Wednesday, October 14, 2015

How Data is Skewed

I have a lot of discussions with friends about political issues. Many issues are subjective and are open to interpretation. There are at least two major problems with most subjective discussions. The first is that people make assumptions and the second is that we do not know what the final outcome will be.

No one doubts that we have a bad situation in Iraq, but the issue of who caused the problems or made them worse is debatable. If GW Bush had not invaded Iraq, it is possible that Saddam Hussein might still be the dictator and causing headaches for the west while keeping Iran in check. Going back even further, If GHW Bush had not have driven Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait, Bush 43 and Cheney may not have felt a need to go there either. You could conclude that any of the people previously named in this paragraph should take the blame. I agree, that is arguable.

When GW Bush left office and Obama took over, Obama pledged to end the war. He and Joe Biden claimed victory in Iraq, then Obama withdrew American forces from that country. Soon after, Nouri al-Maliki disbanded the semi-stable government and started replacing high ranking officials with his personal preference choices, which led to a rebellion, which led to ISIS strengthening and putting the whole region in chaos. Does this make Obama and Biden culpable or does the blame go to Maliki. Again it is debatable.

The truth is all of these people share responsibility for the chaotic situation. It appears Russia, Iran and Syria might get the final say about the future of the region. Too bad, because I never think of the Russians as the good guys. Unfortunately we have a whole political party in this country that does not think we are the good guys either. Subjective – does it matter? Are there any good guys left? If not us, who?

Subjective discussions I can understand. But I have some objective discussions with people that will not believe the truth. You can show them the data and they prefer to believe the lies they are told. I have said many times, our news services are doing a great disservice to this country by ignoring all the stories that do not fit the narrative they are trying to weave.

Many websites cherry-pick data to make a point. For instance you can compare unemployment data and pick the highest unemployment number for each Republican President and the lowest unemployment number for each Democrat President. Who do you suppose looks good in that chart? You could also take a snapshot of the President’s first or last day in office and display the one that best suits the story you are trying to tell.

Everyone tries to present information in a way that is most fits their narrative. So do I, but I much prefer to see actual numbers and I usually do before I create charts. Do you remember the climate scientists always seem to lose the actual data? Then the Obama Administration had the NOAA going around the world changing actual temperature data to fit a computer model that predicts the future. Scientists do not hide their data – thus my conclusion there are no climate scientists, only unscrupulous people that want big government grants. A sad situation Mr. Holmes.

A few charts of interest from US Government statistics.

This displays average unemployment numbers. Obama's average is still going down since he is still in office.

Labor force participation rate. Nixon, Carter and Bush 41 were putting people back to work. Clinton & Bush 43 kept it mostly stable, then came Obama.

Johnson and Clinton did well and Obama is trending in the right direction.

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