poisonous, bigoted, ignorant, verbose little wa*ker”
(except I'm not little - 1.97m).
Muses, commentary and links, on various subjects,
international, political, economic, quirky, other (with sometime leanings towards Ireland),
by me, Tony, here in Dublin, Ireland. Pet Hate: Unlawful killing and
harming of humans.
At last, some one has provided clarity as to who is on what
side in the midst of Middle East turmoil. This letter appeared in (I think)
the London Times, during the month of August; my Portuguese friend Augusto
kindly sent it to me.
But of course I could not let it rest there. So
I turned Mr Al-Sabah's erudite epistle into a graphic that will surely
explain everything to everyone with even greater clarity.
Quote (25th July 2013):
“We’re not in the business of trying to legislate you out
of existence, we’re trying to compete you out of existence.”
Most Rev Justin Welby, the new Archbishop of Canterbury and
worldwide head of the the Anglican Community including the Church of
He was speaking to the head of
which provides small, short-term loans
at extortionate interest rates of typically over 300% pa.
Rev Welby wants CofE credit unions
to attack and undercut this market by charging much lower rates.
Quote (23rd July 2013):
current president of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, is a poet, acknowledged
homosexual, and nearly as outspoken as his predecessors.”
Cork-based journalist David Monagan, writing in Forbes
Within hours this was followed by a retraction and abject
“I made a terrible mistake and I apologise to Michael D Higgins who[m]
I have respect for.”
No, no, no, the mistake was not simply calling him a
apparently it was the words
that were unacceptable.
Though you would have thought such a
in this modern anti-homophobic age be a source of pride not shame.
Quote (15th July 2013):
“This is a tissue of lies and the idea that
somebody who has spent over 20 years in this House [ie me!] should
have to listen to the ‘Regina Monologues’ from someone who is only
here a wet weekend in this House. [She is] talking through her
fa*ny. We should have a revolution.”
Ireland's excitable Senator David Norris
excoriates, in his characteristic falsetto crescendo,
Senator Regina Doherty in the Senate
for having an, er, opinion.
Over the weekend Friday 28th to Sunday 30th June 2013, the quadrennial
Rugby World Cup Sevens
tournament took place in - of all locations - Moscow. I was there, as
I have been at every RWC7s event since Hong Kong in 1997. This time
the rugby was the most skilful ever while the venue was the most unsuitable
The problem with the venue is that the vast majority of Muscovites
make it abundantly clear that they loathe all foreigners and wish we would
simply go away (but leaving our money behind of course).
I wrote these two “before” and “after” posts, which also
formed the basis of newspaper columns in the Irish Times,
(or view the Irish Times'
online article) and
(published as print-only, ie not online).
In Rio de Janeiro in 2016, a big innovation in the Olympic Games will be
the inclusion of seven-a-side rugby. Quick question: what country is the
current Olympic rugby champion? What? You didn’t know there was one? The
surprise answer is not New Zealand or any of the usual suspects but the
USA which bagged the title and the gold medal in 1924
17-3 in the final, the last time rugby featured.
Meanwhile, however, the 2013 quadrennial Rugby World Cup Sevens
tournament kicked off in Moscow on Friday 28th June, the first time that
Russia has hosted a major rugby occasion. It was expected to be the last
ever such event, killed off by the Olympics, but an unexpected reprieve
earlier in the month means it will now continue, but two years out-of-phase
with the Olympics.
So whichever victorious nations were to trot up to the podium to hold aloft the
hallowed men’s and women’s respective trophies on Sunday 30th June,
wrenching them from the despairing grasp of the current champions Wales and
Australia, would be hanging on to them for five long years, until 2018.
In the days building up to the tournament, there was a strange aura in the
streets of Moscow as this unfamiliar global happening unfurled in a country
most of whose 143 million people haven’t even heard of rugby despite Russia
having long competed in international Sevens competitions and qualified (in
the same group as Ireland) for the Fifteens world cup in 2011. Nevertheless,
Moscow has allocated its giant,
Croke Park sized
Luzhniki Stadium, an icon
built by the Soviets for the 1980 Olympics.
For the tens of thousands of fans who had - supposedly - flown in from all over the
world (albeit only a handful from Ireland), Thursday 27th was for
finding your way around Moscow (some hope!),
seeing some of the breathtaking
sights (along with some pretty grim ones),
getting the hang of the rouble,
recovering from the shock of high prices,
generally coping in a country
where few ordinary people seem to speak other than Russian and the Cyrillic
script of public signs is unintelligible to the Western eye.
Sadly, for the first time in any rugby world cup, Ireland did not enter
a Men’s team and not through lack of ability. At the last
RWC7s in Dubai in
2009, John Skurr coached Ireland’s men into the Quarter Finals, knocking out
Australia on the way. Why Ireland has spurned men’s Sevens ever since only
the Irish Rugby
Football Union can answer – and should. The wider Sevens circuit, involving annual
competitions around the world is not only a magnificent show piece for
rugby, but allows talented youngsters who might not quite make it into the
professional Fifteens game to show what they’re made of – future
stars such as
Simon Zebo for
Happily, however, since April of last year, the IRFU has given full
support to a Women’s squad, ably managed by Gemma Crowly and coached by the
same John Skurr, which has been competing around the globe, and with some
success, ever since. The players are all amateurs, so the rigorous demands
of arranging training around work/study leaves no time for other pursuits,
yet they would have it no other way. This World Cup is the ladies’ biggest
challenge so far and despite being as beset by injuries as the
Lions they would give it all
they had. It helped that eight of the twelve players were
doughty veterans of this year’s epic Grand Slam victory in the XVs
game against England, Scotland, Wales, Italy and France. (In over a hundred
years, Ireland's men have only ever won two Grand Slams).
As for Moscow, it proclaimed that it was actually staging something closer to a festival of
sport, culture and hospitality than a mere event, for there was to be more going on
than just the Men’s and Women’s World Cup tournaments. In fact there
simultaneously, no fewer than nine other Sevens tournays involving over two
thousand players from across the vast Russian republics battling it out for
different prizes on the various side pitches that form part of the huge
Luzhniki complex. The music element of the festival was to comprise an array
of bands, headlined by
Space from France, while various shows and displays
would emphasise Russian space technology and achievements.
And of course for the less cultured rugby aficionados there
was the promise of a
wild variety of food and drink in abundance. For how else could your humble
correspondent and fellow-fans survive 2½ days of frenetic, high-speed,
try-scoring rugby without a steady supply of caviar and vodka? Wipium!
Note: “Wipium” is the Russian for Cheers
(or so I am told).
“Space” was the curious theme chosen by the Russians for the Rugby
World Cup Sevens which they hosted over the last three days of June 2013 to showcase their ability to stage
international sporting events. They mean of course their considerable astronautical achievements dating back to the 1950s.
But on entering the
cavernous, 89,000 seater
Olympic stadium, space
was the first thing
that hit you – empty space, for it
was only about a quarter full - and that was only on the final afternoon.
the distant Gorodok stadium (between the main stadium and which no transport
was provided) where the women played had seating for 6,000 but barely 2,000
attended at its busiest moment. The turnout below was more common.
Both stadia also ensure there are acres of space between the
hapless fans and the edge of the pitch, just to make viewing that little bit
However the three-day try-fest of actual rugby was more scintillating than
ever – fast, skilful, passionate, and displaying an astonishing level of
physical fitness. To aid recovery after each game, players would climb into
wheelie-bins emblazoned with their national flag and filled with iced water.
They seemed to enjoy it. Brrrr.
An exciting feature of Sevens is the enthusiastic participation of
nations not widely recognized for their rugby prowess, such as the
Philippines, Tunisia, Portugal, Kenya, Netherlands, China, Zimbabwe, yet
here they are fighting it out with New Zealand and the other big boys and
gals to compete for a World Cup.
In fact there are three sets of trophies.
After the group stages, teams were split based on performance into new
groups which then competed for a bowl, a plate and for the best the hallowed
cup itself. Ireland’s women, under Gemma Crowley and John Skurr, played
magnificently in their group games to qualify for the cup. But two
last-minute tries by the USA denied Ireland of the 5-0 lead it sported for
most of the quarter-final, so Ireland exited the tournament, though with
heads held high.
It was eventually New Zealand who were crowned Sevens World Cup
champions of both the Men's and Women's variety, with cups and medals to prove it.
With the two World Cups they already hold for the XVs game (Men's and
Women's), this brings New Zealand's haul to four. Oh, and just for good
measure, the Sevens Player of the Year is
Tim Mikkelson from - you guessed it - NZ. (How insufferable is all
But enough about the rugby.
Russia’s “space” theme was evident in an
interlude where 200 beautiful women clad in inter-galactic silver with huge balloons
in different hues of pale-grey signifying the planets leapt energetically around the
pitch as music throbbed across the stadium. This was followed by a parade
where further curvaceous space women
(not at all like the original
Valentina Tereshkova) pushed 29 big, wheeled pseudo-sputniks around, each
adorned with the flag of a competing nation. Ireland’s was green with the
emblems of the four provinces.
Perhaps the interminable Ministerial speeches in Russian
were also about space – it was hard to tell. And on the second evening,
French electronic music band from the 1970s, named, er,
Space, performed on a stage specially constructed in
the stands, though only after most of the already thin audience had already
gone home, thus creating even more space. Periodically, when
space appeared in the
tightly-choreographed programme of rugby, fans were
regaled as further groups of cheerleaders in colourful skimpy outfits
bounded and somersaulted on to the turf brandishing Russian flags rather than pom-poms.
But the secret ingredient that has made every RWC7s heretofore a roaring success is the
fans – and there were just far too few to generate the usual party ambience.
Moscow is difficult and expensive to get to and the marketing was very poor.
The (few) fans’ usual boisterousness was further dampened by
arrangements every time you entered or left the stadium,
the women's Gorogok Stadium
being fifteen minutes unsignposted walk away, thirty if (when) you got
a ban on
very rudimentary food arrangements
an absence of interesting
stalls and merchandising,
the blanketing of the venue by armed soldiers and
stern signs admonishing fans to be well behaved and inoffensive (even
when the ref makes a wrong call?).
This photograph illustrates the pathetic “catering” arrangements
at the Luzhniki stadium (note the long queues amid the vast surrounding
where the only food available was grim burgers, stale sandwiches and cold
hot-dogs, or “crapdogs” as the Russians evidently seem to call them.
“Crapdogs” seems a wholly appropriate metaphor not only for the
victualling but for the tournament as a whole.
The venue was a poor and avoidable choice
by the International Rugby
Board and will have done little to popularise RWC7s, which is a great
pity. And every foreign fan I spoke to swore he/she never wanted to return
to Moscow - ever.
We will to have wait until 2018 for the next RWC7s, so as to intersperse
it on a two yearly cycle with the Olympics since the latter will include
rugby Sevens as from Rio 2016. Until then, however, for those who need their
regular Sevens fix, there is always the
IRB Sevens World Series with regular
competitions in great venues around the world; it throws up an overall
league winner every year.
On 25 January 2011, the people of
Egypt erupted in nationwide
protest at the country's long-standing kleptocracy under the smarmy
President Hosni Mubarak, in power for three decades ever since his
predecessor Anwar Sadat was assassinated 1981 (for making peace with
It took nearly nine hundred deaths but just seventeen days for Mr Mubarak
to resign - and promptly find himself under arrest charged with causing the
deaths of protestors and other crimes.
The Arab Spring had gripped Egypt and ushered in hopes of a new democracy
and new freedoms in the world's largest Arab state. Mr Mubarak, though
pretending to be sick, was meanwhile convicted of complicity to the murder
of protestors and sentenced to life in prison where he remains pending an
The Egyptian armed forces held power for the next sixteen months while
democratic parliamentary and presidential elections were organised.
Then, on 30th June 2012, Mohamed Morsi became the first elected leader of
Egypt in its five-thousand year history. Mr Morsi is a senior member
of the notoriously Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, who together with even more
extreme Islamists grabbed three-quarters of the vote. Thus the new,
rabidly Islamist regime proceeded to implement as much Sharia as they could
think of with scant regard to economic policies that might improve the
actual livelihoods of citizens. Moreover, as Mark Steyn wittily points
out, Mr Morsi was a
one-man-one-vote-one-time type of guy who would have expected to remain
in power at least as long as Mr Mubarak. To this end, he quickly set
about granting himself unlimited powers and clamping down on any dissenters
But life became so much more miserable for the ordinary people that a
second uprising exploded on 30th June 2013, this time against Mr Morsi and
the Muslim Brotherhood. So in just four days he found himself, to his
astonishment, kicked out in a military coup by General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi,
the Army Chief and defence minister Mr Morsi himself had appointed just the
previous August. So after just 368 days in power there he was sitting
in a filthy Cairo jail cell, no doubt next door to Mr Mubarak.
Meantime, of course, America's Buffoon-in-Chief has, as usual, no idea of
what just happened. He is asking his advisers if this was indeed a
coup (hello - when the army drives up to the presidential palace, locks up
the president and announces that he has been deposed and it is now in
charge, that is the very definition of a coup d'état. Just ask any
Nigerian; they've all seen plenty). The B-i-C is dithering because if
it is a coup, America has to
suspend the $1.3 billion
that its taxpayers are strong-armed into handing over to Egypt every year as
part of Jimmy Carter's 1979 peace deal with Israel that caused Sadat's death
(Israel gets a handout of perhaps
So from kleptocracy to martial law to sharia to martial law in just 2½
years, with more fun no doubt to follow and no sign or prospect of any
improvement for the ordinary Egyptian.
There are many protestors today who must be
wondering was it really such a good idea to get rid of Mubarak.
And did I really photograph this billboard on
the drive into Cairo?
Note: this billboard has of course nothing whatever
to do with
Under a glorious blazing
sun, Ireland's biggest public demonstration of the year took place last
Saturday 8th June. But if radio, TV and newspapers are your source of
information you would scarcely have known that it was coming, nor that it had
That is because it was a pro-life rally whereas Ireland's media are
wildly enthusiastic for abortion and more abortion, and don't want
people to know there are other widely held viewpoints.
The organization of the crowds was superb as was their behaviour; the
visuals and sound systems were top-class. Big screens and speakers meant
that wherever you stood you could see and hear exactly what was happening in
the massive stage that had been set up.
Packed into two sides of
Merrion Square, the turnout looked huge, though
The few newspapers that made passing mention talked of
The police said there were 15-20,000 though didn't say where they
got such numbers.
The official organizers put the number at over 40,000.
I did my own counting and calculating and came up with a figure of
30,000 +/- 20%, ie between 24,000 and 36,000. Here is how I did
Along Merrion Square West, where I was situated, I counted:
35 heads from one side of the road to the other,
50 heads between large, distinctive lamposts,
7 lamposts along the area occupied by people.
Thus 35 x 10 x 6 = 10,500 people filled this stretch of road. The
South side of the square which was also jam-packed, is twice as long as
the West side.
Hence the total was 31,500, say 30k to be safe. This would not
include any overflow into adjacent streets.
This is all a bit academic, but it is important to demonstrate that the
estimates of the media and the police are undoubtedly far too low, because
it illustrates their prejudice on the subject.
The reason for Ireland's vigorous pro-life campaign is that its
government, a coalition of a rightish party Fine Gael and a strongly leftist
Labour party, is gung-ho to introduce abortion into Ireland for the first
time ever, supposedly only to save the life of mothers. However, Fine Gael made
a pre-election promise not to introduce abortion, but under pressure from
Labour its leadership has made a complete U-turn. By
ignoring not only its pro-life promise but all medical and psychiatric
evidence that shows beyond doubt that it is never necessary to directly
target the baby's life in order to save the
while avoiding every opportunity to debate or to explain why
it is so keen to abort and
whipping party members,
the Coalition is doggedly
pushing through its legislation.
I won't use this post to argue the pros and cons. I only want to
tell people what I can remember about the rally.
Four speakers stood out as far as I was concerned. It
was not only the content of what they said, but the clarity, passion and
brevity with which they delivered their message, which I imagine were the
result of much coaching and rehearsal.
Maria Steen, a
brilliant speaker and debater for the pro-life cause, went through the
main points of the so-called
of Life during Pregnancy Bill”,
exposing each as a deception, such as that this will help the health of
pregnant women, or that the European Court of Justice is demanding
abortion. She had a great line as she systematically demolished
each such falsehood: “It does no such thing!”.
She saved her best for last when she pointed out that the title of bill
most certainly does not “do what it says on the tin”.
Adele Best spoke movingly of her own two abortions.
The first she willing chose; the second her boyfriend coerced her in to.
In each case she was stricken afterwards with extreme depression and
mental issues, adding up to some fifteen years of misery in all, until
she received help from
Women Hurt, an organisation for post-abortion women. Subsequently
she gave birth to a child, who has become the light of her life.
She now wants to warn other post-abortion women not to stay silent about
their suffering and not to harbour shame.
Another woman spoke of having her unborn baby
diagnosed with a serious and rare illness (whose name I forget).
Her Irish obstetrician immediately advised her “to
go to England” [for an abortion]. When she refused, she
was given extremely frosty treatment from him and from other maternity
staff for the rest of her pregnancy for having failed to follow his
admonishment. Nevertheless, the little girl survived, was born,
and thanks to some wonderful heart surgery is now a fully functioning
healthy three-year-old. Who was delighted to smile and wave at the
cameras (Minute 0:31-34 in the above video, with her daddy).
whose beautiful new wife
Michaela was murdered while on honeymoon in Mauritius in 2011, spoke
movingly of the need to protect the unborn, no doubt thinking of the
unborn children he and Michaela never would have. Michaela was the
only daughter of a highly successful and popular GAA football coach.
the coolest thing of all was this
drone, powered by eight rotors with an HD camera in the middle, which
buzzed and hovered overhead in the bright sky taking video and stills of the
event, some of which feature in the video above. Contracted in by the
rally organisers, it buzzed around and up and down the crowd throughout the
meeting, controlled by some unseen technician, while giving some of us a
crick in the neck.
It would be handy to deploy one of them to the Cabinet
meeting room to eavesdrop on the abortion
such as they are.
The purpose of the rally was to get the
attention of the ruling politicians, to demonstrate that there is a huge
pro-life constituency passionately opposed to the proposed legislation and
that there will be a bitter electoral price to pay if it is passed.
Time will tell how successful the
overall pro-life campaign will be. And how many tiny, innocent lives will be
saved - or snuffed out.
Rugby referees have at their disposal four grades of punishment
for errors or foul play.
For minor infringements, a penalty kick is awarded to the
For particularly cynical infringements, the offending player can
in addition be sent off for ten minutes (yellow card).
Where the infringement has prevented the scoring of a try, a
penalty try is a further sanction.
For the worst of offences, the referee will wave a red flag,
sending the player off for the rest of the game.
In addition, however, a player may be cited, meaning further action
is warranted, in respect of behaviour that has been viewed on
television, whether or not the referee has spotted it or imposed his own
punishment. If cited, a player is called up before a panel of
rugby judges, the evidence is reviewed, he is allowed to present his
defence and a verdict reached. If guilty, further punishment is
often administered, usually a ban for a fixed period, which involves
shame for the player involved but also, for a professional, loss of
Recent such bans have highlighted a curious anomaly in regards to
punishments meted out to top European rugby professionals:
The sanction for
Ireland's star Brian O'Driscoll's was a penalty, a yellow card and a
three-week ban for
stamping on the stomach of Simone Favaro in an Ireland/Italy
game on 16th March (which Ireland lost 15-22)
Munster's captain Paul
O'Connell was neither penalised nor cited for a
brutal, albeit accidental kick on Dave Kearney's head, in a
Munster/Leinster game on 14th April (which Munster lost 16-22);
Kearney had to be stretchered off with concussion and couldn't play
for nearly five weeks. (Yes, the victim received the
punishment of an effective ban, not the perpetrator!)
Stade Français scrum-half
Jerome Fillol was awarded a
fourteen-week ban for spitting in the face of his opposing
scrum-half Peter Stringer of Bath on 6th April; Bath lost 20-36.
Dylan Hartley, captain of
Northampton, brought upon himself a penalty kick, a red card and an
eleven-week ban on 25th May for calling referee Wayne Barnes
unsurprisingly, with Northampton a man short went on to be soundly
beaten by Leicester 17-37. The timing of the ban was such that he
was kicked off the much cherished
tour of Hong Kong and Australia, which began a few days later.
The reason I am bringing these recent cases up is to highlight the
difference is punishments that the citing committees award for what
might be termed virtual violence as compared with actual
No-one doubts that virtual violence needs to be vigorously stamped
out, as it were. As does actual violence. Young children (and
their mums) must never be given the impression that such behaviour is
acceptable, or else rugby's reputation will crash and fewer and fewer
will play it.
Nevertheless, it is exceedingly odd that spitting and rudeness should
be deemed to be FOUR TIMES as serious as the stamps and
kicks that in these particular cases could have broken, respectively, a
leg, some ribs and a skull, and in the latter case have even caused
I would think that mums would far prefer to see their precious sons
spat and sworn at than kicked in the head.
A third rate “comedian” decides he knows
what drives certain types of people to murder.
There seems to be a lot of this particular affliction around.
The renowned international psychiatrist, Islamic scholar and
philosopher Russell Brand concluded on 26th May in
his Sunday column in the Sun tabloid newspaper that the Jihadist beheaders of Drummer
Lee Rigby are in fact “severely mentally ill”. Why?
Because they’d just
murdered a stranger in Woolwich, London. QED. The act is the diagnosis.
Absolutely nothing to to do with Islam at all because, as he
gravely informs us,
narrative thrust of ... the Koran is:
Be nice to each other because
we’re all the same”.
Nice? All the same? Who knew?
No doubt the eminent Dr R Brand listened intently to
decapitator Michael Adebolajo’s own words:
Akbar[Allah is the greatest]”
while slicing up his victim.
But perhaps Dr Brand is right. For surely you would
indeed have to be
“severely mentally ill” to swallow such guff.
Meanwhile, world leaders seem to feel the need to utter
their own inanities, which only go to show that they too share symptoms
of being “severely mentally ill”:
“The best way to prevent violent
extremism is to work with the Muslim American community – which has
consistently rejected terrorism.”
Oh yes? Any examples
thanks to the inestimable Robert Spencer, are four
unchallenged examples showing that 80% of US mosques - ie 1700
of them - teach Jihad, Islamic supremacism, extremist ideology,
and hatred & contempt for Jews and Christians:
In 1999, Sheikh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani,
a Sufi leader,
testimony to this effect to the Senate
after visiting 114 US mosques
In 2005, the Center for Religious
Freedom made similar
findings in a
On 25th May, the
Live Programme on BBC Radio 4
invited my sister Frances to recount an incident in her youth
when a woman stepped into the road to halt her car – and saved her life.
This is Frances' story.
Spoken as broadcast ....
And as written ...
My thanks are to a Chinese peasant who saved my life in June
driving slowly home, up the Peak in Hong Kong, during a tremendous
rainstorm – not a typhoon. In Hong Kong we were used to typhoons but this was just heavy
and non stop rain. In town the 12-ft deep storm drains were overflowing
and water was fountaining up through the tarmac. Time to go home .
In low gear I crawled up the Peak but just as my flat appeared ahead, a Hakka woman
(identifiable by her unique headgear, as depicted) stood in front of my car
remonstrating that I should stop. She pointed to the road surface. It
looked like bubbling pastry and she signed that I must not proceed. I
have great respect for the Chinese (the fishermen always knew more than
the Met Office which typhoons were the most dangerous) so I smiled,
nodded my thanks, reversed my car down the hill and tucked it into a
sedan chair path – these follow the lay of the land so survive bad
I arrived home absolutely soaked through and put on the
kettle for my desperately needed cuppa tea. I never got it – the gas
went off. The road I had just walked over had become a giant landslide.
Would the weight of my little Singer Gazelle have been enough to
initiate that landslide ? Who knows. We were cut off for weeks until a
sort of Bailey bridge could be built to reconnect us to the town and had
to have our food delivered by helicopter. But I was alive.
There is no way I can ever thank that wonderful woman
but I am forever grateful.
An eyewitness account (sort-of) of
those momentous days of surrender
Today, 8th May, 68 years ago, Nazi
Germany surrendered unconditionally, bringing to an end, after six long and
painful years, the European part of the Second World War.
Or was it yesterday the 7th? Or
tomorrow the 9th?
All three as it happens, as my
98-year-old and still sprightly father Walter, a dental surgeon, relates in
the recent reissue of his
memoirs. A squadron leader with the RAF, he was part of the
Normandy invasion of Europe, storming across France, Belgium and Germany,
striking terror into Nazi hearts, with a dental drill in one hand and a
forceps in the other:
Q U O T E
after my orderly Harrington and I had settled near the northern German town
into our spacious, comfortable Luftwaffe quarters (recently vacated by the
hastily departing Germans), we heard, to our delight, the news on the radio
from the BBC that Germany had signed an Act of Military Surrender at Rheims
in France on 7th May 1945, thus bringing the European war to an end.
However we also learnt that Germany had already, three days
earlier on Friday 4th May, signed another unconditional surrender, of its
forces in northern Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. This ensued after
Hitler had blown his brains out in his Berlin bunker the previous Monday,
and proved to be the first of three surrenders.
1830 hours on the Friday, in a large tent at Lüneburg Heath in northern
Germany, Field Marshal Bernard Mont-gomery (“Monty”) accepted the
unconditional German surrender . It was signed for Germany by Admiral Hans
Georg von Friedberg of the navy and General Eberhard Kinzel of the army,
both of whom committed suicide a few weeks later by taking cyanide, and by
Major Fritz Gustav Friedl of the Gestapo who was tried for Holocaust war
crimes and later killed in a car crash.
At the time we ourselves, as mentioned, happened to be
billeted outside the town of Lüneberg only a few miles away. That evening,
just 2½ hours after the surrender to Monty, I received a signal informing me
officially of the order to cease hostilities as from the following morning
and directing that work “should continue as usual”. I have kept that
signal form carefully as a treasured memento (illustrated below). I
recollect as a schoolboy in the 1920s visiting a war museum in France with a
party from my south London school,
seeing a similar order among souvenirs of the Great War which had ended in
Europe on 11th November, 1918.
Transcript: 4 May Personal for Commanders –
All hostilities on second army front cease at
0800 hours tomorrow May 5.
Work will continue as usual until orders are issued to contrary.
GCRAFR [General Command Royal Airforce Regiment] requested
RAFR units Date Time: 042055
It is noteworthy that the Americans continued fighting right
up to the formal cessation of hostilities at 0800 hours on the Saturday. We
reckoned that many of them – especially the newer arrivals – regretted that
they could no longer kill any Germans.
An interesting story emerged in 2012 concerning the date of
the second surrender in Rheims on 7th May 1945, known since and commemorated
every year, as VE-Day, for “Victory in Europe”. (Actually, depending on what
country you are in, VE-Day is commemorated on the 7th or the 8th or the 9th
of May. This is because, as explained below, the third surrender was signed
late on the 8th which, further east, was already the 9th due to the time
Edward Kennedy, then the forty-year-old Paris bureau chief
of the Associated Press news agency, was one of seventeen journalists
secretly flown by the military across France in a C-47 transport plane to
witness Germany’s second surrender in Rheims to the Americans and British at
0241 hours on that fateful morning of 7th May 1945. As a condition of this
privilege, they were sworn to secrecy under a news embargo that lasted for
the following 36 hours.
This was because US President Harry Truman and British Prime
Minister Winston Churchill had privately agreed to keep the historic
ceremony covert until the following day, when the Soviet Union would accept
the capitulation of German forces in Berlin. As a symbol of Allied
solidarity and a sop to the USSR’s tyrant Josef Stalin, the Big Three wanted
to announce the end of the war together and declare 8th May to be VE-Day.
Thus the third surrender, almost identical to the second, was indeed signed
in Berlin on that day, just before midnight, which for the Soviets was of
course just after midnight on 9th May. Hence the three VE-Days.
However Kennedy ruined their cunning plan for the surprise
announcement that they wanted to make only after the third surrender.
Having forewarned the US military censor of what he was
about to do, he then rang AP’s London office to dictate a story on the
(second) surrender on 7th May. This broke the embargo and ensured that the
bombshell exploded on the front pages of every newspaper subscribing to the
agency’s service the next day. Many consider this to be the greatest scoop
of all time.
Kennedy was promptly thrice denounced and excoriated –
by the sixteen
correspondents who had obeyed the rules,
by the Allied
by his boss
Robert McLean, then president of AP.
But Kennedy was unrepentant, pointing out that the embargo
had been imposed solely for political convenience, not to save lives or
protect military secrets. Moreover, Germany itself had alr eady announced
the surrender, at 1403 hours on 7th May in a radio broadcast from the city
of Flensburg then under Allied control, which was 670 km from Rheims.
Kennedy argued that from that moment the embargo was invalid: the news was
out and no harm could be done by declaring it to the world. He found it
absurd to bottle up an announcement of such magnitude and import.
At the time, however, his arguments fell on furious deaf
ears. Kennedy was expelled from France by the Allied authorities and his
career with AP was over. He died, still reviled by the establishment, in a
car crash at the age of 58 in 1963.
However, in 2012, 67 long years after his momentous scoop,
AP suddenly had a change of heart. Its CEO Tom Curley issued a
posthumous apology, to the joy of the intrepid reporter’s sole surviving
daughter Julia. Curley declared that Kennedy’s dismissal was a “great,
great tragedy” and hailed him as a reporter who did the “right thing”
and “stood up to power”.
My colleagues and I had no idea about these machinations,
but certainly the capitulation ceremony to the Soviets never made big news,
no doubt because Kennedy had effectively neutered it.
We enjoyed a tremendous VE-Day celebration that Monday
evening of 7th May. The fireworks (mostly signal rockets) and miscellaneous
pyrotechnics were fired in such profusion that we must have emptied the
magazines. Unfortunately we could find very few stores of liquor to empty.
Quote: “Please, as a 16-year-old who has no say in his
death sentence, who has no choice in the pain he is about to cause and who
would take any chance at even a few more months on this planet: appreciate
what you have, know that there are always other options and help is always
Donal Walsh, 16, while dying
at home in Kerry of a tumour in his leg,
pleads eloquently for fellow teenagers
to desist from suicide.
Quote: “Abortion is a crime against humanity ... Since Boston
College has not withdrawn its invitation and Mr Kenny has not declined it, I
shall not attend the graduation.”
Cardinal Sean O’Malley is boycotting a graduation ceremony
Boston College, a Jesuitical (and thus supposedly staunchly Catholic)
because it has invited as its keynote speaker
Enda Kenny, to whom it will also award an honorary degree.
Mr Kenny is Ireland's Taoiseach (prime minister)
and the invitation reflects the college's long association with Ireland.
Quote: “We wanted to send more reinforcement to Benghazi. ... The
people in Benghazi had been fighting all night. ... But he told me he had
not been authorized to go. The vehicles needed to go. ... Lt Colonel Gibson
[commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command in Africa] was
furious. ... I had told him to bring our people home. Apparently no one had
been authorized to go.”
Gregory Hicks, former top US diplomat in Libya.
He was testifying on 8th May in front of
the House Oversight and
Government Reforms Committee,
seven-hour Jihadist attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi on
the eleventh anniversary of 9-11,
which killed Ambassador Chris Stevens
and three other Americans.
The Obama/Clinton administration refused to send military
that fateful night, then lied about the cause of the attack
- and the President went to bed.
As a result of his refusal to support the Obama/Clilnton
about what happened, Mr Hicks, a career civil servant,
demoted from deputy chief of mission to desk officer.
Mr Hicks is a registered Democrat, who voted for Hillary
Clinton in the 2008 primaries
and for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. Yet he chose to speak the
Quote: “This land [the Gaza Strip] has never
once been a Jewish land. Palestine is for the Arab Islamic nation.”
Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a prominent Islamic scholar and cleric, based in
made famous by his popular TV show
and widely respected in the Muslim world.
Truth, objectivity and overall morality have never
been this cleric's
Cyprus is in economic turmoil, short of a mere
65% of its annual GDP. The EU has promised to lend it
€10 bn but only on condition it raises the other €6 bn in cash from
its own resources. Seemingly it has nowhere to turn for instant
cash but to raid Cyprus bank accounts to confiscate both the life
savings of innocent citizens and the supposedly ill gotten-gains of
Russian multi-millionaire oligarchs.
This will of course - if it has not already done so -
ruin the reputation of Cyprus as a centre for international financial
services and sound banking, if not a sunny haven for shady money.
So a major source of future revenue has instantly dried up, leaving
tourism as the only export market.
But there is a small glimmer of hope whereby the
confiscation may not have to be as draconian (up to 10% of
deposits) as feared. For Cyprus apparently has a big, offshore gas
field waiting to be developed, and plenty more in the offing, with
hundreds of billions of €uro waiting to be reaped.
Securities on this could be sold for cash, in return for a slice of
the lucrative future revenues. Russia's giant, state-owned Gazprom, the
biggest gas company in the world, is being
mooted as one potential investor.
This gas securitisation idea is being heavily hyped, and
I have not come across a single dissenting voice.
Personally I had never heard of Cyprus's gas bonanza
before, which made me suspicious and prompted me to have a closer look.
As a result, I am therefore now a single dissenting
voice. Here's why.
The Cypriots tell us that they have excellent
offshore gas reserves:
7 TCF so far, equivalent to two million barrels of oil, with an
upside potential of 60 TCF. (TCF stands for trillion cubic feet.)
only field identified so far is called Aphrodite, after the Greek
goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation; obviously the
Cypriots are hoping a bit of that action will emanate from beneath the
The subsea Aphrodite is seen as a multi-billion €uro
windfall that, simply by selling future production, will become some
kind of saviour.
This is foolish. Not only are there political
difficulties (powerful Turkey disputes Cyprus's sovereignty over the
offshore area in question and has already sent a gunboat), but the
technical difficulties and the cost of bringing to market gas that is
200 hundred kilometres offshore in
1,700 metres of water depth are immense. Such a project,
to two thousands kilometres of subsea pipeline to Greece,
in order to
would easily stretch to ten years and maybe €5 billion
paid upfront before a penny of revenue. The map below shows the route of
the 1,800 km Trans-Med pipeline that the
Cyprus Government is suggesting (anything to avoid Turkey).
However the whole concept is a mirage anyway.
7 TCF would be an immense gas field.
By comparison, Ireland has one great field, Kinsale,
with 1½ TCF that has been producing for 30 years, and another,
with 1 TCF
will have cost €2½ billion and twelve years to develop by the time gas
first appears in 2015.
In the 1990s, the company I then headed discovered
the Philippines' biggest hydrocarbon field,
lies offshore the sparsely populated island of Palawan in 846 metres of
water. It is 530 km from the nearest viable market being the
island of Luzon where Manila is located (click
enlarge the chart). When discovered, the reserves were
estimated by my team to be 1.1 TCF of gas (since upgraded to
and development entailed a record-breaking
subsea pipeline to Luzon along a seabed fraught with faults and
instabilities. Malampaya took nine years to appraise and develop,
at a cost of
billion (€4 bn).
I mention Kinsale, Corrib and Malampaya to put Cyprus's
Aphrodite in some perspective.
Backing up the declaration of Aphrodite as a
“discovery”, are seismic surveys and just a single
exploration well. It is designated “A-1 Discovery” on this
chart, which was
published on 6th December 2012 by
Noble Energy, the American oil and gas company which made the
Note also the words “DST Pending”. DST stands for
Drill Stem Test, which is a rather rudimentary method for testing the
rate at which the well will produce oil and/or gas and/or water, in actual practice as distinct from
theory. In other words Noble are bragging about “5-8 TCF” based
on just that one well that they haven't even tested. Nevertheless
this seems to be the grounds on which they and the Cyprus Government
tout about reserves of seven TCF and even, taking into account similar
structures in the area, a possible/probable sixty.
This is fanciful talk in the extreme.
When perhaps a dozen wells have been
(at a typical cost of €40 million each), or perhaps even the four more
that the chart indicates are planned, it will be time to take seriously
claims of 7 TCF.
Until then, chatter about Cyprus gas is nothing but gas,
combined with wishful thinking. Don't put your money there.
Serious investors are certainly not going provide cash against the long,
vague shot of production revenues perhaps a decade hence.
Other than raiding bank deposits, there is no quick fix
that is going to produce €6 bn for the hapless Cypriots.
Therefore, if it fails to do so, either it goes bankrupt and tumbles out of the €uro and back to a worthless Cypriot
Or the EU blinks first and ponys up the extra €6bn in
order to save the (nevertheless doomed) €uro for a little longer.
The EU Common Agricultural Policy rewards
farmers for no discernible reason
On 19th March I was invited to become part of the audience for
the Prime Time TV programme that Ireland's state broadcaster
RTE puts out twice a week. This was to partake in a discussion about the EU's most expensive,
longest running subsidy, the Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, to which I
have long been viscerally opposed, as the programme makers know.
You can view my contribution
here, where it appears in minute 5 of the second item, titled
“Farm subsidy questioned”.
This is essentially what I said (with links to my
which is why the CAP eats
38% of the EU budget, and
why the CAP adds
to the annual food bill of every home.
And that’s not to talk of the Third World livelihoods that the CAP
destroys due to
the subsidised dumping of
surplus EU (and also US) agricultural products
and the protectionist
barriers restricting entry of their cheaper food into the EU.
The sooner the CAP is abolished the better, with part of the huge sums
saved redeployed to retrain farmers to learn new, marketable skills that
customers actually value.
There is no shortage of food in the world for those able to pay for it,
which certainly includes the countries of the European Union.
No-one really challenged what I said. The farmers were too busy
squabbling among themselves about how to divvy out the CAP spoils.
That tends to make another point. The prime crop in EU farming
today is not farm produce but farm subsidies -
how to maximise them and get the biggest share, which is always the case
when big money is being given away. Subsidies are like narcotics -
destructive and degrading in equal manner; recipients quickly become junkies
who lose their sense of pride and those who distribute them the drug
Even in this lively TV discussion about farming, so pervasive was the
narcotic that not a single person talked about actual farming, only the
Imagine if that energy went into actual, you know, farming.
Quote (19th March): “OK, so props don't ever join the referee ranks
because it's a lot of running. But would it be so harmful to perhaps get a
prop on the pitch to officiate at scrum-time only? He could then leave the
field until the next scrum. He wouldn't have to run anywhere, he'd get free
pies on the touchline, and we'd have a scrum official who'd really know what
was going on.”
A commentator's suggestion at the recent Wales/England
6-Nations championship decider (won 30-3 by Wales),
which was heavily punctuated by inscrutable penalties at scrum time.
The problem is that rugby referees are never props (who hate running)
and therefore never understand the mysterious, nefarious machinations
grinding within the dark recesses of a heaving, wheezing, sweat-laden scrum.
Hat-tip: Graham Hunt in Perth, Oz
Quote (19th March): “Sure what could go wrong? It is the day after St
Patrick’s Day, a roomful of Paddies, a free bar and the future king of
England. It’s going to be messy.”
Comedian Patrick Nulty
at a €1,000-per-plate testimonial dinner
in London for Irish rugby star Brian O'Driscoll,
attended by, inter alia, the Duke of Cambridge
his seminal though subtle diatribe against global tyranny, introduced the
world to many new words that have since entered the
English language: Big
Brother, thoughtcrime, newspeak, memory hole, duckspeak, unperson ...
He defines doublethink as, among other things,
“the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in
one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them”.
He even has a shorthand word for this - blackwhite,
denying the evidence of your eyes by declaring and believing
that black is white or vice versa.
I wonder how many other Western countries are as
conflicted about suicide as Ireland, which seems to have developed not
Orwell's doublethink but its own treblethink on this troubling subject.
Judging by Irish media over the past few weeks and months,
huge numbers of Irish, in full sanctimonious flow, seem to believe that
death by suicide is, simultaneously,
thing that must be prevented by all means,
thing that must be accommodated by all means,
a dreadful worry that can be
alleviated only by blood sacrifice.
1 A Terrible
It is a terrible thing to lose a loved one who has died at
his/her own hand.
Yet death by suicide in Ireland has become so prevalent
that Ireland's main opposition party, Fianna Fail, is
proposing a new 7½% tax be levied on alcohol sales (excluding pubs and
restaurants) in order to fund €86 million worth of suicide prevention
services. Its report,
Speak Louder than Words: A Structural Approach to a Societal Issue”,
advises that Irish suicides have increased by 30% over the past decade, a
huge heartbreaking tragedy that took 525 lives in 2011, most of them young
This death toll is almost thrice that of the roads (186),
another major killer of predominantly young males, but one that receives far
more attention and funding than suicide, and has positive results to show
for it in terms of reducing the deaths. Fianna Fail's attempt to
tackle suicide is an honourable one which if adopted will undoubtedly
likewise make a
Those considering suicide do indeed need to be identified,
helped, counselled to support them in dealing with these self-destructive
thoughts. Prisoners who present a self-harm risk are routinely put on
suicide watch, which includes regularly checking of their cells as well as
removing all items that might be used to cut, strangle or poison.
Suicide is permanent, life's problems are temporal.
No effort is too great to save such people from needlessly extinguishing their most
valuable attribute - their lives - when actual solutions can be developed.
2 A Wonderful
have probably all imagined ourselves in some dreadful situation where we
might long for the sweet release of death.
Locked-in Syndrome holds
particular terror - who can forget
Diving Bell and the Butterfly”
by French journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby who ended up this way after a
stroke in 1995. Though fully cosmos mentis with all his senses intact, he
awoke unable to move his body apart from his left eyelid, which he used, one
blink at a time, for rudimentary communication and to laboriously write his book,
letter by letter. Had
he wanted to commit suicide, he would of course have been unable to do so,
other than to request someone else to end his life.
But that someone else would then have been prosecuted for
unlawful killing or worse, for while the law permits suicide, helping
someone to commit suicide is illegal.
Marie Fleming and many others in her sad situation, it's not locked-in
syndrome but terminal multiple sclerosis which since 1986 has been slowly
paralysing her bodily functions and will eventually suffocate her. So
she would like to be the mistress of her own destiny and die at a time of
her choosing, before her suffering and fear become unbearable. But
though in full possession of her mental capacities, she is already confined
to a wheelchair and so to kill herself would need someone to set a system
up, such as a poisonous drink. Once again, that person - in this case
her loving partner - would be liable for prosecution.
There is much sympathy for her predicament, for who would
not want to help a suffering yet coherent relative who desperately wanted to
go to a better place. But the ban on assisted suicide is there for a
reason - to affirm the sanctity of human life but also to avoid creating
situations where vulnerable people feel obliged (or maybe are encouraged) to
have themselves killed, perhaps to relieve kinfolk of a burden or to release
Marie Fleming and many like her would consider it a
wonderful thing to be allowed to commit suicide, with help if necessary, as
a way to conclude her journey on this earth in a dignified and gentle
manner. And public opinion is firmly with them.
But though the law is not with them, judges are hinting to public
prosecutors that they should use discretion in bringing prosecutions in such
cases; ie don't.
3 Dreadful Worry
The third angle to suicide relates to unwanted
pregnancies. In most of the western world, abortion is available more
or less on demand, despite the fact that it is usually against the law.
The two Acts were reconciled by saying that abortion is
permissible only if the life or health of the mother is at risk, including
the risk of suicide.
The suicide provision has been the single biggest factor
that has led to abortion-on-demand even up to birth itself - currently
abortions a year in England and Wales being 20% of all pregnancies. Lord
David Steel, the author of the 1967 Act, is today horrified at the
floodgates he never realised he was opening and
urges Ireland not to follow his much regretted example.
Though no-one can objectively prove that someone will
commit suicide, it is sufficient in UK law for two psychiatrists to vouch
that without abortion a woman is suicidal. This is a massive loophole,
as all it takes is to find a group of pro-abortion psychiatrists to sign the
paperwork and the path is clear.
Indeed, there is no scientific or empirical evidence that abortion
prevents suicide. For example, a recent review of all maternal deaths
in Ireland's main maternity hospitals from 1950 to 2011
has found not a single case of a woman taking her own life because she
Nevertheless, advocates for abortion argue that it is a great mercy for
a woman to be allowed to abort her baby if it means she avoids suicide
brought on by dreadful worry over her unwanted pregnancy. Such people,
however, never argue that suicidal tendencies should be given the same help,
counselling and if necessary suicide-watch that is accepted practice for
others - even lowly imprisoned criminals - who seem at risk of self-destruction.
Only for pregnant women is suicide to be averted through
infant blood sacrifice.
In Ireland where the 1861 Act also remains in force (as a relic
of British rule), there is a huge push to legalise abortion in case of
threat of suicide, as in England.
But other than concern over the mother's possible suicide, is there an unthinkable alternative reason for this drive?
Surely it cannot be that risk of suicide is merely a Trojan horse designed
to introduce a regime of
abortion-on-demand? Even though this is precisely what has ensued in England and all other abortion-friendly jurisdictions
where grounds for abortion include suicide, or even mental health.
So there you have it. Thousands of otherwise
rational, well-meaning people indulge in suicide treblethink -
“the power of holding
three contradictory beliefs in
one's mind simultaneously, and accepting all three of them”.
The Good, The Bad and the Ugly Excuse.
What would George Orwell have written? Would treblethink have
entered his vocabulary?
Quote (19th Feb): “Ah no, I'll let someone else eat him. I know him
Paddy Jack, in Dublin's Temple Bar Farmers'
where he serves horse steak sandwiches in Ireland's only horse meat outlet.
He his referring to Do or Die, his pet racehorse
who is being trained to compete.
But if on the racecourse Do or Die fails to Do the business
he will Die
- and be served up on Mr Jack's stall.
Though for sentimental reasons not to Mr Jack himself.
Quote (12 Feb): “Nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our
deficit by a single dime.”
President Obama explains in his 2013 State of the Union
that his proposed litany of more spending, new programs and new
will not increase America's $16½ trillion deficit “by a single dime”!
The odd one out is of course the red hat and the dress, that is to say the lady.
Because she is the oldest of the four.
She is also the only one who in recent months has not
decided to voluntarily resign ahead of time in favour of a successor.
The reason is obvious. She still does not trust her heir, a spring
chicken of a mere 64, to take over her job and execute her/his duties
effectively. So unlike the other three, she is sticking to her original vow,
to serve until death, or in the case of Archbishop Williams until statutory
Rowan Williams, the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury retired on 31st
December 2012, at age 61, nine years earlier than he needed to, and was
replaced by Justin Welby.
Pope Benedict XVI, aged 85, will retire on 28th February triggering
Papal Conclave of cardinals to elect a successor.
Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, 75, will retire on 30th April in
favour of her eldest son Willem-Alexander, who will become the
Netherlands' first male monarch since 1890.
86-year-old Queen Elizabeth II won't step down at all, so leaving
Prince Charles (barring a not entirely implausible regicide-matricide)
to dangle on for time indeterminate.
A technological revolution in
hydraulic fracturing (“fraccing”)
of hydrocarbon-bearing shales
is leading to an unstoppable energy revolution, which will in turn
lead to entirely benign revolutions in global economics and geopolitics.
away much of the mystery surrounding this essentially simple but not
widely understood technique to squeeze more hydrocarbons out of the
demonstrates that the main objections are mainly bogus.
Just to recap, fraccing (hydraulic
fracturing) entails pumping water down a well and into reservoir rock
that contains hydrocarbons (gas and/or oil) at such a high pressure that
the rock splits open. This exposes much more of the rock to the
wellbore and thus makes it easier for the hydrocarbons to flow into it
and up to the surface.
This post explores what fraccing is
going to mean for the world at large - how it will affect in an almost
wholly benign fashion both global economics and geopolitics.
Just as fraccing is unleashing
undreamed-of volumes of hydrocarbons, so the consistently high oil price
in recent years, firmly in the hundred-dollar-a-barrel category, is
unleashing undreamed-of fraccing technology. (Click on the
interesting oil-price chart below for better detail.)
This unleashed technology has three legs that together
are yielding results that are truly startling:
Seismic surveys are the means by which
subterranean rock shapes and make-up are detected, thereby pinning
down where potential hydrocarbon accumulations might lie.
Recent advances have enabled ever more obscure or small
accumulations to be identified.
Drilling wells is the means why which these
accumulations of hydrocarbons are connected to the surface. It
too has benefited from ever more sophisticated techniques, from the
major (drilling holes that are directional, horizontal,
multilateral) to the less glamorous such as improved drilling
fluids, measurement techniques, drilling bits, operating practices.
Fraccing itself is the process by which the
hydrocarbons can be better liberated from the accumulations into the
wellbore, particularly when the reservoir rock that holds them is
low in both porosity and permeability. Fraccing methods have
improved enormously in recent years, resulting in the production -
and potential production - of vast additional volumes that
previously were thought impossible to bring to surface.
Then there is increasing unease, if not panic, in the
West at how
1 its consumption has steadily exceeded its
ability to find new hydrocarbons, allied with ...
2 the extent to which it has therefore become increasingly dependent on
foreign sources for its insatiable thirst for oil and gas, sources which are
largely hostile to the interests of the West, which is in effect
nevertheless funding them.
This chart of America's trillion-dollar dependency
illustrates the point; it is typical of the West in general.
These three elements - oil price, technological
advances and foreign dependency - are the factors that have led to a
fraccing boom, currently evident only in a few parts of the US, but one
that is going to sweep the world.
is because fraccing is, simply, making available huge
quantities of hydrocarbons within the Western countries themselves,
changing the energy picture dramatically.
It shows for a large array of countries the estimated
reserves of gas recoverable mainly through fraccing, which add up to
6,622 trillion cubic feet (TCF), a truly astounding figure. One
TCF is the equivalent in energy terms of about 170 million barrels of
oil; thus 6,622 TCF equates to over a trillion barrels,
worth some $100 trillion at today's prices.
These numbers need to be put into context.
BP tells us that the world's oil reserves are currently 1,653
billion barrels, which is sufficient to keep us going for another 54
However, of this 1,196 bn bbl lie beneath the
countries of OPEC, while 859 of them ( 52%) are in the Middle East
and North Africa, which I will refer to as MENAf. (OPEC's oil
income in 2012 alone was a very juicy
The world's gas reserves amount to 7,361 TCF (BP's
figure again), which is 64 years' worth.
Of this, 3,156 TCF, or 42%, are within MENAfME/NAf
Oil Plus Gas:
Combined into barrels-of-oil-equivalent (BOE), global
reserves are therefore 2.9 trillion BOE, good for half a century or so,
of which roughly half comes from MENAf.
MENAf is of course the location of oil-rich states such
as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Libya, which have been
hostility against the West for decades,
lavishly funding hate-filled
mosques and madrassas that preach rabid anti-infidelism and
anti-Semitism to adults and children alike,
sponsoring Jihadist terrorism and terrorists everywhere.
They seek overtly or covertly the conversion of the infidel world to an
Islamic caliphate, under the Koranic injunction to convert, enslave or
kill (eg 9:5).
MENAf countries can behave this way because they are so
wealthy, thanks to the West's inability to keep up with its thirst for
hydrocarbons. Thus the West is funding its own enemies, and by the
way providing most of the technology and expertise to extract the
MENAf's oil and gas.
Thus the trillion BOE that the EIA estimate is yet to be
liberated (through fraccing) from shale gas reserves represents an
addition of some 38% to global reserves.
That is a massive increase by any reckoning, but its
impact is even greater because scan the tabulation above and you can
see that huge volumes are going to come from consuming countries
themselves in Europe, N America and elsewhere.
But that is not still not the full story.
This EIA chart shows in
dark red where the
expected shale gas reserves are to be found. Just as interesting,
however, are the
areas that are left out of the reckoning. These are principally the already
hydrocarbon-prolific regions of Russia, the Middle East, Malaysia,
Indonesia, not to mention the world's entire offshore acreage. Oh,
and the OIL that fraccing will liberate from shales is not
mentioned at all.
So even if the EIA's estimates of shale gas are wrong by
factors, it still looks inevitable that the global stock of oil and gas
is set to increase dramatically.
But what exactly does this mean?
Firstly, the volumes to be released through fraccing -
and therefore the associated revenues - are so vast that fraccing itself
will become an inexorable force. Frankly, money talks, and no
amount of lobbying, bogus scare-tactics or political sanctimony is going
to stop the fraccing.
In due course, the fraccing issue will morph into how
to set standards and rigorously enforce them, a far more constructive
(and indeed necessary) approach than blindly banning the technology.
As shale gas availability spreads globally, gas prices
will tumble. Fraccing has already trigged this in the USA.
In June 2008 the price of natural gas was 12.69 per mBTU
(million British Thermal Units);
by April 2012
crashed by over 80% to just $1.82.
Dramatically lower gas prices will encourage industry
and individuals to adopt it in place of dirtier fuels - notably coal,
wood, turf, oil - and to seek innovative ways to use it. Only last
year the world's first major
gas-to-liquids plant was commissioned, in tiny but gas-abundant Qatar.
Called Pearl, it converts gas into fuels similar to petrol,
diesel or kerosene, suitable even for
It will, moreover, be only a matter of time before
abundant gas drives down the cost of all competitor energies. This
process will probably not excessively favour the corporations that
extract and market energy, whose increased volumes will be offset by
lower unit prices - for example, Shell is already
hurting in the US. But conversely, it is likely to be a bonanza for energy-intensive
industries, such as the manufacture of steel, aluminium, cement, glass,
and of course transportation.
Above all, however since every one of us relies on
energy for practically everything, the coming price-drop is going to
amount to a massive global, across-the-board stimulus. But a
stimulus without debt - that doesn't need to be repaid by
Surely this must amount to the only viable solution on
the horizon to the global economic crisis that is engulfing the globe,
seemingly with no end in sight.
Moreover, since so much of the new, fracced energy is
going to come from within consumer and other West-friendly countries,
the West's huge and precarious dependence on MENAf is going to reduce
fulgurantly - as well as reducing transportation costs.
In turn, MENAf oil revenues (by far those countries' principle
source of income) will be slashed as they lose not only export volumes
but also in unit prices. This will much reduce their ability to cause
trouble and sponsor Jihad. It will cause them to focus at last on
the on non-oil, regular part of their economy, in a manner that can only
benefit their populations - and the rest of the world.
In summary, fraccing is triggering an energy revolution
whose effects will be almost wholy benign, for individuals, industries,
countries, global economics and geopolitics.
And yet an awful lot of people oppose it fanatically;
but that is no mystery.
They remain in the dark over what fraccing actually entails, its opportunities -
and yes - risks, because the industry does so little to explain itself.
It is therefore entirely reasonable for ordinary citizens to adopt the
precautionary maxim that
“if you don't know, say no”, when they are operating in a void.
Moreover it is into that very void that activist objectors
eagerly leap, with a far more articulate message than the industry's .
The answer therefore is for the industry to go out and
get its own message across with similar skill and enthusiasm as its
opponents. In other words to evangelise.
This and previous posts, along with associated lectures
I have given, are my own modest attempt to address this. If you
would like me to speak about fraccing at meetings (no charge), just drop
me a line at blog2-at-tallrite-dot-com.
I repeat. Modern fraccing represents an entirely
benign revolution that all humanity should embrace.
Confusion about who must and
who must not
indulge in gay sex in the brave new world of gay marriage
partnerships/unions/marriages throw up new problems that make such
“institutions” increasingly ridiculous, because of the necessity
that gay-sex be performed - or not.
Same-sex civil partnerships, with
all the associated tax-breaks, are available to couples (though for some
reason not threes or fours) if and only if they actually practice their
gay sex; there is no room for celibacy.
can be the only explanation why such
partnerships are not open to couples who eschew sex, such as the
Burden sisters, two elderly spinsters who share their family home
jointly inherited from their parents. When one of the ladies dies,
the death duties the other must pay will force her to sell the house and
move out. Were they bound within a civil partnership, the
surviving sister would simply inherit, tax-free, her
“partner's” half. But such a partnership - and the
associated fiscal advantages - are not open to them because no gay-sex
is involved. Likewise, why shouldn't a pair of (celibate) bridge
partners or a man and his sons be eligible for the civil-partnership tax
breaks? But they're not. No sex, no tax breaks.
What about equality? And surely we all are supposed to have human
Well, no we don't.
Unless my buddy and I are prepared for some gay gymnastics in the
boudoir (or maybe on the kitchen table) we're not going to get the
breaks created for single-sex couples in a civil partnerships.
Unless ... and here is where it
gets (even more) weird.
The Church of England have been
wrestling for decades with what to do about its gay clergy. It
eventually - grudgingly, gradually over many years - accepted that they
existed, that many of them were in gay relationships and some in civil
unions. But, goaded by its conservative wing mainly in Africa, the
Church drew the line at elevating gay priests to bishophood.
It was convulsed, therefore, when
its American wing, the
Protestant Episcopal Church, decided to break this taboo and promote
Gene Robinson in 2004 to become Bishop of New Hampshire. For
Bishop Robinson is not just gay but openly living with fellow-gay
Mark Andrew, and by all accounts enjoying a gay old sex life. By the way, the bishop started out marrying a woman
in 1972 who bore him two children, but then divorced her in 1986/7 in
favour of Mr Andrew.
The new couple were
in both a civil partnership ceremony and in a formal church service in
June 2008, with Rev Robinson declaring that he
“always wanted to be a June bride”.
(In impeccably correct fashion, the administering priest was of course a
Predictably, when the Reverend
became a Bishop six years later, the Anglican community outside American
(and much of it within) were outraged, with Bishop Akinola of Nigeria
leading the backlash. Schism was threatened.
But as is generally the Anglican
way, the Church of England over time slowly learnt to bend with the wind
and accept what they deemed unavoidable. Thus it is that on 20
December, in the face of fierce opposition (again largely
led by Nigeria) it decided that gays in civil partnerships
CAN now be elevated to bishophood.
On one condition. That they
and their partners practice celibacy.
So what is a poor gay married CofE
bishop supposed to do?
His bosses tell him no sex please, you're a
while the state who sanctioned his civil
partnership makes clear that sex is a integral element of his
And pity the Inland Revenue
inspectors and Church Sextons (a propitious job title?) whose job is to police the gay-sex of
their respective constituents, ensuring that it is simultaneously taking
place and not, as the case may be. How they accomplish this vital
task on behalf of wider society I know not, but someone's got to make
sure the ridiculous rules are being upheld.
Nevertheless, it seems the only
chance for my non-gay buddy and me is for one of us to become an
Anglican bishop and then get
or the other way round. Provided we
can dodge both the taxman and the sexton, we get the tax-breaks without
the boudoir, er, unpleasantnesses.
But with one-man-one-woman marriage
now obsolete and the old-fashioned constraints of the phrase rendered
meaningless, don't get me started on marriage between
Amy and her fairground ride ...
I wrote sarcastically.
“Those damn Jews kept lobbing so many
rockets at the poor innocent Nazis that they had no choice but to round
them up, ship them to concentration camps and gas them”.
Sanya Petrovic Fukerkov took the
“You think the Palestinian rocket fire is
the bigger problem than the Israeli system”
I answered her with actual data,
and since it took me a bit of time to collate them, I though it
worthwhile to store the results here on my Tallrite Blog so as to have
it on record.
I hate being boring with
facts, I told her, but eight thousand rockets fired from Gaza into
Israel is in fact a big
The moment the rockets stop, the Gaza blockade as some call it will
stop. It's that simple.
Here's the breakdown (with sources).
Rockets fired into Israel
Total 2001-2012: 8,019
And since when I see a collection of numbers I
cannot resist drawing a chart, here it is. A colourful
pictures speaks a lot louder than numbers.
My two sources were:
Quora (which proclaims that it
“connects you to everything you
want to know about”)
Lap-Chee Tsui is the Vice-Chancellor of Hong Kong University, my
first alma mater. He created this
Chinese calligraphy of Fai Chun as a greeting to family and
friends to commemorate the Year of the
Snake, which begins on 10th February 2013 and runs until 31st January 2014. So
please accept this greeting from me to you.
In case you want to create your own Fai Chun, it's easy.
Unfortunately, we're going to
see rather too much of him
for the next four years
Now that the Senate has endorsed
John Kerry as Secretary of State for the next four years, in what has to be one of the
Buffoon-in-Chief's worst thought-through senior cabinet appointments (in
a field of ferocious competition), it's time to recall the Democratic
Presidential convention of 2004. After Mr Kerry gave a typically
ponderous vainglorious speech preceded by a childish “reporting-for-duty”
moment, he was endorsed as presidential
candidate, to face (and lose to) George W Bush who was seeking
During his campaign, he constantly bragged
about his military record in Vietnam, but this was thoroughly debunked by his
own comrades in arms, the so-called Swiftboaters, who refused to
subscribe to his baloney.
Cost of Corrib Protests
published in the Irish Times The report in your newspaper on the latest protests over Shell’s
development of the Corrib gas field that “the
cost of developing the Corrib gas field could be
four times the initial estimate of €800 million at
more than €3 billion”. Simultaneously, the
project timetable has trebled from four years
(delivery in 2007) to 12 (2015). These
overruns are due overwhelmingly to the protests
against a project that was and is proceeding in full
Higgins's wings clipped in full debate
[P!] Letter published in the Sunday Times on 11th November
In her hagiography of President Higgins, Alison O'Connor
describes her pleasure at hearing once more his
of American radio host Michael Graham. However she should do her research before indulging
such glee ...
Children Rights Referendum[P!] Letter to the Irish Times (published)
AND to the Irish Independent
(unpublished) Ireland's written constitution of 1937 is the third
oldest in the world, after America (1789) and Australia (1901). It has stood
the test of time like few others, through a world war, through a cold war,
through countless dictatorships ...
Ireland's freedom of speech
culture Letter (unpublished) to the Irish Independent
Regarding those remonstrating outside the Google
headquarters and US Embassy about the availability of some pathetic Youtube
clip, is it not ironic that they should use Ireland's freedom
of speech culture to protest against Ireland's freedom of speech culture?
Insult to Muhammad Letter (unpublished) to the Irish Times
Richard Kimball thinks that
offensive speech should be restricted for fear of possible
“public unrest”. I find that a highly offensive contention and call on
him to retract it and apologise ...
Price of medicines Letter (unpublished) to the Irish Times
The self-serving apologias in
respect of Ireland's exorbitant cost of medicines, as advanced by the Irish
Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association's Philip Hannon and by opthalmologist
Kate Coleman, would be amusing were they not so pathetic ...
Treaty an invitation to corruption Letter to the Irish Independent and to the Irish Times
The ESM Treaty, which when fully ratified will set up
a permanent €urozone bailout fund (out of non-existent money), is a
totalitarian abomination, which no patriot would ever sign his/her country
up to ...
Quote (19th March): “OK, so props don't ever join the referee
ranks because it's a lot of running. But would it be so harmful to
perhaps get a prop on the pitch to officiate at scrum-time only? He
could then leave the field until the next scrum. He wouldn't have to run
anywhere, he'd get free pies on the touchline, and we'd have a scrum
official who'd really know what was going on.”
A commentator's suggestion at the recent Wales/England
6-Nations championship decider (won 30-3 by Wales),
which was heavily punctuated by inscrutable penalties at scrum time.
The problem is that rugby referees are never props (who hate running)
and therefore never understand the mysterious, nefarious machinations
grinding within the dark recesses of a heaving, wheezing, sweat-laden
Hat-tip: Graham Hunt in Perth, Oz
Quote (19th March): “Sure what could go wrong? It is the day
after St Patrick’s Day, a roomful of Paddies, a free bar and the future
king of England. It’s going to be messy.”
Comedian Patrick Nulty at a €1,000-per-plate testimonial
in London for Irish rugby star Brian O'Driscoll,
attended by, inter alia, the Duke of Cambridge
Quote (19th Feb): “Ah no, I'll let someone else eat him. I know
him too well!”
Paddy Jack, in Dublin's Temple Bar Farmers' Market,
where he serves horse steak sandwiches in Ireland's only horse meat
He his referring to Do or Die, his pet racehorse
who is being trained to compete.
But if on the racecourse Do or Die fails to Do the
business he will Die
- and be served up on Mr Jack's stall.
Though for sentimental reasons not to Mr Jack himself.
Quote (12th Feb): “Nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase
our deficit by a single dime.”
President Obama explains in his 2013 State of the Union
that his proposed litany of more spending, new programs and new
will not increase America's $16½ trillion deficit “by a single dime”!
Quote (7th Feb): “My concrete question to the Irish presidency is:
what are you doing to tackle the problem of growing Christian persecution?”
MEP Peter van Dalen,
in response to the reported persecution of
a hundred 100 million Christians around the world,
demands that Ireland as current EU “president”,
take concrete action.
Ireland's response? Waffle, of course
Quote: “Statistics are like a bikini; it shows a lot but not
the whole thing.”
Scott Johnson, the Australian coach of
Scotland’s rugby union side,
before on 2nd February it lost (again) to England not just in points scored,
but on almost every other statistic measured during the match,
as indeed in most matches for the past thirty years Hattip: Graham Hunt
Quote: “For every hundred crimes
committed in Britain today just one criminal will end up with a conviction
in a court of law.”
Chris Huhne, Minister of Justice, in
bemoaning the easy ride 99% of criminals get.
Chris Huhne in 2013 became part of the
unlucky one percent
when he was convicted and jailed
for perverting the course of justice over ...
a speeding ticket.
“We don't have to pay England to be our friend, so why do we
have to pay Egypt?”
Senator Rand Paul objects to America
F-16s and cash to Egypt under the rule of its
anti-Semitic, holocaust-denying, dictatorship-creating
president Mohammed Morsi
Quote (Facebook, Philip O'Sullivan):
“Despite spending six centuries
buried under a car park, he still has better teeth than most of the guests
on the ghastly
Jeremy Kyle show.”
The best comment so far With regard to
King Richard III
“The Lemon Tree”, by Sandy
is a delightful novel-style history of modern Israel and Palestine told
through the eyes of a thoughtful protagonist from either side, with a
household lemon tree as their unifying theme.
But it's not
entirely honest in its subtle pro-Palestinian bias, and therefore needs
to be read in conjunction with an antidote, such as
This examines events which led to BP's 2010 Macondo blowout in
the Gulf of Mexico.
BP's ambitious CEO John Browne expanded it through adventurous
acquisitions, aggressive offshore exploration, and relentless
cost-reduction that trumped everything else, even safety and long-term
Thus mistakes accumulated, leading to terrifying and deadly accidents in
refineries, pipelines and offshore operations, and business disaster in
The Macondo blowout was but an inevitable outcome of a BP culture that
had become poisonous and incompetent.
However the book is gravely compromised by a
litany of over 40 technical and stupid
errors that display the author's ignorance and
It would be better
to wait for the second (properly edited) edition before buying.
As for BP, only a
wholesale rebuilding of a new, professional, ethical culture will
prevent further such tragedies and the eventual destruction of a once
mighty corporation with a long and generally honourable history.
nonagenarian Alistair Urquhart’sincredible story of survival in the Far
East during World War II.
After recounting a
childhood of convention and simple pleasures in working-class Aberdeen,
Mr Urquhart is conscripted within days of Chamberlain declaring war on
Germany in 1939.
From then until the
Japanese are deservedly nuked into surrendering six years later, Mr
Urquhart’s tale is one of first discomfort but then following the fall
of Singapore of ever-increasing, unmitigated horror.
After a wretched
journey Eastward, he finds himself part of Singapore’s big but useless
Taken prisoner when Singapore falls in
1941, he is, successively,
part of a death march to Thailand,
a slave labourer on the Siam/Burma
railway (one man died for every sleeper laid),
regularly beaten and tortured,
racked by starvation, gaping ulcers
and disease including cholera,
a slave labourer stevedoring at
shipped to Japan in a stinking,
closed, airless hold with 900 other sick and dying men,
torpedoed by the Americans and left
drifting alone for five days before being picked up,
a slave-labourer in Nagasaki until
blessed liberation thanks to the Americans’ “Fat Boy” atomic
distraught and traumatised on return to Aberdeen yet disdained by the
British Army, he slowly reconstructs a life. Only in his late 80s
is he able finally to recount his dreadful experiences in this
There are very few
first-person eye-witness accounts of the the horrors of Japanese
brutality during WW2. As such this book is an invaluable historical
“Culture of Corruption:
Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies”
This is a rattling good tale of the web
of corruption within which the American president and his cronies
operate. It's written by blogger Michele Malkin who, because she's both
a woman and half-Asian, is curiously immune to the charges of racism and
sexism this book would provoke if written by a typical Republican WASP.
With 75 page of notes to back up - in
best blogger tradition - every shocking and in most cases money-grubbing
allegation, she excoriates one Obama crony after another, starting with
the incumbent himself and his equally tricky wife.
Joe Biden, Rahm Emmanuel, Valerie Jarett,
Tim Geithner, Lawrence Summers, Steven Rattner, both Clintons, Chris
Dodd: they all star as crooks in this venomous but credible book.
ACORN, Mr Obama's favourite community
organising outfit, is also exposed for the crooked vote-rigging machine
This much trumpeted sequel to
Freakonomics is a bit of disappointment.
It is really just
a collation of amusing
little tales about surprising human (and occasionally animal) behaviour
and situations. For example:
Drunk walking kills more people per
kilometer than drunk driving.
People aren't really altruistic -
they always expect a return of some sort for good deeds.
Child seats are a waste of money as
they are no safer for children than adult seatbelts.
Though doctors have known for
centuries they must wash their hands to avoid spreading infection,
they still often fail to do so.
Monkeys can be taught to use washers
as cash to buy tit-bits - and even sex.
The book has no real
message other than don't be surprised how humans sometimes behave and
try to look for simple rather than complex solutions.
And with a final
anecdote (monkeys, cash and sex), the book suddenly just stops dead in
its tracks. Weird.
A remarkable, coherent attempt by Financial Times economist Alan Beattie
to understand and explain world history through the prism of economics.
It's chapters are
organised around provocative questions such as
Why does asparagus come from Peru?
Why are pandas so useless?
Why are oil and diamonds more trouble
than they are worth?
Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?
It's central thesis
is that economic development continues to be impeded in different
countries for different historical reasons, even when the original
rationale for those impediments no longer obtains. For instance:
Argentina protects its now largely
foreign landowners (eg George Soros)
Russia its military-owned
businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs
The US its cotton industry
comprising only 1% of GDP and 2% of its workforce
The author writes
in a very chatty, light-hearted matter which makes the book easy to
However it would
benefit from a few charts to illustrate some of the many quantitative
points put forward, as well as sub-chaptering every few pages to provide
natural break-points for the reader.
This is a thrilling book of derring-do behind enemy lines in the jungles
of north-east Burma in 1942-44 during the Japanese occupation.
The author was
a member of Britain's V Force, a forerunner of the SAS. Its remit was to
harass Japanese lines of
command, patrol their occupied territory, carryout sabotage and provide
intelligence, with the overall objective of keeping the enemy out of
is admirably yet brutally frank, in his
descriptions of deathly battles with the Japs, his execution of a
prisoner, dodging falling bags of rice dropped by the RAF, or collapsing
in floods of tears through accumulated stress, fear and loneliness.
He also provides some fascinating insights into the mentality of
Japanese soldiery and why it failed against the flexibility and devolved
authority of the British.
The book amounts to
a very human and exhilarating tale.
Oh, and Irwin
describes the death in 1943 of his colleague my uncle, Major PF