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Banbury Cross

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Post details: Numbers Get Number And Number

Numbers Get Number And Number

Billion is a baffling number.

There are 6 billion people scattered all over this world. Imagine they'd all come together for a big family reunion. How much of a crowd would that be?

The standard police estimates postulate that one person needs about 5 sq feet of space, so after punching few unsuspecting keys of your calculator, you realize that all your fellow human beings when summoned to one place would fill out a square of roughly 35 x 35 miles. That's your garden variety major metropolitan area. Quite a crowd, huh?

Now imagine each of these individuals would donate $2 per month to a common cause. That's the kind of money we are burning in the Middle East. According to a new book by Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, the US government is spending $12 billion per month on its ill conceived war there. And what have we got to show for it? Hmmmm, let's see: in 2003 a dollar bought 1.1 Euro, now it is worth half of that and dropping every day; crude oil used to be 20 bucks, now it costs 5 times as much; more people hate us now than they did 5 years ago and - in the most important department - we lost more human lives in this war than we did on September 11. That is a pretty poor return on investment.

Twelve billion per month is a pretty numbing sum if you think about it. You could build five medical centers with this kind of budget. Yet, the current administration thought the money was better spent fighting some third world nation which possessed neither WMDs nor links to Al Qaida. That is before we got there. I am sure the future generations who are being saddled with this debt as we speak will appreciate the removal of a toothless Arab dictator and the amount of goodwill that has been squandered in the Iraqi desert.

Now let's look at it from yet another angle - for $200,000 you can get a pretty decent college stipend with all expenses covered. That means every month we could have saved 60,000 minds from being wasted. In a few years we could have educated a whole generation and regain our edge in science and technology. But wait - I see a problem here - with an electorate well versed in critical thinking, this administration or its likes would never make it to the White House in the first place. There - now it all makes sense.

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