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Figures lie and liars figure...

8/21/2004 8:46 AM
Wild Bill
Figures lie and liars figure...
Just read the "IT unemployment" thread and was struck by the the dichotomy of between stats and anecdotal evidence. I'm witnessing the same thing here in my town over the effect of banning smoking on the health of the restaurant and club industry.  
I'm not arguing over smoking being a good or bad habit. That's irrelevant - what's at issue is how much food and drink is sold and how many clubs die off and take away another gig for musicians. Stats are being used to evade responsibility for harming business.  
Like many North American cities my burg has a big problem with its city core. Business moved out to the suburbs and strip malls. Downtown every second storefront is closed and those in between seem to be selling a lot of second-hand stuff, sub sandwiches and tape/DVD rentals.  
Our civic politicians keep trumpeting on about how nightlife and tourism will save our butt and make every business downtown not just healthy again but rich!  
The higher levels of government dropped in a lot of halfway and social service houses to provide employment. Of course, after a few violent assaults and an increase in burglaries this only served to chase more businesses and residents away.  
So clubs and restaurants were to be our salvation. The city gave money and support to one area to develop dining and live entertainment.  
At the same time they kept making stricter anti-smoking laws until last June 1 when it was banned altogether.  
I went out to my regular Wednesday night blues jam club and you could've fired off a cannon inside! Since then the papers gave a lot of attention to a few big long-established restaurants closing but there have been a score or more already of other closures by firms too small to hit the radar screen.  
Again, my issue is not the health aspects of the evil weed. It's just that I can't believe how the local press not only never mentions the possible negative impact of the restriction but publishes stats that claim that not only do these laws not harm business but will help it, due to thousands of non-smokers just waiting for the smoke to clear out to more than fill up the empty spaces!  
So we have stats telling us one thing but when we go to these places we see with our own eyes something completely different.  
"The Emperor has no clothes", perhaps?  
Some pundits claim that this is only a temporary adjustment, that smokers will come back because there's no where else for them to go. Well, it's been nearly 3 months and it doesn't seem to be happening. What does seem to be happening is that the smokers are drifting off into other activities. More at-home socializing or whatever, I don't know. All I do know is that I have no problem finding a table!  
Give it 10 years and a new generation will arise used to the new status quo but that doesn't help the barkeep stay alive today.  
I could understand if the official line was that of course it was gonna hurt bad but it's worth it. You might disagree but at least that would be honest. It's the publishing of stats that belie the evidence of your own eyes or the total of the night's cash receipts that bothers me.  
It's obvious that the people leading the charge don't go to clubs or have money invested so they are free to delude themselves and others with these stats. Today it seems that anybody with an agenda can come up with stats about anything. If the issue is a politically correct one then these stats are rarely challenged. Just like Nortel, closed clubs and laid-off workers become invisible to the discussion.  
We're conditioned to believe that since stats are supposed to be based on math and science they are always accurate and pertinent. I no longer believe this. Just because a guy wears a white lab coat doesn't mean he's telling the truth. Just because tobacco companies lied does this mean their opponents never do?  
My blues club has gone private membership and although it's working for now the city has its nose out of joint at this defiance and may use our tax money to fight it in court. Dunno why they're so mad, did they expect the club to meekly lie down and die? What choice does the owner have?  
The policitians don't want to be hung for killing business in the city core but they want the "nico-nazi" vote for free. So they give us lying stats.  
I guess we'll be left with just strip clubs and DJ/Dance halls. Is live music gonna die out?  
---Wild (and Ranting) Bill
8/22/2004 3:59 PM
Some people prop up lies using statistics. Happens all the time.  
But more commonly what happens is that people engage in advocacy and present the facts as they see them or to support their own point of view. Advocacy does not require that you tell both sides of the story. For one, you may only know one side of the story and may not be qualified to tell the other side correctly. Secondly, a fully qualified all encompassing answer addressing all sides of an argument would require more paragraghs then anyone is really interested in reading in a single posting.  
So with regards to the IT discussion, I see it as several well meaning advocates siting statistics in support of their own points of view. In other words, it was just a good old fashioned debate.
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8/23/2004 1:34 PM
Concerned Citizen The stats will confess to anything...
if you torture them long enough. ;)  
8/22/2004 4:27 PM
Anonymous Re: Figures lie and liars figure...
Oh, I almost forgot to address your main issue.  
I'm an advocate against smoking in public places for all the usual reasons. Second hand smoke casues cancer, cigarette smoke in public places makes nonsmokers smell like cigar butts, smoking can be a fire hazard, kissing a girl who smokes heavily is like kissing an ashtray, and so on...  
In my city, cigarette smoking has been banned in clubs. The bar scene did not crumble. If anything more people are willing to go out and have a good time because they know they won't be assaulted by somebody elses smoke.  
Smoking bans are good for business. Club owners are realizing that have a financial need to cater to the nonsmoking masses rather than to the smoking minority. Also, some singers in bands have a hard time singing in an environment filled with smoke because the smoke messes with their vocal chords.  
If you really want to destroy the club scene then pass a law that requires smoking to be mandatory in all clubs. You don't smoke, you don't get in. Try that and see how many businesses go under because of a lack of customers.
8/22/2004 9:40 PM
There has never been any reputable scientific evidence to support the second hand smoke scare. The only support they have is from "meta-studies" where they take multiple individual studies, and combine the data into one larger data set, and then analyze it. This is extremely shoddy science, since the individual studies can be hand-picked to cause a desired outcome. They also point to some other statistics which show that people who live with smokers have three to four times the rate of acquiring specific cancers than "normal" people, but what they don't mention is that the total number of people who acquire these cancers is so small compared to the sample sizes that both rates are actually smaller than the margin of error, meaning both numbers are meaningless.  
I personally do not smoke, and really never enjoyed coming home from a bar smelling like an ash-tray, with a jacket that would stink for a week afterwards, but they are changing something that is legal into something that is only technically legal, for the sole reason that it is annoying. A day will be coming soon where smoking is perfectly legal, but impossible to do anywhere in the country, and that is simply wrong. Next time they might come after one of your vices, like drinking, eating fast food, loud music, or hitting on girls. This is very similar to the first amendment issues we have to deal with in the arts. Remember, the first amendment doesn't protect speech you like, it protects speech you don't like. I don't like some of the in your face avante garde art that shocks middle american moms, religous figures, and senators so much, but I would fight for artist right to create it. Some obscenity laden music really is crap, but I support the right for music to be an uncensored expression.  
Freedom means you get to do what you want, but so do all those annoying ass-holes out there.
8/31/2004 5:32 AM

The issue of no smoking in public places should be on the same piece of paper that states half the vehicles sold the following year need to be hybrids. Both laws would have a devastating impact on business owners, but both need to happen.  
Why then does the auto/oil industry seem more in control of their own fate? Again, they market size, speed and power to the consumers, and we bite like fish. I wonder what the voters in favor of the anti-smoking laws are driving. I'm sure thay all get 30+ mpg. I personally hate inhaling disel fuel while driving and waiting at bus stops. I also hate being forced out of my lane by drivers with more horsepower than sense. But don't smoke around me. Those things have carcinogens in them.
8/22/2004 4:56 PM
I don't know what state you're in, but I think California rebounded after the no smoking laws set in. It may have taken a while and there may have been casualties, however, overall, it's kind of a rarity for me to see someone smoking in public, (still allowed for the moment).
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