Ode on a Bruce Hall Link

This is a reprint of a post from 2020 entitled “The Worst Statistical Analysis I Have Seen This Year”, motivated by Mr. Bruce Hall‘s urging that we look at a Judith Curry link.

(And I have seen a lot of terrible analysis) [Update 8/14/2020: the author has taken down the post, but here is an archived 8/13/2020 version of the webpage]

Reader Bruce Hall recommends links to this article which asserts that 2020 is not anomalous in terms of deaths. In fact, it’s 20th out the last 21 years!

Now Ms. Colleen Huber, NMD*** comes to this conclusion thusly:

As of this writing, 32 weeks have elapsed in 2020.  However, for each previous year, 52 weeks have already elapsed.  How then can we compare deaths from all causes in 2020 to previous years?

I divided the total number of deaths for each year by the number of weeks.  That is 52 weeks for all years, except for 2020, in which 32 weeks have elapsed as of this past Saturday, August 8, 2020, which is the most recently updated week in the CDC data cited.  This gives us the average number of deaths per week for each of those years, and allows a meaningful comparison between 2020 and prior years.

She then generates the following table:

She concludes:

It seems that there is no pandemic in 2020 of COVID-19 or of anything else, at least not in the United States.

It’s great that Ms. Huber tells us there are 52 weeks in a year. She divides 2020 data by the 32 weeks that have elapsed and have been recorded by CDC (despite the fact that recent weeks are very incomplete in terms of reporting).

This would be a sensible approach — calculating a per/week fatality rate — if there were no seasonality in the data. However, deaths are seasonal in the US, as can easily discerned in the CDC data she was analyzing.

Figure 1: CDC data accessed 7 August 2020.

As we enter the latter part of the year, deaths typically rise (with flu, etc.). Hence, using 32 weeks for 2020, and all 52 weeks for previous years, will typically yield a nonsensical comparison. (There is a standard approach, used in many economics releases — year-to-date counts. I.e., Ms. Huber could’ve compared deaths in the first 32 weeks of each of the preceding 20 years against those in the first 32 weeks of this year.)

Once again, the most embarrasingly stupid data analysis I have seen this year (maybe this decade, although the competition is tough).

My investigation using CDC estimates of expected deaths, here.

*** “NMD” means “naturapathic medical doctor”


Addendum 9/26: I am ever grateful to Mr. Hall for providing this example of egregiously bad reasoning. I cite it each and every time I teach PA819 (ungated 2020 website). I am also grateful to Craig Eyermann (aka Ironman at PoliticalCalculations), Steven Kopits, and particularly CoRev for many other examples.

28 thoughts on “Ode on a Bruce Hall Link

  1. pgl

    Princeton Steve recently told us that JPMorgan was forecasting Brent to be $150/barrel. I noted at the time that this was probably not their probability weighted forecast but their worst case scenario. Take a look at this:


    Brent crude oil is expected to reach $100 (£82) per barrel in the next 12 months (up from an earlier forecast of $93 per barrel), according to Goldman Sachs Research. That’s because reduced supply from OPEC and rising demand are expected to more than offset an increase in oil supply coming from the US. OPEC will probably be able to keep Brent prices in a range of $80-$105 next year, Goldman Sachs head of oil research, Daan Struyven writes in the team’s report.

    Now Stevie fancies himself as some oil sector expert even if a few of us consider him the world’s worst consultant. So how on earth did he write his previous comment? Well I have never accused Stevie of having much integrity.

    1. Ivan

      Keeping it in the $80-105 range is almost perfectly at the target needed to rush the development of alternative energy sources. The good news is that when alternative energy has been build it will outcompete hydrocarbons at any price. So then oil will not get customers back even at $30. Brilliant plan Biden – competence matters.

      1. baffling

        $100 oil is exactly what is needed to improve the sales of electric vehicles. bring it on. Steven, careful what you wish for.

  2. pgl

    Thanks for reminding us of your previous post. As I have noted Bruce Hall’s mendacity has no bounds. But in the last few days, Brucie has been making a LOT of dishonest comments. I think I know why.

    It seems that JohnH has an enormous lead in the race for 2023 troll of the year as if Jonny boy was trying to keep up with the Atlanta Braves. Whereas Brucie was on par with say the NY Mets. So it dawned on Brucie that he has a lot of catching up to do. So expect even more dumb and dishonest comments from Bruce. Come on Brucie – it is going to be hard to catch JohnH but I’m cheering for you!

  3. pgl

    Funny how this works. A post goes up noting the mendacity from Dan Scavino and Lawrence Kudlow. This attracts more mendacity for our favorite rightwing trolls – JohnH and Bruce Hall. The latter’s gets so bad another post goes up mocking his jack boot nonsense.

    CLICK BAIT – Econned and Manfred rush in to defend Bruce. Their backing encourages Bruce to put up some of his most discredited trash from 3 years ago. A third post goes up showing how dumb and dishonest Bruce was back then and of course now.

    Now something tells me that this is not over. So pass the popcorn and let’s see our favorite trolls next moves.

  4. Econned

    Menzie Chinn,
    It’s quite rich of you to recycle a post of bad statistical analyses after your ‘analysis’ of “Almost Half a Century of the Economic Policy Uncertainty Index”. Your post would be a very nice example of what not to do for the fine students of PA819.

    1. pgl

      You suck at everything so it stands to reason that you are a terrible liar.

      Bruce tried to rehash a very dishonest POS from three years ago just recently. This lie is at the core of Brucie’s jack boot garbage which you tried to defense. Your defense BTW flopped. Then again everything you do flops.

      Dr. Chinn needed to remind us of that exchange from 3 years ago – just to remind everyone what a pathetic lying snake Bruce really is. And you defend Bruce? You are a pathetic little clown.

    2. Moses Herzog

      @ Stalker
      Is throwing rocks from the cheap seats at those on the field playing economics professionally really that therapeutic for you?? Or is this just a natural manifestation, after you got bored with bludgeoning your neighbors’ small pets when you were a small boy??

      1. Noneconomist

        Reminds me of the old Bob Uecker commercial with Bob sitting at the top of the baseball stadium yelling down at the umpire, “He missed the tag!” Econned, with little vision—and even less knowledge—is an equally clueless spectator.

        1. Econned

          How about you go read the post I’m referencing, along with the related comments, and come back with a substantive comment (although your moniker may be suggestive of your (in)ability to do so).

          1. Noneconomist

            Be happy to, Ec, when you write something substantive rather than constantly attempting to belittle Dr. Chin. Your schtick wore thin quite some time ago. Apparently an over inflated ego is suggestive of your inability to actually write anything of substance.

          2. pgl

            For once your pathetic trolling could you ever provide a ‘substantive comment’? NO – you are just an angry old clown.

          3. Econned

            So you didn’t go read the blog and comments yet you decided to still come here spouting nonsense… say you’re completely oblivious/ignorant without saying that you’re completely oblivious/ignorant. That’s quite the schtick you have going yourself. Keep it up and I’ll have to ignore you just like I do to the other Menzie fanboys who are unwilling/unable to comment with any substance. Unrequited attention isn’t a good look.

          4. Econned

            So you’re a still commenting with zero substance – either you didn’t read the comments or you did read the comments and realized Menzie’s analysis was trash. Good form.

            You, like so many others, are obviously concerned with gaining my attention. This is evident by your revealed preferences. But, due to your empty commentary directed towards me, I’ll no longer concern myself with your comments. Thanks for further lowering the number of commenters that I’ll read…. best of luck with whatever you do here.

          5. Noneconomist

            OK, NOW you’re ignoring me. Promise? (You can get help. OCD is treatable. Your narcissism? Not so much.)

          6. baffling

            this site probably mimics econned in real life. notice how he no longer will converse with anybody on the site? same thing in real life. a sad, lonely and jealous little man. his professional jealousy of prof. chinn is truly astounding. and leads to such an empty life.

        2. Moses Herzog

          You nailed it.

          You’re a man after my own heart. Many people thought David Letterman’s humor was “cruel”. What gave Letterman the “pass” for me was, he pretty much gave the “cruel” humor to people who had earned it, but Letterman also used a lot of self-deprecating humor. Uecker was also a pretty sharp guy, but also a master of the art-form of self-aimed humor. But I know I’m getting old now, because when you say stuff like that, my mind goes to guys like L.C. Greenwood, who was AWESOME in those old Miller Lite ads. Miller must have paid a pretty penny back in the day, ‘cuz they had a lot of iconic guys in those ads, I wanna say mid ’70s to roughly mid ’80s, some very iconic names. Sorry I bored you but you sure took me down a great section of memory lane there.

          1. baffling

            lc greenwood was also an awesome defensive lineman, who should be in the hall of fame. it is a travesty he is not.

    3. baffling

      and econned continues to pine after prof chinn. professional jealousy at its best. makes you wonder just how miserably econned failed in his academic pursuits to hold such a grudge against prof chinn.
      econned, I can save you a few thousand dollars therapy bills here. it is not prof. chinn’s fault that you failed to achieve academic success. it is your piss poor personality that held you back. there is not an economics department in the country that would desire to have you as a colleague. sad.

      1. pgl

        Econned has been ducking you for a long time. Don’t be insulted as he has been ducking me as well. Which is just as well as he is about as worthless as it gets.

        1. baffling

          econned was a failed academic who has decided to strike out against other academics in a jealous rage, because nobody in the profession takes him seriously. econned is about as professionally successful as dick striker.

          1. pgl

            wait – I thought striker had some success in the porn industry. Hey Econned – maybe you should do the same!

  5. pgl

    So who is Trump visiting in Detroit. Atrios looks beyond the reporters:


    Read the whole thing but this is the best part:


    ‘and it turns out Trump is going to Drake Enterprises, a non-union truck parts supplier. is this at the invitation of their management’

  6. pgl

    Team Trump lost another legal case:


    Donald Trump was found liable for fraud Tuesday in the New York attorney general’s sweeping case against his family real estate empire – a major setback for the former president. In a 35-page order, State Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron partially granted state AG Letitia James’ request to rule on her top fraud claim in the $250 million lawsuit.

    Engoron found Trump, his sons, Eric and Don Jr., and multiple Trump Organization entities liable on the chief claim, which alleges they lied about the value of company assets by hundreds of millions of dollars for a decade and repeatedly used the fake numbers in business transactions. Engoron also granted an AG request to impose sanctions on Trump, his co-defendants and their attorneys for repeatedly filing already-rejected legal arguments. The decision means the upcoming trial – previously estimated to run three months – will be dramatically shortened. Engoron is expected to hear final pretrial arguments on Wednesday.

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