Media Manipulates Numbers?

In the words of the great philosopher Butthead:

"I'm, like, angry with numbers. There's, like, too many of them."

In the words of the great philosopher Me: I blame the Arabs. It's their fault. (Nope, not the Muslims. The Arabs. Why? Well, we don't use Roman numerals for anything but superbowls, sequels and Heywood Banks songs. All our math is based on using - and sometimes mis-using Arabic numerals.)

Like in this article from the Financial Times discussing the fact the majority of U.S. military deaths in Iraq are not poor blacks from the inner cities, as some would have you believe; but white men from small towns in rural America.

The writer says the following:
What is often missing from America’s increasingly recriminatory debate over Iraq is how isolated are the communities that bear most of the human cost. The Pentagon does not disclose the socio-economic background of the 25,000 US soldiers who have been killed or wounded in Iraq.

But a breakdown of their ethnicity and states of origins shows they are overwhelmingly white and from small towns in the interior states of mid-America and the South.

For example, the ratio of killed to the state’s population is 221 per cent for South Dakota, 178 per cent for Nebraska and 163 per cent for Louisiana. In contrast, the District of Columbia, which is home to Washington, the US capital, has a ratio of just 52 per cent, while Connecticut is 66 per cent and New Jersey is 60 per cent.
I'm not quite sure what he's trying to say here. Math people, can you help me out?

First, how 221 per cent of anything be killed?

I hate that. "We gave one-hundred and ten percent" is a quote you hear come from the mouths of jocks.

No. Un-possible.

You can't give more than 100 percent. Period. If you have 10 apples, and you give me ten, you can't give me another apple. Because you don't have another apple to give. You had ten. You gave me ten. You're out of apples. You've given me 100 percent of your apples.

See how that works? You can give 100 percent. Period.

Now back to our story.

Based on the U.S. Census Bureau, the 2006 projected population of South Dakota is 781,919.

Two-hundred twenty-one per cent of that is 1,728,041 (781,919 multiplied by 2.21) .

U.S. Deaths, in Iraq, as of today, January 9, 2007 - 3,014.

Perhaps he's trying to say a large number of uS troops from South Dakota have been killed.

Not even close.

Of the 3,014 deaths, 17 are from South Dakota, according to this report. (3,004 confirmed as of Jan 8; 10 pending. And the point that is always overlooked when the media throws out numbers - 2,435 American military members have died as a result of enemy action; 579 are classified non-combat deaths, meaning accidents, suicide, homicide, illness, etc - acts not attributed to direct enemy engagement).

Now based on those Arabic numerals and our math functions - I'm not sure where the writer got his population numbers, but they're close if you run the ones I quote - 2.21 out of every 1,000 South Dakota residents has died in Iraq.

Not 221 per cent.

Zero point zero two one percent.

Two-tenths of one percent.

Please don't think I'm taking that number lightly. I'm a military veteran. I raised my hand and swore to defend this country, so I know the risks. And like everyone else in the military, voluntarily accepted them.

Please don't think I'm taking the death of someone in the prime of their life lightly, either. I lost someone I loved in the prime of her life. Unnecessarily.

So I know about military service, and the impact of sudden loss.

And I support the wars in Iraq and Afgahinstan. And I'm sad to hear the body counts every day. But understand this: I'd rather had our brave soliders dying over there to keep the wolves at bay than hearing about terrorist attacks on the streets of this country. I'd rather have our warriors fighting their warriors then them raining down random acts of terror on our civilians.

But yes, the fact that two tenths of one percent of the population of South Dakota has died in Iraq, to me, is sad. The fact that one one-hundredth of our population has died in Iraq is sad. The fact that one one-hundredth of our population was killed as a result of the attacks of September 11, 2001, is equally as sad, but more often glossed over, or forgotten.

But back to our story.

The report also says that the ratio of those killed to the population of Nebraska is 178 per cent.

U.S. Census of Nebraska: 1,776,331 (2006 projected).

Nebraska soldiers killed: 31.

Again, I run the numbers, and see, roughly, 1.78 per 1,000 Nebraska residents.

That's less than two tenths of one percent.

Same with the rest of the stats - and states - mention.

Maybe what he was trying to say got lost in the translation from British English to American Spanglish. Maybe he didn't mean to put the wrong numbers, maybe it's just the wrong words describing those numbers. Maybe his intention was not to manipulate the truth.

Maybe. Maybe not. But it's out there. And because number, as Butthead told us, do suck. Because there are too many of them.

Especially when they're manipulated.

By people who should know better.

You'd think a magazine like the Financial Times would do a better job at math, eh?

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