Re: It's a "Baby-Jessica Story"

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Filler?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 12:40 AM
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Elian Gonzales?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 12:41 AM
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Elian came up just now while discussing this among roommates. Maybe the Lindh thing.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 12:46 AM
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Aren't those usually described as 'human interest' pieces?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 12:46 AM
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"Human interest" is a broader category, I'd say, to which these stories as well as others belong.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 12:47 AM
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Maybe "White Person in Peril!"? (They're pretty much always white, aren't they?)


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 12:48 AM
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There used to be analogy ban here, Stanley.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 12:48 AM
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Maybe "human interest" SHOULD denote stories that only really merit the interest of one specific human, but it's a much broader category.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 12:48 AM
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Laci Peterson, Chandra Levy, that stupid story about the Chinese and the ship from early in Bush's tenure; I feel like that terrible fucking Billy Joel song: they're filler for 24 hour news. It's all just WWWA.

On the other hand, it occured to me after-the-fact that the whole Pirate Sniper 3D business is something akin to the anti-Desert One. Liberal democrat is faced with the decision to tell troops to kill, or to handicap them at the moment of greatest need... and fails to fold!

It must be depressing for the wingnuts.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 12:50 AM
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7: It's almost like-or-as I care.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 12:50 AM
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6 was totally pwned by my co-blogger years ago, dammit. Too bad the post got et and I couldn't even link to it.

I should amend 9 by saying I'm not really sure it (it being "shoot the dudes you fancy SEALs") was the right decision, and that we're almost certainly looking at years or decades of pirates acting like much-less-genteel person-killing assholes, including probably one Achille Lauro-level tragedy, but hey, made the wingnuts look stupid.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 12:52 AM
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Captivity narrative.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 12:53 AM
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11: I prefer to think of it as an homage.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 12:54 AM
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Both stories have obvious human interest angles, but the piracy issue has some recent history and weight to it that the tiny-children-falling-down-wells issue never achieved. It may well be that pirates become less genteel and more person-killing, but not just because of this. They appear to be mostly self-aggrandizing people AFAICT.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 1:03 AM
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Well that's sweet.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 1:03 AM
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13 is sweet. Piracy is not.

In actual response to 14, they are self-aggrandizing in their way, but they're also self-aggrandizing because they're successful in a culture with very limited other options for being so, and in the absence of any kind of control (governmental, islamic, whatever) over society on land, they'll likely just keep being so, except more violently. I mean, what else are they going to do? Jenkem is nice, but it's no Mercedes and approval of the tribal elders. Arguably this is the same kind of deal as fighting Al Qaeda by dropping bombs on tribal areas of Pakistan. You can kill the dude, but there's always another dude.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 1:11 AM
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What's the dynamic that leads to more person-killing by pirates? It's not like piracy is particularly politically motivated. You take over a ship, the people who own the ship want it back and (to a lesser extent?) don't want their people killed, so they quietly pay you a couple million dollars and everyone's happy.

Killing the crew makes it harder for the shipping companies to justify giving you money, so you really don't want to do it if you can help it.

I guess you could abandon the ransom plan and try just flat-out stealing the ship and fencing the goods, but that involves a lot more work and a lot more risk, so you'd probably just go back to extorting money from the fellow inhabitants of your poor anarchy-ridden country.

Helping create some vaguely functioning government in Somalia would probably be more effective at reducing piracy, not to mention have a bunch of other positive side effects, but I don't see how having the Navy going around shooting up pirates makes things appreciably worse.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 1:17 AM
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Oh, good. Now there's a proper place for this query,
ignored in favor of discussing literal readings of the Bible for the umpteenth time.

This is what leaps to mind for me when these stories are in the news:

1. What will the made-for-TV movie be called?

2. What song will play at the end of the movie as the captain is being reunited with his family and crew and the pirate is being hauled off to jail?

3. How would 1 and 2 have been different if the captain hadn't survived?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 1:23 AM
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It's a different deal in that innocent villagers weren't slaughtered as collateral damage. That may change. While Al Qaeda is more like Somali pirates than Baby Jessica was, comparisons between Al Qaeda and Somali pirates ought still be subject to the analogy ban.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 1:23 AM
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17: some combination of pride and a need to raise the stakes to get companies to pay rather than waiting for the navy, I guess. We'll see. I may well be enitirely wrong.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 1:24 AM
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Damnit, this thread has already moved on from mockery into, like, a discussion.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 1:25 AM
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If Mark Kleiman says that this is practically an ideal outcome, then I tend to believe him. As near as I can tell, the guy has spent his entire professional career thinking about what makes effective and ineffective crime control and done a pretty good job at it.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 1:25 AM
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19: the analogy ban is like poop.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 1:26 AM
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Al Qaeda in Pakistan have actual political objectives, right? If the guys in Islamabad help the Americans "accidentally" blow up your uncle, then overthrowing your lackey government and getting someone who will stand up for you to run the country becomes more attractive. And while we may disagree with some/most of their political objectives, we generally acknowledge that people have a right to an opinion about how their country should be run.

But if someone says "give us some money or we blow up your shit"... what's wrong with "how about you give us our shit back and we let you live?"


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 1:33 AM
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Maybe the military should listen to the guy saying "There's no purely military solution to it. It's a serious international problem, and it's probably going to get worse. As long as you've got this incredible number of poor people and the risks are relatively small, there's really no way in my view to control it unless you get something on land that begins to change the equation for these kids."


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 1:38 AM
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But how exactly is it like poop?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 1:40 AM
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1. What will the made-for-TV movie be called?

Something with "Hearts" in it.

2. What song will play at the end of the movie as the captain is being reunited with his family and crew and the pirate is being hauled off to jail?

Unchained Melody.

3. How would 1 and 2 have been different if the captain hadn't survived?

Scarcely at all.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 2:43 AM
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Multiple use aphorism from an out of context quote in the Kleiman piece, "You can't always count on pirates".


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 3:30 AM
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What song will play at the end of the movie as the captain is being reunited with his family and crew and the pirate is being hauled off to jail?

Don't know; I'm only in charge of deciding when does the 25-second clip of Fortunate Son get played. I'm thinking it plays over a sequence of quick cuts of the crew going about their routine just before they encounter the pirates.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 3:33 AM
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The tradition of navies pwning pirates is about as old as the concept of a navy itself.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 4:18 AM
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30. Indeed. There were periods in history when that was what navies were mainly for.

In this case however, the establishment of a functional Somali state (or even several) might do more to address the problem than trying to pick them off one gang at a time.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 4:42 AM
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or even several...


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 4:46 AM
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re: 31

In this case however, the establishment of a functional Somali state (or even several) might do more to address the problem than trying to pick them off one gang at a time.

Yeah, definitely. I doubt that force is really the solution to this problem.

But, even as someone generally pretty opposed to the exercise of military force, I find it hard to work up much indignation if navies decide to deal with particular instances with force.*

* except to the extent that this is likely to undermine whichever effective non-violent solution is in play ...


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 4:48 AM
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What's the dynamic that leads to more person-killing by pirates?

they stop going for the big ransom payments on merchant vessels and return to raiding yachts and pleasure-cruisers, killing the tourists on board and stealing their cash.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 5:12 AM
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34 -- Good luck raiding yachts and pleasure cruisers in the Gulf of Aden.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 5:14 AM
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Fucking pirates. This just means we are going to have to listen to every pretentious hack -- George Will and Victor Davis Hanson, I look especially to you -- jack it about Pompey and the fucking Lex Gabinia 24-7. Come to think of it, they must have already done this last week and I have managed to tune it out, so quite possibly not as bad as I thought.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 5:28 AM
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35. That's what they started out with, so there must be / have been some. Remember these guys are basically fishermen supplementing their incomes in hard times. The occasional supertanker bonanza would look like all their Christmasses had come at once, but they won't build a lifestyle around it.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 5:28 AM
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36. I had exactly the same thought. We may be spared by the fact that most of the pundits are too ignorant to have heard of it, though not, I suppose, Hanson.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 5:30 AM
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35: I'll leave that to the professionals, thanks. Somalia has a lot more coastline than the Gulf of Aden; the Seychelles, for example, are off the coast of Somalia.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 5:36 AM
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38: I also forgot that we have a different president now! I am not very sure who the likes of Will and Hanson want to be their Pompey. Oh, I am silly -- of course they are cynical enough to demand that Obama do it and then shriek about tyranny if he did.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 5:38 AM
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||

OT History bleg:

Can anyone recommend a good history of the Thirty Years War? Good prose style goes into my definition of "good," not just excellent scholarship.

|>


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 5:38 AM
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35, 39: Somalia does show up in dive guides, etc., but with a "but really, come on, no" sort of caveat attached.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 5:40 AM
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i'm not an expert on the history of the british royal navy, but my (semi-informed) intuition is that its rise to world-class effectiveness (not least as as an anti-piracy sea-police force), during the 18th and 19th centuries not only coincides with the great push for empire, but is central to same...

... and second, that "ruled the waves" very easily became "ruled the ports and soon the hinterlands (of small nations about to be absorbed into the empire)"

empire's promise (to those it's about to absorb) is that it will police the bloodshed and chaos, will bring the Pax Romana/Britannica/whatevsica; its crime is that both are often actually caused by the fact of the immediate proximity of the margins of empire ("divide and conquer", as the romans said, and the brits imitated...)

... and third (which is the most interesting and problematic for those in favour of a global Pax Americana), the evolution of the royal navy was a key strand in the transition from the Brit Empire as a chaotic free trade zone driven by huge unregulated corporations (the East India Company etc), to a vast centralised state operation, to clean up the increasingly many unauthorised messes these proto-global corporations were making, and tamp down the fires they were causing and etc (which rival empires were adept at exploiting) (cf France's pivotal role in splitting America from the Brits)

you can't have a workable Empire without (Very Very) Big Government -- the accurate surveillance of the shipping lanes is one major reason for this


Posted by: teirce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 5:43 AM
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40. My entire dependence is that Obama is not desperate enough to land marines on the Somali coast. "Remember what happened the last time they started".


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 5:45 AM
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incidentally marcus rediker argues that the american passion for constitutions was fuelled by the large community of "masterless men" who had sailed on ships where the articles -- the rules of the ship-borne community -- were in effect piratical and democratic*: the eastern seaboard in the 17th and 18th century was a veritable haven for retired or lurking "freelancers"**

*cf the black spot served to long john silver -- it's a democratic revolt against a captain who had (as the crew thought) blundered
**captain flint in treasure island -- not the parrot, the man the parrot is named for -- retired to savannah

interesting, little-noted fact: silver's wife (who never appears on-stage, but is mentioned two or three times) is black


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 5:51 AM
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41. BG, I read Veronica Wedgwood many years ago and it seemed OK. In favour, it's a pretty reliable factual account of the conflicts, long and dense; against, it was originally written 70 years ago, and has to be read with that awareness.

That said, AFAICS it hasn't yet been superseded as a non-specialist account, and it's still in print (I think).


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 5:54 AM
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^^^ 45 = me

pirate democracies (disclaimer: i certainly don't know enough to know how plausible such theories are -- "no honour among thieves" seems a good starting place for a counter-argument -- but they stem from an era when democracy itself was an outlier politics associated by the george wills of the day with villains and vermin...)


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 5:56 AM
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From second link in 39: They had been repeatedly warned to avoid the Somali coast before their boat was hijacked, French officials said earlier this week.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:01 AM
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45 -- The Mayflower Compact is a direct example of this. Powers that be heard rumors that Hopkins, who'd been shipwrecked in Bermuda years before (and led a mutiny), was talking about how once they landed, there would be no law at all.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:07 AM
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Another yacht (off the coast of the Seychelles, which appears in dive guides without any ironic qualifications) and "a luxury three-master captured in the Gulf of Aden. There's a lot of yachts around there, mate. "Warning people to avoid the Somali coast" is all very well, but looking at the map, unless you're going to shut down the Indian Ocean north of Madagascar and west of the Maldives, then there's going to be a lot of yachts yachting around in the area of operation of Somali pirates.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:25 AM
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who you be callin "mate", seaman dsqared? *eyes plank menacingly*

(walking the plank: invented by hollywood)
(pirate "accent": invented by hollywood)


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:29 AM
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pirate "accent": invented by hollywood

But loosely based on the accent of Devon, original home to many pirates, from Drake onward.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:31 AM
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Imperiled American of the week is an epiphenomenon of the 24/7 news cycle more than anything else. The talking heads need something to blather about and the imperiled American narrative is both easy for the audience to understand and cheap for the networks to cover.

The whole time Phillips was being held there were world-changing decisions being made about the financial markets. Covering that story in anything even slightly resembling the depth it ought to be covered at is expensive and makes demands on the audience that most people are too lazy to meet.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:35 AM
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dsquared's link to Foxnews produced some horrid fake anti-virus scan which told me that my computer was infected, and I needed to download software NOW. It didn't help the malware's cause that I have a Mac, and the desktop that this thing produced was clearly a Windows one.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:36 AM
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I had already started looking up Somali phrasebooks for use next time "International Talk Like A Pirate Day" came round.

btw, what with pirates in the West and the remnants of the Sea Tigers in the East, it's not looking like a good year for Indian Ocean scuba divers.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:36 AM
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their home was the sea!

there is an article on "barbary pirates" by eve sedgwick! (i haven't yet found it on the net tho: i have found one of those scary "attack report!" sites tho)

(lj silver's careerplan, once he has marooned/murdered the respectable treasure-seekers and given his fellow pirates the slip, is to return to england and BECOME AN MP!) ("treasure island" is such a great book)



Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:38 AM
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i am using too many exclamation marks


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:41 AM
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54: Oooh, sorry about that - it is to the proper Fox News site I thought though?


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:43 AM
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From now on April 12th should be celebrated as "Talk-Like-A-Somali-Pirate Day."


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:45 AM
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I've seen Wedgewood's 30 Years' War book given the highest possible recommendations.

Remember these guys are basically fishermen supplementing their incomes in hard times.

This is only vaguely true. They developed their skills as fishermen, but found something more lucrative to do. I don't think that it's desperation that creates crime, but opportunity (lack of social control, absence of effective government).

"no honour among thieves"

Only true at the low end -- incompetent, freelance, criminals with short careers. (Contrast omerta). There is a kind of weird dialectic in organized crime where large amounts of loyalty are seasoned with occasional bits of massive treachery at key turning points, but that's like the rest of politics and government.

Criminals are murderous for the same reason that governments are. They have to stay in business, protect their turf from competitors, keep their peasants in line, police their membership, and resolve succession fights.

Criminal organizations are like mini-governments inserting themselves in areas where no other government is effective. Long-distance-trade lanes are a prime example -- sea routes, and caravan routes on land. In the most successful case a criminal organization becomes a government. In the areas where the pirates are based, they are the government.

Without an international order, long-distance traders have to be heavily armed, and they practice piracy and raiding ("forced trade") whenever necessary. Lane's "Venice and History" describes Venice in these terms. The Vikings and the Athenians were similar groups, dependent on long distance trade and piracy. (Also Niels Steensgaard. University of Copenhagen, Denmark. "Violence and the Rise of Capitalism: Frederic C. Lane's Theory of Protection and Tribute" and "The Asian Trade Revolution").

The Somali pirates don't have that kind of future, it seems. They're opportunistic pirates during a brief lapse of the international order. (The Barbary pirates ca. 1800 were a fnction of the Napoleonic Wars, the British desire to disrupt French shipping, and the British refusal to protect American ships after the revolution.)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:46 AM
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dsquared is a spam pirate, seeking to board my computer.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:47 AM
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Avast, ye! Pwned!


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:47 AM
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lj silver's careerplan, once he has marooned/murdered the respectable treasure-seekers and given his fellow pirates the slip, is to return to england and BECOME AN MP!

I wonder which was more lucrative, membership of Parliament or the deputy governorship of Jamaica, which Captain Morgan got.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:55 AM
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At one time around 1800 the US formed an alliance with Sweden and Sicily to keep the sea lanes open in the W. Mediterranean. Nothing came of it. One of the oddest alliances ever, though.

Unexpected pirate source. Lots of good stuff.

At my URL: Tripoli, Pete Seeger, Herman Melville, secular government, etc.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:56 AM
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58: I think it was the proper site, because it iddn't happen the second time. It was weird, because it was impossible to say "NO" to this thing, so I just had to quite Firefix completely. It seems appropriate to me that the FoxNews site would be harmful to my computer.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 6:58 AM
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i am happy with the formulation "a pirate ship had a code the way a nation has laws" -- meaning yes but no but yes but no but yes but no...

i am also happy with the formulation that the US is the pirate colony that succeeded: i think this is workable in pro and con sense

non-mayflower attempts to utopian pirate-colony escape from empire = eleuthera and libertatia


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:04 AM
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More on the Barbary pirates


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:09 AM
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Catching up:

Given that French commandos tracking down and killing pirates onshore didn't lead to a change in tactics, I'm not sure this incident is likely to lead to change, either.

Further, if capture of an arms cargo didn't lead to fencing, then pretty much nothing will - these guys obviously have no interesting anything but cash or near-equivalents.

On the OP, It seems to me that it conflates two distinct phenomena: utterly valueless, Baby Jessica stories, which were never properly anything but local news, and minor but genuinely noteworthy stories (pirates, the plane in the Hudson). They're lumped together because cable news covers them the same way, but, it seems to me, the latter have always been national news, while the former are, as teo rightly noted, pure epiphenomena of 24 hour news. Similarly, you see minor plant fires, car chases, and low-tension police standoffs getting brief national splashes. The Individual In Danger stories derive their salience from the centrality of the Individual - no confusing focus on multiple victims, no competing narratives. And because cable has evolved to exploit these characteristics, it's impossible to distinguish whether it's exploiting real news or a mere incident.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:13 AM
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On a related note, I know that national coverage elided the Glenn Beck-derived worldview of the Pittsburgh cop killer from last weekend; is my impression correct that the story more or less disappeared by Wednesday?

If so, I suspect that the pirate thing had to do with it, but I also suspect strongly that the guy's uncomfortable politics were related - if he'd been a pure KKKer, that's easy to pigeonhole as outre, but once he's quoting Fox's biggest star as his primary concern, that's hard to cover without threatening someone.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:17 AM
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There are people I talk to who are really interested in the details of the pirate story but who don't care to wade into the details of economic policy.

I think that part of this is caused by the whole human interest, easy-to-understand aspect, and I do tend to look down on it. But in the case of my BF, I think that it reflects something more. He likes watching TV shoes about engineering and construction which I don't really care for, because I am visually-spatially retarded. In his case, part of what he found appealing was the details about the ship and the raid itself.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:20 AM
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hitchens wrote a review of a book about the crushing of the pirates a few years back that was all "yay for american firepower, pirates are EEVIL MOOSLIMS" -- the review iirc somewhat elided the degree to which (some) pirate ships attacked slave ships to free (and hence recruit) the slaves

it did explain (for the first time to me) why the shores of tripoli feature in the us national anthem


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:23 AM
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it did explain (for the first time to me) why the shores of tripoli feature in the us national anthem

It does? I thought that was the Marine hymn.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:28 AM
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There ought to be a name for such a thing.

I think the proper term for the story about pirates capturing Americans probably ought to be 'nine days wonder', which I did not know came from Euripides. (Baby Jessica and the Captain probably ought to be called heroes of the hour... even if they're not heroes in the usual sense.)

In the areas where the pirates are based, they are the government.

Yeah. I'd say though that they already are a midgety government to start with, and eventually continued success requires formalization.

max
['We should probably wait this one out.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:32 AM
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72 is correct.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:34 AM
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these guys obviously have no interesting anything but cash or near-equivalents.

Okay, so that leads to a question. What do these guys do with the cash? How are they getting paid? Surely these Somali pirate aren't set up to receive wire transfers to Swiss bank accounts, so instead they're got to be receiving suitcases full of some sort of currency. And then what? I'm imagining a cash-rich Tortuga pirate enclave where the price of a pint of beer is 10 pieces of eight, except with US dollars or Swissfrancs. Surely this infusion of currency has to have some really strange local economic effects.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:34 AM
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Sounds like the pirates are already raiding yachts. In any event, it appears that the non-violent approach of paying the ransom still works fine if you choose to use it. The only reason it didn't work this time was that they seized an American-flagged vessel, but since the American flag is easy to recognize and American-flagged merchant vessels are fairly uncommon, this is a mistake easily avoided in the future.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:41 AM
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75. Some sort of an answer.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:42 AM
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er yeah, that "shores of tripoli" features in whichever song it features in WHICH I FORGOT bcz "yo ho ho and a bottle of rum"


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:49 AM
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75: I was thinking about that. I know that the Russian mobsters/oligarchs of the post-Soviet era were hugely into $100 bills - it was the only denomination that mattered - but it seems like dollars in (far) eastern Europe are/were a lot more useful/transferable than in anarchic east Africa.

Actually - and of course I'm speculating - it probably works out well that these guys are getting ridiculous ransoms. While $100k would be 2000x per capita income, it wouldn't actually get you that far - I doubt you can buy a new Mercedes in Somalia for less than $100k, and I'm sure dollars would be the best way of doing so (it's not like you're buying from a local salesman who needs to pay his electric bill with whatever the local currency is). As for daily stuff, I wonder if it's a bit of a rock star dynamic - the superwealthy never pay for anything. So you're a pirate who's just brought in $1M in dollars - locals/neighbors are happy to bring you food and drink and whatnot, and in exchange you provide a bit of security/status, and a piece of whatever bulk goods you can get for hundreds of dollars (AK-47s? mechanical equipment?).


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:53 AM
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I read the Wedgewood book on the 30 years war, was a little disappointed. It was good on the level of political machinations, but I found it lacking in discussion of military tactics, 17th century weaponry, and the day-to-day experience of ordinary grunt soldiers. Also I thought the book was very long. But the war was also very long, so what can you do?


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:54 AM
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what's the shortest war that's named for its length?

forever war*
100 years war
30 years war
7 years war
six day war

???

*(sf novel by joe haldeman, boxes off top end)


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 7:57 AM
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Too bad the Anglo-Zanzibar War wasn't named "The 40 Minutes War." They blew an opportunity there.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:03 AM
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77: Wow, wish I'd previewed. My guesses were wrong partly because I'd misjudged the scale of things (1200 pirates!?) and partly because a few months back one particular town was named as being a pirate center, and when I looked at it on Google Earth, it was pretty plainly not much more than a dirt road village; I was making assumptions from that, but seaside hotels and such rather change that picture.

I still wonder how all the cash exchange is happening - maybe the local economy is all in dollars, but then a massive amount of exchange has to happen when everything gets brought in. Perhaps the hotels and businesses do the exchange themselves - they're in a position to exchange dollars for big shipments of goods, and maybe they pay a dollar premium to get back local currency to pay employees, who continue to live in a locally-denominated economy.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:08 AM
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73: I don't think it comes from Euripides.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:08 AM
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Ah, missed opportunities!

Remember, mommy,
I'm off to get a commie,
So send me a salami,
And try to smile somehow.
I'll look for you when the war is over,
An hour and a half from now!


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:10 AM
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84. It comes from Kemp's Jig.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:13 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:14 AM
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I hadn't realized that some of the pirates were affiliated with larger organized crime outfits. If that is the case, it would be possible to dissipate some of the weird destabilizing effects, I would think: more of the money would be spread out, both to people and to regions, and there might be more goods to exchange the cash for.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:14 AM
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58: 54: Oooh, sorry about that - it is to the proper Fox News site I thought though?

Yes, there have been other recent complaints about the same from the Fox News website*. Whiskey Fire post on one of them.

*OMG They're trying to silence liberals by destroying their computers!


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:16 AM
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American currency circulates worldwide as a local currency because it's regarded as having a secure value. It never has to be converted to local currency and can be hoarded, smuggled out of the country, used to escape, used to buy smuggled goods, etc. There's never a problem of "Oh, what can I do with this foreign currency when there are no stores here?"


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:27 AM
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||
Scarlett Johansson smacks down the tabloids and strikes a blow for non-craziness!
|>


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:31 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:31 AM
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Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:33 AM
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From the link in 77:

"I know piracy isn't good, but if it wasn't for them I wouldn't be able to make a living," shrugs Kadija Duale, a mother of four in Eyl. She sells the gunmen $3 cups of tea on credit, then collects when they receive their share of ransoms.

I just spent $3.30 this morning on a cup of coffee and a muffin, and while I paid for that with cash, I'll probably pay for my lunch with my debit card - in other words, on credit, as far as the cashier knows. It's like Opposite Day. "Really strange economic effects" in a place with no functioning government create the same society as a nine-to-five rat race in places that have one. One of the unexpected side effects of post-national capitalism. Cell phone companies don't have to care about how their subscribers pay their phone bills.

And re: the media circus, it's yet another sign that the world is really weird these days, if that makes any sense. I don't know what it's like living in a world without a 24/7 news cycle, I was only five years old when Baby Jessica fell in the well.

From Wikipedia, I learn that Jessica Morales née McClure married the brother of a co-worker, and their son Simon was born six months later. Jessica has a million-dollar trust fund of donations awaiting her when she turns 25, and her husband was convicted of impersonating a federal marshal to rob drug dealers. Jessica's parents got divorced less than three years after she fell in the well. Of the two people most credited for rescuing her, one committed suicide and another was sentenced to 15 years in prison on charges of, among other things, sexual exploitation of a child.

At some point around 1986, I got my hand caught in a conveyor belt in an airport. I don't remember much about it and in hindsight it obviously wasn't that serious, but I'm sure it was scary at the time. I still have a faint scar from it. There but for the grace of God go we.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:36 AM
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||

Breaking: Money and good looks isn't enough to beat a murder rap any more.

|>


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:37 AM
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90: But what do you do about small bills? Sure, inflation and credit, but at some point someone needs a $5, and I doubt the ransom packages include them. Not that they're the only source of dollars, but relatively speaking they are.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:38 AM
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Wedgewood's 30 Years' War

I liked it. Pretty dense, drawn mainly from a 19th century German source (Gindely) with lots of well-chosen supplementary sources. Her book on Charles II was pretty good too.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:38 AM
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Usually people in that situation improvise a durable barter currency -- cans of mackerel, cans of spam, cartons and packs of cigarettes. Or you could go back to cattle and camels. A lot of life there is off the cash economy anyway. Maybe you could think of $100 bills the way we'd think of $10,000 bonds maturing in ten years.

$100 bills would be hoarded like gold, and also could be used to buy smuggled goods in large lots, or to escape Somalia, or in large transactions such as land sales, brideprice payments, buying herds of cattle, etc.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:49 AM
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95: If that hadn't been about Spector, I was going to make the joke.

Most surprising to me: he was apparently just as crazy and gun-toting back in the day.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:52 AM
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98: Ah, barter, of course.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 8:53 AM
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Can't remember the terminology, but the bills mostly be circulating currency, but stores of value, which is one of the functions of money.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:02 AM
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84:73: I don't think it comes from Euripides.

Since luck's a nine days' wonder, wait their end. - Euripides
Maybe, maybe not.
"Ek wonder last but nyne nyght nevere in towne." - Chaucer (Google books)
The earliest citation, in Old English, is in the 'Harley Lyrics', circa 1325. The earliest record in print that most people today would be able to decipher is in 'Poems written in English during his captivity in England, after the battle of Agincourt' by Charles, Duke of Orleans, 1465:
"For this a wondir last but dayes nyne, An oold proverbe is seid."
(Linky)
I was seven of the nine days out of the wonder before you came; for look here what I found on a palm-tree. I was never so be-rhymed since Pythagoras' time, that I was an Irish rat, which I can hardly remember. - As You Like It
So: it seems to be 14th century in English, and they're quoting it as an old proverb, maybe. The question is if the Euripides quote is at least a reasonable translation (since presumably if Euripides had written it and the concept entered English (or French) from there directly or indirectly, later translations of Euripides would have been adjusted to fit the phrasing. On the other hand, if Euripides didn't write it, somebody may have either made it up or just mistranslated using the unconnected English phrasing.).

max
['And the answer is, I don't know; and now I would like to know for sure.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:06 AM
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What song will play at the end of the movie as the captain is being reunited with his family and crew and the pirate is being hauled off to jail?

Beats me, but given that Somali pirates have seized four more ships, I'd play Tom Petty's "Won't Back Down" over the closing credits.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:08 AM
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"we want a million doubloons"


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:09 AM
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Can't remember the terminology, but the bills mostly be circulating currency, but stores of value, which is one of the functions of money.

Medium of exchange. Paper currency (or coinage) doesn't have to be directly and immediately redeemable as long as people accept it as payment. Which happens with greenbacks all over the world; money goes to (say) Mexico and it stays there and never comes back. (The Federal Reserve calls it 'money drain'.)

The Somali government doesn't exist (ok, the Somalia on the maps doesn't exist and hasn't for two decades) and the country is divided into various bits ruled by warlords. No government means no currency and so the people need a substitute and why not the greenback?

max
['Same concept as wildcat banks.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:15 AM
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I understand the "why not the greenback?" argument, but doesn't $20 million all in one go to about 40 well-armed people throw the local economy into shambles? More of a shambles, I mean. The organized syndicate would help, obv.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:21 AM
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By "shambles" I guess I mean weird inflationary pressure.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:22 AM
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would they stay in the local economy though? won't they go legit and move somewhere nice like the seychelles for life (my data for this is long john silver upthread)


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:33 AM
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Certainly that area of Somalia has been or will be restructured by the floods of ransom money.

If there isn't an organized syndicate yet, there will be one soon enough, after gang wars.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:47 AM
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won't they go legit and move somewhere nice like the seychelles for life

I'd give long odds against. As the man said, "mo' money mo' problems."


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:51 AM
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102: It's from an old translation of the Heraclidae, apparently. The translator substituted an English proverb for a Greek one. Basically the word in Greek is ἐφήμεροι -- famous to us and to the Athenians from Pindar's Pythian 8 where he calls us humans ἐφήμεροι -- creatures of a day. Here the attendant is basically giving the "count no man happy 'til he's dead speech" and says that τύχαι (fortunes, luck) are ἐφήμεροι.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:53 AM
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Basically.
Basically.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:55 AM
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How does "ἐφήμεροι" break down?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 10:02 AM
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Certainly that area of Somalia has been or will be restructured by the floods of ransom money.

From OFE's link in 77:

As the profits from the crime wave draw in businessmen from around the country, residents in the pirate's coastal bases -- and some inland towns -- have seen development in recent months that is unprecedented in their anarchic nation.

Abdiqadir Yusuf Ow Muse, the Eyl chairman, said his village had existed since 1927, but had long been only a tiny fishing community. This year, he told Reuters, all that had changed.
"Now it's a district with almost all facilities you would expect, because of the convergence of rich pirates," he said.
Why go legit when things are getting good?

I'm finding it hard not to imagine these guys as Avon Barksdale and Stringer Bell.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 10:05 AM
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114: Racist.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 10:13 AM
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the bills mostly be circulating currency

Talk Like a Pirate Day be coming around early this year.


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 10:15 AM
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113: It's epi (a preposition that can mean "on," but here obvs more like "for the course of") and hemera, which means "day." So here ephemeroi are "things that last a day," and it is, as I am sure you know, where we get the word ephemera.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 10:27 AM
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There was a point 15-20 years ago when Columbia was the only nation in Latin America without a serious international balance of payments problem. No one made the obvious inference. I wish I'd clipped the article.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 10:49 AM
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Further to the above, something like 2/3rds of the US$100 in circulation circulate outside the United States, as stores of value.

Turns out there is a Somali Shilling, which was stable in value in the 1990s. It was only with the attempt at a central government in the first half of the decade that it collapsed in value.


Posted by: mike d | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 11:02 AM
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118: This is my favorite example of balance of payments problems resulting from the drug trade.


Posted by: mike d | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 11:03 AM
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precise! "The word shilling comes from schilling, an accounting term that dates back to Anglo-Saxon times where it was deemed to be the value of a cow in Kent or a sheep elsewhere"


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 11:09 AM
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119.--I like how the various counterfeit papers have their own names but have been accepted for their now nearly worthless face value. 120 is absolutely wonderful.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 11:15 AM
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121: a sheep elsewhere"

Heh, I like that. One cow in Kent equals one sheep not in Kent. Fair trade. Apparently all sheep not in Kent are equal to each other. But what is a sheep in Kent worth? When a sheep not in Kent goes to Kent, does its value change?

If Wall Street were on the schilling standard, none of this mess would have happened.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 11:34 AM
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maybe a sheep in kent is the anglo-saxon "black swan event"


Posted by: tierce de lollardie | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 11:42 AM
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||
It's a very specific website.
|>


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 12:40 PM
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107: By "shambles" I guess I mean weird inflationary pressure.

People accepting dollars as payment are going to negotiate their own on the spot exchange/discount rate.

During the wildcat banking period (1837-1862), all the banks were private, and each bank issued its own currency. The further removed someone was from a given bank (equivalent to how much trust they had in said bank), the bigger the discount the money traded at. So paper from the bank down the street traded at a 5% discount off face (100$ bought 95$ worth of goods) and on down to 50% discount. (A 50% discount is getting close to the point where the money simply won't be accepted at all.)

I would imagine, in Somalia where US paper is in wide use, bills trade at no discount but local prices are higher than the barter rate. Products from outside Somalia (guns for one) are going to trade at very high prices. As you get into the backwoodsdesert, the prices will fall, but the discount will rise.

So (again: I'd imagine), is that in the coastal areas near to Kenya dollars are trading at par and prices are maybe 50-100% above the barter rate, which in turn is likely at least twice the rate homegrown goods are trading for in the interior. Near the Ethiopian border, the barter rate should be lower, but the discount rate should be 30-50% (so it takes more dollars to buy the same stuff at a lower (dollar) price). Gun prices are probably much higher in the interior (relative to both the nominal dollar price and the barter exchange rate).

That's roughly the way things worked in the US pre-revolutionary war. However, in all instances, the prices merchants/traders accept are going to vary a lot depending on local and personal circumstances. That's why having a nice strong government with high-credibility paper is good for the economy - people don't worry about getting ripped off.

max
['Unfortunately, most nice strong governments see the short-run opportunity in turning their high-credibility paper into low-credibility paper.']


Posted by: max | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 12:44 PM
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125: I love it when a site delivers on its promise.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 12:52 PM
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125, 127: That's not spaghetti, it's penne rigate.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 12:57 PM
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Except that the bird appears to be cooking penne.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 12:58 PM
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Also the bird is Korean.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 12:59 PM
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Pwnne rigate.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 12:59 PM
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THE WHOLE DAMN THING IS A LIE!

Stupid internet. I'll bet the oven doesn't even work.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 1:00 PM
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Pwnne Rigate!
What a wonderful phrase
Pwnne Rigate!
Ain't no passing craze


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 1:24 PM
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130: racist.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 1:32 PM
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During the wildcat banking period (1837-1862), all the banks were private, and each bank issued its own currency.

this is true, but remember that during this period, paper banknotes weren't the sort of thing you'd carry around in your hip pocket; they were more used as stores of value and were almost akin to negotiable certificates of deposit. This was also the case during the Scottish free-banking period (when there were actually laws stipulating the minimum value of a note, to ensure that they didn't get too widely used for transactions), which is something that free-banking enthusiasts tend to gloss over rather.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 1:42 PM
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Although now I wonder if the pirates do demand cash. What do Swiss banking laws say about ransom money? Is it treated like a legitimate source of funds, or do they tell police forces who you are?


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 2:07 PM
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One of the things I learned from that "Somalia, Economy of" wikipedia article was that there's a (comparatively) huge money-order business in the country to receive the remittances that account for some great percentage of the GDP (I assume that's the legitimate business GDP). Maybe some of the pirates or their highers-up do manage to sock some of the ransom money away in foreign accounts, even Swiss ones.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 2:11 PM
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And thanks, max, for 126.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 2:12 PM
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Alternatively, the whole business model of the Somali pirates is much more complicated than I'd realized:

In exchange for a share in the eventual ransoms, wealthy Somali businessmen finance the purchase and outfit of mother ships and skiffs as well as the recruitment and arming of their crews. In various ports, paid informants send information about vessels' defenses, crews, cargos, and itineraries, enabling pirate gangs to select their targets and plot courses for interception. [...]
Once a vessel is seized and brought to a pirate base, negotiations begin between the pirates and representatives of the ship's owner and its insurer. Eventually, the ransom, which is nowadays typically about $1 million -- although $3.2 million and $3 million, respectively, were paid to the captors of the Ukrainian-owned weapons freighter Faina and the Saudi-owned supertanker Sirius Star earlier this year -- must be delivered directly to the hijacked vessel by agreed-upon intermediaries, usually rather specialized security consultants.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 2:21 PM
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Just went to a press conference yesterday at the Ramsey County Jail, where a Somali fellow is being held for 90 days by ICE (they contract for cells with the county) for basically no reason -- he can't be deported to Somalia, for obvious reasons, he's never had refugee or immigration status anywhere else, and when the 90 days are up, he can't be held and will be released. Big deal, apart from the injustice of it, except that he was the sole breadwinner for his familly, so his wife, who's severely ill, and his kids, are stuck in public housing, with essentially no one to actually take care of them. Apparently, this is pretty much standard operating procedure for ICE, who do it because they can, not because they have to.
So your country's been destroyed by the after-effects of paleo-colonialism and the ongoing effects of neo-colonialism, you're sure to get detained somewhere if you leave, you probably can't leave easily anyway (not without money, certainly), the refugee camps are overflowing, some warlord or group of warlords (i.e. a state like the US or Ethiopia) may invade your town and kill you any time -- what the hell is there to lose?
Objectively pro-pirate!


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 2:23 PM
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i read today on yahoo news that the pirates are holding 16-18 ships with around more than 200 people crew on them
never knew, so the last one was a big news coz they luckily escaped perhaps


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 2:45 PM
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141: More because it was a U.S. flagged ship and an all-U.S.-citizen crew, hence the swift involvement of the U.S. Navy.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 2:47 PM
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Why would a civilian ship be US-flagged? I thought they were all flagged in places like Nauru and Chad and Liberia to avoid regulations.

Isn't the "flagged-ness" irrelevant to whether there were any Americans or things relevant to America on board the ship?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 3:01 PM
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143: Why do you hate America, Ned? How can you not reminisce about a childhood where you began each cruise with the Pledge of Allegiance as little kids lined up on the dock and then marched onboard two by two with a flag and a crucifix in each cabin?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 3:05 PM
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Why would a civilian ship be US-flagged?

Because it's hauling stuff (or people) between US ports or for the US government.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 3:25 PM
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In this case, emergency food relief, I believe.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 3:32 PM
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Completely OT:

I finally figured out how to solve the financial crisis and punish the wrongdoers, with bonus potential hottness. We must reinstitute the ROCK OF SHAME. If you wanted to declare yourself insolvent in medieval or early modern Italy, then . . .

In particular, many of these rituals centered on what was called "The Rock of Shame." The debtor was commonly brought to a public piazza, always the scene of spectacles, feuds, humiliations, and the like; or before a session of the city council or court. There:

The custom has grown up, in parts of Italy, that the insolvent who wishes to declare a cessio bonorum must go naked in a public and notorious place. There he strikes his backside three times against a rock or column, crying out, I DECLARE BANKRUPTCY. [FN115] Northern Italian cities had a special rock, prominently located, against which bankrupt debtors were obliged to bang their buttocks before a jeering crowd, after first displaying themselves in some state of undress, or simply nude. In the city of Padua, for example, the rock of shame stood in the middle of the vast Paduan Palace of Justice, where it can still be visited.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 3:48 PM
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http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/archives/2009/04/ideas_matter.php


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 4:30 PM
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1. What will the made-for-TV movie be called?

Life of R.

2. What song will play at the end of the movie as the captain is being reunited with his family and crew and the pirate is being hauled off to jail?

Rolling Home -

Full ten thousand miles behind us,
And a thousand miles before,
Ancient ocean waves to waft us
To the well remembered shore.

3. How would 1 and 2 have been different if the captain hadn't survived?

Title: O Captain! My Captain!
Song: Abdul Abulbul Amir

They parried and thrust, they side-stepped and cussed,
Of blood they spilled a great part;
The philologist blokes, who seldom crack jokes,
Say that hash was first made on the spot.


Posted by: estenroh | Link to this comment | 04-14-09 9:38 PM
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In addition to all the possibilities mentioned above, I imagine a fair amount of the cash gets pissed up the wall in Nairobi or Mumbai or wherever the most extravagant fleshpots of the region are situated. That's part of the folkways of Malacca pirates:

By the next evening the gang would be on their way back to what Batam pirates call "happy happy," a blur of hedonism, ranging from extravagant amounts of crystal meth and ecstasy to marathon sessions with prostitutes.

Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 3:37 AM
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147: Imagine how much one could raise from selling rights to the reality show version alone.


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 7:40 AM
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151 to 150.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 04-15-09 2:26 PM
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