Surrealpolitic for surreal times.: Number Crunching


Number Crunching

Americans love numbers. We love polls. Game statistics. The amount of calories in any given food particle and how many Americans die in any given incident. From plane crashes to bombings we have to know how many American lives were lost. Today, The New York Times' front page has a rather symbolic number for us: Three thousand.

For Americans, that number has come to mean a lot over the past five years. It was the rounded down number of those killed in the 9/11 attacks. A terrible number that will forever accompany that heinous day in the history books. The number of innocent victims taken on that day is now matched by the number of American soldier deaths from the "war on terror". It is as though the NYT is making some sort of morbid point regarding the effort of the war. As though now the war in Iraq has gone too far. As though now the media can finally report on the stupidity of the war planners and the incompetence of our leaders. As though now this milestone is when we, as a nation, can ask if this struggle is really worth it. Thank you, NYT, why don't you go back to sleep now and leave the reporting to the British press.

If you are for the war, does that number matter? Should we have pulled out of World War Two once the number of American soldiers dead exceeded that killed in Pearl Harbor? If you are against the war, the first death was one too many. Here are other important numbers the NYT will probably fail to print to allow for their assinine accounting headlines.

-On November 1st, 2001, President Bush issued an executive order limiting the public's access to presidential records. The order undermined the 1978 Presidential Records Act, which required the release of those records after 12 years. Bush's order prevented the release of "68,000 pages of confidential communications between President Ronald Reagan and his advisers," some of whom had positions in the Bush Administration.

-In December 2002, the administration curtailed funding to the Mass-Layoffs Statistics program, which released monthly data on the number and size of layoffs by U.S. companies. His father attempted to kill the same program in 1992, but Clinton revived it when he assumed the presidency.

-The State Department decided to stop publishing an annual report on international terrorism after the government's top terrorism center concluded that there were more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any year since 1985, the first year the publication covered these statistics.

-In 2002, Bush officials intervened to derail the publication of an EPA report on mercury and children's health, which contradicted the administration's position on lowering regulations on certain power plants. The report was eventually leaked by a "frustrated EPA official."

-In early 2001, the Treasury Department stopped producing reports showing how the benefits of tax cuts were distributed by income class.

You can find a million numbers on the internet that have more meaning, more importance and more weight than three thousand. How about thirty-nine? That's the approval rating for this president. Maybe you like higher numbers? Try 600,000 which is the last number reported for Iraqi deaths since this whole stinking mess began. Numbers are what you make of them, so let's hope in 2007 we can see 0 further senseless deaths. Happy New Year.


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