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

The Tiger and the Peacock: The Second Levant War
  • Under the umbrella of American protection Kurdistan had done pretty well for itself since gaining independence. Having built a new capital, the planned city of Uqbar, the Kurdish state had a representative democracy, a politically neutral civil service, and a well-trained, well-supplied military. Given its position it's fair to say that it was the latter that was most important. To put it simply, Kurdistan was surrounded by enemies that had either lost territory to the new state or who had their own restive Kurdish populations gazing longingly across the border. It didn't help that the Republic included in its constitution the ability to absorb neighboring Kurdish territory "if there was a mandate from the Kurdish peoples of said territory".

    And that was where the trouble started. Although Syria had been able to preserve its territorial integrity against Iraq, it still smarted to see Syrian Kurdistan lost to the upstart new country. Something had to be done. And it involved turning to an old enemy for help. Rifaat al-Assad wanted his share of Kurdistan back, and in that goal he had a ready ally in Saddam Hussein. But they could hardly go in guns blazing. Kurdistan had become a crucial US ally in the region, and they were sure to go to war to defend it from an external attack.

    But what about an internal one? American intervention in the Levant War had had the unintended side effect of introducing Regressive thought to the region, something which had quietly bloomed even as Regressives in the US snagged all the headlines, and as the center of American presence in the region the Republic of Kurdistan had a large underground Regressive movement in the form of a group called the Green Guard. The plan was simple: covert aid from the Ba'athist regimes could easily be smuggled in, and a little nudge could tip this apparently stable state into a dissolving civil war. A simply elegant solution. So much for best laid plans...

    There wouldn't be a Kurdish civil war, with the Guard well aware that they were being used as pawns. The joke was on Hussein and Assad, because the Green Guard was far larger than they suspected, and they were more than happy to take the money and weapons for their own ends. And that meant bombings. Bombings in Kurdistan, yes, but also in Syria. And Iraq. And Iran. And Turkey. 2002 would see whatever peace Haig had hoped to create in the wake of the Levant War shattered as the Green Guard, under Iranian exile Seyyed Hossein Nasr, began consolidating its forces and Kurds in Turkey and Iran sought to seize the opportunity and secede.

    President Powell had to act and he had to act quickly. Even leaving aside the fact that there were US troops under fire in Kurdistan, he saw stabilizing the region as vitally important, especially before Iran got its feet under it and started a war with its neighbors, and God forbid before Turkey tried to call in the Soviet Union. It didn't help that the Green Guard's success in the field inspired another wave of Regressive terrorism in the United States...

    Even so his response would be incredibly controversial, even if it was initially muted by the wave of patriotic fervor at the sight of US troops in danger:
    • Powell began by sending troops to the region to shore up the Kurdish regime in mid 2002, without the explicit authorization of Congress.
    • Although he would eventually be able to secure an official declaration of war against Iraq and Syria, and even an international peacekeeping coalition, there are lingering questions about the evidence used to justify the attempted regime change in both nations.
    • Powell committed the US explicity to the prevention of "Regressive terrorism at home and abroad". Quite aside from commiting the US to an indefinite anti-insurgency campaign that would take on an ever-larger scope, this would also crystalize the Haig era security state officially, with all the previously murky domestic police powers officially sanctioned and consolidated through the formation of the new Department of Heartland Security.
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    The Great Divide: DecoSec and RFA
  • In the wake of the tumultuous 20th century, the new millennium held immense promise in many circles. Futurists dreamed of a world transformed and made better by technology, and that desire would form the core of two movements that would otherwise be tagentially related at best and mutually opposed at worst. The first, and by far the most mainstream, was the DecoSec movement that would, with the shattering of the tripartisan status quo, find its most natural home in the New Federalist Party.

    With a following primarily among tech industrialists, architects and artists, Deco Secundis was an aspirational sort of futurism, focused on using markets and technology to solve problems and make a better world, with a focus on an integration of technology into life and work, with a goal of creating spaces balanced between industrial productivity, aesthetically pleasing design and proximity to nature. One of the best examples of this ethic was Macondo Technologies, by this point only a respectably sized computer company just beginning it's proliferation into the software side of things through their Buendia search engine. It would be another decade before Macondo would be regarded as an unassailable giant, and the company's DecoSec aesthetic ironically lives on in the dieselpunk sensibilities of the Antarctic Revolutionary Commonwealths.

    A far different reaction to the promise of technology would begin to bubble up in the wake of the Second Levant War, particularly on Libertalia, a loosely-connected network of lightly moderated message boards. Conspiracy was rampant as people turned to Libertalia to complain about censorship, share links to stolen content, work chaos magic, insult one another and revel in the anonymity of the internet. Then something happened. In the wake of the official declaration of war in Syria and Iraq a board member going by the name "Saint Toad" began posting videos telling people to wake up and denounce spooks.

    The audio was always dubbed by a computer, even though the subject would always move their head and hands as if they were speaking animatedly. The most recognizable thing was the mask. It was always the same, skin a teal shade, glasses, dark hair and sideburns. It wasn't long before viewers figured it out. It was a mask of Max Stirner. In the rough and tumble world of Libertalia it was no surprise that St. Toad's rants about egoism found a ready audience. Stirner's work quickly became a frequent topic of discussion, blending with half-baked occultism and the hatred of content moderators and gatekeepers of all kinds. And somewhere along the way Radio Free America was born.

    Something between a Union of Egoists and a mob playing at a political party (or was it vice versa?), the RFA had no centralized structure, congregating and dispersing effortlessly whenever two people had Stirner masks and wanted to bust spooks. It evolved its own symbols organically and communicated through memes. Teal was popular for the movement, along with frog symbolism, but there was no rhyme or reason to it and it could be discarded at any time. DDOS attacks on censors, doxxing of abusive police and corrupt officials, hacking and theft of any intellectual property imaginable, everything was on the table, and the lack of any sort of organization made cracking down on anything besides the occasional sloppy lone wolf a nightmare for the DHS and the FBI.

    2004 would be the first election to feature an RFA "candidate", with write-in St. Toad garnering a few thousand votes. At the time little more than a footnote to Powell's successful bid for reelection, it would be a shape of things to come, with the St. Toad character quickly growing in popularity as a write-in protest vote, with the mix of organic voluntary participation and disdain for government censorship and intellectual property laws making RFA by some metrics the world's first pirate party. If one assumes that something with no leaders, infrastructure or official members could be considered a party at all 🤔
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    A Horse of a Different Color: The Seventh Party System
  • Have a little flashforward!

    By most metrics, the Sixth Party system rose and fell with Haig, and with Reagan before him. This state of affairs saw the final collapse of the New Deal coalitions that had formed in the wake of Roosevelt, a Great Depression and a World War, but it had been a long time coming. The Reagan and Haig years would see the resurgence of conservatism in the United States, but in many ways the 41st president can be said to have acted rashly, even unconstitutionally. It was the backlash to these draconian actions that prompted the rise of Ross Perot, Reform and the Seventh Party system.

    With the resurrection of the Democrats in the wake of another overreaching Republican president, it suggested to some that the nation would settle into a stable tripartisan system, a process made easier by the reforms to electoral rules that Perot himself had championed. With hindsight, looking back from a year of the grey lung pandemic and a raucous, even violent, election, that projection seems laughable. The simple fact was that even if a checklist of reforms could be enough to fill the cracks and smooth the edges of the American electoral system (itself no small thing), any effort was undone by lackluster implementation. Turning to the states as the simplest way to fix the system was a failure, leaving a threadbare patchwork to hold together a nation fraying at the seams.

    And so the shatter- big tent parties shredded by populists and radicals of all types and by a populace reaching out for an end to the deadlock and sclerosis that had gripped the nation since 1984, commonly ridiculed as the Era of Bad Feelings. 2020 would prove the first national election under the newly fractured system, and it's any question how long such a system can survive under the weight of its own contradictions. It is an open scholarly question whether this state of affairs marks a new Party System, but I am of the opinion that it is merely the apotheosis of the decay of the two-party duopoly grown too distant from the people to properly represent them.
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    Notes on the Shatter
  • It looked nice enough I had to share it! The new establishment ca. 2020, from left to right:
    • Socialist Party (forest green bison)- left environmentalism, democratic socialism, syndicalism, communism (factions)
    • New Progressive Party (sky blue moose)- social liberalism, left populism
    • New Federalist Party (purple tree)- radical centrism, reformist populism, moderation (faction)
    • Freedom Party (orange rattlesnake)- fiscal conservatism, neoliberalism, corporate personhood
    • America First Party (yellow lion)- social conservatism, right populism
    And on the outside looking in:
    • Manifest Destiny!* (copper turtle)- political devolution, regional cooperation, indigenous self-determination, contradictory flavors of ethnonationalism and secessionism (factions)
    • Radio Free America (teal frog)- egoism, intellectual piracy, anti-spooks
    *No relation to @Napoleon53
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    Mountains of Madness: The Antarctic Economic Territories
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    Have the official flag of the Antarctic Treaty System TTL! I used the 1978 flag proposal as the basis given the fact its the only one that predates the timeline's POD and added an albatross and the stylized Southern Cross from the Japanese Antarctic Expedition of 1912 (selected TTL to commemorate the first nonwhite expedition to the continent). The System would maintain the flag well into the twenty-first century as runaway ice shelf collapse drastically deglaciated the continent. With a flooding world in drastic need of new resources, the treaty governing the continent would be amended to remove road blocks to resource extraction, with the continent becoming in effect a vast open air penal colony administered by Macondo Technologies on behalf of the signatory nations, the Antarctic Economic Territories. It would be this imported labor pool, united with defecting corporate security and the large pool of international scientists still operating on the continent that would overthrow the Antarctic Territory System and purge the company from the continent, eventually ushering in the Antarctic Revolutionary Commonwealth. Naturally this has not endeared them to the northern centers of power, given the sudden threat of an expansionist ideology combined with the sudden severe shock of resource shortages 🤔 Given continued use of the original treaty flag under the AET occupation the albatross is considered an extremely negative symbol in the modern ARC.
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    Writing on the Wall: Biotechnology in Antarctica
  • The ecology of Antarctica has always been shaped by the harshness of the southern continent, but this would prove to be a double-edged sword as the Cthulhucene reached its tipping point, with millions of years of adaptation to a frozen desert suddenly leaving the flora and fauna indigenous to the frozen wastes unable to adapt quickly enough to the apocalyptic change that gripped the continent once the glaciers began to melt.

    Having established themselves as the stewards of their hard won homeland in the wake of this chaos, the ARC would set about reconstructing a stable biosphere to meet the new conditions. This had both a pragmatic dimension, serving as a way to make the newly exposed land more habitable while allowing a large scale dry run for the space program's terraforming ambitions. The process also had a moral dimension born out of the Cosmicist desire for ecological sustainability, even if nature might need a helping hand from time to time.

    While traditionally cold-tolerant species of plants and animals would be imported wholesale from the far north, more exotic experiments would be conducted in using the DNA of the native Antarctic species to engineer new creatures capable of filling newly developed ecological niches. While this would have some limited success, the blend of natural and artificial species would form a mostly stable and fairly robust ecological web throughout the continent. Despite the impressive success of the program, turning a ravaged and damaged landscape into a cold-weather biome would rely far more on the ground level work of a far more humble set of engineered organisms.

    The research that would eventually produce the impressive suite of fungal technologies pioneered by the ARC had its roots in the so called "gray lung" plague of the early twenty-first century. An extremely transmissible and resilient respiratory fungal infection, gray lung would bring the world to its knees when it began to spread from the British Isles at the start of 2020. In the process of developing antifungal treatments powerful enough to destroy the organism but targeted enough not to damage lungs and other tissues, whole new avenues of research were opened up to explore the capabilities and limits of fungal biology.

    It was this research, liberated from Macondo Technology archives in the wake of the Antarctic Revolution, which would prove the basis for the greening of the continent. From large scale carbon sequestration to mycelium cultivated for soil engineering and the reconditioning of polluted industrial sites to the more mundane fields of food waste recycling, mushroom leathers and mycological building materials, the ARC is serving as a world pioneer of sustainable development and environmental reconditioning, providing valuable insights for the regime's plans for offworld colonization in the process.

    *** As weird as it sounds for the book I plan to write I had the idea for a 2020 world in the grips of a widespread respiratory infection back in the earliest form of this timeline concept in 2015 so I saw no reason to change those plans going forward***
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    Writing on the Wall: The Antarctic Revolutionary Commonwealths
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    This is the biggest version it would let me upload :coldsweat: Some notes on the names- given the lack of an indigenous Antarctic population*, the inhabitants of the continent have turned to literature set in Antarctica for things like place names. In terms of Commonwealths, New Nantucket is a reference to Arthur Gordon Pym, Caprona is the Land that Time Forgot, Dakkar is a reference to Captain Nemo, Star City is taken from The Republic of the Southern Cross, Riallaro is from The Archipelago of Exiles, New Swabia owes more to the conspiracy lore than the historical claim, Leng is obviously from Lovecraft, Xanadu is a reference to Coleridge as author of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Protonga, the not included cluster of space platforms and naval bases built over the remains of Easter Island, takes its new name from Stanislaw Szukalski.

    *One proven conclusively by scientists outside the Church of the Southern Cross anyway...
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    Mountains of Madness: The Church of the Southern Cross
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    The heavier industrial pollution TTL, born out of a combination of the USS overhauling its manufacturing sector in a bid to compete in the wake of the Soviet Restoration combined with an American policy of deregulation under Haig, would have a profoundly accelerating effect on global climate change going into the new century, and the first and most obvious sign of this would be severe Antarctic ozone depletion. Steps would be taken worldwide to address the issue starting in the nineties, but the larger size of the hole would leave decades of work ahead and the global Regressive movement would fixate on the depletion as an intentional plot by the Soviets to drive their rivals to extinction through environmental degradation.

    It would be this conspiracy theory that would prompt an American Regressive cell to head off for the continent with the stated goal of climbing Mount Kirkpatrick, the tallest peak of the Transantarctic mountains, as a demonstration of resolve, a ploy for international attention and, it must be said, an excuse to leave the country before President Powell's domestic crackdown on Regressive activists and thought leaders. As with all best laid plans, the small group began encountering unforeseen difficulties almost immediately, from inadequate provisions to the hazards of inclement weather and deadly crevasses. The group was feared deceased, and the United States would dispatch a rescue mission in the wake of international pressure. There would be only one confirmed survivor.

    Found halfway up the mountain, severely frostbitten and delirious from exposure, William Dyer would be arrested upon his return to the United States on suspicion of terrorist activities, but would spend the rest of his life in a mental hospital, telling anyone who would listen what he had found on the ice. Dyer claimed that Antarctica had once been inhabited by an ancient and refined human civilization, and that it had been destroyed in a catastrophe that rapidly froze over the cities of the long-vanished race. Dyer further claimed that he had discovered a vault built into the structure of the mountain containing a record of this, along with a command to go forth and enlighten the world. He would die several years later, though not before he was able to compile his story (and his theories about the origins of the Ice People) for publication.

    Largely disregarded in the early 21st century, his book Meditations Under the Southern Cross would become quite popular in the Antarctic Economic Territories, becoming the holy text of a new religious movement called the Church of the Southern Cross. Although their was internal debate as to the origin of the Ice People* and no one but the upper strata claim to know the location of Dyer's mysterious vault, the Church was instrumental in creating a unified sense of purpose on the continent, seeing it as their holy duty to combat the three poisons through providing education, economic support and medical treatment to those in need in the Territories. Following the Revolution, the Church of the Southern Cross would continue to expand even as the Commonwealth governments took over much of the work in these areas, and by some measures the Southern Cross makes up a plurality of religious adherents on the continent.

    Most of the organization is made up of lay members, though Priests-Errant are stationed at churches throughout Antarctica, moving somewhat regularly to help with the sharing of perspectives and the growth of empathy between the Commonwealths. When not traveling, a member of the priesthood dwells in one of the monasteries scattered throughout the now renamed Dyer Mountains in a life that combines a focus on religious and technical education to make the Priests-Errant valued members of any community they settle in. The largest monastery and seat of the faith is actually located in the highlands of Leng, according to legend the seat of the Ice People's greatest city, and is staffed with the highest levels of the mixed-gender priesthood, overseen by the Nameless Priest, who ceremonially sheds their old life and public identity in order to serve the Church with impartiality. The symbol of the Church is a southern cross superimposed on Zoran's Equation, a symbol representing "perfect knowledge" and taken from the French novel The Ice People, from which the progenitor civilization also gets its colloquial name.

    *The theories are all over the place, from Greeks to Romans to Vikings to Aboriginals and Yaghan, with some even claiming that they were literally a prehuman race more or less like the Space Jockey in Prometheus. It's all exceptionally dubious to actual archeologists but the church does genuinely good work and it helps soothe the inferiority complex in the ARC that comes from having to build a continental civilization more or less from scratch.
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    A Horse of a Different Color: Hopes and Change
  • The Democrats had wandered in the wilderness for nearly thirty years, spending one Reform and three Republican presidencies tarred as feckless big government socialists. But every political slander falls flat eventually, and with the public newly divided over the fallout of the Second Levant War, the recurring problem of government surveillance and the historically inept DHS response to Hurricane Wilma's scouring of the East Coast, the party knew that this would be their year. The rapidly deteriorating economic meltdown would add even more urgency to what many felt would be a change election.

    Beginning with a historically divided field, the Democratic primary season would see the old guard routed and Illinois Senator Carol Mosely Braun would quickly seize the nomination, while Vice President Shelby would gain the Republican nomination. The Reform primaries were another matter, with serious bad blood between the Buchanan and Nader wings of the party creating enough breathing space to get Ron Paul the nomination in the wake of an intensely bitter convention.

    Settling on economics over cultural issues as the surest path to victory, the Mosely Braun campaign would lay the economic crisis squarely at the feet of the Republicans and the Perot-Paul Reformers, arguing persuasively that the bubbles that had led to the collapse were a result of reckless and ideologically-minded deregulation. Not to be left out, Buchanan would also be singled out as the face of the most hawkish elements of the political class, the guiding spirit that seemed determined to have the US astride the world like a Colossus, raining destruction down without somehow surrendering moral clarity, bankrupting the country in the process.

    These arguments would prove persuasive in the long run, with Nader even endorsing Mosely Braun, leading to significant defections from the left wing of the Reform Party even as many Republican voters simply dropped out of the political process altogether or split their ticket at the ballot box. And just like that, America had elected a black woman to the presidency, with the Democrats cresting on a wave election to gain a better hand in the Legislature at the same time in coalition with Left-Reform.

    The fatal flaw with political momentum is that if you don't use it, you lose it, so President Mosely-Braun immediately set out to shepherd economic relief through the Congress, even as Ron Paul and many Republicans decried the bailouts. Cognizant that she had at most two years to make concrete improvements in people's lives or risk losing her governing majority, she would move on to an even more expansive program even as the ink was drying: this would be the birth of the American Health Service Act.

    The AHSA was a compromise from the start, with the calls of firebrand progressives for universal government-provided health insurance quickly tempered with the knowledge that with the slimmest of majorities (in concert with the Nader Reform faction), the party could not afford moderate defections, secure in the knowledge that the Republicans and the rest of the Reform Party would take a hardline stance on the issue.

    In the end, after months of haggling and back and forth negotiations with hospital associations, insurance companies, medical unions and every manner of special interest group and lobbying concern, the AHSA would be signed into law. The law would prevent the denial of coverage based on preexisting conditions and expand Medicaid eligibility while simultaneously requiring individuals to get insurance and enforcing minimum standards on the coverage of the plans being offered. By far the largest change, however, would be the public option- operating under the theory that basic healthcare was a human right, the progressives made their support conditional on the AHSA including a basic health plan provided directly through the government and administered by the Department of Health and Human Services.

    It wasn't perfect by any means, with the public option plans covering only specific classes of vital procedures, and with Medicaid expansion contingent on the approval of the states on an individual basis. But it was a start, the beginning of a change in American thinking that would see health care as a right for all citizens rather than an elective choice. And, despite all the back and forth and negotiations that had diluted the universal Medicare fever dreams of the nation's progressives, the conservatives in power in the other parties predictably couldn't accept half a loaf, with opposition to the AHSA forming the core of a new wave of attacks on the Democratic Party and sending Ron Paul to the forefront of the culture wars.
    Writing on the Wall: Factions of the Antarctic Revolution
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    I know I promised early 2000s worldbuilding but instead have the major factions of the Antarctic Revolution! Clockwise from top left:
    1. Fifth International- An intersectional alliance of the various socialist movements that rose up discretely in the individual Territories
    2. Sons of Liberty- A loose confederation of conservative, centrist and nationalist movements in the Territories
    3. Loyalists- AET bureaucrats, Macondo security forces and collaborators
    4. Common Ground*- The alliance between the underground Cosmicist International and the Church of the Southern Cross
    The start of the conflict would look far different from the end result, with the Fifth International and the Sons of Liberty widely seen as the dominant forces in the alliance against Macondo Technologies and its legions of corporate soldiers and collaborators. In contrast, the Cosmicist Common Ground was very much seen as a lesser partner, though this was in part due to a drastic underestimation of their popular support and militant ferocity. As the conflict wound down those Macondo affiliates that had not already fled threw themselves onto the mercy of the Free Antarctic Coalition, with the tense alliance between the Fifth International and the Sons of Liberty a victim of the Coalition's success. The Fifth International naturally favored an internationalist government and the nationalization of Macondo and Antarctic Economic Territory assets on the continent, while the Sons were adamant that they would accept nothing more imposing than a loose coalition made up of the newly independent Territories, with the auctioning off of seized assets to follow. As the two titans of the Coalition squared off to squabble over their spoils, members of the Common Ground were discretely building support among the margins of both factions and with the common citizens still suffering in the wake of the conflict.

    A continental referendum was arranged to settle questions raised by the fallout of the Revolution and this discrete coalition building and hidden wellspring of popular support would propel the Cosmicist parties into power, a position reinforced by their ability to acquire the lion's share of the Macondo scientific and administrative personnel. Under the doctrine of vanguard pluralism the resulting government was made a single party confederation of commonwealths and the ARC was born. Each of the member commonwealths is a federation balanced against the smaller cultural regions that evolved naturally as a result of AET-era settlement patterns and barriers to internal migration. These federations exist in a confederal structure of equals that sets broad policy on the continent and supervises ecological rehabilitation, defense, and the space colonization program. Although the ARC is a one party state, the party has broad internal diversity and a fully engaged and enfranchised populace, with dissenters free to run for political office as independents without penalties or reprisals. Most former Fifth International and Sons of Liberty partisans have acclimated well to the Cosmicist political consensus, all things considered, though there are still persistent rumors of rogue factions on the fringes of the ARC political system.

    *Aside from the fact that "Popular Front" is seen as a leftist term, and therefore unsuitable for Cosmicism, the term "Common Ground" for diverse Cosmicist alliances also simultaneously emphasizes the ideology's focus on ecology and the short-circuiting of traditional political divides.
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    Aftershocks: The Myth of the Cold War
  • As the Soviet Union began to decline in the 1980s, many academics and political commentators began to talk of the upcoming "end of history", with the collapse of communism and the ultimate triumph of American free market capitalism. Ideology has a powerful blinding effect, and the fervor of these predictions would be matched in a matter of years with the horror of a resurging Soviet state. Neoconservatives would see the failure of communism to collapse as a severe sign that the United States was not doing enough to strangle their rival into extinction. Without constant and sustained pressure on all fronts, they argued, the Cold War would be a continuous conflict between equals and that simply wouldn't do.

    Equally blinded by their ideological agendas they were also completely wrong. Twenty years into its restructuring the Union of Soviet States was beginning to show its limits even as the United States began drawing back from Soviet containment to pivot to the new danger of a growing Regressive movement. In many respects the twenty-first century was marked with a return to great power politics of national interest rather than a two-sided ideological affair. As such I've divided this snapshot of the world early in the century into segments.

    With the Regressive movement largely suppressed in the US, domestic unrest has been directed primarily against the Moseley Braun administration even as the nation remains involved around the world countering Regressive insurgencies. Canada is caught in a delicate balance on the edge of the US orbit even as indigenous groups are beginning to adopt almost Regressive rhetoric in their protests against the nation's extractive industries. Mexico and Central America have had recurring bouts of violence, a consequence of the booming drug trade.

    South America is the most "conventional" in terms of political tensions, with the US and the Soviets supporting friendly regimes there. The Brazilian military dictatorship lasted into the nineties TTL but has liberalized considerably since then, forming the largest economy in South America and the center of opposition to the Bolivarian Socialist Republic of Venezuela and its web of communist insurgencies. Thankfully Posadism has been largely snuffed out in the wake of Heaven's Gate, so nuclear terrorism is not a factor in the conflict.

    The Paneuropean Community has been steadily expanding, suffering some growing pains along the way, but the lack of any analogue to the Euro has helped the alliance remain more financially stable, while the federal military operated by the bloc has been deployed to North Africa as part of a counterinsurgency effort against Regressive cells in the area. Domestically there have been growing calls in Germany to leave the PEC, as the nation feels unheard and underrepresented in the bloc. In the face of gradually eroding public support and still smarting over the loss of territory during the restructuring, the USS under Premier Zyuganov has begun bullying the members of the Warsaw Pact to gain concessions, and has begun a boondoggle plan to build derricks in the North Sea to stake out territorial claims in the region.

    Africa is as complex and diverse as OTL, with the end to the South African race war having cooled down the tensions between US and Soviet allies in the south of the continent considerably. North Africa is in the grips of Regressive insurgencies as previously mentioned, while the failure of Samuel Doe's 1980 coup in Liberia would provide enough of a shock to the system for the government there to begin to liberalize. Things aren't perfect by any stretch, but a truth and reconciliation commission and a more inclusive political process in the years since has had knock-on effects throughout West Africa, and by the 2010s the region is stable and well-developed. This stability will come in very handy down the line and be directly tied to the swift end to an Ebola scare later in the decade.

    Early hopes in the wake of the end of communism in China would prove short lived as the newly reconstituted Republic of China would quickly begin to ossify under the authority of a clique of oligarchs in a trend most clearly seen with the election of Lai Changxing to the presidency. Under his leadership the country has begun taking aggressive steps against its neighbors, fighting a proxy war with India over Tibet, waging a counterinsurgency campaign in Xinjiang and using economic tools and military bluster in an attempt to gain leverage over the Pacific Rim. With Japan in the grips of economic doldrums and Indonesia suffering an escalating Regressive insurgency, the largest obstacles in the region to China's machinations would be Vietnam and Australia. Although ideologically opposed to one another going back to the Haig years, the two have been able to find increasing common ground with one another in opposition to Beijing and the growing Regressive violence on their borders.
    Writing on the Wall: From Macondo to Nightspore
  • Although Macondo Technologies had begun life as a small computer startup in the eighties, it had moved from strength to strength to become arguably the most influential corporation in the world in a matter of decades, using an excellent working relationship with the Department of Technology and a robust pipeline of foreign talent to expand and develop the company's hardware even as it made the determined push into software. While Macondo would rival Atari in the realm of personal computers, it would be the development of the Buendia family of programs that would catapult them to the bleeding edge.

    Originally nothing more than an easy and intuitive search engine built to compete with Google, Buendia would be rebranded into an umbrella over a variety of important properties, from the initial search engine to an online marketplace to a digital media and publishing arm. By the time regulators were finally taking a seriously look at the company it was too late, with their vertical integration model giving it unprecedented influence in the American economy. And as the company set about cementing its control, automation would become key to maintaining profit margins. And that meant fleets of drones and self-driving cars.

    As the century wore on and Macondo expanded into Antarctica (in spite of occasional setbacks elsewhere) the company would continue its reliance on drones, using them as the core of the surveillance network used to supervise and patrol the vast pools of convict labor and free-born squatters* that made up the lion's share of the population. As such it would be no surprise that drones would play a massive role in the Antarctic Revolution. Looking for an effective way to disperse crowds, the AET security teams would make use of "stoop drones", small drones with targeted explosives that could dive bomb and assassinate individual ringleaders in the crowd. Looking for a way to seize aerial supremacy the Common Ground would counter the fantastically effective stoop drones with a drone of their own design.

    Developed illicitly in Macondo's own fabricators by researchers who either saw the writing on the wall about the longevity of the regime or harbored secret Cosmicist sympathies to begin with, Project Nightspore was nothing short of a nonlethal terror weapon. The great contradiction of the ideology was that true believers knew in their bones that every day without action was another step closer to a dead and blasted world, but at the same time they felt the need to save and provide for everyone they could, even former enemies. Hence the focus on a nonlethal deterrent, even a horrendous one.

    Nightspore drones were a class of devices, rather than a specific model, from hexapedal machines small enough to operate in buildings to aerial ones large enough to destroy aircraft as the conflict bore on, though they all had things in common. Hallmarks of the Nightspore designs included vantablack coloration, chemical deterrents, infrasound generation, and variable light emission. The devices were designed to be disconcerting, appearing functionally two-dimensional from certain angles, all the while emitting sounds that caused paranoia and physical discomfort and lights that could blind drones or induce vomiting, burning sensations and seizures in humans. Initially few in number, the larger Nightspores would prove so devastating to enemy morale that their use could turn the tide of a battle, frequently allowing Cosmicist partisans to capture useful resources and personnel that could be used to manufacture more of the devices. Rumors that the principles honed in the Nightspore project are still being used to develop new generations of terror craft have neither been confirmed nor denied by the ARC government.

    *Some genuinely were climate refugees fleeing south but most were just people born to the convict population. It costs money to send them away and their parent's countries of origin generally didn't want them anyway, so there they stayed.
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    Writing on the Wall: A Time For Festival New
  • Like any society, the ARC follows its own particular cycle of holidays and public celebrations. One important distinction, however, is the devolution to the continent's member Commonwealths, each with their own particular ethnoreligious mix and particular festivities. As such, while there is a vast quilt of regional holidays for particular groups, there are really only six observed universally on the continental scale. Because the political system of the ARC holds frequent elections at one level of government or another and values robust civic participation, those elections are considered protected holidays but change from year to year based on their own cycles, and as such are not included in this list.
    • New Year's Day- January 1, the start of the calendar year
    • Discovery Day- January 27, commemorating the discovery of the continent in 1820 along with all the waves of explorers that mapped and struggled and even died coming to grips with Antarctica.
    • May Day- May 1, a memorialization of precarian solidarity inherited from socialism, even as automation has vastly redefined the nature of labor on the continent
    • Winter Solstice- June 6 to June ~21 (floating), a celebration of community and resilience in the depths of the antipolar winter and largely focused around gift giving.
    • Memorial Days- October 31 to November 6, a time to remember the Revolution and also deceased loved ones, taking place over the course of a week to celebrate the first Rising that precipitated the conflict and thematically similar to the Days of the Dead and Guy Fawkes Day in tone and festivities.
    • Summer Solstice- December 5 to December ~21 (floating), far more boisterous than the Christmas of the northern hemisphere, the Antarctic Summer Solstice revels in the highest level of light all year, celebrating the natural and agricultural bounty that has sprung up in Antarctica since the melting of the glaciers with parties and fireworks displays.
    A new set of unifying holidays naturally led to the organic growth of new anthropomorphic representatives for them. While Fabian Belligshausen and those that came after him have pride of place on Discovery Day, as the colloquial personification of the Antarctic peoples Ultima is the central focus of the Winter Solstice. The Memorial Days, meanwhile, center around an "unknown soldier" archetype known only as the Red Death, held to be a martyr who led the first Rising and perished at the end of that fateful week with the rest of his comrades in a Macondo gas attack, burned in effigy as a signal fire of defiance. The Summer Solstice is the most interesting, repurposing the Krampus figure of Central Europe in light of the holiday's shifted focus toward the greening of the continent. Clad in a green robe and armed with a flowering birch branch, Krampus is more similar to a muskox rather than a goat and often depicted riding an antipodean bear.

    By far the greatest celebration in Antarctica is the quinquennial Festival, meant to be an exaltation of the achievements of the Cosmintern as a whole and therefore open to Cosmicist partisans of all nations. Hosted only in Antarctica and consisting of three events spread throughout the year, the fact that the Spartakiad is divided between two hosts and a member Commonwealth is ineligible to host in the next Festival ensures that no one member is overburdened by their duties as host and every Commonwealth participates in the decennial cycle.
    1. Inundation- The Cosmicist Exhibition, a world's fair focused on cultural and technological development. Cosmicist political and social groups from around the world are most active here, and the host Commonwealth puts on a grand show of celebrating regional artisans, composers and other homegrown talent.
    2. Growth- The Spartakiad, a demonstration of physical and intellectual prowess. Divided into warm and cold weather events between two host Commonwealths, the Spartakiad is made up of new and classic sports, competitive board games and academic competitions.
    3. Harvest- The Flower War, a combination of televised live fire naval and aerial wargames and small squad gladiatorial combat to demonstrate new innovations in experimental military and medical technology at both the tactical and the individual level.
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