Graphs Gone Wild

Graphs Gone Wild

What we can Learn From the Planned Parenthood Graph Incident

Unless you've been living under a rock (or struggling through college midterms season), you are probably up-to-date on the events of last weeks' congressional Planned Parenthood meeting. And if you have been watching the fallout from that meeting, you may have heard about the scandal surrounding a certain graph, produced by Utah's Republican representative Jason Chaffetz as definitive "proof" of the organization's pernicious activity. For those of you who have not yet seen said graph, I'll just leave this here:

Behold, a striking display of mathematical genius! Note the absence of a y-axis, a clearly ingenious and incredibly subtle maneuver by the graphic artists to prove to us that everything we learned in grade school math class was actually a lie.

Children of America put your pencils down. Save yourself the trouble of writing that meaningless second axial label. The number 327,000 is, in fact, greater than 935,573, and y-intercepts are a thing of the past. Forget everything your calculus professor taught you--this is politics.

*For a bonus chuckle, note the source (bottom right-hand corner), and watch this video of Cecile Richards schooling Jason Chaffetz on the importance of reliable reference materials.

In all seriousness, though, the construction of this plot is abominably misleading. For a bit of perspective, this is what that same graph would have looked like in accordance with the rules of simple algebra:

Through the simple addition of a second axis, the graph provided by Chaffetz loses much of its visual significance. The sky-rocketing red slope of abortion services presented on the original graph evens out to a nearly-horizontal slant in Vox's mathematically-accurate plot.

But wait--it gets better! Vox takes its graphical analysis to yet another level of accurate representation by incorporating statistics for STI/STD treatment, and well as contraceptive services, into this completely comprehensive chart:

For those of you wondering: no, that is not an image depicting two different graphs. That's one plot, representing a massive amount of beneficial, potentially lifesaving health services performed by an organization that many Americans rely on in order to stay happy and well. It's just big because, well, it's actually drawn to scale.

By no means is the now-infamous Anti- Planned Parenthood graph the only instance of laughably manipulated "graphs" in the media. Actually, they're everywhere. To underscore the irrelevance of incorrectly-rendered graphs, take a look at these and play "Spot the Deceptive Graphical Inaccuracies," (my new favorite game).

The "Difference-is-strangely-larger-than-expected" Graph

When did 35 percent get so much smaller compared to 39.6 percent? Oh right, when Fox started the origin at a value of 34 percent...

The "Oops-we-inverted-the-y-axis-but-this-serves-our-purpose-better" Graph

"Hey boss, I have an idea-- let's just start the graph at a y-axis value of one thousand and slowly build up to zero. Nobody will ever notice, trust me..."

The "This-is-why-we-check-our-math" Graph

Scotland really gave 110 percent in this election. Literally.

All in all, this past Tuesdays' Planned Parenthood debates taught us about a lot more than mere federal funding-- it proved once and for all that sleeping through math class is never a good idea. Long live y=mx+b!

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Will Enough Ever Be Enough?

Yet another school shooting in America, still nothing done. We are dying.

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018: We are all heartbroken to hear about another school shooting.

At Great Mills High School in Maryland, a 17-year-old male is pronounced dead at the scene after shooting two other students and a school resource officer. Just before their first period started, at 7:55 am, Austin Rollins shot one male and one female student with a handgun before being shot by the school's resource officer. While the 16-year-old female is in critical condition, the 14-year-old male is currently stable. This is the 17th school shooting in 2018. That's 17 days out of the past 80 that parents have gone to bed with their children in body bags as a result of gun violence.

I don't care what political party you associate with, gun violence is completely out of control. I am a registered Republican and completely agree with stricter gun laws. Learn the difference between a gun ban and sales control. Concerned citizens are not trying to take away your guns, but are trying to take away the rights from those that are risks.

Could you imagine legally having to send your child to school but never coming back? You've packed their lunch, maybe with a special note, and gave them a kiss before they left for school, not knowing that it was their last. No matter where we go, we are not safe. We can't go to malls, movie theaters, schools, or even churches without having to worry if it will be our last trip. Our homes, our places of worship, and our schools are supposed to be the places where we feel safest and, instead, our children are filled with fear. Instead of focusing on the political views that divide these groups, why don't we focus on what unites us? Why don't we focus on protecting our kin?

Everyone has had an opinion on the walkouts that have been happening around the country. Everyone has had an opinion on the 17 minutes of silence for the 17 children lost in the Florida shooting. I've seen people disgusted that Nickelodeon had 17 minutes of broadcast cut because it "interrupted the only program [I] let [my] children watch".

If your child was shot at school, you wouldn't have to worry about what programs they watch, but rather where to bury them and how to afford their memorial.

I've seen people saying that it's no wonder that Millenials are dumb. They "find any excuse to cut class". Have you thought about the fact that they are genuinely worried about going to school?

Personally, I've experienced both a shooting scare at my high school and a bomb threat at my college. I shouldn't have to worry about my life ending. I'm legally forced to go to high school and get an education or I'm putting myself into a lifetime of debt to get a degree.

We are all too young to stress about gun violence. Our school years are supposed to be the times our of lives, but they're being wasted on worrying about dying every day.

Rest in peace to all of those who have lost their lives in shootings, not only this year, but always. Hopes, thoughts, and prayers go out to their loved ones. One day, we will unite and find a solution.

We need to work together and forget the labels of parties and cliques in school and look out for one another instead. There is no kind but mankind.

Cover Image Credit: Boston Herald

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The Republican Versus Democrat Stigma Needs To Slow Down

We Need To Be Individual Again

We as a society have developed an unnecessary need to place people in a specific party based on what could be a single value out of many. This is a letter for those who do not define themselves as one or the other; for those whose values range between conservative and liberal, for those who feel the unfortunate pressure of society to choose one even though your values do not fit just one.

The political parties at one point generally just meant “these are my basic beliefs, so this is the candidate I will vote for because they most closely represent them.” Party affiliation was harmless. Republicans and Democrats could get along fine, differing opinions not getting in the way of relationships and alignment. More importantly, you did not have to be part of a specific political party to be an active member of society. Your opinions and principles were yours.

Over the years following the last two election races, political parties gained a much more significant and defining meaning in our lives as individuals and as members of society. There is a newly developed stigma behind political opinions. You are almost pressured to feel one way or another about every single topic. If a majority of your values are of the conservative agenda, you must be a heart-and-all Republican. In contrast, if you are more liberal-leaning you are docked as a set Democrat. We as citizens are being labeled according to what may be a few hard-values. And dishearteningly enough, can be ridiculed for what we value. Even if you might not value everything the same as your determined party.

There exists those of us that hold values from both parties. It is possible to value women’s rights and also value a traditional marriage. It is possible to be a gun owner and also active in keeping children safe in school. You do not have to just submit to every belief of one party. You can value aspects of different parties and still be a functioning member of the American society. Do not let the looming obligation to declare yourself as strictly one or the other. You do not have to pretend you agree with everything Democratic or everything Republican; you can have your own values. And you should. Our society is messed up in the way that values are pushed on citizens. We are meant to be free individuals with our private values.

It is not fair to those of us who value different things. Not every American is a to-the-bone Democrat or Republican. It is possible to hold liberal beliefs as a conservative person. And Vice-Versa. We need to stop labeling one another as one or the other, conservative or liberal. We need to stop silencing each other because we have differing views. We need to accept not everyone is perfectly one party, and diversity exists. Open mindedness exists in Americans, despite the seemingly growing generalizations. We need to be able to agree to disagree on certain topics.
Cover Image Credit: LexiHanna

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