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Random Link o’ the Day:

http://www.tootsie.com/history.html

Wednesday Hero

Marine Lance Cpl. Nicholas R. AndersonMarine Lance Cpl. Nicholas R. Anderson
21 years old from Sauk City, Wisconsin
1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force
March 13, 2006

Lance Cpl. Nicholas Anderson lost his life after the Humvee he was riding in rolled over as a group of Marines pursued a suspicious vehicle near Jalalabad, Afghanistan. He suffered head injuries in the crash and died as he was being transported to a hospital.

Nicholas Anderson joined the Marines in January 2005 and began a six-month tour of Afghanistan two months ago with the 3rd Marines Weapons Platoon, his father, James Anderson said.

“I just know that he died fighting for what he believed in,” he said. “He wanted to be a Marine and even though it was a major risk he just wanted to go.”

James Anderson said his son, a 2003 Sauk Prairie High School graduate, enjoyed riding his motorcycle, lifting weights, going fishing and hanging out with friends.

He joined the Wisconsin Army National Guard when he was 18, but an injured shoulder forced him to drop out. He then enlisted in the Marines.

“I was very nervous when he first joined the Marines because two words jumped into my head: Afghanistan and Iraq,” his father said. “I just supported him and prayed that it would end before he had to go over.”

These brave men and women sacrifice so much in their lives so that others may enjoy the freedoms we get to enjoy everyday. For that, I am proud to call them Hero.
We Should Not Only Mourn These Men And Women Who Died, We Should Also Thank God That Such People Lived

This post is part of the Wednesday Hero Blogroll. For more information about Wednesday Hero, or if you would like to post it on your blog, you can go here.

Wednesday Heroes are written by Indian Chris as part of a non-partisan effort to recognize the bravery of our men in uniform.

Others Participating in the Wednesday Hero effort:

Random Link o’ the Day:

http://www.camera.touchngo.com/

My Favorite Posts of the Year

Are fast approaching.

LT Michael P. Murphy

Medal of Honor Citation:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life and above and beyond the call of duty as the leader of a special reconnaissance element with Naval Special Warfare task unit Afghanistan on 27 and 28 June 2005. While leading a mission to locate a high-level anti-coalition militia leader, Lieutenant Murphy demonstrated extraordinary heroism in the face of grave danger in the vicinity of Asadabad, Konar Province, Afghanistan.

On 28 June 2005, operating in an extremely rugged enemy-controlled area, Lieutenant Murphy’s team was discovered by anti-coalition militia sympathizers, who revealed their position to Taliban fighters. As a result, between 30 and 40 enemy fighters besieged his four member team. Demonstrating exceptional resolve, Lieutenant Murphy valiantly led his men in engaging the large enemy force. The ensuing fierce firefight resulted in numerous enemy casualties, as well as the wounding of all four members of the team. Ignoring his own wounds and demonstrating exceptional composure, Lieutenant Murphy continued to lead and encourage his men. When the primary communicator fell mortally wounded, Lieutenant Murphy repeatedly attempted to call for assistance for his beleaguered teammates. Realizing the impossibility of communicating in the extreme terrain, and in the face of almost certain death, he fought his way into open terrain to gain a better position to transmit a call. This deliberate, heroic act deprived him of cover, exposing him to direct enemy fire. Finally achieving contact with his headquarters, Lieutenant Murphy maintained his exposed position while he provided his location and requested immediate support for his team. In his final act of bravery, he continued to engage the enemy until he was mortally wounded, gallantly giving his life for his country and for the cause of freedom. By his selfless leadership, Lieutenant Murphy reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

The lone survivor, Marcus Luttrell, wrote a book about the engagement.

Dumpage

Work Station Treadmill

Source II, III

Final Thoughts on the California Wildfires

The immediate and grotesque politicalization of human suffering in Southern California by certain members of Congress enraged me. I shouldn’t be shocked by the behaviour as I am a cynic and have seen it before. What gets me is how it feels as though it’s getting worse. There is no political “downtime,” when it comes to advancing policy agendas everything is on the table all the time: The death of a US Senator turns into a political rally; video of a US Soldier being killed by a sniper in Iraq is prime time for CNN; a hurricane becomes a major part of a certain Vice President’s movie.

It’s all or nothing, like a revolution (without the guns, pitchforks or Thomas Paine). People won’t even take a day off out of respect for those suffering before playing with whatever new political football has come across the TV set. The point of my previous posts dealing with the possible connections between the wildfires and global warming wasn’t to suggest an answer either way. The goal is simply to get a dialogue started, one based on evidence and reason.

Not every wrong in this world is caused by global warming. Normally natural disasters are used by atheists as proof of God’s non-existence. It is a habit which dates to at least Aquinas, who mentioned human suffering as a potential argument against the existence of God. Now, instead of human suffering being a philosophical question it has turned into political currency. The hot political topic is global warming so “naturalized” human suffering is now channeled by the shrill into any policy discussions to avoid reason and appeal to base emotions.

It’s a tactic becoming more and more common with “The Stupid Party.” My posts started with the simple question about whether global warming could have been responsible for the wildfires in SoCal. My answer, by looking at publicly available data, was it might be. Maybe not “caused” as the arsonists probably had more to do with the fires than climate change, but the data showed there were more years in SoCal in the last part of the last century with a lot of rain than there were in the first part of the last century. More rain means more vegetation and vegetation turns to fuel for wildfires. If a heavy rain year is followed by a drought year you will get more extreme wildfires.

The differences in the data were minute but they existed. If, as is theorized, climate change had made the region wetter over the last century it is completely possible the wildfires we’re seeing today were made just a little bit more intense than they otherwise would have been. Considering most people who have taken climate change as their new religion would label me a “global warming denier” it’s interesting to note that my conclusions are different than those who have actually studied the issue. They say “probably not.”

However, those scientists would mention the five fold increase in wildfires in the western United States as proof global warming is causing more wildfires and will cause more wildfires in the future. Sadly though, this is data cherry-picking. They don’t talk about the lack of any trend in Canada nor do they have good data on “worldwide” wildfires. In reality our world is dynamic, not static, and it makes sense to me that some areas will have increases in wildfires while others have decreases. There is another problem with their theory, global warming is supposed to cause more rain to fall in most areas, not less. This would make it hard for wildfires to get too out of hand. In the coming years they might get the data and that’s fine, that’s science.

And from that science a debate should be started. I think aggressive human action in removing excess vegetation would do more good more quickly for areas experiencing droughts and wildfires than carbon rationing. There are costs and benefits to any actions humans might take so a robust debate should be the goal. I might be foolish but I’d like the debate to be reasonable, civil and respectful to those who have suffered from wildfires or hurricanes or whatever else this planet brings.

I’m probably mistaken though. I doubt it will happen.

Random Link o’ the Day:

http://yourexcusedabsence.com/

Is Global Warming Causing more Wildfires?

In the previous post we looked at Southern California. While Southern Californians might feel they are the most important people in the world, some of us might wonder if there’s evidence climate change has affected wildfires overall. There really isn’t readily available data on “the world” when it comes to long term fire data so I’ll be limited to areas and countries which have good data.

The United States:

Once again there appears to be a slight upward trend which some enterprising Democratic Senator could connect to global warming. However the picture changes when we look at our northern neighbors:

No discernible trend. Global warming isn’t causing an increase in wildfires in Canada.

What about elsewhere?

Not a lot of good data but I did find this graph:

I couldn’t come to a conclusion but it looks like wildfires aren’t well correlated to increases in temperature or other aspects of climate change. If I had to venture a guess I would say the causes of wildfires are too far removed from the consequences of greenhouse gasses to be an important factor.

There is going to be a lot of data in the coming decades which will give us a clearer picture of any relationship between wildfires and climate change but until then the focus for public policy when it comes to wildfires should be on effective measures of wildfire control. Excess growth should be burned in controlled fires, people in high risk areas need to build accordingly, fire fighting capacity should be increased (much cheaper than Kyoto) and the human element: arsonists, neglectful campers, etc; should also be the focus of our actions.

The debate about climate change needs to be rational and free from exaggerations. Connecting wildfires to atmospheric carbon is simply a political move to make gains on human suffering and is not part of a healthy policy debate.

In other words, please shut up Mr. Reid.

Did Global Warming Cause the Southern California Fires?

Senator Harry Reid thinks so.

What do I think?

Maybe. But I would first ask: “How much CO2 must we remove from the atmosphere to get arsonists to stop starting fires?”

Here are the precipitation trends in the US over the past century:

And here are the historical precip trends from a weather station in Pasadena, CA:

The picture painted from these graphs is one of a wetter southern Cal. How can this be causing more fires? Well, the annual precip totals aren’t the last word of whether climate change is causing the fires in southern California. The climate in the area has a very dry period which dries out the foliage. This dry period is always really dry as we can tell from this graph:

So really, there is the possibility that the extra precip in the “wet” months is creating more fuel for fires in the dry months. So I took the month by month data and divided it up into two periods, one was before the 1930’s and should show a “baseline” level of variation in precip and the other is one after from about 1980 on and should show us if there are any anomalies in the distribution of precip between the two time periods.

The baseline:

Now the later period:

Note the scale difference along the Y-axis. While it might be difficult to see there are some differences. The later period has a few more periods of great precipitation.

Is it possible global warming has increased the risk of fire? Yeah. But the area has a climate that encourages these fires anyway. Year to year variation of precip is much greater than what climate change has caused over the past 100 years.

We also don’t see the benefit of more water availability in the area. If we could change the climate and go back to an era where there was less precipitation imagine the problems the LA Basin would have getting enough water to support the population. Water would be expensive and heavily rationed. More water almost always benefits large populations of humans (as long as it doesn’t reach “Noah” levels of wetness).

Therefore, is the good of more water greater than the bad of higher fire risks?

I don’t know the answer to that question but I would say simple social changes in how and where people build houses in these high risk areas would go a longer way towards preventing a repeat of this multi-billion dollar disaster than trying to turn the knobs of the climate. Fire-proofing houses and controlled fires to remove excess growth could do more good faster than Kyoto. It would also cost a lot less and keep the benefit of more water availability.

The debate about climate change and how to handle this “generational mission” needs to be free of such “shrillary” and blatant opportunism of human suffering. After natural disasters there needs to be leadership in doing good for the people in trouble. Scoring political points should be the last thing on anyone’s mind.

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