Opinionated @ CFE

A Local Example of Bad Polling

Jan
19

Many moons ago, my high school US Government teacher would constantly stress to always check the source of any information. Unsurprisingly, I’ve found that the source matters immensely. In fact, it’s become commonplace to find think tanks and lobbying groups simply parroting the talking points of contributing members. You’ll often find the same thing happening with a poll or research study; the group paying for it almost invariably gets the result they were seeking. It’s almost become expected to immediately look at the source of information for whatever obvious bias exists.

Here in Utah, it’s happened to us yet again with a new study claiming pervasive and widespread discrimination against sexual minorities. Unsurprisingly, the study was commissioned by Equality Utah, a gay rights group. What’s truly surprising, though, it that the group doing the study openly disclosed its own shoddy methods. They admitedly depended exclusively on self-selection for the survey results, a method rife with bias as only those who feel most strongly are likely to respond, skewing the results heavily. What’s also telling is that it depends on those who sought to respond to report if they had personally been on the receiving end of discrimination, but there’s no methodology to verify the actual¬†occurrence¬†of said discrimination. In short, the only thing that the “study” confirms is that sexual minorities feel that they are discriminated against, but it makes no effort to confirm or quantify that perception. Instead, it just gives in to the all-too-human tendency towards victimhood (which, I would stress, no group is immune from).

Look, I’m not saying that the discrimination doesn’t exist, nor am I claiming that nothing ever need be done about it. (I’m personally ambivalent on anti-discrimination ordinances falling slighting in the ‘against’ camp.) What I am saying is that if you’re going to attempt to quantify it, do it right. Making such an obviously biased survey in a ham-fisted attempt to garner sympathy only retrenches the opponents and turns off anyone on the fence with your martyr complex. Reacting to this questioning of the methodology with mocking and hostility also isn’t going to help your case. Being honest will earn you respect and influence, probably more than you would lose if the data is against you.

The only thing I've got to say about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

Nov
21

If our military leaders are certain that the benefits outweigh the risks, there’s little evidence that there will be a significant impact on operational readiness, and they’re using data-driven and not ideology-driven means to determine this, I don’t see why there’s a reason to keep “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” around. If the converse is true or there’s no data to support repeal, drop the issue. I’m personally pretty sick of the emotional nonsense surrounding the issue when it should be a simple matter of cold hard numbers and what’s truly best for the military.

Finding True Common Ground

Nov
16

I’ve maintained pretty staunchly that many of the right that same-sex couples are seeking can be easily obtained via existing contract law. This includes rights such as inheritance, hospital visitation, and power of attorney. It wasn’t until recently, though, that I read a very thoughtful comment on the subject (on the Salt Lake Tribune’s comments board no less) that obtaining these rights often requires the services of a very expensive lawyer. A marriage license, on the other hand, is a scant $50, an amount that wouldn’t even cover exchanging pleasantries with your typical legalista. This isn’t to say that I am changing my mind one bit on who we extend marriage to, but this pricing differential must be addressed.

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Blatant Hypocrisy

Nov
14

If there’s one thing most of us can agree on, it’s that double standards are bad. We expect to be held to the same rules and laws as everyone else. Unfortunately, too many will happily apply differing standards when it suits their purposes. This week’s endorsement by the LDS Church of Salt Lake City’s anti-discrimination ordinance is one such instance where the standard changed depending on which side of the issue the player was supporting.

Rewind your brain to last year. Do you recall some of the statements being made regarding the LDS Church and Prop 8? There was a loud group shrilly crying that churches had no place in the political process whatsoever. So what did these same people do when the LDS Church once again involved itself in the political process with its public endorsement of this new ordinance? Were there calls to get out the political process? In-your-face demonstrations at places of worship? Petition drives topped out with hyperbolic appropriation of historical emblems?

No, it was silence. Deafening silence. Not a discernible peep of protest that the mean old nasty Church was trying to mix politics and religion yet again.

Apparently, it’s just fine for churches to be involved in the political process so long as they are on the “right” side of the issue. (I noted the same hypocrisy when churches were demonstrating in favor of President Obama’s proposed healthcare legislation.) This kind of blatant hypocrisy has no place in the political process. You can either claim that churches have no right to participate in the political process or you can accept their endorsements of issues you support, but not both.

(Now before you start thinking that the former of these two is the better option, I would remind you that churches played significant roles in the American Revolution, abolition, and the civil rights movement. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was also Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

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