For All Nails, pt. 28: Sour Krauts
21 July 1970
Adolph Markstein was a happy man. That was because he was insane. No
sane person could possibly have held his job for eight years and also
be happy, not right now. Of course, both his father and his wife
regularly called him insane for having _chosen_ to go into politics.
Until he had actually taken the Chancellor's job, he had always
despised "The Madman Bruning." Now he had a healthy respect for him.
Of course, Bruning had never realized he was insane, while Markstein
fully did. Hmmm. If you knew you were crazy, did that make you sane?
He shook the last drops of urine away and zipped up his pants. The
cabinet meeting was not going to be long, but it was going to be
annoying. It would, of course, only get more so should the Chancellor
of the German Empire get up to go to the bathroom right in the middle.
Today's subject was the riots breaking out all over Lorraine. They
seemed far away from the Chancellery here in Berlin, where the sky was
blue and traffic hummed calmly along the city's broad boulevards.
Why did they put a window in the executive bathroom? he wondered, not
for the first time. A little window, high up, but still. He was a
Markstein had carefully timed his interlude in the loo so that he
would be the last one into the cabinet room. _Ah, my cabinet._ he
thought. _Time to get to work._ Giving his strategy for the meeting
one last run-through, he pushed open the door from the loo's small
antechamber --- it wouldn't do for the toilet to be visible from the
cabinet room, would it? --- and entered.
The Chancellor of the German Empire nodded around the table, even
giving Michael Schroder a brief two-handed slap on one shoulder. It
wasn't a jovial slap, more of a "pick yourself up, man!" slap.
Michael knew that meant _Not a word this meeting, hear?_ Waves and
nods and cheery "hellos" to the others. Moving to the front of the
elongated, vaguely elliptical table, Markstein settled his tall lanky
frame into a chair. He had seen a vita of himself once, and was well
aware that he bore a very unfortunate resemblance to a preying mantis
whenever he sat down or stood up, which is why in public he almost was
spotted doing only one or the other. He smiled the smile that he knew
was deranged but everyone else seemed to think was charming.
Especially considering as he was the first German chancellor to smile
and grin on the hustings since, well, ever. _You could learn a lot
from those Mexicans and North Americans if you tried_, he had always
told himself. Hell, the Mexican dictator hosted variety shows, for
the love of God, and some German cranks criticized _him_ for smiling
and kissing babies? It got votes.
Not that he _wouldn't_ host a variety show if he thought that would
get votes too...
"Welcome, Chancellor," said Joachim Teltschik, the Finance Minister.
Joachim was also extremely tall, with a pinched and elongated face
that just screamed Prussian nobility. He wasn't of course, but he
looked the part, all the way down to the small rimless glasses perched
on his nose. What he was, in fact, was the Liberal member of
Markstein's cabinet. And very old school. Not really humorless,
exactly, but his sense of humor was far drier than the Arabian desert.
"Thank you, Herr Teltschik." Formal prig. But they needed the
Liberals. "And hello Michael, Joshua, Angela, Horst, Klaus, Hans,
all of you. Good morning. Let's begin with the status report.
Hans Steiner ran the Interior Ministry. As such, the riots in
Lorraine came under his purview. "Cabinet ministers," he began.
Another old school type, like Teltschik. The man was built like a
human porterhouse steak, with the sense of humor you'd expect. "The
situation is as follows. A German citizen in Nancy named Michel
Mueller apparently threw a rock at the King of Lorraine's motorcade on
3:14pm, as it was passing by the Rue Poniatowski."
Steiner paused for a second, running his hand over his head. His hair
was so thick and he kept it so short that it resembled nothing so much
as the fur of a cat. "Herr Mueller was promptly arrested by the royal
security detail, of course. More accurately, they attempted to arrest
him. Passers-by evidently noted what was happening and stepped to the
rock-throwers' defense. When the security men attempted to prevent
the crowd from getting to close, more rocks were thrown, and the
incident soon erupted into a melee."
He paused again. "The royal detail managed to keep the crowd away,
although they were forced to release Mueller. The mob was not yet
sufficiently organized to block streets or prevent the detail from
escaping. I would like to reiterate that neither the King nor anyone
in the security detail was wounded, save the driver of the affected
vehicle, who suffered minor lacerations."
Angela Bitterlich, the minister of Commerce, Competition and Consumer
Affairs, couldn't restrain herself from interrupting. "This is why we
need to adopt North American regulations requiring shatterproof glass
in all locomobile windows!" By God, thought Markstein, that bitch is
self-righteous, but she is popular. And she is also extremely
attractive. Which doesn't hurt in either winning votes or making it
through these meetings.
Yes, you could learn from those North Americans. Markstein had picked
Bitterlich from obscurity three days after seeing that Levine woman
from New York on the vita. [1a] Fortunately, Bitterlich was no where
near as intelligent as Levine seemed to be. Unfortunately, she
didn't realize it.
It didn't help matters that Teltschik, who was quite acute,
passionately hated Bitterlich, especially since he never could quite
understand why her ministry wasn't subsumed in his. Markstein was
quite prepared to let Angela's non sequitur slide, but Teltschik had
to go and say, "That's not relevant, Frau Bitterlich. May we stick to
the issue, please?"
Angela's mouth opened to retort when Markstein smoothly cut in.
"Wait, Angela. The locomobile safety bill is very important, and we
will pass a version this legislative session, but this is not the time
to debate the issue." Bitterlich was outspoken and combative, but as
the second female cabinet minister in German history she felt more
than a little defensive. She was, however, just smart enough to
realize she had made a mistake. Bitterlich nodded yes, and Markstein
told Steiner to continue.
"A street demonstration gathered, and as these things will, turned
ugly rapidly. Within forty minutes mobs had smashed every shop window
on the Rue Poniatowski. As far as we can tell, local police did
nothing to try to stop the looting. We have not yet been able to
determine whether the local administration deliberately ordered the
police not to intervene or if it was a simple oversight. The mayor's
office is not returning calls from Berlin." Steiner looked grave.
Not that Markstein had ever seen him look anything but grave. He was
a grave man. Unfortunately, the joke didn't seem to work well in
"By the next morning, this morning, demonstrations had formed in every
major city in Lorraine. Spontaneous and disorganized, most were
peaceful. Sporadic rioting did occur, however, in residential
districts in Colmar and Belfort, and a demonstration in Bastogne
turned violent when local police attempted to disperse the
demonstrators. Once the violence began, however, as in Nancy, the
police failed to act. We do not know if their failure was deliberate.
We do know, however, that Premier Lellouche refused to call out the
Royal Territorial Army, even when presented with a direct request from
the Interior Ministry."  Which meant that Steiner had called
Lellouche personally, and had been told no. He now looked even
graver. "Since the disturbances show no sign of lessening, the
Interior Ministry feels that the matter should be brought to the
attention of the full cabinet." Steiner's penchant for understatement
showed up in more than his avoidance of the first person.  The
solid and stolid Steiner fell silent, turning into a giant besuitted
slab of meat. _By God_, thought Markstein, _he acts just like an
Imperial Marine. Sometimes that man scares me. Or he would, if
anything scared me._
The silence didn't last for a second, however, before Klaus Klima, the
Social Welfare minister, burst out. "By God, what do those Froggies
want? We give them autonomy, exempt them from most federal taxes,
shovel benefits at them, and they're still not satisfied!" Along with
Teltschik, Klima was a minority member of the coalition cabinet, from
the conservative Bohemian-Moravian regionalist party. He pounded his
fist on the table, belying his region's reputation for calm endurance.
"You don't see Czechs or Germans burning down their own cities!"
_Czechs are too apathetic_ thought Markstein. _Now us Bavarians, we
can throw a riot. But not over something as boring as politics.
Bitterlich interjected, "Most Czechs and Germans have jobs."
_Here we go again_ thought Markstein, as Teltschik piped up. Of
course, Markstein wasn't really bothered. This was how he led his
cabinet: let them batter each other into such exhaustion that
anything he might propose would be gladly accepted. "Those
subsidies," said Teltschik, in a voice that was almost hectoring, "are
_why_ they don't have jobs. We should eliminate them."
"No," responded Bitterlich, "They don't have jobs because their
industrial plant is old and outworn."
"And Bohemia's wasn't?" tossed in Klima. "Teltschik is right. We
reward failure in Lorraine. We pay workers to stay where there are no
jobs, we pay firms to make pointless 'restructurings' that make sense
only to bureaucrats," a thinly-veiled jab at Bitterlich's ministry,
"We shovel money at a corrupt autonomous government that makes
Mercator's Mexico look like Scandinavia! High time we cut them
loose." Markstein smiled inwardly at how his Social Welfare minister,
like so many Czechs, never seemed all that comfortable with the idea
of social welfare ... _I am the very model of a modern master
minister, I am._ he chuckled to himself. _Yes, I am quite mad,
aren't I? Mwa hah!_ 
"That would only provoke more riots, and you know it," shot back
"Ahem." That was Horst Voth, the Defense Minister. "How is this
debate germain to deciding our current course of action?"
"Root causes are always relevant," said Bitterlich.
Time to interject. "Herr Klima, Herr Teltschik," said Markstein,
"Cutting Lorraine's subsidies is not on the table. The Bloc Francoise
controls nine of Lorraine's twelve seats in the federal Diet.
Considering the extreme precariousness of our current position, and
the likelihood of the Bloc increasing their representation in the next
election, I do not think it would be sensible to give the opposition
something with which to bribe them."
He paused and looked towards Bitterlich. "Angela, if you will permit
me the luxury of rephrasing your position in far baser political
terms, I must agree with you that regardless of the long-term benefits
of removing Lorraine's fiscal privileges," he raised both hands in a
calming gesture, "Doing so _now_ would be a horrendously ill-timed
action, something to which I think even Klaus and Herr Teltschik would
agree." He looked at them expectantly. _I am genius!_
Klima bit first, since his opposition to subsidies was less
ideological than Teltschik's. "It would increase hardship in Lorraine
"They'll live," said Teltschik.
"Yes," added Markstein, "But this government wouldn't. Horst! What's
your opinion?" Change the topic, Horst, c'mon, focus like a coherence
"Martial law, Chancellor. Order the RTA to restore order." _Right on
target, Horst! Oh, I am good. Do they even see how I'm playing this
cabinet like a clarinet? I missed my calling, I did. If that Mexican
music, what do you call it, had been around when I was younger, I
certainly would have been a musician. Cabinet ministers in C-minor._
"I concur," added the Interior Minister. This was less than
surprising, considering as he had unilaterally tried to order Primeir
Lellouche to do precisely that the day before.
"But why would Lellouche refuse to call out the guard in the first
place?" asked Joshua Merkel, the Exterior minister.
"Surely that's obvious," piped in Teltschik. _This man wins
elections?_ thought Markstein to himself, and not for the first time.
He can't help being an a--hole. "He wants political cover at home, to
be able to say that Berlin made him do it."
"Wait," said Klima, "Stopping rioters _has_ to be popular."
Not for the first time and not for the last, Markstein immediately
reversed his assessment of Teltschik's political instincts. "The
law-abiding citizens of Lorraine just want the rioting stopped, like
citizens anywhere in Germany," said Teltschik. "If we don't overly
publicize Lellouche's hesitation, then _he_ won't play it up either.
It will look like we pre-empted the entire situation, and let him work
both ends of his electorate. Who will be able to say what he _would_
Here's where Klima showed his worth. As a member of regional party,
he knew how they operated. "In fact, we can gain from this.
Lellouche is Bloc, of course. We make it clear that we can make hay
from his hesitancy, but won't ... _if_ his men in the federal Diet
vote the way we want them to vote."
Oh, this meeting was unfolding like clockwork! Damn, but I know my
stuff, thought Markstein. Bruning had to stuff ministers in jail or
toss them out of airmobiles to get these results. He looked at Angela
with a quizzical _You gonna take that?_ expression, and she rose to
the bait. "That won't work if we touch regional subsidies."
And there goes Teltschik! "But we can get other liberalizing measures
through instead, at the national level."
And Klima again: "As long as unemployment stay relatively low in the
rest of Germany, why should we care if Lorraine stays a disaster area?
The Germany Party isn't getting any votes there, my party certainly
isn't, and seriously Joachim, I don't see it as a big base of Liberal
support either." Joshua Merkel looked a bit uncomfortable at writing
off Lorraine, probably worried about the repercussions in France, but
relations with France were only _technically_ his bailiwick, since the
French Republic was only _technically_ independent. In reality,
Steiner and Voth ran that show, and everyone knew it. Anyway, Josh
knew full well what Markstein was up to, and he wouldn't ruin the
Time to wrap this one up. It was only an emergency meeting, and this
was going to be a looong day anyway. He and Merkel were scheduled to
meet with Eric later to talk about ... oyyyyy ... France. Poor Eric!
Well, he deserved it. And then he had to talk to Voth and Merkel
about the Polish situation. That was going to be folllowed by a very
irritating meeting with the entire Liberal leadership. Would they
give him locomobile safety if he gave them lower tariffs? Which would
affect his position with the goddamned Bloc Francoise.
And the damn tariff bill would then mean he would have to talk to
Merkel again and call a meeting of the Zollverein Council to push the
new tariff through. Berlin openly controlled Poland's, Hungary's, and
Croatia's votes, of course, and could tacitly order the Netherlands
and France and the ARR countries around, but the damned Italians and
Greeks and Dacians had these pretensions ... and would feel the need
to put up a show of resisting any drop in the Zollverein's external
tariff.  A formality, but an annoying one, although thank God he
could hand that over to Merkel or Schroder. Yes, they had to finish
up this meeting, well, thirty seconds ago.
"So we're agreed then. The RTA will be federalized and called out to
restore order. We'll keep the Premier's recalcitrance quiet, and
demand a political quid pro quo. Once the disturbances are
controlled, we'll shovel some more money at Lorraine, and in return
get nine greatly-needed extra votes in the Diet, since our own party
discipline is quite a bit less than desired. Objections? No? Okay
then! See you tomorrow." Played like a clarinet! Yes, he thought,
I am, what do the Mexicans say? I am _la neta_! I am _el hombre_! I
am ... about to have a day that would bore most people to tears.
But that's okay, he thought, because I am insane. Yes, I am a happy
[1a] Markstein is blissfully unaware that by mistakenly referring to
Brooklyn City as "New York," he just gravely insulted five million
people. As in OTL, Brooklyn is still overshadowed by its more
glamorous neighbor, damn them all.
 The Royal Territorial Army is Lorraine's local militia. Its
functions are equivalent to the National Guard in the OTL United
States. Unlike militia and reserve units in non-autonomous parts of
the Germanic Confederation, the RTA cannot be mobilized by the federal
Interior Minister acting alone unless the local elected premier
concurs. The national government can mobilize the RTA over the head
of the regional premier only with the approval of the full federal
 Before Bruning, German chancellors were effectively "elected
dictators" along the British model, with only the courts and the
threat of a no-confidence vote to check their power. Since these
institutions (unlike in Britain) proved insufficient to check
Bruning's wartime powers _before_ he did damage, cabinets and the Diet
have gained a great deal of power against the chancellor over the past
quarter-century. American readers, especially, should realize that
Steiner _means_ cabinet, not chancellor, and that Markstein has less
independent authority than an American president (or CNA
governor-general, for that matter) would in the same circumstances.
In some ways, the poor guy faces the limits of both cabinet and
congressional government. Until Bruning, effective chancellors were
strong decisive men. Since then, effective chancellors have been
 Allow me to be clear. "Cut them loose" means "Put them under the
same tax and benefit regime as the rest of the Confederation." It
DOES NOT mean "Give them independence." That is quite literally
unthinkable to everyone at this meeting. Unfortunately, in literary
terms, I have not quite figured out how to write about people _not_
thinking about things.
 These three countries refer to themselves (informally) as the
"Roman Bloc" within the Zollverein. That name is not the least of
what Markstein is thinking of when he thinks about "pretensions."