Friday, August 19, 2016

August 19, 1946 – Saxophonist Billy Blythe Born

Although he was known as William Jefferson Clinton for several years as a young man, as a famed member of the music industry, he would forever be known as Billy Blythe. William Blythe, Senior, Billy’s father, was a traveling salesman who died in a traffic accident just months before his son was born. The young widow and new mother, Virginia, made ends meet as a nurse. In 1950, she married Roger Clinton, a car dealer in nearby Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Clinton would prove a dominating force in Billy’s young life. He took his stepfather’s surname informally, though he refused to ever take it legally, one of many issues that arose between them. Clinton was a gambler and alcoholic, and he took out his struggles on Billy’s mother and younger half-brother, Roger, Jr. As Billy grew older, he stood up to his stepfather violently, and soon regular fights broke out in the Clinton household.

When Billy was sixteen, the same year Virginia divorced Clinton, he won first chair in saxophone in the Arkansas state band. This, he determined, would be his ticket out of his family’s struggles in Arkansas. Despite interests in being a doctor or even public servant, Billy focused on his music, dreaming of becoming a great like John Coltrane or Stan Getz. Upon graduation from high school, he moved to California and worked to establish a career.

If Billy lacked in talent, he more than made up for it in personality and his uncanny ability to make connections. He crossed paths with his idol Stan Getz several times as Getz won awards with his bossa nova style alongside talents such as Joao and Astrud Gilberto. Getz’s affair with Astrud broke their collaboration and created a turning point in Getz’s career. Billy, who would himself become infamous for his many affairs, worked his way into Getz’s circle and is often credited with turning the great saxophonist’s attention back toward cool jazz.

Working on albums with Getz and others, Billy’s true fame came when he burned his draft card and began his “Canadian Tour” after his name was announced for the Vietnam War effort. He eclipsed Getz and began playing peppier music in tune with the taste of his new, much younger fans. Although scandal would break out when it was discovered that Billy’s uncle had led a failed effort to get Billy into the Navy Reserve and thus wait out the war at home, Billy avoided any bad press in America by hopping the Atlantic and playing venues in Europe into the mid-1970s.

After Billy’s return during the Carter years, he continued to be loud in his politics, although it was the terms of Ronald Reagan that brought him to his height. The saxophone had become a widely popular instrument, and Billy’s concerts surpassed those of Kenny G and others. Billy proved to be a savvy businessman and was soon demanding hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single appearance. Blythe Merchandising became a multi-million-dollar company, which transitioned into Blythe Entertainment as Billy’s personal fame dimmed.

Billy found that his smooth personality translated well into the backroom dealings of the music industry. Numerous stars of the nineties and new millennium owed their fame to his patronage, although later stories were told over how deep his take was, not to mention his routine encounters with interns. Billy’s name still often sprang into the news for a land investment scandal or the like, although his greatest legacy seemed to live on through his ongoing campaign for the legalization of marijuana, claiming, “I always inhale.”


In reality, according to his autobiography My Life, Clinton only threatened violent repercussions to protect his mother and half-brother. “I loved music and thought I could be very good, but I knew I would never be John Coltrane or Stan Getz. I was interested in medicine and thought I could be a fine doctor, but I knew I would never be Michael DeBakey. But I knew I could be great in public service.” Clinton went to Georgetown on scholarship and became president of his class, the first of many successful campaigns, including President of the United States in 1992 and 1996.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Guest Post from Allen W. McDonnell: July 31, 1630 - Humiliating Tready of Madrid

 This post first appeared on Today in Alternate History.

As a result of the treaty, King Charles faced a new crisis: the claims of Sir Robert Heath to Cape Hatteras are now null and void and a number of wealthy Caribbean plantations owned by English colonists are no longer in English territory. Any troubles those colonists have with the Spanish became their own concern from then on. It was not long before they are pressured to leave by the Spanish, who want to take over their profitable trade.  Having no other legal recourse, they turn to King Charles who grants them land in 'North Virginia,' including what would have been Delaware and Maryland. The cash crops that do well in this region is not sugar cane, which had made them all wealthy, but indigo and tobacco.

Not realizing just how different the climate in New England is from that of England and Scotland, King Charles issued a new grant to Sir Robert Heath for New Scotland directly north of New England where Scots would be encouraged to colonize. As a result the first forts were built at Dundee, New Scotland, in 1635 on a truly excellent harbor discovered just south of the 45 degree parallel.

Queen Mary suffered an infection after the birth of her second child, the Princess Mary, and dies December 1, 1631. The sympathy generated for King Charles was substantial, and his decision to marry an young English noble woman of Anglican faith relieved most of the fears his nobles have about a secret cabal of Catholics trying to over turn the protestant reformation in England.

Queen Anne had ambitions for her own children. Her older step-child Charles was raised as a devout Anglican and was invested as Prince of Wales with all the honors and responsibilities on his 10th birthday in 1640. Under Anne's influence, the Princess Mary was not only raised as a devout Anglican but was made Duchess of New England in 1646 on her 15th birthday.

Charles I and Queen Anne had many children whom Anne insisted on naming in what she considered truly English royal name fashion. Her seven sons were Alfred, Edmund, Edgar, Harold, Stephen, Richard and William. Her four daughters were named Anne, Elizabeth, Imogene and Olivia.

Queen Anne had a profound influence over King Charles, encouraging him to sponsor many more colonial settlements in North America, though Charles insisted on placing them all north of the 36 degree treaty line with Spain. As a result, by the time he died at the advanced age of 60, New England and New Scotland have substantial populations.

When Charles II was invested with the crowns of England, Scotland and Ireland in 1660, his sister Duchess Mary of New England moved her household to Boston. Though very small by English or even Scottish standards, her patronage soon created a thriving upper class set of establishments, like the Boston Opera house, and her palace on Nob Hill is beautiful and elegant, designed by an English architect and built by immigrant craftsmen.

Though Charles II was deemed by most to be a successful monarch, he was much more interested in the fleshpots than the day to day running of the kingdoms; he left that to his bureaucracy while he enjoyed the good life. Unfortunately his wife was unable to provide him an heir, though several stillborn children did result from the marriage. When Charles II passed in 1685 at the relatively young age of 54 from heart failure, he was hardly missed by the general public.

His half-brother Alfred inherited the throne because he had no legitimate children, but his reign was fairly short, lasting only until 1689 when he died from a bad fall off of his horse while fox hunting. Unlike his half-brother, King Alfred had several legitimate children with his wife, and by that time several grandchildren as well to carry on the line. His eldest son, Richard, became king in 1689 and pledged to carry on the 'New Colony' project King Alfred had begun in far southern South America.

Reasoning that Spain is much too strong for England to challenge successfully and that the easy to settle land near the cost of New England and New Scotland has already been distributed King Alfred had sent an expedition to explore and claim lands south of the 36 degree latitude in South America. The expedition had mapped the coast starting at 36 degrees south and discovered the Falkland islands quite by accident on its return journey having come back to London just a month before King Alfred hunting accident.

An excellent harbor had been discovered at 38 degrees 45 minutes south on the coast. and a small garrison had been left behind in a hastily assembled fort to make the English claim more secure. King Richard IV spent lavishly to support the colony, renamed New Wales, and the village Fort Alfred in honor of his father's ambitions. The land around Fort Alfred turned out to be very fertile and convincing colonists to move in with land grants was not difficult. Soon satellite colonies farther and farther south along the coast are planted, though, after about 150 miles, farming became predominantly ranching instead of crop oriented.

In that 150 mile swath of New Wales, grain farms prospered alongside legumes and scattered tobacco and indigo farms, reversing the order in North America. The farther south a farm is, the colder the winters and the harder it is to grow some crops, to the point that at the further reaches like the Falkland Islands are dominated by sheep ranching and fishing rather than field crops.

Meanwhile in North America, Duchess Mary of New England passed away in 1695, passing the duchy to her grandson Henry, her oldest son James having predeceased her. Like his cousin King Richard, Duke Henry was ambitious and wants to see his duchy prosper. In his case, he encouraged settlers to expand his borders north to the Saint Lawrence river valley and west to the coast of Lake Ontario. With a solid population base due to the high number of immigrants sponsored by King Charles I and the bureaucracy continuing those practices during the reign of Charles II, it was not long before the entire Saint Lawrence valley and western end of Lake Ontario's shoreline were settled with good New Englander pioneers hacking down the forests and planting English villages all across the landscape.

Author's Note: in reality England renounced supporting the rebels of the Spanish Netherlands and the Protestants in Germany.
The unfair Treaty of Madrid was signed between Spain and England, ending war between the two powers. A late addition to the treaty required England to relinquish all claims to territory in America further from the pole than the 36th parallel. The latitude was chosen because it was believed to be the center of the Strait of Gibraltar at the time of the negotiations though it is actually somewhat closer to the European side.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

July 24, 1802 - General Alexandre Dumas

The Dumas military dynasty continued into one of its most colorful generations with the birth of Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie, called Alexandre Dumas, père. His grandfather, Alexandre Antoine Davy de la Pailleterie, had been a minor noble who traveled to the Caribbean colony of Saint-Domingue with hopes of revitalizing the family’s fortunes. Antoine fell in love with Marie-Cessette Dumas, an African slave, who gave birth to Thomas-Alexandre in 1762. Antoine brought his illegitimate son with him back to France and showered him with luxury as fostered Thomas-Alexandre through military school.

Though he had his freedom, Thomas-Alexandre still faced a great deal of social strife as a mixed-raced officer. He served valiantly with the Queen’s Dragoons, which became part of the National Guard upon the creation of the Republic during the French Revolution. The new egalitarian regime encouraged participation from all races, and Thomas-Alexandre became lieutenant colonel of the “Black Legion” of free Africans. His aptitude for leadership carried him into higher and higher ranks to general in the Army of Italy, just under Napoleon Bonaparte. The two routinely bickered about policy, such as seizing property. Thomas-Alexandre followed Napoleon on his campaign to Egypt as cavalry commander, yet he requested a transfer as soon as the fighting was done. Upon his return to Europe, he was reunited with his wife and daughters. In 1802, his son, Alexandre père, was born.

Upon the overthrow of Napoleon and restoration of Louis XVIII, young Dumas was placed in military school after years of firsthand tutoring by his father at their farm. Bright and energetic, Alexander père excelled in both his studies and training, although he was often disciplined for outlandish behavior, especially spending too much time reading. Dumas’s father’s exploits in the Revolution filled him with lofty aspirations, yet the real world never seemed to be as grand as the tales he read.

Young Dumas began to write extensively, first publishing letters anonymously but soon contributing articles in favor of fellow soldier Louis Philippe, Duke of Orleans, who had commanded the 14th Dragoons while Thomas-Alexander commanded the 6th.  The connection may have garnered attention, perhaps hastening Dumas’s promotions following the Revolution of 1830 that led to Louis Philippe’s kingship, but it did not earn Dumas a place in the court as his parents hoped.

Instead, Dumas was dispatched along with the invasion force to seize Algiers. This served as yet another case of his seemingly duplicitous nature, where he received commendation for valiant service in battle and yet openly praised the Algerian peoples in his letters. As the occupation turned to colonization, Dumas joined the military government and found he had more time than ever to write. He completed an eight-volume history of French warfare, but more widely received were his works of fiction set at many points within France’s turbulent history. His writing in colonialism is noted for its human portrayals of both native populations and colonizers, showing good and evil in both.

Upon the Revolution of 1848 and the return of the Republic, Dumas retired and began traveling. Unlike his writings about Louis Philippe, which had begun as hopeful and gradually became cynical as the monarch “for the people” proved to be more in tune with the upper class, Dumas was consistently distrustful of Louis-Napoleon. Many biographers tie this to his father’s portrayal of the original Bonaparte in Italy and Egypt. Alexandre père’s response to Louis-Napoleon declaring the Empire reborn was allegedly a laugh. Rarely returning to France, Dumas spent his latter days in Italy, where he campaigned for unification.

From his deathbed December 5, 1870, Dumas gave his final words, “I knew this would happen. I knew how it would all end.” Rather than referring to life, Dumas is believed to have been referring to the rule of Louis-Napoleon, who surrendered after his capture in the humiliating Battle of Sedan just three months before. The French government was in chaos, Paris besieged, and German demands overwhelming. He often said it was the duty of a Bonaparte to ruin France.

Alexandre Dumas père was survived by his wife and numerous children, both legitimate as well as many illegitimate. Most famous was Alexandre Dumas fils, born in 1824 while the elder Dumas was in the military academy in Paris. Alexandre fils followed his father’s footsteps in colonialism and literature, attaching himself to the expeditions in French Indochina that protected interests there in the name of protecting Catholic citizens. While perhaps not as widely read as his father’s works, Alexandre fils wrote extensively both for the stage and print about the Orient. The adoption of Vietnamese culture into Paris encouraged investment and industrialization in Indochina, making it a prominent member of today’s French Commonwealth.


In reality, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas’s ship from Egypt wrecked in 1799, and he faced the next two years imprisoned in the Kingdom of Naples. He died in 1806 after struggling with ill health and disfavor from the Napoleonic regime. Alexandre père grew up in poverty, but he showed tremendous work ethic from a young age, which, coupled with his extensive imagination, allowed him to become one of France’s most iconic novelists with works such as The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo, and Les Miserables. His final words are said to be a poetic “I shall never know how it all comes out now.”

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

June 6, 1807 – Burr Defends himself before Congress

In 1805, Aaron Burr’s life took an abrupt change that would change the course of the nation. He had seemed on a path toward greatness since his youth, yet fate always seemed to pull back the hand it offered. Burr was born as a grandson of the famed preacher Jonathan Edwards, orphaned at age two, and entered the College of New Jersey at 13. He abandoned his study of theology at 19 in 1775, deciding to turn to law as the American uproar grew toward revolution. At news of the first shots fired at Lexington and Concord, Burr enlisted, serving in the campaign in Quebec where he was promoted to captain. Washington invited Burr onto his personal staff, but Burr was determined to stay on the battlefield. Despite his heroism and national fame, he never received a commendation.

As the war came to a conclusion, Burr married in 1782 and settled in New York for his law practice, which soon led to politics. Governor George Clinton appointed him to the state attorney generalship in 1789, and two years later Burr was elected to the Senate. Already by 1796, he was getting attention for the presidency. It was then, too, that he had his first taste of political shenanigans. Burr spent great efforts campaigning for Jefferson in the north, trusting that the Virginian would do the same for him as the system of the electoral college at the time gave each member two votes. Instead of splitting their votes, however, Jefferson’s supporters gave them both to him and left Burr in a distant fourth place.

By 1800, Burr was savvier. He returned to local politics in the New York Assembly, where the deep rift between himself and Federalist campaigner Alexander Hamilton drove deeper still over water company rights and banking. Despite vicious campaigns on both sides, Burr was able to stir support from groups such as the Tammany Hall social club and won the 1800 election for Jefferson with himself as vice-president. Yet again Jefferson proved to be a short-lived ally, and it was clear that Burr would not be invited onto the 1804 ticket.

Instead, Burr stepped away from Washington politics and ran for governor of New York. The campaign was filled with brutal smears, both from rivals in his own party as well as Hamilton and his Federalists, who called Burr “dangerous… one who ought not be trusted with the reins of government.” After Burr’s bitter defeat, he demanded that Hamilton apologize for years of remarks. When Hamilton refused, Burr challenged him to a duel at the Weehawken Heights overlooking the Hudson River.

Hamilton wrote the night before that he intended to miss. After Burr shot Hamilton in the torso, he remarked that he would have hit Hamilton in the heart if not for blurry morning mist. Hamilton died of his wounds, prompting Burr to a hurried visit to his daughter in South Carolina. Ultimately there would be no penalty as Burr shot Hamilton in New Jersey, where dueling was not illegal, and Hamilton had died in New York, where the fatal shot could not be called murder. Burr ventured as far north as Washington to complete his vice-presidency, although his political ambitions died along with Hamilton.

Like many other Americans seeking a new life, Burr turned west. The Louisiana Purchase had been completed in 1803, and there seemed ample opportunity for anyone willing to take a chance. Burr leased a tract of 40,000 acres from Baron de Bastrop, a Dutchman some considered a con artist. Regardless, Burr began his colony with some eighty farmers, planting wheat since the lease stated that he could not start a plantation for cash crops like cotton.

Immediately, rumors began spreading about Burr. Some in the South feared that his strong abolition sentiments would create a haven for escaped slaves. Others throughout the nation felt that Burr had gathered a militia and sought to spark a war with Spain in which he could seize huge swaths of land in Florida or Texas as bounty. Allegedly even young Colonel Andrew Jackson was waiting to hear a declaration of war and charge into Spanish territory alongside him. With the latter suspicions of treason, Jefferson dispatched a warrant for Burr’s arrest.

Upon the news, Burr turned east. There is a difference of opinion about whether Burr was fleeing to Spanish Florida where he could make an escape into the Caribbean. In either case, he was quickly spotted and placed under arrest. Jefferson granted US Attorney George Hay carte blanche with pardons for anyone who would testify against the conspiracy. Hay intended to bring Burr to trial in the circuit court in Virginia, but initial arraignments before a grand jury could find no evidence. With the move clearly political, Burr managed to stir Congress into an impeachment hearing through his lawyer, Kentucky Representative Henry Clay. Burr himself had presided over the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase as vice-president and knew what damage could be done. Even though Jefferson escaped impeachment, the Jeffersonian wing of the Democratic-Republican Party broke up. In 1808, Burr’s old mentor George Clinton was elected president.

Burr, meanwhile, settled back to Bastrop. He ultimately purchased the land and resold it, building capital along with investments from old friends in New York. With Francophile Jeffersonians out of office, Burr established strong relations with London, importing a great deal of Newton’s Catalyst as he expanded his holdings to found Lake Providence as an industrial center on the west banks of the Mississippi.

Burr continually frustrated his Southern neighbors. As Burr’s influence in the area grew, he campaigned to wrest land north of the Red River away from Orleans, creating the territory of Gloriana, which would later become the twenty-third state after years of its admission being blocked in Congress. Southern leaders were fearful the free territory would become a free state, which it of course it did. Burr’s legitimized son John Pierre Burr, himself mixed-race, was an active proponent of the Underground Railroad and is said to have escorted many slaves across the Mississippi to freedom.

With the borders of Gloriana set running from the Mississippi to the Red River and up into the Ozarks, Burr turned to modernizing his territory. He was an avid supporter of steamboat captain and inventor Henry Miller Shreve, who cleared the Great Raft blocking the Red River and opened the west for navigation. As railroads were introduced, Burr drove lines out across the Texas Trail and up through the Ozarks into Indian Territory.

Burr served as governor until 1836, handing over the reins just a few months before passing away. The railroad bridge built across Stack Island, connecting the Lake Providence railhead with Jackson, MS, was named in his honor. It was the first to cross the Mississippi River, a fitting tribute to a man who brought East and West so close together.


In reality, Burr faced his trial in Virginia. Despite being found not guilty, his reputation was destroyed. He fled to England, and the colony at Bastrop dispersed.

This alternate timeline serves as the setting for Hellfire released June 6, 2016, from Tirgearr Publishing.

Special thanks to Robbie Taylor for the use of “Gloriana!”

Friday, May 27, 2016

Guest Post by Chris Oakley - After Hours: The 1977 Los Angeles Blackout

(based on the “Electric Nightmares” series by the same author)

The 1965 West Coast blackout was one of the most alarming crises
in U.S. history. For several long hours many of the country’s largest
cities, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, were plunged into a
total or near-total darkness and public safety in those cities became
precarious at best; Los Angeles in particular teetered on the verge of
a full-scale riot that might have equaled, if not surpassed, the violence
of the Watts riots that raged just a few months before the blackout. It
was partly in hopes of averting such chaos that in early 1966 Congress
passed what was formally known as the American Electrical Transmission
Safety Act but would be better known by its nickname “the Blackout Act”;
among its other provisions the law gave the U.S. Justice Department the
power to investigate and try sabotage of electrical equipment as an act
of terrorism.

   But as the Watergate scandal mushroomed and a growing segment of the
American public became disenchanted with government in general and the
Blackout Act in particular, the act’s security provisions would steadily
come under heavier and heavier criticism. By the time Jimmy Carter threw
his hat into the 1976 Democratic presidential nomination race, there was
massive sentiment in favor of scaling back most if not all of the powers
granted to the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute Blackout
Act-related crimes; sure enough Carter said in his nomination acceptance
speech he would make it a high priority during his first 100 days in the
White House to overhaul the Blackout Act’s security clauses.

   At the time Carter’s pledge earned him a standing ovation from the
convention delegates. But just one year later, his words would come back
to haunt him as another major power outage struck Los Angeles and laid
bare his administration’s shortcomings. Some political historians have
suggested it was the Los Angeles blackout rather than the 1979 Iranian
hostage crisis that truly doomed Carter’s hopes for a second term in the
White House; his first response to the blackout certainly didn't do much
to help him in his efforts to woo undecided potential voters in the 1980
campaign. In fact Carter's handling(or mishandling) of the blackout gave
his 1980 Republican challenger, Ronald Reagan, a perfect opening to take
Carter's domestic policies to task. Noticing that voters were alarmed by
the rising crime rate in America at that time, Reagan promised to (as he
put it) "take the cuffs off" the Justice Department in investigating and
prosecuting violators of the Blackout Act's security articles. Even now,
more than three and a half decades after it happened, the effects of the
blackout are still being felt well beyond southern California.


   July 13, 1977, had been a normal summer evening in Los Angeles right
up until the moment the blackout started. It had been searingly hot for
most of the day, and as night fell the temperature was still registering
in the mid-70s. The main topics of conversation among people walking the
city's streets were the fortunes of the Dodgers, the phenomenal success
of Star Wars at the box office, the not-so-phenomenal performance of the
Carter Administration after six months in the White House, and of course
the heat.

    All conversation screeched to a halt around 8:37 PM Pacific time; a
lightning strike at an electrical substation north of the city triggered
a cascade effect that within minutes had plunged all of Los Angeles into
darkness. In sharp contrast to the 1965 West Coast blackout, when power
outages were being reported as far south as San Diego, only metropolitan
L.A. experienced any electrical failures. But those failures made for a
situation every bit as tense as the conditions that had prevailed twelve
years earlier during the '65 outage. The social, economic, and cultural
tensions which had been simmering within the City of Angels all through
those twelve years hadn't diminished much by 1977; if anything, in some
quarters it had actually intensified...


    ...a development that in the long run would cost President Carter
dearly when it came time for him to confront the situation arising from
the blackout. It was just after 9:45 PM Pacific time (12:45 AM Eastern
time July 14th) when Carter was first notified of the power failure in
Los Angeles. Because of incomplete information regarding the nature of
the blackout and its origin, he misjudged the seriousness of the event,
which in turn delayed the release of federal resources that might have
otherwise enabled state and local authorities to get the situation under
control sooner.

    By the time Carter finally did get around to releasing federal funds
and resources to aid L.A. authorities in dealing with the blackout, more
than half the city was engulfed in chaos and the rest was bracing itself
for everything short of the Apocalypse. Even in the most upscale corners
of Los Angeles there were incidents of looting and violence; two Beverly
Hills jewelry stores were ransacked around 11:00 PM Pacific time while a
third was forty minutes later, while in Hollywood an LAPD riot squad had
to be called in to break up a melee near the Paramount backlot. The less
affluent sections of the city were in danger of becoming urban war zones
by that point. In the South Central district homeowners and businesses
were going so far as to set up improvised barricades against what seemed
like an inevitable assault by L.A.'s criminal elements. A local arsonist
who had been dodging the LAPD for weeks prior to the blackout took great
advantage of the chaos the blackout produced to set fires in a number of
abandoned buildings in the heart of Los Angeles, prompting a sportscaster
who was covering that evening's Dodgers game to comment despondently to
his viewers: "Ladies and gentlemen, the City of Angels is burning." Huge
black columns of smoke rose from the torched buildings, visible in every
direction for at least ten miles and bringing back what must have been a
Pandora's box of unpleasant memories for those who had lived through the
Watts riots a decade earlier.

    The California National Guard was activated just before midnight
on July 14th to restore order in metropolitan Los Angeles; to their
considerable credit, the Guardsmen acted quickly and effectively to
accomplish this mission. Their first move was to deploy fire control
teams to assist the beleaguered L.A. Fire Department in putting out the
multiple blazes raging in the heart of the city; simultaneously, squads
of MPs moved to back up the LAPD and CHP in arresting looters. Once the
fires were under control and the looting had been stopped, the National
Guardsmen's next task was to provide medical assistance for injured L.A.
residents who had been unable to get to a doctor or hospital. As a Times
editorial columnist said in the aftermath of the blackout, the Guardsmen
were "the glue that held Los Angeles together". Many of them would later
return to the city as extras when a movie based on the Times' reports of
the blackout was filmed in downtown L.A. in 1991.

     L.A. County sheriff's deputies also played a significant role in
restoring calm to the City of Angels. Many former deputies actually came
out of retirement to support their active-duty colleagues in keeping the
peace while utility crews worked to get the power back on. In some cases
they even had assistance from Hollywood studio security guards who’d been
released by their employers from their regular duties to give overtaxed
regular police personnel a hand with crowd control and guarding life and


     Electrical power was restored to most sections of L.A. by 5:30 AM
Pacific time(8:30 AM Eastern) on the morning of July 14. At that point,
much of the city looked like Genghis Khan had rampaged through it. Weeks
after the last light had been turned on in Los Angeles, the city’s public
works department was still picking up trash and debris left behind by the
orgy of crime and looting the blackout had generated; in terms of paying
overtime salary to LAPD personnel and L.A. County sheriff’s deputies, the
blackout was the most expensive civil emergency to hit the City of Angels
since the 1971 Sylmar earthquake. And still more financial headaches were
to come as the inevitable civil damage lawsuits from disgruntled business
owners and ordinary citizens began making their way through the state and
federal courts.

    But as bad as things had been and would get for the administration of
then-Mayor Tom Bradley, there were about to get exponentially worse for
the Carter Administration. At the time of the blackout, Jimmy Carter had
been president less than six months but was already starting to receive a
torrent of criticism from conservative opponents of his government; once
the extent of Carter’s mishandling of the blackout began to sink in those
critics went after him like hounds after the fox. On July 18th, just four
days after the lights came back on in Los Angeles, two GOP senators went
before Congress to introduce a resolution calling for the appointment of
an independent counsel to look into the Carter administration's response
to the blackout. That same day the Manchester Union-Leader printed one of
the most blistering editorials in its history, a vitriolic anti-Carter
rant essentially accusing the incumbent president of abandoning L.A. in
its hour of need. Even by the Union-Leader's own notoriously belligerent
standards the editorial was a shot across the president's bow; no sooner
had the paper hit newsstands than multitudes of angry Carter supporters
throughout New England starting bombarding the Union-Leader offices with
a barrage of letters, telegrams, and phone calls coming to his defense.

     Some of those defenders would later reverse their stances as the
investigation into the Carter Administration's handling of the blackout
exposed Carter's errors in judgement as well as those of his advisors.
But at the time the Union-Leader editorial was published, Democrats all
throughout New England were unanimous in blasting the paper for what in
their eyes constituted an intolerable and deliberate slight of the chief
executive. A few of the more vocal critics of the Union-Leader editorial
even went so far as to picket the newspaper's printing plant or threaten
lawsuits against the publishers for allegedly slandering the President.
The suits never went forward, but just the same they reflect the outrage
the editorial had stirred among Carter's supporters.

     The resolution to appoint an independent counsel to probe the White
House's handling of the Los Angeles blackout was debated in Congress for
weeks before finally being approved on August 2, almost one month after
the blackout. And even after its approval many of Carter's allies in the
House and Senate continued to bitterly criticize the decision; one junior
Vermont representative labeled the inquiry “a politically motivated smear
job.” Nor for that matter was the GOP unanimous in agreement on the need
for a Congressional probe into Carter's response to the blackout--one of
the members of Montana's GOP Congressional contingent labeled it “a waste
of good money” and questioned the timing of the inquiry at a moment when
there was an economy to be revived and Soviet expansionism to be opposed.


     The Congressional inquiry into President Carter's handling of the
Los Angeles blackout didn't officially convene until October 10, 1978,
slightly over two months after the resolution appointing the independent
counsel who would lead the inquiry had been passed. Right from the start
the independent counsel's office was dogged by allegations that they were
engaged in a political witch-hunt; it didn't help matters any when one of
the law clerks assigned to the office was photographed sporting a 'Reagan
For President 1980' button on his lapel. Many Carter White House staffers
viewed the inquiry as at best an intentional slight of the commander-in-
chief and at worst the beginning of a right-wing attempt to overthrow the
Carter Administration via a questionable impeachment proceeding.

     But in January of 1979, just as the Pahlavi monarchy in Iran was on
its last legs, a former White House staffer gave devastating testimony to
the inquiry that would make many of Carter's defenders start to question
whether he was worthy of defense. In a two-hour hearing that was the talk
of the Beltway for days after it ended, the witness painted a devastating
portrait of an Oval Office whose right hand didn't know what its left one
was doing. He described people giving President Carter getting a hundred
different reports from a hundred different sources about what was taking
place in Los Angeles-- reports often blatantly contradicting each other.
He portrayed a cabinet that was seriously if not totally flustered in the
face of a major urban crisis. He spoke of a president who had been asleep
at the switch at a time when alertness was critical. He pointed to scores
of misjudgments by Carter's senior disaster preparedness officials which
served to make an already grave situation that much worse. By the time he
finally left the stand, some members of the inquiry panel members who had
been listening to the staffer's testimony were ready to at the very least
censure Carter if not impeach him outright.

    And it wasn't just the Republicans who were incensed about Carter's
mismanagement of the Los Angeles blackout; many of the President's fellow
Democrats were equally fed up if not more so. The chairman of California's
state Democratic committee published a blistering op-ed in the Los Angeles
Times essentially accusing President Carter of abandoning Los Angelenos to
the whims of fate. A leading Democratic member of Alabama's Congressional
delegation painted a grim picture of what would happen to the United States
if terrorists attacked during an L.A. blackout-type crisis, suggesting such
an event could sow the seeds of nationwide anarchy. Even in constituencies
where Carter usually enjoyed heavy support, critics of the incumbent chief
executive were preparing attack ads on behalf of those who would challenge
him for the Oval Office. In many southern states a certain conservative PAC
started running a notorious commercial now known simply as “the 3:00 AM ad”
that implied Carter's mismanagement of the L.A. blackout had left the door
open for enemies of the United States to wreak havoc on its citizens while
they were at their most vulnerable.

    The controversy over Carter's handling of the Los Angeles blackout had
serious consequences for his 1980 re-election bid. Carter's main rival for
the Democratic nomination, Massachusetts senator Ted Kennedy, relentlessly
exploited the incumbent's vulnerability on this matter; had it not been for
Kennedy's own perceived transgressions, he might easily have supplanted the
President as his party's nominee. As it was, Carter just barely managed to
squeak past Kennedy for the nomination and would find himself operating at
a serious disadvantage when he faced Republican candidate Ronald Reagan in
the general election.

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