Daily Archives: June 16, 2010

The ‘small people’ remark

Mrs. TwShiloh and I had a bit of a chuckle over Svanberg’s remark that BP cares about the ‘small people’.  I’m no fan of BP (who is?) but in all fairness, this is a temptest in a tea pot.  If you watch and listen to the clip you’ll hear that he’s got a pretty thick (for a Swede) accent.  Mrs. TwShiloh had the news on in the background and as soon as Svanberg started talking her Swedar started pinging and she thought “That’s a Swede!  And he’s got a thick accent!”  And then…disaster.

So, I this really seems like a translation issue.

But who knows, maybe he just was trying to apologize to the real ‘small people‘.

Panic at the border

I don’t know what they put in the water over at BoingBoing today but they seem to be in full panic mode.

Here’s this article which tries to convince us that Mexican cartels are about to launch an armed invasion of America and crush our puny nation (ok, I exaggerate but not by much).  The article tries to make the case that events in Mexico should be considered an insurgency which is moving North.  I think that may be overstating the political intent of the cartels a bit.  I was particularly drawn to a link to this article which quotes a local sheriff as saying:

“We are outgunned, we are out manned and we don’t have the resources here locally to fight this,” said Babeu, referring to heavily-armed cartel movements three counties deep in Arizona.

The author then goes on to provide her analysis of the situation:

I’ve written at length about the debate over border violence “spillover” – the confusion over what it really entails, and whether or not it’s actually happening. The naysayers point to crime statistics, which in several major border cities show that the incidence of major crimes has gone down. El Paso is even considered the 2nd or 3rd safest city in the whole country. However, I don’t believe you can use crime statistics alone to determine whether or not border violence spillover is occurring; there is just way too much anecdotal evidence to the contrary.

I’m seeing red right now.  Let me explain why.

This author claims to be an intelligence analyst with eight years experience.  And so, this consultant and lecturer on intelligence issues, what methodology does she use to come to her conclusions?

Certainly not ‘facts’ like crime statistics.  Oh no.  Those pesky things might not prove what you want them to.  No need to identify other metrics either since they might end up biting you if they don’t go the way you want.  Better to do a Chertoff and just reference you ‘gut instinct’.  It’ll say whatever you want it to and will never be wrong.

So, let’s dig a bit deeper.  Sylvia is proud of the fact that she’s appeared (twice!) on the Bill Handel show.  Who’s Bill Handel?  He’s the sort of well balanced radio personality who:

…commented on a show about health care that the U.S. government should “euthanize old people” “sell Glendale to get rid of the Armenians.” and “get rid of the Irish and the Italians too”

Hmmm…yeah, just the sort of place for a well reasoned and thoughtful discourse, I’m sure.

This is what happens when you tailor your analysis to fit what your audience wants to hear.

Look, I’m not saying there isn’t a problem with crime and violence spilling over the border.  Maybe there is.  I’d just like to have some way of identifying it that doesn’t involve a Magic 8-ball.  If crime statistics aren’t any good (and I’d like a hypothesis as to how these cartels are able to engage in a major insurgency and conspire to make it look like crime is going down), than what data should we use?  I’d like some way to make sure this isn’t yet another attempt by a law enforcement agency to tap into the federal grant gravy train.

I also don’t mind someone having an opinion, even one opposed to mine (although why someone would do that is beyond me).  But to claim to be an intelligence analyst and then declare that your analysis won’t be bound by data is simply outrageous.  You, Ms. Longmire, are doing a disservice to the profession.

UPDATE:  After Ms. Longmire’s comments allow me to withdraw my final sentence and recommend checking out the comments in which (specifically her final comment) she gets to a point where I can generally agree.  I still think she was a bit too dismissive of data in her original post and have a few minor quibbles but I’m sure that’s more a difference based on style than substance.

Don’t pack your bags yet…

Another data point we’re in Afghanistan for awhile from Marc Ambinder.  A bid request for delivery of fuel to forces at Bagram Air Base:

This requirement is solicited in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Period of performance is 01 SEP 2011 – 31 AUG 2013.

I don’t know if it’s just me or what but over the past couple of days when talking about Afghanistan and the withdrawal of U.S. forces I’ve been struck by the repeated phrase that ‘a reduction of forces will begin in 2011′.  Let’s face it, that can mean just about anything.  I looked at the speech where Obama laid out his time table and wonder if I may have combined these two phrases in my memory:

We will remove our combat brigades from Iraq by the end of next summer, and all of our troops by the end of 2011.

But taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011.

So, there really is quite a bit of wiggle room in that Afghan commitment.

Zombie outrage!

How is it that Newsweek runs a spoof zombie apocalypse story and:

  • I don’t find out about it until it’s over and it’s no longer accessible
  • Nobody snagged a copy of it so I’m left with lame second or third hand accounts.

No wonder Newsweek is in such trouble. The first story in ages of their’s I’m actually interested in reading and they take it down.

Foiled again!

Kvick Tänkare

Scientists are examining the possibility that Polynesians, those most famous of sea travelers, made it all the way to South America.  They came to this conclusion, in part, by studying the DNA of sweet potatoes.  Sweet Potatoes on the Chilean coast are more closely related to those found in Polynesia than those descended from those brought to Europe by early explorers.

…many researchers now think it likely that Polynesians reached South America by about 1200 C.E., after the settlement of Easter Island, and several centuries before Europeans arrived around 1500 C.E.

As a side note, I picked up this story from the Science Podcast.

Never forget…the surge worked.

I just found out about Forced March Games which is developing what looks like a great little game about the 2nd Punic War.  It’s got a totally retro/board game look and feel about it and should be coming out soon.  I downloaded the demo and it’s pretty fun (although you can only play two turns on the ‘beginner’ level so you don’t get much of a feel for its long term playability).  You can, however, go through the whole tutorials so if it is something you’ll want you’ll know how to play it as soon as it comes out.

Everyone knows about the terrible destruction of habitat and animal life caused by the BP oil spill.  So, how are other states reacting?  Let’s look at New Jersey:

A three-year effort to reestablish oyster beds in the Hackensack River by a Rutgers University researcher has been derailed by a new ban on such projects by the state.

Despite pleas from researchers, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin last week issued the ban on research-related “gardening” of commercial shellfish in polluted waters to protect the state’s $790 million-a-year shellfish industry, which is centered in cleaner southern New Jersey waters.

Oysters are filter feeders and are really good at cleaning up polluted waterways (which New Jersey has in abundance) but, the nitwits in the NJ Department of Environmental Protection has decided that since Southern oyster beds are going to be devastated by BP the temptation for poachers to raid the test oyster beds (which will be contaminated and unfit for eating) will be irresistible and if someone got sick it might damage the reputation of the New Jersey shellfish industry.   So…the answer (of course) is destroy all the oyster fields.  Yeah…How about a word from some crazy, hippie do-gooders.

Our oysters are not fit for human consumption. Just like blue crabs, ribbed mussels, finfish and all manner of other crustaceans and shellfish in the harbor, our oysters live and grow in contaminated water and are the subject of consumption advisories. The DEP seems to fear that there are people out there who will find our reefs — though underwater at all times, — choose our oysters — though they are too small for human consumption, — remove them — though they are firmly affixed to immovable structures, — and then sell them to unwitting consumers. We think that danger is vanishingly unlikely.

More here.  It just makes you want to bang your head against a wall.

July 1st is going to be a great day.  Starbucks will begin offering free wi-fi at all their U.S. locations.  At that point there really is no need for me to physically go to that brick crap box where I work anymore.  Unfortunately, the man will not agree with that view and force me into my wage slavery at said crap box.

Holy moly…the German defense minister is 38 years old.  I guess I really am a slacker.  I’m 41 and still haven’t been named the head of a major national department yet.  It can’t be that hard of a job.  I mean, even I can do this well in an interview:

SPIEGEL: Minister Guttenberg, how will the German Armed Forces, the Bundeswehr, look in 10 years?

Guttenberg: Different.