The Only Things We Have to Fear are Statistics

A person’s odds of dying from an accidental opioid overdose are greater than dying in a motor vehicle crash.

Years ago, I posted a few items about what I called “fear junkies” — the apparent addiction to panic that so many people have — and that gets stoked by weather and news purveyors.

After going through a few politically-motivated panic attacks since then, I understand the fear people have. However, I’ve not given up my belief that, statistically, Americans often misdirect our fear. We obsess over things which are statically remote while growing numb to things (and certain politicians) that we should actually panic over.

For example, according to a new study by the National Safety Council’,” (via: NYTimes.com) a person’s odds of dying from an accidental opioid overdose are greater than dying in a motor vehicle crash. Here’s a quote from the study’s findings.

Fear is natural and healthy. It can help us respond to danger more quickly or avoid a dangerous situation altogether. It can also cause us to worry about the wrong things, especially when it comes to estimating our level of risk. If we overestimate our risk in one area, it can lead to anxiety and interfere with carrying out our normal daily routine. Ironically, it also leads us to underestimate real risks that can injure or kill us. It can be difficult to accurately assess the biggest risks we face. Plane crashes, being struck by lightning or being attacked by a dog are common fears, but what about falls, the danger inside of a bottle of pills, or your drive to work? Knowing the odds is the first step in beating them.

A chart (below) from the National Safety Councils website provides a listing of lifetime odds of death for selected causes. I found it fascinating, but not surprising, that many things deserving more fear are accepted as normal while things that rarely happen get most of the airtime of local news each night.

Heart disease and cancer and lower respiratory disease (all with connections to smoking) are the top causes of deaths. (Death from riding a bicycle is 1 in 1,747.)

The one thing for certain, no matter how precisely we understand the statistics of death, there is only one thing we can be 100% sure of about death: we’re all going to experience it one day…unless we travel on passenger trains.

 

Lifetime odds of death for selected causes, United States, 2017
Cause of DeathOdds of Dying
Heart Disease1 in 6
Cancer1 in 7
Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease1 in 27
Suicide1 in 88
Opioid overdose1 in 96
Motor Vehicle Crash1 in 103
Fall1 in 114
Gun Assault1 in 285
Pedestrian Incident1 in 556
Motorcyclist1 in 858
Drowning1 in 1,117
Fire or Smoke1 in 1,474
Choking on Food1 in 2,696
Bicyclist1 in 4,047
Accidental Gun Discharge1 in 8,527
Sunstroke1 in 8,912
Electrocution, Radiation, Extreme Temperatures and Pressure1 in 15,638
Sharp objects1 in 28,000
Cataclysmic Storm1 in 31,394
Hot surfaces and substances1 in 46,045
Hornet, wasp and bee stings1 in 46,562
Dog attack1 in 115,111
Passenger on an airplane1 in 188,364
Lightning1 in 218,106
Railway passenger1 in 243,765

See data details

Interesting Pew Survey (2016 vs 2018)

Interesting data for political stats wonks.


(Update: Also see, “How Broad and How Happy Is the Trump Coalition?” Nate Cohn’s article mentioned below.)


Here are some fascinating Pew Research survey findings in the run-up to the “mid-year” 2018 election and backward look at 2016.

Why is it interesting?

The 2018 findings are from a tracking poll of the same individuals who participated in the 2016 Pew American Trends Panel. In other words, the same people who participated in 2016 also participated in this year’s panel. (Let me try again: It’s not a random sampling. It’s a survey of the same people who participated in 2016.)

While the write-up of the Pew findings is comprehensive, today’s NYT “The Daily” podcast has guest Nate Cohn of @UpshotNYT diving deep into the role of educated suburban women in both the 2016 and 2018 races.

Bottomline

Before this survey, the conventional wisdom has been that a core of “uneducated white rural male voters” is the key to Trump’s 2016 victory. While the Pew survey concurs that that demographic was a key member of the Trump “core,” it also reveals that educated women in the suburbs who were against Hillary Clinton were what sealed the deal for Trump. And, as this Pew chart shows, this cohort is the most likely voter to have become disenchanted with Trump.

YouTube’s Video Pickers

YouTube’s AI vs. Charlotte Ritter of Babylon Berlin.

If you’ve seen any of the early episodes of the TV series Babylon Berlin, you might understand why I thought of the character Charlotte Ritter’s temp job as a photo reviewer at the Berlin police station when I first saw this article about YouTube’s AI helping the company pull down 6.5 million videos in Q1 2018.

YouTube said the videos were “mostly spam or people attempting to upload adult content.” (Another 1.5 videos were removed, but not before they had been seen by a few YouTube viewers.)

Before introducing AI into the review process, YouTube said it would take 10,000 people to review and remove such a volume of videos.

Why did this make me think of the character on Babylon Berlin?

Even though the series is set in 1929, Ritter has the exact same job as YouTube’s Artificial Intelligence.

(via recode)

Is Amazon Bad for the Postal Service? (Spoiler Alert: No)

The USPS has major problems, but the specific deal the USPS has with Amazon is a winning proposition for the Postal Service.

If you are reading this sometime in the future (say, anytime more recent than April 4, 2018), you may recall a week in 2018 when, as described by NYTimes.com reporter Nick Wingfield, “President Trump has pointed his Twitter arrows at Amazon over what he insists is a bad deal for the United States Postal Service.”

Trump, who, granted, is never a stickler for facts, has been blasting the U.S. Postal Service for the way they charge Amazon, “(that costs) the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy.”

While the details about the Amazon-USPS deal are not public, some of the available evidence suggests that Amazon has been a boon to the Postal Service.

As Hammock Inc. has managed, on behalf of our clients, the mailing of millions of individual magazines and other material during the past 27 years, I have been an interested observer of the challenges and woes the USPS has faced across that era.

Ten years ago, the USPS handled the shipment of 212 billion pieces of mail. Last year, that number had dropped to 149 billion. (Look in your email inbox or text message client and you’ll understand why.)

The reality is that the specific deal the USPS has with Amazon is a winning proposition for the Postal Service. Bloomberg has one of many articles that explain why.

The short version is this: While email has crushed snail mail, the business of package shipping, including Amazon orders, grew to 5.7 billion packages last year from 3.3 billion in 2008.

Several years ago, the Postal Service added Sunday delivery for Amazon packages. Do you think the USPS loses money on this? No way.

But there is no doubt that the USPS loses money — like $2.7 billion on revenues of $69.6 in revenues in its last fiscal year.

Moreover — and dating back as far as I can recall — the USPS faces mind-boggling obligations related to its retirement pension. In effect, it is bankrupt.

Most analysts view Amazon’s use of the USPS to ship its products as a boon for the service.

Quote from NYTimes.com:

“It is one thing to demand better financial performance from the U.S.P.S., but something very different, in our view, to equate the U.S.P.S. financial struggles with the rise of Amazon,” Colin Sebastian, an analyst at Baird, a stock research firm, wrote in a research report on Tuesday. “If nothing else, the U.S.P.S. was already generating billions of dollars in operating losses well before Amazon became a large customer.”

The Postal Service says all such deals it makes are profitable — and must be by law.

But in one of his tweet attacks, Mr. Trump seemed to dispute whether Amazon was covering the Postal Service’s costs, saying that “it is reported that the U.S. Post Office will lose $1.50 on average for each package it delivers for Amazon.”

Where did Trump’s claim come from (other than his hatred of the Washington Post and, thus, its owner, Jeff Bezos.)? See Snopes.com.