What’s with all the pirates lately?
What a perfect topic for Doug’s Darkworld! Pirates! Especially in these dark days. And now pirates have seized a ship full of tanks off East Africa. Kinda hard to unload tanks in the black market, in fact hard to unload at all without sailing into a port. And now that the US Navy has them in their sights, these particular pirates might be re-considering their career choice.
So, what is with all these pirates lately? Well, turns out, nothing, piracy has been in decline since 2000 or so, after rising for more than a decade after the end of the Cold War. There have just been some high profile cases lately. An oddly enough, even though it is a crime that has been around since the beginning of recorded history, modern piracy statistics only started in the mid nineties.
Basically after the end of the Cold War, the major naval powers cut back on their patrolling of the high seas. In various part of the world, notably Indonesia and parts of South Asia and East Africa, pirates grew in number and boldness. Peaking around 2,000, after which some major powers began to patrol some of the worst areas, and the crime has been in decline since then. Were only talking a few hundred cases a year in any event, this is not like the pirate fleets of the past which numbered in the hundreds of ships and did battle with major naval powers at times. No, the modern pirate is more a sea going thug, who is usually after the ship’s safe, valuable supplies, and ransom. As in the current tank cargo case where the pirates are demanding $20 million for ransom.
And as might be expected, piracy is a crime that flourishes wherever there are failed states. This is why it has become such a problem off the coast of Somalia in recent years, Bush’s invasion by proxy utterly destroyed the stability and lawful government the Somali’s had established for themselves a few years back, and plunged the country into an endless insurgency against their foreign occupiers. I’d say that must have been Bush’s plan all along, since one would think he would know by now how difficult it is to impose governments by force on foreign lands, but apparently he has missed a few memos since the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq.
So as long as there are failed states, crushing poverty, a world awash in small weapons, and floating piles of money on the high seas…there will be pirates. The good news like I said is that in the greater scheme of things this is a trivial problem on the world stage. Very few people are killed and the economic cost is relatively minor, numerous other categories of crime cause vastly more loss of life and property.
In other pirate news, the Bush administration is still holding the economy hostage and demanding $700 billion dollars. A “compromise” bailout bill has been worked out, but it’s just the now popular proverbial pig with lipstick. There’s still no guarantee it will work, plenty of main stream economists think it’s a bad idea, and just in general it’s still the most brazen theft in history. As some have pointed out, it’s already made things worse in that the big banks are now completely freezing loans in anticipation of getting a huge handout from the government. In any event, read here and here about the myriad problems with this bailout and the many alternatives that have been proposed.
And while America has been distracted by the bailout, the even bigger scam quietly goes on. Congress proposed yet another round of enormous military spending. With virtually no public discussion the military once again got more than it requested, though of course not enough to pay for the full year in Iraq and Afghanistan so that another big loan will have to be taken out and given to them before the fiscal year is out. The amount of money we are spending on the military is going to break the bank just as sure the bailout, and it’s about a trillion dollars a year now. The fact that this gets basically zero press shows once again what a myth the “liberal media” is. The media may be liberal in many trivial ways, but when it comes to the important stuff, they are in perfect goose stepping harmony with their corporate owners and the Washington elite.
Sigh. I was going to post about the debate, but it proved to be a very short post. Both sides statements could be summed up as follows: “I’ll do a better job than my opponent, who, by the way, is a liar.” Some debate. Basically both managed to appeal to their base without making any major gaffes, so that what people thought of the debate was a good indicator of how fervent a supporter they are. McCain partisans thought McCain wiped the floor with Obama, Obama partisans thought Obama “clearly” won. In my opinion Obama was slightly more logical and factual, but still so far away from where he really needs to be that for all practical purposes it was just another example of debating about how to arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.
(The above image is public domain under US copyright law, being an early nineteenth century woodcut. It is of Charlotte de Berry, a famous woman pirate of the mid seventeenth century. I find it curious because while wikipedia lists her as an historical personage, some say she is a nineteenth century literary invention. Heck, I just recently found out that Homer, the great Greek poet of antiquity, was probably fictional as well. Some day future historians will no doubt decide Bush was a fictional character too, since no one could possibly mismanage a country so badly for so many years without getting recalled.)