How Mad is MADD? It's Insane!
Sam Aurelius Milam III
The results of a recent study by the Centers For Disease Control were described as "disturbing" and "shocking" in a recent NBC news report.1 In this broadcast, NBC's Robert Hager reported that there are about 1 1/2 million alcohol-related arrests each year in the USA, but a mere 17,000 alcohol-related deaths per year. The "shocking" and "disturbing" part of the study was the supposedly horrifying revelation that there are over 123 million undetected incidents per year of drunk driving. These undetected incidents do not result in deaths, accidents, or even arrests. Mr. Hager conceded this by describing the number of undetected incidents of drunk driving as being "a huge number compared to those arrested or causing an accident". Nobody seemed to notice the obvious conclusion to be drawn from these observations, presuming of course that the statistics are accurate.2 Notice that (using the 17,000 figure) there are fewer than .014% as many alcohol-related deaths as there are drunk drivers. Fewer than 1.2% of drunk driving incidents even come to the notice of the cops. Therefore, the study reveals a far different problem than its authors are trying to claim. When you realize that such a tiny fraction of drunk drivers actually cause a problem, then the conclusion is that drunk driving isn't really very likely to cause an accident. For this tiny risk, we've given up our right to be presumed innocent, our right to refuse to incriminate ourselves, our right to remain silent, our right to travel, our right to determine our own level of insurance, and even our right to own a car. To solve this non-problem, we've allowed the creation an arrogant and repressive police state staffed by strutting gestapo-style thugs.
I'm tired of having my liberties trampled at the behest of reformers who want the government to control everybody but themselves. The members of MADD are far more dangerous than the drunk drivers they persecute. At least I can try to dodge the drunk drivers. If these self-righteous MADD reformers really want to address a serious problem, they should go to Cambodia or Afghanistan and walk through the mine fields. They would thereby save the innocent children and farmers who would otherwise step on the mines and simultaneously reduce the number of arrogant reformers in the world. (I know the supply is endless, but every little bit helps.)
Illiteracy By Example
Sam Aurelius Milam III
I listened with amusement recently as a panel of scholars discussed the "literacy problem", by which they meant the inability of students to properly use the English Language.3 Please note: There is no literacy problem. Literacy isn't a problem. There's an illiteracy problem. I doubt that these "scholars " will be able to teach the proper use of the language until they learn to use it properly themselves.
Damned Lies, and Statistics — Again
Sam Aurelius Milam III
While I was a student at Texas A&M University, I worked at a variety of part-time jobs on campus. One of them was at the Poultry Science Center, the site of many state-funded research programs. My first assignment at the Chicken Farm, as us insiders called it, provided me with a reason to question the credibility of such programs. This is what happened.
When I reported for work the first day, the full-time supervisor of the Chicken Farm took me into a barn in which they were conducting a study of the effect of different kinds of feed on egg production. He carefully instructed me in the method of data collection for the project. Data for the study were collected each day by two part-time students. The first student walked along the rows of numbered cages putting eggs in a basket. At each cage from which he took an egg, the student spoke the cage number. The second student, who carried a clip-board, followed behind the first student and entered a mark on the chart by the number of each cage from which an egg was taken. This provided a record of egg production for each chicken. Records were being kept, of course, of which kind of feed each chicken was eating. Thus egg production could be correlated to the kind of feed the chicken was eating. The results of the study were to be disseminated throughout the industry, helping egg producers decide which feed to buy.
When I reported for work the second day, the part-time student showed me how the data were really collected. In the absence of the full-time supervisor, this student collected the eggs as quickly as possible without recording any data. Then he sat at one end of the barn and marked on the chart whichever cage numbers he felt like marking. His method was a lot faster. He then spent the time he saved sitting in the end of the barn smoking cigarettes. Smoking used enough time to allow him to report back after the proper length of time had passed, thus averting any suspicion about his method.
In my opinion, the faulty data generated by this student caused the entire study to be worth considerably less than the stuff that I shoveled from beneath the chicken's cages. Why didn't I report the situation to my supervisor? I haven't the faintest notion. Maybe I was just young and stupid. I will point out, however, that later in my career I did try to correct such things when I observed them in other situations. So far as I'm aware, no such effort ever corrected the misbehavior that I was trying to correct. My efforts did get me laid-off on more than one occasion. Why did I do it? I haven't the faintest notion. Maybe I was just older and still stupid.
Throughout my "professional" career, I noticed that the nuts-and-bolts part of most bureaucratic projects is usually delegated to engineering assistants, exchange students, part-time workers, trainees, drafting personnel, or subcontractors. Engineers, managers, or supervisory personnel merely "approve" the results, usually from a comfortable distance. My experience leads me to suspect that the situation at the Chicken Farm was far more typical than we'd like to believe.
My experience at the Chicken Farm isn't my only encounter with potentially tainted research. I know a woman who, while she was pregnant, got really tired of doctors and nurses harassing her about her smoking. This woman, who I shall call GFH,1 believed that smoking by pregnant women doesn't hurt their babies. Her reason for her belief was based on her observations of the behavior of other women that she knew, particularly her sisters. She had observed that various of her pregnant friends (and sisters) were drug users. However, when questioned by medical people during pre-natal care, these drug-using women invariable reported that they only smoked. They did this because drug use is illegal and smoking isn't. GFH asserted that this practice is sufficiently widespread that it corrupts medical opinion on the subject. That is, the problems caused by the drugs are erroneously attributed to cigarettes. GFH's observations, in my opinion, have a lot of credibility. Indeed, I suspect that she was entirely correct. She smoked like a chimney during her entire pregnancy and the child, who is now about eleven years old, seems to be as healthy as a horse.
My conclusion is that I don't trust the results of any government study or survey. I suggest that we rely instead upon our own observations and common sense. At the very least, we have some basis for confidence in our own observations. We have no basis at all for confidence in those reported by government, and good reason to be suspicious of them.
Smitten With Embarrassment Dept.
Sam Aurelius Milam III
In The Supreme Law (January 1997, page 1), I printed the following statement: "The UN is positioning itself to supersede all present world governments." That was careless of me and I'm smitten with embarrassment. I should have said that the UN is positioning itself to supersede all present national governments.
|Letters to the Editor
Don Cormier has again hit the nail on the head. Many anti-libertarians are so confused that they focus debates on semantics en lieu of concepts. The prospects for increased Libertarian converts is enhanced by using the foundations cited in Don's article Foundations for Anarchist Debate (Frontiersman, 1/97).
Don Cormier suggests that, by working within the current societal structure, we are closer to achieving your noted goal of acquiring a freedom as individuals.
First things first! Hats off to Mr. Cormier.
— Tom; Redwood City, California
On the Road with Buffalo Hunter
While eating in a restaurant in Los Angeles recently, Buff happened to overhear part of a conversation between two young women. From their comments, Buff surmised that they were in advertising. They were complaining about the company in particular and everything in general. One woman, who was wearing red, commented that the cost of the meal she was eating was considerably higher than it had been a year ago. She wondered why food had become so expensive. The other woman, a blonde who seemed to be the supervisor of the one in red, had strong opinions on the subject.
"It's those damned farmers!" she ranted, "I'm sick up to here of hearing them complain!"
"Why?" asked the subordinate.
"Whine this! Whine that! All they ever do is complain!"
"But," commented the woman in red, "farming is a risky living, and we certainly need to have farmers."
"Whatever for?!?" demanded the blonde.
"Well," continued Red, apparently uneasy about contradicting her supervisor, "without farmers where would you get your food?"
"Don't be ridiculous!" exclaimed the blonde. "I'd get food from the same place I always do! At Safeway!"
The lady in red seemed to get something caught in her throat and retired to the ladies room. Buff, knowing a good example when he sees one, kept his mouth shut, paid for his meal, and hit the road.
Buck Hunter Shoots Off His Mouth
— Worried Boomer
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— Sam Aurelius Milam III, editor