June 06, 2002
Treasury Secretary O'Neill Goes to Africa

WSJ.com - Capital David Wessel writes: Mr. O'Neill displayed both his admirable impatience about the inadequacy of conventional approaches to any problem and his irrepressible instinct to draw conclusions not always founded on fact. After learning that a well outside of Kampala, Uganda, cost $1,000 to dig, Mr. O'Neill announced a back-of-the-envelope calculation that it would cost only $25 million to bring safe drinking water to the 9.5 million Ugandans who lack it, The Wall Street Journal's Michael Phillips reports. After Mr. O'Neill left Kampala, the water ministry's top civil servant thanked him for his concern, but said the cost actually is closer to $950 million... Paul O'Neill has 200 people who work for him in Treasury's OASIA--Office of the Assistant Secretary for International Affairs--whose job is largely to get him the facts he needs to make his decisions. Does he simply not read any of the paper they send to him? Does he simply not listen?...

Posted by DeLong at 02:18 PM

June 05, 2002
A Truly Loathsome Toad

So I stopped by Andrew Sullivan's weblog this morning to see what's what, and was confronted with a short item which read, in its entirety: SELF-PARODY WATCH: "Special Report: Zambian Copper," - a headline from this week's Economist. At first, I genuinely didn't get the joke. You see, I'd read the Economist's Zambian copper story. It was one of the most interesting (and depressing) articles in this week's edition: the failure of privatization in southern Africa, 15000 workers who may lose their jobs, a mining complex that once produced 10 percent of the world's copper so damaged by two decades of neglect during nationalization that now there appears to be no way--not even if the mineworkers of Zambia work for free--that the mines can produce more in value than they take in, the fact that Zambia has little else worth exporting besides copper, whether the key flaw lay in the decades of nationalization or in the transformation of the privatization program into a "looting exercise." Why, I wondered, does Andrew Sullivan consider this--interesting and important--story to be a big joke? But then I began to imagine what the inside of Andrew Sullivan's mind must be like... Look! The Economist thinks...

Posted by DeLong at 09:22 AM