Wednesday, August 31, 2011

September 2011 Travel Photo: The Palisades of South Dakota

Palisades State Park is located in eastern South Dakota and is filled with Sioux quartzite formations estimated to be 1.2 billion years old throughout, including in Split Rock Creek which flows through the park. The park is popular with rock climbers who can climb the 50 feet or higher quartzite cliffs. The picture shows King and Queen Rock which are popular with rock climbers.

Sioux quartzite comes from sandstone that was fused into blocks of solid quartz and is pink in color. Plains Indians used this quartzite for their ceremonial pipes.  An American Indian quarry outside of Pipestone, Minnesota was a trading hub whose goods have been found as far as the western side of the Rocky Mountains in archaeological digs.  Many buildings in eastern South Dakota and Minnesota were built out of the rock including the Federal Building in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in 1892.

View Larger Map

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sirte, Libya: A Place of Danger

View Larger Map

The Libyan Republic's forces are currently in control of most of Libya with the exception of the city of Sirte.  This city is the hometown and last stronghold of Muammar Qaddafi and his Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Republic.  Qaddafi's forces have launched several Squd missiles from Sitre and have vowed to fiercely fight any rebels who attempt to take the city.  This potential last battleground of the Libyan Civil War has been a place of danger many times before.  The danger; however, tends not to be in the city but in the Gulf of Sirte also known as the Gulf of Sidra also known as Syrtis.

A Danger to Ancient Sailors

The Gulf of Sitre was such a dangerous place that it is mentioned in the Bible as an area sailors fear.  Describing Saint Paul's captivity journey from Crete to Rome (before he washes up on Malta) the Bible describes his captors-sailors' fears of the gulf:

"They hoisted it [a dinghy] aboard, then used cables to undergird the ship. Because of their fear that they would run aground on the shoal of Syrtis, they lowered the drift anchor and were carried along in this way." -Acts 27:17 New American Bible

According to the Associates for Biblical Research, the gulf has moving shallows of sand drifts in which ships can run aground upon.  These drifts, miles away from shore, would become the graves of sailors who suffered painful starvation/dehydration deaths.

A Place of Pointless Cost

During World War II the gulf witnessed two naval battles.  Both battles were between the United Kingdom and Italy.  The first battle was relatively uneventful with the Italians unable to stop the resupply of Malta and the British unable to cut Axis-occupied Libya from Italy.  The second battle was bloodier and technically a British victory as the Italians were unable to stop a Malta relief convoy.  However, the battle delayed the convoy long enough for the Italian air force to sink the supply ships the next day.

America versus Qaddafi

In 1973, Muammar Qaddafi declared that the gulf was solely Libyan waters and drew a "Line of Death" encompassing much of the gulf.  The United States challenged this claim by conducting operations in the Gulf of Sitre.  Libyan fighters fired on American military planes both in 1973 and 1980 but there was no military consequences.

In 1981 two Libyan fighter-bombers engaged two American F-14s only to be shot down in an event which became known as the Gulf of Sidra incident.  In 1986 the second incident occurred with Libyans firing missiles at American Navy ships and a dogfight.  No causalities occurred until several Libyan navy ships attempted to engage the American fleet.  Two Libyan ships were then sunk and two more damaged.  A month later the United States launched bombing attacks from the gulf against Libya in response to Libyan terrorism against American military and German civilians at a dance hall in West Berlin.

A Bloody Seesaw

The coastline along the Gulf of Sirte was and continues to be the seen of where most of the Libyan Civil War of 2011 is being fought.  The initial rebel assault, the Qaddafi's counter-attack from Sirte city to Benghazi, and then the slow battle grind at the oil ports have been conducted along the coastline of this place of danger.  It is sort of fitting that this place halfway between Tripoli and Benghazi is where the war could end.

Monday, August 29, 2011

How to Make Your Very Own Twitter Map

Let us say a massive wave of anti-government protests breaks out in Iran again.  Protesters, the press, and Iranian government will be following the Twitter hashtag to figure out the youth leaders demands, activities, obstacles, and rally points.  But you want to go one step further and see where these hastag tweets are coming from.  Thankfully, due to this easy to follow ESRI blog post, it is possible to make a map which plots spatially-located tweets based on search terms.  Now you can research the next protest, flashmob, or earthquake with easy by using this very neat tool! (Hat tip: Tom Baker)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Warping History: A Blog on the Math in Cartography

Warping History: Analytical Methods in Historical Cartography is a blog which is for those who want to know the hardcore mathematics involved in modelling and fieldwork in the field of cartography.  There are both theoretical and applied posts.  One of my favorite posts is Fourier Finds Caesar: A Study in the Physical Evidence of Roman Agrarian Law and Land Usage Using Periodic Functions.  But beware, these posts are so deep in the math that it is easily capable of overwhelming one's mind.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Protected Geographical Status: The European Union Cares About the Geography of Food Names

The European Union really cares about the geography of food names
I wrote about the humor concerning the battle over what is "champagne" in the United States.    French wine growers from the Champagne region claim that Americans selling bubbly wine as "champagne" cheat customers because "true" champagne is made so wonderful because of the soil, sun, and other geographic factors.

One can laugh at the fact that the battle over champagne is a multi-million dollar war involving vast public relations campaigns and congressional lobbying.  One may say while shaking their head "Buffalo wings do not have to be made in Buffalo," or "Canadian bacon does not need to come from Canada."

The European Union, though, is not laughing.  In fact, the European Union has a complete legal framework called the Protected Geographical Status designed to protect local/regional interests by controlling the names of food products.  The European Union's Protected Geographical Status website states that 1,289 food products' geography-derived names are legal protected by the framework.

For example, let us examine the Cornish Pasty.  I grew up eating pasties due to me having family roots from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  While I grew up knowing the food as "pasty", most restaurants I have gone to refer to the meal as "Cornish Pasty."  In the European Union, calling a pasty which was not made in Cornwall, England a "Cornish Pasty" would be illegal.  There is an official document describing just what exactly a Cornish Pasty is.  Key parts from said document:

"On assembling Cornish Pasties, the pasties are D-shaped and pastry edges are crimped either by hand or mechanically to one side, and never on top"
"Cornish Pasties must be free from artificial colours, flavours and preservatives"
"Assembly of the pasties in preparation for baking must take place in the designated area [from elsewhere in the document:  'The administrative area of Cornwall'].  The actual baking does not have to be done within the geographical area, it is possible to send the  finished but unbaked and/or frozen pasties to bakers or other outlets outside the area where they can be baked in ovens for consumption."

The European Union would like to have a word with you if you consider this a "Cornish Pasty"
That is right.  It is illegal to make a "Cornish Pasty" not D-shaped, with artificial coloring, or anywhere outside Cornwall.

There are 1,288 other products that have this level of legal protection/bureaucratic backing their name.  The European Union takes their geographically-derived names seriously.  One interesting note: non-European Union member Switzerland has not moved to protect the name "Swiss Cheese." 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Use Remote Sensing to Find Genghis Khan's Tomb

The very cool Indiana Jones map has gotten me in an archaeology/adventure frame of mind.  This next blog post is meant to feed into that desire.  Be sure to listen to the Indiana Jones theme song while reading it...

Do you want to do actual geography and archaeology from your computer?  Do you want to be part of an adventure to locate a lost tomb of the founder of the largest empire the Earth has ever seen?  If you do, then sign up for National Geographic's Valley of the Khan's Project!  National Geographic is having users tag images of the earth to tag features, both human and natural, in order to help identifying promising sites which match potential descriptions of the location Genghis Khan's tomb.  (Hat tip: iRevolution)

This remote sensing opportunity will not end with you fighting Nazis, looting ancient treasures, and getting the girl.  However, it will give you bragging rights allowing to state you helped National Geographic in the search for the lost tomb of Genghis Khan.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Washington DC August 2011 Earthquake

So I was on the phone when I felt what seemed to be a heavy cart moving by.  The rattling was too hard so I thought it was a nearby helicopter.  However, when the person on the other end phone said there was shaking I realized it was an earthquake.

Yes, I am fine.  Yes, I know West Coast readers are laughing at those on the East Coast for the level of freak out going on.  No, nothing of mine was damaged.  No, I managed to stay off of the hellish roads as my home is in walking distance of work.  Yes, I did partake in USGS' Did You Feel It survey.  (Also, the Washington Monument does have some cracks but it is not leaning!)

The USGS has an excellent page on the 5.8 on the Richter Scale earthquake.  Their summary does a far better job than I could ever do:

The Virginia earthquake of 2011 August 23 occurred as reverse faulting on a north or northeast-striking plane within a previously recognized seismic zone, the "Central Virginia Seismic Zone." The Central Virginia Seismic Zone has produced small and moderate earthquakes since at least the 18th century. The previous largest historical shock from the Central Virginia Seismic Zone occurred in 1875. The 1875 shock occurred before the invention of effective seismographs, but the felt area of the shock suggests that it had a magnitude of about 4.8. The 1875 earthquake shook bricks from chimneys, broke plaster and windows, and overturned furniture at several locations. A magnitude 4.5 earthquake on 2003, December 9, also produced minor damage.
Previous seismicity in the Central Virginia Seismic Zone has not been causally associated with mapped geologic faults. Previous, smaller, instrumentally recorded earthquakes from the Central Virginia Seismic Zone have had shallow focal depths (average depth about 8 km). They have had diverse focal mechanisms and have occurred over an area with length and width of about 120 km, rather than being aligned in a pattern that might suggest that they occurred on a single causative fault. Individual earthquakes within the Central Virginia Seismic Zone occur as the result of slip on faults that are much smaller than the overall dimensions of the zone. The dimensions of the individual fault that produced the 2011 August 23 earthquake will not be known until longer-term studies are done, but other earthquakes of similar magnitude typically involve slippage along fault segments that are 5 - 15 km long.
Earthquakes in the central and eastern U.S., although less frequent than in the western U.S., are typically felt over a much broader region. East of the Rockies, an earthquake can be felt over an area as much as ten times larger than a similar magnitude earthquake on the west coast. A magnitude 4.0 eastern U.S. earthquake typically can be felt at many places as far as 100 km (60 mi) from where it occurred, and it infrequently causes damage near its source. A magnitude 5.5 eastern U.S. earthquake usually can be felt as far as 500 km (300 mi) from where it occurred, and sometimes causes damage as far away as 40 km (25 mi).

Monday, August 22, 2011

Libya War Maps: The Eighth Post - More Battle of Tripoli Maps

BBC Map Guide to Middle East Unrest
Libyan War Maps:  The First Batch
Libyan War Maps:  The Second Batch 
Libyan War Maps:  The Third Batch 
Libyan War Maps:  The Fourth Batch  

Libyan War Maps: The Fifth Batch - The Geography of Oil

Libyan War Maps:  The Sixth Post - The Coalition's Size

Libya War Maps: The Seventh Post - The Invasion of Tripoli

The Twitter account of k_thos and k_thos' Twitpic account has proved to be a gold mine of maps produced by him.

The first map shows how the Libyan Republic's forces, the rebels, moved from the west into Tripoli.

The Road to Tripoli. Click to Enlarge
The second is primarily dedicated to showing the prisons of Tripoli but does a good job showing the neighborhoods, hospitals, and other hot spots for the Battle of Tripoli.

Tripoli Jails, Neighborhoods, Hospitals, and Other Flashpoints. Click to Enlarge.
The final map is k_thos' Google Maps of the battle.  It is full of information and being updated frequently.

View Map: The Battle for Tripoli, LIBYA in a larger map

Google Maps Renames Green Square to Martyr's Square

Muammar Gaddafi renamed the main Tripoli square from Martyr's Square to Green Square in order to reflect his weird, quasi-coherent socialist, sort-of-not-really Islamist Green ideology.  Needless to say the rebel forces of the Libyan Republic want to reclaim this space by reverting the name of the square to reflect the sacrifice of all Libyans.  As soon as the Libyan Republic's army entered the square they began to refer to it as "Martyr's Square."

Now the move is gaining legitimacy.  Google Maps, through user edits, is recognizing the change by calling the square Martyr's Square.

View Larger Map

Interestingly enough, at the time of this writing OpenStreetMap still labels the square as Green Square.

View Larger Map

Now if only Google Maps can reach par with OpenStreetMap by recognizing South Sudan!

Libya War Maps: The Seventh Post - The Invasion of Tripoli

BBC Map Guide to Middle East Unrest
Libyan War Maps:  The First Batch
Libyan War Maps:  The Second Batch 
Libyan War Maps:  The Third Batch 
Libyan War Maps:  The Fourth Batch  

Libyan War Maps: The Fifth Batch - The Geography of Oil

Libyan War Maps:  The Sixth Post - The Coalition's Size

Libya War Maps: The Eighth Post - More Battle of Tripoli Maps

The New York Times has published two maps of the invasion and battle of Tripoli, Libya.  The first map shows how the rebels, aka forces of the Libyan Republic, attacked from the west and via an amphibious-based assault from Misurata.

The second map shows key positions where the Libyan Republic's forces are fighting the remainder of Muammar Gaddafi's army of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (Republic).

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Indiana Jones Map

Note: This is not a paid advertisement for the map, I just think it is really neat.

I am a huge fan of Indiana Jones. The combination of archaeology, history, and geography has made for fascinating tales of adveture of varying quality.  After a life of watching the movies, viewing the Young Indian Jones Chronicles on television, and playing the computer games, I realized the series operates on a quality-variable relationship:

  • Fighting Nazis for Biblical artifacts equals greatness (Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade)
  • Fighting Nazis for non-Biblical, mythical artifacts equals pretty good (Fate of Atlantis)
  • Fighting non-Nazis for non-Biblical, mythical artifacts equals silliness (Temple of Doom.  If you think Temple was a good film rewatch it because you most likely have repressed its racist awfulness)
  • Fighting Communists for New Age Artifacts equals oh heck no! (The movie that cannot be named)

I have not really blogged about Indiana Jones and geography but others have.  Mark Simonson has the best post discussing how Indiana Jones maps from the movies sure are pretty but do not use historically accurate fonts.  My efforts to map these adventures based on who Indiana Jones fought and for what have always been derailed by other efforts.

Now there is a way for one to geek out on Indiana Jones geography and help the Disable American Veterans (DAV).  Artist Matt Busch has made a map with the approval of Lucas Arts which displays all the discoveries of Indiana Jones.  The map shows artifacts from the movies, novels, television show, games, comics, and amusement park ride.  While I will not endorse buying the map, I do recommend one check out the website and video below for images of one good looking map.

Friday, August 19, 2011

"Geography of the War" - They Do Not Make Popular Geography Like This Anymore

In 1944 and 1945, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a series of articles entitled the "Geography of War".  These ten articles described where a place was, history, condition before the fighting, and why its geography was important during World War II.

One of the articles, Budapest Stands at the Crossroads of Europe begins with "Budapest, menaced by Soviet forces, is both the capital of Hungary and guardian of its great plains, the natural gateway to Vienna, says the National Geographic Society."  These articles show how a geographic organization teamed up with the media to spread the importance of geography to a public hungry for information.

A total of ten Geography of War articles are available from Google News Archive

When I read these articles one thing I thought of was possible ways geographers could reignite this type of public educational outreach.  Dr. Harm de Blij did something similar with Good Morning America by being their geography analyst.  Perphaps it is time geographers reach out again to the media.  We [geographers] need to be the one initiating and promoting these efforts, though.  Please contact me or comment if anyone knows of similar outreach effort to the press currently ongoing.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Places Named After You*

*Not really named after you but sharing your name

It has had to happen at least once or twice.  One is either driving, walking, or just even looking at a map and then sees something that shares your first name.  It can be a bar named "Patrick's", a street named John Avenue, or a park called Benjamin Square.  One usually thinks "that's neat" and moves on.  However, in my mind there have been many times where I have wondered just how many places shared my name.  Now, I can have a good idea of just how many places share my first name.  Stephen Von Worley has made a program that searches OpenStreetMap for places which share your first name.  The results are displayed on a Google Maps Mashup. Sadly one cannot search for surnames yet but this is still a very cool tool.  My first name is spread all throughout the Anglosphere with some appearances in India and the rest of Europe.  Meanwhile, it seems "Adolf" has greatly fallen out of favor and disappeared from many places on the globe (though Adolf Street in Lewisham, Greater London looks very British and lovely).  Have fun and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

NASA: Expanding Earth Theory Disproved

Back before the theory of plate tectonics took hold an alternative believed by some respectable geographers was that the Earth expanded and contracted.  The theory has long been abandoned but a few holdouts still believed, which I blogged about in 2008 (no need to follow that link as I pasted the video below).

Still a crazy theory, now a false one as well

Today NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced the results of their study which shows Expanding Earth is false.  Using GPS, satellite orbits, satellite laser ranging, and radio astronomy, NASA is convinced there is no significant change in the Earth's width at all.  The only "change" measured equaled out to 0.004 inches (0.1 millimeters), which is well within the margin of error.  This change (or margin of error), equaling a width of a human hair, would only account for 4.1 miles (6.6 kilometers) of growth/contraction in the last 65 million years.

More than 4.1 miles is needed to change this to the Earth we know.  Image from Celestial Matters.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Thinking Behind the Drawing of the Occupation Zones of Germany

August 13th was the fiftieth anniversary of the Berlin Wall being erected.  The division of Berlin and of Germany was the fruit of both the Yalta and Potsdam Conferences.  The occupation of Germany with various zones was agreed to at Yalta while the loss of much of eastern Germany to Poland and the Soviet Union occurred because of negotiations before and at Potsdam.

When one geographically displays the division and occupation of Germany one usually has a mental map something like this:

From Worldology
One may wonder why the Soviet Union, which fought Germany much more than the Western Allies in terms of strength and loses, only received the northeastern corner of Germany.  This is a failure of geographical imagine on oneself.  It was only at Potsdam that it was agreed much of pre-World War II eastern Germany would be lost.  In between Yalta and Potsdam, when the various zones were being proposed and finalized, the Allies took into consideration all of eastern Germany going into the Soviets' control.  The map planners used and produced maps which look like the one below (which is a recent addition to my personal map library)

Planning map of German occupation zones.  Click to enlarge. From my personal map library.
This map gives one greater understanding on just how much of Germany the Soviets truly occupied.

The map also shows how the Allies considered Hitler's changes to Germany's borders illegitimate.  France and the United Kingdom did not object at the time to Hitler's annexation with Austria, allowed the Sudetenland to be adsorbed, and stood by while Germany annexed most of Czechoslovakia.  However, the map shows international boundaries from 1937, right before Hitler began his aggressive territorial expansion but after The Territory of the Saar Basin legitimately voted freely under League of Nations' guidelines to rejoin Germany in 1935.

The second map shows the reasoning behind the Allies behavior.  The Soviets got a much larger share of Germany but decided to give it to their future puppets in Poland.  The map also shows that Allies recognized their failure to curb Hitler's aggression during the appeasement era before World War II.

The Geographical Association's Geography Reading List

Looking for a good geography book to read?  Already checked out the various books on this blog's Books section?  Foruantely for you, the British Geographical Association has their very own extensive reading list of books that deal with a wide range of geographical issues including human, physical, environmental, maps, historical, and even fiction with geographical content.  I will not vouch for all the books, most especially Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel, but one is bound to find a book that sounds interesting to them from this list.  (Hat tip: National Council for Geographic Education's Twitter Feed)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Al Jazeera Documentaries on the Arab Spring

Al Jazeera has a collection documentaries on the various 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.

Egypt Burning is a three part series which starts with the protests in January and ends with the fall of Mubarak.
Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark shows the sad truth that not all movements are destined to succeed.
The Arab Awakening has episodes examining not only concerning Egypt but also Tunisia and Libya as well as what is next.

Sadly I was unable to find any documentaries on the protests in Syria, Saudi Arabia, or Yemen.  It is interesting to see how the various governments and militaries have responded the vast array of motivations behind each countries' protest movement.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Free Military Geography Textbook for Download

Military Geography: For Professionals and the Public is an excellent textbook on all aspects of military geography.  This textbook goes well beyond the standard geohistorical look at battles and instead focuses on aspects of physical geography which military planners consider during operations.  The book is published by the government-owned National Defense University and is therefore not copyrighted.  One can download the book for free in various formats including PDF, EPUB, Kindle, and text.  If one wants, they can buy the printed form or the official Kindle version as well.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Maps of the August 2011 London Riots

London, England is currently suffering its third day of rioting.  What started as a protest against an incident where police officers killed a man quickly turned into a riot by those who feel disenfranchised and anarchists who in reality tend to be upper middle class and well taken care of by the welfare state.

The Telegraph has an live map displaying both current and past flash points.  London Riots Map maps tweets that mention the riots and a British post code.  Channel 4 has a timeline map.  BBC has an traditional map with video embeds and a timeline on the side.  There is a reputable Google Maps map called London Riots/UK Riots which is doing the best one can to verify information before mapped; this map is receiving some good news coverage. Finally, The Sun has a map labeling neighborhoods where riots have occurred.

Update:  The Guardian has a verified incidents map of all of England.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Imperial Japan's Geography Shows the Thinking about Dropping the Atomic Bombs

One can only imagine the deep thoughts and debates American policy makers had over whether or not to drop the atomic bomb on Japan.  On August 6 and 9, 1945, President Harry Truman ordered the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.  Somewhere around 150,000 to 200,000 people died both the bombings.

Though various standard bombing raids on Tokyo killed more people, the atomic bomb is debated on whether or not the bombing was necessary.  Frequently, debates focus solely on the status of Japanese military in Japan.  What one forgets is that Japan and its allies and puppets were still in control of a vast part of Asia.  Imperial Japan, the Reorganized National Government of China, and Manchukuo all had standing fighting militaries.  There were also puppet states that were large variables on whether or not they could offer opposition which would require further fighting outside of Japan.  The fact that the Japanese's Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere wide span was a major factor in ending the war once and for all in a single stroke in Japan.

Map by the United States Army from Wikipedia
The above map shows Imperial Japanese and its allies holdings five days before the dropping on the first atomic bomb on Japan.  It was a map like this which showed the Allies that either the bomb had to be dropped or the war would had to have been fought across the western Pacific.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Geography Fail on Television

Because sometimes a blog needs humor on Friday.

Sharia Micronation Claims Boundaries in England

Hate Claiming Space.  Picture from the Daily Mail
The Daily Mail has an article on how radical Islamists in the London area are openly marking areas which they are claiming as a sharia microstate.  Fortunately in a positive sign of government and local Muslim cooperation, there is an effort to take down the signs marking the boundary the Islamists are claiming.  Hopefully the integration efforts of the United Kingdom, which seem to have the best results so far of combating extremism compared to the rest of Europe, can curb the growth of Sharia micronations.

In a time where radical terrorism by nativists and Islamists threatens everyone, the clash of civilizations being conducted by extremists puts all of Europe at risk.  Studying the where and why radicalization zones form is the first step in erasing these places of hate.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Geography as an Iceberg: The Science is Much More than Place Names

When I tell someone that I am a geographer more often then not I am ask a trivia question like "what is the capital of Tuvalu?"  It is sometimes hard to explain that geography is more than place names and location memory.  The field studies both the physical and human world spatially and there are new subfields involving computer analysis of data.  It does not help that most geography classes, games, and trivia challenges focus on place names.  One of the primary reasons geography is not appreciated by the public more is because of this misconception.

Jay Merryweather of ESRI captured the misunderstanding of the science with his "geography as an iceberg" drawing.  This image is a perfect graphic to use in schools when trying to show that there is much more to geography than just place names.

Click to enlarge.  From ESRI.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

United States of Greater Austria and the Habsburg Vision for a United Europe

The Austro-Hungarian Empire was the second-to-last European land empire.  Like the other great European Empires, Austria-Hungary was a combination nationalities and ethnic groups controlled by a central group while having local rulers on a regional, small scale.

Towards it’s sudden end, there were plans to reorganize the Austria-Hungary into a federal country comprised by semi-autonomous states.  The proposed model was never to be realized in reality but it served in part to be a model for the European Union.

The idea for a federalized created by a commission of scholars associated with Archduke Franz Ferdinand who favored liberalization in the empire as part of a modernization program.  The commission could not agree on an exact model for the country but solicited others for ideas.  The most thought out idea came from an unlikely source.  Aurel Popovici, an ethnic Romanian who campaigned for equal rights for Romanians in the Hungarian zone, was an outsider but he was able to communicate his specific idea with the scholars who in turned gave the proposal to Ferdinand for consideration.

Click to enlarge.  From Wikipedia.
Popovici’s United States of Greater Austria proposed fourteen states based on ethnicity. The idea entrenched the powers of Germans and Hungarians were they lived but allowed minorities to unite and have greater rights in their own zones.   In the proposal German’s were given German Austria, German Bohemia (Sudentland, which Hitler forced the Western Powers to give to him in the late 1930s, and German Moravia).  Hungarians in turn were given Hungary and Szeklerland (an area in present-day Romania which continues to be the reason of arguments between Romanians and Hungarians).  The Italians were given two smaller states in order to divide demands for unification with Italy.  Meanwhile, Croats, Czechs, Poles, Romanians, Serbs, Slovenes, and Ukrainians all got their own state in the plan.  Finally, twelve small ethnic enclaves within the various states were further proposed:  ten for Germans, one for Poles, and one for the mixed city of Prague.

The archduke’s assassination in 1914 initiated the series of events which started World War I.  The idea of a federal empire seemed to have died with the archduke.  However, in 1916 when the archduke’s nephew, Karl, became the emperor of Austria-Hungary, the proposal of a federal empire received new life.  Karl was an eager supporter of Catholic social justice and therefore believed that ethnic groups had rights to protect their cultural identity within the empire.  He also tried to work with the imperial parliament to implement the federalization plan.  Karl was the only Central Powers leader to agree with American President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points plan in support of self-determination.  However, by the end of the war nationalism had swept Austria-Hungary and the empire shattered into pieces while Karl was forced into exile.

The dream of the United States of Greater Austria failed but a giant federal state that respects local autonomy based on the self-determination of national groups lived on.  One of the main supporters of a European union based on that model was Otto von Habsburg, son of Emperor Karl.  Otto served as the vice-president of the International Paneuropean Union (IPU) starting in 1957 and as president in 1973.  He also was elected to the European Community’s, now European Union, Parliament in its first election on a Euro-friendly, Christian social teaching platform.  Otto struggled for a federal, not centralized, European state based on liberty and the continent's Christian heritage.  He left seats open for the then Communist Eastern European states and help support the Pan-European Picnic which help speed up the fall of the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall.  Otto fought for a united Europe of autonomous states until his death in 2011.

The Habsbsurg vision for a united Europe is only one vision for the European Union.  Some imagine a much more centralized system or a much looser confederation.  However, with Euroskeptic forces on the rise the European Union has been abandoning plans for a centralized state.  A confederation or even just a economic union is the most likely end state for the European Union now, but perhaps the middle ground of a Habsburg-planned federation of autonomous units may still be the outcome for the European Union.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Video of Advancing Unemployment in the United States

Journalist LaToya Egwuekwe has made a fascinating map of the unemployment rate in the United States by county from 2007 to April 2011 (Hat tip: ODT Maps Newsletter).


In 2007 the disastrously high unemployment rate was contained primarily to areas of California, Michigan, and the lower Mississippi River area.  Sadly, as time goes by the extremely high unemployment rates conquer almost all the country.  Only North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska as well as western Kansas and Oklahoma hold anysort of ground.  A combination of low taxes (South Dakota for instance has neither a personal nor corporate income tax), a growing energy sector, and state government actively encouraging businesses to relocate have managed to help keep jobs in these interior states.

The efforts by the states have created job-friendly results.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Dakotas and Nebraska have the lowest unemployment rates.  North Dakota is at 3.2%, Nebraska is at 4.1%, and South Dakota is at 4.8%.