Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain...

Now, normally I’m not a “commenter” on any kind of news story, I just read them for entertainment.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE comments on news stories.   They range from making me laugh, to making me think (rarely), to making me weep in regards to the education level of people that have internet access.  With that disclaimer, a “news” story that seems to continually pop up has been a burr in my saddle lately.  It drove me to actually take the time to throw my opinion out into the random internet comments where it will be lost forever and not change one mind.

I’m sure everyone remembers the multitude of stories that were pushed so hard the last couple of  years regarding "90% of firearms recovered in Mexico from drug cartels being ‘traceable’ to the U.S.”  Old news, right?  I’m also sure most people have seen that statistic easily refuted, but it continued to keep making the rounds.  I mean, just Google "90% of guns in Mexico come from US" and you have to sort through a couple of pages of stories refuting the claim just to get to the original claim.  It seemed like the story just wouldn’t flush.

It’s what a friend called “The Big Lie”.  Lie, ignore evidence, repeat until it becomes accepted as the truth.  Then, all of a sudden it dissipated with the first drips (then flood) of stories about the BATFE and their Project Fast and Furious.

I know, Vin, I wish they wouldn't have done it, either.

I admit I was a little miffed that the government and all of its agencies were pointing the fingers at private business, all the while knowing that they were actually allowing this to happen.  Well, just when I thought that all of that was behind us, the numbers have been recycled and spewed forth yet again.  Unbelievably, I saw this article today that didn’t just spit the same old wrong information back again; they are getting NEW numbers somewhere and running them against a baseline of the old WRONG numbers.  Are you baffled like me?

If you follow the links in the Atlantic Wire, it takes you to an article from February of this year talking about those numbers AGAIN.  It's like these journalists are walking around with a box on their head.  Do you know what is happening in Congress right now?  Are the perpetrators of these numbers and the politicians trying to push their agenda so conceded that they think it will STILL work in the face of BATFE hearings in Congress?  Apparently, so.

So, what is the deal with these “90%” and “over 70%” numbers, you say?  Why are they so wrong?  Here’s the killer:  It’s not that they are wrong, it’s that you aren’t being given ALL of the information.  The U.S. is one of the only countries that actually traces their firearms, so naturally a high percentage of “traceable” firearms will be from the U.S.  What if I find 1,000 firearms (Oh, happy happy day for me - but I digress) and only 100 are traceable because the U.S. tracks them?  Well, then 100% of “traceable” firearms came from here, but no one knows where they hell the other 900 came from.  In addition, you should notice that any time you see a news story, there are items in all of the pictures that could not have possibly been purchased from Ole Mom and Pop Local Gun Store.  Well, the U.S. Government sells to the militaries for Mexico and many Latin American countries.  The controls on their inventory is scary, to say the least.  Add to that the fact that the Zetas originated in the Mexican Military and the tap is on full for firearms being routed to the cartel.  Guess what?  ALL of those firearms are traceable to the U.S.  Oops, but we won’t separate out those numbers, just lump them into the percentage.  Over 70%?  Yikes, someone might make a big deal about that.  Let’s make a big deal first and blame someone else.

Here’s the thing: I have a background in the sciences.  I took statistics in college (actually, Biostatistics).  I’m not a “Nobel Prize" award recipient by any stretch of the imagination (whatever that means anymore).  However, I know what statistics ARE and what they are NOT.  What they are NOT is guilty of anything in this scenario.  I feel sorry for statistics.  I especially feel bad for percentages.  Percentages are like the AK-47s (and WASR 10s) of the stat world.  Everyone has them and most people don’t even know how to use them properly.  Either that or they willfully misapply them.  Statistics don’t have their own amendment to protect them from being banned.  I mean, normally when a tool is abused this much people want to ban them all over the place.  At the very least we should put some kind of ban on assault percentages.  You know… the spray and pray kind.  The ones thrown out without categorization or explanation.  Those things are just dangerous.  Sadly, stats don’t tell lies to people, people do.

You can have my spreadsheet when you pry it from my cold, dead hands

1 comment:

  1. " Percentages are like the AK-47s (and WASR 10s) of the stat world. Everyone has them and most people don’t even know how to use them properly. "