Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ernie Kovacs absurdist genius: "Mackie Messer"

Economics to drive changes in how pirates are dealt with?

That's one of the questions posed by this AP story

Key section:

The killings came less than a week after a Somali pirate was sentenced to more than 33 years in prison by a New York court for the 2009 hijacking of the Maersk Alabama. That hijacking ended when Navy sharpshooters killed two pirates holding the ship's captain.

Pirates reacted angrily to the sentencing and have since vowed that they will kill hostages before being captured during military raids and being sent to face trial.

That could represent a serious change from the time when pirates were believed to be disgruntled and financially motivated Somali fishermen angry that international trawlers were illegally fishing Somalia's waters.

Criminal gangs now dominate the piracy trade, and have begun systematically torturing hostages, including tying them upside down and dragging them in the sea, locking them in freezers and beating them. Pirates have also used the hostages as human shields.

"What we're seeing is that because of the business model the pirates have adopted is so lucrative that you're now getting organized criminal gangs involved as opposed to fisherman who just decided to have a go at piracy," Wing Commander Paddy O'Kennedy, spokesman for the European Union's anti-piracy force.

"Criminal gangs are more violent than your average fisherman who's turned to piracy," O'Kennedy said.

Piracy has plagued the shipping industry off East Africa for years, but the violence used during the attacks — and the money demanded in ransoms — have increased in recent months. Pirates now hold some 30 ships and more than 660 hostages.

The average ransom now paid to pirates is in the $5 million range, a huge leap from only three or four years ago when it was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, said Roger Middleton, a piracy expert at the London-based think tank Chatham House. One ransom paid last year was just shy of $10 million.

"It's really gone up, really an enormous amount," Middleton said. "If you think you can get a $9.5 million ransom, I suppose the logic is that you try any means possible to get there, and if that means scaring some crews and owners more, I guess that's what you do," he said, alluding to the recent reports of torture.

Industry experts warned Wednesday that there is still a key piece of missing information after the deaths of the four Americans on Tuesday, and it's not clear if the deaths will require a wholesale change in the way the shipping industry and the militaries patrolling the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean operate.

As referenced in a post yesterday, put yourself in the shoes of those in the industry. We have gone from a position where 'it was clear', at least to most of them, how to deal with the non-lethal nuisance - pay the 1 million dollar or so ransoms..suck it up. The insurance & etc.. being cost prohibitive..

to a position where it is now:

"not clear if the deaths will require a wholesale change in the way the shipping industry and the militaries patrolling the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean operate."

That would seem to be an understated way of saying things have changed. As for the mysterious "missing piece of information", whatever could that be? Are the industry experts not yet entirely convinced that the pirates as a whole have indeed changed the rules of the ballgame? What more evidence do they need? The story makes it rather apparent that barbarism has become a norm. The pirates (be they either the poor embattled defenders of fishing territory or organized crime families, it makes little difference) are overplaying their hand thanks to years of success, which had been predicated upon industry acquiescence to their demands.

A market force has taken over, and (shocker) the pirates are now demanding higher ransoms. But, at the same time, they are changing the rules to their own detriment, if their goal is simply to generate reliable income. Torture and killing will not be accepted. To understate once again, they are overplaying their hand.

At some point, economic forces will dictate to shipping concerns that the Armed Vessel approach is cheaper, and in the long run (once again, rather obvious) deterrent, and in their best interest.

Once that approach is universally adopted, (or adopted more often than not), and once a few pirates get a taste of the new approach, a good number of them will make better life choices.

Until then, business as usual.

Rummy makes the rounds III

Toe to toe around the ring with the highly objective Andrea Mitchell.

A lesson in not conceding premises of questions.

Rummy wins on points.

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