Annaberg windmill


The empty shell of a windmill at the Annaberg sugar plantation on St. John in the US Virgin Islands.
If there was a steady breeze, sugar cane was brought to the windmill. Revolving sails–which have long since disappeared from this windmill–turned a central shaft, rotating the rollers and crushing the sugar cane stalks. Juice ran down the rollers into the gutter and flowed downhill to the factory for processing. 300-500 gallons of juice could be produced in an hour.


George Washington


Clark Mills’ equestrian statue of George Washington at the battle of Princeton. According to the National Parks Service, Congress appropriated $50,000 for the statue in 1853, which was finally dedicated on 22 February 1860. It stands in Washington Circle, near the George Washington University.

In Tampa, party like it’s 1799

The party of small government gathered in Tampa, Florida on Tuesday to piece together its platform ahead of next weeks’ Republican National Convention. And, with Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell presiding, Republican delegates voted to explicitly deny hundreds of thousands of tax paying, DC residents voting rights in the US House of Representatives.

It’s inevitable that in instances like these the question is asked: how does the party that ostensibly supports devolving federal powers to state and local communities routinely oppose extending DC the same rights enjoyed by hundreds of millions of other Americans?

There is more than just fear of more Democratic votes in the US Congress undergirding the GOP’s opposition to DC Statehood. For the movement’s intellectual leaders, who revere the Constitution as sacred text, opposition to DC voting rights has to do with adhering to the Founders’ original intent, formulated in a vastly different society over 220 years ago, and enumerated in the US Constitution. Continue reading

Fort Willoughby


Fort Willoughby on Hassel Island, United States Virgin Islands. Fort Willoughby on the southern tip of the island. The Danes originally had a battery here to protect the harbor entrance. When the British seized the islands during the Napoleonic Wars, they built this fort here to replace the Danish battery. The British eventually gave the territory back to the Danes in 1815.

He fights for the liberation of Saipan


CAMP HANSEN, Japan – On June 15, 1944, during World War II, the United States Marines, supported by the Army, landed on the beaches of Saipan. The Allied forces spent more than three weeks liberating the island from the Japanese.

More than 70 years later, the significance of that battle and the men who fought there continues to inspire a new generation who fill our ranks today.

Lance Cpl. Vincent T. Mareham was born and raised in a small village named Chalan Kanoa on the island of Saipan. His family of six lived just 100 yards off the coast in a three-bedroom house, making for a cramped living space.

From the start, life for his family was difficult, working hard for everything they had. Like a lot of the population in Saipan, Mareham fished for many of his meals. Continue reading

The Northwest Ordinance…in space?

With the GOP Presidential Primaries behind us and the candidates no longer courting votes from the US Territories in their quest for the nomination, the issue of statehood will probably disappear again from the campaign trail for another four years.

That is, unless, Mitt Romney bucks common sense and for some reason selects former House Speaker Newt Gingrich as his running mate.

You may remember that Gingrich made headlines when the primaries were in full swing for some remarks he made on statehood. It wasn’t his comments on Puerto Rico that grabbed headlines—that honor went to Rick Santorum who falsely claimed that the territory would have to adopt English (and only English) as its official language for Statehood to be a legal possibility.

Instead, Gingrich made headlines for his grandiose plan to colonize the moon and then admit Earth’s celestial cousin to the Union as the 51st state. Continue reading

You didn’t build that – Midway Atoll edition

Well there must be a presidential election on this summer, because the media has been sensationalizing something other than shark attacks and missing white women.

Political Washington has spun itself dizzy in the last few weeks over some clumsy remarks that President Obama made in July on the role that government plays in supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses.

In a campaign event in Virginia, Obama remarked that government and the American people “helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed [small busineses] to thrive.” Pointing to the existence of roads, bridges, and even the Internet, Obama proclaimed that “If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

Republicans have seized on the remarks by launching the “you didn’t build that” campaign meme, along with adds featuring American business icons like Henry Ford and Steve Jobs. Continue reading

Non-states at the White House

A few months ago, my girlfriend and I had the chance to attend the welcome ceremony for UK Prime Minister David Cameron on the South Lawn at the White House.

While the Prime Minister and President Obama were swapping jokes about the British burning Washington in 1814, I snuck over to the side to snap a picture of the non-States’ flags lined up just underneath the East Room.

              from left to right: DC, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, US Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands

American Samoa dragged into the Israel-Palestine debate

An ongoing disagreement between the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg and the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto over the legal status of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories has ensnared American Samoa.

The beef started when Goldberg criticized an Israeli government report that classified the West Bank as sovereign Israeli territory, rather than occupied territory. Goldberg argued that if the West Bank is in fact Israeli territory, then Israel should treat people living there–Jewish or Muslim–as Israeli citizens, and extend to them full voting rights.

Taranto took issue with this, demanding that Goldberg be packed off to American Samoa, an American territory where the native population lacks US citizenship and federal voting rights. Continue reading


You may be surprised to know that there’s more to these United States than the 50 multi-colored shapes you’d find on a classroom wall map. Uncle Sam, always careful to disavow any interest in seeking empire, nevertheless claims ownership of dozens of islands, atolls, reefs, and rocks that dot the Caribbean and Pacific, as well as a federal district wedged between Maryland and Virginia. We, the 4.4 million Americans who inhabit these non-States, lack full representation in the US Congress.

Growing up in Indiana, I never considered what it meant to have actual representation in Congress. I took it for granted. Spotting my Senator sleeping during the State of the Union was always a thrill. I didn’t consider that people in other parts of the country would never know the joy or embarrassment of seeing one’s Senator threaten a cable news anchor to a duel or be embarrassed for marriage infidelity or some intern scandal.

Even when I moved to the DC, I didn’t give the matter much thought. The “Taxation Without Representation” license plate that I slapped on the front of my Volkswagen seemed like a gimmick. I saw it more as a conversation starter on return trips to Indiana than a city’s cry for political rights.

But then the 112th Congress arrived in town. With the new House Republican majority came rule changes. The media focused on the important ones, like the reintroduction of Styrofoam plates to the House cafeteria. Mostly ignored was the rescinding of a rule that had given non-States—DC, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands—a vote on House committees.

Weeks later Congress found itself unable to pass a federal spending bill. As a federal employee, Congressional dithering meant the possibility of an unpaid vacation. But, as a resident of DC—the only city whose budget requires Congressional and Presidential approval—a federal shutdown also meant a suspension of city services, from trash collection to pothole repair. DC’s 600,000 residents became hostages to Republic-shattering battles such as devoting .0001% of the federal budget to public broadcasting.

All of this coincided with a trip my girlfriend and I took to the Virgin Islands. Rather than devote our first day there to the beach, I dragged my girlfriend to the territory’s legislature—a former Danish military barracks—for a civics lesson. There we swapped stories with a local about life outside the bounds of statehood.

Eventually, Congress passed a spending bill, and trash collection continued in DC. Over the ensuring months, as Congress explored ways to drive its approval rating ever downward, 4.4 million Americans remained without a vote in the body that has a great deal of power over our communities.

Maybe our plight is due to the fact that the rest of the country seems wholly ignorant to our existence. Though small in size and number, we do have interesting stories to tell. This blog will shed some light on life in the non-States, the small slice of America that the rest of the country has forgotten about.