R.I.P. Prince Roy of Sealand

One of the world's most interesting heads of state died this week. Paddy Roy Bates -- ruler of the Principality of Sealand, has passed away at 91:

In the 1960s, inspired by the ‘‘pirate radio’’ movement of unlicensed stations broadcasting pop music from outside Britain’s boundaries, Bates set up Radio Essex on an offshore fort. When that was closed down, he moved in 1966 to Fort Roughs, a disused World War II artillery platform in international waters about 7 miles (13 kilometers) off England’s east coast.

Michael Bates said his father initially intended to set up another radio station, but then ‘‘had the bizarre idea of declaring independence.’’ Rejecting a British order to leave, he proclaimed the fort the Principality of Sealand, declaring himself Prince Roy and his wife Joan as princess.

The 550-square-meter (5,920-square-foot) fort — two concrete towers connected by an iron platform — claimed to be the world’s smallest sovereign state, though it was not internationally recognized.

Bates was tried in 1968 after an incident in which shots were fired from the platform at a British boat. He was acquitted, with the court ruling that Sealand fell outside the U.K.’s jurisdiction.

Bates has lived on the mainland in recent years, reliquishing most political power to his son and regent, Michael. Fellow heads of state, including Queen Anastasia of Ruritania have paid their respects


Ryan's conversion on the road to Miami

I would be surprised if it comes up in tonight's debate, but it would be interesting to hear Paul Ryan talk about his evolution over whether to keep the U.S. embargo on Cuba. As Passport noted in August, the congressman, on free trade grounds, had voted three times against the embargo,  but moved away from the stance as he rose to national prominence. 

As expected, Ryan has had to do a bit of fence-mending with the Cuban exile community in Florida. The New York Times reported in September:

And so on Saturday morning, Mr. Ryan appeared alongside a powerhouse lineup of Florida Republicans including former Gov. Jeb Bush at the restaurant Versailles, long famous as a gathering place for the anti-Castro movement.

There, in front of a cheering crowd and with particularly intense endorsement from former Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mr. Ryan made the case that his understanding of Cuba had evolved under long tutelage from Republican House members from South Florida, including Mr. Diaz-Balart and his younger brother Mario, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, now the House Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman, who have also endorsed him.

In a separate local television interview, Mr. Ryan also explained how he had come to change his mind and since 2007 has supported the embargo.

“You learn from friendships,” Mr. Ryan told the crowd at Versailles, explaining that his Florida friends in Congress had shown him “just how brutal the Castro regime is, just how this president’s policy of appeasement is not working.”

As recently as 2009, Ryan told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “If we’re going to have free trade with China, why not Cuba?” It would be interesting to hear his answer to that question now. For that matter, it would be interesting to hear Biden's.

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