Posts Tagged ‘gene thorp’

Obama’s War (Wash Post)

Friday, February 20th, 2009

[Editor’s note: This full page graphic by Gene Thorp delves into the mire that Afghanistan may become for President Obama. Great mapping and visual story telling with photo and charting elements.]

Republished from The Washington Post.
Originally published Sunday 15 February 2009 in the Outlook section.
Graphic by Gene Thorp and Patterson Clark.

Iraq was George W. Bush’s war, but the conflict that now embroils both Afghanistan and Pakistan is likely to become Barack Obama’s — a war to which he may commit 30,000 more U.S. troops. Will the incoming soldiers be sucked into the “graveyard of empires,” as the British and Soviets were before them? Or could Obama’s war eventually bring peace and stability to the region? Here are some of the most important trends that will help determine the answer.

Graphic content by Peter Bergen, author of “The Osama bin Laden I Know” and senior fellow at the New America Foundation, and Katherine Tiedemann, New America Foundation program associate

View hi-res PDF of the graphic. Screenshot below.
Click screenshot for higher resolution image.

Going the Distance: The war in Afghanistan isn’t doomed. We just need to rethink the insurgency.

By Seth G. Jones Sunday, February 15, 2009; Page B01

On the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, lies the Kabre Ghora graveyard. It is believed to contain the graves of 158 British soldiers, diplomats and their families who died in the city during the Anglo-Afghan wars of 1839-1842 and 1879-1880. The name comes from the term Afghans use to describe British soldiers: “Ghora.”

The original British gravestones have disappeared except for the remnants of 10, which have been preserved and relocated to a spot against the cemetery’s southern wall. I have been to Kabre Ghora several times, but on my most recent visit, I noticed something new — a memorial honoring soldiers from the United States, Canada and Europe who have died in Afghanistan since 2001.

Afghanistan has a reputation as a graveyard of empires, based as much on lore as on reality. This reputation has contributed to a growing pessimism that U.S. and NATO forces will fare no better there than did the Soviet and British armies, or even their predecessors reaching back to Alexander the Great. The gloom was only stoked by last week’s brazen suicide attacks in Kabul on the eve of a visit by Richard Holbrooke, President Obama’s special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

But it would be irresponsible to concede defeat. Yes, the situation is serious, but it’s far from doomed. We can still turn things around if we strive for a better understanding of the Afghan insurgency and work to exploit its many weaknesses.


Less is More – Don’t Default to Shaded Relief

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

montana map gene thorp wash post

My colleague Gene Thorp has a good map in today’s Washington Post showing land ownership in Montana near Missoula. The accompanying article by Karl Vick is headlined Closed-Door Deal Could Open Land In Montana Forest Service Angers Locals With Move That May Speed Building. (The Washington Post, July 5th, 2008.)

Here are the first two graphs of the story:

MISSOULA, Mont. — The Bush administration is preparing to ease the way for the nation’s largest private landowner to convert hundreds of thousands of acres of mountain forestland to residential subdivisions.

The deal was struck behind closed doors between Mark E. Rey, the former timber lobbyist who oversees the U.S. Forest Service, and Plum Creek Timber Co., a former logging company turned real estate investment trust that is building homes. Plum Creek owns more than 8 million acres nationwide, including 1.2 million acres in the mountains of western Montana, where local officials were stunned and outraged at the deal.

And another key graph:

That same impulse drives a different kind of land deal in the area: The buyers are the Nature Conservancy and other organizations that purchase desirable private land to preserve it. Since 2000, the groups have paid Plum Creek market rates to secure 280,000 sensitive acres in Montana alone.

When drawing maps of mountainous areas cartographers often get over-excited about adding relief shading to indicate the shape and height of the terrain in question. This is often appropriate for a reference map but on other maps the relief can be simply gratuitous.

When relief shading is not needed to understand the story and it may muddy the picture by creating distracting visual noise that interferes with communicating the map’s message. Just because the cartographer knows how to create the shaded relief or has a new wiz-bang data source or software program to do so does not mean relief shading should be added to the map.

By removing the relief from this map and choosing to show the Forest Service land in a muted olive green instead of glaring green, the red and black of the private land ownership pattern is allowed first visual prominence, thus strengthening and clarifying the map’s message.

Finally, the map’s message is clearly set forth in a prominent and clear legend. The map reader knows there are two primary and 1 secondary element to examine and compare on the graphic. A context map shows where in Montana the detail is located. Other features have been added for orientation, such as the Rocky Mountains label, Glacier National Park, and the call-out pointer box for Missoula.