To paraphrase Homer Simpson: Oh, Lisa. You can prove anything with statistics. Four out of five people will tell you that.
Still, every year magazines from Money to Outside gather round the editorial table with piles of data to decide which American town is the best for opening an accounting firm, or racing go-karts, or fly fishing for native fish. It’s all based on complex statistics and pages of financial research, and the results rarely mean much to the residents of these “best American towns.”
Putting their trust in a group of number-crunchers at Economy.com, who we’re sure all had those fancy-graphing calculators us C-students never had, Forbes this month ranked Missoula as the 11th “Best Small Place for Business and Careers.” After looking at the qualifications of the labor pool, housing costs, crime rates and migration patterns, the guys with the fancy calculators arrived at a conclusion that many Missoulians (who, granted, can afford only secondhand solar-powered Texas Instruments calculators missing their multiplication buttons) may find hard to fathom. Even with local housing affordability in the dumps (139th out of 168 cities considered), Economy.com concluded that Missoula is one of the best places in the c0untry to get a business off the ground. Even if the conclusion was based solely on data—no one from Economy.com walked the town polling residents—it’s news Missoulians should be happy to hear.
With another rousing kudo, the League of American Bicyclists has named Missoula one of only 14 cities in the nation to qualify as a Bicycle-Friendly Community. To arrive at their conclusion, the League examined traffic, bicycling-promotion efforts and enforcement of traffic laws. But most impressive was that they had local League members ride the town and give input.
“We had two or three local riders in each community tell us how they felt,” says the League’s Andy Clarke. “We wanted to make sure that people in the communities that we were recognizing didn’t either laugh or cry at the designations.”
Now sure, anecdotal information is worthless to a scientist, but you’ve got to love a meaningless statistic backed up by a good anecdote.
The Pentagon’s Iraqi Most Wanted Deck of Death playing cards were such a smash with Americans that spin-offs have popped up everywhere.
Conservative news agency NewsMax.com has just released its Deck of Weasels—54 cards depicting leaders and celebrities who opposed American involvement in the war with Iraq, making them key members of “The United Nations of Weasels.” The deck features Michael Moore, Tim Robbins, Jacques Chirac, Barbra Streisand, Ted Kennedy, Kofi Annan and more—all wearing the beret of Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard—now dubbed “Saddam’s Weasel Brigade.”
The Web site boasts that “under each photo is each Weasel’s quote revealing his/her anti-American, pro-Saddam ranting!…There will be enough in the Deck of Weasels to keep you laughing for years!”
The Iraqi Most Wanted Deck of Death was the best selling product in the history of the “NewsMax Shopping Mall,” but The Deck of Weasels is set to move into the number one spot, according to the site.
Not to be outdone, some anonymous local has created his or her own spin-off. Appearing on bulletin boards and telephone poles all over Missoula, someone has pinned up cards featuring enemies of the environment. Crudely done (color copies, tape and a deck of Bicycle playing cards), but effective, the cards feature members of the Bush administration and a dog named Spotty (which, strangely, isn’t the name of Bush’s dog) whom the mysterious creator credits with screwing up America the beautiful.