Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Scatter 40 mattresses outside the window of each stockholding American to cushion their fall

For the price of the Iraq War, we could scatter 40 king-sized Serta mattresses outside the window of each American who owns stocks, so their fall would be cushioned if horror over huge losses caused them to jump out. 

63% of American adults own stocks, whether directly or through some investment vehicle like a mutual fund or retirement plan.  This comes to about 142 million Americans.  A king size Serta Senna mattress costs $439 at Sam's Club.  Putting 40 of these mattresses outside each stock-owning American's window would cost $2.49 trillion, which is less than Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' estimate of $3 trillion for the cost of the Iraq War.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Give every American a community college economics degree

For the price of the Iraq War, we could've given every American a two-year community college economics degree, so that they could see why the House Republican plan for fixing the financial crisis was nonsense.  

House Republicans proposed to deal with the financial crisis by cancelling capital gains taxes and providing insurance on mortgage-backed securities.  Economists on Wall Street and at nonpartisan think tanks regard the plan as costly and ineffective, as the firms at the center of the crisis are facing capital losses, not gains, and the volatile nature of the securities makes it impossible to insure them effectively without exposing taxpayers to massive risk.  

There are 301 million Americans.  Two years of tuition at a community college costs $4152.  So giving every American a two-year community college degree would cost $1.25 trillion, which is less than half of Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' estimate of $3 trillion for the cost of the Iraq War.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Buy a chocolate chip cookie every second for all Americans born on the same day as McCain

For the price of the Iraq War, we could've bought a chocolate chip cookie each second for every American who was born on the same day as John McCain.  

John McCain was born on August 29, 1936 -- according to thingsyoungerthanmccain.com, one year before the chocolate chip cookie was invented.  Extrapolating from the birth rates in 1935 and 1940, 2,413,000 Americans were born in 1936, and 6,610 on McCain's birthday.  John McCain is now 26,329 days old, and buying everyone born on his birthday a chocolate chip cookie per second would require about 15 trillion cookies.  

A 15.25 ounce container of Nabisco Chips Ahoy cookies contains about 26 cookies.  12 such packs cost $43.  At these prices, we could've bought a chocolate chip cookie each second for everyone born on the same day as John McCain for $2.07 trillion, which is less than Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' estimate of $3 trillion for the cost of the Iraq War.

Image used under a Creative Commons License from javYliz.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Hire all the educators in America to teach Sarah Palin for five years


For the price of the Iraq War, we could've hired all the educators in the United States to teach Sarah Palin for five years, so she might actually know stuff.  

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 8,316,360 educators in America, from preschool teachers to professors to librarians.  These educators earn an average of $46,610 per year.  If we had hired them all to teach Sarah Palin for a five-year period beginning in 2003 instead of invading Iraq, we would've spent $1.94 trillion, which is less than Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' estimate of $3 trillion for the cost of the Iraq War.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Make everybody in Philly a Scottish baron

For the price of the Iraq War, we could've made everybody in Philadelphia a Scottish baron.  

In 2002, Sir Iain Noble offered to sell the Barony of MacDonald for one million pounds.  At current rates, one pound is worth $1.86.  Sir Iain, a merchant banker, had unwittingly acquired it as part of a land transaction 30 years before.  The Barony includes title to Knock Castle, which is currently in ruins.  

The population of Philadelphia is estimated at 1.45 million.  Buying every resident of Philadelphia a Scottish barony at Sir Iain's asking price would cost $2.70 trillion, which is less than Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' estimate of $3 trillion for the cost of the Iraq War.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Buy each panda an Arleigh Burke class destroyer

For the price of the Iraq War, we could've equipped each panda with an Arleigh Burke class destroyer.  

Using the highest estimates, there are 3000 giant pandas in the wild, and 266 in captivity.  55 Arleigh Burke destroyers cost around $43 billion, for a unit cost of $782 million.  Equipping every giant panda with their own Arleigh Burke class destroyer would cost $2.55 trillion, which is less than Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' estimate of $3 trillion for the cost of the Iraq War.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hire all Kenyans as sitcom actors, so Limbaugh viewers will see that they're not Arabs

For the price of the Iraq War, we could've hired the entire population of Kenya as sitcom actors, so that Rush Limbaugh viewers would be able to see that they are not Arabs.  

On the September 22 broadcast of his show, right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh said of Barack Obama,
He's Arab. You know, he's from Africa. He's from Arab parts of Africa. ... [H]e's not African-American. The last thing that he is is African-American.
There are 38 million people in Kenya, the country from which Barack Obama's father (who is not Arab, but Luo) originated.  Less than 1% of Kenyans are Arabs, while 13% are Luo.  The average pay for an actor in the US is $62,000.  Hiring the entire population of Kenya as sitcom actors so that Americans could see them on TV and realize that they are not Arabs would cost $2.36 trillion, which is less than Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' estimate of $3 trillion for the cost of the Iraq War.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Build a US-Mexico border fence out of marshmallows, reaching the stratosphere

For the price of the Iraq War, we could build a fence across the US-Mexico border out of large marshmallows, tall enough to reach the stratosphere.  

Many immigration opponents support building a fence across the US-Mexico border.  The border is 1969 miles, or 125 million inches long.  The stratosphere begins 6 miles, or 380,000 inches, above the earth.  Assuming that each marshmallow is one inch long and one inch in diameter, building a border fence that went up to the stratosphere would require 47.5 trillion marshmallows.  

A 16 oz bag of Marshmallows costs $2.55 and contains about 64 marshmallows.  Buying enough marshmallows for a US-Mexico border fence would cost $1.9 trillion, which is less than Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' estimate of $3 trillion for the cost of the Iraq War.

Image used under a Creative Commons License from flattop341.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Buy every US adult a bottle of good tequila a week for ten years

For the price of the Iraq War, we could've bought every US adult a bottle of good tequila a week for ten years.  

There are 225 million adults in the United States. Buying each of these adults a bottle of tequila a year for 10 years would add up to 117 billion bottles. 1800 Reposado, a 100% agave tequila, costs $24 per bottle at winedelight.com. At this price, we could've bought each American a weekly bottle of tequila for ten years for $2.81 trillion, which is less than Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' estimate of $3 trillion for the cost of the Iraq War.

Image used under a Creative Commons License from evilibby.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Buy the cranberry harvests of the next ten thousand years

For the price of the Iraq War, we could've bought all the cranberries produced for the next ten thousand years.  

The UN estimates that global cranberry production in 2005 came to 372,000 metric tons, worth a total value of $165 million at 2001 prices.  Adjusting for inflation, this is $204 million at 2008 prices.  Assuming a constant rate of production, buying all the cranberries in the world for the next ten thousand years would cost $2.04 trillion, which is less than Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' estimate of $3 trillion for the cost of the Iraq War.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Buy each US astronomer their own Space Shuttle

For the price of the Iraq War, we could've bought each professional astronomer their own Space Shuttle.  

The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates the total number of professional astronomers in the United States at 1520.  According to NASA, the Space Shuttle Endeavour cost $1.7 billion to build. Giving each astronomer their own Space Shuttle would cost $2.58 trillion, which is less than Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' estimate of $3 trillion for the cost of the Iraq War.

Image released to the public by Lori Losey/NASA.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Pay off half of the national debt, at the level it was when Bush entered office

For the price of the Iraq War, we could've paid off half of the national debt, at the level it was when Bush came into office.  

At the end of the Clinton Administration, the national debt was at $5.7 trillion.  The debt had actually declined by $360 billion over the last three years of the Clinton Administration, because of budget surpluses.  (At this point, the national debt is $9.65 trillion.)  Paying off half the national debt at the level it was at the end of the Clinton Administration would cost $2.85 trillion, which is less than Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' estimate of $3 trillion for the cost of the Iraq War.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Buy cars for all US women, so they can drive to Canada if McCain or Palin ban abortion

For the price of the Iraq War, we could buy a new car for every woman whom John McCain and Sarah Palin want to deny the right to an abortion, so that she could drive to Canada if she needed one.

In an ABC News interview, McCain announced his support for a Constitutional amendment banning all abortion except in cases of rape, incest, and when the mother's life is threatened.   This would deny the 152 million women in America the right to have an abortion under most circumstances.  (He also said that such an amendment would be unlikely to pass, and expressed support for overturning Roe v. Wade instead.) Sarah Palin, meanwhile, opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest.  Since about 40 million US women have already reached menopause, there are 112 million women to whom the right to have an abortion applies or will apply.  

According to AutoPacific, the vehicle with the highest proportion of female buyers is the VW New Beetle, which has a base price of $17,475.  Buying New Beetles for 112 million women would cost $1.96 trillion, which is less than Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' estimate of $3 trillion for the cost of the Iraq War.

Image used under a Creative Commons License from peterpolaroid.  See my new website, The Palin Truth Squad.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Buy every lolrus a dozen of the most valuable buckets

For the price of the Iraq War, we could've bought each lolrus a dozen of the most valuable buckets in existence.  

The lolrus, actually an southern elephant seal named Minazo who lived a Japanese aquarium, achieved immense internet fame due to a famous captioned image of him having his bucket taken away by an aquarium attendant.  A popular series of captioned photos concerning the putatively unhappy lolrus and his quest to regain his bucket soon followed.  There are about 600,000 southern elephant seals in the world.  

A George 111 mahogany and brass peat bucket was bought by John Magnier for 169,000 Euro and is believed to be the most valuable bucket in the world. Buying 12 such buckets for each southern elephant seal would cost $1.73 trillion, which is less than Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' estimate of $3 trillion for the cost of the Iraq War.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Give everyone in Green Bay the Lehman CEO's 2007 bonus

For the price of the Iraq War, we could give everyone in Green Bay a bonus of the size that Lehman Brothers CEO Richard Fuld earned in 2007.

In 2007, Lehman Brothers Chairman and CEO Richard Fuld earned a bonus of $22 million. Because of bad investments in mortgage-backed securities, Lehman Brothers' stock price has fallen from over $80 in early 2007 to 18 cents per share as it filed for bankruptcy yesterday. Previously, Mr. Fuld had earned $354 million over a 5-year period. There are 100,781 residents of Green Bay, so giving them a bonus equal to what Fuld earned in 2007 would take $2.22 trillion, which is less than Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' estimate of $3 trillion for the cost of the Iraq War.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Make every Darfur refugee a millionaire

For the price of the Iraq War, we could've made every refugee in Darfur a millionaire.

There are 2.5 million refugees in Darfur. Making every man, woman, and child among them a millionaire would cost us $2.5 trillion, which is less than Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' estimate of $3 trillion for the cost of the Iraq War.

Image taken from Letter from Larnaca

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Keep America deodorized for a thousand years

For the price of the Iraq War, we could have provided all Americans with deodorant for a millennium.

Americans spend $1.8 billion per year on deodorants and antiperspirants. Even allowing for 10% greater expenditures to deodorize any additional Americans, the entire population could be deodorized for a thousand years for $2 trillion, which is less than Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' estimate of $3 trillion for the cost of the Iraq War.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Build Large Hadron Colliders all the way up the West Coast

For the price of the Iraq War, we could've build adjacent Large Hadron Colliders all the way up the West Coast.  

The California coast is 840 miles, the Oregon coast is 296 miles, and the Washington coast is 157 miles, making the West Coast of the United States 1293 miles long.  The Large Hadron Collider has a circumference of 17 miles, and dividing by pi gives a diameter of 5.4 miles.  This means that it would take 240 adjacent Large Hadron Colliders to cover the coastline.  At 6.4 billion Euros or about 9 billion dollars each, 240 Large Hadron Colliders would cost $2.16 trillion, which is less than Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' estimate of $3 trillion for the cost of the Iraq War.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Buy enough Pabst Blue Ribbon to cover Mars' biggest moon knee-deep

For the price of the Iraq war, we could've bought enough Pabst Blue Ribbon to cover Phobos, Mars' biggest moon, knee-deep in a sea of beer.  

Phobos is the largest moon of the planet Mars.  It has a surface area of 6100 square kilometers.  If we estimate the height of a knee at 50 cm -- roughly the height to the top of my knee -- it would take 3.05 billion cubic meters of beer to cover Phobos knee-deep on average (craters would be deeper, while elevated portions of the moon might stick out as islands).  This would require 50.4 billion kegs of beer.  Pabst Blue Ribbon can be bought for $51 per keg.  At this price, we could cover Phobos knee-deep in beer for $2.57 trillion, which is less than Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' estimate of $3 trillion for the cost of the Iraq War.

Image used under a Creative Commons License from lodri.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Put a tank staffed by Petraeus duplicates on every square mile of Afghanistan

For the price of the Iraq War, we could've hunted down Osama Bin Laden by placing a fully equipped M1 Abrams battle tank on every square mile of Afghanistan and staffing them entirely with duplicates of General Petraeus.

The heavily armored 67-ton M1 Abrams battle tank, which carries four crew members, is the principal combat tank of the American armed forces. A fully equipped M1 Abrams costs $4.30 million. General David Petraeus, who oversaw all US forces in Iraq, earns $180,000 per year. The area of Afghanistan is 251,772 square miles Putting an M1 Abrams on each square mile of Afghanistan and staffing them entirely with Petraeus duplicates drawing a salary equal to his would cost $1.26 trillion, which is less than half of Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' estimate of $3 trillion for the cost of the Iraq War.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Buy everything on the UK stock market

For the price of the Iraq War, we could've bought out the entire United Kingdom stock market at a 10% premium.  

The S&P Global Indices provide the best estimate of the total value of all the publicly traded companies in a nation.  The 'Total Market Capitalization' of companies includes not only the value of all the shares of stock, but also any interest in the companies that may be controlled off the stock exchange by the government or other stakeholders.  Currently the total market cap of the UK stock market is $2.72 trillion.  Paying a 10% premium to completely buy out the UK stock market and own all of every publicly traded company in the UK would cost $2.99 trillion, which is less than Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' estimate of $3 trillion for the cost of the Iraq War.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Give everyone in North America earmarks like Wasilla received under Mayor Palin

For the price of the Iraq War, we could've given everyone in North America the same per capita amount in federal earmarks that Wasilla, Sarah Palin's hometown, received between 2000 and 2003.

Earmarked funds have been widely criticized as a way to get excess spending past the controls in the appropriations process. Between 2000 and 2003, a period mostly including the last two years of Palin's reign as mayor, the city of Wasilla received $26.9 million in federal earmarks, including $15 million for a rail project connecting Wasilla to Senator Ted Stevens' hometown of Girdwood. (The above image includes Palin's boasts about previous federal funding for Wasilla in her own handwriting.) In 2000, the population of Wasilla was 5469, so the city received $4919 per capita in earmarks. Earmarking this amount of federal funds for each of the 524 million people in North America would cost $2.58 trillion, which is less than Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' estimate of $3 trillion for the cost of the Iraq War.

Image from Mike Lillis of the Washington Independent.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Pay for Katrina and the next 30 hurricanes like it

For the price of the Iraq War, we could've paid off all the damage from Hurricane Katrina and the next thirty equally devastating hurricanes.  

Hurricane Katrina, the costliest hurricane in American history, did $89.2 billion worth of damage in 2008 dollars.  Paying off all the damage for Katrina, as well as thirty future hurricanes of the same size, would've cost $2.77 trillion, which is less than Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' estimate of $3 trillion for the cost of the Iraq War.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Buy a platinum vibrator studded with diamonds for each woman in Europe and the Americas

For the price of the Iraq War, we could've bought a platinum vibrator studded with diamonds for each woman in Europe and the Americas.  

731 million people live in Europe, 524 million live in North America, and 382 million people live in South America.  Assuming that half of these people are women, there are 819 million women on these three continents combined.  

JimmyJane sells the Little Platinum Eternity vibrator, plated in platinum and encircled by 28 conflict-free VS1 diamonds, for $3,250.  Buying 819 million of these vibrators would cost $2.66 trillion, which is less than Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' estimate of $3 trillion for the cost of the Iraq War.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Buy a stealth bomber for each panda

For the price of the Iraq War, we could've bought each of the world's pandas their own stealth bomber.

Using the highest estimates, there are 3000 giant pandas in the wild, and 266 in captivity. The unit cost of the stealth bomber (at the prices that the US government was initially quoted when a larger order of bombers was planned) is $737 million each. Equipping every giant panda with their own stealth bomber would cost $2.4 trillion, which is less than Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' estimate of $3 trillion for the cost of the Iraq War.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Buy a bottle of Jameson's Irish whiskey for every person ever

For the price of the Iraq War, we could've bought a bottle of Jameson's Irish whiskey for every human who ever lived.  

The Population Reference Bureau estimates the total number of people who have ever lived at 106 billion.  (Updated versions of Keyfitz' calculation gave an estimate of 96 billion in 2000.)  A fifth of Jameson's Irish Whiskey costs $23.  At this price we could supply each of the humans who ever lived with a bottle of whiskey for $2.44 trillion, which is less than Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' estimate of $3 trillion for the cost of the Iraq War.

Image adapted under a Creative Commons License from petar_c.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Buy a Bridge to Nowhere for each house or condo in Alaskan Zip Code 99901

For the price of the Iraq War, we could attach a new 'Bridge to Nowhere' to each house and condo in Alaska's zip code 99901.  

The 99901 zip code contains 6,164 houses and condos.  It was supposed to include the infamous Bridge to Nowhere, a $398 million bridge designed to connect Ketchikan, Alaska, with a small island inhabited by only 50 people.  Governor Sarah Palin, pictured above, ended her support of the bridge after it became clear that $169 million in federal funding would not be forthcoming. Fully funding the addition of a new 'Bridge to Nowhere' to each house and condo in 99901 would cost $2.45 trillion, which is less than Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' estimate of $3 trillion for the cost of the Iraq War.

Photograph from Andrew Halcro.  

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Buy Ohio State - Michigan tickets until the sun becomes a red giant

For the price of the Iraq War, we could've bought a Ohio State - Michigan football ticket every year until the Sun becomes a red giant and engulfs the Earth.  

The Sun is currently in its main sequence.  In 5 billion years, it will burn all the hydrogen in its core and helium fusion will make it a red giant.  It will grow to 200 times its current size and engulf the earth.  

At this writing, tickets to the Ohio State - Michigan football game, perhaps the biggest college football rivalry game in America, start at $400 each.  For this price, buying tickets for the OSU-Michigan game until the sun becomes a red giant would cost $2 trillion dollars, which is less than Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' estimate of $3 trillion for the cost of the Iraq War.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Build a wall of condoms along the Alaska-Canada border high enough to reach the ozone layer

For the price of the Iraq War, we could've helped sexually active Alaska teens by building a wall of condoms along the Alaska-Canada border high enough to reach the the ozone layer.  

The Alaska-Canada border is 2477 km.  Using the online ruler shows that a LifeStyles lubricated condom is 5.5 cm long.  This means that it would take 45 million condoms to stretch along the entire border.  

While ozone is somewhat diffuse in the earth's atmosphere, the ozone layer is formed by greater concentrations of ozone in the stratosphere from 20 and 40 km above the earth's surface.  It would thus take about 363,636 condoms to reach the ozone layer. Building a wall this high along the Alaska-Canada border would require 16.4 trillion condoms.  Purchased in cases of 1000 from ripnroll at $159, this many condoms would cost $2.6 trillion, which is less than Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' estimate of $3 trillion for the cost of the Iraq War.

Image from Gawker.  

Monday, September 1, 2008

Buy each coalition soldier their weight in platinum, gold, and BlackBerry Pearls

For the price of the Iraq War, we could've bought each soldier involved in the initial invading coalition their weight in platinum, gold, and BlackBerry pearl 8100s.

The initial invading force consisted of 297000 soldiers -- 250000 from America, 45000 from the UK, 2500 from Australia, and 194 from Poland.  Assuming that each soldier weighs 180 lbs, the total weight of the soldiers was 53.5 million pounds.  

There are about 14.6 troy ounces in a pound.  Platinum currently costs $1417 per ounce, or $20700 per pound.  Gold currently costs $823 per troy ounce, or $12000 per pound.  The BlackBerry Pearl 8100 costs $300 and weighs 3.16 ounces, for a price of $1500 per pound. At these prices, we could've bought each soldier their weight in platinum, gold, and BlackBerry Pearl 8100s for $1.83 trillion, which is less than Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes' estimate of $3 trillion for the cost of the Iraq War.