Wednesday, January 30, 2008

MySpace: Intolerant Fucks

(via Dawkins - also, I'm still high on ephedrine so excuse me if the following makes no sense)

MySpace has deleted the 'Atheist and Agnostic' group, incidentally the largest "organized" group of atheists around. No terms of service were violated, they deleted the group because many "find atheism offensive." In situations like this I like to replace the word 'atheist' with 'Jewish' and see how it reads.

Early this month, MySpace again deleted the “Jewish and Hebrew Group (35,000 members). This deletion, due largely to complaints from people who find Judaism offensive, marks the second time MySpace has cancelled the group since November 2007.

“It is an outrage if Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation and the world’s largest social networking site tolerate discrimination against Jews -- and if this situation goes unresolved I’ll have little choice but to believe they do,” said Greg Epstein, rabbi of Harvard University. News Corporation, Murdoch’s global media corporation which also includes Fox News, purchased MySpace in 2005.

Sounds a whole lot worse that way, doesn't it?

A couple of things to note though. First, I most certainly don't want to imply that atheism is a religion, or in any way equal to religion. It refers to non-belief in a supernatural God, and the comparison is strictly political, though I feel it is appropriate. Second, speaking of politics, readers of my bloge will know that I fully support the right of MySpace to delete whatever content they want for whatever reason they want. I would not support the enforcement of any sort of equality law, just the social pressure of those sympathetic to universal tolerance.

Small Update

No Pirate Wednesday today because I am feeling sick and frankly I'm not up for it.

NeoCitran, by the way, is the greatest invention of all human achievement. I feel sick and sleepy and groggy... yet also fantastic.

(Again, the recent slump in posting is temporary. Very busy lately, but I'll be back.)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

100th Birthday and the Coolest Thing Ever

So this is my 100th post! That's pretty cool. When I first started I said "If I start collecting an audience I promise to write more often, and about more important things, but if no one cares then what's the point eh?" Yet here I am, 100 posts later, with almost the same number of readers (thanks Dave!). I dunno, I kinda like it though. I think I'm going to keep it up for a while.

What better subject for such a landmark post than this really cool article from the BBC.

At least 100,000 deaths from ovarian cancer have been prevented in the UK by the contraceptive pill over 50 years, research has concluded.
What a great way to look at it. Let's just ignore everything bad in the world (i.e. the subjects of most of my other 99 posts) and reflect on that for a minute. It's a pretty OK world... We can grow new hearts, create synthetic life, feed billions of people, and keep 100,000 British women cancer-free. Fuck yeah.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Canadian Jailbait: All Talk, No Action

A big study of Canadian teens' sexuality has revealed that they are severely uninteresting. The actual rate of teen sexuality across the board - both genders and all age groups - is significantly less than the estimates of parents and of teens themselves (see the link for the actual numbers). This is extremely disappointing people! Sex is very good, and what better time to do it than in high school? God knows teenagers don't have anything else going for them, they're the least interesting group of people on the planet. The least they can do is live up to their own expectations vis. bumping uglies.

In all seriousness, there are a couple of truly disturbing things in the article:

The other piece of good news is that almost three-quarters of teen girls and 61 per cent of boys consider abstinence to be an option -- although, again, it doesn't mean that they will actually choose that option, said Dr. Frappier. "A lot have said that they have considered abstinence. It doesn't mean that they are abstinent. "

Good news? Shut the fuck up, Joanne Laucius of The Ottawa Citizen and lead researcher Dr. Jean-Yves Frappier, head of adolescent medicine at Montreal's Sainte-Justine University Health Centre. Are we really as backwater as all that? How much do you want to bet that Joanne Laucius and Jean-Yves Frappier are far from abstinent themselves? Abstinence (usually equivalent to ignorance) is not a desirable state for teenagers, nor is it safe. What you want is for kids to be informed and responsible, which brings me to the other scary part.

The bad news is that almost all the teens failed when it came to their understanding of sexually transmitted diseases -- out of 32 marked questions about STDs, the average score was four. This is especially worrisome because the incidence of sexually transmitted infections among teens has been on the rise for about seven years, said Dr. Frappier.

Assuming the test itself was decent (a big assumption... judging from the first quote, the test might have just been teen fear-mongering), that's pretty awful. I'd way rather hear that teenagers are having all kinds of dirty, kinky, raunchy, confident, empowering, safe, sexy sex than a little bit of awkward, uninformed, embarrassed, dangerous, boring sex.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Pirate Wednesday - George Harrison


A while ago I mentioned that the Maritime Commercial Crime Services puts out a weekly report, and that I'd keep on top of it. I've been a little slack with that (hell, I've been slack with PW in general) so briefly, here are some highlights from the past week.


09.01.2008: Bonny River, Nigeria.
Gunmen suspected to be militants in a speedboat attacked a supply ship underway. They fired upon the vessel indiscriminately wounding three crewmembers. The injured crew was taken to hospital for treatment.

16.01.2008: 1345 LT: 16:58.17N - 082:24.26E, Kakinada OPL, India.
Pirates in a small craft came alongside a tug, underway, towing a barge. They stole ship's stores. Alert crew raised alarm, crew mustered and took back the stolen stores and pushed the pirates back to their craft. The pirates boarded the barge and left after 20 minutes. Local agent informed.

I like how the crew "mustered" and chased off the pirates. I bet they just felt like the kings of the world after that. What a rush. It's still amazing to me, though, how the pirates escape scot free virtually every time. His noodliness smiles upon them.

But enough of that! Here's a video of my favourite Beatle, George Harrison, showing his true colours with Monty Python. I love everything about this clip.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Of New Hearts and Tin Men

Have you heard of this? Scientists have stripped out the living material from a rat heart, discovered a non-living structural scaffolding (not previously known), infused it with stem cells, let it grow, and ended up with a new functional heart with all the DNA of the stem cell source.

SCIENCE!

As usual, this has me completely floored. The discoveries, innovations, and creations of modern science never get dull. How can this stuff bore anybody? On top of the wonder, just let your mind go a little wild on the implications. Using induced stem cells (another amazing recent discovery), you could donate a new heart to yourself. Or a kidney, or a liver, or whatever.

As with so many aspects of science and technology, I think that in the future we will see the current era of organ transplants from others, and the need for anti-rejection therapies, as a primitive and extremely temporary middle step on the road to abundant, made-to-order organs. Until, that is, we move beyond organs completely.

Here's a podcast from NPR's Science Friday. It's an interview with the project leader, and again, really fascinating.

EDIT: I didn't like that flash player. QuickTime it is.

Happy Martin Luther King Day

This is one of those times where giving my commentary would just detract from the content. The video is below, and here is the transcript.

Them Greedy Corporations

It troubles me greatly to think of the extent to which we ignore the technology available to us. The other day I was listening to a podcast (haha! triumphantly) that was talking about the absurdity of flying someone across the country for a meeting when one could just as easily use the phone, email, chat, or an array of other long distance communication devices.

Today I read this post from Seth Godin (marketing god) about the stone-age status quo of the movie rental business that is currently carrying over unnecessarily to the next generation of technology.

The movie studios are starting to get excited about renting movies digitally. The pricing seems to be modeled on Blockbuster. Figure $3 a rental, another buck or so for HD. That seems 'fair', because it's in the same range as we're used to.

But wait.

Blockbuster buys DVDs for $15 or $20. The studios have to pay for duplication and warehousing and marketing and they take a risk with every pressing that they'll have to shred the leftovers.

Blockbuster then rents them out 30 or 40 or more times each, meaning each rental costs Blockbuster fifty cents. Not to mention rent, surly clerks, cost of capital, advertising, etc. Or, in the case of Netflix, stamps.

In the case of online rentals, all of these intermediate costs immediately disappear. Gone.

So, why try to mimic the current model when it comes to pricing if the costs are mostly gone?


Echoes of the recording industry, to be sure. How can these multi billion (Billion. Buh. With a B) dollar markets ignore the possibilities of the latest technology? You'd think the impetus to innovate would be impossible to overlook.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Last Thoughts on Penn Jillette

When yer head gets twisted and yer mind grows numb
When you think you're too old, too young, too smart or too dumb
When yer laggin' behind an' losin' yer pace
In a slow-motion crawl of life's busy race
No matter what yer doing if you start givin' up
If the wine don't come to the top of yer cup
If the wind's got you sideways with with one hand holdin' on
And the other starts slipping and the feeling is gone
And yer train engine fire needs a new spark to catch it
And the wood's easy findin' but yer lazy to fetch it
And yer sidewalk starts curlin' and the street gets too long
And you start walkin' backwards though you know its wrong
And lonesome comes up as down goes the day
And tomorrow's mornin' seems so far away
And you feel the reins from yer pony are slippin'
And yer rope is a-slidin' 'cause yer hands are a-drippin'
And yer sun-decked desert and evergreen valleys
Turn to broken down slums and trash-can alleys
And yer sky cries water and yer drain pipe's a-pourin'
And the lightnin's a-flashing and the thunder's a-crashin'
And the windows are rattlin' and breakin' and the roof tops a-shakin'
And yer whole world's a-slammin' and bangin'
And yer minutes of sun turn to hours of storm
And to yourself you sometimes say
"I never knew it was gonna be this way
Why didn't they tell me the day I was born"
And you start gettin' chills and yer jumping from sweat
And you're lookin' for somethin' you ain't quite found yet
And yer knee-deep in the dark water with yer hands in the air
And the whole world's a-watchin' with a window peek stare
And yer good gal leaves and she's long gone a-flying
And yer heart feels sick like fish when they're fryin'
And yer jackhammer falls from yer hand to yer feet
And you need it badly but it lays on the street
And yer bell's bangin' loudly but you can't hear its beat
And you think yer ears might a been hurt
Or yer eyes've turned filthy from the sight-blindin' dirt
And you figured you failed in yesterdays rush
When you were faked out an' fooled white facing a four flush
And all the time you were holdin' three queens
And it's makin you mad, it's makin' you mean
Like in the middle of Life magazine
Bouncin' around a pinball machine
And there's something on yer mind you wanna be saying
That somebody someplace oughta be hearin'
But it's trapped on yer tongue and sealed in yer head
And it bothers you badly when your layin' in bed
And no matter how you try you just can't say it
And yer scared to yer soul you just might forget it
And yer eyes get swimmy from the tears in yer head
And yer pillows of feathers turn to blankets of lead
And the lion's mouth opens and yer staring at his teeth
And his jaws start closin with you underneath
And yer flat on your belly with yer hands tied behind
And you wish you'd never taken that last detour sign
And you say to yourself just what am I doin'
On this road I'm walkin', on this trail I'm turnin'
On this curve I'm hanging
On this pathway I'm strolling, in the space I'm taking
In this air I'm inhaling
Am I mixed up too much, am I mixed up too hard
Why am I walking, where am I running
What am I saying, what am I knowing
On this guitar I'm playing, on this banjo I'm frailin'
On this mandolin I'm strummin', in the song I'm singin'
In the tune I'm hummin', in the words I'm writin'
In the words that I'm thinkin'
In this ocean of hours I'm all the time drinkin'
Who am I helping, what am I breaking
What am I giving, what am I taking
But you try with your whole soul best
Never to think these thoughts and never to let
Them kind of thoughts gain ground
Or make yer heart pound
But then again you know why they're around
Just waiting for a chance to slip and drop down
"Cause sometimes you hear'em when the night times comes creeping
And you fear that they might catch you a-sleeping
And you jump from yer bed, from yer last chapter of dreamin'
And you can't remember for the best of yer thinking
If that was you in the dream that was screaming
And you know that it's something special you're needin'
And you know that there's no drug that'll do for the healin'
And no liquor in the land to stop yer brain from bleeding
And you need something special
Yeah, you need something special all right
You need a fast flyin' train on a tornado track
To shoot you someplace and shoot you back
You need a cyclone wind on a stream engine howler
That's been banging and booming and blowing forever
That knows yer troubles a hundred times over
You need a Greyhound bus that don't bar no race
That won't laugh at yer looks
Your voice or your face
And by any number of bets in the book
Will be rollin' long after the bubblegum craze
You need something to open up a new door
To show you something you seen before
But overlooked a hundred times or more
You need something to open your eyes
You need something to make it known
That it's you and no one else that owns
That spot that yer standing, that space that you're sitting
That the world ain't got you beat
That it ain't got you licked
It can't get you crazy no matter how many
Times you might get kicked
You need something special all right
You need something special to give you hope
But hope's just a word
That maybe you said or maybe you heard
On some windy corner 'round a wide-angled curve

But that's what you need man, and you need it bad
And yer trouble is you know it too good
"Cause you look an' you start getting the chills

"Cause you can't find it on a dollar bill
And it ain't on Macy's window sill
And it ain't on no rich kid's road map
And it ain't in no fat kid's fraternity house
And it ain't made in no Hollywood wheat germ
And it ain't on that dimlit stage
With that half-wit comedian on it
Ranting and raving and taking yer money
And you thinks it's funny
No you can't find it in no night club or no yacht club
And it ain't in the seats of a supper club
And sure as hell you're bound to tell
That no matter how hard you rub
You just ain't a-gonna find it on yer ticket stub
No, and it ain't in the rumors people're tellin' you
And it ain't in the pimple-lotion people are sellin' you
And it ain't in no cardboard-box house
Or down any movie star's blouse
And you can't find it on the golf course
And Uncle Remus can't tell you and neither can Santa Claus
And it ain't in the cream puff hair-do or cotton candy clothes
And it ain't in the dime store dummies or bubblegum goons
And it ain't in the marshmallow noises of the chocolate cake voices
That come knockin' and tappin' in Christmas wrappin'
Sayin' ain't I pretty and ain't I cute and look at my skin
Look at my skin shine, look at my skin glow
Look at my skin laugh, look at my skin cry
When you can't even sense if they got any insides
These people so pretty in their ribbons and bows
No you'll not now or no other day
Find it on the doorsteps made out-a paper mache´
And inside it the people made of molasses
That every other day buy a new pair of sunglasses
And it ain't in the fifty-star generals and flipped-out phonies
Who'd turn yuh in for a tenth of a penny
Who breathe and burp and bend and crack
And before you can count from one to ten
Do it all over again but this time behind yer back
My friend
The ones that wheel and deal and whirl and twirl
And play games with each other in their sand-box world
And you can't find it either in the no-talent fools
That run around gallant
And make all rules for the ones that got talent
And it ain't in the ones that ain't got any talent but think they do
And think they're foolin' you
The ones who jump on the wagon
Just for a while 'cause they know it's in style
To get their kicks, get out of it quick
And make all kinds of money and chicks
And you yell to yourself and you throw down yer hat
Sayin', "Christ do I gotta be like that
Ain't there no one here that knows where I'm at
Ain't there no one here that knows how I feel
Jesus Haploid Christ
THAT STUFF AIN'T REAL"

No but that ain't yer game, it ain't even yer race
You can't hear yer name, you can't see yer face
You gotta look some other place
And where do you look for this hope that yer seekin'
Where do you look for this lamp that's a-burnin'
Where do you look for this oil well gushin'
Where do you look for this candle that's glowin'
Where do you look for this hope that you know is there
And out there somewhere
And your feet can only walk down two kinds of roads
Your eyes can only look through two kinds of windows
Your nose can only smell two kinds of hallways
You can touch and twist
And turn two kinds of doorknobs
You can either go to the church of your choice
Or you can go to the Rio Hotel and Casino
You won't find God in the church of your choice
But you'll find Penn Jillette in the Rio Hotel and Casino

And though it's only my opinion
I may be right or wrong
You'll find them both
At Six Flags, New Jersey
On Monkey Tuesday

1 2 3 4 5 6

Monday, January 14, 2008

What can I do but laugh?

A retired catholic priest in Ontario (that's Canada, you ignorant fuck) has been found guilty of sexually assaulting 13 little boys. Of course, he committed the assaults decades ago and wasn't punished at all until he was no longer a working clergyman. I kinda burst out laughing when I read that. Not quite sure why... futility I suppose.

Whaddaya gonna do?

Pinker on Morality

Have I already linked to this? Maybe. If so, read it again. It's Steve Pinker on the Moral Instinct.

Bonus points for discussing Borlaug.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

More Monkenomics

Michael Shermer explains some irrational human economic behaviour using monkeys and evolution.

By the way, I'll be posting more regularly again eventually. I'm changing jobs now, which makes it hard to blog. Not dead, just sleeping.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Hillary Clinton



Everyone is talking about Hillary crying. Big deal, one side gets all misogynistic and claims men wouldn't cry, and the other side fires back about the first side being bigots, and no one is listening to the words coming out of her mouth!

Some of us are right, and some of us are wrong.

What does she mean by that? Does she mean that the "right" ones have a "right" to impose their "rightness" on the "wrong" ones? I get the feeling that democracy, to Hillary, means the will of the majority forced upon the minority with impunity. Forget the tears, the words are bad enough on their own.

Ron Paul post coming soon, if I can muster the strength.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Vaccine Autism No Brainer

I don't really have any commentary on this, I just wanted to point out that yet another study has concluded that there is no link between mercury-based chemicals (thimerosal) in child vaccines and autism. Also, thumbs up to the Associated Press for coming out on the side of reason, science, and truth on this one.

If you aren't aware of the autism/vaccine debate, Orac at Respectful Insolence blogs about it frequently and certainly knows a hell of a lot more than I do, so go read what he has written.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Best Headline Today (OLPC are douchebags)

From CNet news (the 'C' is for Cynical):

OLPC fires back at Intel, children learn nothing

Nothing warms the soul more than watching two organizations try to simultaneously claim the moral high ground while belittling the goals and methods of their rival, all in the name of the children.

I've been wanting to talk about OLPC for quite some time, but they cause me grief. If you don't know about the project, its a non-profit venture with the goal of creating, producing, and supplying a very cheap ($100) laptop to children in developing countries. A wonderful goal! I'm behind it 100%, I have been known to call it the greatest project I have ever heard of.

However.

Their politics are a little strange to me, to say the least. They refuse to operate like a business, so they won't sell the laptops privately. I would really like one, so this is frustrating. They did do a thing a little while ago where you pay double the price and get one laptop and a tax receipt for another one... I didn't get one because I disagree with their other practices as well.

They also refuse to let a private group handle the distribution to children, or to do the distribution themselves. They will only provide laptops where the government of that country agrees to buy and distribute the machines. This is totally backwards. When you're dealing with, say, Nigeria, the last thing you want is to go through the government. You want private donors to fund you, and private volunteer groups to distribute. Developing nations are famous for corrupt governments that don't care about their citizens interests.

Now comes more bad news. See the article linked above. OLPC is fucking with Intel, trying to get them to work exclusively on their project instead of potential competitors. Good for Intel for telling them to screw off.

I can understand greedy capitalism. If you're in it for the money, great. Make a great product, market the hell out of it, and sell it for a huge profit. I can also understand charity. If your goal is to get computers in the hands of poor children to help them learn and develop, then you toil in obscurity to achieve that end any way you can - including supporting your competitors if their goal is the same. OLPC is doing neither of these things. They hamstring their own project by refusing to make money, and then they try to stop their competitors from achieving the social goal they pretend to want so badly. Seems to me they only care about the accolades and awards. As long as they get a Nobel Peace Prize out of it, then fuck the children, right?

I'm still following this, because I want so badly to support the project. Hopefully they can turn it around somehow, but I'm not getting my hopes up.

Cloning a Mammoth

A very well preserved mammoth has been found in Siberia, and is now being studied in Japan. Looks like the focus of the study is on the cause of mammoth extinction and global warming, but it reminded me of another mammoth discovery not long ago. Last time there was a lot of talk about possibly creating a clone, or hybrid with Asian elephants.

I really want to see a mammoth cloned. Like... I really really want it. Gene therapy and cloned sheep are all well and good, but if you let your imagination run a little wild, the possibilities are endless. All those crazy creatures from fantasy and mythology could in theory exist, if we put our minds to creating them. There's no real reason a gryphon, a unicorn, a centaur, a dragon, etc. can't exist. Yes, there's no way such ridiculous crossing could happen naturally, but if we could write genetic code from scratch then why not? Sure it's extremely difficult and impractical, but is there anyone who can honestly deny how fucking cool that would be? The first step in this process is resurrecting extinct species, and the mammoth is a prime candidate.

So... what's the holdup? Let's get on this!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Wikifiti and Neologism Bleg


This is brilliant. I love the idea of applying Wikipedia jargon to ads and other public media, but I don't like that 'Wikifiti' word... How about world tagging? Wikiality (courtesy of Colbert)? {{Facting}} (based on the 'citation needed' template)?

Those all suck. What's a good name for this? Bonus: what other Wikipedia-related slang, buzzwords, prefixes, etc. are there? Double bonus: make up some useful ones.

UPDATE: Just saw this. Beautiful.

Pirate Wednesday - Thomas Jefferson


Thomas Jefferson?!? No, he wasn't a pirate, but he did fight the pirates threatening America in the days shortly after the declaration of independence. This is a bit of a robot killer, because I love Jefferson, but I also love pirates. I don't know who I would have rooted for. Below is a brief history of Jefferson's piratical dealings, care of the Library of Congress and Gerard W. Gawalt.

Ruthless, unconventional foes are not new to the United States of America. More than two hundred years ago the newly established United States made its first attempt to fight an overseas battle to protect its private citizens by building an international coalition against an unconventional enemy. Then the enemies were pirates and piracy. The focus of the United States and a proposed international coalition was the Barbary Pirates of North Africa.

Pirate ships and crews from the North African states of Tripoli, Tunis, Morocco, and Algiers (the Barbary Coast) were the scourge of the Mediterranean. Capturing merchant ships and holding their crews for ransom provided the rulers of these nations with wealth and naval power. In fact, the Roman Catholic Religious Order of Mathurins had operated from France for centuries with the special mission of collecting and disbursing funds for the relief and ransom of prisoners of Mediterranean pirates.

Before the United States obtained its independence in the American Revolution, 1775-83, American merchant ships and sailors had been protected from the ravages of the North African pirates by the naval and diplomatic power of Great Britain. British naval power and the tribute or subsidies Britain paid to the piratical states protected American vessels and crews. During the Revolution, the ships of the United States were protected by the 1778 alliance with France, which required the French nation to protect "American vessels and effects against all violence, insults, attacks, or depredations, on the part of the said Princes and States of Barbary or their subjects."

After the United States won its independence in the treaty of 1783, it had to protect its own commerce against dangers such as the Barbary pirates. As early as 1784 Congress followed the tradition of the European shipping powers and appropriated $80,000 as tribute to the Barbary states, directing its ministers in Europe, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, to begin negotiations with them. Trouble began the next year, in July 1785, when Algerians captured two American ships and the dey of Algiers held their crews of twenty-one people for a ransom of nearly $60,000.

Thomas Jefferson, United States minister to France, opposed the payment of tribute, as he later testified in words that have a particular resonance today. In his autobiography Jefferson wrote that in 1785 and 1786 he unsuccessfully "endeavored to form an association of the powers subject to habitual depredation from them. I accordingly prepared, and proposed to their ministers at Paris, for consultation with their governments, articles of a special confederation." Jefferson argued that "The object of the convention shall be to compel the piratical States to perpetual peace." Jefferson prepared a detailed plan for the interested states. "Portugal, Naples, the two Sicilies, Venice, Malta, Denmark and Sweden were favorably disposed to such an association," Jefferson remembered, but there were "apprehensions" that England and France would follow their own paths, "and so it fell through."

Paying the ransom would only lead to further demands, Jefferson argued in letters to future presidents John Adams, then America's minister to Great Britain, and James Monroe, then a member of Congress. As Jefferson wrote to Adams in a July 11, 1786, letter, "I acknolege [sic] I very early thought it would be best to effect a peace thro' the medium of war." Paying tribute will merely invite more demands, and even if a coalition proves workable, the only solution is a strong navy that can reach the pirates, Jefferson argued in an August 18, 1786, letter to James Monroe: "The states must see the rod; perhaps it must be felt by some one of them. . . . Every national citizen must wish to see an effective instrument of coercion, and should fear to see it on any other element than the water. A naval force can never endanger our liberties, nor occasion bloodshed; a land force would do both." "From what I learn from the temper of my countrymen and their tenaciousness of their money," Jefferson added in a December 26, 1786, letter to the president of Yale College, Ezra Stiles, "it will be more easy to raise ships and men to fight these pirates into reason, than money to bribe them."

Jefferson's plan for an international coalition foundered on the shoals of indifference and a belief that it was cheaper to pay the tribute than fight a war. The United States's relations with the Barbary states continued to revolve around negotiations for ransom of American ships and sailors and the payment of annual tributes or gifts. Even though Secretary of State Jefferson declared to Thomas Barclay, American consul to Morocco, in a May 13, 1791, letter of instructions for a new treaty with Morocco that it is "lastly our determination to prefer war in all cases to tribute under any form, and to any people whatever," the United States continued to negotiate for cash settlements. In 1795 alone the United States was forced to pay nearly a million dollars in cash, naval stores, and a frigate to ransom 115 sailors from the dey of Algiers. Annual gifts were settled by treaty on Algiers, Morocco, Tunis, and Tripoli.

When Jefferson became president in 1801 he refused to accede to Tripoli's demands for an immediate payment of $225,000 and an annual payment of $25,000. The pasha of Tripoli then declared war on the United States. Although as secretary of state and vice president he had opposed developing an American navy capable of anything more than coastal defense, President Jefferson dispatched a squadron of naval vessels to the Mediterranean. As he declared in his first annual message to Congress: "To this state of general peace with which we have been blessed, one only exception exists. Tripoli, the least considerable of the Barbary States, had come forward with demands unfounded either in right or in compact, and had permitted itself to denounce war, on our failure to comply before a given day. The style of the demand admitted but one answer. I sent a small squadron of frigates into the Mediterranean. . . ."

The American show of force quickly awed Tunis and Algiers into breaking their alliance with Tripoli. The humiliating loss of the frigate Philadelphia and the capture of her captain and crew in Tripoli in 1803, criticism from his political opponents, and even opposition within his own cabinet did not deter Jefferson from his chosen course during four years of war. The aggressive action of Commodore Edward Preble (1803-4) forced Morocco out of the fight and his five bombardments of Tripoli restored some order to the Mediterranean. However, it was not until 1805, when an American fleet under Commodore John Rogers and a land force raised by an American naval agent to the Barbary powers, Captain William Eaton, threatened to capture Tripoli and install the brother of Tripoli's pasha on the throne, that a treaty brought an end to the hostilities. Negotiated by Tobias Lear, former secretary to President Washington and now consul general in Algiers, the treaty of 1805 still required the United States to pay a ransom of $60,000 for each of the sailors held by the dey of Algiers, and so it went without Senatorial consent until April 1806. Nevertheless, Jefferson was able to report in his sixth annual message to Congress in December 1806 that in addition to the successful completion of the Lewis and Clark expedition, "The states on the coast of Barbary seem generally disposed at present to respect our peace and friendship."

In fact, it was not until the second war with Algiers, in 1815, that naval victories by Commodores William Bainbridge and Stephen Decatur led to treaties ending all tribute payments by the United States. European nations continued annual payments until the 1830s. However, international piracy in Atlantic and Mediterranean waters declined during this time under pressure from the Euro-American nations, who no longer viewed pirate states as mere annoyances during peacetime and potential allies during war.

For anyone interested in the further pursuit of information about America's first unconventional, international war in the primary sources, the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress holds manuscript collections of many of the American participants, including Thomas Jefferson, George Washington (see the George Washington Papers), William Short, Edward Preble, Thomas Barclay, James Madison, James Simpson, James Leander Cathcart, William Bainbridge, James Barron, John Rodgers, Ralph Izard, and Albert Gallatin.