Monday, January 12, 2004

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

Looks like the USA Today did a nice little favor for the administration today. Check the headline: Attacks down 22% since Saddam's capture

I thought that sounded a bit odd when I read it, b/c wasn't everyone in agreement a couple of weeks ago that the capture of Saddam hadn't made our troops and the people of Iraq any safer? Wow, looky that, prominently placed, just below the fold of the cover - nishe.

Well, as Greg Palast always recommends, I decided to read the fine print. First, I check the percentage. Check. 22% is correct. Let's call it minus twenty-two percent, or -22%, for short, since it does indicate a dropoff in attacks. The dropoff is from 23 attacks per day to 18 per day. Good job USAT. Next, let's look at the important numbers.

During the same periods, U.S. combat injuries dropped only slightly, from 233 in the four weeks before Saddam's capture to 224 in the four weeks after.

Wow. If we do a percentage based on the number of injured troops, our percentage is not -22%, but -4%. Let's do some more lookin.
And the attacks remain deadly: 22 troops killed from Nov. 16 through Dec. 13 and 31 in the comparable period Dec. 14- Jan. 10.

Wow, again. Number of deaths - that's probably a fairly important stat. Instead of -22%, that's....+41%!

Just a little friendly reminder to help you see the importance of owning your own one-of-the-most-widely-distributed-newspapers-in-the-world. Let's face it, USAT is no Yomiuri Shimbun (circulation 14 Million), but it's not too shabby (5.6 Million).

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