Saturday, December 7, 2013

William Howard Taft

William Howard Taft, Teddy Roosevelt's successor, is the only man to have served as both US President and Chief Justice. Previous to the presidency, Taft was President McKinley's Governer-General of the Phillipines and President TR's Secretary of War. Taft and Roosevelt were quite close, to the point that Roosevelt handpicked Taft to be his successor in the Republican party.

William Howard Taft 1909.jpg

Perhaps due to the public's continued support for Theodore Roosevelt, Taft easily won the 1908 election with 51.6% of the popular vote to William J Bryan's 43%. However, this one-term president would come in last in the 1912 election, beaten by Woodrow Wilson and then Theodore Roosevelt (in his new Progressive or so-called 'Bull-Moose' party) in second. In fact, once-close political ally Theodore Roosevelt ran against Taft as he was quite unhappy with the way Taft was running the country.

About this image
Presidential election results map. Blue denotes states won by Bryan/Kern, Red denotes those won by Taft/Sherman. Numbers indicate the number of electoral votes allotted to each state.

How did this sudden unpopularity come about? It has a lot to do with how Taft moved away from the standard Republican platform. In his own words, "the longer I am President, the less of a party man I seem to become."
Some of Taft's domestic plans included breaking up monopolies, passing the 16 amendment (establishing an income tax), and reforming civil service and postal service. In foreign matters, Taft was an avid supporter of "Dollar Diplomacy," or using finances to support favored policies and combat unfavored policies. His support to Latin American countries was meant to increase security around the Panama Canal, though objections to Wall Street's involvement largely slowed the movement. One belief of Taft's that conflicted with many people in both parties was his large faith in world peace and his willingness to put the say-so of an international body over the US' nationalist self-interests. Arbitration treaties he signed with the UK and France that supposedly lessened the US' hand in its own fate only passed with modifications and the ability to veto an arbitration in the Senate.
Taft at Panama Canal inspection

All in all, Taft was a reformer- a 'wide-eyed idealist' in some people's view. He acted more from personal opinion than a party's platform, and lost many supporters from the Republican party that way. Had Taft been elected to a 2nd term, he would have President right at the start of World War II. It would have been interesting to see how this 'world-peace advocate' yet simultaneous champion of civil rights all around the world would have responded to the war. Instead, however, Woodrow Wilson became our President throughout World War I.

Sources: Wikipedia, White, Miller Center

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Liechtenstein + Switzerland

Liechtenstein, one of the smallest and one of only two doubly landlocked countries in the world (the other being Uzbekistan). This monarchy has an interesting relationship with its neighboring nation, Switzerland, in matters of international representation and economics.

Map indicating locations of Liechtenstein and Switzerland

Liechtenstein and Switzerland are in a customs union and a monetary union. Switzerland acts as border control for Liechtenstein, often helps handle Liechtenstein's international relations, and protected Liechtenstein's neutrality in World War II. Liechtenstein's severe financial problems following its independence from the Austro-Hungarian empire played a large role in the strange interlocking politics of these two nations. Liechtenstein was in such dire straits economically that it disbanded its army in 1868. With the larger nation managing so many aspects of the Liechtenstein government, some incorrectly presume that the two may as well be one country.

Despite Liechtenstein close-knit and sometimes dependent relationship with its neighbor, the small country is distinct from the forever-neutral nation in many ways. Against Swiss neutrality policy, Liechtenstein gave asylum to 500 Russian soldiers during the Second World War.

Liechtenstein is one of the European countries to still hold a monarchy, and unlike the monarchy of the UK, Liechtenstein's prince has some governmental powers. The prince can veto the parliament's laws, call a referendum, propose legislation, and even disband the parliament.

Open border

Liechtenstein's economy has made a major comeback, yet its close economic and political ties with Switzerland remain. The two share an open border, and Liechtenstein, still possessing no army, relies on Switzerland for military defense. The extent of Switzerland's role in Liechtenstein's government can perhaps be well portrayed by the fact that, in the absence of representatives from Liechtenstein, Switzerland can enter into a treaty on Liechtenstein's behalf. Liechtenstein has entered into the European Free Trade Association as its own nation, separate from Switzerland, but the unique cooperation of these two countries' governments will likely continue even as Liechtenstein gains more independence.

Source: Wikipedia, BBC News

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Hosni Mubarak

In recent history, all eyes were on Egypt as they ushered out their former President of 30 years, Hosni Mubarak. He was followed by acting President Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, and then succeeded by Mohamed Morsi. Shortly afterward, Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected President, was also put out of power, replaced by acting President Adly Mansour.

Certainly, Egypt has had a rough time since its institution of a presidential system. Mubarak was only the country's 4th president.

Hosni Mubarak - World Economic Forum on the Middle East 2008 edit1.jpg

Mubarak rose to power in 1981, as he was Vice President to the assassinated Anwar Sadat. He was then elected to the presidency by the autocracy the week later. During his reign, he was friendly with Western governments, supporting a peace treaty with the US and Israel. This popularity with the West kept him as such a strong candidate for the presidency. Though he did oppose the Iraq War, relations with the United States and other western powers in the war remained strong.


However, his domestic regime caused much unrest due to its restrictive nature. He was very unpopular amongst Muslim extremists for his stance against Islamic fundamentalism and his friendliness with Israel, and faced many assassination attempts by these extremists. From another angle, many Egyptians were displeased with the lack of democracy and choice in their government- no one was allowed to run against the President, leading to his long term as leader of Egypt. In 2005, under immense pressure, the Egyptian constitution was amended to allow multiple candidates to run. However, there is little question that the election was rigged and involved threatening voters. Ayman Nour, a fellow candidate, challenged the results and was thrown in jail on 'forgery' charges.

With political corruption and public discontent at a high, the US and many other nations expressed their opposition to Mubarak's presidency. This culminated in February 2011, amidst street protests and President Obama's statement that Mubarak should step down, when Mubarak announced he would not run for re-election. The protesters and public of Egypt rejoiced, though they couldn't have anticipated the equally rocky road ahead.

Mubarak will always be an important part of Egyptian history, particularly in its presidential era. He ruled for an astounding 30 years and both eased relations with the Wets while mucking up a lot of trouble at home.

Sources: BBC News, Wikipedia,

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt rose to the presidency following William McKinley's assassination, serving from 1901-1909. The conglomerates led by Republicans who wished to decrease Roosevelt's power by putting him in the Vice Presidency now saw him become the most powerful person in the country, even freer to break up trusts than before.

Teddy Roosevelt is one of the more famed Presidents for a number of reasons. He was considered the epitome of 'manliness,' having served splendidly in the Spanish-American War and having continued giving a speech after being shot.

He was also popular for his progressiveness. Having grown up a sickly child, he had to travel to wide open areas with fresh air, where he gained an appreciation for nature. Due to this, he created national parks to preserve the environment of the United States. He also enforced laws to the end of consumer safety following Upton Sinclair's novel, The Jungle, which revealed the unsanitary conditions of the meat-packing industry.

TR also sought a less violent form of football, a sport already becoming a national pastime, after players became injured or even died in the game. But his domestic legacy lies with trust-busting. Monopolies on businesses was common in Roosevelt's era, and TR went to great lengths to further regulate these businesses and break up gigantic businesses that had swallowed other businesses.

Domestic policies did not completely define Roosevelt's presidency, however. Roosevelt oversaw the US intervention in the Panama-Colombia conflict, aiding Panamanians and striking a deal to build the Panama Canal, a colossal feat that the French before them could not finish. Teddy Roosevelt's famous saying, "speak softly but carry a big stick," applied mostly to his support of American imperialism.

After two terms, TR recommended friend William Howard Taft to run for President. He began touring Africa and Europe, but quickly became displeased with Taft's administration. He attempted to run for a third term, no longer with the Republican party but now with what is colloquially known as the Bull-Moose party. In votes, he lost to Woodrow Wilson, but ranked higher than the incumbent President Taft.

TR is one of the Presidents portrayed in Mount Rushmore.

Sources: Wikipedia, Mental Floss, White, Nobel

Monday, November 18, 2013

Threatening the President

 In the United States, threatening the President is considered a class D felony. It appears to have its origins in the British Treason Act, making it a crime to "compass or imagine" the death of the King.

The scope of what falls under threat and what the punishment should be is hotly contested. Some feel it is within their first amendment rights to wish death upon the President and others believe only physical assaults should fall under the Class D crime label. Still others believe the existence of such pages as Facebook group "LETS KILL BUSH WITH SHOES" and polls asking if President Obama should be assassinated or not are an affront and a threat that should not be allowed.

Numerous threats have fallen upon our various Commanders-in-Chief. From the World War I and World War II eras, in which nationalism was high and the fear of spies very prevalent, the government was very attuned to and strict with laws relating to threats on the President. Some convictions based on verbal threat or call for death upon the President include a poster advocating that passerby hang FDR. Before said poster, the declarations "President Wilson ought to be killed. It is a wonder some one has not done it already. If I had an opportunity, I would do it myself" and "Wilson is a wooden-headed son of a bitch. I wish Wilson was in hell, and if I had the power I would put him there" led to convictions.

 head explode threatening presidents life rage exhaustively documented zombie examples

Some of the more controversial calls for threats on the president include comedian Groucho Mark's assertion that "the only hope this country has is Nixon’s assassination." And when President Clinton vetoed a ban on partial-birth abortions, a pastor told him "God will hold you to account, Mr. President." The Secret Service detained the man, reportedly declaring the incident a threat on the President's life.

Other threats that provoked outrage from the public and attention from the Secret Service include cartoonist Michael Ramirez' depiction of a man with a gun to President W. Bush's head in the LA Times. Though the Secret Service gave him a visit, he was not arrested. In contrast, a University student, Vikram Buddhi, was arrested for his Yahoo messages calling for "the assassination of GW Bush" and to "Rape and Kill Laura Bush." After serving 11 months, we was promptly re-arrested for having an invalid green card. 

 Cartoon of a man representing "politics"  pointing a gun at George W. Bush's head. A storefront sign says "Iraq."

Finally, in a more recent incident, a man was arrested for his Craigslist post stating "People, the time has come for revolution. It is time for Obama to die. I am dedicating my life to the death of Obama and every employee of the federal government. As I promised in a previous post, if the health care reform bill passed I would become a terrorist. Today I become a terrorist." The post brought the man under fire for its obvious references to the potential endangerment of the President and US citizens.

 Denise Helms' threatening comments about Obama on her Facebook (Photo Credit - Tumblr)

However the scope of presidential threats and the punishments doled out will be treated by the government, there will continue to be threats on the presidents' lives, just as there are on any leader in any country. No one will ever fully agree on how to handle such cases, and surely there will be some threats with no real danger behind them as well as others that should be immediately addressed. But due to the United States' strong Secret Service and security system, our Presidents are much safer than in times past.

head explode threatening presidents life rage exhaustively documented zombie examples

Source: Wikipedia

Monday, November 11, 2013

Kingdom Of Lovely

Another micronation, one with some measure of fame, would be the Kingdom of Lovely.

This micronation arose from a six-part BBC documentary hosted by Danny Wallace called "How To Start Your Own Country." At the end of the series, Wallace formed a micronation called the Kingdom Of Lovely in his flat in London. The micronation officially formed January 1, 2005. However, the national holiday Lovely Day is celebrated September 2nd, which perhaps intentionally is the date of Sealand's foundation.

Due to its televised nature, the Kingdom of Lovely quickly became popular and received many citizens over the internet- around 58,165 by December 2007, in fact.

Wallace's loft was not the original location for the nation- he attempted to haggle over an island being sold for £300,000 but only caused the seller to raise the price. He also 'invaded' Eel Pie Island before settling on his flat.


This Constitutional Monarchy, headed by King Wallace I, has its own national anthem which can be heard here ( Its motto is Die dulci freure, or 'Have a Nice Day,' and the micronation's main law appears to be being polite to people. It also has an official currency, the Interdependent Occupational Unit (IOU).

Though Wallace attempted to enter a song of his own creation to represent Lovely in the Eurovision contest (entitled "Stop The Mugging And Start The Hugging"), the sympathetic contest scrutineer Svante Stockselius was unfortunately unable to accept his submission. 


Sources: Wikipedia,, List of,

Friday, November 8, 2013

William McKinley

William McKinley, the 25th president, won a landslide electoral victory in 1896 and was elected to a second term in 1900.

William McKinley by Courtney Art Studio, 1896.jpg

McKinley was known to favor tariffs, and raised the highest tariffs in history following the Depression of 1893. But he is best known for involving the US in the Spanish-American war, which resulted in American possession of Puerto Rico, the Phillipines, and Guam, as well as Cuban independence from Spain and the establishment of Guantanamo Bay.

Though his primary goal as President was economic prosperity, foreign affairs and imperialism became a better landmark of his term. Though he spoke in favor of civil rights and against lynchings, his policies turned out against sectionalism (preferring one's own region above the whole country) rather than against racial discrimination, causing him to lose some of the black vote by the 1900 election. 

Another interesting and eventually historically significant detail of his presidency was his second vice president (his previous running mate, Garret Hobart, having died in 1899)- Theodore Roosevelt. T. Roosevelt was well-known in New York for breaking up trusts and monopolies while mayor- this made him unpopular with some of the Republicans who owned said corporations. Therefore, they urged McKinley to adopt TR as his Vice President, convinced it would limit TR's power.

That backfired spectacularly when William McKinley was assassinated in 1901 and his Vice President Teddy Roosevelt ascended to the presidency. He is generally in the middle of presidential rankings, though his face adorns the rarely seen $500 bill.

Sources: Wikipedia, White,