Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Politics: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics...

If there's one thing that really grinds me to a halt, it's blatant misuse of statistics to sell a viewpoint. I find this particularly loathsome when it's being used by the agenda-driven hive-dwellers at either end of the political spectrum to justify the Dictatorship of The Common Good that they wish to corral me into. We have hand-wringing worriers over Gay Marriage. Is this something to get worked into a lather about? Look, all I'm concerned about when hearing of others' freaky bedroom activities is "Was the goat an adult, consenting goat?" This is nothing to, statistically, get worried over. Contrary to what every BrylCreem Prophet on the AM band wants you to believe, everybody in this country is not about to turn queer and invade local bridal shops if we extend legal recognition to same-sex couples. Then we have the "Partial Birth Abortion" thing, causing the well-intentioned NeoPuritan Crypto-Fascists on one side to wave the bloody shirt of the rarest of abortion procedures and allege that "they're all like that!", while clamoring to slap a chastity belt on every womb in America. Lastly, we have whatever drug is Devastating America today, justifying the further erosion of the Bill of Rights in the name of a continued 'war' against substances that were legal for the majority of this country's history without causing noticeable harm to the fabric of the Republic.

From the other side of the spectrum, the equally well-meaning Bubble-headed Idealists of the Dictatorship of Nice, we have (to use just two particularly egregious firearms-related examples) the oft-harped statistic of how many "children" are killed by firearms annually and the annual ATF study of "Crime Guns". If we pull the curtain aside to examine the little man working the levers, however, both these numbers are highly specious. "Children", depending on the source being quoted, includes everyone up to the age of either 18 or 21, and includes them no matter how they fell victim to a bullet. Of course, when Oprah or Paul Newman quotes the numbers imploringly into a camera, your average tapioca-headed sofa spud can be forgiven for assuming that they were all three-year-olds who found daddy's gun, and not nineteen-year-olds who got smoked for shorting a customer on a dime bag. The "Crime Guns" figure includes every gun seized during an arrest that is reported to the BATF. It doesn't matter whether the gun had anything to do with the crime or not; the Holland & Holland double pulled from a corporate embezzeler's gun safe is as much of a crime gun as the still-smoking stolen .32 lying on a DC sidewalk. No matter, it's now been reported to the Bureau and dutifully logged as a 'crime gun'.

"Oh, but how many murders are related to spousal violence?" Look, of all the friends I've had who had abusive boyfriends, only one or two (of the boyfriends, that is) had no criminal record whatsoever. The rest usually had minor litanies of DUI, possession, theft, assault, etc. Studies have repeatedly shown that it is a rare murderer who is first introduced to the police over a dead body. The vast majority have several fairly serious misdemeanors, and almost three-quarters of first-time murderers have at least one felony under their belt (and these studies assume that there are no skeletons lurking in sealed juvenile record closets, either...)


Grampapinhead said...

Wow, Excellent post.
If I was still ablogger, I would link it for sure.
Come soap my windows, I haven't fired my .45 on devils night, yet.

Grampapinhead said...

U-umm, sorry about that soap my window crack, I got the comments on my blog mixed up.
Part time bloggin? no can do, I tried that a few weeks back and within a day or two I was back on the computer 10-12 hours a day. Just can't give anything less than 100%. I will be around though, and commenting from time to time.
Keep up the good posts.

SkiTheStars said...

Glad to see that the "Dictatorship of Nice," is in good hands, in the only other Google use of the phrase.

By chance, did you take stat at UC Berkeley ? Did you know they still use "Lies,Damn Lies, and Statistics" to teach that course ? I took it in 1964, and was on campus a couple of months back and checked the bookstore.