Percentages, Illegal Immigrants, Dissent, and Intentional Mis-Spellings

Percentages

I hate how percentage-change statistics are used. You see it in the news all the time. The media will say, “Oh, crime is up 5% this year.” But does that really mean anything? Say there are 5,000 murders in 2004. For murders to increase 5% in 2005, that means there’s 250 more murders than there were in 2004. So the inference is that crime has built upon the previous year’s murders and increased another 5%. The inference is that things are getting worse. But the statistic “murders/year” is not a cumulative one. Year over year, it’s also a small sample set. Perhaps over 100 years you could figure out an average, culling out extreme years. But this is not how it’s done. We treat all statistics the same.

Headlines about earnings reports in the financial markets are the same way. Expenditures will be down 9%, net income will be up 3%. There’ll be massive sell-offs or rallies based on small fluctuations. These numbers don’t mean anything in and of themselves. What does it mean if a company makes $10.5 million in 2004 and makes only $9.8 million the next year? A percentage won’t tell you anything. It won’t tell you if the company faced increasing competition or if it was losing customer loyalty or if it faced one-time tax charges or re-structuring. There’s no context to the numbers.

Illegal Immigration Policy Rallies

What’s interesting to me about the rallies for illegal immigrant rights in the US is that they are organized. I don’t know the impact myspace has had on coördinating these events. I don’t know the impact radio stations have had. But I do know that for once, normal people with ordinary lives are organizing to protest something. It seems kind of rare these days. If people rally together nowadays, it’s usually because they’re kooks (those religious nuts protesting gays at military funerals), lobbyists (MoveOn), or political nuts/lobbyist shills (anti-war and anti-anti-war).

Illegal Immigration Rallies

In short, it’s just kind of weird to see the American people speaking up for themselves. The US is a country that has given its rights away to politically-motivated babysitters while they go shopping at the mall. How often do governmental decisions actually benefit the people these days? Not often. Usually Congress is busy working on something that will protect some corporate group’s rights, or some big Christian group’s morality agenda.

So more power to the people attending the illegal immigrant rallies.

And as for my opinion on the matter? We treat illegal immigrants hypocritically. You can’t come in, but we’re not going to put up a fence because we know that our companies will be able to hire you cheaply (and without benefits) to run California’s economy and a growing percentage of the rest of the economy. We know that we have to appear in public that we don’t want you in order to appease our constituency, but if you sneak in the back door, we’ll let you in and even give your kids citizenship just for being born here.

We’re looking the other way because this is like cheaper outsourcing! If only we could get all those Chinese and Indian workers to sneak into our country also! Then we could just set up our call centers and sweatshops on the cheap domestically!

Can’t you guys, like, just be happy with taking a little money? Why do you need rights, too? That’s just making it WAY too complicated.

On Dissent

General Pace defended Rumsfeld, stating that the top generals “‘had every opportunity’ to voice dissent if they disagreed with Bush administration officials over the invasion plan.” This is a response to an article in the latest Time magazine written by a former general who retired after disagreeing with the pre-invasion war plans.

Rumsfeld looking at the Army we have

The implication here is that the blame isn’t on those who actually did it. It’s on those who didn’t do enough to stop it! (the top Enron execs are currently trying the opposite argument…we didn’t know nuthin’, we was jus’ some po’ helpless CEOs, CFOs, and presidents tryin’ to help out the people) It’s on those who dissented with the war, those who retired or left or quit or stayed quiet (this being most likely — despite the claim that servicemembers can voice their opinion, this is rarely done in practice because it will harm that person’s reputation, and this happens at all levels of the military). It’s an admission that yeah, we’re in a lot of shit now, but hey, where were you when you should’ve told me not to do it? It’s YOUR fault!

Amazing spin!

Maybe We SHOULD Mis-Spell Sometimes

I was reading Adbusters while flying on the plane to Dallas and it had an interesting mis-spelling. It was talking about people forming groups to exert more of a presence on companies to adopt better operating policies. It said we should be “presssing” companies to do more. I had that little tweak you get when you’re reading fast and you notice something odd but you can’t place it. Then I went back and realized that, yes I’d seen an extra ess in the word. But then I thought about it and it somehow seemed more appropriate that way. It gives it an onomatopoeic sound of pushing something down, compresssing it.

Maybe there’s something to be said for this. It’s not just a cute little parlor trick or sleight of hand. Maybe it could add some creativity and extra meaning to writing. What other words could we do this for?

A final note: I know this isn’t related, but in reading The Economist, I’ve become convinced that using umlauts over the second letter to separate syllables (like reëvaluate) is an elegant way to spell and more appropriate. But does this mean you should hyphenate words like “misinterpret” so it’s “mis-interpret”? I’ve waffled and used both on my site, trying to figure out what I like more. It seems like hyphenating prefixes (pre-fixes?) can quickly get out of hand. And should I spell it “onomatopœic” (with the proper ligature) up above, instead?

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