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Reason Alert: Saddam's Final Moments, Oil Crisis

January 5, 2007

Saddam's Final Moments
Reason's Michael Young, opinion editor of the Daily Star in Beirut, says "Saddam's execution was a lost opportunity for human rights in Iraq and the Arab world...But it is not Saddam who should be the issue here; it is those who were cheated by his abrupt elimination. It is the Kurds, who never got to see Saddam offer more details on the successive, genocidal Anfal campaigns of 1988. It is the Shiites, who were crushed after rising up against the Baathists in 1991 upon the advice of President George H.W. Bush, that tedious ghoul of political realism who must have been as surprised as anybody when the Iraqis took him seriously. It is the countless others, of all religions and sects, whose sons, daughters, siblings or parents ended up in Saddam's archipelago of prisons, detention centers, intelligence headquarters and torture chambers, to be beaten, raped, maimed or exterminated. To think of Saddam, to focus on his final moments of distress when there are so many others to think about, is almost obscene." Young's full column is here.

Political Peak Oil
Reason's award-winning science columnist Ronald Bailey writes, "Petroleum geologists are pretty sure that there is more than enough oil in the world to meet projected demand for at least the next 25 years. In other words, as I reported in my article 'Peak Oil Panic' last year, geologically speaking 'peak oil' is at least a generation away. But the days when you could punch a hole in the ground and up would bubble some crude have now passed. It will take increasing technical savvy and a lot of money to keep oil production up with demand. Fortunately, the International Energy Agency believes that projected demand for oil and gas can be met if producers invest $4.3 trillion and $3.9 trillion (in 2005 dollars) respectively over the next 25 years. The question is that level of investment happening? That’s were I get worried. The problem arises because 77 percent of the world’s known oil reserves are in the hands of state-owned oil companies. Such 'companies' do not respond with alacrity to market signals and so are under-investing in new production technologies and even in maintaining the production facilities that they currently have. I have earlier pointed out that an 'oil crisis,' that is, a steep rapid run up in the price of oil may occur at any time due to government incompetence or maliciousness." Bailey details what is being done in Iran, Russia, Venezuela and elsewhere here.

Steroid Witch Hunt Jeopardizes Your Privacy
The feds seem determined to bust Barry Bonds for perjury if they can't get him for steroids, but in his nationally syndicated column Reason's Jacob Sullum finds that in its quest against steroids in baseball "the government took the medical records of players in 13 other sports organizations, participants in three athletic competitions, and employees of three businesses...The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit recently told the government it may keep these records because they were 'intermingled' with the records of the 10 original targets. But you needn't worry about the privacy of your electronic records, as long as you're confident they haven't been hanging with the wrong crowd." Sullum analyzes the long-term ramifications of this court decision here.

Stranger Than Fiction
In his latest Fox News column, Reason's Radley Balko makes predictions that would seem crazy, if they hadn't already happened:
- Taking the overuse of SWAT teams to new, un-parody-able levels, a federal SWAT team will raid a group of Tibetan monks touring the United States on a world peace mission.
- In a strategy pulled straight from the movie "Minority Report," police in some towns will start "pre-arresting" people for drunken driving.
- A radio host in the nation's capital will play a hoax on his listeners, jokingly suggesting that all Muslims in America be identified with an armband or a tattoo. He will then express shock when a solid majority of callers to his show will express their agreement with the proposition.
- In yet another case of government bureaucracy gone mad, some local health agency will insist that the churches and private homes where volunteers prepare food for homeless people pass rigorous, restaurant-standard health inspections or shut down operations.
Balko's full list of stranger-than-fiction events is here.

Who Owns Your Organs?
"You’re dying of kidney failure, and your wife is dying of massive injuries sustained during a car crash. Just as she passes away, she tells you to take her kidneys after she is gone. She dies. Are the kidneys yours? Two weeks back, New York's Court of Appeals said 'no.' The court was adjudicating the strange case of Peter Lucia, who never got to see the legal turmoil his kidneys would cause. Lucia suffered a stroke in 2002, and his wife Debra found him brain dead on the floor of the family den. The two had never discussed organ donation, but Debra did what she thought Peter would have wanted. Peter’s lifelong friend, Robert Colavito, was suffering from renal disease and would die shortly without a transplant. She gave him Peter’s kidneys. Americans have no choice but to donate through an organization; it is illegal to exchange kidneys privately, and the federal government has designated an organ procurement organization for every American locality. The New York Organ Donor Network is the organization with a monopoly on Long Island organs, and that’s who Debra worked with. The Network helped her with the paperwork, and Peter’s left kidney was air-lifted to Florida, where Colavito waited. As Colavito lay in the hospital, prepped for surgery, a nurse told him to 'wait five minutes.' A doctor returned with the news that the kidney was damaged and unusable. Lucia called the New York Donor Network and asked where her husband’s second kidney was; she had expected that both would go Colavito. The agency explained that it had given away the organ, and it was being transplanted into someone else at that very moment. (As it turns out, the organization was either lying or mistaken: The kidney wouldn’t be transplanted for three more days.) Colavito never found a suitable kidney, and he died last June. But before succumbing to disease, he filed a highly controversial lawsuit against the New York Donor Network. He accused the organization of appropriating his property—of stealing, in effect, his kidney." - Kerry Howley examines why "body parts aren’t legal property to the people born with them, but can be distributed by doctors, universities, biotech companies, and procurement agencies for profit or otherwise."

Daily Brickbats
- No one was supposed to leave their classroom during a lockdown drill at Charleston, South Carolina's Charlestowne Academy. So when some of his fifth-grade students asked to go to the bathroom, teacher Philip Frandino had them go in the trashcan. Girls held up their jackets around a girl who used the can, while other students stood facing the wall. And boys did the same when a boy used it.

- Levy County, Florida's public libraries used to have 55 volunteers, mostly retirees, who helped stack books and generally helped out. Now, it has two. What happened? Many of them reportedly quit when the county demanded that all volunteers undergo drug tests. We have a number of volunteers who are older, and I think about how my mother - who is 83 - would react to a test like this," said library director Bonnie Tollefson said. "She would find it degrading, be totally offended and find it an affront to her dignity. Many of our volunteers feel the same way." But Tollefson added that, as a county employee, she supports the testing.
More Brickbats Here

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