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The Ecstasy of the Baseball Business

Seated in the upper upper deck at San Francisco’s AT&T Park, during a Giants-Rockies game, one would not know millions of people around the nation faced foreclosure or had already lost their homes and jobs, or that the country was in the midst of a presidential election campaign. The large man seated next to me cupped his hand over his mouth to scream “Colorado, you suck” and other such sagacious slogans as the game crept on, and the sun set over San Francisco Bay. The Giants showed their inability to hit with their bats the tiny white ball with stitches holding it together. How agonizing! Why was I here?

Baseball is in the business of providing an escape from reality. Photo by dutchbaby/Flickr.

Baseball is in the business of providing an escape from reality. Photo by dutchbaby/Flickr.

Baseball, one form of escape whether playing or watching, once belonged to men, especially working class men, as their version of ballet. Now the stands include lots of women, some holding signs saying “Gamer Babes.”

One watches — or when younger performs – with only one area of focus, that small white ball, hit it, catch it or if, pitching or fielding, throw it to the right spot.

You don’t think about mortgage payment due, your job uncertain or over, no health insurance, kids tuition coming due, car needing major surgery, or you kid in Afghanistan and maybe soon in Syria – who knows? – if Obama decides to send him there.

You don’t think of the traffic jam you’ll face when you leave the ball park or the climbing price of gas itself. You discuss the performance of the ball players as the 40,000+ people fill the escalators and walk ramps, masses clumped tightly together to exit the stadium. Between innings, noise emerges from the stadium sound system, along with commercials and feel-good messages from the Giants’ management. We’re all one happy Giant tribe, and baseball unlike life itself, means happiness, getting away from troubles and into the cocoon of youth by watching grown men play a kids’ game.

I’m one of millions of baseball escapists, a Giants fan since I was four and lived within walking distance to the Polo Grounds where they played when they were the New York Giants.

The Giants, fiscally and on the field, played inconsistent ball in the decade preceding 1957. They won the Penant in 1951 and the World Series in 1954, but could not draw fans as did their Brooklyn rivals and hated Yankees across the Harlem River. Owner Horace Stoneman thought the relocation to San Francisco would revitalize the team. On their final day at the Polo Grounds in Coogan’s Bluff, after fans stormed the field, former baseball writer and the Giants PR man Garry Schumacher chided, “If all the people who will claim in the future that they were here today had actually turned out, we wouldn’t have to be moving in the first place.”

I watched my first San Francisco Giants game in 1961 at Candlestick Park, where wind ripped through the field and the stands as if in punishment for the team deserting New York.

Now, in the new A T&T park, tourists mingle with home town escapists to watch the game; the upper decks offer a great view of San Francisco Bay and the ships moving in and out.

This country provides its citizens with lots of patriotic escape routes (The National Anthem precedes every game), if you can afford them. It’s $23 for an upper upper deck seat. A ball park beer costs $9 and an ice cream $4.50. The greasy meals will run over $10. Parking runs $20 or more. A small price to pay for an evening outdoors watching younger, more athletic guys show – or not – their stuff. And identifying your deepest emotions with the performances of men wearing “Your” team’s uniform – guys you don’t even know.

The players, especially the stars, make high salaries, but the team owners reap the big profits from tickets, TV rights plus the food and booze sold at the games. It’s a big business, like all professional sports, that uses good old American values to lure buyers – come see the game and buy tee shirts and other parophinalia that says “Giants” on it (hats, jackets, sweatshirts, bats, autographed balls and anything as sales maven can think of) — anything to attract a young child or mentally undersupplied adult. Nielsen reports that “ad spending on sports jumped 33% between 1974 and 2011, to almost $11 billion annually.”

In case one wonders about the price of tickets, “team owners in Major League Baseball (MLB) set ticket prices as profit-maximizing monopolists” says Donald L. Alexander, in his article “Major League Baseball, Monopoly Pricing and Profit-Maximizing Behavior” in the Journal of Sports Economics.

So, when you take your family to the ball park to root for the Giants, Dodgers, Marlins whoever, and if you feed them at the ball park you’ll be over one hundred dollars poorer – albeit you’ll have spent the afternoon outdoors with the family who will then want to buy things they saw advertised on TV while watching a baseball game at home. Baseball might be a sport kids play, but professional baseball is solid business. Go Giants!

West’s Idea of No Nukes Doesn’t Include Itself (Part 5)

Cross-posted from Truthout.

(Read Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4.)

We All Just Want to Be Safe
Ultimately, national security is as foremost in the minds of those who believe that disarmament leadership acts as an incentive to keep non-NWS from proliferating as it is in those who think it’s immaterial. The latter are apprehensive about a national-security gap opening when non-NWS ignore NWS disarmament measures and proceed to proliferate. Disarmament advocates are at least as concerned with the existing national-security gap created by nuclear risk. They believe that the deterrence crowd underestimates the chance of nuclear war breaking out as a result of an accident, miscommunication, or that relic of the Cold War — the launch-on-warning setting to which many nuclear weapons in the United States and Russia are still dialed.

Due to the staggering number of variables that come into play, comparing the threat of steeply reducing the number of nuclear weapons with that posed by their very existence would likely be an exercise in futility. There’s no guarantee that a steep rollback in the number of nuclear weapons won’t result in the opening of a national-security gap. Whether one does or not, it can’t be denied that negotiating the span to a nuclear-weapons-free future requires a leap of faith. But launching ourselves into an era of disarmament, however frightening, certainly beats waiting for nuclear weapons — our own or another’s — to launch.

West’s Idea of No Nukes Doesn’t Include Itself (Part 4)

Cross-posted from Truthout.

(Read Parts 1, 2, and 3.)

We decided to ask authorities on arms control and/or disarmament this two-part question implied by Ford’s summary of the credibility thesis:

One, do you agree that nuclear-weapons states, especially the United States, have yet to show non-nuclear-weapons enough in the way of disarmament to convince them that the nonproliferation waters are safe? Two, do you think that, were the disarmament measures of NWS sufficient, some non-NWS would still seek nuclear weapons? If so, what then is the best route to nonproliferation?

Michael Krepon, co-founder of the Stimson Center and regular contributor to the respected blog Arms Control Wonk rejects the premise of the first question. “The United States and Russia,” he replies, “have reduced their nuclear stockpiles by 70%. Is this not ‘substantive disarmament’?”

Jeffrey Lewis of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies and the founder of Arms Control Wonk also does not “agree that the United States has done too little to convince NPT signatories that the nonproliferation waters are safe.” In fact, he thinks that the “frame that you’ve chosen is a straw-person that right-wing opponents impute to those of us who would seek a world where the growing obsolescence of nuclear weapons is reinforced by the legally-binding agreements.”

Besides, he reminds us, the NPT is not “a bargain between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ — it is a commitment by the ‘have nots’ to one another to remain that way. Who do North Korea’s nuclear weapons threaten most? The United States? Or non-nuclear Japan and South Korea? … the agreement among the non-nuclear weapons states to remain that way — is either forgotten or obscured in many of these debates.”

However, Lewis does believe “that the United States can, and should, do more to demonstrate its commitment to Article 6. In particular, the United States should ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.”

Greg Theilmann is a senior fellow of the Arms Control Association. First, he states that my characterization of the New START treaty as “‘little more than verification and confidence building” does not do it justice. Then, he writes: “Although I would have preferred deeper cuts, restoring and improving on a verification regime for the two parties’ strategic forces was a critical prerequisite for any subsequent steps.” He also relates a little-known story about New START that casts the president in a more resolute light.

Moreover, what I find especially impressive about Obama’s determination was his rejection of his political advisors’ advice in late November 2010 (according to Rahm Emanuel) that he postpone New START ratification in the lame duck session because it was too difficult and jeopardized other political objectives. Had he done so, I believe the treaty would never have been ratified.

Whether non-NWS would be as quick to credit the president is another matter. Continuing with question one, Thielmann states that the Obama Administration has “demonstrated its NPT Article VI bona fides during the last three years.” Its “positions and efforts on shrinking the role of nuclear weapons, on endorsing CTBT ratification, and on leading an international campaign to achieve nuclear security improvements put it at the forefront of the nuclear weapons states on disarmament.”

Thielmann concedes that non-NWS “want to see more done to reduce nuclear arsenals by the U.S., Russia, China, the UK, and France — as do I.” He’s also willing to answer the question of whether some non-NWS would still seek nuclear weapons even if they deemed NWS disarmament measures sufficient. While, he writes, the disarmament “thus far is significant … in and of itself, [it] will not be sufficient to satisfy those states, which see their own nuclear weapons development as necessary for security or desirable to enhance influence.”

Taking up where Thielmann left off, Ward Wilson, who directs the Rethinking Nuclear Weapons project at the James Martin Center, notes that “nuclear weapons have become a currency of power in international relations. Irrespective of their actual utility, they are perceived as the key to great power status. Before proliferation can be definitively halted, not only do nuclear-armed states have to do better at disarming, but the belief that nuclear weapons are the sine qua non of international status has to be broken.”

Wilson concludes:

Disarmament progress was nil during the first twenty years of the NPT but since then there has been real, if painfully slow, progress. Even if disarmament progress were faster, however, some states would still want to proliferate. Disarmament by nuclear-armed states is a necessary, but not sufficient condition to halt proliferation.

West’s Idea of No Nukes Doesn’t Include Itself (Part 3)

Cross-posted from Truthout.

(Read Parts 1 and 2.)

Disarmament and Nonproliferation: No Longer Two Sides of the Same Coin
According to conservatives and many realists, it’s not the enduring nature of our nuclear-weapons infrastructure that’s lost on non-NWS. It’s those disarmament measures themselves, which by their reckoning, are much more substantial than they appear to non-NWS. They believe that disarmament “leadership” by NWS does little to discourage non-NWS from proliferating. If anything, disarmament creates a national-security vacuum into which non-NWS can’t wait to insert themselves.

In a briefing for the Hudson Institute, where he’s a senior fellow, Christopher Ford, who served as U.S. Special Representative for Nuclear Nonproliferation for the George W. Bush administration, describes the argument that NWS have failed to demonstrate the requisite disarmament leadership to non-NWS.

First, it explicitly assumes that the commitment of the NWS [nuclear weapons states] to the ideal of disarmament lacks credibility, and implicitly assumes that the United States is both the most important locus of the problem and the key to its resolution.

This point of view was illustrated by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameini in a 2011 speech during which he said: “the greatest violators of the NPT are the powers that have reneged on their obligation to dispose of nuclear weapons mentioned in Article 6 of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.” Credibility may also be undermined by NWS toleration for Israel’s nuclear-weapons “ambiguity.” Another likely sticking point for non-NWS is the 123 Agreement that the United States signed with India, which, like Israel, is not party to the NPT. Notable for its lack of a call for disarmament on India’s part, it provided for full cooperation on nuclear energy between India and the United States.

Second, Ford writes, the thesis “assumes that if this disarmament ‘credibility gap’ is closed, it will be possible to meet today’s proliferation threats much more effectively and with a much wider base of diplomatic support.” But, he maintains, “few people seriously argue that countries such as Iran and North Korea seek nuclear weapons simply because the United States or other NWS possess such devices themselves, and that proliferators’ interest in such devices would accordingly diminish if only the United States reduced its arsenal further.”

Paul Ryan’s Childish Philosophy

paul-ryan-ayn-rand-atlas-shrugged-objectivismMy father gave me a copy of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged when I was 13 and was regularly expounding leftist doctrines at the dinner table. My father, no conservative himself, gave me the book to force me to engage with the conservative mindset. He knew Rand’s grandiose speeches about the rights of the individual and idealization of the “best and brightest” would appeal to me. Atlas Shrugged, which took me a month to read between classes and soccer practice, was engaging and appealing to me — though I attribute this more to my pompous adolescence than to the merits of the book’s philosophy.

While reading Atlas Shrugged, I was drawn to Dagny Taggart, the whip-smart and ever-pragmatic female protagonist, and I took solace in her coming-of-age story. We were both intelligent tomboys surrounded by people who just didn’t get us. I felt that this interaction between Dagny and her mother could have been pulled directly from a conversation between my mother and myself, and I turned to it frequently:

Mrs. Taggart: One is not supposed to be intellectual at a ball. One is simply supposed to be [happy].
Dagny: How? By being stupid?
Mrs. Taggart: I mean, for instance, didn’t you enjoy meeting the young men?
Dagny: What men? There wasn’t a man there I couldn’t squash ten of.

Dagny was entirely reasonable, frighteningly competent, and beautiful in her own way — it was an odd hero for a girl to have, but the appeal of Ayn Rand was that I could consider myself better than others for idolizing her. And nothing is more tempting for a teenager than a sense of superiority.

As I aged, however, Dagny became less appealing. At around age 16, I began to feel that her relationships with men were unhealthy and unequal. Not soon after I began to question the efficiency of a society based entirely on self-interest. The more I learned about economics and the social sciences, the more I felt that objectivism was simply untenable. The more I studied ethics and philosophy, the more I felt that a society based on such a doctrine was undesirable. I gradually began to equate Atlas Shrugged and Ayn Rand with stuffed animals that I once loved but had since outgrown.

That’s why I was so shocked to hear Paul Ryan lavish praise on Atlas Shrugged and objectivism in general. Leaving aside the fact that Ryan’s religiosity, hawkish foreign policy, and opposition to gay marriage and reproductive rights would have appalled Ayn Rand, to hear a grown man advocate objectivism as a philosophy was like seeing a 10-year old in a stroller. It’s funny at first, and then you realize how profoundly absurd it is.

When Paul Ryan professes his admiration for Atlas Shrugged, he is asserting his opinion that America would be better off if people never considered the consequences that their actions have on their neighbors and community. In an age of environmental catastrophe and economic volatility, Objectivism appeals to adolescents because it gives an eloquent voice to the frustration that accompanies the surge in their hormones. It seems that at 42, Paul Ryan still has some growing up to do.

West’s Idea of No Nukes Doesn’t Include Itself (Part 2)

Cross-posted from Truthout.

(Read Part 1.)

The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: Imperfect Arbiter

The drafters of the NPT, as with any treaty, sought to balance the needs of different parties. In this case it was between NWS — states with nuclear weapons — and non-NWS — those without. Signatories (or the treaty’s signers) among the latter forfeited their rights to develop or acquire nuclear weapons. The former, meanwhile, promised to roll back the numbers of their weapons with an eye toward total disarmament. In addition, they would assist non-NWS to establish their nuclear-energy programs and use their own possession of nuclear weapons to extend an umbrella of deterrence to certain non-NWS.

Ideally, the NPT bestows equal benefits on all parties. But, like many treaties, it’s riddled with loopholes and gray areas. For example, Article VI — debated nigh unto death — is chock full of them. It reads:

Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.

Where there should be key words are noncommittal terms. For example, preceding “to pursue” with “undertakes” adds a preliminary step that almost seems designed to allow parties with nuclear weapons to stall. “Good faith” may be inherent to contracts, but in the context of a nuclear treaty it sounds Polyanna-ish. “Effective measures” and “early date” are much too open to interpretation.

With regards to disarmament, a recent report that the Obama administration may be considering reducing the total numbers of deployed strategic nuclear weapons to as low as 300 generated a flurry of excitement — and a blizzard of overwrought reactions from conservatives. Whether or not the leaked news was just red meat for conservatives, no weapon reductions will be enacted until after the election.

In fact, even though President Obama assumed office with an apparent personal investment in disarmament, his administration seems to have suffered few qualms about letting it, if not exactly die, wither on the vine. When push came to shove over the New START treaty, it bet the farm to secure Republican ratification of a treaty that guaranteed little more than verification and confidence building. The administration proposed to increase funding for nuclear-weapon modernization to $88 billion during the next decade — 20 percent more than the Bush administration sought. Even the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee balked at such exorbitance in the current economic climate and allocated $500 million less than the administration’s $7.6 billion request for fiscal year 2013.

As Joseph Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, recently wrote in Foreign Affairs magazine: “Obama has let the bureaucracy suffocate his plan to move step by step toward, as he said in Prague, ‘the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.’” He explained that “there are far more entrenched officials and contractors that benefit from the sprawling nuclear complex than officials who believe in the president’s stated vision.”

The apparent intention on the part of the United States to fund, at however fluctuating levels, its own program into perpetuity likely isn’t lost on non-NWS. This realization has finally begun to rear its head in established media such as the London Review of Books. In the February issue, national-security specialists Campbell Craig and Jan Ruzicka write of the vast sums that the Obama administration committed to nuclear-weapon modernization.

What clearer demonstration could there be that the US government is not serious about reducing its stockpiles? Central to the idea of nonproliferation is the presumption that if smaller states are to be discouraged from acquiring a bomb, nuclear states will need to take real steps towards disarmament. Otherwise, non-nuclear states will regard their demands as self-serving and hypocritical — reason enough to think about creating an arsenal of their own.

Extending this line of thinking one step further, New START may not only seem perfunctory to non-NWS, but a smokescreen for continued nuclear-weapons funding.

West’s Idea of No Nukes Doesn’t Include Itself (Part 1)

Cross-posted from Truthout.

When dueling narratives clash and the subject is nuclear weapons, the sparks that fly could make flashing sabers seem dim in comparison. According to conventional thinking in the West, Iran is not abiding by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and restraining itself from all nuclear weapons activities. Thus it should be denied its right to enrich uranium. But, in the view of much of the rest of the world, the West is making little more than cosmetic efforts to roll back its nuclear arsenals. Therefore, it has no business denying Iran nuclear energy — not to mention nuclear weapons (but that’s another story).

In other words, the side that committed to disarming thinks that the side that promised not to proliferate is. And the side that promised not to proliferate thinks that the side that committed to disarming is not.

In truth, abundant evidence exists that any nuclear-weapons work Iran has done since 2003 is conceptual, if that, which is not expressly forbidden by the NPT. The uranium it enriches to the higher levels that worry the West seems to be for medical isotopes, which are used for radiation therapy, as well as diagnosis. Combined with enrichment at lower levels for nuclear energy, it serves as a bargaining chip in negotiations.

The Lineup: Week of August 20-26, 2012

This week, OtherWords features a column by Sam Pizzigati and Scott Klinger that explains how American taxpayers are subsidizing runaway CEO pay. As always, I encourage you to subscribe to our weekly newsletter and visit our blog. If you haven’t signed up yet, please do.

  1. Fix the Minimum Wage / Elizabeth Rose
    Americans who work hard should be able to make a living.
  2. Washington, Are You Listening? / Mattea Kramer
    The Bush tax cuts siphon off money that could fund education and other crucial programs.
  3. Avoiding a 21st-Century Dust Bowl / Jim Harkness
    We need a Farm Bill that plants the seeds of resilience.
  4. David Barton’s Make-Believe Version of American History / Mark Potok
    Despite the fact that he has no academic training in history or related fields at all, Barton has become the go-to man for much of the religious far right.
  5. We’re All Subsidizing Free Lunches for America’s CEOs / Scott Klinger and Sam Pizzigati
    It’s time to close the tax loopholes that subsidize runaway executive compensation.
  6. Romney Runs away from his Running Mate / Jim Hightower
    If they were honest with voters, their bumper sticker would read: “Ryan-Romney 2012.”
  7. Oh, Just Call Them Terrorists / William A. Collins
    Sooner or later, if citizens are going to support further wars and impingements on their own civil liberties, they need red meat.
  8. Belt-Tightening Time / Khalil Bendib (cartoon)
Belt-Tightening Time, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

Belt-Tightening Time, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib

Leave It to Bibi

Much attention has been generated in Israel and the United States by Richard Silverstein with his post at Tikkun Olam titled Bibi’s Secret War Plan. He writes:

This is Bibi’s sales pitch for war. Its purpose is to be used in meetings with members of the Shminiya , the eight-member security cabinet which currently finds a 4-3 majority opposed to an Iran strike. Bibi uses this sales pitch to persuade the recalcitrant ministers of the cool, clean, refreshing taste of war. My source informs me that it has also been shared in confidence with selected journalists who are in the trusted inner media circle (who, oh who, might they be?). … I don’t believe the IDF wrote it. It feels more likely it came from the shop of national security advisor Yaakov Amidror, a former general, settler true-believer and Bibi confidant. It could also have been produced by Defense Minister Barak.”

The briefing reads, in part:

The Israeli attack will open with a coordinated strike, including an unprecedented cyber-attack which will totally paralyze the Iranian regime and its ability to know what is happening within its borders. … The electrical grid throughout Iran will be paralyzed and transformer stations will absorb severe damage from carbon fiber munitions. … A barrage of tens of ballistic missiles would be launched from Israel toward Iran. 300km ballistic missiles would be launched from Israeli submarines in the vicinity of the Persian Gulf. The missiles would not be armed with unconventional warheads [WMD], but rather with high-explosive ordnance equipped with reinforced tips designed specially to penetrate hardened targets.

The missiles will strike their targets—some exploding above ground like those striking the nuclear reactor at Arak. … Others would explode under-ground, as at the Fordo facility.

We’re looking at this all wrong. Sure, Bibi looks through an attack through rose-colored glasses. But, sticking with the color metaphors, a silver-lining exists: at least he has no plans to use “unconventional warheads” — nuclear weapons.

Besides, Israel’s outgoing civil defense minister assures us at Reuters:

“There is no room for hysteria. Israel’s home front is prepared as never before,” Matan Vilnai, a former general who is about to leave his cabinet post to become ambassador to China, told the Maariv daily.

He believes the war would likely last a month and “Echoing an assessment already voiced by Defence Minister Ehud Barak, Vilnai was quoted as saying hundreds of missiles could hit Israeli cities daily and kill some 500 people in a war with Iran, which has promised strong retaliation if attacked.”

To Israelis wondering if they or their loved ones will be among The 500, he basically said, man up: it goes with the territory.

“Just as the citizens of Japan have to understand they are likely to be hit by an earthquake, Israelis must realise that anyone who lives here has to be prepared for missiles striking the home front.”

File that one under Equivalencies, False.

Meanwhile, also drawing headlines has been a petition reported by Haaretz:

More than 400 Israelis, including Tel Aviv University law professors Menachem Mautner and Chaim Gans, have recently signed an online petition calling on Israel Defense Forces pilots to refuse to obey if ordered to bomb Iran.

The petition calls a decision to launch a strike against Iran a “highly mistaken gamble” that would only delay Iran’s nuclear program, without stopping it, and would come “at an exorbitant price.”

Israel Hayom’s Dan Margolit tries to make the case that it’s no different from right-wing resistance by the settlers. He zeroes in on former law professor Menachem Mautner.

For some time now Mautner has felt a deep sense of anxiety over the possibility of a military strike in Iran, and when he read Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s interview with Ari Shavit in Haaretz he decided to take action, which in essence is a call to thwart a legal order issued by the government. … How has he lent his hand in support of a petition that is a call for an undemocratic rebellion? Indeed, he has always been a champion of democratic virtues.

With his signature, [former law professor Menachem] Mautner gave legitimacy to the “hilltop youth” of Judea and Samaria and to those of their ilk who have authored manuscripts calling for a return to biblical law. … The professor tried explaining that right-wing insubordination is done for the purpose of creating a Halachic state (a state run according to Jewish religious law) and is inappropriate to begin with, while the Left acts to return Israel to its good old values.

Refusing to bomb Iran may be illegal on the part of pilots today. But in the future bombing Iran might be judged not only illegal a war crime.

Author’s Note: For those wondering, according to Google, the phrase “Leave It to Bibi” has not been previously used.

What Next? Will Somali Pirates Issue an IPO?

Somali piracy is down 32 percent from last year, reports Ben Berkowitz for Reuters, but it’s still highly profitable. In fact, they’ve professionalized their operations and now present their victims with a package of material outlining the ransom process — printed on letterhead. Berkowitz writes:

The cover sheet, in memo format, is addressed “To Whom It May Concern” with the subject line “Congratulations to the Company/Owner.”

“Having seen when my Pirate Action Group (P.A.G) had controlled over your valuable vessel we are saying to you Company/Owner welcome to Jamal’s Pirate Action Group (J.P.A.G) and you have to follow by our law to return back your vessel and crew safely,” the memo begins. …

“Do not imagine that we are making to you intimidation,” the memo says, before signing off with “Best regards” and the signature of Jamal Faahiye Culusow, the General Commander of the Group.

However

The tone of the memo belies the violent reality of the pirate’s actions. [They] were responsible for 35 deaths in 2011 alone.

And

Lest there be any doubt about who Jamal is or what he does, his signature is accompanied by his seal — yes, Jamal has a stamped seal — depicting a skull and crossed swords with the name of the group.

The pirates are not the only ones profiting.

A small coterie of companies … offer “kidnap and ransom” policies to shipping companies for just these kinds of situations.

Guess one hand washes the other. But insurance companies have long offered war risk insurance. In fact, writes Berkowitz:

Because the number of attacks have declined, piracy coverage prices have, too, said Amanda Holt, a vice president in the financial and professional liability unit at insurance brokerage Marsh in Norwich, England. “Often if you buy piracy cover you’ll get a discount on your war premium. It makes a lot of sense for ship owners and managers.”

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