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    • UK Seizes Iranian Tanker So Iran Seizes UK Tanker
      That’s the news, basically. Well, Iran also seized a Liberian flagged one one, not sure why (may be operating for a British company.) Also not sure why the UK seized an Iranian tanker in the first place. The UK has said it supports the Iranian nuclear deal, and the US sanctions it was operating based […]
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Sunday News – Pirate Edition

Jolly RogerGood Day Conflucians!! Or should I say Ahoy, matey!!

Let’s get right to it. It’s international talk like a pirate day. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s very silly. So putting the talking bit aside. Let’s look at why pirates are so fascinating. Here’s a bit from a nice Wikipedia article on the golden age of piracy.

First was the Buccaneering period (1650 – 1680):

French buccaneers had established themselves on northern Hispaniola as early as 1625, but lived at first mostly as hunters rather than robbers; their transition to full-time piracy was gradual and motivated in part by Spanish efforts to wipe out both the buccaneers and the prey animals on which they depended. The buccaneers’ migration from Hispaniola’s mainland to the more defensible offshore island of Tortuga limited their resources and accelerated their piratical raids. According to Alexandre Exquemelin, a buccaneer and historian who remains a major source on this period, the Tortuga buccaneer Pierre Le Grand pioneered the settlers’ attacks on galleons making the return voyage to Spain.

The growth of buccaneering on Tortuga was augmented by the English capture of Jamaica from Spain in 1655. The early English governors of Jamaica freely granted letters of marque to Tortuga buccaneers and to their own countrymen, while the growth of Port Royal provided these raiders with a far more profitable and enjoyable place to sell their booty. In the 1660s, the new French governor of Tortuga, Bertrand d’Ogeron, similarly provided privateering commissions both to his own colonists and to English cutthroats from Port Royal. These conditions brought Caribbean buccaneering to its zenith.

Then the Pirate Round (1693 – 1700):

A number of factors caused Anglo-American pirates, some of whom had cut their teeth during the buccaneering period, to look beyond the Caribbean for treasure as the 1690s began. The fall of Britain’s Stuart kings had restored the traditional enmity between Britain and France, thus ending the profitable collaboration between English Jamaica and French Tortuga. The devastation of Port Royal by an earthquake in 1692 further reduced the Caribbean’s attractions by destroying the pirates’ chief market for fenced plunder. Caribbean colonial governors began to discard the traditional policy of “no peace beyond the Line,” under which it was understood that war would continue (and thus letters of marque would be granted) in the Caribbean regardless of peace treaties signed in Europe; henceforth, commissions would be granted only in wartime, and their limitations would be strictly enforced. Furthermore, much of the Spanish Main had simply been exhausted; Maracaibo alone had been sacked three times between 1667 and 1678.

At the same time, England’s less favored colonies, including Bermuda, New York, and Rhode Island, had become cash-starved by the Navigation Acts. Merchants and governors eager for coin were willing to overlook and even underwrite pirate voyages. Although some pirates targeted Spain’s remoter Pacific coast colonies well into the 1690s and beyond, the Indian Ocean was a richer and more tempting target. India’s economic output dwarfed Europe’s during this time, especially in high-value luxury goods like silk and calico which made ideal pirate booty; at the same time, no powerful navies plied the Indian Ocean, leaving both local shipping and the various East India companies’ vessels vulnerable to attack. This set the stage for the famous piracies of Thomas Tew, Henry Avery, Robert Culliford and (although his guilt remains controversial) William Kidd.

And finally the post Spanish Succession period:

Between 1713 and 1714, a succession of peace treaties was signed which ended the War of the Spanish Succession (also called ‘Queen Anne’s War’). With the end of this conflict, thousands of seamen, including Britain’s paramilitary privateers, were relieved of military duty. The result was a large number of trained, idle sailors at a time when the cross-Atlantic colonial shipping trade was beginning to boom. In addition, Europeans who had been pushed by unemployment to become sailors and soldiers involved in slaving were often enthusiastic to abandon that profession and turn to pirating, giving pirate captains for many years a constant pool of trained European recruits to be found in west African waters and coasts.

In 1715, pirates launched a major raid on Spanish divers trying to recover gold from a sunken treasure galleon near Florida. The nucleus of the pirate force was a group of English ex-privateers, all of whom would soon be enshrined in infamy: Henry Jennings, Charles Vane, Samuel Bellamy, and Edward England. The attack was successful, but contrary to their expectations, the governor of Jamaica refused to allow Jennings and their cohorts to spend their loot on his island. With Kingston and the declining Port Royal closed to them, Jennings and his comrades founded a new pirate base at Nassau, on the island of New Providence in the Bahamas, which had been abandoned during the war. Until the arrival of governor Woodes Rogers three years later, Nassau would be home for these pirates and their many recruits.

It’s amazing what people will do when they’re not employed or when governments lose their standing and authority over a region.

The flag above and the one I use as my avatar is from Calico Jack. He was unusual because he let women in his crew and considered it reasonable that they could be pirates too. He’s also the likely model of Captain Jack Sparrow from Disney fame.

My usage is partly for the same reason we all find it fascinating: independence, bucking the system, finding our own path. I worked for a company a couple of decades ago that took it’s own path and bucked the trend and flew the Jolly Roger at its headquarters. Simply put, we changed the world. But I also fly the flag as some do in protest against the whittling  away our rights from the likes of the RIAA and MPAA. The flag is a perfect symbol for the outcast, the thrown under the bus, or more accurately, those that stick to their principles no matter what the group around them is doing.

On that note, let’s look at some news today and see what else is happening.

As noted yesterday, Obama spoke to the congressional black caucus telling them they had a lot of work to do (suckers). OK, he didn’t say the suckers part, but it was implied I think:

President Obama ended last night’s speech to the Congressional Black Caucus by urging members to get their constituents to the polls to defeat the Republicans in the Nov. 2 elections.

“Tell them that the time for action is now,” Obama said at a CBC awards dinner.

Among Obama’s comments:

Each and every time we’ve made epic change — from this country’s founding to emancipation, to women’s suffrage, to workers’ rights — it has not come from a man. It has come from a plan. It has come from a grassroots movement rallying around a cause. That’s what the civil rights movement made possible — foot soldiers like so many of you, sitting down at lunch counters, standing up for freedom; what made it possible for me to be here today — Americans throughout our history making our union more equal, making our union more just, making our union more perfect, one step at a time.

That’s what we need again. I need everybody here to go back to your neighborhoods, to go back to your workplaces, to go to churches and go to the barbershops and got to the beauty shops, and tell them we’ve got more work to do. Tell them we can’t wait to organize. Tell them that the time for action is now, and that if each and every person in this country who knows what is at stake steps up to the plate, if we are willing to rise to this moment like we’ve always done, then together we will write our own destiny once more.

Yep, he’s asking them to go everywhere and work like dogs and, I assume, get in people’s faces. That old chestnut. Something tells me the motivation just isn’t the same.

Al Hunt over at Bloomberg has a good (DC POV) summary of the tax battle:

Democrats have a good hand, politically and substantively, in the big tax-cut fight; they could screw it up.

The two parties have staked out hard positions in a battle that may help define the U.S. elections this autumn. Democrats want to extend the tax cuts for the middle class; Republicans insist that’s not possible unless tax cuts for the highest earners are extended, too.

“Public-opinion polling shows strong support across the electorate for making permanent the middle-class tax cuts that otherwise would expire at the end of this year,” Geoff Garin, a leading Democratic polltaker, advised congressional leaders in a memo last week. Voters, he added, would direct “anger and agitation” against anyone “who stood in the way” of these middle-class cuts.

Moreover, if necessary, Democrats have a viable backup: extend the upper-income tax cuts for one year — countering Republican charges that you can’t raise any taxes with the unemployment rate at 9.6 percent — while making the middle- class tax cuts permanent. Decoupling the tax cuts would ultimately require the upper-income provisions to stand on their own.

Nevertheless, lacking a skilled legislator on this issue or a well-considered White House strategy, the Democrats, who desperately need a legislative victory, may blow it. A number of senators, including Nebraska’s Ben Nelson and Connecticut’s Joseph I. Lieberman, who often side with upper-income taxpayers, have insisted all the tax cuts be extended.

He goes on to cover the political arguments from various quarters and how the Dems should be able to prevail in letting the upper income tax cuts expire. But knowing these new Dems the way we do, will they be tough and do that?

A couple of interesting things happening with China. First is their rebuff of Timmeh:

In a speech in Beijing, Li Daokui said China “will not appreciate the yuan solely because of external pressure”.

His comments follow strong criticism in America that the yuan is significantly undervalued, damaging US exports.

Last week US the Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, said he was considering ways to press China to let the yuan appreciate.

In June, after months of pressure from the US, China pledged to relax its grip on its currency.

But on Thursday Mr Geithner renewed the criticism, saying that the yuan’s value was “essentially” unchanged because of “very substantial” intervention by authorities.

China denies keeping its currency artificially cheap, and has warned against foreign pressure over what Beijing regards as an internal matter.

Mr Li said: “China as it stands now is not Japan in 1985, it is not a country that completely relies on external demand.”

That was a reference to a 1985 accord where Japan agreed to let its yen currency appreciate against the dollar.

And also we have some issues between China and Japan. Apparently Japan has detained a Chinese fishing boat captain:

China has pledged to take “strong” action to force Japan to release the captain of a fishing boat held since Sept. 7 as state television reported relations between the countries have been “seriously damaged.”

China’s government is demanding that Japan unconditionally release the captain, whose detention was extended to Sept. 29, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on its website today. The remaining 14 members of the boat’s crew were released several days after the Chinese vessel collided with two Japanese Coast Guard ships near a group of disputed islands in the East China Sea.

“China will take strong reactionary measures if necessary and Japan will have to bear all consequences,” Ma Chaoxu, a Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson, said in the statement.

China’s ties with Japan have been “seriously damaged” after Japan’s decision to extend the captain’s detention, state television reported, citing the foreign affairs ministry. The islands, known as Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese, are claimed by both countries. Sovereignty over the area would give the holder rights to undersea gas and oil reserves.

China has suspended ministerial exchanges with Japan, halted talks on increasing flights and postponed a meeting on coal, state television said.

Some of these stats were covered really well last week, but it’s worth another visit. From the bigthink, we have an article on the American Poor:

Every week, it seems, we get more bad news about the economy. Today the Census Bureau reported that the median household income in the U.S. fell several hundred dollars in 2009. Even worse, the poverty rate increased from 13.2% in 2008 to 14.3% last year. That means that 1 in 7 Americans—some 44 million of us—lived in poverty in 2009.

Living below the poverty line means making less than $10,830 for an individual, and less than $22,050 for a family of four. That’s not a lot of money, no matter what part of the country you live in. It’s the highest poverty rate in fifteen years. Blacks and Hispanics—who have been hit particularly hard by unemployment—make up a disproportionate share of the poor. And according to the report a shocking 20.7% of all children in America lived below the poverty line. Earlier this week The New York Times reported that the number of families with children in homeless shelters climbed from 131,000 to 170,000 between 2007 and 2009—an increase of almost 30%—partly as a result of long-term unemployment.

Read on for more, and for links to related articles.

That’s a few things to add to the mix of discussions today. Please add whatever you’re reading out there.

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Born to Party


If you want to understand the Tea Party movement you should read Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America by Senator James Webb of Virginia:

The Scots-Irish (sometimes called the Scotch-Irish) are all around you, even though you probably don’t know it. They are a force that shapes our culture, more in the abstract power of emotion than through the argumentative force of law. In their insistent individualism, they are not likely to put an ethnic label on themselves when they debate societal issues. Some of them don’t even know their ethnic label, and some who do don’t particularly care. They don’t go for group-identity politics any more than they like to join a union. Two hundred years ago the mountains built a fierce and uncomplaining self-reliance into an already hardened people. To them, joining a group and putting themselves at the mercy of someone else’s collective judgment makes as much sense as letting the government take their guns. And nobody is going to get their guns.

Webb wrote in a WSJ article*:

The Scots-Irish comprised a large percentage of Reagan Democrats, and contributed heavily to the “red state” votes that gave Mr. Bush the presidency in 2000. The areas with the highest Scots-Irish populations include New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, the Carolinas, Georgia, Alabama, northern Florida, Mississippi, Arkansas, northern Louisiana, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, southern Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and parts of California, particularly Bakersfield. The “factory belt,” especially around Detroit, also has a strong Scots-Irish mix.

These are my people – I am descended from redneck dirt farmers in Kansas and Oklahoma. There ain’t no royalty in my bloodline. At one time in my life I even lived in a single-wide mobile home. Yep, I’m trailer trash.

But we aren’t entirely unique – there are millions of Americans descended from the poor commoners of Europe, Mexico, Central and South America. These are places where the land was owned by aristocrats and the commoners worked the land or lived in the margins – the hills and swamps. They didn’t emigrate to the United States to get rich, they came here to make a living and to be left alone.

Mackubin T. Owens:

These are the “red state” voters. They are family-oriented, take morality seriously, go to church, join the US military, support America’s wars, and listen to country music. They strongly believe that no man is obligated to obey the edicts of a government that violates his moral conscience. They once formed the bedrock of the Democratic Party—from the time of Andrew Jackson until the Vietnam era—but they have been moving to the Republicans since then. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Webb called the Scots-Irish in America the “the secret GOP weapon.”

These people aren’t “country club” Republicans like the Bush family, they are the rank and file voters and they are the core of the Tea Party movement.

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