Author Archives: Old Boy
This is despite a loophole in the law blocking repossessions.
A new report estimates that lenders have issued legal proceedings to take properties off up to 44,000 borrowers.
These are made up of residential and buy-to-let properties, according to calculations contained in a new report by Davy Stockbrokers.
An analysis estimates that what it calls non-cooperative borrowers number between 23,700 and 43,700.
Letters threatening legal action have been sent to these borrowers.
And there are fears that large numbers of properties, particularly buy-to-lets, will be repossessed.
Ulster Bank said that up to a third of its property owners in arrears were making no payments at all. The bank said it would not hesitate to repossess in these cases.
Strong demand for family-type homes and the presence in the market of large numbers of cash buyers mean that a flood of newly repossessed properties can be absorbed.
A number of banks were also likely to keep repossessed properties on their books, take the rental income and slowly release them on the market, Mr Mac Coille wrote. Changes in the law to restore the right of lenders to repossess properties have been passed by the Houses of the Oireachtas and are expected to become law soon.
Davy reckons that arrears will keep rising this year, with large numbers of homeowners struggling to repay largely due to income decreases rather than job losses.
For large numbers of borrowers in trouble the mortgage repayments are so high they represent more than half of their income, Davy reported, citing unpublished Central Bank studies.
A separate MABS (Money Advice and Budgeting Service) report found that distressed borrowers had just €777 a month left, after paying for utilities, food and childcare. But the mortgage was around €500 a month.
Banks will have to write down up to €11.5bn of mortgage debt. Most of this will be in the form of split mortgages where part of the mortgage owed is put to one side, and in most cases will probably have to be written off at the end of the mortgage term.
But one-third of borrowers are in such a bad financial position that a debt writedown will not work. These are mainly buy-to-let investors.
Half of investor mortgages are paying interest only. Despite this, almost 30,000 out of 150,000 buy-to-let mortgages are in arrears.
By TANA FRENCH
DUBLIN — FOR the past month, Ireland has been outraged by tapes of Anglo Irish Bank officials, back in 2008, discussing lying to the government about how big a loan they needed, and how they knew there was no chance that the loan would ever be repaid. That loan was the first domino in a sequence that ended with the whole Irish economy flat on its face.
It’s not the bankers’ actions that have outraged people — pretty much everyone had a fair idea that this was what had gone down. It’s the overpowering sense of amorality revealed on the recordings, which were released by the Irish Independent newspaper. The bankers have a great laugh about the situation. It genuinely never seems to mean anything to them that the taxpayer is going to be forced to pay their bills, to the tune of tens of billions. More than that: it never seems to occur to them that their actions might harm people.
I write psychological crime, so I spend a fair amount of time thinking about morality and amorality and what underlies them. And it seems to me that this amorality could be a symptom of something deeper: a total disconnect between action and consequence.
Ireland’s population is just over half that of New York City’s. Our ruling class — including many of the politicians, bankers and property developers who wrecked the economy — is a tiny community, interwoven by friendship, marriages, education, sports and financial transactions to a degree that would be unimaginable in a bigger country. That interweaving has created a safety net that won’t let any of the ruling elite fall. If you’re a banker and your golf buddy’s kid wants to be a banker, then it doesn’t matter if the kid is an idiot, or if he kills cats for kicks: you’ll take him on, and you’ll keep him on.
For many of these people, action and consequence don’t apply; their lives are mapped out from birth, and nothing they do will alter that map. It seems to me that that would be intensely disempowering, even terrifying. Instead of being a series of interlinked actions, life is made up of a scattering of events that have no discernible relationship to one another and that you don’t influence in any real way. In that climate, it would be difficult to develop the sense that your actions make any difference, that you have any responsibility for the consequences. Without cause and effect, there’s no foundation for morality.
I’m not saying this is an excuse. It isn’t. But, like everyone in Ireland, I want answers — for the taxes piled on taxes, for the enormous cuts to essential services, for the dole queues and the flood of emigration, for the desperation in the voices of people who are trapped in ghost estates and don’t have the money to buy their kids shoes. And I wonder if this could be one small facet of one of the answers.
Another question, maybe a more interesting one, is how people who weren’t part of that powerful elite got sucked into the property pyramid scheme that fueled the boom. Some commentators have implied that the answer is basically the same: people got deep into credit-card debt, or took out mortgages for 10 times their income, because they were temporarily sucked into the psychosis of the powerful and it didn’t occur to them that there might be consequences.
But I wonder if, for these people, the truth might actually be the opposite.
Throughout the economic boom, the politicians and bankers and property developers, along with the news media, were telling all of us that cause and effect were perfectly, inextricably linked: “If you buy a vastly overpriced and shoddily built house in the middle of nowhere, the economy will keep growing, and in a few years your house’s value will have doubled, and you can sell it to some other sucker and buy something you actually want and live happily ever after and UTOPIA!!!” It was as simple and certain as sticking a coin into a vending machine: insert Action X, and the life machine will inevitably whir and beep and spit out Future Y.
THE Irish are notoriously cynical, but the Utopia myth hit at exactly the moment when we were most open to unquestioning belief. The majority of Irish people were so desperately poor, for most of the country’s history, that when suddenly we weren’t broke any longer, the cynicism was washed away by the flood of prosperity. We needed to believe that the Celtic Tiger hadn’t simply wandered in, because that would mean it could wander out again. We needed to believe that we had somehow made it happen, and that therefore there were things we could do, like buying overpriced houses, to make it keep happening. We needed, basically, to believe in that chain of action and consequence.
And so the Irish tendency to raise an eyebrow at anything that’s presented as certain paradise dissolved just at the moment when it was needed most.
A lot of my generation believed that chain was unbreakable. When it shattered, so did they — not just financially (although that too), but also psychologically. Their whole sense of a world governed by coherent cause and effect, of their ability to have any agency in their own lives, came under attack.
Those people, the ones who trusted too deeply in action and consequence, were the ones who got utterly, shamelessly destroyed by the people who had no such belief. I’m pretty sure the effects of that betrayal, for Ireland, will take decades to fully unfurl.
Tana French is the author, most recently, of the novel “Broken Harbor.”
Fort Meade, MD – The United States has had, clearly, a bit of an issue with whistleblowers in recent years. The newest and biggest one, perhaps the most damaging, is still ongoing but there is still another one playing out in the courts, the saga of Bradley Manning which is rapidly coming to a conclusion.
After weeks of testimony and legal finagling, yesterday Judge Denise Lind retired to her chambers to deliberate in the remaining charges against Manning. Some of the initial crime with which he was charged Manning has pled guilty to, but others still stand and many of them are very, very serious.
Now Manning will await his fate, judge by a single person and not by a jury of his peers, this being a military court and all, which could very well result in a conviction for the 25-year old Manning. Actually, given the politically charged atmosphere of the case and there really being no other option, it’s pretty much guaranteed that he will be found guilty on all the charges, heck there’s no real reason to even bother with the deliberation, it’s going to happen.
“He’s not seeking attention. He’s saying he’s willing to accept the price. That is a whistleblower, period. That is somebody who wants to inform the American public,”said Manning’s lawyer David Coombs upon concluding his case.
Really, little of what Manning leaked mattered all that much save for a single video showing U.S. troops gunning down Reuters reporters, which was a little embarrassing.
Despite a willingness to take responsibility for his actions, it’s believed that Manning would still prefer to not go to jail for the rest of his life.
“I think it’s pretty clear what the judge’s decision is going to be since this case is what it is. I mean this is no small thing, not tiny little event that just happened to happen. Aside from the trouble that it cause, giving him release could give other people so inclined to do the same thing, and that is not something anyone wants I would think,” said Scrape TV Legal analyst Gabe Hawthorne. “This is one of those cases where the law is actually not totally relevant to the outcome, what matters is what people want and people want Manning to go to prison for a long time. Manning obviously not but he doesn’t really get a say.”
Manning has said on multiple occasions, perhaps even to the judge, that he would prefer to stay out of prison if that is possible.
“It’s really a sticky situation where what is right legally is not necessarily in lock step with what people seem to want. Often that results in people getting angry, but that is unlikely here because Manning acted against the government. Perhaps if the information belonged to a young black kid if Florida he would be okay, but the U.S. government is a different animal,” continued Hawthorne. “That is really what has gotten him in the most trouble, who he went up against. A lesser agency and everything would have been fine because what he did wasn’t really that bad, but he made the government look bad and when that happens they will seek revenge, and have it most likely.”
The judge is believed to be just waiting around to announce the decision she made before the trial started
At a time when much of the world is looking with a mix of envy and excitement at the recent boom in USA unconventional gas from shale rock, when countries from China to Poland to France to the UK are beginning to launch their own ventures into unconventional shale gas extraction, hoping it is the cure for their energy woes, the US shale boom is revealing itself to have been a gigantic hyped confidence bubble that is already beginning to deflate. Carpe diem!
America: The New Saudi Arabia?
If we’re to believe the current media reports out of Washington and the US oil and gas industry, the United States is about to become the “new Saudi Arabia.” We are told she is suddenly and miraculously on the track to energy self-sufficiency. No longer need the US economy depend on high-risk oil or gas from the politically unstable Middle East or African countries. The Obama White House energy adviser, Heather Zichal, has even shifted her focus from pushing carbon cap ‘n trade schemes to promoting America’s “shale revolution.”
In his January 2012 State of the Union Address to Congress, President Obama claimed that, largely owing to the shale gas revolution, “We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years.” 
Renowned energy experts like Cambridge Energy Research’s Daniel Yergin in recent Congressional testimony waxed almost poetic about the purported benefits of the recent US shale oil and gas exploitation: “The United States is in the midst of the ‘unconventional revolution in oil and gas’ that, it becomes increasingly apparent, goes beyond energy itself.” He didn’t explain what exactly energy going beyond energy itself means. He also claimed that “the industry supports 1.7 million jobs – a considerable accomplishment given the relative newness of the technology. That number could rise to 3 million by 2020.” Very impressive numbers.
Mr Yergin went on to suggest a major geopolitical dimension of America’s shale oil and gas industry, saying “expansion of US energy exports will add an additional dimension to US influence in the world…Shale gas has risen from two percent of domestic production a decade ago to 37 percent of supply, and prices have dropped dramatically. US oil output, instead of continuing its long decline, has increased dramatically – by about 38 percent since 2008. Just the increase since 2008 is equivalent to the entire output of Nigeria, the seventh-largest producing country in OPEC…People talk about the potential geopolitical impact of the shale gas and tight oil. That impact is already here…”
In their Energy Outlook to 2030, published in 2012, BP’s CEO Bob Dudley sounded a similar upbeat projection of the role of shale gas and oil in making North America energy independent of the Middle East. BP predicted that growth in shale oil and gas supplies—“along with other fuel sources”—will make the western hemisphere virtually self-sufficient in energy by 2030. In a development with enormous geopolitical implications, a large swath of the world including North and South America would see its dependence on oil imports from potentially volatile countries in the Middle East and elsewhere disappear, BP added.
There’s only one thing wrong with all the predictions of a revitalized United States energy superpower flooding the world with its shale oil and shale gas. It’s based on a bubble, on hype from the usual Wall Street spin doctors. In reality it is becoming increasingly clear that the shale revolution is a short-term flash in the energy pan, a new Ponzi fraud, carefully built with the aid of the same Wall Street banks and their “market analyst” friends, many of whom brought us the 2000 “dot.com” bubble and, more spectacularly, the 2002-2007 US real estate securitization bubble. A more careful look at the actual performance of the shale revolution and its true costs is instructive.
One reason we hear little about the declining fortunes of shale gas and oil is that the boom is so recent, reaching significant proportions only in 2009-2010. Long-term field extraction data for a significant number of shale gas wells only recently is coming to light. Another reason is that there have grown up huge vested corporate interests from Wall Street to the oil industry who are trying everything possible to keep the shale revolution myth alive. Despite all their efforts however, data coming to light, mostly for the review of industry professionals, is alarming.
Shale gas has recently come onto the gas market in the US via use of several combined techniques developed among others by Dick Cheney’s old company, Halliburton Inc. Halliburton several years ago combined new methods for drilling in a horizontal direction with injection of chemicals and “fracking,” or hydraulic fracturing of the shale rock formations that often trap volumes of natural gas. Until certain changes in the last few years, shale gas was considered uneconomical. Because of the extraction method, shale gas is dubbed unconventional and is extracted in far different ways from conventional gas.
The US Department of Energy’ EIA defines conventional oil and gas as oil and gas “produced by a well drilled into a geologic formation in which the reservoir and fluid characteristics permit
the oil and natural gas to readily flow to the wellbore.” Conversely, unconventional hydrocarbon production doesn’t meet these criteria, either because geological formations present a very low level of porosity and permeability, or because the fluids have a density approaching or even exceeding that of water, so that they cannot be produced, transported, and refined by conventional methods. By definition then, unconventional oil and gas are far more costly and difficult to extract than conventional, one reason they only became attractive when oil prices soared above $100 a barrel in early 2008 and more or less remained there.
To extract the unconventional shale gas, a hydraulic fracture is formed by pumping a fracturing fluid into the wellbore at sufficient pressure causing the porous shale rock strata to crack. The fracture fluid, whose precise contents are usually company secret and extremely toxic, continues further into the rock, extending the crack. The trick is to then prevent the fracture from closing and ending the supply of gas or oil to the well. Because in a typical fracked well fluid volumes number in millions of gallons of water, water mixed with toxic chemicals, fluid leak-off or loss of fracturing fluid from the fracture channel into the surrounding permeable rock takes place. If not controlled properly, that fluid leak-off can exceed 70% of the injected volume resulting in formation matrix damage, adverse formation fluid interactions, or altered fracture geometry and thereby decreased production efficiency.
Hydraulic fracturing has recently become the preferred US method of extracting unconventional oil and gas resources. In North America, some estimate that hydraulic fracturing will account for nearly 70% of natural gas development in the future.
Why have we just now seen the boom in fracking shale rock to get gas and oil? Thank then-Vice president Dick Cheney and friends. The real reason for the recent explosion of fracking in the United States was passage of legislation in 2005 by the US Congress that exempted the oil industry’s hydraulic fracking, astonishing as it sounds, from any regulatory supervision by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Safe Drinking Water Act. The oil and gas industry is the only industry in America that is allowed by EPA to inject known hazardous materials – unchecked – directly into or adjacent to underground drinking water supplies.
The 2005 law is known as the “Halliburton Loophole.” That’s because it was introduced on massive lobbying pressure from the company that produces the lion’s share of chemical hydraulic fracking fluids – Dick Cheney’s old company, Halliburton. When he became Vice President under George W. Bush in early 2001, Cheney immediately got Presidential responsibility for a major Energy Task Force to make a comprehensive national energy strategy. Aside from looking at Iraq oil potentials as documents later revealed, the energy task force used Cheney’s considerable political muscle and industry lobbying money to win exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act. 
During Cheney’s term as vice president he moved to make sure the Government’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would give a green light to a major expansion of shale gas drilling in the US.
In 2004 the EPA issued a study of the environmental effects of fracking. That study has been called “scientifically unsound” by EPA whistleblower Weston Wilson. In March of 2005, EPA Inspector General Nikki Tinsley found enough evidence of potential mishandling of the EPA hydraulic fracturing study to justify a review of Wilson’s complaints. The Oil and Gas Accountability Project conducted a review of the EPA study which found that EPA removed information from earlier drafts that suggested unregulated fracturing poses a threat to human health, and that the Agency did not include information that suggests “fracturing fluids may pose a threat to drinking water long after drilling operations are completed.” Under political pressure the report was ignored. Fracking went full-speed ahead.
© n/a Fracking toxic waste. This diagram depicts methane gas and toxic water contaminating the drinking water as the fracturing cracks penetrate the water table.
The Halliburton Loophole is no minor affair. The process of hydraulic fracking to extract gas involves staggering volumes of water and of some of the most toxic chemicals known. Water is essential to shale gas fracking. Hydraulic fracturing uses between 1.2 and 3.5 million US gallons (4.5 and 13 million liters) of water per well, with large projects using up to 5 million US gallons (19 Million liters). Additional water is used when wells are refractured; this may be done several times. An average well requires 3 to 8 million US gallons of water over its lifetime. Entire farm regions of Pennsylvania and other states with widespread hydraulic fracking report their well water sources have become so toxic as to make the water undrinkable. In some cases fracked gas seeps into the home via the normal water faucet.
© Screenshot from HBO film Gasland – Rural resident flicking on cigarette lighter next to his kitchen faucet and watching his drinking water, infused with gas and chemicals, ignite in flames as high as 3 feet.
During the uproar over the BP Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the Obama Administration and the Energy Department formed an Advisory Commission on Shale Gas, ostensibly to examine the growing charges of environmental hazards from shale gas practices.
Their report was released in November 2011. It was what could only be called a “whitewash” of the dangers and benefits of shale gas.
The commission was headed by former CIA director John M. Deutch. Deutch himself is not neutral. He sits on the board of the LNG gas company Cheniere Energy. Deutch’s Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass project is one of only two current US projects to create an LNG terminal to export US shale gas to foreign markets.
Deutch is also on the board of Citigroup, one of the world’s most active energy industry banks, tied to the Rockefeller family. He also sits on the board of Schlumberger, which along with Halliburton, is one of the leading companies doing hydraulic fracking. In fact, of the seven panel members, six had ties to the energy industry, including fellow Deutch panel member and shale fracking booster, Daniel Yergin, himself a member of the National Petroleum Council. Little surprise that the Deutch report called shale gas, “the best piece of news about energy in the last 50 years.” Deutch added, “Over the long term it has the potential to displace liquid fuels in the United States.” 
Shale gas: Racing against the Clock
With regulatory free-rein, now also backed by the Obama Administration, the US oil and gas industry went full-power into shale gas extraction, taking advantage of high oil and natural gas prices to reap billions in quick gains.
According to official US Department of Energy Energy Information Administration data, shale gas extraction ballooned from just under 2 million MCF in 2007, the first year data was tracked, to more than 8,500,000 Mcf by 2011, a fourfold rise to comprise almost 40% of total dry natural gas extraction in the USA that year. In 2002 shale gas was a mere 3% of total gas.
Here enters the paradox of the US “shale gas revolution.” Since the days of oil production wars more than a century ago, various industry initiatives had been created to prevent oil and later gas price collapse due to over-production. During the 1930’s there was discovery of the huge East Texas oilfields, and a collapse of oil prices. The State of Texas, whose Railroad Commission (TRC) had been given regulatory powers not only over railroads but also over oil and gas production in what then was the world’s most important oil producing region, was called in to arbitrate the oil wars. That resulted in daily statewide production quotas so successful that OPEC later modeled itself on the TRC experience.
Today, with federal deregulation of the oil and gas industry, such extraction controls are absent as every shale gas producer from BP to Chesapeake Energy, Anadarko Petroleum, Chevron, Encana and others all raced full-tilt to extract the maximum shale gas from their properties.
The reason for the full-throttle extraction is telling. Shale Gas, unlike conventional gas, depletes dramatically faster owing to its specific geological location. It diffuses and becomes impossible to extract without the drilling of costly new wells.
The result of the rapidly rising volumes of shale gas suddenly on the market was a devastating collapse in the market price of that same gas. In 2005 when Cheney got the EPA exemption that began the shale boom, the marker US gas price measured at Henry Hub in Louisiana, at the intersection of nine interstate pipelines, was some $14 per thousand cubic feet. By February 2011 it had plunged amid a gas glut to $3.88. Currently prices hover around $3.50 per tcf.
In a sobering report, Arthur Berman, a veteran petroleum geologist specialized in well assessment, using existing well extraction data for major shale gas regions in the US since the boom started, reached sobering conclusions. His findings point to a new Ponzi scheme which well might play out in a colossal gas bust over the next months or at best, the next two or three years. Shale gas is anything but the “energy revolution” that will give US consumers or the world gas for 100 years as President Obama was told.
Berman wrote already in 2011, “Facts indicate that most wells are not commercial at current gas prices and require prices at least in the range of $8.00 to $9.00/mcf to break even on full-cycle prices, and $5.00 to $6.00/mcf on point-forward prices. Our price forecasts ($4.00-4.55/mcf average through 2012) are below $8.00/mcf for the next 18 months. It is, therefore, possible that some producers will be unable to maintain present drilling levels from cash flow, joint ventures, asset sales and stock offerings.” 
Berman continued, “Decline rates indicate that a decrease in drilling by any of the major producers in the shale gas plays would reveal the insecurity of supply. This is especially true in the case of the Haynesville Shale play where initial rates are about three times higher than in the Barnett or Fayetteville. Already, rig rates are dropping in the Haynesville as operators shift emphasis to more liquid-prone objectives that have even lower gas rates. This might create doubt about the paradigm of cheap and abundant shale gas supply and have a cascading effect on confidence and capital availability.” 
What Berman and others have also concluded is that the gas industry key players and their Wall Street bankers backing the shale boom have grossly inflated the volumes of recoverable shale gas reserves and hence its expected supply duration. He notes, “Reserves and economics depend on estimated ultimate recoveries (EUR) based on hyperbolic, or increasingly flattening, decline profiles that predict decades of commercial production. With only a few years of production history in most of these plays, this model has not been shown to be correct, and may be overly optimistic….Our analysis of shale gas well decline trends indicates that the Estimated Ultimate Recovery per well is approximately one-half the values commonly presented by operators.” In brief, the gas producers have built the illusion that their unconventional and increasingly costly shale gas will last for decades.
Basing his analysis on actual well data from major shale gas regions in the US, Berman concludes however, that the shale gas wells decline in production volumes at an exponential rate and are liable to run out far faster than being hyped to the market. Could this be the reason financially exposed US shale gas producers, loaded with billions of dollars in potential lease properties bought during the peak of prices, have recently been desperately trying to sell off their shale properties to naïve foreign or other investors?
Three decades of natural gas extraction from tight sandstone and coal-bed methane show that profits are marginal in low permeability reservoirs. Shale reservoirs have orders of magnitude lower reservoir permeability than tight sandstone and coal-bed methane. So why do smart analysts blindly accept that commercial results in shale plays should be different? The simple answer is found in high initial production rates. Unfortunately, these high initial rates are made up for by shorter lifespan wells and additional costs associated with well re-stimulation. Those who expect the long-term unit cost of shale gas to be less than that of other unconventional gas resources will be disappointed…the true structural cost of shale gas production is higher than present prices can support ($4.15/mcf average price for the year ending July 30, 2011), and that per-well reserves are about one-half of the volumes claimed by operators. 
Therein lies the explanation for why a sophisticated oil industry in the United States has desperately been producing full-throttle, in a high-stakes game laying the seeds of their own bankruptcy in the process—They are racing to offload the increasingly unprofitable shale assets before the bubble finally bursts. Wall Street financial backers are in on the Ponzi game with billions at stake, much as in the recent real estate securitization fraud.
One Hundred Years of Gas?
Where then did someone get the number to tell the US President that America had 100 years of gas supply? Here is where lies, damn lies and statistics play a crucial role. The US does not have 100 years of natural gas supply from shale or unconventional sources. That number came from a deliberate blurring by someone of the fundamental difference between what in oil and gas is termed resources and what is called reserves.
A gas or oil resource is the totality of the gas or oil originally existing on or within the earth’s crust in naturally occurring accumulations, including discovered and undiscovered, recoverable and unrecoverable. It is the total estimate, irrespective of whether the gas or oil is commercially recoverable. It’s also the least interesting number for extraction.
On the other hand “recoverable” oil or gas refers to the estimated volume commercially extractable with a specific technically feasible recovery project, a drilling plan, fracking program and the like. The industry breaks the resources into three categories: reserves, which are discovered and commercially recoverable; contingent resources, which are discovered and potentially recoverable but sub-commercial or non-economic in today’s cost-benefit regime; and prospective resources, which are undiscovered and only potentially recoverable.
The Potential Gas Committee (PGC), the standard for US gas resource assessments, uses three categories of technically recoverable gas resources, including shale gas: probable, possible and speculative.
According to careful examination of the numbers it is clear that the President, his advisers and others have taken the PGC’s latest total of all three categories, or 2,170 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of gas—probable, possible and purely speculative—and divided by the 2010 annual consumption of 24 Tcf. To get a number between 90 and 100 years of gas. What is conveniently left unsaid is that most of that total resource is in accumulations too small to be produced at any price, inaccessible to drilling, or is too deep to recover economically.
Arthur Berman in another analysis points out that if we use more conservative and realistic assumptions such as the PGC does in its detailed assessment, more relevant is the Committee’s probable mean resources value of 550 (Tcf) of gas. In turn, if we estimate, also conservatively and realistically based on experience, that about half of this resource actually becomes a reserve (225 Tcf), then the US has approximately 11.5 years of potential future gas supply at present consumption rates.
If we include proved reserves of 273 Tcf, there is an additional 11.5 years of supply for a total of almost 23 years. It is worth noting that proved reserves include proved undeveloped reserves which may or may not be produced depending on economics, so even 23 years of supply is tenuous. If consumption increases, this supply will be exhausted in less than 23 years.
There are also widely differing estimates within the US Government over shale gas recoverable resources. The US Department of Energy EIA uses a very generous calculation for shale gas average recovery efficiency of 13% versus other conservative estimates of about half that or 7% in contrast to recovery efficiencies of 75-80% for conventional gas fields. The generously high recovery efficiency values used for EIA calculations allows the EIA to project an estimate of 482 tcf of recoverable gas for the US. In August 2011, the Interior Department’s US Geological Survey (USGS) released a far more sober estimate for the large shale plays in Pennsylvania and New York called Marcellus Shale. The USGS estimated there are about 84 trillion cubic feet of technically-recoverable natural gas under the Marcellus Shale. Previous estimates from the Energy Information Administration put the figures at 410 trillion cubic feet.
Shale gas plays show unusually high field decline rates with very steep trends, a combination giving low recovery efficiencies. 
Huge shale gas losses
Given the abnormally rapid well decline rates and low recovery efficiencies, it is little wonder that once the euphoria subsided, shale gas producers found themselves sitting on a financial time-bomb and began selling assets to unwary investors as fast as possible.
In a very recent analysis of the actual results of several years of shale gas extraction in the USA as well as the huge and high-cost Canadian Tar Sands oil, David Hughes notes, “Shale gas production has grown explosively to account for nearly 40 percent of US natural gas production. Nevertheless, production has been on a plateau since December 2011; 80 percent of shale gas production comes from five plays, several of which are in decline. The very high decline rates of shale gas wells require continuous inputs of capital—estimated at $42 billion per year to drill more than 7,000 wells—in order to maintain production. In comparison, the value of shale gas produced in 2012 was just $32.5 billion.”
He adds, “The best shale plays, like the Haynesville (which is already in decline) are relatively rare, and the number of wells and capital input required to maintain production will increase going forward as the best areas within these plays are depleted. High collateral environmental impacts have been followed by pushback from citizens, resulting in moratoriums in New York State and Maryland and protests in other states. Shale gas production growth has been offset by declines in conventional gas production, resulting in only modest gas production growth overall. Moreover, the basic economic viability of many shale gas plays is questionable in the current gas price environment.”
If these various estimates are anywhere near accurate, the USA has a resource in unconventional shale gas of anywhere between 11 years and 23 years duration and unconventional oil of perhaps a decade before entering steep decline. The recent rhetoric about US “energy independence” at the current technological state is utter nonsense.
The drilling boom which resulted in this recent glut of shale gas was in part motivated by “held-by-production” shale lease deals with landowners. In such deals the gas company is required to begin drilling in a lease running typically 3-5 years, or forfeit. In the US landowners such as farmers or ranchers typically hold subsurface mineral rights and can lease them out to oil companies. The gas (or oil) company then is under enormous pressure to book gas reserves on the new leases to support company stock prices on the stock market against which it has borrowed heavily to drill.
This “drill or lose it” pressure typically has led companies to seek the juiciest “sweet spots” for fast spectacular gas flows. These are then typically promoted as “typical” of the entire play.
However, as Hughes points out, “High productivity shale plays are not ubiquitous, and relatively small sweet spots within plays offer the most potential. Six of thirty shale plays provide 88 percent of production. Individual well decline rates are high, ranging from 79 to 95 percent after 36 months. Although some wells can be extremely productive, they are typically a small percentage of the total and are concentrated in sweet spots.” 
One estimate of projected shale gas decline suggests the peak will pass well before the end of the decade, perhaps in four years, followed with a rapid decline in volume
The extremely rapid overall gas field declines require from 30 to 50 percent of production to be replaced annually with more drilling, a classic “tiger chasing its tail around the tree” syndrome. This translates to $42 billion of annual capital investment just to maintain current production. By comparison, all USA shale gas produced in 2012 was worth about $32.5 billion at a gas price of $3.40/mcf (which is higher than actual well head prices for most of 2012). That means about a net $10 billion loss on their shale gambles last year for all US shale gas producers.
Even worse, Hughes points out that capital inputs to offset field decline will necessarily increase going forward as the sweet spots within plays are drilled off and drilling moves to lower quality areas. Average well quality (as measured by initial productivity) has fallen nearly 20 percent in the Haynesville, the most productive shale gas play in the US. And it is falling or flat in eight of the top ten plays. Overall well quality is declining for 36 percent of US shale gas production and is flat for 34 percent.
Not surprising in this context, the major shale gas players have been making massive write-downs of their assets to reflect the new reality. Companies began in 2012 reassessing their reserves and, in the face of a gas spot price that was cut in half between July 2011 and July 2012, are being forced to admit that the long-term outlook for natural-gas prices is not positive. The write-downs have a domino effect as bank lending is typically tied to a company’s reserves meaning many companies are being forced to renegotiate credit lines or make distress asset sales to raise cash.
Beginning August 2012, many large shale gas producers in the US were forced to announce major write-downs of the value of their shale gas assets. BP announced write-downs of $4.8 billion, including a $1 billion-plus reduction in the value of its American shale gas assets. England’s BG Group made a $1.3 billion write-down of its US shale gas interests, and Encana, a large Canadian shale gas operator made a $1.7 billion write-down on shale assets in the US and Canada, accompanied by a warning that more were likely if gas prices did not recover. 
The Australian mining giant BHP Billiton is one of the worst hit in the US shale gas bubble as it came in late and big-time. In May, 2012 it announced it was considering taking impairments on the value its US shale-gas assets which it had bought at the peak of the shale gas boom in 2011, when the company paid $4.75 billion to buy shale projects from Chesapeake Energy and acquiring Petrohawk Energy for $15.1 billion.
But by far the worst hit is the once-superstar of shale gas, Oklahoma-based Chesapeake Energy.
Part VI: Chesapeake Energy: The Next Enron?
The company by most accounts that typifies this shale gas boom-bust bubble is the much-hailed leading player in shale, Chesapeake Energy. In August 2012 there were widespread rumors that the company would declare bankruptcy. That would have been embarrassing for the company that was the nation’s second largest gas producer. It would also have signaled to the world the hype that was behind promotion of a “shale energy revolution” from the likes of Yergin and the Wall Street energy promoters looking to earn billions on M&A and other deals in the sector to replace their dismal real estate experiences.
In May 2012, Bill Powers of the Powers Energy Investor, wrote of Chesapeake (CHK by its stock symbl): “Over the past year, however, CHK’s business model has broken down. The company’s shares continue to break to 52-week lows and the company has a funding issue—financial speak for the company is running out of money. While it was able to farm-out a portion of its Utica Shale assets in Ohio to France’s Total last year—this is remarkable given the accounting errors that resulted in Total receiving significantly less revenue from their Barnett Shale joint-venture—CHK has largely run out of prospective acreage to farm-out.” Powers estimated a $3 billion cash shortfall in 2012 for the company. That comes atop already huge corporate debt of $11.1 billion of which $1.7 billion was a revolving line of credit. 
Powers adds, “When the off-balance sheet debt and preferred issues are added to the company’s existing $11.1 billion of on-balance sheet debt, CHK’s has a whopping $20.5 billion of financial obligations. Given such a high level of indebtedness, CHK debt is rated junk and will be for the foreseeable future. “ He concludes, “Having America’s second largest natural gas producer as well as its most reckless destroyer of shareholder capital almost completely walk away from the shale gas business is a great indication that today’s natural gas price bubble is on the verge of popping. CHK has not made any money by drilling shale wells—and neither have virtually any of its peers—and now the dumb money has run out.” 
Angry shareholders forced a major shakeup of the Chesapeake board last September after a Reuters report that CEO Aubrey McClendon had been taking out large loans not fully disclosed to the company’s board or investors. McClendon was forced to resign as Chairman of the company he founded after details leaked out that McClendon has borrowed as much as $1.1 billion in the last three years by pledging his stake in the company’s oil and natural gas wells as collateral. In March 2013 the US Government Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced that it was investigating the company and Chief Executive Aubrey McClendon and had issued subpoenas for information and testimony, among other items looking into a controversial program that grants McClendon a share in every well that Chesapeake drills.
The company is in the midst of a major asset sale of an estimated $6.9 billion to lower debt, including oil and gasfields covering roughly 2.4 million acres. It must invest heavily in drilling new wells to deliver the increased production of more lucrative oil and natural gas liquids, if it is to avoid bankruptcy. As one critical analyst of Chesapeake put it, “the company’s complex accounting methods make it almost impossible for analysts and stockholders to determine what the risks really are. The fact that the CEO is taking out billion-dollar loans and not openly disclosing them only furthers the perception that everything is not as it appears at Chesapeake – that the company is Enron with drilling rigs.” 
The much-touted shale gas revolution in the USA is collapsing along with the stock shares of Chesapeake and other key players.
F. William Engdahl is author of Myths, Lies and Oil Wars. He can be contacted via his website atwww.williamengdahl.com
 Roberta Rampton, Energy Policy Shifting as abundance replaces scarcity: Obama adviser, Reuters, February 25, 2013.
 President Barack Obama, President Obama’s State of the Union Address , January 25, 2012, The New York Times, January 24, 2012, accessed in http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/01/24/us/politics/state-of-the-union-2012-video-transcript.html.
 Daniel Yergin, Subcommittee on Energy and Power of the House Energy and Commerce Committee
Testimony submitted for Hearings on ‘America’s Energy Security and Innovation,’ Washington D.C., February 5, 2013, accessed in http://energycommerce.house.gov/hearing/AESI-assessment-north-americas-energy-resources.
 BP, BP Energy Outlook 2030, London, January 2012.
 Glenn S. Penny, et al, Control and Modeling of Fluid Leakoff During Hydraulic Fracturing, Journal of Petroleum Technology, Vol. 37, no. 6, pp. 1071-1081.
 F. William Engdahl, Shale Gas: Halliburton’s Weapon of Mass Devastation, VoltaireNet.org, 17 May 2012, accessed in http://www.sott.net/article/245733-Shale-Gas-Halliburtons-Weapon-of-Mass-Devastation.
 Anthony Andrews, et al, Unconventional Gas Shales: Development, Technology and Policy Issues, Congressional Research Service, Washington D.C., October 30, 2009, p.7.
 John Deutsch, Robin West, The North American Oil and Gas Renaissance and its Implications, The Aspen Institute, 2012, Washington DC, accessed inhttp://www.aspeninstitute.org/sites/default/files/content/docs/pubs/2012GlobalForumRepFINALPDF_0.pdf.
 EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, US Department of Energy, Washington DC, accessed in http://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/ng_prod_sum_dcu_NUS_a.htm
 Malcolm Maiden, Burnt Fingers all round in US shale gas boom, The Sydney Morning Herald, August 2, 2012, accessed in http://www.smh.com.au/business/burnt-fingers-all-round-in-us-shale-gas-boom-20120801-23g03.html
 SPEE, Canadian Oil and Gas Evaluation Handbook, Volume 1 — Reserves Definitions and Evaluation Practices and Procedures, SECTION 5: DEFINITIONS OF RESOURCES AND RESERVES, Petroleum Society of the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum, Calgary Chapter, accessed in www.petsoc.org.
 Stephen Lacey, After USGS Analysis, EIA Cuts Estimates of Marcellus Shale Gas Reserves by 80% ,August 26, 2011
 Rafael Sandrea, Evaluating production potential of mature US oil, gas shale plays, The Oil and Gas Journal, December 3, 2012, accessed in http://www.ogj.com/articles/print/vol-110/issue-12/exploration-development/evaluating-production-potential-of-mature-us-oil.html.
 Arthur E. Berman, After the Gold…
 Ed Crooks, Gas groups headed for large write-downs, Financial Times, August 31, 2012, accessed inhttp://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/a0fd134e-f38d-11e1-b3a2-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2MehR4I7i.
 Marin Katusa, Does a Long-Term Natural-Gas Downturn Signal that Investors Should Exit?,http://www.caseyresearch.com/cdd/does-long-term-natural-gas-downturn-signal-investors-should-exit.
 Jeff Goodell, ‘World’s Biggest Fracker’ Pockets $1 Billion in Shady Deal, Rolling Stone, April 18, 2012, accessed in http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/national-affairs/worlds-biggest-fracker-pockets-1-billion-in-shady-deal-20120418#ixzz2N3vXTPH9.
 Reuters, SEC Investigating Chesapeake Energy, CEO, March 01, 2013, accessed inhttp://www.foxbusiness.com/business-leaders/2013/03/01/sec-investigating-chesapeake-energy-ceo/#ixzz2N40Rnm4d.
 Ed Crooks, Two directors forced out of Chesapeake, Financial Times, June 8, 2012, accessed inhttp://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/7fbbd6a4-b182-11e1-bbf9-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2N3lAsPdW.
 Jeff Goodell, Op. Cit.
It was the penetrating smell of Lysol, lights and stainless steel in the mortuary of the John Radcliffe Infirmary Oxford, as well as the remains of a fit husband and father. Nine police officers were in attendance, the most senior being Detective Chief Inspector Alan Young who was in charge of the investigation. He was at the scene on Harrowdown Hill where the unidentified body was found by Louise Holmes. In spite of his lead position in the inquiry into a missing person, and then a suspicious death, he was neither called to the Hutton Inquiry which started sitting 13 days later, nor did he submit a statement to it (1).
There is no obvious explanation for the presence of nine police officers at this very morbid autopsy given that the police had sprayed the word ‘suicide’ about earlier that day. The size of the squad would surely have fitted better if murder was foremost in the minds of the investigating authorities.
The examination finished just after midnight. Dr Hunt wrote up his report of his findings at the scene and of his post mortem examination the next day, the 19th of July. He would have come to preliminary conclusions as to the cause of death and been helped in that by the early findings of Dr Allan the toxicologist.
That first report has never been published; it was not referred to by Dr Hunt when he gave evidence at the Hutton Inquiry (2) The only report, and that is entitled Final Post Mortem Report – 25th July 2003, was published in October 2010, by the Ministry of Justice. The only original copy of this in existence is a very poor ‘scan’. An OCR and tidied version of this is here (3). That the findings in the first report have never been made public was one among three important concerns brought by this author to the General Medical Council in 2011, established by the Medical Act of 1858. (4) This will be discussed later but suffice to say they were dismissed.
Dr Nicholas Gardiner, HM Coroner for Oxfordshire, opened an inquest as the law demands for all violent, unnatural or unexplained deaths on the 21st July. It is surprising that transcripts of coronial hearings are seldom made. The hearing would have been attended by Dr Hunt, the coroner’s officer and the police. It would have been adjourned until more evidence had flowed in. However, it can be inferred that the cause of death had been given by Dr Hunt. (5 )
Whilst this mouse of an inquest moved ever so quietly, an elephant had been trampling the undergrowth for the three previous days, starting at Harrowdown Hill. Within three hours of the body being found, my Lord Hutton had been engaged to chair an ad hoc inquiry, by my Lord Falconer as Dr Watt has already described.
Miles Goslett recently reported in the Mail that Hutton had confirmed in a letter to Norman Baker MP that he had been asked to meet Lord Chancellor Falconer in his Lord’s office around noon of the 18th July and that he agreed to serve.(6) At that point the subject, David Christopher Kelly CMG DSc had not been identified and no cause of death had been established. This fixer was a friend of Blair’s when they were in chambers studying law! He had assisted his friend the PM in bolstering the claim that there was a legal basis for a massive bombardment and invasion of Iraq rather than it being a supreme war crime as defined at Nuremberg.
It is salutary to consider that it took six and half years for the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq ‘War’ to be set up in which over one million Iraqi humans died, at least two million were maimed by customary calculation and four million were made refugees in Syria and Jordan. It took the New Labour high command, the sofa cabinet, just three hours after the death of just one man to set up Hutton with the clear intention of containing the inquiry and ensuring safe conclusions. The instruction given to Hutton was to ‘…urgently to conduct an investigation into the circumstances
surrounding the death of Dr Kelly’.
‘Urgently’ can be interpreted as ‘nail this promptly’, ‘consider’ as ‘without especial accuracy’ and ‘circumstances’ as equalling the ‘media furore’ which obviously drove Kelly to an inevitable suicide. It was not who the deceased was, and how, when and where he died which are the plain duties of a coroner. It was the ‘circumstances’; and if anything showed the mind and the motives of this most evil cabal, that word is the nub.
The words of the two conversations (6) between Falconer in Westminster and his pal Blair on wing to Tokyo in the hour after noon that day have not, of course, been revealed. That it was to do with an awkward corpse in a wood it is fair to assume. After all, it was a central topic at the press conference in Tokyo where blood, or other medium, drained from Blair’s face with ‘Have you got blood on your hands Mr Blair’ from a Daily Mail journalist. The obvious answer was that he had the blood of thousands upon thousands of people on his hands whereas the European only had one white man in mind at that moment.
Correspondence by Ms Albon of Falconer’s other office (he was also the Secretary of State in the Department of Constitutional Affairs – Mikado style) with the Oxfordshire coroner has a dictatorial ring to it. It was recognised he had to reconvene his inquest in law but this mouse then had to be silent until the elephant had trumpeted the findings. All this was engineered by the mechanism of Section 17a of the 1988 Coroner’s Act. It had been applied for multiple deaths of common cause – Shipman, the Ladbroke rail crash and the sinking of the trawler Gaul.
It had at its root – efficiency in investigation, thoughtfulness towards loved ones and verdict as to the common cause. There was no justification for invocation of Section 17a on top of this ad hoc inquiry other than to shackle the coroner and thus to subvert due process. With a few ‘phone calls Falconer had made certain with this ad hoc ‘judicial’ inquiry that there would be no evidence under oath, no ability to subpoena witnesses, no cross examination and no ability to call a jury. The last thing he wanted was twelve good women/men and true.
The coup de grace for the mouse was this Section 17a. There was a further hearing on the 14th of August at which an extraordinary death certificate was conjured up and registered four days later. The hearing was not publicised and again there was no transcript or reportage. This officer of the Crown whose authority and duties stretched back to the 13th Century had been made into a small creature by power and cunning. “The use of these powers to oustthe Coroner’s jurisdiction …” is how Frances Swaine of Leigh Day & Co put it an excellent memorandum to the Attorney General in October 2010. (7) (Leigh Day were initially instructed by Dr Frost; they did a large amount of excellent work without charge.)
A letter that Mr Gardiner wrote 6th of August to Ms Albon includes “The preliminary cause of death given at the opening of the inquest no longer represents the view of the Pathologist and evidence from him would need to be given to correct and update the evidence already received.”
(5 – section ONE). This was brushed aside in a letter from lawyers acting for Dr Hunt who were reacting to this long letter from the author to the GMC listing his concerns about Dr Hunt’s performance.(5) Whether his opinion had been changed or not, there was an absolute professional and legal requirement on him to reveal his initial report with its conclusions and his train of thought.
This principle has been tested in the case of Dr Kenneth Shorrock who is currently suspended for unknown reason from the Home Office list of forensic pathologists which was last updated 15th May 2013. This extract from (5 – section ONE) – “He was charged with serious professional misconduct by the General Medical Council on eight counts I believe. He had produced a second post-mortem report on a hospital patient which was indicative of negligence by the surgeon without any reference to his first report which had exonerated the surgeon.’
The surgeon was charged with manslaughter but was cleared. He complained to the Home Office whose Scientific Standards Committee of the Policy Advisory Board opined that he had not ‘maintained the standards required’ and simply issued advice, its interest ending in July 2004. The surgeon then complained to the General Medical Council. Mr Vernon Coaker, Minister of State at the Home Office, said in a letter to the author 22 November 2008 “The GMC had been considering the complaint for, I believe, many months (prior to July 2005) and had, similarly, taken no steps to restrict Dr Shorrock’s practice.”
Of the greatest importance is the fact that he was called from Sheffield to examine the remains of Jean Charles de Menezes who had been shot with six hollow point bullets in the head as he sat in a ‘tube’ carriage 22nd July 2005. Sheffield is 150 miles from London which has at least 8 forensic pathologists available. The call to attend a headless Jean Charles was in spite of the fact that a charge of serious professional misconduct was hanging over him; the first hearing by the GMC Fitness to Practice Panel was only six weeks after the killing of Jean Charles. There had been several adjournments of the GMC hearings of this charge which was first heard 5th of September 2005. The nine page summary of the final hearing 19 February 2007 found him guilty of serious professional misconduct. (8 -HALPIN website)
This author wrote to five relevant authorities before the 22nd September 2008 inquest at the Oval, Kennington about this most improper instruction given to Dr Shorrock to take this case in the summer of 2005. There were no replies from any one of the five; this included the Public Solicitor to the inquiry and Justice4Jean. Dr Shorrock’s evidence would be central at this inquest and would include the position and identity of each bullet prior to ballistic studies, and would thus indicate which weapon and which agent had injured Jean Charles beyond recognition IF the evidence had not been contaminated. The Independent Police Complaints Commission does not have a reputation for being just but it did not take possession of the scene until 48 hours had elapsed.
The final hearing of five altogether took place on the 5th of February 2007. The GMC panel found him guilty of the charge of serious professional misconduct. It found his actions “unprofessional, inconsistent, unreasonable, not based upon the medical and pathological information and likely to bring the medical profession into disrepute”.
Two professors of forensic pathology advised the panel:-
Vanezis – ‘He further stated that if a pathologist had reason to change his conclusions or opinion, an explanation should be given as to why he has deemed this necessary.’
Pounder – ‘Dr Shorrock had a duty to make reference to the existence of the first report. In addition, the second report should have given the reasons for his change of view.
Many had written in support of Dr Kenneth Shorrock. He was simply issued with a reprimand.
The reader has two forensic pathologists in examine.
One was lecturing at the Police Staff College, Bramshill, Hampshire when he was called to a corpse on Harrowdown Hill which was all about a supreme war crime.
The other was called from Sheffield to a most high profile unlawful killing at Southwell Tube Station, London.
Should the second have been on gardening leave until the GMC had considered the serious charge against him? Or did Jean Charles not deserve the best within our law?
Should the first not have fully revealed the first post mortem report he wrote up on Dr Kelly on the 19th of July? It is certain there was a FIRST report and Lord Hutton referred to it in his introduction. Were the opinions as to the causes of death different in important ways between the 19th of July and the FINAL Post Mortem Report of the 25th of July. It is clear the Coroner thought so. That this gross defect slipped through is typical of much that happened at Hutton. His professional and legal duty was made completely clear later in the case of Dr Shorrock.
We move on next to the Hutton Inquiry and its many defects.
Canada has now been governed for some time by conservatives who allegedly care about deficits and debt, yet when the implosion of American banks dragged Canada into a recession, our government started spending far more, not less. Years later, we continue to spend into the red and our debt lurches ever higher. By contrast, even since the ascent of the Conservative Party in London, the U.K. has been biting a fiscal bullet. They have chosen to trim government spending in the hope of jump-starting future economic growth—in a word, austerity. According to Mark Blyth, this is a bad idea: “Austerity doesn’t work. Period.” Believing it only persists due to “epistemic arrogance and ideological insistence,” he sets out to trace the intellectual history of austerity, going back to its roots, from Adam Smith, David Hume and John Locke to more recent proponents like Joseph Schumpeter, Friedrich Hayek and current German leader Angela Merkel. Then Blyth gives us a decidedly discouraging historical tour of austerity in action, which among other things makes us feel sorry for Great Britain’s prospects.
Blyth, a professor at Brown University, is an unusually gifted communicator of complex economic ideas. But though he pens such colloquial sentences—“Iceland, in many ways, was Ireland on crack”—this book is most suitable for readers with at least an intermediate familiarity with macroeconomics. Blyth does not pause long to explain the importance of bond yields. Yet his book provides a rich background for understanding the policy options facing those who would solve the ongoing Euro-crisis. Blyth also revisits the momentous American decision to bail out its banks, which continues to prompt Republican murmurings about the necessity for belt-tightening. Insofar as the United States and Europe have a debt crisis, it is partly the result of a banking crisis. Bank bailouts created much of the debt that we hear so much hyperventilating about. As for puny Iceland, it chose to let its toxic banks go bust, and its economy is now doing rather well.
Blyth is too rigorous to be an ideologue. He thinks austerity measures have their place, but only under the right conditions. Now, apparently, is not such a time.
MARIJUANA has gone mainstream. We’ve yet to see weed adverts on the side of F1 vehicles, as we have for cigarettes and booze, but NASCAR fans heading to the 2013 Brickyard 400 races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will get to see a TV advert hailing cannabis.
It will, however, not improve your driving:
Photo: Bobby Allison poses at New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel with the Winston Cup trophy, Dec. 8, 1983. Allison, winning his first Winston Cup will receive $150,000 from the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., which sponsors the NASCAR series.
July 28th marks the 35th anniversary of the political assassination of two Puerto Rican independence activists, Carlos Soto Arriví and Arnaldo Darío Rosado, in the infamous Cerro Maravillai case. This case, which was widely followed among Puerto Ricans, involved an agent provocateur that led the activists to an ambush that resulted in their brutal murder by paramilitary agents within the colonial police force. The event led to two investigations, the second of which revealed a conspiracy to cover up both the assassination plot as well as the destruction and manipulation of evidence carried out by the colonial police and justice department, and well as the federal justice department and FBI. Cerro Maravilla symbolizes for many the most outstanding recent example of repressive measures, from surveillance to political assassination, unleashed by US imperialism against the anticolonial movement in Puerto Rico.
The recent revelations of NSA spying by Edward Snowden have provoked mass outrage across the globe. Much of the consternation comes from what is commonly understood as a violation of privacy. In the official media, Snowden’s actions have been framed as a debate between ‘national security’ and ‘privacy’. However, framing the question in these terms is pure subterfuge. The Puerto Rican experience shows that the true objectives of surveillance programs by intelligence agencies like the NSA, CIA, and FBI having nothing to do with ‘security’ or ‘protection’ but rather political repression. Systematic surveillance can only be understood as an essential part of state repression, the purpose of which is to intimidate those that question the status quo by promoting a culture of fear. One can never be separated from the other.
The systematic surveillance and repression of Puerto Rico’s anticolonial movement is obviously just one example of many. A brief historical sketch of US imperialism’s repressive efforts against anticolonial forces in Puerto Rico must begin with the political intrigues that preceded the 1898 military invasion as well as the martial law that characterized both military and civilian colonial governments in its immediate aftermath. This history goes on to include the surveillance and repressive attacks against the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party and its followers from the 30s through the 50s, which included massacres of unarmed civilians, political assassinations and imprisonments, the harassment and attacks against labor unions and newly emergent socialist organizations of the same period, as well as COINTELPRO operations against resurgent nationalist and socialist political formations during the 60s and 70s.ii Indeed, in 1987 it was revealed that over 130,000 files on individuals and organizations had been accumulated through systematic surveillance on the island. This history is an integral part of the parallel campaigns of systematic state repression unleashed within the United States against groups such as the Black Liberation Movement, the American Indian Movement, the Chicano Liberation Movement, radical labor organizations, progressive students and antiwar activists, as well as communists.iii As such, what constitutes a scandal for the broader public is in fact part of the daily reality for those that fight for freedom and an end to oppression.
Snowden’s revelation that the United States Security Group Command’s Sabana Seca installation, located in the northern coastal municipality of Toa Baja, is part of an international surveillance network, which includes the Fornstat program, comes to no surprise to Puerto Rican anticolonial activists. From Sabana Seca, US naval intelligence monitors and gathers Internet, phone, and other forms of communication. In 1999, Duncan Campbell and Mark Honigsbaum of The Guardian already highlighted the naval intelligence’s “Echelon” operations from Sabana Seca and other locations both in the US and internationally as part of joint US British surveillance programs.iv
What is critical to highlight about US imperialism in Puerto Rico is the continued military character of colonialism on the island. For the benefit of those that may be unaware or who take the position that US militarism characterized only the past history of colonialism in Puerto Rico, a few contemporary examples serve to illustrate the point. Over the past decade and a half, Puerto Ricans have mobilized en masse to oppose a proposed military radar system intended for the Lajas valley in the southwestern part of the island, to end the practice of using the eastern island of Vieques as a bombing range by the US military and its allies (It should be noted that there was also a successful campaign to end the militarization of Culebra island also off the eastern coast of the main island in the 70s), and in more recent times against a system of potentially toxic and environmentally destructive antennas used both by the military and cellular companies that have proliferated across the island. In an article in the current issue of Claridad, the spokesperson for the grassroots Coalition of Communities Against the Proliferation of Antennas, Wilson Torres, sheds light on the US military’s Full Spectrum Dominance program currently being implemented in Puerto Rico. v
Understood in the context of pervasive unemployment, which serves to ensure an ever present pool of recruits used as cannon fodder in US military campaigns throughout the world as well as the structural dependence of large parts of the colonial economy on the Pentagon, this picture constitutes the modified form of US militarism in Puerto Rico in the present context. One may add the militarization of the colonial police force in the ongoing attacks against residents of public housing and other marginalized communities to this reality.
It would not be difficult to draw parallels between much of what is described immediately above and the realities faced by many North Americans. Heavy-handed policing and economically depressed communities dependent upon military or prison industries are a familiar reality for many. Yet the notion that the United States of America is characterized by a repressive state is much more difficult for the average person to accept. The narrative of 9/11 provides the pretext that results in the conflation of national security and state repression in the minds of many.
Notwithstanding, the revelations about the NSA spying program have provoked the condemnation of all except the most recalcitrant sycophants of US imperialism. Yet, it is absolutely necessary to place these programs in the context of the long history of state repression and militarism. Those on the left must push to extend the public discourse beyond questions of personal privacy to a discussion of systematic political repression within increasingly militarized “liberal” democracies. The experiences of anticolonial activists and militant, class-conscious revolutionaries from Puerto Rico lend valuable insights that add to the discussion around the significance of what Snowden’s leaks reveal: systematic surveillance and state repression are two sides of the same coin.
An insightful comment by Marx, writing in the New York Daily Tribune about British imperialism in India during the mid 1800s and often repeated among Puerto Rican comrades, is a useful starting point for the US left:
“The profound hypocrisy and inherent barbarism of bourgeois civilization lies unveiled before our eyes, moving from its home, where it assumes respectable form, to the colonies, where it goes naked.”
Carlos Borrero is a New York based writer.
Some cynics write off citizen action including petitions and sign-carrying protestors. They don’t believe such small efforts can make any big difference. But the more than 600,000 people of Dutch city Rotterdam disagree. Their efforts, which began with a petition, have led to a “green initiative” in their city including the banning of Roundup, Monsanto’s flagship product.
The petition campaign was called “Non-toxic Sidewalks for Our Children.” With support from that country’s Green Party, concerned citizens were able to make a significant change for their city and their future.
As we know, Roundup (glyphosate) is a dangerous pesticide that is used all over the world. Though its maker, Monsanto, would have you believe there’s nothing to be afraid of, research says differently. As a matter of fact, glyphosate has been connected to numerous health problems including respiratory distress, cellular damage, and even cancer. Check out this article which outlines just 7 nasty effects of pesticides.
“It is bad stuff and I’m glad we’re giving it up,” says Emile Cammeraat, Green party leader in the council. “The producer Monsanto also provides genetically engineered seeds, Monsanto’s own plants are the only thing RoundUp doesn’t kill. In such a business district as you want to be, no Roundup is simply necessary, as there are organic alternatives.” (Translated by Fritz Kreiss)
Global consumers are getting wise to the dangers of Roundup and the GMO seeds designed to resist it. They don’t want Monsanto and other GMO-seed giants taking over the global food supply and have started grassroots resistance movements around the world. The problem lies in getting enough people to take actual action against the seed giants and local, state, and federal lawmakers who support them in one way or another.
Collectively, the people of Rotterdam were able to make their voices heard, essentially eliminating glyphosate from their local environment. There’s no reason similar cities in other areas of the world couldn’t do the very same thing.
Comically, the U.S. government has recently decided to increase the allowable amount of glyphosate in U.S. food crops, just as another place bans the substance. The new rule allowing for even greater use of this damaging ingredient would take existing limits on glyphosate and dwarf them with new, higher ones. These limits would truly only work to benefit the interests of one, and it’s not the American people, but Monsanto – the giant corporation who is making millions off of genetically modified crops and the destruction of agriculture and human health.
In addition to the Roundup ban, Rotterdam’s green initiative will provide new parks and play areas, and even get the city involved in planting fruit trees. There will be more flowers and environments to support bees and wildlife, and more places for the urbanites to take in nature without fear of contamination by Monsanto’s evil poster child
“The republic that was created from the ashes of the rising was a perversion of the human rights ideals of 1916,” the outgoing Ombudsman and Information Commissioner Emily O’Reilly has said.
Addressing the first evening of the MacGill Summer School in Co Donegal, she said people were not yet fully aware of what a real republic looked like. Delivering the 13th annual John Hume lecture, Ms O’Reilly said it was particularly appropriate that the lecture was named after the Nobel peace prize winner as he was a “pre-eminent human rights defender”.
She criticised the successors of the 1916 leaders, accusing them of franchising the State “to a private organisation called the Catholic Church, shedding in particular its responsibility for the education and health systems, and thereby allowing little actual space for the elected leaders of this republic to play their role in pursuing the happiness and prosperity of the nation”.
It was difficult for citizens to remind themselves that “we are actually the ones in charge”.
This was a difficulty, she added, that the executive and judiciary also struggled with. Referring to former attorney general Peter Sutherland, she said his core assertion made in a speech earlier this year, that the courts were “inappropriately forced to decide not alone what our values in this republic are or should be, but also to divine what the elected representatives of the people think about those values”.
She said that while the courts had too much unwanted power, parliament spent “much of its time ducking and diving and pretending it has no power whatsoever”. She accused the executive of “planting its boot far too firmly on the neck of the parliament and wielding power in a manner never envisaged by the Constitution.”
Quoting President Michael D Higgins, she said: “There is a deep-seated anti-intellectualism prevalent in Irish life,” and that our political and cultural life was marked by the false notion that one person’s ignorance was as good as another’s knowledge. She turned to the Constitution, quoting article 28.4.1 which states that the Government “shall be responsible to Dáil Éireann”.
“Quite clearly this is not the case. The nub of the problem is that parliament does not take itself seriously,” she said. “Our failures are essentially human rights failures and we should be particularly alive to the fact that, never more so than at a time of recession and austerity, are bodies such as a Human Rights Commission and an Equality Authority needed to make sure that in a decade’s time we won’t be weeping our way through another pitiful cataloguing of State-inflicted abuse, albeit with a modern twist.”
In his opening address, Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he looked to 2016 and the centenary of the Easter Rising. “To be a real republic, Ireland has to be a sovereign republic,” he said. “We will strive . . . and work even harder so that we will become the best small country in the world for business, to raise a family and to grow old with dignity and respect. This will be the republic of 2016.”