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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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SEVERAL DAYS IN THE LIFE OF JOHN ROBERTS

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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GRAVITY IS A STRONG FORCE

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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Buddy Can You Spare a Sip of Wine?

Feb 01, 2022 | 0 comments


Many years ago, Joey and I became enchanted with what we understood to be the oldest building in Kerr County, Texas. We purchased the building, shown below, which has been through a lengthy restoration to conform with its history dating back to its construction in 1873. Originally, the downstairs was a mercantile store and U.S. post office and the upstairs served as the Masonic Lodge largely composed of Texas Rangers. The Texas Ranger Captain obliged all his rangers to be Masons as he thought it brought some measure of civilization to gunslingers trying to drive the Comanche Indians further west....

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Camo For a Good Cause

Jan 24, 2022 | 0 comments


We have recently referenced camo clothing as it relates to various conflict armies in Africa. As a matter of fact, there are a few occasions where camo clothing can be associated with good causes such as animal conservation.  Conservation can take many forms such as the $500,000 or so The Elephant Story has raised for the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation and other elephant conservation causes. The Elephant Story polo team is shown below in camo for an event in Thailand. My friend, Jason Friedman, on my left, introduced us to these activities and the efforts he and another friend,...

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A Congo Within a Congo

Jan 17, 2022 | 0 comments


Not only is there Brazzaville, Congo and Kinshasa, Congo representing two separate countries, Kinshasa, Congo is in effect two very different Congo entities.  The capital, Kinshasa, has high rise hotels representing islands of order and calm scattered among a sea of great poverty, chaos, and death.  On the other hand, one does not have to venture too far out of Kinshasa to encounter an entirely different environment with little rule of law and a population subject to the control of different guerilla armies. The United Nations has varying degrees of troop presence in some of the areas, but they go...

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Clamor for Cobalt in Congo

Jan 10, 2022 | 0 comments


Congo in this reference is the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), aka Kinshasa, Congo and not Brazzaville, Congo.  On the awful scale, they are not in the same category.  The French may not have been the best colonizers, but the food and customs left behind in their former colonies (Brazzaville, Congo as one) were most enjoyable. The British left boredom and good roads in most of their colonies, whereas King Leopold of Belgium took everything and left nothing behind but corruption and the plague in all categories in Kinshasa, Congo. I have talked about Kinshasa in the past, but it...

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Crafty Chinese Chicanery

Jan 03, 2022 | 0 comments


As a daily reader of the Bangkok Post, I was intrigued by a traditional image concept from days gone by that had been modified to include the banner of China, as shown below.  Moreover, the title, Thailand in the Middle, and the dramatically Chinese slanted content, caused me to note that it was a “sponsored article” – the cost of which was more than likely paid by Emperor Xi himself. Shame on the Bangkok Post for allowing such flagrant propaganda to be rolled into their newspaper which ordinarily provides open journalism in a country that requires careful navigation given potential...

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Frozen in the Dark

Dec 27, 2021 | 0 comments


Mongolia is often depicted as having two seasons—three months cold and nine months very cold.  Our condo in Ulaanbaatar was always warm though that may have changed, as we have not been back in a while to have a visit.  I do know that I have experienced minus 50-degree weather there which will freeze champagne as shown below when I christened the first truckload of oil production in eastern Mongolia to export to China.   Some years prior to that time, I took a helicopter trip to the Gobi Desert to have a look at a former Russian abandoned small oil...

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