Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"But can you blog amidst distraction?"

That twist on a "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" line refers to part of a post from two nights ago. I originally wrote, "You should experience no more surprise than looking at pictures of an 8-pound newborn, then pictures of it grown up to be 30 pounds at 30 years old." With everything going on at home, and having to write the post in bits and pieces, I did a cut-and-paste on the second half to improve the phrasing. However, my friend Charlie mentioned that my numbers sounded weird, and I then realized I hadn't edited the sentence completely. I actually meant, "You should experience no more surprise than looking at pictures of an 8-pound newborn, then pictures of it grown up to be 250 pounds at 30 years old." The post has been amended.

Most of you probably understood my point anyway. Changing data points is a common way to lie with statistics, much like scientists cherry-pick and/or massage data to prove a preconceived "conclusion." Don Luskin often catches liberals who use the same trick of carefully selecting time endpoints. You don't need to take a statistics class to understand that if you choose a year earlier or later, like a peak year, then shift the end to a bottom year, you'll naturally skew any conclusions you'd draw from a more objectively chosen time period.

Add to that verbs like "jumped," and the deception is complete. For the last couple of years, ever since the mainstream media wanted to create the myth of a bad economy, it's been common reporting that if a stock exchange lost a tiny fraction of a percent after a day's trading, somehow it "tumbled." My favorite is when an online news article proclaims something like "Jitters cause markets to fall in morning trading," but the markets already "recovered" are in positive territory for the day.

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