Inspector Columbo has just one more question

So I’m just confused by one thing. Given that Covid is now exploding in rural states in the north central US, and given that doctors are often well liked in small towns, just why does Trump think this kind of headline (4 days before the election) will help him to win Iowa?

Trump Claims at Rally Doctors Lie About Virus Dead for Money

He’s not saying that one or two doctors lie, he’s says our high reported Covid fatality rate is due to doctors lying for money.

Paging Scott Adams.

This is awkward for me because I picked Trump to win, and he seems to be going out of his way to make me look like a fool for the second time in 4 years. I’m starting to give up ho . . . er, I mean fear.

Bloomberg has a good (but sad) story about how Covid is now ravaging rural Montana:

Covid-19’s sweep across rural America is forcing small regional hospitals and far-flung facilities like these, many with few doctors and no ventilators, to combat a virus that has stressed even the world’s biggest health-care systems.

In Hardin, the seat of the Connecticut-sized county, Mayor Joe Purcell doubles as head of nursing for a long-term care home. He’s worked all but two days since the end of July thanks to the triple burden of caring for Covid patients, enforcing lockdown regimes and a lack of staff.

“You kind of get a feeling of helplessness,” said Purcell, 54. “You’re just looking for that light at the end of the tunnel.”

I guess mayor Purcell doesn’t understand that it’s all a hoax.

As of July 7, Montana had a total of 23 deaths over 4 months. Today they had 27.

Oh, I have just one more question. Trump aides are now basically admitting that the preferred strategy is herd immunity, i.e. do nothing. Trump says a herd immunity policy would have resulted in 2 almost million deaths. So is Trump’s campaign platform now, “vote for me and I’ll deliver 2 million corpses”? (Yeah, the 2 million figure is excessive, and presumably they still want to protect nursing homes, but will voters pick up on these nuances? What’s his point?)

Oh, and just one more question (from commenter D.O.):

Republicans insist that the popular vote is meaningless and that the actual Election Day should and does occur on December 14, when 538 electors elector our next president.  So when Trump says he wants all votes counted on Election Day, he means precisely what?

Oh, and one more question. Republicans make a big issue about how Trump is tough on Iran. So how does Trump leaning on the Justice Department to go soft on Turkey for violating the Iran sanctions because Trump has valuable investments in Turkey actually help this policy?

OK, maybe that wasn’t the reason. Some claim Trump just likes authoritarian thugs like Erdogen more than he likes our democratic allies in Europe. So the European banks get hit with tougher sanctions.



26 Responses to “Inspector Columbo has just one more question”

  1. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    30. October 2020 at 21:56

    But the true election date according to EC is not 3 November, it is 14 December when the electrors would vote for the president. Should we just ignore all the hand wrangling about the importence of “election night” and say weight until 14 December?

    D.O.’s objection is not plausible at all. The date in December is a mere formality, but who is getting married is fixed long before, at the election day. What you guys want is a formal wedding day, but hey, the bride is not so important, we count back and forth until then, the ugly bride can change back and forth, who cares? Maybe you say this because both brides are so unattractive in the US right now, at least then it would make some sense, not much sense but some.

    Scott you like comparisons so much, maybe I am ignorant, entirely possible, but I don’t know of any other country that seriously accepts votes after election day. It’s not just about counting anymore, you guys want to seriously accept votes after election day.

    The US has become a realy chaotic country for voting. Probably the only Western country that is too incompetent to hold a sincere election. And that is because you are so partisan, both sides just partisan hacks. You have gone completely mad. This also means that you don’t have a plausible process anymore. But if you can’t even agree on the process anymore, then everything is lost.

    Just two little tips: When a disaster on a century scale breaks out, you usually postpone elections. The Democrats did not want this, with the argument, that it is not necessary, but now they want to accept votes way longer, with the same reasoning but flipped by 180 degrees: catastrophe of the century. It doesn’t make any sense, except if you are part of the partisan hackery called the USA.

    Secondly, the basis of every election is to strictly separate voting and counting. One must not start counting before all the votes have been submitted. The last votes are of course accepted only until election day, in Germany normally 6 pm. And AFTER that, the votes are counted. The US became a crazy clown country in this regard. As I said before, you don’t even follow the most basic rules of any election anymore.

    This is a disaster with a prior announcement. I really thought about selling all my shares again, but then I thought, oh come on this catastrophe is so obvious, they must have already priced it in. I suppose it’s like in mid February 2020 when the Covid-19 disaster became apparent and we all wondered why the stock markets didn’t react. Oh my god, I should have sold everything.

  2. Gravatar of Sam Sam
    30. October 2020 at 22:55

    I for one would be interested to see someone go through all 27 October deaths in Montana attributed to COVID and determine the following. First, were COVID complications (say secondary pneumonia or even just accidentally ingesting poison after losing sense of taste) the proximate cause of death. Second, for those cases in which this was not the case, what were the clinical and lab indications that confirmed the COVID diagnosis which justified classifying these as COVID deaths at all.

    In my mind there really is a question as to whether large numbers of deaths are being misattributed due to overly conservative PCR cycle thresholds. The institutional incentives clearly seem to favor classifying as many deaths as possible as COVID victims. Just checking all 27 Montana cases is obviously not going to definitively confirm or refute this hypothesis. But it does seem like it would be an informative datapoint.

  3. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    30. October 2020 at 23:05


    In Hamburg, Germany there was this forensic doctor, who was very skeptical at the beginning that there are so many Covid-19 deaths, so he urgently wanted to do autopsies, and find out the “real” cause of death. He suspected that all the old people often just died of something else. He made a really big splash in the media with these claims.

    A few weeks later, after about 50-70 autopsies, he gave in and said that all his investigated cases had died of Corona. Not just with Corona, but because of Corona. Every single one of them.

  4. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    31. October 2020 at 00:25

    There has been no transparency with respect to how COvid-19 deaths are counted. We do know however that in mid May heath officials in Colorado stated that after reexamining the Covid-19 deaths there, 24% were determined to have been incorrectly considered and so were revised downward by that percentage. A health official in Arizona said that she wanted to assure that all deaths were considered a Covid-19 death in that state if COvid-19 appeared anywhere on a death certificate. A Michigan health official said the same thing about counting Covid-19 deaths in that state.

    The chief government epidemiologist in Sweden, Anders Tegnell, said this summer that countries are counting Covid-19 deaths differently, which is obvious. Even Scotland was counting Covid-19 deaths differently from England and Wales and once those two used the more accurate method that Scotland was using, Covid-19 deaths fell 10% in the UK.

    The NY Times reported that Russian doctors said they were not considering death with Covid-19 as Covid-19 deaths, only death from Covid-19 and recently a health official in Singapore explained if a person died of a heart attack with Covid-19, it was not considered a Covid-19 deaths. Germany is counting Covid-19 deaths differently than the U.S. and Sweden, which Tegnall said was the most liberal in the world.

  5. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    31. October 2020 at 00:54

    That should be: “almost no transparency with respect to how Covid-19 deaths are counted.”

  6. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    31. October 2020 at 01:28

    Mr List wrote: “Just two little tips: When a disaster on a century scale breaks out, you usually postpone elections.”

    The pandemics in 1958 and 1968 were comparable to this year and few realized they were occurring at the time. During the 2017/2018 flu season 80,000 Americans died due to that and as Nobel laureate Michael Levitt has pointed out, if the same type of mass testing occurred then as this year, the number of flu deaths then would be comparable to Covid-19 deaths.

    A friend’s 95 year old mother was tested positive for Covid-19 two weeks ago after her wing of an assisted living center found seven cases, two who were sent to the hospital due to breathing problems. Everyone recovered including my friend’s mother who only had one symptom, fatigue. Had she died, it would have been listed as a Covid-19 death yet had flu affected her the same way and she died last year, it would have been counted as undetermined or natural causes but not a flu death since she didn’t have a cough let alone pneumonia.

  7. Gravatar of xu xu
    31. October 2020 at 04:17

    Several physicians have already admitted that their hospital boards request them to increase the number of Covid cases because of the stipend. So what he said is true. At least at some hospitals. Unless you think these physicians are lying. But I doubt it.

    It seems to me that these totalitarians like Sumner just cannot handle the simple truth. They want to propagate FEAR through COVID, because if they scare you enough you might be willing to let go of your freedoms! Same playbook Mao and Hitler used. They just keep Ignoring the 10K scientists (12K now) who signed the Great Barrington declaration, ignore the UN, keep lockdown going – issue unconstitutional mandates, weaken the economy, remove police to weaken communities, and then take over the country. The left is the fascist party! Its called the GREAT RESET.

    Even a cardinal has written a letter condemning these globalist, leftists, fascists. Who would have thought that the catholic church would have take a political position to warn the American people and the free world. That Cardinal is a hero.

    Such are the times we live.

  8. Gravatar of Ray Lopez Ray Lopez
    31. October 2020 at 04:21

    SS attributes to Trump things he has no control over. Analogy: it’s like criticizing Dr. Christian List for having bad bedside manners despite doing a competent job as a physician. Put simply: the President has control over nothing except some temporary foreign policy decisions. The nuclear football for example. Since Trump is erratic, I might vote Libertarian or Biden after all. I was disappointed by his “play nice with North Korea” talking point in the second debate. But objectively, as none other than Paul Krugman pointed out the other on a trade issue, and implied by Jack Nickelson, Trump has, despite his indiscrete Twitter tweets, played from a largely Republican playbook, except for the trade war. Nevertheless, I’ll be glad to see him limited to one term. He’s like a modern Andrew Jackson (who was much worse than Trump in fact, yet is constantly ranked as a great president).

  9. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    31. October 2020 at 05:29

    Colombo was a good TV series, and one of the few that got better over time (easier production schedule in later years, and I suspect bigger budgets).

    However, Colombo was not an “Inspector” but a “Detective” with the LAPD.

    Another pretty good detective series does star an inspector, and that is the Italian TV series “Inspector Montalbano,” on air since 1999 (!). The Italians produce just a couple episodes a year. Well, they are Italian.

    Montalbano is worth watching just for the scenes of southern Italy and to hear Italian. If you have tried to learn an Asian Pacific language…Italian seems so warm and expressive, accessible and easy to learn.

    In another life, I will try Italy.

    Yes, Trump is an ogre. Though….it is true there may be financial incentives in some circumstances to declare a death from C19, and not from obesity and smoking.

  10. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    31. October 2020 at 08:36

    Christian, No, the US does not allow people to vote after election day.

    Sam, I find these theories downplaying the huge Covid death toll to be really weird. All indications are that the official count is a huge undercount of actual Covid-19 deaths.

    Todd, You said:

    “The pandemics in 1958 and 1968 were comparable to this year”

    No they weren’t. In 1968 there were about 60,000 flu deaths; this one will be roughly 500,000–excess deaths are already at 330,000.

    Everyone, All these nutty conspiracy theories in this comment section are exactly what I’m puzzled about. How persuasive will these theories be in smaller Montana towns where people personally know the people who are dying, and personally know the doctors? What’s Trump’s strategy?

  11. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    31. October 2020 at 08:42

    Xu, It’s really weird to respond to this post with a claim that Trump’s claim is true. It’s not, but even if it were true it has no bearing on this post.

  12. Gravatar of Student Student
    31. October 2020 at 08:58

    He is flailing around like a fish trying to breath on the sand… he losing his shit (and he didn’t have much to begin with).

  13. Gravatar of Michael Sandifer Michael Sandifer
    31. October 2020 at 09:31

    Months ago, Never Trump Republican political strategist Mike Murphy predicted that the pandemic would have a bigger impact on rural areas around election time and thought it would be a drag on Trump. And Trump ran out of money weeks ago, so is being massively outspent in swing states leading up to the election, including the new swing states Texas, Georgia, and Iowa.

  14. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    31. October 2020 at 09:37

    “The pandemics in 1958 and 1968 were comparable to this year”

    Scott: “No they weren’t. In 1968 there were about 60,000 flu deaths; this one will be roughly 500,000–excess deaths are already at 330,000.”

    They are about the same if considering per capita deaths and the shift in demographics using the most recent estimates. If scaling to today’s U.S. population, there were 220,000 influenza deaths in 1958 and 160,000 in 1968. But in the previous two pandemics doctors were not counting those deaths as “cancer with influenza RNA” and “heart attack with influenza RNA” as they are today.

    What I’ve written has nothing to do with any conspiracy but on the public record. For example, the Wikipedia U.K. Covid-19 chart shows that on August 12 deaths decreased 11.1% with footnote X explaining it. In mid July, footnote IX states in part:

    “The way daily death figures are calculated is currently under review. Statement from HM Government: “The Secretary of State has today, 17 July, asked PHE to urgently review their estimation of daily death statistics.”

  15. Gravatar of D.O. D.O.
    31. October 2020 at 09:47

    Christian List, Wikipedia helpfully provides a list of elections for 2020, from which you can see that a lot of elections were conducted with pandemics around the world, including North Rhine-Westphalia local on 13 September. As for US, it is simply not possible to postpone federal elections. The dates are hard coded into the Constitution and changing it is all but impossible. Not reelected president is automatically out of office at noon on 20 January and it is a fun game every 4 years to guess who is the president for about 5 minutes between that very moment and the oath of office taken by the next (or the same, for that matter) person.

    As for irrelevancy of EC formalities, you are right and I hope you stay right. But it is not guaranteed. We have “faithless electors” in small numbers every election and when a close (in EC count) one comes, who knows what will happen.

  16. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    31. October 2020 at 12:34


    The commenters here are almost uniformly of the “take a selfie with the corpse and post it on Instagram” variety. Columbo was always going after a somewhat different variety of perp.

    The detective work on this blog harkens back to the “hard-boiled” detectives of the 20’s and 30’s, like Hammett’s “Continental Op,” who would just cause a lot of trouble and hope that when the shooting started the bad guys would either miss or just shoot each other.

    To perhaps further the parallel, in _Red Harvest_ the Continental Op famously drinks gin mixed with Laudnum, IIRC on purpose. Like SS on Tuesday night after his “prediction” comes true?

  17. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    31. October 2020 at 12:41

    Just to be on the safe side, maybe I should remind certain commenters here that gin mixed with Laudnum is NOT something Trump has recommended to prevent getting Covid-19.

  18. Gravatar of Todd Kreider Todd Kreider
    31. October 2020 at 12:54

    Scott also wrote: “this one will be roughly 500,000–excess deaths are already at 330,000”

    So far, about 90,000 of the excess deaths have been because of the lockdowns themselves, not the virus. These were due to increases in suicides and drug/alcohol deaths as well as people not going to the hospital for strokes, heart attacks and cancer therapies as well as cancer screening. There is no way to know future excess deaths.

  19. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    1. November 2020 at 05:42

    Todd Kreider is correct, assuming CDC is correct. They claim we have had almost 300K excess deaths, of which 100k are not related to Covid 19. We will have a more accurate count in about 2 years.

    Trump is going to lose, unfortunately. He knows he is losing—-he thought he was losing last time but he was okay with it——now he is not. I could be using magical thinking but I watched his Newtown PA rally and he looked like a guy who just saw his internal polls—-and saw the end was near.

    This should have been a layup. I do not think any of his Covid policies hurt him. But how he talked about Covid almost certainly did. The “doctor” accusation was insane—-even as we know that we have let hospitals increase the score, certainly in NYC and NJ. But it is irrelevant——

    The only secret voters are Democrats. Nate Silver was right last time (30-35% is essentially a toss up). He changed his model—-which added little value other than overstating the probability of a Biden win (I don’t believe “probability” is a real thing in something like a one time election——it is just a complex heuristic)—-but he will look better in his own mind.

    When he won last time it was surprising to me but not shocking. If he wins this time I will be shocked. Perhaps what shocks me today, is how irrelevant Biden is to the equation. I really cannot believe people want that party in power——but I obviously am no different than them.

    The turnout will favor Democrats as the lazy young can now mail in their ballots——I have no problem with mail in per se. I do have a problem with how it was jammed through this year without a uniform standard.

    The media keeps “promising” there will be “protests” of enormous magnitude if Trump wins or goes to court.

    I think is is more possible it will be aBiden landslide—-but if it is plausibly close we will be in courts for weeks, maybe months.

    Scott is generally depressed because he believes we are becoming a banana republic. I think he means that from both parties. I am generally depressed because I really do think we have possibly crossed the rubicon of generally believing “America sucks”.

    When you hate yourself, little good will come fromthat

  20. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    1. November 2020 at 10:21

    anon, You said:

    “Like SS on Tuesday night after his “prediction” comes true?”

    Aren’t you confusing me with those progressives on twitter? I don’t live and die on American political trends.

    Todd, You said:

    “These were due to increases in suicides”

    No, this has already been discredited. Most of the excess deaths are likely Covid-related. You really need to get out of your right-wing bubble and read some reliable sources.

  21. Gravatar of foosion foosion
    1. November 2020 at 14:40

    “So when Trump says he wants all votes counted on Election Day, he means precisely what?”

    He means counting should stop at any time he might be in the lead. He has said he plans to declare victory as soon as possible and rely on the Supreme Court to stop the counting and declare him the winner.

  22. Gravatar of foosion foosion
    1. November 2020 at 15:43

    He’s now denying earlier statement about declaring victory, but will look to the courts:

    President Trump denies he’ll declare victory early but says, “I don’t think it’s fair that we have to wait for a long period of time after the election…We’re going in the night of — as soon as the election is over — we’re going in with our lawyers.”

  23. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    1. November 2020 at 15:51

    Christian List, Wikipedia helpfully provides a list of elections for 2020


    We talk a bit past each other. The US media and pundits I read claimed that postponing the elections is a completely absurd idea by Trump. But in fact, it was a surprisingly normal thought by Trump standards and by any standard.

    The list of elections postponed in 2020 is at least as long as your list by the way.

    It is correct that there was this local election in North Rhine-Westphalia, but in September we had not much Covid-19 cases going on, so they just risked it.

    The local elections in March, in Hesse for example, were postponed. Also, currently a really important election of the largest party, the CDU, the party of Merkel, has been postponed. They need a new leader urgently but they say that they can’t risk an election because of Covid-19. They wanted to vote in March/April, but then they postponed to December, and now they postponed again.

    It is clear that, with the infection numbers that the US currently has, there would be no major elections in Germany, let alone any federal elections. Of course, the parties in Germany are not so ill-partisan, and they are able to agree on process and the course of action. That’s the actual problem the US has right now: everything is so partisan.

    Christian, No, the US does not allow people to vote after election day.


    This is your old familiar method of red herrings and straw men. I have not written what you imply. I have written that some states accept mail ballots even days after election day, namely 3, 5, 7, 9, 10 days. One extra crazy state even 17 days later, guess who the state is.

    There even seem to be states where you don’t even need postmarks anymore. Here are the rules of New Jersey, for example: “Ballots without postmarks will be accepted up to 2 days after Election Day.”

    In addition, in quite some states, the rules have been changed, even though the elections have been running already.

    Remember, the same people who said you can’t postpone the elections because of Covid-19, now say that you have to postpone the deadlines, and thus the final election, because of, you guessed it, Covid-19.

    The partisanship of the Democracts is, as always, mirrored, by the partisanship of the GOP: Postponing the elections yes, but deadlines no. It is a clown fest.

    And the reasoning of the states for these new rules were not Scott’s implication of a great GOP postal service conspiracy theory but Covid-19. The postal service itself says, however, that they work as usual.

    People with partisan glasses (or extreme TDS glasses) do not want to see the extreme problems that can arise from such a weird voting system.

    I agree with people like Mr. Cochrane who warned about this system weeks ago. The US needlessly creates more and more conditions that can lead to serious postelection problems.

    In addition to abandoning clear rules and a clear non-partisan process, there are now incentives for miscounts.

    If you already start counting but continue to accept votes, the process of further counting is no longer blind. Human beings are not neutral, which is why we need double-blind studies in medicine. A similar problem will also occur if you start counting like the US does, but still continue to accept votes. This is not even deliberate election fraud in most cases, it’s just bias, often even unconscious bias.

    In addition, however, there are now of course also increased incentives for deliberate election fraud, the economist in Scott should know all this but he is too partisan rigt now.

    In a blinded count (without listening to the intermediate results) the incentive to falsify votes is rather low, because you don’t know how many votes you actually have to falsify to flip an election. Of course, the situation changes completely when the counting process is stretched over days, because then the counters suddenly have clear indications how much votes they would need to flip.

    Not to mention the even bigger problem, mentioned above, the unintentional, unconscious, not-blinded counting bias.

    Like I said, if you can’t see these problems you really have to be extremely blind or extremely biased or both.

  24. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    2. November 2020 at 14:05

    “Aren’t you confusing me with those progressives on twitter? I don’t live and die on American political trends.”

    Just another lame, failed attempt at humor.

    Actually it’s *ME* that will be looking to drown my sorrows in a bottle on Tuesday night if Trump wins. I picked up a bottle of Kirkland Signature Gin With Laudnum the other day, just to be ready.

  25. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    2. November 2020 at 15:12

    Christian, I never said we had a good voting system, indeed I often compare the US to a banana republic. I simply said that you are not allowed to vote after election day.

    In the future, I have no problem with a rule that mail in ballots must be postmarked by 4 days before the election.

    anon, All year long, I’ve assumed that Trump will win. If Biden wins I’ll be pleasantly surprised, but I’ve already written off the US as a banana republic. So I’ve already gone through all the stages of mourning. A Biden wins doesn’t give us our virginity back.

  26. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    3. November 2020 at 03:04

    I never said we had a good voting system, indeed I often compare the US to a banana republic.


    okay, then let’s meet there. The information that you are not allowed to vote after election day just threw me off, because to my knowledge nobody here has claimed the opposite.

    As a long-time election results counter, I was concerned about the electoral system in the US, which no longer clearly separates the acceptance of votes from the actual counting.

    I have often experienced bias in practice, the intentional bias that some election counters simply cannot turn off, but of course even more so the unconscious bias that we probably all have.

    In my view, this problem is multiplied when the election counters suddenly learn intermediate results. The counting must be “blinded” as much as possible, then you usually cannot cheat in a meaningful way even if you want to.

    In the future, I have no problem with a rule that mail in ballots must be postmarked by 4 days before the election.

    Forget the postmarks, Scott. Any vote that has not arrived on election day by the time the last polling station closes should not be valid, because the vote counting has to start pretty much right after.

    That’s the way it is in Germany. Our mail can be quite late as well, so what, then you have to send it with a large enoug buffer.

    I personally love absentee ballots, I always vote by absentee ballot, I always throw the letter in a drop box in the very last minutes, one time I was even too late, but please, you need a clear deadline on election day.

    Everything else is a big mess, which will soon end in another crisis, and then confidence in the electoral system and democracy itself might suffer even more.

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