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Archive for July, 2007

Perhaps the most remarkable candidness in the US Senate’s all-night Iraq Debate came from Washington Senator Maria Cantwell, who examined the idea that has long burned in the hearts of those who engineered the Iraq occupation — the privatization of 70% of Iraq’s oil resources. The crafters of this plan have spent over a decade coming up with reasons to justify this, even though oil production in most countries is done under the auspices of the state or quasi-statal entities. If Americans are really concerned about ending civil strife in Iraq and giving all its citizens a stake in the success of that country, perhaps it is time to abandon pressuring for a Hydrocarbon Law and the application of production-sharing agreements, or PSAs, and try a different approach. (BTW, if you are convinced PSAs are the way to go, it might be worthwhile to review the recent Russian experience of British Petroleum.)

 Current estimates of Iraq’s oil reserves are all over the map, ranging from 112Gbbl to 400Gbbl on the high end. Nevertheless, the big oil companies seem comfortable with figures north of 300 billion barrels. At an oil price of $50 a barrel that’s a treasure of $15 trillion. $30 trillion at $100 a barrel, or roughly a cool $1 million for every Iraqi citizen. Given the value of the assets at stake, it is also clear why Mr. Bush and co-president Cheney scarcely bat an eye at the mention that official Pentagon spending on the efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan now exceed $12 billion a month. That’s chump change.

While the conditions in Iraq are quite different than in Norway, there is obviously an alternative path for Iraq that so far has not received much public discussion, i.e. creation of a national stabilization fund to invest and protect national oil revenues managed with sufficiently little corruption so that covenants with Iraq’s future generations are kept. The added benefit is that, like in Norway, the money can be directed toward diversification of the economy and job creation.

The Senate’s Great Iraq Debate was a flop, but Cantwell may have inadvertantly started a discussion that will help both the people of Iraq and the US in the long term.

Update: C-Span  has the clip up now.

Later update: Suddenly it’s become okay to use the O-word right on the senate floor. Larry Craig did it, too.

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Michael Moore’s Sicko is rolling out in US theaters to generally positive reviews. The premise is simple: for any industrialized country, universal health care should be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, certain institutions of the US medical-industrial complex (e.g. insurers) and many voters do not accept this notion. For video on a piece by CNN’s resident neurosurgeon/reporter Sanjay Gupta that really got to Moore, see this and this.

What I would like to see is a comparison between the Finnish system and the US system. Having been in both, it’s clear to me that the Finnish system wins hands down in terms of life-cycle costs and quality. On the other hand, the variability of quality of US health care can be good for the lucky and the rich — it focuses resources very well. For example, when former Disney CEO Michael Eisner started to have a heart attack, he drove his car to Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles, because he knew that was where the good care was. Such thinking would be odd in the Finnish context. Also, the Finnish system keeps slogging toward a diagnosis until it gets it right (or at least in the ballpark), while doctors in the US may be brilliant diagnosticians or lose interest and never figure out the problem. Second opinion is a big deal. It’s an interesting trade-off the Americans have made: sacrificing reliability and consistency for spectacular successes and a system that badly serves two-thirds of the population.

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Joe Wilson (on George Bush’s quid pro quo commuting of Scooter Libby’s 30-month sentence for perjury and obstruction of justice):

 

This stinks to high heaven.

 

So here’s the song by Loudon Wainwright III:

 You’ve got to love the crossed-arm body language of the German crowd. BTW: The translation for the Finnish word for skunk (haijunäättä) is something like smelly raccoon. The comment about politicians is prescient.

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