Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hungary and Poland's Demographics and Religion Cause Move Against Abortion

Hungary and Poland know the numbers.  Hungary and Poland both know they are dying.  In Hungary, this year for every 1,000 people, 12.7 people will die but only 9.8 people will be born.  This makes the "growth" rate for Hungary -0.12%.  For Poland, for every 1,000 people, 10 people will be born and 10.2 people will die making the "growth" rate "only" -0.1%.

Many European countries are facing the similar threat of negative birth rates.  Most, whether having a social democratic or liberal conservative government, have responded with the short term solution of mass immigration only to encounter an alien culture that does not want to assimilate, the native culture revealing racist tendencies against the new comers, and a rising nativist movement that feels they have been betrayed by their own government.

Hungary and Poland are different though.  Secularization is not a native idea like that in Western Europe but instead viewed mostly as an outside ideology supported by an occupier, the Soviet Union.  Christian Democratic parties are not a Western European "Christian Democratic" copy of being liberal on social issues and mostly-market friendly, instead they are Christian: socially conservative and market open-but-skeptical.  The Christian nature of these countries is the main driver of their solution to negative growth rates: ban abortion.

Hungary's Fidesz Party used its super majority earlier this year to rewrite the constitution which in its opening contained the following line "The value of human life is unfathomable. Every person has the right to life and human value; the life of the fetus is protected from conception to birth."  Many people have interpreted this to lay the ground work for an upcoming ban of abortion.

Now Poland may be about to take the next step and ban abortion completely.  Currently, abortions can only be obtained when the child is diagnosed with a serious defect, or if the mother is diagnosed with a health problem, or if the pregnancy resulted from “illegal activity.”  Abortions are extremely rare in Poland with only an estimated 500 abortions last year.  Poland needs to do more if they wish to get above replacement rate but  ending the slide-aiding procedure of abortion is a step that has almost been completed.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Geography versus Greg Mortenson

Readers by now are probably well familiar with my ill feelings towards the whole "Three Cups of Tea" gospel of Afghan reconstruction.  When it appeared, according to 60 minutes, Greg Mortenson was involved fraud I wrote the blog post entitled Three Cups of Tea and a Coffee Cake of Lies.

During the height of controversy Greg Mortenson admitted to lying about details of his first journey which led to his revelation that Pakistan needed schools but claimed he still stayed in the village of Korphe.  He gave a new updated story which he claimed was the truth.

However, according to Outside Magazine and a Pakistani-American tour guide with Google Earth, Mortenson is lying again.  Mortenson claimed to cross over the Biaho River on a bridge between Korofong and Askole.  The tour guide who is well familiar with the area used Google Earth imagery to point out that there is no bridge between those two villages.

Mortenson versus Geography.  Point: Geography.  From Outside Blog.
The original genesis to educate Afghanistan and Pakistan is admittedly a lie and the new story is seemingly proven false via evidence from Google Earth.  With so many allegations of fraud, Mortenson's stories not matching the truth, and what I wrote about the school efforts not related to Afghan interests, everyone should divorce themselves from this failed movement.

Red Map: The Communist Party of China Goes Geospatial

Geography According to the Communist Party of China
The Communist Party of China, the political masters of the People's Republic of China, have unveiled their very own online geospatial extravaganza known as the Red Map (NOTE: Link to Communist China Government Website).

The Red Map uses a Google Earth-type interface to display historical and political information concerning the Communist Party of China on a map.  According to the state-owned newspaper China Daily (NOTE: Link to Communist China Government Website), a large collection of animations, map tracks of the Long March, Chinese Civil War battle locations, cultural spots, bases for "patriotism education", and much more are marked on the map.

The one draw back is that one has to download a 3D plug-in to power the map in a browser.

The map focuses on the Communist Party's "triumphs" in China.  No locations on the map glorify the other political parties in the People's Republic like the Revolutionary Committee of the Kuomintang or the very poorly named Taiwan Democratic Self-Government League .

Friday, June 24, 2011

Hydraulic Fracturing and Environmental Law

Dr. Elizabeth Burleson is an environmental law professor who has taught at various universities across the country.  She is also a relative of mine.  The only collaboration we have ever done together is limited to me explaining Midwest aquifer systems to her before she starting teaching in the Midwest.  However, I know she greatly appreciates the field of geography.

One of the topics Dr. Burleson has been focusing on is hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.  Fracking is the use of pressurized chemicals and water to break up underground rock layers in order to facilitate oil drilling, mining, or other resource extractions.  While fracking allows for greater extraction it is controversial because of some the chemicals are toxic and there have been incidents of chemicals contaminating aquifers or becoming airborne.

Recently Dr. Burleson was interviewed by Bloomberg concerning fracking and environmental law.  The interview provides insight to the fracking debate and potential consequences of mismanagement of fracking.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Maps of Indian States as Countries: GDP, GDP Per Capita, and Population

The Economist has taken a page from Strange Maps' US States Renamed For Countries With Similar GDPs map.  The magazine has created three maps comparing each Indian states' GDP, GDP per person, and population to equivalent countries.  The results reveal interesting and somewhat shocking insights into the world's tenth largest economy in terms of GDP.

The first map shows population.  India is the second most populated country in the world and it shows.  With states having similar populations as Brazil (5th most populous), Mexico (11th), and the Philippines (12th), India easily be thought of as its own world.

Now let us look at GDP.  It is clear that India's economy is primarily driven by Uttar Pradesh (Dehli) and Maharashtra (Bombay/Mumbai).  Other states along the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal add to the overall economy.  However, the interior of the country and especially the eastern states are much poorer.  Nagaland, the majority Baptist state with a history of quasi-insurrection, has the same GDP as Zimbabwe and Tripura is on par with Somalia.

But while India's economy is huge we cannot forget that the Hindu giant also is filled with the poor, those left behind the great leap forward.  When looking at GDP per person from just the GDP, the great Maharashtra falls from being a Singapore to become a Sri Lanka.  Uttar Pradesh goes from a Qatar to a Kenya.  The wealth of India is raising many boats of fortune but there is still much more economic growth to be accomplished.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Earth: From the Tallest Mountain to the Deepest Trench

Karl Tate of Our Amazing Planet has created perhaps the most epic, to scale chart of the Earth from the tallest mountain top to the deepest ocean trench.  The chart, below, describes the range of life on earth, atmospheric and aquatic pressure, heights of clouds, and gives plenty of height comparisons so one can truly comprehend the scale of the Earth.  I was shocked how much higher birds can fly beyond the "dead zone" for humans.  Truly an excellent chart.

Our Amazing Planet explores Earth from its peaks to it mysterious depths.
Source, Exploring the wonder and beauty of planet Earth through exclusive news, features and images.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

GeoKid: One Family's Effort to Spread Geography

The Contolini family loves geography (and there love goes so far as to read this blog).  While all the family has gone on their own geographic adventures the eldest daughter of the Isabella recently scored a coup by getting to eleventh-place in the 2011 National Geographic Bee while only being in the seventh grade.  And this is on top of her dominating Colorado during the 2010 round and going to nationals that year as well.

The family is seeking to spread their love for geography by starting their own travelling geography lecture circuit known as GeoKid.  The program is designed to show elementary and middle school students that geography is important and combines both an adult and adolescent prospective on the matter.  While the program is still relatively new the already have testimonials online.

While I have never met the Contolini family I have been in communication with them and I can vouch for their eagerness to spread geographic literacy.  I wish them the best of luck with their Geokid program and any future geographical endeavors they undertake!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Freedom and the Party Internationals

The first, and so far only, governments to collapse because of the 2011 Arab Spring were those of the Constitutional Democratic Rally in Tunisia and the National Democratic Party in Egypt.  What got me thinking  is that these two parties were members of the international coalition of socialist parties known as Socialist International.  I began to wonder just how many dictatorial/unfair parities ran countries while maintaining membership in an organization that claims it is fighting for a "fair world."  The interest quickly spread to investigate other political party internationals to see just who supports the "freest" of systems.

To accomplish this I first created a list of countries where the government is primarily run by a member of either Socialist International, Liberal International, International Democratic Union, Centrist Democrat International, or the São Paulo Forum.  The list was then compared to Freedom House's Freedom of the World Index which breaks countries into free, partially free, and not free categories.

The results of the investigation are below

Socialist International
Coalition of socialist, social democratic, and labor parties such the Labour Party (UK), Australian Labor Party, and various Socialist Democratic parties.
Countries Where Party is the Primary Party in Government (In Government): 28
Free Countries: 19
Partially Free Countries: 7
Not Free: 2 (Angola and Zimbabwe)
Percent Free - Percent Not Free:  68% - 7%

Liberal International
Coalition of liberal parties including the Free Democratic Party of Germany and Democratic Alliance of South Africa
In Government: 9
Free: 5
Partially Free: 3
Not Free: 1 (Ivory Coast - government recently changed due to civil war)
Percent Free - Percent Not Free:  56% - 11%

International Democratic Union
Coalition of center-right conservative, some Christian democratic, and liberal conservative parties such as the United States' Republican Party, Australia's Liberal Party, and Spain's People's Party.
In Government:  17
Free: 13
Partially Free: 4
Not Free:  0
Percent Free - Percent Not Free: 76% - 0%

Centrist Democrat International
Originally Christian Democrat International, an Christian Democratic third way coalition.  Now a centrist coalition like most Christian Democratic Parties, Angola's UNITA, and the Democratic Party of Albania.
In Government:  11
Free:  9
Partially Free: 1
Not Free: 1  (Ivory Coast - government recently changed due to civil war)
Percent Free - Percent Not Free:  82% - 9%

São Paulo Forum
Coalition of Latin American and Central American left-leaning parties.
In Government:  11
Free: 5
Partially Free: 5
Not Free: 1 (Cuba)
Percent Free - Percent Unfree:  45% - 9%

The Ivory Coast presents an interesting note.  Before the Liberal International and Centrist Democrat International member party Rally of the Republicans took control after the Second Ivorian Civil War in April 2011, the Ivory Coast is run by the Ivorian Popular Front, a member of Socialist International.  So at the start of 2011 Socialist International ruling governments percentage free - not free were 61% to 16%.

When comparing the various party internationals it is clear that the Sao Paulo Forum, with a membership including the Communist Party of Cuba and other hard Leftist parties, has the biggest problems with promoting liberties.  Socialist International meanwhile has mostly freedom friendly parties but has allowed some horrible non-freedom supporting parties, and others that severely curb liberties.  Centrist Democrat International, International Democratic Union, then Liberal International have done a better job, not percent but still better, of ensuring their ruling parties keep promote freedoms.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Donate Shoes for Afghan Girls

My friend Scott with three Afghan girls.  Note the lack of shoes.

Do you want to make a small overall yet hugely personal difference for Afghanistan?  A friend of Catholicgauze is currently in eastern Afghanistan and is organizing a drive for new or used shoes for Afghan girls.  He has encountered countless Tajik, Hazara, and Pashtun girls who lack footwear (Afghan families unfortunately only invest in the footwear of sons).  If you want to donate shoes contact me at catholicgauze[at]gmail[dot]com and I will reply with the address.

Friday, June 17, 2011

How would you improve the National Geographic GeoBee?

For earlier thoughts on the National Geographic GeoBee see
Catholicgauze at the Geography Bee Part 2

I just got done watching the 2011 GeoBee on TV. While fun, I could not help but notice the questions where mostly limited to regional geography and memorization of places. Since geography is so much more than that, I am wondering how you would add other elements to the GeoBee to make it encompass more of the field of geography (remember though, these are 4th through 8th graders so suggested changes cannot be too impossible for them).

Personally, I think the National Geographic Channel's Australian Geography Competition does a good job of having a quiz game that is more than just regional geography questions.

World Religions: It is Abraham versus Dharma

When one thinks of religion one rightly thinks of divisions upon divisions.  Many new denominations are formed everyday in Christianity, many branches of Islam of come and gone, and the various schools of Buddhism have stark differences between them.  However, if one zooms out and looks at the overall basis of all these denominations and religions one will see that two schools of religion dominate the world:  Abrahamic and Dharma.

Map from Wikipedia
The above map shows the nominal dominance/plurality of Abrahamic and Dharmaic religions.  The three main religions which base themselves after Abraham's God are Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.  The major religions based on Dharma, the ancient Vedic code of divine and natural laws, are Hinduism, Janism, Buddhism, and Sikhism.  Abrahamic religions are shown in purple while yellow represents Dharmaic faiths.  Black shows a lack of data, however, only North Korea with it's imperial cult can be described as clearly non-Abrahamic or Dharmaic.

The success of Abrahamic religions is due to the missionary zeal of Christianity and Islam.  While in some places like the Middle East and the initial wave of Spanish conquests of the New World where conversions were due to top-down pressure, in many places missionary work within local societies was the primary leading cause because colonial officials' powers in places like Africa and India rarely expanded beyond the urban hubs.

The spread of Dharmaic faiths occurred because Buddhism abandoned many of the caste and ethnic-national restrictions of Hinduism which would actually make a convert to Hinduism's life worse.  Buddhism with its missionizing zeal spread throughout Asia.  The only reason it is not more wide spread is because it lost ground the a rapidly growing Muslim rim around the Indian Ocean and a revival of Hinduism in India.

Two points may be brought against the map and the idea Abraham's God and Dharma control almost all the world.  The new great world religion is Atheism which has spread across the globe because of Communist targeting of religions and general Western Enlightenment-thought which slowly has abandoned religion.  Some places like the Czech Republic probably can be thought of as truly plurality Atheist.  However, in post-Christian Western Europe many immigrants, both European and Islamic, are keeping religion alive in those places.

Another objection is to call many Christians and Muslims in Africa not true Christians or Muslims.  While some of these denominations do fall off the Abrahamic path with multiple gods, it is important to remember the vast majority are just adopting their culture and faith, much like Greek, Roman, and Northern European Christians did when Christianity spread throughout Europe.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

George Mason Ranks Personal and Economic Freedom By State

George Mason University's Mercatus Center has created Freedom in the 50 States, an examination of regulations that in personal and economic affairs.  The study ranks states in order of freedoms, that is less regulations.

No surprise the libertarian state New Hampshire, with the motto of "Live Free or Die," leads the list of states ranked on freedom.  In second place is South Dakota, a state which constitutionally limits its legislature's meetings to forty days on even years and thirty days on odd years.

Below is the list of states ranked in order of freedom. In Red are states that voted for Bush and McCain for president, Blue are states that voted for Kerry, Gore, and Obama, and Purple are states that voted for Bush but later for Obama.  Overall, Bush voting states, red and purple, clearly have less regulations compared to solid Democrat-voting states.

States in rank of personal and economic freedoms, according to the Mercatus Center: