Thursday, May 31, 2007

Catholicgauze's Summer Reading List

Well, Catholicgauze has been tagged by an insidious internet ring which demanded my summer reading list. Well, since the thesis is a time-consuming monster I will include books I have read since March and hope to get in, somehow, by the end of the summer.

Military Geography: From Peace to War by Eugene J. Palka and Francis A. Galgano. A textbook which applies military geography to historical battles, operation preparation, base land-use, medical geography, peace time, and natural landscapes.

A Geography of Human Life by Tsunesaburo Makiguchi. A hundred year old Japanese geography textbook. Discusses how various geographic features affect humans on a personal and cultural level.

Shadowed Ground: America's Landscapes of Violence and Tragedy by Kenneth E. Foote. A study of how places of tragedy in America are either sanctified, simply marked, put back to normal use, or obliterated.

The Oregon Trail Revisited by Gregory M. Franzwa. THE travel guide for the modern day adventure along the Oregon Trail.

Killing Pablo by Mark Bowden. Taking down narco-terrorists.

Reel Baseball by Les Krantz. Short stories about Baseball before money, drugs, and steroids.

God's Continent: Christianity, Islam, and Europe's Religious Crisis by Philip Jenkins. Will Muslims or Evangelical Christians inherit Europe?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

RCTV and the Loss of Freedom

Click to see video of RCTV's sign-off

The big news in Latin America is Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez's decision to close down RCTV, an opposition television station. Protests have broken out in Caracas as Chavez had order military to shoot rubber bullets at students and use armored vehicles in an effort to end the protests and riots.

As noted before while most of the world is moving in a neoliberal and globalized direction, Latin America is moving to the hard Left. Chavez and his ilk are nationalizing businesses, scaring away investors, and repressing their own citizens. Chavez is now moving against Globovision both with laws and thugs.

Fortunately it looks like many Venezuelans are feed up with Chavez having the legislature give him dictatorial powers, rewrite the constitution, have reeducation classes, flirt with having himself be a Protestant archbishop, and basically destroy the economical network of the country. Many human rights groups worldwide have condemned the move. Hopefully some good with come out of this.

A big question is where will the international socialists stand on the issue? Will they back the values of freedom which they claim to defend, or will they support their man?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Earth Explorer

The Earth Explorer is an easy to navigate catalog of locations which are viewable via neogeographical tools like Google Earth. But what makes The Earth Explorer unique is that once one finds an interesting thing they want to examine, one can open the location with Google Earth, Google Maps, Windows Live Local, Terra Server, or NASA World Wind. On top of that each site has links to related Wikipedia articles, geotagged Flikr photos, and more.

Sites are listed by country or by subject. To add a place is easy using the wizard provided by the site.

For geographers like me who find places like the Google Earth Community Board's way too cluttered, The Earth Explorer is a welcomed relief.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day. Catholicgauze dedicates this post to all those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to keep the world's free citizens safe and liberate the oppressed.

Short History and Geography of Memorial Day

Memorial Day is an American holiday dedicated to those who have died while in the armed forces. Its equivalent is Remembrance Day on November 11th. The United States uses November 11th to honor those who survived their service to the country. Memorial Day is for the dead.

Memorial Day has its genesis from several sources. The primary one was General Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic who called for a day where all Union dead would be honored. May 30th was chosen because it was not an anniversary of a major battle. At first the day was known as "Decoration Day" because graves would be decorated.

Memorial Day slowly became more and more popular in the northern states. The South; however, was much less enthusiastic about honoring those who died brining the southern states back into the Union. Some of the states had their own Confederate Memorial Day. The tradition for this began before the end of the Civil War. War widows would gather in small groups and go around decorating the graves of the fallen soldiers. It was only until World War I when Memorial Day became a truly national holiday. Men from all over the country died in one of the shortest and bloodiest American wars.

In 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act which moved Memorial Day from May 30th to the last Monday of May. Veteran and Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) has led a decade long effort to return Memorial Day to May 30th.

Recently Memorial Day is being used to honor all dead, both military and civilian. In the South, Decoration Day is an unioffical holiday which is on the day before Memorial Day. Decoration Day is the day when dead family members are remembered.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Celestial Bodies as Art

One thing Catholicgauze loves about geography is its artistic side. While much of my studies are scientific or "soft science" like cultural work, I do love how landscapes make me feel. Being a religious man myself I feel that the landforms are the greatest art project ever. I believe God made the blank canvass and used scientific processes as his tools.

Well, enough on what Catholicgauze cannot prove and on to what has put me in such a good mood (and it is not the thesis).

NASA has several exhibits which feature beautiful satellite imagery of celestial bodies. The most extensive one is Our Earth as Art which can be browsed either by image or geographically on a map. It can even be downloaded as a Google Earth KML file.

The second on is Mars as Art. Pages of satellite and rover images show sand dunes, Valles Marinaris, polar ice caps, and much more.

Finally there is The Sun as Art. The 21 page PDF document showcases a wide range of looks at the sun both scientifically and artistically. Well worth the time to see a thingwe all take for granted in a new light.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Map of Africian Migration to Europe

The above map shows African migration by country to Europe. Many of these immigrants are pushed due to poor economic conditions and lack of political freedoms. They go to Europe because of the welfare states' need to attract workers for lower end jobs. Another factor is many Africans go to their former colonial overlords because they can speak the language. (Hat tip: Cartographie)

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Europeans of Ancient China

1,400 years ago a chief named Yu Hong lived in central China. When he died he and most likely his wife were buried in a tomb in present-day Taiyuan. A recent genetic study has revealed that Hong's genetic origins lie not in China but Europe.

The exact origin Yu Hong is unknown but ancient Europe and China were not mysteries to each other. Rome and China had distant interactions with each other. Artwork in Naples features a Roman citizen in silk. Chinese historians document several ambassadors from Rome. Arabic and Central Asian traders acted as the go between when it came to material goods. Mohammad used China as a device to represent the end of the world.

While the above can explain how goods travelled to the West from China, it does not adequately answer the question of how Yu Hong's people arrived in China. When Marco Polo was crossing the Far East he heard stories of ancient others with similar features who were buried in the in the desert west. This combined with Hong prove a very old migration.

One of the more popular explanations for this phenomenon is a lost Roman legion. This theory is now being used to attract tourists to Chinese villages with people who have European features. Many of these Chinese who have European features like to claim they are descended from the Roman soldiers who were impressed into service by the Persians.

The debate continues on their origin. Some claim they are actually Central Asians who share the M17 origin that Catholicgauze has. No firm answers yet but a interesting mystery indeed.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Geophysics of Disasters

The political blog by a geologist Dumb Looks Still Free has an interesting post entitled Geophysics for the Common Man: Fun with Disasters. The long post breaks down the geophysics of disasters and potential disasters like California's big one, New Madrid earthquake, tsunamis, and the possible kill us all volcano under Yellowstone.

A shorter post is Geophysics for the Common Man: Part 1 which details how the Mississippi River delta works.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Ben's Place of the Week

Oxford University Press' blog has a weekly featured called Ben's Place of the Week. Places featured are given a short blurb about something that makes the location unique.

Elsewhere on the blog I am following the on going feature on Stalin's gulags. This feature is fascinating and worth a checking out.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Fatah Islam's War

Video of heavy fighting in the streets of Tripoli, Lebanon

The demographic-political breakdown of Lebanon is usually understood as Shiites against Christians and Sunni. However, it is easy to forget the (Sunni) Palestinian minority. Many Palestinians are not integrated into the Sunni mainstream and are not likely to support a pro-Western government.

This is being demonstrated by the heavy fighting in Tripoli that has left over seventy people dead. The events started with a bank robbery. After police raided the suspects' home, al Qaeda-aligned Fatah al-Islam responded by attacking a nearby army post. With that a full scale battle erupted. The Lebanese army is surprising everyone with their strong efforts and willingness to fight in an urban combat setting.

The fighting is already producing results. One of the terrorists killed was wanted in Germany for a failed bomb attack. The group is well connected with al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

The War on Terrorism is a war on networks. Fatah al-Islam is a node in the al Qaeda network.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Video Map of the Civil War

Danica Bergagnini created the Civil War in Four Minutes. The map depicts political events, lines of control, and battles. I only wish it could show more of the campaigns in Texas, Indian Territory, and New Mexico Territory. But none the less it is an excellent four minute tour of the Civil War. (Hat tip: Coming Anarchy)

Global Warming Round Up

Actor/director Leonardo DiCaprio stated that he wants people to see his 11th Hour movie and "to be very scared by what they see. I [DiCaprio]want them [the audience] to see a very bleak future. I want them to feel disillusioned halfway through and feel hopeless." The movie is rumored to have even bleaker claims than Al Gore's opus An Inconvenient Truth. The main threat is DiCaprio claims we run the risk of extinction. Never mind humans surviving the Ice Age, the Archaic era, the Little Ice Age, etc.

On the other end of the debate meteorologist Augie Auer said human-caused climate change will be considered a joke in five years.

Somewhere in the middle Dr. James Wanliss seeks balance in the debate. Recognizing the possibility of human influenced climate change while pointing out the deliberate flaws in An Inconvenient "Truth."

Three sides to a complex debate with political, economic, and cultural ramifications. I place my bet closest to Wanliss.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Happy Theatrum Orbis Terrarum Day!

On May 20, 1570 Dutch geographer Abraham Ortelius printed the first modern atlas. Theatrum Orbis Terrarum or Theater of the World was a uniform collection of maps with descriptive texts for each map.

Because of the wonders of the internet you too can enjoy Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. Various yearly editions in Latin, Dutch, and German can be viewed online. Enjoy! They sure do not make atlases like this anymore!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Killing Pablo

Killing Pablo by Mark Bowden documents the rise and fall of Medellin drug cartel leader Pablo Escobar.

***Not quite spoilers, but may want to be warned none the less, ahead***

Brief Description

The book is an excellent introduction to the modern history of Colombia. It opens with the assassination of Jorge Eliecer Gaitan and the start of La Violencia. It was into this chaotic world that Pablo Escobar was born. The book discusses how Pablo Escobar started off as a simple street thug but managed to play the public relations game well. By killing members of the establishment Escobar managed to gain the sympathy of those the establishment oppressed. By giving money to charities and building facilities for the poor, Escobar managed to create a safe base of operations in the slums of Medellin. Among his supporters included the local Catholic Church which was full of Liberation Theologians. These people would love and try to protect Pablo throughout his life.

Pablo eventually became the seventh richest man in the world with all his drug earnings. He was even elected as a substitute to the Colombian Congress. It was here that the crackdown began. After a decade long escalating struggle involving mass kidnappings, assassination of presidential candidates, Delta Force, and shadow groups Pablo Escobar was killed.

Extracting Lessons

The strategists in the Iraq War and Mexico's current drug war would do well to learn from the take down from Pablo.

The Need for Strong Will - When the first noose around Pablo's neck tightened he attacked the government at its weakest point. Pablo launched a terrorist war against the people of Colombia. Popular public figures were kidnapped, some were murdered, and car bombs were detonated in Bogotá. The public decided that letting a terrorist get his way was better than the effort and cost of bringing him to justice. The government gave into public pressures. But eventually the continued actives forced the government to finally take down Pablo at a much greater cost of money and lives.

The Need for Local Support - Pablo was able to avoid the government's special commando team and the CIA search equipment. Everyone on his trail were outsiders. The Colombians were from Bogotá and the CIA from the United States. These outsiders could not penetrate the societal networks which Pablo used to shield himself, his family, and business. Then a new player arrived on the seen. Los Pepes (Perseguidos por Pablo Escobar or"People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar") was comprised of rival drug lords, victims of Pablo, and pro-government vigilantes. Los Pepes, indirectly supplied with government information on the assets of Pablo, was able to strike at Pablo's friends and family. Pablo, always a family man, was forced to divert resources to protect his family and was taken off balance by these attacks. It was here were he made his lethal mistake and was finally killed.

***End of Spoilers***

Killing Pablo is a fast and educational read on the situation of 1980s and 1990s Colombia. One can easily see the parables between the Latin American country and today's Mexico, Somalia, and Iraq.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Extrasolar Planet has Hot Ice

Thirty light-years away from us is the extrasolar planet of GJ 436 b (I guess we have run out of mythological God names for planets). The Neptune-sized planet orbits its star at 1/14 the distance of Mercury to out sun Sol. Needless to say the planets surface temperature is extremely hot.

Measurements comparing size and mass of the planet led astronomers to theorize the planet is comprised mostly of water. Because of the heat and pressure of being so close to the sun, the water on the planet would be in the form of "Hot Ice." The water is forced into a solid mass while remaining around 600 degrees Fahrenheit (300 degrees Celsius).

While the world is full of so many wonders but the universe has so much more. Whether it is study heights on the moon, geomorphology on Mars, or hot ice on extrasolar worlds: geographers can aid their fellow scientists in astronomy.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Palestinians Destroying Palestine

Israel video of a rocket being launched from the Gaza Strip

The united Hamas-Fatah government of the non-state country of Palestine is no more. So far over forty people have been killed in violence between the two groups. Yesterday Hamas commandos killed six Fatah gangsters and followed it up by ambushing their own thugs.

Meanwhile Hamas and Islamic Jihad continues to fire rockets into Israel. These groups are hoping for massive Israeli response which can create a unifying cause for Palestinians. Videos of rocket launches and Israeli school children running for cover have made the rounds on the internet and Israel. The outcry due to months of rocket attacks is pushing Prime Minister Olmert to consider military action.

An interesting geopolitical development should be noted. The Arab countries are not blaming Israel. This has been a long and slow process but the Arabs countries no longer solely blame Israel for all the Middle East's problems. They do not like or support Israel but they are slowly realizing the geopolitical truths. Since the start of the recent trouble military commanders in Egypt have decried the Hamas rocket attacks. The recent developments mirror the build up to the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War in which Arab state denounced Israel's enemy for its aggression.

There have been murmurs on Israel weighing transfer of some of the West Bank to Jordanian control and possibly handing Gaza over to Egypt. The hope is Jordan can develop the West Bank, which has potential, while Egypt can crush dissent like no other. The risk, besides losing territory which Israel has precious little of, is that Egypt is always at risk of falling into control of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Palestinian gangs have been too busy at killing each other and blaming issue. If the largest receiver of international aid per capita truly wishes to have its own state, it has to start building itself up from within. If not, it faces continued poverty and violence while losing international support.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Unrecognized Countries

Matt over at recently updated his list of countries to include the Republic of China (Taiwan). This decision led to many comments with most in favor while some were against the idea of considering the Republic of China an independent country.

The whole affair got me thinking. What are other (partially) unrecognized countries? Thanks to the magic of Wikipedia and several friendly geography text books I was able to create a list of countries which either have control of territory or are legally recognized by some other states while still remaining in limbo.

Some Recognition
  • Palestine - Palestine is one heck of a legal mess. Over one hundred countries recognize Palestine as a state. Recognition ranges from the exclusion of Israel to some recognizing both. While Palestine does not have complete control over territory it has de facto local control of the Gaza Strip. The main issue stopping Palestine from achieving complete independence is not Israel so much per se but Palestine itself. Currently Hamas and Fatah (both are the main parts of the "unity" government) are engaged in a small scale civil war over control of the Gaza Strip. This prevents any nation building on the part by Palestinians.
  • Republic of China - Only recognized by twenty-five other countries and the list is shrinking. The People's Republic of China is currently bribing other countries to which support to Beijing. While many countries do not have official ties with the Republic of China, certain businesses act as ambassadors under the table. The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office acts as the embassy to the United States.
  • Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus - Created out of Turkish controlled territory after the invasion of 1974. Only recognized by Turkey and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, which has no authority to do foreign affairs. Northern Cyprus is known for being a haven for kidnappers and smugglers. Turkey may have to drop support of Northern Cyprus if it wishes to join the European Union.
  • Western Sahara - Check a map of Africa. Does it have Western Sahara or is Morocco extended south a ways? When Spain left Spanish Sahara in the 1970s Morocco quickly moved in. The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic is recognized by forty-five states and is a member of the African Union.

No Recognition
  • Abkhazia and South Ossetia - Two states in Georgia which lack any official recognition but have the support of Russia. Both regions are populated minorities that have long been allied with Russians. In Abkhazia the Russian Orthodox Church is operating counter to the Georgian Orthodox Church in direct violation of Orthodox law.
  • Somaliland - While the rest of Somalia continues to be torn apart by an Islamist insurgency, Somaliland has been peaceful. While Somalia was occupied by Italy and poorly managed, the British instilled a well formed system of control which has managed to keep Somaliland out of the newspapers (a very good thing). Notable geographer Harm de Blij has repeatedly called for Somaliland to be recognized by the world.
  • Tamil Eelam - If you refer to this as the "Republic of Bad Asses" then you are not off the mark by much. This breakaway state from Sri Lanka is operated by the Tamil Tigers, the terrorist group which invented the suicide bomber. They have their own courts, stamp minting board, bank, and national parks system. If they are not attacking you with their air force or ethnic cleansing your village they probably are writing you a speeding ticket (they have their own traffic division).
  • Transnistria - Small break-away region from Moldova. Transnistria occupies an area about the size of my lawn. While it does not have any recognition, thousands of Russian troops are present. The troops main purpose seems to be keeping the Moldavians out. Transnistria is notable for its scary Communist-style flag.

Did Catholicgauze miss any others? Making a list is not easy. Cyprus, Israel, People's Republic of China, and Vatican City are on any real list of countries but not recognized by all governments. Subjectivity plays a big role in geopolitics.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Virtually Traveling the World with Flickrvision

It was only a matter of time. Dave Troy has created a mashup which combines Google Earth and the photo sharing site Flickr. Flickrvision searches for recently uploaded pictures and maps them real-time.

By viewing the images displayed on Flickrvision one gets a window into the geography of ordinary places. Many photos are of daily life, daily encounters, and daily places. These daily places are a rich spice which are often ignored by those who come seeking grandiose visions. Even though these places may seem ordinary to some, they are always original and new if one has never seen them before.

Because Flickr has content guidelines no one is suppose to post pornography or copyright images. I have not seen any so far but there is also a slight risk.

The Fifth Ocean? Part Two

Note: Catholicgauze is getting a head start on his thesis. I apologize for the temporary drop in quality of the posts. I hope to find the right balance between that and blogging very soon.

Following up on the investigation on the fifth ocean, the Southern Ocean, to see who recognizes it and who does not. For this post I decided to see what online mapping sites show.

Recognizes the Southern Ocean
Google Maps - has the Southern Ocean showing
The new Multimap - also has the fifth ocean

Does Not Recognize the Southern Ocean
Yahoo Maps
Local Live (or what ever the heck Microsoft calls their mapping site this week) Maps
MapQuest's World Atlas

So good job Google Maps and Multimap for keeping track not only of human geography but also physical geography!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Geolabels: Google Maps plus relief topographic maps

Geolabels is a online mapping site which is based off Google Maps. The basic purpose of Geolabels is to be an online gazetteer of cities and towns. The ability to easily search for and find names of locations world wide is nice but nothing too special. What makes Geolabels special is the ability to view the world in relief form. Google would be wise to pay attention to this new view. (Hat Tip: La Cartoteca and FreeGeo Tools)

P.S. (The relief view is sightly more detailed than Maps' and Geolabels does not have the problem of showing every thing under sea level as underwater).

Sunday, May 13, 2007

One of the Best Historical Maps I have Ever Seen

Click Image to Enlarge
Map from "New Worlds - Maps from the Age of Discovery"

"Angling in Troubled Waters" by cartographer Fred W. Rose is an excellent map from 1899 which depicts the upheaval and delicate geopolitical situation of late imperial Europe.

Each country is filled with people or events which occurred in them. Some of the countries are fishing and their "catches" are in fact colonial possessions. Notable things on the map are
  • France - The Third Republic at this time was showing its many flaws. With an easy method of removing prime ministers and presidents, radicalization of all sides, and lack of separation of powers, political fights became intense. The image depicts fighting between the civil and military spheres for control of internal politics
  • Spain - With the loss of the Spanish-American War, many Spaniards became discontent with the monarchy and leaders who oversaw the disastrous war.
  • Norway and Sweden - The union of the two kingdoms was coming apart and there were fears of violence. Thankful that was not to be.
  • Denmark - Was quiet in Europe. The main event was the birth of new members of the royal family.
  • Italy - Unified Italy is burdened by massive debt.
  • Austria-Hungary - Mourns the assassination of Empress Elisabeth by an anarchist.
  • Russia - Offering peace with an olive branch but many still fear the weapons it holds.
  • Turkey - Is stained with the genocides in Armenia and Bulgaria. Greece is pointing out its desire for Crete.
  • Belgium - Its catch of Congo is quite a prize but is also a burden.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is a great map worth?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Ten Most Dangerous Tourist Destinations

For those who thought the five most dangerous roads in the world were walks in the park, I recommend the list of the ten most dangerous tourist destinations (Hat tip: Coming Anarchy). The ranking ranges from Ultra Extreme (I hope you had last rites) to Moderate (A typical Catholicgauze Tuesday).

Included on the list are the obvious including Afghanistan and Iraq to places where tourists do visit frequently like Mexico and Thailand.

Catholicgauze has two other places to add to dangerous tourist destinations.
  • Palestine (Gaza Strip and Palestinian controlled West Bank) is an especially risky place. One has to carefully align themselves with Hamas, Fatah, or Islamic Jihad. Even then you have to worry about run ins with the local branch of al Qaeda. Choosing the wrong side can get you kidnapped faster than a BBC journalist.
  • Favelas of Sao Paulo - If the regular thugs do not kill you, the police-gang war will.
For those who are either daring or dumb enough to consider this form of extreme tourism be sure to check out Erstwhile Dangerous Places from the Independent Traveler for tips on how to survive.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Bronze Soldier of Tallinn and Geographic Politics

The Bronze Soldier of Tallinn once stood in the middle of the Estonian capital city. The monument has long been a contested idol and people's thoughts on it reveal deep geopolitical divides.

To know about the controversy of the memorial one needs to know the geography and history of Estonia. Estonia as we now know it was formed by Teutonic Knights. These knights left a Germanic imprint on a Finnic people. Throughout its history Estonia passed between many hands including the Swedes, who helped convert the people to Lutheranism, and eventually to Imperial Russia. The Russians attempted to culturally convert Estonians to be more like them but this only led to the rise of an intense period of Estonian nationalism. After the fall Imperial Russia, Estonia managed to defeat invading Soviets and ethnic Germans and obtained independence. It was not until 1940 that Stalinist Russia managed to annex Estonia.

Estonia then was quickly captured by Germany and was occupied by Nazis until 1944. Many Estonians fought with the Germans or fled rather than return to Soviet rule. Under Soviet control until 1991, tens of thousands of Estonians were killed or removed from their homeland. The country was also subject to Russification. A culture war was launched against Estonians. This dark time greatly shaped the modern politics of Estonia. This past has given Estonians a fierce pride they take in their country and a special resentment towards Russia.

In 1947, on the third anniversary of the Red Army entering Tallinn, the Soviet Union erected the "Monument to the Liberators of Tallinn." The monument had graves, an eternal flame, and a statue to the Red Army veterans. The Russians saw the monument as honoring Mother Russia and Soviet ideals. Many Estonians saw it as a reminder of being owned by a foreign power.

After independence Estonia retooled the monument to honor those who died in World War II. The powerful word of "liberators" was dropped. Nothing changed though. Many Estonians thought of it as a reminder of the Soviet days while ethnic Russians continued to have Soviet-style celebrations around it.

In early 2007 the Estonian government decided to move the statue from the prominent position in a public place to a military graveyard. This would make it a historic monument rather than part of daily public life. It would go from a location of power to the land of the dead.

Many ethnic Russians were furious with the decision to move the statue. They claimed it was an effort by the Estonians to ignore history. They saw it as yet another effort by Estonians to erase the Russian influence off the landscape. Previous steps included efforts to curb Russian language in daily life and modification of school curriculum. When the government started the process of moving the statue some ethnic Russians began a full scale riot in the capital.

News of rioting spread around the world. At the same speed the news traveled the world came political opinions from various countries.

Most European governments, the European Union, and the United States either announced support of Estonia's actions or declared it an internal matter. Countries like Georgia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland have been most vocal in their support. These four either remember Soviet occupation well or, as in the case of Georgia, are currently the victims of Russian-backed insurgents.

On the other side Russia, Serbia, and Belarus have condemned the move. The last two are Russia's two biggest supporters in Europe. Russian supermarkets are boycotting Estonian goods and the mayor of Moscow has called for a full boycott of Estonia. It is clear that Russia cares about its ethnic nationals outside Russia proper (twenty-five percent of all Estonians are ethnic Russians). What also matters deeply to Russians is their legacy and influence in other countries.

The sides reveal much about the state of European geopolitics. There are two poles: one side is a connected Europe and the other side revolves around Moscow. Russia has gone to extremes like attempted assassination on political candidates in an effort to keep countries away from Europe. It is said the Cold War ended in 1991. While the odds of a hot war have gone down greatly, the shadowy games that countries play continues at full force. From elections to simple monuments, geographical thought is important in analyzing the battle between Europe and Russia.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Sound layer next for Google Earth?

BBC News has a short article on Wild Sanctuary's efforts to have Google add their sound library to Google Earth.

It could be neat to have sounds for different areas but there could also be issues. For example, would all cities sound the same? New York City sounds very different from Islamabad. Would all forests have the same bird chirping? I am sure Wild Sanctuary does indeed have a vast library but the world is so unique.

None the less, it would be fascinating to try out a sound layer.

Greensburg, Kansas Tornado Damage on Google Earth

As evidence of how geotechnolgy is changing every day, the Greensburg, Kansas tornado damage can be viewed on Google Earth by downloading a kml file. The file has a before and after option which can be toggled. The damage was immense to say the least. (Hat tip: Google Earth Blog)

Note: Google Earth images for Hurricane Katrina can be downloaded here

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Choke Points Around the World

Foreign Policy has a short feature article listing the five top choke points around the world (Hat tip: Coming Anarchy). These places are victims of great geographical position. If anything were to happen at these locations the local, regional, and world economies would be greatly harmed.

The locations and threats to them are

Other places to consider potential choke points are

Geography still matters even in the globalized world of multinational businesses and online. business transactions

Monday, May 07, 2007

The Incredibly Shrinking Louisianan Coastline

The Louisianan state quarter is unique in that it shows the previous Louisiana. By this I not only mean it shows the Louisiana of the Louisiana Purchase but also the former coastline of the state. Man made dams and levees on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers combined with canal construction is leading to the destruction of the coastline of Louisiana. In fact it is estimated up to twenty-five miles square miles of marshland is lost to the Gulf of Mexico each year.

The loss of marshland coastline matters. The marshes form a projective barrier which helps keep oil pumping stations and New Orleans safe (if the levees do not fail). To make the protection more applicable to the average person, just realize all that tax money that will be wasted constantly rebuilding southern Louisiana if the protective marshes continue to disappear.

Also lost will be hundreds of square miles of rare wildlife habitat. Not to mention the home of the unique Cajun and Creole cultures.

From the current loss a project called Marsh Mission developed. An artist and a photographer got together and documented to beauty and necessity of the Louisianan marshlands. They have released their artistic work in book form and it makes for a wonderful coffee table book. On the website is a section called Coastal Correspondent which can be used as a learning tool about the marshlands.

The site America's Wetland has detailed background information and proposed plans on saving the coastline.

With everyone busy debating climate change, it is to forget that there are other environmental battle to fight. The fight to save the wetlands ranges from purely environmental to economics. It is one environmental fight everyone can work together on.

Election Wrap-Up for France and the United Kingdom

Click to Le Monde's Interactive election maps page.

The French Presidential election is finally over. Nicholas Sarkozy has defeated Segolene Royal fifty-three percent to forty-seven percent. Sarkozy won on a campaign promoting law and order and improving France's economy. While Sarkozy supporters celebrate anarchists and the microstates have begun to riot.

Up next is the parliamentary elections. Those tend to go the way of the presidential election so expect President Sarkozy to have a relatively easy effort pushing through his reforms.

Meanwhile the Socialists are torn whether or not to abandon their anti-capitalistic, anti-globalization rhetoric. Other left parties have done this in Europe and have found some success. New Labour of Tony Blair is a prime example.

Scotland, Wales, and England had their own elections. The local elections ranged from minor to catastrophic defeats for the ruling national Labour Party.

The Scottish National Party is now the ruling party in the Scottish Parliament with forty-seven seats. The Scottish National Party has one more seat then the Labour Party. The Liberal Democrats came in third with seventeen seats and the Conservative Party, which is in a long painful decline in Scotland, earned sixteen seats. The Green Party rounded out the parliament with two seats and the Scottish Senior Citizens Unity Party lost their only seat.

The Welsh National Assembly was held by Labour but with modest gains by the nationalist Plaid Cymru (formerly "The Party of Wales"). Labour has twenty-six seats, Plaid Cymru fifteen, Conservatives twelve, Liberal Democrats six, and one independent.

It was center-left versus center-left in Scotland and Wales. Both the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru have center-left beliefs and appeal to those who still wish to keep the welfare state.

In England itself the Conservative Party managed to pick up more seats in local elections. While some on the right have been critical of David Cameron's leadership of the Conservatives, he has been much more big government and left on some issues, he has brought them electoral success so far. It appears that after Tony Blair steps down and Gorden Brown inherits the Prime Ministers position, Cameron has a chance at being elected to led the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Sunday, May 06, 2007


Video of a Tornado from Ellis County, Oklahoma - May 4, 2007

The big news right now is the near-complete destruction of Greensburg, Kansas. Elsewhere in the southern Great Plains another outbreak is occurring. While nowhere near the destruction Catholicgauze is receiving a lightning show with periods of downpour.

The basic science and geography of tornadoes is excellently explained over at's Tornado page. Be sure to also check out information on the Fujita Scale.

In the United States most Tornadoes occur between the Rocky Mountains and Appalachian Mountains. The greatest concentration is in Tornado Alley (be sure to check out the maps over at Wikipedia's page for Tornado Alley and Tornadoes). While there is no official Tornado Alley, the Great Plains stretch from northern Texas to South Dakota is a good rule of thumb. Internationally Bangladesh, Europe, South Africa, Australia, and China are known for their moderate to severe tornadoes.

If one is in the area of severe weather with the possibility of tornadoes be sure to seek shelter in a basement or an interior room away from windows. If one is outside seek safety in a ditch. NEVER seek safety under an overpass. These areas will become wind tunnels and one risks being sucked in by sever gusts.

The U.S. Severe Weather Map at Weather Underground maps out all areas at risk of severe storms and tornadoes.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Cinco De Mayo: The American Holiday

Today is Cinco de Mayo (Fifth of May). Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican victory against the French at the Battle of Puebla. Today, the parties, which the majority are not even celebrations of the victory, are a product of American cultural forces.

Short History

In late1861 and early 1862 France, Spain, and the United Kingdom invaded Mexico over debts (The British and Spanish quickly left when they realized French imperialist goals). After a series of easy victories and non-confrontations, the French encountered an outnumbered garrison at Puebla. The French launched a poorly supported assault against Mexican fortifications on hills north of the town. The Mexicans lost 83 men while the French suffered over 400 loses.

The loss convinced the French that a quick military victory was impossible. So by 1863 French Emperor Napoleon III sent reinforcements. The newly boosted French army quickly seized Mexico City. Until 1867, the French and Conservative Party of Mexico backed government was in power of much of the country.

However, the victory at Puebla was remembered locally and nationally at first. Mexican President Beneito Juarez wanted the day to be a federal holiday. However, memory faded and most Mexicans have the big celebrations on September 16 which is Mexico's Independence Day (if you want to see Mexicans celebrate then watch El Grito de Dolores).

The 1960s and Today

Some Mexicans and Americans of Mexican-descent celebrated Cinco de Mayo but it was never a truly big thing. Then the 1960s something happened. No one can quite agree on what exactly occurred but what is agreed on is that Latino activists wanted a holiday for Mexican-Americans to be proud of. Couple with this is the story of Coors Beer and boycotts against them by Latinos. Americans along the border started to have festivities on Cinco de Mayo slowly at first but soon the celebrations quickly gained in number and intensity.

Even though the "why" is still ambigous one thing is clear: Cinco de Mayo as we know it today is an American celebration. In the border region of the United States, Mexican heritage celebrations occur in great numbers. Many Latino-activist groups also use the day to teach about Latino heritage (but not necessarily about the battle). The only reason most non-Hispanos in America know about the day is because of the aggressive market campaign by beer companies and restaurants. The day is now of general Mexican-pride for some and drinking for others.

It has long been said that Saint Patrick's Day is the one day where everybody is Irish. It would be fascinating to see a study of identity and Cinco de Mayo. Do non-Hispanos go through the pretense of celebrating as if they were Mexicans or is just purely a drinking day for them?

What ever the case: HAPPY CINCO DE MAYO!

Friday, May 04, 2007

French Presidential Candidates Know Neogeography

In the United States the presidential race of 2000 was the election of the website. 2004 was the year of the blog. The midterms of 2006 revolved around YouTube. 2008 may turn out to be the election of MySpace and Facebook but it is still early.

The elections in France have turned out to be the one where neogeography mash-ups are used. Nicolas Sarkozy's website features mash-ups which showcase where expatriates can vote outside of France and the various places Sarkozy has campaigned. Ségolène Royal's website has a mash-up locating pro-Royal rallies in France. Even François Bayrou, who finished in third-place, has a mash-up showing local leaders of his campaign. Although one has to zoom in a bit to see any of the pins.

An interesting thing to note is that all the mash-ups are based on Google Maps. No one bothered with a competitor. The official French alternative to Google Earth, Geoportail, was not used because of the lack of API support for third-parties and other limitations.

Catholicgauze was interested to see how many American presidential candidates have adopted map mash-ups on their websites. The total count was zero for confirmed candidates. Only Wesley Clark's WesPAC had mash-ups. The website had a Frappr Map locating Clark supporters and another mash-up of WesPAC supporters. Personally, I think Coming Anarchy's Frapr Map has more registered users. So that's the said state of the relationship between neogeography and US Presidential candidates. Catholicgauze is hereby hoping for the day when a candidate releases a Google Earth KML file of their campaign, that would be cool.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Germans are Fat

Remember Hitler's vision of the German super race? The blond, blue-eyed "Aryans" who would rule the world? Well, years of war, division, and now reunification have made the Germans fat according to a group's press release.

Seventy-five percent of men and fifty-nine percent of women are overweight in Germany. Germany managed to surpass the trio of the United Kingdom, Cyprus, and the Czech Republic. The thinest European Union countries are France (guess French women really do not get fat) and Italy. However, these two countries still have numbers around forty percent fat. A full breakdown by country is available via Spiegel Online.

Note: To be fair, Americans are still fatter with seventy-fiver percent (!!!) of Americans overweight.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Liberty and Tyranny Worldwide

Green is for Free Countries, Peach for Partially Free, Red for Not Free
From Wikipedia

Freedom House, a political think tank founded by Eleanor Roosevelt and others, releases an annual report on political and civil freedoms in various countries. Freedom in the World (online version/PDF version) documents and rates countries by the various liberties the citizens have or lack. Countries are ranked as free, partially free, or not free.

The map resembles the Core/Gap map from Tom Barnett's Pentagon's New Map. There are notable exceptions though with some countries in Africa and Latin America especially. The correlation is that the more a country is integrated into the global system (globalization) the more likely the country is to be free. Much like Pinochet learned while he was dictator of Chile, free markets and civil liberties go hand and hand.

The report also estimates that forty-six percent of all people live in "free" countries while thirty-six percent live in "not free" countries such as Cuba, North Korea, Zimbabwe, etc.

The trend of free countries over partially free and not free is fortunately growing. In 1975 there were only 40 free countries compared to 53 partially free and 65 not free. As of 2005 the ratio is 89:58:45.

There are several interesting countries to note. Northern Cyprus (Turkey's satellite state) is rated as free compared to Turkey being only partially free. Maybe this is do to Northern Cyprus being run by left-wing Turks but it is worthy of further study. The Palestinian Controlled areas are rated as partially free while Israeli-occupied West Bank is rated not free.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Map of Irrigation World Wide

"The Global Map of Irrigation Areas" (PDF) is a poster presentation about the spatial distribution of irrigation worldwide.

The poster does a good job speaking for itself so I will spare you the details. But notice how South and East Asia, the United States, and Europe compare to Africa on an irrigation level. Other things are noticeable too. Australia only can irrigation in the eastern portion of the country. And compare the eastern United States to the western United States (but look how the Central Valley of California is so heavily irrigated).