I bring this up for another reason. Because I know how easy it is to cherry-pick statistical data, I've become very skeptical of any pronouncements based on this data or that. Yesterday's post regarding global warming statistics is a great example. The planet is warming or it's not, depending on the statistics you use. I love it.
Today brings another example where statistics are used to create a false impression. James Taranto has the story in The Wall Street Journal's "Best of the Web Today":
(link)There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. Benjamin Disraeli (1804 - 1881)
What's for Desert?
The U.S. military's desertion rate "has plunged since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001," USA Today (link) reports:
The Army, Navy and Air Force reported 7,978 desertions in 2001, compared with 3,456 in 2005. The Marine Corps showed 1,603 Marines in desertion status in 2001. That had declined by 148 in 2005.
The desertion rate was much higher during the Vietnam era. The Army saw a high of 33,094 deserters in 1971--3.4% of the Army force. But there was a draft and the active-duty force was 2.7 million.
Desertions in 2005 represent 0.24% of the 1.4 million U.S. forces.
Accompanying the story is a chart that shows Army desertions have declined every year since 2001.
So how does USA package this good news for the military? As bad news: The headline reads "8,000 Desert During Iraq War," and the first paragraph begins:At least 8,000 members of the all-volunteer U.S. military have deserted since the Iraq war began, Pentagon records show, although . . .