Thursday, May 29, 2008

The coming oil price crash

There are numerous "experts" talking up the price of oil. Like at the end of the boom, I believe this is a technique to give those in the know time to sell dud futures to those that aren't. As far as reality is concerned, supply and demand are nearing that elusive intersection. From the demand side:US demand has already slumed 10% on some figures

from this article.

On these figures, the US demand will drop much faster than it will pick up in China, in barrels per day terms.

On the supply side, there are several increases in capacity going on in Saudi Arabia, and Iraq production has stabilised and is likely to increase, if anything. oil saviour? perhaps.

Consumer committment to reducing petrol usage has finally started happen in several countries. For the layman this means that even if petrol prices suddenly drop, consumers are likely to keep to these committments, without the usual usage surge that happens with lower prices.

As far as when? goes, the US is stocking up on fuel for the summer driving season. When the oil companies realise few are driving this will reduce the price a little bit. China is stocking up big time for the Olympics and internal aid. Once the Olympics are done and there is spare, the oil price will plummet.

Yes I'm talking down the oil price, but does anyone listen? :) we'll see....

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Narrative II

Clam's narrative in italics
Let us begin with the way the world was twenty-five years ago. It was in the last years of a titanic struggle between two great powers, and every single event that happened anywhere in the world was seen, and had to be seen, firstly and most importantly in relation to that titanic struggle. What opportunities did it afford for the advantage of our side? What opportunities for the other side? Who benefited in the long term, in the short term? It was an age of game theory in international relations, of conspiracy theories that were credible and even true, of brinksmanship and mind-numbing terror. Perhaps you do not remember it like that. This is my narrative, and I am saying how I remember things.

In that titanic struggle our side, the West, supported many unworthy allies; in a calculated fashion, because those allies were important in in the existential struggle. Hence Suharto, the Shah, Pinochet, at certain times a certain Iraqi strongman.

In the milieu in which I lived, I breathed in a certain cynicism about this titanic stuggle. Sure, our side was ours, but we were not enthusiastic partisans. Our side had high ideals, and failed to live up to them; the other side, too, professed high ideals, and likewise failed to live up to them. They were two great grey colossi locked in an interminable struggle. We were weary unto death of their fighting and wanted something, anything, to make it end.

One day it ended. We had won.

Over the next few years- the next several years- it gradually dawned on me that my cynicism had been misplaced. The other side had been, in its essence, wrong and evil, and our side was, in its essence, right and good. The crimes that had been committed by our side had been committed, rightly or wrongly, as calculated moves in a struggle against a far greater evil. The crimes of the other side had been committed as calculated moves to still all voices of opposition and dehumanise mankind.

I realise this must sound breathtakingly naïve to many people. But I think there is no other plausible reading of the historical evidence. I am prepared to justify it at appalling length in subsequent posts.

Almost the last, but far from the least evil to spring from this titanic struggle happened in the first half of 1991. A tyrant who had made unprovoked war on most of his neighbours, who had caused the deaths of upward of a million people, who was a bad egg overall, had been brought to bay by a vast alliance of many nations. He could have been cast down, as all tyrants should be cast down, with relative ease. And yet he was not. President George Bush called upon the oppressed people of Iraq to rebel against their ruler, and did not aid them as they fought and died. The vast armies were dispersed and sent back to their homes. The tyrant remained in power. Why was this allowed to happen?

This was clear to me then as it is now. This was a judgement call. It was plausible then as now that things could have gone really badly even if he was thrown out. For the purposes of the narrative I will accept as an axiom that it was a mistake to leave him in power, and the interpretation of the Cold War as outlined above.

I remember the removal of Saddam from power being a bipartisan policy throughout the 1990s, once the habits of thought of the Cold War began to recede. I was angry about sanctions. I was angry about the bombings of 1998. I was angry then because these things because they impacted disproportionately on innocent civilians, and they had no hope of achieving what is most precious to God, in the words of Baha’ullah, which is justice. The invasion of Iraq was carried out to make amends for the shame of 1991 and bring this long overdue justice. It was obvious that it should be done, long before 2001.

The New World Order TM as I saw it had developed to the extent that a large chunk of the society deemed that the UN was, for good or ill, the only arbiter of such interventions. This worked acceptably in the break-up of ex-Yugoslavia. Iraq was different in as much as Saddam had a grudge against the US in particular. For the US, Iraq was unfinished business. Saddam took delight in defiance, in particular, defiance the US. In short, it was personal. There was umpteen other tyrants that did equally bad things over the 25 years. I could argue that many of these were equivalently evil and ripe for intervention. I would personally argue that it is a greater shame that Mugabe has avoided being toppled, for instance.

* It seemed quite clear from the pronouncements of George Bush et al that the goal of the invasion was what I have said above, to crush a wicked despot like a weevil.

The goals were more multi-faceted than that. I have argued that leaving armies go completely idle means that when they are needed, they will be almost useless (as most of those in Europe are). As I said, with Iraq, it was a little more personal. Saddam was so cocky he thought he could keep Kuwait. Taunting the western world by continuing to preside over a once great country that was becoming a failed state. Essentially again, invading was a judgement call. Crushing Saddam was a primary goal, but to see it as being completely unselfish in terms of what was judged to be good for the US or even for its president's legacy is quite partisan.

* In a move stupid in retrospect, George Bush et al sought to obtain an imprimatur from the United Nations for the invasion. This brought the Weapons of Mass Destruction issue to the forefront, because the UN resolutions that Iraq had flouted were concernd with these.

Again, one way or another this was a judgement call. Perhaps George wanted to give Saddam the false impression that he may yet avoid invasion. Perhaps he wanted to be sure there *wasn't* any mass destructive weapons before invasion. The New World Order TM works better if there is some sort of UN rubber stamp. In terms of TNWOTM the outcome of the war was that it is completely on hold as far as removing tyrants is concerned, and more to the point, removing tyrants is so burdensome for the US that it will only happen when it gets personal or close to home for the US.

* Because Iraq had not complied with these resolutions, a murderous regime of sanctions was daily punishing the Iraqi people.

Saddam had set it up such that invasion would punish them way more than even sanctions.

* Everyone was agreed that the Despot had Weapons of Mass Destruction: the French, the Russians, Uncle Tom Cobbley, etc. If anyone had good evidence to the contrary, they sat on it.

There was so much bluff and double bluff, exaggeration and downplay over this, that everyone in every party could reasonably be accused of being a liar.

Lying is a great handle for launching partisan attacks, and like children overboard it is milked for all it's worth well after it has been acted on as if true when the lie was being told. Lying should not be considered as part of a narrative, but as a springboard for launching partisan attacks.

So my narrative is that motivation for war (Gulf War I and II) is 90% American values("Blooding" the military, revenge for 9/11 related riks, unfinished business from Gulf War I) and only 10% Aslan values. Despots can do anything they like to people in their own country without risk of invasion(see Darfur, Zimbabwe), but if you make it personal for Americans and their president, you will be taken to task, and *Americans will be happy to risk lives in the struggle and the aftermath*. Serbia may well be a counterpoint to this narrative because it wasn't personal. However, it was personal for NATO as a whole. For the Americans it was rather a cowardly but militarily effective testing ground for new smart weapons. It took all of two *Accidental* helicopter US deaths to put a whole ground offensive to a halt for months. Serbia was just a much easier judgement call than Iraq or say Serbia when Bosnia was being throttled. There was talk even then of the US attacking them, but without the cover of a UN mandate, was geopolitically unwise.

So in conclusion, I want more Aslan values and less American values in nation-building excercises. I will protest the war inasmuch that if they open the door by saying it is about justice, then accept criticism about the way it is delivered. If you open the door by saying it is about WMD, then accept that this action is outside of the bounds of The New World Order TM, and other countries or the UN do not have the responsibility in the aftermath. Above all note that all breaches of Aslan style behaviour in this and any conflict will make it harder to pursue future acts of justice outside of The New World Order TM.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Counter - Narrative:Must provide a good example/that's not how you win wars anyway!

This is a counter-narrative that I'd kind of given up on when the build up to the Iraq war started back in 02, but on reflection, I think it still is of great intellectual and theoretical importance. It is based on my theory of the trade of "Sympathy". When a country/entity gets brutally attacked (eg.'s Jews in WWII, 9/11, Pearl Harbour, Suicide bombings, Hiroshima, Blitzkrieg bombings etc.), that which gets attacked obtains a sympathy credit. When a country/entity retaliates, anything close to proportional retaliation cashes in that credit.

In modern day geopolitical confrontation, keeping and holding that sympathy credit (ie. avoiding retaliation) is key to winning the peace. Revenge is something that never wins the peace, and retribution should be left to any court of law that can decide on it.

An important side note is that "who shoots first" is of absolute critical importance both in a battle sense and in a declaration of war sense. Thus no matter how rediculous it sounds, the US would be seen to be a World leader much more, would be seen to have absolute moral integrity within the UN, and would have been that much closer to a new world order in which it was the moral leader, had they either not attacked Iraq, or had waited (even indefinitely) for them to "shoot first".

Thus East Timor wins the peace in their country, partly because they didn't retaliate proportionally (nor request other countries to do so on their behalf).
Israel appears to be gradually cashing in their sympathy credit ever since the end of WWII, Australians in Afghanistan (etc.) are winning sympathy credits due to their rules of engagement which prohibits them from shooting until fired upon. The Iraq war has cashed in all (and then some) of the sympathy that the US had left over from 9/11.

Thus the war in Iraq was wrong on the count that it did not show a good example for other world citizens, and anyway, that is not how wars are won.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Now for the refugee intake

Finally the government has announced an increase of unskilled migrants increasing our overall intake to 300,000. Hopefully that will include "economic" refugees and others who are desperate enough to seek people smugglers. All that is left is to increase refugee quotas drastically and to relax work visa requirements, and I will be satisfied

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Alternate Narrative on Mesopotamia

In response to:
Doctor Clam's elegant intellectual take on attitudes to war in Mesopotamia
Who is after an alternate intellectual narrative (from the left)

I have the following link to offer with my recommended comment snipped.

Economist article on Iraq, Iran and US

Azr@el wrote:
May 10, 2008 17:13
Where does the economist find such clueless journalist? Look at the problem from the desired end results from the view of the three outside players involved; what is an ideal Iraq in Iranian eyes? What is an ideal Iraq in Sunni Arab eyes? What is an ideal Iraq in U.S. eyes? The Iranian's want a demilitarized Iraq run by Shia's with a friendly Kurdish choir. Their tool to achieve this goal? The ballot box and a little ethnic spring cleaning of recalcitrant Sunnis. Their major problem? Pan-Arabist Shias trying to hijack the show. Sunni Arabs? They want a strong man of Sunni Arab persuasion to restore the good old days of pre-Kuwait Saddam. Their instrument? Money to al-qaeda-lite, political isolation of the Shia Iraqi government and of course foreign Sunni fighters by the truckload. Their major obstacle? History and demographics, neither favors them. The U.S. ? No one, especially no one in the white house has the slightest clue what an ideal endgame would look like.

The point being that it is very much (at least) a three entity game even in its simplest working model. There appears a distinct possibility that each entity is following optimal strategies,there is a Nash equilibrium of sorts, and that the endgame is a generation away. The "oil security" issue will only gradually improve, as the main players realise that security is unlikely to get much better or much worse for a long time yet.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Does this link work

Does this link to Economist articles with comments! work? It feels like sending a letter to the editor and always being published!

Prediction time minus four months

On Sunday, September 24, 2006 I wrote "I am confidently predicting that on this day in 2008, the price of petrol will be under $1.00 Au per litre in Townsville."

To which Anonymous replied:Today is 7 May 2008.

Given that the price is already in the $1.40 to $1.50 range and the price of oil has tipped US$120/barrel, I'd say that the alarmists win.

Well, I am not anywhere near conceding, the reason I indicated the same day is that I wanted to rule out seasonal factors. The oil price spike has since spread to a raft of energy and agricultural commodities. By predicting Townsville prices it also disconnects my prediction from distorted markets. I did not predict a gradual lowering of prices, but an overshoot followed by an undershoot. This has not got past the overshoot yet, and I await patiently for a triggering event of say the Olympic Games to get me there before my self-imposed two year limit.