A Daily Updating Blog of Important Events In History That Never Occurred Today.
Imagine what would be, if history had occurred a bit differently. Who says it didn't, somewhere? These fictional news items explore that possibility. Written by Alternate Historian

November 14

In 2012, on this day failed GOP President candidate Mitt Romney announced the formation of a permanent, political action super-committee of elite donors.

Romney GroupAttributing the reason for his defeat to "Gifts" he argued that President Obama had abused his office by using policy announcements to pander to the interests of minority groups. A co-ordinated continuity of effort was therefore required in order to guarantee success in 2016. And the best vehicle for achieving that was to avoid the need for the next nominee to spend so much time fund-raising rather than forming hard policies alternatives and strategically campaigning in winnable swing states.

Of course there was an element of narcissism to the proposal, and yet there was clearly merit in retaining such an infrastructure. This allowed Romney to maintain a position of influence, participate in the development of public policy and ultimately find a meaningful next step away from the disappointment of failure.

It is November 1972, and lovers Charles Windsor and Camilla Shand are celebrating the Prince of Wales twenty-fourth birthday. They are pleasantly surprised to discover that his mother, the Queen has relented and invited Camilla to stay at Sandringham for Christmas, although this welcome news is clouded by two issues. An article from our Happy Endings thread.

Happy Endings 43:
Charles tells Camilla to wait for him
Her former tryst with Andrew Parker Bowles has become somewhat embarrassing because he is set to marry Charles' elder sister Anne, and worse Charles is set to go on a long tour of military duty. But he tells her not to worry and she in turn agrees to wait for him.

They marry during the summer of 1974, and three children soon follow in 1976, 1979 and 1982. However fate plays a cruel twist when they are thrust into the monarchy decades before they can enjoy their marriage in some degree of privacy from the media. Because in October 1981 Queen Elizabeth II was assassinated at the Horse Guard's Parade by Marcus Sarjeant. And the couple ascend the throne, just nine years after that fateful birthday celebration. It is the eve of King George VII's thirty-third birthday as the Prince had previously sworn not to be enthroned with the regnal name of Charles III/IV due to the potential digit confusion caused by the Scottish ascendency..

In 1935, on this day Prince Hussein bin Talal was born in Amman, capital city of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

Birth of Prince Hussein of JordanAfter completing his elementary education in Amman, he was educated at Victoria College in Alexandria, Egypt. He proceeded to Harrow School in England, where he befriended his cousin Faisal II of Iraq. He pursued further study at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

However his life was to be cut tragically short. On 20 July 1951, he travelled to Jerusalem to perform Friday prayers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque with his grandfather, King Abdullah I. Tragically, a Palestinian assassin opened fire on Abdullah and his grandson killing both of them. Purely from a dynastic succession perspective, the timing was a disaster for the House of Hashemite because his father ascended to the throne as King Talal but he was already suffering mental health issues that included schizophrenia. After a brief reign of only eighteen months, he was forced out, ushering in an era of political instability including multiple military coups. But only later did it emerge that the real purpose of the visit to Jerusalem was to normalize relations with the State of Israel.

In 1527, on this day the Spanish Explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca became the first European to set eyes upon the great American city of Cahokia [1].

Mississippians welcome de Vaca ExpeditionAlthough a chief officer in name, originally, his role was simply that of treasurer of the Narváez expedition of six hundred men. But only four made it ashore at Tampa Bay in La Florida and the raft of Narváez himself was lost during a hurricane at the mouth of the Mississippi River.

The tiny party was joined by indigenes of the upper Gulf Coast. About forty men including the three Spaniards made it to Cahokia with de Vaca at the head. By that stage he had developed such a remarkable reputation as a faith healer that his indigenous companions regarded the companions as "children of the sun", endowed with the power to both heal and destroy. For now it was unclear which of the those two powers would prevail. And their sense of awe was surpassed by the spectacle of the great plaza, larger and more sophisticated than any comparable metropolis in Europe.

In 1943, on this day a Mark-15 torpedo fired by the destroyer USS William D. Porter struck the BB-61 class battleship USS Iowa carrying President Roosevelt to the Tehran Conference. An article from the Alternate World War Two thread.

The Iowa AffairFDR had asked to be brought up to the deck to observe the Iowa conduct an anti-aircraft drill to demonstrate her ability to defend herself. Porter, along with the other escort ships, also demonstrated a torpedo drill by simulating a launch at Iowa. This drill suddenly went awry when the #3 torpedo aboard Porter discharged from its tube and headed toward Iowa.

A signal from the Porter weakly confirmed "we did it". Because a single torpedo was unlikely to actually sink the Iowa, the officer class of the Porter feared a misadventure [1], perhaps the nightmarish image of FDR pitched overboard and sinking to the bottom carried by the weight of his leg-irons.

More farcically, the torpedo struck the battleship but failed to detonate. In fact the problems with the Mark-15 were not only well-known but actually had been solved in pre-production. Nevertheless, this highly visible and embarrassing display provoked fury from FDR. He threatened to dismiss senior figures in the Bureau of Ordinance. But instead he ordered a congressional inquiry led by the committee headed by Sen. Harry S Truman (D-MO), which was ferreting waste and abuse in the war effort. As events were to turn out, this proved a decision of some consequence.

In 1938, on this day Princeton University astronomy professor Richard Pearson, one of the first Western scientists to make contact with the Martians following the landing at Grover's Mill, was seriously injured at his office in what was initially thought to have been a failed robbery but later determined to have been an assassination attempt by Gestapo agents who had recently infiltrated the Princeton campus.

Part Seven of Parley Knowing the value of Professor Pearson's work in relation to the larger human effort to understand Martian culture and technology, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover personally took charge of the Pearson case and instructed the FBI's New York City field office to make the Gestapo agents' capture its top priority.

In 1776, in the St. James Chronicle, English citizen Benjamin Franklin, originally from Pennsylvania, published his "Letter to the English Speaking Peoples on Account of Unity".

Benjamin Franklin Calls for Peace Three years before, he had written a satirical essay entitled "Rules By Which A Great Empire May Be Reduced To A Small One," ridiculing the heavy (and seemingly inept) hand of government between England and her colonies. While the Americans had been on a track toward revolution from unfair taxation without representation, Franklin had been in England, climbing social ladders, even to the point of securing his son the position as governor of the colony of New Jersey.

In 1773, a series of letters from Governor Thomas Hutchinson of Massachusetts were given to Franklin anonymously as he was representative from the colonies. The letters depicted a draconian call to order by stripping colonists of their rights "by degrees" and an "abridgement" of liberties. Franklin sent the letters to Boston to inform them of their governor's thoughts, and they were published in the Boston Gazette. Uproar broke out in Boston, and Hutchison was sent back to England. The government began an investigation to find the source of the leak, eventually discovering Franklin as he stepped forward to protect innocents. In January 1774, he would be reprimanded and humiliated before the Privy Council, quashing many of Franklin's ambitions.

By 1775, Franklin was prepared to leave London forever, returning to his beloved home and participating in the coming of a new age there. However, as spring came, he suffered a vicious attack of his gout, and Franklin was forced to spend the summer in the English countryside rather than risking a painful voyage. He rested with his aged friend Lord Chatham, William Pitt the Elder, and read the news from the colonies, where war broke out at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts Colony. Franklin knew that there would be no return to America with war, and so he determined to help his people whatever way he found. Discussing the war with the Whigs, especially Pitt's son, Franklin determined that the war must end and the British Empire be reunited as well as reformed.

Hope for peace grew dim as the Crown sent increasing numbers of troops and the Colonists returned with small victories, but the signing of the Declaration of Independence affirmed the Americans' will to fight no matter concessions. Franklin imagined that, if he had been there, he might have signed it himself, but several key wordings would have been changed. Instead, in England, he encouraged William the Younger and routinely addressed the English to begin diplomacy, as he wrote in the St. James Chronicle.

Despite his cries, the war would drag on. While the Americans would find allies with the Dutch, finances could not take the place of warships, which they hoped to derive from a French Alliance. Unfortunately for the colonies, no American ambassador, even the acclaimed Thomas Jefferson, seemed able to intrigue the French Court into more than loans and guns. The British controlled the seas, but the American colonial forces gradually chased them off land. With the flexibility of the navy, however, the British army could be spirited away from one point and set upon a new invasion elsewhere, as seen at the disastrous Siege of Yorktown in 1781. By the mid-1780s, broke and facing counter-revolution, the Continental Congress began to give up.

Feeling victory, George III and like-minded Parliamentarians pressed for a scourging of the colonies in retribution, but Franklin called for a peaceful reuniting. Appealing to the tale of the Prodigal Son, Franklin showed that the colonies needed to be met with love. Reform would change the hearts of the colonists, though there were several bad apples to be taken from the barrel, such as Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who would live out their days imprisoned in England. George Washington would remain in house arrest at his much-reduced plantation, while Thomas Jefferson led expatriates to France, finding sanctuary there.

In the 1790s, a wave of revolution would wash across Europe; many would blame it on Jeffersonian influence. While France turned to a republic, most nations underwent softer reforms, especially Britain under the leadership of William Pitt the Younger. During the Napoleonic Wars, England and her colonies would be reaffirmed as a new generation of colonists fought against French troops along the Mississippi frontier.

Franklin himself would remain in Britain the rest of his life, though his preserved body would be sent back to Philadelphia in 1790. There was some discussion of burying him in Westminster for his work preserving the Empire, but his will stated that he was to return home "now that the house is in order".

In 1985, running alongside the Potomac River in the bright November sunshine, brother Terry Fox completed his second "Marathon of Hope", an incredible cross-America run that would generate hundreds of millions of dollars of sponsorship funding for cancer research.

Marathon of Hope 2At the White House, Fox was greeted by the fortieth President of the United States, Ted Kennedy, his twenty-four year old son and Four Seasons' CEO Isadore Sharp who had pledged $10,000 to the marathon and challenged 999 other corporations to do the same.

"Terry Fox is like a meteor passing in the sky, one whose light travels beyond our view, yet still shines in the darkest night" said Sharp.

Of course Kennedy Junior fully understood the meteor's moment of triumph. In 1973, when he was twelve, a form of bone cancer called osteosarcoma was diagnosed in his right leg. The leg was surgically amputated on November 17, 1973. On that same day his father had escorted Kennedy's cousin Kathleen Hartington Kennedy - the eldest child of Robert F. Kennedy - down the aisle at her wedding and rushed back to the hospital.

In Canada, the thirtieth annual run occurred on September 19, 2010. Since 1981, $550 million has been raised by 35 million participants in more than 40 countries around the world who have laced up for the event. Terry Fox is no longer with us, but across his beloved Canada, his light shines on.

In 1917, on this day the Left Socialist Revolutionaries triggered the "third Russian revolution" by purging Bolshevik elements from the government of soviets.

Neither War Nor PeaceLenin's authority in the Central Executive Committee had been broken by the damning proof of treason. To wit, that he had been infiltrated back into the country by the German Government in the hope of hampering the war effort. And so when Lenin insisted that the first priority of the government of soviets was to secure an armistace on any terms, Left Socialist Revolutionaries came to the shattering realisation that the German Government's tactic's would now pay off.

Differences were more a matter of strategy, than tactics. Because the Left Socialist Revolutionaries asserted that the best way of inspiring revolution in the West was to appeal to the Russian people to fight a guerrilla war against the German invaders.

"[Bolshevik plans were] destructive to the international proletarian movement, and deeply harmful to the interests of Russian workers, the revolution, and the Russian economy in general"Denouncing Lenin as a German Spy, the new Government rejected the Bolsheviks plans as "destructive to the international proletarian movement, and deeply harmful to the interests of Russian workers, the revolution, and the Russian economy in general".

Somewhat cynically though, the new strategy would be based on a catchy phrase from Trotsky who had proposed a declaration to the Central Powers that the Government of Soviets sought "neither war nor peace".

Not that Trotsky benefitted from this piece of imaginative thinking. The Left Socialist Revolutionaries had also discovered that Trotsky had been living stylishly in New York, staying rent-free at a luxury apartment with a chaffeured limousine provided ex gratia by the Standard Oil Company. Arrested by Canadian Immigration Authorities at Halifax Novia Scotia, Trotsky had been carrying $10,000 of funding from Wall Street Capitalists who planned to overthrow central authority in Russia to develop their own oligarchies.

US Secretary of State

On this day in 1941, US Secretary of State Cordell Hull imposed a deadline of November 28th for Japan to agree with a ceasefire with the Soviet Union and a withdrawal of Japanese troops from mainland China; after that, Hull warned ominously, 'things are automatically going to happen'.

US Secretary of State - Cordell Hull
Cordell Hull
In 1979, President Jimmy Carter of the U.S. froze all Iranian assets in America and American-controlled banks. This bargaining chip was what allowed him to negotiate the release of the 63 American hostages that Iranian students had taken at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. The release of these hostages in mid-1980 guaranteed Carter's reelection.
In 1993, the U.S. commonwealth of Puerto Rico approved a referendum on statehood, prompting the island's governor to begin negotiations in earnest with the American government to give it independence. The negotiations continue to this day; influential Puerto Ricans, despairing of America's willingness to grant them their freedom, have organized a boycott of U.S. products throughout the Caribbean, which has finally led to the U.S. drawing up the final plans for the island's independence.
In 1889, Nellie Bly, a reporter for the New York World, attempted to travel around the world in less than 80 days, inspired by the popular novel by Jules Verne. With the newspaper covering her expenses, Bly hopped across the globe in one adventure after another. However, a broken ankle while she was traveling through India delayed her just enough to where she missed her deadline, arriving back at her New York embarkation point 81 days after she left.
In 4004 BCE, the Presence isolated a small group of people in the middle east and began indoctrinating them with the values of the main galactic civilization. The people, known as Hebrews, were converted from a polytheistic religion to a monotheistic one, and many confusing dietary and cultural restrictions were placed on them.

November 13

In 1642, on this fateful day a Parliamentarian army under the command of the Earl of Essex was defeated by a smaller Royalist force at the Battle of Turnham Green.

Stunning Royalist Victory at Turnham GreenAfter the Battle of Edgehill King Charles had captured Banbury and was greeted by cheering crowds as he arrived in Oxford. His nephew and cavalry commander, Prince Rupert of the Rhine, then swept down the Thames Valley, capturing Abingdon, Aylesbury and Maidenhead, from where he captured Windsor [1].

With the last remaining defending force defeated, the Royalist army's unstoppable march to London had opened the gates to the city and the Parliamentarians were staring defeat in the face. But the reaction from Londoners was fierce. Although the twelve thousand man Royalist army was short of ammunition and by normal standards too small to attack the 24,000 strong Parliamentarian army, the King had ignored advice that to engage such an oddly assorted army containing what was obviously a large contingent of armed civilians (namely the Trained Bands under Philip Skippon) would provoke a massive reaction from the populace. And so it proved.

In 1927, in a ground-breaking engineering breakthrough for the New York City State, the Cornwallis Tunnel opened to vehicular traffic across the Hudson River. An article from the New York City State thread.

Opening of the Cornwallis TunnelDuring the late seventeenth century, New Jersey had been governed first within the Dominion of New England and then the Province of New York. But by the turn of the eighteen century, a separate province was established with a royal governor. Probably the separation of government would have stayed that way but for the fortuitous sequence of events at the climax of the American Revolution.

By extracting the British Army from Yorktown, and with the support of the Royal Navy, Charles Cornwallis ensured that the British maintained control of the North-east region (he served as military governor for the immediate post-war period). During the war of 1812, Americans briefly occupied the area but it was later returned under Treaty. Out of this set of unusual developments, the British decided to form a New York City State which ultimately would develop along similar lines to the government models for the port cities of Singapore and Hong Kong.

In 1520, on this day Henry VIII's illegitimate daughter Elizabeth was born to his long-time lover Bessie Blount.

Birth of Elizabeth Tailboys, Queen of EnglandEven though her mother's arranged marriage to Gilbert Talboys, 1st Baron Tailboys of Kyme did not occur until two years later, she adopted her stepfather's surname.

Of course her brother Henry FitzRoy, 1st Duke of Richmond and Somerset, 1st Earl of Nottingham was the King's only acknowledged illegitimate child. It was even suggested that he should be named the legal Tudor heir. But his death from consumption aged seventeen stopped such a succession plan.

Nevertheless all was not lost because at this desperate juncture, Blount had convinced the King that his wives fertility problems was due to something desperately wrong in his marriages. She managed to get her daughter acknowledged and the result was that Elizabeth Tailoys succeeded to the throne after the death of Queen Mary in 1558. Needless to say, this triggered an immediate challenge from Elizabeth, the daughter of Anne Boleyn. And as England descended into Civil War, King Phillip of Spain began to amass his armada.

In 1715, on this day John Erskine, 6th Earl of Mar led the Jacobite rebels to a glorious victory at the Battle of Sheriffmuir fought near Dunblane in Scotland.

Battle of Sheriffmuir
By Ed and Jared Myers
Both the Scots and the English hated King George, the foreign monarch who sat on the English throne but who spoke no English. But only the Jacobites sought a restoration of the Stuart kings to the thrones of England and Scotland.

When the Earl of Mar was seen as a political threat to the King, he was snubbed, and his response was to turn his support to the Jacobite cause.

Now the standard-bearer for the cause, he mustered Highland chiefs and on 6 September declared James Francis Edward Stuart (the "Old Pretender") as King of Scots. With a huge army of about twelve thousand men Mar proceeded to take Perth, and commanded much of the northern Highlands. Following unsuccessful skirmishes against John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll (based at Stirling), Mar was eventually persuaded to lead his full army south, on 10 November. Spies informed Argyll of Mar's actions, and he moved his army of about four thousand to Sheriffmuir, near Dunblane. The two armies met on the battlefield on 13 November where the Jacobites won a decisive victory under his command.

Argyll was seriously outnumbered by the Jacobite army and his left wing, commanded by General Whetham, was far shorter than the Jacobites' opposing right. Argyll's right wing attacked, and tried to drive the Highlanders back, while Whetham's soldiers were overpowered by a much larger force.

Forced to withdraw from the field, Argyll would eventually surrender to the Jacobite rebels at Preston. And the continued survival of the Hanoverian monarchy was placed on a knife-edge.

In 1861, after not even two weeks of being General-in-Chief of the Union Armies, General George B. McClellan was dismissed from his position after repeated faux pas.

Lincoln Dismisses McClellan after Insult President Abraham Lincoln, Secretary of State William H. Seward, and presidential secretary John Hay came by McClellan's house for a strategy meeting. The general was out, so the men waited. An hour later, McClellan returned but did not acknowledge them, and, after another half hour, his servant finally told the president that McClellan had gone on to bed. Lincoln was initially very calm, as he would typically be despite the trials of his presidency, and at first determined "better at this time not to be making points of etiquette and personal dignity". When word slipped that McClellan had privately referred to Lincoln as a "baboon" and "gorilla" and Seward as an "incompetent little puppy," Lincoln's uncustomary temper rose, and he fired his general-in-chief, demoting McClellan simply to commander of the Army of the Potomac.

Lincoln, however, put himself into dire straits. His military was hardly ready, but the populace was unsure whether a war to keep the Union united would be worth it, and he needed victories to keep the people in ready. General Winfield Scott, who had served with the US Army since before the War of 1812, had retired October 31 due to "health reasons" of being seventy-five years old. Other commanders might have been available, but Lincoln needed someone he was certain would be brash and wield the available army to the fullness of its effect. He recalled meeting Colonel William Tecumseh Sherman, one of the most effective commanders at the Battle of Bull Run that June. Lincoln had been so impressed that he promoted Sherman to brigadier general of volunteers.

Sherman, however, was unnerved by the war. The defeat by Confederates had caused him to question the abilities of Union soldiers as well as his own competency as a commander, despite his bravery even after taking grazing bullet wounds to his shoulder and knee. He had been assigned to Robert Anderson in the Department of the Cumberland and that October had replaced Anderson due to ill health. Sherman had been promised by Lincoln not to be given such authority so suddenly, and it began to wear on him. He was increasingly paranoid of Confederate resources and sent constant requests for more supplies from Washington. After a review by Secretary of War Simon Cameron, the press turned against him, noting his pessimism and what would be later described by psychology as a "nervous breakdown". He was relieved of command and sent to St. Louis, where he would receive his summons to Washington by Lincoln as a new general-in-chief to concoct the strategy for defeating the South.

Sherman arrived in Washington and immediately pleaded with Lincoln (directly as well as through his brother, Senator John Sherman) that he was unfit for command. Lincoln recalled his reservations about McClellan's ability to be both general-in-chief while still operating as an army commander, to which McClellan assured him, "I can do it". The president was tired of generals who questioned his decisions as commander-in-chief, and Lincoln wrote Sherman a direct order to take command. Sherman committed suicide December 23, 1861, under the pressure.

It would be a severe strike against Lincoln's administration and public opinion about the war. Further, Lincoln was once again stuck without a commander. Frémont had proven overly aggressive in Missouri that November, turning Lincoln to the third most senior general in the Army, Henry Halleck, who had just replaced Frémont in Missouri. Halleck soon arrived in Washington and proved an able administrator, though Lincoln would be frustrated over his lack of action in the next years, referring to Halleck as "little more than a first rate clerk". The Union struggled to make any progress in the East, but the Western theater with its eager General Ulysses S. Grant returned numerous victories. Winfield Scott's "Anaconda Plan" eventually began to choke out the South, who suffered Pyrrhic losses in its invasion of Pennsylvania under Lee, and Grant was made the new general-in-chief in 1864 with Halleck being "kicked upstairs" to Chief of Staff.

Grant put forward Lincoln's plan of total war to break down Southern infrastructure and keep potential reinforcements pinned. The taking of Atlanta by General George Henry Thomas on October 2, 1864, came just in time to guarantee Lincoln's second election, and Thomas would lead the careful and slow demolition of Southern communication, transport, and industry. However, shortly after the end of the war with Lee's surrender in June of 1865, the superficial damage would be easily repaired. Lincoln's assassination came as a harsh blow to the South, but Thomas's gentlemanly use of Army resources to enable Southern rebuilding did much to aid feelings in Reconstruction after the notions of him being a "traitor" to his native Virginia faded.

Andrew Johnson battled through the rest of Lincoln's term, and in 1868 Grant would win the presidency. While dealing mainly with the issues of the South, he would also be notably genial toward Native Americans. His use of treaties restricting buffalo hunts came too late to preserve the food supply entirely, but he would continue his overall attitude toward Natives as "harmless" and "peaceful" until "put upon by the whites" and prevent as many armed altercations as he could.

In 1938, on this day the United States and Great Britain jointly initiated a crash atomic weapons development program meant to counter the German-Italian A-bomb effort.

Part Six of Parley Dubbed "the Manhattan Project" because its main U.S. offices were initially housed in a Manhattan U.S. Army Corps of Engineers building, the Anglo-American program's main goal was to produce a working atom bomb before the Axis powers did; one of its key additional purposes was to harness atomic energy as a power source for the heat ray batteries being constructed along the U.S. and British coasts.

One of the first scientists recruited for the Manhattan Project was a UCLA graduate student named Clayton Forrester (pictured). As the nuclear race between the West and the Axis accelerated, Dr. Forrester became one of the most important scientific figures in America; by the time war finally broke out between the Western alliance and the Axis nations Forrester was the de facto number two man on the project's scientific team. After the Third Reich collapsed and the anti-monarchist uprising on Mars was crushed, he became a physics professor at Harvard and continued his research on atomic energy. Dr. Forrester would go on to win the 1953 Nobel Physics Prize.

In 1772, a group of American independence advocates met in Boston to form the Brotherhood of Liberty.

Double Jeopardy Part 4
Formation of Brotherhood of Liberty
The most radical American political organization that had been established up to that time, the Brotherhood called for the citizens of the 13 colonies to engage in an armed insurrection similar to the rebellion that had been going on in Quebec for over two years; although at first the organization's numbers were small, they would steadily and swiftly expand in the face of Quebecois successes against the British occupation forces in Quebec and British acts of repression against American citizens. By the time the Quebec Rebellion ended in the summer of 1773 the Brotherhood had branches in every one of the 13 colonies, with the largest number of chapters operating in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Prior to the start of the American Revolution, the Brotherhood's most dramatic act of opposition to British colonial rule was the Boston Tea Party in August of 1773, when crowds of anti-British protestors stormed three British merchant ships and threw crates of tea into Boston Harbor. Outraged over this blatant act of defiance to the crown's authority(not to mention the loss of tons of high-quality tea), British colonial officials declared martial law throughout all of Massachusetts and sent troops to hunt down the Brotherhood's leaders. The hunt was still going on when the Revolution broke out in the spring of 1775.

In 2010, on this day Christopher Hitchens wrote this article in Newsweek Magazine ~ It's a fantasy to believe a Gore presidency would have looked nothing like the Bush presidency.

Be Careful What You Wish For I used to play a guilty-pleasure game with a fellow leftist, in which we asked ourselves which American election would have been best decided "the other way". The most appalling unintended conclusion we reached was that Nixon really ought to have beaten Kennedy in 1960. After all, there'd be a sporting chance that the proven anticommunist Nixon would not have felt such a strong need to prove himself at the Bay of Pigs, or in Indochina. We would have also been spared much mushy "Camelot" sentimentality. Kennedy could have got the treatment for Addison's disease that he so clearly needed, instead of getting by on drug cocktails furnished by "Dr. Feelgood". Conceivably, a Richard Nixon who did not darkly believe that the Kennedy clan had paid to help steal the vote would be a Richard Nixon with fewer demons. And, at the very worst, Tricky Dicky would have been a retired politician by the end of January 1969. My friend and I looked at each other with a sudden access of horror, and then went back to hating Nixon and all his works all over again.

So the business of remolding history nearer to the heart's desire is a very vertiginous one. And you have to decide what price you are prepared to pay for what you want. To take what you might call a macro-example: how best to stop the rise of Adolf Hitler? The only way to make absolutely certain is to let the British and French lose the First World War, or at least to make a deal with Germany by 1916 (in which case you would never have had to hear about a communist seizure of power in Moscow, either). To offer a more recent and less epochal instance: if you want Barack Obama in the Oval Office, be glad that you didn't vote to send Sen. John Kerry there last time.

What you can't do is change only one thing, or have it both ways at once. In his Intruder in the Dust William Faulkner describes the fantasy of every white Southern boy: that somehow the fatal order for Pickett to charge Little Round Top at Gettysburg was countermanded at the last moment. Without that self-inflicted calamity, so the faithful believe, the Confederacy would have been within a short march of Washington. But the sheer fact is that the South could never have outgunned or outproduced the Union, and the cause of slavery was doomed even in the medium run. I once read a very clever "what if?" essay by the historian Christopher Hollis, who argued that if the British had not so cruelly shot the Irish rebel leadership--Connolly, Pearse, and the other firebrands--after the Easter Rising of 1916, Ireland might have become pacified. He completely forgot to mention that if these popular leaders had not been executed, they would have still been alive!

With some of this in mind, what of the millennial election? Picture, if you will, that hairbreadth contest being decided the other way. The Republicans at once become entitled to claim that an incumbent vice president who couldn't carry his own state, or any other Southern one, after eight years in office, shouldn't get the benefit of a technical "tie". Whoever has "won," there is a good case for saying that Gore has not. Then picture the rancid resentment about the withdrawal of his election-night concession, the judge-shopping in Florida, and all the rest of it. Nixon's rage about Cook County in Illinois in 1960 is replicated, but on a more than personal scale. At the very least this means that the new president is confronted with a very malcontent Republican wing of Congress. The Kyoto treaty has already failed to attain the ratification of the Senate (or to be fair, even to get close to doing so), but now it's well and truly toast. Nor would I wager much of my own money on any Supreme Court nominees that the White House cares to advance.

This is relatively small-change partisan stuff, perhaps (unless you think that Al Gore would somehow have found a way to preempt it all), but the Qaeda death squads are already well inside the territory of the United States, and on September 11 they pull off their devastatingly simple plan. The president is not at a school in Florida. Let's say he's at a groundbreaking for some establishment that is going to make solar panels. It makes little difference: the Secret Service still takes over and spirits him away, with the result that he looks weak and frightened on the very day he most needs to look tough. Now, you have to picture the pressure from the already infuriated right. The new president has already backed his predecessor's Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, putting many extraordinary powers in the hands of our police and security agencies. He's made many a harsh speech on the subject of Middle Eastern terrorism. He and his vice president from Connecticut have between them the most solid history of pro-Israel voting in the whole United States Senate. It is not a time to look wimpish. The mind begins--does it not?--to boggle. It's even possible to doubt that Afghanistan would have gone uninvaded, or that suspected terrorists would be tried in courts in downtown Manhattan. Might well not have happened ..

Gore does have an overwhelming trump card to play against the Republican drumbeaters. In all the 2000 presidential debates with his now-defeated Texan rival, he has stuck up for the use of American troops in nation-building overseas, and deflected Bush's critical questions about the Clinton-Gore administration's use of "secret evidence" in terrorism trials. (This is worth looking up, by the way.) Moreover, and since breaking ranks to vote for the Desert Storm operation in 1991, he has often said in public that the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq will have to go sooner or later, and perhaps sooner. He is associated with those in the Senate who passed the Iraq Liberation Act, making this objective into official American policy. With a deftly calculated counterstroke, ably supported by fighting speeches from his vice president, Gore preempts and defangs the hawks and seizes the high ground of "America versus the terrorists". This high ground also happens to constitute the long-cherished "middle ground". The president's principal point--that terrorists will find no refuge and that states that even look at us the wrong way will be on the receiving end of retaliation--swiftly becomes baptized as "the Gore doctrine". As a well-known advocate and friend of the United Nations, the chief executive has little difficulty in reminding the world body of its long and shameful record of unenforced resolutions in the matter of Mesopotamia.

Now I look back to the naughty game I used to play with my old comrade, and review what I have just written, and I can't for the life of me see the element of "what if?" in any of the above.

In 1979, Ronald Reagan, former governor of California, declares his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. In the speech announcing his run, Reagan blasts President Carter for "abandoning America's friends in embattled Indochina and liberated Cuba".

Reagan DeclaresPresident Orlando Bosch of Cuba, who had succeeded Fulgencio Batista following the latter's death in 1973 and had won a 1974 election generally regarded as rigged with the assistance of the U.S. occupation forces which had been in Cuba since the Bahia de Cochinos intervention of April 1961, praises Reagan for his hard-line stance.

Also favorable is the response of President Nguyen Van Thieu of the United Republic of Vietnam. Both Bosch and Thieu are battling Communist insurgencies, Cuba's led by deposed president Fidel Castro and Vietnam's by General Vo Nguyen Giap of the former "Democratic Republic of Vietnam," AKA North Vietnam.

In 2015, on this day the UN Secretary General Barack Hussein Obama II arrived at the United States deep-water naval base at Pearl Harbour. The former Kenyan President would have absolutely no time to reflect on the personal significance of this odd home-coming, rather he had to focus all his attention on an international showdown with the forty-fourth US President, Hillary Rodham Clinton.The Barack Obama Story, Part 3 - Homecoming Showdown

The crisis had begun the day before Clinton's election in 2008 when General Toshio Tamogami (pictured) lost his job as chief of staff for Japan's Air Self-Defense Force after saying in an essay entitled True Perspective of Modern and Contemporary History that "it is certainly a false accusation to say that our country was an aggressor nation [in World War Two]".

The state-run China Daily commented that "The denial of the aggression history by Toshio Tamogami comes in as an element of disharmony, Yet, as long as the Japanese government has a right attitude to this question, the smooth development of ties between the two neighbors will not be derailed by such discordant notes".

However since his election as Prime Minister of Japan during the summer, Tamogami now was the head of government in Tokyo.

Clinton had spent much of her Presidency building good relations with China and was determined to bring Tamogami and Japan's recently rediscovered belligerence to heel.

Yet in Washington, neoconservatives were eyeing the November 2016 election with glee. Retired General David Petraeus had formed a Presidential Committee. Perhaps Tamogami was the strong man that America needed in the region, combatting both the inexorable rise of China, and also the war on terror with the Islamic forces in Indonesia. Because the hanging of Saddam Hussein had taught the neocons a big lesson about the geopolitical value of such regional strong men. America had been forced to watch the great nation of Iran fill the power vacuum created by his departure ...

In 1974, Karen Silkwood's car is run off the road by a mysterious black car, and flips several times before coming to rest.

Silkwood SurvivesShe had been working at the Kerr-McGee Cimarron Fuel Fabrication Site plant near Crescent, Oklahoma. Silkwood's job was making plutonium pellets for nuclear reactor fuel rods. She joined the union and became an activist on behalf of issues of health and safety at the plant as a member of the union's negotiating team, the first woman to have that position at Kerr-McGee. In the summer of 1974, she had testified to the Atomic Energy Commission about her concerns. For three days in November, she was found to have high levels of contamination on her person and in her home. While driving to a meeting that month with David Burnham, a New York Times journalist, and Steve Wodka, an official of her union's national office, she was involved in a car accident under mysterious circumstances.

Miraculously, Silkwood survives the crash with only minor injuries. Ms. Silkwood was carrying evidence of negligence towards safety at the nuclear power plant she worked in; her work resulted in the closing of the Kerr-McGee plant in Crescent, Oklahoma, and the indictment of its owners on several counts of criminal negligence.

In 1964, the King of Soul Sam Cooke gave a press conference in Los Angeles, in which he claimed that he had been the victim of an attempted mob hit just two days before.

Sam Cooke SetupIn being one of the first African American musicians to attempt to take control of his own destiny, Cooke attended to the business side of his musical career and in so doing clashed with the rocket label, the mob and the Nation of Islam. He had abandoned his backers and some shadowy people were severely out of pocket.

The hit had been carefully stage managed. He had checked into the the Hacienda Hotel, a cheap hotel where he could meet with new potential backers. Whilst showering, all of his clothes had been stolen from the room. Cooke had approached the Motel Manager wearing just a towel, and she had immediately began to scream rape. Whereupon two men set upon Cooke who barely escaped with is life. Police investigations could not trace either the Motel Manager or the two guests, which Cooke believed was further evidence of a setup.

In 2004, Chelsea Perkins has her first meeting with the Council of Wisdom, where her father has been forced to bring her. The Council is very rude to Chelsea, who is rude right back. This impresses the people on the Council, who agree with Terrence Perkins that her learning must be accelerated so that she can face the danger that is coming for her.
In 2002, the robot ship carrying Professor Thomas and Air Force Captain Trent Laughlin surges to the very edge of the sensors Dr. Courtney and his fleet are able to use to track them. Dr. Courtney commands one of his ships to break off pursuit and head to earth, so that at least someone will return from this mission. The other two ships follow him.
In 1974, the Kerr-McGee nuclear power plant in Crescent, Oklahoma suffers a horrific meltdown, killing all of the workers inside the plant as well as half the population of Crescent. The radiation spreads across Oklahoma and reaches as far as southwestern Mexico, causing cancer rates to skyrocket and killing many animals as well as people. The owners of Kerr-McGee, who had been suspected of negligence, are now jailed for it; small comfort to the people injured by their plant.
In 1969, a demonstration against the war in Vietnam provoked President Nixon into a personal confrontation with peace marchers who were carrying posters with the names of the 45,000 dead from the war. When the march came the White House, Nixon met the leaders and began berating them, calling them communists and dupes. When the crowd grew ugly, only the swift action of Secret Servicemen was able to keep Nixon from being attacked. The incident was hideously embarrassing for Nixon, and weakened the rest of his single term in office.
In 1890, after a long night of torture by Charles Brigman's rebel Mormon band, Colonel Beauregard T. Jackson is brought before Brigman. "Beg me for your life, Colonel", Brigman demands Jackson. When Jackson refuses, Brigman says, "Then you can measure your life in hours. We will execute you at sunrise".
In 1969, after a rip in the space/time continuum threw him into his own future, Corporal Jeffrey Thompson of California returns to Vietnam and re-enlists for another tour of duty. He eventually leaves the country with a silver star for bravery, and goes back home to college and a career as a real estate speculator. He also became a philanthropist, giving millions to homeless shelters across the state.
In 1789, President George Washington ended his disastrous tour of the states that had recently ratified the constitution by slinking back to his home in Mount Vernon, Virginia. Washington had taken several slaves with him during the tour, and their presence had incited many crowds to boo the new president in the free states.
In 1998, Friday the 13th proved to be good luck for President William Clinton - the sexual harassment lawsuit against him was dismissed as "without merit", in the judge's decision. The rest of Clinton's presidency went from triumph to triumph as he outmaneuvered the Republican Congress and managed to engineer his succession by his Vice-President, Al Gore, and a new Democratic majority in both houses of Congress in the elections of 2000.
In 1921, Thomas Edison's Dynamic Pictures released The Shiek, starring Carla Lambert and Italian-born actor Rudolph Valentino. Valentino immediately becomes a sex symbol, although one detractor accused him of "the effeminization of the American male".
In 1312, Pope Edward III was born. Edward's mother and father contested the papacy bitterly, and Edward was crowned at 14 when his father was deposed. Although his mother effectively reigned as Pope during most of his teen years, Edward came into his own when he reached manhood, and faced many challenges during his reign of the Holy British Empire, not the least of which was the devastation of the Black Death.

On this day in 1962, Soviet troops and missile crews began withdrawing from Cuba under the terms of the cease-fire pact that ended the Florida Coast War.                        

Crisis Over
Crisis Over - Armwrestling
In 1953, a Textbook Committee Member in the Soviet of Indiana denounced the classic tale of Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott as being "a piece of imperialist, counter-revolutionary trash", and threatened to ban references to it in the soviet's textbooks. Mrs. Fiona White was voted down by other members of the committee, who felt the tale of a knight trying to bring back his king was essentially harmless to the psyches of young comrades.
In 1949, noted child actor Caryn Johnson was born in New York City. She started acting as a girl of 8 in small stage productions with black theater companies in the city, and moved on to films and television roles during her teens. Like many child actors, she had her problems with drugs once she became an adult, but comedy turned out to be her rehab clinic. During her 30's, she started touring the country with a stand-up routine, and soon became nationally famous as "the funniest woman in America". Ms. Johnson used that fame to go back to dramatic roles on occasion, winning the Oscar for her lead role in "The Color Purple", but comedy has always been where she returns.
In 1980, Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan "Yoni" Netanyahu and other veterans of the Entebbe Raid arrive secretly in the United States. Whilst there, they will post mortem Operation Eagle Claw, the failed military operation to rescue the 53 hostages from the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran on April 24, 1980. And come up with a new, improved plan.
In 4578, the Siamese-Vietnamese War Memorial was erected in Beijing. The design was controversial at first, but after the opening, lauded as brilliant - it was simply a black stone wall, engraved with the names of all the slain soldiers of the war. Emperor Min-Yuan, on seeing the wall at the opening, wept openly, but viewed the entire length of the wall.

In 2007, jurors in Galveston, Tex., heard opening arguments on Tuesday in the trial of a bird-watching enthusiast who fatally shot a cat that he said was stalking endangered shorebirds. The defendant, James M. Stevenson, is the founder of the Galveston Ornithological Society and leads bird-watching tours on this Gulf Coast island 60 miles southeast of Houston. If convicted on animal cruelty charges in the shooting last November, he faces up to twenty-five years in jail and a $1,000,000 fine. Mr. Stevenson, 54, does not deny using a .22-caliber rifle fitted with a scope to kill the cat, which lived under the San Luis Pass toll bridge, linking Galveston to the mainland. He also admits killing many other cats on his own property, where he operates a bed and breakfast for some of the estimated 500,000 birders who come to the island every year.

Birder - James M. Stevenson
James M. Stevenson

In 2007, unambigous evidence of collusion was established between Pakistan's former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto and the military-led government of Gen Pervez Musharraf. A conspiratorial arrangement presupposes Gen Musharraf's early retirement from the army and a lifting of the emergency ahead of elections, which he says will be held before 9 January. It also presupposes a quick trial of Gen Musharraf's eligibility as president by the new Supreme Court, without which he is not ready to quit the army. Previously, there had been no way of knowing whether such an arrangement has been choreographed, with both Ms Bhutto and Gen Musharraf only playing to the galleries to earn credibility before they do what has been agreed. However copies of emails between Bhutto and Musharraf had been intercepted by al-Qaeda and the Taleban, who emerged as the unlikely defendants of liberty in the 'Fort of Islam'.

Benazir Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto - Opposition
On December 13, 2003 the military objectives for Operation Red Dawn are achieved when imperial forces in the British Protectorate of Mesopotamia finally capture the 'Shadow' outside Tikrit. Under the jingoist headline 'We got him', the Times of London newspaper reveals the secret identity as one Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majidida al-Tikriti, noting that the Arabic meaning of Saddam is 'one who confronts'. Also revealed in the same article is the Shadow's lead role in the assassination of Prince Charles of Great Britain during his victor's mission to Kuwait on June 26, 1993. By a twist of fate this tragic event led to the marriage of his widow to the Arab billionaire Dodi Al-Fayed. The Shadow's agents also pulled off a terrorist attack in St Pauls Cathedral at the ceremony in 1997, slightly injuring the British entertainer Elton John.

November 12

The short-lived days of the Roman Empire came to an end as Greek conqueror Pyrrhus of Epirus determined to finish off the growing city. What had once been a pack of exiles and bandits who could only gain wives by stealing them during a false olympics became Rome, a masterful city-state that had taken in numerous forced allies after years of expansionistic war in Italy.

278 BC - Pyrrhus Obliviates the RomansWhat had once been a pack of exiles and bandits who could only gain wives by stealing them during a false olympics became Rome, a masterful city-state that had taken in numerous forced allies after years of expansionistic war in Italy.

Originally of the Molossians, Pyrrhus's father had been dethroned, and he grew up in exile, learning the importance of military strength and political prowess. His father-in-law, Ptolemy of Egypt, restored him as king of Epirus in 297 BC, and Pyrrhus determined to expand his power. He attempted to conquer Macedon, but was defeated. In 281 BC, a new chance arose to build a league of allies when Tarentum on the southern end of Italy determined to revolt against the growing influence of Rome. The Oracle at Delphi told him "Aio te, AEacide, Romanos vincere posse", meaning, "I say, Pyrrhus, that you the Romans can conquer". Armed with 3,000 cavalry, 2,000 archers, 500 slingers, 20,000 infantry and 20 war elephants (much of his forces on lone from Egypt), Pyrrhus set off for his Italian campaign.

In 280 BC, he met the Romans in the Battle of Heraclea, defeating their larger army but taking tremendous losses not easily replaced as he was away from Epirus and his allies were wary of utterly declaring war on Rome. The Romans considered a treaty, but eventually declined and rebuilt a fresh army. The next year, he Pyrrhus again defeated the Romans at Asculum, and again his losses were so large that he commented, "One more such victory, and we shall be undone".

In 278 BC, Pyrrhus came upon two new opportunities. The Greek cities in Sicily approached him to drive out Carthage as he was driving the Romans out of southern Italy, and the Macedonians invited him to take the throne there as their king Ceraunus had been killed by barbarians. Both were glorious, but Pyrrhus determined his most important goal should be utter defeat of his present enemy, lest they counterattack and he lose his position as his father had. Taking up what was left in his coffers and forces, Pyrrhus stormed Rome with a grand army and left the city with no stone on top of another.

With Rome destroyed, Pyrrhus's influence in Italy was secure. He next took up the position as King of Sicily, driving out the Carthaginians and pacifying the Greeks in Sicily to be loyal under his command. Pyrrhus then returned to Macedon, and he was able to build up a system of diplomacy that make the Pyrrhic Empire the great power of the middle Mediterranean. He was invited by Cleonymus of Sparta to overthrow the city there, and Pyrrhus began his last campaign in 272 BC. He would be caught in the street fighting after successfully sneaking his army into the city and killed by a roofing tile thrown by an old woman. It seemed an unfitting end who Hannibal, the great statesman of the Carthaginians and conqueror of Gaul, called the greatest military commander in the world. His strategy of utterly destroying and absorbing his enemies gave birth to the phrase "Pyrrhic victory" in which a conquest is total.

In 1864, on this day William T. Sherman's Union forces captured Atlanta. An installment of the Federal's Lost Cause thread.

Federal Lost Cause Part 5: Atlanta falls too late to save LincolnAlthough it only had a population of ten thousand citizens, , the Confederacy's second-most important city was a vital rail and commercial centre and had thus become a critical point of contention. Northern newspapers covered the victory, reporting General Hood's burning of many military facilities as he evacuated. But it was too late for Lincoln who had lost the General Election just four days earlier. The war-weary mood of the Northern voters had sealed his fate. Even if the mis-perception of stagnant stalemate had now been corrected, the peace candidate George B. McClellan (pictured) had won out.

However the bigger picture was still transformed. First of all, "Little Mac" would not take office until March, by which time Lincoln might still be able to defeat the South. Even if not, he could force legislation through that enabled his successor to continue the fight throughout 1865 without needing to seek funding approval. And of course McClellan himself was a reluctant peace candidate (the party platform was actually written by Copperhead Clement Vallandigham of Ohio). And so there was a dawning realization that an independent Confederacy was unlikely to emerge from the US Civil War regardless of military outcome. A weighty factor was McClellan opposition to emancipation. The balance of probability then was that the Southern States would rejoin the Union under terms they would not have been offered by Lincoln, and therein lie the chief consequence of the electoral result of 1864.

In AD 60, a Roman army led by Gaius Suetonius Paulinus was trapped in an ambush set by the Iceni Queen Boudica.

The Battle of Watling StreetDue to poor command decisions, the occupying force only numbered ten thousand, comprising Legio XIV Gemina, parts of the XX Valeria Victrix, and any available auxiliaries (a third legion, II Augusta, near Exeter, failed to join them and a fourth, IX Hispana, had been routed trying to relieve Camulodunum). Whereas the alliance of indigenous British peoples had assembled a staggering two hundred and thirty thousand men. Although impresssive in numbers, this unorganized horde would have been no match for a disciplined force, had they met in open battle.

Although Nero had been seriously considering a withdrawal from the Islands, he was determined to punish the British and moveover the Province remained highly profitable. However the timing was off because unrest was on the boil. And soon enough the Year of the Four Emperors arrived and the reconquest of the British Isles was taken off the table until the time of Vespasian. Meanwhile Boudica consolidated both her alliance with the Kent and Sussex tribes and also the trading partnership with Gaul. The Romans had withdrawn from the British Isles, at least for Boudica's lifetime. It was a revenge of sorts for the violations that the Romans had inflicted upon her daughters.

In 1916, on this day businessman, author, mathematician, and astronomer Percival Lowell regained reason to live.

Lowell Regains Reason to Live Percival Lowell had lived a life that few could not envy. A Harvard graduate, he left the world of business for travel and spent much of the 1880s in the Far East. He served as a diplomat's aide and made a study of Korean and, more specifically, Japanese culture. From his trips to the region, he wrote three books: The Soul of the Far East (1888), Noto (1891), and Occult Japan (1894). In 1893, he decided to dedicate himself to astronomy, picking up where the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli had left off with a study of canals on the surface of Mars. The next year, Lowell used his fortune to establish the observatory in Arizona that bears his name.

Through his study, Lowell determined sketches of the canals on Mars and wrote three more books: Mars (1895), Mars and Its Canals (1906), and Mars As the Abode of Life (1908). As the twentieth century began, Lowell's ideas of the canals as symbols of an intelligent Martian race led to less and less credit among the astronomical community. The dispassion weighed on him, and he turned toward further research to reestablish his name. Taking discrepancies in the orbit of Uranus, Lowell calculated that some other body must exist beyond the orbit of Neptune, an unfound planet he dubbed "Planet X". Despite laborious searches, nothing from the photographs of the heavens could be determined to be such a planet.

In 1916, Lowell's life seemed to have run out. The World War weighed as heavily on him as the sneers from fellow astronomers. He had believed so much in humanity and the drive of human progress; reports of hundreds of thousands of young men slain on battlefields seemed to disprove that. Stresses had built up into his system, perhaps directing him to an early end of life. But, in the early hours of November 12, an aide hurriedly approached Lowell with prints from the photographic plates taken that March and April with a distant dot that may have been his Planet X.

Reinvigorated, Lowell threw himself into research. The planet looked too small to genuinely affect the mass of Uranus and Neptune, which caused him to recalculate the planetary masses. When this new mathematical arrangement seemed to fit better than the standard model, Lowell published his results in 1917. While some of the astronomical community became persuaded, the overall opinion was against him. Rather than falling under pressure as he had before, Lowell broke with standards and decided that humanity as a whole was becoming corrupt. If progress were to be made, it would be by smaller groups of like-minded, imaginative mini-cultures. He decided that hope for the future lay not in the overpopulated nations of the world but in individual creativity.

Lowell began bringing influential scientists and writers (including his sister, Amy) to his observatory, creating a new community. Some whispered that he was building a scientific cult, but Lowell had given up on impressing his fellows. Instead, he gathered funding and built up the observatory into not only an astronomical facility, but a place for research in numerous fields.

In 1920, Lowell came across a front page article in The New York Times about a lecturer at Clark University believing he could reach the Moon by means of rocketry. Dr. Robert Goddard proposed sending meteorological instruments into the upper atmosphere and even flash powder to the dark side of the Moon, illuminating it for astronomical study. The day after the article, an editorial in The Times trounced Goddard's ideas and concluded that he was a fool who had forgotten "the relation of action and reaction, and of the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react-to say that would be absurd". Lowell contacted Goddard through his connections at Clark University (where he had received an honorary degree in 1909), the two bonded over Goddard's explanation of the fallacy believed to be from Newton's laws of motion. When Lowell secured funding for Goddard's experiments, the latter joined him at the Observatory.

In 1923, Lowell was informed of another controversial thesis, this by a young German student, Hermann Oberth, entitled Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen ("By Rocket into Planetary Space"). Lowell became enamored with traveling not only to the Moon, but Mars itself, and invited him to join Goddard's research. Oberth, who also had been frowned upon by the academic communities as "utopian", accepted Lowell's invitation. Lowell would later invite Konstantin Tsiolkovsky after widespread publications of the genius's earlier work, but the Russian would decline to move to Arizona, instead maintaining a rigorous correspondence until Lowell's death in 1930.

Lowell died from a stroke February 18, 1930, many said caused by overwork. Since the Crash of the stock market, funding had begun to dry up, and Lowell worked continuously to keep his society running. While the '30s would be lean times at the Observatory, the explosion of need for technological development as the United States entered World War Two gave them something of a blank check. It is believed that Lowell's efforts, combined with yet another war, enabled mankind to achieve space flight in 1948, establish the Lowell Lunar Colony in 1961, and launch the Lowell Ares Program, establishing a Martian outpost in 1983. By that time, however, it had become obvious that Lowell's canals were only an optical illusion.

In 2009, on this day Michael Isikoff wrote this article in Newsweek Magazine ~ The Impeachment of Al Gore Next Essay. Be Careful What You Wish For None of this ever happened. But if George W. Bush had lost the election, it could have.

I. A New Day in Washington

It is hard to reconstruct, nine years later, just how inspiring Al Gore seemed when he first addressed the country after being declared the winner of the 2000 election. It was a moment that nobody in Washington ever anticipated--at least not until Justice Anthony Kennedy at the last minute flipped his vote in chambers on Bush v. Gore, thereby permitting the Florida recount to proceed. (And even then, Gore was able to eke out a razor-thin 107-vote victory only when the Florida Supreme Court ordered that all disputed ballots be tallied.)

The Impeachment of Al GoreBut as Republicans cried foul, Gore, on Christmas Eve, rose to the occasion. "What remains of partisan rancor must now be put aside," he declared in a nationwide television address in which he vowed to do "everything possible" to bring Americans together, including naming Republicans to his cabinet. Gore fulfilled his pledge two days later by picking John McCain as his defense secretary. Soon enough, the pundits were predicting that Gore had the potential to usher in a new "post-partisan" era in American politics that would make the country forget the nasty divisiveness of the Clinton years. Little could they imagine that, within a few short years, Gore would have embroiled the country in two unpopular wars, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Or that, blamed for failing to stop the deadliest attack ever on American soil, he would confront a harrowing impeachment trial in the Senate that would make Clinton's Lewinsky troubles seem like a frolic.

II. The Troubles Begin

Gore's political woes began within minutes after he took office on Jan. 20, 2001. A new article from Newsweek MagazineNo sooner had he finished his inaugural address than a firestorm erupted over Bill Clinton's last-minute pardon of fugitive financier named Marc Rich. Although Gore had known nothing about Rich or the pardon, his White House was immediately under siege. Jack Quinn, a longtime adviser who was Gore's first vice presidential chief of staff, had later become Rich's chief lawyer. Sources inside the Justice Department leaked word that Quinn had gotten a crucial assist when Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder, Gore's nominee to be A.G., told the White House he was "[neutral, leaning toward favorable" on a Rich pardon.

Career prosecutors at Justice were outraged. Inside the White House, tempers flared. "I can't believe the goddamn Clintons did this to us again!" First Lady Tipper Gore was reported to have screamed to her husband one night over dinner.

When NEWSWEEK reported on Feb. 10 that federal prosecutors in New York were considering a criminal investigation into the pardon, Republicans saw their opening. "How could the Gore Justice Department possibly investigate itself?" thundered Rep. Dan Burton, who, as chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, had already announced hearings. Even The New York Times editorial page agreed. Before the week was through, Holder's nomination was withdrawn. ("I'm done. Public life is over for me," he told The Washington Post.) As the price for getting the president's new nominee (Jamie Gorelick) confirmed, the administration had no choice but to capitulate to GOP demands for an independent investigation. Gore's term had barely begun and already he was saddled with that hallmark of the Clinton era--a special prosecutor.

III. A Gathering Storm

Yet there were even graver threats looming beneath the surface in those early days. On Jan. 25, 2001, CIA Director George Tenet (whom Gore had decided to retain) told the new president in a briefing that the "preliminary judgment" of the U.S. intelligence community was that Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda was responsible for the bombing of the USS Cole, which had killed 17 U.S. sailors off the coast of Yemen the previous October. That very same day, Richard Clarke, the White House counterterrorism adviser and another Clinton holdover, wrote Gore a fateful memo urging him to retaliate for the Cole bombing. "We have got to destroy these guys, Mr. President. If we don't, there will be more attacks," Clarke would later testify he told Gore that day in a private conversation outside the Situation Room. As Clarke recounted the exchange in his testimony at the House impeachment hearings (and in a bestselling book that somehow managed to come out the same day), Gore brushed him off: "Enough already, Dick. I know all about Al Qaeda. We'll get them. But now is not the time".

Gore would hear much the same thing from Tenet four months later when the CIA director presented a National Security Council (NSC) briefing about the alarming uptick in threat warnings about Al Qaeda. "The system is blinking red," an exasperated Tenet told Gore on June 30. Gore was troubled and told the CIA director to "stay on top of this one". But Gore once again insisted that there was nothing he could do about Al Qaeda right away. He had too much on his plate--like winning congressional passage of his new climate-change tax-credit proposals. Besides, the public had forgotten all about the Cole bombing. The U.S. military also had given him no good targets for hitting bin Laden. "What's the point of pounding sand?" asked McCain, echoing the views of the Joint Chiefs, at the NSC meeting that day.

Frustrated at the administration's lack of attention, intelligence-agency officials made another attempt to drive home their concerns about Al Qaeda. On Aug. 6, while Gore was on vacation at the family farm outside Carthage, Tenn., the CIA presented a President's Daily Brief (PDB) with the eye-grabbing title: "Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S". Gore poured over the PDB and repeatedly underlined key portions. "Damnit, I want the FBI all over this right away," he told Gorelick in a phone call later that morning. But still, the brief was sketchy, offering no specifics or any proposed course of action. Certainly, there was nothing that dissuaded Gore later that day from directing White House lawyers to finish up work on a document intended to fulfill one of his campaign promises--an executive order banning religious, ethnic, or racial profiling by federal law-enforcement officials.

IV. The White House Under Siege

Gore signed the executive order at a White House ceremony on Sept 10. The next day, he flew off to Detroit for an education event at an inner-city school. He was reading a book to second graders about the effect of global warming on polar bears, Where Did All the Little Bears Go?, when his new chief of staff, Ron Klain, whispered in his ear that two airplanes had slammed into the World Trade Towers and that "America is under attack".

Gore flew back to Washington that afternoon and rallied the country. "This will not stand," Gore proclaimed. "We will not shrink from doing whatever it takes to prevail against the terrorists who did this to us". At a Camp David meeting later that month, Gore assembled his war council and gave the approval for an immediate invasion of Afghanistan.

As Bob Woodward later reported in his book Gore at War, some on the president's team--notably Vice President Joe Lieberman and McCain--wanted even bolder moves. "What about Iraq?" Lieberman asked. "Shouldn't we be going after Saddam as well?" Gore, according to Woodward's explosive account, thought Lieberman was "out of his mind". At Camp David, he curtly cut his vice president off. "Joe, this has nothing to do with Saddam," Gore said, ending the discussion. "Let's stay focused here".

Once the initial shock of 9/11 wore off and the Taliban fled Kabul, Republicans in Congress started demanding a full-scale investigation of how the country had found itself defenseless against a tiny band of terrorists. "We need to know who knew what and when about bin Laden," Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said in early November. The same day, Sen. Arlen Specter introduced a resolution (cosponsored by every Republican in the Senate) creating a special Senate panel to probe the 9/11 attacks. Others in the GOP (and on the right-wing talk-radio shows) blamed nine years of "spineless" Democratic national security decisions that began when Bill Clinton pulled U.S. troops out of Somalia in 1993 and continued right up to Gore's failure to retaliate for the Cole bombing. Democrats were aghast at the GOP hypocrisy: Wasn't it Specter who, just three years earlier, had suggested that Clinton's decision to retaliate for the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa was a "diversionary" move to distract attention from the Lewinsky scandal? And Lott who had said much the same thing when Clinton bombed Iraq?

But by now, the administration was reeling. In April 2002, The Washington Post obtained leaked FAA documents and e-mails showing that nine of the 9/11 hijackers--including all five on American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon--had been flagged for secondary screening the morning of the attacks by an agency computer system known as CAPPs, set up to identify potentially dangerous passengers. (The flagged hijackers had purchased one-way tickets and paid for them with cash.) But the airlines were barred from using the CAPPs warning as a basis to question the passengers themselves. Why? A commission on aviation security headed by Gore in 1997 had recommended against any extra questioning and frisking of passengers on the grounds that it might cause undue "inconvenience" or "embarrassment" for some religious or ethnic groups. "Does anyone here have any doubt we could have saved thousands of lives had it not been for those ridiculous [Gore] commission rules?" one internal FAA official had written in one of the most damning of the leaked e-mails.

Three weeks later The New York Times--quoting unnamed "U.S. intelligence officials"--reported the title of the bombshell Aug. 6, 2001, PDB about bin Laden's plans to attack. The first resolution of impeachment was introduced in the House the same afternoon. "Gore Knew" screamed the headline in the New York Post the next day.

V. Impeachment and Trial in the Senate

The summer of 2002 was agony for the White House. Each day, as the House Judiciary Committee pursued its impeachment inquiry, there were new leaks about government screw-ups in the run-up to 9/11. Despite Gore's orders to Tenet and Gorelick, his directives had never made their way to the field. The CIA didn't tell the FBI about two of the hijackers who had entered the country. The FBI had failed to follow up on warnings about Arabs attending U.S. flight schools. These and more foul-ups had taken place, the Republicans charged, because the Gore White House had been "asleep at the switch". "They were more interested in promoting their extremist climate-change agenda than in protecting the country," declared Dick Cheney, the losing 2000 GOP vice-presidential candidate in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute (where he served on the board). When Republicans scored an overwhelming victory in the 2002 congressional elections, locking up commanding majorities in both chambers, Gore's presidency seemed in peril.

On Jan. 20, 2003, two years to the day after he had been sworn in, Gore was impeached by a lopsided vote of 285-150. To make their case, the House impeachment leaders had crafted an article that charged Gore with the "high crime" of "dereliction of duty". But then, to mollify demands of libertarian conservatives like Grover Norquist (of the anti-tax advocacy group Americans for Tax Reform) and the NRA, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay included an extra article of impeachment that focused on Gore's post 9/11 actions, accusing the president of violating the constitutional rights of Americans by holding some terror suspects as "enemy combatants" and--even worse--issuing an executive order that blocked gun sales to thousands of citizens whose names had been added to the FBI's rapidly expanding terrorist watch list. (NRA "action alerts" trumpeted "horror stories" about innocent Americans being placed on the watch list and then denied their Second Amendment rights--all thanks to the "gun grabbers" at the White House.) The so-called civil liberties article seemed a stroke of political genius: not only had it whipped up enthusiasm for impeachment in rural America, but it had also attracted cautious support even from liberals appalled by the roundups of illegal aliens and other crackdowns of the Gorelick Justice Department.

White House political advisers warned Gore he needed to take bold action to save his presidency--and there was only one obvious option on the table: invade Iraq. Gore had thought the whole idea of an Iraq invasion made no sense and was based on skimpy evidence. But McCain and Lieberman--egged on by influential columnists like Tom Friedman and The Washington Post editorial page--had never given up their campaign for war. They relentlessly pushed Tenet to make his "best case" to Gore. When Tenet told the president in December 2002 that it was a "slam dunk" that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, Gore had seemed annoyed. "This isn't a basketball game, George," Gore had shot back, demanding to know how many sources the agency really had in Baghdad. ("None," Tenet was forced, sheepishly, to admit.)

But by the spring, Gore's resistance to an invasion began to soften, especially after his secretary of state, Richard Holbrooke--who had previously been on the fence--finally sided with the hawks. Holbrooke cited evidence--purportedly gleaned from the interrogation of a Qaeda detainee rendered to Egypt by the CIA--that Iraq had trained Qaeda operatives to use chemical weapons and might even be helping them acquire nuclear weapons. "We can't wait for the smoking gun in the form of a mushroom cloud, Mr. President," Holbrooke, with his flair for melodrama, said at one cabinet meeting. Under pressure, Gore caved. On March 20, 2003, on the very day his impeachment trial began in the Senate, Gore announced that he had ordered the U.S. military to invade Iraq--not for the purpose of overthrowing Saddam's regime--but to find "every last one of his WMDs".

The limited purpose of the invasion drew howls of derision from conservatives. But as American troops marched into Baghdad and were hailed as heroes (if less by the Iraqis than by American reporters who had been "embedded" with the military), public opinion started to swing back to Gore. To be sure, American soldiers couldn't find any WMDs or Qaeda terrorists either. But Saddam fled his palace and Gore proclaimed the country "liberated". Meanwhile, in his Senate trial, DeLay's maneuver of combining an article impeaching the president for doing too little to protect the country with another one impeaching him for doing too much started to backfire. "This is an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink case," proclaimed Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle. "And can our Republican friends really sit here with a straight face and tell us that if George W. Bush had been elected president he would have done anything different about Al Qaeda than President Gore".

Still, the vote was nerve-bitingly close and very much in doubt until GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham--heavily lobbied by his friend McCain--gave a dramatic floor speech announcing he would vote to acquit. "I care about this country too much to vote to impeach two presidents in a row," said Graham, who had been one of the House floor managers for Clinton's impeachment four years earlier. Much as Justice Kennedy's last-minute switch had made Gore president, Graham's unexpected about-face in the Senate saved him--by one vote.

VI. The Final Days

The rest, as they say, is history. Gore narrowly won reelection in 2004--but only because Cheney, his GOP opponent, had terrified the country by declaring he wanted to invade Iran and, "if they don't shape up," Syria, North Korea, and Venezuela as well. Within months into his second term, Gore found he was saddled with two wars--neither of which was going well. To invade Iraq, Gore had been forced to pull troops and logistical support out of Afghanistan, resulting in a resurgence of the Taliban (and the escape of bin Laden and Al Qaeda through the mountains of Tora Bora. In Iraq, a Sunni insurgency was spreading rapidly, throwing the country into chaos and resulting in the deaths of 3,000 Americans by the end of 2006. Gore--who had never wanted to invade Iraq in the first place--was heartsick over the slaughter. He began looking for an exit strategy. In December 2006, he rejected calls for a "surge" of new troops to Iraq and adopted the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, chaired by former secretary of state Jim Baker and former Indiana congressman Lee Hamilton, calling for a phased withdrawal. McCain resigned. Sources close to Lieberman put out word he was considering abandoning the Democrats. By Gore's last year, his approval ratings were at historic lows in the mid-30s.

Small wonder then that, in 2008, Americans elected GOP candidate and former Florida governor Jeb Bush--who pledged to clean up the mess in Washington and restore America's honor and prestige around the world. He trounced Gore's handpicked successor, John Kerry. The Gore years were over. A new era, the Age of Bush, was about to begin.

In 1921, two years after the Confederacy sought to regain the so-called "occupied territories" at Versailles, the Great Powers conducted further round table talks at the Washington Naval Conference. This time around the goal was to defuse the naval arms race that was threatening the fragile world peace that had existed since the end of the Great War.

Washington Naval Conference by Michael N. Ryan & EdIn reality, relations between the United States and Britain had been at boiling point even before the Trent Affair. And ever since the scuttling of the Reichsmarine at the Scapa Flow, tension had escalated sharply. Matters had worsened in Paris, with the British advocating the return of the "occupied territories" to the CSA as part of a comprehensive peace settlement.

Both navies had been rebuilding at a frightening rate, and the new sixteen inch guns that were being fitted on battleships would soon be upgraded to eighteen. Worse still, Japan, France and Italy had now joined the arms race too. The Union insisted upon a formula for a larger allocation of capital ships because of her commitments in both the Atlantic and the Pacific.

As if that demand wasn't offensive enough, the Americans also took the opportunity to break the naval codes of the Japanese delegation led by Admiral Yamamoto (pictured). It was a bad mistake that would bring the Japanese strongly into the British camp. And when the British offered the Japanese shared usage of the new super-modern fortified port at Singapore, the Union would wake up to some grave new security threats in the Pacific theatre.

Older Posts

© Today in Alternate History, 2013-. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.