Why adding LGBT protection to the hate crimes bill is important

  • calibro

    Posts: 8888

    Jun 16, 2009 11:24 PM GMT
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/31390167/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/
  • Delivis

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    Jun 17, 2009 12:09 AM GMT
    The idea of a hate crime seems awefully silly to me. The crime should always be punished by the severity of the action taken and damages caused, not increased or decreased because the target happened to be of a particular minority or not.
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    Jun 17, 2009 12:28 AM GMT
    Delivis saidThe idea of a hate crime seems awefully silly to me. The crime should always be punished by the severity of the action taken and damages caused, not increased or decreased because the target happened to be of a particular minority or not.

    The "severity of the action taken and damages caused" is exactly what hate crime laws attempt to take into account, on the principle that the crime is directed against a class of people, not just single individuals. Plus the government has an interest in discouraging a repetition of these crimes by others, which is a frequently-seen characteristic of hate crimes.

    As another example, it is not uncommon for the penalties for assaults upon police officers to be more severe than when the same injuries are inflicted on civilians. And take a shot at the President of the US and you'll definitely be seeing a lot more jail time than if you tried to wing your neighbor.

    The severity of the crime, therefore, is not based solely on the basic act itself. Society always factors in other aspects that it considers, and hate against targeted groups can be one of them.
  • styrgan

    Posts: 2017

    Jun 17, 2009 12:42 AM GMT
    Delivis saidThe idea of a hate crime seems awefully silly to me. The crime should always be punished by the severity of the action taken and damages caused, not increased or decreased because the target happened to be of a particular minority or not.


    The idea behind a hate crimes bill is anything but silly.

    Hate crimes should carry more stringent penalties because they do cause greater harm to individual victims and society as a whole. The psychological effect of being a victim of a hate crime is far different than if you were simply assaulted for your wallet. You are essentially being told that you are "not right" the way you are, that your "status" as a minority entitles you not to protection or acceptance but that you are sub-human and worthy of being hurt. So in this case, additional punishment does fit the crime.

    Irreparable damage is done to society as well - which is evidenced by the OP's article. A basic idea in the psychology of discrimination is that oppressed groups begin to take on and believe the accusations of their oppressors. So now we have different religious, ethnic, or other groups that believe that they are less than human. Society as a whole has to stand against such an end result.
  • calibro

    Posts: 8888

    Jun 17, 2009 12:49 AM GMT
    Delivis saidThe idea of a hate crime seems awefully silly to me. The crime should always be punished by the severity of the action taken and damages caused, not increased or decreased because the target happened to be of a particular minority or not.


    I get what you're saying, but attacking a person because they are gay is a factor to be taken into account for increased sentencing. For instance, there's difference between getting in a bar fight and hitting a guy and beating up someone who is gay (because of their orientation); in the latter example, there is the added element of intentional harm for circumstances that we as a society say is malicious and unacceptable. So yes, both instances involve a person getting beaten, but one clearly crosses the line with the intent to damage for reasons we deem improper. Think about the delineation of various charges, and how intention and motive are clear contributors to how one is charged for a crime.
  • styrgan

    Posts: 2017

    Jun 17, 2009 1:11 AM GMT
    jprichva saidA hate crime is characterized by an attempt to intimidate an entire class of people or community. This is why it deserves extra scrutiny. It is a form of terrorism.


    You are so dead on, I love it...

    You took what took me three paragraphs to explain badly and condensed it into one sentence that is just so right...
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    Jun 17, 2009 1:56 AM GMT
    In the City I live, the west has a wild violent reputation, and has for many years. We have an influx of Indian students to our city, who are now living in the west, as many people not born to Oz do.

    They are now being victims of violence, and are claiming it's because they are Indian, that they are being targeted. Thus it is a race crime.

    I also think the fact that they have moved to a ruff part of town, and walking home from the train station at night is not a wise, or safe thing to do for most. I myself would not even think about living in that part od town.

    So just because I was to be beaten up, whats to say it has anything to do with the fact, I'm a homosexual? I may of just been at the wrong place, at the wrong time.

    What if I was a gay republican, and I was beaten up by a gay democrat; this too is a hate crime.
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    Jun 17, 2009 2:26 AM GMT
    I am a firm believer that the punishment for a crime should be based on the action taken and not the motivation. Trying to punish based on motivation begins to tread into the realm of the "thought police," that committing a crime for one reason is somehow worse than committing the exact same crime for another. Determining motivation as to assign punishment is too subjective, whereas the details of the actual actions taken are established.

    I completely disagree that all "hate crimes" are what some of you make them out to be, a preconceived plan by one group to terrorize another. Now while I agree that some people actively want to terrorize minorities, not every white who kills a black or straight who kills a gay is doing it to try and terrorize that group. Even if they are doing it simply because they don't like that group, that still doesn't mean they did it intentionally to terrorize the rest of the minority.

    It also sets a double standard, that if you are a minority you are more protected than the majority. Would these same standards be applied if a minority commits a crime against the majority? This is a legalized form of racial or sexual orientation separation, no matter what good ends it's trying to achieve.

    What we should be working towards is justice and ensuring that every crime and every punishment is treated impartially and without bias.
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    Jun 17, 2009 2:29 AM GMT
    I agree with Delivis and would add that the very term is illogical. Rather then calling it "hate crime" it should be termed an "intolerance crime." The term "hate" has two primary meanings, one is attributable to anyone who would act in such a way that would deny love to another, and the other is applied when one stands against something that is morally wrong. To use the term as it currently is used is to weaken the very term itself and to deny that all crime/murder is "hatred" regardless of who the person is. Crime/Murder is crime/murder and the consequence of that action can not be based on the idea of tolerance it must be solely based on the value of human life which has no distinction. How can you truly say that an act against someone that is different then you and which you probably do not know or have a relationship with is greater then a crime against someone who you know and have a relationship with. If anything a hate crime is a crime against someone you have a relationship with.
  • MSUBioNerd

    Posts: 1813

    Jun 17, 2009 2:47 AM GMT
    I've made my views on hate crime legislation known before. For this article, I instead focus on:

    Bad statistics.

    The first two sentences read: "The number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people killed in bias-motivated incidents increased by 28 percent in 2008 compared to a year ago, according to a national coalition of advocacy groups.

    Last year's 29 killings was the highest recorded by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs since 1999, when it documented the same number of slayings, according to a report released Tuesday by the coalition. "


    Therefore, 29 killings is an increase of 28%, right?

    Except that it can't be.

    If there were 22 killings the year before, you've increased by 7. 7/22 = .31818.., which is a 32% increase. If there were 23 killings the year before, you've increased by 6. 6/23 = .26087..., which is a 26% increase. Since deaths come in whole numbers, the math just doesn't work out to a 28% increase.

    Added to that, we're honestly dealing with small numbers here. Is an increase of 6 deaths statistically significant? That's hard to say. Articles like this are one of the reasons why statistics should be a college requirement regardless of major.
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    Jun 17, 2009 3:24 AM GMT
    I do not believe "hate crimes" legislation can peacefully coexist with freedom of thought, religion, and expression. Terrorism is no excuse. Would the 9/11 attack have been any less deadly and horrifying if it were done by a group of guys who were just plain homicidal and had no political agenda?

    I can stand right next to you and hate your guts and believe you are an evil immoral piece of trash and hope God strikes you down with painful diseases and if I see you get run over and killed by a bus I can say, "Hey cool, that socially cancerous person just got splattered". Society may apply its peer pressure to frown upon such personal beliefs, but the government has no business saying anything whatsoever about it. Now, if I push you in front of the bus, then clearly it is in the public interest that I be apprehended and prosecuted. But that occurs if and only if I commit an act with physical consequences. There is a law for the act of "Murder" and there is a law for the act of "Attempted Murder". There is no law for "A Desire to Murder", regardless of whether that desire arose from the victim's social status.

    If during the trial, the prosecution can - through normal civil procedure - provide an evidentiary establishment of my lack of remorse, my intent to commit further crimes, my disrespect for the personal liberty of other citizens, then by all means let the judge and jury consider these facts in their deliberations, as is already the case in most areas. But criminalizing hate itself and providing mandatory sentencing for any situations that appear "bias motivated" is perhaps the most chillingly anti-american thing I could imagine.
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    Jun 17, 2009 3:35 AM GMT
    Red_Vespa said
    Delivis saidThe idea of a hate crime seems awefully silly to me. The crime should always be punished by the severity of the action taken and damages caused, not increased or decreased because the target happened to be of a particular minority or not.

    The "severity of the action taken and damages caused" is exactly what hate crime laws attempt to take into account, on the principle that the crime is directed against a class of people, not just single individuals. Plus the government has an interest in discouraging a repetition of these crimes by others, which is a frequently-seen characteristic of hate crimes.

    As another example, it is not uncommon for the penalties for assaults upon police officers to be more severe than when the same injuries are inflicted on civilians. And take a shot at the President of the US and you'll definitely be seeing a lot more jail time than if you tried to wing your neighbor.

    The severity of the crime, therefore, is not based solely on the basic act itself. Society always factors in other aspects that it considers, and hate against targeted groups can be one of them.


    How can a crime be "directed against a class of people"? A crime is an act with a specific victim or staturory violation. If a white person stands on the street corner screaming "All gays should die! All Jews should die! All atheists should die!", no crime has been committed. If a person in Nashville fatally shoots three white people in the head while screaming "Kill the Whites! Kill the Whites! Kill the Whites!", the crime was the act of murder. The act was directed against three and only three persons -- the dead victims. The murderer did not attempt to kill all 1-2 billion white people in the world, and the white people standing on a street corner in Memphis were not the targets of this murderous act. It is the act which should be put on trial. The perp's mental state may well harbor endless negative feelings towards every caucasian person on the planet. Those thoughts are part of the perp's right to freedom of thought, belief, expression, no matter how distasteful the details appear to us.
  • styrgan

    Posts: 2017

    Jun 17, 2009 3:51 AM GMT
    SportingChance saidI do not believe "hate crimes" legislation can peacefully coexist with freedom of thought, religion, and expression. Terrorism is no excuse. Would the 9/11 attack have been any less deadly and horrifying if it were done by a group of guys who were just plain homicidal and had no political agenda?


    Fortunately, we do not rely on you to define the boundaries of freedom of "expression." Instead, we rely on the Supreme Court which has already ruled favorably regarding hate crime laws (Wisconsin v. Mitchell).

    ...and yes, the attacks of 9/11 would have been less horrifying without the aspect of jihad attached to it.
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    Jun 17, 2009 4:18 AM GMT
    MSUBioNerd saidI've made my views on hate crime legislation known before. For this article, I instead focus on:

    Bad statistics.

    The first two sentences read: "The number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people killed in bias-motivated incidents increased by 28 percent in 2008 compared to a year ago, according to a national coalition of advocacy groups.

    Last year's 29 killings was the highest recorded by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs since 1999, when it documented the same number of slayings, according to a report released Tuesday by the coalition. "


    Therefore, 29 killings is an increase of 28%, right?

    Except that it can't be.

    If there were 22 killings the year before, you've increased by 7. 7/22 = .31818.., which is a 32% increase. If there were 23 killings the year before, you've increased by 6. 6/23 = .26087..., which is a 26% increase. Since deaths come in whole numbers, the math just doesn't work out to a 28% increase.

    Added to that, we're honestly dealing with small numbers here. Is an increase of 6 deaths statistically significant? That's hard to say. Articles like this are one of the reasons why statistics should be a college requirement regardless of major.


    I think things like this need to be put in perspective:

    29 people is 0.00000966% of the population

    According to the FBI, the number of murders in 2007 was 16,929, of which 29 is 0.17%. This means 99.83% of the time people kill other people for reasons other than just bigotry.

    Now, I think each life is just as important as any other, and each crime needs to be thoroughly investigated and criminals punished. However, 29 hardly indicates an epidemic, and 7 is hardly a definitive sign that minorities are being targeted for race-based killings on a dramatically larger scale. This certainly isn't dramatic enough to require the amount of single-minded outrage it creates.
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    Jun 17, 2009 4:43 AM GMT
    styrgan said
    SportingChance saidI do not believe "hate crimes" legislation can peacefully coexist with freedom of thought, religion, and expression. Terrorism is no excuse. Would the 9/11 attack have been any less deadly and horrifying if it were done by a group of guys who were just plain homicidal and had no political agenda?


    Fortunately, we do not rely on you to define the boundaries of freedom of "expression." Instead, we rely on the Supreme Court which has already ruled favorably regarding hate crime laws (Wisconsin v. Mitchell).


    Um okay. You appear to be discussing this issue on a public forum with open membership. I doubt the Supreme Court Justices themselves will be participating today, so if you would like a mutually edifying discussion perhaps you could engage other people's ideas in a less condescending tone?
  • calibro

    Posts: 8888

    Jun 17, 2009 5:00 AM GMT
    MSUBioNerd saidI've made my views on hate crime legislation known before. For this article, I instead focus on:

    Bad statistics.

    The first two sentences read: "The number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people killed in bias-motivated incidents increased by 28 percent in 2008 compared to a year ago, according to a national coalition of advocacy groups.

    Last year's 29 killings was the highest recorded by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs since 1999, when it documented the same number of slayings, according to a report released Tuesday by the coalition. "


    Therefore, 29 killings is an increase of 28%, right?

    Except that it can't be.

    If there were 22 killings the year before, you've increased by 7. 7/22 = .31818.., which is a 32% increase. If there were 23 killings the year before, you've increased by 6. 6/23 = .26087..., which is a 26% increase. Since deaths come in whole numbers, the math just doesn't work out to a 28% increase.

    Added to that, we're honestly dealing with small numbers here. Is an increase of 6 deaths statistically significant? That's hard to say. Articles like this are one of the reasons why statistics should be a college requirement regardless of major.


    Umm... perhaps you need to take an English class before you tell us about statistics... read the second paragraph again... "Last year's 29 killings was the highest recorded by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs since 1999," meaning there has been a 28 percent increase from last year's 29, not that this year there were 29 killings. That means 8 more people were killed as the math shows 8/29 is 27.5 percent, hence the 28 percent figure.

    Second, 8 more deaths is significant, considering how many crimes go unreported.
  • MSUBioNerd

    Posts: 1813

    Jun 17, 2009 5:09 AM GMT
    This year is 2009. Last year was 2008. If someone says that "Last year, X happened," the default interpretation is that it happened in 2008.

    And, further, 8 additional deaths may be significant. It may also be a meaningless fluctuation of pure stochastic chance, much as if you keep flipping a coin over an over again, eventually you'll get a string of 8 consecutive heads. That would be significant if it's the first 8 flips; you're probably not dealing with a fair coin. It's not significant if it happens starting at flip 400, given that it's expected to occur by chance 1 out of every 256 strings of 8 flips.

    Given that you're stating that many of these crimes go unreported, how do you know whether those additional 8 reports represent an actual increase in the number of crimes being committed, compared to merely an increase in the percentage of them that are being reported?
  • calibro

    Posts: 8888

    Jun 17, 2009 5:18 AM GMT
    MSUBioNerd saidThis year is 2009. Last year was 2008. If someone says that "Last year, X happened," the default interpretation is that it happened in 2008.

    And, further, 8 additional deaths may be significant. It may also be a meaningless fluctuation of pure stochastic chance, much as if you keep flipping a coin over an over again, eventually you'll get a string of 8 consecutive heads. That would be significant if it's the first 8 flips; you're probably not dealing with a fair coin. It's not significant if it happens starting at flip 400, given that it's expected to occur by chance 1 out of every 256 strings of 8 flips.

    Given that you're stating that many of these crimes go unreported, how do you know whether those additional 8 reports represent an actual increase in the number of crimes being committed, compared to merely an increase in the percentage of them that are being reported?


    Again, let's examine the English. Yes, this year is 2009; however, statistics for the conclusive year implies an entire year has to have passed. 2009 is still current, therefore its ridiculous to think the statistic refers to this year. Also, the first sentence reads "The number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people killed in bias-motivated incidents increased by 28 percent in 2008 compared to a year ago" Ergo, this are statistics for 2008. Regardless of how poorly you think the writer of the article penned that statement, it doesn't disprove the statistics.

    Second, it's well documented that cases like rape spousal abuse, and hate crimes against gays go underreported for a variety of reasons, and therefore an increase in them correlates to an increase in crime in general. Furthermore, it's preposterous to compare flipping a coin to murder. Murder is not dependent on a fifty-fifty chance. I have no idea how you can rationalize the statistics of how many people are killed to the odds of a coin flipping heads; the two are mutually exclusive in their probability
  • styrgan

    Posts: 2017

    Jun 17, 2009 5:23 AM GMT
    SportingChance said
    styrgan said
    SportingChance saidI do not believe "hate crimes" legislation can peacefully coexist with freedom of thought, religion, and expression. Terrorism is no excuse. Would the 9/11 attack have been any less deadly and horrifying if it were done by a group of guys who were just plain homicidal and had no political agenda?


    Fortunately, we do not rely on you to define the boundaries of freedom of "expression." Instead, we rely on the Supreme Court which has already ruled favorably regarding hate crime laws (Wisconsin v. Mitchell).


    Um okay. You appear to be discussing this issue on a public forum with open membership. I doubt the Supreme Court Justices themselves will be participating today, so if you would like a mutually edifying discussion perhaps you could engage other people's ideas in a less condescending tone?


    I would not. It's too easy to be condescending when someone actually thinks that hateful expression that leads to assault or murder deserves protection. Especially when they disagree with a unanimous conservative court that has already ruled otherwise, and when a participant doesn't take the time to read it.

    Hate crimes legislation does not criminalize free expression. It merely tacks on additional penalties for specific motives for a crime. This is not new in our justice system - which is permitted to use many aspects beside the "act" to determine punishment. What is the difference between manslaughter and murder? Premeditation is simply a thought or desire, and yet we use that distinction quite often.

    We are not criminalizing thought. We are not saying people cannot say horrible things about gays and lesbians or other minorities. We are just taking away an incentive for committing bias motivated crimes.

    Oh, and crimes can be directed against groups of people. It's called genocide, and in international courts, it is also given more stringent penalties, so clearly the concept of "protecting" minorities in this fashion is not new either.
  • MSUBioNerd

    Posts: 1813

    Jun 17, 2009 5:38 AM GMT
    OK, ignore the article you linked to for a moment. Go to the National Coalition for Anti-Violence Programs website and follow the link to the report itself.

    Page 3:

    "The total number of victims reporting anti-LGBT violence to the NCAVP in 2008 was 2424 which represents a 2% increase over the total number of victims reported in 2007, and a 26% increase over a two year period. Known anti-LGBT murders rose 28% from 2007 to 2008 and are at the highest level since 1999."

    Thus, we establish that the numbers is 2008 are said to be 28% higher than those in 2007. This is what I interpreted the news report as saying.

    Next we look at the graph on page 9. Relevant numbers:

    2007: 21
    2008: 29

    Thus, we establish that there were 29 known anti-LGBT murders in 2008. Again, this is what I interpreted the news report as saying.

    Therefore, we went from 21 to 29. 29/21 = 1.38... That is a 38% increase, not a 28% increase. The reported math is wrong.

    The comparison to coin flipping was merely for the illustrative purpose of basic statistics that most people are relatively familiar with. Whether a fluctuation you see in the data is statistically significant depends, in large part, on the sample size you're looking at and how often you would expect such a deviation from a pattern by pure, random chance. I in no way implied that murder is dependent on a 50/50 chance. I find it amazing that you'd say I did in the midst of criticizing my reading comprehension.
  • styrgan

    Posts: 2017

    Jun 17, 2009 5:45 AM GMT
    jprichva said
    styrgan said
    ...and yes, the attacks of 9/11 would have been less horrifying without the aspect of jihad attached to it.

    Right.
    Imagine that 2,759 people had died in the World Trade Center because the buildings collapsed spontaneously due to a design flaw.

    A horrible tragedy? Of course. Would we have changed our entire system of airline check-ins, building security at famous targets (like Rockefeller Center, which was never technically threatened), no-fly lists, warrantless wiretapping, and torture?

    Don't be ridiculous. So of course the motive of jihad made a difference.

    Notice I didn't say we wouldn't have had an Iraq war. The War-Criminal-In-Chief had been planning that one even before 9/11.


    It's even more than that.

    If some homicidal maniac flew a plane into downtown Manhattan, we would not have felt that our entire way of life was under attack.

    9/11 brought us together because it instantly identified us all as Americans, and for a brief time, we all felt a commonality that is quite rare for our individualistic country - sort of united in our individualism. Had 9/11 been anything less than a foreign attack by people with a totally different values system, that would not have occurred.
  • calibro

    Posts: 8888

    Jun 17, 2009 5:48 AM GMT
    MSUBioNerd saidOK, ignore the article you linked to for a moment. Go to the National Coalition for Anti-Violence Programs website and follow the link to the report itself.

    Page 3:

    "The total number of victims reporting anti-LGBT violence to the NCAVP in 2008 was 2424 which represents a 2% increase over the total number of victims reported in 2007, and a 26% increase over a two year period. Known anti-LGBT murders rose 28% from 2007 to 2008 and are at the highest level since 1999."

    Thus, we establish that the numbers is 2008 are said to be 28% higher than those in 2007. This is what I interpreted the news report as saying.

    Next we look at the graph on page 9. Relevant numbers:

    2007: 21
    2008: 29

    Thus, we establish that there were 29 known anti-LGBT murders in 2008. Again, this is what I interpreted the news report as saying.

    Therefore, we went from 21 to 29. 29/21 = 1.38... That is a 38% increase, not a 28% increase. The reported math is wrong.

    The comparison to coin flipping was merely for the illustrative purpose of basic statistics that most people are relatively familiar with. Whether a fluctuation you see in the data is statistically significant depends, in large part, on the sample size you're looking at and how often you would expect such a deviation from a pattern by pure, random chance. I in no way implied that murder is dependent on a 50/50 chance. I find it amazing that you'd say I did in the midst of criticizing my reading comprehension.



    Well, if those statistics are correct, which I have no reason to doubt, then I admit I am wrong about the percentage points (but only so because I was going by the article, and to be fair, your original math reference was comprised of the same flawed representation).

    And the reason why I say you are comparing flipping a coin to murder is because there is a difference between saying the increase of 8 deaths may be a spike in the charts that bears no correlation to an actual rise over the long term versus saying it could be an anomaly like flipping eight heads, which is a direct comparison to something trivial.
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    Jun 17, 2009 6:12 AM GMT
    calibro saidAnd the reason why I say you are comparing flipping a coin to murder is because there is a difference between saying the increase of 8 deaths may be a spike in the charts that bears no correlation to an actual rise over the long term versus saying it could be an anomaly like flipping eight heads, which is a direct comparison to something trivial.


    Statistics is about using a smaller sample of a larger population to attempt and determine a trend in the larger population. It is also about separating background variability from true meaningful difference. His reference here was simply explaining whenever you are trying to use numbers from a limited sample, variability from unaccountable sources must be considered before you can make a determination as to whether a relationship exists.

    The limited sample is the number of murders which were legally determined to be hate crimes. There were undoubtedly more, however only a portion of those show up in the data. The question of significance comes with whether that increase of 7 is representative of a 38% increase in ALL hate crime related murders or only a 38% increase in CONVICTED hate crime murders. For example, perhaps last year there were actually 100 total hate crime related murders, but this year there were only 50. However, 7 more were reported. Probability comes in when you are trying to determine the likelihood of your sample being representative of the population as a whole. All he is saying is that unless they give you the statistical error, you can't know if that increase is truly representative or only due to background variables (such as which judges were overseeing trials, the testimony of witnesses, the skill of the defense attorneys, etc.) Because these affect the results, but in unpredictable ways (randomness like a coin) you cannot say whether or not there is a true relationship. All we can do is use statistics to give a measure of certainty by ruling out random variability, which they do not do.
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    Jun 17, 2009 6:29 AM GMT
    I hope federal hate crimes legislation does go through. Whether there has been murder, debilitating injury, or harassment that significantly impacts someone's life, gay people might need the extra help in places where the bias of local authorities may prevent those individuals from receiving adequate justice. Help from federal authorities may make a difference.

    Also better record keeping (and statistics) will help identify useful information and trends in those bias attacks.
  • MSUBioNerd

    Posts: 1813

    Jun 17, 2009 6:30 AM GMT
    Coin flipping is, of course, trivial. But it's an easier form of statistics to understand than non-trivial things. We're dealing with two major issues here in the stats:

    1) Is the increase, by itself, statistically significant?

    This is what I was dealing with in the coin flipping example. Does the difference observed rise above the level of deviation expected purely by chance? It might be the case that if you could exactly predict the probability of any individual person committing an anti-LGBT hate crime in a given year, you'd expect that, say, 20 people would do so. But that's based on knowing the probabilities of each person doing so, and adding those up across the set of all people. 20 instances of a specific crime in a year, in a nation of over 300,000,000 people is a very small number, and probabilities break down when the numbers get small. If you expect something to happen 1 time, and it happens 2 times, that's a 100% increase, but it's probably not a statistically significant increase. If you expect it to happen 100 times and it happens 200 times, that's far more likely to be statistically significant. That's where analogies like coin flipping come into play, because people will realize it's not that rare for two coins to come up the same way (it'll happen 50% of the time), but it is rare for 10 coins to either all be heads or all be tails (it happens less than 0.2% of the time).

    2) If the increase is significant, does that mean that more of these crimes are actually occurring?

    Point 2 is one that people constantly forget about, despite being told over and over again that "correlation does not mean causation." For example, reported instances of autism are sharply on the rise. It is far from clear, though, whether this represents a true increase in the number of people who are autistic, or simply an increase in the rate at which it is formally diagnosed, given that parents and doctors are now looking for signs of autism, and many high-functioning autistics who otherwise would have been considered just socially-awkward math and computer geeks are now being labeled as autistic.

    At the risk of being even more trivial, in an episode of the West Wing there's a plot point about changing the poverty line, and the political fallout that would be expected to result from saying that the number of poor people increased by a large percentage over the previous year. One of the characters finally says something to the effect of "They were already poor. We're just finally calling them poor."