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,

Friday, November 1, 2013

Benjamin Harrison

This Presidential Friday covers our 23rd president, a relatively obscure commander-in-chief that broke up Grover Cleveland's two terms, Benjamin Harrison. Though he lost the election to Grover Cleveland by popular vote (falling 100,000 votes behind), he won the electoral college by 233 to 168 and therefore ascended to the presidency.


Benjamin Harrison, a Republican, is best remembered for his economic policies. His economics did not span the whole of his focus as President- he oversaw the readmission of six states into the Union, unsuccessfully argued for federal funding to educate and protect the voting rights of African Americans, faced a minor fishing rights crisis with Canada, favored assimilation of Native Americans, and sought but failed to achieve annexation of Hawaii.

A large controversy of the time was the merit system vs. the spoils system- should political office post-election be awarded based on who deserves the job or based on who loyally voted with the party, respectively? Harrison was a strong proponent of the merit system. Harrison also created the "largest expenditure of its kind to that point in American history" by providing a strong pension system to all disabled veterans.


High tariffs during Harrison's presidency gave the government a surplus, which caused no small amount of ire amongst Democrats, who wished for tariffs to be lowered. Harrison's administration also created the Sherman Anti-trust Act, dedicated to breaking up monopolies and representing a new federal power, though the act did little during Harrison's presidency.

His term marked the first term federal spending reached one billion dollars, leading to the nickname "Billion Dollar Congress."


He is the first president to have his voice preserved, by way of a 36-second recording. He is also the only president to be the grandson of another president- one William Henry Harrison. Though Benjamin Harrison did not win reelection, he oversaw an interesting presidential term.

Sources: Wikipedia, White,

Sunday, October 27, 2013


Hello! Though we're updating on an unusual day, this will act as our Monthly Micronation Monday. Today we look at Ladonia, an internet-based micronation in Sweden.

In a nature preserve in southwest Sweden stands a nature reserve marked by two landmarks- a nine-foot tall tower named Nimis and a concrete sculpture called Arx.


Lars Vilks began the art project of creating Nimis in 1980. However, in 1982, the government noticed and foretold the necessary destruction of the tower. At first, to avoid government intervention, Vilks sold the work to Cristo, an artist. The deed of sale was on a piece of driftwood. Then, in 1996, Vilks declared the area an indpendent nation, henceforth called Ladonia. The strategy seemingly worked- the government did not tear down these artworks.
In 1999, Vilks built another sculpture named Omphalos, which was ordered destroyed by a court decision. Ernst Billgren bought Omphalos, and urged the sculpture simply be removed from the site without damage. The authorities did remove the sculpture, but harmed it in the process.

Vilks sought permission to build a monument in Omphalos' place and his request was granted- provided the monument be under 8 cm tall. Vilks accepted and completed the challenge.

Lars Vilks 20050722.jpg

Nowadays, Ladonia is 'engaged in war' with the satirical website of "The Armed Coalition Forces of the Internets," who demand no copyright laws and free internet access for all of Ladonia's citizens. Ladonia has no inhabitants, though it claims 15,000 citizens through online application. The website has confused people on this matter in the past, however, as roughly 3000 Pakistanis applied online for citizenship to Ladonia, were granted it, and then were unable to move there.

The micronation is a constitutional monarchy, and citizenship is free online. Lordship or ladyship costs only $30. Citizens contribute to the forming of a Ladonian language through suggesting a word in their citizenship application. 

Sources: Wikipedia,, Atlas

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Hungary during WWII

Hungary during World War II was one of the nations to fight on the side of the Axis and Allied powers. Hungary relied on trade with Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany in the years leading up to the war. Hungary was pressured into the Axis Powers but also sought negotiations with the Allied Powers, a 'betrayal' that led to Hitler's occupation of the country. World War II was a low point for the nation, with both Germany and the USSR poised to lay waste to the less powerful nation.

From the start of the war, Hitler sought Hungary's support in the invasion of Yugoslavia. He promised the return of Hungarian territory in exchange for military support from the Hungarians. Prime Minister Teleki, finding no way to keep Hungary from becoming Germany's ally, committed suicide on April 3, 1941. Right-wing radical László Bárdossy replaced him. Bardossy sought to both assist Germany and keep Hungary independent from the nation that was quickly enveloping Europe. Under Hungarian Admiral Horthy, Hungary entered into war against the Soviet Union alongside Germany.

Over a hundred thousand Hungarians would die during the conflict against the USSR, and Germany would have them pulled from the front lines once Hungary no longer had an effective military.

Admiral Horthy would replace Bardossy with Miklos Kallay, a conservative who wished to free Hungary from Germany's oppression. In order to avoid occupation, Kallay quietly conducted negotiations with the UK and the US stating they would not fire on their aircrafts in exchange for no Allied bombardment on their cities. 

The Germans, aware of these negotiations, occupied Hungary. Kallay was replaced by Dome Sztójay, a pro-Socialist leader. Hungary was ruled completely by force, with no more pretense of Hungarian sovereignty.

In September 1944 came a battle of conflicting interest between the USSR and Germany, with Hungary as the battlefield. The USSR invaded the country. Horthy told the nation he had signed an armistice with the Soviets, yet the Hungarian army continued to desperately fight them off. Germans kidnapped Horthy's son and forced him to abort the armistice with the Soviets. With Romanian help, the Russians encircled Budapest and forced a German and Hungarian surrender by February 1945. However, on December 31, 1944, during this battle, Hungary officially declared war on Germany.

As if to further confuse Hungary's alignment, Hungarian garrisons in Bavaria stood in parade formation to surrender to the passing American troops, yet other pro-German Hungarian units continued to fight for the Axis Powers. While often portrayed as just a pawn of either Germany or the USSR, Hungary was a very divided nation during World War II, where the only real issue agreed upon by the nation was Hungarian independence. Neither German occupation during the war nor Soviet occupation after the war allowed this to happen.

Sources: Wikipedia, Country,, Project MUSE

Monday, September 30, 2013

"The Great Greek Turncoat"

Alcibiades was an Athenian-born man, student and rumored lover of Socrates, who graduated from normal hoplite to cavalry to supreme commander of Athen's military forces.

Alcibiades was just 17 when the Peloponnesian War broke out between the Delian League, led by Athens, and the Peloponnesian League, led by Sparta. Alcibiades was charismatic, but also rowdy and self-aggrandizing. He found his way into power and supported an aggressive stance against their enemy, Sparta.

However, his main political rival, Nicias, formed a peace with Sparta in the middle of the war. It was meant to last 50 years, but hardly lasted 5. Many of Sparta's allies, such as Corinth and Megara, refused to sign the peace. Additionally, Alcibiades and other democrats in Athens sought to cripple Sparta. Using his position of power, Alcibiades made many aggressive moves that led to the resurgence of the war.

The real event that kickstarted the war once more was the Sicilian Expedition, in which Athens sent troops to fight against a Spartan ally in Syracuse. Alcibiades, Nicias, and another general named Lachamus were all sent to oversee the expedition. However, the defacing of several religious statues, seen as treason by the Athenians, was blamed on the rowdy Alcibiades and his friends. After the expedition set sail, Alcibiades was sent back to stand trial. Instead of following obediently back to Athens in a ship, he escaped to Sparta. He offered his sword and told Sparta the Athenian plan in exchange for security. Alcibiades' trial was held in his absence, where he was pronounced guilty of treason and sentenced to death.

Alcibiades stayed in Sparta and offered their military advice for quite some time; however, his reception there grew more hostile. He was suspected of fathering a child with the wife of one of the kings, and therefore fled Sparta to escape a possible assasination attempt.

From there, Alcibiades sought to endear himself to the Persians. The Persians, who had fought and lost to the Greek city-states earlier in the Greco-Persian Wars, were content to watch the battle play out and see the city-states weaken each other. They eventually began selling troops and supplies to Sparta, since Athens had claimed parts of formerly Persian territory in Asia Minor. However, Alcibiades plotted to return to Athens even as he helped the Persians.

Alcibiades figured he would find more support amongst the Athenian oligarchs, the opposing faction to the democrats. He promised Persian support should he be recalled into Athens. However, Persia offered no such assistance, as Alcibiades had presumably suspected would happen. Despite his failure to deliver and the eventual return of the democratic faction to power, Alcibiades was reinstated and remained an Athenian general. Alcibiades, though he claimed time and again his friendliness with the Persians, was imprisoned in Persia once he sailed out to meet the Persian troops with gifts. He escaped and fled back to Athens, his claim of an alliance with Persia no longer holding any water.

He oversaw more military victories over Sparta, but was brought down by a significant defeat, in which he left his main troops in someone else's hands. When Athens lost the fight by a large margin, Alcibiades' opponents removed him from power and Alcibiades went into self-imposed exile. Thereafter, Alcibiades tried to advise Athens once more, but was ignored. By ignoring his advice, however, Athens lost a major battle and much morale. Athens would lose the war within 2 years.

Alcibiades sought refuge in Persia once more, and while accounts of his death differ, some suggest a Spartan general tracked him down and set fire to his house.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Grover Cleveland

Grover Cleveland was our only president to serve two non-consecutive terms, making him both the 22nd and 24th president. His terms were broken up by Benjamin Harrison. Interestingly, in Cleveland's elections against Benjamin Harrison, Cleveland won the popular vote but Harrison received more electoral votes, marking one of the few times in history where the chosen president did not match the winner of the popular vote.

Photo of Grover Cleveland

Cleveland was the only Democrat in the half-century of Republican political domination from 1861 to 1913, also making him the first Democratic president since the Civil War. At 49 years old, Cleveland became the only President to marry in a White House ceremony , marrying the 21-year-old daughter of a late law associated. Prior to the outing of the relationship, he had pretended this interest was in the woman's widowed mother for the media, making clear that his interest was in the daughter rather than the mother much later on.

 File:President cleveland wedding.png

In office, he challenged corruption and special favors, vetoing federal funds to Texan farmers. He also vetoed private pension bills as well as pension for disabilities not caused by military service. Furthermore, he investigated government grants thoroughly and made railroads give back 81,000,000 acres that he found misappropriated.

Cleveland saw himself as more of an enforcer, or a watchdog for Congress, than an initiator. Considering he managed to find himself in politics rather than purposely seeking and living for it, he was somewhat overwhelmed by the responsibilities put upon him. For instance, he did not know how to deal with the Panic of 1893, an economic issue, and the subsequent depression. This hesitation led to a rapid decline in support for the incumbent president. Indeed, though the 22nd amendment had not yet been passed to limit an individual to two presidential terms, Cleveland declined to run for a third term.

(Election of 1892, in which Cleveland beat the incumbent Harrison and started his 2nd term)

Sources: Wikipedia, Miller Center, White,

Friday, September 13, 2013

Chester Alan Arthur

Chester Alan Arthur, one of the least-remembered presidents, was not as nondescript as you might expect from a one-term president rising to the position only after an assassination whom very few people remember.

 Photo of Chester A. Arthur

Throughout his political career, Arthur was known for his reform. During Hayes' presidency, Arthur was even fired for his progressive ideas. However, once James Garfield was assassinated and Vice President Arthur unexpectedly became President, he stuck to his ideas despite how it might upset some of the members of his party.

 Cartoon of a man kicking another man into the street

As President, Arthur lowered tariffs and therefore the surplus the government seemed to profit from year after year. He also passed immigration laws to keep out "paupers, criminals, and lunatics." His administration also suspended Chinese immigration, which later became a more permanent restriction.

Perhaps his crowning achievement was the Pendleton Act, which regulated government positions so that they might be given out based on merit. 

However, the new President suffered from a kidney disease that made him very weak. The condition made him disinclined to run for a second term.

In the end, the shortness of Arthur's term made it hard for the President to get much down. Yet Congress was particularly receptive to Arthur, seeking stability in the time after Garfield's assassination, and Arthur is known for rising above party lines and enacting what he thought was right regardless of party approval. 

Sources: Wikipedia, White,,

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

History in Animaniacs

For the first time, we will have a post detailing the history that can be found in pop culture.

Animaniacs was a children's TV show in the 1990s often praised for its education and entertainment. The show's format is typically of 10-minute skits, some of which consist of a song.

One such song that portrays American history is the President's song.

While the song focuses on humor rather than fact, it also can teach someone a lot. Some of its inaccuracies include its mention of the popular myth, Washington chopping down a cherry tree, and its claim that Woodrow Wilson brought America into World War I in 1913 rather than1917. However, the song also has many correct facts about each President as it goes through each Commander-in-Chief in order (ex. "James Madison never had a son, and he fought the War of 1812," "Teddy Roosevelt charged us San Juan hill"). It is a very useful tool for memorizing the order of the Presidents and some small amount of information about them.

Another such historical song is the Ballad of Magellan.

As the title suggests, this song follows the Portuguese skipper Ferdinand Magellan on his journey to find the East Indies. While this song also has a strong element of humor, it also has many facts in song form (ex. "A great storm arose in the mighty Pacific/ The five little ships were diminished to three"). The song even correctly names many of the locations Magellan stopped on his way, as well as accurately placing his death on the Philippine Islands at the hands of the natives.

Animaniacs also has a song about the Panama Canal and a song called Nations of the World. While the latter sounds more like geography than history, the song's recording in the early 1990s paints a picture of a surprisingly different world. It is a great reminder of how much the world has changed, specifically in Eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia since merely two decades ago. For instance, the song includes Yugoslavia and misses Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, all of which were a part of the USSR and only gained their independence in the early '90s.

Friday, August 30, 2013

James Garfield

James A. Garfield served an abbreviated term, as he was one of only four presidents to be assassinated, the other three being Abraham Lincoln, William McKinley, and John F. Kennedy. He was in office from March 1881 to September 1881.

Garfield had served in the Union army and then in the House of Representatives from 1863 to 1881. The Republicans were seeing trouble after the unpopular, corrupt administrations of Ulysses Grant and Rutherford Hayes. James Garfield was a "dark horse" nomination for the troubled party.

 Formal seated portrait in oils

Garfield's term was deeply rooted in civil rights and reform: he reformed the post office, recommended a universal education system, and appointed many freedmen, such as Frederick Douglas, to prominent positions. However, due to his short term, he became one of the four 'lost presidents', the easily forgotten Commander-in-Chiefs following the Civil War. The lost presidents are Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, and Harrison.

Unfortunately, when Garfield and his family visited his old college, Williams College, in July, Charles J. Guiteau followed him. The assassin shot him twice, and the bullets led to infection and a weakening heart. Garfield finally passed away in September.

Guiteau had wanted to be a consul in Paris, and he believed his speech had helped Garfield win the presidency. Therefore, he believed he had earned such a position. When he was turned down for the position for being unqualified, and subsequently banned from the White House for being aggressive, Guiteau refused to accept his rejection gracefully and instead shot the President. Following Garfield's death, his Vice President, Chester Alan Arthur, took office.

Sources:,, Miller Center

Monday, August 19, 2013

Religion in Belarus

Belarus is a primarily Christian country. The Orthodox Church is considered the "official" church, and both Christmas and Easter are state holidays. Alexander Lukashenko, an atheist, boasts how no wars or conflicts have taken place in Belarus over religion.

Belarus was one of the core countries of the Soviet Union, a communist alliance of nations that brutally enforced atheism with the destruction of religious symbols and persecution of religious officials. Throughout the USSR's life, the Republic of Belarus was officially atheist.

However, Belorussian people have always been deeply religious, even from the days when Paganism dominated. And nowadays, Christianity is incredibly prominent within the country, Eastern Orthodoxy and Catholicism alone representing over 55% of the population. However, the 'official' status of Christian Orthodoxy does not only affect the Christian Orthodox practicers- for instance, many miners have deductions in their salary automatically going as a donation to the building of an Orthodox church. This mandatory donation is seen by some as repression of the freedom of religion, as everyone must comply to help build the Orthodox Church.

Demotix - Ivan Uralsky

The lack of freedom of religion has been a common complaint against Belarus. Many groups must meet in secret or are persecuted by officers for having different beliefs. 41% of the country is even atheist, yet the ones who meet persecution are Christians of less popular denominations and people of non-Christian religions.

Anti-Semitism in particular is seen to be condoned by authorities. Multiple incidents of the defacing of Jewish tombstones have been overlooked or ignored by officials entirely.

Belarus has always been a religious community, throughout the Communist era and strict oppression.

Sources: Wikipedia, Forum, Index on, Belarus