Thursday, January 27, 2011

The silver lining of slaughter

You probably think that the Mongol slashing their way through Europe and Asia were a bad thing. Over the course of two centuries they destroyed civilizations and sacked numerous cities. They were also known being astonishingly cruel; when they captured the capital of Persia they murdered all of its inhabitants, even killing the dogs and cats in the streets. Estimates vary, but they killed tens, if not hundreds, of millions of people.

Can any good be wrung from such misery and suffering?

Well, perhaps that depends where your priorities lay -- people or carbon. How Genghis Khan cooled the planet discusses a Carnegie study by Julia Pongratz and Ken Caldeira that examined large scale historical disasters, the Black Death and the like, and estimated their effect on carbon production. From the post:
"It's a common misconception that the human impact on climate began with the large-scale burning of coal and oil in the industrial era," says Pongratz, lead author of the study in a press release. "Actually, humans started to influence the environment thousands of years ago by changing the vegetation cover of the Earth‘s landscapes when we cleared forests for agriculture."

The answer to how this happened can be told in one word: reforestation. When the Mongol hordes invaded Asia, the Middle East, and Europe they left behind a massive body count, depopulating many regions. With less people, large swathes of cultivated fields eventually returned to forests, absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. 

Seems all a bit cold-blooded to me and I suspect their estimates are conveniently aimed guesses, but to be fair to Julia Pongratz and Ken Caldeira I haven't read their original paper, only this brief report on it, so I have no idea how sensationalized the article has painted their findings. Still, I wonder if they tried to match the Mongol Hordes' rampages with the actually historical temperature? I imagine they are trying to tie the Medieval Warming period to Genghis and his heirs, but it isn't clear from the part quoted.

At any rate, I'll leave you with John Wayne's portrayal of the newly anointed Mongol Eco Hero and Interpetive Dance enthusiast.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I speak English not Newspeak

Tuesday, during a discussion of the Chicago Mayoral election a guest said something about Rahm Emanuel being in the crosshairs of his opponents.

CNN's John King, in a fit of new found Civility Posturing pompously said, "We were just having a discussion about the Chicago mayoral race my friend Andy Shaw…used the term 'in the crosshairs' in talking about the candidates out there. We're trying, we're trying to get away from that language. Andy is a good friend, he's covered politics for a long time, but we're trying to get away from using that kind of language.  We won't always be perfect, so hold us accountable when we don't meet your standards." (source: Washington Examiner)

No, we are not trying to get away from 'that language'. 'That language' is English and we all understand what the common expression crosshairs means in the context it was given.

Further, you can take your smarmy apology, fold it up and stick it where the sun don't shine (that's also just an expression Mr. King, but if you literally follow my suggestion that's OK by me). The real reason you're trying to vilify commonly used and widely understood expressions is because you lot made fools out of yourselves with hair-brained, and faintly slanderous, political theories while trying to hang a lunatic's action on your political opponents.

Mr. King, I speak English and I'll be damned if I'm going to vilify a common expression to provide the likes of you a smoke screen for your stupidity and pettiness. If you really want to be civil, man up and apologize -- otherwise bugger off and take your nonsense elsewhere.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Narrow Footprints

Necessity is the mother of invention. Space is at such a premium in Japan that they'll build extremely narrow buildings to fit into rectangular slices of lots. Although the spaces are long and thin, they can still be ergonomically designed so as not to be confining. At least that's what they claim, some of them look sufficating to me.

Above are some examples, with more at the Web Urbanist's post Narrower Towers: 20 of Japan's Thinnest Buildings

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Stratfor and bomber nose art

This Stratfor article concerns the seemingly never ending Moslem outrage over the Mohamed cartoons. They were published 5 years ago and plots against the cartoonists still surface like clockwork.

This intimidation is an attempt to enforce their religious sensibilities over our notion of free speech. I'll take free speech, but unfortunately our betters in the media didn't have the sense to tell the lot of them to bugger off and plaster the cartoons all over the place.

At any rate the babe that came to mind when I read the article were the pinup girls of WWII bomber nose art. The article Military Aircraft Nose Art: An American Tradition has this to say about nose art on planes deployed for the First Gulf War:
During the Gulf War, sexually provocative art was removed before an aircraft was deployed to Saudi Arabia to avoid offending inhabitants of the area. Bikinis were painted over to became long black dresses. After the war, artists restored the images to their original state upon the request of the crews and pilots (Walker, More, p. 34).
After the Gulf War and after the wave of negative public opinion, the military ruled against portraying women on aircraft. Nose art was removed from all 319th Wing and 384th aircraft in 1992. On the "Queen of Hearts," the name remains without an image.
Bah Humbug.  I guess cartoons just can't catch a break in this day and age.


By Scott Stewart, January 6, 2011

When one considers all of the people and places in the West targeted by transnational jihadists over the past few years, iconic targets such as New York's Times Square, the London Metro and the Eiffel Tower come to mind. There are also certain target sets such as airlines and subways that jihadists focus on more than others. Upon careful reflection, however, it is hard to find any target set that has been more of a magnet for transnational jihadist ire over the past year than the small group of cartoonists and newspapers involved in the Mohammed cartoon controversy.

Every year STRATFOR publishes a forecast of the jihadist movement for the coming year. As we were working on that project for this year, we were struck by the number of plots in 2010 that involved the cartoon controversy -- and by the number of those plots that had transnational dimensions, rather than plots that involved only local grassroots operatives. (The 2011 jihadist forecast will be available to STRATFOR members in the coming weeks.)

Groups such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) have gone to great lengths to keep the topic of the Mohammed cartoons burning in the consciousness of radical Islamists, whether they are lone wolves or part of an organized jihadist group, and those efforts are obviously bearing fruit. Because of this, we anticipate that plots against cartoon-related targets will continue into the foreseeable future.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Joe Biden to the rescue

On New Year's Eve the Los.Angeles Times posted the article Biden is a linchpin of Obama's presidency. As you can probably guess from its headline,  the article is a massive hoot. Yeesh, talk about the pitfalls of a slow news day.

Below are a couple of excerpts to give a taste of it, although I recommend reading the entire thing to appreciate the depth of Biden ass-kissery and/or pundit nincompoopery (take your pick) it displays.
Yet with a new political order in Washington, the success of Obama's presidency hinges more and more on the negotiating skills and political instincts of his No. 2.

Facing a revived Republican Party, the White House is expected to increasingly deploy Biden as a presidential surrogate to find compromises and coax reluctant lawmakers into crossing party lines. Even Biden's penchant for veering off message is being reevaluated inside the White House as a bridge to ordinary voters who appreciate blunt talk.

Who can argue with that? I imagine that he likely does have the 'Ordinary Voter Who Appreciates Blithering Idiocy' demographic tied up for Obama.
Inside the White House, aides have developed a special Biden rule. Rather than squirm over the latest Biden gaffe, the administration treats it as plainspoken candor that may appeal to a portion of the electorate that is unmoved by Obama's disciplined, explanatory rhetoric.

"The rest of the White House is coming around to the idea that sometimes what the vice president says that's off message is just a really blunt and colorful way of expressing a truth, and they should embrace that," said an administration official who requested anonymity to speak more candidly about the matter.

Plainspoken candor? Well, that's one way of spinning FDR giving his televised fireside chats.