Friday, November 30, 2012

Ireland and Czech Republic See Palestine Through Their Own Geopolitical History

The United Nations voted 38 to 9, with 41 abstentions, to recognize "Palestine" as a “non-member observer state.  Two European countries, Ireland and Czech Republic, campaigned and voted differently concerning Palestine due to their unique geopolitical history.


The Republic of Ireland took great pride in being the European spearhead for United Nations' recognition of a Palestinian state.  The Irish nationalist movement and by extension the Irish government has long sympathized with the Palestinian movement.  Irish nationalists see similarities between the centuries-long occupation of Ireland by the English and the Israeli occupation of the ethnic Palestinian territories.  Similarities extend also to 1949, the year the Arab war against Israel failed (destroying the chance for a Palestinian state controlling all of the old mandate) and Ireland left the Commonwealth of Nations and became fully independent.  Ireland therefore viewed advocating for a Palestine as continuing the fight for national sovereignty which freed the Irish and other ethnic groups.

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic was the only European country to vote against the United Nations' recognition of Palestine.  The geopolitical explanation is that the Czechs remember the pain and suffering caused by appeasement through cutting up and dividing a country.  Nightmares of the France and the United Kingdom giving into Hitler's demands for first the Sudetenland and then the rest of the country drive the Czech's support for territorial integrity on Israel's terms.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Interview: Horreyah on the Arab Springs

Geographic Travels interviewed documentarian Victor S. who is creating a documentary film about his travels in the Arab world during and after Arab Spring-events.  The film, Horreyah, which means "freedom" in Arabic follows Victor during his time in the region.  Victor is currently raising money on Kickstarter to help him finance the film's production.

We find his information on the independent-mindedness of each protest surprising, the Muslim Brotherhood slow motion plan of conquest disturbing, and the personal story about the FSA adventurous.

GT:  What inspired you to do a documentary on the Arab Spring?

I had worked as a contractor in the region during the relatively early stages of OIF and became interested in the middle east for several reasons. The history of the area, the passionate nature of its people, and the politics all seemed fascinating to me. By the time that the "Arab Spring" had started, I had already traveled throughout much of North Africa and the Levant.

During my travels I spoke with literally hundreds of locals and (like many travelers do) I listened to them gripe about their view of the world- but later found it fascinating that they rarely mentioned the issues that would become the impetus for the Spring.

I am also an American, and as such believe that freedom is something that every person should have. When the first wave of popular uprisings were shown by the US media during January/Febuary of 2011, they were often presented (rather simplistically) as David taking on Goliath. As small but brave groups of individuals fighting long standing Dictatorships. This touched me and I couldn't help but draw some comparisons to American history.

I also noticed that major media reporting on the subject usually entailed interviewing some former Ambassador under the Reagan administration or some DC based analyst. These were "grass roots" uprisings after all, and I thought the most important people to speak with were those on the ground level.

That's why I decided to do a documentary on the subject.

GT:  The Arab Spring started in Tunisia and spread throughout the region.  Why do feel people were so interconnected in their urge to rise up?

For this film we traveled from the "birthplace of the Arab Spring" (the small and desolate Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid)- to the battlefields of western Syria. I met with revolutionaries, freedom fighters, and ordinary people. I asked almost every single one this same question- and they all downplayed the importance of this "interconnection".

The Tunisians I spoke with all seemed proud that their country was the new birthplace of freedom for the region, but the extent of this seemed lost on most of them. I met with Bouzazi's family who still seemed to be making sense of their own individual change of circumstances and did not appear overly concerned with the fate of the rest of the world.

Every different revolutionary group I met with in Cairo and Alexandria all seemed eager to downplay many of the events in Tunisia. Most of them told me that THEIR revolution would have started regardless of what was playing out in other countries. I formed the opinion that this may be tied to a very "Egypt centric" school of thought. That is to say that many Egyptians that I met believed that their country was (in most ways) the epicenter of activity for the region at all times. With that frame of mind, its only natural that one would find their personal struggle to be the most defining.

The Syrians were/are still struggling to make sense of the escalating conflict in their own country to put much thought in others. I did speak candidly with some FSA members who acknowledged being inspired by what took place in Libya, but many of them were quick to add that they felt the media was embellishing the "success" there.

GT:  What are some interesting trends you have seen?
The slow indoctrination approach taken by the "Freedom and Justice Party" in Egypt.

Unlike their Salifi counterparts, members of the "Muslim Brotherhood" have been politically astute enough to not demand a full out Islamic state immediately. I did realize after speaking to several different party members that they have taken a slower and more pragmatic approach with the same goal in mind.

According to them, the plan is to through a period of what they see as "purification" of the Egyptian people from western influence. They know that this will probably take 10-20 years and they are willing to approach it systematically. The first place to start is the schools- changing books and course curriculums. From there they will work on changing the culture of social institutions and the Army.

It was amazing to me how much everybody seemed to be on the same page about this. It didn't matter what member I spoke with or where, they all sounded like they were reading from the same play book.

One thing they have gained from over 80 years of political experience- is patience. They are going to great lengths to appear moderate to the Egyptian people, but are apparently sharing different information internally.

GT:  Many in the West are concerned about Christians and other minorities.  What impacts of the Arab Spring have you seen on these communities?

Again, I turn to Egypt. EVERY Christian church that I visited while in Cairo had to be guarded by police or Military. These weren't just large Cathedrals, but even smaller Catholic Churches in residential areas. It was also difficult to get Christians to speak on Camera about how they viewed the Arab Spring.

For this documentary we also went to the DC based "United States commission on International Religious Freedom" and interviewed the Deputy Director of Policy- Dr. Dwight N. Bashir. He just reinforced what we had already seen- that Christians will most likely see a rise in persecution in Egypt over all other countries effected by the spring. This is something that I believe our Government should be very proactive in addressing.

GT:  Do you have a interesting/fun "war story/crazy experience" to share?
Getting in to Syria and to an FSA camp.

There are foreign based organizations that have been (operating as non profits) excepting money from wealthy Syrians abroad which they in turn use to help fund humanitarian activities inside of Syria.

A journalist friend of mine put me in touch with a trusted point of contact inside of one of these organizations. This person informed me that a cigarette smuggler they knew took regular trips across the border to an FSA camp. If I paid a small fee, I could go with him and he would personally introduce me to the "Colonel". I agreed and invited two Italian journalists who I had met a week prior.

A date/time was set to meet at an agreed upon location 10km from the Syrian Border. The day came- and my two Italian friends suddenly backed out and advised me to do the same. Having quite a bit of experience ignoring perfectly good advice- I felt that this time should be no different and decided to proceed anyway.

My new best friend (the cigarette smuggler) simply placed me comfortably in the trunk of a late model Nissan 4 door car. Driving for what felt like hours, my "guide" proceeded to take (what felt like) dirt roads and gravel paths. We finally arrived at a large orchard at the base of a small mountain, where I was released from my comfortable nook. Here we were met by a small man in his early thirties, who was brandishing an AK 47 and was apparently the first FSA member that I would meet.

The adventure continued on foot up the mountain and down a narrow ravine, only to climb small small rock faces on the next mountain. We finally reached the outskirts of"camp" around mid day.

Having been in the US military myself, I was shocked at how poorly defended and designed this camp was. It was simply a ring of foxholes on the top of the mountain covering an area about as large as a football field. There were approx. 40-50 men of varying ages, most busy setting up (Coleman brand) multi colored sleeping tents. They were armed- but poorly. About half had AK-47's while the other half at a mixture of shotguns and hunting rifles.

I was taken to the "Colonel" and proceeded to set up for an interview when- BOOM! A large explosion was heard coming from the base of the mountain along where we had just walked. Myself and the small group of fighters around me all dropped to the ground. BOOM- a second one. Then they jumped up at once, starting to shout wildly and their was a brief moment of confusion. BOOM- a third one. After about thirty seconds of debate, the group apparently agreed it was mortars being dropped on the trail we just took.

It was later deduced that we must have been spotted. The Mortar team who responded just didn't eat their Wheaties that morning and were just a few minutes late putting rounds down range.

This is the moment that it suddenly dawned on me that I could actually get stuck there. My mind began racing beyond that to what would happen if the camp was attacked and the "impervious" defenses did not hold. What would Assads forces do with a white American at an FSA camp?

The tone suddenly changed from what felt like an "Indiana Jones adventure" to "lets get this over with and get out of here".

We completed the interview with no more "problems" and simply took a different trail to a small village where a car was waiting. This time the walk was much longer.

Thanks to God we made it back in one piece!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Africa for Norway: Using Humor to Encourage Looking Beyond the "Feel Good" Solutions to Poverty

The group Africa for Norway is using humor to criticize simple, stereotypical relief campaigns that use "feel good" tactics to aid Africa.

The campaign's website declares
Imagine if every person in Africa saw the “Africa for Norway” video and this was the only information they ever got about Norway. What would they think about Norway?
If we say Africa, what do you think about? Hunger, poverty, crime or AIDS? No wonder, because in fundraising campaigns and media that’s mainly what you hear about.
The pictures we usually see in fundraisers are of poor African children. Hunger and poverty is ugly, and it calls for action. But while these images can engage people in the short term, we are concerned that many people simply give up because it seems like nothing is getting better. Africa should not just be something that people either give to, or give up on.
The truth is that there are many positive developments in African countries, and we want these to become known. We need to change the simplistic explanations of problems in Africa. We need to educate ourselves on the complex issues and get more focus on how western countries have a negative impact on Africa’s development. If we want to address the problems the world is facing we need to do it based on knowledge and respect.
A key paragraph elsewhere on the site reads
Aid must be based on real needs, not “good” intentions.
Aid is just one part of a bigger picture; we must have cooperation and investments, and change other structures that hold back development in poorer countries. Aid is not the only answer.
This is clearly a dig at groups like Invisible Children and there so-so Kony 2012 campaign.  Also targeted are more concrete efforts documented in the documentary Good Fortune.  Good Fortune examined how a private river damming project and United Nations slum redevelopment was being used to advance the interests of well connected people at the cost of other locals.

Aid is more than just a hand out.  It should be a hand to help lift one up.  Groups like the Acton Institute attempt to use free market techniques guided by religious principals to support smart international development.  Microloans encouraging local empowerment also shows promise.  Smart aid will help.  Dumb aid will only create more reserve-Africa for Norways.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

American Foreign Aid Throughout the World

The State Department has created, a website showing where American foreign aid and assistance is spent abroad.  Israel leads the way at $3.1 billion followed by Afghanistan at $2.5 billion, Pakistan at $2.2 billion, and Iraq at $2 billion.  Dictatorship-to-quick democracy-back-to-dictatorship Egypt rounds up the billions with $1.5 billion.  Interestingly, $7.3 million in democracy promotion and health is spent in the People's Republic of China.  Additionally, twelve European Union states receive American foreign aid including one western European country, Portugal, which is given $100,000 for "peace and security".

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Burma or Myanmar: The Battle of Which One is More Multinational

President Obama referred to the Pyidaunzu Thanmăda Myăma Nainngandaw as "Myanmar" rather than "Burma" today while visiting government officials in country.  Some have considered this a grave international misstep as the United States and many human rights advocates still believe the military junta lacked the legitimacy to change the short form name of the country.

The battle between "Myanmar" and "Burma" is a very interesting naming geography battle.  First, the naming battle is only in foreign languages and not in Burmese.  Both the pro-Myanmar and pro-Burma name camps recognize the formal written form of the country as Myanma (Myanmar) while Bama (Burma) can be used as the primary spoken word choice for the country's name.

Both words have their origin in referring to the ethnic Burmese people.  "Burmese" in this case referring to the actual ethnic group and not all people found in Burma/Myanmar such as Shan, Karen, etc.  Burmese, like many Southeast Asian languages, has different words for the same noun in written and spoken use.

After independence in 1948, various governments have tried, sometimes/mostly half-hardheartedly and intermittently, to use the world "Myanma" to refer to all people in the country while keeping "Bama" to refer specifically to the ethnic Burmese people.

In 1989, the military dictatorship conducted a review of English place names in order to rid the map of colonial influenced spellings.  One of the decisions the naming committee made was to change the English name of the country from "Burma" to "Myanmar".  The reasoning was two-fold 1) Burma referenced the spoken and not written form of the country which was viewed as informal and 2) the committee stated "Myanmar" was more inclusive and showed that the country had many ethnic groups comprising one nation while Burma implied a nation-state to the exclusive of a third of the country.

Many opposed the official English-language name change of the country.  Most international opponents claimed the military junta was illegitimate and therefore the name change was void.  In country opponents meanwhile stated that minorities recognized themselves as part of a Burmese nation since they spoke the "Burmese" language.

The truth is a bit more complex.  A survey of minority resources seems to indicate that most but not all tend to actually prefer the term "Myanmar" though the usage of Myanmar to English-language audience is complex because some believing using "Myanmar" implies support for the military/post-military government when it actually does not necessarily imply support. 

While the military/post-military government puts on a good face, it is hardly minority friendly.  The government engages in a sort of militant national (Burmese) Buddhism which views minorities, especially Christians and Muslims as potential threats.  Government-minority issues are further complicated by the fact that the country has undergone 63 years (since 1949) of conflict in which every in-power government has fought with and against every significant minority group in the country.

Meanwhile, the anti-military/post-military, pro-democracy ethnic Burmese forces are not so minority friendly themselves.  The South Asia blog Bangla Nation pointed out that Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi is a Burmese nationalist at the expense of minorities.

So is "Burma" and "Myanmar" more inclusive?  Take your pick.  In reality the naming issue is more of a distraction.  The complete failure of tolerance and ethnic acceptance in the country is the bigger problem.  However, geopolitics right now dictates that the world powers will focus on the post-military government's relationship with the People Republic of China rather than internal issues like a bloody but outside the press' interest civil war.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Pareidolias and Geography: From Seeing Something in Nothing to Actually Seeing Something

Pareidolias are "psychological phenomenon" in which a person sees something else or additional things in a object.  A good example is children looking at clouds and seeing what looks like to be a dog, house, or any other random thing.  Some argue that trying to find hidden things in standard environments is a natural survival tool which allowed early humans to be on the look out for predators hiding in the bush and jungle.  Others, like Anglican theologian C.S. Lewis believed humans were still quasi-aware of a larger cosmos full of other things therefore some pareidolia were actually either hidden messages or our everyday lives and the cosmos intersecting (this belief is similar to the Muslim belief in Djinn).

This post is not so much about whether or not some parediolias (everyone is entitled to their opinion) are real but more about the relationship between pareidolias and geography.  There are several intersections with one surprising exception.

Micro-level Geography

Every here of places like "Buffalo Ridge", "Old Man in the Mountain", or "Fist Rock",wonder why places were named that and received the reply of "Well, it looks like a Buffalo."  When a physical feature looks like something else it makes naming, whether official or not, and remembering the place easier.  This level of colloquial geography is encountered almost on a daily level and is very familiar to most people.  While now days most geographic pareidolias are thought of as just coincidences, some parediolias fit into mythologies and stories.  The salt pillars in Israel are tied to the story of God's destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah while the Sleeping Giant in Canada is part of traditional Ojibway lore.  Today, the Bosnian "pyramids" are the biggest on-going example of a geographic paredolia (excluding all the Google Maps 'Atlantis found" stories which come and go).

Satellite imagery has opined up a new front for pareidolias.  People combing through imagery have found things.  Some are believed to be real by a few people while others are thought of as just funny coincidences. Examples of these are the face on Mars, Jesus as the King of the Jews in Saudi Arabia, and the Indian head with an iPod in Canada.

Macro-level Geography

The previously discussed ley lines haunt those who work in the subfield of folk geography.  Some people claim that places are interconnected and either a god or ancient man made the region's physical geography to be somesort of giant outdoor temple.  English seem to be the biggest fans of ley lines.  English have always had an exceptionalism about themselves and some geographers believe their island separateness is the root cause of this belief.  This exceptionalism is common when discussing the English love for nature and the island of Great Britain (i.e. geography).  Examples include the affection for natural Druidism (ranging from neo-paganism including Wicca to the outgoing Archbishop of Canterbury being a member of a "druid" history club), Anglicanism (a 1500s-created church that claimed/claims to be the pre-Roman (c)atholic church of Celtic Christianity allegedly native to England) and ley lines.

Continental-level Geography

There have been very few claims of hidden objects in the shape of the continents.  The exception is Abraham Ortelius (1596), Alfred Wegener (1912), and others independently noting how South America and Africa look like they could fit together.  These scientists proposed that the continents once fit together and then moved apart.  This view was long viewed as pseudo-science until continental drift became the excepted theory of geography and geology in the mid-1900s.

*Bonus Section:  Art*

The artist Olly Moss created a series of retro-style movie posters.  One of the posters was for the film American Werewolf in London which use a pareidolia in a map.  Moss was able to fit a werewolf image into the map of the British Isles by subtly changing the English western coast line between Scotland and Wales, playing with the geography of the Isle of Man, and adding an extra island in the Irish Sea.  (Try to see if you can spot all the changes)

View Larger Map

Friday, November 16, 2012

Operation Pillar of Cloud Israel-Gaza War Map: One - Extended Hamas Rocket Threat Range

Several days ago I found an official Israel Defense Force map showing the range of known Hamas rocket ranges.  The most advanced rocket Hamas had, according to the map, was the upgraded grad rocket with a range of 48 kilometers (30 miles).  However, since the start of the Israel-Hamas War of 2012, Operation Pillar of Cloud, Hamas has been able to strike Tel Aviv at 60 kilometers (37 miles) away and Jerusalem at 70 kilometers (44 miles) away.

The below map was created by me and available for Google Earth download.  I added an extra buffer layer showing the new known 70 kilometer range.  Much more of Israel's population is at risk of being hit.  Fortunately, Israel's nuclear facility is over 10 kilometers (6 miles) still out of range, for now.

Geography of James Bond

The Atlantic's Cities blog has a map of (almost) all the places visited by James Bond in the films.  It does not include space locations and I know for sure that it is missing the Amazon Rainforest from Moonraker and Madagascar from Casino Royale.

View The Geography of Bond in a larger map

London has been in every Bond movie except You Only Live Twice and Moonraker.  The other top most visited cities by James Bond are
  • Istanbul (Near East Oriental exoticism)
  • Hong Kong (Far East Oriental exoticism)
  • Venice (Picturesque Europe)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The United States of Angry People who Protest by Petitioning to Secede

Social media allows radicals to talk amongst themselves and inflate their message and numbers artificially.  If one judged importance by mere number of websites or comments on a web forum then one could easily believe that Old Catholics, Continuing Anglicans, and Ron Paul are very serious forces in the world.  However, they have little impact because people forget that fringes tend to be organized but overall numbers pale in comparison to silent majorities.

Such is the case with the petitions by upset conservatives claiming a desire to leave the United States because of the reelection of President Barack Obama.  In reality these petitioners represent a very small number of actual citizens (Texas' petition has been signed by the equivalent of 0.3% of Texas' overall population).  Overall this is mostly people venting their anger at Obama's win and not a true desire to leave the union.  These petitions' existence are a non-story, much like the supposed desire of some in Vermont to reestablish the Republic of Vermont during the presidency of George W Bush.

A late night browsing of petitions revealed 41 states have petitions pertaining to leaving the union.  The petition for Alaska merely asks for the right to vote on whether or not to leave the union, and Alaska is the only state with a quasi-serious independence party which actually won a statewide election.  The states without a petition are the swing state of Iowa and the majority Democrat Party states of Hawaii, Washington, Iowa, Maryland, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine.

It is not so much Red State v. Blue State but you can find angry people who will copy a press-driven protest almost anywhere.  Map created from
In semi-serious statehood news Puerto Ricans voted in a non-binding referendum for statehood compared to the traditional winner of status quo commonwealth and the never popular independence option.  However, caveat this with the long stated desire of Puerto Ricans for statehood which is always matched by the their knowing they could never afford to be a state.  The little reported news out of Puerto Rico was that at the same time of the referendum pro-statehood Governor Luis Fortuño lost reelection to pro-commonwealth/anti-statehood Alejandro García Padilla.  Granted the election was very close and local issues did play a role, but none the less Puerto Rico voted for the status quo in reality while giving them a playful statehood pat-on-the-back.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Geographic Travels Geo-Literacy Outreach Awards 2012 Winners

Congratulations to the first annual Geographic Travels Geo-Literacy Outreach Awards Winners

First Place - the Alexander Von Humboldt Prize :  Geo-literacy Project on Meghalaya, India
Second Place - the Isiah Bowman Prize:  Geo-Literacy Teacher Training Plan

Be sure to look forward to updates as they complete their stated goals!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veterans Day 2012: Mental Health Help

Many people thank veterans for their service this Veterans Day/Remembrance Day.  The feeling builds up the confidence of those who served and lets them know their time was not all in vain.  Then the sun sets, night sets in, and tomorrow happens.  People think veterans magically then fully integrate into the general population (except for the rare "looney" who begs on the street corner), build a successful careers, have happy families, and maybe even become successful in politics.

So many veterans know that these two stereotypes, the super-success and the beggar, leave out the vast majority of veterans.  So many veterans have issues adjusting and just need someone to talk to, a little advice, or maybe a pat on the back.  The civilian world's different values, cheating wife/husband, lack of a clear-cut mission, and many more issues wear veterans down.  Many civilians do not see or understand this.  For example, a friend told me that his deployment was the best time of his life.  While civilian friend thought that was great to hear I realized the veteran was telling me his life has been all downhill since returning home.

Fortunately, veterans are not alone.  Help in all shapes and varieties, not just suicide prevention, is available online and over the phone.

American veterans can contact the Veterans Crisis Line.  The British Ministry of Defence has Mental Health Support and Contact Details.  Canadian veterans can reach out to VAC Assistance Service.  Australian veterans have access to the At Ease mental health program as well as VVCS - Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service.  A internet search for New Zealand veterans revealed the insulting bare-bones information of "contact case management" for mental health support.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

American Presidential Election 2012 Map-a-Thon: The Electoral College Map, The Only Map That Matters

In celebration of democratic-republicanism, Geographic Travels will be blogging interesting maps based on the upcoming election between President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney.

At the end only the electoral college matters.  The results are in and Barack Obama dominated the swing states giving him enough electoral votes to be reelected for another four year term.

Florida is still too close to call but will probably go for Obama in the end.  From Wikipedia.

While county results are still being finalized it is clear that there were some states that the canidadates had little to no appeal in.

States with All Counties Voting Obama
Hawaii (Obama's native state)
Rhode Island (New England Liberal)
Massachusetts (New England Liberal)
Vermont (New England Liberal)

States with All Counties Voting Romney
Utah (Mormon)
Oklahoma (Surprising considering large presence of American Indians, perhaps the tribes' social conservatism trumpeted the traditional Democrat appeal)
West Virginia (Coal Country)
Alaska (Probable due to large libertarian population in the state)

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Three Political Advertisements Americans Could Not Handle

Republicans, Democrats, and independents all agree that they hate political advertising.  The closer the election comes the more the time between television shows becomes a series of vicious political ads accusing the other candidate of being a liar while claiming to be a perfect angle themselves.

However, in my browsing of political ads I have found my three political advertisements Americans could not handle.  The outcry against these would sink any candidate or party presenting the ads.


The Communist Party of Moldova has become a soft Communist Party (i.e. no longer pushes the death of its political opponents) but it has kept its corrupt nature from the Soviet days.  Back before the party lost the summer 2009 election they were campaigning hard against the conservative-liberal-socialist alliance against them.  The Communists rigged an earlier election in the spring which caused the opposition to riot.  This ad for the summer election uses images of the riot to portray the opposition as threatening the very essence of Moldova while using an epic rock opera-ish soundtrack.


This ad can be summed up as the Polish War on Women.  Lukasz Wabnic of the Democratic Left Alliance, Poland's main socialist party, single-handedly depicts himself as a protector of womanhood while also making women look like they will offer sex to anyone.

The United States

When I was a child the primary for the governorship of my state went negative.  One side accused the other of insider trading while the other side accused their opponent, a doctor, of illegally harvesting organs from unwilling patients.  Eventually a third candidate no one knew won the primary and he went on to be governor for two terms.

I thought that was one of the worst campaigns in American history at the time.  However, looking back at the election of 1800 between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson I realize things were not so bad in my home state.  Personal attacks based on family background and sexuality, rape, riots, death of children, it is all there.  Reason created two political ads based on what the campaigns were saying.

Special Mention

I was planning on using Russian President Vladimir Putin's first time ad, but then the Obama campaign actually did copy the ad.  Americans could not handle it and the Obama campaign distanced themselves from the advertisement.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

American Presidential Election 2012 Map-a-Thon: Where to Vote and What is on the Ballot

In celebration of democratic-republicanism, Geographic Travels will be blogging interesting maps based on the upcoming election between President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney.

Google has a great tool which shows the proper place to vote and a lengthy ballot summary.  All one has to do is enter in their residential address and the information appears.  I wonder if their are any similar tools for foreign country elections.

American Presidential Election 2012 Map-a-Thon: Animated Map of Obama and Romney's Campaigning

In celebration of democratic-republicanism, Geographic Travels will be blogging interesting maps based on the upcoming election between President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney.

Jerzy Wieczorek has created the Animated map of 2012 US presidential election campaigningThe map starts in June and shows the daily travels of both Obama and Romney. The travels begin as nationwide "meet the base" tours but as November comes closer and closer the travels are limited to the few swing states which will decide the election.  (Hat tip: Macleans)

American Presidential Election 2012 Map-a-Thon: Campaign Money Spent in the United States of Purple

In celebration of democratic-republicanism, Geographic Travels will be blogging interesting maps based on the upcoming election between President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney.

National Public Radio (NPR) has created a fascinating video showing the electoral geography and electoral advertising money being spent. 

In short, the country is the United States of Purple (purple being a mixture of Republican red and Democrat blue).  These states, which demographically and cultural are a mixture of America, will decide the presidential election as the base Blue and Red states are not enough for either party to win out right.  The Purple states (Nevada, Colorado, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida) comprise 156 electoral votes (29% of all electoral votes/58% of the needed 270 to win).  However, by watching the video one can only assume 90%-plus of all campaign cash is being spent in these states.

American Presidential Election 2012 Map-a-Thon:'s Map of Red vs Blue Book Sales

In celebration of democratic-republicanism, Geographic Travels will be blogging interesting maps based on the upcoming election between President Barack Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney. has a map showing what red (conservative) and blue (liberal) books are selling by state.  Each state is colored red or blue depending on what political ideology is selling more books.  Conservative books are by far outselling liberal books bucking the stereotype that conservatives are "hicks who don't read".

The sales map is shocking when one considers just how many conservative book buying states would never vote for Romney instead of Obama (states like Rhode Island and Delaware have many more Democrats than Republicans yet conservatives have been buying more books in these states).  The final outcome is a "popular vote" of conservative books outselling liberal ones with a 60-40 percent split.  If the electoral college is factored in, the final count would be a dominating 492-46 in favor of conservative books.  The most conservative book buying state is Alabama at 76 percent while the most liberal book buying state is not a state but the District of Columbia at 71 percent.

Of note:  In the last thirty days, Barack Obama's Audacity of Hope is outselling Mitt Romney's No Apology in a close 51-49 percent race.  However, Congressman Paul Ryan's Young Guns is outdoing Vice President Joe Biden's Promises to Keep 65 to 35 percent.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Be a Hurricane Sandy Disaster Response Geographer (while never leaving your computer)

Many thanks to Schuyler Erle from Humanitarian OpenStreetMap and Patrick Meier of iRevolution for creating and sharing this tool.

FEMA needs help in identifying and categorizing areas in New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts which need help due to damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.  Erle and his team have created a tool using post-hurricane Civil Air Patrol photos to allow for crowd sourced rankings of damage to buildings and the natural environment.  The main portal is here while a backup mirror can be accessed here.

The directions are detailed but easy to understand.  One ranks the damage as light, moderate, or heavy.

The options have changed but this is the simple to use user interface.

Be sure to go the extra step and use Google Maps and Bing Maps bird's eye view to provide a before/after effect which allows one to judge damage better.  If one is looking at New Jersey then one can also use Google's official crisis map page to see additional post-hurricane imagery.  All the images have a full resolution option which shows the exact latitude and longitude that can be then typed into the online map programs.

November 2012 Travel Photo: Guanajuato Cemetery

One of the major attractions in the Mexican city of Guanajuato is the city cemetery.  Rows upon rows of bodies are interned in above ground burials.  However, most people do not come to see the graves but something else.

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Since the rise of Mexican national socialism/positivism in the 1870s, the city has controlled the cemetery and required families and/or friends to pay rent for a spot.  When family can no longer pay then the bodies are moved from the cemetery, and if mummified, moved into the adjacent museum which houses the largest collection of mummies in the Western Hemisphere.

The incredibly warm and dry climate of the elevated interior of Mexico can quickly dry out bodies causing them to naturally mummify.  The display of mummies including men, women, and children with some of them dressed up in scenes like a baby crying for its "madre" made me physically sick.  This was due to the cultural clash between my English-American background which ultimately greatly fears death, as evidence in Gothic literature, and the Spanish-Mesoamerican Indian hybrid culture of Latin America which accepts death to a greater extent and even mocks it in part.