Sunday, May 15, 2005

From the Whiskey Bar

Scenes We'd Like to See
(click here for full-size image.)
Defendants in the dock at the Ango-American War Crimes Trial of 2010, held at The Hague under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court.

Of the 20 defendants shown here -- the so-called "Republican Guard" -- only one (Alan Greenspan, second row, second from right) was found not guilty, on the grounds that the destruction of the American economy and the global financial crash of 2008, while regrettable, did not constitute war crimes as defined by the Geneva Convention.

Another defendant (Ari Fleischer, front row, extreme right) received only a light sentence, as the court determined that lying to the American people was too common a crime to merit more severe punishment.

In a more controversial decision, former Secretary of State Colin Powell was spared any prison time at all, after the judges ruled that being seated between former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers for the entire eight-month trial constituted "punishment enough."

Former Vice President Richard Cheney (second row, extreme left), who feigned narcolepsy throughout most of the trial, was committed to the newly established United Nations Hospital for the Criminally Insane, as was former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (next to Cheney), who insisted on being addressed as "Mrs. Bush" during the the trial.

The remaining defendants were sentenced to life terms at the Guantanamo War Crimes Penitentiary -- the same facility used to imprison the remaining leaders of the Al Qaeda terrrorist organization, whose own war crimes trial began shortly after this picture was taken.

Posted by billmon at 06:15 PM

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Lance Mannion

A damn good rant

Dog Shit and Shrub Posted by Hello

Shrub Flags and Dog Shit


Police in Germany are hunting pranksters who have been sticking
miniature flag portraits of US President George W. Bush into piles of
dog poo in public parks. Josef Oettl, parks administrator for Bayreuth,
said: "This has been going on for about a year now, and there must be
2,000 to 3,000 piles of excrement that have been claimed during that

The series of incidents was originally thought to be some sort of
protest against the US-led invasion ofIraq. And then when it continued
it was thought to be a protest against President George W. Bush's
campaign for re-election. But it is still going on and the police say
they are completely baffled as to who is to blame. "We have sent out
extra patrols to try to catch whoever is doing this in the act," said
police spokesman Reiner Kuechler. "But frankly, we don't know what we
would do if we caught them red handed." Legal experts say there is no
law against using feces as a flag stand and the federal legal experts
say there is no law against using feces as a flag stand and the federal
constitution is vague on the issue.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Fall of 2001

I’m working for an Investment Banking firm in Houston, Texas. Our airplane is approaching 20 years old and is need of upgrades plus our travel needs are changing. For several months I have been looking at the market trying to decide what would be the “perfect” airplane for our needs, something that would do 85% of our missions yet wouldn’t blow the aviation budget too bad. I had picked several, from small and slow to mid-sized and reasonably fast. I was ready for the call.

The first sign of trouble was when the call came; it was to meet with Nick at the River Oaks Country Club Men’s Grill. It was never a good sign to meet somewhere other than “downtown” (my guess is they believe if we were at ROCC that I wouldn’t go postal) but I was so sure we were meeting to talk about a new aircraft I ignored the warning signs. I put on my monkey suit, showed up on time, ate a really bad hamburger, showed my research on the used aircraft market and then set like pole axed mule as Nick told me they no longer needed my services, they were going with a “Quartershare”. I walked out of the Men’s Grill without a clue how I was going to survive. The Job market was as bad as it had been in more that 20 years, I had just turned 60, and the only airplanes I could fly were no longer being made and had not been in production for many years. It looked grim.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

I Like Ike

"Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are [a] few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."

- President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 11/8/54

Demise of a Hard-Fighting Squad

Marines Who Survived Ambush Are Killed, Wounded in Blast

By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, May 12, 2005; Page A01

HABAN, Iraq, May 11 -- The explosion enveloped the armored vehicle in flames, sending orange balls of fire bubbling above the trees along the Euphrates River near the Syrian border.

Marines in surrounding vehicles threw open their hatches and took off running across the plowed fields, toward the already blackening metal of the destroyed vehicle. Shouting, they pulled to safety those they could, as the flames ignited the bullets, mortar rounds, flares and grenades inside, rocketing them into the sky and across pastures.

Gunnery Sgt. Chuck Hurley emerged from the smoke and turmoil around the vehicle, circling toward the spot where helicopters would later land to pick up casualties. As he passed one group of Marines, he uttered one sentence: "That was the same squad."

Among the four Marines killed and 10 wounded when an explosive device erupted under their Amtrac on Wednesday were the last battle-ready members of a squad that four days earlier had battled foreign fighters holed up in a house in the town of Ubaydi. In that fight, two squad members were killed and five were wounded.

In 96 hours of fighting and ambushes in far western Iraq, the squad had ceased to be.

Every member of the squad -- one of three that make up the 1st Platoon of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Regiment -- had been killed or wounded, Marines here said. All told, the 1st Platoon -- which Hurley commands -- had sustained 60 percent casualties, demolishing it as a fighting force.

"They used to call it Lucky Lima," said Maj. Steve Lawson, commander of the company. "That turned around and bit us."

Wednesday was the fourth day of fighting in far western Iraq, as the U.S. military continued an assault that has sent more than 1,000 Marines down the ungoverned north bank of the Euphrates River in search of foreign fighters crossing the border from Syria. Of seven Marines killed so far in the operation, six came come from Lima Company's 1st Platoon.

Lima Company drew Marine reservists from across Ohio into the conflict in Iraq. Some were still too young to be bothered much by shaving, or even stubble.

They rode to war on a Marine Amtrac, an armored vehicle that travels on tank-like treads. Marines in Iraq typically crowd thigh to thigh in the Amtrac, with one or two men perched on cardboard boxes of rations. Only the gunners manning the top hatches of Amtracs have any view of the passing scenery. Those inside find out what their field of combat is when the rear ramp comes down and they run out with weapons ready.

Marines typically pass travel time in the Amtrac by extracting favorite bits from ration packets, mercilessly ribbing a usual victim for eating or sleeping too much, or sleeping themselves.

On Monday, when the Marine assault on foreign fighters formally began, the young Marines of the squad from the 1st Platoon were already exhausted. Their encounter at the house in Ubaydi that morning and the previous night had been the unintended first clash of the operation, pitting them against insurgents who fired armor-piercing bullets up through the floor. It took 12 hours and five assaults by the squad -- plus grenades, bombing by an F/A-18 attack plane, tank rounds and rockets at 20 yards -- to kill the insurgents and permit recovery of the dead Marines' bodies.
Afterward, they slept in the moving Amtrac, heads back and mouths agape. One stood up to stretch his legs. He fell asleep again standing up, leaning against the metal walls.

Squad members spoke only to compare what they knew about the condition of their wounded. Getting the latest news, they fell silent again. After one such half-hour of silence, a Marine offered a terse commendation for one of the squad members shot at Ubaydi: "Bunker's a good man."

With the operation underway, Marine commanders kept the 1st Platoon largely to the back, letting its men rest.

Commanders had hoped the operation would swiftly capture or kill large numbers of foreign fighters. But the foreigners, and everyone else here, had plenty of warning that the Marines were coming -- including those ready to fight at Ubaydi.

By the time the squad from Lima Company crossed north of the Euphrates, whole villages consisted of little more than abandoned houses with fresh tire tracks leading into pastures or homes occupied only by prepubescent boys or old men. Men of fighting age had made themselves scarce. The AK-47 assault rifles ubiquitous in Iraqi households had disappeared.

Many Marines complained bitterly that commanders had pulled them out of the fight at Ubaydi while the insurgents were still battling, to start the planned offensive. "They take us from killing the people they want us to kill and bring us to these ghost villages," one complained Wednesday on the porch of a house commandeered as a temporary base.

Uneventful house searches stretched into late afternoon, the tedium broken only by small-arms fire and mortar rounds lobbed by insurgents hiding on the far side of the river.

This correspondent had just gotten off the Amtrac and the reconstructed squad from 1st Platoon was rolling toward the Euphrates in a row of armored vehicles, headed for more house searches, when the vehicle rolled over the explosive.

Marines initially said they believed the blast was caused by two mines stacked on top of each other. But reports from Marines that they had seen an artillery round and two hand-held radios near the blast site raised suspicions that the explosion was caused by a bomb that had been activated remotely, Lawson said.

Hurley and others pulled their comrades out of the Amtrac as flames detonated -- or "cooked off," in military jargon -- its ammunition. As Marines carrying stretchers ran to the Amtrac, bullets snapped out of the burning hulk and traveled hundreds of feet. The Marines ran back through the fusillade, carrying out the wounded. "C'mon, c'mon, c'mon," some shouted, desperate to get the wounded out.

The four dead were trapped inside the vehicle, Lawson said.

"We passed right over it. We passed right over it," one of many Marines in the convoy ahead of the burning Amtrac said of the explosive, puzzling over why he was still alive.

"That's the last of the squad," said another, Cpl. Craig Miller, whose reassignment last month had taken him out of the unit. "Three weeks ago, that would have been me."

Late Wednesday, helicopters flew out Hurley and the remaining members of 1st Platoon for time off. They are to return after the platoon is remade, Marines said.

Another Lima Company platoon commander ordered his men to bed early, in preparation for the next day's operations. Mourning could wait.

"We don't have time," the commander said.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

230 HP Bellanca Cruisemaster  Posted by Hello

Small Airport Life

I did a Biennial Flight review in a Cessna C-172 yesterday. This was the first time in over 20 years I have instructed in a light airplane. I have over 5000 hours of Instruction given but…that was a long time ago. Yesterday I was like a newbe doing it for the first time...and then the student asked me to do the last landing. It was not a thing of beauty but I managed to land the Cessna with enough grace that I was not too embarrassed.

The move to McMinnville has been very positive. My day job’s flying is some of the most interesting I have done, then add in a small town airport with the usual assortment of airport bums, students, and other hangers on, it has recharged my flying batteries. For the first time in years I’m enjoying the sense of brotherhood, the comradeship of the air that attracted me to flying for a living.

I’m enjoying it so much for I’m thinking about buying a light airplane. It will not happen but…there is a 230 HP Bellanca Cruisemaster for sale on the airport that I’m looking at with a lustful eye. Now if I do 40 hours of instruction a month at $40 an hour…that’s $1600…let’s see taxes will be about $600…that leaves $1000…hummm.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Un Fucking Believable

I'm at a loss for words, just click.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Charlie Wilson’s War

I just finished reading “Charlie Wilson’s War” by George Crile (ISBN 0-8021-4124-2). What a hoot, an investigative report that reads like a spy novel. As I read, all I could think was only in Texas would you find the half bubble off plumb folks with the money and connections to pull off Charlie Wilson’s War. As good as the book is, more important it is a history of the CIA’s Afghanistan adventure and how it led to the blow back of 9/11. A must read that is fun, not a bad twofer.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Cell phone store in Khartoum Posted by Hello

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Smartest Guy I Know

I worked for Matt almost from the start of Simmons & Company International.

TWILIGHT IN THE DESERT....Via Land of Black Gold, a story in the Sunday Herald of Glasgow about oil analyst Matt Simmons:

George Bush’s energy adviser Matt Simmons claims the global economy has misjudged oil supply, writes Valerie Darroch

AS President George W Bush strolled around his Prairie Chapel ranch in Texas last week with Saudi ruler Crown Prince Abdullah, oil prices were high on the agenda during talks between the leaders of the world’s biggest energy consumer and largest oil exporter.

At the same time, Matt Simmons, one of Bush’s energy advisers, was at a conference in Edinburgh, spelling out harsh facts on Saudi oil production which, if proved true, would have severe repercussions for the global economy.

Simmons’s belief is that Saudi has been overstating its oil reserves for years, its biggest oil fields are in decline and it will struggle to live up to its promise to crank up daily output from around 10 million barrels a day to 12 million by 2009 and later 15 million to meet global demand.

He visited Saudi in 2003 as part of a US energy delegation. By the time he left, six days later, he was convinced that the rosy picture the Saudis had painted of their key strategic resource was deeply flawed but he could not yet prove it.

“On the plane back from Riyadh I said ‘Something doesn’t meet the smell test …’ I have made my career out of uncovering illusions and I thought, wouldn’t it be odd if the biggest energy country in the world proved to be an illusion,” he says.

Chairman of Simmons & Co, the independent energy investment bank he founded in 1974, Simmons is about to publish a book – Twilight In The Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock And The World Economy – in which he outlines the fruits of his painstaking research into the true extent of Saudi oil reserves.

Simmons studied some 200 petroleum engineering reports on the biggest oil fields in Saudi, a nation which boasts 25% of world reserves.

“It was the most exhausting project of my life … like putting together a complex patchwork quilt,” he says. He found “a smoking gun” – no evidence of major new finds beyond a limited “golden triangle” and clear evidence of major fields entering decline.

Global data on oil reserves is a sensitive topic. The big oil-producing nations, members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) production cartel, are particularly sensitive about revealing data as any downward revision in oil wealth would have ramifications on economic and political stability. Simmons claims that OPEC members frustrated attempts to get real data over the past two decades because the higher their reserves seemed, the bigger the quota they obtained.

In the 1980s, Middle East reserves jumped by some 43% in three years, despite there being no major new finds.

Oil nations and oil companies alike have a motive to exaggerate reserves. Shell admitted last year that it had overstated reserves by a whopping 20%, sending its shares crashing. “Sure, there are other bombshells out there still to come,” Simmons claims.

He is calling for the world to adapt a new standard of disclosure of oil reserves, which he refers to as “13 points of light”. The idea has support from the International Energy Agency, International Monetary Fund and G8 leaders of the world’s richest economies.

But facing up to the truth is not easy for those with vested interests. Simmons says: “My two worst critics in Saudi think I’m looney … but I think I’ll sell a lot of books there.”

His arch critics – two senior figures in Saudi oil firm Aramco – visited Washington recently to debunk his theories, arguing that with new technology and future discoveries, they could hold production steady in mature fields such as Ghawar, the world’s largest.

But Simmons says the seeds for today’s problems were sown in the 1970s when US oil majors urged the Saudis to use water injection to get high oil flow rates. Simmons argues that this has led to significantly lower recovery levels. “Big Oil bagged the Saudis … people knew in 1972 that if they produced at those levels it would destroy the reservoirs,” he says. Does he fear the Saudis might want to silence him now?

“Some people in Saudi will think I’m a hero because the oil price will go up … I’m no Salman Rushdie,” he grins.

And what does Bush think of Simmons now? “He tells me to keep speaking out loudly and honestly about our energy situation,” Simmons replies.

In the run-up to Bush winning the Presidency in 2000, he hired Simmons to help write and edit his energy plan. Simmons had previously warned Bill Clinton’s administration of impending oil shortages. He advised Melanie Kenderdine, who became director of US oil policy, and former energy secretary Bill Richardson, to concentrate on finding out how much oil OPEC had rather than on begging for more.

“Melanie came back and said ‘Oh Matt. There’s no oil out there … But if you talk to the super-majors there’s no crisis at all,” Simmons says.

He takes a pride in being a contrarian, making strategic moves against conventional wisdom in his career that later proved to be prescient.

Son of a wealthy commercial banker, he was a research associate at Harvard Business School when he did his first oil-related deal in 1969, raising $340,000 for a diving company fighting off a takeover.

“The guy who ran it pioneered the use of mixed gases to take men below 200ft. If that hadn’t worked we’d never have had the North Sea,” he says.

Five years later, investors in the company made 60 times their money – a blistering start to Simmons’s career. He set up an office in Boston doing deals in a number of sectors. “But I’d fallen passionately in love with companies selling services to the oil industry,” he says.

When the Yom Kippur war broke out in 1973, sending oil prices soaring, Simmons saw his future: “I foresaw a boom in oil services of which we’d not seen seen the like since the railroad days.”

He moved to Houston and secured funding from Edward Bates & Sons, a bank controlled by Ivory & Sime, and founded by Jimmy Gammell, father of Cairn Energy founder Bill, just one of his long-standing links with Scotland in the early days of the oil boom.

“The industry was full of gruff old boys and we were the young Harvard MBAs. Man alive, it was fun,” he says

Bates was declared insolvent during the secondary bank crisis and Simmons had to buy back its shares from the Bank of England. There followed seven strong years, interrupted by another oil shock in 1981. “I thought there would be an oil crisis like you wouldn’t believe and I’d best get into restructuring,” he says.

Simmons steered countless companies through painful financial restructuring at a time when other banks declined to get involved. “It was the best of years and the worst of years,” he recalls.

His principles remain the same as in 1974 – specialise in energy products and services; offer the highest quality advice; pride yourself on being small; and have fun.

“When we emerged at the end of the 1980s I thought – our sector got nuked and we didn’t just survive, we are actually now an important firm,” Simmons says.

In 1993, Simmons moved into the securities business, which now accounts for 40% of revenue, and expansion continued in 1998 when Simmons hired Colin Welsh to head up a new office in Aberdeen.

A restless mind with unflagging energy, Simmons spends increasing time at his home in Maine where, besides indulging his passion for painting, he buries himself in energy research. If his latest book is anything to go by, he may have a few more shocks in store for the future.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Low and Slow

The other day I mentioned climbing into the back seat of a J3 Cub for my first flight lesson. Yesterday for the first time in over 45 years I found myself in a J3. This time it was the front seat and it was much harder to find a way to get in than I remember but once in the memories of those first flights came flooding back. The pilot-owner of this J3 looked the part, jeans held up by braces, a long bill give-me cap and just old enough that you could believe he had flown the airplane when it was new. We flew from McMinnville up to the Flying M ranch in the coast range foothills, stopped for a glass of tea and airplane talk, and then flew back to KMMV. What a day, it reminded me why I started along the road chosen so many years ago. Good people, grass landing strips, flying low and very slow, one of the best airport bum days I’ve ever had.

After our return to KMMV Bryan and I walked over to my hangar so he could sit in a LearJet for the first time. The symbolism was not lost on me, a day spent with the two most iconic airplanes of the first century of flight. You could not plan it better.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

More Food

I find I eat out very little unless I'm on the road. If I lived in Mexico or even The Sudan it would be different, other countries are still serving real food in their cafes instead of the robofood you find in all but the very best places here in the States. I like what I call real food, not necessarily expensive, but food that is made on site. I started to say "native food" but then I realized that deep fried, frozen, breaded, ground meat patties served with canned green beans and instant potatoes is native food in Texas. Sad thing is even in other countries American "type" food is being served more and more.

I loved the food in both Sudan and Afghanistan...both were very simple; charcoaled meat, bread, some chiles, and in Sudan fresh greens and tomatoes, served with either hot tea or fresh juice. I came out of country feeling better and healthier than I have in ages.