Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Clocks Are Striking Thirteen



The post below was prior to the rescue of the captain of the Maersk Alabama. The end of the post pointed out that our tradition in dealing with pirates did not include FBI negotiators. The rescue was not a result of the FBI negotiators, nor a direct command given by President Obama because he was personally aware that Capt. Phillips' situation had progressed from "in danger" to "in imminent danger." Rather, the Navy officer in charge took standing orders allowing discretion to shoot the pirates if the hostage was in "imminent danger" and did so.

There are those who will mourn the pirates as victims of the "West." They will argue that the pirates were doing the only thing they could to defend themselves against the hostile force of a freighter carrying humanitarian food to African nations... including Somalia. And then there are those like Nick Davis who will argue:

Anti-piracy expert Nick Davis told Sky News: "They (the pirates) will learn from this. They're not going to stop piracy in any way, shape or form. They will up the ante, they will get better organised.

"The only people that would have been shot here are the foot soldiers. They're not the people that make the decisions and have the controlling interest.

"It's now going to fall back to the chain of command in the Somalian network of piracy, both ashore and in different countries, as to how they want to up the ante."

I guess arranging "protection" makes Davis an "expert." More likely it makes him an opportunist. Now he warns about the "ante" being upped. I think the Navy just upped the ante and the other side folded.

Perhaps it is time a few predators paid a visit to the "chain of command."


Forgive my confusion... and I'm certain there is a good answer... but what is the FBI doing negotiating with pirates off the coast of Africa?

Somali pirates in talks with elders and FBI over US hostage Robert Phillips

US warships track lifeboat containing pirates and captured captain

* Xan Rice in Nairobi
*, Sunday 12 April 2009 13.27 BST

Crew members of the Maersk Alabama

Crew members of the Maersk Alabama arrive in Mombasa, Kenya after overpowering Somali pirates and regain control of their ship. Photograph: Sarah Elliott/EPA

Negotiations between the FBI, Somali elders and four gunmen holding a US ship captain captive on a lifeboat in the Indian Ocean continued today as foreign helicopters circled a notorious pirate lair.

The lifeboat, which is being closely tracked by three American warships, is reported to be drifting closer to land, which US military officials fear would allow the pirates to escape with hostage Captain Richard Phillips.

His container ship, the Maersk Alabama, was briefly hijacked more than 300 miles off Somalia's east coast on Wednesday, but the all-American crew of 20 quickly regained control. Phillips, a 53-year-old former taxi driver, offered himself to the pirates as a hostage in order to safeguard his crew.

The pirates, who are armed with AK-47s and handguns, fired at a US Navy vessel that approached yesterday, but nobody was hurt and the boat withdrew. They have reportedly demanded safe passage back to Somalia and a ransom before Phillips is released.
What is the mission of the FBI?
The mission of the FBI is to uphold the law through the investigation of violations of federal criminal law; to protect the United States from foreign intelligence and terrorist activities; to provide leadership and law enforcement assistance to federal, state, local, and international agencies; and to perform these responsibilities in a manner that is responsive to the needs of the public and is faithful to the Constitution of the United States.

What authority do FBI Special Agents have to make arrests in the United States, its territories, or on foreign soil?
In the United States and its territories, FBI Special Agents may make arrests for any federal offense committed in their presence or when they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed, or is committing, a felony violation of U.S. laws.
Concerning arrests on foreign soil, FBI Special Agents generally do not have authority outside the United States except in certain cases where, with the consent of the host country, Congress has granted the FBI extraterritorial jurisdiction.
Which host country has made this arrangement? Okay, negotiating... not arresting, but how does the FBI get involved in a military operation during which pirates have shot at a navy vessel?

When does the UN come in and investigate the captain of the Maersk Alabama for international crimes and set up a multi-billion dollar relief fund for Somalian pirates?

On 16 February 1804 LT Stephen Decatur led 74 volunteers into Tripoli harbor to burn the captured American frigate The Philadelphia. British Admiral Lord Nelson called the raid "the most daring act of the age". Boatswains Mate Ruben James volunteered to go on the raiding party. James was seriously wounded during hand-to-hand combat. Despite his wounds, or perhaps because of them, James put himself between an attacking pirate and the commander of that raid, Decatur, who remained uninjured thanks to James. Ruben James recovered from his wounds and continued to proudly serve his Navy for another 32 years. Lieutenant Stephen Decatur's exploit in destroying the captured frigate USS Philadelphia, and Captain Richard Somers attempt with the fire-ship USS Intrepid to blow up enemy vessels in Tripoli harbor, set valorous examples for the young naval service.

In 1805 Marines stormed the Barbary pirates' harbor fortress stronghold of Derna (Tripoli), commemorated in the Marine Corp Hymn invocation "To the Shores of Tripoli." First Lieutenant O'Bannon is remembered for heroism in the battle for Derna. O'Bannon's Marines were the first U.S. forces to hoist the flag over territory in the Old World. The "Mameluke" sword, carried by Marines officers today, was presented to O'Bannon in 1805.

We have changed.
It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
George Orwell, "1984", first sentence

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There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.
Henry Louis Mencken (1880–1956)
“The Divine Afflatus,” A Mencken Chrestomathy, chapter 25, p. 443 (1949)
... and one could add "not all human problems really are."
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Tracking Interest Rates


SEARCH BLOG: FEDERAL RESERVE for full versions... or use the Blog Archive pulldown menu.

February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
[Image from:]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

About Me

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Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)