Pity the Bundeswehr

hitler's zippo

Ok, Angela Merkel doesn’t like Donald Trump. I get it. He is also enormously unpopular in Germany as a whole.

However, he does have a valid point in that Germany isn’t close to meeting it’s 2% of GDP NATO mandated minimum on defense expenditures. Yeah, his method of bringing this across to our allies really lacks in polish or tact, but he’s still right.

Some say that Europe should go its own way in terms of defense, and not to rely upon Uncle Sam in future conflicts.

Well, if Europe is so inclined, then they can do so. The EU is a big place with a large population and economy. They should be able to afford and staff a world-class military on their own, using European weapons. It’s feasible.

But it isn’t going to happen.

Sooo… Angela Merkel (and probably Donald Trump, too, just to be fair) would like for Germany to be less dependent on the US. OK, you would think that they would raise their defense expenditures above the currently paltry level of 1.2% GDP. This would allow them to raise the forces necessary for their own defense, and the Yanks could go home. Fine.

But no.

According to the Wall Street Journal, she is about to propose lowering projected defense expenditures. I’ve linked to the article, but it’s behind a paywall so unless you have a subscription, you can’t read it. But if you’d like, subscribe. The WSJ is a great publication, if expensive.

I’ll tell you the condensed version. The German government originally proposed to hike their defense percentage to 1.5% GDP. Well, that’s been scrapped, and they are going to drop back to 1.25%. OK, it’s technically an increase of .05%. Whoopee. Tell that to the grunts who are still using WW2 era MG-42 machine guns (the MG-3), lack funds to train, and have some 328 usable tanks in their entire army.

This is a strategy either guaranteed to prolong dependency on the US for defense, or, failing that, to guarantee a defense force atrophied and starved to the point of uselessness.

Who is helped by this enigmatic decision of Ms. Merkel’s government? Not NATO, not the US, and ultimately not the German people.

The surest way to get into a fight is by being helpless. Maybe not tomorrow, but surely sometime. Yeah, Europe’s a nice neighborhood at the moment, but these things have a way of changing.

The Russians have ordered some 2300 T-14 tanks by 2025. The T-14 is NOT a piece of junk, the old NATO rule of thumb of five smoldering Warsaw Pact wrecks for every Abrams no longer holds. NATO would be very hard pressed to keep the Russian Army from driving straight to the Atlantic if things go south. Military planners should never use best-case scenarios, there is a reason that worst-case is used for contingency planning.

1.25% GDP? That’s not even best-case. That’s rose tinted sunglasses stuff.

Bad things happen to nice people all the time. And from all reports, Ms. Merkel is a nice person.

Let’s hope for her, and Germany, that she’s lucky as well.

College scam

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Alright, so some big news floating around here in the ‘States this week is a scam by some people to get their undeserving kids into big-name schools. Seriously, is anyone surprised by this type of thing? Since when have kids of the very wealthy not had a leg up on attending these “elite” schools? This is news exactly why?

Also, why is a big-name school worth the bother? So at the end of a very expensive process you have a fancy sheepskin hanging up on the wall of your office somewhere?

Come on people, get real. The world doesn’t end just because you don’t get into Hah-vahd or Yale. Your precious little buttercup might not have the mental horsepower to do MIT; and you know what? That’s OK. Not all of us are equipped to be astrophysicists, or to research the mating habits of bats.

A lot of people act as if college is the end-state of life. Guess what, it’s not. Having done my four-to-five year slog through the university myself, I wasn’t impressed. The only tangible benefit I got from my degree was an Army commission, and I guarantee you that the kids of the twinkle-toes mentioned in this week’s scandal will never go that route.

You see, most of us ignorant, unwashed proles actually have to take the entrance tests, get college loans or the GI Bill, and go through the stupid convoluted process in order to attend college. We all know the deck is stacked, though. There exists a golden door through which the kids of the few can skate. Everyone knows it; once again, how is this news?

Well, a lesson best learned young is that life isn’t fair.

Another lesson is that you appreciate stuff that you actually have to work for.

So I hope those brats who cheated their way in are happy. I wonder if they look at their subsidized (insert Ivy-league name here) degree on the wall with any degree of pride, knowing they gamed the system to get it.

The only real way to get any satisfaction in life is bare-knuckled work and determination. If you don’t teach your kids that, then you have done them a disservice. Sooner or later these kids with their fake degrees will run into situations where their money means nothing, or integrity actually counts. When the rubber meets the road, they’ll be out of luck, and Mummy-dearest can’t help them. Why? Because these parents have ultimately failed their kids.

Yeah, they got into the stupid, overrated college of their choice.

So what?

What have they learned by their parent’s actions? That people are weak? That systems can be corrupted? That thick wads of hundreds solve problems?

Hell, a life spent in housing projects will teach the same lessons at much lower cost.

And I’ll bet the kids from the projects or the backwoods have a much wider streak of adversity-tolerance than the powder-puffs whose path was greased from childhood. Actually, I know this to be the case; I saw it too often in my former line of work.

Do your kids a favor. Make them work. Allow them to fail. They’ll bitch now, but thank you later.

Parenting is leadership.

Remember that.

 

 

 

Characters running wild

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No, this hasn’t magically transformed into a gun blog. The rifle above is the Lee-Enfield SMLE, the tool used by soldiers of the British Empire in WW1 and 2. It features prominently in this alternate history I’m messing with. That’s what I’m talking about today, this writing process.

So John Birmingham recently discussed on his really cool Patreon page the tendency for characters to grow a mind of their own while you write, for them to have stubborn lives of their own while you are hammering out a manuscript.

Truer, and more timely, words were never spoken. This alt history I’m writing is a case in point. I keep thinking that something’s wrong, and I guess I need to let the control-freak side of me slip a little and realize that this is natural, a price of doing business.

This is my fourth independent novel, so to a certain extent I’ve been down this road before. But each work is its own deal. My first book was a study in “hold onto my beer and watch this.” I didn’t write an outline, didn’t do any character studies, had no plan. Frankly I’m surprised it turned out as well as it did. It was a good learning experience, in any case. By book two, I realized I needed a plan. So I developed one. The book was better, but not quite there. Finally, with the last book, Immolation, I thought I had it down to a science.

Kinda. I made a detailed outline, more or less stuck to the plan, and executed. Yeah, there were a couple of chapters that took me by surprise, but overall the characters did what I had envisioned. I plotted their fate from A to B, and that’s more or less what happened.

In the period between my last book and this one, I’ve worked on a couple of collaborations and gained more experience and expert advice; this has helped one hell of a lot.

So, I started in on this alt history. I figured this would be a done deal. Did the right thing and wrote a 4000 word outline, came up with a plan for my main characters and started to write.

Wow, was I in for a surprise. I’m 25k into this novel (with a planned 100k length), and I’ve got characters running all over the place. My protagonist has taken on a personality and a life of his own, his sidekick too. Their rifle squad has turned into a crew of oddballs and misfits (kind of like a real squad). Their fates, which were sealed, have become debatable, and oh yes, my original plan for a B-story has been grenaded by adding a female character who I do not want to become a disposable (yawn) love interest.

My characters are running around like four year olds at a daycare birthday party. Every time I sit down at the keyboard, I know I’m in for a surprise. I’ve gotten to a point where the only fates that I know for sure are my protagonist and his buddy. Everybody else lives or dies apparently at whim.

Kind of like an actual war, really.

So maybe that’s the game. If I don’t know when the bullet will hit, neither will my readers. Maybe subconsciously I think that that’s the way it should be when writing about war- death, wounds, and trauma happen at random times to pretty nice people.

But as an author, I should have more control over this process. I dunno, maybe I’m wrong. If it’s stupid and it works, I guess it ain’t stupid.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this is not the struggle I had this winter with “Demons,” my Stalingrad of projects. In fact, this is the opposite, I’m enjoying this process a lot. I’m just mildly shocked by how unruly my characters are acting. The important part is that the end result is enjoyable and readable. I guess.

We’ll see how that works out.

And we’ll see how these characters struggle.

Having lots of fun, seriously.

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You know you’re into a good groove when you sit down to write at 0530, and by 0900 or so you’ve got 3500 words. This makes for a good way to start your day. It’s been like this for me since I started this unnamed project- without forcing anything the words simply seem to drop onto the page of the alternate history project I’m tinkering with.

It’s a lot of fun, and it’s killed the funk I was in for a while there. You guys know about it- when I wanted to do some form of violence to my Mac.

Between this alt history and the collaborations that are out there, 2019 should be pretty darn good. I don’t think the unnamed alt history will be published this year, but I will certainly have a manuscript ready by September, my deadline. Of course, a lot depends on how busy I get, so we’ll see.

In any case, I have made a serious start on this little book. Can’t say the name, because it will give away part of the game. But if you want to hazard a guess… shoot me an email through the contact link above, and I’ll say “hot” or “cold.”

Here’s another small, non-spoilerific snippet.

In the next hastily dug hole was Lance Corporal Tom Bailey. He was dreaming of home, again. His mother’s apple pies. His girl, Lucy. Her caresses. Everything that he missed. As usual, he cursed himself for a fool that he had volunteered for this shit. If he would have waited to finish University, maybe this stupid war would have been over and he wouldn’t have this responsibility, this madness.

His little bit of University time had earned him the stupid stripe on his sleeve. But what good Plato and plane geometry did him in the trenches, he didn’t know. At first he had been dazzled by military service, and he had let that puny stripe go to his head. Men like that old salt Joe had noticed, and they hung his hated nickname around his neck. Medals. He had grown used to it, but it still stung a little. These days he could give two shits about some piece of ribbon and silver. Too often he had seen men die, good fellows who didn’t deserve what they got.

As he looked over the flaxen field, he knew more men would die tonight. Tom was resigned to the bullet that would take his life, a bullet if he was lucky. Maybe a choking mouthful of mustard or chlorine. A whizzing patch of steel. A shovel. He had seen it all.

He would take deep breaths, and let them out slowly. He checked his pistol, a captured Luger, again and again. Tom felt the handle of the trench knife that stuck from his belt, he made sure it would draw easily. His little trench shovel was stuck in his belt as well, along with Mills bombs. He looked back across the field, he felt an electric pulse when he saw the shadowed houses.

Death was there, waiting. He knew it. And he knew there was nothing he could do to stop the dying, the screaming. The assault would go in and Medals was ready. What good was his mastery of Latin now, he wondered.

The lessons of plain steel were the only ones that mattered.

In other news, Go SpaceX! Check out the article about the successful docking of the Crew Dragon with the ISS, a pretty awesome feat for a private company.