When I made my last post, Israel had not yet launched its retaliatory strikes against the mortars and rocket launchers in Gaza.
Now they have.
What I don't understand is why anyone is surprised. The only surprising thing is that a country under attack does not wipe its attackers off the face of the earth.
But of course Hamas will blame Israel for this.
If you're going to pay Manny $50-$75 mil (!!!!) for three years, wouldn't you be better off getting this guy? Makes sense to me . . . except for the $50-75 mil part . . .
Then there's the tweaking-Boston's-nose part, which undoubtedly went into the equation. And no doubt Hank and Hal figured they had to do something to justify charging $100 per seat in the upper deck* . . .
*Pardon me; I believe that's now called the Terrace Level, Premium Seating area . . .
The Pontiac G8. Airflow is extra....
I've decided which car I want . . . which government agency do I forward my request to?
(Yes, I still think they should get the loans . . . I'm just naming my price.)
Are there people who truly believe an on-line retailer when it announces in its spam email: 'Our gift to you: free second-day shipping'?
Why not say something truthful like, "Hey, we're hurting, so we're throwing in an enticement to maybe get you tight-fisted last-minute procrastinators to crack open your wallets . . ."
Kristol nails it in today's NYT:
. . .there is a kind of undeserved disdain, even casual contempt, that seems to characterize the attitude of the political and media elites toward the American auto industry.
And I'm rethinking the Caddy - I'll take a G8 instead . . .
An item from this morning's paper:
Road rage ends with house crash, beating
WALDEN — It started out as road rage, Walden police say, and ended up with a car going through a wall into the basement of a house.
Andre D. Williams, 26, of Middletown, was pursuing another car through several parking lots in the village when someone threw a rock through Williams’ window.
He drove through one of the lots two more times and swerved into a wall of a multifamily home and into the basement,
There, about five people who were in the house began to beat Williams.
Williams was charged with driving with a suspended license, reckless driving and criminal mischief.
A recent news item from Lockheed Martin:
Of course, we were doing this in Dreamland way back. Must be easier on paper, huh?
PALMDALE, Calif., December 9th, 2008 -- Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] and the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., have successfully demonstrated an autonomous landing of the F-16 Fighting Falcon, marking the first time an F-16 has landed entirely under computer control.
The successful Autoland demonstration lays the foundation for consistent, repeatable and controlled automatic landings of the F-16 in various wind conditions and airfield situations. This Lockheed Martin-developed technology has broad applications for both manned and unmanned aircraft.
“The demonstration of an autonomous landing of an F-16 is evidence that Lockheed Martin is prepared to successfully implement autonomous control of Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV)-type aircraft,” said Frank Cappuccio, Lockheed Martin’s executive vice president and general manager of Advanced Development Programs and Strategic Planning. “Such technology, in concert with the skill and experience of today’s warfighter, presents a formidable force against existing foes and provides a basis for further developing manned and unmanned vehicles that can meet the challenges facing the warfighters of tomorrow,” he said.
The Navy's newest LPD, the USS NY, launched recently. The steel (or at least part of it) comes from the World Trade Center.
A beautiful ship, though a sad sight. Godspeed.
(What's an LPD? Your basic Marine taxi - it can deliver five hundred Marines (or blanket huggers) to a trouble spot post-haste. In Navy parlance, LPD stands for amphibious transport dock . . . they're worse spellers than I am...)
In answer to the question in comments a few days back -
I attend editorial meetings armed only with my wits and a cup of coffee. Sometimes only the latter.
Marketing session are a different story. And you don't want know about cover meetings . . .
It's been clear for the last two weeks that the votes for a bridge loan to the U.S. car companies weren't there. The fallout, unfortunately, is going to be phenomenal. And I don't mean that in a good way. Even if the Bush administration finds some loophole to make the money available - an immensely bad precedent, though an understandable action given the circumstances - the car companies' situation, and thus the general economy, has worsened measurably.
The one thing I don't understand: all of the media reports following the collapse of the so-called Republican compromise focus on the timetable for the pay reductions that the UAW refused to accept. But the plan also called for the car companies to slash their outstanding debt by 2-3rds by March . . . which frankly is preposterous. It's not up to the car companies; it's up to the people who loaned them money (which means banks, bond holders, and a host of creditors).
What would your bank(s) say if you went to them and said - cut my mortgage, credit card debt, etc., etc. by two-thirds? And the oil guy, and the electric company and the grocer, the barber, the coffee shop lady . . .
What would you expect them to say?
That provision was much more ominous - assuming it was serious.
And I still want my Cadillac.
. . . . even our good friend Kim.
This week, the world's favorite ailing dictator issued a statement saying, "Not only am I alive and well, but I owe my health to my good friend and drinking buddy, Dick Marcinko."
(At least I think that's what he said; my Korean is a little rusty.)
The book's website:
So Jeremy has a new book out this week on the top rivalries - don't call them feuds - in pro wrestling over the past twenty years or so. You can spend all day - many days - debating whether these are really the best twenty, but they were all pretty entertaining.
There are a ton of classics - everything involving Undertaker, Triple H at his (first) peak, Hulk Hogan (only the tail end of his WWE career fits that period, really), Batista's triumph . . . but Jeremy's favorite for under-rated wrestling pyromania is the series between the Hardys, Dudleys, and Edge & Christian. The continuing story provoked some of the wildest, craziest, death-defying ladder and table matches ever known. How these guys survived them is amazing.
Maybe they didn't.
You can get the book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, your local bookstore . . . you know the drill . . .
So a good friend calls up and starts talking about this book project he's got out at a publisher. And of course the unwritten rules is that even among friends, you don't talk too much about the project itself, because you don't want to jinx it, so he's talking about the editor...
Him: He's great. A real editor. A throwback type who really edits.
Him: You know what I mean. Really helps improve the book. Understands what writing is all about.
Him: A legend. Old school. An editor's editor.
Me: Wait a second. Who are we talking about?
Me: Xxxxxxx?!? Are you kidding? . . . I've never seen him sober.
Him: I rest my case.
Then again, Xxxxxxx has never seen me sober, so maybe I'm old school, too.
So should I be p'd that a complete set of Deep Black (all six books) has been pirated and is available on-line, or disappointed that it's the only one of my series that anyone cared enough about to post in its entirety?
While we focus on dumb things like banks and cars, the Italians put their priorities in the right place . . .
Have Italy Ponying Up the Cheddar
to Help Struggling Producers
(You may need a subscription to read it. One of the highlights - it costs eight Euros a kilo to produce parm . . . )
Not that I'm really into the commodities market, but I heard over the weekend (don't ask*) that the price of a barrel of crude oil was trading under $42. This summer it was over $125.
Even with the economic slowdown, do you figure that the world is using a third of the oil it was a few months ago????
Yeah, I know about how pricing and futures work, extremes at the margins and all that jazz, but here's the point - economists and other experts claimed that the huge price increases over the past year were all demand-driven. That's clearly bs - speculation then, and speculation now, are huge factors in the pricing. The current price makes that very clear - so when are they going to admit it?
The irony is that the huge increase in oil prices played a major role in pushing the car companies to the brink and deepening or maybe accelerating the recession, which had already started. But its role has been overlooked.
* Hey, it wasn't that bad. I enjoyed the eggnog.
But in a good way - The Rogue Warrior holiday book signing tour continues as Dick & company march through the eastern seaboard . . . next up is a signing at the Borders in Stafford, Virgina, where the man himself will be the featured attraction at their annual open house.
Rumor has it a number of Marines from Quantico are planning to give the RW a hard time - should be a fun show.
The Taj hotel burning. The image is from the NY Times.
The brutal and senseless mass murder in Mumbai the last week of November have generated tons of commentary. The unspoken assumption of a great deal of it is that the terrorists are winning, and we are powerless to stop them from achieving their goals.
Bullshit on both counts.
The attack achieved one goal – murdering people. That, unfortunately, is a very easy thing to do. Psychotic madmen – and these men clearly qualify – accomplish that all the time.
But from a tactical point of view – if we suppose that the goal of the terrorists had anything to do with the struggle in Kashmir – the raid was an utter failure. India’s response will surely not be to step back its efforts against the group there, and it is laughable to think the attack will result in any sort of political concessions.
As far as achieving long-term strategic goals, the attack may benefit the ultimate sponsors, who are clearly the cadre of demented sociopaths imbedded in the Pakistan military and intelligence structure. It’s dangerous to assume that sociopaths are interested in anything beyond the sheer joy of murder. But as several commentators have pointed out – check out Benjamin’s story on Slate (http://www.slate.com/id/2205795/) for one well-argued example – if the sponsors of the attack have a “real” goal here, it’s taking (or holding onto) power in Pakistan.
But this raid won’t achieve that either. Rather, it will pressure the Pakistanis to actually face the cancer that has corrupted their core.
Is Pakistan up to that task? Most Western commentators like Daniel Benjamin seem to feel it isn’t. But I don’t think that’s true. The reform movement could have completely collapsed after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto; it didn’t. On the contrary, it’s stronger than before. But the struggle is just beginning. It will be long. It will be hard.
This is not an argument for restraint against terrorists and their sponsors, by India or anyone else. On the contrary, they must be dealt with as harshly as possible. You don’t let murderers continue to roam the countryside with guns and bombs, whatever they call themselves. You kill them before they kill more people. You do, however, remember your long-term interests as you proceed.
The real irony is that the terrorists are not only very weak, but that their impotence protects them in a way. If the chaos they revel in were to be carried to its logical conclusion – if the war with India and the West they seem to endorse were actually to occur, they would be completely annihilated. With all respect to my friends in Pakistan, India would obliterate the country in a real all-out war.
Millions of people in both countries would die in a nuclear war, and I’m not advocating what would be the worst worldwide disaster ever. But it’s a reality that the terrorists themselves don’t believe in.
Then again, all they really believe in is murder.
The so-called big three auto makers have nobody really to blame but themselves for the predicament they're in, but doesn't anyone find it ironic that their harshest criticism is coming from the Senators from Nissan and Toyota?
That would be Senators Shelby and Corker . . . who just happen to have large foreign car makers in their states.
It would be almost funny if we weren't talking about the meltdown of American manufacturing here . . . not to mention a hell of a lot of jobs, and lives . . .
The question that really is before the congress right now is simple: Do we want American-owned heavy industry in this country, or should it (and the profits) just go completely overseas?
And if we do want manufacturing, how do we restrain the greed and stupidity that have brought it to this point?
Funny, that question didn't come up Thursday.
He was dumb, no question about it. Stupid. Idiotic. Too into a bs fantasy, and too into himself, to actually use his brain.
But he's getting the shaft. The "mandatory" sentencing provision of NY's gun law equates gross stupidity with robbing someone, and then takes away all discretion from the judge in the case - you might just as well have a computer on the bench.
It's not just Plaxico Burress. The law makes no sense for anyone. Plea bargaining the charges - which is SOP, though they may not even let him do that - still results in a stiffer sentence than a lot of criminals get for robbery and assault.
I'm not saying you should carry a gun in NYC without a license or a very genuine need. Forget the law: in most of the city, for most people, a weapon is not only unnecessary but far more likely to get you into trouble than out of it, as this case proves.
Still, the law is emblematic of the over-bearing nanny and pr-conscious Bloomberg administration. In the Bloomberg nanny state, it's not enough that no one carries a weapon, but anyone who sees someone else with a weapon, or suspects that someone else has a weapon, is supposed to report it or else he is guilty of a crime as well.
“You see something, you got to call the cops” Bloomberg told the news media, as he carries on a campaign hounding not just Plaxico but everyone in the NFL, turning this into the crime of the century. (Oh, is the mayor running for reelection?)
He's all but accusing the Giants middle linebacker, Antonio Pierce, of being Al Capone because he . . . because he what exactly?
Because he was in the club with Plaxico when the gun went off, and rather than grabbing the weapon and rushing to the nearest precinct and swearing out a fifty-page statement nailing Plaxico for life, took his friend to the hospital and then went to Plaxico's house, where (we're left to gather from the news stories) he told his wife what was going on and gave her the weapon in question.
That's covering up a crime?
It is in Bloomer's nanny land. By the mayor's logic, the doctors who treated him were supposed to arrest him on the spot, and wait until he was in cuffs to stop the bleeding. The bouncers at the club should have had X-ray vision and used it to melt the Glock in Plaxico's waistband.
Maybe they tried, and that's why the gun slipped . . .
But meanwhile, the mayor believes he's so valuable to the people of New York that he had the term limit law revoked so he could run for a third term. Because in nanny land, the only one above the law is him.
Never pick up a Glock by the trigger*.
Shoving it down your pants Mexican-carry style isn't a good idea either.
But I'm guess you've figured that out by now.
*Glocks don't have external safeties. If you're grabbing it there, the idea is you're using it. Excellent weapon, but not a good choice for someone who doesn't handle guns a lot...
Nobody likes the different shades of perfect and present tense any more . . . most especially the continuous . . . as in "are walking." Editors see it as weak passive voice and automatically change it to "better" active voice, which means throwing it into the past.
I stet it back because hell, if I wanted to say walked I would @#$#$ have said walked.
(Sometimes I pound the desk and then stet it back. That's one of the reasons I like the old-fashioned hard-copy edits better than edits that come on the computer - less chance of trashing valuable equipment. My desk has withstood much pounding, plate smashing, and at least one bat swinging. It's also been shot at several time, but that was not editing related.)
Editors trample over present continuous and perfect and God forbid present perfect continuous verb forms because they've been taught to stamp out passive voice. It's become a blanket rule, like always stop at the red light. . . another rule best observed in the breach. They pounce on an "is" or an "ing" like Dogboy going after a wild turkey.
Granted, active constructions often make a sentence sound better. But there are many times when the writer wants the sense, and even the nuance of the words he or she chose. That's why he's a writer.
Of course, try explaining that to most editors. You'll get kind of a big-eyed stare and some stutter about "pa-pa-passive voice." Then they'll apologize and tell you to stet it if you don't like it.
What the world needs more chain-smoking, hard-drinking, SOB editors . . . not because they edit right - the best old-timers were slash and burn specialists. No, writers like to work with the old schoolers because they could trade blows with them and still buy them a drink at the end of the day.
Even the women.
Alleged car thief hit with frozen turkeyJust think - if it had been July 4 or Labor Day, he would have gotten away...RALEIGH, N.C. (Nov. 24) - Stopped. Cold turkey.North Carolina authorities say a shopper clubbed an alleged carjacker with a frozen turkey as he tried to steal a woman's car in a grocery store parking lot Sunday.Police say 30-year-old Fred Louis Ervin of Raleigh stole money from a gas station before running across the street to a Harris Teeter store in a town just south of Raleigh. Garner police say he began beating Irene Moorman Bailey while stealing her car.Other shoppers came to her rescue, including one who hit Ervin with the turkey. Police did not release the person's name.Despite serious head injuries, Ervin got away in Bailey's car and hit several other cars as he fled. But police arrested him a short time later.He faces several charges including assault inflicting serious injury. Ervin was hospitalized Monday in good condition, a hospital spokeswoman said. He had not yet been assigned a lawyer and was to appear in court Dec. 30.
The Rogue Warrior - Meet the Rogue himself tour continues . . . November 25 at the Borders store in Warrenton, Va., beginning at 7 p.m. There are only a 100 copies of Dictator’s Ransom left though, so hit the place quick.
And somebody bring Dick a Dr. Bombay special. The man gets thirsty on the road . . .
Lately, a lot of people come here looking for the answer to that question. That's easy: Because they figure it's better than the alternative.
Usually, it ain't. But that's only if they're caught.
Some statistics, which is what the web traffic is probably really about:
There are no reliable numbers from the U.S., probably because of the decentralized nature of the U.S. criminal justice system.All of the academic work seems to be based on educated (and maybe not so educated) guesses. The number 35,000 per year appears in a bunch of sources on the internet, and was used by the BBC a while back in a report, but once you dig down you can't find any indication that it's anything but a WAG.
According to my friends in the, uh, profession, the number of people jumping bail is relatively low because bail bondsmen are pretty careful about who they post bonds for. (What about people who skip on ROR - released on their own recognizance - or who posted their own bail? "Whud the @#$#$ would I know?" responded one of my sources. "You buyin' that beer you promised, or what?")
There are statistics in the UK, which has a different criminal justice system. Counting everyone - traffic scofflaws to mass murderers - on the order of 38,000 people skip in a typical year. Ninety percent are caught within a few months.
So that's what I know. Good luck with your term paper. Thank you for visiting; come back as often as you wish.
Now back to the regularly scheduled mayhem.
Presented as a public service, and an excuse to bs with old friends. Thanks to Bounty Hunter Bob, Scranton, Jersey City Jones, and Google.
Snowmelt is one word.*
*But not according to the Blogger spellchecker. The OED and Shorter Oxford don't like either. I'm guessing the Brits never really cared much for snow, at least not in Oxford. I don't know what Blogger's got against it.
Jeremy Roberts' latest wrestling effort hits the stores Dec. 9 . . . two days after Pearl Harbor Day.
A coincidence? I think not.
The book covers some of the greatest feuds - pardon the expression, as apparently that's no longer the accepted term - over the past twenty years or so . . .
A link to B&N. And one to Amazon.
Dick will be on Fox & Friends tomorrow, Thursday, at 7:15 a.m. to talk about some of the things that should be done.
He may also give a seminar in ship boarding. Dictator's Ransom*, by the way, details several methods, all battle-tested . . .
(And fug on using those suction cups. Crazy's crazy, but that's just nuts ...)
* The mandatory shameless plug for the new book.
More on pirates . . .
Why am I so bugged about the piracy off Somalia?
For one thing, Dale Brown and I have been writing about it for something like five years. We've seen it progress from (mostly) random acts of highway robbery to an organized activity yielding untold millions a year. The press talks about the pirates as motley collections of near homeless men. (I assume this is because of their sources; I doubt they've talked to any.) The truth is, most of these guys are being outfitted and run by highly organized bandits using high tech to make good their ransoms. Islamic terrorists and organized crime - hard to tell them apart here - are involved.
Beyond the shameless plug for our Dreamland series*, my point is this: if two fiction writers can figure this out, what's with the people who are actually paid to consider national and international security issues?
The way things are going, I expect that next the pirates will take over a bank and ask for a bailout.
* - They make an appearance in a couple of places; check out Satan's Tail, where one of our all time favorite characters, Captain Harold "Storm" Gale, makes his debut . . .
And speaking of plugs- yesterday's excerpts came from the Wall Street Journal.
Now in pirate custody . . .
This is what navies are for . . .
Oil Tanker Waylaid
DUBAI -- The U.S. Navy said pirates commandeered a Saudi-owned supertanker bearing more than $100 million worth of crude a few hundred miles off the Kenyan coast, an attack that sharply increases the stakes in an effort by governments and militaries to protect the world's energy-supply lines.
And this from a Navy - our Navy - admiral:
In Washington, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said he was "stunned" at the circumstances of the latest seizure. "Certainly we've seen an extraordinary rise" in attacks, he said. "I am extremely concerned by the overall number."
Yo, get a clue boys - the hijacking has been going on for a number of years and is now being run by highly coordinated and organized gangs - mafya, al Qaeda, et al - using fishing trawlers and tugs. They have and are collecting millions of dollars in ransom from companies, mostly in Europe, but all over the world.
Time to do two things:
1 - no more ransoms, period.
2 - kill the bastards.
Pick your order.
This is why we have a navy... as do the Brits, France, Russia, etc.
People ask me questions . . .
Rogue Warrior book signings in the Virginia area:
11/22 signing at Little Creek in Norfolk
11/25 signing at Borders in Warrenton
12/11 signing at Ft. Lee
12/12 signing at Borders in Springfield
Dick will be at all of these. More details - like the times - should be posted on his website when it become available: www.dickmarcinko.com soon - or check with the bookstores themselves.
Just to make sure we're up to date....
One of the largest insurance companies in the world, having burned through - was it $90 billion? I lose track - says it needs more money . . . a lot more money . . . and oh by the way, the execs thank you for the bonuses . . .
Congress, with a gun to its collective head, approved a $700 billion bail out to buy bad mortgages securities so banks wouldn't fail . . . but the Treasury Secretary now says, hey, forget that idea, but I'm spending your money anyway. . . .
Everyone from American Express to Mom&Pop's Cafe down the block is claiming they're a bank so they can get in on the fed easy money giveaway . . .
GM says it will run out of money by the end of the year if taxpayers don't fork over their great-great grandkids' pensions . . .
And today I got three emails about Obama being a socialist....
A group of historians recently prepared a report on a large portion of the NSA's operations dating back to its post-war beginnings. Given No Such Agency's justifiable obsession with secrecy, the project was and is an amazing undertaking. (Notwithstanding the fact that it has pulled back its curtain somewhat over the past decade or so. Check out James Bamford's excellent and groundbreaking books on the agency if you're interested in what they do, etc.)
Portions of the historians' report are being made public today. I haven't read it, but from what I understand, a lot of what made it to the public version are fantastic accounts - of spectacular failures.
I'm sure the accounts will be accurate, or at least as accurate as human memory, etc., can make them. But I suspect that the historians involved would be the first to say that the public report presents a somewhat lopsided view. The reason - the agency itself discouraged or redacted information on its successes.
I'm guessing - I don't know any of the historians involved. But I base that guess on my own experiences.
A few years ago, I wrote what amounted to a history of special operations during the period from Panama to post-Gulf War I. (My credit is so obscure you'll never notice it, which is fine with me.) There was a lot of official cooperation - the best - but I'd say 90 percent of that involved missions that had failed. And even when we were done, the editing took out a lot of the good stuff.
Why? Because the good operations are models for what works, and you don't want to tell the enemy what that is... Even if you can get some of the same stories by hanging out at the bar that night and not being a jackass.
I certainly don't believe that U.S. intelligence agencies are infallible. The image sometimes portrayed in fiction - mine occasionally included - often paints a ludicrously optimistic view of what goes on. (I do occasionally try to be realisitic - that's a top for another time.) We certainly do need to remember that the intelligence agencies, the military, big business, small business - everything humans do is fraught with imprecision, errors, and plain bad luck.
On the other hand, things do work out a heck of a lot of times. Even more times than some of those in the field like to admit.
The NSA report is bound to be fascinating reading. Just remember the context is slightly skewed.
As just about every baseball fan knows, the Yankees are opening a new stadium this year to "enhance the fan experience" - and coincidentally wring every last available dollar from their pockets.
Hank, Hal and the gang invited the press over the other day to talk about how great the technology is going to be. To demonstrate, they showed an in-Stadium traffic report that will be available via wireless connection throughout the stands . . . a report which indicated that there was no way out of da Bronx.
Maybe the seats fold down into beds.
* -As in the Who song, "Won't Get Fooled Again," a few bars of which are (usually) played just before the Yankees take the field before games.
Two years ago, I had the privilege of attending Veterans Day services in Scotland and London - or as they called it, Remembrance Day.
The ceremony in London was a grand thing, with an awesome ceremony and touching words. But much more moving was a simple flower laying I witnessed at a memorial for commandos near Achnacarry. Some friends and family of a young man who'd lost his life in Iraq spent a few moments remembering him. There wasn't a parade, or a band; no speeches, no songs. But it was a moment as important as any at the national day in London.
I've seen that moment repeated countless times at small cemeteries around the area where I live. Most of the veterans remembered were older men when they passed away, but I doubt that lessens the feeling of their loss; I know it doesn't lessen the struggles they faced during their time of service.
There's no way of compensating the living, let alone the dead, no matter how necessary the sacrifice. We just go on and do our best.
Speaking of Rogue, a note to our Italian friends - the new paperback is out. Rumor has it the Pope is planning a signing (he has a cameo) . . .
No, I'm not sure why you guys are an installment behind. . . .
The North Koreans released a photo of the Great Leader front and center and a military bash over the weekend . . . the only problem was the photo was very obviously Photoshopped. (You can read the story here, courtesy of the BBC.)
So is Kim il-Jong on his deathbed?
That's been the theory for several months. What happens when he finally dies?
Dick Marcinko speculated on that during some of the interviews for our new Rogue Warrior book. You can read some of the interview at www.Dictators Ransom.com; basically his take is that North Korea may become even more dangerous, as the military and the pretenders to Kim's throne maneuver to take control.
Will North Korea's next leader feel secure enough to abandon the nuclear program and stop developing (and exporting) missile technology? The truth is, we know so little about North Korea that it's impossible to say.
There's been some sot of snafu on Amazon.com this week and last, and reviews of a religious book have conflated with Dreamland....
It's funny in a perverse sort of way. And heck, most people like his book and are generous with the stars, so I'm not complaining.
What I wonder is whether the other author is getting our reviews... which may really confuse him.
Click the cover above to go to our Amazon entry.
Dreamland is an action-adventure book, completely plot-driven. It's air battle after air battle after air battle, with an occasional pause for a land battle.
But for myself, and I think for Dale, too, it's always been about the people.
The characters take on lives of their own, especially after you've lived with them for so long. You start thinking about them as real people. Even some of the characters you could take or leave - Mack Smith springs to mind - are literally real to you.
Dog - Colonel Bastian - has always been my personal favorite. Dale said something once that described him - I forget how he put it exactly, but it was along the lines of "d-o-g" is God spelled backwards, and that's not a coincidence. But right from the start, Dog hasn't been conceited at all. I think if anything he's been humble. Now granted, he doesn't take no bs from anyone, and he expects things done when he says do them . . . but he always tries to be decent to people, treating them the way he would like to be treated.
I think Dog's character works well, and gives the book a good feel, adding to that epic quality I mentioned the other day. But sometimes I wonder - what if he was a bit more conceited? What if he was a jerk? We'd've had more conflict in the books . . . different plots.... more intrigue ...
Maybe the stories would have been better, maybe not. But in any event, I just couldn't do that to those people . . .
The latest Dreamland - Revolution - has a character named Mark Stoner.
Unlike most of my characters, Mark is semi-based on a real person. (It's not his name, btw.)
I first met him in high school. He was a middle linebacker. I was a wide receiver. Actually, I think I was playing slot back that day. Anyway, for some reason in their coverage scheme he had to cover me when I ran short patterns over the middle. Let's just say I was having a field day in those patterns, including one for a TD. At some point, we went to the well once too often; the quarterback didn't quite lead me enough and Mark got a good measure of revenge, just about taking off my head with probably the most vicious slam he'd ever made.
(Mark was about twice my size. Everyone is about twice my size, but he was really twice my size.)
I wish I could say I held onto the ball, but I didn't. I saw about three of everything after that, but I stayed in the game. I don't think any more routes over the middle were called for me, though...
Flash forward like a million lifetimes, and Mark and I crossed paths in Europe. We were friends, though that probably deserves an asterisk, because Mark wasn't a friends kind of guy. In a lot of ways he was still a middle linebacker type, ferocious on the field and very much to himself off.
We generally didn't work together, but one night he needed to get picked up from somewhere, and I got the job. I'll say it was in Paris under a bridge near the Seine . . . which it wasn't, but it'll give you an idea of the ambiance since it's similar to the actual setting ... and believe me, a hell of a lot more romantic . . .
There were complications, and I showed up an hour late. Mark wasn't there. I hung out a bit, left, came back, left, came back, left . . .
Mark never showed, there or anywhere else.
In the morning, we found blood beneath the bridge. Was it his? I have no idea. I never saw him after that day. I'm not sure anyone has.
Stoner's different - kinder, older, less likely to take your head off. But if he ever asks me to meet him someplace, I'll show up an hour early, well-armed, and prepared to wait.
This was another song from that same CD that set the emotional tone for the characters.
More than the other series I've done, Dreamland has always had an epic feel. The heroes strove to go far beyond themselves, and the individual stories were about things larger than what was going on on the surface.
Whoever you voted for in the election, stand up today and say you're proud to be an American.
Anyone who doubts that this is the greatest country on the earth should sit back and think about what has happened here over the past fifty years. The enormity of what we have accomplished, with dedication and sacrifice, stands as a lie to anyone who would tear it down. What polemic from a psychotic terrorist failure carries one-one hundredth of the strength and truth of our collective narrative?
America is not about being rich. America is about dignity and respect, working hard and enjoying the right to prosper, helping our neighbors do the same. We've had great - and not-so-great - leaders along the way, but the fight has mostly been waged by us, the great unwashed, in small ways everyday.
Obama may turn out to be a lousy president, or maybe a great one. Either way, the republic will survive and, with all of our efforts, thrive.
Zen is the hero of Dreamland, but the real engine of the series has been the relationship between him and his wife Bree.
It's a love story, really - about his struggle to stay connected with her while overcoming his physical limitations and surviving the long deployments and other nasty stuff that happens in the book.
There have been times working on the books that I started to lose that thread - the epic sense between them. And of all things a music video by Evanescence helped get me back on track. The song somehow hit the emotional sweep at the heart of the characters.
I don't usually write with music playing - it injects its own agenda into the words, obviously a problem - but I ended up playing the song over and over as I worked on one of the books. I go back to it every so often to remind myself of the character arcs; I can't hear the music or see the video without thinking of them.
Dogboy turned up at the cafe for coffee this morning, looking unusually chipper. Ordinarily if he's up that early, he's on his way to bed. But today he had a full day ahead of him, and was just getting up a head of steam.
Someone asked the Dog if he'd voted.
"I already voted four times," he said, sipping a tall-boy caffeine-plus straight black no sugar.
Dogboy believes in democracy. He's kept his registration open in every place he's ever lived; has to be up to several dozen by now.
"Only four?" asked someone else.
"Would've been six, but the polls at **** hadn't been opened. Seems Lucy had the key, and no one knew where she was."
In New York, the polls open at 6 a.m. Dogboy got there around 6:45. It sounded like a scandal was brewing.
"They had to let you vote somehow," said John, whose grandfather is an election worker. Can't see, can't drive, doesn't drink anything but Bud Lite, but he's still chipper enough to be a guardian of our democracy. "It's the law."
"I know," said Dogboy. "I volunteered to break a window, but they wouldn't go for that. Would probably have doubled next year's town taxes anyway."
Dog took a sip from his cup before continuing. Ordinarily this early he'd be chasing it with Red Bull, but the cafe had sold out during Apple Fest and hadn't gotten its shipment in.
"So they handed out absentee ballots," he continued. "Had people fill them out."
"I thought you said you didn't vote," said John.
"I didn't. I don't trust those absentee things. Too easy to cheat. Don't want to be involved in no voter fraud thing . . ."
One of the things that's always interested me about the Dreamland series is the fact that the main character, Zen Stockard, is a paraplegic.
I don't think there are too many other thrillers, let alone military thrillers, where the hero is a guy in a wheelchair. But we've never really gotten much feedback about that. (As a matter of fact, I can recall only one letter, rather cryptic, that addressed it directly. And we get a fair amount of correspondence, mostly electronic.)
Maybe it's because no one really thinks of Zen as being handicapped. True, he doesn't have use of his legs. But he is able to succeed - and struggle - in other ways. He gets cranky just like the rest of us, though over different things, like the two inch rise between the sidewalk and the restaurant that is almost impossible to navigate over.
But hey - a guy who's saved the free world a few times over is entitled . . .
Sometimes it seems like I've been working on Dreamland forever. I don't think Dale or I ever thought it would go out to twelve books. Along the way the characters have become real people to us . . . which is about as scary as it gets.
How long has it been?
When we were first tossing around the ideas that led to the books, UAVs were way-out experimental . . . no one had mounted a weapon on one . . . the B-52 was still flying.
Oh wait - the BUFF is still still flying.
Seems like yesterday. Thanks for reading guys. We appreciate it.
Anyone who thought the bank bailout was going to help preserve the American banking system and banks as we knew them should take a close look at the government's role in the takeover of National City Bank by PNC.
I realize this is esoteric stuff for most people, so I'll skip to the executive summary - the bailout program is going to be used to forcefully consolidate the banking system. We're going to end up with a handful of extremely large banks, some very small banks and credit unions, and nothing in the middle. And the feds are going to be the ones making the decisions, based on . . . well, not as much as you'd think, if the publicly available balance sheets and other information in the National City/PNC case are any indication.
What does this mean to you? Well, the (supposedly) safest and most favored bank in the country . . . not to mention one of the largest (at this point, with the mergers, etc., I'm no longer sure of the statistics) is J.P. Morgan/Chase . . . go back a year and compare their rates and charges to any other bank in your area, and you'll find that basically they didn't want your business unless you couldn't afford to give it to them. When this ends, the only banks left will be that big.
Necessary to save the financial system?
Maybe. But they're using your money to do it. And it's not the way the plan was sold, by anyone . . .
Outsourced passports . . .
The United States has outsourced the manufacturing of its electronic passports to overseas companies — including one in Thailand that was victimized by Chinese espionage — raising concerns that cost savings are being put ahead of national security, an investigation by The Washington Times has found.
The Government Printing Office's decision to export the work has proved lucrative, allowing the agency to book more than $100 million in recent profits by charging the State Department more money for blank passports than it actually costs to make them, according to interviews with federal officials and documents obtained by The Times.
The profits have raised questions both inside the agency and in Congress because the law that created GPO as the federal government's official printer explicitly requires the agency to break even by charging only enough to recover its costs.
Full story here.Do we even have enough outrage left for things like this?
Cops net holiday for 9/11
Peabody cops will pocket extra pay to work Sept. 11 or take a day off, thanks to a new union contract.
Even though the date commemorating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America is neither a state nor federal holiday, officers who work it will receive time-and -a-quarter compensation, while others will have the option of taking the day off, said Manny Costa, president of the Peabody Police Benevolent Association.
Link to story...
Gee, why would it bother me that someone is using 9/11 as a way to make extra money?
But the worst cut of all are the claims that they're "memorializing" the "losses."
Micro Mary was in the bar the other night, and came over to talk about the web. She has a blog that gets a few hundred hits and sometimes a couple of thousand a day.
"How's the blog going?" I asked.
"Not bad. Two thousand and three hits yesterday."
"You taking advertising?"
"Hell no. I'm not selling out. I'm in this for the purity of mind."
"How do you get all those hits?" asked the bartender, coming over to do some refills.
"Easy," said Mary. "When the hits go down, I show them my tits."
His eyes did a bugout thing; Micro Mary's breasts are not micro.
"Buy me a beer and I'll link to your site," she told me. "You'll get a lot of hits."
I didn't figure too many people would be interested in seeing my chest, so I passed.
The bartender spent the rest of the night trying to figure out her url.
From the NY Times . . .
Documents Say IranActually, the story reminds us one hopeful fact - the friction between the Iraqi trainees and the Iranians.
Aids Militias From Iraq
American officials have long cited Iranian training and weapons as reasons for the lethality of attacks by Shiite fighters in Iraq. Iranian officials deny that such training takes place.
Now, more than 80 pages of newly declassified intelligence documents for the first time describe in detail an elaborate network used by Iraqis to gain entry into Iran and train under Iranian supervision. They offer the most comprehensive account to date to support American claims about Iranian efforts to build a proxy force in Iraq. Those claims have become highly politicized, with Bush administration critics charging that accounts of Iranian involvement have been exaggerated.
The whole story is here.
. . . and our new entrant in the Rogue Warrior series, Dictator's Ransom...
If there were a conventional war between North Korea and South Korea, who would win?
If the war was contained between those two nations – not a given – then it would be a matter of where the bulk of the combat took place. North Korea can bear down on Seoul with over two hundred and thirty tubes of heavy artillery in minutes; it has the masses of ground troops "on the line" to overpower the immediate line of contact. The question would then become how fast the South Korean forces could strike back. If North Korea penetrated a significant distance south, the South Korean population might cut and run to preserve their better way of life rather than dig in and fight the onslaught.
South Korea’s strategy would be to stop the attack and go deep into North Korea to sever the command and control networks. Where would they stop? Probably at the Chinese border.
One way or another, it would be a blood bath on both sides, a conventional war comparable, at least on the tactical level, to World War II.
If South Korea would ultimately prevail, why should we worry?
We’d have big worries if South Korea prevailed – who would they turn to to help support the masses they liberated?
The social responsibility would be on a level the world is not prepared for. In Darfur, 400,000 people are estimated to have died from the war and starvation. A Korean war would produce at least ten times that number of casualties – and maybe even a hundred times.
It does remind me of an old joke, a bit of dark humor: Attack the U.S.A. and let them kick your ass. Then they’ll rebuild you. It's far cheaper than a World Bank loan!
Is it really possible that North Korea and-or terrorists could attack the U.S.?
North Korea has missiles that could reach Alaska. How accurate they are is an open question, but then nuclear weapons don’t have to be all that accurate. A strike by North Korea would probably fall short and hit the ocean, ending up as more an embarrassment more than a real loss for us. Another example of the tail wagging the dog.
Of course, if we were attacked, hell would be too good for the leaders who launched the missiles.
Is there a connection between North Korea and international terrorists?
The connection is primary of supply and demand, not ideology. The North Koreans have nukes the terrorists want and need, and the terrorists may have the finances North Korea wants. At this juncture, our best bet is to better monitor what’s going on.
Your new book and upcoming computer game seem to advocate a SEAL-like approach to dealing with North Korea and terrorists. Is that realistic?
It is realistic as a demonstration of our “will” to contain North Korean aspirations. Spec Warfare is not a panacea; it doesn’t replace "boots on the ground" in full-scale military operations and it can’t replace diplomatic or political activity. Shooters are not diplomats or world leaders. But it is an important tool in the modern world. A SEAL-like approach to problems and situations as outlined in the book, in all my books, has numerous advantages. We have to keep that capability sharp. It gets us “eyes on targets” – human beings with real intelligence observing things close up, rather that through tiny electronic devices thousands of miles away. And successful SEAL-like strikes, when appropriate, sting the sleeping dog, putting the world on notice that we are not focused on only oil and the Middle East but the much broader threat of fanatical terrorism.
How close are your books to real life - are they fiction? Non-fiction? Prediction?
The books are a combination of fiction and prediction, as I said earlier. They are a means to show people the threats I see. I write them from the perspective of what I would do if I were the bad guy. That’s the same tactic and philosophy that drove me in the SEALs, in Red Cell, and in my later military and private endeavors. I take the enemy’s mindset, and then I try to tell our side what’s going on, where our weaknesses – and strengths – are.
And, I hope, the books entertain you along the way.
Why does Marcinko, with a reputation as a wildman, sound more reasonable than any secretary of state we've had since Marshall?
North Korea and China seem particularly close. Would China risk a war over North Korea?
China has a full plate now and I don't think it is in their strategic makeup, let alone their interest, to go to war over North Korea – not right now, at least. They are busy modernizing their armed forces. They were impressed with our "shock & awe" and realize they need to gear up. But the future may be a different story. Remember, their clock ticks a lot slower than ours and they are patient.
China is a concern in its own right. Their army has recently begun training with Russian forces in both China and Russia. That is a "point of interest” we should be looking at.
It’s recently been reported that Korean leader Kim Jong il suffered a serious stroke. Do you have any opinion on who might succeed him?
The bloodline is the normal path; Kim Jong il succeeded his father, and it’s believed that he will choose one of his sons to succeed him. He may already have; we simply don’t know. But Kim Jong il’s bloodlines are, to put it delicately, irregular – besides his natural and acknowledged children, he has some illegitimate and adopted offspring. Things could get pretty complicated.
I believe at least one and more likely two or more of his offspring will attempt to inherit the throne. The army will not trust any of them and will aim to take over in a military coalition. I think the military will succeed and take over, at least in the short term, probably working with one of Kim’s sons as a figurehead.
I do know this: There is no one in the wings with the leadership skills that are required to lead a impoverished nation. None of Kim’s children, or military leaders for that matter, have experience nor international exposure to gain support or approval.
But like all developing nations, there’s the issue of greed over need – they greedy hold onto their power once they get it. The needs of the people will be pushed aside.
Would a new regime in North Korea present a challenge or an opportunity to the U.S.?
A military regime would most likely revert to a "Fortress North Korea" mentality. That could be an extreme problem for us, since they would be reverting to the only thing they know: war and aggression, both internationally and internally. The country will become an even worse police state than it is today. Which is hard to believe.
* Who he? Marshall was the guy with the plan - during Truman's administration, he got Europe back on its feet. He was also part of the group that came up with the idea of containing the Soviet Union so it would collapse. And oh yeah, he led the American army during WWII, and served for a year as defense secretary (during the Korean War).
The purloined Rogue Warrior - Richard Marcinko interview continues.
What happens if North Korea does agree to get rid of its bombs? Will it still be a problem?
RW: They will not totally disband. They will lie to their benefit. We would probably do the same under the guise of "national interest."
Their bombs and nuclear material are not the only threats we have to contend with. They’ve already shared their nuclear expertise. Again, I won’t go into details, but it’s not hard to discover the connection between Pakistan’s bomb program and North Korea’s. The whole Syria matter was in the news recently. And those are only two well-known examples.
No matter what they agree to, North Korea is likely to retain a capability to jump start a nuclear weapons program. They’re going to do that; there’s no doubt in my mind. But even if they truly and totally disbanded their program and somehow eliminated the knowledge that makes that capability possible, they will still be a regional problem.
If only because of the shear numbers in the armed forces, North Korea will remain a threat to South Korea and possibly Japan for years to come. Invading South Korea represents an opportunity to unite their homeland. Beyond that, it would also give them a bread basket – or a rice bowl, to be more literal. It would lay open all of the technological advances the south enjoys, at a fraction of the price of South Korea paid to develop them. It’s a very tempting bowl of candy, right there on their kitchen counter.
Will North Korea attack? Maybe, if they believe the rest of the world is "too busy" with other problems of the day.