1. It's bizarre to argue, as Matt Taibbi does in this piece, that people writing about Merck's new Covid drug shouldn't bother mentioning that it's not a substitute for vaccination, and that doing so is a sign you're a "vaccine neurotic."
taibbi.substack.com/p/the-cult-of-…
2. Lots of ppl saw the news about Merck's drug and said, "Vaxxes aren't necessary now." (Some of them said this to me.) If you're a writer, and you know some of your readers are going to draw the wrong conclusion from your story, you have to do what you can to ensure they don't.
3. This isn't about a political debate - it's about reality. A drug that prevents 50% of Covid deaths in ppl who are already sick is objectively not a substitute for a vaccine that prevents 90+% of Covid deaths. And any reporter should make that clear.
4. Taibbi argues that it's pointless for "vaccine neurotics" to bother with caveats, because anyone who's going to listen to them on this issue is already vaccinated. But this is far too black-and-white a picture of who the unvaxxed are, and how they're influenced by the news.
5. A significant minority of the population is made up of hardcore antivaxxers. But a lot of the unvaxxed are people who are taking a wait-and-see approach. If the Merck drug data is presented without context, these ppl might well mistakenly think it makes the vax superfluous.
6. When you write journalism, especially about complex subjects, you have to think about your readers and how they might (mis)interpret your text. Paying attention to that isn't a sign of a neurotic. It's a sign of a serious person.

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More from @JamesSurowiecki

12 Oct
Lamar Jackson went 37-for-43 for 442 yards, 4 TDs and 0 INTs, and one fumble last night.

Mac Jones went 23-for-30 for 231 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT.

Lamar Jackson's Total QBR for the game was 67.4.

Mac Jones' was 66.3, just one point lower.

What a stat.
Of course, Jackson's performance, which you might have thought was one of the great performances by an NFL QB in recent memory, was far outshone, according to Total QBR, by Ryan Tannehill's 14-for-22 for 197 yards, which earned him a QBR of 74.3.
Once you start relying so heavily on EPA, you're essentially allowing luck to play a much bigger role in your overall evaluation of a QB's performance than it should.
Read 4 tweets
28 Sep
One problem with Total QBR as a stat is that it's a black-box stat. There's no way for a human to calculate it on their own, and no way for a human to know whether the computer's division of credit for EPA makes sense.
The value of Total QBR is that it recognizes that QB play is not independent of the work teammates do. (I'm less convinced its heavy emphasis on context makes sense, downweighting for garbage time aside, but whatever.) The price of this, though, is its black-boxness.
Dak Prescott went 21/26 for 238 yards with 3 TDs and 0 INTs last night. He had a QBR of 37.8.

Jameis Winston was 13/21 for 128 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INTs. QBR of 68.5.

Dak also lost a fumble and had 1 more sack. But I don't think anyone thinks Winston played almost 2x better.
Read 4 tweets
26 Sep
Kyrie will not be able to play in any home games for the Nets if he isn't vaxxed. That may not be a dealbreaker during the regular season. But the idea that the Nets would pay him a full salary while knowing he's going to miss 4 of 7 games every playoff round is absurd.
The Rolling Stone piece surprisingly doesn't say if players who can't play home games because they are unvaccinated will get paid for those games. (The stories about Wiggins have been similarly opaque.) Obviously they shouldn't get paid, but not clear if the CBA allows this.
Just yesterday I was wondering why ESPN's player rankings would have Devin Booker five places above Kyrie, who is objectively a far better player than Booker. The RS story provides the answer: Kyrie is a complete flake whom you cannot count on to even show up.
Read 4 tweets
25 Sep
1. It's very strange to argue that the most important thing we need to do is "to reduce the spread of the coronavirus," but then focus only on how boosters affect the vaccines' effectiveness against severe illness and death, rather than against infection. nytimes.com/2021/09/24/opi…
2. It's true that the mRNA vaccines continue to offer excellent protection against severe illness for everyone, and particularly for ppl. 18-60. But no one doubts that vaccine effectiveness against infection is, while still good, much lower against Delta than vs earlier variants.
3. Similarly, no one seriously doubts that a booster shot for adults <60, even if it has no impact on VE vs severe illness (because it's already so high) will enhance effectiveness vs. infection, reducing the incidence of breakthrough infections and therefore community spread.
Read 4 tweets
25 Sep
Canadian study that found an absurdly high myocarditis rate of 1 in 1000 among ppl getting mRNA vaccines was completely wrong, because study authors reported that 32,000 doses had been given, when in fact 800,000 had. They were only off by 25fold.
Seems not to have been deliberate misrepresentation, and the authors have withdrawn the paper. But it’s totally weird that they didn’t realize that their count of doses administered over two months was ridiculously low.
I fully expect the antivaxxers who cited this study as evidence of the vaccines’ supposed risks to say…exactly nothing now that the study has been shown to be worthless.
Read 4 tweets
24 Sep
This is an infuriating thread about federal agents stealing money from American citizens - without any court approval - under the guise of "asset forfeiture." Just grotesque.
It is completely legal to carry as much cash as you want when flying within the US. But federal agents are able to seize that money, on the basis of nothing more than vague suspicion, and then *you* are required to prove that the money is legally yours in order to get it back.
You're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty. But in civil asset forfeiture, your money is effectively guilty until you prove it's innocent. Complete travesty.
Read 4 tweets

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