nemesis's Journal

Pushing agendas with statistics

Monday 7th May, 2012

There's currently an Infographic being shared around on Facebook, created by The Australia Institute, a misleadingly named political lobby group. It's a great example about how careful selection of statistics, combined with social media, can be an effective way to push an agenda (whether political or otherwise).

Take a close look at the infographic. You'll notice that the only data they've gathered from a reputable organisation is the first one: the comparison of Australia' taxation as a percentage of GDP. All of the other graphs have been produced from their own survey of only 1422 people.

But then the taxation graph was very carefully constructed. Firstly, the statistic The Australia Institute has selected was total taxation revenue, expressed as a percentage of GDP. They then go on to make conclusions about personal taxation. And secondly, they've selected 2009, smack back in the middle of the Global Financial Crisis. During 2009, almost all the OECD countries showed a negative growth in GDP, with Australia being a notable exception!



Of course, The Australia Institute's infographic would have been pointless if they had used a more relevant statistic, such as personal income taxation expressed as a percentage of GDP. Government have many other forms of taxation revenue, personal income tax of which is only one part. Charting this data (which is also available from the OECD) reveals that in 2009, Australia was in fact the 11th highest taxing country of the OECD nations.



In these times of economic uncertainty, it's prudent for a government not to spend beyond its means, and develop a capacity to stimulate the economy when things get tough. We only need to look to Spain and Greece to see what happens when governments borrow excessive sums of money, and spend beyond their means.

It's strikingly clear The Australia Institute was trying to push a left-wing agenda with this infographic by their caption: "spend more on mental health services, dental care, indigenous welfare, and public education". Draw your own conclusions.

Hilfe! German emails in mutt?

Monday 28th February, 2011

I've started getting a lot of emails in German lately, but Mutt hasn't been displaying them properly. For non-us-ascii characters (e.g. ß), it'd either show \223, or a '?'. This was really beginning to bug me.

Here's the problem: As far as I can tell, most German websites that fire off emails "assume" an encoding of cp1252, the old Windows encoding (correct me if I'm wrong!). Mutt on the other hand, if the encoding's not specified, assumes us-ascii, which doesn't contain these "special" characters (for us English speakers). The problem is further compounded by using a terminal or locale that may not have these characters, too.

Here's how to fix it.

First, you need to use a locale and a terminal that can display these characters. I'm using UTF-8. To check, type "locales". You should see, at minimum:

LANG=en_US.UTF-8
LC_CTYPE="en_US.UTF-8"
LC_MESSAGES="en_US.UTF-8"

If you're not using UTF-8, you can change your locale on Debian with `dpkg-reconfigure locales`. If you get "command not found", then `aptitude install locales` first.

Second, check your terminal emulator (i.e., ssh client) supports the special characters. Easy check: Copy and paste this "ß" into your terminal.

Third, tell Mutt you want to use UTF-8, and to assume any messages that don't specifically mention an encoding are cp1252. Add this to the top of your .muttrc:

set charset=utf-8
charset-hook ^us-ascii$ cp1252
set assumed_charset="cp1252"

And finally, to make HTML emails decode properly, in /etc/mailcap, replace any instance of

text/html; /usr/bin/w3m -dump -T text/html

with

text/html; /usr/bin/w3m -dump -I %{charset} -T text/html

Enjoy!

TP-Link TD-8840 Worst modem ever

Saturday 22nd January, 2011

So, I just couldn't go past the $35 pricetag on the TP-Link TD-8840. The tards on Whirlpool had nothing but high praise for it, claiming the Broadcom chipset that it uses is bulletproof.

Unfortunately, pairing a "great" ADSL chipset with what I can only presume is a hopelessly underpowered CPU makes for a hopeless situation. As soon as you upload over around the 140kb/s mark, everything slows down for a few seconds (both uploads and downloads). Somewhere along the line, something in the TD-8840 just can't hope. By comparison, my old Open Networks 625 had no problems regularly pushing out over 300kb/s.

Looks like its time to shell out for a real modem. I'm still disappointed Open Networks folded. My 625 was rock solid.

In summary, TP-Link TD-8840: do not buy.

No more ADSL modems?

Thursday 13th January, 2011

My ADSL modem at home's on its way out. It's been going at it hard for the last 4 years, but now needs a periodic "kick in the pants" now around every 2 days.

In my desperate search for a replacement, it's become clear to me that the "good" companies don't seem to bother making ADSL2+ modems anymore. They've all got wireless built-in nowadays.

I don't need wireless built in!

Alas, the only company that seems to be listening to me is TP-Link. I can only presume that TP-Link is on-par with D-Link levels of build quality. Likeliness of lasting 4 years? Slim-to-nil.