Thursday, December 1, 2016

Russian Amerika (Russian Amerika Series Book 1) by Stoney Compton

Russian Amerika is an alternate history with the premise that the American Civil War was lost by the Northern army, and the United States was divided into ten different countries. The story takes place in 1987, where the Russians under the Czar run a police state in Alaska.

The main character is a disgraced Russian officer Grigorievich forced to resign his commission due disobeying an order that saved his men. He leads the revolt with Native peoples in attempt throw of the yoke of the Russian Empire.

The book written with a nice easy to read style, or was it that I was just trying to get through the book at the quick step?. I find the premise of this alternate history  problematic. The characters are a bit one dimensional, and very predictable. The story is filled with a lot of action for fans of military based alternate histories. However, like the characters the action is predictable with predictable outcomes.

It isn't exactly clear with the point of divergence happened in the historical outline. The story hints at a Civil War won by the Confederacy at some point prior to 1860 causing the United States to lose vast areas of land west of the Mississippi. It hints at possible pod before the Civil War. Technology appears to stand still in the book from 1930's-1980's.

I wanted to like this book, but struggled to finish it with all the story line holes. There is a liberal leaning to the book with Mario Cuomo hinted to be the President of the United States, Jimmy Carter as a senior officer in the Confederacy with the First Nations (nation) being on good terms with the United States, but not with British Columbia. What happened to manifest destiny? Or go west young man? Ignoring the fact that native tribes weren't on good terms among themselves.

The book has some entertainment value. I would give it 2.5 stars on the five star scale.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

1960 Challenge

1964 Election: Symington/Smathers 288 Dirksen/Bennett 250
Here's a challenge for everybody. Create a timeline, starting with the 1960 election, in which the people who were nominated for President or VP in OTL were not nominated for either office by the Democrats or the Republicans up to the present. Naturally, that will mean that every President and VP since Eisenhower are different people from the ones who were in OTL.  That means Nixon was never nominated, either in 1960 or 1968 or any other year.  Ford can't be on your list because, though he didn't run for VP, but was appointed to the job by Nixon, he did run for President. On the other hand, Rockefeller, though he was VP, can be included because he was never nominated for President or for VP.

Just to be clear, you can't have people who were nominated for President being nominated for VP in your timeline, or vice versa. You can have people who tried to get nominated, like Gary Hart, Mike Huckabee, Fred Harris, etc.

And, do make your list either plausible or entertaining or both. And include graphics like the example above, if you like.

So, none of these can be on your list:
1960John F. Kennedy (Mass.) – Lyndon B. Johnson (Tex.)Richard Nixon (Calif.) – Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. (Mass.)
1964Lyndon B. Johnson (Tex.) – Hubert Humphrey (Minn.)Barry Goldwater (Ariz.) – William E. Miller (N.Y.)
1968Hubert Humphrey (Minn.) – Edmund Muskie (Maine)Richard Nixon (Calif.) – Spiro Agnew (Md.)
1972George McGovern (S.D.) – Sargent Shriver (Md.)Richard Nixon (Calif.) – Spiro Agnew (Md.)
1976Jimmy Carter (Ga.) – Walter Mondale (Minn.)Gerald Ford (Mich.) – Bob Dole(Kan.)
1980Jimmy Carter (Ga.) – Walter Mondale (Minn.)Ronald Reagan (Calif.) – George H. W. Bush (Tex.)
1984Walter Mondale (Minn.) – Geraldine Ferraro (N.Y.)Ronald Reagan (Calif.) – George H. W. Bush (Tex.)
1988Michael Dukakis (Mass.) – Lloyd Bentsen (Tex.)George H. W. Bush (Tex.) – Dan Quayle (Ind.)
1992Bill Clinton (Ark.) – Al Gore(Tenn.)George H. W. Bush (Tex.) – Dan Quayle (Ind.)
1996Bill Clinton (Ark.) – Al Gore(Tenn.)Bob Dole (Kan.) – Jack Kemp(N.Y.)
2000Al Gore (Tenn.) – Joe Lieberman (Conn.)George W. Bush (Tex.) – Dick Cheney (Wyo.)
2004John Kerry (Mass.) – John Edwards (N.C.)George W. Bush (Tex.) – Dick Cheney (Wyo.)
2008Barack Obama (Ill.) – Joe Biden (Del.)John McCain (Ariz.) – Sarah Palin (Alaska)
2012Barack Obama (Ill.) – Joe Biden (Del.)Mitt Romney (Mass.) – Paul Ryan (Wis.)
2016Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) – Tim Kaine (Va.)Donald Trump (N.Y.) – Mike Pence (Ind.)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

What if JFK had survived in 1963?

This is a reprint from the Ex-Army blog [link].

Everybody else is doing this.  I might as well get in on it. Alternate history interests me anyway, and this is one aspect of it that seems to fascinate everybody else — speculation on what the result would have been if Kennedy had survived the assassination attempt. Just try googling:

jfk alternate history

and you'll get a heap of stuff, all the way from what looks like some Kennedy worship at the Huffington Post to Jeff Greenfield's novel on the subject that I haven't read yet (but which I bet turns out to be more worship). And then of course there's the National Lampoon Fifth Inaugural(which Steve Sailer deconstructs some more HERE.)

So let's start out assuming the simplest thing.  He gets shot at and missed, as in the illustration. He does of course get some sympathy for all this, but he's way ahead of Goldwater anyway, and he coasts to reelection in 1964 — Not with OTL (Our Time Line) LBJ's landslide, but decisive enough. Maybe something like this:

JFK doesn't have any further crises with Russia, but Vietnam proceeds as in OTL, worse, if anything. His tax cut bill stalls in Congress and his civil rights legislation is much feebler than what was passed in OTL. Johnson feels that by helping the ticket carry Texas twice he's fulfilled his obligations, and instead of assisting JFK's legislation, he spends his time getting ready to run himself in 1968. Anticipating blowback from civil rights, he calls for "moderation" in such matters, and positions himself to the right of the administration. Also, rumors of sex scandals tarnish JFK's reputation during his second term, though nothing definite is revealed. Robert Kennedy's "dirty tricks" are revealed in 1965 and he eventually is forced to resign as Attorney General. And, as Pat Buchanan has opined, JFK's second term ends up with the war still a mess, and his reputation in as bad a state as OTL LBJ's or worse.

As in OTL, Richard Nixon is nominated in 1968, but his strategy differs. LBJ has already been nominated by the Democrats, and his strategy is clearly to run to the right of the Kennedy Administration, signaled by his choice of Henry Jackson of Washington as his running mate. Nixon responds by deciding to shore up support of moderate Republicans by picking his rival, Nelson Rockefeller, as his running mate. As a result, the Johnson/Jackson ticket regains most of the Southern states lost in 1964, but loses the Northeast, the West Coast, and the election.

The new Nixon administration negotiates an end to the Vietnam war, and also arranges asylum for pro-American Vietnamese in Taiwan and the Philippines, thus avoiding any blowback from excessive refugee numbers in the United States. Nixon strengthens the civil rights legislation passed during the Kennedy administration, but it still falls far short of what was made law in OTL.  Nixon/Rockefeller gains reelection in 1972 over the Democratic ticket of Albert Gore, Sr. and Anthony Imperiale. With the scandals of Robert Kennedy fresh in everybody's mind, Nixon takes care to do everything by the book, and there is no Watergate scandal.

The Nixon Administration has been so successful that Nelson Rockefeller is easily elected President in 1976, despite his controversial selection of Edward Brooke of Massachusetts as his running mate. They win in a close election over the John Connally/William Proxmire ticket. The big crisis of the Rockefeller's administration is the Persian war, set off by an attempted revolution against
the Shah of Iran, which was put down with the assistance of American and British troops. The war spreads into Afghanistan and drags on until Rockefeller's death in 1979 of a heart attack.

President Brooke, upon taking the oath of office, announces that he intends to carry out the programs and principles of the Nixon/Rockefeller Republican party, and ensure victory in Iran. But with the death of the Shah later that year, the war becomes extremely unpopular, and Brooke only narrowly achieves nomination on the 5th ballot, in 1980, picking his chief rival for the nomination, conservative Republican Philip Crane of Illinois, as his running mate. But his attempt to balance the ticket falls short, and he's defeated for reelection by the Democratic team of John Connally and Richard Lamm, who pledge to end the Persian War quickly and honorably.

Indeed, Connally's first act as President is to announce peace talks with the Iranian rebels to be held in Bombay. In exchange for guarantees of economic aid, the new Iranian regime pledges to hold elections that do not include
Marxist candidates, and to sign a mutual-defense treaty with the United States, Britain, and Afghanistan to oppose any Russian aggression.

This is both an accomplishment for the United States and a failure for the Soviet Union, which finds itself decisively cut off from influence in Iran and Afghanistan. This leads to the fall of communist governments in Eastern Europe, and, with the death of Leonid Brezhnev in 1982, Andre Gromyko comes to power and institutes a defensive foreign policy and a series of internal reforms, that results in the dissolution of the USSR by his death in 1989.

President Connally gets credit for the decline of Soviet power, and is reelected in a landslide over the Republican ticket of Arlen Specter and Donald Rumsfeld in 1984. With the further crumbling of the Soviet Union, Vice-President Lamm is easily elected in 1988.  His running mate is Senator Norman Swartzkopf of Florida, veteran of the Persian War. They defeat the Republican ticket of Pete du Pont and Jim Thompson of Illinois.

President Lamm and Vice-President Swartzkopf both died in the 1990 bombing of the G7 Summit Meeting in Houston, Texas, which also took the lives of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney of Canada and US Secretary of State Jeane Kirkpatrick. Bob Michel, Republican Speaker of the House, was sworn in as President and announced that he would serve as "Acting President" and would not be a candidate for President in 1992. President Michel's presidency was dominated by the investigation of the bombing, which was linked ultimately to an Iranian dissident group.

Reeling from the deaths of three of their most prominent members, the Democratic Party nominates former New York Mayor Ed Koch for President in 1992, and he picks California Senator Jerry Brown as his
running mate.  The Republicans nominate former VP candidate Jim Thompson of Illinois for President and he chooses Pennsylvania Senator (and daughter of former President Nixon)  Julie
Eisenhower as his running mate. The Thompson/Eisenhower team wins handily.

In 1996, the Thompson/Eisenhower ticket easily defeats the Democratic team of Mario Cuomo and Sam Nunn.

In the 2000 election, the Republicans nominate the popular Julie Eisenhower for President, and Jake Garn of Utah for Vice President. Democrats choose Sam Nunn and former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley. The Republicans win by a landslide.

In 2004, for the first time since 1908, the Republicans win a fourth straight race for the White House, when the Eisenhower/Garn team defeats Bob Graham of Florida and Richard Perry of Texas.

In 2008, Vice President Garn announces that he will not seek nomination for President, and he and President Eisenhower both endorse California Governor Michael Huffington, who is nominated and chooses Governor Robert Taft of Ohio as his VP candidate.  The Republican streak is broken, however, as the Democrats choose Richard Perry of Texas and Michael Bloomberg of New York, who win easily.

In 2012, the Republicans nominate Charles Frank Bolden, Jr., Governor of South Carolina, for President and Gordon Smith of Oregon for Vice President, but they narrowly lose to the Perry/Bloomberg ticket.

This was a quick job, done off the top of my head.  Do point out any blunders and send suggestions to make this more plausible.

Monday, November 14, 2016

William Jennings Bryant Puzzle

This site has become moribund, so I'm going to issue a challenge in the form of a what-if: Suppose this:

1914: in a plot reminiscent of the Lincoln assassination, an anarchist group plans the murder of President Wilson, Vice President Marshall, and Wilson's cabinet officers. They successfully assassinated Treasury Secretary McAdoo and President Wilson. Vice President Marshall was severely wounded but sworn in as the 29th President. But he passed away three weeks later from his wounds. Secretary of State Wm Jennings Bryan is sworn in as our 30th President and swears to continue the policies of President Wilson.

How does this change WWI, WWII and the rest of history up to our time?

Let's say there will be two categories to judge your responses — Most believable or plausible, and most imaginative/entertaining.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Guns of the South, by Harry Turtledove

Harry Turtledove's The Guns of the  South was one of the fastest most entertaining books I ever read. Well . . . at least for the first part of the book. I particulary enjoyed the blend of alternate history, and science fiction with the time travel aspect. Andries Rhoodie travels in time to the Civil War to offer the AK-47 to the Confederates for only $50 in C.S.A. dollars. A deal Robert E. Lee can't refuse. The new weaponary leads to a route of the Union forces, and Abraham Lincoln suing for peace. I was interested in the view through as portrayed through  the eyes of Nate Caudell of the 47th North Carolina, as my own family served in the 22nd North Carolina infantry. I enjoyed the book, but thought it tried to compact too much into one volume. The views of Lee and Nathan Bedford Forrest after the war lacked more detailed information. The 100 or so pages of the politics after the war tend to drag the book down a bit. What was the motivation of the Afrikaners? Besides just being racistist according to the book? I thought we should have had a better glimpse of their fears, and motivations. The book could have offered more detail in the post war Union and South. The political intrigues that a lost war with a border country could bring about.  A question from the Union perspective would be steal or buy weapons from southerns to see if you could make something similar.  I liked the book, and would recommend it to others, but it leaves a lot of unanswered questions, but maybe that is why I still discuss the book.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Shiloh Project, by David Poyer

The two most popular POD's (points of departure) in alternate history fiction are the Axis winning WWII, and the South winning the Civil War. This is one of the latter, and it's an interesting twist on it. I couldn't detect exactly what the difference was that caused the Southern victory (those of you better acquainted with that period of history might find it), but it ended up with an independent Confederacy, which extended itself to the Pacific to include Arizona, evidently including New Mexico, and Southern California, in another war with the Union twenty years later.

The book is tantalizingly sparse in historical facts otherwise. All we know about the presidents of the two countries is that Lee seems to have followed Davis in the CSA, and McClelland, Lincoln, in the USA.  And there was a WWI, but the USA seems to have fought Japan without other countries becoming involved in the 1970's. Oh, and the CSA includes Cuba.

And the plot is a good one. It seems at first to be a condemnation of White treatment of Blacks in the CSA, and it is that, but it's a lot more nuanced than you'd think at first look. It involves the theft of a nuclear device from the USA by the CSA, and that should be enough to get you interested. You can get it from Amazon HERE.  And be careful not to buy another book of the same title by another author, also at Amazon. It might be a great book, but it's not this one.

And failing that, the book seems to pop up at used book stores a lot. I recommend it. Enjoy.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Can Anyone Change the Course of History?

We alternate history aficionados know that one can, of course, but we also know that it's very difficult to predict what changes one's actions will lead to. There are stacks of such stories where attempts to change history via time machine lead to unforseen consequences and which bristle with irony.

Political assassinations, of course, damn well can change history. Think, for example, of all the civil wars in history that followed the death of a king or emperor. Had the guy lived, the war would have been almost certainly delayed, and in some cases, might not have taken place at all.

The speculation below is from

Can Anyone Change the Course of History?

Political assassinations are outsized, dramatic events. The murder of a political leader, even the murder of an heir to a throne can produce widespread repercussions.

Or so we think?

Some believe that the course of history cannot be modified, even by such large events as the assassination of a leader.

Benjamin Jones and Benjamin Olken define the issue in a New York Times op-ed:

Days after John Wilkes Booth entered the presidential box at Ford’s Theater and shot Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865, Benjamin Disraeli, the British prime minister, declared that “assassination has never changed the history of the world.” Was Disraeli right?

One view, the “great man” theory, claims that individual leaders play defining roles, so that assassinating one could lead to very different national or global outcomes. In contrast, historical determinism sees leaders as the proverbial ant riding the elephant’s back. Broader social, economic and political forces drive history, so that assassinations may not have meaningful effects.

One also recalls the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914, event that has been credited with sparking the outbreak of World War I.

Had there been no assassination, one asks, would there have been a war? Had there been no assassination, one opines, would the war have been conducted or ended differently?

Was the European continent a powder keg waiting for a spark to ignite it, or did the assassination change the course of history?

It’s an interesting question, but, how can you know? After all, history only deals in what happened, in the facts. Alternative scenarios are counterfactuals. You cannot affirm or deny them by appealing to the authority of facts.

And yet, there is more to human life than assassinations. Human history is made up of a myriad of decisions taken by a myriad of human beings. It’s one thing to suggest that history was changed by an assassination. It’s slightly different to say that history was changed by, say, an automobile accident or your failure to get to a meeting on time.

One recalls what mathematicians and scientists call “chaos” theory. By that theory, a butterfly that changes the direction of its flight can influence the weather.

Wikipedia offers an apt description of this theory:

Chaos theory studies the behavior of dynamical systems that are highly sensitive to initial conditions—a response popularly referred to as thebutterfly effect. Small differences in initial conditions (such as those due to rounding errors in numerical computation) yield widely diverging outcomes for such dynamical systems, rendering long-term prediction impossible in general.[1] This happens even though these systems aredeterministic, meaning that their future behavior is fully determined by their initial conditions, with no random elements involved.[2] In other words, the deterministic nature of these systems does not make them predictable.[3][4] This behavior is known as deterministic chaos, or simply chaos.

I will refrain from pursuing this any further. Whether or not it applies to the unfolding of historical events requires far more evidence than I can muster in a blog post.

At the least, chaos theory tells us that we do not need assassinations, grand historical events, to change history. It does not tell us whether all of these myriad decisions and events are following a script.

For example, would World War I have turned out differently if Theodore Roosevelt had been elected president in 1912? We know from his own contemporaneous commentary about the Great War that Roosevelt would have had a foreign policy that was radically different from the one conducted by Woodrow Wilson and William Jennings Bryan. We know that TR favored mobilization and intervention far sooner than Wilson did.

Would earlier American intervention have tilted the balance of destruction decisively in the direction of the allies? Would it have stopped the war before it turned into mass slaughter? If it had stopped the war earlier, would that have allowed the Russian Czar to defeat the Bolshevik insurgency? If Germany had not suffered a humiliating defeat would there have been Hitler and the Third Reich and World War II?

We can go on. You get the picture.

We may not have definitive proof, but it makes sense to believe that the person who is conducting foreign policy for a great nation can make a significant difference in the outcome of historical events.

But, if we are talking about an election result, those who are determining the course of history would be the electorate, not entirely the individual in charge. And, democratic elections need not give the best result.

Also, consider the role that many other actors play in the unfolding of the great game of history. Or is it the great drama of history?

Those who believe in historical inevitability argue that history is a great drama unfolding before us. We have been cast in different roles and play them well or poorly, but the drama has its own denouement and will arrive there, whether we like it or not.

Hegel presented the argument philosophically. In more recent times, Marxists have acted as though nothing much mattered because they were on the right side of history. To which Francis Fukuyama famously retorted that the outcome of historical development was indeed predetermined, but it would not lead to a Worker’s Paradise. The outcome was the apotheosis of liberal democracy.

Note that this theory relieves us of any responsibility for the historical outcome. We need but get on the right side of history. It is a perfectly amoral system.

On the other side, if you believe that human history advances like a game, the outcome is not predetermined. In fact, the various moves of the game are not predetermined.

If we consider the number of possible moves in a game of chess—apparently more than there are atoms in the universe—the notion that the outcome is inevitable, that one person will necessarily win or lose in this or that way, feels simplistic.

As opposed to the drama-based theory of history, the game-based theory grants to human agents the ability to change the course of events in a significant way. More importantly, it grants to human beings the free will to make decisions and to be responsible for the ensuing results.

As I discussed in my book The Last Psychoanalyst, rather than trying to discover whether history is a drama or a game, imagine how you would function if you believed that it was the one or the other.