Archive for June, 2008

Asian Sorrows

Monday, June 30th, 2008

The Ginseng Hunter, Jeff Talarigo, 2008

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Austere tale of a third generation Korean living just across the border in China near Yanji. The grandfather was moved to China by the Japanese for labor. The father and uncle become Ginseng hunters and teach the son their secrets. The first part of the novel is a compact but detailed look at the art of hunter for wild Ginseng plants in the mountains. Once found, the Ginseng plant must be very carefully dug up without damaging the often crooked and complex root. The value of the plant depends on its age but any damage will leave the root worthless. It may require hours to dig a single root.

Written in the first person by the son, we are taken into an austere self sufficient life. The hunter lives alone and enjoys his solitude. He tried living with a woman once but it didn’t work out. He visits a brothel during his monthly trips to Yanji in the warm seasons to sell his ginseng and buy supplies.

During one one trip he meets a Korean prostitute and for the first time can’t get her out of his mind. They start meeting in parks during his visits and we learn her tragic story and the start of the novel’s preoccupation with the story of the Korean people under the incompetent rule of Kim Jong-il, son of North Korea’s founding dictator. We learn of the constant reeducation and intimidation as the country falls apart and the people starve. The Korean prostitute had a husband who worked in the mines and a daughter who attended school. The mine closed and her husband was detained and never returns. The daughter dropped out of school to help her mother scrounge for food. They spot the daughter’s former teacher scrounging for food and realize the school is closed. The daughter is killed by government authorities and the woman runs away to China where she is taken to the brothel by a trucker. She realizes she will be fed and sheltered so stays in the brothel.

As things deteriorate in Korea, more and more cross the shallow river to China looking for food, jobs, or trade. The Chinese government offers rewards to return illegal Koreans to the border and pressure businesses to get rid of their Korean workers. A young Korean girl visits the ginseng hunter’s garden to steal corn and the hunter decides to try to take care of her. He realizes he will need help to raise a young girl and goes to the brothel to try to buy the prostitute but she is no longer working there. He travels downriver looking for her as winter sets in. He realizes that the industrial plants built on the river on the Korean side are all shut down.

The hunter is loaned a hand gun by his neighbor to help protect himself from encroaching Koreans including armed and starving soldiers, who are starting to cross the river looking for food. He can’t bring himself to use the gun, but he does assist in turning over some Koreans to be returned to the border for which he receives money. For penance he buys all the seaweed from a Korean woman using his bounty money so she can take the money back home.

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The author spent considerable time in Yanji and the surrounding region learning about ginseng hunting and hearing the takes of terrible happenings in North Korea. He assembles some of these stories into a compact, compelling, story. It is not a story of hope but a testimony to the strength and endurance of people under harsh and trying circumstances.

The Pearl Diver, Jeff Talarigo, 2004

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The author’s first novel follows the life of a Japanese pearl diver who contracts Hansen’s disease (Leprosy) as a young woman in 1948. As was the practice then, she was sent to an isolated Leper’s colony on a small island at Nagashima. The first drugs that stabilize the disease have just been discovered and she is able to live a full life without the disfigurement of the disease. This being Japan, the disease comes with a shame and stigma that attaches to her whole family and prevents her older sister from marrying. The family abandons her. We follow conditions and treatment in the colony where the patients are treated more as prisoners than as sufferers of a horrible disease. As time passes more drugs are discovered and doctors learn to differentiate contagious from non contagious carriers. It eventually becomes possible for individual patients to reintegrate into society if they wish, but as with prisoners, it takes our heroin some years and several experiments before she tries to return – but never to her home island. Will she remain in society or return to the colony to live out her life? Very readable and a reminder of what it was like to contract an ancient disease that is all but eradicated in much of the world today.

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Artist’s Taos

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

A Richer Dust, Amy Boaz, 2008

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A novel of the international artist’s colony which arose in Taos New Mexico in the 1920s. The author acknowledges drawing freely from the lives and works of Leon Trotsky, G.I. Gurdjieff (Armenian mystic and spiritual teacher), Vera Brittain (British writer and pacifist). William Bradford (19th Century Romantic landscape painter), D.H. and Frieda Lawrence, Dorothy Brett (Aristocratic Brit, Abstract Painter, a member of the Bloomsbury group, and Taos colony member), and Mabel Dodge Luhan (wealthy founding matron of the Taos colony).

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The main character Doll, is the aristocratic daughter of a Viscount regular at the courts of Victoria and Edward, who disappoints her family to become a spinster painter in London. She is hard of hearing and carries an ear trumpet. Her trust fund assures she will never have to worry about money. She meets famous writer, philosopher Abe and his German wife Vera after WWI and Abe convinces Doll to move with them to the newly established artist’s community in Taos New Mexico. Doll pays for the move and supports the couple in Taos.

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Jane is the wealthy patron who lives with her Indian husband in a a two story great house in Taos. It is she who publicizes Taos with its native American artisans as a new haven for intellectuals and artists. Jane promotes exchange between the artists and native artisans. Abe thinks the dry dessert air of New Mexico will help cure his (probable) TB. He doesn’t reckon with the primitive drafty cabins they will inhabit. Vera stirs things up with the Indians by teaching feminist ideas to the women of the area and the women all start a sex strike for societal change.

The novel moves between the late Victorian and WWI war and revolutionary years in England where intellectuals are giving up on the dying old world of Europe, 1924 in London when the move to Taos originates, to Taos in 1924 and shortly thereafter, and then jumps forward to 1963 when we see Doll, the only remaining artist from the original group still living in Taos, falling in love for the first time (with a much younger childlike man).

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Optimistic Listmaker

Monday, June 16th, 2008

Common Wealth, Economics for a Crowded Planet, Jeffrey D. Sachs, 2008

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We last met Jeffrey Sachs in Shock Doctrine and the PBS series Commanding Heights where he gained notoriety for advising nations throughout Latin America, Eastern Europe, and the former Soviet Union in the largest transfers of wealth to private and often foreign hands in human history. From these introductions, we would naturally associate Sachs with the Chicago School and neo-liberal movements. So it is refreshing to see Sachs here as Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University (alma-mater of Kissinger and Greenspan) advocating massive and coordinated government programs to tackle the monumental problems of global warming, environmental damage and species extinction, population control education food supply health care, poverty, clean fresh water supply, sustainable energy supply.

He is very aware of the wrong footed long term foreign policy of the United States, referencing Legacy of Ashes and adopting the term Blowback from Chalmers Johnson. He references Jared Diamond and like Diamond, Sachs is an optimist, and like Diamond, the litany of massive problems addressed is enough to depress anyone. Where does all this optimism come from?

Sachs is very smart, becoming the youngest Professor in Harvard history but the surprise in this book is how well and clearly he organizes and writes. He makes an excellent case that big changes can be made with modest (relative to the U.S. defense budget) investment, using existing technologies and proven techniques of implementation. Imagine what would happen if serious investments were made in new technologies.

Some examples and highlights. Two human activities that provide little income to the participants but have a devastating impact on the environment are deforestation and fishing (particularly bottom net fishing). If those involved were paid modest sums not to cut trees or fish, the improvements in the environment would have economic value in huge multiples of the amount spent.

Preindustrial CO2 levels in the atmosphere were 280 ppm and are 380 ppm today. The international community have set a goal of stabilizing CO2 at no higher than 560 ppm. Two changes alone; sequestering CO2 emissions from power and industrial plants, and converting the world’s auto fleet to hybrid-plug-in technology would stabilize CO2 at 488 ppm by 2050.

In addition to extensive water world wide pollution, global climate change is having a dramatic impact on water through melting glaciers and ice caps and changing rain patterns. Ground water is being rapidly depleted and water problems will lead to conflicts since water requirements of many nations originate in other nations, for example, Bangladesh which gets most of its water from India.

We know how to control population growth with governmental educational and health support systems. Education, health, and ending poverty will bring population stability to all countries of the world. Poverty and population growth lead to conflicts, wars, and genocide. Spending money to end poverty, improve health and education will improve national security for the U.S. that defense expenditures cannot. Defense moneys need to be diverted to these positive activities. Sachs highlights the relationships between large percentages of young men in poor countries with high unemployment and food shortages and violence. He specifically points to Afghanistan and Darfur as places with exceptionally high percentages of young men where military solutions are impossible without addressing the fundamental problem of poverty.

He doesn’t address one troubling trend, in China, where the cultural preference for boy babies is leading to an entire generation where boys vastly outnumber girls. I guess he hopes that China’s continued economic growth will somehow absorb this problem without leading to unusual violence.

Sachs explicitly rejects the Invisible Hand of Chicago School fantasy. On the contrary, Sachs delineates the six kind of essential governmental intervention:

The first is help for the destitute …so that the poor can stay alive, meet basic needs, and step onto the ladder of development… The second is the public provision of key infrastructure (roads, ports, and airports, power, telecommunications, and broadband connectivity, all of which are required by the private sector in order to flourish) as well as other public goods such as infectious disease control and environmental management… The third is the provision of a sound business environment, including monetary stability, protection of property rights, contract enforcement, and openness to international trade. The fourth is the provision of social insurance, to ensure that all parts of the population can maintain their economic security and well-being in the face of inevitable economic dislocations. The fifth is the promotion and dissemination of modern science and technology…. The sixth is proper stewardship of the natural environment.

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Sachs was director of the UN Millennium Project under Kofi Annan. In this program, 78 villages across Africa were selected to demonstrate that coordinated efforts in education, health care, agriculture, and infrastructure can lift villages out of poverty and into sustainable economic growth. Each village of approximately 5,000 population were allocated aid totaling $120 per person of which external donors provided $60, the host government provided $30, $10 in kind (labor) from villagers, and $20 from other partners such as NGOs. The success of these carefully coordinated and monitored programs show how effective and inexpensive it is to attack the problems of poverty. Sachs appeals to the US to divert even a small portion of its defense budget, say, from nuclear arms development, into a global poverty program. Military solutions clearly don’t work to provide security, so why not solve the world wide poverty problem and see what the impact would be on security? Currently, the US spends 2 days of military budget per year equivalent on health and poverty programs. Sachs estimates the worldwide required worldwide annual budget to implement Millennium Projects everywhere at $245 Billion or 0.7 % of total developed world income. The U.S. currently spends more than twice this total amount on defense alone.

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Sachs attacks neo-liberal spread falsehoods that Western Europe, Japan, and the Asian Tigers were able to achieve their remarkable economic growth without foreign aid. Starting with the WWII Marshall Plan, all currently successful economies were put on the road to sustainability through massive foreign aid. And the money spent has been returned many fold through the resulting successes. It worked well in the past, the Millennium Projects has demonstrated that coordinated efforts will work in the poorest villages on earth, so why aren’t the developed nations rushing to offer assistance?

Sachs demonstrates that social welfare economies such as those in Scandinavia, have been even more successful economically, with higher standards of living, higher growth, and higher R&D investment than free-market economies like the United States. They accomplish all this and still are able to provide a social network of protection, universal health care, retirement security, excellent education, and high employment with the government acting as employer of last result hiring people to serve as care givers, child care providers, and other essential social tasks that are not provided under free-market economies. To the critics that point out that Scandinavia has a largely homogeneous population so people are caring for their own kind, Sachs reminds us that these same countries are also the largest providers of foreign poverty aid in the world. Their populations seem to have no trouble caring for people of very different cultures and ethnicity worldwide. In other words, the argument that social welfare somehow interferes with economic performance and growth is simply wrong.

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Finally Sachs gives some modern philanthropists and NGOs their due. He points out that the Rockefeller Foundation was largely responsible for the Green Revolution that increased agricultural food production in India starting in the 1960s. He praises Muhammad Yunis for inventing micro finance and founding the Grameen Bank to give very small loans to women without a credit history so they can start small scale businesses. This community based lending has proven amazingly able to life people and communities out of poverty and into sustainable growth. The idea is not spreading throughout the world. He gives praise to the Gates Foundation and to the donations from Warren Buffet which allows the foundation to invest in the development of products for health care, telecommunications, and other areas needed by poor places where the free market would not be interested. He asks what if the 950 world billionaires pooled their $3.5 Trillion like Gates and Buffet? At 5% yield, that sum would produce $1.75 Billion annually, enough to make a huge dent in world poverty. Dream on. He even manages to find a good word for a few pharmaceutical companies, like Merck, that have been persuaded to stratify their markets so they can offer the newest drugs at cost to the poorest places on earth while maintaining their prices to the developed world. This has now evolved to the point where fragile but growing places like Brazil can be offered prices somewhere between cost and high developed prices. He uses this as evidence that even greedy corporate managers can be induced to do the right thing for the poor. The jury is still out on that one, but give Sachs credit for being the eternal optimist.

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Chile Caper

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

The Dancer and the Thief, Antonio Skarmeta, 2008

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A tale of current day capitalist Chile. Two prisoners have just been released from prison under a general amnesty. One is a master safe cracker determined to go straight and other is a young farm boy, now 20, arrested for stealing his boss’s favorite horse. The young man meets a 17 year old school girl who is studying ballet and dreams of performing at the Municipal Theater of Santiago. All three are down on their luck but a dwarf in the prison has given the young man the plans for the perfect heist – stealing the money and jewels from a former torturer under Pinochet who is now Santiago’s biggest gangster, shaking down local businessmen.

Three unforgettable, sad, charming, hopeful characters.

Indian Secularist

Monday, June 9th, 2008

The Age of Shiva, Manil Suri, 2007

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The story of a wealthy secular family who escape Rawalpindi in newly partitioned Pakistan to move to Delhi and reestablish a publishing business. The father’s hero is Nehru and he supports the Congress party and is awarded government printing jobs to regain his former financial success. The mother is an illiterate daughter of a zimindar an upper class Urdu Hindu who secretly practices her religion that the father views as a bunch of superstitions. The family has three daughters that the father is determined to see get university educations and become modern independent women, free from Hindu religious restrictions. He gets far more than he bargained for.

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As a university student, the oldest daughter, Roopa acquires a poor boyfriend, a singer, Dev, who wants to move to Bombay to pursue a Bollywood singing career. The 17 year old second daughter, Meera and main character of the novel, secretly stalks the illicit couple even following them into movie theaters. When Roopa suddenly announces her engagement to the son of a successful family, Dev’s heart is broken and Meera pounces, catching Dev on the rebound. When Meera’s father can’t persuade his stubborn daughter to give Dev up, he gives a generous cash dowry so the couple will be able to escape Dev’s family and move to Bombay. Dev’s family grabs the money to use as a dowry for their own daughter and Meera is trapped in a tiny, poor Hindu extended family home without even the privacy of a bedroom. She becomes pregnant and the father offers to buy Meera and Dev a flat in Bombay with enough money to get started if Meera will get an illegal abortion and agree to go to university. The couple agrees and their saga begins. The youngest daughter, Sharmila is a mediocre student who largely escapes the exaggerated expectations of the father. She later discovers a love and aptitude for math and science, earns a PhD and becomes a professor.

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The novel takes place against the background of India’s birth. The main families are Urdu Hindus from Pakistan and have varying difficulty migrating to India after the partition. We learn of the death trains, the refugee camps without even tents, the suicides. We vaguely follow to career of Nehru, the shock of the Chinese invasion, the wars with Pakistan. After Nehru’s death, the father throws his loyalty and support to Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi, and we vaguely follow her notorious career and corrupt antics of her son Sangay. We discover the forced sterilization programs, the state of emergency when Indira seized power after the courts had ordered her to resign. Through the character of Dev’s brother, an organizer in the Hindu Rashtriya Manch a radical Hindu political movement emphasizing martial arts training, we follow the rise of Hindu political parties that eventually become dominant, replacing the corrupt Congress party.

In a humorous development, the illiterate, upper class mother, now 60 years old, suddenly joins in student demonstrations against the Congress party and Indira. She is quickly adopted as a mascot by the students. When she gets arrested, the police quietly call her husband to come get her, much to his embarrassment as a Congress party pillar.

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The novel is a good superficial introduction to Indian political history, but is primarily a treatment of growing up and finding your way in a new, ever changing, ancient and modern country that is India. When Dev is run over by a taxi during a blackout in a war with Pakistan, Meera becomes the one thing you least want to be in traditional India, a widow with a young son. She throws everything into her relationship with her son to the point of damaging him but, of course, he rebels, joining the radical Hindu organization of his uncle and then escapes that to a private boarding school paid for by his grandfather. Meera is forced, for the first time, to seriously consider building a career, maybe as a teacher to kids her son’s age.

Oil Odyssey

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

Oil on the Brain, Lisa Margonelli, 2007
Margonelli takes a three year journey to try to understand the complex and critical resource oil. Her ventures take her places few journalist have been, probably as much due to her lack of obvious agenda as much as her persistence and persuasiveness. She did not set out to establish that oil reserves are vastly exaggerated, that exploration technologies are unlikely to uncover vast new reserves, that oil companies are in a vast conspiracy to drive up prices and realize record products. She honestly set out to learn as much about the oil industry as she could learn, wherever that might take her.

The result is a slow start at her local independent gas station on Twin Peaks San Francisco which stays in business largely due to impulse purchases from its mini mart. She rides a fuel delivery truck working out of an independent distribution point in San Jose which buys its product from different sources delivered to it via pipeline. She learns that gas is a uniform product that is differentiated with branded additives put in as the last moment. Even color is added to identify non taxed fuel to be used off road such as by farmers.

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She visits BP’s refinery in Carson, near Long Beach, now surrounded by suburbia. She tries to understand why no new refineries have been built for 50 years despite existing refineries continuous full capacity operation. She gets a glimpse of the enormous scale and complexity and continuous evolution of the refinery process as ever more product is squeezed out of crude oil, and of the great variety of crude oil from sweet light to almost tar that must be reduced to a common set of products. She also experiences, first hand, the dangers of the refinery when a partial power failure occurs (an accident at a BP plant in Texas killed a number of workers). She discovers that any interruption of operation has an instant impact on prices, the most notable example being the shutdown in production caused by hurricane Katrina in the gulf states.

She meets one of the last Texas wildcatters who dies while the book is in process and discovers that the new natural gas explorers are accountants, extremely averse to risk and who use MBAs to squeeze productivity by reduced job security, minimum benefits, and reduced wages and salaries just like all other modern American corporate enterprises.

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She talks her way into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) that she likens to Fort Knox in the days of America’s gold standard, an object of endless fascination, imagination, and speculation. She idly wonders why a movie like Goldfinger doesn’t exist for the SPR. The reality is that any Presidential move to add or take away oil from the SPR has an immediate and exaggerated impact on the NYMEX spot market price. But the SPR actually represents a very small cushion of a few months supply at most and if called on in a real emergency cannot deliver oil to the markets very fast due to the limits of its pipelines. In reality, the refineries use the SPR as a hedge so they can limit their crude oil inventories. They regularly “borrow” oil from the SPR if their own inventory is exhausted and “pay back” oil when they can afford to out of inventories. In other words, the SPR is a publically funded store to be used by the refineries as they see fit.

She visits NYMEX and talks to industry experts about pricing. OPEC began in the 1970s as a cartel of oil producing nations who would set quotas of production in an attempt to control supply and hence keep oil prices high. It never worked very well and individual members would cheat whenever it suited their own short term needs The main impact of OPEC seems to have been to greatly exaggerate oil reserves so the member states would have a high basis for their quota. These non existent reserves are the subject of Oil Twilight which doubts the middle east has the vast reserves most analysts assume. Now, with non OPEC states such as Russia becoming an increasing portion of world supply and with the emergence of NYMEX as a worldwide price setter, OPEC no longer has much control over prices, if they ever did. Instead, today, the worldwide increases in demand for oil, led by China and India, combined with the inability of oil producing states to dramatically increase production, has led to a permanently tight market for oil and ever increasing prices. NYMEX is a very sensitive gauge of world oil affairs, overreacting to every little outbreak of violence or instability in an oil producing state whether in Africa (Nigeria), Venezuela, or the middle east. The New York analysts she interviewed believe this is a permanent state and that prices will no longer fall like they once did. Only a dramatic lowering of demand could ever cause prices to fall such as the increased mileage of American cars for a few years after Carter’s oil crisis in 1979. As to the record oil company profits, she points out that Congress investigates the industry for collusion and gouging every time prices go up but never find evidence of wrong doing. Making a profit, after all, is capitalisms highest goal and achievement. She doesn’t take this discussion very far and never really gets into the subject of record profits.

As an aside, I have never understood why a resource so critical to the economy as a whole is not treated in this country as a regulated utility that provides total transparency and requires regulatory approval in order to raise prices. Whatever happens behind the closed doors, the record profits are there for all to see and the main benefactors seem to be the oil executives. There is virtually no evidence beyond superficial (and cheap) PR exercises that the oil companies are putting these record profits to a use that might actually benefit the world as a whole. They certainly have a negative impact on every other aspect of the economy. Both Nixon and Carter attempted price controls of gas at the pump but each time, the oil companies retaliated by limiting supply, creating long lines and furious public backlash against the Presidents, not against the oil companies. There is some evidence that huge pension-funds backed speculators are currently manipulating the oil futures market to drive the price of crude oil ever higher. Some predict that a bubble is forming that when it bursts could devastate several pension funds. If true, these oil gamblers are devastating economies around the world in search of selfish short term profits, and recklessly risking the critical retirement funds of its members. Are we looking at Enron redo?

She then travels to oil producing regions of the world starting with Venezuela which is an old timer, having started production in the 1920s. She notes that the Dutch disease, coined by the Dutch in the 1960s to describe the loss of manufacturing and exports to any nation with major natural resource exports has been known to Venezuela for a long time. This is also known as oil’s curse. She highlights another critical factor in all oil producing states, the changing relationship between the government and its citizens as oil revenue replaces taxes as the major source of government funding. Whether the government is “democratic”, a monarchy, or a military dictatorship, the presence of oil comes to dominate the relationship between the rulers and the ruled. This dominance is obvious and central to both. The state is relieved on needing to set and collect taxes from the public as the public is freed from paying those taxes. The public comes to expect some benefit from the oil revenues and the government usually complies by supplying very cheap gas for cars (19 cents a gallon in Venezuela). Beyond cheap gas, services for the public seems to break down, probably because the human infrastructure needed to effectively deliver such services never develops. Oil producing state governments are all corrupt. The only competent sector of the economy is the oil producing sector with its trained engineers, managers, and accountants. Chavez is testing the bounds of this competency by firing 25,000 oil personnel following the failed coup attempt in 2002. Can Venezuela sustain its productivity without the services of its trained oil oligarchy?

She next travels to Chad, a military dictatorship thinly disguised as a democratically elected government. Chad was very poor and very backward before Exxon and the World Bank invested $3.7 billion to develop an oil field and pipeline to the coast across Cameroon. The president/dictator claims to have signed the oil contract without reading it. While in Nigeria the state realizes 80% of oil revenues, Chad receives 28%. Knowing that the government was corrupt, Exxon and the World bank tried to create a third player, a “college” of educated citizens who would receive half the government oil revenue and could decide to spend it on schools, roads, hospitals, or any other public works. Once in place, the “college” was simply undermined by the president, who replaced the original members of the college with his cronies. Chad is now rated the most corrupt regime in the world. Chad’s citizens have gotten nothing from oil.

She visits Iran with rare to permission to visit some Persian Gulf oil platforms damaged or destroyed by the U.S. Navy during the Iraq-Iran war where the U.S. supplied arms to Iraq. She enumerates the long list of grievances Iran holds and remembers against the U.S. starting with the imposition of the “Shah”. This is a good reminder why Iranians don’t much like or trust the U.S. and why they are so intent on acquiring a nuclear weapon, after witnessing the invasion on non-nuclear Iraq while nuclear North Korea went untouched. She was struck by the geography of the Gulf and the number of disputes between the states over the British drawn borders (sound familiar? The British were still committing the same mistakes in the Partition of India). She was particularly struck by the narrow Strait of Hormuz through with 40% of the worlds oil passes. She points out that Iran can easily control this narrow strait military if they so desired. The U.S. navy’s constant presence in the gulf is probably an attempt to prevent such an occurrence.

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She next and finally travels to oil producing Nigeria, where the delta has been the site of much pollution, violence, and suffering. The corrupt government of Nigeria is located elsewhere and normally buys off the rebel leaders when they cause too much havoc. Then things quiet down until a new charismatic rebel leader arises. She is struck by the education and articulateness of the unemployed Nigerians she meets, but for all their articulateness, they don’t make much sense and nothing ever seems to change. For their part, the oil companies wish the world would look to the Nigerian government rather than blame the oil companies for all the problems in the country. Regardless of who is to blame, Nigeria remains the source of much volatility in the price of oil.

Almost buried in the account of these travels, but confirmed, is the terrible role played by the IMF and World Bank explicated in some detail in The Shock Doctrine. The IMF particularly, insisted that governments cut back or eliminate social programs as a condition of their loans. Klein explains the Chicago School neocon rational for these requirements that would exacerbate the crisis and lead to privatization of state resources, hopefully into the hands of foreign owners. What we are seeing is a new form of capitalist imperialism, but the perpetrators have virtually no understanding of the enormous costs and consequences of their greedy and selfish actions.

Finally, Margonelli travels to China, the fastest growing new market for oil. She is astounded by the 100 year long term visions of Beijing’s leaders who continually talk of leapfrogging changes. They have enacted one of the strictest mileage requirements in the world and appear to be serious about alternate energy sources such as hydrogen fuel cells, hybrids, and all electrical vehicles. Unlike the west, China has very different requirements for performance of cars (acceleration, top speed, and driving range) so that golf cart like vehicles or even electric bicycles are very acceptable options. Unfortunately, an increasingly autonomous regional focus may undermine the advantages of long range central planning for pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation of alternate energy. For instance, gas guzzling large cars are banned in the big cities but Guangdong chooses to ignore the rule feeling that a successful entrepreneur should be free to show off his success however he wishes (sound familiar?).