"Power Without Knowledge...": President Haig and the Era of Bad Feelings

Not an update per se, but as I said I've been tinkering with ideas for this setting for quite a while, and I decided to chart the course of that development by digging up some old posts I made. These are broad strokes canon but obviously changes I've made to the timeline make certain "historical" details obsolete.

As I said earlier, I've been kicking around a few ideas, which I've lumped under an ideology I'm calling Cosmicism. It basically boils down to 3 paradoxical axioms, with everything else built over top of them.
  1. Given the sheer scale of the universe, the depth of history and the magnitude of the existential threats facing human civilization, an individual human life has very little inherent value. However, this lack of inherent worth allows each person a great deal of latitude to act in ways that generate percieved value.
  2. The modern world is inextricable from the history that preceded it (something I think everyone here could agree with), however, the combination of advancing technology, political nihilism and late stage capitalism have rendered older systems of historiography obsolete.
  3. In order to effectively manage modern crisis, action is needed at a collosal scale, as mass action is the only way that individuals can make an indelible impact on an uncertain future. However, mass action is susceptible to demagoguery, which must be resisted at all costs.
These three positions form the basis of the ideology that I've been constructing. In practice, it focuses primarily on the precariat as the necessary core of class action. The precariat is a large and, I believe, growing subsection of the population, and would rejoice at measures capable of providing security and sustainability while also allowing a wide latitude for personal decision making. As social instability worsens, the ranks of the precariat will swell as new conditions create new vectors for instability in people's lives, eventually creating a small, well-insulated elite separated by a vast gulf from the insecurity suffered by most of the human population.

A Cosmicist world order would essentially boil down to a form of widespread (ideally continental or close to it) federalism, where individual cultural/regional/religious units are able to coexist with each other and act together to balance against a central government. Economically a mixed economy would be favored, with certain state interventions in order to protect workers rights and manage environmental concerns, with a focus on renewable energy sources and, with technological development, resources mined remotely in space. Socially, this ideology would promote great freedom of personal action, so long as that action does not harm others or undermine social stability. Take all the drugs you like and say whatever you please, but harm another person or actively subvert the state and you get thrown in the hole.

On a global scale, this hypothetical "regionalist international" would function as a confederation of a small number of equal members, acting jointly to steward the environment and develop habitable space beyond Earth. This would be the first step in a singularitarian plan to spread the human race as far as possible, reducing the chances that a single cataclysmic event (or the results of our own stupidity) would destroy the entirety of the species. It's a little rough right now but I hope to expand it, and discussion would be welcome.
Here's one I've been thinking a bit on, the POD is that Alexander Haig becomes Reagan's VP. After the Reagan assassination, Haig's aggressive foreign policy over his two presidential terms contributes to a wildly different international and domestic environment, leading to an election in 2020 contested between five political parties, each claiming to inherent bits and pieces of the preceding three. It's a matter of academic debate whether the current state of affairs represents the logical extreme of the polarization of the Sixth Party System or is so different that it can only be considered a Seventh. Politics in the twenty-first century is divided into two groups, the Establishment (which has national appeal and viability) and the Opposition (which has neither).

The Establishment (from right to left)

America First Party: Considered the most socially conservative faction of the modern American political landscape, the America First Party favors strict controls on immigration, vigorous defense of religious liberty and other cultural wedge issues, and supports government intervention directed at achieving those ends. The party is also incredibly hawkish on foreign policy, particularly against the Soviet Union, although there has been a noticeable softening on the Republic of China, coupled with swirling rumors of that nation's undue influence on the president. The standard bearer for the party is President Buchanan, who won election to his first term as the second president elected by the Reform Party. Far more right wing than President Perot, Buchanan looked on as the political system fragmented, consolidating the most conservative elements of Reform and the Republicans in an effort to secure reelection. Ties to the Myrmidon Militia hate group have gone uninvestigated by the Department of Justice. The symbol of the America First Party is a lion representing pride and power.

Freedom Party: Largely a collection of libertarians, free market proselytizers, and small government isolationists, the Freedom Party is primarily descended from ideological strains within the Republican party, although the secession of the AFP has allowed in a bit more cultural liberalism. Largely favoring the withering away of government, Freedom is widely accused by its critics of supporting authoritarian corporate control over a publicly accountable government and is widely seen as beholden to corporate interest, particularly in the tech industry. The only non-interventionist party in the modern spectrum, the Freedom Party opposes the expansive American military footprint, with longstanding US support for the Duvalier regime in West Quisqueya (and their controversial chemical weapons program) and the decades spent fighting in Kurdistan being attacked repeatedly in Freedom political ads. The symbol of the Freedom Party is a rattlesnake calling back to the Gadsden flag.

New Federalist Party: Largely bipartisan in origin and attempting to corner the market on a hypothetical "moral majority" opposed to the climate of ideological insanity, the New Federalist Party is ironically the most radical of the modern parties in some respects, favoring a broad variety of structural reforms meant to bring a better consensus to government. Although opposed to calls from more leftward parties to eliminate the electoral college, for example, the Neofeds support reforms to make the selection of electors more reflective of the popular vote, along with making changes to the size and structure of the Supreme Court and altering the length of terms in the House. The biggest thing going against the New Federalists is that most of their proposed changes require a hefty constitutional lift, and their opponents on either end of the spectrum despise them.The Neofeds use a tree as their symbol to represent their "living document" view on the Constitution.

Progressive Party: Made up of the identitarian left of the former Democratic Party, the Progressives are largely focused on dismantling structural inequalities in American society, but have noticeable problems with factionalism. Socially liberal (though not necessarily socialist), the Progressive Party favors a government that strongly enforces civil rights laws and supports the less fortunate but otherwise leaves citizens to their business, and the party is especially concerned with the spiralling War on Drugs, originally formalized by Haig as the continuation of the "Reagan Revolution". The legacy of these programs, particularly a growing epidemic of drug overdoses and the extreme militarization of local police, has fed into the wariness of the Progressive electorate toward a martial rather than a supportive government. Digging into the history books, the Progressive Party uses a bull moose as their electoral symbol.

American Socialist Party: On the far left of the modern American party system, the American Socialist Party formed after an exodus of Democrats worried about a focus on "identity issues" cobbled a viable party together with the Greens and the Democratic Socialists. Focusing largely on class issues, Socialist proposals range from making sweeping changes to existing institutions all the way to calls on the far fringes for a new constitutional convention. Admittedly bound by ideological rigidity, the Socialist Party has repeatedly refused to disavow the Weathermen, a group of anti-fascist activists that works to disrupt the activities of the other political parties and has been accused of militancy by Freedom and the AFP. Wanting to distance themselves rhetorically from the Soviet Union, the Socialists have abandoned red as a signature color and have settled on the bison as an all-American symbol.

The Opposition (basically all over the place)


Regional Responsibility: Though not strictly a political party in the traditional sense, Regional Responsibility still plays an important role in the political ecosystem of the United States. Originally inspired by American involvement in the Kurdish Revolution, the Regionalists are a broad based coalition of groups representing states, ecoregions, tribal groups and ideological minorities fighting for the devolution of governing power to the state and local level, and runs the gamut from reactionary to revolutionary elements. This ideological schizophrenia makes organizing successfully on a national level nearly impossible, but is considered a feature of the movement rather than a bug as the maxim that "all politics is local" is considered the rallying cry of the movement. Ironically, Regional Responsibility affiliates with similar groups throughout the world, particularly in the Paneuropean Union. Although different factions use different symbols, the Establishment parties used a turkey to denigrate the movement, and it seems to have caught on out of spite.

Radio Free America: Another bit player on the stage, steeped in meme magic and elaborate trolling, Radio Free America is a disorganized and anarchic protest movement ironically appropriating the facade of a political party. Focused largely on disruption for the sake of disruption and crusading for an end to the copyright and patent systems the Pirates are largely considered a nuisance by the Establishment, although they maintain a fairly steady stream of small dollar contributions. Radio Free America uses a tree frog as a symbol of the movement, with the spots forming a skull and crossbones.
Because I actually want to do something with all of this stuff here's a few more political parties for more countries in the TL. These all exist at the narrative present relative to my US politics post:

Paneuropean Union- Established in 1993 to safeguard the security of Western Europe from renewed Soviet aggression as the United States began to look elsewhere, the Paneuropean Union is a centrist federation with a common currency, single economic market, and standing army. The PEU does not have federal level political parties, but rather two large coalitions made up of national parties working more or less in harmony.

  • The Mountain: Originating in France, the Mountain is a coalition of the left-leaning parties of the PEU, generally favoring strong social welfare, protection for unions, and enforced laïceté on a continental level achieved through a strong federal government. Accused of being appeasers and apologists to the USSR, the Mountain is distrusted by the Levellers, and despised by the Underground.

  • The Levellers: The second major pole of Paneuropean politics and originating in the UK, the Levellers focus much more on preserving the rights of the national governments of the PEU against centralized encroachment and favor religious pluralism in public and private life. Taking a hard line against encroachment by the USSR, the Levellers are firm supporters of the military, viewing a strong defense as the supreme guarantor of national liberties in Western Europe.

  • The Underground- A populist movement in West Germany, the Underground does not compete at the federal level on the continent, and is considered to the extreme right on the European political spectrum. Viewing the entire Paneuropean project as a shadowy path to Communist style tyranny, the Underground opposes what it views as "government overreach by a bloated corps of continentalist apparatchiks". There have been repeated calls for a referendum to take Germany out of the federation, but recent polling indicates this latest attempt will fail like all the others.

Union of Soviet Socialist Republics- After enacting a series of market reforms, the USSR has attempted to reverse its long term decline through military adventurism both internally (against Chechens and other minority ethnic groups) and externally (seeking to isolate and bully Konigsberg through an artificial island boondoggle in the Baltic Sea, most notably). The USSR and US are currently in the midst of an ugly trade war, putting strain on both economies.

  • United Communist Party: Formed in the wake of the August Coup and the Gorbachev assassination, the United Communist Party was a rebranding attempt meant to mask discontent with the Soviet system. Currently lead by Premier Zhirinovsky, the party platform has a tendency to change based on political expediency, but a connection to Marxist-Leninism is always maintained, no matter how tenuously.

Republic of China- In the wake of popular protests against the Communist Party, the People's Republic of China would dissolve despite all attempts to save it, with one reform plan being reworked, leading to the formation of the Republic of China. Seeking to draw on the tradition of the original ROC, China paradoxically is also attempting to draw on both the Communist and Nationalist sides of the Chinese Civil War.

  • Chinese Democratic Party: The only political party of note in China, the Democratic Party is firmly controlled by a clique of insiders widely considered a corrupt oligarchy. The CDP seeks to maintain an expansive foreign presence for Chinese markets, making trade deals with several African nations while also attempting to isolate Japan. Unusually the DPC is also extremely pro-Israel, exploiting a split between that country and the United States in order to maintain a strategic influence in the Middle East.
This one, meanwhile, would be some sort of future history epilogue of the same timeline.

As resource scarcity, climate change, and international terrorism ratcheted up global tensions, the nations of the world began to look with rapacious eyes toward the last unclaimed real estate on Earth, Antarctica. As climate change melted the southern ice, resources became more accessible even if the conditions of extracting that bounty remained extremely harsh. In theory it could solve several problems at once, as a convict labor system could be used to reduce demand for resources elsewhere while allowing a relief valve for a variety of population pressures while maintaining access for crews of researchers documenting the rapidly shifting conditions on the continent. This shortsighted approach would come to an abrupt and violent end with the outbreak of the Antarctic Revolution and the birth of the Altrurian Revolutionary Combine (derided by its enemies as the "Southern Reich") under the firm hand of the Cosmicist Southern Vanguard. Born in the wake of serious global convulsions, Cosmicism was a political theory pioneered by American genre writer Daniel Sutter starting in 2020 with the publication of his nonfiction opus The Cosmicist Manifesto. Declaring that "the greatest enemy of the human endeavor is the end, and the surest path to the end is precarity", Cosmicism was an attempt to create a diverse and self-described paradoxical ideology devoted to "preserving the past, pioneering the future, and enshrining freedom and security through mass populist action and global political unity". Facing serious backlash from entrenched power structures the world over, which he derided as "the dying gasps of the Leviathan's Kyriarchy", Cosmicism has only been fully realized in the ARC.

Cosmicist Southern Vanguard: The only legally recognized political party in the ARC, the Vanguard is divided into two broad factions that struggle for power in the eight Territories that make up the nation. While both factions favor centralized government and champion individual freedom of action, the Technocracy faction favors industrial development in order to counter the hostile Fallen World and seeks to rapidly develop a space program in order to establish outposts beyond the Earth to ensure continuity of government and second strike capability in the event of what is viewed as an inevitable attack. To this end Technocracy values immigration by highly skilled prospective citizens who can contribute to this development. In contrast, the Social Ecology faction wishes to preserve as much natural space as possible on the continent, limiting development and attempting to engineer new organisms from preserved native stock to fill niches in the rapidly transforming ecozone and ensure robust (if largely artificial) biodiversity. Extremely distrustful of "unpredictable dilution of the Cosmicist project by unstable foreign elements", Social Ecology opposes all immigration from nations that do not adopt a Cosmicist system and favors a longer term and less destructive space program geared largely toward peacefully achieving autarky by extracting resources throughout the solar system. The Southern Vanguard uses an octopus, a common Cosmicist metaphor, as a symbol.
Super fun stuff! I had one for a future history thing I'm working on called Cosmicism. Basically, society is divided between the Precariat (whose unifying characteristic is instability in consistent quality of life) and Kyriarchy (which is not a specific class or group but rather the web of connections that destabilizes the Precariat, and whoever profits off of it based on local context). Because climate shifts and resource scarcity (among other factors) expand the Precariat class by destabilizing existing societies it is the desire of Cosmicism to spread to encompass the entire human race, where the second stage goal becomes two-fold. First, because it considers itself a stabilizing force the entirety of human cultural history must be studied and preserved to serve as part of a universal human toolkit/monument to the human endeavor. Second, Cosmicism strives to expand human society beyond the Earth, both to extract resources (preserving the Earth's environment) and to prevent the total extinction of the human race in the event of a catastrophe.

While fundamentally a big government ideology (and categorically convinced of individual insignificance on a historical scale), Cosmicism is actually a fairly libertarian ideology, on the basis that anything that doesn't threaten the cultural history/technical progress of the human race, or public order, or long term species survivability more generally is allowed. Human insignificance ironically makes most personal stuff far beneath concern for the state, and makes the cult of personality "Great Man" style of politics verboten.

Styling itself the "Fourth Position" Cosmicism expands on the Marxist conception of history by swapping Liberalism for Capitalism and including Fascism as a reaction against Marxism. The current age is retroactively described as Nihilist, blending cynical distortions of the preceding stages in a terrible world destroying post-modern death spiral. Despite the fact that Cosmicism is a conscious reaction against it Nihilism is not considered an ideology in the Cosmicist conception of history.

Cosmicist historiography is divided into two different core concepts. The Four Positions are arranged in a chain called the Leviathan, made up of a series of stages where each next link reacts against all the preceding links. The length of each stage is different and leaves stronger or weaker traces in each subsequent stage.
  1. The first (and chronologically longest) is Feudalism, using an intentionally imprecise definition to cover every hierarchical society between the formation of settled states and the Enlightenment. Feudalism is characterized by mercantilism.
  2. A desire for liberty would give rise to Liberalism during the Enlightenment, which is characterized by general government non-intervention in ordinary human affairs (in theory at least). Liberalism and Socialism rely on different approaches to capitalism.
  3. A desire for equality gave rise to Socialism, which sought to use different degrees of government intervention to improve human affairs.
  4. A desire for fraternity would lead to Fascism, as conceptions of state and nation would be used to focus government intervention toward (or against) specific groups to strengthen social cohesion.
  5. Nihilism would congeal from the remains of the first three positions, relying on distorted history and a retrocultural impulse to try to shape social and governmental affairs. Because it is not grounded in reality Nihilism represents terminal decline, producing a fear of the future.
Cosmicism divides the future history into three stages of social complexity. The Leviathan is wholly contained in the Volksgeist stage of seperate states competing for dominance across history. A desire for eternity (a stable long-term flowering of human potential) ushers in the creation of Cosmicism and the Zeitgeist, a revolutionary wave. The ultimate success of the Zeitgeist would result in the Weltgeist, a united global humanity reaching out eagerly into the solar system.

The Fourth Position views the left-right political spectrum as reductionist, and relies on a complex political spectrum with four different axes. Progressive/Conservative governs social attitudes, Authoritarian/Libertarian deals with levels of personal freedom, Gradual/Radical deals with the pace of Cosmicist reform, and finally Populist/Elite relates where the mechanism for implementing this reform comes from. Rather than reduce figures and nations to points on a line this has the effect of creating a descriptive shape instead.

Theoretically at the conclusion of the Weltgeist stage a desire for expansion beyond the Solar System and a drive to achieve infinity would produce a Fifth Position capable of absorbing and surpassing Cosmicism in the creation of a constantly transforming human diaspora, not unlike the Scattering in Dune.
 
Ride the Tiger: The Birth of the Second Republic
Hu Yaobang had passed away at the tail end of the Year of Calamity, a final momentous event in an already historic year, and less than a year on the Chinese national program was grinding to a halt. Having struggled at the end of his life to effectively marshall the government of the PRC to enact a broadly popular series of reforms, Hu's death would see the aspects of his agenda he had been able to force through begin too erode. For the dissatisfied masses it was a bridge to far. The people exploded.

As long suppressed regions made moves to strike out on their own, the Communist Party, discredited in the eyes of the public, collapsed in the face of truly staggering waves of mass unrest. Pulled in too many different directions at once and with elements of the security apparatus and other organs of state moving to consolidate their own fiefdoms, the center could not hold. The work of decades was (in a historical blink of an eye) unsustainable. It would fall to the late General Secretary's son to attempt to right the ship of state.

Attempting to ride the wave of goodwill that still existed for his late father, Hu Deping had no interest in trying to somehow become General Secretary of a dying Communist Party, instead arguing for a constitutional convention, making a forceful public case that attempting to reform a sclerotic system had been the hammerblow that had killed his father, and that rebuilding the state from the grassroots was the only way to improve the lives of the Chinese people. The Chinese reform movement had a new face.

Calling themselves the Chinese Constitutionalist Party, the younger Hu's supporters began actively pressuring government officials at all levels of government. By 1994 the writing was on the wall, and a constitutional convention would usher in the Chinese Second Republic. Although multiparty democracy was enshrined in the new state, the Communist party was a pale shadow of its former self, the Constitutional Party instead wielding a commanding mandate. The newly free market would be quickly consolidated under an oligarchy of former government actors, but for the first time in a long time the Chinese people had a say in their government.

After domestic matters had settled sufficiently, newly elected President Hu began looking outward. Although the Republic of China had lost Tibet in the transition, that could wait for a later time. The major foreign policy focus of Hu's first term as President would be two-fold:
  1. In the nearer term, China would seek to prevent foreign meddling in the concurrent collapse of the Juche regime. The result of several horrific famines, a transition-related interruption in Chinese relief supplies, and a military coup, Hu's government would win plaudits for preventing what might have been a smaller scale mirror to the South Africa situation. Although North Korea remains the poorest nation in the region, Chinese backing has at least kept the fragile political situation stable to the present day.
  2. The far more valuable long term goal would see the Republic adopt a strategy of diplomatically pursuing the reintegration of Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan with the mainland, which would ultimately succeed before the turn of the millennium as a result of several referenda and bilateral agreements made more palatable by the Second Republic's embrace of Western concepts of personal and political rights. This democratic bonhomie, alas, was not to last.
 
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Media Matters: Finches in the Coal Mine
"Looking back it's clear that it was an influx of foreign talent that really saved the company. I'm not necessarily saying that about myself, of course, I'd been living in the US for a few years by the time our international recruitment strategy really began in earnest, after all! Brain drain from the Soviets was a major early source, of course, but I'd been able to reach out to a few friends who didn't care for the Kaap and were looking for work and one thing led to another. Later emigrants from China would be a welcome addition to the team, but we were back on our feet by then. There really was a sense that we could do anything, and we owe it all to the first Condor computer and (between you and me) to Darwinia."
- Atari Corp. CEO Elon Musk in a wide ranging 2019 interview, the bulk of which would revolve around his support for a variety of DecoSec projects.

The Atari Condor would be prove to be a sea change to the company's fortunes in the wake of an exceptionally turbulent decade, the sole bright point of which had been the widespread popularity of the Lynx handheld console. Released in 1995, the Condor would be the latest from Atari's computer division, improving on its Falcon predecessor in every technical respect. To help boost interest, the company had secured several video game exclusives for the device, but the one that stood out from all the rest was Darwinia.

A first-person shooter, Darwinia revolved around an unnamed protagonist in what is implied to be the mid-forties discovering a derelict underground city in a cavern in the Pacific Northwest. In the game's immersive lore, the city of Avalon had been constructed before the turn of the century as an experiment in social darwinism by an industrial magnate. The player was tasked with surviving the degenerated citizens still living in the ruins, and with discovering the secrets of the city and its decline.

Darwinia was acclaimed for its sophisticated gameplay elements but especially for the thorough and well crafted world the game presented, and for the mature story that it sought to tell. Many critics saw the game as a vehicle for an ecological or even (gasp!) Regressive message, especially with the reveal late in the game that the troglodytic citizens the player had fought up to that point had never been human, instead the result of initially nonthreatening cave bats rapidly adapting to aggressive human expansion in their ecosystem. This impossibly rapid evolution was explained away in-story as the result of a form of parasitic fungus.

Popular enough to spawn several imitators, plans for an official sequel for the game would fall through repeatedly. An adaptation would be produced in 2005 to celebrate the 20th anniversary, designed to be run on the company's Panther III console. The resurgent interest in the IP by a new generation of critics and gamers would finally lead to a sequel. Darwinia 2 featured the same protagonist as its predecessor, but revolved around another failed utopian project in a different part of the world. When questioned, the game's design team admitted the change in venue and political focus had been decided partially in reaction to the original game's "peripheral fan base".

It is a wellspring of irony that the Regressive movement, built as it is on an idealized counterindustrialism, was often incredibly technically sophisticated in both its recruitment and in several acts of terrorism, but the adulation for Darwinia among a notably racialist fraction of the movement must be acknowledged. How a lunatic fringe could have completely misunderstood the message of the game and conflated both the violent natural response to industrial intrusion and the vitriolic racism of that despoiling force is anyone's guess, but it would be that combination that would attract the attention of the Perot administration.
 
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Darwinia has graphics roughly on par with Duke Nukem 3D, a gameplay experience broadly similar to BioShock, and a setting partially inspired by Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. Within the Regressive movement, "Avalon" is basically a code word for "white antistate", to the eternal disappointment of the designers.
 
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Funny story the whole Darwinia thing actually came to me fully formed in a dream two days ago, it was like watching a movie it was wild. For a mental image it was something like Wonder City from the Arkham games (glowing tubes and all) that was suspended from the roof of an enormous cave. A few pylons touched the ground but the actual buildings were stalactites.
 
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Not an update, more a teaser but I ended up going down a weird rabbit hole today and it'll definitely show up here in its final form. Originally the economic policies of Cosmicism were fairly conservative as far as revolutionary social movements go, a bog standard mixed economy with a UBI to fill the gap created by accelerating automation. Today I realized that given the goals of the movement (individual economic security + self discovery/expression in the near term and averting ecological devastation/technological stagnation/societal collapse in the long term), that wouldn't be nearly far enough. So, as a way to craft something that would make sense for the Commonwealth I spent the afternoon coming up with an idea for an alternative to the current financial system. I started with the basics of freiwirtschaft and went from there, I'm a little proud of myself 😅
 
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Writing on the Wall: Ultima Unbound
The urge to ascribe human attributes to nonhuman objects and forces has deep roots within the history of the species, and one interesting permutation of this impulse is the idea of a "national personification". From Columbia to Brittania to Marianne the tradition was quite robust into the dawn of the modern age, and as a movement that placed a concerted emphasis on harmonizing the stability of traditions and rituals with the mad dash toward a flowering future it is no surprise that the Cosmicist faction among the revolutionaries would construct a national personification to embody the new Commonwealth and the people of the southern continent.

Conceptually, Ultima resembles a liberated variation of the Galatea myth and the Frankenstein story. In the Cosmicist conception, by transporting people to Antarctica in the first place Macondo Technologies had created a rootless and restive population, in effect carving a virgin continent into the amalgamated society that would ultimately topple the corporation's hold and usher in the world's first Cosmicist state. Originally simply called Galatea, as the concept was refined over the course of the revolution the name would be changed to Ultima, speaking to the isolation of the new land and the necessity for solidarity among its people.

When represented in art, Ultima is traditionally portrayed as a stark white figure, meant to symbolize the poetic virgin Antarctica irrevocably destroyed before the rise of the Commonwealth. Her eyes are typically shown to be orbs of solid burgundy, and in place of hair she is depicted with flowing locks of tentacles. A Southern Cross is occasionally emblazoned on her forehead. The most famous representation of Ultima is the colossal monument on New Nantucket known as "Ultima Unbound", where she is depicted tall and strong, staring out to sea and armed with the two symbols of the Commonwealth government proper: a harpoon, representing bounty and defense, and sextant symbolizing discovery.
 
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Sorry for being away so long! I had meant to do an update when I got back from my vacation but work has been a mad dash for the last two weeks.
 
Not an update, more a teaser but I ended up going down a weird rabbit hole today and it'll definitely show up here in its final form. Originally the economic policies of Cosmicism were fairly conservative as far as revolutionary social movements go, a bog standard mixed economy with a UBI to fill the gap created by accelerating automation. Today I realized that given the goals of the movement (individual economic security + self discovery/expression in the near term and averting ecological devastation/technological stagnation/societal collapse in the long term), that wouldn't be nearly far enough. So, as a way to craft something that would make sense for the Commonwealth I spent the afternoon coming up with an idea for an alternative to the current financial system. I started with the basics of freiwirtschaft and went from there, I'm a little proud of myself 😅
As for Cosmicist economics I spent my vacation reading For Us, The Living, a very early work by Robert A. Heinlein that revolved around Social Credit, and it helped inform what is admittedly still a pretty nebulous idea I'm still tinkering with.
 
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As can be intimated from my last threadmarked post, the Antarctic Revolution was not a strictly Cosmicist affair, involving a wide range of disparate factions across the continent. Partially this was due to unchanging human nature, but also due to the way Macondo Technologies managed what was essentially an enormous resource/penal colony: workers supplied by the nations contracting Macondo Technologies in the first place* were kept contained within eight territories of varying sizes and ethnoreligious composition, with barriers to internal and external movement to prevent the spread of Sutter's precarian class consciousness.

Obviously it didn't work (in a chain of events I'll describe in a later post), and over the course of the Revolution the Cosmicists managed to outmaneuver rival factions in the Free Antarctica Coalition. After that point the Commonwealth became an inevitability; the Territories reforged into a federation. In the name of vanguard pluralism the Cosmicist Party is the only game in town according to the constitution, but that doesn't prevent people dissatisfied with the status quo from running as independents, and there's an enduring struggle between the two largest factions of the Party for democratically-mandated influence in the government. There are persistent rumors that die-hard anti-Cosmicists from the Coalition survive as an underground political movement or secret society of some kind, but so far they are just rumors.

*Think The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
 
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The Yellow Rose: The Perot Administration Abroad
In the wake of his election victory, Ross Perot became the first third party candidate to ascend to the presidency. This fact, though remarkable, would in the end hinder rather than help the new administration. There was no way around it. Although the Reform Party had been created going in to the '92 elections to support Perot's bid for the Executive, the fact that the party was so young showed badly in the Legislative Branch, where Reform had the smallest number of seats in both chambers. This would be the first of several outside realities that would begin to chip away at the president's base of support.

Despite a desire to focus on internal issues, Perot's first term was consumed almost completely with the foreign legacy of the Hague Doctrine. With the Soviet sphere on the upswing, Regression gaining ground abroad and South Africa still in the process of disintegration, it was clear the administration would need to choose its battles. Engaging with the Unfree World would be a massive distraction and the Regressives were too fractious to pose a true threat to the Heartland, so the humanitarian crisis in South Africa would be the spot where the US would stick its oar in.

By the mid-nineties, South Africa had clearly partitioned into the USS-aligned Union of Azania in the east and the US-adjacent Kaap in the west, with both sides engaging in retaliatory actions against "problematic" ethnicities and religious groups. Within the administration the thinking went that if a unified South Africa was already a lost cause then a good faith effort to make the separation amicable could both staunch the bleeding and create a bit of genuine goodwill toward America abroad as a bonus. This ambitious idea was helped along by Soviet distraction in Europe and Asia, giving Azania a bit of a freer hand to come to the negotiating table. Over the course of the contentious Camp David Summit of 1993, both sides would agree to a long list of terms in order to normalize relations, the two most crucial of which were:
  1. Azania and the Kaap would each recognize the formal existence of the other, as well as abandon any claims to former South African territory outside of the present borders.
  2. A bilateral Commission on Resettlement would be established to facilitate voluntary population transfers between the two states. Anyone wishing to emigrate from one to the other would be compensated for any immovable property at a fair rate established by the Commission.
Not a perfect system, by any means, but it had the short term effect of stopping the bloodshed. As detailed previously quite a few unwilling to live in either the rabidly conservative Kaap or Soviet-backed Azania would just throw their hands up and immigrate to the United States. As for the Commission, it exists to the present day, having peacefully overseen the resettlement of several waves of voluntary* population transfers.

*For a given value of "voluntary", and a somewhat nebulous understanding of "fair compensation"
 
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The Yellow Rose: The Contract with America
Although his first term was largely dominated by the foreign policy fallout of the Haig years and the unfolding bifurcation in the former South Africa, it is important to realize that a large part of the appeal that propelled a political newcomer to the highest office in the land was his focus on domestic issues. The "successful" resolution of the South Africa crisis finally freed up the administration's focus for a series of policies that the president had in '92 called "my contract with America".

Officially the full platform of the first generation Reform Party, the Contract with America was a large collection of planks with a varying level of specifics and policy intricacy, so we will analyze three specific proposals with the largest impact. In particular we will discuss the push to limit partisanship at the state level, a focus on technological development, and a promise to dismantle the web of police powers abused during the Third Red Scare.

Although the first position would be looked upon as a partial success at best (especially with hindsight given the final Reform Party administration), the fact that it was a matter of state level political organization meant that progress would be continuous even with the South African distractions at the federal level. Simply put, then-candidate Perot had argued that the country was being not only ill-served but actively harmed by a duopoly on power between the reactionary Republicans and the floundering Democrats. He argued that the only way to restore lasting sanity to the political system was to limit the effects of partisanship, and the Contract proposed that the Reform Party would accomplish this through fighting at the state level to:
  • Split the allocation of electoral votes, to ensure voters in diverse states have a voice in government
  • Install nonpartisan commissions to draw election districts, because competitive districts encourage compromise
  • The adoption of Instant Runoff Voting, to eliminate the spoiler effect and give minor parties a greater ability to represent the will of the voters.
While minor parties would join with Reform to push for these changes, critics within the two major parties would argue (not baselessly) that the moves were meant simply to entrench Reform at their expense. The three measures would be adopted around the country in fits and starts in the coming decades, but the fact that the "nonpartisan commission districting" was by far the least adopted proposal, combined with the drastic shifts over time in the Reform Party, would spell disaster in the wake of the 2016 election.

Moving on to federal matters, the early push for state electoral reforms would see a surge of Reform congressmen in 1994, helping to secure funding for technological investment and research. Viewing the Haig focus on the old methods of the Cold War to have been short-sighted and unthinking given the Year of Catastrophe, Perot argued in the 1994 State of the Union that "only a focus on the technologies of the future [could] give the United States an edge going forward into a new century". Originally proposed as a (comparatively) modest series of grants and loans to technology startups (with Macondo Technologies being an early beneficiary), following a victory in the 1996 elections the administration actually put forward the idea for a new federal executive department, the Department of Technology, though any such dreams would collapse in the wake of the fallout from what the media would dub "the Regressive Roundup".

Although he had won his second term primarily as a result of the successful handling of South Africa (and for not getting the United States into a shooting war with the Soviets in the process), the pressing national security concern would be domestic for the remainder of Perot's time in office. The simple fact was that while the government had been distracted abroad, going all the way back to the Haig Doctrine, the Regressive Movement had been radicalizing in America, growing in strength in isolated compounds and communes, joining the military for combat experience and weapons training, and even widely circulating Industrial Devolution and other manifestos on college campuses. Then the bombings started.

The targets would vary, but were usually factories, industrial plants or extractive industries. The demographics of the perpetrators would vary, but there were more men than women, regardless of race, and they were committed radical Regressives. There was always propaganda published in their wake. And despite promises to the contrary, Perot would be forced to rely on the same informal network within the government to crack down on the perpetrators and fellow travelers alike. The problem, as during the Haig years, was that the definition of "fellow travelers" was a ludicrously broad one. When isolated religious communities came under scrutiny at the edges of the crackdown the Republicans in Congress had had enough, railing against Perot for the "restriction of religious liberty". The Grand Old Party would be joined with a smattering of Democrats still bitter about '92 to pass a series of censures of the President.

It was a stunning rebuke, which combined with a thundering cry of "Promises Broken!" would do serious harm to Perot's standing within the party he himself had founded going in to the 2000 election cycle. The irony that it was the Republican caucus arguing for the limitation of the Haig era police powers would not be lost on critics of the next adminstration, though the largest international impact of the Roundup would undoubtedly be the exodus of Heaven's Gate.
 
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This one's a little longer, relatively speaking, but I didn't really think it could stand as three separate entries on its own. The absence of nonpartisan districting, combined with a tendency for drastic shifts in Reform Party policy that will get an article all its own just leads the two major parties to be as polarized as ever, only with a wildly pivoting wedge between them. Heaven's Gate is also due its own entry relating to the corresponding weirdness in Soviet Sphere politics, while a pattern of escalating Regressive violence won't have any lingering effects at all 🤔
 
Been meaning to come back to this for ages and there's nothing like getting a positive test this morning to bring things back into focus 😅 There's something like four updates I've planned to round out the 20th century (a media one, a party politics one, plus one each on Cuba and Y2K), and then we can finally move on to the new millennium! Sorry to anybody interested in this for letting it lie so long.
 
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Media Matters: Beyond Re-Animator
The concept of the "shared world in film", today something of a bandwagon, has it's roots in the first half of the twentieth century in the Universal Monsters franchise. Although successful for many years and a fountain is sequels, crossovers and a cultural legacy that stretches to the modern day, it would not be until the 1980s that the financial concept would be attempted again with any success. And it would be a complete accident.

Released in 1985 and starring Jeffrey Combs, Re-Animator (adapted from the titular Lovecraft story) would become a smash success, blending impressive practical horror effects with comedy in a way that would make this the model of what the later shared world project would hope to achieve. Originally a standalone film, director Stuart Gordon would follow up his success with From Beyond in 1986, also starring Combs in a new role, while the original would receive a sequel by Brian Yuzna, 1990's Bride of Re-Animator.

The trio of Gordon, Yuzna and Combs had clearly stumbled upon a valuable niche if public reception to the three films was anything to go by, and in the spirit of auteur experimentation that had been growing in the film industry in the wake of Dune, decided to go into business for themselves. Securing the rights to From Beyond and the two Re-Animator films, Miskatonic Studios was born, and with it the first of the modern cinematic universes.

The formula the new studio looked to execute was fairly simple, focusing on adapting the works of HP Lovecraft with a blending of horror and comedy, the use of practical effects, the recycling of a core pool of actors*, and a focus on a contemporary setting. The centerpiece of the Miskatonic Cycle would be the titular university, serving as a central vehicle linking all the strange scientific and occult goings on that would feature in the series. The Necronomicon would also feature prominently in later installments, and Re-Animator characters Herbert West and Dr. Hill also reappear several times (often after implied deaths in their previous appearances).

Aside from the first three films, the Cycle would also consist of adaptations of The Color Out of Space, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, Pickman's Model, The Shadow Out of Time, The Dunwich Horror, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, a duology of Indy-esque adventure films revolving around Randolph Carter, and The Call of Cthulhu**. Also crucial to the series would be the two Necronomicon films, each adapting three Lovecraft short stories and relayed through the framing device of how Lovecraft himself (played by Combs) acquired the titular grimoire and relayed it to Miskatonic University.

Lasting two decades, the Miskatonic Cycle would go on to prove an immense commercial and critical success, though awards would be few and far between. Widely seen as the main driver of the popularization of Lovecraftian horror, it's difficult to see how the historically marginalized author could have achieved his modern level of pop culture exposure otherwise. Although the two shared universes couldn't be more different, Guillermo del Toro has cited the films as a great personal pleasure of his, and at the core of what made him try his own hand at the shared world concept.

*A running gag in the series involves Herbert West being mistaken for deceased characters played by his actor.
**The list is out of order but Cthulhu Rises serves as the final film in the series, released on the 20th anniversary of Re-Animator. Dr. Hill serves as Cthulhu's head cultist, having gotten his hands on the Necronomicon at the end of Dunwich.
 
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¡Viva Posadas!: The Final Fate of Heaven's Gate
Arising out of the increased environmental degradation of the Haig years, the religious movement known as "Steward Theology" would revolve around the responsibility of the faithful to build up, protect, and preserve the environment as the central call of their ministry. Growing through the latter decades of the twentieth century, Steward Theology would see growth in two important directions. The major development would be the spread of the environmental Steward emphasis to a broad array of faith traditions, an interfaith alliance that has grown and thrived to the modern day.

During the Regressive Roundup, however, the noticable handful of Regressive groups dabbling in religious fundamentalism would be used by those opposed to Stewardship to tar the movement with a rather dark brush. Although the movement would be absolved of any ties to Regressivism after the fact, the damage in the short term was done, though the backlash to Perot's suppression of civil liberties would ironically cause elements of Steward Theology to enter the mainstream of American religious thought by 1999. Whatever else it was, however, Heaven's Gate would be drastically outside of the mainstream.

Originally founded in 1974 by Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles (who would later die in 1985), the group that would later be called Heaven's Gate relied on a syncretic belief system blending belief in extraterrestrials, science fiction, Christian eschatology, and left-wing counterculture. Although they were not a part of the Steward school of theology (or even of the Regressive movement), the intense scrutiny isolated religious groups were exposed to in the second Perot term would nonetheless provoke the Heaven's Gate group into fleeing the country, reportedly with an FBI investigation in their wake.

For his part Applewhite claimed in 1995 to have had a vision of aliens telling them to abandon America in search of a new chosen people in preparation for an event of astronomical significance. Given the investigation and the left leaning orientation of the group it should come as no surprise that Heaven's Gate would wash up in Cuba seeking asylum from the United States. Even their strange religious beliefs could be tolerated under a new policy of vanguard pluralism, even if Applewhite was seriously discouraged from proselytizing. It would be in Cuba that Applewhite would discover Posadism.

With a focus on aliens and nuclear war, the unusual Trotskyist variant known as Posadism had been making an interesting resurgence in Cuba under the newly pluralistic party line, and the comingling of Applewhite's theology and J. Posadas' theories would allow him to spread his message without technically proselytizing his faith. The group would begin to attract a large number of skilled and educated Cuban members, among them several doctors and researchers at the nation's hospitals and universities.

When the time was right and the group had grown strong Applewhite revealed the true extent of the vision the aliens had shown him: on March 22, 1997 the comet Hale-Bopp would pass closest to the Earth. Actually an alien spacecraft belonging to an advanced race, the comet would take the group and other specially prepared souls on a journey to experience the true realization of Marxist-Posadist communism out among the cosmos.

They had six months to prepare. Of special note was the method of purification: using radiation to cleanse the spirit for its long journey. How best to prepare? How best to ensure that as many good comrades as possible could come with them? The answer seemed so simple. In the lead up to the promised day members of the group worked feverishly to gain access to the the chemicals they would need, along with the more exotic ingredients. By the time they had enough, the time had come. Using radioactive materials carefully skimmed from the radiology wards of Havana's hospitals, the members of Heaven's Gate would all commit suicide on the promised day, many at the hands of radioisotope laced punch. As for Applewhite and his inner circle, they would die in more spectacular fashion...

...by setting off a dirty bomb in the heart of Havana.
 
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A Horse of a Different Color: Reform 2.0!
Although 1996 would see another massive surge in the number of Reform partisans in the halls of Congress, increasing dissatisfaction with Perot within the party in the wake of his censuring would prevent the president from using all this newfound legislative muscle, with the 1998 midterms seeing Perot-aligned Reformers taken out in primary challenges by those looking to take the party beyond its status as a vehicle for one man's ambitions. Ironically this would make the party merely a vehicle for a different man's ambitions but that's politics.

With a long history of consumer advocacy and a solid public image, Ralph Nader looked like the perfect member of the party for dissatisfied members to rally behind. Having served as the Reform Senator from Connecticut since 1994, Nader became the unofficial leader of the Reform movement in the Legislature, especially as Perot's image began to decline. With the 2000 election a stone's throw away, it would come down to fierce choice between radically different wings of the party.

For his part the President would support his son and namesake during the Reform primaries, if unofficially, though the sting of the censuring would keep the bid from catching fire. Although there were other minor candidates for the party's top spot, in reality the primaries boiled down to a two way contest between two radical visions of the party. Seeking a vehicle to attack the Republicans from the right for disavowing aspects of the Haig Doctrine, Pat Buchanan had officially switched parties, seeking to use Reform as a cudgel for the conservative movement.

Buchanan's opposite in nearly every way, Nader campaigned on a far more progressive platform of consumer rights influenced by his adoption of Steward Theology. Going into the convention unusually tightly matched, it was time for a Hail Mary play to clinch the nomination, and it was in that spirit that Nader reached out to Reform also-ran John Hagelin. The presidential candidate of Natural Law Party, a vehicle for the Transcendental Meditation movement, Hagelin had simultaneously sought to secure the Reform Party nomination in the hopes of winning the White House. Following the collapse of Perot (the Younger)'s chances Hagelin had even attracted the support of the Perot wing of the party unable to support Buchanan and not yet ready to support Nader.

A deal was struck. In return for inserting a bit of NLP orthodoxy into the Reform platform and offering him the position of vice president, Hagelin would bring his and Perot's delegates over to Nader's side, and ensure that his NLP voted Reform in the 2000 election. It was an agreeable compromise to everyone except Buchanan, who would carry a chip on his shoulder from what he declared "Nader's corrupt bargain" for the rest of his political career. It would also bolster the latent strain of mystical thinking that had been part of Reform since the New Alliance had joined the fold, a strain that would shift and metastasize in the new century.
 
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Totally Radical!: Y2K and the Great Leap Backward
As mentioned in prior chapters, the Regressive movement in the 1990s was simultaneously picking up steam and attracting an unusually technically literate crop of revolutionaries given the core of the ideology's vision for society in the wake of their final victory. Nowhere were these dual trends more apparent than the lead up to the new millennium...

Y2K was something of a small scale panic based on a misunderstanding of computer systems. Rooted in an error that could arise based on the way the calendar year 2000 would be interpreted by computer programs, the actual scale of the problem would be relatively minor, requiring coding changes to correct. "Relatively", in this case, compared to the fringe interpretation of the problem.

Anti-government groups and other radicals began loudly fear mongering as Y2K approached, declaring that the error would destroy global computer networks, or even that this one small computing error could accidentally spark a nuclear war and total civilizational collapse. Naturally it was this turn of events that was being championed by the most extreme, from far right Regressives in US and Europe to the Posadists that remained in hiding in the Soviet sphere following the crackdown in the wake of Heaven's Gate*.

The primary issue was that some of the more intelligent Regressives understood that Y2K was actually far more boring and less likely to collapse society than the more rabid traffickers of the theory believed. According to the prosecution's argument presented at the "Trial of the Century" for the Regressive cell that would call itself the Superpredators, this group had sought to develop a slate of incredibly effective malware with the intent of infecting specific critical systems in the wake of Y2K. The theory went that, with the panic of the actual new millennium having proved unfounded, the government and the public would let down their guard in the aftermath, creating a vulnerability the group could exploit.

In the end all their plans came to an undramatic end, with one of the peripheral programmers getting cold feet and turning the entire cell in to the government in exchange for immunity from conspiracy and terrorism charges. Disaster averted the nation did in fact breath a sigh of relief, secure in the knowledge that domestic Regressive groups were decidedly on the back foot, though the sensation of the trial would later be seen as a definite influence on the 2000 election.

*"Vanguard pluralism has it's limits, m'kay?"- Moscow probably
 
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