The End of the Marshall Plan

General_George_C._Marshall,_official_military_photo,_1946

General George C. Marshall, Author of the European Recovery Plan after World War II

I don’t usually do political commentary. I know it can roil even the staunchest of readers against an author, but after seeing today’s headlines and tweets from our Commander in Chief, I was so taken aback, that I had to say something. Which honestly, is a bit surprising if you know me. There’s been so many assaults on what I hold dear about America that maybe I just didn’t know where to begin.

This has been a trying 6 months for scientists. The assault on climate science has been really difficult to watch. It’s also been trying as someone who has family members on Medicare and Medicaid to watch the current plans to repeal such expansion. I have family members who will likely die due to lack of care by the time this is all said and done. These family members are all Republicans, btw. But there’s a part of me that understands the Republican mindset. Smaller government. Fiscal responsibility. Finding ways to have maximum impact with minimal spending. I get that. It’s part of each of our everyday financing, and it makes sense for our households.

But it doesn’t work for long term planning. When you are budgeting for a country’s future, especially a country that is interested in maintaining its position as a superpower, infrastructure and education are everything. Next comes healthcare, imo, but let’s stay off that subject for a moment and focus on the two things that I think everyone can agree on. Roads help commerce. Shipping aids an economy. Education creates opportunities for not just cultural expansion but more importantly research that can open up new economic opportunities. All of these are usually internally focused.

But infrastructure, education and healthcare are also important for your allies. Allies are strategic, not just in warfare, but also in economics and future prosperity. There are many strategies for how you might use allies, even how you might keep allies down to improve your own situation (e.g., keeping an ally as a buffer against a major enemy). However, there are major advantages to a plan that produces a prosperous stable ally who can contribute economically, scholastically, and politically to your overall vision.

Destroyed_Warsaw,_capital_of_Poland,_January_1945

The Marshall Plan was necessary to help us rebuild Europe in order to foster U.S. economic and military interests after World War II.

For decades, ever since the end of World War II, we have had such a synergistic relationship with Western Europe. If you are a history buff, you probably understand how amazing that outcome is, considering where all of Europe was at the end of World War II. The war had touched every country in Europe. The extermination of whole populations, especially in Eastern Europe. Infrastructure in Germany absolute ravaged. We bombed the absolute hell out of that country. Anything standing was seen as a challenge. Any resistance was squashed with clusters of bombs.

A lesser country would have left the smoldering ruin that was there and used Germany as a buffer ally. Sort of like China treated northern tribes against Mongolian hordes for centuries. But that’s not what the United States did. Instead, we instituted what became known as the Marshall Plan (also called the European Recovery Program). The U.S. invested 13B dollars in 1948 (approximately 130B dollars in today’s money) into restoring Europe. We wanted strong allies, not weak buffer allies. We wanted democratic players in Europe. We wanted Germany and other countries to participate in capitalism, to enhance our own infrastructure and prosperity through the bolstering of an old enemy into a new, strong ally. Trade barriers were lowered. Goods flowed between both continents. New businesses emerged.

This wasn’t an easy decision. It was an extremely hard decision. How hard is it to be magnanimous to a defeated enemy? Think about it. Millions of fathers and sons had been killed. Loss was everywhere. Revenge is a natural emotion, but Marshall had different plans. On June 5, 1947, he delivered a speech at Harvard that outlined exactly what Germany and Europe needed and why it was America, not Russia or Eastern Europe or China or anyone else, that needed to be there.

The modern system of the division of labor upon which the exchange of products is based is in danger of breaking down. … Aside from the demoralizing effect on the world at large and the possibilities of disturbances arising as a result of the desperation of the people concerned, the consequences to the economy of the United States should be apparent to all. It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health to the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace. Our policy is not directed against any country, but against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. Any government that is willing to assist in recovery will find full co-operation on the part of the USA. Its purpose should be the revival of a working economy in the world so as to permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist.

Prosperity was everywhere for decades, and the results were astounding. We took an entire continent operating at 83% of agricultural capacity, 88% of industrial capacity, and 59% of export capacity of its 1938 numbers and we supercharged the recovery. The famines of the post war were eliminated by 1950. By 1952, agricultural and industrial capacity increased by 35%, despite France’s requirement that German industrial productivity be reduced by 50% and maximum steel production set to 25% of its pre-war levels to prevent any future German invasion. The fact that Germany was even able to compete in a car market when restrictions championed by France forced it to operate at 10% of the automotive levels of pre-war Germany was remarkable. It spoke to the ingenuity and industriousness of the German people and the intellectual currency of the U.S. in supporting them. All of Western Europe blossomed.

France received 2.29B. Germany 1.45B. England 3.30B. Italy 1.20B. 2 enemies and 2 allies became our staunchest allies, and the beacon of democracy and capitalism shown brightly for decades, despite the Cold War. Our economy, aided by strong markets for import and export goods, blossoms more than ever before. We have more than just dead buffer allies between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. We have an amazing environment to develop as a superpower. Our allies go to war in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. whenever we ask them to. They pay it forward in a big way, even if they don’t agree with some of the demagoguery that happens in the cult of personalities that we have in the U.S.

Flash forward to Tuesday, May 29th, 2017. Trump has just lambasted the NATO alliance, demanding that the NATO countries finally pay their fair share. He literally labels them “bad” to their faces, both publicly and privately. On Tuesday, he tweets an official rebuke of Germany.

We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for U.S. This will change. –Trump

So, what is Germany’s contribution to NATO?

While it is true that the U.S. contributes 72% of the overall defense expenditures represented in the NATO portfolio, this is mainly because so much of our annual budget is tied up into defense spending. The direct money funded to NATO operation is broken down as 22% from the U.S. and 15% from Germany. This includes “15 percent of the civil and military budgets and NATO’s security investment program for 2016 and 2017. France and the UK, the third and fourth-largest contributors, trail behind Washington and Berlin, providing 10.6 and 9.8 percent of the cost-sharing budgets and programs, respectively.”.

What other assistance is Germany currently providing the U.S.’s policy focuses? Berlin is maintaining a force of 980 in Afghanistan for the war efforts there. They have aided the U.S. with significant forces in Afghanistan for over a decade with virtually no benefit to themselves. 550 soldiers to the continued peacekeeping force in Kosovo. Germany had more than 6,500 soldiers involved in the Kosovo missions during the active war there. 450 soldiers deployed to Lithuania as part of the ongoing aggression in the Ukraine.

So where does the President’s current declaration come from?

In 2006, the NATO countries made a pledge to try to push member defense spending from current levels to 2% of their GDP. In 2014, they finalized this pledge into a more formal pledge to hit the target by 2024. Of those countries, four of them (Poland, the UK, Turkey, and Estonia) are operating at that level (7 years early). Germany is at 1.2%. The U.S. spends 3.6% of its GDP on defense.

There seems to be a major disconnect between what the President thinks NATO does and what it actually does. NATO is essentially a manifestation of a reciprocal alliance that was made possible by the Marshall Plan. Our President appears to misunderstand that relationship and the benefit our economy and military objectives have seen from NATO countries. As evidenced by his Tweet on March 10, 2017, in which he said:

Despite what you have heard from the FAKE NEWS, I had a GREAT meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Nevertheless, Germany owes…vast sums of money to NATO & the United States must be paid more for the powerful, and very expensive, defense it provides to Germany!

Despite these obvious strong-arm tactics, our allies have remained strong, taken the brow-beatings, and pushed onward. But two days ago, the entire tenor of European deference and reverence for the U.S. changed. After Trump’s first international visit, in which he literally pushed world leaders aside so he could be front-and-center and harangued European leaders on trade deficits, and publicly humiliated multiple countries, Germany’s Angela Merkel finally broke the happy facade and admitted: “The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I’ve experienced that in the last few days”.

As a longtime history buff who has been reading WWII books since I was a young teenager and has watched hundreds of WWII documentaries at this point, this entire chain of events is disturbing. Many of my family members have been stationed in Germany (one of the contributions of Germany to NATO is providing access to bases throughout Germany for intelligence, stationing, and exercises). A few years ago, I visited Germany and saw the bombed out churches that still stand in Berlin as reminders of how far the people have come (and how effective the Marshall Plan and infrastructure spending in allies is).

Isolationism, nationalism and strong words are what caused the problems that led to both WWI and WWII. I thought everyone else learned those lessons in World History in grade school, but we seem to have come full circle. If we reject our allies, they start looking for someone else, and the 13B (130B) initial investment of the Marshall Plan and the trillions of dollars spent since then in trade, education, infrastructure, etc. with Europe are lost. And what exactly are we asking for here?

Germany to spend 1% more of its GDP immediately instead of by 2024 on its OWN defense? This is not a contribution to NATO. It’s already paying for 15% of NATO’s expenses, as a good ally should. More trade? Germany currently imports $80B goods from the U.S., 2nd most in Europe behind only the U.K. It currently exports over $140B to the U.S. But the U.S. is also no longer manufacturing most goods. We aren’t exporting as much as we used to because we are now outsourcing most of our manufacturing and industry and focusing instead on other industries. Germany, on the other hand, has always been an industrial country that has focused on manufacturing and exports.

Does our President think that we are suddenly, as a country, going to export 60B more goods to Germany? Where would that come from? Why would they buy that? The low tarrifs of NATO and NAFTA work both ways. We are already making our goods inexpensive at our market prices for Germany to import (and 80B is a lot of money). This trade deficit also counts Germany automotive plan production in the U.S. as an import, despite the fact that the product is made in the U.S., because the company is headquartered overseas and overall profits flow there. And this is where the main deficit exists, in automative sales. 1/3 of the German exports to the U.S. are the 1.3M cars that Americans buy from German companies every year.

So, what is the idea here? Stop Americans from buying German cars by making them into new enemies due to Americans wanting to buy more German goods? How American is that? Is that how capitalism works?

This Presidential election was amazing to watch. So is the aftermath, and at this point, I can’t help but think of the ongoing crisis as such. The optimistic person in me says to not worry: that our allies will recommit to us once Trump changes his tone or a new President is elected who understands the benefits of the Marshall Plan and our ongoing mutual relationship in trade deals and NATO. But there’s another part of me that worries that the End of the Marshall Plan romance with Europe is coming to a close, and that America will be the worse for it. I love living here. I’m a proud citizen of the U.S., but I’m very worried about the direction we’re going right now. If it’s not an assault on our liberties and division of our people, it’s an assault and division of our allies. And it’s coming from the top down, which is even more disturbing.

The optimist inside of me is still winning out. I still hope for the best. I don’t even know how I would plan for the worst here. We currently have a group of supercarriers stationed off a nuclear state (North Korea) right now, and a single nuclear warhead on our continent would wipe out 3M+ from the fallout alone, especially if it hits almost anywhere in California. Same situation on the East Coast. It feels like we’re moving perilously close to the end of the stabilization we’ve seen since the end of WWII and especially the end of the Cold War. Where do we go from here?

I’m an author who loves to immerse myself in fantasy worlds. So, in a way, I understand the chilling effect of fantasizing about a world where Europe and the U.S. are no longer strong allies and where NATO is dissolved. But that doesn’t mean I want to live in that world. Let’s leave that to alternative histories. You know? Fictions! Pretty please!

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Giveaways of Paperbacks and eBooks

Shadows-of-our-fathers_4ASo, in celebration of the release of Shadows of Our Fathers, I am giving away five full sets of paperback copies on Goodreads, and 100 eBook copies of The Goblin Rebellion. If you’re wanting to pick up some of these gorgeous paperbacks or get your hands on a free eBook copy of The Goblin Rebellion, be sure to sign up through Goodreads and LibraryThing, respectively.


Goodreads giveaway: 5 full sets of paperbacks Primal Patterns series. Includes Lucifer’s Odyssey, The Goblin Rebellion, and Shadows of Our Fathers. Giveaway starts on June 1, 2017. Sorry, they wouldn’t let me start it right away :D!


The-goblin-rebellion_4_BLibraryThing giveaway (Search for “Goblin Rebellion” or “Rex Jameson”): 100 eBook copies will be gifted via Smashwords coupons. With Smashwords coupons, you can download any eBook format you want, including mobi (Kindle), epub (Nook), PDF, etc.

If you are wanting to introduce your friends or family to the Primal Patterns series, there’s never been a better time than when they can get 2 of the eBooks for free (Lucifer’s Odyssey and The Goblin Rebellion)!

Shadows of Our Fathers now available

I’m happy to announce that Shadows of Our Fathers is online and available at Amazon and Smashwords. As soon as the Barnes and Noble and Apple bookstores get updated with the distributions from Smashwords, I’ll update the novels page.

As for what I’m writing next? I’m probably going to shelve the Winter Phenomenon and the Cahokia series I had been planning and maybe try a High Fantasy series. That’s my current plan.

Shadows-of-our-fathers_4ATitle: Shadows of our Fathers
Purchase (ebook): Amazon | Smashwords
Series: Primal Patterns (3)
Genre: Speculative Fiction
Word count: 115,000
Abstract:

Angels and demons fall as the Great War between Order and Chaos comes to a close. For those who thought Jehovah’s days of smiting stopped in the Old Testament, it’s time to give the devil his due.

In the face of democratic and social reforms, the Chaos Universe struggles with its past while pursuing the future that King Lucifer promises. While the demons thrive, the creator of the Elven universe looks to his own past for the salvation of his favorite immortals. Jehovah’s wife Gaea and son Isaac seek asylum in Chaos as Lucifer and Jehovah have their final, apocalyptic battle.

“Shadows of Our Fathers” is the last book of the Lucifer’s Fall trilogy, and book three in the Primal Patterns series.

The Keepers

t-the-keepers-netflixAfter finishing up a final readthrough on Shadows of Our Fathers and sending it to a beta reader, I decided that I wanted to relax for a bit and watch some Netflix. I love true crime dramas, and I had started The Keepers last week. But after two episodes, I realized it was going to be far darker than I could deal with at that time, and I put it off. When I logged into Netflix last night, there it was. I could have moved away from it, but I didn’t. I told myself I would watch one episode, and maybe start a new story or pick one up. I never got to another story. I watched all remaining episodes in one sitting.

You would think that is a strong endorsement. Perhaps, it is, but not for the reasons I would normally recommend something to watch. This is a documentary series that illuminates a whole tier of problems in our society and the natural tendency for human beings to sweep things under a rug, tell people to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and deal with the realities of the world, and in general, take advantage of other people.

I can’t tell you what specifically about this drama caused me to tear up all night. There’s a lot of my own experiences comforting friends and even my first wife about things that happened to them, from family members. Almost always an uncle. But sometimes, it was a babysitter, and not always male. When I was growing up, even then, as a teenager, I was shocked by how widespread the problem seemed to be in a small suburb of Nashville. Watching the women in this documentary going through the shame of revelation was just too close to home.

My first wife dealt with the abuse and memory of the abuse in a way very different than the women in the documentary. She became hypersexualized. Ultimately, it ended our marriage.  She had a need for chaos and a self-destructive wish for herself. She attempted suicide with pills. She slept with my friends, and she sometimes even begged me to hit her. Ultimately, I realized that I was not the right person to help her get through this. I think the shock of our divorce, that after all those years I would no longer participate in this destructive behavior, may have helped her find some peace. She married my old best friend, and they started having kids. She seems happy, or as happy as I think she can be. Watching the documentary, you can see how long disassociation can last and how hard it can hit when the rush of memories comes back. And the effects of shame.

Watching this documentary, a lot of old thoughts and emotions came flooding back to me. I thought about how one of my old best friends from high school, who had been abused by his uncle, dealt with sexual assaults by not only that man but also some of his friends who did the weirdest things to him because he was strange. I remember confronting their whole pack in the hallway after they started spreading rumors that I was gay because they believed he had shared his story with me. And he had, but they underestimated me.

I had been on the varsity football team, and at the time, I was a very fit guy. And when I found them there, smirking next to the principal’s office, I slammed my fist into a door beside the ringleader’s head, while he was standing next to his girlfriend and crew, and I told him, in no uncertain terms, that if I ever heard him say another word about me, I would beat him so badly that his girlfriend wouldn’t recognize him. I eyed his entire circle of friends, daring them to say something.

My friend was there. He was so proud. He had told me the ringleader would fold like a flan, and I had worked myself up for a couple of days. He had egged me on, and I remember that he looked so triumphant watching me do this to them. Threaten a bunch of frightened morons. And then I let him down. I started feeling like he had manipulated me into my intense anger–that I might have lost my chances at scholarship if I ever did something like that again and got caught. I would have beaten the kid down if he had said anything to me, instead of sitting there whimpering in front of his girlfriend and friends. I stopped dropping by my friend. I stopped hanging out. I withdrew. I had stood up for him in my own, extremely angry way, and then I had dropped it. I was ashamed. I reminded myself of my father. His rage. How infrequently he controlled it. I didn’t want to be that guy.

So, I let him down. He didn’t have me to confide in. I went on to graduate and eventually, I found my way through college and grad school. He went on to be a psychiatrist. He became gay. I know there is an argument that says all gay people are born that way, but I’m not sure he was born that way. I think he was molested by multiple males, and I know how he internalized his shame. I remember it. He wore dark clothing. He had very low self esteem. I wanted to help him. And my ex wife. And one of her friends who was molested by her uncle. And on and on. I had found so many people who had gone through things like this. And now, all of them are out of my life.

I hang out with my wife Jenny, and she’s my best friend. I ask myself sometimes if all of this is selfish. By cutting ties to these people, after knowing their problems, if that makes me part of this system. Maybe it does. It probably does. There’s only so much darkness I can consume though. I’ve been through plenty of things in my life, and I’ve made choices to try to see the best side. To move forward. To treat the past like the past. But for some people, especially people who have been molested, I don’t think that’s easy to do. I think it especially marks people of extreme faith in the worst way. A dark blemish on a good person, one that they feel responsible for.

Why did I not say anything? How did I allow myself to be molested the second time? What is wrong with me? These are the kinds of questions my friends would ask. And all I could say was “You’re a good person. They’re a bad person.” Because of my life, I’m very good at shutting things down. Compartmentalizing. Putting bad things in a box and looking toward the future. I’m not the best friend to have, and I know that. Writing is an outlet for me. It’s cathartic. In a way, maybe it’s helping me to avoid my past and enjoy the abstract and fictional scenarios. I try to write things that have meaning. I could write paranormal romance or something else like that, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. I’d rather have something to say.

And that’s what The Keepers creators are doing. They are allowing these women to have something to say. They are saying something about the Catholic church and the policemen who aided them in these coverups. They are talking about the statute of limitations laws and how they benefit the offenders and not the victims. They have something to say. I can only hope that one day I have something this powerful to say to readers.

The Keepers is not fiction. It’s not hopeful. It’s not going to make you feel better. But it’s a powerful show, and from my experience with molestation survivors, it feels real. If this is fake, then they know their source material. This show brought back a lot of bad memories, but it’s so important that people are aware of the problems that this show talks about. This will always be a problem with humanity. I believe there is an innate problem, especially in men, that creates this kind of molestation culture by itself in isolation. It doesn’t require a special stimulus. In some men, there are just broken parts. And these broken parts cause those men to break others.

I’m reminded of a line from The Perks of Being a Wallflower. “Welcome to the island of misfit toys.” That movie too dealt with molestation. And that’s what I remember about spending time with molestation survivors throughout my teens. That they saw themselves as broken toys. Rarely feeling like they deserved love. Frequently seeking out other malfunctioning toys. That’s how they found me. If you’re broken, for whatever reason, you generally can recognize it in others. And if you’re a good person, and you’re a mended or functioning toy, you’ll see these people and say “I wish I could help fix you.”

And I kind of imagined myself as a robot toy, finding another toy that had lost an arm, and trying desperately to help them put it back on. But after what the broken toy had been through, the arm just wasn’t right for them anymore. For whatever reason, the arm would never fit. Like their shoulder had changed and would no longer accept it at the joint. But still, we fumbled with the broken pieces for a while, trying to make them whole again.

That’s how you’re probably going to feel watching this series. You’ll want to help fix the victims. You’ll want to help fix the system. You’ll want to help find them justice. I’m not sure if such a happy ending is possible. Even if the system resolves this particular case in some way, there will always be victims. As sad as that is, I think there’s something inherently wrong in some people, and it will likely always be true. The defect in humanity will always be there. The best parents can do is just be vigilant. Don’t leave your children alone with relatives or “friends” and especially not priests who must abstain from sex for their religion. I highly recommend the series.

Progress on Final Readthrough

Shadows-of-our-fathers_4ASo, I’m going through my final readthrough of Shadows of Our Fathers, and there are certain chapters that I simply cannot wait for more people to read. There is a significant lull in this book where description of the calm before the storm is taking place. Rebuilding of Arnessa. Reforms in Alurabum. The peculiarities of Lucifer’s son. And then Chapter 11 happens. And then a new villain finally enters–a villain who has really been pulling strings the whole time. And then Chapter 13, which is just my favorite fight scene that I think I’ve ever written. So much fun.

I’m just hoping people don’t get too bored with the lull before Chapter 11. The lull here was intentional to show how peace has affected the demons and made them forget how menacing Jehovah still is. I’m just not sure how this is going to play out with others. I read so much of this, and I remember foreshadowing I put into Lucifer’s Odyssey and The Goblin Rebellion and to me that’s exciting. But to others? I’ve only had one beta reader return me an opinion and it was glowing, but it was also short: “I just finished it this morning and I loved it. I haven’t had such a good read in months. After getting into it I just couldn’t get enough.” I’m feeling the same way in my readthrough, but I’m not really feeling this unstoppable pull toward the end until Chapter 11. I’m hoping that readers can get through the lull and into the good stuff. It’s there. You just have to keep pushing past the peace! Ha!

Anyway, I think we’re still on for May 26th. So far, so good. I’ve tightened up some scenes. Tweaked some dialogue. Certain chapters are going to seem like mysteries until the end–until you see what the oracles have been seeing all along, but hopefully, you guys are going to find this as fun and entertaining as I do.

I’m not sure if you guys have noticed, but I’ve dropped The Goblin Rebellion ebook to 0.99. I’m going to keep it there until at least the end of June. And I’m probably going to release Shadows of Our Fathers at 0.99 to let you all get your hands on this really cheaply. Be sure to share it with friends, and don’t forget to leave reviews (good or bad) to let others know how you felt reading the book. It’s important! Reviews are how we all figure out what we’re going to read next, and I and other readers appreciate you taking the time to share your reactions!

Anyway, back to the book!

Shadows of Our Fathers Update

Shadows-of-our-fathers_4AWe’re in the home stretch on Shadows of Our Fathers. I have received a cover from Damonza that I absolutely love. Damonza has been an absolute delight to work with. Anytime I have asked for changes, they have delivered, and I am not the easiest person to please. I really do appreciate the three covers they have done.

I plan to do another readthrough of Shadows of Our Fathers this weekend, after the Nebulas, and see if there is anything I can see that needs to be tightened up before release. As with The Goblin Rebellion, there is a lull in the action at the beginning where the plot is being setup for the book. After the devastation of The Goblin Rebellion, I think readers need this kind of lull and rebuild. But I could be wrong. If you’d like to be involved in the final beta reading before launch, let me know. To see how the covers will look together, I’m including small versions below.

What do you think of the third cover? Like it? Love it? Dislike it? Let me know!

Going to the Nebulas!

I have been invited to attend the Nebula Awards Mass Autograph Signing event here in Pittsburgh, and I plan to bring copies of my newly released Sixth Edition and Second Edition paperbacks for Lucifer’s Odyssey and The Goblin Rebellion, respectively. If you’re in Pittsburgh, and you’ve got an hour or two to burn, please stop by and see me and some really fantastic Science Fiction and Fantasy authors. You can find more information here:

http://nebulas.sfwa.org/nebula-conference/2017-mass-autographing-event/

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