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Archive for the ‘Misleading Statistics’ Category

Going to have new equipment and well-deserved pay raises. We just got you a big pay raise. First time in 10 years. We got you a big pay increase. First time in over 10 years. I fought for you. That was the hardest one to get, but you never had a chance of losing.

— President Trump, United States Naval Academy, May 25, 2018

Actual military pay raises over the last 10 years:

 

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Here is a little chart I put together listing numbers of deaths by various, sometimes surprising causes:

Cause of Death Annual Source
Islamic jihadist immigrants 2
Right-wing terrorists 5
Latex balloons 5 source
All Islamic terrorists (incl. US citizens) 9
Crushed by vending machines falling over 10 source
Armed toddlers 21
Lightning 31
Lawnmowers 69
Falling coconuts on beaches 150
Hit by a bus 264
Falling out of bed 450
Autoerotic asphyxiation 600 source
Automobile crashes 35000
Opioid drug overdoses 50000 source

I agree that some of these are less than serious, and when I researched them individually I found various discrepancies. For instance, I could not tell whether the number of people choking themselves while masturbating (autoerotic asphyxiation) is a world-wide or US statistic.

Then there are the lawnmowers, those vicious killers. I just could not believe that number, but as I researched, I found that lawnmower deaths are mostly due to rolling over into ponds and creeks, and drowning in the process. Some are due to riding the lawnmowers on streets and being run over by cars.

But my point actually is that our president has us all frothing at the mouth about evil terrorists coming into the United States and killing us. The entire nation is debating what we should do about those terrorists, and we are spending massive amounts of time talking about it in the national media. The courts are choked with it, all the way to the Supreme Court. With a partial ban in place, immigration facilities at airports are affected, needing manpower. Let alone all the lawsuits that will be filed on behalf of people who think they were wronged. This entire frenzy was created by a single, obsessed man, who has used this as a vehicle to gain power and to aggrandize himself.

If we really wanted to save American lives, making Americans safer, we should think about some of the other causes of death in the chart above.

For instance, we used to have a problem with lawn darts:

Over a period of eight years, lawn darts had sent 6,100 people to the emergency room. 81% of those cases involved children 15 or younger, and half of those were 10 or younger. The majority of injuries were to the head, face, eyes or ears, and many had led to permanent injury or disability.

— Google

Wow, we were able to make America safer by banning lawn darts! Now those 6,100 people over 8 years, or 762 a year, are no longer getting injured.

How about we ban latex balloons! It will save five children a year from choking to death. Let’s create a frenzy about that! Those evil balloon makers!

If President Trump and all our politicians were REALLY concerned with the health and safety of Americans, they would work on solutions to the opioid abuse epidemic we are dealing with in the United States right now. But they are not talking about that.

Trump does not care one bit about the health and safety of Americans. He cares about himself, and himself only. And his actions and inactions show that loud and clear.

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In a comment on a friend’s post on Facebook, someone answered my question for examples on our military being weak, decimated, needing more funding with the following challenge:

Desert Storm was 2002 under GW Bush … The military has been descimated [sic] by Obama over the past 8 years. My question is have you not been watching the news for the last 8 years or just ignoring it??? Military is below pre-WWII levels … All branches.

I might note that he didn’t provide any examples, but simply taunted me with another set of questions: Have I not been watching the news? I don’t generally get my data from watching the news, but I try to do my own research. As we all know, there are too many “alternative facts” in the news and the “news media are some of the most dishonest people on the planet.” One can’t be too careful.

One of the core paragraphs in Trump’s inauguration speech was this:

For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries, while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military. We’ve defended other nations’ borders while refusing to defend our own; and spent trillions of dollars while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.

— President Donald Trump

Whether I agree with its message and content or not, Trump’s inauguration speech was probably the most coherent and organized speech in his life, and the above paragraph is, in my opinion, the most important one.

I agree that things should change regarding American trade agreements, American industry and how we spend money on the military. I support all premises of the above paragraph, while only disagreeing with the “allowing for the very sad depletion of our military” part. I do not think we have depleted our military, as most people are led to believe by Trump and his supporters. Our military is not a disaster, and when our commander-in-chief makes such a statement, he insults all people in uniform.

Yes, the numbers are down for some things that no longer make sense. Remember the famous Obama statement in a debate with Romney four years ago: We don’t have as many horses and bayonets as we used to. I also think that it makes no sense to compare today’s military to that of pre WWII times. This is a massively different world and requires different analysis. Counting horses, bayonets and tanks makes no sense.

When Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was asked about whether the U.S. military had, in fact, been “gutted.” No, he argued. If it’s smaller than it could be, it’s still very powerful.

“At no time in my career have I been more confident than this instant in saying we have the most powerful military on the face of the planet. Do we have challenges? Of course we do. When you are faced with a global set of threats, you have to make choices on where you focus your energy.”

— Gen. Paul Selva

True, under Obama, military spending went down, and this is partly due to curtailing the massing hemorrhage of money in Iraq and Afghanistan during the Bush years. The chart below shows military spending by president:

military-spending-c

Here is a site with a treasure trove of information about military spending worldwide and all the data you might ask for.

Here is another view, which shows that under Obama, spending has gone down somewhat, but it still puts it into perspective over the cold war years:

military-spending-since-1949

Of course, if you listen to the Heritage Foundation, you hear a different story. They say that the U.S. is only marginally able to defend the nation. I am not sure I should call this alternative facts, but here it is.

Over the years I have posted much about military spending. You can search for the keyword “military spending” in this blog and find many entries. Here are a few:

Military Spending by President

Military Spending in the U.S

Here is one about military spending compared to other nations

Another view of military spending worldwide as pivoted against social security

Overall, I think that our nation’s military is not decimated, and I also think that some review of our military spending is in order. Here is a comment I made about Trump’s attack on the F-35, which illustrates my concerns. We need to reduce military spending in our country, but we need to keep our readiness up. Money, in the hands of the military, is not necessarily a formula for success. Money must be spend in a smart way. If Trump can accomplish this goal, he will be a hero.

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border-wall

I do not believe in open borders. I actually agree with Trump’s sentiment that we are not a sovereign nation if our borders are open. We do have a problem with illegal immigration. It needs fixing. It has needed fixing for decades, and no Administration and no Congress has had the will and the perseverance to tackle the problem.

Here comes our new populist president and he trumpets a solution that seems really simple: We will build a wall!

I have several problems with that.

First, we already have a wall. I live within 50 miles of the border to Mexico and I have seen the wall many times over the years. It’s there now. It separates the countries in the populated areas. Where it stops there are vast deserts, natural walls all by themselves. Anybody who has hiked the desert, like I have, will know.

The wall is not the problem. The will to enforce the existing laws is the problem.

But even with that there are issues.

border-crossings Source: United States Border Patrol

Look at  the chart above. It shows that the number of attempted crossings has fallen precipitously in the Bush and Obama years. The number of non-Mexicans has actually gone up.

There is a problem with this chart, though, and I therefore consider it “misleading statistics.” It shows the number of apprehensions. Since those that get through can’t be counted, we have no statistics for them. Since I do not have counter information, I can only speculate. But I could argue that under Obama, we have not TRIED as hard to stop crossings, so we found less.

So I have two major points to make:

  1. Based on this data, and the chart above, it looks like we’re trying to build a wall when we least need it.
  2. Do not always believe what you see as statistics. It can be very misleading. I have no evidence to the contrary, but the above chart may actually prove the opposite of what it is trying to show, namely that we’re letting more people through.

I invite my reader to comment and provide counter evidence. I’d love to update this chart.

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Trump keeps talking about having a mandate, and having won by a landslide. He is also upset about having lost the popular vote by the largest count ever in any presidential election. His supporters are now surfacing claiming that if you took California and New York out of the picture, Clinton would not have won the popular vote.

California and New York together make up 18% of the population of the United States and 22% of its GDP. California and New York contribute more to the wealth of the US than most other states. California and New York together, with a GDP of $3.6 trillion, would be the 4th largest country in the world, after the United States, China and Japan, even ahead of Germany with its $3.5 trillion.

Taking California and New York out of the electoral picture in the United States, even for the sake of this argument, is ludicrous. It would emasculate the country.

Sorry. We’re going to have to count the votes of California and New York. Trump did not win by a landslide and he does not have a mandate. He won by a sliver, an election-night burp. He won because too many Democrats were too lazy to go to the polls. He won because too many people cast protest votes for 3rd party candidates.

Trump didn’t win this election. Clinton lost it.

And speaking of California and New York: I, for one, am proud of being a Californian and contributing to its GDP.

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So what are the Republicans complaining about Obama being the executive order president? Obama has the least executive orders since Grover Cleveland’s first administration (1885 – 1889)
Executive Orders by President

 

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In December of 2012, right after the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull erupted, I published a post here commenting about people posting nonsense about volcanos and anthropogenic global warming. At the time I said:

The amount of misinformation spewed on the American public, driven by purposeful and targeted campaigns to dumb us down, is alarming.

This seems to be a pattern on Facebook, as I came across this picture in my feed on January 2. I have redacted the name of the poster and recipient, since those are not relevant to my argument.

Mt. Etna on Facebook

This poster obviously argued that “one minor eruption on Dec 3, 2015, pumped 10,000 times as much CO2 into the air as all of mankind has ever produced. He then insulted 97% of all climate scientists in the world by telling them to “get over it” and calling them “panic merchants.”

When I didn’t know what volcano he was talking about, I asked for more details. When the poster never responded, I did a 15 second Google search and realized he must have talked about the Mt. Etna eruption on December 3rd. There is plenty of documentation about that eruption, and another 30 seconds later I had the facts I needed.

Gas studies at volcanoes worldwide have helped volcanologists tally up a global volcanic CO2 budget in the same way that nations around the globe have cooperated to determine how much CO2 is released by human activity through the burning of fossil fuels. Our studies show that globally, volcanoes on land and under the sea release a total of about 200 million tonnes of CO2 annually.

— The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory explained how much CO2 is generated by volcanoes in a 2007 article

200 million tons of CO2 seems like an extraordinary large amount. However, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) found that the estimated amount of CO2 generated annually by human activity is 135 times higher.

In addition, volcanos also spew out sulfur dioxide, which can lead to volcanic air pollution. Sulfur dioxide gas reacts chemically with sunlight, oxygen, dust particles, and water to form volcanic smog known as vog. This actually offsets some of the CO2 greenhouse effect by doing the opposite: Inducing cooling by injection of pollution into the atmosphere. So volcanos are often actually balanced out.

It is easy to post a picture like the above in a Facebook feed and let it trickle down to the uneducated and uncritical masses in order to advance an agenda. If that agenda is well-funded by powerful lobbies like the petroleum industry, it can make a significant difference in public opinion. It looks legit, doesn’t it?

Usually 30 seconds of googling provides the facts, though.

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I stumbled upon this article: How Microsoft And ThyssenKrupp’s Elevator Tech Saves Office Workers Years Of Waiting. The first paragraph reads:

A Columbia University study found that New York office workers spent a collective 5.9 years riding in elevators—and 16.6 years waiting for elevators. And that was just in 2010.

What?

In 2010, how many office workers only waited 16.6 years for elevators in 2010? There is just not enough information in this statement for it to make any sense. The link to the study points to this PowerPoint about elevator scheduling:

Click here for PowerPoint

There is nothing in these slides that I could find that suggests 16.6 collective years of waiting for some undetermined number of New York office workers.

But it must be true, as everything on the Internet is.

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This chart, created by Alissa Scheller for The Huffington Post, shows the average number of executive orders per year in office. My conclusion is that Obama did less executive orders than all presidents in 100 years. If course, it is not the sheer number of orders that matters, but the content and the reach, and that would not be analyzed and visualized as easily. But it is a revealing chart nonetheless.

ExecAction

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The size of Africa, being in the center of the world map, often is distorted to its disadvantage. Greenland, Alaska and Siberia look huge, Africa just looks big. How big really is it?

size of africa

Size of Africa [click for picture credit]

As you can see on this map, Africa is bigger than most of Europe, the United States, China, Japan and India combined.

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I believe in the power of prayer because I know so many people all over the world have been praying for me. I join you in prayer now for the recovery of others.

— Nina Pham, American Nurse and Ebola Survivor

So God saved three American healthcare workers from Ebola. I wonder why he chose to let 10,000 deeply religious and hard-praying Africans die?

Is it because we’re not praying for the anonymous Africans since we don’t know them and their names are not all over the news?

Might it be because Americans have lots of money that can buy very expensive medicine that Africans can’t afford?

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There was an article on the front page of USA Today of July 24, 2014, titled “White, Asian Men rule the roost at Twitter,” with a subtitle of “Very few women part of its technology staff.” It showed statistics at the largest, most well-known technology companies that I summarized in this chart:

Technology Workforce

 

 

 

The article claims that nearly 90% of Twitter’s and U.S. technology staff in general are held by whites or Asians.

The article laments that the ethnic and gender makeup of the staff does not match the wide diversity of the users of the technologies and services of those companies. It hints that the companies should do more to add diversity to their workforce.

This whole argument is ludicrous to me. Do we really believe that Twitter purposely does not hire blacks and Hispanics but favors Asians?

Only 30% of Twitter’s workforce are women because of all the qualified people who apply for jobs there, apparently only 30% are women.

Are we suggesting that technology companies should reject white and Asian males who are most qualified for less qualified women and non-Asian minorities so that they may water down the technical expertise and therefore competitiveness of the companies and products?

I do not know why only 30 to 39 percent of women are interested to get the education and experience necessary to land jobs at the major technology firms. I do not know why not enough African and Hispanic Americans get sufficient technology educations and qualifications to land those jobs. For some reason, it may be educational foundation, it may be cultural background and history, some of these minorities just don’t qualify.  We need to deal with that.

Why is it that Asian Americans are represented in disproportionately large numbers? Could it be because their culture and background fosters education and hard work? Could it be because Asians spend some 20 hours more in school every week than the average Americans?

Indicating that there should be some type of technical affirmative action within these organizations to reduce qualified white, Asian and male hires in favor of lesser qualified minorities or women is ludicrous.

Yahoo, Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter didn’t get to where they are by hiring because of gender or race. They became what they are because they have perfected the art of hiring the best they can get their hands on and promoting and rewarding those employees to keep them.

Counterproductive articles like this one in the USA Today damage our economy by misguiding public opinion and fostering an attitude of entitlement among our young people.

The reality is: if you want a high-paying technology job at one of the big companies in Silicon Valley, you have work hard in high school, get into some good technology college, compete there with the best and brightest from all over our  country as well as the cream of the crop from China, India and all over the world, perhaps go to graduate school because many of the applicants to these firms have masters and doctorate degrees, and do a few years of grunt work in lesser firms or startups to gain job experience.  Then, if you are willing to work 80 hour weeks and move to the highly expensive Bay Area, you can go and apply. If you have enough communications and personal skills to make it through the interview process, you might just land such a job.

Nobody cares what gender, race or ethnicity you are.

You can trust me on that.

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren sponsored a bill that would allow students to refinance their student loans at today’s low interest rates – just like we all refinance our mortgages, if we can, to save money on interest and shorten the repayment cycle.

The initiative was funded, however, by having 22,000 millionaires pay “their fair share of taxes.” I understand that “fair share” is a subjective term. Our society largely agrees that the very rich get better treatment in taxes, proportionally, than the very poor. The very rich do not agree. They argue that they already pay the majority of all taxes, and the very poor pay none.

TaxShareTop1Bottom90_0

I lifted the chart above (Source: IRS) from the site www.taxfoundation.org. This chart tries to show several things: First, that the share of income taxes paid by the top 1 percent of earners has increased since 1980. You can also see the Bush 41 tax cuts, a sharp drop in 1988 on the blue line, and the Bush 43 tax cuts, the sharp drop in 2000.  You can see  that taxes for the rich went up steadily during Clinton. Contrary to what conservative opinion would have us believe by labeling Obama the redistributor, taxes for the rich actually went down during the Obama years.

The chart also indicates that the taxes for the bottom 90 percent went down steadily, then they jumped sharply during the Bush 43 “tax cut” time. Finally they started rising during the Obama years.

Or does it?

There is something wrong with this chart, in my opinion. This chart looks like if you are in the bottom 90%, where I am, for example, you used to pay over 50% in taxes in 1980, and now you pay “only” 32%, doesn’t it? It also looks like if you are in the top 1%, you used to pay under 20% in 1980, and now you pay 35%. Isn’t that what this chart looks like, if it is just presented like this?

But that is not really what it means. Talk about misleading statistics. The www.taxfoundation.org site’s first paragraph reads like this:

The top 1 percent of taxpayers pay more in federal income taxes than the bottom 90 percent. As you can see in the chart below, this is a stark change from the 1980s and early 1990s. But since the early 1980s, the share of taxes paid by the bottom 90 percent has steadily declined.

Aha, the top 1% pay more in the aggregate in federal income tax than the bottom 90%. That’s what this really means. This has nothing to do with individual tax payers, but the accumulation of all taxes paid.

Regardless of what the graphs look like, to me this indicates that the income gap has grown since 1980. The fact that the top 1% pay more taxes cumulatively simply means that the top 1% also make huge amounts of more money than they did in 1980, as compared to the bottom 90%. This chart actually shows that the rich are now much richer, because they cumulatively pay so much more taxes.

This is a statement about the drift of our society away from the middle class to a two class system, comprised of very few and very rich people in the 1%, and everyone else on the poor and very poor side.

That tells me that as a group, the 1% are doing just fine, just very fine.

Elizabeth Warren knows that. She also knows that the student loan refinancing act would have made lives easier for 40 million students by allowing them to refinance their loans. We’re not talking about forgiveness, or default, we’re talking about refinancing, just like we all get to refinance our mortgages when the interest rates support it.

37 Republican senators blocked and filibustered that act, and therefore stood in favor of 22,000 millionaires at the cost of 40 million student loan holders. That’s one millionaire protected from a rise in taxes for every 1818 student loan holders.

Here are the names of the Republican senators that blocked the bill:

Lamar Alexander (Tenn.)
Saxby Chambliss (Ga.)
John Cornyn (Texas)
Michael Crapo (Idaho)
Michael Enzi (Wyo.)
Charles Grassley (Iowa)
Orrin Hatch (Utah)
James Inhofe (Okla.)
John McCain (Ariz.)
Mitch McConnell (Ky.)
Pat Roberts (Kan.)
Jefferson Sessions (Ala.)
Richard Shelby (Ala.)
Roy Blunt (Mo.)
John Boozman (Ark.)
Richard Burr (N.C.)
Jeff Flake (Ariz.)
John Isakson (Ga.)
Mark Kirk (Ill.)
Robert Portman (Ohio)
Patrick Toomey (Pa.)
David Vitter (La.)
Roger Wicker (Miss.)
John Thune (S.D.)
Thomas Coburn (Okla.)
Daniel Coats (Ind.)
Dean Heller (Nev.)
John Barrasso (Wyo.)
Mike Johanns (Neb.)
James Risch (Ind.)
Marco Rubio (Fla.)
Rand Paul (Ky.)
John Hoeven (N.D.)
Mike Lee (Utah)
Ron Johnson (Wis.)
Deb Fischer (Neb.)
Ted Cruz (Texas)

It makes me wonder how these people expect to get reelected when they adversely affect 40 million voters to protect 22,000 rich people? They must expect to receive lots of money from the rich people, to make sure the poor remain as poor as possible.

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Over the decades, when I had something to give away to charity, I would always just call Goodwill. They’d come with a big truck and haul my stuff away. In the decades before the Internet – and therefore Craigslist – when the kids grew out of their bicycles, that was the easiest way to get “rid of them” and contribute to a good cause.

Then, just recently, I saw a Facebook post to this page:

Charities

[click to enlarge]

Checking just the Goodwill section alone, this had me think that by giving to Goodwill, I have made a terrible mistake for many years, all my life, really.

Then I went to do some fact checking and found almost dozens of references to this chart being a scam, among them this site, which debunks the claims made by the above poster.

Specifically, for Goodwill, it states that:

Claim: CEO and owner Mark Curran profits $2.3 million a year. Goodwill is a very catchy name for his business. You donate to his business and then he sells the items for PROFIT. He pays nothing for his products and pays his workers minimum wage! Nice guy. $0.00 goes to help anyone! Stop giving to this man.
Facts: This claim is completely false. According to the Goodwill website: “82 percent of Goodwill’s revenues go directly into employment and training programs for people with disabilities and other barriers to employment!” Jim Gibbons is the CEO of Goodwill Industries International and his most recent compensation was reported to be $729,310. Goodwill has refuted some of these claims here.
Program Expenses:  92%

This made me feel better, and I have come to the conclusion that the only thing right about the chart above is that it is important to “Think Before You Donate.” Clearly, it’s paramount that we check out the organizations we donate money to, so we know what we are actually doing.

Finally, watching the TED talk in the video below was one of the most valuable 18-minute investment of time I have made in a long time. Even though I work with the government sector and non-profits every day, my conceptions of non-profits and charities, and the results they achieve, were completely wrong. This speech by Dan Pallotta, a fundraiser and charity expert, will change the way you think and feel about non-profits, their role in out society and their impact.

 

To get a higher resolution of this video, go to TED talks directly by clicking here.

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I recently took a look at a map of food stamp use by state (courtesy chartsbin.com) and found an apparent correlation between food stamp use and Obama vs. Romney states in 2012.

It was sufficiently apparent to induce me to create a spreadsheet and do some calculations.

First I created the following chart, showing the states, their election results, along with the percentage of food stamp use.

Food Stamps Chart

Then I ran totals and percentage averages:

Food Stamps Totals

The results clearly document that red states have a higher participation in food stamps, on average, than blue states, but it is nowhere near as drastic as the map would have suggested.

This, of course, disregards the size of the state populations and therefore the results are skewed.

So I decided to add the population factor into the calculation by using the electoral college votes per state and weighting the above national averages accordingly. Basically a large state with a low percentage of food stamp participation, like California, brings down the average since it’s strongly weighted by the high number of electoral votes.

Food Stamps Chart 1

When I look at the results, it becomes obvious that red states have almost twice as many people on food stamps as blue states – on average.

A couple of surprising exceptions I noticed: Oregon and Michigan, both blue states, have very high food stamp participation numbers. California, my home state, shows surprisingly low.

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