Home / General / The Foxes

The Foxes

Comments
/
/
/
1654 Views

I should start this post by saying that I couldn’t care one way or the other about the success of FiveThirtyEight. Nate Silver has done good work on both sports and elections, but that doesn’t mean that he is inherently better at reporting or shaping news than a lot of other people. I certainly don’t wish him bad luck because I want quality analysis to read. But it’s notable how strongly negative the response to the rollout of the new site has been. Krugman has perhaps the most important run-down, if for no other reason than that’s the type of writer to whom Silver is supposed to appeal. First, there was the ridiculous manifesto. Then there was the bizarre idea that one could somehow be objective about data and therefore non-ideological, an absurd claim. But whatever. A lot more problematic is the idea that all subjects are equally reported poorly and thus he needs to save the day by hiring people who can bring data to the problem. Silver has brought known climate skeptic Roger Pielke on board to write about climate. Pielke’s first article basically says that natural disasters aren’t increasing and not to worry about climate change caused disasters in any case because the world’s getting richer so we can clean them up. The final paragraph:

When you next hear someone tell you that worthy and useful efforts to mitigate climate change will lead to fewer natural disasters, remember these numbers and instead focus on what we can control. There is some good news to be found in the ever-mounting toll of disaster losses. As countries become richer, they are better able to deal with disasters — meaning more people are protected and fewer lose their lives. Increased property losses, it turns out, are a price worth paying.

A price worth paying for what precisely? And what are the limits of this price? This is the kind of data-centered reporting we were promised by Silver? Uh…. People who actually know climate data, i.e., the kind of data Silver is supposed to provide, are more than unhappy by Pielke’s article and worried about what FiveThirtyEight is going to bring to climate reporting. Given Silver’s prominence, these sorts of stories could do real damage to the battle to build support to fight climate change. Bad stuff.

Silver probably should understand that there are some fields where ridiculous fact-free bloviating dominates and some where it doesn’t. It exists in politics because of the need to fill 24 hours of cable content and generate website hits. It does in sports because sports don’t really matter that much. It does not in climate science–except from the kind of people Silver himself is hiring. If Silver wants to be serious about climate data, it’s there in a gigantic literature that pretty much all agrees on what’s happening. Allowing sketchy climate skeptics to present “data” to question the actual data is basically him becoming what he says he hates.

In the end, creating a website primarily to massage your own enormous ego may come with problems.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • Gwen

    One of these days I’m gonna have a might web empire just to massage my ego. And then we’ll see whose price is higher.

  • Gwen

    With that said, Paul Krugman has a point… you really need to try to understand and appreciate your data*. Part of why my March Madness model is so mediocre is because I don’t really know a lot about basketball.

    *Unless you are going to take a truly Big Data approach and literally test hundreds or thousands of possible variables, with thousands/millions/billions possible records, and see which one “sticks.” But I would not consider anything Silver is doing to be “Big Data.”

    • It’s not (Big Data, that is). Because data mining =/= statistical analysis, although they can certainly go hand-in-hand.

      • DrS

        Heh, and really they had better.

      • And you still need to know what you’re doing and where the data are coming from.

        Here’s a nice lil paper on the failure of Google flu trends.

    • Part of why my March Madness model is so mediocre is because I don’t really know a lot about basketball.

      Actually part of the problem with the whole data revolution in sports (although I will freely admit that I still prefer it in some ways to the old, vague forms of measuring various aspects of competition) is that the sample sizes are so small. And that includes the NCAA basketball tournament.

      People literally analyze the thing by saying stuff like “which 12 seed will upset a 5 seed?”, as if we have possibly had enough 68 team NCAA tournaments (or even 65 and 64 team ones) to smooth out the variance curve on that particular issue, and as if the judgments of a seeding committee are really a statistically significant, measurable event.

      Silver is really good, in general. Some of his stuff is excellent. But we live in an age where it’s really easy to generate interesting headlines with statistics, and really hard to generate statistically significant sample sizes. And that leads to a lot of numbers which are thrown around and seem more precise than they really are.

  • Ronan

    It’s much too ideological and conceptually idiotic. A much better idea would have been to encourage good reporters and quants to work with eachother, learn from eachother and to improve both groups set of skills and professional output. If Nate Silver wasnt just the quant mirror image of tom friedman that could have been the way to go.

    • ThrottleJockey

      Tom Friedman hasn’t said anything insightful in many years, man…Silver called out a lot of journalists and pundits in the election…

      • Ronan

        Friedman wrote a half decent book on the lebanese civil war though, and by all accounts was a good war reporter..id predict silver would end up where he has

        • Ronan

          that should be *will* end up where f-man has.

          I mean friedman was no fool, and was (apparently) pretty good at what he did (with certain biases in terms of middle east politics, but not the worst offender) He became a fool because he overextended himself, which silver has now done. Silver is good at what he does, but can he run a media enterprise like the one he is ? id doubt it.
          Its been years since ive read f-mans from beirut to jerusalem, and im too young to have known his reporting first hand. But thats my impression of his career anyway.

          • ThrottleJockey

            Well, yeah, only time will tell if Silver ends up being Friedman. Bijan makes a good point below about the difficulty of starting a complex organization. Hopefully he can handle it. I really like his book the Signal and the Noise. I’m certainly optimistic.

            There was a huge furor a few years ago over Obamacare reducing the number of mammograms it would cover. When I heard this story, I had a completely different appreciation for Silver.

            To take a canonical medical example, 1% of 40-year-old women have breast cancer: Bayes’s rule tells us how to factor in new information, such as a breast-cancer screening test. Studies of such tests reveal that 80% of women with breast cancer will get positive mammograms, and 9.6% of women without breast cancer will also get positive mammograms (so-called false positives). What is the probability that a woman who gets a positive mammogram will in fact have breast cancer? Most people, including many doctors, greatly overestimate the probability that the test will give an accurate diagnosis. The right answer is less than 8%.

            • Ronan

              dont get me wrong, i do like silver. im just worried he’ll begin to believe his own hype

            • Pseudonym

              That’s pretty elementary analysis (Bayes’ rule is literally Stats 101) that any competent medicine/science reporter should know and be able to convey. Perhaps that unreasonably assumes the existence of a competent medicine/science reporter though. It appears to me (and I have no supporting evidence for this) that the problem is market failure; there’s just not much demand for accurate medical/scientific reporting, or at least there’s no competitive advantage to reporting that’s accurate versus reporting that’s sensationalistic. That seems to be getting even more true with the rise of viral click-bait story promotion and propagation.

            • Bill Murray

              The breast cancer thing only gives half the data needed to actually decide whether fewer mammograms should be performed/paid for, although it is useful information concerning whether serious treatment should be begun immediately. Without knowing if the test results are independent when multiple tests are performed the given data is not particularly useful. If consecutive tests are independent, doing a second test for those testing positive, about 41% of the 2 positives will have cancer and 4% of the cancer sufferers will not have tested positive at least once. Also, it would be useful to know how other methods of testing for breast do

              • Pseudonym

                I’d think that a positive mammogram would be followed up with a different kind of test, such as a biopsy, that would have different statistics.

          • Mark

            This is why I ultimately think/hope that Ezra Klein’s endeavor will be stronger. Klein already has experience recruiting and managing strong talents, is more well-connected to the world of reporting, and ultimately has a much clearer vision for what his site will be. In retrospect, it’s pretty obvious that Silver’s site is lacking in really crucial areas.

        • Warren Terra

          Yeah, I liked that book when I read it as a kid, after Friedman wrote it twenty-five years ago.

          Frankly, given his Iraq columns, it’s not clear how much Friedman really knew or understood about the region, at least a decade or so later (yes, Lebanon isn’t Iraq – but the Shiite/Sunni divide is pretty important to both, and you can’t study Lebanese and Syrian history without picking up some Iraq history, because of Sykes-Picot and the Baath).

          I haven’t had the fortitude to go back and re-examine Friedman’s 1989 book with a more jaundiced eye.

          • Ronan

            i havent read it in a decade and agree his work over the past 10 years (the only time ive known him) would lead me to be very wary, but my impression is that its held up quite well

          • Manny Kant

            I think it is a mistake to think that Friedman’s terrible opinions on the Iraq War came as a result of him not knowing the difference between Shi’ites and Sunnis or never having heard of the Sykes-Picot Agreement or the Baath Party.

            I mean, Bernard Lewis clearly knows a hell of a lot about the Middle East and still managed to make an ass of himself rather regularly at that point in time. It’s a mistake to think that other people are wrong only because they’re ignorant. Hell, people can easily be wrong about things that you’re right about even if they know way *more* than you do.

            • witless chum

              Yup. Friedman’s problem seems like some combination of ideology and pandering. Wouldn’t venture a guess as to what ratio.

      • Manju

        It’s not Tom Friedman’s fault that cab drivers have been lacking insight of late.

        • DrS

          I blame Über and Lyft.

          • Manju

            I’m cornered. Where the hell is Patrick Swayze when you need him?

        • bluespapa

          Exactly! It’s like whatever the cab driver tells him forms his idea of the Arab “street,” and thus all his thinking about the geopolitical situation. That and his endless prediction of everything will be decided in the next six months, and we should throw our weight around or miss the last opportunity for whatever it is.

          I fear Nate Silver is destined to apply his rigorous statistical analysis to some handful of data and be a bloviator on economics, climate, criminal justice, etc. without seeing that he’s doing what Friedman does.

      • Barry

        The it was phrased (by Krugman?) was that in politics you have pollsters, social scientists and political scientist who know a lot and share their work on one side, and clueless hacks, wh*res and liars on the other side (most pundits). Nate was able to arbitrage the free, high-quality *analysis* the first group did, to make the second group look like what they are.

    • Tristan

      The thing is it’s an ideology with the chief tenant that it is absolutely not an ideology. He probably wouldn’t just disagree with you, he’d think you’d misunderstood what his goal is.

  • joe from Lowell

    I really liked Silver. I really liked Chuck Todd when he was just MSNBC’s election data analyst.

    Todd started sucking when he went from breaking down election data to talking about other things, too.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Without endorsing the comparison to Silver at this early stage, you’re 100% right about Todd.

  • MikeJake

    538 worked for politics because many people didn’t understand that all the polling data available is useful for making informed predictions, while campaign narratives and a pundit’s gut feelings are much less useful.

    It won’t work for climate science because the scientific consensus was arrived at by studying the data, and I’ll put stock in the consensus of scientists before I trust the analysis of any one journo, no matter how data driven they proclaim themselves to be.

    • Warren Terra

      Also: data-driven electoral essays are contrarian, which is good for narrative and boosts traffic.

      Data-driven climate essays amount to “Anthropogenic Climate Change: Still Happening, Still Horrifying”, which isn’t contrarian, as an narrative is depressing and dispiriting, and does little for traffic and so for ad sales.

      This together with the similar problems in several other fields represent a fundamental conflict between Silver’s dreams of a statistically driven news empire with great ad revenue, and Silver remaining the person we came to know and respect.

    • ThrottleJockey

      But 538 isn’t taking aim at the climate scientists, its taking aim at the journalists, some of whom have been known talk out their ass when it comes to global warming. About the time of the big tornado that hit Joplin, MO and the one that hit Moore, OK you could hear journos talking about global warming being behind it. But when you look at the data, you can see no relationship.

      The 538 piece made some key mistakes in mixing weather disasters and non-weather disasters, but the impulse to separate out the economics and the physics was a good one. We don’t need to show $$$s on the chart to show global warming. When journos do that–as they often do–that simply conflates issues.

      • The big problem with journos and the media is that they underplay the certainty, scientific consensus, and impacts of climate change and not that they overplay those factors.

        Yes some idiots overplay the connection, but Pielke Jr. focuses on this as a way to indicate it’s the real problem when it’s not. Hiring him does the opposite of providing light in the darkness.

      • Pseudonym

        So much of climate science skepticism is based on using the bad climate journalism to discredit the good science that I’m not sure there’s much of a difference in practice. Actual climate scientists are perfectly capable of criticizing bad journalism, as with scientists in any field, and there have to be scientists out there who are also able to write, or writers who are able to understand or communicate the science. But that’s not where 538 is going. They aren’t trying to report on the existing statistical analysis being done by scientists, they’re rolling their own, presuming it’s better than the experts just because political hacks are so innumerate.

      • CD

        Sure, but this is the problem Krugman and others have named. 538 has managed to be an order of magnitude smarter than, say, CNN. Which is still a very low bar.

        The result is superficiality mixed with condescension. 538’s standard article reduces to “bet you’re too stupid to have figured out [something obvious].”

        And Pielke is unforgivable. Silver doesn’t know how to screen out charlatans.

      • Confused

        On tornadoes, it’s even worse than you say, because now with modern radar we pick up basically all the tornadoes, whereas once you go back a few decades, you start missing out any of the tornadoes that weren’t near populated areas, especially the smaller ones, because they weren’t observed and recorded. You can verify this based on the fact that many of the (small) historic tornado recordings are highly correlated with the nearby presence of a highway; they’re where people noticed them, not just where they were.

  • Manny Kant

    I’m going to note that if Tolstoy was, as Isaiah Berlin argued, a fox who wished he was a hedgehog, then Nate Silver is a hedgehog who thinks he is a fox. The point of the distinction, in Berlin’s essay, at least, was that foxes, of whom Shakespeare is probably the most obvious example, don’t have any single guiding theme through their writing. Shakespeare writes about everything in the human experience, to the point where no one ever really talks about any overarching “Shakespearean world view.”

    A hedgehog, on the other hand, views everything in terms of a single overarching idea. The point isn’t that they only write about one thing, it’s that they view everything in terms of that one idea, so that we can recognize a common world view.

    How is that anything but a description of Silver’s fetishization of statistical analysis as the only way to look at all issues in the world, and as, indeed, a substitute for ideology rather than a tool for it?

    Also – Tom Friedman isn’t a hedgehog. He’s a simpleton.

    • Barry Freed

      Good point, well made.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Right, the “simpleton” is the variant of the hedgehog who just repeats the same dumb idea over and over. We could call this the “Kaus.”

      • Barry Freed

        We could call this the “Kaus.”

        +LOL

    • UserGoogol

      I think you can be both a simpleton and a hedgehog. Thomas Friedman quite clearly tends to view most issues through the prism of his particular conception of globalization. And I don’t think he’s just a hedgehog by default because he’s so stupid that he can only fit “one big idea” inside his puny brain: there are plenty of writers at a similar level of middlebrow psuedoprofundity who will jump from topic to topic making their dubious judgments without any overarching theme. (Or even being all that coherent.)

      • Hogan

        Thomas Friedman quite clearly tends to view most issues through the prism of his particular conception of globalization.

        The question is whether that conception of globalization counts as an “idea.” I don’t think it’s even a concept. Possibly a notion. More likely a mental twitch rooted in self-regard.

      • Ronan

        I think this unfair to hedgehogs. Literally. The little furry ones

        • Ron Jeremy

          What about me???

      • Manny Kant

        So Malcolm Gladwell would be the fox of middlebrow pseudoprofundity to Friedman’s hedgehog?

    • ThrottleJockey

      In reading Silver’s work I’ve actually come to think that rather than fetishize what statistics can tell us, Silver instead sees statistics used wrongly to tell us things it can’t.

      Journalists make all kinds of mistakes about statistics. A chill goes up my back when I hear them say “statistically significant”.

      My personal favorite is when I hear some journo breathlessly exclaim something like, “Being Texan increases your risk of choking on a BBQ rib by 250%!!!” …but never say that the risk of death by choking on said BBQ rib goes from .01% to .025%. Well, sure, the risk did go up by 250%…

      • Warren Terra

        I don’t know about ribs, but you could be wrong to disparagr wrong numbers like that. Take the COX-2 inhibitors Celebrex and Vioxx. They were taken off the market (one or both later returned with a warning label) because it was discovered they quadrupled the user’s risk of a heart attack … from 0.1% to 0.4% per year. This is an increase of only three per thousand, but the whole reason people had tried to create this class of drug was that, based on what was then known about non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), it was surmised that tens of millions of Americans would take a COX-2 inhibitor every day for the rest of their lives, and would thereby gain a better quality of life without the known long-term effects of taking NSAIDs. Given that situation, three in a thousand matters. Similarly, given 25 million Texans, something that kills one in ten thousand every year should not be ignored. Heck, it seems that drunk drivers only killed 16 people in Texas last year, a far smaller risk. Should we ignore drunk drivers?

        • Pseudonym

          I think the fact is relevant that there was evidence of scientific fraud behind the studies used to justify the approval of Vioxx. I’m pretty sure Celebrex is currently being sold, I assume with a warning label as you say.

        • ThrottleJockey

          I’m with you, you do see relative risk used a lot in epidemiological studies, but I as a reader want to know both the relative risk and the absolute risk. Life is often a trade off between calculated risks.

        • anomomouse

          The linked article appears to say that the 16 deaths were between December 28th and January 1st, which implies a far larger figure for the entire year.

          • Warren Terra

            Yes, I thought that seemed too low. That’s what I get for glancing at the article. Thank you for your more careful examination.

            Still: the correct number seems to be about 1,250 – or, one in 20,000 Texans.

      • bexley

        So has anyone sent some to Perry yet?

    • JRoth

      Ok, you just short-circuited my rant. My rant is that fox/hedgehog is the most worthless metaphor ever because A. Nobody knows/cares what those two animals are like*, and B. It’s not that interesting as a metaphor. In no way does referring to foxes and hedgehogs extend the discussion beyond using words like narrow and broad, or monomaniacs and polymaths (everybody who knows the Berlin discussion has no problem with such terms).

      But, unlike every other invocation of this metaphor I’ve ever read (I haven’t read Berlin; I know he’s the reason people use it), you actually get at what is semi-valuable in the fox/hedgehog distinction. Which isn’t that the fox “knows many things”: it’s that the fox is willing/able to see things for what they are, because he lacks any idee fixe.

      *that is, outside this metaphor no one has any thoughts whatsoever about the character of a hedgehog; you could use pretty much any animal in that place. If you walk up to a random German (who lives in a land with both creatures) and ask, Are you more like a fox or a hedgehog?, she’ll have literally no idea what you’re getting at. Prickly? Reddish? Omnivore?

      • Manny Kant

        There’s actually a good piece on Slate about the history of the concept.

        Anyway, I don’t think you can use another animal. The “one big thing” the hedgehog knows is that he can roll up into a spiny ball and not get eaten, whereas the fox, for all its cleverness, still frequently gets killed.

        Berlin’s original idea, at any rate, isn’t that the fox is necessarily more clear-sighted than the hedgehog, but just that they’re different ways of thinking about things. Here’s his original description:

        There is a line among the fragments of the Greek poet Archilochus which says: ‘The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing’. Scholars have differed about the correct interpretation of these dark words, which may mean no more than that the fox, for all his cunning, is defeated by the hedgehog’s one defense. But, taken figuratively, the words can be made to yield a sense in which they mark one of the deepest differences which divide writers and thinkers, and, it may be, human beings in general. For there exists a great chasm between those, on one side, who relate everything to a single central vision, one system less or more coherent or articulate, in terms of which they understand, think and feel-a single, universal, organizing principle in terms of which alone all that they are and say has significance-and, on the other side, those who pursue many ends, often unrelated and even contradictory, connected, if at all, only in some de facto way, for some psychological or physiological cause, related by no moral or aesthetic principle; these last lead lives, perform acts, and entertain ideas that are centrifugal rather than centripetal, their thought is scattered or diffused, moving on many levels, seizing upon the essence of a vast variety of experiences and objects for what they are in themselves, without consciously or unconsciously, seeking to fit them into, or exclude them from, any one unchanging, all-embracing, sometimes self-contradictory and incomplete, at times fanatical, unitary inner vision. The first kind of intellectual and artistic personality belongs to the hedgehogs, the second to the foxes; and without insisting on a rigid classification, we may, without too much fear of contradiction, say that, in this sense, Dante belongs to the first category, Shakespeare to the second; Plato, Lucretius, Pascal, Hegel, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Ibsen, Proust are, in varying degrees, hedgehogs; Herodotus, Aristotle, Montaigne, Erasmus, Molière, Goethe, Pushkin, Balzak, Joyce are foxes.

        Certainly it seems like a bad idea to me to treat Tom Friedman (or Nate Silver, for that matter) as exemplars of a type that Berlin originally identified with Dante, Dostoevsky, Proust, and so forth.

  • I’ve been somewhat weary about Silver since he said too much political reporting is about the horse race (very true!) and 538 was trying to change that- even though 538 was just a very sophisticated analysis of the horse race.

    I’m staying away from Silver’s and Klein’s new sites until there’s something that must be read.

    • shah8

      Same here. Not just with the climate skeptics, but there was another one of the standard unfair Venezuela articles you see all over the place–which wasn’t a good start for me to take them with any degree of seriousness.

      I don’t like Klein, and especially don’t like Dylan Mathews, so it depends on how much good stuff the others do.

      • I am really skeptical of Klein’s venture, which sounds like a combination of WonkBlog (OK) with #slatepitches (oh god no). Really, that could be a really awful thing. Hopefully I’m wrong.

        • Lee Rudolph

          Don’t be too hopeful, eh? Because I really think it is going to be an awful, awful thing.

          • Barry Freed

            I have a feeling that Yglesias is going to be the best thing about that site.

            • Tiny Hermaphrodite, Esq.

              Dude, that’s harsh.

              • Barry Freed

                That’s me being optimistic too.

                • Tiny Hermaphrodite, Esq.

                  I suppose I get what you mean, but Yggles tenure at Slate didn’t do him favors and him being the BEST about vox. Inconceiveable!

            • JRoth

              I agree with this. My initial take was that Ezra believes that simply revealing True Facts will somehow result in the good guys winning (that is, if you write a well-researched piece showing that food stamp abuse almost never happens, Republicans will cease to win votes by talking about food stamp abuse). And he might. But Yglesias’ great strength has always been using facts to utterly destroy GOP narratives (he heaps on the contempt in a way that only the truly elite can). Slate let him play with his tiresome Econ 101 crusades, but in a non-economic context, Ezra’s True Facts could empower him to lay down some serious smack.

              Or not. No idea what the idea behind Vox really is.

              • James Gary

                …But Yglesias’ great strength has always been using facts to utterly destroy GOP narratives…

                Maybe that was true at some point, although I can’t remember any specific examples. When I think of Yglesias these days I mostly think of his epic war on the practice of licensing barbers. When it comes to disemboweling GOP narratives, the blogosphere in 2014 has quite a few writers who can heap on the contempt: Krugman, Charlie Pierce, Fallows, etc. etc.

                • James Gary

                  …and, also, now that I think about it, the standout Yglesias post of 2013 was the half-assed libertarian pronouncement that the deaths of all those garment workers in Bangladesh were balanced out by the country’s overall progress, or something.

                • Warren Terra

                  Yglesias is generally credited with formulating the Green Lantern Theory, which would be a defining accomplishment for anyone.

                • Er…GLT is just a sorta ok, pretty nerdy formulation of a standard, in wide circulation critique of overwrought resolve accounts of IR extended to bully pulpitism in domestic.

                  The original post is terribly written. And it’s a cute piece of snark but if that’s your defining accomplishment….ouch.

      • CD

        You mean this one?

        It may not be fair, but can you point me to any other news article, anywhere, that goes through similar analytical steps?

      • ThrottleJockey

        You think they were unfair to Venezuela and/or Chavez…??? You might, maybe argue they focus too little attention the how the plight of the poor has improved, but then they were honest and very straightforward on the lens they were using. And I think its a pretty fair lens.

        • shah8

          The comparisons used were apples and oranges and not adjusted for such.

    • Joshua

      I don’t even know if 538 was a “very sophisticated” analysis of the horse race. Not to discount what Silver did, but he basically looked at the polls that other people were doing and aggregated them. He aggregated them in an intelligent, analytical way, but any of the major media outlets could have hired people to do the exact same thing. They don’t do it because horse races sell papers, but they could have.

      He wasn’t even the only person who did this – I was reading Electoral-Vote before I even heard of Nate Silver.

      • Manny Kant

        Silver is better at it than Real Clear Politics, which has a barely disguised Republican bias, but worse than the Huffington/Pollster.com thing which just averaged all the polls together and got better results than Silver.

        • slightly_peeved

          Sam Wang at Princeton is very, very good at it; simpler models with similar or better predictions.

          • Barry Freed

            Yes to this. Silver was very good at packaging this kind of thing for more mass consumption.

            • Crunchy Frog

              Silver on the original, 2008, 538 wrote good and readable narratives, generally of the right length, and posted roughly daily. Posting daily meant that he had to find something interesting to say each day, even when it meant inventing stuff for a non-news day. These are not common skills, and you can certainly see why the NYT recruited him to their web site. Once there he quickly became the go-to source among aggregates.

              Wang didn’t provide anything like Silver’s narratives. Postings were much less frequent and often spoke about quarrels among those analyzing the polls – the sort of “inside baseball” kind of topics that lose page views The fact that his model itself was clearly better, as were his explanations of why the model was better, were irrelevant to the NYT. Silver was clearly the much better choice as a blogger/occasional columnist.

              But knowing why Wang was better for his model helps understand why Silver is failing at his new venture. Silver knew, for example, the arguments that national polls provide no data not included in state polls, or that economic data is already packaged into the poll numbers, or that historical election poll data dating back to 1932 is irrelevant to modern elections except to the degree it influences the model. Silver knew those things, but still included them in his model for some internal motivation that is not exactly clear. But that motivation is affecting his judgments on data in all the new areas his staff is now surveying.

              • Manny Kant

                What originally got Silver attention was his modelling of the 2008 primaries, where he combined polls with demographic data to create startlingly accurate delegate predictions. This was actually interesting because what he realized was that previous primary results were just as useful as polls for figuring out what was going to happen.

                After that, he seems to have felt that all of his models should include lots of complicated stuff, even though it was much less justifiable.

          • tt

            How are you measuring “better predictions”? Predicting a presidential election the night before is easy unless it is extremely close. Predicting it 6 months in advance is harder. IIRC, Wang had absurdly high probabilities for Obama victory in the months before.

            • Ni

              Why do you think Wang’s predictions were absurd?

            • junker

              And? What about high probabilities makes them wrong?

              • tt

                You need to include the probability of relatively rare events; e.g. sudden economic downturn or scandal, or even something like a bad debate performance. Or even that your methodology is wrong. Wang did pretty poorly in his 2010 predictions.

                • Barry

                  Please note that ‘high probability’ does in fact include the possibility of rare events, so long as ‘high’ means ‘less than 100%’.

                • junker

                  That is Politico level bad grasp of probabilities you have there, as Barry said. Please,illuminate us. What was Obamas actual chance of being elected during the period you complain aboit? Please show your work.

                  Also, not sure what his 2010 performance on midterms has to say about this 2012 performance during the Presidential election.

                • tt

                  Please note that ‘high probability’ does in fact include the possibility of rare events, so long as ‘high’ means ‘less than 100%’.

                  The point is that if you have 99% Obama win 6 months out, that’s probably a bad prediction, because it assumes greater certainty than we actually have in predicting major game-changing events.

                • tt

                  . Please,illuminate us. What was Obamas actual chance of being elected during the period you complain aboit?

                  I don’t know. That was the point of my original question. It’s hard to judge who can make better long-term predictions until you have a lot of data points, which we don’t. But Silver’s numbers seem more reasonable to me, because they seem to contain more skepticism about our ability to predict the future, and I think that skepticism is justified.

                  Also, not sure what his 2010 performance on midterms has to say about this 2012 performance during the Presidential election.

                  It’s an example of his predictive methodology going wrong, which should increase your skepticism about how reliably both Wang in particular and science in general can predict.

                • Just to make it concrete for me, are you referring to predictions such as these? Or something else?

                • tt

                  Bijan, I’m not sure. 10-1 odds in early August doesn’t seem that crazy. Perhaps I’m remembering someone’s misinterpretation of Wang. It looks like Silver gave Obama a 70% chance at that point (http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2012/10/obama-continues-bounce-back), which is too close for me to try to distinguish them with my non-expert judgement.

                • Yeah, I was surprised by the 99%. Doesn’t mean it didn’t happen or was (or was not!) reasonable.

                  There’s a confidence interval there as well.

                  In a comment on that post, Wang has a small discussion about black Sean events and I think I agree that, generally, you don’t work them into the model. I mean, we don’t account for the possibility of a nuclear bomb being dropped when predicting the weather.

                  My impression from Wang’s comments is what other people said: Silver over complicated his model. That doesn’t mean it was crap by any means of course, though that gets more problematic when you extend to more areas and problems.

                • Lee Rudolph

                  Those Irish!

              • junker

                But what warrants that skepticism? When I refer to Politico, I’m saying that your response to that actual modeling here is “Well my gut says differently.” When George Will said his gut told him Romney would sweep, we made fun of that. When climate deniers say that we should pay more attention to the tiny chance that the climate consensus is wrong, is that inherently correct?

                If you have an actual critique of his modeling, say that. The notion that he’s obviously wrong because his predictions “feel too high” is silly.

                Also, it seems weird to tar someone with poor predictions about entirely different types of races.

                • tt

                  The right question isn’t “what warrants the skepticism.” Skepticism should be the starting point. As we acquire more data, we increase our confidence in our predictive ability. The right question is how much confidence does the data justify. And yes, there is an element of subjective judgement here (look up “subjective priors” if you want to learn more about the debate on this subject–it is not only climate denialists or Politico hacks who think they play an important role in science).

                  In my experience, overconfidence is vastly more common than underconfidence. One reason for this is that there are a lot of factors, known and unknown, which can affect the result but which are not modeled. And the 2010 predictions just serve as one example of this.

          • Manju

            I would (tentatively) recommend the Monkey Cage. (Tentatively, only b/c since they moved to Wapo and I haven’t quite thought it the same since…but haven’t been reading it daily either).

            But Krugman recently endorsed it as a must read and they r even on the blogroll here…just in case you think I’m trying to drag you to the dark side.

            As far as I can tell, almost all the Big Academics in this field (I call them Poly-Sci Quants) blog there…Larry Bartels, DW-Nominate Crew, Andrew Gelman).

            I guess this is why I never quite got into 538. I mean, why bother with Yiggy on Econ when you have easy access to the real thing: Krugman & Co?

      • ThrottleJockey

        Yeah, but Silver never paraded around like the Wizard of Oz saying he was doing something ‘magical’; he just did a good job discussing and packaging what he did.

      • Brien Jackson

        I was never really that impressed with what 538 was fundamentally doing. Aggregating a bunch of polls and figuring out what’s going to happen simply isn’t that hard provided that you both know what you’re doing and aren’t deliberately trying to convince yourself they aren’t that accurate. The only difference between Silver guessing which way every state would break and me doing it was that Silver concocted a big statistical model to run everything through and make it seem like really in depth analysis.

        • junker

          Actually, in this vein one problem Silver has is that in order to move beyond aggregation, he has overfit his models. His secret sauce is unique to 538 but also includes too much stuff.

          • Manny Kant

            Again, this was a result of the fact that combining polls with demographic patterns from earlier primaries worked really well in the 2008 primaries, and he wanted to do the same thing with the general election, even though there’s just fundamentally no analogy to the demographic data from earlier primaries.

  • shah8

    Public Intellectual Channel Stuffing has become an art form over the last couple of years. Oddly enough, I think it started as a counter-horizontal communications revolution (twitter, facebook, etc) response to OWS and Arab Spring. Elite factions seek out credible personas and groups, and have them go all herky jerk when the topic arrives onto something sensitive. Or they use thought-to-be-left groups to promote right wing ideas (Talk Left during the post-Zimmerman verdict debacle), that insane Oregon Initiative (btw, it’s been promoted for Michigan state university, too!), but in any case, a sustained attempt is made towards making certain conclusions about what is going on viral.

    It’s not really directed at people like us. It’s about isolating critical opinions from percolating through the body public, since the point is hacking joe-blow’s bullshit detector and directing it against any contrary information.

    • Pseudonym

      Who are people like us?

      • Lee Rudolph

        People who read and comment on (or, in some cases perhaps, merely comment on) left political blogs?

        Just a guess, mind you. Shah8 might have hacked all our webcams and thereby acquired Big Data to some other effect.

        • Manju

          I am us?

          As you are me and she is he and we are all together. I’m crying, I’m crying.

      • Warren Terra

        People Like Us is a brilliant radio and television mockumentary series from the BBC, starring Chris Langham. You can find some of it on YouTube.

        It’s also apparently a Kelly Clarkson song.

      • shah8

        You know, was it that hard to infer “people who read and comment on this blog”?

        • Pseudonym

          The question was about whether you had some particular conceptualization in mind of the sort of people who read and comment on this blog.

          • shah8

            No, since I think you have something in mind, you will need to add something to that question…

            why is the specification necessarily important? Where do you want to go with it?

    • I already knew you thought the Oregon tuition funding program was a corrupt machination of the banksters (for reasons that seem to extend no further than “I don’t understand this so there must be a devil in it”), but this takes the cake.

      You don’t think that TalkLeft’s coverage of the Zimmerman trial had anything to do with Jeralyn being a defense lawyer? What possible purpose would these shadowy “elites” have for using a low-profile liberal blog to defend some asshole who shot a kid?

      Devils everywhere, huh?

  • cpinva

    “A price worth paying for what whom precisely?”

    fixed that for ya. and let me explain. property destruction, resulting from both increasing numbers of catastrophic weather events, and the increased strength of those weather events, resulting from man-made climate change, results in a massive transfer of wealth, from those affected/their insurance companies, to those who get paid to repair the damage/replace the property. for those people, certainly it’s a “price worth paying for”, because they’re the ones being paid. for the rest of us, not so much.

    • Pseudonym

      I’m sure the U.S. is going to be funding lots of reconstruction projects in Bangladesh when extreme weather strikes.

      • Hogan

        If the people of Bangladesh have collectively decided not to insure their infrastructure, I’m sure it’s in their best interests.

  • jon

    538 was essentially a manner of regression to the mean, with some erudite adjustments to iron some distortion. It did excellent work. And it vastly outperformed the punditocracy, which far too often has been revealed as spin and talking out your ass. Regression to the mean should be a baseline frame of reference, so this tells you what the value of the punditocracy really is.

    But that doesn’t mean that raw number crunching on its own can get you to useful answers. And, as noted, acknowledged or not, everyone has a point of reference from which they start. The NSA is expending infinite money and effort (with substantial collateral damage), and essentially getting less useful results than what a small room of skilled analysts might achieve. “Figures lie, and liars figure’ is an old adage.

    Where Silver could provide a true public service, would be to continue to develop a transparent methodology where hard core number crunching was combined with rigorous analysis and discussion. Some questions have answers, and some trends can be identified and charted.

    • Joshua

      Well, I think that is what he is trying to do. The problem is that the number crunching isn’t very hard core, the analysis is superficial, and the discussion is banal. A perfect example is the article they ran earlier this week before the Yellen testimony – it was a bland run-down on the economy, and they didn’t even follow up after the testimony.

      Could it get better, of course. Will it? I wonder if Silver can do it without veering into, god forbid, “subjective” territory. It’s not that hard to use, say, time series analysis to closely match the movement of some piece of data, but it isn’t very interesting or insightful until you start making hypotheses and testing for conclusions – which is subjective business. As Krugman said, basically.

  • jkay

    I give alot of partial blame to Disney, ESPN’s new owner, whom of course’d profit best from the more infamous wrong they sell advertising for. And Silver’s also already done downhilll in his last association, having become willing to use bad data like Rasmussen. Bye, bye – I’ll miss you.

    I suspect Silver didn’t get how much ESPN has gone evil since his last sports association with them.

    Apparently, yes, a hedgehog is exactly what Silver is.

    • junker

      I was just about to post something about this. I wonder how much leeway Silver and company are really going to have when they have corporate masters to please in the form of ESPN and Disney.

      • Jordan

        It will be interesting. As long as they stay away from criticizing ESPN or ABC and their various personalities – and don’t endore candidates – I’d bet they get the same treatment as grantland does (i.e., pretty hands off).

        That said, the real test will be when 538 makes some strong political prediction right before a presidential election and it shows up on ESPN’s homepage.

        (also, unlike the NYT, ESPN actually bought 538. Silver can’t leave and take it with him anywhere else, whatever that means).

    • Pseudonym

      What’s “the more infamous wrong they sell advertising for”?

    • Breadbaker

      Disney has owned ESPN since 1996, when they acquired ABC. In internet time, that is forever.

  • Pielke is a mess but criticism of him lately has been somewhat lazy, mostly because he has been so terrible about demanding to be arbiter of all things climate. Being lazy about him plays to his strengths. Outside that, 538 seems to want to play the Freakonimics game. There is an audience for that I guess but the focus on supposed data driven counter-intuitives makes it into slatepitch with some numbers. The pieces are probably going to be halfway to listicle clickbait and that is what drives the internet. I just feel the desire to create content is driving their content rather the need for some of the content they are generating. It is kind of like a simulacrum of something interesting. And Pielke is just a sign of some self-delusion on Silver’s part about how a smart guy can just go into any new area that must have been filled with idiots previously. Sports writing and politics were that way but other things aren’t.

    • snarkout

      Read this piece on a classic Pielke boner and decide for yourself if he’s the appropriate choice for an organization dedicated to using quantitative techniques to illuminate the news.

    • Pseudonym

      The problem seems to me to be that the use of statistical data and analysis is being treated as a narrative and stylistic trick rather than a way of reaching correct conclusions. Pielke fits in perfectly because his pieces look like science and ape the quirks of scientific/academic writing but are just costumed contrarianism under a cloak of objectivity. There’s also the presumption that real experts in the relevant fields aren’t competent at analyzing numerical data, which as 538’s central conceit is ironically not a belief supported by the statistical evidence.

      • One needs only look to Wegman to see how broken that attitude can get.

      • I agree that it appears to be affectation on Silver’s part, but that is the brand he is marketing. Pielke is the classic type who would like to be the arbiter of decision making and the center of an endless conversation. He has argued that scientists should absolutely not be doing policy. Luckily, he happens to be Policy. Yet he is able to make pronouncements about science. Does this make him a scientist or is he merely Privileged Policy? Going way back, he has always inserted himself has the traffic cop of climate discussions, but to no end. I think Pielke is every kind of troll.

  • Adding, if Silver wanted someone to talk numbers and climate, he would have hired tamino from Open Mind, the idea being that a data statistician has amazing insight into how to understand complex, messy data. This is the opposite of the Platonic ideal of concern troll that is Pielke Jr. Even when Pielke is technically correct on something it is almost always in the service of obfuscation. The opposite of trying to use complex data to understand anything.

    • tamino is wonderful.

      There are lots of good people in the climate blogosphere ranging from (heaven forfend) climate scientists to computer programmers (Lambert) and all other sorts.

      To end up with Pielke just shows a shocking lack of judgement…something Klein had been exhibiting.

      I wonder if this folks just peter principled themselves. It’s much much harder to start up a complex organization with a supposedly de novo mission. It’s even harder when your contacts and community and experience and colleagues are actually much thinner than you understand.

      It’s not starting a blog or moving your blog into a big organization.

      (Aside from the weird writing fellow pick, Yglesias is a weird choice other than that they’re friends.)

      • Warren Terra

        Yglesias is a very sensible choice – they’re not only friends, they basically trained together at The American Prospect (if I recall, Yglesias was one of their first paid bloggers if not the first, Klein was their first paid writing/blogging fellow), and they share a general belief in the virtue of finding a shiny object, spending a couple of hours researching the subject on the internet, and writing a blog post about what you’ve learned thereby. Klein showed the value of a more sustained focus on a single subject with his health reform coverage, but the basic idea remains about the same, and the affectation of research-driven technocracy is about the same.

        Sure, Yglesias is a bit of a slob who typos constantly and talks smack, while Klein is a tightly controlled power-schmoozer. But at the root they share a a background and, I’d argue, a philosophy.

        • How is this different from “they’re friends”?

          What I mean by it being a weird choice is that Yglesias brings very little to the table other than himself. Yes, he has an audience but there’s little evidence that I’m aware of that he’s good at managing or leading a group or nurturing writers or stories. He pretty bad at explaining things and probably worse at figuring things out. Klein has a lot more experience with WonkBlog that makes it at least prima facie plausible that he could run a larger endeavor.

          Yglesias as an anchor writer at least plays to his history.

          Ah. It seems MY was in on it from the start though isn’t technically a founder. Interesting.

          • JRoth

            As I say above, I think what MY brings to the table is the ability to effectively take EK’s wonkery and turn it into effective polemics. Assuming Klein doesn’t have an outdated, idiotic notion about Vox being a View from Nowhere kind of operation, Yglesias is a real asset.

            To extend a bit: what Yglesias is good at is taking a claim, looking at the relevant data, and assessing whether the data backs it up. Most important, he doesn’t think that merely presenting the data settles the issue: once he establishes that the data show that Claim X is bullshit, he spends a couple pithy paragraphs talking about how Claimant X is full of shit, and perhaps why he’s not worth listening to. It’s that last step that actually has an impact. Facts on their own don’t win any arguments.

            • As I say above, I think what MY brings to the table is the ability to effectively take EK’s wonkery and turn it into effective polemics.

              To extend a bit: what Yglesias is good at is taking a claim, looking at the relevant data, and assessing whether the data backs it up.

              Neither if these are my experience of MY. I was going to say esp the latter but then I choked because the first seems so false.

              AFAICT, MY has had no substantive impact on any debate. Klein was a major player in the ACA. So, how effective are MY’s polemics? (I mean Krugman and Atrios both seem to be far more effective and Atrios publishes very little.)

              What I’ve seen of his ability to assess and relate evidence, well, it was shockingly poor (ie on value add assessment of teachers).

              I’d love to see some examples of what you had in mind.

              • I wouldn’t go so far to trust Ezra on anything- even his health care “wheelhouse” which is probably better now. Revisit a Bush II health plan many years ago, and Klein’s first take was that it sounded good, and then people that actually know stuff chimed in and it was clearly a disaster. I think Klein does know some things, but his ability to write the words “Paul Ryan is smart” indicates that his judgement is likely to be flawed or at least squishy in ways that people with real life policy experience probably wouldn’t be. Ugh/

                • Warren Terra

                  I think you’re confusing Klein’s careerism (which I’d take to be his greatest problem) with his judgment. Thus: Klein said nice things about Ryan because Klein thinks its his job to say nice things about the Republicans – not necessarily because Klein ever believed those nice things.

                • Yes. I think his biggest problem is his judgement (cf my first comment in this thread). Which is one reason this venture itself is I’ll judged. He needs a mentor to strong stable of colleagues. What he seems to have is minions and MY.

                • But, WT, this means he can’t be trusted to inform. At what point does the careerism have to wag the entire dog? Kind of like Mother Night– what point is intelligence that is so secret you can’t ever use it?

                  Regarding the recent contretemps of Klein’s dumbo hire of Ambrosino, I wrote this to some correspondents:

                  http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/ezra-klein-brandon-ambrosino-vox

                  Parse this.

                  “I have read his writing extensively”
                  “He is a talented writer”
                  “His writing is pointed and personal” (unstated: about teh g4y)
                  “Much of his writing is not appropriate for Vox”
                  “He will not be covering LGBT for Vox”
                  “Please meet our new sports writer, an old cheez-it stuffed in an airplane seat. We have also hired a hot pocket for PR. My salary is several hundred thousand dollars. Here is a Dylan Matthews glossy head shot.”

                  What is the point of anything?

            • Except when MY himself is Claimant X, and hundreds of commenters pithily explain to him why this is so.

            • Barry

              “To extend a bit: what Yglesias is good at is taking a claim, looking at the relevant data, and assessing whether the data backs it up. ”

              Start with his Bangladesh pile of steaming fertilizer. He didn’t know anything of what actually happened, and just slapped an Econ 101 Mankiw lecture onto it.

          • Klein strikes me as untrustworthy and careerist, and Yglesias is careerist in relation that there seems to be nothing that he can be wrong about that will affect his career. I have less and less nice to say about either of them. I admire my restraint on this!

            • I agree with your take on Yglesias: he’ll probably never do anything noteworthy but his career is secure.

              I’m more charitable toward Klein: he did better things and struggled more (cf his Ryan interview and retraction and, conversely, his Lieberman slam and retraction). Klein has ambitions and this has had both good and bad effects.

              • I can’t find the Ryan retraction so the record looks much worse.

              • I think they are aiming for being the Not Politico Politico with hideous eyeware and the occasional bow tie to signal intelligence to the rubes. When I read Nate Silver’s pretense about being unbiased, I actually thought about Klein and Yglesias’s hippie-distancing. It is all the same. To be considered for media relevance meaningless objectivity must be affected, or worse attacking some hippie sacred cows, like Yglesias with unions or his pro-Walmart shtick or whatever he is on about in between his repacking obvious truths as new found wonk wisdom.

                When Bob Somerby pops a vein about wtf experience Dylan Matthews has, my goodness does he ever have a point. I just think in all their minds they are Max from Rushmore. This is not a good thing.

                Oh crap, where did my restraint go??? I blame BP.

        • Pseudonym

          The biggest problem with Vox, and please tell me I’m not alone in this, is that every time the name appears it makes me think of Vox Day.

          • Barry

            You’re not alone; you stand in a group of – well dozens, or several.

      • Barry

        “I wonder if this folks just peter principled themselves. It’s much much harder to start up a complex organization with a supposedly de novo mission. It’s even harder when your contacts and community and experience and colleagues are actually much thinner than you understand. ”

        No, because the fact that Pielke is a paid professional BS who has been proven wrong many, many times is not a secret. It’s like hiring Orly Taitz as a lawyer.

        • Eh. I agree in some sense. Silver seems quite bad on climate change.

          But this is part of what I mean by him peter principling himself. It looks to me like he wrote his crappy book chapter and then decided to double down with the most respectable of the deniers (or denial-flirters). This is a superbad move which should have gotten push back before it was made.

          • And UGH, Silver jumps the shark:

            We’re a new organization and we’re learning as we go. A lot of the criticism we’ve taken is valid and important and it will help us to get better.
            But I’d stand behind what I said on Twitter, which is that Krugman is making a strawman caricature of FiveThirtyEight that doesn’t at all match what we’re doing on the site.

            And why?

            I haven’t been surprised by Krugman’s criticism because I’ve fired some shots at the New York Times editorial page, of which he’s a member. Krugman was full of praise for FiveThirtyEight while it was part of The New York Times.

            HOLY FUCKING HELL.

            In short, I think this was a piece Paul wrote with his pundit hat on — it wasn’t making an attempt to be fair. But we’re making plenty of mistakes and I’m happy to forgive one of his.

            This is classless, tasteless, *and* wrong.

            • I saw that today and thought about you, BP. Paraphrasing what I wrote in an email about that quote:

              Yeah, and his idea that Krugman might be mad bro because Silver has taken shots at the NYTimes Ed page is beyond Jonah G rhetorically juvenile. KRUGMAN takes shots a the ed page all the time because, you know, it features BOBO, DOUCHEHAT, MoDo, and SUCK ON THIS. Silver suggesting that Krugman is defending the queenly honor of the ed page is moronic. Define fair, Nate! Krugman should do some data-driven analysis of his opinion about your website? What other hat is there? I put myself in an fMRI and quantitated the brain areas stimulated by reading 538?

              Krugman was describing exactly what they were doing- more he was responding to what Nate SAID they were doing! Let me do some PR for Silver:

              “We’ll bring Paul around on the site- we hope you give it a chance and you can see us convince him that he is wrong. Decide for yourself- we’ll be rolling out some new features and pieces in the coming months”

              That was not hard.

  • Pseudonym

    Do our esteemed hosts here at LGM qualify more as foxes or as hedgehogs? I think that, aside from the dead horse beating, one of the reasons this place is valuable is the level of professional expertise the bloggers have in their areas of study, along with their ability to communicate that expertise to non-experts. It’s not the kind of statistics-driven narrative that 538 is aiming for, but they are able to recognize and promote that analysis when it’s valuable. 538 risks turning into a series of #slatepitch topics padded out to article length with this one weird trick of some R/Python graphs thrown in. Is that the best we can expect in our age of click-bait journamalism? Is there really a market opportunity for better quality, more accurate reporting and analysis, or is that niche already being satisfied by admittedly ideological outlets? Where else do you, kind reader, go for news and view?

    • How is dead horse blogging not related to my professional expertise?

      • Barry

        Let’s see – disgusting, stinking, bloated,…..

        • Barry

          I forgot ‘fetid’ :)

      • Lee Rudolph

        I believe Pseudonym aimed to distinguish “areas of study” in which the bloggers proper have a high “level of professional expertise” from the “dead horse beating” in which their professional expertise is matched, if not surpassed, by the amateur—but far from dilettantish!—expertise that many of the blog commenters (i.e., bloggers improper) display.

        • Yes, but I am an environmental historian. Quite literally, dead horses is part of my professional expertise.

  • Confused

    There is something specifically wrong with the data that Pielke uses for much of his research. It comes from EM-DAT, the database from the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. This is indeed the best database out there on historic disasters… but when it comes to estimates of damage, it is missing huge amounts of data, especially for developing countries, and especially for droughts, because no reliable estimates exist. And it isn’t just for the small events, there is no drought damage estimate for almost any of the biggest droughts in Africa over the last few decades.

    So Pielke takes the aggregate costs from historic data which is missing values (and without any process for adjusting these, he just takes the aggregates) and then projects it forward, and says “look, disasters aren’t so bad, because historic damages weren’t so high”). Surprise, surprise. If you’re missing damage for half the droughts, there’s no big mystery why you don’t think that droughts are a big problem.

    This is part of why his work is so out of sync with the actual climatologists, that do research based on the climate data and not the economic data.

  • Martin

    Erik’s standard of “bizarreness” is apparently not the same as my standard.

    • So you believe in the objectivity of data? Would you care to defend that point?

  • Pingback: Of foxes and hedgehogs: experts on expertise | Solving for Pattern()

  • Pingback: "Data" the buzzword vs. data the actual thing | roleis.com()

It is main inner container footer text