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Former Empty Helmets Being Properly Filled

Aug 02, 2021 | 0 comments


On occasion, I have commented on the empty helmets of UN Peacekeepers who parade around war-torn countries as observers and not peacekeepers.  Much of their behavior is understandable as countries who provide them receive a handsome compensation per head from the United Nations while the “soldiers” are paid a penurious per diem.  Therefore, if there is no connection to the country where they are sent, why risk your life for some unknown people. That situation may be changing according to a recent article in The Economist entitled Officers and Gentlewomen. A young lady by the name of Rachel Grimes served...

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The Bravest Man in Thailand

Jul 26, 2021 | 0 comments


During my fifty plus years of engagement in Thailand, I have spent time with many brave people ranging from Colonel Chang of the Thai Communist Suppression Organization to Kru Oh, the indefatigable lady educator, who guides our English teachers through the difficulties of directing our educational program in the remote village of Baan Ta Klang. A recent article by Jeffrey Sng in Nikkei Asia entitled Thailand’s Octogenarian Intellectual Rages On provided a wonderful biography of the Buddhist non-violent activist, Sulak Sivaraksa who stands above others in his bravery. Shown below, the 88 year-old Buddhist monk and renowned non-violent advocate of...

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Elephants Going to Town

Jul 19, 2021 | 0 comments


Some years ago, we wrote about young elephants being captured in the wilds of northern Myanmar and Laos to be sold to alleged elephant reserves in the southern Yunnan province of China. It should come as no surprise that very little land in densely populated China can be devoted to providing elephants a sanctuary with sufficient plant life to support the dietary needs of these wonderful creatures. Therefore, no one should be shocked that the elephants are leaving their captive homes in search of a better habitat and food. The elephants shown below left their “sanctuary” a year ago and...

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Motorbikes From Pink to Black

Jul 12, 2021 | 0 comments


Like many of you, we have fallen back on foreign films and TV series to work our way through the pandemic. We have had an emphasis on French cinematography which has been a great refresher for a guy who was dumped from school-boy French into the real deal in Indochine in the sixties. It is not surprising that the language has moved on from that period some fifty years ago, but I like it better now as it is not so formal and seems hip. Now, apart from evolution of the French language, what have we learned from countless hours...

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The Honourable Schoolboy

Jun 28, 2021 | 0 comments


On December 17, 2020, we published A Great Loss in the World of Knowledge and Espionage to recognize the passing of John le Carré that caused me to research whether his novel, The Honourable Schoolboy, which published in 1977, had ever been made into a movie.  We, like many of you, were running very low on viewing options during the pandemic. Sadly, it has not been put to film, as most likely, no capable screen writer has the stamina to work through a complicated novel that moves back and forth across the world and different intelligence organizations. Therefore, I had...

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A Tale of Two Chinatowns

Jun 21, 2021 | 0 comments


In the early nineties, I was approached by a Chinese guy who had a strong political connection in the U.S. government to introduce us to the right folks in China. The objective was to evaluate and consider a privatization of certain Chinese onshore oil developments. Therein began a plane, train and road trip to many places in China just as it was coming out into the rest of the world. The oil aspect of it was not interesting but we did visit some unusual places in China.  One of the “drive by” places was Wuhan, China. Another was Harbin, China...

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Pairing Wine and Weed

Jun 14, 2021 | 0 comments


Back in the late seventies, I was a director and member of the board of The Superior Farming Company, a subsidiary of Superior Oil. The farm headquarters were in Bakersfield, California which was kind of a rural town in Kern County though the scale of the 33,576-acre farm was highly scientific.  Science and loving care yielded wonderful stone fruit, grapes of all description, nuts and row crops. In fact, the “farm” was the largest supplier of wine grapes to United Vintners which has forty proprietary wine labels. Some 10,000 acres were in row crops which never covered their cost to...

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Trouble In the Promised Land

Jun 07, 2021 | 0 comments


Most of us have viewed the pyrotechnic displays on television of Hamas rockets being destroyed by the “Iron Dome” Israeli missile defense system which has received considerable U.S. financial support. It is a spectacular show which hides the carnage on both sides but with far greater casualties and destruction in Palestine. The fundamental question is why the world is so focused on this conflict as opposed to countless deaths in other parts of the world. The answer is the U.S. is far more closely connected to Israel for strategic and religious reasons than any other country of such a small...

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No Kimchi for Kim Jong Un?

May 24, 2021 | 0 comments


When Kim Jong Un had his summit meeting with Donald Trump in Hanoi on February 28, 2019, I asked a senior Vietnamese diplomat whether they would have kimchi for their important visitor, whom I did not need to identify. It was a simple question as we all knew Trump likes Big Macs and Diet Cokes which were probably already loaded on Air Force One. My Vietnamese friend said the gentleman from North Korea preferred champagne and caviar to most anything else. Moreover, for the official luncheon, the menu was snow fish and foie gras, though the luncheon was ultimately cancelled. ...

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Is Modi Mania Melting Away?

May 17, 2021 | 0 comments


Being on the boards of two very substantial Indian companies, I probably follow the politics of India more closely than many of you.  I have not been there in twelve months and in fact, like most of us, have not been out of the U.S. Nonetheless, I am almost in constant contact with my associates given Zoom virtual calls and emails. My colleagues are universal supporters of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has been crowned as the political “messiah” of modern-day India. He is a renown populist with no hesitation to advocate the Hindu way as the only way. ...

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Agent Orange - A Manmade Curse on Mankind

May 10, 2021 | 0 comments


When I worked for Esso Eastern in New York in the mid-sixties, I was in training to go to the Far East as part of the war effort.  Given the fact that I was at least twenty-five years younger than any of the old Far East hands employed there, recruitment of other youngsters just out of their MBA programs fell on my shoulders. The objective was to sign them up, train them a bit and then send them to Saigon and former Indo China parts unknown. My best strategy was to take them to the famous Toot Shor’s Bar, get...

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An Original Created in Japan

May 03, 2021 | 0 comments


For many years, the western world spoke derisively about products “Made in Japan.” That characterization began following WWII, as Japan copied many things and could produce them in a quality manner at a lower cost than elsewhere. However, that “copy-cat description” totally disappeared when they began to introduce a new world of Japanese electronics such as the Walkman. Moreover, as Japan in its history adopted Chinese characters into its written language and many other mainstays of Chinese culture, it was assumed that they lacked creativity.  However, though the Japanese people are steeped in tradition, they can build upon that tradition...

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Chinese Checkers Around the World

Apr 26, 2021 | 0 comments


Might as well start the day with a bit of trivia that you could drop on someone at a boring cocktail party if we ever have those events again in a pandemic world. The bit of trivia is the origin of Chinese checkers which actually came from Germany as “Stern-Halma” with the German word “stern” representing the star shape of the playing board. The name Chinese checkers was a marketing ploy by the U.S. Pressman brothers in 1928 to sell the board game.  In the modern world, good intentions often cause unintended consequences and the Chinese are usually quick to...

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Human Pawns in the Myanmar Chess Match

Apr 19, 2021 | 0 comments


On March 27, 2021, the military in Myanmar established a new daily death toll record when 114 lives were lost in their brutal crackdown on demonstrations following their February 1 coup against the government led by Aung San Suu Kyi. The protestors shown below are clearly in harm’s way as the state-run MRTV broadcast warned protestors that they could be “shot in the head” for defying the army. Sadly, children have been caught in the many rounds of military gunfire. Nonetheless, the protests continue.  The irony of the March 27 death toll rate was that some 100 miles to the...

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Freedom at Midnight—Documentary or Fiction

Apr 12, 2021 | 0 comments


Freedom at Midnight was written by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre as a non-fiction work to document the Indian independence movement and partition into two states which culminated in the creation of an Independent India and a Muslim Pakistan in 1948.  The book depicts the fury of both Hindus and Muslims by their communal leaders which resulted in countless deaths and relocation of massive numbers of people. It is hard to believe that it originated in the country that spawned the compassionate faith of Buddhism. I have had a continuous commercial engagement in the Indian oil industry for some thirty...

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I Have Lost Confidence in You!

Apr 05, 2021 | 0 comments


In 1979, I was approached by a headhunter to leave Exxon where I was the Exploration and Production Controller to join Superior Oil as the Chief Financial Officer. Superior was the largest independent oil and gas company in the industry and had recently gone through a major make-over led by Joe Reid. Joe had raided Mobil Oil to poach their head of exploration, head of production, head of Mobil Canada and innumerable Mobil staff. Joe thought he needed an Exxon financial guy to balance out all of the Mobil guys. Interestingly, Exxon and Mobil ultimately merged many years later. In...

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Welcome to Coupville, Thailand

Mar 29, 2021 | 0 comments


Many people are focused on the miserable coup in Myanmar though the U.S. had a brief brush with its own clear acts of insurrection on January 6, 2021. Nonetheless, Thailand has had 13 coups since 1932.  The Thai Enquirer recently published an article entitled Grading Thailand Various Coups. Out of the 13 successful coups, they graded them with one A-, one D- and the remainder with varying levels of F. It is worth noting that there were many more unsuccessful attempted coups over those almost ninety years.  The first bloodless coup occurred in 1932 representing a turning point in the...

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Dysfunctional Defines the Democratic Republic of Congo

Mar 22, 2021 | 0 comments


Most people do not give much thought to The Democratic Republic of Congo which is a prudent thing to do—investors lose most everything which can include their lives, diplomats can be killed and conservationists suffer physical injuries without adequate medical attention. With a last-minute presidential pardon, our former President did not give it much thought and lifted sanctions on one of the most corrupt foreign businessmen in the DRC, if not anywhere.  However, the businessman had retained the same lawyer, Alan Dershowitz, who represented the former president in his first impeachment trial.  Maybe the flash cash and legal connection made...

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Can Anyone Send a Few Billion to Angola?

Mar 15, 2021 | 0 comments


Most of us are somewhat familiar with the adage that only Allah can make a perfect carpet.  Therefore, all Islamic carpet makers leave some small flaw in their carpet patterns. Well, in our pursuit of continued success in the international oil exploration and development business we left our flaws in Sub-Saharan Africa with a big chunk of change devoted to Cabinda, Angola. It becomes a spreading cancer when you grab an opportunity in Republic of Congo, pick up one in Cabinda, the neighboring enclave of Angola, and then cap it off with a position in Democratic Republic of Congo. That...

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An Afternoon with Sheikh Yamani

Mar 08, 2021 | 0 comments


On February 23, 2021 Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, Saudi oil minister for almost 35 years and the mastermind behind Opec which set the stage for the management of worldwide oil prices, died at the age of 90. The Times Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani Obituary is perhaps the most complete summary of this remarkable man's life. On March 25, 1975, King Faisal of Saudi Arabia was murdered by his nephew while Yamani, standing next to him, caught him in his arms. Nine months later he looked down the barrel of a gun when he was one of eleven ministers of Opec...

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