Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Flawed Montevideo Convention of 1933

International law and the recognition of states is not always straight forward. The Montevideo Convention of 1933 is a clear example of this. In that year, the Montevidoe Convention was signed at Montevideo, Uruguay, on December 26 at the Seventh International Conference of American States.

The essence of this treaty comes down to this:

The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.

The treaty was limited to 19 states and was never ratified into international law. However, it is often cited by any group (or person!) who meets this criteria as evidence that an entity should be treated as an independent sovereign nation. Just about every separatist group in the world cites this as evidence that they are already technically an independent nation-state. So do micronations.

What is a micronation? Here is a definition from the Micronation Wiki:

A micronation (cybernation, fantasy country, model country, new country project, pseudonation, counternation, ephemeral state, online nation, and variants thereof) is an entity intended to replace, resemble, mock, or exist on equal footing with recognized independent states. Some micronations are created with serious intent, while others exist as a hobby or stunt. For the most part they exist only on paper, on the Internet, or in the minds of their creators and participants. A small number have also managed to achieve some degree of recognition. When they do, they converge to some degree with other organizing paradigms that offer, or seem to offer, political or infrastructural independence of some sort.

There are hundreds of micronations ought there. Most exist only as websites. However, some exist with real land territory as well. Some examples include The Government of the Principality of Sealand, Christiania, The Conch Republic, and the Dominion of Melchizedek. And according to the Montevideo Convention, these are all "states" worthy of international recognition.

Despite how widely the Montevideo Convention is cited, it is ignored by the international community today. Under the definition of that treaty, anyone with a piece of real estate and a lawyer can produce a state. This is not very helpful under international law and is actually rather harmful. It dilutes the meaningfulness of international statehood to the level of absurdity.

The way international law actually works is closer to the Declarative Theory of Statehood. In essence, that theory states that other sovereign nation-states have to recognize a state for it to be valid. Sorry to say, the abandoned platform off of the United Kingdom which is Sealand does not qualify.

If you see the Montevideo Convention cited in any paper or website, turn on your critical thinking skills. It is almost always an appeal to a flawed concept which has little legal validity. True nation-states do not need to cite it. So, why is it being referenced? It is a good bet it is a ploy to draw in those who do not understand how international recognition actually works. Do not buy a passport or invest in their banks. That is, unless you want to actually contribute to their hobby (or yours).

Friday, May 30, 2008

What is Oceania?

Oceania is a term often used to describe a large part of the world in the Pacific. I use Oceania as a label at this blog for some posts. However, I have been reading conflicting definitions of what this word actually means.

History of Nations - Oceania defines Oceania as, "Oceania includes most of the Pacific Ocean as well as portions of the Indian Ocean. Excluded are island nations which have been traditionally considered a part of Asia. Oceania includes Australia, New Zealand, and all of Polynesia." That definition is a bit vague.

Wikipedia attempts a definition with, "Oceania (sometimes Oceania) is a geographical, often geopolitical, region consisting of numerous lands—mostly islands in the Pacific Ocean and vicinity. The term is often used in many languages to define one of the continents and is one of eight terrestrial ecozones. Ethnologically, the islands that are included in Oceania are divided into the subregions of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. The exact scope of Oceania is variably defined: it generally includes New Zealand, is often taken to include parts of Australasia such as Australia and New Guinea, and sometimes all or part of the Malay Archipelago."

It appears including Australia and New Zealand in Oceania is debatable. For a long time, FIFA (the world governing body for football/soccer) had Australia in Oceania. Now it is in the Asian Confederation. New Zealand is still part of FIFA's Oceania zone. I doubt that Australia is a part of Asia either. FIFA has Israel in the European zone so I do not think FIFA is good at geography. Australia is a continent all by itself so I guess it does not matter if it is part of Oceania or not but I think it is.

Hawaii is also debated. The same Wikipedia article notes, "Hawaii is the northern corner of the Polynesian triangle and is generally included in Oceania, though politically it is part of the United States." I find it hard to argue that Hawaii is not in Oceania. The fact that it is part of the United States has no impact on physical geography. The Canary Islands are an integral part of Spain but they are still in Africa. Hawaii is no different.

I do not even know how to approach border areas such as Indonesia, Papua New Guineas, and East Timor. They look like they could be Oceania or Asia.

I guess it does not really matter that much. Oceania is a big place. A lot of what it is appears clear. The murky areas can be claimed as part of Oceania or not as people please. I guess I am one of the few people who actually spends time thinking about it. However, I can take comfort in the fact that some people are debating this issue even if it does not matter a great deal.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Executed Australian Man Pardoned

It will not do Colin Campbell Ross much good. After being executed for rape and murder 86 years ago, he was pardoned by Victoria state Governor David de Kretser. Research had shown that he was convicted on shaky evidence. Details on the case can be found at Australian state pardons man who was hanged for murder 86 years ago by the Canadian Press.

The article notes, "Prosecutors alleged that Ross, who ran a saloon in Melbourne, gave Tirtschke alcohol before raping and strangling her on New Year's Eve 1921. The only physical evidence connecting him to the crime were hairs on a blanket which prosecutors claimed were Tirtschke's. While witnesses gave alibis for Ross, he was convicted and later hanged, protesting his innocence. The pardon petition built on recent forensic tests that finally proved the original hair samples did not come from Tirtschke."

I amazed that this long after the fact forensic tests can point to guilt or innocence. Lacking the hair sample evidence, the only "proof" of Ross being guilty was questionable testimony from a jail house informer who got his sentence reduced by testifying against Ross and two others who got reward money for helping getting Ross convicted. The fact that Ross had recently been acquitted of an assault charge did not help him either as the Melbourne Police appear to have been out to get him.

A Wikipedia article has more on this case and Ross. A horrid fact is noted, "Colin Ross was executed on April 24, 1922 at Melbourne Gaol in a particularly gruesome manner. A new four-strand rope was used for the first time in an Australian execution and proved to be a failure, as Ross slowly strangled for more than forty minutes before his death. A prison report later ruled that such a rope must never be used again."

I am happy that Ross at least has been cleared all these years after his probable unfortunate false conviction. Justice delayed here is indeed justice denied. Ross will never get the years back he lost when he was executed. However, at least his name has been cleared.

Monday, May 26, 2008


I spent several hours today watching a MonsterQuest Marathon on the History Channel. The description at the site for the show reads, "From Bigfoot to Swamp Beast, Monsterquest reveals the truth of legendary monster sightings around the world. Deploying the latest in hi-tech equipment, each episode scientifically examines the best evidence available, from pictures and video, to hair and bones, as well as the eyewitness accounts themselves. From pilots to policemen to ship captains, a number of seemingly credible people have seen things they can't explain. One part history, one part science and one part monsters, MonsterQuest discovers the truth behind these legendary monsters."

Despite my enjoyment of this series, I question how much of this series is history. There is a lot of oral folklore and reference to historical events but this show seems a lot like all those unhistoric UFO shows which seem to dominate the History Channel on some days. I really am OK with this for the most part. The History Channel needs to make revenue from ad sales for popular shows and much of the rest of the network's programming makes up for this. Plus, the UFO and monster shows are entertaining.

Some of the MonsterQuest episodes deal with real life "monsters." These include animals such as the giant squid and killer giant catfish. Some deal with the unlikely but still possible such as Bigfoot and unknown big cats in North America. Other episodes go off the deep end with monsters such as extra-dimensional atmospheric creatures and Thunderbirds.

Of course, this series may well prove to be historic. If Bigfoot or other another featured creature in the cryptozoology episodes proves to real, this show will be remembered fondly (or not so fondly) by historians and biologists. For example, if Bigfoot is proven it will have a huge impact on the trust of the public on scientists. It may be the equivalent as if science was proven wrong on global warming. If Bigfoot is out there, how did science miss it and why were the scientists so dismissive of the evidence that existed prior to the discovery? It would be a huge blow to public confidence in the scientific community.

MonsterQuest appears to be a hit on the History Channel. The second season premiers tomorrow with an episode on giant hogs in North America. It looks fun. I will keep watching.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Russian Communists Upset with Indiana Jones

Some Russian Communists are unhappy with the new Indiana Jones film. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull opened in Russia on Thursday. The communist distaste for the film can be seen at a CNN article titled Indiana Jones movie upsets communists.

Communist Party members said on the Web this week that the Soviet Union in 1957 "did not send terrorists to the States," but launched a satellite, "which evoked the admiration of the whole world."

Communist Andrei Andreyev said Saturday "it is very disturbing if talented directors want to provoke a new Cold War."

Well, maybe this film is unfair to the Soviet Union. The previous Indiana Jones films may have well been unfair to the Nazis too. As the Nazis were gone or hiding in South America in 1957, a new set of bad guys had to be found and the Soviets seem a good choice for 1957. Maybe the Soviets did not have the same reckless interest in occult archeology that the Nazis did but who else is a better choice to go up against Indiana Jones in this time period? It would have been insulting to Communism had they not been cast in the role of the opposition to Indie.

I doubt this film provokes a new cold war. If one happens, this film will not be the cause. I think most Russians can recognize this film as fiction. It is not like there have never been "evil" Americans portrayed in the Russian cinema. I think most Russians (as well as other world citizens) can recognize fiction.

As a bonus for this film, the Communist Party of Russia's attempt to boycott it may help it sell more tickets in Russia. Lots of Russians dislike the Communist Party. Their objections to it may help to boost the Russian box office tally.