The Red Queen examined the 1986 statistics, showed them to the Duchess, and promptly said, "Revise them!"

Alice was taken aback. "Why, if it please your majesty?" she asked."It pleases her majesty," screamed the Duchess, "so let it be done!"

"But why do the statistics require revision?" persisted Alice. "They've just been updated; 1986 is finished and 1987 has begun."

The Duchess tried to keep from screaming again. "The statistics require

revision because they don't conform."

"Conform to what?"

"To the highest standards," asserted the Duchess.

"What are they?"

"The Queen's standards. The statistics didn't measure up to her majesty's forecast."

"In what way?" asked the Mad Hatter. He flourished an abacus and said, ''Maybe I can make the forecast conform."

"Look at the chart," said the Duchess. "The forecast called for an increase of 4 percent and the statistics registered a gain of only about 3 percent. Obviously, the statistics are amiss."

"That's a miss of only 1 percent," consoled the Mock Turtle.

"In my country," said Alice, "we have a saying that a miss is as good as a mile."

"Off with her head, off with her head!" shouted the Red Queen. "She says we're a mile wrong."

Alice saved her head by quickly asking, "Does your majesty have a forecast for 1987?"

"Yes, yes, of course," answered the Red Queen. "The economy will grow by 3.2 percent."

"Most economists say that's too high," commented the Mock turtle.

"There's a solution to that," said the Mad Hatter. "Leave the forecast alone and revise the economists."

For the first time, the Red Queen smiled. "That's an attractive proposal. Why should we not try it?"

"We have, we have, I regret to inform your majesty," responded the Duchess. "We tried it three times, to no avail."

"A remedy recommends itself," said the Mad Hatter. "Statistics that don't conform should be eliminated. Than only right statistics would be left."

The Mock Turtle raised a hand. "How can statistics that are left be right?" he asked.

"They're sure to be right if they're not wrong," said the Carpenter, and he took out a measuring rod. "I'll see if the statistics measure up."

A moment later, the Carpenter addressed the Red Queen. "It will please your majesty to know that she is unquestionably right. The statistics did not conform to the forecast. They require revision. They measured down instead of up."

"That must never happen again," said the Red Queen.

"It won't, it won't," said Alice. "It can be prevented by lowering the forecasts."

That incensed the Duchess. "There's no sense in that," she said. "It would be unqueenly. It would raise doubt, and the Queen must be undoubted." Thereupon, she took it upon herself to scream "Off with her head, off with her head!"

The White Queen intervened and saved Alice's head. "In my country," she declared, "we make a forecast every other year. Then the statistics are always behind the forecast. That gives them time to conform."

"If that's the case," said the Carpenter, "there would be no 1987 forecast."

"No, that would be this year," confirmed the White Queen, "and there would not be one next year either, because when it's next year, next year will be this year and not every other year."

The Carpenter pondered that, and said: "Then you never make a forecast."

"Exactly," said the White Queen, "and so we're never wrong."

"If you're never wrong, does that make you always right?" asked Alice.

The White Queen did not answer. Alice then said, addressing the Red Queen, ''I have thought matters over and have a recommendation that I hope will please your majesty. If statistics don't conform to the forecast, why not let them lie?"

For the full story: Log In, Register for Free or Subscribe