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Jun 20, 2022 | 0 comments

CAVIAR IS HEALTHY AND DOES NOT SUPPORT THE RUSSKIES For some ten years I was a frequent flyer to Russia where I became a frequent consumer of Russian caviar.  On an early trip there, following the collapse of the Former Soviet Union (FSU), we pulled up to the curbside drop off at the Sheremetyevo airport. We were getting out of the car as my Texas associate asked our Russian handler – was there anything we should not take out of the country – and she responded “caviar.” Quickly, the Russian baggage handler had my suitcase loaded with caviar in front...

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Jun 13, 2022 | 0 comments

HOW FORTUNATE WAS I TO LIVE IN JAPAN IN 1971 AND 1972 From one standpoint, I was quite fortunate to be in Japan at that time as my two youngest daughters were born in Yokohama, Japan. On the other hand, from the standpoint of political and economic upheaval in the world, it was a perfect storm.  Three massive political and economic events occurred during that period though only two of them impacted me in a major way.  Nikkei Asia recently published an article entitled Lessons from ‘Two Nixon Shocks of 1971 Still Valid .” Richard Nixon is shown announcing a...

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Jun 06, 2022 | 0 comments

SO NEAR BUT SO FAR AWAY In 1970, I was transferred by Esso Eastern to work in Tokyo and was based there until 1973.  I was less than enthusiastic about leaving the exciting edge of life in Southeast Asia, particularly Bangkok and Laos.  Nonetheless, Esso did not expect anyone to disagree as several of us young expatriate Americans were working under Critical Skill Deferments from the U.S. Government.  Moreover, Esso was relatively generous to permit absences on my part to the jungles of my favorite places, both asphalt and true jungle foliage. At that time in Japan, we were focused...

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May 30, 2022 | 0 comments

POLLUTION GUIDANCE FROM THE UNWASHED Thailand has three distinct seasons: Cool from November—February, Hot from March—May, and Rainy (Monsoon) from June—October. A few weeks ago, The Bangkok Post reported that the Thai capital of Bangkok and the northern city of Chiang Mai were on the hit parade of the top five most polluted cities in the world behind the consistent leader of Beijing. Bangkok is polluted principally due to automotive emissions while the pollution in Chiang Mai arises from slash and burn farming, burning of crop residues, and forest fires due to the tinder box nature of the hot season....

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May 23, 2022 | 0 comments

DEMOCRACY ALWAYS TRUMPS AUTOCRACY In the past couple of months, the world has taken a dramatic turn that illustrates the frailty of autocratic governments in two of my least favorite places on the planet—China and Russia. I had business dealings in China for some twenty years and was a pioneer in the privatization of a Russian state oil company. Fortunately, all our people made it out of both places with no loss of life and we made money. Once out, I swore I would never go back and have held to that conviction. Current events suggest few westerners would be...

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Apocalypse Now-Fact or Fiction

May 13, 2022 | 0 comments

APOCALYPSE NOW-FACT OR FICTION The film Apocalypse Now was released in 1979 starring Marlo Brando as a renegade CIA officer in the Special Activities Division.  If one had to ask what that division represented, you did not need to know. Brando starred as U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel Walter E. Kurtz who had gone rogue at an outpost in Cambodia pursuing his own guerilla war, mounting the heads of his adversaries on posts around his army of indigenous tribal forces. The plot line of the movie is the ultimate assassination of Colonel Kurtz in his remote base in Cambodia.  ...

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Thanks To Allah The Taliban Goes Legit

May 09, 2022 | 0 comments

THANKS TO ALLAH THE TALIBAN GOES LEGIT Recently, I read in my daily edition of the Bangkok Post the front-page news that the Taliban had outlawed the cultivation and harvest of poppy in Afghanistan as opium to ultimately refine into heroin. You might ask why that is a front-page event in Thailand? Without heroin sourced from Afghanistan, Myanmar could conceivably become the number one opium/heroin center in the world. The significance to Thailand is that it has long been a distribution center of opium and heroin to other parts of the world despite efforts on the part of the government...

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Up In Smoke Is Not That Easy

May 02, 2022 | 0 comments

UP IN SMOKE IS NOT THAT EASY Recently, Russians have attempted to obfuscate their well-documented but denied war crimes in Ukraine by highlighting a Russian fuel depot that went up in smoke. A Rosneft oil products terminal was bombed near the southern Russian city of Belgorod. Helicopters destroyed the major Russian fuel facility two days after the Russians blew up a high-pressure gas trunkline across the border in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. The Ukraine government neither confirmed nor denied that they carried out the obvious act of reciprocity, which is shown here in the Upstream Oil and Gas publication...

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The French Laissez Faire Attitude

Apr 24, 2022 | 0 comments

THE FRENCH LAISSEZ FAIRE ATTITUDE Following a long career in the international oil and gas world, I have always been intrigued by the French approach to this industry. The overreaching French attitude to most everything is defined by the “laissez faire” description – a policy of letting things take their own course without interfering. I always found French banks and companies most enjoyable to visit in Paris with long, liquid meals and great camaraderie. On the other hand, they can be frustrating partners in oil ventures as well as difficult adversaries as they historically have not been as vigilant regarding...

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A Jumbo Holiday

Apr 17, 2022 | 0 comments

Some sixty years ago, the Royal Forest Department of Thailand designated the “white elephant” as the national animal of Thailand and it is often the symbol of the country. Historically, if lighter shade elephants were captured in the wild, they would then be screened as to whether they qualified as “white” which would dramatically transform their lives. Any “white elephant” would find its way into the possession of the Thai royal family. 
A Jumbo Holiday Some sixty years ago, the Royal Forest Department of Thailand designated the “white elephant” as the national animal of Thailand and it is often the symbol of the country. Historically, if lighter shade elephants were captured in the wild, they would then be screened as to whether they qualified as “white” which would dramatically transform their lives. Any “white elephant” would find its way into the possession of the Thai royal family. The next step could result in them being gifted to a dignitary who had somehow offended the King of Thailand. As elephants consume massive quantities...

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Apr 10, 2022 | 0 comments

SEVERAL DAYS IN THE LIFE OF JOHN ROBERTS Over fifteen years ago, in a distant part of the Golden Triangle where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar come together, we met a couple of guys who put Joey and me on a different path of passion. I had spent time in that part of the world during the “Troubles in Laos” and was amazed that there were wonderful accommodations and elephants. Years before, I took a wood-burning train up the river Kwai to grab an elephant ride into the jungle, but the elephants were “absent without leave” which was a serious offense...

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Apr 03, 2022 | 0 comments

GRAVITY IS A STRONG FORCE We all understand the fundamentals of gravity but, on occasion, we have made investments that cannot seem to overcome gravity and rise in value.  Having been personally involved in a particular project and then investing in it can also be a bad idea. Some years back I was asked by a good friend in the Mongolian government to intercede on their behalf in negotiations with a large international mining company to resolve some contract issues which would transform the economy of the country. By chance, they were headquartered in London where I had an office. ...

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Low-Pay High-Risk Conservation Job Opportunities

Mar 27, 2022 | 0 comments

LOW-PAY/HIGH-RISK CONSERVATION JOB OPPORTUNITIES It should go without saying that endangered animal species live in the wild that is threatened by human encroachment. As the wild and available natural habitats continue to be overrun by rampant population growth, the task of protecting these creatures becomes ever more difficult.  More than half of the wild Asian elephants in the world live in India which would likely be a population somewhat more than 20,000. Many of them are in areas which are also home to wild tigers which complicates the conservation efforts. Recently, The New York Times published an article entitled Risking...

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An Elephant Story Update From Ban Ta Klang, Thailand

Mar 15, 2022 | 0 comments

An Elephant Story Update From Ban Ta Klang, Thailand. It has been some time since we have given an update regarding our educational efforts in Ban Ta Klang Village, Surin Province, which is home to some 300 elephants and comes with the distinction of having the most domesticated Asian elephants in one place in the world. Moreover, these elephants are privately owned and have been raised by the villagers whose history with elephants extends back to almost the beginning of time. The Elephant Story has provided financial support to the education of the children of the village since our beginning,...

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Oily Oligarchs Suffering from the Ukraine Influenza

Mar 14, 2022 | 0 comments

I was on a call with a long-standing friend when I faced the question of “What is going on in Ukraine as you must know some of the people involved?” It was somewhat unexpected though I did spend some ten years in a Russian oil joint venture in the Urals. Her question caused me to have a look at some of the Russians with whom we partnered and how they had fared since the early 1990’s. The privatization of the State-owned oil industry began when Russian citizens were handed script shares in the individual oil and gas entities as a...

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Tricky Dick Went to China 50 Years Ago

Mar 07, 2022 | 0 comments

It was fifty years ago that Richard Nixon visited China to launch a new era of interaction with the communist regime.  Jane Perlez beat Nixon to China by five years and recently provided an account of the visit and her experiences there in a Financial Times article entitled A Week That Changed the World. Nixon disembarked Air Force One on a cold day in Beijing in February 1972 to be welcomed by Chou Enlai, Prime Minister of China, who is shown below teaching Nixon the fine art of chopstick dining. Nixon’s mission was clearly to meet with Chairman Mao to...

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Myanmar Military and the Drug Trade

Feb 28, 2022 | 0 comments

In the Far East, there is a long history of military associations with the drug trade. The British East India Company was fundamentally a surrogate for the British government that took steps to capture the drug market by forming a trade triangle selling opium at auction in India, transporting opium to China in British ships for sale to Chinese merchants and then buying Chinese tea for consumption in Britain.  Eventually, the Indian purchasing agents were removed from the triangle given the soaring volumes as opium smoking became quite fashionable in China as shown below. Trade and taxation disputes led to...

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Military Make Miserable Managers of Governments

Feb 21, 2022 | 0 comments

A career battlefield commissioned officer and general I knew some years ago said the military was proficient at killing people but not in managing governments. The history of this country would largely support this premise, but it is re-enacted all over the world on a very frequent basis. The latest example is that of Myanmar where the military has just celebrated the one-year anniversary of their coup over the freely elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. Coincidentally her father, Aung San, was a military man having fought the Japanese in WWII.  He was assassinated shortly after forming the Union...

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One Year Anniversary of Pain, Suffering and Death in Myanmar

Feb 14, 2022 | 0 comments

I first went to Burma in 1969 when it barely cracked the door open for three-day visits. It was a natural as I lived in Thailand over two years on a ninety-day tourist visa which required frequent trips to other countries. I quickly learned that Burma was not ready for tourism at that time as there was no transportation from the airport to town and the famous Strand Hotel was in shambles though one was required to dress for dinner.  Over the ensuing years, I have made numerous trips there and even evaluated potential oil exploration opportunities.  However, I never...

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Separation of Church and State

Feb 07, 2022 | 0 comments

A few of you may recall there was a religious hue and cry in some circles when Catholic John F. Kennedy ran for President.  The central issue was that there would be no separation of church and state given the proscribed Catholic religious duty to the Pope.  Nonetheless, Kennedy was elected and worked his way through several very difficult international conflicts. Vietnam fell in his lap thanks to foolish decisions by Truman and Eisenhower to let the French regain their former colony of Indochine following WWII. Once again, it did not sort out so well for the French.  Vietnam was...

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