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This archive, organized into months, and indexed by
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June 2010


ISSUE #206 - June 2010

Flash Clocks, Video Clocks at

From June 2010, starting with this issue, I have changed the system of the Tallrite Blog. 

Instead of issuing every couple of weeks or so a blog which contains a variety of articles, ranging from serious analysis to increasing frivolity, I will issue posts on this page as and when I write them, as most other bloggers do.  They will then be collated into a monthly archive. 

When Quotes and Cyberspace items are subsequently added, I will colour them or mark them as NEW. 

One day I'll get Wordpress to help me. 

ISSUE #206 - June 2010 [506+826=1331]

Rasmussen Daily Poll - 7 June 2010

Rasmussen Daily Poll - 7 June 2010


Attitudes Towards Gaza Humanitarian” “AidFlotilla - 13 June 2010

We Con the World - Censored! - 15 June 2010


Fisked - The Economists' Appalling Anti-Israel Cover Story - 10th June 2010


BP's Brilliant Management of its Blowout - 7th June 2010


Issue 206’s Comments to Cyberspace - More added on 30th June


Quotes for Issue 206 - More added 10th and 13/14th June

Attitudes Towards Gaza Humanitarian” “AidFlotilla - 13 June 2010

Millions of words have been written across the world about the recent flotilla which set sail to deliver humanitarian” “aid to the people of Gaza, so my addition here will be brief. 

Those two words in the heading have been put between ears for four reasons. 


There is ample evidence that Gaza is not short of food and materials to live, for example


Hamas wouldn't let it in anyway and is itself responsible for much of the destruction of Gazans' housing


The flotilla's primary objective was, by its own admission to publicise - if not break - the Egyptian/Israeli blockade rather than to deliver materials to Palestinians. 


Moreover, the Turkish contingent on the Mavi Marmara announced its bellicose intention when it began its adventure with cries of Remember Khaibar, Khaibar oh Jews, the army of Mohammed will return and other pre-battle exhortations. 

Mark Humphrys has put out a great summary of the whole flotilla saga. 

I have restricted myself to a little analysis of the letters pages of just one Irish newspaper, the Irish Times, which has hosted a lively discussion on the subject.  I simply totted up the score of anti-Israel and pro-Israel letters over the period Tuesday 1st June 2010 to Saturday 12th.  Here's the result. 

Anti/pro-Israel bias of letters published

There was a total of 79 such letters, of which 70% roundly castigated Israel, 24% expressed support or understanding for Israel's dilemma, while 6% were neutral. 

It is my guess that, sadly, this three-to-one ratio probably mirrors


not just the Irish Times' anti-Israel (anti-Jew?) editorial leanings


but also the numbers of letters actually sent to the editor,


suggesting that this also reflects the general attitude in Irish society at large. 

These could of course be false or distorted conclusions because the Antis are undoubtedly more vocal than the Pros, in Ireland as in the rest of the world. 

But as far as Irish politicians are concerned it is distorted in the other direction.  Of 226 parliamentarians, only one, Alan Shatter, consistently speaks up for Israel.  He is also the sole Jew.  The others, from ministers down, thoroughly enjoy denouncing the Jewish state. 

Update 14th June:
I stand corrected. Fine Gael TD Seymour Crawford is a second Irish politician
prepared to speak openly in support of Israel.

Columnist Charles Krauthammer recently made a very depressing observation

The world is tired of these troublesome Jews, 6 million - that number again - hard by the Mediterranean, refusing every invitation to national suicide. For which they are relentlessly demonized, ghettoized and constrained from defending themselves, even as the more committed anti-Zionists - Iranian in particular - openly prepare a more final solution [than Hitler's].” 

Sadly, if reaction to the flotilla is anything to go by, this has the ring of truth. 


Update - 15 June


We Con the World - Censored!

By now millions of people have viewed the pro-Israel video, We Con the world, Caroline Glick's witty parody of the wonderful 1985 charity song We Are the world, copyrighted by Warner/Chappell Music.

It has proved so popular that Youtube have unilaterally taken it down, supposedly for copyright reasons, even though under the US Copyright Office's own Fair Use Doctrineuse in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied” is specifically exempted from copyright protection.

You can find over 300 other parodies of We Are the world”, yet only the pro-Israel one has been taken down. 

Make up your own mind how anti-Semitic this piece of censorship is. 

Meanwhile since Youtube, owned by Google, don't want you to see the pro-Israel parody, here it is, thanks to 

Enjoy.   Especially the key couplet (despite dreadful rhyme)

We'll make the world abandon reason ...
We'll make them all believe that the Hamas is Momma Theresa. 

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Fisked - The Economists' Appalling Anti-Israel Cover Story - 10th June 2010

I am an avid Economist subscriber, have been for decades.  But I have just read, albeit a little late, the latest cover story of the 3rd June edition, and find its anti-Israel tone and so-called remedies appalling.  In effect it seems to be advocating, at best, the capitulation of Israel to the foes that surround it. 

Here is the article, which I have Fisked.  My comments are in indented red italics.  See if you agree with me. 

Cover, 3rd June 2010Israel and the world

Israel's siege mentality

The government’s macho attitude is actually making Israel weaker

Jun 3rd 2010

THE lethal mishandling of Israel’s attack on a ship carrying humanitarian supplies that was trying to break the blockade of Gaza was bound to provoke outrage—and rightly so.

Rightly so?  That is your (prejudiced) judgement.  Wrongly so would be more objective.

The circumstances of the raid are murky and may well remain that way despite an inquiry (see article). But the impression received yet again by the watching world is that Israel resorts to violence too readily.

Too readily?  You seem to endorse this view.  Yet the violence was begun by the jihadis on the Marmara who beat each Israeli soldier on roughly a four-to-one basis, with sticks and perhaps knives, as they rapelled singly down from their helicopter.  Is there no stage at which it is considered legitimate for the Israeli soldiers to defend themselves?

More worryingly for Israel, the episode is accelerating a slide towards its own isolation.

It is the attacks of neighbours and the world generally which is isolating Israel.  It would be no less isolated were it not to defend itself as you seem to advocate.

Once admired as a plucky David facing down an array of Arab Goliaths

which it is still doing,

Israel is now seen as the clumsy bully on the block.

Clumsy perhaps, but it is weird to call the bully the smallest guy in the neighbourhood, outnumbered as Israel is


7-to-one (in countries),


32-to-one (in population) and


150-to-one (in landmass). 

Israel’s desire to stop the flotilla reaching Gaza was understandable, given its determination to maintain the blockade. Yet the Israelis also had a responsibility to conduct the operation safely.

And safely is exactly how the Israelis conducted their interception on all boats but the Marmara where they were attacked by jihadis.   “Safely” cannot mean that the Israeli soldiers should submit to their own lynching. 

The campaigners knew that either way they would win. If they had got through, it would have been a triumphant breaching of the blockade. If forcibly stopped, with their cargo of medical equipment and humanitarian aid, they would be portrayed as victims—even if some, as the Israelis contend,

and the video and still photographs demonstrate beyond all reasonable doubt

brought clubs, knives and poles. As it was, disastrous planning by Israel’s soldiers led to a needless loss of life.

Agreed.  Had the Israelis been prepared for battle rather than crowd-control, there would probably have been fewer casualties but just as great an outcry.

For anyone who cares about Israel, this tragedy should be the starting point for deeper questions—about the blockade, about the Jewish state’s increasing loneliness and the route to peace. A policy of trying to imprison the Palestinians has left their jailer strangely besieged. 

Surrounded by hostile Islamic states bent on the destruction of Israel and the annihilation of its Jews, Israel is indeed besieged, and not “strangely”.

Losing friends, strengthening Hamas

The blockade of Gaza is cruel and has failed.

Not very cruel – the Gazans can get everything they need, food, water, fuel, medicines, and even luxury restaurants and hotels.  And not a failure, because Hamas has been unable to import weapons of the efficacy and in the quantities that they desire. 

The Gazans have suffered sorely but have not been starved into submission.

Hard to be starved when you’re not short of food. 

Hamas has not been throttled and overthrown, as Israeli governments (and many others) have wished. Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier taken hostage, has not been freed.

Both true. 

Weapons and missiles can still be smuggled in through tunnels from Egypt.

But not the heavy artillery they want and Iran and Syria want to supply.  Nevertheless, to stop the other stuff, Egypt is building a steel subterranean wall to put a stop to the tunnelling.  (Notice how no-one criticises the Egyptian blockade of Gaza?)

Just as bad, from Israel’s point of view, it helps feed antipathy towards Israel, not just in the Arab and Muslim worlds, but in Europe too. Israel once had warm relations with a ring of non-Arab countries in the vicinity, including Iran and Turkey. The deterioration of Israel’s relations with Turkey, whose citizens were among the nine dead, is depriving Israel of a rare Muslim ally and mediator.


Haven’t you seen the steady Islamicisation of Turkey over the past
decade as demographic trends propels into the forefront the devout
high-breeding Muslims of Anatolia at the expense of the ageing,
childless, secularist West-leaning Ataturkish Turks of Istanbul and


Have you forgotten that Iran became Islamicised with the arrival of
Ayatollah Khomenei back in 1979? 

These trends towards Islam have nothing to do with Israel but fully explain Turkey’s and Iran’s growing Jew-hatred.   

It is startling how, in its bungled effort to isolate Gaza, democratic Israel has come off worse than Hamas, which used to send suicide-bombers into restaurants. 

Agree. Startling how much of the world draws such a conclusion. 

Most telling of all are the stirrings of disquiet in America, Israel’s most steadfast ally. Americans are still vastly more sympathetic to the Israelis than to the Palestinians. But a growing number, especially Democrats, including many liberal Jews,

Ah yes, Stalin’s “useful idiots”!

are getting queasier about what they see as America’s too robotic support for Israel, especially when its government is as hawkish as Binyamin Netanyahu’s.

Israel is the Middle East’s only mature democracy.  That is why it is constantly changing government from accommodationist  to hawkish and back again (no fewer than eight such “regime changes” since 1983), always trying to find different avenues towards making  peace with Palestinians who don’t want it.  When Netanyahu’s current “hawkish” approach fails no doubt Israel’s electorate will once again change tack in its never-ending search. 

A gap in sympathy for Israel has widened between Democrats and Republicans.

Partly a result of the Democrats’ love-affair with Mr Obama and his twenty years of Jew-hating indoctrination in the Rev Jeremiah Wright’s church. 

Conservatives still tend to back Israel through hell and the high seas. Barack Obama is more conscious that the Palestinians’ failure to get a state is helping to spread anti-American poison across the Muslim world, making it harder for him to deal with Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan. His generals have strenuously made that point. None other than the head of Israel’s Mossad, its foreign intelligence service, declared this week that America has begun to see Israel more as a burden than an asset. 

I doubt the head of Mossad was making a case for surrender, just a sad observation.

That has led to the charge by hawkish American Republicans, as well as many Israelis, that Mr Obama is bent on betraying Israel. In fact, he is motivated by a harder-nosed appreciation of the pros and cons of America’s cosiness with Israel, and is thus all the keener to prod the Jewish state towards giving the Palestinians a fair deal.

I wonder how you know what Mr Obama’s “motivation” is?  The only people needing prodding to make “a fair deal” are  the Palestinians to make peace, of which the outlines have long been on the table (eg Bill Clinton, 2000). 

He has condemned the building of Jewish settlements on Palestinian territory more bluntly than his predecessors did, because he rightly thinks they make it harder to negotiate a peace deal.

Rightly?  That’s your judgement.  The real – and only – blockage to peace is the Palestinians’ own steadfast refusal to recognize the right to exist of Israel and its Jews, without which no peace agreement will ever be possible. 

Mr Obama’s greater sternness towards Israel is for the general good — including Israel’s.

This is a bland statement unencumbered by foundation.  Its underlying premise is Jewish surrender. 

Harmony is not just a dream

Israel is caught in a vicious circle. The more its hawks think the outside world will always hate it, the more it tends to shoot opponents first

when they attack it (eg the Marmara)

and ask questions later, and the more it finds that the world is indeed full of enemies. Though Mr Netanyahu has reluctantly agreed to freeze settlement-building and is negotiating indirectly with Palestinians, he does not give the impression of being willing to give ground in the interests of peace. 

He has publicly stated his willingness to make a two-state agreement and the necessary conditions.  As usual, neither Palestinians nor the wider Arab and Muslim world have shown the slightest interest in following this up.  Destruction of Israel is clearly still more important for them than peace. 

Yet the prospect of a deal between Palestinians and Israelis still beckons. The contours of a two-state solution remain crystal-clear: an adjusted border, with Israel keeping some of the biggest settlements while Palestine gets equal swaps of land; Jerusalem shared as a capital, with special provisions for the holy places; and an admission by Palestinians that they cannot return to their old homes in what became Israel in 1948, with some theoretical right of return acknowledged by Israel and a small number of refugees let back without threatening the demographic preponderance of Jewish Israelis.

This is largely what Ehud Barak offered Yasser Arafat in 2000 under the auspices of Bill Clinton.  Arafat’s response was to say no, to make no counter-offer and to return to the West Bank and start the Second Intifada.  Your paragraph should be directed to the Palestinians not to the Israelis, who more or less already agree with it. 

And what about Hamas, if Israel is to lift the siege of Gaza? How should Israel handle an authoritarian movement that refuses to recognise it and has in the past readily used terror? One answer is to ask the UN to oversee the flow of goods and people going in and out of Gaza. That is hardly a cure-all,

An understatement.  The UN has become so rabidly anti-Jew, led by such toxic sub-bodies as the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the UN Human Rights Council, that it can never be relied on to police the flow of weapons into Gaza and bombers and fighters out of it.  This would be tantamount to an Israeli capitulation. 

but Hamas would become the world’s problem neighbour, not just Israel’s.

And who cares?  Just look, for example, at the Hamas (and Hezbullah) flags and symbols in anti-Israel rallies across Europe, as well as the “humanitarian” “aid” flotilla.  And when even Gays and Lesbians align themselves with the homosexual-executing fascists of Hamas – as they do – it is clear that few are worried about Hamas so long as Jews are their target. 

The Arab world must do more, pressing Hamas to disavow violence, publicly pledge not to resume the firing of rockets at Israeli civilians and revoke its anti-Semitic charter.


The West, led by Mr Obama, should call for Hamas to be drawn into negotiations, both with its rival Palestinians on the West Bank as well as with Israel, even if it does not immediately recognise the Jewish state.

And what, exactly, will the Jewish state talk about when Hamas’s primary objective remains its obliteration?  The IRA is sometimes used as an example of negotiating with terrorists.  But this happened only when the IRA had been militarily defeated and was at a standstill.  Hamas are a long way from that happy condition. 

It is still the party the Palestinians elected in 2006 to represent all of them. None of this will be easy. But the present stalemate is bloodily leading nowhere. 

Your “solution” would accelerate the disappearance of Israel and its people. 

Israel is a regional hub of science, business and culture. Despite its harsh treatment of Palestinians

behaviour has consequences

in the land it occupies, it remains a vibrant democracy. But its loneliness, partly self-inflicted, is making it a worse place, not just for the Palestinians but also for its own people. If only it can replenish its stock of idealism and common sense before it is too late.

Why do you persist in placing the whole onus on Israel?  Why not call for Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims to “replenish their stock of idealism and common sense before it is too late”?  They are the only ones determined to continue with war. 

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Surfeit of Ignorance over MacondoBP's Brilliant Management of its Blowout - 7th June 2010

When it comes to BP's Macondo blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, no matter which side different media outlets may dress - left, right or centre - there are all playing pretty much the same game, or at least reading the same script.  Yet it is a script of abject Ignorance at all public levels, reaching from the highest echelons of the US Administration, to the prestige newspapers of the world, to TV and radio and down to the man-in-the-street.  But it is worse than ignorance because it is accompanied by completely unfounded confidence in what is being expressed. 

The basic problem is, as I alluded to in my previous post, that outside the small circle of engineering-oriented people (of whom I am one) who already understand the intricacies, technologies and limitations of drilling deep, hot, high pressure wells in very deep waters, no-one can visualise what is going on.  There is nothing to see but a collection of vessels floating on the surface and a large oil slick, or perhaps sheen, on the surface of the sea, plus some blurry video footage of oil spewing at the seabed. 

So let's go through some of the ridiculous assertions that are being made. 

Start with the beginning. 

The drilling rig Deepwater Horizon did not explode.  An explosion occurred, followed by a fire and the rig sank.  The explosion took place because BP lost control of the well, allowing high pressure gas to force its way up the well and into the rig area where it ignited, probably due to a random spark somewhere. 

Oil is not leaking from the rig at the bottom of the sea (other than maybe from its fuel tanks), it is flowing from the well. 

Moreover, the situation is not what White House energy adviser (and top environmental adviser) Carol Browner would have you believe.  (Her ignorant remarks largely explain why Irish bookie Paddy Power are giving 16-1 odds that she will shortly resign).  


She thinks Macondo is “the biggest environmental disaster we have ever faced in this country”. (Wrong - as explained below). 


She says there is “more oil is leaking in the Gulf of Mexico than at any other time in our history. (Wrong.  When Ixtoc blew out in the Gulf of Mexico in 1979, 3.3 million barrels spilled into the Gulf of Mexico over a nine-month period, with no permanent environmental damage). 


She may or may not be correct that there is more oil than the Exxon Valdez (in Alaska) in 1989”.  But as explained below this is irrelevant. 

We know how much oil spilled from the Exxon Valdez - its 250,000 barrel capacity.  Furthermore, it was a thick crude and it was spilled close to shore.  Therefore it exacted the maximum environmental damage imaginable on the wildlife and scenery of the Prince William Sound area. 

As regards Macondo, no-one has the faintest idea how much oil is spilling, other than a lot”.  That is because there is no way of actually measuring the flow.  All the estimates are based on the same thing: technologists' guesses by eyeballing black emission from the leaks as portrayed by underwater TV.  And even the eyeballing is based on what measured flows look like on surface, yet who knows whether 5,000 barrels a day flowing from a pipe on surface looks the same as 5,000 bbl/day viewed on TV in 1500 metres of water? That's why guesstimates vary between 5,000 and 80,000 bbl/day

Yet the important thing is not so much the quantity of escaping oil but the damage it causes, and for Macondo there are several other mitigating factors.  One of BP's many brilliant innovations in this catastrophic saga is the injection of dispersant at the sea bottom, which reduces the amount of crude that reaches the surface. 

The crude itself is comparatively light (85% of the density of water) compared to the more syrupy crude on the Exxon Valdez (84%).  The difference is significant because lighter crude is easier to refine which makes it some $5/bbl more valuable.  It also means that much of the Macondo oil is evaporating in the balmy Gulf of Mexico weather, which is why the slicks are so relatively thin compared with those of the Exxon Valdez.

Moreover, the Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef which is just four kilometres from Bligh Island and 15 km from mainland Alaska, whereas Macondo is 80 km from the nearest landfall. So there is plenty of


room for dispersal,


wave action for degradation,


time for evaporation. 

This too explains why the Macondo slicks bear no comparison with those of the Exxon Valdez. 

But here is the clincher.  How many TV and newspaper pictures have you seen of birds and animals clogged with oil?  How many beaches turned black with the dreaded sludge of crude?  The answer is very few, because there is very little actual environmental damage, at least so far.  A week ago the Sunday Times included a graphic in the print edition claiming there were 444 dead birds, 200 dead turtles and 19 dead dolphins; seven days later the bird count had soared to ... 600 damaged.  Look, I am sorry if one of those dead or damaged birds is your auntie, but these numbers are derisory.  Every day in the USA, domestic cats alone kill over half a million wild birds.  A recent study found that windfarms in just one area of Washington state kill over 6,500 birds and 3,000 bats every year.

The only living things that look polluted are protestors who have poured black paint over themselves. 

Anti-BP protesters pour simulated crude over themselves

President Obama flew to Louisiana to look at environmental damage and all he could find was this pristine beach.  If there was an oil-clogged one, do you think he would not have wanted to be photographed there to show his concern if not his (manufactured) enragement?

Barack Obama fails to find pollution on Fourchon Beach

Another big reason is the 1,400 vessels and 20,000 people that BP has engaged to lay booms to contain surface oil, skim and scoop it up, keep it from the coastline and to clean up beaches and wildlife where oil is found.  Where has it sourced this armada and army?  In a pretty clever PR strategy, they are mostly local fishermen and others, who are apparently now making more money from BP than they would in their usual pursuits, which explains why there have been so few of them protesting.  For example, there's a class-action lawsuit against BP on behalf of Louisiana shrimpers being worked up by ... just two shrimpers - hardly a mass movement. 

So that's most of the environmental nonsense put to bed.  It's not to say that there won't be serious damage in the future, but it certainly has not remotely happened so far. 

Then there is BP's response.  In my previous post, I made it pretty clear that there were serious shortcomings in the way the well was drilled and perhaps in the BP cost-cutting culture which might have fostered them. 

However, my reservations there have been completely blown away by the thoroughness and professionalism of what it's being doing ever since, not to mention its money-no-object mentality.

It rapidly built up a huge team of experts, not just from within BP but from its contractors and even its competitors to develop solutions to the unprecedented problem it faces.  While there are many techniques for dealing with a wild well such as Macondo, which are throroughly proven on land or shallow water, they have never been attempted in deep water, where currents across the 1,500 metre water depth are unpredictable and different, while on bottom there is no light, the temperature is close to freezing, the ambient pressure is some 160 atmospheres and no human diver can survive.  Every activity must therefore be conducted by remote control. 

BP broke its workforce into teams that systematically developed an array of different options for controlling the well.  These ranged from trying to lessen the flow by poking pipes into pipes to draw off some of the oil, to commencing two relief wells which will each cost about $100 million. 

Over twenty vessels have at times been active on the surface in the vicinity of the well at the same time, most with pipes or wires running into the water.  The water depth is too deep to anchor, so each of them is dynamically positioned, meaning that computer-controlled thrusters keep them on station using GPS, which in itself is a pretty sophisticated technology. 

Simultaneously: 21 vessels; 16 ROV tether lines

For example, each of 14 ROVs (remote operated vehicles, ie unmanned submarines) is controlled by a tether connecting it to surface.  A specific team - perhaps with an air-traffic control background - is therefore allocated merely to manage the positions of the surface vessels and to ensure that submarine cables and pipes don't get tangled with each other.  

As each technique has been tried and failed, the next technique has been brought into play.  Here are a the main ones. 


Close BOP
Close the BOP (Blowout Preventer), the series of horizontal ram-type valves (item 26 in the diagram below [courtesy Hydril]), which are fixed to the top of the wellhead and whose function is to close off the well, and slice through anything caught in the middle - such as pipe.  When the Deepwater Horizon caught fire and sank, attempts to close the BOP from surface failed for reasons yet unknown.  So ROVs were deployed to activate the rams manually, pressing buttons on a control panel like the gold one below; the rams would draw power from the energy stored in high-pressure accumulator bottles (item 14). 

But this didn't work.  Maybe the BOP didn't function, or perhaps the ROV was unable to press the buttons properly; we don't know.

BOP stack, which is installed in a frame with support elements


Draw off oil 
Prior to that, a pipe was inserted into the
riser (item 17) which is the main pipe from the broken upper end of which, lying on the seabed, most of the oil is emanating.  Some 2,000 bbl/day is being collected this way and lifted to a drillship, the Discoverer Enterprise, on the surface, thereby reducing somewhat the impact of the spill. 


When closing the BOP failed, the next effort was to lower a massive so-called cofferdam, or inverted funnel, over the wellhead in an attempt to catch the oil as it emerged from the well and pipe it back to surface.  This failed however when the cofferdam became clogged with hydrates.  These are solid icy crystals that form when methane comes into contact with moisture under the conditions of high pressure and low temperature that prevail at 1,500 metres of water. 

Methane is the principal ingredient of the natural gas that is bubbling up along with the oil.  Methanol will dissolve hydrates, but evidently BP was unable to pump this down in sufficient quantities to prevent the cofferdam from seizing up with hydrates. 


After that, BP attempted the highly complex
topkill” which has been in the news so much.  Its aim was to kill the well by pumping heavy fluid into the well from the top down, such that it would push the escaping oil and gas back into the reservoir and keep them there. 

First BP had to
connect on to the so-called kill and choke lines through which fluids could be pumped into the well.  Such lines are always connected from rig to BOP for just such a purpose.  In this case, once the rig sank, the kill and choke lines broke free from it and lay strewn on the seabed, yet were still connected to the BOP.  After some ROV-assisted refurbishment, the loose ends were cut off and connected via a specially constructed manifold to a pipe suspended from a multi-service semisubmersible called the Helix Q4000”, through which the heavy mud would be injected

For maximum redundancy in case things went wrong, no fewer than four boats full of pumps and mud were lined up to the Helix Q4000, with a total of nearly 50,000 barrels of mud available.  Also available were tons of junk - random pieces of rubber, rocks and other material - to try to clog up the well shaft or preferably the reservoir.

Sadly, although the operational aspects were entirely successful, the outcome was not.  No-one can be sure why, but the challenge always is that while mud is pumped downwards, the lighter oil may simply move to the side and continue flowing upwards, helped by the gas. 


Cut and Replace Riser
So for BP it was on to the next heroic plan, simple in concept but devilishly difficult at this enormous water depth and with almost no visibility because of the cloud of black oil.  This was to cut off the riser from the top of the BOP stack and tie on to the stub a replacement riser which would lead to the surface drawing off most of the flow.  After several attempts, the cut was accomplished with ROVs and angle-grinders, but this of course means that there was no control at all on the escape of oil - it was all rushing out of the stub.  

At time of writing (7th June), BP seem to have succeeded in fitting the new riser over the stub of the old, but with lots of vents through which a proportion of oil can continue to escape, but in so doing prevent water entering the pipe and creating hydrates to clog up the works again. 

It is an imperfect solution but a big improvement over what has gone before.  Some 10,000 bbl/day is being captured.  BP has produced a 490kb PDF file of good illustrations.


Second BOP
If this indeed proves to be successful, then BP may decide not to deploy its final, more risky option, which is to fit on to that riser stub on top of the existing BOP a second BOP.  The latter could then in principle be closed in order to finally either shut in the well or indeed to re-enter it and kill it properly with pipe reaching down to the reservoir.  


Relief Wells
However, if current attempts all fail to effect a complete and permanent kill, the two relief wells will.  They are being drilled to intersect with Macondo at reservoir level, a huge task considering the well is only 12 cm in diameter.  The wells must reach down to a vertical depth of 5,500 metres and a horizontal displacement of perhaps 1,000 metres and be navigated precisely, like a jet fighter stalking its prey, to the tiny target.  (A future post will explain in simple terms how this is done.) 

Once drilled, water will first be pumped down the relief wells to establish circulation into Macondo, then heavy mud to at last kill it, and finally cement to keep it killed. 

You would think that not just for BP but for the US Administration and the general public the most important issue right now is to kill that damn well, make it permanently safe and clean up any damage, and that nothing should be allowed to stand in the way of this.

Yet solving Macondo seems not to be in the forefront of the priorities of the President and his cohorts.   They have launched both a Congressional enquiry and criminal investigation in respect of the blowout, meanwhile coming out with meaningless blather like keeping the boot on BP's neck and being enraged.  There will be plenty of years and decades for anger, recrimination, retribution, lawsuits, enquiries, investigations, compensation, fines, prison sentences, sanctions or whatever once the well is safe.  The future is a long time. 


But launching such processes now in the midst of this gargantuan battle against nature means that to defend itself BP is forced deploy its most senior managers and hire umpteen lawyers.  And who will brief those managers and lawyers?  Why the top technologists that BP can muster.  The very men and women who should be devoting all their expertise and energy to solving the problem.  You could hardly do more to damage America's interests. 

There seems no limit to the ignorance if not malice of the Obama administration. 

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Issue 206’s Comments to Cyberspace

While I've been lazy in recent weeks about blogging, I have still been harrassing innocent publishers with my witterings online. 

bullet Ignorance not poverty causes obesity P!
Letter to the Sunday Times on 30th June and (edited and) published on 4th July

Minette Marrin is incorrect to assert that parents feed their children fattening food because it's cheap, quoting biscuits, cakes ... takeaways.  These foods are in fact much more expensive than healthy foods, and the "poor" can afford them only because their poverty is relative not absolute.  A trip to any supermarket will soon reveal that, for example, potatoes, meat and tapwater are not only much healthier but cost far less than chips, burgers and colas, and they are dead easy to cook ...

Do you think Israel's attack on an aid convoy is 'state terrorism', as claimed by the Turkish government?
Comment on an Irish Times poll question (73% answered Yes)
The Egyptians have a lot to answer for operating a brutal blockade against Gaza and its luxury hotels and restaurants.  Why does the Egyptian dictatorship hate its fellow-Arabs and fellow-Muslims so much that they are augmenting their ugly surface barriers with


Rights of children vs wishes of gays
Letter to the Irish Independent
Earlier this year the US Congress received a formal report on Child Abuse and Neglect. It found that, in terms of physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect, and of education, children fared up to ELEVEN times better when raised by their married biological parents than by any other parenting arrangement. This dramatically underscores the right of all children to their own ...


Ban on Prostitution
Letter to the Irish Times on 22nd May 2010
In arguing for a ban on conventional prostitution, Tristan Mulhall confidently informs us that women "willingly choose a life of prostitution" only out of "dire necessity".  If that is the case, why does he want to deny women in dire necessity the means to earn their living in a manner they are willing to pursue? ...


Hiding Faces
Letter to The Economist
Your opposition to the growing movement to ban the burqa in Western societies begs an obvious question.  If it is acceptable for women to hide their faces, it must therefore also be OK for men to ...

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Quotes for Issue 206

- - - - - I R E L A N D - - - - -

15th June - Quote and here and here: Don't stand here and say you represent Iranian people ... I don't want to be attacked by these fucking murderers ...Murderer! ... Why did you murder political prisoners? ... Do not touch me. You can't touch me ... What the f**k is going on here? ... Down with the Islamic regime of Iran.

A little bit of Iranian thug politics comes to Ireland. 

Shaho Zamani, an Iranian Kurd seeking asylum in Ireland, shouts his protests
at Manouchehr Mottaki, Iran's Foreign Minister,
invited to Ireland to address the Institute of European Affairs in Dublin. 

The Minister's own security thugs (believed to be armed)
tussle with the Kurd until the Irish Gardaí intervene
to save him and escort him out of the building.

14th June - Quote:  “The Irish Times ... is ... quite a dangerous paper.”

Irish Minister of State Martin Mansergh of the ruling Fianna Fail party
is unhappy that the latest Irish Times poll puts his collapsing party,
for the the first time, in third place behind Labour and Fianna Gael.

No greater compliment can a government minister pay a newspaper. 

- - - - N E T H E R L A N D S - - - - -

10th June - Quote: More security, less crime, less immigration, less Islam -- that is what the Netherlands has chosen.”

Gert Wilders, head of the Party for Freedom,
on winning 24 seats in the Netherlands' recent general election. 
His party demands
demands, inter alia,
an end to immigration from Muslim countries
and bans on new mosques and the Koran

This makes his party the third biggest
and potentially the king-maker in a coalition.

- - - - - U K - - - - - (10 June)

Quote: I think that the best thing now is not ... to attempt to damage the reputation of a great British company ... but to sort out [the problem].

Boris Johnson, Conservative mayor of London, responds to
President Obama's childish, anti-British rhetoric over the BP blowout
(fire the CEO, boot on neck, kick ass, British Petroleum etc)

Quote: Follow the Islamic way to save the world.”

The thoroughly nutty Prince of Wales,
future head of the Church of England and future British king,
extols Islam, the CofE's main competitor in Britain,
for its AlGorian environmentalism.

No wonder the 84-year-old Queen won't step down and hand over to him. 
She is obviously hoping to find a way to skip a generation
and pass her throne on to her more stable grandson Prince William.

Quote: “Dear Chief Secretary, I’m afraid to tell you there’s no money left.

Liam Byrne, Labour's outgoing Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
leaves a handover note for his successor, Liberal-Democrat David Laws.

It it rare indeed you get a truthful statement from a Minister,
especially a Labour one.

Unfortunately, pretty soon afterwards
there was no Chief Secretary to the Treasury left either,
when Mr Laws had to resign for fiddling his expenses

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

Quote: Remember Khaibar, Khaibar, oh Jews! The army of Mohammed will return!

Activists get themselves in the mood to greet,
with rods, knives and bottles,
Israeli soldiers as they rappel
down from helicopters
onto the Marama, 130 km offshore Gaza.

The Marmara is a Turkish vessel which was attempting to carry
10,000 tons of
aid” to Gaza along with 600 people to deliver it (600?).

The battle-cry commemorates Mohammed's'
ethnic cleansing of Jews from Arabia in the eighth century

Quote: Shut up, go back to Auschwitz!... We're helping Arabs go against the US.  Don't forget 9/11 guys.”

Turkish ship the Mavi Marmara, part of the Gaza aid” flotilla,
replies when warned by the Israeli Navy
that it was approaching the blockaded area.

When boarded by Israeli commandos, persons aboard the Marmara
attacked them with rods, knives, catapults and bottles. 
Eventually, in self-defence, the commandos drew their guns
and killed twelve of their attackers.

Quote: “This mission is not about delivering humanitarian supplies, it's about breaking Israel's siege on 1.5 million Palestinians.” 

Greta Berlin, one of the organizers of the
humanitarian” “aid” flotilla, makes clear that
the humanitarian so-called needs of Gazans are irrelevant.

Quote: Peace could be achieved in no more than a week if Israel is willing ... Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his ministers must understand that peace is in [Israel’s] interest”.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is absolutely right,
except for one small detail. 

It is he and his fellow-Palestinians who must be “willing” -
willing to renounce violence and
willing to accept the existence of a Jewish state in historic Jewish land.

As George Bush famously whispered to Tony Blair,
all it takes is to just get Syria to get Hezbollah
to stop doing this shit and it's all over

In other words, stop attacking Israel and a peace accord will quickly follow. 

Israel has demonstrated time and again its willingness to make peace. 
Each time this has been rejected by the Palestinians, most recently in 2000.

- - - - - R U S S I A - - - - -

Quote: Russia is guided by its own long-term state interests ... Those who speak on behalf of the friendly Iranian people must remember this ... Any unpredictability, any political extremism ... is unacceptable for Russia.”

Sergei Prikhodko, a senior diplomat in the Kremlin,
slaps down Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
who had threatened that Russia's actions could
place Russia in the ranks of their historic enemies

I hate to praise an autrocracy such as Russia,
but why cannot the West be equally assertive
in defence of its interests?

Hat tip: Jawa Report

- - - - - U S A - - - - -

13th June - Quote: “[I, Barack Obama am] still a Muslim, the son of a Muslim father, the stepson of Muslim stepfather ... [my] half brothers in Kenya are Muslims, and ... [I am] that he was sympathetic towards the Muslim agenda.

President Obama confides in Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Ghei
(according to the latter).

It serves as a reminder of a curious statement he made
during an interview on the campaign trail that
John McCain has not talked about my Muslim faith”.

See how long it takes the mainstream media to pick up this little gem. 

Nevertheless, the president's admission is rather disappointing. 
One of the few things I had admired him for
was his apostasy from the Muslim faith he was born into,
and his conversion
to Christianity via the United Church of Christ,
albeit under the auspices of the toxic Rev Jeremiah Wright. 

But it seems I had formed too high an opinion of him (hard to do).

Hat tip: Tom Carew 

Quote: We're going to keep the boot on the neck of BP.”

Ken Salazar, America's Interior Secretary,
mouths one of the US Government's typical meaningless platitudes
which serve no constructive purpose. 

It should be devoting all its energy to supporting BP
in fighting the Macondo blowout and oil spill

There will be plenty of time for recriminations,
compensation and lawsuits later.

Quote: it is almost at the level of sedition.

Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts
and a big buddy of the US president, on his assessment of
Republican opposition to the Administration's policies

Quote: Obviously the loss of Daniel Pearl was one of those moments that captured the world’s imagination because it reminded us of how valuable a free press is

With this fatuous clause, Barack Obama pays tribute
to the memory of Daniel Pearl at the signing of a new
Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act

Surrounded by still grieving relatives of Mr Pearl, the American Jew journalist
whom jihadists triumphantly beheaded on video in Karachi in 2002,
Mr Obama displays not just his now familiar ignorance and disdain of history,
but an astonishing lack of human sensitivity.

Mark Steyn rightly eviscerates the president.

Quote: What they are doing ... They're sticking our kids with the bill. And that's immoral. That's generational theft.

Sarah Palin is referring to mounting debt and government programs.
Though she means America's, her remark is true for all economies. 

Heaping enormous debt onto a nations'
children, infants and unborn could also be described as a form of child abuse.

Quote (Minute 4:20): It's racial harassment if we say it's racial harassment. Don't bother us with the facts.

Todd Tucker, author of
Notre Dame vs the Klan: How the Fighting Irish defeated the Ku Klux Klan”,
a book which describes a two-day battle in 1924
between Catholic students of Notre Dame University and
the all-powerful Indiana Ku Klux Klan, which ultimately destroyed the IKKK.
Note burning crosses and white-hooded Klansmen 

Mr Tucker is referring to a kangaroo court of the - wait for it -
Indiana University-Purdue University
Indianapolis (IUPUI). 

It had convicted one of its
mature students, Keith John Sampson,
racial harassment because he had been seen reading the book on campus. 

The book's cover features burning crosses
and white hooded figures.
Case proven.

The IUPUI president eventually apologised for the injustice to Mr Sampson
but took no investigative, disciplinary or preventive action.

- - - - - K O R E A s - - - - -

Quote: “This was an unacceptable provocation by North Korea ... the international community has a responsibility and a duty to respond.

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton says the right thing for once. 

It is of course empty rhetoric because
her boss will never allow America to take any actual action
which might upset its enemies.

- - - - - er, F R A N C E - - - - -

Quote: We must know what to tell them in case we get in bed with them, right.

Carla Bruni, aka as Mrs Nicolas Sarkozy,
explains the need, in 1996, for a book
to translate sexy phrases into four languages,
with a number of graphic examples. 

So now we know what the French president
gets up to in the Elysee Palace.

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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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