Thursday, April 17, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: April 17

On April 17, 1933, Governor-General Douglas Watson addressed the British Parliament as the culmination of his European Tour. In his introduction of Watson, Prime Minister George Bolingbroke called him "the leader of a great nation, a man of extraordinary vision, and a most welcome visitor to our shores." Bolingbroke called the close relations between Great Britain and the Confederation of North America "a model for all mankind," and said, "We are brothers because men wiser than we saw the need for self-government in North America, and we shall stand united no matter what the foe, no matter what the problem." Watson responded by saying, "Our loyalty to the Crown remains undiminished, and our relations with the Empire continue to be that of brothers."

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: April 15

On April 15, 1836, the Manhattan Bank, the fourth largest in New York, declared insolvency, part of a growing bank panic that would cripple the economy of the Confederation of North America for the next six years.

On April 15, 1853, C.N.A. Governor-General William Johnson informed Mexican President Hector Niles that he would accept Niles' offer from two years earlier to negotiate peace terms to end the Rocky Mountain War.

On April 15, 1920, newly-elected Mexican President Emiliano Calles announced that he would present his legislative program to the Senate within a week.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: April 14

On April 14, 1806, the Mexican Civil War began when a detachment of Federalist soldiers surrounded the town of Cuautla in the Province of Mexico, while searching for several priests who were leaders of the Clericalist guerrillas in the area. After entering the town, the soldiers were ambushed by Clericalist guerrillas, suffering 42 dead and wounded. The Mexican Civil War would continue for the next eleven years.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sobel Wiki: Guns and Wood

This week's featured article at the Sobel Wiki is on the 1950 Mexican elections, the most important election in the U.S.M. in the 20th century.

Sobel's United States of Mexico had already suffered the consequences of one suspended election in 1881, which resulted in the Hermión dictatorship of 1881 to 1901. Despite this, incumbent President Alvin Silva chose to suspend the 1944 elections for the duration of the Global War, which he had entered in dramatic fashion by launching a surprise attack against Japan two years earlier.

The people of the U.S.M. did not take kindly to having their elections suspended, and two separate insurrections broke out, one by Mexico's black freedmen, and the other by the country's Mexicano majority. Sobel quotes a Mexican historian who says that if the two groups had cooperated, they might have succeeded in overthrowing Silva, but instead they spent as much time fighting each other as they did the government.

The situation was bad enough when Mexico was winning the war, but by the late 1940s the country had suffered a series of defeats, and Japanese airmobiles were carrying out bombing raids against San Francisco and invading the Mexican states of Hawaii and Alaska. Silva finally found himself compelled to hold the suspended elections, which he announced in July 1949 would be held six months later.

Silva had seized control of the Mexican news media around the same time he suspended the 1944 election, and he had used them to denounce the opposition United Mexican Party as little better than traitors for opposing the war. To insulate themselves from accusations of treason, the U.M.P. chose Admiral Paul Suarez to run against Silva. Suarez had resigned as commander of the Mexican Pacific Fleet in the fateful year 1944, and he became the de facto peace candidate, in spite of his intention to continue the war.

On election day, both sides used violence to intimidate opposition voters, and when Suarez narrowly defeated Silva, the President accused him of stealing the election. Violence between the two sides continued after the election, and threatened to degenerate into a full-scale civil war as Suarez' inauguration approached. To head one off, a group of garrison commanders led by Colonel Vincent Mercator had both Silva and Suarez arrested, and established a military junta.

Despite a sham election held in 1965, Mercator continued to rule the U.S.M. at the time Sobel was writing For Want of a Nail in 1971.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: April 12

On April 12, 1795, Marie-Antoinette, Queen of France and regent for her infant son King Louis XVII, signed a treaty of alliance with King Charles IV of Spain. Charles had initially been reluctant to join the Franco-Austrian alliance against Prussia, but the appearance of a French army on the Franco-Spanish border persuaded him to change his mind.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: April 11

On April 11, 1839, the Jefferson and California Railroad began laying tracks from San Francisco, California. Due to the outbreak of the Rocky Mountain War in 1845, the railroad connecting San Francisco to Henrytown, Jefferson would not be completed until 1848.

That's when they'll disappear

You know what we could use around here? An embedded music video. So here's the Go-Go's with their 1981 hit "Our Lips Are Sealed".

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sobel Wiki: Heart and Soul

This week's featured article at the Sobel Wiki is on Pedro Fuentes, the eleventh President of the United States of Mexico.

There's no denying that alt-Sobel, the in-universe author of For Want of a Nail, is an unabashed fan of Kramer Associates, the global megacorporation. A more uncertain question is what our own Sobel, the book's actual author, thought of it. After all, Sobel wasn't just the author of Nail, he was also the author of Frank Dana's critique, in which he wrote that K.A. "dominated Mexican life for much of its existence, and was finally expelled from the nation after a long and bitter struggle. Many of Mexico's problems may be traced to the work of Kramer Associates," and noted that "no nation is safe from its influence, the more frightening since Kramer has power without responsibility."

Which brings us to Pedro Fuentes, the first President of the U.S.M. to take serious steps to curb K.A.'s power. Fuentes didn't have an easy time of it, because one of the first things K.A. founder Bernard Kramer did after forming the company was start to donate large sums of money to elected officials to ensure that they voted the right way. Kramer's successors continued this tradition, until by the time Fuentes was elected in 1926 the Mexican Congress was doing pretty much whatever K.A. told them to do. (My Sobel Wiki colleague Christina suggests that K.A. nobbled Taiwan from Japan that way in 1948; funded an independence movement, then purchased a referendum while the Japanese were busy fighting the Mexicans.)

Fuentes attempted to work around the corrupted legislature by creating a presidential commission to investigate K.A. Sobel reports that K.A. President John Jackson was able to keep the commission hopelessly baffled by carrying out a massive reorganization of the company. Noel Maurer found this idea ludicrous, and suggested that what really happened was that Jackson used the reorganization as cover while buying off the commission.

Sobel paints Fuentes' attempt to rein in K.A. as an inept failure, but was it? Five years after Fuentes set up the commission, Jackson moved the company headquarters from San Francisco to the Philippines. Jackson claimed the move was "to be closer to our Asian interests," and Sobel never offers any alternative motive, but it may well be that Fuentes was able to pry the Mexican government out of Jackson's hands after all.

As for what our own Sobel thought of K.A., it may be significant that thirteen years after Jackson's move, his successor, Carl Salazar, moved the company again from the Philippines to Taiwan. Alt-Sobel writes, "Taiwan had a more skilled population and a better climate than Luzon, and in addition, was more stable politically." The last clause is telling, because alt-Sobel never mentioned any political instability in the Philippines before then. Reading between the lines, it seems as though the Filipinos, like the Mexicans before them, got fed up with having their country run by an unelected, unresponsive commercial behemoth, and the company fled the growing popular discontent.

Alt-Sobel was writing a little over twenty years after the move to Taiwan, and if the Taiwanese people were also growing restive at having their country run by K.A., he might not see fit to mention it, just as he didn't see fit to mention political instability in the Philippines. Carl Salazar was around 70 when alt-Sobel was writing, and it may be that in the not-too-distant future, his own successor will find it expedient to find a new, more politically stable home for Kramer Associates in the 1970s.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: April 4

On April 4, 1914, Henri Fanchon, the President of France, recalled the French ambassador to the United States of Mexico, the latest step in his calculated plan to leave the U.S.M. diplomatically isolated and vulnerable to attack.

On April 4, 1961, Jeffrey Martin, the editor of the New York Herald, continued his attacks on Governor-General Richard Mason, writing, "Mr. Mason has lost his grip on reality. Now he thinks himself a re-incarnation of the Prince of Peace. He is presently measuring himself for the cross. Do we want to be crucified along with this megalomaniac?"

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: April 2

On April 2, 1887, Grand Council Minority Leader Scott Ruggles of the Northern Confederation gave a speech in which he harped on the failures of Governor-General John McDowell's policies. Ruggles said, "Let Mr. McDowell ask us for what he will. He has a majority in the Grand Council, and can have anything he wants from it. Indeed, we would be willing to support his plans, for the People's Coalition wants peace and harmony as much as anyone else. The truth of the matter is that the Age of Renewal is, and always has been, a sham. The Liberals have had their chance, and have failed. Now it is time for true reform, and not just fancy maneuverings."

Ruggles' speech was reported the next day in the New York Herald.

On April 2, 1901, Chief of State Benito Hermión announced the transformation of the United States of Mexico into the Mexican Empire, with himself as its first Emperor, and his thirty-three year old son Frederick Hermión as Crown Prince.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: April 1

On April 1, 1914, newly-elected Mexican President Victoriano Consalus broke diplomatic relations with Argentina in response to Argentina's growing alliance with France.

On April 1, 1926, incumbent President Emiliano Calles lost his re-election bid to Assemblyman Pedro Fuentes. The next day, the Mexico City Times wrote, "General Calles was important in spite of himself, but he was no republican. Without realizing it, Calles was in the mold of El Jefe. Fortunately for the nation, he lacked the sophistication to know this."

On April 1, 1929, Jack Norris of the Burgoyne Inquirer wrote a column castigating the administrators of the National Financial Administration as "secret little men with untold power and no public mandate for its use." This was part of a larger public outcry against the N.F.A. for neglecting areas of the Confederation of North America outside the industrial heartland of the Northern Confederation and Indiana, and in support of Governor-General Henderson Dewey's attempt to reform the agency.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sobel Wiki: The North American mission

This week's featured article at the Sobel Wiki is on Thomas Kronmiller, leader of the radical wing of the People's Coalition from 1893 to 1908.

The use of "radical" rather than "leftist" is deliberate, because in the Sobel Timeline, the lack of a successful French Revolution means that the left-right metaphor for political alignment is never established. Kronmiller is a radical because he wants the government to be more egalitarian than does Ezra Gallivan, the leader of the Coalition, as well as the head of the party's moderate wing. When he becomes chief executive of the Confederation of North America in 1888, Gallivan does not try to redistribute the country's wealth (or at least, Sobel doesn't mention him doing so). Instead, he repurposes the National Financial Administration into a sort of quasi-governmental venture capital firm, issuing business loans to start-up companies in return for equity stakes, and funding the loans by issuing bonds rather than using tax revenues.

Gallivan himself was more radical than his predecessor, John McDowell, but Gallivan emphasized spending cuts and tax cuts. Gallivan was also, unlike McDowell, a fervent isolationist, reducing military spending and ending McDowell's efforts to forge closer ties with the rest of the British Empire. Kronmiller, even more radical than Gallivan, was also less isolationist, being an adherent of the Moral Imperative, a social movement that sought to expand North American influence in the rest of the world (which Kronmiller called "the North American mission.") Unlike McDowell's Liberals, Kronmiller's radical wing of the P.C. wanted the C.N.A. to act on its own behalf, rather than in concert with the British Empire, which the radicals regarded as hopelessly reactionary. Thus, during the wave of hysteria that followed the Mexican invasion of Russian Alaska in 1898, Gallivan had to fend off both the radical interventionists led by Kronmiller, and the reactionary interventionists led by McDowell's protégé Douglas Sizer. It may have been their diametrically opposed ideologies that kept Gallivan's numerically superior enemies from combining to oust him from power at the height of the Starkist Terror.

In spite of ten years of effort, Kronmiller was never able to gain control of the People's Coalition and put through his own radical agenda. After the victory of Gallivan's own protégé Albert Merriman in 1908, a bitter Kronmiller referred to Merriman's tenure in office as "the fifth term of King Ezra Gallivan."

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: March 29

On March 29, 1920, incumbent Mexican President Victoriano Consalus and his challenger General Emiliano Calles held a vitavised debate. Calles was visibly ill at ease, and Consalus scored point after point against him. When he was asked what he would do about slavery, Calles said that he "would study the matter," apparently unaware that the slavery question had been under study for four years. In a story that appeared the next day in the Mexico City Tribune, Fernando Mordes wrote that "Consalus destroyed Calles as a matador finishes off a dull bull."

On March 29, 1921, James Billington, the scion of a North American political dynasty, and the youngest member of the Northern Confederation legislature, spoke dismissively of the League for Brotherhood. He said, "They are misguided, and led by Pied Pipers who cannot even find the river."

Billington's remarks were reported the next day in the New York Times.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: March 28

On March 28, 1961, Jeffrey Martin, the editor of the New York Herald, and former People's Coalition nominee for governor-general, wrote an editorial attacking Governor-General Richard Mason's refusal to increase defense spending. "Mexico had threatened; none can doubt it," Martin wrote. "Preparedness may prevent war, not cause it. That is why we must re-arm as soon as humanly possible."

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Sobel Wiki: The Corruption of Progress

This week's featured article at the Sobel Wiki is on the Era of Faceless Men.

As I've noted previously, the history of the Confederation of North America, like that of our history's U.S.A., has several periods that have been given nicknames by historians. One such is the Era of Faceless Men, the period between the end of the Rocky Mountain War in 1855 and the Great Depression/Bloody Eighties of 1879.

The Era of Faceless Men bears a striking resemblance to the U.S.A.'s Gilded Age, a period of rapid industrialization, mass immigration, and political corruption following the American Civil War. The C.N.A.'s counterparts to Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, Chester A. Arthur, and Grover Cleveland are William Johnson, Whitney Hawkins, Kenneth Parkes, and Herbert Clemens. Meanwhile, some of the same corporate titans show up in both histories: Gail Borden, Andrew Carnegie, John Rockefeller, and Thomas Edison.

In both timelines, rampant political corruption and the domination of the national government by big business gives rise to a populist political party. The counterpart to our own history's People's Party is the Sobel Timeline's People's Coalition. But unlike our own Populists, the P.C. comes under the control of a brilliant, charismatic politician, Ezra Gallivan, who is able to overcome the institutional advantages enjoyed by the established parties, and gain power for himself and the Coalition.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: March 22

On March 22, 1922, Mexican President Emiliano Calles gave an address before Congress calling for plebiscites to be held in the U.S.M.'s five client states of Guatemala, New Granada, Hawaii, Alaska, and Siberia. Calles acted against the advice of his chief advisor, Secretary of State Albert Ullman, who had urged him to cultivate the support of the country's Anglo-Hispano elite. Since Kramer Associates controlled the economies of the client states, K.A. President Douglas Benedict was certain to oppose Calles' proposal.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: March 19

On March 19, 1966, the German Empire became the second nation-state to successfully test an atomic bomb, at a test facility in the eastern regions of the Associated Russian Republics. The test brought the Germans to parity with Great Britain, which had tested its own atomic bomb thirteen months earlier, and ended an international crisis involving uncertainty over whether the British would carry out an atomic attack on the Germans. Sobel does not say whether fear of retaliation by Kramer Associates dissuaded the British from acting, but that seems to be a reasonable conjecture.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Sobel Wiki: Rotten borough

This week's featured article at the Sobel Wiki is on the Mexican state of Arizona. This is one of the more curious features of Sobel's United States of Mexico. In our history, Arizona was split off from New Mexico in the 1860s, as a side effect of the Civil War. The origin of the name is disputed, but derives from the Rancho Arizona in the Provinces of Sonora, Ostimuri and Sinaloa, where silver was discovered in 1736.

In the Sobel Timeline, Andrew Jackson split off the eastern half of the Mexican state of Alta California at the Mexico City Convention in 1820, named it Arizona, and made it one of the six states of the United States of Mexico. Sobel never says why he did so, but Noel Maurer of the For All Nails project figured that Arizona was meant to serve as a rotten borough, a largely-uninhabited electoral district that the Anglos of Jefferson could use to maintain a majority in the Mexican Senate, and thereby keep control of the powerful Mexican presidency. Maurer also figured this would be too blatantly unfair for the Mexicans to put up with, so in the interests of believability, he retconned it away in the FAN project.

Like the neighboring state of Mexico del Norte, Sobel's Arizona was home to a large minority of Indians. Jackson attempted to incorporate the Indians of these two states into the fabric of the U.S.M., but he was never entirely successful. After Benito Hermión made himself dictator of Mexico in 1881, the Indian areas of Arizona and Mexico del Norte escaped control by Mexico City, and became semi-autonomous in fact, if not in theory. Even after democratic rule returned to the U.S.M. in 1902, the Indians of these two states remained separate from the rest of the country. When Mexico's slaves were granted their freedom in 1920, some of the most radical traveled to the Indian-controlled areas of the north, and found protection and employment there, and soon began to intermarry with the Indians. By the time of the Mercator dictatorship of the 1950s, the descendants of these radical freedmen formed the leadership of Mexico's Negro community.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: March 17

On March 17, 1805, the Republic of Mexico was proclaimed following a successful rebellion against Spanish rule. Former Viceroy Juan Vicente de Güemes Padilla, the Count of Revillagigedo, headed a provisional government, promising to draw up a constitution which recognized the rights of "libertad y vida."

On March 17, 1887, Mexican Chief of State Benito Hermión called representatives of leading European, Mexican, and North American newspapers to his office to present proof of a plot by Premier Adolfo Camacho of New Granada to attack the U.S.M. in an alliance with the revolutionary French republic. However, the documents he presented made no mention of French involvement.

On March 17, 1936, the last branch of the National Financial Administration was forced to close its doors in the wake of a panic on the New York Stock and Exchange Board.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: March 16

On March 16, 1870, Mexican President Omar Kinkaid extended official recognition to the newly-established government of President Vicente Martinez of Guatemala. Martinez had been installed by a coup d'etat backed by Kramer Associates as part of their plan to build an interocean canal through the country.

On March 16, 1936, the collapse of the National Financial Administration continued, as every N.F.A. branch in the Confederation of North America went bankrupt, with the exception of the Northern Confederation branch.