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ISSUE #217 - November 2011
Back to President Obama’s
(un)popularity; date is
on the charts.
(Click to get the latest version.)
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Approval for the Plan for Development
Foreshore licence for the pipeline,
umbilical and outfall pipe
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.
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
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
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
properly designed, operated and maintained pipeline simply will not fail,
and speculation about failure is pointless.
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
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
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
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.
first wrote about these objections, in some detail, almost two years
ago, in a piece titled
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
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
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.
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
Distance from shore
One, 20”, 83 km
Two, 30”, 140 km
Onshore processing plant
First gas planned
First Gas delivered
€2.5 billion (est)
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
will look at Ireland, and surely assign it a massive political risk of 200%
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
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.
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
This post was re-published, with my permission,
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
by failing to discount debts they know will never be repaid in full,
are guilty of criminal deception that in other industries is severely
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
In 2004, Shell confessed that for
several years it had been exaggerating its oil reserves by a
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
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 been
“bailing out” stricken countries as their debts fall due, in
exchange for severe austerity to bring national budgets back into
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
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
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
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
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
Likewise the Franco-German banks are now deliberately lying about the
health of their balance sheets by wilfully applying no discounts to
And so are the German and French governments, as
egged on by Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Nicolas Sarkozy,
as they are jointly nicknamed.
Last year, John Lanchester
published an acclaimed book called
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
Run Upon the Bankers”,
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
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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Principles of Job Creation - 9th November
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
but only in spite of, not because of, such blundering
from Governments throughout the Western world.
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Comments to Cyberspace
Notes not the answer
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”
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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- - - - - 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
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?
“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
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 - - - - -
“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 - - - - -
“I can't stand him [Benyamin Netanyahu] anymore,
he's a liar.”
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
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 - - - - -
“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,
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
getting a wink from the guard. The car did not leave till next
Hat tip: Philip O'Sullivan
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Now, for a little [Light Relief]
Cuddly Teddy Bears
looking for a home
Click for details
Neda Agha Soltan;
shot dead in Teheran
by Basij militia
Good to report that as at
14th September 2009
he is at least
FREED AT LAST,
ON 18th OCTOBER 2011,
GAUNT BUT OTHERWISE REASONABLY HEALTHY
Atlantic Blog (defunct)
Broom of Anger
Cox and Forkum
Carey / GUBU
Thinking Man's Guide
Victor Davis Hanson
Tales from Warri
Graham's Sporting Wk
My Columns in the
What I've recently
“The Lemon Tree”, by Sandy
is a delightful novel-style history of modern Israel and Palestine told
through the eyes of a thoughtful protagonist from either side, with a
household lemon tree as their unifying theme.
But it's not
entirely honest in its subtle pro-Palestinian bias, and therefore needs
to be read in conjunction with an antidote, such as
This examines events which led to BP's 2010 Macondo blowout in
the Gulf of Mexico.
BP's ambitious CEO John Browne expanded it through adventurous
acquisitions, aggressive offshore exploration, and relentless
cost-reduction that trumped everything else, even safety and long-term
Thus mistakes accumulated, leading to terrifying and deadly accidents in
refineries, pipelines and offshore operations, and business disaster in
The Macondo blowout was but an inevitable outcome of a BP culture that
had become poisonous and incompetent.
However the book is gravely compromised by a
litany of over 40 technical and stupid
errors that display the author's ignorance and
It would be better
to wait for the second (properly edited) edition before buying.
As for BP, only a
wholesale rebuilding of a new, professional, ethical culture will
prevent further such tragedies and the eventual destruction of a once
mighty corporation with a long and generally honourable history.
Note: I wrote
my own reports on Macondo
A horrific account
how the death
penalty is administered and, er, executed in Singapore,
the corruption of
Singapore's legal system, and
enthusiastic embrace of Burma's drug-fuelled military dictatorship
More details on my
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
Taken prisoner when Singapore falls in
1941, he is, successively,
part of a death march to Thailand,
a slave labourer on the Siam/Burma
railway (one man died for every sleeper laid),
regularly beaten and tortured,
racked by starvation, gaping ulcers
and disease including cholera,
a slave labourer stevedoring at
shipped to Japan in a stinking,
closed, airless hold with 900 other sick and dying men,
torpedoed by the Americans and left
drifting alone for five days before being picked up,
a slave-labourer in Nagasaki until
blessed liberation thanks to the Americans’ “Fat Boy” atomic
distraught and traumatised on return to Aberdeen yet disdained by the
British Army, he slowly reconstructs a life. Only in his late 80s
is he able finally to recount his dreadful experiences in this
There are very few
first-person eye-witness accounts of the the horrors of Japanese
brutality during WW2. As such this book is an invaluable historical
“Culture of Corruption:
Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies”
This is a rattling good tale of the web
of corruption within which the American president and his cronies
operate. It's written by blogger Michele Malkin who, because she's both
a woman and half-Asian, is curiously immune to the charges of racism and
sexism this book would provoke if written by a typical Republican WASP.
With 75 page of notes to back up - in
best blogger tradition - every shocking and in most cases money-grubbing
allegation, she excoriates one Obama crony after another, starting with
the incumbent himself and his equally tricky wife.
Joe Biden, Rahm Emmanuel, Valerie Jarett,
Tim Geithner, Lawrence Summers, Steven Rattner, both Clintons, Chris
Dodd: they all star as crooks in this venomous but credible book.
ACORN, Mr Obama's favourite community
organising outfit, is also exposed for the crooked vote-rigging machine
This much trumpeted sequel to
Freakonomics is a bit of disappointment.
It is really just
a collation of amusing
little tales about surprising human (and occasionally animal) behaviour
and situations. For example:
Drunk walking kills more people per
kilometer than drunk driving.
People aren't really altruistic -
they always expect a return of some sort for good deeds.
Child seats are a waste of money as
they are no safer for children than adult seatbelts.
Though doctors have known for
centuries they must wash their hands to avoid spreading infection,
they still often fail to do so.
Monkeys can be taught to use washers
as cash to buy tit-bits - and even sex.
The book has no real
message other than don't be surprised how humans sometimes behave and
try to look for simple rather than complex solutions.
And with a final
anecdote (monkeys, cash and sex), the book suddenly just stops dead in
its tracks. Weird.
A remarkable, coherent attempt by Financial Times economist Alan Beattie
to understand and explain world history through the prism of economics.
It's chapters are
organised around provocative questions such as
Why does asparagus come from Peru?
Why are pandas so useless?
Why are oil and diamonds more trouble
than they are worth?
Why doesn't Africa grow cocaine?
It's central thesis
is that economic development continues to be impeded in different
countries for different historical reasons, even when the original
rationale for those impediments no longer obtains. For instance:
Argentina protects its now largely
foreign landowners (eg George Soros)
Russia its military-owned
businesses, such as counterfeit DVDs
The US its cotton industry
comprising only 1% of GDP and 2% of its workforce
The author writes
in a very chatty, light-hearted matter which makes the book easy to
However it would
benefit from a few charts to illustrate some of the many quantitative
points put forward, as well as sub-chaptering every few pages to provide
natural break-points for the reader.
This is a thrilling book of derring-do behind enemy lines in the jungles
of north-east Burma in 1942-44 during the Japanese occupation.
The author was
a member of Britain's V Force, a forerunner of the SAS. Its remit was to
harass Japanese lines of
command, patrol their occupied territory, carryout sabotage and provide
intelligence, with the overall objective of keeping the enemy out of
is admirably yet brutally frank, in his
descriptions of deathly battles with the Japs, his execution of a
prisoner, dodging falling bags of rice dropped by the RAF, or collapsing
in floods of tears through accumulated stress, fear and loneliness.
He also provides some fascinating insights into the mentality of
Japanese soldiery and why it failed against the flexibility and devolved
authority of the British.
The book amounts to
a very human and exhilarating tale.
Oh, and Irwin
describes the death in 1943 of his colleague my uncle, Major PF
Click for an account of this momentous,
of March 2009
Click on the logo
to get a table with
the Rugby World Cup
scores, points and rankings.
crackling, compelling, captivating games, the new World Champions are,
England get the Silver,
Argentina the Bronze. Fourth is host nation France.
No-one can argue with
the justice of the outcomes
Over the competition,
points per game = 52,
tries per game = 6.2,
minutes per try =
Click on the logo
to get a table with
the final World Cup
scores, points, rankings and goal-statistics