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Ernie's House of Whoopass! June 25, 2015
June 25, 2015

There Are Three Kinds Of Lies: Lies, Damn Lies, And Statistics.

Ernie, You all about the facts on issues. Can you elaborate on these? "The Harvard School of Public Health reports that "a broad array of evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for homicide, both in the United States and across high-income countries. Case-control studies, ecological time-series and cross-sectional studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the US, where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide." Scott

A long, long, long, long, long, long time ago in a galaxy far away, there lived an Airman. And not just any Airman, but The Most Powerful Airman in the Universe. Or so his email footer said anyway, that is until CMSgt DeYoung made him change it under threat of non-judicial punishment. Anyway. This Airman was the resident computer guru for his office of logistical bean counters. And these bean counters loved to count and chart and benchmark and metric and then count and chart and benchmark and metric all over again. And one day, this office of bean counters got in a brand new Tektronix Phaser II color printer -- the first color printer on the entire airbase! And so over the next few weeks, the bean counters had that color printer running almost eight hours a day, five days a week. They brought The Most Powerful Airman in the Universe spreadsheet after spreadsheet and they wanted him to print pie charts and line charts and scatter charts and bar charts and every other kind of chart Excel 3.0 could whip up at the time.

One particular chart that sticks out in The Most Powerful Airman's memory is one that had to due with the percentage of late projects due in from the various depots reporting to the beancounters. Of the 30 or 35 so depots out there, most of them were assigned somewhere in the neighborhood of about 1,000'ish projects they were responsible for keeping on schedule. The Most Powerful Airman specifically remembers this one bar chart which had all of the different depot across the bottom (x-axis) and the percentage of overdue projects (y axis). And most of these depots -- and by most I mean all but one -- were in the 10% range, meaning about 100 projects were running late. But one poor unlucky depot -- Rome Laboratories in Griffiss AFB located in Rome, New York -- was running a whopping 66% overdue, which made it really, really stand out among the others, its red colored bar towering past the others. A giant among procrastinators, if you will. And a particular Major who wasn't stationed at the same base as The Most Powerful Airman, but was instead TDY from some damned place that The Most Powerful Airman can't seem to recall anymore, wanted more information on this depot where two out of every three projects was overdue.

So The Most Powerful Airman went back to his source data and came up with the following information... Total projects assigned: 3. Total projects late: 2. And when presented with this information, the Visiting Major on TDY from Some Damned Place said something to The Most Powerful Airman that he will never forget. "Ernie," he said, "this falls under the Who-Gives-A-Shit-Category." And so from that experience, The Most Powerful Airman in the Universe will begrudgingly admit that he learned something from an officer that day: some information, while factually correct and technically truthful, is completely irrelevant when viewed in full context.

I went into that little backstory because the first thing that jumped out at me from the article you sent in was the phrase "Our review of the academic literature found ...". What I can infer from this is the amount of information available for the study was finite; they were denied access to all of the facts but instead given a limited subset of the facts. And if you control what information goes into a study, then you can control the conclusions come out of it. Unfortunately, this is a growing trend in modern journalism. Back in the day, journalism went something like this: "Here is the issue we are reporting about. Here are the facts: Fact 1, Fact 2, Fact 3, Fact 4, Fact 5. We leave it to your the viewer to draw your own informed conclusion." Nowadays when every political pundit has their own blog, journalism has degraded to this. "Here is the issue we are reporting about. Here is the conclusion you should draw. Here is why you should be outraged. Here are the facts that support the conclusion I want you to draw: Facts 1, Fact 2, Fact 4." Articles like this don't inform you, they manipulate you. Allow me to give a few examples.

What's the biggest threat on American soil? That's right? Al Queda? ISIS? Lone wolf attacks? How about right wingers. That's right, according to this extremely simple and one-dimensional report you can look to white Americans or according to the source, right wingers to be more likely of causing death and destruction than any jihadist. Factually true? Well, 48 is greater than 26, so sure, okay?

Now let's take a minute to look at those facts in context. According to Wikipedia, as of June 9, 2015 the United States has a total resident population of 321,043,000 and whites constitute the majority (77.4%) of the U.S. population, for a total of about 248,487,282 people. Of those 248k+ white Americans, we know 78.5% of them (195,062,516) are Christians and thus I assume these are the "right wingers/white Americans" being addressed in the article. From the same census, we also know Muslims account for 0.6% of our population, accounting for about 1,926,258 people.

Total number of Americans killed by Jihadist attacks: 26

Total number of Americans killed by Right Wing attacks: 48

Number of Jihadist attacks per Muslims in the country: 1 for every 74,086 Muslims

Number of Jihadist attacks per Christian in the country: 1 for every 4,063,802 Christians

Now, do I believe that Muslims are 54.8 times more likely to kill than Christians? I do not. I am merely pointing out that when viewed in context, the study in question seems, oh shall we say... less than credible. But does that stop any of the media outlets from running with that storyline? It does not. How credible it is, I'll let you decide for yourself.

Next up to bat, the Violence Policy Center just released a report (.PDF warning) explaining how gun owners are 32 times more likely to use a gun for homicide than for legitimate self-defense. How did they come to this conclusion? By the time tested scientific method known as, third grade mathematics. You see all firearm deaths fall in one of three different categories: suicide, homicide, or accidental. Homicides can further be broken down into either justifiable (self defense) or non-justifiable (murder). The VPC in all of their wisdom simply divided number of murders (8,342) by the number of self-defense shootings (259) and concluded owning a gun makes you 32 times more likely to commit murder than defend yourself. Is that factual? Well, 8342 / 259 = 32.2, so um, yeah I sort of guess so. But let's try to put that information into context.

First off let's look at how the VPC skews their numbers by defining "gun owners". I legally own a firearm. My home is broken into. My firearm stolen. The individual who stole my firearm uses it to kill a store clerk. According to the VPC, a gun owner has just committed murder. That is to say their "study" on firearm related deaths makes absolutely no distinction on those between legal gun owners and criminals. Although to be honest, I'm not exactly sure that's an oversight on their part. To them, two assholes who are running around upstate New York right now armed with stolen hunting rifles, are "gun owners".

The second issue I find with their study is they do not take into account the number of times a firearm is used or brandished defensively, but no one is killed. If we were to consider un-justifiable gun homicides, the recent shooting in Charleston is easy to account for; nine people murdered. If we are to consider justifiable homicides, this pizza delivery person defending himself is easy to account for; one self defense shooting. But how do we account for the individual who merely uses a firearm to scare off his attacker but there's no body count? How do we quantify those encounters? The answer is, you can't. There's no statistic that says this 71 year old man saved 30 people plus himself, so let's add those to the "saved by a gun" list. Instead the very fact that this man averted a mass shooting makes it a non-event. It's not news. It's unquantifiable. It doesn't make the history books.

I'll wrap up today's exceptionally long winded post by shitting on a particular political group. Never one to place the responsibility for a crime where it belongs -- on the criminal -- liberals are always, ALWAYS, quick to blame anything but the actual perpetrators of the crime. The first thing they try to blame is the gun itself, but in the case of the Charleston shooting they can't do that since it was a just a plain ol handgun and not a dreaded AR-15 rifle that Obama has spent the last three years warning you about. Next they usually try to blame "high capacity magazines" but again they can't do it this time since the shooter reloaded FIVE. FUCKING. TIMES. And then of course there's universal background checks to push but they can't blame that either, since the shooter actually passed one; acknowledging this fact would concede that background checks don't fucking work. So instead, anti-gun liberals have moved on the next most convenient inanimate object to place the blame on and in this case, it just happens to be the Confederate flag. I don't know what's worse, their ignorance or their apathy.

You know what, baseball really is my favorite sport. And if you're sitting way up in the stands and a foul ball is hit to you it's okay to make a one handed grab, even if you are holding a baby. But if you're sitting down by the field itself and you (and the baby you're holding) lean way over and grab a ball from fair play, well then you're just an asshole.

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