Harper’s Index — From the September 2008 issue

Harper’s index

The fair price of a barrel of oil, according to Osama bin Laden in 1998: $144

Date on which oil reached $144 per barrel: 7/2/08

Rank of this year’s economic crisis among the “largest financial shocks since the Great Depression,” according to the IMF: 1

Estimated number of FDIC-insured banks currently in danger of failing: 90

Number that failed during the past three years: 3

Percentage change since 2003 in the number of U.S. workers making “hardship withdrawals” from retirement accounts: +61

Death benefits that Lockheed Martin paid its current CEO in March, despite his being alive: $1,000,000

Chance that an American says his or her workplace is a “dictatorship”: 1 in 4

Percentage of Britons and Canadians, respectively, who say the United States is a “force for evil”: 35, 34

Number of John McCain’s Vietnamese torturers who have publicly endorsed his candidacy: 1

Rank of McCain among the most frequent guests on Sunday-morning network TV news shows since 1997: 1

Percentage of primary-season TV ads for McCain and Obama, respectively, that included images of the American flag: 60, 30

Percentage of U.S. Muslims who believe that “you can get ahead with hard work in America”: 71

Percentage of Americans as a whole who believe this: 64

Chances that an American, asked to estimate what percentage of Americans are black, will guess too high: 3 in 4

Chance that an American believes that the majority of Americans are black: 1 in 11

Chance that a U.S. black believes the country has “gone too far in pushing equal rights”: 1 in 4

Projected amount that same-sex weddings will add to California’s economy during the next three years: $684,000,000

Estimated annual sales-tax revenue that California receives each year from medical-marijuana sales: $100,000,000

Number of deaths in Florida last year caused by illegal drugs: 946

Number caused by prescription drugs: 2,002

Portion of U.S. troops in Iraq who are on psychiatric medications: 1/8

Portion of troops in Afghanistan who are: 1/7

Number of full-time correspondents that U.S. TV networks have posted in Afghanistan: 0

Total minutes of network TV coverage devoted to the war in Iraq between January and June 2008: 300

Total during the same period last year: 1,229

Minimum number of times that journalists and politicians on TV have referred to Barack Obama as “Osama”: 8

Times they have referred to Osama bin Laden as “Obama”: 8

Ratio of Obama’s total campaign donations from the financial sector to McCain’s total from that sector: 3:2

Months after his death that actor Roy Scheider is listed as having donated to Obama’s campaign: 1

Number of the twelve original members of Sha Na Na who hold advanced academic degrees: 8

Number of H-1B visas, for workers with a “body of highly specialized knowledge,” granted to fashion models last year: 349

Number of celebrities to whom Burger King has given a lifetime supply of free hamburgers: 11

Estimated percentage change since last year in U.S. sales of golf carts for purposes other than golf: +215

Percentage change since 1990 in serious golf-cart-related injuries: +132

Days in jail that Canton, Ohio, now imposes on repeat offenders of the city’s lawn-mowing requirement: 30

Minutes that Minneapolis drivers can legally idle while not in traffic, per a new city ordinance: 3

Surcharge that Holly Springs, Georgia, has added to speeding tickets to pay for its officers’ gasoline: $12

Number of North Carolina license plates issued last year that begin with the letters “WTF”: 8,999

Number of drivers who have asked for a replacement plate: 92

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