Thursday, February 03, 2005

Illustrative of Something

Mobjectivist has an interesting quote from Glenn Reynolds, the Laziest Man in the Blogosphere:

IS THIS A GREAT COUNTRY, OR WHAT? Our drunks are more lethal than their insurgents.
Mobjectivist explains:
This enigmatic little entry links, in turn, to a blogger who notes:
Number of people killed in Iraq on election day: 35 (source: The New York Times, 1/31/05)

Average number of Americans killed daily by drunk drivers: 47 (source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2003 data)
My word, how ironic! On the other hand, the population of Iraq is 22 million, and the population of the United States is about 300 million. In other words, the United States has a population roughly 13 times that of Iraq. If 455 Americans were killed on an election day by neo-Nazis (for instance), I think we'd be talking about it for a long time to come. (For that matter, we'd be talking about it indefinitely if 35 Americans were killed on an election day.)

If I really wrack my brains, maybe I can come up with another problem with these statistics. How about this: The US figure is an average, taken from yearly statistics. The Iraq figure, by contrast, is a snapshot statistic from one day. If you treated the Iraqi figure as a daily average, like the US figure, you'd have to assume that 12,775 civilians die violently in Iraq per year as a direct result of the invasion...which is not exactly reassuring. And of course, there's evidence that the actual civilian death toll is much higher than that.

But really, all of this is nonsense; you can't compare killings in a war zone to auto fatalities, and the statistics as presented are incommensurable beyond that. (Gee, think of how unlikely you are to be killed by a drunk driver in Iraq! It's safer there than here, when you think about it!)

Here's another amazing factoid for you, Professor Reynolds: 17,155 Americans were killed by drunk drivers in one year, so 9/11 was obviously no big deal. Our drunks are more lethal than Al-Qaeda! Forget terrorism...let's ban alcohol and cars!



WHT said...

This is also reminiscent of Brit Hume's (the 2nd laziest man) knowledge of spatial geography from a while ago:

"Two hundred and seventy seven U.S. soldiers have now died in Iraq, which means that, statistically speaking, U.S. soldiers have less of a chance of dying from all causes in Iraq than citizens have of being murdered in California...which is roughly the same geographical size. The most recent statistics indicate California has more than 2,300 homicides each year, which means about 6.6 murders each day. Meanwhile, U.S. troops have been in Iraq for 160 days, which means they are incurring about 1.7, including illness and accidents, each day." Never mind that "roughly the same geographic size" does not equate to equality of population of servicemen to Californians.

Double idiot.

Phila said...

Yeah, I remember Hume's argument all too well, which is why I used the title "Illustrative of Something"...that was his explanation for why his statistics were worth reporting: They were "illustrative of something."

Rumsfeld had a similar line about how Baghdad was safer than Washington DC when you compared the death rates. I don't remember it exactly, but I know it completely ignored the difference in population size. This is a form of lying that they obviously enjoy quite a bit.

WHT said...

Ah yes, "Illustrative of Something", the automatic cloaking device for fair & balanced reporting.

joseph said...

...and so far not a peep from the Instapundit? Is that illustrative of something?

Phila said...

Joseph, I'm sure a gnat like myself couldn't possibly perturb the Great Man's calloused hide.

joseph said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
joseph said...

Amended earlier comment. Should have read:

Gnaturally, though the man does appear to have a preternatural gift for sniffing out such things. There'd likely be a flood of traffic from such a response, which may be another reason there hasn't been one. Keep it up, though--that's what keeps the blogosphere honest.

Aquaria said...

Do we even know how many people are killed by drunk drivers on any given day in Iraq?

Apples and oranges, Instacrap.

Anonymous said...

more than 2,500 Americans die from heart disease each day. why aren't we militarily occupying fast food chains
and housing ronald mcdonald and the hamburgler in a secret detention center in alaska?

-cereal breath