Saturday, March 7, 2020

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics


This is a weekly column consisting of letters to my perspicacious progeny. I write letters to my grandchildren (who exist), and my great-grandchildren (who don't) — the Stickies — to haunt them after they become grups or I'm deleted.
                  

Warning: This column is rated SSC — Sexy Seasoned Citizens — Perusal by kids, callowyutes, and/or grups may result in a debilitating intersectional triggering
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                                                  Glossary  

                                                    About

Erratically Appearing Hallucinatory Guest Star: Dana — A Gentlerreader
(Image by Mediamodifier from Pixabay)


"Statistics show that of those who contract the habit of eating, very few survive." -George Bernard Shaw


Dear (eventual) Grandstickies & Great-Grandstickies (& Gentlereaders),

The title of this missive comes from a quote, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics," one of the many quotes attributed to Mark Twain that shouldn't be. This makes perfect sense given that it's both clever and commonsensically true. Mr. Twain...

[Is commonsensically an actual word? I know that commonsensical is but...]

The results of my in-depth research suggest, Dana, that it's not. However, I like it, it's my column, and my poetic license is valid. This is one of the many reasons I'm running for King, someone who thinks commonsensically should have the final word in these matters.

As I was saying, Mr. Twain is well known, as he should be, for being both clever and his commonsensicality, and those of us, that is to say, all of us, drowning in the Information Ocean could do worse than using his words like a life preserver.

Speaking of life preservers and the Information Ocean, when I was a callowyute a life preserver was a — life preserver  — although I had only seen one in the movies or on TV.

Nowadays we have life preservers, life rings, lifebuoys, lifebuoy rings, boat safety throw rings, etceterings.

However, lifeguards, as far as I can tell, are still just lifeguards. I thought by now they would be called something like aquatic recreation rescue technicians (ARRTs).


This brings us to Cuba's official infant mortality rate, a subject that serves as a perfect illustration of lies, damned lies, and statistics. 

[Huh?]

Bear with me for just a sec'. One of my many mild obsessions is sensemaking. Full disclosure, sensemaking is not the word I came up with for this particular obsession but I've appropriated it.

Sensemaking, according to a Wikipedia entry, "is the process by which people give meaning to their collective experiences." The reason...

[Well duh! Why...]

The reason it has a Wikipedia entry is that there are people that study the process of sensemaking from both psychological and computer science perspectives.

From my perspective, it's the perfect word for the struggle of Joe and Joan Bagadonuts, and all the little Bagadonuts, to derive truth from a daily tsunami of often contradictory information.


In one of my many recent past lives, I found myself cleaning the cafeteria — excuse me, dining hall — late at night, of a small liberal arts college in N.E. Ohio that shall remain nameless on a daily basis.

Once upon a time, this school was known for its high standards and the fact the overwhelming majority of the professors could legitimately add the post-nominal letters Ph.D. to their name.

The profs were still there but due to declining enrollment, standards had been gradually lowered and the institution was now locally well known as a party school.

Although this was several years ago, shortly after the arrival of the new millennium, the woke had begun to wake.

One night when I arrived the entire cafeteria — excuse me, dining hall — had been... decorated (there's no other word for it) with pictures, posters, and propaganda celebrating the Republic of Cuba.

It was as amateurish is it was extensive. It looked like some Heather's sweet sixteen birthday party with a Cuba after the reevoluseeon theme. Apparently, the lower standards had even affected the Future Communists of America club.

Over the course of the next week, all of this bric-a-brac slowly but steadily vanished (must have been mischievous students) but before it did, I had read most of the propaganda sheets. The only one I remember was about how great the free healthcare system was in Castro's paradise.

I've heard this repeated, often, since then. I never looked into it but color me dubious.


A relevant article recently caught my eye. "Why Cuba's Infant Mortality Rate Is so Low" published by the Foundation for Economic Education ("To make the ideas of liberty, familiar, credible, and compelling to a rising generation.")

Since FEE focuses on high school and college students, clearly this was a sign from God.

[OMG! This verbal meandering is actually going somewhere! There may be a point! Perhaps there is a God!]

Patience is a virtue, Dana. It always does and there always is... eventually. Don't scare the gentlereaders, it's just my charmingly eccentric writing style. 

Bottom line? 

Early neonatal deaths: "...defined as the number of children dying during the first week after birth." Makes sense, yes?

Late fetal deaths: "...the number of fetal deaths between the 22nd week of gestation and birth." Makes sense, yes?

Watch carefully to see how the trick is done.

Cuba reports many early neonatal deaths as late fetal deaths. This dramatically and artificially lowers their infant mortality rate (IMR), which is actually much higher than the rates of developed countries. 



Lies, damned lies, and Statistics. If they're lying about these important stats don't you suspect that stories about their wonderful healthcare system might be bullshit?

If you go-a-googlin' you will discover no shortage of articles debunking their reported IMR, and other fictions, from reputable sources — interspaced with articles that unashamedly report their propaganda as fact.

Interesting related side note: Cuba is capitalist when there's good money to be made. Cuba rents enslaved doctors out to anyone willing to pay with the help of an arm of the United Nations that gets a generous cut. 

Running a large island sized prison ain't cheap.  

Rust, weeds, lies, damned lies, statistics  and bullshit  never sleep.      
  
Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day

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To make the ideas of liberty familiar, credible, and compelling to the rising