes a second-tier country, following the catechism we've been taught since childhood.

Now compassion is the enemy?

? - Now pickles are bread?

I was talking about preventing deaths in the United States of America, and you said:

"A bar for your fine feelings is immaterial."

Sickness, do not take the sick! I command thee! Pay heed, I have set a bar somewhere between one and 10,000!

One more, despite my boredom:

"It's been pretty clear all along that the Trump administration's 100K-240K deaths estimate was a way of lowering the bar for success. Even the main model cited by the admin as a basis for that projection (U of Washington's IHME model) didn't put the numbers that high."

Go ahead and hand-wave if *your* values are that low.

You sure post often for someone bored. When I am bored, I leave.

Here's a prediction for you.

Trump will win in November.

Shortly thereafter, Biden will be diagnosed with dementia.

Write that down.

I'll be back later to check in on you.

Back to my new very hot Thai girlfriend and my Thai lessons. There's nothing like love as an incentive.

I love you man.


Mr. Navarro is the beneficiary of the broken watch syndrome.

Exactly. If the virus had started in Italy you wouldn't have heard a peep from him. But if China is the threat on every possible axis then when an actual threat comes from China he looks like Nostradamus.

Yes to both of these. Tyler's expected value calculations needs to be more Bayesian in nature.

The NYT article nails it: other White House administrators downplayed Navarro's memo because they figured it was more of his omni-present China-bashing.

We can take that observation, along with Navarro's other behavior the last decade or so, and do a further extrapolation: whatever future major bad things come from China, will have been predicted by Navarro.

Where Tyler is dangerously wrong is: what is the accuracy of Navarro's predictions when the danger turns out to be minimal, or the bad event ends up not happening?

I don't think this practice of assigning status to people who happen to make the right call is a good one just like a broken clock that's right twice a day is still not a reliable one. You need to know how they arrived at their conclusion. That's the difference between a dependable Rolex and a fake. He has a very clear bias and even passed off a fictional character he created named Ron Vara to backup his agenda. Now, he could still be useful to Trump as a one-trick pony (the CCP really does some bad things) but he's no Nostradamus. Mouthing off on chloroquine is the exact reason why this status game needs to be played a little more carefully.

Agreed. Perhaps this says a lot about what Tyler thinks about the current White House. If this is the Trump’s best adviser, what does Tyler think of the median adviser? Straussian shade

> You need to know how they arrived at their conclusion

Not really. You can look at where people fall over dozens of predictions and know if they were mostly right or mostly wrong. Our press, for example, with their collective groupthink has been in the "mostly wrong" bucket. They are so consumed by the desire to prove the president wrong that they will claw onto the most tenuous position if the see it as a toehold opposite Trump.

You'd think the press could go back and say "You know, Trump at least go the travel ban right".

Did he, though?

But the bigger issue is that the virus was already here and they should have been preparing for that... Actually dealing with the virus here and cutting red tape so that we'd have millions of tests ready to go by now so that we could focus quarantines and lockdowns in hotspots and potential hotspots.

> Actually dealing with the virus here and cutting red tape so that we'd have millions of tests ready to go by now so that we could focus quarantines and lockdowns in hotspots and potential hotspots.

But isn't that what was done? Trump involved the private sector at a speed we've not seen before. Trump pushed the FDA to "approve" things they didn't want to approve.

Trump got to 1M tests total in 1 month while it took many times that to get to 1M test for H1N1.

Everything about this response has moved far, far faster than we've ever done before. And it appears the US will handily beat western europe in just about every metric you might imagine.

Especially as the full memo was not included in the story, perhaps all of us now should admit such judgments are extremely uncertain and useless?

Especially since the memo may have simply outlined a wide range of scenarios, among which was the most dire one. See this graf from the NYT story:

"Mr. Navarro said in the memo that the administration faced a choice about how aggressive to be in containing an outbreak, saying the human and economic costs would be relatively low if it turned out to be a problem along the lines of a seasonal flu."

Well, he's confused on trade. Nice for him he got lucky on the virus, as Osborne says above.

But that can't be the point: We got these huge bureaucracies that f!cked up, and still are for all I know.

The problem is systemic, and not about individuals.

Almost as if there's a specific political party in the world, that has decided it is a law of nature, that the buck stops nowhere.

"How could it be otherwise?"

Buck stops with the party that depleted the strategic mask reserves and said the travel ban was racist.

Both parties used masks, both parties purchased masks, but three years in, this Administration gets a free pass on coming up empty.

Whenever possible you pretend Obama still president. Except, he probably would have followed through.

> Except, he probably would have followed through.

You might have a point if Obama had been buying hundreds of millions a mask a year, and then donating them to 3rd world nations just before they expired. But instead of spending a billion a year on masks, the ma in charge spend $1M a year on a fanciful "mask building machine." A smart man would have bought the masks every year AND spent an extra 0.001% on the mask machine.

It took Obama 130 days to get to 1M tests for H1N1. With much backslapping and fanfare, too! Trump hit that milestone in 1 month.

You can't admit Trump has moved things far faster than the Obama did for H1N1?

Simple answer, Obama did not run out of masks and then blame his predecessor.

Especially not three years into his presidency.

> Obama did not run out of masks and then blame his predecessor.

Yes, because Bush had established the strategic reserves. The federal gov has likely dozens of things in place for rare events, most of which are under prepared. Every president will have to go to war with the reserves he has.

Remember when Trump decided to keep coal around so that we had 90 day supplies of energy on-site instead of the hours of reserve with have with nat gas or the minutes of reserve with have with solar? That is planning for a disaster. They plan was widely blasted.

The guy used some, and then established two plans to replenish them.

I think any non-partisan has to see that as serious commitment.

He absolutely did not use the masks and then blow off replacement.

These apologies for failure might be getting too boring for me.

> and then established two plans to replenish them.

He had used them all up by 2010, and then bought nothing ever again. The stockpile was left empty. But, you are claiming, he built a machine to build more! And the plans were only $5M.

So, if Trump claims he had plans for a "coronavirus fighting machine" that cost $5M to design, you'd be good with that?

How about this: We don't spend any money on the military, and we just draw plans for laser guns on rocket ships. And we use that as our defense system. You know, for some guy that has to fight a massive army in the future.

And also, Trump could make a plan to eliminate the deficit while spending like a drunken sailor. And he shoudl publish the plan on the last day in office, with a note that says "Here, I solved this for you"

Partisanship shuts down the brain. Thousands of Americans are dead and every thread is just morons attacking their political out-group.

Here’s a crazy idea: everyone who failed should be held accountable

You are now approving of those suggesting hand washing as an early public health policy, and bashing those mocking the idea?

It is true you fought the social distancing, which has proven the only effective strategy in this pandemic.

The quality of an advisor is 10% the advice itself, and 90% figuring out ways to to be convincing.

Scoring this way, Navarro gets an F.

You just burst someone's pretty bubble.

I don’t know about the percentages, but certainly the advice needs to be actionable and delivered in a fashion acceptable to the principal.

And the principal has the responsibility to listen to and think about the advice, and take appropriate action. Of course it may be ignored.

What snould the advisor do if the advice is constantly ignored?

10% bad advice and 90% good convincing seems like a negative

Without the memo for us to read, we can only speculate if there were talks about moving production of medical supplies stateside. That's more important than a travel ban which is mostly symbolic at this point as the virus is spreading far and wide travel ban or not.

‪Just saw @maggieNYT on CNN. In summary: Navarro wrote a prescient memo and no one paid any attention because he is usually wrong about everything. ‬

So if we're just playing the odds then he was wrong about this, but right almost all the time otherwise? maggieNYT? Really?

No more than a modest EV boost. should correct for the fact that Navarro was given the opportunity to prognosticate on this outsized event and consider how alternatives for his position would have fared.

Navarro is trying the Albert Speer move. Hoping he won’t hang. Worked for him.

All you geniuses are brilliant Monday morning quarterbacks with one problem. Among the cocophany of "Orange mad bad ", I have yet to hear what policy he should have enacted in January while the WHO and the gaggle of usual suspects were screaming RACIST when he closed the boarder with China.

So I ask again. Now, with the heinsight of a God, what policy ought have been different in January and why?

This is an important question that should be a focus for years to come. Not to answer anything about Orange Man or a single advisor, but to guide us for the next time.

Reverse engineer the data available at various backward looking points and see where we might have credibly determined that the threat was significant enough to react more forcefully more quickly, and then game out which reactions would have likely been most effective. In that we would need to recognize that next time it may start somewhere else and our faith in the accuracy of available information is going to vary as a result.

Like the bloom pattern of an emerging terrorist network, a viral outbreak must utilize host systems against their targets, even if that isn’t recognizable early on.

Literally just copy Taiwan next time.

The CDC and WHO have proved themselves a negative value add for policy advice.

> Literally just copy Taiwan next time.

So, the federal gov tracking your phone? Look on a map and see floating skulls of sick neighbors? SKorea runs AIDS tests on patients without their knowledge. Plus, the citizens of Asia are generally a lot more compliant than their western counterparts.

If you want what SK and Taiwan have done, the first you think you must do dismantle HIPPA

Taiwan reacted the same time as us and was slower closing travel. The do have better results, like because their population listens better and already had the SARS scare.

Sure, but they also had leaders who implemented a plan to try to identify and isolate cases instead of spending a month acting like this thing was in the bad an solved. If the winning trait is following the leaders, it's a great benefit they had leaders who implemented more sound responses, isn't it?

So again, they did as we did. Do you have an argument here?

Yes. My argument is that Taiwan has handled this differently than the US in terms of policy, especially early on and in terms of doing more testing early on (and having the capability to do so). The US did not model Taiwan, but perhaps they're trying to now.

Developing testing kits. Someone in the White House should have been keeping an eye on FDA’s and CDC’s development of testing kits. And almost any pro business Republican who had any inkling of what they were up to would have been aghast that the FDA and CDC were trying to do it all in house. This was the one thing that I thought Trump would get right but he was asleep at the wheel and even when the White House found out what was happening, it took them weeks to cut loose the regulations preventing hospitals and researchers from developing their own test kits. I’m not being critical of his actions in January, but in February and March when lots of people were aware of how big a problem this was while Trump acted like it was all under control and would go away like a miracle.

If you're griping that Trump was acting like it was all under control, or downplaying the threat in his spewches, do you (and others with this complaint) wish that he or some leader did not appear calm? Did not reassure the public?

For all we know, they knew in January that it was already in the USA and nothing we could have done at that point would have stopped the spread. Even if he has that Intel, he can't order a lockdown in January . . . Even assuming that's the best policy (I don't know that it would have been) because it would not have been politically feasible.

Maybe I’m an odd duck, but I don’t find making stuff up on the fly and faux confidence reassuring, especially from a serial liar. How does this give reassurance?

If they knew it was here in the US and was a serious problem, I would find it even more damning of his response. He should have been preparing the country for what potentially laid ahead and also offer encouragement that we could get through this. And they should have been all over the CDC and FDA like a hawk and putting all efforts into making sure we had lots of tests. Instead, he did the opposite and played it as a Democratic ploy to hurt him, which also is a terrible route if you’re trying to reassure the large portion of the country that are Democrats.

But it also seems like they didn’t think it was a big concern since Trump originally asked for a lot less money from Congress.

"Maybe I’m an odd duck, but I don’t find making stuff up on the fly and faux confidence reassuring, especially from a serial liar. How does this give reassurance?"

Absolutely no self awareness.

Dangit, you got me. I'm a serial liar. How did you know???

Good point. It's not a lie if you believe your own bullshit.

I agree that a lockdown in January would have been politically difficult to pull off, especially with a president who half the country or more completely distrusts. (And I think for good reasons. I didn’t love Obama, but I had some modicum of trust in his competence even when I disagreed with him.)

Again this is why ramping up testing capability was so important early on, so that we could focus lockdowns and quarantines in hotspots and potential hotspots. Without that testing, we’re flying blind and have to do more blanket lockdowns. South Korea has avoided a lot of that by ramping up testing capability. That’s what we should have done and should be doing but it’s only gaining steam now, months later. I also blame Congress for this, too. A lot of these characters shouldn’t be in office.

> Developing testing kits. Someone in the White House should have been keeping an eye on FDA’s and CDC’s development of testing kits.

More tests wouldn't have changed anything because the false positive rate is 5-10% and the actual prevalence rate was 1 in 10K. Even today just one in 1000 has the disease nationwide and is sick.

If you tested the entire country today, the tests would report 15-30M as having COVID when they did not.

What do you do then? Test them again? OK, then it's reported 1.5-3M have it. Test them again?

The experience of South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, and Germany seem to all disagree with you on this. Also, see Tyler's earlier posts on the tests being useful even with high false positive rates. The idea isn't to test everyone, but to test those with symptoms early on to isolate those with the virus and those who they were in contact with until they're tested. It wouldn't be about testing the whole country. And, yes, you would keep testing people, allowing those who test negative to keep working and going about their daily lives without a complete lockdown.

These asian countries do not have HIPPA to contend with. These countries publish health info of individuals that have tested positive.

Yes, you can test your way out of false positives, but only if you have a very, very compliant society that is willing to come back 2, 3 or 4 times to get cleared.

In Seattle, we stick a homeless person with covid into a Motel 6 that has been "bought" by the city. And they tell him he must stay.

Guess what happens when he leaves? A security officer follows him telling people to "get back." A homeless person with suspected covid left his "quarantine", went across the street, robbed a 7-11, and then got on the train and was never seen again. This was on the news, with everyone in charge at the city saying "there's nothing else we can do"

PS. Germany and the US have deaths rates that are pretty comparable, and worlds apart from the rest of Europe. How about acknowledging the US has way out performed western europe rather than cherry picking parts of western europe? If you want to pick states, CA and FLA are half that of Germany for deaths per million. Pretty impressive, no?

Cool story, but isn't that an outlier in the US? I think we might have more non-compliers than Germany or South Korea, but we're not all like the homeless burglar in Seattle.

And here is me acknowledging that death rates are about the same in the US as in Germany. I picked Germany because they seem to be doing better than the rest of Germany due to the policies they have in place. They also have a lot more ICU beds per person than even the US (From what I understand) and the US has more than Italy and the UK (which is at the bottom for Europe), which will also help us fare better, but I'm more concerned about critiquing the government for things in its control that it could have been doing in the last month to 3 months. And on that front, we were not leading the way.

Oops... I meant to write "doing better than the rest of Europe."

> They also have a lot more ICU beds per person than even the US

Wiki indicates US has about 34.7 ICU beds per 100K while Germany is 29.2. Yes, UK is 6.6.

> I'm more concerned about critiquing the government for things in its control that it could have been doing in the last month to 3 months

Fair enough, but if you were to assign blame between US and China for our predicament right now, where would you set the needle? 95% China and 5% US?

Remember, China and WHO said there was NO evidence of human to human transmission as recently as Jan 15. And yet, China scientists had sequenced the gene and knew this was SARS. By some accounts that was confirmed in mid December.

China used the time when THEY knew but the rest of the world did not to accumulate PPE. Pretty sleazy.

Your comments seem to ascribe 99% of the blame for our predicament with Trump, as if there would be zero suffering if Trump did his job right. What I'm arguing is that we have plenty of data that the "smooth talkers" like Obama would NOT have acted as urgently and banned travel (because none of his peers did), nor would they have ramped tests as quickly becuase they would not have relied on the private sector the way Trump did. Remember, Trump + private sector got us to a million tests in month. Obama + CDC took 130 days to hit 1M tests.

Big, big difference.

Trump was not perfect in all this. But there's not a leader out there that would have delivered a more aggressive response. His contemporaries around the world failed in various ways that Trump did not as evidenced by body count.


YOu have been the most persistent misrepresenter of facts on this thread. Are you a bot?

So in fact there are only about a half dozen nations in Europe that have a higher per capita death rate from covid-19 than the US. Of those, only one currently has a higher rate of growth of such deaths, France, although UK might be about join it, and Sweden might also join it. Iran also has more deaths per capita, but rate of growth much lower, although data out of there is somewhat unreliable.

> YOu have been the most persistent misrepresenter of facts

Which facts do you feel have been misrepresented? I'll provide a cite

> So in fact there are only about a half dozen nations in Europe that have a higher per capita death rate from covid-19 than the US

In order, Spain (311 deaths/M), Italy, Belgium, France, Netherlands, Switzerland, UK, Luxembourg, Sweden, Ireland (43)...and then USA at 43.

That's closer to a full dozen.

Who is misrepresenting their facts?

Do you seriously think that the EU collective has outperformed the US? Cherry picking individual countries is kind of like cherry picking individual states. If the US takes NY/NJ out of the mix (5.5K deaths), then the US deaths almost cut in half, and we're better than every EU country. That's effectively what you are doing. Texas has had 6 deaths per million. Florida is at 14. California is at 11 deaths per million. Combined, those 3 states are nearly 100M. And their numbers are stellar on the world stage. Far better than any county of size in Europe.

Fair point about Obama and getting 1million tests with H1N1, though form what I can tell, it was a much less lethal virus and wasn't overwhelming hospital systems like this coronavirus has in several places (and likely more if countries weren't taking drastic steps, like implementing lockdowns, etc.). But you're right that his response there would probably predict his response with this current virus, and I would have been disappointed. (Indeed, I never voted for the guy.)

I do wonder if I'm harsher on Trump because of what I think is a terrible presentation style that to me reveals a high level of incompetence -- bombastic, ill-informed word salads focused on exaggerated credit claiming and antagonistic blame avoidance. He couldn't even do a national address from the Oval Office without misstating his own administration's policy response! (What? -- And no wonder a bunch of governors quickly implemented lockdowns after they saw that mess of a broadcast that probably sent a strong signal to them that the White House was in disarray and still kind of winging it.)

The China vs. US is somewhat irrelevant to my critiques of the Trump White House. I don't vote for China's leaders, but I'd definitely vote them out of office if I could.

But still, there were countries that started off with better responses, which (to me) means it's possible for the US to be better at this. And I think being able to competently address major crises like this is one of the primary arguments for government. And so, yes, I'm going to punish him for it because I think this is a much bigger issue than most of the things the federal government spends its time on. I want future leaders to have the incentive to think about the potentially big problems and to try to prepare for them, and that means punishing the current occupant in the White House.

> I want future leaders to have the incentive to think about the potentially big problems and to try to prepare for them

But our gov system doesn't reward anyone for planning for a 1-in-10 year event, let alone this pandemic which is probably a 1-in-100 event. Look how many places around the country learned this lesson in 2006 flu scare, but a few years later, all their planning had lapsed. NYC just auctioned off their last extra ventilators a few years ago because they got tired of paying GE Medical to service them every year. That was a $6M savings. At one point they "got" it, and then they decided it'd be better to run an "anti-bullying" campaign and that money needed to come from some place.

I hear you on Trump's speaking style. His repetitiveness drives me nuts. Obama was a soothing speaker but a lousy exec. Trump is a good exec, but a lousy speaker. Neither men know they are deficient in the other area.

next time
-don't assume a valid screening test will magically appear on time at the beginning of a pandemic
-look at all the bottlenecks in scaling up the test nationally
- don't underrate asymptomatic spread
-assume W.H.O./american media is politically coopted/corrupted
-track house intelligence committee stock sales

"one of the best advisors in recent memory in any administration"

At first I was triggered, then realized Tyler wasn't complimenting Navarro but throwing shade on everyone else.

Ouch. Sick Straussian burn by Tyler.

You make enough forecasts eventually one comes up right. You get credit for that and less scrutiny for the misses.

I thought he was being ironic. Seems pretty obvious Navorro selectively leaked part of a memo to make himself look good & try to start salvaging his reputation. Q is, why now? Is he on the outs & getting ready to be fired or quit? Or is his profile being burnished (maybe even by someone else) to try to ensure that the China Hawk wing of the GOP is still standing when this disaster is over? Find myself resorting to all of the old Kremlinology games we used to play in the late days of the Soviet union. God help us.

Those old Kremlinology games were a lot of fun, as long as you weren't living in the Soviet Union or its satellites.

Yes, TW's comment as well as Gary Leff's above make me re-think Tyler's post. Normally I'd consider such thinking to be paranoid conspiracy-theorizing, but these days one has to give this some consideration.

To the question "I have yet to hear what policy he should have enacted in January"?

Rebuilding America's depleted national stockpile of various medical supplies comes instantly to mind, and what is even more ironically amusing, he could have loudly proclaimed he was reversing another failed Obummer policy as he did it.

How would he have known about the stockpile?!?!

Do you think POTUS does supply inventory of the various agencies as part of his daily briefing and was like "OK, go ahead and buy those extra Fire Trucks for The Parks Services in Utah, but . . . Nah, let's save money and not buy and masks in case of a pandemic."

He is the only president to ever take serious the national security risk of having China so critical to our supply chain and has taken more action to decouple and bring strategic manufacturing back home. All while "Free Marketers" who love their slave labor and Environmental Arbitrage fight it at every turn.

"How would he have known about the stockpile?!?! "

You are right. Since he reads basically nothing, if he didn't see it on Hannity or Fox and Friends, he would have remained ignorant.

If one wants to find better organizations, just use how the prepared and have handled Covid-19. Which universities were the first to close and send their students home versus the universities who never anticipated that students returning from spring break with bring the disease back to campus.

Also, look at the states that were fastest to act versus the states where the governors are still trying to deny reality (Ohio versus Georgia).

No. The recipient of the memo was Trump, so the expected value was zero.

Off-topic, in "the growing case for undercounting" epistemic news -

"Dr. Christian Bommer and Professor Sebastian Vollmer from Göttingen University have used estimates of COVID-19 mortality and time until death from a recent study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases to test the quality of official case records. Their data shows that countries have only discovered on average about 6% of coronavirus infections and the true number of infected people worldwide may already have reached several tens of millions. Their study is available online. "

Insufficient and delayed testing may explain why some European countries, such as Italy and Spain, are experiencing much higher casualty numbers (relative to reported confirmed cases) than Germany, which has detected an estimated 15.6% of infections compared to only 3.5% in Italy or 1.7% in Spain. Detection rates are even lower in the United States (1.6%) and the United Kingdom (1.2%)—two countries that have received widespread criticism from public health experts for their delayed response to the pandemic.

Capturing a whole 1/6 pretty good work, Germany though doubtless that it has begun getting away from them is why their case:fatality has risen.

Don't we pay a lot of CIA and State Department "analysts" to keep an eye on China and assess the true threat level? Even if they just looked at ZeroHedge in January couldn't they see we were soon to be screwed?

My wife and I went to a wake back on Feb 5 and I was already telling her to knock off the usual huggy/kissy stuff there (as well as presciently appointing her Toilet Paper Czar for the looming crisis).

In horse racing lingo, by the way, a smugly self-serving "I told you so" is known as redboarding. In politics and journalism it's easy to give out winners after the race.

Tyler--what a ridiculous question to pose: should we not now all admit Navarro is, in expected value terms, one of the best advisors in recent memory in any administration? He may have predicted correctly the expected economic impact of the coronavirus. Please list which previous advisors would not have also made such a simple, straightforward prediction. All your previous criticisms remain. And even more so now when we need a global collective response to the disease and Narravo has been part of the initiative to undermine global alliances to solve collective worldwide challenges. In addition, how can you give Navarro credit for writing a memo but not having the standing and respect within the inner circle to actually change policy. I simply couldn't disagree more with your question.

There's this whole saying about a stopped clock being right twice a day...

I still want to know if Tyler thinks "Trump Derangement Syndrome" is a condition.

Before everyone lists what Trump has/hasn't done and asks whether Democrats would have done something differently, let's just accept we are where we are now. Moving forward, do we think DJT is going to be able to lead an appropriate federal response that actually minimizes lives lost, minimizes economic harm, and get the country anywhere close to the road to recovery?

I'll admit that I'm what most would consider a liberal Democrat and probably biased by stupid SJW principles. But DJT has now had several weeks of the majority of the country taking Covfefe-19 seriously, and I would say doing reasonably well to "flatten the curve" and buy him time. Did I miss it, but has he communicated any sort of short/medium/long-term plan?

How poorly do things have to go for moderates and conservatives to admit that he's just really bad at being president? Entertaining at times for sure, but doesn't anyone worry that his inability to run a functional executive branch is putting many lives at risk and harming the economy?

I'm at the point where I would accept a Pence/Cruz/Rubio/etc. administration over Biden if it would guarantee DJT is removed.

The dude has basically shoved Fauci off-screen to promote chloroquine.

Any true non-partisan knows how to interpret that. A madman winging it.

Well, we know there is an Obama Derangement Syndrome, and the top person with it is Trump. He has engaged in a long list of stupid actions for the sole reason to undo something Obama did. He got us out of the Iran nuclear deal. He dismantled or cut back the anti-pandemic teams Obama set up. In the middle of a pandemic he is still trying to get SCOTUS to end Obamacare. There is more, a lot more, not a single bit of it any good.

Even a blind pig occasionally finds an acorn. The last sentence is just too much to accept about Navarro. Could it be sarcasm?

Closing the border to Chinese travellers back in January is hugely overrated. Canada didn't close the border, and the outcome is much better than in USA.

In fact, if you look at BC, with a large Chinese population, and considerable travel to/from China in the timeframe, the situation is well in hand. What most people miss is that the level of concern about Covid, and any respiratory disease, is higher among Asians at all times than most others. Certainly, people coming into BC from China in January were on high alert, were wearing masks at all times, and were immediately self-isolating once symptoms started. That certainly gave a heads-up that something serious was up.

By far the largest source of infection in Canada is from people returning from the USA and from Iran.

“This is NOT a time for penny-pinching or horse trading on the Hill,” Mr. Navarro wrote in the second memo, which was unsigned but which officials attributed to him. It was unclear whether Mr. Trump saw the second memo, whose contents were first reported by Axios."

I agreed with this, but what was the point of the story? He wasn't a voice crying in the wilderness.

> He wasn't a voice crying in the wilderness.

Well on Jan 21 Fauci did say "“This is not a major threat to the people of the United States and this is not something that the citizens of the United States should be worried about right now"

So, if you are Trump, do you listen to your trade guy or your doctor that has worked on every pandemic in modern times? I'll agree that in private Faucci and Navarro might have been in agreement.

The crucial date for which defenders of Trump iike you, Phinton, have a problem with, is just past mid-February. Feb. 18 was the last time Fauci was expressing complacency (sort of). He shifted after that, about the time the stock market began to go down. But while it is clear Fauci was pushing action behind the scenes, with or without the the support of Navarro, by then Trump wanted nothing done except for there to be a lot of happy talk because...stock market! It was not until mid-March (Friday the 13th to be precise) that he got off blatant lying and stupidity, such as his Feb. 26 "15 cases going to zero."

That’s a rather sophomoric interpretation of events. What Action should he have taken In February? What were the correct words to say to the public?

We have the examples of every leader in Europe. Who did better? Why was it better?

> But while it is clear Fauci was pushing action behind the scenes, with or without the the support of Navarro

Was it? So, you ignore Trump's actions in January and February (closing borders, declaring emergencies, celebrating CDC's launch of first test kit on Feb 5, flaws and all) and ascribe ill motives to him. But you ignore Fauci's words and ascribe virtuous motives to him.

This is crazy. Navarro gets in a fight with Fauci over a drug that Navarro has no business pitching, and looks like a fool. Then, the next day, a story is leaked that Navarro warned early about the virus early on. (I wonder who leaked that story?) And, of course, the proof that he warned about the virus is an unsigned memo. So, either he wrote it and didn't have the guts to put his name on it (does that sound like Navarro?) Or, he didn't write it, but passed it on and wants credit now that he is under attack for mishandling distribution of medical supplies and promoting unproven therapies. But, everyone here is uncritically accepting this BS.

Not every commentor seems unaware of what is happening.

More on this that makes Navarro look pretty good. (But Steve's point above, although this article seems to corroborate the pro-Navarro version of events.)

For fuck's sake Tyler, your bar for "best adviser in recent memory in any administration" is cleared by being right one time, in a situation where dozens of other advisers were saying the same thing?

Unless you're trolling, in which case... that's just as bad!

Tyler feels a sense of ownership that is why he promotes Navarro. Look at what Tyler wrote about Navarro in August 2016. Tyler feels like he discovered Navarro so it enhances Tyler's own status to talk of Navarro's influence highly.

"and of course he wasn’t heeded". What does the "of course" here mean? It would be nice to have an explication.But barring this, one is left to ones own confirmation bias without the author having made his bias explicit. I have noticed this kind of sloppiness on the increase in Tyler's commentary. E.g., Trump's "incompetence". Fine,but tell me what you mean specifically. I have a brother who simply refers to T. as an asshole. He gets upset when I ask him what he means, as if I'm the asshole for not finding the term informative..

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