Confused Politics

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Putin and Berlusconi, BFFs

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Despite his reputation as the hard man of Russia, it would seem that Putin has a heart, and a special place is reserved in it for everyone’s favourite Italian politician – Mr Bunga Bunga himself.

So, join me in enjoying their happy memories together.

http://www.slate.com/slideshows/news_and_politics/putin-berlusconi-bromance.html

It’s been a while since I posted any funny videos. This isn’t a video, but it is funny. Close enough.

Credit for this obviously goes to Slate.com.

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Written by Confused Politics

November 14, 2011 at 9:50 pm

How to Deal With (non-boring) Piracy

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When I started writing this my flatmate asked me, “are you going to be writing about the boring kind or the good kind?” Luckily this post is all about the ‘good’ kind of pirate. I have nothing but respect for the ceaseless struggle of copyright holders. Endeavouring to protect us from the horrors of spotty teenagers torrenting their products, but let’s face it: desperate men with AK 47s are much more exciting.

The coolest kind of pirates.

Somali pirates have repeatedly made the for hijacking various ships and holding them and their crews to ransom. Of course the ransom money is not actually the main cost of piracy. You also have to take into account higher insurance premiums, less efficient routing of ships and the deployment of naval assets. Altogether, the cost of Somali piracy was estimated at around $10 billion in 2010. That’s more than one Macedonia or roughly 1/16th of an NHS.

This is a huge amount of money and it’s set to increase. So, what should be done about it? Unfortunately Somalia is a failed state where there are virtually no opportunities available to people to make an honest living. Crime is rife, warlords rove, European fishing vessels deplete their stocks and there is the occasional foreign invasion. Given the difficulty of even eking out a living as a subsistence farmer is it any surprise that many Somalians are keen on becoming pirates? It’s risky, sure, but life is cheap over there and the potential rewards are very high.

I see three ways of solving the problem. Firstly we could try to build up a government which could then clamp down on piracy and bring stability. Basically use our wallets and/or military might to turn Somalia from an anarchic shithole into a functioning state. Unfortunately we’re not very good at this kind of thing. The war in Afghanistan has cost the US alone over $400 billion so far and I’m pretty sceptical about the country’s prospects once the US withdraws. The Somali government barely controls any land outside the capital and is in the middle of a civil war with the Islamic Al-Shabaab group. Basically we have a choice between ruling the place ourselves, backing a nutty Islamist group or backing a government that doesn’t deserve the name. None of those sound like particularly viable options to me. So, a superficially attractive option but not one we could actually pull off.

I suppose military force is also a possibility. We have lots of warships, the Somali pirates don’t. It would be pretty easy to simply sail along the coast blowing places up until they stopped bothering our ships. The simplicity of this approach is kind of attractive. Those who live by the sword die by the sword etc. Unfortunately I have some moral qualms about mass murder as a response to piracy. It feels like the kind of solution that was only morally acceptable in the 18th century and I like to think we’re at least a little better than that. It would also be horrendously expensive. A cruise missile costs about £500,000. Compare this to the cost of a small boat with an outboard motor and a few AK-47s. Military force would be even more horrendously uneconomic than building a government.

Cheap                                                                       Not Cheap

The third option may well be the best. It’s a little like the first option, but with a bit of Terry Pratchett added in. Given the government’s are failures and the immorality (not to mention cost) of bombing Somalia into submission, why not go for a more market-capitalist solution and back the pirates? Find some pirate leaders we can work with and offer them a carrot and stick approach. Western governments could turn a blind eye to their activities but attack smaller pirate groups and rogues. This would encourage the consolidation of pirates into larger groups with more organisation and leaders. This is a situation we could work with. Big pirate groups could be played off against each other. With careful support and nurturing and maybe the odd knife in the back we could create one overarching pirate organisation. A kind of Guild of Pirates.

That may sound like a horrendous idea, but it’s not. After all, what is a government but an organisation with a monopoly on the use of force? We’d have finally created a government in Somalia. This organisation could improve the lives of normal Somalis. Their organisation would require infrastructure, provide courts and raise revenue by taxing (extorting) the actual pirates. Now, I admit I’m not 100% sure that this would solve the problem of piracy, but it would probably improve the lives of individual Somalis. When it comes down to it, Somali pirates don’t actually tend to kill people, they just cost us money. Considering the colonial legacy the Western world left Somalia with and the way our fishing vessels continue to deplete their waters of fish it’s the least we could do for them. Our own costs could be reduced by a lower naval presence and the ability to buy ‘insurance’ direct from the pirates.

Ok, I accept that helping pirates to get more organised is not going to be a popular strategy unless it also helped eliminate them. So, it’s worth remembering, organised pirates are much much easier to negotiate with (and to threaten). Their leaders with much more to lose, there are locations that are actually worth targeting and people capable of following through on agreements.

In the end the pirates are, as far as I can see, basically capitalists and in this world of free-market economic orthodoxy perhaps it would be appropriate to back them over the irrelevant* or the ideologues.** It’s not like Western governments don’t have a long history of working with thoroughly unpleasant people to protect ‘capitalism’.

*The central ‘government’

**The Islamists.

Written by Confused Politics

May 25, 2011 at 4:23 pm

What Might Have Happened

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What if the Rapture actually had happened? Find out:

I should probably apologise, I just couldn’t resist having another dig. I suppose the Rapture believers should be kind of admired though. Why? Well it’s quite simple. They are a very rare example of the highly religious offering a testable hypothesis. Almost all of the time religions fail to offer any predictions about future events that can actually be tested. These people who insist on a particular day for the end of the world are putting their faith to the test in a way that others are either unwilling or unable to emulate.

I’m quite interested in the reactions of those whose predictions have failed though. Apparently Harold Camping, who predicted the Raputre, was ‘flabbergasted’. I’d like to know his (as yet unrevealed) explanation and also how his followers will react. Apparently he already has one failed prediction from the 1990s, and that doesn’t seem to have dented his popularity.

Written by Confused Politics

May 23, 2011 at 11:01 pm

Posted in Funny Videos

Lectures

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I wish someone had done this during land law!

Written by Confused Politics

May 21, 2011 at 12:18 am

Posted in Funny Videos

Mr B Gentleman Rhymer

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I feel this is worth promoting. Admittedly its main appeal is that it’s a very posh guy rapping, but still that’s enough to make me laugh.

Written by Confused Politics

May 2, 2011 at 11:34 am

Posted in Funny Videos

Lovecraftian Sex Ed

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What if HP Lovecraft had written about a sex education class? This short film by Craig Macneill, as well as being somewhat disturbing, is really very good. Both as dark comedy and as a social commentary on the fear of sex education and how it will drive underage sex. You’ll get more out of it if you’ve read any of Lovecraft’s work, but it’s worth watching regardless.

(Warning: Not Safe For Work due to language and themes).

Written by Confused Politics

May 1, 2011 at 11:12 am

Posted in Funny Videos

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Contractual Relationships

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An alternative for all the City lawyers out there?

Written by Confused Politics

April 29, 2011 at 10:12 am

Posted in Funny Videos, Law