Sunday, August 31, 2008


IBISEYE is an online hurricane tracker mashup with Google Maps acting as a base. That description does not describe the coolness factor enough, though. The site shows at risk areas, projected paths, has hotpoints with storm information, and a cloud overlay to name just a few things. Check it out today! (Hat Tip: La Cartoteca)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Georgia-Russia War in Cartoon Maps

The Russia-Georgia War has finally come into the realm of cartoon maps. These maps do not show spatial accuracy, not but a long shot, instead are meant to portray the feelings of the cartographer. Several new cartoon maps are interesting in what they portray.


This map comes from Michael J. Totten's website. It shows Russia as a vampire stealing Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia. The creature has the Nazi SS symbology equating Russia to Hitler's regime. The vampire matches Russia as a Eurasian regime, close to human (Europe) but different in a negative way (Eurasian culture)

The second map displays Putin's hipness with his toplessness and rhyming text while equating his regime to the Soviet Union.


This odd map going in chain e-mails shows the Russian bear fighting American and Israeli intervention in Georgia. The map does not shy away from Russia's militant tendencies showing them as a powerful (good) thing. The odd thing is that once the war started Israel stopped military ties to Georgia in a surprising pro-Russia move. The likely reason for the Jewish symbology on planes and in the "Georgia" name is standard, old Russian anti-semitism.

Friday, August 29, 2008

United States versus Canada

The border between the United States of America and Canada is the longest unprotected border in the world. To many people the similarities between the two countries make them seem like one for all practical purposes. However, the two states have seen war and strife in their short histories.

American Revolution
Outcome: Freedom for the United States; Americans fail to annex Canada
Most of Canada was French territory until the end of the French and Indian War. When cries for independence emerged from the thirteen colonies, French and loyalist Canada favored the King. General George Washington favored a military campaign to annex the region. An invasion spearheaded by Richard Montgomery and future traitor Benedict Arnold quickly took Montreal but was defeated outside Quebec City. After the failed invasion the United States realized the impracticability of taking Canada. However, the United States Congress pre-approved Canada's membership in the Articles of Confederation; Canada never took up the offer.

War of 1812
Outcome: United States fails to take Canada, British temporally take parts of the United States
Americans like to sway they "beat the British twice." Not quite. The invasion of Canada proved to be a disaster. The fighting started off well but most of America's army was militia and unwilling to fight off their home state's soil. The highlight of the American invasion was the burning of York (present-day Toronto) but that led to the British burning of Washington D.C. At the end of the war the British controlled Fort Detroit (Detroit, Michigan) and Fort Niagara (Niagara Falls, New York).

Lower Canada Rebellion, Patriot War, and the Republic of Canada
Outcome: Defeat of the pro-American Canadians by pro-British Canadians
Canada had a series of rebellions which were crushed. In the 1830s, the Pariote Movement of French and Anglo-Canadians favored liberalism and an independent Canada. They were backed by the Hunter Brothers, a secret society dedicated to the liberation of Canada. The Lower Canada Rebellion and the Patriot War were a series of wars in which the British solidified their presences in Canada. Some Hunter Brothers were Americans and were led into battle by Americans. The rebellions mostly ended when the Republic of Canada's government was forced out of the Niagara River and into American jails.

Aroostook War
Outcome: Canada takes part of Maine
Look at old maps of Maine and one may notice that Maine had much more territory up north. That was the claim laid by the Americans ever since the Treaty of Paris. The United Kingdom; however, claimed much of Maine. The Aroostook War settled the matter by negotiation. Competing maps, both showing the holder having less territory, pressed each side into compromise.

San Juan Island War
Outcome: United States wins one; keeps several small islands in present-day Washington state
The San Juan Island War is also referred to as the Pig War. An American killed a pig in his garden and all Hell nearly breaks loose. The pig belong to an British subject on the disputed island. Anger rose on both sides because the islands were strong points along valued trade routes. Both sides agreed to joint military occupation after a rushing of troops including future Civil War (non)-hero George Pickett. Kaiser Wilhelm I eventually was asked to settle the matter. He ruled in favor of the United States.

Fenian Raids
Outcome: British and Canadians withstand Irish-American attacks
The United States was upset at the British tact support for the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. There was one way the Americans could strike back without risk of major backlash: terrorism. The Fenian Brotherhood was an Irish republican/terrorist organization based in the United States. A Brotherhood song ending with "And we'll go and capture Canada, for we've nothing else to do" sums up the mood of Irish who just wanted to kill some British. It is alleged President Andrew Johnson gave passive support to the Brotherhood though American government officials stopped some raids before they occured. A series of raids and battles, some won by the Brotherhood, failed to do anything except make Canadian/American relations distant until World War II.

The "wars" between United States and Canada is surprisingly one of Canadian success. However, World War II required cooperation and brought America and Canada closer together. Today, Americans and Canadians regard each other as brothers, if somewhat odd brothers.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Russia Recognizes South Ossetia and Abkhazia

The Russian Federation has officially recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent countries. Russia claims the two regions cannot reasonable return to Georgian control after the war and therefore have the right to be independent. Another justification is Kosovo, where the West recognized the independence of the once Serbian province.

South Ossetians openly state their desire to join the Russian Federation within a Ossetian republic with North Ossetia. Abkhazia on the other hand seems to favor independence with an alliance with Russia. So far only Russia has recognized the breakaway republics but look for allies like Belarus to follow suit.

Ukraine and the Baltic states, with their large Russian minorities, are on guard worrying about Russia plans towards them with the continue to pull the Russian Bear's leg.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Off to Canada

Raise the Stars and Stripes as Catholicgauze leaves on a vacation until September 1. The place I am going? Canada! I have never gone to the Land of the Maple Leaf before and I hope my futherest trip north is not full of cold weather. I will probably get in a few posts here and there but do not expect daily posts until September 1. Take care, eh!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Google Earth Inspires Amateur Geographer to Find a Crater

Daniel Connelly is on a mission. He is trying to prove the world's largest impact crater exists in Australia. Connelly is no geomorphologist though, he is a normal man who at first was looking into visiting Australia. In order to scout out the best locations Connelly used Google Earth. He noticed what looked like rings. Examining the rings further lead Connelly to believe that he found an impact crater 1,300 miles across. Most scientists he has talked to have told him "no" but that does not keep Connelly from trying to scientifically prove his claim.

While Connelly may be wrong, Google Earth has proven its worth. The tool has encouraged the public to explore and educate themselves to explore the world. What a great feel good story for a Friday!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Electoral College Demographics Map Calculator

Race, religion, and gender play power roles in elections in the United States. Some groups like Whites or Catholics tend to be fairly spilt in the electoral preference while Blacks and Mormons tend to vote in a bloc.

Now one can tinker with demographics to make an election outcome. Using's interactive map, one can see what would happen if Blacks voted in mass for Obama while women went overwhelmingly went for McCain or whatever scenario you want.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Guess the Accent Game

Here's a neat game where one tries to guess the accent of people reading poetry. Catholicgauze's score 29 points (7 out of 16). Try and top that as you realize you only know accent stereotypes and not the real thing. (Hat tip: Foreign Policy Blog)

Harm de Blij's Power of Place Review

Full Disclosure Note: I received a review copy.

The world sure does seem flat. The Olympics, international travel, and the global capitalism make the world seem like one interconnected place. However, the village of Fan Shen and eight hundred fifty million or so Chinese are a world apart from People's Republic of China's globalization. Elsewhere in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, remote Pygmies live their short lives in the same village where they were born. Meanwhile in Oaxaca, a Guatemalan illegal immigrant seeking a better life is brutally beaten by Mexican border.

Harm de Blij starts off Power of Place saying the world is flat, if one is a global traveller and views the Earth from their seat on a jet plane. However, most people live, work, and die near at one place, the locals, while the third group, mobiles, seek somesort of better life though the world has barriers which interfere with their journey.

The point of Power of Place is that the place where one is born greatly influences one's life. Place has huge sway over culture, language, religion, risks to disasters, and odds of diseases that all impact one's life.
An especially interesting part is in the religion chapter where de Blij talks how the environment influences religion and therefore culture. It seems environmental determinism can be redeemed (partly). The chapter on language also talks about how the environment allowed for greater mobility and solidified language groups better in the higher latitudes.

When it comes to globalization de Blij sees push back on both sides. Some in the third world resent outsiders trying to reform their system whether the system works or not. Meanwhile the first world hates competition of lesser countries industries while mobiles seek to move into the first world while keeping elements of their old culture.

The Good: Too often globalization has only been written about by economists. While these authors have created great works like Command Heights or the World is Flat, place seems lost. De Blij shows how the world is connecting while still having terrain.
The Bad: Really minor points. De Blij, being the multilingual geographer he is, sees a little too much negativity in the loss of languages. While fewer languages will not prevent conflicts it certainly make things easier for multitudes of peoples. Also, some may argue that de Blij stretches too much to be a rebuttal to Freidman et al.
All in All: A great book! Those wishing to know more should read it and see the world for the complexity that it is.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Genetic Relationship Map of Europe

Biologists have created a map showing the genetic relationship of the average European country citizen to one another. The neat map shows how migration has morphed the blood of Europeans. (Hat tip: The Map Room)

Observations from the map:

Finland is something else. These people have a non-Indo European language that ties in with Hungarian, Estonian, and so native languages in the vast northern nothingness of Russia.

Italy never has had one ethnic Italian people. Rather, it is a collection of peoples under one nationality (even that is stretching it). Northern Italians have Germanic traits and have been in the sphere of Germanic people. Meanwhile the South has had everything from Greek Romans to Arabs to Albanians intermixing.

United Kingdom has overlap from Norway and other places where R1a genetic line is concentrated. Perhaps this is how the proto-Catholicgauzes came to Great Britain.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

America's Demographic Change

The United States may not need babies like Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany but continuing demographic trends will change the face of America. According to the United States Census Department, Whites will only be a plurality by 2042. By 2050 Whites will make up 46%, Hispanos 30%, Black 15%, and Asians 9% of the population.

The reason for the shift is Whites are not having babies and Blacks have way too many abortions while Hispanos continue to immigrate and those already here have a higher birth rate. Asians increase slightly because of an above-average birth rate and immigration especially from China and India. Meanwhile American Indians will continue to intermix with non-American Indians and become more of a label than a racial collective.

Being the product of English Puritans, Scot-Irish Presbyterian quasi-illegal immigrants from Canada, militant German Missouri Lutherans, and strangely and disturbingly well to do Irish Catholics from the South I treat this news indifferently. The various strands of my family believed in the motto E pluribus unum (out of many, one). May all Americans continue to do so and keep the American bond, one of nationality not ethnicity, strong.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Dead Zones Spreading Around the World

Map of dead zones world wide and the footprint of areas. Industrialization and farming are the leading causes. Click map to enlarge. From Scientific American

Dead Zones are places were pollution, primarily fertilizers, at first causes a boom in algae and other aquatic plant life. The algae then dies releasing massive amounts of carbon dioxide as it decays. The shift from oxygen in the water to carbon dioxide kills water life and creates a zone where nothing can live. Besides the obvious ecological damage done, massive economic damage occurs also because the area is no longer productive to commercial fishing and tourism.

A new study has mapped dead zones and declares there are four hundred five such areas. The zones are found primarily close to coasts were runoff and river currents stall after entering the ocean. The reason for an increase both numerically and spatially from sixty or so in the 1960s is because of increased industrialization and heavy farming around the world.

Right now it seems dead zones are a byproduct of progress. Feeding more people requires fertilizer and thus runoff into the oceans is almost bound to increase. Hopefully we can find a way to farm for such a populous world while preventing such harmful happenings.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Russia-Georgia War Google Earth Map for August 14 at 0000 GMT

This may be the final map until a more permanent, mapping status quo is formed. Here's the post with Google Earth and Google Maps options available.

The Morality of Geoengineering

Periodically the news will discuss some new idea by a group of scientists that seek to change the Earth for the better. Alot of these ideas involve geoengineering. Geoengineering sceams range from moderate scale, damming a river to create a resevor for wildlife, to global schemes like dumping iron into the oceans to boost plankton populations and combat climate change.

All these actions have consquences. Some consquences are positive while others harm groups not directly involved with the plan. As technology advances allowing us to severely impact the world, many are calling for somesort of ethnical/moral discussion about the whats, hows, and whys of our actions. Some see humans playing God with geography is wrong while others think we are unable to fully comphrened the changes we will make with geoengineering.

What do you readers think? Should "what beneifts the most" while hurting a minority be the model of geoengineering or should we take a que from doctors and "do no harm" even though inaction will lead to misery and/or death for some?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Russia-Georgia War Google Earth Map for August 12 at 0400 GMT

For August 14 map click here

Here's the post with Google Earth and Google Maps options available. New fall back information and Russian zones of operations in Georgia proper now on the map. Feel free to help out and edit the map to your liking (and get rid of the legend if you want!).

Never fear GTWC! fans, normal blogging will resume soon.

Russia-Georgia War on Google Earth (as of August 11)

For August 14 at 0000 GMT click here
For August 12 at 0400 GMT click here

New updated Google Earth map of the Russia-Georgia War as of August 11. Google Earth and Google Maps views available.

Virtually Traveling to Glaciers

Glaciers of the World is a neat Swiss website in English that documents, well, glaciers around the world. The website is full of information on glaciers, photos, panoramas, and even some time lapsed movies of glacial movement. The informative parts of the website also describe the geography and wildlife of the various glacial regions.

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere currently going through the hot and humid time of year, there is something refreshingly cool about seeing images like this.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

2008 Russia-Georgia War on Google Earth

For map as of August 14 at 0000 GMT click here
For map as of August 12 at 0400 GMT click here
For map as of August 11 click here

I made a KML of key locations and events of the 2008 South Ossetia War. It can be downloaded directly (KML) or viewed on Google Earth. Check out the Google Earth board post for any conversations relating to the KML by Google Earth users.

Russia and Georgia go to War over South Ossetia

It has begun. The Second South Ossetia War has started between Georgia against South Ossetia and its ally Russia. Oddly, everyone thought multi-ethnic South Ossetia was pretty quiet compared to ethnically cleansed, war wanting Abkhazia.

Trouble has been brewing since earlier this month. Sniper fire killed and wounded dozens of Georgians and Ossteians since August first. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili announced a cease fire but events on the seventh which left one Georgian BMP-2 destroyed and up to twenty-two Osstenians dead and made the cease fire worthless. (See Zone of Control map before conflict)

Saakashvili ordered Georgia to go in and go in hard. My personal assessment is Saakashvili knew Georgia's forces at the border could take the South Ossetia capital of Tskhinvali from the rebels and their backers, the Russian peace keepers. Saakashvili then probably hoped for a cease fire with the capital in Georgian hands. This would leave the rebels with a few holdings in hilly farmland country but little more.

It was a good plan. Expect for the fact Russia is not about to lose their clients and suffer at the same time. Around a dozen or so Russians were killed in the opening hours. Russia then responded by pouring in troops to retake Tskinvali and possibly destroy the Georgian-backed Provisional Administrative Entity of South Ossetia. Russia also began shelling military positions in Georgia proper along with aerial attacks of Georgian airfields. Al Jezzerah reported Georgia shot down five Russian jets in the fighting though not much anti-aircraft resistence is now available.

Georgia announced its intention to remove 1,000 soliders in Iraq to fight against Russia but it may be too little too late. Russia meanwhile is having a field day showing press videos of T-80 tanks against Georgian light infantry. The United Nations of course does nothing.

On another front, Russia continues to expand cyber warfare capablities with Georgian websites being defaced.

This is a nightmare. Besides the fact war is horrible, this will set all sorts of new boundaries in the Russia versus the West Geopolitical War. If Russia can save South Ossetia and take them away from Georgia then might makes right. It also serves as a warning to those who wish to join NATO. The message would be "Russia can take away pieces of your territory." It could also justify a more Eurasian Serbian government's forceful attempt to take back ethnic Serbian parts of Kosovo.

Geogrian President Saakashvili is not perfect. However, he is very pro-West, anti-terrorism, and pushes democratic reforms so his country may one day join the Europen Union and NATO. If Georgia, a Eurasian country that turned into a European one, fails; then democrats the world over will begin to wonder if the West truely supports them when the going gets rough.

Friday, August 08, 2008

2008 Beijing Olympics Maps

08/08/08 is here and that means the opening cermonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics are upon us. Catholicgauze hopes for a safe Olympics and an opening up of the People's Republic of China to more freedoms (though this seems unlikely).

Geographers celebrate the Olympics with maps. The Map Room links to the BBC's map of the Olympics built on Microsoft's Live Earth engine. The official Olympics website has an online GIS interactive map of Beijing featuring everything from Olympic sites to churches, movie theaters, to universities and much more.

Let the games begin!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Extras: The United States

To view this post in Google Maps and Google Earth form click here.

Maps of the United States usually show the forty-eight contiguous states, Alaska, Hawaii, and the non-state District of Columbia. There is more to the union; however. Territories and commonwealths comprise the United States as well. Each additional territory adds unique value to the country.


Puerto Rico: The most well known American commonwealth has to be the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico also known as Estado Libre Asociado de Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico became part of the United States after the end of the Spanish-American War of 1898. The population, vastly Hispano, considers itself “white” though there are genetic traces of American Indian and some Black. Puerto Rico’s politics is divided between two major parties, the status quo favoring Popular Democratic Party and the pro-statehood New Progressive Party. Puerto Rico does not have electoral votes in the presidential election and only one non-voting delegate in congress.

Northern Mariana Islands: The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands has had a long history of native rule followed by Spanish, German, Japanese, then American after World War II. Instead of seeking independence the islands agreed to form a commonwealth within the United States in the 1970s. Most natives died during colonization and today a majority of the population is Chinese and Filipino. The Catholic faith is the largest religion with other islanders worshiping traditional beliefs. The largest industries are tourism, mostly from Japan, and manufacturing. Products made on the islands can be labeled “Made in USA” while workers can be paid less than standard minimum wage. The islands are currently campaigning for a non-voting delegate to congress.


Virgin Islands: The United States Virgin Islands were bought from Denmark in 1917 because of American fears of Germany buying them. Most islanders are the decedents of plantation slaves though there is an Indian business class and a few Danish families left besides mainland Americans who moved in. Baptists form the biggest denomination. There has been heavy migration to the mainland lately that has some worried about the islands future. Several referendums have been held on the islands about its future though there seems to be little interest by anyone to change the status quo.

Guam: The Territory of Guam is another spoil of the Spanish-American War. The island was the sight of two fierce battles in World War II. Islanders were given citizenship and the territory was organized in 1950. The island is incredibly diverse with a native Chamorro, Filipinos, Asians, and mainland Americans. Catholicism of the Filipinos and Chamorro makes the islands overwhelming Catholic (at least on paper). A third of the island belongs to the military. There is a push for commonwealth status by some, though analysts question whether Guam could economically survive with the limits on federal funds the status would come with the new status.
American Samoa: American Samoa is the byproduct of the late-1800s rivalry between Germany and the United States. The American side over ninety-percent Samoan; who are American nationals but not citizens. Most of them are Protestant. Samoans have one non-voting delegate in congress. Samoans are more likely to play professional football (per capita) than Americans from any other part of the union.

Pacific Remote Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex: Baker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, and Palmyra Atoll create the PRINWRC run by the Fish and Wildlife Service of the US Department of the Interior (with Palmyra being partially privately owned). This grouping is sometimes combined with Midway Island National Wildlife Refuge to create the United States Pacific Island Wildlife Refuges label. Baker, Howland, Jarvis, Johnston, and Palmyra were claimed by the United States for its guano. Guano use to be an important energy source in the nineteenth century. Midway was claimed because it served as a refueling station for American ships on route to Asia. Kingman Reef is one of the newest American additions being claimed in 1922 because it was there. There is no permanent population but Midway has about forty Fish and Wildlife staffers and Palmyra has up to twenty scientists living on it at any given time.

Wake Island: Wake Island was uninhabited when America claimed it in 1899 during its first rise of international power. The island served a military purpose as a refueling and defense base. A bloody battle in World War II gave Wake the name "the Alamo of the Pacific." There is no permanent population and the island is run by the Department of the Interior. Wake Island is claimed by the Marshall Islands though the United States just ignores the claim in order to keep good relations with the Marshall Islands.

Navassa Island: Navassa Island is a Caribbean island off the coast of Haiti. The island is uninhabited and was also part of America's reach for guano. The guano rush occurred earlier though in 1857. At that time there was an effort, mostly by southerners, to expand the United States south into the Caribbean. Navassa was seen by some as the first steps to the proposed empire. Today Haiti also claims the island and sometimes fisherman will be spotted camping on it. Currently it is managed by the Fish and Wildlife services.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Tiananmen Massacre Map

Tiananmen Mothers has created a map showing the location of death for 176 victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre. While Catholicgauze hopes these Olympics open the People's Republic of China (PRC) to the world so freedoms may rush in, the Communist Party members who are responsible for the massacre should be punished. What better way for the PRC so show its globalized ways than justice?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Heat Burst

At 4:15 am on August 3rd Sioux Falls, South Dakota was experiencing a summer night with temperatures around seventy degrees Fahrenheit (about twenty-one degrees Celsius). Thirty minutes later it was one hundred one degrees Fahrenheit (thirty eight degrees Celsius). Those unfortuente enough to be outside during the night oven reported strong hot winds that knocked down power lines and trees. South Dakotans knew what happened when they heard the news. A heat burst occured.

A heat burst is not fully understood but what it is believed to be caused by air from higher parts of the atmosphere being forced down to Earth. They are extremely rare and most cases in the United States are found in the interior middle.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Ukraine and Russia Fight over Europe versus Eurasia

Ukraine and Russia recently celebrated the Christianization of the 1020th year anniversary of the Kievan Rus, the kingdom which both Russia and Ukraine claim common lineage to. The anniversary was attended by first among equals Patriarch of Constantinople and the Russian Orthodox Patriarch among others. Rather than it be the odd yet only happens once 1,020 year anniversary of a baptism, the party became a front on the battle between Ukraine and Europe versus Russia and Eurasia.

TDAXP and others have covered the anniversary events but a short recap first. First, the president of Ukraine refused to hug the Russian Patriarch like he did Bartholomew I of Constantinople. Then Russian Patriarch Alexius II announced his belief that the Ukraine Orthodox Church - Kiev Patriarch and the Ukrainian Autocephalous Church are illegitimate while only the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarch is valid. The party later ended and everyone went home miffed.

This incident is the latest in a long running battle between Russia and Ukraine over the fate of the former Soviet Republic so closely tied to the Motherland. The self-fighting former Orange Alliance of mostly ethnic Ukrainians favors European Union and NATO integration while the ethnic Russians and other groups in the eastern half favor somesort of alliance/union with Russia.

The first major public battle was the 200 election of Viktor Yushchenko as president of Ukraine. Yuschenko was poisoned by the Russians and had the election stolean with his lost to the pro-Russia candidate. International outcry allowed a revote and Yuschenko's victory. In 2007, Russia's state-owned oil company out off Ukraine when the Ukrainians announced intent to join NATO. Then during the NATO conference, Russia stirred up Russians in the Crimea to demand more independence. Ukraine decided to fight back on this account by telling Russia to start moving its fleet out of the Crimea so NATO can one day move in.

Russia has always seen itself apart kind of like the English. Geographical distance from the center of Europe, strong cultural influence by non-Europeans, and being the standard bearer of Orthodoxy for 500 years has created a unique identity. Add on to this that while European countries kept the colonies influence outside the homeland, Russia just absorbed more tribal and Muslim territory into Russia proper. The result is an odd mish-mash of Eastern Rome meets the Khans where strong man tactics carries the day a la Belarus. Ukraine on the other hand wishes to be part of a European system of liberal rights and freedoms. Where the buzz words are "cooperation" and "alliances."

Ukraine is a front in the Europe versus Eurasia war. Other places like Georgia and Estonia are battlegrounds also. The European alliance is not united though. Countries like Germany play realpolitik and see appeasing Russia as best for everyone. Time will tell us a victor, for human rights sake let us hope its a European Ukraine.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Europe's Roma and Europe at a Crossroads

The integration of Europe along with its open borders was seen as a step towards European progress. Intellectuals and most people believed that there would be little to no problems with like minded Europeans of similar cultures moving among the various countries in the pact.

The Europeans, both leaders and regular citizens, failed to fully realize the cultural give-and-take necessary when they overlooked the Roma (Gypsies). Roma form the largest stateless minority in Europe. Many Roma are in the process or have already fully integrated into the popular culture of their respective nations but some continue to live the nomadic and sometimes beggar lifestyle. The latter group keeps itself seperate from mainstream European culture.

The end of border control within parts of the European Union has allowed many of the latter group to enter Western Europe. Europeans do not know what to do with the latter group. Some proposals are reasonable while others come straight out of the 1930s. Denmark sought to put Roma kids in special classes that focus on cultural integration but the move was declared illegal, Finland has threatened to take children away from Roma who make the kids beg, and Italy has fingerprint enforcement of Roma. With the Jews mostly gone, either killed during World War II or left for Israel, Europe is not handling its minority issue well.

The problem is that even progressive Europe cannot deal with a culture so foreign to it. Similar problems exist with radical Muslims who use Europe's freedom but do not share its classical liberal ideals.

The cultural conflict in an open society serves as a warning that culture must be dealt with even today. Those who propose other open border pacts like a North American Union can point to the economic benefits for all, but they also must realize that there will be so-far unsolved trouble when different cultural groups come into contact.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

National Geographic Music Store

National Geographic is in a long running civil war between those who see it as an educational foundation and those who think it is a business. When I was there I favored, and still do, the educational side. However, once in a while the pro-business side comes up with a good idea.

One of those good ideas is Nat Geo Music. Nat Geo Music is an online store like iTunes but it caters to music around the world. One can browse the music selection by continent (though there seems to be issues with getting the right results) or by the much better way of genre. There are plenty of genres to select from including Ethiopian pop, Persian classical, Israeli folk, Flamenco, and much much more.

A sixty second preview is available for music as is a short description of the artist. All songs are ninety-nine cents. There even is code, below, to embed album information in a blog. Finally, there is no extra software to download. Now, go virtually travel the world of music.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Islamic-light Ruling Party in Turkey Survives its Court Day, Turkey Ponders What Next

The ruling, Islamic-light Justice and Development Party (AKP) has survived a court challenge that sought to ban the party and forbid its leaders, including the prime minister, from politics for five years. The party was nearly banned as six judges voted to ban it while seven needed to for it to be outlawed.

The AKP has been controversial since it won a 2006 election for Turkey's leadership. The party has sought to ease restrictions on display of Islam in public and even allowed headscarves to be worn on state college campuses until the Constitutional Court reinstated the ban.

The AKP's main competitor is the Republican People's Party (CHP). The CHP is nominally socialist but in reality is a military-backed, secular, non-evil fascist personality cult of Mustafa Ataturk.

Both parties favor European Union integration while the AKP is seen as more business friendly and "open minded" on a variety of issues. During the court case the AKP showed its political cunning by charging 86 military and CHP members of coup plotting.

Now that the case is over the AKP can focus on leading while being wary of futher court cases or coups, the court sent a clear warning by limiting party funding. Markets were relieved at the news and Turkey is going through the best two days of its stock market in a long time. Europe is also relieved at derailing of the prospect of a "judical coup." The AKP will probably placate the CHP by allowing it to remain in control of the nomination process for army generals. The CHP will draw lines in the sand; however, like protecting relations with Israel or preventing any further openly pro-Islamic moves.

Turkey has always between East and West. While sometimes that has benefited it in cultural and politics, today it is caught between secular vs. religious, military vs. civilian, pro-West and Islamist.