Friday, February 26, 2010

669 Pick a Number

669 Pick a Number

You wrap some bogus idea in a number and everyone assumes truth. After all, we all know numbers are absolute. So anything with numbers also must be absolute, right? Wrong.

The unemployment rate is about ten percent, now. A little less here, a little more there. That means 90% of the US work force is working, right? Wrong.

Light beer has 10% fewer calories than "regular" beer so you won't get fat drinking it or you can drink more of it and achieve the same level of girth, right? Wrong.

Apple computer is worth a zillion times more today than it was ten or 15 years ago because the price of the stock has shot through the roof, right? Wrong.

You wrap a fish in newspaper and it's still a fish. You wrap a concept in a number, it doesn't change the concept even though arithmetic is right.

A wily statistician once said "you give me a set of any numbers and tell me the result you want and I'll get it for you." That may be a bit of an exaggeration (you'd have to be a wily statistician to know for sure,) but there's a great idea there. And one that's practiced widely.

Now, let's pivot. Here is a quote from President Obama: "I hope this isn't political theater." The president was speaking at and about the health care telethon the other day. But the telethon WAS political theater (except both the intermission and the play were longer than your normal Broadway drama.) And it wasn't about health care, it was about numbers. Numbers of people covered, uncovered, under-covered. And the cost of this that and the other thing was the main focus. And the taxes or lack thereof.

The President is trying to save his plan, such as what's left of it. A valiant effort. He's doing it with charm, an appeal to common sense and numbers.

The legislators, many of them, are trying to torpedo it. All they have is insurance industry talking points. And numbers.

Baloney wrapped in arithmetic.

Shrapnel:

--Six words from Akio Toyoda testifying before the US Congress should resonate throughout the industrial world: "My name is on every car." It would wise for the heirs of Louis Chevrolet, Walter Chrysler, Henry Ford, the Dodge brothers, Ransom Olds, Karl Benz and Soichiro Honda to remember that. Might improve things for all of us.

--Tilikum the whale has been involved in the deaths of three humans, the latest being trainer Dawn Brancheau at Sea World in Florida. A terrible act by a 12-thousand pound animal, but apparently not entirely unexpected. They call 'em killer whales for a reason.

--So, now what happens to Tilikum? Probably a demotion or a move to another facility. Friends say Brancheau wouldn't want him killed and others say getting into the water with an orca as dangerous as getting into a race car or a stunt plane.


I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2010

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