Testing Testing Testing
This is a test
I am posting My Archives – this from a journo from the daily mail –
When I was new to this inky trade, the first lesson I learned was one passed down the line from Samuel Johnson himself: "Round numbers are always false."
To which, after a bit of experience, I was able to add a personal coda: "So are 94.67 per cent of precise figures."
Thus I grew into manhood with a deep distrust of statistics wherever I found them lurking. So when I come across, for instance, "30 per cent of women", I immediately ask, 30 per cent of which women?
"Up to 100 free texts per month" – what do they mean by up to? Does up to include including? "As many as one adult in every five" – does as many as include as few as one in 100?
This morbid scepticism spawned what became the National Guesswork Authority, with its imposing headquarters in the City’s Counting House Yard.
But today, the Authority is shaken to its foundations with what looks at first sight like a throwaway paragraph in last week’s Queen’s Speech:
"A Statistical Reform Bill will create an independent body to enhance confidence in government statistics" – an idea backed by the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives.
When all three major parties agree, you can bet they are up to something. What they are up to here is finding new and more sophisticated ways of pulling the wool over the public’s eyes.
There are many ways of going about this, as any junior clerk in the National Guesswork Authority can confirm. The most popular is by quantifying the unquantifiable.
An example produced in Home Office documents this weekend, doubtless with the object of discrediting the outgoing Prime Minister, is that Tone’s on-the-spot fines for yobs cost £91 for every £45 collected.
This meticulous costing is arrived at by working out that the paperwork involved ties up police and court officials for an hour and six minutes.
This in itself is a nonsense figure. Even in these bumph-laden times it doesn’t take more than a fraction of an hour and six minutes to dish out a fixed penalty notice.
Even if it did, the cost cannot be pinned on to Blair’s on-the-spot fines wheeze, unless the time consumed can be proved to have been taken away from some other but not necessarily better use, such as catching up with other paperwork or drinking a cup of tea.
Next, percentages – a class of statistics that can do pretty well what they like unless they are carefully watched.
You may read, therefore, that a 10 per cent fall in car robberies plus a 10 per cent drop in house burglaries represents a 20 per cent fall in crime figures. Not at all.
Percentages of one thing cannot be added to percentages of another – ten apples plus ten oranges are not 20 apples, they’re just a bowl of fruit.
Averages. You can prove just about anything you like, provided you choose the right type of average.
Most of us went through our arithmetic classes without ever being told that there are mean averages and median averages, which can add up to different answers.
I certainly didn’t know this myself until, years ago, I read a little book called How To Lie With Statistics by Darrell Huff, first published in 1954.
Huff advised that before we take any dubious statistics into the fold, we ask five questions: 1. Who says so? 2. How does he know? 3. What’s missing? 4. Did somebody change the subject? And 5. Does it make sense?
The Stern report on climate change fails all these tests – yet it was gulped down whole by the likes of Pollyanna Toynbee, who then complained about dissenting ‘know-nothing’ newspapers.
But now Tony and his cronies want a Statistical Reform Bill. Wouldn’t they do better with a National Guesswork Authority? Go figure.
With Tony Blair in Pakistan, and Gordon Brown in Basra, who is in charge of the sinking ship? Need I ask? And what have they been doing to consolidate their reckless collection of air miles?
We know that Tone has been knocking up more Brownie points towards his world statesman badge, but how about Gordon? So far as I can see, he has simply been in Iraq for the ride.
Or perhaps he just wants to add to his growing reputation as the Pooh Bah of New Labour politics – a similar role to that endured by Prince Charles as he waits for the throne to fall vacant.
Only the other day Gordy was stepping into the Lord Chancellor’s shoes – or do I mean standing on his toes? – by calling for a change in the law so that BNP hotheads found not guilty under the existing law could be found guilty under a new one.
Next he is taking on the role of Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, not to mention his near-namesake, Defence Secretary Des Browne. Don’t the Chancellor and his boss still have day jobs to go to?
I would not normally quite agree with the Libertarian Alliance. I once attended a meeting/debate between Libertarian Alliance and the Socialist Party of Great Britain. The high point of the meeting was when a red faced bearded Freudian and follower of Wilhelm Reich jumped up on a chair and declared that neither Capitalism nor Socialism was the answer but Freudianism. Apparently the German working class saw Adolf Hitler as a father figure and I think the whole Nazi thing was the result of sexual frustration or they were not having enough orgasms’. Or something.
Actually you can find the theoretical basis for this in The Mass Psychology of Fascism.
Reich argued that the reason Nazism was chosen over fascism was sexual repression. As a child, members of the proletariat had learned from his or her parents to suppress sexual desire. Hence, in the adult, rebellious and sexual impulses caused anxiety. Fear of revolt, as well as fear of sexuality, were thus "anchored" in the character of the masses.
As Reich put it:
Suppression of the natural sexuality in the child, particularly of its genital sexuality, makes the child apprehensive, shy, obedient, afraid of authority, good and adjusted in the authoritarian sense; it paralyzes the rebellious forces because any rebellion is laden with anxiety; it produces, by inhibiting sexual curiosity and sexual thinking in the child, a general inhibition of thinking and of critical faculties. In brief, the goal of sexual suppression is that of producing an individual who is adjusted to the authoritarian order and who will submit to it in spite of all misery and degradation. At first the child has to submit to the structure of the authoritarian miniature state, the family; this makes it capable of later subordination to the general authoritarian system. The formation of the authoritarian structure takes place through the anchoring of sexual inhibition and anxiety.
Following this analysis I concur with the Libertarian Alliance that cheap booze is the answer. Get pissed and fornicate to your hearts content’.
“The Libertarian Alliance, the radical free market and civil liberties institute, today calls for a boycott of Tesco’s because of its support for plans to stop the poor from drinking.”
"The Government’s proposal, and the welcome given it by Tesco’s, amount to an attack on the poor. The ruling class politicians who continually whine about alcohol will not be affected by minimum pricing or the abolition of special offers. I might add that none of them can be affected by such laws. Income aside, anyone who lies his way into Parliament can look forward to round the clock drinking in the Palace of Westminster of untaxed alcohol.”
"But the measures will hurt poor people, for whom alcohol will become cripplingly expensive and hard to find. They have the same right to drink as the rest of us. Bearing in mind the problems willed on them by our exploitative ruling class, they often have a greater need to drink.”
"The claim that drinking ’causes’ public disorder is nonsense. Alcohol does not run about the streets. People do. If people are making nuisances of themselves, the police should be reminded that they are no longer New Labour’s equivalent of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and told to start protecting life and property again.”
"On behalf of the Libertarian Alliance, I call on all progressive people of good will to boycott Tesco until it stops supporting this attack on the poor and on free competition.”
"Drinking is not just for the rich."
This takes Google news feeds and turns them into an interesting graphic.