Friday, May 30, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: May 30

On May 30, 1898, elements of the Pacific Fleet of the United States of Mexico under Admiral Ephraim Small entered San Francisco harbor and disembarked 20,000 Mexican marines. The marines marched north to join the California Guard, which was holding off an invading Russian regiment in the Great Northern War.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: May 29

On May 29, 1933, negotiations began in London for a military alliance between Great Britain and the Confederation of North America, the centerpiece of Governor-General Douglas Watson's new foreign policy initiative. Although Sobel never says so, the alliance was presumably either defeated in the Grand Council, or was cancelled by Watson's successor, Bruce Hogg.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: May 28

On May 28, 1899, a naval force of the United States of Mexico began occupying the Aleutian Islands, completing the conquest of Russian Alaska that began the preceding spring following the outbreak of the Great Northern War.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: May 27

On May 27, 1778, the Second Continental Congress agreed to ask Lord North for an armistice based on a proposal presented by the Earl of Carlisle, in which most of the rebels would be granted amnesty, and the North Ministry would propose a plan of limited self-government for the colonies based on Joseph Galloway's Plan of Proposed Union. The Earl accepted the request, and sent word to Generals Howe, Clinton, and Burgoyne of the agreed truce.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Rebecca Watson: An experiment in clickbait

PZ Myers of Phyrangula once observed that invoking the dread name of atheist feminist Rebecca Watson provokes idiots into raging fury. I intend to test that assertion.

Among many other noteworthy accomplishments, Watson has inspired Watson's Law: "Anytime you speak up about harassment, harassment gets worse." The latest example of Watson's Law in action is that the creator of the hashtag #yesallwomen has had to make her account private, and has asked that she not be connected with it by name, because she has gotten such a high level of threats and harassment since starting it.

Rebecca Watson said it, and once again the wretched hive of scum and misogyny that is the internet has proven her right.

Now, a typical post here at the Johnny Pez blog gets maybe 20 views and zero responses. Will invoking the Dread Name attract any idiots my way? We shall see.

UPDATE: June 4, 2014. Nine days later, the above post has received 22 views and zero responses. Sadly, not even the Dread Name is enough to attract notice to this blog.

Sobel Wiki: Scepter'd Isle

This week's featured article at the Sobel Wiki is on Great Britain.

Sobel's focus on the Confederation of North America and the United States of Mexico means that Great Britain becomes steadily less important to the story as the narrative moves away from the point of divergence in 1777 and the C.N.A. gains steadily more autonomy through the 19th century. Among other things, this means that we have no idea whether Ireland was united with Great Britain as it was in our history in 1800. Given that the American and French Revolutions were unsuccessful, and given the example of the C.N.A. as a British possession with an autonomous government, it is possible that Ireland would have retained its own Parliament into the 20th century.

Another issue Sobel glosses over are diplomatic relations between Great Britain and the C.N.A. Given that the C.N.A. is basically a larger version of our own history's Canada, it's useful to use Anglo-Canadian relations as a basis for comparison. Our own history's analogue to the drafting of the Second Britannic Design was the Confederation of 1867. Following Confederation, Canada's first Prime Minister, John A. Macdonald, sent an unofficial envoy to represent Canada in London. In 1880, the office of Canadian envoy to Britain was formalized under the name High Commissioner, and this set a precedent for diplomatic envoys between Commonwealth nations.

Sobel makes no mention of a formal North American envoy to London after passage of the Second Britannic Design in 1842. However, he does mention that Governor-General William Johnson sent his Minister of State, Montgomery Harcourt, to London in 1853 to seek increased British investment in the C.N.A., which suggests that there was not a regular North American diplomatic mission in London at the time, though the C.N.A. did have its own Office of State, and presumably maintained diplomatic relations with other nations, especially the U.S.M. By contrast, Canada did not have an equivalent government department until 1909, and since the Canadians wanted to avoid calling it the Foreign Ministry (since Canadian foreign policy was still controlled by the British government), it was called the Department of External Affairs, and Canada didn't begin establishing formal diplomatic relations with other countries until the 1920s.

By the time the Global War broke out in 1939, Great Britain had a regular diplomatic mission to the C.N.A. headed by an ambassador (and vice versa, presumably). Given Ezra Gallivan's isolationist foreign policy, including his desire to distance the C.N.A. from Great Britain, it is likely that this dated from his administration in 1888 at the latest.

At the end of For Want of a Nail, Sobel speculated that in the future, the C.N.A. might form a union with the United British Empire, or even that Great Britain might join the C.N.A. as a new confederation.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: May 23

On May 23, 1778, Joseph Galloway of Pennsylvania was chosen as president of the Second Continental Congress. Sobel does not say when or how Galloway came to serve in the Congress, only that he and John Dickinson had taken command there by early 1778.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: May 21

On May 21, 1898, the Great Northern War started with a bang when a Russian regiment crossed the border from Alaska into California and began driving south towards San Francisco. It is unknown to what extent this was due to Russian concerns about Mexican military maneuvers, and to what extent it was the result of manipulation by Kramer Associates President Diego Cortez y Catalán. Sobel notes that most accounts indicate that the first attack came from the California side, but that it is "impossible to be certain."

On May 21, 1920, President Emiliano Calles signed the Manumission Act into law, setting a process in motion that would phase out slavery in Mexico over the course of the next year. Calles' Secretary of State, Albert Ullman, called the Act's passage "the removal of a stain, long overdue."

Monday, May 19, 2014

Day of the Wolf

Tomorrow is primary election day here in the Keystone State. Among other things, that means that the state's Democrats will be choosing who they want to kick Governor Tom Corbett's corporate-sponsored ass in November. The top three candidates are York-based businessman Tom Wolf, Philadelphia-based U.S. Representative Allyson Schwartz, and Philadelphia-based state Treasurer Rob McCord.

One indication of the state of the race is that Corbett has been spending his Kochbux attacking Wolf. Since I live in Pennsylvania myself, the creepy bots that gather my personal information for advertising purposes have been plastering Corbett's attack ads all over my internet (including the Sobel Wiki).

Note the dynamic here: Corbett is spending his Koch bounty trying to influence the Democratic primary, which presumably means that he thinks he would have a better chance against Schwartz or McCord, and he's hoping to persuade Democrats not to vote for Wolf.  It's reminiscent of Rush Limbaugh's Operation Chaos, where he tried to get his listeners to vote for Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primaries because he thought she'd be easier for McCain to beat in November. It didn't work for Limbaugh, and I seriously doubt it's going to work for Corbett, since Wolf has been polling around 50%, while Schwartz and McCord have been around 15% each.

After tomorrow, Corbett's attack ads will presumably go away. Fine with me. I'll be glad to see the Godzilla movie ads back on the Sobel Wiki.

Today in the Sobel Timeline: May 19

On May 19, 1849, newly-elevated North American Governor-General Henry Gilpin gave a speech in which he promised to bring victory in the Rocky Mountain War by launching "a massive assault on the Mexicans, who shall not rest from our blows."

Gilpin's speech was reported the next day in the Burgoyne Times.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

I know you little libertine

I admit it. The Johnny Pez blog has been terribly lax in the matter of embedded music videos. To remedy the lack, here are The Breeders with their 1993 hit "Cannonball".

Sobel Wiki: Continental Destiny

This week's featured article at the Sobel Wiki is on the Continentalist Party, one of the two major parties of the United States of Mexico's first party system.

In writing about the union of the State of Jefferson with the Republic of Mexico in 1820, Sobel claims that the settlement Andrew Jackson arrived at was the best that could have been expected at the time. He contrasts the actual settlement with the one that Jackson's fellow Continentalists expected, and the one that the opposition Libertarians would have preferred: "Had his own party had its way, the new nation would have quickly become a totalitarian state controlled by the white Jeffersonian minority. Under Liberal (sic) leadership, the Mexicans would have controlled the nation, and the U.S.M. of 1850 might have resembled New Granada, Brazil, or the Argentine in its lack of progress and stability." Elsewhere, he writes, "Jackson knew that to have a nation of Mexicans controlled by a numerically smaller, though more energetic group like the Jeffersonians, would do damage to the best qualities of both peoples. In such a situation all Mexicans would be reduced to the status of a permanently occupied people. In time, this would lead either to rebellion or despair, and in either case, the Jeffersonians would be the losers. Jefferson itself had too small a population to put down repeated insurrections, while a population of Mexicans without hope would be an insurmountable burden to the new state."

And yet, Jackson's actual settlement wasn't very different from the one his fellow Continentalists wanted. The vast majority of the Mexican population were reduced to second-class citizens, with no civil rights to speak of. Even upper-class Mexicans were excluded from participation in the national government unless they could speak English, which meant that the U.S.M. was indeed controlled by the numerically smaller Jeffersonians. A sign of just how completely the Jeffersonians controlled the Mexican government is that the two political parties that had developed in Mexico, the Federalists and Clericalists, vanished. It was Jefferson's two parties, the Continentalists and the Libertarians, that controlled Mexican politics.

And in the end, the U.S.M.'s Anglo elite did have to put down repeated insurrections, and the U.S.M. did become a totalitarian state. The distinction Sobel tries to draw between Jackson's U.S.M. and what the Continentalists wanted is practically nonexistent.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: May 17

On May 17, 1898, Kramer Associates President Diego Cortez y Catalán's plan to regain control of the gold fields of Russian Alaska advanced when a "major incident" occurred on the Alaska-California border between the Russian and Mexican armies. Both sides withdrew from the border afterwards.

Exactly one year later, on May 17, 1899, North American Governor-General Ezra Gallivan gave an address which he hoped would calm the growing national panic over the Mexican conquest of Alaska. Gallivan called for reason and "a proper perspective of our problems and their possible resolution." Gallivan continued, "As we all know, Chief of State Hermión has led his country in a war with Russia. It would appear that war is about to draw to a close, and there are those among us who now fear he will turn his attention eastward, and attack North America. Such a possibility does exist; to deny it would be to hide from reality. And to dissuade any intentions Mr. Hermión may have, the C.N.A. army and navy are being fortified. Our armed strength will reach 700,000 by year's end; border patrols are being manned; the state governors have informed me that they are prepared to call up the guards, which will add an additional million men to our defense force. I know this. Mr. Hermión knows this. And so does Mr. Kronmiller and Mr. Sizer. I do not believe war will come to our land. I will do everything within my power to prevent conflict. But if such a tragedy does strike, we will be prepared. There is no cause for alarm. No nation or combination of nations can defeat the Confederation of North America. We are so strong we can afford to accept calmly events abroad that might frighten lesser nations. . . . And so I ask you, my fellow North Americans, to maintain your perspective in this troubled time. It will pass, and when it does, we should be proud of our actions and deeds."

The New York Herald reported on Gallivan's address the next day.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: May 16

On May 16, 1816, Governor Alexander Hamilton of Jefferson addressed the Jefferson Chamber of Representatives, with Governors James Monroe and John Gaillard by his side, to justify their decision to declare war against the Republic of Mexico. Hamilton said, "We fight for civilization. We cannot permit the slaughter of innocents to continue. Even now blood flows through the streets of most Mexican towns and cities, her villages are in flames, and her people oppressed. We go to Mexico not as conquerors, but as friends, to end this destruction which has been allowed to continue for too long."

On May 16, 1840, North American Viceroy Sir Alexander Haven ratified the Lloyd Bill, which ended Negro slavery in the Southern Confederation through compensated manumission.

On May 16, 1914, French troops began landing in Argentina. French President Henri Fanchon said the troops were there "to assist that government in repressing guerrilla activities near the capital." Fanchon told reporters that "There is evidence that the Argentine guerrillas are being supplied from Mexico. If this is true, France may have to take actions stronger than words to aid its ally."

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: May 15

On May 15, 1849, newly-appointed North American Governor-General Henry Gilpin was able to survive a vote of confidence in the Grand Council by 78 to 72 votes. This was the final move in Gilpin's plot to depose and replace his predecessor, Winfield Scott, thereby allowing him to direct North American strategy in the Rocky Mountain War.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: May 14

On May 14, 1920, the Mexican Senate, led by Senator Rodrigo de la Casa of Durango, passed President Emiliano Calles' Manumission Act by a voice vote. The Friends of Black Mexico held a mass meeting in the Confederation of North America to celebrate "the crossing of the River Jordan in Mexico." F.B.M. leader Howard Washburne announced "the beginning of a new crusade, one to remake the face of our own land. Like the ending of slavery in Mexico, this too has been long overdue." Washburne declared "the F.B.M. is dead, felled by its own success. Now the fight for democracy will be spearheaded by a new organization, the League for Brotherhood, which will welcome support from all men of good will, whatever their race or station in life." Washburne concluded by saying that "the fight for manumission in Mexico has lasted four years. This new struggle will take more than four times four years. We may not see its end, just as Moses did not enter the promised land. But the path is open. The way is clear. We shall prevail."

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: May 13

On May 13, 1920, the lower house of the Mexican Congress, the Assembly, passed President Emiliano Calles' Manumission Act by a voice vote, despite the objections raised to it by Assemblyman Pedro Fuentes of Chiapas. Fuentes called the act "legal theft," recited the history of slavery in the United States of Mexico, then pointed at Assemblyman Hernando Cromwell and shouted, "We know who is behind you in this! It is Kramer Associates, more particularly Douglas Benedict! Kramer gold put you where you are, and Kramer gold is buying manumission for the administration! You were elected on a pledge to retain slavery, and now you have conveniently changed your mind! I challenge you to tell us why you have so acted!" Cromwell simply smiled and shrugged his shoulders, and proceeded with the voice vote.

Sobel Wiki: Survivor's guilt

This week's featured article at the Sobel Wiki is on the New Day era, a period of North American history running from 1949 to 1963. The New Day was basically a continuation of the political debate of the 1930s over whether the Confederation of North America should form a military alliance with Great Britain or continue its traditional isolationism. The issue dominated the 1938 Grand Council elections, and the result was a narrow victory for the isolationist People's Coalition. When the Global War broke out in Europe and the Middle East in 1939, Governor-General Bruce Hogg declared North American neutrality. Although Hogg eventually agreed to a program of covert military assistance to the British that kept the British Isles from being conquered by the Germans, the C.N.A. never became a combatant nation.

Hogg's policy had two consequences. First, his political opponents had argued, and continued to argue, that the war would never have happened if the C.N.A. had been allied with the British, since Britain's enemies would have behaved more circumspectly if they knew they would face the might of North America in the event of a war. Therefore, Hogg himself bore a share of the blame for the coming of war.

Second, by remaining neutral, the C.N.A. avoided the devastation that visited the rest of the world's nations. In the midst of death, destruction, famine, and disease, the C.N.A. was safe and prosperous. The result was a case of survivor's guilt on a national scale, combined with a sharp partisan divide over responsibility for the tragedy.

Richard Mason of the opposition Liberal Party proposed a massive foreign aid program in March 1949, which became known as the Mason Doctrine, which he conceived of as a national act of contrition for the C.N.A.'s failure to prevent the war. Although the ruling People's Coalition agreed on the need for a global reconstruction program, they rejected the idea that the C.N.A. needed to atone for its neutrality. The Coalitionists were fighting against the national mood, though, and in 1953 Mason led the Liberals to victory in the Grand Council. After touring a still-devastated world later that year, Mason tearfully told his fellow North Americans that "we must lead the world to a new day," and thus was the age of Mason given its name.

The C.N.A. remained deeply divided between supporters and opponents of the New Day, and it is clear that alt-Sobel, the Australian business historian who is the nominal author of For Want of a Nail, was an opponent. alt-Sobel paints a highly unflattering picture of both Mason and his supporters, and his description of the Mason Doctrine program seems more of a mean-spirited satire than an objective description.

Our own Sobel, the American business historian who was the actual author of Nail, went to considerable lengths to show that his in-world counterpart was deeply biased. However, he was not above using Nail to satirize aspects of contemporary American society, and there is a distinct note of hippy-bashing in his description of the New Day. It would be an interesting exercise to write a companion to Nail told from the viewpoint of a New Day supporter. Maybe someday, I will.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: May 12

On May 12, 1929, the Liberal Party caucus of the North American Grand Council was finally able to achieve a quorum when 71 of its 94 members were able to reach Burgoyne. Ten of the Manitoban members were still en route; due to their absence, Manitoba Governor Foster McCabe was unable to muster a majority, and the vote for governor-general went to Minister for Home Affairs Douglas Watson. The circumstances of Watson's selection were widely criticized, and he was dubbed "the accidental executive" by the press. That evening, Watson appeared on vitavision to pledge himself to the fulfilment of his predecessor Henderson Dewey's programs, "with priority given those ... which will increase opportunities for young North Americans," a reference to Dewey's plan to reform the National Financial Administration.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: May 11

On the morning of May 11, 1929, the Liberal Party caucus of the Grand Council met to choose a successor to North American Governor-General Henderson Dewey, who had died in his sleep the previous morning. The top three contenders were Governor Foster McCabe of Manitoba, Minister for Home Affairs Douglas Watson, and Minister of Finance John Hopkins. However, because many Liberal Councilmen were still en route to Burgoyne at the time, the caucus was unable to achieve a quorum. Although McCabe was the most popular of the three, many of his supporters were scattered across Manitoba, leaving Watson and Hopkins to maneuver for support among the Councilmen present. Although Liberal Councilmen continued to arrive, by the end of the day, the caucus had still not achieved a quorum.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: May 10

On the morning of May 10, 1929, North American Govenor-General Henderson Dewey suffered a heart attack while sleeping, and was found dead in his bed. Half of the Grand Council's Liberal caucus was out of town, so there was nobody in a position of authority to choose a successor. On the afternoon of the 10th, Council Majority Leader John Jenckinson told the press a caucus would convene at nine o'clock the following morning, and not adjourn until a new governor-general had been selected.

Under the terms of the Second Britannic Design, adopted in 1842, the Viceroy was designated to serve as acting governor-general if the office was vacant, but this had evidently been superceded at some point, most likely by Ezra Gallivan in the late nineteenth century. The constitutional crisis created by Dewey's death led to the passage of the Reform Bill of 1936, which created the office of Council President to serve as acting governor-general in the event of the governor-general's death or incapacitation.

Dewey's friend Alton Gibbs later wrote, "In death as in life, Henderson moved quietly, so that it was all over before we realized it had begun."

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: May 8

On May 8, 1929, North American Governor-General Henderson Dewey met with Liberal Party leaders in the Grand Council, and together they scheduled Dewey's bill reforming the National Financial Administration for a vote the following week.

On May 8, 1933, North American Governor-General Douglas Watson held a special Cabinet meeting to discuss his recent tour of the major powers of Europe with his Cabinet ministers. Unlike the vitavised address he had given the day before, Watson painted a dark picture for his ministers, revealing that the Germanic Confederation was expanding into British spheres of influence in Africa and Asia, ramping up its military spending, and -- most ominously of all -- negotiating an alliance with the United States of Mexico. Watson proposed that the C.N.A. form a defensive alliance with the British, and increase its own defense spending. In spite of protests by Minister of Agriculture Henry Evans, the Cabinet voted to support Watson.

(Sobel admits that his description of the special Cabinet meeting comes from Jeffrey Martin, a political opponent of Watson's, and is therefore of dubious accuracy.)

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: May 7

On May 7, 1843, Mexican Assemblyman Pedro Hermión gave the most important speech of his career, the Scorpions in a Bottle speech, which warned of impending war between the United States of Mexico and the newly-unified Confederation of North America. The speech instantly made Hermión the leading figure in the Continentalist Party.

On May 7, 1933, North American Governor-General Douglas Watson gave a vitavised address to the Grand Council on his recent tour of the major powers of Europe. Watson spent most of the address discussing the bonds between the C.N.A. and Great Britain, and devoted little time to his activities in the Germanic Confederation, the Netherlands, and France. Those who heard the address gained the impression that Watson had generated goodwill in Europe, but had accomplished nothing concrete.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: May 5

On May 5, 1896, Harry Doxey of the Jefferson Courier, one of Chief of State Benito Hermión's strongest supporters, and a proponent of the Moral Imperative, wrote a column praising Hermión's earlier conquest of Guatemala and New Granada: "The people there have had their chance for greatness, and have failed due to a lack of the divine spark. Mexico possesses such inspiration, and therefore will carry Civilization southward."

On May 5, 1929, Governor-General Henderson Dewey gave a vitavised address on his planned reform of the National Financial Administration. Dewey wished to decentralize the N.F.A., and direct that more of its financings be made in the C.N.A.'s rural confederations, to "bring the N.F.A. to more people, to increase its usefulness, not detract from it."

Also on this day, President John Jackson of Kramer Associates announced that the company would be undergoing a major restructuring. The object of the restructuring was to frustrate an impending attempt by Mexican President Pedro Fuentes to reduce the company's control over Mexican politics and society. In his announcement, Jackson said, "After three years in this chair I have learned that no one man can run this business or even understand it completely. For this reason the board and I have decided to deploy power much in the same way as a general deploys troops, or a bank its assets. There isn't much more I can tell you right now, gentlemen, but I can assure you that Kramer Associates will look quite different in the 1930s than it does today."

The Mexico City Times reported on Jackson's press conference the next day.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: May 4

On May 4, 1820, Governor Andrew Jackson of Jefferson returned to Mexico City in the wake of a coup attempt by supporters of the late José María Morelos, taking up residence in the Presidential Palace and resuming his self-appointed position as provisional president of the Republic of Mexico.

On May 4, 1898, Mexican Chief of State Benito Hermión responded to growing tensions with the Russian Empire by ordering extensive summer maneuvers, telling Admiral Ephraim Small to prepare the Pacific Fleet for a cruise to Hawaii.

Sobel Wiki: The forgotten giant

This week's featured article at the Sobel Wiki is on Monte Benedict, the founder of Petroleum of Mexico, and Bernard Kramer's partner in political corruption.

Although Benedict is introduced to For Want of a Nail first, he is ultimately fated to play second fiddle to Kramer. As described by Sobel, Kramer is the bolder and more imaginative of the two. Benedict is a native of the U.S.M., while Kramer is an immigrant who apparently snuck (or bribed his way) past an army cordon into the gold fields of California. Both fought in the Rocky Mountain War against the Confederation of North America, but Benedict was apparently a common soldier, while Kramer was an officer. Both used their wealth to buy members of the Mexican Senate, but Kramer was able to make his man the President of Mexico. Benedict was content to take control of the oil industry in the state of Jefferson, while Kramer backed a coup d'etat in Guatemala in order to build a trans-oceanic canal there. Benedict named his company after Mexico, while Kramer named his company after himself. Both men cooperated to install Benito Hermión as dictator of Mexico in 1881, but Hermión was Kramer's man, not Benedict's. Finally, Kramer left his company to Diego Cortez y Catalán, who presumably worked his way up through the company's ranks to the position of vice president. Benedict left Petroleum of Mexico to his nephew, Andrew Benedict, whose most notable achievement was handing over control of his company to Cortez after ten years.

One final mark of the relative importance of the two men: Kramer's Sobel Wiki article was created over three years ago; Benedict's was created yesterday.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

That's all you left for me

Time for another embedded music video. Here is a live performance of "Silent Treatment" by The Joy Formidable in January 2013.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: May 1

On May 1, 1836, New York banker Jacob Little, who had extensive business interests in the Southern Confederation, and was often portrayed as the power behind the S.C. Liberal Party, fell victim to the growing business panic and closed his offices and fled to the United States of Mexico. It was soon discovered that Little had embezzled over N.A. £20,000 from his firms.