Satellite Past

Historic Aerials is an site I just learned about. Think a historical Google Maps. It’s a tremendous database of historical aerial photography, and potentially very useful for understanding how we got to just where we are. Post-Soviet development in the Moscow area? The growth and spread of Rio’s favelas? The fortification of borders, be they US-Mexican or Israeli-Palestinian? It’s an endlessly powerful and fascinating tool. I can’t wait to see Geoff Manaugh‘s take on it.

It’s certainly an interesting link, and it’s one I considered posting to say, Twitter. To truly understand it, though, you have to see for yourself. For example, here’s Boston’s waterfront pre-Big Dig, in 1971:

And today:

You’ll certainly find something to explore.

Via Beyond DC.

More Island Chains

Courtesy of The Globe and Mail (and via Information Dissemination) comes this infographic of the range of Chinese naval operations:

Now, if both this map and the “Island Chain Theory” of Chinese strategy are accepted as true, then perhaps China is not as far along as recently thought. China has uncontested control of neither the South China Sea nor the Luzon-Okinawa-Kiyakyushu chain. But is that slow progress the result of capabilities or intent?

The PLAN has grown more than was previously thought, but much of that growth has come from additional submarines – not the most effective offensive weapon to claim and hold territory. Still, it would not be especially difficult for China to assert themselves more unilaterally in the South China Sea especially – the other ASEAN nations have virtually no navies and little recourse to international fora to decry Chinese expansionism.

And still, while Chinese leadership seems to disdain international standards and mores, there is some respect for general global sentiment towards the country. Isolated instances of repression, jailing dissidents, and other such common phenomena in the People’s Republic barely make it to the A section of major newspapers, and usually just as a sidebar item. Most people would hardly notice unless they were looking for it.

But if a major operation were launched – like one to take and secure the Paracels and the Spratlys, and to start building on them – you can be sure the international outrage would be deafening. And that seems to be what CCP leadership hates the most. Not necessarily being lectured or talked to about human rights, but being yelled at. Regardless, the Chinese position vis-a-vis the first island chain should be seen as soft. It may look underdefended and contested, but the PLAN could easily seize key points along it in a heartbeat. For the moment, at least, there is just no need to do so.

Deep Time and the Roads More Traveled

From Lapham’s Quarterly comes a series of maps exploring ‘deep time’ in a number of different ways. They’re all worth checking out, but particularly fascinating to me is this map of “Beaten Paths.” A good portion of what’s now I-80 in the U.S. echos the former Oregon Trail. The Khyber Pass is of course of historic importance, but appears to be one of the longest-running direct east-west routes in the world. What we think is new is thousands of years old. Plus ça change

Via Isegoria.

Guns, Pizza, and Strip Clubs

So here we can see where our priorities lie. Just kidding! I’m not about to make that sweeping a statement, though it’s interesting to see where the gun strongholds are: Texas and the Midwest, stretches of Virginia, a bunch of places in the northwest, some sort of small bastion in Providence, R.I., and that massive chunk of California’s San Joaquin valley.

Does that gap in northern Georgia and South Carolina line up with the cotton belt? It looks like it might almost exactly, which would be a particularly interesting set of data to show teabaggers: black people don’t give a shit about guns.

Strippers win in Vegas (doesn’t everybody win there?) along with Atlanta, Detroit, and what must be one really happening town in northern Maine.

Via Cartophilia.