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Yo Ho Ho

April 10, 2009

Yesterday I ran across Jeremy Scahill’s website called RebelReports and among other things he has some good commentary about the latest bout with the Somali pirates. From what I can gather so far these pirates took a US cargo ship which was then retaken by the crew. But since then we’ve been treated to escapades reminiscent of the Keystone Kops. Scahill describes a botched hostage exchange here which includes a transcript of a conversation between the second mate and Kyra Phillips from CNN. Evidently the crew took a pirate hostage and the captain boarded a lifeboat with other pirates. The crew gave the pirate back but the pirates kept the captain. The captain jumped overboard trying to escape but was recaptured. So now the US is calling in Rock Me Dave Petraeus while the pirates are bringing in reinforcements of their own.

Of course the rightwingers are apoplectic about the most-powerful-military-the-world-has-ever-seen being made into a laughing stock. On the way into work today I heard one of them ranting on the radio that Obama should just order the pirates to be blown out of the water because they are all Muslims out to get us. One can only assume he has met them all personally to discuss the finer points of theology. He criticized Obama for being weak, not seeming to notice all the Predator strikes in Pakistan that have been blowing brown people to smithereens on Obama’s watch for months. And to top it all off, he ended the segment by telling his listeners to enjoy easter and be with Xrist over the weekend, with no sense of irony whatsoever. Just since I’ve been writing this post, Scahill has posted a rundown of other wingnuts coming out of the woodwork today.

I’ve been rooting for the pirates for a while now because, well, they’re pirates. That and who doesn’t enjoy seeing the oil magnates of the world taken down a few pegs by a few guys in motorboats. But Scahill also fills us in on what might be motivating these guys in the first place.

Of course, there are straight-up gangsters and criminals engaged in these hijackings. Perhaps the pirates who hijacked the Alabama on Wednesday fall into that category. We do not yet know. But that is hardly the whole “pirate” story. Consider what one pirate told The New York Times after he and his men seized a Ukrainian freighter “loaded with tanks, artillery, grenade launchers and ammunition” last year. “We don’t consider ourselves sea bandits,” said Sugule Ali:. “We consider sea bandits those who illegally fish in our seas and dump waste in our seas and carry weapons in our seas. We are simply patrolling our seas. Think of us like a coast guard.” Now, that “coast guard” analogy is a stretch, but his point is an important and widely omitted part of this story. Indeed the Times article was titled, “Somali Pirates Tell Their Side: They Want Only Money.” Yet, The New York Times acknowledged, “the piracy industry started about 10 to 15 years ago… as a response to illegal fishing.”

He links to this article from The Independent which mentions that Western nations have been using the fact that Somalia doesn’t have a functioning government to dump nuclear waste off the coast and to steal $300 million worth of fish every year which has severely depleted the local stocks and made it difficult for the native fishermen to make a living.

So the West can use Somalia as a toxic dumping ground and steal their food supply for the well-to-do to eat in fancy restaurants but when a few people turn the tables a bit all of a sudden they’re a dire threat out to destroy our way of life. Who exactly are the criminals here anyway?

Here’s hoping these pirates manage to shiver a few timbers before they’re done.

22 Comments leave one →
  1. Stemella permalink*
    April 10, 2009 10:46 am

    Is that a portrait of Dickhead in my Intestines aka Dana Hole? ;)



    • cometman permalink*
      April 10, 2009 11:04 am

      Ha! He seems to be taking a few well deserved beatings lately :)

  2. Stemella permalink*
    April 10, 2009 10:52 am

    Now the pirates are asking for $2 million ransom for the Cap’n.

    The pirate, speaking to Reuters from Haradheere port, also said other pirates were taking a hijacked German ship, with foreign crew on board, toward the scene in the Indian Ocean where the lifeboat is floating, watched by U.S. warships.

    “Knowing that the Americans will not destroy this German ship and its foreign crew, they (the approaching pirates) hope they can meet their friends on the lifeboat,” said the pirate, who has given reliable information in the past but asked for his name not to be used.

    I wonder if we negotiate with pirates?

    • cometman permalink*
      April 10, 2009 11:06 am

      I suspect we’ll find out soon about the negotiating.

      And BTW I’m done with the post now. I kept posting a little and updating to make sure it looked OK. Is there a preview function like soapblox has that I just haven’t noticed yet?

      • Stemella permalink*
        April 10, 2009 11:21 am

        Yes there is a preview button along with a Draft button in the “Publish” box on the upper right when you select new post. When you hit the preview button it opens the preview in a separate page, leaving your composition page intact. So you delete the preview page and go back to editing and hit preview again etc until you get what you want before hitting publish.

        Or you can hit publish and then go into edit mode and do the same thing. You can also publish a draft and set the time for later if you wanted to write something at night and have it publish in the morning.

        • cometman permalink*
          April 10, 2009 11:49 am

          Thanks. Obviously I need to pay closer attention or learn how to follow directions.

          • Stemella permalink*
            April 10, 2009 11:54 am

            Hey, thanks for that context info about the Somalian pirates. I had never heard about the toxic material dumping and immediately thought of Summers. Diddn’t he suggest something along those lines, but in a different region? Anyhow, context really does matter. The Somalians and Ethiopians have really had such a rough time of it, all they need is more hardship.

            I looked to see if there were other sources on google and the pickins are slim. When I get back from doing some errands I’ll see if the UN site has anything about it. That shit can’t stand, man.

            • cometman permalink*
              April 10, 2009 12:57 pm

              Summers did suggest doing something like that. I remember reading something about giving Africa and other 3rd world countries the shaft but I don’t have the link at my fingertips.

              If you can find something more I’d be real interested in hearing about it. That Independent article appears to be where Scahill got most of his info in the nuclear waste and illegal fishing from but I don’t know what the paper’s sources were for that.

              • Stemella permalink*
                April 10, 2009 1:57 pm

                Here’s a link to the Summers Story: Harvard Students Rip New President Lawrence Summers on Toxic Waste Memo

                and the link to a copy of the 1991 memo which I’ll post here:

                The Memo

                DATE: December 12, 1991
                TO: Distribution
                FR: Lawrence H. Summers
                Subject: GEP

                ‘Dirty’ Industries: Just between you and me, shouldn’t the World Bank be encouraging MORE migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs [Less Developed Countries]? I can think of three reasons:

                1) The measurements of the costs of health impairing pollution depends on the foregone earnings from increased morbidity and mortality. From this point of view a given amount of health impairing pollution should be done in the country with the lowest cost, which will be the country with the lowest wages. I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.

                2) The costs of pollution are likely to be non-linear as the initial increments of pollution probably have very low cost. I’ve always though that under-populated countries in Africa are vastly UNDER-polluted, their air quality is probably vastly inefficiently low compared to Los Angeles or Mexico City. Only the lamentable facts that so much pollution is generated by non-tradable industries (transport, electrical generation) and that the unit transport costs of solid waste are so high prevent world welfare enhancing trade in air pollution and waste.

                3) The demand for a clean environment for aesthetic and health reasons is likely to have very high income elasticity. The concern over an agent that causes a one in a million change in the odds of prostrate cancer is obviously going to be much higher in a country where people survive to get prostrate cancer than in a country where under 5 mortality is is 200 per thousand. Also, much of the concern over industrial atmosphere discharge is about visibility impairing particulates. These discharges may have very little direct health impact. Clearly trade in goods that embody aesthetic pollution concerns could be welfare enhancing. While production is mobile the consumption of pretty air is a non-tradable.

                The problem with the arguments against all of these proposals for more pollution in LDCs (intrinsic rights to certain goods, moral reasons, social concerns, lack of adequate markets, etc.) could be turned around and used more or less effectively against every Bank proposal for liberalization.


                After the memo became public in February 1992, Brazil’s then-Secretary of the Environment Jose Lutzenburger wrote back to Summers: “Your reasoning is perfectly logical but totally insane… Your thoughts [provide] a concrete example of the unbelievable alienation, reductionist thinking, social ruthlessness and the arrogant ignorance of many conventional ‘economists’ concerning the nature of the world we live in… If the World Bank keeps you as vice president it will lose all credibility. To me it would confirm what I often said… the best thing that could happen would be for the Bank to disappear.” Sadly, Mr. Lutzenburger was fired shortly after writing this letter.

                Mr. Summers, on the other hand, was appointed the U.S. Treasury Secretary on July 2nd, 1999, and served through the remainder of the Clinton Admistration. Afterwards, he was named president of Harvard University.

                • cometman permalink*
                  April 10, 2009 2:20 pm

                  Yup. That’s the one I was thinking about. Summers needs to walk the plank.

  3. Stemella permalink*
    April 10, 2009 2:26 pm

    On illegal fishing and toxic dumping off Somalia:

    UN envoy decries illegal fishing, waste dumping off Somalia from July 2008

    Somalia’s secret dumps of toxic waste washed ashore by tsunami from March 2005

    Toxic waste adds to Somalia’s woes from 1992

    UN Environmental Programme Reports on Somalia This opens a page with access to pdf file reports on UN assessments of Somalia, including post tsunami 2004-07

    Here’s the Somalia section for that report:

    Country context
    In Somalia, most of the damage caused by the
    tsunami occurred in the country’s northeastern
    region, along a 650 km coastline stretching
    from the Bari region to the Mudug region. The
    tsunami took an estimated 150 lives, displaced
    5,000 and affected 44,000 others. Houses, water
    sources, infrastructure and the livelihoods of
    tens of thousands of Somalis residing in coastal
    towns and villages were destroyed, particularly
    in the northern regions. Wells were submerged
    and contaminated by seawater and debris and
    food items were washed away. It is estimated
    that in total, approximately 18,000 households
    were directly affected and in need of urgent
    humanitarian assistance. The tsunami came
    at a time when many parts of the country’s
    already vulnerable population were beginning to
    recover from four consecutive years of drought,
    periodic flooding and chronic insecurity. UN
    agencies and relevant organizations immediately
    responded by providing those affected with
    emergency humanitarian assistance, including
    food, drinking water, shelter, medicine and
    emergency relief kits.

    UNEP’s response
    On 17 January 2005, UNEP received an urgent
    request for assistance from the Ministry of Fisheries,
    Ports and Marine Transport of the regional
    Government of Puntland. The Ministry requested
    that UNEP assess environmental damage to Puntland
    including habitat destruction, pollution and
    soil erosion in the affected coastal areas, as well
    as on Hafun Island. The Ministry also sought
    UNEP’s assistance in ensuring that environmental
    considerations are integrated within the recovery
    and reconstruction process.
    In response to the request for assistance from
    Puntland, UNEP held discussions with the
    Minister of Environment and Disaster Management
    of the Transitional Federal Government of
    Somalia (Somalia TFG). During the discussions,
    it was agreed that UNEP should send a fact-finding
    mission to investigate tsunami impacts that
    might have been posing a threat to public health
    and livelihoods. The mission that UNEP planned
    was ultimately cancelled for security reasons, and
    a preliminary desk study of Somalia’s tsunami-affected
    areas was undertaken instead.
    The preliminary desk study highlighted coastal
    environmental damage caused by the tsunami,
    including contamination of surface and groundwater
    supplies and disturbance of hazardous waste
    that a more thorough assessment of the
    country’s environmental conditions was needed;
    and that the country lacked the capacity to cope
    with future climate-related environmental threats
    (e.g. droughts and floods) that could be anticipated.
    The results of the preliminary desk study
    were incorporated into UNEP’s February 2005
    publication, entitled After the Tsunami – Rapid
    Environmental Assessment.
    Following the release of these findings, the
    Somalia TFG requested UNEP to send a factfinding
    mission to Somalia to investigate the
    alleged existence of tsunami-impacted hazardous
    waste and, in addition, to conduct a more detailed
    desk study of the state of Somalia’s environment.
    In May 2005, a UN inter-agency technical factfinding
    mission led by the UNDP Humanitarian/
    Resident Coordinator and comprising experts
    from UNEP, FAO and WHO visited key coastal
    locations in Hafun, Bandarbeyla and Eyl. The
    mission’s objective was to establish whether there
    were risks to human health and the environment
    from any combination of hazardous waste and
    the tsunami. Neither the inter-agency mission nor subsequent efforts by a variety of other UN
    agencies, including a detailed analysis by the Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit, was able to confirm the presence of hazardous waste at any location in Somalia.

    Despite the small supply of available information,
    UNEP’s report, entitled The State of the Environment
    – A Desk Study, found that Somalia was
    experiencing significant environmental problems,
    including deforestation, overfishing, overgrazing
    and soil erosion. At the same time, UNEP found
    Somalia to be lacking the stability and political,
    human and financial resources needed to address
    these issues at even the most basic level. These
    problems were further compounded by cycles of
    drought and flooding, and resulting food shortages
    and starvation. UNEP recommended a number
    of specific interventions, strengthened environmental
    governance, regional and international
    environmental cooperation, and more detailed
    environmental assessment work so that priorities
    could be set for environmental recovery, resource
    management and development planning.

    • Stemella permalink*
      April 10, 2009 2:35 pm

      Weird how Summers worked at the World Bank around the time of the memo, 1991, and the toxic waste shows up as a problem in Somalia in 1992. hmmmm tin foily?

      • triv33 permalink
        April 10, 2009 6:55 pm

        If you’re going tin foily, may I suggest the Reynold’s Wrap Centurion?

        Please, let me have done that image right.

        • triv33 permalink
          April 10, 2009 6:56 pm

          nope, try again…

          • triv33 permalink
            April 10, 2009 6:59 pm


            • Stemella permalink*
              April 11, 2009 10:12 am

              Great hat!

              Unfortunately wordpress doesn’t allow embedded posting of photos and vids in the comments, so you have to post a link instead.

              Have a happy Easter, triv.

    • cometman permalink*
      April 10, 2009 4:08 pm

      Thanks for digging all that up. Very strange that there are a lot of mentions of toxic dumping, enough for the UN to send people out for look, and then they couldn’t find anything. That doesn’t seem right. Not sure what to make of that. Of course even here in the US people were told there was no danger in Manhattan after the Trade Center attacks when in fact there was significant danger from airborne pollutants released by the explosions.

      And as far as tinfoil goes, the oligarchy always seems to have plausible deniability. But a memo like that from Summers depending on who read it, could set a lot into motion. Once it was clear that Somalia was ripe for exploitation, a few winks and nods could have set things into motion.

      • Stemella permalink*
        April 10, 2009 4:59 pm

        Yes, it is curious how emphatically the UNEP denies the existence of the toxic waste after there were so many reports of its existence after the tsunamis. I suppose the best indicator would be medical effects on the population, but I doubt that kind of research is conducted there at this point. In that UNEP link I posted there is a long environmental assessment report specifically about Somalia with much info about natural resources, fishing, and their terrible problems. It is no wonder they are pirating. They are starving. They are totally dependent on harvesting for food as there is no longer industry and droughts plaque their growing seasons. It is a nation in chaos.

  4. sisdevore permalink
    April 10, 2009 5:55 pm

    and now we have another Clinton (as SOS) to deal with Somalia…White Bitch Down! (uh, kind of a joke)

  5. Stemella permalink*
    April 10, 2009 6:56 pm

    Six Days in Fallujah is a new video game in production at the request of some of the Marines who were there.

    What makes Six Days in Fallujah different from other similar war titles is that this will be the first game to deal with a conflict that has not yet been resolved. It is also, its makers claim, the first war game to be developed at the request of those who took part, many of whom are keen video game players themselves.

    “Fallujah was the largest urban assault since Vietnam,” Tamte said, “and just under half of the Marines in that battalion were killed or wounded. When they came back from Fallujah, they asked us to create a video game about their experiences there.”

    Atomic Games has since been working with eye-witnesses, using photographs and satellite imagery to ensure that its recreation of the battle is as accurate as possible.

    I’m speechless…

    • cometman permalink*
      April 13, 2009 8:23 am

      What better way to teach people that war and death are a lot worse than a video game than by making a video game about it!!?!?!?!?!?!?

      That pretty much epitomizes what is wrong with our sick sick culture. We are truly living in Bizarro world.

      • Stemella permalink*
        April 13, 2009 8:38 am

        Yep. That was pretty much my response to that story too. Definitely sick and twisted and in a most horrifying way.

        The glory of war in now back in vogue among some self described liberals too. The Obamabots are cheering on war porn now that the Commander in Chief is a Dem. I wonder if they’ll start to cheer the deaths of Iraqis and Pakistanis too? Fortunately some of the kumquats where I saw all this called the cheerleaders on it. The whole scene really made me shake my head.

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