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November 2011


ISSUE #217 - November 2011 [135+2267=2702]

Myspace Clocks, Video Clocks, Flash Clocks, Fun Clocks at

ISSUE #217 - November 2011

Back to President Obama’s (un)popularity; date is on the charts. (Click to get the latest version.)

Rasmussen Daily Poll - 8 Nov 2011

47% Total Approval as at 8 Nov 2011


Corrib – Ireland’s Last Offshore Development for a Generation - 26th November 2011


Criminal Deception by Creditor Banks - 9th November 2011


Simple Principles of Job Creation - 9th November 2011


Issue 217’s Comments to Cyberspace - 9th November 2011


Quotes for Issue 217  - 9th November 2011

Corrib – Ireland’s Last Offshore Development for a Generation - 26th November

Protests – overwhelmingly unfounded and politically unchallenged –
have trebled the cost of developing Ireland’s offshore Corrib gasfield. 
This huge “
political risk” will deter further such investments for a generation.

Many years ago, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, there was a Dutch company with an Irish name, Shell Teoranta BV, whose raison d’être was to seek and hopefully find oil offshore Ireland (Teoranta is Irish for "Limited).  It drilled a number of wells – for  example, on 19th December 1979, the Irish Times featured a photo of a jack-up rig drilling an exploration well just offshore Dublin – but to no avail.  All the holes were dry.  Concluding that Ireland was a lost cause, Shell Teoranta packed its bags and shut up shop, though not before claiming a huge write-off from the Dutch taxpayer for all its futile Irish expenditure, a provision of Netherlands law which explains why Shell Teoranta was registered there. Shell reckoned it had better uses for its shareholders' money than to fritter it away on the ultra-long-shots of Irish exploration. 

Fast forward a few decades and Enterprise Oil, a significant independent British oil company though not in the same league as the majors, disproved Shell's pessimism by discovering, in 1996, a small-to-medium sized gas field offshore Mayo, which it called Corrib.  Containing natural gas reserves eventually calculated to be around one TCF, ie a trillion cubic feet (equivalent to the energy of about 170 million barrels of oil), it lay 3,000 metres below the seabed in waters 350 metres deep some 83km off the north west coast of Ireland.  Notwithstanding that weather and sea conditions are among Europe's wildest, and that Ireland possesses the barest of offshore oilfield infrastructure, the economics were nevertheless positive – albeit marginally so – thanks largely to the improved (from the oil industry’s standpoint) contract terms promulgated in 1987 by Energy Minister Ray Burke. 

Location of Corrib Project

Enterprise Oil had never before attempted such a demanding project.  Yet in the year 2000 it decided to go ahead with bringing Corrib’s hydrocarbons ashore anyway, quickly busying itself with organizing finance, drawing up engineering plans and ordering equipment.  Yet its inexperience manifested itself early on and remained long undetected when it failed to discuss in any detail its plans with the local people, listen to their concerns and secure their enthusiastic support.  This is an elementary but vital step in the project process that the international oil industry has learnt the hard way over many decades. 

The world-wide eruption of protests in 1995 at Shell's environmentally sound decision to sink the North Sea platform Brent Spar in the far Atlantic was one of that company's bitterest lessons.  This reputational catastrophe showed in starkest terms that it was no longer sufficient for the industry to be right; it must convince those who might be affected (even if only emotionally) by its plans that it is right.  Even Greenpeace eventually acknowledged that Shell's original plan would have had minimal ecological impact – Brent Spar had been comprehensively voided of all toxic material and there is anyway little life on the Atlantic seabed at a depth of 2½  kilometers.  Shell realised that its prior philosophy of “Trust me” must be replaced by one of “Show me”.

Enterprise Oil's failure to ensure that the locals were onside over the Corrib development was a mistake with enormous long term implications, as anyone with but a passing interest in the activist Shell-to-Sea organization will be aware. 

In April 2002, Shell, chastened no doubt by the voracious acquisition of the US oil companies Arco and Amoco in recent years by its arch-rival BP, splashed out £3.5 billion to buy Enterprise Oil, whose portfolio of assets fitted rather well with Shell's.

But like someone sitting down to a lunch of two dozen luscious Gillardeau  oysters, the world’s most expensive, only to discover a bad 'un among them, Shell found itself responsible for delivering a demanding major offshore development project in Ireland, by no means a blockbuster, in the country it had with good reason foresworn twenty years earlier.  Oh, and its return to Ireland meant it had to refund Shell Teoranta's juicy rebate from the 1980s back to the Dutch taxpayer.  

Nevertheless, Shell in good faith put together a team, including some Enterprise personnel, to take over the Corrib project.  Drawing on its extensive experience and expertise in this type of deep water harsh environment, it reviewed the Enterprise plans and in 2003 agreed a budget of €800,000 and four years.  First gas, as it is known, was expected in 2007.   

In outline, the plan was


to drill a number of additional wells offshore,


to produce gas from them through “Christmas Trees” (the set of control valves at the top of every well) to be located on the seabed,


to direct the gas from the Christmas Trees into a central manifold also on the sea floor,


and thence via a 20-inch diameter submarine pipeline the 83km to shore. 


In this little-developed, sparsely-populated rural part of County Mayo near the tiny village of Ballinaboy,


the gas would be carried by a nine kilometres onshore pipeline, also of 20 inch diameter,


to where a gas plant would be built. 


This plant would separate the pipeline content into

dry, clean gas, to be sold to Bord Gais, the state gas company for
distribution to retail and commercial consumers,


condensate (a valuable gasoline-like liquid petroleum which is always found dissolved in natural gas), which would be trucked to a refinery in Cork,


water, which after scrupulous purification would be pumped into the sea, 


and other waste and recyclable products to be disposed of safely. 


An umbilical cable would run parallel to the pipeline to provide controls to the distant subsea installations. 


Corrib development


Among the necessary legislative consents and authorizations already in place by then were


consent to construct the Corrib gas pipeline (83 km offshore plus 9 km onshore)


Authorisation under the Continental Shelf Act


Approval for the Plan for Development


Foreshore licence for the pipeline, umbilical and outfall pipe

So all was looking rosy.  What could possibly go wrong?  Well, quite a lot as it turned out.  None of it technical or financial or labour-related, the classical reasons most big projects run into trouble. 

Shell's first error was not to realise that there was a potential problem with the residents in the Ballinaboy area of County Mayo where the onshore pipeline was to be laid and the gas plant built. 

Understandably, families were initially fearful that gas explosions might destroy their houses or even kill them.  They strongly preferred that the gas plant be located offshore (out of sight out of mind). 

Enterprise Oil had done very little to explain to the residents not only the project, its robust safeguards and the virtual impossibility of the disaster scenarios they imagined, but also the benefits it was likely to bring to that relatively impoverished area in terms of employment, regeneration and reputation. 

On the issue of explosion, designing an onshore pipeline is one of the easiest tasks an oil and gas engineer faces. 


The pressure and chemical composition of the contents are accurately known,


steels can be selected according to their precisely known strength, flexibility and composition,


the circular cross-section of a pipe is the simplest of geometries for accurately calculating the stresses, hence leading to appropriate selection of steel, diameter and wall thickness,


specially designed inhibitors can be pumped to neutralise internal chemical attack,


regular internal inspections with advanced tools can confirm the ongoing integrity of the pipeline through its lifetime. 

Thus a properly designed, operated and maintained pipeline simply will not fail, and speculation about failure is pointless. 

Though the onshore pipeline was (initially) to run within 70 metres of some homes, as for the plant itself, it was sufficiently remote from residents' buildings for them to be unaffected even in the highly unlikely event of a disaster. 

But by the time, Shell recognised it had a problem with the locals, that problem had transformed from a rational fear to an emotional fury.  With the fury came press attention, with that came international interest, with that Corrib became a cause célèbre, and an opportunity for professional objectors everywhere to vent their manufactured spleen at a wicked multinational oil company whose only desire is to destroy the lives of simple natives.  

Inevitably, Shell's past “sins” were thrown into the pot, notably


the attempted disposal of Brent Spar into the Atlantic ocean (the falsity of the issue was of no interest),


cavalier oil pollution in Nigeria (usually caused by sabotage either to steal product or by landowners hoping for higher compensation than growing crops would yield), and


especially the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight colleagues supposedly at Shell's instigation because they were objecting to its activities. (Actually, they were convicted in a Nigerian court of law of inciting the murder of four village elders; Shell had no hand or part in it and indeed lobbied vociferously for clemency). 

The professional objectors have on several occasions been joined by overseas protestors, including the son of Mr Saro-Wiwa.  And with the inauguration in November of the left-wing Michael D Higgins as Ireland’s new president, the objectors now number the First Citizen among their supporters.  Though some funds are raised via websites, it is unclear who provides the bulk of its funding, but Sinn Fein and other sinister sources have been cited.  I have asked the major anti-Corrib pressure group “Shell to Sea” where it gets its money and am still awaiting a reply. 

Meanwhile, from the moment Shell got involved with Corrib until the present, it has been on the back foot in trying present its side of the story to the world while simultaneously progressing the project. 

I first wrote about these objections, in some detail, almost two years ago, in a piece titled Organizational Dementia”. 

The project itself has been exemplary in its technical aspects, and indeed in many ways is an industry trailblazer.  Shell, and particularly Ireland, should be in the position of bragging to the world of its prowess.  Ireland should be using the success of Corrib as a means to attract not just future investment in offshore (and indeed onshore) exploration and production, but also the vast, highly technical contract industry that supports such activities. 

Instead, the project is conducted almost behind closed doors and talked about in whispers, in the shadow of continuous low-level but toxic protest, for fear of unleashing another round of hysterical tabloid agitation.  Earlier this year, a private, low-key purely technical presentation about the project to a select group of about fifty interested engineers had to be cancelled when Shell-to-Sea got wind and threatened to disrupt the meeting and call in the media. 

For Shell, all these difficulties has pushed up the price tag from €800m to €2.5 billion.  But the nation is also paying a terrible cost that, both now and in the future, that no country can afford in these times of financial crisis and meltdown. 

It is instructive to compare Corrib with other recent major offshore development projects.  One such is Norway’s Ormen Lange, in which Shell holds 17% and recently took over the running of the field:


Offshore Gas Field


Ormen Lange










Gas reserves




Reservoir depth

3,000 metres

3,000 metres


Water depth

350 metres

800-1,200 metres


Distance from shore

83 km

140 km


Subsea wells




Subsea manifolds




Subsea pipeline

One, 20”, 83 km

Two, 30”, 140 km


Onshore processing plant




Approval granted


April 2004


First gas planned




First Gas delivered

2015 (est)

October 2007


Original budget

€0.8 billion

$12 billion


Delivery cost

€2.5 billion (est)

$12 billion

So Ormen Lange, by any measure a bigger more complex project even than Corrib, was delivered on budget in just 3½ years.  Corrib, on the other hand, is expected to take twelve years - three times as long as originally planned – and to cost three times its original budget. 

Have a look at another major construction project in an entirely different industry – aircraft construction.  Boeing dreamt up its 787 Dreamliner in January 2003 and eventually delivered it in October 2011.  This was 3½ years behind schedule, a big overrun, which was solely due to technical problems, apart from a two-month Boeing Machinists Strike

Corrib’s far greater delay, by comparison, is due not to technical problems at all, nor financial ones nor labour ones.  Local politics, and the way they were handled, are entirely to blame.  How embarrassing is that? 

The local politics boil down purely to those objections by local people, and their national and international supporters, to the onshore elements of the project, objections with only the thinnest veneer of legitimacy to start with, and none at all following substantial concessions instituted by Shell, principally


the relocation of 600,000 cubic metres of peat from the plant site,


a reduction of pipeline operating pressure from 5,000 psi to 1,500 psi,


twice re-routing of the onshore pipeline to shift its closest point to people’s homes from 70 metres to 234m and within – incredibly – a tunnel.   

The 4.2m diameter tunnel, stretching 4.9km beneath Sruwaddaton Bay making it Ireland's longest, will have added some €400m and two years to project delivery. 

Successive pipeline routes, culminating in a tunnel through Sruwaddaton Bay

Meanwhile, for the past eight years the politicians have steadfastly looked on with, at best, bemused disinterest and without the slightest concern for Ireland’s industrial reputation.  Moreover, enforcement of the law has been low on their priorities and many (including the current president) have overtly supported the activists. 

So view Corrib from the standpoint of outside investors.  A major, innovative project that has encountered no substantive problems in terms of technology, finance or industrial relations, is nevertheless delivered three times over budget and over time, due entirely to local impediments and the complete lack of political will to overcome them. 

People will look at Ireland, and surely assign it a massive political risk of 200% to 300%. 

The Corrib experience is such that there will undoubtedly be no further major investments of this nature in Ireland for at least a generation until this one has been forgotten.  Even industrial investors in other heavy industries will be looking askance at Ireland and asking themselves if the favourable corporate tax rate of 12½% is really worth the enormous cost of all the political hassle it can expect from local objectors and the spinelessness of politicians. 

Far better to sink your money in havens such as Somalia and Iraq where the political risk will be much less punitive than in the erstwhile Celtic Tiger. 

Ireland's chance to showpiece its technical expertise and perhaps secure for itself a permanent corner of the massive, lucrative and long-lasting offshore market for the future is gone. 

Meanwhile, Shell is licking its wounds and battling on.  Eventually, once natural gas finally begins to flow in 2015 (?) it will get its money back as it supplies Ireland with 60% of its gas, but it will be a long long slog. 

Declaration of interest:
I worked for Shell for thirty years, though not through the Corrib period

Late Note:
This post was re-published, with my permission,
by Royal Dutch Shell plc .com, a site that mainly tries to catch Shell out.

Back to List of Contents

Criminal Deception by Creditor Banks- 9th November 2011

Creditor banks, by failing to discount debts they know will never be repaid in full,
are guilty of criminal deception that in other industries is severely punished

In the mid-Noughties, Shell was convulsed by a major, almost existential crisis, which, unlike those of a decade earlier, was of an entirely non-technical non-environmental nature. 

In 2004, Shell confessed that for several years it had been exaggerating its oil reserves by a whopping 3.9 billion barrels, or 20%.  A company's oil reserve statement is its best estimate of how much future oil it is able to produce based on current technology, current oil prices and current legislation; the more it has the richer it is.  Shell's overstated reserves meant overstated future profits and thus an overstated share price, which promptly crashed wiping out £3 billion of investors' savings

As a result, Shell had to pay, inter alia, a $381 million settlement to shareholders, a $120m fine to the US Securities and Exchange Commission and a £17m fine to Britain's Financial Services Authority.  Phil Watts the CEO was fired, retired to his secluded mansion in the south of England and dare not ever visit the USA for fear of imprisonment. 

In other words, the penalties when a private commercial company deceives the markets as to its wealth are very severe. 

Which brings us to the EU's banking crisis.  The PIGIS of €uroland, soon to become the BIPIGS (Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain), are facing economic ruin because they each have debts so great that no-one in his/her heart believes they can ever be repaid in full.  But if all (or even some) of the BIPIGS default, the €uro will come crashing down and the EU itself will probably split asunder.  That is why the EU, aided by the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, have beenbailing out” stricken countries as their debts fall due, in exchange for severe austerity to bring national budgets back into balance (eventually). 

But the term is a misnomer.  If I am in a sinking boat and someone bails me out, it means he scoops out water and throws it out of the boat.  The EU/ECB/IMF troika is doing no such thing.  Under intense pressure from Germany and France in particular, it is lending money to allow countries like Ireland to pay their debts, but of course those countries still owe the money, just to the troika instead of to the original creditors.  In other words, water is being bailed out of the prow of the boat and transferred to the aft; it's still sinking just as fast. 

What is actually getting bailed-out” is of course the BIPIGS' creditors - those banks and institutions so intrinsically stupid that they lent billions to equally stupid countries like Ireland who were always incapable of repayment.  And who are those creditors? Overwhelmingly, they are German and French financial institutions.  They are so exposed to the BIPIGS that should they default, the whole Franco-German banking system is in danger of collapse.  If that weren't enough, beyond Europe, German banks are also holding up to a hundred billion dollars (some say a trillion dollars) of American sub-prime mortgages, whose utter junkness triggered the current financial tsunami in 2008. 

But the question to ask is this.  Why are these banks carrying these debts on their books at full their value when it is quite obvious that they should be written down to a figure that reflects the very real risk that their creditors will default partially if not totally? 


On 27th October, the EU granted Greece a 50% write-down of its sovereign debts from €200 billion to €100 bn


On 5th November, Ireland repaid in full (for reasons few understand) €713 billion of debt to unsecured bondholders, yet so unexpected was this bonanza that only a few months ago this debt was trading at a mere half of its face value.  

These are just two examples of why the German, French and other bondholding banks and institutions should already have written down the value of their loan books by something in the order of 50%.  But they haven't because this would make them look bad and devastate their own share prices. 

Yet what, exactly, is the qualitative difference between


Shell overstating its oil reserves by 20%, hence exaggerating its intrinsic worth, and


banks overstating their loan books by up to a hundred percent, hence exaggerating their intrinsic worth?

I would say there is no difference.  Yet Shell (rightly) gets fined hundreds of millions and its CEO, in order to escape an American jail, has effectively to go into semi-hiding for life. 

This gets to the heart of the rottenness of the EU's banking system and the EUrocratic élite who are conspiring to conceal what is in effect a criminal enterprise of deception.  Right now, the German and French banks are in deep trouble because they have nothing like the wealth they are pretending to have. 


The Greek government, in order to be accepted into the €uro in the early 2000s, deliberately lied that its deficit was under the required 3% when the true figure was a staggering 15.4%


Likewise the Franco-German banks are now deliberately lying about the health of their balance sheets by wilfully applying no discounts to their loans. 


And so are the German and French governments, as egged on by Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Nicolas Sarkozy, Merkozy as they are jointly nicknamed. 

Last year, John Lanchester published an acclaimed book called Whoops! Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay”.  The sooner Merkozy get their arrogant heads around this notion the sooner some kind of solution, involving mass default followed by mass rebuilding, can occur.  The more they kick the can down the road with their lies, the bigger the can is getting and the more painful the inevitable outcome will be. 

Jonathan Swift, in his prescient poem  of 1734, “The Run Upon the Bankers, wrote

A baited banker thus desponds,
From his own hand foresees his fall,
They have his soul, who have his bonds;
'Tis like the writing on the wall

But he is wrong, for his verse assumes the bonds will be repaid.  But as Mr Lanchester explains, today's mega-giga-bonds will largely not be repaid.  As such it is the debtors (which includes the BIPIGS) who have the soul of the Merkozy creditors and their ilk, not the other way round. 

Putting off the evil day, whether it is through shying away from default or criminally falsifying the balance sheets of creditor institutions, is only making the ultimate day of reckoning far worse. 

Late note (13th November):

Behind its paywall, the Sunday Times reports that Italy's new prime minister Mario Monti says that  growth should come not through further recourse to debt but through removal of the obstacles that have acted as brakes on our growth

He must have read this post.

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Simple Principles of Job Creation - 9th November 2011

Creating jobs would be easy if only Governments
would remove roadblocks and get out of the way

Everyone is at it.  Telling you how much of other people's money they are getting rid of investing in the quest to create jobs”:


President Barack Obama (blowing half a trillion dollars),


Prime Minister Cameron (a billion pounds down the swanee),


President Nicolas Sarkozy (1.3 billion €uro never to be seen again),


Taoiseach Enda Kenny (18.2 billion €uro on various hare-brained schemes). 

Interestingly not one of these esteemed gentleman has ever, in fact, created a single job in his life.  Oh he will tell you about this initiative and that tax concession and the other festival he arranged, which resulted in thousands of new jobs.  But in every case he has (a) used other people's money to do what he wanted to do and (b) never met a single payroll himself.  The jobs have actually been created by businessmen risking their own cash. 

The other interesting point is that among the entire political class across the world there is a conviction that it can only create jobs by spending money - money that of course belongs to other people (known as taxpayers).  That's why they prefer to talk about investing”, as this is a more upbeat-sounding euphemism which suggests there might one day be an economic return (ha!). 

But if these revered Statesmen were to talk to a few actual, you know, businessmen who actually do, you know, create jobs, the scales might fall from their eyes.  Because any businessman will tell you that the single biggest obstacle to job creation is the series of roadblocks thrown in his/her path by the State itself. 

Remove the roadblocks and the jobs will simply follow, just as traffic flows smoothly once you take away the barriers.  And the beauty of this is that it costs no money to take stuff away.  Yes, job creation is - or can and should be - all gain and no pain.  Let me count the ways, or at least some of them.


Eliminate the minimum wage. 


If an employer offers a lower wage which a worker is willing to accept, it is preposterous and immoral that the State should prevent such an agreement.  It thereby denies the worker a job and the employer the chance to grow his business. 


Moreover, the MW not only prevents the creation of lower-wage lower-skilled jobs, but it also is the marker against which higher wages are pegged.  In other words, if a labourer receives the minimum wage, a skilled tradesman receives a multiple of this.   In this way, the MW also impedes the hiring of artisans who are willing to work for lower than the specified multiple of the MW.


Eliminate employers' job taxes on new jobs.


This is so obvious it is hardly worth stating.  But taxes that an employer has to pay, which amount to a tax on each job he/she creates, are a direct disincentive to that creation.  Such taxes include, in the USA, Social Security and Medicare taxes, Federal unemployment taxes (which in fairness Mr Obama is already trying to cut).  In Ireland it's Pay Related Social Insurance.  In the UK its a National Insurance Contribution. 


The employer is being punished for providing a job. 


The loss of revenue from eliminating employers' job taxes will quickly be recouped by income tax and the non-claiming of benefits on the part of the employee. 


Eliminate regulations on firing (other than for bigotry reasons)


Cruel as it sounds, by making it easy to fire people, you make it easy to hire them. 


It is the fear of being stuck with employees beyond when you need them (whether for business or performance reasons) that is a real deterrent to job creation. 


What employers want quite reasonably to do is to hire when business is good and lay off when it is poor, and to get rid of employees who are not pulling their weight. 


It's the very reason why many employers prefer to use contractors
for much of their activity. 


Slash regulations that prevent people from working longer hours if they and their employers so agree,


in particular the EU's Working Time Directive which restricts work to 8 hours per day, 48 hours per week, 48 weeks per year. 


Eliminate tax loopholes


These are the State's way of deciding who are going to be winners and then backing them.  But if there is one body that is entirely incapable of identifying future winners it is surely the State.  Moreover, the tax foregone through loopholes must instead be gathered from other businesses that the State chooses to so punish. 


The system is effectively arbitrary.  By levelling the playing field through eliminating tax loopholes, the most efficient enterprises will succeed, grow and hire more staff.


Cut welfare to levels that do not compete with paid employment.


In Ireland, a family could draw down €90,000 pa in welfare payments depending on its size and on whether it met the various eligibility criteria.  To take in this much net after tax would require a gross of over a hundred grand.  Someone drawing benefits is most unlikely to earn anything like such a figure. 


This is an extreme example but highlights the over generosity of welfare payments, allowances and perks in many Western countries. 


It is ridiculous that the State's largesse (on the backs of taxpayers) effectively prevents large numbers of people from taking up jobs.  No-one drawing welfare benefits should end up better off than those who fund them through their work and taxes. 

Will any of this simple shopping list happen?  Maybe bits of it here and there. 

But there is an inherent problem with governing a country, whether through dictatorship or democracy.  The governing class believes its function is to make new laws and to perpetuate itself.  What candidate campaigns with the slogan Strike Down Laws.  Yet where is the logic in continually creating new legislation, ad infinitum?  Surely it is much more rational first to eliminate or reduce or simplify laws that no longer make sense, and to make new ones only in extremis?  Surely each administration should seek to leave office with fewer statutes on the books than it encountered. 

But it never does.  Its instinct is always to do more and to do that it always thinks it has to spend more. 

Creating jobs by doing less?  Just removing barriers and getting the hell out of the way?  Letting free workers and free employers make deals together without interference?  Perish the thought. 

That is why ever more hard-working taxpayers' money will be frittered away on job-creation” wheezes.  Yet new jobs will emerge, but only in spite of, not because of, such blundering assistance” from Governments throughout the Western world

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Issue 217’s Comments to Cyberspace


Notes not the answer  [P!]
Letter published in the Sunday Times
Matt Cooper writes "the EU must dismiss fears of inflation and follow the example of Britain and America by printing more money".  What has he been taking? Inflation is the inevitable result of printing more money, because it automatically devalues existing money, thus ...


Race for the Áras
Letter to the Irish Times
Bernadette Edgeworth lists six reasons why Sean Gallagher has none of the qualities necessary to become the president of this country (Letters, Oct 25th, see right). As distinct from ... 1. A participant, actually a leader, in a real, dirty war; 2. A member, actually a leader, of a terrorist organization that ...

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Quotes for Issue 217

- - - - - L I B Y A - - - - -

Quote: “Libyan laws in future will have Sharia, the Islamic code, as its ‘basic source ... Libya's ban on polygamy will be lifted ... in future bank regulations will ban the charging of interest, in line with Sharia”.

Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, chairman of Libya's National Transitional Council
and de facto president makes plain at the earliest opportunity
that post-Q'Daffy Libya will be a Sharia state. 

Is this what it was all for?

Quote: I've come to know Saif [Q'Daffy, son of Moammar] as someone who looks to democracy, civil society and deep liberal values as the core of his inspiration.

David Held, professor of political science
at the London School of Economics,
waxes lyrical in May 2010 as he introduces Q'Daffy Junior
to give the annual Ralph Miliband memorial lecture,
in honour of the late father of the David and Ed Miliband,
the latter being the leader of Britain's Labour party
and a great pal of the professor. 

Prof Held it was who also accepted a £1.5m donation from Q'Daffy Jr
to the LSE's Global Governance research centre. 

Prof Held hurriedly resigned in October 2011 just before before
a report on the university's cosy relationship
with the Libyan dictatorship was published.

Meanwhile, Q'Daffy Jr remains on the run,
in fear of his life from anti-Q'Daffy Libyans and
in fear of his liberty from an indictment for crimes against humanity
by the International Criminal Court. 

- - - - - U S   P R E S I D E N C Y - - - - -

Quote: The one thing that we absolutely know for sure is that if we don’t work even harder than we did in 2008 [to get me re-elected], then we’re going to have a government that tells the American people, ‘you are on your own’.”

President Obama frightens the horses by horrifying them with the notion
that a Republican presidency would
a new, painful era of self-reliance in America. 

Imagine such an abysmal scenario:
free-born American citizens being responsible for themselves,
instead of leaving that to a nanny Federal government.

Quote: “I have never sexually harassed anyone.  Yes, I was falsely accused while I was at the National Restaurant Association ... When there are facts, bring them to me, let me face my accusers.”

Oh-oh.  Herman Cain, the Republican's new, charismatic,
black presidential aspirant issues a (somewhat weak) denial
to accusations that he sexually harassed two women in the 1990s,
to whom he made a cash settlement. 

This could well mark the end of his bid. 

- - - - - I S R A E L - - - - -

Quote: I can't stand him [Benyamin Netanyahu] anymore, he's a liar.

President Sarkozy moans to President Obama about the leader of a mutual ally.

You may be sick of him, but me, I have to deal with him every day”,
responds an ever sympathetic Mr Obama.

Why doesn't someone just rid the world of that turbulent Zionist entity?
What's that?  Ahmedinijad is doing his best?

- - - - - I T A L Y - - - - -

Francesca Pascale with Uncle SilvioQuote: I don't know if it was me inside. Yes, it's true it is my car and the registration number is mine but I really don't want to say anything else. All I will say is that there is nothing to be ashamed about. Anyway who said that I stayed the night? I'm not making any other comment. So they say my car left at 10am in the morning? People just jump to conclusions. Maybe I left at 3am and came back at 9am - who knows? Whenever I am invited I go.

Beautiful brunette Francesca Pascale, 25,
a regional councillor 
in Uncle Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom party in Naples,

explains her nocturnal activities.

Late on the night of desperate negotiations to keep his job as prime minister,
his girlfriend drove her Smart car into Palazzo Grazioli, his Rome residence,
getting a wink from the guard.  The car did not leave till next morning.

Hat tip: Philip O'Sullivan 

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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
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
May, June, and July 2010


Published in April 2010; banned in Singapore

A horrific account of:


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


the corruption of Singapore's legal system, and


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,


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 Singapore’s docks,


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 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.


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.


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


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 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

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