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An excerpt from Raymond Ibrahim’s forthcoming book, Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War between Islam and the West, with a foreword by Victor Davis Hanson.

SOMETIMES THE OLD WAYS ARE BEST: Merchant Ship Goes Medieval, Throws Boiling Oil To Fight Off Pirates. But honestly, I think a Ma Deuce and some RPGs would be better.

BY “TO BLAME,” I THINK YOU MEAN “DESERVE CREDIT:” Pirates Are to Blame For Why The US Doesn’t Use The Metric System.

WHY WAS A U.S. SUBMARINE FLYING THE JOLLY ROGER? “In Navy tradition, the flying of the flag typically signifies a successful mission of some sort. As the Washington Post points out, the practice for subs began in World War II, when Royal Navy submarines flew the flags as a means of signaling a successful mission. Legend has it the flag, traditionally considered the flag of pirates, was adopted after a British admiral in World War I compared submarine warfare to piracy.”

IN THE MAIL: From Brian Kilmeade, Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War That Changed American History.

Plus, fresh Gold Box and Lightning Deals Get them while they last!

CHRISTIAN TOTO: The One Reason Media Refuse to Cite for Bad Box Office.

RELATED: Spielberg-Lucas “Blockbuster Implosion” Omen Prevails.

Spielberg said at the time: “That’s the big danger, and there’s eventually going to be an implosion — or a big meltdown. There’s going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen mega budget movies are going to go crashing into the ground, and that’s going to change the paradigm.”

Other huge flops this year include “Life” — the sci fi movie no one saw, “Monster Trucks,” which was a monster disaster. “Ghost in the Shell” with Scarlett Johansson also came and went quickly. Plus Will Ferrell’s “The Office” was a total write off, and Sony’s “Rough Night” was an embarrassment.

I’m not counting the $100 million plus lost on “The Promise,” because it was a vanity production.

This year also brought Tom Hanks’s biggest flop in decades, “The Circle.” And of course there were the two misbegotten TV remakes– “Baywatch” and “CHiPs.”

Even blockbusters that seemed like hits weren’t — “Pirates of the Caribbean 5” was a bloated mess. And “Transformers 5” was so bad that critics wondered why it was made. “The Mummy” also reeked of failure and desperation.

Hollywood has a long list of creative ills, but seven-figure vanity productions might be the least excusable.

GHOST SHIP: Cruise Passengers Spend 10 Days in Darkness Hiding from Pirates.

I SUPPOSE THIS MEANS ANOTHER FIVE OR SIX PIRATES MOVIES: Johnny Depp, Ex-Business Manager Trade Blame for Lost Riches.

A preliminary skirmish is scheduled for Monday in Los Angeles, where Depp’s lawyers will ask a state judge to throw out counterclaims by the Management Group that it isn’t to blame for his extravagant spending. The management company Depp fired last year alleges the actor repeatedly ignored its warnings that his $2-million-a-month lifestyle, including $30,000 just for wine, wasn’t sustainable.

“When Depp was confronted by TMG or any of his other advisers about his spending, he most often engaged in profanity-laced tirades where he abused the professionals surrounding him and claimed that he would work harder to afford whatever new item he wanted to purchase,” the company said in a court filing.

The items Depp wanted — and paid for — included a 45-acre chateau in the South of France, a chain of islands in the Bahamas, a 150-foot luxury yacht, art works by Andy Warhol and Gustav Klimt, 70 collectible guitars, 40 full-time employees around the world and a specially made cannon that he used to blast the ashes of Hunter Thompson over Aspen, Colorado, according to his former business managers.

Nic Cage could not be reached for comment.

YOU CAN’T SPELL “PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN” WITHOUT “PC:” Bride Auction Scene in Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean Ride Gets a Ridiculous PC Makeover. “This will no doubt be seen as an important step forward in repairing relations between pirates and nonfictional people. . . . Members of the Pirate Inclusion League of Landlubbers and Gender Equality (PILLAGE), a group I just made up, comment that changing the redheaded bride into a swashbuckling female pirate is an excellent idea since, even though it’s totally unrealistic, it’s less demeaning to women, which is always more important than truth.”


“The old-school viewers were put in a corner and not appreciated with all these other changes,” veteran ESPN anchor Linda Cohn said during an April radio interview when asked if ESPN’s liberal bent hurt the network. “If anyone wants to ignore that fact, then they’re blind.”

Rather than sue Mr. Denton’s bullying internet pirates into submission the way tech billionaire Peter Thiel did, ESPN chose to acquiesce and adopt progressive ideology and diversity as groundbreaking business innovations. ESPN is the exact network Deadspin desired. It’s diverse on its surface, progressive in its point of view, and more concerned with spinning media narratives than with the quality of its product.

The channel has become too handcuffed by politics to protect its most experienced and loyal employees. It’s a massive symbol of everything that fueled Donald Trump’s bid for the presidency.

ESPN NFL reporter Ed Werder, one of the most prominent faces among the layoffs last month, said in a podcast that he heard quality of work would not be a consideration when employees were let go. He lamented that “it seemed to me that quality work should be the only consideration.” Not in this America, the one ruled by social-media perception and dismissive of the real world.

Read the whole thing.

NEWS YOU CAN USE: What to Say to Your Doctor Badgering You On Hotcoldwetdry? “Gaia help any doctor that asks me questions or lectures me [on global warming], because they will be getting an earful asking them what they’ve done in their own lives, what they drive, what kind of house they have where they go on vacation, if they have a second vacation home, if they use air conditioning, what temp they keep it at, if they have an ice maker, if he/she plays golf, and so forth.”

(Via Maggie’s Farm.)

RELIGION OF PEACE UPDATE: Video shows beheading of sailor by ISIS-linked terrorists.

In 2008, beheading victim Gustav Kantner had been held captive by Somali pirates for two months.

I THOUGHT THE SCIENCE WAS SETTLED: A Lot of What Is Known about Pirates Is Not True, and a Lot of What Is True Is Not Known.

THE PIRACY THREAT: A world tour.


There’s no easy solution to the recurring piracy in the Strait of Malacca. Pirates usually function on the margins of society, trying to get a cut of the good life in situations where there aren’t many options. This is usually in areas where state control is weakest or absent, in failing and “flailed” states. A flailing state is something like Nigeria, Indonesia, or the Philippines, where the government is managing to keep things together but is faced with serious problems with regions that are sometimes out of control.

FLASHBACK: When Typists Were Feared as ‘Love Pirates.’ I type better than 100 words per minute, but I prefer to think of myself as a “love privateer.”

MAMMOTH PIRATES: “Tuskers” in Siberia sell “ethical ivory” to China. No, I’m not kidding. Ivory from extinct mammoths. Dig a 65 kilogram tusk out of the permafrost and you can sell it for $34,000 to an agent. Ah, but the mark up. When sculpted by master carvers a pair will “regularly sell for more than $1 million each.” (Scroll through the article to see the pair on display in Hong Kong.) Tuskers occasionally find woolly rhinoceros horns — these are sold in Vietnam.

CHINESE PIRATES: StrategyPage looks at the China-Indonesia Fishing War.

China and Indonesia are unofficially, but very visibly, at war with each other over illegal fishing. China has been stealing fish (poaching) from offshore areas where the fishing rights belong to other countries. This poaching has been going on with increasing frequency since the 1990s.

The Hague’s UNCLOS arbitration panel found that China has been waging a “fishing war” against the Philippines. I mentioned that in last week’s Creators Syndicate column.


China’s official censorship guidelines technically prohibit movies that “promote cults or superstition” — a holdover from the Communist Party’s secular ideology — and the country’s regulators occasionally have been known to use this obscure provision as rationale for banning films that feature ghosts or supernatural beings in a semi-realistic way (Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest suffered such a fate in 2006, thanks to its depictions of ghouls and cannibalism).

Ever since Feig’s reboot went into production, industry watchers have wondered what stance China’s film authorities might take on the movie.

Speculation only increased this spring, when it was revealed that the Chinese character for “ghost” had been removed from the reboot’s Chinese title, even though it appears in the local names for the original films.

The original Bill Murray-starring 1984 classic, which never screened theatrically in China, was translated as “捉鬼敢死队,” five characters literally meaning “Ghost Catcher Dare Die Team.” The sequels followed suit. The reboot, however, has been reworked as “超能敢死队,” meaning “Super Power Dare Die Team.”

Many guessed that Sony made the adjustment in hopes of finessing the film into China’s strictly regulative but increasingly lucrative theatrical market.

Couldn’t they have just gone with Macho Business Donkey Wrestler as the Asian market title?

NOTHING GETS PAST THE GRAY LADY: NY Times: Say, People Are Just Barely Getting By In Obama’s Economy.

Hey, Obama’s operatives with bylines promised America a new FDR in 2008; they just didn’t realize that it was a warning, not a compliment.


Found via Maggie’s Farm. So which candidate does the Times think will be the best successor to The One’s stagnant economic policies?


So wreckers and (financial) hoarders, then! Or to only slightly paraphrase Bertolt Brecht, the people had frivolously thrown away the government’s confidence. And that they could only regain it through redoubled spending. But wouldn’t it be simpler if the government simply dissolved the people and elected another?

CHRISTINA HOFF SOMMERS ON EDUCATION: Work With Boys — Not Against Their Nature.

Consider the all-too-typical case of Justin, a Southern California boy who loved science fiction, pirates and battles. An alarmed teacher summoned his parents to school to discuss a picture the 8-year-old had drawn of a sword fight — which included several decapitated heads. Justin was a well-behaved, normal little boy, but the teacher expressed grave concern about Justin’s values. The boy’s father was astonished, not by his son’s drawing — typical boy stuff — but by the teachers lack of sympathy for his son’s imagination. If boys are constantly subject to disapproval for their interests and enthusiasms they are likely to become disengaged and lag further behind.

Girls may be on the wrong side of the junior high school football gap, but boys are lagging when it comes to far more consequential divides. And closing those gaps does not entail treating conventional boyishness as a pathology in need of a cure. It means working with, not against, the young male imagination.

Well, we’d do better if our schools didn’t suffer from “classroom inequality,” in which males are drastically underrepresented among teachers.

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: PUERTO RICO ATTEMPTS TO PLUNDER WASHINGTON. “The economic giveaways and corrupt political cronyism allowed Puerto Rico to live beyond its means for decades. But the day of reckoning has finally arrived and Puerto Rico’s booty has been squandered. As viewed from the economic crow’s nest, financial ruin lays ahead…Puerto Rico has a small population of only 3.6 million people, nearly eleven times smaller than California. Yet, with $72 billion in debt, Puerto Rico nearly matches the Golden State’s state-funded debt of $97 billion. Walt Disney’s beloved pirate, Jack Sparrow, from Pirates of the Caribbean, said it best: ‘The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.’”

Be savvy and read the whole thing, mateys.

WHY IS NARENDRA MODI SIDING WITH PIRATES? British sailors given India jail time for weapons charges on anti-piracy mission.

IT’S COME TO THIS: ‘Mikado’ Production Canceled Over Racial Concerns.

A production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Mikado” planned for New York this December was canceled after it drew criticism over how its largely non-Asian cast planned to portray the stereotyped Japanese characters and culture that are often seen as central to the work, the New York Gilbert & Sullivan Players announced on their website.

The troupe “never intended to give offense and the company regrets the missed opportunity to responsively adapt” the show this December, the troupe’s executive director, David Wannen, wrote in a statement on the website. The company plans to mount another popular Gilbert and Sullivan work, “The Pirates of Penzance,” in its place for six performances at the Skirball Center at New York University from Dec. 26 through Jan. 2.

“Penzance” is offensive to pirates, and it is even more offensive that they would announce this change on Talk Like A Pirate Day.

Seriously, these are the people in our society who regard themselves as intelligent freethinking types.

WILLY STERN: Attorneys at War: Inside an elite Israeli military law unit. Very interesting, and it’s troubling to see that the Israelis, too, seem to have over-lawyered their warmaking.

Though I bow to no one in my love for law and lawyers, I don’t believe that either should have as prominent a role in Western warmaking as they do, especially when warring against enemies who do not follow the laws of war. Personally, I believe that observance of such customs should be entirely based on reciprocity, and that those who do not reciprocate should be treated as pirates of old. Such an approach would not flatter the self-image of Western elites, but it would be far more effective.

WHY THE PORN INDUSTRY can’t beat the pirates.

SO AT THE RECOMMENDATION OF MY BROTHER, I’ve been reading Nathan Lowell’s Solar Clipper books — here’s the first one — and they’re kind of unusual because, by the standard of science fiction not much happens. No alien attacks, no space pirates, just running a ship and trading. But they’re still interesting and good! And while Lowell’s style isn’t much like Ayn Rand’s — more like a Heinlein junior — this passage from Captain’s Share is pretty pro-commerce:

He looked at me curiously. “What was your main objective, Skipper? Improve the ship’s reputation?”

I shook my head. “You can’t improve reputation by focusing on reputation, Avery. You always earn it by your actions.” I stopped to think for a couple of heartbeats. “I almost didn’t take the berth because of the Agamemnon’s reputation on the docks, but once I was here, my main goal was simple. Make money.”

He cocked his head to one side. “Isn’t that rather cold, skipper? Make money?”

“Maybe,” I shrugged. “But it’s why we’re out here. It’s why the ship exists. We’re all out here because we make money. If we didn’t make a living at it, we couldn’t do it.”

I wish more people understood that basic point.

ANTI-GAY SLURS AT DARTMOUTH: “I know you have been very strong on all foreign policy issues, including Somali pirates, but what is your stance on butt pirates?” Really? In 2014? Calling our gay friends “butt pirates?”

I hope this student will be crucified and subjected to the pear of anguish, or whatever they do to Ivy League students who utter anti-gay slurs in public these days. Meanwhile, I don’t know why anyone bothers to speak to these entitled twits. Or maybe they’re just showing the first signs of infection.

UPDATE: Actual photo of a Dartmouth prof. Well, possibly.

IN THE MAIL: The Death of Sleep (Planet Pirates Book 2).

IN THE MAIL: From Steve White, Pirates of the Timestream (Jason Thanou).

Plus, today only at Amazon: Up to 30% Off Goal Zero Solar Recharging Kit and Portable Battery Charger.

And, also today only: Lorex LW2731 Live LCD SD Recording Monitor with Wireless Camera, $149.95 (40% off).

LAWS ARE FOR THE LITTLE PEOPLE: Business Software Alliance accused of pirating the photo they used in their snitch-on-pirates ad.

IN THE MAIL: From Chris Gerrib, Pirates of Mars.

SHOCKING NEWS: No ship with an armed security team aboard has been successfully pirated.

In 2011, the U.K., Greece, Norway and other major maritime nations began letting their merchant ships carry armed private-security personnel for self-defense in hazardous waters. This overcame longstanding legal and cultural barriers such as stringent local firearms laws and fears of liability.

The result? Successful hijackings off Somalia fell by half to 14 in 2012 from 28 in 2011, and overall attacks dropped to 75 from 237. Through the third quarter of 2013, there have been just 10 incidents, with two hijackings.

The main reason for this drop is that Somali piracy is an industry like any other, albeit far more brutal. When risks are low and profit margins are high, piracy flourishes. Investors on land buy shares in a piracy venture, funding weapons and equipment in exchange for a stake in any ransom. Thus to suppress piracy, the return on investment must be made unfavorable.

A major step toward making piracy less attractive to investors has been merchant vessels’ increased adherence to the industry’s Best Management Practices, which advise ships to travel at over 18 knots, fortify access points and take evasive action when attacked. Yet many vessels, such as bulk carriers and large tankers, are too “low and slow” to fully comply with these practices and need additional protection.

Armed private security fills the breach not by winning high-octane gunfights against pirates—although there have been a few—but through deterrence. Security companies know that most pirates are profit-seeking criminals, not fanatical terrorists. Armed guards, either on merchant ships or in their own escort boats, make their presence known, firing warning shots if pirates approach. This almost always persuades hijackers to abort their mission and seek out easier prey.

The firepower necessary to achieve this deterrence has proven cheap enough that private security has been widely adopted by the shipping industry.

Yes, just as homeowners with guns make home invasions less likely. Given that merchant vessels have been armed for nearly all of human history, the real surprise is that anyone finds this surprising. On the other hand, the near-elimination of piracy was a major accomplishment of the two centuries of British/American naval dominance that appears to be coming to an end. This is just one small way in which the world will pay a price.

WELL, THIS IS DISCOURAGING: Somalis in America Sympathize with Somali Pirates, Not Americans.

21ST CENTURY COMMERCE: Pirates Wait For Cost Cutting To Start.

Right now the pirates are stymied by an energetic international effort to make it very difficult for pirates to succeed. There is an international anti-piracy patrol off Somalia, which has over two dozen warships and more than a dozen maritime patrol aircraft monitoring the vast sea areas the pirates were once able to “disappear” into. No more. The large (well insured) commercial ships that the pirates long feasted off are now well prepared to detect, evade or defend themselves from a pirate boarding attempt. Many of the more valuable ships now carry a half dozen or so armed security personnel, most of them former military and ready and able to shoot to kill.

The insurance companies point out that until the rule of law returns to all of Somalia (and pirate-friendly ports and anchorages disappear) the pirates will still be a threat. It’s costing seafaring nations, who supply the ships and aircraft for the anti-piracy patrol, over $7 billion a year to maintain these defenses. A lot of that cost is borne by the shipping companies in the form of additional security expenses for their ships and ultimately by shippers in the form of higher transportation feed. As more time passes with no pirate successes there will be a temptation to cut back on the security efforts. That’s what the pirates are waiting for and the insurance companies know from experience that this is how the world works.

The old-time solution, usually described as “burning out a nest of pirates,” was less defensively oriented, and somewhat longer-lasting.

IN THE MAIL: From Steve White, Pirates of the Timestream.


I recently reviewed a fantastic book for teenage boys by KC Sprayberry. It’s a SF novel set on a space station in the 24th century with a teenage protagonist who runs a detective agency. I could NOT put it down, and I don’t usually read this genre! The author is also an Air Force veteran.

As an FYI, book two of The Catmage Chronicles, which also features a teenage boy protagonist, will be coming out in a couple of months.

Here’s Book One.


I’D PREFER A BOFORS GUN, PERSONALLY: How Massive Ships Defend Themselves From Pirates. But what’s this line? “Traditionally, countries have discouraged mariners from bringing firearms on board.” Well, it depends on how far back you count as tradition. . . .

A SOCIAL FAUX PAS: Aaargh! Ladies of English town misunderstand intent of pirate night.

A women’s group in southwest England had an embarrassing encounter at a recent meeting when members misinterpreted the idea behind a visiting speaker’s talk about pirates.

The Parkham Women’s Institute, a venerable institution traditionally devoted to home-spun handicrafts and good works, decided to get into the spirit of Captain Colin Darch’s talk by dressing in pirate garb. Neckerchiefs, eye patches and pirate hats were widely sported, with a toy parrot thrown in for good measure.

Unfortunately, Captain Darch’s topic focused on his 2008 ordeal at the hands of Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean, when he was held hostage for more than six weeks.

Pirates didn’t used to be figures of fun; that changed when piracy disappeared thanks to extensive pirate-suppression efforts by the British and American navies. Now that piracy is returning, the joke is likely to fade.

NEWS YOU CAN USE: Why Pirates Wore Eye Patches.

GERMAN PAPER WARNS OF COMING ICE AGE: We may yet see some of the more grizzled would-be climate scientists who warned that global cooling was about to destroy the earth in the 1970s, told us that global warming was about to destroy the earth in more recent decades switch back to telling us that global cooling is soon to destroy the earth. And all the while championing the same socialist formula to prevent mankind’s destruction — which is no doubt just right around the corner:

EUGENE KONTOROVICH ON THE LAW OF THE SEA: “A look at the legislative history does not support the notion of a subjective, political exemption for politically-motivated pirates.” Ragnar Danneskjold take note.

FASTER, BETTER, CHEAPER: Architecture Pirates May Finish Copycat Building Before Original. Well, two out of three, anyway.

THIS WOULD BE A GREAT MOVIE IDEA: Going After Pirates With Robots. Might need to sex up the design a little. . . .

UNEXPECTEDLY: Hooray — Warmists Find One Obama Green Project That Has Not Failed.

(Via Maggie’s Farm, which has loads more links today.)

PIRATES: Video: ‘Anti-Piracy Curtain’ Makes Boarding Ships a Wet, Dangerous Mess for Pirates.

I don’t get this first sentence, though: “It’s perfectly understandable why commercial shipping vessels are prohibited from carrying arms in international waters.” Really? Why is that?

PAUL HSIEH: SOPA, Guns, and Freedom. “You do not protect honest online content producers from pirates by breaking the internet for the innocent.”

TODAY ONLY: “Pirates of the Caribbean” Four-Movie Collection, $76.99.

FROM THE 21ST CENTURY TO THE 17TH? British arming ships to resist pirates.

OCCUPY HOLLYWOOD & VINE! Reader Paul Schauder writes:

In this month’s Vanity Fair, Johnny Depp admits he’s overpaid. Roughly $300 MM from the Pirates series.

Coincidentally there’s a lawsuit being filed against a studio by unpaid interns for exploitation and breach of contract I think.

Anyway, maybe this is a good time to create a law stating that no-one involved with the making of a movie can make more than 10x the lowest person’s salary.

And that all participants must have an equal share of profits.

Maybe we should Occupy Hollywood and Vine.

I like it. Somebody needs to come up with a “worker-friendly” labor law reform package for the motion picture industry, and attach it to everything. It can go along with my list of Hollywood-related revenue-enhancement measures.

UPDATE: Reader Martin Kunert writes: “Big difference: Hollywood never asked for a bail-out.” My response: Yes they did — in the form of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act and the DMCA. His reply: “That is true.”

GERMAN NAVY intercepts Somali pirates.

FUNDING STACY MCCAIN’S RETIREMENT: No Honor Among Thieves, No Curiosity Among Journalists: Perez Hilton Re-Pirates Video, CBS News Repeats Smear.

SALE, TODAY ONLY: Pirates Of The Caribbean Trilogy on Blu-Ray.

AN ARMY OF WARGAMERS: Navy Taps the Crowdsourcing Power of Online Gaming to Fight Somali Pirates.

(Via The Brothers Judd.)

TOM SMITH: “Let’s go all Thomas Jefferson on the Somali pirates.” More here. An international “community” that can’t deal with pirates isn’t much of a community. And an international “legal system” that makes it impossible to deal with pirates isn’t a legal system at all. “Whereas the Romans used to crucify pirates and the Carthaginians used to flay them alive, the UN Security Council’s crowning achievement in its campaign against piracy is a recent report detailing the successful ‘business model’ adopted by Somali pirates (or, as the report termed them, ‘shareholders’).”

WELL, IT’S PRETTY EMBARRASSING WHEN YOU CAN’T EVEN HANDLE PIRATES: Muted outcry in Washington after deadly pirate attack. What is this, the 17th Century? If so, should we be deploying 17th Century solutions? Because the 21st Century approach doesn’t seem to be working very well.

TELEGRAPH: Obama’s Strange Silence On Libya.

Investor’s Business Daily: As Libya Burns, Obama Fiddles.

Hey, he’s flummoxed by pirates. What’s he gonna do about Libya?

“THE PIRATES ARE WINNING:” As I’ve said before, an international “system” that can’t control piracy is one that’s hardly worthy of the name.

Mexican “lake pirates”? As Sarah Palin would say, you betcha. Chris Stirewalt, my Washington Examiner colleague, gets the hat tip for pointing out this amazing story from a San Antonio TV station. BTW, Chris is our politics editor and his reporting bears an uncanny resemblance in originality and insight to that of our inimitable Michael Barone. You heard it here first, friends!

INSTAVISION: I talk with Cato’s Dan Mitchell about economic illiteracy, the stimulus flop, and . . . pirates. Plus exclusive footage from my undercover investigation.


SHOCKINGLY, people with guns do better against pirates. But often get shafted in the press.

PIRATES AND THE LAW: A RETROSPECTIVE. “Most important in bringing pirates to their end was a series of early 18th-century legal changes that made it possible to effectively prosecute pirates.”

GUNS AND HOSES: More on Pirates.

ITALIAN CRUISE SHIP fights off pirates.

EUGENE KONTOROVICH: The Administration’s Pathetic Piracy Policy. “Indeed, as I’ve recounted elsewhere, since the beginning of the piracy epidemic last summer the United Nations has passed five Security Council resolutions on the subject– all under its binding Chapter VII authority. No other issue, not even the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (to say nothing of the bloody civil war in Sri Lanka or the ongoing genocide in Darfur) has commanded as much of the Council’s attention. Yet the piracy epidemic has only increased apace. In the days after Obama announced that the U.S. would be getting tough on pirates, as if to mock his words several more vessels were seized, including another American ship.”

JERRY POURNELLE ON OBAMA AND THE PIRATES: “Reagan famously delegated control of this kind of event to the on the scene commanders. I have no evidence that Obama did not do much the same thing, although this purports that he did not. Colonel Beckwith told me about the failed hostage rescue in Iran; I believed his story, so I have some evidence that Jimmy Carter did not delegate authority to local commanders, but in fact insisted on being involved all the way down the line. I have absolutely no evidence regarding the current situation. The pentagon scuttlebutt I have heard gives Obama good marks on this incident.”

MORE ON PIRACY: Ruth Wedgwood: The Law Adrift. “The West is tangled in a postmodern confusion over the law of armed conflict, human rights law, solipsistic views of national criminal jurisdiction and, above all, a stunning lack of common sense. This should arrest the attention of any legal historian. In the origins of international law, piracy was considered the gravest act against the good order of the state system.”

Further thoughts from Eric Posner. “President Obama has every reason to be concerned. He also has little room to maneuver. Having just returned from a trip promoting internationalism, he has raised expectations that any anti-piracy endeavor will have an internationalist flavor. This will mean costly, time-consuming negotiations for the sake of largely symbolic contributions by other countries, if history is any guide. Having also raised expectations that his administration will act with the utmost respect for legality, Obama will either have to direct American forces to walk on eggshells or risk exposing his words as empty. If the pirates continue to take American hostages, he will have trouble maintaining these commitments while giving satisfaction to the inevitable nationalist backlash driven by the mounting sense of powerless and humiliation that we haven’t seen since the Carter years.”

FABIUS MAXIMUS: Why we don’t hang pirates anymore.

STRATEGYPAGE ON THE SOMALI PIRATES. Plus this: “Ironically, while international law does not deter the pirates, it does deter their victims.”

THE MUDVILLE GAZETTE follows the pirate rescue and critiques the media coverage. “One thing that’s clear from having seen the briefing – this has been one of the worst examples of reporting a major story I’ve seen in a long time. From the beginning rumors have been reported as fact – one of the reasons the first report done here on the topic was titled ‘Initial Reports are always Wrong’. That point was lost on those covering this subsequently. . . . I wonder if they’ll consider arming crews now? Four pirates can overwhelm a ship crewed by 20+, grab a hostage, and keep the US Navy and two thousand Marines tied up for days? How many such victories can we expect in the future?”

MARK STEYN ON THE SOMALI PIRATES: Our Reprimitivized Future. “As it happens, Somali piracy is not a distraction, but a glimpse of the world the day after tomorrow. . . . Half a century back, Somaliland was a couple of sleepy colonies, British and Italian, poor but functioning. Then it became a state, and then a failed state, and now the husk of a nation is a convenient squat from which to make mischief. . . . It’s also a low-risk one. Once upon a time we killed and captured pirates. Today, it’s all more complicated. The attorney general, Eric Holder, has declined to say whether the kidnappers of the American captain will be ‘brought to justice’ by the U.S. ‘I’m not sure exactly what would happen next,’ declares the chief law-enforcement official of the world’s superpower. . . . Meanwhile, the Royal Navy, which over the centuries did more than anyone to rid the civilized world of the menace of piracy, now declines even to risk capturing their Somali successors, having been advised by Her Majesty’s Government that, under the European Human Rights Act, any pirate taken into custody would be entitled to claim refugee status in the United Kingdom and live on welfare for the rest of his life.”

Related: “Ron Howard Yearns for Less Powerful America Not ‘Driven by Militarism’.” I think we’re there.

HEH: So Many Pirates. So Few Yardarms.

JULES CRITTENDEN AND JOHN KEEGAN on Piracy in the age of Obama.

UPDATE: Administration debate. Plus, a “not-so-subliminal message.”

SHANNON LOVE on piracy and the will to do something about it. “I think that, as with terrorism, the return of piracy indicates the collapse of international law and the liberal order it establishes. It tells us how dysfunctional international law has become.”

Plus this, from Tam: “Our new President is displaying all the resolve, aplomb, and effectiveness of Jimmy Carter during the Tehran embassy crisis.”

UPDATE: The Ghost of Fecklessness Past. “Although, if I remember well, Carter at least looked pained and troubled by the whole Iranian Hostage Crisis. That’s why Obama’s attitude is – in my opinion – sub-Carterian in that regard: he just appears too aloof.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reuters: Pirates Pose Annoying Distraction to Obama.

But at least some people are finding the humor in the situation.

OBAMA’S NEXT HOSTAGE CRISIS? Pirates are flourishing because the world is letting them. It is, I think, a sign of the decline of the international legal system as it fails at one of its most basic tasks.

Meanwhile, Frank Warner is thinking outside the box.

WHAT TO DO ABOUT PIRATES: Apparently, “legal questions” are a problem. Funny that nation-states successfully suppressed pirates for years without such troubles, suggesting that the law has not exactly “progressed” in this area.

HOW WILL PRESIDENT OBAMA respond to Somali pirates? “This is a far more important moment for Barack Obama than the news media, judging by the lack of coverage on cable news this morning, believes it to be.”

UPDATE: Crew retakes vessel? This is a preliminary report, but if true it gets Obama off the hook.

CHRIS DODD UPDATE: A Pardon For A Friend, A Good Deal For Dodd.

It takes considerable political skill for a U.S. senator to win a presidential pardon for a friend without the traditional review by the Justice Department. Sen. Christopher Dodd moved the furtive levers of power in 2001 for Edward R. Downe, convicted of tax and securities fraud eight years before. A man will do a lot for a former real estate partner. . . . A presidential pardon is a rare possession, especially when the man pardoned, Downe, still owed millions to the Securities and Exchange Commission for his violations.

Rarer still, however, is the real estate developer, like Kessinger, who appears to have left hundreds of thousands of dollars in appreciated value on the table for his minority-share partner. Dodd appears to have latched onto one — and, on paper, has turned a profit like the Wall Street pirates he once loved but now disdains.

Read the whole thing.

HEH: Somali Pirates Receive Ransom, Hilarity Ensues.

PIRATES 1, INTERNATIONAL LAW 0: “On December 25th, a German frigate off the coast of Somalia, sent its helicopter to interrupt a pirate attack on an Egyptian merchant ship. One member of the Egyptian crew had already been wounded by gunfire, but the German helicopter stopped the attack. German sailors then captured and disarmed six of the pirates. The pirates were then set free. This is because German law only allows the prosecution of pirates who are attacking Germans (or German property.) The Egyptian ship was carrying a cargo of wheat from Ukraine to South Korea. Since World War II, national and international laws for dealing with pirates (which used to mean trying and executing the pirates on the spot) have been discarded. But nothing took the place of those procedures, because it was believed that piracy was no longer a problem.”

A SIGN THAT THE LAW IS BAD LAW AND NEEDS TO BE CHANGED? Or is it just an excuse? Legal Hurdles in West Slow Pursuit of Pirates. “While the pirates have been buying GPS devices, satellite phones and more-powerful outboard motors, officials in Europe have been discussing jurisdictional issues surrounding the arrest of pirates on the high seas and even the possibility that the pirates might demand asylum if brought onto European Union shores.”

If the 21st Century nation-state can’t even fight pirates, what’s it good for, exactly? Collecting taxes? What happens when taxpayers decide they’d rather be pirates?

WHY DON’T WE hang pirates anymore?

TERRORISTS VS. PIRATES: Er, I guess I’m for the pirates, then. I think . . . .

GIVING OIL SHALE DEVELOPMENT A BOOST. This seems like an obvious good thing to me — opening up access to domestic supplies that don’t put money in terrorists’ pockets or require long sealanes to be defended against foreign powers, pirates, etc. — but some people seem to be giving it a negative spin. One worry regarding the current low oil prices is that they’ll put the kibosh on present efforts, something we’re sure to regret later.


PIRATES, PIRATES EVERYWHERE: Is one of them named Ragnar Danneskjold?

Doubtful.  It’s certainly exposing the way the current legal system renders governments powerless against barbarians. There are traditional remedies for this problem.  Sooner or later they will be invoked.

KEN ANDERSON ON SOMALI PIRATES: “Might piracy be a relatively easy place for the Obama administration to demonstrate its approach to use of force, multilateralism, and international law?”

ROYAL NAVY IN FIREFIGHT WITH SOMALI PIRATES: “By the time the Royal Marines boarded the pirates’ vessel, the enemy had lost the will to fight and surrendered quietly.”


THE U.S. NAVY IN THE 21ST CENTURY: Fighting Pirates. No, really.

ADVICE ON HOOKING UP HOME THEATERS. “How much do you need to spend on cables? Ah, the age-old question–and one that you should never let a chain store’s salesman answer for you.” And links back to the whole home-theater how-to series.

Plus, space opera from Elizabeth Bear.

UPDATE: Reader M. Simon emails: “‘Hooking Up In Home theaters’ Is what I first read. Then I asked, ‘how the heck do you do that’? I want to get in on that. Then I read more carefully. You can not underestimate my disappointment. :-)” Just put on a movie that your wife likes. It seems to have worked for this guy. . . .

HUNTING PIRATES with BOLOs of the sea.

IT’S TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY, so it’s a good day to learn all about pirates.

CHINESE PIRATES PRODUCE AN IPOD NANO CLONE, and get this stiff warning: “Just remember guys, you’re taking food off of Steve Jobs’ table… which is made of diamond-studded platinum.”