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Quotes for Issue 222

Cyprus Is All Gas

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I am back after a half-year hiatus, the result of a lot of personal and other stuff (including laziness)

ISSUE #222 - Quarter 1, 2013

Cyprus Gas Is All Gas - 23rd March 2013

Abominable CAP - 19th March 2013

Suicide Treblethink in Ireland - 7th March 2013

Spot the Odd One Out - 14th February 2013

World Will Frac - 6th February 2013

Policing Gay Boudoirs - 6th February 2013

Gaza Ghetto - 6th February 2013

Fai Chun - Year of the Snake - 6th February 2013

Anybody Here Seen Kerry? - 6th February 2013

Horseburger Groans - 6th February 2013

Issue 222’s Comments to Cyberspace

Cyprus Gas Is All Gas - 23rd March 2013

Don't believe what you hear about a gas bonanza

Cyprus is in economic turmoil, short of a mere €16 billion, 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. 

Premature to call Aphrodite a *field*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.) 

The 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 waves.

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,

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involving up to two thousands kilometres of subsea pipeline to Greece,

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in order to build

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an LNG liquefaction plant

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and an export port,

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 1 TCF that has been producing for 30 years, and another, Corrib, with 1 TCF Malampaya - from Palawan to Luzon.  Click to enlargewhich will have cost €2 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, Malampaya, which 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 to enlarge the chart).  When discovered, the reserves were estimated by my team to be 1.1 TCF of gas (since upgraded to 2.7 TCF), and development entailed a record-breaking 24 subsea pipeline to Luzon along a seabed fraught with faults and instabilities.  Malampaya took nine years to appraise and develop, at a cost of $4 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 discovery.

Aphrodite - a classic case of wishful thinking

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/probably sixty. 

This is fanciful talk in the extreme. 

What early Cypriot Pounds will look like, until there is time to print proper onesWhen perhaps a dozen wells have been drilled (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 Pound. 

Or the EU blinks first and ponys up the extra €6bn in order to save the (nevertheless doomed) €uro for a little longer.

This is the outcome I would bet on.

Back to List of Contents

  Abominable CAP - 19th March 2013

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 sources):

The CAP is abomination which

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extorts massive sums from 95% of EU citizens,

 
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which it then throws at the 5% who farm things,

 
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but for a cost that is three times what customers want to pay.

  • That’s why  

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    subsidies account for over 70% of Irish farm income

     
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    (amounting to nearly two billion €uro per year

     
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    out of the total EU CAP budget of €52 bn),

     
  • which is why the CAP eats 38% of the EU budget, and  

  • why the CAP adds €500 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

    bullet

    the subsidised dumping of surplus EU (and also US) agricultural products

     
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    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 dealers. 

    Even in this lively TV discussion about farming, so pervasive was the narcotic that not a single person talked about actual farming, only the subsidies. 

    Imagine if that energy went into actual, you know, farming. 

    Back to List of Contents

     

    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

     

    Suicide Treblethink in Ireland - 7th March 2013

    From compassion to blood sacrifice

    George Orwell, in Nineteen Eighty-Four, his seminal though subtle diatribe against global tyranny, introduced the world to many new words that have since entered the English language: Orwell's prescient diatribe against global tyrannyBig Brother, thoughtcrime, newspeak, memory hole, duckspeak, unperson ... doublethink. 

    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,

    1. a terrible thing that must be prevented by all means,

    2. a wonderful thing that must be accommodated by all means,

    3. a dreadful worry that can be alleviated only by blood sacrifice.

    Examples:

    1     A Terrible Thing

    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 7% tax be levied on alcohol sales (excluding pubs and restaurants) in order to fund €86 million worth of suicide prevention services.  Its report, Actions 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 males. 

    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 real difference. 

    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 Thing

    Living the terror of locked-in syndromeWe 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 The 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 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. 

    For Irishwoman 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 a legacy. 

    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. 

    For example in England, abortion up to 28 weeks was legalised in The Abortion Act of 1967, even though the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act remained in place, rendering abortion illegal under pain of life imprisonment. 

    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 200,000 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 was pregnant. 

    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.

    Treblethink

    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? 

    Back to List of Contents

    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 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 (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 address
    that his proposed litany of more spending, new programs and new bureaucracies
    will not increase America's $16 trillion deficit by a single dime”! 

    Yes, really!

    Back to List of Contents

    Spot the Odd One Out -14 February 2013
     
    Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams Pope Benedict XVI
    Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands Queen Elizabeth II

    The odd one out is of course the one in 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 retirement age. 

    bulletRowan 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.
    bulletPope Benedict XVI, aged 85, will retire on 28th February triggering a Papal Conclave of cardinals to elect a successor. 
    bulletQueen 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. 
    bullet86-year-old Queen Elizabeth II won't step down at all, so leaving 64-year-old Prince Charles (barring a not entirely implausible regicide-matricide) to dangle on for time indeterminate.

    From the Sunday Times, 17th Feb 2013

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Back to List of Contents

    Quote (7th Feb): “My concrete question to the Irish presidency is: what are you doing to tackle the problem of growing Christian persecution?

    Dutch 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

    Back to List of Contents

    World Will Frac - 6th February 2013

    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

    A year ago, I wrote in some detail a post called Truth About Fraccing” (http://tiny.cc/fraccing) which  

    bullet

    takes away much of the mystery surrounding this essentially simple but not widely understood technique to squeeze more hydrocarbons out of the ground, and

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    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. 

    Vertical and horizontal wells, fracced

    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.)

    High oil prices foster innovation, such as fraccing

    This unleashed technology has three legs that together are yielding results that are truly startling:

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    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. 

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    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. 

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    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. 1  its consumption has steadily exceeded its ability to find new hydrocarbons, allied with ...

    2. 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. 

    Perils of US oil production and imports

    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. 

    That is because fraccing is, simply, making available huge quantities of hydrocarbons within the Western countries themselves, changing the energy picture dramatically.  

    This tabulation, which appeared in World Oil magazine last August, uses data published by the Energy Information Administration, a US Federal body which collates and analysises energy information.

    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.

    First Oil:

    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 years. 

    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 trillion dollars.)

    Then Gas:

    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 MENAf

    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

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    fomenting Islamic hostility against the West for decades,

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    lavishly funding hate-filled mosques and madrassas that preach rabid anti-infidelism and anti-Semitism to adults and children alike,

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    undermining Western democracies,

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    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. 

    6,622 TCF of potential gas reserves from fracced shale, in the dark red areas

    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. 

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    In June 2008 the price of natural gas was 12.69 per mBTU (million British Thermal Units);

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    by April 2012 this had crashed by over 80% to just $1.82. 

    From The Economist, 2nd March 2013

    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 commercial airliners.

    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 future generations.

    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. 

    Back to List of Contents

    Policing Gay Boudoirs - 6th February 2013

    Confusion about who must and who must not
    indulge in gay sex in the brave new world of gay marriage

    Same-sex 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. 

    Joyce and Sybil Burden, 95 and 87This 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 rights?

    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 partnership. 

    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 weremarried 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 woman.) 

    Gene Robinson and Mark Andrew are "married" by a female priest

    Predictably, when the Reverend became a Bishop six years later, the Anglican community outside America (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? 

    bullet

    His bosses tell him no sex please, you're a bishop,

    bullet

    while the state who sanctioned his civil partnership makes clear that sex is an integral element of his partnership.

    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 married”, 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 ...  

    Amy Wolfe wants to marry this 80ft high Gondola ride

    Back to List of Contents

    Gaza Ghetto - 6th February 2013

    No logic or reason informs the arguments of Israel-haters and/or Jew-haters
    (if indeed there is a difference)

    This is a cartoon from the Facebook page,  Israel is a War Criminal, to which I couldn't resist responding.

    A site for anti-Semites

    Yeah right”, 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 bait: 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 problem.

    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

    2001: 7 2005: 401 2009: 569
    2002: 42 2006: 1716 2010: 150
    2003: 105 2007: 1271 2011: 386
    2004: 159 2008: 1399 2012: 1814

    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. 

    Palestinian Rocket Attacks on Israel from Gaza

    My two sources were:

    bullet

    Quora (which proclaims that it connects you to everything you want to know about) and

    bullet

    Jewish Virtual Library (Sanya will hate that!)

    Eventually the discussion thread petered out when my opponents tired of calling me names and inventing facts.   

    Back to List of Contents

    Fai Chun - Year of the Snake - 6th February 2013

    Hey, it's just a snake

    Fai Chun

    Professor 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.  Here's how.

    <div class="yt-alert yt-alert-default yt-alert-error yt-alert-player"> <div class="yt-alert-icon"> <img src="//s.ytimg.com/yts/img/pixel-vfl3z5WfW.gif" class="icon master-sprite" alt="Alert icon"> </div> <div class="yt-alert-buttons"></div><div class="yt-alert-content" role="alert"> <span class="yt-alert-vertical-trick"></span> <div class="yt-alert-message"> You need Adobe Flash Player to watch this video. <br> <a href="http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/">Download it from Adobe.</a> </div> </div></div>

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    Anybody Here Seen Kerry? - 6th February 2013

    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 re-election. 

    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. 

    So I couldn't help mocking him. 

    Have a fifty-second listen.

    Back to List of Contents

    Horseburger Groans - 6th February 2013

    Groan

    I've eaten one too many of those equine burgers; I reckon I can't take another - I am horse de combat.

    If, following the horse-in-burger-meat scandal, you are groaning from one too many horseburger jokes, and would like to groan some more, I have collected all the ones I could (easily) find.  You can find them on one of my Light Relief pages

    Groan. 
     

    Back to List of Contents

    Issue 222’s Comments to Cyberspace
    Period August 2012 to February 2013

    bullet

    Cost of Corrib Protests [P!]
    Letter 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 compliance ...

    Protests have destroyed 75% of tax revenues from Corrib

    bullet

    Assorted Online Comments - February 2013
    Comment made a singe article (so far) in the Irish Times

    bullet

    Assorted Online Comments - January 2013
    Comments made to nine articles in the Irish Times and
    a vitriolic thread in the left-wing Cedar Lounge Revolution

    bullet

    Assorted Online Comments - December 2012
    Comments made to seven articles, all in the Irish Times

    bullet

    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
    slapdown of American radio host Michael Graham.  However she should do her research before indulging such glee ...

    bullet

    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 ...

    bullet

    Assorted Online Comments - November 2012
    Comments made to four articles, all in the Irish Times

    bullet

    Assorted Online Comments - October 2012
    Comments made to six articles, all in the Irish Times

    bullet

    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?

    bullet

    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 ...

    bullet

    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 ...

    bullet

    Assorted Online Comments - September 2012
    Comments made to eleven articles, all in the Irish Times

    bullet

    Assorted Online Comments - August 2012
    Comments made to seven articles, all in the Irish Times

    bullet

    ESM 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 ...

    Back to List of Contents

    Quotes for Issue 222

    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,
    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

    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 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 (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 address
    that his proposed litany of more spending, new programs and new bureaucracies
    will not increase America's $16 trillion deficit by a single dime”! 

    Yes, really!

    Quote (7th Feb): “My concrete question to the Irish presidency is: what are you doing to tackle the problem of growing Christian persecution?

    Dutch 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, 18-38,
    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 2008
    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. 

    Quote: “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 sending
    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

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    See the Archive and Blogroll at top left and right, for your convenience

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     What I've recently
    been reading

    The Lemon Tree, by Sandy Tol, 2006
    “The Lemon Tree”, by Sandy Tol (2006),
    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
    The Case for Israel, Alan Dershowitz, 2004

    See detailed review

    +++++

    Drowning in Oil - Macondo Blowout
    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 technical sustainability.  

    Thus mistakes accumulated, leading to terrifying and deadly accidents in refineries, pipelines and offshore operations, and business disaster in Russia.  

    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 carelessness. 

    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.

    Note: I wrote my own reports on Macondo
    in
    May, June, and July 2010

    +++++

    Published in April 2010; banned in Singapore

    A horrific account of:

    bullet

    how the death penalty is administered and, er, executed in Singapore,

    bullet

    the corruption of Singapore's legal system, and

    bullet

    Singapore's enthusiastic embrace of Burma's drug-fuelled military dictatorship

    More details on my blog here.

    +++++

    Product Details
    This is nonagenarian Alistair Urquhart’s incredible 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 garrison.

    Taken prisoner when Singapore falls in 1941, he is, successively,

    bullet

    part of a death march to Thailand,

    bullet

    a slave labourer on the Siam/Burma railway (one man died for every sleeper laid),

    bullet

    regularly beaten and tortured,

    bullet

    racked by starvation, gaping ulcers and disease including cholera,

    bullet

    a slave labourer stevedoring at Singapore’s docks,

    bullet

    shipped to Japan in a stinking, closed, airless hold with 900 other sick and dying men,

    bullet

    torpedoed by the Americans and left drifting alone for five days before being picked up,

    bullet

    a slave-labourer in Nagasaki until blessed liberation thanks to the Americans’ “Fat Boy” atomic bomb.

    Chronically ill, 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 unputdownable book.

    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 document.

    +++++

    Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies
    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 it is.

    +++++

    Superfreakonomics
    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:

    bullet

    Drunk walking kills more people per kilometer than drunk driving.

    bullet

    People aren't really altruistic - they always expect a return of some sort for good deeds.

    bullet

    Child seats are a waste of money as they are no safer for children than adult seatbelts.

    bullet

    Though doctors have known for centuries they must wash their hands to avoid spreading infection, they still often fail to do so. 

    bullet

    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.

    ++++++

    False Economy: A Surprising Economic History of the World
    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

    bullet

    Why does asparagus come from Peru?

    bullet

    Why are pandas so useless?

    bullet

    Why are oil and diamonds more trouble than they are worth?

    bullet

    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:

    bullet

    Argentina protects its now largely foreign landowners (eg George Soros)

    bullet

    Russia its military-owned businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs

    bullet

    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 digest. 

    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. 

    +++++

    Burmese Outpost, by Anthony Irwin
    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 India.   

    Irwin 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 Brennan.

    +++++

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    Neda Agha Soltan;
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    14th September 2009
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    FREED AT LAST,
    ON 18th OCTOBER 2011,
    GAUNT BUT OTHERWISE REASONABLY HEALTHY

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     What I've recently
    been reading

    The Lemon Tree, by Sandy Tol, 2006
    “The Lemon Tree”, by Sandy Tol (2006),
    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
    The Case for Israel, Alan Dershowitz, 2004

    See detailed review

    +++++

    Drowning in Oil - Macondo Blowout
    This
    examines events which led to BP's 2010 Macondo blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. 

    BP's ambitious CEO John Browne expanded BP through adventurous acquisitions, aggressive offshore exploration, and relentless cost-reduction that trumped everything else, even safety and long-term technical sustainability.  

    Thus mistakes accumulated, leading to terrifying and deadly accidents in refineries, pipelines and offshore operations, and business disaster in Russia.  

    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 carelessness. 

    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.

    Note: I wrote my own reports on Macondo
    in
    May, June, and July 2010

    +++++

    Published in April 2010; banned in Singapore

    A horrific account of:

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    how the death penalty is administered and, er, executed in Singapore,

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    the corruption of Singapore's legal system, and

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    Singapore's enthusiastic embrace of Burma's drug-fuelled military dictatorship

    More details on my blog here.

    +++++

    Product Details
    This is nonagenarian Alistair Urquhart’s incredible 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 garrison.

    Taken prisoner when Singapore falls in 1941, he is, successively,

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    part of a death march to Thailand,

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    a slave labourer on the Siam/Burma railway (one man died for every sleeper laid),

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    regularly beaten and tortured,

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    racked by starvation, gaping ulcers and disease including cholera,

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    a slave labourer stevedoring at Singapore’s docks,

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    shipped to Japan in a stinking, closed, airless hold with 900 other sick and dying men,

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    torpedoed by the Americans and left drifting alone for five days before being picked up,

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    a slave-labourer in Nagasaki until blessed liberation thanks to the Americans’ “Fat Boy” atomic bomb.

    Chronically ill, 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 unputdownable book.

    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 document.

    +++++

    Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies
    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 it is.

    +++++

    Superfreakonomics
    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:

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    Drunk walking kills more people per kilometer than drunk driving.

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    People aren't really altruistic - they always expect a return of some sort for good deeds.

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    Child seats are a waste of money as they are no safer for children than adult seatbelts.

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    Though doctors have known for centuries they must wash their hands to avoid spreading infection, they still often fail to do so. 

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    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.

    ++++++

    False Economy: A Surprising Economic History of the World
    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

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    Why does asparagus come from Peru?

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    Why are pandas so useless?

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    Why are oil and diamonds more trouble than they are worth?

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    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:

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    Argentina protects its now largely foreign landowners (eg George Soros)

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    Russia its military-owned businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs

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    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 digest. 

    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. 

    +++++

    Burmese Outpost, by Anthony Irwin
    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 India.   

    Irwin 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 Brennan.

    +++++

    Other books here


    Won by New Zealand


    Won by New Zealand

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    After 48 crackling, compelling, captivating games, the new World Champions are, deservedly,
    SOUTH AFRICA

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