Thursday, March 16, 2006

A nightingale choked in Berkely Square

"Who's there?" I called sharply.

I turned and looked across the room. The window had been widely opened when I entered, and a faint fog haze hung in the apartment, seeming to veil the light of the shaded lamp. I watched the closed door intently, expecting every moment to see the knob turn. But nothing happened.

"Who's there?" I cried again, and, crossing the room, I threw open the door.

The long corridor without, lighted only by one inhospitable lamp at a remote end, showed choked and yellowed with this same fog so characteristic of London in November. But nothing moved to right nor left of me. The New Louvre Hotel was in some respects yet incomplete, and the long passage in which I stood, despite its marble facings, had no air of comfort or good cheer; palatial it was, but inhospitable.

I returned to the room, reclosing the door behind me, then for some five minutes or more I stood listening for a repetition of that mysterious sound, as of something that both dragged and tapped, which already had arrested my attention. My vigilance went unrewarded. I had closed the window to exclude the yellow mist, but subconsciously I was aware of its encircling presence, walling me in, and now I found myself in such a silence as I had known in deserts but could scarce have deemed possible in fog-bound London, in the heart of the world's metropolis, with the traffic of the Strand below me upon one side and the restless life of the river upon the other.

The mysterious, swirling London fog was an essential staple of pulp fiction without which much of the aura of foreboding would have been impossible. In an era when people are accustomed to imagining a cleaner environmental past, it's a shock to realize those fogs really did exist -- and not simply in fiction.

For hundreds of years, the mists and fogs of Britain's major cities were all too often polluted and noxious, with London especially badly affected. ... The smoke-laden fog that shrouded the capital from Friday 5 December to Tuesday 9 December 1952 brought premature death to thousands and inconvenience to millions. An estimated 4,000 people died because of it, and cattle at Smithfield, were, the press reported, asphyxiated. Road, rail and air transport were almost brought to a standstill and a performance at the Sadler's Wells Theatre had to be suspended when fog in the auditorium made conditions intolerable for the audience and performers.

The estimate of 4,000 human deaths is derived from the spike in mortality that occured in that period as the pollution-laden fog smothered the old and infirm. Note how the graph of deaths takes off from the fifth of December.

National Public Radio carries a contemporaneous account of what it was like to be in London that December in 1952.

Roads were littered with abandoned cars. Midday concerts were cancelled due to total darkness. Archivists at the British Museum found smog lurking in the book stacks. Cattle in the city's Smithfield market were killed and thrown away before they could be slaughtered and sold -- their lungs were black. On the second day of the smog, Saturday, Dec. 6, 500 people died in London. When the ambulances stopped running, thousands of gasping Londoners walked through the smog to the city's hospitals. The lips of the dying were blue. Heavy smoking and chronic exposure to pollution had already weakened the lungs of those who fell ill during the smog. Particulates and acids in the killer brew finished the job by triggering massive inflammations. In essence, the dead had suffocated.


Blogger Karridine said...

I was there in London in 1958-9, when there were some TRULY GROSS, yellow, green fogs so thick my parents wouldn't let me out of the house except with a kerchief over my mouth... raucous 11-year-old that I was...

And after 5 minutes of just barely being able to see my hand at the end of my arm, I came back in, and the kerchief had a huge, greenish-black blob where my mouth had been inhaling that schlup...

Old ones died THEN, too...

3/16/2006 05:54:00 AM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

I grew up in LA with a commanding view of the blanket of smog obscuring the city view. Decades later the landscape was slowly revealed as smog levels have plummeted even while the population has swelled. Breath taking sunsets of unworldly colors, purple and crimson are a thing of the past. Technology, though weighted towards entropy can be tamed in some respects and the diminishing smog of the LA basin stands as a testament to the success of societal forces in combating pollution.

I spent several weeks in Mexico City and can attest that the smog in that city would appear to drip out of the exhaust systems of the copious and fastidiously decrepit vehicles belonging to the common folk. No doubt that the answer there is a rise in wealth and the societal expectation of a cleaner modernity. Mexico has really strong government propaganda promoting health on all of its media outlets.

I wonder if London hasn’t managed to cope with the pollution problems of the past. I’m sure it has.

As far as China is concerned, they successfully negotiated additional Kyoto greenhouse limits in order to take into account their recent industrial revolution. It would appear that the third world must transition through a ‘dirty’ phase of industrial development before they can establish a foothold on cleaner technology. While watching US production and jobs migrate to Southeast Asia I argued that the US was losing good paying jobs. Others argued that the lower labor rates would benefit all but I couldn’t grasp the concept; If automobile and IC production lines were mostly automated what competitive advantage could offshore companies offer if not cheaper electricity? It turns out they had the right financial markets and the right business plan for meeting the needs of the expanding high tech bubble.

But if the smoke of the industrial Northeast would come to rest in Canada, the smog of Mexico somewhere in Europe, the factories of China eventually lay their burden on the heartland of the US. To this extent we are all passengers on spaceship earth.

While converting our economies from industrial to high-tech to a service sector dominated by hairdressers and phone sanitizers, we must bear this in mind, that as the immutable second law of thermal dynamics states, pollution can not be made nor destroyed, it can only change form.

3/16/2006 06:08:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

You are right about the LA basin, am.

In the late '70's the brown blanket that covered LA was really something. Daily smog alerts and and prayers for a santanna wind.

Recent trips to LA are much more pleasent due to the improved air quality.

As to the thermal dynamics, coal or oil in the ground, in it's natural state, is not pollution. It does not become pollution until man does something with it.

Except, perhaps, at La Brea or other tar pits around the world.

3/16/2006 07:12:00 AM  
Blogger Charles Martel said...

I can well remember the polution here in the midwest in the 50's. A pall of polution hung over the city. Today, in that same city - no visible polution whatsoever.

By the mid 70's most of the polution had been cleaned up. And the air continues to grow cleaner.

I had a friend in college. Your typical leftist wingnut. I asked him if it cost 50% of the gross national product to clean up the air an additional 1% and if there was no proof that that additional 1% would demonstrably improve life expectancy or quality of life would he be willing to make the expenditure.

He answered as all leftists must in the affirmative. That being said, I am glad that our polution problems are largely behind us save in the fetid imaginationsof the callow leftists among us.

3/16/2006 07:44:00 AM  
Blogger Evan said...

The relation between pollution and prosperity has historically been sort of U-shaped. Very poor countries, with no cars or factories, have little pollution. Countries in the early stage of industrialization have a lot, but at some point get rich enough to want to "buy" a cleaner environment at the cost of less growth. Often a single episode, like the London fog, spurs this transformation. Japan had their Minamata mercury disaster in the 1960s, for example.

Some research suggests that the backside of this U-shaped curve is getting shorter, because rapidly growing countries like China adopt state-of-the-art technology in their factories, which is much cleaner than the dilapidated facilities built under Communism. Admittedly, the increased number of cars associated with prosperity works in the opposite direction, but old dirty cars are also taken off the road.

A study a few years back actually showed that the air in Sao Paolo, Mexico City and Beijing was cleaner in the late 1990s than in the early 1980s.

3/16/2006 08:13:00 AM  
Blogger Tony said...

Ganzo azul beat me to it, I've read recently that China's emissions increased nine-fold over the past ten years. Proving the Kyoto Treaty, so beloved of liberals because it would humble America, was a silly joke. No wonder the Senate voted UNANIMOUSLY to reject it when Clinton threw it up as a political grenade.

There is hope - China's growth will be built on 21st century technology, so perhaps the horrors of London and LA won't propagate again. We'll see.

Meanwhile, off-topic:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- U.S. forces, joined by Iraqi troops, on Thursday launched the largest air assault since the U.S.-led invasion, targeting insurgent strongholds north of the capital, the military said.

3/16/2006 09:22:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3/16/2006 09:57:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

that, whit, is the deal.

There is little "realpolitik" in their game, anymore.

This seems the consensus of those covering the Negotiations between EU3 and Iran.

If the US is the most powerful player in the ME, today, the Iranians are either looking for some type of Regional parity or allah.

3/16/2006 09:59:00 AM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

Wonder if Sadr's militia is the target of Operation Swarm. The fight is in or near Samarra. Doubtful any AQ types would hang around long enough to face US air support.

3/16/2006 10:14:00 AM  
Blogger Jrod said...

Annoy Mouse--
you bring back memories. I grew up in the mountians that ring the LA basin and was continually amazed at the sea of brown below--and thankful I was looking down at it rather than through it. Remember stage 3 smog alerts? It was officially hazardous to your health to breathe the air outside. Classes cancelled like a perverse snow day. Fast forward to today--when's the last time there was any sort of smog alert let alone a stage 3? Many, many years I'd guess. This despite the X% rise in population and autos on the road. I beieve it is a rare example of technology and good government policy working together to solve an urgent problem. Now if LA could only do something about scandalous quality of the ocean water following every winter storm... I am optimistic we'll look back in 10 years with the same nostalgia towards water pollution as we do now towards air pollution.

3/16/2006 10:15:00 AM  
Blogger desert rat said...

"... In "The Force of Reason", the controversial Italian journalist and novelist Oriana Fallaci illuminates one of the central enigmas of our time. How did Europe become home to an estimated 20 million Muslims in a mere three decades?

How did Islam go from being a virtual non-factor to a religion that threatens the preeminence of Christianity on the Continent? How could the most popular name for a baby boy in Brussels possibly be Mohammed? Can it really be true that Muslims plan to build a mosque in London that will hold 40,000 people? That Dutch cities like Amsterdam and Rotterdam are close to having Muslim majorities? How was Europe, which was saved by the U.S. in world wars I and II, and whose Muslim Bosnians were rescued by the U.S. as recently as 1999, transformed into a place in which, as Fallaci puts it, “if I hate Americans I go to Heaven and if I hate Muslims I go to Hell?” ... "

" ... As when, in 1972, she interviewed the Palestinian terrorist George Habash, who told her (while a bodyguard aimed a submachine gun at her head) that the Palestinian problem was about far more than Israel. The Arab goal, Habash declared, was to wage war “against Europe and America” and to ensure that henceforth “there would be no peace for the West.” The Arabs, he informed her, would “advance step by step. Millimeter by millimeter. Year after year. Decade after decade. Determined, stubborn, patient. This is our strategy. A strategy that we shall expand throughout the whole planet.” ... "

"... “In 1974 [Algerian President] Boumedienne, the man who ousted Ben Bella three years after Algerian independence, spoke before the General Assembly of the United Nations. And without circumlocutions he said: ‘One day millions of men will leave the southern hemisphere of this planet to burst into the northern one. But not as friends. Because they will burst in to conquer, and they will conquer by populating it with their children. Victory will come to us from the wombs of our women.’ ” ... "

LA Weekly bookreview

Oriana Fallaci asks: Is Muslim immigration to Europe a conspiracy?

3/16/2006 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger Shannon Love said...

I think it important to remember that as air pollution grew over the course of the industrial revolution, so did overall health and life expectancy. Air pollution turned out to be a relatively minor trade off compared to the immense health benefits of that "dirty" industrialization provided.

We see the same pattern in the developed world. The health gains made possible by the material wealth created by polluting technologies easily offsets the health problems caused by pollution.

3/16/2006 11:04:00 AM  
Blogger buddy larsen said...

The Environmental Protection Agency offers a 'plain English' run-through of the Clean Air Act:

Rat, can the conspiracy be the Koran?

3/16/2006 11:21:00 AM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

I live in San Diego now and due to the …. Incompetence of the water department am extremely pessimistic of the future of water quality here. After each and every rain storm in San Diego the sewers overflowed in to the runoff to the ocean. We have enclosed bays and there are few surfers or in-the-water enthusiasts who will dare taking the plunge a week after a moderate rain. Those who do almost invariably get violently ill. The water department just publishes the mundane missive that goes something like this…”Duh, whoops! These are the same clowns that tried to sell the city on the toilet to tap program. Don’t ask.

On a lighter note, an old dope smoking surfer nearly became the mayor here on the water quality issue so there is hope, in that the public will is strong.

3/16/2006 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger buddy larsen said...

AQ chatter at pre-911 levels (ht instap).

3/16/2006 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

I think it is the core of the ideology.
Moderate or extreme.
All that is different is the timeline.
I think there is are active Iranian/ Jihadists networks within those 20 million immigrants in Europe. I believe that the Francofada was a test run of the System.

On a related note
Check out this VDH piece, buddy, "A Ports Postmortem".

" ... To understand the fiasco, we must allot blame to almost everyone involved. A Republican administration -- almost daily accused of talking down to "the people" -- somehow feels no need to reveal how its own familiar world of transnational corporations works. Much less does anyone up on Olympus explain to us mere mortals below why our long-term strategic interests would remain safe with ports owned by Dubai's government.

The result of still more of this Harriet-Meyers "trust me" approach is that the ports deal is pilloried as near traitorous by prairie-fire conservative talk radio, blogs and cable news. The administration apparently never thought that the hyped caricature of Arabs guiding cranes on our docks was going to provide good fodder. ... "

" ... The American public was supposedly outraged that an Arab country would oversee the operation of its major ports. Yet did we have a clue that a Chinese company took over operation of Panama Canal ports during the Clinton administration? Do most realize that the People's Republic has amassed such a pile of U.S. dollars that it soon will control the very financial solvency of the United States?

If we are truly worried about autonomy, consider that our entire southern border with Mexico is nearly wide open. Or that former politicians like Vin Weber and Bob Dole (who also has a wife in the Senate) get richer thanks to their connections to Gulf State sheikdoms.

For a country that is addicted to imported petroleum, hooked on cheap imported goods, and eager for illegal alien labor, and which has hundreds of military bases abroad, it is a little late to worry about dangerous foreign ganglia. ... "

Does this type writing put VDH in Patrick Buchanan's camp, also?
I doubt VDH is a Buchanan man, any more than I am'
But when reality stares US in the face, we acknowledge it.
Some more elequently than others.

Mr Bush and his team have to fight the Propaganda War, as Mr morris wrote recently, whether it's enjoyable to them, or not.

3/16/2006 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

As regard what I've read and seen reported, the Assualt in Sammarra was a large scale morale boosting training mission against light resistence.

The occupents of the Blackhawks were mostly Iraqi. The 50 aircraft, mostly Blackhawks.

Acopolayse Now, Death from Above.

Blooded troopers of an Air Assualt. Esprit de Corps, my friends, Army's are built around it and sustained by it.

Independent of Political stalemate, the ISF takes action to secure the Republic.

Our kind of guys.

3/16/2006 12:18:00 PM  
Blogger buddy larsen said...

Strong horse flying.

Rat, good stuff as usual from VDH--I'd argue a fine point or two. Your post should include the lead-in, tho, as the edit is confusing as to his take on the Ports deal:

"Rarely has reason been so routed by pure emotion. Dubai is a Westernizing state that long ago left the 8th century and accepts the modern world of globalized commerce and finance. This member of the United Arab Emirates has -- especially after Sept. 11 -- passed on intelligence, hosted our fleet and provided a foothold in the Gulf near Iraq and Iran." ...and:

"Yet if we are going to win this war against radical Islam, it will be through drawing the Arab world into the global system of Western jurisprudence, politics and business. The perceived defamation of a proven Arab consortium only hurts our cause."

3/16/2006 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger buddy larsen said...

sho nuff a tightrope--drawing 'em in with western systems while knocking their heads militarily. The two themes are either opposite are reinforcing, depending on whether they think we're sticking.

3/16/2006 12:44:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Hey Buddy,

Thanks for adding more VDH context, that's very helpful. While I agree that this Administration has an unprecedented requirement to "sell" everything to the American public and they fell down on that job, this was a major mistake to cut out an ally. Having Senator Voldemort of NY harping that we were turning over our sovereignity to Arabs - that was disgusting and should have been thoroughly denounced, but the only Conservative mouthpiece not aping her comments was Rush, and he got Katrina-ed, too.

I couldn't believe I heard Fred Barnes on Faux News (as our lib brothers call it) last night saying Katrina was a disaster. If the largest, fastest rescue in a American history is a failure .... Ah, wait, it was the PR job that was the disaster. Sad sad sad.

Comparing this the Clinton White House bought and sold by Chicomm money, ahhh, the mind boggles. This BDS is making the entire country sick, not just those infected.

Desert - I like your interpretation of Operation Swarm, just blooding the troops, eh? Charlie don't surf! The Muj got no Airborne!

3/16/2006 12:47:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...


How many times did we take and abandon Khe Sanh and all those other firebases in Indian Country?

3/16/2006 01:13:00 PM  
Blogger Starling said...

Charles Martel said..."I had a friend in college. Your typical leftist wingnut. I asked him if it cost 50% of the gross national product to clean up the air an additional 1% and if there was no proof that that additional 1% would demonstrably improve life expectancy or quality of life would he be willing to make the expenditure. He answered as all leftists must in the affirmative."

Charles, here's a post of mine written in January entitled The Dirty Half Dozen
that indicates many environmentalists still use the same kind of "logic" as they advocate for reduced emissions of green house gases.

Now, in addition to answering in the affirmative, it would seem that positive acts of obeisance to the omnipotent and omniscient Japanese goddess, Kyoto, are also a must.

3/16/2006 01:16:00 PM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

Even if the resistance is light (an unknown at the moment) that the Iraqi army can mount a combined arms air assualt is encouraging to impressive. Less so if all the Blackhawk pilots were not Iraqi but a clear sign nonetheless that the Iraqi army is capable of taking on insurgent strongholds wherever located.

3/16/2006 01:33:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

Load 'em up, move 'em out.

The first helio incursion is always a heart pounding excercise.
Whether under fire or not.

yes, pb, the ISF can mount missions, if we get 'em the logistics.
Trucks & Helios.
They already have their 80 or so T-72's, with more in the salvage yards.
The Federal Republic of Iraq is that Security Force, just as Lee's Army was the Confederacy.

It did not shatter into warring factions and the troops did not desert, during the Golden Mosque crisis. All good things.

If tou'd ever trained real troops, pb, you'd know how important a successful first mission is in the completed training cycle.

Iraq has a proven air assualt shock troop capability, now.

Good for them
better for US

3/16/2006 01:56:00 PM  
Blogger Jrod said...

Yes, I lived in SD once upon a time as well. You haven't surfed until you've battled a turd for a wave, literally. ;-)

3/16/2006 02:05:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

there ya go, trish, dashing my feel good moment, with a dose of reality.

3/16/2006 02:42:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

As far as the Samarra operation is concerned the key word is joint operations and the ability to do so is called interoperability. The Amies do this the Brits do that, the Frogs watch, and the Iraqis call in air cover. Beautiful ain't it?

3/16/2006 03:19:00 PM  
Blogger desert rat said...

I'd drop the NorKs down the list, put the Pakis in #2, the Sauds in at #3.

But if the fact that the Sauds paid for the Paki Nuclear program is considered, those two, combined would be the biggest threat.
Wahabbists with Nukes, that's a greater threat than Iran wanting nukes.

The Sauds, though, are rational, as is the General President.

On a conventional level the threat of War with Iran looms largest.

3/16/2006 03:21:00 PM  
Blogger PeterBoston said...

Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] announces successful completion of the maiden flight of the first Polish F-16 aircraft.

Wonder if they'll be ready for the Teheran Jamboree?

3/16/2006 04:06:00 PM  
Blogger Annoy Mouse said...

Thanks for the info. and thanks in particular for not pulling a doug and giving us the lo-down on the Polish F-16. It was such an easy target and your forebearance is appreciated.

In all seriousness, the F-16 using either the NG Litening Targeting Pod or the LM Sniper XR is an unsurpassed whoop-@ss machine for practical Close Air Support. The Poles have been a capable ally and I know many Americans that are proud to serve with them.

3/16/2006 05:38:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...


Who Moved My Cheese, says Osama.

Our allies like the Israelis and Japanese have vastly upgraded our most advanced technologies, like the Patriot and F-15, and their attendant cutting edge technologies.

Our American military-industrial-complex capitalist technologists have simultaneously deployed robot air assault weapons. The many Predators we have heard about, the Global Hawk that chalked up 4,200 combat hours. I imagine the list goes on, out of our sight.

Anybody know of any human pilot or even squadron of pilots who have put 4,200 combat hours in their log books? In one year? Even Baa-baa Black Sheep?

The Act of War is tilting rapidly, precipitously against America's enemies. Like the Viets, they now seek to fight while holding on to our belt buckle.

Global Hawk keeps them off us, not as far off as Minuteman might keep them off us, but they are increasingly suffering the fate of declared enemies of America / Oz / Britain, the Anglosphere.

Who moved Al Qaeda's cheese?

We did.

3/16/2006 06:57:00 PM  

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