Here is another post in my series of “Not the facts, just the data”. This post came after an argument I had with someone I care about. Make no mistake that this is not a rebutle but just a perspective on data vs. facts, and arguments vs. politics.
The biggest argument I stand being, from my point of view, is this: Do not trust or love politics, love your people, peers, country, and family.
Politicians on either side of the coin will use data for their agenda. If you get wrapped up in it, and start believing what you are *told*, through sound bites and ads, you will be misinformed 100% of the time. More information isn’t tantamount to a depth of information.
This is why I have learned not to trust politics, they bet on people not reading the full story (as wel only have so much time in the day) and try to create anger and conflict to make people mad enough to vote how they want. It feels like THAT is what has gotten worst over the years, not so much what is happening in the world, just the way its agenda is given to us. China does it by cutting off information, the US does it by overloading its people with one sided information.
The good news is that with the advent of the Internet it is now so easy to get the data and documents from the source, and fight back as a citizen saying “don’t use me for your agenda”. No need to go to the library and send letters requesting data that may take days or weeks; it is available now if you are willing to read it.
As my methods to get to the data evolve, I try and follow some procedures to navigate past the political propaganda.
First, If I find a “fact” that I am researching on any news site, I look for the citation for the “fact” so I know where it came from, and then look that fact up from it source to read it myself. If there is not citation, I start over. A citation does not make it data, it just helps you get a path to the source. Secondly, if I find the source I read it, if I cannot find the source I look for the source directly. At this stage in the evolution of my process I have deemed .gov sites and non-profit census bureaus as a final source. In some situation you can never be sure unless you count the numbers yourself, but I have found the most consistency at that level. Yes I know that even the government stats, non profits, and census bureaus can lie but if I can find some consitancy at that level I am pleased.
Lastly, how to spot a fact with skeletons in its closet that should trigger an investigation like the one above before having the debate.
Well, the main thing that triggers a fact check to me are statistics, and references to bill being voted on. Why? Well, over the years I have found that stats have a high potential to be screwed. Or example, what constitutes ”1 year” – Fiscal year or calendar year etc. Another example is is the stats extrapolated from previous data or data that has already happened. Another read flag is the use of tag lines, sound bits and general words like “taxes”, and “everyone”, and “higher” — higher then when and what for whom? Also, the reference to bills, are tough to believe from something like “he voted to….” After living in DC and working on capitol hill with you realize that both sides of the fence will quote the same document at different parts and come up with completely different conclusion. It is impossible for both are either to be entirely right, but both sides would never realize that they both *think* they are 100% right. As my readers and friends know by now, one of my big rules of thumb is: If experts disagree it is time to make your own decisions. A bill is written by many people with many agendas for their state. They are stiuffed, written and re-written over and over to try to get as much as they each want to get in it, and keep out as much as they don’t. They do this hours and hours everyday to come to a final document that is then voted on by all parties. It is very important to remember that time line, for no document has one message, and if it passed their is a big chance that both parties voted yes on it (unless there was a big split with few deciding votes). Point being, much could have gone into a document and so much more history to that document then any sound bite could articulate.
So, one of the bills that was brought as a point of contention was based on a sound bites saying “Obama voted on late term abortion”, and it was said that the bill was made to let mothers have the right to kill a baby after it is born alive. Well, personal, I did not know about that bill first hand, and that I promised to look it up. Speaking from my own perspectives I don’t like the sound of it, but I want the source and document first before my personal conclusions on that vote are spoken.
This is one of the actual bills voted on for Illinois referenced. It only took a few minutes to bring up. It was indeed named “Partial-birth Abortion Ban Act”, so that is a true data point. As it turns out was voted on 44-7 (almost everyone agreed in both parties, that decided to attend). Also there were 5 present votes. What does a present vote
The “present” vote is in effect a “no” vote, but it is a “no” vote that sends a message. The “present” vote is used by lawmakers in situations where they agree with a bill in
spirit, however the current version of the bill is not good enough to vote “yes;”
The bill, in my first hand summary, would be this: A bill for late term abortion *if* it will kill the mother to have the baby, but still says it is illegal otherwise. But please, do not take my word for it! Read it here:
So it is important for me to see just how complex a bill can be, in addition to how complex it is to create, finalize,vote on and pass, on it.
Another topic was immigration. Stats are the hardest data to really find concrete numbers. There isn’t a list of people that are counted ever. It is def not as easy to get to the bottom of as a document being references. Old census bureus that have been around and referenced over time by both parties is, to me, a better place to start than from a news site, network, or politician.
So here is census data from the Pew Foundation on immigration stats, highest in 2007, and leveled off down by a million the following years.
It is important to note that data usually doesn’t come with a “should”, “good”, “bad”, or “won’t” list of words around it. Why did it go up? That is as complex as why did it go down? And as you will see that once why is added to statistics rarely does a group of experts agree. There are so many variables, and that is where debates and politics I suppose have a place. But I would implore you all out there to start the debate after the data is presented, and be sure not to find yourself repeating an ad or politicians claim that a statistic is “up” or “down” until you read it for yourself from the source.
I think my new strategy will be to make sure that before I argue on big issues like this, especially in DC where the ads and politics are so ripe with contention, I will just say show me the document we are arguing over before getting involved. If we do, maybe the citizens of this country can take back their right to be informed, and to make decisions without political agenda being the force that drives them.