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Daniel Weintraub

California Insider

A Weblog by
Sacramento Bee Columnist Daniel Weintraub

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« October 13, 2005 | | October 17, 2005 »
October 14, 2005

DiFi to oppose gov's agenda

Sen. Feinstein opposes Schwarzenegger's initiatives and hopes to persuade California voters to reject them, her office says.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:04 PM


FuturePundit reports on some interesting research at UCLA that could dramatically lower the cost of solar power.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:41 PM


You can question the judgment of the Yes on 75 campaign for sending unsolicited political messages (spam?) to tens of thousands of California teachers. But you have to love the irony of the CTA alleging that doing so is a violation of a state law prohibiting the use of school district funds, services, supplies or equipment to support or oppose a ballot measure. The e-mails came from the campaign, not from the school districts, so it seems like a bit of a stretch to say that they used school resources to promote a political cause. Beyond that, though, should we have a discussion about the CTA union leaders who get release time for union activities? Or more to the point on Prop. 75, what about the propriety of using government resources -- the payroll department -- to collect $50 million in political contributions deducted from teachers' paychecks for the CTA to spend on campaigns this year?

UPDATE: Democratic Party political adviser Bob Mulholland offers this interesting take in response:

Dan- can't you stop your attacks on teachers and unions. Some of it reminds me of the old Soviet bosses' attacks on that Polish public employees' union- Solidarity. Solidarity helped end the Cold War and their union boss, Lech Walesa, was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1983.

My take: Wasn't virtually everyone in Poland a public employee after the state seized all means of production? And didn't Walesa help end the cold war by helping to bring down that government and restore to the Polish people their right of private property and private ownership of business? That's why he was a hero. Not because Solidarity was a "public employees' union."

Posted by dweintraub at 11:27 AM

A little levity goes a long way

I haven't been a huge fan of the governor's ads so far. Still waiting for something that really starts a buzz. In contrast, this ad for Proposition 77 struck me as one that could stand out amid the millions of dollars in commercials that will be airing between now and Nov. 8.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:16 AM

Wake up, Mr. President

On the occasion of the momentous vote tomorrow in Iraq, today we leave the friendly confines of California opinion behind and venture across the globe for a bit of econo-political analysis.

Even as Iraqi voters appear more likely to approve their constitution-in-progress Saturday, can there be any doubt that the country has been and remains crippled by its devotion to group think, or, in this case, tri-group think? Everything in Iraq, even the constitution, is weighed in relation to how it affects the power bases of the three main groups: the Shiites, the Sunni Arabs and the Kurds (many of whom are also Sunnis). You almost never hear any discussion of what would be good for the average individual Iraqi, a concept which, while clearly foreign to their culture, has the potential to transform the country's politics overnight.

The real tragedy is that there exists an incredibly simple and powerful tool for accomplishing that transformation, and neither the Bush Administration nor its allies/agents in Iraq have pursued it. Think: Alaska.

For many years our oil-heavy northern outpost has had a share-the-wealth policy to distribute some of the royalties from its oil production directly to its citiizens. Every year, every resident of Alaska gets a "Christmas bonus" check from the government, its size depending on how the oil business has been doing in recent years.

Now imagine if the United States had moved to implement such a system in Iraq on Day One of the occupation. A check to every Iraqi for their oil, distributing to the masses a share of the wealth that Saddam plundered for all those years. Such a move would have demonstrated immediately that our aim was to liberate, not to enslave, the Iraqi people, and it would have cut the legs out from underneath a major argument of the insurgency, that Sunnis were going to lose out financially to the Shiites and the Kurds as the oil was divvied up. Imagine the reaction of the people every time the terrorists blew up one of those oil pipelines.

Two-plus years have been squandered, but it's not too late. The constitution remains in flux, and this week's last-minute agreement leaves open the possibility of further amendments after the December elections seat a new parliament. The idea of an "Iraqi Oil Trust" has been kicked around and remains an outside possibility. Steve Clemons, a fellow at the New America Foundation, argued for something similar days after the invasion.

Here is the math: Iraq's current oil production is about 2 million barrels per day, or 730 million per year. At $50 per barrel, that comes to about $36 billion per year, or $1,500 for every man, woman and child in the country. If a check for just, say, 10 percent of that amount went to each resident, that would be $150 a year. (The Alaska model invested a share of the revenues and the annual checks represent the earnings from those investments. That would be another way to do it, but the process would be slower, and speed is of the essence here.)

According to this CNN report, the median income in Iraq is somewhere around $150 to $200 per year, perhaps lower. A check for $150 would be the equivalent of every American getting a check for about $20,000 at the end of each year.

You think that might get Iraqis to understand that they are all in this together, but together as a collection of free and independent human beings -- and not simply as members of warring groups? The incredible poverty in Iraq and a half-century of brutal tryanny seems to have made too many Iraqis feel utterly dependent for their existance on the mosques, religious leaders and the government. It is time to truly set them free, to give them a stake in their own nation's future and in their own futures as individuals.

Note: Before you jump in and say Bush will never argue for this because his oil company buddies would lose all that money, think again. The oilies don't own the Iraqi oil and never will. They make their money extracting it and in some cases from refining and distributing it worldwide. The numbers here are based on a $50 per barrel wholesale price. There's still plenty of money in extraction and retail for the oil companies to make. In fact, the more they make, the richer the individual Iraqi becomes. No, Bush's failure to see the magic in this policy has to be based on stupidity or ignorance, not greed.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:05 AM



At Crossroads, a panel of experts and the public debate the future of health care in California. We'd like you to join the conversation.

Daniel Weintraub


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