Bill and Nazarbayev

by Henry on January 31, 2008

The _New York Times_ has a story suggesting that Bill Clinton cozied up to Kazakhstan president Nursultan A. Nazarbayev in order to help out a big donor to the Clinton Foundation.

Unlike more established competitors, Mr. Giustra was a newcomer to uranium mining in Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic. But what his fledgling company lacked in experience, it made up for in connections. Accompanying Mr. Giustra on his luxuriously appointed MD-87 jet that day was a former president of the United States, Bill Clinton. … the two men were whisked off to share a sumptuous midnight banquet with Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev, whose 19-year stranglehold on the country has all but quashed political dissent. … Mr. Nazarbayev walked away from the table with a propaganda coup, after Mr. Clinton expressed enthusiastic support for the Kazakh leader’s bid to head an international organization that monitors elections and supports democracy. Mr. Clinton’s public declaration undercut both American foreign policy and sharp criticism of Kazakhstan’s poor human rights record by, among others, Mr. Clinton’s wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

… Mr. Giustra also came up a winner when his company signed preliminary agreements giving it the right to buy into three uranium projects … monster deal stunned the mining industry, turning an unknown shell company into one of the world’s largest uranium producers …In a statement Kazakhstan would highlight in news releases, Mr. Clinton declared that he hoped it would achieve a top objective: leading the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which would confer legitimacy on Mr. Nazarbayev’s government. “I think it’s time for that to happen, it’s an important step, and I’m glad you’re willing to undertake it,” Mr. Clinton said.

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The monkey and the organgrinder

by John Quiggin on January 31, 2008

At Wikipedia, the fight against pseudoscience and Republican antiscience across a range of articles from global warming to passive smoking to Intelligent design to AIDS reappraisal,to DDT is continuous and bruising.[1]. Editors have learned to detect bogus sources of information almost immediately. One of my fellow-editors at passive smoking pointed me to an interesting letter to Science (paywalled, but I’ve quoted the important bit), shedding unintentional light on the way the disinformation machine operates. It’s from William G. Kelly of the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness the front organization founded by legendary Phillip Morris shill, Jim Tozzi (Kelly is employed by Tozzi’s lobbying outfit, Multinational Business Services

Responding to criticism of the infamous Data Quality Act (for more on this see the seminar on Chris Mooney’s Republican War on Science, in the sidebar, Kelly offers a classic non-denial denial, saying

Neither Phillip Morris (a multiproduct company) nor any other tobacco company (or nontobacco company for that matter) played a leadership role in the genesis of the DQA. While working with the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness in Washington, DC, I was personally involved with the development of the DQA, and no industry entity contributed to its formulation.

While we’re at it, can I point out that Henry II was nowhere near Canterbury Cathedral when Thomas Becket met with his unfortunate end. The whole point of having people like Tozzi and Kelly, and groups like CRE is that corporations don’t have to play a leadership role in promoting their own interests in Congress.

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Kidney Theft in India

by Kieran Healy on January 31, 2008

There’s a long-standing urban legend about where you meet an attractive person in a bar, they buy you a drink, and the next thing you know you wake up in a bath of ice with a pain in your lower back and a note telling you to get to a hospital. One of the reasons this story is just a story is that in order to usefully extract someone’s kidney for transplant, a whole lot of stuff has to be organized beforehand, and you need to have a lot of skilled people working together against a hard time constraint — too many, really, to quietly and reliably pull something like this off.

On the other hand:

Mr. Mohammed was the last of about 500 Indians whose kidneys were removed by a team of doctors running an illegal transplant operation, supplying kidneys to rich Indians and foreigners, police officials said. A few hours after his operation last Thursday, the police raided the clinic and moved him to a government hospital. … Many of the donors were day laborers, like Mr. Mohammed, picked up from the streets with the offer of work, driven to a well-equipped private clinic, and duped or forced at gunpoint to undergo operations. Others were bicycle rickshaw drivers and impoverished farmers who were persuaded to sell their organs, which is illegal in India.

Although several kidney rings have been exposed in India in recent years, the police said the scale of this one was unprecedented. Four doctors, five nurses, 20 paramedics, three private hospitals, 10 pathology clinics and five diagnostic centers were involved, Mohinder Lal, the police officer in charge of the investigation, said. “We suspect around 400 or 500 kidney transplants were done by these doctors over the last nine years,” said Mr. Lal, the Gurgaon police commissioner.

I’d be interested to see how many suppliers were straightforwardly lied to about what they were getting into, or otherwise forced to undergo operations, and how many were offered money first (and paid afterwards). Unlike some other documented cases of organ sales, this seems less like an illegal but functioning market and more like a criminal racket founded on fraud.

Other places

by Henry on January 31, 2008

Worth reading (and blogging about if I had more time):

Lane Kenworthy on “the (il)logic of the new Laffer Curve“.

“Ezra Klein”:http://www.prospect.org/csnc/blogs/ezraklein_archive?month=01&year=2008&base_name=what_edwards_meant and “Jonathan Cohn”:http://blogs.tnr.com/tnr/blogs/the_plank/archive/2008/01/30/why-john-edwards-won.aspx on John Edwards’ withdrawal from the race.

“Ricardo Hausman”:http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/28b464a2-cf50-11dc-854a-0000779fd2ac.html on the curious inconsistencies between the macroeconomic advice that Washington Consensus folks doled out to east Asia, Russia and Latin America, and what the same people are saying today about the so-called sub-prime crisis.

“Gideon Rachman”:http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f7aa8626-be00-11dc-8bc9-0000779fd2ac.html is skeptical about economic freedom will indeed produce political freedom in countries like China and Russia (I’ve been meaning to blog about this essay for a couple of weeks, but have been swamped with other commitments, and am realizing this is unlikely to change soon …).

“Eric Rauchway”:http://www.tnr.com/politics/story.html?id=a8c2e4ae-387c-4e0a-b942-1d0a05b0d94d on Findlay and O’Rourke’s _Power and Plenty_ (a book that will probably be finding its way onto my IR syllabus next year).