Friday, February 24, 2006

Just the fact's, ma'am, just the facts

Rants against government officials’ ineptitude are so easy these days. Perhaps that is why I have sat shaking my head in wonder recently instead of composing my irritation.

Look at some facts. Cheney accidentally shot a friend in the face, neck, and chest. He did not report it for about eighteen hours. He did not call the President before the incident was made public, nor after. The President did not call him, either.

At least one report said that a deputy sheriff was turned away by Secret Service people when he first went to see Cheney.

Eventually the woman hostess at the shooting ranch told the media about the accident and volunteered that there was no alcohol consumed at all. The deputy sheriff who did talk with Cheney about eighteen hours later went with that, presumably, and said there was no evidence of drinking. In later questioning, Cheney admitted to having a beer at lunch before the hunt. But that “evidence” would not be present after eighteen hours, of course.

So far, no one has asked Cheney, publicly, whether or not he also had a beer before lunch or after. O.K. so that is a cheap shot that doesn’t belong in my list of facts, even though it is true. File it under, “Typical way Cheney plays with words and meaning.”

Back to the facts as reported: Cheney and the victim were hunting with another person, first named as “another hunter” and also referred to in initial reports as “the third hunter.” Later investigation pointed out that the third hunter was a married woman. None of the spouses of the married group were in on the hunt, itself.

One report, at least, has mentioned the adult daughter of the widow hostess was also with the group.

First reports lightly said that the man shot had been “peppered,” and the wounds were “superficial.”

The victim was placed in intensive care. Later reports told of the seriousness of the wounds and the high number of pellets that penetrated the man’s body. One lodged in or near a heart muscle. The man had a mild heart tremor as a result. Cheney has explained the delay in reporting the accident as partly to see first that the man was going to be all right. From his “superficial” wounds.

When the Republican big donor was released from the hospital and talked with reporters, he apologized for causing the vice president anguish by getting shot!

Republican backers-to-the-death keep saying, “So what’s the big deal? Accidents happen. Move on!”

All right.

Moving on, a company in Dubai has purchased the British company that manages various ports in this country. President Bush was out of the loop and did not learn that Arabs would to be managing our ports until the deal was completed a few days before it was to be announced.

He then talked with some U.S. leaders and those who had been negotiating with the companies and announced it was a done deal.

Former senator and one-time Republican candidate for President, Bob Dole is now a highly paid lobbyist who was hired by the Arabs to help finalize the agreement.

Both Republican Senator McCain and former Democrat President Carter are on record as supporting Bush on this.

Bush has said that Congress should listen to what he, as President, says about the deal, and added that if they pass legislation against it, he will veto their bill. That would be the first Presidential veto during Bush’s five years in office.

There is bipartisan outrage against having Arabs from any country managing American ports.

“And that’s the truth. Pffftttttttt.”

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Two "story problems" for your arithmetic assignment

Years ago I read an article reporting that a new park in Nebraska, open to the public at no cost, was facing tough times and might have to close for lack of operating funds. It took about $50,000 to keep the archaeological site open in the warmer months as “Ashfall State Park.” The article reported on the nature of the digging going on at the site and concluded by telling that at least 50,000 people had visited the place each summer since it had opened.

Let’s see now: It cost $50,000 a year to keep the park public. Admission was free. More than 50,000 people visited each year. But it might have to close for lack of funds. Can anyone come up with a solution from the facts of the article?

Of course there is an admission fee today. When I visited, perhaps three years ago, the cost was five dollars per car. The site seemed to be thriving. I doubt anyone who had got in free during the first couple of years the park was open has refused to visit now because of the fee. It seems to me to be a good example of a solution to a problem appearing in the description of the problem.

Here is a much more recent “arithmetic story problem” describing a situation that has an explanation imbedded within the report. An Associated Press article by Lolita C. Baldor appeared in the paper I read on January 26. Baldor reported a study by the Rand’s National Defense Research Institute of reservists called to active duty. They found 72 percent of the troops surveyed made more money while on war duty than they did in their civilian jobs. The newspaper had headlined the story, “Most reservists make more on duty than off.”

The article also reported that Rand senior economist Jacob Alex Klerman said the researchers are “still working to understand why this differs so dramatically from reports about families struggling to get by when a primary wage-earner goes to war.”

Shall we clear it up for him? Seventy–two percent, or “most reservists,” making more money means that, as was also reported, “28 percent of the reservists lost money when they were called up.”

Baldor did not spell it out further, but it seems obvious. For every one hundred reservists called to active duty, twenty-eight lose money. For every thousand reservists called up, two hundred eighty families receive smaller paychecks. And how many thousand reservists have been called up? More than fifty thousand? If so, it means that across America at least 14,000 families have faced or are facing financial hardships! And counting. Some might call that a disgrace. You and I, for example.

But Klerman wants additional study to figure out why there are reports of reservist families struggling when the wage-earner is called to war, since 72 percent make more on duty than off. Let’s hope the Rand people read Baldor’s article and then do the math.