Thursday, October 8, 2015

Don't forget oil's role in the current Middle East shenanigans

The Telegraph provides a timely reminder of how oil is at the root of much of what's going on in the Middle East at present, from the Russian intervention in Syria to the multi-state conflict in Yemen to the crisis over ISIS.

After hanging on for almost a year, the US shale oil industry is on the brink of complete capitulation. The reason for its impending downfall is simple: the lowest cost producer always wins.

. . .

The insurmountable problem the US shale oil industry faces is that it is too highly dependent on debt and too reliant on crude trading above $60 per barrel to remain profitable. Break-even prices in America’s most productive areas, such as the Eagle Ford and Bakken, are thought to range from $54 to almost $70 a barrel, which currently means producers are operating at a loss, living in hope that Opec finally relents and cuts production.

. . .

However, the group of 12 mainly Middle Eastern oil producers is itself feeling the pain of lower oil prices. Its wealthiest members, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, are having to fall back on their foreign currency reserves for the first time in almost 20 years to make up for the shortfall in revenues.

Poorer member countries such as Venezuela, Algeria and Nigeria are now at economic breaking point. Without vast sovereign wealth funds and an abundance of cheap oil, they are close to buckling and are demanding that Opec meets to revise its current strategy.

. . .

And then there is Iran and Iraq. Combined, these close political allies in the Middle East pose the biggest challenge to Saudi Arabia’s dominance of Opec. However, both countries desperately need higher oil prices to help shore up their battered economies.

Baghdad has compensated for falling oil prices by pumping more crude. The second largest producer in Opec is now pumping around 4m bpd of crude to replenish its dwindling foreign currency reserves, which have fallen by around 20pc this year.

Iran is also champing at the bit to increase production – with the end in sight for its economic isolation from the rest of the world. According to the Iranian government, the country could increase oil production by around 500,000 barrels per day within a few months of economic sanctions being fully lifted. The Islamic republic is already laying the foundations for a return of international oil companies, which could help to boost output.

. . .

Of course, there are risks. Geopolitical issues are once again acting to put a floor under oil prices. Russia’s deployment of military forces in Syria has raised the temperature in the region to boiling point. Oil has ticked back above $50 per barrel following the move, which has emboldened Bashar al-Assad.

Russia’s involvement in Syria gives Vladimir Putin a foothold within easy reach of the world’s major oil supplies and threatens the influence of Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia which are funding opposition groups not linked to Islamic State in Syria. Meanwhile, Riyadh and its Arab allies are also fighting a bitter and increasingly intractable conflict in Yemen against Iranian-backed rebels.

Russia has also suffered from the decline in oil prices, and the smouldering embers of instability in the Middle East could still result in oil prices skyrocketing if a wider conflict between Iran and the Arab Gulf states is ignited.

Faced with Russia’s vast military power and the reluctance of the US to get involved, Saudi Arabia’s only weapon against the Kremlin is to maintain lower oil prices.

There's more at the link.  Highly recommended reading for those keeping up with geopolitical developments.

All this could have profound consequences for the world economy.  At present everyone's enjoying low oil prices.  If anything happens to change that, and they revert to the levels of a year or two ago . . . well, on top of all the other economic problems currently afflicting us, that would be just about the last straw that broke the camel's back.


Heading for Blogorado

Miss D. and I have had a very pleasant few days in the Colorado Springs area, visiting family and friends and enjoying the many tourist traps attractions that are so abundant in the area.  (We both agree that Rosie's Diner in Monument is an outstanding breakfast venue, and we'll make another visit there later this morning before leaving town.  If you get the chance, try their Desperado Benedict [see below].  It's yummy!)

Later today we'll head for south-east Colorado to join friends and fellow bloggers, firearms owners and enthusiasts all, for a long weekend of shooting, food, fun and festivities.  Since the first Blogorado gathering in 2009 it's become an annual highlight for us all.  Unfortunately, health issues have sometimes prevented my taking part - I had my heart attack just in time to stop me attending the first one - but this year it's a case of so far, so good.  I threatened my doctor with unmentionable consequences if my kidney stone issues weren't sorted out in time to let me make this year's event, and fortunately he came through.

I'm proud to call myself the "Godfather of Blogorado".  Back in 2008 I was one of the guests at a blogger gathering hosted by Phlegmmy in Dallas, TX.  Farmgirl was another.  We found ourselves outside together at one point during the evening, enjoying the night air.  She asked thoughtfully whether anyone would be willing to travel that far if she and her family could arrange a similar gathering (including shooty goodness) in south-eastern Colorado.  I assured her that we would, and promised to be among them.  The rest is history.  (Preens self gently, sticks nose in air.  So there!)

One of the best things about the gathering is that it's invitation-only, which ensures that those who get together are thoroughly compatible with each other.  Another is that it's isolated.  We meet on the farm of one of the participants, far away from others, so we can shoot to our heart's content without worrying about noise, range hours and so on.  It's a bit of a pain to get to somewhere so isolated - the nearest major airports are four to five hours away - but there are plenty of compensations.

Now it's off to load the car with last-minute supplies for the gang.  Apparently .22LR ammunition has been in short to non-existent supply in the area for a long time, but it's almost back to normal where I live, so I've brought several thousand rounds to add to the noise level.  Everyone's also bringing contributions to the food table, so we'll stock up on yumminess at a local supermarket:  then it's hi-ho for Blogorado!  Internet access has been spotty in that area in recent years, but I'm told it's improved, so I'll try to post here from time to time.

See y'all on the other side!


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The gun control drive after the Oregon shootings

After the mass shooting in Oregon last week, there have been renewed calls from all the usual suspects for more gun control.  It won't work, of course, as I pointed out last week . . . but that hasn't stopped them trying.

Reason has published an article titled 'How to Create a Gun-Free America in 5 Easy Steps'.  They're anything but easy steps, but that's the legal way to do it.  Effectively, the obstacles in the way of the gun-banners and gun-grabbers are so immense as to be virtually insurmountable - from a legal and constitutional perspective, anyway.  That's why so many gun-grabbers are trying to pass laws at the local and state level that 'fly under the radar' in constitutional terms, because they aren't nationally applicable.

Of course, if they can pass such laws in enough cities and states, they'll have effectively superimposed local control over the national constitution - prima facie illegal, but by then, who's going to argue?  That's one thrust of their current agenda.  The other is to have President Obama enact as many restrictions as possible by means of executive orders.  These may be more or less legal.  It'll take years to challenge them all, and all the local and state laws, and get those challenges to the Supreme Court . . . and by then, given a few retirements or deaths among the present Justices, who knows whether another liberal/progressive President may not have been able to appoint enough new judges of his own ilk to override stare decisis and eviscerate the Second Amendment?

I'm pretty sure that's their game plan.  Remember it in 2016 when you cast your vote.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Payback's a bitch, ain't it?

I'm cynically amused by remarks from the President of the European Union, Donald Tusk.

Migrants are being sent to Europe as a campaign of “hybrid warfare” in order to force concessions to its neighbours, EU president Donald Tusk has claimed.

An influx of hundreds of thousands of people is a “weapon” and a “political bargaining chip” used by the EU’s neighbours who want to harm the continent, Mr Tusk said.

He made the incendiary comments as the European Union announced it would give an extra one billion euros in aid, and dangled the offer of visa-free travel, to Turkey as part of a charm offensive to encourage the country to close its borders as a major transit route for migrants.

. . .

... there is mounting frustration in Brussels at President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s refusal to seal Turkey’s coasts and border wit Greece. Police have stopped just one in seven of the 350,000 people who have crossed since January on a major transit route for those fleeing Syria for the EU, and European leaders are convinced he could easily do more.

Mr Tusk, the president of the European Council, told MEPs that “many of our neighbours look with satisfaction at our troubles”, and were prepared to extract favours in exchange for halting the flow.

. . .

Under a deal struck in Brussels, the EU said it would “step up” the resettlement of refugees from Turkey and help to reinforce the Turkish coast guard to stop the flow of boats over the sea to Greece.

It has been suggested as many as half a million people could be moved from Turkey, but the document does not specify numbers.

. . .

Turkey says it has so far spent more than 6.5 billion euros on providing support to Syrian refugees, and has demanded more help.

However, the deal also makes clear that Turkey’s long-term goal of visa-free travel for 75 million people to Europe depends on it fixing its border, and hints that refusal would put at risk talks to win full EU membership.

There's more at the link.

Turkey has been trying to gain full membership of the European Union for decades.  Its path to membership has been blocked every time by senior EU states, particularly Germany, where Turkey seems to have been traditionally regarded as an upstart provider of migrant labor that should be content with the occasional carrot tossed to it, and not get 'uppity' about 'pretending to be European'.

How's that working out for you now, EU politicians and bureaucrats?


A beautiful illustration of aircraft wake turbulence

All aircraft leave a trail of wake turbulence behind them as they pass through the air.  Light planes don't leave much at all, but the larger airliners leave so much that following traffic has to be separated from them by several miles to avoid potential problems.  This is known as wake vortex separation.

Here's a fascinating video of Boeing 777 airliners, among the largest in the sky, and the wake vortices and turbulence they produce.  The cloudy, moist air through which they're flying allows condensation to form, revealing air patterns, and their wake disturbs the clouds to show how following aircraft might be affected by downdrafts and other hazards.  Watch it in full-screen mode for best results.



Monday, October 5, 2015

A word to the wise

When enjoying a top-quality Chinese dinner with my wife and Dan and Sarah Hoyt, I must remember:  don't - I repeat, do not - DO NOT!!! - bite into one of those little dark red dried chili peppers that the Sichuan Chinese so thoughtfully include in some of their allegedly 'milder' dishes.

It took my eyes and nose about five minutes to stop running over, and another five minutes before I could converse at least semi-intelligently.



Safely in Colorado

Miss D. and I have made it safely to Colorado.  Over the next few days we'll be visiting her brother, and also author, friend and mentor to both of us, Sarah Hoyt and her family.  Much good food is likely to be consumed by all concerned.

We had a pleasant trip here.  Both of our vehicles are getting on in years, and aren't very comfortable for long trips;  but we pretty much had to drive, because of all we're carrying with us for the Blogorado gathering this coming weekend.  (Just for a start, we have a dozen firearms and something like 10,000 rounds of ammunition.  Try checking that at an airport and see how fast the security people lock you up - to say nothing of the excess baggage charges!)

Accordingly, we rented a 'premium car' from Enterprise.  On a weekly basis, it's surprisingly affordable, and the large, comfortable vehicle made the two-day trip from Tennessee a real pleasure.  Neither of us suffered much from the pains in the back and joints to which we've grown accustomed on earlier trips.  I can see we'll be doing this more often.

I'll post more tonight.  Meanwhile, enjoy yourselves with the blogs in my sidebar.


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Larry Correia does it again

Fellow writer, blogger, firearms enthusiast and all-round good guy Larry Correia has published one of his legendary fiskings of the latest example of moonbattery, this one from the New York Times and titled '27 Ways To Be A Modern Man'.  (I think it should more properly have been titled '27 Ways To Be A Crybaby', but that's probably insensitive and politically incorrect.)

Here's an example of Larry at work.

As usual, the original is italics and my comments are in bold.

. . .

Being a modern man today is no different than it was a century ago. It’s all about adhering to principle. Sure, fashion, technology and architecture change over time, as do standards of etiquette, not to mention ways of carrying oneself in the public sphere. But the modern man will take the bits from the past that strike him as relevant and blend them with the stuff of today.

My sons, as you go through life you will learn that libprog rags like the NYT, Slate, and HuffPo usually start their bull**** articles with a paragraph that sounds all sorts of reasonable. Beware. It is a trick.

What follows is one dude’s bizarrely specific pronouncements, which range from preachy but passable, to full turnip. Now, if this jackass had just lived his life according to his own code, real men wouldn’t give a ****, but of course not... This is the New York Times, bastion of bull****, which will not be content unless it is telling you how you’re living your life wrong.

. . .

6. Before the modern man heads off to bed, he makes sure his spouse’s phone and his kids’ electronic devices are charging for the night.

No. That is their problem. If you fail to plug your crap in, and you run out of power tomorrow, then you’ll learn. If your father comes and bails you out every time you make a stupid little mistake, then you will never become accountable for your actions, and then you will grow up and make foolish choices, like becoming a New York Times reporter.

. . .

14. The modern man still jots down his grocery list on a piece of scratch paper. The market is no place for his face to be buried in the phone.

Who cares?

No, really. You write it on a piece of paper, put it on your phone, scribble it on your hand with Sharpie, fly by the seat of your pants buying whatever you feel like, or your wife does the shopping… NOBODY GIVES A ****.

You sensing a trend yet, boys?

This guy is a symptom of a much bigger problem. People like to make themselves feel more important by telling other people that they are having Wrongfun. Judging others makes them feel special.

There's more at the link.

When Larry decides that something or someone needs to be taken down a few pegs, he's without peer.  I'm very glad we're on the same side!


The European "refugee" crisis: an eye-witness perspective

Survival Blog has published a letter from a US visitor to Europe who ran head-on into the wave of refugees coming out of Eastern Europe, desperate to make a better life for themselves in the West (or have one made for them, courtesy of Europe's 'welfare state' mentality).  Here's an excerpt.

Before we left in early September, the American news was full of the Syrians leaving. Let me tell you, our media is lying on this one. Of the hundreds of thousands already in Europe, there are (yes) Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans, Libyans, North Africans, and Kurds and more. Also our news, BBC, SkyNews etc., always seem to show kids, families, old and handicapped, etc. But the vast majority of people we encountered were men. Young men. Mostly ages 15 to 30. A few families, but near 90% were young, single men. Always in clusters, keeping among themselves. Yet at the borders that were closed, they were all but quiet. Rock and bottles thrown, yelling “Allah Akbar!” Clashing with police and being tear-gassed. Both television reports and newspapers quote them as only wanting a better life, not wanting to be a burden or unlawful. Willing to go anywhere. After a week some news reports stated that the immigrants who made it to Finland were bored! No bars, no cars, cold, and nothing to do–so they left! Early on, entitlement was already rearing its head!

There's much more at the link.  I highly recommend clicking over there to read it all.  It's an almost perfect reflection of what we've got coming over our southern border right now, with the sole exception that (so far, at any rate) we don't have a majority of Muslim illegal aliens.  Whether or not that will change is anyone's guess.


A pink battleship?

I was highly amused to read that the refurbishment of Admiral Nelson's flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, HMS Victory, has led to some . . . consternation.

Admiral Lord Nelson’s famed flagship HMS Victory has raised eyebrows after being restored to its original colour - a shade some people say is pink.

The new colour has split opinion, with experts at the National Museum of the Royal Navy admitting that the change had met with resistance from those who preferred the old mustard-orange shade.

Conservationists examined 72 layers of paint from an original timber part under a microscope, and discovered the ship Nelson sailed to Trafalgar was actually a terracotta or pink hue.

A spokesman for the museum said that although the majority of the response had been positive, some people had been averse to the change.

“With historic ships they are close to a lot of people’s hearts and people have very clear ideas of what they like and they don’t like, but we were really determined to use historically accurate research,”she said.

The official name for the colour avoids the word pink, instead opting for ‘Victory Hull Ochre’.

The paint was produced by a specialist manufacturer working from information given by conservationists at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

Even as the four month restoration project draws to a close, with the finishing touches being put to the 227ft long ship, observers are still unable to agree on the colour of the ship.

The colour is said to vary depending on the light, with HMS Victory appearing more pink on darker days.

. . .

The sides of Victory were varnished bare timber when it launched in 1765, but later in the 18th century captains were allowed to decide what colour to paint their ship.

Richer captains chose ornate shades, but Thomas Masterman Hardy, the captain of HMS Victory, was not well off and opted for pigments supplied free of charge by the Royal Navy.

There's more at the link.

My amusement isn't at the complaints:  it's at the lack of understanding of how our definitions of color have changed over time.  What we call 'pink' today wasn't 'pink' at all a couple of hundred years ago - or even a few decades ago.  Besides, pink has its military uses.  For example, during World War II the Royal Air Force developed a special camouflage shade of pink for its reconnaissance aircraft.  It led some more macho pilots to object to flying pink planes . . . until they found out from experience that it made their aircraft much more difficult to see in poor visibility (i.e. low cloud, haze, light fog, etc.), much less shoot at them with anti-aircraft guns.

HMS Victory's new hull color corresponds more with a light terracotta color, as used in the production of pottery a couple of hundred years ago, than it does to modern pink.  As Wikipedia points out in its definition of the color (and illustrates with examples):

"The iron content [of the clay], reacting with oxygen during firing, gives the fired body a reddish color, though the overall color varies widely across shades of yellow, orange, buff, red, "terracotta", pink, grey or brown.[8] In some contexts, such as Roman figurines, white-colored terracotta is known as pipeclay, as such clays were later preferred for tobacco pipes, normally made of clay until the 19th century."