Sunday, November 30, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: November 30

On November 30, 1953, North American Govenor-General Richard Mason gave a vitavised speech in which he inadvertantly coined the phrase that would be applied to his administration and to the national mood of the 1950s: the New Day. Mason had recently returned from a world tour to see first-hand the devastation wrought by the Global War. He spoke movingly of the suffering he had seen, and of the many lives that Mason Doctrine aid had already rescued. In fact, Mason was so overcome by emotion that he broke down in tears and was unable to finish, his last words being, "We must lead the world to a new day!"

(Due to a typographic error, Sobel gives the date of the New Day speech as November 30, 1950.)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: November 29

On November 29, 1938, North American Governor-General Douglas Watson gave a speech at the Liberal Party's national convention. Watson claimed that the administration of his predecessor Henderson Dewey had played a much greater role in supporting the Galloway Plan than was known at the time, pointing out that more families relocated within the C.N.A. without assistance from the Galloway Trust than did so with its aid, and that only 29.7% of those who emigrated received more than N.A. £40 from the Trust, while 31.8% requested none at all. "If the truth were to be told," Watson said, "the Dewey government was more instrumental in aiding emigration than the Trust."

Watson's speech was reported in the next day's issue of the New York Herald.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: November 28

On the morning of November 28, 1901, former Mexican Emperor Benito Hermión bribed the captain of an Argentinian oil tanker to give him passage to Spain. Sobel suggests that Hermión was maneuvered into choosing the oil tanker by agents of Kramer Associates, pointing out that the ship was owned by K.A. and the captain was an employee of the company.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: November 27

On the evening of November 27, 1901, former Mexican Emperor Benito Hermión entered the port city of Tampico, six weeks after fleeing the Imperial Palace disguised as a butler. Although he didn't realize it, Hermión was accompanied by agents of Kramer Associates who had been keeping him under observation since his flight.

On November 27, 1939, ten days after the fall of Paris, the French government surrendered to the Germanic Confederation.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Rangers of the north

According to, in the five months since I e-published my novelization of Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, I've sold a grand total of two copies. Which is two more than I thought I'd sell.

I can't help noticing, though, that neither of my readers has posted a review of the book on Amazon. Readers, if you're reading this, go ahead and tell the world what you thought of the book. Even if you didn't care for it and only give it a one-star review, that's still better than not having any reviews at all. This is definitely a case where there's no such thing as bad publicity.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: November 23

On November 23, 1899, the government of Mexican Chief of State Benito Hermión recognized the Provisional Free Russian Government of Premier George Tsukansky as the legitimate authority in Siberia. The Provisional Free Government had been formed by Siberian Administrator Admiral Ephraim Small out of former Russian political prisoners who had formed the Free Russian Brigade to fight alongside the Mexican invaders in the Siberian campaign of the Great Northern War. As Sobel notes, Tsukansky was perfectly willing to allow Free Siberia to become a Mexican puppet as long as Mexican troops protected the breakaway republic from the Tsarist army.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The psychopath factories

The internet is abuzz about this story by Sabrina Rubin Erdely in Rolling Stone about Jackie, a freshman who was gang-raped at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity at the University of Virginia in 2012. The university administration, and even Jackie's own friends, discouraged her from going to the police, and in the end, none of her assailants suffered any consequences.

The reason why is simple. Assaulting women is the whole point of college fraternities. These organizations exist to shape the characters of the future business leaders of America, and the way to succeed in business is to be a psychopath. Raping women teaches these future corporate executives and Wall Street traders that they are the untouchable elite, and that everyone who isn't part of their elite is a commodity to be used and discarded as they see fit.

In a follow-up story, Rolling Stone reports on UVA President Teresa A. Sullivan's announcement that the university's fraternities have been suspended until the beginning of the spring semester in January 2015. And what will happen then? In a word, nothing. The frats perform a vital function in our society, and that function requires them to train their members to be monsters. The fraternities will continue to operate as they have always done, and women like Jackie will continue to be used to teach the brothers how to become America's psychopathic business elite.

In a way, Jackie's experience was an important learning experience. It has given her a foretaste of the life she will live in a country run by her assailants.

Today in the Sobel Timeline: November 22

On November 22, 1965, Mexico City attorney Raphael Dominguez was inaugurated President of the United States of Mexico by his predecessor, Vincent Mercator. Dominguez was the sole candidate for president in a sham election held by Mercator, winning only 14.7 votes out of 31 million cast. The late Admiral Paul Suarez, who had narrowly won the last democratic election in Mexico in 1950, received some 9 million protest write-in votes. After Dominguez' inauguration, Mercator joined his Cabinet as Secretary of War.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: November 20

On November 20, 1962, Mexican dictator Vincent Mercator announced a global peace initiative called the Offensive of the Dove. In his announcement, Mercator called upon the world's nations to sign a non-aggression pact which would also guarantee the neutrality of those countries that had not been involved in the Global War. He also called for a world conference of the belligerent nations (all of whom were technically still at war with each other, since no formal armistice had ever been negotiated between any nations) to meet in Geneva the following summer to sign treaties ending the war. Mercator ended by pledging the U.S.M. to the cause of peace, and vowing never to "start a war, and to destroy all offensive weapons after the treaties are signed."

On November 20, 1965, the German Empire signed a treaty of friendship with the newly-formed Associated Russian Republics, four days after announcing its possession of an atomic weapon.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: November 18

On November 18, 1942, the members of Governor-General Bruce Hogg's wartime unity government agreed that the upcoming 1943 Grand Council elections should go ahead as usual. However, neither party would hold a national convention. Instead, the candidates for the Grand Council would run unpledged, and whichever party won a majority would select the next governor-general. If the People's Coalition won and chose Hogg for a second term, he would retain all the Liberal members of his Cabinet. If the Liberals won and chose Douglas Watson or Hugh Devenny, Hogg would be appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs and all the other Coalitionists would be retained.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Res publica

There are numerous references in For Want of a Nail... to republicanism. In 1888, newly-elected Governor-General Ezra Gallivan lauded his predecessor, John McDowell: "He has performed many tasks for our nation, and all of them with dignity and honesty. Now he has shown the measure of his devotion to republicanism by his actions in the Liberal caucus." In 1937, the North American economist Lawrence French attacked the idea that a war would provide a stimulus to the world's economies, writing that "the world's economies would be totally destroyed, as would republicanism wherever it may be found."

This devotion to republicanism may seem odd in a world where the American Revolution failed, and the thirteen colonies returned to the rule of the British monarchy. You would expect the leaders of the United States of Mexico to speak highly of republicanism, since that nation was founded by exiled American Patriots. But Gallivan and French were North Americans, the political heirs of Joseph Galloway and John Dickinson. Why are they so keen on republicanism?

The answer is that in the eighteenth century, republicanism meant more than just the absence of monarchy. To the people of the eighteenth century, republicanism was a fully formed ideology that included the ideas of civic virtue and the rule of law. That is, republicanism wasn't so much concerned with labels as with how people acted. Civic virtue, as Wikipedia tells us, is the cultivation of habits of personal living that are necessary for the success of the community. A republican form of government could exist in a monarchy, as long as the monarch's powers were constrained by the rule of law, and as long as the monarch displayed the proper civic virtue of adhering to those constraints.

Another defining characteristic of republicanism is the idea of popular sovereignty, the idea that the head of state is a representative of the people, rather than the people being subjects of the head of state. Thomas Jefferson made the idea of popular sovereignty explicit in the Declaration of Independence when he said that "governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

The ideology of the American Revolution/North American Rebellion was a republican ideology in this sense. To the Patriots, the British government had become republican in 1688, when Parliament overthrew King James II and raised up William and Mary in his place. Since then, however, the British government had been growing less republican and more tyrannical, which it most clearly demonstrated with its attempts to impose arbitrary taxes on the American colonies.

In For Want of a Nail..., the peace settlement that returned the colonies to British rule was a compromise settlement. The Americans gave up their claim to independence, and the British gave up their claim to absolute authority over the colonies. Under the Britannic Design, North American representative bodies had the power to veto Acts of Parliament. Thus, power in the Confederation of North America ultimately rested with the North Americans, and not with the British. Although the C.N.A. was part of a monarchy, the form of its government was republican. And so,even though the Rebellion itself failed, the republican ideology that had animated it had triumphed, and became a part of the political philosophy of the C.N.A.

Today in the Sobel Timeline: November 17

On November 17, 1939, the French capital of Paris fell to invading German armies. The Spanish government reacted by abrogating its alliance with France and Great Britain, declaring its neutrality in the Global War.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: November 16

On November 16, 1965, the German Empire was able to forestall an anticipated British attack by announcing that it had created its own atomic bomb.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: November 15

On November 15, 1886, the Isthmian War ended with the capture of Guatemala City by the Mexican Fourth Army under General Miguel Aguilar.

On November 15, 1901, provisional Mexican President Martin Cole, acting on orders from Kramer Associates President Diego Cortez y Catalán, announced a general amnesty for all Mexicans exiled by former Chief of State Benito Hermión. Cole also pledged that the Moralistas would have "a role in the new Mexico if they want one."

Friday, November 14, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: November 14

On November 14, 1931, Senator Alvin Silva of Durango gave a vitavision interview in which he spoke of Mexico's "Pacific destiny" and strongly criticized President Pedro Fuentes for his obsession with curtailing the power of Kramer Associates. Silva said, "While the President worries about Kramer Associates, the world is changing rapidly. A visit to Honolulu would do him a world of good, not only to refresh his sagging spirit, but to give him a better perspective on the world as it is, not as it was."

Silva's remarks were reported the next day in the Mexico City Herald.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: November 12

On November 12, 1778, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Lord North, gave a speech before the House of Lords outlining what became known as the Brotherhood Policy, an effort to regain the loyalty of the American colonists in the wake of the unsuccessful North American Rebellion. North said, "We have now entered into a new period of solidarity with those of our nation who live in North America. We have always considered them our cousins -- nay, our brothers. Mistakes have been made in these chambers, as they have been in Boston and Philadelphia, but it will do little good to dwell on them. Instead, we must seek new ways to preserve old institutions, and this will involve a serious reconsideration of the nature of our government, and of its relations with our North American brothers."

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: November 11

On November 11, 1939, North American Governor-General Bruce Hogg met with Owen Galloway, the President of North American Motors, to ask him to act as an official government representative "when and if North America's good offices are needed to effect a peace" after Europe's warring nations had exhausted themselves into a stalemate, as Hogg believed would happen. Galloway agreed to do so.

On November 11, 1970, Robert Sobel interviewed Kramer Associates historian Stanley Tulin to discuss K.A. President John Jackson's creation of an informal alliance between the company and the nations of Japan and Australia in the early years of the Global War; the transition of power between Jackson and his successor, Carl Salazar, after Jackson's death in 1949; and Salazar's unsuccessful efforts to persuade North American Governor-General Richard Mason to form an anti-Mexican alliance with K.A. in 1958.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: November 10

On November 10, 1863, two months after being inaugurated for a second term as President of the United States of Mexico, Arthur Conroy convened a special session of Congress, giving an address calling for a series of reforms to the electoral process:

"Although the rationale for our Constitution was sound, and it remains a beacon to the world, it is in need of repair so as to better meet the challenge of the last half of the century. Consider, if you will, the nature of our land when Jackson assumed power. Our founder led a nation of disparate peoples, speaking different tongues, and existing in stages of development ranging from industrial to primitive. The Indians and Anglos were enemies, and both distrusted the Mexicanos, while the Hispanos were uncertain as to their role. The new nation had a population of only 3.3 million, most of whom were engaged in farming. They lacked even the most primitive forms of long-distance communication and transportation. For that kind of land, the Constitution was well-suited, even inspired.

"Conditions have changed considerably in the last forty-four years. There are some 30 million of us today, and within six years, all should be literate. We have come through a major war with honor. Our communications and transportation are the envy of the world, as are our cotton fields and mines. While differences between our peoples remain, they are far less important than they were in Jackson's day. In truth, Mexico has shown the world that origins and religion are no barrier to public service and personal success.

"It is for this reason I have called you here today. We must modernize our basic law. We will not change its spirit, for to do so would be both rash and unwise. Instead, we shall broaden its scope while retaining its focus.

"Therefore, I recommend two basic changes in the method by which we select our leaders. The first involves the president. At the present time he is selected by a senatorial vote. This cumbersome apparatus, so useful in the past, should be altered so as to make the president more the selection of all the people, and not just the choice of a small group. What I would recommend, then, is that the president in the future be selected by a majority vote of all the qualified citizens of our nation. Should no candidate receive a majority, then the Senate may select the president among the leading two contenders for the post.

"My second proposal is for senators, in the future, to be selected in the same manner, with the state legislatures choosing from among the two leading contenders, should no individual receive a majority in the balloting. Of course, this is not a matter for us to decide, but for the states, and I hope each will consider this proposal seriously, for to accept it would be to reaffirm our confidence in the wisdom and patriotism of our citizenry."

After Conroy's speech, his supporters in the Assembly spoke with other members of the Continentalist Party to point out that his reforms sounded more radical than they actually were. Since the most populous states in the U.S.M. had Anglo majorities, that group would still control Mexico's political system. And by widening the franchise and instituting direct election of the president, they would be able to head off a more radical reform movement by the nation's Mexicano majority.

On November 10, 1939, North American Governor-General Bruce Hogg spoke to his Cabinet about the ongoing war in Europe between the Anglo-French alliance and the Germanic Confederation. He said, "The war is going badly for Britain and France, but this is temporary. Soon we may expect a stalemate in Europe, as both sides will have exhausted themselves in a futile exercise in destruction. At that time, North America will act in the interests of peace."

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Collateral damage

Gamergate is a war, and women are the targets, but as with any war, sometimes the guys with the guns miss their intended targets and hit innocent bystanders. This is known in the war biz as "collateral damage," and in the last couple weeks, the 'Gaters have inflicted a bit of collateral damage on a standup comedian named Brock Wilbur.

As Wilbur notes, he was "doxxed" on October 25. That is, a 'Gater somewhere discovered his home address and phone number and tweeted them with the hashtag #gamergate in the hopes that other 'Gaters would deluge him with harrassing letters and phone calls. Whoever doxxed Wilbur apparently did so under the mistaken impression that he was associated with the gaming website Kotaku. Since then, Wilbur has indeed been the recipient of various harrassing phone calls and emails, and was also the target of a "swatting," an anonymous tip to his local police that would have sent a SWAT team kicking in his door if he hadn't already warned his local police to expect to receive false anonymous tips regarding him.

Since the initial anonymous doxxing of Wilbur, other anonymous 'Gaters have re-posted his address and phone number every few days, ensuring that he continues to be subject to misdirected harrassment. As Wilbur points out, "the angriest voices of a movement have built something they no longer control. There is a system — a mechanization — for hatred that now exists, and has become self-sustaining."

Which raises an important question. I've been taunting the 'Gaters myself in a not-entirely-futile effort to make a stand against misogyny and maybe get my pageviews up. Is there any chance that I could be doxxed? I suppose it's possible, but I've been maintaining my "Johnny Pez" persona for almost twenty years, and very few people know which real-world person it connects to. As I've said before, I'm ideally suited to this, um, mission.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: November 7

On November 7, 1897, Kramer Associates President Diego Cortez y Catalán sent his private secretary, Russell Smith, to meet with Alberto Puente, the Governor of California. The object of the meeting was to work out a way for Puente to provoke a war between the United States of Mexico and the Russian Empire, allowing K.A. to seize Alaska and take control of the Yukon gold fields.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Can you hear the sound of hysteria?

Time for another embedded music video. Today it's the title track from Green Day's 2004 album American Idiot.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: November 5

On November 5, 1937, national elections were held in the Germanic Confederation. The result was a victory for the Deutschland Party, led by Chancellor Karl Bruning. The Deutschland Party gained control of the legislatures of Baden-Baden and Bavaria, as well as increasing its majority in the Prussian Diet. Bruning's main opponent, Gustaf von Holtz of the Democratic Party, was a leading peace advocate; his defeat was seen as a mandate for war.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Today in the Sobel Timeline: November 1

In the course of writing the penultimate chapter of For Want of a Nail..., Sobel remarked that as of November 1, 1971, the United States of Mexico remained the only major world power without a working atomic bomb.

Douchebro sighting

My recent attempt to attract the attention of online misogynists by insulting them seems to have paid off. The embedded music video I posted yesterday attracted an anonymous (of course) comment consisting of a copypasted misogynist rant. The rant, being the work of a copypasta troll, was without value, and was therefore deleted. The curious can see the original source of the rant at this Jezebel post.

I must say, I am immensely pleased by the success of this effort. We all like to get attention, even troubled loners like myself. I also enjoy having my belief in the knee-jerk reflexes of the onlight Right confirmed. All I have to do is keep insulting them, and they have to respond. Their feeble minds can no more resist the call of mockery than a moth can resist an open flame.

So we here at the Johnny Pez blog will definitely be doing more posts on Gamergate. Bwahahahahaaa!

Scorpions in a Bottle: Point of Divergence

Frankly, the Battle of Saratoga is a terrible point-of-divergence for an alternate history.

The whole idea of sending an army south from Canada to invade the Hudson valley was a bad one, based on the delusional belief that a majority of the American colonists were Loyalists who would rise up against the dominant pro-independence faction as soon as a British army appeared. In practice, General John Burgoyne’s plan was crippled (though he didn’t know it) by the fact that his commanding officer, General Sir William Howe, had no intention of sending his army north to meet Burgoyne in Albany. Before leaving for his attack on Philadelphia, Howe specifically instructed his second-in-command, Sir Henry Clinton, not to leave the vicinity of Manhattan. Thus, even if everything had gone right for Burgoyne, the best he could hope for was to reach Albany himself before winter set in, and maintain his army there while his superiors in London decided what to do next. The next year might bring a resumption of the march downriver or an invasion of New England; or it might bring orders to abandon Albany and retreat back to Canada. As it turned out, the defeat Burgoyne suffered was always a probable event, and it became a near-certainty after his advance was halted by Horatio Gates’ army at the Battle of Freeman’s Farm.
So why did Sobel make the Battle of Saratoga his point-of-divergence? Because the battle is so often called the turning point of the American Revolutionary War. (In fact, Richard M. Ketchum titled his 1997 history of the battle Saratoga: Turning Point of America’s Revolutionary War.) It is true that the American victory at Saratoga persuaded a wavering King Louis XVI to commit to a formal alliance with the rebellious colonists. However, absent some total disaster for the Americans, a French alliance was bound to happen eventually; the chance to detach the American colonies from the British Empire was too tempting for the French to pass up. Thus, Saratoga should be thought of as a milestone rather than a turning point.

For alternate history purposes, the earlier Battle of Trenton would make a much better point-of-divergence. Washington’s army was on the point of disintegrating as the soldiers’ terms of enlistment were about to expire. The attack on the Hessian garrison at Trenton was a desperate move that depended on large amounts of luck to succeed. If Washington’s luck had deserted him, his army would have been crushed, and he himself might have been captured or killed, dealing a serious (perhaps even fatal) blow to the American cause.

But the Battle of Saratoga is what I have to work with. The trick is getting Clinton to move north to save Burgoyne, in spite of his orders from Howe. This is how I’ve decided to do it:

* * *
(the story picks up after the battle of Freeman’s Farm on September 19, 1777)

Burgoyne’s campaign, which had begun with such promise, now teetered on the brink of failure. Burgoyne’s men had expected another victory on the order of Ticonderoga. Instead, the rebels had fought them to a standstill. Burgoyne himself had been in the thick of the fighting, and was under no illusions about the cost that would have to be paid if he wished to continue the advance on Albany. At this point, he received word from Clinton, who had written on September 12 that he intended to “make a push at [Fort] Montgomery in about ten days.”

Burgoyne now saw a chance to revive his original plan to catch the rebels between two armies. However, making it happen would require a carefully phrased request. Clinton was neither below him nor above him in the chain of command, so Burgoyne could neither give him orders nor request them from him. Instead, drawing on his skills as a playwright, Burgoyne crafted an appeal for help. “My situation is most perilous,” he wrote. “Unless I receive succor, this great Enterprise must founder, and the work of ending this Rebellion be set back, it may be, years. I may not command it of you, but I do most humbly beseech you to come to my aid with what force you may.” [1]

Burgoyne had no way of knowing whether his appeal would succeed in bringing Clinton north, but he knew that he had no other hope of victory, so he abandoned his advance and began fortifying his forces along the battle line that had been established on the 19th. Gates, for his part, knew nothing of the exchange of letters between the British generals, and he remained in his own defensive position at Bemis Heights. The two armies continued their defensive postures for the next two and a half weeks. One of Burgoyne’s officers later wrote, “I suppose seldom two armies remained looking at each other so long without coming to action.” [2]

Clinton was waiting on reinforcements from Britain which did not arrive until the end of September. With an additional 1700 men added to his army, he sailed up the Hudson on October 3. Landing three days later south of Fort Montgomery, Clinton finally received Burgoyne’s plea for help. The dramatist’s words succeeded in persuading the ordinarily cautious Clinton to move north to Albany. Clinton’s army landed south of the town on October 8, then bypassed the city, which had been garrisoned with 2000 rebel militia, and marched north along the west bank of the Hudson. General Israel Putnam attempted to block Clinton’s path on October 12, but Clinton was able to surprise Putnam with a flank attack led by General John Vaughan, and Putnam’s force was crushed.

Burgoyne, hearing no word from Clinton and with his own supplies running low, attempted a flanking maneuver of his own on October 7 that ended with another repulse by Gates’ men. Burgoyne might have managed to disengage from Gates at this point and retreated back to Ticonderoga, but he still pinned his hopes on Clinton’s arrival. He led his army north across the Fishkill River on the night of October 8-9, then dug into a fortified position.

It seemed to Burgoyne that he had lost his gamble when he learned on October 13 that the rebels had surrounded his army. He sent one of his men to Gates with an offer to meet the next day to discuss terms of his surrender, and Gates agreed to a parlay the next morning. During the parlay, however, Gates issued his own terms, which amounted to unconditional surrender. When Burgoyne’s officers learned of the terms, they declared unanimously “that they would rather die than accept such dishonorable conditions.” That evening, Burgoyne learned that he had won his gamble after all when a messenger arrived from Clinton with word of his victory over Putnam. Putnam’s own messengers to Gates lost their way and never made it to his headquarters at Bemis Heights, so he remained unaware of Clinton’s approach.

Since Burgoyne had refused Gates’ surrender terms, and declined to offer his own, the stalemate between the two armies resumed until October 20, when the arrival of civilian refugees from the south alerted Gates at last to Clinton’s approach. Panicking, Gates ordered an all-out assault on Burgoyne’s position the next morning. A series of charges by Gates’ army was thrown back, and casualties mounted among the rebel troops. Gates’ headquarters at Bemis Heights was overflowing with wounded men and in a state of chaos the next day when Clinton’s army broke through his rear lines. Burgoyne, hearing the sounds of battle to the south, roused his own men into a final attack. With hostile armies on both sides of him, Gates fled the battlefield, and organized resistance to the British collapsed. Most of the rebel militia melted away, returning to their homes. The remainder of Gates’ Continental Army troops attempted to flee to Albany, which was still garrisoned by rebel militia. Clinton was able to pin them against the Hudson, and on October 25 Gates accepted surrender terms offered by Burgoyne. Both Gates and his men would be permitted to return to their homes unmolested provided that Gates pledged never again to take up arms against the Crown. Gates accepted, and the last organized rebel army in New York province dispersed.

1. Henry Mitchell. The Battle of Saratoga-Albany (London, 1939), p. 98.

2. “The Journal of Lt. William Digby” from Joanna Brooks. ed. The Face of War: Diaries of the Army of Nations (London, 1956).