Friday, June 24, 2005

Really interesting and a big problem with a lot at stake:

Spotting Bushmanders

by Mark Monmonier (academic page) (personal page), author of Bushmanders and Bullwinkles: How Politicians Manipulate Electronic Maps and Census Data to Win Elections

Remember that this book was published in 2001, before the Bush Administration really got going.

Congrats again, Michael Strong! Posted by Hello

Congrats to Michael Strong who graduated from George Washington University this spring-- I've only just got the photos and the wherewithal to post them.  Posted by Hello

Thursday, June 23, 2005

I've been having a great time going through a website called Footnotes to History, a collection of short descriptions of failed attempts to set up independent states (countries) around the world. Some of these little vignettes are fascinating and some of these are really funny. I encourage you to look through the whole webpage but I wanted to put the best ones up here for people to read:

Free District of Lake Michigan In 1886, a Chicago businessman named Cap Streeter built a steamboat. On its first voyage, the boat was grounded on a sandbar just off Chicago's municipal dump on the Lake Michigan coast. Sensing an opportunity to make the most of his loss, Streeter built a causeway to shore and underbid the dump. Soon, Streeter's sandbar had multiplied to 180 acres, and he filed for squatter's rights as a Civil War veteran. He soon opened up business selling alcohol, which was strictly regulated by Illinois law. In 1893, the Columbian Exposition created a boom along the Chicago waterfront. The wealthy landowners began to see Streeter as a threat instead of a nuisance, and hired street thugs to expel him. However, Streeter had hired a force of his own, and fought off the invaders.

The raids continued for several months, and Streeter, exasperated, declared himself independent of Illinois. The next day, Chicago police raided the Free District. After Streeter blackmailed and fought the police into acquiescence, the landowners brought in a group of Missouri bandits. When they attacked, Streeter shot and killed their leader. He was convicted of murder, and the Free District was torn down. When he was pardoned two years later, Streeter lost a suit to regain his land. He died in 1921, owning only a hot dog stand. His island is now the "Golden Coast", the most expensive land in Chicago.

Great Republic of Rough and Ready Rough and Ready was founded near a rich seam of gold during the California Gold Rush in 1849. By 1850, the town was thriving, and over a thousand people voted in the elections of that year. The flinty miners seceded from the Union that year to protest a new ore tax. However, the Roughandreadians rejoined the United States in June of the next year, in order to become the site of a new post office. (And also to enjoy the upcoming July 4th celebrations with a guilt-free conscience)

North Dakota In 1933, William "Fighting Bill" Langer took office as Governor of North Dakota. Although he was hugely popular, he soon exhausted his support when he demanded that state employees contribute to the state Republican party. As some of these salaries were paid with federal money, he was convicted of conspiring to defraud the U.S. government in June of 1934. Langer refused to accept the verdict or to resign from office. Ole Olsen, the lieutenant governor, asked the state's Supreme Court to order Langer to resign. On July 17, 1934, the Supreme Court of North Dakota declared Olsen the legitimate governor. Langer's reaction was not what the Supreme Court expected- before the Court's order was filed on the 18th, Langer met with ten of his friends and declared North Dakota's independence. He then barricaded the governor's mansion and declared martial law. Not until the Supreme Court met personally with Langer did he relent, revoking his declaration and bringing North Dakota back into the Union.

Incredibly, Langer was later re-elected. From all accounts, he served out his second term in a much quieter fashion.

Isle of Dogs The Isle of Dogs is a small peninsula in the middle of London, formed by a bend in the River Thames. The area was historically a dumping ground for poor Londoners, who often felt they received an unfairly small allocation of resources. In 1970, a group of residents declared independence in protest, barricading the single road leading into the Isle. A Labour city councilman named Ted Johns was elected President. The protest served its purpose; extra funding was allocated, and the Republic was dissolved.

It turns out this was merely the beginning of the area's woes; in the name of urban renewal, the government turned the Isle of Dogs into Canary Wharf, burying the district's history under an abysmal pile of postmodern "architecture".

Sealand In the 1960s, one of Great Britain's more productive cottage industries was pirate radio. The painfully bland BBC and the painfully bland government of Harold Wilson took umbrage, and soon the pirate transmitters were forced underground. After one pirate station began transmitting from a ship outside the three-mile limit of the UK's waters, Roy Bates and Ronan O'Rohilly, both owners of pirate radio stations, got to thinking.

The North Sea at this time was littered with Second World War-vintage radar platforms. In 1966, Bates and O'Rohilly occupied one and called it Sealand. They began hatching moneymaking schemes ranging from not just a pirate radio station, but also a gambling resort and a corporate tax haven. As the freshly-minted nation's prospects rose, so did the tension between the diumvirs of the baseball-diamond sized empire. Bates seized the tower. In June of 1967, O'Rohilly launched an offensive, which Bates and his men repulsed with guns, Molotov cocktails, and a surplus flamethrower. Upon hearing that the Royal Marines were preparing to seize the platform, Bates declared Sealand's independence and himself Prince Roy on September 2. When a Royal Navy ship demanded that Bates abandon the platform, the Prince opened fire. On a jaunt back to the old country, Bates was arrested and brought before a British court on a number of charges related to the incident. The case was dismissed in October of 1968; the court agreed that Prince Roy's Sealand was outside of British jurisdiction.

Sealand stayed out of the news until a German businessman toured Sealand a few years later. During negotiations, the German’s hired Dutch goons kidnapped the crown prince and set him back ashore. Prince Roy rapidly got together an army, hired a helicopter, and retook the tower. Since the German had accepted Sealand citizenship, Bates arrested him for treason. Over the next seven weeks, the German government repeatedly appealed to the British Foreign Office, which insisted that it had no jurisdiction. Further vindicated, Bates eventually released the German without payment of his 75,000 Deutschmark fine.

The next uproar took place during the Falkland Islands War of 1982. Argentina's initial success rapidly eroded, and the Argentines conceived of a desperate plan. They contacted Bates and asked to lease Sealand as a missile base, hoping to destroy British morale. Bates swallowed down his mercenary impulses and declined. In a completely unrelated matter, Britain extended its territorial waters to the 20 kilometer limit later that year, soon after dynamiting another tower near Sealand. Prince Roy refused to give up the ship, though. In 1999, he entered into negotiations with HavenCo to lease the entire nation. HavenCo (naturally) now plans to turn Sealand into an offshore data haven. Since the EU has already extended Sealand a certain degree of de facto recognition, it remains to be seen how these plans will develop.

Isle of the Roses In the early 1960s, engineering professor Giorgio Rosa constructed a platform eight miles offshore from the Italian city of Rimini. After a storm swamped the platform, another was erected in 1965. The 4,000 square foot platform boasted several businesses. The Italian authorities took little notice of the platform, since it was in international waters at the time, until May 1, 1968, when Rosa declared the platform an independent nation.

Two months later, the platform was illegally occupied by the Italian Navy, who then illegally removed Rosa and proceeded to illegally destroy the entire country with dynamite. The Isle of the Roses is therefore, along with Carthage and New Atlantis, one of the few nations to be utterly removed from the face of the earth by military action.

Jefferson Northern California and southern Oregon have long been dissatisfied with their respective governments. This exasperation erupted over the failure of the government to provide funding for new roads. A number of border counties sent delegates to demand better treatment at a November, 1941 meeting in Yreka, California. The local board of county supervisors, urged on by the Chamber of Commerce, allocated funds to further the cause of independence and designated Yreka the temporary capital of the State of Jefferson. On December 4, Judge John Childs was elected governor of the new state. National opinion was favorable, but fate was not; three days later, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The inhabitants of Jefferson put aside their bid for the sake of national unity. All ended well; the government built a number of roads through the area to transport timber during the war.

New Atlantis This nation was founded on an 8'x30' platform in the Caribbean by Leicester Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway's brother. The nation boasted eight citizens during its brief independence in 1964, but was utterly destroyed by fishermen who tore up the platform for the lumber.

They did not retrieve the anchor and Ford engine block which tethered New Atlantis. Undaunted, Hemingway anchored another platform christened Tierra del Mar. The U.S. State Department quickly contacted Hemingway and "actively discouraged" any claims of sovereignty, fearing Tierra del Mar could serve as a springboard for annexation of nearby islands from the Bahamas.

North Dumpling North Dumpling is a scenic island (complete with New England lighthouse) off the coast of New York. It was purchased in the 1980s by inventor Dean Kamen (the man behind the Ginger scooter hoohaw). In the late 80s, Kamen decided to build a wind turbine to generate power for the island. When the state government refused him a permit, Kamen seceded from the United States, establishing a currency with the value of pi, signing a non-aggression pact with President George Bush, and naming Ben and Jerry Joint Chiefs of Ice Cream. Kamen's position as an inventor of medical devices and major player in the state politics of New Hampshire has probably saved him from the fate of, say, Justus Township.

Hay-on-Wye In 1977, Hay-on-Wye was just another decaying British town past its prime. On April Fool's Day, local bookstore owner Richard Booth decided to declare himself King of Hay-on-Wye, both to drum up business and protest the seeming indifference of the British government to Hay's plight. The move inspired Hay to remake itself as a tourist destination, and today Hay thrives as the first of the "international book towns", with thirty bookstores (one per 65 inhabitants) and 500,000 annual visitors. King Richard still actively serves in community functions, and as the owner of a very fine bookstore.

Muscongus Island Muscongus Island is located off the shore of Maine. In 1860, the island was inadvertantly left off the state’s official maps, and the residents were therefore not allowed to vote. In retaliation, Muscongus Island declared its independence. Like many respectable residents of rural America, they enforced this by firing their rifles at any tax collectors sighted on the island. The Muscongans decided not to press the point after the Civil War began, although the declaration of independence was not formally withdrawn until 1934.

Free State of Jones According to legend, Jones County in southern Mississippi seceded from the Confederacy during the Civil War. However, no evidence exists that such an event took place. The legend appears to have some basis in fact: the nickname "Free State of Jones" was used for the county, but was used in antebellum Mississippi and referred to the paucity of slaves in Jones County. A military operation was launched by the Confederate Army against an organization calling itself the Republic of Jones in late 1863 and early 1864. The Republic of Jones (and perhaps a second group called the Jones County Confederacy) appear to have been bands of Confederate Army deserters, who took refuge in the swamps and woods of Jones County. The Natchez Courier, a pro-Union newspaper, published a story lampooning the Confederacy in 1864, involving the supposed secession of Jones County. Encouraged by oral tradition, the legend has persisted to the present day.

Embassy of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia Throughout the Cold War, the United States refused to recognize the annexation of the Baltic republics (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia) by the Soviet Union during the Second World War. Therefore, the United States maintained that the ambassadors of those nations in Washington still represented the only lawful authority in the Baltics, and that the embassies were sovereign territory controlled by the Baltic governments-in-exile. Until the Baltic republics regained their independence in 1990, the "Presidents" of all three nations resided for forty years at the still-independent embassy buildings.

Provisional Government of Kentucky In April 1861, Kentucky's government chose the better part of valor and declared that the state would be neutral in the looming Civil War. This neutrality was ended when Confederate and Federal troops entered Kentucky in September; the Confederates retreated, and the Army of the Cumberland soon established a militia and a series of military camps. The sympathies of many Kentuckians lay with the Confederacy, however, and in November of 1861, delegates met at Russellville to declare Kentucky's independence. The new Provisional Government established its capital at Bowling Green and sent representatives to the Confederate government. It soon became apparent that the Provisional Government existed on paper only, and its governor left in February of 1862 to join the Confederate Army. Thereafter (although a government-in-exile continued at Richmond) Confederate Kentucky remained only a pipe dream.

Kaifeng Jews Jewish settlements existed throughout medieval China. The settlement at Kaifeng was notable for its size and duration. Founded around the year 1000, by the 16th century the Jewish community engaged in agriculture, trade, the civil service, and the army. The Chinese were tolerant of the Jews, who began to incorporate Confucian ideas in their thought, and who were gradually assimilated to the point where they were indistinguishable from other Chinese. The community's vibrant life suffered a dramatic shock in 1810, when Kaifeng's last rabbi died. Although most of the Jewish traditions have been lost and no organized Jewish community groups exist, the descendants of the Jewish colony still fiercely identify themselves as Jewish.

Abalonia The USS Abalonia was a concrete cargo ship, constructed for the purpose of becoming an independent nation. The company which built it hoped to anchor it in rich shellfish beds on the Cortes Bank, 100 miles off the coast of San Diego, and claim jurisdiction over the area. Shortly after the Abalonia's launch in 1969, it foundered and sank, nearly killing the crew. In the wake of the Abalonia fiasco, a second company began plans to build a platform on the Cortes Bank and declare it the nation of Taluga. The US government quickly gave notice that the Cortes Bank, as part of the continental shelf, fell within its jurisdiction.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Every year at about this time, NPR does a show on good books to choose for 'summer reading.' I just finished listening to this year's edition and it has some interesting recommendations, so I thought I'd post the link here:

Summer Reading 2005: Summer Reading Picks from Critics, Listeners

And here's another fun story from NPR:

Strong Bad Walks in Footsteps of Darth, Lex, J.R.

Take a listen to this interview with the producers of on NPR's news show All Things Considered.

What do you think? Is the whole thing "smooth 'n smarmy," like Strong Bad says?

Woo Hoo! The book is finally close to coming out!

Some of you will remember that I played a central role in organizing and running the symposium Eisenhower and National Security for the 21st Century, which was co-sponsored by the Eisenhower Memorial Commission (where I work) and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces at the National Defense University and held at Fort McNair from January 26-28, 2005.

We've been working hard to get at least some of the insights developed during the symposium in book form and we're finally getting close to releasing it!

The book, Forging the Shield: Eisenhower and National Security for the 21st Century will hopefully be released in July sometime but the publisher, Imprint Publications, has just put background and purchase information up on its website. Check it out!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

And now for something completely random-- but still interesting.

The website of the Qaanaaq (Greenland) Tourist Office, billed as the world's northernmost municipality.