Edge of Apocalypse: pages 247-251 (Chapter Forty-Three)
A quick aside:
First of all, I’m Canadian, as I’m sure most of you know. Second of all, when I was younger I used to love Polka Time, with Walter Ostanek and his band. A lot.
Well, recently I’ve been finding some of his old tunes on Youtube. Here are some of my favorites, although only one is from when I watched it in the late 1980s.
- Rolling Rock Polka
- Polka Time 1989
- Bartenders polka
As you can see, just a sampling of music by the great man himself and a welcome reprieve from the tedium of this book’s paean to pro-military posturing.
Now, let’s turn away from the Canadian King of Polka and turn to the representative of a far lesser man.
Lawyer Harry Smythe is in court to try and get the Congressional subpoena quashed. Will he or won’t he be successful? Let’s find out as he begins court with Judge Jenkins. No, not that Jenkins, thankfully.
Less than a minute later Judge Olivia Jenkins entered the courtroom, and the lawyers jumped to their feet.
The rest of the courtroom was empty. The government had secured an order from the judge clearing visitors and bystanders and barring the media on the grounds of national security.
Jenkins was an attractive, middle-aged black woman with a reputation as a smart, no-nonsense judge.
Sounds like she’d be in good company with Judge Strong Rice, then, if her sentencing methods are anything like his can be assumed to be.
Smythe tries on the “Josh made it himself so it’s his, and suck eggs” line of argument:
There were only two main points. First, that the RTS design belonged to Joshua Jordan, not the government. It was a matter of patent law and intellectual property rights. Congress had no right to force disclosure of weapon designs that were trade secrets and belonged to a private citizen. Besides, Smythe argued, Joshua Jordan had had no qualms about testifying to the select committee and he had answered all of their questions. The only “line in the sand” he drew was his refusal to produce highly sensitive documents for the design of the RTS weapon to members of Congress.
Chutzpah defines trying to slip that kind of whopper past the judge, I tell you! Didn’t he find a quick enough excuse to avoid having to discuss anything to do with his system?
He can’t testify as to the value of the RTS-RGS* being thrown in at the last minute, possibly taking time and soldiers away from more conventional methods of attempting to destroy the nukes, without pointing to the technical documentation that backs him up. Would any court of law, never mind a Congressional committee, accept the word of an expert witness without written notes, and/or something physical that he or she could point to? What was he going to do without the technical docs? A bald “The RTS was used at the last minute” is a nice qualitative statement, but it doesn’t have any gravity to it without, “We could not reprogram the detonation time, because (technobabble),” which was one question raised earlier in the book when it briefly discussed the media and political response to the non-nuking of New York. And being able to justify why conventional aircraft wouldn’t have worked by, say, pointing to the faster flight time of the RTS missile? Well, there’d be ballistic test data, or even ballistic measurements while in-flight, no?
Let us recall that the whole business of him withholding technical documents and claiming them as trade secrets is very likely based on a paper-thin assumption, not explicitly stated in the book, that the working prototype is not enough to reverse engineer it, and that the design documents held in his company’s computers and printed drafts are what provide the crucial method of developing one’s own RTS-RGS.
Even if we grant that, it is still not within Josh Jordan’s purview to withhold this stuff. This thing was paid for on a defence contract! Let’s assume this was a software company and a client. A software company that provided a client with, say, a working version of a program but failed to include basic specifications and instruction manuals could conceivably be in breach of contract and that, readers, is a civil tort. Now I don’t know if failure to meet a DoD contract would be a civil suit only, or if criminal penalties apply as well**, but if Josh hasn’t provided DoD with any of the documents yet, he is either really good buddies with someone in the Pentagon, or they’re being unusually lenient for something this critical.
The government lawyer and the judge finally make complete mincemeat of Josh Jordan’s ridiculous prima donna flounce fit over the question of who has the right to get access to the technical documentation:
The first government lawyer was brusque. “The contract that the Pentagon had with Mr. Jordan states, Your Honor, that when the weapon was officially accepted by the United States, it would become the property of the United States. Mr. Jordan signed away any special rights he had to the RTS design–”
Harry Smythe shot back, “But the RTS system was still experimental. It was never officially accepted by the U.S. government–”
“You’re wrong,” the government attorney countered. “When the U.S. government used the RTS weapon to turn back incoming missiles–and used it, Your Honor, with Mr. Jordan’s permission and participation, I might add–that was the same as ‘accepting’ the weapon for purposes of the contract.”
Judge Jenkins made short work of that argument. “I’m not convinced,” she said, “that Mr. Jordan retained any private rights to the RTS weapon design, at least as against the United States of America. He can protect his patent against other private citizens, but not against Congress, which is an arm of the U.S. government. Mr. Smythe, you’ve lost on that one.”
That admittedly hangs on a bit of a technical detail, the question of what constituted “acceptance”; wouldn’t it be more likely that taking delivery of the prototype would constitute acceptance-pending-further-testing and also knock the props out from under Smythe’s argument?
The basic point, though, is that in book canon, the above four paragraphs cement Senator Straworth’s position, that the Congressional committee can request and view Josh Jordan’s technical stuff.
Also, a nitpick: See the bolded text? I don’t know about US legal practice but I was told in my law class that Canadian practice is that lawyers do not address each other directly, but must instead “address through the bench”, i.e. by referring to “my colleague” or “my learned colleague” or some other acceptable third person form of reference. If US practice is the same, the government lawyer should have been admonished by the judge, especially a judge who is supposed to be “no-nonsense” like this Judge Jenkins.
Smythe then launched into his second point. That Joshua Jordan had a concern about the ability of the congressional committee to keep the RTS weapon design information secret.
“That committee had already leaked information to the press,” Smythe said, losing his characteristic professional calm. His face was beginning to get flushed as he spoke with an angry passion. “How can we assume that it will not allow the leaking also of this sensitive weapons information?” he added.
If this thing is as classified as it should be, I suspect there are already very strict penalties on Congresspeople and Senators for any attempt to divulge the contents of classified materials. This court case and this concern is simply LaHaye and Parshall painting a US government run by the Democratic Party as a bunch of unpatriotic twerps.
There’s a little back and forth, and the judge finally decides that since there are already confidentiality procedures in subpoena cases, she is convinced she can work out acceptable secrecy procedures in order that the committee and Josh be satisfied. Except that the prima donna won’t be:
But Smythe knew somebody wouldn’t be happy. He knew that Joshua Jordan had no intention of divulging his RTS design for the eventual use–or misuse–by a group of politicians.
Harry was about to pull the pin in the hand grenade. “Because Mr. Jordan is not inclined to comply with the subpoena. He won’t divulge his RTS technology. Except to the Defense Department under conditions where he has some guarantee that it won’t be used for political purposes and that it won’t be shared with other nations.”
Judge Jenkins is now officially displeased:
“That’s not what I asked. Is your client willing to admit service on the subpoena?”
“No, Your Honor. He isn’t.”
“So Mr. Jordan is in defiance of Congress. He’s defying an official subpoena. I wonder, Mr. Smythe, if he will also be in contemptuous defiance of this court?”
She finally lowers the boom for good on Joshua Jordan:
“Your client has exactly forty-eight hours to turn over these documents to this court. Failing that, I will consider–and will probably order–his indefinite incarceration in a federal detention jail. You’d better tell your client he’s in deep water right now. I hope he knows how to swim.”
Smythe calls Jordan and gives him the bad news; we end this chapter with another example of Josh’s strutting-peacockery:
“[Bring the documents or] federal marshals put out a warrant for your arrest. Then they haul you in for processing, take your mug shot, remove your personal effects for safe-keeping, and do a strip search. Then they put you in a jail cell.”
“What’s your next move?” Joshua asked coolly.
“Appeal it. But don’t count on a favorable result. More important, Josh, what’s your next move?”
“What I always do when enemy fire is incoming. Keep my head down and my finger on the trigger.”
This kind of ridiculous hero-in-your-own-mind rhetoric is intended to resonate with the audience reading this book who probably harbor anti-government sentiments and have been raised on a steady diet of “jack-booted thugs” mythology about the federal government. Josh Jordan thus becomes the larger-than-life hero who defies the Almighty State as he Does The Right Thing (for very restricted values of “right thing”).
Also, the last two statements by Smythe and Josh bring forth a very problematic interpretation: that for “patriotic” motives as defined by the extreme right wing, it is acceptable and honorable to break the law, and do so even when the premises behind the lawbreaking are completely artificially constructed, as is the case with Josh Jordan’s laser redirection system, and especially so when Democrats are in charge.
Given that Tim LaHaye is of a Christian sect that claims God as the ultimate authority over humans (possibly to the extent of not needing to obey human laws), it is of concern that this book effectively counsels Christians that they need not obey the laws of the United States of America when Godless Democrats are running things. I don’t think it’s a coincidence this book was pushed out after Barack Obama became President. His election to the highest office of the land crystallized a form of opposition to the Democrats that had failed to “gel” when the Democratic Party retook both houses of Congress.
But once a man who did not appear to have white skin got elected President, this opposition crystallized and “our America is being lost” gained new life among right-wing politicians and movements. You can see it being echoed in this book when Josh speechifies at the Roundtable about the “socialist second-rate America” he doesn’t want to see.
I trust that I am wrong, that this book doesn’t have the traction or the exposure that Left Behind does. But if it does, the book’s endorsements of the primacy of the military and contempt for Democratic Administrations may prove to be quite problematic.
With that, I close the chapter analysis and we’ll meet with someone we’ve only seen for a little while: Darlene Rice. See you next chapter.
* A reminder to readers that the book calls it “Return-to-Sender-Reconfigured-Guidance System”
** Likely, criminal fraud – i.e. uttering false documents with intent to defraud, or some similar type of offence.