Today marks the birthday of Woody Strode (1914-1994), one of the first African-Americans to play in the NFL and one of our favorite character actors. He is pictured above in John Ford’s Sergeant Rutledge (1960), a flawed but interesting film that features Strode as one the screen’s first heroic African-American cowboys.

K-99 BRK ll with a three dog support team in full camouflage. #giantrobot #mechwarrior #battletech #funnyanimals #cartooning #brushpen #conceptart #traditionalmedia #alternatehistory #copicmarker #crayola #ebonypencil #whiteout @crayola @copicmarker #matthewart #matthewarmstrong #matthewsarmatrong

This was not written by me (it was written by a poster on, but I’m going to repost it here because it does a great job of explaining what the heck is going on in Iowa today.

Right, fellow Britons and others not from the USA: you may be a bit puzzled about the news talking about what’s happening in Iowa today, not least because the news usually doesn’t know what it’s talking about either. Here follows a brief explanation followed by a long rambling rant.
Basically there are only two serious political parties in the US, the right-wing Republicans and the sometimes-marginally-less-right-wing Democrats. The candidates of these two parties will face off for President in November this year (Obama can’t run again as he’s served two terms). What begins today is the process of picking who the candidates will be. If that’s all you need to know, stop reading here.
So how do US political parties pick their presidential candidates? The short version is “Stupidly”. Each state votes separately at different times to pick delegates to send to the party convention in the summer. Because the USA has no campaign regulation, nobody gets free party political broadcasts on TV like in the UK or France, it all comes down to whether you have the money and the media attention to sustain your campaign through state after state voting for weeks. Most of the candidates usually drop out long before the big states like California get to vote, so the majority of Americans often don’t get a full choice in who their candidates will be. These state votes for delegates are sometimes primaries (where it’s a normal secret ballot vote, though sometimes only by supporters of that party and sometimes by anyone – depends on the state) and sometimes caucuses, which is where people go to town hall meetings, hear advocates for each candidate give speeches about them, and then publicly give their support without a secret ballot. As with everything in the USA, each state gets to do its own thing and all their systems are subtly intricately different. The first state to vote is Iowa, today, and it’s a complicated caucus where who wins today DOESN’T EVEN TECHNICALLY MATTER for the state’s delegates, because they’re not actually appointed until months later, by which time half the candidates they were pledged to will have dropped out anyway. But the US media will treat it as important who wins and who doesn’t, and that’s all that matters—back in 2004 Howard Dean’s campaign died purely because he underperformed among the less than 20% of Iowans who voted in the caucuses. After Iowa it will be New Hampshire, and then Nevada and South Carolina, and then ‘Super Tuesday’ in which lots of states vote at once. The first two states are always Iowa and New Hampshire, both fairly small states, which is why presidential hopefuls will spend LITERALLY YEARS before the election camping out in those states trying to persuade the locals to support them.
How exactly did the US get this absurd system? It’s because the candidates used to be picked at the convention itself rather than that being sorted out before the convention even happens. State parties just used to pick delegates by whichever means and they could change their minds when they got to the convention if they wanted. Primary votes by the people used to exist but only as an advisory measure, and many presidents (e.g. Dwight D. Eisenhower) were easily nominated despite doing horribly in them. However, after absolute chaos at the Democratic convention in 1968, a bunch of hippies (no, literally) reformed things so their candidate George McGovern could win in 1972. This changed things so that the people’s vote in the primaries and caucuses now actually meant something and chose delegates committed to support a candidate then and there. All fine and good, except the primaries were held at all different dates – because it had once been that they were so irrelevant that nobody cared when a state happened to pick its delegates for the convention. So, completely by accident, we’ve ended up with this situation where Iowa and New Hampshire (combined population less than Yorkshire) have disproportionate influence in picking presidential candidates for the entire USA (population five times that of the UK). Periodically Americans talk about trying to change it, but it never happens because too many people benefit from the existing system, and New Hampshire even has a clause in its state constitution to always move its primary date to be before anyone else’s (Iowa doesn’t count). So by now people are just resigned to the media circus and treating a contest as significant when, according to how the system works ON PAPER, it should be virtually irrelevant. If a candidate fails to do well in Iowa and New Hampshire, their financial backers will drop them like a hot potato and it doesn’t matter if millions of Californians or New Yorkers or Floridians wanted to vote for them, they’ll have to drop out.
Let’s see how it goes this time.

A Brief History of the Confederate States of America

The Confederate States of America was founded in 1861 with their declaration of independence on January 7th, 1861. Declared from the Georgian legislative building in Atlanta, the assembled delegates represented some 8 southern states, those being;

South Carolina

North Carolina







In order to grasp the birth of the Confederate States properly, a backstory must be presented in detail. While in OTL, the more radical and fire-eater southerns managed to create a series of secession’s, which hampered the initial months of the Southern Independence movements. However in this timeline those radicals were managed to be held back, and a convention of 8 states met in Atlanta where they discussed the pro’s and con’s of leaving the Union.

Debates ranged for a week and a half, until finally the delegates assembled agreed to elect a Convention President, nominating Robert Woodward Barnwell of South Carolina, who graciously accepted and brought forth the motion to draft an official declaration of independence for these “Confederate States of America”. Written by Howell Cobb and William Parish Clinton of Georgia and Alabama respectively, the document is modeled after that of 1776, boasting a list of grievances and  reasons that independence was a better move for the region, while making a resounding point of the desire for peace between the Confederacy and the Union.

Reaching the desk of President Buchanan on 13rd of January, the intentions of this new Confederacy seemed very clear in his eyes. Seeing their actions as similar to but not identical to that of the United States at its conception, he calls for a meeting with the President of the Convention, who after the request, had been given the authority by the Congress to represent the new Confederacy until an official constitution can be completed.

Arriving under escort in Washington on January 23rd, Barnwell is greeted in person by President Buchanan at the doors of the White House, from where the two proceed to the Oval Office. Talks on the possibility of reconciliation of the Union are brought up but quickly deemed extremely unlikely without use of force. As the conversation goes on, eventually the elephant in the room is addressed, will the United States recognize the Confederacy?

Buchanan makes it clear that he does not wish for conflict, and will do what he can to prevent his successor from starting a war of aggression against the south, but at the same is extremely adamant that any moves of aggression by the south will make a war inevitable. With that said the topic of bases and military installations are brought up, namely Fort Sumter in South Carolina. The Fort had at one point belonged to the state, at least the land on which it was built. A suggestion to slowly and over time pay for the bases within Confederate territories is brought up by Barnwell, to which his counterpart see’s as a likely possibility.

The conversation ends with an unofficial agreement between the two Presidents that both will do their best to cool the tempers of their respective nations and respect the other nations borders. Military bases are to be given time to peacefully evacuated and their garrisons escorted to the border. While not an actual treaty or recognition of the Confederacy, it is a major step towards one, proving that the CSA can negotiate and act reasonably to Union requests.

While many southerners are unhappy at the agreement to eventually pay for the Union installations in their states territories, it is received with a mostly positive view, with several delegates proposing Barnwell be elected the official President of the Confederate States of America in recognition of his ability at diplomacy. The respective delegates notify their states of the current events, and most military units begin to aid in the evacuation of the more prominent federal installations and manning the evacuated ones themselves. One of the first to be replaced with Confederate troops was Fort Sumter, which up until that time had been a major risk of tension.

By February 22nd, the United States has still not acted in any way as if preparing for war, with trade continuing between north and south while the two nations anxiously await what will occur when President-Elect Lincoln is inaugurated, and whether it will lead to the outbreak of conflict. With the lack of any actions by the Union, the French and British feel it is safe to recognize the new nation, sending diplomats and opening embassies in Atlanta.

On this day in 1916 a Zeppelin crashed into the North Sea after dropping over 400 bombs onto the West Midlands in England. In this cover for “Ring of Fire III”, Tom shows an alternate history where airships were used to bomb targets along the Rhine River in 1635. It is part of the 1632 Series, edited by Eric Flint, published by Baen Books, 2011. #airship #1632 #tomkidd #alternatehistory #ericflint