Monday, 25 October 2010

95 Pages Based on Nothing

The Prison Reform Trust and a charity called Unlock have produced a 95 page report about finances and prison. Basic idea seems to be that people in prison (or just released) find it harder to convince banks to trust them. Shock.

But what got me was that this long report is pretty much worthless. On page 81 in the appendix we are told how they gathered their results. Out of a prison population of 85,228 they interviewed 144 or 0.17%. Of those 97 responded through self-filled in surveys leaving just 47 who were actually interviewed or 0.06%. 24 former prisoners filled in on-line surveys and 29 families did likewise. These last two groups chose to do so after reading about it in the Unlock charity's e-newsletter.

OK so the sample sizes were far too small and obviously biased. Now get this from page 18 of the report in the Methodology section:
Statistical data were analysed on SPSS to produce frequencies and simple cross tabulations. The small size of the samples precluded tests for statistical significance.
Yet somehow enough to produce a 95 page report.

Stretching Laws

The First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press
If it's in the constitution you'd think that would be that but no. A newspaper in New Hampshire refused to publish a wedding announcement for a gay marriage (which is legal in that state).

Paul Hodes, a Democratic Senate candidate for the state, told Mr McQuaid that the newspaper should "respect the law of New Hampshire" and change its policy. 
Perhaps Mr Hodes should abide by the law and not try to make laws limit the freedom of the press.

Has Everyone Forgotten About Income Tax?

Tuition fee stupidity:
Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, confirmed that ministers were examining ways to make the new system more "progressive". He said: "High-earning graduates will be paying more later in their life, but in a progressive way relating to their ability to pay. There is an issue about people who go on to very high-earning jobs and who therefore pay off relatively quickly and we do have to think about how to find a way by which they make some sort of contribution towards low-earning graduates. It's a tricky technical problem but we're working on it" 
Higher earners pay more income tax (not only more but at a higher rate too). "Tricky technical problem" already solved.

Sir Alex and Tim

Sir Alex Ferguson:
‘‘When your top players come towards the end of their contracts, you have to do something to get them a new one. They are all the same. But you have to deal with agents of this world today, which is difficult. There is no problem with players, but some agents are difficult.” 
Was going to comment about this but Tim already has.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Email Irony

A group called Spam Ratings has published some results about the number of websites in the UK that send out spam. From the brief look at their site it seems that their business is charging companies to display (after winning of course) a logo declaring their site to be "spam free".

But I found this quite ironic:

Friday, 22 October 2010

Stupidity in Published Scientific Literature

Pink News reports on a publication reporting that some adverts on Facebook are targetted at gay men exclusively even though they have nothing to do with sexual orientation. A quote from the published article [pdf] (emphasis mine):
Alarmingly, we found ads where the ad text was completely neutral to sexual-preference (e.g. for a nursing degree in a medical college in Florida) that was targeted exclusively to gay men. The danger with such ads, unlike the gay bar ad where the target demographic is blatantly obvious, is that the user reading the ad text would have no idea that by clicking it he would reveal to the advertiser both his sexual-preference and a unique identifier (cookie, IP ad- dress, or email address if he signs up on the advertiser’s site).
How does something get through peer-review stating that if someone signs up to a site with their email address they "would have no idea" that the people they are signing up to will have their email address?

One other point. The experiment run to find these conclusions involved three Facebook accounts, 2 of straight men and one of a gay man (with all other details the same). Surely that's far too small a sample for any meaningful conclusions to be drawn?

The paper is entitled "Challenges in Measuring Online Advertising Systems" published in  Proceedings of the 10th ACM SIGCOMM conference on Internet measurement conference

Commuting is Suffering

Iain Duncan Smith suggested that people commute from one town to another for work. His example was doing an hour's commute on the bus from Merthyr Tydfil to Cardiff. Apparently this is unacceptable.

Mr McClusky, assistant general secretary of the Unite union, said: "While Iain Duncan Smith has been presented as the Government's Mister Nice, he cannot shake off the vicious Tory determination to make the poor suffer.
Average commute time in the UK is around about 45 mins
"Can the ConDem coalition really believe that the unemployment being created by savage government cuts will be fixed by having people wandering across the country with their meagre possessions crammed into the luggage racks of buses."
The concept of a commute is obviously foreign to Mr McClusky.
"Iain Duncan Smith offers us a 19th-century vision of sturdy beggars and the undeserving poor, while the bankers and their chums continue to rake in millions and dodge taxes. The only polite reaction to all this is to say: shame on you."
Any chance that the BBC could not quote the opinions of a moron who clearly is only interested in lying to everyone for political gain?

Better Off Working Shock

Case study from Plymouth:

TAMMY MEWETT, aged 30, from Honicknowle, has five children aged between three and 14. She gets about £300 a week in Income Support, Child Tax Credit and Child Benefit. She also gets Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit, paid separately.
She said: "They have calculated I would be better off if I was working."
Why did anyone have to calculate that?

Carphone Warehouse Think Parents Are Stupid

From Carphone Warehouse press release:
parents either unaware of the risks (46% of parents haven’t activated controls because they didn’t think they were necessary)
Apparently it's not possible to be aware of the risks but decide it isn't that big.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Banks, Lending and Stupidity

From the Guardian:
Britain's banks lent more money to companies in August than was paid back to them for the first time in six months, the Bank of England reported today.
Unfortunate news for Ann Pettifor (see here).
Lord Oakeshott, the Liberal Democrat treasury spokesman, said: "Britain's banks have turned banking on its head – these days they borrow from British business, not the other way around. What's the point of pumping billions into the economy through quantitative easing when the banks just suck it out again?"
To keep the banks afloat, employing people and lending at least some money?
He added: "Small business lending is going from bad to worse. The annual rate of contraction is approaching 5%. The smaller your business, the harder you're hit."
Or the higher the risk you pose the harder it is to get credit. Shock.