While the Bush administration does its clumsy dance of diplomacy and rhetoric with Iran, what remains clear is this; Two carrier battle groups have been dispatched to the Gulf and Bush’s battle plans to attack Iran have been upgraded to 24 hour ‘hair trigger‘ status.  So before we pack up our Iraqi blue ribbon and march over the border to liberate some more backwards peoples perhaps the country of Iran merits a closer look.  Below are some comparative graphs that might put this foreign country in perspective with our own.


Do you think the US has what it takes to play with the largest military in the Middle East?


Well I’ve been digging through the RDT&E (Research, Development, Test & Evaluation) of the U.S. Army and as usual I constantly stumble upon some crazy funding for the Future Force Warrior. The FFW is not an animated TV show on Saturday mornings. Its the human aspect of the Future Combat Systems project from DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). Basically, the Future Force Warrior is the Army vision of the ultimate soldier. Complete with exoskeletons. helmets with “microelectronic/optics combat sensor suite that provides 360° situational awareness,” electric pistols and caseless riffles. Every aspect of the soldier’s physiological status can be remotely monitored “as well as monitoring of the soldier’s cognitive states, health, and wellbeing.” Of course every soldier needs to carry a small power plant run off a liquid hydrocarbon fuel cell to keep the gadgetry working.

The Army hopes to roll out small pieces of this plan every 2 years with a fully realized end product around 2032. Just in time. The funding for this is so decentralized its almost impossible to an accurate total, but its large. Several billion per year for sure. Typical expenditures are for items such as…

  • Eye wear that “addresses the emerging threat of frequency agile lasers on the battlefield” ($3.4M)
  • Training will involve “lessons learned from virtual and augmented reality training approaches” as well as to “conduct lab experiments of training effectiveness of massively multiplayer persistent simulations (MMPS)” ($5M)
  • Human Factors Engineering Technology ($17.4M) which, among other things, will “Improve human robotic interaction (HRI) in a full mission context for aerial and ground unmanned vehicles (UGVs)($3.6M).
  • Software needed to run all this will be “executed incremental development of Soldier computer. Integrated AFRL Cursor on Target(CoT), FalconView and Barebones software packages for alternative computer/SW solution and broader connectivity to Army/joint combat firepower.”($4.9M)
  • Ofcourse every future soldier will need a “Personal Area Network” to transmit and receive orders and data across the “battlespace” through advanced antennae that can serve as “network gateway for Soldier connectivity to unmanned ground systems.”($2.6M)
  • Now no human could possible carry all this equiptment. Thankfully the army is developing “integrated-power exoskeleton devices for the upper and lower body extremities” and various other “biomechanical tools for maximizing Soldier load carriage capability.”($3.5M)

Dressing up soldiers like robots is all well and good, but the political and military wet dream is putting robots themselves on the battlefield, I mean battlespace. “In FY08, [the Army] will evaluate technologies to enable collaborative operation of near-autonomous unmanned systems, including networked air and ground unmanned vehicles, managed by a single Soldier.” But why even have a soldier managing the robots? Here is the full text of the NAUS line item. “Near Autonomous Unmanned Systems (NAUS): This effort addresses the safe weapon operations and self security risk areas of NAUS. In FY07, complete detailed design of concept; fabricate and assemble breadboard components including the ammo handling system; conduct laboratory experiments to prove out interfaces between the weapon, mount, fire control, and ammo handling subsystems; continue design and checkout of the control system; and, define and validate the interfaces with an Armed Robotic Vehicle (ARV) through experimentation. In FY08, will fabricate and assemble prototype hardware; conduct laboratory evaluations to assess functionality of subsystems; and, simulate functionality in wireless operation mode. In FY09, will complete check out of system and integrate with robotic platform

Today’s soldiers facing today’s enemies survive not by their firepower, but by their training and their ability to identify the enemy who may look like a civilian amidst a crowd of civilians who make look like the enemy. Our soldiers are our armed ambassadors, walking the fine line between diplomat and enforcer. One can only imagine a scenario in which a house full of suspected insurgents or a frightened family is handled with all the tact and acumen a Near Autonomous Unmanned Armed Robot can muster. The Army must look into and plan for the future if the United States is to remain a super power by sheer military might. But will military might win the wars of the future? It seems, our current and future enemies know that open field warfare is not an option. The insurgency doesn’t have the luxury to plan for warfare in 2031, and in not doing so, it is able to adapt to the current warfare with incredible speed. Our half trillion dollar military is forced to play catch up. So the question is, should we spend hundreds of billions of dollars to prepare for the wars that will be fought, or the wars we wish will be fought. While our emerging enemies are using Soviet era weapons to take down our helicopters and homemade bombs to kill our troops, the United States Army will be fully prepared should the enemy decide to trade in their AK47’s for weaponized lasers and pit their robots against ours in the battlefield of cyberspace. A superpower remains so by being one step ahead of the game, but at our present course by 2031 we will be one hundred steps ahead of the game and the opponent we may best be prepared for just might be ourselves.


President Bush’s budget request on Monday included a line item of $145.2 billion for the war in Iraq… er.. I mean the ‘Global War on Terror.’ Now this funding isn’t already included in the massive Department of Defense budget, nor is it part of some multi-year over arching funding program. It’s a straight lump sum of 145 billion dollars of your taxes to be used next year in an Iraq ‘whatever’ fund.

But its 145 billion dollars. Surely a number like that may be difficult to get your head around or in perspective. Well that’s what I intend to do. Follow along as I show you a few other ways we could blow $145 billion of our own money.

Well here is what are spending it on. The big pot o’ taxes en route to the middle east. All proceeding images are to scale.

Now lets try spending our American taxes on…. you know… Americans.

Data: There are 10,849,000 uninsured families in the US. The average health care cost for a family is $11,500. So 10,849,000 x 11,500 = $124,763,500,000. The 10 million uninsured individuals are out of luck here.

Data: This one’s complicated, follow closely. Americans use 9,159,000 barrels of finished motor gasoline a day. 31 gallons to the barrel and thats 283,929,000 gallons a day on average. The average cost of a gallon of gas for 2006 was $2.63. Multiply that by the gallons per day and Americans spend $746,733,270 filling up. Now there are 52 of each day in the week in one year. So all the Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays is 156. Multiply that by the gas spending per day and you have $116,490,390,120. Now you might say “but won’t everyone just fill up on the free gas days?” Yes, that would probably happen, but lets not ruin the fantasy ok?

Data: There are 11,650,580 students enrolled in all public institutions of higher education. Average public tuition is $9,877. So 11,650,580 x 9,877 = $115,072,778,660. Students at private colleges still have to pay.

Data: There are about 78,424,000 students in some kind of school in the US (61,074,000 elementary and secondary, 17,350,000 post-secondary). Now for example, a 1.8ghz MacBook costs $1,099 so multiply that by the number of students and you have $86,187,976,000.

Data: There are 136,568,083 registered cars in the US. Ethanol or E85 conversion kits range from $400 to $700 so I stuck with $500 (volume discount). So numbers of cars multiplied by the cost of the conversion is $68,284,041,500. This is just for cars, trucks will have to wait for next years pot o’ taxes.

Data: This is from the World Bank’s Millennium Development Goals and 30 billion is the upper range of the estimate.

Data: Again from the World Bank and 21 billion being the upper range of the estimate

Data: From a Bread for the World study done in 2000. Or we can just give every tax payer their thousand dollars back. Unfortunately we don’t have time to entertain such flights of fancy like ending hunger or free health insurance. Don’t you know there is a war on?!

It’s all about choices, and the true greatness of America, and to an extent, the world, is being held hostage by the half trillion dollar elephant in room that no one wants to talk about. Perhaps it’s said best by the five star general himself..

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.” ~Dwight D. Eisenhower

p.s. it looks like this post got dugg. awesome…. dont forget to check out the other posts and MAKE SURE you see the whole poster and maybe even buy it! …thanks


Well, since the President released his budget for 2008 this morning there has been a lot of coverage. With something so large and complex, any highlighting of particular items will only give you a limited and often misleading impression. So Bush’s proposal is for a $2.9 trillion federal government. About 4% bigger than this year, 2007. The Pentagon budget goes up by 10% and this is in addition to $145 billion in supplemental funding. $145 Billion. For Iraq. To put that in some perspective, we could take that $145 billion and provide free tuition for students enrolled in a public college or university with $16 billion left over! So we can have a war in Iraq or a free college education for 13 million students, but we can’t have both. Logic has never been a strong point for the current administration. In order to appeal to a Democratic congress, Bush’s new plan is going to balance the budget in in five years and with surpluses to boot! Of course to satisfy his wealthy power base he says he can do this by maintaining the current tax cuts. “My formula for a balanced budget reflects the priorities of our country at this moment in its history: protecting the homeland and fighting terrorism, keeping the economy strong with low taxes and keeping spending under control while making federal programs more effective,” Bush said. Does that make any sense? Of course not. So we have three factors:

  • Huge tax cuts
  • A Costly war
  • A Balanced budget

Choose two, because you can’t have them all. That doesn’t matter to this administration though. All you have to do is leave the cost of the war in Iraq off the budget for the four years after 2008. Just don’t include it! It’s easy! As we all know, the war is not winding down any time soon and with the recent escalations with Iran we might have another drain on our tax dollars. Surely its not all bad news? Well in an attempt to provide some defacto balanced reporting Fox News says, “Bush is also proposing to increase the maximum Pell grant, which goes to low-income students, from the current $4,050 to $4,600.” Huzzah! Pell grants receive an extra $616 million. Cool, that makes up for the $438 million cut they received this year, so Pell grants are almost keeping up with inflation and rising tuition costs.. but not quite. Fox News also reports, “Bush’s energy proposals would expand use of ethanol and other renewable fuels with a goal of cutting gasoline use by 20 percent over the next decade.” Here is the break down.So ethanol and other biomass funding is doubled to $179 million.This level of funding is peanuts. No, seriously. Its almost as much as we spend subsidizing peanut farmers.

The numbers don’t lie nearly as well as humans do and while the President’s budget is a mess, but it’s our mess now. I’ll just be here trying to tidying things up a bit… stay tuned.


Even though the $6 billion in the budget for the National Science Foundation isn’t a lot compared to it’s departmental neighbors, the sheer scope of projects under it’s control is gargantuan. A full 20% of all federally supported basic research conducted by the United States’ colleges and universities is from the NSF. Here’s how it gets broken down by area of study.Math and physics obviously get the biggest piece of the pie because thats where the action is these days, but I will be focusing on a little project in the highlighted portion. The NSF funds every area of research imaginable from algae to algebra and while initially I was going to do one post on all the crazy funding in there, I soon realized there is way too much for one post. So this will be a series. I’ll kick it off with the… Antarctic Artists and Writers ProgramGo ahead, take a few seconds to ponder what on earth that could possible be. I’ll wait. Ok good. Now here is the official line: “The purpose of the Antarctic Artists and Writers Program is to enable serious writings and works of art that exemplify the Antarctic heritage of humankind.” I wasn’t aware that a frozen landmass with no indigenous people and no permanent population had a heritage. But according to the NSF, it does, and according to the NSF, you want to know about! “The NSF recognizes that the Antarctic region’s unique geographical, political, and cultural characteristics are of intrinsic value and interest to the American public. As custodian of the United States Antarctic Program, the National Science Foundation seeks to enhance the understanding of Antarctica and the research through its Antarctic Artists and Writers Program.” So a bunch of artsy types travel to the least habitable place on earth to paint watercolor seals and write bleak existential poetry… all with the taxpayers money. Cool. Fortunately the Antarctic Artists and Writers Program is pretty cheap. Here is what the artist can expect to get: “For selected artists and writers, the Foundation provides polar clothing on loan, round-trip economy air travel between a U.S. airport and a port of embarkation for the Antarctic (typically in New Zealand or Chile), travel between there and the Antarctic, and room, board, and travel while in the Antarctic and/or the Southern Ocean as required by the approved project.” The artist will have to pay its own way to the tip of Chile or New Zealand and “They are also responsible for incidental expenses in Antarctica (toiletries, etc.).” So bring some TP because I’d imagine supply and demand economics on floating iceberg could get expensive. Now you may be thinking as a tax payer, ‘What do I get out of this?’. Well first of all, it’s not about you, it’s about the cultural heritage of 5 million square miles of ice. But if your looking for more than that, then be on the look out for some the following projects by artists who will be making the journey this year!

  • In Cold Pursuit, a science-based mystery novel set in Antarctica by Sarah Andrews.
  • Antarctice Ice, an attempt by sculptor David Ruth to duplicate and synthesize the look of Antarctic ice in cast glass.
  • The Scientific Method: Poems of Antarctic Inquiry & Research, a collection of poems by Kathleen M. Heideman celebrating, pondering, and explicating the questions posed by current Antarctic research.
  • Antarctica – Images From the Frozen Continent, artists Alan and Colin Campbell will produce drawings, watercolors, and oil paintings that tell the story of a full austral summer season in Antarctica.
  • ANTARCTIC Art Message Mural, a three-part project by Xavier Cortada who will travel to the South Pole to plant an artistic replica of a Mangrove seed. The seed would be planted at the earth’s geographic center to begin its 150,000-mile journey toward the sea (the artist estimates that the seed would travel 9.9 meters per year).

Awesome. And before you start complaining about wasting taxpayers money, I think we could learn a lesson by from the artist who produced this lovely painting of Antarctic wild life.Edward Wilson painted this on his 1910 expedition to Antarctica which was NOT funded by the Antarctic Artists and Writers Program. They found his frozen body three years later. Just imagine the tales he could tell if we was part of a federally funded program to deliver artists to and from Antarctica. Just imagine….


No, not the Illuminati or some shadow government. When going over hundreds of pages of budget documents I often come across funding for government agencies or programs that fly well below the radar of most people. Mostly due to their relatively low levels of funding, or non-media friendly titles such as the Committee For Purchase From People Who Are Blind Or Severely Disabled (the CPFPWABSD for short). The organizations in this series are funded with your tax dollars and may be worth a second, or rather, first look. First up is the The Committee for Purchase From People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled, which actually is just referred to as “the Committee”. They get almost $5 million, here is the write up.Interesting. But what’s more interesting are the jobs that are available to these blind or severely disabled people. You find blind workers at any of the following (these are all real):

  • Sorting mail at the IRS
  • Embroidering name tags for the US Marine Corps
  • Audio/Visual Duplication Service for FEMA
  • Working at the Base Supply Center at White Sands Missile Range
  • Customer Representative Service at the SEC
  • Eyewear Prescription Service at Phoenix Indian Medical Center
  • Handling HAZMAT at Dover Air Force Base
  • HTML coding at the US Forest Service
  • Medical Transcription at the Federal Bureau of Prisons
  • Photocopying at the EPA
  • Carwash Services at the US Border Patrol
  • Replacing the carpets at the Smithsonian National Gallery of Art
  • Currency packaging at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing
  • Document Destruction at the IRS (50 positions for this one!)
  • Affixing labels to patent documents at the US Patent Office
  • Baggage Inspection Services at Travis Air Force base
  • Demilitarization of Military Hardware at Robins Air Force base
  • File Maintenance at the Bureau of Public Debt
  • Janitor at the US Mint

The ‘Committee’, through the JWOD program, also sells products made by blind or severely disable people. Everything from womens underwear to a sling for your M4 Carbine assault rifle. There even have an online store. All this for only $5 million of our tax payers money. Considering that this most likely saves tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in other taxpayer subsidies, I’d say it’s quite a bargain! So three cheers for the CPFPWABSD. Ok, maybe just one.