Graphs Gone Wild

Graphs Gone Wild

What we can Learn From the Planned Parenthood Graph Incident
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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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The Trump Presidency Is Over

Say hello to President Mike Pence.

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Remember this date: August 21, 2018.

This was the day that two of President Donald Trump's most-important associates were convicted on eight counts each, and one directly implicated the president himself.

Paul Manafort was Trump's campaign chairman for a few months in 2016, but the charges brought against him don't necessarily implicate Trump. However, they are incredibly important considering was is one of the most influential people in the Trump campaign and picked Mike Pence to be the vice presidential candidate.

Manafort was convicted on five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and one count of failure to file a report of a foreign bank account. And it could have been even worse. The jury was only unanimous on eight counts while 10 counts were declared a mistrial.

Michael Cohen, Trump's personal lawyer, told a judge that Trump explicitly instructed him to break campaign-finance laws by paying two women not to publicly disclose the affairs they had with Trump. Those two women are believed to be Karen McDougal, a Playboy model, and Stormy Daniels, a pornstar. Trump had an affair with both while married to his current wife, Melania.

And then to no surprise, Fox News pundits spun this in the only way they know how. Sara Carter on Hannity said that the FBI and the Department of Justice are colluding as if it's some sort of deep-state conspiracy. Does someone want to tell her that the FBI is literally a part of the DOJ?

The Republican Party has for too long let Trump get away with criminal behavior, and it's long past time to, at the very least, remove Mr. Trump from office.

And then Trump should face the consequences for the crimes he has committed. Yes, Democrats have a role, too. But Republicans have control of both chambers of Congress, so they head every committee. They have the power to subpoena Trump's tax returns, which they have not. They have the power to subpoena key witnesses in their Russia investigations, which they have not.

For the better part of a year I have been asking myself what is the breaking point with Republicans and Trump. It does not seem like there is one, so for the time being we're stuck with a president who paid off two women he had an affair with in an attempt to influence a United States election.

Imagine for a second that any past president had done even a fraction of what Trump has.

Barack Obama got eviscerated for wearing a tan suit. If he had affairs with multiple women, then Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell would be preparing to burn him at the stake. If they won't, then Trump's enthusiastic would be more than happy to do so.

For too long we've been saying that Trump is heading down a road similar to Nixon, but it's evident now that we're way past that point. Donald Trump now has incriminating evidence against him to prove he's a criminal, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller is just getting started.

Will Trump soften the blow and resign in disgrace before impeachment like Nixon did? Knowing his fragile ego, there's honestly no telling what he'll do. But it's high time Trump leaves an office he never should have entered in the first place.

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An Escape Raft From Trump

How a declaration of resistance is really a plot to escape blame

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How does a person come back from being part of a great injustice? I'm not talking about how a person recovers from being a victim of a great wrong, nor am I referring to the process of judging those who perpetrated the act. No, what I want to know is how those who aide and abet such actions, those who collaborate and stand idly by, come back into the fold of civilized society without being held to account.

A few weeks ago there was an anonymous Op-Ed in the New York Times from a senior White House official. The piece caused a great stir because it alleged a great conspiracy within the president's administration by even its most senior members to thwart the worst impulses of the president and keep the nation on a relatively sane track. Much of the coverage has focused on trying to identify the author of this controversial piece or praising those brave souls in the administration who are a part of the resistance. I was among this crowd until I started reading a bit further about this article and what it represented. With that further exploration I came to realize that what I took for a reassuring statement to the American public was actually something much more sinister.

How does a person come back from being part of a great injustice? This is the question that is currently haunting the leaders of the Republican Party as they grapple with the Trump presidency and the taint it casts upon their party. As the increasingly impending likelihood that Democrats will take back Congress and ramp up investigations, not only into Trump himself, but also the upper echelons of his administration and even members of Congress, Republicans are searching for any way to avoid blame before this impending storm of controversy and negative stigma hits.

This is where the op-ed and its cynical ploy comes in to play. While I have little doubt that there is a faction in the White House that attempts to curb the president to some degree, I do not for a moment believe it could be called a resistance or the actions of so-called 'adults in the room.' The point of the Op-Ed was not to give voice to this faction, but to control the narrative of Republicans in the White House, to tell a story about otherwise good people who work for this horrible man, but do it because they are preventing someone worse from coming along and doing something really bad. It's a convincing tale all things considered and its been proven to work in the past. Clichéd as it is to bring up Nazis with the Trump administration, in this particular case it fits, many Nazis after the war told tales of honorable Germans who were only doing things out of their patriotic duty and with the belief that if they didn't carry out orders someone else much worse would. It was convincing enough that thousands of former Nazis never received any meaningful form of punishment and lived out the rest of their days never having to atone for their participation in some of the greatest crimes in human history.

The thing about the 'preventing worse things from happening' argument both then and now is that it is complete and utter B.S. Many Germans knew what the Nazis were doing was wrong the same way as many Republicans know what Trump is doing is wrong, they just don't care because it gets them what they want, which is usually power. After some initial hesitation, Republicans were all too eager to embrace Trump and what he represented like moths to a racist, sexist flame. They endorsed and stood by him on the campaign trail even as his behavior set new lows for conduct, as his supporters unlashed a new hatful undercurrent into the party, and as shocking allegations about his personal conduct came out. Even as president when his capacity to lead has been shown on numerous occasions to be insufficient for the office, and his past activities are being revealed as startlingly criminal in nature, they stand by and affirm their support until the end.

Such stubborn loyalty might be commendable if it wasn't to such a horrible man who does such horrible things, except for that fact that it is illusionary. Republicans loyalty to Trump only lasts as far as it brings them power. And now that Trump's star is starting to fall and the voters are preparing to make their displeasure clear at the ballot box, they are seeking to distance themselves from him as fast as possible. The op-ed is simply the first step, to introduce the idea that Republicans were never that invested in Trump in the first place and were always present in opposing him, just not in any open or accountable way. They hope that their efforts coupled with the public's intense dislike of Trump and his close cohorts will allow history to repeat itself and they can get away scot free without their involvement ever coming to light.

We as the American people need to stop this narrative right here at the start and recognize it for what it is, a cynical ploy by a bunch of greedy, corrupt cowards trying to save their own skin as their boss takes the fall. We cannot allow them to succeed in this; we cannot allow them to escape justice. In the name of all those that have been harmed by this administration, in honor of all that has been endangered by their lust for power, they must be held accountable.

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