Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Strawman Has A Point

May 1, 2017,
09:02 local time,
Treaty of Buffalo Headquarters,
Buffalo, Roman New York

“The reason why we’re here is very simple,” said American Confederacy President Haylie Modine, addressing an emergency summit of all 85 Treaty of Buffalo signatories. “It is time for a new direction in the Mundiali, and, for that, I am calling for the immediate and effective removal of David Wilcox as Dux.”

Several gasps could be heard around the room, with chatter soon erupting among the delegates.

The first to address Modine was Roman Caesar Erasmus.

“Under what grounds?” Erasmus said, looking at Modine with a foreboding glare.

“Under the grounds that Wilcox has repeatedly and unabashedly harassed me and my government,” stated Modine defiantly, “as well as repeatedly mocking and defaming me in a clear attempt to assassinate my character.”

“I’m sorry,” said Scottish Chancellor Kyra Andrews, a Roman ally, “but ever since the election- if we can even call your election an election- you and your campaign have been under a cloud of suspicion that you have corrupted the results, and a review of the ‘plebiscites’ you initiated to determine your Confederacy was proven to be a fraud in two cases. Proven, Ms. Modine. Your actions, in jailing your rivals and deporting many innocent men, has only served to reinforce the idea that you do not care at all about the rule of law, and are only in this to serve yourself.”

Modine chuckled sardonically.

“You know, Mrs. Andrews,” she sneered, “I expected more from you, especially to defend me in my actions against the many monsters that you and governments like you refuse to do anything about, putting millions of women in peril. Which I thought you’d care about…unless you’re just a patriarchy shill too.”

Andrews was livid, and would have tore into Modine before Assyrian Empress Anatu, often the mediator in summits like this, jumped in.

“I don’t think any of us want to put women in danger,” Anatu said. “We are just simply not interested in indulging your personal vendettas. Mr. Wilcox is an honourable man, and, as far as I can tell, he was only doing his job. If he overstepped his bounds, he’d be the first one to tell you.”

“Then,” said Modine, “maybe you would like to explain why Wilcox never apologized for the time that Phineas Malcolm and Claire Kincaid brusquely confronted me and accused me of being involved in Ingrid Fjallsdottir’s criminal enterprises.”

Anatu was stunned by Modine’s remark, while Modine sat back and smirked. Modine was lying, as Wilcox sent her a personal letter apologizing for that interview and Wilcox even cited that incident as a reason for eventually firing Malcolm and Kincaid. However, there was no way anyone in the room would know that, at the moment.

“That really doesn’t sound like the David Wilcox I know,” said Anatu, still wrestling with the information.

“You’re lying,” said Moroccan Emperor Abdul Fattah, another Roman ally. Fattah was grasping at straws, but like many in his camp, they didn’t believe a word Modine said.

“Funny that the men in this room would seek to quiet down a girl,” sneered Modine. “Pathetic, all of you.”
“Gender has nothing to do with this,” said Erasmus defiantly, banging his fist against the desk.
“It does as long as the patriarchy is in power,” said Modine, keeping her cool and rubbing it in Erasmus’ face.

“Okay,” said Anatu, “enough. This is going nowhere. Haylie, if you don’t think Dave should be the Dux, who do you suggest?”

Modine was only too happy to reply.

“Leroy Simms,” said Modine confidently. She only picked Simms because he led the Virtue Guards, the top police force of the Virtue Federation, Rome’s archnemesis and an organization she was trying to join. With Virtue having 50 of the necessary 57 votes needed for nomination, and Modine holding three others, she just needed only four other countries to vote with her to get what she wanted.

“Leroy?” Erasmus said. “The man who raped Katy Scutaro?”
“How’s that for irony?” said Ontario Chancellor Juan Castro, who along with Birea, New York and the Visigothic Kingdom led an anti-American alliance.
“He was acquitted,” said Modine. “Meaning he didn’t actually do it.”
“So I guess all this stuff about ‘believing the victims’ only applies when you don’t like the perpetrator,” said New York Emperor Donald Trump. “Duly noted.”
“Oh the irony of men who once came to the defence of rapists and belittled their victims now suddenly feel obliged to rush to the victims’ defence,” sneered Modine.
“Haylie,” said Anatu, now getting frustrated with the proceedings, “you’re on record as having denounced Leroy and coming to Katy’s aid. There’s even a very heartfelt picture of Katy crying on your shoulder…you will have a lot of explaining to do to her now.”

“Well, you know,” said Modine, sounding unconvincing. “Opinions…they change. Conclusions you once had can become different once you have new information.”
“What new information could you possibly have?” snorted Castro. He then folded his arms and leaned back in his chair, awaiting Modine’s reply.

Modine paused for a few moments to collect herself before continuing.

“I just know,” she said with a smile. “I spoke to him…he convinced me.”

“There you have it folks!” said Castro with extreme exuberance. “The woman that has, for years denounced the word of rapists as ‘liars’ and ‘frauds’ now suddenly believes them! While simultaneously branding the very victims she asserts always told the truth, as liars! You heard it here, folks! Right from the horse’s mouth.”
“Not sure I’d believe that horse’s mouth even if her tongue was notarized,” said Trump with laughter erupting in the room, mostly from the anti-American delegation.

Modine could only chuckle.

“Laugh all you want,” she said. “Just remember that I never said what happened to Katy did not happen. I can very well pledge that Leroy has reformed, and I believe he has. This does not excuse his past behaviour, but this can be a case- an extreme one- where we can see someone has reformed and we can give them a second chance.”

Chortles could be heard from the anti-Modine camp, but Anatu spoke up to move things along.

“Does anyone from Virtue want to weigh in?” she said.

“Leroy has worked for us in various capacities for three years now,” said Mongol Khan Ogedei XII. “He’s excelled at his job and exhibited a class and dignity that is beyond what could ever be expected. Leroy has more than proven himself to me.”
“I’m pretty convinced myself that Leroy has changed,” said Bactrian Emperor David Patel. “The allegations against Katy were troubling, but I believe he’s successfully gotten past it.”

“Look,” said Byzantine Empress Alexia Comnenus. “If there was anyone who should question Leroy’s hire, it’s me. I was kidnapped and tortured once…so Katy’s story resonated with me…but, after examining the facts and speaking to Leroy personally, I made the determination that he was fit for the job…and I believe he would be fit for the Mundiali.”

A loud chorus of cheers came from the Virtue section, as many more weighed in positively on Simms.

“Okay then,” said Anatu, an uncomfortable smile coming from her. “I think we need to have the vote.”

As expected, all 50 of Virtue’s members voted in favour of elevating Simms to the Dux post, as did all three members of the American Confederacy. None of the members of the Roman bloc or the anti-American bloc voted for the measure, meaning the vote came down to 12 other states. The Hittite Empire and the Mesopotamian Confederacy, Assyrian allies, voted against the measure, with Anatu abstaining her vote until the very end, only voting to break a tie. Canada and Utah, who had their own issues with Modine, voted against Modine, leaving seven to vote and Modine’s measure still needing four more votes.

Modine sat eagerly awaiting the votes, getting more anxious as more countries voted against her. The Korvalian Empire, a seafaring nation that held territory in Iceland, Spain and Antarctica, made Modine even more nervous when they voted against the measure. Modine’s nerves were eased when African power Khorsun voted for Simms, as did the Vandal Kingdom, leaving four left to vote- Russia, Australia, Assyria and Oman. Since Anatu would only vote to break a tie- and Anatu wouldn’t vote for Simms- that meant that Modine needed two of the final three countries to vote for Simms.

Russia and Oman soon announced their votes, voting against Modine. Oman Sultan Mahmoud al-Nasr was pointed in his decision, calling Modine a “hypocrite” for backing a person she spared no expense criticizing before and accusing her of “buying” votes.

“We all know you want to join Virtue,” said al-Nasr, an imposing figure with a booming baritone, “and you’re just hoodwinking them to get what you want- someone who actually challenges you.”

Modine could only shake her head, snickering. Her nerves were sky high, but she did her best to hide it, even though Australian Chancellor George Carmen was her last hope.

As Carmen got set to vote, Modine watched in anticipation. Carmen was a figurehead, an appointed representative for a country that was really just operated as the world’s effective tax haven. Hundreds of companies owned and administered their own territories on the continent and held its effective power, with both Roman and Virtual companies using the territory. Some companies cared about their territories and administered it effectively, but most just milked it for profit and treated the local Australians as effective (if not actual) slaves. Ostensibly, the people voted in Carmen, but since the companies controlled the election, it was the companies that ultimately selecting him.

Some of those companies looked upon Simms favourably, others didn’t, but many Modine knew nothing about. She never met Carmen and, though she felt he was a good man, she had no way of knowing how he would vote.

Modine’s nerves were eased when Carmen announced that he would support Simms’ promotion, meaning that Modine’s measure received the necessary 57 votes to get her wish to expel Wilcox and install Simms as his replacement. She shrieked for joy and jumped into the arms of her assistant, Tori McGuire, who was similarly happy.

As Modine celebrated, Erasmus looked on, downcast. He contemplated his options, wondering if the Treaty still could serve Roman interests. If Modine and Virtue became a voting bloc, then Rome’s voting power was greatly diminished. He had to make a move.

“I think it’s time Rome ends all trade with Virtue and America,” he said. Erasmus had one weapon, and that’s the fact the Romans and their bloc produced almost half of the world’s economic output despite only having 17 voting members within the Treaty. Though the ramifications of that decision would still hurt Rome, it would only be in the short run because, long term, the world needed Rome’s goods.

“You wouldn’t do that,” said Alexia, attempting to call out Erasmus on his bluff. “Your companies would not accept losing such a big market.”
“Maybe so,” said Erasmus, “but we produce almost half of the world’s economic output. We’re self-sufficient…we’ll manage. You stand to lose a lot more than I will.”

More chatter filled the room, with some angry barbs thrown at Erasmus for his decision. Erasmus repeatedly declared he’d change his mind only if the voting rules were changed. The Treaty members, realizing they were in a bind, voted to do so, increasing the threshold for voting to 85% of members, or 72 out of 85. This way, even if every country that wasn’t within the Roman bloc voted for a measure, it wouldn’t pass.

Erasmus was pleased he was able to quickly restore Rome’s power within the organization. He looked pointedly at Modine, who understood she had more work to do.

May 8, 2017,
18:06 local time,
Lisbon Harbour,
Lisbon, Lusitania

Danforth Grayson looked at the news and could only sigh. “Erasmus made a big move,” he said to himself, “but Haylie’s move was more decisive, and ultimately, more reckless.” Grayson then shook his head, pondering even more. “David Wilcox may have had a stick up his a** but at least he had a good heart. Leroy Simms, on the other hand, will only serve himself.”

He received another notification on his phone. The power play by Erasmus meant that an investigation was launched into Modine’s behaviour, leading to a reversal of last week’s vote and restoring Wilcox as Mundiali Dux, with Simms going back to the Virtue Guards.

More notifications gave him pause.

Looks like Modine bit off more than she could chew, thought Grayson. I’m not sure the world will be better for it, though.

May 9, 2017,
13:02 local time,
Flavian Palace,
Rome, Roman Republic

“You know,” said English Foreign Affairs Minister Jack Kent after getting comfortable in the study of Roman Emperor Erasmus, “no matter how many times I visit the Palace I am always struck in awe. The magnificence and its beauty is almost enough for me to say, ‘England and Rome, let’s bury the hatchet’, because, why would I want to destroy such a thing?”

Erasmus laughed in his chair. “Almost,” he said, “but not quite.”

“I think our countries have far too many issues which prevents us from seeking amicable terms,” said Kent. “I mustn’t hide from that reality.”

“…and yet you’ve come here,” said Erasmus, “not on an official mission but insisting I let you in as my personal guest, of which I only allowed because I believe you are a man of honour. You work in strange ways, Jack.”

“I have to use every tool available in my arsenal,” said Kent, “including appealing to your personal convictions. Surely you understand how the great game works.”
“I’ve been Emperor for hardly a week,” said Erasmus, “but the events of this past month, with Valerius initially refusing to concede the Crown…gave me a crash course.”
“Congratulations on that,” said Kent. “I figure I would at least tell you in person. You are far easier to get along with than Valerius ever was, believe me.”

Erasmus chuckled before leaning forward in his chair, adopting a serious tone.

“Yet something tells me that you’re not here simply for congratulations,” he said.

Kent readjusted himself in his seat, adopting the same serious tone. He didn’t sit forward, but he did clasp his hands in front of him.

“That is because you are about to ruin your legacy before it can even begin,” he said, his strong baritone more poignant in its tone.

Erasmus looked on, intrigued more than upset.

“The invasion of North America,” said Kent. “Don’t do it.”

Erasmus gave his head a shake and then let out an awkward chuckle.

“What invasion of North America?” said Erasmus, feigning ignorance.
“Come on,” said Kent forcefully. “Quit playing around, Your Highness. It’s the worst kept secret in the political world…the Icelandic Army has been mobilizing in Yarmouth all week, tripling in size overnight. Now I know there’s no documentation so I can’t prove any of this in a formal capacity…but anyone with half a brain would know there’s no way the Icelandic Army would get so strong in such a short amount of time without help…which would be your help.”

“So,” said Erasmus, getting agitated. “You’ve come here to figuratively arrest me…prove to your buddies that you got one over ‘those darn Romans’, am I right? Win a few points on the political sphere in England and among your buddies in Virtue too…well, let me ask you- how long will that last? A week is forever in politics, especially in a democracy like ours.”

Kent leaned forward, though his piercing eyes displayed a hint of humanity.

“I’m not here as a politician,” said Kent. “I’m here as a friend.”
“As much respect as I have for you as a person,” said Erasmus, “I’d hardly call you a friend.”
“Be that as it may,” said Kent, “you and I both have an interest in stopping Haylie Modine and her reign of terror in North America. It also hasn’t escaped me that, among the major powers of the world, we are the only two democracies. We have far more in common than you think.”
“So why are you trying to stop me?” said Erasmus. “If you’re my friend, you should support me.”
“Friends stop their friends from doing something that would ruin them,” said Kent, pointedly.
“England has spared no end trying to ruin Rome,” said Erasmus with a smirk.
“Yet I am coming here trying to save you,” said Kent.

Erasmus let out a heavy sigh.

“Let it out Jack,” said Erasmus, “you’re not here to save me…you’re here to save North America for your pals in Virtue. Or maybe for yourself…you need more of a footprint in North America.”
“I could wipe out the Icelandic Army in minutes,” said Kent, leaning back in his chair. “I have Yarmouth surrounded. In fact, my General wanted to do just that…but I overruled them. Why? Because I wanted to appeal to you first, because you decapitating Haylie would only destroy what you seek to maintain.”
“OK,” said Erasmus, “you’re holding me hostage. Say ‘yes’ to you and the Icelandic Army doesn’t get squashed like a bug. I see how this works.”
“No,” said Kent. “I told the Army to stand down no matter what you do. Besides, even you would understand that now that you know of what we can do you can actually prepare for it…you and I both know the only way we could take Yarmouth is by surprise. I don’t have that anymore. You can send your reinforcements from Boston and I don’t have an advantage anymore.”

Erasmus looked Kent straight in the eyes.

“I somehow still don’t believe you,” said Erasmus, “and, quite frankly, I’m not sure I care. I’m going to do what is right…the American Confederacy that Haylie Modine has created is nothing more than a fascist dictatorship wrapped up in liberal platitudes…you and I both know she is a danger to democracy. I have to make a statement…that the Romans care about real liberty, not something that merely sounds like it. If I don’t make a stand, people like her…people within the alt-left…they will be emboldened. Emboldened to take power and destroy everything that we hold dear. It does not matter that they fight for ‘the right things’…when they do it wrong, we all suffer.”

“No,” said Kent. “You’re wrong. The alt-left want you to destroy democracy. They want you to destroy the republic. They want you to attack them so they can rally their troops. The alt-left…they thrive on feeling cornered. They may not want to establish a dictatorship right away…but they have long argued that democracy really only serves the oligarchs and they will justify establishing their autocracy by saying they are ‘returning the power to the people’.”

Kent then leaned forward and spoke pointedly.

“Let me put it as succinctly as I can,” he said. “If you remove Haylie from power, you will be destroying the very thing you claim to protect.”

Erasmus let Kent’s words sink in, but he wasn’t swayed.

In the days after the meeting, the Romans and the Icelanders coordinated their efforts against the American Confederacy, eventually leading to Icelandic troops storming the American Presidio dramatically and arresting Modine on live television. The Icelanders had a relatively easy time establishing their rule in the rest of the Confederacy, as Modine’s ways had left her very unpopular.

Still, despite the English- and many within the Virtue Federation- secretly appreciating the removal of a figure they called “a dangerous revolutionary”, Virtue seized the opportunity to publicly denounce Iceland’s annexation of America (with the Icelanders calling their new territory “Vikingaland”), claiming they “did not respect democracy”. Virtue did little more than talk, and The Romans and Icelanders didn’t bother to engage in the war of words, deciding it was better to establish democratic values in a territory that had largely lost them within the past few years.

It was the dawn of a new era, but the problems were far from over.