Saturday, December 6, 2014

Game-Changing Votes in Moldova, Taiwan, Greenland; Ethnic Violence in Xinjiang and Corsica; Boko Haram in Retreat; Bitcoin Micronations: The Week in Separatist News, November 29–December 5, 2014


Pro-West Party Wins in Moldova; Kremlin Sends “Humanitarian” Convoy to Transnistria.  In the formerly-Soviet Republic of Moldova, parliamentary elections on November 30th handed a victory to parties favoring closer integration with the European Union (E.U.), rather than with the Russian Federation.  But the pro-E.U. coalition still snagged only 41.4% of the vote, with the pro-Kremlin Socialist Party winning 21.6% and other pro-eastern parties racking up nearly as much as that.  The pro-Brussels Liberal Democratic Party came in second, behind the Socialists, but will be able to build form a government with smaller coalition partners.  Another pro-Moscow party, Patria, was, just before the election, embroiled in a scandal over illegal campaign funds from abroad, and its chairman, Renato Usatii, has fled to Russia; this caused many Patria voters to defect to the Socialists at the last minute.  The election and its aftermath are being watched closely because Moldova’s situation is so similar to that of its eastern neighbor, war-torn Ukraine.  Moldova’s pro-Moscow eastern border region of Transnistria declared itself independent in 1990 after the fall of Communism.  Though that conflict has remained frozen, and Transnistria is diplomatically unrecognized, the situation is reminiscent of the situation with this year’s Russian invasions of ethnic-Russian-majority areas in Ukraine such as Crimea and the Donbas.  Transnistrians have openly asked to be annexed to Russia, while Russia has tried to bully Moldova into scaling down its engagement with the E.U. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  Now, on the morning of December 6th, the latest reports indicate that Russia’s warnings to the Moldovan government over its reaffirmed path, may be more than bluster: the first of a new 60-truck convoy of “humanitarian aid” has arrived in Transnistria.  If it is like similar convoys crossing from Russia into the self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic, then “humanitarian aid” is likely to include surface-to-air missiles, land mines, and grenade-launchers.

Transnistria or bust: the “humanitarian” convoy
Donbas Rebel Leaders Scoff at New E.U. Sanctions List; Fighting Continues.  In Ukraine’s rebel-ruled ethnic-Russian-majority southeastern Donbas region, the foreign minister of the self-proclaimed, Russia-backed Donetsk People’s Republic (D.P.R.), Aleksandr Kofmanscoffed at new lists of sanctions targets released by the European Union (E.U.) which focused on leaders of the D.P.R. and its sister rebel quasi-state, the Luhansk People’s Republic (L.P.R.). “The very fact they impose sanctions on the person whose job is the normalisation of relations with the entire world, including Europe,” said Kofman, painting the D.P.R. and L.P.R. rebel governments as voices of reason and moderation, “indicates the E.U. is not interested in that normalisation.”  Meanwhile, shelling continued around Donetsk, and the Pyatigorsk host of Cossacks was one of several groups bringing convoys of “humanitarian aid” from Russia into the rebel republics.

20 Dead as Terrorists Battle Russian Federal Police in Chechen Capital.  A street battle between Russian police and Islamist militants left twenty people dead over the night of December 4th and 5th in Grozny, the capital of Russia’s Chechen Republic in the North Caucasus region.  The violence occurred shortly before Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, delivered his state-of-the-nation speech from Moscow.  The dead included nine militants and ten police.  Chechnya’s Putin-appointed, mildly-Islamist president, Ramzan Kadyrov, played down the incident, saying, “When this all started, I flew home, organized a special operation, killed the devils, held a meeting, gathered the staff needed to restore the damaged building and made it back in time to listen to the address of our national leader.”  Putin implied that Western powers were behind the attack, in an attempt to dismember Russia.  (Chechnya fought two bloody wars for independence after the fall of Communism, inviting a level of civilian massacre by Putin not seen in Europe since the Second World War.)  But before long a video posted on the pro-Islamist Kavkaz Center website claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of Aslan Byutukayev, a.k.a. “Emir Khamzat” of the Caucasus Emirate movement, a salafist terrorist group whose aims are broadly shared by Islamic State, which is battling Russia’s ally, Syria, not far away to the southeast.

The scene in Grozny
Belarus President Questions Kaliningrad Exclave’s Russianness during Visit.  The republic of Belarus, in the past a lock-step ally of President Vladimir Putin’s Russian Federation, became wary of its giant eastern neighbor and former ruler this year after Putin’s military invasions of eastern Ukraine.  But was Belarus’s skittish dictator, Aleksandr Lukashenka, fearful of Russia annexing Belarus too, or was he merely jealous, wishing he could flex his irredentist muscles as well?  That question is being raised after comments Lukashenka made during a visit to Kaliningrad Oblast, a former part of Germany’s Pomerania region, wedged between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea, which is part of Russia today because of the reallocation of some German territories in the treaties that ended the Second World War.  While meeting this week with the oblast’s governor, Nikolai Tsukanov, and discussing trade, Lukashenka said, “Some of our enemies, including those in Russia and Belarus, say that Lukashenka wants the Kaliningrad Oblast to be a part of Belarus.  Believe me, I do not have such plans.  But we have a good tradition from the Soviet Union that Belarus has always supported Kaliningrad Oblast.  We have never considered you to be an alien region.  Perhaps, it doesn’t matter what country the Kaliningrad Oblast will belong to.”  Perhaps, indeed, that extends to countries that no longer exist: in August, residents of Kaliningrad, formerly Königsberg, staged autonomy rallies in the city and waved flags of Prussia (as reported at the time in this blog).

Prussian flags on display in Kaliningrad
Catalonia’s Radical Left Says Mas’s 18-Month “Roadmap to Secession” Too Slow.  The leader of the Republican Left of Catalonia (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, or E.R.C.), the radical separatist party that holds the balance of power in the ruling coalition in Spain’s secessionist autonomous region of Catalonia, spoke out about the Catalan president Artur Mas’s 18-month “roadmap to secession,” saying it was a step forward but too slow.  The E.R.C. leader, Oriol Junqueras, told an interviewer, “We have to shorten the period of uncertainty as much as possible.  In Scotland’s case, the process was slower because the government in London was willing to negotiate, but here it is already clear that Madrid doesn’t want to negotiate anything.”

The E.R.C.’s Junqueras doesn’t want to wait for Catalan independence.
UKIP Slammed for Linking Scots to Nazis; HIV Activists Fight Farage’s Bullshit with Bullshit.  In the United Kingdom, the head of the anti-Brussels, pro-unionist United Kingdom Independence Party’s Scottish delegation, Arthur Misty Thackeray (no, that’s not his stripper name), drew hostile responses recently for a volatile rant in which he repeatedly compared the ruling separatist Scottish National Party (S.N.P.) to Nazi Germany.  His harshest invective was reserved for Scotland’s new First Minister (i.e., premier), Nicola Sturgeon, and the S.N.P.’s party newspaper.  “The Scottish Nationalist movement is in danger of returning to its 1930s fascist roots,” Thackeray said, adding, “First we had cybernats and street thugs trying to intimidate their way to independence, then Sturgeon at Nuremburg-style rallies and now this McPravda propaganda sheet.  Scotland doesn’t need Neverendum politics, just everyone to accept that the majority of Scots voted to remain forever in the Union, and said No means No.”  Meanwhile, comments by UKIP’s bombastic chairman, Nigel Farage, about people with H.I.V. has prompted a more pungent criticism.  After Farage told Newsweek that restricting entry to the U.K. by “quality” immigrants should mean, for example, “people who do not have H.I.V.—that’s a good start,” activists from the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT-UP) responded to Farage’s “bullshit” by leaving a giant mound of actual bullshit outside UKIP’s headquarters on December 1st, which is World AIDS Day.  Farage describes himself as a libertarian, but in his crusade against the European Union (E.U.), he reserves his fiercest invective for one of the E.U. principles that is in full accord with libertarian principles: the free movement of people (a blind spot he shares with most libertarians in the United States).  But, just to assure people that Farage’s anti-AIDS anger is not personal, he clarified that in general, “I do not think people with life-threatening diseases should be treated by our National Health Service.”

Merry Christmas, UKIP
Police Injured, Military Vehicles Burned in Corsican Separatist Protest.  Two police were injured in clashes on December 3rd with hundreds of young separatist demonstrators in Corsica, a large Mediterranean island controlled by France.  The rally had been organized by the pro-independence organization Separatist Youth (Ghjuventù Indipendentista).  Chanted slogans included “A nostra terra ùn hè à vende” (“Our land is not for sale”) and “Statu francese assassinu” (“Murderous French State”).  Store windows were smashed and two military trucks were set on fire with Molotov cocktails.  Police used tear gas to disperse the crowd but were less successful in making arrests.  According to one student organizer, Petru Vesperini, “We sent out a global call to Corsican youth, calling for protest against the current situation in Corsica, which is characterized by a disproportionate wave of repression, anti-Corsican racism, and the denial of democracy by the French government.”

Street battles in Corsica
Northern League Leader Plans January Summit with Putin.  The leader of northern Italy’s far-right separatist Northern League (Lega Nord), Matteo Salvini, will meet in January with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin.  Ostensibly, they will discuss economic issues, but the summit is telling in light of the fact that, since Putin’s illegal invasion and annexation of Crimea earlier this year and his crackdown on the beleaguered indigenous Muslim minority there, right-wing separatist parties in western Europe have rallied behind the Russian autocrat.  Like Belgium’s Flemish Interest (Vlaams Belang) party and the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), Lega Nord is increasingly shifting away from straight-out constitutional and geopolitical aims (which are decidedly not in accord with Putin’s style of governing) and toward a vote-grubbing form of virulent anti-gay, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim bigotry (which are hallmarks of Putin’s rule).  (See a recent article from this blog for more on the Italian xenophobic separatist right’s infatuation with Putin.)

Northern Italian separatists and their hero
Principality of Seborga Names Envoy to India.  The Principality of Seborga, a diplomatically unrecognized elective monarchy coextensive with a small muncipality in northwestern Italy, has appointed a Sikh resident of Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, as its consul (in its words, “representative”) India.  At the swearing-in ceremony in Patiala, in India’s Punjab state, the new envoy, S. P. Singh Oberoi, was inducted into his office by Prince Marcello I, Seborga’s head of state.  It is not clear if anyone in the Indian government noticed or cared.

Indian and Seborgan flags adorn Prince Marcello I’s induction of S. P. Singh Oberoi.

NATO, Georgia, Others Condemn New Russian–Abkhazian Treaty.
 The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is joining the international chorus condemning Russia’s November 24th treaty with the self-styled Republic of Abkhazia, which only a handful of nations recognize as sovereign.  James Appathurai, NATO’s point man on South Caucasus affairs, points out that the deal, which sets in motion a merger of sorts of the two nations’ militaries, raises tensions in the region, especially amid expectations that Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, will annex the puppet state, along with the Republic of South Ossetia, another rebel region of the Republic of Georgia it recognized diplomatically after the 2008 Russian–Georgian War, in the same way it did Ukraine’s Crimea republic earlier this year.  Speaking on December 4th, Appathurai said, “NATO Secretary General expressed extreme concern over the signing of the so-called treaty between Russia and Abkhazia.  There are grounds for concern in relation to South Ossetia.  This so-called agreement is yet another violation of the territorial integrity of Georgia.”


Kurds Come Out Ahead in Major Agreement with Baghdad over Oil and Budget.
 The Republic of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government (K.R.G.) reached a key agreement on oil and finances on December 1st, after three days of negotiations.  In the agreement, the Kurdistan Region will receive 17% of the national budget and will receive 550,000 barrels of Kurdish oil per year.  The autonomous region, which openly hankers for independence while it holds its own against Islamic State militants better than the central government can, contains nearly a quarter of Iraq’s population but unofficially controls more territory than that, including the strategic city of Kirkuk, the vicinity of which will produce 300,000 of the 550,000 barrels to be paid in tribute to the state.

Increasingly Militant Turkmens, Christians Boycott Kurdish Parliament.  But in a further political fragmenting of Iraq’s far north, Turkmen and Christian members of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s parliament declared this week they would be boycotting the body’s session out of a feeling of exclusion from its institutions, in particular the Referendum Commission which will decide if and when to hold a plebiscite on secession from Iraq.  In Iraqi Kurdistan, Turkmens and Christians have formed their own independent militias, and Christians in particular have been the victims of ethnic cleansing by Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIS).  Meanwhile, the embattled self-declared quasi-state in Syrian Kurdistan is far more inclusive, with power-sharing between Kurdish, Arab, Turkmen, Assyrian (Christian), and even Chechen communities in the region.  Also this week, Iraq’s Assyrian Democratic Movement announced the formation of special militias designed specifically to protect and retake Assyrian territories from ISIS.  The militias, called Nineveh Plains Protection Units, are currently holding territories in non-ISIS-held parts of Nineveh province, the Assyrian heartland.  David W. Lazar, an Iraqi native, who runs the American Mesopotamian Organization, said that his group is involved in directing funding from the Assyrian diaspora in the United States to the Protection Units, but he refused to answer questions about whether U.S. military or intelligence personnel are playing a role.

Nineveh Plains Protection Units
ISIS Anbar Emir Killed in U.S. Airstrike in Iraq.  The al-Arabiya news service reported the death, from a United States airstrike, of a senior commander in the Islamic State organization (a.k.a. ISIS).  The commander, Senan Meted, was known as “emir” of western Anbar province, in Iraq.  He was killed on November 26th in the town of Hit, in Anbar.

ISIS—taking losses but still on the march
French Parliament 5th in Europe to Recognize Palestine; Belgium Next in Line.  The lower house of France’s parliament approved on December 2nd a resolution urging the government to recognize the State of Palestine, in a vote of 339-151.  This non-binding vote—only the executive can grant diplomatic recognition—follows similar ones in the parliaments of SwedenSpainIreland, and the United Kingdom over the past several weeks, and Belgium and the European Parliament are planning to take up the issue soon as well.  But the French government, like the United States and U.K. governments, remains a committed ally of Israel—despite considerable popular opposition in those countries, especially France and, to a lesser extent, the U.K.  Serge Cwajgenbaum, secretary general of the European Jewish Congress, reacted with alarm to the French vote, calling it pandering to pander to the Muslim vote.  He also attempted to whip up fear over repercussions, saying, “Such votes can have negative consequences for the Middle East peace process because it can radicalize people, while pushing Palestinians to abandon the negotiating table in favor of seeking recognitions.  ...  I can’t exclude the possibility that there can be repercussions of the vote on the Jewish community,” he added, “as criticism of Israel can be construed by some extremists as an excuse for incitement against Jews.”  In 2012, the United Nations General Assembly voted 138 to 9 to admit Palestine as an “observer state” (as reported at the time in this blog), but full membership is barred by the Security Council veto wielded by Israel’s only ally, the U.S.

South Yemenis Hold Mass Rallies on Independence Day, Defying Authorities.  Southern Yemeni secessionists held demonstrations in the former capital, Aden, on November 29th to mark the 47th anniversary of Yemen’s independence from the United Kingdom, at which point it was partitioned into two states.  (The two reunified in 1991, and many southerners would like to reestablish a separate South Yemen.)  But central-government authorities prevented many leaders from attending the rallies, including Hassan Ba’oum, “spiritual leader” of al-Hirak, as the main southern—and predominantly Sunni Arab—secessionist movement is known.  Police attacks on demonstrators killed at least one and injured four others.  With the country in turmoil after this fall’s virtual coup d’état in the capital, Sana, by Shiite Arabs from the northern mountains called Houthis, even Islamist parties and the usually unionist socialist party which ruled South Yemen during the Cold War are directing most of their criticism at the central government and saying that al-Hirak has a point.  Meanwhile, the Houthis signed a cease-fire and a prisoner-release agreement with one salafist Islamist party in Yemen, the Islah party.

Yemen’s map is complicated.

Nigerian Military Claims All of Adamawa Wrested from Boko Haram “Caliphate.”  The military in Nigeria announced on December 5th that its forces had recaptured the town of Mubi, in Adamawa State, from the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram, which had held it since October.  The military claims that this now frees all of Adamawa from Boko Haram control.  The terrorists had renamed Mubi “Madinatul Islam” (as reported at the time in this blog) and were running it as the capital of their newly declared “caliphate” in northern Nigeria, on the model of the “Islamic State” entity in Syria and Iraq (as reported at the time in this blog).  It is unclear how much territory the group still holds in neighboring Borno State

Soon refugees from Adamawa such as these may be able to return home.
Former Somali Parliament Speaker Sworn In as South-Western State President.  In Baidoa, in southern Somalia, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan was inaugurated on December 3rd as president of the Interim South-Western Administration (I.S.W.A.), designed to ease into existence an autonomous South-Western State of Somalia, on the model of autonomous regions like Puntland, Galdmudug, and Jubaland.  These regions so far function mostly as independent states, with little governing from Mogadishu.  Adan, a former national finance minister, was elected on November 17th.  He was best known for being involved in a power struggle with President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed in 2010 when he was speaker of Somalia’s parliament.  But the Federal Republic of Somalia’s president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, was on hand for the inauguration.

Adan, new president of Somalia’s Interim South-Western Administration
Barotse Separatist Leader Nabbed by Zambian Police, to Be Tried for Treason.  Authorities in Zambia on December 5th arrested Mombotwa Afumba, chairman of the monarchist movement Linyungandambo, which aims for the independence of Barotseland, a kingdom which agreed to be part of the Republic of Zambia when British rule ended in 1964 on condition of autonomous status, which has never been granted.  Afumba, whom the movement regards as Administrator-General of Barotseland, was arrested in Sesheke, near Mwandi Palace, residence of the senior chief Inyambo Yeta, of the separatist Barotse Royal Establishment (B.R.E.).  Afumba had made the mistake of recently crossing over the border from Namibia, where he has been spending most of his time since a crackdown three years ago.  Part of the traditional Barotse (a.k.a. Lozi) kingdom lies in Angola and Namibia.  Afumba has been moved to Mongu, the administrative center of Western (formerly Barotseland) Province, where he is expected to be tried for treason.

Mombotwa Afumba, now to be tried for treason

Taiwan Pro-Independence Party Wollops KMT Establishment in Local Races.  In local elections in the Republic of China (Taiwan) on November 29th, the ruling Nationalist party, the Kuomintang (KMT), suffered severe setbacks.  From fourteen of the country’s 22 counties and county-level municipalities, the KMT now controls only six.  It yielded seven to the Democratic People’s Party (D.P.P.), which favors defying Beijing by formalizing the island’s decades-long de facto independence from mainland China.  As a result, Taiwan’s premier, Jiang Yi-huah, resigned, and its president, Ma Ying-jeou, quit his chairmanship of the party.  The mayoralty of Taipei, the capital, was won by Ko Wen-je, a trauma surgeon and political novice who ran as an independent but supports the D.P.P. favors formal independence.  Already, the KMT’s hold on power has been tenuous: it controls only a slight majority, 65, of the national parliament’s 113 seats, and at this rate they won’t survive the 2016 elections.  The repercussions of these changes have yet to be felt, but so far the Communist government in Beijing, which still claims Taiwan is its own, is downplaying its significance.

Cute puppy dogs, Jake & Elwood, independence from Beijing—
Taipei’s mayor-elect Ko Wen-je knows what voters like.
15 Killed in Uyghur Violence in Xinjiang.  In China, authorities reported that on November 28th fifteen people were killed and fourteen injured in an attack by members of the Uyghur minority in a public market in the Uyghur-majority Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.  The incident occurred in Shache County, where nearly 100 people had been killed in reportedly similar violence in July.  The assailants in the latest attack were reported to be armed with explosives, knives, and a vehicle.  But Uyghur diaspora activists dispute the government account of such atrocities, claiming they are exaggerated and nonexistent and are being concocted as a pretext for repression of Uyghur culture and the ethnic group’s Muslim faith.

Baloch Separatists Claim Responsibility for Killing 2 Pakistani Soldiers.  Two separate attacks on November 30th which killed two members of Pakistan’s Frontier Corps and wounded several others were the work of the Baloch Liberation Army (B.L.A.), according to a B.L.A. statement.  A B.L.A. spokesman, Jeand Baloch, said, “Our Sarmachars [freedom fighters] attacked the security forces’ convoy with R.P.G. and other automatic weapons killing at least two soldiers including a Subedar and injuring several others.”  The two attacks occurred in the Tump and Panjgur regions of Balochistan, a vast province covering nearly half of Pakistan’s territory, which has been fighting for independence for decades.

Don’t fuck with the Baloch Liberation Army, okay?

Papuans Wave Banned Flag, Stage Demonstration in Jakarta on “Independence Day.”  Hundreds of members of tribal ethnic minorities from eastern Indonesia’s West Papua region staged protests in the national capital, Jakarta, on December 1st, demanding a referendum on independence for Irian Jaya and West Papua provinces, on the island of New Guinea, as a separate Republic of West Papua.  The protests were marking the 53rd anniversary of the region’s declaration of independence from the Netherlands in 1961, when Indonesia was not yet fully established.  Papuans were promised, then denied, a referendum at that time, and Indonesia annexed the territory with the tacit approval of the United States and United Nations.  At this week’s rallies, some raised the Morning Star flag, the display of which is illegal in Indonesia.

Papuans rally for freedom in Jakarta.

Greenland’s Narrowly Reelected Ruling Party Shuns Separatists in New Coalition.  Against expectations, elections on November 28th in Greenland handed the governing socialist party, Siumut, a narrow victory, with a 34.3% share of votes, despite the party’s near collapse from a financial scandal and despite its moderate stance on the question of independence from Denmark.  This was just over 300 votes more than the main opposition party, the far more stridently separatist Inuit Ataqatigiit (I.A.), received, with 33.2% of votes.  Each now gets 11 seats in the 31-seat Greenlandic parliament.  At first it seemed that Siumut, as the narrow winner, was courting I.A. with hopes of forming a government, but negotiations seemed to snag on mining issues, which are related to question of Greenland’s viability as an independent state.  Now, within the past few days, Siumut has formed a coalition with two smaller anti-independence parties, the Democrat Party and the Atassut Party, with only seven parliamentary seats between them—enough for Siumut to shut I.A. and make sure their coalition partners are unambiguously junior.  This puts the independence cause significantly farther from the center of Greenland politics—the opposite of what had been predicted mere weeks ago (including by this blog).  72.9% of the vast but sparsely populated territory’s 40,424 eligible voters cast ballots.

Against expectations, Aleqa Hammond and her Siumut party prevailed.
Quebec Gunman Seeks Bail, Claims No Memory of Lethal Attack on Premier’s Rally.  The rabidly anti-Francophone and court-certified mentally ill Canadian who may have been attempting to assassinate Quebec’s new premier-elect, Pauline Marois, when he was arrested in 2012, told a judge at a bail hearing on November 28th that he cannot prepare for his own defense while jailed.  A bathrobe-wearing Richard Henry Bain had shot and killed one person at the separatist Parti Québécois’s post-election victory rally in September 2012 when police tackled him.  Bain, a disgruntled guide–outfitter, was suspected of attempting to assassinate Marois, but he claims now he has no memory of the event, due to what he now calls an overdose of medication.  Bain claimed oppression of Anglophones by Canada’s government and was an advocate for secession from the province of the city of Montreal, which has a higher proportion of Anglophones than other Québécois cities.

“And another thing ...!”: Bain being arrested in 2012
Californian Seeks “Sub-National Sovereignty” for State; Jeffersonians Court Lake County.  A plan to split California into six separate states of the United States (discussed in this blog) died with not enough signatures earlier this year, but disgruntled Californians are not out of the game.  Libertarian and conservative Californians are arguably the most disenfranchised ideological bloc in the U.S., since under the winner-take-all system in elections for the presidency and the U.S. Senate, the perennial political minority in the most populous state may as well not bother voting.  So, while Tim “Six Californias” Draper has gone back to the drawing board, Louis Marinelli, a 28-year-old English teacher in San Diego has founded an organization called Sovereign California.  The group’s aim is not to secede from the U.S.—at least not yet—but to carve out a more sovereign constitutional status for California within the union.  “We’re not pursuing actual separation from the rest of America,” Marinelli says.  “It’s more like sub-national sovereignty, something like Scotland has within the United Kingdom, with a lot of autonomy, but still within the national system.”  (A politically and geographically closer example might be Quebec’s new status as a “nation within a nation” in Canada.)  This “sub-national sovereignty” would include the right to form foreign diplomatic relations unilaterally—an idea also once favored by the former centrist Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.  A commonwealth status akin to Puerto Rico’s is another possibility, Marinelli says.  He is also very focused on petitioning to allow the Bear Republic Flag—the state flag, which still bears the phrase “California Republic” dating to its brief independence in 1846—to fly at the same height as the Stars and Stripes at government facilities.  Meanwhile, the board of supervisors of Lake County, in northern California, debated for two hours on December 2nd the idea of joining a proposed 51st state called the State of Jefferson.  GlennModocSiskiyouSutterTehama, and Yuba counties have passed resolutions in favor of the secession, and Colusa has considered it.  In June of this year, Tehama County voted to secede in a non-binding ballot measure, while Del Norte and Siskiyou counties defeated similar proposals only narrowly and Siskiyou and Modoc counties delivered a “declaration of withdrawal” to Sacramento in August (as reported at the time in this blog).

One day ... side by side (or so hopes Sovereign California)
Feds Slap Aging Surfer Dude’s Wrists for Minting Unofficial “Liberty Dollars.”  A United States federal judge in Statesville, North Carolina, on December 2nd sentenced Bernard von NotHaus, a 70-year-old “ex–surfer guy” and founder of the Free Marijuana Church of Honolulu (it’s the church that’s free, not the marijuana, unfortunately), to six months of house arrest for issuing his own minted Liberty Dollars in defiance of the U.S. government.  This follows a 2011 conviction for “counterfeiting”—a dubious charge, since creating coins and notes from scratch is forgery, not counterfeiting, and since Von NotHaus was not trying to pass the dollars off as U.S. currency.  He had since become a hero to libertarians for his championing of the cause of resisting the supposedly “phony” (i.e., not gold-backed) U.S. dollar.  As Von NotHaus put it in 2011 when feds tried to link his enterprise to domestic terrorism, “This is the United States government.  It’s got all the guns, all the surveillance, all the tanks, it has nuclear weapons, and it’s worried about some ex-surfer guy making his own money?  Give me a break.”  The judge had indeed given him a break: at his age, a maximum sentence could have meant life in prison.

Von NotHaus with one of the offending pieces of paper

“Galt’s Gulch” Libertarian Commune in Chile Switching to Bitcoin.  An 11,000-acre utopian community called Galt’s Gulch Chile (G.G.C.), modeled on the secret mountain redoubt portrayed in Ayn Rand’s 1957 libertarian novel Atlas Shrugged, has announced that it is adopting the alternative currency Bitcoin as the coin of its realm.  Jeff Berwin, a United States citizen who is G.G.C.’s spokesman and a player in the early history of Bitcoin, stated recently, “I can think of no better way to invest bitcoins than on real estate, especially legally protected land with clean water and organic farmland in quickly developing markets, like Chile.  ...  Just like bitcoins, I think land in emerging markets will only increase in value over the coming years.  The U.S. dollar and other fiat currencies will continue to collapse and we recommend those holding dollars to divest themselves of those dollars as soon as possible.  We also want to show our commitment to bitcoin and accept it very happily as payment for land at Galt’s Gulch.”  This comes despite strong indications from those claiming to have been hoodwinked by G.G.C. financiers that the whole enterprise is a money-making scam which grossly overstates the functionality and sustainability of the community and dissembles about what happens to the money prospective communards pay in.  (Bitcoin is also a proposed currency for the Principality of the Portinha, a 2,000-square-foot rock off the coast of Madeira, an Atlantic possession of Portugal’s off the coast of Morocco, which is recognized by no one.)

Second-handers use rear entrance

[For those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with my new book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas just published by Litwin Books under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements and Aspirant Nations, from Abkhazia to Zanzibar.  (That is shorter than the previous working title.)  The book, which contains 46 maps and 554 flags (or, more accurately, 554 flag images), is available for order now on Amazon.  Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even though you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook and see this special announcement for more information on the book.]

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