Thursday, December 30, 2010

Political Fate of the Electric Car

Most people that I've spoken with so far tell me that electric vehicles have yet to be made viable and that this is the reason that we stay with gasoline-powered vehicles.  I propose that electric vehicles have been around longer and could have been made viable long ago (indeed, already have been), but that people in general loved the power and pick-up of gasoline engines so much better that they ignored pollution and cost problems (from refueling cars, repairs, maintenance, etc) in order to have the power.  A PBS Timeline gives the short version of the major events in the electric car's history, which represented 28% of the 4,192 vehicles on American roads in 1900.  

Yes... the electric car used to be a third of all cars produced in America!  Incredible?  Unbelievable?  You say... "No!  That's not right!  Electric cars are just not viable!"  Obviously, you haven't heard the history... didn't read the assigned material... you get an "F."  Sorry.  Popular history and reality are two different things... especially in America. 

Gasoline-powered vehicles had been invented, but the handcrank (as opposed to electric starter) made them less desirable (desirable does not equal viable).  The most recent episode in this tragic history is the willful, purposeful, intentional death of the EV1, a series of well-liked and useful electric cars made by multiple car manufacturers to satisfy and ultimately oppose a California emissions mandate.  

Who made these vehicles?  Well... GM, Honda, Toyota, Saturn, Ford (even a truck version), and a slew of other "small" names in the car industry (lol).  These were TOTALLY ELECTRIC vehicles with a 120-mile range and a 30-minute recharge rate (for 80% power).  These cars were only leased, not sold, and recalled and crushed once the mandate was crushed by politics (thank you again, "W" Bush administration).  Car manufacturers never intended to make these cars work... they even made commercials that they never aired... Why the hell would they do this, you ask?  Well, lots of people would like to know that.  It was that damned, pesky California mandate that required zero emissions in five years!  Car companies made it look good, but worked against it behind the scenes.  Politics killed the mandate and the car companies killed the EV1... Long story short (too late), the EV1 died and completely disappeared by 2003.  Gasoline won, again!  This PBS website pretty much makes my case, but there's a few related historic details to be made.

Fate of the GM version of the EV1 in 2003.

Vehicle power was only a superficial desire, not a necessity... again, not a requirement for viability (so, quit with this excuse!!).  Only a few years later, with gas prices soaring and the threat of global warming, pollution problems as seen in cities like Los Angeles, the gasoline-powered car is quickly being revealed as a luxury that we can no longer afford.  We need the EV1 back!  But, the auto guys killed the program!!  The lessons of the 1970s didn't make a big enough impression.

You see... if I'm a businessman and want to sell a product that will make me lots of money, I'm not going to tell you what else is available... indeed, I may go to extremes to prevent the other companies from advertising or even to produce their product and compete with me.  You may never even know what else is available, if I have the money or political connections...  But, this wasn't really easy to accomplish... unless you had GOBS of money with which to pad the palms of your Congressmen... so much more money than everyone else and a giant thirst for more... you know... like a "Robber-Baron?" Speaking of...

First, you need a product... in the early days, oil was a fleeting resource.  It created the town of Pithole in 1865 almost overnight, a town whose "black gold" dried up the next year.  The hunt was on for further resources (oil proved its "desirability"... again, not the same thing as "viability").  Video on the History of Oil.   Still, kerosene for lamps is what we wanted oil for, then...

This video never even mentioned the early electric car made by Edison/Bailey in 1899-1915... a much-desired competitor of the gasoline vehicle (as long as people had to "crank" these gas vehicles awake).  Edison patented this Electrical Automobile on January 19, 1904.  Electric cars were produced in the US by Anthony Electric, Baker, Columbia, Anderson, Edison, Studebaker, Riker, Milburn, and others in the early 20th century and the Detroit Electric was produced as late as 1941!  Battery technology since then has removed the only obstacle for the early electric car (Lithium-ion technology was discovered in the 1970's and reached amazing capacity in 2002, which contributed to the development of the EV1).  Still, the electric car proved its worth well before 1920.  Today, estimates show that the average American only drives 29 miles per day.  Electric cars have had at least this range for several decades.  The EV1 had 4 times this range with the new batteries.  Still, the electric car isn't "viable"?  Americans really fight hard to believe what they're told by those lovable little darlings at GM, Chrysler, etc... or by Haliburton, Exxon, BP, etc, etc, etc... these are big league hitters with everything to lose by the "impending viability" of the electric car.  So, why are we believing what they tell us?  I dunno... Miss South Carolina might have an opinion on this one. 

The hesitant beginnings of the gasoline-powered car reflected its difficulty in cranking the engine by hand to start it.  Electric cars passed these old crank-starts on the road before 1908.  But, the invention of the electric starter (based on electrical technology of the electric vehicle, ironically) made the gasoline automobile more DESIRABLE... NOT VIABLE (I'm hoping that if I say it enough...).  It simply satisfied American desires for more speed (remember, we measured power in terms of "horses" and wanted to improve on this).  What's a little smoke, huh? When there's only a few thousand cars... not a lot.  But, now that there's millions... well, you've seen the Los Angeles smog problem? 

American business recognized one hell of an opportunity and the agendas became highly political.  One American agenda became apparent in 1917, at the beginning of the Soviet Union and the end of a Russian regime that was "so-so" friendly to the US.  When that occurred, oil tycoons John D. Rockefeller and his son, facing heavy competition from Texas "wildcats" (rich newcomers to oil who hit a major Texas oil pocket at the turn of the century), decided not to indirectly profit, but make the most out of the Russian weakness and establish a foreign market for oil.  According to one website

The Rockefellers had given their financial support after the Czar refused to give them access to the Russian oil fields, which were already being pumped by the Royal Dutch Co. (owned by the Rothschilds and the Nobel brothers) and giving Standard Oil plenty of competition on the international market. Even though John D. Rockefeller possessed $15,000,000 in bonds from the Royal Dutch Co. and Shell, rather than purchase stock to get his foot in the door and indirectly profit, he helped to finance the Revolution so that he would be able to get Standard Oil firmly established in the country of Russia.

John D. Rockefeller in 1885
You see, Rockefeller had a headstart on the political infrastructure necessary to manipulate government affairs.  Texas "wildcats" did not.  Historian Barry Weisberg believes that Standard Oil of New Jersey was the major impetus behind the US invasion of Russia in 1918.  There was an invasion of Russia, you ask?  Yes, there was.  

Rockefeller's financial abilities easily influenced Woodrow Wilson to send 5,000 American soldiers into Siberia in 1918 to join allied forces.  While this was ostensibly to protect Czechoslovakian troops and the railroad, many historians like Weisberg believe this was simply the cover story for the invasion that was most likely influenced by Standard Oil's political intervention with President Wilson.  For the first time EVER, Congress never gave the approval for the 1918 invasion, setting a dangerous imperialistic precedent.  Historian Robert Maddox puts it, "The immediate effect of the intervention was to prolong a bloody civil war, thereby costing thousands of additional lives and wreaking enormous destruction on an already battered society." President Wilson withdrew most of the soldiers on April 1, 1920, though some remained until as late as 1922.  Still, Standard Oil got what they were after...

Historian James Loewen tells this history very well and I'll not attempt to retell it.  Suffice it to say that Loewen cites various substantial sources and observes a growing tendency of the wealthy class to manipulate politics for their own financial ends (again, Robber-Barons).  I know that this is no surprise today, for we have all long been aware of the US's imperialistic desires across the world.  The one that became important for this discussion is the desire for oil, numero uno.  PBS also did a documentary on Rockefeller's oil industry takeover.

American Intervention In The Russian Civil War, 1918-1920
Website for pics and Info on the 1918 Excursion

Now, I have been accused of being an alarmist, a conspiracy theorist, and any other less-desirable things than "historian," but the facts are that these are the facts.  We don't like to think of ourselves as being the "muscle" for oil companies for more than a century, but that is the truth.  

Gen. Smedley D. Butler sarcastically reflected on his involvement in 1931, "I helped make Mexico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank Boys to collect revenue in. I helped pacify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers… I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras ‘right’ for American fruit companies in 1903. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints."  I'm sure you get the point...

Once the market was established, Rockefellers went after even more... The Iranian Parliament, in 1921 gave Standard Oil the right to explore for oil in the five provinces of Azerbaijan, Astarabad, Guilan, Mazandaran, and Khorasan for a period of five years.  This maneuver received protests from British and Soviet oil companies who vied for the same resources.  The battle for the world's oil had begun.  

There has been a long-running attempt to gain control of world oil since this time.  The overthrow of Iran's democratically-elected government in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, 1957 election-rigging in Lebanon which led to civil war, assassination of Patrice Lumumba of Zaire, repeated attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro, overthrow of elected Chilean government in 1973, the list goes on... least of which was the 1991 invasion of Kuwait and the ongoing occupation of oil-rich Iraq.   But, remember... it's just business.  They shouldn't take it personally, right?  Ask the rest of the world and you will find that most everyone is DEFINITELY taking it seriously!

Oil became a vital resource because it was profitable and damn whatever else came along... damn the air... breathe something else!  But, what if oil was no longer a vital resource?  What if the electric car replaced the millions of cars on American roads... the millions of cars worldwide?  It's certainly a fundamental change in the economic world structure, but America is facing serious competition from China and may lose its hegemonic crown very soon.  Can you imagine the end of US Superpowerdom?  Another historian, Immanuel Wallerstein, says that all hegemonic states fall because they exhaust their resources (and piss off everybody... lol). 

US foreign policy has been largely to control American financial resources around the world and the largest and most lucrative of these was oil.  OPEC formed (Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela met in Baghdad to discuss ways to increase the price of the crude oil produced by their respective countries) as competition for the US in 1960, after US intervention in Middle East affairs (largely to obtain... you guessed it... oil) and an American policy reducing oil imports that lowered oil prices drastically in these countries.  You see, the "owners of America" (George Carlin's phrase) and their "muscle" haven't always seen eye to eye... our last breath of righteous indignation.

Since then, the dwindling supply of oil has necessitated American intervention in foreign affairs.  The Saudi Arabian government's sole source of income today, amounting to an annual income of about $700 billion dollars is this crude source of energy.  For them, the choice is oil or sand... which do you want?  If it's sand, well, the Saudis will survive the electric car... if not... well?  CBS's 60 Minutes aired an investigation of this country's strangulation of the world economy over oil and their attempts to eek out the last lingering drops of this finite resource.  Leslie Stahl did a great job, by the way.  

Now, we could continue to pollute the earth in order to save the Saudi Arabian economy, but I for one, am more concerned about the rest of the world and for the whole suffering planet (you know?  The Human Race and all their buds).  I also don't particularly like being indirectly associated with imperialism. 

American companies have never gained the foothold on oil that they really wanted.  Woodrow Wilson's/Standard Oil's 1918 incursion into Russia (without Congressional approval, remember?) was only the start of a long-fought struggle to maintain dominance over oil.  It was no accident that the death of the first electric car (Thomas Edison's creation) coincided with this military event and the beginning of Standard Oil's lucrative venture into the foreign oil business.

Thomas Edison and an electric car in 1913.

Rockefeller as an industrial emperor, 1901 cartoon from Puck magazine
Remember, though, I'm just the conspiracy theorist.  I spout all kinds of American Imperialism stories... I might be as crazy as Mel Gibson's character!  Maybe I'm the loony that thinks that the CIA (in a US-occupied territory) should have found Bin Laden years ago... well?  I might have completely lost my mind!  You need to listen to ALL of these established experts that I've quoted here... someone else... An interesting first hand direct account is the book by John Perkins, Confessions of An Economic Hitman, in which he describes these types of events in grisly detail.  A Youtube video of an interview with him is available, too.  There's more... a simple cursory investigation will show this.

I'm actually a nice guy... this conspiracy theorist stuff is not really fair.  I'm a long-time Beatles fan, too.  John Lennon had these ideas for decades, but no one ever listened because the US won that propaganda battle (US Vs. John Lennon movie preview).  Maybe because he was British and easy to dismiss...  An open, clear-thinking mind does not simply dismiss these ideas as fantasy.  Besides, there's just way too much proof.  But, you have to READ the sources to find out!!

The electric car has simply been another helpless victim, much like the Iranians, Guatemalans, or Chileans... or even Americans ourselves.  These victims became victims of American desire for the more-powerful American gas guzzler, the SUV's and giant Ford Pickups and Hummers, promoted by TV ads and television shows, American shows with greedy tycoons like Donald Trump.  It has become fashionable to be abusive.  

Perhaps, the depletion of this vital and finite resource that we have depended on and coveted for over a hundred years will be enough to revive clean energy resources that we have had even longer than oil.  What's the phrase?  Save us from ourselves?  

A fully electric car (not a #^&#@!! hybrid/deal with the devil) will accomplish this.  A significant problem for the electric car is that car companies can't make nearly as much money on maintenance and repairs, since they generally don't break down as often.  Wow, another plus for us!  lol  It's amazing that we haven't switched long ago.  Well, no it's not... we are slaves to our own greed, aren't we?

Please, people, don't tell me that electric cars aren't a viable resource anymore... please, please, please.  It gets annoying to discuss any historical subject with someone who hasn't read the assigned material!  Don't trust anything you hear on TV.  Do the research and be skeptical.  I've always been trained as a skeptic by many knowledgeable professors in my academic career.  They have never steered me wrong.  There's a lot out there if you choose to read it.  I promise you that it will rarely be on the "boob tube."  Reality has never been one of its strong suits!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

England's Positive Influence on North Carolina

In 1733, England made a positive change in North Carolina.  Historians of the early, progressive era, however, did not favor that view.  It was not an advantage to promote English over American.  Somehow, America had to be responsible for every positive change that took place.  Otherwise, America might not be able to support public opinion of the American Revolution AGAINST Britain (1776-1783).

What was it in 1733 that happened, you may ask?

There was a port city on the Cape Fear River in 1733 that was in the deepest part of that river and served England's mercantile purposes quite well.  No, that port was not Wilmington.  Wilmington did not exist as yet.  This older port cannot be seen today... there are nothing but ballast stone foundations of former homes there now, not even visible from the river.  However, one home does still exist near that old port.  It is now a tourist attraction famous for its beautiful gardens.

Where there are now gorgeous flowers, there once were fields of rice, tended by as many as 250 slaves.  These slaves were owned by one man from South Carolina.  But, he wasn't the only South Carolinian to live in the Lower Cape Fear.  He had lots of family there, too.  Brothers, sisters and their families, all ostentatious South Carolinians that looked damned uppity to our North Carolina ancestors.   Uppityness was essentially a British trait of the eighteenth century.  According to historian Keith Wrightson, author of English Society, 1580-1680, this was a disassociation of "polite and plebian cultures."  Uppityness was even more pronounced in the 18th century and when Carolina was founded in 1663 than during Elizabethan times.  South Carolina, as the "King's favorite" Carolina, engendered more uppity folks than North Carolina.

Actually, many North Carolinians today are the descendants of these uppity South Carolinians.  Since British administration affected both North and South Carolina about the same time, the uppity folks stayed in the Lower Cape Fear, even after their initial settlement failed.

Why did it fail?  Well, South Carolinians always believed that the boundary between the colonies was the Cape Fear River.  So, when they moved onto its western bank in 1726, they felt like the territorial dispute might give their settlement an advantage.  You see, Cape Fear was also as far away from Charleston as it was from Edenton (the early capital of North Carolina).  In fact, the Lower Cape Fear region was literally the "boonies" between the two Carolinas in 1726-1733.  These visitors decided to build a new colony, "A New Settlement calld Cape Fear, bounding on this and on North Carolina, but under neither, nor any Government."  British authorities clearly saw this as a problem.  That quote came from a South Carolinian priest writing to his SPG superiors in London.

Governor James Moore of South Carolina was known around the Empire as the infamous Indian slave trader of the early eighteenth century.  He not only appeared "uppity" to British officials, but downright dangerous, too.  He led expeditions against Spain's St. Augustine and other parts of Florida to scoop up more Indian slaves, on the pretense of defying Spain's dominance of America.  He cared much more for personal profit than English needs.

It was his sons and daughters who founded Brunswick Town in 1726 and the illegal "Brunswick Settlement" on the Cape Fear River in present-day North Carolina.  His descendants still live in the Lower Cape Fear today.  Of course, their original settlement of Brunswick is completely gone today, a result of a British police action in 1733 that resulted in the replacement town of Wilmington.  Wilmington did not lie in a deep portion of the river and accessible to British shipping.  In fact, many ships had to be offloaded at Brunswick and a nearby island before proceeding to Wilmington.  Still, after 1733, every aspect of British government left Brunswick and moved to the new town of Wilmington. 

The owner of that slave plantation was "King" Roger Moore, credited with "running off" the Cape Fear Indians to build their empire.  His brother, Maurice founded Brunswick Town on their land.  Together, they formed the Family, along with family friend and former employee of Gov. James Moore, the controversial Edward Moseley.  These men all married sisters and their family to form this generational empire.  It took nothing short of a revolution to oust them from their throne.  

[Two of my works treat Edward Moseley and his early history in London.  Both papers are free as downloads.]

Still, North Carolina always told the tale from the standpoint of local pride.  According to decades of historiography, North Carolinians founded Wilmington and developed the unique American ideals that led to the revolution in 1776.  Maurice Moore Jr and many other Jrs of the Family (now living as prominant citizens of Wilmington) joined in that Revolution and became famous for their service.  Still, it was Moore descendants who later led the only coup d'etat EVER in American history when they took back Wilmington from the "Black Republicans" in 1898. 
Alfred Moore Waddell, gg-grandson of Brunswick founder, Maurice Moore, stated that he would "choke the Cape Fear with carcasses" to achieve his uppity aims and he did exactly what he promised.  [American history officially starts in 1776, remember.  Otherwise, 1733 might be considered the first and both happened in the same area.] 

This is the true story of Wilmington and that beautiful Orton plantation on the west bank of the Cape Fear River.  This story was never told.  It was not favorable to our state at the time.  This is only a small sample of how history has been skewed to support a political agenda.  Truth is whatever is told the loudest and the longest.  If you want to read the details, CLICK HERE.  If you download it, it's free.  It was my pleasure to bring you the truth.

The development of Wilmington as opposed to Brunswick Town allowed for settlement to continue since the Family bought up over 105,000 acres of the most coveted land in the region and kept it for their plantations, rarely selling bits of it to anyone outside the Family.  If this had not happened the way it did, our history might have been radically different.   Wilmington was the only viable port in our state until roads became the dominant form of transportation over the rivers.   The Cape Fear was still quite important as a "highway" throughout history and even today.  England made our state what it is and they have seldom been given any credit at all.  When you get a chance, say thank you to Thomas Pelham-Holles, the Duke of Newcastle and the former Secretary of the Southern Department who made Wilmington possible. Even though the Family again usurped the Lower Cape Fear anyway, later colonial governors made it damned difficult for them to regain full control.  If anything, the American Revolution gave the Family a new start... allowed them to usurp the Lower Cape Fear again and to elevate criminals like Edward Moseley to hero status.  The Race Riot of 1898 shows that they still held power over that region.  They still do.

Monday, December 13, 2010

As Croce said, You Don't Tug on Superman's Cape

Historian Carl Swanson, in his book, Predators and Prizes: American Privateering and Imperial Warfare, 1739-1748, regarded official government sanction of maritime raiding and “piracy” as nearly the same thing.   A “letter of marquee,” or the official government permission, alone separated one act from the other.  Swanson agrees with many maritime and pirate historians that the end of war and naval demobilization left many privateers with an armed ship and nothing else to provide them with income.  They turned to piracy, or the taking of vessels on the open seas without government sanction.   Earlier, King James regarded similar men as “lewd and ill-disposed persons.”   Still, King James had little problem with depravations upon the sea, until it came against England.  Captain Henry Avery, “Commander of [his] Majesties Ship the King's Fisher,” turned pirate and committed those depravations upon all shipping, becoming a thorn in King James’ side.   It may be that Avery simply followed the dollar, as any businessman or country, or state business would.  

El Draque, “the dragon” became the quintessential state pirate.  Sir Francis Drake, Queen Elizabeth’s favorite pirate/privateer, incurred the fear and wrath of Spain and their authorities the world over.  His biographer, historian Wade Dudley, remarked upon the death of the infamous knight.  “Even as his mortal remains descended into the murky depths, the old pirate who had feared his God, sometimes obeyed his queen, and died while reaching for a final bit of plunder, ascended into the realm of English myth.”   Drake represented the military arm of a nation intending to gain as much as possible – pirates with a plan.  He became a state pirate who battled others just like him, with aims no different than any other pirate, official or otherwise.

Piracy has existed for a long time.  It still exists today and has usually been difficult to define, for the same reasons to which Dudley alluded.  In the Crimean War, British ships patrolled the Cyclades for pirates.  Professor Henry Ormerod regards the North African coast as still dangerous to sailing vessels and mentioned that a contemporary case of Turkish brigands in the Black Sea bordered on piracy.  His book, Piracy in the Ancient World, told of the nature of piracy at that time and how little it differed from its modern counterpart.  For Ormerod, piracy existed in the Mediterranean world as a norm for centuries.  Furthermore, he implied that it had always been part of human nature and reflected that nature in governmental structures, composed of human beings and their idiosyncrasies.   

Historian Cyrus H. Karraker agreed with Ormerod and considered piracy to be a normal “risk of commerce” in the ancient world.   Organized states with larger interests had a stronger desire for control of the sea routes and often suppressed unsanctioned piracy as a burden of informal competition.  Little has changed.  Piracy can be called a barometer of sea power for without a state structure, in a state vacuum, it flourishes.  Again, as two ends of the spectrum, states and individuals differ little when it came to piracy.  A better scale for that barometer might be from state sea power to pirate sea power, with “sea power” as analogous to “rule of force.”  Whoever has the force, rules.

Piracy often begins with indignation (often against state force) and ends with greed, arguably its “Achilles heel.”  Organized states often follow the same trends, from revolution to “death by decadency” to the next revolution, if one follows the dialectic to its Marxist conclusion.  Greed ultimately gets everyone.  As long as human beings measure value in terms of money, as long as countries struggle over the mere acquisition of wealth, piracy will remain a significant force on the open seas as well as the state boardroom.  

Daniel Defoe wrote his A General History of the Pyrates in 1724, just two years before British authorities “quieted” the turbulent Caribbean waters as modern historian, Marcus Rediker saw it.  Defoe’s view of the urge to eighteenth-century piracy for most men became vengeance.  He told of crewman Jones, who, after hearing of his friend’s death at the hands of Captain Roberts, attempted unsuccessfully to kill him.  Soon thereafter, Jones and several of the disgruntled crew of Robert’s ship, left on pretense and joined with a pirate ship.  Rediker showed that pirates routinely killed merchant captains when they captured them, but left others alone upon hearing that the captain had dealt justly with his crew.  Captain William Snellgrave’s account of his capture in 1719 by pirates almost resulted in his death until his crew saved him by vouching for his decency.  Not the brutes that tradition had painted them, pirates had reasons for becoming pirates and their society represented the most democratic ideal in that time.  Eighteenth-century society did not clearly understand the value of democracy yet.  At that time, democracy only existed at the bottom of the barometer, the state vacuum.

A state vacuum occurred again in Somalia on the east coast of Africa in 1991.  Ever since that time, Somalia’s “nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since – and the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country's food supply and dump [their] nuclear waste in [Somali] seas.”   For some, this became the reason for the recent pirate activity off the Somali coast that incurred significant reaction from powerful thallosacracies across the world.  Sea powers who may have been responsible for the Somali reaction in the first place, collectively forced order upon Somali pirates in 2009.  Significantly, this did not occur until the pirates made the transition from protecting their coast to collecting huge ransom payments, which made them rich.  Even more important, their depravations in the Gulf of Aden interrupted shipments of oil from Saudi Arabia to powerful countries (including the United States) that depended on them.  

Johann Hari with the Independent in London compared Somali pirates today with Aegean pirates during the time of Alexander the Great.  He told of one pirate captured and dragged before Alexander who asked him “what he meant by keeping possession of the sea.”   The pirate smiled, knowing all too well that his acts were no different than those of the great emperor.  His response came with some sarcasm.  “What you mean by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, while you, who do it with a great fleet, are called emperor.” 

Sometimes, pirates joined forces as mercenaries-for-hire with established states to accomplish their ends.  After Alexander’s death, his generals Ptolemy, Seleucus, and Antigonus, successfully divided the kingdom among themselves.  Rhodes formed strong commercial ties with the Ptolemies in Alexandria that controlled trade throughout the Aegean in the 3rd century BC.  The city developed into a maritime, commercial and cultural center that became the envy of the other former Alexandrian generals.  Antigonus’ son, Demetrius Poliorcetes (sieger of cities) developed weapons to siege the great city of Rhodes.  These included a great battering ram that required 1,000 men to operate and a huge siege tower called Helepolis.  Demetrius also relied upon 1,000 Aegean pirates to operate Helepolis.  Not being part of Demetrius’ state forces, however, these pirates realized early the futility of the effort and abandoned Demetrius’ main forces.  Demetrius lost.  The Colossus of Rhodes, one of the great wonders of the ancient world, commemorated this Rhodian triumph against Demetrius and his pirates. 

Johann Hari pulled his Alexander quote from any of a number of sources who repeated this famous conversation with the Aegean pirate.  Linguist and political activist, Noam Chomsky used the same quote in his book, Pirates & Emperors: International Terrorism in the Real World and attributes it to St. Augustine.   Chomsky attempted to convey that people throughout time have viewed pirates and piracy as variously good and bad, depending on the point-of-view.  He regarded large states as committing the same acts, but with the support and approbation of a large number of people and the military might to enforce their will.  He made an offhand reference to Demetrius and Elizabethan England, to name two.

After the beginnings of capitalism and the modern view of property rights, governments began to regard piracy as an abominable thing, a distinct danger to the steady progression of finance and power.  It became a type of unacceptable competition, “akin to war,” and eliminated by force in 1726 in American waters.   The causes of piracy did not change – nations simply grew stronger.  Historian Marcus Rediker infers that “once this ‘inefficiency of production’ had been removed, the productivity of maritime labor increased dramatically.”  Rediker (who wrote with a decidedly Marxist flavor) and Chomsky would have agreed.  Still, a stronger state, expressed with a cat-o-nine-tails, encouraged another surge of piracy.  Piracy seemed to be a part of the human condition, a fact that Rediker made apparent when he stated that piracy “was deeply imbued with the collectivistic tendencies produced by life and labor at sea.”   

For the most part, the western world has developed along the lines of the capitalistic economic system since the seventeenth century.  Today, great nations ply the maritime routes for specific financial reasons and generally regard piracy as a thing to be destroyed.  It raises the net price of goods.  The right-wing reports of Brian Scudder, with African Business magazine, regard pirates of Somalia with the expected outrage.  However, Johann Hari, with The Independent viewed a completely different side of the story.  Like Rediker’s eighteenth-century “brotherhood of pirates,” Hari saw pirates today as “social bandits” who merely tried to prevent economic disaster and major health risks from nuclear waste being dumped on their shores.  Scudder states that “there has been no policing of Somali waters by any locally recognized authority.”   However, an independent Somalian WardheerNews, Hari contends, found 70 per cent of the country “strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defense.”   Yet, the British Royal Navy – backed by a coalition force of more than two dozen nations, from the U.S. to China – sailed into Somalian waters to destroy these pirates.  According to Hari, more than two dozen nations had declared war on the non-existent country and their “Volunteer Coastguard,” as they call it.  

Hari’s opinion carried emotional appeal.  The tone of his article suggested that Somali pirates had every right to defend themselves against the undeserving onslaught and inconsideration of these many powerful nations.  To Hari, the Somali nation was obliterated after their civil war and since 1991, these nations had viewed the Somalian waters as a free-dumping zone and free fishery.  He states:

As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died.

At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia's seas of their greatest resource: seafood. We have destroyed our own fish stocks by overexploitation – and now we have moved on to theirs. More than $300m-worth of tuna, shrimp, and lobster are being stolen every year by illegal trawlers. The local fishermen are now starving. Mohammed Hussein, a fisherman in the town of Marka 100km south of Mogadishu, told Reuters: "If nothing is done, there soon won't be much fish left in our coastal waters."

These acts endangered more lives than the Somali.  News articles never mentioned possible health dangers from fish taken from an area infested by illegal nuclear waste.  If Hari was correct, these unauthorized fishing trawlers may have obtained tainted seafood from Somali waters to be consumed “in restaurants in London and Paris and Rome,” as he remarked.   They may have poisoned their own people for the profit.  Somali pirates seem mild by comparison.

Still, Hari mentioned that not all of the “Somali” pirates served the Somalian people.  While, he did not elaborate on these peripheral pirates, Thomas Land of New African magazine did.  In his article, titled “Somalia Pirates Beware,” he contends that Somalia “lacked a central government since 1991 when Mohamed Siad Barre's regime was toppled by warlords.”  Since that time (except for a brief period of control by Islamists until 2006), piracy increased 14% worldwide during the first nine months of 2007.  They affected major ports and coastal waters of Tanzania and Kenya as well as the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea area.  The primary area affected still centered upon Somalia, indicating not only the point of origin, but also that Somalis “stretched” the local appellation of the “Volunteer Coastguard” somewhat.  Their influence may also have inspired others to engage in illegal piracy for less noble reasons.   

Lee Shi-lan reported that “In war-ravaged, bitterly poor Somalia, there are many men living in palatial beachfront villas and driving luxury cars.”   Shi-lan contends that these men have turned Somalia into a “pirate’s paradise.”  Heavily armed men prey with impunity on shipping in the Gulf of Aden, one of the world's busiest sea routes.  “The ships - including oil tankers - are worth millions each.  Their cargoes are also worth millions.  But these are not what the pirates are after.  They hijack the ships and hold the crew hostage for something better - cold hard cash in [U.S.] currency.”   Josette Sheeran, the World Food Program executive director, Shi-lan said, commented that piracy had damaged and stopped food shipments intended to help the starving Somali people.  “Another disturbing factor is the funnelling of ransom money to Somali insurgents, who are mounting an increasing number of assaults in the anarchic Horn of Africa nation.”  

"The pirates with money to burn appear to have become beacons of hope for many young men who are desperate for work in one of the planet's poorest countries," stated Shi-lan.  Each ransom payment made the lure of piracy difficult to resist for Somali youth.  These youths formerly worked as bodyguards or in the government militia.  They saw the lucrative rewards in piracy and decided to enlist in the pirate gangs without the nobler incentives of the earlier pirates.  A vicious cycle was born, not unlike Tripolitan pirates in the Mediterranean of the early nineteenth century.  A young United States paid ransom payments before 1801 to the Barbary pirates to prevent seizure of their vessels and ultimately went to war over it.  

British Broadcasting Company (BBC) news reporter, Robin Hunter, said that these Somali pirates now “live a lavish life” because of these payments.   They drive the best cars, marry the prettiest women, and local businessmen ask them for loans.  They remain heavily armed, supplied with rocket-propelled grenades from Yemen, across the gulf.   

The once noble intentions turned bad.  Eight attacks per year rose to twenty-six by 2007.  Fatal attacks increased off Tanzania, Kenya, and the Red Sea.  Pirates hijacked WFP food shipments more often.  Even more fatal, operations in the Red Sea threaten 20% of the oil shipments to mostly U.S. ports.  Colloquially phrased, they “kicked” a known imperialistic, “oil-gobbling” superpower in the “oil pan” while following the example of Muslim Barbary Pirates by charging too much for the insult.  They brought back bad memories of the Tripolitan affair and the recent Islamic fundamentalist attacks in New York.  Furthermore, they provided a humanitarian reason to subdue these pirates while keeping U.S. popularity in the press.  From that point, U.N. efforts (guided by the U.S.) culminated in the 2009 operation to eradicate pirates on Africa’s east coast.  The Somali pirates themselves, completed the political equation necessary for their own demise, much like Charles Vane, Benjamin Hornigold, and Edward Teach in eighteenth-century America.  As Hari said, “when some of the fishermen responded by disrupting the transit-corridor for 20 per cent of the world's oil supply, we swiftly send in the gunboats.” 

This similar situation occurred in the Caribbean waters in 1718 with the British appointment of Governor Woodes Rogers to New Providence in the Bahamas.  A former governor of that island, Nicholas Trott (a later South Carolina judge) allowed pirate Henry Avery refuge after plundering in the Indian Ocean.  Trott not only allowed him “to water” and acquire provisions; he shared in the loot that Avery (alias “Bridgeman”) acquired.  Two of his crewmen also sailed to Bermuda to live on lands purchased from Trott.  The complicity of Trott and governors like him (for example, Charles Eden in northern Carolina) allowed piracy to grow unchecked in New Providence and most of America.  Piracy became commonplace in America by 1701.  Gov. James Moore, Goose Creek Indian slave trader, officially remarked in the House of Commons on the “proper” practice of piracy in Carolina.  “Mr. Painter [Peter Painter] having comitted Piracy & not having his majesties Pardon for ye Same.  It[‘]s resolved he is not fit for that trust.”   Like Somalia, piracy in early America appeared to be sanctioned by the people.  The Carolina naval forces compared with Somalia’s “Volunteer Coastguard.”  Still, after 1726, British authorities wanted pirates out of the way for profit’s sake and they made a concerted effort to accomplish this task.  

After the Act of Union in 1707 and with growing liberal, or Whig power in England, piracy faced greater pressures from a unified front.  Woodes Rogers spent three years, from 1718-1721 trying to arrest the growth of piracy and restore British commerce in the Bahamas.  While Rogers encountered some initial resistance, historian Michael Craton infers that most pirates welcomed the administration, however, having tired of the restless life.  The infamous pirates, Charles Vane and Benjamin Hornigold departed the islands upon Rogers’ arrival.  Craton believed that New Providence still contained a relatively lawless atmosphere, however, even after these efforts.   

Mohamed Ali Gedi, the Somali prime minister, stated that he would welcome a maritime naval police operation involving Kenyan and U.S. navies.  Yet, he has resisted giving them permission to operate in Somali waters.  Like New Providence, Somali peoples may yet welcome administration as well.  Gedi’s actions indicate that some of the pirates, like Vane and Hornigold, however, will most certainly not.  And the fact that piracy remains a difficult challenge for U.N. forces in Somalia reflects British efforts in the eighteenth-century Caribbean.  

Pirates across the ages share many similarities.  The weapons change, but the intent remains the same.  At first, these pirates begin their careers with a cause, a definite feeling of righteousness.  After living the lawless life for a time, they lose sight of the goal.  Still, most pirates do not have a chance nonetheless.  Larger and more powerful states better organized and with more resources, will be able to hold the military pressure on longer and eventually win.  Somali pirates began with a cause, to save their people from Western and European abuse and theft.  When they engaged in piracy for ransom, prevented food shipments to their own people, and threatened the U.S. oil supply, they signed their death warrant.  Like Blackbeard, Stede Bonnet, and Henry Avery, they all succumbed to the bigger pirates with better guns.  The best weapon these “sea powers” wielded perhaps was a well-thought-out plan.