Friday, August 31, 2012

Mitt Romney: Hispanic

Because of religious geography former Massachusetts Governor and Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney is Hispanic.  Romney's Hispanic heritage is rooted in religious migration and revolution.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints (Salt Lake City Mormons) began establishing colonies in Mexico during the 1870s.  These colonies were to serve as a fall back point in case the United States government tried to aggressively crush polygamy.  Mormon President Brigham Young, who brought his band of Mormons to what is now Utah to escape outside forces against the faith, realized the American West was closing and Mormon de facto independence was about to end.  The Romney family, a leading family in Mormonism, were among the Mormon Mexico pioneers.  Eventually the Salt Lake City Mormon church abandoned and suppressed polygamy but the colonies continued to grow.

Mitt Romney's father, George Romney, was born in Colonia Dublan, Chihuahua, Mexico in 1907.  George's father, Gaskell Romney, was a Mormon colonizer who settled in 1885.  George's maternal grandfather, Helaman Pratt, was one of the first Mormon missionaries in Mexico and became a Mormon colonizer in 1876.  Mexico at the time did not allow dual citizenship and thus forced the Romneys to choose between Mexican and American citizenship.  They chose American citizenship.

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The American Public Land Survey System, grid system, is seen as an import by Mormon colonizers

In 1912 raiding and the threat of Mexican Revolution spillover forced most of the Romneys and many, but not all, Mormon colonial families to flee to the United States.  George was able to integrate into the United States and eventual become Governor of Michigan.  His son Mitt was born in 1947 in Michigan.

So how is Mitt Romney Hispanic?  The 2010 United States Census states

"The terms "Hispanic" or "Latino" refer to persons who trace their origin or descent to Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Spanish speaking Central and South America countries, and other Spanish cultures. Origin can be considered as the heritage, nationality group, lineage, or country of the person or the person's parents or ancestors before their arrival in the United States. People who identify their origin as Hispanic or Latino may be of any race."

Nothing in the definition says Hispanics have to speak Spanish.  This allows many Mesoamerican Indians in the remote parts of Central America to be classified as Hispanic as well as Paraguayan Mennonites.  The fact that race does not matter allows Middle and South American Indians, Mestizos, pure blood Spanish-Americans, European South Americans, and Black Dominicans all to claim to be Hispanic.  All this allows the Romney-Pratt family to be of Hispanic heritage.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Political Geography Model Points to Romney Victory

An electoral map of the 2012 election to come?

A political science-geography model of the 2012 Presidential Election between President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney states that Romney will win the electoral college 320-218.  The geography of the model depicts certain shifts from the classic Bush Red State-Blue State model as well as a partial reversal of the Obama tide.

Romney's projected victory will be, according to the model, due to what I would call a Paul Ryan-Rust Belt effect.  The campaign's emphasis on the recession as well as Ryan's Mid West appeal seems to spill over as Bush/McCain Indiana, Bush/Obama Ohio, Gore/Bush/Obama Iowa, and Gore/Kerry/Obama Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania all go for Romney.  In the model Romney is able to retake the Bush southern states of Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida which went for Obama in 2008.  Romney's New England moderatism also wins him soft libertarian New Hampshire.

Obama is projected to use his Hispanic advantage to win Nevada (Bush/Obama) and New Mexico (Gore/Bush/Obama). as well as a congressional district in Maine.  Obama's cores are the liberal Northwest, the liberal Pacific Coasts, Hispanic southwest, and Black hubs in Michigan and Illinois.

Interesting note on the model:   The model successfully predicts every Electoral College victor since 1980 but it has not been in use since 1980, it was made to accurately project the winner of earlier contests.  Geoblogger Justin Holman has the breakdown.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Reminder: Geographic Travels Geo-Literacy Outreach Award

Geographic Travels blog is hosting the Geographic Travels Geo-Literacy Outreach Awards.  This is your chance to earn $300 or $200 (U.S.) to finance your project to increase geographic literacy in the public.  Be sure to reach more about the project here and see the two entries we have so far.  The deadline for entries is October 1st, 2012.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Map of Stand Your Ground, Castle Doctrine, Retreat States

The website ReadyHolster has created a detailed map and infographic on Stand Your Ground, Castle Doctrine, and Retreat states.  Stand Your Ground is the law which allows one to shoot and kill a hostile who threatens them with bodily harm.  Castle Doctrine allows for the use of lethal force in defense of one's home.  Retreat states mandate that the threatened victim backs down from a hostile.

There is a loose geographic theme dividing Stand Your Ground and Castle Doctrine states.  Stand Your Ground states tend to be in the southern half of the country while Castle Doctrine states tend to be in the northern half.  Obviously by the looking at the map one can tell there are exceptions to this rule of thumb (South Carolina, the first state to form the Confederacy, is a Castle Doctrine state while progressive Washington is a Stand Your Ground state).  Looking at the chart of crime rates one can see that there is a correlation between a higher crime rate and the more likely the state authorizes deadly force.  This is probably due to citizens calling for extra defenses against crime.  "When the cops are minutes away second count."

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Geographers Really Need to Reach Out to the Public More

Last week I did a quick survey of professions mentioned in a Google News search for the last thirty days.  Here are the results.

Historian: 31,900
Economist: 127,000
Engineer: 162,000
Geographer: 459

We need serious outreach efforts by geographers, as a group and individuals, as well as an examination on whether or not we are focusing on society's needs and wants.  Harm de Blij recommended twenty years ago that geographers write to newspapers offering analysis on the world events.  As geographers we can reach out on resources, climate, cultural, geopolitics, globalization, and so much more.

A Tale of Two Afghanistan Blogs

Deployment blogs are worldviews into what only a few know, feel, and experience (according to the United States Census, only 7% of all Americans are veterans; the number collapsed to only 1.2% who are under 35 and maybe 2% when you consider all active duty).  Even when not done by a solider but by a civilian augmentee or journalist who focuses on soldiers' lives, these blogs give a voice to a life unimaginable by many.  The surreal war stories, the sights and sounds, and even daily life can be transmitted to the reader in beautiful ways by those who are "over there".

The first blog I want to direct your intention to is Kandahar Journal by Richard Johnson, an internet acquaintance of mine, of the National Post (Canada).  Richard is deployed out to Afghanistan again writing about the 1,000 or so Canadian soldiers who are still deployed in Afghanistan.  While he has just recently arrived, he also has been interacting with soldiers and press relations officials.  I greatly appreciated his post on writing "the letter".  The pain and drain of everyone who has deployed can be felt in his words.  I have had the luxury of shredding mine.

His main claim to uniqueness is his artistic skills.  Just looking at his drawing of the Apache helicopter in the repair bay brought back to me the feelings of heat even in the shade of the tent and the sounds and smells of the mechanics bay.

Illustration by Richard Johnson
The pure boredom of the flight line waiting room is captured as well.

I waited a good deal of my life at flight lines.  Illustration by Richard Johnson
The other blog brings out a part of me which some have accused as being over cynical.  Just because one deploys out to Afghanistan or Iraq does not mean one was in the war.  For every soldier who has seen the true horrors of war there are several fobbits (those who never leave the base, mostly Forward Operating Bases).  These soldiers and civilians take long coffee breaks at the Green Bean, a Starbucks-style coffee house, have movie nights at the theater, and complain when the omelet station runs out of egg whites.  Yet when they come back home they get the same praise as combat soldiers and even more than combat civilians (who are not allowed to join groups like Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, or the American Legion unlike their fobbit kin). 

There was a blog on xoJane that captured the spirit of these fobbitts.  The blog post was entitled Deployment Beauty: Make-Do Tips From the Green Zone.  The blog was infuriating as the civilian woman complained about how smelly the bathrooms were and how she was too busy to take showers for days-on-end.  She goes on to complain about "the worst" chow hall in all of Afghanistan and how YouTube is blocked on her wifi.  Reading this tested my patience as a person who was on a camp which frequently ran out of water due to Taliban and even allied forces interfering with supply routes  (one starts to eye water bottles a whole new way when deliveries stop), had to join groups that would provide cover each other when we needed to relieve ourselves outside in Taliban territory, and was shot and shelled at.  And there are many out there who had it a lot worse than me.

(Rebuttal from a respected reader:  at least she was offering solutions to overcome some personal difficulty of her's rather than just a blog posts of complaints)

The blog focused primarily on the woman's beauty tips for her being deployed.  A fellow blogger contacted xoJane and they stated the blog post was taken down because of the outcry the writer received.  However, the magic of the internet allows one to read and download the post below.

Deployments can be hell, surreal, fascinating, troublesome, rewarding, or shamefully spoiled with the good life and vain complaints.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Geopolitical Primer for East China Sea and South China Sea Island Disputes

On the fringes of East Asia in the East and South China's Seas a great geopolitical battle is on-going.  Chinese activists raise the flags of both the Republic (Taiwan) and the People's Republic.  Japan sends military patrols to plant flags on small rocks that could not support any permanent population.  Meanwhile, street protesters range Malaysia to the Philippines are denouncing Chinese claims throughout the China Seas.

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The geopolitical match is being fought over several island groups.  The primary chains are:

The Spratly Islands in the South China Sea:  Vietnam, People's Republic of China (PRC), the Republic of China (ROC), Malaysia, Philippines, and Brunei.
The Paracel Islands in the South China Sea: PRC, ROC, and Vietnam (the PRC defeated South Vietnam in a 1974 sea battle over the islands).
The Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea: Japan, PRC, and ROC.

Here are three points which are constants in both China Seas arguments

1) China is the driver of the recent debate.  The PRC feels bound in by the chain of land and islands stretching from Far East Russia, down Japan and the Philippines, through Indonesia and Malaysia, and up Vietnam.  If the PRC can control the range of islands then the PRC can lean on its neighbors rather than feel pressed in.

2)  It is also about resources.  There are several major natural gas fields near these islands.  Anyone who controls these islands gets easily exploited wealth and energy.

3)  The Republic and People's Republic of China are one in this .  While there is some argument over just who would get to control what, at the end of the day Taiwan does not view itself as independent but instead as the legitimate government of all of China.  Taipei and Beijing would rather have one of them control the islands vice any foreign power because both these two governments view reunion as only a matter of when, not if.

Below are some maps to help one better visualize the conflicts

Competing claims in the South China Sea.  Note how China and Vietnam's claims extend.  From Wikipedia.
Actual control of islands.  Note how some points in the same atoll are controlled by different countriesClick to enlarge Image from M4.CN
Dark grey areas represent natural gas and oil fields in the disputed zones.  Click to enlarge.  Image from the Atlantic.
Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.  Note the gas fields.  From Guambat Stew

So why does all this matter?  The East and South China Seas have major shipping ways.  Think about everything that comes from China.  That goes through the disputed zones.  Any real conflict could shut down or limit trade immensely.  Prices would sky rocket.  For those Downunder, The Australian made an excellent graphic showing that 65.7% of all Australian and 43.8% of all Australian imports go through the disputed South China Sea.

Click to enlarge

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Syrian Civil War Byproduct - A New Kurdish Republic?

Guest post by FSSP

There have been multiple attempts in the twentieth century to establish an independent Kurdistan in different countries within the Kurdistan realm between Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and the former Soviet Union.  Despite initial successes in controlling ungoverned spaces and establishing the framework of a state, each effort was eliminated by the home state.

Kingdom of Kurdistan - Iraq
1923-30 Red Kurdistan - USSR, Azerbaijan (currently within the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic), dissolved into Azerbaijan due to Soviet ethnic geopolitics.
1927-30 Republic of Ararat - Turkey
1946-47 Republic of Kurdistan - Iran
1992 Lachin Kurdish Republic - Azerbaijan (currently within the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic)

From 1978 to today the communist Kurdistan Workers Party has been fighting a guerrilla and terrorist campaign against Turkey to break off Turkish Kurdistan.  They have not declared their own independent country.

The cycle of failed states came somewhat to end with Iraqi Kurdistan gaining de facto independence under the United States' no-fly zone in 1991.  Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 ensured de facto independence for Iraqi Kurdistan continued.  Since then elections have been held multiple times, infrastructure has been built, and an unique identity has formed in the region.  The Iraqi Kurdish government known as the Kurdistan Regional Government  even worked with the Turkish military in coordinating efforts against the Kurdistan Workers Party militias.

Now a new Kurdish state may be in formation.  The Kurdish Democratic Union Party, pro-Syrian Arab Republic and aligned with the terrorist Kurdistan Workers Party, and the pro-rebel Kurdistan National Council are jointly taking control of northeast Syria.  This area is mostly Kurdish and has been abanonded by the Syrian Arab Republic and there is no Free Syrian Army presence.

The geography blog Political Geography Now created a zone of control map of Syria which shows places under control by the nascent Kurdish proto-government.
Political Geography Now's map of Syria.  Blue dots are under Kurdish control.

There are pictures online showing the Kurdish national flag (also used by Iraqi Kurdistan) and the Democratic Union Party flag flying from captured Syrian Arab Republic buildings.

Kurdish flags over a school.  Photo from Transnational Middle-East Observer

No one yet knows how the Syrian Civil War will end.  However, no matter what the outcome the winner will have to deal with a de facto independent Syrian Kurdistan.  Unlike Iraqi Kurdistan which was moderated by the United States, Syrian Kurdistan will be run by forces allied with Marxist terrorists who have an expansionist agenda.  Either Turkey would likely become involved and crush this Kurdistan like the others or what was northeastern Syria will likely serve as a base for attacks into Turkey.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Geodestruction of Tenochtitlan

The Spanish crushed the Aztecs and took their capital Tenochtitlan on August 13, 1521.  The greatly damaged yet still mighty city still served as a sign of Mesoamerican empire to the Spaniards.  In order to show that there domination of the New World was to be complete in all things, the Spaniards destroyed everything in the city and built on top of it the de facto capital of the Spanish Western Hemisphere, Mexico City.

On top of the ruins of the Aztec's main temple was built the Metropolitan Cathedral, which acted as the headquarters of the Catholic Church for half the world for some time.

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The ruins which were not completely scavenged for building material were buried underground.  Today, to the immediate northeast of the Cathedral are the only remaining ruins of any significance left of Tenochtitlan.

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However, the Spaniards made physical geography errors in their destruction of Tenochtitlan.  They destroyed the Aztec flood control infrastructure and deforested and over plowed the nearby terrain.  Lake Texcoco flooded repeatedly and this climaxed with the 1629 flood that submerged most of Mexico City for five years.  The Spanish then decided on a policy of draining Lake Texcoco turning it from a great lake to a rump salt marsh found only to the east of Mexico City.

The lake overlaid with a modern map.  From Lonely Islands.

What is left of Lake Texcoco

The draining and then the flood control lasted well into the 1900s.  The Spanish and Mexicans had destroyed Tenochtitlan and the mighty Lake Texcoco.  However, the lake, which the Aztecs lived around and the Spanish-Mexicans sought to conquer, was not finished.  Next week we will look into the lake's revenge.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

America's Carbon Dioxide Output at Twenty Year Low Due to Natural Gas

The economic slow, conservation efforts, and most importantly cheap, domestically produced natural gas have reduced the United States' carbon dioxide (CO2) output levels to a twenty year low.  The drop is primarily due to the increase drilling and exploitation of shell gas, which has given North Dakota one of the strongest economies in the nation. 

The primary means of getting shell gas are horizontal drilling and fracking (post on this coming fairly soon).

The need for energy at a reasonable price will further drive shell natural gas drilling in the country.  Looking at a map of shell gas, it is clear there is plenty of room for gas-driven economic growth in the interior of the country.

Dark pink is areas currently being tapped while light pink are untapped basins.  Yellow is potential.  From the Energy Information Administration.  Click to enlarge.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pumice Island Floating in the Pacific

The Pumice Island and ash shore from space.  Click to Enlarge.  Image from NASA.
The New Zealand Navy discovered a new, temporary island floating in the Pacific Ocean.  The "island" is floating because the new geographic oddity is a collection of ash and pumice rock, which floats easily due to its lightweight caused by magma quickly be cooled by water. The island span an area of 300 miles (480 km) by 30 miles (48 km).

Scientists were confused as they could not find a reason for the islands existence.  After some investigation it seems that the underwater volcano Havre Seamount erupted and belched out the rock and ash.  The island isn't solid so it should not pose trouble to ship traffic.  In fact, it is believed that pumice can aid in the replenishment of coral reefs.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Monday, August 13, 2012

Tenochtitlan: The Lynchpin for the Creation of a New World

The first encounters between the Old World Spain and the New World American Indians set a bad precedent for the American Indians.  The vanguard of the Western Civilization encountered the outer rim rump of the Americas in the Caribbean.  The Spanish quickly got the idea that the New World would be a push over compared to the Muslim Moors which the Spanish just defeated.

The New World had one chance to stop the Spanish.  If the American Indians could crush the Spaniards in one place right away they could give the Spaniards second thoughts of conquest.  The Vikings decided the New World was not worth the effort after encountering Indians with cannons with catapults on them.  American Indians needed a repeat if they wanted to keep their world the same.

Only Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec, could steam the Spanish tide.  It is this ancient city, centered in present-day Mexico City, whose fall was necessary for the Spanish to make a new world.  This city represented the Triple Alliance, the mightiest empire in the most populated region in the Americas.

Throughout this week I will be blogging about Tenochtitlan and geography.  The two videos below discuss the founding of Tenochtitlan and provide a flyby of the city.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Reminder: Geographic Travels Geo-Literacy Outreach Award

Geographic Travels blog is hosting the Geographic Travels Geo-Literacy Outreach Awards.  This is your chance to earn $300 or $200 (U.S.) to finance your project to increase geographic literacy in the public.  Be sure to reach more about the project here and see the two entries we have so far.  The deadline for entries is October 1st, 2012.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Ferro Meridian: The Alternative Prime Meridian at the End of the Old World

View Ferro Meridian in a larger map

When Greenwich was chosen to be the Prime Meridian for sea maps in 1875, the main battle was between the British Empire who advocated for Greenwich and the French who pushed for Paris.  While these two titans battled it out, most countries actually their own national prime meridian (16th Street from the White House for the United States) for local maps.  However, when dealing with international/continental maps many Europeans used the Ferro Meridian.  Ferro, another name for El Hierro island, is the western most of the Canaries Islands, the last bit of European conquered land before Columbus discovered the New World.  As such it is the furthest western point of the Old World.  Putting the meridian here would put all of Europe to the east and ensure geocoordinates would be written in the positive (with Greenwich places like Madrid are 3.4 degrees West which is written -3.4)

However, the imperial sea might of the British was too powerful for Paris and Ferro supporters to overcome.  Besides not being strong enough, Ferro users used the island as a historic precedent and no one pushed too hard for the island's continued use.  The French eventually relented in hope that the British would agree to adopt the Metric system.  That effort of metrication failed; it took reforms started in the 1960s to get the United Kingdom to use metric but the change over still is not fully complete.

Today the Ferro Meridian is nothing more than a geographic/historic footnote.  There is a monument to the island's past near the western shore which is a tourist attraction for those who journey to the Old World's edge.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Geography of Where American Olympic Athletes Live

The Atlantic has an article on the geography of hometowns and residences of Summer 2012 Olympic athletes.  The article is a good read but I was fascinated on the breakdown of where athletes currently live.  There are several cores but California seems to be the place where summer fun becomes summer sports gold (silver and bronze).

An excellent take away:

The map above takes a second cut, charting the metros where America’s Olympic competitors currently live. 

Los Angeles is again tops, but now it boasts an even greater concentration of athletes: 68 Olympians, 15 percent of the U.S. team, currently call it home. Nearby San Diego is second with 38 or 8.5 percent of Olympic athletes. Colorado Springs is third with 21 or 5 percent.  These athletes are clustered around Olympic training facilities in Chula Vista near San Diego and Colorado Springs.
Other metros with significant numbers of Olympians include: San Francisco with 19 or 4.3 percent; Trenton-Ewing, New Jersey (which includes Princeton) with 17 or 3.8 percent; and Oklahoma City, Austin, and Miami, each with with 13 or 2.9 percent. California boasts 146 Olympians – which would make it the 19th largest national Olympic team.

When we control for population, the Trenton-Ewing, New Jersey, metro comes out on top, with a whopping 4.7 Olympic athletes per 100,000 people. Colorado Springs (3.5) is second, followed by Athens, Georgia (2.3) and Eugene, Oregon (2.0). The predominance of college towns makes sense: many Olympians come from their programs and train at their facilities.

One thing that's notable is the pronounced clustering of athletes in individual sports. L.A., for example, is home to six of 10 beach volleyball players, with two more from nearby Santa Barbara and Oxnard. Nearly half of America's fencers (7 of 16) live in New York. More than three-quarters of female rowers - 16 out of 21 of them - live in a single city, Princeton, New Jersey, while a large number of their male counterparts live in Chula Vista and Oklahoma City. 

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal suggests that the U.S. gains advantage from its more decentralized system for identifying and developing young athletes. Still, America’s Olympic athletes do cluster, especially around training facilities and locational centers of excellence. Mirroring the talent clustering that defines so many other dimensions of economic and social life, they also gain from training with, competing against, and being around each other.

Monday, August 06, 2012

August 2012 Monthly Travel Photo: Saudi Airport Book Store

An airport book store is a good window into popular culture.  A foreigner would learn that American taste in books is limited between political manifestos, how to books, and soft/hidden pornography.  A trip to Saudi Arabia taught me the trinity of Saudi books is histories, religious, and anti-Semitism.

The two photos below are snapshots of blatantly anti-Semitic books.  The first one seems to be the fifth in a series of religious books while the second photo shows a standalone book.  Sadly, my Arabic is not what it should be so if anyone can translate I would be very grateful.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Olympics Geography: Countries' Opening Procession March Air Time on NBC

Friend and geographer Andrew Shears has created the below map showing the amount of show time NBC gave the various Olympic teams' processions.

Click to enlarge

Three Anglo core countries, Australia, host United Kingdom, and NBC-based United States, had major coverage.  The Soviet Union-replacing rival People's Republic of China had the most air time for a non-English speaking country.  Canada did not have that much air time; possibly due to Canada's weak status in summer games and the fact most Canadians watch the Olympics live on CBC.

Europe and Asia had respectable air time amounts, though Southeast Asia was lacking.  African countries' coverage was light-to-moderate but overall consistent.  The real discrepancy was in Latin America.  Countries like Brazil and Argentina led the way in air time but others like Guatemala, Paraguay, Colombia, and Peru barely had any air time.  This is somewhat surprising considering the growing Hispanic population in America though those with strong ties to their homeland may watch Spanish-speaking broadcasts of the Olympics on other channels.