Thursday, July 27, 2006

Oil: Should we Regulate the Market?

NP: Agalloch - Falling Snow (<--- click on the link to hear them)

I was watching the news today, and it was reported that Shell has announced a rise of 36% in profits. Think of that - 36%. Thats a pretty big rise. Meanwhile, oil prices are soaring and we, the consumers, are paying the price, whether we like it or not. Whether we like it or not, we are paying for Shell's shareholders' luxuries. All in the name of market uncertainty. Boy, do they love uncertainty.


Anyway. It got me thinking, oil is the most important commodity in the world (probably even more important than water). Everyone needs it, and yet we let it be controlled by market prices. Its not even a pure free market - we have a cartel, OPEC, which has the power to raise or lower prices at will. And, because of this system, we end up paying higher prices on everything everytime theres uncertainty. And the shareholders of Shell, Exxon, etc. make massive profits. Surely this system is unfair. Surely theres a more equitable system we can put in place?

My suggestions fly in the face of every neoliberal and every capitalist. Market controls and regulation are the number one sin, and with an industry like oil, its unthinkable. But Im not a neoliberal or a capitalist, so lets think about it. What would be a better system?

Price controls? Setting a maximum price for oil, with taxation by governments to extract revenues that would otherwise go to the oil companies. According to economic theory, it doesnt matter who you tax, because in the end both consumers and producers will end up paying a certain amount. But if you set a price cap, that wouldnt happen I think. Price caps are apparently troublesome too, because they create shortages. At a lower-than-market price, people will want more, and they wont be able to get any. That is a problem, and a solution to that would probably lead to yet more problems. But its worth thinking about.

Another possible solution (one even more terrifying for neoliberals) would be to have a regulatory body which sets prices and outputs, and allocates how much each country is to produce, how much each country is allowed to buy, etc. Basically, a centrally planned market. This would be difficult and complicated, but would at least mean that companies like Shell wouldnt make record profits while everything gets more expensive for the rest of us.

Any opinions on this? Is the current system the best, or can we improve it at all?

-----------

On another note, I seem to be having problems with comments on this blog. I dunno whats up, I'll try to get it fixed though.

Posted by illogicist at 4:03 AM 1 comments

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Israel-Lebanon: A Couple of Links

NP - Agalloch - Falling Snow

A few links that are definitely worth reading (well, one anyway).

http://siegeoflebanon.blogspot.com/

This is one of those blogs that gives you an insider view beyond Reuters or AP or any of the sanitised media outlets thats forever spewing rhetoric or irrelevant figures. I suppose you could say its 'human interest', but you cant write it off. Its these 'human interest' stories, come together, that precisely characterise this kind of situation. A lot better than Reuters.

http://www.camera.org/


This, on the other hand, is one of those websites you need to be aware of, because it vomits nonsensical articles that berate anyone who strays from the line, even the slightest bit. Its laughable, until you think about the fact that many people read these kind of websites, and get their education from them. So its something to be aware of, for sure.

http://www.zmag.org/weluser.htm is great too. Lots of articles worth reading. On this conflict, theres been a lot from both Israeli and Lebanese writers. Apart from the conflict, theres a lot of other good articles there. And its updated daily.

Posted by illogicist at 4:34 AM 2 comments

Friday, July 21, 2006

Watch This Space

I'm going to try to go to the demonstration tomorrow in support of the people of Lebanon. If I can, I'll take pictures and videos and post them here, so watch this space.

Posted by illogicist at 9:33 AM 5 comments

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Greetings from Lebanon

We all know that Lebanon is being attacked by a vicious and insane Israeli army (IDF: Israeli Defence Force...it almost tries to be ironic). I've talked to a few of my friends in Lebanon, and Lebanese friends outside Lebanon, and they're all very scared. Trevelyana's blog has a great post detailing her 'holiday' in Lebanon. Some of them blame Hezbollah for an act badly planned, some of them spit venom at Hezbollah, still others defend Hezbollah and remind us that it was Hezbollah that drove the Israeli army out of Lebanon a while back. From what I hear, theres a sense of solidarity amongst Lebanese, but if Iraq is anything to go by, that won't last long.

I came across this article on ZNet, written by Rania Masri who's in Lebanon. Ive posted some bits of it here, but I recommend you read the whole thing.

==========

Dear friends,

Thank you all for your letters of concern. Yes, I am in Lebanon, and, yes, I am safe, as safe as one can be when one's country is under attack.

I appeal to you all: we need your voices of outrage to be heard.

Since Wednesday, we have been under vicious, unjustified attack, and the attacks have been intensifying.

Vicious. Perhaps you have not heard the news because the western news has not been reporting it. Perhaps you have seen the pictures because the western news is not printing the pictures (the media has access to the pictures, but is choosing not to print them).


See: www.angryarab.blogspot.com for some pictures. As for the attacks, the level of infrastructural damage exceeds that of the 1982 Israeli invasion:

Every airport has been attacked and rendered unfit for travel. The main airport (our only commerical airport) has been attacked several times over several days. The smaller military airports, none of which were in use for years, have also been attacked and rendered useless.

Every port from the south to the north has been attacked by the Israelis. For the first time, the port of Jounieh was bombed. (Which opens up the rather narrow question: how can the Americans, French, British, and Italians -- all of whom have called for the evacuation of their citizens -- evacuate their citizens?)

Several major gas stations and electrical stations have been destroyed. There is a rumor that every major gas station in the country is under threat.

The major bridges in the country have been destroyed. 64 to be exact. We are hesitant to cross over any bridge for the fear that it could be the next target.

The main arteries of the country have been destroyed -- from the south to the north. What does this mean? This means that travel between main cities *throughout Lebanon* is physically impossible.

...

What does all this mean?

Israel is attempting to scare the Lebanese into submission by forcing us to remain in the country and not "escape." This is terorism - in its purest form.

Vicious. Barbaric. Horrific. And Unjustified. Yes, unjustified. Let us remember: attacks by the Israeli Offensive Forces on the Lebanese border did not begin this Wednesday with the apprehending of two Israeli soldiers. For more than the past month, the Israeli army has been conducting live ammunition training on the border. Lebanese shepherds have been killed. The response from the "international community"? Silence. Let us remember: Israel continues to imprison Lebanese in their jails, and the call from Hezbollah has been clear for years: Hezbollah will work for their release. Lebanese are not the only ones held in Israeli jails; there are thousands of Arab prisoners. And in contrast to the incorrect reporting by The Guardian (UK), Hassan Narsallah, Secretary General of Hezbollah, stated quite clearly that Hezbollah will use these 2 Israeli soldiers for negotiation and he did not specify the conditions; he did NOT say that he will release these soldiers only upon the release of all Arab prisoners in Israel. Let us also remember: Israel has refused to submit a map of the 400,000 land mines that it deliberately left in South Lebanon, and these mines regularly kill Lebanese children.


==========

Its quite funny how Israel and the US both drew Iran and Syria into this conflict, when it was an insane Israeli reaction that is the problem. And naturally the media will lap it up, and they already have. And you'll get idiots telling us that Iran and Syria are behind all this, proof be damned. And that Hezbollah are not letting Lebanese leave

On the issue of sectarian conflict, we've seen how wildly successful this approach is in Iraq. Sunni killing shia, shia killing sunni...the US army doesnt need to kill anyone, muslims are doing it to themselves. And while the whole country tears itself apart, the instability serves at least 2 purposes:
1) No organised force can come out of Iraq. American soldiers dont die, its only Iraqis that die. The military need not be worried. Everyday we hear some 50 Iraqis have died in a carbomb outside a mosque, carried out by muslims (how tragic is that). Every now and then, a soldier - whos job it is to get ready for death - is killed. And the Western media goes crazy. But the instability means that the US presence in Iraq and in the region can be solidified, as long as we need them.
2) Baghdad is a ghost town, so I'm told. Something like 5 million people have left the city. Even if the conflict does settle eventually, theres nobody left. All the minds have left, and will be too scared to come back. Some Iraqis are describing it as the 2nd Exodus.

How does this relate to Lebanon? Insecurity between muslims, christians, etc. will throw the delicately made peace out the window. The Lebanese somehow recovered after the assassinati0n of Hariri, which is testament to their resolve and strength of character. This is another story though, and I only hope that they can pull together once more once this is done.

Theres an interesting article, also from ZNet, written by Uri Avnery. Its clearly written and to the point, and I think its a good read for everyone, even if you dont have the background.The article's long, so I wont post it here. But I definitely think you should read it. Its an absolute eye-opener.

So I guess in conclusion we'll just have to wait and see what happens. Of course the US and Israel will point the finger at Iran and Syria. But I cant really predict what'll happen next yet. We'll see. For now, they've dumped the baby on me, and I have to go make faces at him and teach him to fly :s.

Posted by illogicist at 12:40 AM 2 comments

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

So...Milan...

I bumped into a guy today at the gym. I dont remember his name, but there was no reason to. I never talked to him in school. I just remember him as being small and pretty shy. Hes changed a lot though - hes bigger and seems pretty outgoing. If I remember he was in the grade below me. I asked how where he's at these days, and apparently he's studying Design in Milan, Italy. Which is pretty awesome - I didnt realise people from Oman went to Italy.

I should expect these things to happen, after all, this is Oman. But its always interesting bumping into people from your old school and seeing where they've ended up.

Posted by illogicist at 1:03 PM 6 comments

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Technology

"This one is 43 rials, this one is 46. Whats the difference? They look the same, theyre the same brand."
"This one you can plug it into USB, so its better."
"Ah. But that one is cheaper."
"Yes."
"..."

*sigh* That was for an mp3 player. Im considering one, but I just dont understand technology anymore. My dad got a new one a little while ago, and told me to 'figure it out'. So I fiddled with it today. I used to be pretty good with technology, but today I was outsmarted by a little metallic box called 'MP3/MP4' (I know, nice name). I just couldnt figure it out. I think I'm getting old.

Posted by illogicist at 1:17 PM 9 comments

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

I Cant Bridge The Macro-Micro Divide

NP - Red Hot Chilli Peppers - Tell Me Baby

Yeah, so I'm having a problem with that. What I mean is like, suppose you have some problem which is to do with you and only you. You feel its pretty big, but on the scale of things, its pretty minor. But it doesnt matter - its important to you. And then you have problems like billions of people starving around the world. They dont directly affect you, but they're massive, huge problems.

I cant seem to give these problems in my own life the appropriate level of importance. People tend to take these 'micro' problems pretty seriously, e.g. having an argument with a best friend, liking a girl who doesnt like you back, getting a low grade in a subject you thought you did well in. Macro problems on the other hand, like the death of an uncle whos left behind a wife and children, tend to have less importance for most people, because they dont affect them personally as much.

I tend to fluctuate. When I have these micro problems, they dominate my mind and I cant think of anything else. I cant take my mind off them at all...until I'm hit with a macro problem. When that happens, I feel guilty for giving so much importance to my micro problems, which on the grand scale of things, have no relevance. Which is why sometimes (and only sometimes) I just cant sympathise with a lot of the stuff I see on TV. Like stories about bullying may not arouse as much emotion in me as stories of civil war for example. Im not sure if I'm getting it across right, but this happens sometimes, and I cant seem to balance what I should be worried about and what I shouldn't.

Theres also the issue of what I can do something about and what I cant. Generally the micro problems you can do something about (although not even close to always), while the macro ones you're helpless about. So it makes sense to give those macro ones less thought and concentrate on the things you can do. But I'm not so good at this, which needless to say, leads to problems.

Anyone able to relate?

Posted by illogicist at 2:10 PM 6 comments

Friday, July 07, 2006

JZL says:
i know abt 10 economics majors that graduated within the past 10 yrs
JZL says:
all of em are unemployed right now


...thats really encouraging.


Famous economics graduates: George Bush, Mick Jagger, Jesse Jackson


...maybe I made a mistake somewhere down the line after all.

Posted by illogicist at 11:44 PM 1 comments

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Italia! Germania!

Sleepless Night! I was supposed to watch the game downstairs, but those *ahem* scrambled the channels. So I had to follow the game on BBC. Tried to get it streaming - first off CCTV, which wasnt such a success (but the commentators were hilarious). Then off ESPN...which was okay for a while, but kept cutting. And the commentators were annoying as hell. So I just followed the updating scoreboard on the BBC website. 90 minutes, no change. Screw this, I said, Im going to sleep.

I couldnt sleep all night. I was tossing and turning, and the words Italia and Germania kept repeating in my head. In between being awake and asleep I would 'dream' of people telling me the score...7-1, Italy wins on penalties. 7-1 on penalties? How is that possible? I read it in the paper, my sister says, 7-1. Wait a second, how could you read it in the paper, its still 3am...the online paper! Oh. But no, thats not right...you're part of my dream! And so it continued till about 9am. At 9am enough was enough, and I came online to check it. 2-0 Italia, with two apparently miraculous goals one minute from the end of extra time. Wow! Italy seem to keep scraping through - Australia and now Germany. Im glad Italy won, it makes it more interesting, because despite the fact they're a strong team, nobody expected them to beat Germany. But now I hope France get into the final and beat them. Im not a big supporter of any team left in this, but I admire the French team somewhat. I guess I'll be going for them.

Posted by illogicist at 5:46 AM 7 comments

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Dairy Queen

I went to DQ in Jawaharat Al-Shatti yesterday. I have to rant about this - they suck. First, they're overpriced. Now thats fine, as long as the food is anything special. But they made us wait about half an hour for the food (fast food??), and when it came, the burgers were tiny, and didnt taste anything special. Nothing on the burger except a small piece of lettuce. No sauce, nothing. My bro ordered a hotdog and because they were 'out of chilli' there was nothing on it. Food was crap too. Now I know DQ is all about ice creams and what not, but still, you expect a certain level of quality, really. Shameful.

You know what else sucks. The service at the electronics counters at Carrefour. I had to go shopping last week for some groceries, and I wanted to check out the webcams. I swear, it probably took me longer just to get my hands on the webcam i wanted than to do all of the other groceries combined. I dont get why they have to have the webcams behind some glass counter which only one person in the entire store has the key to. And that one person is nowhere to be found. Seriously, whats the point?? And this one person doesnt even know the difference between the different webcams.

"So, why is this one more expensive?"
"This one is Creative, this one is Samsung."
"Ok...so its just the brand?"
"Yes."
"But why does this one say it has a microphone and this one doesnt?"
"This one has microphone and this one doesnt."
"Ok...thats what I...nevermind. So thats why this one is more expensive?"
"Yes."
"But the cheaper one has a microphone, the more expensive one doesnt."
"Yes, this is Creative, this is Samsung."
"*sigh* ok, I'll take the one with the microphone."

Like that. Really, seriously, I mean. Oh, it reminds me of FIFAs new policy for hiring referees for the World Cup 2006. Apparently some equal opportunities bull means that they have to hire retarded and blind people to be referees. Which is why the refereeing has been so atrocious. I seriously seriously wouldnt be surprised if this is true. I could never be a professional footballer - nevermind I dont have the skills, if I did, I'd never be able to hold my temper. Id be constantly attacking referees.

*sigh*

I've decided I dont want children. Ive realised that they're fun in short bursts. Say, an hour, two tops. After that, they can go back to their parents for cleaning, feeding, butt-wiping, whatever they need. I dont think I could live with children for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, until the day I die. No way, no chance. Never. Although I think its different when the kids are yours. I wouldnt know, but I figure if the kids are yours, you tolerate them, even though they make your life hell. Like a bad relationship I guess - you suffer day and night, but you never let go. Ahh, kids are like a bad relationship. What a rosy future I paint for myself.

Posted by illogicist at 1:56 AM 2 comments

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