- The cattle rustler who steals a herd belonging to "Vengeance" Sutton, the biggest cattle baron in the state
- The pickpocket with the score of a lifetime: "Icepick" Grogan's numbers receipts for the day
- The cutpurse who relieves a shabby stranger of his pouch, and finds some very odd jewelry
- Mordu the Necromancer wants his tools back
Pirates Anchor Saudi Supertanker off Somali CoastThe Saudi supertanker Sirius Star was carrying around 2 million barrels of oil. That's about a quarter of a day's output for Saudi Arabia. Not exactly chump change.
The pirates almost certainly want money in exchange for the supertanker, its cargo and crew.
The House of Saud wants them gone.
Pirates, Ransom, Common Sense, and HistoryThe Somali transitional government's prime minister, Nur Hassan Hussein, says that shipping companies should stop paying ransom to pirates. (CNN) Sounds reasonable to me. Giving pirates money when they hijack a ship isn't what a behaviorist would recommend, if your goal is to have fewer hijackings.
It's easy for me to say that: I don't have captive relatives. Some Ukrainian families seem to have raised money for a ransom (The Standard), and I sympathize with them. I'd want my kinfolk back, too.
On the other hand, it is probably a good idea to stop the pirates. And paying them, so they can hijack more ships, isn't the way to do it.
We've been through this before. A few centuries back, the Barbary Pirates had a lucrative business going, until an upstart former English colony sent in the Marines.
I know: quite a few people feel that it's 'simplistic' to think that military action might be considered. I'd just as soon have the Somali piracy issue resolved through sweet reason alone. But I doubt that the pirates will give up their profits, and think it's unlikely that many countries and companies will have the hard clarity of vision it takes to not pay ransom.
Not the Best Time to Insult the House of SaudI imagine that the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques was already in a less-than-sunny frame of mind, what with dropping oil prices. Under the circumstances, I'd say that the Somali pirates could have picked a better time to steal his ship and his oil: insulting him in the process.
America's Stake in Somali PiracyThere's some truth to the tired old 'it's all about oil' slogan. In common with every other industrial and post-industrial culture on the planet, America needs petroleum to keep running. We're working on alternatives, but right now oil is important.
Which is one reason why the American Navy is helping keep an eye on the Somali coast. The USS Destroyer Howard is, as far as I can tell, still stationed there, along with warships from a number of other countries.
USS Howard (DDG 83)
(From the official website of the USS Howard)
I don't have a problem with that. The Howard's mission is "to conduct prompt, sustained combat operations at sea in support of carrier battle groups, surface action groups, amphibious assault groups and stands ready to become an integral part of interdiction forces." ("USS Howard's Mission") The current task, monitoring a hijacked Ukrainian ship, sailing under a Belize flag, seems to be part of its mission.
But, if there's trouble somewhere else in that part of the world - hardly unlikely these days - either the Somali mission will have to be abandoned, or the American Navy will have one less destroyer to work with.
- "American Destroyer USS Howard Watching Ukrainian Ship With Belize Flag and Russian Tanks Taken by Somali Pirates: Nothing's Simple, These Days "
(September 27, 2008)
- "Barbary Pirates, Tribute, and Tripoli "
(November 12, 2007)
- "Saudis label pirates 'terrorists' after $100m loss"
TimesOnline (UK) (November 18, 2008)
Text article and video (1:14)
- "Seized tanker anchors off Somalia"
Al Jazeera (November 18, 2008)
- "Pirates grab more ships, captured tanker docked"
CNN (November 18, 2008)
- "Somalia pirates hijack ship and release another after ransom"
The Standard (November 18, 2008)
- "Pirates take 'super tanker' toward Somalia"
CNN (November 17, 2008)
- "Gasoline prices tumble in California, U.S."
Los Angeles Times (November 18, 2008)