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Monday, May 14, 2007

daileymail.co.uk (Censoring the News?)

Well, well, well...

Yesterday sure was a banner day for free speech & human dignity.

At least @ daileymail.co.uk it was.

They ran the following story early yesterday US time, then quickly removed it from their website. Ok... fair enough... they pulled an OP ED.... fine.

But I posted a question asking why the story was pulled on their public forum... & my question was pulled as well!

Again, it's their forum, & they can pull whatever they choose.

But deleting a question about a story they ran, smacks of coercion, in my opinion.

Even if BP officials didn't ask daileymail.co.uk to remove the story, removing my question about it seems a little unreasonable to me. Won't people assume they did it because BP told them to?

Surely some PR guy reading this @ BP today realizes how this must appear to the world.

Now I wouldn't like having a story like this published about me of course, so I understand their consternation, but then again I'm not out there doing sick, twisted weirdo stuff either so...

The biggest error daileymail.co.uk has made in this fiasco is not understanding the nature of today's web technology enough to realize that you can't put the genie back in the bottle... once he's out... that's it.

I'll happily remove this article from this website if they ask me to... but that won't wash with Prisonplanet.com or Google's Cache for that matter.

It's out there, & I'm afraid the time to reconsider publishing it, was yesterday morning.

All that aside, if this article is correct... some of you BP folks are very naughty people.

You guys are rich for God's sake. There are literally millions of American women who will sport-fuck you on request.

What the hell are you thinking?

Anyway, as always, let the reader decide what's what.

I'm just another voice in the blogosphere...

BP executives working for Lord Browne spent millions of pounds on
champagne-fuelled sex parties to help secure lucrative international oil
contracts. The company also worked with MI6 to help bring about changes in
foreign governments, according to an astonishing account of life inside the oil
giant. Les Abrahams, who led BP's successful bid for a multi-million-pound deal
with one of the former Soviet republics, today claims that Browne - who was
forced to resign as chief executive last month after the collapse of legal
proceedings against The Mail on Sunday - presided over an "anything goes" regime
of sexual licence, spying and financial sweeteners. High life: Mr Abrahams,
left, and another BP executive not linked to any impropriety with local girls in
Azerbaijan He also claims that Home Secretary John Reid was arrested at gunpoint
on a BP-funded foreign trip for being out on the streets after a military curfew
had been imposed. Mr Abrahams tells how he spent £45 million in expenses over
just four months of negotiations with Azerbaijan's state oil company. Armed with
a no-limit company credit card, he ordered supplies of champagne and caviar to
be flown on company jets into the boomtown capital, Baku, to be consumed at the
"sex parties". Ex-BP boss Lord Browne The hospitality continued in London, where
prostitutes were hired on the BP credit card to entertain visiting Azerbaijanis.
Mr Abrahams, an engineer by training, joined BP in 1991, just as the
disintegration of the Soviet Union had triggered a "new gold rush" by oil
multi-nationals seeking a share of the 200 billion barrels of oil reserves
beneath the Caspian Sea. While employed by BP, Mr Abrahams says he was persuaded
to work for MI6 by John Scarlett, now head of the service but then its head of
station in Moscow. He says he was passing information to Scarlett in faxes and
at one-to-one meetings in the Russian capital. He also claims that BP was
working closely with MI6 at the highest levels to help it to win business in the
region and influence the political complexion of governments. Mr Abrahams worked
for BP's XFI unit - Exploring Frontiers International - which specialises in
opening new markets in often unstable parts of the world. He said Lord Browne,
then BP's head of exploration, allocated a budget of £45 million to cover the
first year's costs of the Baku operation. "The order came from Browne's aides to
'get them anything they want'. "By 'them', they meant local officials in
Azerbaijan," Mr Abrahams said. "There were 20 or 30 people working on it at BP
head office, and we soon had a steady stream of executives coming over as
negotiators. We got through the money in just four months - after which it was
simply increased without question." He described a Wild West world in which oil
executives with briefcases full of dollars rubbed shoulders with mafia members,
prostitutes and fixers and cut their deals in smoke-filled back rooms. "The BP
officials would come out to Baku in groups of five or six, every week," he said.
"Sometimes I would charter an entire Boeing 757 to carry as few as seven staff.
Their main base was the hard currency bar of the old Intourist hotel - so named
because it accepted only dollars and was only open to foreigners. "It was full
of prostitutes and many of us, including me, used them on a regular basis,
although we quickly established they all worked for the KGB. "If we went back to
the rooms, not only were they bugged, but the girls would quiz us closely about
what we were doing and where we were going, and reported straight back to their
handlers. "Everywhere was bugged, and all the phones were tapped. One of our
executives was recorded saying unflattering things about the president, and his
comments were played back to us in a meeting with local state oil company
officials. "We were then told clearly that he was no longer welcome in the
country." Mr Abrahams helped to forge links with the local officials by throwing
lavish parties. He said the Azerbaijani girls who worked in the BP office, which
occupied a floor of the Sovietskaya hotel, would attend the parties and
routinely provide "sexual favours". They were also presumed to work for the
local intelligence services. "There was one girl, called Natasha, assigned to
teach us Russian, but it usually ended up as more that that. She would use the
intimate opportunity to ask us questions about what we were up to. "Caviar and
champagne were consumed at the parties, which would start in the bars but
inevitably end with the girls in the rooms. "We had a company American Express
card with no name on it which we could use to draw out $10,000 a time to pay for
entertaining without ever having to account for it. "Our local fixer was called
'Zulfie', who would help find girls, drink and occasionally hashish. We always
suspected he worked for the KGB, because he was so well connected. "A lot of the
BP men's marriages went wrong. Either they ended up with the local girls, or the
wives would find out - often because the girls would ring their home numbers "by
accident". "I don't believe that Browne didn't know everything that was going
on. He came out to Baku on five or six occasions." Mr Abrahams, who left BP in
1994, said his first marriage buckled because of his work in Baku. He has since
remarried and lives in West London with his new wife Lana and six-year-old
daughter Anastasia. He now works as an adviser to the EU. He said BP applied the
same laissez-faire attitude to hospitality when Azerbaijani officials came to
the UK during the negotiations. "I was given a hotline number which connected to
a desk in the Foreign Office. It meant visas could be granted instantly for the
Azerbaijanis and collected on arrival at the airport, rather than taking the
usual several weeks. "We had bundles of cash to spend on them when they got
here, and could again use the corporate card without restraint. "We would
typically have a dinner at which Lord Browne would be present, then he would go
home and we would head off to somewhere like the Gaslight Club in Piccadilly -
where girls would dance topless and you would get charged £250 for your drink.
"Our guests would usually want girls to go back with afterwards. Sometimes we
could persuade the girls in the clubs, but more often we would just phone up an
escort agency. "We could charge them straight to the BP Amex card. But it
sometimes became problematic. One group of Khazak Oil officials stripped their
hotel rooms in Aberdeen bare, including the sheets and pillowcases, and they
would usually clear out the minibars wherever they were staying." All the
entertaining paid off in September 1992 when BP signed a £300 million deal to
exploit the Shah Deniz oilfields. Mr Abrahams says that a key factor in securing
the deal was an £8 million payment BP made that year to SOCAR, the state-owned
oil company in Azerbaijan, for the right to use a construction yard on the edge
of the Caspian Sea. "It was effectively a sweetener to help to secure the deal -
and it worked," he said. Among the guests at a dinner and ceremony at Baku's
Gulistan Palace to celebrate the Shah Deniz deal were Lord Browne and Baroness
Thatcher. Mr Abrahams says he was told to ensure that everything ran smoothly
for the event, including meeting Browne's fastidious requirements. "I had his
favourite brand of water, Hildon, and his preferred foods flown out in advance,
and I made sure money was paid for police escorts and to circumvent immigration
procedures at the airport for Browne and his entourage. "That evening, he
personally handed me a briefcase containing a cheque for $30 million
(£15million), to close the deal. "He was so keen to wear a particular shirt,
which he had left at the airport, that I persuaded the chief of police to close
off the roads so his cavalcade could go via the airport to collect it." In 1993,
Mr Abrahams played host to a group of MPs who visited Baku as guests of BP,
including Harold Elletson - then a Tory MP but now an adviser to the Liberal
Democrats - and Home Secretary John Reid, a Shadow Defence Minister at the time.
"John flew out in the BP Gulfstream jet," he recalls. "After dinner, we went
drinking in the hard currency bar. He was drinking a lot - this was a year
before he gave up for good - and I grew worried as it got closer to the time of
the curfew imposed because of the tense political situation at the time. "I
said, 'Come on John, we have to get back to the hotel.' But as we left, he was
swaying around and being very noisy. "I urged him not to draw attention to us
because we weren't meant to be still on the streets. But then a van load of
police armed with Kalashnikovs pulled up and asked us what we were doing. "He
said, 'I am a British politician...' I urged him to be quiet, but then he said
to one of the policemen, 'If you don't take that f***ing Kalashnikov out of my
face I'm going to stick it up your f***ing a***.' "With that, we were arrested
and shoved at gunpoint into the back of the van. "It was only after I persuaded
the driver to go to the hotel to speak to the intelligence officer there that
they released us. John had only about two hours' sleep, then was up at 5.30am to
fly to the nearby war zone of Nagorno Karabakh. He was completely hung over."
Some of Mr Abrahams' most intriguing claims surround the alleged co-operation
between BP and the British intelligence services to secure a more pro-Western,
pro-business regime in the country. He says the operation, masterminded by
Scarlett in Moscow, contributed to the coup in May 1992 which saw President Ayaz
Mutalibov toppled by Abulfaz Elchibey, and then to a second change a year later
which saw Haydar Aliyev take power. Just months after Aliyev was installed, BP
signed the so-called 'contract of the century', a £5 billion deal which placed
BP at the head of an oil exporting consortium. John Scarlett, says Mr Abrahams,
"approached me very subtly and asked me to help to gather information for him.
"Because my daily route to the construction yard passed the supply routes for
Nagorno Karabakh, he asked me to report on troop and weapons movements. And BP's
deputy representative in Russia seemed very close to the embassy, too. "BP
supported both coups, both through discreet moves and open political support.
Our progress on the oil contracts improved considerably after the coups."
Subsequently released Turkish secret service documents claimed BP had discussed
an 'arms for oil' deal with the assistance of MI6, under which the company would
use intermediaries to supply weapons to Aliyev's supporters in return for the
contract. When the documents emerged in 2000, BP denied supplying arms -
although sources admitted its representatives had "discussed the possibility". A
BP spokesman said last night of Mr Abrahams' claims: "There are some facts in
his account that are accurate, but we don't recognise most of it. We regard it
as fantasy." A spokeswoman for John Reid said she had no comment and the Foreign
Office said of Mr Abrahams' claims: "We neither confirm nor deny anyone's
allegations in relation to intelligence matters."

Yuk...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Oil Alternatives Aren't

Why?
Because if any known energy sources compared favorably with convention oil, or even equalled oil's qualities as an energy source, we would see massive implementations of these technologies today. It's what the cornucopians are always saying... the market is the most efficient way to bring new technology "online".

I agree completely.

If it's potentially profitable, business pursues it. Legal or not... many businesses accept incredible barriers to entry as part of the normal operating cost of doing business in pursuit of profits. Even risking death in many cases. If these alternatives were profitable, we would see aggressive, large-scale efforts from companies to enter these markets. But we don't see this. Investments in oil alternative technologies have risen dramatically as the price of oil has soared in recent years, but remain a tiny portion of total energy spending.

This demonstrates nicely that conventional oil will need to be more expensive before alternatives will become truly competitive... much more expensive.

Which is, of course, the whole point.

So we are again left with Occam's Razor.

What's more likely?

Some conspiracy of influence has artificially squashed oil alternative technologies & made them non-competitive?

or

None are actually competitive?

Arguments about advanced technical solutions always fail to understand the basic issue. Name any oil alternative tech you can think of... then compare it Prima Facia with pokin a straw into the ground. Pokin holes into a pressurized fuel-tank (Oil Well), is a safe, simple way to produce tons of useful, profitable energy.

How expensive does oil need to be for these alternatives to be as profitable as oil? And more importantly, why would you consider that an "alternative'?

If you replace an energy source with a better one... that's progress.
If you replace an energy source with a worse one... that's desperation.
If you replace an energy source with one of equal quality... that's an alternative.

Even worse is the direct & indirect subsidy oil provides to all these alternatives, which skews the perception of how valuable a given alternative is.

Sorry techno-fixers... No soup for you.