What About The Oil?

Published today at Independent Australia, as Australia, the United States, the Islamic State and oil.  The IA version has some excellent videos included. 

US foreign policy flow chart

US foreign policy flow chart

There was a story from one of the Gulf Wars about a reporter asking Western troops why they thought they were there.  A US soldier said something like “Ah’m here to serve mah country ma’am.”  A British soldier said “Wool, itsa oil, innit?”

As yet another Western intervention/invasion in the Middle East gathers pace, why is the commentariat apparently oblivious to the role of oil?  Oil has driven a century of meddling by Western countries, meddling that has fed generations of resentment and radicalisation, and you can be sure oil is behind the current interest of the US in Islamic State.

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The State of the Land, notes from a journey round Oz

My partner and I recently completed a long trip around Australia.  Not such an unusual thing these days, though we did some less-travelled parts, like the Tanami Road.  Also I’m as interested in seeing the lay of the land as seeing particular celebrated sites, and in noting how well the land is fairing under the (mis)management of whitefellas.  I wrote some despatches to friends in the course of our travels, and I have now added photos to illustrate my commentary.  The illustrated commentary is now on a page here.

So you can have a look if you’re interested.  It’s one person’s take on the country, fairly long, and with personal anecdotes mixed in.

Politician Raises Taxes, Voters Happy

[Probably last post until Sept - see previous post.  The tax-cutting mania may have started in California, so it's fitting if CA shows the way back.  It was always nonsense.  The real reason is to shrink government.  Governments get in the way of rich people making money, because a few of the things they do are good for the rest of us.  Well, used to be good for the rest of us.  So Jerry Brown may be among the most subversive people on the planet at the moment, because he's showing government isn't all bad.  It can do good stuff.  Of course the lesson will probably be lost on Oz for another decade, it usually takes about that long.]

 

There’s a case to be made that Jerry Brown is the most successful high-profile Democrat in America today. And there is simply no debating that, after four decades in the national limelight, he stands out as an intellectually dynamic and politically untethered leader in a time of gridlock, frustration and dysfunction.

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George Monbiot Being Very Rude (psst – Growth)

[I will be taking a break from posting for June-July-August.  We will be travelling our large continent, something long deferred.  Uluru, Larapinta, Tanami, Kimberley, Hammersly, jarrah, Nullarbor and points along the way.

I may get one more post up.  Otherwise that's it for a while and we'll see what kind of shape the country and the world are in when we get back.  Interesting times, of course.  So here's George Monbiot, one of the saner commentators, writing about something not mentionable in polite company.]

 

It’s simple. If we can’t change our economic system, our number’s up

It’s the great taboo of our age – and the inability to discuss the pursuit of perpetual growth will prove humanity’s undoing

, Wednesday 28 May 2014

'The mother narrative to all this is carbon-fuelled expansion. Our ideologies are mere subplots.'

‘The mother narrative to all this is carbon-fuelled expansion. Our ideologies are mere subplots.’ Photograph: Alamy

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Trying to Clarify Modern Money Theory

coinsmedievalModern Money Theory is about how our monetary system works in the complicated real world – with a central bank, government spending of new money, private bank lending leveraged off the government “base” money, and the central bank and government kept separate by complicated rules allegedly to ensure “sound” money.  It is such a convoluted subject that there are about as many accounts of how it works as there are “experts”.  MMT cuts through a lot of that to a story that makes good sense and is quite contrary to a lot of things said by politicians and mainstream economists.  So MMT seems to be a very good thing.

Yet the most accessible book on the subject, Modern Money Theory by L. Randall Wray, concludes with the Chapter What is Money? that I find to be convoluted and confusing.  Much of it is built on the assertion that “goods cannot buy goods”, which I find mystifying.

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Sydney Book Launch, Gleebooks, 4 May

Sack the Economists will be launched by Professor Steve Keen, author of Debunking Economics and winner of the Revere Award for his clear warnings of the approaching Global Financial Crisis.

RSVP Gleebooks  or phone 02 9660 2333
Sunday, 4th May 2014, 3:30 for 4 pm, Gleebooks, 49 Glebe Point Road, Glebe NSW.

The flier below can be downloaded here: LaunchAd&CoverGlee (pdf 300k), or as jpg from the image.  Please feel free to distribute it.

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Australia needs a new progressive party

[This article is posted at Independent Australia today.]

The Australian Labor Party needs major reform, even leader Bill Shorten thinks so.  But what constitutes “major” reform depends on who’s talking.  To Shorten it reportedly means you don’t have to be a union member to join Labor, and perhaps unions and factions will have a little less say in preselections.

A few weeks ago I suggested Labor ought to disavow the market-fundamentalist neoliberalism that has dominated Labor and most of the world for the past three decades, because neoliberalism has been the major cause of rising economic and political inequality, and it directly caused the Great Recession that still grips much of the world.  Not only does neoliberalism undermine Labor’s founding purpose, to stand up for ordinary people, but it is a baseless and discredited ideology, as I have explained in my book Sack the Economists, and it has brought the return of plutocracy and the new gilded age, as exhaustively documented by French economist Thomas Piketty.

Although I advocated reform of the ALP, I hold little hope it will happen.  Even where they are not overtly corrupt, Labor and too many unions are dominated by careerists whose only goal seems to be to acquire power for power’s sake.  Shorten’s incremental changes will not break the power of these people.  Indeed there seem to be few left in Labor who have not accommodated to the betrayal of Labor’s purpose.  (I hasten to add I am a supporter of unions in principle, but too many of them have also become ossified.)

Left to its own devices, the ALP is unlikely to fundamentally reform itself.  It would take someone at least of the stature of Gough Whitlam, and no such reformer is in evidence.  Therefore a different strategy is required.

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