A trillion in Iraq

As reported by Duncan Mansfield, a Knoxvillian named Rob Simpson was indignant when he heard that the cost of war in Iraq had hit $1 trillion. So he spent a year of his life putting that cost in perspective in a book called What We Could Have Done With the Money: 50 Ways To Spend the Trillion Dollars We’ve Spent on Iraq.

From the Mansfield piece: “He calculates $1 trillion could pave the entire U.S. interstate highway system with gold – 23.5-karat gold leaf. It could buy every person on the planet an iPod. It could give every high school student in America a free college education. It could pay off every American’s credit card. It could buy a Buick for every senior citizen still driving in America.”

The author’s web site also has had a nifty “shopping spree” tool where you can could buy things like Lear Jets, the New York Yankees, Picasso paintings, etc, in a vain attempt to reach $1T.

Giant Pool of Money still Giant

OK, I’m repeating myself, but I really have to insist that you drop whatever it is you’re doing and go listen to an episode of This American Life called the “Giant Pool of Money,” which explains the subprime mortgage crisis in the stickiest possible terms. It’s journalism meets education meets entertainment. If the words “subprime” and “mortgage” and “education” make you antsy, let me offer reassurance. It is not a For Your Own Good experience. It’s a Don’t Want It To End experience.

The show explains the insanely complicated saga of the subprime crisis largely through the stories of 4 very interesting individuals. For instance, one of them — in his early 20s — made $75,000-$100,000 per MONTH bundling mortgages and spent most of the proceeds on bottles of Cristal at a NYC nightclub, so he could stay in elbow-rubbing distance of B-list celebs like Tara Reid. See, that wasn’t so painful, was it? 

It would almost be worth writing a sequel to Made to Stick that focuses purely on this one-hour show. So do me a favor and at least download this thing right now, even if you obstinately refuse to listen at the moment. For a one-hour investment, you’ll get to be Paul Krugman at the next cocktail party you attend…

Unappreciated hero: Tap water

From a NYT editorial:

The Environmental Working Group released a report Wednesday that charged that some bottled waters were “no different than tap water.” And it found fertilizer residue, pain medication and other chemicals in some major brands.

While a lot of bottled water may be as pure as promised in those alluring commercials, the real problem is telling which is which. Public water supplies are regulated by the federal government. Not so for bottled water.

If you missed Charles Fishman’s wonderful expose on the bottled-water industry, which appeared in Fast Company, now’s the time to take a gander.

I’m a Gonzaga fan now

Check out this inspired online promotion (link no longer works) for the Gonzaga U women’s basketball team. Make sure to enter your correct phone number (they don’t store the info). Absolutely ingenious, and it didn’t cost a fortune. (I wanted to buy season tix afterwards, even though I’m about 2,600 miles from Spokane…)

It’s been a rough week.

Maybe this will help. (My hat is off to the creators.)